Archive for the ‘Plant Nursery’ Category


It’s been a few weeks since we announced our little project and so much has happened in the last few weeks. But before we get to that here’s a little bit about the house itself.

The Cottage

The estate agent described it as a “charming Grade 2 listed cottage with many original features and offers a tremendous opportunity to create an individual charming character house” Well, in spite of what people say about estate agents … on this occasion they were pretty much spot on!

The cottage is in Old Amersham which if you don’t know is a lovely little market town in the heart of the Chiltern hills. Most of the local property is old and built using timber frame construction. On researching the property it looks like it was built around 1740 and is considered one of the older property’s in the area.

There is a lovely Market hall which apparently dates from 1682 and more recently is known for the Kings Arms pub which featured in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Kings Arms Amersham

So how did we find the house?

Well, it was a warm sunny Saturday morning in January and we were taking Angus on his regular morning walk to the local park when we spotted a ‘For Sale’ sign go up on this charming little cottage in the high street. We’d been looking for a small renovation project for a while. Nothing too ambitious, just enough for the two of us to get our teeth into.

So we took a closer look and found it was a typical mid terrace period property with a modest garden, at the end of which was a beautiful crystal clear river. Looking beyond the river was the local cricket field complete with local pub. Just heavenly.

As soon as we came back from walking Angus we rang the agent and set up a viewing the very next day. (You need to move fast round here if you want something)

The viewing went well but it was clear this lovely little house was going to be a challenge, not least as it had suffered from major water ingress at some point probably leaky roof which had left a nasty stain in most of the upstairs ceilings.  Aside from the challenges brought on from the age of the property it had an open plan staircase probably from the 70’s and a large inglenook fireplace (with bread oven apparently) which had been boarded up at some point and replaced with a gas fire.

70's staircase

The boiler was in need of urgent attention and the heating system needed replacing.

There was no time to lose! We had to put an offer in as houses in the high street rarely come up for sale… and almost never within our budget.

Monday morning came and I picked up the phone to the agent and put in an offer. After haggling for 10 minutes we settled on a price!

Job done … or so we thought.

We then found out the cottage is grade 2 listed and in a conservation area (basically means we can’t touch the outside without the consent of the local planners and the conservation officer)

Building Survey

We commissioned a structural survey report and much of what we feared came true. This is clearly going to be a slightly larger project than we first thought but we are determined to get this beautiful little house back to its former glory.

Exchanged Contracts

On Friday the 7th of April we exchanged contracts and we’re scheduled to complete on the 19th when we finally get to collect the keys. We are both soooooo excited about the project and can’t wait to share our progress with anyone that wants to listen. 🙂

As soon as we have the keys we’ll post another update around how we plan to approach the project.

Back soon.

Best wishes.

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WE ARE ON THE MOVE!


sold-1

Hi All.
I mentioned in my last post that we would have some news  … well the time has come to reveal all!

Since we started the blog we’ve had over 600,000 visitors to Ruralgardener and over 200,000 views on our YouTube channel. It’s been an amazing ride and when we started we didn’t think anyone would be particularly interested in what we’d have to say. But the emails and kind words we’ve received has been … well overwhelming to be honest. So a MASSIVE thank you to everyone that has visited the site and hopefully we’ve been able to inspire you just a little.

Now for our news.  We’ve moved out of our garden paradise in Hampshire!
Yes, after spending the last 8 years creating a most beautiful garden we’ve upped sticks and moved back to leafy Bucks.

BUT HOLD ON! this isn’t the end of the story …

We’ve found ourselves a lovely 16th century cottage (Grade 2 Listing) that to be honest has seen better days. It’s in a gorgeous location and we’re really excited about what will emerge as we go forward with the project. But most of all we can’t wait to share our story with you all as we work through the restoration.

