GROWING VEGETABLES

ORGANIC VEGETABLE GARDENING FOR BEGINNERS

To be successful at organic vegetable gardening you must draw up detailed plans. The soil is your first consideration; how to make it rich and fertile, and how to prepare it so harmful pests won't attack your vegetable garden. The two ways that organic vegetable gardening differs from conventional gardens is the usage of fertiliser and how to keep pests under control. Phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium are the three components essential to your organic garden.

For lush, green foliage you must have nitrogen. For strong roots and stems phosphorus is needed. And for the important protection from disease and brief cold snaps, potassium is a must. Let's call them the big three. The big three are available in commercial fertilisers however they are synthetic. In organic vegetable gardening the big three are added in a much different way.

The best way of enriching your soil is by compost. Dig some pits in your back yard to start your compost from kitchen refuse. Use things like pine needles, corn stalks, leaves, carrot tops, fruits or vegetables that have spoiled, manure, egg shells and coffee grinds. Some organic gardeners use weeds in their compost but I do not recommend this for obvious reasons. As the compost materials decompose they release bacteria and fungi into the soil that you are preparing. The bacteria and fungi convert nutrients like nitrogen to ammonia and nitrates that will be usable for your vegetables. Use substances such as seaweed, potash salts, tobacco stems and wood ash to help make potassium in your compost. By making your own compost, you are controlling the mixture and balance to achieve the right combination for your organic vegetable garden.

To be absolutely sure that your compost has completely broken down and is now offering up the right balance, start working it into the soil at least two weeks before you plan on planting.

The pH in the soil must be right for healthy plants. Test your soil, if it has a ph of 0 it is very acidic, while a 14 is extreme alkaline. Of course a seven indicates neutral soil. To raise the pH of the soil inexpensively use ground limestone. An additional benefit of the limestone is that it contains magnesium something that most soils lack. If, on the other hand, you have extreme alkaline soil use sulpher to bring the pH down.

Pest control in organic vegetable gardening is also different that conventional gardening. In many conventional beds gardeners wish to eradicate all pests with pesticides. Many in organic gardening only wish to keep the pest population down so to have a balance in the garden. Obviously, whenever possible, plant pest resistant vegetables. In order for harmful organisms to grow, they need bright sunlight so keep thick mulch around the plants to deny the organisms that needed sunlight and to help hold moisture into the ground. If you find you have a heavy infestation here is a natural pest control formula:

In a jar, combine 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid and 1 cup vegetable oil. Shake vigorously. In an empty spray bottle, combine 2 teaspoons of this mixture and 1 cup water. Use at ten-day intervals (or more often if needed) to rid plants of whiteflies, mites, aphids, scales, and other pests.

Follow this tips and you are on your way to raising a healthy and plentiful organic vegetable garden.

Happy Gardening!

 

Article by Mary Hanna

 

Mary Hanna is an aspiring herbalist who lives in Central Florida.


GENERAL TIPS ON GROWING VEGETABLE VARIETIES 

There is a huge variety of vegetables you can grow easily in your garden. Once you have set out your plot and decided what to grow and how, it's time to populate your plot and start growing. However, simply planting vegetable plants into the ground and waiting for them to delivery fresh produce is not enough. Different vegetables like different conditions and some need more nurturing than others. Here are some handy tips on getting the best out of just a few popular varieties.

PEAS

There is no better sound than the pop of a juicy fat pea pod bursting open to reveal those first few peas of the year. For me peas are the garden's sweets and it is a wonder that any make it back to my kitchen at all! When growing peas make sure you dig the soil well and work in plenty of manure before planting, as peas like rich moisture-retentive soil. Mulching around the base of each plant and regular watering will also help them through dry spells of weather which they dislike. First sowing outside will depend on location but is normally between early and mid-spring. But make sure the soil has warmed up sufficiently first. Peas should be well supported with sticks or stakes, allowing good space for the pods to develop on the plants. Peas are a favourite of birds so it might be a good idea to protect young plants with chicken wire or plastic netting. Harvest the pods regularly to make sure they are at their most fresh and use or freeze as required.

RUNNER BEANS

I would always recommend growing runner beans to those who have little experience of growing vegetables. They are easy to grow and require little effort. They look great and yield a big crop over a long period of time. Runner beans have only three main requirements - deeply dug soil, lots of well rotted manure and plenty of water. To grow runner beans you need a good support system. Tall bamboo obelisks or strong hazel sticks will make the perfect structure for them to climb up. Make sure you put your stakes in early and secure them well - it's amazing how strong these plants can become when they are laden with beans! Sow the seeds indoors in early to mid-spring and the young plants can then be planted out at the bottom of each upright support in early summer. Pinch out the growing tips when they reach the top of the support structure so the plants don't become top- heavy. Pick the pods when they are young and before they swell as older pods can be stringy.

TOMATOES

You just can't beat the tangy sweet taste of fresh tomatoes straight from the vine. You can grow tomatoes in your greenhouse, in a grow-bag or in the garden. I prefer to grow them in the greenhouse as you are guaranteed a better crop because the plants are not so dependent upon the weather. Don't bother growing tomatoes from seed, they can be fiddly and you always end up with far more plants than you can use or give way, but buy small plants. Gardener's Delight is a favourite variety of mine. This variety produces an abundance of small cherry tomatoes that are very sweet and juicy. Pinch out the growing tip of plants once they have produced five or six healthy looking fruit-bearing side shoots. Water and feed your tomatoes well and they will reward you all summer long.

POTATOES

For the vegetable gardener, potatoes are an easy crop to grow that can be relied upon to produce a good crop. If you don't have the room to grow both early varieties and a maincrop, then my advice would be to stick to early salad varieties. There is nothing more satisfying than digging up the first summer salad potatoes and eating them with a good dollop of butter. Seed potatoes need to be chitted before they can be planted out. That is getting them to sprout short green shoots. Begin planting potatoes from early to mid-spring. The best way is to dig a trench. Handle each potato carefully so as not to knock off any shoots and plant to a depth of about 15cm, with 30cm between each potato. As soon as the shoots appear above the ground start the process of earthing-up by raking the soil around and over them to produce a ridge. This prevents the tubers becoming exposed to the light and turning green which makes them poisonous. Water young plants well to ensure a heavy crop of tubers. Watch out for potato blight which can be a particular problem in warm wet summers and will ruin a crop. Harvesting the first potatoes is like digging for treasure. The crop is ready when the plants have flowered. Choose a warm dry day and scrape away a little of the soil to check is the tubers are big enough. Leave the tubers exposed to the air for a few hours to allow them to dry off. This makes them easier to store.

CARROTS

You might wonder why bother to grow carrots when they are relatively cheap to buy and store well. But I think you have never truly tasted a carrot until you have tasted one you have grown yourself. The flavour is so much sweeter and more intense. Carrots can be sown regularly from March through to July, but don't start too early as the soil must be warm for germination to be successful. Carrots are a vegetable that doesn't like to be transplanted and therefore must be sown directly into the ground. Carrots need a light well-drained soil to prevent club or twisted root formation due to obstructions in the soil. Therefore, it is sometimes more successful to grow them in large garden planters in free-draining sifted compost or soil. Sow carrot seed thinly, but as the seeds are very small this can be difficult, so expect to thin out the seedlings once they emerge. Watch out for carrot fly in early summer. Try growing chives next to your carrots as the smell of the chives is strong enough to mask the smell of the carrots which attracts the fly. When harvesting, leave carrots in the ground until the last possible moment - the fresher they are the better they taste!

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
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Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


DESIGNING A VEGETABLE PLOT

Even as a gardener, I find there is something different and special about growing my own vegetables. As much as I marvel at producing beautiful plants for my garden from seed or cuttings and seeing them take their place in the flower bed, there is an added something that really seems to complete this process when you grow vegetables. For me that is picking, cooking and eating the plants I have produced - complete satisfaction. You don't need a huge piece of land to create a successful vegetable plot and there are many different ways of vegetable gardening. But first there are a few points to consider when designing a plot.

WHERE TO SITUATE YOUR PLOT

There are a number of important factors to consider when deciding where to grow vegetables. Soil will be the engine in the production of your vegetables so it is essential that you pick the right patch of ground. Measuring the pH of your soil will enable you to determine whether it is alkaline or acid. Vegetables grow best in a soil that is slightly acidic with a pH of 6.5. You can buy a perfectly good testing kit from your local garden centre. If your soil to acid you can add garden lime to reduce the acidity. You will also need to think about drainage. Most vegetables prefer free-draining soil, so if your patch tends to be waterlogged or floods at certain times of the year it won't be suitable. Soil structure is also important. A clay soil, although rich in nutrients will have poor drainage and is slow to warm up in spring. Sandy soil drains far too easily and therefore won't hold enough water or nutrients and dries out in summer. Loam lies somewhere in between and contains the best features of both sandy and clay soils. Sadly this ideal is rarely found, but not impossible to create. The answer is to spend plenty of time improving your soil with well-rotted organic matter such as manure or compost.

