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National Gardening Week

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It’s National Gardening Week – a chance to have a nosey around beautiful gardens and get inspiration for your own plot, big or small.

For events near you visit http://www.nationalgardeningweek.org.uk/Events.aspx.

My two favourite British Gardens
are Bodnant in North Wales and
Coleton Fishacre in Devon.

My own plot may only be a fraction of the size but these wonderful places provide so much inspiration to create a serene and stunning outdoor space.

I must admit my gardening strategy up to now has been: visit garden centre, choose something pretty, throw it in anywhere, hope it survives. For obvious reasons, this technique does not always work!

Inspired by this feature in the 2015 Dairy Diary, this year I am going to be much more scientific and have produce proper plan. I’m going to sketch out the design first using inspiration from Pinterest (see the Dairy Diary Gorgeous Gardens board) and then work out where the sunny/shady spots are and the soil type before deciding on the planting scheme.

Using the Dairy Diary guide, it’s pretty simple really!

 

Make the most of your garden

Make the most of your garden

One of the challenges of gardening is to get the best out of your entire plot, whatever the differing types of soil or changing light conditions, and however sheltered or exposed all or part of it may be. If you can get the basics right, you’re on your way.

Have you ever wondered why some plants thrive in the garden and others seem to give up, no matter how much attention you lavish on them? One reason may be that the location just doesn’t suit. While some plants are adaptable and tolerant, others are extremely fussy, so although you may be eager to get down and dirty among the hardy annuals and the weeds (they always seem to survive!), first things first – before lifting a trowel or opening a nursery catalogue, cast an eye over the soil and light levels throughout your garden. Take note of the differences and think about how to take advantage of, or combat, them. Not every section of the garden may be subject to the same exposure, or shade. Plan according to the specific conditions of each area.

Soil

If you can identify the type of soil you have in your garden, you can choose plants that have a fair chance of succeeding. See the box on page 39 for a guide to soil types, and take a good look at what’s under your feet. For instance, chalky soil may be obvious if it contains chalky particles, but sandy soil isn’t yellow, so don’t be fooled by initial appearances! And bear in mind that although it’s a good idea to try to improve your soil – with organic matter, for instance, and adding grit to clay will improve drainage – it is often a heartbreaking waste of time to try to alter it fundamentally. Much better to adapt and work with what you’ve got.

“Adding plenty of organic matter
before planting will help, whatever
the soil type.”

Acid or alkaline?

The acidity or alkalinity of your soil affects the nutrients contained in it, and so is hugely influential in whether the plants you have chosen will thrive or struggle. An acid-loving plant, such as a camellia, will not do well in alkaline soil and may not even survive, and likewise an alkaline-loving plant, such as a wallflower, will not do well in acidic soil. However, although some plants grow in acid soil only, and some in alkaline, there are degrees – many have just a slight preference and can adapt to soils that do not veer too much one way or the other.

So how can you tell what sort of soil you have? The technical way to express it is as a pH number and you can buy easy-to-use pH testing kits in garden centres. Neutral – the level at which most nutrients are available – is pH 7. A higher number shows an alkaline soil, lower is acidic. Most plants do well in soil with a pH of 6 to 7.

When testing for pH, it’s a good idea to take samples from different parts of the garden, because it’s quite possible for soil to change within a small area, especially in urban gardens or where building or landscaping work has previously taken place.

Lime haters

These include rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, summer-flowering heathers, pernettya, the calico bush, some ferns, blueberry and dogwood. They are known as ericaceous plants, and in a chalky soil their leaves tend to turn yellow and chances are they will die. If you have set your heart on one of the lime-haters but your soil is alkaline and limey, try planting it in a suitably sized container filled with ericaceous compost (this has a pH of between 5 and 6). Remember to keep the soil moist – ericaceous plants are often shallow-rooted and tend to dry out easily.

Light and heat

Whether your garden is north or south-facing, or somewhere in between, will dictate what areas are in full or partial shade, or full sun, and when. Hosta, cyclamen and magnolia do well in dappled shade while mesembryanthemum just loves the sun.

