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Posts Tagged ‘grow your own’

Last week the Eco Committee members at Thomas’s School were invited by the Parish Council, in co-operation with the Borough Council, to plant a tree as a final act in the local Jubilee celebrations. The tree, an English Oak, was planted in open space land in the village so that it can be enjoyed by future generations and there will be a plaque put next to it to commemorate the Queens Diamond Jubilee. The children (including Thomas) put the top soil around the tree and sprinkled wildflower seeds around the base.

Thomas and the Jubilee Tree

Thomas has been on the Eco Committee this year and has thoroughly enjoyed being involved in the Eco work at school as well as providing his own input with regards to the wildlife that is in the school grounds. The School has put up bird boxes one of which has a camera, a bird table for feeding the birds, a nesting material holder, fat ball feeders and other bird feeders as well as insect houses.

Pembroke Nest Box

Pembroke Nest Box

The school gardening year has come to an end and preparations have been made for the summer holidays. All the young plants in pots have been planted in the ground, climbing plants have been tied in and supports provided, and the raised beds have been weeded and covered with netting to deter unwanted visitors.

 Enviromesh Netting

Enviromesh Netting

During the holidays Thomas and I will make regular checks to keep the garden ticking over until September this ties in well with feeding the school chickens as Thomas has been put on the ‘chicken rota’ again which I have to say I enjoy doing as much as he does. We are both looking forward to those super fresh boiled eggs!

Click here for our top 10 tips for caring for the school garden during the holidays.

Love your environment and enjoy your holidays

Gill

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On my Allotment things are really starting to grow despite the cool and wet weather.

Onion Sets

The onion sets I planted in March are really doing well, I planted out 7 rows with only one bulb ‘missing’, usually a lot of them are pulled out by the birds but as a deterrent I placed my old autumn fruiting raspberry canes (which I had just cut down) across the bed and this seemed to work, I would recommend covering sets with fleece, netting or cloches until the sets have rooted. Back in November last year I planted some winter onion sets these were not as successful with about a quarter ‘missing’ probably down to mice/rabbits/frost or the wet weather, but I managed to carefully transplant them to make 5 rows. The sets become well rooted over winter with a small amount of top growth but come spring they really get growing a lot faster and produce an earlier crop of onions. My onions and garlic need to be kept weed free and well watered in dry weather, the onions will benefit from a top dressing of general fertilizer such as organic Chicken Poo in about a month.

Elephant Garlic

I bought 3 elephant garlic bulbs from The Recycleworks as I had not grown these before and I was rather curious because of their large size, I planted these at the end of March and I am very pleased as they now have some very strong healthy tops.

We still have some of last years leeks left which are delicious especially in Leek and Bacon Quiche, Leek Parsnip and Potato Bake and Leek Soup.  They will need eating soon before they go to seed and I need their space to grow peas, which is one of my next jobs.

The strawberry plants have plenty of flowers on them but quite a few have been caught by the weekend frosts I would have covered them with fleece if I hadn’t been away.

I planted most of my seed potatoes at the end of April a little later than I intended due to the weather. When their shoots emerge they will need ‘earthing up’ by scraping up the surrounding soil to create ridges along the rows of plants.

Greenhouse Tomato

In the greenhouse I have planted out my tomatoes in their final growing position and provided canes for support as they are indeterminate varieties (this means that I will need to remove the side shoots that grow between the leaf node and the main stem) and they grow taller than bush varieties.

Seeds I need to sow next include: Sweetcorn – singly in 8cm pots. French Beans – singly in 8cm pots. Herbs – Basil, Coriander and Parsley – a few seeds per 8cm pots, Rocket – in a small seed tray. Mixed Salad Leaves – in a small seed tray. Courgette –singly in 8cm pots sowing the seeds on their edge. Pumpkin – singly in 8cm pots sowing the seeds on their edge. Sunflowers – singly in 8cm pots.

Sowing Mustard and Cress

I must remember to ask Thomas if he can sow some more mustard and cress seeds in his Mini Propagator the last batch has nearly all been eaten, they are delicious in salads and sandwiches and are great fun for children to grow too.

