Monthly Archives: August 2019

  • Grow at Home: Kale

    kale_grown_plants_rowKale is one of the easier to grow brassicas as it does not need full sun, tolerates cold weather quite well and is relatively free from pests and diseases.

    It is also highly nutritious and full of green goodness.  In times gone by it was used to feed cattle during the winter but now, cooked in the right way, it makes a delicious addition to your plate.  You can also eat the small leaves in a salad if you pick them when they are young and tender.

    Sowing Kale

    Indoor

    Sow seeds from March to May ½” (1cm) deep in 4"-5" (10-12cm) Pots in the greenhouse or on a windowsill.  When the seedlings appear prick out the weakest leaving only 1 strong plant per pot. Transplant the seedlings to their final positions from May onwards when they are about 3-6” (6-12cm) tall.

    Outdoor

    Or sow direct into the seedbed from April to August ½” (1cm) deep in rows 1'-2' (30cm-60cm) apart.

    Planting Out & Growing

    kale_close_UpWhen the plants are 6" (6-12cm) tall, and have 5 or 6 true leaves, plant them out placing the lower leaves at ground level.  Water well both before and after planting and mulch to retain moisture for best results.

    If you intend to eat fully grown kale, plant out in rows 2’ (60cm) apart.  But to eat earlier, when the leaves are younger and more tender, make the rows 1’ (30cm) apart.
    Cover with a Lantern Cloches or an Easy Poly Tunnel to protect them from weather and pests.

    Harvest

    Harvest the crop from November to April cutting the leaves off as you need them.  Sometimes they can grow again after they have been cut.

    Store in a cool place and they will last for about 10 days. Or blanch, cut up, place in a freezer bag and then put in the deep freezer.

    Eating

    Many people want to like Kale but find they just don't and this could be because they are not preparing it right.  So here are 3 top tips for making your Kale more lovable.

    • Remove the stems - the stems of kale are bitter, chewy and frankly not very nice.  So fold the leaves in half and slice out that stem before preparing.
    • Tenderise a little - the leaves are also tough so you need to massage them to break down some of those tough cell walls before you eat.  Just a couple of minutes of handling will make it far more palatable.
    • If you are using it for a salad rather than cooking then use an acidic dressing -including something like cider or balsamic vinegar.  This will help to break it down and soften it to make it nicer to eat.

    Pests

    Watch out for slugs when the plants are small and for caterpillars and aphid later on. Birds can also be a problem finding both the seedlings and the buds tasty.
    Prevention is always better than cure though.  So using cloches and tunnels to cover the plants is advisable.  Then it should be a small job to pinch off any pests that get through your defenses.

    Another good idea is to plant nasturtiums nearby as they attract white butterflies and keep them off your kale and other brassicas.

  • Grow at Home: Endive

    Endive

    endive_curly_2_plants

    Endive is a really great ingredient to be used for salads or as greens.  It comes in two types.  An upright Batavian or escarole with larger broad leaves. This type is very robust, crops in the winter and the outer leaves can be used as greens.  And the second type, is a curly or fringed frisee hence its alternative name of Curly Endive.  This has delicately serrated leaves and crops in the summer.

    Sowing

    Endive germinates best at 20-22°C (68-72°F) but can germinate at temperatures as low as 15°C (59°F). Plants tend to bolt if temperatures fall below 5C (41°F) for too long, but bolt-resistant cultivars are around so looks these out.

    For winter varieties. Sow in Rootrainers for best results from mid to late August, transplant and grow in the greenhouse or plant outside and use Bell Cloches from October- November.

    Sow from February to October for ‘cut and come again’ seedlings.  Warm the soil by covering with an Easy Poly Tunnel  for a month before you plant.  Then cover with an Easy Fleece Tunnel to keep out the chill.  Sow in broad drills or containers every three weeks.

    For summer varieties Sow thinly from April to August, 1cm (½in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart, thinning to 23-38cm (9-13in) apart.

    Growing

    Soils should be light, rich and free draining, It is all about getting the water right for Endive.  They don't like to be soggy so make sure they don't get waterlogged.  And dry soil can cause them to ‘bolt’ so try to keep the soil moist.

    If you like your endive bitter than pray for a hot summer as high temperatures encourage the  bitterness.  Water thoroughly before the onset of dry weather, mulch and keep weed free. Liquid feed fortnightly in summer with a general fertiliser.

    endive_3_in_bowlIn order to keep the texture at its best for eating blanch the at about 12 weeks after sowing. This will keep the plant white and tender.  Blanch a few at a time as they need to be eaten soon after blanching.  Make sure the leaves are dry  so that they don't rot and then choose whichever way you find easiest.  Some of the options are

    • tie the leaves loosely together with raffia or soft string.
    • Build up the soil round the plant leaving just the top exposed
    • cover with a bucket or a black plastic pot with the drainage holes covered

    This process takes about 10-14 days, but if its cold may take longer.

