Saturday 31 October 2020

Square Foot Gardening Layout

I've been agenising over what to grow and where in the three number square foot gardening beds that I have planned for next year. They will be 4ft x4ft square and there will be at least three of them, four if I can get them in. 

So my first task was to draw the layout and number the squares. Like the picture at the top right there will be a vertical climbing frame on the side parallel to the boundary wall and this in the top row I have placed climbing plants i.e. Gherkins & Cucumbers, now I'm hoping that cross pollination between them will not be a problem. It's something I will have to look into.

Next Row down some taller plants as in Aubergine & Peppers, however only one of these in a 305mm or 1 ft square leaves too much open land that I want to cover to slow down and shade the weeds, so I'm thinking Radish as they are fast to grow and perhaps even some bunches of spring onions.    

 1  Gherkin (2)  + Radish (8)
 2  Gherkin (2)  + Radish (8) or Possibly Spring Onions ?
 3  Cucumber (2) + Radish (8)
 4  Cucumber (2) + Radish (8) or 
Possibly Spring Onions ?
 5  Aubergine (1) – Green Knight F1 - Mr Fothergill's + Radish (12)
 6  Pepper (1) – Sweet Lunchbox + Radish (12) or Possibly Spring Onions ?
 7  Aubergine (1)  – Long Purple + Radish (12)  
 8  Pepper (1)  - Summer Salad + Radish (12) or Possibly Spring Onions?
 9  Chard (4) – Fordhook Giant
10 Carrots (16) – Snowman F1 (White Carrots) - D.T.Brown
11 Chard (4) – Bright Lights
12 Carrots (16) – Rainbow Mix - Thompson & Morgan 
13 Lettuce (4) – Little Gem
14 Beetroot (16) - Beetroot Kornett - Mr Fothergill's
15 Lettuce (4) – Amaze - D.T.Brown 
16 Beetroot (16) – Moneta

The idea is to have 3 different mixes of growing mediums and to see what the difference result are

At the moment I'm thinking about 

Bed 1 - Traditional Mels Mix with Coco Grow Coir 
Bed 2 - Traditional Mels Mix with Coco Grow + Coir with added NPK 
Bed 3 - Traditional Mels Mix with Coco Grow Coir with a Natural Grower soil improver and fertiliser.

I have yet to decide what compost I will use in the mix, and I'm researching the price of the Vermiculite, and it appears that many Gardening Centres sell less volume for high prices than you can obtain it for, from companies that sell it for its packing and absorbent properties. A little more desk study and then I will do a sperate post about Vermiculite.  

I will be going into the difference between the different types of Coco Coir products in a later post. 

Proposed layout of the bottom of Plot 1 

Friday 30 October 2020

In My Seed Box For 2021 - Green Manure


My Green manures are kept in a tin in the allotment shed and they are always sown insitu and currently I know I have two packs but I don't have a clue what ones are left. Note to self do Green Manure audit when next on the plot, or if possible and it finally stops raining every day get them in a bed!

Green manures are usually sown in late summer or autumn and mop up any nutrients, preventing them being washed away by winter rain. When dug in the following spring, they release these nutrients back into the soil. Winter grazing rye and winter tares are hardy green manures that will carry on growing all winter before being incorporated back into the soil in spring.

Green manures can also be used to cover bare patches of soil in the spaces between crops, or during intervals between one crop and the next. Fast-growing mustard sown before mid-September can be incorporated in October, for example, or the frosted remains left as mulch.

Summer-grown green manures such as buckwheat and fenugreek form dense foliage that will effectively suppress weeds.

Green manures belonging to the pea and bean family (legumes) have the additional capacity of storing (fixing) nitrogen from the air to their root nodules, but only in summer. Nitrogen is a valuable plant nutrient.

Other benefits of green manures include protection of the soil surface from compaction by rain and shelter for beneficial insects such as ground beetles.

How To Use Green Manures
  • Sow seeds in rows, or broadcast them across the soil and rake into the surface
  • Once the land is needed for cropping, chop the foliage down and leave it to wilt
  • Dig the plants and foliage into the top 25cm (10in) of soil After digging in, the site should be left for two weeks or more before sowing or planting out as decaying green materials can hamper plant growth

Cultivar Selection

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa): This perennial legume can be dug in after two or three months or left for one to two years; sow in April to July; good for alkaline soils. Nitrogen fixing may only occur if the seed is inoculated with nitrogen fixing bacteria prior to sowing.

Alsike clover (Trifolium hybridum): This perennial legume can either be dug in after two or three months or left in for one or two years; good for wet, acid soils; sow in April to August.

Bitter blue lupin (Lupinus angustifolius): This perennial flowering legume suits light, sandy, acid soils; sow in March to June and leave for two or three months before digging in.

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum): This half hardy annual will only grow in spring and summer best sown in April to August, it can be left for two or three months after sowing; grows well on nutrient-poor soils.

Crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum): This perennial legume is good for light soils; sow in March to August and leave in for two or three months up to flowering.

Essex red clover (Trifolium pratense): This hardy perennial legume overwinters well and can be left in for two or three months or for one or two years after sowing; good for loamy soils; sow March to August.

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum): This annual legume will only grow in the spring and summer; it is unlikely to fix nitrogen in the UK.

Grazing rye (Secale cereale): This annual crop is good for soil structure and overwinters well; sow in August to November and dig in the following spring.

Mustard (Sinapis alba): This annual crop from the brassica family should not be followed by other brassicas, as it could encourage build-up of the disease clubroot; sow in March to September and leave for two or three months before digging in.

Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia): Later sowings of this annual crop may overwinter in mild areas, but it is generally best sown in April to August and dug in after two or three months; its flowers are very pretty.

Trefoil (Medicago lupulina): This legume can be annual or biennial and overwinters well but needs light, dry alkaline soil; it can be dug in after two or three months or left for one or two years after sowing; sow in March to August.

Winter field bean (Vicia faba): This annual legume can be left for two or three months after sowing (up to flowering) and is good for heavy soils; sow in September to November.

Winter tares (Vicia sativa): This annual legume is hardy and overwinters well, even in heavy soils; sow either in March to August and leave for two or three months before digging in, or sow in July to September for overwintering.


A dense carpet of green makes a perfect environment for slugs and snails so control measures may be needed after green manuring.

Decaying green manures can suppress plant growth, so allow at least two weeks between incorporation and planting or sowing.

Club Root can be a problem with green manures in the cabbage family such as mustard.

New Green Manures for 2020 into 2021 

Green Manure Seed Collection    The great value collection includes 6 seed packets, 1 each of the following varieties:

Crimson Clover - A fast growing weed suppressant and great for beneficial insects, crimson clover is an excellent nitrogen 'fixer'. Ideally dig in just before it flowers. Works very well in exposed areas. Sow: March-August Dig in: March-September. Packet will cover approx 20sqm (24sq yards).

Lucerne (Alfalfa) - A deep rooting nitrogen fixer which will reach down and improve the sub-soil. If desired it can be left for a year or more before being dug in. Sow: April-July Dig in: April-August. Packet will cover approx 20sqm (24sq yards).

Mustard (White) - Perfect for soils lacking organic matter, it grows on most soil types and produces large amounts of green matter and fibre and will help structure and moisture retention. Helps hold valuable nutrients and is ready for digging-in in only 4 to 8 weeks from sowing. Sow: March-September Dig in: March-November. Packet will cover approx 20sqm (24sq yards).

Phacelia tanacetifolia - Winter hardy so can be over wintered. Ideal for adding humus content to impoverished soils. Sow: March-September Dig in: March-November. Packet will cover approx 20sqm (24sq yards).

Winter Rye - One of the very best over-wintering green manures. Soil structure is greatly improved through the abundance of fibrous roots produced and nutrient retention is improved in wet weather. Sow: February-March or August-November Dig in: February-December. Packet will cover approx 20sqm (24sq yards).

Mustard Caliente - Fast growing green manure that improves soil structure and fertility. Adds organic matter and nutrients, giving the soil optimum health by suppressing weeds, soil pest and diseases. Sow: March-July or September-October Dig in: February-December. Packet will cover approx 70sqm (84sq yards).

The incorporation of green plant tissue into the soil is an ancient practice known as ‘green manuring’. Green Manures are used to disrupt pest and disease life cycles, improve soil fertility and nutrient levels and suppress weeds.

Sow Indoors
Sow / Plant Outdoors
Flowers / Harvest

I have two types of Green Manure from Mr Fothergills one is The Green Manure Autumn/ Winter Mix Seeds which is made up of: 

15% Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum)
20% Broad Leaf Clover (Trifolium pratense)
30% Westerwolths Rye Grass (Lolium multiflorum)
35% White Tilney Mustard (Sinapsis alba)

Clovers fix nitrogen in the soil. Rye grass and white mustard improve soil structure. 

The other Green Manure from Mr Fothergill's is 
Mustard Caliente A fast growing green manure which has excellent soil improvement properties. Whilst it adds to the structure and fertility, it also adds organic matter, giving the soil optimum health. It will also suppress many weeds species, soil pests and diseases.

Thursday 29 October 2020

New Tomato Varieties - D.T.Brown

A little bit about why each one ended up on my order form, and my to grow list for 2021 

 Tomato Bloody Butcher (Medium) - Heritage variety D.T.Brown apologise for the name, but explain that it's really strong, 'red-blooded' tomato taste makes up for it. The red skinned, medium sized fruits have dark red flesh. Grow outdoors or indoors. Indeterminate.

