Tag Archives: vegetables

Quick DIY for the garden – the net box

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If you’re a bit of a handy man, handy girl or you’re living with one then I highly recommend having a go at making something Adam made for me a couple of years ago. The net box! It’s got so many uses all year round. I’ve got a couple of these in different sizes for different plants.

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I often throw netting over my crops and stake it in place with canes but I find having ready made boxes really useful, for example, covering pots of bulbs that aren’t through yet to protect them from pesky squirrels. They’re also brilliant  for warming up sections of soil ready for planting and for protecting any newly planted crops. Later in the year I’ll use them to protect crops from birds and to provide toasty micro climates. I also find it puts cats off from using freshly raked beds and beds with small seedlings, as litter trays.

Garden centres do sell a range of netting, fleece and plastic cloches which are also useful around the garden and now is good time of year to get these things in place, warming up the soil for spring. I have a couple of those too but don’t find them quite as handy as these boxes. A colleague was telling me about his neighbour who’s made a massive version that covers a much bigger area (around the size of two of my biggest raised beds) and it’s head height so he can get inside! Now that’s some serious veggie protection!

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Adam made the boxes by screwing together 12 lengths of 2×1 batons and he stapled on the netting with a staple gun. Other allotment folk make some brilliant curved ones by using plumbing piping. One important tip, don’t double the netting up and create any gaps, bees can easily get trapped in between so it’s best to just use one layer. Adam used scaffolding netting which is available in 2m wide lengths, most garden centres sell something similar.

Do you have any net-boxes or cloches? What kind of things do you make for your garden?

Seed list 2013 – my year of experimental growing

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In my last blog post I wrote about the seedlings that I’ve got growing/germinating/thinking about (hopefully) germinating in January. I’ve also been right through my seed collection and grouped everything into zip lock bags, an idea I saw someone post on twitter – last year I had a disaster with an automatic watering system so waterproofing is required! Instead of ordering the seeds by type, I’ve ordered them by month in the hope that I’ll be a bit more organised and I won’t forget to sow things, like the cucumbers I forgot last year.

I’ve totally discovered that I have far too many though! Some seeds simply won’t get sown, so I’ll prioritise new unopened packets and the seeds that I’ve gathered myself over any open ones that I’ve carried over, as they could be a bit dodgy.

Here’s the list!

Broad beans – Karmazyn and Aquadulce Claudia
Leeks – Mammoth Blanch and Musselburgh
Sweet Peas – various varieties
Tomatoes – Every year I grow a variety that my mum also grows, Sugar Plum. They’re the best! I saved the seeds from my crop. The sugar plums are late developers so I’ll be experimenting with some other varieties and sowing them in Jan & Feb then the sugar plum in March.
Lobelia – String of Pearls
Sprouts – Evesham Special
Sweet Pepper – Californian Wonder & Ingrid
Chilli – Cayenne (I saved from my crop last year), Anaheim and Jalapeno
Celery- Golden Self Blanching
Cabbage- January King (I think these are the big beastie ones!)
Cornflowers – mixed
Peas – Purple Podded & Douce Provence
Chives
Wildflowers – mixed packets that were given to me for the Bees
Beetroot – Boltardy
Radish – French Breakfast 3
Sunflowers – Velvet Queen
Asters – Mixed variety that I bought in Amsterdam
Carrots – Nantes Early, Resistafly F1, Amsterdam 2, Cortina & Purple Haze
Nasturtiums – Mixed Whirlybird
Dwarf French Beans – Amethyst
Runner beans – ‘Selby Beans‘ saved over from my crop
Stocks – Mixed
Cucumber – femspot F1 & Crystal Lemon (the round ones!)
Courgette- Atena Polka
Cauliflower – Purple Cape
Squash – Summer Satellite, Winter Uchiki Kuri & Cornell’s
Swiss Chard – Rainbow Mix
Black & White Kidney Beans
Turnips – Golden Balls! Oddly, while I was sorting, Mark’s Veg Plot posted this about his golden balls.
Spring Onions – Summer and White Lisbon Winter Hardy
Mustard – for green manure
Various Herbs and Salads – you name it, I grow them in pots everywhere, mixed in with my flowers.

