growing your own fruit, veggies and herbs getting dirty and generally living the good life

Growing in Old Tractor Tyres

potatoes growing in old tyres

Perfect for small spaces and cheaper than chips! Tall as you like to stack ’em and just roll ’em if you need to move ’em…..

If made to measure raised planters aren’t your scene then this may just be for you.

As you can see these are old tyres in which plants are growing. The theory is pretty much the same as a large window box, except in this case it could be considered bottomless.

Perfect for potatoes if you like to mound the earth up around them.If spuds aren’t your thing and you really wish to keep things simple – just drop one on the ground, fill in with a suitable growing medium and scatter whatever seeds grow north instead of south.

I’m sure any tyre shop/ garage/ farmer would be willing to help you out…. The ground here is patchy and messy because it’s used for the chickens and is only starting to grow back. Also the spud foliage is dying off.

plants growing in tractor tyres

Free Fruit From The Wild

hedgerow fruit

Over the last few weeks whilst out walking I’ve had my eye on what is in fruit and what is not. Mainly from my own wild eating whilst walking in the wilds perspective. It does make me wonder slightly the point/ fine line between foraging and taking some and also as important just how much you should know of what exactly you are picking before you start to do so.

The big differ in confusion I note here is that between the Sloe and the Damson. That aside and more important it is the what is pretty versus what could actually cause harm. My golden rule:

if you do not know what exactly you are picking – Don’t Pick It !

The following are four edibles [and one not to eat] that I eat, have been eating and will be able to do so for the next few weeks. As you will read, frosts are sometimes a good thing. I’ll do 5 easier ones in the next week or so.

All of the following as a by the way can be found quite freely by ditches and hedgerows over the last few and coming weeks.

1. Sloe

sloe fruit

The Sloe. The Prunus Spinosa [also know as the blackthorn].

You’ll usually find this growing in hedgerows and near ditches. A decendant of the cultivated plum, it can take the form of a tree or bush. But usually one can tell the difference as the sloe [blackthorn] is extremely thorny – sounds simple ?

  • generally [5 petals] singular cream white flowers borne on bare stems in Spring that grow up to 2cm wide.
  • The Sloe, fruit harvested in autumn is round/ spherical in appearance and a pale grey/ blue green black in colour that can grow to about 1/2 inch in size.
  • The tree itself is deciduous can grow up to 5 metres tall and about 3 – 4 metres wide.

Best picked after the first autumn frosts as the plants tannins are naturally reduced/ removed. It has been described locally to me as the dryest fruit ever tasted – it’s not one I personally like to eat when I’m out and about walking, mainly as it tastes disgusting, verging on sickening – the greatest way to know that what you have picked is incorrect.

2. Damson

The Damson. Closely related to the Sloe/ Prunus spinosa – but – the damson or sometimes known wild plum is of the Prunus domestica. This could get confusing….

  • The tree/ bush may be slightly thorny – although it generally is not.
  • It’s white flowers are [also] borne in spring.
  • The fruit can vary in size, but [larger than sloe] can get to about 3 inches wide

Usually sweet, but it is noted that it can be a bit acid in some. This is one of my free lunches when I’m out and about – unlike it’s wicked sister [above].

My two images above are a bit dodgy – but they show the shape, rotund versus the oval that bit better.

3. Nightshade – Solanum dulcamara

Solanum dulcamara - deadly nightshade

BEWARE – not to be confused with the Atropa belladonna. The extremely pretty flowers of this plant look extremely similar to that of the Solanum crispum Galsnevin, both relations or/ of the Potatoe family. It is the fruit however that I’m holding in this picture above.

It is noted that it can be used in herbal remedies, but the trouble is it is also noted to have caused deaths. The bigger problem is that it may be confused with the deadly nightshade/ pre-mentioned belladonna, one of the most poisonous plants known to man. The poison in this case believed to be solanine.

4. Rose Hip

rosa canina

– Rosa canina. Found in hedgerows and competing quite well with the other vigours of the plant world, the rose hip is one of the greatest sources of vitamin C. The seeds can cause irritation [itchy-backs, anyone ? ] and I have never eaten them raw when I’m out and about – mainly as they taste diabolical and one seed swallowed would cause severe discomfort.

I have however used them to make rosehip syrup and with 20 times more vitamin C than an orange – this for me is the miracle cure for all of my winter snuffles. I couldn’t live without it…. if you know what I mean.

This as I know it is the ideal recipe for Rosehip syrup – the olde but a goldie.

5. Blackberry – rubus fruticosus

blackberry bramble

The blackberry golden rule for me is that [yes you guessed it] it must be black and it must come off in my hand with little to no effort. You possibly don’t need to know much regarding this one but funnily enough its [official plant] family is also the Roseaceae or rose – the exact same as that of the Prunus and therefore also includes as relations the Sloe and the Damson.

My only problem, as a human, is that I’m in competition with the animal kingdom for this food. That said my tip here is that you will find the lower fruit is by far the juciest !

That said, it is something I have picked as a child I fondly remember my Mom making jam with when I was a nipper. Personally, I like knowing it is there and similar to the Damson, knowing there is such a thing as a free lunch.


Onion Planting – Autumn 2011

This is my onion set planting demonstration. I think the video says it all.

In my own garden I have just harvested this years crop….


And although a different variety, these planted yesterday should be ready for harvest somewhere around April 2012.

Nothing to do in the garden this autumn/ winter ? We’ve only just begun…. The Carpenters. Great choon.

onion sets

Peter Donegan

Garlic Planting – Autumn 2011

This is my garlic [variety marco] planting demonstration. The video says it all, but if you do have any questions or thoughts you can leave a comment below.

In my own garden I have just harvested this years crop….

garlic bulbs

And although a different variety these planted yesterday will be ready around April 2012

garlic marco

Also this post on Geotropism may be of interest

Peter Donegan

Growing Runner Beans

runner bean seedling

It almost felt like I was intruding peeling back the compost just so I could snap this seedling as it lost a little of its coat as it just sprouted its first leaf.

runner bean seed runner bean flower

The Phaseolus flowers are noted as being a favourite of the hummingbird and the runner bean noted for containing traces of the poisonous lectin, Phytohaemagglutinin, found in common beans.

runner bean pests runner bean leaf

The big problems I have suffered in the past with the Phaseolus coccineus [runner bean] have been from birds unearthing the seeds and running off with them and assuming I can get past that point and see the seed germinate – as you can see above left – it is snails and other varying pests that I must then deal with.

That said, I personally don’t like using chemical based products on any of my food crops and so in this case I’ll just have to hope that the plant can grow quicker than it can be eaten – it can by the way. The next step is to give them some support by way of canes or guiding wires.

Not to be confused with the broad bean, I’m possibly on the verge of pushing my luck with the Runner bean as regards publishing this post at this point of the season… but it’ll be here for next season and this is as they look in my garden now.

I did this video of how to sow seeds waaaaay back in June 2009. It just so happened at the time the seeds used were in fact runner beans. I have since gotten a haircut.