Posts tagged ‘containers’

March 25, 2012

I like

by growingpeople

…the way my clever students at St Mary Magdelene Primary School use egg shells, empty tins and crisp packets for starting off seedlings. Happy days. Speaking of which, now is the time for starting more or less everything (keep the beans, tomatoes and pepper seedlings inside until May though, and hold off on sowing pumpkins, squash and courgettes at all until then).

July 10, 2011

Beyond lettuce

by growingpeople

Lettuce and lettuce-type things are among the easiest edibles to grow in containers and small spaces, but too often we stick to unadventurous species of Butterhead and Looseleaf, ignoring the multitude of more unusual (and better looking) leaves and flowers that can be used to make a salad.

Herbs, too, are frequently seen as simply a garnish and added in minute quantities that can barely be detected – but if chosen correctly, and combined with milder flavours, I believe that they can be a main ingredient. My favourite salad ingredients, container-grown in my Hackney garden include chard, parsley, chives, golden marjoram, nasturtiums, borage, baby spinach and lovage.

The selections below are all suitable for containers, can be sown now and taste much better than an iceberg.

I recommend Real SeedsWild Garden Seeds and Suffolk Herbs for sourcing seeds.

Lactuca sativa var. romana “Little Leprechaun”

 

Levisticum officinale (lovage)

Celery-like shoots, but a milder taste. The young leaves are one of my favourite salad ingredients.

 

Malva sylvestris (mallow)

The young leaves and flowers can be eaten raw. This is hardly worth growing as you can find it everywhere this time of year (Hackney-dwellers, try the marshes -there’s enough to feed the borough there).

 

Rumex acetosa (garden sorrel)

This perennial herb is mild enough to be eaten raw as a salad leaf.

 

Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)

As the name suggests, the leaves taste of garlic and mustard, are delicious in salad if you like that sort of thing, and grow in abundance in Hackney Marshes.

 

Allium ursinum (wild garlic)

One of my absolute favourites, growing abundantly in British woodland in February and March. Use the leaves and flowers in salad – they taste strongly of garlic, so use in addition to a milder leaf.

Trapaeolum majus (nasturtium)

Adds colour to the smallest of garden, grows in the poorest of soils and the leaves and flowers are delicious.

July 7, 2011

July

by growingpeople

Thanks to Naomi, not only is my garden not dead after three weeks away, it also has new additions: golden marjoram (Origanum majorana) and golden feverfew. I’ve never grown either of them before, but I remember learning about feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) on my permaculture design course and loving the name (it’s good at reducing fevers, the story goes).

We’ve finally been able to eat things besides lettuce and radishes – broad beans, carrots and potatoes have all been pulled up and despite not making a full meal, have made additions to a big salad to split three ways. And fresia, verbena, anemone and sunflowers have bloomed, tomatoes are appearing  in abundance and everything’s  making me optimistic.

Things to do now 

Sow fennel, courgettes, marrow, cucumber, french beans, marigolds and wildflowers.

Peel the bottom yellowing leaves from your tomato plants, shred them up, and place them as a mulch around the base of the plats – the potassium rich leaves are needed for fruiting. Stake tomato plants.

Dig up potatoes and carrots. Use the vacated pots for a succession of lettuce and radish.

Re-plant anything that has outgrown its pot into a bigger space.

Keep picking herbs like basil, parsley, lovage and chives, pinching at the base to encourage new growth. Don’t allow them to flower (bolt), or in any case pinch out the flower as soon as it appears.

Plant out broccoli or cabbage seedlings still kept indoors.

Weed and water generously.

My second round of "Paris Market" carrots, perfect for containers, growing to roughly the size of a cherry tomato

 

"Costoluto Genovese" tomato

 

 

May 18, 2011

Vertical gardens

by growingpeople

I’ve spoken a lot about space saving vertical vegetable gardens already, but I’m coming across more and more ways of creating them that I’m eager to try. The beauty of these is just how many plants they can hold without encroaching on any of your limited floor space.

First, the recycled shoe storer by pippa5 on instructables. The pockets are deep enough to plant salads, spinach, flowers and herbs, but also tomatoes, strawberries, radishes and chard. The only way one of these ugly things should ever be used.

