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February in the Garden February 16 2016

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m a fair weather kind of gardener. February is the month where I start getting inspired in the garden again. I love the crisp sunny days and the thought of Spring being just around the corner. Being a food blogger I’m a big fan of growing vegetables – they taste so good! This week I sowed some aubergine seeds and some radish seeds. For people that think aubergines are a waste of time to grow in the UK, I disagree! It’s unbelievably satisfying seeing aubergines grow and they’re actually not that hard to nurture.

 As well as sowing seeds I will be tidying up my garden (late I know) and planting the cherry tree I bought a few months ago. I’ve wanted a cherry tree for a long time and can’t wait for it to blossom!

The seeds I’ve used are from last years Secret seed Swap. See how to register here.

I’m hoping they will provide me with enough aubergines to cook a good few batches of my Parmigiana later this Summer. But if you can’t wait that long here is my recipe…

G x

Plant Based Parmigiana

Ingredients 

4          Large aubergines

Handful of Basil

Tomato Sauce (can be pre-made, recipe here)

For the Vegan Mozzarella 

250ml Hot water

40g     Cashews (soaked overnight or boiled for 10 minutes)

40g     Tapioca flour

1          Clove garlic (crushed)

1tbsp  Nutritional yeast

1tsp    Apple cider vinegar

½ tsp  Salt

Method – Serves 4 – Oven 180*c

  1. Make your tomato sauce using this recipe. You can pre-make this and keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  2. Finely slice the aubergines lengthways. Place on a baking tray and brush them with olive oil. Bake in the oven for approximately 15 minutes, Turning them over halfway through and brushing them with a little more oil. You may have to cook them in batches depending on the size of your oven.
  3. Make the mozzarella – If you forgot to soak your cashews you can boil them for 10 minutes until soft. Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a saucepan and stir on a medium heat for 5-10 minutes until the mixture becomes thick and sticky. Set aside to cool. You can also pre-make this and keep in the fridge up to 5 days.
  4. In an ovenproof dish start to layer up the parmigiana. Firstly put a layer of baked aubergine slices into the bottom of the dish then spoon over some tomato sauce to cover them. Add some dollops of mozzarella and a few basil leaves. Then add your next layer of aubergines and repeat.
  5. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until mozzarella has slightly browned. Sprinkle with some fresh basil leaves. Serve with a nice big green salad and/or bread.


Seedy Sunday 2016 February 08 2016

It’s such a delight living in Brighton when you have events like Seedy Sunday going on in the city. For those of you that don’t know, Seedy Sunday is the UK’s biggest and longest running community seed swap. There are lots of stalls ranging from local green projects, cooking demos and beautiful garden objects, as well as a selection of great talks.

Lyndsey wrote a great blog post on Seedy Sunday last year, so I won’t go into too much detail. Instead here are a few pictures from the event.

 

At this years event I was very keen to get my hands on some more tomatillo seeds. I grew them for the first time last year and loved them. They make THE best salsa. I would definitely recommend growing them. Have a look below at how beautiful they are. 

 

Recipe for tomatillo salsa here. G x 


Registration now open for the Secret Seed Swap 2016! January 05 2016

We're excited to announce that registration is now open for the 2016 Secret Seed Swap!

Click here to read more about it and register

Secret seed swap

The Secret Seed Swap is a postal seed exchange where participants make a decorative seed packet, fill it with seeds and send it to a mystery recipient for them to grow in their own gardens. We'll then all share pictures of our seed packets and seeds using the hashtag #secretseedswap on twitter and Instagram. It's a great way to make new gardening friends online and grow something that you might not normally grow. 

Last year's seed swap was a big success, with dozens of photos being shared online and lots of people posting beautiful seed packets for others to sow at home. 

One difference this year - A few people who registered last year sadly didn't get into the spirit of it and didn't end up posting a packet, leaving their recipients disappointed. So we are running the 2016 swap with just one change to last year - there is a deadline of 18th March for posting your seeds and anyone who hasn't received a packet by the following week can let us know and we will send you a packet of our own creation. This should ensure that everyone gets a some seeds to grow!

