How to keep your hen’s happy in the winter!

After going through two winters with my girls I’ve learnt some aren’t phased by a dusting of snow, where as others puff their feathers like a beach ball to keep themselves warm. I sometimes wonder whether 17 months in a heated tin shed (ex battery hens) has made them more susceptible to the cold? Anyway ,here are my tips I’ve learnt to keep them in tip top condition even in the snow!


1 – Location

My girls are on my allotment so it’s a big open space with no warm south facing walls to position their coop against. Instead their coop has been moved to the sunniest spot and near to my shed which gives them a bit of protection from the wind. In late spring I’ll move their Eglu back to it’s summer position which gets afternoon shade. They also have a little wind protect from a lavender hedge and strategically placed plant pots!

2 – Food

We all know that corn is a chickens favourite (aside from mealworms of course), but a handful of corn just before bed will keep a hen warm during the night as their body builds up heat digesting it. They also gobble a few mealworms to keep their fat stocks up!

In 0 degree temps I will change their frozen water for luke warm water as an extra morning boost. A yummy treat for my girls is a bowl of porridge! Simply mix plain porridge with some boiling water and they love it, plus it warms their bellies. If you don’t have porridge to hand, mixing their pellets or crumb with hot water is welcomed! I sometimes combine the two so they get the best of both worlds!


3 – Coop

I have an Omlet Eglu which is twin walled insulated and is perfect all year round. When it gets to minus temps I also attach the extreme temperature jacket to the coop to make sure they are extra cosy. Any material can be added externally to create an extra layer of insulation, just make sure to weigh it down and keep ventilation holes clear. Likewise make sure any unnecessary gaps or holes are covered to stop drafts.


4 – Run

For some reason on really cold days, my girls refuse to sit in the sheltered coop. I mean, I don’t blame them as I wouldn’t want to sit in the dark either. Instead I’ve had to make their run a sheltered place where they can keep warm. I have Omlet’s run covers which clip to the wire run and stop any drafts blowing through. Keeping the floor dry is also a must as the surface will freeze, which won’t be pleasant for your hens and they won’t be able to dustbath. I have covers to stop the rain getting in as well as a woodchip floor which soaks up any moisture. The wood chips get dig out and replaced when needed and this makes a great mulch for your garden!

5 – Bedding

Some people use the deep litter method although I haven’t tried this. In summer I have as little bedding as possible, where as during the winter, it is packed into their coop. I use a layer of sawdust to soak up any moisture, followed by a thick layer of straw. This is changed regularly so there is no damp material left for a period of time. Last winter when we had a couple of weeks of snow I put a thick layer of straw in the run too.

6 – Chicken Jackets

There’s some conflicting advice about jackets and it is not recommended if your hen is growing feathers for a couple of reasons. However my recent experience with Aggie has meant a jacket was needed. With Aggie being poorly she lost a lot of weight. She also hates the cold! To aid her recovery I kept her indoors and slowly reintroduced her to the outdoor conditions. Just as she was ready to go back in the flock a cold spell hit. This is when the jacket has come in really handy! Left on for just a couple of hours in the morning, has given her an extra bit of protection while the temps get above freezing.


7 – Eggtracurricular Activities

My girls have a good run around every day. They love to forage for insects and worms which becomes impossible when the ground freezes over. You can give a helping hand by digging a small area (the wild birds will love you too). Or I open my greenhouse where they run in for a bit of shelter and a dig in the raised beds. It’s a nice place for me and Olive to sit, that’s when they aren’t eating my salad!

Olives Favourite Seat

If you have any other ideas please comment below and share your wisdom with everyone!

Find what keeps your girls happy and warm during the winter months and they will repay with you lots of eggs come spring! If you want to upgrade your coop this January, Omlet are offering £50 off all Eglu’s by using code EGLU2019!



Chicken Commitments

I have been wanting to share a secret with you all for quite a while now. A few months ago Omlet asked if I would mind testing one of their new products, and to tell you the truth it has been life changing! People always ask me if taking on chickens is a commitment, and even after all the research I did, I still don’t think I was as prepared for the amount of “commitment” they would take. I was a tad naïve and the excitement of beginning my small holding, overtook any concerns.


