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Niall85

Niall85
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Member since: 28.05.2013

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      27.01.2014 10:29
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      The only shaving cream you will ever use again if you have sensitive skin

      This Christmas I was bombarded with special offers from the Body Shop through Quidco (they seem to literally have a 40-50% off deal on at all times!) and bought many presents from them... but also treated myself to this.

      You can now buy this shaving cream in a tube as well as a tub, I went for the tube version because it worked out cheaper for a slightly decreased quantity of cream.

      The smell of this product is very nice, it doesn't smell artificial and it doesn't have the "man smell" that most male shaving products do. Its consistency is also quite hard to compare - its a whitish silver in colour and is almost slightly metallic in its appearance.
      You only need a small amount to generate the required lather, around the size of a pea. When first applied it just seems to act like a cream, but after a few seconds of rubbing it in around the face the lather appears and is quite generous considering the amount of product you use.

      I use a 3-Blade razor with this product and it provides an exceptionally smooth shave. It causes me no skin irritation afterwards, no rash or razor burn and once you have washed your face with water afterwards it leaves it feeling incredibly soft and smooth.

      This product was actually recommended to me by the Body Shop website - they have a skin tester on there where you enter your sensitivity issues, your skin type and then it recommends a product.
      I cannot recommend this shaving cream enough for those who have sensitive skin, are prone to a rash or spots after shaving.

      At Christmas I was actually bought some more products in the Maca Root range to work alongside this one. I am getting around to trying them now and cannot wait to review these either! This includes the aftershave balm, facewash and pre-shaving face scrub.

      To summarise - I read lots of reviews of this before buying, and after trying it myself its pretty clear that there is hardly anyone on the planet who has a negative thing to say about this product. It is affordable and lasts a very long time due to the amount you have to use.

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      • Radishes / Plant / 71 Readings / 71 Ratings
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        17.09.2013 22:45
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        Add some spice to your salads!

        The radish is a very easy, quick growing crop. It is cheap, needs little maintenance and can add much needed spiciness to your salads!
        Radishes have an acquired taste, they are easy to grow but only grow them if people in your family will actually eat them.


        Seed:
        You can get Radish seed for between £1-£2 for about 500+ seeds. You may pay more if you go for a brand name variety - although reliable you will pay more for the fancy picture packaging. Results from seed bought online won't be much different.
        There are loads of different radish varieties including the regular red round ones you would find in a supermarket, elongated ones which are easier for cutting and then you have winter varieties.
        Summer radishes can be sown from early spring all the way through to September, winter varieties can be sown in late summer/autumn and harvested throughout autumn/winter and look more unusual than the radishes you may be used to.


        Conditions:
        Soil should be quite loose and giving it a good rake first will help to break it up. If you have stones or rocks in the soil it can have adverse effects on the growth of any root vegetable.
        A patch about 2 feet square is ideal for growing radishes and if timed right you can have a supply of them available for 6-8 months of the year.
        If space is an issue, they can be grown in pots of compost. Yields will be less this way though.
        They like to be kept moist at all times so if grown during the summer, an area with some shade will benefit them as they won't dry out so quickly.
        Sowing:
        They should be sown where they are to grow - you can sow thinly or be precise with your sowing. If you so thinly then you will probably have to pick out seedlings as they emerge as they don't really grow well next to each other. If you are precise then sow approximately 2-3cm apart and that way you won't waste any seed and a very pretty pattern will come of your sowing!
        Winter varieties need a lot more spacing as they can grow significantly larger. They need 10-20cm between each seed.
        Sow the summer varieties from early spring to autumn, winter varieties late summer to winter.
        Growing:
        As mentioned, they like it damp so ensure the soil doesn't dry out over periods without rain.
        Seedlings will emerge after only a couple of days and will grow very quickly. You will know they are your radishes as the stem is the red colour of the radish.
        Caterpillars like radish leaves so if you have them in your garden then ensure they are protected from them in some way. If you have read my review of Cabbage this year then you will see that my crop became infested with them! Some of the caterpillars even ventured from one raised bed to the other that contained my radishes (I even watched the little scoundrels doing this) and they ate the leaves on my radishes. This didn't stop me harvesting them as they were fine, but it will affect the growth if the leaves are eaten before they get a chance to develop.
        If you get rabbits in your garden, they also like little radish seedlings (as I also witnessed!) a simple piece of wire mesh placed over the top will be enough to discourage the rabbits. That or if you grow onions around them it will deter them. Chicken manure pellets are also another excellent natural way of stopping rabbits accessing a certain area of your garden.


        Harvesting:
        At their peak, you will be harvesting radishes only 3 weeks after sowing them making them a very quick crop! Keeping this in mind, you can easily sow one row every week with a total of 4 rows - this way you can keep sowing new seeds as you empty a row giving you a continuous crop for most of the year!
        Flavour is best when they have just been picked, but if they are left in the ground too long they will lose their flavour completely and become woody.


        Why grow radishes?
        If you don't have a garden or soil in which to grow them, you can literally sow 3 or 4 seeds in a pot of compost on a windowsill and harvest them in 3-4 weeks.
        They are so easy to grow, they don't need feeding and will need very little maintenance - if you don't have rabbits you can pretty much just leave them to it and come back to harvest them in 3-4 weeks.
        They are an excellent space filler, if you have half a square foot of bare soil in your garden - plant some radish seeds in it and add spice to your salads!
        I have tried Cherry Belle and French Breakfast varieties and this winter am planning on trying "China Rose" to use up some soil left bare by my autumn harvests.

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        • More +
          16.09.2013 22:51
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          A great small Lego set for any Harry Potter fan

          This is a small set, quick to put together and simple. It has 64 pieces. It is based loosely on a scene from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 where Harry goes into the forbidden forest to die at the hands of Voldemort. I say loosely because for a strange reason, Harry is wearing his Hogwarts uniform which he doesn't wear at all in the scene or in the film.

          You get 4 minifigures which is great value because a lot of larger Lego sets contain 4 or 5 figures. You get Harry in his school uniform with wand, Lord Voldemort, Hagrid and Narcissa Malfoy. A bonus is you also get Voldemort's pet snake Nagini (this is small and cannot really constitute a figure!).
          The scene in the set is a tree which when put together stands at around 3 times the height of the Hagrid mini figure. It has a base large enough for you to place all of the mini figures on so that they can be kept stable without the risk of being lost or getting mixed in with other sets.

          The instructions (as with all Lego) are very easy to follow and show a series of pictures clearly telling you which bricks need to be placed in each position. It took me around 10 minutes to put together (could have taken less but I was watching the film at the time of building!)

          You get a lot of play value out of this if you are buying it for a child because there are 4 figures and you can act out a quite poignant moment in the film over and over again!
          Like I have mentioned in a previous Lego review, I am no longer a child but still buy the occasional set of Lego for myself! Especially the Harry Potter sets. I was lucky enough to pick them up when they were fairly cheap but now they have shot up in value. This stands on my Harry Potter shelf alongside my other Lego sets and works very well as an ornamental piece.

          I purchased this set a couple of years ago for £7.99, a bargain at the time as now they are worth over £20 boxed and new - you can pick up sets a lot cheaper if you want them unboxed and loose. They are now out of production and demand for things Harry potter related will always stay steady.

          On Ebay you can buy one loose for around £8-£14 which is well worth it - only buy it boxed if you want it to stay that way!

