Tag Archives: vegetables

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.

sprouted seeds0001_2

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!


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


chives in full flower

alpine trough

border by the patio


border by the greenhouse

lupins in their second year from seed


Stunning Iris

Garden Makeover Progress And A Grass Snake

Cherry Blossom

Cherry Blossom

The garden makeover continues more slowly than I’d like, largely thanks to illness requiring antibiotics. However, it is coming along. My son has been helping out, and the veg beds are almost ready for planting up with broad beans, potatoes, khol rabi, cabbage, turnips and the peas just showing through the compost in modules. I haven’t even tried to sow peas in the ground as my earliest sowing of beans were eaten by mice. Starting plants off in modules deprives them of the chance to take the seed for breakfast before they’ve even had time to germinate!

Around the pond I have begun planting, adding some cowslips in the shady spot close to the fence, an iris in addition to the ones donated by my landscaper,  geranium Phaeum Samobor,  with a lovely deep pink flower which should supply some fairly dense cover for the wildlife. It grows about 60cm high, so may need some support, especially as I want to grow small, more delicate plants close by. I don’t want them smothered or the geranium to flop and leave a hollow centre. I’ve also put in three astilbes that begun as one plant last year and  I split into three. I spotted vine weevil as I was planting, so watered in some Nemasys, a natural predator of the little horrid beasts. Once watered in, the tiny nematodes swim through the soil to find vine weevil larvae and destroy them, so hopefully they will be cleared and cease to eat my plant roots.

I’ve ordered online some oxygenating weed for the pond, which is going a bit green due to my delay in getting to an aquatic centre. Once I have all the plants for the pond I’ll let you know what they are and why I chose them. For now it’s just elodea crispa to take up some of the nutrients in the water and reduce the amount of algae growing. I hope to but the rest of the plants this weekend if my partner can spare the time to take me as driving isn’t an option until my cataracts are removed. I will of course choose one water lily, but there are so many to choose from I’m going to need a bit of advice!

My cherry blossoms are just beginning their spectacular yearly display. The colours are just to die for, and always make my heart sing. Lungwort, cowslips, primroses, grape hyacinths, heathers and more are attracting and feeding bees and butterflies already, despite the garden only being half finished. The bees don’t care that some plants are still in pots. They visit them anyway.

My partner has returned from walking our dog as I am writing this and had an exciting find in the local woods. So here it is! A grass snake. It’s great to see we have plenty of wildlife in the area. I’ve never seen a grass snake in the wild, so I’m envious I wasn’t there, but pleased at the same time. I hope as they are around they’ll come to visit my garden. The addition of a pond can surely only help to attract animals in. The snake was on a path right next to a stream.

Grass Snake

Grass Snake

Tomorrow I hope to be planting the brassicas I’ve mentioned and protecting them under fine netting which will keep out cabbage white butterflies, pigeons and the pheasant. Hopefully that will mean more crops for us and less for the pests!

Healthy Broad Beans About To Be Planted

Healthy Broad Beans About To Be Planted

Well, I did plant those vegetables. We will have food this year from my brand new beds. I’ve put in my sturdy broad beans, cabbage, turnips and khol rabi. They are all under protection from pigeons and cabbage white butterflies. It’s a relief to get them out of their modules. The greenhouse needs elastic walls! It’s burgeoning with the seedlings, cuttings and overwintered fuchsias that can now be moved into the cold frames vacated by the first veg.

The New Vegetable Bed Now Planted.

The New Vegetable Bed Now Planted.

My Overflowing Greenhouse

My Overflowing Greenhouse

I’ve also spent some time clearing weeds from the back of the main border, digging up even more Spanish bluebells and rescuing seedlings I want to keep before ordering some topsoil. The soil in the main bed is sadly lacking in quality from the rest of the garden and needs building up, both in height and nutrients, so next week my son will help get the delivery from the pavement and spread it so I can continue planting and filling gaps. I have quite a few waiting in the wings. Phew! Busy busy. How does your garden grow? Please talk to me, or I’ll feel as if I’m talking to myself. Never a good thing!

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.

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


Lettuce and salad leaves

Spring onions






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!