Advice and Seasonal Tips

May advice 2012
Now that seeds have become plants and are starting to leave their warm and cosy positions on windowsills and greenhouses to be planted out on your plot, give thought to hardening off first. This simple procedure saves severely checking the growth of the plant if a cold night occurs which means for a few days, place the tray or pot outside during the day, if weather permits, and bringing in again at night so they get used to the world outside on the plot.
Lettuce/spinach/leeks/chard/broad beans/runner beans, etc can all be sown outside now and the pumpkin family, marrow, courgette, gourd, squash towards the end of the month on preprepared hot beds. See Mike if not sure what this entails, worth it, should give you good results.
Potatoes need to be earthed up at least twice this month to make sure the developing crop does not turn green from the light.
A tip when putting up the runner bean canes, 7 or 8 foot best, is to use electrical tape to bind the canes together at the top instead of string. This stops the birds untying for their nests and lasts the season well. 5 rolls of tape for £1 at the pound shop is cheap enough, don't forget your scissors when putting up to cut the tape, it doesn't tear easily. I always put a bean plant either side of the cane which allows for the occasional failure.
Watering of runner beans is important, they love it but be frugal with other crops with the water. If they are too often watered, the roots stay along the top causing stress and early seeding if a short dry period occurs but if only well watered when first put in, their roots will go down to find their own water supply and will stand them in good stead later.
Broad beans, you either love them or hate them, should have several posts or canes placed around their boundaries and string bound around between to support the heavy pods as they grow and stop them blowing over in the wind. I think it's MY favourite crop, so tasty when young. Pinch the tops out later in the season after flowering if any black fly seen. These tops can be cooked too if required as long if not too lagged with fly.
Sow successions of seeds at fortnightly intervals to avoid waste and keep the crop going.
Enjoy this month, often the best of the year and keep hoeing! 

April Advice 2012
April is a busy month, rapid growth responding to warm showers and the lengthening
daylight hours encouraging seedlings to show and plug plants to establish quickly.
Need to try and make a weekly visit to your plot to control weeds now emerging too.
Don't risk frost tender plants outside yet, April frosts are common. Might be an idea to
check seed packet instructions and our website (growing calendar) for sowing timings
and frost resistance.
Keep your rows of potatoes banked up with earth which will not only increase your yield
but if the growth is lightly covered too should keep the late frosts off. If you should be
unfortunate enough to get the tops nipped by the cold, don't despair, as long as it's not
too hard, the growth will slowly recover and the crop not lost but may take up to 3 weeks to
It is easy to make the mistake of sowing the whole packet of seeds in one drill too thickly
and then have the sad task of drastic thinning, disposing of perfectly good seedlings
which do not transplant very successfully.
Far better to sow thinly at 2 week intervals for a succession.
Plant shallots, onion sets and garlic now, frost is not a problem with these.
If I was to recommend a sensibly  priced local nursery for excellent plug plants, it
would be the family run Blackacre nursery just off the OLD A30 road from Roche services
to Newquay, turning left at the brown direction sign after the flyover across the NEW A30.
Well worth a look, no trashy gifts, just good healthy plants, oh, and an aviary too.
Just for a change, why not try growing Swiss Chard (Bright Lights) from seed which
will give your plot a really colourful display throughout the year. Good to divide
areas off or border as they grow around 2 foot tall and are pretty much 'bomb proof'
in care needed. They will go right thro next winter too if wanted. It's a pretty versatile
veg too as the leaves can be used as spinach or chopped up in salads to 'pretty' it up.
The stems are chopped for stir fries. The plant recovers well if leaves taken sparingly
from each plant. Good chard recipes will be posted on our website, strangely enough
under recipes.
Towards the end of the month, sow runner beans inside ready for planting out in mid May
allowing two per cane and a few extra.
It's a happy 2nd anniversary of our association on the 26th of this month, may there be
many more.

March Advice 2012 

March and April are two of the busiest months in the vegetable growers calendar and some of the important jobs are listed below.

Firstly, finish harvesting the last of the brussel sprouts, leeks and sprouting broccoli and remove the plants from the plot to give room for this season's crops.