Things I’m missing and need to buy:
Broccoli – Organic Green Sprouting
Pumpkins
Curly Kale!!!

I’ve been banging on about these and would you believe it, I don’t have any yet!

The other things I grow are Rocket potatoes and Turbo & Red onions from sets. I usually get the onions from Wilkinsons and they’ve never let me down. My mum traditionally buys me the Rockets from their local market and starts chitting them for me. I think this tradition is rather cute so I’ll carry on this year. I need to confirm where she got last year’s from though because they were poor. However, that could have been due to the weather.

I also grow fruit but I don’t think I’ll be adding to what I already have. You can guarantee that every time I visit a garden centre I will come out with something though and I’ll be given lots of plants and vegetables. Adam will no doubt want to sow a load of flowers too. Good job I love gardening!

I’m on holiday in Andorra next week and if I get any spare time I’ll be thinking about my crop rotation and I’ll share some plans at a later date. Have I missed anything from my list?! What have you got planned for 2013? Do you have any tips you can share?

Gardening gifts – I got some, yes!

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Before Christmas I bought and made some garden related presents and the whole time I was secretly wishing someone would give me some prezzies for the garden. Well, my wishes must have been heard. Pictured above are some awesome glass tea-light holders from my mother-in-law, she must know just how much I like night gardening.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law have bought me some cool seeds in the past and this year they topped up my collection for the new year with some very interesting veg varieties. I’m really looking forward to experimenting with these soon. I think 2013 is going to be my year for going all out and trying new things, I just hope the weather is better and won’t come along and destroy my attempts.
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I am also totally buzzing with my new bee hotels! A simple one from my brother and a 5 star version from friends, who referred to visiting my garden in the new year as the ‘bee resort’. Luckily I love bees and welcome them to my plot. A couple of years back I did some ‘bee walks’ for BBCT and noted a general lack of flowers for bees in my area. Once the plants in my local park stopped flowering there were literally no bees in there, yet there’s an abundance of flowering plants that the council could have used to attract them from spring to autumn but they didn’t think to plant for bees. So, anything I can do to help protect bees and encourage them, I will do. I’ve had bees nesting in my garden before and it’s been great watching them flying around doing their work.
IMG_8368My other garden related present was this lovely handmade row marker which was actually a secret santa gift from a work colleague. I’m hoping this will help me achieve the professionally planted rows that I long for.
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Adam’s mum gave him these cool hooks for the shed he will be building in the new year. I can’t wait for that!
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Slightly off subject but maybe a vision of the future, this extraordinary chicken calendar. One day maybe I will own some of these ‘extraordinary’ creatures!
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Can you tell that I’m getting excited for the new growing season? Did you get any cool garden related presents?

Thanks for all your comments and support this year. Wishing you all a very happy new year :)

The garden diaries – an allotment retrospective

I’ve read a lot of awesome blogs this year and in fact it was reading such blogs that sparked the desire to write my own. I recently read three very cool review posts, one by Marks Veg Plot, a two-parter by out of my shed and the amazing award ceremonies by wellywoman. All are very uniquely written with a good dose of humor and I too would like to review my year in my own way.

Each week at work we have an ‘agile retrospective’ where we look back on the week and discuss the good, the bad and the things that we weren’t quite so sure about. So, I’ll do the same. I’m interested in looking back at this post next year and seeing what changes, improvements or planting disasters I may have had, after all keeping a record is what a blog was originally all about – a web log.

The good
pears
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Fruit – gooseberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, redcurrant, apples and pears. All were exceptional. I think they liked the rain (unlike me who did not).

Flowers – all germinated well and flowered for a long time.

