Growing Dahlias From Cuttings

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Growing Dahlias From Cuttings

I totally love dahlias, and have always divided my dahlia tubers to get new plants, in fact I didn’t know there was any other way.

Recently, I stumbled across a website or two that talked about taking dahlia cuttings, so I thought I’d give it a go. I love this video. It’s quite long, but very detailed. This is a website which gives good instructions. And of course Sarah Raven has some good advice.

I have a big new cutting bed in my garden (twice the size of the previous one), so I need plenty of plants to fill it! I will also give some away, and we have a plant stall at the school summer fete, so I plan to give some to the stall to sell.

I dug up all of my dahlias this year, so I’m going to try and take a few cuttings from all of them. In particular Cafe au lait, Seniors hope and Labyrinth, which are my current favourites.

I also bought a pot luck selection of 5 tubers from The National Dahlia Collection which I’m taking cuttings from – will be interesting to see how they turn out. They’re currently labelled mystery 1, 2 etc.!

I had them in a cold greenhouse, and I brought them inside for a couple of weeks to warm them up, and then put them in some potting compost. A couple of tubers in a shallow layer of compost in trays. They are on a sunny south facing windowsill (hooray for my 1930’s house with deep windowsills).

I covered them with a plastic lid, and put them on a heated mat (mainly because it was January and pretty chilly). I only had one mat, so just kept rotating them round! I also made sure to keep them well watered, as I noticed that it definitely helped them sprout (some got dry and hadn’t sprouted, and then magically did a few days after I gave them a good water). I think it was mid January that I put them in the compost.

It only took a couple of weeks to get them to sprout (pics below are end of January), and I kept the plastic lids on until they got too big.

By mid February they were ready to start taking cuttings. The ones below were taken on 18th February, and in reality could have been taken earlier, but I was on holiday!

They are in a mix of potting compost and vermiculite, and I just cut them close to the tuber, and took off the lowest few leaves.

I actually cut off more leaves a couple of days later, put them on some capillary matting and on the heated mat. They look a bit more bald, but it should enable them to make roots quicker, as they won’t need to feed as many leaves.

These are what the tubers look like after I took the cuttings. You can see that there are loads more ready to come.

A few weeks later (12th March), and the cuttings are looking great. Only a few losses (Cafe au Lait is proving a bit tricky)

It’s really interesting to see how the tubers have sprouted loads of new shoots since I took the cuttings. In the second picture below you can see where I cut the first shoot, and how loads of new shoots have sprouted from the base.

I’m really thrilled about how easy it is to create loads of new dahlias from a single tuber. I’ve also been reading about keeping small tubers of favourite dahlias in 4 inch pots so you can take cuttings from the same tuber each year (which would allow me to leave the rest in the ground), so I think I will try that too. Not sure how they will overwinter in pots, but I will cross that bridge next Winter!

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New Allotment – Levelling The Plot

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New Allotment – Levelling The Plot

As mentioned previously, When I chose it, I thought the plot was flat (well at least it wasn’t on a hill!), but it actually had lots of small hillocks and dips in it. It looked like an ancient burial site! From chatting to the other plot holders I think the previous tenant piled up the turf in random places when they created their beds.

I decided I want it flat so that I can put what I want where I want, rather than following the existing design. It would also be good to be able to walk across the plot without falling down random holes and spraining my ankle.

I checked with the ‘no dig’ guru Charles Dowding (he answered my tweet!) about digging to level the ground, and he said to go for it.

I also googled best ways to level allotments, and came across a recommendation to get an azada. It a sharp hoe like tool that you use in a chopping motion (see pictures below). I got mine from Get Digging – I got the medium one, and it has been completely amazing. I cannot recommend it highly enough. There is no way a spade would have dealt with the two long hillocks as quickly and easily as the azada did.

I have a dodgy back, and didn’t get a single twinge; I did get a few small blisters on my hands. But that’s because I’m a namby pamby office worker!

The other disadvantage is that because the hillocks were quite high I was swinging the azada above my head, which meant my hair was covered in soil!

Taking advantage of some sunny days in January and February, I put on my warmest clothes and decided to tackle two of the big piles of soil.

The first section was at the front of the plot, and was about 5 meters long, 1 metre wide and about 50cm tall. It was full of quite woody roots, but the azada made short work of it, and I just used the spade to re-distribute the soil. As you can see there was a trench around the mound, so I just used the soil to fill the trench. It took about 45 minutes from start to finish, including a few rest breaks in between digging.

