An actual miracle. September 09 2015

Hey everyone, remember these guys from back in May?

We chopped up the stem of this succulent and hoped that something magical would happen. 

Propagating Aeonium with What You Sow      Propagating Aeonium with What You Sow

Look what happened!!

They are growing into actual tiny plants!

Propagating Aeonium with What You Sow

Propagating Aeonium with What You SowPropagating Aeonium with What You SowPropagating Aeonium with What You SowPropagating Aeonium with What You SowPropagating Aeonium with What You Sow

Sometimes I feel a bit disenchanted with the world and then something like this happens and it's all okay again. 



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Nothing short of miracles May 20 2015

Begonias from leaf cuttings. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

To start Gardening group off today, Bridge showed us what can only be described as a horticultural miracle… a selection of begonias which had been propagated from leaf cuttings. They had been created from literally cutting a bit of leaf and planting it in some soil. In some cases you could even see the original leaf cutting…

Begonia from leaf cuttings. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

The technique is called leaf slashing and involves taking the section of leaf, using a razor blade to slash the veins on the back of the leaf and laying it on some soil. From each cut vein, new roots will emerge and a new plant will grow! We didn’t do this in Wednesday Gardening Group today but I hope we will at some point in the future.  

This is my favourite, it looks like a dinosaur.  

Begonia from leaf cuttings. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

Today we talked about mealy bug. Now that the danger of a frost has passed (15th May was the big day), it was time to move the echeverias from the conservatory out into the garden. Bridge told us a bit about the difference between Sempervivum and Echeveria…

Sempervivum (meaning “always living”) are hardy so can survive outdoors in the winter although they don’t much like the wet. So they need to be covered over the winter, perhaps in a cold frame.

Sempervivum. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

This one is called “Blue Boy”. What a stunning colour.

Sempervivum "Blue Boy". Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

Echeveria are not tolerant to frost so can’t stay out in the winter. They enjoy a cold conservatory or porch as they need a lot of light.

Echeveria. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

These plants can fall victim to mealybug in a hot conservatory if there isn’t enough ventilation so our job for today was to move the echeveria outside. Mealybug is a common greenhouse pest as it thrives in warm, poorly ventilated conditions. We made a sort of plant A&E for all the mealybug-ridden plants which need a bit of TLC.

It’s gross looking, like a clump of talcum powder but don’t despair, there are ways to get rid of it.   

Mealybug. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.            Mealybug. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

Ways to rid your plants of mealybug:

  • Ventilation is key. Open greenhouse windows and doors whenever possible.
  • Brush mealybug off the plants with a small brush
  • Remove any dead parts of the plant to improve ventilation
  • Leave the plants outside for a few weeks
  • Don’t over water or let the plants dry out.
  • You can dab an insecticide on the mealybug infestation or ask the internet about alternative remedies such as washing up liquid, alcohol, etc
  • In extreme cases you can order in some Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, they are a type of ladybird who rather enjoy mealybug for tea.

So we made a start on moving the echeveria outside for their summer residence and moving the sempervivum to a new location. While we were doing it we took some of the baby plants that had grown and potted them on/ made some pretty displays.  

Echeveria propagation. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

We used this awesome new gardening tool, which is a brush to dust the soil off the succulents!

Succulent brush. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

There is such a diversity of these plants, and different ways of propagating them. Some of them can have the stalks chopped into little sections, and as long as there are some nodes they will grow into new plants. They need to be put on a heated propagator though. I’ll keep you updated on these.

Sempervivum propagation. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.            Sempervivum propagation. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

My favourite of all of them is the gorgeous Aeonium “Kiwi” (below). When we repotted it and split it into two, Bridge said I could have one half for my room so I was overjoyed. I’ve potted it up and am leaving it outside for 2 weeks now to settle into the pot before I bring it indoors. This will also make sure there are no pests by the time I bring it in, just in case there were some hiding.

Aeonium "Kiwi". Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

Also at Gardening Group today we planted some Geranium phaeum ‘Album’ in a shady part of one of the beds.  

Geraniums. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.            Geraniums. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

And finally, we planted up tomatoes in these really cool special tomato pots. They go into the ground and include holes for canes to build a wigwam, and a little reservoir for water. It’s important to water tomatoes regularly and evenly at the roots, otherwise they can split before you’ve had a chance to eat them (I’ve done this before, it’s a bit annoying). So the reservoir helps you monitor how much you’re watering the plants. The team set up a frame for the tomatoes to grow up as well and placed this whole contraption in the greenhouse where the warmth will really help the tomatoes out.

Tomato planters. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.            Tomato planters. Garden House Brighton by What You Sow.

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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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:

Seedy Sunday:

Green Roof Workshops: 

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The miniature succulent eggshell garden - a simple but striking Easter gift to make April 18 2014

I always had myself down as one of the people who used a veg box scheme.

But sadly, after trialling the Abel & Cole scheme for a month earlier this year, and ending up with a fridge full of wrinkly vegetables after said month, I discovered that I am just not cut out for it. It’s a tough pill to swallow but I’m doing my best to deal with it.

However I was extremely successful at munching my way through all the very tasty eggs that we ordered alongside the box each week. So now I’m happy to be able to show you how I recycled the eggshells into a gorgeous little Easter present. 

If you’ve left it too late to do any time intensive crafting and don’t want to buy a plain old chocolate egg for someone special this Easter, follow our instructions to make an eggshell garden.

If you need some inspiration for egg consumption, I can strongly recommend you try making huevos rancherostortilla de patata or these quite phenomenal crème egg brownies.

Once you have enough eggs, you can get started on your miniature garden which you can decorate very quickly and stylishly with semi circles to make a quite striking Easter gift.

You will need:

Clean eggshells


A fork

Tiny succulents

An egg cup

Adhesive dots


Egg carton

The preparation starts early.When eating the eggs, be very careful as you crack the shell and just try to remove the very tip. Then rinse the shell under warm water with a teeny bit of washing up liquid (ecover, obvs) and leave to dry.

Carefully use the scissors to cut through the centre of a line of dots to make your semi circles.

Place your first eggshell in the egg cup and stick the semi circles onto the outside of the shell in the design of your choice. Be super carefully not to press too hard throughout the process in case you crack the eggshell (It’s always useful to have a few spares just in case)

Once you have decorated 6 eggshells, fill each one with a small amount of compost ( I found it easiest to use a fork to do this) and push the compost down gently using your finger.

Carefully remove one of your tiny succulents from it’s pot and place onto the compost. Then top up with a little bit more soil, gently pressing down to secure the succulent firmly into place.

Instead of using succulents you can use seedlings too if you have sown some. They would look adorable, and you can plant the eggshells straight out into the garden or allotment.

Place the finished eggshell planters into your egg carton then dribble a tiny amount of water into each eggshell.

Close the lid and decorate with ribbon ready to give as a present. The plant will grow and thrive for years to come and can be potted on once it is large enough to go into a bigger pot. So much nicer than a chocolate egg, don’t you think?


Thanks for reading about our little eggshell garden, we hope you give it a try. If you'd like to hear more from What You Sow, follow us on:

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