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December

January 2nd, 2014 | Posted by TOGSJames in KITCHEN GARDEN CALENDARS - (Comments Off on December)

The end of the year. But the garden doesn’t come to a standstill. There is always work to be done. The main job is to carry on with the digging and general tidying up of the plot. Also you must fight the weather, anticipate frosts or gales and protect your crops. You will have been aware of the weather throughout the year, but now you must be even more watchful.‘ (David Mabey, 1978)

Digging over can continue, when weather allows. Particularly with clay soils, digging when the soil is wet and sticky can do more harm than good. It’s also harder work. As a rule, if your boots become heavy with soil sticking to them, it’s too wet to dig‘. (John Harrison, 2011)

As we saw in the November kitchen garden calendar, with vegetables growing on raised beds, there is no need for all this deep digging that was so consistently recommended throughout the twentieth century, and is still being recommended by many traditional gardening authors today. As we saw last month, deep digging at any time of year may be harmful to the soil by disturbing the beneficial micro-organisms that live in it, whilst standing in wellies on wet soil in winter and turning your plot into a heavy sticky compacted mess of a mudbath as so many gardeners still do even today defies all reason and commonsense.

Instead, the modern organic gardener simply walks along the barkchip or straw paths between the raised beds to tend the crops that are over-wintering under the protection of netting and fleece, whilst harvesting those vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, parsnips, swedes, cauliflower and spinach that form part of the traditional fresh fare for this otherwise bleak season of the year.

This is also the time of year for tidying up the garden, sweeping up any remaining fallen leaves, and bagging them up to make leafmould, whilst pulling up any plants that have gone over, and adding them to the compost heap to make compost.

Roots and tubers
Swedes and parsnips can still be harvested throughout the winter. Grown on modern raised beds with access paths between, there should be no waterlogging of the crops to contend with. Even so, after heavy rainfall, check for signs of rot, and lift any susceptible plants.

Pulses
After high winds or rainstorms, check on any autumn-sown Aquadulce broad beans and Meteor peas that you may have growing on raised beds under fleece, and replace the fleece or batten it down securely.

Onions, leeks and garlic
Check on any autumn-planted onions and garlic, and keep them free of weeds, to help keep the soil around them as open to the sun and dry as possible. Any leeks still in the ground should be weeded and continually earthed up to keep them white with long blanched stems.

Brassicas
Continue to keep over-wintering cabbages, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflowers and kale netted against pigeons, whilst removing any yellowing leaves from the plants and keeping the stems well earthed up. Keep protecting any crops of ‘cut and come again’ perpetual spinach (leaf beet) from frost and pests with a covering of horticultural fleece.
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Copyright (c) 2013 Torbay Organic Gardening Society, 25 Church Road, St Marychurch, Torquay TQ1 4QY
Tel 01803 328055 Leaflet No: CAL12

November

January 2nd, 2014 | Posted by TOGSJames in KITCHEN GARDEN CALENDARS - (Comments Off on November)

At this time of year, many of us keen gardeners are digging our plot. In doing so we are clearing the accumulation of summer growth and compaction and exposing the soil to all the benefits of winter weather. Or that is what we have long believed. But recently I have become persuaded by overwhelming evidence that digging does more harm than good and should be kept to an absolute minimum.‘ (Monty Don)

‘Raised beds are quite a lot of work to make, but, once made, they need not be cultivated ever again and they focus your attention on a highly productive area. I made quite a few in my own garden last year and shall make more this winter. ‘ (Monty Don)

These comments by Monty Don reinforce the advice that we gave last month, which is that with raised beds, there is no need for the unnatural and heavy digging over of the living soil advised by traditional garden writers.

In fact, it cannot be emphasised enough that digging over the soil without adding composted organic matter (humus) destroys the soil structure, and disturbs the life of the fungi in the soil that break down complex organic substances to make them accessible to higher plants, whilst excreting substances that seem to act as a stimulant to growth.

Moreover, special fungi known as mycorrhiza (myco=fungal and rhiza=root) appear to live in tree and plant roots in a symbiotic relationship, as described by Dr M C Rayner in ‘Mychorriza’ published in 1927, and quoted by Lady Eve Balfour in her important book ‘The Living Soil’ of 1943, and these fungi rely on organic matter in the soil on which to feed.

