Monday, 9 December 2013

Muck Boots: Perfect Winter Wear


Whether you’re sweeping up great swathes of wet leaves, digging up vegetable beds, turning soil or generally pottering about, the garden can be a messy place at this time of year, which is why solid footwear is so important.

Luckily for me, my friends at The Internet Gardener (www.internetgardener.co.uk) sent me a pair of Muck Boot Scrub boots to help me in the London Vegetable Garden over the autumn and winter months.


The first thing I have to mention about these boots is the fact that they are half-height, making them the perfect boot for garden work.  Shoes can offer little protection from muddy, cold and wet garden conditions, while full-size wellington boots can often feel cumbersome for gardening tasks that require a lot of flexibility: these Scrub Muck Boots are comfortable and protective while allowing freedom of movement.


As with all other Muck Boots, this Scrub Boot is constructed in by creating a neoprene bootie complete with Airwick lining. The entire boot is then covered in natural rubber ensuring it is 100% waterproof.  The ridged rubber sole will give grip without clogging up with mud as other wellies can, making it perfect for tramping through soil and undertaking gardening tasks such as digging, while  it also provides a firm grip on patios and decking.

I have recently been standing in vegetable beds as I dig out old roots, and turn the soil, as well as wading through great piles of leaves while sweeping up garden debris, and these scrub boots kept me warm, dry and were very flexible and easy to work in, as well as being extremely comfortable.


These boots are available in sizes 4-12, and when ordering from The Internet Gardener, you can also order a boot jack in a variety of colours, as well as a stylish boot bag to keep your boots in.  I highly recommend these muck boots, which have already become a key part of my gardening activities here at the London Vegetable Garden.

Visit The Internet Gardener for these muck boots, plus a whole host of superb gardening equipment!

Boot-Scrapers: Keeping the Outdoors, Outdoors!


Whether pottering about in the garden or rambling across the moorland of Derbyshire, I love nothing better than being outdoors.  However, what I dislike is bringing the outdoors back inside with me!

Muddy walking boots, leaves, soil and all sorts of garden flora and fauna invariably end up being trampled inside my house, much to the chagrin of my wife.  Luckily for me, the folks at the English Lamp Post Company have come up with the perfect solution for life here at the London Vegetable Garden.



Well known for their range of lampposts, the English Lamp Post Company is turning its expertise in superior cast iron to garden products, which of course, is very exciting news for gardeners!  The company’s new boot-scrapers are the perfect solution for muddy boots: the boot-scraper and brush has been hand cast in iron and is finished in a satin midnight black, ensuring a quality product with a durable finish and stylish design.


The back door of my cottage now has a beautiful boot-scraper outside, ensuring that the muck and mess of a wet wintery garden is kept firmly outside.

In addition to boot-scrapers, the English Lamp Post Company also has a charming range of cast-iron post boxes, benches, hanging baskets, water features, urn planters and also a superb garden lighting range.  Take a look today!

Birds and Bees: Bird Seed That Supports British Wildlife



The current plight of bees is a very topical, and indeed, critical, issue facing agriculture today.  This is a global issue with huge ramifications for crops, food and ecosystems, yet it is also an issue that we can help to overcome at (forgive the pun) ‘grass roots’ level.

I was recently contacted by the lovely folks at Birds & Bees bird seed, a new ethical birdseed company from Marcus Waley Cohen (founder of Firefly Drinks) and Upton Estate Manager, Rob Allan (Countryside Farmer of the Year 2012).

Birds and Bees actually started life ten years ago as a project to create some space on their farm for wildlife.  Back then, everyone was farming to the edge of every field; great for farming yields, but not so good for birds, bees and butterflies which had nowhere left to live.

Ten years later, Birds & Bees has over 150 acres of land dedicated to wildlife, home to thousands of species.   Every year they make the farm better for wildlife, but they realised that to make a bigger difference they needed to encourage more people to look after birds and bees in their own gardens, and more farmers to farm in a wildlife friendly way.   And with that, Birds and Bees was born.

They buy all of their British cereals from bird and bee friendly farmers and they have also dedicated to creating more habitats for wildlife - that's why they're planting one square foot of new wildflower meadow for every new customer who joins them this year.


I have already started using Birds & Bees in the London Vegetable Garden and I genuinely love the fact that not only does it help the many lovely birds in my garden (finches, nuthatches, blue tits, sparrows, robins) over the winter months, but the seed is produced in a way that is actively encouraging bees and wildlife back into British farmland and countryside – how good is that!

So please, if you’re looking for bird seed this winter, check out the great range of products over at http://www.birdsandbees.co.uk/.  There are plenty of offers in the shop, plus you can also earn £5 for yourself and £5 for a friend – click here for more details.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Planning Ahead: The Perfect Place to Put Your Gardening Tools

It might be winter now, but that means that spring is only around the corner, and with it comes fresh opportunities for new garden projects to help fill your leisure time over the coming year, and we think we have the perfect project. With house sizes decreasing year-on-year, gardeners all around the UK are running out of space to put their tools of the trade, so this year, why not make your gardening project to design and build your own outdoor space to help store your things.  Here’s how we suggest your do it.

The Right Spot
Here in the UK, we’re accustomed to bad weather. Although it’s not generally enough to dampen our spirits and prevent us from getting out into the garden, it can be detrimental to the health of a shed or greenhouse.  Wood can get water-damaged and the wind can take a serious toll on a greenhouse, so finding the perfect spot for your outdoor storage area is essential.  Large trees or dense bushes make excellent wind breakers, and if you’re building a shed, use a waterproof roof material to prevent any serious deterioration or rot.

