June 2011 Newsletter

Greenhouse crops can be started in earnest now

Most of us will have a glut of fruit and vegetables at some time or another but what should we do with it? The answer to excess fruit is obvious – you make jam! Jam making has seen a surge in popularity over the last few years so we thought it was time we broadened our range to include some good quality equipment. The Deluxe Jam Making Kit is the perfect point to start from. It includes all you need to produce perfect jam – a wide diameter stainless steel Maslin Pan, stainless steel Jam Thermometer, 6 jars, a funnel (to ensure you don't waste a drop) and all the straining, sealing and labelling items to go with it. If you don't need to purchase the whole kit we offer the Maslin Pan, Thermometer, Jars and labelling etc all separately.

For excess crops of Runner, French and Broad Beans, Raspberries and Blackberries etc. freezing is a natural option. Open freeze fruit and prepared vegetables on a non-stick baking tray or one lined with baking parchment in a thin layer and preferably not touching, freeze until solid. Both fruit and veg are then very easy to pack into individual Freezer Boxes.

Many Herbs freeze very well and you can even freeze those with softer leaves such as Basil, Coriander, Chives, Mint, and Tarragon which often don't dry very well. The flavour of frozen herbs is retained better than drying so when cooking you only need to use the same amount as you would when using fresh herbs. The small Herb Freezer Pots are an excellent size for freezing your favourite herbs. (They are also just right for freezing baby food and purees).

We now have a complete range of products for all your preserving and freezing needs, from Freezer Boxes, Pickling Jars, Oil and Vinegar Bottles (great for herby vinegars and garlic oil) to old fashioned Swing Top Cordial Bottles. Our Clip Spring Glass Storage Jars not only look good but are very practical too, ideal for storing your pasta, rice, beans, bottled fruit, pickles or any other cookery ingredients. With such a choice of useful preserving and freezing containers, jars and bottles there is no need for you to waste even a bit of your bountiful harvest!

Now the soil is warming up

If you always wish you'd sown autumn and winter vegetables but never seem to get round to it during the summer, the ideal solution might be Marshalls Young Vegetable Plants. These have been grown to the planting out stage by our expert grower - all you have to do is dibble a hole, pop them in, water well and watch them grow! They can be planted into any space where earlier crops have finished.

As well as our popular Brassica Collections we have widened the choice and included many other varieties to give you even more flexibility. There are lots to choose from, the Hardy Autumn and Winter Salad Collection provides a super mix for a late salad bowl and the Quick Growing Oriental Vegetables and Hardy Autumn Oriental Salad and Stir-fry Vegetables will give an exotic bite to your salads and superb choice for quick stir-fry dishes. There are varieties to keep you going right through to next May!

If you do not have the space for a vegetable plot

If the weather is hot and dry do not neglect to water all young veg plants. One good soaking to the roots every week is preferable to a little splash here and there - this will only promote surface roots, which dry out much quicker. A good deep soak occasionally will encourage the roots to go deeper to find water, and will give them a much better chance of survival during periods of drought

Keep cropping Lettuce, Radish, Spring Onions, Spring Cabbage and Asparagus spears. Small, repeat sowings of salad crops every couple of weeks will ensure a good supply all summer. It's amazing how much you can get from a two or three foot row of a cut and come again salad crops such as Baby Leaf Salad or Bright n Spicy Greens Mix you can begin to crop when the leaves are only three inches tall, they will grow equally well in a container. Quick growing crops such as Lettuce and Radish can be sown as a catch crop between Sweetcorn or Brassica plants. They will be ready to harvest well before they are overshadowed by their larger neighbours and will make full use of all available space. If you are fond of Watercress have a go at growing your own, it is so easy to grow in a large pot, Watercress Aqua germinates quickly and all you need to do is keep the compost moist by standing the pot in a saucer of water, top the saucer up daily and just watch it grow! As well as being very tasty it is also extremely good for you and is packed with cancer-fighting vitamins and minerals. Gram for gram, Watercress contains more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, and more iron than spinach!

Spring is the perfect time to get children interested in gardening

Keep monitoring the slug population – June is prime time for the slug population and they can decimate a crop overnight! Biological Controls are very effective, Nemaslug consists of millions of tiny nematodes – microscopic worms which kill slugs above and below ground. You just water in and they are completely harmless to birds, animals and children. Nemasys has the same effect on the larvae of Vine Weevil – the scourge of the container gardener! Drench the compost with the Nematode solution and you will have protection until autumn. An autumn drench will destroy all larvae that hatched during summer.

Nemasys Grow Your Own Pest Control is a unique mix of different nematode species which targets a broad range of pests. Especially for the home gardener, it has been specifically researched to combat carrot root fly, cabbage root fly, leatherjackets, cutworms, onion fly, ants, sciarid fly, caterpillars, gooseberry sawfly, thrips, and codling moth.

