Archive for July, 2013

Grandads Garden August

We have blessed with fine weather here in the Scottish Highlands and the garden is looking well, I hope yours is too. The good lady wife has left it to me to post the August edition of Grandad’s Garden, she is slaving away in the kitchen as I write preparing for a visit from the youngest of the five children and his partner. He has just celebrated his 28th birthday which is making me feel a bit long in the tooth!

VOL. No. 8 AUGUST – 1945

‘This is the month of weeds Kex, charlock, thistle…Spurry, pimpernel, quitch…Making for trouble. This is the month of weeds.’

Before Roman holidays were popularised in these islands August was Weodmonath—the month of weeds. Nature probably realised that harvest would fully occupy man’s attention at this time of the year, and cunningly contrived for most of the wickedest weeds to shed their seeds. The Romans just helped things along by encouraging everyone who was not helping with the harvest, to sit in the sun—to take a holiday. And very pleasant too—when these islands held but a handful of people, but holidays are not for the gardeners in a population of 48 million people on an island in a world short of food and short of ships to carry it. So—first of all—keep the hoe going. What feeds a weed will feed a cabbage to feed you.

Even if there were no weeds there would still be plenty to do in the garden, for this is the time of gathering the fruits of labour. And careful harvesting is just as important as careful sowing and careful growing.

Dwarf, French and runner beans require frequent picking or they will grow tough and stringy. If you have more than you and your friends can eat now, remember that they can be easily salted down for winter use. Regular picking of runner beans helps to make a longer fruiting season. But do not pick any beans from the plants you may have selected for seed.

Pull and use early beet. If left in the ground too long the roots will become woody and stringy. Any early-sown carrots that remain should be used up quickly. Summer turnips are ready to use, and marrows and tomatoes should be gathered as they ripen. Onions are important enough to have a section to themselves (see page 51).

Pick herbs now—just before they flower. Gather shoots of thyme, sage, mint, marjoram, tarragon and parsley. Tie them in bundles, wash them, cover with muslin to keep out dust and hang to dry in an airy shed or near the fire. When thoroughly dry and crisp, crush to a mealy texture and store in lidded jars or bottles away from the light.

Your last chance TAKE STOCK

Now is the time to make sure of winter’s green stuff—to make good losses caused by pests or diseases—opportunity to sit down after that back-aching weeding—just sit and think—sit and make sure—it’s your last chance.

If you have not yet sown spring cabbage, do so at once or it will soon be too late. Do not sow in that part of the seedbed where spring sowings of cabbage were made this year. The soil may contain Cabbage Root Fly or the spores of Club Root. Sow seed thinly 1 in. deep in drills made 6 in. apart; sow enough to plant four rows of spring cabbage on the ground which will be left free after the onions are harvested.

Do not sow too many, but allow a small reserve for making good any losses after planting out in September. If possible, sow after rain; or if the soil is very dry, water the seedbed a few hours before sowing. Where space is confined, sow “Harbinger”, which is compact and hearty. Where more room is available “Early Offenham” and “Durham Early” are good varieties.

Sow late kale now where it is to mature, and thin as required during growth—it will give you a late green crop in March and April. Sow winter radish—they can be lifted and stored. Smooth- leaved Batavian endive, sown now and treated as lettuce, will last well into the winter, if it is blanched by tying up loosely with raffia and protected by a pot or box.

The main thing is to make sure of winter greens. Sow now for the lean months. If you are following the Ministry’s Cropping Plan, make yourself completely comfortable in a deck chair— and study it. If you have any gaps or corners to spare, fill them with winter greens.

Prepare for AUTUMN SOWINGS

Ground for winter lettuce and turnips should be prepared a week or two in advance. Avoid ground likely to become damp in the winter; lettuces can stand up to cold much better than to wet conditions.

Dig the ground over one spade’s depth and leave it for a week or more to settle. If the soil is poor, rake in a dressing of 1-11⁄2 oz. per square yard of National Growmore fertiliser. If the ground was not limed in the spring, dress with lime and fork in lightly immediately after digging, but do not apply at the same time as the fertiliser. Leave the ground alone until the lime is well washed in and then—just before sowing—apply the fertiliser and fork it in lightly.

