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Organic Grow-How

Regular expert advice from Fruit Hill Farm on organic growing.
  • Early Earlies

    Early earlies are a treat to be savoured – and to get them on your plate in April/May you need to make a start now in December/January. Early potatoes have a short growing season – that is they will reach maturity within 10-12 weeks of planting depending on the severity of the weather.  Colleen, Casablanca, Sharpe’s Express or Red Duke of York are all reliable, tasty early varieties. Orla and British Queens (although officially these are second early varieties) can also be planted now for an early crop. Chitting potatoes Chitting is basically another word for
  • Introduction to Pruning

      The country’s trees have taking quiet a bashing this year and many of us are still clearing up damaged and felled trees. We can make the best of it by stocking up the woodshed and plan some winter pruning while we’re at it. With some exceptions, most trees are pruned in winter anyways. This is largely because deciduous plants go dormant in the winter and so less stress is received by the plant. There are other reasons for winter pruning. All the energy of the plant has been drawn in to its roots in the winter. This means the plant will have a large
  • Digging - Best Practice and Tools for the Job

      It is great to see the recent burst of interest and research into no-dig farming methods as a means to preserve and promote the health of our soils. However, it is unlikely we will be downing tools anytime soon in our gardens as mechanically working the soil is by far the quickest way to convert a patch of unused land into a fertile and workable medium for vegetable plants. By cultivating the soil, we can quickly create an ideal loose friable structure by breaking up compaction and a directly adding organic matter such as compost and manure. This provides
  • Growing, Storing and Eating Organic Pumpkins

    The Fruit Hill Farm Guide to Organic Pumpkins - Growing, Storing, Eating and everything else you need to know! What’s not to like about pumpkin.  Easy to grow, fantastic colour, store well, very versatile in the kitchen, very nutritious, edible seeds and can even be used as a Halloween decoration!  That’s a lot of plus points. How to grow Organic Pumpkins Sow organic seeds in mid April in medium sized pots in good quality organic compost. They like a bit of heat to germinate so either put them in the hot-press or in a heated propagator. As soon as they have
  • How to string Onions (and Soft Neck garlic)

    Stringing onions is easy and a great way to store your crop overwinter as you can keep a large number of bulbs in a small space. Hang them in a cool, dry, frost-free place - such as a shed - until you need to bring them into the kitchen. Preparing Bulbs for Stringing Leave your bulbs to dry out thoroughly before you string them, by laying them out and leaving them in the sun for a few days. If it's raining, lay them on trays in a warm, dry place, such as a shed, polytunnel or conservatory. Choose the best quality, ripe bulbs to store - any that are damp and moist should
  • Overwintering Onions and Garlic

    Overwintering Onions Autumn varieties of onions, such as Radar or Troy,  grow slowly over winter to give you a crop of fresh onions the following May or June, just as your stored onions will have started to sprout.  It is advisable to follow a crop rotation. Overwintering onions are often called ‘Japanese’ onions (because they were first developed in Japan), these can be sown outside from late September up to early November. The main benefit of growing overwintering onions is that you will have a crop of onions ready for eating about a month before your main
  • Winter Green Manures

    Green manures, also referred to as fertility building crops, are crops used to improve the condition of the soil in some way during times when there would be no other plants in the ground. They are typically dug back into the soil before the following crop to allow it to benefit from the nutrients released. A wide range of plant species can be used as green manures with different ones providing different benefits. To get the best from a green manure crop, its cultivation should be taken as seriously as any other crop and integrated thoughtfully into the crop
  • Carrot Root Fly

      The carrot root fly (Psila rosae), pictured below looking like butter wouldn't melt in it's mouth, is responsible for much grief amongst home gardeners and commercial growers alike. It is partial to dining on a number of vegetables in the Apiaceae, or carrot, family of plants. It can affect parsnip, parsley, celery and celeriac but is most notorious for reducing your carrot crop to an inedible mess. Carrot fly is a small black-bodied fly which lays its eggs beside victim crops. The larvae then hatch out and feed on the roots as they burrow into them. Sometimes
  • Bolting

    Bolting refers to when a plant rather rudely decides to enter its flowering stage before we would like it to. Essentially, it has come to the conclusion that it is time to produce seed, and energy previously flowing into leaf growth is diverted to this task. As a result, the leafy part of the plant, which we were more than likely planning on eating, is lost to woody, not so tasty, and sometimes more bitter material. Bolting is essentially a survival mechanism which is triggered for a number of reasons. The factors which contribute to a plants susceptibility to
  • Scythes & Scything

    Like many other traditional tools, a scythe can look like a crude instrument when first viewed. However, in the right hands, it can be a very efficient tool giving much return for the energy expended. Indeed, it’s surprising how much area can be cleared or mown in a short time. Rambling through Youtube scything videos you’ll come across a few ‘man versus machine’ style challenges. On the whole, the scythe favours well - albeit with a user in need of a sit down by the end. It competes especially well with strimmers, clearing open ground quicker but struggling

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