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01406 370242
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Grow your own Vegetables

How To Grow Beetroot and Radishes

Beetroot Swollen roots that are this tasty should be difficult to grow, but they are childs’ play if your soil is anywhere near reasonable. For best flavour they need to be grown fast and picked small.

Soil and Position
Improve the soil by raking in Multi purpose compost or a soil improver, to create a free-draining, humus-rich soil. Avoid shaded areas that get no sun at all.

Seed Varieties Beetroot: Most people prefer red globe varieties although there are white or yellow globes and red varieties that produce cylindrical and long tapered roots. The usual beetroot variety is ‘Boltardy’, although ‘Detroit’ types are great for late sowing or the show bench.

Radish:
Why bother with anything other than ‘French Breakfast’ or ‘Red Globe’ which are tasty, but not too hot when pulled before they get large and woody.

Sowing Seeds
Wait until March and April to sow your first short rows of radish and beetroot in garden soil. Further sowings of radish in May and June will provide young roots for your fresh summer salads.

A further sowing of beetroot in May will supply a good crop for late summer and a final row sown in June will provide roots for winter storage. Take out a drill about 3cm (1in) deep. Sow thinly to avoid overcrowding. Cover with soil and water well.

Care
Fresh seedlings will need protecting from slugs and snails with a sprinkling of slug pellets on the soil around the row.

Avoid soil drying out or these roots will turn woody and tough. In dry spells water the soil thoroughly, adding somesoluble plant food to the watering can every fortnight or so. Alternatively, if you’re using a hose pipe, attach a Miracle-Gro LiquaFeed Gun to conveniently feed as you water.

Harvesting
Thin beetroot when they have grown to golf ball size and radish as soon as they are touching each other. Take out every other root and use in the kitchen. The space will allow the roots to swell to maturity.

Always read the label and use pesticides as directed.

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How To Grow Broad Beans

Broad Beans A delicious vegetable that’s easy to grow and well worth the space. The flowers are highly perfumed, the roots trap nitrogen for the next crop, so broad beans are beneficial in many other ways apart from their eating qualities. You should expect to be picking your own crop between June and August.

Soil and Position
Most soils will give a reasonable crop, but if yours is heavy clay or light sand then you should dig in some organic matter such as well-rotted garden compost or Soil Improver. Then improve the nutrient level of the soil with a dressing of growmore. You are now ready to sow your seeds.

Seed Varieties Most varieties are ‘longpod’ ones that should contain 8 or more beans from one pod. ‘Masterpiece’, ‘Aquadulce’ and ‘Exhibition Longpod’ are traditional names and ‘Witkiem’ a more recent introduction. In exposed sites choose a dwarf variety such as ‘The Sutton’.

Sowing Seeds

Indoors:For a really early crop, sow seeds in individual cells of Seed & Cutting Compost in February. Seedlings will be ready for planting out in March.

Outdoors:Sow seed 3cm (2in) deep in March in a shallow drill with a gap of 20cm between each seed and cover with fine soil. For maximum use of space a double row with rows 20cm (8in) apart is normal. Separate each double row by a 60cm (24in) gap. Water well. Further sowings can be made during April and May for successional crops.

A further sowing of beetroot in May will supply a good crop for late summer and a final row sown in June will provide roots for winter storage. Take out a drill about 3cm (1in) deep. Sow thinly to avoid overcrowding. Cover with soil and water well.

Care
Keep weeds under control either with a hoe or Weedol MAX. After flowering and when the pods have started to set nip out the growing tip of each plant. This will direct all energy to producing beans and take away the favourite resting spot for thousands of blackfly. If blackfly should attack your plants spray with BugClear to keep them clean.

Pick the pods when you can see the beans have swollen in the pod but before they have reached maximum size and have turned large and tough. For best eating qualities the scar on the bean inside the pod should still be white or green after shelling.

When the crop is finished don’t pull up the roots, but simply cut off the stems at soil level and compost in the normal way. This will ensure the nitrogen swollen roots are left below ground level to feed the next crop.

Always read the label and use pesticides as directed.

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How To Grow Brussel Sprouts

Sprouts Winter greens are a vital part of any balanced diet and sprouts an essential dish for Christmas dinner. The key to success is to plant in a soil that has been enriched with organic matter for and the soil to be really firm. Summer broccoli (calabrese) needs different timings – for details see our page on growing cabbages.

