Organic Vegetable Gardening Made Simple

If you’re one of the growing numbers of people who are becoming more and more concerned about the use of pesticides in the food chain, and you’re thinking of feeding your own family by growing your own healthy organic vegetables, here are some tips that will make the whole process much simpler for you…

 Organic Vegetable Gardening Made Simple title on faded background image

Get Yourself in a Greenhouse

If you get yourself one of the greenhouses from https://www.swgreenhouses.co.uk/greenhouses-for-sale.html, you will be able to grow a wider range of vegetables for a long period of time. You may even be able to grow some of your favourite fruits and veggies out of season.

Prepare the Soil Carefully

If you want your vegetables to grow and thrive, then you need to ensure that your soil is rich in organic nutrients. That means, before you even think about planting anything, you should ensure that you have worked plenty of organically created compost into the soil. If you do nothing else, then do this because it will ensure not only a bumper crop but a tastier one too.

Delicious looking cabbages growing in the soil

Choose Foods That Will Thrive Where You Live

It’s an obvious one, but there is little point in choosing to plant vegetables that are unlikely to thrive in the kind of weather conditions you’re dealing with. If you’re unsure which veggies are likely to thrive in your garden space, ask an expert at your local garden centre, read a book like the one at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Allotment-Almanac or talk to local gardeners in your area. They will typically know what’s best for you, and most will be only too happy to share their knowledge.

A bumper crop of fruit

Heirloom Veggies are Best

There are lots of things that get better with age – like fine wines and vegetables. No, I’m not talking mouldy old vegetables; but seeds! Heirloom seeds are seeds collected from older varieties of produce, and they are almost always cheaper and more flavoursome, not to mention nutritious, than modern versions. They can sometimes be difficult to find, but it’s worth the effort trying to source them.

Flowers are a Veggie Garden’s Best Friends

You might be wondering why you would want to take up precious organic veggie growing space with flowers, apart from the fact they’re pretty that is, but the fact is that flowers will attract bees and bees will pollinate your veggies, so that you don’t have to do quite so much of the work yourself manually. Plant them around the borders, and you will soon see lots of little pollinators coming to pay a visit.

Worms are Fantastic

When it comes to organic gardening, you should absolutely be creating your own compost, and you know what makes really good compost and garden mulch? Worms. Invest in a wormery, and you’ll never want for high-quality compost again. Seriously, they make way better compost than you’d get just by collecting your scraps in a bin.

Check Seeds are certified Organic

Not all seeds are organic, so when it comes to buying the stock you plan to grow in your garden and greenhouse, you should always seek to verify that your seeds are indeed organic. If you don’t do this, then your veggies simply won’t be organic, despite your best efforts, so it is important to do the checks.

A raised planting bed

Raised Beds Extend the Season

If you plant your veggies in raised beds, using the richest soil you can find, you can probably extend the season of your produces, sometimes quite dramatically. It’s also much easier to weed veggies in boxes because they aren’t as close to the ground. Of course, you need to make sure that any beds you use are made from natural untreated wood, or there could be some chemical leakage into the soil.

Alternatively, you might want to think about growing things vertically using cages or trellis, which means you have more space to increase your yields and better circulation that can help to prevent blight and other diseases.

Plant Companions

Nature is smart, and it creates plants that thrive well together. By identifying these companions and planting them close together, you can cut down on the amount of insects who attempt to lunch on your veggies, grow more volume and cut down on the risk of disease, to name but a few benefits. So do your homework, work out which veggies are best friends and plant them accordingly.

Time to get your wellies on and get gardening! What are you growing this year?

*This is a collaborative post.

The 3 Must-Haves for Any Vegetable Garden

Growing your own veg is such a privilege and if you have the garden space, you should definitely make use of it. However, you do need to be careful about how you prioritize your space to get the most out of the land and bring in a good haul come the harvest.

There are some great advantages you can gain from adding green tools like rainwater harvesting to your garden, but if you are just looking for the basics, here are the things you will need.

The 3 Must-Haves for Any Vegetable Garden title with a picture of delicious fresh vegetables in a basket.

A Greenhouse

Having a greenhouse is ideal for any gardener but it is a must for a serious fruit and vegetable grower. Choose one of a good size that will hold lots of tender plants such as courgettes and tomatoes as well as seedlings that need to be kept warm until they are ready to be planted out. Have a look at https://www.greenhousestores.co.uk/ for some ideas of what you could get.

