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Crops in pots

y z a r C for carrots

SEEDS

Ideas for easy-to-grow patio produce

Enjoy YEAR-ROUND roots with our growing guide

Don’t waste it, FREEZE it!

• Raspberries • Growing kale • Courgette tips

JUNE 2011

Frosty reception

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GET IT RIGHT i iin succession ✦S Sowing ✦ Composting ✦ Watering effectively ✦ Liquid fertilising


Editor's welcome

www.kelsey.co.uk Published by: Kelsey Publishing Group, Cudham Tithe Barn, Berry’s Hill, Cudham, Kent TN16 3AG Telephone: 01959 541444 Editorial team Gi.ed@kelsey.co.uk www.growitmag.com Editor Benedict Vanheems Sub editor Martin Oldaker Designer Kate Holt www.atgraphicsuk.com Publisher Stephen Curtis Friends and contributors Rebecca Wells, Caroline Mills, Anne Swithinbank, Martyn Cox, Paul Wagland, Steve Bradley, Charles Dowding, Ann Somerset Miles, John Harrison, Val Harrison, Jeannine McAndrew, Terry Beebe, Lucy Halliday, Dave Hamilton, Mike Woolnough, Andy Cawthray, Victoria Poolman, Andrew Haynes Advertising Advertisement Manager Simone Daws Telephone 01733 353386 Email gi.adsales@kelsey.co.uk Advertisement Director David Lerpiniere Telephone 01959 543507 Email gi.adsales@kelsey.co.uk Production Manager Natasha Austin Telephone 01733 353386 Email natasha.austin@kelseypb.co.uk Subscriptions Save money by taking out a subscription to Grow it! See offer on page 84. Distribution Problems getting your magazine in the shops? Please contact our distributors, Marketforce, on 0203 1483333, or better still, SUBSCRIBE, you know it makes sense! If you would like to sell Grow it! magazine, or help distribute it in your local area, please call Jerry on 01869 325845 Printing William Gibbons & Sons Limited Willenhall, West Midlands. Kelsey Publishing Group Gold Winner, Printing and Publishing, National Green Apple Awards 2006 for Environmental Best Practice by Commerce and Industry.

S

ummertime and the living is easy – or it would be were it not for the constant rounds of watering, weeding and tending of our precious crops. Yet there’s something wonderfully recharging about pottering about in the fruit and veg patch while attending to its needs. Ten minutes in the kitchen garden is as good as any therapy session, with stresses and strains rapidly ebbing away. For many of us the daily visit is a chance to escape; there’s no better place to be than lost in one’s own slice of horticultural heaven. June is a real turning point in the gardener’s calendar. Summer is here and the day length we have to work with has reached its climax. Long, calm evenings often see the keenest (or perhaps just the busiest!) growers outside at 10pm, savouring the final scraps of daylight among

Ten minutes in the kitchen garden is as good as any therapy session the plants. It’s also a time of plenty, when the sowings of earlier months are bearing fruit and abundant crops such as runner beans are finally gearing into action. The trouble is that any abundance is only a pick or a pluck away from a glut. No matter how diligently I plan there’s always something that comes all at once. It’s a joy to have a rush of some crops – last year’s beetroot haul, for example, was delicious roasted (with sea salt and oregano) and served up with just about every meal. Other produce is less easy to tolerate. Take the courgette: it is a versatile fruit but coming up with constantly new ideas to make the most of this rambunctious fellow

In this issue...

tests the creativity of the most ingenious cook. After steaming, frying and chopping it into just about anything, I suppose there’s always the fritter path to go down, plus they’ve been known to make an appearance in cakes. But sometimes enough is enough! We’ll always be faced with gluts, but we can at least try to avoid that helpless feeling of being overwhelmed. Dave Hamilton touches on this in his article on successional sowing on page 85. It’s a technique worth getting to grips with to ensure a constant supply of favourites. By working out what we want in advance, how often we’ll eat it, then working back from the date of harvest we can sow just what’s required as and when it’s needed. Dave explains how to sow in succession like this and how we can plan for season-long salads, carrots and peas. Of course, no amount of planning will coax climbing beans and other prolific croppers to mature in an orderly fashion. For these there’s always the freezer – a piece of equipment that’s transformed the prospects of those working towards selfsufficiency. Almost any crop can be frozen after processing, but getting this right makes the difference between a slushy mush on defrosting and tasty, nutrient-laden delights. John and Val Harrison will help you put your harvests on ice from page 57. So let’s make the most of what we’re growing this summer and celebrate the wonder that is grow-it-yourself.

Benedict Vanheems, Editor

Grow it! magazine is printed on environmentally accredited paper which is sourced from forests managed in keeping with environmental, economic and social sustainability standards. The paper is bleached without the use of any chlorine chemicals.

Copyright Kelsey Publishing Group 2011

Caroline Mills Saving our seeds, p16

Martyn Cox Victoria Poolman Andrew Haynes Vertical gardening, p29 Gauging the rain, p88 Slug sapping, p98

Grow it! June 2011

3


Contents June 2011 REGULARS 6 WHAT’S NEW

All the latest from the world of kitchen gardening, including news on why us Brits are more green-fingered than ever

8 READER OFFER

On the

Get hold of your free copy of Joy COVER Larkcom’s iconic book Grow Your Own Vegetables and take advantage off offers offe on two incredible plant health supplements

10 YOUR SAY

Share your top tips, growing successes and horticultural conundrums through our readers’ letters page

12 GROWER’S DIARY

A return to the allotment plot after a week away is a nervous moment for Rebecca Wells. Find out how her young crops fared

20 ASK ANNE

40 48

52

Trouble on your plot? Put your horticultural queries to Gardeners’ Question Time’s Anne Swithinbank. This month she’s advising on potato black leg, holiday watering solutions, growing cauliflowers and follow-on crops

28 COMPETITION

We've teamed up with Polanter to bring you the chance to win one of 12 fantastic vertical planters

39 READER OFFER

Summer pests plaguing your crops? Get them covered with our fantastic offers on insect mesh, bird netting and fleece

91

46 YOUR PLOT 2011

Don’t delay – enter our Your Plot competition and your kitchen garden, no matter how big or small, could be featured in the magazine!

84 SUBSCRIBE!

Subscribe to Grow it! and never miss an issue of your favourite magazine

88 YOUNG GROWER

How much rain does your garden receive? Find out with Victoria Poolman’s home-made rain gauge project

94 IN THE KITCHEN

We’ve two tempting dessert ideas to help you make the most of early summer berries, plus a mouth-watering pea risotto recipe

98 NOTES FROM THE

POTTING SHED

Slugs are the gardener’s most persistent pest. Andrew Haynes considers these slimy molluscs and what can be done about them

4

June 2011 Grow it!

FEATURES

52 KING KALE

16 SAVE OUR SEEDS

The Heritage Seed Library carries out invaluable work preserving vegetable varieties for future generations. Caroline Mills went along to find out how they do it

40 WATER RIGHT

On the

COVER

Never suffer a harvest-less winter On the again. Benedict Vanheems shows COVER how to grow a fine crop of kale to keep you in healthy leaves during the e coldest months

57 FROSTY RECEPTION

On th

Don’t waste water – or your time. Water correctly and your plants will thrive in even the hottest of summers. Charles Dowding goes back to basics

e Freeze your summer gluts and COVER spread the enjoyment of homegrown goodies. John and Val Harrison on explain how to put your pickings on ice

44 SUPERMARKET SWEEP

62 EGGS GALORE!

Create a beautiful salad garden for less than £5 using commonly available supermarket plants

48 POTS OF PLEASURE

Ann Somerset Miles discusses the options for growing herbs in containers

Knowing what makes your chickens happy and healthy will ultimately boost your ur take of eggs, as Terry Beebe reveals

On the

66 ADD SOME CRUNCH COVER Carrots are a staple root vegetable.


The Practical team June

14 PAGES

OF SEASONAL ADVICE, TOP TIPS AND EXPERT KNOW-HOW

Every issue our team of regular experts reveals the main jobs for the month along with bags of ideas

On the

COVER

The fruit grower p25

The city grower p29

Raspberries are a delicious, aromatic fruit that will keep going well into autumn. Benedict Vanheems tells us how to grow them

Run out of space? Then start expanding your garden upwards. Martyn Cox explores the phenomenon of vertical growing

On the

COVER

66

The organic allotmenteer p33

Brew up your own liquid feed – Paul Wagland weaves his magic down on the allotment. Plus it’s not too late to start courgettes

Lucy Halliday reviews how to grow this versatile crop – and how to avoid the dreaded carrot root fly

70 PRACTICAL PROJECT

Recycle an old read into a fine crop of oyster mushrooms. Andy Cawthray shows how in his fascinating step-by-step

79 TOOLS OF THE TRADE

Explore some of the not-so-common tools lurking towards the back of the shed. ed. Mike Woolnough looks at what’s available le

The under cover grower p36 Steve Bradley explains how to keep greenhouse crops cool this summer and how to prevent an infestation of insect pests

On the

COVER

82 AN EXOTIC MEDLEY

Forget apples, pears and plums – get stuck into some exotic alternatives

72 POTS OF DISTINCTION ON On the 85 STEADY DOES IT More of us are growing crops in COVER

pots to save space and maximise productivity. Lucy Halliday offers some ome tips for those with a potted plot

Successional sowing is a powerful technique to keep crops coming. Dave Hamilton offers some suggestions of what to grow this wayy

76 ORGANIC CRUMBLE

91 WASTE NOT, WANT NOT

Looking to start a compost heap? Then you’ll love our back-to-basics guide to making your own nutrient-rich, friable compost

On the

COVER How much of your harvest do you waste without realising it? Jeannine McAndrew investigates some less-than-obvious uses to o make crops go further

SUBSCRIBE AND SAVE! Don't miss an issue of your favourite magazine! Turn to page 84 now Grow it! June 2011

5


NEWS

Send your news stories to gi.ed@kelsey.co.uk

Right: David Blair from Trees for Cities, and Afric Crossan from Forests Schools Birmingham, plant trees with children at Witton Lakes Park

Alan with children at the opening of the new Peter Buckley Learning Centre

Fruitful afternoon

Survey surprises A nationwide survey by the Royal Horticultural Society to understand under 16’s knowledge of plants has found that two thirds of children think pumpkins grow on trees or in the ground, over half don’t know how broccoli grows and almost 80% can’t identify foxgloves. Results also showed 29% believe cucumbers grow in the ground and even more are unable to identify common garden flowers. Speaking about the results Alan Titchmarsh, RHS vice president, says: “Some of the survey results were really positive, with around 90% of children knowing where onions, strawberries, potatoes and bananas grow and almost 100% recognising a rose, but the results also show that more work needs to be

done to help children discover and learn about plants. Initiatives like the RHS Learning Centres at its gardens and its Campaign for School Gardening are important to make sure the younger generation doesn’t miss out on the health, fun and educational benefits gardening brings.” The RHS has just opened a new learning centre at its Rosemoor Garden in Devon. The centre is named in memory of the late RHS president Peter Buckley and includes two large classrooms, a teaching terrace garden, raised vegetable beds, a sensory garden and dipping ponds. The centre should allow the garden to attract up to 7,000 children from across the region to learn and garden.

Melon marvels

Residents of Stockland Green, Birmingham have spent an afternoon turning an area of their local park into a new community orchard. The site – a walled compound on the edge of Witton Lakes Park – was chosen as the winner of a national competition by toilet tissue brand Velvet as part of their Campaign for Trees. The site has been transformed with the addition of 28 fruit trees made up of apple, plum, cherry, green gage, damson, crab apple and medlar, as well as perry pears, which have left their mark on local place names like Perry Common and Perry Barr. Strawberries, raspberries and shrubs were also planted. The Campaign for Trees invited people to vote for the area they felt could benefit most from more trees. Birmingham received the most votes with Velvet donating a total of £20,000 to the charity Trees for Cities to fund the greening.

Watermelons are more often associated with the plantations of the deep south of America but seed supplier DT Brown is now offering plants of a new variety which should fruit well here too. ‘Red Star F1’ has the traditional dark green skin and scarlet flesh of watermelons and has proved itself a reliable outdoor cropper at the company’s trial grounds. ‘Red Star F1’ is capable of producing three large watermelons per plant from July to early autumn. For best results the company recommends planting through a sheet of black polythene, which helps to absorb warmth. It can also be grown in a polytunnel or large greenhouse. The flowers may need to be hand-pollinated for best results. Five plants cost £5.95, plus postage and packing. DT Brown is also offering a trial-size packet of the watermelon’s seeds for £1.99. Call 0845 3710532 or visit www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk for more details. 6

June 2011 Grow it!


GIY revolution picks up pace A survey commissioned by BBC Magazines and conducted in April found a record number of Brits planning to grow fruit and veg this year, with enjoyment, better flavour and health the main motivators. The survey of nearly 3,000 discovered that almost 60% of us were planning to get planting, with potatoes the most popular vegetable and tomatoes the most popular fruit, followed by courgettes and runner beans. The survey shows the numbers practising GIY (grow it yourself) rising, up four per cent year on year. It also seems that growing food is seen as a way to ‘grow yourself wealthy’ with 40% taking to the garden to save money. Lack of a large outdoor space is no barrier for urban Britons as 55% of us are now growing in pots and containers, while 12% improvise by using a windowsill.

Top crops for 2011 VEGETABLES 1 Potatoes 2 Courgettes 3 Runner beans 4 Carrots 5 French beans

(65%) (59%) (58%) (57%) (55%)

FRUIT 1 Tomatoes 2 Apples 3 Strawberries 4 Rhubarb =5 Raspberries =5 Blackberries

(79%) (65%) (62%) (58%) (57%) (57%)

Crouch End’s Food from the Sky garden sits atop a Budgens supermarket, where much of the food is sold

BEHIND THE WALLS

Garden refuges

With hedgerows and meadows in decline and native species under constant threat, what better way of giving nature a helping hand than by providing homes for some of our favourite garden visitors? A new range of wildlife homes from Burgon & Ball offers a practical yet attractive housing solution for many of our natural pest controllers. Developed by celebrated designer Sophie Conran, the range includes bird feeding, bird nesting and insect houses, all made from FSC wood and costing £13.95 (for the bird feeding house) or £14.95. The Sophie Conran for Burgon & Ball Collection is available from garden centres, high street gift shops and online at www.burgonandball.com

Cash in the garden?

Money may not grow on trees but there’s a chance it could be growing in the flower border or vegetable patch. Enterprising gardeners could be hundreds of pounds better off just by looking around their garden, thanks to a scheme from Thompson & Morgan. The seed company is offering a £500 reward to anyone who discovers or creates a new plant that goes on to make it into their range. Every year, Thompson & Morgan introduces new varieties through its breeding programme. But with so many greenfingered customers the company is extending its search and has produced a new leaflet detailing just how to discover or create new plants. The very heavy cropping tomato ‘Sungella’ is just one example of a variety discovered in a back garden; it has gone on to become a best seller. Perhaps there really are riches at the bottom of the garden!

Londoners can take a peek behind the walls of many of the capital’s gardens over Open Garden Squares Weekend, which takes place on 11-12 June. The annual event includes approximately 200 gardens, offering a rare opportunity to gain inspiration from London’s private community gardens and squares. The majority of the gardens are not normally open to the public; rich in variety and often hidden from view they range from the historically memorable to the small and quirky. One weekend ticket allows access to all gardens. First time gardens open over the weekend include a garden on top of a supermarket (pictured), plus a garden with a building with a fizzy bottle roof. There will be plenty of edible gardens on display, including St Quintin Avenue Community Garden in Highgate, a disused tennis court transformed into a community kitchen garden and used by over 100 people; the flower and vegetable walled garden at Winterton House, Whitechapel; the Alara Permaculture Forest Garden in Kings Cross (featured in the January issue); and FARM:shop in Dalston, the world’s first farm in an inner-city shop which aims to see just how much food can be grown in a condensed urban setting. Details of all the new gardens can be found at www.opensquares.org/ newgardens, with tickets costing £7.50 if bought in advance or £10 over the weekend. Order from the ticket hotline on 020 8347 3230 or online at www.capitalgardens.co.uk Grow it! June 2011

7


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Your say Write to us, with a picture if possible, at Grow it!, Kelsey Publishing, Cudham Tithe Barn, Berry’s Hill, Cudham, Kent TN16 3AG. Alternatively email: gi.ed@kelsey.co.uk

This month’s star letter wins a strawberry tub from Two Wests and Elliott.

Drop us a line and share your growing stories, advice, questions and opinions

Gardeners’ plight Here’s a little rhyme to make you smile.

I wear my gloves when gardening, To stop my hands from hardening. But has it yet occurred to you ew? A pack of two is one too few?

STAR LETTER

For whilst the right is thin and torn, rcely worn. The left looks new and scarcely So can’t they sell spare left or right To overcome this gardeners’ plight? C Gasan, Gloucestershire

Editor replies: I know exactlyly

Raise the roof

what you mean. And how manyy gloves have you lost somewhere re on the plot never to be seen again?! gain?!

Char very much I read with interest Andrew Haynes’ piece in the April issue on the use of charcoal (see ‘Notes from the potting shed’, page 98). I’m an allotment holder who has ventured into this area with a friend to set up the Carbon Compost Company. We market a charcoal-based compost for use primarily as a soil improver. Our product consists of 33% charcoal fines obtained from local producers and 67% composted equine manure through which we run a nutrient-rich

10 June 2011 Grow it!

transfer liquid to ensure the charcoal is fully ‘charged’ prior to use. The Mayans appear to have mixed charcoal with animal waste, plant waste, human waste and pottery. If it worked for them it struck us it should work for us, although we’ve left a couple of their ingredients out! It does not seem to matter what size the charcoal is. We use nothing bigger than 4cm (1.5in) or so but the average size varies from producer to producer, and it all works well. Andrew doesn’t mention that adding just charcoal to your garden will cause an initial drop in moisture and nutrient content because, being so hygroscopic, the charcoal will just suck out the water. This is why it’s important to treat charcoal prior to adding it to your garden. Biochar (the correct term for any charcoal intended for adding to soil) will help all soil types. My fellow allotmenteers have proven the product for me with some spectacular results. Our biochar mix results in very healthy growth, excepting tomatoes because of the manure element. The big surprise is that users reported that the broad bean control beds had died after snow sat on them for

The article on green roofs in last month’s issue (see ‘High profile’ pages 89-91) has set me thinking. In my garden I have a chicken run and shed which are suitable candidates for a living roof. To keep things simple I’m planning to sow a lush green sward of grass for the chicken run roof and a cap of sedum for the less accessible shed roof. Many gardeners don’t have the space to offer a dedicated space for wildlife. Green roofs seem like a sensible compromise – imagine if we all grew bee-friendly plants on our shed roofs. It would help to make a small contribution to the stressed bee population. Let’s see more of these types of roofs! F Marvin, North Yorkshire ten days, while the Carbon Compost beds had all survived (as pictured). The same applied to some cabbages on my own plot. We were aware of how biochar, along with the soil life it provides a safe haven for, encourages healthy growth but we didn’t expect it to help plants survive extreme weather. Biochar really does work remarkably well and it offers gardeners a real opportunity to make an even more positive difference to this world of ours. Our website is www.carboncompost.co.uk R Rawle, Essex


Grower's diary

Rapid results

I’m delighted with my sturdy tomato plants Right: Stout asparagus shoots pushing through

12 June 2011 Grow it!

Returning after a week’s absence from the allotment is a nervous moment for Rebecca Wells. But her seedlings have more than coped – in fact they’ve put on tremendous growth

T

hey say a week’s a long time in politics and this is also true in the garden at this time of year. You may remember last month I mentioned that Andrew and I were heading off to Yorkshire to build a garden for (and with) our daughter Kate and her partner Chris. We’d allowed only a week to do this but it was a week taken at a peak time in the greenhouse and cold frame. I quailed to think of the unwatered seedlings if we had a hot spell but comforted myself with the fact I had sown early and, if disaster struck, could always sow again. Nevertheless, it was with my heart in my mouth that I went straight away to the bottom of the garden on our return to Exeter to check. Thankfully all was well with both the younger seedlings in the greenhouse and with those moved outside into the fleece cloche on the raised bed. More than well, in fact, because everything seemed to have doubled in size in a week! While we had been toiling (and I have never laboured so hard for so long in my life) the young plants had been growing sturdy and strong. The garden plants, too, had grown enormously so that now my morning walk to check on the greenhouse, water the seedlings and perhaps open the window and door a little is now a slower one as I linger to admire something I hadn’t noticed the previous day. What a dynamic time of the year – I’m in a fever of excitement and joy!


Racing ahead

On the allotments the scene was the same. I had left the young tomato plants in the greenhouse uncovered by protective fleece because they had grown up to touch it and I felt they would come to more harm if I left it on. Now the ones to be kept under glass are ready to go into their permanent positions. The ones destined for outside may well be potted on again before they too go into their final positions in the beds after any danger of frost has passed. They look much sturdier than those for sale in my local garden centre for all the light they have had. I’m really pleased with them and look forward to another bumper crop. I was also thrilled to see that the first asparagus shoots were pushing through the top layer of compost and manure we added last winter. Expensive to buy, this crop needs a little patience but the three-year wait is worth it. The ‘Bocking 14’ comfrey I have to add to the compost heap and to make a high-potash plant food had grown too and greeted me with a sea of deep-blue flowers when there had been little to

Far left: The sea of blue-flowering comfrey A blaze of riotous colour from the tulips A bike basketful of promise

year’s liquid just in case. The rotted leafy remains are added to the compost heap. Usually comfrey feed is made by adding a bagful of leaves to a barrel of water and using the resulting liquid without diluting it, but this concoction absolutely stinks! I prefer my more convenient and fragrant method. Comfrey is a fantastic plant to grow and gives so much to the gardener and to the bees. However, make sure you get roots of the ‘Bocking 14’ variety rather than the invasive native one.

in Kate and Chris’ new back garden, Andrew made a close wooden trellis which will be planted with an evergreen honeysuckle. In order to have a green screen while the honeysuckle establishes, I suggested they use the trellis to grow climbing plants which will give them pretty flowers but also a crop. The seeds I sowed on my return will be ready to take

Floral feast

show before we went to Yorkshire. I was able to make the first cutting, packing the leaves into a container. I can barely get the lid on to keep the rain out at this stage but the leaves soon rot down and, as they do, exude a black, tarry liquid. I have made a hole in the bottom of the pot so that this liquid can drip into another container beneath it. I store this treacle-like liquid until I need it when I dilute it 1:10 in water to feed my tomatoes, peppers, chillies and aubergines, plus any other fruiting or flowering plants I think could do with it. This year the first cutting will produce food just at the time when the tomatoes will need it, as their first flowers are setting. This felicitous timing doesn’t always happen so I keep some of last

The tulips grown for cutting had opened on our return and I was greeted with a wonderful display of orange and bright pink. The fashionistas among you will know that Prada has decreed neon pink and orange to be ‘of the moment’ colours, and the Milan catwalks were ablaze with these. I may not have the wardrobe of a catwalk model (hardly suitable allotment-wear!) but it felt satisfying to bring home a huge bunch of tulips in this year’s colours. I also pulled some rhubarb, collected the eggs and brought home some spare root-trainers, filling my bike basket to the brim. The root-trainers are already sown with a climbing French bean and a mangetout pea in each cell. In order to screen the wheelie bins and shed, as well as give a sense of enclosure and privacy

up to Yorkshire at the beginning of June when we will celebrate Kate’s birthday by planting up the new garden. Fastgrowing annual climbing plants such as beans and mangetout are useful screens in new gardens and I’ve often used them in this way. I sowed some runner beans as well as some climbing gold and French beans for us. I normally sow runner beans on March 23, the date recommended by Geoff Hamilton, but I find that a later sowing soon catches up. Grow it! June 2011 13

S


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12 COMMON MISTAKES

SEEDS

and how ow tto o avoi avoid id tthem hem

Sweet thing Plant a ch cherry herry tree – it’s easy and delicious! Packed for year end August 2011 Sow by 2013

Seeds supplied by info@demprint.com

Turnip ‘Milan Purple Top’

VERTICAL GROWING Take your crops to new heights

Hands-on advice Growing instructions: When large enough to handle thin seedlings to 10cm (4in) apart. Keep well watered during dry weather. Harvest from May to November. Harvested while young, ‘baby turnips’ can be used raw to make a sweet addition to salads or steamed for a tasty vegetable. Sowing instructions: Turnips prefer a rich, wellmanured soil. Sow thinly from March to August directly outside or into containers, setting seed 1cm (0.5in) deep. Sow regularly for fresh roots throughout spring, summer and autumn. This exceptional turnip forms flatter, globe-shaped roots with purple crowns and white bases. They are ideal eaten as ‘baby turnips’ when the taste is sweet and succulent. The dark green, erect leaves are exceptional when steamed as greens, giving you two crops in one! ‘Milan Purple Top’ is also perfect for growing in containers.

Turnip ‘Milan Purple Top’

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Quick-growing delicious• Lettuces • Feeding crops equipment • Irrigation and Average content: 300 seeds. Origin UK. Seeds supplied by Thompson & Morgan (UK) Ltd. For customer care tel: 01473 688821 or email: www.thompsonmorgan.com Standard seeds – complies with EC rules and standards

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Seasonal tips

20/06/2011 11:35

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Seasonal fayre


Grower's diary While I was in the greenhouse I sowed some sweetcorn and all our squashes and pumpkins. Although Andrew acts as the master of ceremonies at a pumpkin festival later in the year, I know I can’t possibly compete with the monster fruits exhibited there. We grow them to eat and find them delicious through the winter. This year we not only have space on the main allotments but we have also got the pumpkin patch in the centre of the orchard, so I sowed a few more seeds than usual. Our favourites are the onion squash ‘Uchiki Kuri’, but we also like ‘Potimarron’, ‘Marina di Chioggia’, ‘Blue Ballet’, ‘Crown Prince’ and ‘Queensland Blue’. All last well through the winter. I have had less success with butternut

and he doesn’t add any accelerator. Does this mean one less job to do? The potatoes in containers at the bottom of the garden have already sprouted through the first layer of compost and so I topped them up with another layer. At the same time I planted out the salad crops grown in modules and hardening off outside. My rather random moon gardening trial has not yet got underway because I sow everything in modules and the effect of the moon does not apply here. I was fascinated to read of Carol Shaw’s painstaking and completely scientific trial and her interesting and encouraging results (see ‘Logic or lunacy?’ pages 84-87, Spring 2011). I deliberately waited until a ‘leaf day’ to plant out lettuces, mixed salad leaves and spinach, but also put in half of the baby beetroot as well. I shall plant out the rest on the next ‘root day’ a few

All will appreciate the rich fertile, well-rotted manure we have waiting in a pile The potatoes need topping up

squash but am trying again because they are so delicious and am trying ‘Black Futsu’ for the first time. All will appreciate the rich fertile, well-rotted manure we have waiting in a covered pile and it will be good to be able to allow the plants to scramble on the orchard.

days later and compare results. I shall sow my parsnips then as well and hope that these notoriously reluctant-to-germinate vegetables will benefit from the benign heavenly influence. After that, I can see that events may overtake me! Each year I try to grow at least one crop I haven’t tried before. Although we eat a great many onions, I find that they do not grow well on our heavy soil and their keeping properties are

I quite often go to talk to garden clubs and horticultural societies on a variety of subjects. I love meeting other gardeners and enjoy hearing about their gardens. While I am the so-called expert, I’m keenly aware that the sum of experience collected in the audience is more than I will have in my lifetime so I always learn something. Recently I went to Frome in Somerset to talk about how I grow vegetables on my allotments and was approached by a man who produced fantastic compost in his garden. He was interested to hear that I turn mine at least once because he never does – he simply adds material until the heap’s full, covers it and leaves it. His compost doesn’t take any longer than normal to make 14 June 2011 Grow it!