Another important consideration in where to situate your vegetable plot is the elements. Vegetables need as much sun as possible, so at least half of your site must have full sun all day. Windy conditions will slow down vegetable growth, so if there is no protection from wind you will need to create some by planting a hedge or placing a fence in the right place. Nearby trees will afford some protection from wind but you don't want them too close so that they cast too much shade. Frosts can also be a problem for vegetable gardening. Low-lying sites will encourage cold air to collect. Also be aware that nearby trees and buildings can also be sources of cold air.

It may seem obvious but pay some attention to water. Vegetables need plenty of it so situating your plot near an outside tap is essential. It is also a good idea to install a water butt to catch rain water. A final consideration is access. If you have designed your plot around a series of beds you will need easy access to each bed for sowing, weeding and harvesting. If you intend to create paths to give you access, make sure they are hard wearing - slabs or even old scaffolding planks are good.

DECIDING HOW TO GROW VEGETABLES

The points above apply to any vegetable plot whether large or small. If you only have a small plot you may want to consider the best way to grow your vegetables. Where space is limited, raised beds are a good answer. You can even create a raised bed on a patio. Raised beds are essentially wooden containers filled with fertile soil. They are also ideal if you have trouble bending over or are confined to a wheelchair.

Another useful way of growing vegetables is to integrate them among your other garden plants. Legumes such as beans and peas can look stunning growing up a plant support in the middle of a flower bed. Lettuce is great grown at the front of a flower bed where it is easily assessed. The only problem with integration is the amount of vegetables you can grow.

Many vegetables can also be successfully grown in garden planters and even hanging baskets. Vegetables that thrive in pots include beetroot, carrots, radishes, lettuce and spring onions. Another advantage of container vegetable growing is that you can follow the sun around your garden, moving your vegetables around so that they get the maximum amount of sunlight.

Once you have decided where and how to grow vegetables you are then ready to choose what to grow and start growing!

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
www.twitter.com/Plantersshop

 

Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


VEGETABLE GARDEN PLANS - 5 TYPES OF VEGETABLE GARDENS

Are you considering making a vegetable garden? If so, you should check into some vegetable garden plans. Garden plans inspire new, creative ideas even as they allow you to plan things out in advance before you do the "real" work of moving things around and planting and transplanting. It's always best to have a plan on paper first before you do the harder-to-correct work of actually putting things in order and planting things. Having garden plans in advance will save you time, money, and frustration.

Vegetable garden plans should be designed around factors such as personal taste, where you live geographically, and how much space you have for planting. Let's consider some garden plans that you may want to implement.

  1. Patio vegetable garden. Make a compact and easily tended garden on your deck or patio. Use two small soil beds and have a dense, synergistic mixture of herbs, vegetables, and flowers in each one.
  2. Colourful vegetable gardens. Use harmonious but contrasting colours in your choice of things you plant. These are interesting gardens. They also tend to be very healthy for you, since it's recommended that you get a "mixture of colours" in your veggies and fruits for optimal health.
  3. Heritage vegetable garden. Now, what's this mean? It means make it full of heirloom varieties of veggies. Again, this is diverse to the end of good health while at once being interesting and artistically inspired to create.
  4. The Italian garden. We all know that the Italians make incredibly tasty food. Imagine having the tomatoes and herbs and other ingredients you need to make your own spaghetti or pizza sauce among other Mediterranean dishes.
  5. Autumn yield garden. What's better than still harvesting fresh produce on crisp mornings or evenings, just before the winter sets in? Lay up your stores for the months of plant dormancy.

 

Article by Paul Ducceschi


VEGETABLE GARDEN LAYOUT - CHOOSING MATERIALS AND LAYOUTS FOR GARDEN PATHS

When designing your vegetable garden layout, it is important to consider what materials you will use in making your garden paths, how wide you will make these paths and where you will position them.

LOOSE MATERIALS FOR GARDEN PATHS

Gravel, scoria, wood-chip, blue metal, leaf mulch, straw

These can be less expensive than bricks or paving stones but after a while, they can allow the weeds through. It is best to line the pathways with weed-mat to hinder this weed growth. These loose material paths must have a solid edging (like timber) to prevent the materials from migrating into your garden beds. Bear in mind too that the organic mulches such as wood-chip, straw, and leaf mulch will eventually break down and will need replacing and that gravel-type materials, once in place, may be very hard to move should you want to rearrange your garden layout especially if they get into the soil.

GROWING PATHWAYS

Grass, herbs 

Grass pathways are a labour-intensive idea. They require regular mowing and weeding, and the grass in them can invade your garden beds. Herbs such as chamomile or creeping thyme may be a slightly better option since they don't need mowing and they can release a wonderful scent when you walk on them. But both herbs and grass can get muddy in the rain and also get worn by too much foot traffic.

PAVED GARDEN PATHS

Bricks, paving stones, concrete blocks 

This is a more expensive option. You will need to take into account the size of your bricks when planning the width of your paths to avoid a lot of unnecessary cutting of the bricks to fit the width. You can make some interesting patterns with bricks or paving stones: stack bond, running bond, basket weave or herringbone amongst others.

WIDTH OF YOUR GARDEN PATHS

For ease of access, paths should be a minimum of 2 feet (60cm) wide although if you wish to push a wheelbarrow between your garden beds, 3 feet (90cm) would be a better width. Consider the sort of people and equipment which will be likely to use your paths. Do you need to allow for wheelchair access? A walker? A lawnmower? Two people side by side?

VEGETABLE GARDEN LAYOUT - POSITIONING YOUR GARDEN PATHS

Because garden paths are semi-permanent features you will need to make a vegetable garden plan to avoid costly (money and time) mistakes.

Your vegetable garden layout will determine where your paths will be placed. You may choose a symmetrical layout in which your garden paths will mark out geometrical garden beds (such as a four square garden or potager kitchen garden). Or you may decide on a less formal layout with random raised garden beds. Whatever you decide, it is a good idea to get your design down on paper or on the computer so that you can see if everything will fit.

Happy planning!

 

Article by Zillah Bartlett


PREPARING A VEGETABLE PLOT

Once you have decided on the best position for your vegetable plot and how you are going to grow them, be it in raised beds, containers or on open ground, there are a few jobs you need to do before you can start growing. The amount of preparation you will need to do will depend on the type of vegetable plot you want to create. A plot of raised beds for example will require a bit more preparation as the beds will need to be constructed. But even if you are developing an existing plot, good preparation is the key to getting the best out your vegetables.

LAYOUT OF THE PLOT

You will need to decide how you want your vegetable plot to look. That will depend on how serious you are about you vegetables – do you want to produce as much as possible in the space you have or is the plot to be mostly decorative, growing only a few choice vegetables for the table. Consider the style of the rest of your garden and decide on whether you want the plot to reflect that overall style or whether it will stand separate on its own. A traditional vegetable plot is usually designed around neat rows of vegetables in an informal setting, with wigwams of peas and beans dotted around the site. A more formal vegetable garden would be designed around square or rectangular shaped beds with neat edges and regimented blocks of vegetables.

WEEDING

It is essential that a new vegetable patch is as weed free as possible and this can be quite labour intensive. There really is no substitute to removing weeds by hand but there are instances where you may need a bit of help. If your plot is very overgrown with brambles, nettles and other stubborn weeds, it might be worth getting hold of a strimmer to take down the weeds to a manageable height where you can then attack them with a fork. Another effective way of dealing with weeds is to cover the whole area in a heavy-duty plastic liner. This will deprive the weeds of light and moisture and weaken them. This can be quite a slow process so consider doing it at the start of winter when it can be left for a few months. Even when you have established your vegetable plot, it is important to keep on top of weeds as they will leech nutrients and moisture out of the soil and compete with your precious vegetables.

DIGGING AND IMPROVING THE SOIL

Once you have removed all the weeds you will need to prepare the soil by digging and improving it. Single digging is a good way of maintaining the condition of your soil and should be carried out once a year. Make sure the soil is quite dry before you start digging. If it is too wet it will be difficult to work and far more labour intensive than it need be. You should dig a trench at one edge of your plot and remove the soil to the opposite end of the plot. Fill in the trench with well rotted manure or compost. As a general rule, use one bucket full organic matter to each square metre of soil. Dig a second trench and place the soil from that into the first trench. Repeat the process until you reach the opposite end of your plot, using the soil from the first trench to fill in the last.