With your greenhouse set up, you will be able to multiply your output easily as critters are kept away from your more tempting plants and youngsters are kept away from the frost. Your greenhouse will also come in handy over the winter when less hardy plants need a little bit more warmth.

A Compost Heap (or Two)

To grow great crops you need great soil. To have great soil, you need compost. Compost is simply a large pile of rotting materials including things like old leaves from the garden, kitchen food waste and green matter such as grass clippings. While you can certainly buy decent compost and fertiliser at your local garden centre, it seems wasteful to get rid of all the natural goodness coming from your own garden.

Making a good compost heap is very simple. All you need to do is set aside a space like a compost bin and then add in all the organic materials. Turn the heap over using a garden fork every so often to ix the ingredients as they degrade. This will also increase the amount of oxygen in the heap, fuelling the whole process.

Worms will do most of the work for you with your compost heap so make sure that if you find any around the garden, you introduce them and let them settle in. If you want to, you can also buy worms over the internet and add them to your heap.

A Plan

You might not think it, but planning a year ahead is vital for making the most of your vegetable garden and increasing your crops. From making sure that your rotate crops to give the soil a chance to recover to planting seeds at the right time so that they are ready for planting out, having a vegetable garden planner is vital.

With a bit of planning, a sensible use of space and a healthy compost heap, you and your vegetables will be as happy as Larry under the summer sun. Though you can never guarantee the best crop, with a little bit of help, you can get a little closer to perfection.

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

Children Are Our Future: Setting Them Up For Success

As parents, our number one goal in life is to raise happy and healthy children with a bright future. We want to know that we’re doing everything we can to do what’s best for them, and once you have a child this little person is suddenly the most important thing in your life, you value it above your own. But knowing what we need to do to make sure we’re setting our children up for success can be a struggle, after all, no one knows what the future holds. However with that being said, there are a few things we can do that will always benefit our kids in later years, regardless of the direction they go in. Here are some ideas…

Children Are Our Future: Setting Them Up For Success title with black and white image of child sat on adult's knee in a living room reading a book.

Teach Them The Importance of a Healthy Lifestyle

We’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic. The leading cause of death in the third world is heart disease, which for the most part is preventable with a healthy lifestyle. Therefore teaching our children about the importance of health and setting a good example for healthy habits is crucial. Keep processed food, sweets and junk out of the house as much as possible, and try to avoid using them as treats or rewards, as this teaches children a bad mindset towards these things.

Cook healthy and delicious meals at home- include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and other fresh raw nutricious ingredients. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for family friendly meals, and if you’re pushed for time you could try batch cooking at weekends. That way you have access to lots of frozen, healthy meals you cooked yourself and are far less likely to buy something convenient yet unhealthy and expensive. Also, numerous studies have shown that families that eat together raise happier and more balanced children, who tend to be slimmer and healthier. So if you currently feed the children and adults in your house separately it’s worth making a change.

Exercise is also very important, kids are naturally energetic so it shouldn’t be difficult for them to get in the hour of moderate to vigorous activity they need a day. The trick is to make it fun, avoid it feeling like a chore. You could go on family hikes or bike rides together at the weekend. Or take them swimming, trampolining or to a class they enjoy, such as dance or martial arts. Even hire a bouncy castle or buy a large trampoline for your back garden and they’re sure to have hours of fun activity with very little input needed from you. Getting into these healthy habits and seeing exercise as something that’s fun and enjoyable is something that will most definitely set them up for future success.

Think About Finances

Starting out as a young adult can be difficult. It’s more of a struggle to get onto the property market now than it ever was- and it’s set to get worse. By planning for your child’s future, you can give them an advantage once they’re older. Some money towards a mortgage deposit could help them onto the property ladder which might have otherwise been impossible for them. You could either put money into a savings account, or make a smart investment such as buying some property. A studio apartment or small flat wouldn’t be too expensive, you could then put away the money you earn from it each month into savings for your child. When they’re older, they could even live in it while they get established with their career or attend a local college or university. This would save on fees for halls or renting a student house, but still give them the independence they will be craving at that age.

Keep Them Curious

Children are naturally curious about the world, and keeping this magic alive is what will give them a great capacity to learn and do well in their education. Take them to galleries and museums, go on woodland walks with fun worksheets from Pinterest where you tick off the things you see. Take them rock pool fishing and teach them about the creatures they catch, go to the farm or zoo and tell them all about the animals. Learning doesn’t have to happen in a classroom or with books, keeping kids curious and giving them a thirst for knowledge is a fantastic way to set them up later in life. With a passion to learn they’re more likely to do well in future, and a good education paves the way for gaining the skills they need to later on enjoy satisfying career that they love.

