Waste not, want not

  
For the last 5 years or so, I’ve taken great delight in pumpkin carving at Halloween. The whole process really gets my jets all fired up! You know…picking out the perfect pumpkin, deciding what to carve, being thankful it’s not a turnip like our parents had to hollow out when we were children! Then, the moment of magic arrives, you set about scooping and carving your spooky creation. 

Epic. 

  
  
  
  
Up until last year, I’d been quite happily scooping and binning the insides of the pumpkins… that was until I saw a post on Instagram about saving the seeds and roasting them at home. 

It was like a lightbulb moment! I immediately decided that I’d never waste pumpkin seeds again. Quick as a flash I had them in the oven, and delicious snacks of pumpkin goodness were born. 

  
Making your own delicious pumpkin seed snacks is super easy.

1. Separate the seeds from the fleshy pulp you scoop out from inside the pumpkin. 

2. Place the seeds into a sieve and rinse thoroughly. Pat the seeds dry with kitchen paper, or leave spread out on a baking tray lined with a clean tea towel over night. 

3. Pre heat your oven to 160 degrees C

4. Drizzle a little olive oil over the seeds and add whatever you want as extra flavour. I’ve done half salted, and the other half smoked paprika. 

5. Pop in the oven for 20 min or so, stirring occasionally to make sure they’re all roasted evenly. When they’re looking golden and toasted, remove from the oven. (Try and them cool before diving in!)

  
  
  

  
Delicious! 

The smallest things…

  
It’s funny how different things make you happy. As a child, going to the paper shop after school on a Friday for a 10p mix-up was the best thing ever!! 

As a gardener there are many things that make me happy: 

Picking the perfect pod of peas

The taste of a freshly dug new potato 

The smell of the sweet peas on the wind 

Looking back at a freshly dug plot

Winning the war on slugs (haven’t quite got that one sorted yet but I’m going to be so happy when I do!) 

But nothing can compare to the first glimpse of a teeny tiny seedling! 

It just seems to me that the sight of a newly sprouting green shoot holds so much potential…

   

The smallest things really do bring the biggest joy! 

Speedy Seeds

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It’s been 11 days since my super seed sowing assistant got in on the growing action and I’ve got to say, I think he’s got the gardening touch! Over the weekend, pretty much all of the seeds we planted germinated and they’re all doing really well. I’ve never grown sweet peas from seed before and I only realised after we had planted them that (according to the packet) for best results we should soak them in water overnight prior to planting.

Whoops

Thankfully all the sweet peas have germinated and I’ve avoided a seed sowing disaster. Now all I’ve got to do is find out when to pinch out the tops. I’m sure there’s plenty of time yet, I think it’s when they’ve got a few leaves on so that it encourages a more bushy plant. I’m really looking forward to using them for cut flowers, there’s even a category for sweet peas in the country show I go to in August, if I play my cards right I could have a couple of entries in the flower section…ok, I probably won’t but a girl can dream!

All is going well with the potatoes too. The little sprouts are really starting to put on some growth at the moment, hopefully they should be ready to plant out in about a fortnight. I’ve still got their patch to dig over at the allotment, so that will keep me motivated to get some more digging done. It will also give me time to get some manure. I’ve come up with a plan to dig the trench, line it with manure, pop the potatoes straight in and cover them up. I think I’m supposed to mix the manure into the ground a bit first but I’m sure (ish) that the potatoes will be fine going straight in.

The broadbeans that were eaten by the cat a few weeks ago have been brought back from the brink (my dad has been a fabulous bean keeper) and I’m pleased to say they have made a miraculous come back! I’ve started hardening them off and they’ll make it onto the plot at the end of the week. As a safety precaution I’m also going to plant some more broadbeans seeds directly into the ground at the same time. This should ensure I get a good steady crop of broadbeans throughout the summer.

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Miracle broadbeans

Next on the to do list will be to plant the sunflower seeds and to get some more digging done (this digging lark never ends does it?!)

 

Down with the Kids

  
It’s the first day of the Easter holidays and the weather was rubbish this morning. In typical school holiday fashion it was cold and drizzly, not the best for a morning of allotment fun with a 10 year old reluctant gardener in tow. The digging at the allotment is coming on well, but the rain this morning means the heavy clay soil is going to be even heavier than usual to turn over. The next best thing was going to be getting some more seeds sown and to check the progress of the seeds already going. 

The leeks and onions are doing well, and the potatoes I started chitting a couple of weeks ago are starting to get some lovely sturdy purple shoots. They’ve got another 3 weeks of sunbathing then they’ll be ready for planting. 

  
The next round of seeds I need to plant are the Summer cauliflowers, Autumn  cabbages, Brussels sprouts and my companion flowers: sweet peas and marigolds. I loved growing flowers at the allotment last year, they brought loads of pollinators to the plot and looked really pretty inbetween the vegetables. The Nasturtiums should self seed and I’m leaving sowing the sun flowers for another couple of weeks so it’s just sweet peas and marigolds today. 

