Archive for the ‘General Garden Care / Tips’ Category

Hi all, I know, it’s been long! Busy is again, the usual excuse …

Here is a quick update on early – mid year harvesting, I waited longer than usual to plant out my squash family plants and it paid off! Although I still had them out much earlier than what seed companies and most gardening books in the UK recommend. Basically, I try to plant out say one third of my squash every year (Courgettes (Zucchini), Cucumbers, Pumpkins and the other unusual ones (Such as my Summer Crookneck) – with the other two thirds to go in a few weeks later, you always still have the time to germinate the first third again if the first batch fail.

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Salad, Herb and Veg Harvest – Permaculture Organics – June 2018

After chatting with a fellow allotmenteer, he told me that he came across some older information which shows that our area has never had frost anytime in May as per records – which now means anything recommended to plant ”later on in may after the last frost dates” can be pushed a few weeks forward with some small risk possibility.

Anyway,to the main story, whilst almost all of my fellow allotmenteers are only just planting out their squash, I’ve already been harvesting!! In the above photo there is some fresh Lemon Balm (for calming tea), Terragon (cooking herb – I have added this into tea as well), Sorrel (Sour, as a salad addition) and 4.5 Courgettes (one had a bit of rot on the blossom end). I have a larger batch of Lemon Balm drying in the shed at the allotment, I just wanted some to bring home fresh.

Foraging wise, I have been able to get hold of Tilia Flower for tea (Linden tree – known incorrectly as Lime tree, latin= ‘Tilia cordata’), this makes a very soothing, calming subtle tea and is probably my favorite tea – mix with Lemon Balm too! Elderflower has been harvested and kept in the freezer (might try make the wine again, if not, there are other recipes especially a cordial I want to try out).

In the kitchen, I have produced three batches of Jam so far, the first was the rushed Dandelion Flower jam which I made a few jars that should last until next year, the second was a Strawberry jam from store bought berries, then again more Strawberry as a friend who has another allotment not far from my neighbourhood went on holiday and aid I’m welcome to go there to pick them, all in all I think I got at leat 4 kg of Strawberries on the two occasions I went there. So the second batch of jam was inevitably made from Organic / Semi Organic strawberries which were sweeter, I decided to reduce the sugar content by 250-300 grams and my jam still set fine!

Finally, another thing to note – in the above photo, of all four produce harvested, Three are perennials! Permaculture emphasizes on the importance of Perennials in a food producing system… and for good reasons.

 

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With the ground warming up around the UK and some parts passing their Last Frost date, we can all start sowing most of the crops now (There are still crops which can be sown from the March and April month lists)…

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Organic Sweetcorn can be grown in your own back Garden !

Outdoors:

  • Maincrop sowings of root crops – carrots, beetroot, leeks, radishes, turnips etc

  • French, runner and broad beans, mangetout & podding peas – sow in modules/pots if you have trouble with slugs/mice etc

  • All the brassicas can still be sown this month for overwintering – kale, brussels sprouts, purple sprouting broccoli, summer and winter cabbages, calabrese and cauliflowers

  • Leaf beets inclduing Swiss Chard

  • Herbs including parsley, coriander and others

  • Keep sowing salads, Much better a small sowing every 2-3 weeks than a large patch that bolts before you can eat it

  • Early sowings of fennel – if you have trouble with it bolting, wait until mid-June

  • Sweetcorn – but only sow direct if the weather, and soil, are warm, if not then start it off in modules / small pots.

  • Salad Onions

In trays or pots

  • Brassicas & Salad Onions (If you have slug / snail problems)

  • French, runner and broad beans, all types of peas

  • Sweetcorn

In trays or pots indoors

  • Courgettes, squashes, cucumbers and melons – ideally best sown by the end of May

In a polytunnel / greenhouse

  • Summer salads

  • Basil & coriander

  • Plant out summer crops (tomatoes, peppers etc) started indoors once you’re certain night time temperatures won’t fall too low

Maintenance

  • Application of compost onto growing beds if you haven’t done so already (Creating compost in less than one year is possible with the right amount of turning and moisture / urine addition)
  • Weeding will be a chore now, good strikes on sunny days with a hoe will be useful
  • emptying your composting area and bagging up the not-so-ready compost / mulch / mold to stack somewhere out of your way and to continue composting in the bags (I recommend you get hold of stronger bags such as old compost bags or builders rubble bags as they can last years – contact a local established gardening firm or landscaping company, they often need to dispose of hundreds of mulch bags after large landscaping jobs or annual mulch applications)
  • Slug / Snail / pest control including checking regularly for Aphid and Spider Mites etc.
  • If Green manures were sown at the right dates, you may need to start chopping and forking them in as you should be getting ready to start planting crops such as Tomatoes etc.

