Growing Apples & Pears

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I’ve been having a bit of a tec-detox recently but now it’s that time again – Spring just around the corner bringing with it some blue skies and sunshine we hope. Many plants are getting ready for their growing season so, depending on your regional climate, some trees and shrubs can be planted now – in milder climates you could even be planting out your garlic cloves or onion sets around.

If you have a little backyard space, start your own organic fruit crops this year. How about apples and pears? There are many different varieties available. Do a little research in your area and see which types local growers are having success with – or ask at your local garden centre.

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If you are in the UK and prefer to buy online, Thompson & Morgan has this wonderful collection of fruit trees on special offer at the moment saving nearly £20.

Fruit Tree Collection

 

Here’s an extract from one of my growing guides – Apples and Pears – I’ll P.S. the details

Choosing your plants

Apples:
From sweet soft varieties through to large hard cooking apples, the choice is huge. Choose a variety you like to eat! Many hybrid varieties are designed to be trained on a fence or similar structure.
Always check on pollination requirements as you may need to buy more than one tree. Often apple trees are sold as one or two year old plants. Apples will produce fruit from its third year of growth and in the right conditions will produce fruit for decades.

Pears:
Varieties of pears sold in supermarkets are usually limited to one or two but there are many varieties you could grow at home.
Conference pears are self-pollinating but will produce more fruit if pollinated by another variety. Check on pollination requirements before buying.
Pear trees are usually sold as two or three year old plants. They don’t produce fruit until their fifth year of growth but can go on to produce fruit for sixty years!

Checklist for both apple and pear tree buying:
-Check pollination requirements
-Look at planting and pruning instructions
-Make sure the bark and roots are healthy and undamaged before buying
-Consider the potential size of your tree.

Apples and pears can be bought as ‘cordons’ that stay small but crop well. They are ideal for a small space and can be grown successfully against a south facing wall or fence.
Small bush varieties are suitable for a slightly larger garden and if you have an acre or two, you could always go for the full-sized versions!

Happy Gardening!
Linda x

P.S. This growing guide will help you get the most from your apple and pear trees.

ApplesandPears

 

‘How to Grow Apples & Pears’

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Herbal Rescue

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Companion planting helps with maintenance in a garden. Certain plants grow well together and will get along happily without you having to do much. Herbs deter many pests because of their strong scent, and other useful components.

 
Here are a few examples of herbs with their good and bad companions…

Basil:

-Good with tomatoes, peppers and asparagus
-Avoid growing near sage
-Repels many insects, including mosquitoes and flies
-Attracts butterflies
-Grown with chamomile, the essential oil will be stronger
Borage:

-Good with almost anything, especially strawberries and squash plants
-A magic herb. Welcome everywhere in the garden.
-Repels insects
-Attracts honeybees
Chives:

-Good with apples, brassicas (cabbage, broccoli etc;) and carrots
-Avoid growing near peas and beans
-Repels carrot fly and aphids
Dill:

-Good with cabbages, lettuce and cucumbers
-Avoid growing with carrots and tomatoes
-Repels spider mite and aphids
-Attracts wasps and honeybees
-Same family as fennel and is one of the few plants that will grow with fennel. Fennel should be planted away from most other plants in the garden, although it does attract ladybirds.
Garlic:

-Good with cucumbers, apples and pears, lettuce and peas
-Will grow happily with most plants
-Repels aphids, ants and rabbits
Lovage:

-Another magic herb, good to grow with almost anything
-Lovage doesn’t like to grow too close to rhubarb
-Attracts wasps and ground beetles (good bugs)
-Lovage, like borage, is said to improve the health of most plants.
Oregano:

-Good to grow alongside many plants, including tomatoes and peppers
-Repels aphids
-Allow to spread around pepper plants for extra humidity
Mint:

-Good to grow with brassicas (including all kale varieties and cabbages.)
-Repels cabbage fly and ants
-All mint varieties have similar properties
Nasturtium:

-Good to grow with many plants including squashes, tomatoes, beans and some brassicas,
-Avoid planting near cauliflower or radish
-Said to be one of the best herbs for attracting predatory insects
-Repels aphids, cucumber beetle and white fly
Rosemary:

-Particularly good to grow with beans, as well as carrots, cabbage and sage
-Repels the bean beetle
-Perfect companion herb for deterring many bean bugs
Sage:

-Similar to rosemary, good with beans, carrots and cabbage
-Avoid growing basil near to sage. The basil probably won’t thrive.
-Attracts honeybees
-Repels black flea beetle, carrot fly and cabbage fly

website-herb garden

 

Text taken from The Herb Garden

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Happy Gardening!

