Somerset College Growing Guides

 My Eco Sprout aims to provide the best possible Growing Guides

It's of great importance to us that every child will be able to successfully grow their own plants.

You guys will be growing a selection of the following Veggies:

  • Purple Runner Bean
  • Palm Kale
  • Jelly Mellon Cucumber
  • Gooseberries
  • Black Cherry Tomato
  • Yellow Pear Shaped Cherry Tomato
  • Blue Shelling Pea
  • Lemon Cucumber

 When you do read this you would have already planted your first seed in the pot that was in your kit and classroom activity. We hope you had loads of fun!!

Now you need to read a bit more about what you would need to do to eventually harvest your very rare Heirloom Variety Vegies/Fruits. Scroll down to find the variety you have planted.

Let's just remind you of what you have done so far:

Cucumbers: Jelly Melon & Lemon Cucumber

Jelly Melon
Lemon Cucumber

 

 

Grow cucumbers in your home or school garden and you’ll become part of a long gardening heritage. These crisp, refreshing vegetables originated in India, where they have been grown for the past 3000 years! Of course, many changes have come to this crop over the centuries, so gardeners can find a cucumber variety that works in just about any garden situation.

Varieties

There's a type of cucumber for every use, including slicers for fresh eating, and varieties bred especially for pickle making. You can, however, pickle any small cucumber, or eat picklers fresh right off the vine, so experiment with different varieties, regardless of how you intend to use them. Slicers generally form 12- 25cm long, cylindrical cucumbers with tender, dark green skins and bear over a period of 4-6 weeks. Pickling varieties produce smaller fruits on fast-growing vines and generally produce most of their crop in the space of a couple of weeks. This concentrated bearing makes it convenient to harvest plenty for a pickling session.  You can also grow round yellow Cucumbers that look like lemons or ones that can reach up to 3 feet long!

Another choice is between hybrid and open-pollinated varieties of cucumbers. Open-pollinated types are old standbys and include the interesting ones with unusual colours and shapes. Hybrid cucumbers may bear more heavily and show greater resistance to some of the diseases that can trouble this crop.

Typically, cucumber vines produce separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Bees carry pollen from the male blossoms to the female blossoms in order for fruits to form. The term for these types of cucumbers is "monoecious."

You may also encounter varieties labeled “parthenocarpic.” These types of Cucumbers produce seedless fruits from flowers that don’t require fertilization. These varieties are popular for greenhouse growing because they will set fruits without pollinators present. However, seeded fruits can develop on parthenocarpic varieties if their flowers are visited by bees bearing pollen from seeded varieties growing nearby.

Site: Cucumber vines do best in well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter in a location that receives full sun. They can also be grown successfully in containers. Use at least a 5-gallon container with a minimum soil depth of at least 30 cm.

When to plant: While its name may evoke the epitome of coolness, cucumber plants like it warm.

For a head start in short season areas, plants can be started indoors 3-4 weeks before your setting out date. Be sure not to start them indoors any earlier than this, however, as older plants don't tolerate transplanting well. Start seedlings in individual, plantable pots (like peat pots) to minimize root disturbance at planting time. Make sure transplants are well hardened off before they go out in the open garden. Transplant when the soil is warm, all danger of frost is past, and night temperatures stay reliably above 50 degrees F, generally about a week after the last spring frost date.

In many parts of the country you can plant more than one crop of cucumbers. Sow seeds every few weeks up until about 12 weeks before the fall frost date for the most bountiful harvest.

Planting:  Although it is not absolutely necessary to support vines on some sort of trellis, if you do you'll get straighter, easier to pick fruits, save space, and have fewer disease problems to deal with. The vines cling by tendrils to supports. Tepees or vertical or A-frame trellises work well. Be sure to put the support in place before you plant your seeds. Bush varieties of cucumbers can be grown without supports.

Plant seeds in rows or hills, depending on how you plan to support the vines. Set seeds about 2cm deep and 4 cm apart, thinning seedlings to 8-10 inches apart when plants have a several sets of leaves. Mulch to conserve soil moisture.