The second task was to tackle the much taller mound on the right of the plot. It was only about 3 metres long x 1 metre wide, but it was quite tall – maybe 3/4 metre tall.

Again I employed the services of my trusty azada. There was a lot more soil in this one, so once I had filled in the trench round the outside I had to barrow it over to join the big pile of soil in the back left hand corner of the plot (under the pallets in the second photo below). It was about 6 barrow loads, and is really nice quality soil. I will use it to fill the raised beds when I construct them. Currently it’s sitting under some weed suppressant fabric to keep it weed free.

I’m really happy with how much flatter the plot is looking. After 3 months of being covered, the grass has died back, and I can see where the potholes and trenches are, which will make them much easier to fill – and there is plenty of soil in the mound at the back to give me a nice level plot. Next job is to build a shed. Happy days!

New Allotment

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I love growing fruit and veg so much that I decided it was time to take the plunge and get an allotment.

I’ve been successfully growing all manner of things in my garden – in pots and a couple of raised beds, but thought it would be nice to take on something bigger. Particularly because we can never grow enough strawberries or raspberries!

The idea is to make it fairly low maintenance, and somewhere mini-me and I can hang out, and hopefully meet some like-minded gardening folk.

I’m really lucky because there are quite a few allotment sites near me, and as soon as I contacted the council they told me there were a number of plots at Colesmead allotments, which is a 5 minute drive away.

I had the choice of 4 plots, all roughly half plot size. I chose the flattest one, or so I thought! I also realise it is the same number as our house, so maybe it’s karma!

This is it the day I went to see it.

And the day I got the keys – the council cut the grass. It’s roughly 7m x 14m, and despite the fact I thought it was flat, it’s covered in lots of little hills and dales, no doubt down to the previous owners beds.

There is a small pallet compost area (which I will make into multiple bays) and a hillock at the back, which is where I guess they dumped the soil they dug up. I’m going to use that to flatten it all out again.

I got the plot in November, and I want I be as much ‘no dig’ as possible, so I’ve covered it in black heavy duty weed suppressant fabric for the winter. I bought the fabric in a massive roll from Amazon, and whilst it’s not the cheapest way of doing things, I know I will be able to reuse the fabric for a few years at least.

I pegged it down with the plastic pegs that came free with the fabric, and I’ve since been back to put bricks/stones and pallets on top to help hold it down.

However, it’s been really windy this December/January, and I’ve already had to fix it down again twice. The first time it was flapping about. The second time (today – 6th January) it looked like this. Only the hillock with all the pallets on it was ok, and it had all blown onto my neighbours plot.

It’s good to see that it’s working in that the grass and weeds are dying off. And it’s interesting to get a better view of the previous beds. But it’s a pain in the arse to keep spending an hour to fasten it all back down.

So now it looks like this..

the wood is from some raised beds that I’m moving from my garden to the allotment.

And tomorrow I’m off up there again to put some more of the raised bed wood on top. I’ve also ordered some more pegs to peg down the edges a lot more. It’s when the wind gets underneath that it’s a disaster, so I need to try and stop that happening!

I know this year is going to be a lot of hard work, and then hopefully subsequent years will be easier. Wish me luck!

Update: I went to the plot the very next day after I first wrote this post, and it had all blown off again!!

So we added a lot more planks of wood, and I moved one of the pallets to the middle. I can happily report that I visited this morning, and all is looking well!

I uncovered the middle third of the plot to plant up some raspberries (see raspberry post for more detail), and this is what the ground looks like in mid March.

Lots of dead grass, but surprisingly, some very persistent grass that is green, and I assume is couch grass. The dark patches are where I’ve filled in some of the random trenches on the plot, with soil from the burial mounds or where I’ve been digging a trench for the raspberries.

I’ve covered it back up again, but it shows how long it’s going to take to get rid of the couch grass.

Homemade Booze from the garden

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I went to the River Cottage festival this August bank holiday, and as well as it being a gloriously hot weekend, I went to a great wild cocktail workshop with the fantastic John Wright.

I came home full of enthusiasm for homemade booze, and have been experimenting ever since.

As well as inspiration from John’s book ‘Booze’, I’m a huge fan of Pinterest, and find many recipes in there. I tend to save them in my Recipes from the garden or Scented geranium recipes or my Cocktails folders.

