Grobog egg whaaa?

May 19, 2011 § 2 Comments

Here are the top search terms which bring people to the Groblog. I find ‘grobog egg’ highly amusing. If anyone can explain to me what a grobog egg is I will send you a box of plants for free!

forest pansy tree 181
reine de glace lettuce foto 111
interplanting vegetable garden 94
bolting green and red lettuce 67
forest pansy trees 61
polytunnel pegs 49
mirasol chile pepper 36
grobog egg 35
climate zones of south africa 31
zapallo plomo squash seed uk 30
allium schubertii growing 21
bridal veil mushroom 16
aubergine caliope 12

The Veggie Patch Re-imagined – A fine blog!

March 15, 2011 § 5 Comments

I’ve added a noteworthy blog to the blog roll. Its a really lovely blog with a mildly formiddable back catalogue of interesting articles. I learn so much  from this blogger.

The Veggie Patch Re-imagined garden is in Ottawa- check it out!

Here is a sample post that I particularly like entitled ‘Seed Starting – an irreverant primer’:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Seed Starting – an irreverant primer

I am going to pause the exposé of rot to write something timely for us gardeners. Just when winter is at its bleakest, we open packages of promise and start to sow. My guide to breaking the rules.

Tomato plant ready for outdoor living.

1. Don’t start your plants too EARLY!

No! Stop! Don’t plant cucumbers now! It’s bad! They might eat your house! Or at least scare the children with their weak, limp tendrils growing cave-light pale on your window sill. It’s true, unless I had a fancy greenhouse, I wouldn’t start cukes this early. It is way easier to sow in direct in the garden or to start in transplantable containers a couple weeks before setting out. However, I start strawberries in early winter and some plants need months of stratification to break dormancy so I sow them in the fall. This rule is mainly aimed at getting people in short season areas to start their tomatoes in April, or late March at the earliest, rather than in February.

I’ll cop to planting tomatoes in February one year. You know, earliest possible last frost date of the beginning of May minus eight weeks gives you March so last week of February sounded reasonable. They did fine. The problem, as I see it, is if you are growing a tomato that tends to crop all at once such as determinates, then you might get a flush of flowers on your root confined seedlings, lowering your yield. There are even tomato varieties that are bred to withstand low indoor light, such as Red Robin, that will hopefully give you fruit in the dead of winter!

So when do I start seed? All year.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Starting seed indoors part 3: Vegetable varieties to start early

January 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

By and large most vegetable crops can be planted when specified on seed packets, outdoors, and they will fare much better than if raised in artificial conditions.

A few varieties can be planted in winter with a bit of help from artificial lighting. There are two main reasons to plant veg under lights in winter:

1. For varieties which originate from parts of the world with longer/warmer growing seasons than in the UK;

2. To achieve two crops of varieties like tomatoes which traditionally are only grown once a year.

Aubergines, chillies, peppers and tomatoes need a long, hot summer to yield big harvests. These plants originate from more southerly latitudes countries with much longer, hotter summers than in the UK.

To achieve big harvests in the UK these plants need to be started in early spring, but these varieties really need heat and good light to germinate and grow well. These conditions occur in about April, but if you sow seed in April the plant will not be ready to fruit until about June/July. This only leaves two months of good weather for fruiting and ripening.

Ideally, come April these plants should be 8 weeks old, so when you plant them outside in May they are ready to flower; this means the plant has four months of good growing conditions to fruit.

I get two harvests of each of these varieties. The first lot are sown under lights in January, begin fruiting in May and crop by July, the second lot are sown in March, fruit in late June and yield in late August/September.

Commercial growers take this one step further and sow seed throughout the year, utilising artificial lights to manipulate the seasons, thus harvesting all year round.

If this is confusing please email!

