Tag Archives: gardening

Penny’s gardening blog: get crafty with vegetable tie-die

Dying using veg and fruit is easy, fun and will educate your kids about the different uses plants have.

You can try beetroot, onion skins, blackberries, redcurrants, plums, to name but a few plus all sorts of spices like turmeric and saffron and different tree barks and roots.  Follow this link for much more information on what to use and how to do it. http://pioneerthinking.com/crafts/natural-dyes.

I decided to have a go last weekend and took some photos to show you my results. It does take some preparation and don’t expect really strong colours. Have a read and start collecting your dye materials.

Equipment, you will need:

  •  saucepans
  •  colanders or sieves
  • rubber gloves
  •  salt
  • vinegar
  • 100 percent cotton material
  • your chosen dye materials  (I managed to procure some red and yellow onion skins, some beetroot, red cabbage leaves, and a mixture of blackcurrants, plums and cherries).

I made a dye solution by boiling the dye materials, using twice as much water as dye material, for about an hour. I stained each one and set aside.

Image

I prepared some cloth by boiling in a fixative solution:

  • Use half a cup of salt to eight cups of water for berries.
  • Use four cups of water to one cup of vinegar for plant material.

Make enough solution to cover your cloth. And simmer for an hour, then rinse.

Place the dye solution in the pan with the wet cloth and simmer gently, stirring here and there until the cloth has reached a good colour. Rinse and dry out of direct sunlight.

Image

I borrowed my friends kids and had a go at tie dying some old shirts they had, using the dyes we had made.  Our results seemed initially good, the colour faded quite quickly but it was fun anyway. The colours will fade in sunlight, and with washing, which should be done separately from other clothes.

This method of tie dying using marbles or stones is quite effective.

Image

Place a marble or coin onto the material, pinch it and twist the material around it. Secure it in place with an elastic band. Be sure to secure the band very tightly for good results.

Livy using marbles and rubber bands:Image

Luke using a stick to spiral the t shirt:

Image

Tie up as tightly as possible using rubber bands and string.   We added several colours but of course you can’t boil these in, so using one colour is probably a better idea when using natural dyes.

 

Image

My Jackson Pollock design!

Image

Our results!

Image

penny’s gardening blog: tips on how and where to plant your veg box to grow

Image

Many of you will be receiving your veg box to grow kits this week and next. They come with full instructions of what to do to look after the plants, how to plant them and how to sow the seeds. Follow this advice carefully to get the best results – however here are some tips to help you grow.

Here are my tips and some pictures from planting our vegbox to grow outside the Riverford Field Kitchen this week, if you are ever passing feel free to pop by and see how our veg patch is growing.

When your vegbox arrives

Image

Open the box to expose plants to sunlight

As soon as you get the chance, open the box and unpack the plants. Lay them out somewhere sheltered and in a sunny area. Put the seeds somewhere dry and cool until you are ready to sow them. Open the seed potatoes and put them somewhere dry and protected from cold weather and expose them to light to encourage the chits to grow.

Watering

Image

Watering seedlings once out of the Riverford Veg Box to Grow

If any plants look a bit loose after the journey, gently firm them into the module. They will more than likely need a light watering. Leave the plants to acclimatize and recover from the journey for a day or two before planting. The plants will be fine left unplanted for a week or so if you are not ready but make sure to check them regularly and water them if the compost is looking at all dry.

Where to plant & soil preparation

It is important to choose a site that gets plenty of sunlight for successful growing. It’s also important to prepare the soil as well as possible.  Hopefully you will have followed the guidance in the box booklet on preparing the ground and will already have adding well rotted farmyard manure, horse dung or chicken pellets. If you have done this you are ready to get planting. If not, dig in some organic chicken pellets before planting.

Sowing and planting

Follow the suggested spacing for the seedlings and sowings, remembering to leave enough room to get in between the rows for watering, weeding and cropping later on.

Image

Planting beetroot seedlings

Whilst planting it’s useful to have a stake or label next to where you have planted your veg to help you identify it later on.Image

Once planted, make sure to water in the plants and check regularly for slugs and snails. Organic slug pellets are useful, but there are many other ways of dealing with these pests. Look on the internet for tips on organic pest control.

