Grow Carrots in Containers

Carrots are a popular and versatile root vegetable, and have been grown in this country since they were introduced from Holland in the late 16th Century. They can be eaten raw, steamed or boiled and are tasty and nutritious, being a source of beta- carotene and Vitamin A.They are also high in fibre and low in calories. There are many varieties to choose from, including short carrots, baby carrots, Chinese carrots, and ones which are yellow and purple. Most gardeners choose the traditional orange and long variety as being the most suitable for growing in containers.

The advantages of growing carrots in containers are:

  • Containers take up much less space than even a raised bed so are ideal if you do not have a large garden or much space generally.
  • The carrots do not have to compete with soil pests and weeds, so many gardeners consider that they actually do better in containers.
  • They grow smoothly and straightly as their growth is unimpeded by stones in the soil.
  • Containers are an ideal solution if you live in an area with clay.
  • The delicate and feathery green leaves also make it an attractive plant to have on a patio.

The best time of year to grow carrots, in the United Kingdom, is in the spring as they need at least 6 hours of sunlight a day to grow, so choose your location carefully.

Grow Carrots in Containers

Photo by Ed Yourdon via Flickr

How to sow the seeds:

  • Potting compost is the best sort of soil to use. Any size or shape plant container will do as long as it has a depth of at least 8 inches.
  • Prepare the potting compost by adding some fertiliser and then giving the soil plenty of water.
  • Sow the seeds from April to June, in the same way as you would if sowing directly on the ground.
  • Make small drills about 1/2 inch deep and sow the seeds thinly along the drills, with about 6 inches between the rows. If using a circular container, you could experiment by sowing the seeds in different shapes and patterns, such as a spiral.
  • Cover the drills carefully with compost and water.

Make sure the seedlings do not dry out in the early stages, keep the soil moist at all times. This is the trickiest stage of the growing process. Once the young seedlings are about 1 inch tall , it is time to start thinning. The seedlings need to be regularly thinned, by removing the weakliest looking seedlings until the distance between the young plants is approximately 2 inches.

Most carrots take approximately three months to fully mature, but the young tender roots are the sweetest so they can be harvested throughout the summer. Gently pull the early roots up by hand as soon as they are big enough to eat. You could leave some to grow until October, for a mature carrot that can be stored over winter.

Growing Courgettes in Containers

Courgettes can be similarly grown in tubs. As they are one of the most prolific plants, it can be prudent and easier to buy established seedlings from a garden centre in the spring and plant them directly into well fertilised containers or into tomato grow-bags.

  • Protect the plants from late frosts by keeping them in a greenhouse or by placing them under cloches or polythene bags.
  • They are very thirsty plants, with a deep root system and require plenty of water and fertiliser.
  • Interestingly, courgette flowers can be either male or female and bees are necessary to pollinate them, so in rainy, cold weather, with fewer bees around, the plants may remain unfertilised.
  • When the courgettes are 4-6 inches long, they are ready to be harvested. Cut the fruits carefully with a knife, close to the stalk. Regular cutting ensures continuing production.

How to Grow Raspberries at Home

Raspberries are one of the traditional signs of an English summertime, they remind you of afternoons spent walking down country footpaths and stopping to sample the local brew and picking a few of nature’s sweets off of the bushes. It is no wonder that many people want to grow raspberries at home in their own garden.

There are a lot of different types of raspberries which you can grow at home and will fruit at different times of the year. You can harvest early in the summer, all the way through to mid-autumn.

When you grow raspberry plants at home, you do not need to have a vast crop to return an ample amount of fruit, which means they can be grown in nearly any garden, greenhouse or window box.

When to plant?

When you start to think about growing raspberries, you should definitely plant in early spring to make sure you give the plants the best chance of taking root and producing a bumper crop of fruit for you to enjoy.

Where to plant?

As with any other plant, you will want a weed free space which you have dug and rotated for a few weeks previously. It is vital to get an accurate planting depth on raspberries to make sure they stand a good chance of producing fruit. The old stems will already have a soil mark on them, showing how deep they were previously planted, you should match this level. This will involve a hole about 8cm deep, and once you have spread out the roots, you will need a width around 30cm.

What do you need?

The raspberry plants will progress best if they are given a support structure, you can use canes for this, but these should be inserted about 40cm apart, making sure the plants have sufficient room to grow.

