Category: Grow your own

Update from the allotment

Flowering potatoes



I may be a bit behind in terms of where things are in their growth development, but i’m slowly getting somewhere this summer. I have found it pretty tricky this year, what with the weather and mega slug problem and things haven’t gone as simply as they did last year, I’m told that I’m not the only one having problems though. But I have got to a point where the potatoes, broad beans, runner beans and tomatoes are flowering and I’ve even spotted some tiny tiny tomatoes – hooray! I may get to eat some vegetables after all this hard work!

Flowering broad beans

These were my second batch of broad beans after the first lot were obliterated by the plague of slugs that I had gone into battle with. I have lost count of how many runner bean plants I have lost to the little blighters, and I’m still growing some more in the hope that I will get a decent harvest.


My Rhubarb plant is flourishing and growing brand new leaves! (Ignore the weeds)




I love to wear sensible gardening shoes!!

My onions are starting to look the size of onions and i’m going to have to start thinking about when to pul these beauts from the ground and start drying them out.

Red onions

I had a mini allotment breakdown a couple of weeks ago when things were not going my way, I couldn’t see any fruits of my labour and all I seemed to be doing was pulling out eaten bean stalks and had nothing to see for my efforts. I came home telling everyone that I hated it and that I quit! Apparently this is a normal phase to go through and I have managed to come through the dark allotment days! I usually go up there on my way home from work and spend a bit of time watering my crops and finding that little bit of peace and tranquility usually after a manic day at work – nothing can really beat it! It definitely makes me appreciate where my food comes from, when I eventually get to eat some beans or tomatoes I will savour every mouthful knowing that I put my blood, sweat and tears into that bite and having the satisfaction that I stuck with it, you can’t get that when you buy your veg at the supermarket that have  been flown in from who knows where can you?

Also, check out this beautiful wild flower garden that grows on someone else’s patch – I absolutely love it!

Wild flowers

Happy growing your own!

Veronica x

Peashoots, micro veg, salads and the return of the flies.

Last month I told you how I had started off this year’s growing season slowly by sprouting lentils. Well this month I’ve taken baby steps to up my game with reasonable success. I’ve been growing micro veg and peashoots and they’ve been packing a flavour punch in my salads for the last week or so.

Beetroot couscous and peashoot salad

Micro veg by the way is just the hipster term for sprouting seeds like radish, broccoli or mustard and harvesting them when their first set of leaves form, before they develop into actual plants. Now why, I hear you ask, might you want to grow tiny unformed vegetables. Well not only are they perfect to grow indoors as they take up very little space and are very quick to grow. They are also full of flavour and nutrients, having a higher nutrient content than their fully grown vegetable counterpart.

Homegrown peashoots

Window sill gardening

I have grown two pots of peashoots and one small tray of both radish and mustard as micro veg. This really is a easy way to grow at least something to contribute to what you eat each week. I find they come in especially handy when you’re trying to throw together a lunch but don’t really have much in the cupboards.


What you’ll need:
Some pots, I’ve got some made from old rice bags but you could use any pots you have to hand.
Some organic, peat free compost.
Some dried green peas. You can normally find big bags of dried peas for next to nothing in most grocery shops.

How to grow:
Sow dried peas, tightly packed in your pot. You can probably do them even closer together than I have.
Cover with a thin layer of compost and water generously.
Keep on a warm sunny window sill and make sure the soil doesn’t dry out.
Harvest in around 2 weeks.

How to use:
I love them raw in salads but you can also steam or wilt them and use them as greens.

Grown your own peashoots


Micro veg

What you’ll need:
A few trays, you can use old takeaway containers or anything you have to hand.
Some organic, peat free compost.
Some seeds of vegetables such as radish, mustard, broccoli, cabbage, kale, fennel or beetroot.

How to grow:
Sow seeds closely and gently press them down into the soil.
Water generously after sowing.
Keep on a warm sunny window sill and make sure the soil doesn’t dry out.
Harvest in 5-7 days.

How to use:
I love to add them to my salads but you can also use them in sandwiches or use them as a garnish on soups.

Mustard sprouts

Now when I said I’ve had reasonable success, yes, the shoots have been really easy to grow, taken up only one window sill and provided delicious tasty additions to my salads but… I have had another invasion of tiny flies! Darn them! The good thing is that shoots have such a fast turn around that I can harvest them quickly and don’t have to feel bad about getting rid of a more established plant.

I have now harvested the radish and mustard sprouts, whose soil seems to be the main breeding ground for the little buggers. I hope that getting rid of this soil from my flat will mean there is nowhere left for them to breed so they will die out. I will try and keep my peashoots on for now as there are still some shoots coming up but I know if the flies move over to them, I will just harvest them and get rid of that soil too. Oh the troubles of gardening in a flat.

I’m not deterred though. As the weather continues to warm up the soil will become too hot and dry for the flies to be able to breed there. So I am living in hope that I will be able to grow something more substantial over the hotter months. But for now I shall continue with baby steps and enjoy my lovely salad.

