P is for …. Produce (home made, grown and crafted!)

Many years ago, when Holly was young, I belonged to the local WI Producers Market. When Holly reached “proper” school age I had to leave and get a real job (boo!). Now, however, it feels like time to try something new, or rather to revisit something previously tried.

In the time since I last belonged to the market things have changed. The group is part of the Country Markets scheme and now goes under that title, rather than mentioning the WI. As you’ll see from the Country Markets website, there are around 300 Country Markets across England, Wales and the Channel Islands and their quest is to sell fresh, home grown veg, fruit, flowers and plants as well as baked goods and preserves. There’s also a great range of craft goods – which is the bit I was particularly interested in. I used to sell hand made cards at the market all those years ago and hope to do the same again now that I’ve re-joined (for the handsome joining fee of 5 whole pence!!).

As a testament to what a great group of people they are, many of the producers I knew when I was there nearly 10 years ago, are still there and still producing amazing goods.

Our market is open from 9am to 12pm every Friday in a local hall and the sight of the tables full of great produce before the masses invade and start buying is amazing. Have a look…


It’s an absolute pleasure to be back amongst such lovely, friendly and creative people and hopefully long may it last.

Perhaps you could use the search button on the Country Markets website and find a group near you to visit or join…or pop along and see us in Honiton!


UPDATE! September in the Garden

Trying not to be too groany and moany, but things are coming to an end in the garden. I did take some before photos…..


…but after this took down the tomatoes and the runner beans yesterday. There were plenty of ripe tomatoes still to be picked so made up a really tasty sauce to turn into bolognese today. Unfortunately though the black tomatoes had, largely, failed to ripen and had a thick white mould on them and had to be binned. Not sure I’d bother with them again.

Our wonderful Cosmos has finally come to an end too. I had hoped to catch it at the right moment and have seeds for next year, but unfortunately things didn’t work out that way and I’ll be down the shops buying a packet next ye2014-10-01ar!

There’s not a lot going on in the greenhouse at the moment. The few winter pansies that did grow from seed are coming along reasonably (until you look at the ones I bought off the market last week!). The chilli and sweet peppers have flowered at last but whether they can stay warm enough to fruit I can only wait to see. I’d not rule out trying them again but ought to start far sooner I think.

The mint has almost finished and needs cutting back. It’s been joined by the pots of hollyhocks which will be going in the garden, if they’re not munched completely! They’ve been a bit chewed since leaving the greenhouse but, other than that, seem quite happy. I’d been blaming the slugs and snails, but perhaps they’ve had some help?!


You  see what I mean about the market pansies?!

The lavender donated by Carole is doing nicely in its orange bucket and the crocus and tulip bulbs are sprouting already (at last, something early in our garden rather than late!). The gorgeous Countryfile free seeds have finished flowering. They were beautiful and hugely popular with the bees (as had been promised!). The blueberry and blackberry plants seem quite happy at the moment and have been joined by 2 bags of, hopefully, winter potatoes. These have been buried twice already and keep popping up, as they should, so more finger crossing there.


The leeks should soon be ready for picking – hurray! We have a few carrots and cabbages left and the purple sprouting broccoli, cauli and sprouts are coming along nicely. Hopefully won’t be long before we’re picking the corn on the cob too – mmmmmmm!

I did manage to miss picking a few beans….. IMG_2118

….which is a bit painful! But the freezer is already groaning with those we haven’t managed to eat so I’m trying to be not too sad about it.

I pulled a few leaves from the top of the sunflowers so that I could see the multiheaded little sunflower, just because it seemed a shame not to! Mr. Grumpy Sunflower is looking a bit sad for himself, though the neighbours told me this morning he makes them chuckle every morning when they see him, which is good….I think.



IMG_2104A quick nose at the flower side of the garden, which gets largely ignored apart from infrequent dead heading – or complete annihilation where the bush up by the bird feeder was concerned! Was very surprised when Kev did that without mentioning it first!

Finally a mention for our hosta, because it gets largely ignored and forgotten. It must be about 16 years old now, had been halved, repotted, moved house and still continues to leaf (?!) faithfully and has been absolutely magnificent this year. It seems very happy where it is (next to the kitchen drain!) in the new garden and has been more wonderful than ever this year. Thanks hosta!


UPDATE! August in the Garden

Well, we’ve now, unbelievably, lived here a year! I think, although there are changes in the house, my favourite of all the work we’ve done still remains the garden. Again I’ve only really noticed the difference in the space of a month by reading back over last month’s update, which shows me why I should keep on doing it – at the risk of boring everyone else.

