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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

Vegetable Garden

What’s Growing On In February?

Just a quick catch up to show what’s growing in our kitchen garden this month.

img_2255timperleyearlyrhubarbblog

The patch of early rhubarb is romping away nicely, depending on the weather we may be pulling the first stems as early as March.  img_2257timperleyearlyrhubarbblog

Rhubarb from the ground up, this angle of photography really shows the stems in their full rhubarby glory.img_2166reddukegarlicblog

Rows of garlic are peeking through the soil now, the variety is Red Duke which we grew last year with success. Half of the rows are bought-in seed garlic from the same supplier and the other half are saved seed garlic.

I’ve started to notice the delicious scent of blackcurrant as I brush past the fruit bushes, leaf buds are beginning to swell so it won’t be long before they burst open. The herb patch is in a sheltered position with chives, French tarragon, lavender, sage and garlic chives all having fresh new growth at the base.

Seed sowing:

At the moment we have one variety of chillies that have all germinated, with another still to show. These are Rich’s babies so I will have to ask him what they are and update the post when I know! EDIT: ‘Hot Orange Wonder’ (germinated) and ‘Razzamatazz’.

chilli seedlings

We plan to sow ‘Ruby’ tomato (heirloom red tomato from Bulgaria), ‘Bleu De Solaise’ leek (a traditional French variety), brassicas and old-fashioned mix sweet pea over the weekend.

Grow Your Own Guides, Vegetable Garden

How to Force Rhubarb

rhubarb forcer
If you’d like to get an earlier crop of rhubarb now is a good time to force it. Choose an  established rhubarb in your garden and simply cover the crown with a forcing jar, upturned dustbin or very large pot. Doing this creates a dark and warm environment inside, forcing the stems into premature growth. Restricted light creates baby pink stalks which taste less tart and not as fibrous, ready approximately 8 weeks after covering.
forced rhubarb stemsHowever, once you force a crown you should allow it to crop naturally the following year (preferably two years of recovery), forcing it year after year could seriously weaken it. Before forcing, be sure to clear away the area around the base of the crown, removing decaying leaves and weeds to avoid the rhubarb crown rotting. Add a mulch of homemade compost or well-rotted manure to give a boost of nutrients.

Timperley Early rhubarb beginning to grow in winter

A tip is to grow 3 crowns (providing you have the space), allow one to recover from being forced the previous year, force one and let the other crop naturally, when it should. A good variety for forcing is Victoria.
rhubarb january
Timperley Early rhubarb in our kitchen garden 8th January 2017
Our favourite rhubarb variety to grow is ‘Timperley Early’, it starts cropping naturally as early as March. If you grow this variety you have to get a wiggle on and force it earlier than other varieties to produce an earlier crop, usually December for cropping in February. As you can see, our young crowns (planted last year) are already well on their way to producing some fine stalks! They’re not established enough to start forcing them yet, it’ll be another year or two before we can use the forcing jars on them.
Vegetable Garden

Spring Seedlings

tomato seedlings

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.

Jobs Each Month

Jobs for December

December is a great month to finish tidying, tackle repairs to structures and generally plan and look forward to the coming growing season!

Some jobs for December:

  • Spread a thick layer of well-rotted manure or fresh compost on empty beds – feed your soil!
  • Harvest Brussels sprouts from the bottom up
  • Harvest parsnips after a hard frost, they’ll be sweeter for it
  • Plant garlic if you can work the soil, otherwise use small pots and plant out once rooted
  • Drool at seed catalogues and plan your veg planting for next year
autumn sow broad beans
Jobs Each Month

Jobs for November

Fading light conditions can make time for the garden almost impossible if you’re busy, now is the time to get motivated to put the garden to bed for the winter. However, there are planting possibilities for milder areas of the UK to be getting on with. It’s well worth removing weeds and spreading manure or organic compost if you can. Being productive now should save time come spring – and your soil will love you for it.

autumn sow broad beans

Some jobs for November:

  • Make a leaf bin and start collecting fallen leaves to make leaf mould
  • Plant autumn garlic and winter onion sets
  • Prune apple and pear trees
  • Prune soft fruit bushes
  • Cover frost tender plants at night with horticultural fleece, don’t forget greenhouse plants!
  • Plant new bare-root fruit trees, bushes and canes
  • Make a note of what your grew and where, include successes and failures – it will help you plan crop rotation for next year
  • Continue tidying and harvesting the last crops
  • Rhubarb is now dormant, propagate established plants or plant new sets
  • Sow hardy broad beans (Aquadulce Claudia) and peas (Meteor) for an early crop late spring
  • Make or buy bug boxes or ‘hotels’ to help beneficial insects survive the winter
  • Check water butts/barrels and drain if necessary
  • Remove fallen leaves from the surface of wildlife ponds
  • Plant spring bulbs for a splash of colour
  • Order seed catalogues
  • Don’t forget to bring frost tender potted plants inside before the first frost arrives!
Jobs Each Month

Jobs for October

Clocks go back, days are drawing in quick and the threat of the first frost looms. Cold biting winds, falling leaves and dreary weather are signalling the end of the gardening year, take a moment to look around you and marvel at October’s autumn colour palette. It sure is beautiful, especially when the sun shines. There are still jobs to be getting on with in the vegetable garden, so don’t put your tools away just yet!

