July 2012 Newsletter

saladIf you have been lucky enough to have harvested any early crops don’t leave the area unplanted, make small repeat sowings of lettuce and salad leaves to enable you to keep cropping well into autumn.

The Summer Salad Seed Collection is a great choice for tasty summer salads. Sow short rows every couple of weeks and you'll be rewarded with masses of tasty pickings to accompany your barbecues (oops! sorry I didn’t mean to be funny!) you never know we might have a brilliant summer yet!

Dwarf French beans, beetroot, carrots and baby turnips can all be sown now to give you extra crops during autumn. Oriental vegetables are very easy to grow at this time of year, try Pak Choi, Choi Sum, Chinese Cabbage, Mustard Red Zest and Chinese Broccoli Kailaan.  They all grow so quickly at this time of year that in no time at all you will be enjoying tasty, home-grown stir fries. They can also be harvested at the baby leaf stage to spice up your salad bowl too.

 

Unfortunately all the wet weather we’ve been experiencing is bound to increase the risk of blight on potatoes and tomatoes in some areas. This nasty disease is caused by a fungus-like organism and I’m afraid that to date there is no cure.

 It is a serious disease for both potatoes and outdoor tomatoes and spreads rapidly on the foliage and tubers of potatoes and on the fruit of tomatoes during periods of wet weather, causing them to decay and collapse. It is not as common but can still occur on greenhouse tomatoes.

First and foremost you need to be vigilant and if you spot the characteristic brown blotched leaves remove the foliage immediately. Late blight can devastate the foliage but if the tubers have set and tops are removed quickly the blight may not have transferred to the tubers and they can still be used.

Blight infections in gardens come from spores which originate in other gardens and allotments and are carried on the wind. Wet and warm conditions are perfect as spores cannot reproduce on dry leaves, so wet leaves are essential to the germinating process. Once this has happened in only a few days your crop can be spreading the disease to other plants and helping to infect other gardens!

Although there is no cure, there are preventative measures you can take, especially if you are in a high risk area. Fruit & Vegetable Disease Control is a traditional protective fungicide for the control of common fungal diseases affecting fruit and vegetable plants, including the control of blight in Tomatoes and Potatoes. Spray mid-June to mid-August at 10-14 day intervals while weather is warm and damp and hopefully this will keep your plants clean and healthy.

 

VegAutumn and Winter Cropping Vegetable Plants are a great idea if you haven’t the time (or the inclination!) to sow your own late cropping or overwintering veg. We grow them to the perfect size for you to simply plant out, water and let them grow away.

Collections include Hardy Autumn and Winter Salad Collection which provides a super mix for a late salad bowl and the Quick Growing Oriental Vegetables and Hardy Autumn Oriental Salad and Stir-fry Vegetables for an exotic bite to your salads and superb choice for stir-fry dishes. The Winter and Spring Cropping Brassica Collection provides a mix of great tasting hardy vegetables for cropping from November to March.

Individual varieties include Dwarf French Bean Primel, Calabrese Marathon, Brokali Apollo and a choice of Sprouting Broccoli. If you only have a small plot to plant up why not share a collection with a friend or neighbour - it can give you a greater choice and extra value for money. Remember not to let any young transplants dry out especially if the weather is warm and dry (well we can live in hope can’t we)!

 


Young Runner Beans The wonderful soaking wet ‘drought’ we’ve had so far has been absolute bliss for the slug population! The little blighters have been procreating with complete abandon - to the utter devastation of many a vegetable patch! A biological control such as Nemaslug watered onto the soil should stop them in their tracks!

One application of Nemaslug provides 300,000 nematodes for every square metre of soil and gives at least six weeks control. Slugs treated with Nemaslug will stop feeding in 3 days and die in about a week, don’t expect to see them lying around as the majority will die underground. And even better, Nemaslug continues to work well during wet weather - just when you need it most! It’s harmless to children, pets and other wildlife.

If snails are your particular problem Eraza Slug and Snail Pellets may be the best product for you. They are five times more effective than standard slug and snail pellets so a little goes a long way. It also contains an animal repellent – to reduce the risk of ingestion.

Of course there will be many more pests out there after your plants. I have found that the only way to grow decent brassicas is to cover them with fine mesh to keep out the dreaded Cabbage White Butterfly! The caterpillars from these can decimate a whole crop very quickly. Covering the bed with Ultimate Insect Barrier netting should keep out just about everything whilst allowing light and water through to your plants.

 


Young Runner BeansAny empty spaces that are not going be planted up over autumn and winter can be utilised by sowing a Green Manure crop. The benefits of growing Green Manures are many - they cover bare soil which would otherwise encourage weeds and loss of soil nutrients through rain or snow over winter. They suppress weeds, protect soil from erosion and add structure.

Caliente Mustard is not just a green manure – it also acts as a biofumigant for the soil. Biofumigants suppress various soil borne pests and diseases by releasing naturally occurring compounds. The combination of biofumigation plus the digging in of the green material, increases beneficial soil microbes, which out-compete pathogen microbes helping to keep soil diseases down.

