4 FREE self help resources – Coronavirus and your mental wellbeing

Coronavirus and your mental wellbeing - 4 FREE self help resources
Coronavirus and your mental wellbeing

My blog may contain links or banners for things I think are relevant to you. I may receive a small commission if you click through or buy something. This doesn’t cost you anything and helps me keep on blogging. Thank you!

We are all living in such uncertain and worrying times right now. So many things are causing us stress and anxiety on top of the Coronavirus itself. Work, money, food, health, children, staying home, the list seems endless. Any one of these can magnify underlying anxieties we may have.

Coronavirus and your mental wellbeing - anxiety
Coronavirus and your mental wellbeing – anxiety

Now, perhaps more than ever, we need to be taking care of our mental wellbeing as well as our physical wellbeing. Recently I wrote about what simple steps you can take to stay healthy in body. I have put together some free resources to stay mentally healthy.

Coronavirus and your mental wellbeing - don't panic
Coronavirus and your mental wellbeing – don’t panic

1 – Mind Cards – FREE download

I’m very pleased to have teamed up with LSW London to bring you their Mind Cards. If you haven’t heard of them, they provide products to promote wellbeing and mindfulness. Lili, the founder, realised that it isn’t the big grand gestures that make us happy. It is the small things which build up over time to give us that meaningful, lasting happiness. She has devised Mind Cards which prompt you to do one simple thing each day to build on your happiness. You can purchase single packs from as little as £2.99 or a whole set for £14.99. Additionally, just for you, I’ve got a gift of a FREE relaxation download, normally £2.99, with promo code FREELAXATION for this week only. Click here to redeem your freebie and take a look around Lili’s shop.

The relaxation download session is only just over 5 minutes long, short enough to slot into a busy day. The first time I tried it I fell into a state of deep relaxation very quickly. I was then able to clear my mind and focus for the rest of the day. It’s like a verbal guide to your mental happy place. A great way to start your journey into mindfulness. Highly recommended.

Coronavirus and your mental wellbeing - happy place
Coronavirus and your mental wellbeing – happy place

2 – Headspace – FREE content

I have used the Headspace app for some years. They have tons of meditation and mindfulness resources and some free introductory courses too. If you have never meditated before, this is a great place to start. They have released a FREE pack to help get through the current global crisis. It is called Weathering the Storm. Usually you subscribe to access all of their content and this is a brilliant freebie from them.

Andy Puddicombe, one of the founders of Headspace, voices a lot of the courses and has the most relaxing and soothing voice. It’s hard for me not to fall asleep when listening to him. Although my initial reason for starting with Headspace was to sleep better, they have packages for all sorts of situations. Sleeping is one of them of course, they also have packages for calming meditations, stressful situations, SOS sessions and much more. I have a link for you to get 14 days full free access. Down load via the App Store or Play store. You can access the free pack via the app and some of the content on the website. Highly Recommended.

Explore Headspace
Explore Headspace

3 – Calm – FREE content

CALM is another meditation resource which has been around for years. They have offered a free pack with Soothing Meditations, a Calm Masterclass and Calm Kids resources. You can access their FREE content here. Read all the way to the bottom of the page as they have 40% off your first year of premium membership right now, if you want to sign up for more.

Calm
Calm

4 – NHS website – extensive FREE resources

Last but by no means least, is our wonderful NHS and their Every Mind Matters campaign. The website is chock full of resources. Firstly there is guidance for your wellbeing whilst having to stay at home. Secondly they have a list of 10 simple ways to deal with the anxiety of Coronavirus. Not only that, in the Apps tab there are plenty more things for your general health such as the Couch to 5k app, Easy meals and Active 10 apps. All are available in the App store and Play store.

NHS logo
NHS logo

Without question, the main thing to remember in all of this is:

STAY AT HOME, PROTECT THE NHS, SAVE LIVES

Stay safe and much love x

6 Ways to stay healthy during the Covid-19 outbreak

Stay healthy during the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak - Virus
Stay healthy during the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak – Virus

My blog may contain links or banners for things I think are relevant to you. I may receive a small commission if you click through or buy something. This doesn’t cost you anything and helps me keep on blogging. Thank you!

