My Move Into Garden Vlogging

It’s official! The weekly vlogging series is away.

With the arrival of 2018, a renewed sense of optimism and lots of exciting things to talk about on the allotment, I decided that it was high-time I started making more videos. Alongside regular articles and recipes on the blog, I’ll be covering everything from the whys and the hows of gardening to recipes, reviews and interviews on YouTube.

Whether you’re a gardening pro or a gardening newbie, my YouTube channel will have something for everyone. And, what’s more, I’ll be presenting the sowing, growing and cropping in a way that I hope is unique and refreshing.

There are lots of stereotypes about gardening and growing your own food. It’s time to cut those stigmas loose and open up gardening to a whole new generation.

As food prices continue to rise and food quality decreases, more and more people are actively learning and engaging with their food. Growing your own food is a powerful act. Through taking control over production, you’re helping the environment, yourself and – in some cases – your bank account too.

So, whether you’re new to the growing game or you’ve been gardening for years, join me for the ride. I want this to be a conversation though, so if you have ideas for content or suggestions for the channel, leave a comment below.

You can also find my first two videos below. Finally, don’t forget to subscribe to my channel for all of the latest updates.

Have a good week everyone!

12 Meals of Christmas – Day 6 – Make Your Own Healthy Granola

To celebrate Christmas, I’ve launched a brand new blog series covering the twelve days of Christmas with the 12 Meals of Christmas. Each day you’ll be getting an exciting christmassy recipe to help you save money and your belly for the big day.

One of the easiest ways to save a little extra cash, I’ve found, is to make your own cereal. Granola, when bought from the supermarket, has way more sugar and other things than its homemade equivalent. Like all things homemade, you also have greater control over the fruit, seeds and nuts you want to add in.

I’ve been making my own cereal for years now. Whilst it’s often a more basic version of granola – every once in a while it’s fun to make this tray baked oaty morning treat too. Make the granola tonight in a big batch and enjoy it throughout the week. There are no rules here, so if you want to enjoy it for lunch or after dinner, go ahead – that’s what winter food is all about!

And if you’re worried it’s going to take a lot of time to prepare – it takes no time at all. Pack your granola full of nuts and seeds and you can go to work this Christmas week feeling ready. Alternatively, pop it into a small container and have it on your work breaks.

Make Your Own Healthy Granola (Serves 3) VG

300g of porridge oats

125ml of maple syrup

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

50g of walnuts, chopped

50g of pumpkin seeds

Two apples, peeled, cored and chopped

Begin by pre-heating the oven to Gas Mark 2/150C. Add the maple syrup, oil and honey into a large mixing bowl and then add your oats, seeds and apples. Stir the ingredients together thoroughly before spreading the granola onto a baking tray with a greased baking sheet. Pop this into the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, removing the granola once the apple is baked through and the oats have started to brown.

If you want to eat the granola straight away, leave it to cool for a few moments before adding milk and fruit. For using the next day, store in an air-tight container for up to a week.

Stay tuned tomorrow for more from the 12 Meals of Christmas. If you enjoyed this recipe, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a comment below!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date with all of the meals featured.

Building Your Small Space Garden and Other Things to Consider

Raised beds and pots are great for growing your own food without a lot of time. If you’ve only got a couple of hours spare a week, planting strawberries, kale and other plants into containers means no risk of unwanted weeds, slugs are easily kept at bay and pots can be moved into the shade or into warmer areas if the weather changes.

Renting? Just because you can’t dig up your garden or you can’t guarantee that you’ll be living somewhere for a long time doesn’t mean that you can’t have a go at growing your own food. By choosing smaller vegetables and planting them in pots, you’ve made your garden portable – meaning that it’s super easy to transfer from home to home.

When choosing pots and containers, a general rule of thumb is to establish your small space garden in pots between 30cm and 60cm deep. You also want to be careful of overcrowding, keeping only two medium-sized plants per pot at a maximum. It might seem like a lot of fuss, but you only really need a couple of kale or tomato plants to enjoy the benefits of homegrown food. Unless you want to build your own small-holding on a terrace (which you may be tempted to do once you get the bug) you shouldn’t have a problem.

Here’s the balcony garden I had last year. I enjoyed some tasty tomatoes and potatoes from this little space:

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Looking to go a bit bigger? The best way to approach growing food on an allotment or in a garden is to set up cheap and easy raised beds. I’ve done a little video to show you how you can achieve this in half an hour, which you can find here. Wooden pallets are readily available and make sturdy sides for a raised bed. However, corrugated metal, bricks, tiles or anything solid that you have to hand can also create a perfect raised growing space.

Soil-wise, getting your hands on manure and leaf mold is essential for strong, healthy soil. If your raised beds are on top of existing soil, layer manure, rotting leaves, food scraps and newspaper over the surface to encourage composting. If you’re building raised beds on a patio or concrete, ensure that the boxes are deep enough (between 60cm and a metre is perfect) and fill them with a mix of manure, top soil and easily degradable things such as coffee grounds and banana peel.

Once this is done, you’re ready to go.

Plants For Small Space Gardens?

