Chicken Health

Poultry Worms

From time to time your chickens will get worms, and not just the juicy kind they find in the garden. They’ll also get intestinal worms. Icky. Poultry worms are a common occurrence, especially if your flock free range frequently. I realise this is a gross subject, but if you keep chickens then you should learn to recognise the signs of a worm problem in your flock and how to treat when it does occur. I’ve included a few tips on how to go about preventing them too.

How do chickens get worms?

  • Eating worm egg hosts such as earthworms and snails
  • Picking up worm eggs from the ground via infected poultry droppings

Signs to look out for:

  • Dirty feathers around the vent / diarrhoea
  • Anaemia (pale combs and wattles)
  • Visible worms in droppings
  • Drop in egg production
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of condition

Poultry worms you may come across:

Large roundworm is a very visible (when out of the body) and long worm that lives in the small intestine. We’ve come across them before when bringing new chickens in, they look rather like spaghetti – sorry pasta lovers! The worm burrows into the gut wall which causes inflammation and damage if left untreated, reducing the intake of nutrients. A bird passing live worms in the droppings is heavily infected.

chicken worms, poultry worms
Large roundworm passed a couple of days after worming with Flubenvet. I hope you haven’t just had your tea.

Hairworm is a small worm about the width of a hair, hence the name. Found in the upper digestive system such as the crop, hairworm can cause a lot of internal damage, even in small numbers. Signs are green diarrhoea and anaemia with birds hunched and looking unwell.

Caecal worm is found in the caecum of chickens. Tiny little worms, they can be seen wriggling in caecal droppings. They’re quite common and usually harmless to healthy chickens in low numbers. If a natural worming approach doesn’t clear them (see below) then a medicated poultry wormer may be needed.

Tapeworm rarely affect chickens, however they can and live in the intestine. Tapeworm segments can be seen in the droppings, they’re odd tubular things that sort of wiggle a bit, only once in all our years of chicken keeping have we seen this. The hen was treated by a vet for a stronger dose of wormer. If you are concerned your chicken has tapeworm then you should seek veterinary advice.

Gapeworm is commonly seen in pheasants and turkeys, but they also affect chickens. The blood-red worms attach themselves to the trachea (throat), causing gasping (gaping) and neck stretching as the chicken struggles to breathe. Left untreated, they can be fatal by suffocation. They can be picked up from other birds coughing up the adult worms or via hosts such as earthworms and snails.

Control and treatment of poultry worms:

  • Frequently move free ranging birds / moveable runs to fresh ground
  • Add a couple of crushed garlic cloves to the drinking water to create a hostile environment in the gut
  • Inspect droppings, including caecal droppings for visible signs of worms
  • Heat, drought and a hard frost can destroy worm eggs or prevent them from maturing
  • Keep grass short during summer to allow UV from sunlight to destroy eggs
  • Include herbs in your flocks diet for a natural approach to worming
  • Feed raw pumpkin/squash seeds, they contain cucurbitin, an amino acid that can eliminate parasitic worms such as tapeworm and roundworm. There are varying opinions on this method of worming, we don’t have much evidence it actually works.
  • If worms are frequently seen in the droppings or a faecal sample is positive for worms, we recommend feeding Marriage’s layers pellets with added Flubenvet for 7 days as a really easy way of worming your flock. Available from licensed stockists.

We worm our chickens twice a year with Flubenvet, usually autumn and spring when conditions are right for worm eggs to thrive (warm and wet). We always worm new additions to our flock as a precaution. A heavy worm burden will impair the health of the bird by robbing them of important nutrients, if left for a long period of time, worms can damage the digestive tract of the birds which can lead to other infections.

Vegetable Garden

A Sunny November Afternoon

The sun was shining today, so we grabbed the opportunity to plant some garlic and carry on with the autumn tidy up.

Recent morning frosts claimed the last of our late summer planting of Czar runners. Before the frost hit, the dense foliage hid some fat bean pods, we always miss some, they’re too tough for eating but the beans inside are fine for cooking fresh.

While Rich got on with cutting down the runners I plunged 60 cloves of our home-grown Red Duke garlic into the soil, wished them well, then tucked them in for winter. I love the smell of garlic, especially when it meets the soil.

