25 Jun 2011

Eat It: Mini Pumpkin Pies


Cut the pumpkin in half with a sharp knife, using a rocking motion. Scoop out the seeds. Slice the pumpkin into pieces and cut off the skin.

You'll need:
500g pumpkin into large chunks
1 tbsp olive oil
375g puff pastry
1 tbsp plain flour
90g treacle
1 whole egg
3 large egg yolks
300ml milk
half a split vanilla pod
a pinch of salt
190/Gas Mark 5

1. On a baking tray, pour olive oil over the pumpkin pieces. Evenly coat them, using your hands. Raost until tender. Cool and then mash with a fork.

2. Shape the puff pastry pieces into balls. Roll out each ball until about 6cm diameter. press each piece into a bun tin and put into the fridge.

3. Place a piece of parchment paper into each pastry and fill to the top with baking beans. Bake in the oven then remove the paper and beans.

4. Pour the milk into a pan. Scrape out the vanilla seeds from the pod and add to the milk. Heat the mixture until just below boiling point. Leave to cool a little.

5. Lightly beat the egg yolks, whole egg and treacle in a bowl. Add the flour and salt and beat until smooth. Strain the hot milk over the mixture and heat.

6. Pour the smootj mixture into a pan and bring to the boil, stirring all the time until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the pumpkin puree.

7. Spoon out the mixture evenly into the pastry cases. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until just firm and slightly puffed up. Serve the pies warm with a dusting of icing sugar on the top if you wish.

24 Jun 2011

Grow Your Own Guide - Pumpkin

Pumpkin - These large, heavy fruits belong tot he squash family. Pumpkins take a long time to ripen, but other varieties of summer squash will grow quicker. The hard inedible skins make these fruits ideal for storing.

1. In spring, fill a pot with soil and make a 1.5cm (1/2 in) deep hole. Sow one seed on its side into the hole, cover with soil and water. Put on a windowsill.

2. Keep well watered after germination. Your plant will be ready to transplant once the roots begin to show through the bottom of the pot.

3. Make a pot-sized hole in a large, deep container. Carefully place the plant into the hole. Pat around the base to make sure the plant is upright. Water.

4. Push four canes into the pot and wrap the stem around them. Tie the stem to the canes with string. As the stem grows longer, continue to wrap it around the canes and tie up.

5. Keep the soil well watered. Your plant will produce male and female flowers, attracting insects to visit both and pollinate.

6. Feed your plant with a suitable plant food every few weeks once the fruits start to form in the female flowers. The flowers will now shrivel and drop off.

7. Make a hammock out of netting to support any fruit growing above the ground. Attach the ends of the hammock to the canes.

8. Add mulch around fruit growing on the ground to cushion it. Keep turning the fruit slightly so the colour ripens evenly. The leaves will now start dying.

9. Cut the fruit once it has fully matured.

23 Jun 2011

What can I do with this pond?

Inspiration ideas for the pond space in the comments please. It used to be a couple of foot long, now it's 30ft long by 10ft and taking up the whole garden. Do I get rid of it and have grass/entertaining area or make do and just spruce it up?




Eat It: Courgette Frittata

Ciao! This recipe is not just an ordinary omelette, but an Italian one filled with your home-grown vegetables. Buon appetito!



1. Cook the potatoes in boiling water for 15-20 minutes or until temder. Use a colander to drain them. Let them cool down and then halve if large.

2. Melt the butter in a 28cm (11 in) diameter, non-stick frying pan. Add the onion and cook gently until soft. Add the courgettes and cook. Stir often. (Cooking time 5 min).

3. Stir in the potatoes and continue cooking for a further five minutes, until the courgettes have softened. (Cooking time 5 min).

4. Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the Peccorino and mint and season well with pepper. Whisk together well using a fork.

5. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and turn the heat down as low as possible. (Cooking time 5 min).

6. When the eggs are jsut set, place the pan under a pre-heated grill to brown the top. When ready, remove from the grill and leave the frittata to cool. (Cooking time 5 min).

How To Create a Butterfly Garden

Add beauty and life to your garden with the inclusion of flowers and plants that attract butterflies. There is a range of specific plants that entice butterflies, are easy to care for and are attractive for the garden. It is important to include "Host Plants" to ensure that the butterfly larvae (caterpillars) have a home and "Nectar Plants" for the butterflies to feed upon.