Care: Cucumbers are mostly water, and a consistent supply of water will give the best harvest. Moisture stressed Cucumbers may be bitter and misshapen. Drip irrigation and mulch both help reduce the possibility of water stress. Feed vines growing in the ground with a balanced fertilizer about a month after planting. Container-grown plants will need regular fertilization throughout the season.

 Troubleshooting:

  • Cucumber beetles: These small yellow-green beetles with either black spots or stripes on their backs begin feeding in early spring on the leaves and stems of cucumbers and related plants; a heavy infestation may totally destroy plants. The eggs they lay hatch into white grubs that can stunt plants by feeding on their roots. In addition to the direct damage they do, the beetles can spread bacterial wilt and mosaic virus, two diseases that can harm or even kill plants. One of the best ways to control these pests is to rotate the location of cucumbers and their kin (squash, melons, pumpkins) in the garden and cover seedbeds or transplants with floating row covers immediately at planting time. You'll need to remove the covers when plants begin to bloom to allow bees in to pollinate but covering helps to minimize damage to plants at the vulnerable seedling stage. Plants can be sprayed (or dipped, in the case of transplants) with a kaolin clay mixture. This natural product coats the leaves and repels beetle feeding. Combine with yellow sticky traps for additional non-chemical control. You might also consider a registered insecticide to control heavy infestations on uncovered plants.
  • Misshapen fruits:These are the result of incomplete pollination, which causes portions of the fruits to develop improperly. This can happen if there is not enough bee activity when the plants are flowering; for example, if the weather is rainy when plants were blooming or if pesticide use has harmed pollinators. Spells of very hot weather (in the 90s) can also damage pollen and lead to poorly formed fruits. There's not much you can do about the weather other than wait it out. But you can protect the bees that visit your crops by minimizing pesticide usage; choosing pesticide products that are the least toxic to bees (check the label for this information); and applying pesticides in the evening when bees are not flying.
  • Bitter tasting fruits:Many varieties of cucumbers naturally contain a bitter compound called cucurbitacin. When plants are stressed by things like heat, drought, low soil fertility, or disease they produce more of this compound, resulting in bitter cucumbers. Some of the newer, “burpless” varieties have been bred to have little or no cucurbitacin. Fruits harvested toward the end of the season from unhealthy plants are most likely to taste bitter. To reduce the likelihood of bitter cucumbers, keep plants consistently watered, use mulch to conserve soil moisture, and maintain soil fertility.

Harvesting: 

Cucumbers get big – often too big – fast, so pick frequently to keep vines bearing well. If you let overly mature fruits stay on the vine the plant will think its job is done and stop producing new fruits. Most slicing varieties taste best when they are between 6-8 inches long. Picklers are best harvested when they are 2-4 inches long.

FUN FACTS

  • Cucumbers are very low in calories, with only about 16 calories per cup. And while not stars in the nutrition department, they do offer modest amounts of potassium, Vitamin C, and fiber.

 

Beans

Purple Pole Bean

Beans are a rewarding crop for both beginning and experienced vegetable gardeners alike. They’re great for beginners – especially young gardeners – because their large seeds are easy to handle and plant, and the fast-growing plants provide a bountiful harvest within a fairly short period of time. But there are enough varieties and types of beans available to whet the horticultural and culinary interests of more seasoned gardeners and keep bean growing fresh and exciting.

Varieties

There is a bean for just about every garden situation and palate. Bean varieties can be categorized by the growth stage at which their picked, their growth habit, and the colour of the pods or seeds.

Snap beans, also called green or string beans, are harvested when the pods are young and tender and the seeds inside are not fully developed. They are eaten pod and all. Shell beans are picked when they are about half-way to maturity, when the pods are green but no longer tender. The seeds inside the pods are “shelled” or taken out of the pods for eating fresh. Dry beans are harvested when the seeds are fully mature and hard and the pods are dried out and brown. The dry beans are removed from the pods and can be stored for many months – even years.

