Posts Tagged ‘gardening advice’

December Gardening Advice

December 2nd, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Two pale green enamel mugs containing mulled wine, orange slices and star anise

The smell of a winter spruce, the warming taste of a spiced mulled wine and a seasonal wreath on your front door. Without a doubt, the festive season is upon us.

But if you’re hoping to spend the month partying, or wanting nothing more than a cosying up in front of a warm fire, make sure you take time out to reflect on what you’ve achieved in the garden and on the allotment this year – what worked, what didn’t, and what you’re hoping to achieve in 2020. We may be restricted on what we can do in the garden this time of year, but our minds should be filled with creative, wonderful ambitions for the new growing season ahead. Look through seed catalogues, write lists and draw garden plans. Read gardening websites and talk to garden bloggers. This is an exciting time for gardeners, so there’s plenty to get inspired by. And with the promise of spring on the horizon, this should spearhead us into the new year.

In the flower garden

Protection

There’s still time to move your outdoor pots and containers, as we generally don’t get exposed to the extreme weather until January. If you don’t have a greenhouse, polytunnel or shed, group them together in a protected area of the garden. Keep them raised and off the frozen ground, as this will not only help the drainage for excess rain and melting snow, but prevent ground frost from cracking your pots. If your containers are too heavy, wrap horticultural fleece around your exposed shrub. Bubble plastic is another option. A wrapped potted plant will not only benefit from the added warmth but your expensive pot won’t crack from the frost.

A gardener sowing seeds into a seed tray filled with soil by handSowing

If waiting for spring to sow seeds seems too far away, there are seeds you can sow right now. Ensure they have somewhere warm and bright, such as a heated greenhouse or propagator, otherwise shorter daylight hours and cold temperatures will quickly put a stop to any possible germination. Seeds to consider are sweet peas, snapdragons and cyclamen.

Pruning

With leaves now fallen, a tree’s structure is clearly visible. Think about the three ‘Ds’: dead, damaged and diseased. Prune any deciduous tree branches that fall under these categories, but remember the overall structure and try not to prune too hard. As winter is a time of dormancy, many ‘sap’ based shrubs and trees, such as vines and acers, can also be pruned. Finally, start winter pruning wisteria. Ensure you cut summer side shoots back to no more than three buds.

Roses

Another plant that will benefit from pruning are bush roses. Bare-root varieties can now be planted up. Ensure all climbing roses are sufficiently tied-back, as winter winds can cause damage. A fresh supply of mulch around your garden plants will help protect them from the cold.

Root cuttings

Consider taking root cuttings from herbaceous perennials. This will increase your flower border supplies, and save you the expense of having to buy new plants next season.

An interior shot of composting leaf mulch leaf mould in a wooden compost bin

Leaf mould

Continue to keep borders and paths clear – debris and foliage can make paths slippery as well as harbouring slugs, snails and other pests. If you have the space why not create a large bin for leaves to break down naturally.  Four posts forming a square, pegged into the ground and surrounded with chicken wire is an easy and cheap solution. Twelve months from now, you’ll be spreading your own rich leaf mould across your garden beds.

Soil

If your beds are of heavy soil, dig over any bare areas. Try to do this when the ground isn’t waterlogged or in the midst of a frost. By leaving them as freshly turned clods winter will go to work on them, break them down and help to make your soil more manageable come spring. You could also consider adding organic matter to help lighten your soil. However, if you have a light soil avoid digging until spring as the free-draining soil will be prone to moisture loss.

Christmas trees

Many of us will be looking to purchase a Christmas tree over the coming weeks. With so many varieties to choose from, it’s worth thinking about a pot grown tree. Once the season is over, they can be moved outside to continue growing, and not thrown out like so many are in the new year. A one-off purchase from a reputable grower or nursery could have you enjoying your tree all year round. When it becomes too big to bring inside for the Christmas season, why not permanently plant it out into your garden? Not only will this one tree continue giving you and your family years of enjoyment, but it will also benefit the garden wildlife.

