Archive for the ‘Greenhouse Polytunnels & Cold Frames’ Category

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.

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veg-patch-view

Mandy and her partner run a section of a cooperatively bought piece of land and run their Incredible Vegetables enterprise, as much as I would like to explain some details about their project, I will most likely be mirroring exactly what is already in the interview. Here are a few previous posts (Post 1) & (Post 2) regarding Incredible Vegetables for those who haven’t seen them yet.

What was your inspiration to create your enterprise? did you already have this in mind when you obtained your little strip of land or was it later on?

We didn’t have an enterprise in mind when we first obtained the land. We wanted to be self sufficient in vegetables, that was our main priority. The enterprise essentially developed from sharing what we were doing on social media and people starting asking us about the plants we were growing. There is such an interest in perennial vegetables that once people heard we were experimenting with such plants we had a huge number of requests. We thought why don’t we try and grow and supply a few of the harder to find edible perennials? It all developed from there and Incredible Vegetables was launched!

What is your reason for concentrating on unusual / bizzarre vegs and edible plants?

We spent many years as  ‘regular’ growers. By that I mean growing stuff in the back garden, including all the things you would normally find in a vegetable garden. We thought there must be more to eat and grow and there must be a different way of doing it. There are a myriad of edimentals and perennial vegetables out there and once you start researching them it is pretty hard to stop. Also we wanted to move away from enormous amount of work that annual growing involves.
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This past Summer (Yup it’s Autumn already) I finally got around to growing some plants which I failed in previous years to cultivate properly, namely Okra and Aubergine (Eggplant / Brinjal).

I will however, have to stop experimenting too much with germinating times! While I have had good success starting sun loving annual veg’s and fruits as early indoors as Late January, this last Spring with the very last minute April shock frost took out more than half of my pre-germinated seedling stock and severely damaged at least 30% of the remaining half! From now on, I think it’s safe to commit perhaps 20% of all planned varieties / species to early sowings which can be sacrificial in the case of more late frosts.

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The Beatuiful Okra Flowers in Mid Spring

Out of 4-5 Okra plants, I managed about the same amount of fingers! I attribute this to worrying too much about cold as well as pest damage and got around to planting them far too late, But the flowers are awesome!

On another note, I promised myself that this is ‘The Year Of The Salads’ and in the below photo, you can see how easy it is to find random suitable spaces to squeeze them in around your garden or plot, please stop regimentalising yourself thinking everything has to be monocultured in rows … NATURE DOES NOT WORK LIKE THAT!        Rant over 🙂

Lettuce and Okra (1).jpg

‘Jack ice – Crisphead” Lettuce at the base of Pepper Plants

Lettuce are shallow rooted and short seasoned from germination to harvest, hence why greens (cooking, salads etc.) do outweigh heavier crops such as maize, tomatoes etc. in yield due to the amount of plants you can successionally grow in one space during the full season (There are winter Lettuces and other greens like Kale which overwinter – but no Maize, Pumpkins, Tomatoes etc etc.). Being shallow rooted, they need less nutrients compared to the heavier croppers so can be grown at the base of other plants as well (Pay attention though to Companion Planting Guides).

Soon I will post about Aubergine success and tips I got from side-shooting which seemed to increase yield! I got these tips from the awesome Charles Dowding, I do recommend to get a book or two of his if you are interested in growing your own vegetables! From a person who has around 34 years growing organically in no dig systems, you would not be making a bad move in following his tips and advice in my opinion …

 

This is just a quick one to remind everyone that Summer is not the only time of year to grow vegetables for yourself and family, many leafy crops can be sown now or soon for over-wintering or supplying fresh greens during the cold months!

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Leafy Crops for Winter Vegetable supply

Some plants are intended to over-winter so that in spring after they have been spending the last few months establishing an extensive root network, they take to the new warm weather and pump out loads of delicious crop for us well before the Spring sown annuals are even out of their nursing trays! However, there are plants that will also supply food during the course of Autumn and Winter …

  • Garlic:

There are quite a few things you can plan for now, the best time to sow Garlic is in November as this ensures larger bulbs. There are specialist companies that provide Garlic via online mailorder but you could also just try a small patch of store bought cloves to see how they do! All 50-60 of the Garlic I grew this year were from Fruit and Veg shop bought bulbs, they did okay in my opinion. Plants which can follow Garlic include Tomatoes and even Pumpkins in the place of the harvested bulbs, I do however advise my readers and followers to research more options if possible …

  • Broad Beans:

Broad Beans ‘Flava flava’ can be sown September / October to over-winter for an early harvest in Spring, this mostly means that they should not be heavily affected by Black Aphid as Spring sown plants usually are. You can plan another Summer crop to grow in the place of the Broad Bean plants which you will remove after harvesting the bean pods, this is known in Vegetable Gardening as ‘Catch Cropping’ – effectively using a space for more than one crop over one year / season period.

  • True Spinach:

True Spinach, as opposed to other similar plants such as Perpetual Spinach (Another one to sow before Autumn for possible winter harvest) or Leaf Beet can be sown early to mid August for possible Autumn harvests (depending on your climate), anything sown later will mostly provide good yield in early Spring.
Similarly, Swiss Chard or Rainbow Chards should supply leaf and stalks in Autumn and perhaps Winter as well.

  • Round Seeded Pea varieties:

Round Seeded Peas (there are two types of dry seed, Round and Wrinkle Seeded) Round seeded varieties are hardier and the dry seed does not have any signs of a wrinkled skin. These can be sown September / October for an early harvest in Spring or in January onwards if you missed the Sept / Oct sowing period.