You could even create a wire structure, using two large fence posts dug into the ground about 3 meters apart. Then using a galvanised wire create a ladder with steps around 70cm, 100cm and 160cm. This will provide the framework for the plants to grow up while still receiving the support they need.

If you do not have the space or the ability to dig two fence posts into your garden, you can achieve a frame by using just one and placing two raspberry plants at the bottom of the stake. The plants can then spread up the post and achieve a great visual effect.

Any essential techniques I should know?

  • Your plants should be about 45-60cm apart to allow for the roots to fully take and space out.
  • The plants should run in a north-south line, to avoid them shading each other.
  • Raspberry plants need annual pruning to ensure they provide a good crop year after year.
  • You must keep raspberries well watered when the garden is experiencing a dry spell. The plants should be damp nearly all of the time.
  • A raspberry plant will need a lot of food and water. You should ensure that you have prepared the soil with mulch and granular fertiliser before you plant your new crop.
  • Keep the soil topped up with a general purpose granular fertiliser during the spring months and then add further farmyard manure as needed.

When do I harvest the fruit?

You should regularly pick off the fruit from all your raspberry plants when it is firm to the touch. Gently pull the raspberry from the plant, making sure that you leave the plug behind. This is the essential part of the fruit that you do not want to ruin.

If you have planted a crop of a summer variety, they will be ready to harvesting around the start of early summer. If you have planted an autumn variety, these will be ready later on in the year and will be ready to be picked towards the end of summer.

You do not have to eat the lovely summer fruits straight away. Whilst it is true that they will make a great summer desert with a sprinkling of cream or a huge dollop of ice-cream, you could freeze them for later on in the year, bake them in a strudel or summer berry pie.

A lot of people will plant a raspberry plant with the express intention of making home their own preserves. The only issue you will face when you are finding the perfect recipe, will be the quantity of fruit it requires. You will probably need to stock pile for a few days in order to be able to meet this need and not decimate your plants.

Overall planting a raspberry plant at home in your garden is a great idea and it will need very little maintenance to produce a great crop fit for any dining table.

Growing Popular Courgettes Requires a Lot Less Work than Growing Other Fruits and Vegetables.

A lot of harm is being done to our health by our bad food habits of eating commercially processed foods, and by including more fresh fruit and vegetables in our diets we could avoid many of the degenerative diseases we have today. More people are also starting to realize that our own home grown vegetables and fruits planted in mineral rich soil have far more value than the so called ‘fresh’ vegetables bought in the store. Lots of would-be gardeners find courgettes, zucchini or Summer squashes appealing to grow, particularly when they are novices at growing fruits and vegetables, because they require less work than growing and looking after other vegetables and fruits.

People love growing Summer squashes which are technically referred to as fruits, but known as vegetables in the culinary world, simply because they are so easy to grow. Just one plant can give you a bumper crop. Remember to water them well during hot and dry weather. Prolific producers, you will be able to start harvesting your courgettes as soon as they get to about 10cm. By allowing your squashes togrow to marrows, you will reduce your crop, but zucchinis can be harvested throughout the year as they are not seasonal.

Different Types of Courgettes.

The plant, also known as zucchini, belongs to the Cucurbita pepo species and comes in three different types; the bushy type, the trailing type as well as the dwarfed kind, and people recognize the different types from their colours and shapes. Summer squashes can be green, white or yellow, while some have stripes, and they are mostly round or shaped similar to that of a cucumber. The skin is smooth and the flesh has small edible seeds. The fruit also has a high moisture content.

Courgettes can also be Grown in Containers.

People who don’t have large gardens needn’t despair because courgettes can also be grown in containers and indoors in March and April. You can start off with small containers for seedlings and move on to larger ones for adult plants. The containers need to be mulched with bark or stones to avoid too much water evaporation.

Helping Your Courgettes Grow Well.

Organic substance is the primary means of building good soil and Summer squashes will reward you with a generous crop if you plant them in good rich soil. Good manure, rich in nitrogen, promotes root development. If you are wanting togrow your Summer squashes on a large scale, you may want to have your soil analysed in order to check for excessive sand or clay conditions as well as finding out whether the soil is acid or alkaline.

Make sure that the fertiliser you choose for your zucchinis contains potassium, phosphorous as well as nitrogen, which is important in the first stages of the plant’s life. You need to stop using the fertiliser once the plants are established so as to ensure more fruit and less leaves.

Courgettes Love Sunny Spots Free from Frost.