A useful list of NPK values from the

January 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

NPK value for various organic materials, from a good chilli info database at the

Alfalfa Hay: 2.45/05/2.1
Apple Fruit: 0.05/0.02/0.1
Apple Leaves: 1.0/0.15/0.4
Apple Pomace: 0.2/0.02/0.15
Apple skins(ash) : 0/3.0/11/74
Banana Residues (ash): 1.75/0.75/0.5
Barley (grain): 0/0/0.5
Barley (straw): 0/0/1.0
Basalt Rock: 0/0/1.5
Bat Guano: 5.0-8.0/4.0-5.0/1.0
Beans, garden(seed and hull): 0.25/0.08/03
Beet Wastes: 0.4/0.4/0.7-4.1
Blood meal: 15.0/0/0
Bone Black: 1.5/0/0
Bonemeal (raw): 3.3-4.1/21.0/0.2
Bonemeal (steamed): 1.6-2.5/21.0/0.2
Brewery Wastes (wet): 1.0/0.5/0.05
Buckwheat straw: 0/0/2.0
Cantaloupe Rinds (ash): 0/9.77/12.0
Castor pomace: 4.0-6.6/1.0-2.0/1.0-2.0
Cattail reeds and water lily stems: 2.0/0.8/3.4
Cattail Seed: 0.98/0.25/0.1
Cattle Manure (fresh): 0.29/0.25/0.1
Cherry Leaves: 0.6/0/0.7
Chicken Manure (fresh): 1.6/1.0-1.5/0.6-1.0
Clover: 2/0/0/0 (also contains calcium)
Cocoa Shell Dust: 1.0/1.5/1.7
Coffee Grounds: 2.0/0.36/0.67
Corn (grain): 1.65/0.65/0.4
Corn (green forage): 0.4/0.13/0.33
Corn cobs: 0/0/2.0
Corn Silage: 0.42/0/0
Cornstalks: 0.75/0/0.8
Cottonseed hulls (ash): 0/8.7/23.9
Cottonseed Meal: 7.0/2.0-3.0/1.8
Cotton Wastes (factory): 1.32/0.45/0.36
Cowpea Hay: 3.0/0/2.3
Cowpeas (green forage): 0.45/0.12/0.45
Cowpeas (seed): 3.1/1.0/1.2
Crabgrass (green): 0.66/0.19/0.71
Crabs (dried, ground): 10.0/0/0
Crabs (fresh): 5.0/3.6/0.2
Cucumber Skins (ash): 0/11.28/27.2
Dried Blood: 10.0-14.0/1.0-5.0/0
Duck Manure (fresh): 1.12/1.44/0.6
Eggs: 2.25/0.4/0.15
Eggshells: 1.19/0.38/0.14
Feathers: 15.3/0/0
Felt Wastes: 14.0/0/1.0
Field Beans (seed): 4.0/1.2/1.3
Feild Beans (shells): 1.7/0.3/1.3
Fish (dried, ground): 8.0/7.0/0
Fish Scraps (fresh): 6.5/3.75/0
Gluten Meal: 6.4/0/0
Granite Dust: 0/0/3.0-5.5
Grapefruit Skins (ash): 0/3.6/30.6
Grape Leaves: 0.45/0.1/0.4
Grape Pomace: 1.0/0.07/0.3
Grass (imature): 1.0/0/1.2
Greensand: 0/1.5/7.0
Hair: 14/0/0/0
Hoof and Horn Meal: 12.5/2.0/0
Horse Manure (fresh): 0.44/0.35/0.3
Incinerator Ash: 0.24/5.15/2.33
Jellyfish (dried): 4.6/0/0
Kentucky Bluegrass (green): 0.66/0.19/0.71
Kentucky Bluegrass (hay): 1.2/0.4/2.0
Leather Dust: 11.0/0/0
Lemon Culls: 0.15/0.06/0.26
Lemon Skins (ash): 06.33/1.0
Lobster Refuse: 4.5/3.5/0
