My Mini Indoor Greenhouse

Mini indoor greenhouse

Mini GreenhouseHaving a garden with not much space means it’s difficult to start seeds growing when the weather is slow to warm up. For this reason I had been looking for something I could use for indoor planting that wasn’t a brown or black plastic seed tray that looked like it belonged in a shed.

Then I found the perfect thing! A mini greenhouse from Ikea – and for only £12.

Quick and easy to assemble

Everything you need comes flat-packed in one box and you can put it together in minutes with no tools needed.

The greenhouse has a white steel frame that measures 45cm wide and 35cm high with a depth of 22cm. Within the frame you slot the plastic sheets that make the house. The frame then fits into slots on the tray base. On this I’ve been able to fit seven small pots.

Once you’re all set up, you can open or close the top windows – handy for getting in there when it’s watering time. And you can leave them propped open if you want to give your seedlings some air.

It does the job and it looks pretty good, too!



Building a Chilli Farm at Home

Chilli farm


This year, I have never eaten so many chillies in my life! I’m throwing chillies in to nearly everything I cook. I can’t seem to get enough of them, so it made sense to try to grow my own.

Starting with the classics

To start myself off I picked up a pack of seeds that contained three classic chilli varieties:

Jalapeño – medium heat
Cayenne – fiery fellas
Scotch Bonnet – extreme

Planting properly for a change

Then I tried to break habits of a lifetime by planting these things properly! I bought some compost that’s suitable for growing seeds and put one seed in each hole the recommended distance apart (details given on the back of the packet).

This is not my usual planting style, which would generally include scattering the whole packet in! Planting properly now means any seedlings have a better chance at life – and I have some seeds left for a future sowing.

I planted the seeds into pots on a windowsill greenhouse that I got from Ikea. The green pots had the Jalapeño, the pink pots had the Scotch Bonnet and the terracotta pots had the Cayenne – colour coding was the best way for me to remember which was which!


Planting out the seedlings

Once the seedlings emerged and looked strong enough, I took out the lesser specimens to give the better ones more room. I didn’t have the heart to throw away the ones I’d pulled out, so planted them into pots in the garden just to give them one last chance!

When the greenhouse started to get leafier, and the plants looked strong, I created my chilli garden against a wall with a range of larger pots – their final homes. I ended up with three Jalapeño, four Cayenne and four Scotch Bonnet.

Starting to bud…

It’s many weeks later now and the plants are all going strong, except for two casualties… Two of the Scotch Bonnets have been munched right down – by what? I haven’t got a clue.

Looking at the plants today, I can see the start of some flowers, which of course had made me a little more excited than it probably should! So, fingers crossed that I’ll be able to come back soon and show you a colourful crop!

The iPhone App that Tells You What’s in Season

Seasons iPhone App showing food in season

Eating with the seasons is one of the best ways to get the optimum nutrition and taste from your food. But when you’re sitting in that restaurant or visiting your local shop, how do you know which of the foods on offer are actually in season right now?

Well, if you have an iPhone, you can now find out at the touch of a button with ‘Seasons’, a new iPhone app created by Christian Klotz and Saskia Schmidt.

Behind the Seasons App

Christian and Saskia are passionate about eating with the seasons and used to go to farmers’ market every week. They started their iPhone app just for fun, but it soon blossomed into an indispensable guide to seasonal fruit and veg – a harvest calendar for the whole year that you can put in your pocket.

After completing their first calendar – a guide to the German fruit and veg season – they continued to cover the different growing seasons of the UK, Ireland, France and the US. Now, using GPS/WLAN, the finished app will auto detect the region you are in and covers West and Central Europe, UK and Ireland, the US and Canada.
foods in season

How Does it Work?

If you click the star icon, you’ll get a complete overview of what fruits and vegetables should be available right now. You’ll be given several categories to choose from, from a screen featuring four stacked pallets. From here you can find food at the beginning of its season, food in season, food at the end of its season and food that is always in season.

Touch the relevant pallet section and you’ll be given a list of the foods available in that category, each with a photograph for easy identification. Select a food and you will be presented with further information on its growing season, history and uses.

As well as finding foods in season right now, the Seasons app also gives you the choice of searching by month, category and keyword. This is really handy if you want to plan in advance.

