The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


Gardening Which? compost trials

Posted in General care | 16 comments

Gardening Which? compost trials

  I was fascinated to read and see the results of Gardening Which? compost trials in this month’s magazine. The results are extraordinary and in many ways disappointing. The peat free compost just doesn’t cut the mustard – at best achieving 54% compared to the best buy 88% for seed sowing. Young plants did even worse 46% compared to 92%. Up until now I’ve tended not to buy the cheaper compost and was under the misapprehension that more expensive compost was better and would give my seedlings a better chance. Last year I noted that...

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The Garlic Lovers Collection from The Garlic Farm, Isle of Wight

Posted in General care, Vegetables | 7 comments

The Garlic Lovers Collection from The Garlic Farm, Isle of Wight

  “The great thing about working from home is that I can eat as much garlic as I like and not have to worry that I reek.” Danny was savouring some chunky garlic cloves in a baked vegetable dish. “As long as you eat some garlic too,” he added as an after thought. I will never make the mistake again of not eating garlic when Danny is devouring it. The two days in non garlic purda were very long indeed and strenuous as I had to breath through my mouth. We eat a lot of garlic. In fact our consumption has rocketed over the last two years...

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In praise of my Cape Cod weeder: a review

Posted in General care, Reviews | 7 comments

In praise of my Cape Cod weeder: a review

  This little tool has become a favourite in my hand weeding armoury. Danny gave it to me, along with a new hand fork and trowel for my birthday. I’d heard that the Cape Cod weeder is an excellent tool but it took quite a few weeks before I decided to put it through its paces. Within a few minutes, I discovered that it’s much better than a trowel or hand fork for clearing weeds fast. The head is drawn below the surface of the soil to cut off weeds at the roots – like a tiny hoe. But I soon discovered that all that is needed to dislodge...

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Have you heard of Rootgrow?

Posted in Discoveries, General care | 4 comments

Have you heard of Rootgrow?

  This is organic friendly fungi that I have been using this summer, when planting perennials, roses and shrubs. KateUK mentioned it in a comment on the blog and when I spotted Rootgrow in the garden centre, I invested in a pack. Everything that I planted with a sprinkle of Rootgrow crystals has flourished. So if you are planting this Autumn you might consider investing in a pack to give your plants the best possible chance. Rootgrow is a  mycorrhizal fungi that creates a secondary “root” system. So a plant has double roots to...

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We have got a Solar Tunnel polytunnel!

Posted in Discoveries, General care, Reviews | 14 comments

We have got a Solar Tunnel polytunnel!

  It’s all Lynn Keddie’s and Jackie’s fault. They both set the “why not get a polytunnel” seed in my brain. Like everyone else we are becoming very concerned about the rising price of food. It just seems to be creeping up and up. If we invested in a polytunnel we could extend the growing season even further and might be able to become 95% self sufficient in vegetables and a lot of fruit. That is with the help of the freezer, the dehydrator and plain old fashioned bottled fruit and tomatoes. The fledgling flower selling business...

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Buying bulbs in bulk and a few bulb planting tips

Posted in Flowers, General care, Plants and Bulbs | 9 comments

Buying bulbs in bulk and a few bulb planting tips

This is the time of year that the shelves are groaning with Spring bulbs at the local garden centres. Tempting displays that usually draw me in. But not this year. These little packs of 10 bulbs for £3.99 are too expensive. I’m buying in bulk. When I first moved to the cottage I invested in a lot of tulip bulbs that gradually died out over the years – I had no idea that most of them need to be lifted and stored over the summer. Since then we have invested in species tulips that spread gently in the tubs and borders. There are two types of...

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DIY plumbing

Posted in General care, Save Money | 6 comments

DIY plumbing

  I’ve nearly finished the planting in the newly made over garden but the long hot summer has wrecked the grass. With Lynn Keddie  – the photographer – arriving in a few weeks time I’ve been repairing and reseeding the lawn. If it doesn’t rain the lawn has to be watered twice a day. So I invested in a Hozelock Aquastorm 17 oscillating sprinkler. At its best it will water a giant 200 sqm. The water pressure from our outdoor tap is not very good and when I set the sprinkler in action it barely covered a measly 4 square meters....

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Harvesting bags

Posted in General care | 13 comments

Harvesting bags

  For years I’ve used carrier bags when out foraging. They are convenient and slip into a pocket – so if you unexpectedly come across some hedgerow treasure you have a bag for your bounty. However, it’s difficult to keep the neck of a plastic supermarket carrier bag open so picking has to be one handed. Earlier this year I treated myself to this smart harvesting bag. The long strap means that it can be worn across the body, leaving two hands for picking. The opening at the top is rigid and less fruit falls to the ground than when...

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