Be Nice to Me & I Will Be Nice To You

Plant your seeds four in a row;
one for the pheasant and one for the crow,
one to rot and one to grow.

Planting Seeds

Seeds Planted

Ok.  So according to this old wives tale, I need to plant four seeds and hopefully one will actually grow.  If they all manage to survive I guess I can pull up the weakest ones, or put them in a pot and give them to friends of neighbours!

Our weather is very variable in Sussex at the moment.  I noted last week that we had some warm weather.  Unfortunately this week has mostly been cold with very heavy rain (even hail) and high winds.  Just the worse possible weather you can imagine.  Not very conducive  to getting out into the vegetable garden.  Today had dawned a little brighter and I actually hung the washing outside.  Tempting fate I know!

I couldn’t dilly-dally any longer and I have finally planted my seeds.  I put some in little seedling pots with some seedling soil I purchased from our local garden centre.  I mixed in a little bit of compost from the compost bin.  Not too sure if that is a good idea but I wanted to get them off to the best start possible.  As my title this week states – be nice to your seedlings and they will be nice to you!

The others I have sewn directly into the ground.  I was very generous with the seeds (even more so than our rhyme above recommends) as I wrote in my post here, most of the seeds are given to me and are a season or so old.  Not sure how many will germinate.

In pots I have planted courgette, cucumber, tomatoes, ‘Burgess Buttercup Winter Squash’, ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ – a climbing french bean, ‘Minidor’ a yellow dearf french bean, ‘Cupidon’ dwarf filet type french bean, ‘Serpette Guilloteau’ climbing pea.  As well as ‘Telephone’ tall climbing pea.   All the named varieties are given by a neighbour and are from The Real Seed Catalogue company.  Looking forward to seeing how they perform.

In the ground I have planted parsley, lettuce, radish, carrot, beetroot and Mibuna greens.  I have layed out the vegetable patch to my planting plan which I posted here.

I know it seems like an awful lot, but I have not planted loads of pots as I don’t want to overcrowd the plants of overwhelm myself!

**Make sure you leave a comment and let me know how you are getting on in your vegetable garden.**


© Simone L Woods 2012

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Organic or Chemical Pest Control?

Never sew seeds when the moon in waning.

Another gardening old wives tale that has been boosted by scientific research.  It does appear that rain is statistically more likely after a new moon.  Something to do with the way the moon affects the earths magnetic field (tides don’t just happen in the sea apparently!)  So, if we want our seeds to get a good soaking after you have planted them then the best time to plant is after the full moon.  A spring full moon that is!

This week has been a little quiet in the vegetable garden but on the plus side the sun has been shining.  I have pottered and pulled a few weeds and watched as the slugs and snails have made a determined effort to demolish all of my spinach seedlings.  I am against using chemical snail pellets as I don’t like the knock on effects of wildlife eating the affected slugs and getting ill or dying themselves.  I would much rather sacrifce some leaves and plants and have healthy wildlife in and about the garden.

What are your views on pest control for your vegetables and plants.  Do you use non-organic products or chemical products and why?

© Simone L Woods 2012

Hose Pipe Bans and Sweeter Tasting Parsnips!

Leaving Parsnips in the ground until after the first frost makes them sweeter.

Apparently this old wives tale is true.  A recent study carried out in Canada placed early picked (and therefore bland tasting) parsnips into cold storage at different temperatures.  Some were stored at 10 degrees Celsius and others were stored at 0 degrees Celsius.  Those roots that were stored at the lower temperature were found to be considerably sweeter, lending credence to this old wives tale.

So, this year, leave your parsnips in the ground until you need them and they will be all the sweeter.

The weather here in Sussex has been cold again turning my thoughts to roast dinners and the delicious taste of roasted parsnips.  Hence this week’s old wives tale!  But yummy Sunday dinner’s aside, it’s a bit of a bore dealing with grey and cold after the lovely warm, dry sunny days we have been experiencing in the last few weeks.

Such little rain has led to a severe drought warning in England and some councils have already enforced hose pipe bans for gardens.  As an Australian this really makes me chuckle.  When severe drought is declared in my country it’s because the landscape is a dust bowl due to absolutely no rain having fallen for years.  The experience of drought being declared after 3 weeks of dry weather strikes me as being a little over-reactionary, if there can be such a word!

