Friday 25 March 2016


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Melons are gourd like plants that are members of the cucurbitaceae family, and are closely related to cucumbers, squash and pumpkins. Common varieties that are easy to grow include cantaloupe, galia and honeydew.

Like all cucurbits melons are hungry, thirsty plants that love sunshine and take up a lot of space in your garden.  But you can get around this space issue if you grow them in pots rather than directly into the soil. It also means that is that they can be moved to a sheltered position or greenhouse as required.

You will need to start off your melon plants early in a greenhouse or indoors in order to make the most of the available sunshine. Start off your pots early in a greenhouse or indoors in March to give them a head start, taking the pot outside in May after the risk of frost has passed. You can sow seeds direct into the final pot or transplant melon seedlings into it.

Fill a small 9 cm pot with potting compost and place two melon seeds in each pot.  Water thoroughly and cover with a perspex sheet/glass to keep in moisture and place on a sunny windowsill or greenhouse. The melon seedlings should germinate within a week or two. Remove the weaker of the two seedlings when they are 3 cm high.

You can transplant the seedlings into their final pot when they have 2-4 true leaves. Fill a large 30 cm pot with a mixture of  potting compost and general purpose fertiliser and place one melon seedling in each pot. Water thoroughly.   Harden off your plants in a cold frame before placing outside.

Once small fruit have started to develop, remove all but the the best four on each stem. If the melon variety is not self-fertile, you may wish to hand pollinate. Select 4–5 female flowers on each plant (the females flowers have a swollen part at the base of the bloom); pollinate them by placing a male flower inside each female (one male flower should pollinate four females).

Melon plants like to stretch out so when grown in pots vertical height is required.  Use a stake to encourage your plants to grow up . Ensure you water well during dry spells and feed fortnightly with a general purpose fertiliser.  

Although melons require plenty of water and feed to grow and produce flowers, cut back on the watering and stop feeding once the fruits start to swell and the foliage dies back. Remove any further flowers and new growth.

If you are growing melon on a strong trellis, provide some support for the swelling fruit. A string bag or an old pair of tights supported from above will work. If you're letting the plant sprawl on the ground, place a tile or a piece of glass under each fruit to prevent rotting.

Melons are ready to harvest when they feel heavy for their size and are easily separated from the vine, usually July to October depending on variety. 

For related articles click onto:
Growing potatoes in pots
How to grow cucumbers in pots
How to grow melons in pots
How to grow cucumbers from seed
How to Grow Pumpkins from Seed
How to grow runner beans from seed
How to grow runner beans from seed
How to grow seeds indoors

Monday 21 March 2016


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

It was Georges's fourth birthday recently, so I invited a few friends and family around for a birthday tea.  Top of my list of things to make was a shark melon as George loves sharks (and ranks sharknado as one of the best films ever!).  Anyway, I had a go and was impressed with myself by the results.


1 watermelon
1 medium bunch of black grapes
1 mango
1 pineapple
4 kiwis


Hold your melon up vertically and tilt it slightly to give a shark like profile. Use a sharp knife to slice the bottom of your melon, cutting at a slight angle to preserve the above profile.

Make two long cuts for the mouth, and remove this section and set aside for use as the fin later. Carefully slice a 1.5 cm lip around the mouth and remove the green layer of skin to expose the white gums.Using a knife cut zig zag teeth shapes all along the gums.

Use a melon baller or spoon to remove the melon from inside the shark.  Remove all the flesh, including the melon at the bottom of the shark.  Set aside the melon, minus the seeds.

Using the melon slice from making the mouth, cut it in half into a triangle to make a dorsal fin.  Slightly curve the side that sits on the melon and fix with two half cocktail sticks.  Cut a grape in half and fix each eye with half a cocktail stick too.

Cut the mango, kiwi, pineapple and grapes and place in the shark along with some of the scooped out melon.   

Enjoy! Made me smile anyway.

Shark melon
How to grow melons in pots

Friday 18 March 2016


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Lilies grow well in pots, and growing them in pots allows you to position the plants anywhere in your garden and add instant colour.

Ensure you select a large, deep pot for your lilies, a minimum of 20 cm in diameter.  Place crock or drainage stones into the bottom of your pot.  Fill with a multipurpose compost such as John Innes No.3, adding some slow release granular fertiliser to the mix.

