Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Feed A Family With A Garden

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Growing your own fruit and vegetables can be so rewarding, especially if you have kids and can get them involved with the process. Now, I am not writing this because I am super awesome at growing my own vegetables. If I'm honest, I still sometimes kill whatever I am trying to grow. But I hope that some of the tips I have picked up along the way will help other aspiring vegetable growers!

Best Fruit And Vegetables To Plant (For Beginners)

Just to be clear, these are not gardening expert approved suggestions - they are just my own opinion. These recommendations are based on facts like:

  • I haven't killed them through my own gardening ineptitude.
  • They've produced a good crop, despite my neglect.
  • Growing them is cost effective (i.e, you get plenty of yield for your financial outlay, versus what you would be paying in the stores).

So these are my personal favorites to grow:

Salad greens
Green beans

Basically you should look for anything which is expensive to buy in store, difficult to find (i.e, tomatillos), doesn't take up too much space or which produces an ongoing harvest.

Fruit And Vegetables To Avoid

I wouldn't rule out these vegetables entirely, but if you do want to grow them you need to do your research. Basically, they will take over your whole garden if they are left to ramble. Be wary of:


Planning A Vegetable Garden

Now that I've shared some ideas for what you should - and shouldn't - try growing, here are some tips for planning a vegetable garden. If you have any more tips, please share in the comments - I'd love to hear from readers who are knowledgeable about gardening!

Plant what you love. I know this sounds dumb and obvious, but actually lots of people make the mistake of planting stuff they don't really like. It can be tempting to try lots of unfamiliar fruit and veggies, but if you don't have a ton of growing room it can be a waste if you discover you prefer plain old peas and carrots. The first year I made the mistake of growing tomatoes - despite the fact I am the only one in the household who loves them. Since then I've grown french beans in the spot, which we all enjoy.

Scrutinize your grocery bill. If you want to replace almost all of your summer fruit and vegetable purchases with homegrown fare, you need to know exactly how much you use in a typical week and then plant enough to produce the right yield. To some extent, it is trial and error and may take you a few years to perfect it. But this guide from the US Department of Agriculture tells you how big a vegetable garden you need to plant, based on how many people you need to feed.

Consider your attitude to preserving. If you like to make jams, or you love the idea of preserving or canning leftover fruit and vegetables, work it into your plan so that you end up with more crops then you need. Conversely, if you can't be bothered with preserving (like me) then don't grow so much that it goes to waste.

Have a strategy. Some vegetables need a long growing season, for example peppers. Others need to be planted once you've had the last frost. Some can be harvested within a few weeks and will keep producing crops. Others won't produce a harvest until September. My point is, all vegetables are different and that can be tricky if you are new to growing your own.

My 'When To Sow' guide can help you get started.

If you have a small plot of ground to work with, you can maximize how much you grow by combining early planting/short yielding crops with late planting vegetables. For example, peas tend to peak early, so you can replace the plants with radishes once the harvest is done.

Picking The Perfect Spot

The last thing I want to cover is picking the perfect spot, because I find it makes such a difference. For instance, I put my salad in a shady spot because it doesn't thrive in the full sun like many vegetables do. What makes a great spot for a vegetable garden depends on the following factors:

Amount of sunshine. Plants need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight if they are to grow well, and be healthy enough to fight off disease and pests.

Moist soil. All vegetables need well watered ground if they are going to thrive. Pick an area which isn't prone to drought and dryness, or where it will be convenient for you to water.

Good soil quality. Nutrient rich soil will produce the healthiest plants and the most crops. Either grow your vegetables in raised beds with plenty of compost, or pick an area of your garden with good soil quality.

My last tip for feeding a family with a garden is to accept that you can't control Mother Nature. Sometimes you will neglect your vegetable patch and you still get a bountiful crop. Other times, you will do everything right but the weather means that you get a poor yield. Don't let yourself be put off - just go for it!

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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Best DIY Garden Ideas

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It is nearly Easter weekend, and many people will be enjoying 4 days off. I'm not sure if it is the same in other countries, but here in the UK long weekends tend to coincide with a big rush to the DIY store. And, since it is spring, garden projects seem to be huge at the moment.

If your outside space needs a little love, here are ten of my favorite garden ideas.

First up is this gorgeous DIY bench which doubles as a planter, by My Daily Randomness. Since UK homes are not quite as spacious as those belonging to our American cousins, I am a huge fan of things which are multi-functional!

We really need an occasional table in our garden, so I was inspired by this pallet gardening table by SAS Interiors. As well as planting seedlings, it would also be great next to a barbecue to help with food preparation. Now I just need a pallet or two...

Ok, I confess I cheated and bought some raised vegetable planters. But this cute planter by At Home At Home looks super simple to make, and you can create a raised bed which fits your space perfectly.

About 3 years ago I bought a DIY garden stone kit and used it to create a keepsake, using my children's hand prints. The kit was quite pricey, and I remember thinking I could have just done a DIY version for a fraction of the cost. Which is just what Intimate Weddings has done - check out their great tutorial.

For years, my husband and I really, really wanted a firepit. In the end we finally got a beautiful cast iron table which has a firepit insert, but if we didn't have that I would definitely be using this tutorial by The Inspired Room to create our own.

Every time I visit our local garden centre, I have to practically drag my son away from the wooden swing seats - he is so desperate for one! If I can figure out a suitable place to put one, I am my husband is totally making this.

I'm not sure why, but I love this pallet garden path by Funky Junk Interiors.

Pretty lighting can create a really welcoming atmosphere, and these cute tin can lanterns look super easy to make. Head over to Craft Foxes, to find out how to make them.

Not up for a big project this weekend? These rock garden markers are just pebbles which have been painted with chalkboard paint, then labelled with acrylic. So simple.

And, just in case you haven't yet realized how versatile pallets are, here is some clever DIY garden storage by Our Little Acre.

What will you be doing over the Easter weekend?

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Thursday, 10 April 2014

Glitter Digital Tape

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Glitter digital tape has been on my to do list since I created a set of glitter blog icons, but I hadn't got around to creating them. However, one of my readers put in a request for it this week and I was happy to oblige. :-)

There are nine different colours in the pack (including colours which are an exact match to my glitter social media buttons). The files are in .png format so that the background is transparent, but unlike my digital washi tape the tapes are fully opaque.

Each strip of digital glitter tape is 400 pixels by 100 pixels, but you can resize them as needed using PicMonkey or Photoshop.

If you want more blog freebies, check out some of my other creations.

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