Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Globe Artichokes

Globe Artichokes Cynara scolymus
The Globe Artichoke is a handsome, thistle-like pant, architecturally decorative enough to comfortably sit in the herbaceous border rather than the vegetable patch.
It grows to about 1.5m (5ft high) with magnificent arching silver leaves and if left to flower, produces giant thistle-like flower heads.

It’s that global flower head that is a gourmet’s delight if removed and cooked before the fleshy scales open.   Boiled or steamed the edible part of the flower head are the fleshy base of each scale and the artichoke heart, which is the bottom of the flower and has the finest flavour.

The Globe Artichoke likes a good soil, regular watering, feeding and frost protection in the winter

Propagate from seed or spring suckers

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Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Summer Holiday

Summer holiday ...we’re all going on a

If you are planning to get away this holiday season, here’s a little reminder of some of the jobs to do in the vegetable patch before going away, to avoid returning home to a wizened, pest and disease ridden disaster, spoiling all that good work which has been done in the vegetable plot to date.

First, be sure to pick all the vegetables that are ready or almost ready before you go, or, ask a neighbour to gather in any vegetables that ripen whilst you’re away.

Apply a good top dressing and fertiliser before you depart, followed by a heavy watering to prevent your plot becoming under nourished while you are away.

Tackle all those nasty pests and diseases which are sure to have a feast while you are soaking up the sunshine.

Remove any young plants from under cloches and frames before departing to avoid the risk of overheating or shortage of water.

Plant out seedlings and freely water them at least one week before going away to get them established.

Finally, those runner beans will be reaching the tops of their canes soon, so nip out the tops to encourage pod formation and growth.  This will also encourage side shoots and consequently, more beans.

Also see Seaforth Garden Jobs for the Month page and add all your holiday tips.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Himalayan Lily

Humbled by Himalayan Giant

Walking to a friend’s house I stumbled upon a flower garden bursting with colour, form and intrigue. Curious to see more of the garden I knocked on the owner’s door and asked to have a look around. I was not disappointed, the array of herbaceous plants, bulbs and shrubs was breath taking and in the coming months I hope to share with you, more of this wonderful plant collection on the Seaforth Garden Seasonal Interest page.

But let me start with Cardiocrinum giganteum, the Giant Himalayan Lily. A hardy bulbous perennial which dies after flowering, but leave behind small offset bulbs which will reach flowering size after 3-5 years. Cardiocrinum giganteum grows up to 3m (9 ft) tall, with a spiral of delicately fragrant, large, white trumpet  shaped flowers which appear between June and August.

 A truly magnificent plant!

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Friday, 10 June 2011


No Green Aliens here, Jim
Whether you like your potatoes baked, boiled, chipped, or mashed this traditional vegetable complement many of the favourite dishes we eat today.

And now that my seed potatoes have made about 15cm (6in) of top growth, it’s time to start earthed up.  Earthing-up is the old gardening term referring to the process of banking up soil around young potato plants to prevent greening which occurs when the tubers are exposed to light and beware, green potatoes are poisonous.

The advantages of earthing up are many to us gardeners – it encourages the formation and swelling of many more tubers in summer and early autumn and, at the same time, this protects the exposed tender growth from being caught by frost.  I’ve notices that it also has the added advantage of killing any weeds that might have grown amongst the potatoes plants.

A useful tip when earthing up is, try to make the sides as upright as possible so that spores of  potato blight do not contaminate the tubers.

As well as potatoes, I also earth up celery and leeks to prevent greening, and broccoli, kale, and cauliflower to keep them firm in the ground.

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Tuesday, 7 June 2011


Fresh Peas Please...Pretty Please!
This year’s first sowing of garden peas fell foul to the gardener’s old enemy, the dreaded slug. Many of my seeds were eaten away as they emerged through the soil and thus failed to establish. Determined as ever to enjoy fresh peas from a pod in my garden this summer, I have sown a second crop which are doing just fine – so far!
Whether I am growing the dwarf or taller varieties, I always support the young pea plants with enough sturdy supports to protect the plants against strong summer winds that will blow them over when bearing their heavy fruits.

I like to use traditional brushwood (pea sticks) of a height that the peas will grow to. The pea plants will soon cover the sticks so they can no longer be seen. However, other methods of support can be used such as bamboo canes linked together with garden twine or garden netting -That sounded like something the BBC would say.

And with a wee bit of gardener’s luck my children and I will be enjoying fresh garden peas this summer.

Do let me know how your garden peas are coming along?