The Appropriate Materials
Although you might want to cover your roof in slate tiles, they’re more expensive than a lino and are prone to becoming unstuck in the wind.  Therefore you need to weigh up the pros and cons of every material you plan to use.  If you’re making a greenhouse, you have less to think about in this regard, but you might want to consider the ventilation of you’re going to get out of your planned system – Do you need to drill any holes in your glass sheets to allow your plants to breathe?   

The Necessary Equipment
It’s ironic that you’ll need a range of tools for your outdoor storage space – the very place you intent to put them when the job is done.  Thankfully, the things you’ll need are generally inexpensive and can be purchased from a place like Elcocks, so you don’t need to travel to get everything you need for the job. As a minimum, you’ll require:
  • A hammer
  • A hand saw
  • A measuring tape
  • Screwdrivers


Once you’ve gathered your tools, picked the perfect spot, and thought about the appropriate materials, you’re all set to go. Building your shed or greenhouse shouldn’t take too long, and once it’s done you can sit back and admire your handiwork.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Things To Consider When Planning A New Garden

If you’re a keen gardener or you just love to sit out there on a warm summer day then there’s a good chance that you love gardening and garden design. If you’re new to it, or you have been doing it for a while and feel like you need some new inspiration and ideas for how to jazz things up a bit, then here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

Think about a colour scheme

Before you start to buy flowers and plants, you should probably decide if you want your garden to follow a certain colour scheme or if you just simply want to plant some of your favourite things. If you love to garden but don’t have much time, then you could opt for flowers, trees, plants and shrubs that need less maintaining to keep them looking good and healthy like bulbs and conifers.
You should also think about the plants that are already in your garden and what use you can make of them within your new garden plan, especially if it is a house that you have only just moved into. Some gardeners recommend that you live in it for one full year before creating a new garden so that you are aware of everything it already has to offer over all four seasons.

Choose some nice, practical fencing

Getting a nice fence can be a good way to improve the overall look and feel of your garden. There a few things to think about when choosing the right one. You want something that looks nice, but something that is going to be practical and fit with the purpose of your garden. You might be using it to add privacy, or just for decoration.

There are many retailers, such as, Buy Fencing Direct, that sell all different kinds of fencing in a whole range of styles, and that will suit a whole range of needs.

Do you want to add any additional lighting?

Something else that you may want to add some lighting features in the garden so that you can still use it in the winter months or on summer nights  for barbeques and parties.
Looking at some of the gardens that other people have created can be a good way of giving yourself some inspiration for when it comes to creating your own outdoor haven. Of course, how you design it will depend largely on what you are planning to use it for.

How A Pond Can Improve Your Garden

It could be said that gardening is about so much more than growing vegetables and flowers. A garden can also be a place for families to spend time together on long summer days, and also a great place to admire nature and wildlife.

Having a pond can be a good way to enhance your garden, and attract more animals to come and spend more time in it. While having a pond in your garden will hopefully improve the way it looks (and maybe impress those who live nearby), there are many more ways that installing one can help to enhance your garden space.

There are lots of places that you can buy pond equipment online, such as All Pond Solutions. Having one can attract lots of other species, such as dragon files and newts that would not be in your garden otherwise. This will give you the opportunity to see lots animals that you may not get to come face to face with if you never install one.

If you have children or a young family, a pond can be a great source of education when it comes to learning about fish, frogs, dragonflies and any of the other animals you may wish to have in your pond or that decided to bread there. Even if you don’t have children, you could also use it as an opportunity to learn about these types of wildlife for yourself.

In addition to this, if you have a water fountain or running water feature then that can help to drown out any of the unwanted noises that you can sometimes hear when you sit outside, such as the sound of traffic if you live near a busy road, or you neighbours’ dog that barks more than you would personally like.
Having a pond, and some of the animals that may come to live in it, can be a natural way of managing unwanted pests that may have.

Before installing a pond, take some time to think about some of the safety measure that you might install that will keep all of the humans, and also the animals and plants that go near it as safe from harm as possible.  Have a think about the types of wildlife that you would like to attract before you dig your pond, as what animals arrive could depend on the size and shape of it and how they meet its needs.

Monday, 14 October 2013

The LVG Guide to: Essential Garden Tools

If you’re new to this blog, hopefully my posts over the last few years will have demonstrated that it’s actually fairly straightforward and simple to start growing vegetables in your garden or on your balcony.  If you’re looking to give vegetable growing a go next spring, why not start planning your adventure right now?  It’s essential to invest in some gardening tools, and starting now can help to spread the cost over winter before spring arrives.

So here’s my guide to the beginner vegetable gardener’s essential toolkit (all images are from the GardenXL website).

Trowel (balcony, patio, garden)













One of the true basics!  A hand trowel is useful for all sorts of things and mine never leaves my side.  Whether it’s transporting compost from bag to plant pot, planting plants out in the vegetable patch or generally cleaning beds up, a trowel is essential kit, whether you’re starting on a balcony, patio or in a garden.

Rake (garden)













When I had my allotment in Richmond, I only then realised the importance of soil preparation.  A decent garden rake is an essential piece of kit if you want to prepare soil, keeping it raked over and oxygenated nicely.  Putting in the effort of soil preparation up front will pay dividends in the long-run! 

Spade and Fork (garden)

Some more essential kit for the garden vegetable-grower!  A garden spade is a useful tool to dig up and prepare soil in the garden, while the classic garden fork is vital to keep soil turned over and fresh.  Stainless steel tools not only look nice, but they also remain rust-free – perfect when gardening in damp conditions!

