Wednesday, July 18, 2018

18 Mar

Fresh & Fantastic – An article by our feature writer Christine Walkden

I have always been a great fan of vegetable gardening. I started with an allotment at the age of ten and soon realised that, I could grow a whole host of things to take home to mum for the family to enjoy, and my goodness didn’t we enjoy it all!

I also found that it’s much easier than I thought it would be. Anyone from younge children to grandparents can enjoy the thrill and pleasure of growing your own. It’s the surprise of seeing those first seeds come through the ground or those plants you have planted a few days ago starting to grow that will encourage you to grow many delicious crops which can be harvested and on the plate in minutes. I just love it. I call my vegetable garden my outdoor larder!

Some of the early lessons I picked up from the old allotmenters was not to sow seeds directly into the ground too early. Wait until the soil has warmed up, the weed seedlings will start to grow and then you know it is warm enough. Sowing too early often means that the seeds rot off because the soil is too cold to encourage rapid growth. Follow the advice on the seed packet concerning the depth of sowing. Seeds sown too shallowly often dry out while if you put them in too deeply you bury them.

Ensure that the tilth (fineness of the soil) surrounding the seeds is a suitable size. The smaller the seeds, the finer the tilth. Do not try to prepare the seedbed if the soil is wet, as you will damage the soil structure. Only work the soil when you can walk over it and the soil does not stick to your boots. Keep the seedbed moist, but not wet. Use a fine rose or spray, too course a droplet size when watering damages the tilth.

Once large enough to handle, thin the seedlings out to the spacings suggested on the packets and ensure they are watered in. Be aware of the old trick with brassicas that they should be planted so firmly that if you try to pull the plant up with a leaf the leaff should break without the plant coming out of the ground.

If seed sowing and plant raising does not take your fancy start with young plants. Always water the plants before and after planting. Believe you me; this really does make a big difference on both the size and quality of the end results. Don’t be tempted to use too much fertilizer at the planting stage. Research has shown that it’s better to apply any fertilizer six weeks after planting. If you are using a powdered or granular fertilizer always either hoe this in our water it in if rain has not fallen within a week of application.

Not all the crops we may wish to grow will be hardy and tolerant of frosts so keep tomatoes. peppers, cucumbers, courgettes and marrows, runner beans and aubergines all protected from the frost and harden them off by exposing them to coller temperatures over a week or so before planting them out. In mid May it’s not uncommon to get a frost that can damage plants that have not been hardened off correctly.


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