Archive for the 'Tips & Tricks' Category

While going through the notes I made for my garden workshop last year I found this list of tips for making the most of small gardens. I’ve limited it to ten because that fit with the format but I’m sure you could add some of your own tips in the comments.

    Small Garden Tips:

  1. Grow Potatoes in pots
  2. Grow Squash not Pumpkins
  3. Grow vertically using wigwams, Cucumbers and even Green Beans
  4. Buy plug plants if you don’t have a greenhouse
  5. Build and use a coldframe
  6. Use every scrap of soil you have by planting closer than the book suggest (but remember to use a general purpose fertiliser)
  7. Plant in rows north to south to minimise over-shadowing
  8. Train fruit onto walls or along wires
  9. Only grow what you like to eat
  10. Use hanging baskets for things like cherry tomatoes

Spare Onion Sets?

A quick tip. If you have spare Onion sets left over from planting in the garden (I always do!) then plant some close together in a pot and use them like Spring Onions later in the season.


Getting Ready to Force Rhubarb

My new Rhubarb forcer! Father Christmas ‘did’ know where to buy one. Hooray! I’ll be putting it to work very soon. Once my Rhubarb is showing a few more signs of life I will be placing the forcer on top to block out the light and encourage the shoots to grow tall and tender.

I’ve never grown forced Rhubarb before so I’m looking forward to the reputedly sweet and delicate shoots that forcing produces. Its recommended to only try forcing with at least a three-year-old crown (which mine is) so hopefully the results will be good.

I’ve consulted Percy Thrower on the matter. He suggested that while you might need the extra warm that a thick layer of straw would provide with something like Seakale, you don’t need to bother with Rhubarb as it will grow on its own accord at this time of year anyway. So I’ll be sticking to just the forcing pot for now.

Anyone else forced any Rhubarb? Any tips?


Broccoli All Tucked Up

We’ve had some snow at mtp (hooray!). Not a whole lot but enough to get me worried about my Broccoli. So last night I threw a fleece over them. This morning it was like waking up to the three spirits out of A Christmas Carol. A bit spooky!

Underneath their blanket though they’re bearing it well. A little droopy but nothing some winter sun won’t fix. Come on Broccoli!


Why Do Plants Bolt?

Some of my Kale plants look like this…

And they should really look more like this…

Why? because they’ve bolted (or run to seed). Running to seed is when the plant flowers and produces seed prematurely. The reason most planst run to seed is either increasingly warm weather (Lettuce doesn’t like hot weather) or increased light levels (sometimes Spinach, Cabbage and Kales will bolt in early Spring). A few plants will also run to seed if they are short on water and they become stressed (Rocket, or Arugula as it’s called in the States).

One thing is certain; once a plants starts to bolt there’s no stopping it. Lettuce and the like will become inedible. Anyone who has ever eaten a leaf from a bolting lettuce will tell you – it ain’t nice. While the flavour of Spinach and Kale will remain largely unchanged, so you can strip the plant and then compost it.

What I can’t understand (and help me out here if you know why) is that some of my Kale plants have bolted and others haven’t. I’ve treated them the same way, watered them at the same time and they even came from the same seed packet.

Is it really just pot luck? Still, the flowers are pretty and I think I’ll leave the plant in the ground for now – if only for it’s decorative value.


Why Frost is Amazing!

I get really excited when it’s frosty. Not when it’s just a bit frosty, but a really hard, deep frost that never goes away all day. It’s even better if the sun is out – but I’ll take frost whatever the weather.

It’s my favourite kind of weather. Actually, that’s not true, snow is my favourite kind of weather but because I live in England and there is very little chance of seeing any snow in the winter these days, I have attached myself to frost as the next best thing.

And sometimes it is. If you squint your eyes a bit the kind of frost that covers the hills and trees, and paths and leaves and even individual blades of grass, really does look like snow.

It’s frosty today and I love to take photos on days like today. I have a folder on my laptop called ‘Frost’ where I keep all of my photos of frosty days – don’t worry it’s backed up! 

As a gardener frost has another significance too. Contrary to popular belief frost is your garden’s secret best friend. Frost kills, bugs, disease and viruses. If we have a mild winter (here in England at any rate) then the summer will be awash with pests and nasties partying it up in your garden – and we don’t want that do we. Yes, frost is a good thing all round.

But you must be prepared for it. Cloches, cold frames and lengths of horticultural fleece are a must in this weather. If I have anything that I think might not withstand a hard frost then I cover it up, if only just for the night. 

I also find it best to have some of my winter digging done before the real frosts come. This is ideal if your soil is clay-based or lumpy. You can rough dig it and let the frost break it down. Nature has way more energy than I do so I let it take the strain.

But most of all I try to remember to enjoy my garden during the winter months as well as the summer. It’s too easy to stay inside, with warm toes by the cozy fire and forget to get your hat and gloves on and get out there.

So that’s where I sign off. Guess where I’m going?


Onions Going to Seed


Remember to snap off onion flowers as they appear. If you let the plants flower they will become woody and unusable. Try to remember which ones started to bolt and use these first as they won’t keep well if you try to store them.


Radish Came up Blind


Ack! Some of my Radish came up blind (didn’t bulb up properly). It’s my own fault – I forgot to thin the row so they ended up overcrowded, which Radishes hate. It makes sense. They don’t have enough room to grow sideways so they grow up instead. So, make sure to thin your Radish to at least 2-3 cm apart, and keep them watered. They are easy to grow but that doesn’t mean you can sow them and forget about them like I did. Otherwise all you get is a nice row of lush green leaves, but no Radishes!


Time to Start Watering Peas


Once the pods have started to appear on your peas it’s time to start watering in earnest. A good drenching each day will help the peas swell inside the pods and produce, fat, juicy, super-sweet peas. Remember to pick them just before you want to use them or eat them fresh from the plant. But either way get ready for a taste explosion!


Protecting Peas from Pea Moth


If your peas are flowering, like mine are, then now is the time time to cover the plants with Enviromesh. Pea moths lay their eggs on the flowers of peas at this time of year and the resulting tiny, cream-coloured grub will burrow into your pea-pods ready for you to find later on in the season when you harvest your peas. Protecting the crop now will mean grub-free pea soup later. Unless you need the protein of course?

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