Grow Your Own Guides

How to Plant Leeks

Yesterday I took the plunge and planted out the leek seedlings, they are a first for me so I have no idea how they will do. Leeks are planted out in a slightly different way to other vegetables, I did a bit of swotting up before planting  them into their final position. This is how I did it:

When your leek seedlings are around 6 inches tall or the width of a pencil they are ready for planting.

Push a dibber completely into the soil to create deep planting holes, around 6 inches deep should do it.

Drop a leek seedling into each hole.

Using a watering can,  fill the holes to the top with water. A little soil will cover the roots which will help to settle the leeks in, don’t be tempted to back fill the holes with soil – the leeks need the space for their stems to swell. Don’t worry, soil will naturally fill in over time.

With a bit of luck I might have a good crop of leeks to harvest from late autumn to early spring.


Little Hen Rescue Needs Your Help

Little Hen Rescue are in desperate need of donations. On Saturday one of the 4×4 vehicles and it’s trailer transporting newly rescued ex battery hens was involved in a freak accident resulting in part of the A14 being closed. Many hens sadly died at the scene but there are injured hens that are currently being cared for.

Donations to help with feed costs is what LHR need most, £5 would buy a sack of feed. Please, even if it’s £1 go to their website and donate all you can. LHR wouldn’t normally ask but this is an emergency.

Thank you.


Ex Battery Hens One Year of Freedom

We have another ‘henniversary’ going on here, Becki and Hope, one year out of the cages today. I was a rescue co-ordinator this time last year for Little Hen Rescue and I helped to re-home just under 100 ex battery hens from my garden smallholding. I wasn’t planning on keeping any of the hens for myself, but for different reasons Becki and Hope bought a ticket to stay.

It was a rocky road for them both and reaching this milestone makes it all the more special. Happy freedom day girls!

Kitchen Garden

Wigwam and Frame Cane Grips

I made a fab discovery at my local garden centre last weekend – dual purpose cane grips for supporting climbing beans and peas. I already had the circular type cane grip, with slots for canes to create a wigwam, but these particular cane grips have sections that clip together to do just that, or you can separate the sections to create other types of support such as a ridge frame for supporting a long row of runner beans.

No more garden twine round canes for me, just look at what I made earlier! I made this small ridge support frame for my French beans in next to no time. It was very easy to put together and the canes are held firmly in place. Yeah I know, I’m very easily pleased!


A Judge for the Day – Show Us You’re Green

Recently I was asked to help judge the ‘Show us you’re green’ competition for Best Buy, there were some fantastic entries showing how people can be green and eco-friendly.

Congratulations to the winner Sam Standerwick who entered this photo. It shows their approach to being green, composting, using recycled rain water and materials to create a sustainable lifestyle to grow vegetables. Sam wins a Bosch Eco-Friendly dishwasher, well done!

Fruit Garden · Pests & Diseases

Hit and Miss Gooseberries


I have two Gooseberry bushes, Invicta and Careless. Both have flowered profusely this spring and are now laden with small forming fruits which I will lightly thin towards the end of the month to allow for larger fruits mid summer.

Yesterday I noticed some of the fruits on the Careless bush are showing signs of  mildew, it did well last season but I know this variety can be susceptible to mildew. Pah! My veg bible advises cutting out congested branches to improve air circulation and removing any infected branches straight away. Oh, and to plant resistant cultivars. Whoops.

However, Invicta (mildew resistant) is going great guns so far so I should be OK for Gooseberries this year.

Harvest · Kitchen Garden

Rhubarb Harvest

I bought a year old crown of ‘Timperley early rhubarb last year. Once planted I pretty much ignored it, allowing it to establish. Although it is very tempting to harvest new rhubarb plants you shouldn’t, otherwise it could weaken the plant. This season my rhubarb is looking very healthy and has tripled in size. I have just taken my first light harvest, only a few stems – enough to make a small crumble.

Faithful followers of my blog will know that I am not a cook, in fact I’m pretty rubbish. Still, I ventured into the kitchen, modest rhubarb harvest tucked under my arm and made a damn good crumble with it. Now, I don’t know if it was the particularly recipe that I followed, or if it was the fresh rhubarb that made it taste so good, either way it was very tasty indeed. I won’t harvest the rhubarb again until the following year, giving the plant time to recover and produce more healthy stems.

What is your favourite rhubarb dish?

Kitchen Garden

A Sunny Day of Sowing

It’s amazing how a sunny day sowing seeds can lift your spirit. I have been feeling very low since losing Lizzie on Saturday so I dragged myself outside armed with seed packets yesterday and got sowing.

I planted up a bed with a few rows of Nantes and Thompson & Morgan Purple Haze carrots, (first time of growing the purple type so I’m looking forward to pulling these) Gladiator parsnips, swede and Solist beets. I have left a large area for the Musselburgh leek seedlings, they are growing well and nearly the width of a pencil so they can go into their final position towards end of the month.

Swede are a first for me too, I’m trying to plan the winter and early spring season a little better this year, rather than being left with empty beds once November sets in. I also sowed some sweetcorn (rather late for me) and some purple sprouting broccoli which I will hopefully be picking next March – if I toughen up with the butterflies!