Read to your kids often, sing songs, make up stories together. Do puzzles, teach them how to bake or sew. It’s all new, fun and exciting for kids and you help them to develop passions and hobbies that can help them meet new friends and develop their skills.

Photo of a happy laughing family having a water fight with buckets of water

Encourage Them To Be Empathetic

Empathy, being able to see things from another person’s perspective and feel genuine emotions towards them seems like the most human thing in the world. However this is not a trait we are born with, those who grow up without learning how to empathise don’t show it later on, their brains do not develop in the same way. Being empathetic, sensitive and able to understand the emotions of others helps people to develop meaningful friendships and later on relationships- it helps them to become a good person.

Encourage empathy by praising empathetic behaviour, avoiding anger and encouraging kids to talk about their feelings. Being able to label your own feelings as a child is very useful, as when others speak about how they feel the child is able to understand what it means and feels like.

One option for teaching kids empathy is to take them volunteering. Feeding the homeless, helping out at a children’s hospital, volunteering at an animal shelter or at a care home can all allow them to experience different emotions of others, and learn how it feels good to help. Growing up in touch with their emotions as well as being able to perceive others will allow them to create meaningful and lasting bonds with others.

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

Healthy Eating Made Easy: Roasted Vegetable Couscous Recipe

Delicious and healthy roasted vegetable and couscous recipe. Ideal quick and easy, yet healthy, meal that will feed the whole family. Make mealtimes stress- free with this microwave recipe. Enjoy healthy, clean eating without hassle.

Healthy eating is important to me and I generally try to use raw ingredients if possible. But like most people, we are often under time constraints, so quick and easy recipes are a must! 

I was set the challenge to choose one of these fab microwave recipes to make and blog about it. So I picked this roasted vegetable couscous recipe because it is super healthy and almost vegan. (It does contain honey). As I have mentioned before, we are flexitarian, meaning we choose to eat mainly vegan food but we are also laid back about it too.

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Ingredients

  • 2 Bell Peppers
  • 100g Button Mushrooms
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 large Courgette 
  • 1 medium Carrot 
  • 1/2 Butternut Squash 
  • 2 Garlic Cloves 
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 3 tsp Honey
  • 300 mls Vegetable Stock
  • 350g Couscous

The quantities given for the ingredients were more than enough to serve all three of us with a huge portion as a main meal. It would be enough for a family of 4 – 5 in fact probably!

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Recipe

Vegetable Preparation

• Deseed the peppers and cut them into bite size chunks.
• Finely chop the onions.
• Peel the carrot then slice them thinly.
• Slice the courgettes.
• Chop the butternut squash into bite size chunks.
• Crush the garlic cloves.

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Microwave Vegetables

• Place all of the prepared vegetables in a large casserole dish.
• Add a tiny amount of water.
• Cover and microwave on high for 5-7 mins.
• Drain and cool slightly.

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Roasting the Vegetables

Pre-heat oven to 220ºC (based on convection oven – adjust for other types).

• Put the vegetables onto the oven tray.
• Chop the button mushrooms and mix them in with the vegetables.
• Add some olive oil.
• Season with salt, pepper and paprika.
• Place in the pre-heated oven on the lower shelf and cook for 25-30 minutes, shaking occasionally, until golden brown and soft.
• Stir through the honey and place back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

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Cooking the Couscous

• Mix the vegetable stock with boiling water.
• Pour 450 mls over the couscous initially then gradually add more boiling water if required.
• Stand for 10 minutes.
• Cover and microwave on medium until warm. (Approximately 5 minutes).

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Final Preparations

• Separate the couscous grains with a fork.
• Stir in the vegetable mix.
Serve and enjoy!

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The verdict…

I made a couple of simple, minor amendments to the original recipe but stuck to it for the main part. It was a fairly quick and easy recipe. Most importantly, it was absolutely delicious! Very filling, and so healthy too. I will definitely be making this one again!

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*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

8 Amazing Health Benefits of Turmeric

Turmeric is the main spice in curry and one of the most powerful herbs on the planet. For centuries, turmeric has been used as a medicine for relief and treatment of various diseases. The main reason behind its potential to improve our health is curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric. Although most of us know turmeric is healthy; sometimes we fail to realize all those amazing benefits it provides. This article will change that! Here are eight evidence-based benefits of turmeric and curcumin.

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1. Anti-inflammatory effects

Acute or short-term inflammation is good for your body because it helps fight pathogens and bad bacteria. However, chronic inflammation is a risk factor for numerous health conditions, but curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties. A study from the Alternative Medicine Review discovered that curcumin is an equally effective anti-inflammatory agent as medications used for this purpose, but without side effects. The compound uses a multifaceted approach to relieving inflammation, and one way of doing is through blocking NF-kB molecule which travels into the cells’ nuclei and activates genes related to inflammation.

2. Better memory

Beta-amyloid plaques in your brain and oxidative stress, free radicals, and inflammation are main reasons behind weak memory, particularly when it is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Thanks to the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and lipophilic action, turmeric improves cognitive functions, according to a research from the Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology. Additionally, evidence shows that turmeric improves memory and attention span due to its ability to relieve inflammation and improve blood flow. Bearing in mind that turmeric influences different processes that nudge the brain in a positive direction is poses as one of the most effective ways to improve memory naturally.

3. Arthritis relief

Arthritis is a common problem that refers to inflammation of joints. As you can imagine, this joint pain can negatively affect your overall quality of life. The Phytotherapy Research published results of the study which found that curcumin was more effective for rheumatoid arthritis patients than anti-inflammatory medications. Curcumin works to block inflammatory cytokines and enzymes that contribute to the onset or severity of joint inflammation. This explains why numerous dietary supplements for arthritis and joint pain include turmeric on the ingredient list.

4. Cancer prevention

Cancer is a severe disease indicated by the abnormal growth of cells. Evidence demonstrates that curcumin affects cancer growth, development, and spread at the molecular level. The activity of curcumin was reported against lymphoma, gastrointestinal cancers, genitourinary cancers, ovarian and breast cancers, lung cancer, melanoma, neurological cancers, and other types of this serious disease. Curcumin has an amazing potential to reduce the growth of new blood vessels in tumors (angiogenesis), metastasis, and it plays a role in the death of cancerous cells.

5. Depression management

Benefits of Curcumin also extend to treating depression as confirmed by multiple studies. In one study, scientists enrolled 60 patients with depression and divided them into different groups: one took Prozac, the second group was assigned to curcumin, while participants in the third group received a combination of Prozac and curcumin. Results of the study revealed that participants in curcumin group experienced similar benefits to those in Prozac category. Additionally, the third group which received a combination of Prozac and curcumin experienced most benefits.

6. Heart health

According to the WHO, heart disease is the biggest killer in the world. Reducing the risk of heart disease requires a healthy lifestyle and a well-balanced diet. Make sure your new and improved lifestyle contains turmeric as well. Evidence shows that curcumin can help reverse steps in the heart disease process. When it comes to heart disease, the main benefit of curcumin is its ability to improve the function of the endothelium, the lining of the blood vessels. This is particularly useful if we bear in mind that dysfunction of endothelium prevents us from regulating blood pressure, blood clotting, and other factors that contribute to disease.

7. Anti-aging effects

Including turmeric into your lifestyle is one of the best anti-aging tips someone can give you. Why? That’s because it can improve quality and appearance of your skin in numerous ways including faster healing, correct oily skin, sun damage protection, skin cancer prevention, and treating chronic skin conditions due to anti-inflammatory properties.

Moreover, since curcumin has beneficial effects on heart health, brain health, arthritis, it is easy to conclude this compound improves longevity and helps you live longer and with better quality of life too.

8. Diabetes prevention and management

You’ve probably come across claims that turmeric can help you prevent or manage diabetes. Are they true? It turns out they are. A review of studies found that curcumin can decrease the level of glucose in blood and it can play a major role in diabetes prevention. Thanks to its role in stabilizing blood sugar levels, turmeric can also help people with diabetes manage their condition. Of course, if you already have diabetes, you should consult your doctor before taking turmeric.

Conclusion

Turmeric is the most potent herb in the world, and it is clear way – its active compound, curcumin, helps you improve overall health and quality of life. You can consume turmeric through curry or, as many people do, through dietary supplements.

References

http://www.jbc.org/content/270/42/24995.full

https://www.sciencealert.com/turmeric-can-improve-memory-and-attention-span-in-old-age-study-finds

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18462866

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2758121/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19233493

http://www.naturallivingideas.com/turmeric-for-skin/

Author Bio:

Sophie Addison is a popular blogger and skincare expert. She is very passionate about writing about skincare and beauty. She has posted articles on tips for fine lines and wrinkles, information about arthritis, improving memory and fitness routine. Apart from work she likes gardening and listening music. You can also contact her on Facebook, and Pinterest.

