Monthly Archives: November 2019

  • Grow at Home: Chives

    Chives_flowers_on_plantsChives are a low maintenance perennial herb.  The botanical name, Allium schoenoprasum, derives from the Greek meaning reed-like leek - a very accurate description as they are a member of the onion family.  Their leaves therefore have a mild onion flavour and are great when chopped up finely and added to dishes.  They add that little extra to a potato salad and give scrambled eggs a boost. 

    They are a great addition to your diet as they are a rich source of vitamin K, C and folic acid and minerals such as manganese, magnesium and iron. As well as eating the leaves, they also have edible pink flowers that make an attractive garnish for salads.

    Sowing

    In early spring, sow a few seeds thinly across the surface a 3 inch or 4 inch pot or into plugs.  Cover with a thin layer of vermiculite, water and place in a heated propagator or warm windowsill to germinate.

    If you forget to sow seeds or want to save time, buy ready-grown plants.

    Growing

    Chives form 1ft (30cm) tall clumps.  They grow well in ground or in pots of soil-based compost  preferring a moisture retentive, well-drained soil.  Outside, plant them in a sunny or partially shaded position.

    Chives are very low maintenance.  Just keep them well watered, especially during long dry spells in summer.

    Lift plants every 3 years or so and divide them.  Simply cut with a sharp knife and replant the sections.  This will rejuvenate congested clumps in the ground or pots.  If they are in containers, either divide them or you could move them to a slightly larger pot.

    Chives die back in late autumn. Clear away any dead leaves to discourage pests.

    Harvesting

    Chives_chopped_and_cutYou have a win win situation with chives.  The more you cut the more they will produce. Simply snip the leaves with scissors close to the base of the plant.  To keep plants going, remove the flowers as they start to fade.  Don't forget to or use them for your salads.

    Chives are best used fresh.  If you want to store them then snip them up finely, pack into an ice-cube trays and add a little water and freeze.

    Pests & Diseases

    Aphids: Greenfly may be seen on the soft shoot tips of plants.  If you catch them early then you can just wash them off or pick them off with finger and thumb and squash them.

    Leek rust: This is a fungal disease causing bright yellow spots on the leaves.  You are more likely to see this when the weather has been wet.  Mild attacks of rust won’t harm the plant.  There is no control for rust once the plant has it.  so the best option is prevention.  Avoid crowding the plants, to keep humidity down.  Cut any badly affected leaves and don’t grow other members of the onion family: garlic, leeks or onions in the same spot for three years.

  • Grow at Home - Broad Bean

    Broad_bean_plant_in_flowerThe Broad Bean is the hardiest and earliest of all the beans to grow yourself.  Like many vegetables, shop bought versions don't do the tasty flavour justice.  They are well worth growing to enjoy fresh from the furry pod.  There many varieties to try including the Red Flowered which has stunning deep red flowers and a beautiful fragrance as well as delicious beans.

    Soil and Aspect

    Grow Broad Beans in heavy soils that are well manured and have good drainage - Manure should be incorporated and dug in during the Autumn.

    Choose an open sunny site, protected from strong winds, especially if growing over the winter.

    Broad Bean Sowing

    Overwintering varieties are sown in late Autumn.  Other varieties can be started off from late winter through to the end of the Spring.

    Sow in double rows in a shallow trench 20 cm wide and 4 cm deep with 20 cm between the seeds.  Alternatively Broad Beans can be started off in Rootrainers in the greenhouse early in the year for planting out in the Spring.

    Aftercare

    Broad_bean_pods_on_bushKeep weed free throughout the growing season - a Speedhoe will make short work of weeds between the rows.  If there is a dry spell, give plenty of water throughout the period until the pods start to swell.  Provide support for taller varieties with canes or an Ornamental Frame. When the first pods start to form, pinch out the top 8cm of growth - This will reduce the danger of black fly attack and aid pod formation.

    Harvesting and storage

    Pick the pods when they have become swollen. Do not allow the pods to become too mature because they will become leathery and tough.  Continuous harvesting extends the cropping season.  Broad Beans are best picked and used fresh.  Any surplus beans can be frozen or dried.

    Pest and Diseases

    The most serious problem for the broad bean is black fly - Removing the growing tips when the pods are starting to mature will help to deter this problem.

     

  • Air Pruning: Pippa Greenwood Expert Advice

    Air pruning is an amazing way to grow healthy plants that give bigger yields.  Learn all about it from expert horticulturist and BBC Broadcaster, Pippa Greenwood.

    Click on the picture below to increase the size or download the document here Air Pruning pdf.

    Air Pruning Page1 Air Pruning Page2

    For products that air prune see the following links

    Rootrainers

    Vigoroot 

    Read more about air pruning in these blogs

    The magic of Vigoroot

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

     

  • Grow at Home - Garlic

    Used in everything from stir fry to Shepherds Pie it is pretty rare to find a household that does not have garlic in their kitchen cupboard. But, despite it being relatively easy to grow, many gardeners do not include it in their planting.

