Archive for the ‘The vegetable garden’ Category

How to Tell When Your Fruits and Vegetables are Ready to Harvest

September 19th, 2017 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Harvest can often be a gardeners favourite time of year! It’s the moment of truth, the moment when all that hard work earlier on in the season pays off – with harvests coming thick and fast. But when is the perfect time to harvest your crops? We are here to help you out!

Ready to pick?

For some crops, deciding when to pick is simply a matter of personal preference. Chard, for example, is ready whenever the leaves have reached a usable size. Radishes can be harvested once they’re big enough to slice up into salads. Other fruits and veg require a little more observation.

Root vegetables

When harvesting root vegetables – size matters.

  • Beets and turnips can be pulled at any point from golf-ball-sized up. Smaller roots proving to be especially tender. Don’t let roots grow any larger than a tennis ball as they’ll become tough and woody.
  • Dig up carrots and they reach a usable size.
  • You can leave maincrop varieties in the ground until you’re ready to use them.
  • Enjoy parsnips any time after the leaves have died back, though for the sweetest, melt-in-the-mouth roots, wait until after the first frosts, which improves the flavour.

Potatoes

The earliest new potatoes are usually harvested about 10 – 12 weeks after planting when the plants come into flower. You can judge how big the tubers are by carefully pulling back the soil to expose a few at the sides. Maincrop varieties for storing should be lifted only after the foliage has died back, around 20 weeks after planting. Check they are ready by rubbing the skin with your thumb – if the skin doesn’t rub off, they’re ready to lift.

Peas and beans

Check whether peas and beans are good to go by literally getting to grips with their pods.

  • Feel the pods to judge the size of the developing peas, then shell a few to double-check.
  • The same goes for fava or broad beans.
  • The pods of climbing beans are the opposite, they should be long and smooth without beans bulging inside. Don’t let them get too long or the pods will become stringy and the plants less productive.

These are just a few tips and tricks for harvesting fruits and vegetables, there are plenty more in the video below. If you have any top tips that you can offer us let us know in the comments below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Helps Kids Grow – Plant a School Garden!

September 19th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Many of today’s health problems can be traced to a poor diet. A school garden is a great way to get kids involved in growing their own food from an early age, so they gain a real appreciation of where fresh food comes from and how delicious it can be! This post will show you how to make a school garden.

School gardens offer children the chance to get involved in growing food, a skill that they can improve on throughout their lives. They are also a handy teaching resource, with plenty of opportunities to link into the school curriculum.

Starting small 

  • It’s great to have a vision for your garden but be sure to start small.
  • Containers and larger planters are very manageable and you can grow just about anything in them. Containers allow you to create an almost immediate impact, anywhere at a minimal cost.
  • Raised beds are excellent because they clearly delineate the growing areas, making it less likely that precious seedlings will be accidentally trampled. Place them directly onto soil or first lay down a membrane if you’re growing on contaminated soil or a hard surface such as a concrete yard. Fill the beds with nutrient-rich potting soil and compost. Beds shouldn’t be any wider than 3 foot so that children can easily reach the middle from the sides.
  • Woodchips are a good choice for the paths in between as they’re relatively clean and soft.

Designing your garden

  • If your garden is going to be more than a few raised beds then get the kids involved in the design process!
  • Ask them to make sketches or put together a mood board of what they’d like to see.

What to grow?

  • Children are far more likely to grow fruits and veggies they’ve grown themselves – a great reason to get them involved!
  • Choose crops that are robust, easy to grow and ready to harvest during term time.
  • Try peas and beans – children love sowing the fat seeds, setting up supports and then picking the pods.
  • Potatoes are fun to sprout before planting into potato sacks or beds. They’ll love the hands-on growing process of unearthing the potatoes.
  • Winter squash and pumpkins can be planted out at the end of spring and will be nearing maturity when the children return from their summer break.
  •  You could even have a pumpkin carving competition!

These are just a few tips and tricks for starting a new school garden. If you’ve created your own school garden and have any top tips that you can offer us let us know in the comments below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter pages.

 

Cover Crops To Recharge Your Soil This Winter!

September 19th, 2017 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

By using cover crops or green manures, you can protect your soil over winter – they’ll also help to build up your soils organic content. Late summer is the perfect time to sow a cover crop for winter. Let us show you how!

