Category Archives: Tips

February Top Tips

Soil.jpeg1.  Plan your plot: crop rotation; put crops that need regular picking near a path; ones that need less attention (spuds, onions, leeks) can be in less accessible areas

2.  Tidy overgrown patches (brambles, ivy, etc.), but don’t be too tidy to allow an overwintering shelter for beneficial creatures

3.  Finish planting & pruning of deciduous trees, shrubs (but not those that flower before midsummer) & hedges (birds start nesting soon so don’t delay on hedges)

4.  Get your seeds & spuds at Seedy Sunday

5.  Get a couple of beds ready (weed & feed) for March planting of early spuds & onions.

Do this by taking out any overwintering weeds and adding a layer of compost or manure to the soil’s surface in a mulch. If possible do this when there is a sunny day and the ground is damp – as a mulch ‘seals’ the soil, it is better to seal in warm and moist conditions, rather than cold and wet ones. If the weather doesn’t oblige, place a cloche (cover) over the prepared soil to help warm it. You don’t have to invest in expensive cloches, you could source a large piece of clear plastic from some packaging – ask friends and family if you don’t have any – and do your bit for keeping some plastic out of the environment!

Save our soil: Winter is a good time to think about nurturing our soil

FUNCTIONS of SOIL

  • Physical support for plants [anchorage]; rooting environment; holds air, water & nutrients essential to plant growth; houses organisms necessary for making soil suitable to support plants
  • Well­-structured soil both holds water & allows it to drain.

It may become compacted & waterlogged if walked on when wet: this stops air from being available to plant roots & soil organisms & they die.

Mulch protects soil surface, keeps it warm & moist, keeps weeds down & nourishes soil life & plants; apply to moist [not frozen] soil whenever you can.

Garden compost, leaf mould & farm-yard manure, mushroom compost, spent hops, composted bark/wood chips/prunings, municipal green waste, hay/straw, & worm compost are all good sources of organic matter & can be applied as a mulch.

Plants need a variety of mineral elements for healthy growth & development; soil with plenty of organic matter [ or clay] holds onto these in a form easily absorbed by the plant; lighter soils [not clay-based] lose some nutrients through LEACHING by rain: Nitrogen & potassium [K] are most vulnerable & may need replacing. Seaweed is a good source of trace minerals.

Humus is the end result of decaying plant & animal matter, broken down by soil organisms: worms, insects, fungi & bacteria. It can hold 90% of its weight in H2O; it attracts & holds nutrients available to plants & prevents leaching.  It binds mineral particles into crumbs, thus improving structure [pores > air, H2O]. It improves all soil types, & it encourages the presence of micro-organisms, worms etc.

Green manures: protect & feed soil, improve structure & provide habitat for predators; very good in winter [but too late to sow now], early spring & late summer when beds are empty.

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Article By Ruth Urbanowicz

April: Top 5 tips

April should be a time when we really start to feel the warmth of Spring; we hope the weather catches up to that idea soon.  Here’s our top tips for April:

1. Plant main-crop spuds – see the great “how to video” by Jenni

2. Plant onion sets (sets are baby onions rather than from seeds).  For more information check out the RHS guide

3. Pot up seedlings sown last month

4. Sow tomatoes for growing outdoors

5. Sow leeks and broccoli in module trays

How to… grow potatoes

Traditionally, potatoes were planted on Good Friday.  This, of course, is not a set date, but moves around the calendar by up to a month.  I suspect it may have had more to do with Good Friday being a long standing common law holiday than it did with weather conditions, but links to the moon and gardening have always been exploited, so perhaps Good Friday signals an auspicious lunar time slot.

Whatever the reason, I find it a useful reminder of when to plant and I try to sow my potatoes around that date (and try to coincide with a mild spell followed by rain – potatoes are frost-sensitive).  I have sown both my early and main crop potatoes, but if you haven’t done so yet and if you’re new to growing, click on the video below.

 

 

Article and video by Jenni – BHOGG Chairperson

Russ’s Winter Greens Trial in his allotment poly tunnel.

I have had a poly tunnel on my plot for a couple of years but have never tried growing over winter. I have had really successful crops of tomatoes and chillies over the summer but I am keen to see if my poly can be equally productive during winter. I chose 5 plants to try out: Mizuna, Spinach, Pak Choi, Choy Sum, Chop Suey Greens.

The seedlings are currently looking very happy, although the spinach had a very poor germination rate leaving me with only 3 seedlings. The seeds were sown in organic seed compost in a bright shed and then placed out into the poly once they germinated. I am using a capillary matting technique to ensure the seedlings are kept moist from below, as I don’t visit the allotment as frequently this time of year. My next step will be to thin out the seedlings and wait until they have 2 sets of ‘true’ leaves before planting them into the ground in the poly.

