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Where to find food growing advice

Where to find food growing advice

Growing food is endlessly satisfying. It’s tricky, too, with ambitious slugs and stubborn seeds.

A little advice goes a long way. That’s why Garden Organic’s Master Gardeners are here to help in volunteer networks across England. Our mentors vary in growing knowledge and experience, but are united by wanting to share their passion for food growing to help others no matter the growing space.

We’re not about self sufficiency. Instead, we want to fill sandwiches and top up meals with fresh edible delights for people to munch.

In fact, most gardeners enjoy sharing ideas, tips, tricks, stories, seeds, plants and frustrations. They also share tea and biscuits if you’re lucky.

I’ve been gardening since age six, or potting bench height, and discovered gardening to be a generous hobby. A generous industry, too, as wonderfully described on the horticultural careers website, ‘Grow’, and on the agricultural/food sector website, ‘Bright Crop’.

My best wishes for your growing year,

Philip Turvil MI Hort

Master Gardener blogs
Coventry & Warwickshire, North London, South London, Norfolk, Medway, Lincolnshire and Somerset

Sign up free for 12 months growing advice from your local volunteer mentor

Free growing pack for MG mentored household

Top tips

Seasonal advice from the Master Gardener Programme

Garden Organicmonthly tips, free growing manual and membership

Crop by crop growing cards for vegetables, fruit, herbs, edible flowers & green manures
(latest UK crops here)

Step by step instructions for growing activities

Social networks

Lively websites

Crop planning by a school gardening club

More growing advice from the Master Gardener Programme

Posted in Edible flower, Featured, Fruit, Growing tips, Herbs, Herbs, Vegetables0 Comments

Gardening through the coldest months

Gardening through the coldest months

By Hannah Towers

Winter is a dormant season for many plants, although it’s not a dormant season for us gardeners.

There are many jobs during the colder months we can do to prepare our garden for the next year. It’s the time for us to insulate greenhouses, prune fruit trees and even plant garlic.

 

 

Tasty festive sprouts

November

As the weather cools down in November, it’s time to prepare our greenhouses and polytunnels for the upcoming frosts to protect the plants inside. This doesn’t have to be expensive. Use bubble wrap to line the inside of your structure, using little clips to secure.

Stake any Brussels sprouts plants to protect against the elements. Strong wind can otherwise damage plants. You’ll then be able to harvest the sprouts closer to Christmas. Staking can also be done with kale.

 

Prune your apple trees

December

The weather, when it reaches December, will most likely be very cold. You can distract yourself from this cold by preparing for harvesting fruit next year. It’s time to plant fruit trees and bushes. For me, it will be time to plant raspberries. Raspberry canes should be planted in a sunny area, 40cm apart in rows.

For those of you who already have apples trees, it is time to prune. The first step is to remove any branches that are obviously dead, diseased and damaged. Then for healthy branches on ‘bush’ trained trees with an open centre, shorten main stems and side shoots. Follow a guide if you are unsure. Make sure you don’t overprune as this can cause many problems, such as no fruit.

 

Tasty rhubarb

January

For garlic lovers who haven’t yet planted their cloves, now is the time. Plant the separate cloves 2.5cm deep in rows 10cm apart. If your soil is sandier, plant them a little deeper.

If you have established rhubarb growing, you can now start to ‘force’ it to produce delicate tasting stems. To do this, first clear the base of the rhubarb. Remove any dead leaves or weeds. Then use a large pot or dustbin to cover the rhubarb to exclude any light. This will force the rhubarb to start growing early.

 

Hannah is a student from Rugby High School volunteering with Garden Organic at Ryton Gardens. She’s particularly interested in biology and has a keen gardening family.

 

Read more about gardening through the coldest months

Click here to discover unusual crops

Step by step growing activities…

Become a Garden Organic member…

What to do in the garden now

Lively growing blogs by volunteer Master Gardeners:
Warwickshire, North London, South London, Norfolk, Medway and Lincolnshire

 

Posted in Growing tips0 Comments

Harvest, store, sow & grow

Harvest, store, sow & grow


There’s no slowing down in autumn as fruit and veg crops stay excited by late sunshine.

Please click the links below to open PDF files with growing instructions for each crop.