Ways to keep yourself healthy in these uncertain times

Now has never been a better time to look after your health and those around you. I posted recently about quick and easy food to grow. Here are a few more things to help you stay healthy during the Covid-19 outbreak.

1 – Heed the Government advice – NO EXCEPTIONS.

This cannot be overstated. Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save lives. All the updated advice can be found on the Governments dedicated page.

2 – Protect your immune system.

Fresh fruit and vegetables may become harder to come by or more expensive in the coming weeks. Invest in some multivitamins or at least vitamin c and zinc. They need not be expensive, some reasonable multivitamins can be found here at just 4p per tablet. When fresh food is limited you can still give your body the nutrients it needs. Oranges and orange juice are increasing in price and I have no doubt the other fruits vegetables we normally import (which is a lot) will follow.

 Stay healthy during the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak  - protect your immune system
Stay healthy during the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak – protect your immune system

3 – Grow nutrient dense Microgreens

These little nutrient bombs can be ready in 1-2 weeks and are packed with goodness. Many have greater nutrient value than the adult plants (see this study here by the USDA). Importantly, you can grow them indoors. Read more about this on my post here, and you can get inexpensive starter kits here. Any organic seeds are safe to grow, or specially selected seeds for microgreens. They will not have been treated with any harmful chemicals.

Stay healthy during the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak  - protect your immune system
Stay healthy during the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak – microgreens

4 – Make sure you get fresh air and exercise.

At the time of writing, in the UK, we are allowed to leave the house once a day for one form of exercise, for example walking, running or cycling. However, if you have a garden, a good session out there can be just as invigorating. Additionally, it is massively beneficial for your mental health too. The time is perfect for tidying up after winter, washing your seed trays and pots, starting some seeds off, planting early potatoes, the list (for me at least) is endless. I use this stuff for cleaning the pots, greenhouse, birdfeeders and more, its natural, non toxic to pets, aquatics and wildlife.

5 – Take a break from social media

This might sound counterintuitive coming from someone running a blog who has a social media presence. However, it is full of nonsense about Coronavirus, some of it potentially very damaging. For example, there was a story stating that garlic will protect you from the virus. Simply put, IT WILL NOT. Watch an informative video on the BBC here. The Government have also just launched a free WhatsApp service for information, and also to alert you to coronavirus myths. Information on how to access it can be found here.

Stay healthy during the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak  - take a break from social media
Stay healthy during the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak – take a break from social media

6 – Stay in touch with friends and relatives

Pick up the phone, load up Skype, message on Whatsapp. Whatever your method, it will help keep you and the recipient happier. Here is an interesting article on Sky News about communication and happiness levels. This could mean the world to someone who is alone, shielding, or simply missing the contact of other humans in daily life.

Stay healthy during the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak  -  keep in touch
Stay healthy during the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak – keep in touch

More than anything, I hope you all stay healthy during the coronavirus outbreak and remember we will get through this. And finally:

STAY AT HOME, PROTECT THE NHS, SAVE LIVES

Much love <3

Top 10 quick and easy vegetables to grow now

Quick and easy, nutritious, and no need for a garden.

Quick and easy to grow vegetables - lettuce
Quick and easy to grow vegetables – lettuce

My blog may contain links or banners for things I think are relevant to you. I may receive a small commission if you click through or buy something. This doesn’t cost you anything and helps me keep on blogging. Thank you!

If you haven’t grown anything before, there is no better time than now, even if you don’t have a garden. Yes, its possibly to grow some tasty and nutritious food indoors or on a balcony. A south facing window is best for maximum light, but any bright window will do in a pinch. So here is my top 10 quick and easy vegetables to grow now.

1 – Microgreens

These little nutrient bombs can be grown just about anywhere as long as you have a window. You can buy kits like this one I use, or improvise your own, or sow in a pot of compost. Pea shoots are quick and do actually taste like peas! You can also grow chard, beetroot, brocolli and many more. Crop in as little as 7-10 days.