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Saturday, 4 June 2011

Spring Cabbage

Spring Cabbage

I think that the Spring Cabbage is the prettiest of the cabbage plants, a little smaller than other varieties and distinctive by their pointed shaped head.  If sown in July-August and planted out between September and October, Spring Cabbages are still available for harvesting well into mid June before the summer varieties take over.

I love to use Spring Cabbage in stews, salads, coleslaw and soup.

Let me know how you how you use your Spring Cabbage?

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Friday, 3 June 2011

Winter Gardens

Sunderland Winter Gardens
I recently took a stroll, not through the deep dark woods (for anyone who knows the Gruffalo story) but through the Winter Garden in Sunderland.   An amazing steel and glass structure with advanced technology enabling it to copy many of the different climate conditions found around the world. 
The Winter Garden creates the ideal growing conditions for a range of exotic plants and flowers to grow; the warm south facing side of the garden is home to the cactus and succulents, whilst the shade loving ferns thrive in the cooler north side of the garden.

Features in the garden include the tree top walk allowing visits to the garden to experience a rare bird’s eye view of the canopy where the tallest plants compete for sun light.

Centre stage in the garden is elegant water sculpture by the international acclaimed sculptor William Pye. The sculpture stands like a guardian over the garden and incorporates  a continues film of water flowing down a 10 metre high column of highly polished stainless steel to form rhythmical patterns, giving visitor to the garden a sense of coolness in what is a humid climate.  

Walking down the fern gully I am reminded that these ancient plants are similar to the plants that once where common across Britain and Europe 350 million years ago, before the age of the dinosaur.  Ferns do not flower and seed like other plants but, instead produce thousands of tiny spores, from which new plants later develop.

My enjoyable visit concluded at the Koi carp pond, which was a great attraction for children and grown-ups alike. I sat for a while eating my sandwich and drinking from my flask of tea next to the pond memorised by these colourful fish, some as long as your forearm as they gently glided through the shallow, rocky pool.

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Tuesday, 31 May 2011


Carp Flags for Japanese Boy’s Day
As my children are half Japanese we adopt many of the Japanese cultures such as flying carp shaped flags to celebrate ‘Boy’s Day’ or Tango no Sekku.

It is a wonderfully colourful sight to see the carp shaped flags, known as Konibori flying in front of every Japanese house hold or stung across the lake in the local park throughout the month of May, as each family celebrate their son(s). As a family who are also extremely proud of our son we relish the opportunity to fly our Koniboro each year.

The origins of Boy’s Day arise out of Chinese legend which has it that when a carp swims up stream it becomes a dragon – I guess this is because the dragon is the mightiest sign in the Chinese zodiac. Therefore, the carp shaped flag blowing in the wind imitates the movement of a swimming carp.

05 May is a national holiday in Japan and now celebrates the personality and happiness of all children as well as giving gratitude towards their mothers, and has been renamed Kodomo no hi.

The Konibori make a wonderful addition to the garden throughout May.

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Monday, 30 May 2011


Grow your own

Strawberries can be grown in well prepared beds, containers, and under cloches, in a cold greenhouse or warm greenhouse no higher than 16oC (61oF) to encourage early cropping.
All they ask in return is a sunny, sheltered spot and a well drained, fertile soil in which to grow.  But do remember that strawberries plants must not be planted in an area recently occupied by potatoes, tomatoes or chrysanthemums if you want to avoid Verticillim Wilt.

Dig over your strawberry site well before planting and remove all the weeds, adding well rotten manure or good quality compost.
 Soak the health strawberry plants before planting in late summer 35-40cm apart. Best to crop rotate every 3 years to reduce the risk of pest and diseases.
 Water the plants regularly from planting and especially when fruits begin to swell.
Keep the soil weed free, feed with tomato feed every 7-14 days, as fruits start to swell place straw, polythene or mulch matting underneath them to keep the fruits clean.  
After fruiting cut back the old foliage and runners to encourage new growth at the base of the plant, remove the mulch to prevent a build up of pest and diseases.

Pick your strawberries when they are a bright red colour and eat as soon as possible. - Enjoy

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A wide variety of Strawberry and Fruit books


Strawberry Cake Recipe

May is the month we celebrate my beautiful daughter’s birthday. My daughter’s favourite fruit is without doubt the strawberry and as I love to bake and my daughter loves strawberries it was only fitting to bake a birthday cake decorated with that prize fruit of the summer – the strawberry.

Check out my cake recipe on my recipe page

Conventional strawberries can be bought all year round as most of Europe’s strawberries are grown in the warm climate of Southern Spain.
But if you are going to buy strawberries do try to buy the organic ones as these are much more sustainable as they help to protect one of Europe’s most important wetlands in Southern Spain, the Donana National Park.

