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Vegetable Garden

Thinning Vegetables ~ Now’s the Time

June 23, 2014

If you’re new to growing vegetables this year you might have noticed that your veg have grown quickly over the past few weeks thanks to some rain, glorious sunshine and a lovely long stretch in the days. They may be growing so fast in fact that they’re falling over themselves reaching for light and space. If this is the case you will have to start ‘thinning’ your seedlings (if you haven’t done so already), which effectively means pulling some of the plants out of the soil to allow space for the others to grow.

Time to Thin Your Vegetables

Beetroot Plants Waiting to be Thinned

I personally found this a very difficult process when we began growing our own food here at home. I didn’t want to have to make the decision over which plant would be pulled out and which allowed to grow on, after all I had been carefully minding all my seedlings up until that point. All I can say is that the decision-making process gets easier with time as you will quickly see the benefits of giving your vegetables the space to develop properly.

Thinning Beetroot ~ Now's the Time

Baby beetroot leaves ~ delicious lightly steamed or sautéed in butter & garlic

Once thinned the vegetables will have the space to grow, they’ll have better access to soil nutrients and they’ll stand a better chance of withstanding diseases thanks to the increase in air circulation between them.

Depending upon which vegetables you’re about to thin, you can tackle the process in a couple of ways:

Thinning Vegetables ~ Now's the Time

Baby Beetroot ‘Thinnings’

A) Remove the very small and weak seedlings which will allow the larger, stronger ones to grow on.

B) Remove the large seedlings (or baby vegetables by this stage) and eat them, giving the smaller seedlings space to grow.

I’ve found A) most effective with carrot and parsnip seedlings and B) better with cabbage, swede, beetroot and chard. That said, if the carrots are more than a fingernail length (any smaller and they’re too fiddly to bother with) they are delicious washed and added to salads.

Some seedlings can be pulled and replanted elsewhere – lettuce, cabbage, kale, spinach and chard respond will do this. However, root vegetables don’t generally like being disturbed so it’s usually not worth trying to replant beetroot, carrots and parsnips. That said, there are always exceptions, so if sending your seedlings off to the compost heap is a problem, try replanting them and see what happens. Learning by doing is the best way to remember. (Note: never compost carrot thinnings as they can attract the carrot root fly.)

If you’d like to find out more about thinning vegetables, Gardeners World have some fact sheets for plants that you might find helpful.

Was it just me or have you ever had to get over the dilemma about selecting which seedlings stay and which go?


Vegetable Garden

14 Vegetables to Grow In A Small Garden

May 11, 2013


Vegetables for a small garden

14 Vegetables to Grow in a Small Garden

“I don’t have much space, what are the best vegetables to grow outside in my small garden?”

This has been one of the most often asked questions which is encouraging as one of the first pieces of advice is start small! Why? Because you’re less likely to give up growing your own if you don’t take on too much at once.

You’ve installed a couple of raised beds, you’ve cleared a space for some veggies somewhere bright and sunny in your garden, or you’re even planning on planting vegetables among your flower borders or in containers; now you’re wondering what you might grow in your small vegetable garden that will give you the most return for your efforts. The following might help you take the next steps to growing vegetables in a small garden. Continue Reading…

Food & Drink

Spinach and Feta Puff Triangles Recipe

October 23, 2010
Rainbow Chard

Spinach is probably one of the most nutritious veg we can eat as it’s loaded with vitamins – especially vitamins B9, C, K, Calcium and iron but it can be an acquired taste.

It can (but not always) taste bitter due to the levels of oxalic acid it contains.  Many leafy veg contain oxalic acid, which in high concentrations can be poisonous (eg rhubarb leaves) and fatal.  I googled “spinach” and “oxalic acid” out of curiosity to find out how much you would need to eat for it to be dangerous….. and found there are pages, and pages and pages of information out there – many with differing opinions.  Suffice to say that it would take a lot more spinach to harm us than our family or ‘Joe Public’ is likely to ever eat!

As well as spinach, we grow Swiss chard in our garden – the rainbow variety. It’s not as strong tasting and withstands the colder temperatures better. It doesn’t bolt as quickly either.

grow your own swiss chard

grow your own swiss chard

Chard is a type of beetroot without the beet (the swollen root). It’s from the same ‘family of vegetables’ – the Chenopodiaceae for anyone interested – so is grown in the same area.

I love the colours from the rainbow variety (ruby red, yellow and white stems) and they wouldn’t look out of place in a flower bed. If you’re tempted to grow Chard for cooking it’s a good idea to cut out the thick stem that run through the leaves (the midrib) and cook it separately as it takes longer (lovely stir fried, or steamed a few minutes before the leaves).

So, on to the recipe… As ever I’m always on the look out for easy recipes and came across this one on the food network channel which I’ve adapted (so I’m afraid the ingredients list and cooking time is a bit hap hazard!)

You could use Swiss chard instead of spinach but pre-cook it until it’s wilted as it takes a bit longer to cook than spinach.


300g fresh spinach (or about 10oz of frozen)
A pack of feta cheese, or approx 120g
50g soft cheese (I used extra low fat Philidelphia)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Freshly grated nutmeg
lots of black pepper
1 pack of frozen puff pastry


Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºC/gas 6

Wash the fresh spinach and place it in a pan over heat with a lid on for a few minutes until it’s wilted slightly.  If you use frozen, run it under warm water or defrost it in a microwave as per the instructions.  Drain the leaves, let them cool for a couple of minutes if needed then squeeze as much excess water as you can from them.

Spinach, feta & cream cheese mix

Chop the leaves and place them in a bowl with all the other ingredients (except the pastry!)  Mix together with your (clean) hands, Nigella style.

Sprinkle some flour onto a clean, dry worktop and roll out the puff pastry in a square shape to about 3mm thick. Using a ruler cut the pastry into 7.5cm (3in) squares.

Imagining the square as two triangles, place a teaspoon of filling into the top half then dip your finger into a bowl of cold water and moisten the top edges of the pastry with the water.

Fold the squares in half so that the edges meet and then seal them together with a fork.

Brush the little pastries with milk then place onto baking paper (or a greased tin) for about 15 minutes, until they’re golden and puffed.

These are delicious served hot or cold. I had enough pastry to make about 26, and enough filling to make another 26! Yum. Enjoy!

Vegetable Garden

Wednesday Wiglers – Beet Leaf Miner

August 10, 2010

Beet Leaf MinerAnother pesky pest, this beet leaf miner was found on the beetroot at the Community Garden a couple of weeks ago.

This is one occasion where vigilance really is the only cure as there are no home-made remedies (or no approved insecticides) that will work on these little maggots.

Beet Leaf MinerYes …. maggots. These little white grubs will turn into the pupae of flies. They wriggle about (or mine, as their name suggests) between the internal tissues of the leaves and if left unchecked may have two life cycles in one summer.

They are attracted to beetroot, spinach and Swiss chard so crops will be ruined once infected (yuk, who wants to eat maggots with their dinner?).

So what can you do?

If you spot the Beet Leaf Miner early on you can remove the leaves of the infected plants and destroy them. If not I’m afraid your crop will be ruined.