IF YOU RECEIVE TWO COPIES OF
OUR NEWS-LETTER - that'll be because your e-mail address is
registered with both
our Aeron Vale Allotment
Gardeners Chat-Shed web-sites.
Consequently it will have been
automatically added to both
data-bases. No harm done - just delete
the second one to arrive! Simples!
you, our Gardeners Chat-Shed friends, may be members of your own gardening clubs and allotment groups, you can still share in what we have to offer here by way of gardening tips, news, information and gossip from
our "grow your own"
There's something for everyone
in our News-letter!
Here we are, slap bang in
the middle of our digging, tilling (& toiling), sowing, planting & sweating season
(unless you're one of our southern hemisphere fans - in
which case you're probably glad it's cooling down a little!).
This is probably the busiest month of the year for the average
allotmenteer/ back garden veg. growers in the UK.
April is a wickedly
busy month for us allotmenteers, there's hardly time to spit
down on the plot - much less time to write, however I've just
about got March/April's news-letter in - by the skin of my teeth (as usual!).
Latest "Buzz" Then?
Those of you with your ears
to the ground, when it comes to gardening news (especially if
you're apiarists - that's bee keepers to common folk like me
- from the Latin apis, bee), will have known for a long time about
neonicotinoid insecticides and the suspected effect they are
having on our bee population. But all protestations seem to
fall on deaf ears.
As keen gardeners, you'll
also be acutely aware of the radical decline, over the years, in our bee
populations, with the mysterious bee colony collapse disorder
(CCD) being the latest in a long line of problems that bees have
experience in recent years. The companies who produce these
lethal neonicotinoid insecticides have dodged the issue
relentlessly by saying that bee population decreases are
effects of disease, viruses and mites (e.g.
mites etc.). Worst still,
their political lobbyists have managed to persuade governments
that the causes are many fold and that it is not proven that the
bee colony collapses have been positively linked to the use of
neonicotinoids. That of course is baloney, but strange how
politicians will listen to these people - probably because "big
bucks" are involved. Companies with that much clout will go to
any lengths to protect their assets, and if it means being a
little economical with the truth. (meaning they are LYING
through their teeth) then so be it.
As gardeners we ALL know the
drastic apocryphal consequences that will follow if our bee
populations drop below a critical level. Not only do our plants
stop being pollinated no crops), but the consequences for the whole human
race is frightening. Einstein is reputably quoted as saying
(during one of his musings) that "if the bee disappeared from
the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years
to live". That isn’t exactly rigorous science. But it does
point to the fact that bees are somewhat more valuable to
farmers, and human well-being, than neonicotinoid insecticides.
As far back as 2010 I have
been drawing attention to this problem on our web-site (
http://aeronvale-allotments.org.uk ). We even had a link on
there at one time, to a No.10 Downing St. online petition, calling for the UK
government to act. That petition is now closed, but we like to
think that the visitors to our site who did bother to sign it, played a small part in
drawing the UK government's attention to the problem.
Below (between the red
lines) is an excerpt from our web-site's front page, that has
been there for a few years by now:
STOP THE DEATH OF BEES. A
plethora of recent studies from Italy, Germany,
America and other countries are implicating Neonicotinoid
insecticides (an insect nerve poison) in causing
sub-lethal and lethal affects to honey-bees
that are exposed
to plants grown from seeds coated in Neonicotinoid
insecticide or treated with Neonicotinoid
insecticide - typically maize, sunflower and
rapeseed. These sub-lethal effects, influence the bee's
ability to orient itself and return to it's colony;
additionally it is likely the detrimental effects are
compounded synergistically as the bee is weakened
and becomes more susceptible to natural disease,
parasitic fungii and parasites such as varroa
destructor - implicated in the world wide colony
collapse disorder we are currently experiencing.
Neonicotinoid insecticides have recently been banned
in other European countries and are being reviewed
in the US - home of the corporations who are pushing these
systemic insecticides. Click
see our information video online . . . .
Below is an
extract taken from the
Greenpeace web-site. I am grateful for
Graham Thompson's contribution that I have
Buzz killers: UK blocking bee-killing pesticide
(Posted by Graham Thompson - 25
April 2013 at 12:47pm on the Greenpeace
In a shock
to the scientific community, neonicotinoids, -
or neurotoxic agricultural insecticides - have
been shown in laboratory tests to cause brain
damage in bees. Actually, it wasn’t that much of
a shock. There’s never been any doubt over the
potential of these chemicals to harm bees - the
recent controversy has been over dosage.
manufacturers of these chemicals freely admit
that at high doses neonicotinoids, along with
other pesticides, can harm or kill bees, but
they maintain that the doses used in the field,
or at least the doses they recommend to be used
in the field, will be safe for bees.
numerous recent studies indicate that
neurological damage from these chemicals can
impact on the ability of bees to find food and
then to find their way home again. A lost bee is
a dead bee, so this is a very serious issue for
And the welfare of bees is
not an insignificant consideration.
Honey isn’t their most
important gift to humans – the European honeybee
is a major pollinator of agricultural crops
around the world, three quarters of which are
dependent on insect pollination. If we kill off
their pollinators, either those crops fail, or
we’ll need to create some sort of mechanical
replacement to do their’ job.
This is not
abstract theorising. Bees are dying out. Now.
In the US, bee numbers
have halved in the last few decades, with a
30% decline in the
last five years. Several countries in Europe
have suffered similar declines, with nearly
80% of Spanish hives
This is, at least in part,
due to a phenomenon called
colony collapse disorder
(CCD), where the worker
bees from a hive mysteriously disappear. There’s
general agreement that CCD is caused by
combination of factors including the varroa mite
(a bee parasite), disease, monocultural farming
and weather impacts exacerbated by climate
change. The disagreement comes over whether
pesticides, and particularly neonicotinoids, are
a contributing factor.
On one side
you have the environmental organisations such as
ourselves and Friends of the Earth, the European
Food Safety Authority, parliament’s
Environmental Audit Committee, and the
governments of most EU nations. We’re relying on
a large number of peer-reviewed scientific
studies showing that neonicatinoids harm bees.
On the other (not
altogether surprisingly), you have the pesticide
manufacturers Syngenta and Bayer. They’re
relying on their own studies which allegedly
show neonicotinoids to be safe. Although they
can’t show us these studies as they are, of
course, commercially confidential. Defra
field trial which
seems to have been intended to support
neonicotinoid safety, but unfortunately their
trial site was so contaminated by neonicotinoids
that there was no effective control group,
undermining the trial.
