How to Grow Raspberries, Strawberries and Currants

Soft fruits are easier to grow than you might think. Sweet yet tart and perfect picked fresh from your garden, they’re a real treat through the summer and through the autumn, depending on which varieties you buy. The most popular soft fruits are easy to grow in most gardens as long as you give them a bit of love and enough shelter to make sure that the elements – and the garden pests – don’t ruin them. Follow our tips and learn how to grow raspberries, strawberries and currants and take a look at this link for gardening and landscaping tools to get started.

Raspberries

raspberries

There are two raspberry types: summer fruiting, whereby the plants can be harvested in the summer, and autumn fruiting, whereby the plants can be harvested from late summer right through to early autumn and the first frost. Summer raspberries give you a huge crop, while autumn berries grow a little more slowly but are equally as delicious. Pop them in a sunny yet shady spot with nutrient-rich soil that has plenty of drainage.

Plant the dormant raspberry canes when it’s colder – autumn and winter – and cut down so that they’re only about 15cm in height. In the first year, the canes will establish a healthy root system, and then the following year you’ll be rewarded with lots of lovely fruit. Ensure that there’s a support system in place so that you can tie them as they grow and in the spring add a layer of mulch and manure.

Strawberries

Strawberries should be re-planted every three years – new plants should be put in and you should shift the strawberries to a different spot in the garden. They rot quite easily and need perfect growing conditions, so it’s really important that you don’t just let the fruits languish on old plants. Plant them in the late summer to the early autumn for a bumper crop the following year. They need to be in a sunny spot, with well-drained soil that isn’t chalky, ideally. Water frequently, pop protective mats underneath the plants as they grow and pick off runners – baby plants – as they appear.

Currants

All currants – white, red and black fruit in the middle of the summer. They need just a little bit of shade but they also need to be protected from the wind. Blackcurrants need protection from frost and plants need neutral soil to grow well. Use nutrient-soil and plant out in late autumn, leaving a good 4-5 feet in between each plant. Prune really well and keep on top of it frequently to increase fruit yield. When spring comes, add a fertiliser that contains nitrogen and potassium and use plenty of organic mulch to improve soil quality. If the bushes are mature, prune them back by a third each year and get rid of a lot of the old wood so that new, strong stems can flourish.

Source: BBC Gardens

Top Tips for Growing Unusual Veggies

Ever been to a restaurant and wondered just where they buy their purple carrots from? Or those delicious heirloom tomatoes? Chances are, they dug them up from the kitchen garden. Growing your own produce means that you’ll have far more choice than you’d get in the supermarket and with our hotter climate, many plants that once required a greenhouse can now grow quite happily outside in your garden. Take a look at our top tips for growing unusual veggies and this link for gardening tools to help you get started.

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Sort Out the Soil

Before you put anything into the ground or even go shopping for seeds, it’s important to sort out the soil so that it’s healthy and nutrient-rich, providing the perfect environment for your veggies to flourish. Get rid of perennial weeds using natural methods, if possible, so that the soil doesn’t end up rich in weedkiller and incorporate plenty of compost. Ensure that there is adequate drainage, if necessary, and that the planting area has enough sunlight and shade for the veggies that you’re planning on growing. Once the soil is up to scratch, look after it – make sure that it’s just moist enough and if it’s particularly wet, do not tread on it as it’ll damage the structure of the soil.

  • Plan your planting well – especially if you’re growing veggies for the first time. Plot rotations work well as they add different nutrients to the soil each time a new plant is put in. Leaving the same plants in the same spot season after season will do nothing for the quality of the soil.
  • Don’t plant seedlings straight into the ground. Grow them in little pots or modules in your greenhouse to give them a chance to become a little bit stronger and more resistant to garden pests – plus, you’ll have more control over the quantity of plants that go into the ground, too. Plant them out into the garden when the weather conditions turn a little more favourable, keeping in mind how large the plant will be once fully grown so that you leave enough space in between the seedlings.
  • Don’t plant out seedlings when it’s still cold or wet – especially if the soil is saturated. They’ll just drown.
  • With unusual veggies, you need to give them a little bit of extra love. Don’t just plant them out into the garden and expect them to grow nicely – follow care instructions to the letter, watering and feeding them only when needed and make sure they get enough sun and shade.
  • Think about using fine netting or companion planting to discourage pests from picking off your precious new plants.
  • Experiment with new varieties – pop them into small containers, let them grow until you’re able to harvest, then have a taste. If you like ’em, plant out into the garden – if not, no biggie. It’s worth trying a few seeds before you invest time and plot space in a plant you don’t really like.