Buildings, walls, trees, hedges and any other shade-throwing obstacles located nearby will also have an effect, of course, on both light and temperature. Sunny walls, for instance, reflect heat, and the soil at their base may be dry. Plants grown here will need a lot of watering, especially if the soil is sandy or chalky and thus free-draining. Adding plenty of organic matter before planting will help, whatever the soil type, and mulching with bark chippings, gravel or pebbles helps retain water, and looks attractive.

Salt and wind 

If you live by the sea, you will have to consider salt-tolerance, as well as everything else, when choosing plants – but there are plenty to choose from, and a plus point is that in coastal areas the risk of frost is much reduced.

In exposed gardens, wind can be a problem – cold in winter, warm and drying in summer, and high winds are always damaging. Trees and hedges can be used to slow down the wind, giving your plants a fighting chance of survival. As well as on the boundary, where hornbeam is a good choice, you could use bushes, such as a compact rose, within the garden to cordon off small areas where you can grow more susceptible plants, athough as a rule, it’s best to choose hardy varieties.

If your garden is exposed and by the sea, holly, blackthorn, Griselinia littoralis, hawthorn, sea buckthorn and willow are all good windbreak choices.

Alkaline lovers for clay soil

  • Aconite
  • Anemone
  • Aster
  • Buddleia
  • Campanula
  • Clematis
  • Cotoneaster
  • Crocus
  • Delphinium
  • Forsythia
  • Geranium
  • Hebe
  • Helenium
  • Hosta
  • Hydrangea
  • Lavender
  • Lilac
  • Mahonia
  • Pyracantha
  • Vinca
  • Alyssum
  • Berberis

Hardy and salt-tolerant plants

  • Calendula
  • California poppy
  • Dianthus
  • Fuchsia
  • Hebe
  • Mallow
  • Montbretia
  • Pyracantha
  • Rock rose
  • Sea pink
  • Sedum
  • Viburnum
  • Lilacs, cornflower, aubrieta, mock orange and perennial sweet pea are all hardy enough for exposed sites, but are not salt tolerant.

Shade-loving plants

  • Bluebell
  • Cranesbill
  • Lenten rose
  • Lily of the valley
  • Periwinkle
  • Stinking hellebore

Plants for a sunny spot

  • Anthemis
  • Berberis
  • Hibiscus
  • Pelargonium
  • Poppy
  • Salviapot

Soil types

Clay: feels smooth and will roll into a sausage shape; holds nutrients and water; takes a long time to warm up in spring and bakes hard in summer, often cracking; heavy and sticky to work; mostly alkaline.

Sandy: feels gritty and falls through your fingers; drains quickly and so is low in nutrients, which are washed away by rain; light and easy to work; warms up quickly in spring; often acidic.

Silt: just about holds together in a ball but will crumble if rolled thinly and is not sticky; fertile, drains fairly well but holds more moisture than sandy soil and is easily compacted. Garden soil is not often of pure silt.

Loam: mixture of clay, sand and silt; has many variations, tending towards either clay or sand; fertile, drains well, easily worked; probably the best soil for gardens.

Chalky: lime-rich and may be light or heavy; free-draining and very alkaline.

 

Useful websites

rhs.org.uk

bbc.co.uk/gardening

 

 

#nationalgardeningweek

Declutter your mind in 5 easy steps

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Declutter your mind in five easy steps

Plus gorgeous Raspberry & White Chocolate Muffins

 It’s been an unbelievably busy few weeks in the Dairy Diary office, with five products going to print last Thursday.

Combined with the minutia of daily
life with three children, this resulted
in a VERY cluttered mind.

Now the deadlines have passed and we can enjoy a long weekend, it is definitely time to address this. In our past-paced lives it’s so important for all of us to take a little time out and follow a few simple steps to de-stress and declutter our minds.

 

Here are Dairy Diary’s top tips on how to declutter your mind and feel more serene:

Get everything out of your head onto paper
Use your Dairy Diary to record events that you need to remember and tasks that you want to achieve.

But! Keep only one to-do list
Lists everywhere don’t help at all. Use the daily entries or notes pages in your Dairy Diary to consolidate everything that you need/want to do.

