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Container Gardening – Container Vegetable Growing
Most gardeners grow in containers, a hanging basket or a pot on a patio is container gardening. Indoor herb growing in containers is common as well but vegetable growing in containers is not usual.
Yet if you don’t have enough space for a vegetable plot then vegetable container gardening is the way to enjoy your own fresh crops. Many of the champion show growers, those people with the fantastic leeks and onions actually grow in containers, admittedly large containers, but containers nonetheless.
Container growing of tomatoes is usual, a growbag is a container and so is a large pot. But you can grow nearly anything in a container. There are very few vegetables that you cannot grow in a container and you can even grow fruit in containers. Growing figs in a container that can be brought into the greenhouse or conservatory so that they avoid winter frosts is usual and enables a crop even in northern areas where growing figs out of doors would not be realistic.
Growing citrus trees in containers offers the same benefits, they can come into the warmth when the weather turns cold. Minaret apple trees, where the fruit comes directly off the single stem, do very well in containers. They look well in a large decorative pot on the patio, and taste well too!
Organic container growing is perfectly possible, although you will need to use fertilisers such as fish, blood and bone and dried blood to achieve good results. In fact, it is easier to garden organically in containers as it is easier to apply barrier methods to keep the pests away. You don’t need chemical sprays if the pests can’t get to your crop in the first place.
Some crops do much better in containers than natural soil. Carrots love growing in deep containers as do potatoes. Salad crops, lettuce, rocket, spring onions and radish do well. A few troughs on a patio can supply your needs right by the kitchen door. You can’t get fresher than that.
These articles should get you started growing a wide range of vegetables and salad crops even if you only have a balcony!
The Allotments Regeneration Initiative has welcomed assurances from the Government that the public right to allotments will be safeguarded as part of a government review of local authority duties.
The aim of the review, according to the Department of Communities and Local Government, is to slash red tape, giving local authorities more freedom from statutory burdens which means they can operate in a way that meets local needs and priorities.
The review led to alarm that the statutory duty of local councils to provide allotments (under the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908, Section 23) could be abandoned.
A campaign was launched by the Independent on Sunday newspaper, called Dig for Victory, which is being backed by the National Society for Allotment and Leisure Gardeners and Landshare, the online service which matches food growers with land owners.
However a spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “We will not remove statutory protections for allotments or any frontline services. However the Government is reviewing old and unnecessary duties imposed on councils in order to free them up from Whitehall red tape and as part of this we have published the full list of duties which includes allotments.”
Meanwhile, ARI and its partners have responded to the consultation process on statutory duties set up by government. Anyone interested in allotments is being encouraged to give their views on this issue. To find out more click Here.
The no-dig gardening concept was popularised by Sydney gardener Esther Dean in the 1970s as a way of minimising gardening effort while kickstarting a garden with maximum fertility. Any more fertility and you’re likely to have triplets. A no-dig garden consists of layers of organic material that are stacked up to form a rich, raised garden area. The no-dig garden can be whatever height you desire. Vegetable seedlings, flowering annuals, herbs, bulbs and strawberries all thrive in a no-gig garden.
This type of garden can be set up anywhere – over a lawn, inside a box frame, or even over concrete.
No-dig gardens are quick and easy to make.
If your soil is not ideal for vegie growing, a no-dig garden creates a great soil mix to plant into.
No-dig gardens are very fertile as the decomposing organic matter quickly becomes rich, black compost and attracts beneficial micro-organisms.
It retains moisture well.
It discourages the growth of weeds as the soil is not turned over (burying weed seeds in moist soil).
Manure – eg. horse, cow, sheep
‘Brown organic material’ – eg. pea straw, lucerne hay, autumn leaves, dry grass clippings.
Blood-and-Bone organic fertiliser OR chicken manure (if building garden over grass or weeds)
Compost (black, rich, broken down organic matter)
How to make a No-dig Garden
Slash the grass or weeds
If over concrete, place a 10cm layer of dry branches onto the concrete to allow air into the bed, and head to step 4.
Over the grassed area, sprinkle with ‘Blood and Bone’ and water it in (this will aid in breaking down the grass and weeds).
Soak your newspaper in water (eg. in a wheelbarrow or large bucket filled with water).
Cover the area with thick layers of the damp newspaper (at least 6 pages thick — more if any runner grasses are present), overlapping by 10-15 cm. Be thorough!
Soak your “brown organic material” in water (eg. in a wheelbarrow or green bin filled with water).
On top of the newspaper layer, alternate the following –
10cm of the soaked “brown organic material” (eg. Autumn leaves or straw)
5cm of Manure – eg. horse, cow, sheep
Water well after each layer is added
Keep adding these layers until you get to your desired height. We recommend building up the garden at least 30-40cm.
NOTE: The no-dig garden will approximately half in height in the first six months as it composts away. Therefore, if for example you want a 30cm high vegie bed, build a 50-60cm no-dig garden.