Next, the upright pallet garden by life on the balcony. The sides, back and base are lined with landscape fabric – a black porous materials made from natural synthetic fibers and available from garden centres – and the pallet is then filled with compost before being planted up. Leave the pallet lying flat for a couple of weeks to allow rooting to establish before positioning it upright.

I’m not sure about using this tin can garden for edibles as the metal may leach into the soil but these are perfect for planting flowers to attract beneficial insects. Punch a small holes in the bottom of each for drainage and staple-gun or nail them to a wooden fence.

And finally, not strictly vertical, or particularly productive for that matter, but oh so pretty, are Japanese artist Kochi Kawashi‘s “Manga Farms” – beautiful little sprout gardens inside recycled and water soaked comic books. You won’t get a massive crop out of them but such a novel way to grow a leaf or too. Kawashi has tried it with radish, buckweat, broccoli, rocket and basil.

May 13, 2011

May

by growingpeople

After February and April comes May (we skipped March, sorry, but it’s essentially the same as the other two), and things are getting interesting in the edible garden. Perennials like lovage and echinacea are coming into growth after a winter below ground, and the leaves of the Salix alba and Akebia quinata are back. The seedlings that were sown indoors in the earlier months can now be re-potted and moved outside permanently and the seedlings sown outdoors are now growing vigorously.  You’ll probably find that as soon as you re-pot or plant out, the plants have a growth spurt, as their roots have been constricted for the past few weeks. My tomatoes need a cane to lean on now that they are over 30cm tall.

There’s much to do in May as the more tender plants including fennel, green beans and courgettes can be sown now that the danger of frost has definitely passed. These should all be sown indoors and planted out as soon as the seedlings are strong, perhaps with the exception of fennel, which could be sown out now. I’ve also just sown a purple radish, the Hilds Blue, which is slightly more tender than its common red counterpart.

carrot seedlings sown too close together

Thinning out is vital to ensure the growth of crops including radishes, carrots and lettuce. Look at seedlings and pull out any that are growing too close together – imagine the size of a fully grown carrot and remember that each seedling will need that amount of space if it’s going to reach full size. Don’t be tempted to leave in more seedlings than the space can hold, as they just won’t grow and you’ll end up with nothing at all. Runner beans can be sown now – plant in pairs and pull out the weakest plant as soon as they start to grow, and provide support for them from the very beginning. Climbing plants, including runner beans and peas will grow towards the support provided, and without any, will flop and die.

Potatoes should have masses of leaves by now, and will need to be earthed up – simply bury the lowest level of foliage by adding compost to ensure that the tubers aren’t exposed to any light as they break through the soil (this results in green potatoes that you can’t eat).

The first radishes planted back in April should be ready to eat now – keep sowing as you pick them (the same goes for lettuce) to ensure a continuous supply from now right through to the autumn. The radish leaves are edible too, and delicious sautéed in olive oil or added to soup (they are a little too tough to eat raw, although this recipe for radish leaf pesto is a great way of getting around that).

Beneficial flowers like nasturtium and calendula can still be sown this month if you haven’t done so already – I’m finding the nasturtiums particularly helpful at luring black fly away from my broad beans.

And although it sounds obvious, it’s vital to water a lot, particularly if you, like me, are growing in pots. Most plants can survive on just a little water, but need plenty more water to produce the flowers which will eventually produce fruit in the coming months. In this weather, I’m watering at least every other day, and leaving a plate under each pot to minimise the water that drains away.

Keep on top of weeds, again particularly if growing in pots, as plants already have a limited amount of space and nutrients and the weeds only add to that competition.

May is the month to enjoy watching things grow, as it will all happen in quick succession between now and June – I continue to be amazed at how suddenly the flowers have appeared on the broad beans that were nothing more than little shoots only weeks ago, and how quickly the tomatoes develop from skinny seedlings to thick, strong plants.

