Looking for some help or advice? Click on the titles to check out excerpts from our seed guide.
Hybrid – the offspring of two…plants of different breeds, varieties, species, or genera, especially as produced through human handling for specific genetic characteristics.
Determinate – Having the primary and each secondary axis ending in a flower or bud, thus preventing further elongation; limited in growth (Tomato varieties requires no support or staking)
Indeterminate – not precisely fixed in extent; indefinite; (Tomato varieties require staking)
Organic - pertaining to, involving, or grown with fertilizers or pesticides of animal or vegetable origin, as distinguished from manufactured chemicals: organic farming; organic fruits.
Days to Maturity – time from when the variety is planted outdoors, until time of harvest
Heirloom – variety of vegetable or fruit that is open-pollinated… often exhibits a distinctive characteristic such as superior flavour or unusual colouration.
Perennial – having a life cycle lasting more than two years
The actual date when you sow your seeds will vary from season to season and also with the area in which you live. In a cold, late season for example, it is beneficial to sow later than usual, as earlier sowings will most probably suffer from the untypically cold weather they experience. Later sowings will often catch up and do just as well as early sowings made in cold weather, which may have to struggle just to keep going. Likewise, in cold Northern areas you may have to sow several weeks later than in warmer areas for the same reason.
Our recommendations are merely a guide which should be set against current weather conditions and your own experience of when sowings are made in your area.
Until germination, seeds needing light should be placed in subdued lighting out of direct sunlight. Seeds needing dark for germination should be placed in total darkness.
Most reputable seed starting mixes will be quite adequate. On no account should potting mixes which have additional fertilizers be used.
Some seeds benefit from pre-treatment before sowing or from being sown in a particular way. Here are brief explanations of the techniques mentioned in the following list. In almost all cases it is not critical that you carry out this pretreatment but if it is not done the seeds will usually take longer to germinate.
Some seeds, e.g. Sweet peas, Morning Glory, etc have hard seed coats which prevent moisture being absorbed by the seed. All that is needed is for the outer surface to be scratched or abraded to allow water to pass through. This can be achieved by chipping the seed with a sharp knife at a part furthest away from the 'eye', by rubbing lightly with emery paper or, with very small seed, pricking carefully once with a needle etc.
Soaking is beneficial in two ways; it can soften a hard seed coat and also leach out any chemical inhibitors in the seed which may prevent germination. Anything from 1-3 hours in water which starts off hand hot is usually sufficient. If soaking for longer the water should be changed daily. Seeds of some species swell up when they are soaked. If some seeds of batch do swell within 24 hours they should be planted immediately and the remainder pricked gently with a pin and returned to soak. As each seed swells it should be removed and sown before it has time to dry out.
Pre-chilling was traditionally done by standing the pots outside in a cold frame during the winter. It is often quicker to adopt the following technique using a domestic refrigerator. To pre-chill, first sow the seed on moistened seed starting mix, seal the seed container inside a polythene bag and leave at 60-65F (15-18C) for 3 days then place in a refrigerator for the recommended period. For convenience large seeds can be mixed with 2-3 times their volume of damp growing medium, placed direct into a polythene bag which is sealed and placed in the refrigerator. However; there must always be sufficient air inside the bag and the growing medium should NEVER become either too dry or over wet. After pre-chilling these seeds can then be spread with the growing medium on top of a seed container and firmed down. The seeds must be moist whilst being pre-chilled, but it will harm them if they are actually in water. During the period in the refrigerator: examine the seeds once a week and move all the seeds into the specified warm conditions if any of them start to germinate.
Light is beneficial after pre-chilling, so pre-chilled seeds should only have the lightest covering of growing medium, if ncessary, and the seed trays or pots, should be in the light and not covered.
Outdoor treatment for Prechilling
The above mentioned methods accelerate the germination process and help to prevent seeds being lost due to external hazards (mice, disease etc) but outdoor sowing is just as effective except longer. The seeds are best sown in containers of free draining growing medium and placed in a cold frame or plunged up to their rim outdoors in a shaded part of the garden, preferably on the north side of the house avoiding cold dry winds and strong sun.
Recent tests show that much of the beneficial effects of pre-chilling are lost if the seed is not exposed to light immediately afterwards. We therefore recommend sowing the seeds very close to the surface of the soil and covering the container with a sheet of glass. An alternative method especially with larger seeds, is to sow the seed in well prepared ground, cover with a jam jar and press this down well into the soil so that the seeds are enclosed and safe from predators, drying out etc.
Where outdoor sowing is recommended, moist soil which is weed free and has been raked down to a fine tilth is essential.
artificial heat for successful germination
You shouldn't buy the seeds of such plants until you are confident you have the facilities to raise them successfully. But this doesn't necessarily mean you have to invest in costly equipment. All seeds need water, oxygen, the correct amount of light and the right level of warmth to germinate. Supplying that warmth could be a simple matter of giving the sown seed a place above the central-heating register or a sunny windowsill.
Raising your own bedding plants can be infectious and you will soon realize that something spacious and controllable can be had for very little cost. That something could be an electrically heated propagator capable of accommodating two or more standard size seed trays, using no more power than a light bulb, but thermostatically controlled to give the precise temperature for successful germination.
Important: cleanliness. However large one's ambition, one should never forget that quite small safeguards are necessary and top of the list is cleanliness. Trays and pots should be sterilized before use. So too should the cover of the propagator or glass of the greenhouse. Fresh growing medium should be used at the start of the season and emerging seedlings should be treated with No Damp to prevent damping off.
Some seeds remain viable for a year or more after the packet seal has been broken, but it is advisable to carry out a germination test before the correct sowing time. Saved seeds require precisely controlled conditions to retain a reasonable germination rate.
Most seeds germinate best if the tray is covered with a sheet of glass or plastic to retain the moisture in the growing medium. Some require dark to germinate and this can be provided by keeping the tray in a light, warm position while it is covered with a sheet of newspaper.
A daytime temperature of 65-75F (1824C) is suitable for most undercover seeds and a drop at night to about 55F (12.5C) is permissible, V\/hen the seedlings have emerged, however, the daytime temperature should be lowered to about 65F (18C) and the seedlings given a light position but out of direct sunlight.
Try sowing seed into a 3in (7.5cm) pot of moist gorwing medium and then sealing this inside a polythene bag until germination. This method ensures that the growing medium stays moist and results are often better because there is not such a large area of growing medium to warm up. Once the seedlings are well through the bag should be gradually removed.
Tiny seeds, almost as fine as dust, such as begonia petunia and portulaca, can be difficult to handle. Sometimes, in fact, the packet seems to contain nothing except a trace of dust sized particles. Use this tips when dealing with them:
Start off with growing medium which is just moist enough. If it is too wet, spread it out on newspaper etc., and let some of the water evaporate. If too dry, gradually mix in water until it is just right.
Use a small pan or pot for sowing, about 3-5in (7.5-12.5cm) is adequate.
Fill the pan or pot to overflowing with the seed growing medium, then firm it first with your fingers, then with a wooden presser.
Pour a heaped teaspoon of fine sand into the seed packet and shake to mix sand and seed.
