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Welcome…

We are all told, “live your life to the fullest”; we are here to do just that.

We are three siblings, with a passion for living as naturally and as sustainably as possible. 

The Diary of a New Gardener [DOANG] serves as a vessel for you to follow our journey into building a more sustainable life, project our passions, alternative views and clue in our loyal readers as to what inspires us in this amazing world.

So, sit back, relax, and read on.

U.K. Wild Mushrooms

Wild mushrooms have always been fascinating. They are somewhat whimsical and conjure up a whirlwind of thoughts and nostalgic memories when I come across any. From Alice and Wonderland, fairy houses and my mother telling us not to touch the wild mushrooms because they could be poisonous and deadly.

The past few years I’ve always wanted to go on a true mushroom forage but have never had the opportunity to go with an actual mushroom forager- going to pick mushrooms alone and do a tasting session without properly identifying the ‘shrooms doesn’t seem like such a good idea…

BUT, this year, I thought I’d take myself on a journey through ‘magical mushroom terrain’ just to see what I could find in the woodlands near to where I live. I promised myself I wouldn’t eat anything, but did want to try and identify as much as I could and really start to get an understanding of what mushrooms are growing nearby / whether I could possibly eat any of them in the coming years…

The end of October is a great time for mushrooms here in the U.K..

One beautiful morning, late October I took myself out into the woodlands and began my search. I wanted to share the findings with you- who doesn’t like a bit of mushroom photography?! I want to encourage you to also do the same- explore, feel and smell. It’s one of the richest things for our bodies and minds to get out into nature, discover new things, feel the earth, connect with the trees and breathe that fresh oxygen into our lungs.

If anyone knows of a mushroom forager in London or Kent, I’d love a recommendation. Otherwise – please enjoy the photos. I’ve decided not to name any of the images (in case I get the identification wrong) but as an overview- I came across some fly agaric, butter bolete, amethyst deceiver and birch polypore.

ENJOY!

D.O.A.N.G

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Building a shed

We needed a safe space to hold our gardening tools and store our seeds, a shed was undoubtably on the cards. After shopping around online we mentioned we were looking for one to our dad and to our suprise he said he had an old one that he had flat packed and kept down the end of our garden [what are the odds?!]. So, to our delight a wonderful bit of upcycling was about to go underway!

First step [probably the hardest part] was transporting the shed to the allotment itself…we managed to get hold of a friend who owns a large van so we loaded that up and off we went to the allotment. Through the small wire padlocked gate, four of us managed to get all the pieces safely to its designated spot at the very top of the plot and so, the building commenced!

The first adventure we had to undertake was to prepare the area to build the shed. We removed any old rubbish, dead leaves and branches to get it as clear as we could. If you are thinking you need a shed you can upcycle, re-model or even create one from scratch if you are feeling adventurous! There are lot of sites that you can find used sheds such as Ebay, Preloved or Gumtree [https://www.gumtree.com/garden-sheds] – all you need to do is type ‘used shed’ in the search bar and select the area you live in and hopefully a load will pop up near you!

We have listed out the below steps we took to create our shed, we hope you find it useful too;

Step 1: Get a straight base

Create a level area or base. You shed should be suspended to allow airflow under the floor of the shed to keep the shed dry. Do not place sheds directly onto the floor as moisture will rise and it will simply rot. 

Use paving slabs or bricks/blocks to create small platforms in which to place your base. Ensure that these supports are level between each other using a spirit level. 

Step 2: Lift up those walls

After the base or bottom frame has been completed, next step is to raise the walls. If you are using a pack or have a pre-built wall panels use a friend to hold one side whilst you create the first corner. If you are creating from scratch, around each side input uprights onto the base floor and fix these in place – use a spirit level to ensure these are flat. 

Step 3: Lets get those next walls

After creating one corner, follow the steps around until all four walls have been erected. Ensure if using pre-built walls that these are fixed tightly together in order for the structure to remain square/rectangle in shape. If you are building from scratch, after erecting your posts in each corner and a supporting cross beam, you can add some panelling to the sides using feather boards.

Step 4: Roof it!

After the walls are up, attach the roof sections one side at a time fixing these to the walls. Ensure any wall panels are screwed to the floor by securing each section with at least one screw. If building from scratch, use a system of two cross beams running along the shed length to attach boards to – or if you want to be super fancy with a super secure pitched roof – create a simple template to cut each beam at the same 45 degree angle (or what ever angle you think is best) to attach running down the roof – ensure that the beams each overhang the sides to create enough gap for rain run-off and not allow any water to run down the walls.

Step 5: Door and Rain-proofing

Final steps are to hang the provided door or put one together using simple cross bar and frame, you can use felt to waterproof the roof – try not to crease the felt and leave enough to overhang the edges. Any loose felt in which wind can get into will be torn and will not last to ensure that you secure this. Start with the lowest part of the roof working your way up to the Apex ensuring each section has ample covering and nail down with some nice lead based nails. Hang the door and insert a lock to keep all your tools safe at night. 

Step 6: Final Additions

To finish off your shed, cover the excess felt with panels and add a simple guttering system to capture the excess rainwater into a water tank or even ‘rain chains’ – these are really simple to install and are super effective:

Its also a good idea [depending on how organised you are / want to be], to create places designated for your tools and a simple work area or shelving unit. We created really simple shovel and fork ‘hanging unit’ which was a piece of off-cut wood that we screwed in a V-shape into the wall which allows us to slot in the handles of the tools so they just hang freely. We will take some more photos of the internal area of the shed to show you but for now here’s a few photos of the building action for you to enjoy [with the majority of photos showing our dad – the chief builder!]:

Hope you enjoyed reading this and we wish you luck in the building of your own sheds!

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D O A N G

If you’d like to see our frequent updates on how the garden and allotments are coming along, please feel free to follow our Facebook / Instagram pages in the links below:

How to dry your garden herbs

Here in the U.K., alongside the crazy year it’s been already with COVID-19, the weather seemed to join the party so unfortunately the grand plans for our garden and allotment didn’t go entirely to plan BUT we did have a wonderful array of herbs!

A vast array of herbs are very hardy and we have grown them in our garden at home for years- (some a little more needy than others but either way – there is always something sprouting around) – at least we have an endless supply of fresh leaf teas and flavourful food!

Year on year, we have always said we would dry the herbs before they die off and this year we stuck to it (finally).

In our garden we have the following:

Evergreen herbs (which also double up as ornamental plants) – Bay trees, Rosemary, Thyme, Sage and Lavender.

Then we also have Coriander, Mint, Lemon balm, Chives, Basil, Parsley, Fennel, Angelica, Oregano and our new found favourite – Lemon Verbena.

We are lucky to have a shed at the end of our garden that we use to hang our fresh herbs to dry but anywhere that isn’t damp would work.

We start by gathering the plant into a bundle whilst it’s still in the ground and then use garden twine to twist around the base of the stems then just a pair of garden scissors or secateurs to chop away. Ensure that your twine is long enough to allow you to hang the bundle, hang up the herbs so they have enough air flow to dry evenly and not mould or rot.

Let nature do its thing and within a few weeks you’ll have some fab dried herbs!

Once dried, we get a glass pot or container for storing the herbs and just scrunch up the leaves (or pick them whole if you want pretty leaf tea) taking them off the stems and then store in an airtight container. They would made beautiful hanging decorations around the house or in a little vase for autumn too!

Happy drying everyone!

D.O.A.N.G

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