Pruning Shears (balcony, patio, garden)


Finally, pruning shears are a decent buy for the budding vegetable gardener.  While these are traditionally employed for pruning (hence the name!), my pruning shears come in useful for all manner of things – cutting string, shopping bits of bushes and plants – anything that needs cutting.

So there you have it: the London Vegetable Garden guide to essential garden tools.  If you’re looking to have a go at growing your own next spring, take a look at the full range of garden tools available at GardenXL and plan your growing adventures today.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

These Boots Were Made For… Gardening!

As the cold mornings and autumnal drizzle wash away all remnants of this year’s warm summer, one could be forgiven for thinking that gardening activity has also been packed up for the year, but nothing could be further from the truth!  One of the things I love about being a gardener is that there’s always something to do, whatever the season, or weather: you just need to ensure that you have the right gear!

While summer gardening is spent standing on firm turf and dry soil, the autumnal months of September, October and  November are often spent in wet soil, muddy flower beds and tramping around in piles of wet and slipper leaves, making the right gardening footwear essential.

Luckily, the unisex Aigle Benyl wellington boots make gardening in the cold and wet a doddle.  Hand-made in France by master craftsmen from natural rubber, the Aigle Benyl is an excellent boot for general use.  Its natural rubber upper keeps you dry, while its polyamide knit, rot-proof washable and fast-drying lining keeps you warm.


So there really are no excuses this autumn: as the old adage goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather; just unsuitable clothing!  So make sure you’re prepared for an autumn and winter of gardening duties this year with the Aigle Benyl wellington boot. 

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

It's 2013: why not get a robot to mow your lawn?

Whilst gardening is perceived by many to be a timeless, traditional and rather quaint pastime, the gardener of 2013 can call upon  a truly diverse range of technological gadgets and wizardry to help save time or, if desired, effort!  Take the cutting edge robot lawn mower, the Honda Miimo for example.  Yes, you read heard me correctly: a robot lawn mower!

A wonderful new piece of machinery to help automate the aesthetic beauty of your garden, the Honda Miimo is a truly impressive piece of kit.  A robot lawn mower, this little beauty will run around doing the hard work so that you don’t have to!

While many of you may be worrying about a robot flying off and chopping your flowerbeds up, you needn’t worry!  A full set of cutting patterns can be easily programmed in to give a combination of patterns on your lawn, while the Miimo’s ‘random pattern’ ensures an even overall finish to your lawn.  The Miimo even produced less stress for your grass, ensuring a healthier, happier lawn.

The Honda Miimo will also work for as long as you want it to, thanks to its intelligent charging system.  While its lithium ion battery lasts twice as long as more traditional batteries, it also knows when it needs to re-charge and wheels itself off to the docking station, which can be placed anywhere in your garden, thus ensuring it’s charged and ready to keep mowing!

The intelligence of the Honda Miimo does not stop here however: as with all Honda products, superb design and intelligence has been crafted into the machine.  Rather than having to empty great buckets of grass clippings, the Miimo’s clever automation continues effortlessly.  The machine spreads tiny grass particles, which fall down and are locked under the thatch of the grass.  Not only does this save us gardeners the laborious task of raking up clippings or emptying the machine every five minutes, but it is actually beneficial for the garden itself, fertilising the lawn and reducing weeds on the surface.

Those of you with children or pets may have visions of a rampaging robot running over various animals and children, but this is not the case!  The Honda Miimo has a 360° floating cover, which means it is able to sense contact and will stop the moment it touches a person or a pet, making it a safe and reliable product to enjoy as part of your family life in the garden.

And as we approach autumn, it’s also important to note that the Miimo is completely rainproof, thanks to its sealed inner workings, meaning that you don’t have to keep putting it away in the garden: especially useful for those of you that live in the rainy Peak District like me!

So if you want to enjoy a perfect lawn without the back-breaking work of constant mowing, raking and cutting-collecting, then the Honda Miimo is the perfect product for you.

Top Tips To Get Your Garden Winter-Ready This Autumn

It all happened so quickly; one moment you’re relaxing in a deckchair in the sun, the next you’re wrapping up warm and sweeping leaves off the drive. It may have been a sudden transition this year but autumn is certainly upon us. Next thing we know, we’ll be shivering away in hats and scarves in the biting cold of winter. And that means that in order to get the best from your garden, you should be changing your gardening habits now, in line with the season to ensure that your plants get through the cold winter months to come. Here are a few things to try.

Plant Your Bulbs

Now is the time to get planting your spring bulbs, in order to give them adequate time to grow. Treat yourself to some hyacinths, crocus, iris and daffodils and you can look forward to a colourful springtime during the bleak winter months. To add some colour all year round, you can also try planting some evergreens such as conifers. The warm autumn soil will help your plants get rooted.

Look After Your Lawn

After the hot summer, your lawn may be looking a little dried out, so autumn is the perfect time to give it some good old fashioned TLC. With the warm soil and plenty of water from the rain, autumn is a great time for re-seeding your lawn. Ensure that the ground is level, spread seeds over the area and keep it moist for a few week; you’ll soon be rewarded with a luscious new green lawn. If you’re not planning on getting the mower out over the winter month, it may also be worth getting it serviced and checking the blades ready for next year.

Feed The Birds

If you have a large garden which often attracts birds, give your feathered friends a fighting chance over winter. You can pick up bird seed mixtures and even cake and food bars at your local pet shop, or just provide them with leftover rice and oats. Set up a bird table or purchase a feeder and enjoy some extra garden decoration from these beautiful creatures.