  • My Pelargoniums at home in a hanging basket are still going for it?! The others are covered in fleece and being stored in the greenhouse. Before I had my greenhouse I used to stash them under a hedge.
  • I grew tons of Marigolds, inspired by my wedding in India. They flowered prolifically.
  • Adam sowed Rudbeckia and it was exceptional, even the plants we salvaged later in the year continued to flourish until they were killed by frost.
  • Sedums were amazing, as was Eggplant (when is Eggplant never good?) Alpines, Lupins were incredible, my Jasmine is lovely right now, Clematis, Roses, Skimmia Japonica…you name it, the flowering plants and shrubs have been amazing.

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Peppers – the best being the big red ones that were given to me as seedlings from Michaela, who sows them early.

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Chilies – an abundance of chilies and some are still growing in my kitchen.

IMG_20121021_151728The final tomato harvest above – 9 weeks ago!

Tomatoes – tasted the best ever and I’ve been growing the same variety (passed on to me from my mother) for the last 10 years. I can only assume that I saved the very best seeds from last year, which incidentally lived on a piece of brown paper floating around my kitchen until spring and are really lucky to have survived. I still have tomatoes left from the final harvest which I took 9 weeks ago.

  • Broccoli – the best variety I’ve ever grown. I will be doubling up on the crop for next year. The plants were also easy to pull out unlike some broccoli varieties which grow, what I can only describe as, tree trunks.
  • Sprouts – withstood the onslaught from the cabbage whites and were grown in adequate numbers to be a tasty treat, rather than frozen wasted mush.
  • Carrots – grown in tubs, covered with fleece to stave off the dreaded carrot root fly. A small round variety. Very nice.
  • Onions – every year I buy onion sets from Wilkos and every year they perform. They last me until the following year’s crop is ready and I really enjoy plaiting them. Home grown onions are leagues ahead of the ones you normally buy in terms of flavor and juiciness.

beans
Beans – given to me by my friend Alice. Her parents (she calls them the bods) donated the seeds from their garden in Selby, Yorkshire. All my fellow allotmenteers had poor beans whereas the Selby beans triumphed and were a monumental spectacle in my front raised bed. Thanks ‘bods’.

The Bad
squash

  • Squash – I had 10 plants, only 2 grew and the specimens were poor.
  • Courgette – normally I have marrows galore because I can’t eat my bountiful crop fast enough, this year I had one lousy courgette? It was perfectly formed and tasted great but I really missed having more. Major disappointment.
  • Potatoes – my first and only poor crop in 9 years of growing them. A couple of spuds even had blight. Worried for next year.
  • Cauliflower – germinated fine, disappeared just fine. Don’t know what happened?
  • Peas – shriveled, withered and died. Another first in 9 years.
  • Sweat Peas – a poor show.
  • Cacti – none germinated.
  • Parsnips – did not germinate.

The ?
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  • Garlic – it grew but it was quite small. Tastes great and far better than anything I buy but I feel it could have been better. Not a total disappointment.
  • Pumpkin – one tiny one. Last year’s was a monster? Still cute though and good for a decoration.
  • Nasturtiums – I love them and they weren’t too great this year but they produced a lot of seeds, so hopefully next year will be better.
  • Cucumbers – I forgot to sow them?!
  • Avocado – I brought a stone/seed home from Cyprus and it’s growing. I fear it might be growing into a big tree though. No idea what to expect.

As an added bonus, the downright ugly

slug_monsterMonsterous Slugs, pictured here (sorry it’s blurry) stuck to a large piece of slate gravel. Even Adam wouldn’t completely touch the critter.

I really don’t want to see these beasts again next year!

I hope you had a good year in your gardens. If you have written a review blog post or enjoyed reading one elsewhere please feel free to add your link, or add a comment about your year :)

Curly kale & baked kale chips – an appreciation!

When I made baked kale chips for the first time this year I was amazed and it fast became one of my favourite things to eat. My mum has an abundance of it growing in her allotment and it’s the number 1 item on my to-grow list for next year. I made some for Adam and after one taste his exact words were, “wow, it’s a revelation!”  I was so happy this morning when Sue A left a comment on my allotment in December blog post asking me to share the recipe. So I thought I’d post it here as an appreciation for an amazing vegetable and revelation in the way you can eat your greens!

