Archives For vegetables

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.

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!

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