So no disturbance of the soil structure this month, just a basic clearance of weeds before spreading a thin layer of composted matter over the soil surface on the vacant beds for the worms to take down.

Roots and tubers
Swedes can be left until December, and parsnips should be left in the ground for as long as possible, as they benefit from a sweeter taste after frost.

Pulses
As advised last month, there is still time to sow Aquadulce broad beans and Meteor peas under the protection of fleece if you wish, but as beans and peas sown early next spring often catch up with, or even overtake the over-wintering varieties, you personally have to decide if the extra work is worth the trouble.

Onions, leeks and garlic
There are certain varieties of onions and garlic that can be planted in October or early November for overwintering, but the same applies as with the pulses. Any leeks in the ground should be weeded and continually earthed up to keep them white with long blanched stems.

Brassicas
Continue to keep cabbages, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflowers and kale netted against pigeons, whilst protecting crops of ‘cut and come again’ perpetual spinach (leaf beet) from disease, frost, and pests with a covering of horticultural fleece.
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Copyright (c) 2013 Torbay Organic Gardening Society, 25 Church Road, St Marychurch, Torquay TQ1 4QY
Tel 01803 328055 Leaflet No: CAL11

October

January 2nd, 2014 | Posted by TOGSJames in KITCHEN GARDEN CALENDARS - (Comments Off on October)

Autumn has finally arrived and preparations for another gardening year make October a very busy month. Inevitably conditions are getting worse week by week, and the wise gardener always tries to do the autumn digging and clearing-up operations as early as possible‘. (Frances Perry)

October is the time to start using the spade again. As more and more crops are used up, the land has to be cleared and dug over. The sooner you can begin this the better. Go steadily at this time of year, not only because October can be a warm month, but also because this is the first really heavy work for several months.‘ (David Mabey)

With twenty-first century organic raised beds, of course, there is no need for this unnatural and heavy digging over of the living soil advised by traditional garden writers. Harvesting the beds of crops, followed by a simple forking over and weeding with a small hand-fork and trowel is all you have to do with each raised bed, and not even that if you are following the no-dig system. Traditional organic gardeners also advise that bare soil is a no-no, and that you should cover any empty veg beds with a layer of compost or leafmould that the worms can continue to pull down into the soil. Some advise covering the beds with black plastic to prevent weed growth, or even sowing so-called ‘green manure’ crops that can be turned into the soil in the spring. But why go to all that trouble when you can make use of the annual weeds such as speedwell, fumitory and scarlet pimpernel that grow naturally and happily in your veg garden soil, and that you can fork out and add to the compost heap in the spring when the time for planting comes?

Roots and tubers

Any root crops that are still in the soil and are not likely to withstand the winter, such as potatoes, carrots, beetroot and turnips, should be lifted and stored as soon as possible during October. Swedes can be left until December, and parsnips should be left in the ground for as long as possible, as they benefit from a sweeter taste after frost.

Pulses

Any remaining bean plants should be composted this month, and any bean poles, pea sticks and canes brought into shelter for the winter. Sow Aquadulce broad beans and Meteor peas under fleece if you wish, but as beans and peas sown early next spring often overtake the over-wintering varieties, you personally have to decide if the extra work is worth the trouble.

Onions, leeks and garlic

There are certain varieties of onions and garlic that can be planted in October or early November for overwintering, but the same applies as with the pulses. Any leeks in the ground should be weeded and continually earthed up to keep them white with long blanched stems.

Brassicas

Prevent brassica pests and diseases on winter cabbages, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflowers and kale by keeping the plants netted against pigeons, and removing any yellowing leaves to prevent the spread of grey mould. Keep the plants firmed up with earth around the base of the stems. Whitefly can be hosed off, or killed by the spraying of diluted insecticidal soap. Protect crops of perpetual spinach (leaf beet) from disease, frost, and pests such as slugs and snails with horticultural fleece, the twenty-first century organic answer to so many of the problems faced by our ancestors.

—————————————————————————————————————– Copyright (c) 2013 Torbay Organic Gardening Society, 25 Church Road, St Marychurch, Torquay TQ1 4QY Tel 01803 328055 Leaflet No: CAL10

Slugs & Snails

October 13th, 2013 | Posted by TOGSJames in Key Topics - (Comments Off on Slugs & Snails)

How do I deal with slugs and snails in the organic garden?