Zucchinis are grown very easily from seed. For zucchinis, always choose a spot with a lot of sun, where-after germination starts within a week or two. Zucchinis don’t like the cold and frost, and to this end, people often start them off in pots. If you aren’t plagued by frost, Summer squashes can be planted directly into the ground outdoors during late May/June. Plant each of the plants into a hole which is about 1m from the next plant.

The vine type particularly needs enough space between them to avoid them strangling each other and these trailing type zucchinis can also be encouraged to grow up a trellis. With courgettes, it is a good idea is to mulch the soil around the plant to retain water because zucchinis like quite a bit of water to get going and also when they are flowering. The leafy growth of Summer squashes can encourage insects and fungus but these can be controlled with the use of herbal insect repellents.

Sometimes Courgettes Need Help with Pollination.

The flower of the courgette is the immature fruit; the male and female. The male has long stalks and does not not produce fruit but is used extensively for culinary purposes. If you grow Summer squashes in a greenhouse, it may be necessary to hand pollinate them. Early in the season the courgette plant produces many male flowers, but the female flower starts appearing a littler later on. The female flower is recognised by a thickening below the flower. To assist with pollination, you can strip the petals of a male flower and place the central part into the central part of the female flower.

Versatile Courgettes Used in Many Dishes.

Anyone who doesn’t like wasting food, will appreciate that with courgettes, nothing needs to to to waste, because the skin, seeds and flowers can all be eaten. When preparing zucchinis, remember to keep the skin on because nutrients are concentrated in the skin. You simply cut them up, leaving the skin on and you can cut them in round rings, into sticks or even julienned finely.

The beauty of these squashes is that they can be stir fried, braised, steamed, stuffed or baked and can be enjoyed on their own or blended with a range of other foods. They can even be eaten raw in salads. You can store courgette flowers for a couple of days by simply sprinkling them with water and keeping them wrapped up in the refrigerator.

This fantastic understated Summer squash also has numerous health benefits:

  • Very low in calories – chefs include zucchinis in heaps of different dishes, whether sweet or savoury and delight guests with these delicious low calorie fruits. A medium-sized courgette only has a mere 25 calories.
  • They also have anti-oxidant value – the yellow varieties are rich in flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants
  • They are also an excellent source of fibre, folic acid, zinc, iron and potassium.

Get Your Kids Interested in Growing their own Healthy Foodstuffs.

Evidence has shown that soil and sunlight all affect the way your Summer squash willgrow, but one thing is for sure, growing your own fruits and vegetables will ensure the right minerals and vitamin content of the food we eat. The undemanding courgette, raised in mineral-rich soils, are wonderful for teaching kids how to garden and produce their own healthy foods towards better health.

Growing Chillies at Home from Seed in the UK.

A Little History on the Chilli Plant.

The origin of chilli plants is obscured by time, but it is thought that they came from Central and South America. Today, they are grown and consumed in many parts of the world, including the U.K.

They are part of the capsicum family and five species are commonly used for culinary purposes. Capsicum annuum includes cayenne and jalapenos, while Capsicum chinense includes the hotter naga and habanero varieties.

The Scoville scale detects the heat by measuring the amount of capsaicin that is present in different chillies. Capsaicin stimulates the bodies’ sensory receptors, some of which are on the tongue.

Chillies can be dried, pickled or used fresh. Adding them, wisely, enhances the taste of many dishes. Growing chillies at home from seed, is relatively straight forward and, if you like them, it is well worth giving them a go.

Growing Chillies at Home from Seed

Photo taken by Leonora Enking via Flickr

The Chilli Growers Shopping List

Growing chillies at home requires a few purchases. January is a good time to go to the garden centre for the following:

  • Chilli seed
  • Small pots (or seed trays)
  • Seed and cutting compost
  • 10 cm pots
  • Potting compost
  • Potassium rich fertiliser e.g. liquid tomato food
  • Cool white fluorescent lights (optional)
  • 30 cm pots
  • Stakes and twine

Sowing and Germinating

Late January, or early February, is ideal, but seeds can be planted up to the end of April, or early May.

  • Put some seed and cutting compost into each small pot.
  • Water gently using a fine spray, then drain for about 15 minutes.
  • Place chilli seeds into the compost, at a depth of about 0.5 cm, leaving 2.5 cm between them.
  • Label the different varieties.
  • Keep them moist, by covering the pots lightly with cling film or plastic packets.
  • Keep them warm (around 20 degrees Celsius). If temperatures fall, an old electric blanket can be used, or the pots can be put in the airing cupboard. However other places in the home, like the windowsill above a radiator or on top of the fridge, are usually adequate.
  • Depending on the variety, germination takes place between about one and six weeks.