COMPOST

If you are serious about growing vegetables it is a good idea to produce your own compost. Composting is essentially about gathering waste organic matter and allowing it to breakdown naturally to make an organic soil conditioner. It is generally best to have two compost bins, one to be rotting down while you use the other. You can make you own compost bins out of wood or buy plastic compost bins from the garden centre.

WATERING

Vegetables need a lot of water, especially if they are grown in garden planters or when they are fruiting, so having access to a ready supply of water on your vegetable plot is essential. If you don’t have a tap on site then make sure you have access to the nearest outside tap via a hose. It is also a good idea to position as many water butts around the site as you can to catch rainwater. Digging in plenty of organic matter into the soil will also help with drainage and a good mulch of manure or compost around each plant will not only help improve soil condition but also stop water evaporating from the soil.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
www.twitter.com/Plantersshop

 

Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


SOWING VEGETABLE SEEDS IN CONTAINERS

The key to successful vegetable gardening is raising healthy plants that will yield a good crop. Most vegetables can be grown from seed. You can grow vegetables from seed one of two ways - either by planting the seed directly into the ground or by sowing in containers or modules and planting the young seedlings into the ground later.

Raising vegetable plants in pots takes more time and work but has a number of advantages. It saves on seed because you are sowing only a single seed or a small amount per pot. It also has a higher success rate, as many seeds sown directly into the ground can easily be lost through disease or eaten by pests such as birds or slugs. Some vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers can only be grown in this way as they need to be germinated under cover before the ground has warmed up.

SOWING IN POTS OR MODULES

Most vegetable seed is quite hardy and will therefore germinate in good multipurpose compost. With larger seed such as legumes and courgette or onion sets, it's probably best to sow these in modules or plastic trays that are made up of individual cells. Sowing in this way means that each seed has its own space which will help leave the roots of the seedling undisturbed when it's time to plant it outside. Smaller seeds can be sown in batches in individual pots. To do this, fill the pot with compost. Water it well and leave it to stand and drain. Sow the seeds thinly on the surface and then cover lightly with compost or soil. You can also use vermiculite which is good at retaining moisture and can be bought from garden centres.

As when sowing directly into the ground, it is very difficult not to sow too thickly when sowing in containers and you will more than likely need to thin out the seedlings once they emerge. You will probably need to thin out seedlings more than once, particularly if you have sown them in pots.

To make sure you have plenty of vegetables all season it might be worth repeat sowing some varieties like peas and lettuce. Wait until your seedlings are about 6-7cm tall and then sow a second batch.

PLANTING OUT SEEDLINGS

Once your seedlings have developed a root system that binds the compost, they can be planted out. If you wait until the plant is too big and has begun to turn pale or yellow you will have weakened the plant and will compromise its development once planted in the ground. Also remember that some vegetables like tomatoes cannot be planted out until the soil is warm enough. If you are unsure then probably best wait until early summer to be on the safe side.

Consider space when you plant out your seedlings. Some vegetable plants grow slowly but end up quite large. So you can do what is known as intercropping by planting a quick growing crop in the space between which can be harvested before the larger plants grow up and block out the sunlight.

You will need to start feeding your seedlings at about six weeks or when the lower leaves turn a bit yellow. Use a general-purpose liquid feed fertiliser. You can use an organic feed but may have to feed more often than with a general-purpose feed. I make my own organic feed from comfrey. Simply steep the leaves in a bucket of water for a few weeks and then strain off the liquid and use as a fertiliser. If you are growing vegetables in peat-free compost in garden planters, you will need to feed and water more often.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
www.twitter.com/Plantersshop

 

Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


SOWING VEGETABLE SEEDS DIRECTLY INTO THE GROUND

Raising strong and healthy plants is a crucial part of successful vegetable gardening. Most vegetables can be easily grown from seed but there are a few that are not usually grown in this way. Potatoes are grown from 'seed potatoes' and alliums, with the exception of leeks, are grown from what is known as 'sets'. When growing vegetables from seed you can choose to do it one of two ways. The first is 'direct sowing' which is putting the seed directly in the ground, or sowing seed in trays or individual pots to be planted out later. There are some advantages to direct sowing - it is quicker than sowing into trays or pots, but you do run the risk of losing a certain amount to birds, slugs or disease. Some seeds are easier to sow directly than others, legumes such as runner beans and peas for example are easy to grow successfully when sown directly into the ground. As a general rule, the smaller the seed then it is normally best to sow in containers as the seedlings tend to be small and tender. Carrot is a good example.

DIRECT SOWING

Before sowing you will need to make sure you prepare the soil correctly in order to achieve the highest rate of germination. If you are sowing early it might be advantageous to cover the soil in an old carpet or some plastic sheeting in order to warm up the ground beforehand. You now need to create a seed bed. Use a rake to go over the soil, removing any stones and weeds. You are aiming to create a smooth layer of finely divided soil. Spreading a thin layer of general purpose fertiliser over the area will ensure that your seedlings have access to all the nutrients they need when they emerge.

The traditional image of vegetable plots made up of neat rows of plants not only has a decorative purpose. Keeping beds free from weeds that will compete with your vegetables for nutrients and moisture is very important, so if you sow your vegetable seeds in neat rows, anything that appears that isn't in a row is likely to be a weed and can be easily spotted and removed. To achieve straight rows, lay a length of string taut on the line you want to sow along. You will then need to make a shallow trench or drill in which to sow your seed. As a general rule the trench should be twice the diameter of the seed and in the case of very small seed such as lettuce, just shallow enough so that the seed can be covered. Use the length of a broom handle or the handle of your trowel to do this.

Before you are ready to sow gently water the trench well and allow the water time to seep into the ground. Place the seeds into the drill, spacing them out carefully so that they don't grow too close together. Check the back of your seed packet for spacing instructions, but don't worry if you sow too many, you will be thinning out the seedlings once they emerge to achieve the final correct spacing. Once you have placed the seed in the drill draw back the soil with a rake or hoe to cover the seed. Now firm the soil with the back of a trowel or your hand. Don't for get to mark your row clearly with a label stating the variety you have sown and the date in went into the ground.

THINNING OUT SEEDLINGS

Once your seedlings have emerged above ground you will need to assess the spacing of the plants. It is more than likely you will need to thin them out to achieve the correct spacing. You will normally have to do this whether you have sown them directly into the ground or sown them in garden planters. Check the seed packet if you are unsure. Seedlings that are pack too tightly together will not grow well or to their full potential. If you don't want to waste those you remove you can always transplant them elsewhere in your vegetable garden or give them away.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
www.twitter.com/Plantersshop

 

Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


VEGETABLE COMPANION PLANTING - FACTS AND TIPS

Cultivating your own vegetable garden is a good idea because it is healthy, safe, and economical. Not only are you sure that your vegetables are fresh, you are also feeding yourself and your family the very fruits of your love. Maintaining a vegetable garden is good stress reliever, too.

Vegetable garden companion planting is a method of planning how you plant your vegetables (i.e. positioning and arrangement) and deciding which vegetable species would complement others. Experienced gardeners will tell you that vegetable crops are very much like human beings. They also need "companions" to thrive. Knowing the right vegetable companions will produce healthier and more abundant harvests.

Proper vegetable garden companion planting also helps reduce bugs and pests. Vegetables that make good companions work to repel such pests possible because of their scents. Some vegetables also emit scents that good bugs find attractive.

There is no scientific way to determine which make the best vegetable companions. However, skilled gardeners have made suggestions based on their experiences on some combinations that produce impressive results. Sometimes, vegetable "friendship" tend to be one-sided. For instance, carrots are good for beans but beans do not have the same effect on them.

Beans or bush beans are ideally planted as far as possible from onions and close to corn crops, if any. They also grow well beside celery and cucumbers but not with fennel. Beets, eggplant, cabbage, and strawberry would also make good vegetable companions.

Tomatoesare included in the most commonly cultivated vegetables at home. They grow well beside onions, parsley, carrots, cabbage, and mint. Keep your tomato plans away from corn and fennel. Lettuce is in good terms with radishes, onions, carrots, and strawberry but do not plant them anywhere near beetroot, beans, and parsley.

