Monthly Archives: November 2018

  • Exploring the rhizosphere: how to grow trouble free onion sets...

    Rootrainers are what I've chosen for years to grow overwintering onion sets, garlic and spring planted onion sets. Onion sets (small immature onions) allow me to have onions all year round. But, originally manufactured to grow tree seedlings, why would I use Rootrainers for onion sets?

    Growing Onions using Haxnicks Rootrainers
    Growing onions from seeds can be a hit and miss affair, with weather, birds and the like all affecting the young seedlings’ growth outdoors, particularly those seedlings that have to overwinter. I am not after prize winning onions anyway or even huge onions so don't need to use onion seeds. I prefer sets. However, whenever I planted sets direct into the soil outdoors, within a few days, I would find many of the sets had been pulled up from where I had planted them and scattered all over the soil. Who or what was responsible?

    Some detective work - root zones and rhizospheres...

    The root zone is the name for the region of the soil around plant roots as they grow.  The roots produce secretions that help and protect them as they force their way downwards through the soil. The immediate area around the root is called the rhizosphere. There will be many rhizospheres within the root zone of a plant.

    The rhizosphere is the most dynamic environment in the soil, or a microbe ‘hot spot’, the fast food areas of the soil! The roots are also continually shedding old tissue and sloughed-off plant cells. The root secretions and dead plant cells are a feast for microbes living in the soil. In return the soil microbes provide nutrients for the plants, which encourage plant growth. More plant growth means more roots. A win-win situation! Hence soil microbes themselves congregate around the roots. Microbes in turn are a beacon for earthworms, who sense the root secretions and microbes in the soil and target such ‘hot spots’ to feast upon them!

    The Culprit!

    In my garden its the blackbird.  Blackbirds deliberately pull up the onion sets to seek out earthworms and other such tasty morsels, living and feeding in the root zone underneath the onion set.

    By planting onion sets in Rootrainers, the roots will grow in and around the compost, binding it together.  Then when planting them outdoors, unless the blackbird has fed on at least 3 Weetabix (!) that morning, it will not have the energy or strength to pull out the onion set with its well rooted fibrous compost ball, which is a lot heavier than an onion set on its own. Result:  no more scattered onion sets!

    Due to their size onion sets are great for children and school projects too.  Handling them is easy.  Planting requires less skill as sets are easier to handle than seeds.  Together, sets and rootrainers make the exercise easy and interesting for children to do for themselves. One major advantage for schools is that the children can grow AND harvest them all within the school year.

     

  • The Potty Gardener and Manure in the Garden

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    I have been busy helping Grandpa Haxnicks to dig manure into his vegetable plot and learning some of the ins and outs of using various types of animal excrement in the garden. What comes out of the animal and goes into the soil is so much more than a pile of poo. All creatures great and small can provide free plop for your plot that will vastly improve soil texture, boost nutrient levels and give you bigger, better and healthier crops.

    Poultry Manure for the Garden

    Chicken droppings

    If you happen to keep chickens, then as well as eggs you have a readily available source of useful fertiliser. Fresh chicken poo has high levels of ammonia so should be dug into vegetable plots at least 4 months before planting. Or you can add it to a compost heap and let it rot down before using it. It makes particularly good top dressing for blackcurrants and plum trees.  It tends to be quite alkaline so not so suitable for acid loving plants such as blueberries, or camellias.

    Horse Manure and its nourishing factors

    Cow Poo

    Cow poo is great for improving soil structure. Again, it should be left to rot down in a compost heap or dug in a few months before planting. Autumn is the perfect time for digging it in, particularly if you want to use it in areas where you might be planning to grow root vegetables in the spring. If you try to grow root vegetables in freshly manured soil the results can be a little alarming. Carrots will grow into multi-limbed aliens, beetroot will go barmy and potatoes go scabby. A great plus point for cow poo is that it has been well digested, passing through multiple stomachs a process that kills off any weed seeds.

    Horse manure

    Weed seeds are something to watch out for with horse manure. So be sure that it is well aged to give time for any seeds to compost. Another benefit of horse poo is that it is considerably less stinky than chicken or cow. But if you want a completely non-stinky manure then worm poo is your best bet. Obviously, it is going to take a biblical proportion of worms to create the equivalent of a few cow pats.  However, I am told that you can make worm poo tea out of worm casts from a wormery.  You can then feed it to your potted plants!

  • Spinach ready for eating?

    If your spinach is ready then here is a lovely recipe for you.  With a few tweaks it would also work with swiss chard if you have that ready at the moment.

    Spinach is a great vegetable, but you do need to have a lot of it to make an impression!
    Of course children generally don’t like it, so I would serve this perhaps as a light lunch for adults, and do a quiche Lorraine which has no spinach and plenty of cheese and bacon for the kiddies. Everlasting spinach has got to be the chosen one to plant as it lasts and lasts.

    Spinach Quiche

    Preparation: 40 minutes Cooking time: 25 – 30 minutes Serves: 5 – 6

    Ingredients:

    6oz (150g) plain flourCooked_Spinach_quiche_on_board

    3oz (75g) butter

    A small amount of cold water

    10 oz (280g) coarsely chopped spinach

    5 medium spring onions

    4 eggs

    2 floz (50ml) cream or crème fresh

    1 tsp nutmeg

    2 tsp chopped parsley

    4oz (100g) cream cheese

    4oz (100g) cheddar cheese

    Salt and pepper

     Directions:

    1. Put the flour and butter in a large mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour to make a fine breadcrumb texture. Add enough cold water very carefully to make a firm dough. If you put too much water in add a little more flour.
    2. Roll it out and place in a cold flan tin then put in freezer.
    3. Turn the oven on to 180°/ 350°/ Gas mark 4.
    4. Put all the spinach into a pan with 1/2 cm (1/4”) of water then cook fast for 1 minute.  This will shrink it so that it can fit into your flan tin. Let it cool. Chop the spring onions fairly thinly.
    5. Put the eggs into a large mixing bowl with the salt pepper and nutmeg then mix well.
    6. Add the spinach, spring onions, cream, cream cheese, cheddar and chopped parsley into the bowl then mix well.
    7. Take the tin out of the freezer and fork lots of little holes into the bottom of the pastry.
    8. Place the flan tin in the oven for 10 minutes, until light brown. This is called ‘baking blind’. The reason for baking blind is so that you get a good firm base to the quiche.
    9. Take the tin out of the oven and pour in all of the filling mixture.
    10. Put it back into the oven for another 15 minutes.
    11. You can eat this cold or hot, for lunch or supper it is delicious.

    For a printable PDF click here Spinach_Quiche

     

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