Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Spring Fayre & Seed Swap

I helped to organise a Spring Fayre and Seed Swap at work a couple of weeks ago and I decided to hold a stall myself. I made soaps (you can read about how I did it here), lavender bath milk, lavender hearts and fizzy bath salts in two flavours - lavender and coconut.

I also made some little hearts (you can see them at the front of the photo) with letters on them that I was making to order to spell whatever word people wanted.

Despite working in a pretty male dominated environment, I did quite well. Lots of people were asking whether I had actually made all of the things and were pleasantly surprised that I had. It gives me a lot of pleasure knowing that people like the things I make and especially when they like them enough to give them away as presents to their friends and family.

As part of the Spring Fayre, I also organised a seed swap. I asked people to bring in seed they didn't need to swap for something new and if they had no seeds to start with then I asked for 50p per packet which I am using to set up a gardening club at work. We are hoping to grow some flowers and veggies around the office grounds, and maybe even have a few competitions and trips out. I was surprised at the amount and variety of people who signed up for the club. There were a lot of people who had never done any gardening before and were interested but didn't know where to start. Both of my parents did some gardening and passed on knowledge to me when I was a kid and it's nice to think that even a novice like me can pass on what I have learnt to other people. Here comes the gardening revolution!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Seedy Sunday


Seedy Sunday in Hove is the biggest community seed swap in the UK and it has very quickly become a staple calendar event in my gardening year.
We braved the snow on Sunday to go, packets of saved seed at the ready, Sam somewhat more reluctantly than me admittedly...
I decided this year that I would hand over the growing of one type of veg to Sam - he's kind of interested in the garden but not in quite the same way as me. He's been really pleased with all the harvests but he's not one for the slow burn of sowing something in February and not eating it until September. He chose chillis so armed with five packets of saved seed to swap, he was quite happy to wander round looking for which varieties he wanted to grow. He was also impressed with the food on offer (Vegan chickpea curry amongst other things).
I find it so useful to have an event like this to go to (especially as I don't have an allotment and therefore an allotment community), it gives me a chance to meet and speak to other growers - mostly more experienced than me and always willing to share experience and advice with newer growers like me.
It is also a great place to find unusual plants or varieties that aren't readily available from seed catalogues or garden centres. This year I bought some wild garlic to grow in the shady side of the garden (5 for £2) and some oca which I'd never heard of before but apparently it's a bit like a potato that you can eat it raw as well as cooked (5 tubers for £1). I also swapped some seed for some multiplier onions from the Heritage Seed Library and got some borlotti bean seeds from a seed company specialising in bean and herb varieties.
However, the best thing about a seed swap event like this is that it can be completely free. This one charges a £2 entrance fee which is put back into the event, but after that, if you have seed to swap, there is no need to spend any money which is great for growers like me who are on a budget.

*Image taken from the Seedy Sunday website.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Sunday Walk

This year we made a new year's resolution to make the most of the beautiful green space around us and go for a walk every weekend.
The other week we drove just five minutes down the road to a bit of the Downs we drive past every single day and went to explore. It's a nice feeling to see something you see all the time from a different perspective.

It was a great chance to play with my new camera and it's amazing how fast time goes when you're wrapped up against the wind and you see a new photo opportunity with every step. Quite soon a quick half hour walk had turned into an hour and some very cold fingers and toes so we headed home, our thoughts turning to the comfyness of the sofa and the warmth of a cup of tea. There really is nothing better after a Sunday walk in winter than cozying up on the sofa afterwards with a cup of tea!

Chitting Potatoes

These are my seed potatoes which have been chitting happily (apart from when one of the cats had a nap on them) on the windowsill for a couple of weeks now.
This year I am mainly growing three varieties plus a couple of early ones to get some successional cropping going on.
I have Maris Piper which I haven't grown before but they are a good all-rounder and Sam asked me to grow these.
I'm also growing Pink Fir Apple, I grew these last year for the first time and they have a delicious flavour and are particularly delicious roasted with some garlic and rosemary.
Another new addition this year is the Salad Blue. It has dark purple skin and the flesh is also purple and retains its colour when cooked which I am very excited about. According to the seed company, it tastes just like a normal potato but has similar health benefits to the sweet potato.

I bought six single seed potatoes with three each of Rocket and Pentland Javelin.

I will probably grow some in pots or reuseable grow bags and the rest in the main plot. The ground is frozen solid at the moment and it's a bit early to get potatoes in the ground yet but I will probably plant them out in March sometime.

What varieties are you growing this year?