Mustard and Cress ready to eat

Must get on, lots to do

Happy Growing

Gill

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I had an ‘Ask the Expert’ enquiry this week from Natalie who wanted some advice on which seeds to buy from our website that she could grow at her son’s nursery garden. She wanted to grow things that the children could eat at their snack time but the only draw back was that they had to be able to pick them between now and the end of June before they break up, here was my advice:

As you are limited for time (approx. 9 weeks before the end of June) the quickest things to sow/grow/harvest would be vegetables/herbs that are grown for their leaves rather than their fruit (tomatoes) or roots (carrots, beetroot).

Mustard and Cress

Mustard and Cress are perhaps the easiest and quickest to grow and can be eaten in approx. a week, these can be sown little and often, sow indoors not too thickly on a thin layer of moist compost or moist tissues, cover with a piece of paper until they are 1”(25cm) and then cut when they are about 2”(50cm).

Salad Leaves (Red & Green mixed) are very quick to mature and their different coloured leaves look attractive.

Coriander

Herbs fit nicely into this category and our Herb Variety Pack contains:

Coriander, Basil, Dill, Rocket

Basil

available to buy separately is Parsley (this can sometimes be slow to germinate)

Essential Propagator

 

To get them all off to a good start I would sow them in Pots/Trays in a Propagator or on a warm sunny windowsill. When they are big enough to handle re-pot them into Larger Pots/Trays with more space to grow, again returning them to the windowsill until they are large enough to plant outside when the weather if favourable.

 

They can be planted into Containers, Hanging Baskets, Wall Baskets, Window Boxes or Grow Bags. They are ideal for planting into Raised Beds, Salad and Herb Beds, Corner Raised Beds or Mangers.

It is advisable to protect them with Fleece if any frost is forecast until they are well established.

Salubrious Salad and Herb Bed

For best results they should be in a warm, sheltered and sunny position.

I hope that Natalie and all the children enjoy sowing and growing their seeds and they enjoy eating the lovely fresh leaves too.

Happy Growing

Gill

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The Schools Competition theme is ‘Vegetable Planting’ and we have lots of goodies to give away.

Spring is in the air, the plants in the garden are coming back to life, the wildlife is becoming active and hopefully the worst of the weather is behind us. Now is an ideal time to start planting.

PolyPot Grow Bags

For this months competition we are giving away some brilliant planting kits and a selection of vegetables to grow, which will get your school garden off to a great start.

Garlic Bulbs

Growing potatoes is something that every child enjoys from delving in the lovely moist compost to plant the seed potatoes to looking for ‘treasure’ at harvest time. Rhubarb is an easy plant to grow and maintain and available in different varieties, we have included two varieties here so that you can compare them. Garlic is another easy plant to grow and all the more interesting as it’s the main ingredient of everybody’s favourite Garlic Bread.

 
 
To enter all you need to do is to find three signs of spring where you are and then tell us what they are as well as what is your favourite thing about spring, be imaginative it could be something that happens, or something that you do, as well as a plant, bird or animal.
 
So hurry, hurry, hurry as the competition ends on 31st March 2012, get your entry in to us as soon as possible for a chance to win: 

Rhubarb Timperley Early

 
So get out there ‘Spring Spotting’ as entries need to be in by 31st March 2012. For entry details and your entry form click here.

The Family Competition theme is ‘Seed Sowing’ and we have some great prizes up for grabs.

Spring is finally here and there are plenty of jobs to do in the garden, things to plant and seeds to grow. Lots of seeds can be started off on your windowsill and an ideal way to grow them is in a Mini Propagator especially if the weather outside is cold or wet.

Mini Propagator Seed Growing Kit

To win some great garden goodies all you need to do is to
 
SOW AND GROW SOMETHING YOU CAN EAT ON YOUR WINDOWSILL
 
and then tell us all about it or send in a photograph or a drawing
 
 
Growbox Childrens Flower Garden
 
The winning entry will receive:
 
 
Gardener's Apprentice Hand Trowel
 
Kid's Traditional Watering Can
So get planning, sowing and growing as entries need to be in by 31st May 2012. For entry details and your entry form click here.

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As gardeners we all know how important water is, conserving it is important to keep our plants alive and our vegetable and fruit gardens productive.

Children love watering in the garden but often more water goes on them than on the plants a Non Spill Watering Can would make a wise investment and save on washing!