We're looking forward to seeing your creations and watching your seeds grow! 

secret seed swap


Container planting, seed sowing and potting on at The Garden House, Brighton February 11 2015

Another fantastic day of gardening activities at Wednesday Gardening Group at The Garden House.
Today we sowed some herbs, planted some containers and potted on some succulents. Upon our arrival, we were greeted with these amazing brownies made by Deborah which we made short work of demolishing. They contained blueberries so as Barbara pointed out, constituted one of our 5-a-day. Good to know that Deborah and Bridge have our welfare in mind.

 
The herbs were sown into seed modules filled with a mixture of half and half vermiculite and compost (we should’ve used perlite but got mixed up - it doesn't matter too much though). They’re both used to improve moisture retention and aeration in soil and both absorb water, but perlite absorbs air too and dries out quicker than vermiculite. These are mixed in with the compost because seeds actually don’t need a nutrient rich soil to germinate. All the goodness and energy needed for the initial stage of growth is already contained within the seed itself. Yes, this blows my mind too. We sowed a selection of herbs; coriander, red giant mustard, savory and a few lettuce as well. These were then watered in and moved to the potting shed to germinate.

      Sowing herb seeds. What You Sow at The Garden House       Sowing herb seeds. What You Sow at The Garden House

Here we are, Generation Game style, sowing seeds into the trays. 

Sowing herb seeds. What You Sow at The Garden House

We all got involved in a bit of container planting, placing crocks at the bottom of each one to aid drainage, using a potting mix of half-half vermiculite and compost (correctly this time) and then choosing a selection of spring flowers and bulbs to make a display. 

Planting bulbs in containers. What You Sow at The Garden House
      Planting bulbs in containers. What You Sow at The Garden House

We chose from iris, hyacinths, muscari, ivy, primula and Ro and Patti planted some rosemary in a very special pot given to Bridge by a dear friend of hers who passed away just before Christmas.  

Planting bulbs in containers. What You Sow at The Garden House               Planting bulbs in containers. What You Sow at The Garden House

The containers were covered with moss or gravel to help with water retention and to make them look pretty.

Planting bulbs in containers. What You Sow at The Garden House

Planting bulbs in containers. What You Sow at The Garden House

Last autumn we took leaf cuttings of different succulents (echeveria) and now that they have grown roots it was time for a few of us to pot them on into slightly bigger pots. Some went into cardboard plant pots and some into the tiny paper pots we made a few weeks ago with the paper pot maker. Look at them. They are so adorable they almost made me cry. These are so easy to propagate, I recommend that you try some yourself. These plants don’t like much moisture and are less hardy than the houseleeks/ sempervivum that we planted on the green roof a few weeks ago so mine are going to stay in pots indoors.

Echeveria in Paper Pots. What You Sow at The Garden House

Echeveria in Paper Pots. What You Sow at The Garden House

Echeveria in Paper Pots. What You Sow at The Garden House

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Seedy Sunday 2015 in pictures February 01 2015

 

        

 

 

         

 

 

       

 

 

       

 

 

       

 

 

        

 

 

 

 

 


A wintery day at The Garden House, Brighton January 28 2015

Due to the torrential rain, 2 out of 3 of today’s tasks took place indoors. We took some more hardwood cuttings, made bird feeders and sorted some seeds ready to swap at Seedy Sunday.

Taking hardwood Fuchsia cuttings at The Garden House, Brighton

It’s the time of year to take cuttings of dormant hardwood shrubs including things like figs, roses and gooseberries. Today was the turn of the fuchsia, pictured above. We took cuttings about 30cm long, cutting just below the node at the bottom and just above the node at the top. The nodes are where all the hormones are stored, so this is where the energy for growth comes from. Using sharp secateurs, we snipped the bottom flat and the top on a slant. As well as helping identify which way up to plant the cutting (after we’ve popped it down on the table for a second and forgotten) it means that the flat bottom can be abrased a bit, helping open more surface area to potentially produce roots. The slanted top allows rainwater to slide off the cutting, rather than gathering on top and becoming all damp.

Pruning hardwood shrubs at The Garden House, Brighton

The soil we used was a mixture of half compost and half fine grit, mixed together and put into tall square pots. We fit four cuttings to a pot, each one placed in the corner to allow maximum space for their roots to grow. In about a year and half they’ll be ready to be planted out. We’ll know when they reach this point as the roots will start to show coming out of the bottom of the pot.

