Tuesday, 29 December 2015


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Its great to grow something a little different and exotic, and the coconut delivers this just fine. You can grow a coconut palm (Cocos nucifer) indoors as a house plant from a shop bought coconut.

Select a fresh coconut that still has the husk on, and ensure that still has coconut milk in it by shaking it.  Roughly remove the husk fibres with a sharp knife and place the coconut in a bucket of water, letting it soak for 2-3 days.

Fill a large 30 cm pot with a mixture of potting compost and vermiculite/sand to ensure a free draining soil. Plant the coconut in the soil on its side, leaving the top third proud of the soil. 

Coconuts love warmth so move to a warm, sunny position. Temperatures in excess of 21C/71F will suit it well. water frequently during germination but do not allow the coconut to sit on waterlogged soil. You should see your seedling sprout within 3-6 months.

Your coconut palm reach a height of about 150 cm. Water and fertilise your coconut frequently during the summer, but reduce this during the darker winter period. Coconuts do not like the cold, so move to a warm position in the winter and avoid cold draughts. Repot your coconut every few years.

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Feeding plants

Thursday, 17 December 2015


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The pineapple (Ananas comosus) is a tropical plant, originating from South America. These bromeliads are herbaceous perennials, growing up to 5 feet across. They have tough, waxy leaves and a short stem. 

When creating its fruit pineapples usually produces up to 200 flowers. Once it flowers, the individual fruits of the flowers join together to create the pineapple fruit. 

It is easy to root a pineapple from just the pineapple top, and yes you can use a pineapple bought from your supermarket! 

Cut off the leafy top about 1 inch below the leaves before removing some of the lowest leaves. Then place in a pot or directly in the soil.  And thats it.  Keep it simple.  No trimming of the fruit, no drying the top out or placing it in water.  Just cut the top off and plant in the ground or in a pot of light soil mixed with perlite. 

Water thoroughly and place in a sunny position away from direct sunlight. Allow the soil to dry out between watering and place outside  in a sunny position during the summer if you can. Your new plant will flower 20–24 months later, followed by fruit in the following six months

Pineapples like warm conditions so if you plant directly outside ensure you give them frost protection. They grow quite big too, so give them plenty of space.  

So go on, have a go at planting that pineapple next time you eat one. 

For related articles click onto:
Feeding plants

Sunday, 13 December 2015


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Venus fly traps (Dionaea muscipula) are carnivorous plants native to subtropical wetlands on the East Coast of the United States. In order to secure additional nutrients in the poor boggy soils the plants catch small insects such as beetles and spiders.  Their clasping leaves have a trapping structure which is triggered by tiny hairs on their inner surfaces. When an insect or spider crawling along the leaves contacts a hair, the trap closes if a different hair is contacted within twenty seconds of the first strike. 

I have always been fascinated by venus fly trap plants, ever since I was a kid and used to catch flies to feed to  it.  But they never seemed to last more than a month or so before they died. However it is possible to grow venus fly traps successfully, both indoor and outdoors. 

Firstly it is important to mimic their natural growing environment. Venus fly traps are bog plants, liking wet conditions away in a sunny position, although not in direct sunlight as they will scorch.  They grow in moist, acidic soils in full sun, but will not survive the cold weather in the UK so bring them inside during the winter. They need a period of winter dormancy when they appear to be dead and the leaves may die back, but are merely resting.

Venus flytrap thrives in poor, acidic soil with good drainage. Avoid planting it in regular potting soil: Instead use a blend of one-third sand and two-thirds sphagnum peat moss to provide the best drainage and moisture retention. Do not add lime to the soil and never fertilise the plant.

If your Venus flytraps don't show a pink interior or if the plants have long, spindly leaves, they are not getting enough sunlight. Keep the environment humid and the soil moist but don't let the plants stand constantly in water. Grow them in a pot with drainage holes.Use rain or distilled water to take care of your Venus fly trap, because tap water is often too alkaline or may contain too many added minerals.

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Saturday, 12 December 2015


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I was inspired to make this after visiting Marrakech earlier this year.  You don't need a tagine to cook it in as it works just as well in a casserole pot.  Service it with coriander and lime couscous for a yummy meal.