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          15.09.2013 21:06
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          An ethical, decent mens face wash with no man smell

          I have tried many face washes before and none seem to be able to combat the problem I have with spots - the problem being that in my late 20's I am still prone to them. I have used ones by Simple, Clearasil, St Ives and Nivea just to name a few. On our last trip to the supermarket I decided it was time to rethink my thinking behind choosing a face wash.
          Instead of looking down the aisle I normally do (most are next to the make up and hair products), I checked the male toiletries section and next to the shaving things were a few different male face washes.

          I didn't want a cheap product because I think that compromising on quality can be a bad thing sometimes (I remember one face wash bought from the pound shop that ended up in the bin!) so I decided to give this one a go - the packaging drew me in as well as its name (and now I can't help but get "Hey Bulldog" by the Beatles each time I read the tube!).

          The price was £4.50, it comes in a nice clean looking white tube that contains 175ml of product. The front tells you some interesting info from the get-go - It is packed with 8 essential oils and green tea to gently cleanse your face of dirt and debris. There is also a shiny foil "stamp" that says it is made with natural ingredients.
          I read the back in the supermarket and laughed when I read "How can you face your problem if your problem is your face?"
          The back also draws to your attention that the product is Made in the UK, BUAV Approved and is a Good Shopping Guide Ethical Company. It is Vegetarian and Vegan approved as well.

          Using the product for the first time - I used it after I had a shave and found it didn't sting my face or anything even though my skin was freshly shaven. The smell is quite unique and isn't like any other face wash I have tried before. The tea tree smell is noticeable but is mixed with other fragrances which makes it smell quite unique - certainly not like your token generic male toiletries that all smell the same.
          I followed the directions and lathered it on wet skin and then rinsed off.
          The next morning I thought there was a noticeable improvement in the appearance of my facial skin, any red areas had toned down significantly and my face still felt clean.

          Although it is still early days and I have only used this product for around a week, I think it is doing its job. I only hope my face doesn't become immune to it or something so I have to buy another different product again!

          I also checked out the website for this company after buying it and it has some useful information on there about the company and how it all started. It is also great that this product has been nominated for a "Product of the year" award.

          I definitely recommend it for men who don't want the usual "man smell" products and want something natural, good for you and the environment.

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          • More +
            06.09.2013 22:26
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            Supreme quality shed, borderline liveable environment inside!

            We needed a shed. Badly. There were tins of paint, hammers, screwdrivers, screws, nails, fillers and allsorts scattered throughout the house that we had spend months doing up earlier in the year. My plan was to buy one during my week off work to give me plenty of time to put it up.
            I did a little bit of searching around but the company "Walton's" was recommended to me by my dad because at my old house I had a summer house which was from the same company - this is still standing now and is solid, considering this is now 19 years old and has survived several severe winters that's pretty good going!
            This shed from Walton's came with a 10 year guarantee, which I obviously trust given that my summer house is still standing 19 years on!

            I purchased this Walton's shed for £269.99 two weeks ago. Delivery was free and it came with a bottle of free medium coloured stain as well. I received a phone call from someone two days before its arrival to confirm that the day was ok and that it would be there between 7am and 7pm. I read several reviews on the Walton's website and some people said it arrived bang on 7am or just before! With this in mind I made sure I got up early. At 7.10am I had a phone call from the driver just asking where we were, 5 mins later my shed was delivered!

            It all came flat packed and was placed nice and neatly on my driveway by the delivery driver - the floor, back, front, sides, roof, window panels and then some extra bits of wood and screws/nails. It also came with some instructions which were quite easy to follow.
            My next task was to assemble the shed! Prior to its arrival I had prepared the ground it was to sit on by levelling it out with a basic rake and my own hands. As it was going to sit next to my hedge on the driveway part of my garden, I also trimmed this right back as far as I could.
            Position wise, I have placed in approximately 1.5 feet away from the front of the hedge so you can fit down the back of the shed in order to a) trim the hedge, b) fit behind the shed for any reason necessary and c) store things down the side of the shed if needed!
            The back of the shed faces where the cars are parked and the road, the window sides face the house and garden. The door also faces the garden and my main raised bed area where all the vegetables grow.

            Assembly took approximately 4 hours which I kind of expected. It wasn't too difficult to put together but there were a few tools that were a must have in order to complete a decent job - A hammer, an electric drill with screwdriver bits and a spirit level.
            The floor - this was first, the floor comes in two pieces in order to strengthen it, rather than just having one solid piece which could be weaker. There were also additional pieces of wood for the floor so that it sits off the ground slightly and other pieces of wood to join the two bits of floor together. Now - we added additional bits of wood to the floor in order to bring it further off the ground - this isn't necessary at all but we did it purely to preserve the life of the shed a bit more as where I had it positioned is prone to rainwater falling and hitting the ground. There isn't any flooding there but when rainwater bounces around it leaves dampness around the base and underneath and this is the first place it may start to rot.
            In between the floor and the additional pieces of wood we added to heighten it, I also placed a length of damp proof course to help prevent the water from getting under the base (this was less than £5 and is worth the additional spend! (Purchased from Screw fix)).

            The sides - next you had to attach the door to the front panel and the window panes to the side before placing them on the base of the shed. Attaching the door was easy. There are 4 hinges (2 for each side) that hold the door in place and there are also catches to keep the right door closed at all times unless you release them and the small black catch that keeps both doors closed together.
            I chose the shed with two doors because two doors open together open up wider than one door on its own - plus the garden I have would make it difficult to accommodate a single door opening (you wouldn't be able to open it fully or get past the door once it was open down the side of the shed).
            The windows slot in very easily and are held in place by a small sill which sits under them and two lengths of wood - one either side of the glass which is simply screwed in to keep the panes secure. The panes have some movement to allow air circulation in the shed but don't leave gaps big enough for pesky insects to get through.
            After the door and windows are attached you put the 4 sides on in turn starting one side and working your way around, when doing this it is quite important not to screw them down to the floor right away because as you add each side you may have to adjust for one side being slightly wonky or out of place. I recommend two people for this. Each side is attached to the side nearest it with screws and then screwed down into the base - if you attach each side to each other then at least you can move them slightly before biting the bullet and screwing them to the floor!
            We put the sides down this way and used a spirit level to ensure they were all level.

            The Roof - there is a cross beam that goes along the top middle of the shed that you have to add to enable the roof panels to rest on something when they are placed on top.
            The two roof panels are similar to the floor ones and sit on the cross beam as well as the front, back and side of the shed the roof is on. Once in place they are attached using screws - before putting all screws in ensure that the panel is level and overlaps each part of the shed equally so that water drips down off it away from the shed. This is done both sides and then you are left with the finishing touches with felt and the cosmetic additions.
            Felting is a pain and will require a lot of patience and a ladder. You are provided with two rolls of felt - one is a wide roll which is cut into two equal halves - one half goes on one side to the edge nearest the ground, the other half on the other side. You then have a narrow roll of felt left over which goes straight over the top of the shed across the cross beam and overlaps the two wider pieces of felt - this ensures that water drains from the top then down over the next felt and then straight off the edge and onto the ground. Be patient when felting and make sure you are careful handling it because it tears very easily.

            The final additions are quite simple - you have lengths of wood that go on the front and back to properly form the roof shape that everyone is familiar with and then the diamond shape which goes in the middle at opposite ends of the cross beam. When all of these are in place then your shed is finished and you can get painting!

            I painted the shed with the provided treatment the evening after it was put up - it was a nice summers evening and it seemed appropriate. It applies quite dark at first but dries to a very natural medium brown colour not too much darker than the colour the shed actually comes. This was dry with in a couple of hours.

