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Archive for the ‘Ruby Chard’ Category

Photo: Sarah Cuttle

Gorgeous weather, delicious cake and a fine array of seeds and plants to give away made ‘Cake Sunday’ a really enjoyable get-together for neighbours participating in our community veg growing scheme. Over 100 households have now joined up to grow flowers and veg in their front gardens (and tree pits on the streets) and it was great to see lots of familiar faces as well as some new ones too.

Photo: Sarah Cuttle

This year we gave away purple French Beans, Swiss Chard, especially good for the less sunny garden, and wildflower seeds for tree pits all around our neighbourhood.

We also had masses of Hollyhock seeds, collected from Lindsey’s front garden to share, as these do surprisingly well in the inhospitable area around tree bases too.

Photo: Sarah Cuttle

Now in our fourth growing season, our green growbags and large planters are proliferating in front gardens, as neighbours are eager to grow a large selection of veg, including potatoes (as above), courgettes, tomatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and some very decorative rhubarb plants.

Photo: Sarah Cuttle

Front gardens are a great place to meet up with nieghbours on ‘Cake Sundays’, chat about all things horticultural and indeed anything else!

As part of the Chelsea Fringe this year, we’re inviting visitors to join us on Sunday May 27th 2013 for another bumper Cake Sunday, with all the trimmings. Amongst many metres of bunting, visitors can come sup tea and cake, and find out more about our community veg growing project. Our beans won’t be at the top of the poles by then, but we’ll  be holding edible window box workshops,

a topiary demonstration by Tim Bushe and hopefully a few heats of the Chelsea Fringe Edible Olympics. Cucumber javelin anyone?

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Today our crack team of neighbours delivered growbags to front gardens for our community veg growing project in Finsbury Park -huge thanks to David, Bernd, Matt, Graham and Liesbet.

Next weekend we’ve organised another Cake Sunday , so that participants can meet up over tea and home-made cake and collect seeds for veg growing this year.

We’ve found that both Runner and French beans grow really well in the free municipal compost (thanks North London Waste and Islington council),

and this year we’re giving away purple French beans, ‘Cosse Violette’, and Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ for those who have extra space to grow in too.

There’ll also be packets of wildflower seeds for tree pits as these really brighten up our neighbourhood along with the veg and flowers grown in front gardens.

Whilst on our travels we came across this fab suitcase which will make a great mini raised bed. Perfect for some Swiss chard I think! We quickly drilled some holes in the bottom and filled it up with compost ready for planting. It may not last many years, but should see us through this growing season at least.

For more durable (and more storable ) mini raised beds, you could look at these gro-beds from Marshalls. Both suitcase and gro-bed are a great solution if you have no soil, but want to grow veg in your garden, and they’re deep and wide enough to grow a large choice of fruit and veg.

Growing in containers and growbags is going to be a challenge this year as the hosepipe ban starts in the South of England at the beginning of April, but planting in larger pots and containers should reduce the amount of watering that’ll need to be done. If you have the room and the money, it would be worth investing in a water butt which can be situated near your veg and this should make watering somewhat easier if no taps are near to hand. Thames Water have some reasonably priced plastic water butts which they’ll deliver to your door too. (I know this is slightly ironic as they’re one of the companies introducing a water ban-come on Thames Water-get those leaky pipes fixed!)

However, despite this potential extra work, I still think that nothing can beat the sheer delight of growing your own fruit and veg and there’s nothing better than leaning out of your window or popping into the front (or back) garden to collect your dinner too.

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Last week I started sowing my sweet pea seeds indoors. Sadly, not an owner of a swanky greenhouse (and jealous of anyone who is!). I have however invested in a couple of heated propagators to speed up the process.

Et voila! A week later and all germinating beautifully. A sight which fills my heart with joy. Great seed germination rate from Chiltern Seeds and I use New Horizon multi purpose compost, just sieving the top inch or so to make it a little finer for seed sowing. Once germinated, I’ll move the seedlings outdoors into my mini green house/large cold frame, so that the seedlings don’t get too leggy and then I’ll harden them (putting pots outside or opening the coldframe lid during the day, then returning at night) about 10 days before planting out, probably in April.

No room for a propagator? Not a problem. A plastic bag with an elastic band to retain the moisture will do equally well and will just take a little longer for seeds to appear.

Sweet peas can be sown in autumn for earlier flowering the following summer and then overwintered in a cold frame until hardened off in spring. When I was picking some self-sown rocket at my allotment in January, I noticed quite a number of self-sown sweet peas nestling amongst the crop. I thought they would be wiped out during the subsequent frosts and snow, but amazingly they’re still going strong and will probably be the earliest flowering sweet peas that I’ve ever ‘grown’! Still plenty of time to sow sweet peas and great to sow a couple of batches weeks apart, so that you can have delicious sweet peas scenting your gardening for a longer period over summer.

This year, I’ve decided to have a go at growing Chilli peppers (Capiscum annuum). These seeds do need a bit of extra heat to get them started (it says 27 degrees C on the packet), so I popped them in my small overly hot propagator (has no controls, so either on and very hot or off). Again, delighted with the germination rate of the seeds that I bought from Sea Spring Seeds. I’m trying 2 different varieties this year. ‘NuMex Twilight’ for a sunny windowsill or greenhouse and also ‘Super Chile’ which I’m going to try to grow outdoors. Outdoor growing isn’t always very successful as the plants need a lot of heat to fully ripen, but Super Chile is a very fast grower, so if we have a hot summer, might just manage to get some red hot chillis later in the year.

Outside in my mini lean-to greenhouse I rather over enthusiastically sowed leek seeds in January. Think I was itching to get going as the weather was so mild (before it got very cold again) and was also inspired by a post from Jekkas Herb Farm  about getting under way sowing seeds so that plants would be ready in time for Chelsea. Sowed mid January, then nothing happened until about 10 days ago, 5 weeks after sowing. You can’t fool nature (without extra heating that is!).

Also outside in the mini greenhouse are some Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ seedlings. It’s amazing to see pink, red and yellow stems even at this tiny stage.

As the weather warms up, I’ve got heaps more seeds to sow (rather overdid the ordering this year again, although I promised myself that I wouldn’t). Looking forward to sowing annuals, such as Nigella above, straight into the ground , but am waiting until the 20th March, following wise advice from Benjamin at Higgledy Garden. He says he doesn’t sow hardy annuals before the Vernal Equinox when hours of daylight are equal to hours of darkness and finds sowings seem to be more successful after this date. Can’t wait.

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