onion | leek | celery | beans | peas | asparagus | brassica | garlic | marrow
Mammoth Onions are best sown from Late December to Late February. A tray 30cms X 30cms will hold approx.100 seeds. Using John Innes sowing compost sow the seeds and cover with the same compost. Germination should take approximately 2 weeks at a temperature of 12deg C. Keep the seeds moist but never over water at this stage. We have found that a higher germination temperature will in many cases damage the seeds, thus giving poor results.
After germination and when the seedlings are at the 'crook' stage, transplant the young seedlings into stronger compost. At this stage individual pots may be used. Lift the seedlings gently as they are very easily damaged. Water only when the seedlings require it. Botrytis at this stage can be devastating so ventilate on all possible occasions but still keep the temperature at 12deg C.
Transfer the young plants out of the greenhouse to a cold frame during mid to Late March. This ensures the plants are well hardened off prior to planting outdoors from Late April. Planting times will vary according to the area and conditions at that time. Onions grown for exhibition will benefit from being covered by cloches at this time.
The smaller onions both red and white varieties are grown using a similar method. They can however be sown later.
The Onion Bed
Choose an open site with good drainage. For exhibition onions, trench 50cm deep. Fork up the bottom of each trench if solid. Into every four square yards of the bed work the following:-
First scatter the haulms at the bottom of the trench, and then mix the fertiliser into the bed. It is essential that the greater proportion of the manure should be near the top of the bed, some within 10cms of the surface. This will enable the roots to come into contact with the manure during the early stages of growth. This work is best done in the late autumn or early winter when reasonably dry. The bed can then be left rough over the winter period.
In March work the top into a fine tilth adding the following to an area of 4sq metres.
There is no need to firm the ground unless it is very light. When conditions allow, and this will depend on several factors, plant out the now hardened off onion plants. The usual time for planting is Mid April to Mid May. An advantage is gained by the use of cloches both before and after planting. If cloches are placed over the ground prior to planting the area will warm and there is less chance of a check in growth. Care should be taken after planting not to leave covers over for too long. We have found that 3-4 weeks is sufficient.
Onions can be grown on the same ground for many years; our own onion bed is now 140 years old and has grown onions continuously for this time. However a strict health routine must be followed if you require using the same ground again and again. If any onions are suspect always remove not only the plant but also a small amount of soil from where the onion was growing. Hopefully this will remove any unwanted bacteria in the soil. The ground will also benefit from a watering of Jeyes Fluid after the crop has been harvested; this again will kill any unwanted bacteria or fungi.
If the onions are required for general kitchen use or it has not been possible to prepare the ground in the autumn we suggest the following. When it is possible work into the ground one barrowful of farmyard manure to 4sq metres. Prior to planting add a good general fertiliser. Calcified Seaweed can be added at this time. During the growing season never allow the onion bed to become dry, especially during June and July when the onions are growing well.
The planting distance for onions can vary according to the result required. For exhibition we suggest a planting distance of no nearer than 30cm X 30cm, for kitchen use this may be reduced to 20cm X 20cm.
Feeding onions on established beds should not be necessary. Feeding on ground, which has been cultivated for a number of years, can be harmful. If feeding is required it must be done in the early season. Over feeding can result in onions with thick necks and poor keeping qualities. Nitrate of Soda can be given as a feed at the rate of 1 teaspoon to 1gallon of water. Water on all occasions when onions are dry.
Onions will store better if harvested with a little growth left in the plant. For exhibition lift the onions 10-14 days prior to the show to give the bulb time to dry. Cut the root and top off, leaving enough top to tie down for the show bench. Remove any dead or broken skin and leave to dry in a warm dry area. A greenhouse is ideal for this purpose. Exhibitors will after 7 days be able to turn the onion top over for good presentation. For tying down we have found that rubber bands work very well, unless specified to be as grown by the show schedule. As the neck of the onion shrinks so does the rubber band, this avoids re-tying.
For kitchen use the onions, once dry, can be stored in a cool but frost free shed or garage.
The above method has been followed ever since the first William Robinson grew the large onions in the early 1900’s. It is a method often copied but that is because it works. There is no secret to the growing of large vegetables only good cultivation and patience.
