Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Egg Shells

So for a while now I've been using this excellent recipe for fertilizer using banana skins and egg shells.  But I keep finding that its a nightmare to get the eggshells out of the smoothie maker afterwards, because it does such a good job of pulverising them!  So I decided instead to pre-crush my egg shells, which I can then add to my now adapted recipe of a banana skin and nettle cocktail.  This way I can just add them after in the jug and mix in, saving me bags of time cleaning that damn thing.

So it also means I have crushed shells available to scatter on top of stuff (to deter those pesky slugs!) and to mix into soil.

Why didn't I think to do this before!?

Just some herbs

The egg shells on the surface of the soil seemed to be keeping the slugs and snails away after all, but I decided to bring the coriander in to sit on the kitchen window, because it also makes it easier than having to run out to the greenhouse in the middle of making a meal.

Some basil a co-worker gave me as a gift when she moved away (I gave her a lavender plant).  There's some purple basil in the back too, but this all died back as the green seems more successful at competing for space.  The oddest part about this is the OUTSIDE of the pot is growing mould.  I've never seen that before!  The basil is extremely delicious though, I've basiled up a fair few recipes of late ;)


These adorable little plants grow like mad but they're like miniature watermelons, and their little leaves and flowers are itty bitty!

They've really grown fast and kind of everywhere, I love trailing plants!  I re-potted them about a month ago, thinking there were only 2 which had germinated.  Turns out there were actually 6, but each "one" had been three interwoven together.  So there are actually some which are much smaller and less developed, so glad that I re-potted them to give them a bit more space.  I'm impressed how long they got to in their tiny 9cm germination pot.

Teeny Tiny Cucamelon
I've put them up against a trellis to trail up, and they've had a few flowers going so hoping to get some lovely cucamelons soon.  I've not tried them before.  Though the trellis will work and look lovely, I think these would work equally well as an adorable hanging basket.  Think I'll try that out next season.

They also were germinated really late, so not really expecting much from them, just wanted to see what they grew like really!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Mango root!?

So, ever since early spring, I've been planting every mango seed from every mango I've eaten.  Sometimes I just plant them, sometimes I tried the water method, all to no avail.  I always tried to plant them right away, assuming this type of seed can't be stored long-term.

Well with the last one, I thought its too cold to plant something new like this, so I'll put it in a plastic bag and put it away in my seed boxes, and if its not rotten by spring I'll try then. (Didn't have a lot of hope for this).  So I was going through my seed boxes the other day to add in the new packets which arrived and thought I'd check on it...and there's a root, with some condensation it seems to have produced on its own, so its literally watering itself inside this tiny plastic bag.  Its had pretty much no light, which may have been to its benefit!  I'm going to leave it in here a little longer and see how much it grows on from here.  I noticed the opposite end (I'm presuming the end which turns into the seedling) has started to tinge green, so I might need to pot it up fairly soon.  But I just thought it was quite fascinating how this happened!

Courgettes & Squashes

Female flower soon to open on Spaghetti Squash

You have no idea how long I have been waiting to see this.

FINALLY.  Ladies arrive on the squash and courgettes.

My courgettes always seem to have the male ones out for a month or two, then usually when the female ones come along, they've stopped producing male flowers, which obviously causes some issues...BUT there are still some with male flowers on, as well as the females, so fingers crossed I can pollinate something.  I'm not sure if both the courgettes and squash have the male flowers remaining though, as I've stuck them all together and not really looked at the labels...so might end up with some interesting hybridisation, but we'll see if anything takes at all.

Spaghetti Squash leaf compared with my hand

These guys are a bit behind because the first set of squashes and courgettes never germinated.  I don't know if it was still too cold because we had snow until so late in the year this year, or just bad seeds or what.  But they're a bit behind.  So I was thrilled to see flowers appear at the end of July.

Is it normal for the male ones to be out so long before female flowers appear? (Literally 4 months)  Or is this a container growing kind of issue?  I'm hoping to plant out the courgettes and squashes in raised beds next year, and maybe start them off in the house instead of the greenhouse, to counteract the potentially long-assed winter again.