Growing and Planting Out

The next stage requires light, as well as warm, moist conditions.

  • When the seedlings appear, remove the plastic and ensure they receive adequate light, warmth and moisture.
  • Place them in good positions in the home, like on the kitchen windowsill, in the conservatory or in a mini greenhouse. In most homes this would be adequate but, if deemed necessary, place them under fluorescent striplights (cool white ones). Lights should be about 15 cm above the plants.
  • Water from underneath, but ensure the surface stays moist too.
  • When the seedlings are about 2 cm tall, put some potting compost into 10 cm pots.
  • Move each seedling in its own portion of compost to avoid damaging the roots. Press down gently, but firmly.
  • Feed them with a half-strength liquid houseplant fertiliser each week.
  • When the plants are about 12 cm tall and the roots appear through the holes in the bottom of the pots, fill a 30 cm pot with potting compost.
  • Transfer about three plants to each 30 cm pot. When planting, make sure their roots are fairly near the surface. Water gently with a fine spray.

Outside or Inside

  • In June, when frost is no longer occurring, the growing plants can be placed outside, at least during the day. Choose a warm, sheltered spot.
  • If aphids appear, spray a weak solution of soap on the plants, but do not spray too often, as this may stunt growth.
  • When the plants are about 20 cm tall, tie each of them, with twine or string, to a sturdy upright stake.
  • When the growing plants are about 30cm tall, snip the tips to enable branching.
  • Ensure the compost is always moist. Water every couple of days initially and, as the weather gets warmer, daily.

Flowering and Pollination

When the plants come into flower give them some potassium rich fertiliser e.g. like that used for tomatoes. A few drops put into their water every second day is sufficient. The cayenne variety flowers earlier than other varieties like habanero or naga.

If the plants are outside, bees and other insects can visit. If flowers start to fall off without fruit forming, or if the plants have been inside because of poor weather, then hand pollinate. Take a cotton bud and place it carefully inside the heads of the flowers, moving from one to the next.

Fruiting and Harvesting

Flowers gradually fall off and chillies emerge around July onwards. To promote a good harvest, cut off the first chillies while still green. Use scissors to harvest them and enjoy enhancing the meals you prepare at home. In September, when the cooler autumn days begin, move the plants inside again. Fruit will continue for one or two months after this.

Wintertime

As the season ends cut the plants back, so just the stem and some strong branches are left. Place them in a warm situation, in good compost and give a liquid feed once in a while.

Future Seasons

In the next couple of seasons, the growing chilli plants yield is greater, but by around the fourth or fifth year, less fruit will appear. It is then time to start the process again.

Growing Vegetables at Home: The Basics

Most people have a small space in their garden, or even in their house, that could be used for growing plants. This article is going to focus on ways to begin growing vegetables and address some of the challenges that you might face.

The first thing to do is to assess the space available to you. Anyone with a garden that receives sunlight for at least five hours of the day should be capable of growing most vegetables. If you just want to grow vegetables in pots then this is also possible, but you will be restricted to certain plants. Large root vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, are naturally quite impractical to grow in pots.

Growing Vegetables

Growing Vegetables photo by Moncton Gardener via Flickr

Once you have decided where you would like to grow your plants the next thing you have to do is to decide what you would like to grow. Good vegetables to start off with are runner beans, carrots, tomatoes and even courgettes – it’s important to grow something that you enjoy eating. For the average, amateur grower the amount of vegetables they produce will rarely exceed their own requirements, at least for the first couple of years, so don’t worry about having more than you can comfortably eat.

Now you know what vegetables you want to grow you need to buy some seeds. There are many places that stock them, anywhere from garden centres to newsagents. Typical vegetable seeds are quite cheap, usually under two or three pounds. However, the number of seeds that come in a packet varies significantly based on the type of vegetable. For example, a packet of carrot seeds may contain about a hundred seeds whereas a packet of bean seeds may only contain about twenty. This variation is usually proportional to the seed’s rate of germination, in effect far fewer carrot seeds germinate than bean seeds.