Leeks are propagated in the same way as onions using the same compost and greenhouse temperature. We do not advise sowing before the 3rd week in January; this avoids the risk of running to seed later in the season. Leeks benefit from a second potting in the third leaf stage. We suggest the leeks be planted outside two weeks after the onions. Again an advantage is gained by providing protection after planting.
Trench and manure the same as for onions when growing for exhibition, but use only half the amount of Bone Meal and Sulphate of Potash. For exhibition do not plant in trenches but on the flat no nearer than 30cm X 30cm.
For kitchen use, leeks may be planted from late April to August. The traditional method of dropping the leek plant into a 12cm hole may be used.
If feed is needed, use the same as for onions but leeks may be fed until later in the growing season.
Blanching leeks for exhibition
When growing leeks for exhibition the method of blanching is really one of personal preference. The method we have used historically is one now used by most exhibitors. The leek is planted on the flat and allowed to grow for several weeks. When the plant is large enough a land tile or piece of drainpipe is placed over the top of the plant. There should be 3 or 4cms. of leaf showing out of the top. Never fill this tile or pipe with peat etc., as the leek will fill this as it grows. A land tile is used for draining land but these are becoming difficult to obtain so the drainpipe is a useful alternative and should be cut to 30cms tall. For extra blanch a larger tile or pipe is placed over the top and the inner one drawn up supported by peat at its base. This forms a telescope action and the inner tile can be continued to be lifted as required.
The best time to sow celery is governed by the time the celery is required to mature. Sowings made around January 20th should mature at the end of August. Sowings made Mid March are best for autumn and winter use. Sow seeds using a John Innes sowing compost or Universal peat compost, which has been put through a fine riddle. Water with a fine spray; do not cover the seed. Cover the tray with a sheet of glass or polythene. Germinate at 13-15deg.C, never allowing the compost to become dry. The seeds should germinate approx. two to three weeks from sowing. Transplant the seedlings as soon as large enough to handle. An advantage is gained if potted into individual pots at this stage. The pots should be no smaller than 9cms to allow for growth. We suggest that a temperature of 12deg.C be maintained at this stage. Harden the plants in a cold frame prior to planting out. Planting times depend on the part of the country and the conditions at that time. Generally we suggest Celery be planted out no earlier than the 2nd week in May. Here again great advantage is gained by providing protection after planting.
Prepare for celery as for Leeks. Celery responds to feeding and in particular foliar feeding, although we have found a top dressing well watered in is easier to apply. Make sure the Celery has plenty of water. This is especially important in a hot dry summer when watering cannot be overdone.
For Exhibition the Celery is best blanched above ground, this gives the gardener more control over the Celery and it keeps the sticks clean. We have found that bands of brown paper 15cms wide a great success. The paper must be opaque and strong enough to withstand the weather and water of the growing season. Take off any outside decaying leaves and suckers wrap the paper around the Celery and tie with string. This can be followed with further bands every 10/12 days, as the Celery grows taller. Before additional bands are added we suggest the previous bands are removed and any decaying sticks taken out. The bands can then be replaced on the now cleaned Celery. We usually start to blanch the Celery 5/6 weeks after planting outside.
RUNNER BEANS. FRENCH BEANS
Bean seed may be sown outside in ground that has been well prepared by digging, incorporating a liberal amount of well-rotted farmyard manure. This work is best done in the winter. A dressing of general-purpose fertiliser at the recommended rate can be applied in March/April when the ground begins to dry and warm. Sowing dates will vary from area to area. In warm climates this will be possible in the middle of May or early June for colder areas. We have found the best results are obtained from sowing made in pots in greenhouses, then planted out as an established plant in June. Sowings can be made during April by this method.
For all climbing types of beans the easiest method of support is using the tripod method. Make a wig-wam of canes and plant one or two beans at the base of each. This sloping method also ensures the long beans have a chance of growing straight.
During hot dry weather water well, this is best done in the evening to retain moisture. The most important time for setting is when the flower trusses are still green. At this critical time water is essential.
The first rule for peas is that peas will not grow on ground where they grew the previous year. Always work on a good crop rotation for peas.
