Updated: Feb 6
Another year, another year to grow some amazing plants and hopefully a fair amount of food I can eat. I hope to grow some fruit and veg, which I will be keeping track off and a collection of stunning plants inside and outside to brighten up the garden. Gardening is a great hobby I would recommend with any eco conscious, wildlife conservative or green thumbed friends. Growing food is also a great sustainable hobby as it stops you taking more food, often with its unnecessary packaging and the food you grow is often more nutritious. It is a rewarding hobby with many benefits that anyone who wants to be truly sustainable should take up. I am trying to become more self-sufficient, which although I am a long way off the more I learn now the more capable I will be in the future, so stay tuned to follow my journey. Here is my growing experience this year:
Although I enjoyed everything I grew last year I wanted to grow things that would be more useful to me and my partner. As well as grow my knowledge and experience with a variety of different fruit and vegetables. This year I have tried to focus on increasing the sheer amount of food per calories than I have before, so here is my plan.
I planted these in early November 2020 but most the work (watering) on them has been in 2021. All I have done is let their leaves grow out and kept them watered. They have taken a bit of a beaten due to the hazardous weather but I am excited to see what they will become. The plan is to harvest them between June and August, depending on how their leaves are looking.
Last year I managed to get a great result, they tasted and smelt incredible, easily 10x better than shop brought. Additionally, I found them fairly easy to grow. This year I have filled the trough with a rough 50/50 mix of sand and compost, made a small line about an inch deep (if that) and careful placed a row of carrot seeds. Last year I put to many in each section making many of them bunch up and a lot of thinning out, however, this year I made sure not to make this mistake. I was a little worried at first, as they took an awful long time to sprout but at last, their green shoots emerged, making me very happy.
Tomatoes are such a versatile vegetable or fruit (I know it is debated) and can be used for salads, soups, sauces and sandwiches. Alongside this they are an easy to grow and a quick go to for anyone beginning to grow their own food. Additionally, they produce a great return on their growth and add a splash of colour to your garden. I have a large pot, which I filled with compost and planted my small cherry tomato plant in (In the centre below). As it got bigger all I had to make a rudimentary bamboo frame (I definitely need some work in this area) to keep up its support and waited for some tomatoes to fruit.
Potatoes are a staple in British meals and I couldn’t agree more from mash to jacket potatoes, there is always a use for these in our meals. Additionally, I am also aware how the potatoes offer one of the greatest returns, as well as having high calories for their weight, so I decided to grow 2 bushes. I had picked up a few grow bags, so all I had to do was plant a potato from my local super market, wait for it to start sprouting and placed it in a thick layer of soil at the bottom of a growbag. As it grew I unrolled the growbag and filled the soil to just under the leaves. I planted 2 and they created huge bushes that filled my garden turning it into what looked like a jungle.
I wanted another vegetable to grow to increase my knowledge, as well as my harvest this year. Therefore, we decided on courgettes. We picked yellow, simply because when we went to the garden centre the yellow version looked a lot healthier than the general variety. Once home I planted them in a large pot and gave it a good water. This again grew, creating amazing flowers, which turned into the many courgettes we harvested.
I have kept a small selection of herbs that I grow out each year, sometimes to add to our meals and sometimes to feed our rabbits. I don’t have to do much other than trim them back and get rid of the weeds. I keep them outside, occasionally give them a water and that’s all.
As part of my goal to go self-sufficient I have been looking for an easy plant that can give me a nice fruitful return each year with little effort. I read that these can grow for 15-20 years, coupled with the fact that these are considered a super food (super beneficial for you) I quickly picked one up. Throughout the year I began picking some handfuls for a gardeners snack.
I have continued my goal to grow some beautiful flowers to help the bees but also to give my small little yard a splash of colour. I am also trying to grow a number of plants that peak my interest, some that are already within my garden and others I hope to grow out for my future home. Here are just a few of them:
Abies Koreana ‘Kohout’s Ice Breaker’:
A new addition to my garden, I saw on my holiday and instantly thought it looked amazing, so I quickly scowered the internet and picked up two. I think they are such unique looking plants and I hope to create quite a feature of them in my new house.
Again as the year before I cut this back late winter and let it shoot grow upwards onto a little wired frame I webbed together onto the fence, which as you can see flower into its beautiful bouquet.
Acer (Japanese Maple):
I have always found these miniature trees incredibly beautiful and think they make a garden look exotic, ancient and colourful. Therefore, I have picked up two, one green I believe called emerald lace and another red. Both I got very cheap and hope will become a lot larger than their current few twigs for my future dream garden.
Monkey Puzzle Tree:
Me and my partner picked this up a fair few years ago as a tiny plant. We have grown it out into several pots up to the one it is in now. It is really now starting to get some size, so we might have to plant it into the ground soon but I hope it settle into it current pot before we move it into our next house.
