All In A Days Work With The Three Sisters!

Hi Guys,

What a great productive day i’ve had today……well everyday is productive but today was ‘mental’ busy but I enjoyed every minute….and the sun shone…..yey!!

The day started well…..we had electricity ;)…sad but I really missed it yesterday.  So all my gadgets and gizmos were charged up and ready to ‘role’, including ME!!

I popped over next door to my elderly neighbours first as they love their flowers and had a load of bedding plants that needed to go in………I thought that would be a 20 minute job as most of the flowers go into pots and tubs rather than into the ground…..but not today…..my lovely neighbour decided she would like them to be planted into a corner of her lawn.  Now there is a flower bed there………BUT it was mostly covered in grass and weeds 😦 Oh well, I set to it and once I got going…..with the help of my elderly neighbours, their son in law…..and their 4 year old grand daughter……we cleared the ground…..made a new boundary with some rocks (no problem finding them here as we live at the bottom of the mountainside).  Then we planted up some buzy lizzies and a few other bedding plants…..JOB DONE…..had a lovely cup of tea with them and a homemade scone and headed back to my tunnels.

I then prepared the bed where I had previously grown my onions, added some fresh compost and planted up all my sweet corn plants Lark, Lapwing and some italian sweet corn which I bought in Florence last year.  I then inter planted them with some Courgettes/Zucchini…..Defender, Parthernon and again some Italian squash courgettes which I bought in Florence.  I also popped a few Speedy Beans around the bases of the Sweet Corn.

Why mix all these together I hear you ask…….well Sweet Corn and Courgettes/Zucchini are very hungry nitrogen plants and deplete the soil of this very important nutrient.  On the other hand the beans (or peas) actually do the opposite and put nitrogen back into the soil….so by planting these together hopefully we will have a happy balance of nutrients.  This combination of plants is often referred to as ‘The Three Sisters’, which is an ancient method of gardening.  Sometimes this is done in a mound or hill but I plant all of mine level and it works!

Corn is the oldest sister. She stands tall in the center. Courgette/Zucchini (Squash) is the next sister and she grows over the ground protecting her sisters from weeds and shades the soil from the sun with her leaves, keeping it cool and moist.  The third and final sister is the Bean (or pea) and she climbs up the sweet corn as she reaches for the sun. Beans help keep the soil fertile by converting the sun’s energy into nitrogen filled nodules that grow on its roots. As beans grow they use the stored nitrogen as food…..Lesson Over 😉

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The 3 Sisters………although there are only 2 above ground as baby sister (bean) is still waiting to show!

If you are growing more than one type of sweet corn it is always advisable to leave a few feet between as they are wind pollinated and you might get a strange corn!!  I have planted mine in 3 areas as I have 3 different types.  Also remember that sweet corn MUST be planted in blocks rather than rows to pollinate.  I will do another blog on this subject as there is a little more to pollination than other veg, especially when growing under cover.

Last but not least today, I potted up my peppers of which there were loads.  I am growing sooooooo many different types including Apache Chilli, Super Chilli, Chilli Shake, Lantern Chilli, Californian Wonder and loads more…..tooooo many to name…..some really hot and some not!!

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A few peppers all potted up ready to sit in the smaller tunnel (my hot house) along with the tomatoes!

I have done a quick video so hope to upload in the next couple of days of planting the corn and courgette/zucchini plants along with the beans.

Tomorrow is another busy day so think its time for a well deserved rest.

Good Night

Eve

How To Grow Potatoes

Hi Guys

Growing your own potatoes is yet another rewarding easy vegetable to grow and there is nothing better than sitting down to your Sunday roast with your home-grown spuds!!

Potatoes grow over a long period of time so they are another crop that you need to be patient with…….but’ OH BOY’ they are so worth the wait!

Potatoes need a well-drained fertile site which has preferably had some well-rotted manure dug in. (It is not essential but does make a difference).

There are loads of different types of seed potatoes for sale in any good garden centre. The choice of which potato you grow is down to what you want to do with them when they are fully grown: ie mashing, roasting, boiling etc……..so read the labels on the seed potato pack and it will tell you what they are best for.  There are also different potatoes to grow at different times of the year.

First Earlies which are planted around March – April and will be ready around 15 weeks later.

Second Earlies which are planted around the middle of April and ready around 17 weeks later.

Maincrop which are planted from April onwards and will take around 20 weeks to mature.

I am going to be planting my main crop potatoes hopefully today although I normally would have them into the ground by the end of May but if you are growing under cover then it is not too much of a problem as its the frost that we need to watch out for!

Once you have your seed potatoes, we need to ‘chit’ them…..What is that I hear you ask 🙂 This process is done by sitting your seed potatoes in a well lite, frost-free place and allowing those little ‘eyes’ to shoot.  I use cardboard egg trays to sit mine on but any type of box will do.