Once you have the seeds you would like to grow the next step is to plant them. This is usually the most labour intensive part of the process. The majority of seed packets will have basic instructions for sowing, maintaining and harvesting the crop you will hopefully produce. If you don’t have any instructions to hand then there is plenty of useful information on the Internet and your local library is also a good resource. There are many different types of vegetables and the growing requirements and difficulties associated with each of them could fill several books, so rather than addressing all of these the rest of this article is going to focus on general growing tips.

One of the most fundamental elements of a plant’s success in its environment is the soil that it’s grown in. Identifying your soil type and making sure that it’s compatible with your plants can make a real difference to their growth. Your soil type is not completely fixed though, adding some fertiliser from a garden centre can alter its properties and make a noticeable difference in a plants health. This subject goes hand-in-hand with feeding plants as they grow. It’s important to keep a careful eye on the plant feed that is being given to vegetables that you plan to eat, what you put on the roses may not be quite so good when eaten! There are several special, organic feeds out there for vegetable plants that are very good. An interesting experiment is to buy a few and try them out on a couple of the same plants to see the differences in performance.

One of the biggest difficulties with growing vegetables is other animals eating them before you do. There are two main ways to prevent this: growing your vegetables in your house, or growing them inside a greenhouse. Growing vegetables in your house is possible, especially if you have a conservatory, and can be a nice project to do with young children. However, the soil and dead leaves that inevitably make their way onto the carpet and throughout the house discourage most people from doing this on any scale. Greenhouses are an excellent alternative as they allow you to protect your plants from almost any pest, however they are expensive and not always a viable solution.

Most people will have to grow their plants outside which leaves them prey to common pests like slugs and snails. There are many common deterrents for these pests, ranging from salt to slug pellets, which are recommended by gardeners. The fact that you are growing vegetables makes using regular pesticides difficult, a surprisingly effective solution involves the use of a moat. Some vegetable plants such as beans and tomatoes can be grown in large pots; if this approach is used then these pots can be placed on a heap of gravel and then in a flat-bottomed tray filled with water. As long as there are no pests on the plants or in the soil already then it is virtually impossible for them to get on the plants and damage them. Slugs and snails are incredibly resilient and persistent, but they haven’t learnt to swim yet.

Hopefully this article has inspired you to get out into the garden and get planting. There are few things as relaxing and enjoyable as watching your work come to fruition over the course of several months. Growing vegetables is a great way to get engaged with your surroundings as well as being an economical way to improve your garden and your diet!

Peas, the gorgeous, green, garden vegetable are very popular in the UK, on average each person in the UK eats 9,000 peas a year. That’s certainly a lot of pea pods! The Latin name is Pisum sativum and they are thought to have come from Middle Asia, central Ethiopia and the Mediterranean. They are one the worlds oldest cultivated crops. Modern varieties trace back to the first sweet tasting pea developed by Thomas Edward Knight, an amateur gardener, in the 18th century. The United Kingdom is the largest pea producer in Europe, growing over 160,000 tonnes of them. Peas were one of the first vegetables frozen by Clarence Birdeye, using his revolutionary freezing process.

Pea pods are technically fruit as they contain seeds from the plant, however in cooking they are considered to be vegetables. There are three main varieties; snow (also known as Mangetout), sugar-snap (also known as simply the ‘snap pea’) and the shelling pea. There are several different mature sizes of peas, dwarf (2 inches or less), semi-dwarf (2-4 inches) and tall (around five inches tall). Snow and sugar-snap look fairly similar although sugar-snaps are plumper. The shelling pea can also be called the garden or English pea and needs to be eaten fresh and immature to gain the best flavour.

The pea is actually yellow when fully matured, the reason they are green is because we eat immature pea pods for a sweeter flavour. When the pea is picked freshly from the plant it is best cooked quickly with very little water to preserve it’s wonderful taste. There are many excellent pea recipes including the classic pea soup, as well as pea risotto or the pea as a side dish. The main ways of storing the pea is freezing or drying.

Location & Timing

Growing a pea is easiest in a sunny location with moist soil. These growing conditions can be achieved using compost or rotting manure. Peas can be sown from February to July and harvested from June to October. The most hardy seeds are round seeds which are suitable for early sowing around February time. Wrinkled ones tend to taste sweeter and are best sown in summer. Growing pea seeds is relatively easy.

