On Thursday 21 September CHAPS members were treated to an excellent talk by Barry Newman on the Modern Kitchen Garden. Barry is passionate about growing your own fruit and vegetables as it allows harvesting at optimum maturity, produce is high in flavour and nutrients and varieties which are too delicate for transportation and storage can be grown. The UK imports 50 % of vegetables (of which 80% arrives by air) and 95% of fruit.
There are three approaches to cultivation – Open Ground, Container Growing and Raised Beds.
Open ground is the traditional approach and is suitable for larger gardens. Compartmentalising allows for easier crop rotation. It is important not to put down paving to give clean access to the plot as snails and slugs love living under the slabs and then eat the produce you have so carefully planted.
In a small space squashes can be grown vertically up hedges or a cargo net thrown over a shed.
Vegetable growing can also be integrated with flowers.
Container growing is a very versatile way of growing where space is restricted. Pots, troughs, grow bags, old sinks can all be used. So long as the plants have access to water, nutrients and air (uncompacted ground) they will grow. Barry recommended that containers have a depth of at least 8inces or 30cm and that liquid feed is provided little and often as over feeding can slow growth down. Barry showed us several horticultural sundries he uses to grow vegetables in or to support vegetables as they grow. He sources these from LBS Horticultural Supplies.
The website address is http://www.lbsbuyersguide.co.uk where you can either download a catalogue or request one to be sent to you.
Herbs grow well in a strawberry planter but to ensure the bottom openings also support growth put a brick at the bottom and rest a vertical length of drain pipe on it so you can get water all the way from the top of the pot to the bottom without the root system of the intervening herbs taking it all up before it reaches the bottom. Also turn the pot every week or so to allow sufficient light to reach all the plants.
Potatoes can be grown in bags with holes in the bottom let into a trench to keep them cool. Dig a trench, fork Vitax Q4 into the bottom of the trench, plant one potato at the bottom of each bag and fill with compost. The roots will go through the holes into the trench and the potatoes will grow in the bags. The recommended varieties are Kestrel, Nadine and Charlotte. Cut the leaves off a week before lifting the potatoes. Pour the compost and potatoes out, pick the potatoes and put the compost aside to use again next year. This way no potatoes are left in the ground to sprout next year. The bags can be reused for 4 to 5 years.
Raised beds, also known as deep beds use space very efficiently. The width should be around 4’6” or 140cm so the centre can be reached from both sides. The depth should be 6 to 8 inches or 20 to 30cm. Use wood chip or bark for the paths between the beds on a weed membrane. The wood chip will keep the slugs and snails away and the weed membrane will prevent worm casts and moles. Raised beds warm up quickly and drain quickly. Raised beds can be constructed from sleepers, new wood, concrete or supercrete.
With raised beds there is no soil compaction as you do not walk on the beds which means there is good soil structure, less digging and good drainage.
Barry suggested growing courgettes up 6 foot or 2 metre tree stakes. Set the stake into the ground and plant the courgette to the stake. When it starts to run lift it gently and tie very gently to the stake with bailer twine. Tie it every 4 inches or 10cm for the first 2 feet or 60cm, then tie in every 8 inches or 20cm. The courgette plant will run up on a single stem and keep the fruits off the ground. Recommended varieties are Ambassador, Venus and Defender.
The benefit of raised beds is all weather access, crops are easy to reach and crop rotation is simple – four raised beds and each year move everything round one bed.
Other tips were:
o Prune tomato trusses to 14/15 fruits and always keep the roots moist
o Plant Cobra variety French beans
o Earth up beetroot to keep the tops red and smooth
o Use a mix of 60% soil and 40% compost in containers or raised beds
o If working with raised beds apply organic matter to one bed each year – lightly fork over the surface before the end of the year, apply a 4 to 5 inch (10 to 12cm) layer of organic matter over the top, cover with weed resistant fabric and brick down the edges, leave until February, lightly fork in and plant through it
The talk was very well received by members who had many questions. We all left inspired to try out some of the techniques we had learnt about during the evening. I am looking forward to seeing the results at the shows throughout 2018.