Monthly Archives: October 2015

Helping Our Feathered Friends This Winter

Bird and food

Birds have a tough old time of it and recent studies have shown that farmland species like the house sparrow are especially vulnerable. Nature is finely balanced and unforgiving and that’s why the food we provide in our gardens is so vital to our feathered friends.


Different birds have different types of beaks. For example,a robin has a neat tweezer – like beak which it  uses to delicately nip at insects whereas the big broad bill of the greenfinch is perfect for cracking open large seeds.

Different birds visiting your garden will have different food needs, so check out who is visiting and make sure you are serving up what they enjoy. A little bit of research into this will have you attracting a wide range of birds to your garden.

Small birds simply can’t store  fat due to their size and as they burn off a lot just keeping warm each night in the winter, leave them fatty foods on a daily basis to keep them warm and cosy. Lardy bird-cake or fat balls are perfect for these customers. Whilst birds need fatty foods during the winter to give them instant energy and keep them warm their requirements change when spring comes and they’re feeding their young.

Most garden birds switch to foraging for insects, larvae and worms because the chicks need protein to grow, so live food is the order of the day for them!

Keep feeding birds all the year round if you can and also leave them clean water. If you have a bird bath, keep it clean by disinfecting it regularly and keep it free of ice in winter by adding boiling water.

s nest


The trees and hedges in your garden may well be providing birds with places to nest but it’s still worth putting out a wide selection of nesting materials in late winter, such as pet fur, fluff, bits of wool, moss, dry grass, plant stems and even string.

Artificial nest boxes work very well for hole-nesting birds such as tits but many house sparrow and starlings will also use these now as many sites have been lost in the countryside.

Always remember, even a few small actions can help more birds survive and your reward will be an influx of interesting and attractive new visitors to your garden.


Recipes For Autumn Fruit

berry crumble

Autumn is one of my favourite times of year. There is such an abundance of fruit in the garden and allotments and this time and I often find myself on the receiving end of home grown fruit from client’s gardens as they have almost too much to consume themselves! I thought that I’d share some easy recipes to help you use up all that lovely fruit. The apple crumble recipe was given to me by a  lovely client who supplied  both the apples and  an incredibly simple recipe that  even I  managed to get great results from! The recipes  for  the plums and cranberries  were taken from The Kitchen Garden Cookbook by Carina Contini and Delia’s Christmas Easy Magazine, 2003 and Delia’s Happy Christmas  respectively . I like the fact the recipes are all straightforward, so even the most reluctant cook should have some fun and great results as well!

 Apple Crumble

Serves 2-3


100g self – raising flour,

Doves Farm stuff has a nice flavour with no funny aftertaste which you can get with ‘cheap’ flour

50g margarine ( butter also works)

50g sugar – castor or everyday sugar

1. Mix the flour and margarine together until it resembles breadcrumbs, through in the sugar and give it a mix about.

2. Spread evenly onto fruit which has already been stewed and sweetened to taste.

3. Stuff in the oven at 180 degrees(ish) for 20-25 minutes. I find that if the oven has been on prior to that for roasting something else then 20 minutes is fine.


Pan-fried plums and parsnips

A flavoursome  side to accompany a roast, especially poultry.

Kitchen Garden Cookbook by Carina Contini (Frances Lincoln)

Serves 4


3 firm parsnips

Salt to taste

25g unsalted butter

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

8 firm plums, halved and stoned

2 sprigs of lemon thyme

A large handful of watercress leaves

1. Peel, trim and cut the parsnips into cubes the same size as the plum halves. Blanch the parsnips by plunging them in boiling salted water for a few minutes until tender but not overcooked. Drain well and set aside.

2. Melt the butter and oil in a large frying pan. When they start to bubble, add the plums. Cook for about 5 minutes until they start to soften. Add the blanched parsnips and the lemon thyme. Just before serving, add the watercress and heat through.

 Cranberries in bowls

Spiced Cranberry Chutney – Delia Smith

This, as you would expect, is a lovely, bright, Christmassy colour, and it’s excellent served with cold cuts, as well as sharp, assertive cheeses. Keep in a cool dark place for a month before eating.  

  Makes 2 x 1 lb (350 ml) capacity jars


 2 Cinnamon sticks

 1 teaspoon of ground cloves  

1 lb (450g) Cranberries

 2 tablespoons freshly grated root ginger

1 medium red onion, chopped

12 oz (350g) of Demerara sugar  grated zest and juice of 2 oranges

15 fl oz (425ml) good quality red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sea salt

15 fl oz (425 ml) good quality red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sea salt


1. All you do here is place all the ingredients in a wide, shallow pan. bring everything up to simmering point and stir well, ignoring the scum that rises to the surface – it will soon disappear.

2. Now, keeping the heat at a gentle simmer, let the chutney bubble and reduce for about 45 minutes, or until you can draw a wooden spoon across the surface and leave a trail that doesn’t fill up with vinegar. Don’t forget it will thicken as it cools, so don’t let it get too thick.

3.Towards the end of the cooking time, sterilise the jars (see note below), then fill them with the hot chutney (you can discard the cinnamon now).

4. Cover with waxed discs, seal with the lids and label when cold.

NOTE: To sterilise jars, wash the jars and lids in warm soapy water, rinse well, then dry thoroughly with a clean tea cloth, place them on a baking tray and pop into a medium oven, gas mark 4, 350°F, 180°C, for 5 minutes.