Archive | Fruit, Vegetables & Herbs

Tips on growing good Fruit, Vegetables and Herbs

A Late sowing of Kale


Here in Oxford, we tried sowing some Kale in the middle of August.

We sowed some directly into pots and as an after thought sowed some directly into the ground.

Going on holiday for two weeks after sowing seeds is always asking for trouble, and by the time we got back they had shriveled up and were only good for the compost heap. However, the seeds sown direct into the ground did quite well. A few got eaten by slugs but a couple grew fast enough to escape their clutches.

The location in the garden wasn’t the best, with shade from Conifer and other trees limited the amount of direct sun, as Autumn progressed, they were lucky to get one hour of sun per day. Yet, despite little direct sunlight, they kept growing and soon started to encroach on each other. We started picking some leaves from the bottom of the plants and got a few meals out of them.

As the nights shortened, growth slowed down almost to a stop and the Kale pests seemed to be taking out more than they were able to grow. I think later damage came from pigeons or the like, it doesn’t look like the work of slugs – too big and neat.

Anyway, they look OK, in the mostly empty border and were a good ground-cover as we await a new fence. The last few straggly plants will be harvested and will make the odd meal or two.

But, for late sowing, they didn’t get enough sunlight to really get going – even the richest soil can’t compensate for lack of light. But, next year, we’ll pick a better spot and hope that they really take off. We may also try a later sowing because Kale is a good plant for providing fresh veg through the winter months. However, we may have to take pest control a bit more seriously which will mean netting to stop both butterflies and pigeons – so maybe not in the flower border.

Here’s a useful post on growing organic Kale.

Related posts at Gardenerstips


Edible Hedges You Can Grow & Pick

Sloes and damsons are in good supply this September in your local hedgerows. I have relied on my own blackberries this year but from the train window yesterday there were masses of plump black fruit for picking.

Forage amongst the book shelves to get a cornucopia of edible wild plant ideas.

Book Cover
You can plant your own edible hedge now until late March which will give you a supply of edible fruit and berries for years to come. Bare rooted plants are very reasonably priced.

Easy Step by Step Hedge

Clear the ground to remove weeds and old roots by digging or using Glyphosphate based weedkiller. Leave for a few weeks.
Pick a frost free day and when ready to plant put bundles of bare rooted plants into a bucket of water to give them a drink.
Mark out the line of the hedgerow bearing in mind you will want two staggered rows of plants. You can put down mulch matting and plant through it if you wish.
You will need 4-5 plants per square yard.
Continue Reading →


Selecting a New Apple Tree

There are over 7000 different varieties of apple tree including those classed as eaters, cookers, crab or cider apples. 10% of these are available from RHS plant finder recommended nurseries.

Horticultural Considerations

  • Your apple tree should last a long time and be fruitful and satisfying. It is worth taking care to get the selection right.
  • The growth and size of your tree will depend to a large extent on the ‘rootstock’. The most common rootstocks are M27 5-6 feet tall, M26 8-12 feet tall and MM106 12-18 feet tall.
  • Some varieties of apple in clay based soil may grow slightly quicker and larger than an apple planted on light, sandy or chalky soil.
  • Most apple trees need another cultivar to pollinate their flowers and set fruit. It must flower at the same time. Triploid trees are very poor pollinators.
  • Some varieties are more disease resistant than others. Seek out award of garden merit AGM varieties or discuss with a specialist nursery.

Personal Selection Criteria

  • Warm country imports from supermarkets often have less flavour than your home grown apples.
  • Autumn apple days are held around the country and can offer a wealth of local advice. Sample tasting may be possible or you can select trusted well known favourites.
  • How you want to grow your tree can affect the selection. A trained espalier tree or cordon grown on a slant, a ballerina tree grown in a large pot or a ‘step over hedge’ tree are currently popular in designer gardens. The choice is yours but plan now for planting later this autumn.
  • Two year old trees will cost more but crop sooner than maidens.


June 17th Potatoes from a Waterbutt

This £1 packet of supermarket potato tubers have just been harvested to cook as new potatoes tonight. The variety was Charlotte, they were chitted in February and planted out in a frost shelter in March.

