Archive for Gardening

The Beauty of Pollination

I am back from my travels and glad to be back, having had a lovely time catching up with family and friends. Here is a quick video for you that I think is very beautiful. I hope you enjoy it…sometimes we forget to wonder at Life in all its infinite variety.

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One Poor Weather Event?

And following on from the last post about the risk of “one poor weather event” to the bees….we know it is happening across the globe right now…I will let you come to your own conclusions …

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The weather has been so unusual over the past few years that the Met Office is concerned that the repercussions of climate change may already be upon us.

The forecaster is concerned by a sequence of increasingly strange weather in the UK, which includes the coldest spring in 50 years this year, the wettest summer in a century last year, as well as droughts and the prolonged winter.

It has called an unprecedented meeting of experts to discuss Britain and Europe’s increasingly unpredictable weather patterns in a bid to determine if the they represent a fundamental shift as a result of climate change or simply come down to variable weather.

Climate scientists and meterologists will travel to the Met Office’s headquarters in Exeter on Tuesday for the summit, which will be chaired by Stephen Belcher, Head of the Met Office Hadley Centre.

Mr Belcher said: “We have seen a run of unusual seasons in the UK and Northern Europe, such as the cold winter of 2010, last year’s wet weather and the cold spring this year.

“This may be nothing more than a run of natural variability, but there may be other factors impacting our weather. For example, there is emerging research which suggests there is a link between declining Arctic sea ice and European climate – but exactly how this process might work, and how important it may be among a host of other factors, remains unclear.“The Met Office is running a workshop to bring together climate experts from across the UK to look at these unusual seasons, the possible causes behind them, and how we can learn more about those drivers of our weather.”

The meeting comes after the National Farmers’ Union reported that wheat harvests are likely to be around 30% lower than last year as a result of the extreme weather over winter, making it the second below-average harvest in as many years.

Beekeepers have also reported that a third of honeybee colonies failed to survive the winter following last year’s wash-out summer and continuing bad weather into 2013, exacerbated by the late arrival of spring.

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83% Of Our Plants Require Bees To Pollinate Them.

What can you say goodbye to in this bee-less new world? Here’s a short list: apples, onions, avocados, carrots, mangoes, lemons, limes, honeydew, cantaloupe, zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, cucumbers, green onions, cauliflower, leeks, bok choy, kale, broccoli, broccoli rabe, mustard greens. Turns out one of every three bites of food comes from plants pollinated by honeybees and other pollinators.

More than 83 per cent of the plant species on earth require bees and other pollinators to exist, and these plants include some of the most nutritious parts of our diet. Despite their importance, we continue to see alarming declines in bee numbers. The problem of bees dying out can be traced back to the mid-2000s. Since then these honey bees have been dying out by the tens of millions, according to scientists who are warning that time is running out.

‘Currently, the survivorship of honey bee colonies is too low for us to be confident in our ability to meet the pollination demands of U.S. agricultural crops,’ the reports says. So what’s killing off the bees? The report states a few different factors may be responsible, from pesticides used in farming to the lack of natural habitats for bees to feed off of. Whatever it is, colony collapse disorder has caused the death of 30 per cent of bee colonies every winter since 2007.

USDA scientist Jeff Pettis estimates, ‘We are one poor weather event or high winter bee loss away from a pollination disaster.’

Bees

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2342069/What-supermarket-look-like-bees-die-Empty-shelves-scant-produce-options.html#ixzz2WIv1NooE

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Growing Food From Your Scraps

There is nothing like fresh veggies from your own personal garden!Obviously, we all know about the normal ways to grow plants – from seeds.  But, did you know that there are a ton of plants that you can grow from scraps?  Plants, that will in turn, produce more food. Let’s count them out – from 1 to 15…

1, 2, 3, & 4.  Spring Onions, Leeks, Scallions, & Fennel These are the ones I regrow the very most, I always have a mason jar of green onions regrowing above my kitchen sink. The technique is quite simple.  Once you are done with them (any of the above four), simply place the root end in a jar of water & it will begin to regrow within just a few days.  Just make sure to replace the water with fresh as need be.

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5. Lemongrass You can regrow lemongrass the same way you regrow the green onions.  Simply place the root ends in a glass of water, refreshing the water as needed. You will want to wait to harvest your lemongrass until it is about 12 inches tall.