Red Duke is our favourite variety of garlic to grow. Over the past 2 years of growing it we’ve now accumulated enough of our own garlic for planting, with plenty of bulbs left over for kitchen use before harvesting the new crop next summer.

We decided to try another variety of garlic this year too, Caulk Wight is a purple striped garlic found in Russia and Eastern Europe. The seed garlic should be arriving soon which means more planting to look forward to!

If you’d like to learn how to grow your own garlic, take a look at our garlic growing guide https://thegardensmallholder.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/how-to-grow-garlic/

brussels sprouts
Vegetable Garden

It’s Funny How Tastes Change

As a child I hated Brussels sprouts. With a screwed up face I’d gingerly chew in slow motion, desperately thinking of a way to avoid swallowing the evil things. Of course they were in my mouth far longer than they should have been, so I’d end up gagging, mouth foaming with different shades of sprouty green. There were probably lots of tears too, followed by pitiful wailing in the hope mum would spare me.

Fast forward lots of years and I absolutely adore sprouts now. I grow them, cook them and happily eat them, especially raw straight off the plants. I can almost hear my inner child spewing. I admit I also pushed sprouts on our kids, but I think most parents introduce their children to these ‘yucky’ green balls at some point. Our daughter likes them now as a young adult but our teenage son is probably scarred for life.

brussels sprouts

I’m picking the first sprouts of the season now, ‘Seven Hills’ is a rare sprout that is almost extinct which makes them even more delicious! I got my seeds from Real Seeds if you’d like to give them a go next year.

chicken moult
Chicken Health

Chicken Moult

Around this time of year, when our chickens are going through their late autumn moult, coops and pens resemble a chicken crime scene. Huge bundles of feathers strewn everywhere!

For the new chicken keeper, experiencing chicken moult can be alarming! When your flock decide it’s time for a change of clothes feathers literally drop out overnight – covering the bedding on the coop floor. Sometimes a soft moult is all that’s needed, just an area of the body here and there, these partial moults often go on unnoticed, but when a hard moult is going on your chickens will look really scruffy for a while, perhaps even naked. Late summer to early winter is usually the time for moult but it can occur at anytime of the year. Your chickens may all go into a moult together or just 1 or 2 at a time.

It may not be noticeable, but our Brahma girls are going through their first adult moult now and looking a little scruffy in places – feet included!

Moult is necessary to replace old and worn feathers in order to be in the best possible condition to keep warm in winter. Most chickens go through a moult without any issues but for others it can be hard going, thankfully there are things you can do to help your flock through it. Chicken feathers are composed mostly of keratin (a protein responsible for the strength of wool, hair, fingernails and hooves), so it’s a good idea to increase protein intake during the moult. Our girls love protein-rich dried mealworms scattered around or mixed in with the usual feed, we like to add them to a warm mash on a cold morning. Boiled eggs cut into chunks to disguise (you don’t want to encourage egg eating after all!), peas and sunflower seeds are good for protein too. These treats should be fed in moderation as and when needed for moulting chickens and not replace the usual feed. Adding tonics to the drinking water will help give a boost in vitamins and minerals, we recommend Life-Guard poultry tonic.

A hen going through a hard moult will either significantly reduce the amount of eggs she lays or stop altogether, putting all her energy into growing new feathers rather than producing eggs. You may even find the occasional soft-shelled egg while a moult is occurring, this should correct itself once the moult is over.

chicken moult
One of our Lohmann Brown hens going through a hard moult, she shed most of her feathers within 48 hours and now she’s covered with pin feathers. She’ll look beautiful again very soon, just in time for winter.

New feathers coming through are known as ‘pin feathers’, they look like blueish spikes pushing through the surface of the bare skin. Try to avoid picking your chickens up during this time, pressure on pin feathers can be quite painful for them. Pin feathers can be very attractive to other chickens, they really bleed if pecked! Keep an eye out for feather pecking problems and use purple spray (also known as gentian violet spray ) as an antiseptic and to help disguise red areas (chickens are very attracted to the colour red, particularly blood) to discourage further pecking, separate if it becomes a real problem to avoid damage or worse.

Vegetable Garden

What’s Growing On In November?

