gardening advice

  • Pippa Greenwood: Haxnicks Gardening Tips for October

    The weather’s so different this month and October temperatures, especially at night, are sometimes damagingly low for some plants.

    October Tasks

    Fleece_on_potted_plant_outsideIt is worth giving the plants a bit of protection if you have any remaining peppers, chillies, aubergines or even tomatoes outside in your veg plot or allotment, or maybe even in a container on your terrace or patio. Cover them with a single layer of well-pegged down fleece rather than using polythene though.  The fleece will allow some air movement and dramatically reduce the risk of diseases such as grey mould getting a hold. If you want the easiest option, use Easy-Fleece Jackets. These are easily popped over individual plants, then held in place with the toggled drawstring. This makes them easy to remove on warmer days too.

    Tomatoes

    If your tomatoes have come to an end and the plants not worth keeping, it can be frustrating if they’re still bearing fruits that are not fully ripened. All very well if you like green tomato chutney (do you actually know anyone who does?!) But many fruits like this can still be saved. As long as they are perfectly healthy (no signs of gingery brown discolouration due to blight.  No wounds from slugs etc,) Then it is worth trying to ripen them off the plant. All you need is an over-ripe banana or two.  If it is freckly, so much the better. And then just put the unripe tomatoes in a fruit bowl (or paper bag) with the bananas. It is a magical trick – the bananas give off ethylene gas, a brilliant ripening agent and your tomatoes should be stimulated into turning red and ripening.  For more ways to ripen them check out this blog Grow at Home: how to ripen Green Tomatoes

    Lawns

    October_lawns_leatherjacketsMoth-eaten looking lawns have been a real problem this year.  I’ve had numerous reports of garden wildlife such as badgers, foxes, crows and magpies digging up patches in lawns.  They cause a real mess. Quite often it is the family’s pet dog who does this too (or in my case our cats, though this is less usual!) But don’t blame these animals.  They’re not the real root of the problem – their excavations are simply because they’re looking for tasty grubs.  Often leatherjackets, the larvae of the daddy-long-legs. The best method of control is using a nematode drench.  Its safe for wildlife, pets and humans and as long as you get your skates on, applying it this month is well worthwhile!

  • Gardening Tips for August from Pippa Greenwood

    Still Time for Salad

    August_gardening_tips_fullframe_of_mixed_salad_leavesThe first of my August gardening tips is for the kitchen.  If you’ve ever been to the supermarket on a sunny weekend, you’ll know just how difficult it can be to get hold of the ingredients you need for a delicious salad.  Plus all too often those bagged salads are rather the worse for wear too.  So why not save the hassle, save the petrol and enjoy an even tastier, juicer (far fresher) and more delicious salad that you’ve grown yourself?

    Provided the compost is moist, they grow at a surprising speed too.  It is that magical combination of a warm (but not too hot) and moist soil which gets the seeds germinating.  Then the seedlings put on growth at an amazing rate.  In no time at all you’ll have a really scrumptious and very tender crop for you to harvest as and when you need it.  No more bags of supermarket salad leaves going soggy in the fridge.  When you grow your own there is always a supply to be had.  Much fresher more tender and packed full of health-giving ingredients than you’d find in bag!

    Feeding & Watering

    August_gardening-tips_Pippa_greenwood_with_yellow_rose

    Make sure that you feed flowering and fruiting plants now.  The best thing is a liquid, high potash feed such as one sold for use on tomatoes.  That way you can use it on your edibles and your ornamentals.

    The potash will help to encourage more flowers to form and even at this time of year there should still be more potential from most crops.  Watering well before you feed is essential as the soil or compost should be moist first.  Try to avoid wetting the leaves and flowers with the fertiliser.  On a hot, sunny day even plain water can cause scorching.

    Super-speedy weeds are everywhere, still growing extra – at every opportunity on hot days.  Grab a hoe and hoe them off, leaving them on the soil surface to be baked dry in the sunshine. I'd not say I am lazy, but I do like to do thing quickly and efficiently.  My Speedhoe fulfills all my hoeing needs and is easy to manoeuvre in between plants too.

