Growing Food in Containers

Growing Food in Containers

It is not too late in the year to grow vegetables in pots, June is the perfect month as the temperature outside is warmer and the days are long and light. This year I am growing more vegetables in containers than ever before. I realized last year that growing veg in pots has lots of advantages. First of all, I walk past them several times a day; maybe to hang the washing out, or take the dog for a walk, so I notice if my crops are dry or have new holes munched in their leaves… Another good reason for growing veggies in pots is that they can be moved around fairly easily, so if it’s a windy day, the more fragile plants can be moved to a sheltered position, and the pots can be turned regularly so they face the sun. The other advantage is for anyone who doesn’t have a garden; maybe only a terrace, yard or balcony. Providing the sun shines on the ground for part of the day then pots and troughs really are the answer and it’s surprising how many pots can be packed into a small space! Pots placed outside the house are easy for children to learn about growing their own food. When my children were younger, I would send them outside to pick herbs or vegetables. It wasn’t long before they knew all the plants, how to tell if they were ready to pick and what they tasted like. It was almost like a treasure hunt with a lot of excitement, bringing the harvest home. I’m sure this is due to the “hunter, gatherer” instinct in all of us. My youngest always insisted on picking the sugar snap peas; I gave her a colander and after ten minutes or so she would return with a few shiny green pea pods in the colander and green juice around her mouth! I think she must have munched her way through most of the peas that year! As for the strawberries? The same story, but the juice was pink rather than green! I don’t use any chemicals on my plants, so eating them freshly picked is fun and one of the best ways to eat them. My children still pick produce for me if I’m busy but don’t zoom around clutching colanders and baskets like they used to! Herbs Herbs will grow incredibly quickly in June. They can all be grown from seed or buy small plants from the garden centre. Please read Grow Your Own Herbs, which I posted last June. I’m very pleased with my herbs at the moment as the mixture of sunshine and showers has made them grow tremendously! I’m...

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Grow Your Own Fruit

Grow Your Own Fruit

I have written a number of blogs on this website about growing your own fruit, veggies, salads and herbs.  I love to grow my own food as it is cheap, healthy, fresh and it gets me outside in the sunshine (not seen much of that recently!)  What I especially like is to be able to go outside in the morning, have a look at what is ready to pick, then plan the evening meal around my harvest. I wrote an article called “Grow Your Own on a Shoestring” in early April and since then everything is growing daily; there are small fruits on the fruit trees and bushes, the herbs are very colourful and bursting with tender young leaves, the salads have grown well and the vegetables look amazing. I don’t have a kitchen garden at the moment so I rely on pots.  I have had a lot of pots given to me over the years from family and friends and my old buckets, dustbins and plastic grow bags are very much in use again this year. I mainly grow fruit which is expensive to buy in the shops and although I only grow a little fruit, I get a descent amount, especially from the strawberries and raspberries. Strawberries My strawberries, which are growing in plastic strawberry bags are flowering their socks off at the moment.  The variety I grow is called Aromel and as it’s a perpetual strawberry, it will fruit from June until at least mid-October.  The fruit are average sized and they are full of flavour and very sweet.  Please see my article on “Grow Your Own Strawberries” which I wrote last year.  I make strawberry jam each summer but I buy the strawberries from a fruit farm a few miles away for jam making.  The strawberries I grow are simply eaten fresh with sugar and cream … Raspberries I have grown raspberries for several years and couldn’t believe how easy they are to grow.  Mine are in a large, battered, plastic plant pot.  The pot is filled with homemade compost.  Raspberries prefer a semi shaded position in the garden, moist soil, and will grow year after year. I clip them down to soil level in early autumn but otherwise they take care of themselves. The variety I grow is called Joan J and the plants produce very large, delicious, firm fruit.  The more the raspberries and strawberries are picked, the more they produce. What’s also great about this variety is that they have no spines – a real bonus! Cherries My cherry tree, which is in a large pot, is covered in small green cherries.  The variety is called Stella and last year, although only...

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Grow Your Own Salad Leaves!

Grow Your Own Salad Leaves!

It’s that glorious time of year when everything is bursting with life outside. The plants are covered in swelling buds, there are beautiful fresh new leaves on the trees and, at long last, the sun is warmer! This is the perfect time of year to sow salad crops as they will germinate very quickly. If you’ve never grown your own salads before, then read on! My favourite salad leaves are Lollo Rossa lettuces, which are expensive to buy in the shops (in fact I didn’t see any last year besides pre-packed in a bag of washed salad leaves). Lollo Rossa doesn’t produce a “heart” so the individual leaves can be picked as a “cut and come again” salad. The leaves are a beautiful dark purple colour. Salad Bowl lettuces are bright green with frilled leaves which taste so good. Again, individual leaves can be picked. They are very easy to grow and do so very quickly! Wild Rocket adds a little pungent flavour to green salads. It’s delicious on pizzas too. Little Gem lettuces which take up hardly any space and are so sweet and crunchy when home grown. Lambs lettuce – delicate sweet leaves which compliment any salad (but beware, slugs simply love them). Mustard leaves add a little spice and take up hardly any room. Spinach – the baby leaves are delicious eaten raw in salads. All the seeds above can be bought in packets from garden centres but if you don’t feel like sowing the seeds yourself, garden centres and mail order companies can supply trays of small seedlings. Or to really cheat – you can buy packs of “living salad” from the supermarket for £1. I have grown these in in pots very successfully and the lettuces will grow rapidly and last for weeks! Last year I bought 2 trays of living salad, one in May and one in July and the leaves lasted all summer – not bad for £2 especially as I enjoy a salad every day!  Only pick the outside leaves then the plant will grow new ones. Before buying the living salads, inspect them and make sure they are not wilting and find a tray with the most varieties in. The more varieties, the less likely you are to become bored with the same leaves in your salad all season!   Sowing in a veggie patch If you have a vegetable patch or an allotment, the seeds can be sown outside from early May. Make sure that the soil is free of weeds and rake well to get rid of stones. To ensure straight rows, use a bamboo cane (cut to the length of the row) and press gently into the...

