Other useful sources of growing information.
Royal Horticultural Society
The Wildlife Growing Forum
RHS Encyclopaedia of Gardening
The Heligan Vegetable Bible by Tim Smit and Philip McMillan Browse
Organic Gardening by Charles Dowding
How to Grow Food In Your Polytunnel by Mark Gatter and Andy Mckee
Teaming With Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels
Teaming With Nutrients by Jeff Lowenfels
Teaming With Fungi by Jeff Lowenfels
Growing vegetables at Slopefield
Growing vegetables in Aberdeen takes a little more effort than elsewhere in the UK due to our hardy soil type and colder weather. The information on seed packets about sowing and harvesting times, therefore, need to be modified a bit since they are predominantly aimed at a more benign climate and soil condition. Most seed companies are based in Lincolnshire so their sowing advice tends to favour the midlands to south of England.
A good rule of thumb for sowing outdoors is to add a month to the information on the seed packet, unless you have a greenhouse to sow indoors. if you do sow early in the greenhouse, use a heated propagator in accordance with the seed packet instructions.
You may, however, have a problem in hardening off the seedlings before the local soil temperature and ambient temperatures are high enough to plant them out in the growing bed. This applies particularly to courgettes which can grow quite large in the greenhouse by the time it is warm enough to plant them out.
Generally any seedlings grown in the greenhouse, or on a windowsill need to be hardened off in a cold frame for two weeks prior to transplanting into their final grow bed.
Ideally most vegetable seeds require a minimum ground temperature of 10 C to germinate, but since ground frost can still affect Slopefield well into May, a roll of fleece is a necessary accessory to protect young seedlings.
Fruit & vegetable growing guides
Please click here to visit the Gardening Focus 'growing guides and calendar' main page.
You can then adjust the calendar planting dates for Slopefield by clicking on the 'adjust dates in this website' tab situated on the left hand side toolbar.
Click A and select Aberdeen.
All the planting times will automatically change.
Growing Potatoes at Slopefield
Potatoes are one of the most common vegetables grown throughout Slopefield and there is nothing better than the taste of newly dug early tatties with butter!
Although not a difficult plant to grow there are a number of factors which can make a big difference between a successful , bountiful crop and failure.
Early seed potatoes should be "chitted" (allowed to sprout) before being planted out 30 centimetres apart in a 10 centimetre deep trench with a small handful of slow release potato fertiliser. As the potato plant grows the row should be heaped up give the forming tubers some protection from light as this can cause the potato tuber to turn green and become poisonous.
Potatoes are greedy feeders so thrive in well fertilised soil and regular liquid feeding with a potassium rich fertiliser such as comfrey or nettle tea.
They need to be watered regularly and benefit from a mulch to retain water.
If planted early (end of February at the very earliest) they require protection from frost by covering with fleece.
Plants need to be netted near harvest time to prevent predation by crows.
Late Blight is a wind borne fungal pathogen (Phytophthora Infestans) which thrives in humid, warm conditions and arrives EVERY year at Slopefield in early to mid July.
Blight affects the foliage initially, and eventually, the tubers of the plant. It starts with small brown lesions on the leaf surface which produce white spores and brown fungal rot which eventually makes its way down into the roots of the plant rotting the potatoes. Blight spreads very rapidly by wind borne spores.
If Blight occurs the infected leaves should be removed from the plants as soon as possible and either burnt or removed from the site and must NOT be composted. The potatoes should be left in the ground for several weeks before cropping. Any tubers which show signs of rot should be removed from the site and disposed of.
The most successful way of growing potatoes at Slopefield is to either grow Early varieties such as Arran Pilot, Rocket or Orla which are quick to crop (10-14 weeks) and plant them mid to end of March under fleece until the chance of frost has gone or to grow Blight resistant potatoes such as Sarpo Mira, Cara and Orla which are largely unaffected by the pathogen.