Soil and position
A sunny or semi-shaded spot that is protected from high winds is ideal. If the cabbage patch is weedy before sowing or planting out, spray weeds with Weedol MAX. A dressing of Plant Food should be raked into the soil before planting and the soil then firmed by shuffling your feet all over the surface.

Seed Varieties
Sprouting Broccoli: Most common seed are simply marked Early or Late, although few will have edible results before late February or early March depending on the weather.

Sprouts: Standard varieties such as ‘Bedford Fillbasket’ (early) will produce a bumper crop of large sprouts that can be picked over many weeks. Whereas ‘F1 Hybrids’ tend to mature all at one time. For an early crop before Christmas try ‘Maximus’ or ‘Breeze’. For a late maturing variety try ‘Wellington’. For a kiddy-friendly taste ‘Trafalgar’ is said to be great.

Sowing seeds
Sow seed very thinly in May. Leave a gap of 8cm (3in) between seeds in a shallow drill 1cm (½in) deep and cover with fine soil. Water well.

Transplanting
When the seedlings have 5 or 6 leaves, transplant them to their final growing position. If the soil hasn’t been fed this year, rake in some Plant Food and then firm the soil to remove any air pockets. Make planting holes 60cm (24in) apart with a similar gap between rows.

If you know that your soil is infected with Club Root disease fill the planting hole with Multi Purpose Compost before transplanting your seedlings. Firm the soil well after planting and water in.

Care
During the summer, watch out for caterpillars. To prevent the problem, rub out the yellow eggs of the cabbage white butterfly found on the underside of leaves. If you see caterpillars themselves, spray with BugClear for Fruit & Veg.

Support your plants with tall stakes so they will remain firmly upright during high winds. Early in winter firm the soil again with your heal and check the stakes are still rigid.

Before December carefully cover the plants completely with netting to exclude pigeons that can strip all leaves during cold weather when other food is unavailable. Support the roof of the netting well above the tops of the plants so that pigeons can’t land on plants and peck through the netting.

Keep weeds under control either with a hoe or Weedol MAX. Harvesting
Pick sprouts for immediate use when they are large enough for cooking. Cut spears of Sprouting Broccoli when they are well formed, but before the flower buds have opened. First cut out the central head to encourage the side shoots. When cutting side shoots don’t strip them off completely, but leave a part of the stem to sprout more spears.

Always read the label and use pesticides as directed.

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How To Grow Cabbage

Cabbages You can cut greens from the brassica family most months of the year. There are varieties of cabbages for spring, summer and winter plus of course calabrese for autumn and sprouting broccoli and sprouts for Christmas and the new year.

These detailed instructions and timings are for producing ‘summer’ cabbages for August and September. For other brassica types follow the instructions below or on the seed packet for the best time to sow the seed, transplant the seedlings and pick your greens.

Soil and position
A semi-shaded spot is ideal. If the cabbage patch is weedy, spray weeds in September with Roundup Weedkiller. Wait a couple of weeks for the roots to be killed and then dig the soil adding some organic matter such as well-rotted garden compost or Soil Improver. Allow the soil to consolidate during the winter and add a dressing of plant food in spring. Rake this plant food into the soil ready for seed sowing or planting.

Seed Varieties
Primo and Minicole produce round headed cabbages; while Hispi, Greyhound and Caramba the pointed ones. Take your pick.

Sowing seeds
Indoors: Sow seeds in individual cells of compost in late February or early March. Seedlings will appear in a week indoors on a windowsill.

Outdoors: Sow seed thinly in late March or early April in a shallow drill and cover with fine soil. Water well.

Transplanting
When the seedlings have 5 or 6 leaves, transplant them to their final growing position. If the soil hasn’t been fed this year, rake in some Plant Food and then firm the soil to remove any air pockets. Make planting holes 45cm (18in) apart with a similar gap between rows. Firm the soil well after planting and water in.

Care
If pigeons or sparrows are a local problem cover the seedlings with a fleece. Keep weeds under control either with a hoe or Weedol MAX. Watch out for caterpillar damage – holes appear in the leaves during the summer. To prevent the problem, rub out the yellow eggs of the cabbage white butterfly found on the underside of cabbage leaves. If you see caterpillars themselves, spray with BugClear.

Always read the label and use pesticides as directed.

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How To Grow Carrots

Carrots If you want flavour, then there is nothing like eating home-grown carrots fresh from the garden. Simply sow directly outside in shallow drills if you have a veg plot, or into planters or container in a patio or balcony.