Still, the declaration seems to have nudged Mother Nature to remember her duty and the rain is falling.  Water butts, empty and green with algae are refilling and the parched ground is smiling.  Oh woops, wrong country/wrong drought.  I mean everybody has stopped moaning at the lack of rain and has started moaning about the wet weather.  Moaning about the weather – it’s a national pass time.

As a result of the colder weather, I have delayed planting my seedlings by a week or two, hoping that the weather will warm up again.  I have made some changes to my planting plan (thank you commonredstart for the advice!)  I have been busy in the vegetable patch though, hoeing the weeds that have sprung up with abandon during the warm weather and generally tidying and readying my little potting shed for the coming growing season.

How has your week been in your garden?

© Simone L Woods 2012

The Planting Plan

If you want to know when to sow, take your trousers down and sit on the ground.

This is another old wives tale – and what a fantastic one.  I can just imagine scores of gardeners across the country, subjecting their rear ends to all sorts of uncomfortablenss by taking down their trousers and sitting on the ground.  But apparently if the temperature of the soil doesn’t make you leap up with a screech, but actually feels quite comfortable, then it’s the perfect time for sowing your seeds.  The ground is warm enough!  Classic.

Well, for me  it has been a busy week of planning and digging.  I have drawn up my planting plan for this year and I have also dug into my vegetable plots some well rotted cow manure (ewww ‘cow poo!’ exclaimed my 5 year old!).  It is well rotted, almost looks like earth and does not smell at all and is as advised by commonredstart in my previous post  as I really should have done it back in Autumn to give it all a chance to rot down really well and not damage the young seedlings.  Well, better late than never!

In drawing up my planting plan, I was guided by two excellent books.  One was recommended to me by a gardening friend.  This is Joy Larkcom’s ‘Grow Your Own Vegetables’ and is apparently a classic.  It is very detailed and informative and is a great read on its own.  The second was given to me by my boys for my recent birthday.  It is Dr D. G. Hessayon’s ‘The Vegetable & Herb Expert’.  Its sub-heading proclaims ‘The world’s best selling book on vegetables & herbs’.  Well, how can you argue with that?  It’s a must have for the gardening book shelf!

I like the vegetable and herb expert as it is easily read and digested.  It devotes 3-4 pages per vegetable or herb in a consistent format and has seed facts, soil facts, sowing facts, looking after the crop, harvesting and kitchen uses.  It also talks about pests and diseases with some (frankly yucky looking) pictures!  It also explains about crop rotation and plant families.  Very useful.

Grow Your Own Vegetables has this in spades (hah, get it?!) and more, in much more detail.  It’s a real read.  I glad I bought this as I am finding it is great relaxation reading and it’s wonderful to be able to get expert in-depth knowledge about the subject. I think the two books compliment each other very well.

So this is my planting plan.  Let me know if you see any glaring errors, or anything you think will not work.  Any advice is much appreciated.

2012 Vegetable Planting Plan

2012 Vegetable Planting Plan

This coming week, as the weather is so nice, I will be getting the seeds all sown.  I have been advised to do this in seedling pots as it is early still and we may still get some frosts….  I will let you know how I get on!

P.S.  And I’m using my hands to check the temperature of the soil……… I’m a chicken, I know!


Companion Planting In The Vegetable Garden

Companion Planting with Herbs

Companion Planting with Herbs

I have done some research in the last week regarding the old wives tale quote in last week’s post;

Always grow some herbs outside the herb garden.

Having no idea why, I did some reading and discovered the reason:  many herbs attract beneficial insects or repel harmful insects to the vegetable garden.

Additionally, some plants get along well together whilst other plants don’t.  So to encourage the best growth etc, it is advisable to plant crops that like each other, near each other.

This I find wonderfully exciting.  It opens up the idea that the vegetable garden can be an ornamental as well as functional place.  For example, the planting of rosemary, pot marigolds, thyme or oregano around certain vegetables, not only benefits their growth, but will look absolutely lovely as well.  Bonus!

