'A Reluctant Gardener' - a personal project - Part 2

by Iain Philpott

copyright : Iain Philpott

27.04.2020 - Starting to plant out


Petit Pois


Battling the weeds - the hoe becomes my new best friend...

The best gardening tool ever!

17.05.20 - Upcycle an old shower rack

A lack of posts the last few weeks partly due to not such great weather to shoot but also nothing has been growing particularly well aside from the potatoes. My tomato plants seem to have a little bit of disease but can't work out what disease. I have a sneaky feeling it could be over watering. I've also been busy with my day job and the spare time left trying to get all the video I've shot of this project so far into some kind of edit. I'm debating whether to do 'one film so far' or to break it up into mini episodes?

Since lockdown I'm no longer able to collect our dogs food. Paleo Ridge, our raw food supplier, has closed the shop in Waterlooville (while Corona is here) and only deliver. Paleo's food is fantastic and I've been really impressed by their delivery. Another plus is all of their packaging is recyclable. They use a wool barrier to stop the food from defrosting. It's from a company called Woolcool - check them out. They are inviting people to show everyone how they are repurposing the packaging and I had an old galvanised shower rack which I thought would be perfect to plant a couple of tumbler tomato plants in. Works a treat. Top one is 'Tumbling Tom Red (Cherry)' and the bottom one is 'Tumbler F1 (Cherry)'.

25.05.2020 - More best friends

Egg Shells

My post earlier about the hoe being my new best friend got me thinking about my other best friends in the garden. I've thought of another three. My first is crushed egg shells! Slugs, slugs and more slugs. Did I mention slugs? I started patrolling to remove slugs in the evenings but needed to find a better solution. I didn't want to use poison, pellets etc. I wanted to use something much more environmentally friendly. A friend suggested broken egg shells so I investigated further. The result was we now save our egg shells, wait until we are cooking something in the oven and bake them at 180c for about 15-20 mins which apparently makes the edges 'sharper' when you crush them. I have to say so far it seems to be working. It's not 100% slug proof but it has definitely improved the situation. I just keep them in a jar and sprinkle around the plant when needed.

My next best friend is the book by Dr D G Hessayon 'The Vegetable & Herb Expert'. I find it's a really quick reference book, veg and herbs listed alphabetically. Can't recommend it enough. Perfect for me as a total newbie! I believe, due to the upsurge in gardening through Covid19, it's quite hard to get hold of so it might be worth checking out used copies.

Last but by no means least it's Starsky our dog, as in Starsky & Hutch. For those of you who do not know or do not remember the TV show click here to see the shows opening. You will see quite quickly why he's called Starsky - it's all in the hair!  He is a 'double' Doodle. Father is a cross between Standard Poodle and Golden Retriever and his mum Standard Poodle and Labrador. He can be such a pain. He attacks the hosepipe when watering, he has no spatial awareness. He can't comprehend why he can't stand in the veg patch and he permanently drops his ball or 'kong' at your feet to throw for him. But he's gorgeous and we love him. He is the best friend in the world.

26.05.2020 - Fruit


We have an apple tree that partially overhangs the veg patch. The blossom has all gone and the apples are starting to grow. I have no idea what type of apple it is? And our only other fruit is strawberries which were here before we were. I have never tasted them as in the past it has always seemed they are gone before they turn red. Possibly the birds? This year I'm hoping to taste them as I've bought some bamboo hoops and netting. Both bought from our local garden centre Squires.

Strawberry and apple

Netting to protect the strawberries

06.06.2020 - My 'Cobra' French Beans have arrived!

Just before the lockdown happened, on March 23rd, I could not buy any French Bean plants or seeds - all sold out. I bought some Dwarf French Bean seeds instead. Undeterred I looked online and found various garden centres I could order some plants from. Many were sold out but with a degree of perseverance found the 'Cobra' variety on sale at Marshalls for delivery at the end of May.

They arrived the beginning of June. Having never ordered plants or flowers online I was not quite sure what to expect aside from twelve plants in what I presumed would be 'unusual' packaging. How do you send twelve plants in the post without them being crushed and the soil going everywhere? What arrived was really not what I was expecting.

A slim A4 sized plastic wallet with the plants carefully arranged inside, albeit looking slightly dishevelled, no soil and well.....take a look!

'Cobra' French Bean

I was really concerned as to how long they had been 'out of soil' for - would they survive? I planted them into pots, watered them, and to be honest prayed they would be ok.

I need not have worried, they have been absolutely fine. In fact they have positively thrived! I will keep you updated once I plant them out in the patch.

13.06.2020 - The strawberry's are coming on!

My strawberry's

15.06.2020 - Meet the beet!

The weather has been pretty bad so it's been tricky finding weather windows to film in but I managed to get some lovely pics of the beetroot growing. These were my 'Boltardy' seeds from Mr Fothergillis. They have been quite slow to establish themselves since planting out, and based upon some of my carrots failure to develop in what now appears to be quite compacted soil, I'm not 100% sure how successful the crop will be. But lets stay positive!

'Boltardy' Beetroot

Did you hear about the guy who stopped eating his vegetables? His heart missed a beet! Ok ok no more Dad jokes! But the joke is not too far from the truth.

Not knowing much about beetroot I decided to do some research. I hope you find this as interesting as I have!