Peashoot salad

peashoot salad

I think these two salads make the perfect lunch together. The punchy flavours from the micro veg and raw leek are perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the beetroot and carrot.

Serves 2

Peashoots, micro veg, leek and walnut salad

About 16 peashoots
Two handfuls of micro veg. (I used one handful of radish and one of mustard.)
1/4 of a leek
Small handful of chopped walnuts.
Lemon juice
1/2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

  • Very finely slice the leek and mix it together in a bowl with the peashoots and microveg, a good squeeze of lemon juice, the olive oil and salt and pepper.
  • Toss everything together thoroughly as this will help draw out some of the water from the leek which will just take that raw edge off of it.
  • Set aside.

Beetroot, carrot and couscous salad

80g wholewheat couscous
1 tsp vegan bouillon stock
Boiling water
1 medium-small beetroot
1 small carrot
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

  • Start by cooking the couscous. Put some water on to boil and stir together the couscous and bouillon powder together in a bowl and pour over enough boiling water to just cover the couscous. Cover with a plate and set aside for 5 mins.
  • Shred the carrot and beetroot using the fine grater attachment on a food processor or grate into a bowl.
  • Fork through the couscous and stir in the shredded veg and the seeds.
  • Drizzle over the olive oil and season to taste.

Spoon out the two salads into serving bowls and enjoy.

Salad Peashoots and sprouts salad

Amy x

Sprouting lentils and a sprouted lentil stir-fry

I love growing my own food and I’ve never let the fact that I live in a flat with no garden or balcony hold me back. In fact, normally my growing season goes something like this:

Dream up a list of extravagant things I can grow on my window sill.
Make my boyfriend lug a huge bag of organic compost across town to our flat.
Fill every surface in my flat with pots, troughs and window sill boxes.
Tend to my seedlings lovingly.
Get an invasion of tiny flies and or aphids.
Resist getting rid of my crops and live with an infestation of insects akin to a biblical plague.
End up with a handful of cherry tomatoes, half a salads worth of salad leaves and not enough basil to make pesto.
Sit back in the autumn and admire my success and resourcefulness…

Yeah, not so great.

So this year I’ve decided to start off at a slower pace and sprout some lentils.

what you need to sprout lentils

I had never really considered sprouting lentils as growing my own food. I guess theres no soil involved which, on the plus side means no flies! But sprouting lentils at home is cheap and easy, requires very little equipment and even littler space. It’s definitely the easiest place to start when it comes to growing your own food.

Sprouted lentils are also really good for for you, having a higher vitamin content when sprouted and they are also more easily digestible. All you will need to sprout your own lentils is a glass jar, a piece of muslin, string or an elastic band, a sieve or fine colander and of course some lentils.

sprouting green lentils

How to sprout lentils

I like to sprout 100g at a time as they should be eaten within a few days once they’re sprouted. I find that this gives me enough to make a main meal and have some left over to throw into a salad.

100g green lentils

  • Thoroughly rinse the lentils through a sieve and pick out any stones.
  • Place the lentils in a clean glass jar and cover with water (preferably filtered) by a least double.
  • Cover with a piece of muslin, leave for around 24 hours out of direct sunlight, then drain off the water and rinse them again. Place them back in the jar and cover.
  • Rinse them twice daily for around 2-3 days until tender pale shoots appear.
  • Once the shoots are 1cm or so long, place the jar into the fridge and use within a few days. Remember to keep rinsing the lentils daily once stored in the fridge.

sprouting lentils

soaked lentils

sprouted green lentils

Its amazing how such a small amount increases to a full jar of sprouted lentils in just a few days. You can see mine have just started to go green at the ends which probably means I should have got them into the fridge about half a day earlier than I did. Not to worry as they will still taste great either cooked or raw.

I think they make a great addition to a salad when raw, packing a tasty, crunchy protein rich punch. They are also great when cooked and one of my favourite ways to use them is a stir-fry.

Sprouted lentil stir-fry

Serves 2

100g brown rice (or you could use noodles if you prefer)
100g sprouted lentils (roughly half of the jar you sprouted)
4-6 chestnut mushrooms
50g cashews
A mixture of seasonal veg. I used:

  • 1 medium carrot
  • Half a leek
  • Spring greens

2cm piece of ginger
2 cloves garlic
Small bunch of coriander
Juice of half a lime
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice mirin
1 tsp coconut oil

