Project Samwise - Grocery Gardening

grocerygardeningthumb.jpgThis year, 2010, I'm going to be growing vegetables in a small plot in my garden, but I'm going to do this without visiting the garden centre or hardware store for seeds - I'll be starting using nothing more than seeds and vegetables from my kitchen.

So... here's an overview of the vegetable varieties I'll be attempting to grow (scroll down to see details):


This half packet of dried marrowfat peas has been lurking at the back of a cupboard for too long.

This mealy variety is normally eaten fully mature, but I'm sure they will also be able to be picked early for pods and green peas.


A bulb of garlic, broken into cloves and planted, will probably not develop full-sized bulbs, especially as I'm starting it in the spring, but it should grow into green, fleshy 'wet garlic' that I can slice and use in soups and stir fries


These potatoes were left in the vegetable drawer too long and they started without me.

No good for eating any more, as sprouted potatoes may contain toxins, but they're already proving their potential to grow.


I'll try one or two varieties of tomato - including this cherry variety - starting with seeds saved and dried on paper.


These red skinned shallots will each split, multiply and grow into lots more shallots.



I bought this big red chilli on the market - it's a variety with a heat moderate enough to be eaten raw like bell peppers. Inside, there are loads of seeds that I'll grow in pots in the greenhouse.

grocerygardening3.jpgJerusalem Artichokes

This root vegetable - related to Sunflowers - deserves wider popularity.

I bought some from a market stall and have set aside a couple of tubers to grow (they are started in a similar way to potatoes).


These are anise seeds - great for baking into crackers and breads in a way that the similarly-flavoured but larger Star Anise can't be.

I had a lot of trouble tracking down a supply of aniseed, so I'm going to try growing some more.


These Cannelini beans are a variety of dried French Beans. I'll be growing some of these, along with some other types - for pods and for mature beans.

grocerygardening1.jpgButternut Squash

I usually save and dry the seeds from pumpkins and squashes to mix with the food for my daughter's gerbils - but I've set aside a few for the garden.

grocerygardening13.jpgOther/Fun Stuff

In a generous spirit of give and take, the gerbils donated some of their food to the experiment - many of the items in this mix are seeds - so let's see what we can grow...


They say a weed is just any plant that is growing in the wrong place - well, let's take a look at some of the weeds that have made an appearance in Project Samwise.

The Garden

grocerygardening10.jpgThis is the main area in which I'll be growing the vegetables - a strip of cultivated ground about 4 by 20 feet along the side of my house. It's far from ideal in terms of the amount of sunlight it gets (although it's not quite as gloomy as it looks in this photo), but we've had decent crops out of it in the past.

Its location in a gap between the corner of two large buildings also makes it a wind funnel - which can mean wind damage or drying of the crops and it can expose them to more than the usual share of windborne pathogens or pests - but we'll just have to do the best we can.

I'll also be growing some of the vegetables in containers on the patio and perhaps in spare spaces in the garden borders.

The Plan

I'm planting the taller things (artichokes, beans) at the back of the plot. The sunniest spot is the rightmost end, so my squashes will go there - they'll have to grow around the rhubarb and gooseberries that already live there.

Right in the middle, there's a spare bit that I haven't decided on yet - maybe I'll use this for a second planting of peas, or maybe I'll put some of my peppers there.

grocerygardening11.pngPossible Pitfalls

Not so long ago, there wasn't really much distinction between seed and food - and people would routinely save seeds or parts of their previous year's crop to start the next.

Today, it's not the norm for many gardeners, and there are some potential pitfalls...

Seed From Hybrid Varieties

Many commercial vegetable varieties (particularly tomatoes) are grown from F1 hybrid seed, to take advantage of a phenomenon called hybrid vigour,

Produce grown from Saved seed from F1 hybrid vegetables may not closely resemble its parent, although usually it will still be worth eating.

So I'm expecting my tomatoes and squashes to produce something a bit different - in a way, it makes it a bit more interesting.

