Gardeners Blog

Date: 4th November 2020

Leeks, Kale & Winter Cabbage

There are still a range of vegetables that can still be harvested this month, from leeks and kale to carrots and parsnips, we have great how to guide for leeks, kale and winter cabbage to help you in time for next year so you are fully prepared for the growing season.

So, let’s start with leeks, a great versatile vegetable great for adding to soup or with a lovely cheese sauce. They’re easy to grow but still require a bit of looking after, here is our simple how to guide to get you started.

Sowing – Earlier varieties can be sown under cover from late winter, but all other varieties from mid-spring. They will need to be sown in pots or trays of compost and then transplanted into their final position, in the main plot, when they are big enough.

The seeds need to be sown very thinly on top of potting compost, so they are around 2-3cm apart, then they will need to be covered in a thin layer on compost, ensuring the compost is kept moist as the seeds germinate and the seedlings grow on.

Growing – To increase the length of the white stem, it can be blanched by gently drawing in the soil around the stem in stages. Try not to allow the soil to fall between the leaves.

Water during long, dry spells and weed regularly.

Harvesting – Leeks can be harvested as soon as they’ve reached the desired size. Slip a fork underneath the plant to lever it out, whilst pulling up on the leaves. Trim the roots and any damaged leaved and pop them onto the compost heap, then wash away the dirt on the leeks ready for use. Hardy varieties can be dug up as needed over winter, though in very cold areas, you may want to dig them up before the ground freezes over.

Our next growing guide is the super-healthy kale, with lots of nutritional properties, it’s a great addition to stir-fry’s and curries. It’s a brilliant vegetable to grow as it tolerates cold weather and is relatively resistant to pests and diseases.

Sowing – Seeds can be sown in modules indoors or outdoors in warmer weather and transplanted 6-8 weeks later.

Sow thinly 1cm deep in a seed bed, in rows 15cm apart from March to June then thin the seedling down to 7.5cm apart.

Growing – Seedlings should be planted firmly into moist but well-drained compost, in full sun to partial shade. The plants will benefit from adding a well-composted manure to the soil before planting, as well as adding a mulch to help keep the soil moist and weed free. Remove any flower shoots to encourage the production of plenty of healthy leaves.

Water well in dry weather as well as adding a spring feed to improve results.

Harvesting – Start to remove young leaves from the top of the plant from October onwards. If left to mature for winter greens, plants can be left in the ground through the winter and picked as required.

Our last how-to guide is all about winter cabbage. Most cabbage is versatile and grow well in colder weather, however, it does need a little planning and effort to thrive in the coldest months.

Sowing – Cabbages can either be sown directly in the open ground outside or in seed trays. Like leeks, cabbages should be sown away from the main veg patch and the transplanted there later in the season. This is due to the fact they take up quite a lot of room early in the growing season.

Sow your winter cabbages in April/May for transplanting in June/July.  No matter where you are sowing, you will need to thoroughly prepare the soil by raking the surface to create a thin, crumbly texture and sow thinly at 1cm deep.

Growing – Transplant your young plants to their final growing position when plants have 5/6 true leaves, setting the lowest leaves at ground level. Water well the day before moving and firm in well after transplanting, filling the holes in with plenty of water several times before adding the soil. By doing this, the plants will need little water. In prolonged dry spells, a thorough soak every 10 days will be enough. When the heads begin to form, generous watering will improve the head size.

It’s also a good idea to apply a high nitrogen feed before they get too big.

Harvesting – Cabbages are harvested by cutting through the stem just above ground level with a sharp knife.

For more information about these vegetables, the RHS website have some brilliant guides and advice.

BHGS also stock and supply an extensive range of gardening products from compost to pots. You can visit our website or alternatively, if you can’t find what you’re looking for contact us on 01386444100, email us or visit our showroom and we will be happy to help.

