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

Green side up

So, aged 20 and freshly moved into my new flat with French windows opening onto a small terrace, I decided to give gardening a go.

Green side up- Container gardening for complete beginners

Growing up on a nursery, surrounded by plants, I have seen millions of plants grown for growers, farmers and individuals over the years. My achievements to date include planting a bulb garden (aged 5) which was subsequently buried under a bonfire and growing a reasonably sized sage plant in the family herb garden so I can hardly be considered an expert but, from my new flat, I am hoping to start gardening in my adult life with this one golden rule: green side up!

Something other than me is eating my rocket…

AgonyPlant sub-page rocket
Something other than me is eating my rocket..

Something other than me is eating my rocket…  (via twitter)

It’s flea beetle; they love brassicas, especially rocket, radish and Chinese takeaways (pak choi and the like).  It’s best to cover susceptible seedlings with Enviromesh (or similar) straight after planting, but this isn’t very practical in a mixed pot with lettuces (which aren’t affected). 

Pick off the worst affected leaves, blow/flick the plants (tiny beetles 2-3mm long can be seen jumping off leaves when disturbed).

Cover with fine mesh, old tights or a plastic sieve (from a charity shop?) for a week or two until the plants have plenty of new growth. Keep plants well-watered during dry spells.

In late summer there is sometimes an invasion of homeless adult beetles into gardens when oilseed rape is harvested (that crop with the bright yellow flowers you see everywhere); even mature plants can be checked if there are large numbers.  There should be less damage later in the year.

Do send me pics of your improvised plant cover – I’d love to hear how it works.

Happy Gardening,

Agony Plant

Postal plants and recycled pots

A flurry of activity when my mail order plants and seeds are delivered.

Postal plants and recycled pots

I had a very exciting delivery this morning from www.organicplants.co.uk including an oriental mini pack and some radish seeds. These new arrivals will hopefully thrive in the new pots I have acquired. These particular pots were gifted to me but I have noticed that pots frequently become available on www.freecycle.org for nothing which is ideal if you, like me, are on a low budget and don’t mind a slightly rustic look to your container collection. I have also acquired an old wine case which looks great and should be fine as a plant container.

I have planted the whole of the oriental mini pack in one large pot and watered them in. I think they might be a little too close together so if they don’t grow as well as I think they should then I will pull a few out to give the rest some more space. As a trial, I have decided to use some Carbon Gold compost. It is peat-free and enriched with “Bio-char”.  I have planted my plug plants in their all-purpose compost and my seeds in their seed compost and I will let you know what I think about it in a few weeks.

I sowed some radish seeds in a terracotta pot (1cm deep) and some French beans in my wine case (5cm deep). For the radishes I just removed 1cm of soil from my pot and scattered the seeds on the compost’s surface before returning the soil and watering in. For the beans I poked a 5cm hole with a pencil, dropped in the seed, covered, gave the box a good tap to remove air gaps and gave them a generous drink of water. I also planted some parsley and coriander in some small pots so they will be nice and established before the frosts start to hit and I can bring them inside so I will have some of the less hardy herbs in the winter too.

My gardening activities today were supervised by this little guy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTVEvIMD8jY&feature=youtu.be (an incredibly tame robin who hopped around while I was planting, less than a meter away from me at times). Me and my muddy knees can’t wait for my seeds to start coming up. Happy gardening, Ele.

Above: The box of plants that arrived from organicplants.co.uk

Below: All of my new containers

It’s great to label your pots so you don’t forget what’s in them. I make mine out of cut up margarine tub lids.  

What a difference a weekend makes

The astounding progress my plants have made without me.

What a difference a weekend makes    

Back from my weekend away and my plants have thrived in my absence. The spinach is actually starting to look recognisably like spinach and I am predicting that I will be able to harvest it in about ten days time. The lettuce too has gotten much bigger. I think I will be able to start taking the odd leaf very soon: cut and come again varieties seem to have been a great choice so far. Even my chilli plant has started to grow fruit. I will pull all but one of the chillies pictured off to use for cooking so that the plant has more energy to put into foliage and root growth.  I can’t believe how successful my first few weeks have been as an organic container gardener. Can’t wait for my new additions to arrive! I will keep you all posted, Ele 

Feeling hot hot hot!

A progress report from the hottest day of the year.

Feeling hot hot hot!

It’s scorching hot here in Norwich and my spinach is thriving! My lettuce and herbs have almost doubled in size since planting. However, with the departure of the free watering service that is the British summer I think I’m going to have to be more mindful of the watering required for my pots. I have resolved to use the “give it a kick” method of determining dryness: if, upon kicking, the pot seems light then the pot needs some water.  

In flea beetle news, the problem seems to be abating. The new leaves that have grown seem to have little or no damage and upon tousling the leaves no critters are jumping out.  Perhaps they drowned in the downpours we have been experiencing of late.

In other news I am now on twitter (@GreenSideUpEle), so if you fancy sharing your pot growing experiences you are more than welcome to get in touch.  Hopefully you too are enjoying the sunshine, Ele

The First Taste…

My very first and very tiny harvest.

The first taste…

After just over a week’s worth of effort I have tasted the first fruit of my labour! Well ok, basil is not a fruit but you get the point. And I only managed to scavenge a few leaves for the garnishing of my supper but it’s definitely something. The recipe for chorizo, prawn and courgette pasta (with super special basil garnish) can be found here in the Ele’s Recipes section and I have to say, it was pretty delicious.

No news on the flea beetle front, it has been raining relentlessly here so I have been unable to continue my mini-beast hunt. I am thinking of expanding my patch already, maybe some more pots containing courgettes and strawberries. Also I am thinking of planting in some found containers. There’s an old wine crate I have my eye on… That’s all for now, Ele 

Episode IV: A New home

My pots finally make it to my new flat but something is enjoying my produce before I can…

Episode IV: A New home

My pots have finally made it with me to my new flat and are looking fabulous on the patio. My spinach seedlings are just starting to get their second pair of leaves and are doing very well.

Unfortunately, something other than me has started eating my rocket. All I can say is: “thank you #agonyplant” who reliably informs me that my rocket has flea beetle. After an uneventful stake out in which I failed to catch the pests in the act I have resolved to keep a close eye. I think maybe I can’t see any because it is currently raining and they have hidden away to laugh at my soggy sleuthing. If things do not improve I am thinking of trying to improvise some sort of mini flea beetle fortress out of a pair of tights and some wire. I’m not giving up my rocket that easily beasties! Ele

Giving gardening a go

The start

Green side up- Container gardening for complete beginners

I have only ever really been interested in eating fantastic fresh vegetables, not growing them. But since I have moved away from home for large parts of the year (and the bountiful vegetable plot at that location), I have been getting withdrawal symptoms. So, aged 20 and freshly moved into my new flat with French windows opening onto a small terrace, I decided to give gardening a go. I have opted for container gardening since the space we have is communal and I didn’t want to annoy the new neighbours by planting cabbages in the herbaceous borders. I have planted up 3 pots; one with lettuce, one with herbs and one with spinach which I am attempting to grow from seed.

I filled the three pots with organic compost making a small hole with my finger for the plug plants and sowing the spinach seeds 2cm deep. Hopefully there will be salad before the end of the summer. Fingers crossed. Ele