Archives for September 2010

Brendan Little on growing veg in containers

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Brendan Little Brendan Little | 09:08 UK time, Thursday, 30 September 2010

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Brendan Little, gardening expert for BBC Northern Ireland answers your questions about growing veg. Send Brendan a question.

Ingrid Senger-Perkins from Stoke-on-Trent asks: I am a complete novice, but I want to start growing veg. I have no land, just a patio. Reading through the veg, I wonder, can I still plant if it says 'indoors from May'. Or can I just put them straight outside? What is the best way to get started?

Answer: When growing vegetables in containers it is important that they have adequate nutrients and water so irrigation and feeding will be important. Sow directly into the containers, little and often does the trick. The best way to get started is to open the seed pack and take the plunge. Some books and articles suggest that it's a minefield out there, take it from me no hard hat required!

Why some courgettes produce flowers but no fruit

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Brendan Little Brendan Little | 09:14 UK time, Tuesday, 28 September 2010

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Brendan Little, gardening expert for BBC Northern Ireland answers your questions about growing veg. Send Brendan a question.

Steve from Malvern asks: The courgettes I grew from seed all had male flowers. The courgette I bought as small plant gave 15-plus fruit. Why?

Answer: When courgettes come under stress, usually under- or overwatering or excessive heat they tend to produce more male than female flowers. Perhaps yours got a shock somewhere along the way whereas the one that you purchased did not. This is probably nature's was of ensuring that a plant under stress does not try to over fruit which may result in its demise.

Brendan Little on creating a veg patch

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Brendan Little Brendan Little | 09:31 UK time, Friday, 24 September 2010

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Brendan Little, gardening expert for BBC Northern Ireland answers your questions about growing veg. Send Brendan a question.

Suzanne from Hamilton asks: Next year I'd like to create a vegetable patch. I've read your tips. When is best to start preparing the ground? When is best time to start planting the seeds? Is it better to bring the seeds on in the greenhouse then plant them out?

Answer: Hello Suzanne, now is a great time to begin the planning of your veg patch. My advice is to build one or two raised beds but do assess your site first remembering that your veg will need maximum light. Fill the bed or beds with a good garden soil mixed with compost aiming for a light airy medium that will retain moisture without flooding. If you are just starting out I suggest that you go for direct sowing. Most people tend to sow too thickly so keep this in mind. Seed packets give an outdoor sowing time on the back of the packet and I always stick to this. Trying to 'jump the gun' always leads to tears!

Brendan Little on chemicals harming soil

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Brendan Little Brendan Little | 09:22 UK time, Thursday, 23 September 2010

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Brendan Little, gardening expert for BBC Northern Ireland answers your questions about growing veg. Send Brendan a question.

Catriona from Harpenden asks: I need to empty my swimming pool which is near my veggie patch. Will the chemicals in the water harm the soil?

Answer: As you know Catriona, swimming pool chemicals kill bacteria which are good in the pool but not in the garden as our soil is full of friendly bacteria. I also doubt if the worms would enjoy the experience either and these are the guys we need for healthy aerated soils. So I'm afraid the water will need to go elsewhere. I am wondering if your pool is above ground level as I have visions of a wonderful raised bed? Now that's an idea!

Hardy veg that will cope with cold weather

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Zoe Behagg - web producer Zoe Behagg - web producer | 15:40 UK time, Tuesday, 21 September 2010

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Autumn is here, with its shorter days and lower temperatures, which means you'll be saying goodbye to your summer veg. So the Dig In team popped over to the BBC Weather office to ask Broadcast Meteorologist Peter Gibbs what things that will be happier with the colder conditions and he gave us the following advice.

Plants like tomatoes, courgettes and French beans just aren't designed to cope with cold weather. Make sure you keep harvesting before they get killed off by frost, but don't forget you can pick tomatoes and ripen them indoors. You might be able to keep your plants going a little longer by giving them some protection. Horticultural fleece is ideal, a light fabric that can be bought at garden centres.

Root crops such as carrots and beetroot are much tougher and can stay in the ground until you need them. Just watch out for slugs, which love to come out to feed on mild, damp autumn nights.

There is some veg that you can plant now. Oriental greens such as pak choi and mizuna will stand frost, but get them going now while the soil is still fairly warm. You'll get even better results if you cover them with a cloche. The plastic ones are fairly inexpensive.

Miniature onions known as sets can go in, along with garlic bulbs. Broad beans can be sown now, but check on the back to make sure you get a variety suitable for autumn sowing. These will sprout, sit through the winter, then grow away next spring to give you an earlier crop.

Brendan Little on ripening green tomatoes

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Brendan Little Brendan Little | 09:16 UK time, Tuesday, 21 September 2010

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Brendan Little, gardening expert for BBC Northern Ireland answers your questions about growing veg. Send Brendan a question.

