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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

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

May: grow your own tips

May: grow your own tips

Crops are confused this month. We’ve had a mild winter, sunny March, and wet April so far.

But May is the time for catching up with sowing seeds and planting out your favourite fruit and veg.

Remember there’s still time to prepare quick growing harvest for your ‘Big Jubilee Lunch’ on the 3rd June 2012.

Also crops for shared salads and BBQs for London 2012 celebrations… Please click here to read how Master Gardeners are getting involved with the Games.

Seeds to sow in May

Sow these cold-hardy crops direct into your soil – or for more comfort if a little cold and wet, sow seeds in pots and trays instead. Tuck these away indoors or in a sheltered sunny corner to transplant later.

The following links open PDF growing instructions by Garden Organic:

Annual Spinach, Beetroot, Sprouting Broccoli, Pea, Radish, Rocket, Salad Onion, Pot MarigoldParsnip, LettuceCarrotCelery, Cauliflower, Kale, Kohl Rabi, (deep breath), Leaf Beet, Turnip, Swede, Spring and Summer Salad, and others…

You can also transplant energetic plants started off in March and April, moving them to their final growing space outdoors. This works well with Brussels Sprouts, Leek, Cauliflower, Calabrese, Summer Cabbage, and Sprouting Broccoli. Don’t worry if you haven’t sown these crops yet! There’s still time to sow and get large plants for transplanting in June or early July instead.

Nearly frost free…

There’s a collective horticultural rush during May. The South of England should be frost-free by the end of the month and soon after for the North and exposed sites.

So, now is the time to sow your cold-tender crops that like to be kept warm, such as Pumpkin and Squashes, Sweetcorn, Courgette and Marrow, French Bean, and Runner Bean. Start off these plants indoors on a clean, warm windowsill or in a greenhouse or polytunnel. Then plant outside after the last frost.

You can also move crops started off earlier in the year destined for a summer inside a greenhouse or polytunnel, moving your lovely Aubergine, Cucumber, Okra, Pepper, and Tomato. Although if growing these sensitive crops outdoors during summer, wait until after the last frost before transplanting.

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 May

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

Article by Philip Turvil

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

Top MG tips for tempting seedlings

Top MG tips for tempting seedlings

We asked Garden Organic’s Master Gardeners for their top sowing tips to get you started growing food this spring. Here are some of their suggestions...

“Sowing seeds is like bingo: eyes down for a full-house!” Steve Penny

“When planting seeds with children, I recommend two seeds per hole to avoid those disappointed little faces.”
Helen Bronstein


Seed packets always describe perfect conditions for producing the best looking and biggest crops, but seeds can still grow perfectly well without matching these requirements and will give good yields at less than the recommended spacing.”

Derek Miller

“I sow in modular trays, pots or plugs as it is much easier to look after my seedlings when they are not sown in situ.”

Keith Wellsted

Seed packets often contain far more seeds than you use, so why not swap your spares with others to get a wider range of varieties? Also remember that as seeds get older, less will germinate, so sow larger quantities than you did when the seeds were fresh.”

Paul Sanders

“A good rule of thumb for how deep to sow: make a hole twice as deep as your seed.”

Alex Collings

“Sow some beetroot in groups and others spaced out. When they grow, you can choose a bunch of small beetroot or individual bigger ones.”

Terry Patterson

“Create a propagator with a takeaway container as a base and another plastic container as the roof. Place it in front of the telly to remember to keep the compost damp.”

Mike Wohl

“To grow scotch bonnet chillies, I use the seeds from fruit that I have purchased from a market or grocer. Wash the seeds in a plastic tea strainer, allow them to dry on kitchen paper; then germinate them on moist cotton wool covered in cling film. Pot up the sprouted seeds in compost and put on a windowsill to grow on.”