The growth habit of bean plants varies as well. Low-growing bush beans mature at 2 feet or less. They produce large crops that are ready for harvest quickly and can be planted in successive sowings, so you'll have plenty of tender pods throughout the season. The bush snap bean varieties with round green pods are probably the most familiar. They germinate reliably, even if the soil is on the cool side, their sturdy seedlings shouldering their way through the soil toward the light. Prolific bearers, they are great for fresh use. And because they ripen their pods within a fairly short period of time, they work well for folks who want to can or freeze their crop. Bush bean varieties include yellow wax beans that add a beautiful colour to the garden or the dinner plate, as well as slender French or filet beans with a delicate flavour and texture.

Tall growing pole beans produce over a long season. Many folks think that pole snap beans have the best, most pronounced "bean" flavour of all. Their tall vines will produce more beans in total over the course of the growing season than bush beans, and for a longer period of time, but the harvest at any one time will be smaller. This makes them a good choice for gardeners who grow beans mainly for fresh eating. Pole beans need a teepee of sturdy poles or a trellis to support their vigorous growth.

Want to expand your bean horizons? Warmth-loving lima beans are available in both bush and pole varieties. Red-flowered scarlet runner beans can be eaten as young pods, green shell beans, or as black and pink speckled dry beans – and the blossoms on the tall vines will attract hummingbirds! Fava beans, grown in the Mediterranean region for centuries as shell or dry beans, do best in cool weather and are planted early in the growing season as soon as the soil can be worked. Chinese yard long beans may not actually reach 36 inches long, but especially in warm climates, the vines may grow 8 feet tall or higher!

Site: Plant beans in well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter in a location that receives full sun. To minimize disease problems in the bean patch, use a three-year rotation for the location of beans in your garden space.

When to plant: Don't rush spring bean planting or your seeds may rot in the cold soil before they germinate. Wait until the soil is warm and dry before tucking seeds in the ground. Varieties with dark coloured seeds germinate better in cool soil than white-seeded varieties. Pole beans are more demanding of warm soil, so wait a little longer to plant them, usually about a week or two after your last spring frost date. 

Planting: Like their cousins, the peas, beans are members of the Legume family. This means that, with the help of specialized bacteria in the soil, they can take up and use nitrogen from the air. So you don't need to worry about adding extra nitrogen to the soil for your bean crop. If you are planting beans or peas for the first time in your garden, it’s a good idea to coat your seeds with a purchased inoculant powder, available at garden stores, to make sure these helpful bacteria are present. But once they have been introduced, the bacteria become established in the soil and don't need to be added every year.

Plant bush beans seeds 4cm deep and 5cm apart in rows 1 to 2 feet apart. The tall vines of pole beans climb by twining and need a strong support 6-8 feet tall to clamber up. Plant the seeds of pole beans 1 to 2 inches deep at the base of their support. If you are using poles for support, place 4 to 6 seeds in a circle about 6 inches out from the base of the pole; thin to one or two of the strongest plants per pole.

Make successive small plantings of bush beans every 2-3 weeks until about 2 months before your first fall frost date for a continuous harvest all summer long. As individual plants finish bearing, pull them up and add them to your compost pile (as long as they are disease-free).

Care: Beans are generally a pretty trouble-free crop. They will do best if they have consistent moisture and don't have to compete with weeds. A mulch of straw put down after the seedlings have come up will help retain soil moisture and keep weeds at bay.

Wet foliage promotes disease problems. Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to provide water, or water with sprinklers early in the day so leaves dry quickly. Avoid working among bean plants when the leaves are wet to prevent spreading disease-causing organisms.

