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Blog posts tagged with 'vegetables'

August - an interesting time in the garden

As the weather changes to Autumnal westerly storms, August is an interesting time in the garden. The Swifts departed at the end of July and many of the Martins and Swallows with them for some reason. What that says about our coming season I know not. If you have a problem with you lawns now is the time to start thinking of how to rectify them. For example, I am about to treat a client's lawn with an Autumn feed and moss killer so that it is ready for scarifying in September. This may sound odd, but one must remember grass is a fickle plant. It cannot be grown too long (otherwise it clumps). By the same token neither can it be cut too short (it gets stressed, dies back and allows moss to take over). It doesn't like shallow roots, nor wet roots and it doesn't like too much wear from footfall. Who'd have a lawn? It is a little known fact that the National Trust replaces vast swathes of turf in the autumn and winter, leaving the impression that somehow they have the magical touch. A green and flat lawn may be every Englishman's idea of perfection, but, truth be told, to get one right deserves a medal or a perhaps a padded cell - I am never sure which.

In the flower garden as plants finish flowering try to deadhead them to extend the flowering season. Some roses especially respond well if they think that all their efforts at propagation have gone to waste. If the plant is a shrub, prune the whole plant back into shape once the flowers are spent. Then feed everything well with a good mixture of blood fish and bone - the poor things must be exhausted after all the exertions attracting the bees!

August is also the month when you get the winter veg in.  Cabbages, Brussels Sprouts, Turnip Greens and Collards are all high on the list of plants that will provide early leaf for next Spring. Remember that these plants like a good firm soil to live in - they hate to be rocked by hard winds. Also add a dressing of garden lime to the soil as you plant, to deter root problems. I have also been naughty and planted onions at this time of year too. If I am honest, the harvest was a little earlier than normal, but nothing truly remarkable despite what the books say. 

Spring has sprung

April is an interesting month. It is the real divider in the year between the warm South of the UK and the still cold Northern counties. You may not be aware but April 14th is First Cuckoo Day - the traditional first day of Summer in West Sussex. I am sure there are those in Scotland or Northumbria who would think this mad and will certainly not be celebrating, but there you go. You can’t homogenise the seasons to suit all. That said, the swallows have arrived back so it can’t be too bad!

Here in the South we have enjoyed warm days and clear nights but at 5am you may still notice the ever so delicate kiss of Jack Frost on the car window or on the grass. If you are unsure what this means to the garden, it represents a couple of things. The older generation will be busy putting down a ‘Spring’ mulch about now, because that is what they have always done. Don’t copy them. Break the cycle of mismanagement and learn the science. If you mulch now you are creating a layer of insulation – so effectively you are creating a refrigerated bed which will take longer to warm up. My tip is to put your elbow on the soil and if it feels warm (just like you would  a baby’s bath water), mulch. If not, leave it. Wait until the soil feels warm, water it, then add a mulch. Your plants will love you more and so will the worms.

The cool night-time temps also mean that the delicate plants should not yet be put outside to ‘harden off’. Some tender plants such as the orchid Cymbidium may need a cool night or two to help propel it into flowering, but if there is any sign of a heavy frost repair them back the glasshouse quick smart! If you are looking at planting out your French beans hold off for a just a few more weeks. Whilst talking of veg, don’t forget, successional planting will create a succession of vegetables throughout the year. For example Broad beans planted now, again in a month and then again in June will give you crops up until September if you are canny.

As an update to my exploits with the Town and Country Charnwood Boots, they are still going strong and still excellent. I have worn them at work on most days for the past 5 months and they really are excellent. Still waterproof. Still warm. Still doing the job they were designed for! I can honestly say, I am very pleased with them and will be ordering another pair.

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

Seeds Seeds Seeds!


I've been asked this month about growing. Growing veg from seed is a fantastic experience - there is nothing like seeing your tiny seeds grow into seedlings within a matter of days in some cases. Last month I wrote about starting off your seeds in propagators which is a great way to start your seedlings off, and the only effective method for some seeds that require a constant temperature for germination.

The key is to do your research - read seed packets, maybe some online research - I have a couple of trusty veg growing books I use just to check a few things here and there. The research is all part of the fun and a little plan of what you're going to grow where, and crucially, when things need to be started off, moved into your growing space and when they'll vacate the space to be used for something else can really help things along.

You'll need to think about crop rotation - not growing the same family of vegetables on the same plot in consecutive growing seasons, too and here again a little research and planning can really help.

So why not invest in a little notepad and pencil, and maybe a simple veg growing book alongside your seed packets, trowel and gloves and get growing!

Get the propagators out!
 


People this month have been asking me what I'll be growing this year and when I'll be starting. Well the short answer to that is that I'll be growing pretty much a little of everything as per other years and that I'm starting now! True it might be wet and cold outside - but that's where propagators come into their own.

Essentially trays with plastic lids featuring handy vents, I have about a dozen propagators I use to get seeds started off indoors. Placed on windowsills and in light spaces in the house they're ideal to raise seedlings until the weather gets a little better and the soil outside has warmed up.

