1 Year of blogging

May 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Groblog is one year old!

On reflection I havent written much, mainly because the growing season has been/will continue to be manic this year. Business ventures are expanding in exciting directions… more of that in future posts.


Vegplugs.co.uk is really flying. Order volumes have more than quadrupled year on year, and even though we planted over four times as much we still do not have enough plants!

Due to the dangerous combination of whopping order volumes and the wheels falling off the Royal Mail postal service, a few orders did not make our 7 day dispatch policy. Apologies to customers who had to wait a while for plants .. we are up to speed now. Sincere apolgies for the delays/any administrative mistakes. Great plugs, but the administrative staff (me!) need a kick up the a**e.

We are using APS Couriers and are really happy with their service. Soon all orders should go via APS but for the next few weeks some will still need to go with Royal Mail.

New cultivars have been a focus for 2011, with lots of trials underway. Be blogging about that soon!

A quick note on the weather.

A few of our customers/friends have noticed slowed growth over the last fortnights cold weather, particularly for aubergines and peppers.

I try to get the aubergine/pepper plugs outside 24/7 from May onwards, only covering them if there is a risk of frost, but in all honestly they grow better (well, they look better- greener- but stems are weaker) indoors and in some cases grow a little quicker than outdoor raised young plants.

For aubergines/toms/peppers/soft herbs leave them in a sunny, warm place with low levels of wind (some breeze is neccessary) for as long as possible- on Gardener’s World the other day they still had corn, cucurbits and all of the above indoors and were not going to take them outside until early to mid-June. Best not to rush these plants and let them get as big and strong as possible before facing the elements. The exception is tomatoes which are hardier than peppers/aubergines and need some degree of natural conditions (wind=stronger stems and shorter inter-leaf spacings) to stop them getting leggy.

Here is an indoor raised pepper living happily on the kitchen windowsill since germinating in february:

And here is one raised outdoors:

Ultimately it will be a stronger plant, with I would think better yields. Planted at the same time but growing ‘normally’, i.e this plant is pacing itself and knows it is too early to fruit.. flowers are just beginning and the plant will produce at least 15 flowers at the same time, whereas the pepper in the top image thinks its in St Tropez.


I’d love to be able to say my garden looks fabulous, but sadly it looks like a barnyard. What has been planted so far? Ballhead cabbages, carrots, tons of green manure and sweetcorn. So no harvests for at least another month. I cant bear to post a pic as its just embarrassing. Customers send me pics of their plugs growing fabulously all the time and they put me to shame.

Pig update

Pumpkin the large black pig is but a distant memory. A delicious, distant memory of roast pork, A4 sized sheets of crackling and fine charcuterie.

Squash … now unfortunately this explanation is going to involve a major digression … well, basically she is now the size of a small hippo, and immensly clever thanks to all the stimulation she gets spending her days trying to reach tantalising rows of plug plants.

She also has acquired expectations beyond basic food and board- Squash needs love. Squash needs love because she is used to being fussed and scratched and hand-fed Swiss white chocolate/doughnuts/marzipan daily.

Let this be a lesson to you- don’t let you’re pigs get too smart or reliant on affection. You will wind up having to schedule time to faff over a 30 stone monster every day. Immediately after said visit a shower needs to be scheduled. Immediately before said visit a barrow load of food needs to be found.

A mildly rubbish post, but I havent posted for ages and i’m feeling guilty 🙂

Better stuff to come! Xx


66 orders sent today – 158 this week – we are on fire!

April 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Well, my arm muscles are at least …

66 boxes in one day is a new vegplugs.co.uk record. Thank you SO MUCH to our customers for ordering with us this year. I think my staff might be getting some free ice-creams this afternoon, thanks Itz and Joy- without you guys i’d be packing ’til midnight 🙂

March bestsellers at vegplugs.co.uk

April 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

Below is a list of the 15 most popular purchases in March at vegplugs.co.uk. 

February was the month of the Brassica- loads of orders for Pentland Brig, Sicilia Violetta, Nautilus and Rouge tet Noire. Early April we are seeing lots of orders for peas, companion flowers and sweet peppers, and loads of seed orders too.

1. Sweetcorn ‘LARK IMPROVED’ 6 Plug Plants Lark is an exceptional cultivar, this recently improved strain is going to be great for early planting. At vegplugs.co.uk our plugs are grown in individual coco fibre pellets. The growing medium means we can let them get quite big without them getting spiral rootmass or running out of soil nutrients. Sweetcorn plugs can thus be planted up until end june, unlike seed which has to be in the ground soon.