Note/s:

We have had a pretty bad start to Spring / Early Summer – it was only 8 degrees celcius on Monday and we have had hardly any good sunshine besides that one week where we had perhaps four good days? You may still need to sow indoors with this unpredicatable weather otherwise outdoors may be a gamble considering this year’s miserable start …

Runner Beans are notorious for being water gluttons! An older method of water retention as well as feeding them is the bean Trench, I spent quite a while searching for a decent short video online but didn’t find anything that had the relevant correct method so I will be describing it as below (Many video’s online show only some newspaper or cardboard then it is topped with loads of rotting vegetables with Zero (0) browns such as mixed cardboard or rotting leaves in-between! Don’t follow that  at all), it creates a horrible pungent smell and attracts flies, you cannot ever expect good compost material if you only add in nitrogen / sugar rich matter and ignore the browns / Carbons to balance it all out … (rant over).

My advance apologies for not having photo’s as well, my bean trenches are actually not ”standard” as my soil is actually quite nutrient rich already, I have many other larger projects going on as well so I only dug a small 20cm wide by 10+ cm deep trench as a mini experiment. How is it you ask, that I can post a ”how to” on Bean Trench creation if this is my first experimental one? Because it really is a similar concept to Hugelkultur / Hugel Mounds which I have built or been involved in building quite a few over the last four years, the only main difference is the absence of Wood / Logs.

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Runner Bean Trench Layers – Organic Gardening

METHOD:

  1. Select your growing area and dig a trench about one spade blade depth and the width of a spade blade sideways (make notches at the base of the trench as air pockets – these help prevent an anaerobic environment [see image]),
  2. Lay a carpet of Brown Cardboard at the base of the trench and up the sides,
  3. If starting this in Autumn / Early Winter (it’s the ideal time), then drop grass clippings, vegetable and fruit peels, coffee and tea grounds / leaves, even composted and sieved woodchip in – follow the diagram image for the best sequencing of layers,
  4. Cover with your dug-out soil only when you finish filling, you can leave the trench open and fill in gradually over the Winter and merely add a very thin layer of soil every time if you prefer. However, this way may need a mesh net / wire net of some sort to prevent foxes etc from digging around.
  5. Stop filling / adding vegetable scraps etc. into the trench at least 6 weeks to 2 months before you plan on planting the Beans or in the case of a one day trench project, cover with soil  2 months before you intend to plant and ensure you poke a few breathing holes after every rainy day.
  6. In the case of creating a Bean Trench in Spring, you can still line the bottom with Cardboard and fresh grass clippings with some brown rotting leaves, then top this with 6 month to 1 year old compost from your bin/s.

During a mild winter, certain Runner Bean varieties may actually survive underground as a Herbaceous Perennial (The roots go dormant underground and re-sprout in Spring) – one such variety I have experience with is ‘Scarlet’. Thus, as I am expecting some of my Scarlets to re-sprout, I decided to grow Runners in the same spot as last year (partially due to lazyness).

I am likely to still grow a batch of Runner Beans at home or on another section of the Allotment and this is where I will most probably dig a deeper, more traditional trench.

If you like this post then feel free to share it via social media, I do not (I don’t have the time) to share or create multiple accounts for that purpose, this blog is also not monetised and all adverts seen go towards WordPress itself.

Here is the general UK Hardiness Zone Map with a helpful Key to give you all a general idea of what Zone you are situated in, aparrently the UK Zone system is based on the US system with only changes to the colours.

This is helpful for anyone who is planning or will be obtaining plants especially perennials to be planted before the worst of Winter, always check whether the plant is suited to your Zone’s expected worst cold weather temperatures!

Hardiness Zone Map

UK Hardiness Zone Map

The Orange blip on the south easterly end of the map would be the London Microclimate, I could not locate any map online which pinpoints major towns or cities so the above map can be a little difficult to figure out … so for example, does the London microclimate extend to Greater London or just within the confines of the city and it’s immediate sorrounding suburbs?

KEY BELOW

Hardiness Zones Key

UK Hardiness Zone Map Key and Temperatures

The best site for checking each plant’s Zone hardiness is PFAF.

Woodchip is a great soil amendment and adds nutrients into the soil slowly, I have observably proven this to myself last year on my Allotment where I stashed a few wheelbarrows of woodchip on a section of my plot because otherwise the communal woodchip would likely have been finished by the time I needed some.
Once I dug my pond out, I covered the mound of woodchip with the soil from within the pond, about 6 months later I finally started a new project in the place of the mound of soil where I discovered the very well composted woodchip and noticed when digging that the topsoil layer was darker within a few inches under the topsoil line, when I compared this to a section just a meter away, the soil was lightly coloured and only darker very close to the surface line…

Below is a great video proving and showing from day one to 8 years on, the soil is even dug down seriously deep to prove how far the amendment reached until the soil quality becomes poor again.

 

Important Note: If you obtain free woodchip from your local Tree Surgeons, always ask what tree/s were chipped! Basically, Broad Leaf are usually Alkaline or Neutral PH (Oak is Acidic though) and Coniferous are Acidic PH, So use Conifer Woodchip for pathways as less weeds will germinate amongst the mature rotting chips as well as a mulch for Acid loving plants like strawberries and Blueberries. Use the Broad Leaf for your beds and as a soil amender!