Sow peas on a well-manured site. Peas thrive best on land well supplied with lime or calcified seaweed. Sow the seeds in a single row 5cms apart and 4cms deep. When the flowers begin to form never allow to become dry at the roots. Allow approximately 12 weeks from sowing to maturity and 3 weeks from flower to mature pod. Many varieties such as our Show Perfection grow to five feet high; this means they will require supports of slightly more than this. Plastic netting is an easy way to support these tall varieties and with care can be used for several years. Dwarf varieties can be supported using pea sticks or shorter netting.
It is important to choose a site with good soil conditions and drainage. An Asparagus bed can last up to 15years, so a deep rich soil is preferable.
On well-prepared ground plant the Asparagus 30-40cms apart and 60cms between rows. Plant the crowns as soon as possible. Do not allow the crowns to dry out prior to planting. 2 or 3 year old crowns are the best if available.
To plant, open a trench 4cm deep and spread the crowns evenly in the bottom taking care not to damage the buds. Cover with loose soil, so that the ground remains flat. Keep the bed clean by regular hoeing; do not allow the weeds to smother the crop.
Spears may be cut the year after planting. During the first harvest, cropping should stop at the end of May, but after this, cropping may continue till the end of June.
After cropping allow the asparagus to fern. Apply a light dressing of nitrogenous fertiliser to develop strong growth. Allow the fern to die off naturally and remove when brittle after the first frosts. During February clean away any dead fern and clean the bed, avoiding deep cultivation which may damage the crowns. A dressing of general fertilizer may be given at this time.
Choose a good open site; work into the ground compost or farmyard manure in the autumn plus a dressing of Lime or Calcified Seaweed. The Giant Cabbage can be sown in the autumn or spring; summer cabbage can be sown from March onwards. Sow the seeds using good quality compost. At a temperature of 12deg.C germination should take 7/8 days. When the seedlings are 5cm high pot on into single pots. Harden off prior to planting outdoors.
Apply a dressing of a good general fertilizer. For the Giant Cabbage plant not less than 100cms apart. The usual sized cabbage can be planted at a distance of 60cms. The Giant Cabbage will benefit from a high Nitrogen dressing during the growing season.
The ground preparation is as for Cabbage. Sprouts can be sown from March to May. Allow 90cms between plants.
The traditional time for planting Brussels sprouts is after the early potatoes have been lifted. When planting at this time of year ensure a good water supply to establish the plants.
Choose a good open site; dig into the area well-rotted farmyard manure plus a dressing of Calcified Seaweed. Prior to planting a general fertiliser should be applied. The seeds are sown using the same method as cabbage. Cauliflowers do not like a check in growth at any stage, so care should be taken with the young plants. Harden off in a cold frame prior to planting outdoors. Plant at a distance of 60cms.
Planting takes place October to February, generally the earlier the better in a well-drained soil. Light soils will usually produce brighter whiter bulbs. Heavier soils grow good Garlic but there may be some staining of the outer skin.
Divide the bulbs into their cloves taking care not to damage them. Each garlic bulb should produce 10-15 cloves. Plant immediately after dividing in well cultivated fertile ground in rows approx. 50cms apart. Push each clove into the soil base first so that the pointed end is about 2 or 3cms under the ground. Cloves should be 15cms apart. A dressing of sulphate of potash during growth 2oz to the square meter will be beneficial.
The crop should be ready for harvesting in July/August. As soon as the tops begin to fall the garlic is ready for lifting. At this stage the garlic is very tender; take care not to bruise the bulbs. Once lifted dry the garlic bulbs indoors taking care not to over dry the garlic bulbs. The outer skins should be dry whilst remaining firm, plump and tight to the touch.
Elephant garlic is grown in the same way but given a wider spacing of 25cm between cloves. Elephant garlic often runs to seed during growth, break the seed stalk off at least three weeks prior to harvest.
MARROW. PUMPKIN. SQUASH. COURGETTE
All these need a germinating temperature of 15°C. Sow in pots and harden off prior to planting outdoors.
Plant Pumpkins at a distance of 2m apart. Courgettes, marrows and squashes can be slightly nearer at a distance of not less than 1m.
Pumpkins grown for their size alone need a greater amount of manure and should be planted at a distance of 3m apart. Allow only one or two fruits per plant. When the required amount of fruit has set remove all others. Train side shoots along ground and do not disturb during growth, allow these shoots to root undisturbed.
