Tag Archives: indoor gardening

Back yard gardening: Spring Onion success

Gardening in a small space means there’s never enough room for everything you want. I’ve begun to make more use of the vertical space, especially along the sunny fence as I was showing you in this previous post. During Spring and Summer, my indoor window ledges are also pressed into service as ‘gardening’ areas for herbs and salad leaves. I try to grow some food crops as well as flowers.

This year I’m experimenting with growing Spring Onions both outdoors and indoors. The variety is DT Brown’s classic, White Lisbon. The indoor Spring Onions are in an upcycled apple juice carton. I wasn’t sure if this would be deep enough for them to fully grow.

Indoor-grown Spring Onions
Indoor-grown Spring Onions in their upcycled apple juice carton

The idea initially was to pot them on into a deeper container but somehow time got eaten up by other things and the seedlings grew too large to be able to transplant them without damaging the roots. Hence, the Spring Onions are still growing in their apple juice carton on my kitchen window ledge, but they don’t seem to have suffered too much it seems. They’ve grown on well from sowing in early April and some are almost ready for harvesting now. As I was preparing this post, I noticed I’d sown 20 seeds and this has resulted in a dozen plants.

Outdoor-grown Spring Onions
Spring Onions grown on outdoors after seedlings germinated indoors

My first two pots of outdoor Spring Onions were first sown into a small ‘propagator’ (upcycled food packaging) and kept on the kitchen window ledge. When the seedlings showed, I transplanted them into upcycled milk cartons and then I moved them outdoors.

Spring Onions sown and grown outdoors
Spring Onions sown and grown outdoors

For the final sowing of Spring Onions at the end of April, I sowed another small batch of seeds directly into their upcycled milk carton pot and hung them outside straight away. The milk carton plant pots are just hung on the sunny fence with string. Keeping the jug handle on the milk carton plant pots is useful for tying them onto other supports, I’ve found. I’ve done this with the air-pruning plant pots I made from milk cartons to hang on my willow garden screens too.

Outdoor Spring Onions have grown on well
Outdoor Spring Onions have grown on well in their upcycled milk carton plant pots

All of the outdoor Spring Onions have grown on well, despite regular buffeting by the seemingly incessant wind this Spring and Summer. The White Lisbon Spring Onions have been easy enough to grow. Regular watering has been the only after-care needed.

Sweet Pea plants showing some snail or slug damage
Sweet Pea plants showing some snail or slug damage

I’ve been pleased to note that another benefit to my vertical gardening experiments has been … so far! 😉 … the plants seem to have stayed safe from the munching molluscs that share my yard – or perhaps they’ve just been too busy grazing on my Sweet Peas!

J Peggy Taylor

Advertisements
Autumn Green Beans

Autumn Green Beans – harvest time

Growing green beans in Autumn has been a first for me this year. Buoyed by the success of my initial air-pruning planting experiment earlier in the Summer, I was keen to keep up my air-pruning experimenting momentum.

Here in northern England we would normally sow green beans in May and harvest them through July and August. I decided to sow my green beans in early August and see what happened.

Primavera Dwarf Green Bean - DT Brown seed packet
Primavera Dwarf Green Bean – DT Brown seeds

The beans I am growing are “Primavera”, which is what we call a French bean – a long,thin and round stringless green bean. As I was growing my plants indoors, the variety I’ve chosen is a dwarf bean – the plants only grow around 2 feet high (60cm). In my earlier post I showed you how I’d sown the beans in their upcycled air-pruning plant pots and their progress up to the end of September. So, how have they fared in the last month?

My first green beans ready to harvest on 7th October
My first green beans ready to harvest on 7th October

On 29th September the two plants in the more successful of the two plant pots had grown to their full height and there were several promising-looking green beans on these plants. I decided to give them another week of growing time before my first ‘harvest’ on 7th October, almost exactly two months after sowing. After I’d picked my first beans, there were still several developing beans left on the plants, plus there were now a few beans growing on the plants in the second plant pot. The two plants in the second plant pot have never quite caught up with the plants in the first pot. In my earlier post I explained that light levels were the issue that made the difference between the two sets of plants. The plants have been growing in a bright, west-facing window.