#Blogtober 2016 – Day 19: 10 Favourite Foods

Ok, my 10 favourite foods, meals and places to eat (in no particular order) are as follows:

1. Fruit and veg smoothies- not technically food but given I drink one daily for breakfast it made sense this would be at the top of my list! I generally throw in whatever fruit and veg we already have at home that needs using, rather than follow recipes. I also sometimes freeze fruit and veg bought from fresh if we have extra, so that it will be ok to use for longer- so that often gets chucked in too!

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2. Seeds- I love adding seeds to my smoothies, they are such a quick and easy way to pack in more nutrition. My favourites are chia seeds, hemp seeds and poppy seeds.

3. Bananas- my favourite fruit and my ‘go to’ snack when I need a boost.

4. Popcorn- once reserved for watching movies, this is now just an easy to grab late night snack for me!

5. Crisps- I try to avoid these, I really do. But they are my achilles heel! I generally go for red pringles or kettle crisps.

6. Vegetable stir fry- my favourite dinner at home. Noodles, brocolli, peppers, onions, beansprouts, carrots and any other veg we have thrown in, ideally made with coconut oil… yummy.

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7. The Green Kitchen– not a specific food, but a great place to eat delicious vegan food. Highly recommend.

8. Jacket potato with baked beans- I realise this is pretty boring, but I like it because is such a quick and easy meal to grab, so it’s going on my list regardless of how dull it is! 

9. Harvester – specifically the new beetroot and halloumi burger with sweet potato fries… SO tasty. 

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10. Ok, so this last one is the final reminiscent of old eating habits and goes against everything else for so many reasons, but I’m going to keep it real and include it anyway lol… salt and pepper chicken from the chinese take-away. I just can’t help it, I love it. Sorry, but it’s going to have to stay on my list! 

(And no, I don’t really have a sweet tooth… hence no cakes, biscuits or CHOCOLATE on my list… I know, strange but true!)

#Blogtober16

#Blogtober 2016 – Day 13: What’s In My Fridge

Does anyone seriously want to read about what’s in my fridge? Hmmm, doubtful! So let’s make this a quick one! 

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Basically there is a selection of fruit and veg, potatoes, pure sunflower spread, violife vegan cheese, flaxseed, innocent smoothies (I make my own daily with a nutribullet using fresh ingredients, but Squiggle likes these so we sometimes buy them), condiments and almond milk. Oh and there may also be a few beer bottles tucked in the corner there too! 

We try to eat as much raw food as possible and we are also what is apparently known as flexitarians (and/ or reducetarians?) because we eat a primarily plant based diet and have mindfully reduced our consumption of meat, yet we are flexible about it. I would say we are about 90% vegetarian and 75% vegan. 

Squiggle has personally chosen not to eat meat from a young age, which is actually what initiated changes to my own diet in the first place, in order to respect her wishes and still accomodate both of our dietary needs. This later led to the further developments, both for our own health and the benefit of the environment. Prior to this I ate a reasonably healthy diet, but it did include far more meat and processed food, and less proper nutrition!

#Blogtober16

30 Days Wild- Day 10: Rainbow Picnic

We are now a third of the way through the challenge already! Today, we made a food rainbow then had a picnic outside.

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This evening, I had a delicious meal with our local natural parenting group at a lovely cafe called The Green Kitchen. Highly recommended if you are local! See website www.the-green-kitchen.co.uk

Afterwards, I walked home during a massive downpour (with no coat or umbrella!) – even though it wasn’t intentional, it was actually very refreshing and fun! It made me smile as I thought of this 30 days wild challenge!

30 Days Wild- Day 6: Growing Our Own Food

We have a small area of our garden dedicated to growing our own fruit, vegetables and potatoes. Today we planted out our pepper seedlings and harvested some rocket potatoes from our GYOP project.

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Here is a video clip taken a few weeks ago of Squiggle planting the seeds (and some others too)…

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A fortnight after planting the seeds, seedlings were already growing strong.

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Squiggle gently handled the seedlings as she carefully planted them outside.

Here is Squiggle, harvesting (and then later eating!) our potatoes…

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I love her look of amazement!

For more information on the Grow Your Own Potatoes (GYOP) project, and to register now to take part in 2017, see their website www.growyourownpotatoes.org.uk