The foliage must be crushed or finely chopped for it to release a natural gas (isothiocyanate) which effectively reduces and suppresses a range of harmful nematodes and diseases in the soil.  Allow at least 2-3 weeks before re-planting to begin the breakdown of plant material into humus, which will release nutrients slowly over time.

Red Clover can be grown from spring to summer or left to grow over winter while Field Beans are of the greatest value when they are over-wintered. They can be cut once and allowed to re-grow to produce a second flush of foliage before digging in. Dig in any time up to flowering. Phacelia Green Manure gives good foliage cover for weed suppression, for maximum effect it should be cut down before the flowers open, but they are so attractive to many beneficial insects, especially bees that it can be a good idea to leave a few plants to grow and flower to encourage these busy workers into the garden.

 

Tips for the garden...


Cordon TomatoesThere may still be some thinning of Apple and Pear trees required even after the ‘June drop’ so check trees carefully. For the best crop leave one fruit every 10cms. It may seem heartless nipping off all those baby apples but you will be rewarded with the best sized, tastiest fruit in the autumn. Reduce the side shoots on cordon currants and gooseberries by pruning them back to about five leaves or 4in (10cm) long.

Fruit trees will often produce suckers (unwanted shoots) from the base these should be cut off cleanly with a sharp pair of secateurs. They grow from the rootstock and if left unchecked they will grow quickly and sap the energy from the tree.

 


The soft fruit garden comes into its own in July with plants loaded with fruit all getting fat and juicy and beginning to ripen - especially Strawberries – fruit grown in season and ripened naturally in the sun just cannot be beaten. Strawberries available all year round in supermarkets are hard, tasteless and just do not have that old-fashioned flavour and lusciousness that you get with home-grown varieties picked and eaten straight from the plant with the warm juices oozing with every lovely bite!

Many raspberry varieties will be ripening now too. It is important to check your soft fruit regularly and pick your fruit as soon as it is ripe, I am sure your neighbour wouldn’t mind helping you out with the odd bowl of strawberries if you have too many! Avoid leaving over-ripe fruit on the plants as they will begin to rot and allow grey mould to set in. It may be necessary to net the plants if you don’t want to share your fruit with the birds! If you are going on holiday this month ask someone to keep harvesting your fruit and watering the plants if necessary.

Don’t neglect to net your fruit so you can enjoy them and not our feathered friends! Our Bird Netting has a very strong knitted construction, and is ideal for keeping birds off your ripening soft fruits. It’s perfect for covering ponds too.


Don’t allow young fruit trees to dry out especially if wall-trained, the most common reason young apple, pear and other fruit trees fail to thrive is due to them drying out in their first summer! You wouldn’t expect your patio plants to survive the summer without water - so treat all your young plants to the same care and attention!

Unless it is really baking hot a really good soak to the roots of new trees a couple of times a week is all that is necessary and will pay dividends for the future. If there is a real hot spell they may need watering more depending on their position.

Avoid the ‘little and often’ approach to watering, all this does is encourage weak roots near the surface, one really good soak every few days will allow water to penetrate deep into the soil and the roots will then go downwards to seek it out resulting in a much stronger and healthier root system.

 



Check cordon tomato stems regularly, tying them in to canes or strings as they grow, remove side-shoots to ensure the development of fruit not extra foliage. Feed regularly with a balanced tomato food and keep compost well watered, drying out can prevent plants from taking up sufficient calcium which causes blossom end rot.

Regularly tie in stems of indoor cucumbers to the cane and pinch out the tip once it has reached the top of the cane and has 5 or 6 leaves. Pinch out the shoots from side branches holding fruit, leaving two leaves after each. All female varieties will produce fruit on the main stem, so laterals can be removed altogether.

Make sure there is adequate ventilation in the greenhouse at all times.

 



Plants grown in pots and containers are at risk of damage from Vine Weevil at this time of year.  The adults feed on the leaves of many plants and shrubs, leaving tell-tale, irregular notches on the leaf edges. This can look unsightly but rarely does any lasting damage.

The true culprit is the Vine Weevil Larvae living in the soil. It feeds on roots and bores holes in tubers and plant stems, causing devastating damage to many plants.  The grubs over-winter in the pots then emerge as young adults in late spring/early summer to begin the whole process over again! By using a Biological Control such as Nemasys twice a year – in the autumn (to control the larvae from eggs laid in the summer) and again in spring, you break the cycle and can maintain healthy container plants.

If you are going away on holiday don’t forget to ask a friend or neighbour to keep an eye on your garden, especially containers. Think how disappointed you would be if you came back to find your pots and hanging baskets all dried up and crispy! All your hard work will have been for nothing. There are simple things you can do to make the job of looking after your plants while you are away much easier. Try to gather them all together in one area – North facing is ideal, but definitely not in full sun - that way the watering can all be done in one go. Stand the pots on several layers of newspapers – then ask a friend to come in every other day to give them a really good soak, wetting the newspaper at the same time. This will help to retain moisture for longer around your pots. Keeping them very close together will also help prevent quick evaporation.