Tag: vegetables

Our frugal bamboo trellis for our peas

bamboo trellis

Our diy frugal bamboo trellis

We could not leave it any longer, our “Champion of England Tall Climbing heritage peas” (yep that is their name) were desperately needing to run riot in the new raised vegetable plot. These are a very rare UK variety that was almost extinct commercially and can grow up to 10 foot tall. They seem ideal for those living in an urban location with limited garden space, like ourselves.

With the usual crop rotations, we cannot grow beans/peas in the same location two years in a row, so we could not do the usual wigwam construction in the main veg plot to support them all. Plus we grew far too many seedlings this season, not forgetting all the other beans that we need to find some space for in the coming weeks.

Keeping it frugal for our tasty climbing peas

To keep it frugal, we opted for our usual bamboo bob the builder construction project with some trusty garden wire, instead of splashing out some stylish wooden trellis from the local garden centre. Yes the purchased trellis would look very nice, but once the peas get going you won’t clearly see the trellis, just a sea of green and a splash of white flowers. Plus trellis tends to cost £30 a piece and we would need two of them to support all these peas. We considered building our own trellis, but again you have to buy all the wood, spend the time making them and finally weather proofing them.

Bamboo is certainly strong enough to support all that weight

tokyo tower bamboo

View from Tokyo Tower, with bamboo scaffolding

They will get quite heavy once fully grown and covered in pods. Even though our canes are only a cm in diameter, once they are weaved and lashed together they become very sturdy.

Plus we figure if the Japanese can build skyscrapers using a bamboo scaffold then downscaled it’s more than good enough for our peas (LOL). Pictured right was the only photo I could find from our hols that slightly illustrates how versatile these structures are.

Also a pack of 6 foot bamboo canes only cost around £3 and last for many years.

Makes complete financial sense, scrimp it!

Well aside from being very proud of our £3 pea trellis, we think it’s the perfect scrimping solution for supporting all those lovely peas. As we don’t want to spend over £60 for all the materials and then it takes years to get any form of Return On Investment, it could take easily a decade to recoup your costs when the idea is to save money. Also the lifespan of the garden centre trellis might not exceed the same duration, even if they are well looked after.

So come on ‘bob’, point out the obvious and tell us how you did it.
bamboo trellis steps

Frugal bamboo trellis DIY steps

We know it’s self-explanatory and you don’t need a degree architecture or construction to erect a bamboo trellis, but if you’re interested or want a good laugh at our expense, then please read on.

    1. Spacing the canes
      Assuming a man’s hand span space between each cane is more than enough space to ensure a strong structure and plenty of support for the plants. We inserted nine 6 foot canes about 6 inches into the soil, up against the rear wall of our raised veg plot.


    1. Comapct the soil for support
      We then made sure the soil around the base of each cane was sufficiently compressed to stop them moving about.


    1. Weaving the cross beam Took our first cross beam and effectively weaved it in and out through each cane to create tension before lashing each end with garden twine.


    1. Lashing the end supports It’s important to tie it tight twice round the vertical cane, prior to looping over the horizontal cane and back around the vertical cane. Do this several times before tying it around the space between the canes to hold the knot tight. If done properly, it will not slip in either direction.


    1. Lashing the cross sections Once the ends have been done, lash all the other points where the canes cross.


    1. Repeat the process Then carry on this process on each new cane weaved into the frame. It is a good idea to alternate which starting side of the first vertical cane per each new cane weaved through to create even more tension amongst the canes for a stronger structure.


  1. Ensure the support is sufficient Once we got to the top, we decided to ensure the entire structure would not act as a sail in the wind (once the peas were fully grown) that we needed a little more support. We could have pushed them deeper into the soil, but we opted to tie them to pagoda beam above to hold them in position. Alternatively they could be secured to a fence.

If you want to take the piss or ask any questions please leave a comment below.

We hope that this post was of interest or a quick chuckle for all those qualified builders out there. We simply aim to demonstrate how easy it is to do and that growing your own food is one of the most rewarding hobbies you can participate in.