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6.  Ginger Plant a small chunk off of your piece of ginger in potting soil with the newest buds facing up. Ginger enjoys non-direct sunlight in a warm moist environment. Before long, it will begin to regrow shoots and roots. Once the plant is established and you’re ready to harvest, pull up the whole plant, including the roots. Remove a piece of the ginger, and re-plant it to repeat the growing process.

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7. Potatoes  Pick a potato that has a lot of good formed eyes, and cut it into 2-3 inch pieces, taking care to be sure that each piece has at least 1-2 eyes on it. Leave the cut pieces to sit at room temperature for a day or two, which allows the cut areas to dry. Potato plants thrive on a high-nutrient environment, so it is best to flip compost into your soil before you plant. Plant your potato pieces about 8 inches deep with the eye facing up.  Cover it with 4 inches of soil, leaving the other 4 inches empty. As your plant begins to grow and more roots appear, add more soil.

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8. Sweet Potatoes You will need sweet potatoes with good formed eyes, just as you would want with a regular potato. You can bury the entire potato or use pieces under a thin layer of topsoil in a moist place with plenty of sun. When the shoots begin to reach a height of four inches you will need to replant the sweet potatoes, allowing them about 12 inches between each another. It takes about 4-6 months to grow sweet potatoes this way.

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9, 10, 11, & 12.  Romaine Lettuce, Celery, Bok Choy, & Cabbage These all are regrown by placing the roots in a dish of water. Cut the leaves or stalks off to about an inch above the roots.  Place the root end in a dish of water.  Make sure that the roots are inside of the water, but do not submerge the rest of the plant.  Place in a sunny window & spray with water 1-2 times a week to keep the top of the plant moist.

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13.  Onions Onions are one of the easiest vegetables to regrow from scraps. Just cut off the root end of your onion, leaving a 1’2  inch of onion on the roots. Place it in a sunny location in your garden and cover the top with soil. Make sure to keep the soil moist by watering when needed. As you use your home-grown regenerated onions, keep replanting the root ends you cut off, and you’ll never have to purchase onions at the store again.

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14.  Garlic You can re-grow a plant from a single clove.  Simply plant it with the root-end down. Sit the plant in a sunny window.  Once established, cut back the shoots and the plant will put all it’s forces into producing a nice garlic bulb – full of flavor & capable of repelling sparkly vampires.  You can repeat this process with a clove from the new bulb you have just grown.

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15. Pineapple To re-grow pineapples, you will need to remove the green leafy part at the top and take care that no fruit remains attached. Either hold the crown firmly by the leaves and twist the stalk out, or you can cut the top off the pineapple and remove the remaining fruit flesh with a knife. If you do not remove all the fruit parts, it will rot after planting and will likely kill your plant. Carefully slice small, horizontal sections from the bottom of the crown until you see root buds (the small circles on the flat base of the stalk). Remove the bottom few layers of leaves leaving about an inch worth of them at the bottom of the stalk.  Plant your pineapple crown in a warm and well drained environment. Water your plant regularly at first. Once the plant is established, you can cut down to about once a week. You will see growth in the first few months but it will take about 2-3 years before you are able to harvest.

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Source:

http://www.mrshappyhomemaker.com

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Grandads Garden: June

As I have been a bit late on the last two months posts, I decided to get in early this month instead, especially since I shall be away and it might be late otherwise again…so here are the jobs for June.

It is the month of June, The month of leaves and roses, when pleasant sights salute the eyes and pleasant scents the noses.”

To the poet “June rose by May dew impearled” may have been among the possible best things in the world; but in these strictly utilitarian times we gardeners and allotment holders may feel that the sight of our vegetable plot coming along nicely with a variety of crops is not only a distinctly pleasant sight but a solid insurance premium against that threatened world food shortage which has now become a reality.

The Minister of Food has told us that this will be the tightest of the war years so far as food supplies are concerned, so readers of this Guide, who are undoubtedly the “wise virgins” of the parable, will be patting themselves on the back that they did not rest on their spades, but continued to “Dig for Victory”––not only victory in the fighting war, but victory in the economic struggle for existence that will be the aftermath of war.

Taking Stock

June is the gardener’s sort of halfway house––a time for taking stock and finding out where we stand. So after patting ourselves on the back, let’s survey our plots, and assess our progress to date and the extent to which we may be a bit backward and consider what needs to be done if we are not to be caught napping this coming winter. In the first five issues of this guide we emphasised the need for planning ahead, getting our needs in good time, getting things done in good time. But gardening on paper is too easy––and it’s not so easy to put paper advice into practice when the weather or lack of spare time just puts paid to the best laid plans issued by a government department or the gardening papers.

