Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Some TLC for my Dwarf Banana

A banana leaf waiting to open
 I bought my Dwarf Banana plant (me buying an actual plant instead of starting from seed, what?!) last summer, and it was deemed to be used as a house plant.  Banana plants normally grow to about 7 metres tall but Dwarf plants will stay much smaller, and banana plants in general operate on the same rule as goldfish - only growing large enough to suit their surroundings (so if they're pot bound they won't get any bigger, making them great house plants).  Being that it was summer, I decided to leave it out in the sun for a couple of hours after re-potting it, so it could have some real sun before I brought it indoors.  Big mistake! It became so windy that the gorgeous, softer than a baby's bottom, leaves got torn up to shreds.  So in it came, and was promptly plonked in the corner of the living room (about the only free space for such a plant...it was an impulse buy!)

Well its not been looking great.  For ages it did absolutely nothing, and showed no signs of healing or producing new leaves.  When winter arrived it finally started a central coil - a new leaf which grows up and then gradually unfurls!  But the soil grew a fungus of some sort and attracted fungus gnats (oh joy) and many of the leaves were browning (a combination of the wind and gnat damage I believe)

So this morning I decided the house wasn't the best place for this poor plant any more.  I don't think its getting enough sun from the one window, and the gnats are obviously an issue.  So I emptied out the pot, cleaned it up and re-potted it into a new, slightly larger container with fresh soil and some perlite.  I had expected it to be root bound but it really wasn't, and even more unexpected was that it has started growing suckers!

I counted at least four new little sucker growths.  For anyone who doesn't know, banana plants typically put out little suckers next to them, much like the idea of a tuber or runner creating a new plant.  Some people tend to get rid of them, to focus the energy on the main plant, but as I've never had a banana plant before this I really want to see what they do!  So far the biggest one looks just like a coiled leaf as well.

I also trimmed all the damaged leaves and parts of the leaves off, because I noticed some of them had begun to grow fungus as well.  So its looking a lot more bare, but certainly happier and cleaner!  I put it in the greenhouse.  It's still pretty cold for the banana plant to be outdoors, but at least out in the greenhouse it will get much more sun.  So hopefully the new leaf will open soon and the suckers - we'll just have to see.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Planting Nuts

You may know that last year I successfully grew an almond from seed, and it has been dormant and covered with a fleecy blanket since Autumn.  I am worried that because it was so "young" it may not survive the winter if we do in fact get a lasting snowfall at some point.  So I am planting several more just in case.  I thought while I was at it I'd give a few other nuts a go too - cashews and pine nuts.

So the first thing to do if you are planting nuts is to soak them for a minimum of 24 hours, stored in the fridge.  I left mine for 3 days, mostly because I was too busy to pot them up.  This does two things - causes the nut to swell, which aids germination, and fools the nut into a false sense of winter, meaning when you remove from the fridge and plant them, it thinks spring has arrived.

This cashew has swollen to almost twice the size after soaking
I decided to plant 2 under the surface, and experiment with one partially out of the soil. (or vermiculite)

I expect the shoot will appear from the dark spot on the top of the seed.

Cashews are really supposed to be planted in a warmer climate so honestly this is really an experiment - I'm not expecting much success.  I'll be keeping them indoors for a while to see if anything happens.

On an unrelated note, do you reckon I need to plant my onion sets out soon? Haha.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Starting Seeds!!

Growing tip of Inca Berry bush

With all the craziness of life of late, I've sorely missed gardening.  This made worse by the never-ending rain and single snowfall since Christmas.  So I was thrilled when mid-February rocked around so I can finally get started sowing some of the million seeds I have been accumulating over the past six months.

The most exciting for me is probably the chillis.  This year I have really gone all out when deciding on varieties to try.  We eat chillis in every meal, so really I am thrilled to have an entire propagator devoted to them.

This is also my new propagator I got from Suttons - it's meant to make it easier to remove the seedlings without damaging the roots.  I'll let you know how it goes on that front.  Last year I had issues with a capillary mat propagator where the roots grew through the mat, often before the seedling emerged to a point where it could be handled properly, so there was a lot of damage when getting them out.

I may have gone a bit overboard in my excitement at being able to sow some seeds...

Setting the seeds out before they're covered up
So here is my list of what's been sown thus far:

  • Nosferatu (thanks for the seed Mark!)
  • De Cayenne
  • Purple Flash
  • Cayenne Apache
  • Habanero Black Stinger
  • Scotch Bonnet Big Sun
  • Black Pearl
  • Numex Pinata
  • Capsicum Calico
  • Numex Twilight (Thanks again Mark)
Sweet Peppers
  • Mohawk
  • Organic Nardello
  • Bellboy
  • Worldbeater
  • Purple Calabash
  • Great White
  • Peardrops (trailing)
  • Black Russian
  • Reinhard's Goldkirsche
  • Roma
  • Health Kick
  • Red Cherry
  • Green Giant
  • Golden Sunrise
  • Green Zebra
  • Oxheart
  • Moneymaker
  • White Queen
  • Perfection
  • Marketmore
  • Black Beauty Dark Fog
  • Organic Nero Di Milano
  • Early Gem
  • Piccolo
  • White Bush Marrow 
  • Vegetable Spaghetti
  • Black Futsu
  • Cornell's Delicata
  • Sweet Dumpling
  • Butternut
  • Crown Prince
  • Honeybear
  • Black Beauty
Broad Beans
  • Super Aquadulce
  • Masterpiece Green Longpod
  • Sutton Dwarf

  • Watermelon Crimson Sweet


  • Russian Comfrey
  • Thai Basil
  • Black Cumin
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Green Mint
  • Marigold (I know not strictly a herb but its in with them haha)
  • Lovage
  • Sweet Marjoram
  • Cherry Belle
  • Summer Cross (Mooli)
These were all planted 19th February.  You may think this is a little early for some of these, but we are going on holiday for the last two weeks of March and I wanted to be able to re-pot seedlings before we go preferably, rather than them come up while we're away when I can't look after them.