REGISTER FOR OUR NEWSLETTER AND SHARE OUR EXPERIENCES AS WE RENOVATE  OUR 16TH CENTURY COTTAGE

It has a lovely compact little garden that backs onto a river. John already has desires on building a river side retreat complete with deck chair! 🙂 🙂  hmm … believe it when we see it. 😉

We’re due to move in around the end of March early April and the renovation will kick off pretty soon afterwards. We’re going to be renting a house while the restoration work is happening and will be posting to the blog as often as we can … hopefully once a week. There’s even talk of a video diary.

We’ll share the trials and tribulations of a period property renovation including how we tackle the conservation officers, work with the space we have and at the same time stay calm. It isn’t going to be easy, but hey nothing in life is that easy, hard work and application should win the day!

For those of you that were inspired by our building projects, well there will be plenty to see and to follow along with  But despite everything it feels like it’s going to be the most wonderful adventure and we are both just a little sad to leave Hampshire behind. Wonderful time was had by one and all.

wildlife pond

 

Warm wishes,

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PS. I heard an interesting fact about Rosemary (the herb) the other day … apparently has amazing healing properties .. anti carcinogenic apparently.  I’ll share the details in my next post.  Take care now.

 

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how-to-grow-vegetables

So you’re thinking of creating a new vegetable patch in your garden? Well, that’s good timing, as this week I’ve started working on my vegetable garden.

To be honest I don’t know if I could survive without my vegetable garden. It’s not so much the eating, although that is probably the best part, 🙂 it’s actually more the enjoyment one gets from planting a tiny little seed,  and them watching it grow from such fragile beginnings into something gorgeous and edible.

Back in 2007 when we found this plot it was the garden that convinced us to buy. We knew we wanted to grow our own food and having all this space brought that dream a bit closer.

We knew we wanted to grow our own food and with all this space the dream could become reality.  Now, seven years on we have a fabulous productive veg garden that provides for us for approximately 9 months of the year.

This weekend was the first dry opportunity we’ve had to get onto the garden, so Saturday morning I pulled on the wellies and headed for the hills!

As I was leaning on my fork and sipping what must have been my third cup of tea, I thought there must be loads of people out there thinking of starting their own veg garden. So I thought I’d pass on a few tips and suggestions which have helped us along the way.

How to get started.

Before we started on our veg garden we visited a few gardens to get some inspiration, in particular, Heligan in Cornwall which for me are the best gardens in this country and has the most amazing vegetable garden.

Then as with all my projects I put together a rough layout on paper. Simple sketches, nothing fancy.

You’ll need to rotate your veggies.

All it means is try not to grow the same vegetable groups in the same spot each year. At Blackbirds we’ve created a tapestry of 4 squares. They’re not exactly uniform in size but it still means we can set up a rotation system. Rotating your vegetables simply means not growing in the same place 2 years running. With

Rotating your vegetables essentially means not growing the same in the same place 2 years running. With a four-stage system you avoid planting in the same place for 3 years.

 

why-grow-your-own-vegetable

Selection of vegetables grown in our first year.

 

If you’re stuck for space … 

If you have a small plot you can always head down to your local builders merchants and buy a few lengths of 8 x 1 concrete shuttering board. Cut them to size (according how space you have) and nail them together to make what is essentially a bottomless box.

Fill the box with a mix of top soil and compost and you have the perfect veg patch!
Just make sure you position it on a spot where it drains well. Put it on concrete and your veggies will drown! 😦

My top ten tips for a great veg patch …

Tip number 1 – Keep the weeds down.
If there is one piece of advice i would share with anyone it is try to keep your veg garden as weed free as possible. Give your veggies plenty of space so you can weed quite easily.

Spring and Summer I try to weed most days as it just makes the job of growing so much easier. Doesn’t have to be much, just run a hoe up the rows and you’ll enjoy your garden so much more. Remember, little and often is the secret.

Tip number 2 –  Try and be organic.
One of my most favourite places in the entire world is Heligan in Cornwall. Speaking to the gardeners they explain how its not possible to be 100% organic as sometimes there is no alternative to chemicals. But I say do as much as you possibly can to be organic. Nature will always work its magic on the garden.

