Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’

10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

January 21st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

Harvesting more from your vegetable garden is a worthy ambition, but just what are the most effective ways to increase productivity? Healthy soil, careful planning, and defending your crops from pests, weeds and weather extremes is the answer, so let’s dig a little deeper.

Read on or watch the video for 10 proven ways to boost productivity in your vegetable garden this growing season.

1. Feed Your Soil

Deep, nutrient-rich soils encourage extensive root systems and strong plants, so nourish your soil with plenty of organic matter such as compost, manure, or leaf mould. Compost and leaf mould can be easily made at home for free, so compost everything you can and put a thriving composting setup at the heart of your garden.

The best time to add most organic matter is in winter, to give enough time for it to become incorporated into the ground before spring. Then, top up with more organic matter during the growing season, laying it 2-5cm (1-2 inches) thick around existing crops. This surface mulch will also help to slow moisture loss and suppress weeds, saving you time watering and weeding.

2. Feed Your Plants

Many plants will benefit from a further boost of organic fertiliser such as liquid seaweed concentrate.

Alternatively, grow a patch of comfrey – next to your compost bin is ideal – and make your own comfrey tea, a potent brew ideal for hungry plants like tomatoes. Cut leaves can also be laid around plants, or added to the compost heap where they will help to speed up decomposition.

 10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

3. Grow in Beds

Convert to a system of permanent beds and minimise wasted space while concentrating your resources. Beds may be accessed from all sides and plants can be grown in blocks which maximises productivity. And because you’ll add organic matter directly to the beds, there’s no wasting it on paths or other unproductive ground.

4. Choose Plants that Thrive

It may seem obvious, but growing what thrives in your soil and climate will result in stronger growth and bigger harvests. For example, warm climates are ideal for growing sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Or in cooler areas, opt for crops like chard and cabbage that can cope with the cold.

Choose varieties that have been bred to thrive in your climate. Early varieties are great for short growing seasons, while heat-tolerant varieties are a must for areas with scorching summer sun.

5. Grow More in the Shade

Increasing productivity means making the most of every space available to you – and that includes shadier areas. They’re great for leafy vegetables such as lettuce or Asian greens, slow growers including leeks and parsnip, plus hardy fruits like blackcurrants and gooseberries. You can use the Mr Fothergill’s Garden Planner to filter crop choices to show only those suitable for growing in the shade.

 10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

6. Collect More Rainwater

Rainwater is the best option for watering vegetables. Rainwater is softer, contains fewer contaminants and is at a pH that is preferred by most plants, encouraging better growth all round. So if you’re still using treated water to irrigate your crops, now’s the time to install additional water barrels and collect as much rainwater as you can. You can use a connector kit to join multiple barrels together.

 

7. Extend the Growing Season

Get familiar with your first and last frost dates, then plan to push your growing season further using plant protection. Cold frames, row covers and cloches enable sowing and planting to begin up to two weeks sooner, while harvests can continue a few weeks longer at the end of the season.

The Garden Planner demonstrates this beautifully. Add crop protection such as a cold frame to your plan. Then bring up the accompanying Plant List, which now displays earlier planting and later harvesting dates for the plants grown under protection.

A permanent structure such as a greenhouse opens up more possibilities, making it easy to enjoy an even earlier start to spring while affording just enough protection for winter-long cropping of, for example, hardy salads.

8. Space Plants Correctly

Be careful to leave enough space between plants – plant too close and your crops will fail to grow properly and be prone to disease, but plant too far apart and you won’t make the most of the space you have. The Garden Planner shows you exactly how many plants may be grown in the area available.

Excellent soil can help you to push the boundaries by growing vegetables a little closer than recommended. Square Foot Gardening takes this to the extreme, with plants spaced up to five times closer. Select the SFG option in the Garden Planner to design your own square foot beds. The planner shows you how many of the selected crop will fit into each square foot.

9. Pair Up Plants

10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

Some plants are mutually beneficial. Grown together they can help to increase overall productivity.

Companion planting takes many forms. For example, lofty corn can be used as a support for climbing beans, while lettuce grown in-between rows of carrot or onion helps to smother weeds while these slower growing crops establish. The Garden Planner takes care of companion planting too. Simply highlight a crop then select the Companion Planting option to display suitable partners in the selection bar.

10. Work to Prevent Pests

Take a preventative approach to pests to stop them in their tracks. For example, place barriers over susceptible plants to protect them from flying insect pests, or reduce a nuisance slug population by removing hiding places such as upturned pots or long grass in and around growing areas. Then every few weeks, head out when slugs are feeding in the evening to pick off and dispose of them by torchlight.