Potatoes will grow healthy alongside beans, cabbage, peas, eggplant, and corn but keep them away from pumpkin, squash, and cucumber. Spinach grow well with cauliflower, eggplant, and celery. Peas grow healthy when placed beside cucumbers, turnips, corn, beans, radishes, potatoes, carrots, and aromatic herbs.

Marigoldmakes a good overall companion flower while mint is an ideal companion plant. They help repel pests and lure good bugs. Beetroot should be clear of pole beans or mustard. Lettuce, onions, cabbage, and kohlrabi are some of its friends. Radish is a "popular" vegetable in a sense that it has a lot of friends. It would grow well beside many crops, including spinach, beetroot, beans, cucumber, and parsnips. Keep them away from cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, and sprouts.

There are countless combinations you could try as made available by gardening enthusiasts. Make your own decision as to the arrangement you are going to use. Design your own vegetable garden companion planting program and see which combinations work best for you. If you are already taking care of a vegetable garden, make some changes that will benefit all of your crops. Observe and decide on how you are going to arrange your garden crops in the most logical manner.

 

Article by Charissa Bear


COMPANION PLANTING AND CROP ROTATION ON THE VEGETABLE PLOT

Growing vegetables is both easy and rewarding. On the whole, once you have planned and prepared your plot and decided what to grow, most vegetables will take care of themselves and provide you with a crop of delicious home produce without a tremendous amount of effort on your part. Getting the planning and preparation right is key, but there are a couple of other tasks that can really make a huge difference to the success of your vegetable garden in subsequent years - companion planting and crop rotation. Both methods are effective ways of combating pests and diseases, increasing the uptake of nutrients and aiding pollination.

COMPANION PLANTING

It is true to say that almost any mixed planting will be better than block planting which encouraging pests and spreads disease. But there is evidence to suggest that planting certain plants together creates a particularly effective barrier against pests and diseases on the vegetable plot. Companion planting is a method of gardening which places compatible plants next to one another. The principles behind companion planting have been practiced for centuries, most notably in England in cottage gardens.

There are a number of reasons why companion planting is beneficial to growing vegetables, some more proven than others. Some plants help to keep pests in check, others have different tolerances to disease and so make disease less likely. Some plants are also said to enhance the flavour of some vegetables. This is particularly true of herbs, marjoram for example, and planting chamomile with onions is said to improve the flavour of the onions. Some plants fix nitrogen into the soil leaving it rich in nutrients for other plants. This is especially true of peas and beans that are able to fix nitrogen from the air into the soil.

Marigolds have a good reputation for keeping pests away from vegetable plants but you must choose a scented variety for this to work. Lavender can protect nearby plants from insects such as whitefly. Nasturtium also deters bugs and beetles. Growing plants that produce large amounts of nectar or pollen alongside vegetables is also a good way of keeping down pests as they will attract many beneficial insects that control pests. Plants paired up correctly with others can also help to prevent disease. For example, basil when planted with tomatoes not only improves the flavour of the fruit, it also helps to deter disease.

Some plants can also provide protection for others. For example, plant okra with lettuce. The okra will provide some shade for the lettuce plants during high summer, thereby providing more growing time. Plants mixed together can co-operate beneficially together. A famous example of this type of plant co-operation is the 'three sisters' system originally developed by native American Indian farmers. The plants are summer and winter squashes, sweet corn and climbing bean. The squashes cover the ground, smothering weeds and keeping the soil moist and cool. The sweet corn provides a support for the bean to climb up.

CROP ROTATION

Different plants take different nutrients out of the soil. So if you grow the same vegetable plants in the same place year after year the soil will eventually become stripped of nitrates and your crops will fail. Crop rotation aims to make sure that each type of vegetable is followed by a different group that is compatible with the soil that has been left by the previous group. For example, peas and beans fix nitrogen into the soil which leaves the soil rich in nitrates for brassicas to follow. Crop rotation also helps build resistance to pests and diseases. The usual crop rotation method is to divide the vegetable plot into three main parts that provide a section for peas and beans, brassicas and root vegetables. For example, a typical three year rotation would grow potatoes on one area after manuring in the first year; peas, broad beans and runner beans in the second year, and in the third year grow varieties of the cabbage family. If planted in succession, after three years you will get back to the beginning. If you have a large plot you can work on a four year rotation dividing the vegetables and the plot into four groups of alliums (onion family), brassicas, peas and beans, and root vegetables.

Other groups of vegetable such as salad crops suffer fewer soil problems and can be grown wherever is convenient. If you can't fit lettuce into your three main crop beds, then grow it in garden planters dotted around the vegetable garden.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
www.twitter.com/Plantersshop

 

Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


ALL NEW SQUARE FOOT GARDENING - COMPANION PLANTING

Organic vegetable gardening means that you will not be spraying toxic chemicals on your fresh food, and you won't be spreading chemical fertilisers on the ground. If you don't do that, how do you keep your garden from becoming a bug feast or prevent sparse, low quality crops?

Companion planting is the solution. Companion planting can be described as growing two or more different kinds of plants close together so that some benefit is derived, like repelling pests, attracting beneficial insects, adding needed nutrients to the soil, or providing shelter

Some plants give off scents or chemicals that repel insects, insects like worms and beetles that can destroy your garden. Other plants help prevent disease or attract insects, which are beneficial to plants. And some plants are exceptional at breaking down the soil and helping other plants absorb vital nutrients. Essentially companion planting is used to help your core plants thrive without chemicals.

An example would be planting corn and beans together. Corn removes nitrogen from then soil while growing. Beans fix nitrogen back into the soil while growing and help the corn

I'll provide a warning though to people who would plant beans in with their corn. Bean varieties include pole beans (climbing beans) and bush beans (non-climbing beans). Do NOT plant pole beans in with your corn. The climbing beans will create a twisted and leafy jungle around your corn plants, making it difficult to harvest the corn.

COMPANION PLANTING SUGGESTIONS

Marigolds have a very strong fragrance. Many insects find marigolds quite distasteful including nematodes (roundworms), whiteflies, beetles, and aphids. To use marigolds as a companion plant, plant them at the perimeter of your square foot garden box. Take care to not plant them too closely to your vegetables because they do attract spider mites and slugs.

Nasturtiums or wormwood are good when planted close to the cabbage family as they attract the white cabbage moth away from the plants. Nasturtiums are also very helpful when planting broccoli

If you're growing tomatoes, geraniums repel cabbage worms, Japanese beetles, and leafhoppers. If you're planting corn, grapes, peppers or cabbage, geraniums are also beneficial.

If you intend to grow tomatoes, planting garlic with them is a good idea. Planting them with carrots is a bad idea because the tomatoes will stunt the growth of the carrots. Avoid planting dill and kohlrabi near tomatoes, because they slow tomato growth.

Horseradish is good with potatoes.

Parsley is good with tomatoes.

Santolina is a good insect repellent, especially for spinach and lettuce.

Thyme is a good protective border for the vegetable garden and repels fruit moths.

Keep ants away? Catnip, Mint, Onion, Peppermint, Spearmint, Tansy, Wormwood.

Slug repellent? Artemisia, Fennel, Garlic, Rosemary, Sage (Fennel is harmful to most plants especially beans, cucumbers and tomatoes)

When you don't want flypaper in your garden - Basil, Pennyroyal, Rue, Tansy (also repels Aphids and greenfly)

DON'T FORGET THE BEES

You need bees and other pollinating insects if you are:

  • planting tomatoes
  • planting potatoes
  • planting beans
  • planting pumpkins

Bees are attracted by most flowers because they collect nectar to make honey and pollen to feed to the larvae. Going from flower to flower to collect as much as they can before going back to the hive, they take pollen from one plant to the next and help with plant fertilisation as they go. Flowering plants are important in a vegetable patch. Some of the best include: allysium, red clover, Queen Anne's lace, cosmos, coriander, parsley flowers, dill, small daisies and lucerne.

Happy eating!

 

Article by Michael J. Murray


PLANNING WHAT TO GROW ON A SMALL VEGETABLE PLOT 

Once you have decided where to position your vegetable plot and prepared the site it's time to decide what you want to grow. It is so easy to get carried away by the range and variety of vegetables available in seed catalogues and garden centres, but before you do there are few things you might want to consider, especially if your plot is only small.

On a small plot try to avoid anything that takes up too much space such as asparagus, or vegetables like cabbage which is slow to grow and will take up space for most of the year. You might like to consider growing dwarf varieties of some crops which will take up less space. Make the most of walls or fences for growing climbing beans or peas. Think about how your plot will look. It doesn't have to be purely functional so make it more attractive by growing more ornamental vegetables and herbs.

