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Archive for April, 2016

Aubergine Plant

Aubergines are bright purple fruits that are used in many Greek, Italian, Turkish and Middle Eastern dishes, they have been grown for more than 5,000 years and belong to the Solanaceae family which include tomatoes, potatoes, sweet peppers and chilli peppers. The purple Aubergine that we see today was evolved from a spiny plant from India which bore small white egg-shaped fruit, this is why the Aubergine is also known as the eggplant. Aubergine plants have large green leaves with purple veins and purple stems (see picture above).

Many gardeners think that they are difficult to grow but this is not the case, they do need warm temperatures ideally grow them on a sunny windowsill or in a greenhouse/polytunnel, they can be put outdoors in a warm, sunny sheltered position but they will take longer to ripen and be smaller. If you want Aubergines in late Summer sow your seeds now before the end of April (seeds can be sown earlier from January onwards indoors), as well the medium, oval purple varieties there are many others available from seed; large, small, round, long and thin, red, green, yellow, white or even striped.

Sowing and Growing

  1. Sow seeds about 6mm deep in trays of compost or individually in small pots and water well.
  2. Place in a warm position approx. 20-25C/68-77F (see the back of your seed packet) either on a light windowsill or in a heated propagator, they will germinate in about 14 days.
  3. Transplant the seedlings that have been grown in trays individually into small pots when they have their second set of leaves.
  4. After a few weeks when roots show at the bottom of the pots, plant the Aubergines into their final growing positions either in large pots, growbags or in the greenhouse border.
  5. Water little and often, when their purple flowers appear gently spray them with tepid water to encourage the fruit to set.
  6. Feed regularly once the fruits have set and support the plant with a cane, for large fruit varieties after 5 fruits have formed cut off the growingtip/side shoots and any flowers so that the plants energy goes into producing 5 delicious dark purple fruits for smaller fruit varieties more fruits can be left to grow – see growing instructions on the back of the seed packet.

There are many different ways to cook Aubergines one of the simplest is sliced on the BBQ, serve as a side dish with meat and fish and a Tzatziki dip (click here for the recipe for Tzatziki), sow your seeds now and impress your friends this Summer with home grown and freshly picked Aubergine on your BBQ.

Lovely!

Gill

Dont forget to enter the FREE Gardening With Children competition in the Family Zone for a chance to win a fantastic Kids Wooden Standing Raised Bed Growing Table simply identify the 5 Wildflowers shown in the pictures hurry the closing date is this Saturday 30th April 2016 click here for more details and to enter.

Enter today for a chance to win one of these:

childrens_standing_raised_bed2

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Sweet Pea Flowers

I absolutely adore the smell of Sweet Peas, it takes me back to a very special time in my life and my Wedding Day, I grew Sweet Peas to put on the tables at the reception, looking back it was a brave thing to do but thankfully they were amazing with enough to fill 3 large vases for the top table and 12 small vases for the other tables, it was a little bit of my garden at my wedding.

Every year I grow Sweet Peas but they have never done as well as they did that year, if you want to grow your own Sweet Peas from seed now is the time to get sowing, there are hundreds are varieties to choose from with white, pink, peach, red, lavender and purple flowers either single coloured, bi-coloured or patterned, for earlier flowers seeds can be sown in October/November and the plants overwintered in a Cold frame, Polytunnel or Greenhouse, Spring sowings can be made in March/April, sow seeds 1cm deep individually in root trainers or 9cm pots filled with seed compost (I like to sow 3 seeds to a pot which can all be planted, without separating them, in the same hole) water and keep at approx. 15°C (59°F). There is differing advice on whether to soak your seeds overnight before sowing or whether to plant them dry so this year I am doing a trial, I have soaked half of my seeds the other half I have planted straight from the packet, I will let you know my results later on when they have hopefully germinated.

When the plants are about 10cm tall pinch out the growing tip above a pair of leaves, this will encourage the plant to produce side shoots and more flowers. Harden off your plants for 1 to 2 weeks before planting out 15-20cm apart after the risk of frost has passed. Sweet Peas prefer a sunny position in fertile, well drained soil, add garden compost or well-rotted garden manure 4 weeks before planting along with a general purpose fertiliser, protect young plants from Slugs and Snails and water during dry conditions. Tall growing varieties will need trellis, netting, pea sticks or cane wigwams to grow up and their tendrils to attach to, dwarf bush varieties can be grown in pots, hanging baskets or allowed to spread across the ground.

Dead head and pick Sweet Pea flowers regularly to encourage the plants to produce more flowers and to extend the flowering period.

Sweet Peas are bee friendly plants and will provide food for the bees and insects in your garden.

There are many professional Sweet Pea growers who exhibit and display their blooms at horticultural shows and events, they grow their plants as single stemmed plants which are tied individually to canes, removing side shoots and tendrils so that all of the plants energy goes into producing perfect flowers, if you want to learn more about this method click here to visit the National Sweet Pea Society website.

If you are not confident sowing seeds Sweet Pea plants are available to buy in shops, garden centres and via mail order although they do work out more expensive than seeds and there are less varieties to choose from.

Buy a packet of Sweet Pea seeds and give them a go.

