May 26, 2010

Grow your own Spinach 2010

Spinach seeds

PLANT: ‘Bloomsdale Long Standing’ Spinach


A quality Heirloom variety that remains especially notable for its high yield. Dark green vigorous leaves are large, heavy and handsomely crinkled. Because they are held erect, they remain cleaner than those of other varieties that lie flat on the ground. Slow to bolt. A very popular variety for the home garden. 


Sow direct: April-July & September-October 10th April
Germination time: 10-14 days 1st seed sprouted 11th April
Ideal temperature: 10°C  
Harvest: January-December  
Time from seed to plate: 45 days  



  • Spinach germinates best in cool soil.  Begin sowing in early spring as soon as the ground can be worked and frost free.  If you sow in mid-summer in hot dry weather you run the risk of low or erratic germination.   Sow in late July into September for an autumn crop. 
  • Sow seeds 1.5cm deep, 3cm apart, in rows 30cm apart and thin when large enough. 


  • Sow more seeds once a month for a continuous supply.


  • Water little and often to prevent bolting.
  • Feed with a liquid feed every 2-3 weeks.
  • Spinach grows on a wide range of soils if moist and fertile, but is sensitive to acidity.


  • Harvest young spinach leaves during growth and full-size, but before bolting.  Cut just below root attachment for "rooted spinach", or cut higher for "clipped spinach."



10-04 Spinach

I sowed my first ever spinach seeds today. I laid a bamboo cane across the soil and pressed it down to create a drill 1.5cm deep and then I planted 1 seed every 3cm. The space I’ve allocated in the raised bed for the spinach is 33cm x 25cm. It’s not exactly a square foot but I’m hoping to follow the principle of square foot gardening and so I’m hoping to plant 3 rows of spinach successionally. I’m not sure how this is going to turn out, so it will be a bit of an experiment! After watering the seeds I covered them with a large propagator lid to protect them from being dug up.



11-04 Spinach

I was really surprised to find one of the spinach seeds had sprouted already!


I wasn’t expecting anything to happen for at least 10 days. I guess the conditions were pretty perfect for it to germinate as we’ve had quite a bit of sunshine lately, but it’s still quite cool at night.


I think the propagator lid must have helped too by trapping any warmth so it was like a mini greenhouse for the seeds.


Hopefully the rest of the seeds will quickly follow suit and I’ll be chomping on fresh spinach in no time!







19-04 Spinach 2








I have a little confession to make. That first seed that sprouted on the 11th doesn’t seem to be spinach at all, as 2 new seeds have sprouted and they look nothing like the other one which had small round leaves (a lot like the Rocket and Little Gem seedlings). So I feel a little silly at my over-excitement, as surely nothing can sprout overnight?! It’s probably just a weed, which is a problem as I’m not very good at identifying the weeds and I have a tendency to scatter seeds at random. But I’m 99.9% sure that these 2 seedlings are spinach as they’re both in the correct row! I sowed some more seeds yesterday in another row about 10cm from the first, as I got a bit impatient. I’m mainly growing the spinach to use in salads, so I don’t mind if they don’t grow too big, hence the small space between rows.


27-04 Spinach

The weather has been glorious lately and the combination of lots of sun (and a little rain) has made a lot of things grow.


My first sowing of spinach is doing really well as nearly all the seeds germinated and are growing quite quickly now. A lot of the seeds from the second sowing I made on the 19th have also sprouted so I think I’ll have quite a lot of spinach in a few weeks time! But that’s all good as I’ll use them in salads as I managed to sneak some baby spinach leaves into Steve’s salad the other day and it turns out he quite liked them.


I’m still keeping the spinach covered with one of my large propagator lids, mainly to prevent anything digging up the seedlings, but it seems to be doing a great job of acting like a mini greenhouse.






01-05 Spinach














I didn’t expect to be doing a blog post about the spinach so soon, but I was excited that the new leaves are spinach shaped, which means I should be able to start picking them soon!


My Dad has started attending gardening classes and he said they planted potatoes, onions and spinach, so hopefully he can give me some tips and we can compare progress.

may 26th:

26-5 Spinach



















Well the spinach has come on leaps and bounds since I last posted and is now ready for eating! With the first harvest I’ll probably make a nice salad with my first cutting of my Rocket leaves. I might have to dig up a couple of spinach plants because the beetroot seeds I sowed in the available space next to the spinach have now sprouted and need more space. I will definitely grow spinach again as it’s so easy and grows really quickly.

May 7, 2010

Blueberry and Lemon Friands

Blueberry and lemon friands



I found this recipe on the BBC Good Food website about a year ago and printed it off, but I’ve only just got around to making them as I just happened to have all the ingredients in the house. It’s a shame I never tried the recipe earlier as they are absolutely delicious. The cake is extremely light and moist and the fresh tang of lemon zest and the blueberries gives them a ‘Summer’s here!’ taste.