How to Grow Peas

Equipment

Method

  1. Plant the pea seed indoors in an individual pot or alternatively you could use a root trainer or a seedling tray. The seed needs to be watered frequently while indoors to keep the soil moist enough for it to grow in.
  2. Once the seed is roughly 6 inches tall, it is ready to be planted outside.
  3. Carefully remove the pea seedling without disturbing the roots and plant the seedling and compost into the ground roughly 4 to 6 inches apart.
  4. Twine the pea carefully around twigs/doweling/bamboo to help them grow. You might need to (loosely, so you don’t damage the plant) tie the seedlings to the twig to help them stay, string and gardeners wire are common choices to do this.
  5. The seedling needs to be watered to make sure the soil is damp enough, but be careful not to over water.

Growing Tips

  • Grow the seed indoors to begin with; mice, slugs and snails love to eat seeds if they get the chance (but be sure to protect them from household pets too!).
  • If you have acidic soil, apply lime or dolomite to it to help the pea seed grow.
  • Protect pea seeds with netting, they are very vulnerable to bird attacks.
  • Water the seed regularly, especially during dry spells.

Harvesting Tips

  • Snow and suger snap peas should be picked when the pods are around 3 inches long.
  • Peas need to be picked regularly otherwise new pods and flowers stop growing.
  • Pea pods should be harvested when they seem well filled to gain the best flavour.
  • Be careful when picking the pods, pea stems snap easily!

Let’s talk about…How To Grow Chillies

This article describes How to Grow Chillies, the best methods, tools & techniques as well as when and how to harvest Chillies.

Chillies provide a delicious kick to many recipes and have become part of many of our diets. Growing chillies is often associated with parts of Africa and Asia, but chillies can be grown well in all climes, provided they kept warm.

Growing them can start as early as January or February as long as they are nurtured indoors until frosts and cold weather has passed (usually by March although we never know what to expect!).

How to Grow Chillies

Photo taken by Leonora Enking

How to Grow Chillies: What do you need to know about growing conditions?

Chillies start their lives indoors provided you have room to store them as they need to be kept warm in their early days. After all, they originate from a tropical environment! Thankfully, we have fairly warm summers so once they have become established indoors, you can take them out later in the year where they will hopefully produce an excellent crop. As long as they are left in a minimum temperature of 10°c and they get good sunlight they should grow well. By may, the weather should have warmed enough for the plants to be moved outside.

How to Grow Chillies: Useful Tools and Equipment

When growing chillies, there are a few things you might need to help you along the way.

  1. Canes and String: As with many home grown fruits and vegetables, they often need something to grow ‘up’ to stop them from flopping in their early stages and again later when they become heavy with crop. Guide them up a cane, tying the plants to it loosely if need be to prevent it falling over.
  2. Cling Film: Chillies need to be warm to germinate, and so it is important that the pots are covered with cling film or a sheet of glass in the early days to keep them warm enough.
  3. Troughs: Due to their tropical origins it is advisable to rear them in a greenhouse once they have matured enough to be moved outside. Grow them in troughs to make the most of your space.
  4. Capillary Matting: Watering from underneath will encourage roots to grow stronger.

How to Grow Chillies: What about useful tips and techniques?

  • When starting off your chillies indoors, fill seeding trays with compost, water and allow the water to drain through, and sow your seeds around one inch apart, covering the trays loosely with cling film or glass to retain moisture and heat.
  • Germination usually takes 7-10 days but it can be as long as four to six weeks for the Habanero variety weeks. Placing the tray on an electric blanket or using a heated propagator can speed this up.
  • Place your trays somewhere warm and bright such as a windowsill or in the conservatory if you have one. When the seedlings are big enough for you to handle (at least two inches in height and when they have their second set of leaves) move them to their own individual three-inch (eight centimetre) pots between winter and the beginning of spring.
  • When plants are around six inches (15cm) in height, move them again to 12cm pots. Alternatively, you can have three plants in one 30cm pot. These pots should be filled with compost up to approximately 1cm from the top.
  • When the flowers begin to appear, it is useful if you hand pollinate by dabbing a cotton bud or a fine paintbrush into each flower, especially if you are growing them indoors.
  • If you choose to move them into your vegetable patch, gradually introduce them to the conditions over one week, planting them into fertile, well-drained soil. In most of England, this is not recommended.

How to Grow Chillies: Harvesting your Chillies

  • When the first chillies appear, snip them off using secateurs while they are still green. This will encourage fruiting all season right through from July to October.
  • Allow future chillies to develop to red if you prefer for a better flavour.
  • If your chillies are struggling to ripen due to bad weather or by not getting enough sunlight, bring them inside and put them on a windowsill to keep warm and in sufficient light.

