Hello Hello and welcome to the growing family!
Your recent purchase means the world to me, and I just wanted to start with a massive thank you!
Let’s get growing together!
In your April box you will find:
1 small recycled fabric pot
1 medium recycled fabric pot
1 large recycled fabric pot
1 pack of chives seeds, 1 pack of tomato seeds and 1 pack of pepper seeds
2 blocks of peat-free compost
Organic plant food
Bamboo dibber and widger set
Custom hand drawn A3 poster
Now let’s get growing!
It is a good idea to get started with your compost blocks. You can expand one block to start off with but I like to expand them both at the same time.
You will need a water tight container such as a bucket or tray. Place your compost blocks into your container, but make sure the compost has room to expand. It might look small now but its going to grow like crazy!
Start by adding 1 liter at a time, warm water will speed up the process but it is by no means necessary. Overall the dried compost blocks will absorb around 3-6 liters.
After a few minutes the compost will start to expand, if it is not expanding, try breaking a few chunks apart and adding a touch more water.
Now its time to get your hands dirty, break apart your blocks making sure to break apart any chunks. You might find you need to add more water at this stage.
Your coco coir compost should be lovely and fluffy with no lumps, and not saturated with water. If you still have lumpy compost, continue to break it apart with your hands. If your compost is soaking wet you can squeeze out some of the moisture.
Now let's get your seeds started!
Lets start with your peppers and tomato seeds. I have selected redskin F1 peppers and Red Alert tomatoes. Both varieties are heavy croppers, but also have a small stature, making them perfect for pots.
To start fill your seed tray with compost, I recommend filling this to the very top. The extra compost can be popped straight into your three pots for storage and can be left outside.
Divide your seed tray in half, you can use a stick or a pencil to mark this line or simply just draw a line in the compost, I am using a bamboo skewer to divide my tray.
Using your bamboo dibber, mark out your holes to drop your seeds in. these holes only need to be 1-2 cm deep. Try your best to evenly spread them apart, as this will save you time and effort once they germinate.
Drop in one seed per hole and then pop your seedlings to bed by covering them back up with soil. Using a mister bottle or a turkey baster (strange, but very effective) lightly water. Your soil should be damp without being soaking wet.
Using your plant labels, mark your seeds so you do not get confused (a mistake I make every year). Place your seed tray on a sunny windowsill indoors and try to keep them warm (you can wrap the plastic wrap from your compost over the top to keep them warm).
After around two weeks your seeds should start to sprout. Please be patient, both peppers and tomatoes can be slow and fussy with germination. I have had tomato seeds take 5 weeks to germinate before.
When your seeds appear it is vital to give them as much light as possible. Please make sure they are in the sunniest spot you have available, otherwise your baby plants will bolt. This is where they grow very tall, but very spindly as they compete for the light.
Once true leaves start to appear (please see image below to see what true leaves look like), it is time to transplant.
Lets prep the pots
Lets start with the tomato plant, tomatoes are greedy and as a result will need the bigger pot. Fill your pot to around four inches to the top, I like to fold the excess pot over like in the image below, but this is not necessary.
Your soil will need feeding as tomatoes are hungry plants. Use half of your organic plant food and mix it in really well using your widger. Please be careful when using plant food, make sure to wash your hands after use.
Repeat this process with the medium sized pot for your peppers, but use 70% of the remaining plant food. Now you have a choice to make, you can plant two plants per pot or one. If you plant one that plant will grow much better and it is the option I will be going for. Dig your hole in the middle of the pot.
Using your widger very carefully dig out the biggest seedlings, making sure to keep as big of a root ball as possible, please see the image below as a good example. When you are handling your tomato plant please hold it by its leaves nit the stem.
Bury the seedlings up to the first leaf and water really well. You will have excess seedlings, please feel free to give these to friends and family or alternatively you can use your unlimited 10% off our online shop and plant these out too.
At this stage your plants are still a bit tender, while they can live outside during the day, for the next 10 nights I would bring them back inside, then pop them out in the morning.