Tidy Up

Now really is the time to keep on top of your garden before the winter months when you’ll be more reluctant to venture outside. Make sure that you are up to date on your weeding, and trim back any hedges to stop them becoming overgrown. Once the leaves start falling, try to sweep them regularly – about once a week. Dead leaves can attract pests, and you’ll find it much easier to keep on top of things if you don’t allow them to pile up. It is also a great time to clear your shed out; get rid of any rusty old equipment, and disinfect everything else before it goes away for winter.

Invest In A Wheelbarrow

The wheelbarrow is your new best friend during the autumn months; allowing you to easily transport new bulbs, soil, fertiliser, weeds, leaves and more. When choosing a wheelbarrow, consider whether you would prefer a single-wheel barrow – which is easy to manoeuver but can topple easily – or a dual-wheel model, which is stable but more difficult. Invest in a sturdy wheelbarrow of your choice, with puncture-proof, pneumatic tyre wheels to make all those gardening jobs a little bit easier.

This guest post was written by Emma Williams on behalf of Rolltek International LTD. Rolltek are suppliers of high quality wheels, suitable for wheelbarrows, garden trolleys and sack trucks – perfect for all garden work this autumn.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Artificial Grass: Beautiful Turf for Minimal Effort

A lot of my friends tell me that they wish they could have a beautiful garden, but they don’t want to have to work tirelessly to get the results!  Well, although blood, sweat and hard graft results in a rewarding garden, there are also many ways to achieve a beautiful, simple garden that is also low-maintenance.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some tips and advice on how to achieve a beautifully simple garden that requires minimal maintenance.  But this week, we start with the basics: grass.

A beautiful, fresh lawn, like the one displayed below, is often the starting point for an attractive garden:


However, the grass shown here is actually artificial grass!  

Artificial grass has come a long way since the days of old astro-turf football pitches and glaringly bright ‘fake’ grass.  Namgrass is fast becoming the number one choice for artificial grass in the UK and it’s not hard to see why.

Namgrass design and manufacture a wide range of artificial grass suitable for a wide variety of garden, domestic and home uses.  Featuring ultra-soft friendly fibres and natural green tones, along with unrivalled quality and pricing, Namgrass products are manufactured to the highest standards.  Benefiting from heavy duty latex backing, Namgrass’s unique Tuftlock system and grass fibres (yarns) are of only the highest quality, enabling them to offer a 10 year Manufacturer’s Guarantee with all products.

From Green Meadow and Green Touch, to Green Mirage and Green Oasis, Namgrass offers a wide range of artificial grass to suit every need, whether you’re looking for a durable play area for the children, or a designer lawn that looks beautiful all year round.


So if you’re looking for a beautiful garden with minimal effort, Namgrass can provide you with a range of superb artificial grass options to create a great look in your garden.  Take a look at their website today!

Luscious Lawns: Grass as the Plant we Always Forget!

When gardening, it is so easy to get wrapped up in various flowers, plants and vegetables, that gardeners can often forget the plants beneath their very feet: grass!


From lush lawns to wild gardens, the turf beneath our feet contributes to the overall aesthetic appeal of our gardens much more than we give it credit for.  

If you’re looking for some turf-based inspiration, the London Lawn Turf company is the perfect place to start.   The leading turf suppliers in London and the Home Counties, this business specialises in providing high quality turf that will help you to achieve a professional finish in your garden or at your commercial premises.

And it’s not only grass that the London Lawn Turf company provides: top dressing, compost, bark and even lawn fertiliser can be purchased on the company’s website, allowing you to create a superb garden lawn and a wonderful outside space for your home.


And if like me, you’re a novice when it comes to laying grass, fear not!  The London Lawn Turf company has a range of really handy videos on its website that provide useful hints, tips and practical advice, from how to lay turf properly, to aftercare and keeping your lawn turf fresh and beautiful!

The regular blog posts and articles on seasonal care are also a truly invaluable resource for all of your grass-related gardening needs, covering everything from water retention to top design trends.  

In addition to all of this superb content, the London Lawn Turf company provides a range of competitive prices, superb products and experienced know-how.  If you’re looking to spruce up your turf, take a look at the London Lawn Turf company today.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Grow Your Gardening Skills With a Gardening Course This Summer!

I’ve been running the London Vegetable Garden blog since 2009, with the express aim of not only chronicling my own organic odyssey, but hopefully demonstrating along the way that growing your own is simple, easy to pick up and most of all, enjoyable!

However, if you’re still feeling nervous or unsure about gardening, but really want to give it a go, there is a wide range of different courses available, suitable for budding gardeners of all ages and abilities. 

UK

There are literally hundreds of gardening courses in the UK, designed for all people of all ages and abilities, as well as for all interests!  Whether you’re interesting in learning the traditional art of rural hedgelaying, ‘garden skills with a design edge’, or even something as exotic as a course on mushroom growing, there literally is something for everyone! 

What I really love about these gardening courses is that there is so much to enjoy!  I’ve long championed the ability to grow your own plants and vegetables no matter where you live or what your space; however these gardening courses in the UK allow you to explore the pleasures of gardening in fun and natural environments and ‘give it a go’!

London

For those of you based in the Capital, there are many gardening courses in London that you can do, from flower arranging courses to the fascinating ‘introduction to Japanese architecture, gardens and tea culture.  Again, these gardening courses in London allow you to explore an element of gardening that interests you, from practical skills, to wider social and cultural courses about gardening.

Learning Online

And if you are not based in London, or near any of the courses listed above, then the wide range of online gardening courses offered through the ‘lovemycourse’ website allows you to take in and enjoy a wide range of gardening courses, all from the comfort of your own home.

The range of online gardening courses available range from diplomas in gardening and horticulture to interior plant care: from Japanese garden design and bonsai courses to garden landscaping courses.  There truly is a fantastic range of online gardening courses available to suit the needs, interests and abilities of any budding amateur gardener!