But the biotech companies
are not entirely alone. They have support from
Germany (where, perhaps coincidentally, Bayer is
based) and from Owen Paterson, our own
environment minister. Syngenta has been
lobbying hard in the
UK as, while it's a Swiss-registered company, it
has a big presence here. Martin Taylor, chairman
of the board of directors, even went to the same
school as life patron of the Oxfordshire
Beekeepers’ Association, David Cameron.
last month Germany and the UK abstained from
voting on a two-year
suspension of neonicotinoids.
another vote on Monday, this time for European
environment ministers, including Owen Paterson.
there representing you. Make sure he doesn’t
confuse your interests with those of Syngenta or
You can email him
here, or if you prefer a more
personal touch, join the
March of the Beekeepers on Friday. Bees have
given us honey, fruit and a hundred other foods,
not to mention a million beautiful flowers.
Poisoning them to extinction with neurotoxins
seems a poor way to show our gratitude.
Neonicotinoid Pesticides: Protestors to March in London
Dr. Reese Halter
(Broadcaster and Biologist) Posted: 04/25/2013 8:05 am
Beekeepers and concerned
citizens from across the UK have formed a united front in the
'War Against Nature' to protect bees against a devastating new
group of pesticides.
On Friday morning (April
26, 2013) at 11 am they will descend upon Parliament Square,
Westminster, London to show their solidarity and voice their
To grab the weekend
headlines and pile the pressure on the Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP,
Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs, ahead of a
vital European Union (EU) vote banning neonicotinoid pesticides
on Monday 29th April. Even the House of Commons Environmental
Audit Committee has concluded certain neonicotinoids are harmful
to bees and The March of the Beekeepers will show Mr Paterson
the full weight of public, expert and Government opinion and
persuade him to now support a European ban.
In January and February most
UK garden stores banned the sale of neonicotinoids. In America,
according to the Xerces Society's report some commercial
neonicotinoid products available at garden centers are 120 times
higher than those applied on agricultural fields.
The EU had proposed that its
member states stop using neonicotinoids including sprays and
prohibiting sales of seeds treated with these chemicals. The
three insecticides in particular identified are clothianidin,
imidacloprid and thiametoxam. An EU vote in Brussels on March 14
resulted in a stalemate, and this time protesters are counting
on Britain to help ban neonicotinoid pesticides.
The UK is experiencing a 50
percent drop in bee populations over the past 25 years. Bees are
crucial for pollinating the lions' share of over 205,000
flowering plants around the globe. The health and well being of
wild bees and honeybees are of vital importance to the food we
eat including honey; the clothes we wear because cotton is bee
pollinated; the beeswax we use in many products; and the potent
pain medicines in Apis therapy that honeybees provide us.
Avaaz, Buglife, Client
Earth, Environmental Justice Foundation, Friends of the Earth,
Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network UK, RSPB, Soil Association,
The Natural Beekeeping Trust, The Wildlife Trusts and 38 Degrees
will all be in attendance.
Beekeepers with smokers (not
lit), flanked by supporting celebrities, people wearing beehive
hair, carrying flowers, apples, pears and other pollinated
vegetables, honey and jam, a giant Winnie the Pooh.
The EJ Foundation says "It's
a serious issue but it doesn't mean you can't have fun showing
you care. Put your hair in a beehive perhaps or get dressed up
in bee stripes."
Dr Reese Halter
is a broadcaster, conservation biologist and author of The
Whist I appreciate that it may
be difficult for the readers of
this news-letter to make it to
the march on Friday the 26th. It
would help if you voiced your
opinions on the subject to
Owen Paterson MP, our UK
government environment minister,
via the links above.
are the only insect that produces food
eaten by man.
Honey is the only food that includes all the substances
necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins,
minerals, and water; and it's the only food that contains "pinocembrin",
an antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning.
Honey bees have 6 legs,
2 compound eyes made up of thousands of tiny lenses (one on each
side of the head), 3 simple eyes on the top of the head, 2 pairs
of wings, a nectar pouch, and a stomach.
Honey bees have 170
odorant receptors, compared with only 62 in fruit flies and 79
in mosquitoes. Their exceptional olfactory abilities include kin
recognition signals, social communication within the hive, and
odour recognition for finding food. Their
sense of smell
was so precise that it
could differentiate hundreds of different floral varieties and
tell whether a flower carried pollen or nectar from metres away.
The honey bee's
wings stroke incredibly fast, about 200 beats per second, thus
making their famous, distinctive buzz. A honey bee can fly for
up to six miles, and as fast as 15 miles per hour.
The average worker
bee produces about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
A hive of bees will
fly 90,000 miles, the equivalent of three orbits around the
earth to collect 1 kg of honey.
It takes one ounce
of honey to fuel a bee's flight around the world.
A honey bee visits
50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.
The bee's brain is
oval in shape and only about the size of a sesame seed, yet it
has remarkable capacity to learn and remember things and is able
to make complex calculations on distance travelled and foraging
A colony of bees
consists of 20,000-60,000 honeybees and one queen. Worker honey
bees are female, live for about 6 weeks and do all the work.
The queen bee can
live up to 5 years and is the only bee that lays eggs. She is
the busiest in the summer months, when the hive needs to be at
its maximum strength, and lays up to 2500 eggs per day.
Larger than the worker bees, the male honey bees (also
called drones), have no stinger and do no work at all. All they
do is mating.
Each honey bee
colony has a unique odour for members' identification.
Only worker bees
sting, and only if they feel threatened and they die once they
sting. Queens have a stinger, but they don't leave the hive to
help defend it.
It is estimated
that 1100 honey bee stings are required to be fatal.
communicate with one another by "DANCING".
During winter, honey bees feed on the
honey they collected during the warmer months. They form a tight
cluster in their hive to keep the queen and themselves warm.
The more I learnt about honey bee facts;
honey's great creator -the honey bee itself, its highly
organized society, how it acts with such intricate cooperation,
and the various bee products, the more I admire and respect this
amazing creature. It is no wonder why sometimes the colony is
called a superorganism.
Quote: "Unique among all God's creatures, only the
honeybee improves the environment and preys not on any other
species." ~ Royden Brown
"Not a lot of people know that!"
OF MY OWN ALLOTMENT SITE NEWS
Not a lot to
report really. It's been that time when the long
hour single jobs (hard work) is in progress to
turn the plot brown with tilled earth! It's also the
time of anxiety - yes - anxiety, because it's a
constant battle in your head whether to be inside
the polytunnel sowing & preparing, or outside
getting the soil ready! Added to that is the
constant time calculator that keeps on churning in
your head as you constantly have to work out your
Although Big Bertha made short change of turning over
my plot (twice - bless her - before going off to start on my friend
Stephen's plot - that's him & her on the left). The REAL work has
It's one thing to
walk behind a rotavator, it's entirely a different matter when the
hand tools & barrow come out of the shed - along with Bertha's baby
sister - Little Tilly - the Mantis!
