Friday, 30 April 2010

Oregano runners?

Over the past week or so I've noticed that the oregano plants appear to have developed two different types of leaves, the normal oregano looking ones and then these shoots that are growing towards the light quite rapidly with a different type of leaf. A little bit of reading around oregano plants suggests that these might be runners looking for new soil to root themselves into. As my intention is for the oregano to be in pots would it be worth me snipping these off when I see them so as to divert all of the growing into the edible leaves or am I best to just leave them growing?

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

One Pot Pledge

I found out about the One Pot Pledge initiative yesterday and today have just signed up as a budding novice gardener growing veg in a pot on my windowsill! The initiative aims to get first time growers planting a pot of fruit or veggies on a windowsill, patio, balcony or roof. They'll send you updates and advice on things to be doing and schools and groups can also get involved. It's not just for novice gardeners either - those more experienced amongst you can sign up as a Gardening Guru to offer advice to first time growers. By the end of the summer they aim to have encouraged 30,000 people to have signed up to grow a pot of their own harvestable food.

Monday, 26 April 2010

The trials and errors of a first time gardener...

I knew it was all too good to be true. I didn't know what I was doing, I planted a whole load of seeds and they grew! Surely such luck could not last. And so the first of my gardening failures are springing up (or wilting down more to the point). I was convinced after reading a few articles on growing salads and then reading Elevated Agriculture's very comprehensive guide to planting windowsill lettuces that the seed trays I had tried to start off some early rocket and spinach in would be too shallow and so, 3 weeks after planting the spinach and 5 after planting the rocket they have completely wilted up and keeled over. It all happened quite quickly too - in the space of a few days they went from being healthy looking little plants to being shrivelled and dead. Still... in our trip to the garden centre last weekend we bought our deeper pots for the window ledges so once we pot them up hopefully we can get some salad leaves going in them.

And our once strong nasturtiums also seem to have taken a turn for the worse. Most of them are still looking ok but a couple of them are starting to get shrivelled leaves. Could this be a sign that they have outgrown the pots that they're in? This specimen has been the only one to have stripy leaves the whole time so I thought that it was just a colour variation but now I'm wondering whether it has been slightly sickly all along. Also having heard that often nasturtium seeds are planted straight in the ground in May I'm thinking that starting them off in pots might not have been the best idea for them after all.

It wasn't the best weekend in the kitchen either. I attempted to make fudge for the first time and somehow ended up with a very sticky toffee instead which unfortunately couldn't be salvaged and ended up in a ball in the bin. It was supposed to be for a present, I had brought all lovely ribbon and organza to wrap up little parcels of sweets in although luckily I'd had the foresight to plan a few different parcels and the coconut ice and shortbread recipes worked much better so all was not lost!

And as they say - the best lesson is to learn from your mistakes!

Friday, 23 April 2010


On the weekend we had a trip down to the garden centre. A week or so ago I'd written about my herbs which seem to have hit a bit of a brick wall in terms of getting any larger. Jo at the Good Life suggested that they might have used up all of the nutrients that was in the compost originally and therefore I might need to start adding fertiliser. So off we trecked to the garden centre with "fertiliser" written on the shopping list.

I hadn't quite anticipated how many fertilisers there would be. We were confronted with an entire wall of Baby Bio, Seaweed extract, Miracle Grow, Tomatorite coming in boxes, bottles and jars... Not deterred by the huge range on offer and the fact that I hadn't got much of a clue what I needed I read a few of the labels and settled on some Miracle Grow that said it was organic and for fruit and vegetables (mildly hoping that herbs were included as a vegetable as I wasn't really in the market to buy a seperate fertiliser for herbs!).

On reading the label it suggests that for vegetables it should be applied once every 7-14 days from shortly after germination and so on Wednesday morning I mixed it up in my watering can and gave both the herbs and the vegetables a good water. Early indications show that for the herbs in particular the leaves seemed to get larger before my eyes and when I came home from work the leaves on the oregano and the parsley seemed much larger than they had been just that morning!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Chilli leaves

Today I'd like to post about something that I've been wondering about for a week or so... why do all of the leaves on my chilli plants appear to have one big leaf at the back and then a small leaf at the front? Presumably it must have something to do with catching as much sunlight as possible but I can't see why that would mean that the one at the front would be so much smaller... Is this a common trait in chilli plants or are my ones abnormal?

In other windowsill news the spinach leaves are growing longer and longer by the day. I'm wondering what is going to happen to them, whether they are just going to keep on elongating or if the plants will be getting extra leaves some time...

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Home fried potatoes for breakfast

Well there's nothing quite like cooking up a leisurely breakfast to celebrate the start of the weekend and this morning was a day for using up some left over potatoes in the bottom of the vegetable bin.

After an early morning run it was back to the flat to potter in the kitchen making up the recipe as I went along (although it rougly follows a lot of fried potato/home fries recipes).

I used all of the potatoes that we had lying around which was a mixture of new and baby new, chopped them up and part-boiled them. Then to start I slowly fried an onion over a low heat and once it was soft added a thinly sliced red pepper and some chopped garlic. Leave that all to cook together on a very low heat for quite a while until everything is soft and super-sweet. Just before adding in the potatoes I stirred through a couple of teaspoons of sweet smoked paprika (the proper Spanish stuff that you can get from Brindisa is what you need!) and a teaspoon of harissa paste. Then I mixed in the potatoes and turned up the heat. Leave it to cook for another half hour or so turning occasionally. Just before you serve it season with salt and pepper and stir through loads of fresh chopped flat leaf parsley and torn basil. Serve in a pile with a fried egg on top.

Friday, 16 April 2010

To pot or not to pot...

Well the tomatoes and the nasturtiums seem to be coming on like wildfire at the moment and the spinach has absolutely shot up since this morning.