Phil Bannister

More top tips from Master Gardeners

  • “Sow peas early in the greenhouse in a length of guttering. You can then slide the peas into your trench without disturbing the roots.” Helen Kelly
  • “A heated propagator is a cheap and worthwhile investment, but pots on windowsills covered with cling film work well, provided you take this off once seeds sprout.” Adam Lee
  • “How about germinating seeds in the nice, warm environment of an airing cupboard? I tried it with aubergine seeds and it worked a treat!” Rosie Humphreys
  • “Only sow seeds when the soil is warm. Cover the soil with horticulture fleece or bubble wrap for a few days prior to sowing.” Ray Price
  • “For peas and sweet peas, soak the seed overnight and then sow them in paper pots which are particularly easy to plant out.” Maria Elena Brady

“Warm your filled seed trays in advance. Either in a propagator, airing cupboard, greenhouse, or on a windowsill. Then talk to them nicely after sowing! Grow seeds, grow” Ashleigh Rinchey

“Sow little and often. For vegetables that need to be harvested when they reach maturity like lettuce and cauliflower, sow small numbers but do sow regularly; two to three week intervals.” Paul Sanders

  • “Fill an empty cardboard egg box with compost. Put one runner bean in each compartment and spray with water. Close the box and look into it in three or four days. Monitor the moistness: not too wet, not dry. When you see the first shoots established, pot on or plant out.” Eulalia
  • “Always read the seed packets carefully. Not all vegetable seeds are best sown into pots or trays, for example beetroot, carrots and parsnips are very hard to transplant, so it’s worth waiting until your soil warms up in the spring and then sow directly into their permanent positions.” Karen Webb
  • “Jamaica Broad Leaf Callaloo: Sow in container and cover with cling film. Keep in warm conditions. When they reach 6cm, transplant to 7cm pots. When all risk of frost is gone, plant out 30cm apart.” Robert Samuda

For more tips and advice..

Article by the Master Gardeners, collated by Pauline Pears and Philip Turvil

Seed packets always describe perfect conditions for producing the best looking and biggest crops, but seeds can still grow perfectly well without matching theses requirements and will give good yields at less than the recommended spacing.” Derek Miller

“I sow in modular trays, pots or plags as it is much easily to look after my seedlings when are not sown in situ.” Keith Wellsted

Seed packets often contain far more seeds than you use so why not swap your spares with others to get a wider range of varieties? Also remember that as seeds get older, less will germinate, so sow larger quantities than you did when the seeds were fresh.” Paul Sanders

“A good rule of thumb for how deep to sow: make a hole twice as deep as your seed.” Alex Collings

“Sow some beetroot in groups and others spaced out. When they grow you can choose a bunch of small beetroot or individual bigger ones.” Terry Patterson

“Create a propagator with a takeaway container as base and another plastic container as the roof. Place it in front of the telly to remember to keep the compost damp.” Mike Wohl

“To grow scotch bonnet chillies I use the seeds from fruit that I have purchased from a market or grocer. Wash the seeds in a plastic tea strainer, allow them to dry on kitchen paper; then germinate them on moist cotton wool covered in cling film. Po up the sprouted seeds in compost and bring them on a windowsill.” Phil Bannister

“Sowing seeds is like bingo: eyes down for a full-house!” Steve Penny

“Warm your filled seed trays in advance. Either in a propagator, airing cupboard, greenhouse, or on a windowsill. Then talk to them nicely after sowing! Grow seeds, grow” Ashleigh Rinchey

“Sow peas early in the greenhouse in a length of guttering. You can then slide the peas into your trench without disturbing the roots.” Helen Kelly

“A heated propagator is cheap and worthwhile investment, but pots on windowsills covered with cling film work well, provided you take this off once seeds sprout.” Adam Lee

“How about germinating seeds in the nice, warm environment of an airing cupboard? I tried it with aubergine seeds and it worked a treat!” Rosie Humphreys

“Only sow seeds when the soil is warm. Cover the soil with horticulture fleece or bubble wrap for a few days prior to sowing. For indoors, save yogurt pots to sow seeds on a windowsill. Use kitchen foil backing to prevent plants growing leggy” Ray Price

“For peas and sweet peas, soak the seed overnight and then sow them in paper pots which are particularly easy to plant out.” Maria Elena Brady

“Sow little and often. For vegetables that need to be harvested when they reach maturity like lettuce and cauliflower, sow small numbers but do sow regularly; two to three week intervals.” Paul Sanders

“Fill an empty cardboard egg box with compost. Put one runner bean in each compartment and spray with water. Close the box and look into it in three or four days. Monitor the moistness: not too wet, not dry. When you see the first shoots established, pot on or plant out.” Eulalia

“When planting seeds with children, I recommend two seeds per hole to avoid those disappointed little faces.” Helen Bronstein

“Always read the seed packets carefully. Not all vegetable seeds are best sown into pots or trays, for example beetroot, carrots and parsnips are very hard to transplant, so it’s worth waiting until your soil warms up in the spring and then sow directly into their permanent positions.” Karen Webb

“Jamaica Broad Leaf Callaloo: Sow in container and cover with clingfilm. Keep in warm conditions. When they reach 6cm, transplant to 7cm pots. When all risk of frost is gone, plant out 30cm apart.” Robert Samuda

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

Excited crops to sow in March

Excited crops to sow in March

Now is the time to sow seeds for tasty cropping from hardy and tender vegetables.