Back to the champion peas, how much will we save?

This is the first time we have grown this variety and we don’t know how well these are going to do. From the information we have sourced, they are potentially very high yielding, so with 13 plants, providing they all grow to expectations we should produce a lot of peas.

We will update this post in the autumn harvest and report back just how well they did and if they are the ideal candidate for green fingered scrimpers!

From garden to plate in less than 15 mins

Boiled eggs with asparagus

Home grown asparagus spear soldiers!!

Ahh home grown fresh asparagus! They taste so much better than what you buy in the supermarket and we are not just saying that, they are sweeter, juicier and have a much stronger flavour. Though neither Sherrie nor I have ever used an asparagus spear as a soldier substitute when dipping into boiled eggs, what were we missing!? They were absolutely yummy, though after a great debate whilst devouring our prey, we decided the next set of spears (ready in a week or two) will get the hollandaise treatment!

Unless of course we come across any other recipes that look even more tantalising!

So are they worth growing?

We would have to say yes, admittedly this is the first time we have eaten our own home-grown asparagus, we have been waiting 3 years until the crowns mature enough to be harvested and unfortunately we only have two plants (at the moment). You can buy mature plants and moving forward, it is tempting to quicken the process for a greater yield without the wait, but obviously they do cost a little more. The great news is that they will continue providing spears for up to 20 years!! So they are well worth the investment in the long haul.

Is patience a virtue? This sounds far too long

5 asparagus spears

Asparagus spears ready for combat!

Yes, now we have finally managed to eat them it was worth the wait, but each year we were been tempted to pick them, however, we managed to stay true to the instructions and hold off the annual pillage! There is nothing to stop you eating them before the first 3 years, but it does mean that the amount of spears that grow in the following years will be thin, spindly and the yield will be drastically reduced, as they need time to mature their crowns.

Depending on the price, we are considering investing in a couple of mature crowns so that we have even more next year. As now we have tasted home-grown asparagus, we are not sure we can wait another 2-3 years LOL.

On average it’s around £10 for 3 crowns and upto £20 for 12 crowns, depending on the varieties available. There is a nice selection available at Dobies website.

Two crowns and that’s all you had to eat?

growing asparagus spears

Many more spears popping up

No no, we only picked a few spears, there are plenty more spears coming up at the moment and we expect to get quite a few more this season. Though they never all come at once, well enough for meal and you don’t want them losing their fresh flavour sat in the fridge for a week. What’s left in the photo is what is still growing, plus there are more about to erupt from the soil that cannot be easily seen in the picture.

They should continue to produce spears until mid June, then they should be left to build up their energy for next year.

Are they easy to grow in a small urban garden?

We would say yes, the only tricky bit is setting up the trench as they like good drainage channels. In short you basically dig a trench around a foot deep, create a mound or ridge in the middle that the crowns sit on and you dangle their roots into the channels either side. Fill the hole up with soil, soak well and that’s it really, no other maintenance required except at the end of the season each year, cut the stalks off until maturity. Obviously it’s beneficial to feed them fertiliser or well-rotted farmyard manure annually. With a mature crown, once they are in the ground it’s just a case of eating them when they pop up.

From what we have seen, there are now available Asparagus patio planters to grow them in sturdy bags in small spaces, which looks very easy. We don’t know which method is superior, but would love to hear any of your experiences.

Can you go in more detail?

We are by no means experts on the subject  but if anyone would like to more, we will happily share what we have learnt and can write up a post with what we did step by step, please let us know in the comments below.  Or if you are a seasoned pro and we have overlooked anything we would also love to hear your thoughts and expand our knowledge on best practices.

Finally, potatoes planted out

potato seeds

Chitting what? ooops we forgot.

Most of the potatoes have now been planted out, we were a little behind schedule (to say the least). They should have gone out a couple of weeks ago and were starting to get a little leggy and grown through the netting. Ooops!

Yes our chitting regime has been left a little by the wayside, instead of well sprouted tubers we opened the box to find them their long triffid ‘tendrils’ trying to escape through the gaps. Most of the years prior  we have been pretty good at saving our egg cartons and getting the potatoes chitted, but this year we were so busy we fogot time and time again.

