cabbage

  • Grow at Home: nutritious Microgreens

    What are Microgreens?

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    Microgreens are tiny, edible, immature veg plants.  They are ready - from seed to plate - in just a few weeks so are satisfyingly quick to grow.  They need very little space or equipment so are great for beginners or urban gardeners.  You can eat both the leaves and stems and harvest them simply with scissors or snips as and when you need them.

    As an extra plus side they are packed with a higher percentage of nutrients than their more mature versions.  Do not confuse them with sprouts which are generally grown in a jar and are germinated seeds that are eaten root, seed and shoot.

    So if you are looking for freshness and want to to make your home cooking a little more "fine dining"  without breaking the bank then try microgreens.  They can be used in many dishes and will add flavour, colour and texture to even a simple sandwich.

    Which seeds to choose?

    Most of the veg you would normally grow in the garden such as beetroot, broccoli, chard, cauliflower, cabbage, salad greens, herbs etc can be grown as microgreens.

    You can buy specific microgreen seeds which are sold in most garden centres.  This is a good place for beginners to start as they are specifically designed for easy, successful growing and often contain a colour coordinated mix which will look good too.   If you have seeds that weren't sown last year though - or know someone who does -  it is worth giving these a go as microgreens too.

    Microgreens are usually grown inside.  They can be grown outside in warmer months too though.  As you will have to do more pest protection plus remember to water them it is probably easier to keep them on the windowsill where they will get your attention though.

    Sowing Microgreens

    Take a shallow container or seed tray - the Haxnicks Bamboo Seed tray is ideal.  Next take a Haxnicks Microgreens Mat and place it into the tray.  The Microgreens mat is a made of natural materials making the whole set up plastic free.

    If you want to use a different seed tray or a container like the plastic container your grapes came in or an old take-away container, then just poke some holes in the bottom to make sure there is drainage and cut the mat to fit.

    • Check the seed packet for any special instructions.  Sprinkle the seeds evenly onto the mat
    • Water lightly - or mist if you have a suitable sprayer.
    • Place it on a warm, sunny (ideally south facing) windowsill in direct sunlight.   If the weather is not too warm then you may wish to cover with a piece of glass or clear plastic to encourage germination.
    • Mist or water the mat once or twice a day- depending on the temperature - to keep it moist not wet.  Sprouts should appear within around four to seven days.  Continue to water once or twice daily.
    • Once the seeds have sprouted, remove the cover (if you used one.) Continue to mist once or twice a day.

    Harvesting

    microgreens_in_seed_trayThey should be ready in around two to three weeks.  Harvesting is simply a case of taking scissors and snipping off a few.  Cut just above the mat as and when you need them.

    This is where the Microgreens mat really comes into its own.  The microgreens need to be washed but as they have not been in soil this process is much easier than it would if they had been grown in compost,  Simply wash them  as you would salad and pat dry on paper towels.

    Use in sandwiches or to scatter over salads, soups and other dishes to give an extra punch of flavour.

    You can pick what you need and leave the rest to continue growing.  However, if you feel the microgreens are getting a little large then you can cut them.  Store them unwashed  in a plastic bag in your refrigerator.  Then just remove, wash and use as required.

    Pest and Diseases

    As you are growing inside pests are much less likely but light may be an issue early in the year.  Like any plant, Microgreens need direct sunlight to thrive.  Around four to five hours a day should be enough.  However, watch out for spindly, pale growth which might indicate insufficient light.  If you find they aren't getting enough then either use a grow light or wait until a little later in the year to try again when days are longer and can meet the plants' light needs

  • Grow at Home - Pak Choi

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    The standard Pak Choi (sometimes known as Bok Choy) is juicy, crisp and fast-maturing with a really good, strong flavour, good resistance to bolting and fast growth.  A welcome green leaf in any winter kitchen garden.

    The green-stemmed cultivars tend to have a better flavour than white-stemmed varieties.  They can  also be eaten raw, stir fried or lightly steamed and served with soy sauce.

    Soil and Aspect

    Grow Pak Choi in full sun or part shade in well-drained but moisture retentive soil rich in organic matter. Add  compost to  beds before planting and mulch with compost again at mid season to help with moisture retention.

    As it is shallow-rooting Pak Choi is ideal for container growing - try growing on a patio or balcony in Vigoroot or Patio Planters 

    Sowing Pak Choi

    Pak choi is a versatile plant that can be cultivated as a cut-and-come-again crop - ready to harvest in as little as 30 days - or harvested as a mature plant.

    It is best sown before or after the hottest part of the year, either around April, just after the last frost date in your area or in August for a late-season crop.

    Cut and come again seedlings can be sown any time from April if you use bolt-resistant varieties and offer some shade in the hottest weather -  Easy Net Tunnels will help reduce bolting.

    Sow seeds in situ as soon as the soil is workable (early crops should be sown under cloches) and continue sowing until late summer.

    Space 15cm apart for small varieties, 20cm apart for medium-size and 35cm apart for large.

    Aftercare

    Pak choi has shallow roots so needs watering little and often in dry spells rather than drenching.

    A nitrogen rich liquid feed will help produce a bumper crop and shade from Easy Net Tunnels will prevent bolting.

    Harvesting and storage

    Pak_Choi_flowersA Cut and come again crop can be harvested at any stage from 4-13cm high.

    Depending on conditions, this could be within three weeks of sowing and two or three cuts should be possible. A headed crop (ready after around six weeks) can be lifted entirely.  Alternatively, you can cut 2.5cm above ground level and leave to re-sprout.

