Archive for the ‘Top Tips’ Category
Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
Continuing our series of blogs in conjunction with the release of Isabelle’s upcoming book “The Balcony Gardener,” we’re featuring our essential guide to setting yourself up as a Balcony Gardener, perfect if you’re a gardening novice.
This week, we’re looking at the essential Balcony Gardening kit which will help you get started. It can be a bit daunting to know where to start and what to invest in, so Isabelle can help you with her top tips!
- WATERING CANS / GARDEN HOSES
To keep your balcony garden healthy and flourishing it will need occasional watering. I would recommend using a couple of smaller watering cans as opposed to one large one which can often get pretty heavy when filled with water. A long spout is also useful to reach plants in a container, I would also suggest buying a rose attachment which gives a softer shower which is ideal when watering seeds and other delicate plants. If you want to use a hose either be sure you have an outdoor tap or you can use a hose attachment for an indoor tap.
- TROWELS AND HAND FORKS
Finding the right tools and the right fit is essential, when you’re shopping try using the tools in the shop. You want to make sure that they’re comfortable and easy to handle. I think stainless steel trowels and hand forks are much more effective and last a lot longer.
There can still be wayward plants on a balcony that will need cutting back so you will need a good pair of hand pruners or secateurs. If you decide to grow laurel, bamboo, evergreens or roses they will need a regular tidy-up.
It’s always best as a matter of course to buy quality organic seeds, produce that is free from chemical interference. As a rule I would recommend coir pots to sow seeds in, they’re much more environmentally friendly that plastic pots or polysterene which can rot down in potting mix.
- BRACKETS FOR WINDOW BOXES
It’s very important when you’re suspending window boxes and troughs on a balcony garden that they are securely fixed. Make sure you hang the box or trough on the inside of the balcony and not over the edge where they could fall and injure a passer-by. You can buy adjustable brackets to match the filled weight of the window box.
- PLANT LABELS AND OTHER USEFUL ITEMS
It’s important to use labels when sowing seeds so that you can recognise seeds after you’ve planted them. Make sure you use an indelible pens on labels and get into the habit of inserting labels as soon as you’ve planted the seeds. Don’t feel that you have to only use plastic labels, there are plenty of more attractive metal, copper and slates. I also think it’s a good idea to use pot feet they help with drainage and deter slugs.
- SPRAY BOTTLES
Use a spray bottle to mist indoor plants, you can also use a spray bottle containing pesticide to tackle pests and diseases. Make sure you label the bottle correctly.
Monday, April 18th, 2011
Sonny’s (aged 4) carrots
A new gardening survey has been published confirming a third of all adults in Britain will grow their own fruit and vegetables at home over the summer. Over 37 percent of the adults interviewed answered that they were planning to grow at least half of their produce in their own gardens, allotments or window boxes. Interestingly, 72 percent also answered that they had fallen in love with gardening by the age of thirty. It seems the gardening bug is being planted at a much earlier age, with more children and young people growing up green fingered surrounded by home-grown produce.
Children love getting their hands dirty and mucking around in the garden, there are many ways to get them excited about planting and learning about the great outdoors. If you have the space you can allocate them their own gardening area so they can dig freely; if your space is limited why not find a suitable planter or container they can call their own? You could even recycle an old wooden box, a bath, wheel barrow – and paint it brightly coloured. Girls are often drawn into the garden by tales of butterflies whilst boys love nothing more than digging for worms. Our butterfly garden seeds are a lovely way to attract butterflies into your green space, whilst worms are a vital part of creating your own compost. If you’re having problems encouraging your little ones to finish off their fruit and vegetables, what could be a better incentive than seeing the vegetables they carefully planted and watered on their plate?