After hours of digging out six 40' rows (that's just over 12m each -
for you post "new money" readers). I've barrowed 20 loads of manure
into those rows, ready for the potato tubers. These pictures were
taken on the 9th of this month; since then three rows of earlies
have gone in and been earthed
over, and three main crop varieties are also in the other three
As you can see
(above right) I've also started on the beds. this is the first of ten. All my
onion & shallot sets are now snugly tucked up in this first bed. The
red hue you can see is a sprinkling of blood, fish & bone meal,
along with a liberal amount of chicken poo pellets. No nasty
inorganic oil based fertilizers here!
season the potato varieties from the right of the photo
(bottom right) will
include Vales Emerald (first early), Salad Blue (second early - a first
timer for me), Charlotte (my favourite second early salad
potato), then Pink Fir Apple, followed by Pentland Hawk & Ulster
Classic (main crop varieties).
Since taking these photos the rain
has come - and not before time really. It's got amazingly dry over the
last few weeks with that east wind we've had recently. Although the soil was
just perfect for working when these snapshots were taken on the 9th.
Even with the rain, growth is very slow at
the moment (a bit of warmth wouldn't go amiss). In fact everything had dried to a cold crimp
during that cold dry spell. Even the
grass turned brown. So with a good few days of rain and a bit of
sun things should perk up. Trouble is whoever turned the tap on in
spring last year, forgot to turn it off again. Let's hope this year
is a bit better, and the "tap turner" remembers to come back
to his tap! If I
have a summer as wet as last year I'm taking up a different hobby
after 40 years.
Right now - I'm
pleased as punch. It's mission accomplished as far as what I wanted
to do before it rained is concerned, AND my old diseased & tired
carcass was desperate for a rest!
OTHER ALLOTMENT &
Lazy way out!
admission here! I'm just too
pushed for time to write new
fresh stuff (for this
news-letter at this time of the
year). So it's been a quick head
scratch to fill in the column
inches. After pausing for
thought on how to dodge the time
issue, I decided to include the
following page from our
web-site. Why? Because of all
the questions that are asked
about gardening, the commonest
by far is how far apart or how
deep should things be sown or
SO, below is a guide for all you
inexperienced gardeners (&
experienced ones with poor
memories I hasten to add!). I
hope you find it helpful. just
click on the plant you want
info. for & you'll jump to that
section below. Enjoy!
The knobbly roots of Jerusalem artichokes are a great winter
treat – although they are an acquired taste for some people. Try
them roasted with pork or in a soup.
If you can’t cope with
cleaning and peeling the roots, grow ‘Fuseau’ - a larger,
smooth-skinned cultivar, that is easy to peel.
Plant small tubers in March
or April in well-dug, well-fertilised soil. Plant 10cm (4in)
deep and 30cm (12in) apart.
Tubers can also be grown
in a large tubs filled with good garden soil &/or compost.
Plants need very little care
and attention during the growing season and are rarely troubled
by pests and diseases. As plants do grow tall they can make an
effective screen, but may need some support in very exposed and
Harvest as needed from
November to February, lifting in the same way as potatoes.
Expect about 1.8kg (4lb) per planted tuber.
One of the most sought-after
vegetables, asparagus is not
difficult to grow if kept well fed
and weed free.
The delicately flavoured young
shoots of asparagus are one of the
great luxuries of the vegetable
plot. Much of the mystique
surrounding their cultivation is
Most modern types are all-male F1
cultivars; these are more vigorous
than older, open-pollinated
cultivars and do not self-seed.
Although plants require space, once
established they should crop for up
to 20 years, each crown yielding
nine to 12 spears per cutting
Asparagus can be raised from seed or
young dormant plants - crowns - can be
purchased. Sow seeds of an all-male F1
hybrid singly into modules in February
and transplant in early June. Most
gardeners choose one-year-old crowns,
planting in March or April.
Fork over the
prepared area and dig a trench 30cm
(12in) wide and 20cm (8in) deep. Work in
well-rotted manure in the bottom, cover
with 5cm (2in) of the excavated soil and
make a 10cm-high (4in) ridge down the
centre of the trench. Place the crowns
on top, spacing them 30-45cm (12-18in)
apart (right). Leave 45cm (18in) between
rows and stagger the plants. Spread the
roots evenly and fill in the trench,
leaving the bud tips just visible. Water
in and mulch with 5cm (2in) of
Asparagus beds must be kept weed free -
best done by hand as the shallow roots
are easily damaged by hoeing. Mulching
discourages weeds and retains moisture.
Apply 100g per sq m (3oz per sq yd) of a
general fertiliser in early spring and
repeat once harvesting has finished.
avoid top-growth breaking off in wind
and damaging the crown, use canes and
twine either side of the row for
support. Remove any female plants (those
bearing orange-red berries) and any
the foliage to yellow in autumn before
cutting it down to 2.5cm (1in).
To harvest, cut
individual spears with a sharp knife 2.5cm (1in)
below the soil when they are no more than 18cm (7in)
tall. In warm weather, harvest every two to three
days for best quality spears.
Do not harvest
for the first two years. In the third year, pick
from mid-April for six weeks, and in subsequent
years for eight weeks.
Broad beans are the first of the legumes to mature in the year,
and with successional spring sowings you can have broad beans
from June into September.
There's nothing quite like the flavour of the first harvested
beans, lightly steamed and eaten with a little butter and black
In mild areas of
the country on sheltered sites you can sow certain
cultivars - such as 'The Sutton' and 'Super
Aquadulce' - in the autumn for a really early crop.
During particularly cold weather it pays to cover
the plants with cloches or other forms of
The main sowing
period is March and April. Sow in February under
cloches for an earlier crop; sow in May to extend
the crop throughout the summer months and into
Sow 5cm (2in)
deep and 20cm (8in) apart; dwarf varieties like 'The
Sutton' can be sown 15cm (6in) apart. They are best
sown in double rows, with the rows 20cm (8in) apart.
If a second double row is needed this should be
positioned 60cm (2ft) away from the first.
Sow a few extra
seeds at the end of the rows to fill in any gaps
produced by seeds that don’t germinate.
Taller varieties will need supporting,
so place a stout stake at each corner of
the double row and run string around the
stakes at 30cm (1ft) intervals from the
beans can be attacked by aphids. One way
to reduce the damage - and produce an
earlier crop - is to pinch out the top
7.5cm (3in) of the stems when the first
pods start to form. Don't throw these
tops away as they can be lightly steamed
You can pick pods
when they are 7.5cm (3in) long and cook them whole.
But when picking
pods to shell wait until the beans start to be
visible through the pod, but don't leave them too
long - the scar on the bean should still be white or
green - not black, as the beans will become tougher
at this stage.
is tight and when pod set in runner beans has been a problem,
it's well worth growing French beans; generally they're easier
to grow than runners - and they taste great too.
There are two
main types - dwarf bush and climbing.
cultivars produce coloured pods, which makes them useful in the
ornamental garden. Good choices include 'Kingston Gold' (yellow)
and 'Purple Teepee' (dark purple).
main sowing period is May and June; sow in April under cloches
or similar for an earlier crop; sow in early July to extend the
season into September/October.