Protecting your plants

Covering your planted up area with fleece will help give your plants a head start, creating a microclimate, and will protect the plants from cold and wind. This should be removed regularly to check for said pests and for weeding and hoeing. Then you can pull the fleece back over the area, anchoring it with stones or sacks filled with earth. Once the weather warms up and the plants have shown signs of growing on, you can remove the fleece and store for further use in the future.

This spring is particularly cold and shows no signs of letting up, so be careful to put the tomatoes, courgettes, squash and coriander in an area protected from frosts and wind , e.g.; a greenhouse, polytunnel, conservatory or on a light window sill, at least. Grow these tender plants on, repotting if necessary until the risk of frosts and cold wind is over. Only then, should you plant them outside. Look at using cloches for protection once planted.

Please make use of me for any questions you may have or for problems you are facing – either comment on this blog or tweet us @riverford. I am happy to help and wish you much success.

Happy growing

Penny

Penny’s gardening blog – preparation tips for spring

Spring is finally here and although it has been rather wet and cold, we are now approaching the busiest time of year in the garden. 

Feed your soil: The most important task in any garden, be it a vegetable garden, herb garden, ornamental, cutting or even a container garden, is to look after the soil. I am totally insistent on composting in all the gardens I work in, mostly for this very reason, but also as it provides an area to recycle waste from your garden in the form of your lawn clippings, weeds, leaves, some paper and cardboard too, plus kitchen waste such as veg and fruit peelings and puts it all to really good use. All this, if managed properly, will make great compost to feed your garden with and improve the structure and fertility of your soil.

 

I won’t bore you too much as I have already written a blog about composting (see here), but if you are keen to start composting, or want to improve your techniques this link will help you gain more knowledge. I have known Nicky Scott for about thirty years, around here he is renowned as being the ‘Devon Composting Guru.’ He is also an accomplished musician and I remember being very impressed when I noticed a large sticker on his guitar case promoting composting. This is my kinda guy!

Weeding: If you already have a compost heap, this is the time of year to empty it out and feed your soil with it. 

Image

Digging compost out of the heap, ready to spread

 

Before spreading your compost, it is essential to thoroughly weed your beds, digging out any perennial weeds.

Dig between existing plants looking carefully for weeds, such as bindweed, buttercup, couch grass and nightmare of nightmare, the worst of all, in my eyes…. the dreaded ground elder. I have some appearing in various areas of my garden and am slightly obsessive about weeding it out. Once it gets a hold you are done for. Time to sell the house and move elsewhere!  I spent a couple of hours digging it out, lifting clumps of perennials and teasing it out. 

Becoming familiar with these weeds is a good idea so here are some pictures of just a couple of the worst. In my next blog I will add more:

Know your weeds!

Bindweed roots

Image

Ground elder

Image

 

Growing veg?

If you are growing veg this year you need to prepare the ground. Some of you have ordered our veg, herb or flower grow your own kits to kick start the season.  If you are still thinking about it, hurry, do not procrastinate and avoid disappointment as we have limited numbers. The veg box to grow starts being delivered on the 21st April, so now is the time to get busy.

Feeding the soil is key to your success in growing anything.  Weed your beds and apply compost from your heaps and for extra fertility, some well rotted organic farmyard manure. This is particularly important to growing veg and should be spread a few weeks before planting and sowing. Chicken pellets can also be used.

If you’d like to ask me any questions, comment here and I’ll get back to you.

Penny

In my next blog I’ll be sharing tips on how to divide perennial clumps and what to plant now for summer flowering, check back here or look out for news on our social media.

Follow us: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram.

 

Penny’s gardening blog: signs of Spring & our boxes to grow

Snow drops are flowering; daffs are starting to push up through the sodden earth. Signs of spring are here and it’s really not long before we can start to get busy in our gardens. If only it would stop raining! Just as we think the ground is finally starting to dry out we get another shower or downpour.

Growing your own is not just about producing food/flowers etc. It gets you outside. You are learning new skills. Breathing in fresh air and getting some exercise. You can educate your children about growing and also about the insects, birds and small mammals that live in our gardens and are very much part of the whole picture. Growing your own is a brilliant way to connect with the earth that we live on. Communing with nature! That may sound a bit hippy but it really is true!