Sow the seed direct from the packet, tapping it slowly to release the sand-seed mixture evenly over the growing medium.
Give the surface of the growing medium a short burst from a mist sprayer.
Cover with a piece of glass, or seal inside a polythene bag to keep the growing medium moist and the atmosphere slightly humid.
Remember that very fine seeds have less food resources than normal sized ones and the correct temperature for germination is very important.
Vermiculite is a natural, non-toxic mineral which, when heated to a very high temperature, expands to many times its size to produce a honeycomb structure which benefits gardeners:
Absorbs surplus moisture and keeps air, water and nutrients close to the plants roots, ready for use.
Insulates the seed from high or low temperatures thus aiding germination when used as a seed covering.
Reduces compression when mixed with growing medium like peat.
Pots and containers are lighter and easier to use.
- Provides air spaces plants need for their roots to grow through and ensures that the essentials of growth, air, water and nutrients are freely available. Vermiculite added to growing medium provides the plant with more air spaces and has the ability to regulate the rate of release of nutrients so that the roots get their food as they need it.
Vermiculite is helpful in providing quicker, more reliable seed germination. It provides air, moisture and nutrients when required, and as a result germination, growth and transplanting are all improved.
Mix 50% Vermiculite with your usual seed growing medium for better root development; it will also reduce the risk of overwatering by releasing moisture as required. After sowing, cover the seed with a thin layer of Vermiculite instead of growing medium, no need to firm. This keeps the seed warm, moist and protected from sudden changes in temperature.
Note: Large seeds can be sown 1/16in deep in pure Vermiculite but should be transplanted soon after germination into 50% Vermiculite / 50% seed growing medium.
Impatiens, verbenas and many other types germinate and develop better when covered with Vermiculite rather than seed growing medium as it absorbs surplus moisture, keeps the seed warmer and supplies it with moisture when required.
Vermiculite can absorb plant nutrients so that they are not washed away with each watering and release them gradually as the plant needs them. It also contains a little food i.e. Potassium, Magnesium and, in smaller quantities, Calcium, Sulphur, Manganese and Iron.
Seedlings raised in a Vermiculite/growing medium mix will naturally benefit from being transplanted into a similar potting mix which won't damage their fine root system. The pots will be lighter and easier to handle, the growing medium will hold more water and will be easier to re-wet.
Prepare by mixing 1 part Vermiculite with 3 parts moistened potting, or all-purpose growing medium. Water lightly to settle the growing medium around the roots after planting. Feed as required.
Containers, Baskets, Flower Pouches and Window Boxes
All will benefit from the use of a 3 parts growing medium to 1 part Vermiculite mix, they will be lighter; easier to move and yet will hold more water and be easier to re-wet. As with normal growing meidums water holding granules are also recommended for maximum water retention.
To protect bulbs like Begonias, Gladioli etc., through the winter, lift, dry off and pour Vermiculite around the bulbs. It will absorb any surplus moisture and help prevent storage rot.
Vermiculite can be used for the propagation of bulbs by the "chip" method. Place bulb chips in a polythene bag, cover with Vermiculite, and seal with an elastic band, leaving plenty of air space.
Store in a warm place until the 'chips' have formed bulbils and pot up into a good quality indoor potting mixture.
Softwood cuttings taken in spring and summer from Fuchsias, Dahlias, Chrysanthemums etc., root well in a mixture of 50% Vermiculite, 50% Seed and Cutting growing medium. Make sure that the growing medium is thoroughly moist before use and don't firm down too heavily. Seal inside a polythene bag until the cuttings are well rooted.
Seedling collapse, or damping-off, is a wide spread problem for gardeners and commercial growers. As seeds germinate they may be attacked or the seedling may be infected in the post emergence stage. An affected seed tray would have a bare area of growing medium, probably near one end, surrounded by seedlings growing poorly. Some seedlings might have collapsed at the base with a water-soaked appearance. After transplanting, seedlings may develop brown root tips, have a weak root system, or collapse at the stem base and fall over: This is commonly seen when tomatoes are transplanted, and the seed leaves turn a very dark green.
Causes of damping off
Damping-off diseases are caused by fungi. These microscopic organisms form colourless threads in soil, growing medium, or plant structures. The ones attacking seedlings are species of Pythium and Phytophthora, belonging to a group called the water moulds. The name highlights the conditions which favour the spread of these fungi. They flourish in wet growing medium and need water to spread from plant to plant. When the water is cold they move slowly and take a long time to come to rest, whereas at 68F (20C) the spores swim quickly but soon stop. If they rest on a root or stem surface a minute thread emerges and penetrates the plant cells. These fungi then grow inside the plant and disrupt the normal cell processes.
There is another soil-borne fungi which attacks seedlings, leading to collapse. This is called Rhizoctonia. Infected plants tend to develop a dry, reddish-brown stem called wire-stem, or the seedling roots may be affected. Seedlings in patches are pale coloured and die slowly. If a badly infected seedling is pulled up an excessive amount of soil may hang from the shriveled root indicating the weft of fungus growth on the root. Rhizoctonia spreads entirely by threads which grow through the growing medium. All members of the brassica family seem partcularly susceptible to infection.
Pythium and Phytophtora
China Aster Marigold
|Aubrieta Stock |
Although some plants are especially prone to damage, it is best to take sensible precautions against these diseases whatever seed you plan to sow as any plant can suffer. Before you can plan to control any plant disease, it is important to know where the fungus comes from and how it is spread. In the case of the damping-off diseases they are soil-borne but can survive in plant or soil debris. The water moulds spread most in wet growing medium, while Rhizoctonia is active in drier conditions.
The most fundamental principle in preventing these diseases is hygiene. The containers, such as pots and seed trays, the greenhouse and all tools must be cleaned and free of soil or plant debris. Soak the containers in hot water and scrub them thoroughly with a bristle brush to dislodge small particles of soil or debris. You may choose to use a proprietary disinfectant -if you do, make sure you ventilate the containers before use to release any remaining fumes. If you plan to stand trays on the soil floor of the greenhouse, cover the soil with polythene or raise the trays up from the surface so that they don't touch the soil. You may have the advantage of a heated propagator which is excellent for germination, but watch that you put the trays afterwards on clean benching and don't expose the seedlings to a sudden change in temperature or low night temperatures.
Watering and seed growing medium
Besides contaminated containers the water moulds can survive in stored water; an uncovered tank in a greenhouse soon collects plant debris, dust, and algae and spells trouble in propagation. Always use fresh water for moistening growing medium and watering seedlings. You can draw off the tap water into a can, and leave the water to warm up before use the same day.
It is essential that a good quality seed growing medium is used. Do not use garden soil. The growing medium may be just moist enough as you turn it out of the bag, but it may not. To test it, take a handful of the growing medium and squeeze it, open your hand and let it fall on the bench. If the growing medium does not bind and just hold together it is too dry. If the moisture oozes between your fingers it is far too wet. To moisten the grwoing meidum turn out a sufficient amount onto the bench for your immediate need. Make a flat layer, and gently sprinkle water on the growing medium surface. Then turn and mix the growing medium with your hands. Do the hand test again, and continue until the growing medium just holds together; but drops apart as it falls on the bench. Once the growing medium feels right sowing can proceed. It is quite wrong to sow seeds in dry growing medium and then give a heavy watering. This is the way to get damping-off.
