An Exciting Delivery

MY container garden is rejuvenated by some new arrivals.

It was at this point in my gardening session that I noticed a lot of abandoned pots in the boarder that a resident before me must have discarded. I rescued most of these apart from the one that seems to be the source of all snails and the wooden window box which was already occupied. I also found a huge slug. So, after my mini safari, I used some of these pots to plant some mustard. I know they are small so will require more watering but given the Norwich climate and the fact that winter is coming I don’t think it will be too much of a problem. 

My lettuce and radishes are still surviving and my herb pot and chillies look great. I have also discovered a fig tree with fruit on it that seems to nearly be ripe. I sense a fresh fig and pancetta salad in the future.  There is also a rosemary bush hiding in the boarder which is nice to know about since I don’t have much in my pot since it is slow growing. I have gathered the fallen apples up and will be making myself some delicious deserts with them soon.

I have also made a volcano cake for the UEA 50th anniversary celebration  “Cake-off” so wish me luck with that (the judging is later today). It’s so nice to be back being busy with my studies and my garden. Happy gardening, Ele

After what I am terming a mild success drought, is nice to finally get some new things to plant and try my hand at. I have decided that the spinach I grew from seed had reached the end of its usefulness so it was time to chop it all off with scissors for one last harvest and then use that pot for my winter salads. I planted a mini pack of winter salads from . I am becoming limited in terms of space so they are all a little cosy in that pot. I will see how they go but I might have to transplant some of them into the boarders. 

I also dug up the one solitary bean that I managed to germinate. From what I can gather from research, there is no way it is actually going to produce any beans for me this year and it hasn’t really shown much enthusiasm since I planted it outside so I have replaced it with some bunching onions. I have also planted some chard which I think will look beautiful in the green glazed pot with its many coloured stems.  

Murder on the Oriental Vegetable Express

The tragic demise of my oriental vegetables.

I’ve only been away for 3 days but it appears that in that time the Norwich heavens have opened to their fullest extent and drowned all my oriental vegetables. When I examined the victims more carefully it was apparent that they had entirely rotted off. I think maybe Carbon Gold compost might retain too much water for outdoor use in Norwich. 

After a demorilising week for my plants it was lovely to see these autumn crocuses thriving.

Tomorrow I think I am going out to buy some plant food for my radishes. They have grown a lot of leaf but their stems don’t seem to be swelling at all. I think possibly they could also be thinned a bit more too. Some googling is going to have to take place I think. 

Despite the death of my oriental veg my weekend away at the Sturminster Newton Cheese festival was incredible and gave me and tonne of ideas both for the garden and the kitchen. My pick of the festival was Shorrocks Cheese: if you see a cheese bomb from these guys in your local market then I cannot recommend it highly enough. Check out their website here:

Planting some perpetual spinach this week when the weather clears up. Happy gardening, Ele

Some indication of how wet this weekend has been. I am honestly surprised: I thought drought would be my main enemy as a container gardener but it seems it’s the opposite problem. Next year I will put bricks in the bottom of my pots to aid drainage. 

My face upon the discovery of my vegetables’ tragic demise. Less Poirot and more veg-rot but still, I’m counting this as murder. I think i will get over the loss with the help of the delicious Sturminster Newton cheese festival produce.

Preserving at Home

What to do with the September gluts to make them last all the way through winter.

Returning home to bring in the harvest seems like an old-fashioned notion but in my family it is still very much the done thing.  My dad is a little too gifted at growing for domestic uses given I was confronted with the following: a bucket of tomatoes, a bucket of peppers, a bucket of insect covered redcurrants and 2 pounds each of raspberries and blackcurrants.

Given the bucket of redcurrants I figured that redcurrant jelly was a must. The recipe I used is here ( however I would have to recommend against buying a Kilner jelly strainer if you are considering investing in one. It was poorly designed and resulted in something that looked like the vegetarian equivalent of the Texas chainsaw massacre. Definitely make sure your jelly bag is well secured before adding the redcurrants.

I decided to turn the raspberries and blackcurrants into both coulis and jam. The jam recipe can be found here ( and it was utterly delicious. If you haven’t made jam before or are nervous of it then I would recommend this jam as a good starting point. It sets relatively easily because of the high levels of pectin in the fruit. Also, my rule for jam is that I would rather have great tasting jam that is a little runny than some perfectly set jam that tastes vile because it is burnt. Runny jam doesn’t last so long but if it tastes good it won’t need to. We collect jars all year so we have some for jam making season but if you don’t it might be worth looking for some on or in pound shops before you splash out on expensive ones from a shop.

The coulis I made was simply a pound each of blackcurrants and raspberries plus 400g of sugar. This was just bought gently to the boil and then left it to cool. I then ladled it into containers for freezing.  I also froze some in individual ice cube trays. These are the perfect size to drop into some plain yoghurt for a fruity treat.  This also might be a good idea if you have young children and you want to get them eating healthier yoghurt with less sugar and additives.

