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Grow your own fruit and vegetables


jethro

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Posted
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl
  • Weather Preferences: Snow and lots of it or warm and sunny, no mediocre dross
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl

    In these days of concern for the climate and the ever increasing price of food, should we all be trying to grow our own fruit and vegetables? I’m sure there are many folk who would love to, if they had the space, time and know-how.

    I’ve grown an awful lot of fruit and veg over the years, these photo’s are of a Victorian kitchen garden I renovated for a local hotel. It was an acre and sadly neglected; belonging to a country house estate, it had fallen into decrepitude whilst in private ownership. When the house was bought and turned into a hotel, the dream was to grow as much produce and flowers as possible on an entirely organic basis. It took a lot of work, but we got there. From waist high docks and thistles, to production in a little over a year; these before and after shots were taken roughly seven months apart – apologies for quality of the pics, they’re photo’s of photo’s.

    The purpose of this thread is hopefully to encourage many of you to “grow your own”, I shall endeavour to show you don’t need lots of space; I had an acre to play with but a back-to-back terrace with a yard, has room for a couple of pots and grow bags. Hopefully I’ll convince you it doesn’t take every spare minute you have to achieve success and as for the know-how; well I’ll start at the beginning and try to dispel any ideas of gardening being a black art and “green fingers” a necessity. Anyone can do it, honestly.

    So, let’s start with the stuff you grow it in and what you add to it to make it more productive, if you’ve only got a little plot, you want to get as much out of it as possible.

    Soil

    Start by getting mucky; when the soil is neither soaking wet nor bone dry, take a handful and squeeze it, have a good look, rub it between your fingers and see what it feels like. Here are some general guidelines to soil types, what it means in terms of growing plants and what to add to them.

    Sandy - gritty and unwilling to stick together, not very fertile, drains easily, doesn’t get water logged; on the plus side, this soil type warms quickly in the Spring meaning you get a head start on those with clay soil. Add plenty of organic matter and fertilise regularly.

    Clay - dense and smooth, sticks together when squeezed, fairly fertile but slow to drain and cracks when dry, also slow to warm up in the spring; in a cold, wet spring this can delay sowing and planting by quite a few weeks. Add plenty of organic matter and grit.

    Chalk - pale in colour, often containing lumps of chalk, very free draining and probably the least fertile of all types. Add plenty of organic matter; green manures are particularly useful (red clover).

    Peat - rich dark and moist, not particularly fertile and prone to water logging but a devil to water if allowed to dry out; dry peat shrugs off water better than any coat. Needs regular feeding, add grit to increase drainage, if prone to water logging then raised beds are the most successful option.

    Loam - rich dark and crumbly, the perfect soil, holds moisture but drains easily. Add organic matter and fertilise to maintain your perfection. If you live in the Lincolnshire Fens, thank your lucky stars because that’s most likely what you’ve got.

    Acid or alkaline - generally only peat is definitely acid, only chalk is alkaline, the rest can be either; pH scale for soil is 1 to 14, neutral is 7 – between 6 and 8 is ideal for most plants. There are particular exceptions to this rule – cabbages and all brassica’s loath acid soil, Rhododendrons and Azaleas loath alkaline soil. Simple pH testing kits are available from all garden centres, I’d advise anyone to check their soil before growing anything.

    Organic matter - garden compost, animal manure, leaf mould, composted bark, and mushroom compost. Organic matter is added both to breakdown heavy, water logged soils and to increase water retention in porous, free-draining ones. All can be used freely with the exception of Mushroom compost; this is very alkaline and can drastically affect the pH balance of soils. Animal manure should NEVER be used fresh, it must always be stored for a minimum of six months, preferably twelve before being incorporated into soils which are to be planted, or spread over as a mulch. Green manures such as Red Clover or Alfalfa should be sown, allowed to grow then the entire plant is dug into the soil.

    Grit and Sharp Sand – these are used to break down heavy, water logged soils like clay, they encourage drainage by opening up the structure of the soil.