Containers, Patio Tubs, Growing Bags, Hanging Baskets, window boxes and Standing Raised Beds all require extra watering to prevent them from drying out, the addition of Rain Gel Water Storage Granules to your compost/soil will substantially reduce the need for watering as the granules absorb large amounts of water which is then slowly released to the plant roots just where it is needed most.

Here are a few other ways to conserve water in the garden:

  • During hot weather it is best to water your plants/garden in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler to minimise evaporation.
  • Spreading a layer of organic mulch around plants retains moisture as well as suppressing weeds.
  • Apply water only as fast as the soil can absorb it.
  • Water only when necessary, most plants die from over-watering than under-watering
  • Wash fruit and vegetables in a pan instead of running water from the tap.

With hose pipe bans looking likely in the worst affected areas as soon as next month I think we could all do our bit for the environment by saving and reducing water usage and not just in areas where there is a water shortage.

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This year Mothering Sunday is on 18th March, little over a week away, here are a few suggestions (which are also on my wish list) for Mothers Day Gifts available from The Recycleworks.

The Family Kitchen Garden. This invaluable book provides clear instructions on growing vegetables, fruit, herbs and cutting flowers including an A-Z of plants and month-by-month advise on what to do when. A must have book.

Grow your own gift pots, these seed kits contain all you need to grow either Basil, Cape Gooseberry or Chilli on your windowsill in a stunning hand painted terracotta pot.

Watering Cans are a very useful gift and are available in all sizes and attractive colours.No gardener would be without a good pair of gloves and these Rostaing Violette Ladies Gardening Gloves are perfect for protecting your mum’s hands and look great too.

Our Fairtrade products are currently on offer and our range includes some lovely handcrafted items, by buying these you will be helping the most economically-deprived people of the world improve their lives.

I hope that I have given you a few ideas but there are many more products available on our website so take a look for your perfect gift.

If you want to be creative and make your own gift click here for details of how to make a homemade card and a decorated windowsill pot.

So go on spoil your loved ones on their special day, and my idea of a perfect Mothers Day – a nice sunny afternoon spent in the garden, I am keeping my green fingers crossed!

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To me Garlic is the taste of the Mediterranean but it can be grown in the UK so why not have a go at growing your own instead of buying foreign grown bulbs from the supermarket. Garlic is an easy and undemanding vegetable to grow making it ideal for children, with tactile and nicely sized cloves to plant. I am sure they will want to plant it once they know it’s the main ingredient of garlic bread.

Garlic is a fantastic ingredient in cooking, add at the beginning for a milder flavour or later on for a stronger taste. As well as having a lovely and unique flavour it has many health benefits too, being a recognised superfood it has been shown to lower blood fat and cholesterol levels, help reduce blood pressure as well as combating bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Garlic is rich in Vitamins C and B6, carbohydrates, and fibre and is also a good source of several of the essential minerals, zinc, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium.

Garlic can be planted in Winter or Spring. Spring planted bulbs should ideally be planted no later than the end of March in order for them to mature so get your bulbs ordered now, supermarket bulbs are not recommended as the chances are they have been grown in a warmer climate and will not thrive in our British weather thus giving a disappointing crop.

Garlic takes up very little room and can even be planted between flowers, in window boxes or containers but will need to be watered often in dry spells. Garlic needs a sunny position in well drained soil, to prevent waterlogging and feed the soil dig in plenty of well rotted manure or garden compost, they are ideal for growing in raised beds especially if your soil is particularly heavy. Split your garlic bulbs into individual cloves immediately before planting, make a hole with a dibber to avoid damage to the base of the bulb and plant approx. 2cm below the soil surface, 10cm apart, leaving 15-20cm between rows. Cover with fleece to protect from frost and also to stop birds from pulling them out (until they are established). Water during dry spells and keep weed free. Harvest when the leaves turn yellow, loosening the bulb underneath with a trowel taking care not to damage the bulb. Place the bulbs somewhere warm and dry and they can then be stored for up to 3 months.

So why not give them a go before it’s too late. We have four delicious varieties to chose from all suited to the British Climate, Solent White, Vigour, Germidour and Elephant.

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It has come to my attention that this week is National Chip Week 20th – 26th February and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the humble potato. Whether they are fat, thin, crinkly or wedged we just can’t get enough of them. Did you know that you would need the area of Wembley Stadium to grow all the chips that we British eat every year. A quarter of all potatoes grown in Britain become chips, that’s about 1.5 million tonnes each year or roughly the same weight as 125,000 full double decker buses.

