Ladybirds & blackfly

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At our GIY meeting today at Sarah’s house (thank you for the lovely tea Sarah!) we wandered on to her allotment lamenting the huge amount of blackfly which are devastating everyone’s  crops, especially beans. “Where are the ladybirds this year?” we asked each other. Well, they were all over Sarah’s broad beans!  It seems we have had a timely explosion of the ladybird population this week. On my runner beans this morning I found all 4 stages of the life cycle on one plant – eggs, larva, pupa and adults. In the photo with lots of ladybirds you can see … more

End of June on the GIY plot

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We’re just past the longest day and still no real summer to speak of.  It’s still very dry though, despite last night’s downpour. I’ve just planted out some leeks and the remaining oca (see photo) from their pots. The oca, which is also known as New Zealand yam, is the one with the trefoil leaf.  It belongs to the oxalis family, like wood sorrel.  In fact the leaves taste a bit like wood sorrel. I first came across it last year when Garden Organic asked members to do some trials to see how well it grew in this country.  The … more

May in the garden

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It’s been so busy this month I haven’t had time to write my blog! We have had one Growers’ Market and then, last weekend, the Food and Garden Festival, so I have been flat out, sowing, potting up, potting on etc, not to mention all the other jobs in the garden. The first photo is of my raised, turf-walled bed in the lawn, which I made two years ago. It was exhausted, so I replenished it with compost, manure and vermiculite, before dividing it into 6 sections as my version of the ‘square foot’ gardening I spoke of at my … more

Let’s get growing!

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The March Transition Tuesday was all about how to start growing your own fruit and veg in a small area and it’s worth summarising the key points here for the benefit of anyone who couldn’t attend but who might have budding aspirations to eat really locally. In the early days, homes in Letchworth were built with good sized gardens with the intention that they would be used for growing food to feed the family.  In many cases this local tradition has been forgotten, but here at TTL, we’d love to revive it.  Growing vegetables need not be difficult; start small … more

Grow It Yourself – February blog

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It’s time to sow seeds of tomatoes, chillis and peppers indoors to get them off to a flying start. Chillis especially take a long time to mature so they need to get a headstart.  They do need to be warm though to germinate.  I put mine in the airing cupboard, checking them daily and as soon as they appear they come out and onto a sunny window sill. This year I am experimenting to see if my home-made leaf mould is good enough as a seed compost, and comparing it with John Innes seed compost.  As you can see from … more

GIY blog – January 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Yes I know it’s only January but there are still things you gardeners can do. I have just pruned my gooseberries (feeling smug about that!).  If you’re wondering what to do with your own gooseberries, there’s a youTube guide below. I bought a book last Autumn called ‘The ten-minute gardener’s fruit-growing diary’ by Val Bourne,  published by Bantam Press. I have already started to follow its advice which says this is the month to take a long hard look at your fruit trees, so that’s what I’m doing. This is also the month to plant bare-rooted fruit … more

Keeping chickens to the highest welfare standards

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Among the various presentations at the 2014 Soil Association conference, I wanted to bring back and share Jessica Stokes’ study.(1)  She shared the emerging veterinary scientific thinking about mass chickens kept for their meat or egg production.  I hoped that by relaying my notes, her ideas might interest anyone keeping  chickens on a small scale. It turns out that in the years since World War II, veterinary thinking has moved an incredible distance; from an awareness written about by Ruth Harrison (2) that chickens often had  “a life not worth living” (3).  She wrote about “animal machines”.  She helped to … more

Slug Wars – The Finale

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It’s well into October now and the slugs are still active so you can’t let up just yet! I have been experimenting with different beers in my jam-jar traps to see how cheaply I can keep them topped up as it can get expensive replacing the beer once a week ( if you leave it longer it starts smelling horrible). One bottle only does about 5 traps so it’s good to check out prices. I tried Sainsbury’s basic bitter in cans, which was the cheapest they have at about 25p per can…BUT IT DIDN’T WORK! I watched the little blighters climb … more

Elderberry Rob

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Now is the time to make elderberry rob, a useful addition to your medicine (or drinks) cabinet. Scientific studies have validated the usefulness of elderberries as one of the finest remedies for preventing and treating upper respiratory infections and fever, as well as for treating nasal congestion and sore throat. It is reported that a mixture containing elderberry extract could inhibit the replication of 11 strains of the influenza virus and increase the production of cytokines, which enable immune cells to communicate with each other. Elderberry juice—or other preparations, such as syrups and “robs”—are among the finest remedies to keep … more

Beetroot & chocolate brownies

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This recipe for when you’ve got a glut of beetroot has been submitted by Claire.  She says you can’t taste the beetroot at all as it gets absorbed in all the chocolatey-gooey-ness.  People challenged to name the secret ingredient rarely get it right, unless they are eagle-eyed enough to spot the speckles of red in the middle. So if you’ve grown some monster beetroots this year (and we’ve seen some big ones up on Norton Road so we know it’s happening!) then give this a shot.  Who knows, it may even get some veg into the kids! Beetroot and Chocolate … more