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Blog posts tagged with 'growing'

Blackthorn Winter
 
Well, we are at the end of the blackthorn winter. If you are not sure what the blackthorn winter is, I shall endeavour to educate. In old country lore, there is a plant called the blackthorn, or if you prefer scientifically it is the Prunus spinosa. Anyway, it is said, when in flower, there is always a second winter. If you are unsure of what you are looking for, it is the bush with the horrendous thorns, the beautiful white cherry-like blossom and the incredibly tart fruit known as a sloe.  So now you know.

 

I must say, before the cold weather set in, I was enjoying the display of Magnolia flower. Many of you may be interested to know it is the very first example of an insect attracting flower, so thus it is the oldest flower design discovered in the fossil record.

 

In the garden, you may just about get away with still planting bare-rooted shrubs such as roses and raspberries, provided you give them a copious amount of food and a healthy watering.

 

Now is the time to prune some of the winter flowering plants such as Jasminum nudiflorum, Viburnum x bodnantense, Viburnum farreri and Viburnum Fragrans which should be at the end of their flowering. This early clip will allow them to grow new shoots for next year’s display, without the plant growing beyond the size you want.  This is quite an important tip for all those gardeners who want to know proper husbandry. Don’t just prune in summer or autumn randomly – try to prune the right plant at the right time, to improve the life of the plant and to improve flowering.

 

Another key plant that is in flower now is the Camellia.  All that flowering is going to leave it a little short on food, so now is the time to give it a good boost with azalea food. This will not only help it for this year, but also next. Remember, prune a Camellia just after it has flowered to give it a chance to grow next year’s buds.
September is harvest time

 

1. It is time to lift the main carrot crop before the cold weather sets in. Cut off the leaves and store in sand or dry soil in a shed Keep the carrots well spaced.

2. Plant out pot grown rooted strawberry runners.

3. Rake out dead grass from your lawn with a spring-tine rake and aerate the lawn.

4. If you have grown more marrows than you can eat, then pick the best ones and gently cradle them in cloth and hang in a dry place where the temperature will not fall below 45 degrees F. They should keep you going until February.

5. Lift and dry onions and hang in nets in a cool, dry place.

6. Lift your celeriac when the bulbous stems are blanched. Remove leaves and store in the same way as for carrots.

7. September is the best month for sowing grass seed and repairing dead turf.

8. In order to have a continuous supply of vegetables and salads during autumn and winter, I think the large cloches are ideal. I have ones with four panes of glass with wire supports which are ideal for growing winter radish, lettuce and parsley.

9. Root cuttings of anchusa can be taken now.

10. Clear asparagus beds when the leaves turn yellow. Cut the stems to within a few inches of the ground.

11. If you’re left with any unripened tomatoes, pick them and wrap them in brown packing paper and they’ll soon turn their colour, or alternatively green tomatoes can be pickled or used to make chutney.

12. If you’d like to collect seeds from ripened tomatoes for next season, cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the pulp and seeds in to an earthenware bowl and leave for two days. After two days wash and strain through a sieve and clear the pulp way. Spread the seeds out onto a sheet of glass and leave to dry. Once dry, store in paper bags. A dry cupboard is the best place to store seeds.

13. Your maincrops of potato can all be harvested this month, as well as cauliflowers, leeks, broccoli, turnips, celery and beetroot.

14. When gladiolus leaves turn colour, lift and bring them under cover for a week, then remove the soil, cut off the stems about a half inch above the corms. Take off the old corm below the new and save the small offset corms to plant in boxes of peat in spring. Store in paper bags in a cool, frost proof place with a little dry sand over them and keep until planting time.

15. Clear away tired annuals.

16. Take cuttings of roses.

17. Transplant seedling wallflowers.

18. Order fruit trees and bushes.

19. Prune blackcurrant, raspberry, peach and nectarines.

20. Plant violets in a frame.

-- Rob Amey

Autumn is upon us

Well folks, September has arrived. Odd that, seeing as our summer hardly got going before the first signs of autumn crept into our early morning bones.


