10 Sep 2011

Stroud FM: Gardeners Question Time

It is now Eco-Renovation Open Homes weekend which I am rushing off to help organise - but earlier this year as part of the Edible Open Gardens weekend we organised a Gardeners Question Time on Stroud FM. Well here is a summary of the answers given by Helen Pitel, Jane Brown and Ellen Winter who were our resident experts on the show and Amanda Godber our gardening advisor. You can see the videos of the weekend here and more about the weekend at: http://edibleopengardens.org.uk/

Update Sept 2011: Follow this link, press play, and you can hear the first hour of our
Gardeners' Question Time show recorded earlier this year: http://podcasts.canstream.co.uk/stroud/index.php?cat=The%20Transition%20Show 

1. I have tried year after year for about eleven years to grow parsnips but alas they never germinate, and I have read the books and followed the suggestions, and I've tried in different locations: Bristol, Gloucester and Cainscross. What could be the key thing that I am missing, apart from luck?   

Must have fresh seed from freshly opened packet /sow thinkly / slow to germinate, label them and add date / sew with radishes then you can see them / need thinning / could be problem with slugs / sew in toilet rolls (put screwed up newspaper in bottom, fill with earth. Can be put into ground and toilet roll will decompose) / Water trench/ground before seeds sown and keep moist.

Click Read more to see the other questions

2. I have an ants nest on my allotment. How do I get rid of it and remain organic?   

Love the ants / Open up nest, birds will eat them / Good for compost / Ants don't like a wet environment, so keep watering them and they'll move.

3. How do I stop strawberries rotting?   

Keep strawbs off the ground – use straw mulch or have them in pots

4. My runner bean leaves have been eaten.     

As long as not too many are eaten no problem. If birds, use cd's etc to scare off

5. Can the panel recommend something that can be sown for quick salad crops?

rocket, radishes, oriental veg / cut and come again lettuce / beetroot / salad onions / spinach leaves

6. What’s the best way to avoid carrot fly?   

two barrier methods - put fleece or netting to stop fly getting through (flies 20cms above ground) / aromatherapist using drops of eucaliptus and olbas oil / some varieties resistant to root fly "fly away"

7. What’s the best way to keep slugs at bay without using slug pellets?   

try cutting out base of yogurt pots, sew plants in modules / needs to still let light into plant / roof slates covered in vaseline and salt / Build a pond, provide places for toads, frogs, slow worms to live so they will help control the population. Grow plants on until big enough to endure a slug attack. Egg shells, coffee grits.

8. Favourite weed for eating   

hairy bitter cress / chick weed / dandilion flower / fat hen / nettles / hogweed shoots

9. Edible trees and bushes – please suggest some unusual varieties for a Forest / Hedgerow Garden (I understand there are some honeysuckles, ? Buckthorn ? ) that can be grown here and eaten   

Ugni Mollinacia / Asian hawthorns / sea buckthorn /

10. Can you grow your own mushrooms at home or on the allotment? If so , how?   

Tried twice and been unsuccessful! Need constant temp of about 15 I think, and limited light.

11. If you regularly build up your soil quality using compost etc do you really have to rotate crops?

Good to rotate, feeds soil

12. Can I take cuttings and propagate figs; if so how?

Fig -Take a cutting below a leaf node and have a go. Try also putting the soft stem of a young branch in a pot of soil and weigh it down – it may root. If it does, cut it off when securely established.

13. What's a nice flowering plant I can use to replace the foxgloves once they go over, which – like foxgloves would suitable for dry shade, won't be eaten by slugs and will grow well in pots. 

I use foxgloves to brighten up all sorts of tricky places in large pots and they are carefree and care-free - once they have gone it is a bit bare? Japanese anemone, opium poppies seem to grow anywhere, some geraniums, astrantia,

14. Is there anything that can be done about white rot on garlic and onions. What causes or exacerbates it?

Wind bourne, particularly rampent in Spring. Suggest growing sets. Try spring onions instead. Remove a patch and put new soil in. Dig small trench and put clean soil in.

15. How about something about water conservation and gardening? I’m talking to some people about setting up community gardens and allotments and the issue of how to have a garden without mains water always comes up.   

use water butts, mulches and don’t plant in the mornings

16. I've heard that you shouldn't sow carrots and parsnips in ground that's had manure added. Do I need to feed them, and if so, what with?   

correct, get 'forking' - root separates / rotate which feeds the soil / add compost soil on once established

17. My neighbour said I can folia feed my beans - what does this mean and what do I use and how?   

liquid fertiliser, spray over leaves / make from comfrey, nettles

18. Last year my tomatoes got blight. How do I make sure they don't get it this year as well - is there anything organic I can do?   

get blight in wet season - can see it coming in, if indoors, keep doors shut / cut tomatoes and use before get caught / variety that is resistant to blight (not always resistent) / grow them indoors /

19. The allotment next to me uses weed killer. Does it stay in the ground and will it affect my crops?   

depends what is being used / drift used on days when wind carries it / Most are inert once in the soil so wont affect crops unless drifts in the air.

20. Has climate change affected when we should be sowing seeds like tomatoes and peppers?   

if sowing outside wait til March / depends where you are in valley will make more of an effect / Peppers need a long growing season and depend on the amount of daylight, so should grow early anyway (Feb) on a sunny warm windowsill.

21. I lost all my purple sprouting last year in the snow. Any suggestions how I can protect it this year?   

fleece /

22. I've heard that there are perennial vegetables - is this right and what can you grow, where can you get them from etc?   

perennial rocket / dandelion / artichoke / asparagus / Good King Henry / hogweed shoots / sweet cicely

23. My courgettes and cucumbers have yellow leaves. What does this mean?   

Could be mildew, which is more common in climates with short summers like ours. Water in the morning rather than the evening.

24. Can you transplant carrots and parsnips? I hate pulling them out!   

sew more thinly

25. Can I sow my carrots in fresh compost?   

If the compost is home 'grown' and dug in, it should be fine.

26. Do I need to add lime for my cabbages? If so, can I do it at the same time as I spread manure?   

depends where you are / In Stroud shouldn't need lime. There's a chemical reaction if both are added together that's not beneficial to the plants, so avoid doing this. Grow your own manure or add bought compost.

27. I've got an unheated greenhouse. In the winter it's too cold to grow anything and in the summer it's very hot although I shade it. I'm trying melons and aubergines this year. Any suggestions for other crops?  

Try growing purple sprouting and some cabbages overwinter in the greenhouse, the recent bad winters have killed off many brassicas. Melons in the summer, or some spices like fenugreek.

28. I'd like to start growing medicinal herbs to make my own teas. Where can I find out what to grow and how to use them?   

Nathan Hughes / list of 10 - mints, lemon balm, lime flowers,

29. Can you suggest any exotic or unusual vegetables that will grow well in this area?   

gogi berry / yachon / salsifry /

30. What is the panel's favourite food to grow, and what is their least favourite?   

lettuce / beetroot / squashes / rhubarb / globe artichoke / runner beans / jerusalem artichoke /

31. Too much moss on her lawn, should she kill the moss and re-seed?   

grow moss, encourage wild life - wrens / let grass grow / grow veg!

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