These bushes came with the house and always manage to bloom covering in roses. Unfortunately, I saw a tremendous amount of aphids clustered around, which I am sure without due care and attending would have possibly ended both my rose bushes. My method to get rid of them is to fill a spray bottle with some water, put it on the single stream sharp mod and spray them off. If I do this for a couple of days it seems to get rid of them. I rarely do anything else but occasional give them a sprinkle of water and always get beautiful results.
I would certainly say that I learnt a lot this year. I am definitely the kind of person that learns more by actually doing than reading, although I do believe I have to do some things several times for those lessons to sink in (sorry to the plants I have killed), I am incredibly happy to start learning now. I have really focused on growing some food this year but also grown my collection of plants, which I am excited to embed into my future landscaping plans. I definitely need to get a bigger garden, which I will keep you updated with and all the food I grow. I will have another post about all the food I managed to harvest this year but let me know what your growing goals are this year.
Updated: Feb 6
It is Veganuary, where in January people devote a month to ‘ try vegan’ and to promote continuing this throughout the year. This is to inspire people to give it a shot and to make people aware of the vegan options available. What’s great about this? Well companies are also jumping on the fast movement of veganism and starting to provide great alternatives to their typical choices. Today, me and my partner decided to go around the fast food franchises and try all the recent vegan options available and rate them on what we though tasted best.
Why should you eat Vegan?
Essentially, it comes down to the two main aspects, which is the ethical reasons (thinking of the animals) and the environmental reason to further help to reduce our negative impact on the world. Veganism is proven to use less resources (food & water), land, and obviously prevents the numerous suffering of animals that often live in horrendous conditions that also add to the greenhouse gases. Even going vegan once a week can have a tremendous impact on the environment, so please do consider it. Anyway, here is our fast food experience in Veganuary 2020:
1. Greggs Vegan Steak Bake
Greggs have done it again. First, they knocked it out the park with the vegan sausage roll and we believe they have done it again. After trying the vegan steak bake, it quickly became our favourite on the list. At only £1.50, it is the cheapest too, so it is defiantly worth giving it a try.
2. Pizza Hut Vegan Pepperphoni Pizza
The most expensive on the list but also the largest. We tried Pizza Huts vegan option with half vegan cheese and half standard mozzarella, as believe most people will ask for real cheese. Surprisingly we thought the vegan side actually tasted better than the side with real cheese but either way it tasted great. Another reason we liked this one is because we feel it is one that vegans and vegetarians really want but never get. This is for companies to simply replace the previous meat item with a plant based alternative that is already out there, in this case Pepperoni. Pizza Hut are often doing deals, so if you want a meal out, why not go to there.
3. Subway Meatless Marinara
In our opinion this was a large improvement from Subway’s previous vegan option of a dried vegetable patty. This meatless meatball subway comes with their rich tomato sauce toasted with cheese with subways typical subway roll. As you would expect it smells great and taste great too.
4. Costa Vegan Smoky Ham & Cheeze Toastie and Vegan All Day Breakfast Panini
Another option that cropped up in Veganuary was Costas Vegan options for either a ham & cheese toastie or an all-day breakfast panini. Well, we tried both and instantly thought both tasted great. Whether you want a quick bit with your coffee or a nice lunch we would quickly recommend either depending on what you feel like having.
5. KFC Vegan Chicken Burger
We are always on the lookout for alternatives that replace chicken or burgers in the fast food restaurants and finally we have got what we have asked for. We thought that this was a great tasting chicken burger, however, a little dry, so does need some work. Also, another large issue was the mistakes the staff keep making. This is accidentally giving a real chicken fillet instead of the vegan alternative. This was something my partner experience and another person in the store, whilst we were there. It seems to happening regularly, as we have seen reports of it happening in many locations according to many news sites. This obviously defeats the purpose of providing a vegan option and is a disastrous mistake to make.
6. McDonald’s Vegan Dippers
I am not sure how the fast food giant absolutely missed the ball with this one. Now, in fairness the dippers do taste nice. However, many people want something that taste or represents the fast foods signature meal, so we feel like this didn’t fully promote veganism. Never the less it is still nice to get another option at the fast food franchise.
These are the vegan options we tried this month and listed in order of our favourite. However, whatever you liked the best it does not matter we are just ecstatic to see more vegan options available. The fact is we are getting more and more options to meet the fast growing vegan movement, which is desperately needed. Even for vegetarians such as myself and my partner it is hard to find a different quick meal other than a typical vegetable patty, so we are ecstatic to have that choice. Finally and most importantly, by choosing a vegan option you are doing better for the environment, as well as being assured no animals were harmed in the making of some delicious food, so why not give it a go?
