Autumn & Winter in the new garden

It’s been very mild weather here this past week – up until today! – and I’ve been taking advantage of this to get on and do some clearing and planting in my new garden.  A couple of months back I made a little vid to record for posterity what it looked like ‘before’

Renovating this garden is such a BIG project that I’ve had to break it down into small chunks, so that I can get my head around it by planning and doing one little area at a time.  The first to get to the ‘Star Treatment’ were the two beds at the front of the house, which although rather weed-choked and neglected were probably the easiest place to start.

This week I’ve been planting fruit trees and getting the ‘framework’ plants in to the first of the top terraces out front.  Like much of the garden this area is covered in rather scrubby grass.  Using a no-dig approach my plan is to transform it into a mixed permaculture planting of fruit trees and bushes and flowering shrubs to provide food and forage for me, the birds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators!

I’ve spent the last few days planting more trees and shrubs and getting a good mulch of compost around them all.  Yesterday I got the first of the cardboard layer down, and just in the nick of time because I woke up to snow this morning!!  So it’s been a cosy day indoors for me today – hopefully the trees are feeling equally cosy!

Wishing you all a very warm winter’s weekend 🙂

Continuing garden transformation

The weather has been mostly warm and sunny for the past week (apart from today of course, because it’s a bank holiday here in the UK!) and I’ve been continuing with my Mission to transform my garden.  Just for reminders, here’s what it looked like when I moved in just over 2 years agoYep, the area filled with rubble to the left, between the two tree stumps, is the same as the one in the pic at the top!  This has been the final part of the garden to receive the Sarah Special, Organic Permaculture No-Budget treatment, mainly because it was literally a pile of refuse – rocks, rubble, builder’s plastic, and broken glass.  I’m not up to lots of heavy digging and had no means to import top soil, etc, which anyway is against my ‘zero budget’ principles!  So I’ve been pondering what to do with it for a long time.  Then a few weeks back whilst re-reading Graham Bell’s classic book ‘The Permaculture Garden’, I hit upon the solution!  And here, I’ve even made a little video to show you how I did it!

Pretty cool, huh?!  I am, of course, exceptionally chuffed!

Meanwhile the rest of the garden is busy transforming itself, now.  The flower bed that was one of the first beds I created back in 2015 has totally come into its own this year and is looking amazing.  Again, here’s what it looked like when I started:By planting mostly perennials, bulbs, and self-seeding annuals and keeping the planting dense to supress the weeds, I really haven’t done much of anything to it this year.  It got mulched with compost last autumn, a bit of a weeding in spring before the perennials had gotten into full growth, and a sprinkle of organic chicken manure pellets.  This is how it looks today!

Hope you enjoyed my little tour!  Wishing you a flowery, low-maintenance kinda week 🙂


My back yard

backyardafter1I haven’t written much about my garden this year, I know, but it’s still coming along and I’ve gradually been reclaiming it from the weeds and rubbish left behind by previous tenants.

Lately I’ve been on a Mission to brighten up my back yard (not least because it’s the best spot for taking those sewing-selfie-pics to share here with you!).  This little space leads from the alley by my back door through to my garden and also, in the higgledy-piggeldy world of 18th century cottages, is an Access for my neighbours’ garden.  This is what it looked like when I moved inbackyardbefore1Not exactly welcoming, I think you’ll agree!  So I began to gradually tidy it up, replanted the hanging basket with geranium cuttings and cheapie things from Aldi, and installed a big rainwater butt given to me by some friends who were moving.backyardbasketyardclearingI began to move a few plants in, although only one section gets any sun and I have to keep most of it clear as a thoroughfare.  What I really wanted, though, was a big ‘planter’ that I could fill with colourful scented annuals to make a bold, bright splashbackyardbetI saw some wooden ones at the garden centre recently – priced nearly £50!! This is roughly ten times my usual ‘makeover’ budget!  So one morning a couple of weeks ago, the rain held off long enough for me to construct this rather ‘rustic’ affair from bits of wood left over from making the second compost bin.  This wood was actually given to me by my neighbours, so I thought it would be nice to use it for something they’d see and get a smile from as they passed by.planterbuildingI planted it up with sweet peas and love-in-a-mist grown from seed, and made a wigwam of sticks for things to climb up.  Total cost: packet of woodscrews £1.20, 2 half packets of seeds £2.00, half a grow-bag mixed with garden compost £1.75 = £4.95!  Not bad, eh?  Here it is just plantedplanterplantedA week or so later and It’s all growing up nicely, hopefully soon to be full of flowers and wafting scent across the yardbackyardafter2Next step is to persuade my landlady to get the back wall painted for next year, and my mum has given me some planters to put up on it.  Goodbye dull, grotty old space: Hello cheerful, perfumed oasis!backyardafter3aWishing you all a bright & colourful week 🙂

Harvest time


tomatoesWas it only in my last post, that I was waxing lyrical about Late Summer colours??  All of a sudden, the tomato plants are brown and crispy, and their fruits are ripening on the windowsills.  Well, some of them are…greentoms

…some of them clearly weren’t going to make it, so I harvested all the ones growing in the  veg beds – which to be honest were always a bit of a long shot!  Since I’m now living back in Herefordshire there seems to be no shortage of apples either, so there was only one thing to be done:tomchutney

Spicy, sweet, apple & tomato chutney – yum!  I know you’re meant to leave it a month at least to mature, but I had half a jar left over and I couldn’t very well waste it, could I?  Great with mature cheddar in a sandwich, I can vouch!  Many thanks to Cook Sister for the recipe, which you can find HERE.