Serves 4


8 Chicken legs/thighs
15 Dried apricots
Can of chick peas
200 ml chicken stock
3 flat mushrooms, sliced
fine green beans, sliced
butternut squash, cubed
1 table spoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons honey


Preheat the oven to 180/gas mark 6.

Place the chicken in a frying pan and fry it in the olive oil until it has browned.  Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the onions to the frying pan until they have softened.

Place the chicken and onions in a casserole dish or tagine, and add the apricots, chickpeas, mushrooms, beans, squash, garlic and chicken stock.  Add the ginger, cumin, turmeric, and honey and stir well.

Cook in the oven for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and topping up with water if necessary to keep moist.

Serve with couscous.

For related articles click on the links below:
Artichokes Alla Romana
Chicken stir fry
Chicken supreme
Chicken risotto recipe
Chicken and apricot tagine
Feta and nut stuffed peppers
Recipe for Asparagus Quiche
Recipe for blackcurrant cheesecake
Recipe for cauliflower cheese
Recipe for chicken fajitas
Recipe for home made olive bread
Recipe for Italian pizza
Recipe for Italian tomato sauce
Recipe for lasagna
Recipe for Quiche Lorraine
Recipe for pea salad with mint
Recipe for pickled cucumber
Recipe for Plum Chutney
Recipe for Salmon with lemon and herbs
Recipe Spaghetti bolognese
Recipe for spinach and broccoli fritatta

Recipe for tomato soup
Sun dried tomato and herb bread
Vegetarian recipes - vegetable fried rice


Saturday, 5 December 2015


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It is universally accepted that green space is valuable, and trees play an important role in our landscape. Not only do they beautify our surroundings, purify our air, manufacture precious oxygen and act as sound barriers, they also benefit us in many other ways:

1.     Trees absorb CO2, removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles.

2.     Trees clean the air, absorbing odours and pollutant gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulphur dioxide and ozone) and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark.

3.     In one year an acre of mature trees can provide enough oxygen for 18 people.

4.     Trees cool city temperatures by up to 10°F, by shading our homes and streets, breaking up urban “heat islands” and releasing water vapour into the air through their leaves.

5.     Three trees placed strategically around a single-family home can cut summer air conditioning needs by up to 50 percent. By reducing the energy demand for cooling our houses, we reduce carbon dioxide and other pollution emissions from power plants.

6.     Shade from trees slows water evaporation from thirsty lawns. Most newly planted trees need only fifteen gallons of water a week. As trees transpire, they increase atmospheric moisture.

7.     Trees reduce runoff by breaking rainfall thus allowing the water to flow down the trunk and into the earth below the tree. This prevents storm water from carrying pollutants to the ocean. When mulched, trees act like a sponge that filters this water naturally and uses it to recharge groundwater supplies.

8.     On hillsides or stream slopes, trees slow runoff and hold soil in place, helping to prevent soil erosion.

9.     Trees reduce UV-B exposure by about 50 percent, thus providing protection against skin cancer.

10. Aside from fruit for humans, trees provide food for birds and wildlife. An apple tree can yield up to 2500 apples per year and can be planted on the tiniest urban lot.

11. Studies have shown that patients with views of trees out their windows heal faster and with fewer complications. Children with ADHD show fewer symptoms when they have access to nature. Exposure to trees and nature aids concentration by reducing mental fatigue.

12. Neighbourhoods and homes that are barren have shown to have a greater incidence of violence in and out of the home than their greener counterparts. Trees within the landscape help to reduce the level of fear.

13. Trees mark the seasons. Is it winter, spring, summer or autumn, look at the trees.

14. Tree plantings provide an opportunity for community involvement and empowerment that improves the quality of life in our neighbourhoods. All cultures, ages, and genders have an important role to play at a tree planting or tree care event.

15. Trees as landmarks can give a neighbourhood a new identity and encourage civic pride.

16. Trees provide a canopy and habitat for wildlife. Sycamore and oak are among the many urban species that provide excellent urban homes for birds, bees and squirrels.

17. Trees can mask concrete walls or parking lots, and unsightly views. They muffle sound from nearby streets and freeways, and create an eye-soothing canopy of green. Trees absorb dust and wind and reduce glare.

18. In suburban and rural areas, trees can be selectively harvested for fuel and craft wood.

19. Trees increase property values. The beauty of a well-planted property and its surrounding street and neighbourhood can raise property values by as much as 15 percent.