When the weather conditions are right, prepare seed beds and sow carrot (flyaway works),parsnip (slow germinating), lettuce, early peas, Swiss chard (bright lights recommended for multi colour), salad leaves and broad beans can also be sown now.

It's also potato planting time for early and second early crops, 3 - 4 weeks apart. 1 foot between each spud and 18" between rows. Mark the rows as you plant so you can heap a little soil up to protect against frost and give a bigger yield, building up more soil as the plant grows. A potato expert visiting Trelawney confirmed to me that it was not advisable to grow maincrop in Cornwall due to annual blight problems whereas the earlies were lifted before July when the blight arrived. Swift and Charlotte was his recommendation for reliable cropping.

Make hot beds for the courgette, marrow, squash, pumpkin family. If you want advice on this please ask. Leave room for a gourd plant that those with children will be given to grow for this years competition, the most unusual, interesting, colourful gourd. Adults, your competition this year is the heaviest pumpkin please, no plants supplied, sorry, 80 is a lot to grow. Judging at end of September....Good prizes!!

Get the ground ready for french and runner beans. Take out a trench and fill with manure, home made compost or even old screwed up newspaper, anything to hold moisture. Remember to grow them parallel to your short side of the plot to avoid shading your neighbour. Don't plant out yet tho! Be patient.... wish I was.


February Advice 2012
Try and complete any alterations to the lay out of your plot this month, bearing in mind the need to rotate your crops from that of last season. Finish constructing those paths and raised beds if weather permits.

Chit your first early potatoes in a light, cool place with buds upwards. Keep checking for bolting too much and adjust their temperature if need be. The first early can be planted out in EARLY March but protect them by heaping up the soil a little, after marking the row first of course. Second earlies should be chitted at the beginning of March for planting out at the END of that month.

Autumn raspberries, (not summer fruiting,) can be pruned hard now, cut down to 1" above the ground and put a little manure around them. Cut off runners coming up in the wrong place with a sharp spade and replant where you want them or discard.

Rhubarb can be left in place for this season as it's not necessary to divide and replant for at least 5 years and we are only into our 3rd season at Lanhydrock. It would be a good idea to top with well rotted manure but not too deep.

Can give your fruit bushes, gooseberries, blackcurrants, white currants, etc a LIGHT prune now but remember they only fruit on old wood so don't be too drastic if you want fruit this year. A light dressing of a fertiliser like Blood, Fish and Bone around their roots would be good and then give a mulch of manure or old grass cuttings.

Don't be in a rush to sow seed in the open ground this month, winter is not done yet and a later sowing in March will germinate quicker and not disappoint.

I've been asked about adding lime to the plot and I wouldn't as it is used to correct over acidic soil which is not the case at Lanhydrock UNLESS a lot of immature leaf mould has been added. Generally,  the PH of the soil on our site is neutral but check yours by buying an inexpensive kit from Trago or wherever and test. The horse and calf manure brought in during the autumn had a PH of neutral too so that wouldn't have altered things.

We're nearly into Spring now so be patient!  Wish I was!

December/January 2011/2012
December and January are months for planning next season's intended growing ideas, bearing in mind crop rotation and more importantly, what veg your family really like. If there's a veg that is a real favourite, plan how to plant a succession to get full benefit from the season which is longer than most areas herein Cornwall. Research from seed catalogues/websites early and late varieties of the same type of plant.

When the soil is cold and wet, more harm than good can be done from impaction if constantly walked on, best to wait a little while. February often is a good month to get digging any ground not dug in the Autumn.

The wind has been a real feature this December and it is worth checking for stem rock on plants which creates a 'dish' where the stem meets the soil. This in turn allows rain water to puddle around the roots which can then freeze and possibly kill the plant. Brassicas, raspberries, wallflowers, anything tall can be affected. Just firm the soil back to the stem and tie and stake if needed
November 2011
With the onset of winter approaching and we are all busy clearing the plots after a busy season, a good tip is to try and spend a little time on your plot during any reasonable break in bad weather between November and March and get digging, doing any alterations you need to make.   
The weeds will not be growing and the plot will be clean and ready for early spring sowing after giving a light rake over. 

This may seem basic advice but it can be daunting and off-putting at the beginning of te season to have to do it all over again.

Good exercise and gives the frost a chance to break the soil down.