Author Archives: Vicky Standing

  • Grow at Home : Radishes

    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.

    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.

  • Grow at Home - Perfect Pumpkins

    Big_pumpkins_in_field_with_many_behind

    Pumpkins are a perfect crop to grow with children as they look impressive and can be put to use at Halloween as lanterns.  The flesh makes great soups and pies and there are many other than the huge orange varieties which are developed for great flavour rather than size.

    Where to grow

    Deep fertile soil that is rich in Humus. Before planting out dig a panting pit 45cm deep.  Fill the pit with well rotted manure or garden compost and back fill again.

    Plant or sow pumpkins in a sunny position and protect from strong winds

    Sowing

    Sowing can begin under glass in late spring at a temperature of 15-18c.  Soak the seed overnight to speed up germination.  Rootrainers will give them the perfect start.

    Plant out in the prepared space in early summer after all threat of frost has passed. Alternatively sow direct in early summer under an Easy Tunnel to aid germination.

    Keep a distance of 1.5m between rows or use one Medium Veg Planter per plant.

    Aftercare

    To keep the vigorous growth in check, train the stems around the plant pinning them to the ground with pegs or opt for a decorative frame to support the developing crop.

    Watering needs to to take place throughout the growing season and feeding every two weeks will support the rapid growth of the pumpkins.  Pinch out the trailing tips and once the fruits are mature stop watering and feeding completely.

    Harvesting and Storage

    The fruits will mature best on the plant.  Harvest the entire crop before the first frosts, leaving a stem of about 5 cm. Leave them in a sunny position for about a week for the skins to harden - they will then store well.

    Pumpkin Pests and diseases

    Slugs can be a problem, especially when the fruits start to grow - Slugbusters will help to protect the crop.

  • Grow at Home - Perfect Parsnips

    Parsnips_piled_in_basket

    Parsnips are a good vegetable for the inexperienced gardener as they require very little work and are easy to grow.  Parsnips taste great used in stir-fries, mashed with potato or carrot or as an accompaniment to a traditional roast.

    Where to grow parsnips

    Do not grow parsnips on freshly manured ground - a bed manured for a previous crop in the preceding season would be ideal. Ideally the soil needs to be stone free and dug over during the winter to produce the best quality parsnips and adding compost from your heap will help to improve the soil without it becoming over rich.

    Parsnips like an open sunny site, but will tolerate light shade.

    Sowing

    Sow in late winter to late spring in drills 1cm deep and space seed about 15cm apart.  Alternatively sow in rows and thin out at the seedling stage.  Rows should be spaced 30cm apart and protection with Easy Tunnels will aid germination, which can take up to three weeks.

    Intercropping between the rows is a good idea with rocket or radish working well.

    Aftercare

    Thin out the seedlings to 15cm apart and water the crop during dry periods - parsnips hate to dry out.  Regular weeding between rows with a Speedhoe will help avoid damaging the crowns of the developing plants.

    Harvesting and Storage

    Start harvesting them when the foliage begins to die down in mid Autumn.  The best tasting parsnips are lifted after the first frosts.  Lift them only when required - the remainder can be left in the ground through to late winter.

    A slight cautionary tale - parsnips are related tot he Giant Hogweed which means the leaves can cause severe skin irritation and blistering.  So if you have sensitive skin then consider wearing gloves when harvesting or weeding around the plants.

    Parsnip Pests and diseases

    Generally trouble free but Parsnip Canker can affect the crop, especially in acid or over manured soils. Carrot Fly can be a problem in some areas so as a precaution it would be sensible to try a Micromesh Pest & Wind Barrier

     

  • Grow at Home: Peas

    There is nothing quite like the taste of freshly picked peas especially in a home grown salad. The moment the peas is picked its natural sugars start to break down into starch, which affects the flavour. With careful planning and by using a range of varieties, peas can be harvested from late spring until late Autumn.

