The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


How to grow the best organic perpetual/everbearing strawberries

Posted in Fruit | 8 comments

How to grow the best organic perpetual/everbearing strawberries

Ta da! (Massive rumble of drums) Finally this year we are growing and will relish great strawberries! With a bit of trial and a lot of error. Home grown strawberries, picked and guzzled within minutes taste far, far better than any strawberry that you can buy from a shop. Freshness is important but if you grow your own you can choose varieties that taste superb but just don’t travel well and last for the number of days that the supermarkets need to display the fruit. Waitrose tried to sell the best tasting varieties of UK strawberries a...

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The Cottage Smallholder February gardening competition

Posted in Gardening | 24 comments

The Cottage Smallholder February gardening competition

It’s competition time again at Cottage Smallholder. I really enjoy running these competitions as I’m picking up so many tips from around the world. I’ve been looking for sponsors and have two lined up already – this is great as they will help with the judging and of course the prizes are much more deluxe than the rather humble prizes that we’ve offered before. As I mentioned yesterday, Erika from Lunar Organics is sponsoring this competition. The prize is a beautiful moon gardening calendar and explanatory booklet plus three packets...

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Vegetable harvest from poor soil

Posted in Vegetables | 10 comments

Vegetable harvest from poor soil

We have several squash plants growing in the garden. I spotted this squash about two weeks ago. The seed packet advised harvesting them quickly to encourage more squash to appear. It is barely an inch across and has hardly grown. When I examined it this evening it fell into my hand. Similarly the calabrese (all year round ‘broccoli’ in the UK supermarkets). Just like sprouting broccoli the head is harvested first to encourage the side shoots to appear. This evening I snapped it off, not wanting it to go to seed. “We have a baby squash...

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Thunder and hail

Posted in General care | 9 comments

Thunder and hail

Still having problems with the laptop. I’ve tried the air spray idea but the precious machine is crashing constantly – answers to inquiries and comments when the system is more stable. Meanwhile here is a post. “When you were little did your parents tell you that thunder was just God moving his furniture around?” “No.”  Danny smiled. “It’s a great concept, though.” “Part of me liked it. I enjoyed imagining the size of a table or sofa that would make that noise. But the idea worried me, surely God would get his...

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Growing tomatoes in the greenhouse. Tips from traditional practice at Audley End House

Posted in Vegetables | 12 comments

Growing tomatoes in the greenhouse. Tips from traditional practice at Audley End House

This year we are going all out for rearing tomatoes. Growing them on the sunny wall in front of the cottage and in the greenhouse. We are nurturing fifty plants and if all goes well we’d love to be able to bottle some fruit for use during the winter months. Danny is a tomato as well as a potato fan – well they are related after all. He loves to graze on the toms when I’m out at work. If I grow loads he is almost able to steal with impunity. Unfortunately tomato blight has attacked the crop the past two summers but hopefully we will have...

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Home grown presents and the joy of radio

Posted in Cottage tales | 8 comments

Home grown presents and the joy of radio

I’m working for a very sparky couple at the moment. I’ve been with them on and off for years now. They were the first people to employ me as a professional decorator – I painted their stables. On the way to do the initial quote I had to pull over in Jalopy to get my breath. I was really nervous. This summer I’ll repeat the exercise but six years later I have got a lot faster, so it will be the same price! Swallows nest in their stables in summer and add a dash of added wildlife enjoyment. Swallows are so elegant and beautiful to...

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The secret of species tulips

Posted in Flowers | 6 comments

The secret of species tulips

I have written about species tulips before . I like growing ordinary tulips but have fallen wantonly in love with species tulips. Our local squirrel has adjusted our planting plans and has buried small groups all over the garden. And they are now slowly spreading. When I first moved to the cottage I planted over 500 ordinary tulip bulbs. Sixteen years later we have just seven bulbs left (these are the red ones that seem to just go on and on). But Lady of the Night, a beautiful red and white parrot variety and a host of other tulip wonders...

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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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