I’ll post an update so you can see how I’m getting on, or join me in trialling growing winter greens yourself.  If you’ve already had experience growing over winter, then comment with any advice to share.

Seed Saving Workshop

Sunday September 18th at the Community allotment on The Weald.

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Ruth led us in a practical session.
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It was fun searching for seeds in the allotment.

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Then, to harvest seeds with care.

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There are several different ways to collect the seeds. Tomatoes ^
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For marjoram we used a colander.
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We stored our seeds in paper bags to keep them dry.
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We used seed packets to label our seeds.

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Phoenix Organic Gardening Club

Phoenix Organic Gardening Club

Phoenix Community Centre, 2 Phoenix Pl, Brighton BN2 9ND

Join us on the third Saturday of each month:

Dates:

May 20 (Open Day 11-4); June 17; July 15; Aug 19; Sept 16; Oct 21; Nov 18; Dec 16;

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Come and join us [rain or shine] from 2-4pm for fun, fellowship and fruitfulness. Help us restore and maintain the secret garden for the benefit of Community Centre users, members of the local community and ourselves.

Come and meet fellow gardeners, both experts and novices. Bring your enthusiasm, wisdom, ideas and company; hone and share your skills, make new friends, and grow good food.

Over the next couple of months we are planning to plant some bulbs for early spring colour, pot up some seedlings of seasonal salads, happily harvest, tidy up, and make plans for the year ahead.

Do you have any unwanted small shrubs or climbers: shade tolerant and preferably evergreen and/or winter flowering that you would like to donate to the project? Ring Ruth 01273 681120.

Beginners Guide To Indoor Seedlings

Growing Organic vegetables as a novice.

What you will need:

Seed Compost – New Horizon from Homebase is well reviewed

Seed Trays/Modules – with drainage holes and a tray to catch excess water

Lid – cling film or other plastic coverings also work

Water – rain water preferable due to pH variations in tap water

Organic Seeds – I used beetroot, kale and broccoli bought from Amazon

Labels – you can DIY with sticks, cellotape and paper. Or, 50 labelling sticks available from Poundland.

Method:

  1. Dampen the seed compost by mixing with some rain water in a bucket. Better to be on the dry side, I think mine was a bit soggy.
  2. Pour this compost into the seed tray but don’t push in as this will compact the soil – making harder work for the seeds
  3. Once the tray is full, tap against the table to settle the soil.

4. Labels your seed tray. Seedlings look almost identical, so if you don’t label them you wont stand a chance at knowing what’s growing where!

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5. Make depressions in the soil for the seeds to sit. A good rule of thumb is that depth should be twice that of the seed. Broccoil and Kale are about 1cm deep.

6. Sprinkle seeds into the depressions – usually about 1-2 per module. I may have got a bit carried away with the kale here, as the seeds are tiny and managed to get away from me! This caused a lot of pricking out weaklings.

7. Sprinkle with a little more compost, just to cover the seeds.

8. Cover – cling film works fine if you don’t have a plastic lid.IMG_4947

9. Leave in a warm space, preferably near a window and wait for germination. This depends on the type of seed. For the seeds I used it is about 1-2 weeks.

(Open the vents to allow for air circulation)

 

11/04/2016

The tray seemed too wet so I’ve uncovered this morning to prevent moisture problems – damping off etc. Putting lid back on tonight.

The Kale “Nero Di Toscana” is in the lead after only 3 days!

12/04/2016

Several seedlings sprouted in each module. I have pinched out the weaker looking ones, leaving only one per module. This removes the competition for nutrients and space.

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The kale and broccoli have come through, leaving only the beetroot which has a longer germination period.

Check the soil for moisture, rewater only if it drys out. Underwatering encourages strong roots which search for sustenance.

I will continue to keep the tray covered, rotating it daily to provide even light exposure.

13/04/2016

Potting on

What you will need:

Potting Compost/mix – mix your own, see details below.

Bucket

Rain Water

Stick to stir

Pots – Biodegradable preferable

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  1. You can move the seedlings to a larger container. Change container before roots become too established or they will be more prone to damage.

 

2. Use a potting mix/compost this time. This will provide the nutrients needed for growth.

I mixed my own, this can save money and provide a better result if done right.

  • 1 part Coconut Coir – soak in water (as per instructions)
  • 1 part perlite – I used organic rice husks
  • Potting compost – Organic Vermi Compost – To eye
  • Volcanic Rock Dust – Ebay (£4.99 per kg) – A couple handfuls

IMG_50073. Fill most of the way.

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4. Dig around your seedling to loosen it from the soil. Then, lift it by the leaves rather than the stem.

5. Place it in the pot and add more mix to secure it.

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6. Harden off – Gradually acclimatise your seedling to the outdoors by bringing it outside for increasing intervals.

17/04/2016

The seedlings are getting stronger, I’m bringing them out into the sun every day. They live indoors at night.

The beetroot has finally come through!IMG_5031