For lettuce, tread the ground firmly and evenly and rake it down finely. Choose a variety suitable for winter and sow seed thinly in drills 3⁄4 in. deep and 1 ft. apart. When seedlings are large enough to be handled in late September and early October, they will be thinned out to 9 in. apart.

TOMATOES

Strong growth and plentiful flowers can be misleading. It is rare for us even in the best of summers to have the long spells of sunshine necessary to ripen more than four trusses of fruit. So “stop” the plants by pinching out the main growing shoot. Nip it off just above the fourth truss. Even if four trusses have not set, the stopping should be done by the third week of the month. There is nothing to be gained by leaving the plants to grow on.

Keep moisture at the roots. Allowing the soil to dry out and then trying to correct matters by soaking, only leads to split fruit. If you have the material, apply a generous mulch (see page 52) and do not let the soil surface cake hard. Keep feeding the plants, but do not overdo it; and especially at this stage avoid too much nitrogen—sulphate of ammonia or nitrate of soda— which will only promote rank growth and fruit that lacks flavour.

It also makes the plants less resistant to disease. Let the sun get at the fruit. This does not mean recklessly cutting out every leaf that is in the way. Remember that the leaves of plants play an important part in their nutrition. Remove any dead or withered leaves from the base, of course, and then carefully thin out, here and there, to uncover developing trusses. Keep a sharp lookout for any side shoots that you may have missed. Watch out also for blight (see June Guide) and give another spraying or dusting as a precaution.

Now is the time when the quality of plants tells. If yours are not all they should be, make a resolution to start with better stock next year. There are still too many over-forced weakly plants bought by the unwary.

ONIONS

A little meat goes a long way—with plenty of onions to flavour the dish. We shall need all the meat-stretching flavour we can harvest, and now is the critical time in the life of the spring-sown onion. On the care taken in lifting and ripening depends its ability to keep well in storage.

First step is to bend the tops over and then leave for about a fortnight while they shrivel. If you have some “bull-necks” which refuse to be bent, use them up in the kitchen in the next few weeks.

To lift, loosen the bulbs by pushing a fork into the soil well under them and lever then up.

Then lay the bulbs on their side with the under-surface and roots so placed as to catch the full sun. Now they must be thoroughly dried before you take them into the dry shed, spare bedroom or wherever you are going to store them.

If the month is a “baker,” the process should not take long—just lay the bulbs on firm ground or on a path until the skins are really dry. If the weather alternates between dry and wet, the onions much be lifted off the soil and the most made of the sunny spells by sheltering your onions on a home-made drying frame. Prop a piece of wire netting on four corner pegs, spread the bulbs on it, then above them—about 3 in. higher—prop a sheet of corrugated iron on four more pegs. The sun, when it comes, beats on the iron and warms the onions beneath ; the air circulates freely, and the crop ripens quickly and well.

Sow Onions

See that the soil is firm, and sow fairly quickly. Use varieties of the White Spanish type or those specially recommended for autumn sowing. In the North, the first week in the month is the time ; the third week is early enough down South.

Some growers divide their sowings, saving some of the seed till late December. They find that the December sowing produces fewer plants that run to seed. But whenever you sow, keep weeds firmly in check.

Hold that moisture

About 300 years ago, a scientist planted a willow shoot weighing 5 lb. in a barrel holding 200 lb. of dry soil for five years he gave it nothing but pure water. He finished with a fine tree weighing over 169 lb. and the soil had lost a trifling 2 oz., so he concluded that water was the “principle of vegetation.”

Other scientists have since found it isn’t quite as simple as that, but none of them has grown a plant without water. In fact it takes anything up to 1,000 lb. of water to produce a single pound of plant substance.

Plants are just as thirsty in August as human beings are though they are unable to trot into the kitchen or down the road. But they do have roots able to draw on the available moisture in the soil. It’s up to us to see that the moisture gets to the roots and not into the warm air.

Much can be done by timely hoeing to stop the soil cracking when it has been beaten down by heavy rains or watering. But a better way to keep the roots or peas, runner beans and tomatoes supplied with moisture is to spread a layer of half-rotted manure with plenty of straw in it, well- rotted compost material, or even decayed lawn-mowing’s, between the rows and around the plants. This is a mulch, but it is next to useless if you put it on already bone dry soil. Seize the moment after a fall of rain, or if the rain fails, give the ground a good soaking.