Goodbye Lizzie

I write this post with a heavy heart and great sadness. Lizzie had another vet visit yesterday morning which went well, the vet was very pleased with how her wounds were healing. On the way home she tried to lay an egg which was proving very difficult for her. I had a look at her vent and was shocked to see that the opening was almost sealed shut from scar tissue. This was not good at all so we turned the car around and rushed her back to the vet.

Her injuries deeper inside were much worse than I and her lovely vet initially realised, the healing process producing scar tissue was sealing her insides shut. Nothing could be done for her, eventually she would not be able to defecate. I had to say goodbye to her which broke my heart.

The bond we had developed this week was amazing and it hurts even more because of that. I was making all sorts of plans for her, she was going to have her own accommodation because she was too traumatised to go back with her flock, and I was thinking of giving her some duck eggs to raise as she had gone broody. Now she is gone.

Goodbye my beautiful Lizzie, I did my best but you were too damaged to repair. I will miss you xx

20/04/08 (rescue day) – 08/05/10

Kitchen Garden

Onion Problem

The leaves on a couple of the Setton onion sets were not looking as good or as well-developed as the others in the same bed. On closer inspection it was clear the young bulbs were probably dying so I pulled them to take a closer look. The bulbs were soft and spongy to the touch and when I peeled the outer skin away the bulb was transparent.

A very small worm (just about visible in the above photo, not a maggot) crawled out from one of the bulbs. The rest of the onions growing look OK, the leaves are much more developed and deep green. I decided to check the young bulbs by removing a little of the soil to expose the necks, they also feel spongy. Should I pull these out too? Can anyone shed any light on what this could be? I grew Setton and Red Baron last year (in a different bed) and did really well with them. I bought the sets this year from the same supplier.

I consulted my veg bible and looked at onion diseases and problems. I could see no evidence of white rot on the base of the young bulbs that I pulled, and I don’t think it could be onion fly because I couldn’t find any maggots, but I guess it could be. Neck rot I believe happens in storage rather than the soil? Correct me if I’m wrong. I cannot see any fungal growths either. Could it be onion eelworm? So far I have pulled 3 bulbs with the same problem, (although no more sightings of tiny worms) it seems the Setton are most affected than the Red Baron although I’m really not sure if the spongy feel to the growing bulbs of both varieties is something to be concerned about.


Kitchen Garden

The Peas Are Planted


The mangetout seedlings were reaching  for the stars in the mini greenhouse so I began to leave the protective cover off them during the day to harden them off.  I planted a row yesterday and they have curled their tendrils round the chicken wire to support themselves already, clever little things.

I grew Reuzensuiker mangetout last season and did very well with this variety, so fingers crossed for a bumper crop soon. I am popping fleece over the young plants at night just in case a late frost threatens although they should be OK, I have a second batch of seedlings tucked away in the greenhouse just in case. Anything that doesn’t get used here goes to my son’s school for their vegetable patch. I gave them quite a few seedlings last year which were planted by the children during the vegetable gardening afternoon club.

Which pea variety is your absolute favourite?

Chicken Behaviour · Chickens

The Dark Side of Chicken Keeping

I enjoy keeping chickens (most of the time), and I’m a sucker for ex battery hens. They are affectionate and comical creatures, the eggs are just a bonus. However, keeping chickens can sometimes be a sad affair too, prompting you to question yourself – why on earth put yourself through it?

Ex battery hens can come with their health problems it’s true, but is it any wonder? Even before they’re hatched their health is at risk due to bad breeding, their miserable existence in caged farms certainly weakens them even further. Many ex battery hens lead long, trouble-free and happy lives after rescue, I guess it’s the luck of the draw or conditions of the particular farm from which they came. If I have an ex battery girl for just a short time, I know that she experienced so much more than those that never got the chance. I do take comfort in that. In any case, regardless of type or breed of chicken you keep, problems can occur from time to time.

On Sunday I found top hen of the flock ‘Lizzie’ hunched and scared, covered in blood round her rear end. After the initial shock of finding her in that state my first fear was that she had prolapsed. After checking her over it became clear that she had been subjected to a rather nasty vent pecking session. I cleaned her up and gave her some sugared water to help combat shock, then I promptly got her to an emergency vet. Goodness knows why chickens can do this sort of thing to each other, it’s just beyond me, but it can happen to any chicken regardless of breed or history. It’s what I call ‘the dark side of chicken keeping’.

At the moment I’m cleaning Lizzie’s wounds twice a day with a veterinary antiseptic and giving her pain relief liquid and antibiotics. She’s doing OK but I’m not 100% happy with her progress so I have made another vet appointment, for peace of mind if anything. I will update about her again once I know more.


Vent Pecking

I had to rush Lizzie hen to the emergency vet today after finding her in a blood bath. The others had pecked her vent, it looks as if they have gone at her with a razor blade.

I did everything I could think of for her before we set off (bathed her wounds with diluted veterinary iodine solution and gave her some sugared water orally to reduce shock) the vet was happy with her treatment and bathed her wounds a little more, baytril prescribed to take home for her. She is very poorly but still here, please keep your fingers crossed. I will update on her soon.