Category Archives: Vegetables

In a field in Surrey…

Somewhere in the middle of a field in Surrey: (Loseley Park, Guildford), to be precise.

Potting up wine tasting glasses at Seed Pantry/Cono Sur

That is where I found myself today – along with my other half and the smalls. The reason we were there? To investigate what the ‘Grow Your Own Show’ had to offer us. I was intrigued to check it out, as it targeted the expanding ‘grow your own’ community (which I’m very happy to be part of). It will be interesting to see how this event develops (this is its first year). It may even turn into a kind of ‘Glastonbury’ for the grow your own community!

What did we see? Edible snails, pigs, goats, chickens, hen houses, urban gardening initiatives, dog poo composting (don’t ask), bee keeping, wine tasting, the secret seed society, square metre gardening, mini allotment bed building, vertical gardening, heritage seed companies and pop-up poly tunnels.

I was delighted to meet the Secret Seed Society (www.secretseedsociety.com).

The Secret Seed Society

For those of you who haven’t yet heard of them, they’re on a mission to get kids curious about the food they eat. Amy Cooper, the creative director of the company was on her secret seed museum stand, dressed as a carrot and smiling at all the kids, which got my vote of course. This lady is onto something here, she understands enquiring minds and has produced a beautifully illustrated set of secret agent kits. I’m not easily parted with my cash, but was so impressed, that I bought ‘The Mighty Messenger’ a pack containing a story about Mingo Mung, seeds, and props to help propagate). Hooray for ‘Adventures in Vegetables’…

Another favourite company of mine is ‘Seed Pantry,’ (www.seedpantry.co.uk) who specialise in everything for the urban garden (no matter how tiny your outdoor space is).

Seed Pantry

A big draw for me is their design aesthetic: superb graphics printed on eco friendly packaging. (I am now indoctrinated in all things graphic, type and line – having an art director for a husband). As well as selling their wares, (seeds, compost blocks, veg kits, kids growing kits, windowsill boxes etc) they were also planting seeds in wine tasting glasses. From running my own workshops, I have an affinity with any company supporting kids and gardening, so was interested to see them teaming up with ‘Cono Sur’ (an award winning winery), recycling plastic wine glasses and repotting them with radish and sunflower seeds. It really makes a difference when you engage with your customers and do more than just ‘sell’ a product. This is what good branding is about and why I would recommend Seed Pantry and the Secret Seed Society. They know their market, and are passionate about their products and customer base – it makes such a difference to potential consumers. #justsaying… 

Did anyone else go the Grow Your Own Show? What did you see? What caught your eye?  Let me know your thoughts!

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Another sunday at the Childrens Gardening Club

VEGETABLE CLUB

We’ve (that is myself and my four year old son) been going to a childrens gardening club for quite a few weeks now. It started in chilly March and now we’re starting to see results!
We have a laugh (the parents enjoy it just as much, if not more… than the kids sometimes) – and occasionally my little boy just wants to run around or dig for worms, but the important thing is, he’s learning about how food is grown. The children are all mortified and excited by the fact they’re  gardening with ‘horse poo.’ Today we learnt that our beans had been attacked by rabbits, so we moved the hazel poles into another spot in a ‘less secluded’ spot! Gardening is always trial and error. Out of all the modules the kids had planted out, the marrows, squash, sweetcorn and courgettes were flourishing – perhaps because the seed is bigger and easier for small fingers to handle.

Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed picking salad, oriental leaves, spinach, radish and then cooking it back at home. Perfect Sunday morning…

Ruby Red Radishes.

Sowing Tomatoes, Tea & Sympathy

Try as I might, I can’t always blog on the day things happen. Life usually gets in the way – but anyhow, THIS is what girlwithaspade and friends got up to last week at Workshop 24, Peel Precinct, South Kilburn.

"The best time of my life"

Twas a bitterly cold, rainy day, so I decided to host a tomato sowing workshop. The photo above is a quote from the guestbook at Workshop 24, courtesy of Adriana age 10, who came along with her friend to plant tomato seeds in peat pots. Makes your heart sing…I am sooo glad that I saw this. This is one of the best times of my life.”


