Sunday, 28 February 2016


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We had a shed load of carrots left over, and so my other half requested a carrot cake.  I don’t blame him, I do love carrot cake too.  Don’t forget to store your cake in the fridge as the soft cheese topping requires it.


For the cake:
8 oz / 225 g carrots
7 oz / 200 g self raising flour
6 oz / 175 g sultanas
1 heaped teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3 medium eggs
6 oz / 175 g dark brown sugar
120 ml sunflower oil
3 teaspoons of mixed spiced
1 orange

For the topping:
9 oz / 250 g soft cheese
1 oz / 25 g caster sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3

Place the dark brown sugar, eggs and oil together in a bowl and whisk.  Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice. Peel and grate the carrots and add to the mixture, along with the sultanas and the zest of the orange.

Mix well and then transfer into a lined baking tin and place in the oven for 35-40 minutes.  Check the cake is ready by gently pressing the centre to ensure it is springy.

For the topping mix together the sugar, crème cheese and cinnamon into a stiff pastes and spread on top of the cake.

Store in the fridge for up to 5 days (but it won’t take you that long to eat it!).

Monday, 22 February 2016


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Tomatoes are such resilient plants and are very easy to grow, and you often see them growing as weeds in compost heaps.  However, getting tomatoes to crop successfully is trickier and requires some management.

You can grow tomato plants outside successfully from seed, either collected by yourself from tomatoes or using shop bought packet tomato seeds. The advantage of growing your own tomatoes is that you can select the variety you want, rather than the few varieties on offer in the supermarket. 

Tomatoes have been grown successfully in grow bags for many years, and they can easily be grown in other containers too. However, pot grown tomatoes are at a disadvantage to plants grown directly in the soil and need careful watering and feeding.

It is best to transplant tomato seedlings into containers outside in order to give your plants the best start in life.  Sow tomato seeds indoors or in a heated greenhouse around mid march. They will need to be protected from frost, and temperatures at night should not fall below 10 degrees Celsius.

The tomato seedlings are ready to plant out when the risk of frost is over and the young plants when they are about 15-20 cm (6-8 inches) tall, when the flowers of the first truss are just beginning to open. Harden off your plants before planting outside.  

Fill your container with general purpose compost, with layer of gravel at the bottom to aid drainage. Plant a single tomato plant in each pot and gently water.  

Water the container regularly to keep the soil regularly moist. If the soil dries out and is then flooded with water it will cause the fruit  to crack. Feed the plant with a liquid fertiliser every 10-14 days, changing to a high potash feed when the first fruit start to appear.   

Remove the growing tip of the plant once four trusses have been formed to allow the plant to bush out and to maximise fruit production. Stake your plant as it grows, although bush or trailing varieties do not require a stake.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016


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Lakes and ponds are both defined as a standing or slow-moving body of water surrounded by land. They can be either man-made or natural water bodies.

It can be hard to distinguish between the two as definitions are loose and the terms are not firmly defined. However, lakes are generally larger and/or deeper than ponds and there are ecological differences too.


A lake is a water body of variable size that sits within a basin. They differ from lagoons in that they are not part of the ocean. Lakes can be contrasted with rivers or streams, which are usually flowing (although most lakes are fed and drained by rivers and streams).

They are larger and deeper than ponds, preventing light from penetrating to the bottom and therefore limiting photosynthesis to the top layer which restricts rooted vegetation to the margins. In addition lakes typically have stratified hot and cold temperatures between layers of their water during summer months.  These factors affect the ecology and result in differences between ponds and lakes.


A pond is a body of water shallow enough to support rooted plants. They may arise naturally in floodplains as part of a river system, or be somewhat isolated depressions. 

Unlike lakes ponds usually have consistent temperatures throughout the year. They are shallow and small enough to allow sunlight to shine to the bottom, allowing photosynthesis and so typically contain marsh and aquatic plants and animals.

Saturday, 13 February 2016


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I always find it easy to keep some well used herbs on y kitchen windows sill so that I can grab them at anytime and throw them into a dish.  One of the essential herbs I grow indoors is parsley, as it is so easy to grow and repeated sowings can ensure a consistent supply when I require it. Parsley keeps well and can be chopped up and placed them in a bag in your freezer. 

You can grow either flat leaved or Italian parsley (P. crispum neapolitanum group) or curly leaved parsley (P. crispum crispum group).  Curled parsley has is very decorative with its tightly curled, dark green foliage.  Plain leaved parsley is stronger in taste and easier to cultivate as it closer related to wild parsley but the leaves are less attractive. 

Parsley grows best in moist, well-drained soil, with full sun so keep the soil lightly moist 
and empty the saucer under the pot after every watering so that the roots don't sit in water.
Feed the plants with half strength general purpose liquid fertiliser every two weeks throughout the growing season.  

Fill a medium sized pot with seed and cutting compost and sprinkle the seeds onto the surface of the soil.  Cover the seeds gently with 5mm soil and water.  Place in an propagator or cover with clear plastic until the first leaves emerge. Parsley is best grown in temperatures between 22–30 °C so place on a sunny windowsill.

Parsley seeds about four weeks to germinate  in warm soils, and longer in colder ones. The process can be speeded up by soaking the seeds in lukewarm water for a few hours prior to sowing to soften their tough outer shells.  

Parsley during its second year produces greenish flowers which if not removed will reduce production and will run to seed quickly. Remove the flowering stems as soon as they appear.
You can cut down your parsley hard in the summer to ensure a growth of new leaves several weeks later.  Ensure you apply a liquid fertiliser in your water after cutting. 

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Monday, 1 February 2016


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Petunia is genus of 35 species of flowering plants of South American origin belonging to the family Solanaceae, closely related to the tobacco plant, tomatoes, deadly nightshades, potatoes and chili peppers. 
Petunias are summer, heat-loving plants and so are ideal summer bedding plants.  Rather than buy them from a garden centre you can grow them easily from seed and get a choice of many more varieties . Petunias can be sown in early spring, ready for planting out in May for a summer display. 

Fill a seed tray with seed and potting compost.  Sow the seeds thinly on the surface of the soil and thinly cover with vermiculite.  Gently water, cover with clear plastic to retain moisture and place in a warm, sunny position with a temperature of between 15-18C.  The seedlings will germinate in 14-21 days. 

Petunias prefer low humidity, full sun and moist, rich soil that is well drained. Keep the temperature consistent and water as required, as high temperatures and fluctuating moisture levels are the most likely causes of failure.

Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle and place the into 9 cm pots filled with seed and potting compost.  Plant your seedlings into your garden 8-10 weeks after sowing, but remember to harden off  the plants in a cold frame prior to planting in their final position.