Category Archives: Grow Your Own

Great tips on growing your own organic fruit and veg.

Encourage hedgehogs to your garden

Why is it a good thing to encourage hedgehogs to your garden or allotment plot?

Well one reason is hedgehogs feast on insects, including pesky caterpillars, slugs and snails, often consuming over 200g of bugs every night, great news for getting rid of slugs. This will balance out your garden’s natural ecosystem, making it much more balanced as you introduce a natural predator rather than putting down poison or slug traps. (which are horrid to empty). Plus hedgehogs are super cute and fun to watch!

Check out these 5 tips from Grow fruit and veg:

main imageHere’s how you can encourage them.

1. Introduce hedging Hedgehogs like to hunt and rest under these plants for protection. Introduce hedges such as beech, holly, hawthorn and yew (pictured below) as barriers around your plot instead of wooden or metal fencing to create easy access to your crops that need a helping hand

main image

2. Provide food and water A garden pond is a great source of drinking water for these creatures, as long as you provide an easy exit in case they fall in. Hedgehog food is available to buy which can be left out in the evenings – alternatively, try using meat-based pet food.

main image

3. Create shelter Compost heaps and piles of logs in a quiet space on your plot make perfect resting places for hedgehogs. They provide protection from predators and a way of escaping higher temperatures during the day.

main image

4. Leave a part of your plot to grow wild It may seem counterproductive to many tidy gardeners, but leaving just a small corner of your growing space unattended will encourage more food for hedgehogs such as various beetles that won’t be of any harm to your crops. This makes it more likely for them to stay close by.

main image

5. Keep pets away Larger animals such as cats and dogs may frighten hedgehogs that appear in your garden overnight. To help them feel safe in this environment, make sure your pets are kept away from secluded areas where these creatures are likely to be hunting in the evening. It’s also important to protect any food left out from being eaten by your furry companions.

Further great advice from The wildlife gardener:

How we can help hedgehogs

In order to help hedgehogs, gardeners should avoid using slug pellets because, as well as hedgehogs helping you get rid of a slug problem naturally, the pellets can also kill hedgehogs and even if they don’t eat the pellets directly, if the slugs they eat have been poisoned, this will also be absorbed into the hedgehogs’ body tissue too. You can supplement a hedgehog’s natural diet especially in autumn when they need to accumulate fat before they go into hibernation for the winter.

What to feed hedgehogs

Tinned cat or dog food and even dry dog food is a useful addition to a hedgehog’s diet. They’ll also eat things like bacon rind. You should also ensure that you put out fresh water with any food you leave but you shouldn’t feed a hedgehog milk or bread in large amounts as they can cause diarrhoea.

Do you have hedgehogs in your garden?

Growing garlic

Garlic-bulb-alamy-large

“Whole books have been written about garlic, an herb affectionately called “the stinking rose” in light of its numerous therapeutic benefits. A member of the lily or Allium family, which also includes onions and leeks, garlic is rich in a variety of powerful sulfur-containing compounds including thiosulfinates (of which the best known compound is allicin), sulfoxides (among which the best known compound is alliin), and dithiins (in which the most researched compound is ajoene). While these compounds are responsible for garlic’s characteristically pungent odor, they are also the source of many of its health-promoting effects.

More recent research has identified additional sulfur-containing compounds that are responsible for garlic’s star status as a health-supporting food. These sulfur compounds include 1,2-vinyldithiin (1,2-DT), and thiacremonone. The hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) that can be made from garlic’s sulfides has also been the subject of great research interest. When produced and released from our red blood cells, this H2S gas can help dilate our blood vessels and help keep our blood pressure under control.” Sourced from whfoods.com

I was very sporadic in my garlic planting last year and would like to get with it and grow enough garlic so I don’t have to buy any next year, I did work it out we would need to plant something like 140 bulbs to come anywhere close as we use so much in cooking, at the moment with Tom being on his fodmap diet this number has reduced but I will still need to plant a lot! So with this in mind, I searched for some tips and found this great piece on The Telegraph today:

September is not too early to be thinking about next summer’s garlic crop. Garden centres stock a few varieties, but there is an increasing range available. Order early from a specialist supplier such as thegarlicfarm.co.uk to ensure top-quality seed garlic.

  1. Garlic is easy to grow but needs a period of low temperatures for plants to bulb up. Planting in autumn (October-November) or early spring provides the necessary chilling period.
  2. Choose an open sunny site and well-drained soil or grow in raised beds. Garlic does well on soils manured for a previous crop. Otherwise, add a couple of buckets of manure per sq yd.
  3.  Apply a general fertiliser, such as Growmore, at planting time at 2oz per sq yd (50g per sq m) followed by a light dressing of 1oz sq yd (25g sq m) of sulphate of potash in February.
  4.  Break up the bulb into individual cloves, selecting the largest for planting and using the remainder in the kitchen. Plant an inch deep (slightly deeper on light soils), 6in (15cm) apart with 1ft (30cm) between rows.
  5. On heavy, wet soils, start off garlic in module or cell trays in autumn, overwinter them in a cold frame and plant out in spring.
  6.  Keep garlic weed-free for good yields. In spring, during dry spells, water every 14 days. To reduce fungal diseases water the ground and not the foliage.
  7. As foliage yellows in summer, stop watering.
  8.  Harvest autumn-planted garlic in early summer and spring-planted from mid-summer. Don’t leave them too long in the ground or bulbs will open up, which reduces storage quality. 
  9. Dry bulbs in the sun or greenhouse or a well-ventilated shed for two to four weeks.
  10. Garlic suffers from similar pests and diseases to onions. The most common problem is rust, which can cover foliage in orange pustules. To avoid this, plant into fresh ground each year.