It’s very simple, you just need kale, olive oil and salt.

  • Wash the kale and strip out the stalks.
  • Break it up into bite size pieces and dry it as well as you can.
  • Pop the pieces onto a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  • Roll the kale around in the oil and salt. You don’t want too much oil and it might take you a couple of times to get the amount right for your liking.
  • Bake in middle of a hot oven. Around 180 degrees.

It cooks really fast, anything from 5 minutes onwards, so I take the tray out and mix the kale up often so it cooks evenly. It will brown up and crisp up and it’s down to trial and error to work out just how crispy you like it. I cook mine for around 10 minutes now, turning regularly and in the middle of the oven so it doesn’t burn.

It smells rather ‘sprouty’ when cooking but it tastes sooo good! Have you tried cooking this?

HarlowCarr_IMG_8163Thank you curly kale for being totally awesome.

The Allotment in December – what’s happenin?

frozen_allotmentIt’s a bit grim up north

Last week we had freezing rain and a day that never seemed to get light, 9am seemed more like midnight, it was dreary. During this spell I visited the allotment before work to check that I’d properly fleeced everything in the greenhouse.

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It was foggy on the plot and as I looked around all I saw was mess and all the jobs that need doing. I also saw that the frost was killing off my flowers, which have been very confused until now. I love frosty mornings but I must admit that morning was quite grim!
allotment_december_thawedIt’s still a bit grim up north

Only a few days later and the big freeze has gone! Today was much milder and it seems strange to think that we’re only a week away from Christmas. I wanted to take these photos of the allotment so I can start recording it through the months ahead. So much of it is really untidy and I have a lot of general chores to do. To be perfectly honest, I could be growing more but I prefer to grow just enough and then clear out the veg beds over winter and concentrate on bulbs and planning for the following year. Today I noticed a lot of rotting vegetables in the other plots and I’m glad I’m not in that position. However, I really do wish that I’d grown kale and I wish I still had leeks and broccoli left but I’ve eaten it, leaving me with only three sprout plants, just enough for Christmas dinner!

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Rather embarrassingly untidy plot

my_sproutsThese are up next for the chop

I aim to start January with a bang and aside from sowing leeks for the giant leek competition I’ve got involved in, I will also start sowing peppers. The best peppers I had this year were ones that fellow allotmenteer Michaela gave me. I know she starts sowing them early at home and I think that’s why she is such a rock star at growing veg. She doesn’t wait until the spring, she gets a good head start. I’ll definitely have my leeks in a heated propagator to get them going for the competition. If you have any tips for growing ‘mammoths’ I would be most grateful. I usually grow them close together to keep them small so this is going to be a real challenge!

What do you do this time of year and what are your thoughts on starting off seeds at home before the spring?

Reasons to love Yorkshire – RHS Harlow Carr

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It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit RHS Harlow Carr – it’s always inspiring.

We took Adam’s parents for a stroll around on Saturday, it was their first visit and despite it being December 1st the gardens still looked amazing.

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It’s hard to choose a favourite part of Harlow Carr but the areas that inspire me the most are the ultra neat and well thought out vegetable plots, with their recycled plastic raised beds, willow edging and perfectly planted rows. How do they do that?

HarlowCarr_IMG_8174HarlowCarr_IMG_8172HarlowCarr_IMG_8161HarlowCarr_IMG_8158HarlowCarr_IMG_8156HarlowCarr_IMG_8165Adam’s Mum – Tina

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The alpine greenhouse is fascinating with an array of delicate plants in sunken pots inside and interesting troughs dotted around the outside. I always spend hours in the alpine zone and it sparked an idea to do an alpine advent on Instagram where I’ll be posting a different alpine each day.

A nice surprise was finding a new greenhouse. Check out the cool chilli and tiny apple decorations inside! The ideas coming out of this place are just endless.

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I highly recommend a visit to Harlow Carr. I just think these guys really know what they’re doing and I come away with new ideas and good intentions of planting my vegetables in perfect rows each time…but for some reason I just can’t quite get the look?!

