Archive for August, 2013

We have had an ‘Ask an Expert Enquiry’ this week from Janice Ketley who has asked

‘When I take out my tomatoes, what can I plant for the winter that is low growing and easy harvesting’.

I am presuming that Janice has her tomatoes in a greenhouse, at present I haven’t got any spare room in mine with lots of green tomatoes still to ripen as well as a cucumber plant, two aubergines, 10 chilli and sweet pepper plants and onions drying out.

It is a good idea to plan ahead now for the winter months, a greenhouse, polytunnel or even a cold frame can provide a crop throughout the year and should be utilised as much as possible. Here are my suggestions what Janice could grow.

 Lid support

Plant some potatoes

It is possible to harvest your own new potatoes at Christmas or in the New Year, these are called second cropping potatoes and one of the best varieties is Carlingford. To ensure a harvest for Christmas they need to be planted by the end of August but you could still try planting some in the next few weeks for a later crop. Your seed potatoes need to be planted in large pots or growing bags in good compost, water them in and place somewhere warm and sunny, watering again when dry. When the weather turns cold bring the bags/containers inside to protect from frost and harvest once the foliage dies back.

There are many kinds of salad leaves and lettuces with varieties especially suited for winter cropping.

  • Spinach (Baby Salad Leaf varieties): Sow September, harvest leaves when small from October-April.
  • Lettuce (Winter varieties): Sow September, harvest October-April.
  • Lamb’s Lettuce: Sow September, harvest November to January.
  • Endive (Broad leaved varieties): Sow July-September, harvest September-November.
  • Pak Choi: Sow September for late Autumn winter harvest perfect in stir fries or steamed.
  • Rocket and Mixed Salad Leaves (Winter Blend): Sow September and pick leaves when young.
  • Cutting Parsley: Harvest the young stems and leaves.

Spring Onions: One of the best to grow is White Lisbon (Winter Hardy) a quick cropping hardy variety, sow seeds September/October for a spring harvest.

Radish: Sow September in rows.

Herbs can be potted up and brought indoors to extend their crop.

The BIG Red Paraffin Greenhouse Heater

Winter crops can be slow to germinate and grow due to low light levels and low temperatures, protect crops with a fleece or invest in a heater to regulate temperatures and keep the greenhouse frost free. During warm days leave the door open slightly and open the vents to keep the air moving and prevent fungal diseases, water you crops sparing.

Greenhouses/Polytunnels are perfect for drying out onions for winter storage and ripening squashes and pumpkins for use during the winter months.


I hope I have given you some suggestions

Happy sowing and growing


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This year both the garden and the allotment are flourishing, what a huge difference the sun makes, the flowers in the garden are in full bloom with many now producing seed for next years plants, even the vegetables are outstanding with some even worthy of the show bench (local only). Soft fruit picking has been never-ending from Strawberries to Red/White/Blackcurrants, Gooseberries, and Raspberries with the promise of a good crop of Blackberries, Apples, Pears, Damsons and Plums yet to come.

If you have grown some vegetables which have produced an exceptional and tasty crop why not try saving some of their seeds to grow next year, this is not a new idea. Millions of people, for many thousands of years have been saving their own seeds to grow year after year, this has led to the preservation of many old ‘Heritage’ seed varieties and the creation of many new varieties.

Collect seed from strong, healthy, vigorous plants when they are fully mature/ripe choosing the largest seeds and those that are not damaged or deformed. Allow fruits to fully ripen on the plant before collecting their seeds. Don’t be tempted to collect seeds from F1 hybrids they will not grow true to the parent plant, producing an inferior plant and crop.

You can harvest seeds from most types of vegetables, the following varieties are perhaps some of the easiest to start with:

Beans and Peas

Let the pods mature and ripen on the plant.  Pick the pods whole when they are dry and start to turn brown and lay them out on newspaper indoors to dry out for at least two weeks, remove the individual seeds from the pods, allowing them to dry out further before storing.


Pepper SeedsRed Chillies

Collect seeds from Peppers that have fully ripened on the plant and have started to go soft and wrinkly. Remove the seeds and place on a plate to dry out, when they are completely dry they are ready to store. Care must be taken with Chilli Peppers, it is advisable to wear gloves and allow an adult to remove and handle the fruits and the seeds.

Beef Tomatoes

Tomato Seeds

Pick tomatoes that have been left to fully ripen on the plant. Scoop out the seeds and the pulp, place them in a container with water for a few days swirling the water each day. The seeds should come free from the pulp and sink to the bottom, drain off the liquid and any seeds that float, rinse the seeds in a small plastic sieve. Place the seeds on a plate to dry out, when they are completely dry they are ready to store.

Place your dried seeds in paper envelopes, labelling them with the name, variety and the date that you collected them, adding any growing instructions or notes. Store the seeds in a cool dry place in an airtight tin, which will keep moisture, unwanted insects and animals out.

Allowing the seeds to mature on your plants will reduce any further crops as the sole intention of any plant is to put all its energy into making seeds so that they will grow again next year and once this has been achieved its job is done.

Collecting seeds will save you money, is rewarding, fun and educational, teaching children about the life cycles of plants and how the food that they eat grows.


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