The girls like to get up at first light and for me to have even just an hour lie in, would leave me feeling guilty when I see them desperate to get out of their coop. Every morning would begin with waking up at the crack of dawn. Despite the weather, day or plans, I would still wake up with the sunrise and drive to my lottie. It wasn’t a problem as I loved to see the girls emerge from their coop, sleepy eyed but eager for the day of scratching the dirt and dustbathing. However on those rare occasions you would find yourself dreaming of having a lie in.

Similarly in the evening I would go to the lottie around an hour before sunset, to give the girls a run around, some corn and finally tuck them in for the night. As the year goes by this time would change daily. In winter I would even leave work early to make sure I could put the girls away before darkness. Call me crazy but I would do anything to keep my girls safe and happy. After hearing horror stories of people coming home an hour later than usual, to find a fox had got into the chicken run and killed all the chickens. Those stories are heart breaking. Just like the mornings, I would make sure my evening plans revolved around the girls and sunset.


Omlete got in touch and asked if I would mind testing their new automatic door. I literally jumped at the chance! The delivery arrived and I had no idea what to expect, but I was really impressed. The auto door took me around 20 minutes to fit, simply unbolting the roof and screwing it in place. The girls thought this was highly entertaining as they pecked my feet whilst I worked. You could either set it at a time to open and close, or you could set it to 15 minutes after the light quality reduces to a certain percentage. I didn’t expect you to be able to set it so accurately to suit you, it filled me with confidence. I went for the timer program so my girls wake at 7am every morning, when the risk of Mr Fox has passed. In the evenings I set it to close 15 minutes after sunset. I was a tad worried about the door shutting on one of the girls but it moves fairly slowly and gives the girls plenty of warning. Plus it has a “crush detector”, so if anything gets in the way, it won’t close.



I couldn’t be more impressed with the door. Now at the weekends I can wake up late and go see the girls midmorning. I can go out for dinner and not have to worry about getting home at a certain time. Such a small thing has made such a big difference to mine and the girls lifestyle. I don’t think there are many people that keep chickens purely for their eggs. We all want to give the best life for our chickens, especially as mine have been rescued from a horrible battery farm. So for the girls to have consistency, waking up at the same time every day, having as long as possible to roam around as they please, and then put themselves to bed knowing that they are going to be safe. Is just perfect for us!

I’ll be happy to answer any questions about the door so please do get in touch.


My Omlet Chicken Coop!

Chickens have always been part of my future plan. They are a huge commitment but will be so rewarding and will take me one step closer to being self sufficient. Being completely new to chickens, I’ve done masses of research, finding the best coop, food and bedding.

First decision was the coop! After loads of reading I decided plastic was going to be the way forward for me, easy to clean and less problems with mites. Working full time, setting up my own business, two plots and house to look after meant I needed something extremely low maintenance.IMG_2175

I ended up deciding to go with an Omlet Eglu Cube coop with a 3 meter run which will house 8 ex battery hens. There is no getting away from the fact that this is one of the more expensive coops on the market, however I always have the attitude “you get what you pay for”. Its an investment that will last me years to come.

The coop has a double wall with an air cavity giving it a layer of insulation, keeping it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It has a slatted floor with a pull out tray for the droppings which makes cleaning quick and simple. The other main benefit is the whole package Omlet provide. You can either buy the coop by itself, or if your a newbi you can buy coop, run and feeding station all together. You can easily add a run extension at a later date.


My biggest fear about getting chickens has been Mr Fox. The idea of him tearing though flimsy chicken wire or tunnelling under the coop plays on my mind…a lot! I’m hoping I will be able to get a good nights sleep knowing the run is made from steel welded mesh and has a wire skirt to prevent any digging. I’ve put my run on bare soil so I’ve also added a extra parameter of paving slabs that I salvaged. You can never be too safe!

I built the coop and run in two afternoons. The instructions said you needed two people so of course I ignored the advice as I was too excited and couldn’t wait for help! Shortly after I started I realised ideally you do need two people! It was a bit of a struggle to hold bits of the wire run up while fixing it in place but I managed. The connectors and brackets were simple and easy to use.

Being a product designer I have had to proof read countless instruction manuals, so I’ve experienced a fair share of awful “destructions” (as my dad likes to call them). Omlet’s instructions were really straight forward and had brilliant little illustrations of “do’s and don’ts” that made it really clear what the coop should look like…and more to the point, what it shouldn’t look like!