 Troubleshooting:

  • Few or misshapen pods: The pollination of bean flowers can be affected by temperatures that are too high or low. Temperatures over 90 degrees can cause blossoms to drop, so no pods form. If temperatures stay below 60 degrees in the day or 40 degrees at night, pods may be misshapen or incompletely filled. Once temperatures moderate, the plants will resume bearing. Moisture stress can also cause bean plants to drop blossoms, so try to keep soil moisture consistent. An organic mulch spread after the seedlings have come up will help to retain soil moisture and keep weeds down.
  • Disease problems.Beans are susceptible to a number of bacterial and fungal diseases. Bacterial blights cause small, water-soaked spots on the leaves. Lesions may also appear on stems and pods. Common blight causes larger spots with a narrow yellow border and can be a problem east of the Rockies, especially when the weather is hot and humid. Halo blight is more of a problem when the weather is cool; its lesions are surrounded by a wide yellow halo. White mold is a fungal disease that causes water-soaked spots on leaves, stems and pods. When the weather is moist, a fuzzy white mold forms on these spots. You may see what look like small, black, seeds in the mold. To keep these diseases to a minimum, plant in well-drained soil, avoid overhead watering or water early in the day so plants dry quickly, and space plants widely to encourage good air circulation. Avoid working in bean patch when the leaves are wet to prevent spreading diseases from plant to plant. Remove infected plants and clean up and dispose of plant debris at the end of the season. Plant beans in a different location of the garden each year; a 3-year rotation is best.

Harvesting: Bush and pole snap beans are ready to pick when their pods are firm and crisp, about the size of a pencil in diameter, and the seeds within the pods are still undeveloped or just barely visible as small bumps in the pod. Bean plants are somewhat brittle, so pick pods carefully -- hold the vine in one hand and pull off the Individual pods with the other to avoid breaking the stems. Pick often; the more you pick, the more the plant will produce. Shell beans are ready when the pods are full and green. Let your dry beans mature on the vine until the pods are dry and begin to split.

 

Tomatoes

Yellow Pear Shaped Cherry Tomatoes

 

Black Cherry Tomatoes

Tomatoes are by far the most popular home garden crop – and taste is the reason why. Nothing beats the taste of a perfectly vine-ripened tomato! Whether you have the space to grow rows of in-ground plants or only enough for a few container plants, growing your own is a fun and easy way to enjoy the delectable harvest that only a homegrown tomato offers.

Varieties

The iconic tomato may be round, red and softball-sized, but there is a lot of variety in the world of tomatoes. You can choose from varieties with fruits as tiny as marbles or ones with fruits weighing several pounds. In addition to the classic red-orange hue, fruits of various varieties ripen to orange, yellow, purple, green, striped – even white! Vines size ranges from a foot and a half high to six feet high or taller. With all this bounty, how do you choose? Here are some things to keep in mind to help you choose the best tomato varieties for your garden.

  • Hybrid or open-pollinated.Hybrid tomato varieties are the products of modern breeding programs. These varieties are created through controlled pollination and have been bred for specific traits, such as increased disease resistance and greater and more uniform fruit production. If you plant seeds saved from a hybrid, they won’t come true, meaning they won’t produce plants like their parent.

Open pollinated varieties are the result of pollination by natural mechanisms. The result is plants with more genetic diversity than hybrids. Tomatoes are self-fertile, meaning that the pollen produced by the anthers in a tomato flower can pollinate the stigma of the same flower, but the action of bees and wind help to move the pollen successfully within the flowers. The seeds of open-pollinated tomato varieties do come true and can be saved from year to year, if you choose.

  • These are generally defined as varieties that are more than 50 years old and have been passed down through generations of gardeners. Many gardeners feel that these open-pollinated varieties have the richest tomato flavour.
  • Fruit type.Large beef-steak types are great for slicing, while cherry and grape tomatoes are perfect for snacking or tossing in a salad. Meaty paste-type tomatoes cook up into delicious sauces and are good choices for canning and freezing.

Site: Full sun is best in many parts of the country. Tomatoes do best in moderately fertile, moist but well-drained soil. Choose a spot that allows for ample spacing between plants, as good air circulation will help to reduce disease problems.