Taking hardwood cuttings at The Garden House, Brighton

It’s a tough time for the birds in the garden at the moment. With slim pickings as far as food goes, it’s time for us humans to step in and provide some things for them to eat. We made bird feeders by hollowing out orange halves, attaching string to them and filling them with a mixture of nuts, seeds and lard. A very simple and attractive way to do our bit for wildlife this winter (NB, if you make these, they will feed the squirrels in your garden too, whether you like it or not). For an alternative to try at home, check out Messyla’s bird cake recipe for a very stylish version made of leftover bits and pieces.

Home made bird feeders at The Garden House, Brighton

Orange bird feeders at The Garden House, Brighton

The third task was preparing seed packets for Seedy Sunday, with seeds harvested back in the Autumn. Oh my, do you know how much I love sorting seeds? Just the thought that human people have been carrying out this activity for thousands of years fills me with so much happiness. Members of families and communities sitting together round a fire through the winter sorting out the seeds ready for the coming Spring, growing food to sustain themselves and in their own way maintaining the diversity of plants that makes our planet such a wonderful place to live. Now, I don’t think any of us in the Wednesday gardening club are necessarily saving seeds to aid our survival, but it’s good to know we are doing our bit to encourage the diversity of foodstuffs. Did you know that out of 50,000 known edible plant species, just 15 variants provide 90% of the world’s food crops*?  As climate change threatens to alter our environment with effects that none of us can yet comprehend, it’s important to have access to as wide a variety of crops and plants as possible in case any of these staple crops fall victim to pests and diseases that we have no way of eradicating.

Saving Marigold seeds at The Garden House

Saving poppy seeds at The Garden House

Seed sorting is such an enjoyable way to spend some time and between us we sorted thousands of seeds this afternoon as we sat in the garden house chatting and learning. We used a variety of different packets; a) Seedy Sunday packets which you can pick up from Infinity Foods, b) specially designed Garden House packets and c) a few of the What You Sow printable seed packets that we stuck together with washi tape and double sided tape.

Printable seed packets by What You Sow

Beautiful seed packets at The Garden House

We packaged a selection of seeds; poppies, cornflowers, stocks, and some more unusual flower varieties; tagetes cinnabar (a type of marigold), mina lobata (Spanish flag) and lunnaria annua (annual honesty). It was fabulous.

Seed saving. What You Sow at The Garden House

Saving seeds at The Garden House, Brighton

Seedy Sunday is the UK’s largest seed swap and takes place this Sunday at Brighton Dome and Corn Exchange. If you haven’t been before and aren't sure what to expect, I shared 12 tips for first time visitors on the blog earlier in the week. You can swap your own seeds that you’ve collected or pay a 50p donation per packet. There’s also a comprehensive programme of talks and loads of gardening themed organisations wanting to talk to you about gardening themed activities. Hope to see you there!

Seed saving at The Garden House

*It’s true. It’s on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staple_food

Links:

Seedy Sunday: http://www.seedysunday.org/

Printable Seed packets: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0445/2673/files/What_You_Sow_printable_seed_packets.pdf?715

Seed Saving ideas on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/whatyousow/seed-saving/

 

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12 tips for First-time visitors to Seedy Sunday January 27 2015

This Sunday is one of my favourite days of the year. Not quite a national holiday, but still a big deal in Brighton and Hove, Seedy Sunday is one of the most exciting events on the gardening calendar.

It occurs every year on the first Sunday in February and sees thousands of gardening enthusiasts descend on Brighton Dome and Corn Exchange for the UK’s biggest seed swap event.

You can take seeds that you’ve collected yourself to exchange for seeds that others have saved, or make a 50p donation per packet if you don’t have your own seeds.

You’ll also find a variety of stalls occupied by garden-related organisations. From plants and books for sale to local community gardening projects that you might want to get involved in.

I remember the first time I visited. It was the year that Alice and I had just been assigned our allotment, we had no idea what to expect at the event and we were massively over-excited. We picked loads of seeds that we never got round to planting, spent a lot of money on heritage varieties that we didn't know how to grow and signed up for news from dozens of gardening clubs. We were there all day and exhausted by the end, our heads full of ideas, some of which were realised, most of which we never got round to.  Here’s a pic of the seed packets I chose that first year:

So, with that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to offer some advice to first-time visitors to help get the most out of Seedy Sunday. It is only once a year after all.