Quick and easy to grow vegetables - microgreens
Quick and easy to grow vegetables – microgreens

2 – Rocket

Fast growing Rocket can provide a quick crops of fresh leaves in six or seven weeks. You can even harvest baby leaves in as little as two weeks. Sow thinly in a pot. These will grow nicely on the balcony if you have no garden. They can also be grown as microgreens, so they are very versatile.

3 – First early potatoes

There are lots of varieties that will be ready to eat in as little as 10 weeks. Swift (one of my favourites), Arran Pilot, Pentland Javelin to name just a few. The fastest is reputed to be Rocket, which I have grown, but found them rather tasteless. I buy mine here. You can also buy packs of 5 seed potatoes in Wilkos (UK) for £1 which is great value if you have limited budget or space. Read more about growing potatoes here and here.

4 – Lettuce

Lettuce spoils you for choice as there are so many varieties to choose from, and I have quite a few favourites. Can be sown thinly in a pot or bucket (with some holes in the bottom for drainage) and grown on a balcony if you don’t have access to the garden. Some varieties are called “cut and come again” where you harvest a few leaves at a time rather than pull up the whole plant. It’s a bit of a misnomer as its better to twist and pull the leaf off as you could easily cut into other leaves that are not ready.

Quick and easy to grow vegetables - lettuce
Quick and easy to grow vegetables – lettuce

5 – Sprouting seeds

If you love beanshoots, this one is for you! Source some mung beans (as these are the beans that beanshoots are grown from). You can grow them in a large jar with aeration holes in the lid, or buy a sprouter kit with a ready made jar and aerated lid. Sprouts are ready to eat in 6-10 days and can be kept in the fridge for a week after harvesting. Eat fresh or in a stir fry.

Sprouting mung beans
Sprouting mung beans

6 – Beetroot

This is a relatively fast growing root vegetable, around 8-10 weeks from sowing to harvest, or sooner if you want baby beets. They will grow well in a pot/bucket, and the leaves can be used just like spinach too. No waste here!

7 – Radish

A very fast growing crop with a harvest time of about 4 weeks. Again there are many varieties and they grow well in a pot. I have no experience of growing these as I don’t like them. If you do, you will be rewarded very quickly!

Quick and easy to grow vegetables - radish
Quick and easy to grow vegetables – radish

8 – Spring Onions

Spring, or green onions also quite quick to grow, can be sown in clumps, and harvested one or two at a time from each clump. This leaves more space for the rest to grow. Or you can pull up a whole clump at a time. Whatever works for you! Another one which is well suited to a pot on the balcony. They don’t need much space as they only have a few upright leaves. Space saving and tasty!

9 – Spinach

Another fast growing crop, packed with nutrition, and can be harvested for baby leaves in a few weeks from sowing. Well suited to containers, sow a few containers a week or two apart for months of fresh leaves. Eat fresh or blitz into a green smoothie for instant nutrition.

10 – Mushrooms

The kits are so readily available in many varieties now. No balcony needed either, so perfect if you live in a flat or apartment. Time to harvest can be a matter of 2 weeks or less dependant on the variety.

So there you have 10 quick and easy vegetables that anyone can grow. What’s even better than that is:

NO airmiles

NO chemicals

NO loss of nutrition

NO supermarket supply issues

NO unnecessary plastic packaging

Quick and easy to grow vegetables - salad
Quick and easy to grow vegetables – salad

In these times of uncertainty, particularly in the UK with Brexit and now the coronavirus, there has never been a better time to ensure a supply of good food. So start now and you will have some quick and easy, luscious food in a matter of weeks.

What do you fancy giving a go this spring? Tell me in the comments.

Starting afresh – Autumn to Spring plans

My blog may contain links or banners for things I think are relevant to you. I may receive a small commission if you click through or buy something. This doesn’t cost you anything and helps me keep on blogging. Thank you!