Sow seeds 5cm (2in) deep
10cm (4in) apart in rows 45cm (18in) apart.
Sow a few extra at the end
of the rows to fill in any gaps from seeds that don’t germinate.
The bush types may not need
supporting, but short twigs can be used to support the plants to
help keep the beans off the soil. Climbing cultivars will need
bamboo canes, twiggy sticks or netting to scramble up.
Water well during periods
of prolonged dry weather. Mulch around the plants in June to
help conserve soil moisture.
Begin picking the pods when
they are 10cm (4in) long. Pods are ready when they snap easily
and before the beans can be seen through the pod. By picking
regularly you can crop plants for several weeks.
Once all the pods have
been harvested, water the plants well and feed with a liquid
fertiliser. This way you may get a further cropping of smaller,
yet worthwhile pods.
Some people don't like
runner beans - mainly because shop-bought runners can be tough
and stringy. Growing your own and picking them just when they're
ready will show you exactly how runner beans are meant to
taste. Also you can choose stringless cultivars, such as
'Armstrong' and 'Galaxy', which are even more succulent.
New developments include
dwarf cultivars like 'Hestia' that don’t need support making
them perfect for small areas and patio containers.
Sow seeds from late May to
the end of June 5cm (2in) deep and 23cm (9in) apart.
Alternatively, for an
earlier crop, sow the beans in 10cm (4in) pots at the end of
April indoors and plant out at the end of May 23cm (9in) apart.
The traditional method of
growing is to sow a double row with the two rows 45cm (18in)
apart; this makes supporting the plants easier.
Runner beans need a support
to climb up. The traditional method is to grow them individually
up inwardly sloping 2.4m (8ft) tall bamboo canes tied near their
top to a horizontal cane. If you slope the bamboo canes so that
they meet in the middle and tie them here so that the ends of
the canes extend beyond the row you will find picking is easier
and the yield is usually better.
When growing in beds and
borders a wigwam of canes takes up less room and helps produce
an ornamental feature.
Loosely tie the plants to
their supports after planting; after that they will climb
Remove the growing point
once the plants reach the top of their support.
Keep an eye out for slugs
and blackfly that may attack the plants.
Runner beans sometimes fail
to set and there are a number of causes - and a number of
Ensuring the soil is
constantly moist and doesn't dry out is the first key to
success; mulch the soil in June. Misting the foliage and flowers
regularly - especially during hot, dry weather - will increase
humidity around the flowers and help improve flower set.
Flower set is better in
alkaline, chalky soils. If your soil is neutral or acidic it
pays to water with hydrated lime.
Another way to improve
flower set is to pinch out the growing tips of the plants when
they are 15cm (6in) high. The flowers formed on the resulting
sideshoots usually set better.
If you regularly have
problems it would be worth growing pink- or white-flowered
cultivars, such as 'Painted Lady' or 'Mergoles', which usually
set pods more easily.
Start harvesting when the
pods are 15-20cm (6-8in) long and certainly before the beans
inside begin to swell.
It is vital that you pick
regularly to prevent any pods reaching maturity; once this
happens plants will stop flowering and no more pods will be set.
If you pick regularly plants will crop for up to eight weeks or
In recent years broccoli has
had a resurgence in popularity - praised for its high vitamin
content and anti-cancer agents.
There are three types -
white and purple sprouting and calabrese. The sprouting types
are hardy and over-wintered for harvest in spring, filling the
gap between sprouts and spring cabbage, whereas calabrese is
harvested in the autumn.
Sow thinly 13mm (0.5in)
deep in a seed bed in rows 15cm (6in) apart. Thin the seedlings
to 7.5cm (3in) apart. The main sowing time is April and May,
although you can sow in March in mild regions and in June for
Seeds can also be sown
indoors in module trays.
Calabrese is best sown
where it is to crop.
When the young broccoli
plants are 10-15cm (4-6in) high transplant to their growing
positions, leaving 45cm (18in) between broccoli plants. Before
lifting the plants water them well and water well again after
calabrese to 30cm (1ft) apart..
Water well in dry weather
and conserve soil moisture with a mulch. Occasional summer
feeding with a liquid fertiliser will improve results.
Birds can be a problem, so
net the plants when the heads are being produced.
Cut when the flower
shoots (spears) are well formed but before the individual
flowers begin to open. Cut the central spear first. This is
followed by a series of sideshoots, which can be picked
regularly over four to six weeks.
Well grown and, more
importantly, well cooked Brussels sprouts are certainly worth
growing - especially if you chose F1 cultivars.
Firm, water-retentive soil
is important for good crops.
Sow thinly 13mm (0.5in)
deep in a seed bed in rows 15cm (6in) apart. Thin the seedlings
to 7.5cm (3in) apart.
For an early crop sow
under glass in module trays in February, otherwise sow March to
April in a seed bed.
When the young plants are
10-15cm (4-6in) high transplant to their growing positions,
leaving 75cm (2.5ft) between plants. Plant cultivars like 'Peer
Gynt' 45cm (18in) apart for an earlier crop of smaller, tastier
sprouts. The soil must be firm and had plenty of humus added the
previous autumn. Before lifting the plants water them well and
water well again after transplanting.
Water well in dry weather
and conserve soil moisture with a mulch. Occasional summer
feeding with a liquid fertiliser will improve results.
Protect from birds using
netting or fleece; the latter will also protect against cabbage
Start picking the lower
sprouts when they are the size of a walnut and are still firm
and tightly closed. Snap them off with a sharp downward tug. The
flavour is usually better once the sprouts have had a touch of
frost on them.
With a little planning it's
possible to pick fresh cabbages nearly every day of the year.
Cabbages are divided - depending on when they're ready to use -
into spring, summer and winter types.
Spring greens are
undeveloped spring cabbages and are traditionally sown in
summer, but can be sown all year round.
Sow thinly 13mm (0.5in)
deep in a seed bed in rows 15cm (6in) apart. Thin the seedlings
to 7.5cm (3in) apart.
Spring cabbage: Sow in July/August; transplant in
September/October. Summer cabbage: Sow from late
February/early March (under cloches or similar cover) until
early May; transplant in May/June. Winter cabbages: Sow in April/May;
transplant in late June/July.
Transplant the young plants
to their growing position when plants have five or six true
leaves, setting the lowest leaves at ground level. Water well
the day before moving, firm in well after transplanting and
'puddle' in the plants with plenty of water. Plant compact
varieties 30cm (1ft) apart, larger varieties up to 45cm (18in)
apart. Plant spring cabbages just 10cm (4in) apart in rows 30cm
(1ft) apart - thin out to 30cm (1ft) apart in late
February/March and use the thinnings as spring greens.
Water well in dry weather
and conserve soil moisture with a mulch. Occasional summer
feeding with a liquid fertiliser will improve results.