 Tomato Losetto F1 - Resistance to blight is one of the major benefits of this cascading 'bush' tomato, which is a good choice for outdoor containers. The cherry-sized fruits are really tasty and produced in abundance on plants which remain healthy through the summer. It can also be grown direct in the garden. Determinate.

 Tomato Mountain Magic - This is without doubt the most blight resistant tomato D.T.Brown have ever seen. The only variety to come through their blight trial totally unscathed, it is resistant to early and late blight as well as cracking, verticillium and fusarium wilt. Some blight resistant varieties can be watery and lacking flavour, however these fruits are sweet and succulent with a high sugar content and real tomato zing. Indeterminate.

 Tomato Veranda Red - An exciting dwarf variety which is perfect for patio pots and containers. Veranda Red combines all the best traits of a compact outdoor type with all the sweetness of a greenhouse cherry tomato. The yield certainly matches the flavour with each plant producing up to 75 fruits. Plants show good resistance to Verticillium, Fusarium and some resistance to Late Blight. What more could one ask for!

 Tomato White Cherry - White to light lemon medium large cherry fruits each weighing approx.. 25g. They have a delicious sweet, slightly smoky flavour and make a tantalising addition to salads or even eaten as snacks.

Wednesday 28 October 2020

In My Seed Box for 2021 - Gherkin


GHERKIN - The last time I tried growing Gherkins was in 2018 and only because my sister loved the ones I pickled for her in 2017.  The plan was to have another bash at them in 2020 and I bought some seed. Gherkin seeds if kept in ideal conditions should last between 10 - 15 years the same as cucumbers. 

The seeds came from Seed Megastore and are called Gherkin - National and cost me 59p for 25 seeds 

Very quick growing and prolific in habit. Produces a mass of small prickly fruit for pickling.
Sowing Time: February to April.
Germination: Germinates at 20°C.

Sowing Instructions: 

Sow seeds in 1cm (½in) deep in 8cm (3in) pots of moist compost. Germination usually takes 10-12 days.

Growing Instructions: 

Acclimatise the plants to outdoor conditions before planting outdoors after all risk of frost has passed 60cm (24in) apart. Plant in a sunny sheltered spot, in fertile moist but well drained soil and keep well watered.

After Care: 

Harvest the fruits before they reach full size for improved quality and better cropping.

Thumbing through the Mr Forthgill's Catalogue I completely forgot I had bought more Gherkin Seeds in 2019, and I selected Cornichon de Paris - 20 Seeds - £2.15 - Sow by 2024 because they are a small variety and can be harvested at about an inch 25mm long 

This is a French heirloom variety which has long been sold in the markets of Paris and used to produce small, crisp pickled 'cornichon' gherkin. Each plant produces numerous fruits that are harvested at approx. 2.5cm(1in) long.

Sow & Grow 

Sow: Indoors, March-April, for surest results, 0.5cm (¼") deep, on edge, in small pots of compost. Water well and place in a warm position. A temperature of 21-24°C (70-75°F) is ideal. Keep moist. Seedlings usually appear in 7-14 days. 

When plants have developed 3 or 4 leaves, transplant to 12cm (5”) pots and grow on in cooler, but not cold conditions. Gradually accustom young plants to outside conditions (avoid frosts), before planting out 60cm (2') apart, during May-June, into fertile, well-drained soil. 

Sow: outdoors May-June, for ease, where they are to crop. Sow two seeds per position, 0.5cm (¼") deep, directly into finely-prepared, fertile, well-drained soil, which has already been watered. Allow 60cm (2') between rows. When large enough, thin to leave the stronger plant. Harvest: July-October.

Sowing/Planting and Flowering/Harvesting Guide


Key       Sow Indoors       Sow/Plant Outside       Flowers/Harvest

Additional Guidance 

Pick fruits when up to 5cm (2") long for sweetest flavour. Left to grow on, the fruits can be used as slicing 'cues.

Pinch out the growing tip when six leaves have formed to encourage side shoots to form.  

Tuesday 27 October 2020

It's All About Finding a Balance

Don’t take them ALL for your compost, however desperate you are. They provide overwintering homes, shelter and food for numerous natural beings. As with everything in nature there is a balance to be had, it's just finding it.

Perhaps Clear them from the pavement to save your council a job, leave them in the woodland to feed nature.

Monday 26 October 2020

In My Seed Box for 2021 - Cucumbers


In the past I have grown a number of different cucumbers but the ones I keep coming back to and grow each year are Burpless and Marketmore. In 2018 I was introduced to Esmarald from Mr Fothergills as John had started off a load of cucumbers and was looking to distribute the love, by giving his babies to anyone on the plot that was happy to give them room rather than compost them. 

I have to say Esmarald out grew Burpless Tasty Greens in 2018 and thankfully John had an excess again in 2019. I saved seeds in 2019 and will be growing from saved seeds, which is good because at the moment Mr Fothergill's web site says sold out.