Certainly not by sprinkling vast quantities of those traditional blue metaldehyde and methiocarb pellets available cheaply at all garden centres and DIY stores! These chemicals are dangerous to wildlife predators of slugs and snails such as hedgehogs and thrushes, slowworms, frogs and toads, the very creatures that you want to encourage in your organic garden. Metaldehyde is even dangerous to pets such as cats and dogs. Just try googling ‘metaldehyde poisoning’ and see how many veterinary sites come up. In fact, British farmers are irresponsibly using such quantities of metaldehyde pellets on their field crops that our drinking water is in danger of contamination. Log on to www.pelletwise.co.uk.

The Great Black Slug (Arion ater)

The Great Black Slug (Arion ater)

The Garden Snail (Helix aspersa)

The Garden Snail (Helix aspersa)

OK, so if I don’t use poisonous pellets, what alternatives are there?
Alternatives for killing slugs and snails, or alternative ways of protecting your crops and plants against them?

Both!
Alright, first, we must think of protection, protection, protection. It’s no good sowing veg seed, or putting young veg plants in the soil and simply leaving them unprotected, to the mercy of any passing pest!

So cover rows of seed and seedlings with horticultural fleece and keep them covered for the first few weeks, making sure that no slugs or snails have got in under the fleece. In his book, Successful Organic Gardening, Geoff Hamilton advises ‘surrounding young seedlings and shoots of young herbaceous plants with plastic bottles which have been cut off at the bottom’ and this certainly has been found to be effective in our experience, simply because of the physical impossibility of the slugs or snails getting inside the bottles.

We have also done experiments with sticky copper tape round pots of hostas, and round the edges of wooden raised beds. It really works, but is quite expensive to buy. We experimented with Vaseline round the pots instead as a cheaper option, but it had no deterrent effect whatsoever.

In wet weather generally, when slugs and snails abound, all the top organic gardeners agree that there is no substitute for inspecting plants daily, particularly after rain, clearing out corners of raised beds where slugs and snails hide during the day, inspecting nearby stone or brick walls and removing ivy, and turning over pots and trays to discover the slugs and snails lurking underneath.

Alison Mundie, Trials Officer RHS Harlow Carr Gardening says, ‘ Clear away protential hiding places, such as piles of leaves in shady corners – remove them to a compost heap or dig them back into the soil. Any other rotting vegetation needs removing as it will attract them and provide perfect breeding ground.’

Geoff Hamilton’s suggestion of ‘venturing out at night when the slugs are feeding and simply picking them up and dropping them into a jar of paraffin’ is not acceptable nowadays. Best then to follow Alison Mundie’s suggestion to ‘Arm yourself with a torch, a bucket of salted water and gloves and physically remove the pests. Pick the creatures off and drop them into the salty water, which is lethal to them. Once dead, drain the water and empty them on to the compost heap. Continue the nightly patrols regularly, especially after rain.’

Going out at night with a torch and collecting slugs and snails will give you some idea of the odds you face at any particular time. No amount of poisonous bait can deal with such creatures without decimating the hedgehogs and thrushes that prey upon them, not to mention the effect that eating poisonous bait can have on pets such as dogs and cats.

Are there any safe pellets I can use?
Yes, there are two new and distinct types of pellet available, the bait type and the granule type. The bait type consists of tiny blue pellets containing a bait or attractant mixed with ferric phosphate, which kills the slugs and snails by drying them out. The instructions are to scatter them thinly over the bed in a random pattern, and we have had some success with them, particularly with Growing Success Advanced Slug Killer rain-fast pellets.

The second type comes in granule form and looks like pea gravel, and has to be put in a circle round the plants to protect them. It comes in cardboard boxes with the name Slug Stop or Slug Stoppa granules. The theory is that the granules will suck the slime and dehydrate any slug or snail that attempts to crawl over them. We have tried this method, and it works, but only for smaller slugs and snails, and only if the granules form a solid undisturbed circle of protection.

Where can I buy these safer pellets and granules?
You can buy them in most garden centres, such as Fermoys and Otter Nurseries locally, or DIY stores, such as B&Q and Wilkinsons. They are more expensive than the traditional poisonous metaldehyde pellets, but you do have the satisfaction of knowing that you are saving the lives of thrushes, blackbirds and other wildlife. You can order Fito Slug Stoppa granules for £8.45 a box online from the Organic Gardening Catalogue, whilst Growing Success Advanced Slug Killer pellets cost £6.95 from the Organic Gardening Catalogue or Harrod Horticultural. The cheapest place to buy granules and pellets locally is Trago Mills, near Newton Abbot.

