Our chilli pepper seeds have germinated much sooner than usual thanks to a windowsill propagator heat mat. We mentioned in a recent post we were using one in a trial and would blog about it if we liked it.
In just 8 days the first seedlings appeared with more popping up over the following days. As expected, a couple of seeds haven’t germinated but we have more than enough seedlings due to sowing more than we need.
The windowsill heat mat we are using looks like this:
It’s simple to use, just plug it in and place on the windowsill of your choice. We covered our seed trays with clear lids to help with humidity and kept the heat mat on for most of the day, switching off at night (purely for our own peace of mind!) allowing a radiator to provide a source of heat. The heat mat fits a standard size windowsill without hanging over the edge and can take up to two full sized trays, much more if the trays are smaller. It heats up quickly and doesn’t get too hot to the touch.
If you’re interested in getting this particular heat mat you’ll find it here. Priced at £16.49 with free UK delivery it’s a cheaper alternative to most heated propagators but still an expense. If this doesn’t suit your budget it’s still possible to germinate some seed by using a radiator or warm airing cupboard. Once germinated, seedlings can grow at lower temperatures in a bright room. It will take longer but you should see some decent results.
If you do decide to get one please do let us know how you’re getting on.
Poultry and other captive birds across the UK still remain on bird flu lockdown, this is a necessary step to prevent spread of disease but is proving to be a tricky situation for farmers and the back yard chicken keeper as the problem goes on.
For us, putting our chickens on lockdown wasn’t a difficult affair thanks to our lovely walk-in runs with covered roofs, they still receive plenty of light and fresh air and egg laying hasn’t suffered. If, like ours, your flock is used to free-ranging often, suddenly being cooped up 24/7 with little to do can have a detrimental effect on behaviour leading to increased boredom bullying or feather pecking. Luckily for us our chicken runs are also really spacious, the problem however is boredom and that’s where things can get tricky. Touch wood bullying has been to a minimum, just the usual behaviour you’d expect to see within a flock but there are ways to improve welfare during this difficult time. So, what can you do to prevent boredom for your chickens permanently locked in?
Giving them something to have a good peck at (rather than each other) is a great way to prevent unwanted bullying. Spike’s World kindly sent us a Feathers and Beaky expandable veg holder for our hens to trial. The design is simple to use, just pop the vegetables inside the expandable springy holder and put the lid on (we used winter cabbage), the holder can then be hung from any height by attaching string.
At first our girls were very unsure of this strange flying cabbage-thing and chose to hang back and ignore it, the springy movement of the vegetable holder scared them as they cautiously pecked at it so we tried adding a handful of loose sweetcorn (their favourite treat), stuffing it inside the cabbage leaves.
We knew they couldn’t resist and in next to no time they were pecking at the veg holder with no fear whatsoever…..
Even ‘cutting strange shapes’ to get to the contents…..
You can add vegetables such as sweetcorn cobs, lettuce, cabbage and greens etc. The holder keeps the veg clean and dry and prevents unwanted visitors such as rats. Raise the holder slightly to encourage extra exercise! The girls love pecking at their veg holder for hours on end, it really helps with boredom. Give it a try for your lockdown chickens.
You can purchase a Feathers and Beaky expandable veg holder from Spike’s World here or from the British Hen Welfare Trust online shop here.
Campfire Cooking Grills kindly sent me a Pioneer grill to review, with today being the spring equinox it was the perfect day (and luckily weather) to use it. It was great to sit out in the garden cooking and chatting.
We set the grill up by digging a small pit for the fire which we then filled with kindling and larger pieces of wood from our fruit trees pruned at the beginning of winter. All that was left to do was attach the 18″ (46cm) diameter cooking grill to the sturdy upright stake and drive it into the ground. Super easy and no fussy parts or extra bolts to worry about.
The adjustable height makes it easy to control cooking by simply sliding the grill up or down the pole and locking in place with the turn of a handle. The cooking grill also rotates away from the flames for ease of turning and serving food, or when putting more wood onto the campfire. The raised sides prevent food from falling off the edge of the cooking grill.