The tomatoes and the nasturtiums have got to the stage now though when I'm wondering how long they can stay in the pots they are in. For space issues inside I'd quite like to be able to go straight from the pots they're in out to the windowboxes but is it still to cold and early for them to brave the outside? For tomatoes I have read everything from early May to late June but have also heard of some people putting their tomatoes outside from mid-April so I'm not sure what to do! Also, before fully transplanting them into outdoor windowboxes do we need to acclimatise them to outside a bit at a time or will they be ok if they go straight out? From a bit of nasturtium research it seems that they would probably be ok to go outside straight away (and they are getting a little unruly on the table!) but would it be ok plant them in a window box now that we then add more to later?

Outside on the kitchen windowsill the last of our three types of daffodil is looking like it will burst into flower any day. And these ones will have multiple flowers from one stem which I'm looking forward to seeing.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A sunny windowsill weekend

Well I've had a few days off the blog but over the weekend we decided to put the five herb pots out on the windowsill for a while whilst it was really sunny to see how they fared. They've been doing ok (and the basil seems to have perked up since I stopped watering it so much - thanks for the tips!) but what seems to have happened is that they've hit a bit of a stage where they don't seem to be getting any bigger particularly quickly so I thought some time out in the sun might do them some good. Unfortunately for the coriander by the time it was brought back in again it seemed to have flopped over completely. I'm not quite sure what to do about it to get the stalks stronger so that they can support the weight of the leaves. In the other pots I keep thinking that some day the skinny little chives are going to be getting a bit thicker but they don't seem to be showing any signs of that yet. The parsley seems to be doing ok, I was worried before that only one of our seeds had germinated but then I was informed that parsley always takes ages to germinate and since then we've had two more seedlings so things are on the up! And last but not least the mint still seems to be lingering behind as lots of very small little plants. So a bit of a hotch-potch with the lot of them but any advice on what these herbs should be looking like nearly two months after sowing would be much appreciated!

In other exciting news the spinach seeds that I sowed a week ago are starting to pop their heads up which is fantastic.

Friday, 9 April 2010

More flowers

This morning I woke up to a beautiful Jack Snipe narcissus that has opened its petals overnight. A lovely way to start a Friday.

Thursday, 8 April 2010


It has been pointed out to me that the blog has become a bit more of the windowsill and a bit less of the cook.

So here's a post to even things out a bit! Last night I made a chicken and mushroom pie for the first time ever and very tasty it was too. I just got the recipe from the BBC website although altered a few things using large flat mushrooms rather than button ones and using the remaining half of a roast chicken rather than three chicken breasts but it all turned out very nicely. Alongside it we had new potatoes and I dressed them following a "tip" on the side of the packet to shake them up with lemon zest, thyme leaves, olive oil, salt and pepper. Delicious!

So pie, peas and potatoes for dinner and two very satisfied customers!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Taking stock...

Well I've finally got around to transferring the chillis and the sweet pepper out from the seed tray and into some pots. Hopefully now they've got a bit more space they'll continue to thrive and start getting a bit larger. One of the chillis is looking a little sickly and it's leaves are curled up but it was previously sharing a seed plug with another plant so maybe now it's got a whole pot to itself it will perk up a bit. So in the windowsill garden stock take the grand total of the fruits of our labour in terms of the seed tray that we planted back on 6th March is:
8 tumbling tomato plants (Lycopersicon lycopersicum);
8 serrano chillis;
1 sweet pepper (Capsicum annum);
5 pots of Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare);
5 dwarf sunflowers (Helianthus annus);
10 nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus).

In addition to that we've got the other herb pots from the seed mats (basil, coriander, chives, curly parsley and mint) and the seed tray of salad leaves. As well as potting out the remaining plants I've also just added some spinach seeds (Lazio F1) to the seed tray with the rocket so looking forward to some tasty leaves...

As only one of the five sweet pepper seeds that we planted germinated I'm quite tempted to have another go at planting some more. Is it advisable to chuck away the seed tray that has just been vacated by all of the other plants or if I give it a good wash would I be ok to repot it with some more sweet pepper seeds?

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Windowsill on the wild side

A couple of year's ago as a stocking filler at Christmas I got a matchstick garden of wildflower seeds. It's been sitting on my shelf ever since waiting until I had some soil and a watering can and at long last its day has come. I've just planted the matchsticks in amongst the daffodils in a bid to keep the flower windowbox in bloom long after the daffodils have gone. It's a lovely sunny day on the windowsill and I've given them plenty of water so they're off to the best start in amongst the daffodils. Encouraged by the success from the Wahaca chilli matchbox I'm hoping for similar success with the wildflowers. If all goes well we should be getting cornflowers, shasta daisies, corn marigold and field poppies so we'll have a rainbow of colours. I love poppies so really hoping that those seeds germinate!

You might just be able to see in the windowbox that one of our Jack Snipe narcissi looks like it's going to flower any day now too...

Monday, 5 April 2010

Tomato plants and butternut squash scones...

Well we've been away from the flat for a few days over Easter again so the plants have been having to fend for themselves. I was a little worried that when we came back they would have suffered a little from a lack of tlc but they seem to have survived remarkably well and the tomato plants have come on leaps and bounds. Their tomato plant shaped leaves have got so much bigger in just a few days.

We were back in the flat briefly yesterday morning and I got busy in the kitchen for a couple of hours baking bread to go with scrambled eggs and streaky bacon for a quick breakfast and making some parmsean and paprika scones, made with grated butternut squash rather than butter, to take around to a family Easter lunch/dinner yesterday afternoon. Blueberry pancakes are on the menu for a late breakfast this morning and the batter is sitting on the side aerating at the moment...

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