Every year I always grow lots of basil plants, because fresh basil and tomato salad is one of my VERY favourite things to eat!  And every year there comes a time when I have to concede that summer really is over and it’s getting too cold for basil plants, and I harvest all the leaves and make one of my other very favourite things to eat, fresh pesto.  I like to grow lettuce-leaf basil, but these are rather tender, and last year I strung it out until the leaves had started to turn before I finally gave in and harvested them.  The resulting pesto was pretty bleh, so: lesson learned!

With the lovely warm weather we’ve had lately, I hung on til October 5 this year.  How’s this for a great harvest?  Can you believe that all these leaves…basil

mush down to just this much pesto??pesto

Still, it was enough for 2 dinners, a supper, and a small tubful for the freezer.  And I have to say, it was DELICIOUS!  (My pesto recipe: basil leaves, fresh garlic, sea salt, black pepper, olive oil, ground almonds, chopped cashews, grated parmesan.  Whizz the leaves, garlic, and oil with the blender til mushy, add everything else to taste and whizz some more til it looks like this).

The garden’s been full of surprises this year, not least these luscious elderberries which were the result of me not lopping the elder bush in the hedge earlier in the summer because I wanted to the bees to have the flowers.elderberries

Virtue has its own reward, huh?! (And yes, I did leave some berries for the birds!).jam

The jam recipe is from a lovely book that I’ve had since my 20s, ‘A Country Harvest’ by Pamela Michael.  It’s probably one of the most-used cookbooks I own, and if like me you love picking fruit from the hedges and wild foods, I highly recommend it.

So what with my runner bean chutney, made last month, and redcurrant jelly from gift of redcurrants (thanks, Penny!) all that’s left now is to store the squashes and pickle the beetroots, and get good and fat over the winter!preserveparade

Wishing you all a totally delicious week 🙂

Late summer colour: ripple blanket inspiration


Around the middle of August, it always feels like the garden begins to move into a different ‘phase’, as the warm colours of late summer and early autumn really come into their own.Sunflowers1Just look at these fabulous sunflowers, towering cheerfully over everything, full of sunny yellows and rich browns!Sunflowers2

I love mixing flowers into the veg garden, too, and seeing the squashes and courgettes ripening amongst a jungle of nasturtiums is like finding secret treasure at the bottom of the gardenSquash&Nasturtiums1Squash&Nasturtiums3

Calendulas (pot marigold) are one of my favourite annuals, and this year they’ve been amazing, brightening the borders and veg garden with masses of yellow and orange bloomsCalendulas&Nasturtiums

So, if you remember, last December when I was working on my Purple Waves ripple blanket, my mum asked me for one in shades of blue – and so the Blue Waves blanket was conjured.  And my dad said he’d love to have one in shades of orange (his favourite colour), with maybe some reds and yellows mixed in.  I didn’t want to do Yet Another Mexican Sunset colour scheme, so I began by playing with graded stripes, from cream and pale yellow through orange to deep red.  But it looked a bit too subtle and ‘flat’, somehow; it just wasn’t getting my colour-mojo going!  It got me thinking though, about the grand riot of late-summer-garden colours that I love so much.Nasturtiums1Crocosmia

Oranges, reds, yellows, russets and browns – just looking at the calendulas and ripening tomatoes against the mellow brick of the old shed made me want a blanket full of these colours, all jumbled up together! Toms&Calendula

As with the other two blankets, I chose my yarn from the Stylecraft Special DK range and found all the colours I wanted.  I dropped the cream and deep red and added russet brown and gold instead.  I wanted it to be cheerful and colourful, but a bit more ‘masculine’ and, dare I say it, subdued than my usual psychedelic style!  Here’s a close-up of my final colour scheme ripples:CloseUpbest

I just finished stripe No 54 today, and lay it out on the bed for the first time.  Seeing all those colours working together is a real thrill!Stripe54

I only started this project just over a month ago, so I’m definitely getting quicker at this pattern!  It would be lovely to finish it in time for my next trip down to visit my folks in October.  By then, the summer colours will have faded and blankets will definitely be required!  But for now, I can still sit out in the garden some days and crochet away amongst the flowers, veg, and happy bees!Bee&Marigold

Wishing you all a warm and colourful weekend 🙂

Spring Progress: the Garden

wellies&geraniumsIt’s Spring!  And the weather has been so amazing, all I’ve wanted to do these last few weeks is be outdoors playing in my new garden – it’s been all spades, muck and wellies instead of yarn, hooks, and fabrics for a change.