Harvest & store

Asparagus pea, aubergine, Chinese cabbage, summer and autumn cabbage, calabrese, carrot, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, chicory, courgette and marrow, cucumber, globe artichoke, French bean, runner bean, beetroot, kohl rabi, leaf beet

As well as: leek, lettuce, okra, bulb onion, pea, pepper, maincrop potato, pumpkin and squashes,radish, rocket,oriental salads, spring and summer salads, shallot, annual spinach, sweetcorn, sweet potato, indoor tomato, turnip.

Not forgetting: apple, blackberry and hybrid berries, blueberry, grape, melon, pear, plum, autumn raspberry, strawberry

And the final snips from a whole host of herbs.

Sow

Radish, rocket, delightful salads, oriental salads, annual spinach, chervil, sweet violet

…and in a few weeks, broad bean and garlic

Click here to download a PDF guide about autumn sowing

Look after

Sprouting broccoli, Brussels sprouts, winter and savoy cabbage, calabrese, cauliflower, celery, chicory, Jerusalem artichoke,kale, kohl rabi, leaf beet, leek, lettuce, parsnip, radish, rocket, autumn and winter salads, oriental salads, salsify and scorzonera, annual spinach, swede, turnip.

And not forgetting year round herbs: bay, rosemary, sage, thyme (although harvest in moderation as they don’t grow much over winter)

Garden Organic’s growing resources

Click here to discover unusual crops (opens ‘Sowing New Seed’ project website)

Step by step growing activities…

Become a Garden Organic member…

What to do in the garden now

Lively growing blogs by volunteer Master Gardeners:
Warwickshire, North London, South London, Norfolk, Medway, and Lincolnshire

Article by Philip Turvil

Posted in Growing tips0 Comments

Watering ‘etiquette’ from Master Gardeners

Watering ‘etiquette’ from Master Gardeners

With the dry weather finally upon us, good crop watering makes all the difference to portion size.

Now is the time to manage your precious water reserve and apply to plants when they need it most.

 

 

 

Life cycle watering

Step 1

Good seed sowing starts off strong plants that’ll be more resilient in drier months. Ensure moist seed ‘drills’ for swift germination and then enough water for rows of emerging seedlings. The same goes for seedlings in pots and trays on the windowsill where small volumes of compost dry out quickly.

Step 2

Water your eager transplants before planting. If their rootball isn’t wet, water will scoot around the edges as the route of least resistance rather than wetting the rootball. Transplants cannot afford any such stop in growth if they’re to produce good roots quickly for summer resilience.

Step 3

Established plants in the soil are best watered in large amounts, but less often. This encourages deeper rooting and more independent plants. Watering little and often promotes shallow roots that will need more water in dry weather. Although do water crops in containers more often, as these can’t root as deeply as soil grown plants.

Top organic tips

  1. Water in the morning or evening (less water is lost to evaporation)
  2. Water beneath leaves to wet the soil. Wet leaves can be scorched in sunny weather
  3. Remove weeds as these compete with plants for water
  4. Water more often in windy weather as plants will dry out in these conditions
  5. Check if outdoor containers need water even after rain. Dense foliage and ‘rain-shadows’ from buildings can stop water getting to the soil
  6. Collect and use rainwater, eg install water-butts for sheds. This reduces the environmental impact and cost of using mains water.
  7. Conserve moisture by adding organic matter to soil, such as compost or leaf mould. Dig in, or spread over the soil surface as a mulch.

Garden Organic’s growing resources

 

Article by Philip Turvil

Posted in Edible flower, Featured, Fruit, Growing tips, Herbs, Vegetables0 Comments

Don’t miss a crop with our spring planting guide

Don’t miss a crop with our spring planting guide

Snow. Sunshine. More snow. The 2013 growing season is stylishly late, but sowing can’t wait any longer.

Yes, now is the time to wake up your seeds from their winter snooze.

Fresh from our time with lively Master Gardeners at spring shows and latest training, here’s Garden Organic’s summary of what to plant this spring. The links open PDF files.

So go on, dust of the trowel, hook out a seed tray, and pour on some crumbly organic peat-free compost. Ooooh, lovely.