Failing that, if you do buy a pre-cut tree, don’t be so quick to throw it away in the new year. It can be chopped up and used as mulch for acidic plants such as blueberries, and the branches could find also find use as support canes for growing peas on your allotment.Christmas wresth making materials laid out on a table, including pliers and pinecones

Christmas wreath

If you’ve been growing ivy or holly then you might want to consider creating your very own Christmas wreath. By using cuttings of evergreen, or branches of crab apples and pyracantha berries, this is the time to let your creativity go wild.

Garden wildlife

Ensure all bird-feeding stations are clean and replenished regularly. A fresh water supply will also help our feathered friends at this time of year. Check all water features, including ponds, don’t freeze over, as this can damage the structures as well as being harmful to the fish and garden wildlife.

Freezing temperatures

Keep an eye on the weather reports and overnight temperatures. If you have plants in the greenhouse, then a heater might make all the difference on a cold night. If there is a snowfall, ensure all snow is removed from the greenhouse exterior, as any plants growing in the greenhouse will need all the warmth they can get. However, a warm greenhouse does increase the risk of pests and diseases, so regularly check all plants, pots and trays.

On the veg patch

Winter veg

It’s time for your winter veg to play their part on the Christmas day menu. Continue to check crops for pests and diseases, removing any fallen, yellowing or rotten foliage. The later you can leave digging up the veg, the fresher it’ll be on the big day. However, take into account the possibility of the ground being hard or frozen.

Primary cultivation

As winter veg gets dug up and plots start becoming bare, remove old debris and add to the compost heap. If the ground’s not too hard, turn over the soil to expose dozing pests and to aerate the soil. If you can, spread a thick layer of compost, or well-rotted manure over the plot.

If you have a compost heap then turn it over, as this will help it break down.

A gloved gardener's hand taking hardwood cuttings of a gooseberry bush with a pair of red pruners in winterFruit

If you’re growing currants or gooseberries, take hardwood cuttings. If you’ve been growing rhubarb for some years, dig up the crowns. Split them, top to bottom with a spade, and then re-plant. If you’ve purchased new varieties, plant them directly into the ground or large containers. Remember, leave a newly planted crown untouched for a year, that way it can become established, and produce quality stalks.

This is a good time of the year to plant bare-root fruit bushes and trees. Again, if you have established fruit trees, these can now be pruned. Again, think about the three ‘Ds’ and act accordingly. Check all staked fruit trees. If not securely tied-in, wind rock can cause damage and potentially kill the plant.

Winter salad

Continue to successional sow winter salads and check leaves for any slugs and pests. If they are grown outside and not in a greenhouse, ensure they are protected with a cold frame, cloche or horticultural fleece.

Other crops you can now sow in a heated greenhouse are leeks, broad beans and radish.

Prepping tools

If the weather has taken a turn for the worse, retreat to the potting shed. Once warm, set about cleaning and sharpening all hand tools. Service all power tools, including the lawnmower. Thoroughly clean all empty pots and trays in hot water with diluted washing up liquid. Carrying out these tasks now will ensure your tools last for years to come.

Other jobs

  • Add colour to the home with poinsettias, hyacinths or cyclamen persicum. However, keep watering to a minimum and place them in a draught-free environment, out of direct sunlight.
  • Start ordering seeds for the 2020 growing season.
  • Cuttings of evergreen, mistletoe and sprigs of holly can make excellent mantle and table displays.

Give Pests the Boot!

November 13th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

A gardener tending to their garden in the winter

Tidying up the garden for winter is a balancing act. On the one hand, you don’t want to leave hiding places for pests to overwinter. But on the other, you want to ensure that beneficial bugs – including pest predators – have somewhere safe to sit out the cold so they’re about for the next growing season. The advice we’re given to banish pests often has the unintended effect of discouraging beneficials too. So what is a wildlife-friendly gardener to do?

Read on or watch the video and we’ll help you to achieve that all-important balance.

Should I Cover or Expose Soil?