Why not grow your own chips?

There is nothing more satisfying than eating your favourite food that you have grown yourself, and now is the ideal time to get started. The easiest way to grow them especially if you are limited for space i.e. you have a small garden or patio or live in a flat is to plant them in growing bags. These bags are ideal because they can be positioned anywhere, are easy to move, look attractive,  are reusable, give protection from slugs and make harvesting easy.

Potato Growing Kit

Once you get your ‘seed’ potatoes put them into egg trays/boxes with the ‘rose’ end upwards this is where you might see tiny shoots or the ‘belly button’ end facing downwards and place them in a frost-free light (not sunny) room. When the shoots are about 1 inch they are ready to plant. Half fill the growing bag with compost and plant your seed potatoes about 4 inches deep and water well, as the plants grow add more compost covering the leaves and repeat this until you reach the top. Position the bag somewhere sunny and sheltered and as a guide they are ready to harvest after they have flowered. Potatoes need to be kept well watered but not soggy. Varieties suitable for chips are Kestrel a second early, plant out in the bags early to mid April and The Bishop a maincrop, plant in mid to late April.

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This week 5th February – 12th February it is Bramley Apple Week. We are all being encouraged to cook with this very British Apple. It is recognised by home cooks and professional chefs as the best apple for cooking and the Bramley’s unique qualities make it one of the most versatile ingredients for both sweet and savoury dishes.

The first Bramley tree grew from pips planted in the garden of Mary Ann Brailsford at Southwell, Nottinghamshire, England in 1809 making the variety over 200 years old. In 1900 the tree blew down in a terrible storm, but incredibly it survived and believe it or not this tree continues to bear fruit today.

If you want to pick your own Bramley apples why not invest in a tree for your garden or allotment they are available to buy bare rooted or growing in containers. It is not too late to plant them.

Apple trees can do well anywhere, apart from waterlogged sites or in salty sea air, they prefer rich moist soil with well drained loam. It is best to position your tree somewhere sunny and sheltered this will maximise the time your fruit has to ripen.

Bare root trees can be planted late autumn to early spring but avoid planting if there’s a frost, place roots in moist soil until conditions improve. Make the hole big enough for the tree to be buried up to the old soil mark on the stem, and for the roots to be spread out. Place the tree in the hole and push in a wooden stake, then fill the hole with good potting compost and gently firm down but not tread in. Tie the tree to the stake securely but not too tightly on the stem. Water in well and apply a mulch.

Container grown trees can be planted anytime of the year except when frosty or if the soil is too dry or wet. For container grown trees dig a hole larger and deeper than the container, put fresh compost in the bottom and place the tree (minus container) in the hole, do not break up the soil from the container, then fill the hole with fresh compost to the base of the tree, firm in, stake and tie in. Water in well and apply a mulch.

If you are growing a tree in a container, half fill a large tub with soil-based potting compost and place your tree on top (minus container) fill the tub with more soil to the base of the tree, water well and feed regularly.

In dry weather water your fruit trees regularly until they are established.

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Leeks are a valuable and versatile ingredient in the kitchen delivering a huge amount of flavour and are often overlooked. If you have a glut of Leeks in the garden or allotment or are simply craving their delicious mild onion flavour why not give this recipe a go, it is a firm favourite at home.

Leeks ready to be harvested and cooked

Leek and Bacon Quiche

  • 350g Shortcrust Pasty or a shop bought cooked pastry case
  • 25g Butter
  • 3 Leeks chopped
  • 175g  Streaky Bacon chopped
  • 200ml Double Cream
  • 4 Eggs
  • 125g Cheddar Cheese grated
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped Parsley

If you are not using a shop bought pastry case grease a 25cm flan tin with some of the butter, line with the shortcrust pastry and bake blind.

Heat the remainder of the butter in a frying pan and fry the leeks over a medium heat until soft and just turning brown, remove the leeks and set aside, now fry the bacon until crisp.

Beat together the cream and eggs, then stir in the leeks, bacon, grated cheese and parsley. Pour carefully into the pastry case and bake at 190C/375F/Gas mark 5 for approx 25 minutes or until golden brown and set.

Serve it hot or cold, it also makes a good addition to a lunchbox or a picnic.

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