Archive for the ‘Balcony / Confined Spaces Gardening’ Category

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I’m not aware of any parts of the UK that have had any reasonable rain over the last four or so weeks, this has not been a major issue for plants in the ground but potted plants and crops have been suffering! I now have to be 100% sure to do a watering session almost everyday at home and at least 2-3 times per week at the Allotment – BE CAREFUL with newly planted seedlings / plants !!

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During June we are officially in Summer, but this doesn’t mean your seed germination should halt.

This is a great time of the year to work hard on your compost production! The extra warmth is great in getting the beneficial microbes going in order to break down biomass quicker, adding in just enough grass clippings twice a week will ensure your compost will be ready by Autumn or Winter depending on what was / is in there to begin with …

Outdoors:

  • Frenh / runner beans
  • Sweetcorn
  • Root crops: carrots, beetroot, turnips, and also swedes for the winter
  • Swiss chard & leaf beet
  • The last of the summer salads, then after the middle of the month including oriental salads (mizuna, mibuna, mustard greens etc)
  • Herbs including parsley, coriander and others
  • Fennel

On a windowsill or germinator (this is your last chance for these):

  • Courgettes, squashes, cucumbers and melons (start of the month)

In a polytunnel or greenhouse border

  • Basil & coriander
  • Plant out summer crops started indoors

Before I forget, remember to always check out the Companion Planting Guide so that you can eliminate the need for pesticide, Herbicide and Fungicide use – why not let nature just do the work ?

Every month I will be posting the Monthly Sowing Calendar and these will always remain in the archives for future reference.

 

Hi everyone, this has already been posted in March but I’m posting again because, although the April sowing calendar is the same for March and they share the same crops, now more crops can be direct sown outdoors.

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Cucumber Seedlings – Organic Permaculture

So here it is, just remember next year if you use my site as a reminder of what and when to sow, that March and April are the same however, a good vegetable book is still recommended as sometimes you might find a book that is more relevant to your country / area – we are in the UK so this advice can work in similar northern hemispheric climates however, the timings might be slightly different.

April Sowing Calendar, Click Here

Regarding my own personal experience this very gloomy and wet 2018 Spring, I have had okay results in seed sowing but Onions have had a 50% or so failure rate, Marigolds have so far had 100% failure including newer seed …

The concept of Hugelkultur (Hugel Mound Growing) can basically be described as a self-composting bed or planting area (in the case of this article, in large pots). The gardener digs a shallow trench or pit and places logs, branches, sticks, twigs, brown leaves, nitrogen rich greens and or fresh manure, then tops these materials with the dug out earth and finally a decent layer of compost.

A good Hugel with large thick logs can be self-composting for anything up to 10 years. Read previous articles on traditional Hugels here Article 1 and Article 2.

Just the other day I realised that I can re-create the Hugel system but in large plastic planter pots, this will give you the benefit of Hugelkulturs without having to strain your back doing loads of digging!

Anyone taking on an uncultivated or fallow piece of land such as a disused Allotment Plot can always Sheet / Lasagna mulch a section, cover the result with thick impermeable black plastic sheet to kill off the perennial weeds and simply place Hugel Pots on top to ensure the land is still productive. Once you need to remove the sheet after a year and start using the ground space for planting, you can simply knock over the pots and empty the goodness to build up the humus / top layer!

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Hugelkultur Mound in Planter Pots

The general rule in terms of what can be grown on the Hugel Mound in year 1, are shallow rooted crops / plants such as various lettuces. Thereafter you can grow plants that require more nutrients and moisture and then finally on year 3  you can pretty much grow anything from Tomatoes to Pumpkins.

In the terms of the Hugel in a large pot, you can start the bottom layer either with composted or semi-composted wood chips (skip them and use soil if you have Slug / Snail problems), place a decent layer of soil (especially soil you wish to amend) on top of the latter with the Branch, Sticks, Twigs and cardboard / leaves as the carbon layer.