Perhaps the greatest area of confusion lies around whether or not to cover the ground or leave it exposed to the cleansing effects of frost and hungry birds. In general, it’s best to follow nature’s lead and keep soil covered during winter. Lay thick mulches of garden compost, leaf mould or other organic matter over the surface to stave off soil erosion and sustain beneficial soil dwellers such as earthworms and ground beetles.

An interior shot of composting leaf mulch leaf mould in a wooden compost binIn areas of the garden where pests have been a problem a good compromise is to delay laying down organic matter until midway through winter, or rake back mulches during cold snaps to temporarily expose ground. Raking or lightly forking the soil will help to reveal lurking grubs both to frosts and insect-eating birds, helping to dent their numbers before spring. This is a particularly good technique to use around fruit trees, bushes and canes, where leaves of any plants that were affected by pests or diseases should also be raked up and removed.

To Weed or Not to Weed?

When it comes to weeding, the best course of action depends on the type of weeds you’re dealing with.

Late autumn and early winter is a good time to get rid of perennial weeds, whose growth should hopefully have slowed enough for you to finally catch up with them! Be thorough and remove all of their roots too, otherwise they’ll just regrow again.

While weeding clears growing areas ready for springtime sowings, don’t be too hasty. Annual weeds like bittercress and deadnettle can be left to provide insect habitat and protect the soil over winter, before hoeing them off in the spring. Just be sure to remove them before they produce seeds.

Where possible, seedlings of self-seeding flowers such as calendula or nigella should be left to attract next season’s beneficial bugs because they’ll flower earlier than new sowings. And clumps of nettles left untouched in an out-of-the-way spot are a great food source for many beautiful butterflies and pest-hungry predators such as ladybirds.

Stop Pests Overwintering on Fruit Trees

A glue trap on a fruit tree in winter to deter pests such as winter moth caterpillarsThe bark on fruit trees offers good hiding places for pests like aphids and scale insects. Once all the leaves have dropped you can apply a winter tree wash to bare branches. This is a natural plant or fish oil-based treatment which should be sprayed on a windless day to avoid drifting. It will help to control pest numbers while causing minimal impact to other wildlife. But as with all treatments, it’s best to only use it if you’ve experienced pest problems on your trees during the previous growing season.

Paint tree barrier glues, or tie on grease bands around the trunks of fruit trees to help prevent damage caused by winter moth caterpillars. The sticky barriers prevent the egg-laying wingless female moths from climbing up into the canopy from ground level. Grease bands work best on trees with smoother bark where moths won’t be able to simply crawl under them, while glues are best for trees with deeply fissured bark.

Clean Greenhouses and Cold Frames

Winter’s a good time for a thorough clean of greenhouses and cold frames. Move everything out and clean greenhouse staging, all equipment and dirty pots and trays too. Leave it to dry while you then clean the glass using water with a little added natural disinfectant or greenhouse cleaning solution. Be sure to get into every corner, crack and crevice, any way you can!

Spaces for Beneficial Bugs

To keep beneficial bugs onside leave the rest of the garden a little wilder during the colder months. Allow grass to grow longer so caterpillars and other bugs can bury themselves into the thatch. Hollow stems and fallen leaves should be left where possible to provide habitat for all manner of insects. Old seed heads give shelter to ladybirds and other pest predators – and food for hungry birds. Cut them back in spring just before growth resumes. Hold off digging in ornamental borders until spring too – and then only if absolutely necessary – so that insects such as bumblebees can sit out the winter in peace.

You can provide additional homes for beneficial bugs by dotting bug hotels – big and small – around the garden, and, as long as you’re not in an area with termites, by creating log or stone piles, which will also prove popular with small mammals and amphibians such as toads.

So tackle pests where they have been an issue, but hang back from being too tidy to give the good guys have somewhere safe and secure to bed down for winter. Do you have any tips for booting out pests while giving beneficial bugs a helping hand? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

November Gardening Advice

November 1st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

The spiky shell of a chestnut conker partially open. The nut lies on autumn leaves on the ground and peeks out of the shell.