Sonny’s peas and aubergines seedlings
There are plenty of fun outdoorsy trips to explore with the kids during the Easter break. Our first tip is the newly re-opened Butterfly World close to St Albans – the biggest butterfly experience in the world complete with a biome shaped like a butterfly’s head to house the different varieties. Within the Biome there will be underworld caves with insects, spiders and scorpions, canopy walkways and intermittent thunderstorms and a lost world. If you’re in London during the holidays then we would suggest a trip to the Natural History Museum to their new Sensational Butterflies exhibition containing 5 sensory zones to experience and a newly built Butterfly House. If you’re staying at home then we would recommend the family friendly website gardening with children with great tips and projects for children to explore in the garden.
Thursday, August 12th, 2010
One of the best parts of my job is spending time scouring markets and fairs for vintage pieces for the site. Just like with interiors and fashion, mixing vintage and modern can give your outdoor space a unique personalised look. We have some wonderful new (but old) products available now such as blue and white enamel buckets and basins, and the huge galvanised dolly tubs originally used for handwashing clothes, which all make perfect planters. And the vintage wooden crates look great planted up with salad leaves. Just make sure you make a drainage hole at the bottom if you are planting straight into an old container.
Best of all, container gardens are easily portable which make them ideal for busy Londoners who seem to move house quite regularly. Just pick them up and move them with you – they’ll add instant colour to your new outdoor space.
It’s also easy to give your balcony or patio a brand new look, by changing the planting or simply moving the pots around to create a different look. Rearranging your display regularly can help you to see which colours work best together, or where some plants will thrive better.
You also don’t have to spend a fortune to grow plants, flowers or veg in pots. Here are my top five tips for thrifty gardening.
- Why not re-use different containers for a portable garden? Buckets, wine crates and wicker baskets make perfect containers.
- Build up your own compost, you can use tea bags and coffee grounds to get started.
- Use the bottoms of egg shells to start seeds.
- Start growing bamboo, it makes a great support for growing tomatoes and terrific screening.
- Smear vaseline around the rims of pots to deter slugs. (Who surprisingly find their way upto my 4th floor balcony every summer!)
Tuesday, August 11th, 2009
Last year I saw all these wonderful recipes for stuffed courgette flowers – now being a bit of a foodie I was most perturbed that I had not yet tried this delicacy. I trawled all over London, Borough Market and surrounding countryside to find them, but to no avail. So I decided I would grow my own this year on my balcony, using our Seeds.
I have picked this recipe below which is just delicious.
Now I just need to find a recipe to use all these courgettes I have left over…
Ricotta & Herb Stuffed Courgette Flowers
12 Courgette Flowers (Blossom)
for the stuffing
Approx 6 tbsp Fresh Ricotta Cheese
1 Garlic Clove crushed
1 tbsp Freshly Chopped Basil
1 tbsp Toasted Pine nuts
Salt and Pepper
For the batter
175g/6oz Self Raising Flour
A pinch of Salt
390ml/13fl.oz. Ice cold water
2 Eggs, beaten
Oil for shallow frying
- Carefully remove the pistol and stamen from the centre of the flowers and gently wash the flowers then dry on kitchen paper and set aside.
- Place the ricotta, garlic, basil, nuts, egg, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and mix until well blended.
- Fill each flower with a couple of teaspoons of the cheese mixture, making sure you don’t overfill. Refrigerate whilst you make the batter.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, water and eggs until combined.
- Heat about 5cm/2 inches of oil in a large frying pan until quite hot (about 180C/350F) and heat the oven to low.
- Holding the ends of the petals lightly together, carefully dip a stuffed flower into the batter, making sure the entire flower is coated, then gently place into the hot oil. Repeat with a few more but do not overcrowd the pan. You will probably have to cook them in a couple of batches.
- Fry for a couple of minutes until lightly browned on one side, then turn and continue to fry until lightly browned on the other side.
- As and when each is cooked, remove with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with remaining stuffed flowers. Serve hot
To serve as a meaty option, add 75g of pancetta or bacon to the stuffing mixture.
Many thanks to my friend Keiko who has taken this beautiful picture, take a look at her stunning blog Nordljus for more food inspiration!