  • Why grow cover crops? Covering crops over winter protects it from erosion and helps to support all the beneficial life associated. It also gives weeds less opportunity to take over your plot!
  • Good for heavy soils! It adds valuable organic matter this will help to feed the plants that follow cover crops with deep or fibrous roots such as cereal rye. Cereal rye helps to improve soil structure by breaking it up. Mustard grows very fast, producing masses of lush foliage that can be incorporated into the soil after just a few months, to boost its organic content.
  • Good for enriching soils – Some cover crops directly add nutrients to the soil by fixing nitrogen at their roots. Winter field beans and peas, clover and vetch are all types of legumes that are great for sowing before nitrogen hungry brass occurs.
  • Good for suppressing weeds – Cabbage phacelia can be sown in late summer as it’s great for suppressing weeds and will improve your soil structure. You have an extra bonus with their stunning flowers too!
  • Sowing a cover crop – Start by roughly digging the ground over, removing all weeds especially perennials. Tamp down the soil with the back of a rake, then scatter or broadcast your seeds evenly. Break these seeds into the soil and tamp down again.

We’ve listed just a few facts and tips about cover crops for recharging your winter soil – the video below offers more advice, so be sure to give it a watch. Plus, let us know if you have any top tips for recharging your winter soil. Let us know in the comments below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter pages.

September Gardening Advice

September 6th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

The onset of Autumn sadly marks the end of the gardening year for far too many gardeners, who view it as a time to tidy up and shut down before winter arrives. However, for those in the know, Autumn actually marks one of the busiest seasons in the garden and is the perfect time to get planting plans in place for the following year.

Our gardening advice for September and indeed the next few months will lighten your workload next spring and in many cases offer an easier start to establishing new plants in the garden.


In the flower garden

Border tidy – mixed borders can start to look unkempt this month as summer performing perennials start to wane.  The plants should be cut down as they die back, restoring order and tidiness to displays. Use a knife, secateurs or shears to cut the spent stems and foliage down to the crown (base of the plant).
A mulch of garden compost or similar will help to protect the dormant crowns from winter damage.  If the plant in question dies back fully, it can be fully covered with mulch. If it dies back to a basal rosette of leaves, these should be surrounded by mulch but left uncovered on top.
Any borderline hardy perennials such as penstemon, phygelius and salvia should be mulched, but their spent top growth should be kept in place until spring as extra winter protection for the crowns below.

Eking out summer displays – Summer hanging basket and patio containers will continue to run into mid-autumn if you keep up with deadheading, watering and feeding.  Even plants that are starting to straggle can be given another month or so of life by cutting them back and allowing new shoots to take over, but with our winter and spring bedding plants despatching now it may be best to empty containers and get them prepped ready for re-planting.

September sowing – Many flowering hardy annuals can be sown in beds and borders in September for earlier colour next year. They will establish roots and foliage this side of winter, waking up in early spring to put on a strong floral display in late spring/early summer.

Seeds should be sown in prepared, weed-free soil that has been raked level to a fine tilth. They can either be scattered (broadcast) over the area and raked in for an informal look, or the area can be divided into various patches and the seeds sown in drills for a more ordered look.

For more detailed advice on direct sowing see our guide.

If there is no space due to winter performing bedding displays, hardy annuals can be started off under cover and then hardened off for overwintering in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse for planting in out in spring.

Spring bulbs – Our selection of spring flowering bulbs start to dispatch through September, at the perfect time for planting for the best displays. We work very closely with our growers to ensure we offer the very best, top sized bulbs, which will provide you with a glorious spring show. All of the bulbs we offer have been trialled and tested, either on our own Suffolk trials ground or on those of our growers, to ensure we offer the best range for British gardens.

Bulbs are one of the best value investments for the garden, returning year on year with the absolute minimum of upkeep and care. Simply plant this autumn for years of bold spring colour in borders, containers, lawns, rockeries – these versatile garden additions will pretty much grow anywhere you plant them. For the best performance choose a sunny to partially shaded location in any moist but free-draining soil.

September planting – September is a perfect month for planting out new container grown perennials, trees and shrubs. Soils retain some of their summer warmth through the month but moisture levels are on the rise thanks to the autumn rain. This creates the perfect conditions for early root establishment and also reduces the level of watering needed during the critical early stages of establishment. Watering may be needed in prolonged dry spells next year, but winter wet will have done a large part of the settling in process for you.