    Fertiliser – liquid use as a top up, growing season boost, throughout the season, the best known general purpose one is Miracle Grow. Solid ones such as pelleted chicken manure (organic) and Growmore (not organic), should be applied in spring, a mid-season top-up can also be applied to veg patches, Blood Fish and Bone is also an organic fertiliser which may be used in the same way. Bone meal encourages root growth so sprinkle and mix into planting holes (especially trees and shrubs). Specific fertilisers are also available for particular crops; Tomatoes for example, commonly suffer from magnesium deficiency, showing itself by a yellowing of the leaves between the veins, quickly remedied by watering in a specific fertiliser (e.g. Tomorite).

    Which plants and crops need particular elements, I’ll cover later but as a general rule

    Nitrogen (N) is needed for leaf growth, Phosphorus (P) for healthy roots and Potassium (K) for flowers and fruit. This is referred to on the packaging of most fertilisers as NPK, different fertilisers have different ratios; lawn fertiliser is high in Nitrogen to encourage leaf growth, a Chrysanthemum feed will be high in Potassium. If in doubt then stick to a general purpose, all round fertiliser.

    Anyone can join in, please feel free to add tips, info, shortcuts, and links; this isn’t supposed to be a “Jethro says” thread.

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    Posted
  • Location: just south of Doncaster, Sth Yorks
  • Location: just south of Doncaster, Sth Yorks

    great idea this and I'm sure it will be hugely popular, so many thanks for starting it.

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    Posted
  • Location: Castle Howard, North Yorkshire
  • Location: Castle Howard, North Yorkshire

    Yes I like this too Jethro, and I believe this thread may prove to be very useful; therefore, I have pinned it.

    Brian.

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    Posted
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl
  • Weather Preferences: Snow and lots of it or warm and sunny, no mediocre dross
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl

    You're both more than welcome, hope it helps or at the very least encourages and gives confidence to folks.

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    Posted
  • Location: Heswall, Wirral
  • Weather Preferences: Summer: warm, humid, thundery. Winter: mild, stormy, some snow.
  • Location: Heswall, Wirral

    Yes growing your own fruit is the way forward. I believe it's not only sustainable but also rewarding, and there's a great feeling when say a seedling sprouts, currently raising a pear tree, lemon tree and olive tree (as seedlings apart from the Olive tree) so it should be brilliant when they start fruiting

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    Posted
  • Location: Norfolk
  • Location: Norfolk

    I'd like to ask a question if I may.

    I have a small garden (front and side) and do a few pots and have a tiny veggie patch - enough to get a few meals out of. I do a plethora of kitchen herbs and swear by mustard and cress - first question, anyone got any good uses for mustard and cress aside from the obvious adding interest to sandwiches/salads??

    However, I have lawn as well and along the front of the garden I have a picket fence - my thought is to run a fruit cage along the inside of the fence, second question can anyone suggest the best sort of fruit bush to grow in the confines of a cage say 4 feet long? (bearing in mind the sooner it fruits the better)

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    Posted
  • Location: Bedfordshire/Herts border 40m asl
  • Weather Preferences: Cold, crisp, calm and sunny
  • Location: Bedfordshire/Herts border 40m asl

    Thanks Jethro for starting this. Last year I got two raised beds started and successfully grew two types of lettuce, three types of tomatoes, herbs, courgettes and latterly leeks. However, the peas and runner beans were disappointing. Any tips for success for these crops?

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    Posted
  • Location: Lincolnshire coast
  • Location: Lincolnshire coast
    I’ve grown an awful lot of fruit and veg over the years...

    Ah, so that's why you're called Jethro. Four course rotations, seed drills and all that.

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    Posted
  • Location: Bedfordshire/Herts border 40m asl
  • Weather Preferences: Cold, crisp, calm and sunny
  • Location: Bedfordshire/Herts border 40m asl

    Oh, and I've got a small orchard with established apple, pear, plum and damson trees. There was a lot of blossom on all the trees this year but I've noticed the leaves are beginning to show evidence of some type of black patchy blight. Should I be spraying them? And if so, with what?

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    Posted
  • Location: Cambridgeshire Fens. 3m ASL
  • Location: Cambridgeshire Fens. 3m ASL
    I'd like to ask a question if I may.