See that the mulch is open in texture: heavy impenetrable stuff keeps the air from the soil and may even tend to sour it. Watch your lawn-mowing’s specially. Mulching also helps to keep down the weeds.

STOP PEST NEWS

By this time in the year the patient gardener is prepared—or he should be— for anything in the nature of pests. This month’s particular unpleasantness may take the form of Cabbage Aphis on the members of the cabbage family. It is easy enough to recognize. Leaves begin to curl or crinkle; part of the leaf turns a paler green, and on the underside of the crinkled leaf is a mass of greyish-blue, powdery-looking insects busily sucking the vitality out of your plants and crippling them.

If these pests find their way into growing hearts of your young kales, sprouts or other green stuff, they may check the plants so badly that the crop will be very poor. You will probably find too that the Aphis has discovered your seedling rows of greenstuff.

The best remedy is to spray with a good nicotine insecticide, preferably one that contains soap or some other substance that acts as a “spreader” and keeps the nicotine on the leaves.

Force the spray well into the hearts of the plants. Where there are large colonies, it is worth while squashing the insects with finger and thumb before spraying—if you can “take it.” It is a messy business, but half measures are no good. Later sprayings at intervals of a few days will probably be necessary. The secret of control is to spray early enough and often enough.

WARNING

Nicotine and nicotine preparations are poisonous. Be sure to follow maker’s directions. On Summer Cabbage almost ready for cutting, or other vegetables intended for the table within ten days, use a derris spray instead.

Help on the GREENS

Give late autumn and winter greens a light dressing of National Growmore fertiliser round each plant, raked or hoed in. Apply this now—feeding after this month will make soft growth which will not stand the severe winter weather. Keep the ground firm round winter greens or they may fail to heart-up properly.

Look after the SEEDLINGS

Give seedlings of the cabbage family and turnips a light dressing of derris dust or naphthalene dust as soon as they show through. This early treatment works better against flea beetle attack than later applications. Continue to dust with derris during growth in seed bed.

Soot for CELERY

This is a vital moment in the life of celery. Earthing-up (see June Guide) should keep up with growth. The other main needs are soot and water. Soot is the best fertiliser for the crop. The older it is the better.

It can be used on the leaves or well watered into the soil as a manure. Do not try to produce luxuriant growth—it will probably be coarse. Aim to grow short, firm, stocky plants. Never let them get dry—water must be abundant during growth.

Those POTATO HAULMS

Every year when the early potatoes have been lifted, the question is asked “What shall I do with my potato tops?” The problem is whether to put them on the compost heap or not. The answer depends on two things, namely, how good is your compost heap and how free from disease are your potato tops?

If you have had an attack of blight, or any other disease that has affected the potato tops, the answer is simple—gather them up, all of them, and burn them. If your crop has been clean and you have the sort of efficient compost heap that heats up well, there is nothing against chopping up the haulms, with a sharp spade, while they are soft and green, and treating them as any other waste. In a good compost heap they will soon rot down. The main thing about potato haulms is not to leave them lying about.

Sow SPINACH…the real thing

Clever cooks, it is said, can make any vegetable into spinach. But, as with so much that cooks “make,” the concoction cannot provide the health-giving benefits of the real thing. And more important, the real thing tastes better.

For winter use, sow the prickly or rough-seeded variety thinly in drills 1 in. deep and 1 foot apart. If possible, avoid full sun.

Thin to 3 in. then to 6 in. apart as plants develop. The best flavoured plants are fairly big, with broad, crisp leaves about the size of a saucer—this means proper attention to thinning.

WASPS

Adjectives may relieve but they do not reduce the battalions. Traps do, especially if hung among the plum trees.

The only satisfactory way of dealing with wasps where they are causing damage to fruit is to find the nests in the neighbourhood and kill the colonies by poisoning.

There are various materials that can be used to destroy wasps in their nests. Some are dangerous in in-expert hands but ground Derris root is safe and is effective and simple to use. Put a dessert-spoonful of the powder as far into the entrance of the nest as possible, and also sprinkle a little round the entrance so that the wasps will get it on their feet and feelers when entering or leaving the nest.