Untreated Seed

Commercial seed sold in garden centres may be treated with fungicide coatings to prevent it rotting in the soil, or may have unpleasant-tasting additives to deter rodents. Some commercial seed may be primed by starting, then arresting the germination process - giving it a head start.

I'll have none of those advantages, so will just have to throw myself upon the mercy of nature. It's been working for hundreds of millions of years, so perhaps won't completely fail me now.

Notes About This Project (Before You Read Further)

This page was originally a series of 11 or 12 pages (one per variety) on the old version of the Atomic Shrimp site - they've been stitched together end to end here, so you'll find yourself travelling back and forth in time as you scroll down.

Also, some sections aren't really complete - either because of crop failure or in one or two cases, because my attention moved on to other projects before this one was properly finished.



I wasn't too sure these peas would germinate, as the printed packet expiry date was about 18 months ago - so I soaked a few of them for a day in water.

More than three quarters of them looked nice and healthy green when soaked, and began to show signs of an emerging root - so I think they'll be fine.

Sowing Peas - 07 March 2010

grocerygardening2_2.jpgI prepared a seed bed for the peas - consisting of a raked depression about an inch deep - and scattered in a generous number of dried peas.

I covered them over with a thin layer of soil and tamped it down gently with the rake.

grocerygardening2_3.jpgI covered the sown seed over with fleece - to help keep frost and cats off the cultivated soil.


02 April 2010 - the first shoots have started to appear through the soil.

I'm leaving the fleece on for the moment, but I'll soon have to add some twigs or netting for the plants to grow up and cling to.

grocerygardening2_5.jpg08 May 2010 - I pushed some twiggy sticks into the ground near the seedlings, and they have begun to get their tendrils wrapped around them.

grocerygardening2_6.jpg27 June 2010 - The peas have made good progress and have been flowering for a while - they've already produced a good crop of pods - some of which are getting quite plump.


The peas inside the fattest pods are still a bit too small to harvest (they're delicious eaten raw in the garden though).

Up until about this stage, the pods can be picked and eaten whole - any older and they'll start to get tough and stringy though.

grocerygardening2_8.jpgMy potatoes have all been harvested and eaten now - leaving a vacant spot in the vegetable patch.

Here at the tail end of June, it's still not too late to start a second crop - so I've sown peas into this space for autumn picking.

To give them a good head start, I soaked the dried peas overnight before sowing them.

Harvesting The Peas

grocerygardening2_9.jpgAt the start of July, the pods were all really fat and the peas inside well developed - maybe a little too far on to be eaten as green peas, but these are marrowfat peas, so I do want them quite mealy, for the recipe I have in mind...


After shelling, there was maybe a quarter pound of peas - hardly an increase on the number I planted, however, they were very old peas, so the germination rate was pretty patchy.

Anyway, I boiled them for only a few minutes and they were completely tender, but still brilliant fresh green.

grocerygardening2_11.jpgI smashed the peas in a bowl with the end of a rolling pin - just until they were broken, not mashed, then I mixed them together with crumbled Stilton and served it up as Pea and Stilton bruschetta, garnished with a few thin slices of shallot flower stems, also from the project garden (they're getting everywhere, these shallot rings).

This was a really delicious way to enjoy the harvest.


Planting Garlic - 07 March 2010

grocerygardening3_1.jpgI made a shallow drill, poked some holes in the soil, about three inches apart, then dropped a garlic clove into each one (being careful to get them the right way up).

Then I covered them with a thin layer of soil and pressed it down.


I covered the garlic (and the peas from page 2) over with fleece - to help keep frost and cats off the cultivated soil.


09 April 2010 - thick pale green shoots have emerged from the planted cloves

grocerygardening3_3.jpg08 May 2010 - The plants are now about a foot tall and all looking nice and healthy.

In another month, they should have thickened up a bit - maybe enough to start picking.

grocerygardening3_4.jpgBy the end of may, the plants are tall and the stems are thicker than a pencil - they can be harvested at this stage.

