Life in the Countryside · Raised beds · Recreation area · Vegetable growing

Cutting the asparagus back

So our asparagus crowns went in in April and for the first year you are supposed to not harvest them at all and let the foliage grow wild so that the crowns can really develop and establish. It was lovely to see the spears appear from the ground but as they grew into foliage the bed looked a bit messy.

So when it comes to Autumn and the foliage starts to turn brown and die back you can cut the stems back to about one inch above the ground and them mulch the bed. 

The bed now looks so much neater and hopefully we will have a good crop next year. One of the crowns does look a little weaker than the others but fingers crossed it will still produce well. It may seem a pain to have to not harvest it in the first year, but as crowns can typically last for 20 years, leaving one years worth of harvest in order to have 20 years of excellent harvest seems a small sacrifice to make. Hopefully it will pay off next year. 

Recreation area · Reviews

The climbing frame

So C’s climbing frame has been fully assembled for a couple of weeks now and I thought it might be a good time to post a review. I’ve mentioned before some of the reasons behind choosing this particular climbing frame; the durability, the age range, the quality, the brand. We bought C the Kingswood 2 tower frame with climbing bridge and swing arm accessories which is made by TP Toys. It was an absolute beast to put together. It wasn’t helped by having to supervise C whilst doing it, nor was it helped by my lack of knowledge or skills with any kind of tools. But even with J being fairly knowledgeable and if we hadn’t had a toddler running about I still think it would have taken two skilled men the best part of a day to put together. The instructions were clear and the parts and screws are well labelled with the instructions clearly showing what tools are required. The whole thing came in about eleven boxes, many of which were such a weight or size that they would require two to move them. Each accessory had its own set of instructions showing how to build it, and then how to attach it to the main frame. Whilst C is still too young to use the climbing bridge it seemed silly to wait until she was old enough to buy it, I’d rather just have the finished product ready and waiting for her to grow into.

Wooden PlayFrame (Kingswood Tower) with Platform, Sandpit & Climbing Wall

Now one thing that isn’t made clear on the website or the introductory pages of the instructions is that it needs concreting to the ground. I can imagine suddenly discovering that you need to concrete it could prove a problem if the area you have sorted for the frame wouldn’t take to concrete, or if you have started building on a time pressure situation. It certainly wasn’t something we had in stock when we started (I don’t imagine many people keep concrete to hand just in case). We did use the frame for a few days without the concrete as it was just too hard to keep C off it and it was very secure. However, she is only two and a half so I imagine if it was to have more weight on it or if children were hanging off it, it would need anchoring to the ground for peace of mind.

The climbing frame has a section underneath which is designed to be a sandpit. However, we felt that that section was too small and so instead, with some spare wood, fashioned a much larger area instead. The sandpit has proved to be one of C’s favourite parts of the climbing frame. An added bonus as we hadn’t really realised it had a sandpit. The sandpit comes with a liner and a cover, both of which can be cut to size. Although the frame comes already pretreated we’ve decided to give it some extra protection in the form of Osmo UV protection oil. We’ve used this before on the oak beams of the porch and really like the protection it offers. It has taken a while to get it totally covered, we’ve ended up having to do small sections at a time, but we’re really happy with the overall effect.

What are the negatives? Well it was a proper challenge to put up and did require a certain basic skills level. It also needed a number of tools which some may not have. Aligning and joining some of the parts together was a challenge and they had to be almost forced at times as they were a very tight fit. And the stickers to label each piece of wood were a right pain to get off, they seem to be stuck on with superglue! Only time will tell how well it will wear but so far it seems to be just what we were after.


Recreation area

Photo update from yesterday…the recreation area

Here are the promised photos from yesterday…

The recreation area just before we moved in last summer, it had been over grown and so we had it completely cleared and then seeded the lawn ourselves.


This is next one is before we started the work, on a very wintery day. The lawn seeded nicely and proved a great place to picnic last summer.


This last pictures show the completed recreation area. 6 raised beds, one huge climbing frame and 112 bags of bark. The very bottom hasn’t been edged or barked yet as that will have to wait for the trench to be dug first.