  • Winter Lettuces:

There are a decent number of Lettuce varieties which are quite hardy not only in unheated polytunnels and greenhouses but also outdoors, the best place to look for seed of this sort would be a heritage / heirloom seed supplier as they are likely to stock a few varieties, buying a cloche or mini polythene tunnel won’t be a bad idea as it keeps the cold winter winds from harming your plants. Check Salad Endive out for a year round easy to grow crop, another favourite with some gardeners is Lamb’s Lettuce AKA Corn Salad, this is a great plant to grow in a self-seed bed (A bed where you allow the plants to self seed as to reduce your own workload and allow nature to decide the ”sowing date”.

  • Oriental Greens:

Many oriental leafy vegetables are good for growing and supplying a decent yield in winter, varieties such as: Mizuna, Pakchoi,Tatsoi, Mispoona, Chinese Cabbage and Mibuna are all good.

  • The Hot / Peppery Greens:

Mustard Greens are very hardy, Rocket salad (Arugula) are a great plant to grow late Summer onwards as  the cooler weather will decrease the chances of the plants bolting.
Another good All Year, easy to grow green is Land Cress, placed in this category as it is a little spicy.

  • Windowsill Plants in Pots:

I always say people MUST experiment!! A few years back I grew a couple Tomato ‘Minibel’ (Small Cherry like, Pot Bush Tomatoes) in Terracotta pots indoors on my sunniest windowsill. I got perhaps 20-40 small mini-cherry tomatoes off of each plant during the season in your typical English Winter!

This year I will be growing a Cucamelon (As well as two Minibels again) in a slightly larger Terracotta pot on the same windowsill although with a mini bamboo trellis frame to support this Cucumber relative (Climber) keep an eye or follow this blog to see the results.

I know this list can still be expanded … however, I got lazy 🙂

There is this nice little Permaculture Farm in a very nice rural setting in farmlands in New Zealand, in this video the owner goes through many aspects from Yields, earnings from yield (per Kilo), Climate and changes / difficulties. There is even quite a detailed part on Micro green production. Their business design is on High Value crops and he explains how he even gets ahead of monoculture / large scale industrial type farmers by having some crops such as Aubergine (Eggplant / Brinjal) available as far as Two Months ahead which enables him to increase the price of the first two months charge by up to NZD 4.00 Per Kilo above the seasonal rate!

Micro Greens 1

Micro Greens mass production in a Permaculture system

Take a look at the Aubergine bed and its width / length, he claims that he made NZD 1,600 in one season from that bed alone!

Further discussions include the benefits and huge relief they had when obtaining a cooler for their salads to increase storage time and so on.

They have had a good crop of Strawberries this year with around 400 Kilograms harvested and sold for profit from the bed next to the large polytunnel (above vide and below image).

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Huge Strawberry Harvest on a Permaculture Farm

There a are a number of plants due for sowing in February, as well as some which show up in the Janurary list, these too can still be sown now …

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Young Carrots Growing In A Container

Indoors:

  • Round Seeded Peas (See explanation / description in January Sowing Calendar – Click Here),
  • Aubergines, Tomatoes and Peppers (Especially Aubergines, these plants really do need a good early start in order to have a chance of baring fruit in our climate), Peppers take long to germinate (Sometimes almost a month so going by what a general seed pack says will almost always spell disater) and Tomatoes can always do with an earlier start – just be sure to have a nice indoor spot for them to grow on in whilst waiting for the last frost date,

Outside (Polytunnel or Green house):

  • Oriental Greens and Winter Lettuce Varieties again for planting in March, (See varieties list in the January Sowing Calendar),
  • If you are in a warmer part of the country, Carrots can be sown inside Greenhouses and Polytunnels to produce an earleir Crop – you can consider these ‘Early First Earlies!’
    NOTE: I would still reccommend experimenting though, I have some carrots which were sown late outdoors with no cover at all and I am in what is considered a ”warmer part of the ountry” these Carrots have survived well on a windy site without top cover, albeit looking worse for wear, they are alive and will definitely improve when the weather gets better

Believe it or not, there are crops as well as other plants that can be started indoors in January in preparation for the upcoming growing season, some plants just need a very early start such as some cabbages as well as if you are growing Onions from seed.

onion-seed

Organic Onions Grown From Seed

Indoors:

  • If you haven’t got a problem with mice, you can start Round Seeded Peas now directly outdoors, if not, just grow indoors until large enough to go outside (Regarding Round Seeded, some peas are Round when dry, others are wrinkled when dry, the Wrinkled varieties are for later sowings),
  • Onion varieties from seed (most people grow Onion from sets, personally I like to know the level of ”Organic-ness” and don’t like growing from sets due to this,
  • Cabbage varieties such as Red Cabbages need an earlier start, refer to your seed packs,
  • Oriental Greens and Winter Salads can be grown again now (You can sow these in Autumn for growing in Polytunnels / Greenhouses) these plants will explode in Spring when the temperatures improve, still for growing under cover though … the varieties are as follows:
    mustard greens, winter lettuces, land cress, mizuna, mibuna, pak choi, mispooona & komatsuna.

Outside (Polytunnel or Green house):

  • The above mentioned Oriental Greens and Winter Salads can be direct sown in Polytunnels and Greenhouses / Cold Frames also

    Click Here for a previous post about starting Companion / Sacrificial Plants in January