Lemon fresh!

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growing lemon seedlings in a vintage oversized tea cup | H is for Home

I first got the idea of growing my own lemon plants from a pin I came across on Pinterest.

Vintage oversized tea cup, lemon seeds, gravel and compost

It looked really easy so I collected all the pips from lemons we used in cooking for a few weeks.

Planting lemon seeds in a vintage oversized tea cup

When I had a handful, I was ready to go. I opted for this lovely oversize cup as a container – you can choose anything you fancy – cups, old tins, boxes etc. Some gravel in the bottom to prevent water-logging and multi-purpose compost to cover. Done!

Germinating lemon seeds in a vintage oversized tea cup

The pips were planted in February and small shoots appeared in June, so it took quite a while for them to start germinating – I have to admit that I nearly gave up on them! They got a day in the sunshine as encouragement & reward when I saw those first shoots appear.

Lemon seedlings growing in a vintage oversized tea cup

Look at them now! The bold, brightly coloured pattern of the cup contrasts with the glossy green foliage of the young lemon plants. It looks fabulous on our kitchen window sill… and they smell gorgeous when you rub a leaf between your fingers – fresh and citrusy.

Lemon seedlings growing in a vintage oversized tea cup

I can leave them in the cup as they are now and have lots of these pretty dwarf plants – or perhaps pot these on to get larger lemon trees and start again with the pips. A fully fledged lemon business maybe!

Allotment Diary: April & May

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cow parsley growing on our allotment

We’ve not done an Allotment Diary post for quite a while – that’s not to say we’ve not been busy.

Working on our allotment in May 2015

We’re bringing you what we did in April & May… all in one go!

Justin digging beds on our allotment in May 2015

We cleared more overgrown areas for planting crops.

Adelle securing tomato plants on our allotment in May 2015

Some lovely young tomato plants donated to us by Trudi next door went into this bed.

Making pots from newspapers for potting on seedlings

We’ve also been planting lots of seeds at home where we can keep an eye on the young plants. Adelle spent an afternoon making these little pots out of old newspapers to accommodate some of them…

Growing radish seedlings for our allotment in April 2015

…and seed trays are full to bursting.

Growing bean seedlings on our allotment in May 2015

Young plants are then taken to the allotment to plant out – French beans in an old bathtub here!

Growing squash seedlings under a cloche on our allotment in May 2015

And these little butternut squash seedlings have found a new home under their cavernous cloche.

Chitted seed potatoes being planted in trenches on our allotment in April 2015

The potatoes we chitted and planted a few weeks ago are doing really well – no frost, thank goodness!

Potato plants thriving on our allotment in May 2015

We have them dotted all over the place in beds & bags – Jersey Royals, Maris Peer and King Eddies.

Strawberry plants flowering on our allotment in April 2015

Strawberries are developing flowers that should become nice juicy fruits. This is another bathtub project which we’re very hopeful of – keeping them slightly elevated under nets should keep slugs and birds at bay.

Last year's celery still growing on our allotment in May 2015

We left these celery plants in their beds at the end of last year – they seem to be growing nice new stalks this spring, so we’ll see what happens.

Currants on our allotment in May 2015

Fruit bushes are looking very healthy this year – these redcurrants should be full to bursting come September.

Creature proofing our allotment

We’re started putting up protection after last year’s crop devastation. Also, a network of canes are in place along bed edges at the moment. This is an attempt to teach our dog Fudge to walk along designated paths like Nigel the Golden Retriever on Gardeners’ World!

Woodpile on our allotment in May 2015

Other jobs included sweeping the very last of autumn’s leaves and cutting back overhanging branches which shade the plot. More sunshine for the plants and a bit of firewood for us!

Flowers on our allotment in May 2015

We like to keep some areas on the allotment over for flowers – they look pretty and are great for wildlife. Many of them self-seed, so it’s just a case of giving them loose boundaries and transplanting where required.

Training a rose bush on an arch on our allotment in May 2015

We inherited a rather tangled and untidy rose bush which grew almost horizontally through the undergrowth. This metal arch should give it more structure and opportunity to flower – the brick path will eventually be extended beneath which should look great.

Robin perched on a spade handle on our allotment in May 2015

One beneficiary of some natural areas are the birds. We might not want them eating our strawberries, but there are plenty of insects that they can get stuck into. We get all kinds of finches, tits and thrushes. Our friend the robin has been a permanent fixture on our visits. You can’t leave your tools unattended for long without it using them as the perfect vantage point for freshly uncovered worms. We do have one bird problem though. We’re fans of Mark Radcliffe & Stuart Maconie on 6Music. Unfortunately, we caught one episode where they said that the wood pigeon’s call sounds like “My toe hurts Betty”. It drives us nuts now – we just can’t get it out of our heads!

Picking stinging nettles on our allotment in May 2015

It’s not just wildlife that benefits from the untouched corners of the allotment. These nettles are growing in a rusty old trough at the far end of the plot. The young tips make great soup… and nettle bread was one of our recent Cakes & Bakes posts.

The robin perched on a fence on our allotment in May 2015

It’s certainly been beneficial to get going a bit earlier this time round – hopefully we’ll reap the benefits later in the year!

Gimme Five! Metal planters

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selection of galvanised metal planters

Lots of the plants in our garden are in need of potting on. In the past couple of years, some of the plants have become pot-bound, crying out for a bit of leg room. We used to have lots of lovely terracotta pots but after a couple of harsh, cold winters most of them have cracked and shattered.