Get your plate ready for quick growing crops harvested from last spring – ideal for your ‘Big Jubilee Lunch’ on the 3rd June 2012.

Or keep the BBQ hot for summer harvests – ideal for London 2012 celebrations! Please click here to read how Master Gardeners are getting involved with the Games…


Hardy favourites

My seed-draw unleashed a flurry of hardy crops this month.

Sow these chaps direct into the soil – or if slugs are watching you, sow seed in snug pots or modular trays instead, placing indoors or in a sheltered corner.

The following links open PDF growing instructions by Garden Organic:

Annual spinach, Beetroot, Broad Bean, Brussels Sprouts, Leek, Pea, Radish, Rocket, Salad Onion, Summer Cabbage, Pot Marigold, bulb onion, Parsnip, Lettuce, Potato, Calabrese, Carrot, Cauliflower, Celery, and others…

Tender favourites

Seeds of tender crops are just as keen this month.

Start these off indoors on a clean, warm windowsill or in a frost-free greenhouse/polytunnel.

These chaps will be ready for transplanting into their final location indoors once larger enough, or outdoors after the last frost. This last frost is usually mid May in the south of England and London; into June further north.

The following links open PDF growing instructions by Garden Organic:

Aubergine, Cucumber, Okra, Pepper, Tomato, Pumpkin and Squashes, Sweetcorn, spring and summer salad, and others…

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

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

Step by step growing activities…

What to do in the garden in March

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

Article by Philip Turvil

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

Excited crops welcome September weather

Excited crops welcome September weather

Get ready for three groups of crops jostling for your attention this month.

Please click the links to open a PDF growing instructions for each crop.

Group one: ready to harvest

These keen crops include the following temptations for September (and into October with local weather permitting). Deep breath:
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, maicrop 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, blackcurrant, blueberry, grape, melon, pear, plum, autumn raspberry, strawberry

And final snips from a whole host of herbs.

Group two: final sowing

These new arrivals want to be sown before winter, looking for an early start and sneaky harvest over the colder months and into spring.

Broad bean, garlic, radish, rocket, autumn and winter salads, oriental salads, annual spinach, chervil, sweet violet

Group three: long stay parking

These crops are intent on ignoring winter and joining you until Christmas and many into the New Year. These have long harvest periods. Another deep breath:

Sprouting broccoli, Brussels sprouts, winter and savoy cabbage, calabrese, cauliflower, celery, chicory, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, kohl rabi, leaf beet, leek, lettuceparsnip, 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)

Click here for more growing tips from Master Gardeners

Article by Philip Turvil

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

August holiday sowing tips

August holiday sowing tips

Some seeds refuse to go on holiday. Waiting to be sown by gardeners tempted by sneaky crop and a spare watering can.

Salads are the most keen: chicory, claytonia, corn salad, mizuma, mustard greens, and land cress, as well as lettuce and rocket when the weather is slightly cooler.

Sow these chaps in August and September for autumn sandwich-fillings, with an extended harvest during winter and early spring if plants have little shelter from a nearby wall or cloche/coldframe.

Other obliging crops are radish and the herb, chervil. Both happily sown during September too. September also tempts annual spinach and sweet violet. Few turnips too!

Special mention

Chinese cabbage (pictured) – a lovely, loosely hearting veg that’ll turn horticultural heads, together with the more ambitious brother, spring cabbage.

Autumn and Winter Salad

Vegetables to Sow August and Into Autumn

Click here for more growing tips from Master Gardeners

Visit Garden Organic’s growing pages

Add posts to Grow Your Own forums

Comment on new BBC Gardening blogs

Article by Philip Turvil

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

Extra July feed delights ambitious crops

Extra July feed delights ambitious crops

Extra feeds refresh lucky crops with top-up nutrients during hot weather cropping.