Beetroot not only tastes wonderful, looks wonderful, is full of nutrition, but also has reportedly many health benefits.

Beets were domesticated in the ancient Middle East, primarily for their greens, and were grown by the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. By the Roman era, it is thought that they were cultivated for their roots as well. During the middle of the 19th century, wine often was coloured with beetroot juice.

The colourful, sweet root vegetable tends to spark an impassioned response from people who either love it or loathe it. Apparently President Obama and his wife Michelle specifically requested that they were not planted in the White House’s organic veg patch. Many complain that beetroot has an ‘earthy’ taste which is quite correct. They contain a substance called geosmin which is responsible for that fresh soil scent in your garden following rain. Humans are quite sensitive to the smell of geosmin even in low doses which explains why it produces the ‘love or loath it’ response.

Normally a dark red colour they also come in other hues from white to yellow. Not only are they full of flavour, they are rich in antioxidants, folic acid, potassium, vitamin C, manganese, iron and fibre. They also contain antioxidants called betalains, which are being studied as a potential weapon in the fight against cancer. Betalains give beetroot their red hue. The rosy betalain-rich juice of red beets was used as a cheek and lip stain by women during the 19th century, a practice that inspired the old adage ‘red as a beetroot’.

10 Health Benefits

1.) Lowers blood pressure :

Beetroot is a great source of nitrates (not to be confused with the nitrates and nitrites of processed food!). Nitrates are compounds that convert to nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide opens up your blood vessels, which helps lower blood pressure and heart rate.

2.) Increased exercise capacity  :

The nitrates in beetroot improve blood flow, which helps move oxygen throughout your body. Endurance athletes often drink beetroot juice to improve performance. Evidence suggests both marathon runners and cyclists can increase their performance by nearly 1% - that can be the difference between being on the podium or not. Often termed by sports nutritionists as ‘legal blood doping’.

3.) Reduce inflammation :

The betalain in beetroot can reduce inflammation. The anti-inflammatory effects are so promising that some researchers believe that beetroot extract supplements could rival the benefits of some synthetic drugs.

4.) Improve digestion :

Beetroot is high in fibre. Eating enough fibre, can protect against constipation, haemorrhoids, colon cancer, acid reflux, ulcers, diverticulitis and obesity.

5.) Good for your brain :

Nitrates in beetroot can help improve brain function by increasing oxygen flow. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Gerontology demonstrated the ability of beet juice to improve blood flow to the brain during exercise. None of the participants regularly exercised, and all were on blood pressure medication. They were asked to exercise for 50 minutes, three times per week for six weeks, on a treadmill. Half drank high-nitrate beet juice concentrate before exercise, and half drank an identically flavoured and coloured placebo drink with almost zero nitrates. Those who consumed the beet juice drink showed improved function in the areas of the brain related to motor control, emotion, and cognition, compared to those in the placebo group.

6.)Cancer fighting properties :

Beetroot is known to have antioxidant properties, which protect cells from free radicals. Research is taking place to assess the potential of beetroot extracts for use in chemotherapy.

7.)Boost immunity :

Beetroot is high in zinc, copper, vitamins A and C. These are all nutrients known to boost immunity.

8.) Good for your eyes :

Beetroot contains lutein and zeaxanthin which are well studied for their positive impact on vision.

9.) Good for your liver :

Beetroot contains iron, antioxidants, betaine and vitamin B. Nutrients that all help protect the liver from oxidative damage and inflammation. The betaines in beetroot, along with pectin - a water-soluble fibre - assist the detoxification process and help flush out toxins from the liver.

10.) Can boost your libido :

The use of beetroot as an aphrodisiac dates back to Roman times who attributed the beauty and allure of Aphrodite to her insatiable appetite for beetroot. Beetroot is rich in the mineral boron, which plays a role in sex hormone production. Some studies suggest beetroot juice can be effective in treating erectile dysfunction.

So overall you can see beetroot is a pretty darn good veg to eat! As the saying goes, ‘everything in moderation - even moderation’.

You would not want to overdose on beetroot as it is high in oxalates, which can reduce the absorption of some nutrients such as calcium. It can also turn your urine and stools pink!

Correct storage of your beetroot harvest is key. Cut off all but 3-5cm of the leaf stems (which you can eat) so they won’t remove moisture from the root. Scrub them and ensure they are dry before either storing in the fridge or a paper bag. They will stay firm for many weeks.

As a child I was firmly in the ‘beetroot loath it camp’ but as I’ve got older I have grown to like it in certain recipes. Gone are the days of a nasty soft pickled beetroot extracted from a jar that has been buried in the cupboard (since the previous summer) to adorn a 1970’s limp lettuce salad with sliced hard boiled egg, beetroot juice staining the yoke making the egg look like it had just been butchered. Roasting them with thyme, cutting and freezing them in chunks to use in smoothies or just eating them raw are just a few examples of how this veg has been elevated to ‘star status’ in the kitchen and top restaurants up and down the country.

I will revisit the beetroot with some interesting recipes when we harvest them. Gosh that was a long post!


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email : iainphilpott@mac.com

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I've never tasted a spring onion so fresh!

Mr Fothergillis, Spring Onion, White Lisbon, Winter hardy
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