Some people use tar, creosote, or paraffin successfully. The liquid must be poured well into the nest or a soaked rag or piece of sacking pushed in by means of a stick.

The best time for dealing with wasps’ nests is at dusk when most of the workers are inside. If desired, the nests may be dug out on the following day and destroyed by burning.

Trapping by means of jam-jars hung among the trees helps to reduce the population but is only a palliative. The jars should be half to three-quarters full of water into which a spoonful of jam has been stirred or a little stale beer added.

FRUIT PAGE

The early varieties of dessert apples will be ready for picking this month—”Beauty of Bath,” “Irish Peach” and “Gladstone.: These must be picked and used as soon as they are ripe or they lose flavour. Not all the fruit ripens at the same time, so it is worthwhile going over the trees at intervals of a few days. There is one right way—and many wrong ways—of picking apples. The sign of ripeness is the case with which the stalk parts company from the twig. Take the base of the apple in the palm of the hand and then raise it until it is horizontal. If it parts easily, it is ripe. If it fails to come away easily, let it gently back to its original place and leave for a few days. The great joy about early apple varieties is that, unlike Cox’s Orange Pippin and other late kinds, they do not have to mature after picking, and it is the owner’s pleasure to eat them at once.

Such delights may be especially welcome if, on going over your apple trees, you find that some apples have rotted. This is probably due to Brown Rot, a disease that destroys many tons of apples every year, and also affects plums. pears, quinces and cherries. Much of this loss can be prevented. The disease starts as a mere spot, where a slight bruise, cut or insect puncture has been invaded by disease spores, carried by wind, rain or insects. The spot gradually spreads into a soft brown patch, and at the same time small swellings under the skin break through as yellowish or buff-coloured growths — or pustules — usually in concentric circles.

These diseased fruits produce a crop of spores, which are carried to other fruits by flies and wasps. And so it goes on—an endless vicious cycle that can only be checked by strict hygiene on the part of growers.

Collect from apple and plum trees and under the trees, all fruit that shows the slightest sign of the disease. Burn it. Go over the trees, especially the soft-wooded varieties of apple such as “Lord Derby” and “James Grieve,” and cut out all dead or dying spurs along with any cankers. Collect and burn. Keep an eye open in the winter for “mummied” fruit left on the trees—gather and burn it.

Special care is necessary when picking apples for storing. Brown Rot is liable to set in wherever there is a wound or bruise, and a favourite place of entry is the slight wound made if the stalk is torn out. So pick with the stalks on. Do not attempt to store any fruit showing signs of the disease. It will spread. And clean up under the trees. It is from mummified fruit on the trees and from rotten apples lying about that the first spore invasion usually starts.

Summer fruiting Raspberries should be pruned as soon as the last fruit has been picked. Cut out all the canes that have borne fruit. Cut them right down at ground level. leaving no snags to become resting and breeding places for pests and diseases. Burn all cut-out canes. If your canes are supported by wires, tie up the new canes, 5 or 6 in. apart, with raffia or soft string.

The same sort of treatment should be given to Blackberries and Loganberries. Cut out fruited shoots and thin out weak new growths, and any showing purplish spots (signs of the disease Cane Spot). Keep about 6 or 8 of the strongest shoots and tie them in.

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Grandads Garden July

The good lady wife has been rather preoccupied of late, having started a new embroidery. She has therefore left it to me to post the July blog of Granddad’s Garden, albeit three weeks late:

 

VOL. 1 No. 7 JULY – 1945

“The summer looks out from her brazen tower, Through the flashing bars of July.”

 

Well, given that kind of July weather––though with our climate we can never be sure––we shall feel like taking a snooze in the deck chair or lying down under a tree, instead of getting on with those gardening jobs that must be done. But we must not make the mistake of thinking that this month the garden can be left to take care of itself. For the weeds grow as well as the vegetables, and pests and diseases can quickly spread, if not checked at the start. So even if you feel like “just a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep,” don’t indulge that feeling too often, and do keep that hoe going, to check the weeds.

