Jobs for June – Summer in Swing

I’m crossing my fingers for a run of dry, sunny days in June, as I have a number of jobs that really need completing by the end of the month. The aim is to have some major tasks finished in time for E’s second birthday in August (how the hell did that happen, two years old!), when we’re hoping to invite friends and family over for a relaxed day of food, fun and sun.

We’ve really gained some momentum this year with our little Smallest Smallholding. Of course, there are tonnes of improvements and ideas we have floating about, and time isn’t on our side right now, but it’s great to feel as if we’re going somewhere with making our ideas a reality. So here are a few things that are on my To Do List, for June, to keep that momentum rolling.:

Paint the Tool Shed
There will be more on this in a later blog post, but we now have a compact and very useful little tool shed, which has freed up space in the “big” (medium-small) shed. It’s currently a bit naked, and I’m hoping to put a few pennies and pounds aside to give it a lick of paint. Maybe country cream or with some willow green It’s just been far too damp recently to even consider it, but I’m keeping an eye on the forecasts…

Sow All Seeds
I still have quite a few packets of flower seeds that need sowing directly, but firstly I need to get the beds prepared with compost. There’s plenty of the homemade stuff in our old leaf bin. It’s just a case of emptying it, carting it over to the vegetable garden and getting it in situ. Simple!

Plant Up Hanging Baskets
There’s nothing like the splash of colour and vibrancy that a brimming summer hanging basket can bring. We’ve left our baskets and containers around the back of the house empty for far too long. It’s time to get them planted up, and bring back some summer cheer. 

Update Gardening Bag
I’m currently using an old tent peg bag as my garden bag, but it’s just not doing the job, other than being water resistant. I’d like to have compartments for garden labels, pens, a stake and string for straight edges, and maybe even space for my kneeling mat. Maybe a gardening bag like this. Budgets are always tight, but if I’m going to be spending more time on our mini flower farm field, I need to be better equipped and more organised.

Stop Raiding My Wardrobe for Workwear
Recently, I lost a load of baby weight that had been hanging on, and have managed to fit back into lots of my old clothes. Unfortunately, they’re also the only clothes I have to garden in, and I’ve got a knack of wrecking things that I shouldn’t be wearing when tackling the likes of monster brambles. I can’t tell you how many clothes I’ve ripped, jumpers I’ve wrecked and trousers I’ve rendered useless for daily wear. I’ve been thinking of investing in some practical trousers and came across these outdoor ladies workwear jeans from Engelbert Strauss. They actually have long pockets in a useful place, on the thigh, rather than at the hip where I’m always bending and compressing when in the garden. I’m thinking I could keep my secateurs to hand in those long pockets, and as they’re stretchy fabric, they’ll be comfortable too.

Plant Squash
This one is very specific; I find any kind of squash immensely useful in the kind of cooking I like to do – soups, stews, curries and chillies (let’s just call them one pot wonders). I’m aiming to grow a few butternut squash, and, if time and space allows, some kind of acorn squash or something a little ornamental. I’ve had great success in the past, but if I’d learned anything, it’s that I can’t be late planting in squash, and I need to regularly feed them to keep the plants healthy and flush with fruit.

There’s always more to do, but I’m trying to keep my to do list achievable this month! What’s on yours?

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Knucklehead pumpkin growing in September

Knucklehead pumpkin

My Gardening Essentials Kit Wish List

Although we’ve been experiencing some truly uninspiring weather lately, I’ve been trying to keep up the momentum and get busy in the garden. Now May is upon us, the growing has kicked up a gear and the risk of frost is slowly decreasing. Showtime!

It’s evident everywhere – from the sudden growth in the greenhouse to the abundance of blooms and blossom in the garden.

I’ve still got a little time before I have to delve back into the world of work, so it’s a case of “now or never” when it comes to getting those essential tasks done. And the busier I get (and with a baby in tow, the more efficient I’ve had to become in getting jobs done), the more I’ve realised how severely lacking my gardening kit has become. It’s not making my life easy. Broken and blunt tools, a bag that’s literally hanging on by a thread, faulty watering cans and even a lack of gardening clothing have been holding me back a bit.

Vegetable Trug Gardening

So it’s time to start planning a revamp of my gardening kit. Although I’m having to watch the pennies whilst on maternity pay, I can still plan (and dream).

Here’s a little wish-list to update my gardening essentials kit:

A Sharp Hoe
My old hoe broke at some point over the winter (either that or it’s simply vanished into thin air), and as an advocate of no-dig gardening, a hoe is an essential gardening tool. I’ve already got a WOLF Garten rake (it’s brilliant), and as the multi-use handle accommodates a number of tools, a dutch hoe will be perfect… and a space saver too. Great for small sheds stuffed to the brim with gardening tools!