How to Grow Chillies: Did You Know

  • Feeding weekly with tomato feed encourages better growth and most experts recommend it.
  • Pinching out the tip of flowering shoots promotes branching which will increase the number of chillies your plants may produce.
  • Chillies can fall victim to aphids, so check leaves daily. If need be, treat your plants.
  • Do not allow soil to become waterlogged, erring a little on the dry side where you can. By stressing your plants ever so slightly, it is thought this can produce hotter peppers.
  • A well-cared-for chilli plant can last four to five years before it should be retired.
  • Chillies can be dried or frozen and stored so you can use them all year round.

Credits: Featured image taken by Alpha

How to Grow Peas

22 April, 2013 — Leave a comment

Let’s Talk About… How to Grow Peas!

This article describes How to Grow Peas, the best methods, tools & techniques as well as when and how to harvest Peas.

Peas are one of those foods we ask ourselves ‘is it a fruit or a vegetable?’ just like the tomato or the cucumber. Peas are technically a fruit, but in cooking we class them as a vegetable. The pea plant has a one-year life cycle and is a favourite among many home-grown produce enthusiasts.

Nothing compares to delicious, sweet, freshly-picked peas eaten raw straight from the pods, enjoyed by adults and children alike. They are a fairly easy vegetable to grow and even a small allotted space can give a good crop (some people even choose to grow them in troughs on the patio!).

Peas can often be victim to birds and other animals, as can many crops, but this is easily put right with some fine protective netting.

How to Grow Peas: What do you need to know about growing conditions?

Peas can be sown as soon as the soil reaches 10°C, growing best between 13 and 18 degrees. Choose a position with good drainage, as peas won’t do very well in wet soils. If the soil you plan to grow your peas in is acidic, it should be limed first. While your peas should be in a sunny location, peas tend to grow better in cooler weather, during spring. Make sure your planting area is weed free, and add some well-rotted manure to make your soils fertile.

How to Grow Peas: Useful Tools and Equipment

When growing peas, it is quite useful you have a few bits and pieces to make your life easier.

  1. Patio Bags – perfect for growing peas out of the ground, especially where space is limited. Opt for bushier varieties of pea to get the most from these.
  2. Protective Netting – pea pods often fall victim to bird if they are not protected properly. Use netting or mesh to keep them at bay and protect your plants.
  3. Canes – to stop your peas flopping over, especially when they are small and weak, and again when they are taller and heavier, putting more pressure on the roots.
  4. Pea-Moth Pesticides – pea moth lay their eggs on your peas when they are flowering. Have you ever popped open your pod and found little caterpillars? That is ‘thanks’ to the pea moth. Use pesticides a week after flowering and then again two weeks later to keep in control. Alternatively, use insect-proof mesh to protect your peas.

How to Grow Peas: What about useful tips and techniques?

Before you start, there are three ways you can start the growing off.

  1. You can plant straight to the ground once the soil temperature is above 10°C.
  2. You can plant to the ground if it has been below 10°C and you have warmed it using polythene sheeting and continue to keep the seedlings warm with horticultural fleece until the ground is warm enough.
  3. You can sow the seeds indoors in individual pots (the 3” deep ones are ideal) until they around six inches in height and then transplant them into the ground. This can protect the baby pea plants from being attacked by rodents and slugs.

Growing peas is very easy:

  • Create a trench, ideally 5cm (2 inches) deep and 15cm (6 inches) wide.
  • Sow the seeds (or your little plants if you have grown them indoors) around 2-3 inches apart, covering them with soil, then pat it down slightly.
  • As your plants start to grow, use a can to encourage them upwards. Alternatively, use larger twigs from pruned trees in your garden – these work just as well. Your peas may need encouraging to grow up the cane. Gently coaxing them around may do the trick, or you can tie them loosely with string if they are a bit more stubborn.
  • Water your pea plants regularly, but do not allow soil to become waterlogged.

Harvesting your peas:

  • Peas are usually ready for harvest between June and September.
  • Harvest your peas regularly. This will ensure your crop will continue to grow healthily across the season. If you don’t pick them often, it can be detrimental to your plants, resulting in fewer flowers, fewer pods, and as a result, less crop.
  • Opinion on when pods should be harvested varies, and the recommendation varies between the different types of peas. For example, mange tout or sugar snap peas should be harvested when the pods are around three inches or 7.5cm long and just as the peas are beginning to develop. Other varieties intend the peas to be harvested when they are much plumper.