Walk for 20 minutes every day
If at all possible, find a 20 minute window in your diary every day to go out for a walk. Write it in your diary and you’re more likely to do it. This valuable solitude away from the stresses and strains will give you space to think and clear your mind of clutter.

Meet up with friends
It may be tricky to find a time when you’re all free, but do try to put a date in your diary to meet up with friends – even if you have to book it in weeks in advance. A chat and a good laugh works wonders and really helps to get everything out of your head.

Limit technology
With smartphones, tablets and a million and one things online we are constantly bombarded by information. Unless it’s essential for work, only check emails and social media once or twice a day – not every 2 minutes!

I’ll certainly be following these valuable tips, taking time to relax and getting my sanity back! Chill out and enjoy Bank Holiday Monday everyone.

 

And talking of relaxing……..I find one of the best ways to relax is to bake. Today, I’ll be baking these pretty and scrumptious muffins from the 2015 Dairy Diary.

 

Raspberry & White Chocolate Muffins

Raspberry and white chocolate muffinsTime 40 mins
Serves 10
Calories 331
Fat 14g of which 7.6g is saturated
Suitable for freezing
Suitable for vegetarians

Plain flour 300g (11oz)
Baking powder 3 tsp
Bicarbonate of soda ½ tsp
Caster sugar 110g (4oz)
Butter 75g (3oz), melted
Eggs 3
Natural fat free yogurt 150g (5oz)
Vanilla essence 1 tsp
Raspberries 175g (6oz)
White chocolate 175g (6oz), diced

1 Preheat oven to 190°C/Gas 5. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with 10 muffin cases.

2 Mix flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and sugar together in a bowl.

3 Whisk butter, eggs, yogurt and vanilla together in a second bowl until just mixed then add to dry ingredients and combine. Add raspberries and 110g (4oz) chocolate, mix together and then spoon into muffin cases.

4 Bake for 15-20 minutes until well risen and golden. Leave to cool in tin for 10 minutes then cool on a wire rack. Melt remaining chocolate in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water and drizzle over muffins. Leave for 5-10 minutes to set.

For more information on the Dairy Diary, and how to purchase visit www.dairydiary.co.uk

 

#declutter

 

..

Recipe of the week: Cranberry & Raisin Spotted Dick <p85 DD15>

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Recipe of the week:

Cranberry & Raisin Spotted Dick

A classic pud with a deliciously modern twist. This recipe steams slowly on the hob while you have fun!

Time 1¾ hrs
Serves 6
Calories 442
Fat 19 of which 8.9g is saturated
Suitable for vegetarians

Self-raising flour 250g (9oz)
Ground cinnamon ¼ tsp
Shredded suet 125g (4½oz)
Orange 1, grated rind only
Milk 175ml-200ml (6-7fl oz)
Dried cranberries 75g (3oz)
Raisins 75g (3oz)
Caster sugar 75g (3oz)
Custard or cream to serve

1 Stir together flour, cinnamon, suet and orange rind in a bowl. Pour in milk, starting with 175ml (6fl oz), and adding a little more at a time until you have a moist but firm dough.

2 On a lightly floured surface roll dough out to a rectangle 20x28cm (8x11in). Mix together remaining ingredients and scatter over dough. Roll up as if making a Swiss roll from narrow end. Push any fruit that falls out back into the ends. Wrap in greaseproof paper and foil, making a pleat in each, twisting the ends to form a seal (like a cracker) and tie with string.

3 Cook in a large steamer set over a pan of boiling water for 1½ hours. Check water level.

4 Allow to cool slightly before unwrapping. Serve in thick slices with custard or cream.

A Dairy Diary recipe

 

 

#recipeoftheweek #spotteddick

Simple and delicious recipes for a relaxed Easter lunch

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Simple and delicious recipes for a relaxed Easter lunch

Enjoy a lovely long weekend, and gather with friends or family to celebrate Easter.

Treat your loved ones to a delicious lunch, it’s simple to prepare and can be left to cook while you socialise.