I realise I haven’t done a monthly ‘What’s Growing On’ post for such a long time. Here we are in November, the kitchen garden a very different scene to my post back in March.

Apart from the winter veg, most of the veg beds are tired. Gone are the fresh greens and flower buds of summer, crispy brown foliage and weedy soil greets me now. Our pallet bins produced dark and crumbly compost over many months, I still find this a joyous thing! This fresh compost will soon top each bed as it becomes empty and weed-free, making a nutritious winter blanket.

The summer and tender crops may be over but there’s still plenty of food available in our veg garden.

We’re currently harvesting the following:

  • Carrot ‘Autumn King’
  • Parsnip ‘Gladiator’
  • Kale ‘Nero di Toscana’
  • Brussels sprouts ‘Seven Hills’
  • Beetroot ‘Boltardy’ and ‘Sanguina’
  • Tomato ‘Ruby’ (greenhouse, mostly green fruits now)
  • Chillies ‘Hot Orange Wonder’,  ‘Cayenne’ and ‘Razzamatazz’ (greenhouse)
  • Runner bean ‘The Czar’, planted late July (A recent frost has now stopped the plants)
  • Fennel
  • Perpetual spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Alpine strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Nasturtium flowers and leaves for salads (the frost survivors!)

We’re planning to plant the following:

  • Garlic ‘Red Duke’
  • Broad bean ‘Claudia Aquadulce’

We’re patiently waiting to eat the following:

  • Sprouting broccoli ‘ Early Purple’
Early Purple sprouting broccoli growing well. This crop takes FOREVER and requires quite a bit of growing space, but so worth it for food from the garden during the bleakest of months.
backlit, psb
PSB backlit in autumn sunshine. Hopefully this will be ready for picking early next year.

Fruit bushes such as blackcurrants will be pruned now by removing old wood leaving the younger shoots for fruiting next year. I plan to move a couple of young bushes to a permanent position this month.

November is a month of tidying finished crops, weeding, composting and feeding the soil.

Recipes

Roast Autumn Veg with Beans

A very simple and tasty seasonal dish, bringing the usual autumnal vegetables together. I used a late bloomer courgette in this recipe, it was given the perfect send off being included in this dish. Use as a side or perfect for a warming bowl of sweet, earthy autumnal goodness.

Serves 4

4 red onions, outer skin removed and sliced into quarters

1 or 2 courgettes (optional), sliced

5 medium-sized carrots, scrubbed and chopped into small chunks

2 beetroot, chopped into small chunks

1 winter squash, chopped into large chunks

Dried runner beans, large handful, soaked overnight.

Sea salt

1 tbsp rape seed oil (olive oil if preferred)

Add the soaked runner beans to a pan of boiling water, turn the heat down and simmer for approximately 1 hour, keep checking beans for softness using a fork and top up pan with extra water if the level falls too low. Drain, cover and put aside.

Add the prepared onions, carrots, courgette, squash and beetroot to a roasting dish, drizzle with oil and place in a hot preheated oven. Roast for approximately 30-40 minutes or until the onion has begun to caramelise.

Mix together with the cooked beans, add a sprinkling of sea salt and serve.

Fruit Garden, Harvest

Blueberries in November

Earlier this year we planted our first blueberry bushes in lovely old bath tubs. I wasn’t expecting much from their first growing year to be honest, but was happily proved wrong.

Two blueberry bushes provided steady pickings throughout summer right through to autumn, enough to keep the blueberry fans of the family satisfied. It’s now November and we’re still picking berries.

I spotted this vintage mini trug recently from one of my favourite online garden shops, with berry picking in mind it’s perfect for the job.

The temperature has really dropped during the day and nights are chilly, the bushes are just starting to display their beautiful autumnal colour in patches. I’m so pleased we introduced blueberries to our kitchen garden, if you’re interested in growing them too take a look at our growing guide post https://thegardensmallholder.wordpress.com/2017/03/12/blueberries-in-tubs/ for helpful information to keep them happy.

Uncategorized

Happy Halloween 2017

Wooo it’s Halloween (eeek!) and it’s a bit chilly outside! I’m having a rummage through seed packets and giving them a sort out, then I’ll be splitting garlic bulbs into single cloves ready for planting soon. Vampires won’t bother me today *cue evil laugh*.