Brassicas, lettuces and other particularly susceptible varieties can be covered with Extra Fine Insect Netting which will protect vulnerable crops from a whole host of nasties including whitefly, aphids, carrot root fly, cabbage white butterfly, cutworm, birds and rabbits. It can lie directly on to the crop but better protection is offered if it is placed over a support. A simple system is to use canes pushed into the ground with Figo Frame Connectors or even an inverted plastic pot over the top of the cane to support the net, pegging the sides into the soil to form a cage. The mesh is re-usable and will last for years.

Herbs are a magnet for bees and pollinating insects

Squash, Pumpkins, Courgettes and Marrows should be outside now, and also plant out indoor sown winter Brassicas, Artichokes and Sweetcorn as soon as they have a strong enough root system, plant Sweetcorn in a block rather than in rows to encourage better wind pollination. It isn't too late to sow French and Runner Beans directly into the soil, it is warm enough for them to grow away quickly - they will crop a bit later but will still give a good harvest. Sow Beetroot, Maincrop Carrots, Florence Fennel, Rocket, Spring Onions, Salad Leaves and Kohl Rabi. June is the perfect time to grow oriental veg such as Pak Choi, Chinese Cabbage, Mustards and Chinese Broccoli Kailaan, they will just romp away in the warm soil, but do keep them all well watered if the weather is dry.

Keep hoeing between your plants to keep on top of the weeds which will compete with your veg for water and nutrients – hoeing regularly little and often will keep on top of most weeds and prevent them from setting seed.

Gardening Tips
As you get down to sowing and planting in earnest

Cover soft fruit with bird netting to avoid competing with birds for your Strawberries, Raspberries and Blackberries - once they find them to their liking they will keep returning to grab your fruit before you get the chance! Lay straw or protective mats under strawberry plants to keep ripening fruit clean and free from disease. Tie in the young stems of Raspberries, Blackberries and Hybrid Berries to prevent wind damage and make the fruit easier to pick later on. Gooseberry bushes will benefit from thinning of the fruit if branches are carrying an excess, you can use the small fruits in pies, leaving the rest to mature on the bush.

Slugs and Snails will really be getting active now

Thin out the young fruits on Peach and Nectarine trees, leaving only one fruit every 4-6 inches. This will ensure better and larger fruit with more flavour. Leave the thinning of apple trees until after the ‘June drop', which is a naturally occurring process in which some of the smallest fruit will drop to leave the strongest to develop. If the tree still has too much fruit after this, thin to one or two fruits every 4-6 inches.

If wall trained apple and pear trees are becoming too vigorous shorten the leaders and side-shoots to divert more energy into the production of fruit rather than lots of weaker stems. Keep all wall trained fruit trees well watered they can easily miss out on even the heaviest rain if they are in a sheltered position. Help them to retain water by providing a thick mulch of compost around the tree. Rake in a handful of Organic Extra before applying your mulch to boost good growth.

Once your young tomato plants are large enough to plant

If you are constantly exasperated by pigeons, rabbits and other grazers snacking on all your young plants and have you tried just about everything you can think of to deter them but still they manage to chomp away on your borders and vegetable patch. We have found the perfect antidote to your problem Grazers is an effective solution as it makes the plants very unpalatable to pigeons, rabbits, geese and deer. It is applied to the plant foliage where it is absorbed systemically through the leaf of the growing plant. Grazers has proved very successful with farmers and growers and has only recently been offered in sizes suitable for the home gardener.

Because it is nutrient based, it can be sprayed safely on ornamentals, shrubs, bedding, fruit or vegetable and lawns. The product is absorbed through the leaf stimulating plant growth and help repair any damage already caused. It is odourless to the human nose, and safe for pets. In most cases a single treatment is effective but 2 or 3 applications will allow Grazers to build up within the plant. Being trace element based it is beneficial to the plant and can be sprayed safely even on young plants at the earliest growth stage.

If you make your own compost

Attract beneficial insects and insect predators to your garden by growing plants rich in nectar and pollen. Bumblebee Margin Mix contains Phacelia, Clover and Borage which are a positive magnet for all sorts of beneficial insects, some, like the bees will pollinate your beans and tomatoes etc and some will devour the aphids, whitefly and thrips which will be waiting until your back is turned to sneak up and feast upon your tender produce! There are many other beneficial and useful companion plants including Marigolds, Poached Egg Plant and Nasturtium. Most herbs are an absolute magnet for bees and grow well in a border or container. Growing some of these varieties in your border or on the edge of your vegetable patch will encourage a varied and diverse amount of wildlife into your garden.