Category Archives: Plants

Some tips on growing vegetables in pots and a gardening retrospective

This evening I was waxing lyrical to a couple of friends about the ease and virtue of growing vegetables in pots.  I love home grown vegetables but sometimes there are simply not enough hours in the day to be digging and composting, improving the soil followed by yet more digging and raking. Sometimes there is more to life than a fine tilth.

The easy and effective solution to this is to grow vegetables in pots.  One can grow practically anything in a pot and the great benefit of this type of gardening is that each pot can contain a completely different soil type to get the best out of your veg.

Carrots like poor, sandy soil, so a big pot of earth mixed with sharp sand will produce a fine crop.
Cauliflowers like rich, firm, deep soil whilst
onions and garlic will grow in practically anything as long as the soil is well-drained.
A dustbin full of soil can produce half a dozen corn on the cobs.
Beans and peas (legumes) prefer a rich, light, slightly limey soil and don’t like the cold.
If you like new potatoes with your Christmas lunch, pop a few seed potatoes in now

Even better, crop rotation is easy, as all you have to do is change pots.  I always keep a notebook in which I write details of what I’ve planted in each pot and this allows for a bit of experimentation.  It is important not to grow the same plants in the same soil as the soil will become depleted and prone to disease.

There is also much scope for companion planting as you don’t have to use up valuable veg growing space with flowers.
Simply pop a pot of marigolds next to your carrots to repel aphids and carrot root fly –
onions also repel carrot fly,
oregano fends off Cabbage White butterflies,
sage is a deterrent against flea beetles, slugs and cabbage moth
and a shotgun soon sorts out the squirrels. I jest of course – a catapault is far less ostentatious.

Give it a go and pop in a few onion sets and spuds and see how you get on.  Seed packets and small plants (sets) nearly always have clear instructions on how close plants should be and it may be that you just plant one cabbage to a pot, or a couple of seed potatoes.

Have a look at the sites below to see how I fared.

https://wartimehousewife.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/garden-update

https://wartimehousewife.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/garden-update-2

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New Season Gardening Tips

Heavenly blossom in the churchyard of St Nicks

A Blackthorn Winter:  You may have noticed an awful lot of blackthorn in blossom.  This heavy blossom usually follows a hard winter and country lore says that you shouldn’t put new plants or vegetables in until the Blackthorn blossom is dying off as there are still likely to be frosts.

Hanging Baskets:  Now is the time to sort out your hanging baskets.

Tip 1.  Line hanging baskets with old tea bags – they hold water and release nutrients for the plants.

Tip 2.  Old jumpers make super liners for baskets and look jolly as well.

Tip 3.  You  can avoid covering yourself in water when you water your baskets by putting a handful of ice cubes on top of the soil every so often.

Evergreens:  Clip and prune evergreens and flowering shrubs and give them a good mulching,

Mulching:  Mulching can be done with all sorts of things.  Try to get as many of the deep rooted perennial weeds out as you can for the best results.  The mulch must be thick enough to deprive the weeds of air and light.  You could try:

Carpet squares or lengths with holes cut in for the plants

Newspaper laid in thick layers then covered with straw can later be dug into the soil if necessary.  Alternatively you can cover the newspaper in bark or gravel

Old lino or vinyl floor covering is superb

Grass cutting laid 6” thick are an effective mulch round the bottom of currents or raspberries to keep down annual weeds

Seeds:

After sowing seeds, put a stick into the ground at the end of the row then place the seed packet or a label into a jam jar and put it upside down onto the stick

Individual seeds can be planted in tea bags and kept moist.  When they sprout they can be transferred directly into the soil without upsetting the roots

Seedlings can be protected from pests with plastic bottles, using the end with the cap on so you can allow air in

Soot:  Lily of the Valley enjoys being fed with water that has been mixed with a couple of tablespoons of soot.  Leeks will grow stronger if you add two or three handfuls of soot to the soil when you plant them

Wildlife:  If you are planting for the new season or moving your garden around, try to have an area with a bit of hedge where insects and small animals can shelter.  Also reserve a small area which can go a bit wild, including some logs to encourage beetles and suchlike

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Snowdrops

What a vision of hope on this beautiful, crisp, sunny afternoon.

Snowdrops at Skeffington

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Garden Update 2

From the pot to the pot in 5 minutes

Today I had the pleasure of harvesting the first of my carrots which were grown in pots.  I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to prepare my garden properly for vegetables earlier in the year, but I did manage to get in a few rows of onions and potatoes, one row of cabbages and a few pots of carrots.

I inherited my garden with a small raised bed and I got very excited until I discovered that it was just a large lump of clay with a couple of old railway sleepers round the edge.  Hence the spuds which are starting to break the soil up a little.  My onions are now in and waiting to be plaited into a neat hanging thingy; they are so crisp and full of flavour they make me weep.  Oh hang on…. But joking apart they really are lovely onions.

