Starting to think about next year already!

Now that the strawberries have stopped producing fruits, it is time to think about planning for next year’s crop. This doesn’t take much thinking about, as the plants do this all by themselves, by starting to throw “runners”. These are elongated stems which grow leaves and roots out periodically with the aim of finding some nice soil to anchor themselves in and produce more plants next season.

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To ensure the strawberry bed is kept in an orderly fashion, we pot the runners up rather than letting them root wherever takes their fancy. First, we filled several 3″ pots with a little bit of soil to give the pots some weight.

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Then we filled the pots to the top with some multipurpose compost.

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Lastly, we identified the runners we wanted to pot up, and pushed their root nodules into the surface of the compost, holding them down with a U-shape of plastic coated wire.

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The job was finished off by giving each pot a good watering to settle the runner in. We will keep watering them regularly now until the runners start to root.

 

The fastest (and easiest) crop – mung beans!

They only take about a week from sowing to harvest – what could possibly go wrong?! Mung beans are a great one for first time growers and also to encourage kids as it doesn’t take very long at all to see results! They are also a great thing to grow at this time of year for having in stir frys.

Mung beans don’t even need soil. All you will need is a large glass jar, an elastic band and some cotton cloth.

Firstly, the mung bean seeds should be soaked for 24 hours in water. Just covering them with water in your jar and then attaching the cotton over the top of the jar with an elastic band.

After 24 hours, the water should be poured away through the cotton, rinsed through with fresh water and then poured away again. The jar should be left on its side.

The rinsing through process should then be repeated daily (twice daily if possible) until the mung bean shoots are long enough to eat.

This is their progress in just 5 days (although it has been exceptionally warm!)

A quick July update

Now the weather is warm and the days are long, everything grows surprisingly quickly. Here are a few photos of how our various crops are getting on.

The second sowing of radishes are starting to swell, so it won’t be long before we’re eating these!¬†The beetroot are also getting almost big enough to eat – we can’t wait!

The cucamelons have already grown beyond the short canes we gave them in order to reach the main climbing trellis. I love their tendrils which keep them attached so securely to it! The courgettes are also producing lots of fruits now. I would say on average, one courgette every 2-3 days.

The cucumber plant is also growing steadily and was tied up to its batten for the first time at the weekend. You can see that the compost is not kept too wet around the cucumbers, as we find that their stems can often rot off where this is the case.

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The brassicas are also growing on nicely after we pricked them out last weekend. These will remain in the same pots until they’re planted out, so just need to be watered until then and monitored to make sure not pests decide to land!

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Our first runner bean harvest

We harvested our first crop of runner beans this weekend. It was only 12oz worth, but the first harvest is always the best!

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As you can see from the photos, pollination has been good, and we haven’t suffered from too many flowers dropping off, so there are lots and lots of runner beans coming along.

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It’s important once crops like runner beans and dwarf beans are ready to harvest that you do pick them regularly. Otherwise, if you let the beans start to go past their best and get “poddy” the plant will start to produce that type of bean from an early stage.

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Next steps with the brassicas

The cauliflower and broccoli seeds we planted last week are now ready to be pricked out. We prick brassica plants out into 3″ square pots where they will stay until they are planted out in the garden in a few weeks’ time.

The 3″ pots are filled with multipurpose compost, firming this down gently before watering to moisten the compost before transplanting.

The seedlings should be carefully extracted from the 1/4 seed tray by their leaves. It is important not to touch the stems of the seedlings, as this can damage the plant and stunt growth (if not worse!) The compost in the 1/4 seed tray should gently be eased to ensure the whole of the seedling’s root remains intact.

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The seedling should then be placed in a pre-made hole in the 3″ pot made with your finger or a dipper and then firmed in to ensure there are no air gaps in the compost around the seedling’s roots.

This process is repeated until all the seedlings are pricked out.

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Once pricked out, the seedlings should be watered again to settle the compost and then kept in a protected place to enable them to grow and harden off before planting out.

