Well what a difference a week makes....the sun has been out for 4 days and it feels like spring has arrived compared to the wind , rain , snow and rubbish that was coming from the sky for months. Normally the second half of April and May tend to be the real sowing , planting time and we all need to get a wriggle on as we have lost time due to the weather.
I planted my seed potatoes on the 19th April ( 3 weeks later than last year )...about 35cm apart in the rows with each row 90cm apart. Rather than dig a trench about 20cm deep I have a tool which looks like a giant napkin ring on a stick. I just place the ring on the ground , stamp my foot on the top of it , twist it and pull out a big plug of soil into which I put some potato fertiliser and the the spud . Cover with soil and mound up over the area with more garden compost. As it grows continue to earth up soil over the area to protect the greenery from frosts and stop the tubers coming to the surface and going green and inedible. I am growing Lady Christyl first earlies , Marfona second earlies and Blue Belle main crop spuds. Spuds keep really well if kept in the cool ( not frosty ) and dark. We ate last years spuds right up until beginning of April this year.
If you haven't already get your favourite herbs growing in seed modules or small pots. Seed compost , warmth , water and light ( once they have germinated ) is all you need - basil , sage , chervil, chives , parsley, coriander all treated the same way...just keep the temperature at 15c minimum and water them with tap water. Pot on into bigger pots mid May or plant out into your border or big pots. Keep drainage a priority.
This year I am trying to grow ginger , from tubers and lemon grass from whole shoots bought in the shop ( choose stems with a bulge at the base from where the roots will sprout rather than ones that have been cut from above the crown). Find a finger of ginger that has some growing points on it...point buds that look a little like a rhino horn. Plant the finger with buds facing up in a rich compost with plenty of sand or perlite to help drainage and plenty of heat. Hot , moist soil will work with plenty of light. Pot on into big pots as they sprout...best kept in a greenhouse if you have one, if not in a sheltered sunspot. With a good summer and long autumn we should have plenty on ginger rhizomes and lemon grass shoots to add to our curries. Give it a go ..it's something different.
May is also the time to start off our tender seeds like Melon , sweet corn, squash , courgettes, cucumbers , French and runner beans. Plant big seeds on their side in 7.5cm pots full of moist seed compost and do not be tempted to plant out before 3rd week in May earliest !!! Or a cold snap will have your hard work and there will be casualties.
General housekeeping remains the same....keep on top of weeds, look after the soil by adding new garden compost and add grow more fertiliser or chicken pellets or fish, bone and blood fertiliser. In dry periods water the crops , especially carrots , parsnips and spuds - people just don't do this , I don't know why.
I still have more Thyme plants than I know what to do with so if you want any contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and give growing something a go , even if it is lettuces and radishes
Happy times ,
If one beast from the East wasn't enough we have had the sequel !! How is a man / woman supposed to get their veg growing when the weather is mucking us about....Spring is coming , on no it's not etc etc. Well as my wife often tells me , patience is a virtue and no amount of gazing out the window growling at the freezing temperatures , howling winds and flipping snow is going to bring forward my growing plans. A year ago the sun was shinning and we were out sowing like no tomorrow , but you know nature has a way of catching up , and all we need to do is delay our sowing until the climate is ready. Maybe a little more thought into what we grow will give us a better crop in the summer and autumn.
So my onion, shallot , pepper and tomato seeds are doing great in a warm propagator - they need light now more than heat so they don't get leggy ( long stems because they are searching upwards for light ) . They are all about 10cm high and I will pot them on soon.
The spuds are chitting with stems about 2 cm long......they will be ready for planting once the soil warms up a bit. Last year I planted them end of March - this year my clay soil is shivering so I doubt it will be before 2nd or 3rd week in April before they go in the soil.
Last year all my carrots and parsnips were already sown in buckets / barrels. This year I haven't sown any....I will wait another week to see if anymore mad men from the east intend to invade before I sow directly into barrels outside. However when the weather does buck up I will be sowing lettuce , radish , cucumber , Brussels , cabbages and kale in small pots and trays in the warmth. You know the drill - moist seed compost , some warmth , plenty of light - don't let them dry out or drown ! The most important action will be to harden the seeds off outside during the day ( bringing them in at night or if any frost is about ) at the end of April before planting out. Special focus for me will be Melons again this year - we had loads last year. Sow the seeds in April in pots , in a warm environment ( at least 20c ) and pot on in May. They can be planted out mid May earliest , along with butternut squashes and sweetcorn. I am still eating my squashes from last year....roasted in olive oil and cumin..yum !