MARSHALLS

Gardening gurus

Rebecca's tips

✓The pots of herbs

ch cheaply sold in supermarkets su often co contain up to 20 pl plants. Water them we well then carefully te tease them apart and plant out individually. Pinch out the tips and any flowering stems to make bushy plants at little cost and effort. This works well with basil and parsley, though less so with coriander. ✓Sow a few lettuces regularly in pots to plant out when they are big enough. If you sow about 10 plants and then pick the leaves up the stem rather than cutting off the whole head, the plants will crop for longer. ✓Rather than buy a piece of expensive kit which won’t be used all that often, see if you can get together with friends to either buy or hire it as a group. ✓Builders’ merchants are often desperate to give wooden pallets away. Wired together they make a perfect compost container. ✓ Sand down and treat garden furniture. After all this hard work, you’ll need somewhere to sit and relax!

disappointing. Given that Sainsbury’s sell excellent organic onions, it hardly seems worthwhile for us to bother. Shallots are another matter and I am always impressed by those grown by our friends in Dorset. Admittedly, their soil is altogether different but I was inspired to try them on our plot this year. I have planted out ‘Red Sun’, which I started in modules in the greenhouse earlier in the year, and some ‘Banana’ shallots which I bought in our local farm shop. The other thing which is completely new to me is ‘Kailaan’, a kind of Chinese broccoli that came highly recommended by Mark Diacono, writer and head gardener at River Cottage, just down the road from us. It is, apparently, Chinese broccoli very quick to produce delicious shoots ‘Kailaan’ comes and will crop for a long period. Having had recommended a complete failure on the purple sprouting by River Cottage broccoli front last winter I look forward to head gardener trying this new broccoli. Mark Diacono


Real growers

E V A S OUR SEEDS Many heirloom vegetable varieties face extinction. Caroline Mills went along to the Heritage Seed Library to find out about its invaluable work collecting and saving our oldest and most precious varieties

W

hen the major seed suppliers develop a new variety of vegetable they must register it and its name under the National Seed List to gain a licence to sell the seed. The National Seed List is a directive introduced by the EU in the 1970s to protect consumers; it is illegal to sell any seeds not on the list. Registering and licensing, however, is extremely costly for seed suppliers, which means that many varieties simply get dropped over the years. All of this means that since the 1970s hundreds of vegetable varieties have been lost. For example, there were 140 varieties of cauliflower seed available in 1972 – today there are only around 20 for sale. This is where the Heritage Seed Library, run by charity Garden Organic, comes in.

History and heritage

Far from being a behind-closed-doors scientific gene bank, the Heritage Seed Library works 16 June 2011 Grow it!

as a living collection of seed that is open to all. Amassing a total of 800 different accessions, its aim is to conserve all those varieties that have become lost over time. Of particular interest to the library are ‘heirloom’ varieties from the 19th century kitchen gardens and those from the 1940s and 1950s, where seed was handed down through the generations and from gardener to gardener – varieties that were often very local or regional. In addition they maintain those varieties of vegetable that were once very popular in the seed catalogues but now no longer officially exist. I met up with Neil Munro, manager of the Heritage Seed Library, who showed me around the grounds of the library at Garden Organic’s headquarters near Coventry. He explained all the work that goes on behind the scenes. “We’re not collecting seed just for the sake of it,” Neil explained. “Most types and varieties of vegetable have a history and it’s very important that we


Far left: Carrot seed heads await processing. The Heritage Seed Library secures older varieties for future posterity

preserve the gardening knowledge that comes with these varieties. It’s all about a cultural and social history that would otherwise be forgotten. “There are so many fascinating stories as to how certain varieties were introduced, or indeed how the seed found its way to Britain or into the library’s collection. Plus, of course, gardeners wish to grow vegetables in order to eat them – many of the varieties here continue to be firm favourites for taste or quality.”

Left: All crops, such as this lettuce, are left to produce seed for collection and preservation Right: Onions tower up into flower within one of the seed library’s polytunnels

I was surprised to see vegetables looking quite different in appearance to how they would in most gardens A living library

Yes, the library is ‘preserved’ on rows of shelving, but it also lives and breathes in the grounds at Garden Organic and, perhaps more importantly, in people’s gardens throughout the UK. “We cannot possibly grow all the varieties of vegetable here to maintain sufficient stocks of seed for the collection, so we rely on enthusiastic volunteer gardeners. These are our ‘Seed Guardians’ who grow the varieties for us and then send the resulting seed back,” said Neil. “We can then swap our seed with gene banks to ensure that, should anything go horribly wrong, someone somewhere has back-up stock.” On visiting the library’s seedbeds and polytunnels where much of the hard work goes on throughout the year, I was surprised to see

Stories of yesteryear

Gardening and the things we grow provide a fascinating insight into our social history. The Heritage Seed Library (HSL) is making sure that these stories are not forgotten. Some of the vegetables in their collection include: Onion ‘Rousham Park Hero’ (pictured): Bred and grown in the 19th century by the head gardener of beautiful Rousham Park in Oxfordshire. Pea ‘Carlin’: Given to the great-great grandfather of an HSL donor as a wedding present, this pea dates back to Elizabethan times. A regional variety from the Northeast of England, Carlin Sunday is still practised, when the peas are cooked and salted.

vegetables looking quite different in appearance to how they would in most gardens. Used to seeing vegetables grown for harvest and eating, the row upon row of flowering vegetables seemed like the antithesis of normal kitchen gardening. But while gardeners seek out varieties that are slow to bolt so that they have time to eat the fruits of their labours, the Heritage Seed Library wants anything but. Neil explained: “We are growing for the seed rather than to harvest the vegetables, so we want the plants to bolt. To do this we cheat, in particular with brassicas like kale, cauliflower and cabbages. We sow the seed late in the season so that the plants stay small. They are then lifted and kept indoors over winter before planting out after the worst of the frosts. The plants need to get cold to trigger the flowering process but they will then bolt much sooner than if we were to employ conventional methods of growing. We don’t want a large head to develop, so by keeping the plants small, they will bolt sooner. With the cabbages we cut off any heads that form, which helps the flowers that we need to develop. Broad bean ‘Mr Jones’: The seeds were passed to a donor of the HSL by a neighbour whose father was sent them during the Second World War as part of the Dig for Victory campaign. Pea ‘Gravedigger’: Given to an HSL donor by a retired farmer, who in turn had received them from the local gravedigger. Tomato ‘Broad Ripple Yellow Currant’ (pictured): Originally found growing in a pavement crack in Indianapolis, this variety produces masses of sweet-tasting, tiny yellow fruit right up to mid-November. Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’: If only it would live up to its name! A large, deep red and diseaseresistant tomato originally developed in the USA during the 1930s. Grow it! June 2011 17

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Real growers Saving your own seed

Neil Munro recommends that all gardeners grow plants for seed saving alongside those being grown for food. Space is a consideration as it’s necessary to plant a reasonable quantity (20 cabbage plants for example) to maintain the genetic diversity of a variety. The spacing between plants will also need to be greater – up to 45cm (18in) rather than the usual 30cm (12in) in the case of cabbages. You can, of course, intercrop your future seed-bearers with quick-growing vegetables that will be harvested before this additional space is needed.

S A V E OUR SEED

“Likewise beetroot and leeks,” continued Neil. “We start them off late in the summer then lift and over-winter them in dry compost before planting out in March. It’s the flowers that we want, not the roots. So when most people have pulled their carrots for eating within weeks of planting, we leave ours to grow on to maturity. The most viable seed comes from the primary flower or main shoot, but early carrot seed is immature and so it needs time to ripen.” Sometimes the library still needs to grow a crop conventionally to check that the characteristics of a particular variety are being maintained and that the taste remains good. These are then sold in the shop or used in the restaurant at Garden Organic. “For our seed producers around the country we offer a set of guidelines on growing for seed. We need to ensure the integrity of the seed and that vegetables such as broad or runner beans that cross pollinate easily are grown on ‘isolated sites’ where they are unlikely to become contaminated.”

Cleaning up

Once the seed is produced on site or sent in by the Seed Guardians, the process of cleaning begins. Different-sized sieves are used to accommodate the various sizes of seed. The sieves remove the chaff. For seeds coated in jelly or with a fleshy surround a wet cleaning method is used. Before the cleaned seed is stored it has to be dried: “We don’t want the seed to remain warm and wet or it would soon rot,” explained Neil, “so we begin the process of removing the moisture content in our drying room. The seed can then be stored for anything between eight and 30 years.” Entering the seed store is like going back in time to the days when offices had card filing systems rather than computers. Kept at an ambient 10˚C to 12˚C, racks of labelled 18 June 2011 Grow it!

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Above: The familiar crinkled seedcase of beetroot Below left: Collecting tomato seed. After sieving, the seed will need to be cleaned and dried Volunteers help to pack the seeds. Paper envelopes allow seeds to breathe

boxes bursting with envelopes fill the room. “We keep the seed in paper envelopes so that it can continue to dry out.” Every consignment of seed that arrives at the library is given a batch number so that it can be traced back to who grew it and where. Then, if there are any problems or if, as in the past, it turns out that a particular variety doesn’t match up to the characteristics, all can be solved. “We handle 50,000 packets of seed a year and every seed is hand counted. It’s very labour intensive, so we rely on our band of volunteers who come and help with all the various jobs involved in running the library. We keep historical records too on every type and variety of vegetable, with botanical photographs illustrating, for example, the colour of the flower, the number of peas or beans in a pod or the shape of a vegetable. Seeds are distributed from December to the end of February and then we’re outside growing the next lot of plants.” Clearly the work going on at the Heritage Seed Library is invaluable. The harvesting of seeds and the processing and cataloguing that follows is helping to preserve varieties of vegetable for future generations. It’s a service that kitchen gardeners – and everyone – should be grateful for. One day we may need to draw on this library and the effort invested now will all pay off.

Further information

0 Heritage Seed Library, Garden Organic, Ryton Organic Gardens, Coventry, CV8 3BR. Contact: 024 7630 8210, www.gardenorganic.org.uk 0 The library is always on the lookout for volunteers between March and September at the Garden Organic headquarters, providing the perfect opportunity to learn how to save seed. 0 If you would like to become a Seed Guardian for the Heritage Seed Library, or have a go at planting some of the heirloom varieties to eat, you need to become a member. As a member, you receive your choice of free seed and can help to preserve the heritage of gardening. Contact details as above.


Ask Anne

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED Anne Swithinbank, one of Britain’s favourite gardeners and a member of Radio Four’s Gardeners’ Question Time panel, answers your growing questions.

Summer shakeup

My plot’s beginning to look impressive but always hits a bit of a lull in July once all the potatoes and other crops are finished. How can I keep myself busy into the second half of the year? K Watkins, Suffolk There’s no doubt that April and May are the busiest months on a veg plot, especially if you are used to concentrating mainly on the summer growing season. Yet there is a whole range of plants that prefer to grow from sowings made after the longest day, prior to which they are prone to bolting or running up to seed. Among these are endive, Chinese cabbage and radicchio. July and August are prime months for planting out a wide range of winter brassicas including sprouts, cabbage, sprouting broccoli, kales and late winter/spring cauliflowers. If you didn’t raise these from seed earlier on, plants should be available in shops and by mail order. Leeks, too, are planted in summer for winter crops.

July is also a crucial sowing month for Swiss chard and perpetual spinach, to crop through to the following spring. By August it’s time to sow winter-hardy salad crops like rocket, land cress, lamb’s lettuce, mustards, mizuna (pictured) and so forth, though in colder areas they’ll do better under cloches or glass and, of course, spring cabbage. Make sowings, too, of winter radish and turnip. By autumn, you’ll be thinking about onion sets and in late autumn, sowing hardy broad beans. The excellent new book How to Grow Winter Vegetables by Charles Dowding (£14.95, Green Books: 01803 863260, www.greenbooks.co.uk) will prove an inspirational read.

There is a whole range of plants that prefer to grow after the longest day

Cauli good

How can I grow cauliflowers with good, solid curds? My past attempts have given lacklustre results with small curds and sickly-looking plants. W Darley, Cornwall Summer cauliflowers are not easy at all, especially those that head up in the early part of summer. So often they don’t get what they need, suffer stress of some kind and end up just as you describe. My advice is to forget about them altogether. Instead, plant out spring heading cauliflowers now, cover with mesh to keep the caterpillars, birds and root fly off and let them grow on through winter. You’ll be spacing them a good 60cm (24in) apart and they usually do really well, effortlessly producing massive

20 Ju June 2 2011 011 01 1 Gr Grow it!

heads in spring. I’m growing ‘Winter 3 Armado April’ (available from DT Brown: 0845 3710532, www.dbrownseeds.co.uk). I keep the mesh on all winter, partly because cauliflower seems to be the pigeons favourite and partly for extra cold protection. Another success I’ve had has been with the amazing Romanesco types, whose lime green heads are finely structured like castle turrets. Sown in early May and planted out when they have three or four leaves, they’ve delivered delicious heads in autumn.


Glass act

I want to construct a couple of small greenhouses. What considerations should I bear in mind when choosing them and are there any companies you can recommend to come and install them? S Taylorson, Cumbria

I’ll start by apologising for a dearth of recommendations. This is because the last greenhouse I installed was our second-hand wooden one which cost me next to nothing to buy 12 years ago, but there was a fair bill from the local builders who took it down, moved it and put it up again. Before that, some 22 years ago, I had a good aluminium greenhouse supplied and erected successfully and efficiently by Robinsons (01295 770717, www.robinsonsgreenhouses. co.uk). We wanted a sturdy, long-lasting 3x6m (10x20ft) greenhouse, enjoyed it for 10 years and it was still in very good order when we sold our Surrey house and garden. There are plenty of small greenhouses on the market at a range of prices. If your garden is windy, I would opt for glass rather than polycarbonate. If you are tall, it’s often possible to raise a cheap, low greenhouse by fixing the base onto a brick plinth. I also think this gives

greater insulation at ground level. Adequate ventilation is absolutely vital, so make sure there is plenty available preferably in the sides and roof. Look for options of adding extra vents or having louvres fitted to replace a couple of side panes. A greenhouse bed is always useful, so plan to leave soil inside rather than having a solid concrete base. Staging often costs extra, so think about making or having some made to suit your height and specifications.

Write in with your questions for Anne to:

Ask Anne, Grow it!, Kelsey Publishing, Cudham Tithe Barn, Berry’s Hill, Cudham, Kent TN16 3AG. Alternatively email: gi.ed@kelsey.co.uk

Leg up

Last year my potatoes were almost decimated by black leg – a disease hardly heard of in my part of the world. How can I prevent this happening again and what can I do with the plot that was affected? S McAuley, Co. Antrim

Black leg is a nasty bacterial disease of potatoes encouraged by wet soil conditions. You’d have noticed leaves on the upper parts of the plants curling inwards, with the colour fading from green to yellow. Further down, the stem base (the ‘leg’ below ground) would have turned black and slimy, with some tubers rotting too. On one plant some stems might have been affected, while others weren’t. With other potato diseases around, such as blight, symptoms can be confusing. But if you cut a stem across, you can see black spots showing where vascular strands are affected. The disease is usually introduced on infected seed potatoes which look deceptively healthy when planted. In fact, they are the survivors from an infected crop and are harbouring the bacteria. Goodquality, specially prepared seed potatoes are

very unlikely to carry blackleg, but beware of garden-grown or vegetable rack tubers. The disease is not long-lived in the soil (80-110 days at 2°C and a shorter time at higher temperatures) but can persist in forgotten ‘volunteer’ tubers, so I would maybe give potatoes a complete miss for a year, rogueing out all the volunteers. Grow them again in a different bed the year after, making sure the soil is well-drained and not prone to water-logging. The infection is more common on early varieties, so perhaps stick to later-planted second earlies. Where there is some infection running through a crop, you have to lift the mature tubers very carefully, as damage will expose them to the bacterium and they may rot in store. Choose a dry day to lift and use a potato fork with wider, flatter tines Grow it! June 2011 21

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Ask Anne

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Holiday worry

I’m heading off on a three-week holiday in July and am concerned about my veg patch and particularly the greenhouse tomatoes in my absence. My neighbour will help but I don’t want him to have to water every day. What can I do to keep plants safe with minimal attention? M Porter, Powys

What are you thinking of, going on a three week holiday in July? I’m away for one week and thought that was pushing it! Seriously, though, we gardeners must sometimes bow to family pressures, so we’ll let you off. I think your neighbour will have to go in every day. Even if you installed an automatic irrigation system for your tomatoes, somebody still needs to look in and check that it is working and not blocked. Yet this might well turn out to be a sound investment, especially if this July break turns into a fixture. Plus the neighbour will be encouraged to see that you’ve made an effort to make his life easier. If you haven’t already put up some shading for greenhouse plants, make sure this is in place on the sunniest est side (either shading paint to the outside

or horticultural fleece clipped or pinned under the glass). The outdoor parts of the veg patch (especially runner beans, courgettes etc) may need watering. Fix good hosepipes to taps and knock in short posts at the corners of beds and rows to make unravelling and using the pipes easier. If it has to be by can from butts, then supply several cans and stand one already full by each butt to start him off. Make sure the butts are full (top up with tap water if necessary) and as an alternative to cans, consider filling a length of hosepipe with water, putting one end in a butt uphill of putt the plants and a tap mechanism on pl the other othe end, to act as a siphon. Then he can simply turn the tap on and let it trickle onto the courgette roots (or whatever) whatever whilst checking tomatoes or watering pots.

Beetle bank

While digging I keep on coming across black beetles about 5-10mm (0.25in) in length. I’m not sure whether hether they’re beneficial or whether they’re lurking to eat my next sowing. Is there a way of telling? B Emmerson, Leicestershire

I think these are just harmless ground beetles or carabids. They are about the size you say, or perhaps a bit bigger, and a shiny black, brown or bronze. In fact, most of them are positively beneficial and eat soil pests like slugs or they’ll climb plants and take greenfly and caterpillars. A few types may cause a little damage to seeds but I think the good they do outweighs any bad. 22 June 2011 Grow it!

I love to see them scampering around ound and often find myself apologising to them if I make them tumble when I’m weeding or planting. ng. They are the reason we’re told to set margarine ine tub beer traps for slugs, so the rims are proud of the soil. The slugs slime their way in to the beer and drown, but the ground beetles are diverted by the rim and veer off.

Most beetles are positively beneficial and eat soil pests


The Practical team June

Benedict Vanheems

Martyn Cox

Paul Wagland

Steve Bradley

One of the most prolific months of the year is also one of the most active as we play catch-up to keep plots productive. This month the Practical Team has plenty of ideas to maintain momentum. Benedict’s in the fruit garden thinning tree 14 PAGES fruits and feeding plants gearing up to harvest, Martyn’s trying out some OF SEASONAL lemongrass and planting cucumbers, Paul’s setting out his courgettes, and ADVICE, TOP TIPS Steve’s seeing to the greenhouse crops. It’s a busy one, so let’s step to it! AND EXPERT KNOW-HOW

29

Take your kitchen gardening to new heights. Martyn Cox demonstrates the versatility of vertical growing systems

33

It’s teatime down on the allotment as Paul Wagland puts together a potent brew made from nettles and comfrey

Allow yourself to be seduced by the sweet temptation of raspberries. Benedict Vanheems reveals how to grow them, page 25

36 Greenhouse and polytunnel expert Steve Bradley’s keeping an eager eye out for the first signs of insect pests Grow it! January 2011

1

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This month Benedict Vanheems is editor of Grow it! and is a passionate home-grower.

 First harvests  Thinning tree fruit  Pruning redcurrants

This is a busy time in the fruit garden and you may already have such bumper crops that you can start to make your own preserves, says Benedict Vanheems Now’s a good time

I

Turn excess fruit into delicious jam

f you carefully select the types of strawberry that you grow, you can enjoy fresh fruit for months on end. However, June is the time when you will probably get your most abundant, not to mention delicious crops. So make up a batch of jam if you do find you’re growing more than you can eat fresh. Strawberry plants crop heavily and you can get around 450g (1lb) of fruit per plant, so they tend to wear themselves out quite quickly. This means that they need to be replaced every three years. If you want to create a new strawberry bed, June is the perfect time for planting coldstored runners. Ensure the area has been very thoroughly dug over to remove any perennial weeds and add plenty of compost or well-rotted manure, as these plants are heavy feeders. It is well worth investing in a sheet of good-quality weed-suppressing membrane, and planting through holes cut into it at regular intervals. As well as helping to minimise the chore of weeding,

June is when you will probably get your most abundant, not to mention delicious crop STEP-BY-STEP

1

This is your last chance to harvest rhubarb to give plants a chance to build up energy for next year’s crop. Give stems a sharp tug so they come away cleanly from the base.

Harvesting rhubarb

2

Keep an eye out for any flowering stems, which are easily identified having a white or pink bud at the tip. These grow quickly and waste your plant's valuable energy.

3

to set up a new strawberry bed

THE PRACTICAL TEAM – the fruit grower

THE FRUIT GROWER

the membrane helps to conserve vital moisture in the soil. Your existing plants are probably sending out their own runners this month. These can be used to grow new plants for free. Simply use thick garden wire bent into an inverted U-shape to peg the runners down so that they are in contact with the soil. In a few weeks they should be forming roots and after six weeks they should be established as individual plants, ready to be moved to a new bed. Another fruit that will be cropping heavily this month is rhubarb and again you may have more than you can eat. As it’s usually enjoyed cooked, rhubarb is an ideal candidate for freezing. Simply wash the stems and chop them into 3cm (1in) chunks. Blanch by placing them in boiling water for 90 seconds and then drain them in a colander until cool. Simply place the fruit in freezer bags (ideally put enough in each individual bag to make up your favourite recipe such as crumble) and you’ll have a convenient supply for the rest of the year.

Remove all flowering stems and put them on the compost heap with the leaves of your freshly-harvested stems. Leaves contain toxic oxalic acid and should not be fed to pets.

Propagate new strawberries from their runners

Grow it! June 2011 25

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Turnip ‘Milan Purple Top’

VERTICAL GROWING Take your crops to new heights

Hands-on advice Growing instructions: When large enough to handle thin seedlings to 10cm (4in) apart. Keep well watered during dry weather. Harvest from May to November. Harvested while young, ‘baby turnips’ can be used raw to make a sweet addition to salads or steamed for a tasty vegetable. Sowing instructions: Turnips prefer a rich, wellmanured soil. Sow thinly from March to August directly outside or into containers, setting seed 1cm (0.5in) deep. Sow regularly for fresh roots throughout spring, summer and autumn. This exceptional turnip forms flatter, globe-shaped roots with purple crowns and white bases. They are ideal eaten as ‘baby turnips’ when the taste is sweet and succulent. The dark green, erect leaves are exceptional when steamed as greens, giving you two crops in one! ‘Milan Purple Top’ is also perfect for growing in containers.

Turnip ‘Milan Purple Top’

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Quick-growing delicious• Lettuces • Feeding crops equipment • Irrigation and Average content: 300 seeds. Origin UK. Seeds supplied by Thompson & Morgan (UK) Ltd. For customer care tel: 01473 688821 or email: www.thompsonmorgan.com Standard seeds – complies with EC rules and standards

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Picture for illustration purposes only, seed varieties may change subject to availability.

Seasonal tips

20/06/2011 11:35

Expert advice

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Seasonal fayre


THE PRACTICAL TEAM – the fruit grower

Aim for around 10 canes in total per metre length of row

Raspberries will be growing rapidly now

Hurrah for raspberries!

A

lthough we’ve had one of the driest springs for many years, most raspberry plants will be putting on abundant new growth this month. It is these vigorously growing canes that will bear next season’s fruit, so take a few minutes to ensure they are all developing properly. Chances are that you won’t want all of the canes that are popping up – around seven per plant is ideal but any more than that may make harvesting the fruits tricky and can put stress on the plant, thereby reducing the overall crop.

Aim for around 10 canes in total per 1m (3.3ft) length along the row. Target the weaker-looking stems and any that are emerging in awkward places. Don’t snip them off with your secateurs or you will simply encourage new shoots to appear. The best option is to pull them up (put gloves on first and give a sharp tug!). Alternatively dig them out carefully with a hand trowel. To tie in the canes you do want to keep, use soft garden twine and gently bend the canes so they are evenly spaced out and held in place at intervals

by horizontal wires strung along the row. This makes it easier for pollinating insects to get to the flowers and easier for you to harvest your fruit. Another advantage to having neat rows of raspberries is that it makes protecting your crop much more straightforward. Once you see the first fruits starting to develop, often at the end of June, it may be necessary to net your raspberry plants to prevent birds from eating all the fruit. You can create a temporary cage with bamboo and ‘Build-a-balls’ or other similar designs before draping netting over the top. Keep the bottom of the net securely pegged down to prevent birds getting in underneath. Once the net is in place be extravigilant with your watering and weeding routine. The plants will be putting all their energy into producing fruit and will need a regular supply of moisture and as little competition from other plants as possible. Summer-fruiting raspberries will need to be pruned in late July or August when they have finished fruiting. Autumn-fruiting raspberries won’t need to be cut back until early next spring.

RASPBERRY SUPPLIERS

✦ DT Brown: 0845 3710532, www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk ✦ Ken Muir: 01255 830181, www.kenmuir.co.uk ✦ Mr Fothergill’s: 0845 3710518, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk ✦ Thompson & Morgan: 0844 485383, www.thompson-morgan.com

5 OF THE BEST RASPBERRIES

1 CASCADE DELIGHT: These very large, firm berries have an attractive, glossy appearance and excellent flavour. Plants are resistant to root rot, making them ideal for growing in wetter areas.

26 June 2011 Grow it!

2 POLKA: As well as being virtually spine-free, this primocane raspberry is very heavy-cropping and each plant produces up to 2.5kg (5lbs) of large berries with a delicious flavour.

3 JOAN J: Another abundant cropper, this variety has delicious fruits from July through to October, making it an ideal choice if you only have room to grow one type of raspberry.

4 OCTAVIA: This new variety has an exceptionally sweet flavour and offers abundant crops of huge berries from mid July through to early August, so it’s well worth a try.

5 ALLGOLD: Many growers think the large, yellow fruits have the best flavour of all. They can be harvested from late August until mid October and are perfect for smaller gardens.


