Spring in the garden: growing salad in the chilligrow

There are always jobs that need doing, even small ones so we were up early (as normal) planting stuff. I still hadn’t quite got everything planted up that I had wanted to, so was getting that sorted today which gives me the chance to share some wee tricks you may find useful.

Trick 1: using your chilligrow to grow salad

The quadgrows and chilligrows are great and I use them for all sorts of stuff, I don’t always follow the rules though ūüôā

We have two chilligrows and over the years we’ve realised we really don’t need 6 chilli plants. Usually what happens is we dry loads

or freeze bags of them and Kate usually takes 2 or 3 kgs into work for Andrew who is a chilli head. Either way, we grow way more than we need. So this year we are only going to grow a couple of plants and use the other chilligrow for… SALAD!

Now I can hear you all shouting, but Eli, surely you can just grow one plant in each pot! How will this work. Well let me show you our trick.

Trick 1: growing salad in the chilligrow

First thing I do, is I cut the wick that draws the water into the pot. I usually cut it into two maybe three.

This then lets me spread the wick around the pot a bit more, maximising the water dispersal. A bit like my bit quadgrow plus does with my herbs. I add soil as normal, making sure to remember and spread the wick about and give it a really good soak.

Then sow my salad seeds on top of the soil like normal.

Lastly, spread another layer of compost over the top to keep them safe and happy.

I’ll keep watering from the top until I think my little salad lovelies are strong and then switch to filling the chilligrow reservoir as we would normally. I did this last year and it worked great so it’s become part of my normal routine now.

Trick 2: drainage for your pots

You may recall the conversation we had a few months back about making sure to add little feet under your pots to allow water to get out and stop things from drowning? If not it’s below, but I also have another spring tip for you (well anytime of year to be honest) about using these little feet for drainage inside the pots.

I have to plant up some of our impatiens this morning. They are some of Kate’s favourite plants and we always have pots of them on the steps.

The little plants in the greenhouse were ready to move on now but oh no… I’d used the pots they normally live in so I had to find some new pots and the ones we have didn’t have any drainage holes. Uh oh!

Not to fear though, a few little feet inside the pot (I went two little feet high) which lets a plastic plant pot sit snug inside, off the bottom allowing space for water to drain. Hurrah!

They’ll stay in the greenhouse a little while longer until he weather heats up a bit more and the plants are a bit bigger, but looking lovely.

In the raised beds

I was also adding my beetroot to the raised beds this morning as I still hadn’t planted it, this year, I’m testing out something new, seed tape. We’ve never used this before and wondered if it would be useful. It means your seeds are all perfectly spaced apart when you plant them and given our beetroot somehow always ends up all over the place, we thought we’d give it a go.

Not sure if it will be a keeper as I usually plant a couple of seeds for each plant and take out the weaker one. That means I don’t have the risk of plants not germinating but we’ll give this a try and report back as always. I suppose I can always backfill seeds if needed.

So anyways, it’s spring time, shut down the computer and get out in the garden. There are lots of jobs to be doing this weekend :). I‚Äôm off to prune the hydrangeas.

Have fun folks!

Update!

We have lots of tomato seedlings, lots of carrot seedlings but still no peppers – boo!




It feels good to be back! Spring planting underway. 2019

Boy oh boy does it feels good to be back in the garden and getting things growing. We’re experiencing that sudden spring burst just now, which I love so much. Suddenly, it almost feels like it was overnight, there is colour in the garden again.

The sun is splitting the sky just now, although it is still cold., photos can be deceiving, but there was a day last week when the greenhouse was basking in 22C!!!!! I have to say, I am noticing a huge difference in having a proper, glass greenhouse, it builds and holds the heat so much better than my old polycarbonate one.

Speaking about the greenhouse, we have seeds planted, it’s great to see the greenhouse come alive, and I even rejoiced in the fact that it is now dirty!

So what do we have going, well… the usual. I’ve got my tomatoes planted. Going with Indigo Blue Cherry (my favourites), Sweet Millions (cause they give me sooooo many), San Marzano for flavour and Marmande because Kate has a soft spot for them. They are BIG, ugly beasts but taste fantastic on sandwiches and burgers etc.

We’ve also got our peppers and chillies. This year we are just going with two types of sweet peppers, California Wonder and Romano ( a longer, thinner style). I will still have the four plants going in the quadgrow though. Chillies, we are just doing Jalapeno this year. We’ve found that having more than a couple of chilli plants going is just too much and we are actually still eating frozen chillies form last year, even after we gave 4kg away. So just one plant this year.