Follow on top with vegetables, fruit scraps, cut grass or fresh manure and then go on to adding the thick layer of soil / compost for growing in

(refer to image for general idea on layers, there are no specific rules but rather guidelines to follow) such as:

  1. Wood and wood chip need Nitrogen to break down, the plants you intend to grow need nitrogen too, the wood will suck this out of the soil and this is why we add manure or nitrogen rich fresh greens like veggie scraps and grass clippings / garden prunings, therefore, try to add as much green / manure / nitrogen rich material the more wood you have – greens decompose much quicker so stuff a lot in there.
  2. Compose the larger wood at the bottom and build up with smaller pieces until you reach brown leaves and cardboard this should ensure nice air spaces between are protected from being filled in by settling materials, these air spaces are important to ensure that the process does not become anaerobic – you could even start the logs on top of a 3-5cm thick layer of fresh grass clippings although this is not imperative.
  3. Intending on using this pot every year for the same purpose and do not intend on emptying it for a few years? then this is the time that you can use much thicker logs and branches in the bottom, if you want to empty the contents regularly (every 1 – 2 seasons) then it would be more beneficial to use thinner branches and sticks instead.
  4. Shallow rooted crops are mostly recommended in the first year however, you could easily use root crops such as carrots and parsnips provided you have a deeper layer of top soil / compost, remember that carrots and parsnips need nicely sieved compost / soil to prevent roots from ”forking”

Below is a list of what can be sown indoors, outdoors or in greenhouses and polytunnels during the months of March and April, this is for the UK / British Climate but can still be relevant in some other parts of the Northern Hemisphere

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During April 2017 we had a last minute frost which decimated at least 40% of my seedlings in the Polytunnel on the allotment, even though I got in there after work to shut the door and ventilation – my mistake was when I gave them a quick drink (this froze and killed them).

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Between Middle of March and April, most of your Spring sowings should have been started. Of-course it also depends on where exactly you live, but this is the average dateline for most of Britain.

Outside (depending on weather and soil conditions)

  • Root crops such as carrrots, parsnips, beetroot and turnips
  • Mangetout & podding peas & broad beans – probably better started indoors to avoid pests
  • The first sowings of summer salads including lettuces,radishes, cress, endive, & rocket,
  • Brassica crops for eating this summer & also through into the winter – kale, brussels sprouts, purple sprouting broccoli, summer and (early) winter cabbages,  calabrese and cauliflowers
  • Leaf Beets as well as swiss chard
  • Leeks
  • Radishes and spring onions
  • Some Green Manures are good to scatter sow now so they can be ‘chop n’ dropped’ in time for Summer plants such as Pumpkins, Squashes and Tomatoes when they need planting

Indoors

  • If you have slug or weed problems, then you may find all of the brassica crops, leeks and salads do better started in trays/modules and then planted out when they are better able to withstand them.
  • Similarly broad beans and peas may have to be started indoors if you have trouble with mice
  • Any companion / sacrificial plants such as Marigolds,

In trays or pots somewhere warm (germinator/warm airing cupboard etc).           Bear in mind that they will need somewhere warm & light to grow on

  • Tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, ideally by the end of March.
  • Celery/celeriac (again need heat to germinate)
  • Courgettes, squashes, cucumbers and melons (but not too early, or they will get too large before the weather is good enough for them to go outside)

In a greenhouse / polytunnel in the ground

  • Summer salads
  • French beans for an early crop
  • Herbs such as coriander, basil & parsley

Remember, to come back to this page easily you can just click on the ‘Monthly Sowing Calendar’ tab on the home screen.

 

 

I just wanted to say that with only a few years under my belt growing Onions, I can personally claim that Onion from seed (Preferrably from a good Heritage seed supplier) does far better than from sets (mini bulbs pre-grown to a small easy-to-handle size).

Yes, onion from seed are (or at least Seem to be) quite finniky / delicate to handle but Don’t let this put you off! The results are far better in my opinion.

Onion seed vs sets

Heritage Onion from Seed (LEFT) vs Commerically Available Onion Sets (RIGHT)

Take note that in the above photo, I grew Two types of Onion set and both were just as bad in terms of bulb swell and overall failure (Red Karmen and Stuttgart)

Why do (did) I still grow Onion from sets if I seem to have such better results from seed? Because this was my first proper season from start on my ‘new’ allotment and I came across a good deal in Lidl I think it was, for a bag of around 100 bulbs it was something ridiculous like $0.69p. So I decided to do a comparison test since I now have a much larger space to play around in.