What we gardeners have to bear in mind always is that lean period from about February until the end of May. Anyone can grow vegetables in summer––and get gluts of them; but it is those winter vegetables that need more thought and attention.

If you have been following this monthly “Guide”––with such alterations as your family’s likes and dislikes have dictated––you should have little cause to worry; but if you have so far been happy- go-lucky in your choice of crops, you still have time in June to do something to put matters right. The crops you want for next winter––assuming your family likes them all––are the green crops– –Brussels sprouts, sprouting broccoli, kale, savoys; the roots––parsnips, carrots, turnips and swedes; onions and leeks; dried peas and bean; potatoes.

It is too late to do anything about potatoes, onions and parsnips, if they are not already growing on your plot. While it is too late to sow seeds of Brussels sprouts, sprouting broccoli, kale and savoys, you can order some plants of the last three from your usual nursery or shop. Kale and sprouting broccoli should be put out about mid-July, savoys later in that month or in early August. Though it is rather late to plant Brussels, there is just the chance that you may get a fair crop if put in the plants at once.

Crops for the lean period

During July, too, you could sow a row of spinach beet that, given favourable conditions, should give you a crop of excellent green leaves next winter and right on through the spring. If you like leeks and have not sown seeds in the seedbed, you can get some plants and put them out in July.

As to root crops, main crop carrots can be sown in June to early July, swedes at the end of June, turnips in July.

The experts tell us that we need some of that precious body-building stuff––protein––in our diet. Now dried peas and beans are a valuable source of protein, and it is worth while saving some of our crops for the purpose, as well as to provide seeds for sowing next year––always assuming that we save our own seeds, a subject which will be dealt with in a later Guide. Do your saving systematically, however. Don’t just leave a few late pods on each plant, but reserve a number of plants at each end of the row.

Having looked ahead and made sure – at least in our minds – that we are not going to be caught napping in the few months from next February, let us come back to the present for a bit and concentrate on essential jobs of the month. First, thinning––and no apology is made for returning once more to this important operation. And don’t forget to keep that hoe going regularly.

THINNING

This needs to be done now practically every week. Beet, carrots, parsnips, lettuce and spinach have all to be thinned as they become large enough. Thinning was dealt with in the May “Guide” and all that it is necessary to add now is that it is a good time to apply a little fertilizer after the plants have been thinned and are beginning to grow strongly. A dressing of 1⁄8 oz. of sulphate of ammonia can be hoed in per yard of row.

TOMATOES

The May “Guide” dealt with the planting of tomatoes. To get the best results keep each plant to the main stem, pinching out the side-shoots that come in the corners formed by the leaf stalks and the main stem. Keep the plants well watered and feed them regularly with a good complete fertilizer. There are a number of proprietary brands of tomato fertilizer that should be used according to the suppliers’ instruction. Or you can use “National Growmore.” A good working rule is to apply a teaspoon per plant as each truss of fruit sets.

When watering, remember that it is useless just to damp the soil surface, for this merely encourages surface rooting. You must water well, giving about half-a-gallon to each plant. Tomato fruits are often split when the plants are given a heavy watering after having been dry. That is because the skin gets hard and inelastic and cannot expand when the fruit swells after a good watering, so it splits or cracks. So don’t let the plants get dry.

“Blight” is the chief disease likely to affect tomatoes in the open. It may attack only the fruit, but the stem and leaves may be affected as well. Intense brown or black blotches are the signs, and infected fruits often fall off the plant. The discoloured areas are edged with a downy white growth. It’s the same blight that attacks potatoes. To control it, spray your plants with a copper spray (see next section).

Take care of your POTATOES

Potatoes are growing strongly now. In most places they have been earthed up. Remember, when earthing, not to draw the soil up to a greater height than about 6 in. and do not leave a flat top or trough to the ridge. Finish it off to as sharp a point as possible. This prevents spores of potato blight from being washed down by rain to infect the tubers. Don’t try to earth up when the soil is wet.

To a large extent the danger of blight attack depends on the weather; if dry, only local attacks are likely and will not cause serious damage; given frequent spells of warm, moist weather, the tops may be completely killed by the end of July or in August. The effect on the crop would be serious if the tops were badly affected. The weight of crop would be greatly reduced; and if the disease spreads to the tubers themselves, they may rot in the ground or after you have stored them.

WHAT TO DO.