  • Cook the brown rice as per your packet’s instructions, usually for around 40mins.
  • Whilst your rice is cooking prepare your seasonal veg. I like my carrots thinly sliced, my leeks roughly chopped and my spring greens finely shredded.
  • Crush your garlic and finely chop up your garlic.
  • About 15 mins before your rice is ready, heat up a wok or large frying pan to a high heat. Add your cashews to the pan and dry fry them until they start to brown, stirring regularly to make sure they don’t burn.
  • Whilst toasting the cashews, in a separate pan start to fry the mushrooms in a little oil on a medium-high heat until the water has reduced away and they begin to brown.
  • Once the cashews are nicely toasted, place in a bowl and set aside.
  • Add the coconut oil to the wok and add in the carrot and leek.
  • Stir vigorously to prevent sticking for 2-3mins, adding the mirin and 1 tbsp soy sauce. If the vegetables are starting to catch on the bottom of the pan just add a few splashes of water and this will create some nice steam to help them cook whilst preventing burning.
  • Add the garlic, ginger, spring greens, and sprouted lentils to the wok, mix through and then add another 1 tbsp soy sauce.
  • You only want the vegetables just cooked so once I’ve added everything in I serve up the rice and then return to the wok adding the lime juice, cashews and roughly chopped coriander.
  • Stir everything together once more and pour onto the rice immediately and spoon over the fried mushrooms.
  • Serve with an extra slice of lime and a drizzle of sesame oil if you fancy.

sprouted lentil stir-fry

Amy x

Spring is here!

Spring has finally sprung! I think it has to be my favourite month of them all. Those long dark days are slowing stretching out, flowers are starting to come to bloom, leaving home in the morning in the light, the smell of the air changing and the promise of bank holidays on the horizon. January and February are miserable months, but March is a big game changer!

Last year I didn’t exactly plan out the whole year at the allotment and so I didn’t end up having a winter crop. But this year I’m on it and now is the time to get organised in the growing veg stakes, working out what I’m going to grow, where and when.

I visited the allotment this weekend, to check out what state it is in after winter. I gave part of it a little dig over, pulling up the weeds and remembering how tiring digging is.

photo 5-34

photo 4-28

photo 1-33

In the next month I will be getting next years winter harvest sown, planting some cabbages, broccoli and onions. I’m planning more than just courgettes and beans this year!

If you don’t have an allotment you can get some things sown in pots. I sowed some lettuce leaves. At this time of year it is still too cold at night to leave them out, so cover them with cling film and leave in a cold frame or on your window ledge. Once the overnight frosts have disappeared they can go back outside.

photo 3-31

I also planted some herbs for our kitchen window sill. Using herbs in your cooking grown from seed provides a little more satisfaction than buying those pots from the supermarket and is cheaper too! If you are a total novice to gardening this is your perfect starting point. Just get some compost and seeds (such as coriander, basil, parsley), sow them and keep them well watered. These could do with a little cling film over them to help them germinate. It is honestly as simple as that!


photo 2-34

photo 3-33


Enjoy growing your own!

Veronica x

Grow your own: Preparing for winter

As the cold of winter takes the only thing hanging on at the allotment is the rainbow chard but, I don’t want to become a fair-weather gardener – I want to embrace all the seasons.

photo 4-18

This year, my first year as an allotment holder, I wasn’t prepared. I mean, I got excited for summer, I got a bit carried away. I had my first batch of runner beans in super early (they all died), had a glutt of courgettes (it turns out you get loads of courgettes from one plant, I had three!), second (successful) batch of beans (Runner and French), Chard, and mountains of Tomatoes that struggled to ripen. But, I did not prepare myself for the winter months; the cabbages, the leeks, the onions, the sprouts….




This is not happening next year, oh no no! I’m getting organised. Now, I’m no expert but most winter veg has to be planted in the spring to be ready for the next winter, so I’m looking ahead to Winter 2014 and thinking about what exciting things I will be picking this time next year!

In spite of a winter of no produce, it doesn’t mean I have just sat back, never to return to the allotment until the glorious days of spring. I have been pulling up the dead plants of summer, saying a fond farewell to my tomato plants, the courgette plants that kept on giving and have dug over the ground. The plan is to get some manure on there before the ground goes solid (although I’m running a little behind schedule and it has turned cold!) and the little worms can take that good shit down making the soil all kinds of fertile ready for next year. I never thought I’d get excited about manure. 

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Growing your Own

One of the problems with our eating habits is that we expect all fruit and vegetables to be made available to us in the supermarkets all year round. This means our food is travelling from further and further afield. Take Asparagus for example, British crops are available in spring for around eight weeks, but we still see it in our shops for the rest of the year.  These crops are mainly being imported from Peru.  In fact, when you read what the impact of growing this crop has, not only on the environment but also on the Peruvian people, it makes me want to look a lot more about buying seasonal British produce.

One way of ensuring your food does not clock up serious air miles is by growing it yourself. This year I have started sharing an allotment with a friend and have been working away at my little patch to ensure we get some delicious vegetables in return. I am very much a novice gardener and looking around at the other allotment owners is is very easy to get vegetable envy. This year I’ve been growing Runner beans, Climbing beans, Broad beans, Courgettes, Squash, Tomatoes and Rainbow Chard. It is so rewarding taking home your produce and then cooking and eating it.

I hope to be able to give little updates on here about what I am growing and maybe some tips on how to go about it. Obviously it is not feasible for us all to have allotments, in fact the only reason I can manage to have one is because I share it, but there are other things that can be done; growing things in your garden, on your balcony, on your window sill, buying from local farm shops or subscribing to a local vegetable box scheme. No doubt we will look at these things in future posts.