Image

Riverford’s Boxes to grow are now available to order and come in all shapes and sizes. You don’t even need a garden to grow them in. The small veg box to grow and the herb boxes to grow are ideal for people with a patio or balcony and it is amazing what you can produce in pots, tubs, old buckets, boxes. Even old veg boxes make a great container! We have put together large and small veg kits, two sizes of herb kits and an amazing flower box to grow too – the idea is that when your box arrives, you follow the preparation guidelines on the website and dig/weed your plot, spread well rotted manure etc and await the arrival of your kit with excitement!
Image
What’s in the boxes?
The veg and flower kits consist of plants, seedlings, seeds and full instructions and guidance on what to do and how to do it. The contents of the veg and herb boxes to grow are carefully selected by our knowledgeable team here at Riverford, putting into a box our years of experience of growing fantastic tasting vegetables. We pick varieties that are full of flavour and disease resistant that more often than not, we ourselves use here on the farm.

The plants and seeds for the flower box to grow are all selected by me. I have been growing cut flowers for a long time and have plenty of experience in this area. The varieties I have selected are easy to grow and a good range of colours and will provide you with traditional country flowers to cut for your house and enough to give to friends too, for several months.

The herb boxes to grow consist of a selection of useful culinary herbs which will grow on and give you herbs for your kitchen for years, with the exception of one or two that are bi-annual or annual. These will happily grow in pots/tubs etc and are ideal for planting in our cupboards for veg boxes. We use a nursery that has been raising seedlings for us for many years, they are experts in their field and always send us top quality organic seedlings and plants.

Our boxes really are a great way to get started and are designed for beginners and the more savvy gardener alike. When your kit arrives you simply go out and get busy planting and sowing. In one fail swoop you’ll have a fully packed kitchen garden!

Challenges – the main problems that you could be faced with are the weather and predators such as slugs, snails, pigeons etc, and weeds. It can be a challenge but is usually hugely rewarding. There is nothing quite like going out to your garden to pick your supper, a few herbs and a bunch of flowers for the table. Think back to The Good Life!

I am here to support and give advice to anyone who needs it. I will be writing regular blogs on all areas of gardening over the year so please make use of me and send me questions or comments.

Penny

550x351 BTG Image

In Penny’s gardening blog today – gardening tips for longer-lasting good looks

In today’s blog I will briefly touch on the weather, cheer you up with some garden photos, give you tips on prolonging your garden’s good looks and suggestions for plants to use for this.

Image

Sedum, lavender, sisyrinchium and stipa gigantea flourishing

The Weather

I have nothing to say. It’s boring and relentless and I am sick to my dwindling top teeth of moaning about it… so, in a cup half full (or actually overflowing) sort of approach, the continual onslaught of rain has been jolly good for our shrubs, trees and perennials. They are loving it. After a pretty dry couple of years, I have observed these plants lapping it up. Everything has shot up to its full height and more. This season, I’ve seen Delphiniums as tall as me (just under six foot).  Last year they were more like four and a half feet tall. The rain can damage this growth, weighing it down and with a little wind can cause havoc, so staking is essential in these circumstances.

Image

 Sweet rocket, iris, feverfew and euphorbia at the gardens in Riverford

Gardening tips for longer-lasting good looks

For the last couple of weeks I have been stripping out and cutting back various plants that are over, to make space for plants that will flower over the next few months. In the garden pictured below we let campions, forget me nots, feverfews, valerian officinalis, comfreys, euphorbias and sweet rockets seed freely. In the following year they will give a great early summer show and when inter-planted with other perennials, roses, shrubs etc they give a really natural look.

When they are over I cut back and pull some out, leaving a few to go to seed, and use these new spaces to fill with some later flowering plants, suggestions below:

Plant  Suggestions

Some of my favorite annuals are:

Nicotiana Sensation: A lovely scented mix of pinks, purples and whites. Nicotiana lime green are fabulous and look great next to bright pinks, reds and orange plants.  Nicotiana affinnis  are white and the most heavily scented.

Having sowed these a little later than usual I am now inter-planting them in gaps I have created. They look fabulous and scent the whole garden especially in the evening.  Nicotiana mutabilis grows to a statuesque 3-4 foot and have a strange but pleasant sort of bubble gum fragrance.