If you are new to growing vegetables it is a good idea to start with those vegetables you really like. Some vegetables like potatoes, carrots and onions are cheap to buy and store easily for long periods and so are probably best bought rather than grown. However, some varieties such as early potatoes, particularly salad varieties are delicious eaten when freshly picked, as are baby carrots, tomatoes and lettuce leaves.

Once you have made a list of the vegetables you like you will need to decide how much you want to grow. Growing too little is probably better than growing too much as having to waste vegetables you have spent time and energy growing can be heart breaking. However if you do end up with more than you need most vegetables store well when frozen or can be given away to friends and family. You will also need to consider how much time you will have or want to spend tending to your plot. If you only have a few hours a week then it might be best to pick vegetables that don't need much attention like potatoes or runner beans. Lastly, make sure you plan crops that will provide you with something to eat all year-round.

A good all year-round list for a first year might include broad beans, spring cabbages and early carrots for spring harvesting; peas, dwarf and climbing French beans, runner beans, beetroot, salad potatoes and salad crops, tomatoes and courgettes for summer harvesting; and kale, leeks, and broccoli for harvesting throughout the winter.

BUYING SEEDS AND PLANTS

The question of whether to grow from seed or buy plants really depends on how much time you have and whether you have access to a greenhouse. You can grow seeds successfully in propagators indoors but I find that this does not provide you with the space you need for growing a good variety of vegetables and successfully growing on young seedlings. The decision will also depend on the type of vegetable you want to grow. For example, I tend to buy young tomato plants rather than grow them from seed. I usually use a grow bag and only have room for around three or four plants. Growing from seed can produce hundreds of seedlings which would then go to waste. Other vegetables are easy to grow from seed placed straight into the ground such as runner beans. An advantage to growing from seed is that it tends to be cheaper and seeds you don't use one year will happily keep until the next if stored in the right conditions.

If you do decide on buying plants make sure you source them from a reputable supplier. Check the label to make sure you are buying the correct variety. Make sure the young plant is healthy. Avoid anything that looks weedy or pale in colour, and also avoid container plants that have weeds growing amongst them. Seedlings bought in trays tend to be cheaper than those bought in individual pots but they can tend to be a bit root-bound and weedy as a result. A good idea is to pot them on into individual garden planters to recover and strengthen up before you plant them out into the ground.

There are no hard and fast rules as to what you should grow in your first year. But in my book, if you start with a modest, easy to grow selection the first year you will not only reap rewards in produce, but you will give yourself time to get used to your plot, the work and time it involves and the varieties you prefer to grow and eat. Next year will be the time to start challenging yourself a bit by experimenting and maybe growing more exotic and demanding varieties.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
www.twitter.com/Plantersshop

 

Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


A SOLUTION TO GROWING VEGETABLES IN A SMALL GARDEN

Growing vegetables doesn't always require a huge amount of space. Just because you have a small garden doesn't mean you can't grow your own delicious vegetables. A really good way to grow vegetables that takes up little space is in containers. In fact, some vegetables are easier and grow better in containers than they do in the ground. Also, contrary to what you may think, vegetables grown in containers can also make an attractive feature in your garden. You can make container grown vegetables fun by growing them in colourful pots, or you can be 'green' and use recycled containers such as waste bins or even old tyres.

SO WHAT VEGETABLES ARE BEST GROWN IN CONTAINERS?

Most vegetables will do well grown in containers. Some have even had containers specially designed for them such as potatoes. But you can grow potatoes in any large container, empty dustbins are ideal and even bags can be used. There are advantages to growing potatoes in containers - it is easier to protect them from pests and you also don't have to worry so much about weeds.

All types of beans are also great grown in outdoor planters. Runner beans and French beans will happily grow in a container as long as you provide them with tall cane supports to grow up. Also, because they create a vertical display, they can be placed in the middle of a flower border to add height and colour with their pretty flowers that range from red and orange to purple and white.

As I mentioned in the introduction, some vegetables often produce better crops when grown in containers. Grown in pots, carrots and parsnips don't attract pests such as carrot fly as easily because containers can be placed higher than ground level to avoid low-flying female flies. Carrots and parsnips also often grow straighter in compost that hasn't any obstacles such as stones to distort growth.

Salad crops are very easy to grow in containers. Pots don't have to be large and can be placed conveniently near to your kitchen door. Salad can even be grown in window boxes within easy reach of the household chef! Sow a number of pots with different varieties of salad crop in succession for a delicious variety of salad all summer and even winter long.

Compact plants such as sweet peppers, chilli peppers, aubergine and tumbling varieties of tomatoes are also ideal for growing in outdoor planters. Make sure these are placed in a sunny spot, away from damaging wind.

Herbs can be planted individually in pots or you can try growing ten different varieties in a strawberry planter. Place this in a sunny spot, near your kitchen for easy access.

Some fruits such as blueberries and strawberries also do well when grown in containers.

WHAT DO I NEED?

Most vegetable plants do well in multi-purpose compost. If growing from seed, ether raise in small pots before planting into larger ones or scatter across the surface of the compost and water in. Read the packet first for instructions. You will also need to mix in a slow release fertiliser to feed the plant as it grows.

DISADVANTAGES

The only disadvantages I can think of in growing vegetables in outdoor planters is that you need to be a lot more vigilant about watering. You might also argue that you can't grow the volume of vegetables in pots that you can on a plot. But if you only have a small space any way, it's always better to have a few delicious home grown vegetables than none at all.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
www.twitter.com/Plantersshop

 

Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


GROWING VEGETABLES IN POTS AND CONTAINERS 

If you don't have much space in your garden but want to grow your own vegetables, don't worry, many vegetables can be successfully grown in containers. Whether you have pots or window boxes, you can grow a range of vegetables from herbs to tomatoes. Containers of vegetables can be dotted around your garden, even placed in amongst the flower beds, or you can create an attractive and useful arrangement of pots and containers outside your kitchen for easy access. If container vegetable gardening appeals to you there are a few things to consider before you start.

TYPES OF CONTAINER

There are many types of container you can buy nowadays and you can grow vegetables in just about anything, from classic terracotta to plastic, wood, metal and even recycled materials like old tyres. Terracotta pots look great but they do tend to heat up quickly, drying out the soil. You can remedy this by lining your pot with a plastic liner; a strong bin liner should do the trick. Terracotta can also be prone to frost damage, so look out for frost proof rather than frost hardy ones. Wood can be very stylish but does have a limited life span as it will eventually rot. Again you can prolong the life of a good wooden planter by lining it with plastic and treating the wood. But make sure you use an organic product that won't leak harmful chemicals into the soil. Metal planters are great, especially if you're garden has a more contemporary feel. However, the drawback with metal is that it heats up quickly and also conducts the cold.

Plastic may not be the first choice of many but it does have many advantages for growing vegetables. Plastic pots are lightweight and so easily moved around; they retain water longer than clay, don't break and are not affected by frost. You can also get some very realistic plastic containers that replicate natural materials like terracotta and even metal very well. Growbags are also a useful way of growing vegetables, particularly tomatoes and cucumbers. Old compost sacks or dustbins can be used to grow potatoes. Also, try growing tomatoes in a hanging basket. Choose a tumbling variety that will cascade down and provide you delicious fruit all summer.

SIZE OF CONTAINER

The size of your container is very important. It may seem obvious that you aren't going to grow much in a litre sized pot, but it it's worth noting that many vegetables grow quite large and of course, the more space you allow, the more crops you can grow. If you want to grow root vegetables such as carrots or parsnips, which often benefit from container growing because there is less obstruction to the growth of the root from stones or large clods of earth, choose a deep container. Root vegetables need a container with a depth of at least 30cm. Use shallower pots for growing salad crops such as lettuce or radish, or herbs.

PREPARING CONTAINERS FOR GROWING VEGETABLES

Vegetables grown in containers are more restricted than those grown in open ground, so make sure you use good quality compost. It is also a good idea to use compost that retains water. Drainage is very important, so you will need to make sure you have plenty of drainage holes in your container. Cover the bottom with broken shards of pots which will also help with drainage.

LOOKING AFTER YOUR VEGETABLE CONTAINERS

Limited space in a container will mean that your vegetables have access to only a limited amount of nutrients from the compost they are grown in. It is therefore important to feed them regularly. You can add slow release fertiliser to your compost before planting but if not then feed with a general all round plant food. Remember, crops such as tomatoes will need plenty of potassium-rich fertiliser in order to produce a good crop.