Feel free to catch up on our adventures from previous years…

Lessons learned… I find carrots and beetroot take an age to get going for me, so this year I have sown them in root trainers in the greenhouse and I won’t actually put them out until they are a decent, strong looking seedling.

This also means I can do my secession planting this way, hopefully meaning I will get a better crop, but never fear we are sticking with our tried and trusted purple haze carrots. These have time and again been the best croppers for us.

Lastly, after the success of buying courgette plants last year and not growing from seed (they take up loads of space), we are doing this again, so come May, we should get some nice courgette plants in tthe mail and they can go in the beds. Hooray!!! Another wee change, last year was my first year with the enormous quadgrow plus and I struggled to find a use for it last year, so this year it will be my new herb planter ūüôā There are four large pots and a big salad bay, so can’t wait to get that planted up.

What’s that you say, you haven’t heard the story of the ENORMOUS box and the tiny gardener? Oh well let me up date you and you can have a good chuckle at me trying to do an unboxing of something which is bigger than me…

So all in all I am just a big ball of excitement just now, it feels so good to be back!

So now that I’ve given you all an update and even included some of the blogs and videos from the last few years to catch all our new readers up, I’ll eave you now to go out and get started on your own 2019 garden adventure with one last picture and one last thought…

I threw out a hole trug of seeds that were past their date. I know it is very tempting to buy loads, just in case… I have done this so I cannot judge, but just be aware of the wastage and cost. I threw away about ¬£40 worth of seeds, most of which were unopened. A complete waste because I bought too much, so be sensible, buy as much as you think you will need and remember you can always buy more.




Top 10 gifts for gardeners

It’s that time of year where I am continuously asked what I want for Christmas and usually, the answer is simple, I don’t need anything, but this is rarely the answer that’s desired so again but what do you want?

So I thought to help all you folk out there who are being asked, I would put together my personal top ten gardening gifts, that way you can just send people a link to the blog post. Job done.

Number Ten

Knee Pads – as a gardener, I spend a lot of time crawling around, kneeling and generally crouching. This means sore, skinned knees and trousers get trashed. The answer is most definitely big, padded knee pads to just make my knees happier. You can also get kneeling stands etc, but I just find they can be a bit cumbersome and get in the way, knee pads go where you go. I don’t know any gardener who would say they couldn’t find a use for a good pair of knee pads.

Knee pads – https://amzn.to/2Qq1Op0

Number Nine

Useful tool box / lunch box –  I already have one of these tins for keeping all my seeds organised (you’ll see it pop up in the blog and youtube videos often). I don’t think you can ever have enough organisation type boxes and these tin boxes with latched lids are fantastic. I can absolutely picture my flask of tea and a sandwich in this one.

Tool and tuck tin – discounted https://amzn.to/2Qt0At7

Number Eight

Down to earth gardening wisdom by Monty Don – Gardening books are a fantastic gift for any garden from beginner to advanced and Monty is a British treasure not only for his gardening, but also his fashion sense, advice and honesty. Let’s not forget Nigel the dog too.

Down to earth gardening wisdom by Monty Donhttps://amzn.to/2QLsy2M

Number Seven

Alan Titchmarsh – How to garden (greenhouse)  – sticking with the bok theme, this one is actually a bit sentimental for me. This is one of the books Kate bought me when we bought Ar Bruidair to help me create and manage my first garden. It’s full of fantastic advice.

Alan Titchmarsh – How to garden – greenhouse – https://amzn.to/2zVu6NY

Number Six

Alan Titchmarsh – How to garden (growing veggies) – again one of the books Kate bought me and my absolute inspiration for my greenhouse. This book is great for a first timer, taking you thought all the things to think about like sun postition, hot spots etc.

Alan Titchmarsh – How to garden – growing veggies – https://amzn.to/2LeDVLf

Number Five

Paper pot maker – space is an issue every gardener faces. Not just space to grow things, but space to store things too and every year I had a battle on my hands to find space to store all the pots I needed for spring. This little paper pot maker solved all of that and now we make pots out of old newspaper and they break down in the soil, no storage needed. It was one of those genius things Kate came across while surfing the web on Sunday morning and I’m glad she did.  See it in use: https://youtu.be/ml38gTKcNZ8

Paper pot maker https://amzn.to/2LcZvzS

Number Four

Chilligrow planter – You guys all know how much I love my quadgrow planters so no christmas wish list would be complete without one of these. This one is the chilli version, so slightly smaller but I’ve had fantastic success with mine and I use it for way more than chillies, I have herbs in mine too.