Meanwhile, the latest news from the garden smallholding….the hens are busy scoffing carving out the insides of pumpkins for us. But I’d better be quick to collect the empty skins!

Happy Halloween!

 

Vegetable Garden

A Touch of Frost

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There was a real nip to the air this morning. A light blanket of frost arrived overnight as predicted, the veg garden looked so pretty twinkling in the morning sun but I was a bit sad to see the first casualties. Nasturtiums are always the first to go when a frost arrives in our garden, frost is so pretty but so damaging too.

Parsnip and strawberry leaves crumpled and twisted, unlike nasturtium they’ll soon bounce back as the sun melts the frost away.

The Czar runner beans are still looking good, along with Cosmos flowers. The frost wasn’t harsh enough to claim them just yet.

The chickens were reluctant to leave their coops early this morning, it’s been so mild here this cool snap was a shock to them along with all the blasted fireworks going off during the night. I’m a real bah humbug when it comes to fireworks.

The sun is shining again, I’ll be off out in the garden soon to pick the last of the greenhouse tomatoes, Czar runner beans for freezing and lifting more potatoes before the real frosts come calling.

gardening, chickens
Vegetable Garden

A Quick Autumn Tidy Up

We did a spot of autumn tidying in the veg garden this afternoon. The weather has been so lovely and mild for the time of year and the garden still looks so green and full of life.

I really struggle to pull things out before the first autumn frost has a chance to claim its victims. We did just enough tidying to make life easier for when colder weather does finally arrive but not too much tidying, frogs and toads are still active in the garden and they need areas of cover. I’m not ready to put the garden to bed just yet.

Beds that lay empty were weeded and topped with compost for planting garlic and sowing hardy broad beans next month, we covered them over for now with pieces of chicken wire (held down with bricks) to prevent cats from ‘using’ them. We picked yet more beans for drying and storing and Rich cut down tired runner bean vines to add to the compost bins. There’s always a hen or two around to help out.gardening, chickens

The light started to fade very quickly due to clocks going back an hour, before long we were putting tools away in the shed and locking the chicken coops. Still, it was nice to be out in the autumn sunshine.

Recipes

Green Tomato Chutney

Our tomatoes are still going strong in the greenhouse but there are plenty of fruits that won’t ripen now. Our chutney recipe is perfect for using up a glut of green tomatoes, I made some jars today and it tastes delicious already but should be even better in the months to come. I’ll be storing some away for our Christmas cheese board.

Makes 4 standard jars.

Ingredients:

900g green tomatoes, quartered

300ml organic white wine vinegar

2 large onions, roughly chopped

1 red chilli, finely chopped

2 tsp yellow mustard seeds

150g raisins

1 tsp salt

Place all ingredients into a large stainless steel pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for approximately 1 hour 30 minutes, stirring occasionally during the last half hour of cooking time to prevent the chutney sticking to the bottom of the pan.

The chutney is ready when it has thickened enough to drag a wooden spoon across the base of the pan to form a channel that does not immediately fill with liquid. Allow to cool slightly then spoon the chutney into warm sterilised jars and seal. Best left for at least 6 weeks but can be used once cool. Use within 12 months. Refrigerate opened jars.

Vegetable Garden

Bringing in the Beans

One of my garden jobs this month has been picking beans and bringing them in to shell. We grew 6 different climbing bean varieties this year, each were chosen for their interesting looks, cropping times and versatility. Us Brits usually pick our beans young and small eating them pod and all while tender, but older tough pods can be shelled when the beans inside have actually grown. Used in this way there’s no waste and they can be cooked fresh or dried for storing.

Three of the varieties grown were runner beans; Polestar, The Czar and Greek Gigantes. Runners are usually prolific croppers and so I realise this seems rather a lot for the average size family to keep up with, but we’re after lots of beans for shelling and storing. Once the inevitable happens and the beans become large and stringy, simply open them up and cook the fat beans without their jackets on. Left to dry the shelled beans can be stored for many months and used in hearty autumn and winter dishes. Don’t forget to save some seed for sowing the following year. Scarlet-flowering runners have the most amazing pink and deep purple splashed beans, they almost seem unreal. Such a shame they turn brown when cooked. White-flowering varieties produce white beans, such as The Czar which produces large beans with a butter bean flavour.

