Category Archives: planter

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Inspired by RHS Tatton Flower Show

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I’ve wanted to expand my Hosta collection for a while now, I just love the big green leaves and since finding out you can eat them, I’m even more inclined to do so. Find out more here

Hosta’s are a beautiful woodland plant, they love moist feet and a shady spot. Whist I was at the Flower show I came across a wonderful stand, the display was perfect, I have decided I’m going to do something similar in my allotment.

I have a big willow tree on my plot, it moved in many years ago and the height it’s given my plot is lovely. It also gives some nice shade to plants that struggle in full sun.

I have a huge oak trunk too! It was so beautiful I haven’t had the heart to cut it up for our log stoves and have always wanted to do something with it! So thanks to some inspiration this is what I will work on.

It will look lovely under the willow tucked away down the plot near my secret herb garden…

Happy gardening my friend! X

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Aphid spray from tomato leaves.

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If you grow tomatoes then you will know all about picking out the side shoots. But what do you do with them? They are really easy to pot on for extra plants but did you know you can make a organic aphid spray from the leaves?

Aphids are a pain in the backside for gardeners, especially veggie gardeners, as spraying your beautiful crops with awful insecticides feels like some kind of biological war. It’s also worrying when you read on the backs of the containers do not eat the vegetables after use, or keep away from children and animals. Leaves you thinking what have I just squirted on my families food!

Well here is a little spray that might just help you if your troubled with an aphid infestation, it natural and uses up things you are growing already, without any extra expense. Even if your not growing tomatoes, you may well know a friend who is.

Tomato leaf spray.

As you probably know tomatoes come from the nightshade family, a family which usually contains toxic compounds in their leaves etc. In the case of the tomato they are found in their leaves, stems and unripened fruit. These compounds are known as tomatine alkaloids.

When you chop up and add water to your tomato leaves the alkaloids are transferred into the ‘tea’ enabling you to spray on to infected crops to kill those pesky sap sucking pests. Here’s the best bit, it’s not harmful to you or your plants. It’s so easy to make too

A couple of handfuls of tomato plant leaves

Two cups of water in a container

Something to strain it through, cheese cloth, pair of old tights etc.

Then a spray bottle.

Extra two cups of water to dilute slightly.

Simply shred the leaves into small pieces, throw into the water and give a good stir and leave over night to infuse.

Next day pour the liquid into the spray bottle and wring out the leaves to get all the liquid possible add the extra water and spray away! Make sure you get under the leaves of an infected plant since that’s where these pests hide and do most damage. I would say if you suffer from allergies connected with the nightshade family take extra care making and spraying this, and never let your dog chew on a tomato plant as they are toxic to our fury friends!

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A vegetable from Roman times back on the plate.

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I think I have just found my new favourite vegetable, Good King Henry. I’ve been growing this on my allotment for many years, it returns each year without grumble, it isn’t bothered with pests and just gets on without complaint; but I have never eaten any…

He isn’t a pretty looking veg at first glance, rather plain and unassuming, boring some might say, but wow it’s tasty!

Usually at this time of year I’m getting stuck into the salad, courgettes maybe the odd pea or bean, but as it was so cold for so long I’m still waiting to harvest something. That’s why Good King Henry caught my eye.

Since medieval times the people of Europe have eaten this veg or herb. It was used for loads of different purposes it was a dye which gave a gold and green colour. It was also used to ease tummy ache in children has the seed is a very gentle laxative. Chickens love it too that’s why it’s also known as ‘Fat Hen’. It’s also said that this humble plants roots helped livestock especially sheep and goats if they were suffering from a cough!

Some other names it’s known by Markery, English Mercury, Mercury goosefoot, Perennial Goosefoot, Many-seeded Goosefoot, Oak-leaved goosefoot, Red goosefoot, Common orache, long-stalked orache, spear-leaved orache, Prickly saltwort, Fat Hen or Shoemakers’ heels.

Good names, but I think I will stick to Good King Henry. I think I’ve fallen in love with this plant even more since it has so much history. The Romans brought it to Britain, it featured heavily in Tudor gardens it was also a big feature in the Anglo-Saxon diets were it had the name Guter Henrich which I think is the name of a German fairy… I think!

I have mine growing in a Raised bed with some other perennials like horseradish and Jerusalem Artichokes. But I hear it’s perfect in a large planter on the patio, just keep it well watered and repot each new season with nice fresh compost. It grows to about 60 cm tall so will fill a gap on your patio very nicely.

Picking and harvesting
Pick and use straight away as I believe from what I’ve read it goes limp quickly but can be stored in the freezer. The plant is rich in iron, calcium and vitamins B&C so the question is what does it taste like?

