Sunday, 29 December 2013

Planning your new year.

The New Year is very nearly upon us and it is time to plan for it. Think about what you want  to grow and what you grew last season.

I always try not to get too bogged down in to much “high tech”.I grow what I like to eat and what  and what I know grows on my plot.

The main thing is not to be in too much of a hurry to do anything. I always look to nature to see what is going on:

     Is the grass growing?
      Are there buds on the trees or in the hedge rows?

If the answer is no not yet; then it is too early to do anything in the garden.

I am still gathering winter greens and trying to keep my plot as clean as possible.

However, right now I have ten inches of flood water over all plot, but not over my beds because last year I spend a lot of time raising up my beds. They are a good eight above the flood. A good reason, to have riased beds in the frist place.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Cabbages and pears

I have been in Australia this past month. I went out there to see my brother and family. We had a great time.

Having driven over 3000 miles, I was amazing at the lack of vegetable gardens. I did look, because I wanted to see how the other side of the world did it.

I only saw four gardens. One was my brothers another was a hotel garden and the other two were in schools. None of them were brilliant.

They blame it on a lack of water. I beg to differ; the weather was quite mild and wet ( it is there spring ) also there appeared to be water all over the country side, in the form of lakes,dams and rivers.

Growing vegetables in Australia can be done. All the veg that I saw in the shops was grown in Australia. Here in the UK shops, our greens are from all over the world.

I put it down to a mind set. In the USA and Europe we are really into "grow your own vegetables"the Australians are not.

Having been away from my plot for over a month: I was a bit concerned as to what I would find.
Everything was fine.

My pears had all gone soft in the store and the same had happen to all of my summer stored white cabbage.

On of the things that I am going to look into this winter is; the growing of all round cabbage. I am going to study the subject and put an article up in hub pages.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Caterpillars on my cabbage!

I have just been down to my allotment to see how things are getting on. I have been in London for the last week.

It looks like I am losing the war with   caterpillars on my cabbage. It really is difficult to know what to do.

I try to practise organic chemical-free garden and have been going down to the cabbage patch to pick the little beast off , however, as I said I have been away in London for a week they have done a vast amount of damage. 

I think that I will have to give them a spray of something or other. It is too late for organic control, I fear.

One way would be to go through the lot and dig up the worst effected and try and clean up those that remain. As I have nearly a 100 plants, there should be enough left to see me through the winter.

The cabbage that seems to be affected the most are the soft summer ones. Interesting enough it seems that my Kale has not been affected at all and I still have my chard, spinach and sorrel to see me through the coming winter

You think that you have no time for gardening: then read this.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Salad varieties for all year round growing:

Growing Salad for your table in the summer can be is irresistible for most growers. However growing salad all the year round is another story. Not impossible, but there are a few details that you will need to keep in mind. One of the secrets is to have the right variety for the season. It is no good buying one packet of seed hoping that that will do. Not a question of one size fits all.

I have look at a few of the more common varieties and they are listed below as a guide.

Butterhead: all the year round/tom thumb/arctic king/marvel of four seasons/buttercrunch.

Cos: winter density/little gem/marshall/romany/claremont.

Crisphead: great lakes/webbs wonderful/saladin/robinson/minigreen

Loose-leaf: salad bowl/lollo rossa/red salad bowel/lollo bionda.

If you grow lettuce in the summer it is a good idea to sow in the late evening and water with cold water because some varieties will not germinate in warm weather.You think that you have no time for gardening: then read this  

Friday, 17 May 2013

No Time For Traditional Vegetable Gardening

The Problem with Traditional Vegetable Gardening?

