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Preparing garden for fruit and veg growing

by Andrew Pullen
(South Cambridgeshire)

The Xantia. Still lots to do...

The Xantia. Still lots to do...

Hello again,

My wife and I spent sunday afternoon in Scotdales in Cambridge choosing veg seeds to plant. Our garden isn't the biggest and at the moment it's more geared up for attracting wildlife than growing veg. However that's going to change as we are going to find a way to attract wildlife and yet still grow more fruit and veg.
Sounds like a contradiction I hear you all say.
There is method in our madness. Read on...

The plan is to work with nature and not against it. Firstly we have placed small piles of logs, bits of tree etc to act as habitats to attract frogs, Hedgehogs, Ground Beetles and other pest eating carnivores. For example the common black Ground Beetle is a fearsome hunter of slugs and snails. Just thank goodness these predators are small as if you've ever seen one go for a slug you'll thank yourself you not a slug or anything else it can run down. The rarer Violet Ground Beetle is even larger and far more voracious a hunter of pests especially snails. We're all familiar with the good old hedgehog. These prickly fellows will also chomp down on snails, slugs etc.
We also put up insect 'hotels' made of natural or untreated timber drilled with various holes so Ladybird's, Lacewings, Ichneuman Wasps can hibernate through winter and thrive during the warm months. These insects will hopefully keep the aphid population under control plus the native British Ladybird needs all the help it can get against the Harlequin intruder which is larger and seems to breed more frequently.

We've also planted or are planning to plant wildflower seeds and cultivated flowers to attract pollinating insects such as butterflies, bees, hover-flies etc. Hover-flies are nectar feeding as adults but when larvae stage they are seriously carniverous and also chomp down on aphids, frog hoppers etc.
Basically the average garden is a miniature battle ground where the struggle to live, eat and breed is continuous.

we're going to plant tomatoes and maybe the french beans in a prepared flower bed as watering was an issue during the summer months. I mentioned in my last blog that our toms took most of the 175 litres of water from our single water-butt and it still wasn't enough. Part of that problem was simply growing too many tom plants. It takes planning and self control to only plant what you need but you only find out these problems by doing it for yourself. That's what makes gardening fun. We also had a dry summer last year and infrequent rainfall in our part of Cambridgeshire. It was tempting to get out the hose (we weren't on a hosepipe ban) but since we're on a water meter this wasn't really an option. I really hate giving money to either the government or big faceless corporations, therefore an additional water butt will be plumbed in to take water from the garage roof gutters.
we're still going to grow veg in containers but the watering has got to be sorted out. We may even need a third water tank/butt with a timed pump that can run off independent and renewable power supply - similar to that described in our first blog.

The greenhouse has got to be cleaned and disinfected down before the new growing season as plant pests and viruses, fungus and moulds can hibernate overwinter to reak havoc when the weather warms up.

I've been watching Rick's videos on You Tube about hydroponic growing and this is a subject that looks fascinating. I've been reading up on growing fruit and veg using soiless cultivation and it seems many of our fruit and veg varieties are grown this way on a commercial scale.

Anyway, got to go now and continue with the Citroen repair. It's 3 degrees C outside so may not be out there for long.
Now, where did I put that copy of Autotrader.....

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Preparing garden for fruit and veg growing

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Feb 16, 2010
Some great ideas!
by: Anonymous

Hi Andrew,
Great blog entry - I particularly like your ideas about the critter hotels - this is something I may have to look into doing myself.

Glad you like the hydroponics videos - it's still all experimental at the moment, but hopefully this summer will give me a good idea whether it’s worth pursuing. I plan to be doing a website article at some point soon.

On the water butt side of things - if you go to eBay and do a keyword search for "food grade water butt" - there is a guy selling 220L water butts for about £17. I have one of these and it is fabulous - I hope to be ordering another shortly.

Good luck with fixing the car!

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