Ok , lastly , housekeeping...if you are going to grow Brassicas ( cabbage , cauliflower , kale , Brussels etc ) add some lime or calcified seaweed to the soil now ; keep weeding as some of the little devils will flower soon - get as much of the roots out as possible and lastly be patient...wait before you sow when it's nasty out there.
PS....I have about 50 thyme plants from last year ( I let a big thyme plant flower and now my bed is full of young plants ) ...if you want one let me know and it will be yours,
As I sit in my kitchen hurriedly typing an email to Greg (yes I'm late with my copy of Pagey’s tips AGAIN) on Sunday 21st January, the snow falls heavily outside. What on earth can I encourage others (let alone myself) to do in the garden ! Anyway, the weather won't last forever and it's what we can do / prepare for when things improve.
First things really are planning what we are going to grow this year, and then prepping for that . Secondly, we should clean all our pots and tools - sharpening those that need it and then thirdly tidying the garden and adding compost around fruit trees etc that you have pruned back earlier in the winter.
So what are we / you going to grow this coming year.? Get all your seeds out, bin those that are well passed their recommended sow by date and order replacements. If you haven't already sow your onions, leeks, including shallots (banana ones for me this year ) in a propagater and broad beans in the ground. You can also sow winter lettuce now and even some cucumbers in the warmth (indoors) too. Choose what type of spuds you want and order them if you haven't already and start to chit them once you have collected them in February. I kept seeds from my best tomatoes, peppers, chillies and butternut squashes so I will be sowing them in February in the propagater too. All my greens, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, swedes, broccoli I will sow March time so we will talk about them then..
. .So, we have cleaned and sharpened all our pots and tools, Bought the compost we will need, whether it be seed or potting, and ordered all the seeds we will need for the next couple of months. I guess the only other thing we can do is think where we are going to grow our lovely produce (crop rotation important to keep the bugs and nasties in the soil to a minimum) and what nutrients and fertilisers we will need to work into the soil before we sow.
Just writing has given me the urge to think about what carrots and parsnips I will sow in February…but I’ll save that for next month !
The snow has stopped and I must send this to Greg....I can hear his fingers drumming his table top with his chin firmly placed in the palm of his other hand. It's a Sunday...he will have a large glass of red in front of him...
So no real Indian summer to speak of this year , apart from a week of warm southern air before Ophelia blew past. Most of us are harvesting what is left of our summer veg for storing or eating and planting garlic and onion sets whilst the soil is still warm. This time of year is really about tidying , pruning , emptying pots , composting and mulching.
I don't know about you guys / girls out there but this is the time of year when I lose a little interest in the garden....I've had all the joy of planning, sowing , planting and then watching it all grow , to then harvesting , showing and eating. Now is the time to retreat into the warmth with a hot toddy in front of a fire and the telly !
No , No , No says the wife...get out out there and put the garden to bed for the winter and preparation for next spring...so out I go !
So the first thing is harvest the last of the summer crops...Tomatoes , peppers , chillies , rhubarb , apples , cauliflowers which we eat , freeze make jam etc. The exhausted plants grown in pots in the greenhouse I throw on the compost , whilst throwing the earth from the pots onto my borders and beds. Whilst there is little nutrient left in the soil it will help condition and break down the heavy clay soil I have. I leave my carrots , parsnips , swede , Brussels in the ground or barrels through the winter ( some people pick and store carrots in sand ..I don't.) Next we have tidying jobs..rake up leaves and compost them along with all shrubs and plants that are finished. Cut the lawn if you have one , hopefully for the last time , and add newspaper or cardboard which you wet to the compost. Add fruit and any other plant matter to the compost and chicken manure if you have any . Turn the lot once a month if you can for wonderful results next year.
Next we dig over borders , raised beds and prune back shrubs , roses , plants that need it ( do not prune plum , cherry or big stone fruit trees as it is too late and you risk infecting them with winter born silver leaf disease). Clear all rhubarb stems and mulch crowns heavily...cut back asparagus furns and mulch similarly.
Put grease bands on all fruit trees now or you will be at the mercy of the wingless winter moth which crawls up the stem from November to lay its eggs. You can even buy grease in tins and apply with a brush.....just do it peoples.
Lift pots onto feet if you haven't already to help with air flow and avoid water logging. Store any of your favourite pots if they have nothing in them. If there are frost tender plants in them the very least you should do is fleece them or put in a protected area.
Dig up your tubors of lilies , dahlias and amorillis etc and once dried off for a few days keep snug in a frost free but cool environment like a shed wrapped loosely in newspaper. Well that's what I do.
Dry herbs ( sage , marjoram, thyme , bergamot, oregano ) for use through the winter...you should see my kitchen with all the garlic , shallots , onions and herbs hanging from the cupboards.
