Category Archives: Tips

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.

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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

Autumn’s gardening tips #4: maintenance

As we descend from the milder summery autumn to Autumn-Proper (we know, we know, it’s not terribly scientific) it’s a good time to mend paths, fences, bed edging, and sheds. You’ll feel terribly smug come springtime, too.

TH - new old window

(c) Szczel

Is it raining? Think that’s an excuse? Oh no. Snuggle down in the shed with a flask and get those tools out: you can clean, sharpen and oil most gardening tools ready for the first flushes of growth (and enthusiasm!) next year.

Cleaning Garden Tools
(c) Lab Cat

Finally, if you’re feeling super keen – and maybe not every year – the greenhouse can be emptied out, sterilised with a sulphur candle and given a good clean out, scrubbing the staging down and cleaning the glass before insulating it. You can also get ahead by cleaning pots and seed-trays now.

clean greenhouse
(c) Extra-minty

Autumn’s gardening tips #3: compost like mad!

Feeling the turn in the air now? Do up your boots, throw on a jacket and get ready to compost!

First things first: do a final turn to the compost bins to let in more air.The semi-rotted stuff half filling the bins may be too wet or too dry to be ideal, so remake it like lasagne: into a new bin put a layer of dry then a layer of soggy and so on. If it’s all too wet add some crumpled cardboard or newspaper.

aerobic compost heap
(C) Jon Anderson

Keep it covered over winter, – even if it’s not perfect by early spring it can go into the spud and bean trenches. There will be plenty of spent crops to fill up the bins now; try to fill a whole bin in two days to cook it fast – activators such as chicken pellets or even human pee will help; turn the contents after about two weeks to reheat it

Covered compost heap
(C) Fennel and Fern

…and if all of that hasn’t worn you out, you can always get thinking about a Halloween pumpkin!

Autumn’s gardening tips #2: planting

Think your planting season is over? Think again! As well as spring bulbs, hardy annuals such as Calendula (pot marigold) and Nigella (love in a mist) can be sown now for early flowers…it’s always nice to have some colour to look forward to.

Calendula officinalis (Common Marigold/Botón de Oro)

You can also get going with veg: plant Japanese onion sets and garlic from mid-September, and also spring cabbage, but protect it from late butterflies and pigeons with fine netting over a frame.

Cabbages and Kohl rabi

If you’re feeling energised, you can also trim any hedges now to avoid doing it in spring. And don’t forget to start saving seeds – collect into paper bags and put to dry thoroughly; remember to label and date!

Hedges trimmed

If you missed last month’s seed saving workshop, more detail on seed saving can be found on the Seedy Sunday website.

Photo credits to Andy Wright, Priscilla Burcher and Julia Roberts (no not that one!)

Autumn’s gardening tips #1: harvest

It’s the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness so most fruits and vegetables need to be harvested to store or freeze, except the hardy winter ones which can stay where they are until needed.

Weed and clear beds before winter (sounds so easy, doesn’t it?)

Top Tip: while the soil is warm get organic matter into the ground the easy way: sow newly cleared beds with green manures – winter tares, phacelia, field beans, grazing rye…

Compost and well-rotted manure can be spread on moist soil now; cover with cardboard or black plastic (well weighed down) to prevent nutrient loss, and to provide winter feasting and shelter for worms and micro-organisms.

 Compost!

(c) NewUse Urban gardening