Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Comfrey best!

- Russian comfrey (Symphytum uplandicum)

Square inch gardening with Charles Dowding.

- Square inch gardening with Charles Dowding | Sarah Raven:
Charles Dowding achieves this high level of productivity by choosing varieties that can be cropped, not just once (as with brassicas such as cabbages and cauliflowers and roots such as parsnips and celeriac), but more like 10 or 20 times.
Their roots can be left in the ground to produce a long, light, drip-drip of delicious harvest.

His number-one recommendation – for a plot of any size – are pea sprouts.
Charles recommends growing the pea tips as a separate crop to allow a substantial harvest once a week.
He uses any quick-growing, vigorous, tall variety such as Pea 'Alderman’ or any mangetout or sugar-snap pea forms.
These produce tips quickly, or you could sow the special pea tip variety Pea 'Serge’.
Three seeds are sown into one medium-sized module or small pot – into any old potting compost – and left on a bed in the greenhouse for two weeks.
Once they’re up about an inch/2.54cm, Charles plants them 8-10in/25cm apart in the garden.
They are left to grow on for about three weeks until they reach a foot/30cm and are well established, and then the top one or two inches/2.5-5cm of every tip is harvested from the clump.
After the first pick, he advises leaving them for two weeks to stabilise.
Shoots then break from the base and the leaf axils like sweet peas, and you can start to crop once a week.
Charles says you don’t have to have a garden to grow pea tips, but can plant them in a deep pot, spacing them slightly closer and they’ll still produce well.
You’ll get six to eight weeks of weekly pickings from one sowing.
Resow every six to eight weeks to ensure a regular harvest, rather than feast or famine.

Charles also grows beetroot and spring onions in much the same way, packing lots of plants very efficiently into a small space.
He sows three to five seeds in a clump (straight into the ground or into their own individual module).
His favourite spring onion for sowing now is Spring Onion 'White Lisbon’, the fat-bottomed, bulging form.
His favourite purple beetroot for now is Beetroot 'Boltardy’, which has excellent flavour and is much less likely to bolt if we suddenly get some cold nights than most beetroot forms.
He also loves the golden varieties, such as Beetroot 'Burpees Golden’ and the stripy pink and white Beetroot 'Chioggia’, now often named 'Candystripe’.
Both the beetroot and spring onion clumps are planted about 12in/30cm apart.
The key to their long, steady production is the method of harvest.
Rather than hoicking out the bunch altogether, Charles carefully twists one plant out from the rest, the first at the size of a golf ball, leaving the others to grow on.
You don’t need to thin as you have given the remaining plants more space and can go back and take the next in a couple of weeks, then the next later and so on.
This gives you beetroot right through the summer and autumn, when you can dig up the odd plant, pot it up, bring it under cover and harvest its light cropping of delicious beetroot leaves until the following spring.

The second early potato 'Charlotte’ - tasty, very heavy-cropping and reliable.
It stores well, too.
They do not bother to chit 'Charlotte’ but plant them straight into the ground at 15 - 18in/45cm spacings (two rows in a 4ft/500cm bed) in a raised bed with plenty of compost added.
Charles earths them up with friable compost (Friable soil is soil that has the crumbly texture ideal for the underground activity that is the foundation of success with most plants), six weeks after planting.
Then he can easily harvest the top tubers by just rummaging around with his hands, with no spade or strenuous digging needed.
He lifts them in early August, when the haulms are just beginning to yellow but with luck before blight strikes.

'Sweet Genovese’ basil, the citrusy lemon basils and one of the spicier, cinnamon forms.
The basil is all sown in the greenhouse – or on a sunny window ledge – one seed to a module full of freely drained compost, such as John Innes No 1.
They are then planted in a sunny spot, or in a polytunnel and kept well-watered, always watering the soil and keeping the leaves as dry as possible.
They need a good squirt of water every day.
Flat-leafed parsley, 'Giant of Napoli’ is better for cooler areas.
Sow this in the same way, but plant it outside anywhere — in sun or part shade.