A little tip for growing runners, they are vigorous and heavy, particularly so towards the end of the season when laden with all those beans. Growing them on sturdy A-frames will help to avoid toppling over during blustery weather. Cut them all down and bring them inside before the first frosts arrive.

Our old favourite Borlotti made the list again this year, the pink splashed pods glow in the summer sun and the beans inside are just as beautiful. We always allow the beans to dry for storing, they have a slightly sweet yet buttery flavour. I find soaking them in cold water overnight speeds up the cooking process.

Two varieties we’ve never grown before, Cherokee Trail of Tears (small black bean, very striking and looks great in the garden) and Coco Sophie (round white bean) did rather well too. Not quite as heavy cropping as the other beans but plenty for winter use.

Beans are fully dry when the pods turn brown and are dry and crispy to the touch. Bring your beans inside to dry out if the weather is wet and damp for a prolonged period. Store dried beans in jars and containers with airtight lids, somewhere cool and dry such as a larder cupboard.

Vegetable Garden

Half a Year of Gardening

In early summer just after my last blog post I ended up in hospital having surgery I wasn’t fully expecting. For some time I haven’t been well enough to tend to my beloved vegetable garden, after the surgery I wasn’t physically able to and then came horrid medication that upset my body, mind and mood, and well, I fell into some kind of depression.

The chickens were cared for but the garden had to pretty much fend for itself. Rich did his best but he’d be the first to admit he isn’t the gardener around here. The greenhouse contents and outside pots were watered and the grass cut. And so the courgettes turned to marrows, strawberries and blackcurrants pretty much fed the birds and fat pea pods withered and wilted in the summer heat. But all was not lost, my haphazard planting style as well as using ground covering edible flowers kept the weeds at bay, our pumpkins and squashes finally got going after many failed attempts and quickly swamped the ground (and eventually the lawn), drowning out light to weeds in their path. Some varieties didn’t show up to the party at all, such as the butternuts which is a real shame because they’re used so much in our kitchen.

In fact, there were many successes this year such as beans. So many beans. I’m positively beaming about that. It has to be the best year ever for beans. We have some pumpkins and squash to show for our efforts and autumn raspberries have been amazing this year, doubling in size over the plot. We grew the best carrots to date, absolute whoppers with no damage thanks to companion planting with onions. Our sunflowers grew so tall they toppled over, at least there’s plenty of food for the birds. Again.

Despite being neglected for half the year the veg garden has been very forgiving, and most generous. I have a long road ahead of me with my diagnosis of severe endometriosis. There’s no cure, even hysterectomy isn’t a guarantee of living pain-free at this stage of the disease. It’s a very common but still very misunderstood condition, the time taken for diagnosis is sadly too long for many women. I’ll leave this post on a positive…. I’m off to see a specialist next week, fingers crossed I can get this under some sort of control.

Vegetable Garden

Rhubarb Jam

The Garden Smallholder

Rhubarb

If you’re growing an early rhubarb variety such as Timperley Early, chances are you’re already looking for rhubarb recipes. If you forced it during December / January, it’s probably coming out of your ears! If not, sit tight and wait patiently for your rhubarb to catch up. And it will.

I adore rhubarb jam, it’s not for everyone but if you love jam and of course rhubarb then you really must give this jam recipe a try. I’ve just finished using my last jar from the batch I made last spring, so now I’m itching to make more.

rhubarb jam

Rhubarb Jam (makes approximately 4-5 jars depending on size)

1 kg rhubarb (forced or unforced stems)

850g jam sugar

Cut the rhubarb stems into inch pieces, add sugar and rhubarb pieces in layers to a large pan. Leave the pan overnight to allow the rhubarb juices and sugar to combine to make a syrup…

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Vegetable Garden

How I Support Peas

The Garden Smallholder

growing peas

I love seeing peas scrambling up natural pea sticks, tiny tendrils stretching out, curling tightly around their rustic support like miniature green springs. However, when it comes to supporting taller and heavier cropping peas (‘Blauwschokker’ for example), sometimes a sturdier or taller form of support is needed. Using several long bamboo canes and pieces of chicken or welded mesh wire, I fashion together support structures that have served me well for many years, even through gales. Unlike netting, wire mesh is safer for wild birds, so it gets a big thumbs up from me.

peas

Measure out the area that you wish to use for planting, then cut your wire to fit using wire cutters making sure it’s at least 5 ft high. Take a cane and pass it through one of the lower holes of the wire at one end, repeat again somewhere in the middle and one last time near the top. Leave…

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Vegetable Garden

What’s Growing On In March?