A quick digression on planting sweetcorn from seed … there is a short window when outdoor conditions are right for planting sweetcorn seed. Sweetcorn seed is sensitive to both temperature (likes heat) and moisture (no waterlogging or seeds may rot). In the UK end April is usually a good time to direct sow. you want to get that second or third week when the soil has properly begun to retain the suns heat.

To avoid sweetcorn seed drying out and germinating poorly I plant quite deep- at least 1.5″. This is probably deeper than seed packets suggest, but it also means a slightly deeper rooting profile for this already very shallow rooting crop (so more anchorage, and stronger plants).


2. Herb Collection- 10 Plants – Dispatch March until October Seriously, we can’t grow enough herbs. No matter how many we plant there is never enough.
3. Heirloom Tomato Seeds ‘OPALKA’ Opalka kicks ass.
4. Heirloom Tomato Plant ‘ORANGE BANANA’ This is a really robust cultivar with thick stems, large leaves and big bunches of very large tomatoes. Support it well!
5. Broccoli (sprouting) ‘RED ARROW’ 6 Plants Old faithful, and not as massive as Early Sprouting Rudolph.
6. Lettuce ‘FLAME’ 6 Multisown Plug Plants Flame is one of the prettiest lttuces around, ad it grows nice and tall so makes a nice feature in the garden whilst taking up little space.
7. Pumpkin Plant ‘ROUGE VIF D’ETAMPES’ I thought Galeux D’Eysine or Zapallo Plomo would be number 1!!
8. Cucumber Plant ‘SPACEMASTER’ An attractive, compact cutivar which responds well to light pruning. Vines are short with short leaf spacings.
9. Cucumber Plant ‘BUSHY’ Good quality fat fruits. If given enough space and fertile soil this cultivar can be extremely productive.
10. Chive Seeds ‘Extra Fine’ The best chive for cutting all summer.
11. Fennel ‘BRONZE’ Large Plug PlantDecorative, good for herbal teas.
12. Summer Purslane Seeds A brilliant summer leaf, can be planted March til August. Leaves are really succulent with a bright, gentle flavour. Successional sow. good one to sow in the shade of maturing rows of crops like brassica or chard.
13. Chilli Pepper Plant ‘AOC PIMENTE D’ESPELETTE’ March’s most popular chilli is the only one in our whole selection with no Scoville’s! How British 😉
14. Heirloom Tomato Seeds ‘ISIS CANDY’ A heat loving indeterminate. Slim vines need careful training and staking.
15. Large Collection- 84 Plants – Dispatched May/June Our bestselling collection is the biggest one! 

This year we have quite a few orders for the Large collection from community allotment projects, city farms and small business enterprises, so we will keep in contact with them and try get some good photos!

The Real Seed Catalogue

March 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

If you’ve never visited the Real Seed Catalogue its worth a look. We grow around 10 of their cultivars, Napia Early Pointy sweet pepper and Verde Marchigiano cauliflower being the most popular. Their business ethos, general information and seed saving instructions are excellent.

Here are a few of their newer cultivars which we are trialling this year and all going well selling via our website next year:

‘Wautoma’ Cucumber
An excellent cucumber from the breeding program at the University of Wisconsin in the 1980’s, this was recommended to us by cucumber expert Robert Bruns. It can either be used small for pickles or left to grow for use as a slicing cucumber.

The plants set many lightly striped dark green fruit , with tiny white spines that come off easily. We got an awful lot of cucumbers off this one!

Quick to set fruit, bitter-free, and Robert says it resists nearly all known cucumber diseases. (anthracnose, angular leaf spot, CMV, DM, PM, & scab!)

You can grow it indoors or out, and we think it’ll be quite a few years before we find anything that can even come near it in terms of yield or reliability. We grow huge numbers outdoors here in Wales with no trouble at all.

Provide some support outdoors, under cover quite happy on the ground.

Parisian Pickling’ Cucumber
A proper gherkin-type cucumber with a long history – selected in the 1800’s for the cooler northern climate of Paris when cucumbers became fashionable in the city – other ‘southern types’ just couldn’t crop reliably that far north.