By Jonathan White, environmental scientist.
Traditional vegetable gardens require an enormous amount of hard work and attention - weeding, feeding and strict planting schedules.  There is also the problem of seasonality, allowing beds to rest during the cooler months producing nothing at all.  Then we are told to plant green manure crops, add inorganic fertilizers and chemicals to adjust imbalanced soils.  It takes a lot of time, dedication and a year-round commitment to grow your own food the traditional way.
But does it really need to be that difficult?
Let me ask you this question.  Does a forest need to think how to grow?  Does its soil need to be turned every season?  Does someone come along every so often and plant seeds or take pH tests?  Does it get weeded or sprayed with toxic chemicals?
Of course not! 
Traditional vegetable gardening techniques are focused on problems.  Have you noticed that gardening books are full of ways to fix problems?  I was a traditional gardener for many years and I found that the solution to most problems simply caused a new set of problems. In other words, the problem with problems is that problems create more problems
Let’s take a look at a common traditional gardening practice and I will show you how a single problem can escalate into a whole host of problems.
Imagine a traditional vegetable garden, planted with rows of various vegetables.  There are fairly large bare patches between the vegetables.  To a traditional gardener, a bare patch is just a bare patch.  But to an ecologist, a bare patch is an empty niche space.  An empty niche space is simply an invitation for new life forms to take up residency.  Nature does not tolerate empty niche spaces and the most successful niche space fillers are weeds.  That’s what a weed is in ecological terms - a niche space filler.  Weeds are very good colonizing plants.  If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be called weeds. 
Now back to our story.  Weeds will grow in the empty niche spaces.  Quite often there are too many weeds to pick out individually, so the traditional gardener uses a hoe to turn them into the soil.  I have read in many gardening books, even organic gardening books, that your hoe is your best friend.  So the message we are getting is that using a hoe is the solution to a problem.
However, I would like to show you how using a hoe actually creates a new set of problems.  Firstly, turning soil excites weed seeds, creating a new explosion of weeds.  And secondly, turning soil upsets the soil ecology.  The top layer of soil is generally dry and structureless.  By turning it, you are placing deeper structured soil on the surface and putting the structureless soil underneath.  Over time, the band of structureless soil widens.  Structureless soil has far less moisture holding capacity, so the garden now needs more water to keep the plants alive. 
In addition to this problem, structureless soil cannot pass its nutrients onto the plants as effectively.  The garden now also needs the addition of fertilisers.  Many fertilisers kill the soil biology which is very important in building soil structure and plant nutrient availability.  The soil will eventually turn into a dead substance that doesn’t have the correct balance of nutrients to grow fully developed foods.  The foods will actually lack vitamins and minerals.  This problem has already occurred in modern-day agriculture.  Dr Tim Lobstein, Director of the Food Commission said. "… today's agriculture does not allow the soil to enrich itself, but depends on chemical fertilisers that don't replace the wide variety of nutrients plants and humans need."  Over the past 60 years commercially grown foods have experienced a significant reduction in nutrient and mineral content.
Can you see how we started with the problem of weeds, but ended up with the new problems of lower water-holding capacity and infertile soils.  And eventually, we have the potentially serious problem of growing food with low nutrient content.  Traditional gardening techniques only ever strive to fix the symptom and not the cause. 
However, there is a solution!  We must use a technique that combines pest ecology, plant ecology, soil ecology and crop management into a method that addresses the causes of these problems.  This technique must be efficient enough to be economically viable.  It also needs to be able to produce enough food, per given area, to compete against traditional techniques. 
I have been testing an ecologically-based method of growing food for several years.  This method uses zero tillage, zero chemicals, has minimal weeds and requires a fraction of the physical attention (when compared to traditional vegetable gardening).  It also produces several times more, per given area, and provides food every single day of the year.
My ecologically-based garden mimics nature in such a way that the garden looks and acts like a natural ecosystem.  Succession layering of plants (just as we see in natural ecosystems) offers natural pest management.  It also naturally eliminates the need for crop rotation, resting beds or green manure crops.  Soil management is addressed in a natural way, and the result is that the soil’s structure and fertility get richer and richer, year after year.  Another benefit of this method is automatic regeneration through self-seeding.  This occurs naturally as dormant seeds germinate; filling empty niche spaces with desirable plants, and not weeds. 
Unfortunately, the biggest challenge this method faces is convincing traditional gardeners of its benefits.  Like many industries, the gardening industry gets stuck in doing things a certain way.  The ecologically-based method requires such little human intervention that, in my opinion, many people will get frustrated with the lack of needing to control what’s happening.  Naturally people love to take control of their lives, but with this method you are allowing nature to take the reins.  It’s a test of faith in very simple natural laws.  However, in my experience these natural laws are 100% reliable. 
Another reason that traditional gardeners may not like this method is that it takes away all the mysticism of being an expert.  You see, this method is so simple that any person, anywhere in the world, under any conditions, can do it.  And for a veteran gardener it can actually be quite threatening when an embarrassingly simple solution comes along. 
I have no doubt that this is the way we will be growing food in the future.  It’s just commonsense.  Why wouldn’t we use a method that produces many times more food with a fraction of the effort?  I know it will take a little while to convince people that growing food is actually very instinctual and straightforward, but with persistence and proper explanation, people will embrace this method. 
Why?  Because sanity always prevails…
Jonathan White is an Environmental Scientist and the founder of the Food4Wealth Method.  For more information see Read more about it here:

