Early this morning I woke to sun streaming through the window, squinting my eyes to adjust to the light the warmth on my face felt good. I stood at the window for a while, taking in energy from the sun as I viewed our garden from above.
I made a mug of tea and checked on the seed trays (as you do). Tomato seedlings are growing strong and I could just make out signs of life pushing through the soil in the chilli tray. I’m pleased to have tomatoes and chillies on the grow but I will wait a couple of weeks at least before sowing anything else, the weather is set to turn colder.
A sullen wintry sky returned by early afternoon, along with the promise of heavy rain, gales and sleet for the weekend.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on March 21, 2013
I was admiring how well the onions were swelling the other day, suddenly I noticed some of the leaves had been chewed in a neat circular way. Something had completely sliced open the tips of the leaves (bulbs are fine), so I did a bit of investigating to see what it could be. It didn’t take long to find the culprits way down inside the hollow leaves, complete with lots of green poop. Nice.
After a bit of research it appears the podgy caterpillars I found inside my onion leaves are cutworms. Cutworms are the larvae of several species of night flying moths, they’re not actually worms at all. Apparently, they’re a common visitor to the vegetable garden but I’ve never noticed them before, I mean, they’re not exactly easy to miss.
They hide in soil or under leaf litter, feeding on crops and other plants at night (more common early in the year), often cutting young plants or seedlings straight down to ground level. I guess that’s how they get their rather cruel name. When alarmed they curl into a C-shape, my personal observation is they have very sticky feet, making them difficult to pick off plants. They’re large and meaty so I didn’t fancy squishing them (I’m useless at killing things anyway), they’d make a heck of a mess. I simply moved on the ones I found and did a bit of hoeing to see if I could spot any lurking in the soil.
Gardening organically and living where I do I’m always going to have the odd ‘pest’ problem here and there, that’s how it goes. I don’t use nasty chemical sprays, my preferred method of natural control will be to keep a close eye for more, picking them off if I see them, digging the onion bed over after harvesting to expose any I may have missed. Cutworms have many natural predators including wild birds, our chickens will scratch in the onion bed later on in the year too.
Cutworms, your days are numbered.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on August 13, 2012
If you’re new to vegetable growing perhaps you’ve found parsnips tricky to grow? So far (touch wood) I’ve had good results with growing parsnips so I thought I’d share some tips on how I grow them:
- Buy seed fresh every growing season to increase germination success, germination is generally slow.
- Sow from March onwards, direct into the ground (once the soil has warmed) just under the surface of the soil, thin seedlings down to 6 inches apart. Parsnips are a root vegetable, they don’t appreciate being disturbed so it’s best to sow them where they are to grow (although you could start them off earlier in toilet roll tubes if you prefer).
- Well drained, fairly deep and stone-free soil is ideal. Growing parsnips in raised beds makes it easier to control the desired depth and soil conditions that parsnips require.
- Choose a sunny spot to sow seed, allowing plenty of space between rows. This will make lifting them easier later on.
- Don’t sow on a windy day, the papery seed will fly everywhere!
I use Mr Fothergills ’Gladiator’ seed, a canker resistant variety (the main problem for parsnips). I highly recommend this variety from growing experience. I don’t ‘chit’ my parsnip seed before sowing (placing seed on moist kitchen paper until they sprout), I haven’t found germination a problem with the variety I grow. Parsnips can be left in the ground until the following February/March, frost will sweeten the flavour so don’t worry about them getting chilly!
There’s still time to sow parsnips for your Christmas dinner. Happy parsnip growing!
If you found this post helpful let me know, I’d be happy to do more on other vegetables!
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on May 10, 2012
Today’s harvest from the vegetable garden to use for our Sunday dinner.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on July 24, 2011
The glorious sunny weather over the past few days really helped to warm the soil, I took full advantage by sowing more radish and the first of the beets (boltardy) covering the rows with a tunnel cloche which will help to keep the soil warm. I’m trying a different variety of radish called ‘Bright Lights’ (colour mix) alongside the usual varieties that I like, it will be interesting to see the different colours produced. I have been busy building a few more raised beds for the vegetable garden and taken my first harvest of rhubarb.
So, what else has been happening in the garden smallholding this month? Well, I planted Charlotte potatoes, raspberry canes and strawbs raised from runners, I’ve also been sowing broad beans, peas, mange tout, red cabbage, brussels sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli as well as annuals and perennials to add a splash of colour, encouraging beneficial insects to the veg garden plots. Speaking of wildlife, a pair of blue tits are currently setting up home in one of our bird boxes which is very exciting to watch, another pair have decided to use the eaves of our house.
The greenhouse that I have saved long and hard for is currently being installed, I can’t wait to get inside it later and start sowing. I feel like a big kid!
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on March 28, 2011
I planted Tulameen and Joan J raspberry canes at the weekend, 3 canes of each variety which will be plenty for my daughter and I, the only raspberry fans of the family. If you’ve never planted raspberry canes before it really is very easy. The following guide shows how I planted the summer fruiting (Tulameen) canes – hand model my very bored better half!