Tip number 3– Treat your soil as your best friend.
Work in lots and I mean LOTS of organic matter into the soil. It’s the one thing that will turn your soil into a good growing medium. If you’re on clay soil compost helps with breaking down the clay and if like me you’re on light chalky soil it will help to bulk it up …

Tip number 4 – Successional sowing.
Don’t plant everything at the same time or your vegetables will all come at once.

Tip number 5 – Don’t plant too close.
Allow plenty of space between the rows and you’ll find it much easier to keep tidy and you’ll get bigger and jucier vegetables.

Tip number 6 – Grow more of what you like and less of what you don’t like.
Sounds obvious but when you’re buying your seeds at the beginning of the year take your time and select what you know you’re going to eat. It’s all too easy to grab everything on rack in a mad fit of enthusiasm. Having said that every year I think I’ll grow something unusual and each year it gets wasted. But hey … What the heck! … grow what makes you happy. 🙂

Tip number 7 – Keep your plot tidy.
Nothing worse than vegetables that are surrounded by a sea of weeds and rubbish … And it encourages pests and diseases.

Tip number 8 – You’re going to need water … and plenty of it! 
If possible, position your veg patch near to a water supply. You’re going to need a lot of water in the summer months and its blooming heavy to carry.

 

Would You Like To Grow Your Own Vegetables

Keep your veggies well watered and they’ll repay you with lots of lovely produce.

 

Tip number 9 – Don’t be a hurry to plant your seeds.
Allow the soil to warm up. By waiting for the temperature to rise more seeds will germinate and you’ll get more veg for your money.

Tip number 10 – Companion plant.
My final tip is to companion plant. Companion planting is where you plant varieties of veg that support each others growing conditions. Best example is planting carrot seeds next to your onion sets. Carrot fly hate the smell of onions and so keep away. Basil planted alongside tomatoes keep the worst of the whitefly off your tomato plants. Scour the internet and you’ll find loads of examples of companion planting.

 

fresh-carrots

If you want clean carrots companion plant with your onions.

 

Hopefully, this has given you a few pointers as we move towards the time of year when you’re thinking of growing a few veggies for the dinner table.

So if you’re considering having a go at growing a few veggies then above all:

  1. Enjoy it!
  2. Occasionally stop digging and admire all your hard work.
  3. Keep your veggies well watered and they’ll respond twenty fold.
  4. Remember to feel that sense of pride when you know, as you place that bowl of carrots onto the dinner table and can proudly say … I grew those!

Just before I go I wanted to say thank you so very much to everyone that follows my ramblings and for all the wonderful feedback we recieve. It really does mean a lot to us and encourages us to continue. Only wish we had more time to share more.

Best wishes,

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The soil may be too wet to get onto … but I urge you get out there and start clearing the weeds and sowing a few seeds.
It’s amazing how much better it makes you feel! 

Warm aroma of ripening tomatoes

Time to plant your tomato seeds and you can look forward to these little beauties!

 

I met a friend for coffee in town this week (most enjoyable thanks, Matt) and having first put the world of digital media to rights we got around to the subject of gardening.

You see,  Matt is a keen gardener and we both have much in common on the subject. We both knew we should be in the garden doing something… but what exactly? I’m not sure we gardeners are ever quite sure when is the right time to pull on the wellies and haul out the fork and spade but one thing’s for sure … I can’t wait much longer. I’m already having withdrawal symptoms!

As soon we get January out of the way and the weather starts to improve then my advice is to get out there and make a start. There’s nearly always something that needs doing in the garden.

I usually wait until the middle of February when I can feel a change in the days. The light improves as the days stretch out and there’s every chance you’ll find a bit of sunshine at some point. Last Sunday was one such day.

The veg beds were too wet due to all rain we’ve had this winter in Hampshire,  but I did manage to get on to some parts of the garden and start clearing the weeds ready for this year’s veggies.