When pulled up, they look a bit like spring onions, but I'm not sure I'd want to eat one raw.


At the pencil-thick stage, the whole plant - white stem and green shoots - can all be chopped up and used in the kitchen - the only waste is one of the outer leaves, that has started to turn brown.

I photographed this one alongside a clove of garlic the same size as was planted to grow it - you get at least three times as much garlic as you planted if you harvest now.

grocerygardening3_6.jpgBy mid-July, the plants have developed bulbs about 3cm in diameter - the stems are starting to get tough and fibrous, but the bulbs - which are beginning to divide internally into separate cloves - are very juicy and tender.


grocerygardening4_1.jpgThere's not too much progress to report on just yet - in early March, it's still quite chilly out - I'm going to wait a little while longer, in case we get a late frost.

Meanwhile, I've put the potatoes in an old egg carton to stop them rolling around and getting their shoots damaged, and I've left them in an airy spot in the garage, which is cool, but frost-free.

grocerygardening4_2.jpgThe shoots on my seed potatoes had grown more robust and had darkened in exposure to light.

The danger of hard frosts should be gone now, so it's time to plant them.

Planting Potatoes - 27 March 2010

grocerygardening4_3.jpgI dug over the soil lightly and made a trench about 8 inches deep with a flat bottom.

I placed the seed potatoes in the bottom, shoots pointing upward, about 10 inches apart, then I covered them over carefully with the soil.

I'll protect the patch with agricultural fleece until the first shoots break the surface.

grocerygardening4_4.jpg17 April 2010 - the shoots are beginning to break the soil surface now.

I'm keeping the fleece on for another week or so, just until the weather warms some more.

grocerygardening4_5.jpg24 April 2010 -Looking pretty good - nice sturdy-looking little plants.

The fleece is coming off now - this allow more light to the leaves to help them grow faster and stronger.

grocerygardening4_6.jpg30 April 2010 - Remarkably sturdy and lush growth now, thanks to a combination of gentle rains and bright, warm spells.

It was a bit windy today and the plants were starting to look battered, so I added a mesh windbreak - it's surprising how much it improves the shelter.

grocerygardening4_7.jpgFurther along the patch, to the back of the garlic, a potato plant has emerged all on its own - it must have grown from a piece of potato in the compost bin, or maybe it was just a missed one from last year's crop.

I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so this plant will be allowed to grow to maturity - meaning even more potatoes for me.

grocerygardening4_8.jpg08 May 2010 - the plants have made good growth and I'll need to start earthing up the stems now.

I'm not sure if earthing up really does make a difference to the size of the crop, but it will help to keep the plants from blowing over.

grocerygardening4_9.jpgMore volunteer potatoes are appearing all over the place now - unless they're actually in the way of anything, I'm going to leave them and enjoy the bonus harvest.

grocerygardening4_10.jpg29 May 2010 - the plants have now started producing flowers.

I always think potato flowers are a bit out of character with the rest of the plant - chunky, starchy tubers, robust coarse leaves and stems - beautiful, delicate little flowers.


grocerygardening4_11.jpg20 June 2010 - the potato plants in the main area (that is, the ones I planted purposely) have begun to yellow and wither - that means it's time to harvest them.

grocerygardening4_12.jpgI carefully unearthed them with a fork - they say that potatoes are good for breaking up the soil on a new vegetable plot, but really, it's the gardener that breaks up the soil in digging them up.

They look good, but there aren't as many of them as I might have hoped for.


The potatoes are just beautiful - the soil washes off them without any scrubbing, leaving pale, creamy white skins - almost flawless.

This is the crop from four or five plants - not bad, I suppose - they've multiplied about four times in comparison to the amount planted.

There's no point harvesting potatoes like these, only to set them aside for later - so I made sure to dig them up right before lunchtime, then got them straight into some boiling water - only minutes later.

I ate them with butter, slivers of ham, strong cheddar and thin slices of shallot flower stems. They were really good.


Potatoes In Pots

17 April 2010 - I had one seed potato left over - I'm going to try growing this in a large plastic pot.

grocerygardening4a_1.jpgI placed the potato on top of about four inches of compost, then covered it over. I've left plenty of space, as I'll earth up the plant by adding more compost as it grows.

09 May 2010 - Some really nice healthy-looking top growth has sprung up.

grocerygardening4a_2.jpgVirus Worries

One of the plants in the main potato patch has leaves that are a bit curled in - this might be leaf roll virus, or it might be just a bit of dehydration - it's only affecting a few leaves on the plant.

grocerygardening4a_3.jpgFalse Alarm

It didn't develop beyond the slight curling seen above, so I think it was probably just a momentary shortage of water.

Harvesting The Potted Potatoes

By mid-July, the top growth on the potted potatoes was starting to die back - so I turned them out to examine the crop.

grocerygardening4a_4.jpgNot bad - about half a kilo of potatoes from one planted seed tuber.

grocerygardening4a_5.jpgThey were all good and sound spuds too - the skin was a bit rougher and thicker than the ones grown in garden soil in the veg patch, but the skin rubbed off under water, leaving gleaming smooth white potatoes ready for the pot.

And The Volunteers

I also dug the volunteer potatoes in July - and they all did really well - each plant yielding a good double handful of brilliant, beautiful potatoes - enough for a meal each time.

Time For A Catch Crop

The main lot of potatoes I planted were all dug by the end of June - not too late for a quick planting of peas in the vacant spot they left - these should crop in autumn.


grocerygardening5_1.jpgTomato seeds are covered with a jelly-like substance when fresh, making them difficult to dry individually.

To make them easier to handle, I picked the seeds out and placed them individually on a sheet of disposable kitchen towel.

When they're completely dry, I'll cut the paper into squares - the seeds can be planted along with their attached square of paper.

grocerygardening5_2.jpgI filled some plastic module pots with multipurpose compost, watered them and pushed one tomato seed into each of 12 pots.

(The other 12 pots contain my chilli seeds).

28 March 2010 - Sowing The Tomatoes

grocerygardening5_3.jpgI covered the sown seeds with plastic film - this will keep the compost moist until the seeds start to germinate.

I placed the pots on a tray and put them on a warm window sill - hopefully, they'll show some signs of growth soon.

grocerygardening5_4.jpg03 April 2010 - Wow! - less than a week after sowing and the first shoots are here.

No sign of germination on the other side (the chillies) yet, but several of the tomatoes are pushing up delicate little green leaves. grocerygardening5_5.jpg

The flat covering of cling film won't let the new seedlings grow up at all, and uncovering them will make them very prone to drying.

So I constructed a light frame out of bamboo skewers and draped a few pieces of cling film over that. I could have just bought a mini propagator cover, but where would be the fun in that?

grocerygardening5_6.jpg09 April 2010 - In the few days I was away at Easter, the seedlings grew quite tall and spindly - I removed the cover to allow them more light - the decrease in humidity should make them grow a bit stouter too.

grocerygardening5_7.jpg24 April 2010 - They're now about three inches tall and starting to look a bit uncomfortable in their little seed pots - time to pot them on.

I'm going to try several different ways of growing them...

grocerygardening5_8.jpgI've got this large plastic bottle that I'm going to use to make a hanging planter.

I cut a large access flap in the side and melted through two of the bottom corners with a blowtorch (I chose this method in preference to cutting a hole in the corners, as it leaves a thick, smooth edge that won't abrade or cut a plant stem.

grocerygardening5_9.jpgI carefully placed a seedling in each of the two corners, with the leaves sticking out of the hole, then filled up the rest of the container with compost.

I hung it up from the greenhouse roof using an S hook - it can be watered through the hole in the top - and I'm hoping the plants will trail down, producing fruit without needing any further support.

grocerygardening5_10.jpgI potted up four other seedlings into big pots - these will be moved out onto the patio when the weather warms up sufficiently.

I made a tent of agricultural fleece around the plants to keep them from cold draughts during the night.

Finally, I've left a few of the seedlings in their small pots - I'm going to harden them off (i.e. acclimate them to outdoor conditions gradually) and plant them directly into the garden soil.

grocerygardening5_11.jpg08 May 2010 - they're all doing well.

However, what we really need now is some hot sunshine - so far, May has been a unseasonally chilly and overcast.

grocerygardening5_12.jpg20 May 2010 - look at this!

My next-door neighbour cut down a big bay tree that was overshadowing my greenhouse - now it's gone, the tomato plants are growing very fast.

This one has its first flower truss just developing.

It's traditional to pinch out nonflowering sideshoots on tomato plants, because this keeps them growing straight and upright - but I'm going to experiment a bit. Because I have plenty of plants to spare, I'll try some the normal way, with side shoots pinched out, some left completely unpruned and some with the tops pinched off to make them bush out.

grocerygardening5_13.jpgLate July 2010 - the first signs of ripening!

The harvest isn't going to be a huge one - the plants grew quite spindly and they haven't produced tons of fruit, but there's enough here for a salad or two.

grocerygardening5_14.jpg28 July 2010 - Three little tomatoes were ripe enough to pick - and don't they look fantastic?

Sadly, they weren't brilliant to eat - a bit hard and not very juicy or tasty. Maybe I need to let them ripen more on the plant next time.


grocerygardening6_1.jpgI dug the soil over lightly, then made a shallow trench.

I pushed the shallots into the soil so that just the tips were showing - then firmed the soil around them.

There's not much more to do until they start to grow. I'll cover them with agricultural fleece to keep the cats and birds off. There's heavy rain forecast for the following week, so I won't need to water anything.

grocerygardening6_2.jpg17 April 2010 - the shallots are showing some good growth - I've removed the fleece now.

grocerygardening6_3.jpg24 April 2010 - I've been watering all of the vegetables daily - the shallots are now about a foot tall.

grocerygardening6_4.jpg08 May 2010 - the plants have really put on a lot of growth, except one that just shrivelled up and died completely.

The individual stems are now becoming conspicuous - these will each form their own separate bulb.

grocerygardening6_5.jpg29 May 2010 - they're still growing well, but some of them have begun to bolt - that is, they're trying to flower.

I don't really want to let them do this, or they'll divert their energies into producing seeds, rather than more bulbs. So I've cut off the flower stems.

However, it may be that the bulbs are already too far gone when this happens, as they do develop a very thick fleshy neck - which I think probably means there will be no bulb.

grocerygardening6_6.jpgNo matter - the cut flower stems are my first harvest from all of the vegetable patch this year.


The first harvest from the whole vegetable patch this year was the cut flower stalks when some of the plants began to bolt.


I chopped them up and cooked them in an omelette with some cheese and ham - they were quite delicious - sort of halfway between chives and onions.


Harvesting The Seeds

grocerygardening7_1.jpgI scraped the hard seeds out into a small dish and set them aside to dry.

Unlike the sweet, mild flesh, the seeds and pith inside are fiery hot - as I discovered when I rubbed my eye later.

28 March 2010 - Sowing The Chillies

grocerygardening7_2.jpgI filled some plastic module pots with multipurpose compost, watered them and dropped a couple of seeds into a shallow hole made in the surface of each of 12 pots.

(The other 12 pots contain my tomato seeds).

grocerygardening7_3.jpgI covered the sown seeds with plastic film - this will keep the compost moist until the seeds start to germinate.

I placed the pots on a tray and put them on a warm window sill - hopefully, they'll show some signs of growth soon.

grocerygardening7_4.jpg09 April 2010 - a good germination rate - I planted one or two seeds in each module and at least one came up in each.