Make room for flowers in the vegetable garden too. Flowers like alyssum, calendula and poached egg plant don’t take up much space and will improve productivity by attracting predators such as hoverflies and ladybirds to control pests including aphids, mites and mealybugs.

Try some – preferably all – of these techniques for yourself and enjoy the boost in productivity you deserve! If you have any of your own tips and tricks for boosting yields in the vegetable garden, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

 

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…

pick-your-crop-regularly-to-keep-your-plant-producing

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.

 

 

Choosing the Right Layout for Your Vegetable Garden Design [video]

April 25th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Vegetable Garden Design - Nation of Gardeners SaladNew or old gardens can always be improved using dedicated vegetable beds that can help with productivity. A simple vegetable bed system will help you to plan, tend and harvest your crops with ease. This will leave you with a vegetable garden to be proud of. This post and the video below shares advice on vegetable garden design and how to make the most of the space that you have. 

  • Growing vegetables in allocated beds has many advantages. Narrow beds ensure growing areas can be tended from surrounding paths, this eliminates the needs to step on beds and crops. This creates a healthier soil for your plants, in turn providing you with plenty of crops.
  • Soil manures can be planted in specific areas when using beds preventing the need to spread manure across entire plots.
  • A bed system provides order for crops but also makes crop protection easier, as you only need to cover particular beds with their specific protection.
  • Using vegetable beds also provide an accessible garden by collating similar vegetables into the same bed making the gardening easier to manage.
  • Beds can be laid out in two ways, soil-level or raised.
    • Soil level beds are easy to work out, simply define bed edges with string and peg down. Then you can prepare the ground within the string.
    • Edging around beds to create raised beds offers a more permanent solution and a physical feature in your garden. Raised beds physically defines the vegetable beds and separates the various vegetables. Edging for beds does however cost more and more effort is required to build them and then fill them with compost and top soil.
  • You must try to make it possible for the centre of beds to be reached easily from the paths that surround them. Aim for a bed width of 3 – 4 feet or 90 – 120cm, this will give ample space for reaching to the centre of the bed.

These are just a few tips and tricks on vegetable garden design. Let us know if you have any further tips in the comments below.  You can also find the Mr Fothergills range of bed kits and covers here.

Vegetable Garden Design: Choosing the Right Layout for Your Garden

Vegetable Garden Design – Choosing the Right Layout for Your Garden

Top three vegetables for good looks

May 1st, 2015 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Perennial salvia and 'Bijou' lettuceI often bash on about growing ornamental vegetables with flowers to create  attractive borders that taste as good as they look. I even wrote a whole book about it, The All-In-One Garden. So I just thought I’d remind you of three veggies that really are worth growing because they look good as well as for their value in the kitchen.

Lettuce are high on the list, especially the red-leaved varieties such as ‘Bijou’ (left, with perennial salvia, click to enlarge) which although it has rather an upright way of growing is actually a cut-and-come-again type from which you pick one or two leaves at a time from each plant, leaving it to still look good in the garden as it produces more. You can buy ‘Bijou’ as seeds or ‘Bijou’ as young plants.

You can also pick leaves from ‘Red Salad Bowl’ over a long period as well as the frilly, but slightly less red, ‘Lollo Rossa’. If you prefer a heartier type try the red butterhead ‘Sioux’ and the red iceberg ‘Sangria’.

Chard is also up there as a colourful, good-looking vegetable that’s great 'Vulcan' chardin the kitchen. You can see from the picture (click to enlarge) that you can pick a few stems from ‘Vulcan’ rhubarb chard and the plant still looks good. With white alyssum around the base it’s lovely. The same applies to the white-stemmed ‘White Silver’, which is ideal with one of the red lettuce I mentioned or with pale blue lobelia.

The last in the top trio of ornamental veggies must be kale. The curly purple leaves of ‘Redbor’ make outstanding foliage plants to grow with annuals or perennials through summer – ‘Cutesey Mixed’ cosmos, perhaps, or Coreopsis ‘Early Sunrise’ – and stay in good condition into autumn and winter. The curly green-leaved ‘Starbor’ and ‘Reflex’ are unexpectedly attractive and white ‘Psyche’ cosmos or Salvia farinacea are good partners.

Nero di Toscana’ (‘Black Tuscany’) kale, with its long blackish wrinkled green leaves, also makes real impact as it matures and is especially good with blue phlox or variegated nasturtiums.

That’s just three veggies. Think too about red cabbage, purple Brussels sprouts, the crimson flowered broad bean and more. They look good, they taste good – you can’t ask for more than that. Oh, they’re easy to grow too.