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Gardening Tips

As I’ve gone through the mags and sorted out what happens each month I have made a companion list which goes with the monthly lists. This list explains in more detail some things that non gardeners, like me, don’t understand. Hope it helps.

There are several terms and instructions I came across in the monthly lists that I will clarify below as an aid for your use. If you wish to use an alternative then do so. I would also appreciate an update and instructions on what you have done so I can pass that on to others.

There are no absolutes here so do not follow these instructions literally when it is clearly is not right for your situation. Usually it the cold that gets our crops because of timing. Beware of that.

Garden Terms

Organisation
Label your seeds, containers or keep a record in a book. You want to know what varieties are best and what you are planting out and this is the way to control that.

Protect from Frost
There are several ways to do this. You can take the plant indoors, into a garage or shed or you can protect it with a covering. Coverings can be cloches, bubble wrap, old net curtains or fleece.

Watering
It may seem obvious but plants that are in containers, in the greenhouse or in the house rely on us for water and because it is raining outside doesn’t mean they will not be needing watered. The heat in a house alone can evaporate the water you put in for an indoor plant. So make sure plants not in the ground get checked daily and watered as required.

The best times to water plants is in the evening when the sun starts to go down. You can also water in the morning as well or instead of if necessary. This reduces evaporation and also stops the plants from being sun damaged.

To check if a plant needs watered, inside or out, simply put your finger in the soil. If the tip of your finger is damp then the plant is OK. If not make sure you water it so the water is delivered to the roots and not just on the surface to evaporate.

To reduce water evaporation use your hoe to disrupt the surface soil. This disrupts the flow of water to the surface and it is retained for the roots.

Some plants require a lot of water when fruiting, tomatoes, peaches, apricots, grapes, marrows, courgettes, etc. all use water to bulk out. Skimp on the water and you reduce the crop.

Weeding
The best way to weed seems to be to use a hoe and break up the soil and dislodge the roots. The weeds can then be picked up by hand or left to die on the surface. Regular hoeing will stop any weeds gaining a foot hold. I put my weeds in a recycling bin to die.

Slugs, Snails and Bugs
Slugs and snails are garden pests and we need to stop them lunching on our crops. There are several ways to do this. Copper rings, they don’t like crossing them or beer traps, where they drown. The cheapest is to pick them off the crops yourself. Consider eating them yourself or feeding them to your animals. Waste not want not.

Butterflies lay eggs on brassicas, cabbages, etc. these are best washed off or brushed off when detected.

When storing ensure that all veg is pest free. Brush or wash pests off. Ensure crop is dry before storing.

Repeated sowing or planting instructions
There are several months that have the same instructions for sowing or planting seedlings. This is not an error. It just means that that crop can be harvested several times a year. For example you can plant salad crops on day 1, plant more on day 7 and start to harvest them on day 14, when you can plant some more. This may continue for several months and provide you fresh produce during those months with some left for storage for over the winter months.

Thinning out
When thinning any crop consume the removed items instead of simply discarding. If it is something you can’t compost it.

Forcing Rhubarb
Rhubarb can be forced by covering the plant with a pot. This protects it and makes it grow faster. The downside is that the growth that the plant needs is directed to the crop and the plant needs a year with no crap to recover. Professional growers simply discard the plant as it is more effective for them to do so.

Green Manure
Green Manure covers a variety of plants that will put vital nutrients back into depleted soil. Sow on cleared areas and when ready dig the crop nto the soil.
Green manures include

  • French Beans
  • Hungarian Grazing Rye
  • Mustard
  • Winter Tares

Potatoes
Chitting
It is not necessary to chit potatoes as if left in their bags, seed potatoes will produce long sprouts. However, these sproats are fragile and could easily break off.

Chitting is simply placing the potatoes in a frost free place with indirect light and will produce short strong shoots, getting them away to a faster start. You can use egg cartons or seed trays to keep them in.

With main crop potatoes, reduce the number of shoots to three, or four on larger seed potatoes, so that they produce larger potatoes rather than masses of smaller ones.

After harvesting potatoes and emptying plot fork over for any left behind. They will carry disease forward to next years crop.

Storing
Sort out the good potatoes. No bad bits or green ones. Put into Hessian or Paper sacks.

Sweetcorn
Chitting
Lay the seeds on a layer of damp kitchen paper and then place a layer of paper over in an airtight box. An old ice-cream carton can be used. Check carefully each day and as soon as the small white sprout appears, plant the seed about half to an inch deep in a 3″ pot of general purpose compost in the greenhouse.

When the shoots appear about an inch high, plant out under cloche being as they do not like their roots being disturbed. Feed with a teaspoon of dried blood per plant or water with urea.

To protect the roots you can pack old toilet roll inners with compost and sow the seeds in there, planting out the whole roll when ready. Packed like this they can dry out easily and you need to ensure they are planted with the whole roll below ground level or the collar will dry out and restrict growth. Alternatively you can use half or a third of the toilet roll.

Tomatoes
Tomatoes need a lot of water. Ensure that they are well watered and feed.

To get the best tomatoes you need to pinch out extra side shoots that appear.

Runner Beans
When runner beans hit the maximum height you want then pinch out the main shoot and let the nutrients go to the side shoots.

Strawberry
New Strawberry plants can be taken from runners. These runners sprout from the main plant and take root in the ground. Ensure that these roots take place where you want or put in a pot. Weight down to ensure rooting. When rooted cut from the main plant and compost the runners themselves.

Carrots
Carrots can be stored in peat, or sand or loose in a cold dark shed.

Hardwood Cuttings
To take hardwood cuttings of soft fruit like;

  • Gooseberries
  • Redcurrants
  • Blackcurrants
  • Jostaberries
  • Whitecurrants
  • Worcesterberries
  • Grapes

These can then be propagated by inserting in the open ground in the winter.
Choose sturdy well ripened shoots and cut them just below a bud and trim to just above a bud.
For black currants take them about 8-10 inches long. With 12-15 inches for all other fruits. Insert them into the soil to about half their length.

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