Make sure that the top layer is the ‘brown organic material’, which acts as a great mulch to suppress weeds, hold water and insulate the soil.
To plant seedlings, pull aside the mulch and add one or two handfuls of compost to the hole that you’ve created. Make a hole in the compost and plant the seedling into this compost. Make sure your no-dig garden is in a fairly sunny position.
This garden usually settles to around ½ its height over the next 2-4 months (one season). In this time the layers that you put down will turn into fertile black compost. After these few months any vegetables should grow very well in the no-dig garden. However, in those first 2-4 months (the first growing season of the bed), the following vegetables will not grow especially well in a no-dig garden, so don’t be disheartened:
Root vegetables – eg. carrots, onions, beetroot
Beans or peas.
These vegies will grow well from the second season onwards.
To maintain the health of the no-dig garden area VEG recommends adding home-made compost at least once a year (the start of Spring), but preferably twice a year (the start of Spring and the start of Autumn). See the VEG compost info sheet or come to a VEG “compost and worms” course to learn the keys to increasing soil health.
We also recommend VEG garden edging for no-dig gardens that are 40cm or higher.
So where to start?
First thing to do is take a look at what weeds are growing. Nettles, docks, buttercups and daisy all indicate that your soil is acidic. Docks love damp conditions. Mares or Horses Tail (Equistum Arvense) also likes acidic soil.
You will now have an idea of what your soil is like. Weeds are a good indication of soil fertility. Lush tall weeds indicate good fertility. Pretty obvious really.
What not to do
I have seen a few people take on a plot covered in docks and happily run a rotovator over it. The perennial weeds will grow from a root fragment and so chopping them up and tilling the soil is a great way to propagate them and ensure you have a plot absolutely covered in weeds a few weeks later. At this point some give up the plot!
What to do to Clear the Plot
Hard work awaits you! First decide how much time and energy you have. There is no way I could clear a plot in one go or even one week. You can cover sections of the plot with thick plastic, carpets or tarpaulins (if you have them) and this will hold back growth until you can get to the section. If you leave an area covered for a year or so then most of the weeds will die.
Personally I do not want areas out of production that long so I just use covering as a holding method.
Now take a small section at a time, looking down 100 feet of weeds is enough to make anyone despair. I found 6 feet patches (15 feet wide) to be about right but those younger and fitter can do more.
Start by taking off the surface grasses and short rooted weeds with a spade – the resulting ‘turfs’ can be stacked to eventually form a loam. The deeper rooted perennials (like docks) need their roots digging out. These are the devil to deal with.
I just added them to a cool compost heap and they happily grew on You can try chopping them (to weaken them) and add them to a hot compost heap. Other methods which do work are drowning in a barrel of water for 3 weeks or tying up in a plastic bin bag for a few months.
Having completed clearing, I then dig over with a fork. The purpose is to break up the soil and extract any weed roots. Watch out for bindweed – this is one that spreads from a small bit of root. A small stem is probably growing from a foot of tubular white root snaking along a few inches below the surface.
One exception to the rule is Mares Tail or Horse Tail. This wonderful weed has roots that go down to hades, well 1.5 metres anyway. The only thing I know to kill them is ammonium sulphamate, a weedkiller often sold for brushwood clearance. The problem with this is that you can not plant for 8 to 12 weeks after use. It’s not approved for organic growers but it is a very safe and simple herbicide.
As you clear a patch, consult your overall plan and prepare the ground accordingly. If it’s getting late in the season then consider a green manure. As you get towards the end of your plot you will probably find weeds sprouting behind you. They never stop! Most of these will be annual weeds whose seeds have been germinated by your clearance exposing them. Don’t worry – you can just hoe them off.
It’s possible to trace the origins of allotments back over 200 hundred years – they derive from the enclosure legislation of the 18th and 19th centuries – and the word ‘allotment’ originates from land being allotted to an individual under an enclosure award (Enclosures were used by richer land-owners to stop the poor grazing their animals on common land).
The most important of the Enclosure Acts was the General Inclosure Act 1845 which required that provision should be made for the landless poor in the form of ‘field gardens’ limited to a quarter of an acre. At this time, allotments were largely confined to rural areas.
The modern notion of an allotment came into being during the Nineteenth Century. A lot of people from the country went to work and live in towns; there was a lot of poverty, and what the Victorians called “degeneracy” amongst the working classes.
In the Victorian scheme of things, allotments provided an alternative to drink and other unworthy pursuits for the poor. The spread of urban allotments was intensified by the growth of high-density housing, often without gardens.
The First World War prompted a huge growth in the number of allotments – from 600,000 to 1,500,000. After the War, many of the temporary allotment sites were returned to their original use.
WWII again increased the role for allotments as a major provider of food; there was a blockade from the U-boats, and many farm-workers went to the war. Allotments became a common feature in towns and cities. Dig for Victory posters were everywhere, and food production from allotments rose to 1,300,000 tonnes per year from around 1,400,000 plots – that’s nearly a tonne per plot !