    I have a small garden (front and side) and do a few pots and have a tiny veggie patch - enough to get a few meals out of. I do a plethora of kitchen herbs and swear by mustard and cress - first question, anyone got any good uses for mustard and cress aside from the obvious adding interest to sandwiches/salads??

    However, I have lawn as well and along the front of the garden I have a picket fence - my thought is to run a fruit cage along the inside of the fence, second question can anyone suggest the best sort of fruit bush to grow in the confines of a cage say 4 feet long? (bearing in mind the sooner it fruits the better)

    Currant bushes don't take up too much room for a fruit cage of that size.

    Oh, and I've got a small orchard with established apple, pear, plum and damson trees. There was a lot of blossom on all the trees this year but I've noticed the leaves are beginning to show evidence of some type of black patchy blight. Should I be spraying them? And if so, with what?

    Could be a form of scab SH. You can spray them but its a systemic spray usually so it goes into the fruit as well. At the end of autumn rake up all diseased leaves and fruit and burn the lot. This will kill off most of the spores that cause scab.

    http://www.gardenaction.co.uk/fruit_veg_di...er_2f_apple.asp

    Currant bushes don't take up too much room for a fruit cage of that size.

    Could be a form of scab SH. You can spray them but its a systemic spray usually so it goes into the fruit as well. At the end of autumn rake up all diseased leaves and fruit and burn the lot. This will kill off most of the spores that cause scab.

    http://www.gardenaction.co.uk/fruit_veg_di...er_2f_apple.asp

    Don't forget everyone you don't need huge amounts of soil to grow a few veggies. Tubs and baskets will do fine.

    Ask Louby our own Percy Thrower. :D

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    Posted
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl
  • Weather Preferences: Snow and lots of it or warm and sunny, no mediocre dross
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl

    Thanks for all the replies folks.

    Answers to questions (all welcome) : first the fruit cage, I'd opt for Black currants or Gooseberries, these two have more culinary uses than White or Red currants. Perhaps as a backdrop, you could grow an espalier Apple tree at the back of the cage running along the fence line. They're easy to grow, easy to prune once you get the gist of it and remarkably productive.

    A lot of people had disappointing Runner Bean and Pea crops last year, I suspect your disappointment was caused by the poor weather rather than any horticultural mishap. Simply, it was too wet and a tad chilly. One thing which does help Runner Bean yield is to mist spray them with water when they are in flower, it helps the flowers set once they've been fertilised.

    The blotchy leaves sounds like a classic case of Scab, Greyowl's suggestion of raking up all fallen leaves and fruit in the Autumn is the best way to prevent it. It's actually caused by a fungus "Venturia inaequalis" which over-winters on the fallen leaves, ready to infect the tree in the Spring, as soon as it is warm and moist enough. There are in-organic systemic fungicides you can use but you have to spray the entire tree throughout the season. Organic control is much harder to come by, Copper was the universal choice (or Sulphur or combination of both) but it has known environmental problems, not sure if it has been withdrawn from the market yet but it's going to be. The best hope so far for organic control is a Yucca extract, it isn't available yet but will be soon.

    Why I'm called Jethro...fraid not and it's not because I'm a huge Jethro Tull fan either. Rather more mundane I'm afraid, trying to register on this site, every name I could think of was already taken, after about a dozen attempts I gave up, looked at the cat sleeping on my lap and had a "sod it" moment. Here's Jethro.....

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    Posted
  • Location: St. Albans, Herts
  • Location: St. Albans, Herts
    Don't forget everyone you don't need huge amounts of soil to grow a few veggies. Tubs and baskets will do fine.

    Absolutely. Have got a very small (30ft), but south facing, garden at the back of our victorian terrace, and am experimenting with growing veggies in the flower beds (broad and runner beans and peas have all got lovely flowers and look great climbing a fence at the back of a flower bed...specially if you add a few sweet peas to climb through them). Have also got strawberries, tomatoes and several tubs of cut and come again salads. Also have tons of herbs: 4 types of mint, marjoram, oregano, thyme, chives, sage, rosemary, basil, parsley and coriander.

    Am getting quite into the various medicinal uses for certain plants and have been trying to include them also (things like chamomile, feverfew, heartease, woodruff, etc, etc).

