Friday, July 29, 2011

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): A Basic Guide to Storing VegetablesWell you have w...

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): A Basic Guide to Storing VegetablesWell you have w...: "A Basic Guide to Storing Vegetables Well you have watered, weeded, fertilized and cultivated. Now you are standing knee-deep in vegetables a..."
A Basic Guide to Storing Vegetables
Well you have watered, weeded, fertilized and cultivated. Now you are standing knee-deep in vegetables and are now wondering just when and how to gather them.
Here's a harvesting introduction that will guarantee highest nutrition and flavour from the crops that you tended so carefully all season.
Celery and late cabbage: Harvest after the frost has stopped their growth. Pull celery with roots attached; cut cabbage and remove loose outer leaves. Store celery by packing into a trench in an upright position; backfill with soil to cover the celery; place paper, boards and more soil on top of this. The celery will root, bleach, tenderize and develop a nutty flavour when removed at Christmas time. Pack the cabbage in a pit upside down so the covering soil doesn't work its way into the head.
Root crops (including beets, turnips, Swedes, winter radishes and kohlrabi): They store best where grown until there's a danger of soil freezing. You can delay harvesting by hilling soil over the shoulders of carrots and beets; To further protect from freezing, you can pile straw and soil over the rows, thus delaying harvesting even longer. This group of vegetables store best at home in an area of near freezing with a high relative humidity.
Potatoes: For "new" potatoes, harvest any time and use for cooking. For storing, wait until the haulms die down and store the same as squash.
Onions: Harvest as soon as the tops fall; this will prevent basal rot. Pull, remove tops and store onions in mesh bags until the necks have dried down. During this drying time, hang the bags outside in a protected area where they'll get good air circulation. When the onions rustle while handling, they are ready to move into indoor, protected storage where it is cool and dry.
Swedes and Parsnips: They will withstand freezing which means you can leave part of the crop in the ground to be dug in the spring when the flavour will be greatly improved.
Tomatoes: Harvest tomatoes if they've started to turn light green or blush. If they are a dead green, they probably won't ripen. Wrap individually in newspapers, place in a box in a cool place and check periodically. The tomatoes probably will ripen within 2 weeks depending upon the temperature of the storage area and the maturity of the tomato.
Green beans: Harvest snap beans when there's a slight bulge to the seed, but before it becomes firm. If they get lumpy, they've gone too far. The bean will be too firm and tough and the pod will be stringy.
Shell beans: Let them go all the way. They are specific varieties that are meant to be left until the pods dry on the vine. If you pick them too green, they'll begin to mould and will be difficult to dry.
Winter squash and pumpkins: Harvest when these vegetables have reached their full ripe colour and when it is difficult to penetrate the skin with a thumbnail. Pick before a frost and store in a cool, dark place that will not reach freezing temperatures. Leave stems on to prevent disease invasion.
Remember to store only top-quality vegetables, this is very important. Do not store vegetables that show deterioration from a disease, bruising or insect damage; such damage could spread and cause, not only the loss of one vegetable, but the loss of adjacent vegetables.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): plants suitable for softwood cuttings

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): plants suitable for softwood cuttings: "§ Beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica) § Beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis) § Blue mist shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis) § Burning bush..." ammended plant list from yesterday, apologies

plants suitable for softwood cuttings

§  Beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica)
§  Beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis)
§  Blue mist shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis)
§  Burning bush (Euonymus alatus)
§  Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii)
§  Chinese stranvaesia (Stranvaesia davidiana)
§  Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
§  Daphne (Daphne caucasica)
§  Deciduous azaleas (Rhododendron cvs.)
§  Elders (Sambucus spp.)
§  Enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus)
§  Flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa)
§  Forsythias (Forsythia spp.)
§  Fuchsia (any spp)
§  Honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.)
§  Hydrangeas (Hydrangea spp.)
§  Japanese maples (Acer palmatum cvs.)
§  Kerria (Kerria japonica)
§  Large fothergilla (Fothergilla major)
§  Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
§  Magnolias (Magnolia spp.)
§  Mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius)
§  Redtwig dogwood (Cornus alba and sericea)
§  Rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa)
§  Serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.)
§  Slender deutzia (Deutzia gracilis)
§  Smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria)
§  Spireas (Spiraea spp.)
§  Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia)
§  Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)
§  Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus)
§  Viburnums (Viburnum x burkwoodii and carlesii)
§  Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)
§  Weigelas (Weigela spp.)
§  Willows (Salix spp.)
§  Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei)
§  Winter hazels (Corylopsis spp.)
§  Witch hazels (Hamamelis spp.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): Semi ripe cuttings

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): Semi ripe cuttings: "With a small number of simple tools and the use of a windowsill you can save yourself some cash and have a great deal of pleasure growing yo..."

