Posts Tagged ‘growing vegetables’

Six Ways to Extend Your Harvests

September 5th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Pickings from fruiting and pod-producing vegetables such as beans and tomatoes are coming thick and fast right now, but as summer wanes both the quantity of what you pick and how often you are able to pick it will begin to tail off.

Keeping these productive staples cropping for longer is the aim of the game, so read on or watch the video for some top tips to keep those pickings coming…

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Keep on picking

The first rule with any fruit or pod-producing vegetable is to keep up with the picking.

Leave those courgettes to swell into marrows and you’ll inadvertently slow the initiation of new flowers and fruits. Beans will also stop producing more pods if the existing ones are left to ripen to biological maturity – by forming seeds, the plants will have completed their lifecycle, and will have no reason to continue flowering.

Check plants every couple of days and remove fruits and pods before they get too large or overripe. And if you’re heading away from home for more than a week, encourage your neighbours to harvest them – they’ll get free food and you’ll come home to more pickings!

Keep watering

All vegetables need water, but fruit and pod-producing vegetables are particularly thirsty – water-stressed plants quickly slow down.

Aim to water regularly for consistent soil moisture which will encourage plenty of well-formed fruits and pods, free of problems such as blossom end rot. It will also avoid the annoyance of fruits splitting, which happens when they have dried out too much then receive a sudden deluge of water.

Continue feeding

Don’t scrimp on feeding your crops. Continue watering a suitable organic liquid fertiliser on to fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and aubergine.

Feeding plants costs money but does mean more fruits of better quality, so the investment is well worth it. Or why not make your own liquid feed from fast-growing, nutrient-rich plants such as comfrey?

Top up mulches

Mulches of organic material applied earlier in the season may now be looking a little scant.

Top up mulches with new material – straw that’s free of seeds is a great mulch for many fruit-bearing crops including, of course, strawberries. It’s naturally full of potassium, which fruit and pod-bearing plants love. Grass clippings are a ready-to-hand source of instant mulch too, and will help to keep plant roots cool and moist in hot, dry weather.

Let the sunshine in

Strong growth over the summer months can mean that taller plants cast shade where they didn’t before, compromising crops that need plenty of direct sunlight. Consider cutting back overhanging foliage and act promptly to remove spent crops so that those remaining enjoy plenty of sunshine and good air circulation.

In cooler climates, now may be the time to wash off or remove any greenhouse shading, to trap more of the late summer sunshine.

Keep plants warm

Later on in the season stragglers can be encouraged to keep producing for a week or two longer by adding the thermal comfort of a floating row cover such as horticultural fleece or plastic.

Remove covers during the day to enable pollination, then replace it in the evening to provide a little warmth and protection against lower temperatures.

 

If you have any advice on how to keep the pickings coming, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

 

 

How to Save Seeds from Beans, Peppers, Onions and More

August 28th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

You’ve sown it, grown it and harvested it. But how can you take your vegetable growing one step further?

Easy: by saving your own seed from this year’s crops to sow next season.

When you come to think about it, saving seed is the ultimate in self-sufficiency; it’ll save you money and closes the loop on your growing but, above all, it’s delightfully satisfying.

Read on or watch the video to find out how to save those seeds.

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What to save

Some vegetables are easier to save seed from than others. Especially suitable candidates include peas and beans, tomatoes, peppers and lettuce, which can all be saved at the same time they are harvested or very soon afterwards.

Some biennial crops, such as onions, shallots, leeks, carrots, beetroot and chard are also worth saving, though you’ll need to overwinter a few plants from one season to flower and set seed the next.

What not to save

Avoid saving seeds from the cabbage family. These plants readily cross-pollinate with other members of the same family, so you’re unlikely to get what you hoped for.

The same goes for F1 hybrid which, because they are created from two separate parent varieties, simply won’t come true to type. For this reason, only ever save the seeds of traditional, open-pollinated varieties. F1 hybrids should include ‘F1’ in the variety name on the seed packet.

