Tag Archives: home

Growing Enthusiasm For Home Grown Food

It’s been a long time since I posted here. I’ve kept promising you more and then my health has let me down and I’ve had to stop. But now, following a proper diagnosis and major surgery, I feel I can start again. I’m improving by the day. So after a very long period where I haven’t been able to do anything related to gardening or anything else much, I’m back. This weekend was spent at a Master Gardener’s induction course. Master Gardeners are a group of volunteers who pass their gardening skills on to those wishing to grow their own food. If you are interested in what they do you can find them at http://mastergardeners.org.uk/ So my enthusiasm has returned. I came home from the course and sowed macro greens. Fenugreek, pea shoots and green lentils have started the ball rolling, and today in the greenhouse I’ve sown spring onions, Kohl rabi, dwarf French beans, parsley, basil, coriander, red lettuce and garlic chives. The idea is to fill my front garden with pots of herbs and other edibles to demonstrate how easy it is to grow food even in a small space. My house happens to be on a very busy main road and opposite a corner shop, so people stop outside my place for the shop, and lots will see what I’m up to. I hope to inspire others to grow food.

Pea shoots are new to me. And what a revelation! They taste so strongly of peas. Delicious and such and easy thing to grow on the windowsill even in winter. Take one pot, paper or plastic cup, add compost and plenty of marrow fat peas, water and stand back for a couple of weeks. Then presto, fresh pea shoots for your salads. Yet something you pay a premium for at the supermarket restaurant. Who needs plastic packed veg when you can pick them so fresh and so cheaply? Marrow fat peas are about 80p for 500g and one packet used in this way will last you for ages! Far cheaper than buying peas grown to sow. In fact, when sowing seeds to eat as macro greens, packeted veg seeds often are coated with fungicides etc so it’s best to use supermarket edibles, like the marrow fats, fenugreek and coriander, or buy organically prepared seeds.

In the meantime, here are some photos of the garden today, including my overwintered Japanese onions which sadly are showing signs of onion rot, so although these are useable they are small and I won’t be able to grow onions again. Garlic will have to be consigned to pots. I can’t do without garlic!

Crocus in Flower last month

onions

chives in full flower

alpine trough

border by the patio

aquelegia

border by the greenhouse

lupins in their second year from seed

aquelegia

Stunning Iris

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Samhain Makeover New Problems, New Solutions

Most of this blog so far has been about growing food, gardening and outdoor stuff. Recent changes to my health have kind of grounded me. I’ve had to accept I just can’t do a lot of the things I used to be able to. My muscles are weak, so I can’t lift, I don’t have much stamina and of course my broken ribs have left me sore. Since then I caught flu which led to a chest infection, so since August I’ve felt pretty useless. Until I started up and old hobby, as something to do during my enforced rest. I’ve taken up crochet again. And I can’t stop! Fortunately now it’s winter, the garden is going to sleep anyway, no doubt happily, and full of wildlife as I have left things pretty untidy, the way the critters like it.

I’ve already started showing off my crochet, so if you want a peek here’s a link to my Facebook page. Here’s a taster.

All My Own Work

All My Own Work

I also love patchwork and sewing, so as my son has now vacated my spare bedroom my ambition is to turn it into a craft room. ALL the furniture came to me for free! I mentioned I wanted a drop leaf table to a friend. ‘Oh, I’ve got one gathering dust, he said.’ A neighbour is clearing her house and has a large wall unit perfect for storage. She wants rid of it so has given it to me. The friend I visited in Chippenham I mentioned in my last post has given me a little table with a life up top, perfect to go by my machine to hold scissors and cutting wheels etc. The rest I’ve got from Freegle. It’s all mismatched and old, but solid wood and sturdy, so I’m not only decorating the room, but up-cycling lots of furniture. My plan is a silvery grey wallpaper, Mossy green curtains, grey muslin curtains to mask my partners bookshelves then Royal purple furniture. I’m hoping it will look absolutely fabulous. The room faces almost north and has a big bay window. Here is where my table will sit, and is great light for sewing or photography.

You can see the state of the room I’m tackling. Vacated but certainly not sorted. So I have my work cut out, but it will be fun and worth it. I hope to set up my own little craft business on Etsy in a few weeks. So this space will become my workroom. I’ve done patchwork for most of my adult life and have crochet enough hats to keep the whole town warm. So it’s time to make my craft skills pay.I’m hoping to be able to post some tutorials here, so watch this space. See me develop the room, convert the furniture and make the crafts, as well as updates on the veggies. I do have some beet for its leaves and salad in the greenhouse, and we’re still eating broccoli, chard, and have turnips and Hamburg parsley to harvest, despite my health problems. Here are some photos of the room and stuff that I want to up-cycle. I’m going to see my mum for a few days before I make a start, so don’t expect overnight miracles!

My Potential Craft Room

My Potential Craft Room

The Well Lit Bay Window For My Sewing Machine

The Well Lit Bay Window For My Sewing Machine

The Freecycle Chest Of Drawers

The Freecycle Chest Of Drawers

My Sewing Machine Table, Ready For its Makeover

My Sewing Machine Table, Ready For its Makeover

Cute little table for my scissors etc

Cute little table for my scissors etc

Pine, Soon To Be Purple Chair

Pine, Soon To Be Purple Chair

Harvest, Eat, Enjoy

I’ve just Harvested the last few plants of my Charlotte new Potatoes. They’ve been wonderful. I haven’t bought any potatoes for weeks now. And they’ve been delicious. What a change from the stale, shop bought, plastic bagged ones. I’ve also worked out the savings in cost. Price of my seed potatoes, £1 per bag, and I bought 2. That was 20 plants, and each have yielded 2lgs or 1 k of produce. At Tesco prices currently set at £1.25 per kilo, and they’re cheaper now than when I began harvesting, the cost of shop bought is £25 so I’ve saved £23 and had  some really good eating. Can’t be bad!

Now I’m taking cuttings of all those perennials I bought this year. I started with the pinks and lavenders. They require a nice, well drained compost, so I added plenty of grit to the compost and mixed it all before I began, so I could take the cuttings and get them straight in the compost to avoid dehydration. These plants don’t like too much humidity, so I’ll be leaving the pots in a shady spot to root but won’t cover them as they’ll be prone to moulds.

Cuttings Of Lavender And Pinks

Cuttings Of Lavender And Pinks

We’ve also been eating French beans for a few weeks now, and the runners have started to crop. I picked up a great tip recently for runner beans. They apperently don’t like hot nights, and need cooler nights than we’d been having for pods to set. So the answer is to water late evening, and I give them a thorough soaking, then spray the plants as well as the roots, as the humidity also aids pod set. Now I can’t wait to eat them. I sowed some French beans in a container way after the original sowing, and that’s now payinf dividends. I knew I wouldn’t have more space in the ground, but even a container full is a great addition to our plates. The results speak for themselves. French beans are easier to crop in hot weather, too!

French Beans Containerised

French Beans Containerised

I’m a little nervous. I’m going away for a couple of weeks this Thursday, and leaving my partner in charge of the garden. I know he’ll do his best to keep everything watered, but will he remember to cut the sweet peas? Pick the beans to keep them cropping? I can only keep my fingers crossed. I shouldn’t leave it at this time of year, but I’m travelling to see friends in my camper van, so winter visits are not really feasible!

Of course, before I go I’ll do all I can to prepare the garden for my desertion, and hope that August does not become a drought month. I haven’t yet got an automatic watering system, but maybe in the future this will be the answer.

How do you cope with going away?

Gardening Without A Garden

Container Gardeng In A Very Small Space

Container Gardeng In A Very Small Space

If you saw my last post, I was banging on about us all being able to grow a bit of our own food, which is not only great for your health and pocket, but helps with the global food crisis. I’ve just returned from visiting a friend and found a perfect example of container gardening. My friend has a flat with a shared communal garden.  Therefore, the only area in which people can grow  things is outside their windows in a very restricted area. One of the residents has made supreme use of this tiny space, and I thought I’d share her ideas with you. It proves you can have home grown food in a tiny space and you don’t need a huge garden to garden!

Container Garden Sweetcorn

Container Garden Sweetcorn

This lady has made the most of a very small space. It’s about 4’ deep by about 12’ wide under her window. She has sweetcorn, beetroot, runner beans, herbs,  tomatoes, French beans, cucumber, spring onions and even carrots.  I was thrilled to see such a lovely little garden  all without a garden. Everything is in a container, everything growing and cropping well, despite a few nibbles to the beetroot leaves.

Container Garden Herbs

Container Garden Herbs

It’s worth noting that you can eat the young leaves of beetroot, maximising the crop you get out of the space. Young leaves can be put on salads, or stir fried or steamed like spinach. When planning for an area like this, it’s worth thinking about what crops you can eat the most of. Obviously, if the whole plant can be eaten, as is the case with some root vegetables, they make the most of the space.  Salad leaves are great value for space, too, as you can keep coming back for more as the young leaves grow. Any crop that grows upwards  will also make great use of space. The highest yielding crop of all per square foot (or meter) is runner beans. Climbing French beans come a close second, and give you a greater yield than the low growing ones. It’s also worth considering the cost of vegetables and fruit in the shops. Onions and potatoes are relatively cheap, but khol rabi expensive. They taste great, grow quickly and you can eat the leaves like spinach, too, though I find the stalks a bit tough.

Container Garden Beetroot

Container Garden Beetroot

It’s worth trying anything in a container. How about  butternut squash or aubergine (in a good summer). Walls retain and reflect heat, so containers placed like this in a sunny spot can succeed in growing things normally reserved for a greenhouse. Crops will ripen quickly with this additional heat, and you only have to nip outside the door for your dinner.

Container Garden Sweetcorn close up of maturing cob silks

Container Garden Sweetcorn close up of maturing cob silks

Container Garden Peppers

Container Garden Peppers

Here’s a list of vegetables you might want to try in a small space

Beetroot

Lettuce and salad leaves

Spring onions

Squash

Tomatoes

Sweetcorn

Cucumber

Aubergine

Runner beans

French beans

Khol rabi

Baby turnips (great in salads)

Swiss chard (very attractive. Eat leaves and stalks, steamed or stir fried)

Radish (sow a few every three weeks)

Carrots (stump rooted varieties)

All you need is some compost and the will to try. Containers can be made for free. We buy our bird food in plastic buckets. Paint and put holes in the bottom for drainage. And you have a free container. Use pallet wood to make a box container. Even a plastic storage box whose lid has been lost or broken can be turned into an attractive container for vegetables and fruit or herbs. Grow it, cook it and be proud of it!

World Food Security And Growing Your Own

 

Sprouted Beans. Ready in days, tasty cheap and easy. Just add water!

Sprouted Beans. Ready in days, tasty cheap and easy. Just add water!

The global population is estimated to reach between 8.3 and 10.9 billion people by 2050. Food security is a major worry for the world’s leaders. It is now known that the millions of people growing their own food throughout the world already play a big part in providing food that eases the food security issue, The more of us that can grow our own, on our own land, the more we can reduce the pressure on land and resources elsewhere. The ratio of energy needed to produce food and the energy this food actually produces has increased negatively too, because of fuel used to produce the food and transport it, and the use of fertilizers. That’s another improvement when it’s grown in your own place (garden or pot) as there are NO fuel costs beyond buying the seed initially. No airmiles, no artificial fertilisers and no petrol or diesel to get to the shops, and YOU save energy not going shopping, carrying the food and throwing away the wrapping.

Surely then we should all be doing our utmost to grow what we can, for the sake of our planet and our children. We are learning to re-use items otherwise destined for landfill, to reduce pressure there, but this, our food, is so important that we need to do what we can. It’s so simple! Anyone could grow beansprouts or lettuce leaves on the windowsill. There are only benefits to growing your own. No trip to the shops, much cheaper food and no air miles. Food is as fresh as it can be, loaded with good nutrients that haven’t had time to deteriorate and tastes marvellous. It also costs you a lot less than that lettuce wrapped in a plastic bag and refrigerated to stop it wilting. Convinced yet?

You don’t have to have a huge plot and grow potatoes to make a difference. As one supermarket chain keeps re-iterating, every little helps, especially if we ALL do a little. Beansprouts of various kinds, salad leaves and even beetroot can be grown in pots and containers. Spring onions, chives, herbs and even tomatoes can be grown easily, cheaply and need only a little TLC for success.

Have you tried? So many people have said to me they kill things. They can’t grow things. Keeping plants alive is just a matter of giving the plant what it needs, and that’s a fairly simple matter to understand. They need something to grow in (compost) some food (compost then liquid feed), light and warmth. Then they need water. But they, like us, drown in too much of the stuff. There you have it. Simple. The internet abounds with specialist techniques for growing various things, and if you’re that interested you can follow them, as I do sometimes. But I’m passionate about gardening. You don’t have to be to grow basic stuff and get good results.

Try this. Take one tablespoon of mung beans or whole lentils. Place in a large jar, cover the end with old tights or a bit of muslin. Fill the jar with water. Empty. Leave on windowsill  but not in strong sunlight. Repeat rinsing twice a day and eat within the week. Simple!

Come back and see me again. I’ll give some basic hints and tips, tell you what I’ve done and what works and doesn’t work for me. Have a try. It’s very satisfying to pick and eat something you’ve tended, however nervously.

Early Summer Border

Early Summer Border

What a spring it’s been. Warmer than normal, and a high contrast to last year, when snow laid on the ground here until May. The garden has progressed greatly. We had an old ‘rockery’ neglected for the last ten years at least, and bound together by our native fern. It was a nightmare that took dedication and a lot of muscle to remove, but I now have about one and a half tons of gypsum rock to sell. That might pay for the path I want to lay down the 120’ length of the garden. Vegetable growing is now well underway. I have runner and French beans installed on their wigwams, new potatoes flowering in their rows and komatsuna, ruby chard beetroot, turnip and other veg coming along nicely. It’s so much better to nip outside and pick what we need than to get out the vehicle, go to the shops, buy stuff in plastic bags covered in whatever they decided it’s OK to wash them in and then have to pay for it, drag it home and unwrap it, dispose of the packaging, prepare and eat it. We bought some pork chops a while ago from a supermarket.

I have, due to an auto-immune health problem, a lot of sensitivity to foods and chemicals. Plain old pork chops, I thought. A safe meal. I got ill after eating one. The symptoms felt like a reaction to gluten, normally found in grains such as wheat. We checked the packaging. THEY PUT GLUTEN IN PORK! The chops were adulterated with wheat, but still put in plain packaging so you think you’re just buying meat. Now I take glasses and a magnifying glass shopping and have to check EVERYTHING. So the more I can grow at home the better, though I can’t raise my own pigs! So, carry on planting. The food production will continue at this venue! But so will developing the rest of the garden, and my flower collection has increased hugely. I’ve sown seeds, bought young plants and propagated them, taken cuttings from friend’s gardens and treated myself to the odd little gem. Then there are the self sown foxgloves, poached egg plants and columbines, which are just lovely at the moment. The rockery disaster is now a newly planted border and is beginning to look just fine. As for the house, decorating has slowed to a halt since the weather picked up. There are only so many hours in a day! But the conservatory looks good now, and is dripping with more plants. It served well in spring to start the tender stuff, and saved heating the greenhouse. Four varieties of tomato now grace the greenhouse border, and I’m trying aubergines for the first time. So far they look good. Fuchsias and geraniums abound! I bought some very cheaply last year from a charity event, and kept them over winter. Cuttings took readily and are now lined up in rows in the greenhouse.

