October garden round-up

The last of the harvest is in now, and I’ve brought the pepper plants and remaining tomatoes into the conservatory to ripen. I’ve had 6 good peppers, red and yellow, from the plants so far, and there are two still growing on the red, so I’m hoping to extend the season until they have ripened.

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I also brought in the chilli on a more permanent basis – as I think it looks quite pretty! I’ve had enough chillis to make tamarillo chilli jam, chilli, apple and ginger jelly, and to hang two strings of chillis to dry, and there are still plenty on the plant too!

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And my pumpkins have ripened nicely off the vine, since the frame fell over and snapped them both off!

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My first saffron crocus have begun to bloom, so I’ve collected a dozen or so saffron strands. I’ve put in over-wintering kale, chard, onions, elephant garlic and winter lettuces. I also visited our local garden centre at just the right moment with my birthday money and bought a cold frame and plastic greenhouse for next spring’s seedlings, both half price in the end of season sale. The seeds were all reduced to 50p per packet too, so I filled my boots! All set for next spring!

Re-useful #6: £1 pvc dome umbrellas

Ok, so this is not strictly a recycle post, but it is both a repurpose and a budget alternative. I have been unable to find any pop-up cloches for my garden for under £6. I do use cut off bottles, but they just aren’t big enough for many of my plants which could use some little protection from the elements this winter…

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I picked three of these cheap, clear umbrellas up in a pound shop in Leamington (and I’ve seen them in the 99p Store in Shirley too). I used a hammer to crack the plastic handle, which slid off easily once split, and then used the metal handle to secure them into the soil. I’ve had no problems with wayward wanderers thus far, even in our recent gale-force winds! I’ll certainly be going back for a few more!

Time-saving tools: my “kerchunk”

Sometime in the dark, early days of motherhood, I had a visit from my Mum and her lovely friend, Jane. I asked my Mum whether she had a spare apple corer – it’s the kind of thing I thought she might have two of lying around, and with the hours I was spending prepping fruit and veg for the boys, a time-saver I thought might help out a little. She had sent the spares to the charity shop, but Jane piped up and said she had a spare “kerchunk” I was welcome to, if I’d like?

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I had no clue how useful it would be. Feeding the lads aside, it is a life saver when making apple-based jams and jellies! I picked up another 3 kilos of windfalls yesterday, and spent much of this morning making apple & beetroot relish, chilli apple jelly and crab apple pectin. My time must have been halved, at least, thanks to the “kerchunk”. No fiddly chopping, just a quick peel (for the relish, no need for the jelly/pectin) and KERCHUNK – you’re done!

If you haven’t got one already, keep an eye open at charity shops and car boot sales. Or buy one new – they’ll pay back in time soon enough!

Re-useful #5: pallet project the third

I knew that I needed to build some planters for my saffron crocus corms, and had seen a few different pallet planters on pinterest that had given me a some ideas.The pallets I received were all different sizes and designs, so the first thing I did was to sort them into piles according to their type. This informed my final designs.

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I decided to use the heaviest pallets with curved edges for my planters. They looked like this:

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First thing I did was to cut out the middle section:

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Set that aside for later. Now, use plates to fasten the two end pieces together. I used rectangles on either end, and corners on the middle centre, two each top and bottom:

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Now attach your lining. I tried two different styles here, one hessian sacking, the other landscaping fabric I dug up from my allotment. I prefer the landscaping fabric overall, as the hessian doesn’t seem particularly sturdy.

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You can use whatever you have to hand here – small screws, nails or upholstery tacks, or easiest of all, a staple gun if you have one! I don’t, so used a combination of screws and nails, as came to hand!

Now go back to that middle bit and cut away two of the crossbars. You can measure and cut these to size, or do as I did, attach first and saw to size afterwards for a perfect fit!

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Use long screws to attach these to the top-most ends. These should trap your lining as well as making the whole structure sturdier.

Now, the rest is optional, but I added additional structure into the ends of my last planter:

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I also used a couple of old leather belts to make handles on each end, as these will be easier to move to the front gates once they are in bloom!

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Then I used the stencil font on word to print out the words SAFFRON CROCUS onto plain paper. I attached a couple of strips of wide double-sided tape to the back before using my exacto knife to cut them out:

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 This made it especially easy to spray paint the planters, as the double-sided tape adhered to the wood.

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And there you have it! Oh, and that leftover piece from the middle? Ideal for raising plan pots off the ground to deter slugs and protect a little from ground frosts.

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Glut busting…

It was only this year that I learned that you could eat the carrot greens – there’s a myth I had heard that they are poisonous, but apparently it is just that – a myth.

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I’ve had a lot of produce to eat lately, including these thinnings, so I made a simple chick pea salad, with diced carrots, halved cherry tomatoes, finely chopped carrot greens and a rapeseed oil and lemon juice dressing. The twins and Dapper all wolfed it down – unfortunately before I had a chance to photograph it… so you’ll just have to try it yourself to see the end result!

I also made up a batch of these yellow squash crisps using a glut of patty pans, salt and black pepper, and without parmesan (as I had none in). These were also a massive hit! I recommend the recipe.

Re-useful #4: old banana skins & egg shells

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Of course, you can just add these to the compost too. We eat a LOT of bananas in this house – a LOT – so we have plenty of skins. I put these on a tray in the bottom of the oven, allowing them to air dry until I bake something, then heat dry for the rest. Then I grind them in a coffee grinder, with any (washed, dry) egg shells and last year’s red clover harvest (as it turned out, I didn’t like it as tea!). Store the mixture in an old antibacterial wipes container, sprinkling a good handful in the hole before planting out plants, or mixing through my own compost to boost it. I’ve also occasionally dissolved a spoonful in the watering can to give the plants a kick!

Re-useful #3: pallet project the second

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My second pallet project was another very simple no-brainer. Simply cutting half of the pallet off left me with a much-needed outdoor welly stand. Taking out the second rung from the bottom allowed me to fill the bottom with some chard seedlings I’m hoping will take before winter kicks in. This will look great too come spring, when I replace these with daffs/tulips!