Watering is also important. Just as you don't want your container to become waterlogged, you also don't want it to dry out. It is not enough to rely on rainfall as even the heaviest shower often does not penetrate the roots of container grown plants. In dry weather you may need to water at least twice a day. The best times are first thing in the morning and last thing at night. As a general rule your container will need watering when the top inch of compost feels dry. You can help retain water in a planter by mulching the top with grit or well rotted garden material.

Lastly, make sure you check your containers regularly for weeds and pests such as snails and slugs which can decimate a crop in a very short time!

ADVANTAGES TO CONTAINER VEGETABLE GARDENING

If you still need some convincing, consider some of the advantages to growing vegetables in garden planters. Pots and containers can be moved around the garden more easily, either to take maximum advantage of the sun or to make them more accessible when needed, such as moving them nearer to the kitchen. You can also grow a number of varieties together in the same planter. You can create some very attractive arrangements by mixing vegetables with flowers or instance. Combine herbs and salad leaves with flowers such as marigolds which will not only look pretty but help to keep harmful insects away too.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
www.twitter.com/Plantersshop

 

Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


USING ORGANIC GARDENING METHODS

Organic gardens offer a perfect opportunity to grow healthy herbs, fruits and vegetables using earth-friendly methods. The process of organic gardening means no artificial ingredients, such as chemical-based pesticides, are applied to the garden or lawn. Also, these gardening principles are easily applied to any garden set-up and promote the growth of virtually any plant life.

WEEDS AND PESTS

Gardeners can take full advantage of the safe and natural ways to get rid of most species of garden pests. Many natural pesticides help to eliminate the most common pests to attack plant life. A solution of vinegar and water can tackle many pest issues. Also, a variety of herbs can be used in the process of controlling the pests.

A simple natural pesticide includes spraying a diluted mixture of water and natural soap. This is very effective at eliminating the aphid infestations. Once the aphids start to clear from the leaves, the plants should be given a further spray with clean water. Another natural option includes a combination of garlic and onion mixed in water. This can act as a general insect repellent.

Also, rather than using artificial pesticides to control the population of unsightly weeds, a gardener can use a variety of natural alternatives. The use of household vinegar is also a high effective tool at killing weeds. Combine 15% household vinegar with water to create a simple spray mixture. Apply this to the plant life during periods of bright sunlight. This will kill off the weeds without causing any damage to the plants.

FERTILISING

Another way to use the organic materials is to create a fertiliser to promote the health of the garden and lawn. Organic fertiliser relies on the composting and mulching processes to allow a variety of materials to decompose naturally.

To retain the quality of the soil, it is recommended that the top 5 or 6 inches are tilled. This will help keep the majority of the nutrients at a level that can benefit the health of the plant life. Also, a good quality organic mulching material should be applied to any exposed soil. This should be layered at a depth of 2 or 3 inches. The addition of mulch is beneficial to prevent soil eroding, discourage weed growth, maintain moisture content, and encourage plant growth.

All in all, the organic gardening practices help to maintain the beautiful and healthy garden in the most natural, effective and safe way possible.

 

Article by Kyle Vail


THE ESSENTIALS OF COMPOSTING

Distinct from mulch per se, compost is decayed organic material used as a fertiliser for growing plants. It is matter that is almost completely broken down or decomposed.

THE ESSENTIALS OF COMPOSTING

The benefit of compost is that it gives you an earthy, dark, crumbly soil that is excellent for all plants due to having been enriched by the decomposed materials. So, in this energy conscious world, it is an easy way to recycle your yard and kitchen wastes, and is a critical step in reducing the volume of garbage needlessly sent to landfills. The natural cycle of life always provides natural compost as leaves fall in the autumn and throughout the year with evergreens.

Piling up, they begin to decay and when returned to the soil the living roots continue the process of reclaiming the available nutrients. Generally however, in the home garden this isn't enough - hence making your own compost heap is so beneficial. And today, in many countries, including the United States, you will find this practice increasing across households - not just with avid gardeners who have been always doing it. Probably it will become as commonplace as recycling cans and paper is now. Composting is a simple process that you can make as sophisticated as you like. Basic composting requires minimal effort. You can choose a bin or a bin-less system.

COMPOSTING FUNDAMENTALS

Compost is done by billions of microbes (fungi, bacteria, etc.) that digest the yard and kitchen wastes (food).

 If the pile is cool enough, worms, insects, and their relatives will help out the microbes. Like people, these living things need air, water, and food. If you maintain your pile to provide for their needs, they'll happily turn your yard and kitchen wastes into compost much more quickly.

THE BASICS

AIR

The waste will need to be aerated occasionally for the microbes to survive as they breathe air. 

This will also help break up materials that tend to mat (e.g. grass clippings, wet leaves) and take longer to decompose otherwise. Just turn the compost periodically with a pitchfork - though some compost bins nowadays have inbuilt turning mechanisms operated by an external handle that does the mixing for you - aerating the compost.

MOISTURE

Keep the pile fairly moist - like a kitchen sponge - that is wet but not soaked. Too much water mats the materials too much.

INCLUDE

The mix of compost can be classified as 'browns' and 'greens'. Greens are the wastes from the kitchen - fruit and vegetable scraps, leaves, fresh manures and so on. The browns are things like dead leaves (autumn leaves), hay, straw, sticks and woodchips, sawdust and the like. Mixing browns and greens is the best nutritional balance for the microbial activity. The browns are bulkier and help keep the pile aerated and the greens maintain needed moisture. If too wet just add more browns and vice versa.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

In winter your compost heap may go dormant - but it will revivify in the spring. While hotter piles of compost do decompose somewhat faster, a temperature of about 50F is sufficient, provided aeration and the mix is correct. Size does matter! The compost pile needs to be at least a cubic yard (3 foot high and wide) to heat up and stay hot for a long period of time. When finished the compost will be dark in colour and has an earthy smell (like the smell of soil). Although bits of hard-to-decompose materials (such as sticks) will still be evident they will finish decomposition in the garden bed.

QUICK BOOSTING COMPOST

By making a tea out of your compost - combine equal parts of water and compost and let it sit for a while. - you can give your plants a boost by using the liquid as a foliage feeder. This also applies to worm wee which you can collect from your worm farm. Just dilute it all a bit though.

WHAT TO COMPOST

Grass and lawn clippings - layer these thinly and place drier compost in between.

Alfalfa composts very quickly. Be careful of greens that have lots of seeds which can re-sprout, e.g. hay. Moisten first. 

Food wastes - Fruit and vegetable peels/rinds, tea bags, coffee grounds, eggshells, and similar materials are great stuff to compost. Avoid composting meat scraps, fatty food wastes, milk products, and bones -- these materials are very attractive to pests. 

Leaves - like lawn clippings - layer thinly or they will mat. 

Straw - will help keep the compost aerated.

Weeds - can be used but avoid those that have begun to go to seed. 

Woodchips and sawdust - - although these can be used straight onto the soil as mulch, they can also be used in the compost pile. Don't use chemically treated wood.

WHAT NOT TO COMPOST

Chemically treated woods 

Diseased plants - composting heat may kill disease organisms - but you can't be sure all of it will die.

Meat, bones, fatty food wastes 

Pernicious weeds - unless they are completely dead and not gone to seed.

 

Article by Peter Damien Ryan
Better House & Garden
www.betterhouseandgarden.net

 

Peter Ryan is a landscape and gardening expert and can be reached at www.betterhouseandgarden.net


CREATING A CONTAINER SALAD GARDEN

Many salad crops are suitable for growing in outdoor planters and if you are new to home-grown produce they are an easy and fairly maintenance vegetable group to start with. Like any home-grown produce, salad crops have a unique taste all of their own (once you have tasted your own lettuce you will never go back to shrink-wrapped supermarket leaves). Growing salad in containers means you can start with as much or as little as you like, growing a few varieties amongst other container plants on a patio or dotted around the garden. Here is a short guide on how to create a container salad garden and some varieties best suited to pots.

All salad crops need a sunny spot sheltered from strong winds. When choosing a container, make sure you buy one large enough and deep enough to accommodate the plant you want to grow in it. Drainage is also important, so your container will need plenty of drainage holes (putting broken crocks or gravel in the bottom of the pot will also help). The final crucial thing to remember is watering. Any container grown plant will need more watering than those grown in the ground. Never let your salad crops dry out but equally, don't allow them to become waterlogged.
 
