Archive for the ‘DIY Gardening / Home Projects’ Category

Here in the UK we have a brand of non-animal meat substitute called Quorn, they do a Vegan range other than their normal vegetarian meat substitute products. It is made from Mycoprotein which according to my research is made from a fungi called ‘fusarium venenatum’, once the fermentation process has finished, it can either be Vegan by seasoning and mixing with Potato Protein or just Vegetarian by mixing with free range egg. Quorn is used as the meat substitute in this recipe, however please note, I am not a Vegan and, as I couldn’t get hold of the Vegan Minced ”Beef” from my regular shop, I used the egg based one – there are also other brands of Meat Free alternatives out there, the market is growing …

 

 

I have started using Non-Meat alternatives mainly because of the fact that most farm animals in the UK and Europe have been fed with GMO feed for many years despite the general opposition to GMO ”technology”, the other alternative if you can afford it is to buy only Organic Meat products.

I use Bolognese sauce not only as a nice family dinner but also ensure to bulk it up a lot so that I can freeze perhaps 2 or maybe 3 takeaway containers full of the lef-tovers for future last-minute quick dinners or for work lunch (In a food flask).

Another option if you don’t have a lot left over, is to chop up the pasta and mix it into the remaining sauce, you can throw this into a container in the fridge and can use it as a toasted sandwich filling the next day!

Ingredients:

  • Pack of Vegan or Vegetarian ”Beef” (Usually 300g),
  • Spagetti or Fuscilli etc,
  • Peas,
  • 1 or half of an Aubergine (Egg plant / Brinjal),
  • 2-3 Tbsp Lentils (Any colour),
  • 3 Tbsp Bulgar Wheat (Optional, but helps to bulk it up),
  • Chopped Onion,
  • Tin of Organic Chopped Tomatoes,
  • Bottle of Organic Passata (Not entirely necessary but makes it nicer),
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp Tomato Puree,
  • Salt, Pepper and Italian herbs such as Basil, Oregano and Rosemary
  • Nettle Seeds (Optional – these need to be foraged, they are already available Now due to the weird season we have had this year – June 2018)
  • Optional – if needed, you may find this recipe to be quite sharp / sour, if so you might need to sweeten it a little bit, I recommend using ketchup instead of sugar

Method:

  1. Throw in some Olive Oil into a decent sized Medium – Large pot, heat up and add in your Meat or Substitute, cook for a few minutes then take out and place in a temporary bowl,
  2. add a cup or slightly more of water into the same pot and cook the Lentils and Bulgar Wheat, you can sprinkle in the nettle seeds if using any, cook for 10 or so minutes, then scoop out into the same bowl as the Meat or Substitute – it does not matter if there is any water remaining,
  3. Add more Olive Oil and fry the Chopped Onion and Chopped Aubergine (Brinjal / Eggplant), cook until the Aubergine is lightly brown but mostly soft throughout – you can add in some salt here if you like, perhaps some spices like Paprica,
  4. Add in the Passata and tin of Chopped Tomatoes, as well as the tomato puree, you can throw in some stock too at this point (Beef stock for non-vegan and Vegetable stock for everyone else) – Creating liquid stock from store-bought product is quite easy, I will post soon on this subject,
  5. Once all is mixed in, throw in your herbs and add the bowl of ”Meat / Substitute” and Lentils / Wheat, mix all in and let simmer for 30 mins to an hour – in the meantime you can heat a pot of water to cook your chosen pasta in.
  6. For further bulking up, you can also throw in some Grated Carrot (Don’t use more than half a carrot), chopped celery, Courgette (Zucchini) etc! Try not to skip the Aubergine, they really do add a great taste to this recipe!
  7. Serve and Enjoy!
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Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese

For all of my recipes including Vegan, Cakes, cough / cold medicines, jams & Jelly, Chutneys, Soups, Pies, Smoothies, Cider and Vinegar, Wine and CompotesClick Here.

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This really is a very delicious soup and people who don’t like broccoli much will usually say it’s actually quite nice!!

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Organic Vegan Broccoli Soup

  • 3-4  Heads of Broccoli – chopped (or 1 per person being served),
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil,
  • Big pot of Boiling Water (enough to cover the Broccoli),
  • Salt ‘n Pepper to taste

Bring the pot of water to boiling point, throw in the Broccoli and let go to boil again, add in some salt (skip the salt if you are going to use the excess ”stock” as liquid plant feed). Once boiling, time 3.5 – 4 minutes then switch off. It’s best to let it cool down a bit before throwing the broccoli chunks into the blender, blend some with about half a cup of the remaining water and keep blending / adding water little by little – DON’T add too much in one go! Just keep going until you have a nice smooth consistency, once you are happy then throw in the olive oil and blend again with your salt and pepper. Serve with some nice Crusty Soup bread – I like to do a large batch and freeze a couple servings to take to work in the coming months…

With the price of Organic produce going lower and lower, there’s no excuse anymore in not having at least a part-healthy diet! Yes, a head of Organic broccoli is about a third smaller than non-organic, but it’s the nutrient content and health benefits we are looking at, not the size (bulk) – FACT: Chemically treated produce has less nutrient value and ARE subsequently, bad for your health!!!