    Where to grow

    Grow peas in fertile moisture retentive soil. Dig to a good depth in the Autumn and incorporate plenty of well rotted manure or garden compost. Avoid areas that may become waterlogged – the plants will rot at the base if too wet.

    As with most crops, peas do best in a sunny open spot, but they will tolerate light shade.

    Sowing

    Varieties such as ‘Fetham First’, categorised as first earlies, are smooth skinned, while second earlies and main crop, such as ‘Onward’ and ‘Alderman’ have wrinkled skin. First earlies can be sown outside in mid to late Autumn and overwintered under cloches to protect against frost.

    Peas do really well when started in Rootrainers before being transplanted outside.  This gives them a super strong root system  which allows the plants to produce a bigger crop of delicious peas.

    Sow main crop varieties at regular intervals from early spring to mid Summer and will not need protection unless there is a period of prolonged frost.

    Sow double rows in flat bottomed trenches 23 cm wide and 5 cm deep with 50cm between trenches.

    Or for a 'no dig' solution use a planter specifically designed for peas - the Haxnicks Pea & Bean Planter. These planters are reinforced with rigid tubes and have 6 cane pockets to hold canes in place without disturbing the soil.  They are ideal for those without space in their garden who still want to grow their own veg..

    Aftercare

    Immediately after sowing protect the crop from birds by covering with wire netting or twiggy branches over canes or using the Haxnicks Birdscare.

    Provide support using pea sticks or netting when the crop reaches around 8cm high. For tall varieties place the supports on either side of the growing stems. Water regularly during dry spells especially when the plants are in flower. Mulching with garden compost will help with moisture retention.

    Harvesting and Storage

    Harvest when the pods are plump but not fully grown, picking from the bottom of the plant and working your way up. Keep picking to encourage production of more pods.

    If you are growing Mange Tout or Sugar Snap varieties pick on the early side to ensure the pods have not become tough.

    Peas are best eaten straight away, but will also freeze well in container or can be left to dry in their pods – wait until you can hear them rattle – and stored in an airtight container to use in stews or soups.

    Pest and diseases

    Peas are prone to a number of pests and diseases. Pigeons and small birds can devastate young crops – Micromesh netting is the best protection. Mildew can also be a problem. Pea and Bean weevil can cause stunting of plant growth.  The crop may come under attack from Pea Thrips too in hot sunny weather. Silvery patches are seen on the pods and leaves which will affect the yield.  Pea moth can also be a problem.  The adults lay their eggs when the peas are in flower – sow early or late to avoid the moth’s flying period.

  • Pests and Diseases : Red Spider Mite

    What are Red Spider Mites

    Red spider mite are so small (less than 1mm) they are almost invisible without a magnifying glass but they can wreak havoc in a greenhouse or on houseplants.

    Spider mites reproduce rapidly especially at in conditions with high temperature and low humidity.

    At 25°C, a freshly laid egg will hatch, grow into an adult mite and lay more eggs after only 10 days - At 30°C, it's  only 7 days!

    Females can produce up to 150 eggs in their life, laying around 10 eggs per day. These are 0.14mm in diameter and transparent at first. Eventually, they turn white to light yellow.

    What do they look like?

    Confusingly, for most of the year of the year they aren’t red in colour at all as their name suggests.

    They begin life as a greenish-yellow, and only turn red in the late summer/early autumn. The first you know of them may be what looks like sandy coloured ‘dust’ moving around the growing tips and undersides of new leaves.

    What do Red Spider Mite Do?

    Red spider mite suck sap from plants through foliage.

    They will attack almost anything in the greenhouse, in fact, very few plants are fully resistant to this mite. They will feast on fruit and vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, as well as flowering plants, like fuchsias, pelargoniums and orchids, and many more besides.

