Grow Calderdale Newsletter – Summer 2021

Welcome to the Summer 2021 Newsletter

Looks like we have finally escaped from the cold, wet spring and everything is growing well, just a little late.  Vegetable gardens are getting close to producing crops and flower borders are moving towards their summer best.  A great time to be outdoors and make the most of your garden.  Enjoy!

Top Tips

1.  Keep on weeding!  10 minutes a day is a lot easier to achieve that a 3-hour stint!
2. Make space for wildlife.
3. Invest in a comfy seat or bench so you can enjoy your garden and relax.

June JobsPlant out tender vegetables and bedding plants now all chance of frost has passed. Dead head roses when the petals drop off to ensure flowering continues. Take a sharp pair of secateurs and simply snip the dead flowers off the plant.

Hang out your hanging baskets. During dry, hot weather water hanging baskets and containers regularly.

Pick Sweet Peas regularly to avoid them setting seed and stopping flowering.  Fill your house with beautiful flowers.

July Jobs

Cut Lavender for drying, after picking, tie it in a large bundle with sting and hand up in a warm, dry place.

Sow lettuces to ensure that you get a crop spread throughout the season.  Little and often is key to avoiding a glut of produce.

Last chance to sow carrots for autumn cropping.

Sow Delphinium seeds for flowers for summer 2022.
Still time to sow pansies and violas for autumn/winter colour.  I love violas, a flower guaranteed to bring a smile to your face during the winter.

Keep picking those Sweet Peas!

August Jobs

Harvest vegetable crops such as carrots, runner beans and courgettes.

Leave seed heads on some plants to provide food for birds in the autumn. Teasels, lavender and verbena are good ones to leave.

Stop deadheading roses to allow rosehips to grow.

Collect seeds to sow next year.  Red campions, poppies, runner beans, and sweet peas are good ones to start with.  Store dry seeds in paper bags and mark the bag with the type of seed!

Pick more Sweet Peas, as soon as you stop and they set seed the season is over.

Wildlife Gardening

I have just read a piece by Grow Wild that asked the question ‘what is a weed?’

It made me think about our garden and how some people may be horrified by the dandelions, buttercups, violets, and foxgloves that grow in it. Weeds are simply plants that are growing in the wrong place and the definition of ‘wrong place’ varies from person to person.

I enjoy seeing the wild plants appearing in nooks and crannies in my garden and usually let them be, but if a species begins to dominate to the detriment of other plants then we remove some of them.

Many wildflowers are loved by pollinators and can be beneficial especially during the spring when nectar can be in short supply and in autumn when plants like Ivy come into their own as a nectar café.  I must confess that there are some wild plants that are not welcome in our garden such as Bindweed which seems keen to smother my twisted Hazel. Each to their own as my Mum used to say!  One thing is certain, if you can make space for a few wildflowers and other wild plants, then wildlife will thank you for it, wildflowers in the garden doesn’t have to end just because No Mow May is over!

Back to basics

I’m not sure why this is, but over the years of running gardening events, it has become clear to me that gardening can be a bit scary! Guessing that people aren’t lucky enough to come from a gardening family, I have a picture of me garden fork in hand at the age of 2! People have often told me that they don’t have the confidence to get stuck in and have a go without a bit of basic knowledge to start with.  If this applies to you then, hopefully this new addition to the newsletter might help. Don’t forget that trial and error (or trowel and error as it was described on my favourite gardening programme last week – Beechgrove Garden) is a good way to learn too so do have a go and learn from your mistakeslike most amateur gardeners do from time to time, me included!

Growing herbs

If you have never had the opportunity to grow plants from seed before, then why don’t you give growing herbs a go?  A packet of seed costs between £2 and £3 and each packet contains a lot of seeds.  If you happen to have any coriander seeds or cumin seeds in the kitchen, it is possible to plant them and get results too.

You need a container to grow the seeds in with drainage holes.  This can be a seed tray from a garden centre, a plant pot, a milk container with the top cut off and holes punched in the bottom or anything else you can think of. You also need some peat free potting compost.  Fill your container two thirds full of compost and lightly sprinkle your seed of choice on the surface of the compost.  Spread the seed as thinly as possible, I get a few seeds on the palm of my hand and shake my hand to let them fall onto the compost. Cover the seeds with a little more compost and put on a sunny windowsill to germinate.  Keep the compost moist, but not too wet.  The seeds will need watering every day in very hot weather or maybe less in cooler weather.  Feel the weight of the pot/container after it has been watered so you can feel the difference in weight when the compost dries out.