Strawberries

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Care-free plants. They keep on giving too. Plant a handful of these into a raised bed and, so long as you feed and water deeply one day a week, they should produce a bounty of delicious fruits. The plants also produce runners (little clones of themselves) which you can peg down into the ground and develop into new plants in the next year. Strawberries are popping up online and in garden centres for fruiting next year right now, so get them quick.

Blueberries

Blueberries are expensive in the supermarket, so why not grow these delicious berries at home? The only thing the plants need is acidic soil – so use Ericaceous or rhododendron compost for these. The first year might not give you much, but the following years will bring you a bounty.

Dwarf Fruit Trees

Get a slightly larger pot and you can enjoy fruits straight from your terrace. When you’re looking for the fruit trees you want to include in your plan, make sure you’re selecting dwarf rootstocks. I’ll be covering this topic in the next few weeks so stay tuned for more information.

Kale

Kale is super. It’s also a pretty care-free vegetable. When you plant your kale, make sure the soil around the bases is pressed down firmly. Give them a good dose of chicken manure or coffee grounds to boost the nitrogen at the beginning. Net against birds and set up beer traps in the garden (pouring beer into containers) to stop the slugs from feasting on the leaves. Take a pair of scissors and give the newer leaves in the middle a snip to harvest. Make sure that you leave the larger, older leaves to keep the plant producing new foliage ready for your meals.

Salad Leaves

Create little dips in the soil with a fork or spade and scatter the seeds lightly over the top. Cover gently with a light sprinkling of soil. Remove every other plant (in the case of large-leafed spinach) when they’ve grown their second set of leaves. Leaves such as lettuce and rocket can continue to grow. Same as above for harvesting.

Beetroot

Sow the seeds thinly in drills and cover lightly. Prick out every other plant when they’ve developed their second set of leaves. Harvest once the bulbous roots have swelled to the size of a small fist. Grab the leaves and stalk and gently tug the beetroot up.

Tomatoes

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Plant two plants per pot for cherry tomatoes and one per pot for larger varieties. Remove the clusters of leaves which develop in the angles between the main stem and the leaves to stop the plant from vining. Tie to a stake to stop the plant from falling over. Feed once a week with tomato feed.

Peppers

Same as above for planting. Water regularly and feed once a week with tomato feed to encourage more fruits to ripen.

Potatoes

Plant two or three potatoes at the bottom of each potato bag. Cover them entirely with earth each step of the way as the plants begin to appear until you reach the top of the pot. Harvest the potatoes once the plants have flowered and have begun to die back.

Peas and Beans

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Plant a seed next to each stick or, in the case of peas, obelisk or frame. Tie the plants up as they grow. Nip out the growing tips for broad beans. Harvest peas when the pods begin to swell. Broad beans can be harvested once the pods have begun to droop and appear glossy.

Setting Up A Greenhouse Without the Cost

A few weeks ago I took a risk. Indtead of following sense and investing in an expensive but reliable glass, I decided to buy myself a cheap £30 model from Wilko. Yes, that’s right. Perhaps I have gone mad if I think that I can keep a plastic sheet and frame up against the wind on my exposed allotment site. Yet, £30 is a bargain against the £250+ that I would be expecting to pay for a sturdy greenhouse or polytunnel. Even a self-build polytunnel is a lot of time, energy and money – especially if you want the plastic sheet to keep the space warm.

Even as I pressed the order button, I was doubting my own competence. Surely a cheap plastic greenhouse like the one I’d ordered wouldn’t last more than a day on a windy allotment site?

Well, three weeks on from setting up the greenhouse, I can confidently say that it’s managed to stay up. Of course, it’s still too early in the year to tell whether the model will keep up throughout the rest of the growing season. However, £30 is still a massive saving on the expensive rates needed to buy a new frame, or the time and energy and transport needed to move a “free” model from a Gumtree advertiser’s home.

What kind of magic have I used to keep something so cheap up against the torrents of wind? Read on to find out more:

Dig Your Greenhouse In

Now, by digging in I don’t mean bury it like a plant. What I mean is measure out the space needed to fit in the base and dig down to around a spade’s depth. Once you’ve set up the greenhouse, slot this into the space. The ground on all four sides will both stop the wind from getting under the frame and lifting the greenhouse up. The ground will also be pushing the sides in.

Cover the Base, Push in the Sides

Once you’ve firmly placed the greenhouse inside the space, it’s also a good idea to get some woodchip or gravel and run a layer of it over the top of the base to secure it even further.

In addition to this, you could do what I’ve done and dig two wooden crates or supports into the ground either side of the greenhouse. This will add to the structure of the frame and stop the wind from getting anywhere vulnerable.

Reinforce Those Joins

More often than not, the problem with plastic greenhouses has been the poles coming out of their joins, causing the entire frame to fall in on itself. To stop this, I’ve reinforced all of the greenhouse’s joins with strong camping tape to keep everything in place. Alternatively, you could use any kind of strong tape to keep everything together. This is an important step, because the tape will also ensure that the frame has structure.