For further Vegan recipes that also have non-vegan options, check out:

Mushroom Soup and Berry / Fruit Smoothies

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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.

 

This recipe is actually a non-vegan smoothie which I adapted after having vegan friends around whom I didn’t know yet were vegans!

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Vegan Blackberry Smoothie

  • A cup full of Berries (Preferably from last year’s food foraging?),
  • A cup full of Fresh Apple Juice,
  • 1x Ripe Banana,
  • Not necessary but, honey to add in if you or your expected guest/s have a sweet tooth (usually about 1tsp to 1 tbsp depending how keen you are on your dentist!),
  • For Non-Vegan, add half to one cup natural yogurt,
  • Optional: Pre-soaked Nettle seeds and/or chia seed, you could even throw in some home made Elderflower Cordial!

Place all ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth and serve – honestly, honey is not necessary as the apple juice and banana are more than enough for sweetener.

If you find yourself saying that this is not sweet enough, then you should look at gradually reducing your sugar intake. The way I reduced my sugar was to have half a teaspoon less in my tea / coffee and every few months reducing a bit more, I am now down to no sugar at all in tea and only one teaspoon in a coffee. I can now have a little as a teaspoon of honey in my morning porridge – compared to the early / mid nineties where I would have 2-3 Tablespoons in a cereal.

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”

This is kind of my own invention (The Design), I got the idea from the mirror strings you can buy from some garden centers which sell them as pigeon deterrents. The issue with the latter is that they are cheaply made (small mirrors glued to fishing line – that’s it!) and they don’t last many heavy wind sessions before you see them broken all over the ground (I have seen this happen probably around 20 times in the last 4 years).

So I decided to design my own – with the emphasis on lasting, and not really as a pest deterrent but more as a Garden Ornament. I also took some inspiration from a Permaculture book I read which had a reflection chart (depicting the reflection values of various objects from Aluminium foil to wood, rocks etc.).

Tools:

  • Timber Saw
  • Wood Glue (PVA) or Silicone Glue if preferred
  • Drill and Screws
  • 4x wood screw type vine eyes (screws with a closed loop on top)
  • Strong Fishing Line or Thin Cable / Wire
  • Wire Cutters and Pliers

Optional:

  • Some Colourful Outdoor Paint / or just wood varnish
  • brush / es
  • Sealant spray paint (if you use indoor paint instead of outdoor)

Materials:

  • Long-ish piece of Timber (square profile – about 4cm x 4cm x any length you like), you may need to use the same piece to cut the supports to hold the Charm
  • Small Mirrors, get mixed shapes if you like (known as Mosaic or Tile Mirrors)
  • Sea Shells (optional)
  • Glass Gems (also known as flat marbles) – (optional)
  • Pool Tiles (optional)

In the following diagram, you merely cut out a couple of wedges from two of the sides of the timber, these you will stick to the other two sides to create angled surfaces to place more mirrors ( we want many mirrors reflecting in various directions and angles, so please don’t be regimentalised when you are cutting – let go of the OCD for this project ! )

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Garden Solar Charm – Diagram 1

Now go ahead and glue your various mirrors onto the angled surfaces as well as on the flat areas, you can decorate the rest of the free space with Glass Gems, maybe a few flat sided crystals, sea shells and pool tiles (create patterns, you can get very small mini pool tiles which are about 1/4th the size of the standard small pool tile).

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Garden Solar Charm – Diagram 2

Once all is dry and happy, you can paint around the decorations and mirrors or varnish (I prefer to paint / varnish later, I didn’t want the mirrors etc. to be glued onto paint – this was a personal preferance) then go on to taping the mirrors with edging tape or electrical tape so you can spray it a few times with sealant spray – this helps to protect against environmental wear as well as an extra barrier to hold the objects on and reinforce them a bit more.

Now screw in one vine eye on each end (top and bottom) to attach your swivels to and then the wire / fishing line or cables. It is now up to you to decide where and how you will hang your new ornament in your garden, I attached it to a fence pole by cutting two timber pieces (+- 35cm long each with a 45 degree cut on one end), attached these to the pole and then screwed one vine eye subsequently on the end of each of these supports. The charm was first tied onto the top support with about 10cm of fishing gut between the vine eye and the swivel, the next was tied whilst the charm was hanging, this gave me a chance to decide on how taught I want it tied, I went for only slightly with a bit of give.

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Garden Solar Charm – Diagram 3

An that’s it! You can be as creative or simple as you like, you could even cut the timber into more than one section with an assortment of swivels so that each can rotate in different angles, at different speeds etc, the options are pretty much endless …

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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.