At the February meeting of Clays Horticultural Society, a full hall greeted speaker Jeff Bates. Jeff, a retired college lecturer who learned his basic knowledge gardening with his father, is passionate about growing vegetables.
He began by asking his audience, why do we grow our own? The taste is first and foremost, but it can also be a fun activity that can help one to keep fit. Perhaps his most important advice was to ensure you let your fruit and veg ripen on the plant; it will taste much better.
Like almost any task, the first rule is good preparation – in this case of the soil. Make your seed bed by forking over to a depth of four to six inches, letting in air and water. Spread over compost. Use crop rotation to aid weed control; don’t plant tomatoes on ground previously used by potatoes.
Slugs are the enemy of all gardeners. They can travel five yards at night so don’t be surprised if the ends of your rows get eaten if you don’t protect them with cloches or fleece.
Sow lettuce seed in your greenhouse from now, every fortnight to ensure a succession of supply, then when soil is warm, usually around mid-March, start to plant out gradually. If weather is cool, warm up soil with cloches.
Plant flowers near your vegetables; they attract ladybirds which in turn feed on greenfly. Encourage the ladybirds!
Leave your bean roots in the soil for as long as possible as they are full of nitrogen which will fertilise your patch. Runner beans can be grown each year in the same space but should ideally be moved every five years.
Carrots should be grown on a very high raised bed to try to prevent carrot fly. Feed only to the end of June.
Any onion sets should be planted in a greenhouse or similar now. Feed with liquid feed daily with very small amounts of feed even under polythene. Good results should be ready for judging for Clays’ autumn competition!
Jeff closed by showing pictures of prize-winning vegetable gardens.
The next meeting is on 11th April with the talk ‘Happy House Plants’ plus a plant sale (please note this is the second Monday due to Easter). It takes place at Wheatley Village Hall. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.