Linda x

 

Grow your own Beans

Although green beans have been cultivated for home use since the 16th century, string-less varieties weren’t really known until the turn of the 20th century. Most hybrids we buy now are string-less unless left too long on the plant.

Delicious green bean types include:
Runner Beans
French Beans
Broad Beans
And there are plenty of varieties of each.
Some bean plants grow as a small bush, others need to climb. Make sure you know what type you are growing as you may need to put up a structure if you have a climbing variety.

If you are in the UK, Thompson & Morgan have a whole range of beans to grow at home, including this variety:

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Dwarf Bean ‘Delinel’

 

 

Healthy Reasons
Green beans are a good source of vitamins A and C, and Folate. They should be cooked before eating to remove any toxins in the skin.
Beans are also high in protein and dietary fibre.

Try this quick and delicious recipe. All quantities are approximate. Go with your instincts!

Green Beans with garlic and basil
Ingredients:
1lb (450g or 2½ cups) of green beans, washed and cut into pieces
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon of chopped basil
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Black pepper

Method:
1. Cook beans in boiling water, or steam, until just tender. Drain well
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok
3. Cook garlic for a minute then add beans, basil and black pepper
4. Stir thoroughly and heat through gently for a few minutes.
5. Serve immediately

Bon Appetit!
Linda x

P.S. Recipe and intro from How to Grow Beans

Beans

 

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Diet Pots

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Diet Pots
The most important step to having a healthy body is to eat healthy food. What better way than to grow your own diet in a pot. Many fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers can be grown in pots on a balcony or a patio and some can even be grown successfully on a windowsill.

Use decorative and imaginative containers for your plants. As long as they are well-drained and deep enough to accommodate the roots of your plants, almost anything goes!

The following nine fruits, veggies and herbs represent good sources of all the healthy vitamins you can grow yourself.

carrot

 

Carrots: (Vitamin A)

Carrots are a root vegetable and traditionally grown in deeply dug soil to allow space for the roots to develop. However, there are many new varieties available these days that will grow in shallower soil or in pots. Grow carrots in a deep trough-like container. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on seed packets, as each variety has different needs. Keep watered and weed-free and you will be able to grow vitamin A literally on your own doorstep!

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Potatoes: (Vitamin B1)

Potatoes can be grown in purpose designed containers or old car tyres. A good harvest is possible without the trenching, earthing up and digging so often associated with growing potatoes. And of course, there is nothing as tasty as a home-grown potato. Forget the butter and grated cheese and enjoy spuds in all their natural glory. Purpose built potato barrels can be found at most good garden centres and are well worth a go if you have a little outside space.

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Garlic: (Vitamin B2)

Garlic is an ideal crop to grow in containers although they shouldn’t be too shallow. Garlic cloves can be planted fairly early in the year and a few bulbs will go a long way. Use a good organic potting compost and make sure the pots or containers are well-drained. Water regularly but don’t let them become water-logged or the cloves will rot before they start to develop. Wait until the leaves start dying back before pulling and using the bulbs, although if you have quite a few growing, use as you need them.