Chilligrow planter – https://amzn.to/2Bi4JFS

Number three

Quadgrow planter – I’ve mentioned Chilligrow planters, now meet it’s much bigger brother the quadgrow. Holds and looks after 4 tomato plants easily, keeping watering even and giving my bumper crops. I love this guy.

See my journey from newbie to lover in my video playlist: https://youtu.be/ucI6Vl76oUc

Quadgrow planterhttps://amzn.to/2QIHEWT

Number Two

Gardening gloves –  now let me clarify, I don’t mean big, heavy gloves to protect your hands from thorns etc. I mean these delicate little things that you can do all sorts of jobs while wearing, even potting on seedlings.

I have fallen in love with these gloves over the last couple of years because quite simply, they let me get on with things. I have tiny hands and it is impossible to find gloves that I am comfortable wearing because the fingers are always too long. These were not only a great fit, but they let you still “feel” meaning you can do all sorts of garden jobs without that gloves on, gloves off, gloves on, gloves off thing.

Gardening gloves – https://amzn.to/2Cbj6hb

Number One

A Journal – my number one gift idea. A journal to keep track of the garden from season to season is one of the best gifts you can give any gardener. I was given mine from friends and I have since bought the same one as a gift for my sister. My number one gift for gardeners!

Gardening Journal – https://amzn.to/2SKVHsa




Growing tomatoes in the cold climate of Scotland. Yup it is possible.

I think it’s fair to say that tomatoes have been one of my favourite things to grow over the past couple of years but I hear all the time that you can’t grow tomatoes in the Scottish climate.  Yet I grow lots, blue tomatoes, purple tomatoes, red tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, even stripy tomatoes.

So what’s the trick?

Well simply, it’s about choosing the right variety for the space you have to grow them. Let me explain. You get two types of tomato plants determinate (bush type) or indeterminate (also called cordon). Determinate tomato plants grow as a bush, they are usually compact and all the fruits ripen at pretty much the same time. They don’t need a lot of staking or pruning. Indeterminate tomato plants grow to be tall, very tall, sometimes over 6 feet and continue to grow and produce fruit until they are killed off usually by cold weather. They also need a lot more care and maintenance, lots of pruning.

Within these plant types there are lots of different varieties which in turn will all have different positives and negatives for you as a grower. For example, the bigger beefsteak type tomatoes take a lot of sunlight to ripen, so if your garden doesn’t get a lot of direct sun or if your summer season is short, then these can be difficult to grow. The little cherry varieties, however, can be easier as they need a little less sunlight to ripen.

I am lucky because I have a greenhouse, which means I can have the tomato plants growing for an extended season, meaning when the weather changes in Scotland and we start to get cold and even frost (which is much earlier here than other parts of the UK, I can keep my plants safe in the greenhouse, unaffected. If I was growing my plants outdoors, I’d have to take this into consideration and chose a variety which would ripen quickly to get the best of the shorter season.

So here are some of my very quick tips for growing tomatoes.

Planting

You can plant your tomatoes directly into the soil or into pots. I prefer pots as this gives me the option to move things around in the greenhouse. If you use pots, make sure they are a decent size, your tomato plants get quite big. I usually go for around a ten-inch pot with good quality compost. You can also use grow bags, but try to keep it to one or two plants per grow bag.

Watering

This is one of the most important parts of growing tomatoes and I can’t stress enough how important it is to water your plants regularly and evenly.  The reason I say this is because if you neglect the plant, even just a little and then suddenly try to catch up on the watering, the skins can split, meaning you are likely to get mould growing in the fruit. Try to keep a strict watering regimen.

Feeding

Feeding your plants is essential, once they start to flower you need to feed them weekly with a good, balanced fertiliser. After all the plants are making lots of fruit for you so they need lots of nutrition.

Support

Your plants will need support, especially when they are full of heavy fruit. I use canes and wires to support mine. You can also buy cages especially for growing tomato plants but basically, you just need to find a way to keep them upright and support heavy branches.

Pruning

Determinate varieties (bush) should have their side shoots removed from below the first truss of fruit to allow air and light to penetrate and prevent disease. Try not to remove too many shoots after this as it will reduce your crop so keep them “bushy”.

Indeterminate varieties (cordon) should be encouraged to keep only one or two main stems. Remove any “suckers” by pinching out the growing tips from the leaf joints. These plants will be tall.

Remove “suckers” from your tomato plants

With both types, you may have to regularly remove excess leaves to allow sunlight and air to reach the fruit and help it to ripen.

Good luck with your tomato growing, I hope you guys will get as much fun and pleasure from growing tomatoes as I do, and remember, there are lots of types to grow, so be brave and try at least one that’s not a standard red salad tomato?

