Tag Archives: gardening

How To Grow Food Without A Garden


sprouted seeds0001_3

Sprouting pea shoots almost big enough to start picking and eating. Delicious!

So you want fresh food, cheap food, home grown food. You don’t have a garden or an allotment. So what can you grow? This depends on what you DO have. Do you have or can you have a window box? Room for a pot or two at the front door? Or just windowsills? The easiest and cheapest way to start is with a jam jar and a bit of muslin elastic banded to the top. Place a tablespoon of green lentils, brown lentils (whole of course) or mung or adjuki beans in the jar and secure the muslin over the top. Soak overnight in cold water, then drain the water and leave the jar on it’s side, out of direct sunlight. Rinse the seeds twice a day. The sprouts will be ready in 4-7 days. Another method is a seed sprouter. These are little trays that stack on each other and have slatted bases so water can drain though. The same principles apply. Just rinse and drain twice a day for delicious fresh sprouts.

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Lentils sprouting in a seed sprouter

Mustard, cress, fenugreek and coriander are better done in seed trays with a little compost. Sprinkle the seeds quite thickly and cover lightly with a little more compost, water and keep on a bright windowsill, though out of harsh hot sunlight. Try pea shoots. For these, get a small pot or old coffee cup, fill it with compost leaving an inch at the top. Plants some marrow fat peas (the sort you make pea soup and mushy peas with) and lay them on the compost, and just cover with a little more, then water. The shoots that develop are ready when they are three or four inches tall, and taste lovely! Just like fresh young peas. And they smell delightful. Expensive in salads if you buy them ready grown, but simplicity itself to grow at home.


Mustard seeds growing in a pot

Then there are radishes, easily gown in a small pot in good light, lettuce leaves and salad leaves (there are lots of types available to grow on the windowsill and can be cut and left to regrow several times before they are spent). Economical, very fresh and very healthy, not to mention tasty! There is another food you can grow without a garden, and that’s mushrooms and edible fungi. They will even grow in a dark cupboard. There are lots of kits available for different types of mushrooms, several of which are suitable for using indoors. Mushrooms are a great source of protein. And you get to eat them so fresh!

chilli pepper in flower

Chilli pepper in flower

Should you have space for a couple of pots by the front door there is lots more you can grow. If your spot is very sunny, then how about a wigwam of French beans or even runner beans? Beetroot, salad or lettuce, radish and even baby turnips can be grown in a pot, as can many herbs. A pot of thyme, rosemary and sage at a sunny doorstep means you don’t even have to step away from your home to pick fragrant, tasty herbs for your cooking. They smell amazing as you brush past them. And did I mention strawberries? What a show stopper to have at your front/back door. Stack one container inside another and plant around the edges to make a strawberry tower. Space saving and attractive! Back on that windowsill, my son has actually grown a dwarf, bushy cherry tomato. Chilli peppers and sweet peppers can also be grown on windowsills, as long as the sill isn’t north or east facing.

Fenugreeks and peas

Fenugreek and peas

These are things you can easily grow for yourself, organically, and know your food is the freshest, most nutritious possible, and has no carbon footprint beyond getting a packet of seeds home. Perfect! So get growing. Organic supplies can be obtained from http://www.organiccatalogue.com/index.html including mushroom spawn and kits, organic seeds and plants. They have some great books too! Seeds such as fenugreek, brown or black mustard, coriander and peas can be purchased at the supermarket as foodstuffs. Try the continental shelves. By far the cheapest way and this also avoids any fungicidal coatings some companies put on their seeds intended for growing. These should now be used for sprouting!

Grow Food, Teach Others, Get Well

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New label and pen. Tired of the ordinary ones fading, and these are on show to the public.

What a packed and progressive few days! So many seeds sown, so many improvements made. My son has been over and strimmed much of the wilderness back, at least making the ground visible and easier to navigate. The old greenhouse base halfway down the garden is now cleared of rubbish and ready to set up as a shaded seating area and I have sorted out every last container on the main patio-my main view from the conservatory, and it’s all looking really good!

My main source of pride is the trays and trays of seeds and seedlings, and the sprouted seeds we had with our salad tonight, flavoured with edible chive flowers and lemon balm leaves. Herbs add depth to what could be pretty boring lettuce!