OK, I admit the summer was a bit of a disaster in the garden for me. The incessantly changing weather was too much of a challenge for many of my crops. The lettuce bolted, the tomatoes suffered, and it all meant I lost my garden mojo.

However, I have to start afresh and look forward to next year. Some plans are already in place. I have planted my garlic from two of the best bulbs that I grew this year.

Garlic bulb var. Marco
One of my best garlic bulbs, var. Marco (autumn planting).

I selected the best cloves from these bulbs and planted them, an inch or so below the surface, in one of my raised beds. Just make sure when you are planting garlic that you dib a hole in the ground first. The flat or bottom end of the garlic can be damaged if you just push it in. This is where the roots will grow from.

Does anything grow in winter?

In short yes! I have some rainbow chard or Swiss chard which is still growing well despite daytime temperatures being in single figures (centigrade). My perpetual spinach is growing like mad, and I have many flowers still going for it!

I have many spring bulbs to plant in the coming weeks. They should really be in now, but Monty Don says he will be happy if they are in by Christmas, so there is no need to panic.

I have selected these bulbs to plant, and have already planted some snowdrops and wood anemones in the garden. A strip of land along the bottom of the garden by the fence has been sown with some cornfield annual wildflowers, and perennial wildflowers. The annuals will be like a protective crop to the perennials, which won’t come into their own until the following year (2021, wow, that seems so far away!) Next spring the cornfield annuals will put on a lovely display, I hope!

Soon it will be time to think about what other crops and flowers I want to grow. I have so many seeds I may not need to buy any more. Potatoes however, will be bought as fresh seed.

What are your plans for spring, have you grand plans, or just a couple of pots? Tell me!

Whatever you do, I hope it brings joy, do a little something every now and then and it will soon add up.

Take care during the winter and dream of spring!

Web Hosting

Distractions – good or bad?

Distractions are not always a negative thing, you can turn them to your advantage.

What do I mean by that? Well, I am sure you have heard of the term “a welcome distraction”, when something happens that takes your mind off something else less pleasant? That’s exactly it.

When does distraction work?

Right now I am writing this post in the middle of the night as a way of trying to distract myself from my painful dislocated rib! If I just lay there in bed all I will do is think about it, the pain feels worse, it becomes harder to switch off. This just results in a vicious circle that seems impossible to get out of. Unless of course, you distract yourself.

This can work in many situations, for example if you feel sleepy mid-afternoon, you can do something else, make a drink, get a few minutes fresh air, go for a walk. Simple thing like this can easily perk you up and help you resist having that unproductive nap.

What else can it do?

The same goes for anxiety. I found my distraction in gardening. I wasn’t searching for any particular distraction, it just sort of crept up on me. I noticed that when in the garden, my mind was clear. The spiral of worry, overthinking, low mood, it just all seemed to stop when I was in the garden.

It doesn’t take away the anxiety altogether, but it does mitigate it and brings me into the moment. Focusing on nurturing my vegetables, fruit and flowers stops me focusing on negative thoughts.

However, I have found that the more time I spend in the garden increases my well-being overall and has helped me to manage the anxiety better, along with other coping techniques and medication.

One thing I try and do is not to over do it in the garden. If I work so much that I become exhausted (or worse, aggravate my rib) there is a danger. That danger is being put off by that negative feeling you had when you overdid it. I always like to stop when at the point of still feeling like I want to do more. This way I retain the enthusiasm to get back out there as soon as I can. Aiming to do about 50% of what you think you could do in any one session is a good place to start.

The answer is….

It is so pleasing that gardening is now being recognised, and being taken seriously, as a therapy in itself. As I have always suspected and I will say again, for every problem in nature there is an answer in nature.

Ah, my rib is starting to feel better already.

Do you have a distraction that is a winner? Share it in the comments below, I would love to hear it!

Garden update Monday 22nd April – Easter Special

What a glorious Easter is has been, weather wise at least. In the garden there has been a lot of progress, projects beginning and others taking shape. We’ve had almost no rain this month and everything is bone dry. But I do so love these warm sunny days. I hope you have all had a lovely long weekend too.