It sounds crazy to be weeding in February but as you know the more you do today … the less you’ll have to do tomorrow. 🙂

weeding

It’s clear our climate is changing as the winters get warmer and wetter and the effect is it encourages the flipping weeds to grow at an alarming rate. Is it me or are they starting much earlier this year?

One good thing about the wet weather, (apologies to anyone living with drought) is, it does make pulling the weeds a tad easier. I just take a small fork and turn over the soil and clear the weeds by hand. The chickens of course help … when they’re not pinching the worms that is!

chickens

Seed sowing in February.

It’s about this time of the year I start to sow my small seeds. Celeriac seeds can take an age to germinate so best get them started now indoors and you’ll have decent sized plants by the time the frosts have past.

celeriac-3

I simply sprinkle a few seeds onto a small seed tray of compost and gently press them into the compost. The idea is to push them just below the surface. Then sit the tray in a washing up bowl with a little water in the bottom so the compost can take up the water gradually and the seeds won’t get washed away.

It’s also about this time of year I plant my sweet pea seeds. I soak them in water for 24hrs to soften the shells. I then plant 4 seeds in a small 3″ pot. Best to start them off indoors until they’re about 6″ plants and then transfer the pots to the cold frame.

Tomatoes can also be sown indoors about now. This year I’m growing my favourites ‘Gardeners Delight’ along with a few Alicante and an F1 Hybrid called ‘Mountain Magic’. Not sure how well they’ll do but I like to try something new most years.You’ll have to provide a little heat to keep the worst of the cold off.

tomato-plants

I find with most seed sowing at this time of the year its wise to provide to get them started. As soon as they’re big enough to fend for themselves they can go out into the cold frame or polytunnel if you’re fortunate enough to have one.

Also managed to prune the climbing roses out the front at the weekend. Looks and smells amazing in the summer, but as with all ramblers it does need to be kept in shape. I grab a pair of strong gardening gloves and give it a general prune until I’m happy with the shape.

pruning-roses2

No mystery to pruning climbing roses, simply grab a pair of stout gardening gloves and give it a general prune all over. If a branch is in the wrong place cut it out but leave about 8″ of stem and it will grow back stronger than ever and provide loads of wonderful blooms.

pruning-roses

Next weekend I’ll be preparing the polytunnel ready for all the exotic goodies! This year I’ve decided to bit the bullet and build some purpose made troughs for my strawberries. I usually just find a spare bit of ground and chuck them

This year I’ve decided to bite the bullet and build a few purpose-made troughs for my strawberry plants. I usually just find a spare bit of ground and chuck them in but this year we’re hosting a summer garden party and I’d love to serve my own home grown scrumptious delights.

I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂

Back soon.

Rural Gardener

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Birds-in-garden

 

Not sure about you .. but I love to see our native wildlife in the garden and in particular, our beautiful native birds. It’s at this time of the year, they need our help more than ever. It’s cold and there isn’t much in the way of seeds around in February.

I know we live in the countryside .. but we have all manner of beautiful birds in the garden which I believe is because we put food and water out on a regular basis.

By putting out a little food and water, the birds are more likely to use what limited energy they have at this time of the year to stop off at your place for a feed. So make it easy for them and your garden will be alive with the sounds and movement of wild birds.

We have a male pheasant stop by most mornings to pick up any corn that we’ve dropped on the way to feeding the chickens. He visits most days and I feel privileged he’s chosen our garden to stop off. Mind you he is a little nervous .. and as soon we try to approach him he takes off … straight up and over the hedge into the farmers fields!

Another charming bird is the Robin red breast. If you want him in the garden simply turn over your compost heap from time to time, and I promise you within 15 minutes he’ll be in there with you!

Of course the most important thing you can do is build a simple bird table and put out some regular old wild bird mix. You can pick it pretty much anywhere, but watch out as it can be expensive.