After reading through tables and tables and many different lists of the different herbs that plant well with vegetables, I put together the following list.  This is based on what I will have in my vegetable garden, (more on my 2012 planting scheme next week) what I would be able to use in the kitchen, and what I think will look nice.

My Herbal Companion Planting List for 2012

  • Pot Marigolds.  These seem to benefit many vegetables by naturally secreting an insect repellant.  They also produce a root secretion that destroys root-eating nematodes and attract Hoverflies whose larvae feed on Aphids.  Definitely my number 1 companion plant.
  • Sage.  Grow with carrots or plants in the cabbage family to deter pests. Both have strong scents that drive away each other’s pests.
  • Parsley.  Attracts bees and protects beans and carrots.
  • Mint.  The strong smell confuse pests of carrots, tomatoes, alliums and brassicas, and deter flea beetles. But it is recommended you grow it in a pot, or it could smother your crop.
  • And finally, Yarrow – encourages growth in plants and stores phosphorous, calcium and silica, which can benefit homemade compost when plants are added to the heap. It attracts many beneficial insects such as hoverflies and ladybirds.

So it is off to the garden centre to buy some herb seeds or seedlings.  Also, I already have rosemary and thyme in my borders.  I will try taking some cuttings and seeing if I can get them to ‘take’ as the experts say.  I will let you know how I get on!

Link to some great books on companion planting.


Preparing The Vegetable Beds and My Planting Plan For 2012

“Always grow some herbs outside the herb garden” Old Wives Tale.

Must be a good reason – but why?

Well, the sun has been shining and the temperatures have been very spring like. It’s amazing how, with just these two factors, the desire to be outside doing something energetic is almost overwhelming!

I started with weeding the beds and pulling up the few things that were still in the garden from last year.  This was mostly some carrots and 6 cabbage plants.  The cabbage plants had had their heads removed and consumed last autumn (sounds violent), but I had left the plants to the badgers and other creatures to feed on over the winter.  Well, that’s what I told everybody.  Really I think it was more to do with laziness that they remained!

Feeling very virtuous, I did plant an onion set last autumn.  I saw Monty do it in one of his programs and thought how lovely to have fresh spring onions from the garden come March.  However, I pulled a couple up yesterday and I think they have some disease.  The onion bulb is brown and mushy.  I can pull it off and it comes away clean leaving a nice white firm spring onion.  Anybody got any advice on what the problem could be?  I hope they all aren’t affected….. 😦

I have begged, borrowed and stolen (well, not stolen actually) some seeds from friends and neighbours.  I have quite a collection and don’t know if I will be using them all.  I have been told that all of them are left overs from last year and some packets have been opened.  I imagine they will be ok and will germinate.  What is your advice?  Do you think I should use them. I guess I could just plant them all and see what comes up?  Or would it be best to plant them in seedling trays and plant out what comes up?  Mmmmm.  Decisions.

Some of the seeds are from my wonderfully green thumbed neighbour. Looking at her garden is an exercise in agony and ecstasy.  Agony that I can’t have a garden that looks like hers and the ecstasy of gazing on something so wonderfully beautiful.  Truly she is a gifted gardner.  I think it is my embarrassment of our meagre garden sitting next to hers like the poor cousin that has finally spurred me on this year!  Anyway, she has given me some seeds from a company called ‘The Real Seed Catalogue’.  They are a heritage seed provider.  I have been onto their website and what a joy it is.  Such great varieties.  I am particularly inrigued by the seeds such as ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ beans.  The blurb on the website says:

“Simply the best bean there is. This bean was originally from the native North American Cherokee people.

In 1838 they were driven out of their homelands in the state of Georgia by the US government to make room for more European settlers , a forced march known as the ‘Trail of Tears’. This bean is one of their heirlooms they managed to keep with them and has been passed on from generation to generation ever since.

We can see why the Cherokees valued it so much! It is incredibly prolific, cropping over a long season. We plant lots each year for our own use & feedback from all of you is always positive.”

Heartbreaking really, but perhaps I can feel a little amends can be made by keeping the seed going?  Yes I am sentimental!

A herb that caught my eye that I will also purchase is Quillquiña.  A South American herb described as ‘citrus spicy scent and flavour, this is used in South America to make delicious salsa, & can also be used anywhere you would use fresh coriander‘.  Sounds delicious and as our family loves Mexican food, it would be lovely to have a real authentic flavour made with fresh herbs at home.