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Saving bean and pea seeds

Peas and beans are the easiest of the lot. As the end of the season approaches leave some pods to dry out on the plants. You’ll be able to see and feel the beans swelling within their pods. They’re ready to pick and collect when the pods themselves turn leathery or crisp to the touch.

You can get a lot of seeds from just a few plants, which makes saving these seeds very worthwhile indeed. Shell the pods to reveal the beans or peas inside, then discard any very small, misshapen or damaged seeds. Save only the best clean seeds. Spread them out onto newspaper to dry out on a warm windowsill for 7-10 days.

Fava beans, or broad beans, can cross-pollinate with other varieties, so only save seeds from these beans if you are growing just one variety.

Saving lettuce seeds

Lettuces produce literally thousands of seeds on each seed head. You may find you need to stake the plants as they stretch out to flower.

Once the plant displays its fluffy seed heads, pull it out of the ground and hang it upside down indoors to dry. After a few weeks like this the seed heads can be rubbed between the palms of your hands to coax the seeds free.

As with any vegetable, it’s important to choose the very best plants to collect seed from. This way you will actively select for those plants that perform the strongest and are best suited to the conditions in your garden.

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Saving pepper and tomato seeds

The seeds of tomatoes and peppers are ready when the fruits themselves are good for eating.

Wait until sweet peppers and chillies show their mature colour, then simply scrape away the seeds from the pith. Spread the seeds out on paper to dry out for a week or more before storing.

Before drying and storing tomato seeds, the pulp around them must first be removed. This isn’t difficult, but there is a specific process to do this correctly. See more on our blog for tips on how to do this.

Saving onion and leek seeds

Onions, leeks and shallots set seed in their second year. These plants cross-pollinate, so you’ll need to overwinter more than one plant of the same variety to flower the following season. The flowers are beautiful though, and provide welcome food for local bees and other pollinators.

The seed heads are ready once they have dried out and can be flaked off into a bag for cleaning and sorting. But if you need the space, you can hurry things along by cutting the heads a little earlier. First, check the seeds are ready by opening up a seed pod to observe the seeds inside. If the seeds are black, then you’re good to go.

Leave the seed heads to dry out in a warm, well-ventilated place, such as a greenhouse. Once they’ve turned a straw colour, simply rub the seed heads between your fingers to release the seeds.

How to store saved seeds

Dry seeds can be cleaned before storing by carefully blowing away any remaining chaff, or separating out the seeds through a series of screens or sieves.

Seeds should be stored in paper envelopes labelled with the variety and date.

Store them somewhere cool, dry and dark until you’re ready to sow in spring.

If you have any top tips for saving seeds, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Fascinating Facts: Kale

February 1st, 2018 | News | 0 Comments


Botanical name: Brassica oleracea var. Sabellica

Origins: Both the ancient Greeks and Romans ate leafy greens believed to be ancestors of the Kale varieties we eat today, consuming them as medicine as well as food. By the middle ages, Kale had widely spread through Europe and Asia.

First cultivated: Kale has been cultivated for over 2000 years.

Types: There are numerous varieties of Kale, popular ones include: Cavolo Nero, Curly Scarlet, Redbor Kale and Red Russian

Skill level:  Easy/Intermediate

Preferred location and conditions: Kale tolerates most conditions but requires nitrogen-rich, free-draining soil.

Good for containers: Yes

Harvest time: September to May

Planting and growing: Sow seeds from March to June, ensuring the soil remains moist. Flat leaved kales should be sown in situ but you can start off curly varieties in modules. Plant out from May to July at spacings of at least 45cm, ‘puddling’ the plants with plenty of water.

Possible problems:   Birds can be a problem, so it’s advisable to net the plants.


Did you know?