Tomatoes will love you for it. As will other fast living chaps. Focus on your hungriest crop first, such as potatoes; courgettes and relatives; cabbage and relatives; fruiting bushes and little trees, and flowers attracting pest-eating insects.

Remember container grown crops are always hungry. They have restricted roots, so unlike other crops, can’t access nutrient reserves in surrounding soil.

So, what to do?

Extra feeds compliment, rather than substitute – topping-up embedded nutrients found in every good, improved organic soil. Click here for tests (opens PDF). Extra feeds also top up growing medium-mixes that fill up your containers. Click here for recipes (opens PDF).

Start with scattering organic feed pellets for a season-long gain, such as chicken manure. Or just replace (or add to) the top five centimetres of compost a couple of times a season. This works wonders when the new nutrients travel to roots beneath (top-dressing). Try the same with well-rotted manure.

Pouring liquid comfrey feed

For regular kicks…

Using ‘comfrey’ liquid every week or two is marvellous. It’s made from enthusiastic plants that live quietly in the corner of a veg patch. Comfrey feed is especially full of potassium for better fruiting, together will other nutrients. While nettle feed is especially full of nitrogen, good for leafy growth.

Please click here to read Garden Organic’s step-by-step photo instructions for making your own comfrey and nettle feeds (opens PDF)

More growing tips…

Click here for more growing tips from Master Gardeners

Visit Garden Organic’s growing pages

Add posts to Grow Your Own forums

Comment on new BBC Gardening blogs

Article by Philip Turvil

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

GO! So much to sow in March

GO! So much to sow in March

Seeds are jumping out their packets as food growers welcome the warm(er) weather.

With so many crop highlights, it’s tricky to know what to sow when and where. So read on for a swift, but handy guide.

Please adjust timings for your local weather and growing conditions. And adjust for unusual, less traditional crops you might be growing, such as those in Garden Organic’s Sowing New Seeds project.

Inside is the land of plenty…

Use windowsills, a warm porch, or insulated/frost free greenhouse or polytunnel.

This suits your ‘tender’ crops that dislike a touch of frost, but also suits hardier crops that benefit from a head start in the warmth.

Get sowing your (links open growing card)….

Fruits: Aubergine, Greenhouse Cucumber, Okra, Pepper, Indoor Tomato
Vegetables: Celery, Lettuce, Seakale
Herbs: Chives, Fennel, Lemon Balm, Marjoram, Parsley, Sorrel, Tarragon, Thyme
Edible flowers: Nasturtium

Outdoors is another land of plenty…

Use pots or trays along a sheltered wall or in a coldframe, or sow seed direct into the soil.

This suits hardier crops that don’t mind a bit of cold. Some food growers like to start some outdoor crops indoors for head start or slug protection.

Get sowing your (links open growing cards)…

Fruit: not yet…
Vegetables: Annual spinach, Beetroot, Broad Bean, Brussels Sprouts, Bulb Onion, Cauliflower, Leek, Lettuce, Oriental Salad, Parsnip, Pea, Radish, Rocket, Salad Onion, Shallot, Spring and Summer Salad Summer Cabbage
Herbs: not yet… but Coriander and Dill in April
Edible flowers: Borage and Pot Marigold
Green manures: Mustard, Phacelia, Vetch


There’s barely time for a cup of tea
(barely… there’s always time for a cuppa)

Click for growing advice

Written by Philip Turvil

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

Flowers good enough to eat

Flowers good enough to eat

English (Pot) Marigolds are best known for their cheerful approach to life, brightening up pots, gardens and allotments with colourful flowers. But there’s more. The outer petals are a tasty snack too, especially when they’re just opening.

Remove the whole flower stem after harvesting to the nearest bud (as you would if deadheading a rose bush). This will encourage even more flowers. Plants will carry on flowering until autumn and you can save the seeds for sowing your ‘crop’ next year outdoors  from March.

Look out for Calendula officinalis and various varieties, such as Double Art Shades.

Leave your comments below

English (Pot) Marigold growing instructions
Article by Philip Turvil. Want to suggest a feature crop? Get in touch here

Posted in Edible flower, Featured, Growing tips4 Comments

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Photos on flickr