As I am sure I have said before, I love this time of year most of all. The weather is still mild, yet things in the garden seemed to have slowed. The last of the summer vegetable harvest is ready to be picked and the apples are sitting heavy on the boughs. I have already pencilled in my visit to Sheffield Park, the garden designed for autumn colour in the heart of Sussex and all is good in the world.

Time to sit back in the deck chair for one last warm snooze, whilst the light is still good? Not on your nelly! Now is the time, not so much of our discontent, but most definitely of much anticipated activity in the garden following the rather dull and monotonous tending of the garden in the previous months. Cutting back all those perennials that are rapidly passing their best is the first chore which must be done, not forgetting to leave some seed heads for the birds.

Pruning the climbing roses is another, as I described at this time last year in this very spot (check the archives if you don’t believe me). If your lawns have had a hard wear this summer, then now is the time to patch those glaring holes. The final sowing of winter green manure Phacelia is also a must for all those that want to return some goodness and compost to the soil later in the winter, not forgetting mulching is of vital importance too - trap the last of the warmth in the soil now and pay dividends later.

Sowings of winter and spring crops can still be made, such as cresses, carrot, turnips, mooli and endive; not forgetting onions sown now for spring. Now is also the time for taking cuttings from your favourite pelargoniums and verbenas. Under glass it is also time to prune you apricot, peach and nectarine trees, removing all laterals, tying in all those shoots that are required for next years fruit.

Finally, in that oh so special place we all have secreted in the vast expanse of the average urban garden, ‘The Pinery’; keep a genial atmosphere of between 70° and 83° among your fruiting plants. Water them with clear manure water, refraining from syringing those in fruit or flower. Not forgetting that pineapples are thought to grow better from fermenting rotting material beneath than from the use of hot water.

So, lots to do, before you clean your tools and shut up shop for winter, reverting to your welcoming armchairs besides the hearth. Just one last thing mind you. Don’t forget, above all other things, the second spring is coming. That curious moment offered by Mother Nature when all plants burn off the last of their stored food, producing a burst of growth reminiscent of early spring. So perhaps don’t down tools just yet.

-- Guy Deakins

Round the Garden in March

There's plenty of jobs to be getting on with now spring has sprung!

  1. Prune your repeat-flowering roses and remove dead or frost damaged wood. Prune apple and pear trees before the blossom comes out.
  2. Prune hardy fuchsias, hydrangea, machonia, spiraea japonica, roses, sambucus and santolina. Prune ornamental grasses. If you need to lift and divide, March is the best month.
  3. If the weather is mild, plant out hardy seedlings and new plants. This is a good time to start moving and dividing existing garden plants.
  4. There’s still time to sow sweet peas. I use toilet rolls to grow the seeds.
  5. Remove the remains of any winter veg plants and tidy up beds and check anything that needs repairing such as fruit cages.
  6. Rhubarb stems can be pulled in March for the first fruit of the season.
  7. Dead-head any bulbs as they fade and feed with a good slow acting feed to build up the bulbs for next year.
  8. If you want to sow French beans, wait until the end of March. Beetroot, radishes, peas, carrots and lettuces can all be sowed direct into prepared raised beds or in patio containers this month.
  9. Give the garden a complete weeding and general digging-over where needed. Apply a mulch to help conserve ground moisture.
  10. Prepare a seed bed for herbs and sow as soon as possible.

-- Rob Amey

Christmas dinner - veg grower style!


So this month people have been asking me if I'll be eating anything from the garden over Christmas. And the answer is yes! If you've been canny like me you'll still have some spuds left. Potatoes need digging up before first frosts, so ours are long out of the ground. But if you grow good keeping varieties and keep them in a cool dry place, you can definitely be eating homegrown on Christmas day.