Recreation area

Climbing frame day two

What a day. We did set our alarm for six am and did actually get up, though it was cold and we were miserable. We did manage to make real progress though and the main body of the climbing frame is now built and the monkey bars are attached. J has started to put the boundary around the recreation area, one side out of the three we are doing now is done. I’ve moved another 30 bags of bark and we’ve started to open up and empty some of the bags of bark. It is really starting to take shape. The one unfortunate downside is that J managed to snap one of the screws in one of the bits of the slide so we’ve had to order a new bit. That means until the new part arrives we can’t add the slide on.

C was so excited when she saw it, yesterday she had seen the picture in the instruction booklet and thought it was a house for the chickens. Today when she saw it all constructed she realised it was for her. She’s mastered the stairs already although at present without the slide there is no way for her to get down. She has been using the slide extender as a slide and loves it. I also managed to paint the bottom of the climbing frame, where the bark will touch to keep it nice and well preserved. Painting the rest will have to be done in stages I feel.

There is still no sign of any eggs from the chickens, although I did find a nest in the pampas grass with two blue eggs in, we think they might be a blackbirds but aren’t sure. The Boss escaped again today, not sure how exactly, but she wandered through to where we were working so J and I had to usher her back in. No idea how she managed to get out, but hopefully once the fencing is electrified that will stop her attempts.

This is where we are at by close of play today.


Recreation area

Building the climbing frame

So Easter Monday was designated as the day to build the climbing frame. Now it worries me slightly that no matter how hard I’ve searched on the internet I can’t find a guideline for how long it will take to build. We searched for quite a while to find a suitable climbing frame. We wanted one which would be accessible for C at two and a half and would also also grow with her, we didn’t want to have to replace it in a few years time. It also mattered to us that it weathered well and still looked good. Quality is always worth prioritising when it comes to something your child will be suspended from the air on! So we ended up settling on the Kingswood 2 Tower with climbing bridge and swing extensions by TP Toys. We chose TP Toys for many reasons, not least as they are sold in both John Lewis and ELC who we feel sell good quality products. When it was delivered last week it was a total beast… eleven boxes in total, most of which were huge and too heavy for one person to lift. Unfortunately this was also the day that was designated to rain, which hampered our progress somewhat. I did manage to move 2 tonnes of bark and do some more pegging down of the liner but J has the start of a cold so it wasn’t fair for him to work outside in the rain and we could hardly keep C outside in the rain. So at the end of the day the climbing frame was 40% built. J’s dad came over and babysat so we could get out for a bit. Our plan was to get up the next day at 6am (having checked the weather was going to be good) and get in a good two hours work done before C wakes up (she’s normally a seven til seven girl but in holidays she often sleeps in until gone eight, half eight if we’re really lucky). It seems horrible to give up the idea of a lie in but needs must as we’re so much more productive without a toddler to supervise. If she doesn’t love it I think I will cry!

Recreation area

Recreation area


This is the area before we started.


So today we started work on the recreational area. Basically we have bought C the mother of all climbing frames and are going to build that next to the raise beds. Then we are planning to put down bark surrounding the climbing frame and raised beds. Why can’t we just keep the grass? Well grass requires mowing. Weekly. And strimming around the edges. And is really awkward to do around a climbing frame. And basically we really want it to look nice and didn’t think we had enough going on already. So we are creating a big rectangle around the raised beds and the climbing frame, using a turf stripper to remove the turf around the edges and placing down a membrane (which needs like a million pegs holding it down). Bark goes on the membrane and then the area is bordered by some half round wooden beams ( which should keep the bark in the right area and also should be easy enough to roll a wheelbarrow over. Sounds fairly simple right? Wrong. So day one most of the day was spent on stripping the turf and moving it to the skip. Then mowing the rest of the grass as short as possible before laying out the membrane. Of course that wouldn’t be too bad if the wind hadn’t picked up and kept blowing the membrane away as we tried to secure it. Added to that it was Easter Sunday so I had to coordinate a roast lamb dinner and apple crumble with a toddler who basically wanted to do the exact opposite of everything I wanted her to do.

Tomorrow J’s going to start building the climbing frame on top of the membrane whilst I attempt to finish off the membrane and continue to move bags of bark. We’re not going to open the bags yet until the border is completed but given that we have 112 ninety litres bags of bark to move, the more we can get in place the better. C spent a good part of today digging up wormy wormys and taking them over to the chickens who are still in their run and finding their feet. The Boss is still taking over somewhat but they don’t seem unhappy….still no eggs yet though but suspect I’m being ambitious hoping for one already.