Milk: 0.5/0.3/0.18
Millet Hay: 1.2/0/3.2
Molasses Residue: 0.7/0/5.32
Molasses Waste: 0/0/3.0-4.0
Mud (fresh water): 1.37/0.26/0.22
Mud (harbour): 0.99/0.77/0.05
Mussels: 1.0/0.12/0.13
Nutshells: 2.5/0/0
Oak Leaves: 0.8/0.35/0.2
Oats (grain): 2.0/0.8/0.6
Oats (green fodder): 0.49/0/0
Oat straw: 0/0/1.5
Olive Pomace: 1.15/0.78/1.3
Orange Culls: 0.2/0.13/0.21
Orange Skins: 0/3.0/27.0
Oyster Shells: 0.36/0/0
Peach Leaves: 0.9/0.15/0.6
Pea forage: 1.5-2.5/0/1.4
Peanuts (seed/kernals): 3.6/0.7/0.45
Peanut Shells: 3.6/0.15/0.5
Pea Pods (ash): 0/3.0/9.0
Pea (vines): 0.25/0/0.7
Pear Leaves: 0.7/0/0.4
Pigeon manure (fresh): 4.19/2.24/1.0
Pigweed (rough): 0.6/0.1/0
Pine Needles: 0.5/0.12/0.03
Potato Skins (ash): 0/5.18/27.5
Potaote Tubers: 0.35/0.15/2.5
Potatoe Vines (dried): 0.6/0.16/1.6
Prune Refuse: 0.18/0.07/0.31
Pumpkins (fresh): 0.16/0.07/0.26
Rabbitbrush (ash): 0/0/13.04
Rabbit Manure: 2.4/1.4/0.6
Ragweed: 0.76/0.26/0
Rapeseed meal: 0/1.0=2.0/1.0=3.0
Raspberry leaves: 1.45/0/0.6
Red clover hay: 2.1/0.6/2.1
Redrop Hay: 1.2/0.35/1.0
Rock and Mussel Deposits
From Ocean: 0.22/0.09/1.78
Roses (flowers): 0.3/0.1/0.4
Rye Straw: 0/0/1.0
Salt March Hay: 1.1/0.25/0.75
Sardine Scrap: 8.0/7.1/0
Seaweed (dried): 1.1-1.5/0.75/4.9
Seaweed (fresh): 0.2-0.4/0/0
Sheep and Goat Manure (fresh): 0.55/0.6/0.3
Shoddy and Felt: 8.0/0/0
Shrimp Heads (dried): 7.8/4.2/0
Shrimp Wastes: 2.9/10.0/0
Siftings From Oyster Shell Mounds: 0.36/10.38/0.09
Silk Mill Wastes: 8.0/1.14/1.0
Silkworm Cocoons:10.0/1.82/1.08
Sludge: 2.0/1.9/0.3
Sludge (activated): 5.0/2.5-4.0/0.6
Smokehouse/Firepit Ash:0/0/4.96
Sorghum Straw:0/0/1.0
Soybean Hay: 1.5-3.0/0/1.2-2.3
Starfish: 1.8/0.2/0.25
Sugar Wastes (raw): 2.0/8.0/0
Sweet Potatoes: 0.25/0.1/0.5
Swine Manure (fresh): 0.6/0.45/0.5
Tanbark Ash: 0/0.34/3.8
Tanbark Ash (spent): 0/1.75/2.0
Tankage: 3.0-11.0/2.0-5.0/0
Tea Grounds: 4.15/0.62/0.4
Timothy Hay: 1.2/0.55/1.4
Tobacco Leaves: 4.0/0.5/6.0
Tobacco Stems: 2.5-3.7/0.6-0.9/4.5-7.0
Tomato Fruit: 0.2/0.07/0.35
Tomatoe Leaves: 0.35/0.1/0.4
Tomatoe Stalks: 0.35/0.1/0.5
Tung Oil Pumace: 6.1/0/0
Vetch Hay: 2.8/0/2.3
Waste Silt: 9.5/0/0
Wheat Bran: 2.4/2.9/1.6
Wheat (grain): 2.0/0.85/0.5
Wheat Straw: 0.5/0.15/0.8
White Clover (Green): 0.5/0.2/0.3
Winter Rye Hay: 0/0/1.0
Wood Ash: 0/1.0-2.0/6.0-10.0
Wool Wastes: 3.5-6.0/2.0-4.0/1.0-3.5