Cabbage rootfly can be a
problem - the females lay eggs around the stems and the
resulting larvae eat the roots; look out for wilting plants that
produce reddish leaves. To protect against attack, grow the
plants through brassica collars or make your own from discs of
felt with a radial slit to help position the disc snuggly around
Growing the plants under
fleece will help prevent against rootfly attack and will also
prevent cabbage white caterpillars and pigeons getting at the
Cabbages are harvested by
cutting through the stem just above ground level with a sharp
knife. Cut a 13mm (0.5in) deep cross in the stump of spring and
summer cabbages and you'll be rewarded with a second crop of
much smaller cabbages.
perfect cauliflowers you'll need a rich and deep soil and there
mustn't be a check to growth, so careful planting and watering
13mm (0.5in) deep in a seed bed in rows 15cm (6in) apart. Thin
the seedlings to 7.5cm (3in) apart.
sowing period is March to May, although early crops can be
achieved by sowing under glass in January/February or sowing a
suitable cultivar in the autumn.
the young plants to their growing position when plants have five
or six true leaves, setting the lowest leaves at ground level.
Water well the day before moving, firm in well after
transplanting and 'puddle' in the plants with plenty of water.
Space summer and autumn cropping types 60cm (2ft) apart and
winter cultivars 75cm (2.5ft) apart; spacing 30-45cm (12-18in)
apart will provide mini, 'one person' curds.
Water well in
dry weather and conserve soil moisture with a mulch. Occasional
summer feeding with a liquid fertiliser will improve results as
cauliflowers are a hungry crop.
plants from birds by covering with netting or fleece.
curds of summer types from the sun by bending a few leaves over
them; doing the same with winter varieties will protect against
frost - particularly important with the less hardy romanesco
when the heads are firm; you've left it too late once the
florets start to separate.
Now becoming more popular in
the kitchen, celeriac is grown for its celery-tasting knobbly
roots, which are grated and added to salads. It can be used as a
celery substitute and is easier to grow. The leaves can also be
used as a garnish on salads or soups and the roots cooked as a
hot vegetable or made into soup.
Sow from mid-February to
April at 15C (60F) in pots or trays of compost. When large
enough to handle transplant the seedlings singly into 7.5cm
(3in) pots or module trays. Or sow two seeds in a pot/tray and
remove the weakest seedling.
Grow on the young plants at a
minimum temperature of 10C (60F) and harden off the plants by
acclimatising them to outdoor conditions before planting out.
The young plants are
planted out at the end of May/early June. They are very
sensitive to cold weather at this stage, so planting out should
be delayed if the weather is cold. Plant out 30cm (12in) apart
in rows 40-45cm (16-18in) apart making sure not to bury the
crown - the stem base should be at soil level.
Water in dry weather and
mulch around the plants.
Remove any side-shoots as
they form and from mid-summer onwards remove a few lower leaves
to expose the crown.
In late September draw a
little soil around the swollen stem base to keep it white.
Start lifting from late
September/early October. In most areas, where the soil is well
drained, the roots can be left in the soil until required. If
over-wintering them in the ground, cover with straw or compost
to protect against frost.
Celery can be
a difficult crop to grow, although self-blanching cultivars
certainly help to take some of the strain out of growing.
The soil must
be moisture-retentive and never dry out. As a result it is often
better to grow the plants above a trench filled with plenty of
must never receive a check to growth so transplant, harden off
and water properly.
Sow between mid-March and
early April in seed trays or pots kept at at 15C (60F).
Transplant the young seedlings when large enough to handle
individually into 7.5cm (3in) pots or module trays.
Make sure plants are properly
hardened off before planting out at the end of May to early
June. Plant 23cm (9in) apart in a block to ensure the plants
shade each other to aid blanching.
Water regularly during dry
weather and feed every fortnight with a balanced liquid feed
during the summer. A light dressing of a high nitrogen
fertiliser or nitrate of soda after the plants have become
established will help improve crops.
Plants are ready to harvest
when large enough, between August and October, and before the
courgette, squash and pumpkin are all closely related - often
confusingly so, and are grown in basically the same way.
They need a
sunny position, a moisture-retentive soil and somewhere out of
Sow two or
three seeds 2.5cm (1in) deep outdoors in late May or early June
and cover with cloches, jars or plastic; leave in place for two
weeks, or as long as possible, after germination. Thin the
seedlings to leave the strongest one.
crops or in cold regions sow seeds on their side 13mm (0.5in)
deep indoors in 7.5cm (3in) pots of compost from mid- to late
April at 18-21C (65-70F). Harden off before planting outside in
Make planting pockets 60cm
(2ft) apart for bush varieties or 1.2m (4ft) apart for trailers
two weeks before seed sowing or planting. The pockets should be
30cm (12in) square and deep and filled with a mixture of compost
or well-rotted manure and soil; leave a low mound at the top of
the planting medium. Sprinkle a general fertiliser over the
soil. Covering the soil with black polythene will help growth
and keep the fruit off the soil. Put one plant into the top of
Pinch out the tips of the
main shoots of trailing varieties when they are 60cm (2ft) long.
Keep the soil constantly
moist by watering around the plants not over them. As they need
plenty of water, sink a 15cm (6in) pot alongside the plants when
planting out. Water into this and it will help ensure the water
goes right down to the roots and not sit around the neck of the
plant, which can lead to rotting.
Feed every 10-14 days with
a high potash liquid fertiliser once the first fruits start to
The fruit of marrows and
pumpkins should be supported off the soil on a piece of tile or
marrows, courgettes and summer squashes when the fruit is still
quite small, courgettes 10-12.5cm (4-5in) long, marrows 25cm
picking courgettes while they are small will ensure a long
winter squashes and marrows for over-wintering let the fruit
mature on the plant and remove before the first frost strikes.
cucumbers are those grown indoors under glass - and they crop
earlier and for longer.
cultivars are needed for indoor or outside culture. Indoors
always select F1 cultivars as these don't, under good growing
conditions, produce male flowers - just the cucumber-producing
females. If male flowers are produced they should be removed
otherwise the flowers will be pollinated and the fruit will
Sow at 24-27C
(75-80F); maintain a temperature of 18-21C (65-70F) after
germination and when growing on.
Greenhouse cultivation: sow from
mid-February to mid-March (heated greenhouse) or April (unheated
greenhouse).Outdoor cultivation: sow
in late April. Alternatively, sow directly outside in late May
or early June and cover the soil above the seeds with a cloche
or glass jar; this method isn't always successful.