            Additions - I have a lock with padlock on the door so the shed remains secure at all times. I think this is a must have unless you are literally keeping your shed empty! But who wants to provide easy access to a multitude of tools and other things that are kept in there?
            I also have shelves and brackets added to mine so we can keep things like tins of paint, fillers, sealers, fertilisers etc in there as well. The height of the shed enabled me to have two shelves 8 feet across that were deep enough to keep tins of paint on as well as having brackets underneath that could be used to store spades, rakes and other garden tools. By adding shelves you are really adding to the storage space inside the shed and that way everything won't just be on the floor.
            I was donated an old rug which actually suits the shed very well! It resembles a door mat at first and is precisely 8 feet in length - this sits down the middle of the shed so that if you go in from outside when it has been wet then you aren't getting water or mud over the nice wooden floor - you stick to the carpet!

            When assembling the shed, we had two cars stop on the road and reverse backwards to comment and say to us "nice shed!" its amazing what erecting a shed can do to the passing public...

            Overall the garden looks a lot better with the shed there, it almost feels like we have added value to the house by having it! It has also meant that our lawnmower no longer clutters up the porch, and the various tins of paint and DIY items around the house can be kept in one location!

            I recommend this shed as it is noticeably high quality and it is worth paying extra for the tongue and groove rather than overlap because overlap can rot so much quicker than tongue and groove because there will always be gaps that will harbour dampness.
            The smell of the shed is fantastic! It smells of proper wood when inside and feels very natural. The provided free treatment is excellent quality and can be applied to the whole shed in under an hour to preserve it.
            The 10 year guarantee says it all - I trust this as I have had experience with Walton's in the past. I wouldn't ever compromise on the quality of something that could be sitting in your garden and that was being used for 10-20 years for the sake of a £20-£40 saving.

            (Walton's will also put the shed up for you, but this costs around £120 - I'd suggest you DIY. Unless you are physically unable, in which case it could be more financially beneficial to get a friend to do it for you)

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            • Source Code (DVD) / DVD / 67 Readings / 66 Ratings
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              31.08.2013 22:59
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              Inception meets Groundhog Day meets Quantum Leap meets Hollywood Cheese

              I was attracted to this film because of its director (Duncan Jones) who directed a great Sci-Fi film called "Moon" a few years ago. That film has become somewhat of a cult classic and is a great example of being able to make a fantastic film on a budget of $5million which is quite small by today's standards.
              After the success of Moon; Jones has been given a budget of $28million - to be honest the film is pretty good considering this budget and is another financial success for Jones.

              If you're looking for a Sci-Fi masterpiece then this is not it. If you're looking for an average film to keep you entertained and involved for 90 minutes, then this is it!

              I don't want to give too much of the story away, but here we go... Jake Gyllenhaal plays Captain Stevens who finds himself on a train apparently as someone completely different to his identity. After 8 minutes the train explodes and he wakes up in an unknown environment with a female military officer called Goodwin speaking to him through a screen and asking him a series of very abrupt questions.
              This sets up the whole premise for the film - Stevens has to go back onto the train and relive the final 8 minutes of everyone on board's lives repeatedly until he can discover the identity of the person who placed the bomb on the train.

              It sounds like a simple premise and it sort of is. The intelligent and interesting part for me, which I feel was not explored or explained nearly enough is the "Source Code" itself. It enables them to gather the short term memories of everyone (who always remember the last 8 minutes) and recreate that environment. This opens up several possibilities and scenarios like multiple time lines or time travel that are mentioned and explored somewhat but could have been a lot more.
              The concept is given to you without any explanation behind the science, which is ok I guess but it doesn't feel right being set in "modern day" without a real explanation. It didn't feel right in this film, but I guess in Inception it is a crazy concept where you can enter peoples dreams - there isn't any explanation of how they do that either, but it doesn't FEEL like it needs to be explained in that film, in Source Code it does.

              The token Hollywood love interest is sitting opposite Gyllenhaals character each time he re-enters the train through Source Code and the person he becomes on board the train is someone she is attracted to... we all know where this is going, he has 8 minutes to get her to fall in love etc. before she dies again in the explosion. This is a bit cheesy in parts but works quite well at times, especially towards the end.

              Comparisons with Groundhog Day are justified. Stevens gets to see each person for 8 minutes at a time and he has fights with them at first, even physically and towards the end knows them and what happens to well that he tries to make their last 8 minutes of life worth living - even though they are technically already dead.

              The concept like I say, is phenomenal and could open up a huge story telling window, but I think an opportunity was lost here where a really great classic Sci-Fi film could have been made and instead they opted for something that was "almost Sci-Fi" but with just enough Hollywood Cheese in it to satisfy an audience that it opened up the film to be watched by more people (who weren't just Sci-Fi geeks!).

              The ending is the best part of the film, which to be fair is sometimes difficult to achieve because the ending really does make the film in a number of cases. A bad ending means the viewer forgets the film they just watched but will always remember the bad ending. I won't spoil it, but I didn't guess it was coming! You think the ending will be related to the identity of the bomber or Stevens' "situation" but all that information is revealed surprisingly early so the story takes on a whole other direction in its final quarter which I found most enjoyable.

              I'd watch this again if I wanted to vegetate on my sofa without anything particularly hard to think about, but it's certainly not anything more than average I'm afraid! (Maybe I'm just being harsh, but I am a bit of a film buff with quite high standards!)

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              • More +
                29.08.2013 21:44
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                Brilliant secateurs

                As you can probably tell from my other reviews, I am quite keen on gardening. My garden is surrounded by a hedge for the most part and the hedge grows quite excessively in the summer. I have inherited a number of plants in the garden from the previous owner that need cutting back frequently.

                I had a pair of cheap secateurs that I used to hate using because you had to put your 4 fingers through a hole in the bottom a lot like a pair of scissors and I found my hands always ached after using them and I got blisters from the way my fingers and knuckles were pressing up against the plastic.

                Dad to the rescue! He brought over a pair of these for me when visiting one day calling them "The ultimate secateurs", he also said they would last me forever. Dad has a tendency to say that everything is the ultimate to really try and sell it to you - but with these he was spot on.

                I used them for the first time a couple of days to cut back a hawthorn hedge that had sprouted bits all over the place and had got so out of hand it almost blocked access to the one part of the garden where I had planned on building a shed. I used these to cut back the hedge and found they worked incredibly well and quickly.
                What shocked me was the sheer thickness of tough branches that these things can cut through and without putting any pressure on your hands or fingers whilst doing it.

                They feel right in your hand; they are lightweight and have specially moulded plastic on the one handle to create an almost ergonomic environment for your fingers. The blades are very sharp and when they meet they feel smooth and high quality. In the centre there is a small black metal clip that is easily pushed over to keep them closed.

                I found that when I was using them that cutting the hedge was not a chore but actually became enjoyable. I used them to cut back some large brambles that were sticking out around the garden as well and they were excellent.
                All the pieces of hedge scattered along the ground were too big to fit in my green wheelie bin so I used them again to cut the pieces up smaller so they fit inside - this took no time.

                Shockingly, Dad told me these were a spare pair as he already had one and he got them from a car boot sale! They are practically new and I dread to think how much money someone took off him for them as I was quite shocked at the cost. However, after using them - if I needed to buy a pair of secateurs I would probably part with the required money for them because they really are just that good. They are even gauranteed for life and I must say I can easily picture them still working and for sale in an antique shop in 100 years.