What are nematodes and how do they kill slugs?
Nematodes are microscopic eelworms (Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita) used for the biological control of slugs in the soil, and so are ideal for potatoes. They are used at RHS Harlow Carr, and at Highgrove for plants under glass or outdoors. The eelworms seek out the slugs in the soil and kill them by burrowing into them and introducing a bacterial infection when reproducing inside the slugs. You buy the nematodes in packs, mix them with water and apply to the soil with a watering can or sprayer, which will give you protection for up to six weeks. The manufacturer admits that the product ‘does not control snails, and kills mainly young and small slugs in the soil, rather than big slugs on the surface for which additional controls may be needed.’

How do I buy nematodes?
Nematodes are sold as ‘Nemaslug Slug Killer’. You can order them online, from the Organic Gardening Catalogue (small pack for £11.60), or Harrod Horticultural (small pack for £9.95).
See our Useful Links page.

September

October 13th, 2013 | Posted by TOGSJames in KITCHEN GARDEN CALENDARS - (Comments Off on September)

September is the time to begin clearing up the garden, building up the compost heap, and pulling up all the crops that have finished. This month is a mixture of summer pickings and winter preparations.‘ (David Mabey)

September can be a most satisfying month, with the last pickings of fine French beans and runner beans being brought into the house to be blanched and frozen for use over the winter months. Traditionally this is the month that main crop potatoes are lifted and stored in hessian sacks. Onions are laid out in crates or trays to dry out before being tied into strings and hung up to overwinter.  The last outdoor tomatoes can be picked and brought into the house for ripening.

On sunny days, it can be a satisfying task to clear the various crops from the raised beds, add the spent plants to the compost heap, and then replace them with overwintering plants such as perpetual spinach (spinach beet) which is hardy enough to provide you with healthy green leaves all through the winter, especially if kept protected from slugs and snails by a light covering of horticultural fleece.

Roots and tubers
The last of the carrots and beetroot in raised beds can be harvested now, as well as main crop potatoes towards the end of the month. Whilst carrots can still be stored traditionally in boxes of sand, these days we prefer to cook them and store them in the freezer for use in soups and stews. Parsnips should be left in the ground for as long as possible, however, as they benefit from a sweeter taste after frost.

Pulses
During this month, keep picking French and runner beans regularly, every few days, as soon as they reach a suitable size, as this this encourages the remaining smaller pods to grow faster. The bean plants themselves, with their nitrogen-fixing nodules, make a great addition to the compost heap.

Onions and leeks
The last of the onions should be harvested and brought into the dry. They should not be stored or hung in strings until the outermost delicate skins are brown and crisp, and can be taken off gently. Young leeks in the ground should be weeded and earthed up to keep them white.

Brassicas
Sprouts, broccoli and cauliflowers should also be tended carefully. Traditional pests of brassicas are  butterfly caterpillars, cabbage aphids, and cabbage root fly maggots. If you are following organic principles and have taken the correct preventive measures,and kept the plants properly protected under fleece or fine mesh, you should not have such problems.

Salads and cucurbits
Gluts of tomatoes and cucumbers can be turned into soups, and then frozen in meal-sized portions. Alternatively, tomatoes can be blanched and frozen whole for use in stews and soups over winter.
The last of the courgettes should be harvested now. Traditionally, marrows should be brought in, have the earth wiped off them, and be stored carefully in a cool dry place such as a shed, suspended in nets. These days, however, you may find it easier and more convenient to cook stuffed marrow and keep it in the freezer in meal-sized portions for use over winter. Delicious!
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Copyright (c) 2013 Torbay Organic Gardening Society, 25 Church Road, St Marychurch, Torquay TQ1 4QY
Tel 01803 328055                                                                                                      Leaflet No: CAL9

August

October 13th, 2013 | Posted by TOGSJames in KITCHEN GARDEN CALENDARS - (Comments Off on August)

August is a wise time to launch a major onslaught on garden weeds to prevent the threat of  ‘one year’s seeding, seven years’ weeding. ‘ (Frances Perry)

The broad beans, early new potatoes and early peas may be coming to an end, but they will soon be replaced by runner beans, sweet corn, tomatoes, marrows and cucumbers.’ (David Mabey)

August can be a delightfully busy time in the vegetable garden. There are so many vegetables and herbs to harvest, and so many crops to coming to fruition that need constant care and attention, watering, feeding and mulching. If the weather is hot and dry, vegetables grown in containers or troughs can rapidly dry out, and become weakened and subject to fungal attacks such as blight or mildew. In the organic garden, all types of plants will benefit from being watered and fed at the same time with very diluted seaweed extract which has a strengthening and yet mildly fungicidal effect.