Steps

  1. Research first. Find out which butterflies are common in your area. Observation over a few days and the use of a butterfly field guide will help you in this pursuit.
  2. Choose "Host Plants" for your garden. Note from your research what the caterpillar (larvae) of the local butterflies eat. Two excellent examples are:
    • Milkweed - this attracts the Monarch caterpillar.
    • Parsley - this attracts the Black Swallowtail caterpillar.
  3. Choose "Nectar Plants" for your garden. Nectar plants serve as the food source for the butterfly. There is a variety of possible plants and some of them are shown here. Excellent choices include:
    • A Butterfly Bush - this is suitable for a Swallowtail. Large plant: 4 feet (1.2m) tall, 6 feet (1.8m) wide, make sure it is hardy in your area. Some varieties are considered invasive, so make sure, if you purchase one of these, that you keep it dead-headed to prevent seed production.
    • Swamp Milkweed - suitable for the Snowberry Clearwing. This plant grows 3 feet (.9m) tall and 18 inches (.5m) wide. It also serves as the host plant for Monarch caterpillars.
    • Joe Pye Weed - this is suitable for the Swallowtail. It grows to be a very large plant - 8 feet (2.4m) tall and 4 feet (1.2m) wide. It is a perennial.
    • Aster - Asters grow to 3 feet (.9m) tall and 2 feet (.6m) wide. It is a perennial. Butterflies especially love native varieties.
    • Bee Balm - this plant grows 2 feet (.6m) tall and 18 inches (.5m) wide. It is a perennial.
    • Zinnia - this plant is attractive to a range of butterflies and they especially like the tall varieties. The plant generally grows 4 feet (1.2m) high and 1 foot (.3m) wide. It is an annual and is easy to start from seed.
    • Pentas - suitable for Swallowtails. This plant grows 2 feet (.6m) hight and 3 feet (.9m) wide. It is an annual in cold climates.
    • Heliotrope - this plant attracts a range of butterflies. It grows to a height of 2 feet (.6m) and a width of 1 foot (.3m), although it is possible to contain it in a pot. It will remain a perennial in temperate zones but is only an annual in cold climates.
  4. Plan garden on paper. Draw up a plan, or decide where to add these suggestions to a current garden. Keep in mind the full grown size of plants during this planning stage. Also consider their needs for light and water.
  5. Purchase plants or seeds from garden center. You can also get these plants and seeds online. Choose robust and healthy plants to give them a good start.
  6. Plant your butterfly garden. Make sure to keep new plants and seeds watered until plants are well-established or seeds germinate. Keep the weeds at bay, to give the plants a good chance.
  7. Observe and enjoy the butterfly activity in your garden. Watch for female butterflies laying eggs on host plants. Make notes in a record book of the butterflies that you observe and, if you can, take photographs to add to your record book. A digital record book can be a useful and simple way to do this and can be added to over the years. Observed changes in the types and numbers of butterflies coming into your garden can be information shared with biologists, ecologists and climate change specialists who use local variation information to ascertain species increase or decline, as well as temperature fluctuations and change.

Video

Note: This video shows the Insectlore Butterfly Garden which can be purchased from Amazon


Tips

  • If there are Monarch butterflies in your area, they are very easy to attract. Swamp Milkweed (noted above) or Tropical Milkweed (annual in colder climates) are excellent host plants for them. The Tropical Milkweed can be started from seed in the winter.
  • Monarchs are very fascinating butterflies. Their migration pattern is one of nature's great stories. Indeed, you can participate in the migration by helping to track the Monarchs that arrive in your part of the world. Report your own observations to this map.
  • Butterflies are relatively weak fliers. Don’t put your garden in a windy, exposed position. If your whole yard is windy, plant some shrubs or large, dense perennials on the windward side of your butterfly patch, so that the butterflies can feed in peace on the flowers in their lee.

Warnings

  • Butterflies are insects! You cannot use insectides in a butterfly garden.
  • Always avoid planting potentially invasive species of plants. These plants can spread miles beyond the garden walls and wreak havoc on native ecosystems. If they are planted they will spread.
  • Butterfly Bush is considered a noxious weed in states like Washington.

Sources and Citations

18 Jun 2011

June Garden

June has been a funny month, we've had some really lovely days filled with sunshine and other days where the rain hasn't stopped.  The tomatoes under the covered deck have been pretty unaffected by the weather though. I'm wondering whether these grow pots are actually making a difference or not. The plants don't seem to want the amount of water you are supposed to keep putting into it.


 The potatoes are growing crazy tall, me thinks I need a bigger or taller growbag!

My first blueberry, still looking a bit green though.

The vegetable beds are in and the bark mulch spread out. That was a job and a half. Good job you don't have smell-a-vision, wow that stuff pongs! Will the smell ever go away?


Some lovely red cabbages on the growing front.

In the bed is green cabbage, swiss chard, carrots, pak choi, chinese cabbage, pumpkin, coriander and baby corn. Outside of the bed are climbing runner beans, red cabbage in the pot and rhubarb in the ground.

I hope they all work out ok, I really don't want to go down the net route to cover the bed, it will ruin the appearance but I may have to if they get bitten. So far so good.


 Believe it or not I actually managed to kill these strawberries last year, I hardly watered them and they only produced a few fruit. Hubby managed to revive them and they are already producing more fruit then it did the whole of last year. Hope they are good ones.


Green cabbage in the window box, slugs can't get you here my little ones!