 

Broccoli & Apple Soup

Broccoli & Apple SoupThis surprising combination of ingredients, work beautifully together to create a light soup with subtle flavour.

Time 25 mins
Serves 4
Calories 107
Fat 4g of which 0.4g is saturated
Suitable for freezing
Suitable for vegetarians

Olive oil 1 tbsp
Red onion 1, peeled and chopped
Dessert apples 2, peeled, cored and chopped
Vegetable stock 750ml (1¼ pints)
Broccoli 1 large head, trimmed and roughly chopped
Low fat natural fromage frais 4 tbsp, optional
Granary bread and Cheddar cheese to serve, optional

1 Heat oil in a large non-stick saucepan, add onion and apples, cover and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2 Pour stock into pan and add broccoli. Bring up to boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

3 Turn off the heat, season with black pepper and purée with a hand-held whisk. Serve immediately with a spoonful of fromage frais, and a chunk of bread and Cheddar, if using.

 

Simple Roast Lamb

Simple roast lambPerfect for a social occasion, everything is cooked in the oven giving you time to enjoy with your guests.

Serves 6
Time 2½–3 hrs plus resting
Calories 625
Fat 34g of which 13g is saturated

Half leg of lamb weighing about 1.8kg (4lb)
Garlic 4 cloves, peeled and chopped
Fresh rosemary 4 sprigs, leaves plucked and chopped
Olive oil 6 tbsp
Small new potatoes 750g (1lb 10oz), scrubbed
Chantenay carrots 500g (1lb 2oz), trimmed and scrubbed
Asparagus 2 bundles weighing about 500g (1lb 2oz), trimmed

1 Preheat oven to 190ºC/Gas 5. Place lamb in a roasting tin. Mix together garlic, rosemary and 2 tablespoons of olive oil with freshly ground black pepper. Spread all over lamb. Roast for 2–2½ hours, depending on how you like your meat cooked.

2 When lamb has an hour left to cook, bring potatoes (cut any big ones in half) and carrots up to boil in pan of water and simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put remaining oil in a roasting tin in the oven above lamb to heat up. Drain vegetables, add to hot oil and roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and add asparagus. Stir well and cook for a further 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

3 Leave lamb to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve with gravy made from juices.

 

Cranberry & Raisin Spotted Dick

Spotted DickA classic pud with a deliciously modern twist. This recipe steams slowly on the hob while you have fun!

Time 1¾ hrs
Serves 6
Calories 442
Fat 19 of which 8.9g is saturated
Suitable for vegetarians

Self-raising flour 250g (9oz)
Ground cinnamon ¼ tsp
Shredded suet 125g (4½oz)
Orange 1, grated rind only
Milk 175ml-200ml (6-7fl oz)
Dried cranberries 75g (3oz)
Raisins 75g (3oz)
Caster sugar 75g (3oz)
Custard or cream to serve

1 Stir together flour, cinnamon, suet and orange rind in a bowl. Pour in milk, starting with 175ml (6fl oz), and adding a little more at a time until you have a moist but firm dough.

2 On a lightly floured surface roll dough out to a rectangle 20x28cm (8x11in). Mix together remaining ingredients and scatter over dough. Roll up as if making a Swiss roll from narrow end. Push any fruit that falls out back into the ends. Wrap in greaseproof paper and foil, making a pleat in each, twisting the ends to form a seal (like a cracker) and tie with string.

3 Cook in a large steamer set over a pan of boiling water for 1½ hours. Check water level.

4 Allow to cool slightly before unwrapping. Serve in thick slices with custard or cream.

 

Win a set of Denby Monsoon MugsWIN A SET OF GORGEOUS DENBY MUGS

If you’re entertaining with a motley collection of mismatching mugs, why not enter our prize draw to win a set of gorgeous Denby china?

Win a set of Denby Mugs

 

 

 

Happy Easter everyone!

 

 

#easterrecipes #win

Daylight Saving Time starts

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Don’t forget to put your clocks forward 1 hour tonight

In the UK the clocks go forward 1 hour at 1am on the last Sunday in March, and back 1 hour at 2am on the last Sunday in October.

