Posts Tagged ‘Kitchen Garden’


how-to-grow-vegetables

So you’re thinking of creating a new vegetable patch in your garden? Well, that’s good timing, as this week I’ve started working on my vegetable garden.

To be honest I don’t know if I could survive without my vegetable garden. It’s not so much the eating, although that is probably the best part, ūüôā it’s actually more the enjoyment one gets from planting a tiny little seed, ¬†and them watching it grow from such fragile beginnings into something gorgeous and edible.

Back in 2007 when we found this plot it was the garden that convinced us to buy. We knew we wanted to grow our own food and having all this space brought that dream a bit closer.

We knew we wanted to grow our own food and with all this space the dream could become reality.  Now, seven years on we have a fabulous productive veg garden that provides for us for approximately 9 months of the year.

This weekend was the first dry opportunity we’ve had to get onto the garden, so Saturday morning I pulled on the wellies and¬†headed for the hills!

As I was leaning on my fork and sipping what must have been my third cup of tea, I thought there must be loads of people out there thinking of starting their own veg garden. So I thought I’d pass on a few tips and suggestions which have¬†helped us along the way.

How to get started.

Before we started on our veg garden we visited a few gardens to get some inspiration, in particular, Heligan in Cornwall which for me are the best gardens in this country and has the most amazing vegetable garden.

Then as with all my projects I put together a rough layout on paper. Simple sketches, nothing fancy.

You’ll need to rotate your veggies.

All it means is try not to grow the same vegetable groups in the same spot each year. At Blackbirds we’ve created a tapestry of 4 squares. They’re not exactly uniform in size but it still means we can set up a rotation system. Rotating your vegetables simply means not growing in the same place 2 years running. With

Rotating your vegetables essentially means not growing the same in the same place 2 years running. With a four-stage system you avoid planting in the same place for 3 years.

 

why-grow-your-own-vegetable

Selection of vegetables grown in our first year.

 

If you’re stuck for space …¬†

If you have a small plot you can always head down to your local builders merchants and buy a few lengths of 8 x 1 concrete shuttering board. Cut them to size (according how space you have) and nail them together to make what is essentially a bottomless box.

Fill the box with a mix of top soil and compost and you have the perfect veg patch!
Just make sure you position it on a spot where it drains well. Put it on concrete and your veggies will drown! ūüė¶

My top ten tips for¬†a great veg patch …

Tip number 1 – Keep the weeds down.
If there is one piece of advice i would share with anyone it is try to keep your veg garden as weed free as possible. Give your veggies plenty of space so you can weed quite easily.

Spring and Summer I try to weed most days as it just makes the job of growing so much easier. Doesn’t have to be much, just run a hoe up the rows and you’ll enjoy your garden so much more. Remember, little and often is the secret.

Tip number 2 Р Try and be organic.
One of my most favourite places in the entire world is Heligan in Cornwall. Speaking to the gardeners they explain how its not possible to be 100% organic as sometimes there is no alternative to chemicals. But I say do as much as you possibly can to be organic. Nature will always work its magic on the garden.

Tip number 3– Treat your soil as your best friend.
Work in lots and I mean LOTS of organic matter into the soil. It’s the one thing that will turn your soil into a good growing medium. If you’re on clay soil compost helps with breaking down the clay and if like me you’re on light chalky soil it will help to bulk it up …

Tip number 4 – Successional sowing.
Don’t plant everything at the same time or your vegetables will all come at once.

Tip number 5 – Don’t plant too close.
Allow plenty of space between the rows and you’ll find it much easier to keep tidy and you’ll get bigger and jucier vegetables.

Tip number 6 – Grow more of what you like and less of what you don’t like.
Sounds obvious but when you’re buying your seeds at the beginning of the year take your time and select what you know you’re going to eat. It’s all too easy to grab everything on rack in a mad fit of enthusiasm. Having said that every year I think I’ll grow something unusual and each year it gets wasted. But hey … What the heck! … grow what makes you happy. ūüôā

Tip number 7 –¬†Keep your plot tidy.
Nothing worse than vegetables that are surrounded by a sea of weeds and rubbish … And it encourages pests and diseases.