MARCH – included since our growing season is delayed by cold weather

Plant
Grow
  • Protect spring shoots from slugs.
  • Dig in ‘green manure’ (plants grown for soil protection over-winter).
  • Finish digging over beds, if needed, adding or spreading compost/manure for your most nutrient-hungry crops.
  • Check structural supports of trained fruit, eg ‘cordon’ apples.
  • Boost growth of container plants by replacing top 5cm of soil with compost.
  • Reinvigorate crowded herbs by dividing clumps, eg chives.
Eat

APRIL – time to catch up between the showers

Plant
Grow
  • Start thinning rows of seedlings when large enough to handle.
  • Move seedlings into larger pots as they grow, eg tomato.
  • Protect fruit blossom from frosts with horticultural fleece.
Eat

MAY – nearly frost free. Full windowsills and glasshouses

Plant
Grow
  • Pull up soil around potato shoots to increase yield and prevent tubers going green (‘earthing-up’).
  • Conserve soil moisture by laying a 5cm thick compost ‘mulch’ around young trees.
Eat

Horticultural note:

Seeds are temperamental little chaps, sulking if too cold or too hot. So please vary your timing with local weather – sowing later in spring if growing higher up the UK, or a little earlier if living further south. And earlier if growing in an inner city or sheltered coastal spot.

Garden Organic’s growing resources

Article by Philip Turvil

Posted in Featured, Growing tips0 Comments

Keep your plate full with succession sowing

Keep your plate full with succession sowing

Some vegetables are too eager. They race for maturity, but deteriorate if not picked, leaving you to eat a season’s quota of your favourite crop in one go.

Just too many radish.

The trick is staggering harvest times by sowing seeds little and often in ‘succession’.

You can keep your plate evenly full by growing young plants to replace those that have just vanished into the kitchen.

Crops suited to succession sowing:

Busy sowing

Impatient crops that have an ideal maturity and don’t store well. These chaps will sulk if not harvested, usually producing seeds or losing tenderness, so are best sown regularly.

For example (links open Garden Organic PDFs): Annual Spinach, Broad Bean, Leaf Beet, Calabrese, Carrot, Cabbage, Kohl Rabi, Lettuce, Pea, Radish, Rocket, Salad Onion, Turnip, Swede, Summer Salads, and Seed Sprouts.

Crops less is need of succession sowing:

Generous crops that can’t resist yielding for long periods, such as tomatoes and runner beans. These crops are best sown once. Likewise crops that like to culminate their season at about the same time every year, such as pumpkins and squashes.

Weather can ruin the best laid horticultural plans

A hot or cold spell can excite or depress crops sown at different times, letting them catch up with one another. So, a couple of useful tips to help buffer the effects of surprise weather:

  • Rather than follow a rigid sowing schedule – with new carrots every third Sunday, wait for the earlier sowing to grow merrily before sowing again.
  • Pick crops early, munching young plants as ‘thinnings’, leaving alternate plants to grow larger.
  • Speed up slower specimens by covering with a cloche or horticultural fleece for a couple of weeks. This will get them growing!

Going further

Succession sowing can continue for several months depending on the crop and, more and more, clever new varieties. Have a look at the Organic Gardening Catalogue.

Don’t feel obliged to grow young plants next to old so they compete in rows, or entertain large bare spaces with the promise of late season sowings…  So long as there are crops of different age around your growing space, then local tableware will be pleased.

Just after the thrill of eating own-grown produce, is experimenting with different veg at different harvest times. I find succession sowing, with the many caveats, one of most exciting of all horticultural delights.

Did you know that Garden Organic publishes a wondrous array of growing tips?

Click here to discover unusual crops (opens ‘Sowing New Seed’ project website)

Step by step growing activities…

Become a Garden Organic member…

What to do in the garden in June and July

Lively growing blogs by volunteer Master Gardeners:
Warwickshire, North London, South London, Norfolk, and Lincolnshire

Article by Philip Turvil

Posted in Featured, Growing tips, Vegetables0 Comments

Growing for February… my way

Growing for February… my way

By Jacob Morris.

February is the earliest spring moment after our very wet winter. The moist ground is perfect for gardening. Personally, this is my time for sowing carrots.

Carrots are a very easy crop to grow and you never be disappointed with the outcome. I would leave sowing until the middle of February, but get the ground ready now.

 

Where to grow

Carrots are perfect in nice sandy, light soil. The deeper the better for longer roots, although carrots also do well in containers. If you have heavier soil, then shorter varieties are helpful!

Visit the Organic Gardening Catalogue for varieties to suit your growing space.