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Kung fu gardening.

I practice Kung fu gardening.
Kung fu literally translated means a skilful ability attained through hard work.

Thus, someone could be a XXXXX and deemed to have good ‘kung fu’

 I went down to my allotment plot yesterday and put in 80 potatoes tubers.

It took me all of 15 minutes.  And that is it, until I harvest apart from; hoeing every week, which takes about 3 minutes a time.

The reason that it does not take any time at all is because I have made raised beds.

The kung fu bit of all of this is:
Each bed is 10 feet by 4 feet and took about fours hours to make.  That is with all the digging and manureing and colleting materials and so on.  But once made; that’s it.  

Knowing what you are doing…doing it…. putting in the work…and harvesting the rewards.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

When to sow seeds:

At last, here in the UK, the weather has turned and the wind is now from the West; which means it is warmer.

My gauge for planting out in the soil is; the grass.  When that starts growing and needs cutting then, in my view it is time to sow.

Most seeds will not start moving until the soil is about 5 c.  If you put them in before, you stand the chance of them rotting or being eaten by birds.

My whole plot has been wiped out this last winter with the Thames floods.
There was 73 days of water over the whole area to a depth of 64 c. (25”)

Only the fruit survived (both soft and tree fruit).  Even my Rhubarb and mint has been drowned.

I am in the process of raising all of my beds up, so that it will not happen again.

What this means for me is that, for the first time in years, I have to buy my veg. Bit of a shock to the system; on both the price and taste front.

Still, onwards and upwards.

I know that many people want to grow their own but do not have the time.  Well it does not have to take that much time.  You can do it in 12 hours a year, once you are set up.
To find out how follow the link below.    Grow your own veg in 12 hours a year!

Thursday, 28 March 2013

How much time does it take to grow your own vegetables?

I feel that we all have a right to dig. The shear pleasure of digging and growing our own food is part of humanity’s common make up. Each of us should have our own small area to dig.
However, for centuries there has been an ongoing struggle between those that have and control the land and those that have nothing. There are those of us who do not know the difference between:
·      What I want
·      What I need
What your need, according to UK allotment standards is:
11-pole plot per family. This area is considered adequate for a family to provide enough area of land for the growing of vegetables and fruit.
A pole, by the way, is an old English measurement being:
From the tip of the Oxen’s noise to the end of the plough handle. That is about; 181 feet/60 meters
Standard allotment size is 1/16th of an acre. Taking 1 acre, and dividing each side into 4 parts, you would end up with 16 allotments, and which makes some sense.
Taking all that aside and assuming that you have an area of land to work, the next thing is, and this is really the big one: Time.
A well- planned allotment can produce a lot of food. However, you must realize that this does not happen by itself. You must make it happen; this means putting in the hours.
Some say 3 to 5 hours a week should be enough; others can only give it a few hours at weekend.
For myself, I like the easy route. I use raised beds and make compost. Once I had set up my beds (which took a lot of work) little and often became my key.
How about 10-12 hours per year! If you want to learn about this method then follow the link below. It is worth it just for the ‘read’

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Symptoms of your garden

There is a serious problem with to days progressive  ways of gardening and that is that today’s modern methods depend on chemical fertilizers which do not replace the very wide variety of nutrients that plants need.

