Tag Archive | Growing brussel sprouts

How to Make Newspaper Plant Pots

It has been a showery week at my allotment.  On Tuesday it lashed down with rain for half an hour and even hailed.  I sat in my car and had lunch watching it, but soon afterwards the sun was shining again:

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Yesterday was officially the first day of spring and spring flowers are looking beautiful.  I noticed my Hyacinths at my allotment are flowering lovely in my flower patch.  I bought these bulbs for just 10p in a sale, approximately four or five years ago and they have given a good show each spring:

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This week I have been concentrating on tidying up last year’s brassica beds, where I will shortly be planting my shallots and onions.

I started by digging up my remaining brussells and freezing them. I am very pleased with my sprouts this year, they are an F1 variety called ‘Igor’.  For years I couldn’t grow sprouts without them ‘blowing’ (which means loose, open sprouts), even though I tried everything that the experts told me to do.  In the end, I tried growing an F1 variety and I now have success:

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I washed and prepared the brussells, blanched them and then ‘open froze’ them (if you are unsure how to freeze vegetables, you can read about it here).

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I also lifted my remaining swedes this week.  I have lots of people tell me that their swedes become ‘woody’ if they leave them in the ground too long.  I have never had this problem, but I have read that two reasons for ‘woody’ swedes are either a lack of water at some stage while they are growing or a lack of nutrients in the soil.  I must admit I only ever water mine if it’s really, really dry, but I do plant mine where I have manured the autumn before and I give the ground a feed of blood, fish and bone a couple of weeks before I plant my swedes out (I sow my swedes in mid-April in newspaper pots).

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I noticed the kale at my allotment is about to flower.  It usually lasts a bit longer before it flowers, but I can only assume it is because it has been mild for the last couple of weeks.  I chopped the flower buds off in the hope it will last a bit longer as it doesn’t freeze very well and I have so much of it left for us to eat.

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I also noticed that my spring broccoli is nearly ready to pick (my youngest daughter will be pleased as it is her favourite vegetable):

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I spent time this week making the edges of my paths neat, where my ‘poached egg plants’ grow.  I love the poached egg plants I have, as they have a pretty flower (that looks like a poached egg) and they attract hoverflies which eat aphids. They also attract lots of bees too:

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But on top of this, the plants are also useful, as excess plants can be dug into the soil like a green manure.  So I think it is a very useful plant to grow and self seeds easily every year.

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Finally this week at the allotment, I forked my old brassica beds over lightly, ready for this years crops:

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At home this week I sowed some spring onions.

We all have one crop that we can’t grow at our allotment and Spring onions is my crop.  I always found that hardly any seeds would germinate, even though Spring onions are supposed to be so easy to grow.  I eventually learnt a trick to get around this…I plant a small pinch of seed into modules full of compost, which I grow on until they are a couple of inches high.  I then plant them out in bunches and they grow just fine this way:

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 I also spent time ‘pricking out’ my seedlings that I sowed on the 6th March.  These are red cabbage, white cabbage and some brussel sprouts.

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I planted the seedlings in paper pots that I made:

Newspaper Pots

Newspaper pots are great to make as they are extremely cheap and environmetally friendly to use, as the recycled materials decompose when you put them in the ground.  This also helps the plants that do not like root disturbance, e.g. swedes, that can be sown in the pots and then planted a few weeks later, still in the newspaper pots.  The plants find it easy to grow their roots through the damp pots when they are in the ground.

I was once asked if I used a special tool to make my newspaper plant pots…the answer is “no”.  You can buy a ‘Newspaper Pot Maker’ for approximately £10, but I prefer to make my pots using either a baked bean tin, or a soya sauce bottle, depending on the size of pot that I require and some masking tape…(the masking tape decomposes along with the newspaper in the ground).

I thought it would be useful to write how I make the pots again, as I have a lot of new people reading my blog now.  So this is how I make easy newspaper pots:

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How To Make Newspaper Pots:

 

You need a newspaper, some masking tape and a soya sauce bottle for small pots or a baked bean tin for larger pots

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Fold a sheet of newspaper into thirds

(if the newspaper is very large you may need to fold the sheet in half first)

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Roll the paper around the bottle, so the newspaper is over lapping the base of the bottle

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Ensure you don’t roll the newspaper too tightly, or it will be hard to remove the paper from the bottle.

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Use a small piece of masking tape to secure the paper at the top and then fold in the newspaper over the bottom of the bottle.

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Secure the bottom of the pot with a small piece of masking tape.

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You can use different sized tins and bottles depending on the size of pot required.  For example, I use a baked bean tin to make pots ready for when I ‘prick out’ my tomato plants.

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I find it’s best to make the pots and use them straight away, as sometimes the masking tape becomes ‘unstuck’ if you make them too far in advance.

