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Archive for the ‘Gardening at Home’ Category

Beef Tomatoes

This week it is British Tomato Week 22nd-28th May which is launched by the British Tomato Growers Association to promote our own locally grown tomatoes.

British grown tomatoes are available in shops now, picked when they are perfect for eating and with only a short distance to travel to the shops they are super fresh, tasty, healthy and environmentally friendly.

Although many British growers produce tomatoes on a large scale they care about the environment, millions of bumblebees are used each year to pollinate plants, insects are used as a natural pest control and millions of gallons of water are stored from glasshouse roofs for irrigation.

Tomatoes are delicious fresh or cooked, they are very healthy containing Vitamins A, C and E, and Potassium and Calcium, they are low in calories and contain virtually no fat or cholesterol.

Store your Tomatoes at room temperature, keeping them in the fridge impairs their flavour.

Did you know?

  1. Tomatoes are fruits not vegetables.
  2. In Britain we each eat on average two tomatoes every week.
  3. Tomatoes originate from the Andes in South America, where they grow wild. They were first cultivated by the Aztecs and Incas as early as 700 AD.
  4. Tomato Seeds have been grown in space.
  5. The largest UK tomato glasshouse covers 26.5 acres, but is currently being extended to 44.5 acres, or 18 hectares. That’s the size of 25 international football pitches.

For more information and tomato facts have a look at the British Tomato Growers website and for a large selection of delicious tomato recipes click here.

So support our growers by buying British and local Tomatoes or why not have a go at growing your own it is a lot easier than you think and now is the perfect time to plant them, click here for a Guide to Growing your own Tomatoes.

Gill

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At this time of the year many of us will have pots or trays that are overflowing with young vegetables and flowers that are ready to be planted outside, many of these young plants will have been grown in a porch, conservatory, greenhouse or on the windowsill where they will have got accustomed to warm temperatures. Deciding when to plant out can be quite tricky, although day time temperatures on average are rising, cold snaps, strong winds and clear skies with frosts can damage or even kill your prized plants.

The key to the transition from a warm, cosy environment to the big outdoors is ‘Hardening off’, Hardening off is the process of preparing your tender plants to cope with harsher outdoor conditions including lower temperatures, lower humidity and winds, it can take two to three weeks before they are ready to be planted outdoors. Hardening off will thicken and alter the plant’s leaf structure and increase its waxiness, further new growth will be sturdy and slower than if they are grown in the greenhouse, hardening off frost-sensitive plants will unfortunately not make them hardy.

cold_frame3-01

How to harden off your plants

A cold frame is perfect for hardening off your plants, the clear hinged lid lets in adequate light and can be propped open slightly wider every few days to slowly introduce your plants to outside temperatures, closing it again at night, leave the lid fully open for the last few days prior to planting out. Position your cold frame where it will receive some sun but not all of the day, the best time to begin hardening off is when it is cloudy thus avoiding high afternoon temperatures and frosty nights, the insulating wooden frame will help maintain temperatures overnight.

Clear Panel Wooden Cold Frame With 2cm Thick Boards - Easily Extendable

Protect your plants from pests

If you have grown some tasty crops you can be sure that if not protected the slugs and snails will get to them first, apply copper slug and snail tape around the top of the cold frame to stop them from coming in, if you have any small gaps around the cold frame base sit your plants on a layer of slug gone this irritates the slugs/snails foot and they will look for food elsewhere. Place enviromesh netting over the cold frame to protect your crops from insects whilst they are at their most vulnerable.

Slug

Use your Cold Frame all year round

Cold frames are very useful, they can be used to extend the growing season, crops can be started off earlier in a cold frame than if they were sown/planted directly in the ground, frost tender crops grown in containers can be protected in a cold frame from Autumn frosts to extend cropping. Tender plants can be overwintered in a cold frame. Fruits and Vegetables that benefit from higher temperatures i.e. Melons, Chillies will produce a better crop if grown in a Cold Frame.

Red Chillies

Happy Gardening

Gill

 

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If you are lucky enough to be harvesting your own crop of rhubarb why not try making these delicious rhubarb muffins – easy to make and popular with the whole family!

Ingredients

  • 400g rhubarb, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 200ml milk
  • 100g butter , melted and cooled

Method

  1. Mix rhubarb with 4 tbsp of golden caster sugar
  2. Bake the rhubarb for about 10 minutes until soft, then drain well
  3. Mix plain flour with baking powder, sugar and cinnamon
  4. Beat eggs with milk and melted butter.
  5. Heat the oven to 180C
  6. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases
  7. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones along with the rhubarb
  8. Divide between the muffin cases, sprinkle the tops with a little sugar and bake for 25-30 minutes until risen and golden

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At Christmas we decorate a fir tree with baubles, lights, beads and tinsel which has pride of place in our home it seems such a shame that it is only enjoyed once a year and for only about 3 weeks. This year why not start an Easter tradition and make an Easter Tree this could be outside either using a tree that is growing in the garden or one that is growing in a pot which would look lovely near your front door or alternatively you could have an indoor tree.

How to make an indoor Easter tree

The tree

Put on your coat, grab your wellies and go on a walk to collect some nicely shaped branches alternatively if you have been pruning in the garden save some of the thicker branches.

Select the branches that will make an interesting shape once they are placed together, you can leave the branches natural, paint them white or ask an adult to spray them with gold or silver paint.