In the greenhouse

Seeds are still being sown, seedlings are being potted on, and some being moved out altogether. Space is now a premium with all shelves and a lot of the floor being covered with trays.

Some of the seedlings in the greenhouse.
Just some of the seedlings in the greenhouse

It may seem odd, being early spring, but I am thinking about winter and what crops I can grow that can be harvested or overwintered. I have sown kale (var. Emerald Ice) and leeks (var. Lyon) and have some tiny lambs lettuce seedlings already growing. I do like cabbage, brussels sprouts and cauliflower, but the yield on my small plot would not make it worth the space they need. Kale on the other hand will just keep growing as I keep picking so will be much more productive for the space it needs. Leeks do not take up much space and can be harvested as needed. I will also grow carrots, in particular a variety called “Autumn King” which can also be harvested as needed and will keep perfectly in the ground all winter.

Planting out

Ok, so I have digressed a little speaking about winter. Back to the now! I decided to take the fleece off the broad beans, which were sowed in January. Concerned that the local cats would see this bed of soft earth as a lovely bathroom, I filled the rest with my little pak choi seedlings. I’ve had to half cover it again as I almost had a casualty when I caught a cat digging in it. One pak choi seedling was dug up, however I replanted and watered it and it seems to have survived the onslaught. The broad beans are in full flower now, I can’t wait for that first harvest of little green pods of loveliness!

Broad beans (var. The Sutton - dwarf variety) in flower
Broad beans (var. The Sutton – dwarf variety) in flower

Potato update

The Vivaldi potatoes that I posted abouthave been planted! These are a second early variety, meaning the second earliest to mature, and should be ready to harvest in as little as 12 weeks from now. Once these have been harvested I will put another crop straight in, possibly french beans. I have some early and maincrop potatoes to plant still, these will go in pots. I didn’t want to put these varieties in the raised bed as they were not as good a quality as the Vivaldi’s. So to compensate I will boost the compost they are in with some extra fertiliser and see how they get on.

I am now happy to say that following a little burst of planting today that all four raised beds have now been fully planted! Some peas, two varieties of lettuce, spinach and pak choi went in the final bed. The peas (var. Kelvedon Wonder) are a dwarf variety that wont need support, but should give some shade to the leafy crops behind them. These should provide me with salad leaves for a couple of months before I need to plant a second crop.

Peas on the left, leafy salad crops on the right
Peas on the left, leafy salad crops on the right

Carrot update

Surprisingly, the carrots that I sowed on 8 April are already up! They poked their little heads up on 18 April, 10 days after sowing. My method involves sieving compost to get the lumps out firstly. The helps to stop your carrots from “forking”. I added a little vermiculite to open up the structure and retain water. You can also add a little sand to help drainage. I filled a pot to within half an inch of the top and placed the grid in the photo on top of the compost.

With my seeds ready in a small container, I used a dibber (moistened with water) to pick up individual seeds and place one seed in every other square. This gives you an even spread of carrots, therefore no need to thin them out. Carrot root fly can smell carrots up to a mile away so the less we touch them, or thin them, the less risk of this pest there is ruining your crop.

Cover the seeds with another layer of compost, one quarter of an inch deep, and keep it moist. I placed my pot in the greenhouse which may have helped the quick germination. Nonetheless I am pleased with the germination rate. There are still a couple of empty spaces but I will give it a little longer before I sow more seed. To deter cats, I have left the grid on the pot for the time being.

Carrot seedlings
Carrot seedlings

Water butts everywhere

There are two slimline water butts in my garden. One by the back door of the house and one by the greenhouse. However, I saw that our garage roof with its corrugated panels, was a great source of water to capture. Therefore I enlisted my partner to help me and put up guttering and install water butt number 3, to the left of my plot. I now have 300 litres of water to call on should we have any dry spells. We also moved a small storage shed from near the house and placed it next to the water butt, so my tools and spare pots are much closer to where they are needed.