Follow all of these steps and you should hopefully have a greenhouse that also stays up. Just to give you an idea of how windy my allotment site is, even the strongest plastic polytunnels can suffer at the hands of the harsh gales. These thrifty ideas will give you that warm and sheltered growing space to start off some healthy vegetables this year at a fraction of the cost, time and energy needed to build a greenhouse or polytunnel.

How to Grow Chillies Without a Lot of Space

Whenever I get into a conversation about growing food with one of my friends the most common reason for them not attempting to have a go is because of a lack of space. Now, as many of you are aware, my mission in life is to prove to everyone, no matter what you do or how much time you can spare, that growing your own food is actually very achievable.

So I started the Grow Your Own Food Challenge. The aim of the challenge is to show you all from seed through to meal that, garden, balcony or windowsill, there are still plenty of options available to you.

I’ll be posting videos and hashtagging #seedsaturday and #seedsunday every time I sow a new plants or share an update on the plants I’ll be growing this year.

Last weekend, I started my first batch of chilli seedlings. You can see the video below. Remember, if you’re new to this or you know someone who wants to grow their own food, make sure you follow my Facebook page for more information.

The Grow Your Own Food Challenge Begins

The Grow Your Own Food Challenge begins

Yes, it’s finally here. Spring is only just around the corner and the chance to save money, introduce fantastic flavour and live a healthier lifestyle are all within your grasp. I’ve created a little introduction which can find below:

I’m challenging all of you who are reading this now to have a go at growing at least one edible plant this year. Here on my blog and on Facebook and Twitter, I’ll be posting daily sowing updates and videos, hints and tips, recipes and more to encourage you all to have a go yourselves. You don’t need a garden, you don’t even need an outside space – a windowsill is often enough to grow some delicious salads.

I don’t just want to witter on to you for 6 months though – this is a conversation that all of us can join in and come away from feeling inspired. So share your pictures, ask questions and get growing!

Let’s start this growing revolution!

Jazz Up Your Lunch – Quality Quiche

Sure, we’re in the middle of winter and you’re still trying to lose all of that weight from Christmas. Every now and again, however, we all deserve to indulge ourselves. Sometimes, the urge to buy a pie, pasty or anything else with fatty pastry overcomes us and we end up resenting it. There is a simple solution though: make your own quiche.

Quiches are the best. They combine delicious pastry with cheese and egg to make something that not only fills you up, but makes you feel good for a long time after too. Of course, by making your own quiche, you can also create something 100x healthier than one from the supermarket. Oh, don’t worry about making pastry if you don’t have the time – just pick up some ready-rolled shortcrust pastry instead like I’ve done below.

Here are some of the best vegetarian quiche combinations:

Pepper, tomato and goat’s cheese

Broccoli, garlic and Stilton

Onion, mushroom and cheddar

Mushroom, pepper and mozzarella

Quality Quiche

  • 1 roll of shortcrust pastry or savoury tart case.
  • 5 eggs
  • 150ml of double cream
  • 75ml of milk
  • 140g of Mature cheddar cheese
  • Vegetables of your choice, chopped
  • 100g of the topping cheese of your choice

Step One

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4/ 180C. Grease a tart case and roll out your shortcrust pastry or remove the packaging from your tart case.

Taking a large jug, beat your 5 eggs together. Add the cream and the milk, as well as some seasoning and any herbs or spices (cayenne pepper, paprika and chopped chillies work fantastically as spices and basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary for herbs.)

Step Two

Add your grated cheddar to the base of the quiche and then layer over the vegetables of your choice. Finish by pouring over the egg mixture, grating a little more cheese over the top and then placing into the oven. Test every so often to make sure that the egg is solid but wobbles slightly when you shake it.

Step Three

The quiche should keep for three lunchtimes. Alternatively, keep it as a dinnertime treat. Either way, you’ll save some money on the meal deals and canteen food, as well as keeping things a little healthier as well.

The Grow Your Own Food Challenge

I’ve spent quite a lot of the last four years working out how I can stop buying supermarket vegetables altogether. However, in truth, the food revolution starts with just one plant.

It doesn’t matter if you choose to grow a huge courgette plant or you sprout a few pea shoots for salads: the end result is still the same. When you come to harvest your crop, you will see just how great tasting real, fresh food is.

How do I convince you that growing your own food is actually cool?

You see, I could use this blog to talk about growing your own food until the cows quite literally come home. The best way that I can show you about growing your own food is by doing it myself. I’m not talking about long videos and blog posts about how big my pumpkins were this year.

No, the Grow Your Own Food Challenge will guide you through growing easy, fun crops like tomatoes, chillies, micro-salad plots and windowsill peashoots. Everything will be achievable with just an hour or two to spare in the week and myself and my blogging friends will be presenting everything in clear, short bites.

I split my time up between working in a supermarket, writing for a newspaper and creating content for a garden centre. My weeks are full of work – and, although I’d love to live on my allotment, I can’t. Through this lack of time, I’ve learnt to garden and grow food easily, efficiently and without much effort at all.

If I can do it, you can too.

Like what you see? Check out the Facebook group where all the action will be happening and keep following the blog. Don’t settle for second-best – this year, set yourself the challenge of growing your own food. Re-energise your food, live healthily and take care of your very own food factories.