This year is very much an experimental year for my veg garden.  I haven't grown most of theses varieties before so its exciting to try them out and see what I like and what new tastes I can discover!  And this is just February's planting! 

Here's a wee look at the greenhouse right now.  Mostly fleeced chillis overwintering and a bunch of thriving strawberry plants

Please excuse the floor and pallet mess - the floor was never finished by the previous tenant in our house and I was too anxious to get started to get it finished properly last year.  Maybe this year will be the year it gets done!

Those luscious green plants who haven't yet realised it's winter are my Inca berries, who have grown without issue throughout the winter and have thrived on my lack of watering neglect throughout my busy work life.  Well done Inca Berries!!

Lovely big leaves soaking up the sun
Since this will be their second year I hope to see some fruiting going on soon!

Another plant that already seems to have decided winter is over is my Goji berry.  

Blackcurrant is starting to produce some lovely pink/purple buds!

This will be the second year for my blackcurrant and my goji berry plants, so I'm hoping for some fruit this summer.  We'll see!!  I bought them as small plants from Sainsbury's last spring and they've come a long, long way since.  Particularly the goji, who I'm convinced is trying to grow tall enough to escape the garden over the fence.

That black area is not rot or fungus, I'd just been handling rather a lot of soil and was holding the top of the plant while I examined the buds

As I was out in the greenhouse today I could really feel the warm sun on my back.  The days are getting warmer, and the rain and winds are dying down a bit.  It really does feel like winter never really quite got here, and spring really does seem round the corner.  Which means there will be more seed sowing to show you soon!

Sunday, 16 February 2014


I may have forgotten in all my recent issues, about my "Christmas" potatoes.  Well on a rare dry day in the last few months I managed to nip out to finally empty the waterlogged potato bags.  I'd just started them from supermarket potatoes, which had started to chit on their own.  So I wasn't expecting a huge harvest, but I was pleasantly surprised to find I did have one!!

As you can see by my hand for size reference they are pretty tiny potatoes.  Despite that, after they were washed and dried (above) I cooked them along with sweet potato in a quinoa dish and they were absolutely delicious.

I thought considering I planted these in Autumn (literally because they had started to chit on their own) that this February harvest was impressive to get at all.  However, since this was my first time growing potatoes, I'm looking for recommendations for good varieties to order now for chitting, in hopes of getting a more decent crop later this year.  We typically prefer them for baking potatoes and mash rather than any other use.  What would you more seasoned potato growers recommend?

In the Field of Dreams

So this photo was taken in Edinburgh's St. Andrew's Square last night after a wonderful dinner with friends.  My husband promptly named it the Field of Dreams, and spent the rest of the night being very pleased with himself over this description.  Haha.

So I've not posted in a very long time.  There are several reasons for this which I have been wanting to share with you but have been finding it difficult to put into words.  January was...hellish.  After an exhausting pattern of working like a beast with no days off for weeks on end to cover yet another of my boss' holidays I developed Viral Bronchitis.  It literally changed my life.  

The day that I came home after a horrendous shift, physically and mentally exhausted, depressed over my situation where I barely get time to spend with my husband let alone family and friends, well that was such a terrible day.  The night before my neighbours had come banging on the door at 5am to accuse us of making noise which had been keeping them awake since 2am.  We had gone to bed before midnight and their utter madness completely disrupted my precious little sleep before work.  

So I was seething at them all day, worried about coming home in case they were waiting to whine about another made up accusation, which I was clearly not in the mood for.  I felt so ill and really couldn't face going to work the following day.  Then I got home to discover that the niece we'd been expecting to arrive any day had died in the womb.  She wasn't actually born until the following day.  It was absolutely heartbreaking for all the family.  We have since had a funeral near the end of January.

So to sum up, I couldn't take any more.  The following day I was too ill to work and was diagnosed later in the week with bronchitis.  I had 3 weeks off work in total and really didn't feel up to much of anything at all.  But it gave me a long time to think.  

I am so sick of being miserable because of this job and the daft hours because my boss basically wants a permanent holiday.  I am sick of spending my days off crying and worrying about having to go back there.  During my illness my boss phoned to tell me he was stealing my week's holiday I had booked for my birthday to visit his mum in France for 2 weeks to help her move.  I had told him so many times about that holiday and this really was the last straw...(I later found out from my colleague that my boss actually sat on the work computer and booked himself a holiday to Turkey instead for those dates!) So I the day I started back after my illness, I handed in my notice immediately. 

I have never felt such a relief and really feel free in the knowledge I will now be able to get that day off to make a friend's wedding, that I won't have to work rediculously doing a job I hate for minimum wage.  I don't leave until March 16th but we have already hired someone in my place so I can train her since its a very skilled role. 

I am going to start my own Lingerie Brand finally after almost 15 years of dreaming about it.  Perhaps I will pick up a part time job if money gets too tight but honestly I need some time for me and my mental health!  I probably won't be posting much until April because I am starting my self employment with a 2 week holiday to Malta!  But I will keep you posted on my garden antics as much as possible, and come April, I will actually have time for it again.  Hopefully that means when summer rocks around I will be able to give my plants that hourly watering they need instead of trying to fit it in around work!

For anyone interested in my Lingerie Brand I will be posting a link to the website once I am up and running with that.

Hope you have all had a better 2014 than me, I have all my favourite blogs to catch up on since the start of January!  It's been pretty much constant rain here so I only got out last night to get some garden work done for the first time this year really.