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Thread: Grow Your Own Food!

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    Lightbulb Grow Your Own Food!

    Growing your own fruit and vegetables can be a rewarding past time, and can benefit your diet too. You don't need a big garden to cultivate your favourite fruit and vegetables, as they can grow well in containers, grow bags and even hanging baskets.

    Tomatoes:
    Home-grown tomatoes are easy to grow. All they need is an open, sunny spot in the garden.

    Growing from seed

    Once you have chosen which varieties to grow, raising the plants is simple: sow the seeds in a pot and in about eight weeks the seedlings will be large enough to plant out. By mid-summer the first sun-ripened fruits arrive and they continue throughout the summer.

    Start your tomatoes off by sowing seeds in a pot or seed tray towards the end of April. Leaving them to germinate on a windowsill or somewhere that is warm and frost-free.

    How to sow: Fill a 7.5cm pot with seed compost, lightly firm the surface and water. Thinly scatter the seeds, cover with a small amount of compost and clearly label the pot. Keep the compost moist but not waterlogged.

    Handling seeds:
    Once they are large enough to handle, carefully prick out a single seedling using a dibber, bringing as many roots as possible with it. Lift the seedling gently by holding a leaf. Avoid the stem as this is easily damaged.

    Pricking out: Take the seedling and plant it in its own 7.5cm pot of seed compost. Gently firm it into position and water in. Place in a warm, frost-free, well-lit location, remembering to turn the pot daily if it's on a windowsill.

    Growing on: When the roots start to come through the drainage holes, transfer the plant into a 12.5cm pot, taking care not to damage the roots, and water in well. If the plant is very tall, tie it to a cane for support.


    Planting out: When risk of frost has passed, drive a strong stake around 2cm in diameter into soil that has had organic matter dug into it. Then, next to the stake, dig a hole a little deeper than the height of the plant's pot. Place the plant in the hole and firm in.

    Staking: Use soft twine to tie the plant's stem loosely to the stake. As the plant grows, check the ties regularly and loosen them occasionally to prevent stem damage. The next tomato should be planted 45cm away to allow the sun to reach the ripening fruits.

    Remove sideshoots: Using your thumb and finger, nip out any sideshoots that develop between the leaf and the stem to help channel the plant's energy into its fruits. Watering and regular feeding with a high-potash fertiliser will ensure a plentiful, healthy crop.

    Harvesting: When the fruits have ripened, pick them by bending back the fruit at the notch on the stem. They can be eaten straight from the plant, or can be stored for up to a week in the fridge. Continue to water and feed the plant to help the remaining fruits mature.


    Salad plants
    Salads crops are easy to grow yourself, and can be fitted into even the smallest of gardens.

    Preparing the site

    On a poor site, especially one that tends towards being sandy or dry, you're unlikely to get a good crop.

    Even with a good site it's worth adding well-rotted manure or garden compost to add nutrients and increase the soil's ability to retain moisture.

    A sunny or partially shaded site, with soil that is moisture-retentive and rich in organic matter, offers the best conditions for summer salad crops.

    Don't restrict lettuces to the vegetable plot. Lettuces with frilly, ornately shaped or beautifully coloured leaves can be grown ornamentally in other parts of the garden. Use them as border edging or simply dotted in among other plants.

    Sowing

    Sowing seed directly outdoors is the most widely used method for growing summer lettuce crops. The precise details may differ slightly between varieties, but generally a sowing depth of 1cm to 1.5cm works well, with the rows about 30cm apart.

    Thin seedlings to a spacing of 15cm to 30cm depending on the variety. Water the soil really thoroughly before transplanting and then again once the row has been thinned; this will help to resettle the soil around the roots and prevent the seedlings from wilting.

    Birds can be a real problem because they often eat the seed before it even has a chance to germinate. It is worth protecting the sown areas with netting or cotton tied taut between twigs.

    Sowing in pots

    Seedlings grown in individual cells have a more self-contained root system, so they generally transplant and therefore succeed far better than those that have to be pricked out from trays or pots. For best results you should always use a good quality multi-purpose or seed and cuttings compost.

    Crop care

    Plenty of water is essential if your lettuces are to grow and develop well and to have a tasty yet tender leaf texture.

    Ideally the soil should always be kept just moist. This is particularly vital when the lettuces are one or two weeks away from being ready to harvest, as dry soil at this stage is likely to cause bolting. Water plants at the end of the day.

    If you want to start the crop off early or prolong the cropping period into the autumn, you can cover the plants with cloches or fleece, but take care not to let the temperature or humidity get too high.

    Some crops can be grown a bit later to produce a harvest in autumn or even later. Always follow the instructions on seed packets carefully, as not all lettuce varieties are suitable for sowing throughout the entire season.

    Lettuce crops will bolt if left in the ground for long after the time they become ready to harvest. By sowing seeds in succession, perhaps at weekly intervals, your whole crop will not run to seed at the same time.

    Whether you're sowing early or late in the year, it's important to remember that lettuce seed is likely to become dormant if soil or compost temperatures are too high. Anything above 25 C will potentially reduce levels of germination.

    Harvesting your salad crops

    If you grow summer salads for harvesting at the very popular baby leaf stage, you should be able to make your first harvest 21 to 28 days after the seed was sown.

    If you are producing a cut-and-come-again crop, you should start to harvest them when the plants are only 10cm to 15cm (4in to 6in) tall. Cut the stem back to about 2.5cm (1in) above soil level, just above the top of the stem, and leave the stump to re-shoot.

    Loose-leaf lettuces need to be harvested regularly. Simply pick the leaves you need and leave the rest of the plant in the ground.