Find a wide vase and fill with small pebbles or sand to support your branches and keep them in place.

Arrange your branches in the vase and decorate.

The decorations

There are many decorations to choose from in shops these include easter chicks, rabbits and eggs and as with Christmas decorations you can re-use them year after year, also add pom poms, bows and ribbon to decorate your tree

The Easter tree is popular in Europe and has now found a place in British homes, in Germany they are known as Osterbaum or Easter Tree. The biggest Easter egg tree was in Rostock, Germany it was decorated with 76,596 painted hens’ eggs.

Happy Easter

Gill

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Stewart Essential Heated Propagator 52cm

Propagator is essential if you want to get your seeds started earlier and to ensure a good germination rate, they provide the correct temperature and humidity for your seeds, plants and cuttings to grow, to get your gardening year off to a good start why not enter our competition for a chance to win a propagator for your school or for home.

 

School Zone Competition

For a chance to win a Stewart Essential Heated Propagator 52cm with a selection of trays, small pots and labels, simply identify the 8 fruit or vegetables being described in our easy ‘Who am I?’ questions for more information and to enter the competition click here.

Family Zone Competition

For a chance to win a Stewart Non Electric 38cm Propagator

and a selection of trays, small pots and labels simply answer the following question:

Tell me what you would grow in a propagator and why?

For more information and to enter the competition click here.

Hurry the closing date for both competitions is Friday 31st March 2017.

Good Luck

Gill

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garden-blueberries

Blueberries are dark, sweet, delicious and often quite expensive; they are a cousin to our native Winberry, (also known as the blaeberrie, bilberrie, whortleberrie or huckleberrie) which can be found growing on moors amongst the heather and are ready to pick July-September. I think Winberries have a better flavour and are sweeter but not everyone is fortunate to have them growing nearby, if this is the case why not try growing your own Blueberries, which are now regarded as a ‘super fruit’ as they are extremely high in antioxidants and vitamins (especially Vitamin C) so have many health benefits.

Blueberry pants can be bought from Garden Centres, Nurseries or by Mail Order either to grow in pots or to plant in the garden.

Blueberries prefer an acid soil with a pH level of 5.5 or below this can be measured with a pH meter or a Soil pH testing kit, if your soil conditions are suitable add plenty of acidic organic matter such as pine needles, composted conifer clippings or ericaceous compost when planting. They prefer a sunny sheltered position and are best watered with rainwater whenever possible. If your garden soil is not acidic Blueberries will happily grow in pots in ericaceous compost, for young plants choose one that is at least 30cm (12in) in diameter, then move into a 45-50cm (18-20in) container when it is outgrows the first one, place some crocks/pieces of polystyrene in the bottom of the containers to help retain moisture.

Plant two different varieties of Blueberries to ensure cross-pollination, a single plant will produce fruit but yields will be higher and fruits bigger if more than one plant is grown. Use netting to protect ripening fruit from birds, not all the fruit ripens at the same time the berries are ready to pick when they are deep blue and can easily be pulled off.

Blueberries produce fruit on previous years branches, young plants will not need pruning for the first two or three years, after this prune between November and March take out any dead, dying and diseased branches first then one or two of the oldest branches at the base especially any low branches to create an upright bush.

My three container grown Blueberry plants are now in their third year and I am hopeful that I will have a good crop this year.

Why not make this a half term holiday project with each child having their own Blueberry plant, they could even give it a name!

Have a fun half term

Gill

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primrose

Although it may seem slow Spring is on its way, in our garden the frogs have been croaking, the buds on the early Clematis are nearly ready to open, the snowdrops are up and the Primroses are in flower.

Primroses have to be one of my favourite flowers; they bring back happy childhood memories of walks up the fields gathering small bunches for my mum – although picking them nowadays isn’t the done thing.

Primula Vulgaris is the British native Primrose that can be found growing in hedgerows or on banks in the wild, but it will also grow happily in gardens.

They prefer a well-drained soil and will thrive in clay, chalk, loam and sand; they will grow quite happily in semi-shade making them perfect to plant under hedges, trees and in a woodland setting as well as in a wildflower meadow.

Primroses can be grown from seed, these are sown in Autumn and remain dormant during the Winter months they will begin to grow when the weather warms up, alternatively you can buy them bare root to plant in Autumn or as pot grown plants which are available now to plant straight away. When primroses have become established they will form thick clumps that can be divided and replanted, ideally during September, they will also self seed naturally. Primroses thrive on leaf mould which can be incorporated when planting or used as a mulch around the plants.

Primroses provide an early source of nectar for Bees, Brimstone Butterflies and Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies they are also the food plant of the caterpillars of the rare Duke of Burgundy Butterfly.

Did you know?

  • The Primrose is the county flower of Devon.
  • Its name derives from the Latin ‘Prima Rosa’ meaning ‘first rose’ of the year although it is not a member of the rose family.
  • Since Victorian times, April 19 has been known as ‘Primrose Day’ it is the anniversary of the death of the former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, the Primrose was his favourite flower and on this day every year they are placed at his statue in Westminster Abbey.

Primroses do not take up much space in your garden their pale lemon flowers are a glorious sight and their sweet delicate fragrance is a delight, they are well worth growing and a sign that Spring is on the way.

Gill

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