For Marrows and squashes follow the same routine but allow all fruits to mature. Leave fruits for storing on the plant to mature as long as is possible, the skin hardens when the fruit is ripe. Store in a well-ventilated, frost-free place.
Some squashes will store for many months according to variety. Different varieties of squash have different habits. It is important to check the variety and whether it is a bush or trailing plant for correct spacing. Some smaller types such as Little Gem can be trained upwards making use of vertical space.
Courgette fruit must be cut regularly to allow continuous fruiting. The plants can be given an extra feed once fruiting has started.
The first essential in the propagation of growing tomatoes is strict hygiene, from the compost to the whole greenhouse area.
Sow early January for planting in a heated greenhouse and from Mid March for cold greenhouse protection. Sow the seeds thinly using a good quality sowing compost at a temperature of 12-13°C. Cover seeds with approximately 5mm of the same compost which has been put through a fine sieve. Water with a fine spray. Do not allow the compost to become dry during germination. As soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle pot into individual pots, again using a good quality potting compost. Do not overcrowd the plants, as this will give poor, thin, pale plants, which do not grow well. Ventilate the greenhouse on all possible occasions, and to avoid damping off, do not overwater.
There are many methods of growing tomatoes. Grow Bags are an easy option but care should be taken with watering to avoid Blossom End Rot. Tomatoes grown under ring Culture are another popular method and in a greenhouse with a solid floor is a good option. We have found however, the best method is to grow them in the greenhouse border. After sterilising the soil or bringing into the greenhouse new maiden loam, add one barrow of farmyard manure to every 5sq. metres. This should be well forked into the top 25cm of soil. A few days before planting lightly fork in a Tomato Base Fertiliser. There are many fertilisers on the market your local garden shops or centre will help. The tomato can now be planted at a density of 45cmX60cm. In a cold greenhouse it is unwise to plant before the 3rd week in April. Support the plant at all times. When the flowers on the tomato truss open a midday spray with water will help the fruit to set. Feeding can commence when the first fruit has set. Here again a wide range is available your local garden centre will help with one suitable. For the first feeds choose a high Potash type changing to a high Nitrogen type later in the season. At all times ventilate to maintain a good buoyant atmosphere.
The beefsteak type of Tomato will need extra feeding to produce the larger fruit. Most types are grown using a similar method, which is supporting the main stem and taking off all side shoots. However increasingly popular are the cherry types, these can be grown using the same method or can be allowed to grow two side shoots to maturity as well as the centre stem.
Best results are obtained from sowings made from the end of January to the end of May; this takes advantage of the good light conditions. The plants are then at their peak cropping in the summer months. Sow the seeds in trays using good sowing compost; cover the seeds with no more than 2cms of the same compost that has been put through a sieve. Water with a fine spray and cover the tray with glass or polythene. Do not water again until germination has taken place. Over watering can cause germination failure. Germinate at a temperature of 13-14°C. When the seedlings appear, take away the covering material to allow full light. Pot the seedlings into 9cm pots when large enough to handle. The temperature should not fall below 12°C during this stage.
Good results are obtained from cucumbers in a glasshouse using a slightly raised bed. Sterilised or maiden loam must be used. Cucumbers will not grow well in soil which has been used on a previous occasion. Incorporate into the soil a generous amount of farmyard manure and a well-balanced general fertiliser. Plant not less than 60cms apart. It is possible to grow cucumbers in grow-bags providing that no more than two are grown in each bag. Train the plants upwards using either strings or nets. The excess growth must be removed when growing for exhibition. King George is an open pollinated variety; this means that all the male flowers must be removed to prevent the fruit from spoiling. Cucumbers that have been pollinated are bitter and inedible. The male flower has a stalk behind the flower whilst the female has a tiny immature fruit.
For Cucumber growing in the open greenhouse border use a good general liquid feed at the recommended rate. When grown in a grow-bag feed once a week at the same rate. Cucumbers will benefit from mulch of peat-based compost around the stem and over the surrounding roots; they will very quickly make more roots out of the stem, giving the plant an extra boost.
LONG CARROTS. PARSNIPS. LONG BEETROOT.