    Traditional lettuces are harvested either by cutting, which can be useful if the weather is dry and you can't water the remainder of the row straight away, or by gently pulling the whole plant out of the ground, which is fine as long as you don't disturb the roots of adjacent plants. You must remember to water the soil thoroughly afterwards.

    Yields differ with variety, growing methods and conditions, but expect 10 to 20 heads of lettuce per 3m row.


    Grow marrows, courgettes and squashes

    Sowing seeds

    For the best varieties buy your seed from a supplier rather than saving your own. This way you can be sure the seeds are virus free and that they will come true.

    Courgettes and marrows can be raised from seeds sown directly where they are to grow or from plants grown in a greenhouse or cold frame before being planted out.

    The method you choose largely depends on the soil and weather conditions. Raising plants under protection and planting them out once the danger of frost has passed produces more reliable growth and establishment. It also makes it easier to avoid damage from pests and, of course, the weather.

    Squash seed should be sown under glass. The seeds are best sown on their sides, as this reduces the risk of damping off disease, at about 2.5cm depth.

    In cold seasons or areas, or if you wish to be sure that cold will not affect early growth, cover the seeds, seedlings or young plants with fleece or individual bottle cloches for a few weeks.

    When to sow

    Early sowing indoors or out is rarely of much benefit as the seeds may not germinate if the soil is too cold, or cold temperatures may damage young plants. Four weeks before the last frost is expected is about right.

    Sowing direct

    Sow two seeds of courgettes or marrows about 90cm apart from mid-May until early June. Trailing varieties of marrow will require more space to ramble over or a sturdy support to climb on. Sow two seeds of squashes about 90cm apart from mid-May until mid-June. Once the seeds have germinated, thin out the less vigorous seedling.

    Sowing in pots or trays under cover

    Always use a good quality multi-purpose compost. Sow courgettes and marrows in pots or cells from mid-March until late May and then plant out at about 90cm spacing. Trailing varieties of marrow need at least 1.2m of space. Sow squashes in pots from the middle of March until the early summer.

    Soil preparation and planting

    A sunny, sheltered spot with well-drained yet moisture retentive soil will give the best results.

    In theory a neutral or slightly acid soil is best, but problems are unlikely when growing on alkaline soils.

    Even a good site should be improved by the addition of plenty of well-rotted manure or garden compost, which will provide plenty of nutrients and help to increase the soil's ability to retain moisture.

    The mound system, which is growing courgettes or marrows on a mound of manure, produces too much lush foliage. Although an immense size and quantity of leaf is produced, the size of the crop may not be as impressive as usual.

    Courgette plants started under cover can be planted where they are to crop, once all danger of frost has passed in late May.

    Dig a planting hole and drop in the young plant. For a heavy crop, first enrich the soil with plenty of well-rotted manure or compost.

    Firm the soil around the plant and water in. Protect succulent young growth from slugs and snails and continue to water regularly.

    Looking after the crop

    Plenty of water is essential, particularly once the plants are in flower and then when the fruits have started to swell. In hot, dry weather, plants may need as much as ten litres of water a week. Mulching will help to retain moisture.

    On heavy fertile soil, plenty of manure before sowing or planting makes additional feeding unnecessary.

    On very sandy or light soils, regular applications of a liquid feed will help to boost production.

    In cold conditions pollinating insects may not do an efficient job and so fruits may fail to set. If this happens remove a male flower and hand pollinate the female flowers. These are the ones with the very slight swelling behind the flower.

    Harvesting and storage

    Once the plants have started to crop, the rate at which they form fruits is phenomenal. If you want to ensure maximum cropping you need to harvest courgettes and marrows frequently.

    Harvesting three times a week in the height of the season. The correct size at which the fruits should be harvested depends partly on the variety, but as a rule, courgettes are ready when about 10cm long and marrows when 20cm to 30cm.

    With squashes, it is essential that you refer to the seed packet before harvesting as they vary more widely in size and shape.

    With marrows, if you cannot easily cut into the skin with your thumbnail, they are past their best.

    Always use a sharp knife to cut the fruits from the plant. If you are tempted to try to twist or pull the fruit off, you will invariably damage the entire plant.

    If you want to store marrows, wait until the stem is just starting to dry out, at which point the skin will be quite tough. Then cut them with a long stem. They store best at 7.5°C to 10°C.

    Courgettes are best eaten fresh or they can be stored for a few days in the refrigerator. The timing and conditions for storing squashes depends on the variety, so it is best to refer to the seed packet.

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    Senior Member Mistress Klaus's Avatar
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    Good Thread. Yes, I would highly recommend that everyone grows vegetables. Although alot people are hard pressed for time & garden space...there is no excuse!.

    Pumpkins, Potatoes, Radishes, Passionfruit, Cherry Tomatoes, Beans, Spinach, are just some of greens I have been enjoying these past months with little work. A walk in my garden brings surprises of extreme vitamin enriched organic food. No chemical, radiated, DNA modified vegetables/fruit like you buy in the stores.....Growing 'food' in your garden is essential for good health. I might add...Growing herbs is also essential! Firstly for well-being/health & pest control (in the garden) and if you are into cooking (like myself)....the herb picking for your recipes is a uplifting experience in itself.

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    Senior Member Arcturus's Avatar
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    If I ever am able to afford a house with some land, I most certainly will..

    Off topic: The name of this thread immediately sparked a wholly different association in my mind...



    :speechles

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcturus
    Off topic: The name of this thread immediately sparked a wholly different association in my mind...

    Me too.

    We have a ~35m² kitchen garden in the SO of our garden. Tomatoes, different salads, carrots, chives, parsley, strawberries, gooseberries, red currants, pole beans and sometimes a few other.

    Together with some fruit trees and the local farmers market it´s a very healthy vegetable/fruit supply monitored by a nutrition science student...

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