Semi ripe cuttings

With a small number of simple tools and the use of a windowsill you can save yourself some cash and have a great deal of pleasure growing your own shrubs for free
Forget the myth about green fingered people its all about knowledge and know how, it’s very easy:
To start with it is vital to understand the key requirements that a plant needs to produce roots from a stem cutting. –

Because the cutting in the early days has no roots it is imperative to keep the environment you place it in humid and away from full sunshine. The best way to create these conditions is to use a plastic bag to form a mini green house over the new cuttings.

With the humid conditions comes the problem of disease, in particular a rotting of the cuttings base, in the majority cases this can be solved by taking cuttings that have small piece of older more mature wood on the base( sometimes refered to as a basel cutting) which is more resistant to rotting. This type of cutting is called a semi-ripe softwood cuttings.  Harvest cuttings from semi-ripe growth.
The trickiest part of propagating shrubs from softwood cuttings is to know when a shrub's stems are ready to be cut. Softwood, the segment of a shrub's stem that's neither brand new nor fully mature, is the stage of growth on a deciduous woody plant that is best suited for rooting The newer, green growth that lies at the end of the stem will rot before roots are produced, and the older, more woody growth at the base of the stem has a harder time putting out roots.
Softwood cuttings can be taken from most deciduous shrubs in July and early August. I decide a stem's maturity by taking it in my hand and bending it. If the stem breaks with a typical snapping sound, it is in the softwood stage and ready to be harvested as a cutting. If the stem is still too green, it will bend but not break. If the stem is entering the woody stage, it won't bend at all.
The optimum time to take cuttings is early on in the day, when shoots are fully hydrated. Lateral shoots, (or those that grow from a leader,) make the best cuttings. I avoid weak, thin shoots, as well as overly thick, heavy ones. As soon as I take a cutting, I nestle it into a plastic bowl that I've filled with damp paper towels. The towels will keep my cuttings moist and cool until I'm ready to head inside and pot them up. They also shade my cuttings from the sun. Exposure to direct sunshine, even for only a few minutes, can cause irrevocable damage. Also avoid taking cuttings on hot days, when plants may be drooping. Keep cutting short to conserve energy.
A cutting's size is also something to think about. I like my cuttings to contain at least two sets of leaves. I use secateurs or a sharp clean knife, to cut the stem from the shrub at about one-inch below the second leaf node. Since the length between leaf nodes differs from plant to plant, the size of a cutting, using this rule of measurement, will vary. The average cutting should measure between 3 and 5 inches.
To prepare the cuttings for rooting, I remove the lower set of leaves to open up wounds on the shoot. It is at these wounded sites that rooting will occur.

Always provide good drainage and air in the rooting compost.
Insert the stem into a pot or seedling tray filled with a moistened mixture of perlite and peat mix. The mixture I generally use is about 60 percent perlite and 40 percent peat mix. This mix provides the good drainage and maximum aeration that new roots need. Cuttings placed into a mix that holds moisture is apt to rot before rooting occurs.
Once the cuttings are inserted into the soil, I trim the remaining leaves in half to cut down on transpiration loss. These leaves are still performing photosynthesis, even though there are no roots to draw moisture out of the soil. Next  soak the cuttings and the compost with a watering can with a fine rose head and allow the excess water to drain away for 10 minutes or so.
Finally,  place the tray into a milky white plastic bag and seal the end to create a small humid micro climate , which will generate the conditions needed for rooting to take place. then place the tray or pot on a sheltered windowsill away from direct sunlight.
Checking for root development
Some cuttings root quicker than others do. After four to five weeks, check the bottom of each tray for small white roots that could be poking out of the drainage holes. If none are visible, another way to check for root development is by lightly pulling on a cutting. If it shows some resistance, then it's a good bet that roots have developed. If it pulls out of the tray easily, inspect the stem for very fine root hairs. If no roots are apparent, place the cutting back into the tray, reseal the bag, and wait a few more weeks before checking again.
Depending on the species and the growing conditions, a strong network of primary and secondary roots should develop after six weeks in the bag. The success rate varies from shrub to shrub, but generally you should get roots on about 70 percent of the cuttings. Once they've rooted,  pot up the tiny new shrubs into 4 inch pots that are filled with a mixture of 80 percent soil(or john innes) and 20 percent perlite, water them with a nutrient-rich seaweed- or kelp-based fertilizer and place them in a sunny spot in the garden. In the autumn, un-pot them and transfer them to a sheltered nursery bed where they'll spend the winter. Come spring, you’ll have a good supply of shrubs that I can move to a new, more permanent home.
Some Shrubs That Are Suitable and Easy to Propagate from Cuttings
Many deciduous garden shrubs can be propagated by softwood cuttings taken in summer. The ones I have listed below tend to root quickly and grow into feasible shrubs in a short period of time.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): Green manures, and there usefulness

Organic Islands(formerly Corrrigans city farm, Blackpool): Green manures, and there usefulness: "(photo from web) Green manures or cover crops are the organic cornerstone of an ecologically sensible gardening. They can provide outstandi..."