Tip number 8 – You’re going to need water … and plenty of it!¬†
If possible, position your veg patch near to a water supply. You’re going to need a lot of water in the summer months and its blooming heavy to carry.

 

Would You Like To Grow Your Own Vegetables

Keep your veggies well watered and they’ll repay you with lots of lovely produce.

 

Tip number 9 –¬†Don’t be a hurry to plant your seeds.
Allow the soil to warm up. By waiting for the temperature to rise more seeds will germinate and you’ll get more veg for your money.

Tip number 10 – Companion plant.
My final tip is to companion plant. Companion planting is where you plant varieties of veg that support each others growing conditions. Best example is planting carrot seeds next to your onion sets. Carrot fly hate the smell of onions and so keep away. Basil planted alongside tomatoes keep the worst of the whitefly off your tomato plants. Scour the internet and you’ll find loads of examples of companion planting.

 

fresh-carrots

If you want clean carrots companion plant with your onions.

 

Hopefully, this has given you a few pointers as we move towards the time of year when you’re thinking of growing a few veggies for the dinner table.

So if you’re considering having a go at growing a few veggies then above all:

  1. Enjoy it!
  2. Occasionally stop digging and admire all your hard work.
  3. Keep your veggies well watered and they’ll respond twenty fold.
  4. Remember to feel that sense of pride when you know, as you place that bowl of carrots onto the dinner table and can proudly say … I grew those!

Just before I go I wanted to say thank you so very much to everyone that follows my ramblings and for all the wonderful feedback we recieve. It really does mean a lot to us and encourages us to continue. Only wish we had more time to share more.

Best wishes,

signature

 

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 The garden is providing plenty and the nursery continues to generate a lot of interest, but it was a particularly special month for us for two reasons.

Tania¬†had a very important birthday, one of those milestone events that happen about every 50 years ūüėČ and we also had our 29th wedding anniversary which we celebrated with the most wonderful garden party with ¬†friends and family.

We’ve actually been together for over 30 years which is almost a lifetime I guess, but it’s been a very special time and we’re both great advocates of the institute of marriage.

The garden and nursery were a hit and we had some really nice comments so thank you to everyone that came and made it such a special day. We are both hugely grateful.

That’s the thing about growing plants and this lifestyle we’ve adopted in particular. It helps remove the stress of every day existence, makes you smile more and at the same time gives you an enormous feeling of self worth. Sounds a bit ‘trippy’ I know but it’s difficult to explain other than life is much easier now and we’ve learnt to appreciate a simpler less stressful existence.

As well as taking care of the celebrations we’ve also been hard at work in and around the garden. The nursery continues to grow and we have high hopes for our little venture in the future.


The new outbuilding is really starting to come together with the roof now on and pleased to say is now water tight!  Such a relief as one of the roof windows was leaking slightly which actually was down to a tiny hole in the roofing felt can you believe!

Originally we were building the structure for a work shop and potting shed, but we’ve decided to offer weekend courses later in the year and to do that we need to have a few more ‘amenities’. We’ve started cladding the outside and first fix electrics are in. Still much to do but John is taking a few days off work at the end of the month to finish so should be complete by mid ¬†August. We’ll post an update and some pics on the blog and¬†Tania’s Pinterest channel.

We’ll also be posting details of the courses later in the year.


It wasn’t all good news in June I’m afraid. ¬†We lost all our chickens to the fox one night. ūüė¶

Anyone that has kept chickens will understand what it means to have these wonderful characters wandering around place. They give so much pleasure as well as providing us with the most wonderfully fresh eggs for breakfast, but I guess the temptation was too great for Mr Fox and the little bugger tunnelled under the door and took every last one!

I can only think he must have made several visits in the one night unless he had an accomplice? Either way no sign of any chickens the next day other than a few feathers in their run. Cheeky so and so took the eggs as well can you believe.

We always used to shut the chickens away in their shelter at night, but recently we’ve been leaving them out in their pen as the nights have been so warm. We have a large dog so we really didn’t think the fox would have the nerve, but how wrong we were.