Updated: Feb 6
I am sure as kids most of you would have grown sunflowers, usually amongst your friends or siblings to see who gets the biggest or tallest one in a fun, friendly and environmental competition. Sunflowers are easy to grow plants that can easily dwarf most people by growing on average 6 to 10 feet. Here I will go into facts about sunflower, how to grow them, why you should grow them and my experience with growing them. So whether you want an interesting and unique plant to grow, an environment friendly hobby or just a healthy competition, then please read on.
What is a Sunflower?
Sunflowers botanical name is Helianthus, which has nearly 70 species within it, the most common of which is called Helianthus Annuus that is grown for edible oil and seeds. However, for the back garden as you are probably growing them for their enormous size you might want to pick up sunflowers with the names ‘American Giant’ or ‘Skyscraper’. Getting your hands on sunflower seed is easy and you can obtain some at most garden centre and many other stores also sell them in the spring. As I mentioned above there is a variety of different types, so get one that you like the look of.
Reason to grow sunflowers:
There are many reason why you should grow sunflowers but if you need a little inspiration, here are the most common reasons:
Bees – Sunflowers are a hot spot of nectar and pollen, both crucial in helping the bees.
Ease of growing – They are incredibly easy to get them to sprout and grow making you feel like a successful gardener.
Looks – I think everyone agrees that sunflowers look magnificent & spectacular.
Seeds – Sunflower seeds are a healthy tasty snack, very nutritious and many of your local animals and wildlife will eat them too.
Environmental – Alongside all other plants, sunflower help to reduce the carbon dioxide we omit.
Competition – It can be an incredibly fun competition!
How to grow sunflowers?
Here are the key things you need to know to grow your sunflowers:
When should you plant sunflowers? You should always check your sunflower packet but most are often sown mid-April to end of May. However, this can be started earlier in a green house.
How often should you water your sunflower? These are watered more often than other plants. The soil should be constantly moist. In the height of summer they should be watered daily. However, you may be able to get away with less than this if it rains and remains cool.
How long do sunflowers take to sprout? Usually, they will sprout in 7 to 10 days.
When do you plant sunflowers in the ground? You should plant your sunflower when the first true leaves appear (these are the second set of leaves).
How long do sunflowers take to reach maturity? They can reach maturity in 80 to 120 days.
What conditions do sunflowers need? They need to be put in full sun and well-draining soil, which can be Improved through manure and compost to ensure good growth. As mentioned above ensure they are watered regularly.
Here is my sunflower experience!
I decided to plant some sunflower for a bit of healthy competition with my partner and to see how easy it is to grow them (spoiler: It is incredibly easy) by following the key guide above. Here is my timeline from planting the seeds to a whopping 7 foot sunflower.
25th May: I planted the seeds into small pots with a small amount of stones at the bottom to help with drainage and your standard multi-purpose compost.
1st June: In just 7 days they had already begun to Sprout.
17th June: Even though they are small the sunflower true leaves (Second set) had emerged. This meant they could be repotted but I decided to wait until they were slightly bigger and better established.
23rd June: The sunflowers continued to grow at a rapid rate and their true leaves had fully come in. I then re-potted them into individual larger pots.
2nd July: I dug a large trench at the back of my garden, which was in full sun and put the sunflowers in. Whilst digging up the soil I got rid of as many foreign object as I could and mixed in a bit of multi-purpose compose. Although it is recommended to plant them two feet apart I was a little short of this, due to space and only separated them about a foot apart (Don’t worry they still grew). I then staked them in place with bamboo and twine.
20th July: As the sunflower continued to grow and summer fully came in I de-weeded the area and twined higher up the sunflower and bamboo to ensure they would not collapse.
28th July: The spectacular heads of the sunflowers had started to emerge with one completely flowering. I also continued to de-weeded the area to ensure maximum growth.
10th August: All the sunflowers were flowering.
20th August: All the sunflowers had completely flowered and seemed to reach the end of their life. I decided to leave them for another week to let the bees collect the pollen and nectar.
28th August: The beautiful sunflowers lasted for a little bit longer but today I harvested their heads. I picked of the seed and laid them on the bird table for the birds of course. However, I have seen many people just leave out the whole sunflowers heads or pin it to a wall or post for the birds to peck at. Alternatively, you can dry them out to make a snack for yourself.
Overall, as you can see the sunflowers from seed to harvest was around 90 days, which isn’t that long at all. The reasons you should grow sunflowers are to help the environment, because it is a beautiful plant and provides a fun competition. They grow at considerable speed for plants making growing them visually exciting. The benefits to the bees are tremendous and the seeds are an added bonus for a healthy snack or to feed your local birds. I hope my recommendation and method for growing my sunflowers worked for you and you decide to grow a few of your own. Anyway, I would love to see how tall your sunflowers got, so make sure to send me a picture on my social medias with #growthesun or #sunflowercompetition and tag me in it.