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              • Wood Filler / Household Product / 51 Readings / 50 Ratings
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                28.08.2013 23:14
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                A must have if you are filling in gaps in wood

                I bought this wood filler last week to help complete some jobs around the house. We have an old Georgian window which is in dire need of repair - looking at the state of it you'd think the easiest solution would be to remove it and replace with a double glazed window, however the house is all double glazed apart from this one window and it would be a shame to remove it - so I am saving it.

                All completed work so far has been on the outside of the window.

                The window was badly rotten so the first thing I did was to scrape out all of the rotten pieces of wood using a chisel (most of this was on the sill itself), then I used a wood hardener on the exposed bits of wood to, well, make them hard!

                In the end the sill was so badly damaged, the solution ended up to cut a piece of wood to glue over the top of the damaged one... I filled the large holes with cement first and then placed this piece of wood on top and glued it down.

                This is where the filler comes in:

                The filler comes with a plastic application tool, a small tube of yellow hardener and then the murky coloured filler itself. Using an old piece of wood to mix the two together, the instructions state to use a golf ball sized about with approx 2cm of hardener, once you mix the two together you have 5 minutes to use it before it sets!
                I used the filler in between the gap of the new sill and the frame which holds the glass. There were also several pieces of the wooden frame itself that were missing or crooked so I used the filler on these too.

                The filler does dry VERY quickly and it is imperative you don't go over zealous in mixing a large quantity out to use as you may not be able to apply it quickly enough.

                Some of the gaps I had to fill were quite deep so I had to apply 3 coats of the filler - the first one sank down in the recess which is to be expected, the second layer did it ever so slightly again and the third and final layer finished the job off nicely. I even used small slithers of wood to help fill the gaps, the resulting finish is that from a distance of a couple of feet you cannot tell where the wood and the filler meet and it looks like one piece of wood!

                After 45 minutes or so this was totally solid and could be sanded down smooth ready for painting.

                Unfortunately I won't be able to paint this for a few weeks as I also had to apply some special putty to the window frame around the glass where it had rotted and allowed water to penetrate. I used the Ronseal Wood Filler in conjunction with Linseed Oil Putty and Ronseal Wood Hardener (which I also recommend)

                Please note: this product smells a bit! Like new car smell times 20, so if you are sensitive to strong smells then wear a mask. Gloves are essential or this stuff could rip your skin off... When sanding make sure you wear a mask as the dust particles go into the air and breathing in fibreglass is dangerous.

                This product is great if you have wood jobs around the house that need a lot of filling - especially external ones. Some people will say to use a mix of glue and wood chips but this will not last long in extreme weather outside - the filler will.

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                • Pumpkins / Plant / 49 Readings / 48 Ratings
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                  27.08.2013 22:08
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                  How did the ghost patch his sheet? With a Pumpkin Patch...

                  Pumpkins are probably the most wasted vegetable in the world as most of them are grown to use at Halloween. The majority of people just scoop out the inside and bin it not realising it is actually quite tasty. In my 4th year of gardening, the first year was hilarious but now I am more familiar with the type of plant they are and how to grow a nice pumpkin.


                  Seed:
                  ¬¬¬¬
                  Be warned! Seed manufacturers such as Thompson Morgan will entice you to buy their pumpkin seeds by showing a picture of the worlds biggest pumpkin on the front with a small child sitting on it, before you buy this particular variety please be aware of how much space it takes up and what a large garden you will need in order to grow it!
                  I have grown these massive varieties and in my second year of gardening managed to get one so that when I posed for a photograph with it, I could only lift it for so many seconds - not quite a world record but a feat nonetheless. That was then, when I developed a large piece of land belonging to my parents that was strewn with weeds and filled it with veg - this is now and my garden can't accommodate such shenanigans any more.
                  You can get some pumpkin seed that grows small manageable and highly tasty pumpkins that don't end up like the giants you carve out for Halloween.
                  Like most veg, a pack of seeds starts from less than £1, before you buy and think about growing; please take into account how much space they literally consume...


                  Conditions:
                  ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬
                  Pumpkin plants, if left to their own thing can trail on forever like a beanstalk from a fairytale clinging along the soil. Each plant is supposed to be spaced out around 2-4 feet apart every way, but I have planted them closer with good results.
                  Pumpkins like it sunny, but not in full blown sun, so I suggest a small amount of shade from a hedge or tree at some point during the day.
                  You won't need a greenhouse or polytunnel to grow a pumpkin, but if you are going for it then be prepared for it to trail all over your garden (unless of course you control it!)


                  Sowing:
                  ¬¬¬¬¬¬
                  Pumpkin seeds are massive and if you drop them you can easily find it - unlike some other seeds which are so small that you could accidentally inhale them if you sneeze whilst sowing... They are about the same size as a guitar pick.
                  Sow in middle of spring to late spring in large pots (minimum of 20cm), one seed per pot. They germinate quite quickly and the plants will soon outgrow even that large pot.
                  Seeds are supposed to be placed on their side in the soil and not flat, this way the shoot that emerges finds its way to the surface without any problems.
                  You can even sow pumpkins in their final position from late spring, but be careful of frosts. If you sow directly outside then you can use an old plastic bottle with the top cut off as a way to propagate and protect the emerging seedling.


                  Growing:
                  ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬
                  I start mine off in pots indoors and then transplant outside when all risk of frost has passed. By the time they are large enough to transplant, the stem is about an inch thick and the plant just slides out of the pot with its roots and is easy to place into its final position.
                  If you have a large patch of ground to grow pumpkins and let them go wild then great, be creative and plant them so that they all trail away from the centre of a circle.
                  Pumpkins like water so make sure they are regularly watered - you can also feed them with a high potash feed to encourage better plant growth and faster fruit growth when they have set - you guessed it... Tomorite is your friend!
                  Flowers on pumpkins are large and yellow - it is worth protecting them somewhat if the weather is very wet, last year most of the flowers on my pumpkins got battered and just fell off which delayed the fruit appearing on plants. You can see when a female flower is going to produce a pumpkin because it is visible at the base of the flower.

                  You have several options when growing pumpkins in restricting the plant, letting it go, restricting the number of fruits or just letting it go wild.
                  By letting it go wild, the plant will trail along the ground for months and can get as long as around 30+ feet without much trouble! The general rule is that you are supposed to cut off the growing tip f the plant when 3-4 fruits are visible on the plant, then like most other vegetables it means that the plant is putting its efforts into the fruits on it rather than trailing to next doors garden (or even the next street...) You will have to keep an eye on this as even though you remove the tip, this means the plant wont stop trying to grow - you'll find it growing longer still and you may have to give it a few snips still.
                  If you are growing a massive variety then you need to a) cut the tip off the plant to stop it growing and b) only allow the plant to grow one fruit - this way it puts all of its energy into one fruit, and not several as well as the plant.
                  I'd only suggest growing one giant if you want to impress the neighbourhood with your skills, for a local vegetable show or to try and break the world record (I don't think our climate will suffice for a record breaker though!). If you are slightly obsessed or mad about Halloween then you can also place a small car sized pumpkin at the end of your driveway to make everyone stop and stare...

                  When the pumpkins have formed, check where they have formed because the fruit needs to be kept as dry as possible on the surface it touches. Use a piece of wood, a brick or tile to lift it off the soil/grass and that way it wont rot from being exposed to the damp.