The Pioneer campfire grill comes with a mitt, hot pad and tote carry bag to pack the grill away or transport anywhere. It’s compact yet sturdy, perfect for camping, cooking out in the garden, allotments or to take to the beach. Take a look at the website for more information on this grill and others in the range http://www.campfirecookinggrill.co.uk/
The lovely people at Hen and Hammock sent me tomato seeds to try, I started sowing them in the greenhouse today. Four Coloured Tomatoes are a box pack of heritage varieties called Black Russian, Golden Sunrise, Pink Brandywine and Green Zebra, varieties I’ve never grown or tasted before so I’m very excited about growing and eating them.
Each variety packet contains approximately 15 seeds, with a detailed description on the front and full instructions on how to grow them.
Heritage or heirloom tomatoes are old-fashioned varieties with excellent flavour, they come in many shapes, colours and sizes, quite different to the usual red supermarket tomato.
I’m looking forward to watching the seeds grow and then eventually fruit, the greenhouse will be full of interesting colours late summer.
Our chickens took part in a mini photo shoot recently for the British Hen Welfare Trust, they had a jolly time kicking Dengie Fresh Bed everywhere! The brief wasn’t for badly behaved hens creating a mess, but this is what the BHWT got anyway. We’re expecting their P45 in the post any day now……
Dengie Fresh Bed for chickens is a chopped straw bedding with pine oil added for its natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Developed in association with the British Hen Welfare Trust, the bedding is very soft, absorbent and dust-free, which is everything you want from a bedding. Oh, and it smells divine!
I found this chicken bedding particularly good for our older hens who prefer to sleep in the nest boxes, with the promise of colder weather conditions to come I’m confident they’ll be toasty warm during the night.
I received two little Boysenberry plants in the post yesterday, kindly sent to me to trial from Mow It Sow It Grow It. Boysenberry is a cross between a raspberry, blackberry, dewberry and a loganberry. I’m looking forward to tasting the fruit and should expect a good crop in their first year. I’m really curious what the berries will taste like…will it be raspberry, or blackberry…or a mix of both…or…..exciting!
The plants arrived in great condition, supplied in 10cm pots, so there’s no immediate rush to plant if time is precious or your garden is currently covered in snow like mine (yes, I spoke too soon!). Full planting instructions and information regarding the plants were also supplied, which is always handy.
I’ve had the pleasure of being sent other plants from this supplier in the past, yet again I’m impressed with the careful packaging (which is biodegradable) and thoughtful after sales information. I’m reliably informed of some new and exciting plants available soon from Mow It Sow It Grow It, such as a good-flavoured strawberry the size of a chicken egg and another that tastes of bubble-gum!?! Look out for them and others if you’re looking for something adventurous to grow!
My little plants are currently sitting in the conservatory until I’m ready to plant them out in the garden. I’m looking forward to picking and tasting the berries, and jam making too.
The T bag is a natural hessian bag with nettles inside, to use it simply immerse in a water butt and leave it there (using the string and stick to make it easy to retrieve), or tie the string to the handle of a watering can to make a nitrogen-rich nettle feed for the garden or allotment to invigorate your plants or veg. Keep in place for 6 weeks in a water butt and change the T bag after about 4 weeks continuous use in a watering can. It works just like making a cup of tea, all the lovely goodness seeps out of the T bag and stays in the water.
Another great thing is the T bag is biodegradable (including the packaging, except the staples), so after you’re done just throw it on your compost heap. It seems really simple to use and an alternative to making your own nettle tea, which of course is simple to do too. I’ll certainly use my T bag on my allotment next year to see how it performs.
Hen and Hammock offer a choice of two fillings; a nitrogen T bag (nettle) great for flowering plants, shrubs and salad crops and a potash T bag (sheep manure) ideal for tomatoes, beans and root crops. They’d make perfect gifts for eco-friendly gardeners!
