Back to your roots 

Let’s be honest, no vegetable garden is complete without your roots. Mine is no exception to this rule.

 

Roots play a vital part for me when growing, both aesthetically and necessity. Nothing beats the excitement of not knowing what you’ve grown until you pull them. It’s a lottery without the risk.

 

After downscaling from a quarter plot, space has now become a valuable asset. Where I would normally grow a few varieties to try them out I now have to get my best bang for buck.

 

Based on this a few varieties have shone through. My goal this year is to get the best crop I can in the space I have available.

 

So let’s have a look at the varieties I have chosen:

 

Beetroot – Only one variety has ever been good to me here. Good old ‘Boltardy’ Beetroot. First sowing for me will be April direct. This beetroot has never bolted on my plot, even after a fortnight of dry spells with no watering. Space wise any beetroot can be grown very close together or spaced apart depending on how you like them. For me it’s small sweet beetroot no bigger than a golf ball. They can tolerate a bit of shade but for best performance full sun is required. And best of all the leaves are great to eat too. A perfect crop.

 
 

Carrots – Nante’s Out of the two types I tried, these were the only carrots I grew with good results. First sowing in April under cloches. Not so much a long carrot, Nantes’s have given a reliable crop of good size roots around 6” in size. They also have proven to be quite resistant to carrot root fly, much more so than my resistafly. I find these are best germinated when placed on soil surface and covered with a small dressing of seed compost. They have taken a few weeks to get going but have always cropped.

 
 

ParsnipsGladiator The only parsnip I have tried growing and I’m glad to say they all germinated. Sown in February, I simply place on soil surface and cover with a bit of leafy brash chippings. 100% germination rate and they are simply sow and forget. Parsnips do best when left to their own devices. Last year on an undug bed, one grew to a mere 1ft in length with no problems. A good variety for beginners.

 

Onions Turbo (Sets) A new one for me this year. In Previous years, onion harvest were very hit or miss often producing average to poor yields. This time around I’m starting them in spring. First sowing is mid-February followed by another sowing mid-March. After a little research, ‘Turbo’ stood out due to its heat treatment process which helps prevent bolting. I will be keen to test this out this year. Sown direct in February I’m hoping for a crop around July – August.

So as you can see not many varieties. This is my less is more approach. I will be sowing in succession to ensure I have enough supply for the upcoming season and will cover how I preserve my gluts in a future post.

As a personal note, I have focused more on getting the best performance so for me these varieties work. All links to the seeds have been placed there with no obligation to purchase from the suppliers and are not affiliated links. These are available from a vast majority of suppliers, so buy from who suites your needs.

Friends are always beneficial

Interplanting, the idea of pairing two items or more together that each help each other. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if they world worked like this.

I’m happy to report that in the vegetable world this is very attainable and if done right can be the most effective pest control. No chemicals or input just pure growing.

So what are the benefits?

A lot really. If you strive for complete organic growing the main objective is to NEVER use any form of fungicide or pesticide. There is ALWAYS an organic alternative. And hey, it can look beautiful too.

Despite vegetables weaknesses and vulnerability to attack from pests, each has their own special scent or ability that can directly help a plant in a different family. Call them superpowers if you will.

So how does this work?

Easy. By planting set vegetables around each other, you are creating a confusion of scent that each predator uses to identify their victim. The result, they cannot find them therefore evading an attack. There are also a huge amount of combinations, which is good news at it means there is always usually a combination that can help you. But as always there are also plants which don’t get along, so there are a few rules to follow.

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Perfect, what do I do?

Below is a general chart of the most common plants, their good neighbours and their neighbours from hell.

As a general rule this will give you the best results, so why not give them a go?