When to plant: Start seeds early indoors 6-8 weeks before you plan to set plants in the garden. When seedlings have their first set of true leaves (what appears to be the second set; the first are seed leaves), transplant to individual pots if you started seeds in flats, or thin to the strongest seedling if you started seeds in individual pots. Make sure seedlings get plenty of bright light. Growing seedlings under fluorescent lights rather than on a window will help you produce stronger plants.

Set young plants (either homegrown or purchased) out in the garden when the soil is warm and all danger of frost is past, usually a couple of weeks after the last spring frost date. Be sure to harden off transplants for 7-10 days before you plant them outside.

Gardeners in long-season areas may be able to grow two crops. Plant the first crop in spring and harvest before the hottest weather hits. Then set out another round of transplants about 3 ½ months before the date of the first fall frost for a fall harvest.

Planting: Some type of support is needed for tall, indeterminate varieties, and even the shorter determinate varieties will have fewer disease problems and be easier to harvest from if given some support. There are lots of options for supports, from individual stakes to trellises to cages. Be sure to put supports in place at planting time to avoid damaging roots later on.

Stakes: Sturdy, 8-foot tall stakes work well to support indeterminate varieties, with at least 25 cm of the stake anchored in the ground, while 5-6 foot stakes are adequate for determinate varieties. Set plants that will be staked at least 40 - 50 cm inches apart.

Cages: Cages work well to support determinate and semi-determinate varieties. Cages should be at least 4 feet tall and 40cm wide; even taller and wider if you plan to cage indeterminate vines. Be sure to secure the cage to two stakes driven into the ground on either side of the cage to prevent it from toppling over as the vine grows and becomes top-heavy. And make sure the openings in the cage wire are at least a12 cm square so that you can reach in with your hand to harvest your tomatoes. Set caged plants 3-4 feet apart.

Trellis: There are lots of possible designs for supporting tomato vines with a trellis or fence that work well for both indeterminate and determinate varieties. One simple setup is to sink sturdy posts into the ground at 5 foot intervals and staple support wire to the posts. Use either three to four wires running horizontally about a foot apart, starting a foot off the ground, or 12 cm wire mesh. Plant your tomatoes in a staggered pattern 3-4 feet apart on either side of the trellis and weave the stems through the wires as they grow.

When you are tying tomato stems to their supports, be sure to use a soft material that won't damage the stem tissue, such as pieces of old panty hose, strips of soft cloth, or thick, soft twine. Especially when tying up the succulent, newest growth, wrap the ties in a figure-eight to lessen the chances of the stem rubbing against the ties and getting injured.

Tomato plants have the ability to sprout new roots along the length of their stems. When you set young plants in the ground, bury the stem up to the first set of leaves to encourage this extra root formation.

Care: Once the soil is warm (assuming you are not using plastic mulch), spread organic mulch over the soil in your tomato bed. This will help to keep weeds down, conserve soil moisture, and reduce disease problems by preventing fungal spores in the soil from splashing up onto lower leaves.

Keep plants watered consistently throughout the growing season to reduce problems with blossom end rot, a physiological disorder related to fluctuations in soil moisture. Even soil moisture will also reduce fruit cracking.

You don’t need to prune the suckers on your tomato plants to get a good crop, but pruning can be helpful at times. In general, determinate varieties do better with little or no pruning, since they are smaller plants and removing suckers may take away too much foliage and leave ripening fruits vulnerable to sunscald. Removing suckers on larger indeterminate varieties can help reduce fungal diseases by improving air circulation and light around the leaves. Where are the suckers? Look for the side shoots that arise in the angle between the leaf stalks and the main stem. When they are a couple of inches long, just reach in and pinch them off with your fingers by gently rocking the sucker back and forth until it breaks off.

Clean up and dispose of all plant debris in the tomato patch at the end of the season. This will reduce the number of overwintering insects and disease spores that will be around to cause problems the following season.

Troubleshooting:

No fruit set: To much nitrogen fertilizer can result in lots of deep green foliage and few flowers and fruits.

Catfacing: Tomato fruits that are puckered with corky brown strips of scar tissue form when something interferes with the normal development of the flowers, such as cold temperatures or drought. It is common on the first fruits of the season. Don’t set out plants too early when the weather is still cool, and keep soil moisture consistent throughout the growing season.

