Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog

Cassiefairy's thrifty little lifestyle blog – DIY crafts, sewing, food & fashion – what more does a girl need??


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A quick garden update ~ Homemade salad dressing

Although I usually like to eat my salads plain or with a tiny side splodge of mayo, I’ve been converted to salad dressings since making my own. It was my husband who first suggested making a dressing, mainly because he really likes balsamic vinegar and olive oil and to be honest he was probably getting fed up of all the dull, bare salads I was making! I caved in when I realised that I would be able to make use of some of the rapidly-growing herbs from my new raised bed ‘herb garden’ and I was eager to give it a try.

Here are a few snaps of my herb garden which is quickly becoming even more unruly since I took these photos so I think it’s time for a trim!

DIY plant markers for garden using pebblesDIY homemade herb and balsamic oil dressing using herbs from the garden DIY homemade herb and balsamic oil dressing-2 DIY homemade herb and balsamic oil dressing

The recipe is simple enough: it just involved picking your favourite herbs – we’ve used two varieties of sage, thyme and lemon thyme, rosemary and oregano – and popping them into an empty bottle with a little salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Fill with 2 thirds olive oil and 1 third balsamic vinegar and give it a shake – et voila! Your dressing is ready! The longer the herbs are floating in the oil, the more their flavours will infuse into the dressing, so it will only improve with time.

DIY homemade herb and balsamic oil dressing using herbs from the garden-2 DIY homemade herb and balsamic oil dressing using herbs from the garden-3


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How does your garden grow? Doorway to a secret garden

We’ve been working on our garden all summer: we’ve put up a fence and painted it, moved my caravan workshop, laid a patio, built raised beds for a veggie patch, installed a greenhouse and planted a herb garden. And now, I want to enclose the garden and make it into the extra ‘outdoor room’ I’d always imagined it would be. So we have put up a fence and gate at the front of the garden for added privacy and so that we can easily come and go from the garden without having to go through the house to get in.

A quick sketch of what the gate ‘might’ look like was drawn on our shopping notepad before hubby set to work measuring and sawing. Again, my jobs were painting the wood compressor so it was an easy job once the frame had been built and the whole thing probably took half a day to make. We’ve just attached an old fence panel at the side at the moment, until we can get hold of some more fencing. A latch was important so that we could come and go from the front to back garden easily, and we’ve added a bolt at the back so that we can lock it up if we’re out or away.

In other garden news, we’ve had an attack of potato blight which has withered one of our tomato plants. Next year we’re planning to grow our tomatoes in grow-bags rather than straight into the ground as this should minimise the chance of being infected with potato blight. Also, I forgot to mention that we’ve got a compost bin. It was being sold second-hand on Gumtree, in a village nearby and it was perfectly clean so we snapped it up and popped it into the corner of the garden.

DIY allotment - shiraz mangetout purple pea pods-2 DIY allotment - shiraz mangetout purple pea pods

Finally, the pea plants that we thought were turning into sweetpeas when they started growing coloured flowers actually turned out to be Shiraz Mangetout purple podded peas so we’ve harvested a handful and have tried them in a crunchy salad, which was delicious. Some other ‘normal’ pea pods are growing now so we can breathe a sigh of relief that we didn’t buy flowers instead of vegetable plants, phew!

 


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How does your garden grow? Finished veggie patch

I now declare this veggie patch… open! It’s planted up with runner beans, peas, squash, cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, chillis, lettuce and herbs, plus a gooseberry bush and blackberry plant in the side border and fruit trees in the corner of the garden. At the moment it looks really neat and tidy – the way I’d like it to stay, but I’m sure it won’t be long before the place starts looking like a disused allotment. I’m already finding it difficult keeping the herbs alive – I’m pretty sure that I killed off that basil and coriander and it wasn’t anything to do with the fact that I’d planted a supermarket ‘living herbs’ pot in the garden. Oh well! I’ve sprinkled some basil seeds where the plant once lived and I’m hoping for the best…