Large lily bulbs (10-12 cm diameter) should be planted singly in the container, whilst smaller bulbs (5-8 cm diameter) can be planted 3 to a pot.  Plant at a depth equal to  the height of the bulb, with the basal plate facing downwards. Do not allow the bulbs to touch, allow 5 cm between each lily.

Keep the soil moist and feed with a high potassium liquid fertiliser such as tomato feed fortnightly during summer.  Watch out for red lily beetle which can be crushed on sight, as well as slugs, snails and grey mould.

Repot your lilies during the autumn, after the foliage has died down. Keep your pots in a cool but frost free position with strong light and good ventilation. Lilies require cool winter conditions to flower well so ensure they are kept outside during the winter.

Monday 14 March 2016

Growing lettuce

Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

Lettuce is really easy to grow, which is great as I use lettuce for most of the spring, summer and autumn.  You can sow a crop every few weeks to ensure a continuous supply and there are so many varieties to choose from too.

Lettuce is a great starter plant for children to grow too, and it grows easily just about anywhere and can be grown in containers, hanging baskets, pots, raised beds or direct in the ground.

You may choose to give your seedlings a head start and grow them under glass prior to planting them outside, although you can plant them directly outside into the soil too.

However whether you choose to sow your seedlings outside or indoors, you will need to prepare the soil for planting in the same way.   Lettuce plants like a free draining, humus rich soil so during the autumn/winter start preparing the beds by digging them over and incorporating some well rotted farm yard manure or leaf mould. Rake the soil to a fine tilth a week before planting and incorporate a general fertiliser.

Lettuce can be sown indoors or in a heated greenhouse to give your seedlings a head start. Plant seedlings directly into individual cells or small pots. Use a 'seed and potting' compost mix, settling the soil by tapping the side of the container. Sow several seeds into each cell and cover lightly with compost and firm. Water gently and place in mini propagator in a bright, warm place, but out of direct sunlight. Open vents to ensure good ventilation.

When planting spring lettuce outside directly into the soil wait until the worst of the frosts are over. They like a sunny position but will benefit from being grown inside a small poly tunnel. Summer lettuce will benefit from being in a partially shaded area to prevent extremes of heat. Sow the lettuce seeds in 2cm deep drills, rows spaced 15cm apart.  Before planting your lettuce seedlings, you will have to harden them off for several weeks. 

Thin your seedlings when they are 5cm high, leaving 15-25 cm between each plant.  Sow successive seeds every few weeks to ensure a continuous crop of lettuce.  Depending on variety it will take up to 14 weeks from planting to harvesting your lettuce. 

For related articles click onto:
Growing carrots
Growing herbs
Growing rhubarb
Growing potatoes
Growing tomatoes
Growing tomatoes from seed
Harvesting potatoes
How to grow broccoli from seed
How to grow cauliflower from seed
How to grow garlic
How to build a cold frame
How to grow artichokes from seed
How to Grow Asparagus from Seed
How to grow cabbage from seed
How to grow carrots from seed
How to grow cucumbers from seed
How to grow french beans from seed
How to grow lettuce from seed
How to grow onions from onion sets
How to grow onions from seed
How to Grow Pumpkins from Seed
How to grow runner beans from seed
How to grow runner beans from seed
How to grow seeds indoors
How to grow strawberries from seed
How to grow tomatoes from seed
How to make compost
How to propagate using division

Friday 11 March 2016


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

I love parsley soup. It tastes so refreshing and delicious, and you can feel the goodness as you eat it. We make this in the summer with home grown parsley picked fresh from the allotment. This enables us to cram as much parsley into the recipe as possible, which makes for a better soup.

  • 1 oz butter
  • 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large bunch (about 150g) fresh parsley, thoroughly washed and chopped
  • 3 celery sticks, chopped 
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock 
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of double cream

Melt the butter in a pan and add the celery, parsley, onion and garlic. Cook until softened.

Add the flour to thicken the mixture and cook for a few minutes.  Pour the stock into the pan and simmer for 30 minutes.

Allow the mixture to cool a little before blending to make a puree. Reheat and add the salt and pepper.  Stir in the cream a few minutes before serving and add a sprig of parsley.

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