In a pervious post “How to deal with weeds”, I wrote about the problems of weeds and how this leads to infertile soils. If you follow traditional methods of gardening techniques, then you will only strive to fix the symptoms of your garden and not the cause.

There is a system of gardening where you just go out and do it without any fuss. Just follow the link below to read about it…go and enjoy and be pleasantly surprised

A better system of Gardening

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

How to deal with weeds

Think about your garden, your pride and joy.
I do not want to worry you, but lets take a look at one problem that can turn into a nightmare.
You have this lovely patch of ground that is your garden.
Row of beautifully vegetables of various kinds. In-between the rows there is bare ground. This is not good because nature never has bear ground. What will happen is that nature will try to colonize that bit of your garden.
Mother nature see that a place to start a new life form in your garden, because she cannot tolerate empty space. So what happens? Weeds start to grow.
So what do you as the gardener do? Why, you get your hoe out because you know that your hoe is your best friend.
After all this is what it says in the book: the how is the answer to the weed problem.
However, what you do with a hoe is create a new set of problems for your garden:
·      By turning the soil with a hoe, you start off more weed seeds.
·      Turning the soil will disturb the ecology. Your top layer of soil is (in the main) dry and structureless. When you hoe your soil, you put this topsoil underneath, thus widening the band of structureless soil.
·      Your soil is now generally drier and less able to hold moisture.  
·      You now have to water your plants.
·      In addition, structureless soil is unable to feed your plants so well.
·       You now have to buy in and use fertilizers
·      By using the fertilizer, you start to kill the soil biology.
·      Over time, your soil will turn into dead soil.
·      Dead soil lacks the correct balance of nutrients to grow your plants.

Therefore, by using your hoe you have bought the problem of modern day agriculture right into your veg patch!
To find out how to overcome this, take a look at the link below: 

Monday, 18 March 2013

Gardening Problems;

You get hold of any book on vegetable growing and you will notice that in the main, the book will focus on problems. This does not make it easy to start because you think; I have enough problems already without adding more!
There is a system of gardening where you just go out and do it without any fuss. Just follow the link below to read about it…go and enjoy and be pleasantly surprised
Gardening with out the Problems

Friday, 15 March 2013

Grow an organic garden

Grow an organic garden
We are told that growing our own vegetables takes a lot of hard work.
·   Digging
·   Weeding
·   Watering
·   Feeding
·   Planting
·   Composting
·   Rotations
·   Liming
·   And all the rest

It takes time and effect.  That is not the true story.  That is just what is put about by those who do not want to start and for some reason do not want you to start.

There is a way that you can have your own home grown vegetables in less time then it takes you to nip down to the supermarket and pay the earth for vegetables that are grown God knows where and God knows how.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Raised beds for vegetables

">Raised beds for vegetables:

The reason that I have raised beds is that my allotment is on a flood plan along side the River Thames. My plot has had 73 days under 64 cm of water (about 2 feet).

 The only beds that were out of the water were those that I had raised up above this level. The floods wiped out most of my vegetables.

The only one that did not suffer was my leeks, which I continued to harvest even when they were under water.

The water has since gone and I am setting about raising the rest of my beds. 

The way that I am doing this is to dig down to the sup-soil. Roughly two feet. I put the topsoil to one side. This leaves me with a hole two feet deep. I need to fill this hole to ground level.

 For this I use any organic material that I can get my hands on. It in bottom of the hole, where the roots of my vegetables are not going to reach; I put about a foot of old books, or cardboard.