If you live within 10 or 12 miles of a large industrial centre, where the air is laden with fumes and smoke, do not spray, but seek advice locally: the secretary of your local allotment society, the horticultural committee of the council or the park superintendent should be able to help you. Gardeners who are not in areas likely to be affected by fumes from factories should, as a form of insurance against blight, spray their potato foliage with one of the copper-containing sprays recommended for the purpose. Perhaps the simplest course is to buy one of the ready-made Bordeaux powders or pastes and apply it according to the maker’s instructions. Usually you have only to mix it with water and it is less trouble to prepare than a home-made mixture. If you have a hand-dusting machine, you could apply one of the powders made for the purpose – copper-lime or Bordeaux dust. Dust needs to be applied more often than sprays, however – four or five applications should be given, allowing a fortnight each.

When to Spray

The right time for the first dusting or spraying usually happens at the end of June or early in July. Don’t wait until you see blight spots on the leaves – if you do find any, spray at once. If dusts are used, further applications are needed every fortnight; with the spray, a second application after three weeks should be sufficient. But if the blight attack is severe, a third spraying may be needed in August.

Points to Remember

You can use a stirrup pump, if you obtain a fine spray nozzle for it. > A misty spray is best, as it wets the foliage easily. > If you have no sprayer, you can use a watering can with a fine rose. > Make certain that both sides of the foliage as well as the stems are thoroughly wetted. > Choose a fine day so that the spray has time to dry before the next fall of rain. > It is much easier if you can co-operate with some friends or neighbours and spray several batches of potatoes on the same day.

Earthing up CELERY

Before you earth-up, tie the celery plants loosely just below the leaflets and remove any side growths. When the plants are about 15 in. high, earth-up slightly, but see that the ground is thoroughly moist before you begin. The second and third earthings––at three weekly intervals– can be more thorough, until finally the soil should cover the plants right up to the leaves and should slope away neatly. Don’t let any soil fall into the heart of the plant.

Are you watching out for those Pests?

Any signs of black fly yet? Some gardeners think that this pest is encouraged by broad beans, but there is no foundation for this. You may quite likely find it on your “runners.” Wherever you come across it, take the measures recommended in the April Guide. And if you are growing broad beans, remove the growing tips when the plants are in full flower. If the winds are high and the plants look like being broken, put in a few stout stakes and run some stout string around the rows.

While the April Guide deals with other garden pests that may be a nuisance in June (slugs on your lettuce, cabbage root fly and carrot fly), it may not cover some pests that may trouble you. Celery fly for instance. Brown blisters may appear on the leaves. Watch the seedlings carefully for blistered leaves, and destroy them or crush them with your fingers. Dust the plants weekly with soot to prevent egg laying. If the attack is serious, spray the leaves (both sides) with a nicotine and soap wash.

Then onion fly may also cause trouble, especially on dry soils. As a precaution dust the soil along each side of the rows with 4 per cent Calomel when the plants are about an inch high.

Feed your CROPS

Beet, carrots, parsnips and onions benefit by a dressing of sulphate of ammonia after thinning – 1⁄8 ounce to the yard run. If your carrots and onions are attacked by the fly, a similar dressing will help them considerably.

LETTUCE

Don’t forget to sow a short row of seed every fortnight to ensure a succession. And if you transplant the thinning’s from earlier rows, see that you give them a good start. Don’t put them on lumpy ground and don’t water them late on a cold evening or leave them without water at all. If the plot reserved for lettuce is lumpy and not easy to break down to a fine tilth, sift some fine soil over the surface, see that the seedlings are firmly planted and watered well at the right time until they are firmly established.

MARROWS

Although marrows are usually sown in the open towards the end of May, it’s not too late to sow in June. In a sunny corner dig in some well-rotted manure or compost and set a few groups of seed––four or five seeds to each group––about 6 in. apart and 1 in. deep. Later, thin each group to two plants, 12 to 15 in. apart. Marrows need a lot of water. Make sure they get it, particularly in dry weather.

Couple of Tips

First, as to cabbages: when you cut one, make two nicks crosswise on the top of the stump, and within a month or six weeks it will sprout again and give you a crop of tender greens. Second, if you have any grass left in your garden and are not using the mowings to feed stock or make compost, give your runner beans a mulch of 2 or 3 inches. This will help to conserve the moisture and benefit the beans considerably.

More Root Crops

The main root crops may be sown in June or early July––beet (earthly June), maincrop carrots (June or early July) and swedes (mid-June). The sowing of beet and carrots was dealt with in the April Guide, so the details will not be repeated here.