Here are my top tips:

  1. Take some time to have a look at the Seedy Sunday website before you go. Read their own guide to how Seedy Sunday works, why it’s important to swap seeds, look at the talks programme and plan which ones you’d like to go to and finally, jot down which of the stalls you’d particularly like to visit.    
  2. Plan to spend the day there. There’s no point nipping in for half an hour if you want to get the most out of it. Not being in a rush will mean you take the time to talk to people and soak up all the knowledge about seeds.
  3. Go to the swap table as soon as you get there. Don’t get distracted by all the zillions of beautiful things to buy and the interesting people vying for your attention.
  4. Take a notepad. You’ll pick up so much useful information from the talks and you’ll meet so many interesting folks whose names you’ll want to remember. The notepad should also contain your wish list of seeds.
  5. Stick to your seed wish list.
  6. Don’t just go to the swap table once. Go when you first get there and a couple more times throughout the day to try and get the things on your list. The seeds are being swapped all day long so new things are constantly appearing and the fabulous volunteers do a great job of keeping them neat and tidy and sorting new additions into the right areas.
  7. If you’re taking seeds to swap, make your seed packets look pretty. It’s a nice thing to do and people like me will be delighted to find them. You can buy the little brown envelopes from WH Smith or make your own. You are very welcome to download our printable seed packet if you like. And if you want to create some packets yourself, have a look at our seed saving inspiration on pinterest 
  8. In this respect, if you are likely to pick seeds because the packets look pretty (ehem), try and balance this by picking seeds that you will actually use.
  9. Get to the talks early. Otherwise you won’t get a seat and you’ll have to stand at the back. Being on your feet all day, that’s no fun.
  10. Get your seed potatoes here. The potato stall is run by Infinity foods who will have the biggest selection of pick-and-mix seed potatoes you are likely to come across in the sowing season. The pick-and-mix aspect of it means you can try out a few different varieties, with each seed potato costing just a few pence. Red ones, blue ones, potato-coloured ones. It means you don’t have to buy a whole bag of the same variety from your normal seed potato source. If you buy them at Seedy Sunday it means you can get straight on and start chitting them now too.  (oh, and don’t forget to register them for One Mile of Potatoes when it’s time to plant them)
  11. Have a look at the seeds for sale on the various stalls. You might not find exactly what you’re looking for on the swap tables, so it’s worth seeing which seeds are for sale. Thomas Etty have a fabulous selection of heritage varieties, really unusual things that you might not find elsewhere so worth picking up at Seedy Sunday. The Garden House will be there too with a selection of their favourites, all things that they have trialled in the Garden House themselves. And Seedfreedom will be there too with their seed bombs, perfect for kids and if you’re into wildflowers and insect friendly flowers. (Stop and talk to Seedfreedom’s Josie if you can, she’s a master storyteller and will hopefully have her mini’llennium seed bank with her, so you’ll get to see and hear about hundreds of different seeds.)
  12. Get some fresh air. The room that Seedy Sunday takes place in gets really stuffy, so make sure you get out in the middle of the day to get some fresh air into your lungs, have a cup of tea and recharge for the next round of seed swapping.

See you there!

 

Seedy Sunday: http://www.seedysunday.org/

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New Term at The Garden House, Brighton January 21 2015

A new term began today at our Wednesday Gardening Club and we had a few new members join us for our course at The Garden House.

After a few weeks off it was lovely to see everyone and we were all eager to get stuck in. I’m going to give you an update each week on what we get up to and share some pictures of the beautiful things growing in the garden. It will act as a sort of diary for me which I’ll be able to use to plan my gardening activity in years to come and hopefully useful for you to see the sort of things that need doing in your own garden.  

Today’s tasks included some work on the green roof, potting on some sweet peas, sowing parsley and chilli seeds and taking hardwood cuttings. Here’s a bit more about what we got up to...

Garden House Brighton Green Roof

Some weeding was required on the green roof on top of one of the little sheds in the garden. The roof is normally covered in sedums and sempervivums but had become overwhelmed by clover (which I actually think looked lovely) and the odd dandelion (also a favourite of mine). Green roofs are ace, and very useful things for a number of reasons. They aid in absorbing rainfall, attract beneficial wildlife into the garden and can provide insulation to homes. I love what The Garden House have done, covering one of their smaller sheds in a layer of sedums, thus introducing the benefits on a small scale to a little corner of the garden. If you’re into green roofs yourself, The Brighton Permaculture Trust are holding one of their green roof workshops this weekend, which looks like a lot of fun, especially as you get to create your own green-roofed bird box. One day I’m going to go on this course to find out a bit more. Perhaps when I’ve got a house to add a green rooftop to!