Little by little, we’ve been replacing the terracotta with more hardy galvanised versions. We’re in the market for quite a few more metal planters. We love vintage dolly tubs but they can be quite dear – some fetching about the £50 mark.

Galvanised metal planters looks great in groups of different sizes and shapes and some have lovely corrugated patterns. Here are some of the best ones we’ve found.

  1. Fallen Fruits balcony zinc rectangular planter: £13.99, Wayfair
  2. Two aged zinc troughs – £45, Cox & Cox
  3. Single galvanised pot: from £2.99, Crocus
  4. SOCKER plant pot: £6.50, IKEA
  5. Galvanised iron planter: £7.95, by Ella James on Notonthehighstreet

Etsy List: Allotment Chic

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'Allotment Chic' Etsy List curated by H is for Home

We pottered a while on our allotment yesterday – our first visit of 2015. We tidied up a bit and thought about what we might try this year. On our way home we bought a few packets of seeds – pak choi, tenderstem broccoli and Romanesque cauliflower. Last week we put a couple of dozen seed potatoes on a windowsill to chit. We can’t wait to get stuck into this year’s growing!

It seemed like the perfect time for an allotment based Etsy List.

Allotment Chic
Curated by H is for Home

Green tomato chutney

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colander of green tomatoes

This will be the very last crop from our allotment for this year. These tomatoes were never going to ripen on their outdoor vines, but green tomatoes can be put to good use. This green tomato chutney is a tangy triumph – absolutely delicious with a variety of cheeses, particularly a good strong cheddar.

Green tomato chutney

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Green tomato chutney


  • 750g green tomatoes
  • 2 medium apples, peeled & cored
  • 1 brown onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic (I used 1 bulb of the miniature Malvi Cervati garlic sold in Lidl)
  • 3 chillies
  • 500g soft brown sugar
  • 500ml distilled malt vinegar
  • 2tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 125g raisins
  • 2tbs mustard seeds
  • 1tbs ground ginger
  • 1tsp salt


  1. Put the tomatoes, apples, onion, garlic and chillies into a food processor and blitz for about 20 seconds - you don't want the purée too smooth
  2. Put the sugar and vinegars into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or jam pan over a low heat and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved
  3. Add the raisins, mustard seeds, ground ginger, salt and tomato purée mix to the liquid
  4. Stir the mixture and turn the heat up to high and bring to the boil
  5. Once it has reached boiling point, turn the heat down to a low simmer and cook for 50-60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it's about half its original volume
  6. Decant into sterilised jars and allow to cool for 5 minutes before screwing the lids on tightly

6 Tips for newbie allotmenteers

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Blue painted wooden shed on an allotment

Image credit: Karen Jackson, The Garden Smallholder

This week is National Allotments Week so we wanted to mark the occasion by sharing a bit of useful advice to fellow newbie allotmenteers.

sketch of our allotment


Sketch out your plot on a sheet of paper. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy and you don’t need a degree in draughtsmanship. Work out where the sunny and shady spots are. Get a compass out if need be – you can download free compass apps for your smart-phone.

Chilli Pablano seedling in a small terracotta pot

Plant seeds into pots first

Consider planting seeds into small pots of sterilised compost before planting out into the allotment beds. They’ll get a head start and we’ve found that the small seedlings are more easily identifiable too. You can then weed around them without damaging those precious crops.

outdoor thermometer with pink rambling rose

Wait for the soil to warm up before planting your seedlings out

“Never cast a clout ’til May is out”. This means don’t stop wearing your coat until the Hawthorn tree has flowered. This also pertains to delicate seedlings. The hawthorn, also know as the May tree, flowers in late April-early May. Don’t impatiently transplant your seedlings outside too soon. Keep them protected under a cloche if necessary. One night’s frost will ruin all your weeks of hard work and tending.

selection of seed packets and vintage garden tools

Grow things that are hard to come by in the market /supermarket or are expensive to buy

Don’t grow things just because they’re easy if you don’t actually like the way they taste. Grow fruit & veg that are renowned for tasting great straight out of the ground our off the bush. For example – ripe, sun-warmed tomatoes, sweet & juicy strawberries or peas snapped & eaten straight from the pod. Nothing’s as good as home grown fruit & veg!

clear plastic umbrella being used as a cloche on an allotmentImage credit: Permaculture

Be mindful of pests

There’s another old farmers’/gardeners’ saying, “One for the rook, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow”. In our case it was one for the wood pigeon, one for the snail, one for the squirrel, one for the neighbourhood cat… You’ll almost always need to plant more than you think you’ll actually need or can consume. If you have a glut, you can always trade with fellow allotmenteers or give away any surplus to friends, family and neighbours. Also, invest in a bit of garden netting or covers as a hungry caterpillar or slug can do a lot of damage very quickly. There are lots of home-made options too – old plastic bottles cut in half is a common solution – and this up-cycled, clear plastic umbrella being used as a cloche is a great example.

Cover image from the 'Shed Chic' book by Sally CoulthardImage credit: Shed Chic

Make your allotment look attractive

It might sound a bit superfluous, but it’s wonderful to have an attractive-looking plot – a place where you really want to spend time. Hopefully there’ll be some beautiful vegetables & flowers to look at – but how about a nice place to sit out with table & chairs, bunting, strings of lights, a barbecue maybe? A potting shed or greenhouse to while away a few hours on a rainy day. Well maintained paths & beds. Recycled metal containers or old ceramic sinks can look amazing planted up. Nothing beats a bit of allotment chic!!