Posts Tagged ‘container gardening’

Growing Vegetables A beginners guide

September 14, 2017

Sick of paying supermarket prices for your greens? Then why not sow vegetable seeds and start your own vegetable patch!

Not only is growing your own little vegetable haven a great thing to keep you occupied but it can save you money too. Those tomatoes you need to cook your favourite meal? No need to go and fork out lots of money at the supermarket, just head to your garden!

For many though, the prospect of starting a veg patch can be a little daunting. That’s why we’ve put together a little beginner’s guide to creating your own vegetable plot, sowing vegetables seeds is easy and fun even if you only have a small veg plot. We hope you find it useful! What would you like to grow? Before you do anything you need to decide what it is you would like to grow. As a beginner I recommend you start small. Putting too much on your plate means that you’re going to be overwhelmed with trying to manage and maintain everything in your plot.

Remember that things like tomatoes and peppers will continue to provide throughout the season. Things like carrots and corn however will only produce once, so you may need to plant more of these.

A favourite is baby leaf vegetable seeds where you can sow the salad leaf mixtures found on the supermarket shelves, make your own mixtures up from some of the following or add your own, Lettuce, Corn Salad, Rocket, Cress, Radicchio, Pak Choi, Mizuna, Lambs Lettuce, Baby Spinach, Endive, Chervil, Mustard Greens, Dandelion

It’s all about what you and your family will eat. There’s no point planting peppers if nobody is going to eat them!

Do you have the room? Now you know exactly what it is you’re growing you can start to estimate the kind of space you’re going to need. You aren’t going to need a lot of space. Heck, you don’t even need a garden. You could grow veg in some containers on your balcony!

There are a few things that the vegetables do need to flourish though:

  • Plenty of sun. Less sun means that they might not produce as much food and they may be more susceptible to diseases.
  • Lots of water. Like everything, your plants need water to grow. If you’re in a bit of a dry spell, make sure that you give them plenty.
  • Quality soil. Regardless of what you’re growing quality soil is a must. The majority of veg perform well in rich well drained soil.

Test the soil So, how do you test if your soil is up to the challenge? Well soak the soil with a hose and then leave it over night. The next morning head out into the garden grab a handful and squeeze. If water is streaming out then you’re going to want to add compost to help improve the drain.

If the soil hasn’t congealed in your hand then it may be too sandy. Adding organic matter will help this.

Now you’re soil is ready, plant your vegetable seeds!

Keep the weeds at bay Unsurprisingly, weeds are as unwelcome in the veg patch as they would be anywhere else in the garden. These pests compete with your veg for sun, water and nutrients. Once a week head out to your patch and pull out all the weeds you can.

You should also look into veg fertilizers to make the most of your crop.

Patience and proper care should mean that your veg yield plenty for you and the family!

Good luck!

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Cucumbers – grow your own

September 9, 2017

Cucumbers

There is no doubt about it, a salad just isn’t a salad without cucumber, whether sliced, diced or even lightly pickled in advance by a few hours in a nice French vinaigrette dressing. Most people are used to shop-bought cucumber have almost forgotten how fabulous a cucumber can taste when it is brought still warm from the sun and eaten with a touch of salt, some nice crumbly cheese and a piece of crusty bread. Cucumbers don’t need complicated preparation – slice, season and eat. Delicious.

 

Another thing that many people don’t know is how many different varieties of Vegetable Cucumber seeds there are and how amazingly easy they are to grow. If you plant just a few seeds of any type of cucumber, either a greenhouse variety such as Femspot or an outdoor sort (sometimes called ‘ridge’) such as Marketmore, you will soon become the most popular person in town, because you will have plenty to share with your friends and neighbours. Cucumber seeds grow into plants that are usually very heavy croppers and most varieties now are resistant to the moulds and mildews which used to be such a problem when growing this kind of very succulent vegetable.