Cosmos: Another annual fave of mine and if picked regularly, will carry on flowering til the first autumn frosts. I love the various bright pinks and whites of nicotiana ‘sensation mixed’ but also think ‘candy stripe’ a beautiful variety,  pale pinks with a white stripe.

Dahlias: I have been rather worried about myself the last few years as I have taken to liking dahlias, after being really rather snobby about them for the last 25 years!! What is going on?  Maybe it’s an age thing and the next step will be carnations. God forbid! The thing is, they really are a fantastic late flowerer and more often than not will perform for many years if the tubers don’t rot over winter. They come in all sorts of colours and shapes and sizes. My favourites are the deep pinks, maroons and reds and planted up with some lime green nicotianas in front, well all I can say is, its heaven.

Verbena bonariensis: Another late flowering perennial I love. Its little purple flowers sit on top of long see-through stems and I plant lots of this in any gaps available.

Strobilanthes atropurpurea: An excellent perennial that grows to just over a metre, this plant freely bears curved and hooded indigo blue or purple flowers above a mound of leafy stems in late summer. It’s not that commonly grown, but I found it at our local plant nursery, Hill House Nursery in Landscove (www.hillhousenursery.co.uk ).  This nursery run by Ray, and his son Matthew, is an amazing place to visit with a great café and lovely gardens.  It has a classy selection of trees, shrubs, roses, perennials, annuals, herbs, geraniums and well…. I could go on and on. The great thing about Hill House Nursery is the staff have excellent plant knowledge and are very helpful, and they stock many plants you will rarely see in most garden centres.  I believe they have an online shop too. Its worth a visit if you are in the area.

Some other perennials to consider for a later performance are Rudbeckia, Helenium, Michaelmas daisies, Japanese anemones and Sedum.

Here are some garden photos from June to cheer you up:

Image

 Sambucus nigra, box, roses

Image

Yew, roses, euphorbia and phlomis

Image

Acanthus and cotinus blooming in the garden

Penny’s Gardening Blog – Flower box to grow

I will be talking about the weather in true English style, be sympathetic and give some support to all you growers out there battling with your veg/herb/flower gardens, encourage you to try a Riverford Flower Box To Grow and inspire you with some photos of gardens I work in.

the weather

Heavens Above! What is going on? In recent times we have had the driest autumn on record, the driest winter, the coldest April and now the wettest too. How about the hottest summer next please. It really makes life rather difficult for anyone trying to grow anything at all. I read some garden articles in early spring listing plants suitable for drought as this is what we were all expecting then, hose pipe bans spreading across the country like wild fire and then it starts and we are all relieved to have at last a shower and then another….. and another …..But this onslaught and absolute deluge of rain that we have been subjected to over the last few weeks is just all too much. Maybe an article on damp gardens is called for now.

It is pretty miserable working out in this kind of weather and sometimes if it’s persistent enough one just has to give up. I have pretty good waterproofs in the form of fishermans salopettes,  wellies,  a coat and an assortment of hats, (shorts and a sun hat in the car too, just in case, yeah right!!!). It is not a pretty sight!

Penny

Even some of the field workers have had their hours cut as no planting can be done because it’s impossible to get the tractors and planters on to the ground. Things are not happy!

box to grow

Veg and heb  box to grow customers have had their plants for a month now and hopefully  have manages to plant them up. Nothing has grown much this last month because its been unusually cold and very wet. My courgettes have copped it…just couldn’t cope, simply drowned and my other seedlings are sat there not growing and looking rather sodden and sorry for themselves . All you can really do is keep checking for slugs and snails who come out in troops in this weather. If really keen you could cover the plants with cloches to try and keep some rain off them and also raise the temperature a bit. We could all do with some sunshine to make the plants grow.

flower box to grow

The Flower Box To Grow is my baby in some ways as growing cut flowers is my speciality so riverford have used me to select the plants and varieties that come in this grow your own kit. I have grown organic cut flowers in a field I rent from riverford over the last four years. The Kit will provide you with flowers to cut and enjoy in a vase through out the summer and well into the autumn.  The flowers are all traditional English country flowers such as cornflowers, bells of Ireland, love in a mist, sunflowers, snapdragons and so on….take a look and be tempted.  The kit comes with 54 seedlings and two packets of seeds and is extremely good value for money and obviously I highly recommend it.

in the garden

What with all the rain perennials have pretty much doubled in size over the last few weeks and have been really enjoy this long awaited drink. I am lucky enough to work in some really beautiful garden in the local area and to cheer you all up and possibly inspire you I will show you some photos of some of these.