Varieties of seed potatoes we have in our line-up

This year we decided to invest in organic varieties for our seeds and the chose our “tuber champions” (hopefully) which are:

  1. Robinta – Late Maincrop:
    (1978) The most disease resistant red potato ever. Very productive with smooth red skin and cream flesh. Short oval tubers retain their shape well when boiled. Good resistance to blight, scab and potato cyst nematode. (Source: The Organic Gardening Catalogue)
  2. Bambino – Salad Potato:
    Small round white tubers with light cream flesh and superb taste. Good resistance to foliage and tuber blight, scab and blackleg. Less waxy than other salad potatoes so don’t overboil. Early maincrop maturity. (Source: The Organic Gardening Catalogue)

Let’s hope that the poor chitting won’t affect our harvest too much and they still produce plenty of spuds! (Fingers crossed).

Which potato planting method works best?

potato sacks

Our potato sacks are ready to go

Generally we plant our spuds in green potato sacks, slowly topping up the soil as they grow and generally they yield fairly well. Well except when we have utterly washed out summers…

Quite honestly we don’t know which method is best, results have varied year to year. Also there seems to be mixed opinion out there on the tinter-web. One thing is for sure, dont forget to chit your potato seeds (LOL).

We have so many potato seeds and not really enough space to plant them all out, so we planted out a third of them into our potato sacks, the other third went out into our veg plot and we have the final third left over without a home. As we have to rotate the crops we plant our veg plot, this year the spuds managed to get a little more real estate and got a spot in one of our plots!

We still have potato seeds left over, anyone interested?

Unfortunately we still have a couple of dozen of each variety left and nowhere to put them. It would be a shame to throw them away, so if anyone lives near Reading and is interested in some free potato seeds, let us know ASAP! They won’t last too much longer.

UPDATE: 18 August 2013 – Sunday harvest

homegrown potatoes

Potato harvest part 1

We decided to see how two of our potato sacks were doing and to our surprise the Bambino’s did fairly well, though the Robinta’s were not quite as productive. As you can see in the pic there is almost twice the amount grown. Next year we are certainly considering building a potato tower, that should be interesting!

We have 1 sack and 1 large bucket to empty, plus 4 rows of potatoes in the vegetable plot, so we have plenty to last us into the winter. So at least that will save us £4-£5 every 10 days or so, we try to shop no more than 3 times a month if possible.

Growing food in an urban setting

Growing food in raised beds is easy!

Just came across this post on the Waltons blog and thought it was worth a quick share… for all those urban dwellers who would like to grow their own food at home, but dont think they have the space. It’s a short and sweet start up guide for those who need a little nudge to get started! 🙂


Heritage seed planting session

Seed trays

A couple of seed trays crammed on our windowsill

Well with this miserable weather outside, we thought today we should plant some more of our new heritage seeds! Though we are seriously lacking with available window space, we cannot put all of the seeds out in the greenhouse either as it’s still too cold at the moment. So we have been trying to plant our seeds in separate sittings, this was the second sitting and the rest of the seeds will have to wait until April. So Sherrie, her mother and i sat there in a mini production line, cleaning seed trays, filling them with soil, planting and labelling for a couple hours.

Why are you planting heritage seeds?

We decided to move over to heritage seeds for many reasons, which we will go into more detail in a future post. But to keep things frugal, heritage seeds in some cases are cheaper to buy, taste better and much easier to get a new set of seeds for next year. Yes they are not as disease resistant as F1 hybrid varieties and maybe a lower yield but they are certainly the better more natural choice in our opinion, especially if you are scrimping!

Where did you source your heritage seeds?

After looking around for a good well stocked heritage seed company, we came across The Real Seed Catalogue and so far have placed a couple of orders with them, this is our first year on heritage seeds, so we are excited to see how well they do. We will keep posting away with status updates as our little green babies grow!

What are your thoughts on heritage seeds? We are keen to learn as much as possible.

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