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Our epic half tonne pizza oven installation saga

Over the summer Jim turned forty and I decided to treat him to something he’s wanted for nearly decade… a brick outdoor oven. We first started looking at ovens like this when we lived in Cyprus in 2009 where they were known as Kleftiko ovens, but living in a military quarter meant they weren’t a very practical purchase and we’d almost certainly have had to leave it behind when we got posted. We were keen enough that we visited a few shops that sold them though and there’s a picture of us from the time with Jim looking wistfully at one*

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A quick July garden update

July though the best of month’s for gardens is also often one of the busiest of months for bloggers. As the school holidays start and a round of summer activities begins it’s easy to let the momentum slip. So today’s update is a brief one, more than anything to serve as a record of our progress for me next year.

This summer we’ve had the biggest success yet with growing veges in our garden. Our first attempt (3 years ago) met with disaster when all my seedlings were eaten in one night by the local rabbits. We sat one summer out completely, then last year we tried planting stuff higher up and successfully grew lettuces in window boxes.

A few months ago we took elevated growing to a whole other level with the purchase of our first vegtrug. Theses raised planters come in several sizes and I have a feeling we’ll be adding a second next year.

The plants in this have been very much Theo’s domain. Earlier in the summer we grew salad leaves, but as they bolted and our pumpkin plant grew we did a little stock rotation. The pumpkin and the courgette behind it now take up about half the space, but we have managed to plant some patty pan and Swizz chard seeds at the other end (where the lettuce is in this photo)

Theo has nurtured the plants in this vegtrug obsessively. Several times a week the cry of “Theo leave your vegetables alone” has rung out across our garden and if he had his way he’d water it about half a dozen times a day. He also has runner beans, blueberries and strawberries all in pots and he couldn’t have been prouder than when he was able to gift some of his produce to his class teacher.

This month we also planted another tree in our garden. A very significant and well researched tree. It’s a red maple, a tenth wedding anniversary gift from Jim and also planted to mark the 150th birthday of Canada. We of course spent the first two years of our married life living there.

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It should turn an amazing shade of red in the autumn, which I can’t wait to see.

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Resurfacing a crazy paved patio

Those who follow me over on Instagram will know that a few months ago we finally got enough savings together to do one of the big remaining makeover projects on our house… the back patio! For the last 4 years we’ve had to live with a very uneven and unattractive crazy paved patio we inherited and its been a constant source of frustration for me.

Patios, even when you are just resurfacing them, are not cheap things to do and in addition to the large bill we were expecting, ours went over budget as we had to switch contractors halfway through the job, but and it is a really big BUT, it’s done at long last and it’s made a huge difference to the garden and our lives in general.

I have been hesitating showing before and afters because there are still things to do, the grass we have seeded needs to grow and we have another quite significant garden project which is tagging on to this next month and is a a present for Jim’s 40th, but here are the befores and afters so far….

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Our garden in April – A year’s progress

Last April I started documenting the development of our garden. Looking back on the posts from last year has given me a great opportunity to see real evidence of how far things have come. Comparing photos twelve months on, I can see how our work is slowly paying off and plants are growing. We are currently debating getting in some outside help for a big project and so I thought it would be a good time to start keeping a record again.

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Our garden in September

Let’s be frank, at this time of year gardens are not terribly exciting or photogenic, but having documented our work through the summer I want to keep track of what we are doing even as we enter into autumn and the season of bare beds and dormant growth.

In September we cleared out the spent summer crops from our window boxes and pots and started thinking ahead to winter growing. Although I’m not an experienced vegetable grower, Theo is so enthusiastic about growing food to eat that I want to try and keep up the momentum. So out went the beans and in came some seeds for early-producing peas and Lambs Lettuce, along with some seedlings for brocolli

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The Lambs Lettuce has gone in our window boxes (which in case you missed it, we use because they are high enough to be rabbit proof!) under some plastic covers which I found in the depths of the shed. The first tentative growth has just started to poke its head above the soil, 10 days after we planted them.

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Our pea seeds have been planted under plastic bottle cloches and haven’t done anything yet, although we aren’t expecting to be able to eat them till about March…

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On our last garden centre trip, Theo also spotted some brocolli seedlings which apparently will be good to eat in 5 weeks. We are about 10 days in and they look almost exactly the same as when we brought them home, so although Theo is enthusiastically counting down till when he can eat them, I’m not feeling terribly hopeful.

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One summer crop which has taken its time to produce, but I think is just about ready finally are our snack cucumbers. Another Theo spot, these are teeny tiny cucumbers which you are supposed to eat whole. Having not grown them before I really have no idea quite how small they are supposed to be when you harvest them, but this is them today…

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We have also added a blueberry plant to Theo’s collection of pots, this is another one we’ll be waiting a while for. It won’t produce till the end of next summer, but it’ll be lovely when it does. Blueberry plants seem to be rather “in” at the moment and several places are selling them in twos or threes so that you can have a long season of fruit spread out across varities.

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Another recent addition to the garden were a couple of Griselina shrubs which I bought from our local farm shop. They are supposed to be particularly good for coastal locations so we have planted them near our seaward boundary. Unfortunately planting anything in our garden is always less than straightforward.

The land next to us which is now a nature reserve, has been at times a brick yard and a small scale tip. We’re not quite sure the part that our garden played in this, but digging down always involves a few surprises and a small hole can turn into an hour long project. Here’s a look at what I found when I dug a hole for two Griselina plants. The plastic flower pot is to give you an idea of how big the hole I was trying to dig was…not big at all!

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The third hole I tried to dig resulted in an even more tricky result. A dead end essentially! Solid concrete a few inches down… I have no idea what it is, or was.

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But to end on a positive note, here’s a photo of a lovely plant which I bought in the sale corner of our garden centre. It looked pretty dead when I saw it, but I googled the name and thought it might be promising and a few months on it is beautiful…. just don’t ask me what it’s called because I’ve forgotten already!

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