Gardeners Question Time Tips

Dawlish Transition Gardener’s question time with Toby Buckland, Shirley Tamblyn and Jo Hooper

What is a good way to grow apple trees?
An interesting way is as a fruit hedge with a different variety every few feet.
Adam’s Apples can give advice on the varieties to grow.
Plants for the future: have good database for planting information.

Cox Orange Pippin are a good variety to grow but they can be prone to scab. In this area in the past cider apples were grown as this was not so much of a problem. One way to counteract this is to spray with seaweed foliar feed.

How do you get fruit trees off to a good start in containers?
50% John Innes and 50% multi purpose peat free compost will provide well for fruit trees in containers.
Blueberry bushes need acidic soil, and as with all berry crops don’t forget to net to protect from birds.
Most berry plants enjoy higher levels of rainfall to crop well.
Cranberries need acidic soil conditions and high levels of rainfall for a good September crop.

Growing food as a beginner – where should I start?
Grow veg. you like. Salad leaves like rocket are an easy place to start. Many veg. can be grown in containers if not much space is available; even carrots can be grown in pots.

It is a good idea to get children involved to spur the family on with crops like runner beans- pick young and tender,

Swap produce with other people to give more variety,

During hot weather a watering system is essential with rain butts, however even waste washing water can be used in times of drought.

Which food plants are particularly suited to growing in our local climate?
Brassicas are an ideal cliff top plant- cover with fleece to keep aphids off when young then harden off with full light access.
Chard is also a good tasty plant to grow.
Pak Choi and Joy Choi Chinese greens will thrive as long as the ground is moist.
Autumn planted cabbages appreciate a dressing of garden lime. It is always good to know the acidity level of your soil. West Country compost is very alkaline and can be used as a mulch for cabbages.

Peas are another food plant that love lots of water- it is essential to keep them moist as they do not like drought conditions. An easy way to grow them is in guttering with end stops. It is best to plant them in April or May. By moonlight is also said to be an auspicious planting time if trying out biodynamic gardening methods.

Beans grow well in a trench lined with compost with an organic mulch.

Sweet Potatoes- the easiest way is to grow them in a polytunnel. They like to have warm roots so grow through black plastic to warm the soil. You can order chits from nurseries or start your own off in an airing cupboard.

Potatoes are best grown from seed potatoes to avoid disease. They do not like frosts so plant out after that. They can also be grown successfully in tubs in a green house.

Jerusalem Artichokes are a dependable plant to grow. They are a useful soup ingredient, and a member of the sunflower family so they can be grown to a height of 7 to 8 feet to act as a windbreak. However they can be invasive.

When is the best time to plant?
There will be times of glut and famine depending on the weather and soil conditions. It is important to make a plan for successional crops. A crop of planted F1 seeds will all tend to mature at once. Plant in small quantities and different varieties. Be aware of the hungry gap after Christmas.

What sort of fertiliser would you recommend?
Seaweed collected from the beach is a useful natural fertiliser. Collect after a rain storm if possible as the longer it lies there the more salty it will be. It is especially good around brassicas, asparagus and under potato plants.

How to grow healthy courgettes?
If courgettes are rotten in the ends then the ground or the air has been too moist. Keep pests at bay with a dressing of seaweed. Prevent Club root by growing rhubarb alongside- due to the effects of its oxalic acid.

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