My son has been taking part in a gardening club at school and he was keen to show me how to sow seeds. I think this is a great way to get children more involved with gardening and growing veg at home, it’s so easy to do. 

Here’s how we sow…

  
  

Signs of Spring

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Yesterday marked the first day of Spring. Now, I can’t speak for anyone else but it actually feels more Spring like to me! The sun has been shining, the wind has dropped and it’s not rained for at least 3 days. Spring is officially here.

This week I’ve taken a few days off work and I plan to spend most of my time along at the allotment getting the vegetable beds dug over and ready for planting. Compared to last year, I’m a few weeks behind on the allotment prep, but I’m hoping to catch up within a week or so.

With flask in hand I headed long to the plot to make a start. The first bed I’m tackling is going to be for the peas and beans. Last year I had planted potatoes in the bed and I have to say they’ve done wonders for improving the heavy clay soil and keeping the weeds down. I had a real bindweed battle last year and the same section took just over 5 hours to turn over compared to this years lightning fast 2.5 hour session.

 

The plan was to plant out the broad beans I’m growing in cardboard tubes in about 2 weeks time which is why I decided to dig over this bed first, but the beans have had a bit of a set back.

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Devoured broad beans

The cat ate them. That’s right, the cat ate them. Now all that’s left are broad bean stalks. I’m not really hopeful that they’re going to make a miraculous recovery so while I’m at the allotment this week I’m going to sow a double row directly into the ground and hope that no emerging allotment wild life eat them.

Tomorrow I’ll be back at the allotment for more digging and weeding and some unscheduled bean sowing!

I love wandering around the plot at this time of year. On first glance you can’t really see any difference to how it was a few weeks ago, but when you look closely, new shoots and bud are emerging and you can really get a sense of things to come.

 

Happy springtime.

 

Out with the old

  
Today I made a start on clearing the vegetable beds at the allotment. Most of the vegetables were harvested last year but I still had a few leeks left to pull, so out they came! 

 

Lovely leeks

 
These are the ones which haven’t bolted. Unfortunately they all got a slight smattering of rust so I’ve lopped off their leaves and just brought the stems back home to make into soup. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure if they’d be OK to eat but after a quick google search I’m assured that as long as the stems are ok, they’re good to use. I’ve not put the infected leeks and leaves into the compost though, they’re destined for the burning bin next week, along with all the other debris that’s been gathering at the allotment over the winter. 

 

Rust spots on the leeks


Once the leeks were out I spent an hour removing old canes and netting along with the remnants of last years crops. I’d left the Purple sprouting broccoli over winter as the planting guide said it’ll be ready to harvest in February/March…I must’ve been too slow as its already in flower (doh!) 

Yellow flowering purple sprouting broccoli

Ah, well, out it came, so the beds are now empty, save for the usual weedy suspects! My plan over the next 4 weeks is to cultivate each bed so that the seedlings I’ve got growing now can be transplanted as soon as they’re ready. 

 

Empty beds

  
Last, but not least I spotted some nasturtium seeds as I was sweeping the path. I loved having these flowering along side the vegetables, although I’ve heard they’re notorious self seeders…I wonder where I’ll find them growing this year! 

  

Let’s get sowing

  

Room to sit and enjoy a cup of tea in my lovely tidy shed

  
After my shed sorting success yesterday I was keen to keep up the good work and had planned to make a start on clearing the vegetable plots today. However, I woke to a very windy and very rainy Friday, not the best for digging and clearing. Without much persuasion to leave digging for the day, I felt I should really get a move on and get some seeds planted. 

The end of February/beginning of March marks the start of my seed sowing season. Onions and leeks first, followed by potato chitting and the sowing of broad beans. 

 

Potatoes ready for chitting

  
  

Broad beans sown in cardboard tubes for easy planting out

 
It was great to get a few seeds sown today. I feel like I’m back on track, even though I’ve still got all my vegetable beds to prepare, at least I’ll have something to plant out in a few weeks time! 

Happy sowing everyone! 

Cat-astrophy

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Noodles. Not on Santa’s good list at the moment.

He’s done it again. The cat has been at my seedlings. There must be something about brassicas he finds irresistible because he’s not touched any flower seedlings, or herbs, or even the leeks or onions. Just the brassicas. I had thought he was only partial to the cauliflowers (I moved those to the allotment after he chewed the leaves off a few weeks ago and planted new ones out of sight) but today I found out that he’s quite taken with brussel sprouts too. Not wanting to sacrifice another leaf, I’ve transported all my brussels and cabbages to the greenhouse at the allotment tonight.

Spot the difference

Spot the difference

Its to lovely to be on the allotment in the evenings. It has a totally different feel about it. While I was dropping off the brussels I had a quick check on the other veg I’ve got growing there at the moment. I’ve been a bit worried about the peas I planted last bank holiday Monday. I’ve been checking them daily for two weeks and although there’s not been any sign of pests digging or scratching trying to get to the seeds there’s not been any growth…until today. It was a double whammy. I found new pea shoots emerging from the ground (hooray) but I also found about 3 peas which had been pulled out and left on the soil (boo).