Garden House Brighton green roof

So, our first job was to weed the roof, leaving a sprinking of sedums which were already growing there (you might be able to see the odd one in between all the clover in the picture above!). After the clover and dandelions had been removed, some gravel was added to provide a bit of extra drainage for the plants (sempervivums thrive only in extremely well-drained soil) and a selection of beautiful sempervivums from the pots pictured below were planted into the soil. They only needed to be planted fairly sparsely, as once the sun comes out they will grow like crazy and spread across the whole roof.  

Garden House Brighton sempervivum

Garden House Brighton Green roof

Next job was in the greenhouse, potting on sweet peas. I adore sweet peas, as I’m sure you all know, as I talk about them ALL the time. The scent, the colour, the ease of collecting seeds. They are such a favourite of mine. Something I learned on this course last year was that sweet peas are hardy, so if you plant them late Autumn, they will grow through the winter and at this time of year are ready to be moved into bigger pots already. Very useful if like me, you plan to sow them at the start of March then don't end up getting round to it until the middle of April. 

garden house brighton sweet peas root trainer

Garden House Brighton sweet peas root trainers

The sweet peas we potted on today had been grown in root trainers which give the roots plenty of room to grow. We moved each plant (variety Henry Eckford whose flowers will be a vibrant orange colour) to a bigger pot and added a layer of gravel on top to help keep the slugs off. Aniseed the cat was not a huge help but kept us company nonetheless.

garden house brighton sweet pea henry eckford

If you’d like to know more about growing your own, Sarah Raven has an excellent step by step infographic showing how to sow sweet peas which I have added to my Sweet Peas board on Pinterest.

garden house brighton sweet peas henry eckford

Then it was time for some seed sowing. Contrary to popular belief (Or maybe just my belief… I always thought that Seedy Sunday in February marked the beginning of the sowing season), there are many seeds that can be sown already, so we used plug trays to start off some curly leafed parsley (these were tiny and fiddly, see pic below) and some chilli. The chilli seeds need heat to germinate so they’ll live in the heated propagator, the parsley seeds will be okay on their own.

garden house brighton parsley sowing

garden house brighton chilli sowing

Finally, the group took some hardwood cuttings, and the results were divvied up between everyone. Look how happy Kate is with hers and what looks like a little spinach seedling too!

garden house brighton hardwood cuttings

Tune in next week for the next dispatch from The Garden House Wednesday Gardening Club!

 

Here are some links to more information:

The Garden House: http://www.gardenhousebrighton.co.uk/

Seedy Sunday: http://www.seedysunday.org/

Green Roof Workshops: https://brightonpermaculture.org.uk/index.php/courses/ecobuild/greenroofs 

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Win a set of Garden House postcards (when we eventually create them). January 14 2015

**COMPETITION TIME**

Since we launched our range of beautiful Garden House seed packets just before Christmas, many of you have been in touch to tell us that you'd love to see them as a collection of postcards.

We couldn't agree more but can't choose which designs we should reproduce in postcard form. So we need a bit of help from you lovely folks please and in return we'll be giving away some of the finished product. 

Check out how to be in with the chance of winning some on our competition page


Garden House seeds at What You Sow December 03 2014

We're absolutely delighted that What You Sow has recently become the exclusive online stockist for a wonderful range of seeds, selected by Bridgette Saunders, horticulturalist and Deborah Kalinke, garden designer , the team behind The Garden House, Brighton

View the whole range of Garden House seeds.
The collection consists of a hand-picked selection of some of their favourite vegetables and flowers, presented in beautiful seed packets, with designs which offer a modern take on the Art Nouveau illustrations that defined the 20s. 

Each packet comes with growing instructions and all seeds have all been chosen for their quality and performance. Each one is a variety that has been successfully trialled at The Garden House; the flowers all make excellent cut flowers and the selection of vegetables is designed to provide a succession of crops throughout the year. 

The Garden House is a magical place of energy and inspiration, where you can learn about horticulture, experience garden related art as well as attend classes on how to create beautiful gifts from the garden. 

Experience a little piece of The Garden House magic yourself with a packet of seeds to grow in your own garden.