Cracking: This occurs when tomato fruits enlarge too quickly as they ripen. The cracks usually occur at the stem end of the fruit. Sometimes they form concentric circles; sometimes they radiate out vertically. When tomato fruits are at the mature green stage and the water supply to the plant decreases, the outer layer of the tomato skin begins to thicken. If the plant's water supply increases again suddenly, as when heavy rain follows a period of drought, the fruits enlarge rapidly and this tougher outer layer of skin cracks. Some varieties, especially some of the older ones, are especially susceptible to cracking. To control this problem, select crack-resistant varieties; try to keep soil moisture consistent by watering regularly, especially as tomato fruits are maturing; and make sure the soil around the plants is well mulched. Blossom end rot: The blossom end of the fruit (furthest from the stem) turns black and leathery. This is the result of a lack of calcium in the fruit as it is forming. Usually there is plenty of calcium in the soil, but the roots of the plant are not able take up enough due to factors such as a sudden decrease in soil moisture, root damage from cultivating too close to the plant, or planting in cold, heavy soil. To control this problem, try to keep soil moisture consistent; mulch plants to conserve moisture and keep weeds down; and wait until the soil is warm before planting.

Late blight: The first sign is the appearance of dark, water-soaked, irregularly shaped spots, about the size of a nickel or a quarter, on the leaves. These spots become covered with a fuzzy white mold on the undersides of the leaves. They enlarge quickly, turn black and kill the entire leaf. The infection then spreads to the leafstalks and main stem, eventually causing the entire plant to collapse and die. Tomato fruits can also be affected. If you see spots on just a few leaves, you can pick these off, put them in plastic bags and toss them in the garbage. But if lots of leaves or the stems are infected, it's best to destroy the whole top of the plant to prevent the spread of spores to uninfected plants.

Harvesting: When tomatoes have reached full colour for the variety you are growing and they have a little give when gently squeezed, they are their peak for picking.

Don't panic if the weatherman predicts light frost and your tomato vines are still loaded with green fruit. Often if you protect plants from an early light frost, the weather will turn warm again and you might get as much as several weeks more for green fruits to ripen. Protect plants by covering them with medium to heavy weight row cover fabric, old sheets, and the like before the sun sets; then remove coverings in the morning. But if hard frost is predicted, it's best to harvest

Partly red tomatoes well on their way to ripening tolerate cooler temperatures and can be left on the vine until frost threatens.

Indoors, place the tomatoes on a shelf and cover them with sheets of newspaper or wrap the individual tomatoes with newspaper or waxed paper. The wrapping helps trap the ethylene gas tomatoes naturally give off that hastens ripening. Tomatoes need warmth, not light, to ripen, so there's no need to put them on a sunny windowsill. Proper humidity is also important during the ripening process. If it's too dry the fruits will shrivel; too humid and rot will set in. Placing individually wrapped fruits together in a covered box often works to keep the humidity level around them at a suitable level.

FUN FACTS

  • Tomatoes are both fruits and vegetables. From a botanical perspective, they are fruits because they develop from the ovary at the base of the tomato flower and contain the plant’s seeds. But from a culinary standpoint, we usually use them vegetables because they are savoury, rather than sweet.
  • Tomatoes are native to South America and were first cultivated as a food crop by the Aztecs in Central America. Their name for tomatoes translates as “plump things with a navel.” Following Spanish explorations in the New World, tomato cultivation made its way around the globe, not only to Europe but to Asia as well, via Spanish settlements in the Philippines.

 

Peas

Blue Shelling Pea

Peas are a great crop for both school and home gardens. They thrive when the weather is cool, so young gardeners eager to get outside and get planting can start sowing seeds of in early spring. Depending on the type and variety, peas may be ready for harvest in as little as eight or nine weeks, allowing for a harvest before summer recess begins in many parts of the country. Peas can also be planted mid to late summer for an Autumn harvest. And there is nothing more delectable than the taste of peas picked fresh. If all you’ve ever tasted are the frozen kind, peas straight from the garden will be a revelation!