Getting started

  • I start by marking long strips of white cotton or string every 2.5-5cm with a black marker pen.
  • Then I lay the cotton or string on the ground, securing by tying to a bamboo cane pushed in at each end of the row.
  • These markings offer me a rough idea for spacing seeds and how many carrots I will harvest. If you plant seeds too close, you will find that carrots may deform. So always leave a good distance between them.
  • I use a special ‘seed-sowing-dibber’ from my grandma to place seeds 1cm deep at each marking along the white cotton or string. Or sometimes use a pencil, or trowel to pull back and replace the soil.
  • After 17 days waiting, you will hopefully have the first sign of germination.

Carrots are great for new growers

Watering

Frequent watering is needed when the carrots are germinating and when they’re in the middle of growing their roots.

Although be careful, as uneven watering patterns can cause the plant to split the roots open.

Harvesting

After around 12 weeks, the carrots should be large enough for the table. Pull out a couple of carrots to see if they’re ready.

At my allotment, I often get plants about 20cm tall and 8cm wide. Although they can exceed 30cm tall and 15cm wide.

I like to go back after a couple more weeks to pull more carrots!

Also try (links open PDF growing cards)

  • Rocket is a very nice easy thing to grow and lovely in taste. Leave sowing until later in February or March.
  • Another is parsnip. They’re almost the same as carrots and use the same techniques, but leave harvesting until autumn.
  • Click here to read more PDF growing cards

Have a great spring and have some fun!

Jacob Morris has grown fruit and veg for four years on his Warwickshire allotment. He is volunteering this week at Garden Organic’s Ryton Gardens.

Garden Organic’s growing resources

Click here to discover unusual crops

Become a member of the UK leading organic growing charity, Garden Organic

Adopt a Veg

Read lively growing blogs by volunteer Master Gardeners:
Coventry & Warwickshire, North London, South London, Norfolk, and Lincolnshire

 

Posted in Growing tips0 Comments

How to grow your seed potatoes

How to grow your seed potatoes

Now is the time to celebrate the spud with Garden Organic’s National Potato day on the 26 and 27 January 2013 and other themed events this month around the UK.

 

 

 

 

Wake up your new seed-potatoes by ‘chitting’. This gives the keenest start.

  • Pop your seed-potatoes in a clean egg box ‘rose’ end up – the end with most buds.
  • Label the variety. Most spuds look similar to start with!
  • Put the egg box in a cool light place for four to six weeks.
  • The potatoes will grow sturdy green shoots ready to offer an earlier harvest.

Keen growers choosing choosing their seed potatoes at Ryton Gardens

Chitting tips

  • Keep your young spuds out of very bright sunlight – although not too dark, otherwise pale brittle shoots develop that easily break.
  • Chit potatoes that are already sprouting straight away. Otherwise leave in a cool, dark place until you are ready to chit them.
  • Plant your chitted spuds 15cm deep. Space ‘early’ varieties 30-50cm apart from mid-March for a June-July harvest. Space ‘maincrop’ varieties 35-70cm apart from April for a September-October harvest.

Potato growing advice

See below for potato growing instructions (scrolling PDF)
Click here for advice choosing varieties from Master Gardeners (opens webpage)
Click here to read about growing potatoes in containers (opens PDF)
Click here to read about growing potatoes no-dig (opens PDF)

Find out about Garden Organic’s National Potato day

Growing instructions for potato

Written by Philip Turvil, Project Manager for Master Gardener Programme

More growing advice

More about Master Gardener programme

Posted in Featured, Growing tips, Vegetables0 Comments

Growing for December: the perfect plate of festive food

Growing for December: the perfect plate of festive food

By Rubi Ingaglia

With the festive season approaching the thought of snuggling up with a mug of hot chocolate sounds appealing, but the December garden has lots to offer. A cold stint in the allotment won’t seem so painful compared to the tasting of fresh, organic ingredients that will compliment your Christmas roast delightfully.

Here are my favourite crops and growing tips.

After leaving parsnips to sweeten after frost, it is time to lift their roots in anticipation of your Christmas dinner. For those with a sweet tooth, drizzle with honey and roast, or try coating them in parmesan cheese before roasting for a crispy, savoury alternative.
Red cabbage is a popular Christmas meal addition, which, along with hearted white varieties, should be cut before the frost. It can be easily prepared in advance, and try adding apples, sultanas, brown sugar and butter when cooking for a gorgeously caramelised dish.
Brussels Sprouts are perfectly timed for the festive season as they can be harvested as early as mid September, but they can taste better after a frost. To entice those who are perhaps not Brussels sprouts enthusiasts, add bacon or almonds for extra flavour and crunch.
Seed Sprouts can be sown indoors and harvested all year round. These nutritious fillings are a great addition to those Boxing Day leftover sandwiches.