The air definitely has an autumnal feeling to it already and the nights are drawing in. It’s already getting dark a whole hour earlier than it was this time last month. It’s a time of year when I need to make an extra effort to keep myself happy so hopefully, although things will be slowing down,  hopefully the garden will help with that.

Starting with the sadder things, the courgette and cucumber plants have now finished their amazing hard work of the summer. They were badly affected by mildew on their leaves but still carried on producing fruit/veg(?!). There is one last courgette on the plant but I don’t think it’s going to come to anything much. I wish I’d kept count of how much they had produced  – will have to do that next year. We’ve also lost the clematis which looked so beautiful in my July update. It’s now a withered brown mess which is very sad.

IMG_1819We do have some new additions though. Linda bought me a blueberry plant for my birthday to which we’ve added a thornless blackberry bush. Both of these, I’m hoping, will be happy in containers. This is them along with a cutting from the jasmine bush which grows behind the garden shed! Carole from work has also donated some plants from her garden including lavender and a strawberry plant.

The idea behind this is that I’m hoping to start going to the local Country Market held on a Friday in town during September to, hopefully, sell some of my plants. Bit nervous about that one to say the least!

Things aren’t all rosy in the greenhouse as I’ve had an attack of the snails. The baby lettuce I had growing have all gone, the sweet peppers and hollyhocks have had a bit of munching but the chilli peppers seem fine for some reason – perhaps their leaves are as spicy as their fruit?! The herbs have just gone wild so I’m too ashamed to take their photo this month! I will get around to sorting them out though….promise! (Now it’s in writing I have to, right?!)



The sweet peppers are now so tall that I’ve had to take a shelf out of the greenhouse! Hopefully they’ll be okay as the weather gets colder?


Amongst the prettiest things in the garden at the moment are the dahlia (which will need digging up and re-housing when it’s finished I think, given that it’s “eating” the leeks before they’re even grown!) and the bucket of seeds which we had free through the post from BBC Countryfile. We didn’t know what was in there so decided to keep them all contained in one place and they’ve been a real bee haven, which in turn has helped everything else in the garden. They’re really eye catching and I’ll be sad when they’ve finished.


Staying on flowers. The sweetpeas continue to go from strength to strength – I shall just have to not tear my hair out next year if they take forever to get the idea that they’re meant to grow! The Cosmos are STILL gorgeous and seem happy to keep on flowering so long as we keep on dead heading. The rest of that side of the garden all needs dead heading too but as we’ve been away on holiday and then away for a few days this month it just hasn’t been done as much as it should have done, so just a quick photo of that side this month and hope I get away with not looking at it too closely!









Onto veg and we have a new challenge to grow some winter potatoes! One of my old school friends is having a go with us so the competition is on! We have planted them a month later than the last recommended planting date so they stand two chances! Fingers crossed.

Our second crop of lettuces, grown from plants donated by a friend my parents, is coming along well and the beans still have masses of flowers. They had to be supported, tent rope style, during the month as we had a couple of bad storms with high winds which snapped some of the poles. They’ve stood up since then though and we’re still getting lots of beans from them – yay!

We have had a massive problem with caterpillars though. After cutting down and throwing away two lots of chard and looking despairingly at our lacy cabbages, Kev decided to put across netting, which as worked to some extent. We’ve cut and eaten a couple of cabbages and cauliflowers now and they’ve been greatly improved thanks to the nets.

Excitingly, as I’ve checked under the netting this morning I’ve spotted our sprouts have started growing…exciting but does mean Christmas is looming! Our sweetcorn looks, fingers crossed, as if it will have a good crop too! The tomatoes are slowly starting to turn red (apart from the black ones which are, thankfully, black!) although they are splitting their skins. I’ve been told this is due to them not having been consistently watered. Tut, tut! They still taste lush though!


The thing I find most exciting of all though is the size of our sunflowers when I’ve measured them this morning! The one closest to the path, being the second largest, is now a mighty 3 meters (9 foot 10 inches!!) tall and its stem is a sturdy 5cm (nearly 2 inches) in circumference. How they’ve stayed standing with the wind we’ve had over the past month or so is beyond me but I’m very happy to see them – and even more so now the flowers are finally showing! I did think at one point they were just going to carry on getting taller and taller with no flower at all!