Vegetable Awesome Neighbours Neighbours from hell
Beans Brassicas, Carrot, Cucumber, Peas, Potatoes Alliums (chives, garlic, leeks, onions), Peppers, Tomatoes For Broad Beans: Fennel
Beetroot Brassicas (Broccoli,Sprouts,Ccabbage),   Garlic, Lettuce, Onion Runner Beans
Broccoli Basil, Bush Beans, Chamomile, Cucumber, Dill, Garlic, Lettuce, Marigold, Mint, Onion, Potato, Radish, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Tomato Grapes, Mustard, Oregano, Strawberry, Tomato
Brussels Sprouts Potato, Strawberry
Cabbage Beets, Dwarf French Beans, Mint, Onion Climbing Beans
Carrots French Beans, Garlic, Lettuce, Onion, Peas, Rosemary, Tomatoes Parsnip
Cauliflower Beets, Dwarf French Beans, Mint, Onion Strawberries
Corn Beans, Cucumbers, Parsnip, Peas, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Squash, Tomato
Cucumber Beans, Corn, Lettuce, Peas, Radish Potatoes, Strong smelling herbs, Tomatoes
Leeks Carrots, Celery, Lettuce, Onions Beans, Peas
Lettuce Beans, Beets, Carrots, Corn, Marigold, Onions, Peas, Radish, Strawberries Parsley
Onions Beets, Cabbabe, Carrots, Lettuce, Marjoram, Rosemary, Savory, Strawberry, Tomato Beans, Peas
Parsley Asparagus, Beans, Radish, Rosemary, Tomato Lettuce
Peas Beans, Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Corn, Cucumber, Lettuce, Marjoram, Parsnip, Potato, Sage Alliums (Chives, Garlic, Onion, Shallots)
Potatoes Beans, Cabbage, Corn, Eggplant, Horseradish, Marjoram, Parsnip Celery, Cucumber, Pumpkin, Rosemary, Strawberries, Tomato
Pumpkins Beans, Corn, Radish Potato
Spinach Beans, Lettuce, Peas, Strawberries  
Strawberries Borage, Bush Beans, Caraway Broccoli, Cabbages
Tomatoes Alliums, Asparagus, Basil, Borage, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Marigold, Peppers Brassicas, Beets, Corn, Dill, Fennel, Peas, Potatoes, Rosemary

So I hope this gives you a rough guide to the concept of Interplanting.

Let me know how you get on the comments below or send some inspiration to @homegrownwxm

Steve

 

The Starting Point – Top 10 Beginner Veg

Want to grow you own but don’t know where to start? Or just simply baffled by the varieties out there?

Then stress not.

Below you will find my top 10 things for any new comer to try.

I have grown and still grow these. Every year they consistently give me a superb yield whilst also being quite forgiving. They are also perfect for beginners as they practically look after themselves only needing a little input.

This is just a rough guide based on my experiences and methods vary from person to person. There is no rule. If you find a way that suites you go with it. The only elements that stay the same is watering, protection & enjoying the experience.

French Beans (Ferrari)

Skill: Easy

One of the best varieties I use and perfect for small spaces. Can even be grown in pots. Produce perfect string-less beans which can be eaten raw.

Method: Sow in Modules indoors around end of March. Plant outdoors when first set of true leaves are visible. Average time sow to pant out is 4 weeks. Soil should stay intact when lifting plant out of module and roots visible.

Top Tip: When plants start to flower at around 8 weeks after sowing, give plants a comfrey liquid feed at a ratio of 1 parts comfrey to 9 parts water.

 

Calabrese F1 (Brocolli)

Skill: Easy

The most reliable variety I have grown and one of the easiest. Calabrese is often mistaken for broccoli, yes it is the same as the supermarket style but I couldn’t be more different. The difference is not the taste but the appearance. Traditional broccoli grows in spears. This grows a large head which is easier harvested and quick to grow.

Method: Sow in Modules indoors around end of March. Plant outdoors when first set of true leaves are visible. Average time sow to pant out is 4 weeks. Soil should stay intact when lifting plant out of module and roots visible. Ensure you firm them in when planting as they like a good footing.

Top Tip: When plants start to produce the main head at around 10 weeks after sowing, give plants a comfrey liquid feed at a ratio of 1 parts comfrey to 9 parts water.

 

Sprouts (Crispus)

Skill: Easy

Another reliable variety. Sprouts are very easy to grow if you follow a few steps. Pigeons love them along with slugs so giving them the right protection is key. Ensure they are netted up at all times to ensure the best harvest. Spouts traditionally stay in the ground for a long period of time and usually up to 6 months. They are at their sweetest after a frost.