I'm keeping the cover off now to prevent the seedlings going leggy or too soft. 

grocerygardening7_5.jpg03 May 2010 - The seedlings are getting big now - I'll need to find some pots to plant them up into, but for starters, I'm planting a couple through holes melted in a big plastic bottle. (I did something similar with a couple of my tomato plants)

I'll hang the bottle up from the roof of my greenhouse, to save on shelf space in there.

grocerygardening7_6.jpg20 May 2010 - They've made terrific progress and are now all looking a bit desperate to be potted on or planted out.

As I have plenty of plants, I'm going to try a few outdoors, a couple in big pots and maybe one or two directly in the greenhouse soil. 

grocerygardening7_7.jpgSo I've planted four modules out alongside my potatoes - I'll cover them with a tent made from fleece to keep the wind and cold off them until they get settled in.

Nearly all of the planting modules have two plants in them, because I originally dropped in two seeds expecting more not to germinate, but they nearly all did. I probably should try to separate them or pinch out the smaller of the two seedlings, but I'm just going to let them grow like that - it can't be too bad (and it must happen a lot like that in nature)

Jerusalem Artichokes

Planting Artichokes- 27 March 2010

grocerygardening8_1.jpgI've grown Jerusalem artichokes before, so I know they'll be tall - I'm planting them at the back of the plot - against the fence.

I dug holes about 8 inches deep and placed them in the bottom, then covered the up again.

grocerygardening8_2.jpg16 May 2010 - it may not look like much, but these furry little shoots are the artichoke sprouts emerging from the soil.

They took their time - I was starting to wonder if they would show at all.

grocerygardening8_3.jpgBy mid-July, the plants are nearly 6 feet tall.

We had some really high winds the day before this photo - and the plants have been quite battered, but the seem to be recovering OK.


Planting Anise seeds - 10 April 2010

grocerygardening9_1.jpgThis plug plant pack will be ideal - it came filled with petunia plants - these have been potted on, so I've refilled it with fresh compost. The gel layer underneath will make it easier to keep the seeds moist.

I planted one seed in each plug and clipped the sides together, then covered it with plastic film.

grocerygardening9_2.jpg17 April 2010 - the first shoots have appeared in a few of the cells.

That's quicker than I expected - some other umbellifers such as parsley take a long time to germinate -clearly not the same for anise.

grocerygardening9_3.jpg11 May 2010 - The seedlings are just looking really sickly and spindly. I don't think they'll stand the handling required to plant them out..

So that's a failure. But I have a plan B - I'll plant some directly into the garden soil - they germinate fast, so I shouldn't lose them amongst the weeds.


grocerygardening10_1.jpgThese are the beans I'll be growing - from left to right: canellini, pinto and black turtle beans.

Despite their quite different appearance and culinary properties, they're all varieties of the same species - Phaseolus vulgaris - the common or French bean.

Planting Beans - 18 April 2010

grocerygardening10_2.jpgI dug three shallow trenches next to the fence and scattered the beans (one variety in each trench). I planted them probably a little more densely than I meant to, but I think they'll be OK.

It will be interesting to see observe the differences between the leaves, flowers and pods of each variety, assuming they do actually grow...

grocerygardening10_3.jpgI covered them up with about an inch of soil and tamped it down gently, then watered thoroughly and covered with agricultural fleece,

This should protect them from any chilly night conditions for the next couple of weeks, until the weather warms some more.

grocerygardening10_4.jpg08 May 2010 - the bean shoots are finally beginning to peep through the soil surface.,

However, the weather has been colder than I anticipated - including a couple of nights where we had a light frost. I fear this may have killed some of the seedlings.

grocerygardening10_5.jpgSo here's plan B - I've made 54 little newspaper pots (using the 'paper potter' device in the foreground).

I'll plant a bean in each of these and germinate them indoors, planting out only when the weather really does get around to warming up.

If the beans already planted out in the veg patch do all come up, I'll just have to find another spot to plant the pot-grown ones.

grocerygardening10_6.jpg13 May 2010 - That was quick!