                  Harvesting:
                  ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬
                  From sowing to harvesting you are looking at around 6 months, so literally end of September to mid-October for the harvest. You can tell when it's ripe because the colour will change to go quite dark orange, or if it's an unusual variety then check a picture online to see what you need to match it to. Quite a lot of pumpkins start off green and then ripen orange.
                  Pumpkin plants are quite spiky and if you grab a stem you can be left with bleeding hands from the little spikes that protrude. This is the plants defence against predators. Wear gloves when removing a pumpkin and use a small saw or serrated knife to cut the pumpkin off. Trust me, use a knife or saw because you won't be able to pull it off without seriously damaging the pumpkin, the plant or yourself!
                  Pumpkins can keep for quite a long time once picked; if you store them at 10 degrees in a cool environment with lots of air circulating then they can last for 3-6 months. A good crop can last the whole winter and be used for many warming meals!
                  Pumpkins aren't just for Halloween - you can use them in cakes, soups, pies and (the only way I like to eat them) roasted like parsnips. When you cut the pumpkin and use it in your cooking, be sure to save the seed and dry it out to use it next year, if you like them you can just reuse the seed. Seed can keep for many many years if it is stored correctly.


                  Why grow pumpkins?
                  ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬
                  To eat. For Halloween. To break a world or local record. To make your friends envious of your mad pumpkin-growing skills.
                  Seriously, they are fun to grow especially when the fruit develops they can grow in size within the space of a day noticeably. They can be expensive to buy for cooking; most of the ones for Halloween would be pretty gross if you ate them because they are modified to grow quickly for the purpose of carving them.
                  My second year in growing them, I had a pumpkin patch and they took over an area around 10 square meters and in the end I am pretty sure we had 30-40 pumpkins... They were shared with friends and family and we even sold some to local pubs to use in their seasonal meals! If you live in the countryside, why not start an "honesty box" where people leave money and take a pumpkin, it's a great way to make a few extra pounds and if you have the space, time and resources then they can be quite profitable and enjoyable too.

                  Thanks for reading, hope I have inspired or helped you and contact me with any questions.

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                  • Sweet Peppers / Plant / 47 Readings / 47 Ratings
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                    26.08.2013 22:36
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                    Sweet peppers are great to grow :)

                    Sweet peppers are fun and fairly easy to grow. They also don't take up a massive amount of space, the only downside to them is that they will really only succeed if you grow them in a poly tunnel or greenhouse because peppers like high levels of heat and humidity.
                    With many different colours, shapes and sizes available these days this is a crop that everyone should try to grow at least once. I recommend seed as buying pepper plants from the supermarket or garden centres works out a lot more expensive than growing from seed.

                    Seeds:
                    ¬¬¬¬¬
                    Like almost all vegetable seeds, you can pick up pepper seeds very cheap (for example as I write this review the first result on Amazon shows a packet of 125 seeds for 50p and free postage!!). There are literally tonnes of varieties to choose from - you will find ones that produce fruit like that in the supermarket, there are also tiny varieties that are the size of golf balls for some extra cuteness, there are packets that come with multiple colours (green, red, yellow, orange, purple and white are readily available in a mixed pack). It all depends on what you fancy.
                    I have grown the small orange ones which added an unusual splash of orange colour to the poly tunnel last year, the long banana varieties and this year I am growing the mixed colour types.
                    I don't recommend buying a green variety because all peppers no matter what colour they are start out green and then will change colour as time goes by.


                    Conditions:
                    ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬
                    Peppers like it hot and will survive in the highest UK temperatures even if the greenhouse is baking! They can be grown outside and I have seen this happening at some gardens I have visited, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you don't have a greenhouse or poly tunnel. The forecast tonight as I write this at the end of August is 8 degrees overnight and this could kill a pepper plant or at least seriously slow down its progress. The UK weather is so unpredictable that I wouldn't risk putting them outside after the work put into starting them off.
                    I have heard of people growing peppers inside on windowsills - this shouldn't be a problem but I have never tried it - my only thoughts are they will get less light this way.
                    The final potting size and positioning of a pepper takes up quite a small amount of space (unless it is a bushy variety and you can prevent it from getting bushy by NOT removing the tip of the plant). Final pot size is around 20cm high and the circumference of a tea cup saucer is sufficient space for it to grow without too many issues. Mine are positioned all in a row neatly with the edge of each pot touching the next one along a windowsill in my greenhouse.


                    Sowing:
                    ¬¬¬¬¬¬
                    I start mine off in March because Feb is too cold, even in a greenhouse - peppers are supposed to require at least 18 degrees to grow, so keeping that in mind you could start seedlings off inside the house and protect them from the outside elements until the time is right.
                    I do start mine outside in the greenhouse in seed trays of John Innes seed compost covered with a plastic propagator lid. Germination can take 2-3 weeks and in my experience the temperature when the seed germinates can seriously affect the rest of its life - I sowed some this year in Feb trying to get ahead of the game - the seedlings are still less than 10cm high whereas ones I sowed a month later are up to 1.5 feet...
                    You can transplant your seedlings when two true leaves have formed; these are not the first two leaves you see as a seedling but the subsequent leaves that grow afterwards.


                    Growing:
                    ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬
                    I transplant my peppers only twice, that combined with the little space they take up compared with everything else makes them one of the easiest veg to grow without much maintaining required.
                    They like a warm sunny position and that is where I position the seedlings - when transplanted from the seed trays I plant them into a small pot (the ones the same circumference as a coke can (roughly!)). Then once the roots really establish and look like they will emerge from the holes in the bottom, they get transplanted into their final pots - this bit is easy as I fill the final pot with compost leaving a hole in the middle the same size as the other pot. When you remove the pepper plant from its smaller pot the compost and roots will just come out in one big chunk and you place that into the hole in the larger pot. This way there is minimal root disturbance and there will be no hindering growth.
                    I remember reading somewhere once that you should pinch the tips of a pepper plant when they reach a certain height to encourage bushiness and more fruit to develop. I was always worried about doing this kind of thing to my plants (including tomatoes back in the day - I know better now!) and so I did this to two of my ten pepper plants the first year I grew them - it did make them bushier but it severely delayed the crop compared with the ones I left alone, in fact they were never ready to harvest as the October weather got the better of the plants before they had a chance to get big enough.

                    Feeding wise, like most other fruiting vegetables you can stick to two simple types - seaweed fertiliser once a week until the fruit has started setting from the flowers. After the fruit is visible switch to tomorite or similar fertiliser once a week instead of the seaweed.

                    The flowers on pepper plants have a tendency to drop off before fruit has had a chance to set - to avoid this happening, spray the foliage of the plant every couple of days.


                    Harvesting:
                    ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬
                    As mentioned above, all peppers start out green so if you think one is ready and you have a nice juicy ripe green pepper then I would suggest you leave it for a few more weeks yet! It is likely to change into a much nicer colour which will also produce a slightly different flavour.
                    There is one positive to this though - you can eat them green so if Autumn is taking hold and you are worried about the plants and the cold, you can pick them green and eat them rather than them going to waste.
                    Between sowing and harvesting is around 5-6 months from my experience - the packet always says less time but I don't think it takes into account the average British summer... We had that massive heatwave in July 2013 and during that time my pepper plants grew massively, but then slowed down again when the weather went cooler. As I write this now in August I haven't actually harvested a pepper yet although some are close, they are a few weeks away yet. I was harvesting until the start of October last year and the year before and it will probably be the same in 2013.
                    I have never done this, but you can make fruit ripen faster by removing the plant from its pot and hanging it upside down! This is best done at the end of summer to help speed things along.

                    To harvest the fruit, use a sharp knife as the way they are attached to the plant can make it quite awkward to remove them using scissors; you may damage the plant if you aren't careful.


                    Why grow sweet peppers?
                    ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬
                    The cost of a pepper is around 50-80p from a supermarket, seeds, compost, trays and feed work out cheaper and its more fun!
                    I love the pepper plants as well; from that tiny little seed you plant they form a fantastic looking plant which is almost like a bonsai with a tiny wooden trunk, masses of roots at the base, great leaves and colourful stems.
                    They take up little space considering the yield, need not much attention and add colour and style to your greenhouse or poly tunnel (Or windowsill!).
                    Have I mentioned they taste nice as well? They are very good for you and contain very high levels of Vitamin C and antioxidants.

                    Thanks for reading, hope I have inspired or helped you and contact me with any questions.

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                    • More +
                      25.08.2013 23:07
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                      I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good suspense/mystery/thriller.

                      I recently purchased the new release paperback version of Linwood Barclay's novel, Trust Your Eyes. I picked it up whilst on holiday from Sainsbury's for a mere £3.49 - a great price for a new release in my opinion. I had looked at this book in hardback format and was tempted by it on its release but at the time I think I was going through all the Harry Potter's again and the £10+ price didn't seem worth it - but I was very interested in the plot synopsis.

                      I have read a book called No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay a few years ago, I thought the story was quite unique and it certainly made me want to see what was happening next. This book is even better than NTFG and I did find myself at times just reading massive chunks at a time to see what happened next (normally I'm a one chapter before bed kind of guy!).

                      I don't want to give too much story away in my review because it could easily be spoiled, but this is what I thought:

                      Synopsis:
                      Thomas Kilbride is a schizophrenic man who spends all his days locked in his bedroom exploring the world via the internet using a website called Whirl360 (Google Street View). He believes he has to store all the information about every street in the world in his mind.
                      One day whilst exploring, Thomas sees a woman being killed through a window and then suddenly he and his brother, Ray are drawn into a large cover up which puts their lives in danger.
                      Ray suddenly finds himself having to look after Thomas from the start of the story as their father had died and Thomas isn't great at looking after himself with his condition.

                      The Story:
                      The premise on the back of the book reveals that Thomas sees a murder in a window, but this event doesn't actually take place until after 100 pages into the book, so initially I thought it was going a bit slowly - but there are a number of characters to introduce and whilst I felt frustrated at the start that this main event hadn't happened yet, I understood why their were lengthy introductions. There are a lot of characters - the Kilbride Brothers, the love interest, a few family friends, a police officer, the murder victim, the "bad guys!", an assassin and a few more along the way.
                      They are all part of a story that has more twists and turns in it than you can imagine. In fact whilst I was reading I was pretty convinced that I knew exactly what was going to happen next and then BAM in a few words something completely different happens! This happens on a number of occasions.

                      The characters are all likeable and L.B. makes you feel for a number of them - characters that you will start off hating will gradually redeem themselves and you will feel for them also, including a villain. I'm not big on love interests, but Ray's is believable and helps bring some happiness into a mid-30's man who has just lost his Father and is now having to take care of his brother - she also provides some comedy moments as well.

                      Thomas, the map-obsessed character seems quite simple at first, but a number of things will occur relating to his character that will keep you guessing for many pages.

                      It goes in some very tense directions in the final fifth of the book - here you will literally not be able to put it down, the twists keep happening right up until the final few pages.

                      Summary:
                      I like Linwood Barclay, he weaves a complex web that really pulls you in and he doesn't use lots of big words to do it! Not that I don't like nice long words, but I want to be a writer myself one day and if you want to say something then say it, don't get a thesaurus out and use a word that most readers will have to use a dictionary to understand!
                      The story is unbelievable and believable at the same time and is paced very well.

                      The book grabbed my attention alright and I must say, after I had read the final paragraph - my heart skipped a beat and I was staring at the page open mouthed and pretty speechless because as endings go, this is a belter!

                      I only have one con about this book - "Whirl360" is a strange name to use for the alternative to saying "Google Street View", im sure there were many alternative names and some copyright issues may have resulted in some not being used, but the name just didn't sound right every time I read it.

                      I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good suspense/mystery/thriller. It would also make a good film!

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                      • Sainsbury's Suncare / Sun Care / 44 Readings / 44 Ratings
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                        18.08.2013 22:35
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                        £4 to protect yourself from the sun and possible cancer

                        Being freckled and fair skinned, I have always used sun cream on days when the sun is out in full force during summer. I cannot understand people who look like walking leather, clearly burned with ruined and terrible looking skin - why would you want to look like that?!

                        I went to Sainsburys to buy some sun cream because we had run out and were due to go down to Cornwall for a week. This was also during the exceptional heatwave we experienced in July so it was much needed!
                        All of the sun creams were on an end unit in my local Sainsburys and most were over £10 a bottle, but there on the bottom left corner were some cheaper alternatives labelled as Sainsburys own brand. I picked up the SPF 50 cream which boasts high protection. Not only that, it is also rated 5 star UVA Ultra and is water resistant. Pay £10+ for a named brand or £3.50 for an own brand that does exactly the same thing? I went with the Sainsburys cream of course! I was also very lucky to get this as there were only one or two left but plenty of the expensive ones left - I guess these days £10-£15 is a lot to pay for a bottle of cream where you can say that same money could feed one person for a week pretty much.

                        Not all available creams are 5 star UVA - this relates to how much UVA radiation from the sun the cream absorbs so it isn't exposed to the skin. 5 star is a must and I am glad to see that a cheap own brand still has it despite the significantly cheaper price.

                        I applied this before I left, especially to my exposed right arm which was going to spend most of the 6-hour journey sticking out of the window and exposed to the sun!
                        When applying it is noticeably thick and is very difficult to rub in completely without leaving a small amount of residue visible in your pores or on your hairs - this is fine as it means it is clearly going to do its job.

                        I reapplied this to every part of me that was exposed about 3 times in a day and it did its job. There was a small area on either side of my temples that I missed that got slightly burnt but that was my fault for missing it and just emphasised to me how much the cream did work on the areas that I had applied it to.

                        A third of the bottle still remains so we used 2 thirds of this over 7 days for two people during the biggest heat wave in 6 years.

                        I came back from my holiday tanned and with more freckles than when I left, but I didn't burn and thats what is important. It is a total myth that you can't get a tan if you use suncream and people who want a tan and choose not to use it are idiots - over 100,000 a people a year in the UK are diagnosed with skin cancer of some sort and 2-3000 of those will die. A bottle of £4 cream can help stop that.

                        I recommend this to anyone wanting to protect themselves from the sun, don't be put off by the price - it works just like the expensive brands!

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                      • Cabbage / Plant / 62 Readings / 61 Ratings
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                        11.08.2013 22:17
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                        Give it a go, don't let me put you off - maybe you can learn from my experiences!

                        Cabbages are a bit of a pain to grow, they need a lot of time putting into them to stop them being eaten by the various things that like to demolish them! I have grown Cabbages for the last 3 years and have decided this year will probably be my last. Here is why:


                        Seeds:
                        ¬¬¬¬¬
                        Seeds are relatively cheap for Cabbage and can be picked up as cheaply as under £1 for 50-100 seeds or even more. Before deciding which seed to buy it is worth looking up which varieties are available as a few are sown at different times - if you use Cabbages in your cooking then why not grow the ones you love?
                        Different types include spring, Red, summer, Savoy and Winter Cabbages. Don't let the names confuse you - the seasonal varieties names relate to when they are harvested and not sown.
                        Summer Cabbages are sown in late winter to early spring. Winter Cabbages are sown in late spring to early summer and Spring Cabbages are sown in late summer!