Soil and position
For the best results sowing outside you should have fine, crumbly soil that has not been freshly manured and without too many stones. Otherwise the single tap root may split into many smaller roots as soon as it hits a large object or fresh manure.

Dig the soil and remove perennial weed roots and all stones and other debris. Add some Soil Improver to improve the structure of the soil plus a sprinkling of a general plant food. Rake to a smooth friable surface.

If your soil is stoney, prepare a long V-shaped trench at least 20cm deep and fill this with sieved soil mixed with about 50% Top Soil.

Selecting the varieties to buy
For stoney soil try Rondo or Parmex. For early crops choose Early Nantes, Amsterdam Forcing or Mignon. To tempt kids try Sugarsnax, Parmex or Bolero. For maincrop sow Autumn King, Red Intermediate or Chantenay Red Cored.

Sowing seeds
You can’t transplant seedlings of root vegetables successfully, so the seed needs to be sown where they are going to mature. When the soil is warm enough (March or April) take out a shallow drill 1cm deep. After sowing the seeds cover with fine soil and water in. Sow carrots thinly in short rows every three weeks from March until the end of June. Regular sowing will give you a continuous supply of vegetables through summer and autumn.

Thinning
Carrots need about 4cm gap between each seedling, but don’t compost the larger ones as they make a delicious addition to salads.

Care
Keep your carrot crop watered in dry weather. To prevent the carrot fly laying eggs that will eventually tunnel into the roots, cover completely with Enviromesh or similar material or erect a wind break around your plants at least 60cm tall.

Always read the label and use pesticides as directed.

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How To Grow Leeks

Leeks The easiest member of the onion family to grow and available for digging all winter. For a good depth of white stem, you will need to transplant the seedlings and earth up.

Soil and position
Almost any soil will do as long as it’s free draining and not compacted. For best results the addition of Farmyard Manure or garden compost is recommended. For solid growth improve soil nutrient levels by applying granules of Plant Food before transplanting the seedlings.

Selecting the varieties to buy

Early: For an autumn crop sow seeds of ‘Lyon-Prizetaker’ or ‘Early Market’ in late March.
Mid Season: For Christmas and New Year crops sow ‘Mussleburgh’ or ‘Snowstar’ in May for transplanting in June.
Late Season: For leeks to dig in March and April sow seeds of Giant Winter or Winter Crop in June and transplant in July.

Sowing seeds
Sow seeds very thinly in a shallow drill about 2cm (½in) deep. Cover with soil and water well. When the seedlings are at least 18cm (8in) tall, carefully dig up the plants and transplant immediately.

Transplanting
Rake in a dressing of Plant Food and water the soil a day before you are to transplant the seedling. Make a cylindrical hole for each plant with a dibber made from a broomstick or handle and stem from a broken fork or spade. Each hole should be at least 15cm (6in) deep and about 4cm in diameter. Ease roots into the hole and fill the hole with water to settle the roots at the base of the planting hole. Do not fill the hole with more soil.

Care
After a few weeks you can improve the length of white stem by blanching the base of the plant above ground. Wrap about 10cm (4in) of the base of the plant in newspaper and then pull dry soil around the stem to exclude light. Be careful not to introduce soil between the leaves as this can make for gritty eating.

Harvesting
Dig the leeks as required for the kitchen. They will stand throughout the winter without harm. Dig and eat all stems before the end of April or the production of a woody flower stem in the centre of each plant will make them virtually inedible.

Always read the label and use pesticides as directed.

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How To Grow Onions and Garlic

Onions Onions are an essential vegetable for all kitchens and can be grown from small immature bulbs, called sets, or from seed. Spring (salad) onions are immature seedlings and are always grown from seed. Garlic is grown from cloves in a similar way.

Soil and position
A sunny spot with well drained soil is best. When digging over take out any perennial weed roots and improve the organic content by incorporating some Soil Improver. A sprinkling of a general plant food will ensure the crop is fed throughout the summer. Rake to a smooth friable surface.

Onion Seeds or Sets
If you are new to grow your own then the small immature onion bulbs, called sets, are the easiest way to get reliable results. Each forms one full-sized bulb. Simply plant at the end of March or beginning of April as detailed below.

The seed route will give you more onions for your money, but good results are more dependent on warm spring weather and the time you have to keep weeds from dominating your crop.

