Monday
Aug222011

On the Allotment

Just like April is the month to start sowing your vegetable seeds, August is the month where you harvest your bumper crops. The sheer amount of yields you can harvest this month is unlike anything else. Beetroot, peppers, radish, lettuce, peas, French beans, sweetcorn and so much more will be ready for lifting.

Last month I had a slight set back; my lettuces bolted. However, I did sow some more and in a few weeks I should hopefully have a fantastic crop to feed my family with. You can sow lettuce seeds in August through to October, but I prefer to plant them during this time of year as it reduces the risks involved. However, if you do want to sow seeds later on it is best to have them protected by a cloche, polytunnel or greenhouse – it’s also best to choose a hardier variety of lettuce, such as the Lettuce Arctic King.

I have been busy organising my allotment too. It hasn’t just been all fun and games sowing and harvesting. I have been in desperate need of a new on-site shed and luckily for me Notcutts have just launched their 20% off all sheds deal. Thankfully now I will be able to organise all my tools and seeds.

One crop my children are very persistent in being kept up to date with are our pumpkins. Last year, it wasn’t my greatest moment as to my children’s disappointment I forgot to grow the king of autumn vegetables. Instead for our Halloween party we had to resort to the supermarket to stock up.

If you’re just as keen to know how they’re doing, you’ll be pleased to find out they’re on the road to becoming a healthy sized crop. Early last month they were planted outside. With squashes (the pumpkin’s family) I have learnt from trial and error that the key to a bumper crop is the soil. You can grow pumpkins in virtually any soil type, but it needs to be fertile. Alternatively you can dig a 30cm deep hole and back fill with either some well-rotten manure or garden compost. Then heap a half mix of soil and compost into the hole and form a mound on top. The pumpkin can now be planted (deep enough to support the stem) into the hole made in the top of the heap.

I will keep you up to date with my pumpkin process. Hopefully when it comes to 31st October I will have some prize worthy pumpkins to gloat about.

Mr McGregor 

Saturday
Aug202011

How to grow spring cabbages

It’s an excellent idea to begin sowing your spring cabbages now as it will ensure your allotment is always bursting with colour, even during the spring when we are pre-occupied with sowing, rather than harvesting. Cabbages love sunny or partly sunny spots, which makes late summer to early autumn the perfect time to start growing.

Before planting your spring cabbages you need to prepare your soil a week or so before. It needs to be dug over with the addition of well rotted manure incorporated into it. This needs to be done before a previous crop as you want your soil to be fertile, but not too rich; crops can produce weak leaves that can easily be damaged by the winter weather if the soil is too rich.

However, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it’s always best to begin growing inside in pots, seed trays or cell trays. However, if you’re growing in a seed bed, the soil needs to be well dug and raked until the surface is crumbly. Sow your seeds 23cm apart, 1cm deep.

Growing On

1.    Once your seedlings begin to germinate, start thinning out. Continue to thin as your crops grow to allow more space for each plant.
2.    Plants can be transplanted into their final growing positions once they’re roughly 10-13cm high. When doing this ensure there is plenty of soil attached to the roots. Plant your spring cabbages 30-40cm apart and firm the soil around them.
3.    Protect your crops with a polytunnel or cloche when the weather turns, you don’t want the frost to damage your young plants.
4.    Once this is all done, you should be able to harvest your crops from March to June.
Spring Cabbages are wonderful vegetables to have either in the garden or on the allotment as they ensure you will be harvesting all year round.

Notcutts

Thursday
Aug182011

Gardening Jobs to do

With the first flush of summer over and autumn yet to make itself known, the garden can often look exhausted. So use your resources and with these guidelines, bring the garden and vegetable patch back to life.

Trimming and Cuttings

•    Take cuttings from any shrubby herbs
•    When your lavender has finished flowering cut it back
•    Take cuttings from any tender perennials, fuchsias, argyranthemums, salvias, pelargoums and vebrenas

Roses

•    Remove rose suckers
•    Take cuttings from healthy stems
•    Stop feeding and tie back any new shots (climbing roses)
•    Remove any faded flowers

Other gardening jobs

•    Prune wisteria and laurel hedges
•    Prepare for the late summer rush by diligently watering and de-heading
•    Damp down the paths of glasshouses
•    Move pot plants to the shade
•    Order bulbs

Allotment

•    Sow lettuce, spring onion, radish (including winter varieties), spring cabbage, carrots, kohl rabi and turnips.
•    Harvest peas, potatoes, radish, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, celery and salad leaves.
•    Order and sow autumn onions
•    If you’re going on holiday, pick everything in sight before you leave
•    Water your beans well to help assist in pollination

It looks to be a busy month,

Notcutts


Monday
Aug152011

Interesting Article | Joe Maiden's Potatoes

I’m a big fan of the Kitchen Garden magazine; I always have it firmly placed on the side table in the lounge ready for me to read it with a good afternoon brew. It’s full of great tips and ideas; some of which I would never have thought of myself. So when I turned the page to ‘Tried and tasted ... potatoes’ I was interested to find out what expert advice would be offered and what varieties would be recommended. ‘Blue Belle’ spuds have always provided my family with good all-rounder yields, but I wanted to find out what else is worth growing on the allotment.

