Friends with Gluts


I know a few people that grow their own veg either at home or at the allotment, and it seems that having a network of friends that grow their own really does have its benefits. Namely, gluts and wanting to get rid of them.

My friend Cheryl took on an allotment last year, and this year has been doing phenomenally well with her growing. So much so that I got a Facebook message virtually pleading me to come pick up some spaghetti squash from four plants she’s been madly harvesting. I arrived on her doorstep and was presented with two good sized squash, and a couple of fat beetroot. “You want some beans?!” Cheryl asked (implored). She led me to her kitchen, where she had a bag stuffed full of yellow wax beans. “We’ve had four bags like this, this week,” she said, clearly unsure of what you can do with four bags of yellow wax beans. “Here, have some. Take them!”

Earlier that day, my mum had also sent me home with a freshly picked pointed cabbage, so between my ‘free’ hauls I have amassed a load of meals in the making. I’m not a massive fan of boiled beetroot, so I may have a go at pickling it (adversely, I LOVE it pickled) or maybe grating it to make into some kind of beetroot and root vegetable-based veggie burger. One of the spaghetti squash is in the oven as I type, and the cabbage was already put to good use in our weekly Sunday Roast last night. And I’ve already rooted out a recipe for the wax beans which will make the most of my soon-to-be-harvested Cristo garlic.

Walking home with a bag of fresh produce really got me thinking… what if I knew even more people who had gluts and food to share? When my crops harvest, I only hope I am able to share out some of the goodies, although with the relatively small amount we have growing this year, I’m not sure I will. Mum has already got her eye on my raspberries for her baking. But friends (and family) with fruit and vegetable gluts are just so willing to palm off their excess, and it really helps save the pennies and the pounds. If there were more of us in the local area who grew lots of different varieties of vegetables (no more courgettes, thanks), then the sharing and swapping of the gluts would mean that everybody could benefit without having to give a penny to the greedy supermarkets.

It would be a great way to live, and to relieve some of our reliance on the supermarkets. I guess it works that way in micro-networks like allotment holders anyway, but imagine it working on a local scale, or even regionally… not a penny spent, just produce swapped and we all walk away with freshly grown seasonal veg and many meals to plan.



Win 2 Tickets to Jekka McVicar’s Talk At Yeo Valley Organic Gardens

Yeo Valley Organic Gardens

Hokey dokes, Folks! It’s competition time again!

I have been given 2 PAIRS of 2 free tickets (each pair worth £150) to the Jekka McVicar talk “Herbs: More Than Just a Garnish” at the Yeo Valley Organic Gardens in Somerset. To enter you will need to be available to travel down to Blagdon in Somerset on 13th July (that’s next Friday), arriving at 10:30am promptly and leaving around 3:30pm in the afternoon. The competition winner we be treated to the following:

  • 90 minute talk by Jekka McVicar, one of Britain’s authorities on herbs and author of Jekka’s Complete Herb Book (in association with the RHS)
  • Additional time for questions with Jekka
  • 2 course lunch at the Yeo Valley Organic Gardens tearoom (I have visited and been treated to a lunch fit for a King there, you won’t be disappointed)
  • Tour of the Yeo Valley Organic Gardens

I was treated to a tour back in April and I can honestly say, it’s a fantastic day out, and you’ll come away brimming with ideas and enthusiasm for your own little plot.

Yeo Valley Organic Gardens

To enter the competition, all you have to do is leave a comment on the Smallest Smallholding Facebook page succinctly describing how you’ve made your windowsill/balcony/patio/back garden/allotment into your own little wildlife-friendly ‘smallest smallholding’… pictures also welcome! The competition closes on Wednesday at 11am, with the winner notified within 24 hours (most probably much sooner). You won’t need to pick up tickets – the PR company will contact you and provide all relevant details for the trip – so be prepared for a visit on short notice!

Enter the Jekka McVicar Herb talk at Yeo Valley Organic Gardens here. 

Yeo Valley Organic Gardens

Product Review – Edenbox

I was recently contacted by the creative marketing minds at Edenbox to try out one of their new products, “an allotment in a box”. I love getting free things and parcels of nice stuff in the post, so I readily agreed.