 

Also on my menu

If you’re looking to start your post-Christmas diet early, after being planted in summer, celery and lettuce is ready to be harvested and make crunchy, fresh, low calorie snacks.
December is the time for planting your gooseberries, pears and rhubarb, but make sure you choose well-drained soil. For summer and autumn harvesting, these fruits will be ideal for scrumptious fillings of those homemade pies.
As for the herbs, it’s time to pick the leaves of sage, rosemary and thyme. For your plate of Christmas veg, add fresh rosemary to your roasted root vegetables to perfect your plate alongside butternut squash, sweet potatoes and carrots. Use sage for a traditional stuffing, or for a refreshing twist add thyme and lemon instead.

Rubi is a Christmas enthusiast and volunteer at Garden Organic. She’s looking forward to “food and festivities” this December!

 

Other festive favourites (links open growing cards)
Leek, Radish, Chicory, Cauliflower, Spinach, Swede, Sprouting Broccoli,   Winter cabbage

Garden Organic’s growing resources

Click here to discover unusual crops

Become a member of the UK leading organic growing charity, Garden Organic

Adopt a Veg – send a festive Christmas present

Read lively growing blogs by volunteer Master Gardeners:
Coventry & Warwickshire, North London, South London, Norfolk, and Lincolnshire

Posted in Fruit, Growing tips, Herbs, Vegetables0 Comments

What to do in November: food growing space

What to do in November: food growing space

As falling leaves smother fruit and veg crops, it’s a lovely time of year for quick outdoor jobs.

There are broad bean seeds to push in this month for a earlier crop in 2013. Although wait until February if your soil is already sodden. Read more growing tips here and visit the Organic Gardening Catalogue to admire their tempting varieties.

Garlic is worth reaching for your coat this month. They like the winter cold to properly develop next year. Select varieties for UK growing, splitting bulbs into individual ‘cloves’ for planting. Read more growing tips here.

What else?

Indoors, pea shoots are magic, where young seedlings on windowsills offer a nutritious snack from a small compost-filled tray. Read top tips here from our Master Gardener Alice.

And it’s a great time for seed sprouts such as mung bean and alfalfa. In a matter of days, damp seeds in a room-temperature jar offer delicious sandwich and stir-fry fillers. Read about seed sprouts here (links opens PDF).

Autumn cold protection: race against time.

What else  to do in the garden now: Garden Organic Guide.

November summary (links open PDFs)

 Plant Sow broad beans and garlic.
Lettuce
(under protection like cloches).
Fruit trees and bushes. Read Garden Organic’s free fruit manual here.
 Grow Insulate greenhouse and polytunnels from frost with bubble plastic.
Stake Brussels sprouts and kale; pull up soil around stems to lesson ‘wind-rock’.
Protect cauliflowers by snapping and folding leaves over flower heads (‘curds’).
Prune black and redcurrants and gooseberry bushes. Use suitable prunings as hardwood cuttings. Click here for how…
Put out food and water for birds. Read more here with RSPB.
 Eat Annual spinach, Brussels sprouts, winter and savoy cabbage, Jerusalem artichoke, kohl rabi, leaf beet, leek, lettuce, parsnip, salsify, swede, turnip.
 Others Drop hints for gardening vouchers as Christmas presents from friends and family.

Since the odd weather continues, my October summary too (links open PDFs)

 Plant In mild regions, sow broad beans, plant garlic, bulb onion, rhubarb.
Indoors, sow radish, autumn and winter salad, pea.
 Grow Collect fallen leaves to rot down to make ‘leafmould’. Click here for instructions…
Cut fruited canes of hybrid berries to ground level. Read Garden Organic’s free fruit manual here.
Cover bean plants with horticultural fleece to extend cropping.
 Eat Beetroot, carrot, Chiness cabbage, cauliflower, celery, kohl rabi, leaf beet.
Parsnip
and Brussels sprouts after frosty weather has improved flavour.
 Others  What are you still eating? Email me here to let me know!

Garden Organic’s growing resources

Click here to discover unusual crops

Step by step growing activities…

Become a Garden Organic member…

Lively growing blogs by volunteer Master Gardeners:
Coventry & Warwickshire, North London, South London, Norfolk, and Lincolnshire

Article by Philip Turvil

Posted in Featured, Fruit, Growing tips, Vegetables0 Comments

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