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New pea shoots popping up

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Pulled out pea

I’ve quickly replanted the few pulled out peas and I’ll have to get some netting to put over all the canes to stop the pests feasting on the new pea shoots. (Can’t blame them really, pea shoots are really tasty!)

The micro salad leaves are looking great. The rocket and the spinach are getting their true leaves now so they’ll be ready to harvest in a couple of weeks. The tomato plants are growing strongly since I potted them up too, and the previously eaten cauliflowers have made a remarkable comeback.

Rocket

Rocket

Spinach

Spinach

Tomato Forrest

Tomato Forrest

The comeback cauliflowers

The comeback cauliflowers

The warmer weather we’ve had over the last two weeks has really helped the plants come on leaps and bounds. Long may it last I say!

Potting up and planting out

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Over the last week or so, I’ve been hardening off the broad beans and as its my last day off work today, I thought I’d get them along to the allotment and plant them out. I’ve grown them in cardboard tubes to make this job a bit easier for me and less traumatic to the plants and their roots.

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Rather than planting a long single row, I’ve planted a short double row. The theory is that the plants will grow to support each other and to help them along, I’ve put a twine support grid in between them.

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I’m feeling quite nervous about leaving the beans at the allotment, what if the birds eat them? What if the snails and slugs eat them? I’ve been saving egg shells at home to crush and sprinkle around the base of the plants to deter the slugs and snails, but in typical “me” fashion, I left them at home. So, if the beans make it through the night, I’ll pop along tomorrow afternoon and sprinkle some crushed shells around them then.

The last 2 jobs on my list today were to plant up the herbs and to start off the micro salad now I have my greenhouse back in working order. The original plan for the herbs was to create a scented border at the bottom of the allotment beside the nature corner. The herbs I’ve chosen are Lavender, Thyme, Oregano and Sage. When I actually placed the herbs where I wanted them, I found that the border would run right under the apple tree, where all the roots for the apple tree are. After a quick re-think, I decided to put the herbs into plant pots. For the moment I’ve put them beside the shed, which works just fine. The gate into the plot is there too so you get a lovely waft of thyme and oregano as you enter the allotment.

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Last but not least…the micro salad. A few years ago, my sister and I were watching River Cottage on TV and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall used a length of guttering to grow the most delicious micro salad leaves. Well, if growing salad in guttering is good enough for The River Cottage, it’s good enough for me! Right now I’m growing Rocket, Purple Basil and Spinach. Once these have grown and been harvested, I’ll plant another lot of leaves and will continue this process for as long as I can with as many different varieties of leaves as I can find! The micro salad leaves should be ready to harvest in as little as 3-4 weeks, and the flavour from the baby leaves will be delicious. I for one can’t wait to begin the harvest.

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I’ve started so I’ll finish…

Over the last few weeks I’ve been steadily working my way along the plots at the allotment, carefully digging and weeding, (don’t mention the bindweed) getting the ground ready for planting. I had planned on spending both my days off work this week at the allotment, but yesterday I just didn’t have the time I needed to get a whole section dug. Don’t get me wrong, I could’ve weeded a section of the Brassica bed, possibly even half of it, but the thought of starting a section and not having the time to finish it completely didn’t quite feel right to me. This would just have to wait until I had the time to get the whole section done.

The next batch of seeds to be sown

The next batch of seeds to be sown

As I wasn’t going to be digging at the allotment, I took the opportunity to sow some more seeds. The next batch of seeds due for planting were my summer cabbages and the first variety of Brussel sprouts. I fear I got a bit carried away when I started sowing seeds last month, and planted all of my cauliflower seeds at once, not thinking about the fact that they’ll probably all be ready for harvesting at the same time…all 12 of them! I didn’t want to fall into the same situation with my cabbages, so I’ve only planted 3 seeds now. I’ll plant another 3 seeds in 3 weeks time, and I’ll repeat this until I’ve got about 12 well-developed seedlings. This should give me a good few weeks of succession cropping later on in the year, and then my winter cabbages will be ready to take over. In the allotment I’m trying 2 types of Brussel sprouts, one green and one red. The green variety is slightly earlier cropping, so these are the seeds I’m sowing now, I’ll plant the red variety at the beginning of May. With a bit of luck, we could have red and green sprouts for Christmas lunch. How festive will that be?!

Weeded and ready for action

Weeded and ready for action

Today I had much more free time, so I spent a very cold day at the allotment. It’s been blowing a gale, all the leaves have been swirling round my freshly dug plots, my toes were numb, but I’m pleased I completed the weeding of my second Brassica bed. The next plot to dig will be for my peas, beans and sweet corn. The broad beans I planted a few weeks ago are growing well and should be ready to be hardened off and be planted out in April so I’ll have to keep on track with the weeding and the digging if I’m to get them out on schedule.

The peas, beans and sweetcorn area waiting to be dug

The peas, beans and sweetcorn area waiting to be dug

Broad beans

Broad beans

The daffodils at the allotment are really shooting up now, and their flower heads are starting to develop. Let’s hope they bring some warmer, sunnier weather with their cheery arrival.

Daffodils

Daffodils