Sunday, May 30, 2010

Win an Ecosense Paint Kit

Having never run a giveaway on A Smallholder's Diary, I find myself running my second in as many weeks. This one has a green theme to it.

Here’s your chance to experience a greener way to paint with new Dulux Ecosense. A Smallholder’s Diary is offering three people the chance to win an Ecosense paint kit. – is a new virtually odour free paint range from Dulux with half the carbon and water footprint and 40% less waste than standard Dulux Matt paint (2008), Ecosense contains zero added solvent which means no strong, lingering paint odours around the house both during and after decorating.

Perfect for a springtime home make-over, Dulux Ecosense Matt is available in 20 fresh new colours plus white for walls and ceilings. Dulux Ecosense is also available in Satinwood – for interior wood and metal and is available in a choice of 5 colours (plus white). It has 90% less solvent, 15% less waste and a 35% lower carbon footprint than the Dulux solvent-based Satinwood formulation. The Ecosense range also uses 20% recycled packaging.

Check out this Ecosense video to find out more:  

To enter - all you need to do is leave a comment. If you have a blog you can also earn yourself an additional entry by writing a post that links to this post - it doesn't have to be a whole post, just a sentence within a post is fine. You will need to let me know within your comment that you have done this.

The paint kits consists of one 2.5 litre pot of Ecosense matt in a colour of your choice plus one 1 litre pot of Ecosense satinwood also in a colour of your choice. This contest is open until 16th June 2010 at 12:00 midnight UK time. All entries after this date will not be counted. The winners will be announced on 18th June 2010.

Please note - this giveaway is open to UK residents only.

Good luck to you all!! 


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Summer has Arrived!!.....And I Hate Mowing the Grass!

After a long cold winter and a rather chilly spring that threw in a few surprise late frosts, this weekend it felt like someone had flicked a switch marked "summer"! In fact at times today in the garden it was a little too hot! While in the greenhouse sorting out my seedlings it was VERY hot - who needs a sauna when you have a greenhouse in summer.

Anyway, I managed to get quite a lot done today. I planted out some broccoli, and sowed some beetroot, radishes, peas, coriander, basil, thyme, rosemary, lettuce, dwarf beans. I have a load of seedlings to plant out, but I didn't get my act together to harden them off during the week. So I started those today and I will plant them out during the week.

Then there was cutting the grass of course. This is a job I despise. There was a certain novelty to it when we first moved here - as we have a large area to mow we had to buy a decent petrol mower and I quite enjoyed it at first. Now I just spend the time walking up and down with the mower thinking of all the other more useful things I could be doing. It can take a couple of hours or more to do it properly, and that's without making the edges neat (which I don't do otherwise I would be at it forever). Today, the boys wanted to "help". Our youngest is quite good at it now, although his idea of straight line is a bit different from mine. I have to start it and empty it for him, but otherwise I can almost leave him to it as long as I stay nearby. However, he quickly gets bored and after a little while he wanders off to do something else.

Our eldest wanted to have a go today. I explained how it worked, started up the mower and set him off. I went off to move various items that were on the grass (cut down tree branches, a plastic tables, a football, etc.) confident that he knew what he was doing. When I looked around again I found him wandering aimlessly around the garden with the mower! He tried to tell me that it didn't really matter how he did it, but I persuaded him that keeping to roughly straight lines was a good idea in order to keep track of where you have been. He did a reasonable job in the end except that where there were obstructions (such a garden chair) he thought it was OK just to go around it rather than move the chair. He didn't manage all of it, but he did most of it.

If I could get them to a stage where they can do it completely by themselves (probably in exchange for extra pocket money) it would give me so much extra time to do things that are so much more useful.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What Has Happened to my Courgettes?

Planting out my courgettes is not normally something I have any trouble with. It is a simple process - once your plants are large enough then harden off and then plant out in the chosen position. This year though my plants are looking decidedly sick for some reason. There hasn't been much rain, but I have watered them well. Maybe a late frost had them - although I can't see any obvious sign of frost damage.

One thing I learned though early in my gardening career was when planting out, don't discard any spare plants you may have as these could come in handy if any of your plants don't survive the planting out process. I do have a couple of spare plants which I will put in to replace some of the sick looking ones. I am thinking I might go and buy some more seeds though and try sowing some more. It is getting a little bit late for sowing courgettes, but if sow them in the next few days I should get away with it.