    ‘Cut and come again’ crops can be harvested after about five weeks – one or two cuts are possible before they bolt.

    Harvesting

    Cut off the head with a sharp knife when the head is mature and the leaves are creamy white.

    Harvest ‘cut and come again’ leaves with scissors.

    Pests & Diseases

    Slugs and snails: feed on the young seedlings so make sure you protect your plants with a Slug Buster.

    Aphids:  Greenfly love the soft shoot tips of plants and the leaves.  Pinch them off with finger and thumb or try to encourage their predators like lady birds into your garden by planting wildlife friendly plants.

     

  • Grow at Home: Melons

    melon_cut_in_twoMelons are popular with gardeners who have plenty of space to accommodate the spreading vines under glass.  A greenhouse or cold frame are needed in cooler climates but in warmer areas, a sheltered South facing spot may allow outdoor success for growing this delicious crop.  Of all the many varieties of Melon, Cantaloupe are reputed to be the sweetest, but do not tolerate cool temperatures well, and Honeydew Melons store particularly well.

    Where to grow

    Melons can grow outside in sheltered locations but will generally do better undercover.

    Clear an area with fertile, well drained soil that is not too rich a few weeks before sowing, and prepare a 'planting pit'.  Each pit should be 30cm square.  Place a good spadeful of well rotted manure in the base before backfilling.

    Water the pit well and then cover to warm the soil in readiness for planting.  A Giant Easy Poly Lantern would be perfect for the job.

    Sowing

    Sow seeds in early to mid Spring.  Plant in their final positions - either outside or under glass - when they have developed four leaves and all danger of frost has passed.

    Allow at least 1.5m between plants and plant with the pot soil just above the ground level as a precaution against stem rot.  Water the plants in, rather than firming them in.

    Aftercare

    'Stop' Melons at the fourth or fifth leaf to encourage the production of fruiting side shoots.  Keep the four strongest side shoots then remove the rest after 2-3 weeks.

    melon_on_ornamental_frame

    Ground growing plants should be trained into an 'X' shape or supported on a frame such as the Ornamental Square FrameAs fruits develop they may need supporting in a sling - old tights work well!

    If bees can't access your plants easily, pollinate by hand and with a soft brush.  Once the crop has set, pinch out the growing shoots and side growth.

    Regular feeding and watering are key to a good crop.  You may find thinning the fruits to concentrate on just one or two pampered melons is a good approach to avoid overloading the plant.

    Harvesting and Storage

    The fruits are mature when there is a characteristic melon scent and circular cracking appears near to the stalk.  Eat straightaway, preferable warm from the vine.

    Pests and Diseases

    For an exotic crop Melons are relatively free of pests and disease.  Powdery mildew and stem rot can be a problem if there is not sufficient ventilation.  so watch out for this.

     

     

  • Grow at Home : Radish

    This extremely fast growing vegetable is available in more varieties than many people realise.  Along with the familiar round red radish often used in salads, there are also varieties with pink, yellow or white roots.  There are few more attractive plants to see in the ornamental kitchen garden than a neat row of ruby red radishes peeping out from the soil!

    In fact, in ancient Greece, radishes were so highly regarded that gold replicas were made of them. The Greek name for the radish, Raphamus, means "quickly appearing," which perfectly describes their reputation for being the first vegetable to sprout in a spring garden.

    Where to grow

    Radishes will grow in most soils, but thrive in soil that is rich in organic matter and is moisture retentive.  Dig in plenty of garden compost before sowing if the ground has not been previously manured.

    Choose an open sunny site, although radishes can cope with dappled shade in the height of summer which makes them ideal for intercropping at this time.

    Radish Sowing

    Summer crops can be started by sowing outside under cloches in late winter and early spring.  Sow thinly 1 cm deep with 15cm between rows and thin as plants develop.

    Successional sowing is important to prevent a glut - small rows every 2 weeks will give you a good continuous supply.

    Aftercare

    Keep well watered and weed free - radishes are a very easy crop to care for!

    Harvesting and Storage

    Pick radishes before they get too old and woody.  Select the larger roots first and leave the rest of the crop to grow.  Late crops can be covered with straw to protect them from the cold or kept under a fleece cloche.

    Radish Pests and Diseases

    Radishes are related to cabbages and so prone to the same pests and diseases.  Flea Beetle and slugs are normally the main issue.

    On the plus side radishes are also good at deterring cucumber beetle so a great companion plant for cucumbers.

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