Once you have a gut of tomatoes and don’t know what do do with, take a look at some of our tomato recipes to help.

Tomato chutney

Tomato and red pepper soup

Summer pasta

Some of our other posts on growing tomatoes




So what’s been happening at Ar Bruidair? 2018 in the garden.

It’s been a while since I took you for a walk around the garden, so let’s do that. What’s looking good and what are the lessons learned for this year?




Quadgrow-plus: greenhouse gadgets galore

You know I love my gadgets and this year I’ve had some fantastic¬†success with my greenhouse gadgets (namely the quadgrow¬†watering system). Well following on from that I treated myself to another quadgrow¬†product, one which will house salad as well as pots for larger plants like peppers or chillies.¬†Everything has been running so well in the greenhouse with the quadgrow pots, I really can’t fault them, but the one area we were having problems with was salad. It’s such a delicate crop that if you don’t get the watering just right, in a greenhouse, one day can wipe it out. It’s been a bit of a pain in the neck, to be honest, so when I got this year’s bumper hoard of gardening brochures through the letterbox, I was delighted to see a quadgrow solution for this too.¬† It looked so perfect, a little tray with some small pots and a little tray for salad, all watered for mthe reservoir underneath.

But wait… that salad area does look quite small, would it cope? Would it give us enough space to grow the variety of leaves we like? What about mini gem and cos lettuce, we were wanting to get into that this year. So many thoughts, worries, questions.¬† A sigh¬†of relief, its ok, they come in different sizes.

Click and it’s ordered. I went for the bigger option and the deluxe¬†model with the greenhouse type propagator lid thing, to help the¬†seeds germinate.¬†Well, all that excitement and it arrived on Monday, so I got home from work and went straight to the greenhouse to unbox it… I’ll leave the story there and let you watch the video to see more. Let me just say, I should have gone with the small…..

 




Save the date: your chance to pose your questions to us live

We’re going to have some live stream fun!

It’s been a while since we set up the greenhouse and added the copper tape to the quadgrows in an effort to stop the slugs moving in and creating the slug hotel they did last year. We have been updating our adventures throughout the year on our youtube channel, but we haven’t yet joined our fabulous readers from the blog with our equally amazing viewers on youtube. So we thought this was the perfect chance since we know so many of you were really interested in the quadgrow system we installed.

So save the date! On Saturday 4th November 2017 (this Saturday), join us on youtube at 2:30pm UK time, as we go live and get the greenhouse cleaned out for another year and crack open the quadgrows together to see if the copper tape beat the slugs.

It’s also an opportunity for any of you who might have questions for Kate and I, to ask away and we’ll answer as many as we can.

Don’t worry if you can’t join us live, we’ll be saving the video to our youtube channel straight away so you can catch up with it afterwards.

How do I access the live stream?

Use this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiyRqDBtR0Q

OR

Pop along to our youtube channel at 2:30pm on Saturday and just click the video thumbnail. If you want to be notified when this video starts or when we post any other content, subscribe, and click on the bell icon to be alerted.

How do I ask questions?

If you want to ask a question during the session, use the Live Chat widget on the right-hand side of the video. Or send us your questions in advance using the contact us link at the top of the blog.

We’ll answer as many as we can.

See you all on Saturday.

 

 

 




It’s all getting a bit exciting in the greenhouse – bell peppers in the quadgrow

Lots of excitement happening in the greenhouse this year with the arrival of our first peppers, some of which are red already ūüôā

We like to try to experiment a little, it doesn’t always work to be fair, but it’s fun to try and this years experiment¬†was sweet / bell peppers. We’ve never grown these before so it’s a bit of a fly by the seat of our pants but hey that’s what makes it fun. We’ve put 4 of these (all different types) into one of the big quadgrow systems, meaning the watering and feeding is pretty much taken care of. Given that this is new, I didn’t want to risk over or under watering, but it’s so fun. We have LOADS of peppers.

The other thing we did this year, was to try to combat the slug hotel that the quadgrows seemed to be last year. If you’ve seen my review, you’ll know that last year, when it came time to clean the greenhouse out for winter, we opened the quadgrows to find masses of slugs and slug eggs. YUCK! I wanted to try to avoid that this year, so I have put copper tape all around the bottom of the water reservoir to stop the little blighters climbing up there.

