Monday, 23 June 2008

Grow Your Own - Inside

One way to grow your own veg, whether you have a garden or not, is to sprout seeds. Everyone has grown mustard and cress when they were small, using cotton wool or kitchen roll, but there are a lot of other varieties that can be grown.
One of my favourite is alfalfa, tiny seeds that grow to lovely crisp sprouts; ideal in sandwiches or a mixed salad. Beans, when they are sprouted, are no longer poisonous raw, aduki, mung (the beansprouts used in chinese cookery), lentils, chick peas and loads more. These can all be bought from seed merchants, but you can grow untreated peas and beans from health food shops and supermarkets. This probably works out cheaper, but they might not be as fresh, so germination might not be as good, and obviously heat treated or husked seeds do not grow. If you try mung beans they are unlikely to reach the size of commercal ones, although if you grow them in the dark they will be longer than those kept in the light.
How to do it? Well you can buy special seeds sprouters, but before going out and spending, try out a homemade sprouter to see if you like the flavours. Find a large glass jar with either a screw top lid which you can pierce holes in, or use an elastic band to hold a fine piece of cloth over the neck. Muslin is recommended, but anything that allows the water to drain away can be used.
Soak the seeds overnight in cold water, then drain away all the excess. Rinse the sprouts at least 2 or 3 times a day, more if it's hot. This keeps them fresh; make sure they are well drained in between rinses, if they sit in water, they will rot. Depending on the variety, they can be ready in as little as 2-3 days, the longest is probably 6. As they germinate starches turn to sugars, (the nutrient content is very high at this stage) but do not leave them too long or the sweetness will be lost, and they will get tough. They will keep, well drained, in the fridge for at least 3 days.
Do check for seeds that have not germinated. Some stay very hard, so be careful. Most husks do soften and you just eat them alonside the sprouts, good roughage, but sunflowers stay quite hard, I usually try to remove those ones. It's quite fiddly, but they have a lovely flavour, so worth it. Besides using in salads, they are good added to stir frys and many other dishes. I am not trying to advertise T&M, but they do have an enormous choice.

If you get hooked, then this the time to buy a sprouter. It does make life easier, and usually consists of a drip tray and 3 others. I usually use the top one, which would be more prone to drying out, for growing cress, radish, broccoli etc. that I put on moist kitchen roll. The lower trays retain humidity, which is better for the sprouting seeds. Fresh veg that literally anyone can grow.!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Half price seeds and freebies

Just thought I'd add to my post earlier, as I've been sorting through my seed box. It's a good idea to sign up for the seed catalogues email news letters, because they often have clearance offers that can save a lot of money. I've recently got most of my seeds for next year half price, and as one type was out of stock, they refunded the money, and sent a £1 gift voucher to compensate. There's often free gifts as well. This year I've had 40 summer bulbs from Parkers, as well as 4 fuchsia plants, and 10 Vales Emerald seed potatoes for Browns, as well as 4 scented begonias from T&M. I suppose the problem is being strong and not ordering loads of other stuff as well! I resisted getting anything from Parkers, but did get some seeds from Browns, and some fuchsia plants from T&M.

Gales forecast.