Chitting potatoes

To ‘Chit’ or not to ‘Chit’…..this is the question. Now I often have thought about the farmers who are growing fields full of potatoes……cant see them ‘chitting’ all those spuds….so Ive tried it both ways.  The potatoes that I have planted without ‘chitting’ take a little longer to come up but other than that I don’t see a lot of difference……So guys its up to you.

The next thing we need to do is to prepare the ground for our potatoes.  If you have prepared it well in advance with well-rotted manure then great…..if you haven’t…….don’t panic, all is not lost as we can just add some fertilizer to the ground as we go.

The general opinion is that the shoots on your ‘chitted’ seed potatoes should be approx 2 inches long…..I don’t think I have ever left mine grow that big before planting…..again never really had any problems.  If the seed  potato you are growing is very large then you can cut it so as it can produce more plants. Each ‘eye’ (shoot)  will grow into a new potato plant so if you have 6 eyes on your potato then you will get 6 plants from that seed potato.  It is up to you if you decide to cut your potato or not but remember the more eyes on a potato or piece if you have cut it the more potatoes you will get but they will be smaller.  If you have only a couple of eyes on your potato then you are going to get larger potatoes.  I have heard of some gardeners rubbing off a couple of the eyes rather than cut the potato…..again its up to you……experiment…..thats the fun of gardening!  ( If you cut your seed potatoes then leave them a couple of days to ‘scab’ over before planting).

The ground should be as fertile as possible in order to get a good crop of potatoes.  If you haven’t added any manure to your ground then you can add some organic chicken manure pellets or any good quality fertilizer which you should be able to buy in any garden centre.  Read the instructions on the packet to work out how much you need to add to your soil.

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Sprinkle organic fertilizer over the ground and rake in before planting

Plant your potatoes about 14-16 inches apart and about 4 inches deep ensuring the eyes are looking upwards!!!

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I use my garden trowel as a guide as to how deep the seed potatoes need to be as its approximately 4 inches in length.

Cover the plants with good quality compost, either a grow bag or your own compost is even better!

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Give the potato bed a good watering and……be patient.  You should see your potato plants within a few weeks depending on time of year and whether you have ‘chitted’ or not!

Once your potato plants appear, wait till they are a few inches high…..then we need to ‘earth up’ in other words cover the potato plants (carefully) with more compost/soil.  Earthing up your potatoes in very important and plays a big part in  growing potatoes.  It protects the growing potatoes from the frost and also prevents the potatoes from going green which  makes the potato  poisonous and inedible.  Earth up your potatoes 2 or three times……..Do this each time the plants reach a few inches tall.

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Within a few weeks your potato plants should be nice and tall and green.  Make sure you water well and soon you will have some delicious spuds to have with your roast dinner, salad or even on their own with a little bit of butter!!

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The length of time from planting to harvest can vary depending on a couple of things….The type of potatoes you are growing, the time of year and even the weather. The general census is that the potatoes will be ready when they flower.  I have just harvested potatoes that I grew in my tunnel which I planted at the end of February and they weren’t in flower…..You can always have a little look by gently brushing away some of the soil with your hand.

Health benefits of potatoes

I think that people often think that potatoes are not good for you and are fattening………How wrong are they!!

Potatoes contain Vitamins C and B-complex, potassium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus, all excellent vitamins and minerals for your skin.

Potatoes are part of the nightshade family of vegetables and have lots of carbohydrates, protein,calcium, niacin and Vitamin C. They are full of fiber and contain lots of Vitamin C which make them another great antioxidant vegetable to help repair cells in the body. Potatoes can relieve inflammation in the intestines and digestive track.

Potatoes help fight heart disease and help to keep blood pressure down.

These are just some of the health benefits of humble spud……….there are many many more so Grow and enjoy!

 

Eve

Juicy Cherry Tomatoes Are So Easy To Grow – Honest!

Do you enjoy eating those little cherry tomatoes……I do and eat them like sweets (much healthier)!!

These juicy cherry tomatoes are so easy to grow if you follow these simple instructions:

First thing we need is a hanging basket….any old hanging basket will do.  I use old rusty hanging baskets that I used to have flowers in but are now too tatty to have on display in my garden for the whole world to see!!

The liner can be made from the plastic bag that the compost came in, although you can buy a hanging basket liner but they can be expensive and that defeats the object of growing your own to save money as well as eating healthily.

Place the hanging basket upside down on the plastic bag and cut a circle about 50% larger than the diameter of the basket using a sharp knife. If you are going to plant more than 1 tomato then just place a few plastic bags on top of each other so that you only need to cut once!!

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Once you have your circle of plastic, pop it into the hanging basket with the black part on the outside.  I think this looks better to look at than the side with writing etc on.

Fill the basket with compost (grow bag) almost to the top.  Make a large well (hole) in the centre of the compost and add a sprinkling of crushed egg shells (calcium) and a small teaspoon of Epsom Salts (magnesium).  This is not essential but something that I do.