Roots and tubers

Young carrots and beetroot can be harvested now, as well as early potatoes. Check maincrop potatoes for the fungal disease potato blight, and if there are any signs of it, cut the haulms (stems and leaves) down to prevent infection of the tubers.

Pulses

As broad beans and French beans are harvested, the runner beans on the wigwams begin to come into their own. Keep the runner and climbing French beans well watered (best done by watering into a cut-off upturned plastic bottle in the centre of each  wigwam). Check daily for blackfly (black bean aphids) and wash them off and kill them with diluted soft soap. Control snails by sprinkling ferrous phosphate granules round the base of the plants, and by putting copper tape or wire round the base of the poles of the wigwam. Keep picking the runner beans regularly as this encourages more pods to form.

Onions and leeks

With onions, it is essential to bend the leaves over to the ground to prevent further growth, and to encourage the onions to swell before harvesting. Now is the time to plant out young leeks

Brassicas

Make sure that all young brassicas are covered with fleece, fine mesh, or fine netting, to prevent cabbage butterflies from alighting on them and laying eggs, which would turn into caterpillars that would later devastate the leaves.

Salads and cucurbits

Pick lettuces and rocket plants before they bolt, for use in summer salads. Even bolted  lettuces can still be harvested and used to make lettuce soup. Marrows, courgettes, pumpkins and outdoor cucumber and tomato plants should all become ready for harvesting during this month. Tomato plants should be stopped after four or five trusses, to prevent further upward growth and divert the plant’s energy into producing fruit. Continue to keep these plants well and evenly watered, and well-fed with seaweed extract. Pick the tomatoes as soon as they begin to turn red and bring them indoors to ripen them up quickly by placing them in the same bowl as already-ripe tomatoes.

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Copyright (c) 2013 Torbay Organic Gardening Society, 25 Church Road, St Marychurch, Torquay TQ1 4QY
Tel 01803 328055                                                                                                      Leaflet No: CAL8

 

July

October 13th, 2013 | Posted by TOGSJames in KITCHEN GARDEN CALENDARS - (Comments Off on July)

July can be your busiest month. In theory, July should be the hottest and driest month of the year, but it seldom is. You should be ready to deal with the effects of drought and very hot weather: not only extra watering and  hoeing, but also fast-growing crops and regular pickings to keep pace with the plants.‘ (David Mabey)

Occasional rain or showers are more welcome in the garden than prolonged dry spells, but warm moist conditions can be favourable for the spread of many fungus diseases; in drier weather, pests are the greater problem.‘ (Frances Perry)

This month can be one of the most rewarding of the year, as crops such as broad beans, French beans, potatoes and salad crops all become ready for harvesting. Mediterranean herbs such as lavender, rosemary and thyme are at their best, whilst freshly-gathered marjoram, mint and chive leaves added to green leaves make for a most delicious mix of flavours in a salad.

Watering of growing vegetable crops should be done systematically, thoroughly, and regularly, either in the morning or in the evening, and gives an opportunity to watch the plants and look for early signs of pests and diseases and to take preventive action. Always avoid watering in the middle of the day, and always take care to water the roots of the plants, so as to conserve water and avoid rapid evaporation.

Roots and tubers
Early potatoes should be ready for lifting. Keep the second earlies and the main crop potatoes, whether in raised beds or potato sacks, well watered but be careful not to wet the leaves, as this could lead to scorching, and might encourage the spread of potential fungal diseases, the most important of which is potato blight. Young carrots, turnips, and beetroot should be growing well and be ready for harvesting in succession during the month.

Pulses
Encourage the swelling and health of broad beans by regular watering, and daily inspection and washing off of blackfly. French beans and peas should be at their best, and should be picked before they get too large, with no sign of seeds bulging out of the pods. Meanwhile,as soon as the runner bean plants reach the top of the poles, the growing points should be pinched off to encourage the plant into diverting its energy into the production of flowers and pods. Protect the flowers from sparrows and other birds, by hanging flashing CDs from the poles to scare them off.