Gardeners will also find it a handy tool for helping them plan their crops to make the best use of their plot.

In all the app covers 170 foods spanning fruits, vegetables, lettuces, herbs, fungi and nuts.

How to Get the Seasons iPhone App

If you are interested in the Seasons iPhone app you can find out more information about it here. The app is currently being sold for just £1.19 ($1.99/€1.59) from the Apple App Store and through iTunes.

strawberry seasonin season info

Radish Seeds – 42 Days After Planting

Radish plants at 42 days

The last time I photographed the progress of my radish seeds was 13 days after planting. 29 days later, this is the result.

The seedlings pictured in the previous photo have gone to the great vegetable patch in the sky after being dug up by one of the animals in the neighbourhood. Luckily I planted two rows.

I have been so concerned with finding ways to discourage animals from the radish patch that I neglected the next crucial stage in seed growing – thinning the seedlings out.

My efforts on the animal-front seem to have been quite successful though.

How to Get Animals Off the Vegetable Patch

olbas oilFirst I put down some twigs, which worked fairly well, although some of the radishes still got dug up – and while less pooh appeared after that, I did notice a few poohs of both the fox and dog variety (the things you learn growing up in the country!).

My next plan of action was to put down some used, dried tea bags each with several drops of Olbas oil. I was given this tip by my mum who took it from a calendar.

I don’t think I’ve seen any excrement since I put the tea bags down. I do have to refresh the Olbas oil every now and then, but at around £2 from my local supermarket, this is cheaper than any ‘Dog Away’ type products you can get in the garden centre – and hopefully it’s more gentle on the ground.

Since I took this photo, I have thinned out the weedier plants to give the stronger ones more space to grow – I hope it’s not too late . . .


All Things Radish – History, Growing and Nutrition

radish seeds germinated

Thirteen days after planting, my radish seeds have germinated, despite the threat of being dug up by the cats and dogs of the neighbourhood.

My seedlings have pairs of lush green heart-shaped leaves, which look a bit like mustard (from ‘mustard and cress’ fame) and there’s a good reason for this. The radish plant is closely related to mustard and they both belong to the brassica family of vegetables, which includes cabbage, turnips and broccoli.

The Radish in History

Radishes were first grown in China thousands of years ago, then in Egypt where ancient writings have shown they were cultivated before the building of the pyramids.

In Ancient Greece the radish was so revered that gold replicas were made and offered to the god Apollo, who it seems was a very busy god responsible for a number of facets of life, including medicine and healing.

The radish found its way to England in the mid 16th century and into Shakespeare’s Henry IV shortly after – ‘. . . when a’ was naked, he was, for all the world, like a forked radish, with a head fantastically carved upon it with a knife.’ (King Henry IV. Part II. Act iii. Sc. 2.)

Planting Radishes

After I planted my seeds I found some very precise radish planting instructions from the Texan Department of Horticultural Sciences. Their method would require more land than I have got, but then I found the Cambridge Science and Plants for Schools website, which really does prove that you can grow radishes in the smallest space. They have step-by-step instructions on growing radishes in film canisters (although by picture 5, it looks like the canister has grown to the size of a baked bean can).
Radish seedlings pulled

Radish Seedlings and Sprouts

Radish seeds don’t have to be planted, they can be grown in a sprouter and eaten just as you would eat mustard and cress or any other sprouted bean or seed.

As some of my seedlings have come up bunched together in what would be a good sprouting stage, I pull a few out and decide to give them a taste test.

They have a warming, peppery taste with a subtle flavour of (surprise, surprise) radish! I think they would be great for perking up cheese or egg sandwiches, or as a topping for salads and soups.

Radish Nutrients

So what nutrients does this humble salad veg have . . .

Radishes are a very good source of fibre, vitamin C, folic acid and potassium, and a good source of riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese. Other nutrients, including iron, are also found, but in lesser quantities.

Radishes are also mildly anti-inflammatory, which is another good thing. A diet containing anti-inflammatory foods can help to control inflammation in the body, which is an underlying factor of so many allergies and illnesses.

In a few weeks’ time (fingers crossed), my radishes will be fully grown and I can’t wait to see what they taste like fresh from the soil. I had better go and water them now . . .

Discover 10 Tasty Radish Recipes.