Cucumber seeds if kept in ideal conditions should last between 10 - 15 years.

Review Of Seed Stocks in Zippy Bags

Achocha Fat Baby - from Seed Circle saved 2014
Akito F1 - 8 Seeds - Lidl -  Sow By 12/2015
Burpless Tasty Green - Kings Seeds - Sow by 09/2016
Burpless Tasty Green - 15 Seeds - Seed Parade £1.39 - Sow By 06/2022
Esmarald - Self Saved 2019 Original seed from Mr Fothergill's - Say Sow by 2022
Marketmore - Suttons - Suttons Seed - Sow By 2013
Marketmore - Mr Fothergill - On Magazine 2017

Review Of Seed Stocks in Packets

La Diva - 10 Seeds - £2.99 - unwins - Sow By 9/2018 
La Diva - 10 Seeds - £1.00  - Wilko - Sow By 2021
Saladin - 5 Seeds - On Magazine - Marshalls Best before 7/2017

Removed from the seedbox and will be offered to other plot holders who may want to give them a go. 

The reason these cucumbers have not been used historically is because you have to remove the male to prevent pollination which may cause bitterness and quite frankly I would not know how to identify the male and female and it seems extra agro when there are varieties that don't need this to be done   

Socrates F1 -  3 Seeds - £ 3.00 - Johnsons (Wilko 30p Sale) - Sow By 2021  
Swing F1     -  5 Seeds -  £ 2.55 -  Mr Fothergill's - Sow By 2023 
Suprina F1   - 5 Seeds -  £ 2.99  -  DT Brown       - Sow by 12/2024

New!  Cucumber Suprina F1  - A remarkable variety that performed very well in trials. Suprina F1 is the first outdoor 'Beth Alpha' type to be predominantly female. Bred to provide an abundance of top-quality flavoursome fruit, which has shiny smooth skin and average 12-14cm in length. Plants show good resistance to common diseases including powdery mildew. Pick regularly to encourage further fruits.

New Cucumber Passandra F1 - 4 Seeds - Organic Gardening Seeds -  £3.99

Alphabetical Listing
                                                  Sowing        Plant Out      Harvest
Achocha Fat Baby                     Mar - Jul                            Jun - Oct
Akito F1                                     May                                    Jul - Oct
Burpless Tasty Green                Feb - May                          Jun - Oct
Esmarald                                   Feb - May                          Jun - Oct
La Diva - unwins                        Feb - May                          Jun - Oct remove male flowers
La Diva - Wilko                          Feb - May        Jun             Jul - Oct remove male flowers
Marketmore - Suttons                Apr - May        Jun              Jul - Oct
Marketmore - Mr Fothergill        Feb-Apr Indoors                 Jul - Oct
.                                                  Apr-Jun Outdoors              Jul - Oct
Saladin - Marshalls                    Apr - May        Jun              Jul - Oct remove male flowers
Suprinja F1 - DT Brown             Feb - May    May June        Jul - Oct                        

Germination 7 - 21 Days

Growing in the greenhouse

Start cucumbers off by sowing seeds from mid-February to mid-March if you have a heated greenhouse or similar environment, or in April if you have an unheated greenhouse. Sow seeds on their side, 1cm (½in) deep in pots.

Sowing outdoors

Sow seeds 2.5cm (1in) deep indoors in late April. Alternatively, sow directly outside in late May or early June and cover the soil above the seeds with fleece, a cloche or glass jar. This method can work well in southern regions and in warm summers.
Young plants are also available from garden centres in spring.

Growing indoors

Transfer young plants to 25cm (10in) pots of good potting compost in late March (heated greenhouse), late May (unheated greenhouse). Keep the compost evenly moist – little and often is the best way. You can also use growing-bags but plants will need to be carefully watered and looked after.

Train the main stem up a vertical wire or cane. Pinch out the growing point when it reaches the roof. Pinch out the tips of sideshoots two leaves beyond a female flower (recognisable by tiny fruits behind flower). Pinch out the tips of flowerless sideshoots once they reach 60cm (2ft) long.

Keep the humidity high by watering the floor and, once planted out, feed every 10-14 days with a balanced liquid fertiliser.

Growing outdoors

Either sow seeds or plant out young plants in early June, ideally under fleece or cloches. Any fertile garden soil in full sun is satisfactory.

Dig in up to two bucketfuls of rotted organic matter, such as garden compost, and rake in 100g per square metre (3½oz per square yard) of general purpose fertiliser.

Pinch out the growing tip when the plants have developed seven leaves. The developing sideshoots can be left to trail over the ground or trained up stout netting. Pinch out the tips of flowerless sideshoots after seven leaves.

For the varieties I grow, Don't remove the male flowers, and keep the soil constantly moist by watering around the plants – not over them.