I’m a bit late with this post but better late than never! What’s growing on in our kitchen garden this month?

Timperley Early rhubarb never fails to produce as early as March, feeding us well into summer. Right now our patch of rhubarb is looking fantastic with big healthy leaves and green stems flushed with red.

The plum trees are beginning to blossom, tight buds of green with a smidge of white peeking through, with apple and pear trees a few weeks behind. Of all the fruit blossom pink apple flowers are my favourite.

This year we’re growing ‘Wizard’ field beans, a smaller more robust relative of broad beans. We didn’t have the seed in time to sow in autumn, we sowed the seeds in February and they’re growing well under the tunnel cloches. They will catch up.

New raspberry cane growth basking in the sun, it appears we’re in for a bumper crop this year!

First sowing of peas are carried out undercover in the greenhouse to prevent rotting and mice theft. Four varieties this year, heirloom and rare types: Champion of England, Rosakrone, Golden Sweet (mangetout type with purple flowers and lemon yellow pods) and Lord Leicester. These will be planted out soon after hardening off and covered over in fleece should a frost arrive. Also growing happily in the greenhouse are seedlings of nasturtium, cosmos, beetroot and calendula (to be planted out in clumps).

The garlic looks very different to the February What’s Growing on post, variety Red Duke’. It appears to grow low and stumpy to start with but soon puts on lots of top growth as the weather warms, growing to quite a height before harvest.

Some of my favourite herbs growing strong, bronze fennel and French tarragon.

Gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes are bursting into leaf, shining beautifully in the sunlight.

I planted our second early potatoes today, ‘Charlotte’ remains a firm favourite!We’re growing ‘Pink Fir Apple’ this year too, these will go out in the next week or so.

Chicken Behaviour

Pullet Egg

Pullet eggs are just the most adorable little things ever. Perfectly formed, just a much smaller version.

A pullet is a female chicken less than a year old, depending on breed she will begin to lay her first eggs from 20 – 22 weeks of age while larger breeds such as Brahmas and Orpingtons will lay from 30 weeks onwards. Hybrid chickens are often sold as point of lay (POL) from 16 weeks onwards.

Our Brahma x Buff Orpington laid her very first egg on 12th March.

A pullet egg usually contains a small yolk but sometimes when they start laying for the first time the yolk is missing, these eggs are known as wind eggs or fairy eggs as I like to call them. Pullet eggs will gradually increase in size.

Our young Brahma x Buff Orpington began laying recently. Somehow I’ve managed to make her egg look a fair size in the photo above (perhaps I have tiny hands!), it’s very small really. Our pure breed Brahmas should begin laying in the next few weeks, they’re a slow maturing breed being fully grown at 18 months old. We have some lovely photos of them on our Instagram https://www.instagram.com/thegardensmallholder/

Fruit Garden, Grow Your Own Guides

Blueberries in Tubs

No matter how much growing space you have, sometimes you just have to use containers. Blueberries require an acid soil and our soil doesn’t quite cut the mustard, so to keep our little blueberry bushes happy I planted them into old galvanised bath tubs filled with ericaceous compost and placed them in a sheltered spot on top of a wide gravel path. This should provide perfect conditions for them.

Blueberries also require plenty of water, containers are notorious for drying out quickly during prolonged dry weather but we’re hopeful the size of the bath tubs and they fact they’re non-porous will be beneficial. However, blueberries are shallow-rooted and can dry out quickly so we need to make sure we water regularly during warm weather. We plan to use a mulch of pine leafmould to help retain moisture (we have an endless supply here thanks to the enormous pine trees that shade our chicken runs) and use water from the water butts to keep them happy.