Now for next season you can take hardwood cuttings ( red and black currents , gooseberries etc plus laburnums or geraniums , roses ) . The cuttings should be about 20cm long , planted in a trench in a sheltered , composted and free draining position. Simply dip each end in hormone rooting powder and plant about 20cm apart. Roots may take 9 months to really develope.
Lastly we can sow now for next year. Broad beans , garlic and onion sets need to go in the ground now. In fact garlic and onion sets can be grown in big buckets too. Great to see the shoots pop up through the surface over the winter and then romp away in spring...great for kids because they see it growing in spring and don't have to wait till the end of summer for results ! Google any of these thoughts for better info online.
Now for that seat in front of the fire....
So here comes September. Let's hope we have an Indian type summer - enough already of the rain! Back at the end of June I was doing my rain dance to give the parched soil and newly planted crops and flowers some much needed drink. I think I over did it !!! Anyway, everything has grown really well and the lawn is the greenest in late August I can ever remember. Harvesting will be in full swing for us all. The excess can be stored or given away. Toms, peppers, onions, chillies, runner beans, French beans, plums and sweet corn can all be frozen and our freezer is full already. Onions, spuds, squashes, garlic and chillies can be stored provided they are dried out in the sun first. Our shallots are all tied up and hanging in the kitchen where they look great. Keep harvesting and deadheading to encourage the last of this year’s flowering and growth. Everyone knows it is the right thing to do but we don't all do it...do we Donna (she's a bad girl).
Anyway you really will need to dig up shallots, onions, garlic and beetroot now if you haven't already. If you have spuds still in the ground you are opening yourself up to attack by slugs, snails and blight (I will come back to that) but it's up to you. Keep picking marrows, courgettes, toms, French and runner beans, carrots and parsnips. Pick your squash before the first frosts otherwise they will not store. My butternuts this year are mahoosive (spelling ?) and will need curing in the
sun, if not they are to keep through the winter.
Believe it or not it is time to think about next year. You can sow winter greens now as well as autumn sown onions. If you have not grown onions from seeds give it a go (onion sets can be planted out in 4 weeks’ time). Choose an autumn onion seed, normally a Japanese derivative, prepare the soil in a sunny site and ensure some grow more or fish bone and blood are raked into the soil. Sow the seeds according to the instructions on the packet and you should have lovely early onions next year! Try it! You should do the same with any spring greens you want but add a little lime to the soil as well before sowing or planting out plug plants.
The other thing to be doing now is seed gathering. Flowers, toms, peppers, chillies, squash, marrows, peas, beans, cucumbers, lemons ....in fact anything that has seeds can be kept and resown. I have no idea why people don't do this, especially if you have kids. Dry the seeds out and grow them early in the spring. Veg and flowers for free......what's the matter with you all. Just a warning note that not all veg comes back exactly as the original...especially squash. I kept and dried out some butternut seeds last year and this
year I've got some lovely orange round squash...just part of the fun. So, dry the seeds out on kitchen paper and store in paper envelopes in a cool dry place. Avoid heat, frosts and
damp. Oh yes label the envelope too. The best show of flowers this year were dahlias...all sown from seed, total cost about £1. What’s not too like.
In the last issue I warned of blight and yes I got a dose of it on my maincrop spuds. Warm, wet conditions normally are followed by blight later in the summer. I burnt all the foliage and have kept the spuds separated from my other spuds in storage just in case I get a dose in the spuds. You will know straight away as there will be a darker colour to the spud, it will go soft and stink. Bin or burn affected spuds and sacks they are stored in. If you are not sure if you have had it in the past then you probably haven't.
So Autumn is round the corner - make the most of the last of the summer and enjoy the
fruits of your labour!
August is here.....July was good for the garden with some much needed rain for everything growing outside. Potatoes, squash, sweet corn and onions all need rain to swell the fruits and so if the rain doesn't fall you have to put the sprinkler on. Your fruit trees need rainfall too especially if you have them in pots so don't forget to do it ( yes that’s an order).
ght then let's start in the greenhouse. Everything there grows in buckets filled with my compost, sand, multipurpose compost and growmore fertiliser. Everything is watered every day during hot weather and once a week with liquid tomato feed. We have already eaten ripe tomatoes, peppers, chillis, cucumbers and melons. This time of year it is important to be pinching out your toms after 6 or 7 trusses ; pruning back the tops of your peppers ( it took me years to do this - but you really will get a bigger crop of bigger fruits if you do ) ; snipping out the melon leaders after 6 leaves to encourage side shoots and training your cucumbers up bamboo canes and picking them when they are small.