    Am planning potatoes (in tubs), garlic and little squash (my friend has them growing up obelisks in her flower bed, and am planning to have a go) next year.

    Am also lucky enough to have a wonderful mature pear tree which looks to have been planted when the houses were built (each garden in the row has either a pear or an apple tree).

    My idea is to try to turn it back to what it once might have been, ie, a functioning, but pretty, cottage garden.

    As an aside, one interesting thing I am finding is that, due to the warmth and protection here, I'm managing to overwinter all kinds of plants which should be dying back...I have annual wild flowers from last year which have stayed all winter and several of my mints also kept going.

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    Posted
  • Location: Cambridgeshire Fens. 3m ASL
  • Location: Cambridgeshire Fens. 3m ASL

    We have a good selection growing in tubs and troughs. Potatoes, Garlic, Runner beans, Lettuce, Spring Onion, Tomatoes in hanging baskets, Tomatoes in greenhouse, Beetroot, Rhubarb and Mint. We also have a dwarf apple tree and strawberry's in an old chimney pot. A lot of seed supplier websites have a section for patio vegetables now to supply anyone without loads of space for growing in tubs etc.

    Some of my neighbours have now started to grow a few veggies due to me giving them my surplus plants.

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    Posted
  • Location: Lincolnshire coast
  • Location: Lincolnshire coast
    Why I'm called Jethro...fraid not and it's not because I'm a huge Jethro Tull fan either.
    Ah, but you'll know why Ian Anderson chose the name then?
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    Posted
  • Location: South Yorkshire
  • Location: South Yorkshire

    Feel a bit daft now 'cos I think it was something I mentioned in jest but someone suggested you started this thread as a result. Well now you have but I can't think of anything! Don't worry,I will do when I get me big garden but it's too late in the year to do anything except preparation. Meanwhile I'll follow all this with interest.

    Stephen Prudence: I planted a lemon pip and an orange pip sixteen years ago. They're lovely foliage plants but they have never flowered,so no fruit! I've read up on them and given them the best conditions I could,correct nutrients etc,but nothing. Hope yours fare better. Jethro? Had good results with chillis,hops,even tobacco (smokers: stop moaning about cost of fags and have a go,seeds are readily available on the 'net and you've just about time left to give it a whirl).

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    Posted
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl
  • Weather Preferences: Snow and lots of it or warm and sunny, no mediocre dross
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl

    It's fantastic to hear so many of you are growing fruit&veg!

    No one needs a huge plot to grow something edible, pots, troughs and growbags can be remarkably productive.

    Laser: That'll teach you to be flippant.... ;) All joking aside, I do think more of us should try to grow something edible, I've spoken to loads of folk over the years in the course of my work and a very large proportion of them don't bother because they think it's all terribly complicated. It really isn't and if this thread encourages a few more people to give it a go, then it will be worth it. As for you young man, it isn't too late to do something this year, get thee down to the garden centre, buy some compost and pots and get growing - salad crops can be sown throughout the summer, Runner Bean plants can be bought as can Tomatoes; go on, off you go...

    Lemon & Orange trees, yes some will fruit sporadically in our climate but you've got to get the right one. They do best with a greenhouse really; even without fruit, they're lovely foliage plants. Unusual for them not to flower though, they usually flower, often setting fruit but it drops before getting anywhere near big enough. Try cutting back on the fertiliser, sounds like they're producing leaves at the expense of flowers, also imperative they have a semi-dormant period through the winter, they should only be watered very sparingly to prevent them drying out completely. When watering proper commences in the Spring, together with a good feed, they should produce a quick growth spurt, then flower. Be mean to them in the winter.

    Biff: Yup. Difficult not to know where I grew up, Peggy & Swarbrick were neighbours.

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    Posted
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl
  • Weather Preferences: Snow and lots of it or warm and sunny, no mediocre dross
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl

    Feedback please; it's obvious you all know a lot about gardening, I don't want to insult anyone and I certainly don't want to teach granny to suck eggs so should I carry on and post a "how to grow fruit&veg" following on from my first post or should this evolve into a more general thread?