It is a very reliable, early and productive cucumber, making lots of fruit with no fuss, even outdoors in the UK. It used to be grown as a pickling cucumber (picked small as ‘cornichons’) – but we find it also works well letting it get bigger for use in salads.

You would of course need to peel it if you let it get huge or over-ripe (like any cucumber), but the skin is just fine to eat up to a normal size, so this a good choice if you only have room for one type of cucumber, but want pickles as well as salad.

We used lots in salad this summer.


Originally collected from Geza Korbely in Hungary in 2001, this is a great early sweet pepper.

Hungary has a tradition of early sweet peppers, and this one was given to us by pepper-collector Sharon Vadas-Arendt in response to our request for the best early-season peppers she knew of.

The flavour is great, and it has large (3” x 6”) sweet & juicy yellow fruit that ripen to orange.

“Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato”

This is a great Acorn Squash we have added. Acorn squash have a good flavour, and we have been trying various types to find one suitable for the UK climate.

We are really pleased to have come up with this one which is much earlier than the others, producing lots of squash even in short summers.

The pale heart-shaped fruit are pointy and have gentle fluting down the sides. When mature, you can simply cut them in half and bake in the oven. (Though of course there are other options for the experts – Kate’s mother once made a very fine acorn-squash soufflé!)

Originally collected by Tom & Sue Knoche in Ohio, USA.

Very productive. Remarkably long-keeping too.

Grushovka (Early dual-use type) WEB SPECIAL
This is a really good producer of big pink tomatoes – halfway between a plum and an ox-heart type – with an excellent flavour.

Compact plants grow to around 3 or 4 foot tall and are easy to manage.

The heart-shaped fruit are shocking pink. A bit like a plum tomato – good for sauces, but also very pretty in salads, or for making a lurid pink gazpacho soup.

Medium sized blocky fruit, very tasty . Tall Bush .

Just a very few packets grown this year by John Wheeler in Pembrokeshire.

plant picture


‘Rainbow’ Quinoa

Quinoa is a high-protein grain you can easily grow at home. It is cooked just like rice, and as well as tasting nice, it is rich in lysine, giving a good nutritional balance to your meal.

This is a diverse population of different colours all selected for an open flower-shape that sheds water easily and helps grow good seed even in slightly damper climates (like, for example, the west coast of Wales where we are . . .)

Note that at first you might question the name – we certainly did to start with. As it starts to grow, it seems to be just different shades of green. But wait patiently! As the seed ripens, they do indeed go all different colours, making an impressive display.

It did very well this year, reaching about 6 feet tall by the end of July, even despite a cold windy spring. The plants flower in July/August, and seed is ready in Sept/Oct.

Bred for home gardeners.

Descriptions and images courtesy the Real Seed Catalogue.

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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Markets in Asia

November 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Not the financial type of market, though the Asian ones are quite exciting, but pictures of veg at markets that I have taken over the years.

This pic was taken in Dundgovi, Mongolia. I like the contrast between needing a smog mask and buying nutritious food.

Yunnan, China

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Luang Prabang, Laos

Bangkok, Thailand

Ban Hoay Xai, Laos

A bit of a harvest for 2010

September 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

For the first year in about a decade I have been too busy to grow much veg. Indeed this coincides with starting vegplugs.co.uk: I am now too busy growing plugs to post around the country to actually grow plugs into veg to eat.

We managed to squeeze a few plants into the Groblog garden but were so busy with the business there was little time to tend crops.

We figured a positive to this though- if we get decent harvests by practically ignoring them, imagine how briliant they’ll be with a bit of feed and attention in our customers’ gardens!

Sicilia Violetta, an open pollinated purple cauliflower with excellent flavour and a pretty, upright growing habit. Planted from plug in partial shade in March, harvested in June.

Aubergine ‘Little Fingers‘ and ‘Calliope‘ F1.

Tomato ‘Orange King’, a semi-determinate open pollinated cultivar.

A small ‘Reine des Glaces‘ iceberg lettuce- all the big ones got eaten.

Salad Bowl‘, a reliable quick growing lettuce.

‘Mantovano’ bulbing (Florence) fennel, growing in the shade of maturing brassica (cauliflower) to prevent bolting. A few will be left to flower as umbelliferous flower heads attract beneficial insects.

Here we have winter savoury (centre) with thyme growing around it. The thyme is flowering.

Chilli pepper ‘Numex Mirasol’, an upward pointing chilli which proved very hardy, cropping from late summer until end september.

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