Gill

 

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Johns Red Apple plot

This week is National Gardening Week (11-17 April 2016) it is also the Easter School holidays for many children, why not choose, buy and plant a fruit tree together, they are widely available online or better still visit a garden centre you never know what else you may find, or why not make it a School project; take photographs/draw, monitor and record its progress throughout the year, weigh and compare harvests and create and cook delicious dishes with your fruit.

Fruit Trees

There are many different types of fruit trees that you could choose e.g. Apple, Pear, Plum, Damson, Cherry and many varieties of each type, choosing a tree can be difficult, some of the main things to consider are the height and spread of the tree when it is fully grown, whether it is self-pollinating, if is it not and there are no other fruit trees nearby that will do the job you will have to plant another tree to pollinate it and finally choose a tree that bears fruit that you like to eat, your tree can live up to 60 years.

Fruit trees are either supplied bare root or container grown, bare root plants ideally should be planted October-April but not when the ground is waterlogged or frozen, container grown trees can be planted at any time of the year if the weather is suitable.

Bare Root – Dig a hole wide enough to allow the roots to be spread out evenly and to the same depth at what the tree was previously grown at, it is important that the graft is above ground level. Drive a stake at least 30cm below the bottom of the planting hole, it should be on the side from which the prevailing wind blows. Place your tree in the hole, spread out and sprinkle the roots with Mycorrhizal Funghi (see below), the stem should be about 8cm away from the stake. Half fill the hole with the soil mixed with compost, lightly shake the tree to allow the soil to get between the roots and firm down gently, add the remaining soil/compost up to the original level and firm in again gently with your foot to remove any air pockets, lightly loosen the surface building the soil up slightly around the stem and falling away to create a shallow ring to retain water, water well. Fix a tree tie near the top of the stake, check regularly to make sure that it is not too tight or rubbing the stem, water well in dry conditions until established.

Container grown – Dig a hole 8-10cm wider than the container and deep enough to ensure that the level of the soil ball is approx. 2cm below the surface after planting. Water the tree well before planting, sprinkle Mycorrhizal Funghi (see below) at the bottom of your planting hole, place your tree in the hole fill around the sides with the soil mixed with compost and firm down gently with your foot to remove any air pockets, loosen the surface to create a shallow ring around the tree to retain water, water well. Drive a stake into the ground outside your planting hole on the side from which the prevailing wind blows at an angle of 45 degrees and fix a tree tie to the stake and stem, check regularly to make sure that it is not too tight or rubbing the stem, water well in dry conditions until established.

Mycorrhizal fungi

Mycorrhizal funghi is a natural organism that has been present in the soil for thousands of years it has a symbiotic relationship with plants enabling them to extract nutrients and hold onto water, especially in poor soil conditions, by extending the plants natural root system. One application, when planting, is all that you will need, your plants will benefit from better growth, a healthier and denser root system which will absorb nutrients faster and more efficiently, more flowers and fruit, they will establish faster after planting and will be able to cope with drought better. When planting, Mycorrhizal funghi should be applied directly on the roots or at the bottom of the planting hole so that it comes into contact with the roots.

Once you have planted your tree why not give it a name I have just planted a new fruit tree on my allotment, her name is ‘Victoria Plum’.

Have fun

Gill

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Spring is here and there are lots of flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables to sow, plant and grow now but sometimes there simply is not enough room to grow everything that you would like to, the answer it to add a Wooden Raised Bed.

Wooden Raised Beds are perfect for growing fruit, flowers, herbs and vegetables, they provide good drainage, can be filled with good quality compost, will easily accommodate fleece, film and netting to protect your crops and are at a height that makes sowing, planting, harvesting and watering easier.

Why not have a go at our competitions on the Gardening With Children website, for a chance to win a Wooden Raised Bed for your garden:

 

In the School Zone you could win a Wooden Raised Bed Kit containing:

Twin Standard and Deep Tall Post Raised Bed

Wooden Raised Beds With Tall Posts - Deep

3 x 1.5m Cloche Hoops

12 Cloche Clips

Enviromesh Extra Fine Netting

What you have to do

Join our Club – become a member of the Gardening with Children Club its FREE, members receive special discounts and offers on gardening equipment and wildlife products as well as Seasonal Newsletters containing fun activities to make, cook and do and their own unique membership number which you will need to enter this competition.

Then answer the following questions

Why would you like to win the Wooden Raised Bed Kit for your School?

What would you grow in it?

Send in a photograph of something that you have grown at School.

For full details and an entry form click here, the closing date is Friday 27th May 2106.

 

In the Family Zone/Kids Zone you have the chance to win a fabulous

Kids Wooden Raised Bed Growing Table (one supplied)

Kids Wooden Standing Raised Bed Growing Table

It is the perfect size and height for younger children to have their own real vegetable and flower garden and is ideal for growing Strawberries, Herbs, Lettuce, Spring Onion, Radish, baby vegetables including Beetroot, Turnip and Round Carrots and some of your favourite flowers.

and a Selection of Seeds (Beetroot, Carrot, Sorrel, Strawberry)

What you have to do

Correctly name the Spring flowers pictured on the competition page using the following options:

Catkins          Pussy Willow          Daffodil           Bluebell           Primrose

For full details, an entry form and to view the pictures click here, the closing date is Saturday 30th April 2016.

 

Good Luck

Gill

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