With the buckets of tomatoes and peppers I made a delicious soup with the roasted peppers and tomatoes. The recipe can be found here ( ). I froze most of this huge batch of soup since it is nice, with winter fast approaching, to have some healthy, vitamin rich soup to tide you over, especially since tomatoes and peppers remind me so much of summer.  Though gathering this amount of produce is hard work, it’s definitely well worth doing. It is satisfyingly thrifty and most of all delicious!

Pests, Exploration and a New Toy

The pest battle intensifies and I make some fantastic discoveries in the garden.

It seems that now my plants are established and consistently yielding lots of great tasting produce that the bugs of the garden have noticed too.  I’m pretty sure it’s snails or slugs that have been having a go at my oriental vegetables. The vindictive portion of my brain is considering putting a ring of salt around the bottom of my pots but I know in my hear t of hearts that my conscience wouldn’t allow indiscriminate gastropod murder. I have resolved to pick any up that I see and relocate them to the hedge. The radishes too are a little on the holey side but I’m not sure what’s eating those. I think I will be asking agony plant again. 

I have transplanted the one bean that survived my clumsy attempts at sowing to the wine box that it was originally supposed to inhabit. I am pretty sure I won’t get any beans off of it this year but it was at least a useful learning experience. Also it has highlighted that I really ought to go out and get a few basic gardening tools. I can’t keep transplanting things with spoons.

Further exploration of the garden has yielded some incredible discoveries though. I have discovered a compost pile, two apple trees and a bumper crop of blackberries. Unfortunately the blackberries are located about 9 feet up at the back of the hedge so some ingenuity will be required to get most of them down. However the few I did manage to acquire made a delicious crumble. 

Also, due to the tragic demise of my old camera (It unfortunately took an almost unbelievable dive from the arm of the sofa into a pint of water) I have finally invested in a brand new camera which I must say is utterly glorious. Also on the technological front, don’t forget you can follow me on twitter @GreenSideUpEle

Happy Gardening,


Back from the Fringe…

Managing my pots after a week away.

Back from Edinburgh at an ungodly hour I still had just enough energy to wonder what had become of my plants. And, joy of joys, I have beans! Ok, so I have two bean plants from the large handful of seeds I sowed and one of them is still quite weedy but still, it’s something. The tub on the windowsill was pretty dry and I decided that if any more beans were going to germinate they would have done so by now so I watered the ones that have come up. 

After my first good night’s sleep in a week I couldn’t wait to get back to the garden. Firstly, I placed the bean container outside. I think I will bring it in again if it rains heavily since the box has no holes in the bottom and I am concerned about drainage. There were also a lot of little flies crawling on the soil, they don’t seem to be bothering my beans but I thought I might take advantage of the avian pest control service available in my garden. When the beans get a little bigger I will transplant them into a bigger pot and leave them outside permanently.

In other news my herbs are huge! I have an ample supply of all the soft herbs I use on a daily basis apart from mint. Warned about its vigorousness I planted it in a tube to restrict its growth but the other herbs seem to have stolen so much of its light that it never really got going. I have resolved that, when I harvest, I will pick the herb leaves that are closest to the mint as a form of pruning in the hope of giving the mint some more room. 

Unlike the beans the radishes have germinated with incredible success so I have thinned them quite considerably. When I was deciding how many to take out I considered the size of the average radish and tried to leave each plant enough room to reach that size. The spinach is starting to go to seed so I will be nipping out the tops the next time I need some (expect a delicious spinach recipe in the next few days). I am also ready with my perpetual spinach seeds so it’s not to disastrous if I only get a few more weeks’ worth of greens off these plants. 

My oriental veg pot is also looking incredible. It is definitely ready for harvesting. Something, I think a pigeon, has taken a few chunks out of some of the more tender leaves but it appears to be thriving in spite of this so I am not too upset. It appears planting a whole mini pack in one pot has gone just fine since the plants all seem to till have enough space.  

I will be planting my rainbow chard soon (can’t wait) and, following some conversations with neighbours, I will also be considering what I can plant in the boarders since everyone seems to think it’s a fabulous idea to have some vegetables in the garden. Thank heavens for nice neighbours. That’s all for now folks. Happy gardening, Ele.

Planning Ahead

Looking ahead to September

Given that I awoke this morning to the sound of heavy rain I felt my decision to plant my next batch of beans inside was a good one. Hopefully this batch will germinate and eventually be transplantable.

In harvesting news I have had the first taste of the spinach. I made delicious herby burgers with a lush salad of lettuce and spinach (recipe here). This particular dish has also reminded me that next year I really want to try and grow some tomatoes. They’re something I eat so often and enjoy so much that it would be foolish not to give growing them a try. 