Adding copper tape to the quadgrow reservoirs

Baby pepper plants in their copper taped safety

Sad face! ¬†I couldn’t work out how, but the little blighters are munching the peppers. I’m easily losing half the peppers to slug munching. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr ¬†I just couldn’t work out how, they aren’t meant to climb over copper tape and I used it on the strawberries last year and it seemed to work and it’s definitely slugs, I can see the slime trail. Then I realised, the plants are touching the walls of the greenhouse, so the slugs must be climbing the walls and onto the plants from there! Grrrrrrrr!

So I’ve pulled the plants back and trimmed them a bit, hopefully, this will help but so far it’s all looking great, we have loads of peppers. I can’t wait to start using them in the kitchen.




It’s May and finally we get some garden time!

It feels like forever since Kate and I had some garden time. It’s been a mix of my very intense studies, which pretty much take up all of my time and the fact that the weather has been pretty awful, but now that my studies are over for the summer and finally, finally the sun is peeping out a little, we are getting some bits and pieces done.¬†We don’t have any major projects planned for this year, as we knew time would be precious, but we’ve got a couple of new plants in so still a bit of fun and excitement.

Last weekend was the first day where it was actually warm enough to spend any time in the garden without a jacket, hat, and gloves. Seriously, I’m not joking here. So we made the most of it and got the various baby plants out of the greenhouse and into their finally snuggly beds for the coming year. This meant mostly the hanging baskets and the greenhouse quadgrow and chilligrow systems.

This year’s hanging baskets are a bit of a mix, with the baskets on the fence and the shed being begonias and those on the house our usual petunias. Already the petunias are flowering and looking great, but it will be a good while before the begonias catch up I think, they are still tiny.

We had such a fun day though, normally with so much work to do there is a bit of divide and conquer. This year, however, Kate and I got to work on things together, potting up, copper tape and all.

The greenhouse quadgrow systems which were such a hit last year are back in play with tomatoes (as normal) and peppers. We’ve never tried peppers¬†before and to be honest we’re not even sure they will work as Scotland is generally not great for¬†sunshine but it is fun to try these things.¬†Something we did this year though, after our experience of cleaning the greenhouse at the end of last season, I was amazed at how many slugs had taken up home in the quadgrows. So this year, we’ve added some copper tape to them in the hope that it will deter the slugs, I’ve already noticed though, that the copper tape doesn’t seem overly happen in the warm moist environment of the greenhouse… we’ll just have to see.

Another new plant for this year is Cornichon de Paris. Basically little gerkins. We’ve put these in one of the chilligrows but to be honest, we’re pretty much riding by the seat of our pants here as we have no idea about these, it’ll just be fun to see what happens. The hope is that we’ll be able to pickle these for our own gherkins instead of buying jars of these as we do now.

There’s still a fair bit to do but we got enough done to allow us to take a wee bit of a break, in the form of a short jaunt across the pond for a few days in New York. Thanking my lucky stars for the quadgrows¬†otherwise, I’d come home to dead plants ūüôā but when we come back, there is netting to fix on the raised beds, some salad to sort and hopefully the peas will be a bit bigger by then, wee toots!

If you want to laugh at us potting up hanging basket at 300 speed, check out our May update on the Youtube channel




2016 review: Quadgrow, would I recommend it?

That’s the tomato growing season come to an end here at At Bruidair and so the green house has been cleaned up for winter.¬†Those who have been following my adventure with the new watering system may be wondering what my final thoughts were, would I recommend it, was I happy with it, are there any flaws? We’ll just for you guys, here is my end of season review.

Would I recommend it? Hell yes.

I am thoroughly happy with the Quadgrow system. It did exactly what it said on the tin. The watering was much more evenly dispersed meaning I didn’t get any split tomatoes at all. In previous years this was a common occurrence.¬†Also although I didn’t notice the plants being overladen with fruit, (there had been other people claiming to have doubled their yield) I did actually get more tomatoes than previous years. The system seemed to have extended the growing season and I actually took my last tomatoes from the plants in mid October. Normally by then there nothing but green tomatoes.

Trying to think of downsides and I can’t really think of any, it worked really well. There was one or two things it may be good for potential buyers to know about though:

1. the feeder mats – the plant roots grew through and around these mats meaning they are one time use only. You can buy replacements though.

2. when it came time to clean up, I was in for a surprise. Slugmageddon! Although I had no evidence at all of slugs actually causing damage, I was randomly finding slug trail and wondering why, for the first time I seemed to have slugs in the greenhouse. The explanation came when I opened things up to clean it.¬†The underside of the pots and Quadgrow lid we’re absolutely covered in slugs and slug eggs. Covered. Obviously the dark, wet environment had created a slug hotel. So next year there will be copper tape employed.

Apart from that though I’m really happy and really glad I bought these.

So yup, I would recommend them.