I received my parcel of gardening equipment and tomato seeds from Heinz Tomato Ketchup today after being asked if I’d like to take part in their very first gardening scheme. I’m growing my own tomatoes using the seeds provided (a lovely plum variety that I’ve never grown before called San Marzano) and recording how I’m getting on here on my blog. After I’d finished drooling over the rustic-looking veg box I turned my attention to sowing the tomato seeds.
I love growing my own food and I love a challenge too, so I’m delighted to take part in the gardening scheme. As an added incentive I could be rewarded with a Heinz hamper too. Heinz Tomato Ketchup have also launched an interactive app on their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/HeinzKetchupUK, offering free tomato seeds and tomato trivia to families across the UK, use the app https://apps.facebook.com/heinz-growyourown to see how your tomatoes compare with others taking part.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 20, 2013
I’ve seen at least three frog-couples since the weekend, sometimes sat at the edge of the pond and other times swimming around. Each morning (and some evenings by torchlight) I check the pond for spawn but so far nothing. Last year, before we moved house, frogs spawned in the wildlife pond we made, we enjoyed watching the spawn develop into tadpoles and eventually froglets.
The pond here at our new property is deep with no shallow areas (although frogs can get in and out without any problems) and is home to large Koi, if the frog couples I have seen are spawning then it’s very likely the Koi are eating it. There are no other ponds nearby, so I’d like to help our froggy-friends by introducing a small shallow pond within the rockery surrounding the large pond. Under cover of shrubbery and surrounded by rocks and crevices, I’m hoping females will eventually choose to use it.
If you’ve found spawn in your pond, pop along to Big Spawn Count 2013 and use the online form to record your findings.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 18, 2013
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 17, 2013
Having an allotment plot has been a blessing. Not only are allotments incredibly hard to get in the first place, they’re a great way to meet other local gardeners and gather invaluable tips and advice. Visiting our allotment is like visiting an old friend; it’s familiar, we feel at home there, and most importantly our plot has allowed us to get on with the new growing year uninterrupted since moving house recently. I feel like a bit of a whinge-bag with what I’m about to write, but, to me, not having a vegetable garden to potter around feels strange. Especially after creating and working in such a large and productive vegetable garden beforehand.
Given time we will have a vegetable garden once more, it takes time to achieve I know (as our previous vegetable garden did), and I really shouldn’t rush but I’m a terribly impatient
gardener person you see. So what’s a girl to do? Well, over the weekend I went back to how it all began for me, how I discovered a passion for growing my own food. I created a container vegetable garden.
I’m currently growing:
- Potatoes (left-over seed potatoes from the allotment)
- Mixed salad leaves (really easy)
- Salad onions
- Beets (for leaves and roots)
- Carrots (use thinnings in salads)
- Radish (quick-growing and easy to grow)
- Calendula (a beautiful colour variety from The Real Seed Collection, attracts bees and flowers are edible)
- Cosmos (a beautiful colour variety from Sarah Raven seeds, bees and butterflies will love them)
- Peas (for pea shoots and peas of course!)
- Broad Beans (tops are yummy too, but not covered with black fly!)
- Onion sets (left-over from the allotment)
- Mixture of herbs (from seed and cuttings)
- Strawberry runners saved from our previous vegetable garden (soon to go in hanging baskets)
- Pineberries (I hope they fruit this year)
- Alpine strawberries grown from seed
- Sunflowers (every garden should have them)
- Lots of tomatoes and some chillies (they’re enjoying the warmth of the conservatory for now)
My ’grow your own’ journey began by growing everything I could in containers. The beauty of container gardening is you can provide the perfect growing conditions for a wide-range of crops (as you can with a raised bed garden), the downside is it all needs extra watering, but if we have a summer like last year then it won’t be a problem (I hope I haven’t just jinxed our summer, sorry everyone!). Anyway, I don’t mind watering, I find it therapeutic in an odd sort of way. You can use any pots or tubs you like (even old car tyres but wash them first), root veg such as carrots will require a good depth, as will potatoes. I raided the shed and used things that were abandoned by the previous home owner.
Dwarf French beans are perfect for growing in containers
I plan to grow lots more in pots as the season progresses, including courgettes and pumpkin plants straight into the old compost heap. I have the allotment so I’m not having to go too over the top with containers (sticking to growing things we’re likely to eat plenty of or enjoy), but now I can stroll down the garden and fuss over my container veg garden too. Rich is happy, I’ve stopped my constant whingeing to get the new raised bed veg patch underway. Well, for now anyway!
My veg container garden thus far:
Do you grow veg/fruit in containers?