So if you’re keen to brush up on your knowledge of the garden and learn new skills, or even if you’re afraid of getting started and fancy having a go in a fun environment first, a gardening course could be the perfect way to help you enjoy your garden even more this summer.


Good luck!!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Watering: Plants That Are Irrigated, Not Irritated!

As any gardener knows, ensuring your plants and vegetables get sufficient water is vital, especially during the summer months.  But did you know, it’s equally important to ensure that plants aren’t over-watered, or left in water-clogged soil and drowned: something that the wet confines of my Peak District vegetable garden knows only too well!

Maybe you’re going on holiday this summer too: what happens if you don’t have a friendly neighbour to hand to help you water your plants?  Well, plant watering and irrigation solutions can help vegetable gardeners to ensure plants get well watered, as well as ensuring that plants are watered constantly rather than drowned.

Greenhouse watering is especially important, given the hot temperatures that vegetable plants are exposed to inside.  A range of different watering and irrigation systems exist to help you water vegetables in your greenhouse, including drip and spray kits, as well as timer systems, ensuring that your plants are watered automatically when you are not around to do it yourself.  Click on this link to take a look at some suitable products.


On the London Vegetable Garden blog, I have been a long-term champion of ‘growing your own’ indoors.  However, busy lifestyles, coupled with hot summer days, can often dry out small pots of plants on windowsills very quickly.  In this instance, I would recommend looking at a product such as these self-watering trays, mats and systems.


Finally, I love anything that is natural, organic and great for the environment: and although not a particularly ‘high-tech’ solution, harvesting natural rainwater remains one of the best ways to keep your plants watered and happy!  A water butt should be a staple in any environmentally-friendly garden.


If you have enjoyed reading about the variety of garden watering systems in this blog post, why not look to see how these handy pieces of kit can keep your plants happy and irrigated rather than sad and irritated!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Vegetable Plants Update: 15th June 2013


First of all, apologies for the lack of updates on the blog: a very busy work schedule has left me with relatively little free time over the past few weeks.  However, I have managed to post the odd update on my Facebook page as well as on Twitter, so make sure that you come and ‘like’ or follow me there!

Over the past few weeks, I have been busy nurturing the vegetable seedlings indoors under the skylight in the attic and also on spare windowsills around the house.  However, a few weeks ago, we reached crunch point, with many seedlings growing too big for the propagating trays and growing into full-blown vegetable plants!

The weather has definitely turned warmer in the Peak District and although summer is still acting very temperamentally, the time has come to brave some of the plants outside.  Runner beans are a hardy plant, but also a vegetable plant that grows incredibly quickly: as you can see from the photograph below, I have put some cane supports up and planted these out.


These are actually the second batch of runner beans I have planted out: the first crop was decimated very quickly.  How and by whom?  I noticed that the big leaves near the soil were being attacked and pulled apart, which then killed the rest of the plant – and this was being done by pigeons!  With this second batch, I stripped the plant of its bottommost leaves and stalks, being careful not to damage the main stalk of the plant.  This left a gap of a good few hands between soil and leaves, so that pigeons could no longer peck these easily and so far (touch wood) it seems to be working.

Aware of the Peak District’s temperamental temperatures and the fact that the garden is very shaded, I have also been keen to utilise my miniature greenhouse this summer: and it’s clearly paying dividends, as illustrated in the photograph below.



Although the temperature outside has not been overly hot, the sunlight does heat the greenhouse up nicely and these vegetable plants have subsequently been doing well.  I was also delighted this afternoon, upon noticing a few tiny cucumbers starting to form:



Hopefully these will continue to grow and do well in the sunny spot I have placed them in!

In other news, the tomato plants seem to be growing away nicely.  I have tomato plants in the greenhouse, outside in pots, planted in the vegetable garden and also inside on a windowsill.  Some seem to be doing better than others, but there seems to be no logic or reason to it!  The tomatoes in the photo below will soon be ready to start pinching out.


So, the vegetable plants are all doing well so far: I will keep you all updated with their progress over the coming weeks!  And remember, if you have any questions, queries or comments, please do leave a comment here, or get involved on our Facebook page or on Twitter.   

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Sweet Sight of Success: Sweet Pepper Seedlings!




They may not look like much, especially in comparison to the thriving vegetable seedlings that have been growing rapidly over the past 3 weeks, but believe it or not, these tiny sprouts have got me very excited indeed.

Last year, I planted several chilli and sweet pepper seeds with absolutely no success whatsoever.  I'm not sure whether the conditions had not been right, whether I had a bad batch of seeds, or whether the weather had simply been too cold, but 2012's attempts at chillis and peppers was a non-starter.  This year, I have been determined to have another bash at sweet peppers and utilise hot, sunny spaces, such as my mini greenhouse and the sunlight in my attic.

As you can see, these tiny seedlings have germinated and I currently have about a dozen that I am hoping to grow into fully-fledged plants ready for a summer crop of delicious sweet peppers. 

As a novice growing sweet pepper, I'd be delighted to hear from all of you with experience growing these plants, with the findings and comments turned into a blog post to share that knowledge with the entire London Vegetable Garden community.

Comment in the box below, tweet me @londonveggarden or come and leave a comment on the wall of our Facebook page, Urban Gardeners!

I look forward to hearing from you all!

Friday, 10 May 2013

Chelsea Flower Show Book Competition: Results!

Back in the middle of April, I reviewed the fantastic new book, 'RHS Chelsea Flower Show: A Centenary Celebration'.  As well as an exclusive 20% discount for readers of the London Vegetable Garden, I was also offering one reader the chance to win a copy of this fascinating book.