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Rosemary! How To Grow It and How To Use It!

Rosemary! How To Grow It and How To Use It!

Rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis) is one of the most beautiful and useful herbs; it’s evergreen so looks good all year round, has a wonderful aromatic scent, is delicious in cooking and has many other health benefits. It is very easy to grow and a small plant costs about £1.25 – £2.50. It will grow steadily year after year during spring and summer and its leaves can even be picked during winter. The common rosemary will grow to over 3’/90cm high. Rosemary is certainly well worth growing and if you enjoy cooking with this herb, a plant is much more economical than buying a pack of cut rosemary stems from the supermarket! Rosmarinus means “dew of the sea” as the beautiful mauve to pale blue flowers appear dew-like and the plant will thrive in coastal areas. Pink and white flowered varieties are available as well as dwarf Prostratus Group (creeping rosemary) which is ideal for smaller gardens. Rosemary is associated with remembrance, friendship and loyalty and has been used for centuries all over the world at weddings and funerals.   Cultivation Rosemary is a perennial Mediterranean plant and thrives in ordinary well-drained soil. The plant can be grown in a pot or in the border in a sunny, sheltered position. If growing in a pot, re-pot annually until the plant is fully grown. The flowers appear in spring and can be added to spring salads for extra flavour and colour. After flowering, carefully snip off the tips of the stems and any dead stems to encourage bushy growth. Prune mature plants in April by cutting back shoots by half. Rosemary can be propagated easily. Take 6”/15cm cuttings during March or September, remove the lower leaves then plant the stems in ordinary garden soil. They will root quickly! Make sure to water them until established. Do not allow rosemary to become water-logged at any time of year and protect from hard frosts in the winter.   Culinary Uses To use in cooking, pick the needle-like leaves off the stems and chop finely. Alternatively, place a whole stem in stews and casseroles, then remove before serving. A sprig of rosemary popped into the cavity of a chicken with half a lemon prior to roasting will give a wonderful flavour to the meat and gravy. Rosemary goes especially well with lamb, chicken, ham and sausages. During spring and summer, roasted new potatoes with whole cloves of garlic and finely chopped rosemary are delicious! Add rosemary sprigs to the flames of a barbeque to add flavour to the cooking.   I have several recipes using rosemary in my books including:- Sausage & Sweet Potato Bake Sausage & Cabbage Casserole Breast of Lamb with Apricot Stuffing...

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Supermarket Shopping – Be Wise!

Supermarket Shopping – Be Wise!

Falling supermarket profits are in the news again today and this time it’s Tesco who have reported a 6% fall in profit.  Their profit was still a whopping £3.3bn, a little down on last year’s £3.5bn which was their first drop in in 20 years. It is also reported that the UK’s big four supermarkets, namely Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons have all lost a share in the market due to rival discount supermarkets Aldi, Lidl and B&M. So why has this happened? Some think that the reduction in Tesco’s profits are due to people comparing grocery prices online and then choosing which supermarket to buy their weekly shop from.  I think this may have a little to do with it, but in my opinion, it’s due to a shift in shopping habits.  The public are shopping more at the big discount stores such as Aldi and Lidl, and also, more people are buying their fresh produce locally as was always done in the past! Of course, with food scandals hitting the headlines regularly, whether it be horse meat substituted for beef, incorrectly labelled origins for fish or misleading adverts and special offers, the public have grown suspicious and lost trust in the supermarket they thought they could count on for value. I think the trend in discounted supermarkets is happening despite how much money people have in their bank accounts.  Who would want to pay more for an everyday food item when the Lidl or Aldi is just down the road? For example, 6 large free range eggs from Aldi cost £1.00, the same large free range eggs from Tesco and Sainsbury’s are £1.30 (today’s online prices).  An 800g loaf of thick sliced bread just 75p from Aldi and £1- £1.40 from the other four supermarkets. A few pence saved here and there will add up to several pounds for a weekly shop! After all, nobody is going to get rich by spending more cash than they need to.  If you go to Aldi, Lidl or B&M – have a look at the cars in the car park and you may be surprised.  Not all their customers are scratching around to make ends meet! It seems that a lot of people shop at the discount stores first, then go to one of the other big four supermarkets to buy anything on their shopping list that they couldn’t find in the first one!   My husband and I have actually recognized shoppers going to two supermarkets on the same morning!  Just goes to show that grabbing the bargains are more important than being loyal to any particular store. The British used to get embarrassed at the thought of being seen...

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