Brassicas
Cabbages, sprouting broccoli, and Brussels sprout plants can be planted out in beds this month. Prevent cabbage butterflies from laying their eggs on plants by using fleece, or fine mesh or cloches to protect the plants.

Salads and curcubits
Lettuces should be harvested before they show signs of bolting, and fresh sowings can be made. Marrows, courgettes, pumpkins and outdoor cucumber and tomato plants should all have been pollinated by now, and fruit set behind the flowers. Keep these plants well and evenly watered, and well-fed with seaweed extract, which will help to prevent the spread of mildew, and harvest the young courgettes as they appear, to keep the plants producing fruit. ——————————————————————————————————————-
Copyright (c) 2013 Torbay Organic Gardening Society, 25 Church Road, St Marychurch, Torquay TQ1 4QY
Tel 01803 328055                                                                                                      Leaflet No: CAL7

June

October 13th, 2013 | Posted by TOGSJames in KITCHEN GARDEN CALENDARS - (Comments Off on June)

For the next couple of months, the garden will look at its best. All signs of winter are gone, and with plenty of crops coming to fruition, the vegetable patch should be luxuriant, with rows of broad beans ready for picking, and lettuces and other salad vegetables that can be gathered every day for light lunches and suppers.‘ (David Mabey)

Although June brings the longest days aqnd the strongest sunshine, it is not often the warmest month of the summer, because the soil and surrounding seas are still cool and do not reach their annual maximum until July.‘ (Frances Perry)

General work for this month involves caring for the plants that you have already sown earlier, and that are now developing in the raised beds. This is the month for constantly checking on their progress, thinning and weeding, mulching, and protecting from pests by keeping them covered with horcticultural fleece, or when exposed, using other specialised protective measures to protect from bird and insect pests.

Roots
Keep a continuing eye on young parsnips, carrots, turnips, and beetroot grown under fleece and make sure to thin them adequately to allow for future growth of selected plants. When uncovering young carrots, be sure to uncover the plants for the least time possible, as carrot fly are attracted by the scent of the carrot thinnings. Continue to monitor the progress of potato plants, and keep them  earthed up.

Pulses
Runner beans, and dwarf and climbing French beans started off in pots can be planted at the base of wigwams and poles, or sown directly into the ground by the beginning of this month. Protect from snails and slugs by copper tape round the top of the raised beds, and promote growth by winding fleece round wigwams.

Brassicas
Kales, winter cabbage, sprouting broccoli, winter cauliflower and Brussels sprouts can all be sown in a seed bed this month for later transplanting in July.  Be sure to cover the seed beds with fleece to warm up the soil and protect emerging seedlings from pests.

Salads and curcubits
Successive sowings of radish, lettuce and rocket can be made, with potted sweet corn, marrows, courgettes, pumpkins and outdoor cucumber plants being set out on raised beds under fleece at the end of the month.

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Copyright (c) 2013 Torbay Organic Gardening Society, 25 Church Road, St Marychurch, Torquay TQ1 4QY
Tel 01803 328055                                                                                                      Leaflet No: CAL6

May

October 13th, 2013 | Posted by TOGSJames in KITCHEN GARDEN CALENDARS - (Comments Off on May)

In May there can be unpredictable factors. High day temperatures followed by sharp night frosts first induce new growths, then damage those which are tender. Strong winds, storms and even snow are possibilities.‘  (Frances Perry)

Whatever the unpredictability of the May weather, provided that you keep all the emergent seedlings and young plants in raised vegetable beds covered with horticultural fleece, you should not have any of the usual problems associated with frost, heavy rains, strong winds or storms.

One of the main problems that traditional gardeners have in May is erratic watering: the alternation of soaked soil that follows heavy rainfall with the parched soil that follows a hot dry sunny spell. With the use of horticultural fleece, this problem is largely overcome, because rain water, however heavy, will soak through the fleece on to the plants without damaging them, and will then remain available to plants, being prevented by the fleece from evaporating during spells of hot sunshine.

Most traditional gardening calendars warn against blackfly, carrot fly, onion fly, cabbage root fly and flea beetles this month. The organic gardener can easily avoid attacks of all such insect pests  by simply covering vegetable plants with horticultural fleece. Snails and slugs are unable to get access to seedlings provided you keep the bed protected by fleece at all times. They are also deterred from climbing up the sides of raised beds and pots by copper wire or copper bands.