Seeds sown? In the vegetable bed Rick cleared for me: Carrots – Nantes 5, parsnip Tender and True and beetroot Boltardy. Out on the patio in modules we have most other things, like lettuce, spring onions, garlic chives, loose leaf salad, sugar snap peas, runner beans, dwarf French beans, climbing French beans, chard, and more. Strength may be lacking but determination certainly isn’t. Bit by bit the garden I thought may go to ruin this year because of recuperation time is getting done because I need to incorporate it to recover! My doctor last week prescribed anti-depressants. But the ones IN the soil (yes, scientists have found antidepressants in the soil) seem to be working for me. Now I’m gardening again I’m happy again!

Being keen on conservation and organic growing, we had two linked water barrels taking the water off the house roof. They have both now developed bad leaks, so my plan is to cut them in half (his job) and turn the bases into planters for my demonstration front garden, then use the others as raised beds in the back. I’ve seen this done before and they look great, and there’s no plastic waste, just up cycling! We still have to get new water barrels, though. I also have an old council composting bin which can be re used as a potato barrel next year. For now it lives behind the shed. And I bought special black labels and a white maker pen for labels that stand out and won’t fade. So they say. Time will tell.

Up the path by the greenhouse

View back towards the house, newly sorted patio looking good!

Raspberries planted last year, good crop expected!

Raised beds. One cleared, but work needed on the rest

Wire doggie protection for my seedlings.

My newly sorted and tidy patio. At last somewhere nice to sit.

View from my bench down the garden

2016 Welcomed With Open Arms. New Year, New Start

Viewing platform, Eden Project, Cornwall

Viewing platform, Eden Project, Cornwall

January 1st 2016

Happy New Year out there.

Well, it’s a brand new start again today. After a year of torturous health problems I can finally move on and look forward to achieving what had to be put on hold. So I have plans. Not huge ones, but this is the year I concentrate on achieving some of my own goals.

I started well. I considered the real start of my new year to be Yule, the 21st December. And I’d planned Christmas as the Eden Project in Cornwall. For those who haven’t heard of it it’s an educational charity promoting balance in nature, a better understanding of our eco-system and research. It rivals Kew. Built from an old clay pit, dead and disused, it contains two huge biomes that house thousands of plants from around the world. You can find out much more at https://www.edenproject.com/.

Anyway, we went for Christmas, and had the most wonderful time. Astoundingly, there were outdoor fuchsias, roses and other plants in flower, and wild strawberries in fruit. We’ve had strange seasons and they are obviously confused. Flooding over the north of England and Scotland have blighted many people’s Christmas, and we are lucky not to have had such severe weather here. Close to my home town folk were evacuated following unprecedented rainfall – two months worth in 48 hours. Poor things!

So now for my plans. The garden is in a mess due to this year’s neglect. I need to get fit, so that will be the main focus. I want those raised beds stuffed with goodies. And now my neighbour has erected a new fence, I can plant along it some fruit bushes and some native shrubs. Building is happening on the fields behind us and there have been burglaries of sheds, so we’re are trying to make the place as secure as we can. Thorny shrubs will help. I’m on my own with it all. No-one else has any enthusiasm for it, so all progress and achievement will be mine. Eventually, I’d like to get my garden up to Yellow book standard. The yellow book is a listing of gardens open to raise money for charity, and they have pretty high standards.

Anyway, inspiration comes from our trip. Eden puts on a special show at Christmas, lighting the tropical biome, putting on entertainment and taking people on a quest. We spent three days there, and I even saw real reindeer for the first time in my life. I took a lot of photos, so here are a few.


Recipe for Eden


Bananas growing inside the tropical biome, Eden Project, Cornwall


Fuchsias in Flower at Christmas. Eden Project, Cornwall


Produce and Plant display, Eden Project, Cornwall


Compost. Choose The Best.

Healthy Plants In Clover Compost

Healthy Plants In Clover Compost


Cheap Compost, Small, Unhealthy Plants

I’ve put two photos before you today, having noticed the difference between two lots of seedlings treated in exactly the same way. They were sown in the same seed tray, then pricked out into modules. They are verbascum seedlings which I’ve never grown before. That doesn’t matter. What does is the noticeable difference in size, development and vigour. The only thing making a difference here is the compost. One is Clover, the best I can find and recommended by my favourite garden centre. The plants growing in this are coming along well and the difference between them and the supermarket, three bags for a tenner compost is marked. The plants grown in this are small,  pale and not growing well at all. It has very little nutrient and the plants don’t like it. Fortunately I have plenty of healthy plants and can afford to throw out the weaklings if needed. I’ve noticed a lower germination rate in seed trays, too, with the cheap compost.

