Archive for July, 2013

mtp

Four Cute Ideas

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I love volunteering in other people’s gardens because they always have great ideas that I could never come up with myself. These ideas come from the Washington county Master Gardeners demo garden. This is a bean support made out of an old bicycle wheel.

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These old coffee cans serve three purposes to keep out slugs, keep warmth in and help direct water to the roots.

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This anti-cat device deters cats from pooping in the garden.

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This bean wigwam is open at one side so that the kids can play in it. So simple.

chilli

I was volunteering at a local farmer’s market this weekend at the Master Gardeners stall. We are there to answer gardeners’ questions and promote organic gardening techniques.

A guy came over and asked a question about his failing Chilli Pepper plants. He said that he had sowed his Chilli seed back in February and grown some lovely, bushy and healthy plants. He had nurtured them through the Spring and in late Spring when we had a week of nice hot weather he had planted them out in the ground.

Since then their growth has slowed right down. Unlike the Chilli in the photo above, the larger leaves were falling off and the fruits that were ripening were tiny. The whole plant was not thriving and he wanted to know if we knew why?

Well, we had an idea. The week of nice hot weather was at the end of May and it was followed by a week of rain and rather colder weather (not icy – just chilly). This could have knocked the plants back and they’re having a hard time recovering.

He also mentioned that while he hadn’t tested his soil he suspected that it wasn’t that great nutrient-wise and that he hadn’t fertilised the plants at all. Chilli Peppers like rich soil with lots of organic matter in it. So if this chap’s soil is not all that it be he should have been fertilising with a good organic all round fertiliser like E B Stone’s Tomato and Vegetable Food.

The numbers on the front of the box say it all 4-5-3 (that’s Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium). The highest number is Phosphorus which ensures that the overall root system of the plant is sound. Next comes Nitrogen to help build healthy leaves, and a close third comes Potassium that will help with fruiting. Given all three a vegetable will do its thing – produce a healthy crop for you. I wrote a more in depth post about the nutrients a plant needs if you want to know more info.

So in short, the poor Chilli plant was in shock from being planted out too soon. Taken from its lovely potting soil and transferred to a somewhat sub-standard soil and left to fend for itself. No wonder it’s not in the mood to produce big Chilli Peppers.

It’s probably too late this season but next season he should wait until at least the middle of June (or when the warm weather is predictable where you are) to plant out his Chilli plants. They are the last to go out in my garden along with Eggplant. They really are delicate.

And, to improve his soil before next Spring he could plant an over-wintering cover crop (maybe Red Clover) to increase the organic matter content of his soil. Sow in September, let it grow over the Winter and chop it in just after it has flowered in Spring, but (crucially) before it goes to seed. That will ensure a better soil structure next year. It’s probably not a bad idea to fertilise during the growing season occasionally too.

artichokes

I harvested some Artichokes this week. Two globe and one purple. I’m so impressed that the plants are producing Artichokes this year and I only grew them from seed this season. Artichokes are big, big plants but if you have the room and full sun all day they are the perfect architectural plant giving both height and abundance.

Some of the globes did have some black fly on them – the bane of Artichokes. You can either spray them with a light water and washing up liquid mix or power wash them off with the hose pipe. I prefer powering them as it’s much more fun.

We normally eat them roasted and dipped in melted butter but there are some great recipes over at The Artichoke Blog too.

mtp

The Best Headed Cabbage

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I’ve been really impressed with this variety of Cabbage. It’s a round, green one called Parel. These Cabbages were ready to eat around three weeks ago and we have been quietly eating our way through them one by one since then. What impresses me is that they are just sitting there waiting their turn. No bolting, no yellowing. They still look as good now as they did when they were first ready. Now, if this were a row of Lettuce we all know what would have happened!

We’ve been eating lots of the Riverford Asian Coleslaw with Peanuts and Chilli with some homegrown Carrots in there too. And it’s been heaven.

I totally recommend this variety and will be growing it again next year. Definitely!

mtp

Planting A Winter Garden

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Every year I want to grow a Winter vegetable garden and every year it seems I miss the boat with sowing the seed and planting. Not this year. I sowed this little collection of seeds a few weeks ago and have been busy keeping them cool and watered. Around now is the time to plant them into the ground so that they can get to a decent size before over-Wintering. Although a few weeks either way won’t matter much.

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I sowed Winter varieties of Chard, Broccoli, Cabbage (red and green), Kale, Calvolo Nero, Leeks, Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts. I also sowed Beetroot, Carrots, Parsnip and Rutabaga (Swede) direct into the soil.

The reason I raised most of them in seed trays and not direct is because I needed to clear some ground before I planted. Now that the Peas and Lettuce have gone over I have lots of room to plant my Winter garden.

I chose the site for the Winter garden carefully. I chose a patch of land that is high in nutrients (I have already dug in a crop of Arugula (Rocket) so there is plenty of organic matter in there. I also chose a site close to the house. In Winter I don’t want to be trotting through the cold garden to pick my Kale.

Now that most things are in the ground all I have to do is keep them watered and stake them if necessary.

It’s not too late to sow some seeds now for a Winter vegetable garden. I might sow some more Carrots this week too! You can never have too many Carrots in my opinion.

mtp

Are Peppers Self Fertile?

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I grew these Peppers from seed back in February. They are pretty sturdy plants right now and they were starting to flower. When I told someone that I was growing them in pots in my greenhouse she questioned whether they would need pollinating by insects. Something that wouldn’t necessarily happen in the greenhouse.

I must admit it hadn’t crossed my mind. I think because I think I read somewhere that Peppers are self-fertile and don’t need pollination (a bit like Tomatoes). But it got me worried. So I looked into it.

The definitive answer is yes, Peppers are self-fertile. Although, the correct phrase is self-pollinating. Each flower has both male and female parts and pollinates itself as it opens.

If you want to be on the safe side then you can shake or tap the stem to vibrate the plant and release the pollen. Or you can take an artist’s brush and twirl it around in the flowers. But there shouldn’t be any need if they are grown in normal conditions.

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The proof of this is that all my Pepper plants (both Bell Peppers and Chilli Peppers) have set fruit without any hand pollination. Temperatures in the greenhouse are a little high right now and so I have brought them out into the garden. Mainly, to make them easier to water.

I might think about planting them in the ground too if the hot weather continues as I’ve been watering them twice a day.

mtp

Passing Peas Over the Fence

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The Peas have reached their height. I officially have more Peas (these are Green Arrow) than I can eat. Time to start dishing them out the neighbours I think. I love this time of year. When everything is in abundance. Nothing feels too excessive because there is always more where that came from.

And that’s what it’s all about. Once your own needs are met then you can start being generous with others. I love nothing better than to give someone a Lettuce and tell them what variety it is. Or pass some Peas over the fence just in time for dinner. Brilliant.

I’m interested to know what is the crop you like to share? And which do you keep for yourself?

rasp

This is the easiest thing to make – ever. When we went Raspberry picking I had quite a few fruits left over after we had had our fill. This is a really easy way to make sorbet. I thought it would be strange leaving the seeds in as I had only ever made sorbet by straining the mixture before. But it really doesn’t make a difference and makes the process really quick.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups (768g) of Raspberries
  • 1 cup (128g) of sugar
  • 1 and 3/4 (224g) cup of water

Method:

1. Put the sugar and water in a pan and heat until the sugar is melted. Let it cool.

2. Put the Raspberries in a mixer with a sprinkle of water and pulse for a few seconds. You don’t want to blend them but just chop them up.

3. Pour in the sugar water and blend until smooth.

4. Put into an airtight container and freeze.