Source: BBC Gardens

DIY Tips: Tips for Growing a Lemon Tree

Grow a lemon tree in your back garden and you could enjoy tart, tangy lemons whizzed into lemonade, cooked into curds or layered into pies all summer long. Follow the tips below to learn how to grow and care for a lemon tree and take a look at this link for gardening tools to help you get the job done.

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  • Plant the tree in the sunniest spot in the garden. Lemon trees love plenty of sunshine and they’ll thrive in a sunny spot. If you’re planting out a dwarf variety, put it into a pot and put the pot in the sunniest spot on your patio.
  • Before planting, there’s a little trick you can use to keep the root ball of the lemon tree intact and to keep it watered for the first day or two after planting. Soak the root of the tree in clean cool water for a few hours before planting, then plant out into a hole that is around twice the width of the root ball. Pile the soil over the roots and pat the ground around the tree so that the tree is securely anchored in the ground.
  • Once you’ve planted out the lemon tree, you’ll need to fertilise it every 3 to 6 months to nourish the soil and to encourage the tree to grow. If you’ve potted the tree, the best option is to simply add a slow-release fertiliser to the plant pot.
  • Keep the soil moist but never wet. If the soil is too wet, the leaves will turn yellow and will drop from the tree. Lemon trees will need to be watered well throughout the summer and spring, especially if you’re in a warm part of the country, and you should ease off and water them less frequently through the autumn and winter.
  • Press plenty of mulch around the base of the lemon tree to retain moisture in the soil and to prevent weeds. Well-rotted manure will do the job nicely, but you should make sure that the mulch doesn’t actually touch the tree or the roots – if it does, it could cause rot.
  • Before planting the tree, prune about half of the growth from the tree, then again once the tree has matured and once a year after that.
  • When harvesting for the first few growing seasons, you should pull off fruit buds before they grow any further. Whilst the tree is maturing, the fruit will be under-ripe as the energy will be directed to growing the tree and branches. Once the tree matures, when you do harvest the lemons, twist them gently off the tree to prevent damage to the branches.
  • It’s an old wives tale but it does actually work really well – urine, or weeing on a lemon tree, is said to help it grow. The urea in urine contains nitrates which encourage growth.

Source: Readers Digest

DIY Tips: Tomato Growing Tips

Growing tasty, sweet, juicy tomatoes is easier than you might think – almost anyone can do it, even those with just a balcony. Follow these top tomato growing tips to learn how to keep your tomatoes in tip-top condition and take a look at this link for gardening tools.

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  • Use mulch around your tomato plants to banish weeds and to stop water evaporating from the soil too quickly. Use mulch that has composted bark or sugar cane in it and sprinkle over the soil at a thickness of around 5cm – but always use mulch on soil that is already damp as otherwise, any rainwater might not be able to filter through to the soil to feed the plants.
  • Check over the plants at least once a day (especially through the summer when they’re growing quickly) for signs of disease and pests. Pinch off any pests or diseased shoots whilst they’re still small in number so that you can prevent them from becoming too much of a problem.
  • Water the plants if they’re looking particularly dry as and when you need to, morning and night, or set up a water reservoir.
  • Pinch off any dead shoots to control disease and growth, and also pinch off the top growth if you like to control the height of the plant if it is growing particularly quickly.
  • Protect against mildew by using an old, traditional tomato protection technique – pierce the stem of the plant (the main stem) with two lengths of copper wire at right angles to the stem. Although there have been no scientific studies to back this up, many believe in this technique and it is thought that compounds from the copper could attack fungus within the soil, preventing and protecting against mildew growth.
  • When the sun is shining, cheat a little bit by covering boards with foil and positioning them behind the tomato plants. The sun will bounce off of the foil right onto the tomato plants, which will help to ripen your tomatoes.
  • It’s widely believed that marigold plants can help ward off whitefly, so consider companion planting them next to your tomato plants to ward off pests.
  • When the tomatoes start to grow, mix Epsom salts (2 heaped tbsp.) with 5 litres of water. Pour onto the ground around the tomato plants. The minerals and sulfurs in the salts are thought to encourage growth and nourish young plants.
  • Make use of the tomato’s suckers. They have a very strong smell and when positioned on members of the brassica family, such as on cabbage leaves, can ward off brassica pests such as cabbage moth and cabbage white butterfly.
  • Always pinch out the small shoots that grow between the main stem and the main branches – if you don’t, the plant will direct energy to growing the plant outwards rather than bearing healthy fruit.