By the way you can freeze chillis, peppers and toms straight from the plant to cook with later in the year.
In the garden I have dug up my shallots and am drying them off in the sun , cut the first squashes , eaten all the peas and cut them back to ground level. Leave the roots of peas in the ground - they are nitrogen rich and the next thing you grow in that space will love you for doing that !! I am picking my first carrots now and they are sooooo sweet, dug up my new potatoes and picking the French beans which really loved the rain recently. Keep picking everything when they are young rather than letting fruits go past their best - it is a mistake I still do and curse myself all the time when I know they have gone past their best.
Right then, stop admiring your growing efforts and get sowing...lettuce, salad leaves, radish, Chinese cabbage, salad onions for this year and start to think about September / October sowing for next year’s crops - onion sets, garlic, spring cabbage, spring greens, broad beans etc. I will talk about those in the next issues.
There is still plenty of time for lots of fresh salads ....and don't forget plenty of basil too. I plant them in the tomato buckets....they grow easily together as well as being divine on the plate. It is also a great time to take some cuttings of mint, thyme, rosemary and marjoram. Insert the short cuttings around the edge of a pot and keep them moist at all times - in a few weeks they will root and start to grow.
The last couple of things .....check the compost heap and keep adding garden waste , grass cuttings and shredded paper to it. If the contents are very dry they won't start to break down, so add some water and give everything a good mix-up to get the heap working again. Lastly watch out for the first signs of blight ( yes I've said the word...even typed it so I am bound to be hit by it now ) on potatoes and tomatoes. It usually starts in warm, humid conditions after a period of damp weather and will show up as brown spots on the foliage that if not picked off will spread quickly...and burn or bin it… Do not compost it.
So, water, pick, deadhead, sow and eat in August and have a fab holiday season.
Phew what a scorcher most of June was. Brilliant for growing provided you water and feed plants regularly BEFORE they need it. I know it's difficult with the busy lives we have but keeping the plants watered and fed gives better results. We have all done it...come home and seen a plant all wilted, feel guilty and quickly over water it. The next day it is looking better of course but you can only do that a number of times before your crop will be poor. So, water a lot in the heat, early morning or later in the evening especially if you are on a free draining soil or in a pot. The other alternative is to set up an irrigation system. I have them taking water from my water butts' for the greeenhouse and the hanging baskets. They are very reasonable these days and work from solar power. If anyone wants to see my set up just email me and will be glad to offer help
Dead head roses, and bedding plants all the time to encourage new growth. Peas, beans need picking to encourage more growth (and they taste so much better young) and peppers, melons and tomatoes all need pinching out to encourage more vigorous growth to fruits already developing. I pinch out the toms after 5 or 6 trusses and peppers when they seem to be getting bushy on top. The plant cannot support hundreds of peppers so don't be too greedy.....once you have 20 or so fruits be brutal and cut out others, for now anyway.
The other issue you must attend to is summer feeding of your plants. If in doubt any veg in a pot can have a liquid feed - tomorite or other tomatoe feed. I do mine every 2 weeks once the first fruits set. That is the cucumbers, toms, peppers, chillies, sweet potatoes and herbs. I also feed on a monthly basis from now to September lilies, hanging baskets, onions and shallots. A lot of people don't bother and always wonder why someone else's flowers or veg look more beautiful or larger or healthier (back to the wilted plant earlier)
So July we are harvesting salads, herbs , peas , carrots , first early spuds at the end of the month, beans , over wintered garlic, currents and soft fruits. Pay back time for the hard work earlier in the year. Our pea and mange tout crop this year is enormous so I hope it is for you all too. Keep sowing salads, keep watering and feeding, and don't be afraid to pinch out...it really does give a better crop in the end ( I couldn't bring myself to do it for Years…all those lovely buds prematurely cut down!)
Lastly check for pests and dispose of them in your own way (squishing aphids and black fly between your fingers is a favourite) and if anyone has a guaranteed way of moving moles on let me know as I am contemplating dynamite now - it won't make more of a mess than what has already been done.
Send in any questions or photos...what is your favourite plant / veg you like to grow? My favourite is sweetcorn which I sowed into 3 inch pots in May and planted out on the 13th June (see picture). It is the best eating experience from your garden you can
Have…. I’m drooling in anticipation….
