May 2014 Newsletter

 

What a great start to the season we’ve had! The warm weather and minimal frosts have meant that plant life has burst into action with negligible casualties. Regrettably this also means that the weeds have done equally as well and I can’t help but see a fuzzy carpet of green in my beds and borders every time I look out of my living room window. Fortunately, at this stage, they are easy enough deal with by using a hoe, however it is imperative to keep on top of them as the month progresses, so they don’t take hold and turn your establishing vegetable plot into an unkempt jungle.

Having said this, the Great British weather can be a cruel thing. Don’t let it lure you into a false sense of security! There is still a chance of a late frost, especially in the north of the country, so if in doubt grow your plants in the greenhouse or cold frame and wait a while before transplanting into your plot further down the line. Nevertheless, by the time May is over the growing season will be well under way and all of your efforts will begin to pay off.

Happy Gardening

Stephen

What to do in the Garden in May

As the temperature starts to heat up so should the crops we grow in our garden. Chilliesand Peppersnot only taste sweet and add heat, they’re easy to grow too. Pepper ‘Lany’is a great variety for adding into meals  or for more of a bite-size pepper theSnackbite Pepper collectionhas great textures and vibrant colours. A few plants will provide ample yield and they’re versatile enough to be used in all sorts of dishes, not just in a “blow your head off” chilli con carne! However it is important to know how hot your chillies are so there’s no unpleasant surprise when it comes to dinnertime.
Chilli Norfolk Naga - Scoville Rating: >1,000,000
Chilli Apache - Scoville Rating : 70,000 – 80,000
Chilli Giant Jalapeno - Scoville Rating: 2,500 – 8,000
Chilli Fuego Scoville Rating: 5
If you like a variety of spice and flavour, our Chilli Pepper Plant Collection includes one of each of the above varieties or if you’re into a less spicy cuisine, there’s plenty more that you can start to grow this time of year. Outdoor Tomato Plants are great in a sunny, sheltered spot outside and if you’re running short of growing space, Gro-Beds are excellent for growing Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Herbs and many other vegetables on the patio.

Runner Beans are one of those vegetable that I associate the most with vegetable gardening, I suppose mainly because they are as beautiful as they are tasty with the added bonus of being so easy to grow. They are the most traditional beans to grow due to their flavour and heavy crops and they also freeze really well. This month is the time to sow them so prepare your soil now, making sure that it’s deep, and set up a wigwam or cane system for them to grow up.
You can also sow Mangetout and Sugar Snap Peas outside now as well as Kale, Sprouting Broccoli, Summer Cabbage, Carrots, Beetroot, French Beans and many more. Keep sowing short rows of Lettuce and cut and come again Salad Leaves.

When it comes to plant protection I believe that prevention is always better than a cure or in other words stopping something from happening is far easy to do than trying to fix a problem that has already occurred. I try to encourage as many natural predators into my garden as possible; birds, ladybirds and lacewings will always put a smile on my face because it means they’re easing my work load. Where I can I also use Biological control form the Nemasysrange; a good organic method.
However, garden critters alone can’t prevent all possible attack. I’m particularly partial to a cabbage, and brassicas in general pose the particular problem of Cabbage White Fly. I’ve fallen victim to this pest too many times before to known not to leave my brassica crops uncovered and as soon I plant them they get covered with nettingso the butterflies can’t get near to lay their eggs! The netting is fine enough to keep out cabbage and carrot root fly and whitefly too while allowing water and air to pass through.

There’s nothing quite like the taste of strawberries freshly picked straight from the plant but I find the most difficult thing about growing them, aside from birds eating them all, is waiting for the plants to produce fruit. That’s why, whenever I grow a new patch of strawberries, I always plant a 60 day variety such as ‘Vibrant’ so I can guarantee a crop within 2 months after planting. This year I have filled up a pair of 14” Easi-Plant Hanging Baskets to give the ground a bit of a breather and so far the results have been great! I’ve managed to plant 24 plants in each basket so a total of 48 plants over all. This will hopefully give me an impressive yield of between 18lbs (8kg) and 72lbs (16kg). I’d better get the jam jars ready!
Growing strawberries in hanging baskets might seem a bit odd, but there’s method in the madness. Raising the fruit off of the ground alleviates certain pest problems, namely slugs, and it makes it a lot harder for birds to feast on the crop too. It also lets up some space in your fruit patch to grow another crop, however avoid planting broccoli, cabbage and kohlrabi. Instead grow nitrogen fixing plants to add fertility back into the soil.      