Please do not keep them outside in temperature lower than 5c as these plants will not do well in the cold.
The key to success with your tomato plant is to provide them with a lot of sunlight and consistent watering. So please place your pot in the sunniest spot available. Try your best to keep the soil damp, bigger drinks once every other day are far more effective than a tiny sprinkle once a day. As a general rule, if you poke your finger down into the soil and it is still damp you don't need to water. If it comes out dry then you need to give it a good drink.
The key to success with your pepper plant is to make sure it is placed in the sunniest warmest spot you have available. They respond so well to the sun and heat but hate the cold weather, please bring inside if frost is forecast.
We will return to your pepper and tomato in the harvesting section.
Lets get our chives started
Chives are no where near as high maintenance as your pepper and tomato and are pretty self sufficient. To get them started we need to fill the small pot up with compost leaving 2-4 inches from the top, and as in the below image I like to fold the top over.
Mix in the rest of your plant food using your widger and please wash your hands after. Sprinkle your chive seeds over the top of your compost, try your best to space them evenly. I like to gently tap the seed envelope to let the seeds slowly fall out over the compost. Once you have sprinkled your seeds, cover back up with a very light layer of soil.
Give your chives a good drink, I like to use a mister bottle, but you can use whatever you have to hand. Please be careful not to over water your soil, the soil should be moist but not soaking. If your soil is too wet it will cause mold to form on your soil.
Your chives will thrive on a sunny windowsill, but this time of the year they will be okay outside. For the best results, I will let mine germinate and sprout on a windowsill and then once they start to grow I will move them outside. Remember to use your plant label to name your chives.
From here your chives will grow fast, just keep the soil moist and they will look after themselves. It is possible your chives will develop stunning purple flowers. This is completely normal and they are edible too ( the bees also love them).
Harvesting and cooking your chives, peppers and tomatoes
As I am growing the box with you I will update the images step by step.
Lets start with your chives as they will be the first crop that is ready to harvest. Chives are what as known as cut and come again crops, this simply means when its time to harvest you can snip off what you need and leave the rest to keep growing.
This is fantastic as your little pot of chives will provide you with weekly harvests right through until the autumn. To harvest, once your chives reach 10-15 cm tall, using a very sharp pair of scissors cut, leaving around 5 cm still growing.
Chives will not store very well so please harvest as and when you need them and use them fresh. Fresh chives pack a punch so you will not need too many in one go.
Chives are amazing added straight to salads, but my best way of using my chives is to chop them up really fine and add them straight to cream cheese. Spread this over a toasted bagel and enjoy.
Around May little yellow flowers will start to appear on your tomato plant. These little flowers are pollinated by the vibration of bees. To replicate this to ensure your tomatoes are pollinated, tap the flowers with a little paint brush.
Your tomato may need supporting with a cane at this point, please use the twine provided in your box sets. Soon those little yellow flowers will transform into little green tomatoes which will ripen to red.
This is the stage where consistent watering is key, make sure the soil is constantly moist. If your soil keeps drying out and then you water you may get whats called blossom end rot. This is where the bottom of your tomatoes turn brown, the tomato is still edible but you will need to chop the brown off.
Start harvesting as soon as your plants turn a deep red colour as that is when they are at their best, also harvest while they are still a tiny bit firm. Eaten fresh from the vine fresh tomatoes are a real summer treat.
Your peppers like your tomatoes will start to develop little flowers, with your peppers these will normally be white. Keep your peppers well watered and soon these little flowers will start to turn into little green peppers.
If you like your peppers green, harvest them young, if you prefer them red leave them on the plant to ripen. Picked fresh from the vine, your peppers will be amazing, juicy and crunchy.
You can use your peppers in a range of ways, they are absolutely delicious in a fresh salad but to make the most of your April box, I recommend chopping them in half and stuffing with your cream cheese and chive mix. Pop them in the oven and lightly bake.... Yum