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Carefully take the cherry tomato plant out of its pot and remove any discoloured leaves from the bottom.  As most cherry tomato plants are determinate, there is no need to remove too many leaves as they plant will grow out into a bush rather than up.

Place the tomato plant into the planting hole and firm the compost around the plant.  Don’t forget your label so you know what type of tomato you are growing.Image

REMEMBER TO WATER WELL, DONT FORGET YOUR LABEL AND VOILA!

I will give you more information about the ‘dos and donts’ of growing tomatoes and what can go wrong….which sometimes happens to the best of us…..including ME!!  (thats why I have the photos!!)

Cherry Tomatoes in Hanging Baskets And Containers

Cant wait for my sweets to be ready to eat!!!

Eve

Such A Busy Time

imageHi Guys, Well its been another very busy day in the tunnels.  I have managed to get lots of lettuce into their final planting position in the new tunnel along with some spring onions.  Also planted some more rocket, mustard, oriental salad and some herbs as its been a few weeks since the last lot of seeds were sown. Also more lettuce seeds so that we have a succession of salad  throughout the summer and hopefully into the winter as we did last year. Its such a busy time of year in the garden and I always wish I had more hours to do all the jobs that need doing…and love doing as I find gardening sooooo therapeutic!!.  Its a tough job here sometimes and wish i had two of me!!….as there is a lot of land which needs a lot of maintenance. I will hopefully get some heather into the rockery tomorrow and maybe do a few hanging baskets…..including those cherry tomatoes!

Heading out to my sons graduation now….can’t believe he has finished school…..oh except for those dreaded exams still to come next week……..I’d much rather do ALL the gardening!!

Eve

How To Plant Tomatoes

First things first.  The most important thing to growing any plant is the soil that you are going to grow it in.  If you have poor soil then you cant expect to get healthy plants…Common sense really!!

Tomatoes are not really fussy about soil but I always add some organic compost to mine, usually a grow bag or two.  If you have your own compost heap, even better.  Unfortunately mine is not very good at the minute as we are building some new compost bins.

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Always plant tomatoes where they will get lots of sun (wishful thinking!). Try and plant either early morning or the evening if the weather is warm so that they don’t get transplant  shock.

Carefully take your tomato plant out of its pot (you might have to squeeze the pot slightly if there are lots of roots).  Make the planting hole deeper than you would normally do as we need to bury the tomato plant right up to the top few leaves, this will enable the plant to produce more roots along the stem and make a much stronger plant.

As tomatoes are hungry plants and need lots of nutrients you can add a couple of extra things into the bottom of the planting hole, although this is not essential and additional nutrients can be added if needed as the plant grows.

For magnesium, which promotes plant vitality and productivity, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts into each hole.Image

For Calcium, add a handful of crushed egg shells which helps prevent ‘Blossom End Rot’ which I will explain in more detail later on this blog. Crushed Egg Shells

Now add a little organic compost into the planting hole before putting the tomato plant in.

Remember to take off all the ‘side shoots’/leaves right up to the top few.Image

Put the tomato plant into the hole so the lowest set of leaves is at soil level then fill the hole with the compost/soil.Image

Press the soil down around the plant gently but firmly to remove any air pockets, LABEL and water well.Image

As soon as you see the first ‘trusses’ (flowers) then you need to start feeding your tomatoes with a good quality tomato feed which is available from any good garden center and some super markets.  There are alternative, cheaper home-made fertilizers to feed  the tomatoes which I write about soon.

Hope that this information, along with the video will help you to plant your tomatoes successfully.

In my next blog on tomatoes I will explain a little more about nutrient deficiencies and will show you some photos as most tomato growing problems happens to the best of us…..INCLUDING ME!!

REMEMBER THAT TOMATOES  ARE HUNGRY FEEDERS AND NEED FEEDING EVERY WEEK, OR EVEN TWICE A WEEK DEPENDING ON WHERE THEY ARE GROWING!

(Please read the instructions on your tomato feed bottle).

There is so much more to this vegetable/fruit.  I will help you along with growing your tomatoes and ensuring that you grow strong healthy plants and also what you can do with those yummy tomatoes, including, relishes, salsa, sauces, sun-dried, preserving including freezing etc etc etc…..Stay Tuned!!

How To Grow Tomatoes Part 3

Hi Guys
I have finally managed to plant some (100!) tomatoes into the poly tunnel now that I have new planters….still waiting to change over the old cover though but that’s for another day…..most important thing now is to get the tomatoes in.
As we have had a couple of good days of weather  I have also managed to do a video which will show you a step by step guide on how to plant your toms into their final planting position.  I have had a few technical problems with my upload but hopefully it will be up there on you tube today.
I will be putting a detailed guide here on my blog later on today so you will be able to read all the ‘dos and donts’ of growing tomatoes along with some pics of problems that can happen (even to me!!). This is my way of growing tomatoes and have always had great success….and so will you if you follow my simple instructions.
Must go now and plant up the rest of my toms and maybe get a few basket tomatoes in too!!
Eve