Not expecting much to come of these now its pretty cold.  I'd be lucky to get something small to harvest at all now.


So this pea planting and string cage idea worked out really well!  Even the ones which are growing away outside of the string can either be tucked back in or they use their tendrils to cling on.  The peas are producing really well and I'm harvesting every few days.

My latest harvest, which joined courgettes, tomatoes, cashews, chillis, spinach and home-grown coriander leaves in a stir-fry with some delicious chilli noodles (The Sharwoods ones that actually have chillis inside the noodles).  I admit, some may have just made the pea skins in...as I scoffed the peas out of the fattest ones before I started cooking ;)

Also just realised this placemat is really gorgeous as a background!

Do you think I like chillis?

As you can see...I like chillis rather a lot.  Actually, these are a mix of chillis and peppers, and there are so many different varieties I can't even remember them.  I know the sweet peppers are mostly if not all the elongated ones, rather than the bellboy style ones.  I know that some of the chillis are a hot carribean blend, some are just considered hot cayanne, there are literally dozens of varieties.  Again these were late, late bloomers because it was so cold the germination took months.  Hence why they're all pretty small.  Was planning to give some away as gifts for Christmas though, because they can be overwintered so easily.  I overwintered them the first time I grew them and wow when they woke up did they produce like mad!

They are flowering and fruiting now, but I doubt I'll get much out of them before they go dormant.  They are kind of taking over the greenhouse though, I have so many.  It's too windy to put them outside though really, they'll just get torn up and broken.  Damn Edinburgh is always so incredibly windy!!

Sunday, 13 October 2013


These beauties were planted in FEBRUARY and they only just started producing some fruits about a month ago.  They did flower earlier in the summer, but because of the extreme heatwave we experienced this year (after having snow until May!) so many of my plants were wilting and burning a little, even when watered multiple times daily in some cases!  So the first set of flowers never set, because they literally fried in the heat.  I should have taken them in the house to cool down really, but hubby doesn't like plants in the house because they attract so many insects (mainly blackflies, which, it turns out he's pretty allergic to)

So now we have lots of flowers and little tomatoes gradually getting bigger, so I'm looking forward to seeing (and eating) them once they get bigger.

When I was tidying up the plants the other day to get leaves for perfume making, I came across several shoots for replanting.  I thought, despite the late season, why not give it a go, they'll either be getting flowers super soon because they're from that stage of plants, or I might be able to bring them inside over the winter and hide them in another room so they don't bother hubby too much.  I'd love to have perpetual tomatoes!!  They're started to produce flower heads now, so there might be something happening! Definitely an indoor growth though soon.

A bizarre flower issue, the "tomato" is shaped like a fine brush section of a paintbrush, it will be interesting if it does continue to develop to see what it turns out like!

Finally, due to the brutal courgettes beating up the tomatoes, I decided it was time they had their own place.  So they've moved into this mini greenhouse.  I assembled it quickly before work and of course it fell over by lunch time so my wonderful hubby weighed it down with some spare planks from raised bed building, and large stones.  Looks good! Hubby insisted that I called him "Green Fingers" after this, despite him having no hand in ever growing anything in his life.  I settled for "Garden Designer" instead.

Greenhouse Tour

So a little tour of the greenhouse, there are a lot of things which are still so early in development because of the late, late snow, and then the heatwave winter.  But some things can be overwintered okay, so it be will alright.

Aubergine 1 month ago
Aubergines 13th October 2013

So these are the aubergines.  I don't actually like them that much, but they look so awesome when they grow, and I know a lot of people who use them a lot so I can give them away.  They're pretty tiny just now, but I seem to have tons of them.  They are the organic black beauty variety.

I don't know if they will overwinter, as I haven't grown them before and they aren't that far advanced.  But I'll give it a go, since they are inside the greenhouse (non heated) and I'll cover them with a bag to help encourage heat.  If they really look poorly I can bring them in the house, but the heating isn't on yet so the temp is about the same right now!

