Just wanted to put it out there that you don’t need a large section to be able to grow some of your produce. Depending on the size of your family and what you like to eat, you can have a very productive garden in a limited space. All you need is an interest and a will to grow.
I have significant garden space but like all gardeners, I too want to maximize space. I have set up container gardening on my patio and it is so nice to be able to literally see my vegetables grow in front of my eyes.
I have eggplants, grafted tomatoes, bush beans and cucumbers amongst other stuff. I also have a fig tree, a dwarf peach tree and a blueberry bush in containers. With all container gardening, you must water every day and if in a terracotta pot, perhaps twice a day. When filling your container, use good quality potting mix with a slow release organic fertilizer and water crystals. Also mulch the surface to prevent moisture loss. All summer vegetables need at least 6 hours sunshine and temperature in the mid 20’s. They are hungry crops and big feeders! Water, feed, harvest, repeat!
Bush beans or dwarf beans are very easy to grow. They germinate in a week and from seed to harvest in about two months. To make harvesting easy, plant bush beans in a raised bed, close to the edge so the beans kind of hang out and you can see them. Make sure you plant 10 or so plants so you get a good weekly supply through the season.
Grow your cucumbers vertically – this way they occupy less space. I am growing mine onto the pergola. Trim the bottom leaves and gently nudge the vine along to grab onto a pole or stake.
This year I have planted grafted eggplants and tomatoes for the first time. The eggplants are full of flowers and look very promising. Grafted really helps in these coastal temperate zones where summers can be short. Eggplants need at least five months of warm sunny days to bear fruit and grafted reduces that time down to half.
I have a cherry and a big beef tomato. I have Oxheart and Andiamo and different kind of cherry tomatoes in the beds. The cherry tomato has outgrown the cage and I have done a rough weave to help it reach the pergola.
Here are some growing tips for healthy tomatoes.
Snip the laterals regularly. Laterals are the little leaves that appear up the stem of your tomato plant. Pinching off laterals will allow the trusses of fruit to develop better, and promotes better airflow.
Tomatoes need full sun and love to be watered. They need to be well watered so that they don’t dry out. The more you water your tomatoes, the juicier your fruit are going to be.
Tomatoes are super hungry plants. Every couple of weeks, give them a good boost with some fertiliser in the watering can and you’ll be good to go for the season.
Remove bottom leaves – as your plant begins to grow, it no longer requires the bottom leaves. They tend to rot, so best to remove.
Blossom end rot – the three dreaded words when you are trying to grow tomatoes. The spot on the fruit where the blossom once was marks the centre of blossom end rot. Typically, the problem starts on the first flush of fruits and those that haven’t quite reached their full size. The spot appears watery and yellowish brown at first and will grow until it destroys much of the fruit. Other vegetables like eggplants can be subject to blossom rot as well. What blossom end rot is telling you is that the fruit is not receiving enough calcium, even though there may be ample calcium in the soil and the plant’s leaves.
Consistent watering is key. Remember to never ever water from above, but always water tomatoes at ground level. You may want to place some organic mulch around the plants to retain moisture. Tomato end blossom rot will usually affect the first round or two of fruits. Although blossom end rot can leave the plant vulnerable to disease, it is not a contagious condition and won’t travel among the fruits, so unless you find you have a severe calcium deficiency, there’s no need for sprays or fungicides. Removing the affected fruit and continuing with a consistent watering schedule may clear the problem for the fruits that follow.
Sometimes you just feel like the basics or love the idea of a one pot no fuss dish. My ultra-gooey mac ‘n’ cheese is just the answer (you may need more than one pot though). Use flavourful cheese along with good melting cheese to get it gooey. A lot of households have salt and pepper on the table – in our household hot sauce also makes an appearance if my family suspects a dish looks bland and I hate the thought that my food will get doused in hot sauce for extra flavour. For chilli lovers, I have already incorporated hot English mustard and hot sauce into the recipe.
I have made this with both gluten and gluten free (Barilla) pasta and both are delicious. The gluten free packet is 350g and I didn’t alter the proportions.
My recipe has been adapted from Kenji Lopez Alt’s book “The Food Lab”.
Scones with cream and jam with a cup of tea is comforting and drool worthy. In my household, we just follow Edmonds Cooker Book recipe and it never fails. The reason scones are lumpy or doughy is the mix is overworked. To prevent this, use a knife to cut the butter through. Work fast and lightly mix and you should have delectable scones.
Store bought jams are a far cry from homemade jams. The strawberries I made jam with were farm fresh bursting with flavour and sweetness, so I was able to reduce the amount of sugar. This jam has only three ingredients – fruit, sugar and a couple of teaspoons of butter to set. A tip – don’t use overripe fruit.
1.5 kilograms strawberries (rinsed and hulled)
1 kilograms jam setting sugar
2 teaspoons (10g) butter
Place a plate in the freezer for the set test.
Cut the large strawberries into halves or quarters. Coarsely crush with a potato masher.
I have been a gardener for as long as I remember. Growing up in India, we grew an extensive range of vegetables (eggplants, beans, gourds and greens), fruits (guava, banana, mango and lemon) and flowers (gerberas, jasmines, solidago, zinnia and sunflowers). It was basic back in those days but we maintained a compost heap, made our own oil cake and cow dung tonic for the plants.
The beauty of gardening is that with a little effort and some patience you will be rewarded for your handiwork. You need some basic equipment and the rest you can manage with whatever is available at home. You can upcycle if you have the skills or do what I do just repurpose everything. For example, I go to a tyre shop and ask for old tyres – line them up with lots of old newspaper and fill it with potting mix and you have yourself a good space to grow vegetables. Cardboard boxes are also good to grow annuals or herbs. Drill some holes into an unused bucket and you have a pot!
When the weather is conducive, go and get yourself some seed packets or seedling punnets along with some potting mix or compost. I find it is best to invest a bit more in organic because not only do they improve your existing soil but also provide nutrients that last more than one planting. The plants require less watering as the soil has better moisture retaining capability. You will also need a liquid fertilizer like a sea weed tonic.
TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL GROWING
Plant late evening so seedlings shock is reduced
Soak seedlings in seaweed tonic before transplanting – this makes them settle in faster in their new surrounds.
Spacing between plants is important – as a general rule of thumb, leave two hand spaces between plants.
Overcrowding causes plants to rot or they won’t have enough space to grow to full potential.
I am surprised how many people get stumped if they have to prepare a protein rich salad as a main for a vegan when the rest are having a barbecue. Very often it is just a standard green salad and if you are lucky maybe a vegan burger (store bought). There are a variety of beans and grains that offer high quality nutrition and personally think you can even make yummy vegan homemade burgers with a little planning.
This salad is colourful, fresh and absolutely delightful that eating a bowl won’t be that hard!
1 x 400g tin of brown lentils, rinsed and drained well
I simply call these oat pancakes only because I couldn’t find a better name – they are really a cross between okonomiyaki, traditional South Indian dosa and vegetable pancakes you get on street corners in Korea.
This is a decadent festive brunch dish to share with friends and family. AS this is twice cooked, you can do all the prep the night before and all you need to do is to finish in the morning leaving you time to relax. You can use a whole (900g) to feed 10-12 or use 600g to feed 6-8.
You will need two 16cms deep round cake tins and a deep baking tray that both these cake tins will fit in. This is to create a water bath for the cake tins.
In the 90’s we lived in Hungary for three years. There was definitely a culture shock for me and things were just moving towards Western standards. One image of Budapest that is strongly imprinted in my brain is braided garlic and paprika peppers being sold everywhere. The smell of freshly baked bread at all metro entrances is so inviting. I was younger in my culinary journey and didn’t really appreciate the paprika nuances. How I would love to experience that again – sometimes you don’t get a second chance and you have to make the most of every experience for what it is at any point in time.
Paprika chicken is a classic and my version is slightly modified. Hungarians use lard in their cooking extensively. I substituted lard with butter. I used to make this when my children were younger as it was flavourful and mild. In this version, I used hot as well as sweet smoked paprika.
400g boneless (skinless) chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
100g onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium sized green pepper, cored and sliced thinly