May 2010 Newsletter

You can really get on  with sowing your vegetable crops outside

You can really get on with sowing your vegetable crops outside now including kale, sprouting broccoli, summer cabbage, beetroot, dwarf french beans and many others. If it happens to be cold and wet in your part of the country, then delay sowing until the weather is more clement. Mangetout and sugar snap peas can also be sown outside now. Keep sowing short rows of lettuce and cut and come again salad leaves every couple of weeks to ensure a continuous supply throughout the summer, these can be interplanted between slower growing plants like brassicas to maximise space. As you plant your brassica plants protect them against cabbage root fly with brassica collars to prevent the fly laying her eggs close to the stem of your plants, where maggots will emerge after about 6 days and begin feeding on the roots before tunnelling up the main stem causing the plant to collapse.

Sow sweetcorn in pots  in the greenhouse

Sow sweetcorn in pots in the greenhouse, they will produce strong plants ready to plant out in June. Courgettes, marrows and outdoor cucumbers can be sown in situ from the middle of the month provided the weather is warm enough if it is still a bit cold start them off in the greenhouse or on your kitchen windowsill, or plant them out and give some protection with fleeceor a cloche. Sweetcorn crops best when planted in a block rather than rows as this aids pollination. Make sure you keep all emerging seedlings and young plants well watered.

If you are gardening in the north of the country bear in mind you may need to sow everything a bit later, be led by the weather and the condition of your soil, not what it necessarily says on the packet. Do not be tempted to transplant outside too early.

Planting up of hanging baskets and containers can  begin in earnest now

Planting up of hanging baskets and containers can begin in earnest now.  If you potted on your young basket and container plants last month, they should have made good root growth by now. Pinch the tips out of any plants that are beginning to get a bit leggy this will give a much better well branched and bushy plant. Transplant them to their final containers incorporating water-retaining gel and slow release fertiliser into the compost to help water retention and feeding over the summer months. Give them a week or two to establish before placing them outside. If you like to see hanging baskets but are not sure how to plant your own there are some useful tips in our Growing Guide - ‘Plant a Hanging Basket

Bedding  plants

Bedding plants will also be growing away nicely but however good they look don’t be tempted to plant them into your borders just yet, even if we are having a mild sunny spell. The last thing you need is for all your patient potting and growing on to be wiped out by one late night frost! Begin to harden them off by placing them outside during the day but return them to the shelter of the greenhouse or cover them with fleece overnight. Don’t be tempted to place them in their final position until all risk of frost is past.

Chrysanthemum young  plants can be planted out

Chrysanthemum young plants can be planted out towards the end of the month, they should start to grow away quickly. Pinching out the growing tip will give you a well branched, stronger plant. Avoid over feeding them as this can produce soft, lanky plants with lush foliage at the expense of flowers and the stems will be very soft. At the end of summer just as everything else in the garden is beginning to get a little tired and jaded, chrysanthemums are starting to look their best. They can always be relied upon to give a great show of colour in late summer and well into autumn, outlasting just about everything else in the border. In a mild winter they may even be in flower at Christmas!

Children love to grow plants

Children love to grow plants - encourage them to grow something other than sunflowers or radishes! There are loads of seeds suitable for children to grow in pots or in a little patch of their own. The most important thing to remember when gardening with children is that they must have quick results! Quick cropping salads such as mixed cut and come again salad leaves are a perfect quick growing starter to get them interested. Red leaved lettuce dazzleis a small little gem type which are perfect for kids to grow. Courgette plants grow quickly in a large pot or a grow bag and a variety such as gold rush is such a bright colour and can be cut at only four inches long. Once they start to fruit you can pick them almost every day, they seem to grow before your eyes!

Gardening Tips
Avoid Carrot Root Fly when thinning your carrots

Avoid Carrot Root Fly when thinning your carrots, they are attracted by the smell of the bruised foliage when you pull out the thinnings. Do this job in the evening when there are less insects flying, they are drawn by the smell and lay their eggs in cracks in the soil close to the plants. When they hatch they burrow their way under the soil and feed on the roots. These horrible little insects can be a real nuisance, but there are ways to outfox them! They are low flying so growing in raised beds and placing a barrier of polythene or fleece at least 60cm high around the bed should help keep them out, make sure you tuck it well down to the soil with no gaps for the fly to get in. A mulch of grass cuttings over the seedlings makes it harder for the fly to find a good spot to lay her eggs and plants with a strong smell of their own such as sage, rosemary, coriander and onions or garlic sown close to the carrot row will also help deter them. Try growing a variety with good resistance to the pest such as resistafly. Planting carrots in the same location year after year will allow the fly to get a strong hold and multiply, so crop rotation is very important. Carrot Root Fly also likes to snack on parsnips, parsley and celery so avoid growing these crops in areas which have previously grown carrots.

If you haven’t already sown your runner beans

If you haven’t already sown your runner beans, french beans and dwarf beans indoors in pots, you can now sow them outside direct in the soil where you want them to grow. Prepare a deep trench and add plenty of organic matter – compost, grass clippings or even shredded newspaper – then cover with a layer of soil and you will help retain moisture to the roots. Put your canes in and sow two seeds per cane.  If the weather is still a bit cold you can still start them off in the greenhouse or kitchen windowsill. Rootrainers work really well for sowing beans of all types as they like a deep root run which Rootrainers provide. Each cell opens for easier transplanting with minimal root disturbance and they are re-usable too.

The cardboard inner of toilet rolls make an ideal bio-degradable pot for sowing runner beans. Stuff a little scrunched up newspaper in the bottom to stop the compost falling out, stand the rolls together in a container to keep them upright, fill with compost and sow your beans as normal. When they have grown on to about 4 inches plant them out – still in their toilet roll pot, this will prevent any root disturbance and the cardboard will help retain moisture as it gradually breaks down in the soil.

Keep earthing up your potatoes as they grow

Keep earthing up your potatoes as they grow to encourage more tuber growth and protect the tops from any late frost which can kill off the foliage. If you planted a very early variety such as swift you may even be lucky enough to be harvesting a few tasty new potatoes from the end of the month! Nothing beats the first freshly dug new potatoes, boiled with a large sprig of mint and served with a knob of butter melting over them – my mouth’s watering already! Slugs love potatoes and the little grey ones that live in the ground will be highly active now. To prevent them nibbling away at your crop water the ground around your precious plants with Nemaslug Slug Killerwhich contains millions of naturally occurring nematodes which kill slugs above and below ground.

Vine Weevil is a beetle that seriously damages a wide  range of plants

Vine Weevil is a beetle that seriously damages a wide range of plants especially those in containers. The beetles are nocturnal so are seldom seen, they cannot fly but still manage to cover great distances in the search for food. Usually the first sign of Vine Weevil activity are notches on the edges of leaves as the adults feed. Although the damage is unsightly the adults themselves do not do serious damage to plants, it is the plump white larvae which live in the soil that can kill the plant. They feed on roots, tubers and stem bases and can even destroy woody plants by chewing at the outer layers of both roots and stems. Biological control such as Nemasys kills the larvae, which damage the roots of plants eventually destroying them and disrupting the lifecycle. Drench the compost with the nematode solution and you will have protection until autumn.