The smell of wood burning, the crackle of bonfires and the colourful explosion of fireworks means we’re into November, so get your month off to a bang by wrapping up warm and embracing the season. Light home fires, collect conkers and enjoy hearty soups made from your homegrown vegetables. This is the cosy season!

However, don’t get too comfortable. There are still plenty of gardening jobs to be done, which will keep you warm on a chilly autumnal day.

But if venturing out into the cold doesn’t appeal to you, then kick-back in front of a warming fire and reminisce over your recent growing season. Think about your growing successes, the failures, and then consider what you want to grow, or change, next year. Draw up lists, make plans, and think ahead. If you need inspiration then go online and look at what other people have achieved. The internet is full of gardening websites, blogs and forums, by gardeners who inspire and pass on seeds of good advice.

Start planning now! Because before you know it, spring will be knocking on your door.

In the flower garden

Perennials

Perennial plants have done their job and are now looking worse for wear. If garden wildlife has eaten the seeds, and you don’t want structure in your garden over the winter months, cut down the plant and mulch.

Any plants that aren’t frost hardy, and can’t be lifted for storage, give them a heavy mulch around the base. Don’t cover over the plant, as the moisture can cause the plant to rot. Failing that, protect the plant with horticultural fleece.

Tulip bulbs on the ground, ready for planting in autumnTulip bulbs

Whether it’s swathes of tulips, container-grown, or individual flowers dotted around your garden, now’s the time to plant your bulbs. Temperatures are dropping daily, so there’s no longer a threat of tulip fire infection. Avoid bulbs that show signs of decay, mould or damage, and plant three times to the depth of the bulb. If you’re planting into heavy soil add grit for drainage, as bulbs sat in water will rot. You may want to cover the area with netting, to prevent mice and squirrels digging them up.

Roses

Most plants and shrubs are dormant over the winter months, so this is an ideal time to move and plant new roses. Bare root varieties tend to be cheaper than potted plants and the choice is endless. Once planted, water in and mulch thoroughly to prevent frost from damaging the roots. If you already have established roses, make sure any fallen leaves are burnt or removed from the site, as these may have suffered blackspot and could infect your plant next year.

Dahlias

Depending where you are in the UK, you may have already had your first frost. If not, it’s only a matter of time. Therefore, ensure your dahlia tubers are dug up and stored. This also applies to cannas. Dahlias can be stored in boxes filled with scrunched paper and placed somewhere cool and dark. If this isn’t an option, place tubers in a pot of damp compost and kept somewhere cool.

Hedges

Time to plant hedgerows and conifers. Before planting, ensure you incorporate plenty of organic matter into the soil. With clay soil, you may also want to add grit for drainage. Depending on the hedge it may need a support and tying in, just until it establishes itself. Water in well and mulch.

Hard-wood cuttings

It’s not too late to take hard-wood cuttings, Plants include buddleia, vines and cornus. Make a sharp cut just beneath a bud and an angled cut across the top of the cutting. The angle ensures moisture runs off and doesn’t rot the cutting. Your cutting should be the length and width of a pencil. Place the straight end into a pot of compost, up to its middle. Try to use a square pot and place cuttings in each corner, any heat will bounce off the corners of the pot and onto the cutting. Ensure the compost is damp, and place in a cold frame and greenhouse.

A compost bin full of autumn leaves to provide leaf mulchLeaf mulch

There are plenty of fallen leaves to clear away, but don’t get rid of them. Create a pen with chicken wire and four wooden stakes. Then place the collected leaves within the wired square and leave for up to twelve months. This will breakdown into a rich mulch, which can then be used for your garden. If you don’t have the space for a pen, either an old plastic bin or garden bags will do. Create several holes, so moisture can drain away and the airflow will help the bacteria breakdown the leaf matter. Store them out of the way, where they won’t be disturbed.

