Jane's Delicious Garden Blog

Spring seeds

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the July 19th, 2010

Although it is cold and wintery, it is time to sow seeds in seed trays ready for your spring garden. I have about four trays already sitting in front of a sunny northern window. I’ve planted a selection of tomatoes, eggplant, basil, capers (first time I’m trying them!) Chinese cabbage, savoy cabbage and various summer squash. I still, after all these years of sowing seeds and watching them germinate, get such a thrill when those little green leaves spring up out of the soil.
Don’t forget to spray your seedlings with chamomile spray to prevent fungal diseases. I find the easiest way is to mix up a strong solution of chamomile and keep it in a bottle in the fridge. Each time I fill my mister spray bottle, I add a dollop of chamomile from the jar.

I am trying a new thing with my tomatoes this year. Earlier this year I scavenged eight large wooden boxes from a local nursery that was tossing them. I had no idea what I would use them for – they just looked useful. Sitting planning my spring planting, I thought about how much space my toms take up and decided to put the boxes to good use for them. I have positioned them on warm paving, which is in a full sun and retains that warmth much later into the night than my veggie garden. I have created a cascade of boxes and lined them with black plastic. I will fill them with a compost and topsoil mix from Jacklin Organic I am going to erect a selection of tripods, which will hopefully create a wonderful tomato tower! Will post pics as soon as I take them.

No Dig Gardening

Posted in Grow Your Own Veg! Tips & Techniques by Jane Griffiths on the July 19th, 2010

Over the years I have developed what I call ‘Jane’s Jungle Style’ of growing vegetables. This method of intensive gardening works best in rich, fertile soil.
Pathway thru veg grdn w midsummer veg afrcn  wrmwd on left

The first step to creating a humus rich, healthy soil is no dig gardening.
Loam soil 3

In many gardens it is an annual tradition to dig up all the beds, add compost or rotted manure and dig it in. This is done to break up and aerate compacted soil. The good news is – you can say goodbye to all that deep digging. In fact, digging up and turning over the earth is more harmful than beneficial to the soil. It causes dormant weed seeds to surface and germinate. Digging upsets the balance in soil life and causes a loss of nutrients by exposing them to air. All those billions of organisms which live in the soil hate being disturbed. Earthworms for example, only breed when undisturbed. If you dig up the soil every year it is as if you have destroyed their house and they have to start all over again. And finally, digging leads to moisture loss.
Tripod thin one with tomatoes w path
The only time I dig deep into my garden is to remove an unwanted perennial or to harvest roots of a plant or when preparing a new bed. Many of you at this point will be saying; “But I need to dig – if I don’t turn over the soil it will become compacted. That’s why I dig!” The main cause of compacted soil is our own weight pressing down on it. So, the main rule for no dig gardening is to never stand on the soil. To achieve this, make your garden beds just wide enough for you to reach the middle comfortably from the path. If your beds are already bigger than this, place stepping-stones where necessary.

The first time you prepare your beds, it is worth enriching them with manure and compost – and this does mean digging! I know I promised no digging – but after you have prepared them for the first time you will never need to dig again. To avoid mixing up the layers of earth too much, use the following method:

Working in small sections, remove the topsoil layer and dig a trench about half a metre deep. Loosen the subsoil layer – don’t turn it over, just loosen it by sticking a fork in and wiggling it back and fore. Add a thick layer of well-rotted manure and compost. Fill in the trench, adding the topsoil last. After adding the topsoil, the surface will be higher than the surrounding path. It is a good idea to create pathways between the beds and to edge the beds with stones, logs or some form of edging to keep the enriched soil inside the beds.
Garden path

After you have prepared your beds, you don’t need to dig again.

Next time I will talk about how to maintain the soil fertility in your newly created beds.

It all starts with the soil . . .

Posted in Grow Your Own Veg! Tips & Techniques by Jane Griffiths on the July 13th, 2010

Intensively planted beds
People often ask me what does organic actually mean? Organic gardening is nothing new – in fact it is a very old way of gardening. It is the way all farming and gardening was before the advent of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. You might think that gardening organically just means replacing synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilisers with organic ones. However, there is much more to it than that. Organic gardening is a natural, holistic and commonsense approach to gardening. It is more of a philosophy of gardening than a style. Organic gardeners see gardens as part of a natural cycle, starting with the soil and including the water supply, people, wildlife and insects. Our aim is to work in harmony with natural systems and to minimise and replenish the resources that our gardens consume.

By going the organic route, we are going the route of nature and, if we observe nature, we see that it is not tidy with precise edges and neatly swept surfaces. In a forest when leaves and dead branches fall from trees, they stay there, forming layers of slowly decomposing organic matter. Jane's Jungle
I have hiked in the rain forests of central Africa and there is no solid surface underfoot. As you take a step you sink calf deep into a crunchy, mushy mass. And with each step a cloud of bugs flies up. You can feel the heat and the energy of nature at work. I am not saying we want to create this environment in our home gardens, but we do we want to invite nature to do what she does best.

Compost in handOrganic gardening all starts with the soil: healthy, nutrient-rich soil = healthy, strong plants = more resistance to disease and bugs. Just as a healthy body is more resistant to infections, so a healthy soil builds up the plants’ resistance to attacks. Think of your plants as a mirror of the soil in which they’re growing. The first step to controlling diseases and insects is to cultivate healthy soil.

So what is healthy soil and how do we achieve it? ‘Healthy soil’ means a soil full of humus. Humus, which is broken down organic matter, is the ‘life-force’ of the soil. It provides a home for billions of organisms, such as fungi, bacteria, algae, insects and worms. In one teaspoon of healthy soil there are more than six billion microscopic organisms. Without these, plants cannot grow.

Earthworms for example, leave the earth 8 times richer after being digested through their intestines. earthworms
Organic vegetable gardens need as much humus in the soil as possible for a number of other reasons:
· Humus acts as a sponge with extremely high absorption abilities
· It retains moisture
· Chemically, humus has numerous active surfaces, which bind to ions of nutrients. This makes many more nutrients available to plants.
· It improves the physical structure of soil making it moist, crumbly and aerated, providing the ideal home for beneficial bacteria and other organisms such as earthworms.

A Surprise!

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the July 13th, 2010

Last week I received a magical surprise – an advance copy of JDK arrived! It looks FANTASTIC!!! And my publisher Ceri (who seldom uses the F word!) agrees. It is a digital copy which is about 98% of what the actual printed copies will look like. The printers do this digital copy as a final check for colour, pics etc before it starts being printed. So it will still only be Oct before the copies are in book stores. But to whet appetites – here are a few sneak preview pics . . . .

JDK front cover lo res

Harvest recipes 1Harvest recipes 2

Squash salad recipeSquash salad pic