They key thing to remember is that all seedlings raised this way will need gradually hardening off. Which means once they've had a few weeks (depending on the seed growing time of the particular crop) or so in the propagator with the lid on, then take the lid off. After that I have another stage for my seedlings - putting them in the outdoor coldframes - sealed up first and then opening the doors. Only after all of those transitions does the seedling make it into the soil outdoors! It's important to check the seed packets and reference books especially when it comes to frost hardiness or otherwise.

And it's fun! Sowing indoors means you get a little feeling of the veg growing delights to come as Spring arrives!

Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew


I really should take notice of this piece of advice myself, rather than making plans to grow enough food to feed a small country. But every January/February brings the sound of seed catalogues dropping on the mat and me grabbing them with excitement, drooling over all the pictures of beautiful healthy vegetables that I obviously need to grow!

So I plan all my raised beds (I have six of them, so am very lucky), making sure that I follow the principle of rotating them so that I don’t grow the same thing in the same one each year. I then place my seed order and look forward to the moment they arrive, hoping the weather improves and I can get into the greenhouse and plant them all!

And that’s where it all goes a bit wrong. It is all down to time, you see, or rather lack of it. I am sure that my plans would all come to fruition if I were able to spend every waking moment in my garden, tending the seedlings, planting out and nurturing them but unfortunately I don’t have every waking moment to spend in the garden due to work commitments, children, dog, chickens, etc....

So I come back to my piece of advice and the title of this blog - don’t bite off more than you can chew. This year I am planning to utilise only a couple of the raised beds and nurture these rather than failing miserably by doing too much. Let’s face it, you don’t need 10 courgette plants or 15 tomato plants and if you feel the need to plant lots of seeds so that you can pick the best ones to plant out, then sell the extra ones outside your house or give them away to friends and relatives.

This way you can make sure everything grows healthily and you will not have to try and keep up with the harvesting - usually of one type of vegetable at a time. So choose wisely and enjoy each crop as it comes along without getting stressed!

-- Jane Dubinski

Plan your vegetable plot
 

Whilst it certainly doesn’t feel like it is January, I typically use this month to plan out this year's vegetable plot. Reflecting on last years growing season will help you to decide what worked and what didn’t.

Decide what you would like to grow this year. Are there certain vegetables that your family use often in cooking? Would you like to try something new or unusual like purple carrots? You could even think as far ahead as to what vegetables you’d like to grow to make homemade chutney as gifts next Christmas!

Reputable online seed companies usually have some great deals during January and February so it’s worth ordering them sooner rather than later. Asking family and friends if they would like to split the cost for half the seeds is a great way to keep prices down!

I also use this month to plan where I am going to plant each vegetable. I had a glut of green tomatoes last year so they could really do with being in a sunnier spot. Rotating your crops from last year will help soil fertility and will also help to control insects and pests.

-- Gemma Dray

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!

Brrrrrassicas!

This month I'm being asked what on earth can still be growing in my garden as the weather gets colder. Well, actually, truth be told is that even though I'm going to tell you about brassicas, the weather has been so unseasonably mild that I've still got all sorts on the go that was unthinkable this time last year - when we were already covered in, dare I say it, snow!



Brassicas - your broccolis, kales, cauliflowers, sprouts, cabbages etc are just brilliant! Brassicas need a bit of a head start, I usually sow mine into separate modules or small pots, and transplant them into their final growing positions when they have a couple of true leaves. They need firming in well - and here's the thing - I cover all mine with netting. If you'd like to actually eat your greens as oppose to have them devoured on your behalf by caterpillars, I strongly suggest you cover them from first off with netting so butterflies can't get at them!

So the joy at this time of year is twofold - firstly you can remove the nets as the butterfly threat is over and secondly and more importantly - you can start eating the fruits of your labour whilst still being able to munch your way through these hardy veggies all through winter if you plan your planting well! Brilliant brassicas!

Winter - the veg beds go on!
 


I've been asked this month what happens to all the veg beds and pots and troughs over winter - and the answer is they continue getting good use! I keep growing veg all year and use basic crop rotation in the beds and pots - ensuring you don't grow the same types of crops in the same space for more than one season.

Great veg for overwintering include all sorts of brassicas - cabbages, caulis, broccoli, kale, sprouts etc and also leeks, Japanese onions, some winter lettuce varieties - to name but a few!

 



If you do have any empty spaces you can grow green manures which revitalise the soil. As I add manures and fresh compost to every area I grow veg in the spring anyway and have little unused space, instead I plant winter friendly flowers in any gaps to perk up the growing area. Winter pansies are a special favourite for this sort of strategy as they're inexpensive and flower over and over even through the harshest weather if you take care to dehead regularly.

This is also a good time to note what you've had growing where and what will remain in situ until what point in the year - as this will be important for planning your veg strategy for the following growing season - more on that in a future blog post!