Selecting the varieties to buy
Onion Sets: All are good croppers including Sturon, Jet Set and Golden Ball. For red onions try Garnet or Red Baron/Emperor.
Onion Seeds: Ailsa Craig and Bedfordshire Champion are traditional favourites.
Salad (Spring) Onions: White Lisbon, Eiffel or Ishikuro.
Garlic: Wight Cristo is said to be a great English variety, but Lautrec Wight is regarded as France’s finest.

Planting Onion Sets
Plant sets in late February or March where they are to mature. Push into the soil, leaving a gap of 10cm (4in) between each set and 20cm (8in) between rows.

Sowing Onion Seeds
When the soil is warm enough (March or April) take out a shallow drill 1cm deep (a drill is a shallow trench that you plant seed in). Sow the seeds thinly and then cover with fine soil and water in.

Planting Garlic Cloves
Break up bulbs into individual cloves and plant in autumn or early in March. Push into the soil, leaving a gap of 15cm (6in) between each set and 20cm (8in) between rows.

Thinning
Salad onions don’t normally need thinning, just pull and eat. Onions grown from seed need space to expand so pull out overcrowded seedlings to leave 10cm (4in) between each plant.

Care
Keep weeds under control and water only when the weather is really dry. Keep weeds under control throughout the growing season.

Harvesting
When the foliage start to turn yellow in August/September, lift the bulbs and dry for 7-21 days under cover. Use bulbs/cloves first that are soft, damaged, spotted or have thick necks. The rest can be stored in an airy place in net bags, tights or tied to cord to make an onion rope

Always read the label and use pesticides as directed.

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How To Grow Peas

Peas Nothing beats home grown peas for tenderness or taste. Picked when small, boiled within an hour of picking with a sprig of mint and you won’t taste better. And they are relatively easy to grow, especially if you improve your soil and grow them fast when the soil has warmed.

Soil and position
A sunny spot is best which has been improved with Soil Improver or some garden compost to provide a free-draining, humus-rich soil. Seed Varieties
Choosing the right seed can be confusing because there are round seeded or wrinkled; tall or dwarf; early, second early or late; peas for shelling or the ones that are eaten as whole immature pods (mangetout).

For shelled peas, novices should stick to tried and trusted varieties such as ‘Kelvedon Wonder’, ‘Early Onward’ or ‘Hurst Green Shaft’. For mangetout pods try ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ or ‘Sugar Snap’.

Sowing Seeds
Wait until early April to sow your first short row of pea seeds in garden soil. Sow more at fortnightly intervals to give a succession of crops throughout summer. Take out a drill about 5cm (2in) deep and 15cm (6in) wide (a ‘drill’ is a shallow trench that you plant seeds into). Sow the peas 8cm (3in) apart in double rows and then cover with soil. Water well.

Care
Birds or mice will often pick out the seed for food. To keep the birds off cover the area with netting until the plants have germinated. To protect the seeds from mice cover the soil with fine plastic mesh. You will see new shots appear in just over a week and this needs protecting from slugs with a sprinkling of Slug Pellets. When the seedlings are 8cm (3in) tall, push some twigs along the row for the plants to climb.

In dry spells water the soil thoroughly adding some Soluble Plant Food to the watering can, or using a Miracle-Gro LiquaFeed Gun hose attachment, every fortnight or so.

Always read the label and use pesticides as directed.

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How to Grow Potatoes

Potatoes A staple daily food for most households, so a great investment in space and time that will give every home tasty rewards that can be stored for months. Unlike farmers, amateur gardeners can select potato varieties for taste and texture rather than huge crops.

Soil and position
Potatoes will grow in almost any soil although they crop much better if the soil is enriched with a balanced plant food. Potatoes grow best in an acid soil so add well rotted garden compost or liberal amounts of Soil Improver to the bottom of the planting trench. Don’t lime soil at any time.

Planters and Gro-sacs
If you don’t have the garden space, try a growing bag, specially designed for potatoes, on a balcony, patio or path. The Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potato & Vegetable Gro-sac has been formulated for better yields without requiring lots of space or the hard work digging.

Seed Varieties
Take your pick at your local garden centre. For plenty of small ‘new’ potatoes in July plant a variety classified as ‘Early’. For a large crop of big tubers that will be ready in September select a ‘Maincrop’.

Always buy certified seed potatoes. You will then know they are free from virus infections. The texture of cooked potatoes varies between waxy and flowery and some are best for boiling, others for roasting and even more for chips. For example ‘Red Duke of York’ is useless when boiled as it falls apart, but for roast potatoes or mashed there is nothing to beat it.

Planting Potato Sets
Seed potatoes are normally available in the first few months of the year, well before they can be planted outside. To get them growing safely, place them in egg boxes or a seed tray so that the new shoots can grow indoors on a light windowsill that is frost free. This technique, called ‘chitting’, is said to improve yields, but probably is used only to gain a few weeks in the time needed for growing earlies in the ground and to provide the right conditions for storage.

In April dig a trench 15cm (6in) deep and plant the potatoes leaving a gap of 30cm (12in) between each one. Leave a space of 60cm (2ft) between rows. Fill the trench with soil mixed 50:50 with Multi Purpose Compost, garden compost, or other organic matter.

Care
When the green stems have grown to 30cm (1ft) tall pull some extra soil around the stems to make a ridge. This soil is to exclude light from the potatoes that are forming on the surface.

Water in dry weather and sprinkle SlugClear Advanced Pellets around the plants after showery weather. If the weather is wet during July then potato blight could easily spread damaging the storing qualities of your crop. To protect the foliage, spray with Dithane or Copper Fungicide during a dry spell of weather.

Water potatoes during dry weather and add Soluble Plant Food to your watering can every fortnight throughout the summer.

Harvesting
Earlies will be ready for digging when the flowers have all fully opened; maincrop or lates in September. Reject any potatoes that are green, they are poisonous.

Always read the label and use pesticides as directed.

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How To Grow Courgettes, Marrows, Pumpkins and Squashes

Courgettes Marrows and pumpkins may often be insipid when large, but their tiny cousins, known as courgettes or zucchini provide a flavourful addition to a meal. The yellow flesh of butternut squash is even tastier. Best of all, ripened winter squash can be stored in a cool place for several months. Most families only need one or two plants to be self-sufficient in these prolific producers.

Soil and position
Space is needed to allow the stems of trailing varieties to rampage over soil. For best results cultivate a pocket of rich soil that has been improved with organic matter and some general purpose fertiliser. Position the pockets at least 90cm (3ft) apart so the plant stems have room to wander.

Alternatively you can grow three climbing courgette plants (Black Forest variety) in a Vegetable Planter positioned on a sunny patio or balcony.

Seed and Plant Varieties
Study the seed racks and choose your preferred shape and colour whether green, yellow or white. Remember that courgettes will grow to marrow size if left unpicked.

Summer squash are either pumpkin types or ‘American Patty Pan’ types that are saucer flat with scalloped edges. Winter squash are usually bell-shaped butternut types that are picked in the autumn.

Sow one seed on its edge and about 2cm deep in a single 10cm (3”) pot of Compost towards the end of March-April. Place the pot in a clear polythene bag and keep warm until the seed germinates 5-7 days later. Sometime in June, when all risks of frost are passed, harden off the seedlings outside and after a week or so to acclimatise to cooler nights, plant out one seedling to each pocket of improved soil. Alternatively, you can sow directly outside towards the end of May when the risk or hard-frost has passed. Water well.

Care
To help the soil to retain moisture and for the fruits to remain clean lay some black polythene or a mulch layer of bark chip around the plant stem. When the plant is actively growing, water the soil occasionally, adding some Liquid Plant Food to the water every fortnight. Pinch out the main stem when it has reached the maximum area you want to use.

Harvesting
Pick the fruit of marrows, courgettes and summer squash for immediate use when they are still quite small. Courgettes should be only 12-16cm long, marrows 22-28cm long. Continually cutting will ensure prolonged fruiting. Cut winter squash and pumpkins in the autumn just before the first frosts and ripen on a sunny windowsill indoors. The skin will thicken and turn colour.

Storing
Store marrows and winter squash in a cool, frost-free room. If correctly ripened, Butternut squash should store until Christmas, unless you’ve eaten them all!

Always read the label and use pesticides as directed.

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How to Grow Runner Beans

Runner Beans A highly productive summer crop of tasty beans are versatile and healthy. Being susceptible to frosts, their growing period outside is restricted to summer and they need to grow fast to get the best results. You should expect to be picking your own crop between the end of July and the early October.

Soil and position
Most soils will give a reasonable crop of French green beans, but on the other hand, runner beans are more fussy. They will give disappointing results when planted in cold wet clay and any soil that is poorly drained or short of plant nutrients. For best results with both sorts of beans dig in some organic matter such as well-rotted garden compost or Soil Improver.