I used 3 large egg whites instead of medium because we only use large eggs. They had been frozen and I defrosted them overnight in the fridge, then I left them at room temperature for about an hour before using.


Instead of using non-stick friand or muffin tins, I used my new silicone cake cases that Steve’s Mum bought me from Wilkinsons. They worked really well as they held their shape when I put the cake mixture in and so I just put them on a baking tray to make it easier to get them in/out of the oven. Once baked, the cakes were easy to pop out of the silicone cases, but I did think that they retained the steam as the cakes were cooling and this made the bottoms of the cake slightly soggy.


The silicone cases are the size of fairy cakes cases, so I managed to make 7 cakes instead of 6. I have tried making these in paper fairy cases and I managed to make 12, but they were very thin/shallow and not as good as when I used the silicone cases.


Blueberry and lemon friands 1


Well these went down a complete storm! Steve’s Dad doesn’t like almonds, so I warned him before he tried them that they were made of mainly ground almonds, but he tried them anyway and he said they were probably the best cakes I’ve made!


I will definitely make these again, but they will be considered a once-in-a-while treat as I think they’re expensive to make because they’re made of ground almonds and blueberries aren’t cheap either. Plus they’re just over 300 calories each!


  • 100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 125g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 25g plain flour
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 3 medium/large egg whites
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, grated rind only
  • 85g blueberries



  1. Preheat the oven to fan 180C/conventional 200C/gas 6. Generously butter six non-stick friand or muffin tins. Melt the butter and set aside to cool (nuke in the microwave for 35-40 seconds).
  2. Sift the icing sugar and flour into a bowl, add the almonds and stir together.
  3. Whisk the egg whites in another bowl until they form a light, floppy foam. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, tip in the egg whites and lemon rind, then lightly stir in the butter to form a soft batter.
  4. Divide the batter among the tins (using a jug was the easiest way). Sprinkle a handful of blueberries over each cake and bake for 15-20 minutes (mine took 20 minutes) until just firm to the touch and golden brown.
  5. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack. To serve, dust lightly with icing sugar.

May 1, 2010

Grow your own Basil 2010

Basil SeedsPLANT: ‘Genovese’ Basil

Basil Genovese is the most commonly grown variety. Taller with larger leaves. Ideal to use in salads especially with tomatoes, pasta sauces and combines well with garlic.

I had some success growing basil last year, but it did much better grown indoors as something kept eating what I’d left outdoors planted next to my tomatoes.


Sow under cover: January - December 26th Feb
Sow direct: May - June  
Germination time: 7-21 days 7th Mar
Plant out: 4 weeks after germination  
Time from seed to plate: 60 days  



  • Sow seed thinly, 6mm deep.
  • When seedlings are large enough to handle, prick out into trays of compost at 5cm apart.


  • After 4 weeks plant one plant per 15cm pot and place under protection or in sunny sheltered position outside. Alternatively, transplant into the open ground 25cm apart in a sunny, sheltered position.


  • 15 days after transplanting pinch out growing points of the plants to produce bushy plants. Remove flowering shoots to increase the harvest of leaves.


March 7th:
07-03 Basil sprouted

The basil have started to germinate as I turned up the heating, as like tomatoes they need quite a high temperature (between 15-20°C) to sprout.
March 13th:
13-03 Basil

The basil has made some progress in the past week, with 6 out of 7 seeds sprouting and having formed their first two true leaves.

06-04 BasilMy basil seedlings are about 4cm tall, so today I transplanted them into 7.5cm pots as they’ve developed a second set of leaves now. They looked a bit droopy after transplanting, but after a bit of water they seemed to improve their posture.




06-04 Basil 2

Unfortunately I had to do my re-potting outside and it was a windy day, so some of the delicate basil leaves suffered from windburn. I’m sure they’ll bounce back as I’m keeping all my basil plants indoors.










15-04 BasilThe basil seedlings seem to have recovered from the transplant and are making slow and steady progress. They’re all roughly 3cm tall now and the set of true leaves are starting to look more like mature basil leaves in their shape with the wrinkle down the centre.








01-05 BasilThe basil are doing OK although I might have overwatered them as some of the leaves are looking a bit off colour around the edges. The leaves are getting much bigger now and are starting to become more crinkled. New leaves are developing from the centre.


I should really be putting them in larger pots now but I’ve been too busy playing with the new dogs!


I must also remember to pinch out the growing points of the plants to produce bushy plants, as I forgot to do it last year and the plants became tall and spindly.

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