Nutrient deficiency information & photo guide

January 23, 2011 § 2 Comments

Here is a really useful guide I use when identifying nutrient deficiencies in vegetable crops.

I have copied it from our business website, where you can find more of my waffle on growing veg.

This data for nutrient deficiencies are from a paper by Wade Berry at the University of California. The images come courtesy of Dr H Bloom and Dr A Epstein from their 2004 paper entitled Mineral Nutrition of Plants: Principles and Perspectives. Dr Berry’s article can be read at:

This article is part of a huge plant physiology database:




Boron deficiencies are most likely to manifest in large heading brassica. Leaves may appear distorted and cauliflower heads stunted, small and bitter with brown patches on them. Borax and organic matter (rich compost) contain boron.




Calcium is used by plants to make cell walls, for root growth, for nutrient uptake and for pollen formation. Deficiency symptoms include browning leaf tips and margins and always occur on new growth. Leaves may curl downwards. Fruit and flower growth may be stunted and leaves may appear twisted. Cabbages, cauliflowers, peppers, tomatoes and celery are most susceptible to calcium deficiency. Liming prior to planting is advised for all of these crops as lime increases calcium levels in soils and raises pH- a low pH can cause calcium to become locked into soils and unavailable to the plant.



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Starting seeds indoors part 1: Artificial plant lighting

January 13, 2011 § 2 Comments

The first in a series of three posts discussing starting vegetable seed in winter indoors:

  • Starting seeds indoors part 1: Artificial plant lighting
  • Starting seeds indoors part 2: Setting up a simple set of lights
  • Starting seeds indoors part 3: Vegetable varieties to start early and how best to plant them

Plant lights are used by gardeners- both amateur and professional- to start certain varieties growing before outdoor conditions are warm/bright enough, and also to provide optimal light levels during fruiting (e.g. commercial tomato crops) to maximise yields.

Artificial plant lights used to supplement existing light levels in a polytunnel or greenhouse allow the grower to manipulate day length and light intensity.

Let me explain some fundamentals about artificial plant lighting:

Plant lights are very similar to domestic lighting but the spectrum and the intensity is tailored to meet the needs of plants.

Fluorescent lighting is used largely for its ‘cool’ spectrum outputs, operating in the blue end of the spectrum. These lights are used for seedlings and for plants like lettuce which prefer shorter days with less intense light. Fluorsecent plant lights can be strip light or compact fluorescent lights (CFL’s), the latter look like large domestic energy saving bulbs.

Bulbs which emit from the ‘warm’ part of the spectrum- reds and yellows- mimic summer daylight and induce flowering. Tomatoes and peppers are good examples of plants which need a lot of red and orange light to produce fruit. This light is often supplied by sodium-type bulbs (pretty much the same as streetlights), which emit higher intensity light than fluorescent light.

Cool weather crops bolt in response to a variety of stimuli including day length, light intensity, intensity of red and yellow light, air temperature and soil temperature.

We use plant lights at our nursery to start chillies and sweet peppers in December. These plants have compact growing habits and after reaching a certain height their growth then shifts to concentrate on bushing out and strengthening stems.

As the UK has a less than ideal growing climate for chillies and sweet peppers (and aubergines, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, figs, olives, etc, etc) these early sown plants have a head start on seed sown in spring. They are that bit bigger when planted in the ground (or potted on in readiness for good planting conditions) and tend to ‘pop’ into growth and rapid flowering. The harvest period is extended and therefore there is more to eat.

Pepper and aubergine seeds are notoriously poor germinators when soil is too cold, so controlling conditions extends to supplying bottom heat. This is an important point as you have to remember to recreate other environmental factors, not just the sun, when starting seed indoors- consider ventilation, soil/air temperature, drainage.

See also:

  • Starting seeds indoors part 2: Setting up a simple set of lights
  • Starting seeds indoors part 3: Vegetable varieties to start early and how best to plant them

PS If anyone out there has SAD grow seeds in winter! Its like St tropez in my polytunnel 🙂 I am gardening in sunglasses

Telegraph Article: 2011 is the year to bring insects in from the cold

January 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

The honeybee is in peril, but every gardener can help by planting pollinator friendly plants in their gardens and allotments during 2011.

By Sarah Raven

click on the image to view the article on the Telegraph website

Gardening, for me, has turned a completely new corner. I used to love it – like cooking – for the disengagement it allows, the absorbing, practical, satisfying, creative parts of gardening that make it the perfect thing to do when you want to cut off from the rest of life. I also love it for rooting me firmly in the time of year and weather.

But I’m seeing it differently now and I think that’s probably to do with getting older – with having hung around in gardens for 20 years.

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