Spalding Guardian Gardening 26 August 2010
The other day, I was chatting to a friend of mine who manufactures raised bed kits out of recycled PVCu pellets, which are produced from recycled plastic window frames and offcuts from replacement doors and soffits. He was bemoaning the fact that this is the time of year when business starts to decline; it seems that most new raised bed growers are under the impression that the grow-your-own year has to start in the spring.
In fact, I think this is an ideal time to make a start on a small scale. Salad leaves can still be sown; Johnson’s Seeds produce a range called Speedy Salads, which are ideal for those just starting out on vegetable cultivation, or – like me – want to see some quick action, as all the varieties can be picked just 21 days from sowing. This collection includes fast growing types of rocket, lettuce, kale and a mixture of all, and, sown before the end of the month, will give you home-grown salads until the first frosts if you pick one or two leaves from each seedling and allow the plants to grow on for subsequent pickings. I made a new sowing on August 18, which means I will be making salads from this by mid-September at the latest.
I grow all my annual vegetables in six one-metre square raised beds now as it prevents me from sowing too much of any one sort at a time. I have to admit that it has taken me a while to find the correct growing medium; at first I used multi-purpose potting compost, but this doesn’t suit all vegetables, and I gradually replaced it with John Innes. This was proving expensive, so now I top up with a 70-30 mixture of soil and garden compost (I use that which you get free for five stamps on a card from the West Marsh Road Recycling Centre when you take your garden rubbish there) when I pull the old plants out and this seems to work very well. At this time of year, the broad beans, peas and summer cauliflowers and cabbage make way for leek plant, winter cauliflowers and a quick crop of salad leaves and, later, over-wintering onion sets, while the runner bean wigwam will continue to crop for several weeks yet. The real secret is to make sure that all the beds are doing something all the time.
The beauty of starting raised bed cultivation at this time of year is that it gives you a chance to get the beds and a few quick crops up and running while the weather is still warm enough to make gardening pleasant for even the most ardent garden-hater. During the winter, you will have ample chance to peruse the seed and plant catalogues for varieties that appeal, and by the spring everything will be in place for more serious vegetable production. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?
I have a huge eucalyptus – is it too late to prune it?
Any new shoots produced late in the season are quite tender, and in a very cold winter can be damaged by frost. However, a well-established tree will produce new growth from lower down next summer if this does happen. If the tree is causing problems, I would be inclined to risk pruning it now, but if you are very fond of it, it’s best to wait till next April or May. Remember that the leaves on young shoots of eucalyptus are very different from mature ones, and tend to be more attractive.
This piece originally appeared in the Spalding Guardian