    It is a hard working plant that does more than just give a delicious crop though.  Like most of the onion family, garlic is great for companion planting.  Plant between rows of vegetables especially carrots and its scent will deter pests.  This gives a natural boost to your garden's pest protection.  Also, garlic is pollinated by bees, butterflies, moths, and other insects too so great for encouraging wildlife onto your plot.

    Types of garlic

    There are two main sorts.

    Softneck

    Softneck (Allium sativum var. sativum) is the garlic which most supermarkets stock.  The bulb has a slightly hotter flavour than the Hardnecks, produces more smaller cloves and stores very well. Since the necks are soft, this is the sort you want if you have the time and energy create a garlic plait.  They also sprout relatively quickly so are satisfying to grow for the garlic novice.

    Hardneck

    Hardnecks (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon) are closer to wild garlic, with more complex flavours. These garlics have subtle flavour differences created from the soil and weather patterns in the region where you grow them. The advantage of Hardneck varieties for the cook is that their skins usually slip off easily.  They do not store as long as Softnecks though.  Cure and eat them within 3 to 10 months, depending on the variety.

    Garlic_bulbs_with_flowers

     

    There is some debate about hardiness with some believing that Softneck will grow only in the warmer parts of the UK so if in doubt in the coolest parts of the UK it might be a better to choose Hardneck.  Which you choose is up to you though as there is anecdotal evidence of both thriving in areas of the country where they should be struggling.

    There are many varieties of each sort to choose from depending on the flavour and bulb size you would like to produce.

     

    Planting

    When to Plant

    Garlic needs a long growing season.  The cloves can be planted in late Autumn or early Spring but you will get a bigger crop if you plant in Autumn.

    Garlic_plants_in_bed

    Whatever variety you choose, to grow well, it needs a cold period of at least two months. For Autumn sowing, it is therefore essential to sow from early-October to allow the roots to develop before the cold weather sets in. With this in mind Hardnecks should be planted at the beginning of October but Softnecks can wait until around Christmas time. 

    The  Hardnecks will be slower to show themselves so even with this planting timetable you may see the Softnecks appear first.

    Where to plant

    We recommend growing garlic in a rotation system with carrots, onions, leeks, and other root vegetables.  A classic rotation is tomato family, broccoli family, onion family including your garlic.  But as a companion plant we find it makes a great space filler between carrots, sweet peppers, spinach, lettuce and parsnips, roses and other flowers too.

    How to plantrows_of_garlic_growing

    Garlic is rarely planted from seed with the cloves used instead.  These are readily available from seed companies and garden centres but you can use pretty much any garlic cloves hanging around your kitchen ... just gently break apart the bulb and each clove will produce it's own plant

    It can be planted directly into the soil but if you suffer from pests such as birds ripping out your young plants then sowing into Rootrainers first may help your plants survive.  See our recent Overwintering Onions Blog for the full story.

    Plant in fertile, well-drained soil. A Raised Bed works very well. Remove stones from the top 6 inches of soil. Work several inches of compost or well-rotted manure into the bed, along with your fertiliser of choice.

    Planting
    1. Break up the bulbs no longer than 24 hours before you plant them.  Be careful not to bruise or damage them.
    2. Sow the individual cloves 10 cm below the surface, root down (pointy end up) around 4 inches apart to give the bulb room to grow.
    3. Hardneck garlic loves to flower.  Cut off the stem close to the base of the bulb once the flower stem starts to coil.  This will concentrate the plants' energy into the crop beneath increasing the size of the bulb.
    4. Once the leaves go yellow/brown stop watering the plants.  Harvest 2 to 3 weeks later (June onwards)
    5. Try to harvest when the weather is dry.  Loosen beneath it with a fork to prevent bruising the bulb then pull up like a weed.  Leave the plants on the surface of the soil to dry in the sun for a few hours.  Move to somewhere warm and dry, to cure for 3 weeks.
    6. Thoroughly dry the bulbs then store them in a cool, ventilated place away from sun.

    Eating Garlic

    Garlic is unbelievably good for you.  It can lower blood pressure, fat and cholesterol levels.  It can also combat bacterial, fungal and viral infections.

    There are lots of opportunities for the gardener growing their own garlic to plant a few extra and leave it to flower or to experiment with young garlic, picked before it has matured.

    As well as eating the bulb the leaves and flowers are also edible.  They have a milder flavor than the bulbs, and are most often consumed while immature and still tender. You may see "green garlic" in the shops.  This is immature plant that has been pulled rather like a scallion.
    When green garlic has grown past the "scallion" stage, but not fully matured, it may produce a garlic "round", a bulb not separated into cloves like a mature bulb. This imparts a garlic flavor and aroma in food, minus the spiciness of the mature bulb.

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