Lawn

Lawns won’t need to be mowed now until next spring. However, with leaves and debris falling, you need to ensure you keep lawns clear. This will prevent pests taking shelter, and there’s no chance of damaging your lawn with the ‘browning off’ effect. Finally, if you wake to frosts, try to keep off the lawn, as you could potentially damage it.

Maintenance

With less to do on allotments and in gardens, you can switch your attention to carrying out repairs and maintenance on garden tools. From secateurs to shears, your tools should be cleaned and sharpened. Ensure your lawnmower has been cleaned, checked, and drained of fuel.

Pots and seed trays will also need cleaning – warm soapy water will do – and stored. Try not to buy new plastic pots to reduce waste and use what you’ve got, or why not make your pots? There are kits available for making biodegradable plant pots that will add a personal touch to your plant growing next season.

If you’re leaving stone or terracotta pots outside over winter, make sure they’re standing on clay feet or bricks. Otherwise a ground frost can damage and cause pots to crack. Being off the ground will also help potted plants as it drains off excess water.

Pots can be expensive, so protect them as best you can by grouping them all together in the sunniest part of the garden. You could also try wrapping them in bubble wrap.

A wooden bird feeder in the shape of a house against an autumn woodland backgroundWildlife

If you haven’t done so yet, fill your bird feeders. Ensure they’ve been thoroughly cleaned with warm soapy water and rinsed.

Put out fresh water for the birds, but try to ensure it doesn’t ice over.

You can also consider building insect hotels. Leave small piles of wood in corners of your garden to allow wildlife somewhere to rest over winter.

On the veg patch

Broad beans

If you’re hoping for an early crop of broad beans next year, sow now. Ensure all weeds are removed and add plenty of organic matter. Plant seeds in double rows, to the depth of two inches and nine inches apart. Water in well and cover over with either a cloche or horticultural fleece. Not only will the seeds benefit from the extra warmth, but they’ll be protected from birds and vermin.

Certain crops benefit from a good frost, turning their starches into sugars. Parsnips, swede, and Brussels sprouts will be tastier after a cold spell. If you are lifting these crops on a cold day, make sure you do it with a fork, carefully prising them from the hardened soil.

Spring cabbages

If you sowed cabbage seed weeks ago, they should now be healthy young plants ready for planting out. Brassicas are hungry plants, so ensure the bed has been well cultivated with plenty of organic matter dug in.

Plant your plants deep, just below the first set of leaves, to prevent damage from ‘wind rock’. Water in well and mulch. You may also want to protect your plants with horticultural fleece or cloches.

Leafy potato tubers growing in a green grow bagChristmas potatoes

If you’re growing spuds for the big day, then check them regularly. If they’re in grow bags or sacks, try to keep them somewhere, bright, warm and protected. As the stems gather height, ensure you earth them up. Not only will this encourage further tubers, but it will protect them from the chill. Finally, with dampness in the air and fluctuating temperatures, keep an eye out for blight.

Glue bands

Pests will be looking for somewhere to rest up over the next few months, laying eggs and eating tender shoots which can have a devastating effect on fruit trees. Try wrapping glue bands around the trunk base of your apple, pear, cherry and plum trees to stop pests, such as winter moth caterpillars, climbing the trees to lay their eggs.

Other Jobs

  • Disconnect garden hoses and protect garden taps as frozen water can burst pipes.
  • Bring inside potted up herbs.
  • Regularly check stored fruit, onions, squashes and potatoes for rot. Disregard any that have been spoilt.
  • As gardens die-back, you get a real sense of the blueprint of your garden. So, if you’re thinking of doing structural work, such as laying a new path or building a fence, now’s the time to do it.
  • If you’re planning a bonfire, check the woodpile first for any hidden wildlife.

October Gardening Advice

October 1st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill's October Gardening Advice 2019

If you listen quietly to your pumpkin patch, you’ll hear the growing whispers of ripening pumpkins, eager to take centre stage on Halloween night. There’s a chill in the air. As nights draw in, and temperatures drop, we need to prepare our gardens and allotments for the cold months ahead. Whether it’s making warming soups from homegrown produce, or planting bulbs for the spring season ahead, this is a busy time. But it’s also a glorious time, as autumn’s palette is awash with rich golds, reds and oranges.