Having received a brilliant array of gardening type presents for my birthday this month, I’m all set for the next growing season already! Thanks to everyone who has contributed with such thoughtful gifts 🙂


In the Garden – July Update

I was wondering whether it was worth doing an update for July, but looking back at June’s update and comparing it to how things look now, I’m going to go for it!

Starting in the “greenhouse”, the Snowball Cauli and Purple Sprouting Broccoli which were babies last month are now in the garden. The herbs are all coming along nicely, apart from the rosemary which has failed to come through at all. The red peppers have been potted on once during July and need doing again! I ought to have a look on Google to see how big they’re going to grow I guess! That’s beginners for you!

The chilli peppers have put in a surprise appearance too after my doubting them last month. They’re ready to go into solo pots. The hollyhocks are coming along very well, although seem to have some sort of burrowing beastie in some of the leaves which will need sorting out. The winter pansies looked like a fail but there are a couple of them up now. They stand 2 chances I guess!  We also have more lettuce seedlings just shooting up. The lettuces went so well last time that we’re hoping to get another crop in from seed and also have been given some lettuce plants by mum.


Outside both the “old” mint donated by mum and the new mint grown from seed are doing well in dad’s planter. They’ve been joined by Basil Bush (not Brush as I call them) and Loveage (which I’m not sure what to do with now I’ve grown it!).


Both the cucumber and courgette plants have gone mad! I took 2 cucumbers into work today and Holly’s friend took another home with her. Think that still leaves about 6 still growing! We’ve had similar success with the courgette and had a lovely meal with courgette ribbons, fried potatoes, mushrooms, garden peas and cherry tomatoes topped with salmon in sweet chilli sauce the other evening – wish I’d taken a photo as it looked as good as it tasted! The leaves on the courgette are suffering badly from mildew but it doesn’t seem to have affected its performance at all.

2014-08-012We’ve had the potatoes from 2 of our 4 potato sacks and they’ve been lovely. Kev’s been a bit disappointed with the yield from them but I think they’re ideal given there are only 3 of us. Katherine’s tomatoes and sunflowers in bright orange buckets have all moved to her house now so there’s a more room on the patio….just as well as Kev’s bought me another mini greenhouse!

Into the main veg garden, the leeks are coming along slowly and surely. We’ve had some carrots which were stubby and small but beautifully sweet. The beans have been going mad too and we’ve had plenty to eat and already have some in the freezer too to try and keep up with them as they grow!


Unfortunately the cabbages and the cauli plants and sprouts grown from seed that we put in have been badly munched by caterpillars as has the Yarcombe Chard, which I sadly cut down and ditched this morning. Hopefully we can get them covered up and keep the beasties at bay from now on and it’s certainly a lesson to learn for next year. The sprouts have a long way to go yet before we have veg from them so hopefully the problem will decrease as the season goes on and we’ll have a good crop from them. The hearts of the cabbages seem okay so I’ll just have to wait and see when we cut the first of them.

I love the peas! They look like a funny sort of Christmas tree to me as they’re grown in wigwams and taste every bit as beautiful as I remember from pinching the ones Grandad grew when I was little. Amazingly some have actually made it to the plate although I still fail to see why anyone would prefer them cooked to straight off the plant.


It’s actually the sunflowers which convinced me to do an update! Looking back at them last month and how much they’ve grown in that space of time is quite mind-blowing to me! No sign of flowers yet though! They’re a bit munched too but looking reasonably okay. The sweetcorn’s come along really well too and the rhubarb, as you may have seen, has been cut down and eaten and this is the second lot of leaves of the season growing now. A quick before and after on the sunflowers….


Moving onto more flowery things, AT LAST the sweetpeas have flowered! Just when I was thinking they wouldn’t. They smell beautiful and I’m going to have another, hopefully more successful, go with them next year. The Cosmos has been an absolute joy and seems to have gone on flowering and flowering. I’d like to have a go at them from seed next year as well as they’ve given us such pleasure – particularly me being able to see them from the kitchen window when I’m washing up!


The rest of that side of the garden looks lush and beautiful and any gaps which existed previously seem to have disappeared! I think that both of the bushes inherited from the previous owner will go at the end of the season as they take up so much space and don’t really add that much to the garden (I’m so heartless!).


The clematis is a gorgeous colour too…..


Bit soggy after today’s rain, but boy did the garden need it! We have 6 water butts and every one was empty. Hopefully today will have sorted it out.

Final mention goes to the tomatoes which are doing nicely and have lots of tomatoes on which are very firmly staying green at the moment…..apart from the black tomato and just look how that’s coming along!