Blueberries are usually part or fully self-pollinating but it’s better to grow two rather than just one as cross-pollinated plants tend to produce larger fruit. To ensure reliable, heavier yields try growing more than one variety. At the moment we have ornamental variety ‘Hortblue Petite’, a high bush (Vaccinium corymbosum) but a more compact version. We’re on the look out to add another variety soon.

Reading this back we realise how much pampering they require but it’s got to be worth it for the end result. Fingers crossed for our first picking of blueberries this year, we’re not expecting great things yet but excited just the same.

Grow Your Own Guides

Tips For Potting On Tomatoes

Tomato seedlings can be potted on when large enough to handle but I prefer to do this once the first or second pair of true leaves emerge. Handle tomato seedlings carefully by the leaves and pot on individually into 3 inch pots, avoid handling by the stems which can easily snap.

Plant deeper than they were previously to encourage a better root system, this helps with watering during the summer months and creates a stronger plant all round. Leggy seedlings in particular benefit from deeper planting, don’t be afraid to plant them right up to the seed leaves – they’ll soon grow tall again! Depending on the time of year you may need to re-pot again before planting to final positions, again plant deeper.

Don’t risk all your hard work by placing seedlings outside or in an unheated greenhouse too early, frost and low night temperatures will kill them. Keep them tucked up indoors in a warm sunny room until risk of frost has passed.

Vegetable Garden

Pick of the Crop, Our Choice of Garlic to Grow

red duke garlic

Red Duke Garlic is a heritage variety with fierce and spicy flavour, it originates from Moravia, Czech Republic and appears to do well in the UK climate. Attracted initially to the colour and the idea that it may do well in our kitchen garden, we liked it so much we included it in our growing plans again for this year. Here’s a run down of our experience of growing this variety:

red duke garlic

  • Red Duke garlic produces very thick leaves and stems, thicker than any other garlic we’ve grown. With this in mind and to avoid disease from overcrowding, do not plant this variety too close together, 16-18cm apart should be fine.
  • The leaves really bulk out and cast a lot of shade resulting in fewer weeds. Result!
  • Red Duke is a hardneck variety, expect to see scapes in summer – lovely in a stir fry!
  • Good resistance to rust, only a few spots found on leaves just before harvest.
  • No sign of fungal/rot problems on the bulbs at harvest, nice clean bulbs.
  • Bulbs varied in size producing more large than small, approx 6/7 large cloves per bulb.
  • Thick covering of white skin after drying properly, because of this Red Duke stores surprisingly well for a hardneck. We still have useable bulbs from last years crop.
  • Lovely strong and spicy flavour.

There’s still time to pop some Red Duke garlic in if you didn’t get around to it during autumn.

Grow Your Own Guides

Easy Way of Planting Potatoes

I want to make life as easy as possible when planting our seed potatoes so I use my ‘potato planting tool’. Ok so it’s not the real tool (they do exist look them up), rather the handle of what was once a perfectly useable spade until I broke it during our allotment days.  Now it is used for making potato-size planting holes by pushing the pointy end into the soil, moving the handle from side to side to widen. I’m sure a long-handled dibber or similar would do the job just as well, have a rummage in your shed or garage and see what you come up with.

How we plant our seed potatoes:

Position seed potatoes on top of the soil leaving approximately 15 inches between each one and 18 inches (or so) between each row, this distance works fine with early salad varieties but you might want to increase distance between rows for maincrop varieties. Once you’re happy with the arrangement make a planting hole (approximately 5 inches deep) for each potato and drop it in, eyes (shoots) up.

planting potatoes

planting potatoes

Fill the planting holes in (apply organic fertiliser beforehand if you wish) and mound each row by simply drawing soil over the top of the newly planted potatoes or by adding fresh compost to form the mounds. From our experience this helps to prevent haulms from toppling over later on, although it’s not necessary to mound until the first leaves start to show. As the potatoes grow, keep mounding or earthing up to protect foliage from frost damage and prevent the developing tubers from turning green and poisonous from exposure to light.

Potatoes also do well in containers. Deep tubs or special grow bags, anything really as long as it’s deep enough and has drainage holes.

earthing up potatoes