I thought it was time to share a few of my successes. Some are made with lovely natural ingredients from my garden, and others purely from shop bought ingredients. This post focussed on the ones from the garden, and I will write other posts about the man made ones!

First up is a rhubarb and rose geranium vodka. I used this recipe from The Telegraph, and added a little pink food colouring to make it this gorgeous light pink colour (otherwise it’s a bit green). I also used rose scented pelargonium because rhubarb and rose are good together, but you could use any scented pelargonium leaves I guess. I think they were Grey Lady Plymouth pelargoniums. The Telegraph recommend mixing with champagne or prosecco, and I may well do that at Christmas.

Next up is rose scented gin, which I made by mixing gin, sugar and Attar of roses pelargonium leaves. This is my favourite rose scented pelargonium. I just had this as a gin and tonic, and it was delicious. But I’d like a stronger rose taste so next time I’m going to add more leaves and let it steep for more than a couple of weeks. Crushing the leaves probably also helps. Again I added a (teeny) bit of food colouring (less than to the vodka) to give a slightly better colour.

For both of these I let them steep (best to do it in a jar as it’s easier to get the bits out afterwards) and then strained and decanted into bottles after a few weeks. I strain mine twice. Once through a sieve lined with kitchen roll (I use a piece of that brand called Blitz and it’s lovely and thick) and once through kitchen roll as I’m decanting it into the bottle (I line my funnel with kitchen roll – you need to lift it from time to time as it creates an air lock).

I have also made some pelargonium scented simple syrups for use in cocktails. The simple syrup was made by heating 50% water and 50% sugar together. Then you mix in the leaves and leave it to soak for a while. Then strain.

And finally I’ve made some rose pelargonium sugar. By simply layering sugar and leaves for a while.

Recipes for the syrup and sugar can be found here.

Homemade booze from the larder

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Homemade booze from the larder

Another post about homemade booze – I feel like a lush!

These two are made from store cupboard staples, and are both nice and wintry.

The first is inspired from watching the new Paddington movie (which me and my daughter both loved), and it is, of course, marmalade gin.

Recipe is a Good Housekeeping one, and can be found here.

I made it tonight, (late November), so it should be nice and ready by Christmas, when I will post a photo of it decanted into nice bottles. Right now it looks like this…

I imagine it will make good cocktails.

The second one is very Christmassy. It’s mulled gin, and is a recipe from Morrisons supermarket. It can be found here. It’s basically gin, orange peel, cranberries, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves and sugar.

I made more than the stated recipe, and just added a bit more sugar and cinnamon sticks, but left the rest of the ingredients the same. After hearing to melt the sugar, this is poured m straight into the bottles, and looks really pretty. It shouldn’t need straining. It would look nice in small bottles as Christmas gifts.

It also has to be left for at least two weeks, so make it by the first week in December if you want it to be ready in time for Christmas.

Update…

This is what they looked like decanted.

Very similar in colour – the marmalade gin was slightly lighter. And the both taste absolutely amazing. I particularly liked the marmalade one, and my sister loved the mulled one – she mixed it with Fever Tree aromatic tonic to spice it up even more.

When I make the mulled one again, I might prick the cranberries to help them impart more of their flavour.

Both a huge hit!

Homemade Christmas Chocolate Booze

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Homemade Christmas Chocolate Booze

As Christmas is coming, my thoughts are turning to nice warming drinks, and cocktails.

I love a good cocktail, and I particularly like Baileys style drinks at Christmas!

I thought I’d have a go at making my own, and then I thought it would be good to share how I got on and where I got the recipes.

The flip top Bottles are from Wilkos homebrew range. Much cheaper than the Kilner ones.

The first is Nutella liqueur. The recipe I used for inspiration is here. I made a larger batch, used single cream, and added a teaspoon of almond extract to up the nutty flavour (I’m a huge amaretto fan). I didn’t write down my measurements (I converted it into UK measures), but looking at the recipe again, I may have miscalculated and put in an equal amount of cream, Nutella and vodka. I think I did 400g nutella, 400ml cream and 400ml vodka.

I had a shot over ice, and it’s completely awesome.

It needs a good shake before you use it, and I’ve been keeping it in the fridge – it needs to warm a little before shaking it as it solidifies a bit with the high fat content!