Apply a dilute spray of organic liquid seaweed to the leaves of hungry feeders such as raspberries, melons and grapes. We tend to think of plants as taking all their nutrients in thorough their roots, but plants can absorb essential elements through their leaves very quickly to give an instant boost. This can be especially beneficial when plants are setting and developing fruit and it works extremely well on fruiting ‘veg’ such as tomatoes, peppers,

chillies , cucumbers and aubergines too. Organic kelp-based foods such as Maxicrop are ideal because they contain up to 50 vital trace elements. Add enough liquid seaweed to gently colour the water and ideally spray first thing in the morning or in the early evening. Apply once a week for best results.

Thinning plums

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Plums and other tree fruit may be growing so abundantly that they actually break the branches of young trees. There is often a natural ‘June drop’ when some fall off.

PRUNE CURRANTS

Glossy redcurrants should be ripening now. The sprigs of fruit make a wonderful garnish for all sorts of desserts and you can also use them to make delicious jams and jellies. Harvest whole sprigs at once rather than fiddling around with individual berries, and use the fruit quickly as it doesn’t store well. Closely-related white currants are just as tasty and good for you but are less likely to be eaten by birds, so grow these if you don’t want to bother with netting or fruit cages. By late June your redcurrant, white currant and indeed gooseberry bushes will all require pruning. They fruit on last year’s wood, so you will need to get this season’s growth under control unless you want huge bushes. Using sharp secateurs, trim back to around five leaves per stem on this season’s growth (which will look younger and greener than old wood). Also remove any stems from around the base of the bush and any suckers coming up from the ground. Blackcurrants have different requirements and will need to be pruned later in the year.

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Collect any fallen fruits and destroy them (rather than adding to the compost heap) as they can harbour pests. Then, if necessary, thin fruit further by hand to avoid overcrowding.

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The remaining fruits will now have enough light and air to swell to their full, juicy potential. Succulent ripe plums will be ready for harvesting from late July or early August.

Tidy grapevines

Unless you’re growing vines for shade to cover an arbour or pergola, you will need to prune them regularly or you will end up with leaves at the expense of fruit. Aim to have one flower cluster per side branch and pinch out the growing tip after that cluster. The shoots will also need to be trained to grow along their intended framework. They can be quite brittle, so work on them first thing in the morning when they are most moist and pliable. The bunches themselves can benefit from a little extra help too. Hold each bunch at the top of the stem and use scissors to snip out the tiny developing fruits at regular intervals so that the remaining grapes can swell to dessert size. Repeat later in the season. Grow it! June 2011 27

THE PRACTICAL TEAM – the fruit grower

Pep up your plants

STEP-BY-STEP


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re you ready to take to slugs, while the compact planting vertical growing to a new holes mean weeding becomes a level? The Polanter is a thing of the past. Try one and see for modular planting system with an yourself how the Polanter delivers integral watering facility. Suitable low-maintenance, year-round colour for gardeners of all abilities, the and crops. Polanter is easy to assemble and Polanters are available in a choice plant up. It’s also incredibly low of eight colours, as one to five-section maintenance and easy to water. kits, all with integral watering system, Gardeners who love colourful brackets and instruction manual. We displays from hanging baskets will have 12 two-section kits, worth £29.99 find that the Polanter is an even each, up for grabs! This Polanter more straight-forward solution. comes in two sections with a total And while it’s the perfect floral height of 98cm (39in) and 24 planting solution to any garden area, patio holes, giving plenty of space to show or balcony, the Polanter is also ideal off your crops. for those who love to grow their own food. Try filling the Polanter’s planting holes with succulent strawberries, juicy cherry tomatoes, herbs or salad leaves for an unusual and space-saving way to grow and display your favourite edibles. Simply click your hose into the base of the Polanter to water! The Polanter’s easy-care design ❖ For more information on is ideal for the most novice of the Polanter and its many uses gardeners. Simply connect your visit the Polanter website at garden hose to the base for just a www.polanter.com or call few minutes each day and watch 0845 6197266. plants flourish. You can say goodbye

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This month  Planting lemongrass  Vertical growing  Cucumbers For many city gardeners the only way to expand is up. Martyn Cox looks at the rise and rise of vertical growing. Plus starting off a lemongrass plant

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emongrass adds a distinctively citrus kick to Thai cuisine and other oriental dishes, but it’s not just a tasty herb – these perennial grasses make a fountain of gently arching, strappy foliage, so are perfect for adding an exotic look to patios. Sadly, this plant’s tropical origins mean it is incredibly tender and will turn up its toes at the first sniff of frost, but it is perfect in a pot placed in a warm, sunny place over summer (just don’t forget to put it somewhere snug over winter). Plants can be started from seeds sown indoors in late winter, though it’s easier to buy a ready-grown plant or even start one from a packet of stems bought in a supermarket. To do this, place a length of stem in a jar of water on a sunny windowsill to root. This will take a week or two to root and the water should be changed a few times to keep it fresh. Once roots have developed trim the top of the stalk and plant into a small pot of soil-based compost. Water and stand back on the same windowsill. When the roots poke through the drainage holes at the bottom of pots it’s time to move your plant on to a slightly larger container. Plants can be moved outdoors in early rly summer. Make sure you give them the sunniest spot possible and water regularly, especially ecially during dry spells. Plants in pots can dryy out quickly and lemongrass will quickly flag ag when thirsty, resulting in a check to growth. To ensure plants put on lots of growth, feed every ry fortnight with a balanced fertiliser. Lemongrass will grow quickly with the right care and attention, so expect to have to repot your plant several times during the growing owing season. A 20cm (8in)-pot filled with a soil-based oil-based compost, such as John Innes Number 3, is a suitable-sized container for a decent sized clump. They can be grown in plastic pots but for a showier specimen go for a metal or glazed ceramic container. You can harvest lemongrass at any time. All you need to do is cut a stem flush to the e ground,

Lemongrass can be grown in plastic pots but for a showier specimen go for or a metal or glazed ceramic container

STEPHEN SHIRLEY

Martyn Cox writes a gardening column for The Mail on Sunday and Saga Magazine. He is the author of seven books and has a small, plant-packed garden in East London

THE PRACTICAL TEAM – the city gower

THE CITY GROWER

using the swollen base in the kitchen. In late summer, move plants to a bright area indoors (such as a conservatory) and reduce watering, allowing the compost to almost dry out between applications. Next spring, either move into a slightly larger pot or divide the clump and repot.

Lemon grass is surprisingly easy to grow given a warm and sunny aspect. Harvest stalks whenever they are ready

G row it! June 2011 29 Grow

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THE PRACTICAL TEAM – the city grower

Growing up P

ick up an old gardening manual and you’ll only ever find information about growing edibles in the ground. Then someone discovered many plants would thrive in pots and we couldn’t move for the glut of accompanying books on growing all sorts of crops in containers! Well, now there’s another revolution – growing all sorts of vegetables, fruits and herbs in vertical spaces. You can’t visit a gardening show these days without seeing a new contraption that’s been invented for allowing those who are strapped for space to grow edibles. Some of these devices are free standing, while others have been developed for attaching to walls and fences. The first piece of kit I became aware of in this country was VertiGarden. It consists of a steel wall frame that can be attached to a wall with a hook. This holds a polystyrene modular tray, which is first planted up horizontally with herbs or vegetables and then inserted in place. A wire mesh grid on the front of the system prevents plants from falling out. The MiniGarden is similar. This product is

Now there's another revolution growing all sorts of vegetables, fruits and herbs in vertical spaces a 62x58cm (25x23in) plastic panel that needs screwing to a vertical surface. It contains nine planting pockets that can be filled with compost and planted up. As it’s a modular system, several panels can be joined together to increase the amount of plants grown. Arguably the most attractive of the lot – and

A handsome Vertical Allotment in Chelsea, London

ideally suited to urban plots – is the Vertical Allotment. The wall-mounted frame holds five rectangular planting troughs, giving plants a greater amount of room to grow than many other systems. The kit’s built-in reservoir can be topped up with water when required. If your DIY skills don’t run to being able to drill holes in a wall or if you don’t have any vertical surfaces that can take the weight of these pieces of kit, then consider the Vertigro. The system is composed of a free-standing wooden frame (a bit like an easel used by an artist) fitted with horizontal bars holding three pillow-shaped, sheet metal carriers designed to conceal a traditional growing bag. Vegetables can be planted directly into the growing bag through circular holes punched in the metal.

STEP-BY-STEP

Planting up a Vertigro

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Begin by ‘massaging’ a grow bag to break up any large lumps of compost. Clamp the grow bag into the sheet metal carriers. Score a V-shape into each planting position using a Stanley knife.

30 June 2011 Grow it!

Fold back the flaps of the scored grow bag plastic and plant plugs of your favourite crop – here a French bean. Try to ensure that each plant will face upwards when the Vertigro is hung up.

3

Continue planting at each position, gently firming each plant, plug or seedling into place. Water while the carrier is horizontal. Allow to soak in then hang up so it is vertical.

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VERTICAL PLANTER SUPPLIERS 0 MiniGarden: 01903 774774, www.gardenhouse design.co.uk/shop 0 Vertical Allotment: 01923 853813, www.treebox.co.uk 0 VertiGarden: 01406 370239, www.vertigarden.com 0 Vertigro: 07717 585585, www.vertigro.co.uk

This shows a fully setup Vertigro garden. The grow bag plastic will be hidden as the crops grow, or include a layer of black weed fabric between the grow bag and carrier before planting.


The taste of a fresh cucumber, eaten within minutes of being picked is far superior than the taste of those bland, bloated fruits that are encased in plastic and sold in shops. If you have space indoors or a greenhouse, you can start cucumbers off from seed sown anytime from late winter to mid spring. Those without any protected growing facilities can try raising plants from seeds sown outdoors now. To do this, fill 7cm (3in) pots with multipurpose compost and sow two seeds on their side, 1.5cm (0.5in) deep. Water and cover with a sheet of clear plastic or a glass jar. When seeds germinate, remove the weakest of the pair. Plants will grow quickly and can be potted into larger containers or a growing bag. Alternatively, you can get a head start and buy readygrown plants from a garden centre. Train plants up a cane, mesh or a network of trellis. Nip out the tip of the main stem when it reaches the top of its support then pinch out the tips of sideshoots two leaves beyond a female flower – you can recognise these as they have a distinctive swelling beneath them. Pinch out the tips of flowerless sideshoots once they reach 60cm (24in) long. Cucumbers are a thirsty and greedy crop. Water frugally until established, keeping the compost just dry, then increase watering when plants start to romp away. However, it is still best to water little

Quick jobs for June

✦ Harvest early varieties of potatoes. If you have a glut, place the excess in paper sacks and store in a cool, dark place. Early varieties won’t keep as long as maincrop types, however.

Cucumbers need proper supports Feed and water plants generously as they pick up growth

and often rather than soaking the compost. Ensure excess moisture can drain away as plants will sulk if the roots are saturated. To really boost your plants, feed every 10-14 days once they have been planted out with a balanced liquid fertiliser. Change to a highpotash feed once the first fruits start to set. Some varieties have both female and male flowers on the same plant. To avoid producing bitter fruit, check plants on a daily basis and remove the male flowers to prevent them pollinating the females. The male flowers are recognised by no swelling beneath the bloom. Cucumbers are ready to harvest when they have reached the desired size. For a continuous supply and to prevent fruit growing too large, pick regularly by removing with a sharp knife.

STEPHEN SHIRLEY)

CUCUMBER SEED SUPPLIERS 0 Dobies: 0844 7017625, www.dobies.co.uk 0 Johnsons: 0845 6589147, www.johnsons-seeds.com 0 Plants of Distinction: 01449 721720, www.plantsofdistinction.co.uk 0 Thompson & Morgan: 0844 2485383, www.thompson-morgan.com 0 Victoriana Nursery: 01233 740529, www.victoriananursery.co.uk

✦ Keep a close eye out for caterpillar-like sawfly larvae on gooseberries and currants. Causing rapid and severe defoliation of plants, they can be controlled by spraying with pesticides containing pyrethrum, such as PY Insect Killer. ✦ Feed tomato plants weekly with a fertiliser high in potash to help the fruits swell. Tie in stems and remove side-shoots as necessary. ✦ Control woolly aphid on apple trees. This pest, which looks like blobs of cotton wool, will quickly cover branches if left unchecked. Spray with Bug Clear Concentrate. If trees are infested you may need to repeat the application several times. ✦ Cover carrots with sheets of ultrafine netting to protect them from the root eating maggots of carrot fly. A pack of EcoGreen Micromesh costs £19.99 and is available from Haxnicks (0845 2411555, www.haxnicks.co.uk). ✦ Keep all currant bushes well watered, especially during dry spells, to ensure a great g crop p of summer berries. es.

FIVE OF THE BEST CUCUMBERS...

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2

3

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1 BUSH CHAMPION: Good in pots and resistant to cucumber mosaic virus, this compact plant forms long, crisp cucumbers of fine, fresh flavour. Johnsons 2 CARMEN: Dark-ribbed, well-shaped fruits for growing indoors. The fruits are borne in abundance and are bitter free. Very disease resistant. Thompson & Morgan 3 CRYSTAL LEMON: The lemon-shaped, yellow fruits can be grown outdoors. Despite its unusual appearance, this cucumber is very juicy, with a mild, sweet flavour. Victoriana Nursery 4 GREEN FINGERS: Masses of lunchbox-sized fruits are the reward for growing this miniature variety. The plants are resistant to powdery mildew. Dobies 5 IZNIK: Pick this variety if space is really tight – it can grow in pots as small as 20cm (8in) in diameter! The cucumbers have a lovely nutty flavour. Plants of Distinction

5 Grow it! June 2011 31

THE PRACTICAL TEAM – the city grower

ON CUE


This month

Paul Wagland is an RHS-qualified gardener and keen allotmenteer, with three thriving plots in deepest Essex.

Hang a nettle teabag in your water butt to boost nutrient levels

 Nettle tea  Growing courgettes  Fruit cages

Producing barrow-loads of fresh fruit and veg is pretty hard on your soil, says Paul Wagland, so why not give your ground a tea break?

R

ecycling green waste to make compost is an important part of running an allotment, but you can go a stage further and grow nutrient-rich plants specifically to feed to your crops. One of the most efficient ways to do this is to make a sort of ‘nutrient tea’ by soaking the leaves in a bucket of water. As the leaves rot down they release their goodness into the water, which can then be applied diluted (it’s powerful stuff) via the watering can

planted some then you should by now be able to pick a few leaves. This is the plant most often used for making liquid feeds and it is becoming more widely available through garden centres. The species form will spread like wildfire, so look for the sterile strain ‘Bocking 14’. You could also use nettles, which are much easier to come by and are very high in beneficial nitrogen. As with most plants the baby leaves contain the highest levels of nutrients, but don’t pick a whole patch

Your 'teabag' will release nutrients for many weeks. After this, add a fresh bag to the water butt every few weeks. Another approach, shown here, is to soak a few leaves in your water butt and use the water as normal. The key thing is to use the water regularly as the leaves break down, so the resulting liquid is not too strong. In April I talked about growing comfrey and if you

STEP-BY-STEP

1

bare as several butterflies lay their eggs on the young shoots. As a third option, rhubarb leaves are poisonous to humans though a neighbouring plot-holder told me recently they also deter slugs. He and I are now watering around vulnerable plants with ‘rhubarb water’ in a bid to invent a miracle slug barrier! It is too early to say whether this is effective but it has to be worth a try. Your ‘teabag’ will release nutrients for many weeks, although its most nutritious time is between one and four weeks. After this, add a fresh bag to the water butt, leaving the old one in place for a further week to even-out the strength of the brew.

THE PRACTICAL TEAM – the organic allotmenteer

THE ORGANIC ALLOTMENTEER

Making nettle and comfrey tea

Spread an old net curtain or sheet of muslin on the ground and cut out a square 50cm (20in) on each side. Don’t worry about being too neat – you won’t often see the finished bag!

2

Pick a few handfuls of young leaves from your chosen plant (or a mixture of plants if you prefer) and pile them onto the netting. Gloves will prevent nettle stings and skin irritation.

3

Draw the edges of the net over the leaves and twist to form a ‘neck’. Tie the bag closed, leaving plenty of extra string to allow you to dangle the bag inside the water butt. Grow it! June 2011 33

S


THE PRACTICAL TEAM – the organic allotmenteer

Plant courgettes

I

f you sowed courgette seeds earlier in spring, they should be ready for planting now. If you didn’t, just buy a few young plants from a garden centre – or better yet a car boot sale or local plant fair. Other than tomatoes, courgettes are probably the easiest of veg to pick up from fellow gardeners who were a little too enthusiastic with their seed orders. You could also try a late seed-sowing now in order to raise a delayed harvest. While courgettes can crop very heavily, they don’t always do so for very long. Stagger your planting and you will extend the season. Courgettes are greedy plants, requiring plenty of water and a nutrientrich soil (they’ll love your nettle and comfrey tea). They are also spacehoggers which, if given the chance, will

romp across the plot with their long vine-like habit. A good tip for allotmenteers with space to play with is to plant one or two courgettes (or any other squash) straight into the top of the compost heap. A more traditional way to plant them is to mound-up soil, mixed with good manure or compost, and plant into a hole in the top of the mound. Trailing varieties in particular do well when raised this way. While they are at their most productive in open ground, courgettes can also be grown as single plants in grow bags or large containers. Although this will result in a slightly smaller crop, you are still likely to have a glut when the season is in full swing. As the fruit begins to swell, the

plants will need to be watered every day. Don’t be bashful – give the base of the plant a good drenching to ensure that the roots are soaked. After the first few fruits have been cut, give a regular dose of liquid feed. As they are so easy to grow, courgettes are an ideal way to get children involved in gardening. After flowering they begin to produce fruit

As the fruit begins to swell, plants will need to be watered every day

Courgettes love a rich soil and plenty of moisture

STEP-BY-STEP

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Planting courgettes

Dig over the planting spot, removing weeds, roots and stones while working-in plenty of well-rotted manure or garden compost. Time spent at this stage is crucial to a healthy crop.

34 June 2011 Grow it!

2

Rake the soil and organic matter into a low mound, roughly 50cm (20in) in diameter and 25cm (10in) high in the centre. Firm the sides gently with your hands or the head of your rake.

which swells so rapidly you can almost see it growing! The plants will develop a somewhat spiny texture and whilst the spikes aren’t too vicious, little hands are best protected with gloves. Courgettes can be harvested when they reach around 10cm (4in); if left longer, the flavour will have begun to fade. Cut the thick stem with a knife. There is nothing quite like the taste of fresh courgettes, sliced and fried in butter. As a bonus, the flowers are also edible and are a real delicacy.

3

Using a trowel, plant your courgette seedling into the top of the mound and water well. The height of the mound offers improved light levels and ventilation, reducing the chance of mildew.


THOMPSON & MORGAN

DEFENDER: A real benchmark. Very heavy and early crops of solid, mid-green courgettes. It just keeps on producing.

DE NICE A FRUIT ROND: I grow this one every year for its curious round fruits which have a flavour all of their own.

SOLEIL: Resistant to mildew and very prolific, the delicious yellow fruits are worthy of a place in any ornamental border.

ALL GREEN BUSH: One for the gourmet, these tiny French delicacies are a highlight of the veggrowing year.

Protect your investment from birds

While few of us can boast of a garden large enough to grow fruit on any decent scale, an allotment presents the perfect opportunity. A decent-sized plot will give you plenty of space to grow all the veg you could eat and still leave you room for several fruit bushes and even trees if they’re allowed on your site. Unfortunately, like all the tastiest plants, we’re not the only ones waiting for the crop. Birds will strip currants and berries even before they have ripened. Fruit cages are becoming increasingly popular and are much easier to build than you might think. Get the biggest cage you can afford; you’ll be glad of the room when you are shopping for plants. Harrod Horticultural (0845 4025300, www.harrodhorticultural.com) has a good range, including the corridor design pictured here. Quality is also an issue. Aluminium is cheap but steel will last longer, and timber frames can be beautiful but are more difficult to construct. Most cages come with a heavy-duty net for the sides and a lighter grade for the roof. Once that’s in place, all that’s left to do is to plant your fruit.

Thin seedlings

It can be tricky to sow seeds at exactly the right spacings so that plants come up just where you want them. Besides which you never know if all of your seeds will germinate, so it’s wise to sow a few more than you need. I for one can’t stand to see gaps in my rows of veg! Avoid the temptation to let all of your seedlings grow on freely though – overcrowded plants will be more prone to pests and diseases, are harder to maintain and won’t crop as heavily as they should (possibly even not at all). The answer is to pull out the weakest plants before they affect the growth of the others. Depending on what it is you are thinning, if you lift seedlings carefully (without disturbing their neighbours) you may be able to replant elsewhere.

SAFARI: A personal favourite for its open habit, spine-free stems and numerous, cheerful fruits striped green and white.

Try kohlrabi

This fast-growing brassica is an odd but rather beautiful plant that deserves more attention than it gets. It has a sweet, turnipy flavour and tolerates drier, hotter conditions than other brassicas. The purple cultivars tend to be the hardiest and are the ones to sow now for a winter harvest. Either stationsow direct or sow into modules and then plant out at 10cm (4in) spacings with 30cm (12in) between rows. A fertile, lighter soil is ideal, but a heavier ground will also give a crop. Pick when the bulbs swell to around 5-10cm (2-4in) in diameter, or leave in the ground and cut the leaves as you need them. Plants will often resprout after a first cutting, while even the young flowering shoots are tasty raw or cooked.

Even the flowering shoots are tasty raw or cooked Grow it! June 2011 35

THE PRACTICAL TEAM – the organic allotmenteer

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Sweet thing Plant a ch cherry herry tree – it’s easy and delicious! Packed for year end August 2011 Sow by 2013

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Turnip ‘Milan Purple Top’

VERTICAL GROWING Take your crops to new heights

Hands-on advice Growing instructions: When large enough to handle thin seedlings to 10cm (4in) apart. Keep well watered during dry weather. Harvest from May to November. Harvested while young, ‘baby turnips’ can be used raw to make a sweet addition to salads or steamed for a tasty vegetable. Sowing instructions: Turnips prefer a rich, wellmanured soil. Sow thinly from March to August directly outside or into containers, setting seed 1cm (0.5in) deep. Sow regularly for fresh roots throughout spring, summer and autumn. This exceptional turnip forms flatter, globe-shaped roots with purple crowns and white bases. They are ideal eaten as ‘baby turnips’ when the taste is sweet and succulent. The dark green, erect leaves are exceptional when steamed as greens, giving you two crops in one! ‘Milan Purple Top’ is also perfect for growing in containers.

Turnip ‘Milan Purple Top’

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Practical know-how:

✦ Last-season leeks ✦ Turnips in 5 weeks ✦ Conserving moisture ✦ Balcony growing

Picture for illustration purposes only, seed varieties may change subject to availability.

Seasonal tips

20/06/2011 11:35

Expert advice

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Seasonal fayre


THE PRACTICAL TEAM – the under cover grower

THE UNDER COVER GROWER

This month  Damping down  Biological controls  Crop preferences Steve Bradley has an RHS Master of Horticulture diploma and lectures widely on gardening. He has written over 30 books on the subject and is gardening editor of The Sun.

Temperatures can fluctuate on warm days, though a wellventilated structure will keep plants cool

The brightest time of year brings the first taste of under cover pickings. Steve Bradley advises how to keep things cool as our crops begin to hot up

E

arly to mid-summer brings long, warm days (hopefully) and plants growing at a phenomenal rate. Indeed, some of the early-sown plants should be ready for harvest or at least very close to it. The temperature outdoors tends to vary between the low twenties (20-23°C on warmer days) and the average, which is around 17-18°C. Under protection there can be some quite dramatic fluctuations, especially if there is some patchy cloud on an otherwise clear sky. If a powerful sun is masked by cloud even for a few minutes,

temperatures start falling and then climb again quickly as the cloud passes. On days when the weather is particularly hot it is worth remembering two major problems: tomatoes will ripen unevenly in temperatures over about 27°C, while red spider mite breed and cause considerable damage when the air is hot and dry (particularly in polythene tunnels, where air flow may be more restricted). One of the best ways to protect the plants from scorching temperatures is to keep on damping down. Soaking the whole floor area will provide plenty of water to evaporate and cool the air naturally. This might make uncomfortably humid working conditions for us, but rest assured the plants will love it. Unless your greenhouse or polythene tunnel is well ventilated, avoid watering after about five o’clock in the afternoon, as water sitting around overnight can lead to a much higher incidence

Some of the early-sown plants should be ready for harvest or at least close to it of fungal rots and it also encourages slug activity (they are at their most active at night). Ventilation is an obvious way of regulating the temperature in most protected structures but there can be problems if the conditions are breezy. Even a light breeze can draw the moisture out of your plants and those closest to the doors and ventilators will soon show signs of flagging. The good thing about the higher temperatures is that as well as warmer air, the soil is warmer too. Plants that need a warmer soil (above the critical level of 12-15°C) can be transplanted outdoors now to grow away rapidly, rather than just sit in cold soil.

PLANTS THAT NEED WARM SOIL

✓ Celery ✓ Courgette ✓ French beans ✓ Marrow ✓ Squash ✓ Sweetcorn 36 June 2011 Grow it!


Regularly examine plants closely to assess the amount of damage being done by insect pests and to estimate their population

BIOLOGICAL CONTROL SUPPLIERS

RED SPIDER MITE: Picture close-up above, this common greenhouse pest is predated on by Phytoseilus persimilis. It requires a temperature consistently higher than 16°C. APHIDS: Controlled

by either the insect predator Aphidoletes aphidimyza, which needs a temperature above 18°C to work, or the insect parasite Aphidius colemani, which can work from 10°C. CATERPILLARS:

✦ Agralan: 01285 860015, www.agralan.co.uk ✦ Buzz Organics: 0845 0509409, www.buzzorganics.co.uk ✦ Defenders: 01233 813121, www.defenders.co.uk ✦ Green Gardener: 01493 750061, www.greengardener.co.uk ✦ Just Green: 01621 785088, www.just-green.com ✦ Gardening Naturally: 01285 654241, www.gardening-naturally.com

STEP-BY-STEP

BIOLOGICAL CONTROL AGENTS

TOP TIP For high

pest populat a spray of insecticida ions l soap several days befor biological control is e the int will help the control roduced ins make an impact qu ects to ite quick after they have been ly applied.

THE PRACTICAL TEAM – the under cover grower

Protected cropping is a relatively controllable environment, so using natural predators – parasites and other biological agents – to control pests and diseases is becoming increasingly common. This is partly down to more controls being available but also because they can be extremely effective. For these controls to work well, they require a shift of attitude from those who try them. You have to accept that some pests will always be present and you will need to perform a much more frequent (and closer) examination of the crops being grown. Perhaps the hardest of these is the acceptance that some of the pest must always be present on the cropping plants. It goes against the grain to allow a pest or disease to survive on the crop, but here the pest is part of the food supply and lifecycle of the predator. If the pest is controlled so effectively that the entire population dies out, the control means is also lost so that should a new infestation occur the control will need to be re-introduced. However, if a few of the pests are always present and, for some reason, the population increases, then the population of the predator will increase accordingly to provide a balanced control.