New guttering and water butt.
New guttering and water butt

More projects

I have an old pallet that I have wanted to do something with for ages. By chance, I came across some discarded guttering in a refuse pile at the bottom of my brothers garden. This is now a work in progress and will be unveiled shortly! What do you think I will be making with these two items?

We have also decided to start a long thought about project on our garden pond. The pond liner is some sort of fibre glass and has been deteriorating for some time, so will be replaced. I bought some here quite inexpensively and it included the underlay . Behind the pond, looking from the house, is an extremely overgrown rockery. It doesn’t give me any pleasure at all and it somewhat of an eyesore. There is a St. Johns Wort growing out of control which really needs to go as it is invasive. It also does not flower like it used to. Each year in May we used to have two or three weeks of it carpeted in yellow flowers. Now there is the odd flower here and there at random times. So I think its had its day.

We’ve made a start on pulling the growth out. Having tried and failed to use a fork to remove it, we are having to clear it by hand. The rockery only serves to impede the fork.

I intend to enlarge the pond a little and replace the liner, flatten the rockery and rebuild it in a circular fashion. This is what has been cleared so far. A long way to go but it will be worth it.

What projects have you planned, or started this Spring? Tell me!

Garden update Monday 8 April

Sometimes, you just have to make a sacrifice. And you have to think about smart planting.

Now I’m not talking lamb at the altar or anything like that! I noticed in the greenhouse the other day that one of my Pak Choi seedlings had been nibbled. It was clearly a nibble and not just damaged by accident.

Nibbled seedling
Nibbled Pak Choi seedling

Most of the seedlings were untouched. Despite checking each pot I was unable to find the culprit. So I decided to make a sacrifice. I would leave this pot in situ, and move the other seedlings elsewhere to, hopefully, escape the hungry creature.

This morning the sacrificial seedling had been nibbled even more. The creature must be hiding in this pot! I still could not find it, however.

All the other seedlings that I moved elsewhere looked fine. So, I come to the conclusion that the nibbler was isolated to this one pot.

Healthy Pak Choi seedling
Healthy Pak Choi seedling

Growing pains and smart planting

There are occasions where you actually grow a crop specifically to draw creatures away from other crops. Nasturtium, for example, is great to grow with beans as they attract blackfly away from your precious food.

Another way to deter pests is to grow plants together than repel each others pests. A good example of this is onions and carrots. When grown together the onions repel or confuse the carrot fly, and the carrots repel or confuse the onion fly.

I firmly believe that for every problem in nature, there is an answer in nature. This way you negate the need for nasty chemicals in your growing space. We can only benefit by not ingesting these hideous things. If you lose a seedling or two, or your nasturtiums take the brunt of a hungry fly, you will be safe in the knowledge that the only thing you have put in your body is the goodness of that treasured plant.

Elsewhere in the garden

All the other seedlings are coming along nicely, including lettuce, spinach, calendula, sunflowers, peas, tomatoes, busy lizzies, nasturtiums. The list seems short but the space is filling up. There will be some potting on and planting out happening soon. Mid April is also the time (in my area) to plant seed potatoes. As a general rule of thumb, they can be planted about one month before the last expected frost date. In East Anglia that is the second week of May.

If you haven’t yet got your seed potatoes, there is still time. Many garden centres and supermarkets try to offload their stock of seed potatoes really cheaply now. You might pick up a bargain!

I will also be sowing some carrots soon, outdoors in pot. I have a method for this which means that you do not have to sow more seeds than you need, and therefore do not have to thin the seedlings out. It seems so wasteful to do this. Admittedly you do get a lot of seeds in a packet but with succession sowing you will have plenty and may have some to save for next year.

Now the weather is warmer it feels like all stations go right now, but oh the eating to come in just a few short months. All that extra sun helps to keep my mood afloat, and allows the body to manufacture its own vitamin D.

Exciting times!

Garden update Monday 25th March

Mad March continues – seeds and seedlings abound!

Well March has certainly thrown some winds at us, but finally calm has settled and although it’s not warm, it’s pleasant enough to get into the garden when time allows.

