Daffodils! Well, we are based in Wales, and all vegplugs.co.uk staff are Welsh :)

February 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

OK I know, it’s a little predictable, but this Monday morning’s installment of visual delights is all about the daffodil. I promise not to bang on about my wonderful little country too much .. maybe just once a year …

A happy St David’s day to you all!

(Hover over the images to learn the cultivar name)

And a noteworthy RHS article about daffodil cultivars (click here).

And (sorry I can’t resist) here is a picture of Cardiff – my very lovely city, affectionately known as the ‘Diff – taken out of the window of my ancient VW polo Mostyn.

This is the city hall- not exactly a hub of economic dynamism and world leading governance, but lovely nonetheless.

Don’t tell the WAG I said that 🙂

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RHS AGM List 2010

February 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Click here to read the list of the Royal horticultural Society’s 2010 AGM Winners

Slugs- They’re coming!

February 21, 2011 § 2 Comments

I give it a month and I reckon the little buggers will be out in force. I have included a few tips on keeping them off your veg (below slug pics) and also some pics of sea slugs, which I do think are very lovely.

Copper wire is a highly effective physical barrier that we use at Vegplugs.co.uk to keep slugs off the plugs.

4d39be498ed4cslug.bmp

Products containing lots of calcium carbonate (lime), especially those with jagged edges (diatomaceous earth), will deter slugs. Organic slug pellets are made from granite or a similar aggregate which is like a cheese grater to a slug’s belly.

Acidic soil conditions encourage slugs so check your soil pH and alkalise the soil surface by sprinkling lime, bone meal or egg shells around plants.

A pond or wetland area will encourage frogs and perhaps newts which feast on slugs. Chickens and ducks will eat slugs and all manner of soil pests. Various types of traps can be made. Trap crops can also be grown. Nematodes are available as a biological control. A skewer and a torch for bouts of mass murder is more therapeutic than it sounds.

And now for the monday morning installment of prettiness! Sea Slugs:

How to build a polytunnel for (about) £150

February 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ok it might end up looking a little ‘Steptoe’, but you’ll have fun building it. I did one of these last year and its still standing, though I am going to rebuild it using more hoops to make it stronger.

Most of the cost here is for good polytunnel polythene- the rest of the component parts can be cobbled together for free.

A nifty way to make a tunnel cloche at home is to cut some long, young saplings or bendy (willow) branches, ideally more than 6ft in length. They need to be a uniform thickness along the length of 1-2” with side shoots removed and the join smoothed over. Soak them in water for a week (wrap in a wet blanket, unless you have a pond) to make them pliable then wedge them into an ‘A’ shape between a space which is between 1.5 and 2m wide- a stepladder is quite good for smaller frames- and leave them dry thoroughly- for at least 1 month.

A quicker option is to use flexible plastic tubing (the PEX type used for plumbing) which can slot directly over the stakes (read on for staking info). Screws can affix the tubes to the stakes to make a reasonably sturdy structure.

Purchase polytunnel plastic or netting (fleece is a cheaper option but tears easily) and anti-hotspot tape or gaffer tape. If your arches are 1m high and 1.5m wide at the base you need to buy polythene which is at least 3.5m wide.

Dig two trenches about 1.5m apart each 30cm (12”) deep and 30cm wide (a spades width). Hammer 60cm (2ft) stakes into the ground 1.6m (5.2ft) apart at 0.75cm (2.5ft) intervals along the outside of the trench. Leave half of the stake above ground. The stakes secure the structure and could be replaced by the sides of a raised bed or railway sleepers. Stakes can be made from offcuts of wood, metal plant stakes, metal pipes or rods, thick tree branches.

You want to put each arch 0.75m apart, so however many arches you have multiplied by 0.75m equals the length of your trench. You just push the end of the arches into the soil to a depth of about 20-40cm (10-24”) next to the stakes. bind them to the stakes for added support. If using PEX tubing slot them over the stakes.

Drape your covering over the structure. Roll up a bamboo cane along either long edge of the plastic and secure with tape. Bury one side of the polythene into the ready dug trench (the bamboo helps to keep it taught and reduces the likelihood of it being blown around considerably). Wedge the other side it gently between the stake/edge of raised bed and the arch. Secure with plenty of tent pegs, specialised polytunnel pegs or smooth rocks and to avoid the polythene tearing put tape at these sites of friction. At each narrow end gather the polythene tightly into a neat ball and tie it with thin rope. Tie the rope to a rock.

When you need to go into your polytunnel you can simply raise the bamboo cane and balance it on top of the structure. To ventilate, untie the bunched end from the rock and re-bunch it and retie it at the top of the structure.

If anyone has a better method (likely) please send it in.

Click here for an excellent link which shows you how to build a full size polytunnel.

Pigs

February 14, 2011 § 2 Comments

This week’s Monday morning installment of visual delights.

(Not selected with Valentine’s day in mind)

Bean trench- Nice idea from the Guardian.co.uk

February 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Finally something I can do in the garden! My soil is too dam soggy to work it and I’m not going to risk direct sowing just yet.

Lia Leendertz the Guardian’s garden correspondent mentioned a good tip in this weekends paper. I think this would work for most non-root crops. Also this method may impart some heat to the soil for spring sowings. I’d add that its best to chop the waste up really small, else it may not be fully decomposed come spring/summer:

Garden week: Runner beans Photograph: Roy McMahon/Corbis

Bean there

It’s too soon to plant runner beans, but you can prepare for them. They love a moist, fertile root run, and go wild for a bean trench. Dig the trench about 2ft deep and 2ft wide to the length you require, line it thickly with newspaper and water until the paper’s soaked. Chuck your kitchen scraps in, covering with a thin layer of soil each time. The trench works as a mini compost heap into which the greedy, thirsty beans can sink their feet.

Pentland Brig – The best kale ever

February 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Pentland Brig is a tall growing heirloom kale. Its one of the most popular cultivars at vegplugs.co.uk and it’s really worth growing.

Pentland Brig has an attractive, upright habit and frilled leaves. The plant grows at about the same speed as a cauliflower, and grows to a similar size, possibly larger.

Here is a Pentland Brig in the Groblog garden. Note my foot in the bottom corner of the image for scale:

It’s such a shame I’m wearing crocs- the ugliest shoes I own, and only being utilised as they were a gift from my mother. Rest assured I have a stonking shoe collection and can regularly be found tending plugs in 5″ heels. But that’s another post entirely 🙂

The brilliant thing about Pentland Brig is it produces side shoots (like a sprouting broccoli) after the main head has been picked. Even when it flowers it still deliciously edible.

The leaves taste more cabbage like than most kales and are very thin, almost paper-thin, giving them a wide range of culinary applications. I like them steamed with butter, but have also used the leaves in place of vine leaves to make dolmades, and shredded and deep-fried them to make a sort of crispy seaweed.

Pentland Brig has a great flavour, but the best tasting kale is probably Red Russian. It has a butteriness that I’ve never encountered in a vegetable before, and it cooks down to a silky, spinach like consistency.

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