The less well-grown second pot of green bean plants with their beans ready to pick
The less well-grown second pot of green bean plants with their beans ready to pick

If you’ve grown beans before, you’ll know that regular harvesting normally encourages more beans to grow. I kept the plants well-watered and fed with my ‘Magic Potion’ Comfrey feed and this has kept the developing beans growing well. However, since early October, a few colder nights seemed to begin impacting on the foliage and also killed off the remaining flowers. I began covering the glass of the window each night with some recycled packaging I had to hand. I noticed the green beans on the plants seemed to be growing quite slowly now, although we have had a lot of sunny and warm days in October this year.

Second harvest of green beans ready to pick on 22 October
Second harvest of green beans ready to pick on 22 October

Two weeks later, on 22 October, I ‘harvested’ the second handful of green beans, including a couple from the less successful plants in the second plant pot. I would certainly say that whilst I am pleased that at least some beans did grow on all of the plants, the plants haven’t exactly been prolific! Quite a number of small flower buds developed but then fell off before flowering properly. I don’t see these as problems with the Primavera bean plants themselves, nor the fact the plants have been indoors in air-pruning plant pots, but rather that green bean plants are not built to withstand cooler temperatures.

Successful Sage plant and some of the green beans
Successful Sage plant and some of the green beans

To an extent this was not an unexpected outcome to my Autumn bean growing experiment. In the past, in my eagerness to get things growing in Spring, I’ve sown bean plants too early in May and had them fail because the temperature was too low. Getting the plants to germinate seems relatively easy, but it does seem the weather needs to be warm enough during the day and night to enable the bean plants to be productive. I’m pleased to say the Parsley, Thyme and Sage herb plants that I grew from seed this Spring and that have accompanied the green bean plants on the same window ledge are continuing to flourish.

Flourishing Parsley and Thyme plants with fading green bean leaves
Flourishing Parsley and Thyme plants with fading green bean leaves

I shall try sowing some more of the Primavera dwarf green bean seeds next May and see how they do in Summer … making sure I don’t sow them before it’s warm enough of course!

With all of these green beans and green herbs, I decided to link this post to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, on the theme of ‘green’. Do take a look at the wonderful greens others have found for the challenge.

J Peggy Taylor

Autumn Green Beans

Autumn Green Beans: an indoor gardening experiment

How well will Dwarf Green Beans grow in Autumn here in northern England? Our main growing season here is during Spring and Summer, but I’ve read a few articles about gardening people trying to extend the productive season for vegetables.

With this idea in mind and following on from my air-pruning plant pot experimenting over the Summer, I’ve decided to try out my next experiment – growing Dwarf Green Beans in Autumn.

I’d read that the particular strain of bean I have chosen to plant can germinate at temperatures as low as 7 degrees Celsius. Having said that, I intended carrying out my Autumn bean-growing experiment indoors, partly because I anticipated a better crop of beans from a warmer environment and partly because I expect the snails with which I share my back yard would find green beans irresistible!

Upcycled air-pruning plant pots
Upcycled air-pruning plant pots

Creating some suitable plant pots was my first task. If you’ve seen any of my earlier posts on growing plants using the air-pruning method, you may recognise the upcycling transformation of these 4 pint milk cartons into air-pruning plant pots. For anyone looking for more information on air-pruning, you can find the detailed post on how I created the air-pruning pots and simple grow bags here.

Upcycled air-pruning plant pots for Dwarf Beans
D. T. Brown’s Primavera Dwarf Bean seeds ready to be sown on 9th August

My choice of bean is the variety “Primavera” from D.T. Brown’s seed merchants, a dwarf pencil podded French Bean. As I was looking to grow my plants indoors, I needed compact plants that would only grow to about 2 feet/60 cm in height. “Primavera” is highlighted in the catalogue as a D.T. Brown’s Choice vegetable and is expected to crop heavily in normal conditions. This variety is also advertised as being weather-resistant and having good disease resistance, so I was hopeful that I’d made a good choice.

Germinated Green Beans on 17 August
Dwarf Green Beans germinating after 8 days

I sowed two beans in general purpose compost in each of my air-pruning plant pots on 9th August. Just eight days later I was delighted to see the first three beans had germinated and the fourth bean germinated the following day. I kept the plants well-watered and placed them on a fairly sunny and bright west-facing window ledge.