Don't use too large a container because large volumes of growing medium warm up slowly. Generally a 3in (7.5cm) pot is quite suitable. Cover the pot and seal inside a polythene bag and put it at the appropriate temperature. Once the seed is surrounded by moist soil it will germinate.
Young plants which are grown at the appropriate temperature in good light and ventilation are more resistant to disease, because they are sturdy, well balanced plants. Aim for strong, sturdy growth at moderate temperatures.
A liquid copper formulation or damp off, also with a copper base, can be used to drench the seed container before sowing and on seedlings after pricking out, but they can slow down the growth of very delicate plants.
Although every garden should have its summer display of annual flowers, there should always be room for the early-flowering biennials, such as wallflowers and forget-me-nots, and the long lasting glorious variety of perennial flowers that form the heart of the herbaceous border.
Sow the seed in rows and keep the bed watered during dry spells and weeded at all times. An occasional feed with a liquid fertilizer can be given during the early stages of growth, but refrain from feeding for at least six weeks before transplanting to avoid greater damage by a hard frost.
Some perennials can be treated as half-hardy annuals and sown indoors early in the year in a propagator or greenhouse for transplanting in late spring to flower during the summer.
Remember these plants will lose their leaves in late autumn so it is prudent to mark the planting position with a label or stake.
Unlike annuals which complete their life cycle in one year, perennials will occupy the same site for years, so thorough preparation of the soil is important to ensure the plants enjoy a long and healthy life.
The site should be free-draining because water logging is fatal to this group of plants. Equally, it should not dry out too rapidly. The best way of achieving a well-drained but moisture retentive soil is to incorporate plenty of organic material into the top 6-12in ( 15-30cm). Well rotted farmyard manure, home made compost, and spent peat from growing bags are all suitable for turning into the soil before transplanting the perennials from the nursery bed.
The addition of about 4oz (112g) to the square yard/metre of a balanced organic fertilizer, such as fish emulsion or bone meal, worked into the top 6in (15cm) of the soil will help the plants to grow away strongly. An annual dressing of the same fertilizer followed by a mulch of manure or compost will ensure your perennials have a long and healthy life.
Successful management of the border perennials involves such things as slug control in the spring, staking and division of mature plants.
When seeds germinate, the first leaves to appear are the cotyledons or seed leaves. These are usually a pair of oval, fleshy leaves that bear no resemblance to the mature leaves of the plant.
The conventional advice is that seedlings should not be transplanted until the first true leaves appear, but the gardener must exercise common sense and move them on only when they are large enough to handle. In the case of large seedlings, such as courgettes (squash) or marrows, this could be before the true leaves have developed and it is sound advice to sow such subjects individually in small pots.
Removing tiny seedlings from the sowing container into trays of a good universal growing medium can be a delicate business. The golden rule is never to handle the plants by their stems, which bruise easily, but always by their seed leaves. Some people use a sharpened popsicle or tapered piece of wood to separate and ease out the seedlings, taking care not to damage the delicate roots.
Invariably there will be more seedlings to transplant than available trays to accommodate them, so some will have to be sacrificed or given to friends or put into the compost bin. The important point is to give the transplanted seedlings adequate space to become sturdy young plants.
It is good planning to prepare the planting holes in the trays of well-moistened growing medium before you actually lift out the seedlings from the sowing container. Simply ease each seedling into position with the roots falling neatly into the hole, then gently firm the growing medium into contact with the baby plant while still holding it by the seed leaf. Some growing mediums contain enough plant food to give the pricked-out seedlings a good start in life, but you can, if you wish, start feeding with a dilute liquid fertilizer after a couple of weeks or so.
Follow these steps:
Gently lever out seedling with as much root as possible
Make holes in pot or seed trays with a pencil
Hold by seed leaves & drop into hold
Firm soil around seedling
Water gently with a fine spray
Irrigation, Mowing, Fertilizing, and Overseeding Existing Lawns
One key to vigorous green grass is proper irrigation. On average, grass needs one inch of water per week to maintain a lush and healthy appearance. Manually irrigate if you havenot received enough rainfall.
• To find out if your lawn is receiving enough water, use arain gauge or a tin can to measure rainfall and irrigation.
• For greener grass, water deeply but infrequently. This will promote strong roots.
• Water your lawn early in the morning. By doing so, you will limit the chance of the water evaporating from the grass before it has been properly absorbed.
• Avoid using a fine mist sprinkler. The misted water tends to evaporate before it even reaches your lawn.
Mowing your lawn regularly will help keep it green. Never cut more than two inches at a time. Never cut more than 1/3 of the grass blade per mowing.
• Keep mower blades sharp for a fine even cut.
• Always cut the grass when it’s dry. This will keep your lawn greener and prevent the spread of lawn diseases.
• Cut your grass in different directions each time you mow to help the grass grow straight.
• Lawn thatch can build up from mowing. Though a minimum amount of thatch is good for a lawn, large amounts are not. Keeping your lawn raked and de-thatched will promote greener grass by allowing more water and nutrients to reach the blades and roots.
Proper fertilizing can bring new life to your lawn. The fertilization plan that you follow should vary according to the type of grass you have and your soil type. Always follow the fertilizer instructions carefully to ensure good results.
• For best results, begin fertilizing the grass at the beginning of its growing season.
• Use the proper type of fertilizer for your grass. Different strains of grass have different needs.
• Use a fertilizer that also controls weeds and follow label directions. Weeds compete with grass for water and nutrients. Removing weeds will ensure a greener and healthier lawn.
OVERSEEDING EXISTING LAWNS
Existing lawns can be improved by overseeding. New grass retains the green color longer in periods of drought due to better root establishment. Weed invasion is also minimized as the plant becomes more dense, reducing the need for chemicals.
• Overseeding can be done in the spring or in early fall. Early fall is preferable as the soil temperature is high and moisture is normally sufficient. At the same time, the new plants have less competition from the old turf.
Half-hardy annuals, half-hardy perennials and some vegetable seeds have to be germinated indoors because they would be damaged by frost, harsh winds or cool growing conditions. They are sown early in the year in a heated greenhouse, propagator,or warm room. Most seeds need a minimum temperature of 65F (18C) and will tolerate a drop overnight to about 50F (10C), but there are exceptions and they are dealt with separately.
The final operation before planting out is to harden off the young plants. The ideal is gradually to acclimatize the seedlings to the harsher conditions of the great outdoors. Allow a minimum of ten days to do this, and preferably longer. Start by putting the trays in a sheltered position outdoors for two hours during daylight and lowering the temperature of the greenhouse or propagator for the rest of the day. Slowly increase the period that the plants are outside so that by the time the frosts are finished, the plants are fully conditioned to being outside. Don't forget that the trays will need watering but should be protected from heavy rain. When the young plants are transplanted to their flowering positions they may still need some protection against the damaging effects of strong, cold winds.
A very useful aid to successful hardening off is a cold frame. It should be large enough to accommodate all the seed trays, but can be a very simple inexpensive structure. During the day the lights -that's the glass or plastic cover over the walls of the frame -can be opened or removed altogether, but put back into position overnight.
