Category Archives: Growing

Homemade Newspaper Containers Tutorial



I have seen quite a few people making these cool newspaper pots for their seedlings on Pinterest so I decided to give it a go. The advantage of these pots is that the newspaper will degrade into the soil so you can just plant the whole thing, pot and all, once your seedling is big enough to be planted out. This seems like a really great idea so if it is easy to make then I am interested. Here’s what I did;


Get some newspaper and any tin from the larder. I used this slightly smaller than average tin of peas because I wanted some small pots. I think this would be a great use for some of those free morning newspapers that litter the tube every weekday in London!


Fold a spread of the newspaper in half lengthways and use the tin to roll it up. I did not use any sticky tape to fix the end closed as I want to plant these pots out with the seedlings when the time comes.


Fold the excess newspaper back over the tin at one end. If you start by folding in the loose end of the newspaper roll this should help to secure it in place.


Use four folds to close over the end of the pot. Again, I did not use any sticky tape here to secure the pot.


Slide the tin out and invert. You have your pot! The newspaper pot is not very secure to stand on its own but once you fill it up with soil it should have enough weight that this is not a problem. Fill with soil and sow! You can also scrawl the names of the seeds you have sown on the outside of the containers. It might have been more sensible to do this before rolling them up but you live, you learn!


I placed my pots inside this plastic container to ensure their stability. You can see that I also experimented with a toilet roll holder as a container. I am more sceptical about the toilet roll holder as the cardboard is quite thick and I am not convinced that it will break down very well if I plant it out. The container is also quite small so it will not last very long before the seedling needs to be potted up.

Conclusion; I think these newspaper containers are a hit! They are really easy to make and quite versatile. My only real concern is watering as they might be prone to disintegrating, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

Happy potting!



Let There Be Peas



I am so pleased to report that the first peas of the year have sprouted. Impatient as always I was sure they had gone mouldy underground on account of the rain a couple of weekends ago. Or I thought maybe they had sprouted early in the morning and been eaten up by one of the pigeons who like to hang around scaring away the smaller birds. But they didn’t. After two and a half weeks they finally sprouted and restored my faith in the weather! I must admit that it has required a certain leap of faith to continue sowing peas the last two weekends when there was still no sign of the first lot peeking up!


I believe that Hurst Greenshaft can grow to about 2½’ tall (76cm) so I will need to stake them or set up some mesh for them to climb. I mistakenly bought short stakes as I thought pea plants were quite small. So some support building will be required. I hope they don’t mind a little disturbance.


Grow Your Own Citrus from Seed



Despite planting three citrus seeds in my propagator last weekend part of me did not any success from them. Even under the plastic cover, behind glass, I thought the weather in London would not be warm enough for these plants accustomed to growing in northern Italy. However, I was delighted to see that two of them have sprouted already! That is record speed so I am pretty excited now about their potential.

The original idea to plant citrus seeds came from a book I was browsing in my local pub (don’t you just love pubs with bookshelves?). Well, I went back to that same pub yesterday, in the name of research of course, and re-read the instructions about growing your own citrus from seeds you collect yourself.


Here is the spread from the book. I like this book; one spread per topic with one photo and one page of text. It turns out, according to the book (I didn’t get the name of the book, I guess I will have to go back again!), that the most successful seeds you can collect and grow yourself are lemons and limes. Peaches, nectarines and even avocado can all be tried as well. Unfortunately avocados need to reach 12 metres before they will bear fruit. I think that would require a very large pot!

The bad news is the book tells me that seeds acquired from the fruit of a friend’s tree (as mine were) are unlikely to flower and consequently bear fruit. It seems a cutting would result in more success. More bad news, for others, if you wish to try and grow orange citrus (mandarins, clementines etc) the fruits from the supermarket are unlikely to sprout, although you may get lucky. Nonetheless, I conclude that all citrus plants have lovely, lush, evergreen leaves. So even if you do not get any little clementines growing on your new plant they are still pretty to look at and worth the effort of saving a couple of pips and giving it a try.


Half Propagator



I was vaguely aware that this might happen but I just ignored the niggle in my mind. As I have been staggering my seed sowing in the propagator some of them have sprouted before others. Namely, the peppers which were sown almost four weeks ago and two of the tomatoes sown two weeks ago. Interestingly one of the tomatoes is from the same batch only beginning to sprout now.

The problem is that the seeds I sowed last weekend have not sprouted yet whilst the other seedlings are getting to an inch tall and were touching the top of the propagator. I need to take the lid off to let the sprouted seedlings fill out and not get leggy, whilst keeping the un-sprouted seeds toasty and warm inside the propagator. The solution? I took the lid off and placed an up-turned vegetable container over the cells which still need the extra warmth. The fit is quite nice and it looks like this should work.


Sunday Sowings- Peas, Tomatoes and Citrus



Sunday again and it is time to sow more seeds for Spring. Seed sowing is one of the most exciting aspect of growing your own (harvesting has to top the list!). I just love seed sowing, the anticipation of the crops to come, the wonder of the potential of such tiny seeds and also the opportunity to get my hands a bit dirty and have a reason to be outside.


Today I sowed two more peas, the same as last week. Two peas in one 11litre container. Last week’s peas (on the left) have not sprouted yet. The weather has been a little cold but I was hoping they might have sprouted in a week.


In the seed cells the first great news is that my peppers have sprouted. Exciting times. They took almost 3 weeks to sprout, as expected. I have also sown some additional tomatoes. We are calling these Gardener’s Delight as we are not sure what variety they are, having bought the seeds in China. These are the ones we planted last year and they were successful so they are getting another go with two plants this summer.


The final three modules contain seeds I collected from a citrus fruit given to me by a friend. She brought it back from a relative’s garden in Italy. The fruit was small like a mandarin or such. A few months ago I was having a drink in our local pub when I picked a book off the bookshelf and came across the instructions that you can save a seed from a citrus fruit and plant it in early Spring. I though “well, why not!” and put it into my diary. So that is why I have decided to sow these ‘pips’ and see what happens. Maybe in 10 years time I will have some lovely mandarin trees growing in my future garden and I will be glad I bothered!


Hello Tasty Surprise Vegetables!



It really feels like Spring has arrived here in London. Finally I headed out to the roof terrace to tidy the garden and prune all the plants. I suspect I was supposed to prune last year but I never did as I was not sure how much to cut things back. By now many of the herbs have made it completely clear which of their long, dry stalks they no longer need so pruning was pretty easy.


Along with pruning was the task of clearing the first of what I refer to as ‘troughs’ in preparation to plant some beetroot in a week or so. These are long containers which were on the terrace when we moved to the flat. They have no drainage holes (aesthetic over function unfortunately) but there were some broken up tiles in them when I emptied them out last summer. I left the tiles in and arranged them to allow quite a lot of space for drainage before re-filling the troughs. Unfortunately it looks like the soil is really soggy and rubbish. We will need to find a way to get better drainage into these containers if we want to grow anything in them this season.


The good news is that the tidying unveiled a few treats. One of the troughs had a few *very* small turnips from seeds I planted last, um, August I think. They all sprouted at the time but never really went anywhere. Well now there are a handful of tiny turnips in there.

The carrots also seem to have survived the winter. We pulled up one from each container to inspect the size, which can only be described as tinchy. The rest will be left for another while as those containers are not needed yet so we might as well see if they grow in size.


Finally swiss chard. This beauty has survived the winter, looked a little worse for wear a few weeks ago but in the last week it has started to thrive in the sun. you can really see the effect the sunshine has on it from this photo as the leaves closest to the camera are much larger on account of longer exposure each day.


We sliced all our new veg and fried with plenty of garlic. I will not claim it was the most delicious side dish I have ever tasted but it was a tasty first dish from the garden for 2012!



Sunday Sowings- Peas and Tomatoes



Today was a lovely day here in London. The sun was shining and I was glad that I had scheduled some things to do in the ‘garden’ other than just potter around all 5m² (or however big it is) of it poking at this and that. I know it is a silly thing to complain about but small gardens do not take much maintenance for the most part of the year. Of course in the height of summer I will think differently, as I monitor what is dehydrating on the roof terrace and worry about every little thing if the sun hasn’t shone in a few days, as can happen here in England!

Fortunately for me I put in a few days of dedicated organising in February. At that time I decided all the crops I wanted to grow and scheduled when to sow all my seeds in my diary. Potting up and planting out will be done as necessary but I find it hard to keep track of what to sow when so it is really handy to have it all in my diary like that. Thanks me!


These are the crops I sowed today; The first container of peas (Hurst Greenshaft). I am honestly a bit confused about peas because I thought they were supposed to be the earliest of crops but apparently now is still a bit early to sow them… I think maybe I was supposed to sow some last Autumn or something… Well anyhow, I have planned to have quite a few peas this year as last year we only got about two peas. So today I sowed the first container and I placed two seeds into it. I will plant more in a week or so to try and stagger the crop. I hope two is an appropriate amount to sow in a container this size. The only instructions I can find are for sowing in drills so it is not that easy to translate to pots.

Next was tomatoes. There are plenty of tomatoes on the agenda for this summer and I sowed two varieties today. The first is a really early variety called Latah. I am excited about these for two reasons. Firstly they are a bush variety so they should be perfect for container growing. Secondly they are very early so we might, fingers crossed, have tomatoes as early as JUNE! Wow, that would be amazing as space is so valuable on the terrace and last year we didn’t have much of a tomato glut until September.

Finally, I sowed one tomato Marzano. This is a large variety of plum tomato. This should make a large plant that will require a large pot for a long season. I decided to grow this one for a few reasons; to extend our tomato season after the Latah are finished, to have another variety of tomato (and hopefully store some in jars for the winter…) and also just to try something new. The tomatoes were a big hit last summer so we want to try out more than one variety this year.


That was my Sunday sowings. You can also see that two more of the cells in my seed tray (to the right) are filled. These are where I sowed sweet peppers a short while ago. These have not sprouted yet but I believe they should take 2-3 weeks to sprout so I am being patient with them still.