Date: 14th October 2020

Autumn Gardening Displays

The weather is starting to get colder and the nights are getting earlier. You may be at a loose end with what to do with your garden as the summer draws to a close and we have officially entered autumn, but there is still plenty to do to keep your garden looking colourful and vibrant.

Your beds and borders may be starting to look tired, so it is time to replace them with some beautiful autumnal plant displays.

Cyclamen will brighten up any pot, adding pops of colour, they come in whites, pinks and reds. They go brilliantly with other evergreens such as heucheras. Cyclamen hederifolium, also known as ivy-leaved cyclamen, are hardy and should persist into winter.  Here is a great, easy to follow guide on growing cyclamen on the RHS website.

Violas are usually a favourite with gardeners as they come in a huge variety of colours and they work well with other plants too. They can be planted from late September to early October, so now is the perfect time. Providing a brilliant display of colours to brighten up your pots and borders, these plants are a definite must-have in your garden this autumn.

Heathers provide height and a feathery structure to any autumnal pot and will last. You can get pink and white varieties that are widely available, as well as trailing varieties.

A close up of a flower

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Skimmia Japonica are impressive evergreen shrubs than can form the centrepiece for autumn and winter container displays, with their green leaves and shiny red berries. If you only have room for one, make sure you have the sub-species ‘reevesiana’ which doesn’t need a male or female plant to be placed together (as the female plant produces the berries). Plants with berries should be available in September and October.

Winter pansies provide lovely colours from autumn until mid-spring. Smaller flowered varieties are more weather resistant and easier to combine with other plants than those with big flowers. Pansies are great for this time of year as they thrive in cooler weather, so plant them as part of a display or put them in pots.

Heuchera ‘sugar plum’ has bright pink leaves that provide long lasting colour and a contrast to other plants, particularly grasses.  This is also a hardy perennial that can be re-used in the garden as a permanent plant after being used as bedding.

Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’ is a great addition in autumn bedding as is provides texture. Its narrow shiny leaves give off a rich red in the low sunlight at this time of year, contrasting effectively with other plants. These will die back to ground level over winter. Click here for some great information.

Ornamental cabbages give a long-lasting display and are available in a vast range of colours and leaf shapes. Their correlation changes as the weather cools, creating an everchanging spectacle. They go well with fine and textured plants such as grasses.

A close up of a bunch of purple flowers

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You can also consider bee friendly combinations such as purple sedum paired with veronica and Agastache, giving a beautiful contrast of colours. Or opt for year-round colour with gorgeous bamboo, with yellow/green leaves in the summer and then turns bright red as the weather cools in autumn. Small plants can be used for bedding and then re-used as permanent garden plants.

Although BHGS don’t sell plants, we have all gardening supplies from compost to pots. Pop into our Evesham showroom, visit our website or if you can’t find what you’re looking for, email our sales team and we will be happy to help.

Date: 7th September 2020

Grow Your Own Cauliflower

As we all know, September is harvest time! There will be an abundance of fruit and veg that will need to be picked, cauliflower being one of them. It isn’t the easiest of vegetables to grow, so if you’re up for a challenge next growing season, we thought we’d give you a how to guide, with lots of useful tips, along with some lovely recipes you can use now.

Cauliflower are great as they can be grown all year round. The main sowing period is usually between March and May, although early crops can be sown under class in January and February.

Sowing
Sow thinly, 2cm deep in a seed bed. For smaller cauliflower, final rows should be 15cm apart and larger ones should be 60cm apart, leaving the same amount between each seed, depending on the size. For best results, sow in cell trays, using a good quality multi-purpose potting compost. Cauliflowers tend to mature quickly, so avoid raising too many plants at a time.

Cauliflowers prefer very fertile soil, so it is a good idea to dig in a bucketful of well-rotted manure before planting and raking in 150g per sqm of growmore/general purpose fertiliser as this will encourage growth. It is also essential to firm the soil before planting.

Where to grow
Do not grow them in soil which has grown cabbage, cauliflower, kale, Brussel sprouts, spinach and other members of the brassica family in the last two years.