If you are really keen on runner beans you may think about a traditional compost trench. Take out a spade depth of soil in a trench approximately 1 metre (3ft) wide and dig into the bottom of the hole all the organic matter you can get hold of including well-rotted garden compost, Farmyard Manure, shredded newspaper and cardboard. Then improve the nutrient level of the soil with a dressing of Plant Food

Seed and Plant Varieties
French Green Beans: Standard bush plants 30-40cm tall will be produced from varieties such as ‘The Prince’, ‘Tendergreen’ and ‘Opera’. If you want climbing varieties ‘Blue Lake’ or ‘Cobra’ will give reliable results.

Runner Beans: Plenty of varieties to choose from including traditional ‘Scarlet Emperor’, ‘Enorma’ and ‘Prizewinner’. For stringless pods ‘Lady Di’ or ‘Polestar’ are worth trying.

Supports
Climbing French beans and runner beans need supports to clamber up to a height of around 2 metres (6ft). As the stems and the resulting crop are heavy, the supports need to be sturdy and held together so they are not blown down by the wind. A wigwam is an attractive shape and very stable if securely fasted where the canes meet at the apex. Similarly a double row of inward-facing canes that cross at the top will be just as sturdy if a horizontal holding cane is placed just above the crossing point and secured to all the uprights.

Sowing Seeds
Indoors: For a really early crop, sow seeds in individual pots of Multi Purpose Compost in May. Seedlings will be ready for planting out at the end of May or early June.

Outdoors: Sow seed 3cm (2in) deep at the end of May in a shallow drill with a gap of 25cm (9in) between each seed and cover with fine soil. To minimise any damage to new roots it is better to erect your wigwam or tent of supporting canes before sowing the seeds. Sow one seed at each cane or more if you throw a net over the supports. Water well. Care
Tie in the emerging stems to each cane, after which the plant will climb naturally following the sun each day. Pick the beans regularly so seed is not set.

A liquid feed of Miracle-Gro All Purpose Soluble Plant Food applied over the foliage and around the roots every couple of weeks will ensure the plants are fed and watered at the same time. If you’re using a hosepipe to water, try using a Miracle-Gro LiquaFeed Gun.

Pick the beans regularly and at the same time watch out for aphids on the underside of leaves. Spray with BugClear Gun! for Fruit & Veg whenever you see them.

Always read the label and use pesticides as directed.

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How To Grow Lettuce and Salad Leaves

Lettuce While green lettuce, such as ‘Little Gem’, is a traditional main ingredient of any salad, the fancy leaves of ‘mustard’, ‘spinach’, ‘rocket’ and ‘mizuna’ provide extra colour, texture and flavour to modern picnics. If you are not keen on tight heads of lettuce then the loose-leaf type that you can cut are well worth trying.

Soil and position
A bright sunny sight is best, although most lettuce will put up with light shade. Soil that has been fortified with some organic matter and supplementary plant food will grow a good crop if kept clear of weeds that could otherwise swamp the seedlings. If you have little garden space to spare, you can grow salad leaves in a Vegetable Planter or a Grow Bag. Simply cut open the bag and sow seeds.

Seed Varieties
There are hundreds of different lettuce varieties, herbs and greens to create a salad to your liking. Here are some lettuce names to conjure with.

Cos types: ‘Lobjoits’, ‘Little Gem’, ‘Winter Density’.
Crisphead types: ‘Webbs Wonderful’, ‘Iceberg’.
Butterhead types: ‘All Year Round’, ‘Buttercrunch’, ‘Avondefiance’.
Loose leaf: ‘Salad Bowl’, ‘Lollo Rosso’, ‘Bergamo’.
Herby leaves: ‘Coriander’, ‘Green Oak-Leaf’, ‘Rocket’, ‘Corn salad’, ‘Lambs lettuce’, ‘Parsley’, ‘Red Mustard’, ‘Spinach’, ‘Greek cres’s and ‘Mizuna’.

Sowing Seeds
Starting in April, sow seeds every 3 weeks to provide fresh salad throughout summer and autumn. Don’t scatter the seed over a wide area as you may not be able to distinguish your salad crop from weeds. Unless you are sure of what things should look like when they germinate, grow mixed leaves in straight lines. Take out a shallow drill just 1cm (½in deep and water immediately. Sow seeds thinly on this moist soil and then cover with more soil.