The results were better than usual in that they didn’t ‘go into the water’ when boiled. The potatoes were quite waxy, tasty and good value considering the price I paid. I used an old waterbutt rather than these special gro’bags see below. They had let me down in the past as I think they do not hold enough moisture. One advantage of both planters is that the ground stays clear and the space can now be used for other items.

I am now going to try use these planters for some late Chrysanthemums that can be kept outside in summer but brought into the greenhouse for autumn.


Long White Radishes

Mild-flavored winter radish usually characterized by fast-growing leaves and a long, white fleshy roots

White Radish (Raphanus sativus) Facts

  • Seeds of the Daikon, Mooli, Japanese or Oriental Radish are  popular for their pure white roots.
  • Generally they have  a crisp mild flavour that won’t go pithy.
  • Fully winter hardy they are best grown for autumn and winter production.
  • Roots can remain in the ground in good condition over a long period.
  • They can be lifted and stored the same as other root crops.
  • They produce best in sun and moist, fertile soil.
  • Radish do not transplant well but you can try using plugs.



  • Long White Icicle is currently on offer from Suttons in support of Cancer Research.
  • 23 varieties of Asian Radish seeds from
  • Or try our link to Thompson & Morgan top right



Mesclun Gardeners Salad from Seed

Mesclun is a name for a traditional melange of salad leaves. The name mesclun doesn’t feature in any of my gardening reference books before 1980 so old gardeners may not recognise the term.

Anything Goes Mixes

  • Traditionally the mixture was a blend of wild and cultivated chicory, as well as lamb’s lettuce and young dandelion leaves.
  • There are regional variations for mesclun, in Provence they use a blend of chervil, arugula, lettuce and endive.
  • One particular  American special ‘Salad Leaf Mesclun Mix is lettuce based on a colourful mix of Red Batavia, Green Batavia, Little Gem, Tango, Red Salad Bowl and Cerbiatta varieties.
  • An Italian equivalent for mesclun is misticanza, Thompson & Morgan’s Misticanza D’Insalate contains: Lettuce Bionda a Foglia Liscia, Bionda a Foglia Riccia, Verde a Foglia Riccia, Meraviglia Delle 4 Stagioni and Biscia Rossa.. seeds
  • A speedy UK mix to be sown all year indoors contains Salad Rocket Victoria, Greek Cress, Mizuna, Mustard Green & Red Frills, Pak Choi Canton White.

How to Grow Mesclun

  • Seeds should be sown thinly outdoors in summer or in an unheated greenhouse during the autumn and winter months.
  • Sow little and often to get continuity
  • Germination is quick and you can start picking within as little as 28 days.
  • Thining out is not necessary or plant out quite close together as leaves are for eating young and fresh.
  • Leaves are tastiest at the baby stage start cutting when  2-3 inches high. Cut and come again in a few weeks.
  • If the weather turns hot many varieties tend to bolt.

Some mixtures include more exotic greens, especially those quite popular in Asian cuisine. One particularly flavorful variety is called mizuma, a delicate-leaved sort that is popular in Japan. Another is the Asian tat-soi, which has rather sweet dark green leaves.


Courgette Fruit Problems


Curcurbits are members of the 965 species gourd family that includes Marrows (Courgettes), Cucumber, Melon, Pumpkin and Squash.  

Courgette Fruiting

Plants produce both male and female flowers. The male flowers grow on a thin erect stem. Female flowers are recognisable because they contain an ovary within a swelling behind the yellow flower. Male flowers grow above the vine with a central stamen containing pollen with which to fertilise the female.

The fruit grows behind the pollinated femail flower eventually sheding the petals. Left to grow the courgette will continue into a marrow sized fruit. Some small varities have now been bred to produce small fruit.

 What can go wrong:

  1. Male flower production will be favoured by low temperatures and or excessive shade. Give plants enough space. Choose a warm sunny position.
  2. At the start of flowering often only male flowers grow. As days lengthen both flowers should be formed.
  3. Fruit only swelling at the neck near the top indicates incomplete pollination due to cold or lack of insect visits. Remove these fruit to avoid end rot and shriveling.
  4. Too many fruit on a plant will encourage shriveling and rotting of fruitletes. Remove all useable fruit as soon as possible.
  5. Fruit allowed to grow to maturity as marrows will switch off the cropping as the reproduction is done.