    So I hope you like my August gardening tips and find them useful.  If there is anything that you would like to read about then please comment below.  We'd love to hear from you!

  • Grow at Home - Sweet/Bell Peppers/Capsicum

    What are they?

    The Bell Pepper (Capsicum annuum) is also known as the Sweet Pepper or Capsicum and is originally native to the Americas.  As its name suggests, it is sweet rather than spicy.  This is because it does not produce capsaicin, the chemical that creates a strong burning sensation that makes the other members of the family such as chillies taste 'hot'.

    Botanically speaking, like tomatoes, bell peppers are fruits.  However, when cooking they are considered a vegetable and despite their sweet taste no one is going to thank you for adding them to the apple crumble!

    Colours  Multi_coloured_peppers

    They come in green, red, yellow, orange, brown, white, purple, lavender and black.  Red peppers are ripened green peppers, the exception being the Permagreen pepper which is still green when ripe and will never turn red.
    The sweetness of the pepper depends on growing conditions and how much it has been allowed to ripen.  So a ripe red pepper will be sweeter than the less ripe green one.  Peppers that have ripened on the plant will also be sweeter than those that were picked and allowed to ripen after.  Not something you can change when buying them but if you grow your own then you can ensure they are as sweet as possible by leaving them to ripen on the plant.

    There are many varieties but I would choose a hardy, early variety such as Yellow Monster or Lipstick to get the best results.

    Sowing

    Peppers are easy to grow from seed and have a high germination rate.  Sow seeds 1/2" (1cm) deep inside in Rootrainers, pots or seed trays from mid-February to end of March.  They will take 2-4 weeks to germinate.

    Peppers like it warm so so use a propagator and aim for a temperature of around 18-21°C (65-70°F) or place on a warm windowsill, with plastic bags over the pots to keep the heat and moisture in.  Of course if you have used Rootrainers then they come with their own lid so you can just pop this on for the perfect environment.

    Transplant into 3" (8cm) pots when two true leaves have formed.  Handle the seedlings by the leaves to avoid damaging the delicate stem.

    If you don't want to grow from seed then most Garden Centres will sell plants.

    Planting

    Position

    If growing in England this crop is much better being grown in a greenhouse or on a windowsill for as long as possible.

    If planting in the ground space the rows 18" (45cm) apart with the same distance between plants.  The more you prepare the bigger the yield you will get so dig in some well rotted manure.  You may also wish to cover the ground with a  Easy Poly Tunnel  to warm the soil before planting.  Once your plants are in position keep them covered with a cloche or a tunnel as they like it warm, but remember to take it off or open it for periods to allow pollination.

    Peppers grow well in containers and can also be grown in grow bag planters or in the garden as long as it is in a sheltered, sunny spot.  Ideally a South or West facing brick wall or fence.

    Potting On

    Once the roots fill your 3" (8cm) pot transfer plants to 12" (30cm) pots of good compost.  Do this in mid-May (heated greenhouse), late-May (unheated greenhouse) or June if growing outside.

    Pinch out the growing tips of chillies when they are about 12" (30cm) tall to encourage bushiness.

    Watch the plants as the fruits begin to grow.  If fruit becomes heavy then stake and tie plants in to prevent breakages.  Also, if growing in a greenhouse the leaves can become scorched so watch out for this and open vents and shade as appropriate if the temperatures start to soar.

    Feeding & Watering

    As with all plants regular water is vital so make sure you keep the moisture levels as constant as you can.

    Once flowers form start feeding with a fertiliser suitable for tomatoes e.g. a high potash liquid fertiliser with seaweed.  Feed every 10 days as you water.

    Harvesting

    Harvest August to November.  Expect to harvest between 3 and 8 peppers per plant.

    Start to pick the fruit when it is large, green and has a glossy sheen.  If you prefer sweeter peppers then leave it on the plant to mature but this will reduce yield.  If you still have peppers on the plant when the frosts arrive then dig up the whole plant.  Hang it upside down in a shed or greenhouse to allow the fruit to continue to ripen.
    Once harvested, if kept cool, bell peppers can store for up to 3 weeks once picked.

     

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