This garden is partly walled and formally planted with fastigiated yews and lots of shaped box and box hedging. It sits quite high on a hill and has lovely views across the valley. With in the formality it is planted quite loosely with loads of old fashioned roses, geraniums, day lilies and so on.

We let campion, forget me not, sweet rocket and valerian officianalis seed freely and then cull when necessary. This makes it look very natural and also fills gaps creating ground cover and hence suppresses growth of unwanted weeds.

forget me nots

symphytum ibericum  comfrey

This is a low growing comfrey and a useful ground cover plant too

This is a taller comfrey useful for making a liquid feed  and  great for composting as it encourages the rapid breakdown of other materials  you put in your heap and its also very pretty.

Symphytum x uplandicum   Russian comfrey

I love this combination of bright yellow Kerria japonica and a bright red Rhododendron behind. Very cheerful indeed.

Penny’s gardening blog – box to grow

In My Gardening Blog This Week
A cold snap has arrived down here in Devon and we’ve had some frosts in the last few days and now thankfully a little rain and hail.  On my way home I noticed even a light dusting of snow on the edge of Dartmoor. What with the untimely hot weather of last week where summer thoughts and searches for shorts were both on the cards in my life and now this!  What trickery Jack Frost!! Slow down and beware. Spring is just here, trees still bear of leaves and cold weather is still on the cards.

The first Boxes to Grow have been dispatched from Wash and will be being delivered over the next two weeks to customers up and down the country. Today I will give you some extra advice and tips on planting out and caring for your seedlings.

Box To Grow Welcome
I want to thank our growers first who have really come up trumps this year with the most fantastic quality seedlings and plants for our veg and herb boxes to grow. I am proud to say we have developed a really good growing kit.
When your box arrives you will find inside full instructions on how to care for your seedlings right from the start and how to then get on with the task of planting them out and growing them on. Below I am going to list the most important things to bear in mind. Please feel free to use me as support and leave comments and questions on my gardening blog.

Frost Protection.
In the veg and herb  boxes to grow there are tomatoes , courgettes and cucumber and coriander seedlings that are all quite tender so need extra care for the next few weeks or more. Basically these plants need to be protected from frost, wind and cold temperatures generally. If you have no option but to plant them out it would be wise to cover with a cloche or make a little greenhouse recycling a large plastic water bottle, or at the very least cover with  horticultural fleece. In the past I have put individual cardboard boxes over such plants at night. Do not forget to uncover first thing in the morning though!  I would tend to plant into a pot with some compost and grow them on a bit on a window sill if I didn’t have a greenhouse.

Snow
If you live in one of the areas that have been hit with snow then it will be impossible to plant out your seedlings until it is has thawed. Make sure to take the seedlings out of the box and stand upright in a seed tray or cut the box down so that the plants don’t get leggy searching for light. Place the seedlings in a polytunnel, greenhouse, conservatory or window sill. Basically they need light and protection from freezing weather for the moment and ideally shouldn’t be put anywhere too warm either. The plants shouldn’t need watering but if look at all wilted or dry then do water gently with a watering can.

Planting
Follow the instructions provided with the kits.
The Cabbages, beetroot, rainbow chard and the kohl rabi in the veg kits can be planted quite deeply however make sure  the other seedlings and lettuce particularly are planted level with the ground and not at all below the surface.

Watering and fleece
Be sure to gently water in your plants after planting them in the ground and check for slugs and snails before ideally covering with horticultural fleece. Fleece will help protect against frosts and cold temperatures and give your plants a head start generally. Remove the fleece carefully every few days for watering as required. Once the weather has warmed up the fleece can be removed. Keep an eye on the weather and check your plants regularly.

Weeding
Keeping your plot, planters or pots free of weeds is important for the success of your vegetable growing. Use a hoe if appropriate to your situation and hand weed around the seedlings themselves.

Patience
Your seedlings will take a few days to adjust and recover from their hike over dales, down and up hills and so on. Look after them tenderly and give them the best chance of success. Speak to them nicely and before you know it they will start doubling in size over and over so do pay attention to the suggested planting distances to. Good luck!