Lets start with lettuce and salad leaves. The varieties available are endless but all will do very well in outdoor planters. Smaller varieties of lettuce such as Little Gem are ideal for containers. Salad leaves such as baby leaf salad mix, lambs lettuce and rocket will also do well in pots. Its a good idea to choose pick-and-come-again varieties that will keep on producing all summer. Radishes are great for container growing. Choose quick growing varieties such as French Breakfast and successional sow for a continuous crop. No salad is complete without the tomato. Tomatoes can easily be grown outdoors, they just need a sheltered spot (preferably against a wall or fence) and good support canes. Try Gardener's Delight, an exceptionally sweet cherry tomato that is very reliable indoors or out.
 
Spring onions are really easy to grow in outdoor planters. They are quick growing so staggering your planting will give you a longer lasting supply. Try Guardsman for a reliable crop or Furio for a great tasting red spring onion. Beetroot may not be a salad crop you would associate with container growing, but it will happily grow well in pots. Choose a round variety such as Boltardy or baby beets such as Baby Action rather than long cylindrical varieties. Beetroot like moist soil, so keep your containers well watered.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
www.twitter.com/Plantersshop

 

Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs


TIPS ON GROWING LETTUCE

Lettuce is an easy to grow spring and autumn vegetable. It’s two worst enemies are hot temperatures and slugs.

Here are some tips to grow lettuce all summer long, even when temperatures soar.
 
*Make sure soil contains a good supply of nitrogen for good leaf production.

*Make early plantings in full sun.

*Plant the seeds 1/8 inch deep in a wide row, 6 inches apart in all directions.

*Plant every two weeks for a continuous harvest all summer long.

*As the weather warms up, start planting in partial shade. Either on the side of the house that receives morning sun or in the shade of other taller plants such as corn, broccoli etc.

*Keep weeds under control as lettuce has shallow roots and can’t compete with deep rooted weeds.

*Keep soil moist but not wet. Water at the base of the plant and not the leaves wet leaves will encourage disease.

*Aphids, cabbage loopers, flea beetles, leafhoppers and leaf miners are some of the insects that attack lettuce, but slugs are the most notorious for loving lettuce.

*Avoid pesticides as lettuce leaves are very tender and delicate, and can absorb many insecticides. An insecticidal soap or handpicking usually alleviates the majority of lettuce pests.

*One tip to avoid slugs is to avoid mulching lettuce.

 

Article by Marilyn Pokorney
www.apluswriting.net

 

Marilyn Pokorney – Freelance writer of science, nature, animals and the environment. Also loves crafts, gardening, and reading. Website: www.apluswriting.net


HOME GROWN CUCUMBERS

Cucumbers are fairly prolific fruiters so you will only need 3 or 4 plants, unless you really like to eat them.

They can be planted on a small mound, or if you have limited space, try a good climber that can be attached to a trellis. Plant about 18 inches apart as this will also help pollination.

SOWING

They can be grown from seedlings, but as the taproots are easily damaged during transplanting, it is usually recommended to try and grow from seeds.

Plant the seed about a half inch into the soil and about a foot to 18 inches apart.

These are a typical vegetable and therefore like full sun, well composted and friable soil. Being gross feeders add matured manure to your compost and then regular doses of a liquid fertiliser during the growing period.

Keep them well watered to avoid any wilting as this will affect the plant and eventual fruit. Good mulching will both help conserve the moisture and keep down weeds that compete for it.

HARVEST

As with many vegetables, early morning picking is better. For your salads, pick them when about 7 inches long (give or take an inch) and if you want to pickle them pick when smaller - about 4 inches is good.

The best time to harvest them is when still tender and young - older ones tend to be too bitter.

You will extend the yield if you pick off matured cucumbers (when the seeds have hardened).

As they are a fairly rapid grower, check them for every other day to make sure you don't wait too long and they get over-ripe. Immature ones are what you want.

 

Article by Peter Damien Ryan
Better House & Garden
www.betterhouseandgarden.net

 

Peter Damien Ryan is a landscape and gardening expert and can be reached at www.betterhouseandgarden.net


HOW TO GROW CUCUMBERS OF DIFFERENT VARIETIES AND HOW TO PLANT CUCUMBERS SUCCESSFULLY

Many people are noting that it is rather straightforward to grow cucumbers. This is especially when you see them as climbing vines. Before one can learn how to plant cucumbers, more information about them is necessary in order to ensure successful growth. 

Cucumbers are members of the cucurbitaceae family like squashes and melons. There are slicing varieties and pickling varieties. The slicing varieties can be eaten fresh and they can grow to around 35 centimetres while the pickling varieties are often pickled and they can grow to about 10 centimetres long. They are especially adored for the beneficial nutrients they can give to our nails, hair and skin. It is the Burpless variety that is known for their good flavour and easy to digest properties. 

When preparing to grow cucumbers, you need to dig fair amounts of organic compost in the soil. It should be about the depth of a spade. You can plant cucumbers indoors. You do this by sowing them in biodegradable seedling pots. This ensures undamaged roots. You can only plant them prior to the last frost. 

Make sure there’s a gap of about 40 centimetres between the seedlings. If you choose to grow from seed, group sowing is recommendable. You can sow three seeds in a single hole as this can increase chances of germination. The seeds should also be planted about 2.5 centimetres deep. 

To successfully grow cucumbers, the location is very important. They need good amounts of warmth and sunshine everyday. This is why greenhouses are favoured for cucumbers. Make sure also that there are adequate spaces between each cucumber as they can rapidly grow to around 6 feet. If space is limited, you can also train the plant to grow against a stake, wall or trellis. 

Soil variety, of course, is also vital. A well-drained soil is what cucumbers need. You can also plant them in raised beds that are around 6 inches high. They also thrive in sandy loam soils. You just need to ensure that the soil contains good amounts of organic matter as manure can guarantee nutrients for the plants. 

When tending to your cucumbers, you need to regularly weed them. Just make sure you don’t go below s few centimetres because there’s a risk that you’ll damage the root system. This can damage the growth of the plant. 

You need to water the cucumbers every week if you want them to grow firm and juicy. Matter of fact, cucumbers are known to have very high water content. Cucumber plants possess both female and male flowers. Amongst the two, the female flowers are the ones that produce cucumbers. You can also aid in the pollination process to increase fruit count. You can use a cotton bud in transferring pollen from male flowers to the centre of you female flowers. You can distinguish the females from the males as they feature tiny cucumbers by the base.

Cucumbers are harvestable already when they reach a suitable size. The usual time frame is 50 to 60 days subsequent to planting. You’ll notice their skin turning dark green. Once they turn yellow, they’re already over ripe. 

Take out the cucumbers by twisting them off the plant. Another option is to cut the stalks over the cucumber tips. 

 

Article by Anthony Gonzales
How to Plant
www.howtoplant.net

 

Check out www.howtoplant.net For methods on how to grow cucumbers and more information on how to plant cucumbers.


HOW TO GROW AUBERGINES AND VARIETIES TO TRY 

The aubergine is a member of the potato family. Native to India, it is commonly known as Eggplant and is widely used in cooking. It is a delicate perennial and as such is often grown as an annual. Here is a short guide on how to grow aubergines from seed and some varieties to try.

Aubergines must be grown in a warm, sheltered spot to guarantee a good crop. So although they can be grown outside in warm climates, they are best grown in a greenhouse. Firstly, fill smallish pots with seed compost and firm down. Space around six seeds evenly on the surface of the compost and cover with a thin layer of vermiculite. Place the pots in a heated propagator or cover with cling film and place on a sunny window sill to germinate. Keep the compost moist while the seeds are germinating. The seeds should take two to three weeks to germinate. Once the seedlings reach around 6cm in height, prick them out into individual pots. Make sure you handle the seedling by its leaves as the stems can be quite delicate. Feed the seedlings with a general purpose feed about once a week. The seedlings will need re-potting once the roots begin to appear from the bottom of the pot. Keep on re-potting until the plant is in a pot about 30cm in diameter. It is best to grow aubergine plants in individual pots rather than grow bags.

When the plant gets to about 30cm tall, nip out the tip of the plant to encourage it to branch out. Feeding the plant weekly with tomato food at this state will encourage it to produce a lot of flowers from which the fruits are formed. Aubergines are not self-pollinating and so will need a helping hand if they are to produce fruit. Gently tap the flowers to release the pollen or alternatively open the greenhouse windows to encourage bees in to pollinate the flowers. Harvest the fruits while they are still shiny. Fruits that have a dull appearance suggest that they have gone past their best and have started to go to seed.