Lettuces: For a bright green, crinkly leafed, repeat cropping form he loves 'Fristina’ and then two reds with different leaf shapes, 'Rosemore’, a red cos, and 'Rubane’, with frilly edges.
He also loves the cos lettuce 'Freckles’ for its long, slow cropping pattern and elegant crimson splodged leaves.
These four will all give you a few leaves harvestable from every plant every week from about a month after sowing for an eight to 10-week season.
The lettuces are all individually sown into their own cells in the greenhouse or in a cosy corner outside for planting out within a month, 9in/22cm apart.
How they are harvested is crucial to how much you’ll get from your row.
Charles never cuts the whole plant to within an inch or two of the ground — as is traditional with these Continental loose leaf forms — but picks only a few leaves from the outside of every plant.
He can then go back and do the same only a few days later.

Take Charles’s advice and get sowing.
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Saturday, 22 April 2017

This Weekend…

Radish seed can be sown outdoors into finely crumbed soil.
Only takes 4 weeks to harvest or they get woody

Start half hardy herbs like Basil in pots on windowsill, by the time it’s germinated you can move it outside.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Living willow.

Living willow/RHS Gardening:
How to plant
Make holes first with an old screwdriver or similar, then push the rods or whips (willow stems) 30cm (12in) or more into the ground
Consider including four rods woven loosely together every 2m (6½ft) for solidity
Plant half the rods at an angle of 45° at a distance of about 25cm (10in) apart
Plant the remaining rods at a similar angle in between the first rods but in the opposite direction
The stems may naturally graft together where the stems cross together. Encourage this by tying joins together with string or thin pieces of willow
Shoots will sprout from the rods inserted into the ground. If cut back these new stems should help thicken the structure; useful if thin, one-year-old shoots were originally used to construct your feature
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Monday, 17 April 2017

Puntarelle: The Italian Chicory.

- Puntarelle: The Italian Chicory You Definitely Want to Try:

- Puntarelle – recipes and how to grow » Carl Legge:

Ideal temperature is around 15°C, Blumen say they will grow down to 5°C. We found they didn’t really like temperatures below freezing as the shoots were damaged.
These are an autumn/winter crop so I see no reason to sow them earlier in the year as there should be plenty of other good veg available.

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Myrrhis odorata (Sweet Cicely)

Myrrhis odorata (Sweet Cicely):
A wonderful spring and early summer herb for planting with tulips and harvesting – the flowers, young leaves and seedpods – to add aniseedy flavours to salads.
It also makes a delicious herb tea.
Leaves can be picked in late winter and again in late summer.
Dig up roots for drying in the autumn when the plant has died down.
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Saturday, 15 April 2017

I planted seeds in the allotment.

Lemongrass - Seeds should germinate in 5 to 21 days.
Marketmore cucumbers - are the only outdoor variety of cucumber which does does not need support.
For this reason they are far more popular and easily found compared to other outdoor varieties.
The cucumbers are best picked when about 20cm.
RHS Award of Garden Merit winner.

Red kuri squash - (Onion Squash - Climbing) -
Harvesting - August - October, 4 months from sowing. Harvest when the skin is hard, leaving out in the sun for 10 days to ripen further.

Three Sisters: Corn, Beans and Squash.

Celebrate the Three Sisters: Corn, Beans and Squash | Renee's Garden Seeds:
Corn provides a natural pole for bean vines to climb.
Beans fix nitrogen on their roots, improving the overall fertility of the plot by providing nitrogen to the following years corn.
Bean vines also help stabilize the corn plants, making them less vulnerable to blowing over in the wind.
Shallow-rooted squash vines become a living mulch, shading emerging weeds and preventing soil moisture from evaporating, thereby improving the overall crops chances of survival in dry years.
Spiny squash plants also help discourage predators from approaching the corn and beans.
The large amount of crop residue from this planting combination can be incorporated back into the soil at the end of the season, to build up the organic matter and improve its structure.