Sow the seeds
on their side, 13mm (0.5in) deep when sowing indoors or 2.5cm
(1in) deep if sowing direct outside.
are available from garden centres in spring and are a good bet
where you can't maintain the right conditions for germination
and growing on.
young plants to 25cm (10in) pots of good compost in late March
(heated greenhouse), late May (unheated greenhouse) or early
June outdoors. Keep the compost evenly moist - little and often
is the best way. Plants can also be grown in growing-bags but
will need to be carefully watered and looked after.
growing, make planting pockets 45cm (18in) apart two weeks
before seed sowing or planting out that are 30cm (12in) square
and deep and fill with a mixture of compost or well-rotted
manure and soil; leave a low mound at the top of the planting
medium. Sprinkle a general fertiliser over the soil.
every 10-14 days once planted out with a balanced liquid
fertiliser, changing to a high potash one when the first fruits
start to set.
humidity high by watering the floor.
main stem up a vertical wire or cane. Pinch out the growing
point when it reaches the roof. Pinch out the tips of sideshoots
two leaves beyond a female flower. Pinch out the tips of
flowerless side-shoots once they reach 60cm (2ft) long.
Pinch out the
growing tip when the plants have developed seven leaves. The
developing side-shoots can be left to trail over the ground or
trained up stout netting. Pinch out the tips of flowerless
side-shoots after seven leaves.
the male flowers.
Keep the soil
constantly moist by watering around the plants - not over them.
Cut the fruits when they are
about 15-20cm (6-8in) long using a sharp knife.
neglected crop, but one that is increasing in popularity, kale
tolerates cold weather better than most other brassicas and
isn't troubled by birds, clubroot and cabbage rootfly. It will
also tolerate a lightly shaded position.
the leaves when they are young and tender.
13mm (0.5in) deep in a seed bed in rows 15cm (6in) apart from
March to June. Thin the seedlings to 7.5cm (3in) apart.
Kale can also
be treated as a cut-and-come-again crop. Sow the seed where you
want it to grow.
Transplant the young
plants to their growing position when plants have five or six
true leaves, setting the lowest leaves at ground level. Water
well the day before moving, firm in well after transplanting and
'puddle' in the plants with plenty of water. Space 45cm (18in)
Water well in dry weather
and conserve soil moisture with a mulch. A spring feed will
Protect the plants from
birds by covering with netting or fleece.
remove young leaves from the top of the plant from October
onwards. Side-shoots are formed after the main crown is
harvested and these are ready for use from February to May; pick
shoots that are 10-15cm (4-6in) long and still young.
cut-and-come-again crop harvest when the plants are 5cm (2in)
high. Further young leaves will be produced that can be cut
Increasing in popularity, kohl rabi is a brassica that produces
swollen edible stem bases. It is more tolerant of warm weather
than turnips and easier to grow successfully. It grows quickly,
maturing in a few months from sowing.
Both green and purple
forms are available.
The taste is generally
nutty with a slight celery and cabbage taste.
13mm (0.5in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart from April to July.
Thin out the
seedlings until the plants are 15cm (6in) apart. Soak the soil
during periods of dry weather, but try to keep it constantly
moist. Provide protection against birds and cabbage rootfly.
important to harvest when the plants are young and the swollen
stem bases are between golf- and tennis ball-size. If you leave
them too long they lose their taste and tenderness. Plants can
be harvested until mid-December.
Leeks are a
stalwart winter vegetable that have more uses than simply
are raised in a seed bed and then transplanted to their final
growing positions. This means that leeks can be transplanted
into soil previously used for other crops, and so they don't
take up a large area of your veg plot in early summer.
crops you will need to improve the growing area by digging in
plenty of compost or well-rotted manure in the autumn.
13mm (0.5in) deep in rows 15cm (6in) apart in a seedbed in March
seedlings to approximately 4-5cm (1.5-2in) apart.
are ready to transplant in June when they are about 20cm (8in)
high and the thickness of a pencil. Water well the day before
lifting and transplanting. Prepare the plants by trimming off
the root tips.
(6in) deep holes with a dibber 15cm (6in) apart in rows 30cm
(12in) apart and drop a plant into each hole. Fill the hole with
water to settle the roots. Top up with water as necessary for
the plants to establish. If you have a lot of plants, try
dropping two or three into each planting hole. You'll get
smaller leeks but the overall yield should be the same.
the length of white stem it can be blanched by gently drawing up
dry soil around the stem in stages, but try not to allow soil to
fall between the leaves. An easier way to blanch the stems is to
slide a section of drainpipe, cardboard or similar over the
plants. Using this method, together with growing in fertile
raised beds, means you can plant 23cm (9in) apart in all
Start lifting when the leeks
are still quite small to ensure a long harvest period. Gently
lift from the soil using a fork.
Leeks can remain in the
ground through the winter until they are needed.
By choosing a selection of
types and cultivars and having a protected growing area it is
possible to have tasty lettuce leaves for most of the year.
There are several
Butterhead lettuces have
an open habit, are quick-maturing and tolerate poorer
The Cos types have an
upright growth habit and oblong head.The crisphead types
produce large hearts of curled and crisp leaves and are more
resistant to bolting (going to seed prematurely); this group
includes the iceberg lettuces.
Finally, there are the
loose-leaf cultivars, so called because they do not produce
a heart - they are cut-and-come-again types where you simply
cut as many leaves as you want and leave the plant to
Sow a short row every
fortnight to ensure continuity of cropping.
Sow seed thinly 13mm
(0.5in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart.
Time of sowing depends on
when the crop is wanted:
summer/autumn crop: sow outdoors from late March to late
July. For an even earlier crop, sow with heat in early February
and plant out in early March under cloches or plastic; pre-warm
the soil for two weeks first. For an early
winter crop: sow outdoors in early August and cover the
plants with closed cloches in late September.For
a mid-winter crop: sow in a heated greenhouse in
September and October and grow on in the greenhouse.For
a spring crop: sow a cultivar such as 'Winter Density' in
September/October either in a cold greenhouse or outside under
cloches in mild areas.
High soil temperatures in
summer can prevent some cultivars from germinating. Sow in the
evening, water with cold water and provide some shade to keep
Start thinning as soon as the
first true leaves appear and continue until the plants are 30cm
(12in) apart, 23cm (9in) for dwarf, compact cultivars and 15cm
(6in) for loose-leaf types. If you water the soil the day before
thinning and do it carefully, the thinnings can be planted out
to give a slightly later crop. Thinnings can also be picked and
Water when the soil is
dry; the best time to water is in the early morning.
Early in the year sparrows
can be a problem as they find young lettuce plants irresistible.
Protect with fleece, chicken wire or similar.
Lettuce is ready to cut when
a firm heart has formed; the exception to this is the loose-leaf
types where leaves are harvested as and when needed. It is best
to cut in the morning when the plants will be the freshest.
Onions are one of the most versatile vegetables and are pretty
easy to grow. Most people grow from sets - immature bulbs -
although seed is available for onions; shallots are always grown
Sets are quicker to
mature, are better in colder regions, less likely to be attacked
by some pests and diseases and need less skill to grow; it is
always worth buying heat-treated sets.
