Tuesday, 21 May 2019

How do your seeds grow?

We had a seedling shuffling session at the weekend to help prepare our plants for their future outdoors and create a bit of space on the window ledges for tender things that needed pricking out. When I looked around I realised what a mix of seed pots and planters we'd used this year - ideal for showing that you don't need to spend a fortune on new matching pots or expensive single use fibre pots to grow your own fruit, veg or flowers from seed and also to show ways of extending the life of the thousands of "disposable" items that come through our hands each year. Just a decent peat-free compost and a container that's deep enough to start your seedlings off. Why peat-free?- well that's a whole other post and others can explain it much better than I can - check out this article on Plantlife's website for many, many reasons why the peat we have left needs to stay in the ground and not in our plant pots and then check out Dalefoot, Fertile Fibre or Melcourt's Sylvagrow for really good growing mediums. We're also trying out Westland's New Horizon for potting things on as it's a bit more widely available than some of the others.

Meanwhile here's a whistle stop tour of this year's seedlings and what we've started them in:

Loo roll/kitchen roll inners - great as substitute root trainers but can dry out quickly so you need to make sure to keep watering. We've also found that they are better for things that don't need to be left in the tubes too long before planting out as they can disintegrate if left for too long. We pop shredded paper or a ball of newspaper in the bottom before filling with peat-free compost and then group them in 5/6 tube sets with a large elastic band round (think royal mail cast-offs). We then stand them in mushroom tubs or broken plant pots to help them stand up.

Paper cups - we don't usually have any drinks in these but a recent bout of hospital visits meant we'd acquired one so thought we'd try re-using it when we got home. The wooden stirrer even came in handy as a label.

Grape punnets - we have used these as mini propagator lids for a few years but after seeing someone on twitter use them as a planter we've sown some of our peas and beans in them and the extra depth seems to work really well. Most come complete with drainage holes so are ideal as deep seed trays. This batch of pea-shoots are also standing in an old mushroom tub which serves as drip catcher.

And then there's the obvious - it always alarms me when I read "living without plastic" articles and social media posts that advocate throwing out what you have and replacing it with terracotta/ceramic/paper etc. - NO! Please, please, please use any pots, modules and seed trays that you have.

Most of these have been around for years and still have plenty of years life left in them and the best thing we can do for the planet is to keep the plastic we have in use for as long as possible - once it's binned it's just hazard to our soils, waterways and wildlife and that's the last thing any of us need to be causing.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Summer Photographic Scavenger Hunt #1

The 1st May saw the start of a new Scavenger Hunt, hosted by Mary-Lou over at Patio Postcards. She's intending to post a first round-up on 14th June but the challenge actually runs until September so there is plenty of time if you want to join in. Taking part is easy -  just follow the link to the list and let her know you are joining in by commenting on the post.  As with the Winter hunt we have twenty themes but they are all very much open to interpretation. My post outlining the list is here.

So here's my first set of offerings...

8. Shells - collected from beaches in Greece, Spain, Cornwall, Dorset and the Isle of Wight surrounded by a necklace given to me by a young student that I taught in Greece many, many years ago.

10. Something made from stone - A gift from my very talented sister - it makes me smile every time I look at it.

13. Two colours of the Rainbow in any combination -Hard to pick just one for this one so you have two to pick from. First up,  one of my favourite late Spring combinations - the blue of the cornflower against the fresh green of lemon balm.

This second one is a gaillardia flower and its beautiful combination of yellow and red is like summer in a single bloom. So, pick your season!

So that's the first three on the list, hope you enjoy them. See you anon.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Quick and easy hot-pot

I wanted something relatively healthy but that didn't take too much effort for yesterday's tea so reached for the freezer stores to rustle this up. One that can be easily adapted depending on what you have to hand or your preferred flavours

Veggie Sausage Hotpot
What I used:
1 pack of Cauldron's Cumberland veggie sausages
About 300g frozen mixed summer veg (I used a bought ratatouille mix of courgette, aubergine, tomatoes, peppers and onions as we'd used up our own supplies)
c. 6 chestnut mushrooms quartered
c. 250ml mixed passata and water
2 tablespoons mixed herbs,
1 teaspoon onion powder
black pepper & garlic powder to taste
About 250g potatoes sliced very thinly and par-boiled

What I did:
Put about a tablespoon of oil into a square baking dish (about 8inch square 1 inch deep).
Slice each sausage into 4 chunks and put them in the oven at gas mark 6 for about 15 minutes until they start to brown. Add the mushrooms and leave in oven for about another 5-10 minutes.
In a separate pan mix the defrosted and warmed through veg, the passata, herbs and flavourings with enough water or stock to make a pourable sauce that will cover the sausages and fill the baking dish. Pour into the baking dish and level off.
Layer the par-boiled potato slices on top of the sausage and veg until covered  and bake on Gas mark 6 for about 30 minutes with a foil cover on then for about 15 minutes more until the potatoes are golden and crispy.

