Organic food growing 2 – companion planting good and bad plants

In the second of our mini series on organic food growing at home we have provided a table of favourite varieties and their good and bad companion plants!

It is generally thought that all plants will grow happily alongside each other, but this is not the case. There is a lot of competition between individual plants for light, space, water and nutrients.

Some plants will excrete toxins via their roots into the soil to act as a growth inhibitor. These we think of as bad companions and in food plant gardens we make sure to keep them apart.

Others plants such as legumes (peas and beans) will release nitrogen via their roots to encourage plant growth – good companions. It is this ‘plant science’ that we turn to our advantage to make the maximum use of space available in containers and veg patches.

Marigold plants will excrete a substance through their roots that kills harmful soil nematodes and there are plants that contain strong smelling volatile oils that deter or confuse harmful pests.

Good and bad companion plants

The table below highlights the principals above for a select group of edible plants:

This mini series is brought to you from the Seed Pantry team members Mike and Neil.

Mike says: ‘Good and bad companion planting can really help you make the best of growing your own food, it’s always good to use nature in your favour rather than pesticides’

Neil says: ‘I am sowing seeds right now ready to go in next month, so I will be carefully considering what to plant where, to make the most of my crops, I have beans and peas shooting up and beetroot so I’ll be careful not to plant them next to each other!’

Look out for the next post in the mini series, we’ll put a table of companion plants to attract beneficial insects…

 

We’re keen to Go Green!

This week is Go Green Week (10th – 16th February), People and Planet’s annual national week of action on climate change and encouraging the use of greener alternatives.

Students around the UK in schools, colleges and universities will be running activities to raise awareness of climate issues and to demand stronger action to tackle the climate crisis.

The organisers of the campaign have suggested a whole host of activities to get involved in during the week. This year, Go Green Week coincides with Valentine’s Day so there will be Carbon Speed Dating events (like normal speed dating except couples are matched according to their carbon footprint).

Other events include holding Green Curry Night Fundraisers, where students will be cooking up spicy delights in return for donations to People and Planet.

Universities, schools and colleges from all around the country will be putting on events.  Check out the Go Green Week website for all the latest information about the events taking place during the week – http://peopleandplanet.org/gogreenweek

Growing your own vegetables, herbs and salads is a great step towards greener living. It helps to reduce waste and allows you to eat wholesome, fresh, organic foods. As Spring is just around the corner, 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 and patios, to window sills and yards.

So during Go Green Week, take time to think about how you can make your lifestyle greener – growing your own is a great place to start!

Follow People and Planet on Twitter @peopleandplanet or visit the website for more information on Go green Week or to make a donation – http://peopleandplanet.org/aboutus/

Organic food growing – companion planting in 6 steps

Plants that help each other grow!?

In the first of a mini series on organic food growing at home we have a quick master class onCompanion Planting for you. Enjoy picking up a few tips to help you grow gourmet food at home, organically!

Companion planting is the practise of growing 2 or more species of plants close together; either to their mutual benefit or, in our case, to the benefit of the food crops we want to eat.

The principles behind companion planting are not complicated, here’s 6 easy steps:

1. Plants with beneficial nutrients

Plants that can “lock” beneficial nutrients in the soil to the benefit of the food crop are a great idea for any food growing space and will provide you with more healthy nutritious crops to eat.

Example: Peas and beans produce nitrogen fixing nodules on their roots that will benefit any leafy crop, so grow lettuce close to them during growing or a crop like cabbages can be grown on top of the roots after the peas or beans have finished cropping and have been cut down.

2. Plants for attracting predators

Certain plants will attract beneficial predators such as ladybirds, hoverflies, and lacewings into the food garden, the emerging young will then feed on unwanted bugs such as aphids that could be present on the food crop.

Example: The poached egg plant (it does look like a poached egg!), Limnanthes douglasii is very good at attracting hoverflies which will feed on aphids and pollinate your plants too.

3. Plants that confuse unwanted pests

Plants can produce scents that confuse and distract the pest by masking the scent of the main food crop.

Example: A great traditional combination is growing basil or dwarf tagetes amongst tomato plants to confuse whitefly.

4. Sacrificial plants

Plants that are used as sacrificial plants to attract pests that then lay their eggs on them so that we can gather the eggs or caterpillars and destroy them.

Example: Grow nasturtiums between brassicas that attract cabbage white butterflies away from the main brassica crops.

5. Plants that secrete unpleasant (but harmless to people!) toxins through their roots

To control soil borne pest and diseases certain plants have defence mechanisms.

Example: members of the dwarf marigold family can be interplanted amongst the main food crop to control harmful soil nematodes such as wire worms.

6. Plants to control weeds

Plants that can be used to control invasive weeds.

Example: Growing Tagetes minuta which has displayed some control over ground elder and convolvulus (bindweed). Again the roots secrete toxins that are poisonous to the plants that need to be suppressed.

This mini series is brought to you from the Seed Pantry team members Mike and Neil.

Mike says: ‘For me I practice all the methods above, but when starting out I think the top 3 are great ideas for this spring and summer’

Neil says: ‘I love the fact that nature simply has the answers needed to grow healthy crops without using harmful chemicals, for my food growing, which is mainly in pots and containers, I will be planting lettuces around my peas and beans this spring’

Look out for the next post in the mini series, we’ll put a table of companion plants together for you…

Could you go vegan for Veganuary?

Thousands of people around the UK are going vegan for January by taking part in Veganuary!

The campaign encourages people to try a vegan diet for a month, and the Veganuary website offers inspiring recipes, meal ideas, videos, cookalongs and advice on the the best places to eat out.

Veganuary aims to raise money for partner charity, Viva, which campaigns for a vegan / vegetarian world and to improve the welfare of animals all over the world.

Going vegan can improve your energy levels, boost your mood and can help you to lose those extra pounds gained over the festive period. It also helps to reduce animal cruelty and provides environmental benefits too.

Here at Seed Pantry, we strongly encourage growing your own vegetables, herbs, salads and as much as possible, as it helps to reduce waste and allows you to eat wholesome, fresh, organic foods. 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 and patios, to 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. So why not make the most of Veganuary by growing your own and enjoying fresh, organic, vegan foods.

Follow Veganuary on Twitter @WeAreVeganuary and on Facebook. Visit the website for more information, recipe ideas or to donate funds to Viva – http://www.veganuary.com.

For more information on growing your own vegetables and to find out more about Seed Pantry’s products, visit www.seedpantry.co.uk.

New products from seed pantry

Seasonal stocking fillers from Seed Pantry

Wild flower seed gift sets from Seed Pantry.

Just in time for Christmas, Seed Pantry has launched three delightful newwild flower seed growing kits, perfect for budding growers and green-fingered friends.

Mum and Me Flowers and Veg Starter Pack

The perfect present for Mums and their little one, the Mum and Me Flowers and Veg Seed Starter Pack is a great way to get the whole family involved in growing wild flowers, veg, herbs and salads.

The Mum Pack contains seeds to grow five different types of wild flowers: field poppies, yarrow, musk mallow, chamomile and wallflowers. The seeds grow into some of Britain’s wonderful native flora in your own outdoor space and are especially attractive to bees, butterflies, hoverflies, beetles and other wildlife, thanks to their vibrant colours. Wildflowers make great companion plants too, for vegetables and fruit trees and can be grown in even the smallest of spaces, giving Mum a real joy over the summer season.

The Me Seeds Pack lets younger gardeners grow four varieties of vegetables and herbs – sweetcorn, cress, pumpkins and sunflowers.

The whole kit contains all the equipment you need to get started, including bio-degradable rice husk pots, coir seed trays, organic compost (3L bag), and an FSC oak dibblet.

The Mum and Me packs arrive in stylish Seed Pantry gift boxes, made using recycled packaging and printed with vegetable inks, including easy-to-follow illustrated instructions and a handy notes pencil for Mum.

The carefully selected seed varieties grow well in pots, containers, the garden veg patch or flowerbed in sheltered, bright positions and can be planted indoors from March to July.

Priced at £40 including delivery the Mum and Me Flowers and Veg pack is a great Christmas present idea for those new to gardening and experienced growers alike.

Wild Flower Seed Starter Pack

The Wild Flower Seed Starter Pack contains seeds to grow seeds to grow wild flowers including field poppies, yarrow, musk mallow, chamomile and wallflowers. These vibrant flowers are easy to grow and tend to and attract a range of pollinating wildlife to your garden. Priced at £26, the starter pack contains everything you need to get started, detailed instructions and a handy notes pencil.

Wild Flower Seeds Box

Priced at £6.75, this box contains five packs of seeds to grow wild flowers in your garden.

Seed Pantry founder, Neil Whitehead says: “Our wild flower kits are a great Christmas gift idea for those new to gardening or for experienced growers. Wild flowers are perfect for attracting bees into your garden as well as other creatures and wildlife, and Spring is a key time of year for pollination. The Mum and Me kit will bring hours of enjoyment to mums and their little ones as they watch the seeds grow into beautiful flowers, and the veggies can be added to family favourite recipes and dishes within a matter of weeks!”

All kits are available now. Order by 17th December to guarantee delivery before Christmas. 

Announcing our first Grower of the Month!

We are delighted to introduce you to our first Seed Pantry Grower of the Month! Steve Harrison from Barlow, near Selby, enjoys growing his own with his three-year old grandson, Jack.

They love going down to the veg garden together and tending to the plants, sowing seeds and, of course, collecting the harvests. He grows three varieties of tomatoes, which have all been picked and added to salads and family meals, as well as peas, carrots, onions, pumpkins and chillies. They have also grown some delicious fruits – raspberries, blackcurrants, grapes, apples, pears – and lots of salad leaves, lettuces, herbs and even olives!

Here are some photos to show some of his harvests this year.

Steve (and little Jack!) – congratulations on being chosen as our Grower of the Month! Keep up the good work and let us know what you are growing next!

Entries are still open for our next grower of the month slot, so if you’d like to feature on our newsletter with a short story about how you got into growing your own, then send your details to info@seedpantry.co.uk along with a photo of some of your home-grown veg, salads and herbs and we’d love to feature you! 

Seed Pantry’s new addition to the patch!

Seed Pantry is delighted to welcome a new member to the team this month. Mike Thurlow (on the left in the pic!), renowned organic kitchen gardener and horticulturalist is joining our green-fingered team to help provide advice, tips and recommendations on growing your own flavoursome food.

He has over 30 years’ experience, early on as head gardener at Dyffryn Gardens (Vale of Glamorgan) and as horticultural director at Aberglasney Gardens in Carmarthenshire. From 1998 to 2012 he was Head Gardener of the Organic Walled Kitchen Garden at Audley End House, Saffron Walden where he oversaw the restoration of the Victorian Walled Kitchen Garden, combining Victorian and Soil Association standards to produce organic fruit and vegetables all year round.

His passion for growing organic heritage varieties of fruit, vegetables, salads and herbs has meant appearances in television programmes including Gardeners World, Great British Food Revival and British to the Core, along with writing of several books and columns in the gardening press.

Mike will be on hand to work with Seed Pantry’s founder, Neil Whitehead, on product development and will also be available to provide growing, sowing and planting tips to businesses and individuals interested in growing their own organic food.

Look out for new Seed Pantry products, advice and planting tips coming soon. Sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date.

Welcome on board Mike!

You can see his work here www.michaelthurlow.com

A day to reflect on our food systems – World Food Day 2013

World Food Day takes place on 16th October, aiming to raise awareness of world hunger issues with a focus this year on ‘Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition’.

The day aims to teach that each of us has the power to help change our food systems. By eating nutritious food and reducing the amount of waste we create, we can help make the world’s food systems more sustainable.

There are many activities and commemoration ceremonies taking place around the world, including sponsored Hunger Runs and a children’s poster design contest. Entries for this are now closed but the 60 finalists have been chosen with the winner to be announced on 16th October.

Here at Seed Pantry we strongly encourage growing your own as much as possible, reducing waste, and eating wholesome, fresh, organic foods. 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, sustainable and environmentally friendly, growing your own veg, salads and herbs means you can eat completely organic, full flavour produce, grown and picked by you.

World Food Day was set up by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and 16th October is the day the organisation was founded in 1945.

Follow World Food Day on Twitter @FAOWFD and use the hashtags  #WFD2013 and #hungerto, or visit the website:  http://www.fao.org/getinvolved/worldfoodday/home/en/

Taste of Autumn Festival at the RHS this month

The Royal Horticultural Society is hosting its annual Taste of Autumn Festival later this month at the Wisley Garden. From 16th to 20th October, head over to experience cookery demonstrations, produce stalls, apple tastings and family activities. Plus, celebrity chef James Martin will be making a guest appearance on the opening day with a book signing at 2pm.

Tempt your taste buds from the food stalls offering Autumn delights including sausages and pies, cheeses, fresh breads, snacks, chocolates and drinks.

There will be Wisley apple tasting sessions as well as apple pressing demonstrations. RHS experts will be giving talks and presentations on growing your own vegetables, salads and herbs, fruits, mushrooms, as well as on cheese and wine tasting and bee keeping.

Plus on 19th and 20th October, head over to the Restaurant for a special harvest festival brunch, complete with Wisely apple juice and berry compote, fresh coffee, brioche rolls, fruit field jams and a selection of egg dishes.

To find out more about the RHS Taste of Autumn Festival, visit the website:

http://www.rhs.org.uk/Gardens/Wisley/What-s-on/Taste-of-Autumn

Seed Pantry and Waitrose ‘Grow and Sell’ scheme hits stores now!

The ‘Grow and Sell’ initiative by Waitrose supermarkets to get school children growing their own fruit and veg goes live in stores across the country this month.

Shoppers at Waitrose supermarkets can choose to put their green token in the ‘Grow and Sell’ perspex box, as part of the store’s Community Matters project.

Seed Pantry has provided the ‘Grow and Sell’ seed kits for schools across the UK to set up and maintain their own vegetable patches. They contain seeds for the children to plant and grow vegetables such as lettuces, beetroots, peppers, peas and courgettes, all the pots, dibbers and equipment they need to get started as well as step-by-step instructions.

Aimed at 7 – 11 year olds in primary schools, the initiative aims to inspire over 100,000 children to grow their own produce. Children will learn about where food comes from, the impact and importance of the seasons and develop entrepreneurial skills by selling their produce directly to Waitrose shoppers.

Neil Whitehead, founder of Seed Pantry says: “We’re encouraging Waitrose shoppers, Seed Pantry customers and grow your own fans to pop their Waitrose green tokens in the ‘Grow and Sell’ boxes in store. The more tokens that are donated, the more packs will be provided for local schools.

It is a fantastic project for us to be involved with, as growing your own is something we are very passionate about and want to encourage among children of all ages.”

The scheme is live in most Waitrose stores so look out for the Grow and Sell boxes in your local store.