I filmed a little time-lapse video of the build over the two days which shows you just how easily it all goes together. My top tip would be assemble it from the outside. Once (okay twice!) I made the mistake of getting in the coop to fix the roof and interior in place, only to realise it wouldn’t be easy getting back out! If you fancy a laugh check it out on my YouTube channel: Omlet Eglu Build

Cant wait to share the next step with you! Introducing the girls!

No Dig Raised Beds

A lot of people ask why I love raised beds so much! So here are my top reasons:

  1. Controlling the Soil Type – I have heavy dense clay which is hard to work with and doesn’t give a lot of oxygen to the roots. By constructing raised beds I can fill them with a mixture of compost and manure.
  2. Waterlogged Plot – Every Autumn, Winter and Spring the whole allotment site gets waterlogged and makes it difficult to work in. By raising my soil and plants above ground level by just a few inches, I can still work the soil and the roots don’t get waterlogged. I can grow crops though winter where as other plots are like big puddles.
  3. No Soil Compression – By having clear beds and pathways I don’t accidently tread on a growing area which saves my plants getting squished and also the soil! Oxygen is key for roots to thrive and there’s plenty of it in raised beds!
  4. Easy Management – A psychological benefit is I don’t get that daunting feeling when I look at my plot. Instead I make a goal to weed one bed every visit or a “to-do” list that involves one bed at a time. One big area of soil seems like a bigger challenge to me personally.
  5. Crop Rotation and Planning – Each Winter I draw up a plan of all my beds and compare this to the years before. I then make sure that I am rotating my crops. This is really important to myself as it reminds me not to plant hungry squashes in the same place which will deplete the nutrients in the soil. Having beds makes it a clear and easy system.
  6. Recycling – People ask me which shop I get my wood from. I have not brought one piece of wood for my plot. The last lot I got was from a house that I worked at. She had a big pile of it at the front of her house so I (politely) asked if she wanted it. Apparently she had been trying to get rid of it for ages as it was left over building materials. I also keep an eye out on Freecycle, it’s amazing what people give away!

**Before making your raised beds, do some planning! Think about the size of the bed. I have long narrow beds for things like legumes, cabbages and root vegetables. Big square beds for potatoes, sweetcorn and squashes. And double deep beds for carrots and parsnips. I also think about how the sunlight travels across my plot and where to put beds depending if the crops will need full sunlight or some shade**

I make my raised beds using stakes driven into the ground in each corner and screw the boards to that. I also add some stakes along the longer lengths of the timber to add stability. I find stakes are the cheapest and easiest way, although you can buy metal brackets to secure the wood together, but of course you have to pay for them!

Raised bed 1

My new plot was covered with a ton of weeds! And I mean a ton! They were originally waste high so I strimmer them all down to see what I had to work with. After planning the position of the beds and making them I started to dig out all the weeds. After a backbreaking and almost pointless afternoon I gave up. Even after hours of picking out roots I wouldn’t get all of them. I started researching alternative options and realised I was actually doing more damage than good! If you want to find out more check out Charles Downing who is an innovator of the No Dig concept.

Here is the alternative method to filling new raised beds and keeping those weeds at bay!

Step 1:


Line the ground with cardboard. Take off any plastic tape or anything that won’t break down in the soil. By the time the cardboard degrades the weeds and roots will be dead.

Step 2:

Leaf Mulch

Fill with any organic matter you have. I had a big store of leaves that I emptied into the bed. It will turn into gardeners gold soon enough!

Step 3:

Compost bins

Empty your compost bins! Even chuck in the stuff that hasn’t had time to rot down yet. I did this last year on my first plot and was worried it would burn the roots of the plants. I made the bed in late summer and planted squashes in it the following spring. They thrived on the nutrient packed soil!

Step 4:


Finally fill with any soil or manure you have to fill the bed.  Over fill the bed as the soil will settle over time and sink down. If you plan to plant in the bed soon, make sure the manure is well rotted otherwise it will burn the plants. I normally visit a local stables about twice a year to fill up bags, buckets, trugs and anything else I can find! Its hard work but most stables will let you take it for free. This year I treated myself to a delivery from a local farmer. He delivered a cart load for £35 which is pretty good!