Okra 1 Month Ago (This is the biggest seedling)
I've been trying to germinate Okra all year.  I had two varieties and they were never talking so I'm thrilled they finally grew into strong seedlings.  Also saddened, that its this late in the year.  But we'll see how they get on, first frost isn't meant to come until mid October, so might get them to a strong enough point to either overwinter or bring inside.  I remember going on holiday to Majorca with my husband and two friends, where we stayed in one of the friend's grandad's place.  We went to visit one of the grandad's friends one evening and sat on her balcony, overlooking the stunning cove.  She was widowed, but her and her husband used to run the local green grocer and she still grew lots of veg on her balcony.  She had a stunning okra plant and I just adored it, having never seen one in real life before.  So super excited that I am finally getting somewhere with them.

Okra Seedlings 13th October 2013
Not sure if these paler leaves are a normal thing?   They're still getting bigger, but I'm thinking I need to pot on again soon.  I'm wondering if the pasty looking ones are normal or dying a bit (hard to tell since the old leaves are still so dark green).  Because I might discard a few of them and just keep the strongest 2 if that is the case.

So as you can see, its rather full...I do get a bit into my plants...There's some potatoes on the floor, along with Inca Berries, tomatoes, courgettes and squashes on the left, chillis and peppers, sweet potatoes, peas, strawberries and such on the right.

Update: That's a humongous spaghetti squash on the left, some tomatoes and chillis on the right, inca berries on the floor, many more chillis and peppers, peas and strawberries on the left.
I had to move the courgettes and other squash outside because they were beating up the tomatoes and knocking them off the shelf by growing right into them.  Brutes!  So I have placed them inside this upturned raised bed frame for now, as FINALLY we have some female flowers going on, so I also wanted to help them get pollinated outside.  I'm going to cover them with some insulating sheeting for the time being, and they will still be like a tunnel so bees can get in, but it will cut down on the cold winds at least partially I hope

Review: Nicky's Nursery

Disclaimer: I was not given any free products or money in order to write this review.  I simply wanted to share my personal experience of ordering from a supplier I had previously never used before.  All opinions expressed are my own and have in no way been influenced by the retailer directly.

So I saw a link to http://www.nickys-nursery.co.uk/ posted on someone's blog stating that they carried a nice broad range of tomatoes (specifically it was referencing tomatoes which are green when ripe).  So, despite having about 5 or 6 varieties of tomato seeds already bought for next season I decided to take a quick look.

I was very impressed with the massive range of not only tomatoes but chillis in particular!  I went to look at the chillis searching for the Nosferatu variety (which has dark brown/black chillis on it!)  Well I couldn't actually find them, but I found a bunch of other AMAZING chilli varieties which have a vast range of leaf colours (purples, variegated, black...) and chilli colours (black, purple, and of course the usual greens/oranges/reds) I ended up ordering:

  • Habanero Black Stinger
  • Purple Flash
  • Scotch Bonnet (Big Sun - Yellow ones basically)
  • Calico
  • Numex Twilight
  • Black Pearl
  • Numex Pinata (These were free seeds for ordering so much!)
I also bought "Mohawk" variety sweet peppers, Thai Basil, Dwarf French Beans "Purple Queen" and the following tomatoes:

  • Health Kick F1
  • Green Giant (Ripens green)
  • White Queen (Ripens white)
  • Peardrops (Trailing variety - have so many plans for these!)
  • Green Zebra (Ripens green)
  • Great White (Ripens white)
  • Reinhards Goldkirsche (Ripens a pale yellow and slightly translucent)
  • Purple Calabash (Ripens purple!)
I got more free seeds too - some mixed salad leaves, which is excellent because I always forgot to buy them or can't decide what varieties I want.

I was very impressed with the swift delivery of my seeds.  I ordered them late one night and received them the next again day.  They were well packaged in individual foil sealed tear-open packets.  Each seed packet is clearly labelled with individual growing information.  When opened, they each contain the paper envelope with the seeds and an incredibly clever business card (pictured at the top of this post) which has the business info on one side, and on the other side areas to write the variety and date of planting.  I was really pleased that I got one for every seed packet, instead of just a bunch thrown in with my order.