Advice for anyone thinking of keeping chickens. Build a fox proof run, or install an electric fence around the premier, or make time to shut them away at night. It was a very sad day and I have to say it’s not been the same around here since they were taken.

On a slightly happier note it’s July and the first of the summer raspberries are fruiting. Two things I look forward to most at this time of the year. Walking through the garden at the end of a busy day and seeing the gorgeous red colour of the first raspberries contrasting with the rich green leaves and plucking the fruit from the bush leaving that little cream cone in the centre. The taste is sublime and there really is nothing quite like it.

The second event we look forward to is the emergence of the first of the sweet peas. You live without that distinctive perfume for almost a whole year and now you get to experience it all over again. Truly intoxicating!

If you’ve never grown your own sweet peas then do have a go as it really is¬†one of life’s pleasures.

No need for expensive air fresheners, simply cut a bunch of fresh sweet peas and fill a vase full of cold fresh water. ¬†Plunge the sweet peas in as deep as possible and enjoy as they don’t last very long once cut. ¬†Put a vase in the kitchen and the next morning when you sit down to breakfast you’ll have the most gorgeous scent filling the room to accompany your coffee and croissants. I don’t think it can get much better than that can it ?

We’ll be back soon but that’s it for June.

If there any aspects of gardening that you’d like us to cover in the future please do let us know, in the first instance at¬†ruralgardeners@gmail.com.

Thanks all!

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why-grow-your-own-vegetable

Absolutely! It’s good for the soul, great for the mind and I can’t think of a better way of improving the waistline than digging over a vegetable plot. (Other than eating less of course)

But for me the most amazing part of growing your own fruit and veg has to be the harvest.

Just imagine for a moment, it’s a warm summers evening in July and you’ve a few slices of tasty locally cured ham accompanied by a few new potatoes on the side, English of course. A feast fit for a king that needs a handful of lush freshly picked lettuce leaves and maybe a sprig of fresh mint to add a little zing. Sounds too good be true … But it’s closer than you think!

I found out an amazing fact the other day. In the latter stages of the second world war home grown vegetables accounted for over 40% of all the vegetables consumed in the UK.

Why mention it?

Well, other than it being an extraordinary example of people power in the face of extreme adversity I really believe there will come a time in the not too distant future when the great British public will once again grow the majority of their own vegetables. It stands to reason. More young people than ever are turning to gardening and more specifically are growing there own vegetables.

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone utilised a small corner of their garden to grow a few vegetables of their own and we didn’t rely so heavily on foreign imports. Pipe dream maybe,¬† but I really think we are on the tipping point of a sea change in this country and we are all definitely in favour!

… but how do I get started growing my own vegetables?

Best advice is jump right in and have a go. You don’t need masses of space. Anyone can grow a few veg in plant pots, boxes or pretty much anything that will hold enough soil.

I’ve seen someone growing early Nantes carrots in an old pair of wellingtons! You don’t need any special equipment to get started, just the desire to make it happen. I’m lucky as we have a fairly large garden but not so long ago I was growing my veg in raised beds. They’re really easy to make with just a few basic diy skills and a few planks of 6in by 1in treated timber. Locate it close to the house if you can as it’s not so far to walk when it comes time to harvest and it’s easier to manage. You can always add more as your confidence grows.

Home Grown Radishes

What should I grow?

That’s an easy one … grow what you like to eat. Sounds obvious but when I first start growing veg I grew far too much and ended up wasting half of it.

My advice is start with a few simple root vegetables like radish, carrot and maybe a couple rows of beetroot. Also make room for a couple of rows of lettuce. The varieties really depend on your personal taste, so if you’re not sure try looking at a few cook books, or look up a few of the popular chefs on the web.

I particularly like what Raymond Blanc is doing at Le Manoir in the Cotswolds with his restored kitchen garden.

These are a few of my favourites:

Tom Thumb – Perfectly formed little heads of gorgeousness

Lollorosso – Cut and come again lettuce that will keep producing as long as you keep cutting.