Everything seems to be taking ages to grow. I know it’s not the fastest process, growing plants, but I expected the runner beans to at least have started trailing themselves up the canes by now! I keep wrapping their little tendrils around the canes to encourage them! The things that are growing well are the tomato plants in the greenhouse. They have already needed additional support from canes and I’ve remembered to water them (most of the time!) so they are growing upwards and outwards rather well. We’ve just added a couple of lines of peas that we bought from a plant seller at the car boot sale but they’ve just started flowering in pretty colours and looking suspiciously like sweat peas, oops!

Even though I might not be the best at growing plants just yet, I’m sure you’ll agree that the garden has come a long way from its bare grass beginnings (see my first garden blog post here). The new veggie patch has really added some interest to the garden and the patio has added some much-needed outdoor living space for summer!

 I still cant believe that Cassiefairy.com has made it onto the Cosmo Blog Awards 2014 shortlist for Best Lifestyle Blog! It would mean the world to me if you would vote for my blog before voting closes on 29th August – thank you SO much!


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How does your garden grow? My greenhouse

Last week, I mentioned that we’d finished off the raised beds for the veggie patch and were in the process of completing the gravel path. The side border hadn’t been finished off so I today wanted to share some photos of the side raised bed ‘before and after’ and let you know that I’ve finally planted some herbs in the massive herb planter beside the patio!

I’m also excited to tell you that we’re at the stage of putting up a greenhouse. We bought this greenhouse second-hand from a neighbour and we able to take out the glass and simply carry it into our garden – the aluminium frame was that light. I decided to wash all the panes of glass before they went back into the frame. Everything was going really well, and the glass was coming up nice and sparkling clean, until I lost concentration for a moment and managed to slice my thumb on the glass – ouch! I took a long tea break before carrying on with the cleaning and we put the greenhouse back together again. All in all, the whole process took about 3 hours.

 

We decided to put the greenhouse straight onto the ground and put a couple of slabs in the middle so that we had somewhere to stand inside the greenhouse.  We dug up the grass and added new compost to the soil before planting a few varieties of tomato – it’s a start anyway! In one of the raised beds we planted courgettes and squash in each of the corners, which we had bought from the car boot sale for 75p each plant.  The herbs also came from the carboot sale and we’re just buying a few at a time whenever we see them. We already had a pot of spearmint and some chives, but the rest of the herbs are ‘new’ to us from the market or carboot sale for £1.50 or less including thyme, rosemary, oregano and tarragon. We haven’t been able to find sage anywhere so we have taken a cutting of sage from our parents’ garden and hopefully we’ll be able to grow a plant from this!

As you can see from the photos, we’ve (almost!) finished the gravel path and we’ve spread wood chippings either side of the greenhouse to make the whole area look neat and hopefully the weed-resistant membrane beneath will keep the weeds at bay for now! More updates to come next week…


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How does your garden grow? Raised beds

Earlier in the week I shared photos of the paths we’d been digging around the veggie patch and told you how we intended to create raised beds around the remaining mounds of soil that we’d taken out of the path. I know this might not be the obvious way round to create raised beds but we finished off the paths and tucked the weed-proof membrane under the wood surrounding the beds so that we shouldn’t get any sneaky weeds creeping out of the veggie patch and into our gravel path.

I forgot to take any photos while we were constructing the frame of the raised beds – in fact, I was busy doing a lot of holding while hubby screwed the corners into place! After each of the two raised bed frames were completed, we dug over the existing earth inside the beds and mixed in a big bag of compost. As you can probably tell from the photos, we had completely finished the first bed before I got out the camera and posed for a photo to make it ‘look like’ I’d been digging – but I honestly had!! :) I’m planning to plant up the raised beds with courgettes and runner beans, and make the large planter beside the patio into a herb garden, so watch this space!