Manure pile
£35 of goodness!


Step 5:

The last thing you need to do is cover your beds. Anything sheeting that doesn’t let the light and water through is ideal. This will stop the weeds growing through and by next spring the roots of the weeds will have died as they have no light and little water for such a long time.

Happy Growing Guys!!


Walnut, Cinnamon and Courgette Cake

This recipe is perfect for Courgette gluts! Both the sunflower oil and courgette make the sponge light and moist. A perfect summer cake!


This recipe is tweaked from the Hummingbird Bakery.

For the sponge (20-21 cm diameter cake tins. Two deep tins or three shallow):

3 large eggs

300 ml sunflower oil

300 g soft light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

300 g plain flour

1 tsp baking power

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

300 g grated courgettes – SQUEEZE out excess juices!

100 g walnuts, roughly chopped, plus 10-12 extra halves to decorate

For the frosting:

250 g unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting

250 g icing sugar

50 g plain Greek yogurt


  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C. Line the bases of the sandwich tins with baking parchment.
  2. Using a hand-electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together the eggs, sunflower oil, sugar and vanilla essence until they are all combined.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and the ground spices, With the mixer or electric whisk running on a low speed, add these to the eggs, sugar and sunflower oil in two batches, beating well after each additional until all ingredients are incorporated. Lastly, add the courgettes and chopped walnuts to the batter, mixing them in thoroughly.
  4. Divide the cake batter evenly between the prepared cake tins and bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden on top and springy to the touch. Allow the cakes to cool in  the tins for a few minutes before carefully turning them out to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. Mix together the butter, cinnamon and icing sugar using the electric whisk or freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment. Keep mixing until the butter is fully incorporated and the mixture turns a lighter cream colour.
  6. Add the yogurt and mix on a low speed until all ingredients are combined, then increase the speed and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
  7. Once the cake layers have fully cooled, place the first layer of sponge on a plate or cake card and top 3-4 tablespoons of the frosting, smoothing it out using a palette knife and and adding a little more if needed. Sandwich the second layer of cake on top and add another 3-4 tablespoons of the frosting, then add the final layer and use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake.
  8. To finish, you can make a swirled pattern in the frosting using the tip of your palette knife. Dust with a little ground cinnamon and decorate with walnut halves.


Hanging Basket: How To

IMG_6979It’s my first year of owning my own home and I’ve always wanted to recreate my mums beautiful hanging basket display! Growing more and more flowers has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone so I have done lots of research and found some useful tips I want to share!

I brought my plug plants from Aldi back in February. I got 18 in a pack for £1.99 so I really couldn’t complain! I went with Lobelia and Petunia as they looked the prettiest! As soon as I got home I potted them on to keep them happy until I had time to plant them in their final positions.

I brought my hanging baskets from Wilko and the main reason why I went for this type is because I loved the modern shape (which didn’t make it easy for planting) and because it wasn’t a solid planter, meaning I can poke plants through the coir lining to exaggerate the trailing plants.

All of these tips we’re gotten after a long phone call with my mum and a good hour spend on google:

Step 1:

Cut holes in the coir lining with scissors to make a X hole. Only do this if you plan to plant seedlings into the whole of the hanging basket. I made 12 holes to place small seedlings in.

Step 2:

Line the basket with a black bin liner and cut through where the holes line up. This will create a seal inside the hanging basket, preventing the soil from drying out in warm weather.

Step 3:

Place a small saucer at the bottom of the basket. Ultimately this will act as a mini reservoir for the growing season and will reduce the amount of watering needed.


Step 4:

The soil! I’ve used a multipurpose compost mixed with a small amount of homemade compost to give some extra nutrients. I also added water saving gel granules. These can either be presoaked and added or simply mixed in with the soil. If you don’t presoak remember that the soil will expand so don’t fill your baskets right to the top.

Step 5:

Adding your plants can be tricky if you want to arrange them all around the basket. If your seedlings are fairly small they will be easy to poke through. My top tip for bigger seedlings is to gently wrap newspaper around the leaves to protect them whilst they are being forced through the coir. Start off with the seedlings at the bottom and cover with compost before adding the next layer.


