Green Magpie


Latest posts by Green Magpie

Raised bed root crops

Posted: 02/04/2017 at 08:29

I am not very good at parsnips so I'm not best placed to advise you. I do know that they can be very slow to germinate, and that seed doesn't store well from one year to another. In my experience they are a bit of a lottery: sometimes you try to dig some up, and one will be the size of your little finger while the next one is as heavy as the roast chicken it's supposed to accompany. I find they are a lot more inclined to fork into little rootlets than carrots are, which makes them hard to clean and prepare.


Last year I had to dig up a whole row of about 10 to get a single helping, they were so tiny. I thought I wouldn't bother with them again, but I'm having one more go. This is their last chance.

Raised bed root crops

Posted: 01/04/2017 at 23:21

I rotate my crops each year, and all the beds get a topping of compost except the carrot bed. As it's been composted in previous years, I don't think. a year without compost harms the. soil. If you wanted to help them on you could sprinkle some Growmore or blood, fish and bone  on the bed, but I don't think carrots are hungry feeders, they'll be fine with no extras. It's worth spending a bit of time forking over the bed, making sure that the soil is smooth, loose and stone-free for a good depth.


I grow super carrots in the raised beds. Parsnips are trickier and last year's were a disaster, but my carrots always do well. 

Cucumber & pumpkin seed sowing

Posted: 27/03/2017 at 22:33

I agree, leave it a few weeks yet, otherwise they'll be ready to go outdoors before outdoors is ready for them.

Chitting potatoes

Posted: 27/03/2017 at 22:31

My Charlotte never seem to chit much, but I plant them anyway, and they grow. Mine have gone in the ground this week, but with fleece over them to keep them a little warmer. I will take off the fleece once they are through, unless late frosts are expected.

Tomato seeds and seedlings

Posted: 20/03/2017 at 11:05

Hmm, yes, I wonder whether putting the lid on is allowing some fungal infection to fester and attack them? I cover my seedlings until they germinate, but after that I leave the lid off, to allow the air to circulate.

Saving fruit plants on overgrown allotment

Posted: 20/03/2017 at 08:42

We moved into this house 12 years ago. In the garden were two gooseberry bushes and a rhubarb clump that had to be removed while raised beds were built. After some weeks of lying around in a corner, these were replaced in the new beds.


The bushes have given us masses of gooseberries and it's only in the last couple of years that one of them is dying off. I have taken a cutting which is now established, and I plan to replace the weak bush with this.


The rhubarb is a hero, a legend! No one I know grows rhubarb like this, it's huge. My friends come round to help themselves to it. Now and then a section of the crown looks rotten and I dig it out, but there's still plenty left.


So don't give up on the old plants, they may serve you well. Try them out for another season.  Currant bushes are easy to propagate from cuttings, so that's also an option if the old bushes are getting tired. I bought two blackcurrant bushes, and took cuttings to grow a third one. This turned out to be the biggest and strongest of the three.


I don't think mulch would kill the grass, you really need to do a bit of hand weeding around the bushes, but take case, as fruit bushes and canes often have roots close to the surface. Then a layer of compost would be good (not heaped around the stems,) and some potash-high fertiliser (e.g. tomato feed) as they start to grow, to encourage blossom and fruit; and rhubarb loves compost.

Tomatoes - time to sow!

Posted: 16/03/2017 at 17:36

I am once again growing Losetto, which are blight-resistant, and Sungold, which also seem to resist blight for most of the season. I had a huge crop from Losetto last year and a decent amount from Sungold. The blight didn't strike until very late in the season, by which time I was past caring and almost glad to see the end of the harvest. I still have some tomato sauce, passata, and oven-dried tomatoes in the freezer.


I sowed mine this week, and they're on the kitchen window sill. Once established, they will go in an unheated mini-greenhouse, as long as there are no frosts. I have always sown them around this time.  Some years the plants get too big before the weather warms up at night; other years they are only just big enough to go out by late May or early June.  It just depends on what sort of Spring we have (I'm in Devon). 

What fertiliser should I add to my veg patch now?

Posted: 16/03/2017 at 17:23

It depends partly on which crops you're growing. I wouldn't use any one product for everything. All my beds except the one where carrots are to go get a layer of compost in the late autumn. Then when I sow the seeds,  I sprinkle a bit of lime where the beans and peas are to go, potash or tomato feed on the strawberries  and around the fruit canes, and  perhaps some BFB or Growmore on onions and carrots. Once the salad crops get going I may give them a nitrogen feed.  Later on I will put tomato feed on the tomatoes as well as the courgettes and cues. Then later still,  I will wonder why I ever gave the courgettes any encouragement....


Thanks for the seaweed/beetroot idea, Verdun, I would never have thought of that. Will try.

Are we nearly there yet!

Posted: 16/03/2017 at 17:09

I've put my first two rows of carrot seeds in.  I think I will get some fleece over them now for warmth, although they soon need it anyway, to keep out the carrot fly. It's best to put carrots straight into the beds and not try to move them.


Rocket might be OK now, and lettuce. You could always try a few, as successional sowings are best, and there always seem to be hundreds of seeds in the packets, so there's no harm in risking some now.

Tomato seeds and seedlings

Posted: 16/03/2017 at 17:00

Last year, the Which? reports said that Verve multipurpose compost (B&Q own make) was just as good for seeds as the special seed composts. I used it for everything (seeds, potting on) and was pleased with the results. The tomato  seedlings  didn't show signs of magnesium deficiency, as they have done some years. This year Verve wasn't quite the best in their tests, but did pretty well all round, and it's much cheaper than some of the special mixes by the big brands, so I'm using it again. This year's batch (well, the stuff I bought) was nice and dry - so not too heavy! - and seems quite fine-textured. 

Last edited: 16 March 2017 17:01:22

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