In the article Joe Maiden, a BBC Radio Leeds presenter took on Kitchen Garden’s challenge to see how some favourite potato varieties performed on his allotment. To begin with Joe chose some old and new varieties from earlies (Red Duke of York), second earlies (Nadine), maincrops (Blue Belle) and salads (Anya and Pink Fir Apple). He selected an area of the land that had never before grown potatoes and dug the area in November while adding in some well-rotted farmyard manure. There were some large clods in the soil, but as the winter weather would naturally break them down, Joe simply let nature take its course.

The potato sets were well chitted and the tubes were planted 35cm apart in rows 60 cm apart.

Tip: During the course of winter have a cloche, fleece or upturned bucket ready to cover the plants in case of light frosts.

The Results

Red Duke of York (early variety) – These were lifted after 12 weeks and averaged 12 tubers per plant. The Red Duke of York provided lots of small potatoes, appeared to have very little slug damage and were easily lifted as they were close to the parent plant. However, the plant formed many seed pods, which should be removed as they’re poisonous if eaten.

These are a good variety to grow as many flowers are also formed, which set seeds very quickly.

Nadine (second early variety) – these yields were lifted after 16 weeks and provided 20 tubers per plant. There was little slug damage on the spuds, there weren’t any signs of blight and they were easily lifted when placed close to the parent plant.

Joe Maiden’s notes: “A heavy cropper that stored well. Excellent show bench type in the class for white potatoes.”

Anya (salad variety) – Joe found that this variety gave excellent yields; 40-50 tubers were formed on each per plant. However, many were small in size and they did suffer from blight, but slug damage didn’t seem to be a problem.

Excellent crops for storing.

Pink Fir Apple (late maincrop, often used as a salad potato) – these red-skinned plants produced 30-40 tubers per plant. However, they did suffer from blight and there was visible slug damage. The disadvantages of growing this variety didn’t stop either; Joe found that the tubers were spread out in the soil and so were harder to find than most.

Joe Maiden’s notes: “Whenever this variety is displayed on our stand at shows it stops people in their tracks as they want to know what it is and how to prepare it.”

Blue Belle (late maincrop) – In appearance the ‘Blue Belle’ variety produces tubers that look familiarly like ‘Kestrel’, which is one of the reasons why Joe wanted to grow it in his trial. ‘Blue Belle’ produced 15 tubers per plant, but they weren’t as even as the tubers produced by the ‘Kestrel’ variety. It gets worse, there was no sign of any slug damage, but in August the dreaded blight hit.

Joe Maiden’s notes: “Since tuber size was variable it made them harder to match for the show bench. On my soil ‘Kestrel’ was better.

Purely on flavour, Joe and his family concluded that the ‘Nadine’ variety he grew provided the best taste, with the ‘Amorosa’ variety failing to impress.

Mr McGregor

Joe Maiden’s article can be found in the July issue of the Kitchen Garden magazine


Friday
Aug122011

How to grow your own without a garden

When we talk about “grow your own” it’s all too easy to assume there is a garden or allotment available. However, with the trend of being self-sufficient becoming increasingly popular, here at Notcutts we are being asked how people without an open area can still grow their own vegetables. Without an outdoor space the number and choice of crops you can grow is limited, but certainly it’s still possible to achieve bumper crops of healthy food.

Balcony

Some flats are lucky enough to have an outdoor space in the form of a balcony, which gives you the ideal spot to grow a few fruit and veg. Growing in containers can give just as good a result as growing veg in a raised bed or greenhouse. The only trick to know is when your crops need to be planted out into bigger containers. There are many crops you can grow on the balcony, even if it’s totally shaded. Here is a guide to what crops to look for:

•    If you have three to six hours sunlight a day, choose crops that prefer partial sun or partial shade.
•    If you receive a continuous stream of light through the branches of trees or something similar you’re looking for plants that like dappled or filtered light.
•    However, if you have less than three hours of sunlight a day, you need to look for crops that love to be kept in full shade.

Top Tip: It isn’t just in containers where you will be able to achieve a bumper crop; hanging baskets are also a great alternative.

The windowsill

No matter where you live, you don’t just have the option of growing a herb garden or strawberries on a windowsill, there are plenty of veg and tropical fruits you can grow too. Tucked into containers you can also enjoy growing the likes of figs and mini-pineapples. When growing such fruits as well as herbs and veg, all the cardinal container growing rules apply; good soil and regular watering and feeding are essential. However, many of these crops do need to be kept in full sun.

Here are some of the foods you could be growing on your windowsill at home:

•    Tomatoes
•    Herbs
•    Mixed greens
•    Taro
•    Celery
•    Radishes
•    Watercress
•    Carrots
•    Peppers
•    Lettuce
•    Spinach

Top Tip: If your windowsill doesn’t provide enough light for some of your crops, such as peppers and tomatoes, use fluorescent, HID or LED grow lights.

Notcutts