How to Grow Peas: Did you know?

Did you know that the roots of peas store nitrogen? Resist the urge to dig up the roots at the end of the season, just cut down the plant and toss it on the compost heap. Dig the roots into the ground and the nitrogen will be reabsorbed into your soil, releasing in next year’s crop as per the natural order.

Peas are one of our five-a-day and pea pods can be a fun way to get picky children to have vegetables in their diet. If you have children or grandchildren, get them involved with picking and later either preparing a meal or eating their own hand-picked peas straight from the pod.

External Links – How to Grow Peas

Let’s Talk About.. How to Grow Strawberries!

Strawberries are one of the most versatile and easy fruits to grow, which is great for those of us who wish to grow our own delicious varieties of one of the most popular British fruits. Thankfully, they’re able to tolerate a wide variety of soil types, from light and sandy to the heaviest of clay soils, so combining this with the fact that they’re simple in their demand of nutrients, strawberry varieties can be found growing all over the world.

They’re also able to survive most and flourish in all weather conditions, from the UK’s cold and wet weather to the extreme heats of Spain, which, seemingly, makes them a hardy fruit that’s a great starter for those of us just starting out in the world of fruit growing. The biggest negative however, is that as a fruit strawberries are subject to a range of diseases and nuisance pests.

How to grow Strawberries

How to grow Strawberries: Strawberries growing in the ground. Photograph by Robin Riat

How to grow Strawberries – So what do you need to know about growing conditions?

Let’s start with the ideal soil. Well-drained, rich in humus with an adequate water supply is the best. Strawberries love a pH level of around 6.5 and prosper best in soil which is weed and debris free. If you want to prepare your garden soil for strawberry growing for the first time, add garden compost at 1 barrow to 4m2. You will also need to add 75g per m2 of bone meal and the same of seaweed meal. If you think your earth is lacking nutrients, add one barrow of well-rotted manure (per 12 m2). You may also want to add 5cm layer of leaf-mould to the top 10cm of soil before planting to encourage healthy growth. In terms of light conditions, strawberries grow best in full sun and out of the direct wind. Remember that officially, planting should occur between the end of June and September.

How to grow Strawberries - What about useful tips and techniques?

  • Lay plants in rows every 35cm. Make sure they have enough room to grow. Keep them approximately 75cm apart.
  • Always pick ripe strawberries; otherwise they will rot and infect other fruit. Prevent this by checking plants every other day once ripening starts to occur.
  • Placing straw (barley) in and between plants will help subdue weeds and stop fruit coming into contact with the ground.
  • Once fruit starts showing, remove all dead leaves and check plants regularly for insects (especially aphids). If signs of infestation, take action with appropriate pesticides.
  • If any plants do not flourish, get rid of them right away, as they’re probably infected with a virus.
  • After cropping, clear up the plant bed immediately. Cut back the plants (leaving a stump of 10cm) and remove all dead leaves and straw. Keep soil watered and at a good pH level to ensure future growth.
  • After two to three yields, be prepared to move your strawberry planting location and start a rotational system, perhaps with a rhubarb crop.

How to grow Strawberries - Useful Tools and Equipment:

In addition to ensuring your soil is suitable for strawberry plants, you can also consider using a range of useful tools & products which will help you get the best out of your efforts.

  1. Strawberry Mats – Fabric strawberry mats can be placed at the bottom of each plant, instead of straw, and will help retain moisture.
  2. Bird Scaring Tape – This tape can be attached to small wooden poles around the plants. It will shake in the breeze or wind, creating a noise to frighten birds and prevent them from snacking.
  3. Hanging Baskets – Growing in these ensures your strawberries are safe and far away from slugs, snails and other soil dwelling pests.
  4. Polythene & Woven Polypropylene Covers – These covers act as protection from insects and other pests and enable the strawberry plants to flourish. Be aware the woven cover will allow water to pass through; however, if using polythene, you will need to find an alternative method to keep the soil and plants watered.

About the Strawberry plant.

Fragaria × ananassa, commonly known as strawberry or garden strawberry, is a hybrid species that is cultivated worldwide for its fruit. The fruit is widely appreciated for its characteristic aroma, bright red color, juicy texture, and sweetness. ~ Wikipedia

Credits: Title photograph courtesy of Glen Young