All these are best grown in a raised bed, it is impossible to obtain either the length or quality required for exhibition on flat earth.
Dig over the area to be used in the Autumn or Winter months to a depth of 30cms at the same time adding peat or leaf mould at the rate of one barrowful to 4-6sq metres according to the type of soil. Use the heavier dressing on heavy or clay soil. Having prepared the area at ground level the object now is to raise the bed 60-90cms above this level. To keep the bed within its limits it will be necessary to erect some support for the soil; this then makes the perimeter and sides of the raised bed. The medium for this part of the bed is made up of five parts soil, one part course sand and one part leaf mould. To each barrowful of this mixture add 170gms Superphosphate and 140gms Sulphate of Potash. Leave the bed to over winter. During February 110gms of Calcified Seaweed and 28gms of a general fertilizer per sq meter. Yard should be forked in. Make bore holes approximately 90cms deep and 8cms wide. Allow a spacing of 30cms between holes. These holes are then filled with the prepared compost. Old potting compost, which has been stored dry, is ideal; this enables the compost to run freely down the holes. Ideally this should be put through a riddle to remove stones etc which may stop or spoil the growth of the taproot.
Prior to sowing we suggest the seed is soaked and allowed to 'chit', this gives a quick germination. Make sure the soil is moist. Sow 3 or 4 seeds per position and approximately 2cms deep. When the seedlings are 4cms high select the strongest from each position and with great care remove the weaker ones.
Never allow the bed to become dry. In a hot dry summer the raised bed will dry very quickly.
Long Parsnips. Early to Mid March.
Choose a sunny position. During the autumn or winter months dig in a small amount of well rotted farmyard manure or garden compost. During March we have found an application of calcified seaweed of great benefit. Two weeks prior to sowing rake in a general fertiliser. Sow from Mid March onwards in rows 30cms apart and 1cm deep. We recommend a spacing of 6cms in the row.
STUMP ROOTED CARROTS
For Stump Rooted Carrots it is important to choose a site which was manured the previous year. Fork over to a depth of 30cms and add a good general fertiliser. Sow thinly; an ideal spacing is 3cms in the row. Avoid disturbing the carrots during growth to help prevent any problems with carrot fly.
These can be grown on ground which has had manure the previous year and none in the growing year. Too much feed in these crops will encourage a lot of green top growth to the detriment of the root.
Sow little and often for all the radish varieties to ensure a continuous supply.
Prepare the ground by adding a general fertilizer. Plant or sow lettuce in succession, never too many at once. Many varieties are grown for the leaves; they will never make a heart. These varieties grow very easily in containers. Use a mix of 50/50 multi-purpose and John Innes No.2 compost. Water the containers when needed.
Jerusalem Artichokes are not at all fussy about the condition of the ground providing it is not very acid or water logged during the winter months. Indeed it can be a useful plant to break up heavy land. Dig over the soil during the autumn or winter and add garden compost or manure as necessary. Plant out during early spring 15cms deep and 40cms apart. Allow 90cms between rows. Earth up when the stems are about 30cms high. During the summer months remove any flower buds as they form and feed occasionally with a liquid feed. Cut down stems to 30cms and lift tubers as required between October and early spring, cover the stem bases with straw or soil in severe weather.
As this vegetable requires a permanent plot, choice of site is important, they are often quite at home in the herbaceous border. For Globe Artichokes again good drainage is essential. During the autumn and winter incorporate garden compost or well rotted manure. Plant during spring and water well during dry weather. Feed with a liquid fertiliser after the first fruit have been cut off. The plant will grow to 4 feet tall during the summer months. In late autumn cut down the stems and cover the crowns to protect from severe weather. Remove protective covering in March.
Potato tubers should be prepared for planting by placing in a frost-free area that gives maximum exposure to light. This will allow the shoots to form prior to planting.
Prepare ground by digging and manuring in the autumn. Prepare the bed from February as conditions allow. Apply half fertiliser on the surface of the soil and the other half at the bottom of the planting trench. Potatoes are planted at a depth of 6-7cms and approximately 30cms apart in rows, which are 60cms apart. Take out a trench at the required depth, putting fertiliser in the bottom, cover with thin layer of soil and place tuber sprouts facing upwards in this trench. Refill the trench to cover tubers.