The first of this batch of beans has germinated - I'll grow them on until they're easily big enough to handle, before hardening them off for planting out.

grocerygardening10_7.jpg18 May 2010 - There's now a forest of very healthy-looking, strong seedlings.

About two-thirds of the beans have germinated so far.

I'll move them out to the greenhouse soon to harden off. When they're planted out in the garden, they'll probably need some kind of protection against slugs and snails.

Time Passes...

January 2011 - oops! - sorry it took such a long time to get back and finish writing this page - anyway, here's the rest of the story for the beans:

grocerygardening10_8.jpg10 June 2010 - I planted the beans out at the start of the month and they did well - quickly producing a thick tangle of growth - they mostly appear to be dwarf va class="clearleft"rieties, as they are showing no tendency to climb and twine.

grocerygardening10_9.jpgBy mid-July, the plants were really well established and started to produce some beautiful-looking pods - some flat and pale green, others round and flecked with purple - because they were after all severl different varieties of bean.

I left them a week or so more, to reach their ideal size for picking as green beans - but not so long that they would start to turn tough or stringy.

grocerygardening10_10.jpgAt the end of July, I was able to start picking green beans - on three occasions, I picked enough for a generous portion of green beans for our family dinner.

I deliberately left some pods on the plants to fill up with mature beans, for drying.


We had a fairly good crop of green beans - certainly as heavy and good in quality as I've been able to grow from beans bought from seed merchants in previous years.

Unfortunately, the beans I left on the plant for drying all vanished quite abruptly one day - eaten, I suspect, by the local pigeons or squirrels. Anyone got a good recipe for squirrel casserole?

Butternut Squash

grocerygardening11_1.jpgThe seeds inside a butternut squash are embedded in a mass of slimy strands - I picked some out and set them aside in a small dish on the window sill.

When they were dry, I put them in a paper envelope ready for planting later.

Planting Butternut Squash - 24 April 2010

grocerygardening11_2.jpgSquashes and other members of the cucumber family don't like their roots being disturbed - so I'm growing my seedlings in cardboard pots - they can be planted directly into the soil and the roots will push through the pot walls.

I planted one seed about half an inch deep in each of six pots.

grocerygardening11_3.jpgI put the pots on a tray on a warm window sill (alongside my seedling chilli peppers) and laid a sheet of polythene over them to prevent them drying out too much.

They should germinate quite fast.

grocerygardening11_4.jpg29 April 2010 - the first seedling is peeping through the surface.

grocerygardening11_5.jpg08 May 2010 - the seedlings are all looking really healthy and strong, just starting to develop their first true leaves.

I've moved them out into the greenhouse where it's a little cooler - as the first stage of hardening them off, ready to plant out.

grocerygardening11_6.jpg11 May 2010 - The roots have started growing through the bottoms of the pots - time to plant out.

I've prepared the patch where they'll be growing by digging in lots of well-rotted garden compost and preparing a shallow depression for each plant (this helps make the watering more effective.)

grocerygardening11_7.jpgI planted out the six seedlings with about a foot between them - this is closer than recommended, but the soil is deep and there is plenty of room for the top growth to trail.

I bought a pack of really cheap wire lawn edging arches - made of really thin, feeble wire - useless, except for what I have in mind...

grocerygardening11_8.jpgI used the arches to support some agricultural fleece, to protect the plants from cold and wind while they get their roots properly into the soil.

I've been a little bit non-organic here too - a few slug pellets next to each plant, or they will just get eaten up.

Other Fun Stuff

Planting - 25 April 2010

grocerygardening12_1.jpgThe gerbil food contains a mixture of meal biscuits plus seeds - specifically pumpkin (green peel-less type), sunflower, peanut, maize and wheat or barley.

So I've planted three cardboard pots each of sunflower, pumpkin and peanut.