Preparation is an important factor in successful seed raising. For those seeds that can be sown directly into the soil, preparation involves ensuring the site is in a suitable condition. This means the soil should be free of weeds, large stones and debris and be broken down as finely as possible to what's called a fine tilth. This is achieved by forking over the top few inches of soil, then raking it to as crumbly a texture as possible.
For many vegetables, some hardy annuals and tree seeds, a special seed bed is prepared in an open but sheltered position. The seed is sown thinly in drills made to the recommended sowing depth for that particular variety. To make the drill you can use the reverse side of the rake head to make a V-shaped drill following a taut garden line. Alternatively, you can lay the rake, teeth uppermost, along the garden line and gently press the handle into the soil to make a U-shaped drill. The important thing is that the seed should be in good contact with the soil. In dry conditions it is advisable to moisten the drill thoroughly before sowing, and some gardeners believe that lining the drill with moist peat is an aid to even germination.
After sowing the seed, rake soil over the drill or cover with peat and firm it with the flat face of the rake. The final touch is to mark the drill with a plant label giving the type of seed variety and date sown. Where birds are likely to be a nuisance they can be deterred by stretching strands of black cotton along the rows or by covering the drills with wire-netting.
Annual flower seeds can, of course, be sown directly into those parts of the garden where they will flower. For best results choose sunny areas that are well drained. At sowing time the soil should be moist and at a minimum temperature of 50F (10C). Annuals don't need a nutrient-rich soil, so dressings of artificial fertilizer aren't necessary. All soils and plants benefit, however, from organic matter that has been dug in to the top few inches of the soil early in the year.
The most effective technique when sowing a range of annuals is to sow the seed in patches, rather than in regimental lines.
It's helpful to draw a plan of your intentions, placing the various varieties according to their height, spread and colour scheme you are aiming for. Prepare the soil, then mark out the groups with a trickle of fine sand or flour. Sow the seed by sprinkling it as evenly as possible. One way of doing this is to put the seed into a triangular wedge of paper, held in one hand while tapping it with the fore-finger of the other hand. Annuals need only a light covering of soil which can either be sieved over the seed or the soil can be raked gently after sowing then firmed with the flat face of the rake.
When the seed has germinated it will be necessary to thin out any seedlings that are overcrowded. Do this as soon as possible after emergence, but a further thinning out might be needed when the plants have developed several pairs of true leaves. Remember that in the early life of the seedlings adequate space is a key factor in determining the plants' subsequent development, so weeds must also be kept under control.
Hanging baskets add a whole new dimension to gardening, helping to utilize all the available space. With hanging baskets you can not only brighten up a sunny wall, but with the right choice of plants, use them to brighten up shady areas, for porches, conservatories and even provide fresh herbs through the winter with an indoor basket next to a sunny window.
There are several different types of basket available from the old favourite wire mesh type, which is almost indestructible, to solid plastic types which are almost like a large pot. Wire types can be planted through the sides and bottom to give a floral ball effect, whereas solid plastic ones hold water for much longer and you don't need to line them.
When planting your basket first make sure the young plants or seedlings are at the correct stage. They should be sturdy, well rooted and at the stage for transplanting.
Planting the basket
If using a mesh basket, you will need some form of liner to prevent the soil from falling out. This could be plastic film, a garbage bag or moss. Moss ensures excellent drainage and high humidity both of which help the plants to grow well, but you will need to water more often than with the other liners which are easier to use, although you will usually have to punch holes in them to insert the plants.
The plastic pot type basket can only planted at the top and it's simple procedure to fill with grwoing medium and put in the plants, remembering to leave space at the top for watering.
With wire baskets, when using moss, line the bottom of the basket with a layer of moss about one inch thick and build the moss up to about halfway up the sides. Then fill the centre with a moist, good, free draining growing medium, preferably one specially prepared for hanging baskets. Alternatively you can make up your own by mixing 1 part Vermiculite with 3 parts standard soilless potting mix, and a slow release fertilizer. These will ensure that the water is distributed evenly, that it is held for as long as possible and that the plants are fed through the season. Insert the first layer of plants by carefully pushing the leaves through the mesh, pack plenty of moss around the plants and fill up the centre with growing medium, gently firming around the roots as you go. Make sure you leave a space large enough to take the roots of the plant which is to go in the centre and build up the outer layer of moss as you go.
Before planting the top, first arrange the plants to their best effect and then plant firmly, making a slight dip in the centre to prevent run-off when watering. If possible, finish off the top with a layer of moss to improve the look of the basket and conserve water.
Provided you are using a good growing medium and you are prepared to feed and water regularly, you will find the best effect comes from putting plenty of plants in the basket. With bedding plants it is a good rule of thumb to put in at least one plant per inch of basket diameter, that is 12 plants for a 12in (30cm) basket. However if you are using only strongly growing plants such as Fuchsias or Geraniums, then it's better to restrict it to 5 per 12in (30cm) basket.
Once planted, give the basket a good watering with a watering can to settle the soil around the roots and stand in a greenhouse for 2-3 weeks. If no greenhouse is available, then place in a cold frame, or failing this, outside in a shady, sheltered spot and bring it indoors each evening. During this period, turn the baskets each day to ensure even growth, dead head the flowers as they fade and pinch out the growing points of any long, straggly plants to ensure bushy plants.
When the plants are well established the weather is mild and warm, with all risk of frost having passed, the baskets can be hung in their final position. Use a suitably strong bracket, a 9in (22cm) bracket is suitable for a 12in (30cm) basket, and secure firmly. A sunny wall which doesn't get too hot, facing S.E. or S.W is best but avoid a windy spot. Unless you have used shade loving plants, the basket should be in the sun for most of the day. Keep the growing medium moist but not water logged by frequent watering, usually once a day in hot weather: Water in the evening for preference. You can tell whether a basket needs watering by testing with your fingers the top 1in of soil. If the surface only is dry then leave for another day. When you water, water well, roughly giving about 1/2 gallon (2.3 liters) to each basket. It is essential the growing medium is neither too wet nor too dry. Some plants, like lobelia for example, never recover from drying out.
From mid June onwards it's usually necessary to feed with a good liquid fertilizer once a week, or you can give a weekly feed of high potash fertilizer to encourage flower production. Replace once a month with a high Nitrogen feed to prevent the foliage going yellow. Finally dead head the plants regularly, particularly Mimulus, Geraniums, Nasturtiums and similar; to ensure a succession of flowers.
Baskets for Vegetables and Herbs
These need a little more attention but can be both attractive and productive. They must never be allowed to dry out and for this reason wire baskets are best lined with polythene. Suitable subjects are Bush Cucumbers, Chili Peppers, Lettuce Salad Bowl, Parsley and Tomatoes and herbs like Basil, Sage, Chamomile, Chives, Marjoram, Sorrel and Thyme.
Vegetables need more space than bedding plants. Feed weekly with a high Nitrogen feed, adn grow most of them in a sheltered spot, but provide a little shade for herbs and shade from strong sun for cucumbers.