Cold season colour – Our winter and spring bedding plants are dispatching now. These winter hardy plants have all been selected to guarantee winter and spring colour in borders, baskets and patio containers. Stunning on their own or mixed together, our pansies, violas, primroses, bellis daisies, wallflowers, and forget-me-nots all offer effortless colour for the colder months of the year.

Plant by variety, or mix together for a kaleidoscope of colour. All our bedding plants work perfectly with spring flowering bulbs too. As you plant your beds and borders add a bulb in between each plant for extra height and colour some spring.


On the Veg patch

Sowing – as in the flower garden, there is a range of hardy vegetables that can be sown this month for overwintering and early cropping next spring. If you are looking to avoid empty veg patches through winter, make sowings of the following in coming weeks: winter lettuce, corn salad, turnips, spring onion, broad beans, spinach, Oriental vegetables including Choi Sum and Pak Choi.

You can also make the last sowing of quick-cropping summer vegetables including radish and salad leaves. If autumn arrives fast in your area, these can be sown in containers and brought under cover when the first frosts threaten.

Spring cabbages – Spring cabbage seedlings sown in July and August should now be large enough to plant out. Soils should be improved ahead of planting by adding well-rotted manure or garden compost. Cabbages prefer a firm soil, so tread over the area and rake flat before planting. Set out in rows leaving 30-45cm between each plant and row.

Asparagus – September is a key month for establishing new asparagus crowns. They perform best in well drained fertile soils, rich in organic matter. Crowns should be set out in long trenches, 20cm deep and 30cm wide. Fill the bottom of the trench with a 7.5cm mounded layer of compost and soil.  Place the asparagus crown on top of the ridge, draping roots over the sides. Cover with another 7.5cm of soil, firm down and water. As growth commences next spring, gradually fill in the remainder of the trench as the spears develop.
Established plants should be cut down to the ground as soon as the foliage has browned. With easier access to the soil, the area should be thoroughly weeded and a good layer of mulch applied afterwards.

Onions, shallots and garlic – September is a great time to plant onions, shallots and garlic as the soil is still warm and the long days give high light levels. Overwintering your alliums will allow them to develop strong root systems to see them through the winter, ready to burst in to life in early spring. Our tried and tested varieties are guaranteed to produce fantastic yields of flavoursome and tender crops.

Onions, shallots and garlic should be set out in rows, in firm, free-draining soil in full sun. Soils should be improved ahead of planting but avoid setting them on a freshly manured soil. Leave 10cm between each bulb and 30cm between rows. The bulbs (or sets) should be planted with the tip of the bulb just showing above the soil surface.

 


In the greenhouse/on the windowsill

Overwintering – Towards the end of September start to bring prized tender plants under cover of the greenhouse to keep them frost free through winter. Many summer bedding plants can be overwintered this way, leading to bigger better displays the following year. Try it with fuchsias, begonias, geraniums, petunias and marguerites. Water sparingly until spring, but ensure good light levels by washing off shade paint and removing shade netting.

Early bulb colour For early indoor displays of your favourite spring flowering bulbs, pot up tulips, daffodils and hyacinths this month and leave them outside for six weeks or so.  Then bring into the greenhouse to encourage early growth. As soon as flower buds develop the pots can be brought into the house for spring colour in the middle of winter.

The Garden Fairy has been growing our Peruvian Lemon Drop Chillies

September 5th, 2017 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

If you follow our social media channels, then you’ll know that each week we hold competitions to give away our seeds. Eliza Nicholas won our Peruvian Lemon Drop Chillies and let us know how they grew, on her blog The Garden Fairy!

Four months after sowing the seeds, the chilli peppers had finally ripened and they were ready to be taste tested. The back of the packets for these chillis warns that they are ‘seriously spicy’ and Eliza can confirm that they are! They aren’t just spicy, they also have a delicious lemon flavour so they’re ideal for any dishes that you want to give a tasty twist.

If you’ve not grown chillies before or want to give these a try, then you can purchase them on our website here and The Garden Fairy has a great tutorial of how to sow and grow these chillies in particular. Be sure to have a flutter around The Garden Fairy’s blog to find out more of her gardening tricks and tips.

Plus, if you don’t follow us on social media… make sure you do so you can enter our giveaways – our Facebook and Twitter pages can be found here.