                        Conditions:
                        ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬
                        Cabbages are quite tough and can survive extremely cold temperatures with little protection (the correct varieties can). Spring ones don't grow very big but the other varieties do and will need almost half a meter in between each one in order to give them enough space. This is the first reason why I am not particularly fond of growing them - they take up that much space which could be taken up by so many other things but you are using a large area for a single Cabbage.
                        They grow in most soils and don't need anything particularly special apart from the occasional feed, but they need a lot of protection which I will discuss in the Growing section...


                        Sowing:
                        ¬¬¬¬¬¬
                        I start mine off in a seed tray and transplant them when large enough, but you can sow directly into their finishing positions but you may have to do some thinning out when they start to come up as the seeds are quite small. You can sow a small pinch of seedlings every week or so - that way you get a regular crop for a few months rather than them all coming at once.
                        For times in which to sow, please see above in my review.


                        Growing:
                        ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬
                        This is where I mention that I must have grown nearly 50 individual Cabbages and never have I managed to grow one that wasn't half eaten, rotten, split or obliterated in some other way!
                        The previous two years were quite wet over summer and I ended up with a lot of slugs around. I have read a number of stories about gardeners going out at night with a torch and a pair of scissors to hunt and destroy these little pests - sorry but this is not my style! I did pick what I thought to be a perfect Cabbage last year but it turned out to have a slug right in its centre - it was surrounded completely by oodles of Cabbage which it was eating when it fancied. This happened to almost all my Cabbages where the slugs had gone right through so most of the Cabbage wasn't even salvageable.
                        This year it is quite dry and I have a new problem - Cabbage butterflies and there are bloody hundreds of the things. I grow my Cabbages in a raised bed with some Broccoli so I thought the easy solution would be to get some sticks with bottles on, purchase some net and drape it over to protect them. This is netting that I bought specifically to deal with this problem and is advertised to stop them reaching the plants, however they can creep their way through! I guess it serves me right for compromising on the net quality and not going for a more expensive one...
                        The butterflies will avoid everything in the garden apart from this one patch of Brassicas where they hover around and lay their eggs. Their eggs are a small cluster of yellow dots which will all hatch into teeny tiny little Caterpillars and will then devour the entire Cabbage in no time! One single cluster can ruin a Cabbage. I do spend some time going out and picking off the eggs but the things are everywhere and as soon as you let them hatch you may as well wave bye bye to that Cabbage!
                        I have read somewhere that you can stop them being attached by spraying with a mixture of garlic and washing up liquid - if I decide to grow them again one day (or any Brassica for that matter) I may give this a try and see how it works.
                        My current patch of 10-12 or so mangled looking Cabbages could be occupied by 15 Sweetcorn plants giving me 20-25 nice cobs, some potatoes, cucumbers, beans or anything really - I feel like the last 3 years I have wasted the space by growing Cabbage there.


                        Harvesting:
                        ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬
                        It can take as long as 40 weeks for a Cabbage to be ready from sowing to the actual harvesting (as little as 22 or so weeks for spring varieties but a minimum of 32 weeks for all of the others).
                        To harvest a cabbage you cut the stem that it grows on with a sharp knife (these stems are tough).
                        I have never tried this, but after you cut the stem you can apparently slice through a cross on the cut of the piece left in the ground and then in a month you can pick another crop of smaller Cabbages from the same stem.


                        Why grow Cabbages?
                        ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬
                        I would grow Cabbages if I had a lot of:
                        Time
                        Space
                        Patience
                        I unfortunately have little of the first two and only a bit of the third! I see these massive varieties entered regularly into the local Flower/Vegetable show and I wonder how someone can possibly have the time or patience to grow such a beast and manage to protect it from a single blemish. Almost all of the time the grower is retired and elderly and dedicates most of their life to the garden - something I can not do right now at the ripe age of 27 with a 40-60 hour a week job!
                        If you like to eat them, give it a go if you have a little space - if not I don't recommend trying as you can use the space for something much easier with a higher yield at the end. This is one veg that is probably best being bought from the supermarket.

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                        • Sweetcorn / Plant / 74 Readings / 71 Ratings
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                          04.08.2013 23:39
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                          Grow it! You won't be disappointed.

                          Sweetcorn is one of the easiest to grow vegetable fruits out there which many people wouldn't think. The plants can be grown in a variety of places to suit people with small, large or no garden at all. It is cheap to grow, fun to grow and in the end works out cheaper than going out to a supermarket and buying it. This is my 4th year in a row growing Sweetcorn and I don't intend on ever stopping because it has never let me down!

                          Seeds:
                          ¬¬¬¬¬
                          Sweetcorn seed is cheap when sourced right. If you go for a "packeted" variety (by that I mean Suttons, Thompson and Morgan seeds etc) then you will end up paying between £2-£3 for around 30-50 seeds. At this time of year (right now! (August)) you will find many garden centres have reduced seed packets many of which are around half price. Never be put off by the date on the packet that says "Sow By" because you could probably sow 50 year old seed and have it germinate as long as it doesn't get damp. On Ebay right now there are a multitude of sellers selling cheap seeds and Sweetcorn is no exception - looking at what's on there now you can pick up 30-50 seeds for as little as 99p.

                          There are many different varieties of Sweetcorn so when you buy the seed ensure you are getting the right seed for you. There are super sweet, extra tender sweet and standard varieties as well as baby corn varieties if you want miniature cobs.


                          Conditions:
                          ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬
                          Sweetcorn originated from a warm-hot climate so it is no surprise that it grows best in warmer conditions. Don't let the great British summers put you off because it will still thrive at around 12-15 degrees but just grow a little slower.
                          Final growing positions should be a sunny spot that is not going to catch too much wind.

                          I have always started Sweetcorn off in pots and then transplanted outside when large enough. The previous 3 years I grew it, I transplanted into the ground and this year for the first time I am using raised beds in my new house which have done the job perfectly.

                          If you have no ground in which to plant, Sweetcorn can be grown in pots on a patio or using Potato bags (which I find useful for growing lots of veg, apart from Potatoes!). They grow upwards and have very little spread around them so do not take up too much space.

                          Companion plants - Sweetcorn are known as a companion plant because when tall enough you can grow runner beans up the stems using them as canes. This makes great use of space if you have a small garden or are using pots. I'd recommend sowing bean seeds directly beneath the corn as soon as the actual fruits start to form (beans grow fast and you don't want to start them off if the corn plant isn't large enough to cope with the beans).


                          Sowing:
                          ¬¬¬¬¬¬
                          I would recommend sowing seeds into the trays that have individual cells. I use John Innes No 1 seed compost and fill the trays up and then put the seed pretty much dead centre in the cell about an inch or so deep. It is also beneficial to use these cell trays because rather than sowing all the seed at once and it maturing at the same time, you can stagger the sowings to say 4-6 seeds per 2 weeks, that way you aren't rushing to cook lots of meals utilising your sweetcorn all at the same time!
                          You can also sow sweetcorn in small pots and keep them indoors if space is an issue outside.

                          You should sow from mid spring to late spring/early summer at the latest. They need heat to germinate so you may need a propagator if you don't have a greenhouse or space indoors, I had to use some clear plastic propagator lids this year and the previous year due to the pretty cold Spring's we had (in fact, my seedlings were up this year whilst it was snowing!).
                          From late spring you can sow directly where they are going to grow but you risk them not maturing in time and getting hit by the cold of autumn.