Wow it’s lovely! I picked a few big spears, at the moment it’s flowering. I plucked the leaves off and threw them into a frying pan with some olive oil a big knob of butter and a couple of pinches of garlic powder. It cooked very quickly like spinach and like spinach, if your feeding a family you will need quite a lot. But it was absolutely beautiful, I would say a cross between spinach and asparagus, I will be eating a lot of this and saving the seed to sow more next year!

They also say you can sautéed the flower buds in butter too, but they were a bit too bitter for my taste buds and even the young shoots are very good, tied together in bundles and cooked and eaten like asparagus, which I will definitely try! If you make your own bread you can collect the seed to add to your bread mix, you need to soak the seeds over night.

So there you have it my new favourite vegetable planted and forgotten about for 8 years on my allotment and brought to the UK in 55BC but today I rediscovered it, I highly recommend growing some and what a story to tell your dinner guests.

Happy gardening my friend! X

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Carrots

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I’ve have my allotment now for about 8 years and I love the challenge of growing vegetables. Each year I like to find something new I haven’t tried and each year I try to grow a blimming decent carrot.

I’ve been getting better each year, but as yet I haven’t been able to grow one of those magnificent carrots you can buy at market. Mine grow into what I would describe as ‘rather rude looking’ and maybe even ‘obscene’.

Here’s what I have learnt over the years.

Carrots love a bit of sun, they hate stones, they adore free draining soil they loathe carrot fly.

Lets start with your soil, if you have heavy soil filled with stones, your carrots will turn into my type of carrot ‘the rather rude’ looking ones. I won’t go into to much detail except to say they fork off into all directions and end up looking like little orange naked men. Need I say more? Whilst it makes for a few giggles down on the plot it’s still pretty disappointing. So if your growing them in the earth make sure you remove any stones.

They also love a bit of wood ash from the fire too, so sprinkle some over them every couple of weeks and water it in, it’s also said to deter pests too.

A little tip I read is to mulch the carrot bed with grass cuttings. For two reasons. Firstly it keeps the tops of the carrot in the dark, this avoids that green head near the foliage. And confuses the carrot fly…

Now here is my biggest foe, the carrot fly. Where do I start? The carrot fly can smell the crushed smell of carrot foliage from about half a mile away! This is what I’ve read, and to be honest I can believe it too!

The female lays her eggs in the soil around the carrots and the babies wiggle into the roots of your little carrot and they begin to munch away.

Often you have no idea they have caused any problems until you pull up what looks to be a huge brilliant looking carrot only to find it riddled with brown holes, it’s gutting.

So how can we stop them?

First of all rotate your crops! They lay their eggs in the soil, so lets keep one step ahead of them.

Secondly if your going to thin out your carrots do it on a still dry evening and that’s the same for pulling them up for dinner!

Thirdly the carrot fly seems to rather rubbish at flying, this could be our only hope! So plant them higher than 18 inches from floor level.

You could also think about covering your crop with some very very fine mesh. But put it over a frame! You don’t want the mesh bashing away at the leaves giving off the scent to tempt them to your door!

They also say surround your crop with onions and garlic. The smells can also distract the fly too!

So there you have it., everything I have learnt about the humble carrot over the 8 years of trying to grow a decent one!

So this year. I’m growing them in a tub that’s 1/2 meter from ground level, I transplanted them into place on a dry and still evening, the soil has been sieved, I’ve have surrounded each carrot with 3 bulbs of garlic, tomorrow I will sprinkle them with wood ash and water it in and the whole thing will be covered with mesh and when I next mow the lawn I will mulch the tub.

Surely this year, I can get a blimming decent carrot!

Happy gardening! X

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Old grid turned into a little planter

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Recently we put a conservatory onto our house and had to move the old drains. It was hard work but it’s beautiful now, my husband is the greatest!

Anyway when my hubby dug up the old grid I fell in love with it! Obviously he thought I was bonkers, but hey it’s all about recycling these days. I adore finding little things and repurposing them. So off I went, bonkers old me to make a little planter for some Hens and chicks.

Hen and chicks or Sempervivum
Sempervivum literally means “live forever”. I have a wall basket on the front of my house bulging with them and because they grow and propagate so readily they don’t half spread out. But they are super easy to have around the garden. Useful for the front garden as I don’t really hang out in it too much.

These succulents are known by many different names (semps, hens and chicks, houseleeks) Top names for a very very easy to grow plant. They do like lots of drainage so I mixed loads of grit into the soil in fact it was probably 75% grit.

I covered the hole in the grid with an old piece of plastic lid and punctured lots of holes for more drainage and filled it up.

Then pushed the little succulents into their gritty planter. And finished it off with some more grit. My 6 year old daughter decided she was going to decorate it and collected all sorts shells and bits and bobs to finish it off for me.

Before you know it that whole planter/grid will be covered, isn’t nature rather wonderful?