The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


Flowers from the garden: May 2009

Posted in Flowers | 9 comments

Flowers from the garden: May 2009

Next month I will be celebrating the challenge of not buying flowers for two and a half years. Apart from saving approximately £500 a year, this challenge has forced me to overhaul the herbaceous borders and become much more inventive with the flowers that grow in our garden. The arrangements are surprisingly soft compared to those in the shops. May is the start of the easy flower picking months. Perhaps next year I will grow flowers undercover for the winter months although I do enjoy the move from a tiny glass of snowdrops in January to a...

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Wonderful tulips: Queen of the Night

Posted in Discoveries, Flowers | 10 comments

Wonderful tulips: Queen of the Night

When I first moved to the cottage I planted Queen of the Night tulips with scented white irises beside the new pond – the combination looked stunning but they petered out when the yew hedges grew large. The hedges are great for making compartments and adding structure to a garden but they also create dry shady areas on one side and on the other side very dry sunny areas if you have a south west facing garden like us. But a challenge is often a good thing. You are forced to think around the box, rather than just outside it. We have a vast pot...

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Early May in our garden

Posted in General care | 3 comments

Early May in our garden

“I’m expecting something to break through by Monday.” “You may have a sporting chance!” Danny glanced at John Coe’s rows of potatoes bursting through the earth. “I don’t want to win the challenge. I just want loads of spuds. I’m worried that John’s rows don’t have the contents of the composter and mine do.” “I sprinkled sulphate of potash on his rows. Perhaps the compost is too high in nitrogen to be good for your potatoes. The main thing is the watering. Don’t you remember the farm shop near Bury? They didn’t...

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Increase pollination by planting sweet peas with your runner beans

Posted in Vegetables | 13 comments

Increase pollination by planting sweet peas with your runner beans

We have had bumper crops of runner beans for three years now. I am sure that part of the reason for this is because I have planted sweet peas with my runner beans. The combination is beneficial for both. The scented sweet pea flowers attract insects and this increases the pollination and yield of the runner beans. They are perfect companions. Both are greedy and flourish in a border rich in home made compost. They need quite a bit of watering so the automatic watering system is doubled in this section of the kitchen garden. They both need to...

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Flowers from the garden: May 2008

Posted in Flowers | 5 comments

Flowers from the garden: May 2008

I used to leave this post until the end of each month, hoping that there will be more plants in flower. Then I would cram as many different flowers as I could find into a vase. A large mixed bunch is a joy but sometimes a simple combination just works well. When I saw my favourite rose coming into flower and the cornflowers beneath it, I just had to pick them both. A perfect summery pairing. Our Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ has hovered on the verge of flowering since late January. May is the month when it is at its best and should burst...

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Species tulips

Posted in Flowers | 2 comments

Species tulips

It was at Carol’s house that I first noticed a Species tulip. At midday the small flower had opened like a star. The leaves indicated that it was a tulip but this was a tulip with a difference. At the end of the day when the sun was going down and I was heading for Jalopy, I took a small diversion to look at it again. The petals had closed. I crept away. I like flowers that change during the day. They seem even more alive. That autumn I bought two packs of Species tulips and planted them in two low stone pots. The squirrel was clearly...

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Overhauling the soft fruit border

Posted in Fruit | 5 comments

Overhauling the soft fruit border

Beside the chicken run is a stretch of border. Roughly twenty five feet long and six feet deep. The newt pond lies on the outer edges of the left hand side and is six feet in diameter. Last week I slipped on the edge and fell in. I damaged my left hand, especially the thumb, and one welly filled with water. As I am strapped for time at the moment, I just emptied the welly and carried on working. Throughout the afternoon and early evening I wondered whether the little red worms that I’ve seen in the pond were sashaying up my left leg. I...

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Flowers from the garden: May

Posted in Flowers | 7 comments

Flowers from the garden: May

It seems longer than four months since I last bought flowers for the house. I’m still finding it hard to keep my vow not to buy any for a whole year. For the last couple of weeks we’ve had no flowers indoors, from the garden or anywhere else. I’ve been returning from work too late to drift into the garden with my secateur. And, I suppose in a way I had lost heart. Last weekend I visited one of my favourite private flower stands (on Duchess Drive, Newmarket). I had surreptitiously spotted that they were selling Sweet Peas a...

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