 

Cucumbers are not just for salads of course. Children often love to just eat them like fruit and there are a couple of varieties which have this in mind. Crystal Lemon cucumbers are great fun for a lunchbox. They don’t grow very big and are round with yellow skins (hence the name) and the flesh is very sweet and juicy so you can eat them just like an apple. A mini-cucumber which has a more standard look is little Pony Cucumber, which fits fine in any packed lunch. Both of these cucumbers will happily grow outside in warmer areas or with a little protection if the climate is a little colder, so they are a perfect choice for a child to grow themselves and as we all know, all children eat their five a day far more readily if they have grown them themselves.

 

If you are into doing your own pickling, why not start from scratch and grow your own gherkins. This way, you can pick them really tiny or let them get a bit bigger and pickle them in brine. Polish dill pickles, ogórki kiszone, take only around 20 minutes to make (although the five week fermentation is a long time to wait if you really love them) and cost a fraction of what you would pay in a shop. Just one packet of seeds will give you enough fruits to put in pickles for the whole year and cost less than one jar.

Winter Hanging Baskets

August 15, 2017

It is believed that the hanging basket was originally designed to remind a princess of home, some also believe the idea came from the hanging gardens of Babylon, it is with the wonderful versatility of this idea that we can design our own little piece of heaven from our doorstep right through to our garden. However, casting our minds back to the long, cold winter we experienced not so long ago it is probable that most of us may be reluctant to consider planning how to add warmth to our otherwise dreary doorways and garden during the late season. Despite this, in order to avoid even the slightest, sparse period it is vital to plan ahead when it comes to complimenting any garden displays throughout the seasons. When it comes to winter hanging baskets a mixture of upright and tumbling plants can have the best effect. Shrubs like Box,  heathers and carex (ornamental grass) can provide height while trailing plants like ivy not only add warmth but can also hide the edges of the basket. Bedding plants such as primroses, violas, cyclamen and polyanthus will contribute colour with winter pansies great for filling in any gaps and can be grown from seeds.

Regardless of space or the size of your doorway, choose no smaller than a 14-inch basket. Cover the inside of the basket with a coconut fibre liner, followed by a plastic disc to use as a saucer in the bottom of the hanging basket to help retain water. Using soil based compost, particularly if growing shrubs put a one-inch layer into the base of the basket. Make three small cuts across the sides of the liner or fibre. These small holes can be used to secure the plants in place, preventing damage to the root ball of each plant. Add another layer of compost followed by more plants. Once everything has been added fill the basket with compost but leave an approximate two-inch gap from the top. Pack the compost and the plants in tightly, filling any gaps with smaller flowers and compost.

During the winter months, the rugged flowers of heather are superb at filling out an arrangement and surrounding them with trailing plants such as ivy or creeping thyme will soften the edges. With preparation remaining key, why not add a few dwarf daffodil, narcissus, tulips or iris bulbs to extend the display well into spring. Once quality plants and shrubs are chosen, maintain your winter hanging basket by not letting it dry out and dead heading flowers as soon as they show any signs of fading. If weather conditions become harsh, boost your plants with a weekly liquid feed.

Vegetable Container Gardening

May 5, 2017

There is absolutely no argument that home grown vegetables taste better than anything you can buy in the shops, and that includes organic produce and that bought at farmers’ markets and farm shops. It isn’t just about freshness; there is the taste of satisfaction that you get when you have grown something yourself, especially if you have raised it from seed.

Swiss Chard Container

Swiss Chard Container

You don’t have to be a very experienced gardener to grow vegetables from seed and you certainly don’t need an enormous plot. Lots of people make the mistake of taking on an allotment and getting disheartened with the amount of work they have let themselves in for. If time is tight or you just want to treat yourself occasionally with something home grown, there is nothing wrong with trying vegetable container gardening, on the patio or even along the path, if space is really in short supply.