On Friday my own Edenbox arrived. No sooner had I accepted the parcel from the delivery man, I ripped open the box and rummaged around in the eco-friendly packing materials. This is what I found:

The premise of the Edenbox means that you don’t have to go out and buy separate bits and pieces – everything is delivered together and all you have to do is put the right bits in the right places, and use the tools. My Edenbox was the Lettuce variety, and included 6 lettuce plugs (three pairs of different varieties), a big bag of rich compost to fill the coconut husk/coir windowbox, a wooden dibber, a delightful blue watering can, a set of bamboo plant tags (although mine either didn’t arrive or more likely I accidentally threw them out with the box) and a small instruction booklet.

Edenbox also provide their ‘allotment in a box’ with a variety of plant options – lettuce, strawberries, peppers, spinach, tomatoes, carrots and radishes, carrots, cucumbers, herbs, radish, chilli and rocket. All Edenboxes are priced at £29.50 + free delivery for the full kit that I received (FYI, if you choose to purchase an Edenbox you can opt for a blue, orange, pink or green watering can too). Everything supplied, bar the watering can, is biodegradable and that includes the majority of the packaging materials too.

I’m glad to report that the lettuce plugs arrived undamaged, in good health and no wilting in sight. I planted the lettuce plugs within about five minutes, although the one minor mishap that I did experience was when I wanted to pull the cord tighter on the coir windowbox, as the soil had caused it to bulge in the middle and it needed tightening up back into shape. I hadn’t firmed the soil enough and when I tugged it back into shape, all of my plug plants popped out of the soil again, so I had to quickly push them back in – not a huge deal. Essentially, though, the whole process was very easy. I was delighted with all the bits and bobs – everything seemed to had been considerately chosen and I will no doubt use the small watering can and dibber once my lettuces have finished. I’ll probably even find a use for the coir windowbox again as it seems to be robust and can be used outside – although at present mine is sitting indoors on the kitchen windowsill until we finish repairing our wooden sash windows. I’ve watered it pretty well and have seen no leakages as yet through the bottom of the container, so a definite plus point for growing indoors.

Overall, I think the Edenbox is a great idea, especially for those who want a fuss-free way to grow small amount of salads or veggies at home. It’s easy to set up and looks nice and smart, and everything supplied is of very good quality. But I do wonder whether its a very niche market as it’s almost too all-inclusive, as those that might be interested may be put off if they already have a watering can or a dibber to hand, and once you’ve bought it, you only need to replace the soil and plants/seeds. My lettuce plugs were robust enough to take a hearty slosh of water from a drinking glass and although I love my new watering can, I wonder how much the price of the set could be reduced without it. The retail price of £29.50 might also be reduced if you had the option to build your own Edenbox according to your individual needs – for instance, add a watering can, add a dibber, perhaps choose ‘half portion’ sizes of plugs or seeds according to your preferences. At present, you can opt to choose extra tools, such as a hand trowel or fork, but the ‘allotment in a box’ is a fixed set, available only at a fixed price.

For those with limited growing space or grow your own novices, it would made a fantastic gift though and once the supplied plug plants or seeds have finished, many of the bits and pieces can be used again and again. But I think that if Edenbox want to encourage repeat custom then in future they would do well to expand their online shop to include extra plant plugs, customisable Edenboxes and perhaps some innovative vertical growing add-ons that could encourage people to grow climbing plants at home too. But that’s just my imagination getting away with me… as far as I know the business is relatively new and they may well have plans to expand on their current selection in ways that I can’t even dream of!!!

So if you like the look of an Edenbox, are tempted to purchase one for yourself, a friend or loved one, then the good news is that Edenbox have given The Smallest Smallholding readers an exclusive 15% discount off their range of Edenboxes. To claim your discount, all you have to do is add the code justaddwater on the ‘your allotment’ page of the website. To purchase an Edenbox, you’ll need to visit page 2 of the shop here or visit the ‘Create Your Allotment‘ page.