I'd like to try growing wheat and barley sometime, but not this year.

grocerygardening12_2.jpgI planted some of the maize kernels in part of the uncommitted space outdoors.

I know this isn't sweetcorn, but if it grows, it will still be interesting - I can either harvest it as baby corn, or maybe I can grow it to maturity and use it to make cornmeal or something.

grocerygardening12_3.jpg29 April 2010 - one of the sunflowers is up already - the seed leaves will soon emerge from inside the husk.

grocerygardening12_4.jpg03 May 2010 - All three of the sunflowers are up and growing fast - one of the pumpkins is also doing well and I can see that the peanuts are doing something too, just below the surface.

grocerygardening12_5.jpgI didn't plant those!

05 May 2010 - This is one of the potential issues with peat-free potting compost - this stuff is made from composted bark, making it an ideal growing medium for forest-floor type fungi.

In this case, I have succeeded in cultivating Coprinus congregatus (edibility unknown).

grocerygardening12_6.jpg08 May 2010 - The peanut seedlings are starting to show their first true leaves (and more mushrooms are growing alongside in the pots, but don't seem to be doing any harm.)

grocerygardening12_7.jpg19 June 2010 - The peanut plants are doing well - one of them has produced a little yellow flower - not sure if these are capable of self-pollinating, so this one might not produce any peanuts.

grocerygardening12_8.jpgThe anise seedlings are up, but they're developing quite slowly - not looking like they'll do anything remarkable, but they're not in the way, so I'll leave them and see where they go.

The corn never made any showing - so I planted some more French beans in their place.

grocerygardening12_9.jpg28 June 2010 - the peel-less pumpkin plant is flowering - only male flowers at the moment (female flowers would have a small, but noticeable swelling - the embryo fruit - behind the flower).

These flowers can be picked and eaten - they're quite nice dipped in batter and fried (best to check inside for beetles first).

grocerygardening12_10.jpgLate July 2010 -The sunflowers are blooming.

They've not grown particularly tall - about three or four feet, but that's probably normal - the seeds came from pet food and are most likely from a variety selected for uniform height to make mechanical harvesting easier.

I don't have any plans for the sunflower seeds at the moment - but I'm sure the gerbils will appreciate the harvest, if I can't think of a use for it.



Chickweed is a fast frowing plant that is particularly fond of cultivated soil. If left unchecked, it can smother or otherwise outcompete planted crops.

However, I've gone reasonably easy on it this year - because it's a favourite food for small animals (so we're picking and feeding it to our guinea pig. It's also edible as a wild salad vegetable.


I didn't deliberately plant these, but I've got a few stalks of wheat, oats, barley and some kind of millet growing alongside my first planting of peas.

We've probably dumped some sweepings from the guinea pig hutch, and/or gerbil and budgie cages there during the winter.

I'm going to let them ripen and see if I end up with enough grain to make a small bowl of muesli or something.

grocerygardening14_2.jpgOpium Poppies

Otherwise known as ornamental garden poppies or breadseed poppies (but all the same species - Papaver somniferum). We've grown these as ornamental flowers elsewhere in the garden in previous years - I expect these got here when some seeds survived composting.

I'm leaving them to grow because they attract bees - and I'll maybe harvest the seeds to use on a loaf of bread.

The Villains

grocerygardening14_3.jpgBlack Nighshade

Solanum nigrum - this relative of tomatoes, potatoes and capsiucms is a common woodland plant in my locality and is a persistent weed in my garden.

I pulled it all out of the veg patch, because it can act as an alternate host to the pests and diseases that bedevil potatoes and tomatoes - and because its vigorous growth can smother planted crops.

grocerygardening14_4.jpgSun Spurge

Euphorbia helioscopia - probably the most common and persistent weed in my vegetable patch.

It exudes an irritant, toxic latex when broken or crushed - I keep pulling it out, but it's a losing battle. The plant itself isn't particularly troublesome in growth, except that it appears in such profusion, it must be competing with the crops for soil nutrients.