Pollinating Tips

  • Encourage insects to help move the mature pollen. Avoid insecticides.
  • Wind can help pollination but the flower petals are more designed for insects making a funnel shape .
  • In a greenhouse or cold frame the gardener can remove a male flower and manually transfer the pollen from male to female by tapping the male flower above the ovary.
  • Do not pick male flowers  for hand pollination until the pollen is mature.

Biennial Apple Trees

An apple a day is not possible if you only get an apple every other year and that is the fate of some trees. Biennial bearing or a high crop followed by virtually no crop is not the sort of apple production a gardener needs.

Causes of Erratic Fruiting

  • Some types of apple cultivars are more prone than others to fruiting only in alternative years. Beauty of Bath and Laxton’s Superb naturally tend to fruit biennally.
  • Trees can be tipped into biennial mode by frost when no pollination takes place.
  • No crop, high crop, no crop becomes learnt behaviour
  • Heavy crop during an on year depletes the resources and the tree takes a rest or year out
  • Keeping too much old wood reduces new wood and can lead to biennial bearing.
  • Cropping patterns are internally regulated by the tree.

Solutions to Erratic Apple Bearing

  • Select varieties and pollinators with care.
  • Thin out the flower clusters leaving only 10% of the flowers to shock the tree and modify its behaviour. It may take several seasons.
  • Water your trees and look after them during both years.

Other Comments

  • Apple trees  initiate flower buds for next season’s crop in the current season.
  • An alternation of large and small crops can be caused by competition between the current season’s crop and the coming season’s flower buds.
  • Seed-produced hormones from the developing ovules have an inhibitory effect on flower development. Apple may be prone to this floral inhibition.

Good Bugs Bad Bugs

Bug eyed but not spritely.
Book Cover

During May we featured several common garden pests and bugs. Now before we leave the subject a few more comments.

You can get more by experience or via a book, magazine and further online info sites. eg cut-flower insects and mites

Experience of Bugs
Book Cover

  • If you garden for any length of time or even like to have a bunch of flowers in the house you will be bugged at some stage.
  • Stressed plants can be susceptible to aphids. you should see my lupins after a water shortage.
  • Insects at all stages of their life feed on something and they are likely to affect some of your plants. You should see my stripped French Marigolds at the moment. They were only planted in the greenhouse to keep the white fly off the tomato plants!
  • Slugs and snails and puppy dog tails or at least 2 out of the three will chomp through unprotected plants. My rhubarb has even succumbed this year to holey leaf, still we can’t eat that bit of the plants.
  • Sgt Pepper is the only beatle number I want in my garden not Colorado Beetle or Cucumber Beetle. So far so good but that is tempting fate.
  • My first early potatoes will be picked next week and I hope to have escaped cutworm, wireworm,  tuberworms  flea beetles and sundry maggots. Again tempting fate.

Good Bug

  • Some may think the only good bug is a squashed bug I beg to differ.
  • All gods creature have a place in the choir- some sing loud some sing higher …………
  • Ladybirds other than harlequin ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis) are known for eating aphids so I know which I want in the garden.

Spuds And Potatoes

Copyright creative commons non commercial

Demo for charity presentation

Bridge and potatoes

Growing well in ridges well hoed up to avoid green tubers

Potato plant

Typical solanum flowers of the potato


Wedges of potato sown with an eye in each chunk.

2010-09-22 11-12-42 - IMG_1791 Flowers on potato plants

Not all flowers are white or blue for that matter – species vary

Sick potato plant

Dried up leaves in hard packed soil – not a good recipe for success.

080325 ジャガイモの植え付け

Planted deep with granular fertiliser


Above soil fruit on the haulms look like miniature spuds

Potato plant
Small potatoes!

Potato patch 2008

Test bed


Cleanish spuds


4 stage planting

Happy Potato Plants

Potato sack

Potato Planting with Comfrey Leaves

Comfrey leaves make potato seed comfy

Six Weeks After Planting...

Small pots for new spuds

Potato flower

Another flowering spud now ready to harvest

Potato planting

Helpful gardeners for labour intensive crop planting

Red and white

Potato Mash-Up


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