There are four popular ways of drying flowers: Air drying, glycerin, moist drying and by using a desiccant. In the chart below we have listed the most usual treatment for each subject. They will probably also respond to other treatments. There are many other plants which can be dried for their flowers or foliage which haven't been mentioned here.
Air drying is the simplest method: pick the flowers with as long a stem as possible when they are just fully out. Strip off the leaves and hang them upside down in bunches of 3-6 stems in a cool, dark, airy place until fully dry.
Glycerin is helpful in giving grasses a lovely silken sheen or to retain a plant's suppleness. Dilute 1 part glycerin in 2 parts hot (boiled) water, mix together well and stand the plant in a jar containing 2-3in (5-7.5cm) of the mixture. Leave for 4-5 days until they change colour.
Leave the flowers on the plant until they are fully mature, then cut and remove all the foliage and stand in a jar containing 2in (5cm) of water. Once this has been used up they should be left to dry naturally. If the petals show signs of withering once the water is used up add a little more water.
This method is useful for the more fleshy flowers which don't dry easily by any other method. Use a cardboard shoe box or similar and cover the bottom with 1/23/4in (12-18mm) of dessicant (silica gel or similar). Place the flowers on this and work the desiccant carefully in among the petals until they are full covered and only the stem shows. For a first attempt it's best to start with daisy like flowers which should be placed face downwards on the dessicant. Seal the lid on the box with tape and place in a WARM, DRY place until dry. The time taken will depend on the size and texture of the flowers, but it usually takes around 2 weeks. Lift the flowers out with extreme care and brush off any surplus dessicant with a soft paint brush.
Gourds should be harvested when fully ripe, this can be seen by the fruit changing colour and becoming hard. Leave them on the vine a little longer if you are doubtful. Cut the gourd with a small piece of stem attached and bring in to room temperature to dry. After several weeks when fully dry, they can be given a coat of clear varnish if required.
DRYING VARIETY TYPE METHOD
A or G or M
A or D or G
A or G
A or D
CODE: A = Air Drying D = Dessicant G = Glycerin M = Moisture SH = Dried Seed Head
What is an F1 Hybrid?
F1 hybrids are seeds which are produced by a complicated breeding process where two pure breeding parent lines are crossed together to form seed which is known as F1 hybrid seed. Plants grown from F1 hybrid seed are usually very uniform in growth. Also F1 hybrids have what is known as Hybrid vigour. This means that F1 vegetables give increased yields and F1 flowers give a much better floral display.
The seeds from these hybrids are a little more expensive than normal seed and this is because of the care which is needed when producing them. An F1 Hybrid starts its life in the imagination of the plant breeder who has a very clear vision of what they want to produce. He or she gets together existing varieties which have the characteristics he requires in the new Hybrid, perhaps earliness of flowering or a particularly nice colour and he starts by producing lines of seed which always breed true. That is if you collect seed from them and sow it the seedlings will resemble the parents in every way, this in itself is a long and painstaking task.
Once the breeder has the necessary pure breeding lines they start to make crosses between them and studies the resulting seedlings. It's a long process but eventually, usually after about 5 years, the breeder is satisfied that if certain varieties are crossed the seeds produced will give the new variety. That's when the work really starts!
The breeder can now go into commercial production and this means that the two selected parent lines are raised and planted out close to each other: Now the task is to stop them from self pollinating, and to do this often the flowers due to receive the pollen need to have their pollen bearing parts removed by hand, generally with tweezers. Then the pollen from the other line is brushed onto the stigma of the flower in order to cross pollinate it and the flower may be put inside a bag to prevent any other pollen from landing on the flower. If the cross pollination works then later the seed can be harvested and when sown it will produce plants which are identical.
Usually seed saved from F1 Hybrids do not produce plants which are anything like the F1, but with some flowers, some Geraniums, Impatiens and Petunias for example, the 'F2 generation' will produce excellent plants which although they won't be quite as good as F I Hybrids make a good show and have the benefit of being cheaper.
Several herbs can be grown in a hanging basket, window box and even on a sunny well lit windowsill with just a little extra care. Sow them at any time from February to early August, raise them in the usual way and prick out into 3in (7.5cm) pots of a good free draining seed growing medium. Some herbs like Chives can be left as they are without pricking out at all, as they are happy when crowded together: Make sure that the pots are always in a good light and reasonably cool. A regular mist spray will help to keep them fresh during the summer, when they will need watering regularly. When growing well, give them a treat with a weak liquid feed. During the winter, watering should be done sparingly, so that the plants just keep ticking over.
Want to try growing on the windowsill? Try these:
Basil -a sun lover; excellent for pasta sauces. Grow in the best available light.
Chives -has a mild onion flavour; it will tolerate a little shade. Snip off the top couple of inches with scissors.
Marjoram -an all purpose herb also known as Oregano, likes full sun. Pick the leaves at the top of the plant just before it flowers.
Parsley -will tolerate a little shade, sow in spring for summer use and in August / September for winter use.
Thyme -an attractive low growing herb to grace any windowsill. Its strongly fragrant leaves are excellent fresh or dried. It prefers plenty of light and should not be overwatered.
Some plants can be sown in crevices on top of a wall to cascade down over it, provided that there are deep enough pockets of soil for the plants to get their roots into. There should be a hole at least as big as a 4-5in (10-12cm) pot for successful growth and development.
Sow in August/September or March/April mixing some moist growing meidum with the seed. Pack the hole with growing meidum and then sprinkle the mixture of seed and growing medium on top and firm down. Moisten the soil with a fine mist spray and keep moist until the seedlings are well established.
Some plants can be sown in cracks in paving or between paving stones, provided that the roots can grow under the paving into moist soil. Sow in August/September or March/April mixing some moist growing medium with the seed. Pack the cracks with this mixture, firm down and moisten the soil with a fine mist spray. Keep moist until the seedling are well established
Vegetables are a crucial part of your everyday diet. Discover for yourself why people say "home grown is best".
These are the earliest of the family to put in an appearance. If you wanted to feed a family of two adults and two children you should allow space for three 15ft (4.5m) rows with the rows 18in (45cm) a part and the plants about 12in (30cm) a part. Prepare the site by digging in home-made compost, well-rotted farmyard manure or a proprietary organic growing medium, followed by a dressing of dolomitic limestone or calcified seaweed. Prior to sowing give the site 4oz (112g) per square yard/metre of a balanced fertilizer.
Sow the seed singly in peat pots in a cold greenhouse or cold frame in late winter or sow direct into the soil 2in (5cm) deep in early spring.
These are one of the most popular summer vegetable, and can add a lovely accent to your garden, as they will grow up a fence, pole or wigwam of canes. You can look forward to a plentiful supply of tender, succulent beans from early summer through to the first frosts of the late autumn. For best results prepare the site by digging in compost or manure, followed in early spring by a dressing of dolomitic limestone or calcified seaweed. In spring give a dressing of a balanced fertilizer. Delay sowing until all danger of frost has passed and never when the soil is cold and wet. Self-sufficiency for a family of four is achieved with two 15ft (4.5m) rows to produce about 100 to 150 lb of fresh beans. The seed is sown 2in (5cm) deep and 9in (23cm) apart.
