Saturday, 27 August 2011

Sunshine, 26C, Harvesting and my Saffron Crocus Project

Another Frugaldom Microholding Update

The weatherman said showery, so we weren't expecting sunshine and the temperature soaring to 26C - but that's what we got! This was a great bonus, as my Saffron Crocus bulbs arrived yesterday.

With nowhere organised for planting the new bulbs, today's sunshine was an open invite to get out into the garden and get some work done.

The first job of the day was clearing a space. We're making this raised bed close to the house so that I can nip out first thing in the morning to collect all the lovely saffron that I'm hoping to grow. This will make a great addition to the 'Frugal Gourmet' range, as it can accompany the quail eggs.

I had 7' of space between the patio peas and the start of the herb garden, so that's where the bed has been built. It's 30" wide and about 12" deep. After clearing the gravel down to soil level, I lined the bed with weed supressant, added some rubble and then a layer of mixed sand and soil to help provide extra drainage.

Meanwhile, H began digging soil from the hill at the foot of the garden, which is gradually being excavated as the future site of a summerhouse. Each barrow load of soil was riddled to ensure all the stones and weeds were removed before it gets tipped into the bed. As you can imagine, this is taking quite some time to do, so the bulbs won't be getting planted tonight; maybe tomorrow, if the dry weather stays with us.

Another job that was desperately needing done was that of harvesting the carrots. These have grown exceptionally well here. I'm sure that it's because I sowed the seeds in a 50:50 soil and sand mix.

We've been eating carrots for several weeks now, plus there are quite a few already blanched, bagged and frozen. Today, I lifted what was left of them and filled a bucket! These now all need to be washed, blanched and frozen for using through autumn and winter.

Once I'd emptid the carrot bed, it was weeded, dug, raked and then resown with an early variety of carrot seed that should grow over the winter. I'll feed this bed with either nettle or comfrey fertiliser, depending on what's available first.

Some weeding gets done almost every day here, it has to, otherwise the place would soon be overrun. Today, I weeded around the snowball turnips and french beans, managing to pick a few for dinner while there. There were also another couple more courgettes and patty pan squash, so it made for an excellent day's harvesting. There were even a couple of the outside tomatoes needing picked, so I'll cut more lettuce for sandwiches at lunchtime tomorrow. I might even splash out and make another quail egg salad.

A few posts back, I mentioned that I had extended the pumpkin bed by doubling it in size. I'm really glad that I took the time to do this, as the plants are growing at a rate that makes me think of Jack and the giant. The pumpkin foliage has already spread out to the edge of the larger bed and there are several melon-sized fruits hiding beneath the leaves and tendrils. There's also the occasional munching crittur!

I read an article that suggested slitting the stalks on the top of the pumpkins to ensure enough water is absorbed, but I have not attempted this. Nor have I cut out any of the extra pumpkins, as recommended, to enable only the best two or three to develop. I'll leave them another couple of weeks to see how they grow, then I'll decide from there. The biggest and best will have tiles sat under them to prevent their sinking into the soil and, hopefully, help prevent them from rotting.

Across from the pumpkin bed I have raised beds with brussel sprouts, leeks, cabbage and broccoli. This is the first year that I have grown the sprouting variety, but it seems to be coming along quite well, despite my continual war against the dreaded cabbage white butterflies. The caterpillars have hatched in several places, but I simply didn't get around to sourcing enough netting to cover them all. I'm trying my best to keep on top of the problem and the hens are helping by enjoying pecking their way through all the leaves I keep removing in a bid to rid the plants of their pests. 

The first lot of quail chicks that hatched out in the incubator are now ust over 3-weeks-old. They are already feathered up, out of their brooder and into a large cage, wher they have fun running in and out of their little wooden 'houses'. It's still very difficult to tell the sexes, as most are colour variations, but the speckles have appeared on one of the normal coloured chicks, so we do know that it's a female. This first lot of hatchlings are due to be sold with the first prospective buyer expected tomorrow.

Moving further down the garden, we arrive at the micro-orchard. This is where all the ducklings are now happily out and about with Phoebe and Joey, the adult pair of white ducks.

We're still not 100% sure how many ducks and how many drakes hatched, but there is definite quacking coming from at least half of them.

These youngsters are now 6-weeks-old, are almost fully feathered and aren't much smaller than the adults. (That's Joey preening himself by the side of the pond.)

To the rear of the ducklings photos you can make out the row of late potatoes that I planted. I can hardly believe how quickly these have grown! H has had to earth them up several times already, yet they've been in the ground for less than a month.

Here's how they are looking as of this afternoon, their stalks and leaves reaching almost a metre high! Hopefully there'll be some potatoes forming beneath all that foliage, otherwise we're going to be really short of potatoes this year.

At the bottom of the micro-orchard is an old Victoria plum tree. This has served us rather well, as I've already had about 5kg of plums from it, most traded out through the local LETS group, plus others eaten or stewed down and made into crumbles. As you can see by the photo, the bulk of the fruit has still to be picked.

Many thanks to Nicky for collecting me an extra 6kg of sugar while she was in Stranraer. This means that the next lot of plums can be picked here and made into jam without worrying about having to pay £1.15 per kilo for sugar. The Tesco offer works out at about 57p per kilo, so it's a huge saving for the likes of us, at less than half the price of the local store!

Jean, if you happen to read this, I got the new blackcurrant bushes planted this afternoon and also managed to make space for the turnips.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we might be able to get the rest of the crocus bed filled with soil and get the bulbs planted. Can you tell that I'm looking forward to growing these? Let's hope that by planting Crocus Sativas bulbs, they lead to crocus satisfaction here in Frugaldom.  :)


  1. Hello! I have just found your blog. It is so nice to find a UK frugal blog, many of the ones in my reader are US based so not always relevant to me! Please can you tell me more about the sugar offer - is it on offer in tesco? I too am in need of lots more sugar as have lots of frozen fruit in my freezer waiting to become jam!

  2. Hi Linzi, thanks for stopping by to read and comment. :)

    We don't have any supermarkets nearby, so I asked a friend to get me the sugar when she was in town.

    I did a comparison on At the moment, 2kg sugar is showing up at £1.29 in Asda and this appears to be the cheapest available.

  3. Great progress.

    Our brocolli got eaten by cabbage white!

    Sft x

  4. Dont have an Asda local unfortunately. But just found whitworths 2kg granulated suagr at tescos for 80p a kilo. Thats the cheapest without a long drive


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