So, seeds have germinated, and seedlings babies are becoming toddlers. In other words it’s potting on time!

L:R sweet peas, shallots and pak choi
Left to right: sweet peas, shallots and pak choi

The sweet peas are doing brilliantly and have now had the top growth nipped out. This should encourage side shoots and nice bushy plants. The shallots are plodding on nicely and can be planted out soon. I noticed that the pak choi looked a little pale. Thinking that this may be because they are running out of nutrients so I decided to pot them on into their own individual cells or pots.

Pak choi (left) and lettuce (right)
Pak choi (left) and lettuce (right)

I potted some of the pak choi into individual pots. I unrolled the tubes and carefully separated the roots first, throwing the used tubes into the compost, no waste!

I filled pots and a tray with multi purpose compost and a little perlite to keep them free draining, made a hole in the middle of each pot/cell, and gently placed the roots in. Pak choi are a member of the brassica family (cabbage, broccoli etc) and like to be well firmed in. You can plant them a little deeper, and compact the soil around them with your fingertips. Add a little more soil to the top if they seem a bit low, and gently firm again.

What about other seedlings?

Pretty much all seedlings can be transplanted in the same way, and keeping the pak choi company are tiny little lettuces.

Annoyingly, I often get “leggy” tomato seedlings due to not having any south facing windows, so they grow upwards quickly in search of light.

Potting tomatoes on is just as easy however. Prick out the seedlings from the container they are in. You can use a teaspoon or plant label to gently tease them out. Plant them deeper than they were originally, up to the first set of leaves, and roots will grow out of the stem that is under compost. Remember, always handle seedlings by their leaves and not the stems. It feels like I am picking them up by their ears! The leaves can handle being touched. The stems, at this stage, cannot.

Also, the first of the sunflowers have been potted on, yippee!!

Sunflower seedlings potted on
Sunflower seedlings potted on

What else is happening?

Bedding plants
Bedding plants been sown

I have also sown some bedding plant seeds in this 72 cell tray. 12 each of lobelia mixed, lobelia lilac and lobelia monsoon (dark purple/blue), ageratum and petunias. Good old favourites! This is the first time I have grown any of these from seed, so will keep you posted on their progress.

All the fruit bushes now have green shoots, and the rhubarb is doing brilliantly since I repotted it and fed it with some organic chicken manure pellets.

Mad March is marvellous!

What is giving you joy this month?

Garden update Monday 4th March

We’ve certainly had a bit of everything weather wise in the last week! From almost summer-like temperatures to lashing rain and wind! Meteorologically, 1st March was the first day of spring, however if you follow the equinox phases then you will have to wait until 21st March to call it spring. Whatever you call it, we are entering one of the busiest times of years for gardeners.

What’s growing indoors?

Nonetheless, things are growing. Chits are chitting, nature is just getting on with it.

Chitting potaties
Chitting potatoes var. Vivaldi

The first tomatoes to germinate were, once again, Orange Paruche. They made an appearance after just five days! Out of all the tomatoes I have grown these have always been the first and most reliable to germinate.

Tomato seedlings
Tomato seedlings var. Orange Paruche (left) and Gardeners Delight (right)

I invested in a propagator a couple of years ago, hopefully it will last for years and years. Mine is a fair size, similar to an A3 sheet of paper, but you can get small ones very inexpensively on Amazon. Here is mine.

Another very useful item is a light box. This is basically a cardboard box lined with tin foil, which helps to reflect light back onto your seedlings. I also invested in a grow light. This is a light that emits frequencies that plants respond to, which is red and blue wavelengths. They can also be called full spectrum lights. Again, you can source these quite inexpensively, like these.

On a budget?

If you cannot stretch to a propagator or grow light you can still grow successfully without them. A sunny windowsill is perfect. Using your light box to reflect light onto the seedlings by placing it behind them will throw a bit more light back onto them. This will help stop them from leaning towards into the natural light. Turning the seedlings around periodically will also help this.