Have you been to Harlow Carr or any of the other RHS gardens?

HarlowCarr_IMG_8230HarlowCarr_IMG_8219HarlowCarr_IMG_8216HarlowCarr_IMG_8198HarlowCarr_IMG_8176HarlowCarr_IMG_8173HarlowCarr_IMG_8171HarlowCarr_IMG_8168HarlowCarr_IMG_8167HarlowCarr_IMG_8163HarlowCarr_IMG_8157

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Talk about matching greenhouse, cold frame, container and water butt envy!

(CLOSED) Giveaway – create your 2013 garden with Seedparade

I’m delighted to bring you a giveaway from the wonderful online seed retailer – Seedparade.

With this giveaway you get to choose £30 of seeds, which will easily create you an entire edible garden for next year or provide you with a mass of flowers for any type of garden.

I’ve been really happy with all the seeds I’ve purchased from Seedparade who choose the finest quality seeds from around the world. I love their organic selection and their wildflowers for various soil types, so I hope that the lucky winner will be pleased. They also have a blog with lots of good ideas.

How to enter
All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning £30 of seeds of your choice, is to follow my blog.

  • If you are logged in to WordPress click the black ‘Follow by email’ button on the right hand side of this page (just above the Facebook like widget).
  • If you aren’t logged into WordPress simply enter your email address into the text box above the same black button then click ‘Follow by email’
  • If you already follow me and wish to enter, simply email me at digbean@yahoo.co.uk

T&C’s
Please note, Seedaprade regret that they can not ship outside of the EU, so I apologise to my global readers but this giveaway is just for UK and EU.

Choosing a winner
I’m a professional computer nerd so you can be assured that at the end of the competition I will be able select a winner at random. You are also able to unsubscribe from my emails at any time, but you must be subscribed on the closing date to be in with a chance.

The giveaway is NOW CLOSED. Thanks to everyone who entered. open until December 8th (11.59pm).

Snooping around my parents plot

So, I didn’t manage to make a lot of progress bulb planting last weekend due to being distracted by a load of salvaged flowers and this weekend I’m being distracted by a visit to my parents house! But I did manage a trip to their allotment this morning.

I know a lot of people who have very fond memories of allotments because their parents and/or grandparents had one when they were growing up. I always feel they must have been such special times and this post by Pushing Up Dandelions captures feelings of vague memories and hard work and this one by Crafty Garden Hoe alludes to the fact that gardening, especially in allotments could be passed on through the family. I also love Crafty’s post because I can relate to her feelings of wanting to have time out from the city.

For me though, it’s been the other way around. My folks have always been keen gardeners but it’s only since they moved house and downsized their garden that they acquired a plot. They’ve often enjoyed helping me with mine so as soon as the council made some local land into allotments I knew they’d be keen to get on the list. They’ve had it around a year now and I do enjoy visiting. It’s so different to mine, it’s one of around 40 plots where mine is only one of a few and it’s more of a traditional plot than a garden, which mine has become over the years. There’s a great atmosphere down there on a busy day and a real variety in terms of plot styles and veggies.

My visit is good timing because although I feel sad that the main growing season is nearly over it’s this time of year I start to get ideas for spring and feel optimistic. I’m also amazed at just how many veggies are still growing really well on all the plots since they’re further north in Lancashire.


As a result of my visit I will definitely be growing Kale next spring. I’ve eaten so much of it this year and I’ve picked a bag full, hoping to make baked kale chips asap! We also scored some very healthy looking celery and I’ll be putting that on my ‘to grow list’.

My mum’s neighbouring plot has some lovely chard, I just love the bright colours. I wasn’t overly impressed with my attempts this year so will be on the lookout for some better specimens for spring because it really does look cool.

This shed and rainwater combo on one of the plots has to be one of the smartest I’ve ever seen, I have shed-envy BIG TIME! It’s great snooping around the allotments! Thanks for the tour and the veggies mum.

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