Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Hoop House: How to Make a Row Cover Tunnel [video]

October 12th, 2016 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

A simple hoop house or tunnel can extend the growing season as the weather turns colder.   With the added protection of a row cover tunnel, you could be picking crops throughout the winter – most especially if you already live in a mild area.  They’re easy to make yourself, and so this video show you how you can make them. 

hoop house

Firstly you will require these items; PVC water piping (0.5 inches/12 mm diameter), 20 inch/50cm lengths of rebar, two pipe caps and some strong garden wire. You’ll also require some strong plastic or polythene, pipe insulation and spring clamps or pegs. In terms of equipment to help you fashion your row cover tunnel you’ll need a hacksaw and hammer.

  1. Hammer in the rebar at equal distances along the garden bed. Space them about three feet apart and leave 15/20 cm sticking up above the ground.
  2. Next you need to cut up the PVC water piping to make plastic hoops. These should be long enough to create a half circle, ensuring they will be high enough for plants to grow inside the tunnel.
  3. Flex the pipe into position, placing registering them onto their rebar supports.
  4. Add a ridgepole along the centre to link the hoops together.  This will stabilize the structure and stop the plastic on the tunnel from sagging.
  5. Ensure that the two ends of the ridge pole are covered by the pipe caps or strong tapes so that no rough edges are exposed which will rip the plastic in high winds. Then use the garden wire to secure all the pipes together.
  6. Cover the hoop house with the plastic sheeting trimming off the excess.  Use pipe insulation as a protective barrier when clamping the polythene to the frame and to avoid fretting.

For a more detailed description on how to make a hoop house, watch the video below. If you have any tips of your own on protecting crops through winter, then leave us a comment in the comments section below.

How To Make Row Cover Tunnels (Hoop House)

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes [video]

September 26th, 2016 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Towards the end of the growing season, you’ll be faced with lots of green tomatoes but no time to ripen them. This video gives you tips on how to ripen green tomatoes faster, ensuring that nothing goes to waste.

ripen green tomatoes

  • Start by pinching off any flowers and tiny fruits so that your plants can focus their energy on the larger fruits that remain.
  • Gradually reduce the amount of water you give to your tomatoes, this will encourage tomatoes to ripen
  • Leave the tomatoes on the vine for as long as possible to give them time to ripen. Make sure you protect them from cold snaps later in the season to keep the plants going for as long as possible.
  • When daytime temperatures are struggling reach high enough levels, it is important to bring in any remaining outdoor plants so that they avoid getting nipped by the first frost.
  • Ensure you remove any parts of plant that appear to have blight to keep the plants as strong as possible in order you are able to salvage the remaining crop.
  • To ripen tomatoes that you have already picked and have moved indoors, wrap them up in paper and put them into a cardboard box, keeping them at a temperature of 13 – 21 degrees in a dark place. Check them weekly and remove any diseased fruits that you find in your box of tomatoes.

These are just a few tips on how to ripen green tomatoes, the video below shares further methods of speeding up the ripening process to ensure they’ve been given their best chance! If you have any good tomato ripening tips leave us a message in the comments section below.

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes

How to Beat Bugs in Your Garden [video]

July 21st, 2016 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

bugs gardenYou can never escape the threat of bugs in the garden, but you can manage and plan for a bug attack. If you want to beat bugs in your garden it takes a good strategy and this video will give you tips to make sure bugs are kept at bay.