One of the top tips for anyone raising plants from seed is to read the packet carefully. All seeds in Nicky’s Nursery will give you all the information you need to help you achieve success. With vegetables in particular you can get details on when to sow and whether you can start seeds off indoors or sow them directly where they are to grow; when the vegetables will be ready to harvest; and, perhaps most importantly when trying out vegetable container gardening, how big they will grow. Although it is possible to grow runner beans in a container, supporting them can be tricky as the plants can get heavier than the pot. If you have access to some real terracotta pots of a decent size, that is a real help as they won’t tip over so quickly and they also don’t tend to make the roots as hot as plastic pots will.

You might feel that you don’t want to make too much of an outlay on your vegetable container gardening project, in case you don’t like it (although you will, that is almost a guarantee!) and in that case you can look around the house and garden for containers. One brilliant way to vegetable garden on the cheap is to use supermarket ‘lifetime’ carrier bags, with drainage holes punched in. Be careful to choose the ones which form a square bottom, for stability, but this way you not only have a container for a few pence, but you can also move lighter crops around by lifting by the handles. They are ideal for carrots (for a bit of fun try crème de lite pale yellow carrots or cosmic purple); beetroot, leeks, celery and a host of other vegetables where you might want to sow just a few at a time.

You will soon find you are hooked on vegetable container gardening and next year you can try all sorts of exciting things to perk up your plate – try chillies, herbs, and marrows or branch out into kohlrabi, chicory or the tiniest of baby new potatoes; all much nicer than from the shops and cheaper too.

Grow your own Tomatoes from Seed

March 12, 2017

Tomatoes picked straight from the plant and eaten within minutes are one
of the most amazing pleasures of growing your own – nothing comes even close to
the smell, texture and taste of a fresh tomato. When you grow your own
tomatoes from seed, there are lots of things to consider and if you are new to it, it is
well worth looking in to all the different kinds available but be warned –
there are hundreds to choose from.

Baby Tomatoes Goldrush Currant

The first consideration is how much room you have. If you have a
spacious greenhouse which you won’t want for any other growing for the whole
season, then really you can have practically any variety. For tomatoes
throughout the season, choose different varieties so that you don’t end up with
an enormous glut all at once. Also, it is a good idea to choose a few different
sizes – beefsteak tomatoes for Mediterranean salads and sandwiches (try Black
Brandywine
, a heritage dark variety which looks spectacular and tastes
wonderful); plum tomatoes for cooking; cherry style tomatoes which are ideal
for children’s snacks and finally the classic round tomatoes for salads and
general use – although it is great fun to vary it with a few unusual ones
available from Nicky’s Nursery such as egg yolk, a yellow variety the size and
colour of, yes, you’ve guessed it, an egg yolk! The packet sizes from Nicky’s
Nursery are very sensible, with 10-30 seeds depending on variety, so you won’t
be boring the neighbours with trays of unwanted tomato plants.

Tomato Black Cherry

Sweet & Juicy Tomato Black Cherry

The other thing to check before buying is whether your tomato plants
need a greenhouse or will grow outdoors. If you are new to growing tomatoes
from seed you may have come across the terms ‘determinate’ and ‘indeterminate’
and wondered what it means. It is very simple really and you will need to
consider how you will be using the fruits before you choose which you grow.
Determinate tomato plants grow not very high, usually around four feet and are
often also called ‘bush’ tomatoes. They grow and set fruit until the truss
(group of tomatoes) on the top of the plant sets, then all the fruit ripens at
once – usually over around two weeks – and then the plant dies. Indeterminate
tomatoes keep on growing and can reach quite high if you don’t pinch out the
terminal buds. The fruit sets and ripens as the plant grows and so you will keep
on getting fruit for a whole season. Most of the more unusual or heritage
strains are indeterminate and if you only intend to grow a few plants, they are
the best to choose. You can lengthen the season with determinate strains by
sowing the tomato seeds in batches, but you won’t be able to lengthen the season by
much.

Summer tastes are really encapsulated in the taste, tang, feel and smell
of a fresh tomato straight off the bush or vine and growing them from seed
could hardly be simpler, so if you only grow one vegetable plant this year,
make it a tomato.