Some jobs for October:

  • Keep picking those courgettes and beans before the first frost arrives
  • Sow green manures
  • Tidy the strawberry bed, pot up stray runners and overwinter in a greenhouse or well-lit shed
  • Make a leaf bin and start collecting fallen leaves to make leaf mould
  • Start planting garlic at the end of the month
  • Keep picking cut flowers for the house before the first frosts
  • Harvest and carve pumpkins for Halloween/Samhain celebrations
  • Autumn sow hardy broad beans (Aquadulce Claudia) and peas (Meteor) for an early crop late spring
  • Start the autumn garden tidy up, try not to be overly tidy though, leave messy areas for wildlife
  • Leave sunflower heads for birds to enjoy
  • Make or buy bug boxes or ‘hotels’ to help beneficial insects survive the winter
  • Plant spring bulbs for a splash of colour
  • Don’t forget to bring frost tender potted plants inside before the first frost arrives!
Jobs Each Month

Jobs for September

Summer is holding on by a thread and nights are definitely drawing in. There’s still plenty to harvest this month including beans and courgettes, autumn raspberries and other berries should be plentiful too. Pumpkins should be swelling nicely, deepening in colour ready for harvesting from next month onwards.

green tomatoes

Some jobs for September:

  • Keep picking courgettes, aim to get them small before they become big and watery
  • Turn your compost heap
  • Pick green tomatoes that show no sign of ripening by the end of the month, bring them indoors to ripen or use them green in chutney
  • Sow green manures
  • Harvest the first apples and pears
  • Keep harvesting main crop potatoes as needed
  • Earth up brassicas to prevent them toppling over
  • Pick autumn raspberries
  • Check stakes and ties for giant sunflower varieties, as the flower heads produce seeds they become heavier. Leave them in place for the wild birds.
  • Earth up leeks
  • Sweet corn cobs should be ready for picking, check by peeling a layer back and piercing the cobs with your finger nail, if the juice is milky they’re ready!
  • Harvest the last of the onions, allow to dry before storing
  • Propagate strawberries by gently pushing rooted runners into the soil or small pots of soil. Sever the runner from the adult plant as the runners put on growth and develop a stronger root system.
  • Place bricks or plastic trays underneath swelling pumpkins to prevent them from rotting on wet ground.
  • Harvest regularly and enjoy!
Jobs Each Month

Jobs for August

All the hard work is starting to pay off, the vegetable garden is producing plenty to take back to the kitchen. Beans and courgettes will need picking daily; blanche and freeze beans to avoid a glut or waste, try to pick courgettes before they become too big and watery. As space becomes available, over wintering crops such as leek, kale and purple sprouting broccoli can be planted out.

runner beans

Some jobs for August:

  • Keep watering tomatoes (especially greenhouse varieties), pinch out side shoots as they appear and growing tips once 4 or 5 trusses have formed. Keep feeding. For ripening tomatoes, tie in main stems to extra canes to support heavy trusses.
  • Cut to the ground all the summer fruiting raspberry canes that have borne fruit, tie in the new green canes for next years fruit.
  • Pick courgette flowers for stuffing or frying
  • Keep sowing salad leaves, radish and lettuce
  • Sow or transplant spring cabbages
  • Plant out the last of kale and purple sprouting broccoli
  • Sow Pak Choi
  • Harvest main crop potatoes, keep earthing up rows to prevent tubers turning green
  • Earth up sweet corn and brassicas to prevent them toppling over
  • Keep cutting sweet pea flowers to bring indoors, remove seed pods to encourage more flowers
  • Ventilate the greenhouse
  • Water regularly
  • Harvest the last of the garlic, allow to dry before stringing
  • Harvest onions if ready, allow to dry before storing
  • Propagate strawberries by gently pushing rooted runners into the soil or small pots of soil. Sever the runner from the adult plant as the runners put on growth and develop a stronger root system.
  • For larger pumpkins, feed once a week with organic tomato feed, in damp weather lift fruits clear of the ground and place onto bricks or plastic trays to prevent rotting.
  • Pinch out the tops of climbing beans to prevent them becoming top-heavy and to encourage new growth lower down
  • Harvest regularly and enjoy!
Pests & Diseases, Vegetable Garden, Wildlife

Cutworms

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.

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.