    How to prevent and treat Red Spider Mite

    • Keep a regular eye on all you plants to look out for the early signs. On leaves, you’ll see subtle marks and mottling, and, if you have your reading glasses on you may be able to see the mites themselves underneath the leaf
    • You may also spot white shedded ‘skin casts’, and sometimes tiny round eggs as well. In severe cases, you will see very fine webs near the top of the affected plants
    • It is important to be vigilant and look out for bleached, unhealthy looking leaves, often with yellow or brown speckles. If under continuous attack, leaves will dry up and fall off and the host plant can become severely weakened
    • Red Spider Mite like hot, dry conditions so keeping the greenhouse well ventilated will help to deter attacks
    • Damping down can help to keep the atmosphere humid – which the Spider mite hate. Spray water from a hose or can onto the greenhouse floor and under the staging to keep the air moist – the plants will enjoy it too!
    • Washing leaves with a mild soap solution can be very effective if done regularly
    • Encourage ladybirds and other predators into your garden – they will feast on mites and aphids in your greenhouse. Other biological controls include the predatory mite phytoseiulus persimilis Which can be introduced once temperatures in the greenhouse reach 21 degrees
    • Spider Mites can remain dormant once the temperature drops for up to a year so good hygiene and thorough washing of pots and equipment at the end of the season is a must
  • Grow at Home - Chilli Peppers

     

    We’ve enjoyed a bumper crop of chillies this year and have dried and stored the harvest to use in oils, sauces and recipes throughout the year. If you’ve never grown chillies then make this the year you do!

    When to Grow

    Sow from late January - this is one crop that really enjoys being given an early start and plenty of time to ripen before the end of summer.  Many varieties can be grown outside, but most benefit from protection and do best undercover, in the greenhouse or a windowsill at home.

    Sunbubble is a great alternative to a greenhouse for a little extra growing space under cover.

    If you're growing inside then early sowing is idea. If you plan to move plants outside eventually delay until March or April to ensure the temperature will have risen in time for transplanting.

    How to Grow

    Scatter seeds thinly across a tray of compost – Bamboo Seed trays are a robust and sustainable alternative to plastic – and cover them lightly with compost or vermiculite.

    Water well and place in a warm location such as a propagator or sunny window sill.

    Keep the soil moist and seedlings should be large enough to transplant after 2-3 weeks. Vigoroot planters are ideal to encourage healthy compact plants.

    If you're growing your plants outside, place them outside for a few hours at a time to harden off until you feel confident to leave them out overnight, avoiding frosts. Choose a sunny, sheltered spot with well drained soil and expect a smaller and later crop than any in a greenhouse.

    Water regularly for a bumper crop and once the first flowers appear a fortnightly feed with a general purpose fertiliser will keep the plant cropping well throughout the season.

    Encourage the fruit to set by gently spraying with tepid water and although chillies are self fertile, a gentle shake of the flowing stems to release the pollen can help them along.

    Harvesting

    Chillies can be ready to harvest from late July depending on the conditions. By early Autumn the fruits will have developed their rich colour, full flavour and heat if that’s what you’re going for.

    Snip the chillies from your plant and cut a little way up the stem to leave the green cap and a short length of stalk intact. Avoid any imperfect fruit, as any blemishes will quickly worsen in storage and may turn rotten, infecting healthy fruits too.

    Storing

    Dry thin-skinned chillies, like cayennes and jalapenos, to hang up in your kitchen and use as you need them through the winter. Any thicker-skinned types, like habaneros, are best frozen whole – chop them straight from the freezer to use in your cooking.

    Thread a large needle with strong cotton or fishing line, then poke the needle through the fattest part of the stem of each chilli. String them together side by side - If you angle the needle at 45 degrees to horizontal, the chillies will sit in a spiral, like a bunch of grapes – the traditional Mexican way of hanging them up, known as a ‘ristra’.

    Aim for a string of chillies about 60cm long - any longer forces the chillies together, making it difficult for them to dry. Hang your chillies somewhere warm and after a couple of weeks they will have dried completely. Then use them to pep up your cooking or to make flavoured oil – a great present for keen cooks.

     

    Try this delicious chilli recipe to add a kick to your winter veg!

     

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