Varieties

Peas come in three types. Most familiar are garden, shelling, or English peas, which produce inedible pods that are opened or shelled to reveal a row of sweet, plump edible peas inside. The other two types of peas – snow peas and snap peas (also called sugar snap) – produce edible pods. Snow peas are ready for harvest when the pods are full size but flat, before the peas within the pod have developed. With snap peas the pods remain tender as the peas within them enlarge. Within each type there are varieties that mature earlier or later; with dwarf, intermediate or tall vine heights; and some that show good heat tolerance (important when planting in summer for fall harvest) or disease resistance.

Site: Peas do best in full sun in well-drained, moderately fertile soil rich in organic matter. Especially if you have heavy soil, raised beds work well for pea plantings as they dry out sooner than ground level beds in the spring.

When to Plant: Peas are quite cold-tolerant and can be planted in the garden usually about a month before the last frost date. The soil must also be dry enough to work. Not only will digging in wet soil ruin its structure; peas sown in soggy soil are likely to rot before they germinate. To test if soil is dry enough, squeeze a handful. If it sticks together in a tight ball, let the soil dry out some more before working. If the ball of soil breaks apart easily when given a gentle poke, it's ready for digging.

One way to get your peas off to a more reliable start in cool, wet spring soil is to pre-germinate them before planting. Wrap the seeds in a moist paper towel and put them in a dark, warm place for a few days. Check daily and as soon as you see tiny roots begin to emerge, pop the seeds into their outdoor planting bed.

Peas also grow well in the cooler weather of fall, but they can be damaged by frost, especially the developing pods.

Planting: Like their cousins, the beans, peas are members of the Legume family. This means that, with the help of specialized bacteria (Rhizobia) in the soil, beans can take up and use nitrogen from the air. So you don't need to worry about adding extra nitrogen to the soil for your pea crop. In fact, the peas will leave your soil more fertile than they found it!

Plant pea seeds about 3 cm deep and 6-14 cm apart. Unless you are growing dwarf varieties that don’t need support, you’ll need to erect some kind of trellis for pea vines to wrap their tendrils around. One way to do this is to plant a double row of peas, with each row about 6 inches apart. Then erect a trellis down the middle between the two rows so that the pea vines can climb up from either side. No need to thin your pea seedlings; peas don’t mind crowding.

If you are planting dwarf or bush varieties, you can sow seeds in wide rows, spacing seeds 8 cm apart within the row. While it’s not required, these plants are easier to harvest if you give them some support as well. Pea brush – twiggy branches shoved into the soil around plants – works well to hold shorter vines off the ground.

Care: When your pea seedling are a few inches high, spread mulch to help keep the soil cool, as well as suppress weeds and retain moisture.

Start training the tendrils onto the supports when the plants are about 12cm tall. Peas naturally grasp the support with their tendrils, though you may need to guide them gently towards the support as they become tall enough to reach it.

Troubleshooting:

  • Disappearing seedlings: Birds will pull up new seedlings to get to the seeds. Cover the seed bed with floating row cover fabric until plants are well-established.
  • Lower leaves turn yellow and plants wilt:Root rot can be a problem when peas are grown in poorly drained soil. Pull up infected plants and replant in a spot with better drainage.
  • Poor yields:Once hot summer weather hits, pea vines stop producing. Make sure to time your pea planting so that vines are maturing when the weather is still cool. If your vines are lush and green but are not producing flowers, too much nitrogen fertilizer may be the culprit. Grow peas in soil with lots of organic matter, but go easy on added high-nitrogen fertilizer.
  • Young leaves and shoots curled and distorted: Aphids are small, soft-bodied, pear-shaped insects that feed by sucking, causing damage to new growth. They can also spread virus diseases as they feed. Knock aphids off plants with a strong stream of water from a hose and encourage beneficial insects to keep aphid populations under control by planting early blooming flowers near your pea plants.