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    Posted
  • Location: just south of Doncaster, Sth Yorks
  • Location: just south of Doncaster, Sth Yorks

    perhaps as a qu and ans type of thread would be best

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    Posted
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl
  • Weather Preferences: Snow and lots of it or warm and sunny, no mediocre dross
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl

    Thanks John, that's my thoughts too; seemed a tad conceited when it became clear there's quite a lot of committed gardeners already. Hopefully, collectively we can encourage more to join in and give it a go.

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    Posted
  • Location: just south of Doncaster, Sth Yorks
  • Location: just south of Doncaster, Sth Yorks

    quick question for you

    Currently my garden is mostly perrenial flowers, shrubs etc along with rockery types around the ponds.

    If I decided to go back to mixing veg and flowers, with a soil that is very short on any 'body', and thinking of having some deeper grow beds, how deep to get things like carrots and other root crops would I need? I would of course change the soil type in the grow beds.

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    Posted
  • Location: Near Newton Abbot or east Dartmoor, Devon
  • Location: Near Newton Abbot or east Dartmoor, Devon
    Feedback please; it's obvious you all know a lot about gardening, I don't want to insult anyone and I certainly don't want to teach granny to suck eggs so should I carry on and post a "how to grow fruit&veg" following on from my first post or should this evolve into a more general thread?

    I would, well both.

    Incidentally, I've gone a bit ott with my potato patch this year...I'm growing: Picasso, Kepplestone Kidney, Harlequin, Melody, Motzart, Vales Emerald, Arrow, Annabelle and (best of all last year) Red Laur(i?)e. Beat that :D Fingers crossed this awful wet weather is too early for blight.

    Toms: only one variety worth growing imo Sungold.

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    Posted
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl
  • Weather Preferences: Snow and lots of it or warm and sunny, no mediocre dross
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl

    Average Parsnip is roughly 6-8 inches long, so at least that deep plus a couple of inches. If you don't like Parsnips and were thinking more of Carrots then the Nantes type are about 6 inches long but Parmex a mere couple of inches (imagine Orange golf ball). Turnips& Beetroot only require about 4-6 inches growing depth. They're all quite happy being grown on top of mounded soil so if achieving a deep enough bed is difficult, this will often gain the extra depth required.

    Blimey Dev! You planning on opening a spud pub? Good for you, fingers crossed on the blight eh.

    Gardeners Delight for me, every time. Incredibly prolific and tasty too.

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    Posted
  • Location: Nr Appleby in Westmorland
  • Location: Nr Appleby in Westmorland

    I've got some pumpkins, courgettes and sweetcorn in the coldframe ready to plant out into a new bed I've salavaged from where a playhouse used to sit. I've dug loads of leafmold and manure into it, but hopefully the things I've chosen aren't too fussy anyway. I meant to do some potatoes, but can't find any seed potatoes for sale now, so I guess I've left it too late. I've also got some peas to sow, which I'm going to put straight into the soil.

    Nothing to do with vegetables, but I have never seen a ladybird in my garden. Am I too far north or too cold over the winter? I know I can buy some, but wondering if it's worth it.

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    Posted
  • Location: Norfolk
  • Location: Norfolk

    Thanks for the thoughts everyone - I thinka gooseberry bush is the best bet - I get blackberry's from the wild brambles in the tree line near me too.

    Anyone any thoughts on ym other q? I k now its not strictly gardening but any ideas for cress and mustard that are not salad/sandwich related would be most appreciated. Cress and mustard soup of some type?

    I meant to do some potatoes, but can't find any seed potatoes for sale now, so I guess I've left it too late. I've also got some peas to sow, which I'm going to put straight into the soil.

    Let some potatoes sprout under the sink cupbaord and plant those out - it sometimes works.....

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    Posted
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl
  • Weather Preferences: Snow and lots of it or warm and sunny, no mediocre dross
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl

    Oon: I doubt you're too far North or too cold, but you could be too tidy. They like leaf litter to over-winter in, also if you've sprayed your garden for Aphids or don't grow anything which attracts them in fair numbers, then Ladybirds won't come. It's a bit like wanting folk to turn up at an empty cafe, no food, no customers.

    A blank on the Mustard and Cress question I'm afraid, can't think of anything other than sandwiches. Experiment I say.

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