Planting out some more cucurbits

The cucamelons have continued to grow away as quickly as they started, and were moved outside last week to harden them off before planting out. We’ve never grown these before, so we’re not sure what we’re doing, but a quick Google search gave us some ideas.

They grow like a vine, so we fixed some plastic coated metal fencing up for them to climb up. You can see the little tendrils they already have growing which will help them to climb their way up. In fact, they were already a bit difficult to untangle from one another in the seed tray, so we don’t think they’ll have any trouble climbing up the fencing.

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We didn’t have much space left, so we had to plant four cucamelons in a 30 litre pot, with a small cane to support their journey up to the main fencing. Let’s see if they carry on growing at the same pace they have been!

One of the cucumbers we took from a cutting a couple of weeks ago was also ready to plant out. Similarly, it was planted out in a 30 litre pot, making sure not to put too much damp compost around the stem of the cucumber, as they can be a bit temperamental and we wanted to give it the best chance of not rotting off.

Like with the cucamelons, we have used a bamboo stick to support the plant until it reaches the batten that we’ve fixed to the fence for it to be trained along.

We’ll keep a close eye on the plant, as they can be difficult to get going, making sure not to water too heavily, and certainly not near the base of the stem.

Some more potting on of peppers…

Today we potted on Emily’s Gogorez peppers – they definitely needed some more room!

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They’re also currently doing a little better than mine at the moment!

We filled the pots up about half way with soil, and then topped with compost:

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Next, we made some room in the centre of each pot large enough to fit the peppers:

 

After that, it’s a simple case of pushing the compost around the stem of the pepper and making sure it’s nicely secure in it’s new location…

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We needed some bamboo canes to support the plants as they continue to grow upwards over the next couple of months, and of course as they start to grow the peppers themselves.

 

 

As above – we tied the stems of the peppers to the canes with some string, just to keep them upright, and to help take away some of the strain.

And voil√† –

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Some growing top tips

Everyone prefers a cauliflower with a white curd. However, this means that you need to shelter the curd from sunlight, to prevent it going yellow. One way of achieving this is to tie the cauliflower leaves together at the top once you see a cauliflower starting to form.

 

Like us, our plants need food and water. However, there are ways you can help them to take up the food and water more easily and efficiently. The nodules which grow out of the stems of cucumber plants are roots waiting to hit soil! Although you have to be careful not to dampen the delicate cucumber stem too much and cause it to rot off, heaping a small amount of compost up around the stem gradually to enable these roots to form will only assist you with growing a stronger plant.

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Don’t sow anything directly into the soil – there are too many things out there to try and scupper your chances. Whether this be pests digging up and eating/scattering your seeds, the weather washing them out or being too cold to enable germination or pests eating off the new shoots once the seedlings germinate, we always find it’s best to sow seeds into cell trays or seed trays first, potentially pot on and then plant out when you have a more established plant.

These are another sowing of beetroot sown in cell trays. These will be planted out in the garden directly from these.

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Leeks are better the longer the blanch (the white bit) you can get on them. However, there are ways you can get the leeks to self blanch themselves, such as the below.

Dibber a hole about 9 inches deep and plop your leek seedling into the hole. Gently fill the hole with water and this will slightly back fill the hole you’ve made to cover the leek plants bare roots to enable it to grow. As the leek grows, the hole (providing it does not get completely backfilled) acts as a natural light blocker and therefore blanches the leek.

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A general update

The courgettes are growing well in their pots and are starting to produce lots of courgettes. Once ready, carefully cut the courgettes with a knife, ensuring the main stem of the plant is not damaged.

The cucamelons are growing away well – we think they’ll be ready to plant out next week! However, as they’ve been growing in a cold greenhouse so far, we have now put them outside in a slightly protected area to harden them off before we plant them out.

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The beetroot that we planted outside are also doing well and are starting to swell. They’ll still be a little while longer, but it’s always good when you start to see them forming beetroot! Going back to successional sowings, you can see that three different sowings of beetroot have now been planted out across this bed.

Our second sowing of radishes are germinated and growing away nicely. All being well, these should be ready to eat in 2-3 more weeks!

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