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Gardening with Hannah Genders

Getting going on growing

Posted on April 16 2010 at 6:19:10 0 comments

Hannah picks some home-grown beans

Try growing your own veg – you’ll soon be hooked, writes Hannah Genders.

It’s a wonderful time of year when the vegetable garden is growing well and it’s time to begin the real planting out in late May – although do keep some fleece handy to protect young tender plants from those late frosts. As the saying goes, “Never cast a clout till May be out”, which dates back to about 1732, telling us to keep an eye on that weather right up until June comes in.

I’ve been having a great time this year with my new garden, getting it ready for all the vegetable seeds and moving fruit bushes earlier in the year to make room for everything. This has been quite hard work as it has involved digging over most of the plot to get rid of any weeds and rabbit-proofing the whole area.

The only thing I have found that really works to keep rabbits out is chicken wire fencing, on posts at about 2 ft (60cm) above the ground and about another foot (30cm) buried under the soil. It’s worth it to keep the little darlings off your new crops, though.

I also found the soil to be quite deficient of nutrients and so added lots of well-rotted manure begged from a local farmer; this ideally needs to be at least two years old for most crops to get the maximum benefit from it.

The other major job we did was to lay the native hedge at the back of the garden. This has let in loads more light and as an added bonus we can now see the Malverns on a clear day. Mike is already planning a shed “retreat” down there.

I have also been doing up the greenhouse (well, Mike has), replacing broken glass and resealing the windows. I haven’t had a greenhouse for a number of years and I’ve really enjoyed growing on all the plants under glass before planting out this month.

I have started most of my tender seeds in here from about mid-April: courgettes, beans and tomatoes mainly, with a few asparagus seeds as I would like to establish an asparagus bed in one area of the garden.

The courgettes I like to grow are the yellow-skinned variety, ‘Soleil,’ which produce an abundance of fruits every year – they look good and they taste delicious. Having grown them up to a good size in a warm place under glass, plant them out with plenty of well-rotted manure around their roots and make sure the position is sunny and very sheltered; they really don’t like the wind around them.

Along with courgettes, I grow two types of beans: runners and French beans. The runner beans I choose are an old heritage variety called “painted lady” – the pods are long and delicious and very tender, and the flowers are bi-coloured in orange and white, a picture in themselves.

Grow them up a framework of hazel, again planted out with lots of well-rotted manure, and ensure you keep them watered throughout the season when the pods are setting.

The French beans I grow are a climbing variety with purple pods. You can grow dwarf French beans but they do take up more room than a few grown up poles, and I sometimes plant my courgette plants underneath if I am very short of space; it seems to work fine and they all crop readily enough. The variety is called “Cosse Violette” – as I mentioned the pods are deep purple and very tender but they do turn green when cooked.

If you are completely behind with growing and would like to start planting beans and courgettes there are two alternatives left to you for this year. You can either prepare a bed and plant out the seeds straight into the ground now (it’s a bit late but usually plants will catch up in the warm weather), or visit a good garden centre or nursery and buy the pre-grown plants. There may not be so much choice left late in the season but you should find some plants to try in your garden.

Either way, once you have begun to harvest the produce in a month’s time you’ll be hooked on growing your own vegetables, as so many people are discovering.


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