Category Archives: ecoclogy

12 Wild Flowers To grow In A Nature Garden

I’ve been really busy  the last couple of days actually making a start in my new garden. I’m faced with overgrown, neglected beds that need renovation. Before I can dig them over, I need to wait for spring to assess what’s already there. I’ve been able to dig out some brambles, cut down dead overgrowth and identify snowdrops and crocosmia  so I’ve started at last to be able to see what comes up when spring comes. But of course it’s dark by 4.30pm, so the long evenings are spent blogging to you and dreaming of what I will grow. I brought a lot of stuff from my old garden in containers, and they all sit on the patio awaiting replanting. Many of them are native plants suitable for gardens which will be rich in nectar and pollen for our insects to feast on.

This will help keep a balance in the ecology of the garden and hopefully increase the diversity. I’ve made a wildlife poster to illustrate the 12 wild flowers to grow in my garden. There will be more, but these are particular favourites I wanted to share with you.

12 wild flower poster

wild flower poster

Incidentally,  I’ve put this poster for sale, so if you want a copy just click here.

What wild flower can you add to your garden this spring?

5 Winter Greens to Grow on the Windowsill

Here are 5 winter fresh greens to grow so easily you’ll be amazed and wonder why you haven’t done it sooner. You can buy special sprouting seed trays, which stack and drain very easily, but why not re-cycle a jam or coffee jar and some old tights? That’s all you need to grow these nutritious fresh greens. Add to salads, sprinkle into stir-fires or use as a vitamin packed garnish costing a fraction of those at the supermarket and once you’ve bought a pack of seeds you don’t have to go shopping (carbon and money-saving even more). They’re also organically grown if you think about it. Water and no additives!

All sprouted seeds have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than their fully grown counterparts, as the nutrition in concentrated in them so they can grow. The content of each varies, but they’re all great for you and at this stage sweeter, tastier and more crunchy. To see more detail, click into the picture.

sprouted seed winter greens

sprouted seed winter greens

I grew all of these in less than a week from opening the packet of seeds to putting them on the plate. All you do is place a tablespoon or so of seeds into a large jar or layer of a seed sprouter, covering the end of the jar with a bit of old tights or stocking. Secure this with an elastic band. Rinse them with room temperature water, drain and leave on the windowsill ( but not in bright sunlight). Do this twice a day until the sprouts have reached the size you want to eat. Some have rough seed coats that you might not want to chew, but if you put the grown sprouts into a bowl of water and stir, most of the husks will float and you can scoop them off and put them in the compost bin. Nothing wasted, ecologically!

Some sprouts, such as mung beans, used in stir fries, are better grown in the dark to make the sprouts grow longer and juicier before they go tough and bitter. Just pop them in a kitchen cupboard between waterings. And beware! Not all seeds can be sprouted. Many of the bean family are poisonous raw, so don’t try to sprout runner, French, kidney or other true beans. Check a seed catalogue for the most appropriate ones. Thompson and Morgan and Kings Seeds do good ranges. You don’t have to pay through the nose, though, for tiny packets from specialist seed growers. I buy standard packets of mung beans and whole lentils from the supermarket and they sprout perfectly well. Children would find these sprouts very rewarding as they grow so fast, teaching them how things grow and maybe getting them to eat their greens into the bargain.

But among those you can sprout are:

  1. radish
  2. onion
  3. spring onion
  4. mung beans
  5. alfalfa
  6. lentils (whole or they won’t grow)
  7. chickpea
  8. sunflower
  9. fenugreek

We started with five and ended with nine. There are many more for you to discover. Bonus! Let me know what you grow on your windowsill. Any recipe ideas?

New Home, New life, New Blog

This is my first post on Earth and Hearth. It’s a new blog inspired by the fact that I’ve just found the home I’ve been looking for and hope to move into it in about one months time. It’s going to make a huge difference to my outlook, ambitions and lifestyle. If you’re familiar with my photographic blog, chriscaff’s, you’ll know I have a love of nature and growing things. I wanted to keep my photographic blog and my lifestyle separate, so I’ve created Earth and Hearth hoping that that like-minded souls will join me on my journey as we move into our new place. There I’ll endeavour to grow more food and live in a more ecologically minded way that I’ve been able to in my current residence.

Garden October 2011

My new home has 120ft of garden backing onto fields. It’s a 1940s bay fronted semi with bags of character. It needs work to make it home for us. The energy rating isn’t too good, the kitchen is badly configured for our needs and we want to cut expenditure on wasteful items like energy bills and buying food. So I’ll be growing my own, building a greenhouse, doing up the house and making it our home. Along the way I’ll be learning new things and utilising the knowledge I have. I hope to share all this with you, so expect money-saving tips, ecological information and the odd wry smile at my observations as we go along.

The ethos of this whole change is to live in a much more eco-freindly way than we’ve previously been able to. We can’t go the whole hog and build a straw-bale house, but we can improve the home we’re buying to save energy, grow food to save carbon miles and packaging, re-use and recycle what we have and anything we can find. Why slave to earn money to buy things if you can make or grow what you need? Of course we will have to spend some money and I can’t make everything. Just like you. We can all only do what  we are capable of, and at fifty five I don’t expect to be able to do as much as a younger person with more physical strength. That won’t stop me trying though.

Jimmy lives in my current garden. He's coming with us!

I want wildlife as well as food in my garden, and fruit and flowers as well as vegetables. So there will be many projects, inlcuding bird boxes, a home for my hedgehog and possibly bat boxes. Insects will be encouraged, a herb garden created and all will be documented here. I hope to build pages of information you can plunder to help you make more of your home and garden.

I have over 30 years of experience as an amateur organic gardener, many years as a photographer and was trained in visual art studies, with a love for imagery and interior design. If you’d like to share my journey you are very welcome to follow me as I develop my home, garden and this blog.

We’re still packing boxes, editing out useless old paperwork and items we consider clutter. I’m determined to eliminate anything that isn’t beautiful or useful to make way for our fresh start.