 I collect the old books from friends (mostly old paper backs) and the cardboard I collect from local shops who are more then willing to get rid of it.

 On top of this, I have put leaf mould, which I got from a local college (I live in Oxford) they were more then willing to have somewhere to get rid of it.

 Then I put the topsoil back on top. I will leave this to settle before I plant my winter vegetables. This will be about four months.

 I know this works because I used this method two years ago and have grown good vegetables on the beds every since.

 It is a sort of Victorian Hot Bed with a 21st century twists i.e. the cardboard.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Rhubarb Patch

One great thing about vegetable growing is that it is all done and dusted inside a single season. You can enjoy your success and forget about what went wrong. However, this year I am embarking on a long-term gardening project that won’t bear fruit for at least two years – perhaps three. One of my joys of my rhubarb patch is that, every year it gives me breakfast for nearly 200 days and more importantly, it takes little effort to look after. Rhubarb is one of the few perennial vegetables. The plants die back into the underground crowns every winter and new shoots emerge in the spring ready to be picked and eaten. That is if you do not get flooded as happen to me this year. Old Father Thames broke his banks for 73 days and drowned all my Rhubarb and so I have to start from scratch. Rhubarb crowns will take two or three years to become productive and gain enough strength for the shoots to be harvested regularly, but once established they would crop for between 10 and 20 years. Rhubarb is normally bought as one- or two-year-old plants, which saves a lot of time when you are eagerly waiting for your first harvest, but they are not cheap. You can grow Rhubarb from seed, but I have never done that because there is another way, which is much quicker and more reliable. Rhubarb is a very robust plant and grows bigger year by year. In addition, after a few years the plant really benefits from cut in half with a sharp spade this is to our advantage. Go round you neighbors and ask them if they have any Rhubarb that needs dividing I, sure you can find a few. When you prepare your new rhubarb bed, dig it deep and make sure there is plenty of manure.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

When to Plant Your Crops;

You can grow veg outside once the grass grows, as the eairth's temperature is above 5C. Sow a short row of broad beans and peas every weeks between now and April for constant crops between June and October. The Things you find in Amazon! I was looking for a book link under their Garden Department and came across this link for bed sheets. With a price cut of $374.15. The sheets are down from $399.99 to $25.75 I assume that got,put in the wrong department because they are 'bedding'. Anyway they are there for sale at$25.75 if you want some go grap some. Just click the Amazon link.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

When to plant potatoes

I recommend that you buy seed potatoes in January or February.  The best size to buy is between 1 to 2 oz. However, the yield is not greatly affected by the size of potato that is planted, and all sizes offered by stores including the smallest, will give good results.

If you buy the potatoes before the recommended planting time, set them out in trays that contain 1" of dry peat with the end of the potato with the most eyes at the top, and keep in a cool, light, frost-free position until it is time to plant. Alternatively, you can buy potatoes at planting time and plant them straight away (after knocking off any long white shoots) but this will reduce the yield and give a later crop, especially for earlies.

Recommended planting times:

Earlies from late March, 12"between potatoes, 24" between rows and 5" deep

Maincrop from Mid-April, 15" between potatoes, 30"between rows and 5" deep.

Cover with soil and make a low ridge.

Protect shoots from frost if necessary by covering with protective material such as dry straw. When plant is approximately 6" high, draw loose up against stems to approximately 5" high. Increase the height of the ridge by further inch or two when the plant has grown sufficiently. Remember to water in dry weather.

First earlies   June-July

Second Earlies   July-August.

When flowers are fully open, examine potatoes. They will be ready when they are the size of hen's eggs. To lift, insert a fork well away from plant and ensure all tubers are lifted from the soil.

Main Crop    August-October.

Cut off foliage when it has turned brown and wait 10 days, then lift as above. To store, leave to dry for a few hours and place in boxes or bags in a dark frost-free room.

The above is taken from:Guide to Growing Seed Potatoes from Buckingham Garden Centre