Germination takes around 2 weeks, after which you should be able to see little green shoots appearing out of the compost.  Once the seedlings have grown a set of proper leaves (the first leaves to appear are called seed leaves and look different to the plants proper leaves), they should be big enough to handle with care.  The technical description for this next stage is ‘pricking out’ which simply means splitting up the seedlings and potting on to small plant pots. Gently prise apart the seedlings with your hands or using a pencil and then take each seedling and gently move into a pot that has a hole in the compost to take the roots of the seeding.  Gently firm the compost around the seedling, label, and water.  Put the newly potted seedlings on a windowsill or in a greenhouse if you have one and keep damp. Keep the seedlings in a warm place with full sun or semi-shade and allow them to grow.

Once the roots are well established (check by carefully loosening the soil in the pot and upend the pot so that the pot comes off and you can see the root on the outside of the compost) you can either put the plant into a larger pot to grow outside, keep them in your kitchen on the windowsill or plant them out into the garden.  Harvest a few leaves as needed for cooking and allow the rest to grow on.  Some herbs such as Chives and Mint can survive outside over winter to be harvested all year round whereas others such as Coriander and Basil are annual plants which will need sowing again the following year.

Seasonal Recipes

We are reaching the end of the hunger gap, a time when it is tough to get enough fruit and vegetables out of the kitchen garden to keep going until the new season produce becomes available. Time for harvesting asparagus, new potatoes, and strawberries to name but a few.  Strawberries taste great when turned into a smoothie, try this recipe or how about a Summer Pudding which is so simple to make and delicious. A lovely recipe for new potatoes is one for spicy new potatoes which can be found here. Another amazing new potato recipe we tried last week is New Potato and Asparagus Frittata which I can strongly recommend.

If you fancy a spot of foraging, then Elderflowers are in flower now and can make some great dishes.  Elderflower’s can be used to make cordial, ice cream, ice lollies and cakes.  A great range of recipes can be found here. Whatever you choose to try, enjoy using seasonal produce with a low carbon footprint.

Nearly time for the bilberry harvest too, keep an eye out for purple bird dropping to tell you they are ready.

You can’t beat bilberry pie, crumble or gin!  Norland Moor is a popular bilberrying site if you want to give it a go.

Bilberries usually ripen about the start of the school holidays.

Down on the Allotment

A new writer for this edition, welcome to Kat Armstrong from the Environmental Management team who shares her experience of taking on an allotment.

Until the first COVID lockdown, I didn’t fully understand the appeal of an allotment. I thought they were nice but didn’t really ‘get it’. However, when COVID hit, I was extremely jealous of my friends with allotments – somewhere to go, somewhere you can meet people, somewhere outside where you’ve got something to do, and where you can come home with fresh organic vegetables? Sign me up. Well, it turns out a lot of other people had the same idea and we ended up 25th on the waiting list.

Fortunately/unfortunately, two of my allotmenteering friends broke up and Molly – who had been given custody of the allotment – needed some help as she now had an extra plot to look after. The new plot is on a slope and overgrown and we set to work in late winter firstly removing the brambles, then digging through the soil for roots. It took a while, but I found the process quite relaxing and enjoyed being outside. We have a small yard out the back of our house, which I love and where I enjoy growing flowers, but there is only so much you can get up to in there.

As the plot is on a slope, we decided to level it into two terraces. A few years ago, I took a 3-month long woodworking course so was able to conjure up those skills and make some planters to hold up the terrace. It also meant I could use my new power tools I’d been given for my birthday! I’d read that water can collect at the bottom of terraces, especially as the soil is clay, so building planters at the bottom of them can avoid that. We still haven’t filled them with soil though, it’ll probably take quite a lot of compost and the soil we saved from digging the terrace was left too long and is now covered with nettles we’ll have to dig up. Nature moves fast…

The plot has an apple tree and has a poly tunnel the last owners left. We have some tomatoes growing in there and have planted grass seed on the top terrace as a kind of garden. We have a one year old and really want some space for her to play – she also makes it quite difficult to get there very often! It is work in progress, but that’s part of fun, it’s nice to imagine what we can make out of that small plot of land, and you must be patient. Hopefully in a few years’ time the allotment will be how we’re imagining it, but in the meantime, we’ll just enjoy the process.

And Finally

Now that things are beginning to look a bit more like normal, why not take the opportunity to explore other people’s gardens?  The National Gardens Scheme are able to run their Gardens Open scheme this summer with several gardens open in Yorkshire.  There are also a series of films showing virtual visits for people unable to physically visit.  Entrance fees goes to charity and there is often a chance to buy cake!  Find out more here.

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