grow your greens during Go Green Week

Go Green Week (11th – 17th February) is People & Planet’s annual national week of action on climate change in schools, colleges and universities. Students across the country will be holding activities all week to raise awareness and launch projects showcasing practical solutions for a low-carbon future.

Go Green Week encourages students to make climate pledges, apply for sustainability funds for green projects and raise funds for climate action through charity events. Plus, each day of the week is themed around different green issues:

Meat-free Monday

Travel light Tuesday

Waste not Wednesday

Switch off Thursday

Funding Friday

Go Green Week will help raise awarensss of the issues surrounding climate change and if we all make some small changes to our lifestyles, we can help towards building a more sustainable future.

Students – why not ask your University if you can set up a vegetable patch or an allotment to grow your own fresh, organic vegetables, herbs and salads? It’s also really easy to grow your own from the comfort of your own home in even the smallest of outdoor spaces, such as window-sills and back yards.

As well as being cost-effective and environmentally friendly, growing your own veg, salads and herbs means you can eat completely organic produce, grown and picked by you.

Growing your own can also lead to a healthier lifestyle.
Tending to the seeds, watering, monitoring and harvesting is great exercise and can be therapeutic too.
The fresh air and gentle workout will leave you feeling refreshed and energised. You’ll also feel a great sense of achievement when you cook up your hand-picked veggies and serve them to friends for dinner!

So during Go Green Week, why not start growing your own vegetables, salads and herbs with your housemates or speak to your student union representative about setting up growing areas? It’s a fun, easy and cost-effective way to eat fresh, organic produce, and to contribute towards a more sustainable, eco-friendly future. 

grow your own to cut Food Waste

Industry experts predict that food prices are set to rise by 5% during 2013, putting even more pressure on families struggling to make ends meet. Yet reports out in the media say that as a nation, we are throwing away unprecedented amounts of food, with the average British family wasting £680 worth of food every year.

On top of that, farmers are also wasting around 25% of their produce because of the strict requirements the supermarkets impose.

Overall, the nation is wasting a huge amount of food and although some of the factors are understandable, with a little effort, planning, savvy shopping and by making some small lifestyle changes, we can all do our bit to reduce the amount of food we waste.

Growing your own salad, vegetables and herbs at home can not only help cut your grocery bill, you tend to only pick what you need for a meal, so there is no wastage as the rest is left on the plant to continue growing. If growers have an abundance of larger vegetables and fruit, they can be harvested and frozen, pickled, made into jam or given to family and friends to enjoy. Plus it’s a great way to get all the family involved in an activity together, outside and learning a new skill.

Growing food at home, indoors, in the garden, or in an allotment is an education. It’s so fulfilling to watch how a tiny seed grows into an amazing, tasty vegetable. Growing your own food really helps to value the process and effort it takes to produce great-tasting vegetables, herbs, fruits and salads and it certainly makes me think twice about throwing it away after all the hard work, infact it just doesn’t happen!

Given the economic climate, finding ways to cut costs and eat more cost-effectively, yet healthily, has never been more important. You don’t need an allotment or a garden, a small yard, patio or even a windowsill is enough. For me and my family, it’s really satisfying to cook some great dishes with what we have grown at home – we have made our own tomato and basil sauces for pasta dishes, stir-fried vegetables to eat with noodles and have plenty of fresh salad leaves and lettuce varieties to make our own healthy salads. Money-wise, we worked out that by not buying supermarket lettuces and salad bags, we save around £25 per month and have very little wastage…and it tastes better too!

It is all too easy to throw away a mouldy lettuce you bought from the supermarket, but when you have patiently watched it grow you will be less likely to take it for granted and more likely to eat it before it goes to waste.

#foodwaste is trending on Twitter and it’s great to see that is has come to the fore as it will go some way to help people become more aware of what they throw away.

To find out more about ways you can help more visit: http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/

WIN a case of wine – the foodies perfect Christmas

Seed Pantry have asked our friends at Cono Sur if they would help us to add a little Christmas cheer to some lucky winners!

Leading up to Christmas and during Christmas week we’ll be giving away a total of four cases of wonderful organically produced wine from Cono Sur.  We’ll be doing this via our newsletter and social media sites below. So sign up and get liking and following to keep upto date.

We work with Cono Sur for three reasons:

  1. Firstly they are advocates of growing your own seasonal food and matching their wines to great seasonal dishes – take a look at www.conosurseasons.com for inspiration and more prizes!

