Sunday, 10 April 2016

Who's a handsome slug?


Seeds & seed packets

Last weekend I planted A LOT of seeds.  My boyfriend actually thinks I have a problem, like an actual addiction to plants.  Better than some other plant addictions I guess...

Here are all the seeds I planted with photos of their packets, the actual seeds and the instructions on the back, some more helpful than others.

Geranium - Pelargonium hortorum 'Moulin Rouge'

Forget-Me-Not - Myosotis sylvatica 'Blue Ball'

Nasturtiums - Tropaeolum magus 'Tom Thumb Mixed'

Sweet Pea - Lathers odoratus

Sunflower - Helianthus annuus 'Gelbe Riesen'

Peas - Pisum sativum 'Kelvedon Wonder'

Pot Marigold - Calendula officinalis nana 'Candyman Orange'

Red Valerian - Centranthus ruber

Here's my little cat helper who likes to visit:

All my planted seeds in home made newspaper pots supported by bricks with an upside down clear storage box on top to a) keep the squirrels out and b) protect from any frost:

Everything hopefully squirrel-proofed:

ASBO squirrels

The bonkers thing about living in the city is it's full of animals! Foxes, squirrels, birds, cats... all sorts of things that come nosing around at night, or in the day when you're out at work, looking for tasty morsels. 

I knew when I'd left this tray of newly sewn sunflower seeds that I should have put a brick on top of the lid to stop things getting in but it was too late by the time I got home.  It had been a really windy day and the plastic box over the top had blown off and some animal had had a good dig at the contents.

(This photo is obviously with the brick on top after I replaced the box lid.  Lock the stable door once the horse has bolted and all that..)

See here?  Something had dug at and mashed up a couple of my newspaper plant pots.

Once I took the pots out of the tray and moved it all to tidy it up, I found that the culprit was most likely a squirrel as it had successfully dug out a sunflower seed and eaten it, leaving the shell behind as you can see at the bottom of the lolly stick in the photo below.

All that destruction for ONE seed? Seriously??

Take heed and squirrel proof your garden, people! They're NUTS.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

How to make biodegradable seed pots

I've found a great way to make biodegradable plant pots that are essentially free!  You just need newspaper, scissors and a jam jar.

Step 1:
Take your free London Evening Standard (or other newspaper, don't use glossy magazine paper) and cut or tear a strip lengthways that is a few inches taller than the height of your jam jar.  Lucky for me I found that cutting the page straight in half gave a good strip height for my jar.

Step 2:
Fold an inch or two along one end then unfold again.  This will make folding in the rim of the pot easier later.

Step 3:
Place the jar with the open end towards the fold you just made.  Make sure there is about two inches of paper free either end of the jar.  More if your jar is bigger.

Step 4:
Roll the jar up inside the paper.  Make sure you make the first roll relatively loose or you will get the jar stuck inside like I did first time.

Step 5:
At the bottom end of the jar fold in the paper and tuck the end bit inside the rest if you can.  This will make the base of the paper pot.  Firm up the edges by pinching.

Step 6:
Remove the jar from inside the paper and set the paper pot upright.  This will be difficult if you rolled it too tightly in step 4.  I ripped the paper trying to get the jar out first time...oops.

Step 7:
See the crease you made in step 2? Well that's your guide to fold the rim of the opening in on itself which will help firm up the pot and prevent it unrolling.

And ta-dah!  You have a paper pot!

Here's a whole box of them I made ready to be filled with compost and seed.  

When they are full of compost and wet it's best to keep them all together like this so they don't fall a part.  You can also tie string round groups of them to hold them together until you want to plant them out.

When the seedlings are grown inside the pots you can plant them directly into the soil without removing the paper as this will just disintegrate once in the ground and the roots of the growing plant can easily push out.  It's a great way to plant out seedlings without disturbing their roots.