Bear in mind, too, that the above times for sowing are merely general reminders, and that gardeners must have regard to local conditions and advice from the experienced. For instance, as to carrots, in the midlands and the north, mid-June is regarded as the latest date to sow with an assurance of a good crop; while in the south and west, sowings may often be made with safety up to mid-July. Another point is that late-sown carrots are less liable to attacks by the “fly” than those sown earlier in the year.

SWEDES

Swedes are a safer crop in some districts than turnips. They can stand the cold better and can be left in the ground until after Christmas. Though there are garden varieties of swedes, the field sorts such as “Best of All” and “Eclipse” are really the best to grow.

Swedes are usually sown in mid-June (earlier in the north) in drills 15 in. apart and 1 in. deep. The Ministry’s plan provides for two rows, but don’t grow them if you don’t like them. The seedlings of field sorts should be thinned to 9 in. apart.

For those who like to try out unusual vegetables, Kohl Rabi is a useful crop to grow on very light soils where turnips are risky owing to drought or flea beetle attacks. You can still sow it in June in the seedbed, transplanting to rows 15 in. apart with 8 in. between plants. It is better, however, to drill in the ordinary way, like swedes and turnips, and thin out. Kohl Rabi should not be stored for any length of time, but should be eaten soon after lifting.

A word about Gathering Crops

Before the full spate of summer vegetables begins, a few words about gathering crops may not be out of place. Gather in the morning or evening, when they are fresh and not limp from the sun; handle them carefully, so that they come into the kitchen fresh and tempting. More important, however, is to gather crops before they are past their prime. It is a mistake to leave batches of cabbages, lettuces, peas and other vegetables until the whole crop is ready for use. So often the gardener cannot bring himself to gather his vegetables before they are fully matured, with the result that when they are ready, he is unable to cope with them all at once and many go to waste. Use your vegetables on the young side; they are more tasty, and the scientists tell us they do you more good than when they are old and tending to be tough. On the other hand, of course, don’t be extravagant about it. There is no sense in picking them so young that a whole crop is used up in a meal or two.

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Grandads Garden: May

“Button to chin till May be in, Cast not a clout till May be out”

Great excitement this month. Granny is digging out her glad rags and off gallivanting to meet two of her daughters and her new granddaughter and spend a couple of days in Alnwick with them. All are proud that family history shows they are related to Anastasia de Percy…maybe they will get in for free?!!  The main day out will be Alnwick Castle, where much of the Harry Potter films were made. And there is even a broomstick lesson to be had on the day they visit. However, the “girls” are sure they know enough about all that business not to need any lessons….it is also the month of Grannies birthday and she will be a grand 55 years old.

Alnwick

This month can be fickle and fitful; sometimes sunny, sometimes stormy––and sometimes more than a bit frosty! That is the trouble with May, those killing frosts that do so much damage to our fruit blossom and young potato plants, and catch the unwise and unwary who put out their tomato plants too early and without protection. The end of May is quite soon enough for tomato planting. Too often we gardeners cling to tradition and get too far ahead with our sowing and planting, regardless of how our weather varies and how treacherous it can be.

However, May should be a busy month with all of us––so here’s hoping you will be “as full of spirit as the month of May”. And watch out for those frosts!

May is a month for many jobs on the vegetable plot and it’s not easy to keep pace with them all. Let’s just list them now and deal with them in turn. Here they are:––

Thinning seedlings; earthing up potatoes; mulching peas and beans; top dressing certain crops; sowing winter greens in the seedbed and planting out Brussels; making successional sowings of earlier crops; sowing runners and marrows; planting out tomatoes; attending to the compost heap and keeping an eye open for pests.

Now let’s say a bit about each of them:

Thin SEEDLINGS

Always try to seize the opportunity, if the ground’s fairly moist and the weather cool with a promise of warm showers to come, to thin any crops that need it––lettuce, spinach, parsnips and, later on, spring-sown onions. If these crops need thinning when the soil is too dry and the weather seems set fair, water them thoroughly before thinning and again as soon as you have finished.

This will prevent too great a disturbance of the seedlings remaining while their neighbours were being pulled out. Generally thin seedlings twice: first leaving twice as many plants as you will need; at the second thinning remove every other plant. Always pull out the weakest seedlings, leaving the strongest to grow on. Hoe between the rows, removing any seedling weeds at thinning time, and leaving the plot tidy.