  2. They are commited to nature and sustainable wine production, being at the forefront of sustainable agriculture and organically produced wine, supported by ISO 9001 and 14001 certificates, regarding quality and environmental realted processes, respectively.

  3. Finally, we think these methods produce some excellent wine that tastes great!

More about the wines the lucky winners will receive:

Organic Pinot Noir £8.99 -  A deep vibrant red with complex flavours of blackberry and cherry, enhanced by slightly toasty hints, this wine matches well with meat dishes. Stockists: Alfred the Grape, The Co-operative, Matthew Clark Wholesale , Mumbles Fine Wines, Yourfavouritewines.com

Organic Sauvignon Blanc £8.99 – Herbal hints and notes of white flowers and melon make this expressive and refreshing wine a great match with fish and poultry dishes, as well as cheese. Balanced and juicy, this wine has a long mineral finish. Stockists:  The Co-operative, Dylans Wine Merchants, Matthew Clark Wholesale, Mumbles Fine Wines, Yourfavouritewines.com

We’ll doing more with Cono Sur in the New Year with tips on fruit and vegetable growing and matching seasonal food to wines, with a few random musings about the seasons to boot! 

Seed Pantry scoops The Good Web Guide Award!

Seed Pantry reaps rewards as it is voted Home and Garden website of the year. 

Seed Pantry has been awarded best Home and Garden website in the annual Good Web Guide (GWG) Awards 2012. The prestigious event, held in central London on 20th November, announced winners from thirteen categories and seedpantry.co.uk came top in its class and walked away with the coveted accolade.

Showcasing the UK’s best websites and online businesses, The Good Web Guide Awards recognise innovation, and excellence in online retailing. The awards were presented by Bec Astley Clarke, founder of online designer jewelley company Astley Clarke. The judging panel included representatives from Soleberry Advisory, Zoopla and Lovefilm, Trendwatching and Ariadne Capital. Entrants were assessed on innovation, originality and the quality of website design, usability, content and end products or services, sites that you’d want to bookmark and tell your friends about.

Seed Pantry founder, Neil Whitehead says: “It’s a fantastic honour to receive this award and we are delighted to receive such recognition from well-respected industry experts. This is the first time we have entered the GWG awards, or any awards for that matter, so to win our category is a great achievement. It shows that all our efforts and hard work have paid off and it motivates us to drive the business forward.”

“It was a superb evening with some of the country’s most influential and innovative web business owners in attendance. We met some fantastic people who we’re hoping will soon all be growing their own quality urban food!”

Gabrielle Hase, judge and director of Soleberry Advisory says: “Seed Pantry is an exciting and innovative business and the website fulfills all the criteria for the category. It is easy to use, has relevant and interesting content and offers a great product to consumers and communicates a strong brand voice. Competition was tough this year as all entrants were of a very high standard, but Seed Pantry’s website stood out and is certainly one to watch in 2013. I wish Neil and his team all the best for the future and look forward to their success with the business.”

Full details of the awards and other category winners can be found here: http://www.thegoodwebguide.co.uk/website-of-the-year/awards-2012/winners-announced/15052

Grow your own Seed Pantry vegetables during Vegan Month

November is Vegan Month and here at Seed Pantry, we are always encouraging our green-fingered fans to plant and grow their own vegetables, salads and herbs. So what better time to experiment with a vegan diet than 1st November – World Vegan Day. This year, the organisers are hoping that a record number of people will pledge to try plant-based eating for at least one day or – for a real challenge – the full month.

Now is a great time to start thinking about setting up a vegetable patch in the garden, or if you don’t have the space, our popular kits let you grow your own in even the smallest of outdoor spaces – from balconies, window-sills and yards.

As well as being cost-effective and environmentally friendly, growing your own veg, salads and herbs means you can eat completely organic produce, grown and picked by you.

Growing your own can also lead to a healthier lifestyle.
Tending to the seeds, watering, monitoring and harvesting is great exercise and can be therapeutic too.
The fresh air and gentle workout will do wonders for your health. You’ll feel a great sense of achievement when you cook up your hand-picked veggies and serve them to family and friends for dinner!

So during Vegan Month, why not start growing your own vegetables, salads and herbs at home and maybe even spend a day experimenting with the vegan diet.

1st November, Vegan Day, marks the start of Vegan Month celebrating the coining of the term, ‘vegan’ and the founding of The Vegan Society in November 1944.

Seed Pantry creates city food garden..