The soil needs to be firm not loose and it is advisable to prepare the ground a few weeks before planting/sowing.

The soil Ph needs to be correct for cauliflowers, it needs to be neutral, so a pH of 6.5/7. Use a soil testing kit for best results.

Water well in dry weather, watering every 10 days. Once the plants are growing well, add 30g per sqm of a high nitrogen fertiliser such as sulphate of ammonia to boost growth and curd formation.

Cauliflower Care
To get the best formed heads of cauliflower, water and feeding are the most important factors. Cauliflower will stop growing without a good supply of water and nutrients and you won’t be able to revive them once the damage has been done. As soon as the soil starts to dry out, water and scatter some growmore around them once a week.

When the cauliflower heads start to form, a few weeks before harvest, stop feeding with a nitrogen rich fertiliser and swap to a potash feed.

 

around the plants will improve water retention greatly whilst also providing nutrients. Just make sure the mulch does not touch the plants.

When to harvest
Begin to harvest when the heads are about 12cm wide, at this stage, the heads could grow larger but they taste perfect and you will start the harvest early and extend the harvest period too. Continue to harvest as required from then on.

When the heads reach about 15cm wide, tie in some of the outer leaves over the head and hold them there with either some string or a rubber band. This will snap the leaf ribs, causing the plant to stop growing as well as keeping the heads whiter for longer.

Common problems
Club root – Roots can become swollen and distorted. Leaves become pale and yellow and will start to wilt, this may cause plants to die.

Improving drainage will help this problem, as well as adding lime to make the soil more alkaline. It is important to know that you should not grow in affected soil.

Birds – Especially pigeons, can cause many problems. These include, eating seedlings, buds, leaves, fruit and vegetables.

Protect your plants from birds by covering them with either netting or fleece. Scarecrows and bird scaring devices will work short term, but the most effective deterrent is covering your plants.

Caterpillars – Caterpillars will feed on brassicas but the most common are cabbage white butterfly. You can usually see them but if not, you will see the holes they make in the leaves.

If there are only a few, you should be able to pick the caterpillars off. Although, the best prevention method is covering them with am insect meshing to stop them from laying eggs and stop the problem becoming worse.

Recipes
There are so many wonderful things you can do with cauliflower; the list is endless. Here is a lovely, simple recipe from Jamie Oliver, to help give you some inspiration.

Cauliflower cheese Pasta
Serves: 4, Cooking time: 30 minutes

  • 100g stale crusty bread

  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled

  • 400g cauliflower

  • Olive oil

  • 1 onion, peeled

  • 400ml milk

  • 300g dried spaghetti

  • 70g cheddar cheese

1) Tear the bread into the food processor, along with the garlic and any nice leaves from the cauliflower. Add ½ tbsp of olive oil and blitz until you have fairly fine breadcrumbs. Tip into a large frying pan on a medium heat and cook for 15 minutes until golden and crispy. Stirring occasionally.

2) Meanwhile, roughly chop the onion along with the cauliflower. Tip the breadcrumbs in a bowl, returning the pan to the heat. Pour the milk and add the chopped veg, bring to the boil and then reduce to a low heat, cover and simmer.

3) Place the pasta in boiling, salted water and cook until al dente (roughly 10 minutes). Just before the pasta is ready, pour the cauliflower mixture in the food processor, grate the cheese, blitz until smooth and season.

4) Return the sauce to the pan, drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of pasta water. Toss the pasta through the sauce and add a spoonful of the pasta water to loosen it up if needed. Serve with a sprinkling of the breadcrumbs.

There are lots of cauliflower recipes on the BBC Good Food website for you to try.

 

So, there we have it, our how to guide on how to grow cauliflower, we hope you found it useful and will give it a go next time!

BHGS stock and supply an extensive range of horticultural products to help you all through the year. You can either visit our website, email us or pop into our showroom. Our sales team are always happy to help.

 

 

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