Earth up POTATOES

It is important that during the period of active growth your potato plot should be hoed and kept free from weeds. If there is a danger of frost when the young plants appear, cover them lightly with soil. The first earthing up should be done when the plants are some 6 in. high, and further soil should be drawn up to form a ridge about three weeks later. But don’t cover up the leaves this time––they need all the light and air that they can get.

Earthing up helps to keep the haulms upright, and prevents the tubers from being exposed to the light, which would make them go green. Incidentally, a good covering of soil over the tubers protects them in case of an outbreak of blight on the foliage. Blight spores don’t work down the stems to the tubers, as some people think; they drop from the haulm directly on to the soil. So make your ridge as illustrated; don’t leave a very pronounced furrow at the top, into which rain may wash the blight.

MULCH PEAS & BEANS

Both peas and beans specially need moisture to produce a good crop. In very dry weather, instead of watering, spread grass mowing’s, decayed leaves or compost to a depth of 1 in. along each side of the rows.

TOP DRESS.

Very young plants, such as lettuce and spinach, will appreciate top dressing of sulphate of ammonia––about 1⁄2oz. to the yard run.

Greens for the Seedbed

May is the month for sowing in the seedbed seeds of sprouting broccoli (mid-May), winter cabbage (also mid-May), kale and savory (late May). How to use a seedbed was described in the March issue of this Guide.

Plant BRUSSELS SPROUTS

May to June is the period for planting out your Brussels.

The Ministry’s plan provides for two rows, 2-1⁄2ft. between rows and the same distance between plants. Don’t forget that the plants need a long season of growth to develop properly. If your ground is poor, you would do well to fork well into the surface, before planting, 2 oz. to the square yard of some complete fertiliser such as “National Growmore”, which is of special value to crops that have to stand the winter.

Be careful in lifting from the seedbed to see that you get a good ball of soil round the roots. Should the weather be dry, water the seedbed row the night before.

Plant with a dibber deep enough to bury the roots and stem up to the first leaves. Press the soil firmly round the plant with the dibber or your heel. If you plant in dry weather give the plants a good watering. Some gardeners practise puddling, placing soil and water in a bucket and plunging the plants’ roots in it before planting. If the dry weather continues, water the plants each day, if you can, until they are established and show signs of making new growth. Hoe frequently between rows and plants. To make watering more effective some gardeners plant in a drill about three or four in. deep.

SOW FOR SUCCESSION

Beet, carrots, lettuce and radishes (see March and April Guides for Directions)

Sow RUNNERS

Runners do best on soil well trenched and given a good dressing of manure or compost, as advised in the February Guide. Clay soils are usually too wet and cold for them. One pint will sow a double row of 50 ft.

The plants are very tender and seeds should not be sown in the open until May, though early crops may be secured by sowing in boxes in a frame or a greenhouse and transplanting later. In the open, sow the seed in double rows with 9 in. of space between the plants. For single rows, the plants should stand 12 in. apart. If you have double rows, it is an advantage for staking to put the plants opposite each other. It is a mistake to overcrowd runner beans. Seeds are best sown in a trench and should be placed 2 in. deep. Don’t forget to sow a few extra at the end of the rows to fill up gaps in the rows.

Runner beans produce best when supported by stakes or some other contraption that allows them to climb; they can also be grown as dwarf plants by pinching out the growing shoots as they appear, but the yield will not be so heavy.

Stout, straight stakes 6-8 ft. long, without branches or twigs, are best for runner beans. Stakes are inserted against each plant and slightly inclined so that they cross at the top, allowing for a cross stake to be fixed as illustrated.

During dry weather, runner beans derive great benefit from watering; in fact, drought is often responsible for the flowers dropping and failing to set. To induce a good set it may be necessary to syringe the flowers with water. Keep the beans closely gathered as they mature so as to prolong cropping.

Sow MARROWS

Choose a sunny corner for your marrows, digging in some well-rotted manure or compost into the bottom of the bed, which should be taken out one spit deep. Sow towards the end of May, placing groups of four or five seeds about 6 in. apart and 1 in. deep. Eventually thin to two plants, 12 to 15 in. apart. Take care not to let the young plants suffer from lack of water; give them plenty in dry weather and hoe regularly to keep the bed free from weeks.

Plant CELERY

If you want to grow celery (and you have not been able to sow seeds in heat), you should buy the plants ready for planting out in late May or June. Celery likes richly prepared ground. Dig out a trench 18 in. wide and 1 ft. deep, and fork in manure or compost into the bottom of it, returning the soil to within 2 in. of the level of the ground. Set the plants carefully in staggered double rows, 1 ft. apart––10 to 12 in. between plants. Water them in and give them plenty of water when the weather is dry. Dust with soot at intervals, as a prevention against leaf maggot. Earthing up will be dealt with in the June Guide.