And watch out for those pests. For instance, the “Cabbage White” butterfly is now on the wing; too soon its caterpillars may be gorging on your green-stuff. Your first method of attacking these garden enemies is to destroy the colonies of eggs by crushing them between thumb and forefinger. It’s not a pleasant job but it must be done. Then, if the caterpillars do appear, destroy them by hand-picking, or dust or spray with Derris (see April Guide). Some people complain that they have tried derris dust with little or no effect. Well, either the dust was too old and had lost its killing property, or only one dusting was given. As successive broods of caterpillars hatch out, further dustings are necessary; fresh derris applied as soon as caterpillars are seen will help to control them. A dusting machine is a great convenience and the dust should be applied when there is dew on the leaves. Always try to get the dust right into the centre of the plants.

 

It is infuriating to go out one evening and find your cabbage plants suddenly wilting one by one. On digging up one of them you will probably find white grubs feeding on the roots. They are the grubs of the cabbage root fly; once the plant is attacked the only thing to do is to dig it out and burn it. The right thing to do is to apply a ring (1⁄2 teaspoonful) of 4 per cent. Calomel dust round each young plant of the cabbage family as you plant it out. This will put paid to the trouble.

 

The Turnip Flea Beetle may also be on the warpath, eating holes in your cabbage and turnip plants. It has caused gardeners trouble for centuries and is most troublesome during dry weather. Some old hands believe in the cold water cure, and give the plants a good soaking every night until they are about 6 in. high. But that’s not possible on some allotments, so derris, nicotine or napthalene dust should be used, as recommended in the April Guide. And dust often till the leaves are well formed.

And don’t forget that what you do––or fail to do––this month, will determine how well or badly off your family will be for winter greens in the lean period from next February onwards.

Now having made up our minds to keep going at the job, let’s have a look at some of the things we might do about our growing crops, before we get on to further sowings and plantings.

 

Crops that need water

 

We shall probably need to be economical again this summer. It is difficult to lay down hard and fast rules about watering vegetables, and the gardener must use his own judgment. Newly transplanted seedlings may suffer seriously if water is withheld. But established plants may suffer if watered only at irregular intervals.

Once you start watering you must carry on, so if the plants are holding their own in a dry spell, it is unwise to begin widespread watering unless you can do it regularly.

Assuming the water supply situation is reasonably good, crops that specially benefit by watering are runner beans, celery, marrows (especially on mounds) and tomatoes.

 

Planting out LEEKS

 

You can plant leeks from mid-June to mid-August, but July is the time recommended in the Ministry’s cropping plan. Many gardeners plant them on ground cleared of peas. If you have sown leeks in your seedbed, the seedlings should be lifted when about 6 in. high. If the soil is dry, soak the seedbed before lifting. Lift carefully with a fork; it is usual to cut off the tips of the leaves before planting out.

 

Plant in rows 12 to 18 in. apart, 9 in. between plants. Drop each plant into a hole at least 6 in. deep, made with a blunt dibber. Water in to wash soil round the roots, but don’t fill the hole with soil. The sketches show how to plant. Although hardy, the soil should be drawn up to crops in the autumn to give some protection from severe frost and to help in bleaching.

 

Feed your ONIONS

 

Early July is the best time to provide some extra rations for onions that have not had the advantage of heavy manuring before sowing or planting. A good general fertiliser such as “National Growmore” is safe and effective. The ideal time to apply any fertiliser is during showery weather; and if showers are lacking, do not fail to hoe in the fertiliser and water thoroughly. Artificial manures of all sorts are more of a danger than a help when spread on dry ground, but their action is very soon seen when rain descends or when artificial watering has been well done. Not more than two applications of fertiliser should be given to the onion bed.

 

The ideal to aim at is hard, well-ripened bulbs––not mere size, for the medium bulbs will keep better than the big ones. Late manuring with artificials only prolongs the growing period and makes ripening all the later and more difficult, so give no artificials after mid-July.

 

Earthing up BRUSSELS

Draw a little soil up round the stems about a week after planting. Remember, Brussels sprouts like very firm ground.

 

Getting ‘RUNNERS’ to set

 

Syringe the plants, and particularly the flowers, with water during hot weather to encourage the beans to form. And pinch out the growing tips of the main shoots when the plants have reached the tops of the sticks.