Glorious June...when all your hard work of sowing shows real promise. Weather conditions are prime, in theory, with sun and showers. Everything should be zooming up, producing flowers and then fruits. If you sowed all your favourite tender veg in May indoors as we discussed last month they will be ready to plant out. Keep an eye out for a late frost and plant out when there is a week forecast of warm weather. So either sow your seeds direct into well dug over and fertilised soil now or plant out your squash's, marrows, courgettes, runner beans, dwarf beans in the best sunny, sheltered spot you have...and don't forget to water them in and try and get the water to the roots and not onto the leaves. Keep your melons and sweet corn back till the second half of June just in case Jack Frost raises his nasty little head..grrr!
So, after all my warnings about frost the little so and so did put in an appearance in second week of May. I lost all my buds on the fig tree, it nailed a third of my buds from the wisteria tree and shrivelled the buds on my cherry tree and my Szechuan pepper tree. Sometimes nature trips you up but don't despair the trees will come back but soft plants and veg may not. My advice would be to sow more of the tender plants and replace them with the ones the frost nobbled (and that you keep staring at, hoping they will recover) normally they don't and you have wasted a lot of staring time!
I was round the Pear Tree Inn last Saturday, being nosey and partaking in a wee drinky with Jo and Charlie and they too had some frost damage, mostly to their grape vine. They have removed the frost damage of the vine and small fruits are growing again, so don't despair. I also saw the best looking cauliflower plants I have ever seen (I know I do get excited over veg) which Jo is growing on in large pots. The lesson is that you can grow anything in pots if you look after them, you don't have to have big borders or raised beds.
So, this month continue to weed, water and plant or sow your tender veg outside. Don't forget to harden off your pots outside during the day and bring them in at night for a week or so...a pain I know but it works. Keep an eye out for slugs and frosts and deal with both in the best way you know, and sow herbs and salads ever few weeks if you want them all summer. Also deal with the little Red Devil's called Lilly Beatles if you have them on your lilies...they will destroy your plants if you don't pick them off……….!
If you have any stories or pictures of what you have grown send them in and we will publish them. Don't be shy, it's a little bit of fun and it's good to share.
I have included a couple of pictures this month to give you an idea how my tender veg are doing, happy growing and eating.
April really is the month that hots up for sowing and growing as the days get longer
(all plants need light) and warmer - lovely jubbly! From last month, your chillies, peppers, tomatoes and onions should all be doing great provided you have kept them warm and watered. If the seeds are 10 Cm's tall you can pot them on into bigger 7.5 cm pots. Fill the new pots with multi purpose compost , ease out the seedlings with a small spoon - holding them by the leaves only and tuck them up into their new home. Water and keep in a warm spot on a windowsill. They need lots of light. I will post pictures of mine on the Stoke hammond village facebook page if you fancy taking a peak.
By the way I gave out 300 pepper seeds from my free offer last month - this month I am giving away sunflower seeds ....send email to email@example.com and say " I wanna grow😊" and I will get them to you. I will talk about planting these seeds in May edition of the SH News.
Planting your first early potatoes can be done now...in the ground or in tubs. Prepare the ground by working in some fertiliser, dig a trench 15cm deep and put your spuds in it about 30cm apart. If you have more than one row, then keep the rows 40 cm apart. Cover them up. All you have to do is put compost over the growth that comes through to protect from frost and also to stop the light getting to the tubers which turns them green...and poisonous! This is called earthing up. Do the same with a bag if you wish - half fill bag with compost, put 3 or 4 spuds in it, cover with 10cm soil and put more compost on as the shoots show through to the top of the tub. Water them if there is little rain.!!
Carrots and parsnips, you treat in the same way. Do NOT put new manure in the ground before you plant - they hate that. Well dug soil, nice and loose to a fine tilth. Draw a shallow trench only 1 cm deep, water it, and put the carrot and parsnip seeds in...try and space them out , especially the parsnips ( 3cm apart for parsnips ). Lightly cover with multi purpose compost. They will be slow to germinate so don't despair...if nothing shows in 4 weeks repeat the process. They grow really well in tubs by the way. Keep watered if dry.
Peas I start in guttering...yes that's right....fill a piece of guttering with multi purpose compost, throw in lots of peas , about 2 cm apart and water well. They should grow real quick and in 3 weeks you slide all the contents into a shallow trench. Will update you on that next month. Kids don't use your parents guttering attached to the house - the consequences could be severe for you 🙈
Lastly get your lettuce and radishes planted, similar to carrots, you can thin them out if you have too many on top of each other in a several weeks’ time. Sow little and often, every couple of weeks and you have them all summer long. Lettuce take 6 weeks plus, radish 4 to 6 weeks.
Have fun - Pagey
Every month I will give a short update on what to be doing in your veggie patch. No matter how small a front or back garden, you can grow something edible in pots, tubs or beds. Don't worry about lettuce shortages because of the rain in Spain (tee hee) just sow your own.