So what of the other Christmas dinner veg possibilities? Well sprouts of course. They have a long growing season so need starting off in the Spring and covering with netting like all brassicas, to keep butterflies from laying eggs which equals caterpillars which equals distinct lack of edible greens! Sprouts are of course perfectly ready for picking at this time of year - infact we've been enjoying ours for a month or so in readiness for the Christmas feast.

If you cover your carrots with fleece or a cloche you could still have some in the ground for your Christmas enjoyment. I have to admit though, after over sowing last year, this year I was probably a little too cautious and we've already polished all our root veg off of this year. However, we do still have kale and cabbage - again started off in Spring and Summer and protected with netting, so these will be joining our potatoes and sprouts on Christmas day.

So enjoy your feasts and happy Christmas!

Water, water everywhere...!

 


So what have people been asking me this month? Well, a key question has been, “Why is my veg not growing?” or words to that effect. Pretty easy to tell why these poor specimens are suffering when I can see from a couple of paces off the poor things aren’t getting any water. Yes, newsflash folks – when it is dry your fruit and veg need watering!

This sounds obvious I know, but do keep an eye on your veg in dry weather. Stick a finger into the ground and see if the roots of your crops are getting any moisture – if not give them a good drink. A good drink when they need it is better than a little sprinkling more often. Of course it has been very wet these last few days so you can probably relax a little depending whereabouts in the country you are!

Fruit and veg in pots need inspecting regularly – pots can dry out very quickly. If you have seeds in the ground you may need to water them every day in dry spells. Don’t forget your fruit and veg also needs feeding – so you can combine the two jobs nicely.

I try and take a little time out in dry spells - time to potter and have a little think as I’m filling up my watering cans from the water butts and watering and nourishing my crops – it can be very therapeutic!

Summer Berries

Last Spring I finally decided to plant some new berry bushes against the brick wall that runs alongside our vegetable beds.

Redcurrants we already have, as they were left here by the last owner. We used to grow blackcurrants, but we decided to take them out as they were getting old and took up too much space. Wild blackberries we have in abundance, they sneak over the fence from the fields beyond. I also seemed to remember that blueberries are fussy about the sort of soil that they have so I discounted them too.
We love raspberries so that was one in the bag. Loganberries remind me of my Dad as he grew a thornless loganberry plant in the garden when I was a child and we loved it's halfway house between blackberry and raspberry, so I chose one of those. I then remembered a post on My Tiny Plot that spoke of fragrant Tayberries, so I thought I would give those a go too.
Last year we had a mere handful of fruit off each plant, but I didn't expect too much of them in their first year. This Spring we made sure that we covered them well with netting to stop the blackbirds stealing the fruits of our labour and we have been blessed with berries aplenty.
We have had bowls of berries with cream and made several fruit fools with them as well as adding them to cakes and puddings.
The Tayberries are the least productive, they have very spiky stalks and the fruits are so soft that they tend to come apart when you pick them. The loganberries are nice, but you must leave them until they are very dark in colour before picking. The raspberries are the best cropping, seem to get least attacked by insects and are so easy to pick and prepare as the husk gets left behind on the plant.
Soon I must get out there and get tying in and pruning to make sure we have a good crop next year.

-- Claire Sutton

So much to do in July!

Now I have been so busy with work over the past few weeks that I have slightly neglected the garden - thankfully we now have some rain in East Anglia so all my veggies have been growing away happily on their own! I have remembered to water the tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse though and am now being rewarded with lots of flowers and the beginnings of fruit.


The Tenderstem Broccoli is also coming along well, although I have had to cover it with mesh netting to stop the slugs and cabbage butterflies and I have already started to harvest small carrots and my fabulous new potatoes, grown in bags this year. One of the reasons for “growing you own” is because the vegetables taste so much better and this is particularly true of these two crops - there is nothing better than digging up your spuds, cooking them straight away and then covering them in butter and a spring of mint before serving! The carrots are so tasty they don’t even make it as far as the pot.