 

 

 

Harvesting SHALLOTS

 

Shallots are ready for harvesting when the foliage has begun to wither. You then lift the little bunches of bulbs and leave them on the surface to dry off. But if the ground is heavy and moist, lay them out along a dry surface, such as a path, for a few days, for they must be well ripened and perfectly dry before storing. Or if you have got a strip of wire netting, you could dry them on this, raising it slightly from the ground to let a current of air pass beneath them. Then tie them into bundles or lay them in trays or boxes, and store in a dry, frost-proof, airy shed. Look them over from time to time and throw out and decaying bulbs.

 

Try a row of SPINACH BEET

 

If you have not sown a row of spinach beet or seakale beet earlier, try a row now. Either is a valuable vegetable and often survives the winter better than any other green crop. Sow the seeds in drills about 1 in. deep and allow 8 in. between plants. Always use spinach beet when the leaves are young and tender.

 

Sow those TURNIPS

 

If you are following the Ministry’s cropping plan, now is the time to sow turnips for storing on ground cleared of early potatoes, which should be in good condition for roots, as it will have been well worked during the past month or two. The rows should be 1 ft. apart and the seed sown about 1 in. deep.

 

Sow for succession

 

Sow lettuce every 10 or 14 days. And while you are about it, don’t forget to make another sowing of parsley, for the experts tell us we don’t eat nearly enough for our health’s sake. Drills should be 1⁄2 in. deep;

 

Sowing SPRING CABBAGE

 

Of all early vegetables we look forward with most pleasure, perhaps, to our first cutting of spring cabbage. There is a delicacy, texture and flavour about it that no cabbage can aspire to at any other period of the year.

 

At the end of the month sow the seeds. Instead of sowing in a drill, try for once sowing broadcast on a small plot. Some people think you get far better plants that way. The seeds are sometimes sown far too thickly in drills and very poor plants result.

Don’t waste that SUMMER WASTE

 

At this time of year garden “waste” is generally fairly plentiful and should not be wasted. Pea stems, potato haulms, outside lettuce leaves, the last of the rough leaves from spring cabbage, grass cuttings and the like should be made into compost, which, later on, you will dig back into your soil to maintain its fertility. How to make a compost heap was described in the March Guide.

 

There are some people who seem to think that the compost heap is a new idea, introduced because farmyard manure is hard to come by. It is no novelty, for the gardening books of a century or more ago mentioned it; long before it was called “compost” the value of decayed vegetable refuse was well known and understood, particularly by the professional gardener.

 

CARROTS

If you would like to experiment with carrots, try sowing the seed broadcast in a broad flat drill 1 in. deep, instead of in the usual narrow drill.

Late-sown carrots usually escape the attention of the carrot fly.

 

Those GREEN CROPS for next winter

 

During the summer, when the weather does not always provide those rainy periods at the time we need them most, we gardeners have to be swift to act and seize the right moment to do our various jobs of sowing and planting. When a fall of rain has brought the surface soil into just the right state for planting, all other garden work should be set aside to make the most of an opportunity that may not come again until the seedling plants have passed the best stage for planting out. If nature fails to oblige, then we have to choose between waiting for rain and risking the plants remaining in the seed-beds, or watering the ground thoroughly before planting. With kale and sprouting broccoli, two very useful vegetables for after Christmas, this is a decision we often have to make.

 

The middle of the month is the time to plant them, in rows 2 ft. apart each way; if there is sufficient room, allow 2 ft. 6 in. each way. The Ministry’s plan for a 300 sq. yd. plot recommends two rows of each, which should provide a good supply of green-stuff lasting well into next spring.

 

These brassicas should be planted in a shallow drill about 2 in. deep and 3 or 4 in. wide. This not only helps to direct moisture towards the roots of the plants, but it makes it easier to draw soil up to the stems, thus helping to keep the plants from blowing over on gusty days later in the season.

The Ministry’s plan also provides for three rows of winter cabbages, and mid-July is the time for planting them out (2 ft. apart each way) in the shallow drills already described.

 

If you have grown your own plants in a seed-bed, lift them carefully with a fork, aiming at getting them out with as much soil as possible adhering to the roots. Should the weather be dry, give the seed-bed a good soaking the night before you lift. This applies to all your brassicas.