So, raise a cup of homemade soup, and celebrate the harvest season.

In the flower garden

Bedding

It’s fair to say that summer bedding plants have had their moment in the sun. Remove them from your pots, containers or borders and replace with polyanthus and pansies. Give them fresh multi-purpose compose and water in well. However, if you’re leaving your borders bare, then clear the area of weeds, cutback and remove any unwanted debris and mulch the area with a thick bedding of well-rotted manure, compost or bark chippings. This will not only suppress weeds, but add nutrients to your beds.

Hardy annuals

If you’re looking ahead to next spring, then now’s the time to sow hardy annuals. Cosmos, marigolds or cornflowers can either be sown directly into the soil or into seed trays with sieved seed compost. Place in water-filled tubs, and let the trays soak the water up, as watering overhead will disrupt the soil, and spoil the seed. Place carefully in a warmed greenhouse, and keep an eye on them throughout winter. You can also sow sweet peas in pots, and let them grow on in the greenhouse.

Tender plants Protect tender plants with fleece in the winter months

As temperatures begin to drop, you need to bring think about winter protection for your tender plants. Cannas are not made for colder weather, so find a spot in your greenhouse or shed, where it’s light and frost-free. Cut away dead flowers or leaves to help prevent rot. For further protection, wrap them in fleece. Check plants regularly.

Bulbs

Now’s the time to plant tulip, daffodil and crocus bulbs. Whether they’re going into pots, containers or the ground, the golden rule is plant them to the depth of three times their height. Ensure the soil is well drained, as sitting in water over winter will increase their chances of rotting, so consider adding grit for drainage.

If you’re planting in pots, you may want to think about using the ‘lasagne’ method. This is when you take different flower types and layer them one above the other. For example, first to flower would be snowdrops, so they would sit at the top of your ‘lasagne’. The next layer would be crocuses, and so on, until finally, tulips. It’s a great way to get the most from one pot or container, giving you continuous colour throughout the spring.

Dahlias

Unless you live in the south of the UK where winter temperatures are more forgiving, now’s the time to lift your dahlias as a harsh frost could put an end to any further blooms. Once lifted, foliage should be cut back to a few cms above the tuber, turned upside down and left to drain for a few days. Once dried, these can be placed somewhere cool, dark and frost free. Ideally, place them in paper, or straw, in a box, and check on them every so often to make sure they haven’t rotted.

Roses

Once your rambling and climbing roses have finished flowering, give them a prune. Then tie them in, to prevent any damage over the coming winter months. Remove all foliage from site, if your rose has had black spot, then it can fester in any foliage not collected, and re-appear next year.

Fallen leaves

A garden rake and a pile of fallen autumn leaves on a lawnAs the leaves begin to fall, it’s important you keep on top of them and rake them clear from your lawn. Any build-up can harbour pests, stop light getting to your lawn, and create a ‘browning off’ effect. It’s especially important to keep paths and patios leaf-free as with a layer of frost, it can be easy to slip and hurt yourself. If you’re not adding leaves to your compost heap, think about creating a wired pen. Leave them to rot down for six to twelve months and you’ll have free leaf mould which is great for mulching plants. If space is an issue, use bin liners which can be tucked away in small spaces. Make sure you create several small holes in the bags, however, or your leaves will quickly become a bag of badly-smelling slush.

Perennials

Leaving perennials untouched over winter not only adds structure to your garden, but it gives a well needed food supply to your garden wildlife. If you decide to cutback, then take it to the base of the plant. If they’re summer flowering perennials, consider dividing and re-planting, to increase next year’s summer blooms. Plant in well, water and give the plant a heavy mulch to protect it from the colder weather. Don’t cover the stems as this will cause the plant to rot.