To win this book, I asked entrants to comment on the Facebook photograph and tell us what gardening means to them.  In the end, there was only one clear winner: congratulations Sandra Laing!

Sandra's comment was beautiful, heartfelt and, I feel, really sums up the spirit of gardening:

“My father in law was a professional gardener and my dad was a passionate amateur horticulturist.  I loved them both dearly and sadly both are now deceased but when I am in my garden or on my allotment I feel so close to them both.

I like to imagine them standing shoulder to shoulder watching their daughter planting and weeding and knowing they would be nodding in approval or tut tutting as I plant something in the wrong way or place, like my loganberry I planted last year with no support and so it grew all over my allotment on the ground!

Gardening makes me feel connected to the earth and eternally grateful for the provision that Mother Nature provides for us.  It is the most natural occupation for a human, to have dirt under our nails and a big smile on our face and peace in our souls.”


What a wonderful, wonderful statement of what gardening means.  Congratulations Sandra – your book is winging its way to you.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Vegetable Seedlings Update: Day 17


It is now 17 days since I planted the first of this year's vegetable seeds (which you can read about here), but already the vegetables are springing into life!

You may recall that I have started my vegetable seeds off in the attic of my cottage, underneath a sunlight, which acts like a mini greenhouse.  Although the weather today has been a tad overcast, the last few days of glorious warm sunshine have really spurred on the growth:

Cabbage


Tomato

Cucumber 
 

Cauliflower


Sweet Pepper


Runner Bean


You'll notice that the last picture of the runner beans is perhaps the most impressive!  The tallest plant stands at 40cm after less than 3 weeks, which is extremely fast!  However, last year my runner beans all struggled outside and were eaten by bugs and withered away very quickly, so I'm determined to have more success this year!

I have read that vegetables producing fruit (tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers etc.) require a great deal more light and warmth than those that we grow for their leaves (cabbage etc.), so I will be looking to implement the former into my greenhouse.

As you know, the London Vegetable Garden blog also loves to experiment and look at gardening tips and projects for limited space, so I will also be looking to utilise this attic skylight garden for some plants, once again, aiming to show you that anyone can have a go at growing their own vegetables, regardless of space!

The nights are still very cool in the Peak District, so I will not look to harden these vegetable plants off just yet, choosing instead to keep them growing into hardier plants in their current position.

Watch this space!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

HOW TO: Look After Young Vegetable Seedlings





Whilst a garden, patio or balcony full of vegetable plants requires a committed level of care and attention, I actually think that vegetable seedlings are perhaps more needy.

Regardless of where I've gardened – the Hackney balcony (spiritual home of the London Vegetable Garden), Surrey allotment or Peak District cottage garden – I've always grown my vegetable seeds in pots and trays on windowsills, due to the absence of a greenhouse (you can read more about growing vegetable plants on a windowsill here).  And in my opinion, whether for the amateur urban gardener or the seasoned veteran alike, this is now when the serious care and attention begins. 

I planted 2013's vegetable seeds last weekend, but have not watered them every night; in fact I have only watered them a couple of times since sowing, but then it has not been overly hot up here in the Peak District!  Now these vegetable seeds have grown into vegetable seedlings however (see last weekend's blog post), much due care and diligence is required.  Here is my tip to ensuring that my cauliflower and cabbage seedlings will thrive and grow into sturdy vegetable plants.

i) Do monitor your vegetable seedlings daily

Depending on your growing conditions, your vegetable seeds may not need watering every single day.  However, it's essential that you check!  As I have previously said, I have not checked my plants and pots every day; but now they are seedlings, they are highly vulnerable.  Simply check them each day and make sure the soil is damp enough that the seedlings have enough water to drink.

ii) Don't roast your vegetable seedlings

One of the factors that can lead to dry, parched vegetable seedlings is, unsurprisingly, heat!  Whilst it is important for young plants to receive enough warmth, it's essential that they are not left to dry out.  If you are growing your vegetable seeds in a greenhouse, ensure ventilation and check daily to ensure that the greenhouse has not acted as an oven.  Alternatively, if, like me, you are growing your vegetable seeds by a windowsill, ensure that they are not being baked alive!

iii) Do thin out

'Thinning' is something that happened to my hair when I was 21 and rapidly went bald!  But thinning out is also the practice of stripping away weak seedlings to give the strong ones a better chance.  In many of my trays and pots, I have planted a few seeds, to compensate for the few that won't germinate.  However, seedlings are all about the roots – and when seedlings are in cells in trays, or small pots, they will compete with other seedlings for root space.  If you have one or two really strong seedlings, 'thin' them out by pulling up any other ones and thus creating more root room for the strong seedlings.

I hope that these three tips bode you well for your horticultural adventures – good luck!

And remember, I'd love to hear how all of you are getting on – feel free to share pictures, chat with other gardeners or simply come along and 'like' us on our Facebook page, or come and have a gardening chat with me on Twitter, @londonveggarden.  Happy vegetable gardening!

Greenhouses: Not Just Cold Steel!


When one typically thinks of greenhouses, images of steel frames and cracked glass comes to mind: in essence, something that is sparse and cold: the exact opposite of what a greenhouse does!  But greenhouses don’t have to be a cold, steel construction: Gabriel Ash stocks a wonderful range of high-quality wooden greenhouses, including a range endorsed by the RHS itself.