A parcel of Framberry plants arrived on my doorstep from Mow It, Sow It, Grow It during the week. Once again, I was impressed with the careful and thoughtful packaging (fully recyclable) to ensure the plants arrived as fresh as a daisy.
What is a Framberry? It’s a new fruit for 2013, resembling a strawberry but tastes like a raspberry! I’m a sucker for anything unusual and I couldn’t resist giving these a go. Grow them as you would strawberries, they’re hardy enough to be grown outside in our UK climate too. My little plants are healthy and strong, they have flowers already so all I have to do is keep my fingers crossed for fruit this year!
Our new garden offers us the opportunity to grow our own fresh produce and to keep chickens, as our previous garden did. However, a large section of garden closest to the house is very much designed for entertaining. Providing summer actually arrives this year we realise this section of our garden will be very popular with family and friends. It’s one of the reasons we chose to live here and we consider ourselves very fortunate to have the facilities and space that we do and to comfortably use the garden in different ways. Everyone’s happy. But I’ll be even happier when I have my new veg garden to potter about in.
I was contacted recently by Jo Alexander and asked to review a pair of rust linear garden lanterns. Not the usual thing I would consider reviewing but seeing as we’re looking forward to using our new garden for entertaining on those warm summer nights (hopefully), dining outside and enjoying a glass of wine by candlelight is very appealing. The lanterns arrived carefully packaged with no self assembly required. For the price of £14.99 for a pair they are well made and pleasing on the eye, finished in a stylish rust-coloured effect with clear glass tea-light holders which slot easily into the ornate wire holder. They’re designed to be pushed into garden borders or pots, perfect for intimate dining by candlelight. Measuring 90cm high they could also be used to light a pathway and would make a lovely inexpensive gift.
I found them to be lightweight yet sturdy, elegantly blending into the garden setting. I’m more than happy to have a pair of these lovely lanterns in my garden. Thank you Patricia for contacting me to review this product.
Jo Alexander is a privately owned garden furniture and accessories company based in nearby Cambridge, you can view more stylish garden products including wildlife boxes ( I particularly love the bee house!) by visiting http://www.joalexander.co.uk
Our local garden centres have sold out of water-butts due to the recent hose pipe ban, there’s now a waiting list on deliveries. Luckily, I was asked to review a water-butt recently. I did wonder what on earth I could write about a water-butt, they’re pretty self-explanatory and not exactly the most attractive of garden items, but, they are probably one of the most useful tools in your garden. Unless you shop around (or make one yourself) they can be rather pricey too, I’ve noticed.
The 200 litre water-butt arrived at my doorstep very quickly, it was well packaged but not over the top, avoiding unnecessary waste. It came supplied with a stand which was a pleasant surprise, I know from experience water-butt stands can be just as expensive as the water-butt itself (of course there are other alternatives to use such as breeze blocks or bricks). All the parts where there, nothing missing.
One niggle though, the tap needed to be fitted and I found this very tricky to do on my own – my arms were just not long enough to reach. I needed the help of Rich, my other half to hold the water-butt still on its side while I crawled inside to screw the tap tight. Rich did try, being 6 ft tall (much taller than me with longer arms) he also found it impossible. So, unless you have extraordinarily long arms, you will need someone to help you fit the tap.
Once the tap was fitted I noticed it displays ‘On’ and ‘Off’, a simple feature I agree but one that the water-butt at my allotment doesn’t have. I’ve accidentally lost water by leaving the tap open (once the water-butt was emptied), simply because I was wasn’t aware if the tap was closed or not. Now I do it by memory but it would be nice to have the status of the tap visible. All I need to do now is connect it up to the greenhouse permanently, at the moment it’s stood there, catching all the April showers.
For the price of £35.99 it’s good value for money, considering the amount of water it will hold, the stand, lockable lid (great safety feature if you have young children) and the easy turning tap. Thank you Idealo UK for contacting me and supplying the water-butt. If you would like to view other products from Idealo UK, visit their website: http://www.idealo.co.uk/cat/11452F1185158/watering-irrigation.html