On the veg patch

Pumpkins

Pumpkins and squashes should now be lifted. To ensure they last throughout the winter months, leave them in the sun for several days to harden their skins. After that, place somewhere cool.

Apples and Pears

This will be the final opportunity to harvest the last of your tree fruit, such as apples and pears. What isn’t going to be used straight away, can be stored. Ideally use slatted shelves or boxes, and place the fruit carefully on them. Check that each fruit is not bruised or damaged, and try not to let it rest on another fruit. Place in a frost-free, dark, but well-ventilated cool room. Check regularly, and remove any fruit that has spoiled.

Rhubarb

Now’s the time to lift and divide rhubarb crowns. Using a sharp spade, divide the crown, ensuring each section contains at least one growing point. Re-plant in well drained, fertile soil, ensuring each crown is well spaced.

Beans

With your bean plants spent, don’t be too keen to remove them from your bed. Instead, cut the plant to the base and remove the foliage. The roots produce nitrogen as they breakdown which will invigorate your bed for next season.

If you have a veg bed already ear-marked for next year’s beans, dig a trench. Over the coming months, layer it with kitchen waste or manure.

Garlic

A gloves hand planting garlic bulbs into some soilGarlic needs a good cold period to help develop its cloves. Don’t be tempted to use bulbs from a supermarket as they may harbour disease. Instead, buy them from a garden centre or online supplier.

In well-drained, fertile soil, place the individual cloves at 20cm apart, in rows 30cms apart. The cloves tips should be all you see of the garlic. You may want to cover over with either a fleece or netting, to stop birds from pulling them up.

Herbs

Herbs, such as basil, parsley and coriander are not frost hardy. Therefore, pot them up and bring them inside, keeping them on a well-lit windowsill.

Greenhouse

If you’re hoping to use your greenhouse over the colder months, but an electric heater is not an option, then consider insulating it with bubble wrap. As the days get colder, make sure doors and vents are kept closed and any damaged panels are quickly repaired.

Soil

If you’re leaving vegetable beds empty over winter, turn the soil. This will not only get air into the soil, but will expose hiding pests. You can also add a thick layer of well-rotted manure, or compost. Over winter, the worms and weather will help break it down, and integrate it into your bed.

Other Jobs

A selection of carved Halloween pumpkins on a table

  • If you’ve had houseplants outside, now’s the time to bring them back inside. Ideally, let them slowly acclimatise to the indoor heat, otherwise, the shock may damage them. Keep them away from direct heat sources, and place them in a draught free area which is cool but with good light.
  • Give nature a helping hand. Fill your bird feeders and hang fat balls. With cold days ahead, your garden birds will need all the help they can get.
  • If you have a pond, place a ball on the surface. This will keep the water moving, prevent ice forming and ensure any fish can still get oxygen.
  • As this is the month of Halloween, it’s time to carve your pumpkins! This is a great opportunity to get children involved with the allotment or growing patch. Not only will they have seen the pumpkin grow from seed, but they’ll get to harvest and enjoy it. Make sure you don’t waste the flesh; pumpkins make tasty autumn soups and risottos!

Growing Radishes from Sowing to Harvest

September 18th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Growing Radishes from Sowing to Harvest

What’s the most opportunistic crop you could possibly grow? For us it’s the humble, lowly radish – or rather the rousing, ravishing radish! Squeeze a sneaky row or two between larger vegetables. Sow them around crops that are about to finish. Grow them in pots, or squeeze in an extravagantly early or late harvest of these peppery roots. They’re super fast, super flexible – oh, and super yummy! So let’s crack on and sow some! Read on or watch the video to find out how.

Where to Grow Radishes

Because of their size and speed, radishes may be grown just about anywhere. Ready to enjoy in as little as four weeks and taking up minimal space, perhaps their best use is as a fill-in crop, either between or within rows of slow-to-germinate vegetables such as parsnip, or as a quick in-and-out crop right at the start or end of the growing season.