Some people like celeriac––a turnip-rooted celery––for flavouring stews. You may like to try a row as an experiment. Plant in shallow drills 18 in. apart, 12 in. between plants. Celeriac also needs plenty of water in dry weather. Remove side shoots as they appear and hoe regularly.

The popular war-time crop… TOMATOES

Judging by the response to the Ministry’s advertisements in earlier years, the tomato is crop No.1 with war-time gardeners and allotment holders. Unfortunately, despite many warnings, some amateurs have been taken in every year by unscrupulous people who sell them tomato plants far too early for planting outside. It is foolish to hope that the danger of frost is past until at least the end of May. As with so many gardening jobs there is no fixed date for planting; it varies from about May 20 in the south-west to the end of the second week in June in the north. Little is gained and much may be lost by rushing plants out of doors a week or ten days before the weather has warmed up.

The plants do not grow away well, and if the nights are cold they turn a dark, unhealthy colour and are seriously checked. Always buy your plants from a reliable supplier. A well-grown tomato plant should be sturdy and short-jointed––about 6 or 8 in. high, with the buds of the first flower truss visible in the head of the plant. The distance between the leaves should be small and the leaves should be dark and of a bluish tinge. As a rule, plants produced in pots are best for planting in the open. Avoid “leggy” plants at all costs.

To grow tomatoes successfully in the open you must have a good site. The best spot would be in the shelter of a wall or fence facing south or south-west, because there the temperature won’t fall too low at night. The plants will get some sunshine there and be protected from the cold east winds we often get early in June. Get the ground ready well in advance of planting. Take out a trench 9 to 12 in. deep and 15 to 18 in. wide and dig in compost or well-rotted manure into the second spit.

For watering during summer get some unglazed drainpipes, if you can, and put them upright into the trench, 3 ft. apart. Then fill up the trench with the soil you took out. These pipes will let the water get to the subsoil, which it is difficult to wet by surface watering.

When you fill up the trench, sprinkle a suitable fertiliser––”National Growmore”, for instance–– over the surface: 1 to 2 oz. to every yard of trench, and mix it in with a fork.

The plants should be at least 18 in. apart in the row; if you have more than one row, make the rows 3 ft. apart. Measure and mark out beforehand where the plants should go, putting in a 4 ft. stake at each position.

Before planting, make sure that the ball of soil round the roots is really wet. If you have bought plants in pots, stand them in water for about 20 minutes so that the ball is completely covered. Drain away excess water before planting.

Plant with a trowel. When planting from pots, take care not to damage the roots when you take the ball of soil out of the pot. Make the hole about 1⁄2in. to 1 in. deeper than the height of the ball of soil. Then put the ball in the hole and pack the soil tightly round it. Make a saucer-like depression round each plant: it is very useful for watering, and the absence of loose soil round the base of the stem makes it difficult for wireworm to get in. Immediately after planting, water each plant to set the soil round it. Then watch out that the ball of soil does not begin to dry out. If it does, give each plant about a pint of water.

When you have finished planting, tie the plants to the stakes you put in as markers. Tie loosely; a good guide is to leave room for your thumb to go between plant and stake. As the plant grows, tie it again to keep it upright, and remove every side shoot that appears in the corners formed by the leaf stalks and the main stem. These side shoots are usually dealt with when they are about 1 to 1-1⁄2in. long. Don’t let them get too big; if that happens, cut them off close to the stem with a sharp knife. More about tomatoes next month.

Attend to the Compost Heap

The importance of compost was described in the January Guide, and the March issue dealt with how to make it. May is the time of the year when further materials such as waste vegetable matter, coarse grass, lawn mowing’s and annual weeds, become available for the heap. While not forgetting the needs of domestic livestock, all the waste material that can be collected should be rotted down on the compost heap.

Look out for PESTS

If you are growing broad beans, look out for signs of black fly and tackle this pest early, as advised in the April Guide. If you are growing early turnips, you may be troubled with the flea beetle. Last month’s Guide also dealt with that.

To prevent the depredations of the onion fly, sprinkle 4% calomel dust along the rows of spring onions when the seedlings are about 1 1⁄2 high; repeat about 10 days later. Your seedling carrots may suffer from the carrot fly, so apply naphthalene dust to the rows and repeat at 10- day intervals until the end of June.