Video courtesy of youtube channel OneYardRevolution

I had a thought the other day, what am I doing wrong in terms of companion planting / sacrificial planting? (Sacrificial, meaning growing plants which you intend to attract pests away from your desired species / crops). The main result being that I always grow them too late! When Spring is approaching we just usually all take a look at our stock of seed packs or growing calendars to see what needs sowing / starting off early indoors (such as Cabbages, Onions etc.) But the one thing I am going to change this year is to have a few trays dedicated to the sacrificial plants, mainly Marigolds (Tagetes). I am using Phacelia (Phacelia tenacetifolia) as a Green Manure but am aware too that Bumblebees like the flowers so, I will be ensuring that a few plants will be grown seperately purely for the Bees and placed in various micro-climates around my gardens (place one group in full sun, another grouping in partial shade and this will ensure different flowering timings which will help the bees a lot in that their forage sources are spread out), do this with various plant species, include perennial plants, annuals etc.

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Marigolds (Tagetes) planted as sacrificials to ensure Pumpkins were left unmolested by Slugs – once they died, fresh seed was harvested for next years sowings

Marigolds have two main and a third benefit in our gardens, the first for me and most Organic farmers (small scale) benefit, is the sacrifical planting which attracts slugs and snails away from other young plants you are trying to get going in the early parts of summer, they love marigolds and will mostly go for those (violas and pansies are another plant that can be used as well).
Benefit number two is that Marigolds (Specifically Mexican marigolds) have aleopathic chemicals which suppress difficult perennial weeds such as Bind Weed, a piece of land can in theory, have this perennial weed eliminated with the correct method being used.
The third benefit is it’s Ornamental value and it’s aparrent attractiveness for Bees (after growing Marigolds for the last 3 years as sacrificial plants, I have yet to see a Bee specifically going for them), I keep seeing it mentioned on other sites online especially ones writing about Pollinator Attracting plants …

Start your Sacrificial plant sowings Now, as well as any other plants you wish to get going in your garden by seed which are either for the benefit of wildlife or perennial plants.

One trick I have learned about Marigolds is to let perhaps one set of true leaves form (the more mature leaves which will be differently shaped compared with the smaller baby leaves which come out on germination) and I then clip the top out above the first set of true leaves, I then immediately plant the tip in a small pot with damp compost and keep moist, these plants are very good for cuttings propagation, not a single one failed even though they were left right in full sun in moist compost).
Do the above for every one plant and you will easily double your population! so for example, if you decide you would like to grow maybe 40 -50 Marigolds per season. you merely need 20 – 25 starter plants to come up from seed which means one dedicated seed module tray!

Remember, as with all plants, the more you cut them lower down, the more the plant bushes out so instead of perhaps 2-4 flower heads from a mature plant, you will have lets say 5-9 flower heads and a more bushier / attractive plant, this should keep the plant lower to the ground which means more accessible food for the slugs and snails.
Once you buy one pack of Marigold seed, you should never really need to buy another pack as the seeds are easy to save, this is only unless you decide you would like to try another variety to compliment those which you already have.

In the next post, I will be writing about what can be sown now in preperation for the upcoming growing season, I will start off with January and get to February in the coming week…

Just the other day I was in a desperate need of any kind of container to plant some Sunchokes (aka Jerusalem Artichokes), Comfrey Bocking 14 and ‘Czar’ Runner Beans which I was ”gifting” to some relatives overseas. I had said that the plants will need some care until a root system was established because these plants are going from a Temperate Climate into the Tropics and luckily I happened upon these ready to be thrown away bags, from a recent clothing shopping spree.

Paper bags are ususally quite strong when supplied in Malls / Shops where the customer is expected to buy heavy loads, the best part is that I intend to merely submerge the plant with it’s paper ”pot” directly into the ground such as those common compostable / biodegradeable plant pots – completely eliminating the need for plastics and giving the plant and other organisms some additional nutrients!

Method:

Step 1: Take bag and cut vertically in half, you can pull out any handles / straps and re-use those later if you like

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Re-purposing a Bench Paper Bag into Two Plant Pots – Step 1

Step 2: Once cut, lay both pieces down on their thinner Vertical Sides as in the below photo, then deicde for yourself how large (wide at the base) you need your two pots so you can follow the follding lines and cutting lines in the diagram further below …

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Re-Purposing a Bench Paper Bag into Two Plant Pots – Step 2

Step 3: In the below diagram, the following notes are key to complete this project:

The RED Line is the base Horizontal folding line,
The two Orange Lines are the side Vertical folding lines
The two Dotted Green Lines are the only cuts you will need to make

bag-pot-process
Once all folded and ready
, the final step is using a stapler to keep it together and perhaps to re-attach the handles for ease of transport and handling (Optional)