Does anyone else have recommendations for great seed supplier, supplying unusual or heritage seeds?

So, back to the planting plan for this year.  I have decided on:

  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Courgette
  • Pumpkin
  • Beetroot
  • Radish
  • Herbs
  • Salad Leaves

Does this sound overly ambitious?  Any advice on what beds I should plant each in and what should I group together?
Any advice would be welcome!

Well, must get to digging in some compost into the beds……..

Until next week – happy gardening!

My Vegetable Plot

“A garden is a grand teacher.  It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; industry and thrift; above all entire trust.  Gertrude Jekyll 1843-1932.”

So here we are, pictures of my two rather sad looking vegetable plots – they sit opposite each other toward the rear of our south facing garden.  I know I am very lucky to have two.

Plot A, 6 meters x 1 1/2 meters approx.,  runs parallel to the south-east fence, and as you can imagine, gets lots of sun during our long summer days; from mid-morning until the sun finally takes it leave from the very farthest southern tip in the late evening.  I have found that the couple of things I have planted here have had no problem establishing and if I had taken a little more care of them would have flourished wonderfully for me!

Last year I loosely divided the bed into three and the plan was to grow root vegetables in the first, most northerly section, cabbages in the middle section and peas and beans in the most southerly section.  This way the beans would not be blocking the sunlight to the rest of the bed in the later part of the day.  My plan fell to bits due to lack of motivation on my part (ok – I did give birth so was a little distracted…..) but I don’t want to make excuses!

As I mentioned earlier, Plot B sits on the opposite fence, the south-west.  It is slightly smaller that Plot A at 5 meters by 1 meter approx.  In the winter, the light is very feeble and it looks incredibly sad.  In the summer it gets the very first of the suns rays and enjoys the sunlight right through until early afternoon when the sun passes the yard-arm (wonderful english expression!) However, I suspect that I wont be able to grow anything that requires lots of light.  Quite a limiting factor in gardening!

Last year I planted a courgette (zucchini) and a cucumber here.  Neither of these did very well and with hindsight it was not a good place to plant them.  They obviously both need lots of light (maybe their large leaves should have warned me?) and they just didn’t get enough there.  The salad leaves that I planted at the north end of the plot did do ok and I think that I am going to have to dedicate this plot henceforth to plants of the leafy salad variety.

My plan now is to weed and generally clean up the plots in preparation for the coming growing season.  But I am unsure what I should do about enriching the soil?  Both plots had a good lot of muck added in their first year, and last year each had quite a good amount of compost from our home ‘grown’ compost bin.  Is that sufficient for this year?  I have a sneaking suspicion I should be forking in something but am worried that I should have done it in the autumn, as anything I add now will not have time to break down before I need to start planting in a month or so.  Any advice on this score?  It would be greatly appreciated.

Let’s see what gardening joys the upcoming week brings.  I will be sure to tell you about them in my next post!

The Wanna Be Vegetable Gardener

Hello and welcome to my blog.  This blogs purpose is to document my journey as a beginner in the world of vegetable growing.  I hope you will not only join me on the journey but more importantly help and guide me when I need help and guidance; I will be very pleased and relieved to receive any advice you would be willing to send my way.

It’s not that I have never grown vegetables before, I have.  My vegetable beds are actually a couple of years old now.  But I’ve never been very good at it.  I need to get my proverbial together, stop messing about and apply myself a whole lot more.

As things are yet to really get going, I will be posting weekly for the next couple of weeks….. but things will hot up soon enough and I aim to post twice weekly from about May onwards.

My goal?  To be able to feed my family (that’s four of us – two adults and two little boys) at least partly from the vegetable garden this summer.  I could go ahead all guns blazing and declare that we will be self-sufficeint in vegetables this year (ahem, like I have the past 3 years, only to grow a few carrots and beans!) But not this year.  This year I am going to try and learn how to do it properly.  Learn from you.  And if you are a beginner too – we can go on this journey together.  Journeys are always better when they are shared.  So come on board – subscribe via email and share with me via comments and photos how you are faring.  Lets share and learn and do amazing things with our amazing produce!


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