Posts Tagged ‘vegetable garden’

Using Wood Ash in Your Vegetable Garden

December 5th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

If you’ve had a bonfire recently, or you like to warm yourself in front of the fireplace or wood burner, then you’ll probably have lots of ash. Getting rid of it can be a bit of a nuisance, but it’s also a valuable source of nutrients which makes it a great resource for the garden.

Read on or watch the video to find out when and where to use ash in your garden.

What’s in Wood Ash?

Wood ash is naturally high in potassium, which encourages flowering and fruiting. It also contains phosphorus as well as a catalogue of micronutrients including manganese, iron, zinc and calcium.

Younger wood, such as twiggy prunings, produces ash with a higher concentration of nutrients than older wood. Similarly, ashes from hardwood like oak, maple and beech contain more nutrients than ashes of softwoods.

Ash from lumpwood charcoal is also good, but avoid using the ash from coal or treated timber, which could harm your soil and plants.

Wood Ash in Compost

Wood ash is alkaline, so applying it to compost heaps helps to balance the tendency of compost to be more acidic. It also creates better conditions for composting worms, which will speed up decomposition.

Compost that’s less acidic is perfect for mulching around vegetables. Add wood ash little and often in thin layers – a few handfuls or one shovelful every 6in (15cm) of material is fine.

Wood Ash on Soil

Wood ash can play a useful role in correcting overly acidic soil. Most vegetables need a pH of 6.5 to 7.0, so if your soil’s below 6.5 sprinkle wood ash over the surface then rake or fork it in. Test your soil if you don’t know its pH.

Wood ash is especially useful if you use lots of cattle manure in your garden, as this type of manure is very acidic.

Wood ash is approximately half as effective as lime in neutralising acid. As a general rule, apply about 2 ounces of ash to every square yard (50-70g per square metre). Do this on a still day in winter, and wear gloves to protect your hands.

Wood Ash around Plantsmix-wood-ash-into-any-soil-used-to-grow-fruiting-vegetables

Use the alkalinity of wood ash to improve soil for brassicas such as cabbage and Brussels sprouts. This is a great way to prevent club root – a common disease when the soil’s too acidic.

Apply it the winter before planting, or as a side dressing around actively growing plants. Its high potash content means wood ash is ideal to use around most fruit bushes including currants and gooseberries, where it also helps wood to ripen, thereby improving hardiness, disease resistance and productivity. In fact, mix it into any soil used to grow fruiting vegetables, especially tomatoes.

Where Not to Use Ash

Due to its alkalinity, wood ash shouldn’t be used around acid-loving plants such as blueberries and, to a lesser extent, raspberries. Avoid it coming into contact with seedlings too, and don’t apply it to areas used to grow potatoes as alkaline soil encourages potato scab.

You’d need to add lots of wood ash to make your soil too alkaline for most crops, but for peace of mind retest your soil’s pH every couple of years to check it doesn’t go above 7.5.

How to Store Wood Ash

Because the nutrients wood ash contains are soluble, you’ll need to keep it out of the rain so they don’t wash out. Containers with close fitting lids are perfect for keeping ash dry until you’re ready to use it.

Wood ash can be a truly useful addition to the garden. If you have experience with using wood ash and have any handy tips or tricks, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

December Gardening Advice

December 3rd, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

start-planning-your-2019-garden-now-its-never-too-early-to-plan-ahead

The smell of pine, the taste of mulled wine, and the promise of a large gentleman in a red suit bearing gifts, means the festive season is once again upon us. Hard to think that we’re about to wave goodbye to another year. But what a year! The sun shined, the flowers bloomed and the crops flourished.

So, while we make merry with friends and family, it’s also the ideal time to find a quiet little nook, away from the usual television repeats, to reflect on this year in the garden and on the allotment. Think about your successes and failures, and how to improve things next year.

Browse through the seed catalogues, write your ‘wish lists’, and draw your blueprint for 2019. It’s never too early to plan ahead. Before you know it, the sun will be shining and the flowers blossoming.

In the flower garden

Plant up

Why not greet the festive season with an array of outdoor colour? Pansies, cyclamen and winter heathers can be bought in most nurseries, or ordered online. Plant up in containers, pots or hanging baskets, then place them around your front door and path to make a warm welcome for any guest or carol singer this season.

Prune

This is the time to prune wisteria. Cut back any growing side shoots to two or three buds, and tie-in. You might also need to improve the support structure of the plant for next spring. You should also prune and tie-in climbing roses. Any established stems shouldn’t be cutback to more than two thirds. Remove fallen leaves from site, as they could be harbouring blackspot, and that will only spread come spring.