So why choose a wooden greenhouse over a steel one?  One of the first benefits is the aesthetic value.  When designing a garden space to be aesthetically pleasing, matching a timeless wooden shed with a similar greenhouse makes a substantial difference, as indicated here in the wonderful Rosemoor combi from Gabriel Ash:


Instantly, this transforms the garden ‘shed’ and ‘greenhouse’ into a pretty outdoors building that can be utilised in many more ways.  What better way to entertain friends in the summer, than by sitting in the pleasing warmth of an outdoor, organic conservatory, filled with the heady and aromatic smell of warm tomatoes?  Or sitting down to read the newspaper?  Beautifully-designed products such as these can offer the amateur gardener so much more than simply ‘a greenhouse’ or ‘a shed’.

Another beautiful example is the RHS Grand Vinehouse, available at Gabriel Ash, providing a substantial outdoor space for those fortunate enough to have a lot more space to play with!  This impressive wooden greenhouse offers the gardener a truly substantial space not only to garden, but to relax, enjoy a cup of tea and chat with friends.


So if you’re looking for a greenhouse in your garden (something that is much-needed in this cold British weather!), why not consider something different from the usual steel and glass – bring some warmth to your garden in more ways than one, with a beautifully-made wooden greenhouse from Gabriel Ash.


Monday, 29 April 2013

Cabin Fever!


Last week, I was chatting about garden sheds, which you can read more about by clicking here.  Bitten by the ‘outdoor building’ bug and also somewhat inspired by Kevin McCloud’s cabin in the woods in his ‘Man-Made Home’ programme, I’ve been taking a look at log cabins.

Log cabins have long conjured up images of rural retreats; calm buildings for getting away from it all.  However, you don’t need to escape into the woods to retreat into a beautiful wooden oasis.

With more and more people opting for a work-life balance, working from home or setting up your own business is becoming more prevalent; yet fitting an existing office space into your home can be difficult.  However, log cabins are being increasingly used for home offices! 

My friend works from home and the log cabin at the bottom of his garden is not only an office, but a quiet retreat from the hum and din of everyday life that carries on only a few metres away!  This Greenacre Home Office is a great example of the sort of log cabin that can be used as an office.

Conversely, log cabins can also be a place where work, and indeed, the stressed and strains of modern life, are left far behind.  I love the thought of this ‘zen log cabin’, which also provides a sheltered outdoor area – perfect to plant some pots of flowers or even train those vegetables!


If you’ve been considering making more use of your garden space and feel like something bigger and more homely than a shed, a log cabin can not only provide you with a space that’s unique, comforting and natural, but can also, in effect, add another room to your home.

Take a look at the full range of log cabins available from Waltons. 

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Sprouting Seedlings: Something Special!


Whilst gardening as a pastime is its own reward – a timeless, peaceful and enjoyable communion with nature – there are many different 'thrills' that the modern gardener encounters throughout the year; and none as special as seeing seeds sprout for the first time.

Last weekend was very much about laying the groundwork for the summer ahead – literally.  Having cleared the garden and sorted out the shed, I spent a long afternoon in the shed potting up flowers and planting various vegetable seeds (you can read last weekend's post by clicking here).

However, this weekend I have experienced my first genuine 'agricultural thrill' of 2013, when I noticed that my cauliflower and cabbage seedlings had sprouted!  You may recall that in last weekend's post, I had noted that I had never previously attempted to grow these two vegetables before, so this sprouting was made all the more exciting.

In my five years of experience, I have found that, for the urban gardener, germinating seeds is often one of the most challenging of tasks.  Vegetable seedlings are often very delicate, and compost in small pots and trays is liable to dry out quickly: yet at the same time, it's also easy to over-water them.  So it is always a small victory to see young vegetable seeds pushing up through the compost and into the world; their green shoots contrasting with the black soil you have been staring at for days when watering your pots and trays.

Cabbage Vegetable Seedlings

I also feel that there is a genuine connection between gardener and plant.  Whilst I'm not adverse to buying in plants, flowers, shrubs and so forth, I feel very differently when it comes to vegetables and flowers that I have grown from seed.  There is such a personal connection with that plant; such a passion, borne out of diligence and care, right from the very beginning of that plant's life.  I have carefully potted up a flower pot or tray; I have carefully opened the seed packet and covered the seeds with a bed of compost.  I have placed those trays and pots in a warm, light place; watered them; checked on them.  It's a very personal thing.

 Cauliflower Vegetable Seedlings

So for me, this weekend's progress is a special moment, experienced once every year.  And this is a feeling that anyone can experience, regardless of space or experience.  I'm hoping to plant my vegetables out in the garden of my Peak District cottage this year; but will be growing plenty of these young vegetable plants in containers, pots and windowsills, to demonstrate that no matter who you are or where you live, YOU CAN GROW YOUR OWN! 

It's a wonderful feeling to see seeds that you have nurtured grow into thriving plants that bear wonderful vegetables from the garden: and I sincerely hope that my blog posts can help you to capture this feeling and inspire you to have a go!

Look out for Wednesday's post, in which I'll take you through my do's and don'ts for vegetable seedlings!  In the meantime, feel free to drop by and have a chat with me on Twitter, @londonveggarden.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

London Vegetable Garden Guide to Sheds


If an Englishman’s home is his castle, then what does that make his shed?  Although my cottage garden is a modest size, I love the fact that it has a lovely little shed tucked away at the bottom.  For many people, a shed is simply a place to park the mowing machine, store tins of paint and collect cobwebs – but a shed can actually be so much more!

In my shed, I have a table set up especially to use for various gardening jobs, from planting seeds to re-potting flowers and plants.  But sheds do not just have to be functional: they can also be an enjoyable place to relax and escape from it all!  I can often be found sat in my shed, with the door open onto the garden, enjoying a cup of tea and reading my gardening books.

