The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


Spring maintenance in the herbaceous borders is a doddle with a Cape Cod Weeder

Posted in General care | 3 comments

Spring maintenance in the herbaceous borders is a doddle with a Cape Cod Weeder

When I first moved to the cottage my mum told me that I needed to scratch over the surface of all the herbaceous borders with a hand fork in the spring. “It lifts the soil, lets it breath and avoids compaction. Ideally you add some fertiliser to give it a bit of a boost.” The next year I scraped and boosted. I probably followed this advice for at least three years and everything flourished. The borders were smaller then. But as they increased in size I ignored this pertinent tip. Using a hand fork is hard work on the wrist. It’s easy to...

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How to easily create more growing space in your polytunnel or greenhouse

Posted in General care | 7 comments

How to easily create more growing space in your polytunnel or greenhouse

Somehow people seem to be much more creative and imaginative in polytunnels than greenhouses. I picked up the idea of floating shelves from the excellent book by Mark Gatter and Andy Mckee How to Grow Food in Your Polytunnel. Of course the subtitle ‘All the Year Round’ was the initial hook for me. We are so lucky to have our Solar tunnel. It’s stronger than a polytunnel and withstood the February high winds. And the time when I tripped over the wheelbarrow handles and bounced off its sturdy cover in a ghastly stomach wrenching ‘Am I...

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Improving the soil in the old kitchen garden

Posted in General care | 2 comments

Improving the soil in the old kitchen garden

The secret of successful growing is in the soil. Poor soil will always give iffy results however much time you give to watering and TLC. So this year I was determined to continue to improve the soil in the old kitchen garden. Things do grow there but they are not as luxuriant as the plants and roots grown in the new kitchen garden. We discovered the basket weavers’ kitchen garden three years ago when Danny decided to grow some spuds in a new border. The lawn here had been very green and lush. A clue that I’d ignored until then. “Of...

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Biodynamic gardening update. One year on.

Posted in General care, Pests and Diseases | 7 comments

Biodynamic gardening update. One year on.

  I’m continuing to practice biodynamic principles this year. Last year, when I followed the planting and harvesting days religiously, I had great results. Good strong plants, more disease resistance and better harvests. With the exception of battling with cabbage white fly that nearly decimated the Sutherland kale*. I tried to save our crop but in the end just threw it out. Didn’t want to ingest the horrid infestation. Too small to be considered added protein. Last autumn I armed myself with yards of insect netting – bought in the...

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Incan irrigation and hotbeds could transform our polytunnel and greenhouse woes

Posted in Discoveries, General care | 4 comments

Incan irrigation and hotbeds could transform our polytunnel and greenhouse  woes

  There was a fascinating article in Permaculture magazine (no. 66 Winter 2010) using an Inca technique to self water a greenhouse. Basically, water is harvested from the roof of the tunnel or greenhouse into a central semi lined gulley. This seeps in between small stones beneath raised beds and waters the plants from below. The soil on the top remains dry – so is no longer a nirvana for slugs and also counteracts the nasty problem of moulds. The gulley has a wooden slatted walkway above that forms the pathway through the tunnel. I got very...

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Free planting vessels or state of the art equipment. CS is experimenting with seed germination devices.

Posted in General care | 8 comments

Free planting vessels or state of the art equipment. CS is experimenting with seed germination devices.

  As someone said on a forum – root trainers are the marmite of the horticultural world – you either love them or hate them. I’ve been thinking about testing out root trainers out for some time. The price put me off initially and then I reckoned that if we get better sweet peas and beans I’d soon recoup the cost, especially as they are reusable. I must admit I was a bit disappointed when they arrived. They seemed awfully flimsy. But once that are packed with compost and placed in the rack they seem quite sturdy. On another forum...

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The Polytunnel Book: Fruit and Vegetables All Year Round by Joyce Russell with photographs by Ben Russell. A review.

Posted in General care | 6 comments

The Polytunnel Book: Fruit and Vegetables All Year Round by Joyce Russell with photographs by Ben Russell. A review.

I couldn’t wait to tell you about this book. It’s excellent, inspirational and practical. I’ve been reading it ever since it arrived a few days ago. As you know I’m the proud owner of a solar tunnel. Unlike the average polytunnel the solar tunnel is beautiful, the covering is thick and sturdy and the doors chunky. It’s a great space to work in and hopefully will provide us with tasty crops throughout the year. Even though it seemed vast when it was constructed – 10’ x 20’ – space is at a premium. And I need all the help and...

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Discovering marsh and rock samphire, salsola and seakale. Edible plants that need a bit of salt if grown away from the seaside

Posted in General care, Vegetables | 15 comments

Discovering marsh and rock samphire, salsola and seakale. Edible plants that need a bit of salt if grown away from the seaside

  Even though I spent a lot of my childhood living beside the sea building seaweed castles to catch that special prince, I didn’t even meet the seaweed fairy and never tasted samphire until a couple of years ago. It was love at first bite, the saltiness and the crunch. The totally green tastiness of the thing. So when I spotted samphire seeds for sale in the new Otter Farm online shop they were slipped into my basket within a thought. Having ordered these seeds I began to fret about actually growing them – we are an hour and a half drive...

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