Don’t Let the Weeds Bring You Down

Chances are that if you’re reading this you’re either a very neat and tidy grower or you’re a messy one like me. Yes, contrary to the professional (cough, cough) pictures, my allotment is more on the wild side than it is the Gardener’s World side. The site is big; I’ve inherited a whole batch of great plants – yet I’ve also inherited a very well-established hoard of bindweed, which is nigh-impossible to get rid of.

On a typical trip up to the allotment in mid-summer, I can often come away feeling disheartened. Even if I get on with a good bit of de-weeding, the grass stands wild and tall and the pesky weeds dominate the plots once more. In the end, I’ve come to the realisation that I should simply embrace it.

Young Growers – Don’t Give Up Over Weeds

I’m appealing particularly to my generation of young gardeners here, as it’s with first-time gardeners and growers that weeds win.

Across my youthful allotment site, I often compare younger gardener’s plots to older people’s. What I find is that, where there had been good intentions – growing a range of tasty, organic fruit and veg – what instead happens is the manured beds and cleared edges become perfect breeding sites for thick weedy growth.

Many of these people give up their plots after a short while and abandon the idea of growing their own food completely.

As a passionate advocate for growing your own food, and as someone who has his fair share of weedy worries, this makes me very sad. So, I want to tell you something:

Weeds Will Always Grow Because Nature Has More Time on Its Hands

You can’t stop weeds entirely, so move that thought aside. When you see pristine allotment plots, notice the little tuft of grass near the bed’s corner or the creeping vine – no one is perfect and no allotment is either. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything to improve conditions, though.

By mulching your growing beds heavily in the late autumn with leaf mold, horse or cow manure and things like newspaper or cardboard, you can kill off a lot of weeds by starving them of light. Then, when the few sprouts begin to surface, book yourself in for a weekly de-weeding session that only needs to last 10 minutes. Do a quick scan of your beds and pull a handful out here and there. By keeping this consistent (use a phone calendar if you need to) you’ll have more time to focus on your veggies.

By raising the soil up, you can also stop the weeds from spreading. The trick is to smother and starve any unwanted plants underneath. Then, once your growing beds are ready you won’t have to worry about weeds. So long as the weeds aren’t growing or creeping over any growing vegetables, just keep them a little managed.

It’s also healthy to let the grass grow. Remember that lots of wildlife relies on tall grass for coverage, pollination and much more. So you only need to give that a cut once it reaches your anywhere before your knee. If the grass is going to seed, it’ll likely spread across your beds. Don’t worry though – as long as you keep up a little bit of weeding each week and learn to embrace the messiness of nature, you’ll do just fine.

Whatever you decide to do – remember this: if the weeds are too high, don’t give up. It’s nature’s job to grow – and you just have to work with that. What’s more important is that you get something out of your garden or allotment. You know, there are even professional gardeners and veg growers out there who use weeds and permaculture to make their crops better.

 

Make Your Own Vegan Burger – The Kidney Bean Supreme

As vegans and vegetarians, we have our own little culture. It might be spreading fast, but we still find ourselves in a difficult position when we venture out of our little cultures and find ourselves presented with a choice between kebab shop or a greasy takeaway. Often, things are better when they’re homemade, and this burger is no exception. Smashed kidney beans, delicious garlic and a spicy edge created by chilli flakes and paprika make this recipe the perfect batch meal ready for heating up after a night out or for work lunches the next day.

With too much meat being proven to be a bad thing both for your health and for the environment, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying this meal as a meat-eater either. Students and those of us on a budget, four of these vegan patties cost me under £2.50 to make and I enjoyed them over two days (mainly because I’m greedy). They will certainly fill you up though.

I’ve added Tesco‘s own brand vegan cheese as a topping to this recipe. However, you can skip this to keep things cheaper or add cheddar instead. A little yoghurt would work a treat (vegan option also available).

The Kidney Bean Supreme

Ingredients

  • A tin of kidney beans
  • 1 onion, chopped thinly
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Three handfuls of spinach, chopped
  • 4 mushrooms, chopped into small chunks
  • A tsp of paprika/ A tsp of chilli flakes
  • 50g of breadcrumbs

Step One – Frying

Take a large saucepan and heat a tablespoon of oil. Drop in your sliced onion and mushroom chunks and fry until they begin to brown. Once they do remove from the pan and place into a large metallic or plastic mixing bowl.

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Step Two – Mashing

Into the mixing bowl, add your drained tin of kidney beans, along with the other ingredients and smash them into the onions and mushrooms. You want to make sure that the kidney beans are mashed enough that they stick the other ingredients together, whilst retaining some of the shell for a good texture.

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Step Three – Patties

This bit is messy. Turn the hob back on and heat your saucepan up again with a little more oil. Taking your hands, form your mixture into several patties and place them onto the saucepan, making sure you give yourself enough space between each to flip them over.

Step Four – The Finale

As the patties cook, take a spatula or a turner and flip them over every 4-5 minutes to ensure that both sides cook evenly. Once the patties have been cooking for half an hour or so, remove them from the heat and serve up in buns. Add vegan cheese, normal cheese, yoghurt or salsa, as well as a tomato slice extra spinach or gherkins for the ultimate burger experience.

Why not double or triple the recipe and keep the patties in the fridge for a supply of burgers throughout the week? You’ll be enjoying delicious food every day and save money too.