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Mushrooms: (Vitamin B6)

Mushrooms are ideal container foods. Large garden centres and suppliers often have a choice of mushroom kits available, so if you like mushrooms try out different varieties. Always follow the manufacturer’s growing recommendations when you buy your kit to get the most from your mushrooms! Mushrooms contain a number of B vitamins and are a useful ingredient in a healthy diet.

pepper

 

Peppers: (Vitamin C)

Peppers are a great container plant, especially chilli peppers. The plants are attractive and look great in even the most modern décor. Sweet peppers will grow well in containers, but should always have enough light and water to develop the fruits. In a short growing season, peppers grown outdoors don’t always fully ripen, so with a little extra light and warmth, peppers grown in pots can often produce better crops. Use a good potting compost and make sure the pots or containers are well-drained.

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Blueberries: (Vitamin E)

Blueberries are particular about the ph level in the soil but make a superb container plant. Keep the growing recommendations that come with your plant when you buy it, as it should have pruning suggestions, as well as advice on keeping your plant healthy. Generally blueberries like a sunny position with a little light shade if necessary. Tap water tends to make the soil less acidic and as blueberries prefer the soil to be on the acid side, you may have to adjust the ph balance every now and then.

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Parsley: (Niacin – vitamin B3)

If you are growing garlic in containers, then parsley is a must-have! It helps freshen the breath and is also packed with goodness. Parsley is a heavy feeder taking many nutrients up into the plant itself. Grow in well drained pots or containers and feed with an organic food every now and then. Parsley is a biennial plant and will produce flowers and seed during its second year of growth. Collect the seed if you can, to sow the following year. Finely chop parsley and add it to your dishes rather than using it only as a decorative garnish.

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Spinach: (Folate)

Most leafy green vegetables provide a healthy dose of folate and spinach can be grown in containers or large pots as well as in the veggie plot. Again, make sure the pots or containers are well-drained. Fill with a good potting compost. There are many different varieties of spinach available. Check on the seed packet whether there are any notes about growing in containers before you buy. Some varieties just simply do better out in the open. Spinach can be used as soon as the baby leaves are a couple of inches long, although never strip a plant completely. Grow a few plants and take a few leaves off of each one at a time.

broccoli

 

Broccoli: (Pantothenic acid – B5)

Broccoli is one of the more popular super-foods and is packed with healthy minerals and vitamins. It likes the sun, so if you are growing in pots they should be positioned on a sunny balcony or patio. Grow in deep well-drained containers and use a good potting compost. Broccoli won’t thrive if left to dry out, and containers tend to dry out quite quickly so water regularly, but don’t let the pots become water-logged. Plants shouldn’t be grown too close together as they will need space to develop. There are mini-versions of broccoli seed available. Always buy your seeds from a reputable supplier.

There are so many fruits, vegetables and herbs that can be grown in pots, experimenting will naturally help you eat the best possible food on the planet and in turn, create the healthy body you deserve. Check out this quick downloadable guide for more healthy growing ideas…

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Garden Vitamins

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Happy Gardening!
Linda x

“Creating Butterfly Gardens”

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“Creating Butterfly Gardens”

Butterfly gardens are featuring more and more in regular backyard gardens. Growing beautiful flowers to attract butterflies is an added bonus. Scroll down the page to see what I mean!

There are well over 100,000 species of butterfly in the world.

Human behaviour is affecting the quality of butterfly life and there are a number of species on the endangered list. A good enough reason to create butterfly gardens – an environment for butterflies to visit.

The decision to create a butterfly garden shouldn’t be taken too lightly, however. There are a number of factors to be considered to make a success of any themed wildlife garden, butterfly gardens included.

-If you hope to attract butterflies to your garden, insect eating birds have to be discouraged. That means no nesting boxes, bird tables or even berry bushes nearby. If you’ve been growing fruit, your whole gardening system may have to be changed!

-Butterfly gardens can be created in window-boxes, back yards, suburban gardens or even greenhouses and conservatories. BUT the spot must be in as much sun as possible ( 5-6 hours a day ) and fairly well sheltered from the wind or cold air currents.