When choosing compost, make sure it’s the right one for the job. Seeds don’t need food to germinate, and at first you want good root development, so making the roots stretch looking for them is no bad thing. But once they are pricked out to grow on, they need more food. So start them in a GOOD QUALITY seed and cutting cxompost, then pot them on into more appropriate, again quality compost. Standard all purpose will be fine for young vegetables, garden annuals and perennials that don’t have specific requirements such as being acid lovers. We can delve more into the mysteries of acid and alkali loving plants in another post. For now, just remember that poor quality compost will waste your time, money and seeds. Buy the best you can afford and avoid disappointment.

Have you experienced problems with your growing medium?

Raised Beds, A Wildlife Pond And Flowers For The Birds And Bees.

The landscapers I brought in to get the garden bones in place have now finished. There is still a mass of work to do, but now it’s manageable. With a little more topping up in my new raised beds I can set about planting out broad beans waiting in the cold frame, potatoes chitting on the windowsill and all manner of other vegetables. The plan is to edge my plot with four feet high trellis, then train fruit against it. I hope to have raspberries, loganberries, a thornless blackberry and other soft fruits.

Although the new veg beds appear to my partner to look like not much more space than before, as the beds are only four feet wide, I can reach in from the sides and not have to tread on the soil. This is advantageous for a number of reasons. I will be able to cope better with weeding and planting (and of course harvesting) from the path. The vegetables can be spaced closer together, as there is no need to leave room for walking between rows, and now more of the garden is available for other activities. Now that we have the pond, my dog Daisy is going to have her own paddling pool. She loves water, so I can’t expect her to NOT play in some, and I’d rather it wasn’t my wildlife pond. Chasing the hose pipe to bite the water is her favourite game! That will be taking place well away from my new flower borders. In fact I’m going to have to protect plants from her bashing them until her play area is established. That will be fun!

Here Is here we are placing the raised beds, once the shed has been moved into dead space under the trees.

Here Is where we are placing the raised beds, once the shed has been moved into dead space under the trees.

The Shed now gone, raised beds can be built.

The Shed now gone, raised beds can be built.

And here they are, my super access raised beds which I hope will help feed us!

And here they are, my super access raised beds which I hope will help feed us!

I’ll do a separate post talking more about the pond, but basically it’s 6’8” x 4’6”, and 2’ deep at its deepest. We’ve made a shelf for creatures to get in and out, as I went for a preformed liner to avoid Daisy piercing the liner. So to compensate, wildlife need an escape route as these ponds don’t have the gentle slope you can make with a butyl liner. I have a visitor arriving soon so it will be Tuesday or Wednesday before I can go and buy more plants for the pond, or start the work on the garden. Mike, the landscaper who installed it, kindly brought me some irises to start me off. I have yellow flag in the pond, a British native that dragonflies love as the sword like leaves make great perching spots while they hunt. We’ve already had an official pond visitor. A toad! How cool is that?

The pond under construction

The pond under construction

Pond Completed, Apart From Some Planting.

Pond Completed, Apart From Some Planting.

I’m really pleased with the path, and glad I chose gravel. It gives me great grip when walking on it, and I am trying to age proof this garden so I can keep going on it when I’m even more feeble! Paving tends to get slippery and bricks were not an option due to time and cost. Although it all looks very stark yet, I’m sure once the planting is in place it will all soften down. I have three arch supports to place, too, which I hope will support some of the climbing plants I want to grow. Runner beans and bottle gourds, maybe even a couple of butternut squash, which I love.

My imagination is now running riot. Although I had the overall vision in mind when I set the landscapers to work, they have put in the bones. I now have to flesh it all out. My greenhouse is bulging with plants, but I have a feeling they won’t actually go far once I plant them all, so I need to sow more, grow more, take more cuttings and buy more plants. But this is the cool part, the pleasure of choosing and placing. Follow me this season to see great changes and how I make them. I’ll ensure plenty of information for you to have a go or not, because I’ll also tell you if things go wrong and why. Then you can avoid MY mistakes.

Remember the lilies from my last post? I’ve treated myself to some nice containers and planted them up, topped with gravel and now have to wait. Photos when there is something to show you! Some of the specialist seeds have germinated, too and are now being careful tended by yours truly. I’m particularly pleased to see papaver horridula seedlings adorning a pot. From what I’ve read, these hymalayan poppies are not easy to grow. They need an acid soil, which I have, so hopefully I’ll be able to raise them to maturity. Others are proving more tricky, but I am slowly getting results. Ultimately I have a lot of space to fill and seeds are far more economical then buying plants, so the more success I have the sooner the garden will be buzzing with bees and butterflies attracted by all my lovely flowers.