Are better still grow your own garden strawberries with their bright red colour, juicy texture and strawberry aroma this really is the prize taste of the summer.

And by growing strawberries in the greenhouse you too can grow an early crop.

Friday, 13 May 2011

That Old Favourite - Cress

Most children first experience of growing plants from seed starts by growing that old favourite cress, which can be enjoyed on a salad or a garnish in a sandwich.
Cress is so simple to grow and can be grown in doors all year round.

The two most popular methods to grow cress are either in a jar or in a shallow tray.
Growing in a jar:
Place the seeds in a clean jar and soak, a jam jar is ideal. Cover the opening of the jar with a porous material and secure with a rubber band, I find that a piece of cloth or old tights does the job.
Drain off any excess water and if the seeds need forcing place in a dark warm cupboard such as an airing cupboard.   Once the seeds have germinated and if they require greening move the jar to a well lit spot but away from direct sun light.
Do not forget to keep the seeds moist draining off any excess water through the secured cloth.

Growing in a shallow tray:
Place several layers of kitchen towel onto the base of a shallow water proof tray and dampen thoroughly, draining off any excess water, a saucer is ideal. Scatter your seed evenly onto the damp kitchen towel.   If the seeds need forcing put the tray into a polythene bag and place in a dark warm cupboard such as an airing cupboard.  Once the seeds have germinated and if they require greening, remove the tray from the polythene bag and place the tray in a well lit spot but away from direct sun light.
Do not forget to keep the seeds moist draining off any excess water.

Other seed to enjoy
Mung Bean Chinese bean sprouts
Adzuki Bean Japanese bean sprouts
Radish, Alfalfa, and Fenugreek

Do let me know what seed sprouts you have been growing indoors this year?

Wednesday, 11 May 2011


Crazy for seeds

This spring time I have just gone crazy for seeds, anything from Sun flowers to Sweet corn and Cress to Chinese cabbage.
It’s just so magical to sow these dormant seeds and within a matter of days watch the small seedlings pushing their cotyledon leaves towards the light and develop into a small plant.
Nurtured on by that one special ingredient we all need in our journey throw life...Love.

Keep on sowing your seed, for you never know which will grow -- perhaps it all will. - Albert Einstein

Why not tell me what seeds you have been sowing for the garden this year?

Monday, 2 May 2011

Pumpkins - What Giants!

Each year I like to grow something different or something I have not grown before and this year it is the turn of giant pumpkins.
I soaked the large seeds in water for a couple of days before sowing them into a medium size tray and within a week, look what germinated. They are massive!  I potted them on a couple of days ago and there is no stopping these fellas.
If they keep growing at this rate my children will have wonderful pumpkins to carve out for Halloween and I, lots of pumpkin for pumpkin pie.
The variety is Big Max

My Historic Climbing Frame

There is nothing I enjoy more than making something out of something old. How does the saying go again? “What is one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure”.
A neighbour is having an extension built and was throwing away a wooden palette that had been delivered with building materials upon it.  Immediately I thought I could use that, as it would make a great climbing frame for this year’s Sweet Peas and climbers for future years.
And despite it being the wedding of Prince William and Katherine I began constructing the climbing frame with the occasional viewing of the TV to watch the wedding ceremony and the all important ‘Kiss’.
I will always look at my climbing frame with all its regal splender and think of that day in history.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Elliot Clarks Florists, Edinburgh - Thanks for the Jam

After a long and bitterly cold winter, the coming of spring finally enabled my father to make his long drive to my mothers home city of Edinburgh and place of rest.
The drive takes us through the dramatical landscape of Northumberland, across the border regions and on to the beautiful city of Edinburgh, stopping at the pretty market town of Jedburgh for a cup of tea and a toilet break.
Being a traditional man and of little interest in the love of gardening, my father turns to Elliot Clark Florist in Edinburgh who always give him a warm welcome and are happy to help him to chose a suitable bunch of flowers for my mother.
Listening to the florist helping my Father with their gentle Edinburgh accents gives me a tremendous sense of comfort and immediately transports me back to my childhood.
Settled on a beautiful bunch of roses my father and I made our way back to the car, but before we could pass the frontage of the shop we were stopped by out on the street by Evie, one of the florist who warmly give my father a pot of her home made Victoria Plum jam. My father was delighted to receive the gift and has thoroughly enjoyed on his jammie piece! - Thank you Elliot Clark Florists