For many of us, a shed is a dream; an escape from the noise of the world and a place where we can go and be closer to the garden and the outside world.  However, you may also need a shed just as a place to store a bike and some gardening tools.  Luckily there are a wide variety of sheds available and even better, they’re not as expensive as you may think!

Apex Shed


The ‘classic’ shed, an apex shed offers room for shelves, maybe a potting table and also place to store your tools and equipment.  This particular design is less than £200 from Shed Supermarket and offers gardeners the classic shed to start off with.

Pent Shed


Pent sheds are tall and narrow – ideal for the side of a house and for storing things like cycles and tools, creating a space to keep things safely. 

Dutch Barn Shed


This Dutchbarn shed is an absolute dream!  Packed full of space for all sorts of things, this is more like a secret cave to hide away in – perhaps you could even fit a couple of chairs in, next to a pile of well-read gardening books.

So if you’ve been thinking of getting a shed for your garden, why not take a look at Shed Supermarket?  There are sheds of all shapes and sizes at competitive prices.  Happy shed hunting!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Windowsills and the Greenhouse Effect

When growing vegetables from seed, many seed packets and plant instructions inform the gardener to plant their vegetable seeds in a greenhouse, or under a propagator.  While this is a natural luxury afforded to those with a large greenhouse or lots of money to spend on expensive propagation kits, what is the 'normal', everyday and amateur gardener to use?

Well, look around you: if you live in a house, or flat – indeed, any building with a glass window – you're in luck!

In the five years I've been writing the London Vegetable Garden blog, I've always championed the fact that people can look around themselves and make use of any space that they have and for a 'greenhouse', it's no different! 

This year, I am starting off my vegetable seeds in the attic space: the skylight offers a natural space to lay my seed trays and plant pots, since it is directly under an angled window, which, being in the roof, catches a great deal of sunlight! 


However, if you do not have an attic or skylight, a normal windowsill is just as good.  Pick a windowsill that receives plenty of sunlight and gets warm.  If your existing windowsill is not wide enough to accommodate plant pots or trays, a makeshift table next to the windowsill really is just as good!

Finally, you can give pots and trays of vegetable seeds a helping hand by creating your own 'propagator'-style covering, using pieces of glass, clear plastic or even cling-film: when I started the London Vegetable Garden on my Hackney balcony in 2009, I used the balcony door-ledge as a shelf and used cling-film to help keep warmth and moisture in the plant pots:


So, if you're starting to plant your vegetable seeds this year and don't have access to a greenhouse, remember that for starting seeds off in a cold spring, windowsills, skylights and glass doorways offer a perfect alternative, helping to germinate your seeds and keep young plants warm before they are ready to be planted outdoors in a few weeks' time.

Have you had success with DIY propagation?  Where do you leave you vegetable seeds to germinate?  Come and join in the discussion on the official London Vegetable Garden Facebook page!






Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Let’s prepare a salad directly from the window sill


You know what it’s like when you’re ordering a salad in a restaurant and the waiter is getting incredibly late and all you can do with the hunger in your stomach is joke with your friends and say “I guess the chef is actually planting the vegetables right now and is waiting for them to grow, that is why it’s taking so long”. You wish! Really, you should wish for that because there is nothing tastier and healthier than eating a salad made of freshly harvested vegetables. This is possible without such great effort, not to mention the satisfaction of watching your produce grow.

No matter what your garden space, it’s possible to make your own fresh salads from your very own green fingers. If you’re lucky enough to live in a house with a conservatory attached and you invest in a heating system for that, you could start with some early seeds for these plants even in January. But don’t get discouraged even if you live in a flat, you can easily utilise free space on your window sills, still being able to grow the main elements of your salad.

Lettuce

According to most farmers’ statements, it seems that this is the easiest vegetable that you can grow for a salad. It has no problem with the cool UK weather, although it would be safer to grow lettuce indoors and start the seeding in January or February. In 2-3 months you can already start harvesting well-grown lettuce. You’ll need a lot of lettuce in your salad, so don’t forget to put in some more seeds every week afterwards, in order to have salad all the time during spring, summer or autumn.

Cucumbers

They really hate the cold UK winters, as they are not frost hardy. So ideally, keep them in a greenhouse, conservatory or inside on window sills, and cover up the pot in order to keep the seeds warm. If you are growing cucumbers in conservatories, start seeding in February. If you are trying this experiment in an outside environment, make sure the weather is getting warmer and the frost is over. Did you know that cucumbers contain 96% water? In order to obtain this truly amazing vegetable, you should water it frequently. And another amazing fact is that cucumbers grow from seeds to sometimes enormous plants in just days. Efficient and refreshing!

Cherry tomatoes

Especially if you have a pot on your window sill, it is recommended that you buy seeds for baby vegetables. So cherry tomatoes would be ideal. Growing conditions don’t generally differ among the varieties of tomatoes. Although it may be successful in growing some lettuce and cucumbers outside in cold and windy London, tomatoes are more delicate vegetable. In order to offer them a pleasant growing period, you should provide warm temperatures ranging between 20-30°C (68-86°F). The truth is that a greenhouse or heated conservatory would be ideal for container-grown tomatoes. You can start the seeding in late winter or during spring and you’ll probably have some crops in 3 months.

Something special

If you are the lucky owner of an orangery, take a lemon or even an orange if you have more special tastes, and squeeze it over the salad. If you buy a 2-3 years old little orange tree, fill its pot with some slightly acidic soil. Then position your baby tree in the southern part of the orangery in order for it to get the most sunlight possible. Give it water every day and, fingers crossed, in 1 year you won’t have to buy oranges from the market anymore!

Related articles:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/basics/techniques/growfruitandveg_growingcucumbers1.shtml

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