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Small Space Garden | Episode 1 – Building A Small Raised Bed

I’m 27 and I have a great passion for growing food. For five years I’ve been on a journey to learn about how I can get more colour, flavour and excitement into my meals. From allotments to balconies and windowsills, I’ve grown in a variety of spaces. Now, I want to share what I’ve learnt with you.

In towns and cities, space is becoming increasingly hard to come by. If you’re interested in growing your own food, but you rent a home, you don’t have a garden or you just don’t have the hours to commit, the idea of growing your own food might seem impossible.

I have great news for you though: you only need a windowsill, a balcony or a small raised bed to grow some delicious crops. In my new series, I’m going to show you exactly how you can get the most out of growing your own food in a small space.

In the first episode of the Small Space Garden, I’m building the small raised bed that I’ll be using for the project. All you need is some thick material to keep the bed together, compost, food scraps, woodchip or dead leaves and you can turn your small or paved garden into a fresh food feast.

Check out Episode One, below:

younggroundsound – #1: Paul Matson Interview

Are you interested in gardening but don’t have the first idea about how to get started?

In my first younggroundsound podcast I talk to Paul Matson, co-creator of Sow How, about his book and about just how important growing your own food is for your health. Check it out below:

Growing your own food couldn’t be easier with Sow How. You can find more information about the book here. You can also follow Sow How on Twitter, here.

 

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 Start a Windowsill Veg Patch

Windowsills can often be awkward spaces in homes. Just what do you do with them? Do you keep them free, or do you pack them with nice-looking ornaments?

How about a pot, some soil and some salad seeds?

It might not be the prettiest sight you’ve ever seen on your windowsill, but a container full of crunchy salad leaves or delicious herbs is a fantastic investment. How many of us have gone to the supermarket to pick up a £1 bag of “fresh” herbs and found ourselves only using half of the bag, whilst the other turns into disgusting slush?

By growing your own tasty basil, you can have a constant supply of leaves to add to money-saving recipes and to add an extra bit of flavour to meals. In addition to this, if you keep your supply of salad leaves or herbs going, you can also start saving money. I’ve been running a little experiment on my own windowsill to see just how successful windowsill salads could be. You can see my first blog post about the project here.

And, after a couple of months, this is what my mini veg patch looks like now:

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What a fantastic little production line this salad pot is. Whether you’re keen to bring fresh leaves to your work sandwiches or herbs to your pasta pots, a windowsill salad patch is definitely worth a go!

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!

Beat the January Blues: My Easy Veggie Tikka Masala

How do you make the poor month after Christmas more exciting? The weather is still cold and there’s not much money in the pot so eating out is not an option.

Well, there is one way that you can celebrate: make your own easy, delicious curry by following this ridiculously easy guide. Oh, and by the way, it’s both veggie and vegan friendly!

TOTAL APPROXIMATE COST: £4.64

DAYS IT’LL LAST: 3

Go on, treat yourself this evening and have a tasty curry, you won’t regret it and you’ll save money as well!

Like what you see? Why not check out some of my other tasty, cheap and exciting recipes here.

I’d love to see your results, why not share them over on @youngground or on facebook and we can celebrate a foody January together!

4 Benefits of Growing Your Own Edible Plants

As most of you already know, I’m on a mission. It’s quite a small mission; to get all of you growing your own. This isn’t a blog about how to get the biggest pumpkin or how to neaten your flower beds. No. This blog is about growing nice and easy food, cooking that food into delicious recipes and then making you realise that by doing so, you’re suddenly part of your own revolution.

This year, I’m running a Grow Your Own Food Challenge for all of you to get involved in.  All you need is one happy plant and you can benefit in so many fantastic ways.

See my blog on getting started in the Grow Your Own Food Challenge, here.

In anticipation for the new growing season and my challenge, here are 4 Benefits of Growing Your Own Edible Plant.

1 – The Environment

You don’t really think about it when you go into your local supermarket, but because pretty much all of our food is imported from Europe and further away it’s all making an impact on global warming. Whilst we all love a banana, by growing a chilli plant, tomato plant or a fruit tree – you’ll be cutting that mileage and lowering your carbon footprint in the process. By growing your own, you’ll also be helping these guys out, too:

2 – Health

If you grow your own you’ll be living a healthier lifestyle. From experience, fruits and vegetables are better picked fresh and not sold to you after several days of travel. As well as tasting richer, home-grown tomatoes and other vegetables are jam-packed with more nutrients. In addition to this, by introducing fresh tomatoes, peppers and salads into your diet you will find that you’re shopping less (meaning less temptation to buy sweets and other naughty things) and you’re cooking your own delicious meals more often too.

3 – Variety

Variety is a huge benefit to growing your own. Why should we let supermarkets dictate what we can and can’t have on our plates? From black tomatoes to knobbly pumpkins – there are a huge range of exciting, quirky and flavour-bursting vegetables out there. There’s nothing better than the smug feeling you get when you cook and create with vegetables unknown to most people.

4 – Money

Of course, by growing chillies, tomatoes or peppers you can save money too. One tomato plant could give you £5 back, and you may find even more savings by growing your own chillies and garlic through the year. The savings do vary; yet, with rising food prices, doing the growing yourself makes so much sense.

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The Grow Your Own Food Challenge starts in February, so stay tuned. What are you looking forward to growing this year? Is this your first go? I’d love to hear from you – why not connect with me on Facebook or Twitter