Rocket – Peppery leaves that will give any salad a real kick.

Raddichio – Fresh, Crisp and slightly bitter leave that will add a wonderful deep mauve colour to your salad. Maybe not one for the beginner though as it has a tendency to run to seed.

Growing Your Own Vegetables in the Polytunnel

If you’ve never considered growing your own vegetables I urge you to give it a try. You don’t need a huge garden and can start with a few packets of seeds and a little 4ft by 4ft raised bed. And all this for an investment of less than ¬£20!

If twenty pounds sounds a lot check out how much for a bag of salad at the supermarket and I’m sure you’ll agree it is definitely worth having a go at growing at few salad varieties.

Next time I’ll share at few ideas around how you can extend your vegetable patch to grow a few slightly more ‘exotic goodies’.

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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How To Recycle Egg Shells?

We’d love to hear for anyone that has had any success composting used eggshells. We use a lot of eggs in our house and my girls are producing well at the moment, but I just can’t seem to recycle my egg shells. ūüė¶

It’s particularly relevant at the moment as I’m moving my compost heaps to make way for the new shed we’re building.

  • Do they rot down eventually … If so when ?
  • Do they attract rats?
  • Is there anything else we can you do with them?

When I come to turn the heap there they are staring up at me as if to say you have to be joking mate if you think we’re going the way of the rest of the heap!

How To Recycle or  Compost Eggshells

One year on ..

I seem to always end up chucking them in the bin which isn’t exactly very green!

I’ve tried crushing them first and mixing them with some green stuff,¬† but they are still there a year later, a stringy tangled mess of shell.

Perhaps it takes years before they break down and we’re just impatient?

If you have a compost heap and manage to compost your eggshells can you share your secret.

Thanks all!

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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Well it’s been quite a month at Blackbirds!

We’ve seen rain, hail, fog, mist and now we are basking in the most wonderful summer sunshine. It’s played havoc with the garden with the roses in a pretty poor state and the herbaceous borders beaten into submission, but nature has still provided for us.

We have a steady supply of tasty fresh produce which is pretty much down to all the rain we’ve had for the last few weeks, which of course we’ve been collecting in readiness for dry days ahead.

I’ve expanded my collection of water butts by using some redundant¬†chemical barrels which my brother in law very kindly gave me, that otherwise be dumped in landfill, so I’m pretty pleased about that.

Cut flower garden update

With all the recent sunshine and warm weather it really has done me proud. I’m so pleased with the results and most definitely will be having another go next year. ¬†To think this all came pretty much from a¬†few packets of seed in the Spring.

The dahlias are definitely the success story, proud and majestic as they stand guard over the flower garden.

Dahlias like plenty of water so as well as regular watering try add a layer of mulch when the plants have established and they will repay your efforts a hundred times with the most beautiful looking flowers. Once established they require little maintenance other than some decent supports and regular dead heading.

To get the bigger blooms I nip out the two buds on each side of the main central bud leaving the larger one to develop.

This does two things. All the energy goes into to the one bud producing a larger flower, and the stems grow longer making for a really impressive cut flower.

My sweet peas were a bit slow to get started but now they appear to be making up for lost time.

I did experiment this year as I wanted to find out if there was any difference between sowing the seeds in October or the Spring. Have to say the results¬†aren’t¬†that conclusive. The October¬†sowing¬†have produced flowers much sooner than the Spring sowing, however the Spring plants appear stronger and I suspect will produce better flowers in the long run. I’ll know more next month which is typically the best month for sweet peas at Blackbirds.

Don’t think I’ll need those fruit boxes his year.

Not everything in the garden is a success this year. Unfortunately the fruit trees are looking a bit sorry. Last year we had a bumper crop of apples, pears and plums along with just about everyone else in the country, but we’ll be lucky to harvest a few apples, maybe a handful of plums and perhaps the odd pear.

I think it’s down to a wet and windy Spring as many of my fellow gardeners have told me similar stories.

Willow it ever grow?

Hmmm a bit disappointing to be honest with my willow.  I thought willow was a fast grower?

