Telegraph.co.uk: How to turn a roundabout into a meadow

August 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardenprojects/8670893/

Excellent roundabout!

Cutworms & Gromix

June 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Two quick notes, firstly, here is a cutworm nestling happily in my favourite flashy butter oak lettuce.. get out!! (I fed it to the pig ha!)

Cutworms are usually grey-brown, but may have a yellow or green tint to them, and look like fat, smooth caterpillars. They measure about 2.5-4cm (1”) long and move very quickly when disturbed, curling up into a tight ‘C’ shape.

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They reside in the soil by day and come out at night to wrap themselves around the base of plant stalks and eat them. They can decimate a crop and are partial to a wide range of fruit, vegetable and ornamental plants.

The eggs are laid by turnip moths in June and July. After two weeks the larvae hatch and live for a month before pupating in the soil. A second generation can hatch in August and September which will over-winter in the soil, coming to the surface to feed when environmental conditions are favourable.

Birds, especially chickens, feed on cutworms, and some nematodes will effectively eradicate them. A ring of twigs driven into the ground, tin cans with both ends cut off, cardboard or foil can be wrapped around the base of plants to prevent these soil-dwelling pests reaching the stems- mulch mats also.

My next comment is about growing media. Her eis the standard mix we use at vegplugs.co.uk:

.. basically we need to get out of this antiquated mindset that plants need peat. Some plants do need peat- they thrive in it and substitutes often give substandard results – but these are very few. If your sowing seed or potting on plants you need not use pure peat/compost.

Free respiration in the root zone is essential for healthy, fast-growing plants. Plant respiration relies on air spaces in the soil for gaseous exchange to and from roots. The higher the porosity of a soil, the greater it’s potential to move water and air to plant roots. Smaller pore spaces mean greater water retention and therefore lower air supply.

In the image above you can see lots of aerators (along with peat-free organic compost) .. perlite and clay pebbles give the soil a lovely loose, airy structure. Sometimes we use water-retentive gel (about 10-20%) in the mix. This is a standard mix for potting on nearly any plant. For sowing seed we cover them with pure compost or vermiculite, but they are sown into this mix.

In the garden, coarse organic matter (leaves, pine needles, well rotted wood chippings etc) increases the size and the amount of pore space in the soil, as does perlite. Microorganisms, bugs and worms make air spaces, so healthy soil is, by virtue of these beasties, well aerated.

We blend our compost on-site to suit each variety we grow. Each blend aims to optimise drainage, nutrients, aeration and disease resistance. We use (not all at once): peat- free certified organic compost, perlite, vermiculite, sharp sand, coconut fibre, powdered neem cake, lime, mycorrhizal fungi and organic seaweed-based nutrients. Some plants prefer a less nitrogen rich free draining soil, for this recycled polystyrene, fine gravel and/or fine bark is added to the blend.

Grobog egg whaaa?

May 19, 2011 § 2 Comments

Here are the top search terms which bring people to the Groblog. I find ‘grobog egg’ highly amusing. If anyone can explain to me what a grobog egg is I will send you a box of plants for free!

forest pansy tree 181
reine de glace lettuce foto 111
interplanting vegetable garden 94
bolting green and red lettuce 67
forest pansy trees 61
polytunnel pegs 49
mirasol chile pepper 36
grobog egg 35
climate zones of south africa 31
zapallo plomo squash seed uk 30
allium schubertii growing 21
bridal veil mushroom 16
aubergine caliope 12

1 Year of blogging

May 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Groblog is one year old!

On reflection I havent written much, mainly because the growing season has been/will continue to be manic this year. Business ventures are expanding in exciting directions… more of that in future posts.

Vegplugs.co.uk

Vegplugs.co.uk is really flying. Order volumes have more than quadrupled year on year, and even though we planted over four times as much we still do not have enough plants!

Due to the dangerous combination of whopping order volumes and the wheels falling off the Royal Mail postal service, a few orders did not make our 7 day dispatch policy. Apologies to customers who had to wait a while for plants .. we are up to speed now. Sincere apolgies for the delays/any administrative mistakes. Great plugs, but the administrative staff (me!) need a kick up the a**e.

We are using APS Couriers and are really happy with their service. Soon all orders should go via APS but for the next few weeks some will still need to go with Royal Mail.

New cultivars have been a focus for 2011, with lots of trials underway. Be blogging about that soon!

A quick note on the weather.

A few of our customers/friends have noticed slowed growth over the last fortnights cold weather, particularly for aubergines and peppers.

I try to get the aubergine/pepper plugs outside 24/7 from May onwards, only covering them if there is a risk of frost, but in all honestly they grow better (well, they look better- greener- but stems are weaker) indoors and in some cases grow a little quicker than outdoor raised young plants.