By 12th September I noticed the first tiny beans had begun to develop on the plant furthest to the left in the photos.

Green Beans appearing on 22nd Sept
The first small green beans appearing on 22nd September

By 22nd September I was amazed to count 16 beans on this first plant but sadly there were none to see on the two plants in the right-hand plant pot. I observed that although flowers were forming on the plants in the right-hand pot they did not seem to be growing properly. I decided to move the right-hand plant pot and leave a good space between the pots to allow more light to reach these so-far-unproductive bean plants. Within five days of moving this pot I spotted a couple of tiny beans beginning to develop on these plants.

Green bean progress by 25th September
Green bean progress by 25th September

The beans on the first-cropping and most productive plant have progressed well. I photographed them on 25th September and again today, 29th September. Some of the beans are starting to fill out a little now too … not long before the first few will be ready to pick!

Green bean progress by 29th September
Green bean progress by 29th September

When I checked on my bean plants today, 29th September, I noted a couple of yellow leaves. I haven’t fed the bean plants up to this point but I shall start adding some of my Comfrey “magic potion” when I water the plants now.

We had some dull, damp and misty weather earlier this month but the last week has been much sunnier with some very warm days. As temperatures cool, I shall have to see how my Autumn-grown green beans continue to grow in their air-pruning plant pots. I shall let you know.

J Peggy Taylor

Fresh cooking herbs on a plate

Handy home-grown herbs

There’s nothing quite like having your own home-grown herbs right there ready to add a handful of fresh flavour to all kinds of cooking. From flans to fish and stews to salads, I really love being able to snip some of my favourite herbs right when I need them.

Not having much space means it makes sense for me to grow the herbs I use most. For me, that means Parsley, Thyme, Sage and Mint. This Spring I sowed my pots of Parsley, Thyme and Sage indoors.

I was starting from scratch with most of my herb plants as the previous plants had either reached the end of their productive lives or succumbed to backyard pests! As an extra precaution I went for indoor window ledge gardening for these three herbs this year.

First Parsley seedling2014
My first parsley seedling of 2014

It seems a long time since I sowed the Parsley seeds in yoghurt pots back in early March and watched the first little green crooks pop up through the compost. After the seedlings had grown on a little, I potted them up into some deeper recycled vegetable trays, spacing out the plants so they had enough room to grow.

Potted-up Parsley seedlings growing their first leaves
Potted-up Parsley seedlings growing their first leaves
A forest of Parsley plants growing in their upcycled plant pots on an indoor west-facing window ledge
A forest of Parsley plants growing in their upcycled plant pots on an indoor west-facing window ledge

The Thyme was sown at the end of March into its own mini-coldframe – an upcycled salad box with a hinged transparent lid. Thyme seedlings really are very small at first so I tend to sow seeds thinly and grow them in a little clump.

The tiny Thyme seedlings germinating in their upcycled mini-coldframe
The tiny Thyme seedlings germinating in their upcycled mini-coldframe

I then leave the Thyme seedlings just as they are without pricking them out separately. When the seedlings grew larger I simply potted up the whole clump into a clay plant pot. I chose a clay pot for the Thyme as it prefers well-drained soil.

My clump of Thyme is growing on well in its clay pot
My clump of Thyme is growing on well in its clay pot

The Sage was sown in early April in its larger sized clay plant pot – Sage also likes well-drained soil. Sage seeds are large enough to sow individually so I carefully distributed twelve of them around the pot. Although it wasn’t especially cold, it took some time to persuade the Sage seeds to germinate. When no seedlings seemed to be appearing I covered the pot loosely with a plastic sheet for about a week, then sure enough, through they all popped up quite quickly after that!

The Sage seedlings were eventually persuaded to put in an appearance - then they all popped through at the same time!
The Sage seedlings were eventually persuaded to put in an appearance – then they all popped through at the same time!

The Sage seedlings certainly very quickly made up any lost growing time – they seemed to shoot away on this sunny west-facing window ledge!

