Welcome to Dykes Edge

"...Come follow the journey of Craig Rockfield, a welsh gardening enthusiast. This personal blog diary documents his road to discovery & creativity, 'growing his own' and the many other trivial antics it brings..."

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Out of Hibernation

(Yawns)... (Stretches)... ahhh, what day is it, what month is it, what year is it? Has it really been that long since my last post. Well i'm waking up to another season at Dyke's Edge yard garden, there has been very little to report this Winter. Good news though, the buds are starting to break on my Raspberries, Gooseberries, Strawberries, Kiwi's with the promise of bountiful crops in the air, now I have something worth talking about!

Improvements in the yard garden this year include a trellis for the kiwi vine, and a lesson learnt from last season... potatoes were a definite no, no, instead onions take the place of the main bed this year. I have also planted a young blackcurrant shrub so this really is going to be a fruit garden.

I would be keen to know how many readers are still tuned in, and I wonder if anyone from my old plot visits from time to time, drop me a comment let me know how y'all getting on!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Allotment Planner - More than 200 Ways to Transform Your Plot


WHAT I LOVE about this time of year is lazy old gardener me loves to go into hibernation with a few garden books, and my legs up in front of the log burner.

I recently came across this book 'The Allotment Planner - More Than 200 Ways to Transform Your Plot' by Matthew Appleby, what a great little book it is too. For those who are thinking of getting a plot of their own, or for those who already have one will know that the rewards reaped by this pasttime extend far beyond unearthing a few potatoes and carrots. You only have to take a look at my time on my first allotment back in 2010, it really was the making of me.

Growing your own isn't just about.. well, growing your own, these days it is much more than that. It's about getting out there, discovering the world around you, being creative, and trying new things. Now just before you get into a plotters rut, or if you are a first time grow your owner, read this book and I am sure you will find some new vigour within for next year.

This well presented book is the perfect trusty grow your own/plotter companion to take you through next January to December. It comes presented in a useful journal form, and safely bound with elasticated string. Inside, there are hundreds of inspirational colour photographs, and a comprehensive walk-through the 12 months pf the year with a bounty of ideas and suggestions to help you along the way and even comes with dedicated space for you to document your journey on the plot.

With fun and challenging projects, The Allotment Planner will help gardeners everywhere truly make the most of their allotments. The journal focuses specifically on new ideas that will bring enjoyment, push the boundaries and inject a sense of originality into the proceedings. From blogging to beekeeping, barbecuing to keeping chickens, this journal will keep you entertained and informed in all aspects of your allotment.

Dyke's Edge has teamed up with Aurum Publishing to offer all my readers a special discount. To order 'The Allotment Planner' at a discount price of £12.00 inc. P&P (RRP: £14.99), telephone (01903) 828503 or e-mail: mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG34.

Alternatively, send a cheque made payable to:

Littlehampton Book Services Mail Order Department,
Littlehampton Book Services,
PO Box 4264,
Worthing, West Sussex
BN13 3RB.

Please quote the offer code APG34 and include your name and address details.

Summers Over

It has been a while since my last post, the routines of life have somewhat taken over my attentive desires at Dyke's Edge, all is fine however. This year has been one for clearing, starting a new. I do miss the old allotment plot dearly, but this new smaller space presents new challenges of it's own.

I think it is time to reflect over the past few months. The beginning of this year I cleared back the yard garden as I so inherited from the previous occupier, this gave me a blank canvas for the growing season this year. I had plentyful crops of strawberries and a few raspberries. The fruit trees presented a challenge and pickings were far beyond my reach, sadly for this reason they will have to completely this winter. I have started off a small herb bed, as my focus turns more to cooking than growing in such a small space. I have mint, chives and rosemary all doing very well indeed.

Indoors, my California Wonder pepper produced all but three very delicious specimens. I am however more interested in overwintering the plant as a perennial pepper, the plant has been trimmed back in readyness for next year.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Strawberrys by the Punnet!