-Butterfly gardens need water. Create a ‘butterfly’ puddle by sinking a shallow bucket with a broad diameter in the soil. Fill the bucket with a mixture of soil and sand, and pour water over until the sand stops absorbing it. This will provide the butterflies with a nice watering place. Top up regularly with water. You may even manage to drown a few slugs – always a help with vegetable gardening 🙂

-There are two types of plants butterflies need. Nectar producing and larval food plants. If you provide larval food plants, you will undoubtedly attract more butterflies to your garden, BUT the baby caterpillars will polish off the greenery and you will need to replant regularly. Growing cabbages to eat may be a thing of the past!

-Create butterfly gardens in quiet positions – where humans are not forever passing by is ideal. A little shade is okay. Butterflies are cold-blooded creatures and can sometimes overdo their sunbathing. Shade is often welcome! Although shy of humans, butterflies will be happy to join you when you’re gardening.

-Choose your spot and analyze your soil if possible. Decide on nectar or larval food plants or both. Plan the layout of your plants, placing larval food plants in a more sheltered position and get planting! Growing beautiful flowers will be a pleasure even without the butterflies.

NB: On a more general note:Fill a warm sheltered spot with herbs, wildflowers and nectar-rich plants and the butterflies will love you!

Which flowers should you plant?

Butterflies will obtain nectar from many flowers, usually single petal types. Each species has a different shaped proboscis. This dictates which plants they can extract nectar from. Growing the right flowers is important for the butterfly population..

In general, sun loving brightly coloured flowers will attract all butterflies.

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Butterfly Mix – This beautiful collection is available from Thompson & Morgan UK If you type butterfly mix into the search box on their homepage, you’ll find a few butterfly garden choices.

 

Here’s a short list of easily obtainable nectar producing plants.. There are many many more, BUT beware of introducing non-indigenous plants to your garden, it can mess up the local butterfly community. Butterfly gardens must be for the butterflies after all!

*Aster

*Buddlea

*Clover

*Geranium

*Honeysuckle

*Marigold

*Mint

*Pinks

*Sweet William

*Zinnias

These are a few general Larval Food Plants

*Asters

*Cabbage

*Daisy

*Lilac

*Nettles

Which species feed on which plants will very much depend on your particular region. Try and attract certain species to your butterfly gardens, but avoid the exotic trap. Keeping to local wildlife culture will encourage lots of butterflies to your garden.

Happy Gardening!
Linda x

 

 

40 million years of flowers

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Did you know that sunflowers have been around for 40 million years? (humans are only about 100,000 years old) Reasons to grow a few this year:

**the seeds are nutritious. Sunflower seeds are bought widely, so why not grow them? Make sure you are growing an edible seed variety. There are hybrids that may not be suitable for eating.

**they attract good bugs to your garden. Bright yellow flowers will attract pollinators which will help your other crops.

**kids love them, especially the really tall ones!

**birds feed on them. Grow a few near the house and watch the birds in the autumn. A natural, and very low maintenance, bird feeder.

**they look great!

NB: Only the seeds are edible. The flowers and other parts of the plant should NOT be consumed.

Happy Gardening!

Linda x

A World of Herbs

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Herbs hold some wonderful secrets that we can share if we venture into their world for a moment. My favourite herb of the moment is Aloe Vera. Not a culinary herb perhaps but the benefits of aloe vera are enormous.

For example, the sap inside the leaves will help soothe and repair your skin after a minor burn. Perfect to grow on the kitchen windowsill and you don’t even have to remember to water it every day.

Many herbs will grow on a bright windowsill, although care should be taken that the sun isn’t too hot through the glass as this will scorch the leaves of your herbs, and will dry the pots out very quickly. If you have direct sunshine on your chosen windowsill, create shade for your plants during the hottest part of the day.

The quickest way to get a herb garden going is to buy small plants all ready to go. Many supermarkets in the UK sell small herb plants but any garden centre should have a choice of herbs. Stick to three or four if you’re new to growing herbs. You can add to your garden later. Always check on the growing requirements when you buy plants. Some hybrid varieties are less robust and may need to be grown indoors in a moderate climate.

Other herbs need a fair amount of space and may not be practical for the space you have available. Double check before you buy. Same goes if you’re starting your plants from seed. Read through the recommendations on the back of the seed packet so that you get an idea how big your plants could grow and also check on indoor/outdoor requirements.