Another method is to place a piece of plain white paper behind your seedlings to reflect light. I have a project to show you soon, on how to make paper light boxes.

What’s growing outside?

The onions and garlic are still growing well. I can see the stems on the garlic are thickening, to about the size of a pencil. They still have three or four months to grow so I am hopeful for my best crop ever.

In the greenhouse, sweet peas and pak choi are doing very well. The pak choi will be pricked out (put into their own individual pots to grow on) any time now. All of them have thrown down roots to the bottom of the cardboard tubes which is very encouraging.

Pak Choi seedlings
Pak Choi seedlings
Sweet pea seedlings
Sweet pea seedlings

What else am I doing?

This month I will be sowing a huge amount of seeds, both vegetables and flowers. Indoors and in the greenhouse, and also direct. Lots of preparations have been made, with more to do. The cold frame has been taken out of its winter home in the greenhouse and placed on the plot. The fruit bushes have been pruned and mulched. The rhubarb has been repotted into a bigger pot and fed with chicken manure pellets. My instagram feed shows you more of the day to day stuff I am up to. Be sure to follow me for more!

Next…to pot on the tomato seedlings, for the second stage of their development.

What are your plans for mad March?

Peppers and tomatoes – time to sow

It’s time to sow the sweet peppers and tomatoes. Here’s how I do it.

I love, love, love sweet red peppers! And love, love, love cherry tomatoes. I can eat them like sweets. Picking them off the plant, warm from the sun, and popping them in my mouth is just the best!

However, we need plants first. If you have a propagator, now is the time to clean it up, and switch it on to warm up ready for your seeds. If you don’t have a propagator do not worry, you can make a suitable environment very easily.

Sweet peppers

Sweet pepper seeds ready to sow
Sweet pepper seeds var. Dulce de Espana

The seeds are easy to handle, so you can sow exactly how many you need. This variety is Dulce de Espana, a long, red, sweet pepper, similar to the Romano ones you see in the shops.

First of all, prepare a container with some multi purpose compost. Add some perlite if you have it, don’t worry if not. Fluff up the compost a bit to get out any large lumps. I have some small reusable seed trays, but you could use a yogurt pot, for example. Just make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom.

I should explain, perlite is a white gritty substance which can be added to compost to open up the texture. It aids drainage so the seedlings don’t become too wet.

Seed tray ready for pepper seeds
Seed tray with perlite and compost mix

Ready to sow

Flatten the surface of the compost with the bottom of another container, piece of card, whatever flat surface comes to hand. Spray the compost with a water sprayer so it is slightly damp,not wet. A very fine watering can rose is a good alternative.

Place a few seeds on the surface, a couple of centimetres (1/2 to 1 inch) apart. I cover mine with a sprinkling of vermiculite but you can also just use a sprinkling of compost.

Vermiculite is a product that helps to retain water and lets in light. It is very useful at seed sowing time. I spray water on the vermiculite to ensure it all comes into contact with the seeds nicely. Also, vermiculite is extremely light and this will help keep it in place.

Pepper seeds on the surface
Seeds on the surface
Seed covered and labelled
Seed covered and labelled

Now, if you have a propagator, place the seeds in there. They like temperatures of between 20 and 25 degrees to germinate.

If you don’t have a propagator, you can place your container inside a small, clear plastic bag and tie it closed. Place it somewhere warm and light. I used to place mine on top of the fridge in the kitchen. Always warm and light, just like a propagator. Check them daily and once you see the first sprouts, remove the bag or take out of the propagator to grow on somewhere light but slightly cooler.

Pepper seeds in the propagator
Peppers and tomatoes on the right, flowers on the left

What about tomatoes and chillies?

So, I follow exactly the same process for tomatoes as the conditions they need are more or less the same. If you want to grow hot chillies, again the process is the same. All plants like heat once they are established, so if you don’t have a greenhouse, grow your peppers and chillies indoors. Most tomatoes can be grown outdoors, however I found I had better harvests from the tomatoes that grew in the greenhouse.

Do you have any questions or any hot tips on peppers, chillies and tomatoes?