Obviously I've not yet planted the seeds to test their viability, but I was very impressed with the quick service and little details that have gone into this order.  I would certainly order from them again.  I will give an update in spring when I start off some of the seeds.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

An escape

For me, gardening is an escape, much like cooking is too.  I've fought so hard in my life to achieve perfection in all that I do, constantly being graded and judged, always having the expectation from myself and others to do well and come out "better" than everyone else.  I'm so sick and tired of this mentality.  Yes, I'm sure it can bring benefits later in life, I'll always have my 1st class honours, I'll always have my straight A grades, I'll always have good recommendations from work collegues and managers to pass onto the next.  But right now I'm not feeling the benefits of any of these "achievements".

Gardening is an escape for me.  Though some traditionalists will have you believe that there is a right way and a wrong way to grow certain fruit or veg, the truth is there isn't.  There are so many possibilities to what you can do and how you can grow things.  Plants really are one of natures most adaptable organisms and in many cases will survive to fruit and re-seed with no human intervention at all.  There are a great many things we can do to encourage certain habits, like growing taller and stronger before fruiting, or becoming more bush like, increasing yield or increasing visual appeal.  Yet there is no "right" way to do it.  A lot of the time in plants you can fail, and its okay, because you often planted a bunch more and it isn't a great loss, or you can try again next year.  The pressure to perform perfectly is gone, unless you're in the prettiest carrot competition, and it leaves space only for enjoyment and personal learning and (excuse the pun) growth.  

When I first started growing things it was in August, when most will have you believe the growing season is over.   I started some pots off on the windowsill at my parents house, before moving into a flat and having nothing but windowsills.  I went onto to find out more about growing the plants I had already started and found my way onto the most AWFUL forum I have ever encountered.  It had about 10 regular members who were obviously not open to newcomers in their little community and criticized everything I did.  I had a purely container garden due to the nature of living in 2nd floor flat with only windowsills and no outside space to use.  Everyone told me it "couldn't be done", that I would "never" manage to grow anything in a container, especially on a windowsill and certainly nothing would produce so I might as well give up now.

Despite their blind criticism, I managed to cultivate tomato plants which almost reached the roof, though yes the crop was small, but they grew from August through winter and produced in the spring.  Not only this but I overwintered chillis and peppers and had them produce pretty well also.  I managed one courgette, but I still got something!  I had a gooseberry bush that almost took over the bedroom and I eventually had to get rid of it when I moved out two years later.  Plenty of lettuce and spinach was available on a regular basis and I even managed a few tiny carrots, onions, leeks and garlic.  Bearing in mind this all took place in SCOTLAND.  Of course if conditions such as a greenhouse or a garden had been available my crop sizes would have been bigger, but then so would my pest problems, of which I encountered none by growing indoors.  But the point is it wasn't impossible at all, despite what an entire forum of "experts", who'd clearly never seen a plant pot in their life, had said.

I love the thrill of planting a new seed and seeing it become something, especially if you've never grown it before, and it can be fascinating to watch grow up.  I love that plants always surprise you, and against all odds in many cases.  I love that there is not right and wrong, only methods, some which work better than others depending on your own conditions.  For example the typical growing season is plant around March/April and harvest around July/August.  For me, because of the snow reaching up until MAY this year, followed by a suddenly scorching hot summer, everything has been thrown off a little.  Things I planted in March took so long to get going because of the cold temperatures that they're only producing now in OCTOBER.  Though it has certainly become colder now, we still have a lot of sun, and when the sun is out its almost like summer.  It's very windy and rainy, but but there is a distinct lack of crunchy leaves to be seen anywhere in the local area.  I'm pretty confident that despite today's 5 minute hail storm, the warm sun that followed will keep my produce going until next month at least.  I expect next year to be much the same as this year, so again might leave the seeds starting until a little later, unless they're all done inside.

I hope other people get the same feeling of freedom from gardening, because there really is nothing else quite like it.