Greenhouse

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 plants growing inside will need all the warmth and light they can get. However, a warm greenhouse does increase the risk of pests and diseases, so regularly check all plants, pots and trays.

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.

Wreath

You can also save the pennies by making your own festive wreath. A homemade wreath looks great on a front door, all you need is a little patience and imagination. With secateurs, scissors, wire and string as your tools, take a foamed floral-ring as your foundation and soak it in a bucket of water for a few minutes before plugging it with cuttings. There’s plenty of stunning foliage and plants to use at this time of year, including holly, mistletoe, ivy, rosehips and pine cones. Any leftover cuttings can decorate a mantle or make a table display.

Structure

Now’s a great time to make repairs or build new garden structures. Whether it’s fences panels, pergolas, sheds or trellises, with plants pruned or tied back, you can see clearly where to install new structures, or make good on damaged ones. Once you’ve completed the structure, treat it with a wood preservative or give it a coat of paint.

Think about how you want your garden to look next year, and make the changes now. Lift, divide, and re-plant perennials and hedging. Inspect any established hedging for damage or disease, and remove.

Add new structure by introducing bare-root roses and hedging. But remember, plant in well, and give roses a thick mulch to protect them from winter weather.

Indoor sowing

If there isn’t a heat supply in your greenhouse or polytunnel, a warm conservatory or a well-lit window ledge might be the solution. Using a seed tray, seed compost and horticulture grit, you may want to think about sowing cyclamen or geranium. Ensure the seed is sparingly spread. Cover over lightly with a thin layer of compost or vermiculite and place in a tray semi-filled with water. This allows the water to seep into the soil from the bottom up, without disturbing the seeds.

On the veg patch

Leeks, carrots and parsnips

If you’ve been growing leeks, carrots or parsnips and hoping to enjoy them alongside your turkey on the big day, try to harvest them when the ground is not frozen, ideally in the afternoon. Once lifted they can be heeled in gently, and left until Christmas morning, or when you’re ready to use them.

Brussels sprouts

By now, your brussels sprouts should be swelling up nicely. To keep the plants at their best, remove the yellowing lower leaves. As the top of the plant is now a lot heavier, ensure they are staked in well, otherwise they make suffer wind rock, which could harm or kill the plant.

Structure

With most crops now lifted, the exposed view will reveal the structure of your allotment or kitchen garden. If you’re thinking of adding plots, paths or borders, now’s the time to carry out these tasks.

Christmas potatoes

After months of growing and topping up the soil, the big day is nearly here, and so are your spuds. Whether they’re in grow bags or sacks, tip them out into an empty wheelbarrow, and search through the soil for your golden treasure. With all potatoes removed, the leftover soil can be tipped into veg beds, and worked in.

Beans

If you want a bumper harvest of beans next year, select your plot and dig a trench. Over a period of time, fill the area with festive kitchen food waste (not meat or dairy). Once filled, mark the area, and backfill with soil. This will rot down, providing a rich growing bed for your young legume plants next season.

Fruits trees

Gooseberries, raspberries and currants will make a welcome addition to your garden or veg plot. Before planting bare-root plants, soak the roots in a bucket of water for half an hour. Dig the hole, adding compost (and grit if the soil is heavy) and plant in well. Water and mulch. If you’ve planted large plants, or plants that will take on vigorous growth in the spring, consider adding a support structure to the growing area.

Blueberries are another great plant to grow. When planting, remember these will need to be grown in ericaceous soil (which is acidic), and only water with rainwater.

If you have a fig tree, then wrap it in horticultural fleece. The colder weather could potentially damage the end branches of the tree, and hamper next season’s growth.

For apple and pear trees, prune now whilst they are dormant, removing any dead, damaged or diseased branches.

Other Jobs

Christmas is not just about the tree – hyacinths, indoor cyclamen and poinsettias can all join the party. If you haven’t had the opportunity to grow them from bulbs, they can easily be bought from nurseries or online.

As the weather becomes bitter, move indoor plants from draughty and open door areas. Keep away from radiators and sun spots. Check foliage regularly for mildew, yellowing or disease.

Continue to look after the garden wildlife. Ensure there is a fresh water supply for birds, and break up frozen water. Keep bird feeders and tables topped up.

Install a compost bin in your garden or allotment, or remember to turn over the contents of any established bins.

Seeds Tested Whatever the Weather

August 9th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

As all gardeners know, 2018 has been a challenging year weather-wise and Mr Fothergill’s, the UK leading seed company, can confirm it from their Suffolk weather station data!