The Sage plants have grown on rapidly after a hesitant start
The Sage plants have grown on rapidly after a hesitant start

The Mint has grown on well from a cutting I obtained late last Summer. After encouraging this herb on my ‘warm’ window ledge over the Winter, I potted it up and placed it out in my yard in early April.

The Mint cutting in my backyard is growing on into a plant in its own right now
The Mint cutting in my backyard is growing on into a plant in its own right now

It’s starting to look like a real Mint plant now and at least it seems our slugs and snails don’t care much for menthol so they are steering clear of it, I’m pleased to say!

I find growing my own herbs is really easy. Herb seeds, some general purpose compost and some containers to grow them in, that’s all you need. You can see I haven’t gone for any fancy stuff here! Apart from the two simple clay pots, most of my ‘plant pots’ are recycled packaging from vegetables or other foodstuffs. Yoghurt pots are another of my favourite upcycled containers, along with milk cartons which I do find can be extremely versatile.

Harvesting fresh herbs couldn’t be simpler – a pair of scissors is all I use. I will usually just cut enough for the cooking task in hand. With Parsley, I harvest starting with the outside leaves. I took my first Parsley ‘harvest’ in early May – that’s a couple of months from sowing the seeds. I’ve aimed to grow enough plants to provide a plentiful supply for our needs, allowing time for the plants to grow on again. The Parsley should continue to grow and provide fresh leaves throughout the year from this indoor planting (unless it gets very cold in winter).

With the Sage, Thyme and Mint, I will continue to use fresh leaves over the Summer. However, I shall also start cutting and drying some of these herbs too, for use during the colder months. I’ll show you more on that another time.

J Peggy Taylor

Rocket seedlings, sown early March

Spring seedlings – home-grown and wild

There’s always something magical I think about seeing tiny seedlings sprouting through the earth in Spring, whether they’re out ‘in the wild’ or if they’re just regular domesticated seedlings I’ve sown myself.

First salad seedlings 2014
First salad seedlings of 2014 on my window ledge

My first sowing for this year was a tray of mixed salad leaves that I started off early in February. I grow most of my ‘eating’ leaves on a sunny east-facing window ledge so they can get plenty of daylight … without the having to compete with my slimy mollusc friends who frequent my back yard! This first sowing of leaves is now just about large enough to begin picking.

February-sown salad leaves almost ready to eat
February-sown salad leaves almost ready to eat

I find it very convenient to have fresh salad leaves to hand so I tend to choose the cut-and-come-again varieties. Another thing I do is to make regular sowings to provide an ongoing supply. My second sowings went in early in March and are showing good progress already. Our recent prolonged spell of Spring sunshine has certainly helped them on their way. These leaves are another variety of lettuce and my first sowing of rocket of this year. I like to add rocket and some wild leaves usually too to my salads to give a bit of extra flavour and bite.

As well as salad leaves I also like to grow a few fresh herbs. My mint cutting is still thriving as it sets down its new roots in its new ‘big’ pot – it looked a bit lost when I first planted it out, but it is beginning to spread out now, as mint likes to do. And this weekend I was delighted to see my first parsley seedling hook its tiny pale crook through the compost and open its seed leaves to the light. Now it has been joined by a number of others too.

First Parsley seedling2014
My first parsley seedling of 2014

I sowed the parsley in early March at the same time as the lettuce and rocket, though the parsley has been residing on a different window ledge that has the benefit of sunlight from above and a central heating radiator below. This is my special seed-sprouting and cutting-generating window ledge for those plants that need a greater level of warmth to work their magic.

Bitter cress rosettes
Rosettes of bitter cress – my first edible ‘weed’ of the year

In my back yard, my self-seeding wild salad leaves are making progress – garlic mustard and bitter cress. Both of these wild plants grow easily I find. The bitter cress arrived of its own accord and is happy to make a home in any of the pots where I allow it to. I originally harvested some local wild seed for my garlic mustard and it has continued to self-seed each year since. I also have two tiny plants of wood sorrel that emerged from some mud cleaned from walking boots! I am hoping they will grow on – perhaps a little rich leaf mould will help them on their way – I shall try.

My next sowing will be some more thyme as that’s another herb I find extremely useful. More time would be good too … I wonder if I can find some seeds in a catalogue for that …. 😉

J Peggy Taylor