Sow seed 13mm (0.5in) deep in
rows 20cm (8in) apart from late February through to early April.
Thin first to 5cm (2in) apart and then later to 10cm (4in)
Plant onion sets 10cm
(4in) apart in rows 10cm (8in) apart from mid-March to
Plant shallots 15cm (6in)
apart in rows 23cm (9in) apart from mid-February to mid-March.
Gently push the sets into
soft, well-worked soil so that the tip is just showing and firm
the soil around them. Birds can be a problem lifting the sets so
carefully remove the loose skin at the top of the set before
Water if the weather is dry
and give an occasional feed with a general liquid fertiliser. A
light feed of sulphate of potash in June will help ripen the
bulbs ready for storage.
Mulching the soil will
help conserve soil moisture and keep down weeds. Stop watering
and feeding once the onions have swollen and remove any mulch or
soil to expose the bulb to the sun.
Remove any flower spikes
as soon as they are seen.
Onions can be harvested when
the foliage turns yellow and starts to topple over. Although it
is sometimes suggested to bend over the foliage or gently lift
the bulbs to break the roots this is no longer recommended.
Leave for two to three weeks and then carefully lift with a
Those for storage must be
firm, disease free and then dried for two to three weeks, either
laid out in the sun or in a shed if the weather is wet.
The foliage of shallots
will start to turn yellow in July. Lift the bulb clusters,
separate them and allow to dry.
Although fairly disappointing
when boiled as a vegetable, roast parsnips are a joy to eat -
and parsnips are gorgeous in stews.
They are easy to grow,
once they've germinated, and need little maintenance and can be
left in the soil until ready to use.
Sow three seeds at 15cm
(6in) intervals, 13mm (0.5in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart.
Although it is sometimes
recommended to start sowing in February, this can lead to
failure. Sowings made in March and April and even early May will
do much better. Or, warm the soil before sowing with cloches or
similar; leave in place until the seedlings have developed two
When the seedlings are about
2.5cm (1in) high thin out to leave one seedling per 15cm (6in)
Keep the soil evenly moist
to avoid splitting.
The roots are ready to lift
when the foliage starts to die down in autumn; use a fork to
carefully lift them. They can be left in the soil and lifted as
required, although lifting a few extra in November will ensure
you still have parsnips to eat even if the soil is frozen.
Lightly frosted roots tend
to produce the best flavour.
You can't beat the flavour of
freshly picked, home-grown peas - as soon as they are picked the
sugars they contain turn to starch and they loose their
sweetness and flavour.
They can be a bit tricky
to grow, but they're worth bearing with. By growing different
types and cultivars you can have fresh pods from May until
October. Mange tout and sugar snaps are generally easier to grow
than standard peas.
Peas are classed by when
the pods are mature and the shape of the dried pea; round peas
tend to be hardier and will tolerate poorer growing conditions
For best results make sure
the soil is well dug and has plenty of added moisture-holding
material. Never sow in cold, wet soil. Liming may be necessary
to produce an alkaline soil. Choose a position that gets plenty
The easiest way to sow is
to dig out a flat-bottomed trench 5cm (2in) deep and 15cm (6in)
wide. Then sow the seeds evenly in the trench approximately
7.5cm (3in) apart, cover with soil and lightly firm down. If you
need a second row make this the expected height of the crop away
from the first trench.
First earlies are
sown from March to early June and will be ready to pick in
11 to 13 weeks.
Second earlies are
sown from March to June and are ready in around 14 weeks.
are sown at the same time and take up to 16 weeks.
Water well during dry periods
and mulch the soil to preserve soil moisture.
Apart from dwarf
cultivars, you will need to provide some support for the plants
to scramble up. One of the easiest and most natural supports is
to insert twiggy branches alongside the plants when they’re
7.5cm (3in) high. Pea netting is an alternative, but it's a
nightmare to untangle the plants from it at the end of the
growing season. Lightweight trellis and willow panels are
The one pest you want to
be careful of is pea moth - whose presence you'll only notice
when it comes to shelling your peas - the maggot will have got
there first! Female moths lay their eggs just as the flowers
fade and the pods are developing and this is the time to do
something about it.
Pods are ready to harvest
when they are well filled, when the pod is still fresh and green
and hasn’t started to dry out. Pick regularly or the plants will
Mangetout and sugar snaps
peas should be picked when the pods are about 7.5cm (3in) long
and the peas are just starting to develop.
Potatoes are hugely versatile
and are a staple ingredient of many meals in one form or another
- boiled, mashed, chipped or baked. Freshly dug and lightly
boiled with mint or cooled and eaten with salads they just can't
There are three main types
- first earlies, second earlies and maincrops depending on when
they are planted and harvested; grow a selection of all three
for a long cropping period, and store maincrops over winter.
Extra early potatoes can be obtained by planting varieties such
as first earlies from late February under fleece or, better
still, by growing individually in pots under glass.
Potatoes need a sunny site
away from frost pockets - the newly emerging foliage is
susceptible to frost damage. You can prevent this by earthing up
the soil around the shoots or by covering them with fleece.
It's important to keep
light away from the developing new potatoes as light turns them
green and green potatoes are poisonous.
Seed tubers should be
planted around late March for first earlies, early to mid-April
for second earlies and mid- to late April for maincrops. This
varies slightly depending on where you are in the country.
There are numerous ways of
It's vital with earlies
and a good idea with maincrops to chit the seed tubers first
before planting; this means allowing them to produce sturdy
shoots. Buy your seed potatoes in late January/February and
stand them rose end up (the rose end has the most eyes) in egg
boxes or similar in a light, frost-free place. The tubers are
ready to plant when the shoots are about 2.5cm (1in) long.
The traditional way is to
dig a narrow trench 12.5cm (5in) deep. This can be lined with
compost or even grass clippings for a better crop. The seed
tubers are spaced 30cm (12in) apart for earlies and 37.5cm
(15in) for maincrop varieties in rows 24in (60cm) apart for
earlies and 75cm (30in) apart for maincrop. Sprinkle slug
pellets or other slug deterrents between the tubers as keel
slugs can be a problem.
When the stems are about
23cm (9in) high start earthing up by carefully drawing soil up
to the stems and covering to produce a flat-topped ridge about
15cm (6in) high. This can be done little and often or in one go.
The other method is to
grow the potatoes under black polythene. The tubers are planted
through the black polythene. The advantage of this method is
that there is no need to earth up and the new potatoes form just
below soil level which means there's no digging to harvest them.
It's also possible to grow
them in large containers - or even black bin liners. Line the
bottom 15cm (6in) of the container with potting compost and
plant the seed tuber just below this. As the new stems start
growing, keep adding compost until the container is full.
Keep crops well watered in
dry weather; the vital time is once the tubers start to form. A
liquid feed of a balanced general fertiliser every fortnight can
help increase yields.