Finally – because this is what it’s all about, after all – here’s what’s growing in my garden this month, as well as potatoes, chard, beetroot, Anemone coronaria, spinach, calendula, foxglove, rosemary, fennel, runner beans, parsley, chives, sweet pea, radish, Schisandra grandifloraAkebia quinataSalix alba, sweet pepper, Verbena bonariensis, basil, jasmine, iris, lavender and Myosotis (forget-me-nots).

broad beans and nasturtiums

Philadelphus, raspberry, tomatoes

strawberry, borage and nasturtium seedlings

tomatoes, sunflower, carrot

Echinacea, Potentilla, lettuce

tomato, oca

lovage, thyme

borage, squash, mint

May 6, 2011

Secret London Garden #2: Garden Barge Square, Reeds Wharf

by growingpeople

The residential barges that make up the floating Garden Barge Square are moored at Downings Roads Moorings, Reeds Wharf – east of Tower Bridge on the South side of the Thames. These 200 year old moorings were very nearly the victims of closure at the hands of Southwark Council (who deemed the set-up an “eyesore”) a few years ago, but a successful campaign and cross-party support have enabled them to overthrow the eviction notice and stay put.

Which is a great thing, because as well as being a floating garden, the moorings house over seventy people, including several families with children, businesses and artist studios. The gardens themselves are built onto the roofs of the converted barges, which have been topped with huge metal trays and then filled with a thick layer of soil, the barges then joined together by a series of bridges and walkways. Self-seeded wildflowers first sprung up on the barges in the mid 1980s and provided the inspiration for the further planting up of the floating gardens. The rooftops are now home to an abundance of herbs and flowers, a quince tree, Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Fresia’, Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae, ferns and an apple tree. Evergreen and silver-leafed plants such as lavender and Stipa tenacissima are particularly well adapted to the dry and windy air of the Thames.

As well as contributing to the character of the historic wharf it occupies, Garden Barge Square provides a habitat and shelter for Thames water birds and river fish, and maintains sustainable standards through its numerous Ecological  Initiatives.

Sadly for us (it is a private residence, after all), Garden Barge Square is not open to the public for much of the year, but can be viewed from the wharfs. The Gardens are open for public visits once a year, however, as part of the Open Garden Squares Weekend, which takes place on the 11th and 12th of June.

March 31, 2011

Growing by numbers

by growingpeople

The British (or at least the writers at the Evening Standard) are fond of attributing monetary worth to the most unquantifiable of events, informing us for example that the magical London snow day in February 2009 in which every Londoner woke up happy and strangers said hello to each other in the street cost the economy £3 billion. It’s not surprising of course that in our society the media insists on this kind of “expert” analysis (or at least less surprising than the fact that the Royal Wedding will cost the British economy £5 billion), but I think there’s something inherently sad at the heart of it – as though nothing can ever simply just be, without having to be worth something in order to have a purpose (or lack of).

So for once I was pleased to read the article in this month’s Jellied Eel about the Tufnell Park resident Mark Ridsdill Smith who has calculated that he has grown £812 worth of fruit and vegetables on his balcony, measuring less than 3 square meters (that’s £270 a meter). Among the runner beans, courgettes, carrots and potatoes,  Smith grew the equivalent of 100 bags of salad, 92 supermarket punnets of tomatoes and 120 packets of herbs.

you won't find these in Sainsbury's

Gardening is certainly not something I started to do for the money, but in the great British tradition, I’ve succumbed to the fact that as well as reaping ecological and health benefits, it can provide you with massive  savings on your food bill. Or at the very least, a couple quid’s worth of parsley.

Smith details how and what he grew, with minimal space and an abundance of creativity as well as the “worth” of each of his harvests in his fantastic blog, Vertical Veg.

December 10, 2010

Winter gardening

by growingpeople

Granted December probably isn’t the most exciting time to be thinking about vegetable gardening. The soil is more or less frozen solid, tender plants have finally succumbed to the frost (the nasturtiums are headed for the compost bin today) and everything else is looking a little sad. Not to mention the unappealing prospect of cold hands. Apart from a few hardy rosemary bushes, there will be nothing to eat in my garden for the rest of the winter.

But there are a few practical things you could be doing to get a head start on next year’s growing season.

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