Pros and Cons for both parties (Pro’s highlighted in Bold):

  • SETS:
    Can be contaminated with fungal growth or spores from storage or the production facility,
  • Most (probably 50-80% in my experience) didn’t get much larger than the little bulb that went in! (Don’t throw them away, make pickles!),
  • Need netting in the first weeks to prevent birds etc. from pulling them out before they establish,
  • Will need constant watering until they establish,
  • Are convenient if a Gardener is overwelmed with small seedlings on all available windowsills etc,
  • Save on plastic pots and compost,
  • SEEDS:
  • Are quite delicate when small,
  • Need one pot and compost per plant (or group of plants if following Multi Sowing),
  • In one year I had all of my onion seed attract aphid really early (February / March if I remember correctly?), however, that was well before I found out how to control them,
  • Have a much more well developed root system and romp away shortly after planting,
  • Swell up quicker too,
  • Far more disease resistance when compared,
  • Better options to choose from (such as storage length, taste, size etc.),
  • Establish quicker so need less tending,
  • Do not need netting,
  • Higher bulb-swell success rate as per observation (larger bulbs),

I a finding myself unable to store any more Courgettes (Known in other countries as: Zucchini and even Baby Marrows). My fridge is FULL!
Everytime I either go into my garden or visit my allotment (every 2-3 days at this time of year), I am bringng in at least two decent sized Courgettes.

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Courgette (Zucchini) Cake Loaf

I am re-sharing an old recipe I added a while ago, this is the right time of the season to share this as most people are starting to wonder what else they can do with them …

Click here for an older post for the Courgette Loaf (more like a cake due to the higher sugar content). These are definitely great Healthy Alternatves in place of the everyday cakes we scoff down on a regular basis, the courgette gratings really moisten up the mix very well and make this a delicious tea time / coffee break snack.

Coming up and to look out for: Elderflower Wine Recipe, Elderberry Cordials and Syrups etc.

Just the other day I was in a desperate need of any kind of container to plant some Sunchokes (aka Jerusalem Artichokes), Comfrey Bocking 14 and ‘Czar’ Runner Beans which I was ”gifting” to some relatives overseas. I had said that the plants will need some care until a root system was established because these plants are going from a Temperate Climate into the Tropics and luckily I happened upon these ready to be thrown away bags, from a recent clothing shopping spree.

Paper bags are ususally quite strong when supplied in Malls / Shops where the customer is expected to buy heavy loads, the best part is that I intend to merely submerge the plant with it’s paper ”pot” directly into the ground such as those common compostable / biodegradeable plant pots – completely eliminating the need for plastics and giving the plant and other organisms some additional nutrients!

Method:

Step 1: Take bag and cut vertically in half, you can pull out any handles / straps and re-use those later if you like

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Re-purposing a Bench Paper Bag into Two Plant Pots – Step 1

Step 2: Once cut, lay both pieces down on their thinner Vertical Sides as in the below photo, then deicde for yourself how large (wide at the base) you need your two pots so you can follow the follding lines and cutting lines in the diagram further below …

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Re-Purposing a Bench Paper Bag into Two Plant Pots – Step 2

Step 3: In the below diagram, the following notes are key to complete this project:

The RED Line is the base Horizontal folding line,
The two Orange Lines are the side Vertical folding lines
The two Dotted Green Lines are the only cuts you will need to make

bag-pot-process
Once all folded and ready
, the final step is using a stapler to keep it together and perhaps to re-attach the handles for ease of transport and handling (Optional)

 

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This weekend I have a fresh email interview between myself and Ivan from Mushroombox, I use them as my regular supplier of Mushroom Mycelium and will soon be placing a new order perhaps for something different this time (Last time it was Shiitake mushroom dowels for Outdoor logs).

Jeff:
Good Day Ivan,how are you? Has there been a pick up in business lately or

just business as usual?

Ivan:
Yes, business has picked up a lot over the last month or so. Autumn always
gets customers thinking about mushrooms, so we tend to see a steady
increase from about September onward. I also think that gardeners who
cannot grow much to eat in the garden at this time of year get interested
in the possibilities of quick-cycle mushroom growing indoors at this time
of year. Also, the mushroom kits we produce make excellent Christmas
presents, so we see a surge just before Christmas.

Jeff:
How long have you had this business and is it bourne out of a hobby /
interest including noticing a new market to explore?

Ivan:
We’ve been selling mushroom products probably for about 5 years now. It
was very much borne out of a hobby. I originally started looking into
mushroom-growing as a 14-year old, when I found a book in our local
bookshop about small-scale commercial mushroom growing. I was amazed to
read recently that Britons have on average eaten only two species of
mushrooms. Imagine if you had only ever eaten two types of plant!!

Jeff:
For those who have not followed my blog before, I ordered a reasonably
large batch of inoculated dowels from you which I posted about (To grow
Shiitake mushrooms on logs), pretty much a kit including collared drill
bits as well as sealant wax, I have since noted that you are now selling
bulk orders, is commercial / bulk cultivation picking up? Do you suspect
some may be just eco communities and / or individuals who are going for
the rural self sufficient lifestyle?
(more…)

This is something I have been meaning to write about for quite some time now, in my travels across the capital I am constantly reminded bout these great ideas including sometimes at properties I see during my working hours! Can you imagine how much nicer our cities and living areas would look if a large majority were covered in Living Green Roofs?