I’ve kept them watered and top dressed with a good layer of mulch, but the stems I planted back in the Spring seem to be taking for ever to grow away.

Also the leaves are looking a little yellow which suggest a shortage of magnesium which is probably down to my chalky soil. I’m not going to panic though as I’ll give them a light sprinkling of Epsom salts. (Magnesium in a box)

In a few weeks they should green up again and start to move, finger crossed

By the way if you plan to use epsom salts in your garden remember to keep it off the leaves if at all possible or the granules will likely scorch the plant, and always water thoroughly afterwards.

Every cloud has a silver lining

Even the grey ones that have plagued the British Isles for the last few months! Most of my vegetables have done really well, that is apart from my potato crop which has just been struck with blight. I didn’t panic as my dad always told me if your potatoes have blight simply cut off the tops and burn them. Then on a dry day dig up the potatoes and leave them on the surface for a day to dry off. Then store them in a large paper sack (I use the chicken feed bags) and leave in a dry cold place. Seems to work.

Blight is a fungal disease which is carried in the air, which makes it really difficult to control. ¬†I’m thinking it’s probably down to the warm damp weather we had throughout May and June. Hasn’t put me off growing potatoes as I still managed a fairly decent crop of¬†Charlotte.

It’s worth noting though Blight can also affect tomatoes as they are basically from the same family as the potatoe, so my advice is never grow your tomatoes in the proximity of your potatoes. I only know this as I planted a few spare tomato plants 3 yards from my potato crop as I couldn’t bear to throw them away, but as soon as the potatoes were hit, the tomatoes soon followed. ūüė¶

How to avoid vegetable glut

Every year I grow too many veggies and end up throwing a fair few onto the compost heap, but this year I’m attacking it from two angles. I’m planning to have an honesty table at the end of the lane, and I’m having a go at successional sowing¬†.

I sow every 4-6 weeks as a rule and it’s worked really well for me. I have carrots, Beetroot and turnips at various stages of development and I plan to harvest the first of my beetroot next week. The second sowing should be ready in about 4-6 weeks, so we should have lovely beets throughout August and September and possibly into October.

I also plan to sow a couple of rows in the polytunnel towards the end of August, by which time I’ll probably starting looking like a Beetroot.

August just around the corner … it’s party time in the polytunnel!

My cucumbers (all female) are cropping well and the tomatoes are looking like they will produce a fair crop this year.¬†Cucumbers¬†will always wilt a little in the heat because the huge leaves expire moisture really easily, so I try to keep cucumbers well watered while it’s so hot and keep the doors of the polytunnel open day and night.

I’m growing my most favourite tomato, ¬†Gardeners Delight, along with a few new varieties. ¬†I’ll post more info about my tomatoes when I’ve had a chance to taste them. Each year me and the family conduct our own tomato taste test to see if we like a particular tomato and decide if we’ll grow it again, but more on that later.

Tomatoes like warmth as well as sunlight, but at this time of the year the polytunnel can reach some pretty high temperatures which can scorch the plants. To get around this I douse the paths and beds with plenty of water. It brings the humidity up and the plants seem to thrive it.

I have a little gardening round!

A few weeks ago I started advertising gardening services in the local neighbourhood and to my delight I’ve had a favourable response from the locals. Nothing too ambitious I might add, just a few half days a week which is more than enough for little old me.

I got started by writing a few basic details on a plain post card and asked a few of the local shop keepers to put it up in their window which they very kindly agreed to do for a small donation. To my absolute delight the very next day I had an¬†inquiry! ¬†Admittedly it’s fairly basic stuff, cutting lawns, laying a few turfs, weeding a few borders, but I love it and my customers must appreciate it as they invited me back the following week.

That was back in May and since then I’ve been to several houses, so for a little bit of effort I’m now working on other peoples gardens which is a source of great pleasure, and I get to make a few extra pennies at the same time.