It’s a good time to start thinking about adding colour to your garden. Bedding is the obvious choice, adding high impact colour to your baskets and containers. To help you make the most of the bedding season we’re giving you 4 for 3 on all bedding plants. Adding Water-Retaining Gel and Slow Release Fertiliser into the compost will help with water retention and feeding over the summer months, producing a much better display. Begonia ‘Non-Stop’ mix is a good one to try. They produce a lovely balanced mix of colours with fully double flowers and what's more is that they really do live up to their name, flowering non-stop all summer long, right up until the first frosts. If you’re not a fan of Begonias, Cosmos ‘Razzmatazz’ could be a good choice, with masses of showy flowers adding height and long-lasting colour to bedding displays.
For something a little more permanent try adding shrubs into you borders. Hydrangea ‘Dark Angel’ is a lacecap type with rich, dark copper foliage contrasting with the lovely pink and cream centres, gradually darkening to red throughout spring and summer. For attracting wildlife into your garden nothing works better than the traditional Buddleja. Pixie Buddlejas, as their name suggests, are smaller than other varieties but give just as much impact. Caryopteristoo is great for attracting bees and butterflies and also has good drought tolerance.

Tips for the garden...

Now’s the time to thin out your carrots, however be cautious not to attract carrot root fly. They are attracted to your plot by the scent of bruised carrot foliage which can occur when you thin out your seedlings, then lay their eggs in the holes in the soil. The larvae then hatch and feed on the roots causing damage such as tunnels and rings in the root. Nevertheless, there are simple ways to prevent them causing havoc!
If your carrots need thinning out do it in the evenings when insect activity is less. Carrot root fly are low flying and rarely fly higher than 60cm so erecting Insect Netting or Fleece around the area, making sure the edges are tucked in, helps keep them at bay. Try to disguise the scent of the carrots by companion planting with plants such as Sage, Rosemary, Corianderor Onions which will hide the scent of carrots and confuse the flies. Grow a carrot fly resistant variety such as Resistafly and avoid planting carrots in the same location the following year. This also includes Parsnips, Parsley and Celerytoo.

 


As your potatoes grow keep earthing them up, encouraging tuber development and protecting the tops from any late frost. After you’ve finished earthing them up for the last time, water and mulch with grass clippings to suppress weeds and prevent soil water evaporation. A big pest of potatoes this time of year is slugs especially the little grey ones that live in the soil. Prevent them from attacking by applying nemaslug.  This is a biological controlwhich contains millions of naturally occurring nematodes that kill slugs safely, leaving the birds and your pets unharmed. If all goes to plan you’ll be eating a lovely, large bowl of potatoes with delicious mint or butter in no time at all.


Fruit mulching is an important task this time of year for two main reasons; weeds and water. As the seasons heats up weeds spring into life and soil water evaporates at a much faster rate. By mulching around the base of your fruit you’ll suppress weeds and retain moisture reducing competition and making for strong plants. Removing overcrowded stems and suckers to allow airflow and light into the centre of the plant, this reduces the risk of diseases and promotes healthy fruit growth. The tender flowers of Peaches, Apricots and Nectarines can still be damaged by frost so use fleece to cover any emerging blossom. Soft fruit such as strawberries should be covered with netting to protect any fruit from getting eaten before you get a chance to harvest them.


Now’s the time to start thinking about growing Runner Beans. There are two ways that you can tackle this; firstly by sowing indoors now for an earlier crop or waiting until late May or the end of June and sow in situ. Either way, now is the prime time to prepare your soil. Runner Beans need deep fertile soil in full sun and traditionally a bean trench is dug several weeks before planting out your beans. The trench should be 3ft wide and 2 feet deep with a layer of well-rotted garden compost which should be mixed in was the soil from the trench has been replaced. Chicken pellets can then be scattered over the surface of the soil to add in some vital nutrients.
Runner Beans need support to climb up and conventionally bamboo canes are used to create a two row frame structure with a cross cane tied along the top to form an A frame. When sowing in situ, sow two beans per cane at 5cm deep, then thin out to one strong plant when they come through. Alternatively, if you are sowing indoors, plant one per cane from late May until the end of June. All being well you can expect to harvest your crop from July through to September.