Posted in 'How to', Annuals, Asparagus, Blackberries, Fruit, Herbs, Japanese wineberries, Lettuces, Marjoram, Pea shoots, Planning, Raspberries, Rhubarb, Strawberries, Vegetables, tagged Asparagus, Cos 'Freckles' lettuce, food miles, fruit and vegetables, pea shoots, Planning your garden for growing in 2013, Planning your veg patch for 2013, What is the biggest challenge when growing your own food, Why do you grow your own food on December 31, 2012 |
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Just before Christmas, Mark from Vertical Veg sent out a questionnaire for growing in 2013. It contained a few simple and very pertinent questions and ones which got me thinking about the many positive aspects of growing your own fruit and vegetables. Question one: why do you grow your own food?
For me, I find it joyful and incredibly rewarding to be able to pick fresh veg from our doorstep. And it’s not just picking any old veg. It’s being able to choose and grow the things that you really love to eat and that will flourish in the growing conditions that you have in your garden. In a less than sunny part of the front garden, my lettuces thrived throughout the dampest of summers and supplied delicious sweet fresh leaves, unsprayed by supermarkets (and with zero food miles) for months on end. Pea shoots came a close second, supplying a succulent alternative to lettuces and being very quick to grow (about 3 weeks from sowing to harvesting from May onwards). I also love growing food that is sometimes difficult (or impossible) to buy in the shops and I’m going to really concentrate on the less run-of-the-mill herbs next year such as Lovage, Sorrel and Sweet Cicely.
Next question. What’s your biggest challenge? Time (and space-could do with an extra half an acre at home!). Allotments are great, but they do take a feat of organisation to fit in with our busy lives. Whatever I grow on the allotment (leeks , raspberries, jerusalem artichokes….), I still love the fact that I can harvest salad leaves, strawberries and rhubarb only minutes before cooking them if I can grow them in the front or back garden (or in a pot on a windowsill or balcony). Jono from Real Men Sow has written an excellent piece on giving up his allotment and his move to growing everything (including some ornamentals) in his new garden at home.
Space in our urban environment is another constant challenge; trying to squeeze in everything I’d love to grow, but then planning becomes the key to getting the most out of our growing space.
In 2013 I’m planning for more effective successional growing, so that as soon as one spot becomes available, I’ll have the right seeds or small plants to pop right in there, and for sowing at the right time of year to provide crops throughout the seasons. Next year I’ll be attempting to fine tune my seed sowing for autumn and winter lettuces (I reckon August is the key month) and trying not to forget (in all the spring excitement) to sow seeds for some purple sprouting broccoli, as I always regret the absence of this fine vegetable come the following year. I’m planning to grow more perennial fruit, vegetables and herbs such as Rhubarb, Blackberries, Asparagus and Marjoram that will happily look after themselves (apart from the odd bit of mulching and training) and hopefully this will leave me with a bit more time for some more ‘no dig’ trials and to sow some new crops that I’ve only dreamed about so far.
During this wettest of Christmas holidays, it’s been great to have time to reflect and imagine my ideal plot, and I wish you all a Happy New Year, and one full of exciting growing experiments and successes throughout 2013, whatever or wherever your veg plot is.
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Posted in 'How to', Allotment, Blackberries, Fruit, Japanese wineberries, Pruning, Raspberries, tagged Allotments, autumn jobs for the garden, autumn pruning of fruit bushes, Japanese wineberry pink stems, Pruning a Japanese wineberry plant, pruning summer fruiting raspberry canes, Pruning_ a blackberry out of my shed, Urban gardening, winter jobs in the garden on December 24, 2012 |
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All this rain has provided plenty of excuses for curling up with some great gardening books, but on a rare dry day this week, I got on with tackling a job I’ve been itching to do for months. One of my Japanese Wineberry plants is looking a tad on the unkempt side and is rather overdue for a prune. Old stems need to be cut back to make space for new growth come spring and to make the plant easier to train (and more aesthetically pleasing).