For aubergines/toms/peppers/soft herbs leave them in a sunny, warm place with low levels of wind (some breeze is neccessary) for as long as possible- on Gardener’s World the other day they still had corn, cucurbits and all of the above indoors and were not going to take them outside until early to mid-June. Best not to rush these plants and let them get as big and strong as possible before facing the elements. The exception is tomatoes which are hardier than peppers/aubergines and need some degree of natural conditions (wind=stronger stems and shorter inter-leaf spacings) to stop them getting leggy.

Here is an indoor raised pepper living happily on the kitchen windowsill since germinating in february:

And here is one raised outdoors:

Ultimately it will be a stronger plant, with I would think better yields. Planted at the same time but growing ‘normally’, i.e this plant is pacing itself and knows it is too early to fruit.. flowers are just beginning and the plant will produce at least 15 flowers at the same time, whereas the pepper in the top image thinks its in St Tropez.

Growing

I’d love to be able to say my garden looks fabulous, but sadly it looks like a barnyard. What has been planted so far? Ballhead cabbages, carrots, tons of green manure and sweetcorn. So no harvests for at least another month. I cant bear to post a pic as its just embarrassing. Customers send me pics of their plugs growing fabulously all the time and they put me to shame.

Pig update

Pumpkin the large black pig is but a distant memory. A delicious, distant memory of roast pork, A4 sized sheets of crackling and fine charcuterie.

Squash … now unfortunately this explanation is going to involve a major digression … well, basically she is now the size of a small hippo, and immensly clever thanks to all the stimulation she gets spending her days trying to reach tantalising rows of plug plants.

She also has acquired expectations beyond basic food and board- Squash needs love. Squash needs love because she is used to being fussed and scratched and hand-fed Swiss white chocolate/doughnuts/marzipan daily.

Let this be a lesson to you- don’t let you’re pigs get too smart or reliant on affection. You will wind up having to schedule time to faff over a 30 stone monster every day. Immediately after said visit a shower needs to be scheduled. Immediately before said visit a barrow load of food needs to be found.

A mildly rubbish post, but I havent posted for ages and i’m feeling guilty🙂

Better stuff to come! Xx

66 orders sent today – 158 this week – we are on fire!

April 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Well, my arm muscles are at least …

66 boxes in one day is a new vegplugs.co.uk record. Thank you SO MUCH to our customers for ordering with us this year. I think my staff might be getting some free ice-creams this afternoon, thanks Itz and Joy- without you guys i’d be packing ’til midnight🙂

Biological controls – An introduction

April 13, 2011 § 1 Comment

Biological controls are organisms (insects, nematodes, micro-organisms) introduced to a growing space to feed on pests. Most of these are very small and not interested in humans. Their application is often temperatures specific (so seasonal) and a few can only survive in heated greenhouses.

In the UK we have many species of parasitic wasps, ladybirds, lacewing and hoverflies whose larvae eat butterfly and moth eggs, thrips, leaf hoppers and aphids.

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Beneficial predators can be encouraged into your garden by planting members of the apiaceae  family- flowering parsley, fennel, dill and coriander, and also lemon balm, lupins, sunflowers, borage, chamomile, statice, tansies, marigolds, shasta daisies, amaranthus and Queen Anne’s lace.

It is helpful to encourage natural predators to populate your garden by planting crops which will attract them. If local beneficial predator numbers are low, they will benefit from both habitat provision and the introduction of purchased insects to re-populate the locale.

 

Coming soon to a garden near you ….

April 13, 2011 § 2 Comments

I noticed the first cluster of butterfly eggs on a brassica this morning.

Let the battle begin!

Caterpillars are the larvae of moths and butterflies. They mostly eat anything in the brassica family.

There are three species of caterpillars in the UK- imported caterpillars (green caterpillars with fuzzy skin), cabbage loopers (green with white stripes, arches its back as it walks) and diamond backed moth worms (smooth and green, leaf miner in early larval stage).

Caterpillars do not particularly like red cabbage. A traditional remedy for killing caterpillars is to sprinkle flour on brassica leaves which they ingest and this glues up their insides, or try cayenne pepper, which they dislike. Spraying with neem and insecticidal soap or dusting with pyrethrum is effective. Products containing bacillus thuringiensis will kill caterpillars. Biological controls include the parasitic wasp trichogamma brassicae which targets eggs.

Many gardeners do daily rounds picking off eggs, caterpillars and other pests and killing them, which will usually reduce populations to manageable numbers within a week or two. Physical barriers are the only sure way to keep caterpillars and moths off your veg. Covering with netting or fleece prevents most pest damage to crops.

 

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