Green manures, and there usefulness

(photo from web)

Green manures or cover crops are the organic cornerstone of an ecologically sensible gardening. They can provide outstanding benefits for the soil, crop and you by:
Increasing organic matter, earthworms and beneficial micro-organisms.
Increasing the soil's available nitrogen and moisture retention.
Stabilising the soil to prevent erosion.
Bringing deep minerals to the surface and breaking up hardpans.
Also by providing habitat, nectar and pollen for beneficial insects and reducing populations of pests. And of course improving water, root and air penetration in the soil
Green manures are plants grown specifically to benefit the soil - replacing soil nutrients, improving soil structure and increasing humus content. They tend to be quick growing, producing a mass of weed smothering foliage. Some are legumes which have the ability to take up nitrogen from the air, tapping a free source of soil fertility. Nutrients which would otherwise be washed away are taken into the plants and then released when the green manure is cut down and turned in to the top six inches of soil. A green manure crop should be considered whenever an area of ground is to be left free for six weeks or more, and is of particular value through the winter.
Planting green manure will help your soil in many ways. Perhaps most important, it boosts your plot's organic matter (O.M.) level. And a high O.M. level (2.5 to 4%) It keeps nutrients from leaching down beyond reach of crops, it provides food for microbial soil life, It helps legumes fix nitrogen in their root nodules. And it also helps the soil produce good structure and maintains the air-pores necessary for a good crop. In addition to nitrogen from legumes, cover crops help recycle other nutrients on the farm. Nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), potassium (KB], calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S), and other micro nutrients are accumulated by green manure/cover crops during a growing season. When the green manure is incorporated, or laid down as no-till mulch, these plant-essential nutrients become slowly available during decomposition.
(a mixed green manure/cover crop
Green manures also provide living mulch that will protect soil from erosion and other weathering effects. Indeed, right now, during the late summer and early autumn, is an excellent time to put in a green manure crop. The plants will protect your garden from winter damage and will produce organic matter during the off-season, when much of. Your plot would otherwise lie fallow. Then next spring, your soil will have good tilth instead of being hard and compacted. Many fall-planted green manure crops will also pump excess water out of the soil, allowing you to prepare the soil and plant crops much earlier than usual. French beans, for instance, can pump soil dry in as little as five days of warm weather. (If, however on the other hand, you are trying to conserve soil moisture in early spring, you may want to harvest your green manure crop on the first warm day.)
Winter green manure crop
A winter green manure crop is planted in late summer or autumn to provide soil cover during the winter. Often a legume is chosen for the added benefit of nitrogen fixation, the plant selected needs to possess enough cold tolerance to survive hard winters. Hairy vetch and rye are among the few selections that meet this need. These cool-season legumes include clovers, vetches, medics, and field peas. They are sometimes planted in a mix with winter cereal grains such as oats, rye, or wheat. Winter cover crops can be established by aerial seeding into maturing cash crops in the autumn, as well as by drilling or broadcasting seed immediately following harvest.

Summer green manure crop

A summer green manure occupies the land for a portion of the summer growing season. These warm-season cover crops can be used to fill a niche in crop rotations, to improve the conditions of poor soils, or to prepare land for a perennial crop. Legumes such as cowpeas, soybeans, annual sweet clover, sesbania, crotalaria, or velvet beans may be grown as summer green manure crops to add nitrogen along with organic matter. Non-legumes such as sorghum-sudangrass, millet, forage sorghum, or buckwheat are grown to provide biomass, smother weeds, and improve soil tilth.

The Benefits of Cover Crops and Green Manure

The foremost benefit obtained from green manures is the increase of organic matter to the soil. During the breakdown of organic matter by microorganisms, compounds are formed that are resistant to decomposition—such as waxes, and resins. These compounds—and the mycelia, mucus, and slime produced by the microorganisms that help bind together soil particles as granules, or aggregates. A well-aerated soil tills easily and has a high water penetration rate. Increased levels of organic matter also influence soil humus. The material that is the result of the decay of plant and animal materials into the soil. This provides an extensive range of benefits to crop production.
Sod-forming grass or grass-legume mixtures are important in crop rotations because they help replenish organic matter lost during annual cultivation. However, several years of sod production are sometimes required before measurable changes in humus levels occur. In comparison, annual green manures have a negligible effect on humus levels, because tillage and cultivation are conducted each year. They help replenish the supply of active, rapidly decomposing organic matter.
There is also a very informative piece on green manures on Wikipedia: