Tag Archives: seeds

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

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!

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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

Elusive Birds, Flowers In Winter

White Hellebore in Flower 2nd January

White Hellebore in Flower 2nd January

This morning was quite a treat. While there was still sleep in my eyes, pouring the first coffee, I was treated to the sight of goldfinches happily feeding. Then, as I stood watching though the kitchen window, a flock of long tailed tits descended. I haven’t seen them for a long time. So I set up my brand new radio remote for my camera and attempted to get some shots to show you, but the light levels are far too low to capture anything but a blur. I went back out to retrieve my camera and while I stood there, right in front of the feeders, a long tail came down, fearless, fed in front of me and sang. Just a foot away from me. I could see his delicate, tiny legs, the downy feathers of his body and his eyes met mine. Such a delight, and a huge antidote to the chaos of the world we’re forced to live in. These are the moments worth living for. My poor dog Daisy was forced to wait to be allowed in the garden until the birds left for a while.

It’s too wet to do much on the garden, but making room in the conservatory will enable the sowing of early cauliflowers and salad, which after the excesses of Christmas  stodge, I’m craving.

Wandering around, I found there are still things flowering. So here are a couple of them. I’ll try again to get some photos of the birds, once light levels increase and there’s no danger of my precious camera getting wet. I hope to capture lots of wildlife, once they wake up after their winter sleep.

For now, enjoy your garden.

bergenia

Bergenia in Flower 2nd January

Compost. Choose The Best.

Healthy Plants In Clover Compost

Healthy Plants In Clover Compost

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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?

Back From The Brink – A Conservation Success Pyg Nymphaea Thermarum

NYMPHAEACEAE, Nymphaea thermarum, 2010535, Bonn, Rwanda

NYMPHAEACEAE, Nymphaea thermarum, 2010535, Bonn, Rwanda

Naturally, as I’ve just installed a pond I have been researching plants to furnish it. In doing so I came across an interesting conservation success. Pyg Nymphaea Thermarum  is the smallest water lily in the world and the rarest. In fact in the wild it is now extinct. Its pads, or leaves, measure only about 1cm across, which is less than 10% of the next smallest species in the genus. It came from Rwanda, where it grew in thermal spring water that cooled to about 25 degrees. The thermal spring was over-used by farmers and in 2008 it dried up. As this was the ONLY place where this lily grew, it eventually, tragically died off. German botanist Eberhard Fische, seeing the p[ant was in trouble sent some plants to Bonn Botanic Gardens. However, they could not persuade seeds to germinate and the plant’s existence hung in the balance. Carlos Magdalena, at Kew, only discovered the solution when down to the last twenty seeds in the whole world AND one of the two remaining plants had been eaten by a rat. It turns out that most of this genus germinate in deep water, but Pyg needs co2 to germinate, and once that had been discovered, eight healthy plants were raised from seed. This little survivor now has the potential to become a houseplant! Back from the brink, this is one conservation success! I still haven’t chosen a water lily or stocked my pond with plants. That will happen this weekend, when I make a special trip to a large water garden centre I’ve had recommended to me, but I’ve had an interesting time reading!

Photo from the Kew website.

Best Laid Garden Plans

Daisy surveying the work to be done.

Daisy surveying the work to be done.

Well, I thought I had it all organised. So much for thought. The men I’m employing to do the heavy work of laying a path, shed bases and  building a pond came to let me know they couldn’t start until Monday. They believed Thursday’s weather forecast and didn’t come then because of the heavy rain due. It turned out a lovely afternoon. Then they couldn’t come today. So now it’s Monday. On top of that, I got back from shopping yesterday to find the company I bought my pond from hadn’t delivered in the time slot they’d given me. Then they rang. Their courier had lost seven 6ft 8” x 4ft 6” ponds. How or where no-one seems to know. How do you lose seven large plastic objects the size of a car? Anyway, by last night mine had been found. It is now stashed in a depot somewhere. But as it happens, I’m not worried. It’s better in a depot than the back garden in high wind. Apparently, according to the man from the water garden supplier they make enormous impressive kites in high wind! So it’s all coming together next week instead of this week. Hopefully it WILL all come together.

Path in progress

Path in progress

In the meantime, all my special perennial seeds have been sown, relevant instructions followed and fingers crossed.

It's All Being Cleared!

It’s All Being Cleared!

UPDATE – The workmen have started! The landscaping is underway. I’m thrilled. And my pond, all the gravel for the paths and the accompanying bits and pieces arrive tomorrow. I’ll see massive progress, as the path is dug, the rubbish cleared and a shed base has been laid. Despite gale force wind and despite rain, hail and sleet over the past couple of days, they’ve got on with the job and I’m very pleased so far. Seedlings are emerging from the compost and all is well in my gardening world.

The Path

The Path

So I’ve spent today clearing out my shed, cleaning and oiling tools and throwing out anything broken, rubbish or no longer needed. I can now find a rake, shears or plant food without breaking my neck! Ready for the season of plenty.

Fabulous Parsnips

Fabulous Parsnips

I’m spurred on by parsnips. Yes, parsnips. I planted some last year and we ate them over Christmas. Or so I thought. There was another row and they’ve continued to grow. I had to clear the ground ready for the landscapers. These are just some of them. They’re over 12” long and the largest weighs 750g. That’s a 1 1/2 lb parsnip! We ate one roasted last night. The scent and taste are FAR superior to shop bought, so I’m convinced I must fill the three 10’ x 4’ beds going in very soon and kept full ( though of course not all with parsnips) for our dining pleasure. Roll on harvests.

Growing Magic

Khol Rabi

Kohl Rabi

As I left my desk yesterday, having published my blog, I went to check a seed tray for the fourth time that day. I knew germination wouldn’t take long IF the seed was viable. I’d left pots last autumn in the greenhouse that hadn’t been tidied up at all, as I couldn’t do it. There were seeds on the dahlia Coltness Hybrids dead stalks. Now I’ve no idea what I’ll get from them crossing naturally, but free dahlias? The bees love them and so do I. Anyway, as I was saying, I checked the seed rather obsessively again as I left my desk. The first loop of seed leaf stem had pushed through. So exciting! Well, I’m now on an adventure through the season with my seedlings. How tall will they grow? Will I get anything new? Different? I’m willing to see what nature has done.

Migraine has scuppered most progress today, but I have discovered that the mother dahlias from last year from which I harvested the seed have survived total neglect. I’ve taken off the dead tops, potted them up and watered, so they should start back into growth. It’s such a magical process. Roots forming on cuttings, plants laying dormant all winter, seed germinating. I’ve been gardening all my life and it’s still seems like magic to me. Nature battles hard to survive!

Some fuchsias are hanging in there too so they’ve been given the same treatment. Sat on the sofa, I’ve been through my entire burgeoning seed collection and sorted it out. With free seeds out of magazines, Christmas gifts of vegetable seeds and those I’ve bought I could, if I sowed them all, feed the whole of Coalville! So I’ve given some away to a friend with an allotment and at the end of this season will thin them out even more. I’m just not sure yet which will get used up and which will still be a massive surplus. But I’m in a position now to choose from several varieties of fresh greens, Chinese veg and many others. My friend has given me a couple of artichoke roots, so I’m going to try growing them for the first time. I’ve never eaten one, either, so this is entirely experimental. Nothing ventured!

The first kohl rabi seed have made their appearance this morning. Every day new life, more excitement for the growing season. If only my health would improve! I could do so much more.

My mum has requested plants for her garden as she’s banished some that were thugs. So, I guess I’ll be sowing more perennials so I can share out the results later this year. That for the most part is seed I’ll need to buy. Hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow and will be able to continue sowing and sorting out the greenhouse, which I’m going to reorganise. I want to make more space for tomatoes, ornamental gourds and of course that continuous supply of veg.