Lilies, Vine Weevil And Wind.

What a weekend. As the garden itself is on hold until the landscapers have finished, I have turned my attention to seeds, cuttings and pots. I’ve always put up with the plastic containers until now, but as I’ve just bought some beautiful lilies, have the space and found some bargain frost proof pots, I’ve spent this very windy morning planting them up. I haven’t grown these bulbs before, but handily, in this month’s gardeners world Carol Klein describes full planting directions. So although they aren’t at the spacing you’d give then in the ground, they should have all they need to give me a great display this summer on the patio. They are scented so I want them where we can appreciate them. The bulbs that have gone in are Polianthes Tuberosa,

Polianthes Tuberosa

Polianthes Tuberosa

Lycoris Radiata (red spider lily)

Lycoris Ratiata

Lycoris Ratiata

Ismene (white spider lily)

Ismene (white spider lily)

Ismene (white spider lily)

And Nerine Bowdenii

Nerine bowdenii

Nerine Bowdeii (Guernsey lily)

What beauties!

I’ve also battled the wind to water all of my containers with nematodes to remove any vine weevil grubs. I found a couple of pots with grubs in and half-eaten roots, but I think I’ve caught them on time. Some plants like my pots of mint have been thoroughly sorted out. I washed the roots completely clean of compost and laid them out in fresh. Still, I’ve watered them with the treatment too. You never know if I missed a grub or egg, so it’s not worth the risk. My little Japanese Maple had some in when I went to check it, so that’s had special attention. Plenty of the nematodes as well as fresh compost.

Now it’s back to seed sowing. Lots of the ones sown earlier are now germinating, including the poppy Papaver Horridula. The seedlings are tiny! Veg seedling are ready to go in, and will soon be planted out in my new beds. So to keep the succession going I need to sow more. It’s also time to sow peas and beans. I’m going to be busy. What are you doing now for your garden and wildlife?

Goodbye Pine I’ll Miss You xxx

Nest Box already taken!

Nest box already taken

I have a new appreciation for pine. It began when I had to take the decision to have one removed from my garden. It was a beautiful tree, hence my reluctance. That and the fact that I’d seen a goldcrest in it last year. A rare find! But this is a tree that can easily make 120ft. My garden is only 120ft long and 35ft wide. My greenhouse would have disappeared under it. It’s a forest, not a garden tree. So I had it taken down and spent today shredding it and chopping it up for the wood. I got close up to the bark and needles. What lovely markings the bark has! And of course the smell is gorgeous. So I’ll be burning some on an open fire in my dining room and putting a bowl of needles on top of the woodburner to fill the room with that fragrance. Lovely!

Blue tits have nested in my bird box on the patio fence again. They raised two broods last year, and we got to see them fledge. I hope that happens again! I hope the other four boxes are occupied, too. The boxes are in my native hedgerow, and I don’t want to disturb any nesting birds, so have left them to it, but I do have a motion sensitive camera, so over the coming weeks I’ll set it up and see what we can capture, but with all the landscaping happening at the moment, I’ll have to wait a few more days before I do that. There have been delays aplenty with the landscaping. Gravel deliveries going awry, workmen being ill and the weather, although this week the weather has been great. Trouble is, landscapers have had a bug and didn’t come, so now they say Monday. I hope the weather holds out. They still have a metal shed to erect and our wooden one to relocate so I can have the space for my veg beds! I’m having three, ten feet by four feet wide with gravel paths around to make it easy for me to reach everything safely.

Primula. I love the contrast between leaf and flower!

Primula. I love the contrast between leaf and flower

Bees are in abundance. I’m still planting and planning for food for the bees. They are loving a new heather, visiting my primroses and  One success seems to be germination of my verbena bonariensis saved seed from last year. I’ve just pricked out 48 seedlings We’ve already had to rescue several from the conservatory. I’d love to be able to identify the species, as I’m seeing different ones. Some are very small. peacock butterflies have made their appearance, too. But so have cabbage whites. I’m determined to protect my plants from them this year. That will be easier with the new beds. I can run netting over hoops intended for cloches. We’ve even seen frogs, despite my pond not being ready for them yet. It’s in, but needs a bit of backfilling, stones laying around the edge and then of course the planting. I’m being given some yellow flag iris to start me off, then it’s off to a local water garden centre for some retail therapy in the form of native pond plants. I really want to entice the wildlife in. My neighbour has had great crested newts, so I will be keeping my fingers crossed that they’re still around and want to visit my pond.

Do you have a ponds? Will you install one? Let me know. I’d love to compare notes.