Step 6:

The final step is to plant the top of the basket and give them a good water. Mine are still in the greenhouse and have begun flowering already. It is important to deadhead throughout the flowering period as this will encourage more flowers to bloom. I’ve added a top dressing of all purpose continuous release plant food.


Hope any of this advice helps! I will post photos over on my Facebook and Instagram page showing progress!


Courgette shortage?? Not for me!

IMG_2761After the courgette shortage in January I asked myself ‘why don’t more people grow them?’ They are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and are an extremely versatile addition to dishes! There are so many varieties to add excitement and colour to your plate, from yellow round courgettes to cylindrical lime and forest green fruits! You can eat the flowers, small fruits or leave them to grow as big as a marrow! What’s not to love about them! Best of all they can be grown anywhere, from a huge garden to a decent sized pot on a balcony!

This month I am teaming up with Boundless by CSMA to help get members growing some super easy produce and get everyone falling in love with gardening and cooking again. Below is all the tips and tricks on how to grow your own courgettes and in a few months, I will be releasing some fantastic recipes on how to use your very own crop to feed your family. So, let’s get started!

How To!

Sow indoors early April for an early harvest. A few plants usual provides a prolific crop for the whole household so you could stager sowing one seed every couple of weeks to ensure you can keep harvesting all the way into October.

Simple sow seeds on their side in a small 7cm pot filled with seed compost at a depth of about 2.5cm. Give a little water and place on a sunny windowsill, you should see germination in 5-7 days.

When the seedling roots begin to poke through the bottom of the pot it’s time to move them onto something bigger! This time use a potting on compost to fill around the seedling in a 12cm pot. The seedling should be kept moist in a sunny place with a minimum temperature of 15 degrees.


Tips & Tricks!

Every week turn the pot around to stop the seedling growing lopsided towards the light. Harden seedlings off in May by putting them outside during the day to acclimatize them to cooler conditions. When the risk of frost has passed either dig a hole in your garden three times the size of the seedling and fill with well-rotted manure. If growing in large pots use a mixture of multipurpose compost and well-rotted manure.

Courgettes are hungry plants that need a lot of water and nutrients, rain water will be a lot more beneficial compared to tap water, that’s if you can collect it!

Once in flower you can give them a liquid tomato feed weekly which is important for pot grown plants as there is a limited number of nutrients available. The main issue people have with cucurbits like courgettes and squashes, is pollination. Cucurbits produce two flowers, a male and a female. The female has a fruit growing behind the flower which needs to be pollinated by the male flower. Nature should do this job perfectly however sometimes pollinators are hard to find! If your fruits shrivel and drop off, then the likely cause is pollination. You can either pick the whole male flower, strip off its petals, and rub the pollen bearing anthers onto the female’s stigma. Or you could use a paintbrush to take some pollen from the male to the female.


Regularly picking courgettes will ensure a countless supply as the plant will go into overdrive to reproduce, with the right conditions you’ll be harvesting fruits as little as 12 weeks after sowing. Pick the fruits when they reach around 10cm in length and once you start, the plants will keep cropping for some time to come!

In a few months’ time, I will be revisiting my courgette crop and showing you some pictures of how they are coming. Along with some super summer recipes you can use your courgettes in that are perfect for the whole family.


A Bit About Boundless!

Boundless is all about good times by providing experiences, things to do and exclusive savings to all its members. Boundless focus on doing more, saving more and getting you inspired to try new and wonderful things. If you would like to see some of the amazing gardening trips, savings and tips they currently have click here:

The freedom to challenge yourself and grow something new!


Having my allotment gives me the freedom to grow varieties I’d never even heard of and never found in my local store. After mastering the basics of growing my own produce, I thought why not grow the weird, the wonderful and the difficult! Every year I grow my staple potatoes, carrots, strawberries, but I also challenge myself to grow new crops. Of course there’s ups and downs but it’s the unknown that’s exciting.

In the spring I brought a second hand greenhouse for £20 (bargain) with a free potting bench thrown in. The bargain greenhouse wasn’t such a great idea when taking it apart and back together again (lots of swear words involved) but it was all worth it. I’d never grown greenhouse crops before but the obvious decision was tomatoes, chillies, sweet peppers and aubergines. When I say I challenge myself, it doesn’t have to be a variety only found in the amazon rainforest, I mean I enjoy growing anything I haven’t grown before.