Doesn’t it look strange! It’s still green at the back but I’m really looking forward to trying them when they are ready. Hopefully that will have happened by the time I’m ready to do August’s update!


In the Garden – June Update

As I said sometime earlier, I’d like to do a monthly update of what’s going on in the garden. It’s purely for my own purposes so I can look back on it next year and find out how much further forward or behind we are, so don’t feel the need to read it, unless you suffer from insomnia.

So here goes…..

In the “greenhouse” I’ve got Snowball Cauli and Purple Sprouting broccoli, both grown from seed. They’re a bit lopsided as I didn’t plant them on quick enough. Not sure how they’ll work out but that’s all my fault. Also got lots of herbs growing from seed for, hopefully, planting out in the new herb boxes made by dad. The red peppers are coming along at last, although the chilli peppers from a growing kit bought last year, don’t seem to be thriving at all unfortunately.


Cauli’s and Broccoli


Red “bell” peppers


Pot of mint from mum’s and tiny mint grown from seed


Baby herbs










Also in the greenhouse I’ve put in winter pansies and hollyhock seeds ready for some autumn colour (hopefully!)

Moving into the main garden, the potatoes are going great guns still and have flowered beautifully. Katherine’s sunflowers and tomatoes are all doing well in their bright orange buckets (far better than ours in the garden actually – humph!). I built a cage for the cucumber this weekend to save the fruit growing on the floor, and that seems to be holding up okay so far (miracles do happen!). There’s new growth on the Arthur Bell roses (still in pots), orange tree and Christmas cactus, and Sheila’s Mrs. Sinkins white/pink, the amazing Twisted Celosia “Hot Topic” and Clematis are all looking very good too. The pot of wildflowers from a pack of seeds from BBC Countryfile are going ….well….wild, and we’re looking forward to finding out what’s there (and trying to identify it!).

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The dahlia hiding at the back of the leeks is coming along quickly after the weekend’s rain, and the lettuce is looking largely unmunched and lovely – not sure when to pick it though?! How do you know when it’s ready????

The beans are reaching the tops of their canes and have LOADS of lovely red flowers on them (at the moment!).


Moving down the garden the carrots are very thick and close set but I’m a bit worried about carrot fly and thinning them – it seems to me that you have to do it in the middle of the night, using tweezers, under netting and wearing full head to toe protective clothing – right?

The Yarcombe Chard donated by Brenda from work has been the most successful thing in the garden so far and is brilliant, fast growing and very, very handy to have around when I’ve forgotten to buy veg. The peas are starting to get a bit bigger at last and have flowers on them too thankfully. We also have sprouts and cauli planted in that area.


Right at the bottom of the garden we have rhubarb donated by Sharon, sweetcorn, duly planted in a circle (essential apparently) and three sunflowers grown from seed. IMG_1369

The sweetpeas are still dwarf but at least are big enough to tie up a bit! The Cosmos are still a great joy and seem to keep on flowering and flowering (hurray!) and both little pots of violas together with the hanging basket with them in, bought from the reduced shelf at Homebase have done remarkably well. The tomatoes are a bit of a worry…..those donated by Mrs. Smith and Sheila are doing fine, as are the cherry ones grown from seed, but the grafted Indigo ones have leaf roll which means they’re stressed – not half as stressed as I am with them being stressed!!


Over to the flowering side, all seems to be going well. The mesembryanthemum seeds which I recklessly put straight into the bed as seeds have started to come up in satisfying little clumps – can’t wait to see their lovely happy flowers! The geranium donated by Linda is thriving although it is a bit top heavy and needed a lie down after the rain we had. Everything else is coming along nicely. The pear tree that was rescued from being dumped is starting to get established, the leaves have stopped going brown and there’s new growth on it. The hydrangea is going to be spectacular soon – hopefully – and the big green bushy thing by the bird feeder has surprised us by having gloriously soft pink flowers – which has probably saved it’s life to be honest!

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The Acer is beautiful, though needs a bit of pruning later in the season to make up for what looks like years of neglect. We might try moving it to the front of the house at some point in the future but I’m not sure if it would be too sunny for it there.

The courgette donated by Rosie is going mad! It seemed to double in size after the rain at the weekend and has had lots of lovely flowers so fingers crossed that we will get some courgettes from it!

Finally (phew!) moving to the front of the house, the planter potted up by Kev is an absolute joy and makes me smile every time I come home.


If you’d have told me even 6 months ago that I’d be so excited about the garden, I don’t think I’d have believed you. Long may it last!