Who'd of thought you'd get a punnet of strawberries out of a back yard garden. For the past few days I have been enjoying a handful picking daily, though it seems I my Cambridge favourite may have hit peak production yesterday evening and today with this accumulation of a punnet worth of strawberries.

This is definitely a good sign of what is to come next season as my eBay ordered bare root specimens get a chance to firmly establish this season, top that with a few dozen runners they've thrown out already!

Mmmm... they taste so sweet and juicy!

Already hints of raspberries to follow too, I forecast another week yet though.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Kitchen Garden Project continued...


I recently made a visit to see how the old Dyke's Edge 'Kitchen Garden' project is coming along which I helped kick start last year. A new custodian has took the helm spurred on by the legacy which I left behind.


It is amazing to see the transformation 12 months later, everything has come to fruition exactly how I had envisaged it. The layout is very practical with four main raised beds, and a bed around it's entire perimeter. There are even fruit trees, and a second greenhouse installation to the rear. I really cannot wait to see the progress another 12 months from now.

Well would you believe it!

 
Well the last time I photographed Dyke's Edge, things were looking a little... bare. The difference two weeks makes in the gardening world, look at my Cambridge Favourite Strawberry plants pictured above, they have sprung into life! I am sure to have a bumper crop this summer!
 
The potatoes equally have shot up, with rapid growth of 3ft tall plants, let's just hope not all the growth has gone into the plants and there is plenty going on beneath the soil! Who said you can't grow spuds in a small garden?

Elsewhere, the raspberries are looking pitiful, with there tops drooping slightly. I am wondering if they are infected, though they should be pest free as I brought them from B&Q. Hmmm...

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Bring on the Sun


The difference 3 weeks makes since I took my last photo. Work has continued to remove the shrubbery at the back of Dyke's Edge Yard Garden. This part is of the garden is in constant shade, so have covered here with broken slate.

Potatoes to the right, and strawberries to the left have come on a treat. I should now be able to remove the wooden trellises which were used to deter the cat from trampling over them, and it has worked. Sadly she (the cat) has no way of escaping the garden, so her very own cat ladder will be fixed to the back left of the garden.

The drab walls are really in need of a fresh lick of paint, this should brighten the space and give more of a Mediterranean feel. I now need to consider the use of further space, vertical space that is and make more use of the conservatory.

A new addition is the chiminea/bbq, and table & chairs. You don't think a little firebug like me could give up my allotment antics that easily did you? I miss a little fire!

All we need now is a little sunshine!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Taking this Growing Malarky Very Seriously Now!

Pictured: (Above) Dyke's Edge Yard Garden, September 2012
 
Pictured above, this was the last photograph I took of Dyke's Edge Yard Garden just over half a year ago now. It was little more than an inherited overgrown mess of unpruned bushes and trees. I have remained relatively dormant since then due to cold and miserable weather. I am not as hardy as I once was so it seems, but with warmer weather now long overdue I have come out of hibernation and finally taking this gardening malarky seriously!


As you can see I have ripped everything out, well almost. The fruit trees to the left have been left in situ after some heavy pruning. The largest growing space to the right, has for this season at least been reserved for potatoes, following down the garden a redcurrant shrub, a tayberry and a row of raspberries. To the left, a dedicated strawberry patch, a kiwi, gooseberry and a row of edible peas to climb the wall.

Indoors, so far i've had 1 mushroom, with no sign of any more to come. I'm even having a go at a potted pumpkin (god knows how that will go), and a couple of bell peppers.

I am very much looking forward to seeing a swathe of green in the garden, a the moment it looks a little naked!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Mushroom Update: All is very dark


All is very dark at Dyke's Edge Mushroomery, unlike potatoes, I cannot slip my hand underneath to see what is going on beneath the soil. I am not the most patient person when it comes to growing anything...

Homemade Crumpets

Pictured Left (Daddy Crumpet) Pictured Right (Baby Crumpets)

Goodness, the weather us gardening folk have had to endure lately. Just to think this time last year we experienced an unseasonal heatwave, I even had my potatoes in February. Well in search of making something tasty to warm the old cockles, I have been making homemade crumpets in Dyke's Edge kitchen! Pretty easy to make too, all you need is a little patience, make a dough mixture the consistency of double cream by using milk instead of water. Leave the mixture in a warm place for a couple of hours until its theres plenty of bubbles then pour into non-stick poached egg rings on a medium hot plate for 4 minutes until the top has sealed, then turn over for another minute. Leave to cool on a wire rack and toast as you normally would.