Garden Variety Beans
Plant when the soil temperature has reached a minimum of 50°F (10°C), because cold, wet soil will rot the seed. Sow when the last frost has gone, placing the seed about 2in (5cm) deep and about 9in (23cm) apart in the rows. Alternatively, sow the seed in trays or singly in pots in a frost-free greenhouse for transplanting in late spring. It is important to keep the crop picked while the pods are young, tender and stringless. Freeze any surplus as you go along.
Beet (Beetroot) As a salad crop these are best used when only the size of a golf ball. They can also be pickled at this stage. The maincrop beet should not be allowed to become too big and this means lifting and storing them in early autumn.
Sow thinly in a trench 1in (2.5cm) deep and 12in (30cm) apart, thin out to 4in (10cm) apart. Too early sowing can result in the crop bolting (running to seed), so make the first sowing in mid-spring, with a successional sowing about four weeks later; and the maincrop sowing in early summer. Beetroot seeds are actually a cluster of several seeds and they can be left to develop as a cluster of four to five roots.
Purple sprouting broccoli is a gourment vegetable that everyone cna grow. It is rich in dietary fibre and has as much vitamin C as organes. Of all the brassicas, this gives the best return for the space it occupies. A bonus is that the sprouting broccoli is cropped when other green vegetables are in short supply. One row of 15ft (4.5m) will accommodate six plants to give self-sufficiency for a family of four. Sow the seed in spring in a seed bed 1/2in (1.25cm) deep and transplant when the seedlings are about 4in (10cm) tall 2ft (60cm) apart each way Cut the tender shoots, beginning with the centre, while the flower buds are still in a tight bunch and continue taking the shoots for up to seven weeks.
Crisp texture, a nutty flavour and a long cropping season make this one of the stalwarts of autumn and winter meals, Choose a variety to suit the space you have available. Sow in a seed bed 1/2in (1.25cm) deep from early to mid spring for transplanting in late spring or early summer 3ft (90cm) apart. Water the young plants before transplanting and firm the soil very thoroughly afterwards.
Cabbage Raise the plants in a seed bed (see page 15) and transplant when the seedlings have made four or five leaves. Summer cabbage is sown in spring 1/2in (1.25cm) deep for planting out in early to midsummer 12-18in (30-45cm) apart. Winter cabbages are sown in late spring for planting in mid-summer 9-18in (23-45cm) apart. Planting distances have a major impact on the finished size of the cabbage: close planting results in small cabbages.
Carrots should be sown in succession to give baby carrots in late spring and early summer, followed by the main crop. Sow an early variety in a sheltered position in the garden with the main crop sowings in mid to late spring. Sow the seed 1/2in (1.25cm) deep with the rows 6in (15cm) atitle. Thin out in stages to 4-6in (10-15cm) apart.
Two 15ft (4.5cm) rows of main crop carrots will give a yield of 60 to 80 lb and the roots can be lifted from late summer onward, In favourable areas the crop can be left in the ground with a covering of straw or plastic sheeting and lifted as required.
The main pest of the crop is the carrot fly which lays its eggs alongside the plants. When they hatch, the maggots tunnel into the roots causing the plants to wilt and, eventually, to die while the roots become riddled with holes.
The only effective control is to erect a barrier to prevent the fly reaching the crop. Woven plastic fleece can be placed over the seedlings or panels of polythene sheeting tacked to wooden frames can be erected round the rows.
Cauliflower This crop is fussier than the other brassicas. It needs an organically-rich soil and must never go short of water. It also needs a generous amount of space. For an early summer crop, sow the seed indoors in winter in trays and propagate at about 60-65F (15-18C). Transplant in early spring 18 x 24in (45 x 60cm) apart. Autumn maturing varieties are sown in a seed bed in spring and transplanted in early summer 24 x 28in (60 x 70cm) apart. Sow the seed 1/2in (1.25cm) deep, thin to 3in (7.5cm) apart transplant when the plants have made five or six leaves.
Celery and celeric Celery is a crop that repays a lot of attention, while celeriac is more hardy and requires less management. Both crops have a characteristic nutty flavour and are delicious raw, in winter salads, or cooked as a vegetable. Trench celery requires early preparation of the site with a 1ft (30cm) trench dug early in the year: The bottom is filled with 6in (15cm) of manure or compost, followed by a 3in (7.5cm) layer of soil. The remainder of the soil is used for earthing up the crop.
Seeds are sown indoors in early spring in trays of growing medium at 55-60F (1316C). Surface sow celery as the seed needs light to germinate, but lightly cover the celeriac. At the two true leaf stage prick out the seedlings into boxes at about 3 in. (7.5cm) apart or individually into small pots. Harden off the plants gradually when the weather starts to warm up and plant out in early summer. Allow about 9in (23cm) apart each way for celery Plants and slightly more for the celeriac. Both crops need adequate moisture throughout the growing period.
Celery should be protected from autumn frosts with straw, boxes, or landscape fabric. Celeriac can be lifted in late autumn and stored.
Welcomed by the connoisseur of winter salads for its tangy bitter-sweet taste and crisp texture. Seed should be sown early in the summer direct into moist, rich soil. Germination can be rather erratic in hot weather; but growth is rapid once the seedlings emerge. Sow salad chicories in shallow rows 12in (30cm) apart and thin out to 5in (13cm) apart.
Chinese cabbages Looking somewhat like a self-folding cos lettuce with conical hearts and crinkled leaves, they are quite unlike lettuce or cabbage. The flavour is delicate and the texture crisp when eaten raw as a salad, and when cooked the flavour and nutritional values are retained.
Choose a site that is slightly alkaline but rich in organic matter and highly water retentive. Chinese cabbages are shortday plants, that's to say, they give their best performance in late autumn and early winter.
Sow direct into soil blocks or 3in (7.5cm) peat pots and maintain a minimum temperature of 50F (10C) from germination to planting out. Transplant at the two-leaf stage, allowing 12in (30cm) apart each way. The plants are shallow-rooted and must never be allowed to dry out. Water thoroughly and mulch with peat, home-made compost or composted bark. The mature hearts should be cut just above ground level. Although best eaten immediately after cutting, the hearts can be stored for up to three weeks in a refrigerator.
These are members of the brassica family who should be protected from cabbage root fly and rotated as a precaution against disease.
They should be sown early in the year, singly, in small pots of peat-based growing medium around 1/2in (1.25cm) deep. Place in a warm area with good air circulation or heated propagator. Transplant individually in 5in pots.
Plant out at the four-leaf stage into large pots or directly into the garden. Water regularly. Pinch out the growing point and allow two side shoots to develop. Spray with water well during hot weather and feed weekly with a liquid fertilizer high in phosphorous. All-female varieties can be allowed to fruit only on the main stem with the side shoots removed along with any male flowers that might appear.
Kohl rabi A delicious alternative to turnips and many people find it easier to grow. The edible part is the swollen stem which can be cooked whole or sliced when about the size of a tennis ball. Sow the seed in spring 1/2in (1.25cm) deep in rows 12in (30cm) apart for use in summer. Thin out to 4-6in (10-15cm) apart. Sow the winter crop in mid-summer.