Follow any ‘instructions’ as far as possible for best results. It’s worth investing in a Herb Book to refer to and be inspired by.

A couple of culinary herbs that work well on the windowsill or in a herb garden are basil and chives:

Basil is generally known as one of the tomato herbs, as a tomato really doesn’t taste right without it. Many shop bought sauces are tomato and basil based, and growing basil on the windowsill will save a trip to the shops from time to time, as well as avoiding processed food – always a plus.

Basil is an annual plant in moderate climates but will grow as a bi-ennial in a warmer environment, producing flower and seed in the second year.

Chives are perfect to add a mild onion taste to your recipe. The flowers are edible and decorate a green salad perfectly. Every year or so, gently dig up plants or tip out of their pots, separate the roots and re-plant. Chive plants make great gifts if you find yourself with far too many to use.

There are many herbs that can be grown for medicinal purposes, although always refer to a reliable source before administering medicinal herbs.

At the first signs of a cold, a thyme and lemon tisane can soothe symptoms – especially with a little honey added -and possibly even stop the cold germs in their tracks! And, barring any allergies, this prevention plan is safe for practically everyone.

There are thousands of fascinating herbs and you can get lost for days in research 🙂 Sticking to a few at first might be easier. Check out the books on this page Herbs and Healing and get inspired!

Happy Gardening!

Linda x

P.S. This gorgeous planter for the windowsill is one of Amazon’s star buys! I think I might treat myself 🙂

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Indoor Herb Garden Kit – by Viridescent – Wooden Windowsill Planter Box for the Kitchen. Includes All You Need to Grow Your Own Herbs. Personalize with Chalk Provided. Perfect Gift Idea!

Check it out here

Baby Lettuces

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Lettuce seedlings are best re-potted as they gain a lot of strength in their early stages of growth and you want to plant out tiny lettuces rather than seedlngs with only one or two leaves.

Seedlings may re-establish themselves in the veggie patch but they are really fighting against the odds. A hot sun can shrivel tiny plants in a couple of hours and birds can easily pull out seedlings – and they will.

Transplant lettuce seedlings in a seed tray or pots and look after them until they are ready to go out in the big wide world of the veggie patch.

Use bio-degradable pots whenever you can. These can be bought or make them yourself from cardboard tubes or even rolled up newspaper. They don’t have to last for long and re-planting is a lot easier and nicer to your plants as there’s no danger of roots being damaged.

Look after your babies! This growing guide will help you get the most from your plants.

How to Grow Lettuce

Lettuce

 

Download from your favourite retailer here:

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Happy Gardening!

Linda x

Lettuce

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Lettuce

All leafy green vegetables contain quantities of vitamin C and lettuce is no exception. Picking it fresh is even better! Lettuce also contains vitamin A and folate, some varieties may have mild sedative properties. Cos lettuce tends to have a higher vitamin content than other varieties.

Lettuce is known to have been cultivated for thousands of years. There are many different varieties of modern lettuce, including the ‘cut-and-come-again’ types. These grow like small leafy bushes and can be cut every couple of days throughout the growing season. There are also various red tinged and curly leaf varieties that pretty up any meal.
You could even try growing some on a windowsill. This growing guide will help you get the most from your plants.

Lettuce

How to Grow Lettuce

Download from your favourite retailer here:

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Happy Gardening!

Linda x

Zucchini

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Eat zucchini young and unpeeled for maximum effect. They are full of good vitamins. The seeds are also beneficial. They contain certain naturally occurring chemicals which, it has been shown, can help control enlargement of the prostate gland.

Zucchini, or courgettes, are part of the large squash family and they are one of the easiest veggies to grow yourself.

Originally they were simply young marrows. Now you can buy all sorts of colours, shapes and sizes.
When you grow your own organic zucchini you can afford to eat them even younger – healthy plants tend to produce lots of fruits!

Grab this quick growing guide from your favourite retailer and get the most from your zucchini plants.

Zucchini

 

How to Grow Zucchini

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Happy Gardening!

Linda x