Jobs Each Month

Jobs for July

 

sunflower

Some jobs for July:

  • If you haven’t done so already, plant out or sow runner beans, French beans and courgettes
  • Plant out Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli for a crop next spring
  • Keep feeding tomatoes weekly, pinch out side shoots on cordon varieties
  • Snap off onion and garlic scape (flower spikes) as they appear
  • Keep the hoe and watering can busy!
  • If you have the space, keep sowing beetroot, kohl rabi, radish, spring onions, lettuce, peas and carrots
  • Keep picking soft fruits such as strawberries, currants, raspberries, hybrid berries and gooseberries
  • Pinch out the growing tips of broad beans once the pods start to form to discourage black fly
  • Begin harvesting main crop potatoes
  • Cut sweet pea flowers to bring indoors, remove seed pods to encourage more flowers
  • Tie in Runner Beans and sunflowers as they grow
  • Ventilate the greenhouse
  • Transplant or ‘dib in’ leek seedlings once they’re the width of a pencil
  • Begin harvesting garlic and onions if ready, lay garlic bulbs out to dry on racks in a well ventilated greenhouse or shed, lay onions on the ground in the sun (or the greenhouse if the weather is bad)
  • Prevent heads of white cauliflowers turning yellow in the sun by pulling the nearest large leaves over and snapping into place
  • Begin propagating strawberries using runners
  • Harvest crops when ready and enjoy!

 

Jobs Each Month

Jobs for June

I love the month of June. The weather is starting to warm, everything is growing quicker, the risk of frost diminishes and interesting looking crops such as coloured beans and squash can be planted out or sown. You may even be harvesting potatoes, broad beans and peas along with salad leaves and ripening summer strawberries.

IMG_3674peas

Some jobs for June:

  • Plant out or sow runner and French beans (if you haven’t done so already), courgettes and squash
  • Plant out sweetcorn, pumpkins, kale and purple sprouting broccoli
  • Start feeding tomatoes, pinch out side shoots on cordon varieties
  • Snap off onion and garlic scape (flower spikes) as they appear
  • Keep the hoe and watering can busy!
  • Keep sowing carrots, beets, salad crops, spring onion and radish
  • Make June the last month to harvest your rhubarb, allowing it to rest
  • Pinch out the growing tips of broad beans once the pods start to form to discourage black fly
  • Harvest peas, early and second early potatoes, autumn sown broad beans, salad crops and strawberries
  • Tie in Runner Beans as they grow
  • Sow Florence fennel where they’re to crop
  • Plant a herb bed
  • Ventilate the greenhouse
  • Transplant or ‘dib in’ leek seedlings once they’re the width of a pencil.
  • Keep sowing beetroot, kohl rabi, radish, spring onions, lettuce and peas every two weeks
  • Weed in-between onions and garlic
  • Plant the last of your seed potatoes
  • Cut out flower spikes from the middle of rhubarb crowns
  • Check support for summer raspberries, blackberries and other hybrid berries, tie in canes.
  • Thin out crowded raspberry canes if you didn’t do it last month
  • Plant out sunflowers and other half-hardy flowering annuals
  • Thin carrot seedlings and consider sowing more rows
  • Plant out sweet pea if you haven’t done so already
  • Harvest crops when ready and enjoy!
Gardening Tips, Grow Your Own Guides

How to Grow Parsnips

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!

peas growing on chicken wire support
Jobs Each Month

Jobs for May

May is the month when seed sowing is in full swing, space in the greenhouse is filling up fast with seed trays and pots. Hardier crops started earlier in the year should be hardened off during the day before planting into their final positions. Tender crops such as beans and squashes can be sown undercover now. If the weather is particularly fine, sow beans direct where they are to crop.

peas growing on chicken wire support

Some jobs for May:

  • Sow French and runner beans either in pots (undercover) or direct, depending on weather conditions
  • Harvest asparagus spears
  • Check growth of greenhouse seedlings and water as necessary. If the weather is warm ventilate the greenhouse.
  • Sow sweet corn under glass or indoors using small pots or toilet roll tubes
  • Continue hardening off crops before planting out
  • Transplant or ‘dib in’ leek seedlings once they’re the width of a pencil.
  • Sow beetroot, kohl rabi and Swiss chard direct (depending on weather conditions). Beetroot will benefit from cloche protection.
  • Sow cucumber, pumpkins, courgettes and other squashes under glass or indoors for successful germination.
  • Plant out Brussels sprouts, summer cabbages and summer sprouting broccoli once risk of frost is over
  • Sow early purple sprouting broccoli direct or undercover depending on weather conditions
  • Keep the hoe busy!
  • Keep sowing radish, spring onions, lettuce and peas every two weeks
  • Remove weeds around onions, shallots and garlic
  • Support autumn sowings of tall variety broad beans with canes and string between each row
  • Plant the last of your seed potatoes
  • Cut out flower spikes from the middle of rhubarb crowns
  • Check support for summer raspberries, blackberries and other hybrid berries, tie in canes.
  • Thin out crowded raspberry canes
  • Earth up second early and main crop potatoes, cover rows with pieces of thick cardboard for extra protection if severe frost threatens
  • Plant out sunflowers and other half-hardy flowering annuals raised in pots at the end of the month (weather permitting) otherwise wait until next month
  • Thin carrot seedlings and consider sowing more rows
  • Plant out sweet pea once hardened off, pinch out the growing tips if you haven’t done so already
  • Keep a roll of horticultural fleece to hand, cover outdoor peas and greenhouse seedlings at night if very cold or frost threatens
  • Succession sow herbs such as coriander, dill and parsley. Undercover if necessary.
  • Check developing gooseberry fruit for signs of mildew.