A Durable Garden Bag
Right now, I’m using an old free cloth spa bag as my gardening bag… yes, really! Last year, both handles broke, and with no pockets, I often have to stir my bag for a few minutes before being able to select the right tool. I’ve been researching affordable gardening bags for a while and wanted something that was both functional and a little bit pretty. So far my search has proved a little futile (too small, too pricey, not waterproof, too frilly), but I haven’t given up yet. Any suggestions will be happily received!

Gardening Trousers – with pockets!
I don’t like losing things, but unfortunately it’s something I’m very good at. Plant labels, packets of seeds, twine, secateurs, pencils, a pocket pruning knife and phone are just a few things that I tend to carry about with me in the garden. So weatherproof trousers with pockets, as far as I’m concerned, are a must-have piece of gardening clothing, Whether I’m sowing seeds, up a ladder pruning and trimming, or battling with a knee-high nettle patch, a good pair of gardening trousers with pockets are essential. I prefer a slimmer fit, but comfort has to be my main priority. No squeezed knees or cutting in at the waist, thank you. These durable ladies gardening trousers from Englebert Strauss are just the ticket.

A Galvanised Watering Can
Simply because they’re durable and a classic piece of gardening kit! Much better than plastic, anyhow.

A Potting Shed
Yep, it’s a big one on the wish list, and maybe technically it doesn’t qualify as gardening kit, but nevertheless, here it is. I live in hope of one day being the proud owner of a potting shed. Not just because I’d like somewhere to sow, grow and pot on my homegrown delights, but because sometimes I’m really happy in my own company. Just for a while. So a quiet space to potter and ponder would be a little slice of heaven. In timber form.

Long Handled Lawn Edging Shears
My grandfather, Pappa, always said that edges make a lawn. Whilst I’m more interested in borders than lawns, it’s true that a clean-cut edge can make even the scrappiest bit of garden look smarter. In fact, it’s a trick I’ve been using to great effect this year. So far I’ve made do with painstakingly cutting my edges and veg plot borders with a half-moon and tidying up with kitchen scissors, but really I need to invest in a good pair of lawn edging shears to get the job finished quickly and efficiently.

Got any suggestions for your must-have piece of gardening kit? Let me know in the comments!

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Cherry blossom

Holding on for spring

Bunch of daffodils

Finally, there’s a warmth on the breeze. The world is waking earlier and earlier, and all over the garden the daffodils are singing, shoots are shooting, bulbs are popping their greeny growth above the soil and the forget me nots are sprouting up in every corner and crevice, ready to bloom.

And I’m not ready! E is now six and a half months old, and whilst we’re getting into a routine of sorts, I’m still finding it so hard to eke out a spare moment here and there. My seed packets were purchased in earnest in the darker months of winter, but there’s been no sowing, no planting, no potting on at all. My social media feeds are full of pictures of greenhouses bursting to the brim with seed module trays, sprouting onion sets and the lanky but lush growth of sweet peas.

But my garlic is still in packets, the potatoes are solemnly chitting on the windowsill and I have an abundance of spring flowers just waiting to be potted up to brighten the steps outside the kitchen door.

Hell, I even have trees and raspberry canes waiting to go in the ground. That is not good! Argh!

I really need to get a grip. Just an hour here and there should do it, but I’ve been so busy, and so full of cold. So I’m asking – as much as I want spring to arrive, could she please, please just hang on for a week or two whilst I (pardon my French) get my shit together.

I’ll do better, I promise…

Polyanthus, daffodils ready for potting on

In the meantime, look at these pretty little polyanthus primroses! These, along with the dwarf daffs and irises, will adorn the steps by kitchen door to create a little bit of spring cheer.

dwarf iris

I tend to opt for a more muted colour palette when it comes to polyanthus, steering away from the vivid purples, reds and bright yellows in favour of warm and soothing hues. And once the plants and bulbs have finished, I pop them out under the deciduous fruit trees, to help create a bigger and better spring display each year.


Dwarf daffodils in spring

Tete a tete daffodils emerging under the fruit trees each spring

The tete-a-tete daffodils now spring up in a carpet under the damson, followed by some later-flowering and paler-coloured varieties, as well as primroses, polyanthus, cowslips and oxlip. A couple of years ago I added some english bluebells, but have yet to see them flower. Here’s hoping.

Primroses and daffodils

Spring pots from previous seasons; warmer, serene colour schemes more in tune with nature

And here’s hoping to a spare hour and and there in the next fortnight.