Julia Hesketh from Bishop Auckland asks: My tomatoes are still green on the stems and there is no sign of ripening. Is this normal in September?

Answer: Hi Julia, your situation is not unusual. Right now I suggest that you remove all of the foliage including the growing tip from the plants using a sharp knife. This will prevent further fruit production as well as allowing more light reach the green tomatoes. You should also bring some ripe fruit into the glasshouse as the gasses given off by the fruit will speed up the ripening of your tomatoes. If this fails to do the trick there is always the chutney route. Good luck!

Should I bin my compost?

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Gareth Austin Gareth Austin | 09:18 UK time, Monday, 20 September 2010

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Gareth Austin, gardening expert with BBC Radio Foyle, answers your questions about growing veg. Send Gareth a question.

Sheila Docherty from Dundee asks: I put Mare's Tail into my compost before I knew any better. Should I bin the lot or take my chances? Mare's tail is a huge problem here so I don't want to make it worse!

Answer: Sheila, big question - was it just the foliage or the roots too. If the roots were put in, same as many perennial weeds, you're unlikely to get a high enough temperature within the bin to neutralise these weeds so best just binning the lot and being more careful the next time. If, however, it was just the foliage as with the foliage of the docks these can be safely composted down in your back garden bin.

How to avoid courgette rot

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Gareth Austin Gareth Austin | 09:48 UK time, Friday, 17 September 2010

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Gareth Austin, gardening expert with BBC Radio Foyle, answers your questions about growing veg. Send Gareth a question.

Dig In grower Kate asks: My courgette plants produced beautiful flowers followed by baby courgettes but these have all rotted off - what have I done wrong?

Answer: Hi Kate, your flowers were damaged when they were initially pollinated, normally by a garden hose or heavy rainfall. Remove the rotting fruit and be careful when watering to only water the base of the plant.

Planting crops now for a winter harvest

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Gareth Austin Gareth Austin | 09:26 UK time, Thursday, 16 September 2010

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Gareth Austin, gardening expert with BBC Radio Foyle, answers your questions about growing veg. Send Gareth a question.

Martin from Holywood, County Down, asks: I have a lean-to greenhouse at the side of my house. What crops could I plant in it now for a winter or early spring harvest?

Answer: Hey Martin, the world is nearly your oyster. The big question is whether the greenhouse is heated or unheated. Normally they are unheated. In the greenhouse you could be starting onion sets and garlic cloves in cell trays for planting out when 5in to 6in tall. You could sow carrots and parsnips directly into the soil in the greenhouse. Also lettuce, cabbage, kohl rabi, pak choi, broccoli, endevi and many other crops can be grown under glass. It depends on how big your greenhouse is. This will determine the limit of your range.

Peter Horrocks on preserving the Dig In veg

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Peter Horrocks Peter Horrocks | 09:10 UK time, Wednesday, 15 September 2010

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Now you've grown all the produce as part of the Dig In campaign, you might like to think about storing some of the surplus if you haven't already devoured the loot!

Carrots need to be cleaned, either scraped or scrubbed before either blanching or cooking. In either case, cut into slices before processing and remember that blanching is preferable to cooking when it comes to tasting the final product. If you have some room, you can simply lift the carrots before laying them in a stiff cardboard box of either dryish sand or potting compost on their sides in layers separated by more sand or compost (so they don't touch in storage). That way, they'll be as fresh as the day you picked them for at least four months.

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Ways to control whitefly

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Gareth Austin Gareth Austin | 09:34 UK time, Tuesday, 14 September 2010

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Gareth Austin, gardening expert with BBC Radio Foyle, answers your questions about growing veg. Send Gareth a question.

Lynn Hughes from Bristol asks: I am getting a black sticky residue on my brassicas caused by whitefly. What should I do to control these pests?

Answer: Hey Lynn, there's kind of a disgusting explanation to this one. When the whitefly eat, whatever goes in has to come out. These excretions are very sugary and they attract a secondary problem called sooty mould, which is what your suffering from. You have a few options.

  1. Jet the cabbages with some water from your hose, this will dislodge most of the whitefly off your crop.
  2. Give them a wipe with a damp cloth regularly.
  3. Use an approved insecticide from your local garden centre.

For next year try to grow marigolds, spring onions, onions or garlic beside your cabbage, these will naturally reduce the occurrence of whitefly.

Gareth Austin on potato blight

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Gareth Austin Gareth Austin | 09:15 UK time, Monday, 13 September 2010

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Gareth Austin, gardening expert with BBC Radio Foyle, answers your questions about growing veg. Send Gareth a question.

Allison from Stirling asks: My potatoes have suffered from potato blight, although I did get a fairly good crop. Is it safe to sow salad leaves or some winter veg in this soil?