  • Healthy plants are strong plants and are less likely to be affected by bugs even though they may collect a little collateral damage on the way. Therefore it’s vital to ensure your crops are as healthy as possible. Keep crops healthy by following best gardening practice; watering soil in dry weather, planting with sufficient space to avoid overcrowding, keeping plants regularly weeded and using organic fertilizers to nourish them at key points in their lifecycle.
  • Many bugs like to hunt out your crops, but these bugs also have predators.  So the best tactic is to encourage natural allies who will hunt down the insects, slugs and other unwelcome garden visitors.  Ladybirds, garden birds, frogs and toads are perfect for this as they feed on pests destroying their populations before they become an issue.
  • Attract these predators into the garden by planting the flowers and plants that they will also feed on. So flowers that attract pollinators, or planting berry bushes to keep birds happy for instance.
  • Other methods of attracting insects can include placing bug hotels throughout your garden, allowing patches of grass to grow a little longer to provide shelter, and leaving deadwood in the corner of a garden to create breeding areas for beetles.
  • Frogs and toads love slugs and therefore they are great for keeping bugs at bay.  Adding a pond in your garden, even if it’s small, can create a habitat to attract frogs and toads though they will happily thrive if they have damp cool spaces to shelter too.
  • Place trees and shrubs around the perimeter of the garden to provide nesting sites and food for birds. Once established, they can assist in getting rid of pests such as snails and slugs and will reward you by raising their young in your garden each year.

These are just a few suggestions for keeping bugs at bay in your garden, watch the video for tips on many more methods.  If you have any techniques you use to keep pests away, do let us know in the comments section below.

How to Beat Bugs in Your Garden

Scent for spring – and autumn

July 15th, 2016 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Wallflower 'Sugar Rush' flowers in both autumn and spring. - (scent)The scent of wallflowers is one of the delights of spring, especially after a shower. But the ‘Sugar Rush’ wallflower, developed in Norfolk, is not only scented but flowers in the autumn as well as the spring!

This one of the most useful developments in seasonal flowers as instead of a boring green bush sitting in your containers for six months before the plants flower, plant them in September and your ‘Sugar Rush’ wallflowers will flower in October and November. They’ll then take a break for the coldest months of the winter and start blooming again in march.

PDianthus 'Festival Mixed' flowers in autumn as well as spring.  - (scent)lants are little more than 35cm high, ideal in containers, and the mixture comes with six traditional wallflower colours including a fiery yellow-eyed orange.

Oh – and in dry spells you can turn on the scent with a quick spray with the mister!

But wait, there’s more. There’s also a Sweet William that flowers in the autumn as well as the spring. ‘Festival’ comes in five colours and bicolours and at 25cm the plants are a little shorter than the ‘Sugar Rush’ wallflowers. The flowers are large, too, about 4cm and each is prettily fringed. And of course there’s the scent – a mixture of sweetness and cloves.

As with the ‘Sugar Rush’ wallflowers, ‘Festival’ will flower in October and November, take a break and then get started again in March and continue till the end of May.

Just don’t mix the two in one container: the colours don’t look so good mixed together and you’ll lose the purity of the fragrances. So give them separate containers.

New super-sized and super-scented chocolate cosmos

February 12th, 2016 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 2 Comments

Cosmos Eclipse (‘Hamcoec’) - chocolate cosmos

The chocolate cosmos, Cosmos atrosanguineus, has been widely grown for many years now, its delicious scent and rich colouring more than making up for its spindly habit and its late flowering.

This wild species is thought to be extinct in its natural home in pine and oak woods in Mexico and, unfortunately, the form we’ve been growing in our gardens for so long never sets seed so has to be propagated from cuttings.

Then in 1996 a form was discovered in New Zealand that did set seed and this was used to develop some new varieties by pioneering plant breeder… yes, our old friend Dr Keith Hammett who also developed some of our loveliest sweet peas. The best of his new chocolate cosmos is Cosmos Eclipse (‘Hamcoec’) (above).

Eclipse is neater in growth than the original Cosmos atrosanguineus and also less straggly than a variety you sometimes see called ‘Chocamocha’. It has very large flowers, far larger than both these and up to 5cm across, with petals that are more regularly spaced out to give a neater look. The colour is wonderfully rich and dark – almost black with sparks of yellow pollen and then there’s the rich and sultry chocolate scent. Marvellous.

Plant Cosmos Eclipse in sunny containers on the patio and it will flower all summer and on till the frosts. If you move the pots into a sheltered place for the winter, its small dahlia-like tubers may well carry it through to produce a larger, bushier plant next year. – with even more of that magical rich chocolate aroma.

You can order plants of Cosmos Eclipse now.

Take a look at last week’s post about The Year of The Cosmos.