After making a three sided raised bed in the greenhouse I filled it with soil from the allotment (heavy clay) and mixed in lots of manure. I’d been growing my seedlings indoors up until this point so I transplanted them in the greenhouse after the risk of cold weather had gone. I had a back row of tomatoes spaced at about 30cm apart and then a front row of the chillies, peppers and aubergines.


I grew four different varieties of tomatoes, principe borghese, tigerella, pear and cherry. I got the seeds free with a magazine so I didn’t spend hours researching a heirloom variety, my one goal was to get some tomatoes, regardless of the variety! Saying that, I did research the seed varieties I had and found out which were cordon and which were bush types.


As the plants grew I somehow managed to lose some of the plant markers! At that point I had no idea which plants I should be pruning and which I should be leaving. I did become clear which ones were the bush variety as there were so many stems coming from the base, where as the cordon varieties seemed to have one obvious main stem that was thicker than the rest. I gave them a hard prune taking off any side shoots. I also staked the plants as they were getting tall and unruly!

When the first flowers appeared I tried to spray them with a mist of water whenever I could remember, apparently this is suppose to help the fruit set. Every week I’d cut back more foliage, it surprised me how quick the little devils wanted to grow! I didn’t realise they would be so demanding!

Research told me I should wait until each plant had 4/5 trusses of tomatoes. The greenhouse had turned into a jungle and I had no idea which truss belonged to each plant. It got a bit ridiculous! I decided there were a fair amount of flowers so I dived in with my Secateurs, I felt like a crazied hairdresser when a client asks for a inch off and you give them a bob. I literally cut off 90% of the foliage in the hope that the plant would drive all of its energy into the developing fruits.

Weeks passed and the plants got their regular haircut. The fruits started to develop and began their traffic light colour change. I decreased my watering and gave them regular feeds of seaweed fertiliser. A kind instagrammer also suggested sprinkling a teaspoon of sugar around the base of the plant and watering it in.

The result was an abundance of sweet juicy tomatoes far better than the shops! I’ve been picking huge bowls piled high every week and I still have more to come. Even in September I’m still pruning off most of the foliage as they are determined to get leafy!

Although I grew a bog standard crop, I really felt proud at my first attempt. I put my success down to the hard pruning and decreasing the watering. My favourite variety was the pear tomatoes and next year I plan to move on to some more unusual varieties.


My cayenne chillies have also done well and are ridiculously hot, I put a quarter of one into a curry the other night and that was enough! The peppers again did well and I’ve already brought some more varieties for next year. My aubergines on the other hand were a complete disaster, not one single fruit just lots of flowers! I’ll be doing some research over the winter to find out where I went wrong and give them a go next year.

As I said, growing your own is full of ups and downs, the ups are delicious and the downs just make me more determined to try again. Here’s a chilli chutney recipe I’ve made over the weekend to use up some of my tomato and chilli glut. It’s perfect with cheese and crackers and a cheeky glass of port on a winters night!

I scaled this recipe up for the amount of tomatoes I had which made 5 medium sized jars! Perfect for Christmas presents too!

1350g of chopped tomatoes, I used principe Borghese as these are a variety for cooking sauces but whatever you have grown!
6 chillies
12 cloves of garlic
Big piece of ginger
6 teaspoons of bullion powder
450ml cider vinegar

Finely chop the garlic, ginger and chillies, then place in a heavy saucepan with the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for around a hour until thick and sticky. Sterilise your jars and keep stored in a cupboard.

My all time favourite – Butternut Squash!

My name is Hayley Moisley I am 24 and have a passion for growing your own. I work at VegTrug, a company that is passionate about making GYO available to everyone. People sometimes think it a bit strange and I often get asked “shouldn’t I be out having fun”. Believe me, this gives me enormous pleasure and it becomes a bit addictive, so be warned! This is my first blog and I am an amateur allotmenteer. I hope to share with you my journey and experiences.

Butternuts are one of the first veggies I grew, getting me completely hooked! The first year I grew them in pots (it is possible) with them dotted around my parents garden. It was at that point I realised my hobby needed its own space so I went on the allotment waiting list…and the rest is history.