Seed Pantry joins forces with Delphis Eco to create office food garden

Delphis Eco is developing an inspired community food garden in the disused spaces around the Delphis Eco offices with the help of Seed Pantry and Transition Town Wandsworth.  With many acres of office garden space around the country they hope to raise awareness and lead the way for other companies to make their garden spaces more accessible, healthy and sustainable for those who work there.

To encourage people to grow more of their own food Delphis Eco have collaborated with Seed Pantry, Transition Town Wandsworth and Capital Growth (a London initiative by Mayor Boris Johnson) to get the local community involved in developing an otherwise fruitless garden space into a vibrant healthy community growing space where passers by can help themselves to produce.

Seed Pantry founder Neil Whitehead comments, “I’m very excited to be working with Delphis Eco and the London food growing initiatives, it’s great to see businesses encouraging people to grow food wherever possible. Our aim is to get everyone to have a go at growing your own food and as people spend a great deal of time at work this is a perfect place to encourage this. With this collaboration we’re demonstrating the simple steps for businesses to provide healthy working environments that involve local communities and support sustainable living”. 

Delphis Eco Managing Director Mark Jankovich said, “I read in a local newspaper that there was a huge waiting list for an allotment in the area.  I knew I wanted fruit and vegetables grown in our little garden but this was certainly beyond my ability.  I am delighted to have Transition Town Wandsworth (a community based organisation) on board as the green fingers of the project and Seed Pantry offers the perfect approach to growing food in urban environments and we’re really pleased to be working with them on this.”

To keep up to date with the progress of the garden you can follow the blog:

www.delphiseco.blogspot.com

Square Foot Gardening

My problem in life is that I just don’t know when to stop – this applies to spending, talking, eating, and….sowing seeds.  Once I have that seed packet in my hand, I just want to sow them all.  Immediately.  And, whilst it’s satisfying at that moment, it’s not so good a few weeks or months down the line when we’re trying to think of new ways of cooking, eating or knitting kale.

Exhibit 1: Example of my oversowing – how long would it take people to eat these onions?

During some aimless internet surfing, I came across the square foot gardening (SFG) method and thought that this might be just the thing to curb my profligate ways with seeds. 

The basics of SFG were stated as follows:

– Raised beds - that don’t require cultivating and which you do not have to walk on as you can reach every part of the bed from outside the bed;

– Addition of a special mix of compost/vermiculite/peat;

– Division of beds into square feet - clearly marked with string or something more permanent so that the divisions are visible as crops grow;

– Intensive planting of different crops within each square foot;

– Successional sowing - so no gluts and a continuous crop throughout the growing season.

 

So, for each square foot you sow a specific number of seeds depending on the crop so that you don’t waste seeds and also you don’t have to thin out plants that are overcrowded.  Common spacing is:

– 1 plant/square for larger plants like cabbage or broccoli

– 4 plants/square for medium plants like lettuce

– 9 plants/square for medium-small plants like spinach

– 16 plants/square for small plants like carrots and spring onions.

Anything that takes up lots of space through their habit such as runners or courgettes are grown vertically on frames or supports.

So far, so good.

Of course, I didn’t decide to follow it precisely – who doesn’t read the instructions for something and think “ooh, I don’t think that applies to me?” or “I can’t really be bothered with that it so I’ll adapt it for my own lazy ways…….”  I did use raised beds and I did divide up into the square feet but I decided to cultivate the soil that was in there and add some soil improver in the autumn to help with my clay soil structure and also to add some nutrients (I didn’t need peat – stay peat free!).

 

    

   2Dividing into square feet & putting up protection.

 

 

 

 

 1. Cultivating Soil

Next..deciding what to grow?

I mainly went with salads and lots of carrots which I love but also grew some kohl rabi because it looked cool in a picture I had seen!  I then went into overdrive with a crazy spreadsheet that had 32 columns and nearly 300 rows (representing each day) – OMG I was trying to plan to the nth degree – what to sow, how long it would be in the ground when it would be out and so then when I could sow the next lot.  

Duh!  I now realise that all I really needed to do was sow everything once in their respective squares and then wait for it to germinate.  Once a particular crop in a square had come up then to do a second sowing in any free square I had and continue doing this until the seed packets said that it was too late to sow or I ran out of squares.  Some crops like kohl rabi I didn’t need so much of so I sowed less often.

    

3.  Very neat and tidy at the start           4.  Now, growing well..slightly crowded

 

 

Some observations..