Method: Sow in Modules indoors around end of April. Plant outdoors when first set of true leaves are visible. Average time sow to pant out is 4 weeks. Soil should stay intact when lifting plant out of module and roots visible. Ensure you firm them in when planting as they like a good footing.

Top Tip: If you find you get a crop around autumn before frost, simply harvest and freeze for 48 hours before use. This will sweeten them up ensuring you can have a harvest at any point of the year! Sprouts are not just for Christmas 😉

 

Peas (Kelvedon Wonder)

Skill: Easy

Peas are very easy to grow. They can vary in size from only 2ft right up to over 7ft depending on variety. There are two types of seed. Autumn and Spring planted. You can usually tell by the pea seeds. If they are wrinkly then they are spring, Smooth is for autumn. The only pointer here is support. Bamboo canes are perfect. If you can afford it chicken wire.

Method: Sow direct outdoors around end of March for spring and October for overwintering varieties or autumn. Cover with chicken wire to protect from mice & birds until shoots are around 3 inches.

Top Tip: Pick the pods as you go. The more you pick the more it will produce.

 

Carrots (Nantes)

Skill: Easy

Scatter and leave! Done. Honestly that’s it although small; they take a while to germinate but eventually they grow. They germinate best when soil temps stay around 20c. The main problem is crusting. This is when the soil forms a hard layer on the surface of the soil. The easiest way to deal with this is applying a small layer of compost over the seeds and keep damp.

Method: Sow direct outdoors between March and July. Sow every few weeks to have a good supply.

Top Tip: Mix a small amount with sand so they get sown at a more even rate. Benefit is you also get to see where you planted them!

 

Onions (Red Barron)

Skill: Easy

I always use onion sets. These can be picked up very cheap and resemble a small bulb. Just ensure that the bulbs are firm. If you can squash them, chuck them.

Method: Grow in modules. Simply push fat end down half way into the soil and water. Keep warm and in a week you will start to see them growing. Plant out when the roots are well formed. The soil should lift out in full when you inspect them.

Top Tip: Keep the soil weeded and evenly watered. A good starting point is to give a generous amount once per week. This will allow the roots to go deeper ensuring they are more resilient to drought.

 

Parsnip (Goliath)

Skill: Easy

Exactly the same process as carrots. Scatter and leave! Done. Honestly that’s it although small; they take a while to germinate but eventually they grow. They germinate best when soil temps stay around 20c. The main problem is crusting. This is when the soil forms a hard layer on the surface of the soil. The easiest way to deal with this is applying a small layer of compost over the seeds and keep damp.

Method: Sow direct outdoors between March and July. Sow every few weeks to have a good supply.

Top Tip: Mix a small amount with sand so they get sown at a more even rate. Benefit is you also get to see where you planted them!

 

Beetroot (Boltardy)

Skill: Easy

Beetroot is one of the best root vegetables you can have. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing beetroot grow. Always reliable, perfect for the beginner.

Method: Sow direct outdoors between March and July. Sow every few weeks to have a good supply.

Top Tip: Keep the soil weeded and evenly watered. A good starting point is to give a generous amount once per week. This will allow the roots to go deeper ensuring they are more resilient to drought.

 

Climbing French Beans (Cobra)

Skill: Easy

French beans are very easy to grow. They can easily grow to over 7ft. Supports are essential here. Bamboo canes are perfect. Just ensure you give them enough space as they like to tangle up and jump canes!

Method: Sow in Modules indoors around end of April. Plant outdoors when first set of true leaves are visible. Average time sow to pant out is 4 weeks. Soil should stay intact when lifting plant out of module and roots visible.

Top Tip: Pick the pods as you go. The more you pick the more it will produce.

 

Sweetcorn (Minipop)

Skill: Easy

Part of the grass family; Sweetcorn is very reliable. Their biggest enemy is slugs. They easily grow to 7ft and produce various cobs. There are two varieties, open pollinated and self-fertile. For beginners I say to use self-fertile as you get the growing experience with the increased chance of a crop. ‘Minibel’ will produce mini corn that can be used for stir fry and salads.

Method: Sow in Modules indoors around end of April. Plant outdoors when around 6-8 inches high and all risk of frost has passed. Average time sow to pant out is 4 weeks. Soil should stay intact when lifting plant out of module and roots visible.