Penny’s Gardening Blog – Part 5

Gosh, its three weeks since I posted my last blog already. How time flies! Being a gardener and grower this time of year is pretty full on. I have lots of clients I work for on a weekly basis as well as preparing my field where I grow flowers and am also busy propagating plants to go in it. So life is hectic and I am slightly overwhelmed by the impending season. But it is also a very exciting time of year in the garden with the first signs of growth and plenty of plants in flower. In this blog I am going to give you all a reminder and do a final push on our boxes to grow. I will suggest some general gardening tasks and wax lyrical about spring flowering plants.

Boxes to grow

Veg, Herb and cut flower gardening kits

April is nearly here and deliveries of our vegetable and herb boxes to grow will be going out imminently, cut flower kits a bit later.  It’s not too late to order one as we have a few left. I don’t want to bang on too much about it but these kits are great value and a fabulous way to  kick start  your gardens in one fail swoop. No decisions on what to grow or where to get it all from. We have used our experts to select good tried and tested varieties to give you the best chance of success and comprehensive advice on how to plant and grow these are also included in the boxes. I will also be supporting you with my gardening blogs and here to answer your queries.

If you have already ordered one remember to do the recommended site preparation we have on our website.

gardening blogMarch in the garden

I have taken some photos of some plants I love that are flowering now. Its good practice to keep your eyes open  when out and about and observe good companion plantings around you and maybe think of incorporating these into your garden spaces to improve what you already have. In the foreground a red Camelia, clematis armandii climbing through a tree and in the background a magnolia tree.

gardening blog

A close up of Clematis armandii. You can grow this evergreen climber up a wall,trellis,fence or through a tree. It has lovely glossy foliage its quite happy planted in more shady positions.

Hellebores are an absolute favorite of mine.

Hellebores

Once big enough they can be split after flowering and replanted to increase your stock. I have done this in this little woodland area over the years and it really looks a picture at this time of year with the under planted periwinkle and primroses in flower too.

white double Hellebore

This white double Hellebore is particularly pretty and looks great with Euphorbia as a backdrop

Jobs in the garden

 

WEEDING This is the time of year to have a jolly good ‘spring clean’ in your gardens. Perennial plants are just beginning to grow again. Before things get too tall its an ideal time to really get in there and give your beds a jolly good weed. I have problems in a fair few gardens with perennial weed such as bind weed, couch grass and ground elder.  Gardening organically I would not use weed killers as they are detrimental to the wildlife in our gardens and leave nasty deposits in the soil too. Keeping these nasty weeds at bay is the answer. If you’re feeling thorough, this might mean digging up a perennial clump and teasing the roots of the said weed out and replanting the clump. Remember…DO NOT put these weeds in your compost heaps.

DIVIDING up over crowded perennial clumps can be done now. Dig out the clump and put a sharp spade blade through the centre of the clump to cut it in half or more if necessary.

COMPOST  I have a rather tired body, being rather ancient doesn’t help and nor does the kind of work I have been doing the last few weeks emptying a fair few compost heaps in various gardens in the area. It is quite satisfying though to see what you have produced from simply garden waste.

gardening blog

This is great stuff to spread on to your beds, around the plants and lightly fork in. It will improve the soil and act as a mulch helping the soil to retain moisture. As a lot of us are already being threatened with hose pipe bans this is pretty essential.

In My Next Gardening Blog

As my seedlings are not ready for transplanting yet I will leave this till next time possibly with a video clip…heres hoping!

Penny’s Gardening Blog – Part 2

gardening in small spaces - Penny's Gardening BlogIn my gardening blog today

I am looking at the different ways we can grow plants in our outdoor spaces. Not all of us have a garden with open ground, some have only a patio covered in paving slabs, some maybe only a few window sills or a passage or back yard.

gardening containers - Penny's Gardening BlogI grow a lot on my patio in a mixture of wooden boxes, ceramic pots, old galvanized tanks and dustbins I have picked up at the recycling centre or down the dump. They look really great with plants trailing over the edges and climbers growing skyward up trellises I have set up behind them.  I have got the local farm shop to save me some olive cans that come in bright green and red. I make holes on the bottom using a hammer and screw driver to allow for drainage, add some broken crocks or some small stones before adding a growing medium and a plant.  I am gardening blog - Penny's Gardening Blogalways on the look out for containers with a difference. Recently I bought some old ammunition boxes for next to nothing, £3 each which I have planted up with tulips for a show in spring. These are fairly shallow but great for lettuces in the summer. The main thing to consider is the depth of the container and whether it is possible to make drainage holes in the bottom. Plants grown in pots and containers get full of roots pretty quickly so the deeper the better.