Some gardeners put lengths of creosoted string about 2 in. above their carrot rows, and find this wards off the carrot fly. You will need to dress the string with creosote three times (at fortnightly intervals, beginning mid-May) for early sowings and five times for the maincrop. You can put the creosote on with a brush or take the string up and re-dip it. You must not allow any of the liquid to splash on the plants or it will ‘burn’ the leaves.

A bit about BIRDS

The nesting season of wild birds is in full swing in May. Soon the birds themselves will reach their peak of usefulness to man. Robin, wren, hedge-sparrow, song-thrush and many others will be about their business of finding food for hungry nestlings and so will be making constant inroads on garden pests. True, the song-thrush may later take small toll of your bush fruit; but, all the same, this bird is the gardener’s very good friend. Of all our birds, it is the champion snail killer; if it were no more than that, it would deserve protection and encouragement. As for robin, wren and hedge-sparrow––nobody has anything but good to say of them; in fact, there is nothing but good to say. Any or all of them may nest in gardens; if any of them nests in yours, let it nest in peace. Your interest and protection will be repaid a hundredfold.

Then there are the great tit and the blue tit. If you have a nest box in your garden––maybe even if you haven’t––you may have the great good luck to harbour a family of either species.

The last analysis of the food of these two feathered benefactors showed two-thirds injurious insects for the great tit, no less than three-quarters for the blue! What gardener would grudge such friends as these an occasional beak full of fruit?

It’s a pity to add a discordant note; but there are birds you will need to watch. The house- sparrow, it is true, feeds its young on grubs and insects and takes a good many for itself; but it can be a nuisance when green things are coming through. If you are near a wood and there are jays about, look to your peas. If there are woodpigeons, look to anything in the garden that can be eaten. But apart from these few, the birds are your friends. If you give them a square deal, they will give you something better than that, for not all your labour or insecticides will do so much to keep the garden clean. And, remember, the birds are on the job all day long.

Man digging garden

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“Dig For Survival” says Farming Minister

Families have been told they will have to  grow more of their own fruit and vegetables to cope with food  shortages.

Farming minister David Heath recast the  famous World War Two slogan urging Brits to ‘dig for victory’ with a stark  warning of the need to ‘dig for survival’ in the future. New figures today showed fruit prices are  more than 10 per cent higher than last year with vegetable costs up 6.7 per  cent. Mr Heath warned Britain could not rely on  cheap imports to meet its food needs.

Disruption to the food chain triggered by  disease, conflict or bad weather hitting harvests would drive prices even  higher. Britain is on the verge of running out of  wheat after a year of terrible wet weather, with more than 2million tonnes lost  in last summer’s deluge. Farming minister David Heath said Britain could not rely  on cheap foreign imports. Farmers have also struggled to sow crops  for  the 2013 harvest, which is already predicted to be 25 per cent down  on  potential production. Households will have to consider  becoming more  self-sufficient to limit the impact of high costs and bare shelves, Mr Heath  warned.

He said: ‘With an increasing population,  increasing demand not just in  this country but across the world, we are going  to have to increase food production. ‘We made a huge mistake a few years ago when  the idea got around that we didn’t need to produce in the agricultural sector  any more, that we would be able to buy our way through whatever was necessary to  feed the country. ‘Once we used to “dig for victory”. There may  come a time soon when we need to “dig for survival”.’

New inflation figures published today show  how food prices have impacted on the cost of living. While the headline Consumer Prices Index  figure remained unchanged on 2.8 per cent, a detailed breakdown showed how food  costs have leapt in the last year.

In March 2013, fruit prices were 10.8 per  cent higher than in the same month last year while vegetables were up 6.7 per  cent.

Bread and cereals have risen by 3.6 per cent,  meat 2.4 per cent and items like sugar, jam and chocolate were 4.1 per cent  year-on-year.

Mr Heath told the Daily Telegraph that that  the idea of the public ‘digging for survival’ was ‘not overstating it by a  lot’.

He added: ‘We need to be able to produce  enough to deal with the requirements in this country. Food security is going to  be an issue of increasing relevance.

‘There is nothing that provides more  classical insecurity across the world than not being able to feed populations  adequately so we need to be aware of that and we need to respond to  it.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2309840/Dig-survival-Farming-minister-David-Heath-urges-families-grow-cope-food-shortage-crisis.html#ixzz2QhnbPqh7

Man digging garden

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