If you are limited as to how much time you have to spend watering your plants it may be a good idea to set up an automatic watering system.
Here are 3 different systems which are very useful and simple to set up which may help.
Dripline Run From A Water Butt
If you want to water outdoor or indoor raised beds, troughs or pots then one of the easiest methods is to set up a drip system fed from a water butt.
Dripline is basically a 4mm piece of tubing with integrated dripper valves spaced every 30 centimetres. The valves deliver 2 litres of of water per hour.
The higher the water butt is off the ground the better as this maintains a reasonable level of water pressure. Attach an automatic water timer such a the "Hoselock Sensor Controller" to the tap of the water butt and then run a 13mm delivery pipe from the timer to the beds/troughs/pots etc.
Attach the 4mm drip line hose to the delivery hose using a reducer then set up the drip line in a series of loops to give coverage of 1 dripper per square foot.
The water timer needs to be designed for a non pressurised system and can be set up to come on for a set time as often as required each day.
For example..........if the timer comes on for 5 minutes twice a day then each dripper will deliver 0.33 litres of water per day........a mug of water.
Once this system is set up all you have to do is top up the water butt or tank once every 2 weeks and replace the batteries in the controller every 6 months..
All the components for this system can be found online at www.waterirrigation.co.uk
Capillary Action Cocomats
If you want to keep young seedlings and plants watered in a greenhouse or poly tunnel it maybe a good idea to set up a capillary watering bench.
You will need to buy a Garland tray and coco matting or capillary action fleece to place in the tray.
If using the fleece you need to buy a metal riser to hold the fleece above the water in the tray but the coco mats sit in the tray and are strong enough to take the weight of any plant pots so a riser is not required.
The tray will require topping up with water once a week and the young plants should still be watered from above on occasion.
Keep the tray topped up and clean out on a regular basis to keep algae under control. both ends dipped into the water in the tray.
Garland trays and capillary fleece of various sizes can be bought from www.twowests.co.uk
The auto pot hydroponic system is mainly used in greenhouses and poly tunnels to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and aubergines but can be used to grow most plants apart from root vegetables and potatoes and is a flood and drain system with the tank needing topped up every 1-2 weeks depending on water usage.
This is a very simple system to put together as all that is required are 2 different size of hose and all the fittings are push fit, so it is just a matter of cutting the hose to the correct lengths and connecting up the fittings.
The system is run from a large water tank or butt and if configured in a long line of pots then a 13mm delivery pipe takes the water to the pots where 4mm spurs then take the water into the Autopot valve which allows 20mm of water to fill the bottom of the Autopot tray in which a square Autopot sits.
The valve is mechanical and works similarly to a ballcock. Once the plant has used up the water in the tray the valve then opens and allows another 20mm into the tray.
Nutrients can be added into the tank so that all plants are fed and watered continuously.
For more information on the Autopot system go to www.autopot.co.uk
Enviromesh insect barrier
Pests and crop protection
Unfortunately there are any number of pests from carrot root fly to crows who all seem intent on eating our precious fruit and vegetable harvest. There are a number of ways in which we can protect our crops.
It is also worth protecting young plants from wind damage as Slopefield is often a very windy site.
Create cloches using fleece, enviromesh, bottle and bell cloches, cold frames, copper ring barriers, and various gauges of bird and butterfly netting.
Enviromesh, fleece, cold frames, bell cloches and copper rings can be bought online at www.twowests.com
Is the use of natural enemies to control pests by introducing predators such as ladybirds, lacewings, hover flies, parasitic wasps or pathogenic nematodes that infect the pest with a fatal bacterial disease. This technique is generally used in greenhouses and poly tunnels but some biological controls, including pathogenic nematodes, can be used outside.
Slug damage in particular can be minimised by the use of Nemaslug (a nematode pathogen) which can be watered into the soil every 6 weeks. Nemasys Fruit and Vegetable Protection can be applied every 2 weeks and is effective against carrot root fly, cabbage root fly, onion fly and cutworms.