The weather today is lovely, sunny and warm, but these's one flaw, the wind is blowing everything to pieces. The runner bean leaves are looking wilted, and some bits of the grape vine have been blown off the trellis, so they need tying back in.
Harvesting in the garden has been picking up slightly, I've had around 12 courgettes in the past week, and I picked my first cucumber, besides the lettuce and watercress. Mind you I need to renovate the watercress drastically now, it is determined to set seed. In the greenhouse the tomaoes are growing well, and have reached the roof, so the tops need pinching out. The green fruit are about an inch across, and I have some small peppers that are growing well. However, something is eating the pepper plants, and I can't find out what!
I've picked a few ripe strawberries, but we haven't enough to have a bowl full. The blackcurrants are beginning to turn colour, although they have some way to go until they are ripe. There are some cherries on the tree, but they aren't filled out yet, and we still have one plum! Oh, and one raspberry is showing colour.
I turned out a pot of potatoes during the week, fooled by finding one large one, but there were only 3 other decent sized ones, the rest were pea size, so I'll leave the other pots for a couple more weeks. I have runner beans an inch long, and the scarlet flowers are a real splash of colour. Next year I will plant white ones though, as the climbing french beans are mauve, and look strange with the red.
I have got some colour in the garden as well, although the different greens of the veg do look good. The climbing rose is a picture but it is hard to get up to dead head it, and there have been a few late flowers on the spring clematis. The summer flowering one is showing a lot of buds, but none are out so far. My american wisteria has small flower bunches shwoing this year, Vicky is dissapointed as she was hoping for the long grape like bunches of the sinesis variety. If I had one of those, it would take over the whole garden! Ice Cream, the rose I mean, is opening well and smells divine, just a shame it is quite tall, so catches the washing if I am not careful!
I am still waiting for the carnations to show signs of buds, but hopefully the fuschia buds wiil open soon. I will have to use some vine weavil treatment I think, the notches in the camellia leaves look suspicious, and I found TWO beetles in m hall way yesterday.
I've planted some more lettuce, but I think I will have a gap, because I lost the last sowing to the slugs. I think the nematodes have been successful in some parts of the garden, the strawberries were untouched, but I have still found some lurking in among other plants. I will order some moer in a couple of week though, as cutting down the population must help, and I hate them!
Happy gardening to all, and I hope the gardening club will be able to visit in July.

Should be 12th June

I wrote the following on 12th June, but for some reason the post wasn't successful. Please read on.

Well it’s quite a while since I my last entry, but that’s not because there’s been nothing going on, rather that I seem to have been rushed off my feet recently. The planting and sowing has slowed down now, most of the plants are organised, and they now ‘just’ need caring for. We had a bit of a dry patch, where I did need to resort to the hosepipe, but my device for emptying bath water arrived from Lakeland last week, so now I’ll be able to recycle that if necessary. Overnight it was tipping down, so the water butts filled up nicely. I was out in the garden at 6am emptying the water into the spare butts, so if it carries on raining, it’ll fill up again. It takes about an hour to water the garden and all the pots using the watering can, and about the same with the hosepipe by the time I set it all up.
Sadly the two small yacon succumbed to slug attack before the nematodes had a chance to make a difference. I still have the 3 strongest, so I am hoping they will produce the tubers for ongoing planting next year. Now at £5 per plant they weren’t cheap. The celeriac is growing well, and hopefully those members of the gardening club who are giving some a go will be successful and get t enjoy eating it. I’ve a few parsnips from the sowing earlier in the year, but not many. Still there should be enough for Daniel to have some for Christmas dinner.
The courgettes, Cavilli, have flowered this week, only female flowers. I don’t know if this is a feature of the variety as they don’t need pollinating, or if it’s just because it’s early in the season. It will be interesting to see how they go. By next week I might be using home grown courgettes! The patty pans are later, nowhere near flowering yet.
The blackberry is flowering well, and there are two new shoots coming up for next year. If all this year’s flowers set we should get a good crop, twice as many next year? There is one plum on the tree, all the others dropped again. This is the same as last year, I wonder if this one will mature or fall off? We also have some blackcurrants, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, cherries and of course, the blueberries. There won’t be an enormous quantity of each, but with the prices in the shops, these are definitely worth growing.
I had a root around in the potato pots last weekend and found a couple of spuds, about 4cm diameter. I’m leaving them for another couple of weeks to let the crop bulk up. The Vales Emerald pots are flowering, but the 3 Lady Crystl, although planted earlier, are not. This might be a peculiarity of the variety, but I’ll see which ones give the highest yield/taste nicest.
In the greenhouse things are going great guns, small peppers and tomatoes are showing on most of the plants now, but although the chillies are in bloom, there is no fruit yet. The cucumbers are behaving themselves so far, keeping themselves upright by twining their tendrils around their own canes. Mind you, take your eye off them for a moment, and they will try to spread into someone else’s space! The cucumber Noel gave me, despite being a bit lanky at the time, has now grown into a lovely strong plant, in flower and with small cucumbers coming on. Mine are a bit later, but they were only just breaking through when I got the other one, so it isn’t surprising. This should make sure we have cucumber throughout the summer, which will be great as Vicky can munch through a whole one quite happily.
Better close now as work beckons imperatively!