JAN7TH
The cheapest way is to buy a large bag and decant a cup full every other day … never let it go stale.  If you don’t have  a Bird Table they’re simple to make.
A couple of years ago I posted what has become the most popular post on the site which explains how to make a simple bird table.
Using feeders is another good idea as it keeps the food away from the squirrels and stops it from spilling onto the floor which attracts rats.
goldfinch

Our native Goldfinch – A welcome visitor to the garden.

If you’re feeling adventurous you could make your own fat balls. Really easy to make … and cheap! (I’ve included a recipe at the foot of this post)

I know for a fact the birds will be grateful for anything you can put out  and who doesn’t like to see our beautiful native birds in the garden?

Back soon.

Best wishes
John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

A simple Fat Cake recipe

You’re going to need:

  1. 1-2 Packets of Lard.
  2. A Bag of Wild bird Seed.
  3. An Apple or English Grapes when they are in season.
  4. Stout String (candle string is ideal)
  5. So used yogurt pots.
  • Melt the lard in a deep pan, then let it cool slightly before adding the seeds and fruit. A word of caution here, melting lard gets verrrrrrry hot, so keep the heat low and just wait a bit longer for it to melt. Above all stay safe!
  • Before the fatty mix starts to set pour it into a mould,   not too big (old yogurt pots will do just fine or Yorkshire pudding trays work just as well).
  • Before the lard starts to set take a 3-4″ piece of string and drop it into the mix keeping about 2″ outside the mould.
  • Leave the moulds to set  for a couple of hours and then place in the fridge overnight to set nice and hard.
  • The next day remove the fat cake from the mould and tie the string to the hooks around the outside of your new bird table.

 

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Turn Your Hobby Into a Business

I’ve been doing quite a bit of soul searching lately which led me to wondering if it’s possible to turn your hobby into a business?

Just the thought of getting paid for something that you love sounds really interesting and worthy of a little research.

Part of the reason for the post is we have a small back garden nursery venture which although a hobby is slowly growing into something a little more ‘adventurous’ shall we say.

I’ve been doing a little research on the web it appears over 3 million people have started their own small business from home and derive a huge amount of satisfaction and fulfilment as a result. But perhaps the best bit of all is it’s born from a passion that with a little effort and a lot of planning turned into something a tad more permanent.

That’s all very interesting I hear you say .. .  but what if you want to replace your regular 9-5 job? HOW do people like us turn their hobby into a viable business?

Take my friend James (not his real name).

He has a modest workshop in his garden from which he produces the most amazing art made mainly from wood and precious metals. He’s at the top of his game (if you ever really can be)  and sells his work all over the world. I’m pretty confident he makes a modest living from it.

He’s his own boss and walks approximately 20 steps to work. What a fabulous way to make a living and the harder he works the more income he can generate. I like the sound of that!

I also have a friend that set herself up as a dog and cat sitter for friends and immediate family. Essentially she moves into the home of the owners and looks after their pets while they are on holiday or perhaps off on a short break. She has a great way with animals.

I caught up with her a couple of weeks ago and she told me she started advertising in the surrounding villages and is looking for a second sitter to help out such is the demand! How fantastic is that! She gets to spend time with all those fabulous animals and gets paid for the pleasure.

But what’s involved in turning a hobby into a business and how do you make it work?

First and foremost I think you need to find something you’re really passionate about. Almost everyone I know that runs their own succcesfull business started with an idea or a vision they felt they could spend inordinate amounts of time pursuing.

Say you love gardening and want to start your own plant nursery. First you’re going to need to enjoy gardening with a passion as your customers  are more likely to buy plants from you if you know what you’re talking about.

Second you need to understand what its going to take to make a success of it … or put another way what are you prepared to do to make it a success? There will long days and short nights for you at least for the first couple of years while you establish the business.

Also it may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you’re getting all excited about your new venture … but think about how you will cope when your little business starts to pick up momentum and the orders start to role in.  How were you going to manage the phone calls, market the business and keep your web site up to date? … as well as actually selling some plants.