Answer: Hey Allison, the dreaded blight... it's a major problem for many gardeners. The secret with potato blight is to prevent it rather than to seek cure. Quick tips:

  1. If sowing in ridges, face them narrow end onto the prevailing wind.
  2. Work in plenty of sulphate of potash or log ash when planting.
  3. Choose varieties which are blight resistant (look out for 'Orla')
  4. Only use certified seed.
  5. Never water the foliage.
  6. Apply an organic control such as Bordeaux mix regularly from mid-July onwards at fortnightly intervals.

Or be like me and be lazy and just grow 'early' varieties. These are typically harvested before blight is about so you save on a lot of work. In your case, after harvesting you can plant really any other crops as long as there not potatoes - so winter cabbage, salads, and so on are all okay. However, carrots and parsnips will do very well in this soil so I'd plant them.

Growing veg in patio containers

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Gareth Austin Gareth Austin | 09:15 UK time, Friday, 10 September 2010

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Gareth Austin, gardening expert with BBC Radio Foyle, answers your questions about growing veg. Send Gareth a question.

Margaret Liston from Hassocks asks: Why haven't I been successful in growing beetroot, carrots and radishes in patio container planters? I have used multi-purpose compost and the beetroot and radishes have either come to nothing or are very small and the carrots are short, stumpy and mis-formed.

Answer: Oh Margaret, it sounds like you've not been having the best time of it with your veg. Just to go back to the start. When growing in pots it's important the pots are large enough, and have enough drainage - the ideal size is 55cm. It's vital your pots are never allowed to dry out so keep them well watered at all times. Also, use a John Inness-enriched compost - such as Multi Purpose with added John Inness when filling and include some slow-release fertiliser. Plus, ensure the crops get lots of sun, and that when sowing you sow them thinly - about 2in to 3in apart so the veg aren't overcrowded.

Gareth Austin on saving veg seeds

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Gareth Austin Gareth Austin | 09:24 UK time, Thursday, 9 September 2010

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Gareth Austin, gardening expert with BBC Radio Foyle, answers your questions about growing veg. Send Gareth a question.

Sarah Wady from Bedford asks: Can I save the seeds from courgettes and runner beans to plant next year?

Answer: Sarah, you can gather seeds from many veg including courgettes, beans, peas and pumpkins. Just let them dry out before storing them, store them in a paper envelope and they should keep well for sowing next spring.

Chris Collins on choosing new seeds

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Chris Collins Chris Collins | 09:10 UK time, Wednesday, 8 September 2010

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Hi all, I'm glad so many of you have taken part in the Dig In campaign and I hope you're all feeling confident about growing your veg next year. Autumn is a good time to start looking ahead to what you're going to plant next year and ordering seed catalogues to help you decide.

Kirsty from Glasgow asks: What should I look for when choosing and ordering seeds?

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Gareth Austin on combatting slugs organically

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Gareth Austin Gareth Austin | 09:15 UK time, Tuesday, 7 September 2010

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Gareth Austin, gardening expert with BBC Radio Foyle, answers your questions about growing veg. Send Gareth a question.

Debby Parlett asks: I am trying to grow organically and have tried many methods to combat slugs, I'm losing the battle! From egg shells, copper tape, course sand, sandpaper, gel, beer traps and organic pellets. But these pellets also kill the worms and these are ultimately eaten by the ducks. What else can I do?

Answer: Hey Debby, wow you're keen I'll give you that! Okay, in my experience beer traps are very effective however it's all about your choice of tipple. A trial on BBC Radio 4 with lots of beers, ales and stouts found that Guinness was the most effective so try this and see how you get on. Copper tape is completely effective too. However, it must be installed as a continual band and there must be no overhang of foliage which slugs can climb up on. Another good tip is to regularly feed your garden birds. Birds such as thrushes and blue tits will devour as many slugs as they can find. Also, you mention that you have ducks. If the wings are clipped let these out around your garden in the evening and they will devour as many slugs as they can find. Hope this all helps!

Gareth Austin on cabbage white butterfly eggs

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Gareth Austin Gareth Austin | 09:19 UK time, Monday, 6 September 2010

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Gareth Austin, gardening expert with BBC Radio Foyle, answers your questions about growing veg. Send Gareth a question.

Stuart Sutton from Swindon asks: How can I stop the cabbage white butterfly laying its eggs on my summer/winter greens?

Answer: Hi Stuart, the best bit of advice I ever got is to grow nasturtium flowers in a large pot beside your veg patch. The butterfly will prefer to lay its eggs on the nasturtiums than your cabbage. Simple and mega effective! Plus, you can eat the nasturtium flowers and leaves too!

Chris Collins shows how to sow green manure

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Chris Collins Chris Collins | 09:11 UK time, Thursday, 2 September 2010

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Hi all, if you've been busy harvesting your veg, you may be wondering what to do next. This is a good time to improve the soil that's left behind by sowing green manure. Watch my video below to see how to do this.

Steve from Cleveland asks: I've bought some green manure seeds to sow in October and November, and then dig in next year. Will this help improve my soil?

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