If you are using a gro-sac, or planter, place it on a sunny patio, take out enough compost to reduce the level by 1cm, and water the bag thoroughly. Scatter seeds over the exposed compost area and then cover with the compost you removed initially. Water whenever the compost feels dry. Care
Keep the soil moist at all times, but not soaking wet. To encourage fast growth that is tender and full of flavour feed plants in garden soil every 3 weeks with a solution of Liquid Plant Food. Feed Giant Planters every 2 weeks starting 8 weeks after the seeds were sown.

Harvesting
Cut headed lettuce with a knife when they are large enough for the kitchen, but use scissors to trim the outer leaves of herbs and loose leaf-types of lettuce. Always read the label and use pesticides as directed.

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How to Grow Shallots

Shallots Shallots are a must have crop for any kitchen garden. They’re easy to grow and their sweeter, milder flavour offers a delicious alternative to onions. Most gardeners grow them from sets which will form a bunch of up to eight new shallots – a more productive harvest, pound for pound, than growing onions!

Soil and position
A sunny spot with well drained soil is best. When digging over take out any perennial weed roots and improve the organic content by incorporating some Soil Improver. A sprinkling of a general plant food will ensure the crop is fed throughout the summer. Rake to a smooth friable surface.

Seed Varieties
Pesandor is a long French variety, Golden Gourmet produces larger, rounder bulbs and is derived from Dutch Yellow.

Planting Sets
One set will multiply so that you will harvest a cluster of eight to a dozen shallots of a similar size to the original. Simply plant at the end of March or beginning of April.

Care
Keep weeds under control and water only when the weather is really dry. Keep weeds under control throughout the growing season.

Always read the label and use pesticides as directed.

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How To Grow Spinach

Spinach Popeye’s favourite iron supplement is not that easy to grow and tends to go to seed early. That’s why lovers of spinach prefer to grow spinach beet or ‘perpetual spinach’ as it is much more forgiving of soil and weather.

Soil and position
True spinach prefers dappled shade and is best grown between other taller plants. Spinach beet prefers a sunny spot. Both types do best on soil that has had manure or garden compost dug in for a previous crop. If your soil lacks organic matter, dig in some Soil Improver and enrich with an organic fertiliser.

Seed Varieties
True Spinach: ‘Sigmaleaf’ is one of the few varieties that will grow a summer crop and can also be sown again in autumn for a winter crop. For attractive red stems and veins for salad use try ‘Bordeaux’. ‘Fiorana’ is said to be less prone to running to seed.

Spinach Beet: Usually marked on seed packets as ‘Perpetual spinach’

Sowing Seeds
Sow seeds very thinly in a shallow drill about 2cm (½in) deep and seeds spaced 10cm (4in) apart. Cover with soil and water well. When the seedlings are 20cm (8in) tall and have produced some useful leaves, pull out alternate plants for kitchen use.

Care
Slugs and snails can be a problem at the seedling stage and protection with SlugClear control is advisable. Spinach beet plants that are overwintered will become a natural home for plenty of snails that will ruin new leaves before you can pick them.

Keep the plants well watered and during the summer add some Miracle-Gro All Purpose Soluble Plant Food to the watering can every fortnight. If you’re watering using a hosepipe, a Miracle-Gro LiquaFeed Gun is a convenient way to feed and water at the same time.

Harvesting
After plants have been thinned, pinch off outer leaves as they become large enough for the kitchen. Don’t yank the plant or you will disturb the roots and hamper future growth. Continuous picking is beneficial for producing fresh young leaves that are not bitter.

Always read the label and use pesticides as directed.

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How to Grow Sweetcorn

Sweetcorn Maize won’t really grow as high as an elephant’s eye but when grown correctly is sweeter than wine, especially when picked and eaten within hours. Sun and dry weather are needed for the plants to grow big enough and to set the kernels or niblets effectively.

Soil and position
Because sweetcorn is pollinated by wind transfer of pollen, the plants must be grown close together in a square block rather than a single row or dotted around the garden. Choose a site that receives maximum sun and then improve your soil so that it is rich in nutrients and organic matter. If your soil lacks organic matter, dig in some Soil Improver and enrich with an organic fertiliser.