Watering and feeding

Anything grown in a container is a commitment you have to feel able to take on as the ongoing maintenance is essential to your growing success. They will need watering everyday in hot weather and every other day once they have taken a hold.  Your containers will also need feeding after a month or so of planting out and every two or three weeks after that.

keyhole garden - Penny's Gardening Blog Keyhole gardening and grow bags

For a long time now Riverford have been supporting a charity called Send a cow who ‘provide livestock, seeds, training and on going support to help families in Africa to leave poverty behind for good’  Guy is a huge fan of this charity and has been out to Uganda several times…… to see what’s happening first hand.  Some of their growing techniques are ingenious such as the keyhole garden and grow bag - Penny's Gardening Blogthe grow sacks. We have built our own keyhole garden using posts and chicken wire rather than stones. The idea is you have a central shoot into which you chuck all composting materials and water. This in turn feeds the surrounding beds that are planted up with veg seedlings.  It really does work and also is a boon for anyone with back problems as there’s little or no bending down. The grow sacks are great to and can be planted with up to 50 seedlings in each. These are great for that redundant corner somewhere in your outdoor space.

In my next gardening blog

I will cover preparing the ground and tools and kit you will need as unfortunately run out of space here. So look out for people selling sacks of well rotted manure and take a look at your compost heaps too.

Get growing

organic gardening with penny - Penny's Gardening BlogIntroducing myself …
Happy New Year to you all. I am Penny Hemming and will be writing a regular blog for Riverford, aiming to bridge the gap between Riverford’s experience from years of growing commercially and customers growing veg and flowers at home.

The first week of the new year we had absolutely foul weather here in Devon (and countrywide I think); raining cats and dogs with high winds to boot. Gardening is the last thing one would be doing in such a deluge (spare a thought for the teams out pulling leeks in the fields), but it’s a great time for garden planning. Any keen horticulturist will be pouring over seed and plant catalogues, getting excited at the prospect of how they can improve their gardens , thinking back on past failures and maybe contemplating some different crops for the coming year. Last year was a difficult year for all of us with a severe lack of rain (would you believe it today?) and exceptionally cold temperatures too. We’re hoping for better conditions in 2012.

Boxes to grow – making it all a bit easier
Two years ago Riverford introduced the boxes-to-grow for our customers to try. These are gardening kits for both beginners and established gardeners. The boxes come with organic seedlings grown in peat blocks (very high quality, from Delfland, who grow Riverford’s seedlings), some packets of seeds and comprehensive instructions and advice on how best to prepare the ground and grow them on successfully. Customers report having a lot of fun with these in the past, and we hope to tempt more of you to try them this year.

Make use of me!
In my blog I will be suggesting what you should be doing to get the best out of your gardening, whether this is a full scale allotment, or just a grow bag or a window box. I’ll be here to answer your questions and queries and to improve the range of products we can provide for our gardening customers (I look forward to your suggestions).

I will also be running tours at Riverford for customers coming to see firsthand what we grow here and how we do it, usually followed by a fantastic seasonal meal in our award winning restaurant, the Riverford Field Kitchen.

Organic gardening - Penny's Gardening BlogThis week’s suggestions
Have a look at what we are offering this year in our boxes- to-grow. Think about your garden and outside spaces and how you could maximize what you produce from it. You can grow an enormous amount in pots and planters so even if you only have a patio or a window sill the possibilities are endless.

How much space and time do you have? Do you want to concentrate on veg, herbs, salad, or cut flowers? If you have limited space, a herb garden is a fantastic way to boost your veg box, being able to go out and pick some thyme or coriander for that risotto. Home-grown cut flower around the house give me a constant boost in summer, and also make a more impressive present than a bottle of wine!

Next post, I will be making suggestions of the different types of containers that can be used to grow in, other than the ground (if you have limited space), how to prepare and what kit you may need, to be ready for the arrival of your box to grow.