Remember this post back in March, when I showed you the garden I’d taken on with my new house?BigViewB4Empty, apart from weeds, rocks, and, as it’s turned out, LOTS of broken glass and pottery.  I mean, bucket loads – go figure?!  But nevertheless, progress is being made. The hedge is trimmed, the border by the shed weeded, flower borders and lawn marked out and clearing & planting begun.  My main priority though, was to get my veg beds dug.  Here is my long pea & bean bed, a triumph of pacing for a middle-aged woman with M.E. and a bad back I think you’ll agree:bigview290415Don’t be fooled by bean-bed’s smoothly-raked surface: beneath her lies 3 sacks of rotted horse manure and two of kitchen waste!  To keep out the ubiquitous dandelions (has anyone else noticed what a bumper year for them it seems to be??), I covered each section with cardboard and old carpets as I finished.  In the foreground here you can also see the young willow cuttings I’ve planted that will eventually grown into a screen for the compost area.

Here’s the other side by the fence as it looked in February:WestSideB4

And now, with two lovely new beds, one for spuds & beetroot, one for leeks & roots:WestSide290415

These beds were forked over to remove the worst weeds, then mulched with cardboard and a deep layer of manure.  Nothing much is happening yet, though one or two brave radishes have popped up already!

And yes, ALL those stones I’ve used to start making the paths were dug out of the beds…

There’s still a lot to do, but I am very much enjoying the process of making the garden. Seeds have begun to germinate in the cold frame, both veg and flowers.  And I’m really looking forward to planting the flower and herb borders, finally giving all the plants I’ve had in pots for years on various balconies and front steps a permanent home!  shedborder290415It hasn’t all been gardening this month, and I’ll be back soon with some pics from April to prove that I did do SOME other stuff this month (mostly visiting gardens though haha!).  Til then, wishing you all a lovely weekend and a very happy Beltaine/Mayday 🙂


Colourful plans & projects

NewHQWell HELLO and greetings from my new HQ!  Pretty smart huh?!  Despite it still being box-maze chaos, I’m happy to report that I LOVE my new place.  Especially the big bay window, letting lots of lovely light into my front room and makeshift sewing space!

Last weekend I unearthed the Simplicity dress project (abandoned the week before the move!) and eased myself back in gently by making some bias binding for the sleeves.  One day, there will be a Whoo-Hoo moment, but not before I cross the Great Plateau of The Invisible Zip.  See you on the other side…Grey&Pink Sleeve BindingMeanwhile, I’ve made a start on a second ripple blanket.  This one is for my mum, who wanted a single bed size in shades of blue.  I’ve gone for the Stylecraft Special DK as before, and although the blues are totally gorgeous, I couldn’t resist slipping in a little bit of purple (it’s called ‘Bluebell’ though, so it’s within the remit, right?).  After making my huge, double-bed sized Purple Waves blanket, these rows feel quite quick to work!BlueWavesBlanketSo there’s some colourful crafty projects going on, but I’m also planning to create something much bigger, and much more colourful, starting this year… can you guess what it is?!gardenflowersYep, I finally have MY OWN GARDEN!  For the first time in many, many years I have my own outdoor space to fill with flowers, veg, herbs and all kinds of strange and beautiful things.  I can’t WAIT to get started!  Which is all to the good, because this is what it looks like right now:GardenTodayNever let it be said that I don’t relish a challenge!  I’ll keep you posted on my progress, but if my sewing speed is anything to go by, you know this one’s going to keep me busy for a VERY long time…

How are you getting on with your spring plans & projects I wonder?  – Here’s wishing you all a very colourful, creative week! 🙂

Aloha from the balcony

Well hello out there in Blogland!  I’ve been on a bit of a blog sabbatical for the last few weeks, as ‘Life Events’ and a trip to visit my folks took over for a while.

windowboxBut don’t think I’ve been creatively idle!  The sun has been shining, and I’ve been getting my balcony ‘garden’ set for summer.  Out with the dead daffs (except for the bunch in the window box!) and wilted wallflowers, in with geraniums, calendulas and petunias.  I love these easy-going, brightly-flowered plants that just keep on going all summer long.  In fact one of my calendulas from last year survived the winter and is just about to flower again, what a Star of a plant!

MrsPotterAlso found time to make this dinky version of the Cute Crochet owls.  I put a little scented bag inside and it’s now hanging from the rear-view mirror in my car, making me smile every day!

And finally, here’s a sneak preview of my Attic 24 Bag, mentioned in the last post: finishedbag1

I am SO pleased with this!  I made it up using leftover Stylecraft & other bits of acrylic DK and it came out a bit stretchy, so I made a lining for it using a pre-loved old pillowcase.  I’m busy putting together a tutorial to show you how to make a lining.  (Hopefully it won’t take me a month to put it up this time!)

Meanwhile, I’m itching to get busy with Lucy’s Yarndale Mandala wheels – can’t wait to have a go at these!  Anyone else out there succumbing to Mandala Madness??Attic24mandala

  Have a lovely stitchin’, hookin’, colourful weekend!