The period when the clocks are 1 hour ahead is called British Summer Time (BST). There’s more daylight in the evenings and less in the mornings (sometimes called Daylight Saving Time).

When the clocks go back, the UK is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

 


 

 

Daylight Saving Time starts
Clocks go forward 29 March 2015 at 1am

Daylight Saving Time ends
Clocks go back 25 October 2015 at 2am

 


 

 

#clockschange #daylightsaving

How to make laundry easy: part 2

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Create a fabulous laundry space for less than £15!

Laundry must be one of the most mundane household tasks, but one that has to be done with the most frequency!

Our tips in this series will
help to make things a little
easier and speedier.

This week, we tackle your laundry space. Having somewhere pleasant to work, with everything you need close to hand will make the task much more bearable, and quicker too.

Here’s how to create the laundry/utility space that best suits you in just 5 steps:

  1. Make a list of the items that you actually need in your utility or laundry room.
  2. Empty everything out of the room and sort through your belongings. Throw or donate anything that’s not useful or beautiful. Find a more appropriate place for anything not on your list from step 1.
  3. Clean! Scrub all surfaces and the floor and clean your washing machine by adding a cup of bleach and washing (empty) on its hottest setting.
  4. If necessary, give everything a fresh lick of paint. If you have a small space, choose white to give a lighter brighter feel. You can add colour with accessories.
  5. For a pleasing space choose a colour scheme of two or three colours (perhaps taken from a picture you wish to use). Sort your belongings into types and pop into baskets, boxes or bags in your chosen colour scheme. Move or fit shelving and/or hooks to accommodate these baskets or boxes and larger items such as an ironing board and mop.
  6. Put everything in its new place and accessorise with pictures and ornaments.

When we moved into our current home we inherited a truly horrible utility room. I despised it and had grand plans to demolish it.

However, after a little planning, one day’s work and a spend of only £14.49, I transformed the space into a pretty and practical laundry space.

Utility refurbishment

I followed the steps above, with (a lot) of scrubbing and a fresh coat of white paint. After a huge sort-out, I housed essential items in boxes and baskets.

  • I re-used a few baskets/boxes that I already had and bought six new boxes from Home Bargains.
  • I re-used my household box, filling it with laundry liquid etc. As it’s attractive and houses the items that I use most frequently, I have left this out on the worktop.
  • A new over-door hook and pretty re-usable bag is now a handy store for carrier bags on the back of the utility door. I also hung all the keys on a hook on the wall.
  • A new wall hook bought for a couple of pounds from Home Bargains is perfect for the ironing board and mop.

And voila from gross to gorgeous (well, almost) in just a day and with less than £15 spent.

You might also be interested in How to make laundry easier, simpler and faster part 1

#organise #organize

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rich Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

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Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

It’s St Patrick’s Day tomorrow and to celebrate, why not make these rich gooey chocolate cupcakes.

They are divine!

Time 1 hr
Makes 16
Calories 373
Fat 24g of which 13.6g is saturated
Suitable for vegetarians

Cocoa powder 60g (2½oz)
Guinness 200ml (7fl oz)
Butter 250g (9oz), softened
Caster sugar 300g (11oz)
Eggs 2 large, beaten
Self-raising flour 225g (8oz), sifted
Baking powder 1 tsp
Buttermilk 75ml (2½fl oz)
Double cream 150ml (¼ pint)
Cook’s dark chocolate 150g (5oz), finely chopped
Green sugar and grated white chocolate to decorate, optional

1 Preheat oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Line 16 muffin tin holes with paper muffin cases.

2 Sift cocoa into a pan, add Guinness and bring up to boil, stirring. Cool for 10 minutes.

3 Using an electric mixer, cream 225g (8oz) butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in eggs, beating well after each addition. Fold in flour, baking powder, buttermilk and cocoa. Mix until blended. Divide mixture between cases, then bake for 25-30 minutes until firm. Leave to cool in tins for a few minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

4 Heat cream until almost boiling, then pour onto chocolate and remaining butter. Mix well. Spread onto each muffin and decorate if wished.

A Dairy Diary recipe

 

#stpatricksday

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