16 Jun 2011

Here's how to garden up your drain pipes

Vertical gardening is fast becoming all the rage due to smaller gardens and more flats with balconies -there's simply no more space. Don't let that be an excuse not to garden. I have been looking for some kind of hanging pockets for a while, when I stumbled upon these nifty little numbers.


They are drainpipe planters and attach to most drainpipes. There is a strap what goes all the way around the pot and the drainpipe. It holds perfectly and creates a great herb garden for me - right outside the kitchen window!

Mine were from Lakeland and cost £2.99 for 3 (although mine were on offer at the time). I think they are fab and may even get some more for the other side.

Lunar eclipse: stargazers witness lunar eclipse 2011 'blood red' moon

Stargazers around the world have been lucky enough to witness a spectacular lunar eclipse, the longest in 11 years, which turned the moon a blood red colour.


The longest lunar eclipse occured on Wednesday 15th June 2011, lasting 100 minutes.

Overnight on Thursday astronomers throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia were treated to the longest lunar eclipse in 11 years and the first of the year.
It was a particularly dark eclipse because the lunar disk passed through the densest central part of our planet's shadow.
Astronomers in Britain missed the early stage of the eclipse because it occurred before moonrise. Sunset occurred in the UK at 9.19pm.


The "totality", which is when the lunar face is completely covered, lasted 100 minutes, which scientists said was the longest since July 2000.
Viewers in the southern Hemisphere, particularly Australia and south-east Asia, were treated to a particularly impressive view due to ash in the atmosphere from a Chilean volcano.
The ash crisis has caused travel chaos in Australia, with hundreds of flights grounded throughout the region. People in America could not see the eclipse.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when Earth casts its shadow over the Moon.
The lunar face can sometimes turn reddish, coppery-brown or orange, tinged by light from the Sun that refracts as it passes through our atmosphere.
The specific phenomenon that occurred on Thursday was known as a "deep lunar eclipse".
But the intensity of the colour depended on the amount of ash and dust in the atmosphere. Scientists said the eclipse could be safely observed with the naked eye.

There will be partial solar eclipses on July 1 and November 25, but the next total solar eclipse will not take place until November 13, 2012.
It will run in a track across North Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific and southerly South America.


The lunar eclipse over The Great Wall of China.

Source: The Telegraph

15 Jun 2011

Grow Your Own Guide - Courgette

Grow from: seed to pot in 10 weeks in a sunny, sheltered place.

Courgette is a member of the squash family and grow really big. There are many different varieties and colours.


1. Push two seeds on their sides down into a 1.5cm deep hole in a small pot filled with soil. Water well, label, and put the pot on a windowsill.

  
2. Remove the weakest seedling and put the strong one outside during the daytime. Cover the plant with part of a palstic bottle for protection.

3. When the roots begin to show through the bottom of the pot, the plant is ready to place into the ground or a big container. Dig out a hole.

4. Tip the young plant out of its pot, carefully supporting it at the base of its stem. Place it in the hole, fill gaps with soil, pat around it and water.

5. Look out for the bright yellow male and female flowers. They open up to attract insects, which will pass pollen from the male to female flowers.


6. Water the soil around the plant and not over it,as this could cause rotting. Keep the soil moist. Use a liquid feed to encourage more fruit to grow.


7. Pick off the female flower from the tip of the growing courgette. These can be cooked and eaten. If left on, they will shrivel and drop off by themselves.

8. Cut the courgettes at their base when they reach 10cm long.


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Courgettes are young marrows, so you might choose to leave a few attached to grow twice as long to become large marrows.

Tips
Plant in pots - keep well fed and watered. You could bury a small pot into the soil next to your plant. Water into this, so the water flows to the roots of the plant.


To Buy

Thompson and Morgan - Visit site
Marshalls - Visit site


13 Jun 2011

Coastal Cottage House Tour

Gorgeous farmer's cottage in Norfolk which comes with it's own beach hut!


I'm loving the shelves and the log storage.

Kitchen


Bedroom

Bathroom

The garden


The beach hut, only a short walk away.

11 Jun 2011

Classic Elegance: Ideas for English Garden Inspiration

Sit back and relax with a cuppa tea, here's some inspiration for a very English look for a garden. Imagine a glass of Pimms, wooden furniture and croquet on the lawn. It's the Classic English Garden style.
The Banana Bench (Teak) - Holloways - £320

Steamer Chair and Seat Pads - John Lewis - from £299


Reims Refreshment Chest - Burfords - £1500


Ellister Seville Garden Swing Seat - Greenfingers - £129.99


Old English Roll Top Bench - Burford - £575


Reigate Croquet Set - Jacques of London - £229.99



Pimms Jug - Barmans - £9.99


Gloster Casablanca Outdoor Table and Chairs - John Lewis - from £99


Personalised crate - Not On The High Street - £42


Langford Lamp - Garden Trading - £50



Chatsworth Summerhouse - The Garden Squad - £965


Willow Planters - Burgon and Ball -  £9.95


Buxus Spirals - The Terrace Gardener - from £159


Personalised House Pot - Not On The High Street - £48