                          Growing:
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                          I transplant my seedlings into their final position when they are approximately 20-25cm tall which they will reach even in the small confinement of a cell tray. Sweetcorn don't like their roots to be disturbed so be very careful when removing them and transplanting - if you use a cell tray then the plant should be easy to remove holding the stem and come out in one big lump which you simply lower into a ready made hole in its final position.

                          Grow sweetcorn in blocks, not rows - I have mine in a 5 by 5 formation this year. This is because they are wind pollinated and rely on each other to be able to produce the fruit. Quite frequently one of the plants on the corner or end will not have any fruit at all because the direction of the wind carries the pollen onto all of the plants the one way and not back the other way.

                          About 4-6 weeks after transplanting the corn plant should produce a flower in the centre which sticks up quite significantly given time - this is the male part of the plant which carries the pollen. The female part of the plant are the fruits which form at the stem usually wedged between the stem and a large leaf - you will first see a lump developing and then the stringy silk will emerge from this lump. The pollen is caught by the silk and enables the fruit to develop, if it is pollinated well then you get a chunky corn filled cob, if not then results will be poor or non-existent.

                          When plants are young I do support them with small canes because the wind can make them bend over. Corn plants also have roots quite close to the surface of the soil so will bend at the base in strong winds.
                          If they have been transplanted and the weather is not looking too hot, I recommend using a plastic drinks bottle (preferably a 2 litre or larger) with the bottom cut off and placed over the plant. This helps keep the warmth in around the plant and with the plastic lid taken off also enables it to breathe. I have used these every year I have grown corn to help keep them warm and to establish (they also block the wind).

                          Sweetcorn need a lot of water so soak them when required. I feed the plants with a seaweed fertiliser once every two weeks which you apply using a watering can diluted with a cap full of feed. Results are noticeably a lot better from feeding compared to growing without feeding at all! I'm talking twice the size plant, twice as large cobs of corn.


                          Harvesting:
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                          Apparently the time between sowing and harvesting can be as little as 14 weeks up to 20 weeks. I sowed my seeds the first week of March under cover, it has been 20 weeks and I haven't harvested any yet (they are about 2 week s away from being ready). This is probably down to the period of sustained cold we had in the Spring when we had all of the snow, but I cannot remember a time when I harvested cobs any earlier than August each year I have grown them.

                          You know they are ready when the tassels on the cobs turn brown and start to shrivel up. You can test to see if it's ready without removing from the plant - peel back the green outer layers gently until you reveal some of the corn inside. If it is nice and yellow and contains milky fluid then they are ripe and ready to pick. If the liquid inside the corn is clear then it isn't ready and you can basically fold the outer layers back and leave it to mature some more.

                          Twist the cob to remove it from the plant, if you pull then you could damage the stem.
                          I have been told that nothing compares to corn if it is picked from the plant and cooked within the hour - something no one can experience unless you grow it yourself. I don't eat corn myself so I wouldn't know but this year we are going to barbecue ours on a nice summer afternoon (if one exists in August!).
                          When ripe it can keep on the plant for a good month so don't worry about being forced to pick it and store it away - the only worry is when the plant starts to die due to the colder temperatures at the end of September and beginning of October.

                          The average plant has between 1 and 3 cobs on it, like I say the occasional plant yields no cobs.
                          I am going to use my plants this year as a companion plant to grow up a black and white bean variety of seed made by the Eden Project. This is due to a lack of space in my vegetable garden which is taken up by a lot of potatoes and broccoli! Will have to review what I grow next year due to space constraints.


                          Why grow Sweetcorn?
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                          Because nothing compares to eating it than eating it freshly picked off the plant. It is also easy to grow and is one of those plants that you can "make a profit" on. Cost of my 25 seeds was around a £1 which is the price you pay for a single cob from the supermarket. I will end up with around £50 cobs of corn for my £1 of seed, cost of the compost, cell trays and fertiliser adds up to around £3-£4 and are also used for other seeds, so you can see how much money you can save on your shopping by growing one simple vegetable. If you use the stems as canes then you save £££ by not having to buy any canes!
                          There is also something really nice about the feel of the plants...!

                          Thanks for reading, hope I have inspired or helped you and contact me with any questions.

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                            30.07.2013 12:11
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                            Every garden needs a hose

                            With my recent house move and the fact I love gardening, it is no surprise that I have already made a lot of progress with it whereby there is a lot to water. Last year at home with mum and dad I don't think I had to get the hose out once, I only recall using the watering can to give some vegetable plants some liquid food but mother nature provided the rest and turned soil into mud at the same time.

                            The recent weather is a return to form for the UK and I lost count of how many watering cans I was putting out per day but it was becoming a pain as it took too long and didn't really give the garden the soaking it needed.

                            I first purchased (about one week prior to this hose) something called an "X-Hose" which is a lightweight expanding hose and the new big thing advertised on TV and even won "Gardening product of the year" at the Chelsea flower show - I won't rant about it here, it isn't available to review yet but this became only the second product in my entire life that I ever returned for a refund because it was faulty.

                            Purchase/Set Up:
                            I bought the Hozelock hose from a gardening centre for £22; this was the one that came supplied with the minimum of 25 meters of hose line which is perfect to reach all areas of my garden.
                            The box contains the hose reel to hold your hose on, the hose line itself and the various connectors and nozzle.
                            Instructions were quite basic and I kind of worked it all out myself! But it is quite simple to assemble and took me around 5-10 minutes. There is one piece of hose (a smaller piece) that you cut down to the required size - this piece is the one that attaches to your tap and is then attached to the reel. The longer main piece of hose is attached to the opposite side of the reel with the nozzle on the end.
                            This is very clever because you can leave the reel in one place not having to move it around and just pull out the desired length of hose - you can even wall mount this if you wish and simply unroll the hose and roll it back up again from the wall.

                            Use:
                            There is a small plastic connector which fits onto your tap that the hose itself clips onto - a lot of reviews on all hoses mention that these frequently leak - that is almost always the case because getting a 100% water tight seal between metal and plastic with a multitude of taps and manufacturers of both taps and hoses is almost impossible. A small piece of "plumbers tape" as I call it wrapped around the thread on the tap sorted out any leaking issues right away - this can be purchased from any DIY shop and can be obtained for as little as £1 and is just one of those useful things to have around the house. (this is ultra thin tape, usually white and non sticky that simply increases the size of the thread ever so slightly stopping any breaks in the seal).

                            The end of the hose that attaches to the tap is a simple clip which clicks on and off very easily. There is also a little "notch" on the reel itself that you can clip this onto (this saves it simply being thrown down onto the concrete ground and getting damaged or dirt inside it and also keeps it nice and neat!)

                            I unravelled the entire hose for its first use and turned it on from the tap. No leaks at all. The nozzle is closed at the end so when you turn the tap on, nothing comes shooting out of the end! To open the nozzle you simply twist the end holding the grey part of the nozzle and the water will come out.

                            The water comes out at varying degrees; you can have a nice spread light spray or a steady stream that can reach a good 25 meters away from where you are standing!

                            Overall:
                            An excellent buy which will last for many years to come I think, to put it into perspective it took about 40 minutes to water the garden with a can, with the hose I can do it in less than 5 minutes! With the busy life I lead with lots of time spent going to and from work, this is a must. You can really give the garden a good soak with the hose rather than a splash with the watering can.
                            Advice - don't leave it unravelled! I have heard stories in the past of mice chewing at the hose causing holes and leaks.

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