The end of the War again saw a diminished role for allotments and, as time passed, other pressures on the use of land have reduced the total (there are now only about 250,000). Although the biggest decline was immediately after WWII, it is still continuing today; the number of allotments has halved since 1969.
Allotments are under the control of local councils. Allotments are allocated by Act of Parliament, and Councils have a legal obligation to provide the land. If Councils wish to use the land for other purposes, then they are supposed to provide land of similar quality in a suitable location. Source: Wiki.
Seedlings germinate and begin to grow well until whole trays rapidly collapse and die. Damping off can also cause trays of seeds to fail to germinate.
Plants Affected Young seedlings of annual bedding and vegetables are the most commonly affected, but damping off can be a problem on a wide range of plants.
About Damping off is caused by a variety of different soil borne fungi including Pythium, Rhizoctonia and Phytophthora.
Once plants have been affected, Botrytis (Grey mould) often also attacks. Plants are more likely to succumb if they are under stress. Stress can be caused by high temperature, high humidity and waterlogging.
Treatment Good hygiene is important in combating damping off. Wash and disinfect pots and trays after use and use fresh compost. Dispose of pots, trays and compost where damping off has been a problem. High humidity around plants can increase the likelihood of damping off. Keep greenhouses well ventilated and sow seeds thinly to avoid overcrowding.The fungi can infect plants through their water. Make sure all rainwater-butts have sealed lids to prevent leaves and debris entering them and introducing fungi to the water. Click here for more on damping off.
Natural Helpers against Aphids
We all know that no matter what we do sooner or later aphids will attack. There are however lots of beasties available to us to help reduce or even prevent any infestation. Lady birds are very well known helpmates, but there is one other who quietly does a stirling job and only needs a little persuasion to live in our vegetable patch -Behold the little insect with a veracious appetite, the bee look-a-like, the super worker the “Hover Fly”!
Plant some Poached Egg Plant (Limnanthes Douglasii) or some Buck Wheat (Fagopyrum Esculentum) and you may get 20 plus species of natural aphid predator to lay their eggs and help to protect your crop.
Plant the Tobacco plant (Nicotiana Sylvestris) and its sticky leaves will trap white fly by the hundreds.
Remember if you rid your allotment completely of one insect the chances are you will let another take over. Its best to try for a healthy balance. Try not to overkill anything, there is room for most of these beasties and they all fulfil a purpose.
Hover Flies belong to a large family of small to big flies. They are true flies or Diptera, with only one pair of wings. ( Wasps and bees have two pairs ). Some species of Hover Fly closely resemble bees while others pretend to be wasps. The image is of the common Hover Fly. No species of Hover Fly sting. Yet I have seen people doing the Hover Fly dance! They can all stay motionless in mid-air, (hence their name) a trick no bee or wasp can manage! Jonny. (admin)
The Six Soil Types
Loamy soil – often seen as the ultimate garden soil because most plants will grow in it, this is brown and crumbly in texture and similar to that found on well-worked allotments. It’s rarely waterlogged in winter or dry in summer and supports a wide range of plants. Loamy soil is light and easy to dig and is naturally high in nutrients
Chalky soil – typical of south-east England, chalky soil is very shallow, full of clumps of white chalk or flint and is very free-draining. This means it can be bone dry in summer and plants will need far more watering and feeding than on any other soil. Chalky soils are always alkaline, which restricts the number of plants that can grow on them. Planting may also be difficult as spades frequently hit lumps of hard chalk or flint
Clay soil – this is sticky to handle and can be easily rolled into a ball shape. It is naturally high in nutrients so plants that like these conditions should do particularly well. It does pose some problems. In summer, it is often baked dry, with visible surface cracks, making it difficult to get water to plant roots. Yet in winter, it can be constantly wet and waterlogging is common. It is hard to dig at most times of the year
Silty soil – is made up of fine grains, originally deposited by a river. The tiny particles give it a silky feel if rubbed between the fingers. It does not form distinct shapes like clay when wet, but it can be rolled into sausage-like strips. Silty soils can be badly drained but are not prone to waterlogging.
Peaty soil – the fens of eastern England are very peaty and are some of the country’s best farmland. Plants grow happily in it, as long as they can adjust to the relatively acid conditions. Almost black to look at, easy to dig over and spongy to the touch, peaty soil can be soaking in winter and dry during most of the summer.
Sandy soil – feels rough and gritty when handled and will not form distinct shapes like clay. It usually has a sandy brown colour and is easy to dig over. Water-logging is rare on such soils as they are very free-draining and, accordingly, watering and feeding of plants is needed on a regular basis. It is quick to warm up in the spring, so sowing and planting can be done earlier in the year than with clay or silty soil.
“The plough is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man’s inventions; but long before he existed the land was in fact regularly plowed, and still continues to be thus ploughed by earthworms. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.”
– Charles Darwin
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