Aubergine 'Pinstripe' has small oval shaped fruits that are purple with creamy white stripes.' Bonica' is an early cropping variety with oval fruits that are deep purple to black in colour. 'Falcon' produces good quality fruits on a compact plant. Best grown under glass, its fruits have a satin sheen and dark purple coloured skin. 'Pot Black' is a heavy cropping variety with almost black fruit on compact plants which makes it an excellent variety for growing in garden planters situated in a warm sheltered position.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
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Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


GROWING PEAS FROM SEED

When growing peas in your vegetable garden, the intention is never to grow a huge crop, but just enough to give you a wonderful succession of fresh peas to pick during the summer months. If you are like me, the joy of growing these tiny sweet gems is in picking and eating them when I am working in the vegetable garden - not many ever make it as far as the kitchen! Peas are easy to grow from seed - here is a quick guide on how.

Peas should be sown any time from April onwards when the soil has warmed up sufficiently. There are varieties that can be sown earlier and also ones that can be sown later in the year for an early autumn harvest. If you operate a crop rotation system on your vegetable plot, peas should be planted alongside beans and after a potato crop which will have the left the soil well broken up. Peas require a sunny nutrient rich, moisture retentive site and you will need a well prepared bed before you sow. Make sure you dig in plenty of well rotted manure and then rake the soil to a fine tithe. With the back of your rake, make a wide shallow drill in a straight line. Empty out a few peas into your hand and place them in a grid pattern about four inches apart. This will give you a double row, enough room for each plant to grow strongly, but close enough together to make the maximum use of space. Once you have placed the seed, cover with a thin layer of soil and water well. The plants will take around 15 weeks to mature. If you want a succession of peas, then plant another row about two weeks after the first.

When your peas begin to grow they will need some support. Use bamboo canes, trellis or netting to create supports for the plants. Place the sticks next to the plants to give their tendrils a chance to reach out and grip on to the support. When harvesting, pick from the bottom of the plant upwards, regular harvesting is essential for truly fresh peas. Once you have finished harvesting, don't pull the plant up but cut off the growth at the roots and leave them in as they are full of nitrogen-fixing bacteria and will benefit plants you will grow after such as brassicas.

PEA VARIETIES 

Early Onward is an early variety with a high yield. Waverex is a reliable petit pois with plenty of small, sweetly flavoured peas. Douce Provence is a very sweet and succulent variety which is also very versatile - it can be sown as an over wintering variety. A useful tip if you are sowing early varieties is to sow them in garden planters such as guttering. The seedlings can then be easily transferred to the ground by sliding them off in a line.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
www.twitter.com/Plantersshop

 

Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


PEAS AND BEANS IN THE HOME GARDEN

As our daily vegetable intake (5 serves a day) should include a green or two, peas and beans are a good choice and they can be grown easily in the home garden.

Their uses are versatile and they are abundant in protein and vitamin C which is more than handy!

Like all veggies, they like well-drained friable soil in a sunny position. Before planting the seeds, dig in a good layer of composted manure and mulch. Actually growing any legumes has the side benefit of improving your soil for future crops.

TIP 1: Soaking pea seeds overnight in water before planting helps insure strong germination.

TIP 2: Use a powdered pea/bean inoculant to coat pea seeds if you haven't grown peas in your garden previously. This will provide bacteria that live on pea roots and produce nitrogen. An innoculant refers to Rhizobia bacteria that are found on the roots of legumes to help produce nitrogen.

Don't over water when they are growing, but when they flower give them a good soaking.

By picking peas when they are ready to open will encourage more to develop. If you miss them and they dry out - keep them for next year's seeds.

The varieties that produce lavender or purple flowers also make great ornamentals for your flower garden.

To ensure the best flavour, bush beans should be picked while still slender and no inner bean is well developed. For fresh bush beans all summer, plant every two weeks and pick frequently.

Provide them with a pole to twine up as they grow. A trellis or chicken wire is better for peas.

Harvest once the bush beans are smooth, firm and crisp. By constantly picking your bush beans you will have a constant, fresh supply.

Broad beans are pretty straight forward to grow, being hardy and can be sown as early as Autumn for a harvest in the late spring. They will need some support to prevent being blown over. Harvest when they are small, as this is for a better taste.

 

Article by Peter Damien Ryan
Better House & Garden
www.betterhouseandgarden.net

 

Peter Damien Ryan is a landscape and gardening expert and can be reached at www.betterhouseandgarden.net


HOW TO PLANT CLIMBING BEANS

Climbing beans not only provide you with a prolific crop of delicious pods, they can be very decorative too, with flowers in a range of colours from white to bright red. They can just as easily be grown in the middle of a flower bed as on the vegetable garden. Climbing beans are easy to grow from seed and can be germinated indoors or planted straight out into the ground. Here is a quick guide on how to plant them and some delicious varieties for you to try.

If you are sowing your beans straight into the ground, then wait until late spring when the risk of frost has passed. Alternatively, sow your beans in a greenhouse or on a sunny window sill during late March, early April. Climbing beans of all varieties, whether they are runner beans or French beans, need to be grown up a support. Any support used needs to be sturdy as these plants put on a lot of growth and can become quite heavy as a result. The usual support for climbing beans is a wigwam of canes.

To grow straight into the ground, first prepare the ground by digging in plenty of organic material like compost or well rotted manure. Beans are notoriously greedy plants and like a rich soil. Pick a sunny site with soil that is not too cold and not too wet. Erect your support, making sure the wigwam is properly secured at the top. Make a hole using a dibber that is about 2ins deep. I normally place two beans in each hole to allow for some that won't germinate. Sow the beans around 8ins apart.

To sow indoors, fill some small pots with compost and water well. Make a hole, again about 2ins deep and place your bean in. Sow only one bean per pot. Cover with a thin layer of compost and firm in. Water the pots well and either place them in a propagator or cover with cling film and leave to germinate in a greenhouse or on a sunny window sill.

Once your beans start to climb up the supports, water and feed regularly. Once they reach the top of the support system, pinch the tops of the plants pout to prevent them growing any further upwards. When you have harvested your beans, leave the roots in the ground and dig them in. The roots contain valuable nitrogen fixing bacteria which improves the soil fertility for the next crop of plants you will grow.

VARIETIES OF CLIMBING BEAN

Climbing beans can be grown for their pods or their beans. Runner bean 'Moonlight' is a self pollinating bean with white flowers and a tender taste. French bean 'Purple Cascade' is a new variety of bean with a stunning purple colour, high yielding and rich in flavour. Haricot beans are grown for their beans rather than their pods and are much prized in Mediterranean countries where they are used in many dishes with a rich tomato sauce.

There is no reason why you can't grow climbing beans in garden planters, and if you are growing them in amongst your borders as display plants, this is probably the best way. Make sure your container is a large one, use a support as before and don't forget to water regularly.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
www.twitter.com/Plantersshop

 

Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


GROWING CARROTS IN A CONTAINER 

Carrots are one example of a vegetable I always deliberate over whether to grow or not. They can be problematic and are prone to carrot fly, but once you have tasted the very intense flavour you get from home grown carrots, that's normally enough to sway my decision in favour of growing my own. Carrots are normally sown directly into the ground and require a light well drained soil, so using containers to grow them in is an ideal alternative.

Another good reason for growing carrots in a container is that when grown in the ground, carrots can be easily distorted by stones or large clumps of soil acting as obstructions. They are also prone to attack by carrot fly, but if you use a large container or place it about two feet off the ground, it will help deter them as carrot fly normally only travels low down.

CHOOSING A CONTAINER 

Choose a container that is not too shallow to allow the carrots to put down good roots. It size will depend on how many carrots you want to harvest, but for a good crop you will need a fairly large pot or even several. The material is also important. Although terracotta looks nice, it heats up quickly and therefore loses a lot of moisture and you will find yourself needing to water more often. In my opinion a good sized plastic pot does the job nicely.

SOWING THE CARROTS

Fill your chosen container with multi-purpose compost and water well. Empty around half of a packet of carrot seed into a small container of either sand or vermiculite. Mixing the seed in this way will help you with an even distribution as carrot seed is very small and easy to over sow. Once you have sprinkled your seed on top of the compost, cover the top with a thin layer of compost. Even if you are careful when sowing carrot seed, you will find that once the seed emerges, you will need to thin out the seedlings. Keep your carrots well watered and within a few weeks you should be able to start harvesting delicious baby carrots.

CARROT VARIETIES 

There are many varieties of carrot to choose from. If you are baffled by choice, I would always plump for Marion or Resistafly. Marion is suitable for all year round growing and the roots are very tender. Resistafly is a main crop carrot with a good resistance to carrot fly as its name suggests. All can be grown successfully in garden planters.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
www.twitter.com/Plantersshop

 

Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.