Corn, beans and squash also complement each other nutritionally.
Corn provides carbohydrates, the dried beans are rich in protein, balancing the lack of necessary amino acids found in corn.
Finally, squash yields both vitamins from the fruit and healthful, delicious oil from the seeds.

Instructions for Planting Your Own Three Sisters Garden in a 10 x 10 square
When to plant: Sow seeds any time after spring night temperatures are in the 50F/10C degree range, up through June.
What to plant: Corn must be planted in several rows rather than one long row to ensure adequate pollination.
Choose pole beans or runner beans and a squash or pumpkin variety with trailing vines, rather than a compact bush.
At Renee's Garden, we have created our Three Sisters Garden Bonus Pack, which contains three inner packets of multi-colored Indian Corn, Rattlesnake Beans to twine up the corn stalks and Sugar Pie Pumpkins to cover the ground.

Note: A 10 x 10 foot (3mx3m) square of space for your Three Sisters garden is the minimum area needed to ensure good corn pollination.
If you have a small garden, you can plant fewer mounds, but be aware that you may not get good full corn ears as a result.

How to plant: Please refer to the diagrams below and to individual seed packets for additional growing information.

Choose a site in full sun (minimum 6-8 hours/day of direct sunlight throughout the growing season).
Amend the soil with plenty of compost or aged manure, since corn is a heavy feeder and the nitrogen from your beans will not be available to the corn during the first year. With string, mark off three ten-foot rows, five feet apart.

In each row, make your corn/bean mounds.
The center of each mound should be 5 feet apart from the center of the next.
Each mound should be 18 across with flattened tops.
The mounds should be staggered in adjacent rows.
See Diagram #1
Note: The Iroquois and others planted the three sisters in raised mounds about 4 inches high, in order to improve drainage and soil warmth; to help conserve water, you can make a small crater at the top of your mounds so the water doesn’t drain off the plants quickly.
Raised mounds were not built in dry, sandy areas where soil moisture conservation was a priority, for example in parts of the southwest.
There, the three sisters were planted in beds with soil raised around the edges, so that water would collect in the beds (See reference 2 below for more information).
In other words, adjust the design of your bed according to your climate and soil type.

Plant 4 corn seeds in each mound in a 6 in square. See Diagram #2

When the corn is 4 inches/10cm tall, its time to plant the beans and squash.
First, weed the entire patch.
Then plant 4 bean seeds in each corn mound.
They should be 3 in apart from the corn plants, completing the square as shown in Diagram #3.

Build your squash mounds in each row between each corn/bean mound.
Make them the same size as the corn/bean mounds.
Plant 3 squash seeds, 4 in. apart in a triangle in the middle of each mound as shown in Diagram #4.

When the squash seedlings emerge, thin them to 2 plants per mound.
You may have to weed the area several times until the squash take over and shade new weeds.


TIPS FOR GROWING THE THREE SISTERS
To try them in your garden, in spring, prepare the soil by adding fish scraps or wood ash to increase fertility, if desired.
Make a mound of soil about a foot high and four feet wide.
When the danger of frost has passed, plant the corn in the mound. Sow six kernels of corn an inch deep and about ten inches apart in a circle of about 2 feet in diameter.
When the corn is about 5 inches tall, plant four bean seeds, evenly spaced, around each stalk.
About a week later, plant six squash seeds, evenly spaced, around the perimeter of the mound.
OR:
Plant the cucumber seeds seven to 14 days after planting the corn seeds.
Mound up 4-inch tall and wide piles of soil, spacing each mound 36 inches apart, along the eastern side of each row of corn.
Space the mounds 12 inches away from the corn rows.
Pat the top of each soil mound to flatten it.
Place four cucumber seeds in the depression.
Watch for cucumber seedlings to germinate seven to 10 days after planting.
Thin the cucumber plants a week after germinating.
Pull up one or two of the weakest seedlings, leaving two or three plants per hill.