Looking outside the sun is starting to set so I will sign off for now and look forward to sharing more of my gardening experiences with you very soon. ūüôā

With my very best wishes,

Rural Gardener

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The kitchen garden in Spring is my most favourite time in the garden and certainly the busiest. But I’m not complaining, all this physical work is welcome exercise for my waistline!

I know it sounds a bit cliched, but growing your own veg really is the way to go and you can soooo taste the difference. I also grow far too much of everything, but this year I have a plan for my surplus.

How About An Honesty Table?

Each year we grow as much fruit and veg as we need and always end up giving loads away or relegating it to the compost heap. But this year I’m going to try something new. I’m going to put an honesty box at the end of my lane. If this is as new to you, as it was to me (until my friend Ruth told me) then read on.

Basically an honesty table is somewhere where you lay out your spare produce and invite passers by to drop a couple of coins into an old box , in exchange for your surplus. Seems like a great idea. Joe Public gets to take home some lovely fresh organic fruit and veg, while you (hopefully) collect a few pounds to spend on the garden or give to your favorite charity. I suppose someone could always nab your table along with the proceeds, but hey if their they needs that great then they’re welcome to it.

We’re lucky to have a lane at the end of our plot, which leads onto another minor road that is often used by walkers, so we might attract a few passers by. But before then I need to get on with growing some produce, or we’ll have nothing for the kitchen, let alone the rambler!

Rotation, Rotation, Rotation

We adopt a ‘rotation system’ at Blackbirds, which basically means creating separate and distinct plots for each of the different veg types. We’re also organic, which means we never apply any chemicals, which means we have to find ways of minimising potential threats from ground borne diseases in other ways and crop rotations certainly helps.

It doesn’t matter how large or small your plot, just so long as you avoid growing the same group in the same space for at least 3 years.

Plot 1
My first plot is planted up with a few rows of potatoes. This year i’m only growing Charlotte as it seems to like my chalky ground and I find they don’t go all mushy when I cook them. We also make a fair bit of potato salad in the summer and Charlotte works really well in potato salad.

Last years second early potato crop

Last years second early potato crop ‘Charlotte’

We eat a fair bit of salad in the summer and I find Charlottes are excellent for potato salad.

My recipe for the perfect potato salad

Cook off about a dozen new potatoes, making sure not too over cook them. They should be softish on the outside, but still fairly firm on the inside.

While they’re cooking prepare the dressing.

Dressing.

  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of good vegetable oil. You can use extra virgin olive oil if you prefer the taste, personally I find it overpowers the potatoes.
  • 1 – 2 Teaspoons of Maggie seasoning.
  • 3 – 4 teaspoons of warm vegetable or chicken stock. (I prefer Knorr stock cubes)
  • Tablespoon of wine vinegar.
  • Teaspoon of lemon juice.
  • Couple of grinds of black pepper.
  • Medium sized onion finely chopped, or alternatively finely chop a spring onion.
  • Small chopped garlic clove (optional).

Mix all the ingredients together really well in a bowl.

When the potatoes are cooked drain them well and while they are still warm peel them and chop into approx 1 inch cubes. Then add the potatoes to the dressing and fold the potatoes in. As the potatoes are warm they will soak up the dressing and produce the most amazing tasting potato salad. It doesn’t work nearly as well with cold potatoes.

If the mix is a bit too wet, add a teaspoon of cornflower mixed with a little cold water and fold it in and the mix will thicken nicely.

Serve with grilled sausages, lettuce and tomato salads.

Gorgeous.

Plot 2 – Root Veg

My second plot is for my root veg. I’ve sown my beetroot in modules which have started to appear at long last. I’ll transplant in a couple of weeks when the risk of frosts has past. We use a lot of Beetroot both in salads and pickling for the winter.

I’ve planted 2 rows of early Nantes carrots, Kohl Rabi, Spring Onions and Turnips. The Spring Onions will help to keep the carrot fly from laying there eggs. It’s the larvae that do the damage as they burrow into the carrot. Nasty things they are, completely ruin your carrots if you let them.