Source: Readers Digest

DIY Tips: How to Grow Tomatoes from Seed

Homegrown tomatoes are deliciously sweet and juicy – in fact, nothing quite beats the flavour of a fresh, organic, homegrown tomato. Learn how to grow tomatoes from seed with these tips and take a look at this link for gardening tools.

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Producing Tomato Seeds

Tomato seeds are actually really easy to produce, as long as you try to get them from a traditional tomato variety rather than a hybrid tomato. Simply put the pulp into a bowl and add some water. Stir, and leave to sit for at least 36 hours. Add more water, and stir – this will separate the seeds from the pulp. Strain through a kitchen paper lined sieve, pick out the seeds, wash under cold running water and leave to dry on more kitchen paper.

Germinating Seeds

For tomato seeds to germinate, they’ll need warmth. If you’re planting out in the springtime, the warmth of spring will usually do the trick, but if the spring is particularly cool or if you are germinating the seeds during the cooler months, you can germinate them in small pots or trays, in a heated seed propogator or even just propped on top of your boiler.

Planting Seedlings

Seedlings are ready to plant out into the garden once the weather is warmer and it is too warm for a ground frost. Each seedling should have three or four little leaves, and you can then plant them out into pots or straight into your veggie plot. If the weather is a little bit unpredictable or is likely to be changeable, plant the seeds into little pots and keep them somewhere that’s warm, sheltered and out of the way of the worst of the weather for a few weeks. A greenhouse would be fantastic, if you have one.

Staking Tomato Seeds

Tomato plants are naturally trailing, climbing plants and so it’s important to stake them – training them to grow up a stake means that they take up less space in your garden as well as escape the damp soil. Stakes should be around 1.5 to 2 metres long and should be replaced every year due to the risk of fungal growth within the wood. When the tomato plants start to grow, you should use string to tie the stems of the plants to the stakes. The stakes should be positioned just over half a metre apart, and when you plant out the seedlings, plant them about 10cm in front of each stake and position the seedlings so that they are ever so slightly slanted towards the stake. Water and pat the plants down, being careful not to knock the stems.

Set Up Water Reservoirs

As the tomatoes start to grow, they’ll need to be watered everyday. Set up a water reservoir to keep the soil around the tomato plant well-watered – you could half a plastic bottle, sink the neck into the soil and position it at an angle so that the water gradually drips into the soil.

Source: Readers Digest

DIY Tips: How to Grow Potatoes

Potatoes are one of the most popular garden vegetables to grow and with good reason – you can grow them in everything from allotments, to bins and barrels. Learn how to grow potatoes with this guide and check out this link for hiring garden tools to help you get the job done.

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Which Potatoes to Grow

Potatoes come in literally hundreds of varieties, although they tend to be divided into two types: earlies and maincrops. Early crops, which include new potatoes, can be harvested earlier in the year and they don’t take up much space, whereas maincrop potatoes take longer to grow and take up more space in your garden.

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Where to Grow Potatoes

Potatoes grow really well in a warm, sunny spot with little shade in well-drained soil with a good amount of high-quality compost. Smaller crops or early potatoes can be grown in containers, sacks, growbags and pots with plenty of drainage – drill a few holes in the bottom of containers and add a layer of gravel underneath the soil to ensure proper drainage. You can also grow potatoes in special potato containers and in a greenhouse.

Growing Potatoes

Potatoes are usually grown from small tubers, also known as seed potatoes. Make sure that the tubers are certified disease-free, then simply start them “chitting”. Chitting just encourages the tubers to sprout – simply keep the tubers in a light, covered environment. Put them onto a kitchen windowsill or in the window of your garden shed to get them started.

Once the potatoes have chitted, you can plant them out. Earlies should be planted 30cm apart in rows 60cm apart, while maincrops should be planted 12cm apart in rows of 75cm apart. Plant in trenches about 10cm deep with the sprouts pointing upwards with a thin layer of compost sprinkled over the top. For potatoes in containers and pots, you can grow them in tiers.