For a video version of this how-to and for more ideas for DIY biodegradable pots, take a look at this that I found on YouTube to help me make mine:

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Carrot planting

Having just moved house I am so excited to have a back garden to play with!

As I can't really dig it up, it being someone else's house and I don't have the permission yet, I've decided to grow lots of veg in containers this year.

For carrots you of course need a container deep enough to allow for the roots to get long.

Here are the seeds I bought, from Lidl actually.

I bought the compost from Lidl too and put 3 seeds in each little hole.  I will thin them out to one per hole when they get going.  I also decided to plant just one container for now and plant more later so when it comes to harvest I don't get a complete carrot overload all at once.

As it's only the end of March I've put a bit of cling film over the top to keep it a bit warmer in there and stop any frost that might have a go. 

The pot was £2.20 I think from a cheap shop down the road, although I have since found similar pots in Poundland.  Gardening needn't be expensive and I plan on growing everything as cost effectively as possible.

I placed my pot n the sunniest part of the garden to help get the germination going.

Good luck little carrots!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

WWOOFing at Crooked End Farm

Back in August I spent a week volunteering on an organic farm, something I'd wanted to try for agggeesss. Originally my plan had been to go abroad but I thought hey, why not just go somewhere in the UK.

Crooked End Farm in Gloucestershire is run by Simon who is one of the most enthusiastic people I've ever met. He was more than happy to tell me all about his intricate irrigation systems and even the secrets to growing the world's largest tomato vine!

WWOOF by the way stands for 'World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.'  By WWOOFing you go and live and work on an organic farm for free but are paid in meals, accommodation, experience and fun!  And it's a great way to travel on the cheap if organics is your thing.  I shared my week with three lovely Frenchies and a German :)  I thought I'd maybe lose some weight after a week of farm work but we were fed so well I think all the cake, carbonara and home made Chinese easily counteracted the soil shoveling!

The farm in the Gloucestershire hills near the Forest of Dean

The village of Ruardean

My cosy shed (left) with the geese shed behind.  One night they were a bit restless and kept me up for a good hour.  Could have sworn they were playing football in there.

The plant nursery polytunnel with thousands of baby swedes, turnips and lettuces to prick out and replant into plugs for the market garden. 

The farm shop

Simon's clever vertical radish growing system complete with harvested rainwater irrigation

A few of 80 new and very silly chickens. We had to spray the hosepipe at them to stop them eating the radishes on the walls of the farm shop.

The geese. They weren't quite grown up yet and still had some baby feathers.  I learnt a gaggle of geese makes for great protection against a fox attack.  They were to move in with the chickens once grown.

The market garden beds organised and operated on permaculture principles.  None of the beds are dug over (as this upsets the soil's ecosystem) but built up in layers of decomposed bark chipping (from the paths) and rotted manure.  One of our main tasks was preparing and planting the beds and harvesting salad leaves for sale in the shop.

A bed we prepared and planted with swede plugs grown from seed in the nursery on site.

One of the semi feral farm cats

The polytunnels at the bottom of the market garden.  One evening I went up there to water the crops after a very hot day.  However it was like the sky looked down on me and said "I'll get that" because within minutes this massive black cloud had swept over and it was bucketing down.  I had to run to the polytunnel for cover.

Inside my shelter during the sudden massive rain storm.

Inside the second polytunnel where the day before we'd been tying up the tomato plants.

Whilst stuck in there waiting for the rain to clear I entertained myself by photographing the vegetables.  This is a beautiful red chard plant.

Some lovely mushrooms. Mushrooms are a great sign of health in a permaculture system as their underground network of mushroom 'roots' (called mycelium) carry nutrients between the plants.  That's why permaculturists don't believe in digging the soil as it breaks this underground plant/fungi intranet.

The view after the rain had passed.

My favourite photo from the top of the hill.

A drawing I did shortly after my trip. 
'Mauvaises herbes' meaning 'weeds', something I leant from the French.


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