Then, spread with butter!

Mmmmm... delicious.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Homemade Baguettes


With growing your own, tends to come a few other strings to our bow. If your anything like me, you'll have a go at making your own wine or preserves, enjoying a sense of self-satisfaction by seeing some of the fruits of your labour set aside for the higher purposes of your very own cottage industry.

Take homemade wines for example, made with love, you know exactly what is going into it, save yourself half the high street price, and sometimes end of with something which is fit for Her Majesty to drink?

I do quite pride myself in striving to be as self-sufficient as I can, if I can make it myself, I will. After reading far too much hype about what goes into our food, horsemeat and what not, even our humble daily bread is pumped full of preservatives and additives to extend its shelf-life, but at what price? i'm not talking pennies or pounds, but we don't exactly get much of a choice these days of what we eat from the supermarket, its the case of take it or lump it. We can only speculate what all these chemicals, additives and preservatives might be doing to our long-term health for any given food product and this is a key reason why many choose to grow their own.

Well I have had a go at making my own bread recently. O.k., I don't have the space to grow my own wheat the core ingredient of flour, but being realistic giving the cubic foot of land and time required to grow enough to even make one loaf of bread, flour is one food product which I am going to have to buy if I want to make my own bread and bring it back to basic as I possibly can.


Well here it is, one I made earlier. Made with none of those preservatives, none of those additives, no added vitamins or minerals, just plain old basic bread. Water, flour, yeast and salt and it tastes twice better than the shops, probably cheaper too.

If you don't like getting your hands messy, which considering most my readers are gardeners anyway I would find hard to believe. Do what I do, invest in a bread maker. Most come with a 'dough' only setting, and will prepare the dough ready for you to throw out onto a floured surface. If you want perfect shaped baguettes, then I would recommend investing in a baguette tray, the cheapest of which I have found on eBay by clicking here.

Go on, have a go yourself.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Mushrooms


I don't even like mushrooms, but i've decided to grow them anyway. Call it my gardening warm up for the growing season ahead. I'm a bit out of practice, so start small, think big I say. Roll on the end of March, things are going to get warmer, my fingers will start working again, then I can start on Dyke's Edge yard garden, i've already brought the raspberries! :D

Well the mushrooms were from Poundland, bargain for a £1! I've heard of some people having poor experiences growing mushrooms in general, I will let you know if I have any better success myself. I've placed them in a dark kitchen cupboard just below the ceiling. I'm thinking heat rises, and they need a stable setting of between 16-20 degrees. The thermometer is reading 17, so all is well and good so far... according to the box instructions I should be seeing something happen several days from now... Hmmm, really?

Friday, 25 January 2013

Brrrrr...

This seems to be the longest, wettest, coldest winter on record! Still, no progress at Dyke's Edge 'yard garden', so instead I have brought the outside, inside. I have dug up a patch of alpine strawberries from the borders and popped it in a heater propagator unit, trimmed back all it's dead leaves, sprinkled a little salt on the surface having spotted a few slugs lurking beneath the soil the warmth is bound to wake a few critters that can't be helped.

Mmm... just the thought of even a few little alpine strawberries makes my tastebuds tickle.

Slowly... things are starting to move again, very slowly.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

First Wine of 2012


The first wine of 2012 has just been bottled ready for Christmas. Success was not as simple as I thought using the shop brought juices. The white wine was too dry, the red wine too sweet. The answer to my problem was mixing them to make a very drinkable 'Rose' with a ratio of 1 part red to 2 parts white. This is the first time I have tried mixing fruit wines and it is something I would recommend any home vinters to give a try. I have decided to call this batch 'Ty Ni' which is welsh and means 'My Home', within its unique taste it also captures the memory of the move into our new home this year.