I have just planted out a few butternut squash plants next to the courgettes, so I am hoping they don't suffer a similar fate!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Smallholder's Diary (Late) 100th Post Giveaway

OK, so this is actually my 108th post, but things are running a bit behind schedule here. Who's counting anyway?! So, you could win this handmade fabric basket (made by my wife). To give you an idea of size, it measures 19cms (7 1/2 ins) x 10cms (4 ins) x 11cms (4 1/2 ins) and is great for storing seed packets, sewing things or other bits and bobs. I have decided to keep this simple; all you have to do to enter is leave a comment to gain an entry. If you want to, you can also earn an additional entry by writing a post on your blog (if you have one) that mentions this giveaway and link to this post. It doesn't have to be a whole post, just a mention is fine, but you will need to tell me in your comment that you have done this.

For UK residents I will throw in a few packets of seeds as well - sadly I am not able to do this for people in other parts of the world as there are restrictions on importing/exporting seeds. The basket itself is available to everyone though wherever in the world you live.

This giveaway is open until May 31st 2010 at 12:00 midnight UK time. Any comments on this post received after this time will not be published. The winning entry will be selected at random and will be announced on June 2nd 2010. Good luck to you all!!

Please note that this giveaway is now closed - no further entries will be accepted.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Garden Equipment at World of Power

As summer approaches (hopefully) I feel that I need to be chopping some wood ready for the winter. I need to chop it while it is dry so I can then store it in the garage ready for burning. I have loads of logs that need chopping as well as some trees that need chopping down as they are in the way where they are. I do have a little tree pruner/lopper but unfortunately I have wrecked the chain through being over ambitious with what I could chop with it. I really do not fancy chopping it with a handsaw! This has led me to a search for an affordable chainsaw. This would be a really useful purchase for me and would pay for itself in time. This search has led me to come across World of Power. They have a wide range of gardening equipment, including chainsaws, hedge trimmers, Mountfield Lawnmowers, chippers, etc.They also have a range of DIY tools, barbecues, and a large range of other household and garden tools and equipment. The prices seem reasonable too and they have all the familiar brands.

In relation to lawnmowers, I have a Mountfield myself and it certainly does the job for me. Being as we have a very large grassed area a petrol mower is essential. I have found Mountfield petrol lawnmowers to be extremely reliable and mine always starts easily, even after being left over the winter.

Getting back to the chainsaw, I will need to look at these carefully and decide which is the best for me.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Parsnip Toilet Roll Experiment - Update

First, let's recap - I really like parsnips, but I am fairly rubbish at growing them. The main issue is that they are very slow to germinate, which tends to mean that by the time they start to come up they tend to be swamped by weeds as I cannot keep them clear for fear of pulling up my seedling parsnips. Last year I tried germinating parsnip seeds on damp kitchen roll first before sowing them. This was only marginally successful, with a few that grew nicely, but most did not.

This year, I am trying sowing my parsnips in toilet roll tubes. I had great success with last year with sowing carrots in toilet roll tubes so I thought it was worth trying with parsnips. The theory is that as root vegetables do not like being replanted and their roots disturbed too much, I will plant out the whole tube and the cardboard will rot away leaving me with perfectly formed parsnips and gardeners the world over will marvel at my parsnip growing prowess. Well, that's theory anyway!

So, let us see at how my parsnip seedlings are progressing. Well, as you can see most have started to come up. Quite a few gaps though, and some have two!

I experimented with putting a few under a propagator lid to get them going. This, however, not only made no difference whatsoever to the rate at which the parsnips germinated, but also caused the toilet roll tubes to go mouldy. Also, as you can see in the picture a couple of the tubes have some mould (or something) growing across the top, so I don't know if these will survive. I don't think I will do that again.

I haven't decided how big I should let them grow before I plant them out, but I figure that they have a little way to go yet.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Labelling Seedlings - A Cautionary Tale

I don't tend to very good at labelling seedlings. Instead I usually have a system of some sort so I can remember which tray of seedlings is which and generally I manage to get away with this. This year, however, I thought I would be much more organised and carefully label everything, so no need for a system or trying to remember what I have put where. So with each group of pots I have written on one of those plastic label things with a felt tip pen. All sorted I thought, and I covered each group with a propagator lid to get them started.

However, what I didn't think of is that the propagator lid creates such a moist atmosphere that it makes the writing on the label run. The result is that I now have several pots that I have no idea what I have planted in them! I know at least one group is pumpkins, but I am beginning think that I have sown two lots by mistake. I have absolutely no idea what the third one is. All the others I can remember what they are or I have used one of those proper labels that comes with some seed packets. It's just these three groups that I am not sure about.

Note to self - need to find a better labelling system. Any suggestions anyone?