In the February to August period the range of temperature was 41C, between -7.2c and +33.8C.
After a particularly cold and wet winter, where temperatures were at freezing from early October and still very cold well into May, the weather changed dramatically. The great drought then arrived in the main growing period with 54 days of no rain – only 21 mm coming on the day the heatwave broke on Friday 27th July when the temperature also peaked at 33.8C.

In June and July 2018 Mr Fothergill’s experienced 33 days where the temperature was over 24C. In June and July 2017 there were only 6 days including the annual high of 27C!

From January to the end of July 2018 Mr Fothergill’s received 230mm of rain which is actually more than the same period in 2017. The difference was distribution with most of that rain coming in the first three months of the year and little since while it was more evenly spread over the six month is 2017.

Despite the vagaries of the UK weather, the seed trials were doing their job at Mr Fothergill’s and looked superb. In this way the company are testing all their varieties in real life conditions to ensure everything is fit for purpose for the home gardener.

Rachel Cole, Seeds Manager at Mr Fothergill’s said: “The weather is different every year and that’s why our trial grounds are so important to us. We can be sure of the quality of everything we sell and absolutely certain things will perform in UK conditions, however varied. Our weather station has proved invaluable in allowing us to track performance against conditions.”

The Big Bug Hunt: How to Prevent Common Garden Pests Damaging Your Crops [video]

June 27th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Prevent Common Garden PestsPests are an inevitable garden presence, they’re frustrating but it’s important to not get too irritated. It’s just another gardening challenge to overcome. This post looks into how to prevent common garden pests.

  • Slugs and snails are the bane of many gardens, they demolish leaves.
  • Prevent them by putting up barriers. Copper rings around the base of plants will deter them from nibbling at leaves by giving them a small electric shock.
  • Eggshells are also a great way to prevent slugs and snails from attacking your leaves.
  • Beer traps are another effective method, slugs will be attracted to the yeasty scent and will drown attempting to get to the scent.
  • Installing a pond in your garden can attract frogs; they are great at eating pests in the garden and steering them clear of your plants.
  • Cabbage white butterflies (cabbage worms) carry an appetite for the cabbage family.
  • Stop them laying eggs by laying butterfly netting over your plants. This can be draped over a simple wooden frame. Ensure it’s well secured.
  • Planting decoy plants at the end of a row can protect your important plants from the cabbage butterflies.
  • Aphids can attack your vegetables.
  • Spray colonies of aphids with soapy water, this offers some control.
  • Many bugs feast on these like ladybugs and hover flies. You’ll need to attract beneficial bugs, which can be done with particular plants and bug hotels.

These are just a few tips and tricks that you can put into practice, keeping your garden pest free. The video below discusses further advice and introduces the Big Bug Hunt. Find out more on the Big Bug Hunt site. If you have any pest prevention techniques you would like to share, please let us know in the comments below. 

The Big Bug Hunt: How to Prevent Common Garden Pests Damaging Your Crops

Succession Planting: How to Harvest More From Your Vegetable Garden [video]

June 25th, 2017 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Succession Planting - Nation of Gardeners SaladSuccession planting allows you to make the most of your garden, by enjoying multiple harvests from a single patch of ground in any growing season. It takes careful planning and this post will guide you through the process of succession planting.

  • Succession cropping is the sowing/planting of one crop, immediately following an early crop has finished. This particular method of growing increases productivity.
  • Succession planting maintains soil cover from the constant sowing of crops, provides less opportunity for weeds to appear.
  • Many vegetables need only half the growing season to reach harvest. This leaves plenty of fine weather to start a new crop.
  • Vegetables that may finish early enough for a succession crop are; french beans, salads, early potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic and beetroot.
  • After clearing the first crop, clean the ground of any weeds and use a rake to break any clumps.
  • As your previous crop should have been covered with organic matter, your second crop shouldn’t require anymore. But if it does, add compost before sowing or planting.
  • Aim to have your young plants and seeds for second crop in immediately following the removal of first crop seeds.
  • Some crops may be need to be planted from young plants if the growing season in your area is relatively short. You can find our range of vegetable plants here.
  • If you feel the ground is too warm and dry before sowing, you can water the seed drills before sowing. This will cool the ground.

These are just a few tips and tricks on succession planting, the video below offers further detail and a list of plants that are suitable for this method of planting. If you have any tips yourself, do let us know in the comments below or on our social media. 

Succession Planting: How to Harvest More From Your Vegetable Garden