To have an impact like that on someone so young is a real honour to be honest. That’s what makes working on community projects so worthwhile.

Waste not want not

Before I had kids I was carefree. I’d have lunch at 3pm, decide what to eat when I felt hungry. The whole idea of planning meals ahead totally baffled me. Boy did that change when I had my first baby. Boot camp had arrived and I either ‘got with the programme’ or nobody would eat until 9pm.

In retrospect, I also used to waste money on food shopping. Going shopping on an empty stomach and without a shopping list is probably one of the worst things you can do. I should know – being an ex-serial offender. Around 3 and a half years ago, I decided to use a meal planner. The idea being that we would stop throwing away food, become more organised, use the food we grew in the garden in specific recipes and spend less money but buy more ‘quality’ ingredients. It worked, I use the analogy, “Cook more – spend less, live well.”

Here’s a couple of links to meal planners: Love Food Hate Waste have a blank meal planner. You can also download either a weekly or monthly version from Netmums.  Or you can scribble one down on scrap paper and keep it next to your recipe books. Not rocket science by any stretch of the imagination, but thanks to this little piece of paper, life is that little bit easier and more organised. It’s also great planning new curries from scratch or working out what to do with the overload of courgettes in your veg patch…

The photo is a Nigel Slater quick lamb curry recipe. I must/will post it on le blog for you!

The Secret Vegetable garden…

If you walk down Rochester high street in Kent, you may notice a hairdressers called,’The Cutting Crew.’ This is no ordinary hairdressers – hidden away behind the back of the shop is a walled vegetable garden that has been brought to life and tended by ‘man-about-town’, club promoter, sharp dresser, hairdresser, gardener and vintage clothing expert Steve Riddle.

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Less than a year ago this garden was an overgrown junkyard, full of nettles and weeds. Steve decided to clear it out and the results are astounding. In less than a year he’s created a mini allotment. It’s become a real talking point in the community and customers are now coming in and swapping seeds and plants. Steve and his colleagues have given lots of their produce to local businesses, as well as having tasty supplies for lunch in the back garden! Everything is organically grown, the soil was already fertile, because nothing was growing there apart from nettles which fertilised the soil every year.

Beetroot, radishes, cabbage, onions, sweetcorn, courgettes, herbs, rocket, potatoes, carrots, pak choi, squash, strawberries and french beans are all growing in abundance. Not a bad crop for the first year eh?! Even the scarecrow is suitably stylish – clad in 70’s retro and a Chinese straw hat. When the weather turns, Steve’s going to put her in a sowester and matching rain hat!

A stylish scarecrow

The Dreaded Tomato Blight!

I finally had to accept that my ‘Italian plum tomatoes’ were doomed. Things had been looking bad for a while: brown spots, scorched droopy & wilting leaves and those tell-tale brown marks in the stem. Yep, the dreaded tomato blight had got me this year.

Wilting, blight ridden Italian Plum tomato

I wouldn’t plant ‘Italian Plum’ again in a hurry. Out of the three varieties in my grow pots (Italian plum, losetta and gardeners delight) – Italian Plum was the first to get aphids, wilt and blight. It never flowered. There is a lovely blog called ‘Fennel and Fern’ and the garden community there advised me to bin or burn the tomatoes.

What no tomatoes?!

I’m glad I did, because my other tomato plants (Losetta and gardeners delight) are now fruiting and looking much stronger. Strange seeing an empty pot. What do you think of grow pots – does anyone have strong opinions for or against?

My first Butternut Squash

A first Butternut Squash

Ah, the excitement of growing our first butternut squash. Maia was so pleased she tried to eat it. Tasted delicious (cut into chunks and roasted in a filo pastry pie with chicken, leek and ham. I was surprised to see how much room squashes need. If anyone is thinking of growing squash next year – give yourself a good few metres, squash expands widthways and has creepers which need lots of room. Pretty easy to grow, I would say – needs good organic matter.