OR:
Three sisters planting | Life and style | The Guardian:

My 'two sisters' planting.
The sweetcorn and squash are rubbing along together marvellously, squash swelling and cobs very close to harvest, all happy and healthy with barely a weed in sight.
When the squash vines get too long, I just hook them back over the entire bed and they hang from the limbs of the sweetcorn, squashes dangling just above the ground, so avoiding any rotten patches.
One of those neat, perfect little solutions after all.
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Friday, 14 April 2017

Pumpkin.

Lots of people of course will have already sown their squares and pumpkins but I think that setting the date at 12th April means that probably the whole of the UK is safe to sow their squash seeds, albeit indoors on a sunny windowsill or under frost free glass, knowing that they will be ready to plant out in early June when late frosts although possible are not really that likely.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

April in the allotment.

April in the garden | Sarah Raven:
Veg
Try direct sowing some new salad leaves, carrots, peas, beetroot, spinach and chard.
Sow some quick growing half-hardy annuals, like pumpkins, squash, sweetcorn, basil and French beans.
Plant Maincrop potatoes.
Plant tomatoes and cucumbers (under cover).
Keep on top of thinning seedlings.
Rotavate the vegetable garden.
Get ready for a mass sowing of hardy annual veg, such as spinach, carrots, beetroot, lettuce and radish.
On heavy soil, integrate plenty of grit and organic matter. On freely drained soil, only muck and/or compost need to go in.
Plant out onions, shallots and garlic.
Pot on tomatoes. It’s tempting to move tomatoes from a module or seed tray straight into their final, large planting pot, but this slows growth. Tomatoes like to feel contained and cosy; their roots can’t cope with a large volume of compost and tend to rot. Pot them only one size up and add a cane at their side to support them as they grow.
Plant asparagus crowns.

Salad and herbs
If you want to get going with some salad, sow now undercover or in gutters in your greenhouse or conservatory.
Eg corn salad, rainbow chard, mizuna, rocket, winter purslane, mustard and plenty of lettuces.
Direct sow chervil, chives and coriander or sow dill, fennel and French sorrel under cover.

Fruit
All soft fruits, eg strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, and gooseberries, will benefit from a mulch. Garden compost, leaf mould, organic manure, straw, hay and spent mushroom compost can all be used.

Direct sow a pack of zinnias.
Sow a wild flower meadow to encourage pollinators.

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Sunday, 9 April 2017

How To Make A Teepee Trellis For Veggies.

Teepee Plant Support – How To Make A Teepee Trellis For Veggies:
A teepee plant support should be 6-8 feet/2m tall (although, a short 4-footer will work for some plants) and can be constructed out of branch creating anywhere from five to 10 poles.
Water loving trees that grow near ponds, swamps, or rivers tend to have great flexibility.
Take your three to 10 supports and tie them together at the top, spacing the bottoms of the supports at ground level and pushing them in a good couple of inches.
You can tie the poles with garden twine or something sturdier such as copper wire, again depending upon how permanent the structure will be and how heavy the vine is likely to get.
You can cover the copper or iron wire with a rope of grapevines or willow to camouflage it.
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Saturday, 8 April 2017

Sow seed under cloches outside.

Cucumbers.
(Except: - The best time to do this is in the second week of April 2017.)
...added plenty of well-rotted manure.
The cucumber seedling shown above is exactly two weeks after sowing.
- ridge cucumber - from Lidl.
Vert Petit de Paris.
Sowing period April - May. Harvest July - August. Germination 6 - 15 days.
- Cucumber Restina seeds, F1 hybrid ( Cucumis sativus).
Harvest July - August. Germination 6 - 15 days.
Most robust and earliest outdoor cucumber.
- Gherkins Hokus
For outdoors crops.
Has good resistance to Cucumber Mosaic Virus.
Green gherkin to 10cm, hardy plant with long fruiting period, mosaic resistant.
Sow March to June.
Harvest July to October.
Best grown in fertile soil or growing bags.