Planting-garlic-Alamy-large

There are two main types of garlic. Hardnecks produce flower stems and fewer larger cloves of stronger flavour. They rarely store beyond mid-winter. Softnecks store better, autumn plantings lasting to late winter and spring plantings to mid-spring. Elephant garlic is related to leeks. It produces a small number of very large cloves of mild flavour. Best planted in October.

I have been using shop bought garlic to plant and its not really worked very well so I am going to try some bulbs from the seed shop and see how they fare, wish me luck! if you have grown garlic with great success I would love to hear from you.

Low impact living in a town – what can be done?

We live in Blackpool which is a seaside resort in the Northwest of UK, population of roughly 142,000, so we are a large town. Contrary to popular belief from my photos, we live in a terrace house surrounded by neighbours and the normal trappings of large town life. So until we get our dream home in the countryside what do we do to have a lesser impact on the environment and to live a ‘back to nature’ way of life. A simple guide to our low impact living.

Read More →

An abundance of fruit and weeds!

We spent another Sunday afternoon at the allotment today, after upgrading from a half plot to full size it’s been hard work, there is so much prep to do, the soil is very heavy clay and every time it rains it ends up flooded. Weeds appear overnight and the seeds don’t grow!

One thing that is doing well are the fruit trees, if nothing else we will have an abundance of fruit to eat!

Read More →

Fix your digestion naturally

Spearmint is a sweet, mild herb that is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants such as vitamin A, C, B-complex, beta carotene, iron, magnesium, calcium, manganese, and potassium. Spearmint is wonderful for digestion, nausea, indigestion, ulcers, halitosis, and flatulence.

It can also provide relief from headaches, sinus congestion, sore throats, fatigue, stress, and anxiety. Spearmint can also help to promote blood circulation and improve metabolism making it an excellent choice for cleansing and weight loss. Spearmint is also beneficial for respiratory issues such as bronchitis, asthma, and respiratory inflammation.

You can easily grow spearmint, but grow it in a pot as it is fast spreading, you can even bury the pot in the ground so it contains its roots from spreading everywhere. You can add a few leaves to your smoothie or your fruit salad. It is a delicious flavor combination and provides an added mineral and antioxidant boost!

You can dry your spearmint (or any mint you grow) by tying bunches of it together and hanging it upside down in a dry room, pantry or kitchen, when it crisps up and it easily crumbles it is ready to put into pots that will last throughout the winter. You can use it in cooking and make herbal tea with it. It is so refreshing and makes your mouth feel clean and eases bloating when drank daily.

Allotment time, books and foraging

I spent a lovely afternoon in the sunshine today at our plot, did some weeding and dug over a bed ready for planting, planted some seed potatoes that were on offer (I normally just sprout my own in a dark cupboard), built up the next layer of compost with grass cuttings, veg peelings, coffee dregs and horse poo and then sat on a bench we made from bricks and a scaffolding plank and closed my eyes and listened to the birds and the sounds of nature all around me. It was amazing, I remembered when we first got the phone call to say we could have an allotment I said to Tom (my partner) which plot I thought it was, we had visited plenty of times on open day so knew the plots quite well, it was a middle plot with fruit trees on, when we visited to view our new plot it wasn’t that one, it was right at the far end with no trees, it was only today I realised when we moved from the half plot to this double plot just over a month ago I was sitting next to the original plot I dreamed about and our new plot has loads of fruit trees on it too!

Read More →

Plum and blackberry crumble recipe

DSC04010

Sometimes after a hard days work you need something comforting, warm and cosy in a bowl and this plum and blackberry crumble with dairy free custard did the trick.

It was so good I wanted seconds but it had all gone!

I used the last of our foraged blackberries which I had been storing in the freezer since last year and bought plums as our plum tree is not ready to bear fruit yet, wait till it does, I will be going plum recipe mad!!

Read More →

Healthy eating on a budget

As the prices of things go up a lot more people are being careful of what they spend or even making a choice of putting money on the electric or buying food, it’s all about budgeting and spending wisely, so I want to offer you a series of handy tip and ideas on how to budget and spend a little but still eat healthily, and make conscious ethical choices.

I have heard many times “we can’t afford to eat organic” or “we can’t afford to buy coconut oil at £6 a jar”, I understand this mindset but it is really all about prioritising and finding a way which works for you, you can do you best and that IS good enough for this moment in time, do consider though not only will you be saving money buy not impulse buying when there is nothing left for tea, you will also be making yourself and your family feel healthy and free of disease.

10519771_693045977433244_6420939035561254885_n Read More →

Are you connected to your food?

Ask yourself the question “How connected am I to the food I eat”?

I have found just chatting to people, not many are actually invested or connected to the food they eat, eating is a massive part of our lives, in the western world where there is an abundance of food, it is almost taken for granted that there will be food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That if you have the money you can walk into a shop or supermarket and have your pick of any food you desire, and that is where the connection has been lost, food from all over the world is sold, hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles from coming out of the ground to reaching your plate.

milesMap from here

 

Read More →

Allotment and chickens in winter catch up

It has been pretty frosty here in Blackpool, UK for the past few nights and a little flurry of snow fell but by morning it had disappeared, we go up to the allotment about once a week at the moment to collect veg and clear up the dead leaves, have a general tidy up and get the beds ready for spring. This is the first winter having the plot and we started quite late planting as we got our allotment 31st May 2014.

We still have sprouts, kale, curly kale and cabbages growing and are ready for eating, the garlic we planted is growing nicely and should be ready for early spring.

10926401_804829699588204_5265638434706293547_n

Read More →