The front garden has had a makeover, new gravel and looks smart but a bit flat as it’s newly planted. Chimney pots are to be filled with fuchsias and trailing plants. Containers will contain more. Colour will light up the front to welcome us home. We live on a busy main road, though you wouldn’t know it when in the back garden. It’s also quite shaded for much of the day, so my shot of colour will lift it, and passers – by can enjoy my bargain plants.

I hope to continue this blog, but please forgive my absence if I periodically disappear. My health is precarious and can prevent me from having a clear enough head to write. But I want to share my experiences, and pass on knowledge if I can , so I’ll try to keep posting. Here’s an idea for you. Re-cycling combined with desperation after last year’s Glut of cabbage white butterflies and demise of my crops, an old bed base was strip0ped and recovered-with butterfly netting. Now wood pigeons and cabbage whites can only LOOK at my well protected vegetables.

Plant Protection re-cycled stlye

Plant Protection re-cycled stlye

I’m off now to sow more salads and some biennials for next year. Keep you posted.

Easter Frozen In Time

Ice Hanging From My Conservatory Gutters

Ice Hanging From My Conservatory Gutters

Oh, what a week that was! I think it may be a long time before anyone forgets this Easter. I certainly won’t.  Snow still lies on the garden and fields beyond. The temperature hasn’t risen above about 5 degrees and snow flurries, though small, continued today. It is melting, slowly, but I’m anxious about all the spring work that should have been done and hasn’t. There’s a vegetable bed up by the house to finish digging. It was overgrown, had been covered in plastic in an attempt at weed control and had a weed ash growing in it. There’s not much left to dig, but the whole area, when you scratched below the surface, has builders’ rubble and large stones to get out before anything worth eating would grow. The soil has been air deprived, nutrient deprived and needs some organic matter. Luckily I stacked all the turf moved when we built the greenhouse last spring. I can use that now to improve this important area.

Iced

Icy Conservatory

The best news this week is the arrival of a new member of the family. We have now got our dog from the RSPCA and she turns out to be a wonderful dog. We expected some problems, despite reassurances that she had come from a loving home that simply couldn’t afford to keep her. But we’ve had none. She’s very well trained, placid, calm and doesn’t even have the separation anxiety the RSPCA suspected. As we have a night vision wildlife camera, we left it aimed at her bed last night, thinking she may be spending the nights pacing. But no, she slept well, waking for a stretch, a drink of water and to rearrange her blanket. Otherwise she looks quite happy. We had to build a temporary fence around  the patio to make a safe place for her to be turned out in, as our boundary fence needs work and isn’t secure. As the garden is 120ft long and the base of my hedge needs clearing on my neighbour’s side before I can begin, that’s going to take a while. My son is going to come over and help with that. He has the training and the strength that will be required to get the job done.

daisy1

Isn’t she gorgeous? I am rather optimistically imagining her following me around the garden while I work in the SUNSHINE and WARMTH of summer. In these temperatures, it seems a long time away. Last summer’s wash-out plus this spring’s winter has been a little more than any of us wanted to have to cope with!

Iced Daffodils

Iced Daffodils

I have tomato seedlings, madia seedlings and others through in the conservatory, so I hope that eventually the greenhouse will be warm enough for them. I went in the greenhouse today to check on the trays of sown seed. I was surprised to feel the warmth during sunlight today, but I know how cold it will be tonight. So I’m not expecting miracles in those seed trays. It was a good ploy to put everything in there and not sow in the ground, though. It will mean I have a start on the season once the thaw is complete. There are vegetables and flower seeds that will easily grow on in cold frames, but I only have small ones. That’s something I need to think about as more space will no doubt be needed very soon. I’ll let you know what I end up doing, but it won’t be paying the prices I’ve seen online. More likely, we’ll fashion one out of things we’ve already got.