When the haulms are about 20cms high begin earthing up to protect the crop from light.
First Earlies should be ready in about 10-12 weeks from planting. However Maincrop varieties such as Pink Fir Apple will take not less than 14 weeks.
For Christmas Cropping
Potatoes for winter are best planted in containers. This helps to protect the tubers from summer soil borne pests. They are sensitive to frost so are best either moved indoors before frost or grown under cover.
Plant one tuber per pot or container. Use a 50/50 mix of John Innes No2 and multi- purpose compost or a peat free substitute. Plant the tuber approx 5cms in the container. Do not fill the container with the compost mix but keep adding more of the mix as the potatoes grow. Water and feed regularly using a tomato type feed. The tubers will be ready to harvest 11/12 weeks after planting. Once the tops have turned yellow cut them off, the tubers can then be left in the container till needed.
There are now two methods of growing this increasingly popular vegetable. The traditional method is from sets. These are traditionally planted on the shortest day and harvested on the longest day. This is a method tried and tested over very many years. However increasingly popular are the shallots grown from seed. These are grown using the same method as growing onions from seed. We have found the easiest method is to sow the seed in trays indoors during January and plant out during the early spring. Shallots grown from seed tend to be larger than from the sets.
The ground preparation is the same for both types. It is important that the ground is not too rich as this will only cause soft growth and the shallot will not store well.
Use ground that has had a very light covering of manure. Apply a good general fertiliser and work well into ground. Harvest when tops begin to turn yellow or flop over. Cut tops off immediately and dry indoors.
Eschallott Grise planted in early autumn will mature late spring or early summer but needs the same ground preparation as spring planted shallots.
Hative De Niort is a very soft exhibition shallot. These are treated with great care. Put into pots from November prior to planting outdoors in February. When they are lifted, usually from the end of June, make sure the bulbs are dried well to enable the crop to store until replanting.
To be successful over a long period in any summer peppers benefit from being grown in a greenhouse. As with tomatoes greenhouse hygiene is important. Always use clean compost and pots.
The seed is sown as early as February in a heated greenhouse; the plants develop more slowly than tomatoes. Take care at this stage not to over water, as the young plants are prone to botrytis. Pot into 9cm pots when large enough to handle then into their final growing position when ready. Most varieties will grow happily in a 20cm pot. Support the plant using canes as required.
Feed each week once the first fruit has set.
Sweet peppers take longer to ripen to a colour than tomatoes, so if the coloured fruit is required be prepared to wait till the fruit ripens on the plant. However remove the ripe fruit to allow the later fruit to develop.
The seed is sown as early as February in a heated greenhouse; the plants develop more slowly than tomatoes. Take care at this stage not to over water, as the young plants are prone to botrytis at this stage. Pot into 9cm pots when large enough to handle then into their final growing position when ready. Most varieties will grow happily in a 20cm pot. Chilli peppers like a gritty compost so a John Innes type is best. Support the plant using canes as required.
Chilli peppers are perennial plants so they can be kept warm during the winter months for an early crop the following years.
These are grown in the same way as sweet peppers. The plants however are usually taller so the supports must allow for this.
Take care when watering Aubergines; try not to allow the fruit to stay damp as this can lead to Botrytis. Ventilate the greenhouse on all possible occasions.
Rhubarb is one of the oldest cultivated plants it can be traced back to the China of 3000 B.C.
Most types of soil are suitable but a rich deep medium to light loam is best. Not shaded. Too often a poor crop is due to being grown in 'any old corner'. Plant in soil that has had a generous amount of manure the previous autumn. The roots are planted 1meter apart with the crown just above the surface. Hoe and water freely.
During the first year allow the roots to grow without pulling any stems. Each autumn mulch with well rotted manure or compost. Cut off any flowering stems. Stems can be pulled for use from the second year after planting, taking care not to pull too much from any one root. Divide the roots after 5 or 6 years. The roots may be lifted for forcing when 3 or 4 years old. Force in a gentle heat of 12deg.C from November onwards; pack closely in a dark shed or hot bed. To force in the open cover the root with forcing pots a large box or straw in January-February.
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