Radishes prefer full sun but grow well in part shade too and in hot climates will prefer full shade in the height of summer. Keep the soil moist and you’ll be rewarded with clusters of mildly peppery roots in next to no time.

Sowing Early Season Radishes

Seeds sown into a plug tray with modules filled with potting mixBegin sowing under cover from late winter, either direct into containers of potting soil or into greenhouse borders, or into plug trays of general purpose potting mix.

Fill plug trays with potting mix, firm down then sow a pinch of three to five seeds per module. Cover with a little more of the potting mix then water. If it’s especially cold, you’ll need to germinate them indoors then move them back into a greenhouse or cold frame as soon as the seedlings appear. After a couple of weeks of sheltered growth, and once the seedlings have filled out their modules, they’ll be ready to plant out under row covers or hoop houses.

Plant into soil earlier enriched with well-rotted compost or manure and raked to a fine tilth. Remove the clusters of seedlings from their modules then make a hole for each plug. Drop in the plug and firm it into position so each cluster is about 6in or 15cm apart in both directions. Cover the seedlings with row cover or horticultural fleece, secured at the edges, until the weather warms up.

Sowing Radishes Direct

Of course, sowing radishes directly where they are to grow is the easiest way to start them off. As cool-season crops, some radishes can germinate at temperatures as low as 41 Fahrenheit or 5 degrees Celsius. Sow from very early spring, initially under row covers or hoop houses, spacing rows about 8in or 20cm apart. Sow thinly along the row – ideally so seeds end up spaced around half an inch or one centimeter apart. Water if it’s dry then, about a week after germination, thin the seedlings to leave them an inch or 2cm apart within the row.

Sow a row or two every couple of weeks during the growing season to maintain a steady supply of roots, fitting them in wherever there’s space.

Grow Some Radishes for Winter

Close up of leafy white daikon mooli radishes in the groundMany hardy radishes can be sown towards the end of summer to give an autumn or early winter harvest of roots. Sowing regular red, round or white-tipped radishes into containers is a great way to extend the season – by simply bringing pots under cover when the weather turns cold.

Another option is to grow bigger winter or Asian varieties of radish, which naturally prefer cooler temperatures. Most popular is the daikon or Japanese mooli radish. Look out for Chinese and Korean varieties too – all with a mild flavour ideal for salads but also great in soups and stews. Then there’s the stunning watermelon radish, or the chunky, spicy Spanish Black radish whose peppery tang holds up well in stir-fries.

Winter radishes are leafier than their summer cousins. The spicy leaves may be used like spinach, wilted into hot dishes or even whizzed up in a pesto.

Sow winter radishes a little further apart, so rows are at least a foot or 30cm distant, then thin the seedlings to leave at least a couple of inches or 5cm between each plant.

Caring for Radishes

Keep on top of weeds because radishes don’t like competition. Thinning seedlings and harvesting the first A close up of two flea beetles on a leafroots are good opportunities to hoik out weeds at the same time. And make sure to water thoroughly once or twice a week in dry weather to stop the roots from becoming woody and unbearably peppery.

Radishes may attract flea beetles from spring to midsummer. You’ll probably not see the flea beetles themselves but you’ll know they are there by the numerous tiny holes pitted into the leaves. Avoid this damage by covering radishes with row covers or fine insect mesh, or by simply delay sowing till the second half of summer.

How to Harvest Radishes

Harvest roots as soon as they have reached their final size. Don’t delay, as they can go from crisp and crunchy to woody and excessively spicy within a matter or days. Lift the biggest roots each time you harvest, so the remainder can continue to swell.

Winter radishes take up to ten weeks to mature but once ready can be left where they are to lift as needed, so long as the ground doesn’t freeze solid. Or lift them, cut off the foliage then store in the refrigerator, where they should keep for up to a month.

If you’re looking for something both trouble-free and a genuine pleasure to grow, radishes should be right up your street. Root out your radish anecdotes – how do you fit them into your garden? Have you tried growing winter radishes? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page, we’d love to know.