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I have, in the past written an article on Eco Friendly buildings, here I am concentrating on Green Roofing at our homes or existing buildings, some people even create smaller ones on top of their bin sheds which are merely a few feet across and wide!
Although this is not a top priority right now for me (With all of my current projects ongoing), I will hereby make a pact that I will create at least one in my small garden on my rented property as well as one larger one (probably on top of my shed) on my Allotment (What is an Allotment?)

Examples of Green Roofs in a Modern Building Setting:

According to the London Wildlife Trust, London itself loses around ”Two and a Half Hyde Park’s” Sized worth of Green Urban Habitat and Forage ground due mainly to Hard Surface Landscaping in front and back gardens across the capital – one small way to revert and give back even just a little is to Create a Green Roof on part or even the whole of a building on the specified property.

Structures such as Bin Sheds, Wood Pile Roofs, Garden Sheds, Garages, Outdoor Rooms, Office Blocks, Houses and even part of your Conservatory can be adapted to a Green Roof Structure!

Some Other Examples:

Things to Consider before starting a Green Roof, and further comstruction information:

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All Information Below is obtained from The Green Roof Centre’s Website

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Extensive green roofs which are designed not to be trafficked and are therefore relatively undisturbed, can offer a very
good habitat for plants, birds and insects. There is evidence throughout Europe, that with the right design, green roofs
can encourage ground nesting birds such as lapwings, skylarks, oystercatchers and plovers.
Green roofs are able to create a “green corridor” through an urban environment helping the movement and dispersal
of wildlife.
– greenroofcode.co.uk
Other Links and Resources / How To:
Permaculture.co.uk Article 1

I just have to make a post about this awesome Heriloom, (non Hybrid / GMO) Tomato Plant ( Tomato ‘Millefleur’ ) because I keep raving about it in previous posts and now, after harvesting 138 tomatoes from One Plant for the Second Time (I think the previous was 134 +- from the one in my Garden a few weeks ago) …

I highly reccommend this Tomato for a small space or balcony garden as it makes huge flower trusses which never seem to stop producing more and more flower! You eventually end up having to cut off any new growth especially when the season starts becoming a little unpredictable (quite common here in the UK).

Please excuse the low quality shots below of the plant …

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Tomato ‘Millefleur’ – a New breed known as Centiflor Tomatoes

Okay, now unfortunately I cannot say any true estimate of how many Tomatoes I have harvested in total so far from the two plants I have, but I can give a rough estimate of around 350 / 370 Tomatoes harvested to date between Both Plants combined, with perhaps another 100 – 150 to come depending on weather conditions, the Tom’s are there alrerady but we are not sure whether they will ripen as it’s almost October and usually by this time of the year, Tomatoes are dead or covered in Blight!

Okay so you aren’t keen on having such an abundant supply of one fruit? Sure, but remember, there is Always the backup of Preservation or even giving to your community! In the coming days I will post an article on Drying and Jarring / Canning your Tomatoes to be able to last into Winter and easily into the following year!

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Tomato ‘Millefleur’ a definite ”Permaculture Plant” in my books, so versatile and fruit can be Preserved to supply well into the next year

 

Please keep an eye out on this Blog, I may just open a shop option whereby I may sell limited amounts of seed packs here of Plants / Annuals which I highly recommend.

Growing these Tomato plants in pots on a Balcony or small space is a good possibility under the following conditions:

  1. Planted in a Large Pot with lots of Organic Material mixed into the soil / compost,
  2. Watered everyday when very hot and dry, but every 3rd day or so during normal summer weather (keep a tray saucer beneath pot if possible),
  3. Fed with a liquid feed once a week after maybe one month after potting into the large pot,
  4. Top of the compost / soil layer covered in some kind of dry mulch such as straw, well composted woodchip etc.
  5. Pot preferrably placed in the shade whilst the plant itself sits in sun as much as possible, you can slice old thick bags like the ones compost come in from the shops, wrap these around the sides only of the plant pot (if the bag is White) to reflect sun and prevent evaporation,
  6. Nip off all new flowers between 15th August and beginning of September as these will hardly get a chance to form and ripen, nipping them off will divert the energy / nutrients into the existing Tomatoes

Do you have / want to grow on your Balcony or very confined space? Then You Need To watch This Video – this will show you just how much can be added into a small space if designed properly!