Sowing seeds in 9cm pots indoors is the simplest method, the germination ratio is pretty good with the majority coming up. Some say to pre soak the seeds which is all well and good if you have time, but I don’t!

The most common stumbling block for growers is getting the fruits to set. Some years I’ve had loads of early female flowers but frustratingly no males. I’ve even sneaked onto my neighbours plot with a paintbrush to steal some of their male pollen (sorry Anne). Other years I’ve had lots of flowers of both but the pollinating insects must have taken a holiday!


To ensure the fruit sets, use a paintbrush or cut off the whole male flower and rub it on the female stigma. Its quite easy to identify the male and female flowers, females will have the fruit starting to develop behind the flower. Also they have different “bits”, much like us humans!

Each plant will produce around 4 fruits, any more and the plant won’t be able to put its energy into ripening them all, cutting of vines and flowers will help redirect its energy. By the end of summer, the squashes will be at full size and have begun the process of changing colour. I prune any leaves that shadow the fruits, allowing the sun in, hardening the skins giving you a longer storage life.


Last year before the first frost, I harvested 40 kilos of butternuts from 12 plants which kept us going all the way through to April. After harvest I left them on a window sill for a week to cure, then I individually wrapped each butternut in a few sheets of newspaper and layered them in crates. The crates were placed in the cool garage but a shed or even a cool spare room would work. Checking them every month for signs of mould meant I had a continuous supply!

Butternuts are really versatile in cooking, having them as the main event roasted and stuffed, soup for lunch or my favourite, butternut squash curry, perfect for a chilly winter evening! The seeds are normally scooped out and chucked away but I’ve come up with the simplest, yummiest solution!



Seeds taken from 1 butternut, stringy flesh removed

1tbs cumin

1tbs cayenne pepper

1tsp turmeric

1tsp curry powder

1tbs olive oil

1sp salt

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Place all of the ingredients in a baking tray, with your hands or spoon (you may get yellow hands from the turmeric) mix and coat all the seeds spreading them out so they are one layer. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes or until crispy.


These are perfect as an alternative to snack treats or a crunchy topping for soup or salads. Enjoy!

Beetroot, from seed to plate!

In recent years beetroot has been labeled THE “super food” and has even been proven to reduce high blood pressure. I’ve found beetroot to be one of the simplest crops to grow and doesn’t take up a lot of space, it’s also a quick crop ready to harvest in just 90 days from sowing.

This year I’m growing three varieties, Detroit 2 which are a deep maroon, Chioggia with pretty stripy flesh perfect for salads and finally Boltardy. I’m trying to grow successionally, the first batch was sown in early spring on the window sill, and the second will be sown straight in the raised bed.

The seeds germinate quickly and produce multiple seedlings. Beetroot ‘seeds’ are actually seed clusters, with between 1 and 6 viable plants. I don’t like thinning them out as it seems like a waste but it will help the strongest grow!


Beetroot is ready to be harvested from a golf ball up to a cricket ball size. Simply lift the roots from the soil and cut off the leaves, leaving at least an inch of foliage. That little bit of foliage will mean that the colour from the beetroot wont bleed out too much when cooking.


Traditionally we think of jars of pickled beetroot but there are lots of other uses for it. Beetroot Keftedes is the perfect summer snack or addition to a bbq feast. Think of these as a vegetarian meatball! I’ve experimented with freezing the mixture before and after cooking, both work a treat!

Beetroot Keftedes

Serves 4

200g fresh beetroot, cooked, peeled and grated

2 spring onions, finely chopped

3tbsp grated parmesan

240g feta cheese, crumbled

1 egg

2tbsp basil

1tbsp mint

1tbsp parsley

220g breadcrumbs

60g plain flour

olive oil for frying

1 lemon

salt and pepper


1 Mix the beetroot, spring onions, cheese, egg and chopped herbs together. Season, then mix in enough breadcrumbs to bind the mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

2 Shape the mixture into golfball-size balls, adding a little flour if the mixture is too wet.

3 Season the flour and coat the balls in it. Heat the oil until hot, but not smoking, and fry the balls in batches for 2-3 minutes until golden all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

These can be served hot accompanying a salad and steamed fish, any left overs can be kept cold for packed lunches the next day!