These are all considerations you need to think about.

Wallflowers bursting into growth

The good news is…

I think there’s never been a better time to start a new business. In particular an online business. I also believe the pendulum is swinging back to the days of the small retailer where reputations are built on excellent customer service and the integrity of the supplier which is where you come in.

Yes Amazon and Ebay are significant players in the market but if you have a great product and outstanding customer service then you have a fighting chance of stealing a very small part of the lunch from those giants. I’m not suggesting for a minute that Amazon or Ebay aren’t good for turning a hobby into a business as they are relatively low cost access to a massive database of customers. Just remember it’s a massive market out there and there are plenty of customers to go round!

My advice having been there a couple of times in the past few years is to jump in and make a start. Yes keep it small to begin with and limit the risk but it’s never been easier to get yourself selling on line if you have a great product and story to sell.

Before you know it you’ll have your first customer and then your second and your little hobby will build a momentum of its own. You remember to keep feeding it.

Have YOU turned your hobby into a job or ever thought about it?

If you have we’d love to hear from you and perhaps you might share some of your experiences good, bad or indifferent with our readers. Its easier than you think you know and if there is anything we can do to help anyone that’s thinking of turning a hobby into a business do drop us a note as we’d love to help if we can.

Thanks all.

Best wishes,

rural-gardeners

 

 

Still living the dream …

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Goldflame Spirea

Several of our readers have been in touch and asked what plants should they start with if they want to start selling a few plants from home. Shrubs are a particular favourite of mine especially the older pretty varieties that have been around a while. (Also they’re less likely to create any problems with PBR)

Out of all the shrubs I grow my absolute favourite has to be Goldflame Spirea and it’s a great plant to get started with if you’re new to propagating plants.

Goldflame are fairly easy to propagate and make fantastic plants after one year and just keep getting better with age … which makes them an ideal plant for anyone thinking of starting there own little venture.

Over the coming weeks I’ll share a few more of these little gems that are both simple to grow and loved by gardeners but for now let me share what I’ve learned about this lovely plant.

Goldflame Spirea

Really easy to look after and will readily propagate from softwood cuttings in late May / early June. Like most other shrub-type spirea they flower on new wood in the summer. Pruning should be in late winter or early spring, just before the buds set for the new year.

At the end of March I simply go through my plants and prune them back to around 3 – 4 inches of stem. I gather up the plant a bit like a pony tail and simply chop off everything above my fist. Looks brutal at first but the plant grows back into a stronger and more balanced plant. I do this with most of my 2 year old shrubs.

Just go easy on 1 year old plants … probably best to leave them well alone for the first couple of years.

I take my Goldflame Spirea cuttings in the last week of May first week of June. If you want to improve your chances of success keep the new cuttings under mist or lightly water with a fine rose every 3-4 hours for the first 2 weeks … or until the plants stop flagging and start perk up.

Goldflame Spirea

Last Years Goldflame Spirea cuttings coming into leaf in the cutting bed.

1 Year Old Gold Flame Spirea

1 Year old Goldflame Spirea looking particularly splendid in a mature terracotta pot.

2 Year Old Goldflame Spirea growing away in the nursery bed

2 Year Old Goldflame Spirea growing away in the nursery bed

Goldflame cuttings tend to look half dead in the winter as they drop all the leaves and look somewhat anaemic. Don’t worry about them as they’ll start leafing up in early April with the distinctive reddish gold leaf. In a couple of years you’ll have a wonderful looking plant that will catch the eye of any prospective customer!

Just before I finish this is another plant we have a lot of success with and as you can see it is a gorgeous plant especially at this time of the year with it’s pretty tightly packed white flowers.

Do you know the name of this plant?

Do you know the name of this plant?

But here’s the thing … I haven’t a clue what it is? if you can help please drop a note in the comments section and put me out of my misery.

Thanks everyone.

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

 

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