– Crops like radish mature very quickly so their square comes free within the season to be sowed again with something else.

– Some crops like carrots were tall and shaded other plants/flopped into other squares – next time I’ll make sure I sow these crops on the North of the bed so they don’t shade the other veg and will also put up some Heath Robinson affair to stop them flopping into the other squares.

– It takes quite a lot of discipline to do this as you have to be sowing quite often – I have to admit that I wasn’t as attentive as I could have been *hangs head in shame*.

– The main pests in my urban garden are foxes, squirrels and cats so with the raised beds, it was easy to put up some protective netting and whilst they aren’t cheap they are very strong and I can see them lasting for ever.

– I haven’t had gluts which has been brilliant – no new knitting patterns for kale required!

Overall I think this is a great way to grow veg in a confined space and with a bit more discipline I think it will be even more successful next year.

 

This post written by the Seed Pantry guest: Nell Jones.

Nell recently studied Horticulture as a career change from 20 years in recruitment and now works at the wonderful Chelsea Physic Garden. 

You can read Nell’s own blog here: http://capabilityjonesblogs.blogspot.com/

 

Growing my toms, chillies & peppers – stage 2

Late April / May I potted on my tomato, chillies and pepper plants into the Seed Pantry 9cm rice husk pots that are a perfect size to continue growing your own summer veg.  By early June the young plants roots were poking out of the bottom of the pots and had grown to a height of 10cm to 20cm.  This means they where then ready to be planted outside in our small backyard in London.

To plant them in their final growing positions, which can be outside or inside, gently ease them out of the pots by tapping on the bottom, perhaps use a plant marker to run round the inside edge to loosen the soil, be careful not to damage the plants.  I prefer to use the rice husk pots several times as they are sturdy like plastic but entirely biodegradable, great!

Get your final containers, window boxes or pots and hanging baskets ready with some peat free compost in the bottom, I used the Seed Pantry coir Compost Blocks to add moisture retention to the pots.  Just soak them in 3 litres of water to make 9 litres of compost!

Add your compost and then the plants with enough space around them to grow into – around 10cm to 20cm is good. Add more compost and firm them in gently. Give them a good drink of water to help them settle into their new environment.

They like to be in a fairly sheltered and warm environment for continued growing and once they start to flower they will need a regular organic feed to help produce excellent juicy and spicy hot fruits (for the chillies!).

I’ll report back on stage 3 once they flower and start producing baby peppers, chillies and tomatoes.

Growing my toms, chillies & peppers

There’s plenty of options for growing your own veg and sowing seeds at the moment, but a must for me in our small backyard in West London are a few tomatoes, plenty of chillies and peppers too.

You can get them going on your window sills using mini compost disc’s or you could try recycling yogurt pots filled with compost and pop a hole in the bottom for drainage. Sow 1 seed per pot/disc, put them in a sunny place and keep watered. Then move them into a slightly bigger pot after they have 3/4 leaves, the seedlings in the picture above are ready for this stage, use a 9cm wide/tall pot or perhaps a used soup tub. Move the young plants outside in around 4 weeks once they are 10cm to 20cm tall, transfer to either larger pots of 20cm wide or more or 3 plants to a grow bag.

I’m growing Tumbling Tom tomatoes in 2 hanging baskets as well as the varieties from our new Heirloom Tomato Seeds box: Outdoor Girl which is more of a bush type plant with smaller fruits, Marmande with big beefy fruits and Alisa Craig with medium sized juicy fruits.  Apache chillies and sweet spanish peppers are also in the mix.  

If you’re keen to grow your own veg then these varieties are easy to grow and will produce excellent flavours in whatever space you have spare.  They do really well in pots on the patio/backyard/courtyard or on balconies and roof terraces with a little shelter…

 

Spring Competition

Our new competition is for all food growers out there from beginners to experts.  We’re celebrating the great British Spring Season with photos of all growing edibles from seeds, sowings and seedlings that are growing in any veg spaces you have, include yourselves along with the family in the pics too if you wish.

Just send in your best photos with the subject ‘SPRING COMPETITION’ to info@seedpantry.co.uk and we’ll pop them on our facebook page for judging by the Seed Pantry team and fans.

3 lucky winners will receive:

First prize winner will receive a gourmet Summer Salads Starter Pack

Two runners up will receive our wonderful Mini Herb Pantry seed kit along with some mini compost disc’s to sow the seeds in!

The spring competition starts now and runs through to June…so celebrate foodie spring and get snapping!

 

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