GILLES SAN MARTIN

BIOLOGICAL WARFARE

Steinernema carpocapse is the control for caterpillars. It’s a pathogenic eelworm that works at temperatures higher than 14°C. LEAF MINER: Steinernema carpocapse is also the control for leaf miners.

Using biological controls SCIARID FLY: Pictured above, the compost flies and fungus gnats are kept in check by Steinernema feltiae, a pathogenic eelworm that needs a temperature above 14°C to succeed.

1

Simple adhesive traps can be used to help assess the population of a pest to decide the ideal time to introduce the biological control.

2

Apply the pest control as soon as it arrives from the supplier, either as one application or several applications at two to threeday intervals.

3

Always try to apply the control agent as close as possible to the breeding and feeding sites of the pest. This will reduce the time spent foraging to discover their prey.

WHITEFLY: Encarsia formosa parasitises the whitefly by laying its eggs inside the whitefly pupae. The wasp works above 10°C.

Grow it! June 2011 37

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THE PRACTICAL TEAM – the under cover grower

SuOmmer cropping ne of the major challenges when you are growing plants under protection is that very few of us have the space or funds to have enough separate structures to house a single crop in each one. So, trying to provide the right environment for each of the different crops you have packed into a single structure will always be a compromise. Aubergines prefer slightly cooler temperatures to cucumbers, peppers or tomatoes

overcrowded, pruning and training regularly can go a long way towards helping. Tangled, congested growth not only reduces plant performance, but also encourages pests and diseases to thrive. Cucumbers and tomatoes can be trained on wires (or nets for cucumbers) as cordons to make picking much easier and make maximum use of the available space within the structure. Peppers and aubergines usually grow better when supported by canes, but only allow about four

Trying to provide the right environment for each of the different crop you have will always be a compromise and if the temperature is too high, the aubergines will flower but the fruit set will be poor. Cucumbers prefer high humidity and, if the conditions are too dry and hot, red spider mite will soon become a major pest. However, high humidity raises the risk of tomato blight fungus infecting tomato plants and causes uneven ripening of the tomatoes and much smaller fruits, especially if the plants are not getting enough water. When the plants are

stems to develop on each plant or the result will be lots of small fruits. Allocate a cane to each stem as a support, particularly at the angles where these stems join the main trunk, as this is often a weak spot and may give way and snap when the stem is loaded with fruit. Limiting the number of fruits to each stem can help to reduce this risk, as well as having a screen covering the lower half of each doorway to reduce air turbulence inside the structure.

Overcrowding and mixed populations of plants present problems for most gardeners during the season

Greenhouse crop needs...

Some types of tomato often produce excessively long trusses of fruit, so the end one-third of the truss can be removed to prevent any trusses getting too heavy and to reduce the strain on the stem and truss union.

PEPPER Preferred temperature 20-22°C

AUBERGINE Preferred temperature 18-20°C

TOMATO Preferred temperature 22-24°C

Aubergines prefer lower

temperatures to allow the flowers to pollinate and the fruits to set. 38 June 2011 Grow it!

Tomato fruits ripen unevenly with temperatures over about 27°C.

Peppers and aubergines

need support for each stem to compensate for weak branch unions.


Reader offer ✦ Reader offer ✦ Reader offer ✦ Reader offer ✦ Reader offer

Safe and sound Keep crops safe through summer and beyond with this range of protective covers and plant ties

S

ummer’s the best time of year to be out in the garden but for many of our crops it’s a period of potential threat. Insect pests and birds can take their toll, so this month we’ve brought you some of the very highest quality protective covers. With many second-wind crops now being sown, we’ve also included an offer on horticultural fleece to extend the season of plenty that little bit longer into autumn. Don’t forget wayward shoots and stems – keep them in check with our offer on plant ties. And with 50% off all of these horticultural aids you’ll be keeping your budget in check too!

mesh protects against common pests suchas carrot fly, cabbage root fly and butterflies, while allowing air and water to circulate. The fine 1.35mm square mesh is long lasting and is available in a 2x5m size at 50% off for just £6.25 (order code GNE-036).

Heavy-Duty Anti-Bird Netting

Make sure you’re ready for autumn with this frost-busting insulating fleece. Ideal for extending the season well into winter, the permeable, UV-stabilised, spunbonded 2mm square mesh insulates while protecting against frost, wind, hail, birds and insects. Lay it directly over plants to warm up the soil and achieve earlier harvesting of healthy crops. The 17g

This sturdy netting is perfect to protect against pigeons and the smallest of birds without trapping them. The 18x18mm diamond mesh net is manufactured from high density polyethylene – not to be confused with cheap imitations! Available as a 4x5m section at the bargain half-price of £7.50 (order code GNE-001).

Save 50%!

fleece is available in a 2x10m size for just £3 – that’s half the usual price (order code GNE-063).

Insulating Fleece

Flexible Soft-Tie

Keep plants neatly tied in with this ingenious plant tie solution. The multipurpose Soft-Tie is made from a unique flexible plastic compound with a galvanised steel wire core. It’s easy to bend, retains its shape and can easily be re-shaped and used time and again. We’re offering an 8m roll of highly dextrous 3.5mm-thick Slim Soft-Tie for the unbeatable price of £3.48, which is half the normal price (order code GDN-911).

Fine Insect Mesh

If your patch is prone to being invaded by pests both large and small, then lay this heavy-duty 100% polyethylene UV- stabilised fine mesh directly over crops, protection frames or hoops. The

HOW TO ORDER

To order call 0845 4025300 with your credit or debit card, quoting offer code ‘ELRDRGRO’ and the relevant order codes. Alternatively, please fill in the order form and post with payment to: Harrod Horticultural, Pinbush Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR33 7NL. Offer closes on 30/06/2011. Offer is available to UK mainland only. Delivery will be within 28 days. Please add £4.95 postage and packing per order.

ELRDRGRO

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

PRICE

QUANTITY

SUB-TOTAL

Heavy-Duty Anti-Bird Netting 4x5m (GNE-001) £7.50 Fine Insect Mesh 2x5m (GNE-036)

£6.25

Insulating Fleece 2x10m (GNE-063)

£3

Flexible Soft-Tie 8m roll (GDN-911)

£3.48

Postage and packing TOTAL PAYMENT

£4.95 £

I enclose my cheque for £………….. made payable to ‘Harrod Horticultural’ or please debit my Visa/Mastercard/Maestro/Solo card for £...................................................................................... Card Number ............................................................................................................................................ Valid from ......................................................... Expiry date .................................................................. Issue no. (if applicable) ............................................................................................................................ Security Number (last 3 digits on signature strip) .............................................................................. Signature: ................................................................................................................................................... Name:.......................................................................................................................................................... Address: ..................................................................................................................................................... ............................................................................. Post Code: ................................................................... Telephone No.:..........................................................................................................................................


Know-how Watering by hand is always the preferred option

right

WATER

Watering is a key summer activity that makes all the difference between success and failure, yet many of us get this basic technique wrong. Charles Dowding explores how to water effectively and grow better

40 June 2011 Grow it!

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ome of the skills needed for successful kitchen gardening are seldom mentioned. Watering is an example and I see enough bad watering to make me want to explain more about doing it well. Knowing how and when to water your crops will reduce your plot’s need for water, encourage healthier growth, reduce weeds and save time. The most common mistake I see is over watering. This includes giving water too often or applying too much to small, slower-growing plants. It also occurs when sprinklers are left on or if they are poorly directed. Drip lines are probably the only efficient aid to watering outdoors, but I find that the best results come from hand watering. Plants can survive a fair time in partially dry soil, by rooting more deeply and by searching out moisture held in organic matter. They are often healthier for growing in dry conditions, with less slugs and incidence of fungal infections. Then a tipping point is reached when too little moisture is available, leading to the appearance of pests such as red spider mite and aphids, along with diseases such as powdery mildew. So how do you recognise the difference between soil that looks dry but contains sufficient moisture, and soil that is too dry to support healthy growth? Years of experience help, but until then I offer many clues in the rest of this piece.

Hand watering

I grow a lot of vegetables and am often asked why there is no means of automatic watering, even in one of my polytunnels. The reason is that hand watering, with a hose or can, gives you the chance to direct different amounts of water to different plants, according to their size, rate of growth and rooting habit. All the water can go to the soil close to plants and little of it goes on pathways or plot edges. Much less water is therefore needed. Another thing which always impresses me with hand watering is how much I learn about my plants and their needs while I


Key points

Handwater:

This allows crops to be inspected as you water and enables better targeting of the water delivered.

am doing it. Watering is a great opportunity to have a good look at recent growth, spot any problems arising and weeds that need pulling, and to work out where new sowings and plantings can happen.

Consider the crop:

Different crops need different amounts of water. Leafy and fruiting veg will need more water than crops with a deep tap root.

Sprinklers and drip lines

Most watering devices are wasteful and difficult to control precisely. They cost money, need storing when not in use, eventually break or perish and are mostly made of plastic, which ends up in landfill. And all to ‘save time’. Sometimes I wonder how much time is actually saved. I have seen fields laid out with drip lines in a hot June, followed by a wet summer when they were never used. Last summer on a private estate I heard of a sprinkler left on all night, by mistake, which ran the estate’s supply dry. In a large kitchen garden I saw sprinklers being moved around and creating ideal conditions for plentiful weed growth, as they watered large areas of bare soil next to rows of vegetables. Unless you are growing in one of the driest parts of Britain on a sandy soil, I would stick to watering by hand. Before investing in any watering system, look at other options such as increasing the organic matter content of

Earlyto rise:

Watering in the morning is usually preferable to watering in the evening. It allows plants to dry off before night.

Seedlings:

Water seedlings with care – they’ll need much less water than older plants but will need to be checked more often.

Setting out:

It’s important to water in transplants to give them a boost and to help settle soil around the roots.

your soil and careful selection of vegetables you grow.

Young plants will need more water than newly emerged seedlings

Which plants to water

Some vegetables such as celery, celeriac and salads have many shallow roots which fuel growth when moisture is generally available. They also have some deeper roots that aid survival in dry soil, although growth is

Easy does it:

Go easy on under cover winter crops. They need less soil moisture to see them through the coldest months.

Dig less:

Consider instigating a no-dig approach to soil cultivation. It will save time while improving soil structure and water-retention.

Unless you are growing in one of the driest parts of Britain on a sandy soil, I would stick to watering by hand

Leafy plants close to maturity need more water, such as calabrese and cauliflower when their heads are developing, then slower. I find lettuce to be lettuce when its heart is firming surprisingly drought resistant, but up and herbs such as parsley it is prone to more damage from and dill when well developed. root aphids in dry soil, so is worth Most alliums are also thirsty watering every four or five days in plants, especially in the final half dry weather. of their lives. Garlic is often my Other plants needing moist soil first watering of the season when are fruiting vegetables in flower, growing strongly in April and May, such as beans, peas, cucurbits, when it is a dry spring. Leeks need sweetcorn and tomatoes. The water in a dry summer to help bigger the plant, the more water it needs. Tall rows of peas or runner Left: Dibbing holes them avoid orange rust on their for transplant leaves. Only onions do better in beans have hundreds of leaves, into wetted soil. drier conditions. pulling huge amounts of water out Wetting the soil One vegetable I don’t water every day and benefit from being before planting is parsnip, whose long roots can watered when many other plants is essential in dry conditions pull moisture from considerable are fine for moisture. Grow it! June 2011 41

S


Know-how depth. Also, they can survive a dry summer and then grow away in a wet autumn, so it is partly a question of patience. Likewise for winter and spring brassicas, such as kale and purple sprouting, when sown in June they do most growing in autumn when moisture is more available.

When to water

Although it is often advised to water late in the day, I do that only in the heat of midsummer, when days are long enough for plants to use the moisture in both evening and early morning. Otherwise I find it best to water in the early morning, because I am wary of both slugs and fungal diseases on wet leaves. Both are lessened when surface moisture has dried up before night falls. Another advantage of morning watering is that cold water passes into cold soil, so there is no loss of heat, compared to evening watering which sees cold water on warm soil before night, which then tends to reduce the rate of growth. Shady areas need less watering and more care with it to avoid lingering moisture allowing a build up of moisture-loving pests and disease. This is where watering in the morning to allow surfaces to dry out before night-time arrives, is of particular importance.

Watering young plants

It pays to keep a close eye on seedlings and plants, preferably checking them every day and with an awareness of the weather to come. I give a little extra water

STEP-BY-STEP

1

before a day of bright sun and drying winds, and almost no water before a day of dull gloom. Newly sown seeds and small seedlings need little water compared to plants which are nearly ready to go out, so I always water in different amounts, according to the needs of each seed and module tray and different pots. Some gardeners save time with capillary matting under pots and trays but their downside is an inability to respond to plants’ special needs. They also bring about a loss of contact between gardener and plant.

Right: Watering can help to settle soil around the roots of transplants such as these brassicas

A most important moment for giving water is after setting plants out into a new location. As well as giving moisture, water helps soil to settle around roots of new plants and ensures better contacts with their roots. Just give a small amount for small plants, and repeat once or twice at intervals of a day or two, depending on the weather. Larger plants with many roots need three or four repeat waterings if the soil is dry, so that the existing rootball doesn’t dry out before sufficient contact is made with soil around it, allowing roots to travel outwards

Preparing for winter polytunnel salads

After removing a summer crop, such as peppers or tomatoes, I tread down the soil to break up lumps and conserve valuable soil moisture.

42 June 2011 Grow it!

A thorough water early in the winter season should carry most polytunnel crops through until things begin to warm up

2

The ground is often dust dry, so it’s essential to thoroughly re-wet the soil. Go over the ground several times and check it is moist through by digging down with a trowel.

3

Module-raised salads suitable for growing through the darker winter months can then be set into place. Watering usually grinds to a halt by early winter to resume again in February.


again for two and a half months until a fine day in early February. The soil had dried on top but still contained sufficient moisture for the small amount of growth at that time of year and we had picked a surprising number of leaves. Then I watered at fortnightly intervals until the middle of March and thereafter weekly when salad was growing strongly and higher temperatures led to more evaporation.

Watering less

Parsnips growing on dug (below) and un-dug soil. The dug soil is cracking in a dry July

Surface mulches help reduce moisture loss but they are not a panacea because if plants are growing strongly in dry weather, they pump soil dry almost as fast as plants growing in un-mulched soil, although they should grow bigger and healthier from finding extra moisture. Heavier soils with plenty of organic matter added over the years have greater ability to hold moisture than we sometimes imagine, even if they look dry on top.

Soils with plenty of organic matter added over the years have greater ability to hold moisture

and bring moisture in from the surrounding soil. Planting into really dry soil is made easier by pre-watering the area so that holes can be made in moist soil, then water plants in as usual.

Under cover winter veg

Protected salads in winter need less water than is often given, once established in damp soil. Make sure that soil is thoroughly moist before sowing and planting in autumn. It takes a while for water to penetrate dry soil so it is worth checking with a trowel after watering to see if there are still dry pockets. Soil with plenty of organic matter takes the longest to rewater from a dry state, then once it is at maximum capacity, there is enough water for long periods of winter growth without watering. For example last year I watered all the salad in my polytunnels in late November, just before the cold weather. Then I did not water

Avoiding digging is also a great help. This was emphasised to me last year when a large bed of celeriac was too far from my hose and I had insufficient time to water it by hand. The un-dug, clay soil had received two inches of wellrotted cow manure the previous autumn and some of this was still on the surface. Celeriac roots grew steadily, less than usual but in great health. They simply kept ticking over until rain in autumn allowed them to swell nicely. A nearby bed of peas was also not watered and again surprised me with its growth and yield, affirming the value of paying attention to our most fundamental asset, the soil. This leads nicely to an evaluation of products you can

Below: These celeriac and chard lasted through the summer with no additional watering Below left: An October haul of leek ‘King Richard’, all grown in this pot within regular multipurpose compost

buy to retain moisture. I would never use them in beds of garden soil and compost, where organic matter is healthier, cheaper, just as effective and confers many other benefits as well as holding moisture. Maybe proprietary aids such as water-retaining gel have a role in containers, but having succeeded with a bountiful crop of leeks from a relatively small pot in a hot summer, grown in multipurpose compost with no additions, I feel they are an unnecessary expense and complication to the great task of growing naturally. Careful and targeted water should see your crops thrive, saving you time and effort and ultimately leading to a more satisfying harvest.

Grow it! June 2011 43


PRACTICAL PROJECT: JUNE

Supermarket sweep Less than £5 to put this together!

Create an instant salad garden using readily available plants from the supermarket. Benedict Vanheems shows how a few pounds can go a long way in this easy project

T

he price of supermarket herbs never ceases to come as something of a shock, particularly when you consider how easy they are to grow. At least those small square pots of live herbs found in the fresh produce aisle extend the useable life of the plants. Nevertheless, you’re still paying a premium for your herbal kick. But look closely at any supermarket pot of herbs and you will notice it doesn’t contain one plant but lots of tightly packed plantlets. In these cramped conditions plants can’t be expected to last all that long; one or two vigorous picks and they’re likely to be exhausted and ready for the compost bin. Separate the plantlets, however, and you’ll get much more from them – and save yourself a few bob in the process. This very simple project shows you how easy it is to turn a typical 9cm pot of herbs into a planter of plenty that 44 June 2011 Grow it!

will crop for much longer. In this way you will enjoy a far greater yield of leaves. This example has been fleshed out with another increasingly common supermarket staple – the ‘living salad’ tray. Living salads are clusters of cut-andcome-again salad plants that can be kept on the windowsill and harvested as needed. By separating out the individual plantlets and re-planting with the herbs you’ll have a container of flavoursome leaves to pick and enjoy as and when. You can plant your separated plantlets individually or plant them in small clusters. Either way they will appreciate the extra space available to them and soon expand to fill out the planter. Basil has been used in this project – it’s deliciously aromatic leaves will make for an intensely flavoured salad. You could also use parsley (flatleafed will be nicer in salad) or coriander. Any old container will do but to keep to the supermarket theme I’ve selected

a cheap-and-cheerful washing up bowl. This bowl is an old one I had lying around for storing odds and ends, but you can pick one up at the supermarket for a couple of pounds. A sweep around the supermarket for herbs, living salad and a washing up bowl comes in at well under £5 – not bad for a salad garden that should last a couple of months!

What you will need

✔ Washing up bo wl or similar ✔ Drill and drill bi t ✔ Pebbles or grav el ✔ Multipurpose co mpost ✔ Small pot of he rbs (eg. basil, parsley) ✔ Living salad tra y ✔ Liquid feed


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Turnip ‘Milan Purple Top’

VERTICAL GROWING Take your crops to new heights

Hands-on advice Growing instructions: When large enough to handle thin seedlings to 10cm (4in) apart. Keep well watered during dry weather. Harvest from May to November. Harvested while young, ‘baby turnips’ can be used raw to make a sweet addition to salads or steamed for a tasty vegetable. Sowing instructions: Turnips prefer a rich, wellmanured soil. Sow thinly from March to August directly outside or into containers, setting seed 1cm (0.5in) deep. Sow regularly for fresh roots throughout spring, summer and autumn. This exceptional turnip forms flatter, globe-shaped roots with purple crowns and white bases. They are ideal eaten as ‘baby turnips’ when the taste is sweet and succulent. The dark green, erect leaves are exceptional when steamed as greens, giving you two crops in one! ‘Milan Purple Top’ is also perfect for growing in containers.

Turnip ‘Milan Purple Top’

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Practical know-how:

✦ Last-season leeks ✦ Turnips in 5 weeks ✦ Conserving moisture ✦ Balcony growing

Picture for illustration purposes only, seed varieties may change subject to availability.

Seasonal tips

20/06/2011 11:35

Expert advice

Call our subscription hotline on:

01959 541444 and quote “E101”or visit

www.kelseyshop.co.uk Helpful hints

Seasonal fayre


STEP-BY-STEP

Planting up a bowl of salad

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

Assemble your materials. In this picture you can see the closepacked nature of the plantlets. Unwrap the herb pot and living salad tray and soak the pots in water.

Now fill the bowl up with compost, stopping just shy of the rim. You can use multipurpose compost or home-made garden compost that’s properly rotted down, as here.

Separate the living salad tray in a similar way to create lots of little clusters. Plant these into your bowl, spacing them 5-10cm (2-4in) apart. You may only need to use half the tray.

Prepare the washing up bowl by drilling drainage holes into the bottom. Place the bowl on a flat, secure surface and drill the holes, leaving a few inches between them.

It’s time to plant! Start by very gently easing your herbs from their pot. Use your fingers to carefully tease apart small groups of plantlets, taking care not to damage them.

Now fill in some of the gaps with your basil plugs. Use your fingers to excavate holes in the compost and firm back gently. There were enough plants here to plant up another bowl!

To further improve the drainage of the bowl add a layer of pebbles or gravel to the base. Fill this drainage layer to an even depth of around 2-3cm (1in).

Here you can see the contents of just one pot, giving several sturdy little plugs. Each cluster has three or four plantlets. These can be further divided if you wish, or planted like this.

Water your bowl of salad to settle the compost. Keep out of direct sunlight to recover and water fortnightly with liquid feed. Within a few days the plants will have perked up. Grow it! June 2011 45


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e want to know all about your productive plots! The ‘Your Plot 2011’ competition promises to showcase the very best of these, offering you the chance to show us why you’re proud of your kitchen garden, patio plot or allotment. We love reading about your successes, challenges and achievements, so we’re hoping to make this year’s competition the biggest yet. Your Plot 2011 has three categories: best overall plot, best container/raised bed plot and best allotment plot, with prizes to be won for each. So whether you’ve a few pots or a sprawling allotment we want to see what you’re up to! Inspiration is what the competition is all about. Write in and tell us how you got your plot started, a little about its layout, what you’re growing and your proudest achievements. We’ll be reviewing the best entries in an autumn issue, so this is your chance to share your green-fingered exploits with other readers. Good luck! Last year’s winner Barbara Jannsen’s polytunnel

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Young hands help on Maxine Lawrence’s Devon plot

Vee Wilkinson’s produce-packed

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Prizes to be won...

This year’s overall winner can look forward to a £500 spending spree at horticultural sundries supplier Harrod Horticultural. They stock a wide range of kit for the growing enthusiast so the only problem our winner will have is deciding what to spend their prize fund on! To see what you could be winning visit Harrod Horticultural at www.harrodhorticultural.com The winner of the best container/ raised bed plot will win a £250 shopping experience courtesy of gardening tools and growing solutions provider Burgon & Ball. For details of the Burgon & Ball range visit www.burgonball.com For the best allotment plot winner we’ve teamed up with garden tools manufacturer Bulldog Tools to stock up the tool shed. The winner will receive £250-worth of quality tools. Click on www. bulldogtools.co.uk to see the Bulldog Tools range.

HOW TO ENTER To enter the Your Plot 2011 competition send us no more than five pictures of your kitchen garden plot and a maximum of 250 words to describe how you got it under way, its layout, what you grow and why you are proud of your plot. If you are using a digital camera take your pictures at the highest quality setting (5+ megapixels) so we can use them to a good size in the magazine. We will feature the best entries in an autumn issue. Post your entries to: Grow it! Your Plot Competition, Kelsey Publishing Group, Cudham Tithe Barn, Berry’s Hill, Cudham, Kent TN16 3AG. Alternatively email them to: gi.ed@kelsey.co.uk Don’t forget to include your name and contact details. The closing date for entries is 31st July 2011.

46 June 2011 Grow it!


Herb grow guide

Dedicate a corner of your garden to a cluster of potted herbs

POTS OF PLEASURE

Create a little world of escape with a container herb garden. Ann Somerset Miles discusses planter options and some suitable herbal candidates

I

t doesn’t matter how small a garden you have, if you love herbs then space can always be found for them. Herbs thrive in containers and can be tucked into odd corners or lined along paths or patios in rows in a deliberate configuration, or dotted temporarily here and there in bare spots within borders. They are so easy to grow, are readily available in almost every garden centre and have so many uses. Herbs are some of the oldest plants to be cultivated and, long before that, were for centuries gathered from the wild. Whether you use them or not, they are invariably decorative and engender such joy as you brush your fingertips across their scented leaves. Perennial or annual, hardy or tender, long or short-lived, or sun or shade-loving – none of these attributes matter when herbs are grown in a pot as they can always be moved about or protected. Rampant spreaders such as mint can also be kept under control when grown in pots, while many herbs are easy to propagate so the initial outlay needn’t Culinary and physic herbs await a new home be considerable. 48 June 2011 Grow it!

Every gardener probably immediately recognises parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme as herbs par excellence. Many more fall into the ‘cook’s herb garden’ classification, though there are additionally herbs that serve medicinal purposes, herbs useful in the household and herbs such as dye plants for craft activities. Many of the traditionally-grown herbs that would have been necessities to our forbears have fallen out of favour; ones which, for me at any rate, still tug at the heart. Determine why you want to grow herbs – for their culinary, physic, craft or household properties, or perhaps just because their folklore and past uses are so fascinating.

Where to begin

Deciding on the category of herb you wish to grow is less important than understanding their natural habitat. Do they require poor, dry, sandy soil in full sun, such as those that hail from the wild gravel screes of southern Europe? Or do they, like the marginal bog plants, require damp, shady conditions? Or will they thrive in rich soil in dappled shade? Containers can provide all these soil conditions and aspects, with each tailored to suit its particular occupant. So start by listing the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ – what you want to grow and for what purpose – then check the requirements of the herbs you have listed and set about finding and preparing containers.


It’s a moot point as to whether use or beauty of herbs comes first. Should you select for their looks to create a pretty mixture that sets the heart racing when you see certain plants grouped together: bright white feverfew, with orange calendula and the heavenly blue of borage or hyssop, for example? Or is the use to which each herb will be put of more importance to you: comfrey, say, because you want to make your own liquid plant food and compost accelerator. Everyone has their own preferences.

Pots of plenty

Provide height by standing one pot on top of another. These pots come from Whichford Pottery

Wooden planters can make a stunning feature

You may already have a selection of containers, in which case their size and shape can be added to the equation of ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘where’. Pots or boxes, large or small, all of a kind or a complete mixture are useful. You can buy new or recycle the weird and the whacky to create a very personal container. The permutations are endless but before assembling too many, take into account the cost of the compost and how much is likely to be needed to fill a large tub. Make sure you move large pots into position before filling them to avoid back injuries. Consider the proximity of water – small pots dry out quickly and even those preferring dry conditions will need watering during long, hot spells or periods of drying winds. You will need pots to be clear of icy winter blasts which will cause more damage than frost or ice alone. Undoubtedly you’ll prefer your containerised herb garden to be a pleasure rather than an endless chore of keeping the plants alive. However, they are truly worth the effort. Tempted? If you don’t grow herbs already then do give them a go. They will assuredly bring joy to your garden. Think foliage, think flowers, think taste, thinks scents – what could be more lovely on a summer’s evening that to sit outside, sipping your own herbal tea (served in a china cup), or a glass of home-made dandelion wine, perhaps nibbling cheese-straws that you made earlier in the day, flavoured with a hint of herbs. A well-designed herb garden can become a place to sit and read, or paint or write. Breathe deeply and, at the end of the day, enjoy your own herbal heaven.

Galvanised containers and kitchenalia make handsome planters to really show off your herbs

Ideas for containers

New or old terracotta pots always look lovely, as do glazed pots within a modern garden. Newer materials such as aluminium will also help to create a clean, contemporary atmosphere. A mixture of material types, shapes and sizes will suit most gardeners, though others may prefer identical pots. Small pots of individual herbs can look lovely clustered around a large planter, while grouped together they look more luxurious. Recycling containers or converting old junk into new planters needn’t mean an unsightly display, particularly if the containers are all of a kind. Galvanised buckets, wheelbarrows, watering cans, cauldrons and other old kitchen receptacles look superb. It’s still possible to buy

You can buy new or recycle the weird and whacky to create a very personal container these ‘antiques’ and half the fun is sourcing them and adding to a collection. Glazed sinks can be used – and still bought new – though they are probably best hidden behind a low box hedge or other pots (unless, of course, the idea of taking the kitchen sink into the garden appeals!). Other weird and whacky ideas will spring to mind. Car tyres (you now have to pay to dispose of them) can be piled two or three high, but clean and thoroughly de-grease them first. Children love the unusual so might like their own tyre garden. Take a look at farm stores for low-standing feed troughs to edge a terrace; drill holes for drainage first. Or why not make your own containers from those tough but inexpensive supermarket bags? You’ll need two for each planter. Add gravel to the bottom of one bag then punch drainage holes into the second and place it inside the first bag, on top of the gravel. Fold the sides down to whatever height you like and fill with compost.

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Grow it! June 2011 49


Veg grow guide

Make your own planting medium using a combination of multipurpose and soil-based composts

Preparing and planting

Plants should be healthy with fresh, young roots that aren’t pot-bound

Ensure that any pot or receptacle you intend to press into service is clean and has drainage holes to prevent water-logging of the compost, particularly in winter. This isn’t so critical with damp-loving herbs but can be fatal to those that prefer dry conditions. It’s best to stand pots on a shallow or deep saucer, which will help to conserve water. If you like, add gravel to the saucer. If the pot is small enough you can tip excess water away during periods of very wet weather. For most container herbs I advise a mixture of multipurpose compost to which John Innes soil-based compost (Number 3) has been added. Vary the proportions according to the amount of moisture required by individual species. For those that prefer damp conditions include more multipurpose, while for herbs that like it on the dry side add more soil-based compost, with horticultural gravel mixed in or applied as a mulch. For large pots housing plants requiring rich soil I add a quantity of my own homemade compost. Don’t forget to add crocks to the bottom of containers to assist with drainage. These can be broken flower pots, crushed or crumbled brick, or stones removed from the garden when digging. Fill containers to just below the brim with your chosen compost mixture. When planting a container it’s always best to use small plants so you can control their growth conditions. Not many garden centres (if any) will allow you to remove plants from the pots to check root growth; young and healthy roots are preferable to pot-bound with no new rootlets. Top growth can be a good indicator, so look for fresh, vibrant growth rather than shoots arising from old stock that’s been pruned to encourage re-growth.

When planting a container it's always best to use small plants so you can control their growth conditions 50 June 2011 Grow it!

Culinary cauldron

This old iron cauldron has been lying around in the garden for years so I decided to turn it into the perfect vessel for culinary herbs. The cauldron now houses fennel in the middle to add height, sorrel for making soups, hyssop for herbal tea, plus parsley, chives, golden marjoram and lemon thyme, which are continually used in my cooking. The iron pot was heavy so it had to be put into position first before filling with compost. The chosen herbs were positioned until they looked right and then planted, carefully teasing out the roots and watering them into their allotted space. The homemade iron tripod was added over the cauldron and ‘Borlotto Lingua di Fuoco’ climbing French beans were sown to twine up the bars; their striped pods will look wonderful later in the summer. The pot faces south, which is perfect for this sun-loving selection. I won’t water them unless they start to look a little limp; otherwise they can be left to do their own thing.

STEP-BY-STEP

Planting up a herb display 1

Gather together your selection of herbs and thoroughly moisten the compost of each herb by sitting them in water so the plants can draw in water from below.

2

Place some crocks into the bottom of the planter then fill with compost. I’ve used a mix of homemade, multipurpose and John Innes Number 3 composts for this display.

3

Slip the herbs from their pots then plant them, feeding in compost and firming as you go. This planter lends itself to a sowing of climbing beans to twine around the iron tripod.

4

Water the herbs into place and top up with more compost if it sinks down considerably. Water when necessary and use the herbs regularly.


WHAT TO GROW

This alphabetical list contains just a selection of mainly culinary herbs. Soil conditions and aspect are given, together with suggested usage. Many fit more than one category and are very much must-have all-rounders. Culinary herbs

Herb for teas

Moist or damp soil, in shade or partial shade

Lemon balm, calamint, feverfew, mints, rosemary and lemon verbena

Angelica: Leaf, seed and stalk (crystalised). I T Bergamot: Herbal tea (flowers) Lemon balm: Herbal tea, salads. Good in poor soil Chervil: Mild sweet aniseed flavour, used in continental cooking with fish French tarragon: Use sparingly, good in vinegars, the main ingredient of Sauce Béarnaise Good King Henry: Substitute for spinach or feeding hens Lovage: Substitute for celery. T Mint: Many ‘flavours’, repot frequently; mint sauce, teas and cooling drinks. I Parsley: The most useful of all; allow to self-sow for earlier crops Sorrel (broad-leaved): Sharp lemony tang, use sparingly in salads; hens love it

Other useful herbs

KEY: I Invasive or woody, so best grown on its own

T Tall herb Black cumin (Nigella damascena): Lovely blue flowers and pungent seed – sprinkle over home-made bread. Needs dry conditions Comfrey: Line raised beds with it, use for liquid feed, or add to compost heap. Grow in shade or partial shade. I T Costemary/alecost (Tanacetum balsamita): With its balsamic flavour and scent, it once flavoured ale, was used as a pot-herb, or to sweeten linen. Good in shade or partial shade. I T Feverfew: Medicinal, but beautiful bright white flower clusters. Requires dry conditions Echinacea/coneflower: Daisy-like flower heads, medicinal herbal teas. Grow in the shade or partial shade T Lavender: Sparingly in cakes; butterfly and bee flower. For well-drained soils. I Soapwort: Flowers shaken in warm water produce a soapy substance for washing delicate and antique textiles. Needs dry conditions. I Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum): Clothesmoth deterrent for dry spots of the garden. I A mixed Violet: Crystalise the flowers. For shade or terracotta partial shade pot of herbs

Dry soil (sandy, mixed or mulched with f ine grit in a wet climate), in sun

Bay: Essential for stews; needs shelter from harsh winds. I T Borage: Cucumber-flavoured leaf (iced drinks), flowers in salads. T Chives: Chop over salads Fennel: Salads or fish (not to be confused with the bulbous vegetable). T Rosemary: Flavouring for stews or lamb. I Sage: Stuffings, or sparingly with pork. I Salad burnet: Lovely lacy leaves, snip into salads Summer savory: Annual, serve with broad beans eans Sweet-leaved pelargonium (P. fragrans): Imparts a rose flavour to cakes CAUTION! Thyme: Stuffing, and lovely with chicken Never grow culinary Winter savory: Perennial evergreen, herbs close to those that adds a tang to many a dish

Suitable herbs for salads

are poisonous or else a simple mistake could lead to disaster. This is especially important if children use your garden.

Use these sparingly as they can be quite strong: ong: lemon balm, basil, burnet, calendula (petals), s), caraway, chervil, chives, dill and fennel (leaves aves and flower umbels), lovage, marjoram, nasturtium urtium (leaves and flowers), rose (petals) and sorrel

Grow it! June 2011 51


N› N Veg grow guide

KINGKALE

‘Dwarf Green Curled’ is an easy-to-grow variety that won’t need staking

52 June 2011 Grow it!


K

itchen gardeners looking for a hardy crop that gives plenty while asking for little in return should look no further than the ever-obliging kale. This toughas-old-boots leafy vegetable copes with just about anything thrown at it, suffers few of the pests that afflict other members of the brassica family, and can be grown in most soils. Kale's real party piece, however, is its ability to withstand near-Siberian temperatures only to spring back into life and offer a succession of tasty leaves when we need them most – throughout the ‘hungry gap’ of February to April. Kale has seen a renaissance in recent years as more and more of us fall back in love with this incredibly accommodating vegetable. Today’s varieties offer a mix of curly-leaved or handsomely wavy-leaved types, all full of vitamins and a rich source of iron. Picked young the leaves are every bit as tasty and versatile as spinach and can be used in stir-fries, stews, steamed as a healthy side dish or served raw in salads. Harvested correctly kale will stand for a long time, yielding its succulent leaves from October right through to the following spring.

Down to earth

Unlike other brassicas such as Brussels sprouts, kale thrives in most soils, so long as it is freedraining and not acidic (apply lime if your soil is much below 6.5 pH). Where some plants might struggle, kale will thrive, growing well in soils ranging from those of a sandy texture to those that are decidedly clayey. Of course, the more prepared and enriched the soil, the better your plants will grow, so it is worth taking the time to incorporate plenty of organic matter in anticipation of the harvests to follow. Kale will give its best in a sunny spot but will grow quite

satisfactorily in a part-shaded position. Most kales are started off in modules or a separate nursery bed, either being planted out or transplanted into their final growing positions from June to August. This makes them excellent follow-on crops, slotting neatly into place after earlier vegetables such as peas or salad potatoes have been lifted. Prepare the ground the autumn before planting by digging it over and incorporating ample organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost. About a week before planting out a final top-up of soil nutrients can be supplied courtesy of a general-purpose organic fertiliser such as blood, fish and bonemeal. Kale plants following on from an early-season crop will certainly appreciate this boost of nutrients to get them underway.

MARSHALLS

Span the infamous ‘hungry gap’ in style with this handsome member of the brassica family. Benedict Vanheems explains how to grow the perfect cut of kale

Baby leaves Kale can also be grown as a young, cut-andcome-again leaf – a real treat and a great way of livening up otherwise average salads. Simply sow seeds of a variety such as ‘Red Russian’ (pictured) thinly in rows spaced 10-15cm (4-6in) apart. You can do this at any point from April until August. Cut the leaves when they reach about 7cm (3in) tall, making each cut just above soil level and taking care not to damage the central growing point from where more leaves will sprout. Allow the leaves to grow to 15cm (6in) for stir-fry use. Plant kale up to its first leaves when it comes to planting out time

Sowed up

Start kale off in a separate nursery bed or in module trays. The latter will allow you to make the most use of outdoor growing space while seedlings establish. To sow in the ground, mark 1cm (0.5in)-deep drills into soil that’s been raked to

Kale ‘Redbor’ makes an eyecatching addition to the veg plot

a fine tilth. Space rows 15cm (6in) apart. Sow the seeds very thinly, dropping individual seeds every couple of centimetres, then cover back over. Keep the seedbed moist to encourage a speedy appearance of your seedlings. Once they have germinated and grown on a little, pull out excess seedlings to leave 7cm (3in) between each plant. The plants remaining can now grow on until it’s time to transplant them to their final positions. To begin seedlings in modules use trays with generously proportioned cells. Alternatively sow seeds into seed trays for later pricking out into these modules. Sow the seed 1cm (0.5in) deep, setting two or three seeds into each module. When the seedlings have appeared, thin out the weakest seedlings to leave one plant per cell. Grow on in a bright position, clear of extremes in temperature. Most kale varieties are sown in April or May. If you’ve missed

S

Grow it! June 2011 53


Veg grow guide the boat this spring then young plugs of kale are usually available in garden centres. The exception to sowing in spring is the rape kales, which need to be sown in July or August. Rape kales such as ‘Ragged Jack’ offer the latest pickings of all, gearing up from February and continuing to May. Rape kales can’t abide root disturbance so you will need to sow them in their final positions, setting seed widely apart in rows spaced 45cm (18in) distant and thinning in stages until plants are 45cm (18in) apart within their rows. Quick-growers such as any of the salads can be sown in-between the rows while the plants establish, thereby making the most efficient use of growing space.

STEP-BY-STEP

Growing kale

1

2

3

4

5

6

Prepare the ground the autumn before growing kale by digging in plenty of well-rotted organic matter. Add a further boost of general-purpose organic fertiliser just before planting time.

Space the seeds evenly, a few centimetres apart, within the nursery bed. Most seeds will germinate so there’s no need to sow thickly; this will only mean more thinning out later on.

Setting out

Plants will be ready for their final home in about June or early July. This will be around six weeks from sowing when plants are about 15cm (6in) tall and have four to six adult leaves. Leave plants to grow on much bigger than this and they will become cramped in their nursery bed or modules, exhausting available nutrients and taking on a drawn appearance – timing is of the essence! To transplant kale from the nursery bed thoroughly wet the ground the day before then carefully lift the plants up using a hand fork or trowel. Try to keep as much of the original soil around the roots as possible so the plants hardly notice they’ve moved. Replant into ground that’s been dressed with organic fertiliser. The soil should be relatively compact to keep plants from rocking about, so firm it back smartly with the back of a rake beforehand. Set the transplants 45cm (18in) apart in each direction, pressing them firmly into place and puddling in with plenty of water to settle the soil

54 June 2011 Grow it!

Once the seedlings have germinated begin thinning in stages until there is at least 7cm (3in) between each plant. Allow the plants to grow on to about 15cm (6in) high before transplanting.

Plant out kale once the plants have four to six adult leaves (approximately six weeks after sowing). Set the plants 45cm (18in) apart in each direction and firm the plants in well to settle.

Kale leaves are impressively versatile in the kitchen

Alternatively start your kale off in modules. This will allow outdoor space to be made better use of. The young plants can also be kept safe from pests within a cold frame this way.

Keep the ground moist as plants establish. Remove any weeds before they have a chance to properly establish and consider applying a mulch in hot, dry summer weather.

around the roots. Module-raised plantlets can be slipped from their cells with minimal root disturbance. If the roots are tightly curled around the cell gently tease them away so they are ready to grow into the fresh soil. When planting out or transplanting kale it’s important to firm plants in properly. Kale dislikes loose soil, which will see them rock back and forth in the wind. To further secure plants into position set them a little deeper than they

were before, so that the bottom leaves sit just above the soil surface.

Easy does it

Kale is an incredibly relaxed fellow, showing none of the drama queen-tendencies that some other members of the brassica family display. So long as plants are kept weed-free and the roots are kept moist they should grow through to winter with little fuss. Use a sharp hoe every week or two to sever weeds before they have a chance


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Turnip ‘Milan Purple Top’

VERTICAL GROWING Take your crops to new heights

Hands-on advice Growing instructions: When large enough to handle thin seedlings to 10cm (4in) apart. Keep well watered during dry weather. Harvest from May to November. Harvested while young, ‘baby turnips’ can be used raw to make a sweet addition to salads or steamed for a tasty vegetable. Sowing instructions: Turnips prefer a rich, wellmanured soil. Sow thinly from March to August directly outside or into containers, setting seed 1cm (0.5in) deep. Sow regularly for fresh roots throughout spring, summer and autumn. This exceptional turnip forms flatter, globe-shaped roots with purple crowns and white bases. They are ideal eaten as ‘baby turnips’ when the taste is sweet and succulent. The dark green, erect leaves are exceptional when steamed as greens, giving you two crops in one! ‘Milan Purple Top’ is also perfect for growing in containers.

Turnip ‘Milan Purple Top’

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Quick-growing delicious• Lettuces • Feeding crops equipment • Irrigation and Average content: 300 seeds. Origin UK. Seeds supplied by Thompson & Morgan (UK) Ltd. For customer care tel: 01473 688821 or email: www.thompsonmorgan.com Standard seeds – complies with EC rules and standards

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Seasonal tips

20/06/2011 11:35

Expert advice

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Seasonal fayre


WHAT TO GROW DWARF GREEN CURLED: A great starting point for those new to kale. ‘Dwarf Green Curled’ reaches no taller than 60cm (2ft), which means no staking. The leaves are tightly curled and best eaten young. Kings Seeds RAGGED JACK: Sow in summer for a spring crop of tender, tasty leaves at the time you most need them. The handsome bluegreen, broad leaves have a frilled edge to them. Edwin Tucker NERO DI TOSCANA: Also known as ‘Black Tuscan’, this kale forms long, elegant leaves with a dark, feather-like appearance. Argued by many to be the finest kale of all. Seeds of Italy

Kale isn’t difficult from the crown of the plant from to become established. Water about November, taking leaves during dry spells to encourage even to grow but it’s worth knowing while they are still quite young and growth and in very hot weather how to properly tender. Cut away, or harvest with consider surrounding plants with a harvest the leaves a sharp downward tug to detach mulch of organic matter to keep the the leaf from the stem. Harvesting roots cool and slow evaporation of from the crown will encourage valuable soil moisture. side-shoots to develop for picking Pests should be few and far from February onwards. Take between and in many cases you these shoots when they’re may get away without netting about 15cm (6in) long and plants or covering them in give plants a regular liquid fleece. That said, they’re not Chop up the old, tough feed as soon as they put invincible, so it may still be stems of spent kale wit h on new growth towards a wise precaution to grow secateurs before addin g to the end of winter to plants under a protective layer the compost heap. This encourage that final flush of netting, at least until they will speed up their of leafy growth. become established. Cabbage decomposition. Kale tastes best when white fly can sometimes strike young and fresh. Old or but the first severe frost will knock yellowed leaves are tough and back any infestation. somewhat bitter. Pick your leaves As summer turns to autumn with care and you’ll really relish and winds pick up some of the this hardy crop. Once the plants taller varieties may need to be Right: Kale may begin to rise to flower simply hoik staked to stop them rocking be grown in them out and relocate them to about. Soil can also be banked suitable-sized the compost heap. With judicious up against the base of stems to containers. Here picking you’ll have enjoyed an offer further support. Keep plants the hardy ‘Nero almost continuous supply of neat by picking away any dying or di Toscana’ yellowing leaves. makes an impact leaves for close to half a year.

TOP TIP

RED RUSSIAN: One of the most attractive kales available for eating as young, spinachlike leaves or left to grow on to full splendour. The grey-green, lightly crinkled leaves have a deep purple venation that intensifies with frost. Marshalls HUNGRY GAP: A late-cropping rape kale that forms very hardy leaves of fine flavour. This is a robust and reliable variety that’s unlikely to disappoint. Chiltern Seeds REDBOR F1: Contrast greenleaved kale with this deep red alternative. The dense, curled leaves are ready for picking from autumn and right through winter. Kings Seeds

A cut above

Careful harvesting of kale will ensure plants crop for longer. Picking the leaves in a gung-ho fashion will quickly decimate your hard-earned rewards. The mantra here is little and often – take a few leaves at a time from each plant to spread the load. Pick leaves

KALE SEED SUPPLIERS ✦ Chiltern Seeds: 01229 581137, www.chilternseeds.co.uk ✦ Edwin Tucker: 01364 652233, www.edwintucker.com ✦ Kings Seeds: 01376 570000, www.kingsseeds.com ✦ Marshalls: 01480 443390, www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk ✦ Seeds of Italy: 020 8427 5020, www.seedsofitaly.com Grow it! June 2011 55


Know-how

✱ Gluts of produce seem to come from all directions at this time

Frosty reception

of year. Don’t waste a bean – freeze excess produce and carry a taste of summer into winter, as John and Val Harrison explain

EXTRACT TAKEN FROM HOW TO STORE YOUR HOME GROWN PRODUCE BY JOHN AND VAL HARRISON (RIGHT WAY, £6.99)

F

reezing has to be the oldest method for preserving food known to man; archaeological evidence shows that Neanderthals dug pits in the ice to keep their mammoth meat fresh! Six thousand years later the great houses of the aristocracy filled special ice houses with winter ice cut from the lakes in their grounds. By the mid 1800s ships were sailing from the Arctic with cargoes of ice for selling in blocks to use in domestic ice boxes, the precursor of the electric refrigerators, which didn’t become widespread until the 1930s. Around this time Clarence Birdseye (of Birds Eye Fish Fingers fame) invented a flash freezing process that made commercial frozen foods possible. The use of domestic freezers, however, didn’t become commonplace until the 1970s.

Frozen assets

smaller amounts and freeze immediately. If you really Today’s freezers offer a safe can’t freeze on the same way of keeping food nutritious day then put the crop into indefinitely. The reason is the fridge to slow down the that freezing down to -18°C conversion of sugars or lower stops bacteria from to starch. multiplying. The microbes For long-term storage present in the food remain blanching is a must. As dormant, suspending its well as locking in flavour deterioration. But while blanching helps to retain microbes are stopped, vitamin C. Before you enzymes are not – they are start, get everything Process crops such as just slowed down by the cold. sweetcorn immediately ready. Turn the freezer Although this doesn’t make frozen food unsafe, it can cause before the sugars turn to its coldest setting and to starch check there is enough its flavour to decline. Luckily room inside, rearranging for the grower blanching fresh the contents if necessary. produce before freezing will Some freezers have a destroy the enzymes and lock special tray or section that is in flavour for longer. recommended for freezing While frozen food remains down and you will want to safe to eat indefinitely, it make sure this is ready. makes sense to use the Next clear a space in the oldest frozen produce first, fridge to enable you to preso labelling is important. chill before freezing. If you This will also help you to can, adjust the thermostat determine exactly what’s to lower the temperature what when ice has clouded Prepared produce can in the fridge too. You will the freezer bag or container. be kept fresh in water need a lot of ice to chill Freezer manufacturers often in the fridge until ready down blanched produce, to process for freezing give guidance as to how so empty ice cube trays into long various foods will keep. a bag (kept in the freezer) and set more This tends to err on the side of caution. on for freezing. Make sure the kitchen’s We’ve not noticed any deterioration cleared for action. The last thing you want of properly blanched vegetables after is clutter getting in the way when you are two years. moving pans of boiling water about.

Lock-in taste

Freezing is an excellent way of preserving gluts while maintaining taste

It may seem obvious but the fresher the produce you freeze, the better the flavour will be when you come to defrost and eat it. With some vegetable crops, most notably peas and sweetcorn, the sugars will start to turn to starch the moment they are harvested. It’s best to plan ahead rather than harvest everything in one go and freeze the next day. Instead harvest

Blanching

Blanching is the rapid boiling of fresh produce to kill off the enzymes within it before freezing. Use as large a pan as you have got for the blanching vessel, preferably with a lid. A large lidded pan will come back to the boil faster and use less energy to maintain a fast boil. You will also need a blanching basket. This is simply a metal wire basket, rather like an old-fashioned chip fryer basket or large sieve. It will allow you to easily add Grow it! June 2011 57

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Know-how

Cooling off

Berries and currants may be frozen without blanching – just spread them out on a tray to freeze then bag them up

and remove your produce from the boiling water. Now set up a further two large pans, which will hold the cooling water to arrest the cooking process initiated by the blanching. The first pan is used to take off the heat and the second to chill it down with the help of added ice cubes. The only other equipment needed is a colander or two. A sieve with a handle is useful for transferring the blanched vegetables between the two cooling pans. Start the blanching process by filling the large pan with water and bringing it to a rolling boil. While you wait, prepare the produce for blanching. Once the

STEP-BY-STEP

water’s boiling add a portion of the produce into the blanching basket and place into the water. Ideally you want the water to come back to a fast boil within a minute. This will depend on the volume of water and the power of the ring under the

After blanching for the recommended time, which varies according to the type of produce, remove from the blanching water and tip into the first pan of cooling water. Count the blanching time from the time the water starts to boil vigorously again after the produce has been added. A timer is invaluable to get timings correct – you don’t want to overcook things. While the produce is cooling in the first pan, set the second lot to blanching and then transfer the partially cooled produce from the first

Freezing your produce fast is important to ensure only small ice crystals form pan. Placing a lid over the pan will hold the heat and speed up the time to re-boiling. Small batches of produce will also help with this. We find we need about six pints of water per pound of produce (or four litres for 500g).

pan to the second with its iced water. The first cooling pan may need to be refreshed with cold tap water. Usually by the time the next batch is ready for the second pan, the produce in there will have cooled down and can go into

Freezing fresh produce

1

2

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5

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Prepare your crop for freezing. Runner beans are exceptionally prolific, making them a good candidate for freezing. Slice them into long, thin ribbons.

Plunge the blanched produce into the first cooling pan to arrest the cooking process then transfer to the second pan of iced water to cool right down.

58 June 2011 Grow it!

For best results and to ensure freshness aim to process crops in small batches. Portion-sized bags will avoid the difficulty of separating frozen vegetables.

Ensure the produce is completely dry before cooling off in the fridge. If necessary pat it dry with a clean, fluffy tea-towel.

Bring a large pan of water to a rolling boil then add your prepared vegetables. Keep the lid on the pan to return the water to a boil. Blanch for the specified time.

After chilling, pack away into freezer bags, sucking out excess air with a straw. Make sure bags are labelled and have the date of freezing. Pop into the freezer.


✱ ✱ ✱ QUICK-CHECK GUIDE TO FREEZING ✱ ✱ ✱ Asparagus: Grade into thick

and thin stems. Wash in cold water and blanch thick stems for about four minutes and thin stems for two. Cool and drain then tie into small bundles, packed tips to stalks, separated by non-stick paper.

Cabbage: Wash and shred

the leaves then blanch for just a minute before chilling, draining and freezing.

Broad beans: Mature beans

seem to benefit from freezing, which softens them if they have become a little tough. Shell and blanch for three minutes before cooling and freezing.

Prepare small batches for blanching to ensure rapid re-boiling

CUT OUT & KEEP

the colander to drain off. Once drained transfer to the fridge to keep cool until you’re ready to bag up for the freezer.

Into the freezer

Freezing your prepared produce fast is important to ensure that only small ice crystals form. This means it is essential not to overload your freezer – put too much in at once and it will take much longer to freeze down and will cause larger ice crystals to form (these can burst cells and ruin the texture of your food). As a general rule, never try to freeze down more than 10 per cent of a freezer’s capacity in a day. The warmer the food you put into the freezer, the harder it has to work and the longer it will take to cool down. This is why pre-chilling in the fridge is necessary. Ideally the fridge will bring things down to

French beans: Most varieties freeze well but some of the waxier types are much better cooked from fresh. Wash, top and tail, then blanch for two minutes before chilling and freezing. Runner beans: Prepare as you normally would and blanch for three minutes before cooling and freezing. Beetroot: Wash well and rub

S

the skin off after blanching. Small beets up to 7cm (3in) in diameter need blanching for 10 minutes while larger beets should be boiled until tender. Freeze the smaller beets whole but slice or dice larger beets or they will take too long to freeze. If you blanch for too short a time they can be rubbery once defrosted.

Carrots: Early carrots can be prepared ready to serve, either cut up into strips or diced before blanching for three minutes and then chilling and freezing. Cauliflower: Wash and break into small florets about 5cm (2in) in diameter. Add lemon juice to the blanching water to keep them white; blanch for three minutes, cool, drain and pack.

Broccoli and calabrese:

Trim off any woody parts and large leaves. Wash in salted water then cut into small sprigs. Blanch thin stems for three minutes, medium stems for four minutes and thick stems for five. Cool and drain well. The thick woody stems and leaves will work well in a soup, which can then be frozen.

Brussels sprouts:

Prepare as you would normally. Wash thoroughly and blanch for three minutes, chill and freeze.

Courgettes and marrows: Choose young

ones. Wash and cut into 1cm (0.5in) slices. Either blanch for one minute or sauté in a little butter.

Fennel: Trim and cut into short lengths. Blanch for three minutes, cool, drain and pack.

Kohlrabi: Use small roots, 5-7cm (2-3in) in diameter. Cut off tops, peel and dice. Blanch for 1.5 minutes, cool, drain and pack. „

Grow it! June 2011 59


Know-how

peppers, or in thin slices for stews and casseroles.

Spinach: Select young leaves

and wash very thoroughly under running water, then drain. Blanch for two minutes in small quantities, cool quickly and press out excess moisture. Pack in rigid containers or polythene bags leaving 1cm (0.5in) airspace.

Leeks: Prepare as normal and then slice fairly thinly. Blanch for two minutes or sauté. Cool and freeze.

Onions: Can be peeled, finely

chopped and packed in small plastic containers for cooking later. Packages should be overwrapped to prevent the smell filtering out.

Sweetcorn: Remove husks

and ‘silks’. Blanch small cobs for three minutes, medium ones for four minutes and large cobs for five minutes in plenty of water. Cool and dry. Freeze whole on the cob or cut off the kernels with a sharp knife after blanching and just freeze the kernels in portion bags.

Peas: Shell and put into a

pan of cold water. Blanch for a minute or two at most; shake the basket to ensure heat is evenly distributed. Peas freeze really well. For mangetout types, trim the ends before blanching for two minutes, cooling, draining and packing.

Tomatoes: Skin and core

the tomatoes then simmer in their own juice for five minutes until soft. The easy way to skin tomatoes is to drop them into boiling or very hot water for a minute. After this the skin is easy to peel away. Pass the tomatoes through a nylon sieve or liquidise and pack into small containers when cool. Rather than just freeze this puree you may find it more efficient to freeze a tomato sauce base.

Turnips: Use small, young

Peppers: Wash well, remove stems and all traces of seeds and membranes before blanching for three minutes as halves for stuffed 60 June 2011 Grow it!

white summer turnips. Trim and peel then cut into small dice. Blanch for two minutes, cool, drain and freeze. Turnips may be fully cooked and mashed before freezing like carrots.

✁ CUT OUT & KEEP

✱ ✱ ✱ QUICK-CHECK GUIDE TO FREEZING ✱ ✱ ✱

5°C so the freezer only has to reduce it by a further 23°C. There are a number of ways to pack your freezer. The method we favour is to pack into cheap, small bags a sufficient amount for one meal. You can freeze onto trays and then transfer into a larger bag if you prefer, so you can remove as much as you want each time. The trouble with larger bags, however, is that after a while ice forms within and you’ll have a solid block to contend with. However you choose to pack your produce it is important that it’s dry. Hopefully the produce will have drained properly but, if it is still damp, empty onto a clean fluffy tea-towel and pat dry before freezing. Frozen foods must be bagged

Your well-stocked freezer will be a treasure trove of home-grown delights to enjoy later on to exclude air or ice will form around the produce. If you are packing large irregular shapes, like sweetcorn on the cob or chunks of parsnip for example, you can insert a straw into the mouth of the bag. Hold the bag tightly around the straw and suck out the air before tying the bag or sealing with a wire twist tie. Some items are more convenient to pack into plastic tubs. You can pick up freezer containers cheaply or if you want to be really frugal use old ice cream and margarine tubs. Finally, either label or write on the bag or box what the contents are and the date. You can buy freezer labels on a roll; ordinary sticky labels will fall off at low temperatures. For marking use an indelible felt-tip pen, as ordinary felt-tip markers will smudge. Your well stocked freezer will be a treasure trove of home-grown delights to enjoy later on in the winter!


Poultry Free-range chickens stay fit but still require a quality feed to lay well

Eggs GALORE! Terry Beebe explains how to get the best from your laying hens, and why production sometimes falters

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part from the sheer pleasure involved in keeping a few hens in your back garden, the most common reason people have them is to provide a supply of delicious, fresh eggs. However, different breeds of chicken lay different numbers of eggs; some are significantly better than others and modern hybrids are the best of all. Hens only produce eggs during their laying season and, once again, this varies in length from breed to breed. But the laying performance of all breeds is 62 June 2011 Grow it!

limited by the annual moult – the typically later-summer process that sees chickens shed their tired, season-old feathers to replace them with a fresh, new set ready for winter. While this is happening, egg production ceases as it’s impossible for the bird to grow eggs and feathers at the same time as both are rich in protein and new feathers take priority. In terms of maximising egg production, the time taken by a bird to get through the moult is key. As you might imagine, the best layers are the quickest moulters and

vice versa, though the moulting process becomes longer with age.

Good layer?

There are a number of other important variables which can have a direct influence on how well your hens lay generally. Factors such as environment, daily diet, age, time of year, body weight and general health all have the potential to impact laying performance. While birds that enjoy a free-range lifestyle benefit from more natural feed


and increased levels of exercise, they’ll still need a correctly-balanced pellet or mash ration to produce good numbers of eggs. A properly formulated layers feed will contain all the important ingredients needed by the hen to promote the best possible laying performance. There are potential pitfalls and this often involves diet. Most commonly, underperforming birds are being feed a mixture of corn, pellets, household scraps and treats, which is far from ideal. Although chickens will enthusiastically gobble-up all sorts of ‘unusual’ food given to them by doting keepers, it’s rarely in their best interests to do so. In the same way that a diet rich in sausages, cream cakes and pizza may be appealing to humans, we know that too much of them is a bad thing.

Feeding the right diet is vital if you want to maximise egg production

Controlled feeding

Hens need a controlled diet to ensure good health and productivity. Kitchen scraps and wheat tend not to contain the required vitamins, protein and calcium essential for good egg production. Feeding your birds too much of the wrong things is likely to promote obesity and slow down the moult too. A quality layers pellet or mash will have been carefully formulated to include precisely the right amounts of oil, protein, vitamins, minerals and fibre to ensure optimum vitality. Keepers can supplement this with additional vitamin tonics (administered in the drinking water) at times of particular need, should they wish. These include the annual moult, recovery from illness or when a deterioration in eggshell quality (thin or uneven) has been noticed. If you’re determined to feed a treat then restrict this to a small amount of cut maize or corn (mixed with a little cod liver oil) in the late afternoon. In my

opinion it’s best to avoid feeding bread, cake, biscuits, chocolate and whatever else people mistakenly assume that hens will benefit from eating.

Ideal environment

The birds we keep are entirely dependent on us for their wellbeing. We control their environment and, therefore, must take responsibility for the conditions in which they are kept. Ideally, laying hens require a day length of 14-16 hours, a steady ambient temperature of around 20°C, a plentiful supply of fresh water and feed, plus a space allowance of about 1.8

Hens need a controlled diet to ensure good health and productivity

A healthy young layer with alert expression and bright-red headgear

square metres per bird. Of course, the daylight and temperature aspects can be hard to achieve in Britain where the seasonal variation upsets the continuity for birds. Most keepers end up with a compromise with regard to environment. However, there’s no excuse for keeping birds in dirty, wet and overcrowded conditions, or for failing to provide a constant supply of fresh, clean drinking water and regular feed. These are the welfare basics demanded by all

poultry and without them health and laying performance suffer.

Ready to lay?

Hens first start to lay when they reach maturity, at a time handily referred to as point-of-lay (POL). The arrival of POL varies from breed to breed but typically occurs at 22-24 weeks old. Unfortunately so-called POL pullets can start appearing for sale as young as 12 weeks old, meaning that there’s a significant wait until the first eggs are produced. All new keepers are understandably impatient for their first eggs and many assume, quite logically, that the ‘POL hens’ they’ve just bought will be on the point of laying their first eggs. So it can be both disappointing and frustrating to have to wait a further two months or so for those elusive first eggs. A young hen’s first eggs will also be smaller than expected, though this is perfectly normal. These so-called ‘pullet eggs’ will continue being laid for a short period before the hen gets into her full stride and begins producing the full-sized article. Egg size shouldn’t vary too much thereafter if you’re keeping modern, hybrid layers, although it can do with traditional pure breeds. There’s also a size variation among eggs from bantam and large fowl versions. Grow it! June 2011 63

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Poultry Age concern

Every hen has the capacity to lay a finite number of eggs, sometimes more, sometimes less, and the rate at which these eggs are produced varies too. The finely-tuned ‘laying machine’ that is the commercial hybrid has been bred to produce the greatest number of eggs during the first 18 months or so of its laying life, after which time numbers start to fall away. The traditional pure breeds, especially those with recognised utility credentials, tend to lay for longer, although never in such high numbers; there’s a bit of a tortoise-and-hare scenario here! Pure breeds will lay acceptable numbers of good-sized eggs for perhaps four years, while their hybrid relations fall away quite dramatically after an initial sprint. The time of year has a significant effect on the laying pattern of all hens that are kept in a normal, garden environment. Spring and summer represent the most productive time for domestic hens and there will be a noticeable downturn during autumn and winter. The combination of the annual moult and the reduced daylight hours of winter can bring a complete halt in production for most hens. So, the warmer months represent the time of greatest egg production but can also present some of the greatest threats to general health and laying performance. External parasites, such as the dreaded red mite and lice, thrive when temperatures are higher and infestations have the potential to hit egg numbers hard. So it’s vital that birds and their housing are regularly checked and treated to combat this serious threat. Nest boxes must always be kept clean and fresh bedding should be ever-present.

There are many factors that affect the number and quality of eggs laid

– will almost certainly regulate their own weight well. But those not able to get outside much or that are over-fed with unsuitable ‘treats’, will run the risk of becoming overweight. Illness is another common cause of an egg-laying shortfall. Quite simply, birds that are suffering won’t lay eggs. Consequently, a reduction in production can be a useful indicator that all is not well. If this is combined with a generally listless appearance, loss of appetite and apparent weight loss, then you can be sure that there’s a problem. Respiratory

The time of year has a significant effect on the laying pattern of hens kept in a garden environment Weighty matters

The weight of a bird can make a significant difference to its performance. If it’s thin and undernourished then egg production will be poor, likewise if it’s too fat; there’s a happy medium to be struck. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to be specific about exact weights for birds as they have to be assessed on an individual basis. One of the simplest ways to check overall condition is to hold the bird and feel the condition of o the breast. If this feels generally ge solid and there’s there’ no obvious sign of squidgy s fat then all should sh be well. Much depends on the keeping ke environment. Birds that th are correctly fed and housed hous – especially if they enjoy a free-range fr lifestyle

conditions are one of the most common triggers of an illness-related reduction in egg laying. Be alert for signs of wheezing, gurgling, swollen eyes and, in some cases, yellowish droppings. Prolapse is when the hen has pushed the oviduct inside out; this can easily be seen as the internal egg oviduct hangs outside the vent. There are a number of causes of this condition and these include poor nutrition, infection, an overweight hen or an unusually large egg. This is also a problem that needs to be dealt with quickly. The internal part of the oviduct needs to be clean and then this can be pushed back inside the hen. You may have to repeat this several times but it will eventually stay back in position. Many keepers use a haemorrhoidal cream while pushing it back inside and this does work well as it helps to disinfect and shrink the egg sack.

Further information Furt

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Veg grow guide

STEPHEN SHIRLEY

e m o s d d ACRUNCH Carrots are versatile vegetables, providing a root for all occasions. Lucy Halliday champions this reliable stalwart and offers some tips to achieve a fine crop

T

Carrots come in a surprising range of colours – not just orange!

66 June 2011 Grow it!

here’s no doubt that carrots make a kitchen garden. They are a traditional favourite available nowadays in a range of rainbow colours. Carrots are an easy, reliable crop that’s undemanding of space and exceptionally versatile in the kitchen. The sweet, juicy roots store well and can be pressed into service on your dinner plate in a startling variety of ways. Steamed or boiled they are a classic with a little butter; grated into salads they add colour and crunch; and as a soup ingredient they promise the ultimate comfort food. Or why not push the boundaries with your carrots? Thinly sliced they will add a dash of colour to stir-fries, or simply roast the roots in olive oil for a divinely sweet treat. Pair up the crunchy winners with orange to make a vibrantly nutritious smoothie or pickle them to elevate your roots to new heights. So whether you have a windowsill or the most spacious of plots, there’s a variety of carrot for you. Select the right varieties and you could also be enjoying your own carrots for most of the year.

Find your roots

Domesticated from our native carrot Daucus carota, the carrot is a biennial plant that spends its first year building up a substantial taproot full of sugars to enable it to flower the following year. Wild carrot can be found growing all over Europe but the sweeter subspecies from which our familiar garden carrot was developed most likely hails from Iran or Afghanistan. Thanks to careful breeding there is now a carrot for every occasion. Carrots can broadly be divided into quickgrowing summer types and longer maturing maincrop varieties. Summer types include many stump-rooted or spherical varieties that are suitable for container growers. These carrots can be sown from February (under cover) through to mid July, taking around nine weeks to mature. Early varieties include those with ‘Chantenay’ or ‘Nantes’ in their names. Maincrop varieties are sown in summer, from May to July for cropping from early autumn and on into winter. The roots of maincrops are generally larger and hardier, taking 20 weeks to reach maturity. ‘Autumn King’ is a


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Turnip ‘Milan Purple Top’

VERTICAL GROWING Take your crops to new heights

Hands-on advice Growing instructions: When large enough to handle thin seedlings to 10cm (4in) apart. Keep well watered during dry weather. Harvest from May to November. Harvested while young, ‘baby turnips’ can be used raw to make a sweet addition to salads or steamed for a tasty vegetable. Sowing instructions: Turnips prefer a rich, wellmanured soil. Sow thinly from March to August directly outside or into containers, setting seed 1cm (0.5in) deep. Sow regularly for fresh roots throughout spring, summer and autumn. This exceptional turnip forms flatter, globe-shaped roots with purple crowns and white bases. They are ideal eaten as ‘baby turnips’ when the taste is sweet and succulent. The dark green, erect leaves are exceptional when steamed as greens, giving you two crops in one! ‘Milan Purple Top’ is also perfect for growing in containers.

Turnip ‘Milan Purple Top’

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classic maincrop, while ‘Long Red Surrey’, bred in 1834, is alleged to be the tastiest carrot and has a distinctive yellow core. You don’t have to stick to the common orangecoloured roots either. Carrots come in every colour from white to purple to red, livening up plates and creating a great sense of fun, although many compromise on taste. I can, however, heartily recommend the delicate sweetness of ‘Yellowstone’, a bright-yellow maincrop carrot that I’ve found to be, somewhat surprisingly, the best container carrot yet. For a very shallow container you might want to try a spherical variety such as ‘Rondo’, which doesn’t have the traditional long taproot.

Just so

Perhaps the main challenge in growing carrots is that they aren’t suited to just any old soil. Like many of their relatives in the Apiaceae family they need a medium to light, stone-free soil in a sunny and open site. Prepare the ground by digging it over well, removing all stones larger than about 1cm (0.5in) in size. Rake the surface to a fine tilth just before sowing. If you have a heavy soil you can try shorterrooted varieties such as ‘Paris Market Parabell’.

Carrots need a medium to light, stone-free soil in a sunny and open site If your soil is largely clay then you can enrich it with organic matter and add sand to your carrot patch the season before planting to improve conditions. This is, however, a lot of effort and you might find it easier to grow carrots in containers where you’ll be able to guarantee just what they need. Quality multipurpose compost with a few added handfuls of sand and a little vermiculite makes an ideal container mix. Add gravel to the base of containers for extra drainage. A depth of 30-40cm (1216in) will give you prizeworthy carrots, despite them not growing in open ground. Carrots generally require no feeding on fertile soil or ground that was manured for a previous crop. Grow carrots in pots if your soil is very heavy Mulching the previous winter with leaf mould or homemade compost can help to boost your soil fertility. The roots prefer a pH in the range of 6.57.5, so they don’t appreciate very alkaline soils.

WHAT TO GROW FLYAWAY: The one to pick for good resistance to carrot root fly. The sweettasting, mediumsized roots have a rounded end to them. Victoriana Nursery MIGNON: The finger-sized roots of this quick-grower are perfect for container kitchen gardeners. Matures in as little as 12 weeks. Thompson & Morgan MAESTRO: Resistance to root fly and an exceptional flavour have won this intermediate maincrop carrot an RHS Award of Garden Merit. Dobies AUTUMN KING 2: A traditional favourite maincrop variety with long storing ability for eating through winter. The roots can grow quite long. Thompson & Morgan EARLY NANTES 5: An early variety that can be sown under cloches then throughout the season for tender, crunchy roots of excellent flavour. Dobies

uneven to germinate as they prefer steady levels of temperature and moisture. You can aid this by using a cover of fleece to keep soil conditions more consistent until your seedlings are up. Carrot seeds are very small and light, so sowing thinly can be tricky. That said, it’s worth taking the time to sow as thinly as possible if you can manage it – this will save a great deal of time thinning out later on and will reduce opportunities for the persistently prevalent carrot root fly. Sow in shallow drills, 1cm (0.5in) deep or station sow three seeds per station and thin later. Sowing carrots in succession every few weeks will ensure you won’t have a sudden glut and can harvest at your leisure. Once the seedlings are up the most vulnerable stage of carrot growing is over and maintenance from now on is simple. A little thinning is almost always needed to achieve the ideal spacing

YELLOWSTONE: Smooth, yellow skin and a fine texture full of crunch make this a popular choice. Its bright colour adds much to the plate. The Organic Gardening Catalogue

Sowing and growing

Carrots are best sown direct as this gives plants the best chance of developing those long taproots. The only exception to this is the roundrooted types, which can be started off in modules if so desired. Carrot seeds can be slow and

Right: Maincrop ‘Yellowstone’ has a cheery, bright colour and delicate sweetness

Grow it! June 2011 67

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Veg grow guide between developing roots. Carrots can be grown quite compactly to save space, so leave as little as 4cm (2in) between small to medium root varieties and 7cm (3in) between larger maincrops. Allow 15-25cm (6-10in) between rows, although for miniature veg you can block plant to leave as little as 2cm (1in) in either direction. This is best done in containers of rich compost. Keep carrots weed free Short and round-rooted: when they are young so they February (with protection); don’t get overwhelmed. March-July Water them well in dry Intermediate and weather to stop a lack of water long-rooted (maincrops): causing cracks in the swelling April-July roots and a bitter flavour. If your

When to sow

site is very dry then a mulch of grass clippings can help to keep moisture in while preventing the tops of the roots turning green in the light. Carrots have few pests and most problems are likely to be cultural, so make sure you create the right conditions for your carrots and there’s no reason they shouldn’t grow strongly. Carrot root fly is the main enemy (see box opposite) but you may find the

STEP-BY-STEP

How to grow carrots

Pull carrots as they reach the desired size. Maincrops can be stored in boxes of dry sand

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5

6

Sow carrots into soil that’s been raked to a fine tilth. Mark out drills about 1cm (0.5in) deep into the soil, spacing rows about 15cm (6in) to 25cm (10in) apart.

68 June 2011 Grow it!

Carrot root fly can be a nuisance. As well as growing resistant varieties, thwart them by covering crops with a layer of fleece or Enviromesh.

Once all of the seedlings are up thin in stages to leave about 4-7cm (2-3in) between each plant. Do this on a still evening to minimise the risk of detection by root flies.

Lift carrots when they are ready by carefully pulling the roots out of the ground by the base of the foliage. You may need to loosen the soil with a fork beforehand.

STEPHEN SHIRLEY

Carrots can be grown quite close together for highly prized ‘mini veg’ roots. Lift them as soon as youcan see that the shoulders of the roots are big enough.

Carrot seed can take a little while to germinate. Keep the ground moist and protected in cooler weather to encourage even germination.


odd attack to the leaves from aphids, flea beetle or leaf hopper. Spray with insecticidal soap or a plant/ fish oil organic insecticide (such as Vitex Organic 2 in 1) if this starts to become a serious problem.

Root of the matter

Inset right: ‘Maestro’ shows good resistance to this common pest

Below: Keep carrot beds free of weeds to reduce competition for nutrients and soil moisture

The younger the carrot the sweeter it is, so pull carrots as soon as you like after you can see orange shoulders developing

What about carrot root fly?

The main enemy of carrots and one which can be devastating is the tiny carrot root fly. It is the larvae of the fly that inflict the damage, hatching at the base of the plant and burrowing into the root. As well as causing damage they create a bitter taste and pave the way for secondary infections. There is not much you can do to save already infected carrots – remove and destroy them to prevent the fly’s spread. Try the following defences if carrot fly is a problem in your area. The first line of defence is to grow carrots less susceptible to the roving fly. Resistant carrot varieties include ‘Flyaway’, ‘Resistafly’, ‘Maestro’ (pictured) and ‘Sytan’, all of which, though not impervious, put up some defence. Next consider your timing. There are often two generations of carrot fly each year , the first looking for an egg-laying spot in late April, the second in late July to early August. Planting quick-maturing varieties between mid May and mid June will give you a chance to dodge the fly. Barriers come next, as keeping the carrot root fly away from your roots is essential. Horticultural fleece or Enviromesh is ideal but must be in place at the earliest available opportunity and buried in the soil around the edge of the patch. Finally, don’t do anything that will attract the flies to your patch. Carrot root flies find your crop through a mix of scent and visual cues. Minimise disturbance to foliage and only thin carrots on still, dry evenings. Planting something with very different foliage in amongst your carrots will also confuse the fly; fat hen, Chenopodium album (also edible) and Pelargonium × hortorum were found to be the most distracting in a scientific study. Yellow sticky traps will also prove irresistible.

CARROT SEED SUPPLIERS

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IMAGE COURTESY OF WWW.BLACKTHORNARABLE.CO.UK

To lift the carrots up at harvest time grasp the base of the foliage as close to the root as you can and gently pull. If the soil is dry it can help to water the carrots half an hour before harvest to ease them out. Generally the younger the carrot the sweeter it is, so pull carrots as soon as you like after you can see orange shoulders developing just beneath the soil. The taproots are designed to be storage organs and carrots can sit in the ground for a long time, gradually getting bigger, with no ill effects. In fact, many maincrop roots can be left in the ground over winter to be dug up as required. In very cold, northerly areas a mulch of straw will help to protect in-ground roots from frost damage. If your soil is prone to becoming waterlogged in winter it is best to lift carrots in October or November. These can then be stored in cool, dry boxes of sliver sand. Carrots can also be blanched then frozen (see page 57). Needless to say, fresh garden carrots are the tastiest and will transform the way you look at this humble root vegetable.

Right: Telltale damage caused by the larvae of carrot root fly


PRACTICAL PROJECT: JUNE Oyster mushrooms are simply delicious – and quick to grow!

Page turner Turn an old read into a crop of gourmet oyster mushrooms. Sounds like fiction? Read on, as Andy Cawthray shows how to go about it

E

ver since I visited some Japanese friends who are avid growers of specialist mushrooms I’ve fancied having a go myself. They were very helpful in explaining to me just how to go about it, but aside from the apparent dark art, there also appeared to be significant portions of patience required. I found this a little bit off-putting – while I’m not short of patience and can fully appreciate that the end result is worth the wait, I was hoping that for my first venture into mushroom growing I could attempt something that would give me an indication of success relatively early on. Recently I stumbled upon what appears to be the answer: oyster mushrooms. These mushrooms grow relatively quickly and because, unlike many varieties, they require light to 70 June 2011 Grow it!

grow, their progress is much more visible. What’s more it’s possible to grow them using little more than an old paperback book, some string and a plastic bag, so long as you observe the growing requirements during each stage of their development. Once fully set up and having been chilled in the fridge for two days (see step six opposite) your oyster mushroom-inoculated book will need to be misted on a daily basis. Within a week of doing this small clusters of white pinheads will appear. Continued daily

It's possible to grow them using little more than an old paperback, some string and a plastic bag

What you will need

✔ Oyster mushroo m spawn ✔ An old paperb ack book (around 30 0 page s) ✔ String for binding the book ✔ A large clear pl astic bag ✔ Sticky tape

misting will result in fully grown oyster mushrooms after a further week. When the largest is about 10cm (4in) across the cluster can be harvested by simply pulling it away from the book Common oyster mushroom spawn can be bought from a number of outlets (I got mine from Gourmet Woodland Mushrooms: 01964 631868, www.gourmetmushrooms.co.uk) and in the right conditions will produce more than one harvest. Granted it may be cheaper to forage for wild mushrooms or buy them from a local market, but there’s something fascinating about growing your own. Eating the end produce is equally satisfying and a real gourmet treat.


STEP-BY-STEP

How to grow mushrooms from a book

1

Soak the paperback book in warm water. Hold it under the water and squeeze it to remove the air bubbles then weigh it down for around 20 minutes until the bubbles stop. Use a medium-sized book, about 300 pages thick.

2

Squeeze out excess water until the book is wet but not saturated. Open the book 20 to 30 pages in and spread out the mushroom spawn, pressing it into place. Turn over 50 more pages and add more spawn.

4

Place the book spine-down into a large clear plastic bag. Roll the top over to seal the bag and secure in place with sticky tape. Put the book and bag in a warm place (about 20째C) away from strong drafts and direct sunlight.

3

Continue adding the spawn every 50 pages or so until all the spawn is used up. Close the book and bind it up using the string. Tie it tight to hold the spawn (and pages) closely in position.

5

Within 24 hours the spawn will become active. You should be able to see white fuzz appearing on the spine of the book. This is the root-like mycelium of the mushroom. After 5-12 days all the book edges will be covered.

6

Once this occurs put the bagged book in the fridge for two days. Then open the bag, fold it down to 8cm (3in) from the top edge of the book and place in a light, humid place such as a bathroom. Mist the book daily until your mushrooms are ready.

Grow it! June 2011 71


Container growing

Pots of

distinction

Grab your pots and let’s get planting! Lucy Halliday shares the secrets of success to achieving a thriving container kitchen garden, plus a few ideas to get you started

Potted plots are a practical and often stunning solution where space is limited

72 June 2011 Grow it!


Container success Soil: Your containerised crop will rely on you for everything, so give it the best start by considering its soil requirements. Buy good-quality multipurpose compost as the basis for your growing medium. This can easily be adjusted to suit specific crops. Add sand or grit for extra drainage – ideal for root crops such as carrots. Combine the compost with topsoil or soil from your garden for extra clay or loam, or homemade compost and manure for really hungry plants such as courgettes.

Salads such as these oak-leaf lettuces are a container crop must-have

U

sing containers to produce home-grown fruits and vegetables has rocketed in popularity over recent years. In fact, as a previous allotment devotee I should really consider myself a convert as container crops have saved me from having to give up my veggrowing passions in the face of endless allotment waiting lists and little space. Containers provide a solution for any gardener, however experienced and ambitious; from a few strawberries to money-saving bucket loads of produce, the choice is yours. Although we are already halfway through the growing season it isn’t too late to start off a kitchen garden in pots. So why not try growing something a little different? Purple or yellow carrots do surprisingly well in a deep container and French beans in green, purple or yellow will manage in little more than a two-litre plastic pot. Containers provide easily managed conditions for plants and allow you to try out things that might seem a little too risky in open ground. June has the perfect warm climate to suit most crops. Seeds will pop up in no time and many vegetables are now

Food: Container plants, especially nutrient-loving vegetables, run out of food pretty quickly during the growing season. Bear in mind that most multipurpose composts only have enough food for around six weeks. Using a slow-release food such as Growmore or blood, fish and bone will work for longer term potted investments, such as fruit bushes, but most annual crops will need more of a quick fix. Pick a feed that’s high in potassium for fruiting plants, or nitrogen for leafy plants. Try Tomorite

available to buy as seedlings or young plants in garden centres. The mild weather will help you to cheat the shops and grow some of the more tender and expensive crops yourself. If you want to have the most productive, most ambitious or most colourful container crops to liven up your summer garden give some of the suggestions that follow a try. With minimal effort you will be in for a very tasty reward!

Salad choices

Salad crops are a must for container growers as they are uncomplicated to grow. Although many of them prefer cooler weather, there are still plenty of leafy crops to try this month. All the salad crops mentioned below will grow well given straightforward multipurpose compost.

MARSHALLS

Above left: The arrowhead-like leaves of strawberry spinach will also yield a bonus crop of strawberry-like fruits Above right: Vibrant ‘Purple Plum’ radish

or the Maxicrop range of seaweedbased liquid feeds for a quality injection of nutrients.

Cost: Containers can be very

expensive so unless you are looking to invest in something really ornamental, you can try all manner of free and budget containers if they will only be used during the growing season. Old plastic flower buckets and polystyrene broccoli boxes are some of the most versatile growing places and can be found for nothing at your local supermarket or greengrocers (just ask nicely). The bags your compost comes in can be rolled down and planted into or large plastic planters can be picked up dead cheap at pound stores.

Size: Containers for productive crops need to allow enough space for fast and vigorous root development – always go as large as your growing space and budget allows. Having said that there are crops you can plant in June that will be happy squished into a window box as long as they receive plenty of water.

Lettuce varieties and spinach will happily grow in a shady spot in any shallow container of 15cm (6in) depth or more. For a leaf that loves the sun and something a little different, give strawberry spinach (Chenopodium capitatum) a go. This hardy plant produces small strawberry-like edible fruits and spinachlike leaves on the same plant. A deeper container, at least 30cm (12in), is needed for its taproot and 60cm (2ft) height but strawberry spinach will happily grow in a sunny container. As a perennial it will survive less severe winters unscathed. Rainbow chard also provides a decorative and edible leaf with its shades of crimson red to startling yellow. It thrives in a deep container such as an old broccoli box for a continual harvest of baby leaves. Sow now, spacing out individual seeds, or buy as small plants and transplant. ‘Bright Lights’ will give you a splash of the rainbow and looks stunning on a patio if you let the plants get to a fair size. Radishes can be sown throughout the growing season and pack a peppery punch to liven up your salad bowl. But don’t just opt for the usual suspects when there are so many exciting varieties available. Try ‘Mantanghong’, a Japanese radish with a white skin and striking pink interior; ‘Zlata’ a stunning golden yellow Grow it! June 2011 73

S


Container growing

Left: Grow more than one blueberry to give the best pollination success. Right: Wicker troughs make attractive strawberry planters

radish; or ‘Purple Plum’, a round, purple gem. Radishes will grow in anything from a window box to an old wine crate, just sow thinly and keep well watered to avoid a woody texture developing. Spring onions will also grow just about anywhere and come as a gorgeous deep purple in ‘Apache’ or as the delicate pink globes of ‘Purplette’, both perfect for containers. Purple pak choi will also catch the eye – try ‘Rubi F1’. Alternatively sow some

STEP-BY-STEP

colourful basil such as ‘Siam Queen’, which has purple stems and green leaves, or the black-leaved ‘Purple Ruffles’ with its hints of cinnamon and aniseed.

Something fruity

Fruit is often neglected by container growers as it’s mistakenly deemed to be high maintenance and demanding of space. This is a real shame because there’s always something in the kitchen

garden to suit everyone. For a quick, fruity container fix that will need little assistance try strawberry plants. Laterfruiting varieties such as ‘Flamenco’, ‘Florence’, ‘Sophie’ or Judibell’ are best for June planting and will have you picking just a couple of months later. A simple plant pot, hanging basket, window box or larger planter will suit strawberries but they will need plenty of direct sunshine to help ripen those fruits along with a regular liquid feed. For an easy container fruit with a difference try Cape gooseberries, otherwise known as physalis. These surprisingly easy-to-grow plants form exotic-looking orange berries with delicate paper coatings. They cost a pretty penny in the supermarket but can be bought relatively cheaply as plants online or very cheaply as root cuttings in many pound stores. Pot on into two or three-litre plastic pots and feed occasionally. These stunning perennial plants will provide a welcome display with their flowers and fruits – as well as their edible treats. You can be as ambitious as you like with bush fruits in containers. Some fruits such as blueberries often have to be grown in

Growing container chard

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Choose a deep container that’s about 3040cm (12-16in) deep. Place a little gravel into the bottom then fill with a mix of multipurpose compost and sieved, homemade compost.

If sowing from seed sow one seed per station, Seedlings are commonly available to buy leaving a minimum of 10-15cm (4-6in) between in modules. Each seed is multi-germ, which plants for baby leaves. After germination remove means it will produce a few plants per seed, any excess seedlings that appear. giving a cluster of seedlings to each module.

Gently separate plants by loosening the Plant each seedling into a small hole. compost and teasing each individual Leaving 10cm (4in) between plants for seedling apart. Hold them by the seed leaves baby leaves or grow one plant to a 30cm to avoid damaging the delicate stems. (12in)-diameter pot for a real specimen. 74 June 2011 Grow it!

Once they’re planted, water in the seedlings well. Keep the compost moist at all time and regularly feed your plants to encourage the best results and hearty crops of leaves.


DT BROWN

STEP-BY-STEP

Planting a goji berry

1 Dwarf varieties of squash such as pumpkin ‘Windsor F1’ will do well in pots

containers anyhow as they need a much more acidic soil than most allotments can provide. If you buy a blueberry bush make sure you plant it in a large plastic or glazed pot; terracotta dries out too quickly for this moisture lover. Use ericaceous compost to pot up the blueberry. A single, selffertile variety will produce fruit but two or three plants make for better pollination and much heavier cropping, so it’s worth planting a small group if you can. By getting more fruit per bush you’ll also be saving big at the tills. If you’d like to go for the berry less ordinary, try out a goji berry bush. Very hardy, vigorous and tolerant of most soils – and a fair amount of neglect – goji berries are extremely pricy to buy but simple enough to grow yourself (turn to page 82 to find out more).

Tender subjects

For tender fruiting plants such as chillies, peppers and aubergines, June heralds the start of the perfect growing period. These plants like it hot and with only small root systems are perfect for pots to pop into any sunny corner. A rich, multipurpose compost and regular liquid feed and water will see them through to producing a pleasing crop, even in our cooler climes. As these crops need to be sown earlier in the year you will need to seek out young plants at this stage of the year – any garden centre should have a reasonable selection. For aubergines the stripy dwarf ‘Pinstripe F1’ or the compact ‘Ophelia F1’ are both good choices. Chillies come in every colour of the rainbow but many dwarf container types are now available to pack that punch into an even smaller

Choose a good-sized container and add some crocks and/or gravel into the bottom for extra drainage (goji berries resent soggy roots).

space; look out for orange ‘Cheyenne’ or bright scarlet ‘Demon Red’. The same goes for peppers – check out the colourful dwarf ‘Redskin F1’ or ‘Sweet Mohawk F1’, which can even trail out of a large hanging basket.

2

Tease and fan out the roots from around pot-grown plants to help them take off into their new surroundings.

Aubergine ‘Pinstripe’ has pretty stripes, giving it decorative appeal

Clamour for cucurbits

Great crops for the more ambitious container gardener are those of the cucurbit family. Like cucumbers and squash they can be very ornamental as well as productive. Sow inside now for quickest germination or buy in baby plants. These hungry plants generally need a large container with a minimum volume of 50-60 litres. Large plastic trugs, dustbins, large buckets or even an old bath are just the ticket. There are, however, bush varieties like ‘Honey Bear F1’, quick-maturing ‘Summer Ball’ and specially-bred dwarf container croppers like ‘Balmoral F1’ that will manage with even less space. I use a 50:50 mix of manure and quality compost for

3

Use a quality soil-based compost such as John Innes Number 3 to plant your goji berry to its original depth. Water in well to settle.

container squash. Once they’re potted into position they get a weekly feed of highpotassium liquid fertiliser to encourage maximum cropping. Cucumbers get the same treatment. Try hardier outdoor varieties of cucumber such as ‘Crystal Lemon’ for its yellow globes, ‘Parisian’ for little gherkins or the comically named ‘Burpless Tasty Green’ for juicy green fruits. Grow it! June 2011 75


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Turnip ‘Milan Purple Top’

VERTICAL GROWING Take your crops to new heights

Hands-on advice Growing instructions: When large enough to handle thin seedlings to 10cm (4in) apart. Keep well watered during dry weather. Harvest from May to November. Harvested while young, ‘baby turnips’ can be used raw to make a sweet addition to salads or steamed for a tasty vegetable. Sowing instructions: Turnips prefer a rich, wellmanured soil. Sow thinly from March to August directly outside or into containers, setting seed 1cm (0.5in) deep. Sow regularly for fresh roots throughout spring, summer and autumn. This exceptional turnip forms flatter, globe-shaped roots with purple crowns and white bases. They are ideal eaten as ‘baby turnips’ when the taste is sweet and succulent. The dark green, erect leaves are exceptional when steamed as greens, giving you two crops in one! ‘Milan Purple Top’ is also perfect for growing in containers.

Turnip ‘Milan Purple Top’

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Quick-growing delicious• Lettuces • Feeding crops equipment • Irrigation and Average content: 300 seeds. Origin UK. Seeds supplied by Thompson & Morgan (UK) Ltd. For customer care tel: 01473 688821 or email: www.thompsonmorgan.com Standard seeds – complies with EC rules and standards

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Organic growing

Organic crumble Making compost is rewarding for both you and your plants. Get your compost heap off to the best possible start with this refresher guide to the gardener’s good stuff

G

arden compost is a crumbly, dark, organic material processed from waste materials from the kitchen and garden. It is made by soil bacteria and other microorganisms, which break down and rot the raw materials. A good soil improver, compost is easy to add to the soil or to use as mulch. Grass clippings can be used ‘raw’ as a mulch but are far more effective once composted.

Building the heap

Your role in making compost is to provide soil organisms with warmth, moisture and a good mix of materials. Placing bins on bare soil allows these organisms to get inside. Alternatively, add a spadeful of compost from an old heap, or soil, for every 30cm (12in) of material. Shredded materials will rot down faster than SCRAP PILE

unshredded ones. You can chop most stems and leaves up with a spade, but it may be worth hiring a shredder in autumn to break down heavier woody material and leaves. It is best to store your compost in a bin; either buy one or make your own using mesh or wood. A pit is another possibility, though it will be hard to empty and may become waterlogged in winter. Whichever type of bin or heap you use, it will need a lid to keep out rain. In theory you should fill your compost bin with a good blend of materials in as short a period as possible. In practice, it is likely that the bin will take time to fill up. Therefore it probably won’t generate enough warmth for thorough composting; weed seeds and roots may survive, as may organisms in diseased material. Large-scale municipal composting reaches temperatures that eliminate these problems, but small volumes of home-made compost cannot match this, so be careful what you add to your heap. If you cannot achieve the ideal blend of ingredients, you could try using ‘activators’. These nitrogen-rich materials help to break down woody materials and can be useful when you have too little soft green material. Alternatively, add a thin layer of farmyard or stable manure, mushroom compost, or a sprinkling of nitrogen-rich fertiliser to every 15cm (6in) of woody material. Adding lime is sometimes recommended but is usually unnecessary, unless you are composting lots of shredded conifer prunings or waste fruits which can be very acidic.

Ready to use?

Turning the compost can speed up the decomposition process. Empty the bin and mix the contents, adding water to dry material before returning it to the bin. To check the progress of your heap, pull back the upper layers to see if the fibrous material is breaking down. If not, it may either be too dry or may need more soft green material, such as lawn clippings, to add nitrogen.

Wire-mesh enclosures need to be large for good results. Insulate with straw or cardboard between the mesh to maintain the temperature

76 June 2011 Grow it!

Plastic bins are inexpensive, rot-proof, and the most common material for bins

20-50%

of the compost heap should be green, leafy material

Your role in making compost is to provide soil organisms warmth, moisture and a good mix of materials


INS AND OUTS Getting the balance of your compost heap right is important. Ideally between 20-50% of the heap should consist of green, leafy material, with the rest made up of more fibrous, woody material. In practice you will have different materials at different times of the year. Do what you can with what is available and the materials will balance out over time. The main point is to try to prevent the bin being dominated by one ingredient.

Put it in

✓ Vegetable kitchen waste

✓ Weeds that haven’t gone to seed ✓ Grass clippings These provide nitrogen and other nutrients for the microorganisms. They are wet and soft, so must be mixed with fibrous material. ✓ Shredded paper or cardboard ✓ Eggshells and carrot peelings ✓ Spent bedding plants ✓ Decaying stems of perennials ✓ Twiggy perennials ✓ Fallen leaves These provide tougher, carbon-rich material with less nitrogen. If you don’t have time or space for leafmould, fallen leaves can be included within the compost heap.

If you have a small household or modest garden, your compost may not turn out to be the ideal uniformly crumbly, brown material you had hoped for. Instead it will probably have twiggy and semi-rotted parts mixed in with a dark brown mass that smells like damp woodland. Pick or sieve out the unrotted components and add them to your next compost batch; they will rot down eventually. Of course, a successful compost heap is very satisfying indeed. After all, there aren’t many things that convert waste material into fresh, nutrient-rich soil improver. Added at planting time, as a top-up mulch around plants, or to bare soil over winter, your home-made compost will prove a boon in the garden and a boost for your crops.

Leave Leave itit out out

✗ Material that is diseased, damaged or contaminated with weedkiller ✗ Weeds carrying seeds or with roots that might survive composting, such as dandelions or bindweed 0 Further practical advice on gardening techniques is available in the new book RHS How to Garden (published by DK, priced £14.99), available in bookshops and at www.dk.com

✗ Cat and dog mess, which may harbour harmful organisms ✗ Kitchen waste containing animal materials, such as scraps of meat, which can attract rats.

Grow it! June 2011 77


Product review

Tools of the trade Ever wondered what some of those more specialist gardening tools were for? Mike Woolnough rummages around the shed and shares some ideas for adding to our own gardening toolkit

Specialist tools can look odd but are often worth their weight in gold as time-savers

I

’m a big fan of car boot sales and love rummaging through the boxes of old junk. In them I often find obsolete tools and gadgets from days gone by. Cleared from sheds and barns, many of these won’t have seen the light of day for umpteen years and it will have been some time since they were last used. It’s often hard to even guess at their original purpose, such is the evolution of today’s tools. Most gardeners have a spade, fork, rake, hoe, wheelbarrow and probably a few other accessories of various description. But aside from the common tool shed staples lies a plethora of unusual and specialpurpose tools. If you can think of a specific job then there is almost certainly a specialist tool to do it. Specialist tools will come into their own when it’s time to carry out the particular task they were designed for. For example, the rounded, widelyspaced tines of the potato fork will allow you to unearth your tubers without ever spearing one to destruction again. Or take the arrow-like head of the compost aerator which will stab into the heart of your compost heap like no other tool, introducing oxygen to speed up the composting process in double-quick time. Together these tools make life in the garden or on the allotment that little bit easier. If you find yourself growing a lot of a particular crop or carrying out a specific task regularly then it’s well worth investigating to see if there’s a tool for the job in hand. So join me on a trip through the weird and wonderful world of the well-equipped garden shed.

Carbon Steel Mighty Pick Not the sort of pick that you see workmen using on the roads, but a shorter handled version with a sharp, weighted carbon steel head that will make light work of breaking up hard-packed areas where you are preparing a new vegetable bed.

FEATUR FEATURES ✓ Ideal fo for hard or root-bound soil ✓ Long-l Long-life carbon steel blade ✓ Comp Compact 40cm (16in) length Price: £1 £11.95 Supplier: Burgon & Ball (01 (0114 2338262, www.burg www.burgonandball.com) Grow it! June 2011 79

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Product review

Aside from the common tool shed staples lie a plethora of unusual and special-purpose tools The Ibis Cultivator

Hold this tool in your hand and you can immediately see how this tool got its name – the shape strongly resembles the ibis bird’s head. The design of this oriental tool is hundreds of years old and is very useful for drawing seed drills and covering them, weeding, transplanting and many more day-to-day gardening jobs. FEATURES ✓ Hand-forged steel head ✓ Ergonomically balanced ✓ Wooden handle Price: £16.95 Supplier: The Organic Gardening Catalogue (01932 253666, www.organiccatalogue.com)

Potato Harvesting ting Scoop

No matter how carefully you dig, and no matter which pronged fork you use, you will always end up with some potatoes harpooned ed on the tines of your fork when you harvest them. This is potato scoop does away with this problem and is designed signed to sift your spuds from the soil without causing g any damage FEATURES ✓ Sturdy stainless steel construction n ✓ Hardwood handle ✓ Protective end bar over tines Price: £14.95 Supplier: Burgon & Ball (0114 2338262, www.burgonandball.com) om)

JJoseph Bentley Compost Aerator C This tool is designed to lift and mix the contents of your compost heap in order conten create the air pockets essential for to cre good ccompost production. The carbon blades fold flat against the shaft steel bl inserted into the compost, then when ins when the handle is drawn back flip out w to pull up layers of compost. FEATURES ✓ Hinged bla blades for easy entry ✓ Extra-long 85cm (34in) handle ✓ Reduces ba back strain Price: £19.99 Su Supplier: Green fingers (0845 3450728, w www.greenfingers.com)

Berry Picker

Stripping blackcurrants or other berries from m your bushes can be a tiresome (and messy) job, especially if you have lots of bushes to work your way through. This clever ver little gadget scoops the berries from the stem so you can work really fast. FEATURES ✓ Comb to separate berries ✓ Harvest up to 10x quicker ✓ Also for deadheading Price: £12.95 Supplier: Mr Fothergill’s (www.mr-fothergills.co.uk 0845 3710518)

Garden Ridger This tool looks like a ploughshare on a stick, and it effectively serves the same purpose. As you draw the head through the soil it ploughs a furrow and turns the soil over to form a ridge. Great for making furrows for sowing, earthing up or aerating the soil, this is a handy tool rarely seen in British tool sheds but popular on the continent. FEATURES ✓ Powder-coated steel head ✓ Long handle – 163cm (65in) ✓ Comfortable grip Price: £26.95 Supplier: Ferndale Lodge (0844 3140043, www.ferndale-lodge.co.uk)

80 May 2011 Grow it!


Darlac Multi Trowel

Now here’s a really versatile tool. The pronged end removes weeds, the honed edge eases plants from pots, there’s a planting depth-gauge marked on the head, a serrated edge for sawing through small roots – and even a string-cutting notch! FEATURES ✓ Truly versatile tool ✓ Stainless steel head ✓ Easy-grip rubber handle Price: £4.95 Supplier: Two Wests & Elliott (01246 451077, www.twowests.co.uk)

The Thingamadig

The Thingamadig looks a bit like a baby’s spoon but its sharp point, serrated edge and deep scoop make it ideal for digging, weeding, cutting and generally poking around in the garden. Like many of the items in the Lakeland catalogue, this is one of those tools that you never realised you needed until you spotted it. FEATURES ✓ Multipurpose hand tool ✓ Polished stainless steel scoop ✓ Comfortable rubber handle Price: £6.49 Supplier: Lakeland (01539 488100, www.lakeland.co.uk)

Sneeboer Long Handled Fork and Mattock

There are times when some heavy-duty ground breaking is needed and at such times you should reach for one of these. The mattock side can break up hard soil, chop out weeds and dig trenches. Flip the tool over to use the fork side to create a workable tilth for planting. FEATURES ✓ 10cm (4in) fork/mattock heads ✓ Handsome, hand-forged design ✓ Long handle for added clout Price: £59.95 Supplier: Harrod Horticultural (0845 4025300, www.harrodhorticultural.com)

Bulldog Premier Potato Fork

Draper Long Handled Bulb Planter

This bulb planter is also brilliant for planting potatoes! Quickly and easily remove a plug of soil, drop in your potato, replace the soil then earth up. No bending required – and if your soil is heavy the spade-type treads mean that you can use one or both feet to apply pressure. FEATURES ✓ Creates 6cm (2.5in)-diameter holes ✓ Lightweight construction ✓ Chrome-plated carbon steel Price: £8.95 Supplier: Just Green (01621 785088, www.just-green.com)

These tools make life in the garden or on the allotment that little bit easier

This fork is the exception to the unwritten rule mentioned above. The tines on this fork are rounded at the ends to prevent crop damage. The traditional ash shaft and forged head will last you a lifetime – and you need never suffer another harpooned potato again. FEATURES ✓ Avoids spud damage ✓ 75cm (30in) ash handle ✓ British-made tool Price: £106.80 Supplier: Bulldog Tools (for stockists: 01279 401572, www.bulldogtools.co.uk)

Tyzack Billhook

Fifty years ago virtually every home in the country would have had something like this for chopping up kindling to get a fire going in the fireplace. There is still a need for this type of tool, particularly when clearing away stubborn woody growth or laying hedges. FEATURES ✓ 25cm (10in) steel blade ✓ Strong ash handle ✓ Invaluable traditional tool

Price: £23.25 Supplier: The Organic Gardening Catalogue (01932 253666, www.organiccatalogue.com) Grow it! June 2011 81


Fruit grow guide

An

exotic medley

Don’t settle for run-of-the-mill fruits – try something out of the ordinary, like one of these four tempting prospects ideal for growing in containers

E Aronia berries contain high levels of antioxidants

xotic fruits from sunnier climes will certainly tantalise your taste buds while guaranteeing to create a talking point. Pineapples and guavas, for example, are fun to grow, though both are tropical fruits and need the protection of a warm, bright conservatory. If you haven’t got a conservatory there are plenty of other unusual fruits that will thrive in pots on the patio. Two less-than-common fruits worth growing are the jewel-like goji and aronia berries. Both are easy to grow and make attractive plants. Ideal for the health conscious, they are high in antioxidants and will save a small fortune on bought-in ‘superfoods’.

Pineapple

A member of the tropical bromeliad family, the pineapple is an attractive plant with strappy, spiny leaves and spiky-topped fruit. For something exotic, pineapples are surprisingly easy to grow. Either buy ready-grown plants or start your own in spring from shop-bought fruit. Cut a thick slice off the top of the pineapple and remove the lower leaves. Scoop out any soft flesh and leave this to dry for a few days before planting, scoopside down, in a pot of soil-based compost with added grit. A sunny conservatory is essential as pineapples need six hours of bright sun a day and an ideal minimum temperature of 18°C.

Tropical pineapples make striking conservatory plants

Pineapples grow slowly and won’t fruit until they are at least three years old. Keep the ‘well’ between the leaf rosettes full of water, and mist plants now and then. When in growth, feed once a month with a liquid tomato fertiliser.

Aronia berry

A

82 June 2011 Grow it!

RO

Y

HEIGHT & SPREAD

1.2m (4ft) ASPECT Sun or partial shade MIN. TEMP Fully hardy HARVEST Autumn

N IA B E R

R

The nutrient-rich, blackcurrant-like berries of aronia or chokeberries can be juiced or made into jam. In spring and summer, this deciduous shrub forms a mound of glossy green foliage, but in autumn the leaves turn a fiery red, which is even brighter if plants are placed in full sun. The small, white, spring flowers are followed by dark purple autumn berries. In their native habitat aronias are found growing in damp, acid soil, but they will thrive in


HEIGHT & SPREAD

1m (3ft) ASPECT Full sun in a bright conservatory MIN. TEMP 15°C HARVEST When fruit is fully ripe

PI

N EAPPL E

To care for your trees, ensure the compost doesn’t dry out, though avoid overwatering. Give guavas a boost in spring by working a slow-release, balanced fertiliser into the top layer of compost. Keep plants bushy and within bounds by pruning shoot tips in spring.

Ripe goji berries are full of health-giving properties. Enjoy them fresh or dried

Goji berry

Guava

Small, green guava fruit is rarely seen in shop, and plants will be the star attraction when grown in a conservatory in cooler climes. They can be grown from seed, but it’s easier to start with a young plant. Guavas need plenty of space and lots of light, so plant them into large containers filled with soil-based compost and set in a warm, bright conservatory. Trees can go outside in summer in a sheltered area next to a warm, south-facing wall, but both the early blossom and ripening fruits must be protected from frost. Plants will only fruit after a long, hot summer.

HEIGHT & SPREAD 2m (8ft) ASPECT Full sun MIN. TEMP 3°C HARVEST Late spring

G UAVA

Guavas have a sweet, pineapplemint flavour

Find out more about growing edibles and other plants in pots in the new book RHS How to Grow Plants in Pots (published by DK, priced £14.99). Available from all good bookshops or www.dk.com

Grow it! June 2011 83

SUTTONS

a range of conditions. Plant into pots of soilbased compost, such as John Innes Number 3, and keep plants well watered. The wild species produces prolific crops of berries, though more compact cultivars, such as Iroquois Beauty (‘Morton’) and ‘Hugin’ are better suited to the cramped conditions of a container.

The red, oval berries of the goji or wolfberry are displayed like jewels on the branches of this hardy shrub. As well as their aesthetic appeal, the berries are crammed with antioxidants, vitamins and HEIGHT & SPREAD minerals. Young plants are 1.2m (4ft) ASPECT available in spring, ready to Sun or partial shade plant out into pots of soilMIN. TEMP Fully hardy based compost. To improve drainage, G HARVEST Autumn O JI add extra grit and raise pots on ‘feet’. B E R RY Boost plant growth by mixing a slowrelease, balanced fertiliser into the compost. Water regularly and lightly prune plants in spring. The purple or pink flowers produced in summer are followed by autumn fruits, but remember that pants won’t crop until their second year. Shake berries from the branches rather than picking them off. Berries can be used fresh or dried. To dry them, spread the fruits in a single layer on a wire rack and allow to dry naturally in a warm and light place. Alternatively, dry the berries on a rack in an oven set at a low temperature. Avoid touching the fruits as their skins will discolour your hands.