The next one is most exciting – caramelised white chocolate liqueur. It’s to die for (if you have a sweet tooth). The recipe is here, but I didn’t have any condensed milk, so I replaced it with extra cream. I also doubled the quantities.

The making of the caramelised chocolate was the best bit. So exciting. The recipe for how to do it is here. I used 300g of Green and Blacks white chocolate, and I got about 200g of caramelised chocolate. I guess some is lost through evaporation, and some through my thorough taste testing!

I thought I would share some photos of the process.

It looks like toffee, but it has chocolatey undertones. Amazing. Delicious. Could eat it off a spoon.

Anyhow, you mix it with warm cream and vodka, and the result is like a lovely boozy pudding. If you like your drinks sweet, you should add the condensed milk, as I’ve tasted mine and it’s not particularly sweet (certainly not when compared to the Nutella one).

And now I have to think about what to do with the leftover chocolate…

Update…

Naturally we drank these at Christmas. They are both quite strong, so if you don’t like strong drinks, you might want to reduce the amount of vodka.

We drank them over ice like baileys, and discovered that if you mix them together they make an amazing drink that is better than either of them separately!

Pizza Party -Uuni 3

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Pizza Party -Uuni 3

I just bought an Uumi 3 Pizza oven from John Lewis (other retailers are available 😉), and it’s the best thing ever!!

It’s small enough to take camping, and cooks the most amazing pizzas. Proper ones like you get in a decent pizza restaurant. 

At £199 it’s not cheap, but if you regularly eat pizza, it would pay for itself pretty quickly. I reckon each of my pizzas cost no more than £1. 

(Yes that is a pink wheelbarrow and pink football in the background – that’s what you get when you have a house with no men in it!). 


There is a Uuni owners forum on Facebook that has some proper pizza geeks on it, and it’s worth a look as there are a lot of helpful tips on there. 

I made the dough in my KitchenAid with Wessex Mill pizza/pasta 00 flour using the recipe on the back of the Uuni instruction booklet. I let the mixer knead it for 10 minutes. 


Then I cold proved it in the fridge for about 48 hours. This is it before proving. 


I then let it warm up outside the fridge for a couple of hours, rolled it into 5 small balls (about 160g per ball), and let it prove again. 


You can see the dough in this picture  below to get a sense of how much it rose again. 


For the tomato base, I used passata 


And chopped in loads of fresh herbs from the garden (oregano, marjoram, Greek basil, parsley, thyme and sage), plus salt and pepper. 


I cooked it gently to reduce it down to a nice sauce. 

I also made some garlic butter using 1/2 a pack of butter, 3 cloves of crushed garlic and chopped parsley from the garden (both curly and flat leaf). I mixed it all together and created a sausage using cling film. I will keep it in the freezer and chop bits off as I need it. After all, you can’t have pizza without garlic bread. 




I chopped up some veggies, sliced some mozzarella and goats cheese and bought some prosciutto for toppings. I also had some fresh Greek basil from the greenhouse. 

First up I did a pizza base to test the oven, check out that flame..


and then when it had cooked I brushed on some of the lovely garlic butter. It took just 60 seconds to cook (yes, you read that right, just one minute) and it was amazing garlic bread. It was so delicious it got eaten before I took a picture. I managed to get a picture of the last slice!

The next one was asparagus (which I steamed beforehand), prosciutto, red pepper and mozzarella. 

This is it uncooked. It’s sat on the Uuni pizza peel, which you use to slide it into the oven. It cooks on a pizza stone in the oven, which gets incredibly hot, hence the fast cooking time, and gorgeous crispy base. 

Lots of people seem to have problems with the pizza sticking to the pizza peel, so I tried semolina underneath. But to be honest I had no problems with sticking, so I reverted to a bit of flour under the pizza as it didn’t slide off and burn in the oven (unlike the semolina). 


And here it is cooked.  We added the basil after cooking. 

It genuinely only takes a minute or so to cook. You turn it round half way through to make sure it’s evenly done. 

There were a few more that didn’t get photographed, and this is the last one we made. We added an egg. A great tip I got off the  Facebook forum was to break it slightly off centre (towards you) as it moves as you slide it into the oven. And look – it came out perfectly in the centre, cooked white and runny yolk. Delicious!



I really can’t recommend this oven highly enough, I foresee lots of pizza parties this summer.