Bash a post into the soil (I used 8 ft long pieces of timber) against the centre edge, at each end of the bed. Using large-head screws or nails, place one at regular sections all the way up both posts, say about a foot apart and even on both posts. Don’t screw/hammer completely into the post, you need to leave a gap to attach wire.
Attach garden wire by wrapping around a screw head, stretch the wire across till it reaches the other post and wrap the wire to secure. Repeat this until you have enough wire secured all the way up the posts.
Plant the canes in the centre of the bed, just in front of the first wire. Space the canes about 60 cm apart, firm in and tie the canes onto the wire. Water them in well. A long narrow bed is ideal for planting raspberry canes, I planted just 3 canes into my 6 ft long x 3.5 ft wide raspberry bed, if you want to plant more canes use a longer bed.
The autumn canes are in another bed nearby, I’ve grown Joan J before and love the flavour. No special treatment needed for autumn canes, just pop them in a well prepared bed – supports aren’t generally needed because they don’t grow very tall. Cut down all growth on autumn varieties in February or March, they will fruit on the wood produced that year. Summer canes grow tall and need support, they fruit on the wood produced the previous year. New summer canes that are produced this year will bear next year’s fruits and should to be tied onto a wire support system. Cut down fruiting canes once you’ve finished harvesting, this should make pruning summer canes easier!
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on March 14, 2011
The beginning of the month was a bit hairy with gale force winds battering most of the UK for almost a week, the chickens were not impressed and retreated to the safety of the coops, only leaving to eat. Despite this daily egg laying has increased this month to 4 out of 6 hens laying – plenty of eggs for our needs. Red mite in the chicken coop could be a potential problem anytime from now as the temperature begins to rise, I highly recommend dusting the inside of your coop with Diatom powder as a precaution, used regularly you shouldn’t have a problem.
I have been sowing seeds this month, tomatoes, broad beans and hardy outdoor cucumber along with an early sowing of radish outdoors undercover. Lupin and foxglove are doing well, some of the lupin seedlings already have their first set of true leaves. The last parsnips have been lifted this month and the rhubarb patch is looking great, in just a matter of weeks I will probably be harvesting the first sticks of Timperley Early. Garlic is looking good too despite being under a blanket of snow for weeks, plenty of healthy green top growth. I planted garlic cloves in October and December and the December bulbs are almost catching up. I planted Jerusalem artichokes outside yesterday near the patch of rhubarb, I’m hoping the height of the plants will cast some shade during the warmer months which I’m sure the rhubarb will appreciate as it tends to sulk during prolonged hot weather and requires a lot of watering.
Daffodils, ornamental allium and chives are pushing their blade-like leaves through the soil, fresh leaf growth is appearing on the blackcurrant bush and blackberry canes and the pear tree will be in blossom very soon. Ladybirds are starting to come out of hibernation now and wild birds are looking for suitable nesting sites….the eaves of our house seems to be popular again! What have you been doing this month?
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on February 25, 2011
A couple of years ago I grew sprouts for the first time, it went OK but I made mistakes. I didn’t pick the buttons quick enough and they all ‘blew’. This was not due to having too many plants to harvest all at once but more a case of being a bit too relaxed about it. Aim to pick sprouts while they are small and firm, start from the bottom and work your way up the plant – you can use a sharp knife or simply snap them off with a downwards motion. Downy mildew proved to be a bit of a problem later on, I thought I had allocated enough space between each plant, obviously not enough. Remove leaves that have started to yellow (usually from the bottom first) to reduce the risk of disease.
I have decided to give sprouts another go this year and have chosen Bosworth F1 with good resistance to downy mildew. Seeing as I am the only one who likes sprouts I don’t have to grow many plants - just enough for me. Yay!
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on February 18, 2011
I always have a list of fruit and veg that I would like to grow, it’s constantly being added to so I have to be realistic and try a few new things at a time – I think it’s fun to set myself a little goal and go from there. As long as I don’t completely under-estimate growing space going spare I usually get stuck in and get my hands dirty. This is my list of new things that I’m going to try to grow this year:
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Asparagus (from seed)
- Purple sprouting broccoli
- Borlotti beans
Do you have a list of new things to grow this year?
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on February 13, 2011
Last summer I purchased my very first blackcurrant bush, a variety called Big Ben. As the name suggests the berries are huge! Big Ben is a good blackcurrant for eating fresh from the bush and it’s resistant to powdery mildew and leaf spot. It was fruiting at the time of purchase, producing lots of strigs but I wasn’t entirely sure where it was going to be planted so I decided to leave the bush in the pot for the remainder of summer, keeping it well watered during dry spells.
Eventually I planted it out in late autumn, roughly 2 inches deeper than it was in the pot to encourage the bush to send up lots of fresh shoots for the following year. Once planted I cut all growth back to a few inches above soil level, it felt a bit harsh but this should encourage a stronger root system, sturdy new growth and bumper crops. Apart from an annual mulch I can leave the blackcurrant to get on with it for the next 2 years, then prune to encourage new growth by removing 1 in 3 old stems to ground level, removing damaged or crossing stems and light trimming to keep the centre fairly open during winter while it’s dormant.
There is just about enough time to prune your older bushes if you have not done so already. Enjoy those juicy berries this summer!
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on February 4, 2011