Nemasys nematode products can be bought online at www.nematodesdirect.co.uk
Beneficial insects can be bought online at www.greengardener.co.uk
The following plants need to be protected the most and especially while young.
BRASSICAS - cauliflower, sprouting broccoli, calabrese, brussel sprouts, kale, cabbages, rocket, land cress, turnips, swedes, kohlrabi, water cress and pak choi and need to be protected from a range of pests including slugs, snails,, cabbage white butterflies, pigeons and crows and are best grown under a fine mesh such as Enviromesh.
ALLIUMS - onions, shallots, garlic, leeks and spring onions can suffer crop failure if onion fly are active in the area but this can be prevented by using Enviromesh or Nemasys Fruit and Vegetable Protection.
LEGUMES - peas, mangetout, dwarf French beans, broad beans and runner beans are much coveted by mice, pigeons and crows and need to be grown under netting. Plant young pea plants out under small bottle cloches to protect the young plants from wind damage.
POTATOES - if planted early in March should be planted out under fleece to prevent frost damage and nearing harvest time should be netted to prevent predation by crows which dig up the tubers and allow light into the drills turning other potatoes exposed to the light green and poisonous.
GREENHOUSE AND POLY TUNNEL PLANTS - such as tomatoes, peppers, chillis, cucumbers and aubergines can suffer from infestations by whitefly, green fly, red spider mite, and others. The introduction of beneficial insects such as Ladybirds, Hoverflies, Lacewings and parasitic wasps can control insect infestations over a longer period of time than pesticide controls and doesn't harm other insects.
Beneficial insects can be purchased online at www.greengardener.co.uk
CARROTS AND PARSNIPS - should be grown under Enviromesh to prevent crop failure due to carrot root fly or use Nemasys Fruit and Vegetable Protection.
SOFT FRUITS - strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blue berries and other soft fruits should be netted to prevent bird predation.
Click on the MY Harvest icon below to find out how you can participate.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN FERTILISER
Collect sufficient of the plant material noted below to fill a standard bucket to the top, chopped up and semi compressed. Fill bucket with water to cover the chopped plants, cover and leave to steep for two months, stirring occasionally.
The process depends on anaerobic bacterial breakdown of the organic pulp and this produces a very pungent smell so store the bucket in an out of the way place.
After steeping strain the liquid into another bucket and store in a sealed container. Pulp can go on the compost heap.
To use - Dilute the brew approximately 1part to10 parts water. A final dilution the colour of weak tea is a good guide. Do not use a strong mix on young plants.
VARIETIES OF PLANT TO USE
Seaweed (Kelp is best)
CONTAINS - Nitrogen; Potassium; Phosphorus; Magnesium
USE - A broad spectrum All round general fertiliser.
CONTAINS –Nitrogen; Potassium; Magnesium; Calcium
USE – Use on Leafy plants, heavy feeders, root vegetables and legumes.
CONTAINS – Potassium; Nitrogen; Calcium; Manganese; Phosphorus
USE – All round general fertiliser. Equivalent of a basic commercial KPN product. Good for greenhouse fruit and tomatoes. When sprayed onto potato shaws as fertiliser may also help inhibit blight. It is possible to cut the leaves several times a season to make more fertiliser.
All the above plants contain small amounts of other trace elements essential for plant growth. These include Iron, Zinc, Copper, Boron.
How to cut non-fraying holes quickly through weed control fabric for planting onions and garlic, etc.
Weed control fabric cut to size
Empty metal can with both ends removed
Tape measure & marking crayon
Hand held blowtorch
1. Lay out fabric cut to the size you require and mark out positions for holes to suit the centres of planting required.
2. Place tin can with end cut off central on the first marked hole.
3. Flash blowtorch flame down can very quickly and remove, less than a second and repeat over all marked positions.
4. Voila! - Get planting.