Last Years Early Nantes Carrot

Plot 3 – Legumes
So far I’ve got my sugar peas in and they’re doing quit well, which I think is because they are slightly protected by the potting shed. I’ve planted my main crop peas in pots in the polytunnel, and they will go outside in a couple of weeks.

Plot 4 – Onions, Shallots and Garlic
I like to start my onion sets off in modules, but you need to keep an eye on the watering as they can be prone to dry out. Three weeks later weeks and they’re big enough to be planted out, and but his time they’re too big for the birds to yank them out!

How to grow onions the organic way with the Rural Gardener

Plot 5 – Lettuce
This year I’m going to be a bit more adventurous and growing several different varieties of lettuce. Instead of growing them in the kitchen garden I’m going to build a small raised bed close to the house to grow my everyday salads like lettuce, radish and maybe a few tomatoes when the weather warms up.

Plan is to build a simple wooden frame out of some gash timber we have around the place and position it next to the herb garden. I’ll fill it with some top soil mixed in equal quantity of well rotted compost and plant straight into it. Should be fun.

Tom Thumb Lettuce

One of the benefits of a Poly tunnel is the early salad crops including these gorgeous little Tom Thumbs.

Tom Thumb is my absolute favourite of all the lettuce and an excellent candidate for small gardens or of you’re stuck for space. I’ve also planted Lorroroso, Cos and Rocket, all in modules. The seeds only cost me 10 pence each, so we should have salads for weeks in the summer, and all for the price of a daily newspaper.

As for the rest of my kitchen garden it’s waiting from the weather to warm up a bit so we can plant out the Sweetcorn, Dwarf Beans and main crop Peas. I have planted them this early in the past, but the weather hasn’t been great over the last few days, so I think I’ll hang on for a bit longer.

Back soon.

Best wishes.

Tania.

Rural Gardener

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Last Wednesday I had an urge for a little retail therapy, nothing serious, but as it’s about this time of the year I buy my vegetable seeds for the season, I thought a trip to the garden centre would raise my spirits. I set my budget at ¬£12, and off I went, salivating at the prospect of what might await at the garden centre.

It took an age to find a space as the car park was packed with lunchtime diners Have you noticed just how many garden centres have started selling food? My local garden centre has really gone for it in a big way. Don’t get me wrong I think it’s a brilliant idea and if it helps to keep them in business¬† it has to be a good thing, but interestingly there was also a noticeable decline in the amount of plants on display.

On my way to the seeds I walked past gorgeous pots of spring bulbs and some rather sad looking plants, all at knock down sale prices. I was tempted by the most gorgeous clematis Armandii for £12.00, but managed to resist. Then I noticed a whacking great sign on the display in front of me, FOR SALE, QUALITY SEEDS, 10p a PACKET.

I couldn’t believe my eyes at first, then as I got closer there they were, a huge collection of vegetable and flower seeds of all varieties, classic varieties, vintage varieties, F1 hybrids, and all as good as new!

Being a little suspicious I thought they must be out of date or damaged, but on closer examination they were all dated 2013 and in perfect condition. So I started to sort through the rows and rows of seeds and found pretty much everything I needed, from early carrots, beet root, radishes, lettuce, lollo rosso lettuce, parsley, purple sprouting broccoli, to curly kale, tomatoes and a whole lot more besides. I was in heaven!

So rather than buying a few packets for my £12 budget as intended, I spent £2.20 in total and went home with enough seeds to last me right through the season. Now I call that value for money.

It is a bit early in the season for sowing seeds in the kitchen garden, but I’ve thought id try a row of early carrots, a few radishes and maybe a few beetroot¬† in the Polytunnel, and see if i can persuade them to provide me with an early crop.

Also planted a few tomato seeds in 3.5 inch pots. I find the best way to get them to germinate is to plant them in a light seed compost that is free draining. Also don’t over water them or they will rot in the compost before they’ve had a chance to get started.¬† They need a minimum 60-65 degrees to germinate, so I think I will start them off in the house.

I guess time will tell if my lucky seeds will grow into succulent vegetables, but someone was certainly looking down on me last Wednesday, and for that I am extremely grateful.

Best wishes,

Rural Gardener

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