Baby Veg from seeds

November 15, 2016

Cucamelon, Melothria Scabra, Mexican Sour Gherkin

Baby vegetable seeds can be grown in a variety of different ways. You don’t
have to buy seeds which are specifically developed to give baby vegetables – you can also
harvest early or sow the seed thickly of some varieties, so they don’t have much chance to
develop. Some people like to harvest crops such as carrots and leeks when they
are small as a matter of course – they tend to be sweeter then as the sugars
have not converted to starch and they are also tenderer. If you take
precautions against attracting carrot fly – you can ask a dozen gardeners how
to prevent this pest and their replies will vary between putting ground coffee
on the ground, growing marigolds, onions and leeks nearby or using fleece –
then you can use two methods at once. You can sow thickly, then use the early
thinnings as baby veg and grow the rest on to maturity, harvesting as you go to
make the best of their sweetness.

Cucumber Pony baby cucumber

Some plants are best grown from deliberately bred dwarf stock, such as
aubergines – Nicky’s Nursery stocks Hansel, an F1 hybrid with purple fruit that
can be harvested as small as two inches long. This is something to remember –
small is not necessarily ‘baby’; it might mean unripe and therefore not good to
eat. Check the packaging if you intend to eat something when it is not mature;
not all plants take kindly to being harvested young and you could end up with
an inedible crop.

Aubergine Hansel

Baby Veg Aubergine Hansel harvest from 2 inches to 10 inches

Baby vegetables not only taste good, they look good too and if you are
on a diet and tending to ‘eat with your eyes’ the plate appeal is very
important. As well as being small, some of the baby vegetables come in weird
and wonderful colours, such as the cauliflower strain ‘Sunset’. As its name
suggests, it comes in a glowing orange shade, which is deepest at ‘baby’ size,
but does still linger even if allowed to grow to full maturity. If you like
runner beans but prefer smaller veg, then Minnow would be ideal. They are the
size of a stringless French bean but with all the taste of a runner.

Cauliflower Sunset seeds

Baby or Mini veg Cauliflower Sunset

Tomatoes are the undisputed rulers of the baby vegetable patch. Many of
the cherry tomatoes are less than an inch across but the baby of even this tiny
strain is the tomato sweet pea currant, which has masses of fruits of less than
a fifth that size. Perfect in salads or to encourage children to eat more
vegetables, tiny tomatoes are a fun way to the five a day. For a perfect salad,
try Iceberg Warpath, a baby lettuce with the crisp leaves of a classic iceberg
but none of the bulk. Baby vegetables need to be sown in succession, to make
sure of a season-long supply of the little beauties.

Heirloom Tomato seeds

September 11, 2016

We have many heirloom seed varieties in stock and over 190 tomato varieties to choose from, heirloom, plum, beefsteak, currant and tomato seeds for hanging basket varieties available from Nicky’s Tomato Seeds.

Tomato seeds Black pear
Unusual Heirloom miniature pear shaped tomato, producing an abundance of mahogany brown to black fruits approximately 170 gram with green shoulders, full of flavour with a rich sweet taste. Ideal for salads or for a tomato sauce. Black Russian tomato of Siberian origin (similar to Japanese Black Trifele). Easy to grow tomato seeds. Indeterminate 80 days
Tomato Black Pear 10 seeds

Tomato seeds Abraham Lincoln
The original strain of Heirloom tomato Abraham Lincoln. Dark red extra large meaty fruits up to 500g. Crack resistant variety. Excellent flavour for sauces, tomato ketchup, slicing in salads and sandwiches. 87 days Indeterminate.

Tomato seeds Druzba
Mini Beefsteak heirloom variety originating from Bulgaria. Superb flavoured pure red tomato up to 10cm across that is excellent in sandwiches and salads. Indeterminate (cordon) 80 days. Grow your own tomato plants from seeds.


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