I had surplus red to make two full bottles of 'Sherry' by fortifying it with Brandy. It's only 10 in the morning, I should put down the glass already...

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Dyke's Edge Allotment in Miniature Commences


Well... I've made a start on my allotment... my miniature Dyke's Edge allotment that is. The scale will be a 1:30 or 1cm = 1ft approx. Here are raised beds no.2, 3 & 4 from the front left of the original plot layout. The lengths are made of balsa and the corners made from match sticks.

I have to say this is turning out to be quite interesting already. God help me when it comes to making the shed...

Friday, 9 November 2012

Exploring my Inner Creativity

There is not much happening on the gardening front at the moment other than me sitting in the conservatory peering through the rain all the time (it's driving me up the wall a bit). Just what a dreadful year the latter part has been, wet and damp. Much of my activity has been restricted indoors so I have been having a dabble at some 'windowsill gardening'! I shall update on this in due course.


Besides the windowsill gardening, I really do have a lot to thank my old allotment for. It was the key to my inner creativity which over the course of the past few years have I been unlocking. I look at the world in a very different way now. Recently I have been creating these miniature themed art/craft ornaments from primarily natural materials like clay, driftwood, debris and beach materials. Then I had a thought, why don't I recreate my old allotment in miniature! That way I could always have those fond memories encapsulated within a piece right beside me. I think... I might just do it.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

5 Tips for Foraging for Food


It’s so easy nowadays to head to the supermarket to pick up everything on your grocery list, but looking for food in the wild can be educating, exciting and unpredictable all at once. You can also keep it natural by growing your own fruit and veg in a greenhouse from Argos to accompany your found foodstuffs.

From discovering what type of mushrooms are safe and which ones will send you six feet under, to how to tell the difference between a garden snail and a winkle, foraging is an experience like no other. To some people it may still have a stigma, but more often than not these people just don’t want to get their hands dirty! Getting a bit muddy is sometimes inevitable with foraging, but you’ll be experiencing food you’ll never find in your local supermarket and the meals your cook will be different, and of course delicious.

  1. Pick non-hazardous mushrooms. There are countless types of mushroom in the wild that taste gorgeous, but equally there are loads that can make you ill, and a few that have the potential to kill you. Take the Horse Mushroom for example – a yummy aniseed-scented specimen that can be an accompaniment to a meal and even the basis for one. But it has an unfortunate lookalike – the Yellow Stainer, one of the most common causes of mushroom poisoning in the UK. The Yellow Stainer can make you extremely ill, but it can’t kill you – though you still wouldn’t want to have accidentally cooked that for your fellow diners.
  2. Make sure you avoid the Hemlock Water Dropwort. The name doesn’t sound too threatening – but please note this is often regarded as the most poisonous plant in Britain, and indeed the world. It can cause agonising pain, sickness, convulsions, paralysing speech and death. The leaves are unfortunately similar in appearance to lots of other plants, even resembling parsley leaves, which means many a person has accidentally consumed the Hemlock Water Dropwort in complete innocence. The way to identify it though is to check the roots – it has roots which resemble parsnips. But it’s still possible to mistake it, so please be careful!
  3. Winkle-pick. These surprisingly sweet creatures can be found on most seashores, so there is no difficulty in finding them or picking them. They’re related to garden snails, which are also edible, and can often be mistaken for Dog Whelks and Top Shells. This, unlike the previous two examples of foraging, isn’t such a bad thing, because they’re also edible and are quite tasty. There are very few recipes around for them however, so you can be as creative as you want with them!
  4. Avoid Earth Balls. They really are the verrucas of the forest, often getting foragers’ hopes up in times of despair and failure at finding anything to take home. Their reptilian skin and their shape slightly resemble that of many other types of mushroom. They can cause gastric upset too, so it’s best, if you can, to just avoid them.
  5. Don’t bother with mussels. Foraging for mussels is plain awkward – from worrying about the level of pollution in the water that they’ve been picked from to scrubbing the grit off them at home until your fingers are sore. Farmed mussels are one of very few farmed sea-life which actually offer more benefits than their wild counterparts. Mussel farms serve as a natural boost to local marine environments. Every day a single mussel sucks through 50 litres of sea water, filtering microscopic nutrients and cleaning the water that it takes in. They enhance biodiversity and attract seaweeds and anemones, which in turn attracts fish and crustaceans.
Hopefully this list will get you on your way to some fantastic foraging. Don’t forget to ensure you’ve got some decent sheds in your garden for storage afterwards. You wouldn’t want hungry insects to invade your foraging stock!
 