Roots
Keep an eye on young seedlings of parsnips, carrots, turnips, and beetroot and monitor their progress under fleece. When thinning the rows, be sure to uncover the plants for the least time possible, as carrot fly are attracted by the scent of the carrot thinnings. Replace the fleece immediately to prevent the flies gaining access to the tops of young carrots and laying their eggs on them. The leaves of emergent beetroot seedlings are often eaten by small black slugs in the soil, so it is important to keep the rows of seedlings regularly thinned and clear of weeds, and protected by lines of non-toxic slug pellets along the sides and ends of the rows. Keep young potato plants earthed up, and covered with fleece to prevent infection by the wind-borne spores of potato blight.

Pulses
Peas, runner beans, and dwarf and climbing French beans can be sown direct in the ground under fleece during this month, and will usually be stronger and hardier than those started off in pots.. Climbing beans can be planted at the base of a wigwam of canes at the end of the month, and even earlier if you wind fleece around the wigwam.

Brassicas
Kales, winter cabbage, sprouting broccoli, winter cauliflower and Brussels sprouts can all be sown in a seed bed this month for later transplanting in July.  Be sure to cover the seed beds with fleece to warm up the soil and protect emerging seedlings from pests.

Salads and curcubits
Successive sowings of radish, lettuce and rocket can be made, with potted sweet corn, marrows, courgettes, pumpkins and outdoor cucumber plants being set out on raised beds under fleece at the end of the month.

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Copyright (c) 2013 Torbay Organic Gardening Society, 25 Church Road, St Marychurch, Torquay TQ1 4QY
Tel 01803 328055                                                                                                      Leaflet No: CAL5

April

October 13th, 2013 | Posted by TOGSJames in KITCHEN GARDEN CALENDARS - (Comments Off on April)

The days are beginning to get longer, but April can be a deceptive month. The weather may turn in the space of an hour from hopeful spring sunshine to cold, vicious winds and pouring rain.’  (David Mabey)

From the gardener’s point of view, the typical April showers are welcome because they provide the ideal treatment for young plants whose roots are still shallow and which need frequent refreshment with small amounts of rain.’ (Frances Perry)

Whatever traditional gardening writers say about the April weather, provided that you sow your vegetable seeds into weed-free raised beds, on to which you have spread good organic compost made from previous years’ rotted-down weeds and grass cuttings, and cover the seeds immediately with a thin but effective blanket of horticultural fleece, you will not encounter any of the problems that traditional gardeners complain of.

Another tip is: never be impatient to get seeds into the soil, as seeds sown later will always catch up with those sown earlier in the year, due to the greater warmth and more importantly, the increased number of daylight hours. And of course, while traditional gardeners are busy complaining of the wet, waterlogged soil that they have to walk on in their vegetable gardens or allotments, you can go out between showers, and sow your seeds whilst walking and standing on the narrow paths between the beds that are covered with a handy and convenient mulch of straw or barkchips!

Roots
From this month, carrots, turnips, and beetroot can be sown directly into beds and covered with  fleece. Spread the seed in drills (rows) thinly, to save work later in thinning them out, as these root plants do not like to be transplanted.

Pulses
If not already sown in March, sow broad beans now and cover them with fleece. Peas can also be sown outside towards the end of the month, whilst French beans and runner beans can be started off in pots in the greenhouse for planting out later in May or June.

Brassicas
Spinach, kohl-rabi, sprouting broccoli, and cauliflower can all be sown in the brassica bed this month. Be sure to cover the beds with fleece to warm up the soil and protect emerging seedlings from pests.

Salads
Radish, lettuce and rocket seeds can be sown directly into the salad bed and covered with fleece.  Lettuce, tomato, cucumber, celery and celeriac can be started off in pots in the greenhouse from early to mid-April, and sweet corn, courgettes, marrows and pumpkins later in the month.

Potatoes
Traditional cautions about protecting potatoes from wet, cold, damp, frost and slugs are all overcome by the the use of fleece lain over the potato bed from the beginning.  First and second earlies can be planted into beds or  potato growing bags during this month if you have not already done so.
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Tel 01803 328055                                                                                                      Leaflet No: CAL4