Important:

When your plant is ready to go into the ground, make sure all of the newspaper is under the soil, or the paper will act like a wick and dry the compost out.

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I hope this has been useful.

Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

Have a good weekend!

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Tomatoes, Carrots, Brussels And A Bit Of What You Fancy

Over the last week, I have finally got round to sorting my tomato bed, ready for the end of the month when I plant out my outdoor tomatoes.

A variety called 'Outdoor girl'

A variety called ‘Outdoor girl’

I have been growing a variety called ‘Outdoor Girl’, which I have used over the last few years.  These tomatoes fruit a bit earlier than most outdoor varieties and I find this helps to get a good crop before the dreaded ‘blight’ hits.  You can read about blighted tomatoes here.

Before I could dig the patch over, I had to clear the last of my winter cabbages.  They have given me a great crop, but now it’s time to start to harvest my spring cabbages that are coming along nicely.

My last winter cabbages

My last winter cabbages

After clearing the cabbages and a few weeds, I forked over the patch.  I had a small amount of manure left over from my old pile, so I also forked this in as it was well rotten and will help to improve the soil around my tomatoes.

Afterwards I sprinkled some blood, fish and bone, which is a slow release fertiliser and raked it into the soil.

I had some weed suppressant left over, so I laid it in-between the two rows, as this will help to keep the weeds down.   The cabbages were the first crop I had grown in this area, so there are lots of weed seeds in this soil.

So now I will wait until the end of May to plant my tomatoes.  I always wait until the end of the month to plant my tender crops and even then I check the weather forecast for the next week or so.  I remember one year we had a late frost in the first week of June that killed all of my tomato plants, so I have certainly learnt from this.

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Another job I did, was to plant my brussel sprouts.  Last year I tried using an ‘F1’ variety to help stop my Brussels from ‘blowing’, which is when the brussel leaves don’t stay tightly together.  This certainly helped, as I had a good crop.

My brussel sprouts

My brussel sprouts

On the 7th March this year, I sowed a variety called ‘Igor’ .

Brussel sprouts need firm, fertile soil, so I began the preparation of this bed back in the autumn.  I started by digging manure into the bed and allowing the soil to settle over the winter.

Two weeks ago, I sprinkled some blood, fish and bone over the area and raked it in.

Also, to stop the brussels from ‘blowing’, I tread down the soil by walking all over it, before I plant them.  In fact, I walk, dance and jump on it, just to make sure.  After planting the brussels, I also tread down lightly around the plant with my boot, just to definately make sure the soil is firm around them.  I do the same for cauliflowers as they grow best in firm soil too.

I put a  homemade cabbage collar around each plant (you can see how to make them here) and then covered the plants with a net, using my usual ‘bottles and canes’ method and I will keep a close eye on the plants for a while.

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This week I sowed my carrots outside.

I go to a lot of trouble to grow my carrots and I know some of you will think that it isn’t worth it (as carrots are so cheap to buy), but there is nothing like the taste of a home-grown carrot, they taste so sweet.

Some of last years carrots

Some of last years carrots

I never had any success growing carrots in my soil.  I’m not sure if it is because it is heavy clay, but nothing I did helped the seeds to germinate.  So now I grow them in a raised bed, which I have great success with, though it is hard work.

Over the winter, I filled my raised bed with homemade compost and I mixed in a lot of leaf mould.  Finally, I mixed in some horticultural sand to help with the drainage.  I left the raised bed for a few weeks, to let any weed seeds germinate and then I removed them.

I raked and raked until I finally had a fine tilth (which just means it looked like crumbs) and on Friday, I finally sowed my carrots and then covered them with environ mesh, to stop the carrot fly.

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I will keep my fingers crossed now that they germinate.

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Finally, I sowed some climbing annuals on the other side of my ‘swing’.  I planted clematis last week.  Hopefully they will look good in the summer:

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A Bit Of What You Fancy Does You Good.

I haven’t had a piece of Madeira cake for ages and suddenly out of the blue I fancied a piece.  So I indulged myself and made one.  It was lovely.  Here is the recipe:

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Madeira Cake

175g margarine (or butter)

175g caster sugar

3 eggs

250g self-rising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2-3 tablespoons of milk

The zest of 1 lemon

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Preheat your oven gas mark 4 / 180C / 350F

Grease a 7-8 inch cake tin and sprinkle flour over the fat, tap the excess flour off.

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Cream the margarine and sugar together

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Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Add a tablespoon of the flour to the last egg to stop the mix from curdling.

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Sift the rest of the flour and the baking powder into the bowl and fold it in.

Mix in the milk a little bit at a time, until the mix falls slowly off your spoon.  Fold in the lemon zest.

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Put the mixture evenly into your cake tin and bake for 30-40 minutes.

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Leave to cool on a cooling tray.

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Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday.