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No. 192 September 2013


Down-to-earth aDvice for growing fruit & veg | | SePteMBer 2013

with our top tips & super recipes

sAVe MoneY BY ColleCting seeds

Try this now!

berries Blueyour patio from

CHoose & groW YoUr oWn Apples

Veg for pint-sized plots!

BeAt pests WitH pippA greenWood

Container growing with Joe Maiden

Veg to Keep YoUr HeArt HeAltHY ★ MoneY sAVing offers ★ prodUCt reVieWs






By choosing the right varieties it is possible to harvest delicious fresh lettuces for much of the year. Sow a winter hardy variety such as ‘All Year Round’, ‘Winter Density’ or ‘Arctic King’ now. Protect your plants with cloches or grow in a cold greenhouse through the winter.


The last of the climbing beans can be harvested and the plants removed unless you want dried beans or are seed saving. Cut the stems at ground level and leave the plants in the soil to allow the nitrogen contained in the root nodules to be released. Lift your canes and store them.


Any remaining potatoes are best lifted and stored. Left in the ground they are vulnerable to slugs and blight. Lift, clean off lumps of soil and allow the tubers to lay on the surface for a few hours for the skins to dry. Place them in paper or hession sacks and store them in a cool, dark place.


Well rotted compost is worth its weight in gold on the plot. Make sure your heap is happy and healthy and the compost ready for digging in by turning it now to encourage breakdown and covering to prevent it from becoming waterlogged.

6 | SEPTEMBER 2013


Lettuce, winter spinach, oriental leaves, pak choi, salad leaves, turnips, hardy green manures.


Spring cabbage, autumn onion sets, strawberry runners, kale.


Salad leaves, lettuce, radish, cauliflowers, potatoes, globe artichokes, spinach, tomatoes, runner beans, peppers, aubergines, cucumbers, French beans, beetroot, leaf beet, spring onions, bulb onions and garlic (from store), carrots, parsnips, peas, squashes, marrows, courgettes, baby leeks and parsnips, grapes, perpetual strawberries, blackberries, autumn raspberries, apples, pears, figs, late peaches, nectarines, medlars.



The best onions are usually produced from autumn-planted sets since this allows the bulbs much more growing time and gives the best chance of a good crop. Buying your sets in good time ensures that you’ll get good quality bulbs. Plant into well prepared fertile soil, raking in a dressing of general fertiliser about a week beforehand if possible. Put up a garden line and plant your sets using a dibber or trowel. Once planted the tips should be just showing. Plant 1015cm (4-6in) apart with 45cm (18in) between the rows. Closer spacings can be used to allow for winter losses and any thinnings used as bunching or small bulbs next spring and summer. Keep the rows weed-free by hand weeding regularly.


Once the foliage of pumpkins and squashes has started to die back and before the first frost hits, the fruit can be cut from the parent plant. If you have grown a winter storing variety don’t gather them in straight away but leave the fruit outside for the skins to harden for up to a week. Then move into a cool, frost free place until needed.

Never push onion sets into the soil when planting or as the roots develop over winter the bulbs will push themselves out of the ground. After planting, cover the rows with fleece or Enviromesh against the birds.

ferns Cut down the old us asparag (top growth) from ial and remove perenn . d weeds from the be


Perpetual spinach can be sown now for overwintering and pickings from early summer and thoughout it’s first year. Alternatively some varieties of summer spinach such as ‘Polar Bear F1’ can be sown before the middle of the month for harvesting in the autumn. Modern varieties often have some resistance to bolting and downy mildew.

SOW ORIENTAL VEG Oriental leaves such as pak choi, Chinese cabbage and komatsuma, can be sown now in the open ground as summer harvesting crops are lifted and soil becomes available. Remove any weeds and prepare the soil well adding general fertiliser before sowing. Cover rows with cloches or fleece as the weather worsens.


Outdoor tomatoes often fall prey to potato blight, but if you have been fortunate and avoided that problem this year, then it is time to harvest any remaining fruit since they will ripen only very slowly outside this month. Near-ripe fruit can be further ripened on a sunny windowsill or in a drawer with a ripening banana and green tomatoes used to make chutneys. SEPTEMBER 2013 | 7

Making the choice with

apples Apples are our most popular tree fruit and the easiest to grow, but with thousands of varieties available the choice can be daunting. Fruit supervisor for the RHS Wisley Gardens, Jim Arbury, brings you his pick of the very best apples, old and new

Main iMage: Cooking apple ‘Bramley’s Seedling’ remains one of the most popular with gardeners and cooks alike.

Right: ‘Kidd’s Orange Red’ is a cross from ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’, but easier to grow.

22 | SEPTEMBER 2013


pples originate in central Asia and are suited to our (usually) cold winters. They will grow in most areas of the UK and in cooler more northerly locations early and mid-season varieties are suitable for the short growing season. They grow best in a sheltered sunny situation, so where possible avoid frost pockets. A frost pocket is an area, usually at the bottom of a slope, where a solid barrier such as a fence or line of trees holds the dense, cold air and allows it to build up causing a localised cold area around your trees. If you have no choice but to plant in a frost pocket then protect the trees with a covering of fleece at flowering time on nights when frost is forecast (the trees are very hardy, but the blossom is not). A deep fertile moisture retentive but well drained soil of pH 6.5 is best for apples, however other soils can be easily improved. The addition of plenty of well-rotted compost or manure can improve the drainage of heavy soils and the moisture retention of thin and light soils.

ChoiCe of varieties

Apples have been cultivated for thousands of years so to say the least there is a wide range available, mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries, although some originate from even earlier times. Every variety was new once and at RHS Wisley Gardens we are always on the lookout for the best new introductions. At home too, I like to grow a range of varieties from ancient to modern as all have their particular flavour and texture and by mixing them up I am also able to pick fruit over a much longer period and ensure that there is always plenty of pollen around for the insects to pollinate my trees.


Easton delights Picture: EWG

We travel to Grantham in Lincolnshire to visit a fascinating kitchen garden which has been producing crops for the same family for 14 generations. The postwar era saw it decline, but now, thanks to the present owners, it is thriving once more

The magnificent house in its heyday.


hink of a walled kitchen garden and you’ll probably think of a large productive plot that had its heyday in the Victorian era. Likely as not it will be tucked well out of sight so it will not offend the sensibilities of the visitors to the house it was built to supply. In the little village of Easton just outside Grantham, however, there is a jewel of a garden that has a very different character. For the productive plot of Easton Walled Gardens dates back to Tudor times when kitchen gardens were not so shunned. I was privileged to be taken on a tour by Lady Ursula Cholmeley, wife of the present owner, Sir Fred Cholmeley. Ursula, a passionate gardener, has been leading the restoration since 2001 and has made it her goal to restore the site. She told me: “The estate has been in my husband’s family for 400 years and there has been a manor here since at least 1592. From a vegetable point of view it is fascinating because the original enclosure, which is overlooked by the house, still survives. So rather than being

a Victorian kitchen garden miles away, it was designed to be productive with step over apples, narcissi for cutting and raspberries around the edge. The vegetables were hidden inside those plantings. “The bit where we have our potager now was another kitchen garden that was ‘bolted on’ to the back of the house; that is Tudor as well. During the Victorian period that is where all the vine houses were, also pineapple and melon pits. “The house itself was pulled down in 1951; the army used it during the war (elements of the Parachute Regiment were stationed here prior to leaving for Arnhem to play major roles in the battle). They fired live rounds in the house, let off grenades in the greenhouses and used the statues for

MAIN IMAGE: A view from the newly planted orchard back to the site of the house which was demolished soon after the war.

ABOVE LEFT: Alliums bloom in the Potager.

ABOVE RIGHT: The Pickery or cut flower garden.

INSET: Lady Ursula has been leading the restoration since it started in 2001.

BELOW: The garden as seen from the top of the terrace in 1902.

BOTTOM: The garden from a similar spot today.

Picture: EWG

target practice – the damage was enormous and the whole site was then abandoned for 50 years. And of course the country was bankrupt after the war so there was no chance of compensation to repair it. “Following the war there was a market garden here for a while, but when we came here it was pretty much wilderness and we spent three years just chopping down trees and clearing the scrub.” In places the walls are Tudor with Victorian repairs and additions and it is hard to believe now that when Ursula first began the restoration, tree saplings were growing from most of the walls and other features in the garden. “In another five years it might have been impossible to save,” she reflected. We took in the area where the house had once stood. All that is now visible are some of the ancillary buildings that would have surrounded the house and the walls of the garden itself. Pictures in the History Room which is open to visitors show that some of the walls had collapsed completely and roofs had fallen in on many of the buildings. The garden covers 12 acres – a reminder of how splendid and important it must once have been. Traces of where the vegetable beds and gravel paths once were can be seen by the remnants of the conservatory wall which looked out over the gardens and across the Witham valley. From here you get a wonderful view and can see past what were once formal gardens to the old orchard in the distance, now replanted with Lincolnshire varieties of apples, also pears, ➤


The trial containers still in the greenhouse, the plants growing strongly, in early June.


arrots have got to be one of our most popular vegetables, yet many gardeners find it difficult to produce a crop fit to eat. This trial will aim to test out a simple method of producing good carrots over a long period and in a very small space. Turnips are a tasty, nutritious and versatile crop which deserve to be more widely grown. I am going to see if I can have them available all the year round or at least for as many months as possible during the year and they will be grown in a very similar way to the carrots.


Tried and tasted

I deliberately decided not to focus on growing my carrots in the ground for this trial. Of course many gardeners do manage to produce excellent crops by growing them in traditional rows on the allotment, but many more also have problems with germination and pests – particularly carrot fly. Since carrots are a staple crop that most would like to be able to grow well, and since so many people are short of space, I opted for growing my crop in containers on this occasion. The containers I chose for both the carrots and the turnips were plastic buckets with a diameter of 45cm (18in) obtained from a farmer friend. These had previously contained animal feed, but washed out well and with several holes drilled in the base, they are ideal for this job. However, any medium to large container would do for growing short carrots, turnips or many other crops.

CONTAINER GROWN CARROTS & TURNIPS This month professional grower, gardening writer and broadcaster Joe Maiden experiments with carrots and turnips in containers as a way of producing quick, clean crops with minimum fuss 38 | SEPTEMBER 2013


ComposT ChoiCE – CarroTs

JoE’s monEy saving Tip

For both the carrots and turnips, I have tried to cut down on costs by recycling – first with the containers and also the compost. For the carrots I have used the compost used to fill the dustbins in which I grow my exhibition onions. These were filled with a 50:50 mix of John Innes no 2 and a multi-purpose compost. So my recycled compost was given a dressing of Vitax Q4 fertiliser before being used to fill the buckets.

The drainage holes are essential to prevent the build up of surplus moisture as few crops like to have their roots sitting in water and carrots and turnips are no exception.

FillinG the containers

My containers hold approximately 25 litres of compost and having filled them to the top, each was given three taps on the ground to settle the compost/soil mixture and this gave me the ideal level of compaction. After the filling process, the containers were watered thoroughly and left to drain overnight; they were now ready for sowing.

sowinG the carrots

The following day I counted out approximately 100 seeds and these were sown (March 1) onto the surface of the compost. To do this I simply placed the seeds in the palm of my left hand and taking a pinch of seeds between the thumb and forefinger of my right, with a gentle movement rubbed the seeds out so that they fell evenly over the compost, giving each a roughly equal amount of room.

My carrot compost mixture was quite expensive to start with, but when you realise that I also grew 30 prize-winning exhibition cauliflowers in the same compost once my show onions were lifted, you will see that I got value for money from my investment. In fact once the carrots have been harvested, I intend to reuse the compost again in my hanging baskets!

LEFT: A few of the largest roots on June 6 from a March 1 sowing.

A light press in with a piece of flat board followed by a light covering of compost (approximately 3mm/⅛in) and the job was done. The containers were left on the bench in an unheated greenhouse and I was careful not to overwater in the early stages, but to keep the soil surface just moist. During the germination period in March it may be necessary to cover the containers with fleece on frosty nights as even in a greenhouse in March, damp soil can freeze.

The containers were removed from the greenhouse on June 20 by which time the weather had warmed significantly and the plants would have suffered stress and possibly run to seed if they became too hot. So they were placed 90cm (3ft) off the ground on benches outside and immediately covered with fleece to keep off the carrot fly. ➤


Within 25 days the seedlings were growing strongly. Despite care when sowing, some early thinning was necessary to leave about 2.5cm (1in) between plants at this stage, knowing I would be thinning further as I removed pencil thin carrots at the end of May.

GrowinG on

This was one of the easiest trials to look after; all that was needed was to water once a week at first – a little more often later – and to pull the roots from May onwards.

variETiEs on TriaL I selected some F1 hybrids, some old open pollinated types, also round, long and short stump-rooted, exhibition and carrot fly resistant varieties. ■ ‘royaL ChanTEnay’ (aka ‘Chantenay Royal’): An older variety with broad shouldered tapering roots which are ideal for containers. Good for successional sowings. T&M, Mr Fothergill’s, Seaspring Seeds, Plant World Seeds. ■ ‘nairobi F1’: A long stump-rooted Nantes type with little core. Kings,

■ ‘paris markET’: An old round rooted variety ideal for growing in shallow soils or containers. Victoriana Nursery, ■ ‘nigEL F1’: A long stump-rooted type. Fastmaturing early maincrop carrot producing smooth, uniform roots. Kings Seeds. ■ ‘FLyaway’: Said to be carrot fly resistant. The roots are sweet with a good orange colour. Widely available. ■ ‘TrEvor F1’: A heavy yielding Nantes type producing uniform roots. Widely available.

■ ‘swEET CandLE’: A modern and popular exhibition stump-rooted type. Widely available. ■ ‘Eskimo F1’: A long, stump-rooted type bred to produce good results in cool conditions. Widely available. The trial looked to see if any variety went to seed, how fast they reached harvestable size (I aimed to produce crops of sweet baby carrots, see below), if any fanged or twisted, and for other problems such as evidence of carrot fly.

The germinated carrots growing away just prior to thinning.

SEPTEMBER 2013 | 39




EED IN G R E A D y o u N N E D R A G ly N o DEN - THE IN K IT C H E N G A R






Extend your harvests with a free packet of land cress and four FREE garlic bulbs worth £8.50 (*just pay p&p)


plus all of this: ■ Toby Buckland on growing saffron and edible geraniums! ■ Bob Flowerdew answers all your gardening questions ■ Delicious fruit juices from your garden – we show you how ■ Joyce Russell tests tools designed to make light work of leaf collecting

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