First earlies should be ready
to lift in June and July, second earlies in July and August,
maincrops from late August through October.
With earlies wait until
the flowers open or the buds drop; the tubers are ready to
harvest when they are the size of hens' eggs. With maincrops for
storage wait until the foliage turns yellow, then cut it and
remove it. Leave for 10 days before harvesting the tubers,
leaving them to dry for a few hours before storing.
Radishes need to be grown
steadily and harvested young to ensure they remain succulent,
otherwise they can become woody and inedible.
Sow little and often and
make sure they grow well without any checks to their growth.
Because radishes are quick
to mature they can be used as a 'catch crop' being sown between
rows of slower-growing vegetables such as peas and potatoes.
They can even be used as
row markers of slow-germinating crops, such as parsnip and onion
- the radishes germinate quickly, marking out the row where the
other crops have been sown and can be pulled before interfering
with the main crop
There are also winter
cultivars (mooli) whose large roots can be used raw or cooked.
Sow thinly 13mm (0.5in)
deep in rows 15cm (6in) apart for summer types or 23cm (9in)
apart for winter ones.
Summer cultivars are sown
from March to mid-August; for an early crop sow in February in
pre-warmed soil and protect with cloches.
Winter cultivars are sown
in July or August.
By sowing seed thinly
(approximately 2.5cm/1in apart) there should be no need for
thinning summer cultivars, but any that is needed should be done
as soon as possible. Winter cultivars should be thinned to 15cm
Keep the soil moist to
ensure rapid growth, keep the roots fleshy and tasty and prevent
splitting. Sowings made in July and August can be a problem due
to the hotter, drier conditions, so make sure these are well
Pull summer radishes as
required, making sure they are never left to mature and become
Winter cultivars can be
left in the ground and dug up as required, or lifted in November
Spinach can be grown to
produce a crop all year round, and at times when other greens
might be in short supply. When prepared and cooked properly -
pick and use fresh, steam rather than boil - it is a tasty,
versatile crop to grow. It can even be used raw in salads.
Some cultivars can also be
overwintered for an early spring harvest.
Winter cultivars need a
sunny position, but summer types often benfit from a little
shade - try growing between rows of taller crops.
Sow seeds 2.5cm (1in) deep
in rows 30cm (12in) apart.
Summer cultivars: sow every few weeks from mid-March to
the end of May.
Winter cultivars: Sow in August and again in September.
Thin seedlings to 7.5cm (3in)
apart when large enough to handle. A few weeks later harvest
every alternative plant for use in the kitchen.
Keep well watered during
dry periods in summer.
Winter cultivars will need
protection from October onwards - unless you live in a mild
area. Cover with cloches or protect the crown with straw or
similar material and cover with fleece.
cultivars: pick between late May and the end of October. Winter cultivars: pick between
October and April.
Harvest the leaves
continually once they're large enough to pick.
To prevent the leaves
tasting bitter make sure the soil is rich and contains plenty of
Sadly, sweet corn is not the
easiest crop to grow in the UK, but newer, more modern cultivars
are better suited to our climates, making things far better.
Sweet corn must be grown
in a sunny position that is sheltered from strong wind.
As the plants are wind
pollinated they should be grown in blocks rather than rows
setting the plants 45cm (18in) apart.
There are some mini sweet
corn cultivars. Because mini corn is harvested before
fertilisation, it doesn't need to be grown in a block and can
even be grown as a windbreak! Each plant will produce five or
Sow at 18-21C (65-70F)
from late March to early May in peat pots or deep pots at a
depth of 2.5cm (1in).
In mild areas you can sow
seed directly outside from mid- to late May in soil pre-warmed
for two weeks with cloches or clear plastic. Sow two seeds 2.5cm
(1in) deep 45cm (18in) apart in rows 45cm (18in) apart; remove
the weakest seedling. Leave the cloches or plastic over the
plants until they've grown and touch the top.
Plant out indoor-raised
plants at the end of May or early June depending on the weather.
Stake tall cultivars or if
the position is windy.
When roots appear at the
base of the stem cover them over with soil.
Water well in dry weather;
this is vital when the plants are flowering. Liquid feed when
the cobs begin to swell.
Tap the tops of the plants
when the male flowers (tassels) open to help pollination; poor
pollination will result in poorly filled/irregularly filled
mustn't be grown with other cultivars or cross-pollination will
reduce the sweetness.
Test for ripeness when the
tassels have turned chocolate brown; squeeze a grain between
thumbnail and fingernail - if a watery liquid squirts out then
it is unripe, if it is creamy the cob is ready. Twist the ripe
cob from the stem.
Tomatoes are one of the most
popular vegetables - and that's not surprising since the taste
fresh from the vine is divine. There are numerous cultivars and
types from the small-fruited cherry types to the monster
beefsteak forms, from the standard red to yellow, orange, green,
purple and striped, from the standard tall cordon varieties to
bush and even hanging basket types.
Although growing-bags are
the favoured growing medium, the plants take a lot more careful
looking after than those growing in pots or in the ground.
Outdoor tomatoes are well
worth growing using cultivars that are more tolerant of outdoor
Sow at 18C (65F). Sow in
either seed trays or small pots. Transplant into 7.5-9cm
(3-3.5in) pots when two true leaves have formed.
Greenhouse cultivation: sow from mid-January to early
February (heated greenhouse) or late February to mid-March
Outdoor cultivation: sow in late March to early
Young plants are available
from garden centres in spring and are a good bet where you can't
maintain the right conditions for germination and growing on.
Transfer to 23cm (9in) pots,
growing-bags or plant 45-60cm (18-24in) apart outside when the
flowers of the first truss are beginning to open; plants for
growing outdoors should be hardened off first.
Tie the main stem to a
vertical bamboo cane or wind it up a well-anchored but slack
sturdy string. Those grown as bush or hanging basket types do
not need support.
Remove the side-shoots
regularly when they are about 2.5cm (1in) long. Those grown as
bush or hanging basket types do not need to have side-shoots
Water regularly to keep
the soil/compost evenly moist. Feed every 10-14 days with a
balanced liquid fertiliser, changing to a high potash one once
the first fruits start to set.
Remove yellowing leaves
below developing fruit trusses.
Once the plants reach the
top of the greenhouse or have set seven trusses indoors or four
trusses outdoors remove the growing point of the main stem at
two leaves above the top truss.
If you allow the soil or
compost to dry out and then flood it the change in water content
will cause the fruit to crack; always aim to keep plants evenly
together with a lack of calcium in the soil leads to blossom end
rot - the bottom of the fruit turns black and becomes sunken.
Start picking when the fruit
is ripe and fully coloured.
At the end of the growing
season lift the plants with unripe fruit and either lay them on
straw under cloches or hang them in a cool shed to aid ripening.
Or you can pick the green fruit and store in a drawer next to a
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