Know-how

Steady does it Avoid sudden gluts by sowing what you need, when you need it. Dave Hamilton talks us through successional sowing and a few of the crops we can sow like this now

A

t some point we’ve all let enthusiasm preside over commonsense; it’s all-too tempting to sow the entire contents of a seed packet in one go. The trouble is this often results in a glut of produce followed by nothing at all. While some crops can be left in place to take as and when needed (parsnips, sprouting broccoli and potatoes for example), quickgrowers such as salad leaves, spinach and radish won’t stand for long. Their quick turnaround from seed to plate means that if you don’t want to be eating salads for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you will do well to spread your crops out to achieve more evenly spaced harvests. The starting point for this is to work out how much you think you will realistically eat within a typical week. It’s obvious that a single person will need less than a family,

Salads can be started off in module trays, sowing a set number of cells every few weeks

so figure out what each member of your family will eat and add this all up to get an idea of how much you should be sowing. My partner and I eat around a bag of salad each a week, which works out as three or four whole loose-leaf lettuces. In warm weather we’ll eat

Quick-growers such as radish need to be sown little and often to prevent fat and lean times

more than this and we sometimes like to sow extra for guests (including uninvited guests such as the odd slug!). Of course, it’s impossible to avoid all gluts and any that do still occur can be dealt with by freezing. Crops like runner beans and courgettes, which are notoriously difficult to avoid gluts of, are ideal for this treatment. These will need blanching in boiling water then freezing on trays before packing into plastic tubs (this will stop them becoming a solid frozen mass). But while freezing deals with unavoidable gluts, properly staggering the harvests of those crops you can plan will mean much fresher produce.

Successional salads

Sowing little and often helps prolong the harvest window, while minimising the all-at-once

S

Grow it! June 2011 85


Know-how scenario – a technique known as ‘successional sowing’. It is relatively simple to achieve a staggered harvest of salad leaves. Let’s take lettuce as an example: if you wish to have whole heads of lettuce every week then sow one row of a module tray every two to four weeks. Sow more than this if you eat more lettuce. In this way you’ll achieve a succession of harvests and won’t ever feel like you have to eat your way through a sudden rush of leaves. Prick out the lettuces when they are large enough to handle, remembering to handle seedlings by their leaves and not the roots or delicate stems – leaves can grow back if they break but a snapped taproot or stem will kill a plant. Grow your lettuces on in containers filled with multipurpose, peat-free compost or plant out into the ground at their final spacings. Different varieties of lettuce can be sown every few weeks up until October, with later sowings benefiting from a little protection. The seed packets should tell you when it is best to sow. Winter salads can be a little on the bitter side and if you are not used to this you may also want to try a crisp-tasting lettuce such as ‘Parella Rossa’. Most lettuces take four to seven weeks to mature. Rather than take one lettuce head at a time I prefer to take a few leaves from several plants. Cut-and-come-again lettuces such

Salad leaf schedule Type of salad

When to sow

When to harvest

Frost protection required?

Lettuce ‘Red Flame’, ‘Mint Crisp’ Lettuce, oak-leaf types Rocket

April to July

May to September

No

February to early September March to September June to September, and April to May under protection August to September, or August to November under protection

Almost year-round

Yes

April to November

Yes

July to December

Quite cold hardy but grow under a cloche in winter Hardy to -15°C

Mizuna and mibuna Winter purslane/ miners’ lettuce

Above: Sow shorter rows of carrots more often to prevent too much at any one time Take a few leaves from each plant to extend each plant’s useful lifespan

October to May

as ‘Fristina’ and the oak-leaf types lend themselves to this, as do many non-lettuce leaves such as purslane and rocket. Widening the range of salads you grow not only gives a rounder balance of flavour, it will ensure a more balanced diet. Brassicas, for example, contain high levels of vitamin K; herb salads are rich in beta-carotene; rocket, watercress and landcress contain folate; while all fresh

salad leaves are a good source of vitamin C. Another advantage of harvesting a few leaves at a time is that you will prevent plants from generating enough energy to go to seed or ‘bolt’. Stopping a plant from bolting will considerably extend its lifespan and useful harvest time. Commercial growers who use this method pick from one row one week and another the next, switching back and forth on alternating weeks to allow new leaves to grow on those plants just harvested. If you wish to stagger your harvest this way then sow a whole module tray of mixed salads once every four weeks (this will give about 24 plants). At the end of the season some plants will need covering with a cloche or will need to be grown under the protection of a polytunnel or greenhouse. I cover winter salads with a fleece when the weather cools down; the extra warmth keeps plants ticking along for longer.

Crazy for carrots

The organised among us will be harvesting their spring-sown carrots by about now. But for those who may have spent February flicking through seed catalogues rather than starting their first sowings it’s not too late to get some carrots in now. I tend to eat about four carrots in a week and my partner has the same, so I make sure I sow a row of at least 16 carrots every two weeks, plus extras for losses/spares. Later sowings from June usually avoid the laying season of the carrot’s number one pest – the 86 June 2011 Grow it!


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Turnip ‘Milan Purple Top’

VERTICAL GROWING Take your crops to new heights

Hands-on advice Growing instructions: When large enough to handle thin seedlings to 10cm (4in) apart. Keep well watered during dry weather. Harvest from May to November. Harvested while young, ‘baby turnips’ can be used raw to make a sweet addition to salads or steamed for a tasty vegetable. Sowing instructions: Turnips prefer a rich, wellmanured soil. Sow thinly from March to August directly outside or into containers, setting seed 1cm (0.5in) deep. Sow regularly for fresh roots throughout spring, summer and autumn. This exceptional turnip forms flatter, globe-shaped roots with purple crowns and white bases. They are ideal eaten as ‘baby turnips’ when the taste is sweet and succulent. The dark green, erect leaves are exceptional when steamed as greens, giving you two crops in one! ‘Milan Purple Top’ is also perfect for growing in containers.

Turnip ‘Milan Purple Top’

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Quick-growing delicious• Lettuces • Feeding crops equipment • Irrigation and Average content: 300 seeds. Origin UK. Seeds supplied by Thompson & Morgan (UK) Ltd. For customer care tel: 01473 688821 or email: www.thompsonmorgan.com Standard seeds – complies with EC rules and standards

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20/06/2011 11:35

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MR FOTHERGILL'S

carrot root fly, which means you may not have to cover this later crop with fleece protection. A student of mine swears by planting strong-smelling herbs such as sage next to carrots. Then to mask the scent of a harvested carrot from the carrot root fly she’ll bruise the sage leaves, releasing the herb’s aromatic scent to throw the flies off the scent. Early carrot varieties take about 12 weeks from sowing to harvest, while maincrop types take around 16. June is a little late for earlies but it’s a good time to sow maincrop varieties such as ‘Ulysses’ or the more flexible ‘Napoli’. There are also cultivars suitable for patio or pot growing, which are much smaller and take less time to mature. Some baby carrots will be ready in as little as seven weeks and have a crisp, crunchy flavour. You can also sow second earlies in August for an autumn-lifting crop. Carrots will store over winter in a sand box or potato clamp.

Shell out

By early summer you may think it’s getting too late to sow peas. For some varieties, such as ‘Feltham First’ that may be the case but as earlies take around 12 weeks to start cropping, second earlies 14 and maincrop varieties 15 weeks, you can get away with sowing peas as late as June and even July in some parts of the South. In mild areas you could be picking as late as November, though this is, admittedly, exceptional ‘Kelvedon Wonder’ is a good allrounder, serving as both an early and maincrop pea. Mangetout

varieties are useful for a slightly quicker crop. Early varieties can be sown in November for a crop the following spring. You can stagger harvests by growing a range of varieties or by staggering sowing times with successional sowing. Sow every two weeks from spring directly into the soil and grow plants up pea sticks or netting. Module sowing isn’t necessary for peas and can even do more harm than good as this only disturbs the roots, though sowing into biodegradable loo roll centres gets around this problem. If you have struggled with peas in the past, bear in mind they don’t like compacted soil and can rot in waterlogged conditions. Birds can also be a problem –

It’s still not too late to sow peas. Grow them up pea sticks for support Left: Carrots suitable for containers, such as ‘Parmex’ are very quick growers

The key to achieving a steady supply of any crop is to sow just what you need every few weeks I used to be watched by a hungry jay that would eagerly swoop down and eat all the peas I’d just sown the moment my back was turned. It took the allotment rep to alert me to this leguminous crime and I have netted my peas and beans while they germinate ever since. Peas are quite cold hardy but autumn sowings will need some protection.

Experiment!

It is worth experimenting with other crops as only experience will let you know what grows well in your conditions. Over the last winter, when temperatures plummeted to below -10°C, I was amazed to see overwintering coriander under fleece in a polytunnel. I have also managed to grow summer lettuces in a warm part of a kitchen. Sown into pots in October, they remained fairly static over winter but swelled into a lush head of leaves come spring, allowing me to take a few leaves at a time right up to May when my outdoor lettuces started to crop. Remember that the key to achieving a steady supply of any crop is to sow just what you need every few weeks. Work back from the anticipated harvest date and sow from here. With a little practise you will get the knack of successional sowing and be rewarded with a steady supply of your favourite produce.

The smallest pinch of seeds at each sowing is usually enough

Grow it! June 2011 87


LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

Young Growers

Rainy days

D ’t b l when h it rains i – celebrate l b t th th that helps Don’t be glum the weather our plants to grow! Victoria Poolman explains why rain is so precious and how to make a garden rain gauge

P

lants need several things to grow on and produce a healthy crop: sunlight, warmth and water. We all need water to live, but how much should we give our plants? Seedlings especially require a careful balance – enough to grow and avoid drying out but not so much that they are flooded. Lots of water can also wash away soil nutrients (a process called leaching). When you’re growing seedlings in pots it’s very easy to control the water intake but once your plants are in the ground this can be much harder. This is where a rain gauge comes in handy. By monitoring rainfall, while keeping a diary to record temperature and weather patterns, you can make sure that in hot weather your plants are watered and, if there has been a lot of rain, you ease off the watering. Don’t worry about too much rain affecting your plants, as when they are in the ground the soil quickly absorbs rain. It is only container plants that can get too soggy if given too much water. Even though water is all around us, 88 June 2011 Grow it!

in rivers, lakes and the sea, it is still very precious. Rainfall has become unpredictable over the years, so we need to make sure that not a drop is wasted. When it comes en in the heat of to looking after your garden o use collected summer, it’s much better to er from the rain water rather than water tap. Rain water is better for plants and he easiest it saves on treated water. The way to collect rain water is to ask tt from an adult to buy a water butt ch it to the garden centre and attach use. That the drainpipe on your house. ter will way, when it rains, the water trickle down the roof and along ur water the guttering, right into your butt. Then you can simply dip your our plants watering can in to water your butt and wait for the rain to refilll the butt. When you water your plants it’s much better to use a rose fitting on the end of your hose or watering can that has lots of tiny holes. This will slow the flow of water and ensure that it is spread over a wider area without disturbing the soil surface.

What you will need

✓ A clean two-litre bottle with a flat bottom ✓ Scissors (and an an adu adult) lt) ✓ Pap Paperc erclips lips ✓ Rul Ruler er ✓ Ma Marke rker pen pen

Why not try?

Keeping a weather diary to record how much rainfall you receive. That way you’ll know when your plants will be in need of some extra help from the watering can.


JUST FOR FUN... STEP-BY-STEP

Making a rain gauge

1

2

3

4

5

6

Use some scissors to cut the top end of the bottle off. Cut around the bottle where it starts to slope towards the neck to leave you with a funnel.

Why is the letter ‘T’ like an island? Because it’s in the middle of water!

Turn the funnel upside down and fit in into the bottle. Use paperclips to secure it in place. Make sure you haven’t left the lid screwed on!

Rain is essential if we’re to have thriving plants

Did you know?

✦ There are around 326 million trillion gallons of water in the world, yet only about 2.5% of this is fresh water of which less than 1% is accessible for us to use. ✦ Roughly one in eight people around the world have no safe drinking water supply. Instead, they cope with polluted, dirty water to wash, drink and cook with. ✦ Here in the UK the average person uses 150 litres of water every day. This has gone up by a whopping 1% every single year since 1930!

Place the bottle onto a table for support then use a ruler to mark out measurements along the side. It’s best to do this in centimetres.

Insert your new rain gauge into the hole and secure it with sand, stones or soil so that it won’t get blown over by the wind. Make sure it’s level.

Find a place in the garden that isn’t overshadowed by trees or buildings and dig a hole as wide as your bottle. Alternatively fill a bucket with sand.

Now simply check your rain gauge at the same time every day, recording each measurement as you go. Empty the water after taking a reading. Grow it! June 2011 89


month

With long summer days and balmy weather speeding crops along, ng, July can be an incredibly productive month. It’s a time e of plenty, when springtime Turnip ‘Milan sowings reap edible riches. But don’t let summer’s Purple Top’ bounty lull you into a false sense of security – there’s lots ts to be getting on with, especially ecially if the harvests are to continue. Next month we’ll show you how to keep things ticking over, there’ll be tips on plant feeding, advice on figs, troubleshooting ideas and an inspiring step-by-step guide to help you create a living wall of crops. And lots, lots more!

FREE

Take off

Forget raised beds – vertical gardening’s the next big thing on the productive plot. Claire Hart reviews the options for extending your patch skywards – and enjoying the increase in crop take that results!

Turnip for the cooks

It’s time for a fresh look at the turnip. These quick-growing roots can be harvested just six weeks after sowing or left to grow on for a winter staple. There’s still time to sow these hard workers and we’ll show you how

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Know-how

Waste not,want not A you th Are throwing i d delicious li i veg onto t your compostt h heap b by mistake? i t k ?M More off your plants might be tastier than you think. Jeannine McAndrew reveals how you can make your plot more productive at no added cost and for no extra effort

S Main pic: Young beetroot leaves can be eaten much like spinach for an added edible bonus; Above: Enjoy the tender leaves of radish as much as its root

upermarket culture has sadly conditioned us to think that only certain parts of most plants are edible. Yet there is a huge range of different veg that offer two or more crops for the price of one. This untapped source of food is a real boon for the busy gardener or anyone short on space. It also offers exciting new flavours to explore and opens up new possibilities in the kitchen. Did you know, for example, that the young leaves of radishes are delicious in their own right and can be eaten raw or cooked? Or that if you leave some radishes to flower, the resulting crunchy seed pods are

fantastic added as a spicy garnish to salads, or fried and served with a sprinkling of sea salt? We all love mangetout and sugar snap peas, but did you know that whole young broad bean pods can be eaten in a similar way when they are still as slim as your finger? Even people who don’t usually like broad beans find them hard to resist when they are picked this young.

Twice as nice

In Northern Spain the leaves on top of turnips are more highly-prized as a gourmet food than the roots are. Here they are served as a delicious gratin with cream and sharp cheese. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to Grow it! June 2011 91

S


Know-how dig up your brassicas either – you can often get a second mini crop of greens if you leave the cut stem in the soil for just three or four more weeks. When you harvest cabbages, for example, slice a cross into the top of the stalk and four ‘mini cabbages’ will soon grow, providing you with fresh, sweet leaves. Much of what seems like groundbreaking information to us was common knowledge back in the 1940s. The importance of finding clever and creative ways to make the most of all the food we had available was widely recognised and as a result our diet was far healthier than it is now. By simply getting into the habit of thinking twice before putting veg on the compost heap, the yields from your plot could be significantly improved without you having to do any extra work whatsoever!

Flower power

Did you know?

A huge range of wild herbs, weeds and mushrooms can all make delicious and vitamin-rich additions to the stock pot. However, it’s vital that you never pick anything unless you are absolutely certain of its identity and you can also guarantee it hasn’t come into contact with any harmful chemicals such as pesticides.

Nasturtiums are incredibly easy to grow from seed and will thrive even on poor soils. The blooms attract useful pollinators to our plots and so they are a common sight in veg gardens and allotments. However, while most of us eat lettuce a few times a week, when did you last eat a nasturtium leaf or flower? They are just as delicious and healthy as watercress and rocket, so why not get into the habit of harvesting a few leaves every day this summer? What’s more the seed pods can be pickled to make a dish much like capers that is lovely with bread and cheese. Simply fill a pound jar with the washed green seeds and add 450g of cold water in which you’ve mixed 50g of salt. Leave for 24 hours and then drain and rinse them. Sterilise the jar then put the seeds back in and cover with boiling, spiced vinegar. Your ‘poor man’s capers’ will be ready to eat in three weeks. 92 June 2011 Grow it!

Salad days

The health benefits of eating a bowl of salad every day are well documented, but supermarket bags of leaves can cost a small fortune. Luckily there are lots of ways that savvy gardeners can enjoy fresh crops all year round for very little outlay. As well as growing old favourites like lettuce, supplement your salads by using the young leaves of spinach and Swiss chard raw. Onion thinnings and young leek leaves can be used to pep up all sorts of recipes, as can trimmings from your herb plants whenever you need to keep them in shape. Petals from daisies and dandelions can be used to add colour and flavour to salads, while young dandelion leaves are very tasty. If you blanch a dandelion plant by covering it with a bucket or flowerpot for a week or two, the leaves are said to have a flavour superior to endive.


Stock up

Bring back the lost art of making delicious home-made stocks. Even if you have a small household you can save up all your unwanted bits and pieces of veg in a zip-bag in the freezer until you have enough to make a decent pot full. Onion skins, celery hearts and leaves, peel from butternut squash, pumpkins and marrows, woody bits from the ends of asparagus and kohl rabi, the dark green tops of leeks, stems from cauliflower and broccoli, not to mention tough mushroom stalks can all be put to good use. Simply pop them all in the bag as you go along and every few weeks you’ll have enough to make an amazing stock. Any overripe tomatoes and leftover bits of veg that are lurking in the fridge and starting to go a bit bendy can also be chopped and added, though anything that’s on the turn should be avoided.

How to make stock...

• In a large pot, fry some roughlychopped onions – skins and all – then add your frozen veg and any leftovers from the fridge. • Stir for a few minutes to really bring out the flavour then add water. If you’ve cunningly managed to save water from cooking other veg or pulses then so much the better. • Bring to the boil, stirring from time to time.

• You can also add whatever fresh herbs you have in the garden, or even the leaves of some weeds, such as the tops of fresh nettles that you’ve found at the allotment. • Simmer for an hour or two, strain to remove all the pieces, and you will be left with a nutrient-rich stock that’s perfect as a starting point for soups, gravies and stews. • This stock can also be frozen if you can’t use it all at once. To make it into a simple soup, fry an onion, add some roughly-chopped vegetables (and veg tops if you have any), pour over the stock and simmer till the veg are starting to soften. Add a vegetable stock cube and stir. Then add seasoning to taste and serve with crusty bread.

Pecking order Back in the 1940s many households kept chickens and these animals would be fed all the leftovers. Nowadays many people keep chickens as family pets. Once you have invested in their housing, chooks are much cheaper to look after than most other pets and they also reward you with their delicious eggs. You can buy ex-battery hens from the British Hen Welfare Trust for just £1 each and, while their main diet should be layers’ mash, they love to eat leaves from all the different brassicas, apple peel and any outer leaves from your lettuces. What’s more they will be delighted to devour any grubs, slugs and caterpillars you find while you are digging and weeding. Chickens enjoy a range of fruit and veg but avoid giving them rhubarb leaves, as they contain toxic levels of oxalic acid. Never give your chooks anything that might possibly have been treated with herbicide or fungicide.

Look on the bright side Cutting down on waste can present you with new opportunities in the kitchen. ● Planted your crops a bit too close together? Thinnings are delicious in salads – colourful beetroot leaves, for example, look as good as they taste. ● Getting lots of male flowers that won’t produce fruits on your squash? They are fantastic friend in batter, or stuffed with cream cheese and baked with a tomato sauce. ● Discovered the dreaded honey fungus (pictured) on your trees? It may be some consolation to know that the mushrooms are very tasty. ● Found an old cache of veg seeds that are now out of date? Use them to grow nutritious sprouting seeds to add to soups, savoury dishes and sandwiches.

Grow it! June 2011 93


SEASONAL FARE

With so much coming off the allotment and kitchen garden you’ll be spoilt for choice this month! Have a go at these tempting recipes that are sure to leave mouths watering

SUMMER PUDDING Celebrate the fresh tastes of the season with this classic summer pudding. It’s the perfect way to turn a glut of soft fruits such as blackcurrants and strawberries into a sumptuous dessert – just don’t expect it to hang around for too long! RECIPE BY SANDRA GEERE

INGREDIENTS: 800g (1lb 12oz) of soft fruits (raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, strawberries) A few fruits for decoration 125g (4.5oz) caster sugar 8 slices of day-old white bread, crusts removed Sprigs of mint to decorate Single cream to serve METHOD • Place the redcurrants and blackcurrants in a pan with the sugar and 75ml (3fl oz) of water. Gently simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the raspberries and strawberries. Leave to cool. Strain the fruit and reserve the juice. • Soak the slices of bread in the juice and use them to line a one-litre (1.75 pint) pudding basin, reserving a circle of soaked bread for the top. • Spoon the fruit and remaining juice into the basin and top with the bread circle. Cover with a saucer or tea plate and weigh down with heavy tins. Refrigerate overnight. • Place a serving plate under the pudding and, holding firmly, turn over to remove the pudding from the basin. Decorate with a few berries and a sprig of mint. Serve with cream.

What’s in season? Asparagus Lettuce Basil Mint Beetroot Peas Broad beans Potatoes Cabbage Radishes Carrots Redcurrants Cauliflower Rhubarb Chard Rocket Cherries Salad leaves Courgettes Spinach Cucumber Spring onions Endive Strawberries Fennel Turnip Gooseberries Watercress 94 June 2011 Grow it!


Try it:

A simple but sophisticated summer treat! MINTED STRAWBERRIES On a hot day the mint cools the strawberries and reminds you that strawberries may grow in your garden but are inspired by heaven! INGREDIENTS: 675g (1lb 8oz) strawberries Stock syrup: 225g (8oz) sugar and 300ml (0.5 pint) water Sprigs of mint METHOD • To make the stock syrup, dissolve the sugar in the water and boil for two minutes, before allowing to cool. • Hull the strawberries, then take 225g (8oz) of them and crush. Combine the crushed strawberries with the syrup. Now fold in the whole strawberries, strew with mint leaves and chill. • Serve with sweetened yoghurt, cream or crème fraîche, preferably sitting in your own strawberry patch feeling smug! RECIPE BY CLARISSA PORTER

WATERCRESS AND PEA RISOTTO / SERVES 4 Sweet and fresh, peas are the epitome of early summer, and what better way to enjoy them than in an indulgent risotto. This recipe (delicious with fish or chicken) also uses watercress, which can be sown in a shady part of the veg plot from May to September for a continuous crop of vitamin-rich leaves. INGREDIENTS: 1 tbsp olive oil 1 onion, finely chopped 1 clove garlic 400g (14oz) risotto rice 150ml (0.25 pint) dry white wine 750ml (1.75 pints) hot vegetable stock 150g (5oz) peas 0.5 tsp freshly grated nutmeg 100g (4oz) watercress, roughly chopped 25g (1oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese METHOD • Heat the oil in a large heavy pan, add the onion and sauté for four minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and rice and cook for one more minute whilst stirring.

• Add the white wine and cook, stirring continuously, for two to three minutes until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add a ladle of the stock and cook for another two to three minutes, gently stirring occasionally to prevent sticking until the liquid has been absorbed. Repeat until you have just a little stock left and the rice is almost tender. • Add the remaining stock, peas and nutmeg then cook until the rice is soft and creamy. • Remove from the heat. Add the watercress and cheese, and seasoning to taste. Serve straight away. Grow it! June 2011 95


Slugs and snails are a perennial nuisance, as any gardener knows all too well. Andrew Haynes investigates what makes these slimy molluscs tick – and how to keep them in check

W

ith the exception of those served on a Frenchman’s plate with butter and garlic (and it has to be said that the butter and garlic are the main attraction), snails are pretty universally unpopular and slugs even more so. The mollusc family, to which they belong, includes the whelk and the octopus, neither of which are likely to cause much bother in the garden. But whether you have a pot or a plot, garden slugs most certainly will. The most common and troublesome species of garden slug are between 3cm and 10cm (1-4in) long. Believe it or not the largest slug in the world can grow to a massive 30cm – that’s 12 inches! This species, the Ash Grey slug is found, not as you might imagine in some tropical rainforest, but here in Britain. Dartmoor is one of the last strongholds of this beauty, where high annual rainfall and the shelter provided by damp rocks and mossy woodland floors are key to its survival. Not all slugs are bad, certainly not this one since it has a diet of fungi and decaying vegetation. There are also several carnivorous species, some of which will even feed on the pest species. Slugs (and snails) require a damp and shady refuge safe from the drying effects of the sun. Many gardeners unwittingly provide this in the form of box hedging or turf around the veg plot. Whilst an edging of box may be attractive, something like lavender is less likely to harbour pests and will also produce flowers that attract beneficial insects. If you burrow your fingers into turf, you will find it to be cool and moist, even on a hot and sunny day – first class accommodation for slugs. The best slug deterring paths are compacted gravel, cinders from a coal fire or crushed oyster shell. If none of these are available then an unplanted but regularly hoed bit of bare soil bordering the plot will be hostile to slugs. Disturbing the soil with a cultivator hoe brings down hungry birds, like gulls following a plough, so working a small area before moving on to another part of the garden enables birds to search undisturbed. Birds are our greatest ally in the battle against slugs, taking both slug’s eggs and mature slugs. 98 June 2011 Grow it!

I am not a fan of beer traps, as apart from being a dreadful waste of good beer they all too often drown the ground beetles which predate on slugs, making them somewhat counterproductive. Likewise the old-fashioned kind of slug pellets which have either methiocarb or metaldehyde as the active ingredient. Both these chemicals may harm predators, especially methiocarb, which is an insecticide and responsible for many ‘friendly fire’ incidents. A gigantic old tin of Slug Death powder dating from the 1950s found (empty) in the potting shed contained no safety advice other than ‘Not to be eaten’. Nor did it state an active ingredient.

Andrew Haynes has been a professional gardener for more than 30 years. He is head gardener at Edmondsham House in Dorset where he tends an area of fruit and veg equivalent to three full-size allotment plots. Andrew often leads guided tours and runs workshops at Edmondsham.

Believe it or not the largest slug in the world can grow to a massive 30cm – that’s 12 inches! The new generation of slug pellets based on ferric phosphate are safe if used correctly and are approved by the Organic Farmers and Growers Association. Slugs are far from sluggish when it comes to chomping their way through a row of seedlings and I have found the ferric phosphate pellets to be very effective at protecting seedlings. As is a garlic spray to protect young leafy crops such as salad leaves. The garlic does not affect the flavour of the crop and may also help prevent fungal diseases. Use both garlic spay and ferric phosphate when the problem is severe. The nematode slug controls are good but expensive on a large area and won’t work in cold weather. Slugs have their place in nature: they are food for many other creatures, they are decomposers and their slime improves soil structure. We should never try to eradicate any native organism, plant or animal. All we should ever do is to keep their numbers to an acceptable level around our crops.

Most slug species have only one thing on their minds: your crops!


Grow It! June 2011 (E102)