This is another basic ingredient of autumn and winter salads giving crisp, tender leaves after blanching. Sow the seed thinly and shallowly in succession from spring to mid-summer. Sow in rows 12in (30cm) apart and thin out seedlings to 12in (30cm) apart. Blanching makes the leaves of chicory and endive white with a sweeter flavour and crispier texture. It is carried out from late autumn to midwinter and simply involves covering the plants as required when the leaves are dry. Use upturned flower pots, or wooden boxes.
The gourmet vegetable that every gardener can grow. Seed can be sown under glass in winter or outdoors in early spring, very thinly about 1/2in (1.25cm) deep. When the seedlings are about as thick as pencils, transplant them to 6-8in (15-20cm) deep holes, made with a dibber, and spaced 6in (15cm) apart each way. Simply drop the leek into the hole, then fill it with water. About three weeks after planting out give the leeks a dressing of a balanced organic fertilizer, and a second dressing about three weeks after the first. Leeks are hardy and should be dug as required for the kitchen.
A crisp and freshly picked lettuce is at the heart of many delicious salad meals, snacks and sandwiches. It comes in a variety of forms and, with some planning, the season for lettuce can be extended from late spring and summer into autumn. Cabbage, cos and iceberg types of lettuce are ready to eat 10-12 weeks after sowing, while the loose-leaf varieties are ready to start cutting about seven weeks after sowing.
All types sow about six feet (two metres) of row at a time, as shallowly as possible, making the first sowing in early spring, preferably with landscape fabric as protection. Sow thinly in rows 12in (30cm) apart and thin out to 6-12in (15-30cm) apart. Successional sowings can continue until mid-summer at roughly three-week intervals. The seed will germinate at quite low soil temperatures, but can prove stubborn to germinate when the soil temperature rises above 75F (24C).
Try harvesting the young leaves and not the hearted lettuce. This should cause yields to be higher; cropping is earlier and less space is needed to produce the same amount of lettuce. The needs of a family of four throughout the season can be met from an area of 5-6 square yards using the leaf lettuce method -less than half that required for hearted lettuce production. 5-6 square yards should produce a quantity of leaves equivalent to 4-5 hearted lettuce per week.
Most good garden soils should not need any additional fertilizer and if fertilizer is given. Care should be taken to avoid giving too much nitrogen as this causes bitterness in the leaves.
The soil should be moist but not wet and the seed bed raked thoroughly before sowing to ensure a fine tilth.
In this method the lettuces are grown very close together in rows 5in (12.5cm) apart. A row 1/2-3/4in (12-19mm) should be drawn out and the seeds sown thinly along it. There should be approximately 14-16 seeds per foot of row, which ought to produce about 12-15 plants per foot. Sowing can be done at 14 day intervals from April-mid May and again in August for continuity of supply. The length of row will depend upon the amount you will require over 7 days as sowing and harvesting are done ideally at 7 day intervals.
Little cultivation is necessary, no thinning is required, and very little weeding as the plants will soon smother germinating weed seedlings.
Harvesting should take place about 60 days from an early sowing and 40 days from a mid-season sowing. Start at the end of the row and cut only as much as you need each day, bearing in mind that freshly harvested vegetables lose a lot of their vitamins very quickly after being harvested. If you wish to make two harvests from the bed, the plants should be cut at about 1/2-1in (1.25-2.5cm) from the ground. Afterwards the area should be cleared of debris and the soil watered. Re-growth from the stem bases should occur in about one or two weeks. It is best to use only the leaves from one re-growth as the old stumps may harbour pests and diseases.
Leaf lettuce production can be tailored to your weekly requirements, there will be no waste from bolting and less ground is used. Only 10 sowings should be required to produce crops ready for harvesting at weekly intervals from early June to late October.
Sow the seed in early spring in a heated propagator or greenhouse at a steady temperature of 70-75F (21-24C), setting each seed 1/2in (1.25cm) deep in a small pot of peat-based growing medium. At the four-leaf stage the plants can be moved onto an open sunny site, allowing each plant 3 feet of space.
Under cover it is advisable to hand pollinate the female flowers (those with a slight swelling behind the petals) by dusting them with pollen from male flowers which have no swelling at all. Melons must have plenty of moisture at all times along with regular feeding with a liquid fertilizer.
Melons need a fertile well drained soil which warms up early, and with plenty of well rotted compost dug in the previous autumn. They need a soil temperature of 71-77F (22-25C) and an air temperature of above 65F (18C) to flourish. Raise the plants as described, about 3-4 weeks before you intend to plant outdoors. Plant in single rows, after all risk of frost has gone and the soil is warm, 20-36in (50-90cm) apart and 6-8ft (2-2.5m) between rows or other vegetables. Water well after planting until established and dig a shallow water tunnel either side of the row, each approximately 21/2ft (80cm) from the centre of the plant for watering. When the plants have made 4 true leaves, cut off the growing point just above the 3rd true leaf. With vigorous plants a second pruning at the 8th leaf can be made. They should run along the ground and need no support. When the flowers appear, hand pollination can prevent mis-shapen fruits. Watering is most necessary just after the fruits set, at this stage water regularly and feed at 10-14 day intervals with liquid feed. Wait until the fruit is fully mature before harvesting. At this stage a small crack will appear near the stalk and it will have a rich fruity fragrance. Harvest with 1/2in (1cm) of stalk attached.
OnionsThe easiest way to grow onions is from sets which are small immature onions that have been heat treated. They can be planted in early spring for harvesting in early summer. You can plant direct into moist soil or give them a start by placing them on a tray of moist soil or peat somewhere warm until the roots have grown about an inch.
Plant the sets so that just the tip is showing, allowing about 5in (13cm) between each, and about 12in (30cm) between the rows. One pound of onion sets should give a finished crop of about 70 lb. When the foliage starts to turn straw-coloured, ease the onions from the soil and allow to dry off until the skins are brittle. Hang the onions in nets or traditional strings in a cool, dry place, where they should remain in good condition for at least six months.
Onions can also be grown very successfully from seed sown under cover in trays early in the year or in shallow trenches outdoors. Transplant the seedlings in spring at the same distances as for sets and use any thinnings as salad onions.
Winter onion varieties are sown in late summer to overwinter and harvest the following spring or early summer. Sow the seeds about 1in (2cm) apart in shallow trenches 9in (23cm) apart and thin out to 4in (10cm) apart the following spring.
A leafy brassica sown in spring for a succession of cut and come again leaves or sown in summer for harvesting in the autumn. Seed sown direct into rich organic soil will produce a crop ready for harvesting within about six weeks. Sow 1/2in (1.25cm) deep in drills 15in (38cm) atitle and thin out to 9in (23cm) apart.
A feature of Pak Choi is that the tender succulent leaves with thick stalks are mild flavoured and never become tough, so there's no waste. They are equally suitable as a cooked vegetable or raw in salads.
If sown direct into the garden, unheated greenhouse or cold frame, the thinnings can be used as salad material, giving the plants a spacing of 8in (20cm) apart each way to grow to maturity.