Harvesting: Garden peas are ready for harvest when their pods are plump and full, but are still bright green rather than dull and waxy looking. Pods ripen at the base of the vines first, so check these first. Don’t yank on the pods to pick them or you can harm the plant. Hold onto the stem of the vine with one hand and pinch off the pod with the other hand. Harvest plants frequently to keep them producing new pods.

Snow peas are ready to pick about 5-7 days after flowering, when the pods have reached their full size and can be bent without snapping, while the peas inside the pods are just beginning to be visible. Snap peas are ready when their pods are rounded and filled out, but the peas inside are still on the small side. Especially with snow and snap peas, harvesting every 1-2 days will give the best results.

Garden peas taste sweetest if eaten as soon as possible after they are picked. Snow and snap peas are a little more forgiving and will keep in the refrigerator for a week.

FUN FACTS

  • Where do the dry split peas used to make pea soup come from? They are varieties of garden peas with smooth seeds that are high in starch. Instead of being picked when young and tender, the pods are left to mature on the vines until they and the peas inside are dry. These were the kind of peas used to make “pease porridge” referred to in the old nursery rhyme.
  • Garden peas are a good source of protein. One-half cup of cooked peas contains 4.3 grams of protein, along with ample amounts of Vitamins A, C, K and iron.
  • Experiments with peas in the 19th century enabled Gregor Mendel to elucidate the principles of inheritance that laid the foundation for the modern science of genetics.

 

Gooseberries

Gooseberry bushes grow well in most soils; they’re self-pollinating so you can get away with planting just one; they’re easy to prune; and gooseberries are very generous, giving up their sumptuous fruits in hearty profusion. In short, you really need to grow one!

Where to Grow Gooseberries

Gooseberries will thrive in most gardens, but to get the most from them grow them in a bright position in rich, well-drained soil.

Gooseberries naturally grow into bushes but may also be trained – as standards on a long single trunk, or against a fence as fans or single-stemmed cordons. Take heart if you really don’t have much space to spare or you only have a patio, because this hardy fruit can successfully be grown in containers too.

How to Plant a Gooseberry Bush

Plant bare-root or container-grown gooseberries from late autumn to early spring – you’ll probably need to wait until spring if the ground freezes solid over winter where you garden.

Dig a generous planting hole then add some well-rotted compost or manure to the excavated soil. Place the gooseberry into the hole so that the previous soil level is flush with the new soil level. Feed back the enriched soil around the roots or rootball, taking plenty of time to firm in the soil as you fill to anchor the roots. Water copiously to settle the soil further then finish off with a mulch of organic material to help suppress weeds and feed your new plant.

If you’re planting more than one gooseberry, space bushes at least 120cm apart. 

Caring for Gooseberries

In moisture-retentive soils established bushes need very little additional watering, but regular watering in hot, dry weather is a must for young plants and essential for container-grown gooseberries.

Apply an organic, balanced fertiliser at the end of each winter to give plants a good start ahead of the new growing season. Then remove any weeds around the root area before topping up mulches to at least an inch or 3cm deep. Use organic materials like garden compost or bark chippings for this.

 

Harvesting Gooseberries

Birds can sometimes pilfer fruits before you’ve had a chance to pick them. Stop them in their tracks! Cover plants with netting or grow bushes inside a purpose-made fruit cage.

Gooseberries are ready to pick from early summer onwards. Harvesting dessert or dual-purpose varieties in stages gives early, under-ripe fruits for cooking, then later fruits to enjoy sweet and fresh. The berries that remain after the first pickings will also be able to grow larger.

Handle the soft, plump fruits gently and wear thick gloves if the thorns become too painful to bear!

Gooseberries are at their mouth-watering best immediately after picking, but they’ll stay fresh enough in polythene bags kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. Or freeze gluts for a well-deserved taste of summer later on in the year.

 

Kale

The instructions for growing the Palm Kale is on its way :) In the meantime just know that you will be growing one of the healthiest Veggie varieties on the planet!!