    Less likely to go limp than lettuce, Pak Choi is best kept cool and eaten within a week.

    Pest and Diseases

    Pak Choi is susceptible to all of the brassica problems.  Flea beetle, aphids, cabbage whitefly, caterpillars, root fly, slugs, snails and birds.

    But don't be put off!  As it is so fast growing, it is perfectly possible to avoid most issues with some protective netting and regular watering. This will keep the plants in top condition.

    Companion planting with Onions or Garlic can be very effective.  A row of sacrificial radishes is also good to draw the flee beetle away!

  • Grow at Home: Spring Cabbages

    Spring cabbage is delicious and tender.  It will be one of the first proper crops you can enjoy in the Spring.
    Autumn is the ideal time to sow - seedlings will over winter and produce heads the following year.

    Where to Grow

    Spring Cabbage is classed as a heavy feeding plant so add plenty of garden compost and/or well rotted farmyard manure your soil before sowing or planting.

    Cabbage takes up a lot of room in your garden needing up to 45-60 cm all round so the available space may dictate your numbers.

    Sowing Spring Cabbage

    Spring cabbages, smaller and sweeter that the summer varieties, can be sown directly into the soil but for the best results Rootrainers will give your seedlings the perfect start.

    Autumn sown Spring Cabbage thrive in a greenhouse or similar environment for planting out under protection after about 4 weeks - for this hardening off period use a Fleece Lantern Cloche or  Easy Fleece Tunnels

    Planting Out

    Spring Cabbage should be planted 45 cm between plants and 45 cm between rows.

    Water plants well before you begin and make a hole in the soil with a dibber or trowel.

    Fill the planting hole with water before planting the seedling - this will help the plant to establish. Push the soil in around the roots firmly bout avoid compacting the soil which can prevent water reaching the roots.

    Keep well watered and weed free - a Speedhoe make this quick and easy - and protect with fleece in extreme weather.

    As Winter approaches earth up the cabbage stems by dragging soil up around the stems to prevent them rocking in the wind.

    Harvesting Spring cabbage

    Spring cabbage has a short harvesting period  and need to be cut before they run to seed.   They have a neater more conical shape than round Summer cabbages.  So they may be ready sooner than they first appear.

    Remove every second cabbage as Spring greens in March.  Leave the remaining plants to heart up for harvesting in April/May.

    Harvest cabbage by cutting the stem with a sharp knife close to soil level. Cutting a deep cross in the stump will give you the bonus of a secondary crops of mini cabbages from the old stem!

    Dispose of the root on the bonfire rather than compost to avoid encouraging club root.

    Pests and diseases

    The main threat to your crop is Cabbage Root Fly. - The best way to it is to keep the flies out by covering your crops with fine mesh - Giant Easy Tunnels are ideal as they have the height to accommodate the growing plants -  making sure it is secure at the edges so nothing can creep underneath.

    Check periodically for small yellow eggs of the Cabbage White Butterfly on the underside of the leaves.  Remove them by brushing them off. Cover the seedlings with fleece or micromesh to keep out cabbage white butterfly

    Pigeons can make quick work of your cabbages - Netting is the answer if you have a pigeon problem.

     

     

     

     

  • Grow at Home: Companion Planting

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    Companion Planting

    Companion planting is where two or more crops are grown together for the benefit of one, or all. The most successful combinations mirror nature.  They can be an important part of planning a successful and productive garden.

     

    Deterrent Smell

    Plants have natural affinities with others of their kind.  The smell of volatile oils from many plants can above all discourage pests, making them excellent companion plants. Perhaps the most well known is the relationship between the tomato plant and the strong smelling French Marigold.  This is said to deter whitefly, for instance.

    While there is little scientific proof of these associations working, if you talk to any experienced gardener they will certainly provide plenty of anecdotal evidence.  Tomatoes like to be grown with Basil and Parsley.  Useful for cooks as well as gardeners.  And separating rows of brassicas with onions has always been popular.  This is possibly due to the strong scent of onions confusing the cabbage pests.

    Companion_planting_marigold_carrotsAttracting Pollinators

    English Marigold (Calendula) can provide welcome splashes of colour in the kitchen garden.  The added benefit is that they attract pollinators.  Along with Yarrow (Achillea) and Hyssop they also attract hover flies.  The hover flies will lay their eggs around these plants and when they hatch the larvae feast on aphids.

    Lavender_in_pot_in_flowerEnhancing fragrance

    Some gardeners know Chamomile as the 'plant doctor'.  This is because of its alleged ability to encourage the production of essential oils making their scent and taste stronger. It is attractive and easy to grow so a worthwhile addition to any planting scheme.

    Another garden 'must have' is the super fragrant Lavender. This acts as a general insect repellent whilst still attracting bees to your plot.

    Crops and their Companions

    Different combinations work in different conditions, so experimentation and experience is the best guide. Below are some combinations of crops and their companions that work well in most situations:

    • Asparagus: Tomatoes, Parsley, Basil
    • Beans: Carrots, lettuce,parsley, spinach
    • Beetroot: Onions, cabbages
    • Cabbages: Celery, mint, thyme, onions, nasturtiums
    • Carrots: Peas, radish, chives, onion, leek
    • Courgette: Nasturtiums
    • Lettuce: Strawberry, beetroot, radish
    • Onions: Carrots, beetroot, chamomile, courgette
    • Parship: Garlic
    • Peas: Potatoes, radish, carrot
    • Spinach: Strawberry
    • Tomato: Celery, basil, marigolds, foxglove

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