Kale is an excellent addition to any vegetable garden. Hardy and disease-resistant, it can adapt to most conditions and is one of the easiest brassicas to grow. It is also one of the most nutrient-rich. Hailed as a superfood, a serving of Kale contains more absorbable calcium than a small carton of milk. It’s low in calories, high in fibre and packed full of antioxidants. It’s high in vitamins A, C, E and K and rich in folate, manganese, magnesium, iron and potassium. It’s beneficial for the brain, heart, bones, skin, eyes and hair and has been linked to lowering the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

In much of Europe, Kale was once the most widely-eaten green vegetable. It thrived in cold climates because of its resistance to frost (which makes it taste sweeter), and was so commonly eaten in Scotland, that ‘kail’ became the generic word for dinner and all kitchens featured a ‘kail-pot’ for cooking. ‘Kailyard’ was a Scottish colloquialism for vegetable garden, and the term lent itself to the Kailyard School of Literature, a critically reviled group of Scottish writers (including Peter Pan author, J. M. Barrie) who revelled in sentimental descriptions of life in rural Scotland in the late 19th century.

Kale slipped out of fashion after the Middle Ages, when cabbage became more popular. Despite a brief renaissance during the Dig for Victory campaign of World War II, people stopped eating kale, and it was more commonly used in cattle feed. At the start of the 21st century, kale started to regain popularity, and after being named a ‘superfood’ in 2008, and with celebrity endorsements from the likes of Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, interest in the vegetable skyrocketed.

Kale remains one of the trendiest vegetables available, adapting itself to smoothies, salads, juices, stews, bakes and even cocktails (kalejito, anyone?) However, the British haven’t gone quite as cuckoo for kale as the Americans, who have not only devoted a national day to this highly-esteemed leaf (4th October 2018), but launched the first ever world kale-eating contest in 2016. Gideon Oji holds the current record, consuming 25 bowls of the vegetable in just eight minutes. And the obsession doesn’t end there; according to America’s Social Security Administration, 262 babies were named Kale in 2013.

Even if you’re not a fan of the vegetable on your dinner plate, there are ornamental varieties of Kale available, with showy leaves in shades of pink and purple, which can add a welcome blush of colour to winter borders.

 

 

To browse all our varieties of kale seeds just follow this link to the kale seeds section of our website.

Royal Horticultural Society

This article was first published on the RHS website February 2018. 

Read more on the RHS website about growing your own kale.

Growing Fruit and Vegetables In The Shade! [video]

April 10th, 2017 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Growing Fruit and Vegetables

What can you grow in the shade? Surprisingly, quite a lot of things! This video will guide you through the fruit and vegetables you can grow in the shade.  If your plot is a bit gloomy, then embrace shade gardening!

Shady, and often shady and damp spots, offer a few challenges for the home gardener but it is possible to get growing if you choose the right plants that with thrive with lower levels of light and warmth.  In the video we have plenty of  tips on how to utilise the light that you do receive in your garden.

  • A first point to make on light is that it is often seedlings that require as much light as possible, in order to start their growth process strongly. Therefore it is important that you locate your seed beds in the sunniest part of the garden to give them the best possible start. You can plant seeds in pots or in a seed bed which can then be replanted once they have grown enough to cope with the darker areas of the garden.
  • You may be able to grow seeds indoors with full spectrum grow lights if you don’t have a sunny windowsill, especially if you are starting growing early.  This can offer seedlings a good start in life so they are well developed by the time you move them outside.
  • In shadier parts of the garden, paint walls white or use mirrors to reflect the light that is available.
  • You can also use covers for individual plants that may struggle to keep warm during spring in the shady cold pockets. Watch the video for more tips on this.
  • Slugs are likely to appear more in shaded areas, so be sure to set beer traps, lay out copper, coffee grounds, sharp stones and any other techniques you can think of to keep them at bay!

These are just a few tips on growing fruit and vegetables in the shade and how to make the most of the garden you have.  The video below talks more about what can be planted in the shade and further tips on growing in shady conditions.  Feel free to comment with your own tips in the comments below.