Thursday, 26 April 2012

Starting seeds indoors.

Between February and April it might still be cold outside for baby plants, so we'll start them indoors.
You will need:
a) A small container,
b) small rocks or gravel,
c) Some good soil or compost,
d) seeds of your chosen vegetable!
Answering the most common questions:
A: You don't have to buy pots, you can also use small plastic cups or empty cans.
if you really want pots, get them from a garden centre, ask if they have spare ones to give away for free.

A: From garden centres or pet shops, you can also just pick some small rocks in the street/parks/around or use egg shells, this are an excellent alternative as they also add calcium to the soil.

1. First make sure your pot (or can) has holes at the bottom for drainage, if it doesn't poke a few. Put some gravel or egg shells in the bottom of your pot and fill it with soil, see figure1
2. Some say that seeds should be planted at a depth of three times the thickness of the seed. What I do is gently poke a hole in the ground up to my nail, so far it has worked.
3. For chillies, tomato and lettuce, between 3 and 5 as not all will make it.
For sunflowers, just one.
Cover the seeds with soil.
4. Put them in a sunny window, water every two or three days, and watch it grow. When it's to big for the pot, transplant to a bigger pot.

A: Particularly easy: chillies, lettuce, tomato. Lettuce being the quickest to grow, you get the sprouts just a few days after seeding which is quite exciting!

Off you go! now go and start a garden. 

Friday, 13 April 2012

Transforming any container into a plant pot.

If you want to grow plants and have limited outdoor space, all you have to do is transform anything around you into a plant pot, the possibilities are endless: from indoor gardening, to window boxes, hanging baskets, balconies, front doors, roof gardens and beyond.
All you need to do is:
  • Find anything that can hold soil,
  • Poke or drill holes at the bottom for drainage,
  • Add in the following order 1) gravel or crockery at the bottom, 2) compost, 3) A plant.
  • Water well and watch it grow .

1. From February to April, start your plants indoors and place them in a sunny window.
Picture No 1: recycled cans of beans, hand painted in white, featuring young chilli plants.
2. By March-April, the plants can go outside.
This are lettuces in a hand made wooden box outside my front door.
3. Old shoes make excellent flower pots.
By summer you'll have a busting garden, this is how our front-door looks like in summer.
Old construction pallets were transformed into planting boxes, we put them outside our front door together with all sorts of containers, and in 5X1mts space, we've been happily growing potatoes, lettuce, radish, carrots, pumpkins, chillies, herbs and lots of flowers.
Is not rubbish, is a plant pot!
Old computers (right) make excellent planting pots, they come with depth, drainage and cool designs.
1st you need to take all the guts out, you'll be surprised at how many interesting things are in there.
Turn the empty box with the screen facing upwards, bingo! you have an 80's neo-vintage pot, cool isn't? Too much drainage on the sides can be a problem if indoors: add some lining on the sides, I used recycled compost bags on this one, just leaving drainage at the bottom.
Credits: The plastic bottle and helmet pictures were taken in Luang Prabang Laos, and the TV was my boyfriend's job.Many thanks to Geraldine Holland for first bringing and planting chilli seed into our home, and to my boyfriend Chui for his love, carpentry abilities, creativity, support, and smiles.

Friday, 6 April 2012

No plans for good friday? Lets plant potatoes.

How to GROW potatoes, when and why.

Potatoes is one of the easiest vegetables to grow.

You need:

a) A vertical container: that's a large pot, dust bin or bucket with a few drainage holes, if outside you can also use stacked car tires.

b) Potato tubers: you can get these at garden centres and pet shops.

c) Good compost: In London some city farms give away compost for free, we got ours from Hackney City farm.

1. Add 10-15cm of gravel or crocks (old broken pots etc) at the bottom of the container, it helps with drainage when watering,

- Add another 10cm of good compost and place your potatoes 15-30cm apart with the sprouts pointing upwards and cover them with soil.

- Water well, and wait.

2. When shoots and leaves appear above the soil, cover the plant with more compost just leaving a tip of the plant above the soil.

3. Keep watering well, and as the plant grows keep covering it with soil, each layer of soil will grow a layer of potatoes.

4. When you reach the top leave the plant to grow and harvest after flowering.

If you plant 'earliers' or salad potatoes you are ready to harvest 10-13 weeks after planting.

For Maincrop potatoes, harvest 15-20 weeks after planting.

How to harvest?

Easy, get you hand into the soil and test how big the potatoes are, looking good? then just turn the pot inside out and get ready for potato salad!


Plant your potatoes after frost, in the North hemisphere that's in Mid-March or early April, in subtropical zones plant any time of the year.

The Magic:

FULL MOON is the best time to sow root vegetables, like potatoes.

For our ancestors, the moon, the stars and the sun was the most reliable method for measuring time, it was also noticed that different plants grow better when they are planted during different phases of the moon, it's related to the the rising and falling of the moisture in the ground and in the plants, fascinating.

'Plant potatoes on 'GOOD FRIDAY'.

But then came Christians re-inventing history, and it's an old saying that you plant potatoes on good Friday , why? well...

Potatoes come from Peru (yes, the Inca empire, great masters of Astrology, the same guys who built Machu Pichu) and have been harvested in South America for more than 6,000 years, in the 16th century the Spanish conquistadores introduce them to Europe, but potatoes were not mentioned in the bible so many people thought they were the devil's food. In Ireland (where potatoes were the staple food crop) they were planted on Good Friday on land blessed with Holy Water.

Another simpler way of looking at it is: plant on bank holiday April, harvest on bank holiday August, bingo!