Planting Seeds

seed packets

A couple of weeks ago I reclaimed some planting space in my small garden when a tree fell over due to the weight of snow. Excited at the prospect of growing some food, I headed to the garden centre and returned with packets of radish, carrot, lettuce and chive seeds in my grubby paws.

A New Attempt to Grow My Own

I haven’t had much luck with seeds in the past. I think I’ve gone wrong by planting the seeds too low and not watering them enough.

Determined to do the right thing this time, I got out some tools and started to break up the soil, only to unearth poop upon poop of cat excrement with fresh dollops of dog poop on top.

How disappointing – my tiny patch of land appears to be the local pet potty. My seeds will have no chance of survival if I put them in only to be dug up by poopers.

Remembering Not to Plant Too Low

Disheartened, I replanted some spiky plants that were overgrowing round the front into the potty area, and planted some seeds in the patches in between.

Remembering not to plant the seeds too low, I dragged the tip of a cane in the soil to form a little trench about half-an-inch deep, sprinkled in the seeds and covered them up.

‘Animals Like Soft Soil on Their Bottoms’

At this point I phoned my parents who suggested covering the seeded areas with twigs as ‘animals like soft soil on their bottoms’ and wouldn’t like the feeling of the twigs.

Twigs duly placed I got out the watering can and gave the seeds their first soak.

How Long Will the Seeds Take to Grow?

Now . . . I don’t have high hopes for my seeds at the moment. I will be so excited if they germinate and if they grow into anything edible it will be a miracle!

If anything grows, the radishes will be the first to appear. They take 3–6 weeks to grow. The lettuces may appear in 9–11 weeks and the carrots in 12–14 weeks.

I won’t be inviting anyone around for salad just yet, but keep your fingers crossed for me and watch this space!


Pick-your-own Kitchen Windowsill Salad

One of the surprises in this week’s box is the Living Salads Organic Oriental Mix – otherwise known as my kitchen windowsill salad.

Just Add Water

Growing in a plastic tray filled with compost are four-week old leaves of pak choi, tatsoi mustard and rocket. All I have to do is lightly water it and it could live up to 10 days – although I’m sure I will use it all before then.

Pak choi and tatsoi are Asian greens, which belong to the brassica family, and rocket is thought to originate from southern Europe.

Each has a slight mustard or peppery taste and adds a nice zing to an average plate of pasta or stir fry, and can make most sandwiches much more exciting on the taste buds. You can pretty much throw these leaves into any meal.

A Fresher, Healthier Salad

One thing to remember with all salad, fruit and veg is that from the moment they are picked they start to loose nutrients. Nutritionally, this tray of growing salad is a better option than buying a bag of salad leaves that were picked some time ago and suffocated in a plastic bag.

Salad Nutrients

Salad leaves like these are a great source of vitamin A and folate (also known as vitamin B9 or folic acid). They also contain vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. You can find more on baby salad nutrients here.

Vitamins A, C and E, and zinc are powerful antioxidants, which the body uses to keep its cells healthy by protecting against free radicals*. So these salad leaves not only taste good, they are good news all round.

Grow Your Own

Pick-your-own salad has obvious benefits. This is the freshest way to get your salad leaves, they are bursting with nutrients and they are available right there, on your kitchen windowsill, whenever you want to use them.

But then I start to think . . . why not try growing your own? It doesn’t look like it should be that difficult. I’ve already got the tray – I can reuse the one my Living Salads salad came in – I just need some compost and seeds.

I did an internet search for salad seeds and found an interesting sounding oriental mix on the Suttons Seeds website. For £2.10 (today’s price) you get an average of 850 seeds in the Leaf Salad Spicy Oriental Mix Speedy Seeds packet. The mix contains Mizuna Kyoto, Indian Red Mustard, Yukina Savoy, Sky Rocket, and Golden Streaks Mustard.

Ready in Just 3 Weeks

From sowing, so the website says, the leaves should be ready to eat in just three weeks, and each sowing can give you up to three crops. Hmmm . . . I wonder how many sowings the 850 seeds give you and, although the website says to ‘grow them in the garden or in containers on the patio’, I wonder if you can grow them indoors. It’s definitely worth trying at some point.

* Particles and substances such as air pollution, smoke, alcohol, UV light, pesticides and medications, which can damage the cells and are often quoted in association with disease.