Looking ahead to the more immediate future I have been thinking about what I want to plant in September. I think chard is going to have to feature given that it both looks fantastic and is one of my favourite leafy green vegetables and, in my experience really hard to get hold of anywhere other than farmers’ markets. I also have some perpetual spinach seeds I will plant when the spinach I planted in July goes to seed. I was going to just plant the new spinach in the same pot as the old but since I have had problems with leaf miner it might be better to do a little bit of crop rotation to minimise pest build up.  Sometimes I wish there was a fast forward button for the garden so I could have even more delicious veg sooner! Happy Gardening, Ele 

The squirrel, the has beans and the little chilli plant that could

My first little setback.

I have been doing so well with my little patch that I guess it was only a matter of time before there was trouble in paradise. Unfortunately the beans I planted haven’t come up at all. Initially, I blamed the squirrel that I have seen in the garden and unjustly stalked the poor thing with my camera… possibly with the view to making a wanted poster. But, upon closer inspection I found most of the beans still in the soil but they were rotten. After some research I found out that beans cannot germinate without oxygen and in the Norwich monsoons the soil had gotten too wet to allow them to breath.  

However, the Carbon Gold compost in which they were planted has been brilliant for less finicky seeds and my plug plants. They have grown up almost unbelievably quickly. I am already planning a vibrant stir-fry for the oriental vegetables and some of the chilies from my incredibly productive little chilli plant. Fingers crossed for my next batch of beans, Ele

p.s In utterly unrelated news, I managed to change the inner tube on the back tyre of my bike completely unassisted and am inordinately proud of this fact.  

So, with slight guilt of my drowned beans on my conscience I have sowed the remainder in an old margarine tub and left it on a sunny windowsill. I think this way they won’t get waterlogged if there are more downpours. 

A growing obsession

My sister gets green fingers too.

Green fingers appear to be contagious: my sister too has started container gardening. My mum has grown her some lettuce, strawberries, chillies, herbs and spinach. In other news, yet another downpour has hit Norwich and I am starting to become seriously concerned for my bean seedlings. I still have some seeds so I might plant them in a small container of soil inside and then transplant them when they are large enough to withstand the Norwich monsoons. 

@AgonyPlant has solved the mystery of the spinach pest. Apparently I have leaf miner. I can see the little blighters burrowing around in the leaves. I have picked out the affected leaves and some of the worst affected plants to see if that helps. The spinach did need thinning anyway so I guess every cloud has a silver lining, and in Norwich at the moment there are a fair few clouds. Hoping for sun, Ele 

Rainy Norwich

Settling in

The progress of my latest seedlings.

After a few days at home for a family party, I returned to see how my new additions were doing.  M has been keeping an eye on them but the Norwich weather has done all of the watering for me. My radishes have germinated beautifully; I think I will probably have to thin them out. There is, however, little sign of the French beans at the moment. According to google they should be up in 7 to 10 days so I haven’t entirely abandoned hope for them. Can’t help feeling they might be a bit wet too wet though thanks to Norfolk downpours. 

The oriental veg looks like it’s settling in wonderfully and looks much sturdier for the few days it’s had to settle in.  The spinach seems to be proving delicious to creatures other than me however. I am hoping @AgonyPlant will be able to shed some light on the problem.

While I was home I discovered mum has started growing some strawberries in a pot which I am very jealous of. Definitely a project for next year even if they only produce enough strawberries for me to snack on while I garden. Don’t forget, I’m on twitter (@GreenSideUpEle) and would love to hear from you. Happy Gardening, Ele

Blackcurrant and Raspberry Jam

September 2013

I don’t know why I don’t see this combination more often since it really is delicious.  In my experience, a pound of fruit makes roughly 2 jars of jelly at the end of the process.


1 pound of Blackcurrants
1 pound of Raspberries
2 pounds of white sugar

You will also need clean jars


  1. Pick over and wash the blackcurrants and raspberries making sure they are clean and bug free then place them in a large heavy based pan. A jam pan is ideal but if not just a nice big saucepan will do.
  2. Add a tablespoon of water to the pan and simmer the berries gently until they are tender and beginning to burst.
  3. Add the sugar stirring continuously until all the sugar is dissolved.
  4. Place your clean jars and their lids into a 100 degree oven to sterilise.
  5. While your jam is cooking it may produce a foamy scum which will rise to the top. Skim this off with a large metal spoon.
  6. Simmer until setting point is reached. My preferred method of determining this is to drop a small amount of jam on a plate and push it with a fingernail. If it has reached setting point the surface will wrinkle.
  7. When setting point is reached, use a ladle your jam into your clean hot jars. Place the lids on and screw them on tightly using a tea towel to avoid burning your fingers.
  8. Leave your jam to cool at room temperature; if you’re using jars with “safety buttons” you should notice that when the jelly is cool the buttons will have been pulled down by the vacuum you have formed by putting the lids on the hot jars. Your jam should last at least 6 months but will probably last much longer.