Top Tip: Pick when tufts (Stringy part) are brown to black in colour. Enjoy.

 

So there you have it.

 

Of course there are thousands of varieties each of which you may find better for you. But that’s the point.

 

One thing I encourage is experimenting.

 

You have the power to choose what you want to eat and get the satisfaction of watching it grow and mature.

 

The saying really is true. If you grow your own food, it tastes different. It tastes better and this is a guarantee.

 

Just remember you cannot fail.

 

Steve

 

 

 

 

 

 

The foundations of life 

Life is built using a structure and careful balance or organics. This is also true in soil. Soil is the largest living thing on earth with a teaspoon containing billions of thriving bacteria which we all depend on for life. The building blocks

That’s why I wholeheartedly believe that growing organic and working with these organics is the only way we should be doing things.

We live in an age where the only choice for people’s food is to look good and be the correct size & shape. Food grown to this standard are at the sacrifice of good quality vitamins & minerals as consumers are driven by looks. This to me is very worrying.

Food should be about two things; nutrition and taste.

This is the sole reason that I chose to take the organic route & growing myself.

I started my journey 5 years ago when I had my first daughter. Buying vegetables with not much taste & the fact that many people today don’t know where there food comes from made me very aware that I needed to do something.

It all started as a hobby growing veg, but it has now turned into a raging passion.

Doing this has allowed me to see that there once was a time when all veg was grown using traditional methods & I personally feel we need to go back there to help in our families future.

So why Organic? 

Simple. For me being organic is about working alongside nature and using this to benefit me. Healthy plants = healthy food

How do I be Organic? 

Being organic is the easiest choice of all. It can be as simple as committing to not use any artificial fertilisers or pesticides.

After all there are many more natural feeds/ sprays we can make to get better and lasting results.

The main difference between to the two is this. Artificial or synthetic fertilisers will give you a bigger and better yielding crop the first few years where organics give you a better and more consistent yield over time.

Take building a house as an example. If you build the foundations as cheap and as fast as you can and place a house on it you will have a home.

However as time goes on you will find that due to the frail foundations eventually the house will crumble. This is the perfect example of these fertilisers.

What you are doing when using these is getting a fantastic yield which looks good pretty much immediately but slowly depleting the soil of all fertility as you are not replacing anything.

Organic gardening also makes the same foundations but invests better quality materials and more time. Agreed it takes longer but once it’s out of the ground it flies up.

It’s all about the foundation.

Steve

About me

My mission is simple.

100% Organic Growing. No fancy growing methods, no gimmicks just straight honest reviews and advice.

What You can expect:

Honest Reviews – For every review I do, you only get one thing which I think is the most important. Honesty.

I will NEVER try to sell or advise you against any product I wouldn’t use myself. All reviews here are requested by various companies who approach me to test them out. Unless stated I do not make any money from doing this, I do however get a lot of pleasure knowing that I will come across a hidden gem and are able to let you guys know🙂

My blog is always changing so please bear with me or feel free to pay any comments/ suggestions on the comment section below or tweet me on @plot44organics

Finally and more importantly you will see 100% me. My methods are different to any other person and that’s what makes us all unique. My outlook on growing is you have to find your own way of doing things as no two things are the same.

My Growing Style:

After running an allotment for 2 years I have now moved to growing at home in a 11.8m2 raised bed. My goal is to learn the art of seed saving and successional growing to allow me to grow all year around on my doorstep. For me getting children involved is key to future success so I always get my daughter  involved. She just loves growing sweet corn!  And if I encourage a few of you along the way im a happy man.

The environment impact to me is very important. I DON’T use/ endorse or recommend any form of fertilisers/ products that cannot prove to be 100% organic or biodegradable. If nature don’t like then neither do I.  I believe working with nature is a better solution.

For growing I use a combination of No Dig method & square foot gardening. This is exactly what it sounds like & is an ancient method that encourages & protects the soil eco-system and structure. For more information on this method see http://www.charlesdowding.co.uk/  where you can find a wealth of knowledge and helpful guides.

As I final note I would say the best thing to what I do is enjoyment. Gardening can be a real challenge but also a very rewarding past time. Some times it’s a serious business but trust me, if you learn to enjoy all the challenges the reward will be priceless.