Before seizing the secateurs, note that only about half of the stems need to be pruned! You need to leave the newer, more lush, pink stems and only cut away (from the base of the plant) the old brown woodier stems on which the fruit was borne this summer. As Japanese Wineberries fruit on one year old stems, the fresher pink stems will bear the fruit next summer, and new stems that grow during next year will fruit the summer after that.
Once all the old wood has gone, you can see how many stems you’ll have to provide fruit for next year. You can leave the plant to its own devices, in which case you’ll need a good 2m x 2m space,
or train it to form any number of shapes that you want to experiment with. (If you have too many stems to train, cut away the weaker spindlier stems from the base of your plant.)
Old stems can be cut back anytime after the plant has finished fruiting (about September onwards), and if you haven’t tackled them already, other fruit, such as blackberries and summer fruiting raspberries can be pruned now, again, removing only the older woody stems (about half the bush) and keeping this year’s fresher looking growth to provide fruit for next year.
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Posted in 'How to', Bare rooted plants, Bulbs, Fruit, Jerusalem artichokes, Leeks, Plant and flower shows, Plant combinations, Plant Nurseries, Raspberries, Vegetables, tagged Avon Bulbs, Backlane-Notebook, Blackmoor_Nursey, Crocus_tommasianus_Out of my shed, Leeks_ flowering_Out of my shed, Leucojum_aeastivum, Peter Nyssen, Quincunx _fruit tree, RHS_Spring_Show, summer snowflake, sumptuous combination, Tulipa_Rai_Parrot Tulip on November 6, 2012 |
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I’ve just planted 200 Crocus tommasianus in our corner plot to pop up through the grass and can’t wait to see how they look come spring. I saw these on the Avon Bulbs stand at the RHS spring show, and thankfully remembered to write a note to self to order in September.
As the temperatures finally drop, people keep on asking me if I’ve finished working for the year, and I have to tell them, ‘not a bit of it’. Despite the depressing fact that the clocks have gone back and the nights are rapidly drawing in, there’s still tons to do. These last few weeks I must have planted thousands of bulbs and have a nice few calluses on my palms to prove it. I’ve even managed to get my act together to plant some of my own bulbs and this year I’ve plumped for a mass of pink parrot Rai tulips to appear alongside the dark curvaceous curls of a Black Parrot or two. A sumptuous combination hopefully. There’s still plenty of time to plant Tulips (up to the end of the year I’d say) and although Peter Nyssen are fast selling out of some varieties, there’s still lots of gorgeous bulbs online to tempt you.
Leucojum aestivum or Snowflake
I’ll also be planting some delightful Leucojum aestivum (summer snowflake) which will flower in April and May. Well after snowdrops have vanished for the year, these flowers are such a treat and at a foot or so high, seem to blend in well amongst most small shrubs and emerging perennials alike.
Once all my bulbs are in, I’ll be ordering some bare-rooted ‘Lord Lambourne’ apple trees from Blackmoor nurseries for a spot of training. I think I mentioned to Sue at Backlane Notebook that I’ll be attempting to train a one year old maiden up a coiling metal framework as I’d like to see how successfully apples will grow in a pot. She’s putting her allotment to bed for the winter, and this will be on my ‘to do’ list soon, although I still have quite a few Jerusalem artichokes to dig up and enjoy.
My leeks on the other hand have been rather disappointing, as quite a number have already started flowering, depriving me of one of my favourite winter veg. I didn’t water my crop when dry this year, and no doubt this, as well as our strange weather patterns, has prompted my leeks into premature seed production. My loss!
And last of my autumn jobs is to order some bare-rooted fruit canes. I’ve experimented with different varieties of raspberries this year, and although my old reliable ‘Autumn Bliss’ is still much-loved, I’ve found that Polka is equally (if not more) tasty, rather juicy and double the size (all this when grown in an old wooden wine box!). Again, available from Blackmoor Nursery.
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