I planted my potatoes much too close together which made them difficult to earth up and they completely overshadowed my cabbages and I forgot about them until about two months ago.  Consequently, the cabbages got a bit sluggy and the last but one has bolted, but the others were all nicely tight-headed and delicious.

As I mentioned earlier, the soil in my garden is very heavy clay and therefore completely unsuitable for carrots.  If you attempt to plant carrots in clay, all you will get is clumps of fanged, knobbly monstrosities which are neither use nor ornament, unless they grown into amusingly genital shapes, but even this has limited entertainment when the family is crying out for Sunday lunch! 

I didn’t have time to organise different areas of soil, or to improve all the soil in time for planting, so I did my old trick of planting in large plastic pots.  I made a mix of half compost and half sharp sand and filled three giant pots with it.  I then carefully and thinly sowed carrot seed as per the instructions on the packet and left them to it.  I’ve just had my first crop and I can’t tell you how delicious they were and you can’t get any fresher than taking them out of the ground and into the pot five minutes later.  Do try growing things in pots if you don’t have much garden – you will be amazed at what you can achieve.

Vis a vis the other things I planted, I had a grand total of ten tomatoes, the neighbour’s horse ate the pumpkin plant and the pepper just stared at me very hard as I walked past, but did nothing.

I have grander plans for the garden next year.  As my landlord stole half my garden, there is no longer any need for the badly made and un-membraned gravel path that cuts across what remains of my lawn.  I shall remove it, use the wooden planks to edge the front flower bed, move the pathetic box plants to in front of the fence, where hopefully they will eventually form a nice hedge.  I will then be left with a decent, vaguely rectangular lawn which will be easier to mow.

I can then move the tatty sleeper edged bed, which is at the moment full of mint, and use the remaining sleeper to extend the vegetable patch.  With hard work and a following wind I may even have room for the garden swing which I bought and promised to put up for the boys two years ago.

This is not as much work as it sounds and, to be honest, I far prefer diggin’, choppin’ and ‘ackin’ work to poncing about with plants.  The Aged Parent can do that – it’ll keep her joints supple.

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Garden Update

Right at the beginning of my blogging life I wrote an article about the setting up of the garden at my old cottage.  Because of my premature ejection from said cottage and the combination of drought, flood and destroyed greenhouses, my grand plan of a scale reproduction of Kennilworth Castle Gardens never came to fruition.  The carpet mulch worked a treat though.

The new cottage has an existing infrastructure. I have grass, a gravelled area for sitting and drinking wine in, a path edged with tiny box plants, and a rudimentary raised bed with enough clay in it to line a large lake.  I also have a shed which is very exciting, although sadly it’s not big enough to house my tools and my train set. Alas.

As the Aged Parent is staying, I put a hoe in her hand and set her to work.  We have weeded the beds, planted tubs and pots and started hanging baskets.  Seeing an 82 year old woman lying in a flower bed with a garden implement is a strangely satisfying sight.  We have bought some seed potatoes, onion sets, cabbage plants, tomato plants and a pumpkin plant, and I found a rhubarb patch in the adjoining paddock which my neighbour and I raid on a regular and democratic basis.  The raised bed is more or less prepared and will bung the plants in over the next couple of days.

I am going to grow carrots in large pots because the soil is too heavy for anything but a mutation worthy of a spot on ‘That’s Life’  and I can mix it with some sharp sand to improve the draining and consistency.  I have had huge success with container gardening in the past.  I have grown sweetcorn in dustbins and had blooming cabbages, potatoes, peppers, onions, carrots, salad and herbs, all from giant, cheap plastic pots.  The great thing about containers is that you can have different soil conditions in each pot; rich loam in one, sandy, well-drained soil in another and you can use practically anything as a container, from old dustbins to thick plastic bags.  Ikea bags make great containers!

We also have to raise my old portable greenhouse, phoenix like, from the tangle of metal tubes and plastic that lie twisted in it’s mortuary bin liner so that I can get some more seeds on the go.

I am brimming with optimism and will keep you posted (no matter what the outcome).

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Growing Plants from Seeds – much cheaper than buying plants

Seed trays 08.09.09There are few things more cheering and pleasant than the sight of flowers in your garden or around the house.  Stocking your garden with plants can be very costly but there are lots of ways to obtain plants, pots and ornamental objects for very little money.  I am something of a novice in the garden, so we can have the joy of learning (and falling flat on our faces) together.  I am fortunate to be surrounded by people who are really good at this gardening lark and I’m never afraid to ask questions.

The first step is to have a plan, as a bit of forward thinking gives you time to gather materials and scout around for interesting things.  At this time of year you need to be planning for the Spring and making notes about which type of plants you want to grow and how you can get your mucky paws on them.  Get some books out of the library, draw some plans in a notebook. And don’t feel restrained by conventional ornaments and containers.  Look in skips and go to the tip – make yours the most original garden in the street.

Now go to your garden centre or supermarket and see what seeds they have on sale; the back of the packet will tell you when they can be planted, but I am very much an experimenter.  A reasonable rule of thumb is that if it’s in the garden centre, it’s the right time of year for it.  Back in July I planted trays and trays of seeds, about half of which were washed away or drowned by the positively diluvian weather we all experienced at the time. (Although when the rain stopped I did find a pair of giraffes and a two rather bedraggled cockatoos lurking in my privet).

I let the trays dry out and have been astonished to find that more seeds than I expected have recovered and started to sprout.  But the new problem is that the weather has now turned and is not particularly conducive to bringing on seedlings.

Again, a trip to the garden centre was most profitable as they have their seasonal sales like everyone else.  I came home with a small, 3-shelf plastic greenhouse for £9.00, which, if the worst comes to the worst, can be brought indoors; two trays of fuschias for £1 which I’m going to experiment with putting inside and outside the house as I have no idea whether they are hardy; a tray of pansies for £2.00, 30 small plastic pots for £1.12 and a big bag of end of stock compost for £1.50.  I also bought all the plants for my hanging baskets last month from a sale at the market  (9 plants for £9) and they were as bonny as anything.  I could have done with an extra plant in each basket, but I’ll know for next year.

Regular followers of the Wartime Housewife will remember my scavenging expedition to the municipal tip back in July where I found hanging baskets and pots galore for next to nothing and these are really coming into their own now as I am potting up seedlings left, right and centre.  I’m going to start some more to replace the ones I lost in the rain, despite the time of year, but at between 99p-£1.50 for a packet of seeds, one can afford to experiment. I have been reliably informed by the Aged Parent that garden centres often have dump bins where you can place unwanted pots for recycling.  Recycled straight into my garden as it happens.  Always re-use before you recycle.

Just a little aesthetic extra; I use old saucers under my pots in the house.  Bric-a-brac stalls, antique stalls and car boot sales will often have loads of assorted china and saucers that cost pence, look lovely and are perfect for small pots. Try planting in mugs or cups and saucers as well.

Another way of obtaining cheap plants, is to do a Seed Swap.  Tomorrow evening our local Garden Society is holding a Seed Swap at the village hall but you can buy seeds and seedlings if you don’t have any to swap.  If you don’t have a garden soc., go to your friends and neighbours and suggest it to them – it could also be a lovely way to encourage a bit of community spirit.  Get that kettle on! Take cuttings, plant seeds, cover your windowsills with pots and see what happens. Oh and don’t forget the biscuits.

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Filed under Make it yourself, Plants, The Garden, Tips, Skips and Scavenging

Sorting Out the Garden

In which The Wartime Housewife Pots - 26.7.09explains the cheap way
of clearing weeds with old carpet and growing plants from seed.

We have recently moved into a little cottage, tucked away behind the church in a small village near Market Harborough.  As you know, moving is a horrid business and it takes some time to get everything straight in the house and garden.

The garden is rather small and contains nothing but weeds, and it’s going to take some time and planning to make it a place for me and The Boys to enjoy.  So having consulted many garden books (your local library may well have a super range of gardening books to help you) I decided to clear the weeds and plant some seeds ready for next Spring.  This need not be a costly business.

I bought some very cheap seed trays and seeds from Wilkinson’s to get me started and planted them with the flowers I would need in the Spring.  But these seeds will need potting on and I don’t want to spend money on pots, so my next trip was down to the local tip where I found a huge lot of pots, both plastic and terracotta.  I also found some elderly hanging baskets which, after a little attention, will be perfect.  I came home with nearly 50 assorted pots and three hanging baskets for £3.  Incidentally, old cut up jumpers lined with plastic bags with a few tiny holes in make super liners for baskets.

My next problem was how to clear the weeds ready to re-structure the garden in the Spring.  There is a very simple, if unconventional, way to do this.  Carpet.  Cut down the bigger weeds  and then start inspecting all the skips one increasingly sees at the side of the road.  Many contain large pieces of old carpet which can be laid on the ground, depriving the weeds of light and air.  Always ask permission of the skip-ee out of courtesy, although they will probably be delighted to free up some space in their expensive skip!  In the winter, the carpet should be removed and the soil dug over ready for planting and landscaping.

I will let you know how I get on!

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Filed under Make it yourself, Plants, The Garden, Tips, Skips and Scavenging