Sewing salad greens in pots and containers

I couldn’t really not do some work in my veggie garden today – it has been blissfully hot and sunny, and we have to make the most of it. Sadly I did have to pop to my Studio at Spode Works for a bit in the morning, and I was really impressed by the very healthy lettuces in the beautiful container garden which has been created by Studio artists Su and Sally, outside the studio entrance.

Lettuces in the Spode Works Studio garden

Don’t they look luscious?

Seeing these beautiful homegrown greens reminded me of the news story about bagged salad this week – did you see it? Apparently, about 40% of the bagged salad that we buy in the UK goes in the bin. I’m not really surprised by that – they are generally pretty disappointing in taste, flavour and texture, and go off so quickly – and there always seems to be a slimy bit when you first open the bag. Ugh….

Growing salad greens is so easy… 

What does surprise me though is that more people don’t grow their own lettuce and salad leaves, especially in the summer, it’s so easy.

In the midst of being smug about people throwing salad away, I realised I hadn’t actually planted any of my own this year. So that was the job for late afternoon in the vegetable garden. I like to grow lettuce and salad leaves in small containers as well as in the main veggie garden – it means there is more space available, which means I can plant a few seeds every couple of weeks or so over the summer season, and avoid getting loads of leaves all at once. I also like to plant a really nice variety of leaves for colour and flavour, and so I can use them both raw and cooked.

Picture showing a couple of pots being used to plant lettuce and salad green seeds

So today I’ve put in some mâche, which is the fancy French name for lamb’s lettuce or corn salad, and some Indian mustard greens, which have a lovely spicy flavour and are great in curries too.

I just used an ordinary peat-free compost, with some water retaining crystals so I don’t have to water them quite so often. The good thing about using these small pots is that I can move them out of the full sun on a day like today, so there’s less risk that they will bolt and run to seed very quickly.

Picture of a plant label made using a whittled stick

The other trick I picked up from Su was to whittle (oh so exciting to use that word in a blog post) a little stick to use as a plant marker! Fun to do and very economical and eco-friendly.

Hope you have been enjoying some sunny times too today.

Book review & Giveaway: 101 Organic Gardening Hacks

It’s spring (well, not quite officially, but almost…) and my mind is turning to gardening again. I had lots of plans for garden projects over the autumn and winter period, but unfortunately have managed to proceed with only one of them (to get a hotbin composting system up and running). So I definitely needed motivation to get out in the garden and feel enthusiastic rather than feeling like I am already behind! The sunny weather we had earlier in the week definitely helped, but browsing through 101 Organic Gardening Hacks – Eco-friendly Solutions to Improve any Garden by Shawna Coronado (published by Cool Springs Press at £12.99) has given me a much needed burst of enthusiasm, and also a reminder that there are lots of economical and simple ideas to put into practice whilst you save up for the more ambitious stuff!

In the introduction – Coronado describes her gardening motivation:

Hacking is the concept of breaking traditional rules to discover a creative way to accomplish something – a clever trick that saves cash for the thrifty or solves a problem elegantly. Whether the hack is for gardening, computing, cooking, or anything in between, ‘hacking’ your way through your daily challenges is fast becoming a new lifestyle choice because the best hacks are easy, smart and economical.

 

It all sounds very modern and zeitgeisty, but actually, there’s plenty of knowledge here that would be very familiar to an older gardening generation. Hacking is definitely an evolution of the Make Do and Mend philosophy, and interestingly, Coronado says that, when it comes to gardening, her grandmothers are her biggest influence.

So the book is a great mix of old-fashioned garden wisdom and thriftiness and fun, sometimes quirky, new ideas, and considering there’s 101 hacks, I didn’t find the ideas at all repetitive.

Practical and quirky – the sign says “Emergency Tools for Zombie Apocalypse”.

 

As with all kinds of hacking, there’s an open-minded approach to problem-solving. So we get veggie growing in the front garden for people who really want to max out on food growing, or don’t have the right conditions in their back gardens:

Then there’s growing a living wall for colour, insects and edible plants, making the most of the very small gardening spaces which many people are limited to:

And for those of us with a bit more space – how about growing a ground cover patio – this has got to be my favourite project in the whole book, it’s so beautiful:

 

There are ideas for veggie growing and for growing ornamental plants (not mutually exclusive obviously!) and also for supporting wildlife in your garden, there’s loads about saving water, gardening for the benefit of the community and gardening economically and ethically. There are tips for beginners (there’s lots about composting and also growing from seed etc.) but there’s also lots here for people who have been gardening for years who would appreciate some fresh ideas.

A reminder of the importance of planting spring flowering perennials to support insects early in the growing season.

Some hacks are quick and easy, others are more complex and involve some DIY skills, but all the projects seem to be clearly outlined with lists of the equipment that you need. I love this idea for making sure you can keep your seed packets organised. I can see how this can be adapted in all sorts of ways as a basis for a gardening diary:

I should say, if you are based outside the USA, a tiny proportion of the hacks won’t necessarily be relevant to you (I won’t be bothering to plant to attract hummingbirds to my garden, for example), but – I can count these on the fingers of one hand, pretty much, so don’t let that put you off, there is so much good stuff here.

Giveaway…

If you’d like to win a copy of this book, please leave a comment on this blog post before 10pm (GMT) tomorrow to be in with a chance of winning. As always, happy with a ‘pick me’ or you can tell me what you have been up to in your garden this weekend (I did some MUCH needed tidying up and weeding). Happy to post overseas!

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