The National Botanical Gardens of Wales

Pictured: Craig Rockfield amidst an October Bloom at the National Botanical Gardens of Wales
 
On my ventures around little welsh Wales, I recently visited the National Botanical Gardens of Wales in Camarthenshire. I have been wanting to see this attractions for some time now, well that and the Eden Project in Cornwall. But why not start with my home lands first?
 
 Pictured: The massive dome greenhouse shell.
 
The giant dome greenhouse was a sight to behold. Situated in the heart in the welsh countryside of Carmarthenshire set within the grounds of a country estate. Whilst it's size looks imposing, it somehow blended in with it's surroundings. I was surprised at how incredibly eco-friendly the whole project is, and without giving too much away you should really have a look for yourself.
 
Pictured: The walled kitchen garden and victorian greenhouse.
 
Of particular interest to me was the traditional 'walled garden', I have always wanted to see one of these still being worked ever since I watched the series of BBC's 'Victorian Kitchen Garden' with Head Gardener Harry Dodson for those who know of it.
 
On site there was also a couple of apiaries, which the bee's could be watched behind the safety of glass buzzing away in harmony on this fine sunny day. I sat for lunch in the courtyard which was orchestrated with live welsh harp players, it all added to the charm of my visit. I mustn't forget to mention the ladies who were providing live demonstrations of how to make chutney, with tasters provided of course.

Other things of interest included the traditional victorian greenhouse which hosted many unusual plant species from around the world, some of which I had seen recently on my travels to New Zealand, Australia and Papua New Guinea. I personally would have like to see it complimenting the kitchen garden with a grapevine and melons, but thats just me.

Just around the corner was an 'ice house' (now defunct) the pinacle of luxury in it's day on an estate of this size. Try to imagine an english/welsh summer, sitting outside on such an idyllic day like I was sipping a homemade cordial with fruits from the garden and served ice cold at a time when there was no fridges, no freezers.

Visit the National Botanical Gardens of Wales website.


Monday, 15 October 2012

More Pallet Wood Creativity...


Another rainy day at Dyke's Edge, another day of creativity. The weathermen havn't been wrong about all this rain we have been having, it's been so wet I can't even dry my pallets outside so have had to chop them up and bring them into the conservatory.

A few words of wisdom is just whats needed to cheer anyone up at the moment so I have created this shabby chic trailing sign with the painted words 'laugh, love, live' from a few strips of pallet wood and some jute garden twine.

I'm experiencing quite a high with all this creativity at the moment, and despite the rain I have managed to make the most by turning a negative into a positive.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Rainy Day Vintage Signage Creativity


I'm rather glad the weather has been dreadful for gardening lately, so it has given me chance to be a little more creative inside. The other day I hand painted a vintage style Pepsi sign on some wood which has gone up nicely above the door in Dyke's Edge kitchen.

For the past few days I have been researching and experimenting rigourouly how to transfer some of my favourite images onto wooden ply, either to display in their entirety or use as a stencil to carefully enamel paint over. Well this evening I had a break through with my laser printer.

Too my frustration I had tried various solvents, transfer papers, xylene, even ironing on directly, all with no positive results. Then I tried applying a homemade agent to a reversed image face down on the wood. Once left to dry I could wet and rub away the paper fibres, thus revealing the image in correct orientation which could then be either left as is or painted and varnished for a superior finish.

As you can see the final result is amazing, and I just can't wait to put it up in Dyke's Edge Kitchen. I love Kellogg's Corn Flakes and as the saying goes, "you never forget how good they taste!".