The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


How to easily propagate aconites and snowdrops in your garden

Posted in Flowers | 9 comments

How to easily propagate aconites and snowdrops in your garden

The past two dry days have meant that I have donned my thermal suit and my winter decorating outfit. I’ve started work on the outside of a lovely house, set in forty acres. Here I’ve seen a hare snatching the chance to sneak up the drive towards the vegetable garden (the Labradors were out playing golf at the time), blue pheasant nest there and bountiful feeders attract a wide range of birds. By the pond, I spotted my first Jay as I was watching the moorhens silently pick their way into the safety of the rushes. In a few weeks time...

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Flowers from the garden: February 2008

Posted in Flowers | 12 comments

Flowers from the garden: February 2008

I was thinking about the joy that not buying flowers has given me over the past year. It has forced me to look at the world in an entirely different way. I now treasure the flowers that I grow and enjoy those that are living elsewhere – generally a fleeting glimpse from Jaolpy’s driving seat as we pound towards the job that day. At the moment there are pools of tremulous snowdrops, polyanthus and primroses. The daffodils are opening and it’s only February. Flower spotting on foot is a much more satisfying pursuit. The dogs...

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White sprouting broccoli

Posted in Vegetables | 14 comments

White sprouting broccoli

There are two types of sprouting broccoli – purple and white. The purple are generally bigger plants. These are very tasty but nothing can beat the tender sweetness of the white sprouting varieties. Many people that I have spoken to have given up trying to cultivate sprouting broccoli. “It sat there. Doing nothing. Eventually we ripped out the row.” If you toss away the seed packet it’s easy to forget how long it takes to develop. It’s always worth checking in a book or diving into the internet if a plant seems to...

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Hard frost

Posted in Vegetables | 11 comments

Hard frost

We’ve had some very hard frosts for a few days now. The grass hasn’t unfrozen before the crisp dark sky freezes each strand again with tiny shards of ice. I am hoping these frosts will kill the blight spores that attacked our potatoes last year. The plants were black within days and the tubers didn’t last long before they softened and rotted. Irish grown potatoes are much more floury than ones raised in England. D’s father planted earlier – mid March and lifted the first potatoes in mid July. I discovered by...

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Wild crocus

Posted in Flowers | 13 comments

Wild crocus

I glanced out of the sitting room window and saw a splash of pale lavender blue in the grass. We are lucky. Wild crocus have naturalised and spread. They were here when I came to the house, large pools of shimmering blue. Just before I bought the cottage I passed its gate in a former Jalopy. There was a wash of the palest blue across the grass. Magical and almost unreal – like an illustration from a 1930’s children’s book. These flowers seem so much more delicate than the standard crocus. They respond to the gentlest breath...

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Flowers from the garden: February

Posted in Flowers | 0 comments

Flowers from the garden: February

In January I decided not to buy flowers for the house for a year. With a garden of a third of an acre, I should be able to find something to bung in a vase. However, I never give things up so this is a real struggle as I love flowers. I was helped this month by the freesias D bought me for Valentine’s Day. And the last of the carnations that Tony bought a few weeks ago have just been relegated to the compost bin. When I’m rich and famous I’d like a vase of flowers in every room. If this happens before December 31 2007,...

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Miniature daffodils (narcissus)

Posted in Flowers | 1 comment

Miniature daffodils (narcissus)

For years I used to be a bit sniffy about miniature bulbs until I was given some, maybe six years ago. They blossomed indoors on my kitchen windowsill. This was the start of a short affair. I planted them beside a treasured shrub near the back door and they multiplied. I noticed them very early each spring because they flowered long before the traditional daffodils in the garden. Then, after three years, they vanished. After a while I forgot all about miniature daffodils. After Christmas, I spotted a load of mixed bulbs that I had dug up...

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Snow on the vegetables. Broccoli and early broad beans

Posted in Vegetables | 0 comments

Snow on the vegetables. Broccoli and early broad beans

I was a bit worried by last week’s snow and shot down before breakfast, in my dressing gown and wellies, to shake the snow off the broccoli netting. I keep the broccoli under nets to protect it from greedy woodpigeons. But the weight of the snow could snap the stems however sturdy. The fences only vaguely support the netting. I need to make a sturdier structure in the middle of the border this year. The dry weather last summer meant that John delayed planting the broccoli until August. This has dramatically effected their growth. They...

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