Earthing Potatoes

Earthing potatoes just ensures that the new tubers don’t turn green – all you need to do is drag a fork or rake alongside the rows of potatoes to protect the new potatoes from the light. This will make mounds of soil alongside the potatoes and this is an important part in the growing process.

Looking After Potatoes

Look after your potatoes by keeping them in the sun, well-watered, well-drained and by regularly checking them for signs of disease. Potatoes are often affected by potato blight, an airborne disease, and unfortunately there isn’t much you can do about it. It appears as brown splotches on the leaves and potatoes and if you spot it, cut back the foliage before it can get to the potatoes and dispose of any infected foliage away from your compost heap. Plant potatoes and tomatoes away from each other and plant horseradish to deter potato bugs.

Harvesting Potatoes

potatoes

Potatoes are generally ready to harvest when the foliage withers and starts to turn yellow. Aim to dig potatoes on a warm, dry day and use your fork to ease under the crops. Try to dig out even the tiny potatoes to prevent diseases the following year and leave the potatoes on the surface of the soil until the skins dry out. Store in hessian or paper sacks.

Source: 4Homes

DIY Tips: How to Grow Carrots

Carrots are one of the most popular and versatile root vegetables – you can roast, puree, steam, boil or fry them and they are packed with vitamins and nutrients. With a little bit of work and some regular seed-sowing, you can harvest carrots throughout the summer.

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Learn which carrots to grow, as well as how to sow, plant out and harvest your carrots with our simple guide. Check this link for hiring gardening tools.

Which Variety of Carrots to Grow

Carrots come in a huge number of colours, sizes and shapes, but they’re usually classed as either early or maincrop carrots. They’re also often classified by length – short-rooted, medium-rooted and long-rooted. Early carrots are ideal if you want to harvest carrots in the summer, but maincrop carrots are best if you want to harvest and store carrots for use later in the year. Early Nantes carrots are short, coreless carrots that are ready to harvest in the summer, Autumn King carrots are large maincrops that are packed with flavour and Sugarsnax cattors are sweet, slim and delicate, perfect for cooking with just a little bit of butter.

Where to Grow Carrots

All carrots need plenty of sunshine, but they will do well in a slightly shady spot if the space in your garden is limited. Long-rooted carrots do well in light, sandy soil while short-rooted carrots will suit a heavier soil. Carrots will flourish quite happily in stone-free, weed-free soil that has been improved with some manure-free fertilizer or compost, and you can also grow them in windowboxes and deep planters and pots.

Sowing Carrots

Early carrot varieties can be sown outdoors through the spring, while maincrop varieties can be sown throughout the rest of the spring and summer. If you want a regular, steady supply of carrots throughout the spring and summer, sow carrots every three to four weeks. To sow the carrots, create grooves in a raised bed of about 1cm deep, 25cm apart, and drop the seeds in every inch or two. Within about two weeks, the seeds should start to sprout and germinate. Once seedlings appear, you’ll need to thin them out to prevent overcrowding. When the seedlings are 1cm tall you can start to remove some of the seedlings. For early carrots, thin them out to 10cm apart and for maincrop carrots, thin them out to 20cm apart. Thin the seedlings out at the end of a dry day and water them once you’ve removed the seedlings to deter carrot flies.

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When sowing carrots out in containers, ensure that the containers have a depth and width of at least 35cm. It’s best to choose short-rooted carrots for pots, although if you choose long-rooted carrots, make sure that the pots are at least an inch or two deeper than the length of the carrots once fully grown. Add a few layers of gravel into the bottom of each pot to ensure proper drainage.

Caring for Carrots

Carrot flies and other pests are known for nibbling their way through your carrots, so plant with companion plants such as members of the allium family or strong-scented herbs to deter pests. You might also want to consider using fine mesh or netting to keep bugs and pests away. Water carrots a few times a week and keep them weed-free to help them flourish.

Harvesting Carrots

Carrots can be harvested 12-16 weeks after sowing and to harvest, all you need to do is gently pull the carrots from the ground or use a fork to ease them from the soil. Trim the foliage and lay between layers of cardboard or keep them in boxes of sand if you want to store them for longer periods of time.

Source: 4Homes