Salads are also a great idea at this time of year and if you choose the cut and come again varieties you can have salad leaves on tap whenever you require them. Once other crops have been harvested, salads can easily be sown in the space as they germinate quickly in these sunny/showery conditions and grow quickly - some take as little as three weeks before you can start to eat them.

I always grow sweetcorn - again because it is far superior to that which you can buy in the supermarket and this year is no exception -my plants are coming along and will hopefully be ready next month. The same goes for my runner beans - a ‘dead cert’ with my two boys who will eat their own body weight in beans! Have to wait for next month before harvesting though, but it’s nice to know that things are growing and nearly ready to eat.

 


Now is a great time to enjoy the garden as well as work in it, so make sure that you put down your hoe and take some time to relax and enjoy all the hard work you put in months ago by sitting out (when the sunshine prevails) with a cuppa or glass of wine!

-- Jane Dubinski

French Beans

I have been growing dwarf- or French- beans for 2 to 3 years now and can honestly say they are probably the easiest vegetable plant I have ever grown. They are such a versatile plant that can be grown in many situations and are also a great smaller alternative to the old favourite, runner beans, if you have limited space.

This year I am starting my beans off in seed trays. I did try planting my beans in cardboard toilet rolls last year but must admit that I did not honestly see any massive improvements in growth or crop compared to those planted in normal pots or trays. I planted my dwarf beans in the second week of May, but you can plant them as early as March if they are kept indoors away from frosts to germinate. When planting beans as seeds, make sure you use a good compost and only plant the seed just below the surface of the soil. Keep them somewhere warm and light and give them a good spray with a mister so as not to disturb the soil or seeds. They will start to germinate after a week or so.

I always let my dwarf beans get to a good 2-3 cm high before considering planting them out. This gives them a good head start against slugs and other pests. Last year I planted my beans in the ground and planted a few in large pots. The beans that I planted in pots last year definitely needed more care and attention. They dried out a lot quicker and required a lot more watering. This year I am going to give the pots a second chance but also incorporate some beans into my flower garden too. Most bean varieties will need some support to grow up. This can be provided by a few garden canes or a wicker wigwam. One bit of advice I would give is to always make your climbing structure larger than the size says on the seed packet. I always find that mine go a little further!

Beans should be ready to harvest from late June right through to late September. Don’t be afraid to pinch the small pods as they come, they’re delicious just boiled until tender but not soggy!

You don’t need a dedicated vegetable patch or allotment to grow a lot of the foods we would normally buy from the supermarket. Two or three wigwams of beans planted within your bedding plants or shrubbery will fair just as well as those planted in a vegetable patch. And picking the right companion plants such as Tagetes and Marigolds can also deter pests improving your crop. Planting a few beans for yourself is also a great way to help reduce your carbon footprint. Most of the beans bought in supermarkets have flown from places as far away as Africa!

-- Tom Williams

Growing Potatoes

I've never grown a vegetable before, the closest I've got was sprouting a bean on kitchen towel at primary school. Since then I have had an amazing knack of killing every plant I've owned since and it has been joked that I shouldn't even be allowed to look at them.

This year though, my luck seems to be changing. My sugarsnap peas are blooming now and the tuber potatoes I planted about a month ago are needing more soil!

I chose to put 5 tubers in a sack 1/3 full of compost rather than straight in the ground to maximise my crop. I had "chitted" these for a few weeks in a dark cool place a couple of weeks before, but it is not an essential step.


After lots of water, and a bit of waiting, this weekend I added more soil. The stems had reached 15cm so covered 2/3rds of the plants with more compost. By the next time they reach 15cm I will be able to fill the bag completely. Adding soil encourages the plant to keep growing, and your roots will be much longer underground than if the bag was filled completely straight away. Longer roots means more potatoes, so I am looking forward to a bumper crop come harvest time!

 
-- Kerry Wilkinson