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 15, 2013
RHS Chelsea Flower Show: A Centenary Celebration
I’m excited to reveal the following book release, published April 2013 by Frances Lincoln Publishers Ltd, which I feel will be of great interest to my readers:
Chelsea Flower Show celebrates its hundredth birthday in May 2013; an annual, world-famous and well-loved horticultural and social event. To mark this special occasion, RHS Chelsea Flower Show: A Centenary Celebration is the essential centenary souvenir and an enduring look at what makes Chelsea special.
Royal Horticultural Society insider Brent Elliott explains how the show has grown and changed, how it has formed part of the social calendar and how the nation’s taste in garden design and planting has been reflected and shaped by Chelsea over the years. Short pieces from some of our greatest nurserymen, nurserywomen and garden designers describe what Chelsea means to them, along with pieces from those who present the show to the public and those behind the scenes who pull it all together.
A wealth of illustration draws from the extensive RHS archive and includes photographs in colour and black and white, plans and posters, many published here for the first time. Whether you come for the nurseries or the show gardens, to buy gardening gloves or foxgloves, or whether you simply prefer to avoid the crowds and read all about it, this magnificent book conjures up the full Chelsea experience.
About the author:
Brent Elliott can reasonably claim to be the world expert on the history of RHS Chelsea Flower Show. He is historian to the RHS and author of numerous books, including the official history of the RHS and Flora: An Illustrated History of the Garden Flower.
If you’d like a chance of winning a copy of RHS Chelsea Flower Show: A Centenary Celebration just leave a comment on this post by midnight on Friday 26th April to say you’d like to be included. I’ll then put all the names in a hat and draw a lucky winner. The competition giveaway is open to UK addresses only I’m afraid. Good Luck!
Thanks to Jessica at The Aurum Publishing Group.
COMPETITION GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! The winner will be notified by email and the book will be sent to the address provided. Many thanks to all who entered.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 13, 2013
Yesterday I dragged our half-term-holiday-bored-teenagers to the allotment to help plant onion sets while I got on with some much-needed weeding. I highly doubt the onion rows are straight (they looked a bit dodgy to me), but I’ll settle for wonky rows.
I buy onion sets locally which is very convenient but the varieties available are limited, I’m happy enough with growing Sturon and Red Baron again this year, they always do well for me. Last year I had a go at growing Hercules onion instead of Sturon, some bulbs were a lovely size at harvest time but the rest were pretty average. It’s hard to judge properly because of a poor summer so I’ll give them another go next time they’re available.
Do you have a favourite variety of onion (seed or set)?
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 11, 2013
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 10, 2013
Planting seed potatoes
We planted potatoes at the allotment yesterday, the weather was pleasant all weekend with Sunday being warm enough to leave our coats at home. Yay! Even though I dislike planting potatoes (I find it so dull), it felt good to be doing something other than talking about what we couldn’t get on with and moaning about the weather.
Dig, dig, dig
When we first got our allotment two sections of the plot were incredibly stubborn to dig. Correction, near on impossible. We broke a spade and fork, barely scratching the surface. Eventually we accepted defeat and covered the compacted areas with manure and pretty much ignored it for the rest of that year, using other areas of the plot instead.
Manure certainly helped to feed and lock moisture into the soil. Last year we tackled the areas again by digging in lots of compost to improve the structure, then we made two large beds and planted potatoes in order to break the soil apart further down. We had a good crop despite a poor summer and the soil improved considerably. Success!
Planting our potatoes yesterday was so much easier than it was last spring (still dull though), making all the effort we put in worthwhile. We’re growing a main crop variety called Sante this year (we usually grow Desiree), so we shall see how it performs and tastes.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 8, 2013
Rescue hens make great pets and are very friendly
Would you like to re-home some rescue hens? Little Hen Rescue regularly need pet home for rescue hens to live out the rest of their lives. They currently have hens looking for homes that were recently rescued from enrichment cages, most are well feathered and still capable of laying but this can never be guaranteed.
From my own experiences of keeping rescue hens what I can guarantee is this; any new hen rehomer will quickly adore their new feathery friends and form a close bond, you’ll suddenly wonder where missing hours in your day went until you realise they were spent watching these lovely natured hens finding their feet, visibly enjoying being a real chicken for once in their lives. I cannot stress enough how rewarding it is to witness the changes as they blossom into beautiful garden hens with just a little TLC. It’s certainly one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Collection points from Norfolk, Cambridge and Essex with the main bulk of hens being kept at Little Hen Rescue’s base in Norfolk. If you can offer a home to some deserving hens then please get in touch with Little Hen Rescue by applying via LHR website: http://www.littlehenrescue.co.uk/Pages/Adoptinghens.aspx
Ex Battery Hens Forum (you can find me there), a friendly community to chat with other people who keep rescue hens http://www.exbatteryhens.com
Hen Rehoming Hub: Find a hen rescue near you! http://www.exbatteryhens.org.uk/
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 4, 2013
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on April 2, 2013