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Blog posts tagged with 'gemma dray'

Look after your garden furniture



Now that we have had our first frost it is time to protect your garden furniture. Outdoor furniture that’s left outside in freezing conditions or in snow will suffer. Here are some steps you can take to prevent this:

  • Wooden furniture will expand if it’s exposed to moisture and freezing conditions. You can find treatments for your wooden furniture at a local DIY store. It will protect it from moisture and in turn prevent it from warping.
  • Purchase some waterproof furniture covers. They will stop water from getting to your furniture and also add a layer to stop the cold getting to them.
  • Try and raise your furniture from the floor. If you place each table leg on a brick for example, you will avoid the legs sitting in water.
  • If you have space in a shed, try and bring the furniture inside. This is the easiest way to avoid water and temperature damage.

-- Gemma Dray



Now is the time to start thinking about buying your bulbs to plant out in the Autumn for the following year. If you put in the effort now you will be rewarded with a variety of flowers throughout next year.

Some bulbs I have been looking to plant out are:
· Alliums
· Tulips
· Daffodils
· Snowdrops
· Hyacinths
· Lilies

Look online for a great variety of different breeds of plants and maybe even some bulk buy offers!

-- Gemma Dray


One of my favourite flowers at this time of year is the Allium. It’s a great flower as it adds interest to your garden with its tall round purple head. It is also known to attract bees.

I did not know until recently that you can collect seeds from the Allium. Once the Allium has lost its petals, the green middle of the flowers swell and eventually dry out, revealing black seeds. These seeds can be sown the following spring and will reach flowering size in a few years.
-- Gemma Dray

Protect your plants

These past few weeks we have been having so much trouble in the garden. An animal is coming into the garden at night and digging up all our seedlings and plants. Our broad beans have gone missing and some of our leeks have been destroyed. To make things worse some of the soil has had newly sown seeds which has been scattered everywhere, so who knows what plants are going to pop up where!

Since then we have foiled their nocturnal escapades by using bamboo structures covered in netting and small polytunnels! I didn’t realise how versatile netting can be so it’s a great thing to have on standby and best of all it’s very cheap to buy. If you don’t have any, I advise you to get some.

-- Gemma Dray

Make your own ladybird house

This is a great little project for yourself or to do with children.

You will need:
An empty and clean 2l bottle

Cut your drinks bottle in half. Cut your bamboo and sticks to the length of the half you are using. Pack it tight with sticks, bamboo and leaves, creating a nice dark hiding space for ladybirds and other insects.
Place it in your garden hidden in foliage, preferably near a plant that attracts lots of insects. Quietly observe during the summer to find lots of insects to identify.

-- Gemma Dray

Re-use your toilet roll tubes!

Instead of purchasing bio degradable pots for this growing season, start saving your cardboard toilet roll tubes!

They are a great substitute for seedling plant pots and work especially well with long rooted plants, like runner beans or sweet peas.

Treat it like a normal pot and sow your seeds. When the plant is ready to be transferred outside, simply plant it straight into the ground. It’s as easy as that! The best part is the tube will naturally disintegrate into the soil.

-- Gemma Dray

Plan your vegetable plot

Whilst it certainly doesn’t feel like it is January, I typically use this month to plan out this year's vegetable plot. Reflecting on last years growing season will help you to decide what worked and what didn’t.

Decide what you would like to grow this year. Are there certain vegetables that your family use often in cooking? Would you like to try something new or unusual like purple carrots? You could even think as far ahead as to what vegetables you’d like to grow to make homemade chutney as gifts next Christmas!

Reputable online seed companies usually have some great deals during January and February so it’s worth ordering them sooner rather than later. Asking family and friends if they would like to split the cost for half the seeds is a great way to keep prices down!

I also use this month to plan where I am going to plant each vegetable. I had a glut of green tomatoes last year so they could really do with being in a sunnier spot. Rotating your crops from last year will help soil fertility and will also help to control insects and pests.

-- Gemma Dray

Bring the Garden Indoors to the Christmas Table

The big day is almost here. You have wrapped the presents, decorated the house and got the turkey, but have you thought about how you are dressing the dining table on Christmas day?

You can create a simple yet elegant centrepiece for your table by using foliage from your garden. The look is very natural and organic.


Experiment a bit with Fresh fruit, tall sturdy candles and your foliage until you are happy.

I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas!

-- Gemma Dray

Citrus Peel Birdfeeder Tutorial

As the weather is getting colder, birds are finding it harder to find food (especially when it starts snowing!). A great way to feed them is to re-use orange or grapefruit peel and use it as a bird feeder!

You Will Need:
An orange or grapefruit
A thick needle
String or garden twine
Bird seed

Simple cut the orange or grapefruit in half, and scoop out the flesh until you are only left with the shell of the fruit.

Cut 2 x 30cm lengths of string and thread the string onto your needle. Poke the needle through one side of the orange and bring it through the opposite side . Do the same with the second length of string on the other side of the orange (making a cross).

Pull the string on all sides equally and tie a knot at the top. Fill with bird seed and hang outside.

-- Gemma Dray

Chutney making

A great way to use up a glut of homegrown green tomatoes is in the form of chutney. Chutney goes with cheese, sandwiches, cold meat, in burgers, with dinner...the options are endless. It can store really well too if it is prepared and sealed correctly. That way you can use your harvest throughout the year and even into next year.

Green Tomato Chutney
This makes around 7-10 medium sized jars.

· 2.5kg green tomatoes, roughly chopped (I used some red ones to bulk it up a bit)
· 500g onions, finely sliced
· 4 tsp / 30g salt
· 1L malt vinegar
· 500g soft light brown sugar
· 250g sultanas, roughly chopped
· 3 tsp / 20g ground pepper
· I prefer a bit of spice in chutneys so I added a little ground ginger and paprika also.

You will also need:
· Preserving pan or other large lidless pan
· 7 - 10 jars with lids
· Food wrap / cling film (to seal the jars)
· Sticky labels

Slice your onions and washed green tomatoes, cutting out any bad bits. Add to a large bowl and stir. Add the 4 teaspoons of salt, stir again and then cover with food wrap or a large plate and leave overnight. (Make sure you do this as it draws out the excess water from the tomatoes).
Once left overnight, Place the litre of vinegar into a large pan. Add the 500g of light brown soft sugar and stir over a medium heat until all the sugar has dissolved and bring to the boil. Roughly chop Sultanas and add them to the vinegar. Bring to a gentle boil. Drain the Tomato and Onion mixture (do not rinse!) and add to the vinegar mixture. Then add the pepper and any chosen spices you wish to add. Stir.

Once all the ingredients are in the pot, gently boil for 1-2 hours (stirring every now and then so it doesn't burn to the bottom) , until the chutney has thickened and has a golden appearance in colour. You will know that it is definitely done when you drag a wooden spoon down the middle of the chutney and you can see the bottom of the pan for at least 5-10 seconds.

Now is the time to get your jars ready and sterilized. Wash your jars thoroughly with hot water and soap. Then set your oven to a medium heat and place jars upside down in the oven for 5 minutes. They will be HOT to handle after five minutes so ensure you are wearing oven gloves.

Spoon the chutney into the sterilized jars (or use a jam funnel if you have one) and place two layers of cling film over the top of the jars (this acts as a seal). Allow to cool, add sticky labels saying what’s in the jar and when it was made, and place the lid on top.

You can either eat the Chutney now or allow the flavours to mature for a week or so.

-- Gemma Dray