Put any leftover potato slices into a foil parcel with a little bit of oil, some black pepper and garlic powder. Fold the foil over and pop in the oven with the bake to serve on the side.

Friday, 17 May 2019


Wednesday was bone scan day - a scary big deal but a necessary one and yesterday I had a quick trip to the local hospital for a blood test, routine but nonetheless adds to the fret-levels sometimes so afterwards we rewarded ourselves with a quick trip to the local garden centre - we needed compost but I wasn't up to the 25 mile round trip to get our usual peat-free Sylvagrow stuff. Luckily the local Wyevale had some New Horizon peat-free in stock so we've picked up a few bags of that to try out. We used this one a few years ago so hopefully it will be good enough to help our tomatoes and peppers to thrive in the coming months.  They've done well with the Sylvagrow start so I'm just hoping we don't put in a kink in their development with a new compost. At the moment the tomatoes are blocking the light out in the living room window so we really need the frosty nights to be over and done with soon!

We also picked up some new pots and bark compost for the orchids that are starting to to get a little pot bound. The purple one has been flowering its socks off for the last few months on the other window-sill but the white one has been looking more than a little sorry for itself so I'm off to find out how to treat it better and persuade it to flower again.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Bookshelf May 2019

The last few weeks have been stick-my-head-in-books-and-it-will-all-be-ok weeks. Some of them have been great books, some of them have been good books and some have been ok to pass the time books but all have been helping shake off the meh days. All will appear on the Books Read 2019 page

One of the best left me immersed in the world of Dr Ruth Galloway for a couple of days. The Stone Circle is the latest in the wonderful series of archaeological/murder detective stories by Elly Griffiths. Following Ruth and Nelson as they uncover the truth behind an old murder and stumble across new villains and new mysteries whilst starting to (possibly) forge new futures made for a truly engrossing read. Be aware though that this installment, more than any of the others, is very much part of a whole and you really need to have read the earlier books to fully understand both the main story arc and all the sub plots. I can't wait for the next in the series.

The next physical book on the reading pile is a non-fiction one and is likely to take me longer as I dip in and out and meander my way through a few fiction e-books as the mood, and hospital waiting rooms dictate.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Six on Saturday 11th May 2019

I know it's been a quiet week on the blog this week - will have a few more posts for you next week but to round out the week here's a peek into the garden.

Linking up with The Propagator again this month for my Six on Saturday entry. Find out how to join in on his blog here . You'll also be able to see links to all the other participants' posts too. I'm just taking part once a month but many folk take part every week - enjoy!

1. Rosebuds promising joy - The Dark Lady, Gentle Hermione and Alan Titchmarsh all budding up nicely in the front garden

2. The aquilegia that fling themselves all over the garden with joyful abandon really come into their own now - dainty ballerina flowers from an incredibly hardy plant

3. Voluptuous velvets and dainty pastels from the grown from seed pansies.


4. Golden oregano joining the re-emergence of the over-wintered herbs

5. The promise of strawberries despite a small cat-astrophe

6. Daisies dallying at the edge of the grass area - soon the mower will be out but we'll enjoy these for a little while longer.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Planting out and picking at the plot

Met J at the allotment this afternoon in time to admire all his hard work and deliver the spare battery for the mower and some plants for adding to the bean and root beds. He'd already spent a couple of hours mowing the paths, putting up the bean wigwams and sowing the second batch of our Garden Organic Members' experiment lentils. These join the lentils we'd sown last month and our chickpeas in our legume beds and form part of our new-to-us crops for this year. We now need to get our Climbing beans sown at home ready to plant out once all risk of frost has passed. 

After several weeks hardening off at home we've now planted out the first of our beetroot seedlings and some extra broad beans to fill out the gaps in the rows of earlier plantings. There's a second batch of beetroot seedlings on the window-sills here that will go outside this week to harden off and we'll also direct sow a few later in the month to give us a staggered harvest. I managed a little bit of hoeing, picked a few cornflowers from our small cutting patch and cut a carrier bag full of spinach beet leaves - tidying up the over-wintered and transplanted plants as I went in the hope that we get at least one more picking before they bolt. We're hoping that the new sowings will be ready to plant out before these ones give up on us. The cornflowers were also self-sown from last year's plantings and J transplanted them earlier this year - I'm so glad he did as they are far ahead of anything we've sown this year and there's nothing like picking bunches of homegrown flowers for the house knowing they are completely pesticide free so haven't harmed the wildlife and also haven't been flown half way round the world just to make me smile. Final job of the day was to pick some rhubarb - a batch for us and a batch for some friends. And speaking of friends - it was nice to catch up with a few friendly faces whilst I was up there too.
Here's hoping we get a chance to do some more tomorrow...

Garden Organic Lentils under cover

Filling in gaps with Broad Beans grown in loo roll inners

HSL Beetroot - grown in pots and planted out in clusters

First mini-bunch of cornflowers from the cutting patch

Spinach beet harvested and plants tidied - lovely mown paths too