 

The sketches on planting cabbage may help you. If you have to plant in dry ground, water each hole before planting, cover in with soil and again water. Half-a-pint of water should be sufficient for each plant.

Always make sure that your cabbage plants are firmly planted by testing one or two here and there as you go along the rows.

If you pull the plant by the edge of a leaf, the part between your finger and thumb should tear away. But if you pull the plant up, you are not planting firmly enough.

 

Early-sown savoys will be reaching the stage when they should be transplanted. But it is not wise to have this crop in bearing too early in the winter, and if the larger plants are put out 2 ft. apart this month, the smaller seedlings could be transplanted 6 in. apart in an odd corner and allowed to grow on for a time before you finally put them in their permanent quarters, perhaps as late as the end of July or early in August.

 

On saving your own SEED

 

Some gardeners like having a shot at something new––seed saving, for example. Those who have not hitherto experimented in this direction might like to try it out. But it is well that they should know that while a few kinds of vegetable seeds can safely be saved by the amateur, others are best left to the experts.

 

You know that all flowering plants need pollen to fertilise the female part of the plant, so that it can produce seed. Some plants are fertilised by their own pollen, while others have to get it from another plant. Broadly, those that fertilise themselves are “safe”‘ those that need pollen from another plant should be left to the professional seed grower. Why? Well, you may be growing, say, a cabbage for seed in your garden, while another gardener not far away may be growing a Brussels sprout for seed. The wind or the bees may bring pollen from your neighbour’s plant to your own––and your plants next year would be an unbelievable mixture, yet would be useless to you.

 

Now, if that were to happen in your garden, how much more serious would it be if you were to allow one of your cabbages to flower and produce seed near a commercial grower’s field of Brussels sprouts growing for seed. It might cause immense trouble and ruin the quality of his seed. The only “safe” vegetables for seed-saving purposes are peas, beans of all kinds, onions, leeks, tomatoes, lettuce, ridge cucumbers and marrows.

 

Now is the time to mark the plants you intend to save. The best and easiest way is to tie a label on part of your rows of peas and beans and leave all the pods on the plants in that section for seed. Don’t pick any at all for the kitchen. So often gardeners leave the last few pods on their plants. These are usually small, weakly pods and do not give really good seed. If you remember that one-tenth of your pea and bean crop should give you sufficient seed to sow a similar area again next year, you will be able to judge how many plants to leave.

 

Most allotment rows are 30 ft. long, so of your peas you would need to have 3 ft. at one end of the row. Runner beans are usually a little more prolific, so one-twentieth of each row is usually enough to save for next year’s sowing.

 

One good lettuce plant should give you all the seed you will need. Mark and label the best plant you have. Don’t choose one that has “bolted” or run to seed instead of making a good large heart. It may produce offspring that will do the same thing next year and then you would get very few lettuces worth cutting. If the heart is very hard and firm, make a cut with a knife in the shape of a cross on the heart. Don’t cut too deeply, but just through the first three or four layers of leaves. This will make it easy for the flower head to push its way up. That is all you need to do for the present.

 

If you spring planted any of last season’s onions and left leeks in the ground for seed, they will be coming into flower now. See that the stems, which are very brittle, are tied securely to stakes, but otherwise there is nothing to do to them until the end of September, for onions, and/or mid-October, for leeks. A later Guide will tell you how to harvest the seed.

 

When your marrows are bearing fruits, pick out one good-sized fruit and scratch the word “seed” on it with a pencil. When your tomatoes are carrying good trusses of fruits, pick out a good, shapely truss, mark it with a piece of raffia and watch this Guide for further advice.

 

The plants that you have selected for seed saving should be inspected carefully to see that they do not develop disease in any way. Leave the pods or fruits to ripen as long as possible. But with lettuces, as soon as you see little tufts of fluff forming on the seed heads, pick them and put them in a shallow cardboard box or a seed-box with a sheet of paper on the bottom. You may have to look at your lettuce plant every day when it is nearing the ripening stage, as a sudden heavy downpour of rain may wash all the seeds on to the ground, if they have reached the fluffy stage. In rainy periods it is best to pull the lettuce plant up, when nearing the harvest stage; put it in a newspaper and finish the ripening in a warm room.

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