Parsnips Parsnip seed is very slow to germinate, so a sowing in early spring as soon as the soil is workable is recommended. Sow in rows 1in (2.5cm) deep with the rows 12in (30cm) apart. Thin out gradually to one seedling every 5-8in (13-20cm). Some gardeners sow a quicker growing marker crop, such as radish, to indicate the position of the drills. Mature parsnips may be left in the ground over the winter for lifting as required or the entire crop can be lifted and stored in peat or sand.
Few vegetables can match tender, sweet garden peas, picked straight from the plants and eaten within an hour or two. For those with the room to spare, three 15ft (4.5m) rows of an early variety and another three rows of a maincrop gives self-sufficiency for a family of two adults and three children. This is a crop that repays careful preparation on of the site as early in the year as possible. Choose an open, sunny position with deep soil organically manured and well drained. Just prior to sowing give a top dressing of a balanced organic fertilizer or an inorganic one.
Sow the early varieties in early spring with the maincrop following about four or five weeks later: Make a flat-bottomed trench about 6in (15cm) wide and 3in (7.5cm) deep. The space between each row should be approximately the height of the crop. Sow the seeds in three rows in the trench 2in (5cm) apart each way and cover with 2in (5cm) of soil.
Cover the rows with pea guards or stretch black cotton along the rows to protect the seedlings from birds. When the seedlings are about 4in (10cm) tall give support with twiggy sticks or netting supported by stakes.
Do not allow the pods to become overripe as this shortens the harvesting period. Any surplus peas can be frozen very successfully.
Peppers are a great crop for amateur gardeners because crops can be produced outside in growing bags, large pots or other containers. Peppers are rich in vitamin C and can be used in salads, either raw or cooked and cooled.
Sow the seed as for tomatoes and move the young plants into 3in (7.5cm) pots at the four-leaf stage. Plant out after hardening off when all danger of frost has passed. Peppers are particularly suited to production in the unheated greenhouse which should be kept well ventilated and sprayed regularly in hot weather as an aid to pollination and a deterrent to red spider mite.
These are easy to grow and can be intercropped with rows of lettuce or beets or broadcast in patches to take up a minimum amount of space. The earliest sowings can be made in a cold frame or under landscape fabrics in late winter with successional sowings following at about three-weekly intervals. Choose a sunny, sheltered position in soil that is well fed with organic matter. Sow the seed thinly, evenly and shallowly in rows 4-6in (10-15cm) apart and thin out early to 1 in (3cm) apart. Water the soil thoroughly before sowing and after the seeds emerge.
Shallots, like small onions, are ideal for pickling, for flavouring and for grating or slicing in salads. They are grown from bulbs, each of which produces 10-20 mature bulbs, and are planted in late winter for harvesting in early summer. Push the bulb into the soil to half its depth, spacing the bulbs 6in (15cm) apart and the rows 9in (23cm) apart. Ensure the shallots are thoroughly dry before storing in nets or trays where they will keep in perfect condition for up to 12 months.
A highly nutritious and easily grown crop. Sow spinach in spring outdoors as soon as the ground can be worked, in drills ½in (1.3mm) deep 1in (2.5cm) apart, in rows 16in (40cm) apart, preferably in a well-manured organic soil in a sunny location or partial shade. Thin seedlings to end up 10in (25cm) apart.
It takes almost 9 weeks from sowing to picking, provided that the soil doesn't lack moisture. So make successional sowings at 2-3 week intervals until mid-summer.
Sow the seed after the last frost, 2in (5cm) deep, 3 seeds per hill or 4in (10cm) apart, in rows seperated by 24in (60cm), where the crop is to mature. Thin seedlings to one every 12in (30cm).
Plant out in early summer in blocks seperating the varieties. This is to help the pollinisation. Or tap the top of the stem to transfer pollen from the male flowers to the female ones below. Most plants will produce two cobs, the first being larger than the later second. To test the cob for ripeness, press a grain with a finger nail and if the juice is milky, it is just right.
Surface sow strawberries such as Temptation on moist growing medium and lightly cover from fine perlite. Cover with glass or polythene. Germination takes 3-4 weeks at 60-65F (15-18C). Widely fluctuating temperatures will result in poor germination. Place in subdued light and move to full light once the seedlings are up. Take precautions to avoid damping off. When large enough to handle, transplant into small pots or trays at 55-60F (13-15C) and give an occasional liquid feed. Pot up into 3in (7.5cm) pots and when well rooted, into their final containers.
This is also known as seakale beet, silver chard and ruby chard. It is a dual-purpose vegetable: the leafy part being used as an excellent alternative to spinach while the thick, fleshy mid-ribs are cooked and used like asparagus.
Sow as for spinach and harvest from late summer to late autumn. The foliage dies off during the winter but there is rapid re-growth in early spring.
Raising your own tomato plants has several benefits. For one thing, you can grow just the variety or varieties you prefer: You can save money and time and, perhaps best of all, you can pick your tomatoes at the peak of their freshness and full of goodness and flavour. What's more, tomatoes are one of the easiest crops to raise from seed
Tomato seed germinates readily at a temperature of 20-25 C so requires a warm place indoors for success. Sow the seed shallowly in a tray of peat-based growing medium 6-8 weeks before the last frost date in your area.
When the seedlings have made two pairs of true leaves transplant into 3in (7.5cm) pots and place them in a light, warm place indoors or in the greenhouse. The object is to produce short-stemmed sturdy plants. Consider using a water soluble fertilizer every two weeks starting at half strength and increasing to full strength over six weeks. Transplant outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.
Outdoors a warm, sunny site is needed to ensure a good crop. Set plants 60-90 cm (24-36") apart in rows 3ft (90cm) apart. These outdoor plants should be hardened off before planting out after the last spring frost. Bush tomatoes will also grow well in large pots on a sunny patio or against a south-facing wall or fence. Bush varieties, also called determinate, need no attention other than a mulch to protect the fruit from being splashed and, in northern districts, protection with landscape fabrics to increase the yield of ripe fruit.
Staking varieties, also called indeterminate, which can be grown in both in the greenhouse and outdoors, need support. Those outside can be given a bamboo cane to which the plant's stem is tied with plastic string. In the greenhouse the stem of the plant is loosely tied to a length of string with the other end tied to a horizontal wire under the roof.
Feed regularly during the growing season with a well balanced fertilizer and be sure to provide consistent moisture during fruit set and development.
Pollination of tomato plants can be assisted by gently shaking the plants
This is a dual-purpose vegetable: delicious when small and tender as a late spring crop; versatile and long-lasting as a winter vegetable. Choose a quick-maturing variety, such as Early Snowball, for sowing 1/2in (1.25cm) deep in rows 6in (15cm) apart in early spring. Harvest the roots when they are about the size of tennis balls and use the tops as spring greens. Sow the maincrop, such as Rapa da Mensa, in mid-summer and thin the seedlings to 6in (15cm) apart. Keep the plants well watered in dry weather. Lift and store in late autumn, similar to parsnips.
These are a hardy root crop requiring an open site and a long growing period. Sow in late spring in drills 1/2in (1.25cm) deep and 18in (45cm) atitle. Thin the seedlings to 6in (15cm) apart. Turnips and swedes are brassicas and should, if possible, be rotated with others of the family.
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