Seed Varieties
Hybrid varieties produce the sweetest kernels and ‘Early Extra Sweet’ is the standard that all new varieties try to beat, although ‘Marika’, ‘Sweet Perfection’ and ‘Early Bird’ are said to be good. Latest gene technology has produced enhanced sweetness with varieties such as ‘Butterscotch’ or ‘Swift’. But if you prefer a less chewy texture then the tendersweet varieties ‘Lark’ and ‘Extra Tender and Sweet’ are for you.

Sowing Seeds
If you wait until June you can sow seed where it is to grow. However to get an early start most people sow seeds in individual pots or cells filled with compost in early May. Keep the pots indoors until early June when they will be ready for planting out.

Transplanting
Plant out in square or rectangular blocks rather than a single row. This helps wind pollination to be most effective. Plant into a shallow indentation in the soil so that watering immediately after planting and subsequently will be easier.

Care
See that the plants are kept well watered, especially during flowering when the silk tassles are producing pollen. During the summer add some Liquid Plant Food to the watering can every fortnight to ensure the plants grow fast and the kernels swell.

Harvesting
When the silks have turned chocolate brown, test the kernels for ripeness. Pull back the green leaves that cover the cob and press one or two niblets with a nail. If the content is creamy then it’s ripe to eat. If the content is clear the cob is unripe, so wait. If the content is solid then you’ve left them too long. Boil as soon as possible after picking in plain water (no salt) and you will taste perfect sweetcorn. Avoid over picking because cobs that are left in the fridge for a day or two will gradually lose their sweetness.

Always read the label and use pesticides as directed.

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How To Grow Tomatoes

Tomatoes No summer salad is complete without a juicy home-grown tomato picked fresh from the vine. These health-promoting fruits are relatively easy to grow if you get your planting time right and feed correctly. Expect to pick your first ripe fruits from the end of July through until October.

Soil and position
A rich soil improved with organic matter and some fertiliser, especially if it is a warm sunny spot in front of a south-facing wall or fence.

Alternatively you can grow tomatoes in a Vegetable Planter or Levington Tomorite Giant Planter with Seaweed positioned on a sunny patio or balcony. Gardeners get great results from a Tomorite Giant Planter because the compost is carefully blended and enriched with nutrients to encourage strong early growth ready for maximum cropping.

Seed Varieties
You can grow your own plants from seed by sowing indoors in trays of Seed & Cutting Compost. Sow the seed in April and you will have seedling plants ready for planting outside at the end of May or beginning of June. Alternatively wait until May and buy ready grown seedling plants from your local garden centre.

There are three different types of tomatoes to choose from. ‘Cordon’ varieties are grown as a single stem that needs support and the side shoots regularly removed. ‘Bush’ varieties need no training, support or stopping. ‘Trailing’ types don’t need support or training and are good for tumbling from patio pots and hanging baskets. Cordon varieties include ‘Gardeners Delight’ (small), ‘Sungold’ (small), ‘Cherry Belle’ (small), ‘Alicante’ (medium), ‘Ailsa Craig’ (medium) and ‘Dombito’ (large). Bush varities include ‘Glacier’ (medium), ‘Roma’ (plum) and ‘Marmande’ (large). Trailing varieties include ‘Garden Pearl’ (small), ‘Tumbling Tom Red’ (small) and ‘Tumbling Tom Yellow’ (small).

Sowing Seeds and Buying Plants
Sow seeds in individual cells of Seed & Cutting Compost in early April. Plant up tiny seedlings when two true leaves are showing, one plant to a 5cm pot of compost. Alternatively, buy ready-grown plants from your local garden centre at the end of May.

Plant out all plants early in June or end of May if night temperatures are warm. Plant into garden soil 60cm apart or 3 to each Giant Planter as soon as frosts have finished. Tumbling varieties do well in patio pots or hanging baskets.

Care
Cordons: Stake each cordon plant and tie the tomato stem loosely to the stake at 30cm (12in) intervals. Pinch out side shoots that develop where leaves join the main stem. After 4 or 5 trusses have formed, remove the growing tip of the main stem, so the plant concentrates all its energy on developing the fruits to ripeness.

Trailing: When grown in containers regular watering is the key to success. Try to keep the compost moist but not soaking wet.

All types: Start feeding all plants with Levington Tomorite Liquid Concentrate after the first truss has set fruit and repeat at 14 day intervals. This plant food contains balanced nutrients, magnesium and seaweed extract to ensure good colour and full taste. Whitefly are the most serious pest problem. If your plants are attacked spray them with BugClear every 10 days.

Always read the label and use pesticides as directed.

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