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Geoff Hodge Web Editor Peterborough

I've been a horticultural journalist for 20 years, a gardener for longer than I want to think about and a veg grower for 25 years.

  • Date Joined: 21 Nov 2006

Recent Comments

  • Going backwards – and then forwards

    Geoff Hodge on 27 Apr 2009 at 03:35 PM

    After three weeks of sowing a wide range of things at home in the raised beds, hardly anything had germinated – apart from two poor rows of radish! So I decided to delve deeper and see if there was a bigger problem than just the cold weather. And I’m glad I did.

    Two things became apparent. The soil had ‘capped’ and had become compacted under the compost mulch I’d put on in the winter. Also, the soil was full of tree roots from a barrier of trees just outside the fence. So, although my raised beds are no-dig beds, it was time to dig them both over. Each one yielded a wheelbarrow full of tree roots and the soil had become badly compacted. So after a couple of hours or so of sweat (and a few tears because I hadn’t thought of it earlier in the year) I’d got two new raised beds full of lovely, un-compacted soil and no tree roots. So let that be a lesson to you all – just because you use a no-dig system, every now and again (my two beds have been in place for four and six years respectively) they do need digging over. The only thing left to do then was re-sow everything. Hopefully now I’ll get good germination and better growth

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  • Sowing the seeds of success

    Geoff Hodge on 01 Apr 2009 at 12:38 PM

    Well hopefully. Although I've got to say it's a slow start to the year - probably not warm enough for seeds to germinate properly and, as a result, not much is showing in the veg plot at home. Of all the things I've sown so far only the radish and broad beans are doing anything. How's everybody else getting on?

    I've spent a few hours on the allotment this week, doing some more weeding and tidying up. I also planted out a new Coronet family apple tree, which came courtesy of Springfield Nurseries in Ireland. This joins the other two Coronets, which fruited magnificently last year.

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  • Getting back in the saddle

    Geoff Hodge on 17 Mar 2009 at 09:20 AM

    Having had a prolonged veg-free start to the year - I blame the weather and too many other things to do - I've finally managed to getthings started in the veg garden.

    I know it sounds like an excuse, but last year we started too early, everything grew too much before the weather was right for planting out/planting up and we spent a fortune on heating and supplementary lighting. This year we're taking a more natural, relaxed approach. Well, that's the plan (and the excuse) anyway

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  • The end of all good things

    Geoff Hodge on 10 Oct 2008 at 05:02 PM

    Well, actually, it's the end of a lot of bad things! I've started clearing out the greenhouse and beds of all the summer crops and consigning the plants to the compost heap - and boy the compost heap's getting big.

    Although there are still a few peppers and chillies in the greenhouse I've started to clean it out ready for the late autumn and winter inhabitants - all the tender and exotic plants from the garden. Yes, shock horror, the greenhouse becomes veg free (apart from a few salads) during the winter. I've started to clean it - the structure and the glass - and given it a good autumn clean; it looks very appealing in there at the moment I have to say.
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  • Mellow fruitfullness abounds

    Geoff Hodge on 22 Sep 2008 at 01:25 PM

    OK, so this is it. Autumn is officially here - not only judging by the calendar, but also by the nighttime temperatures - on Saturday night it went down to 4C. So that's pretty much the end of the main veg growing season.

    I spent Saturday going through crops tidying up, disposing of the ornamental aubergine plants and sorting through the tomatoes to remove leaves to allow as much sun as possible to get to the fruit - the latter may now have been a complete waste of time as the fruit will probably fair better indoors

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  • Bank holidays - I love 'em

    Geoff Hodge on 26 Aug 2008 at 09:43 AM

    You can't beat a good bank holiday to get loads done in the garden. Having spent so much time away recently, we spent all three days getting the garden back into shape and finishing off a few projects that we'd got part way through. One of my main objectives was to give the veg area a good seeing to.

    The beefsteak tomatoes obviously were never going to do anything, so they got cleared out of the greenhouse, which made lots of room to space out the remaining tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and cucumbers. One of the aubergines has actually set a fruit, although I don’t hold out much hope of it getting to edible size this late in the season. The peppers are doing really well and we’ll have lots of chillies to keep us going through the autumn. Photographer Tim Sandall is having his own Chilli Festival in a few weeks’ time, so it looks like we'll be able to add to his endeavours.

    In order to get all the grubbed up tomato plants onto the compost heaps meant that the finished heap had to be emptied and this was used to top up the beds and as a mulch around the rest of the garden.

    Next job was to have a good tidy up of all the other crops – removing dead, damaged or dying foliage, remove spent plants, weed and generally make everything ship shape.

    By the end of Saturday I stood back, lent on my hoe and thought ‘phew’ things are back to normal.

    There was plenty to harvest and deal with. Although the tomatoes at home have generally been disappointing we’ve had a few fruit here and there and this weekend everything that was ready was harvested to make a rich tomato sauce, which along with some runner beans made a fantastic sauce for salmon steaks. The ‘Hundred & Thousands’ tomato plants have been cropping well and consistently and the tiny cherry tomatoes are great to eat raw and add a hint of sweetness to sauces. Sunday’s gourmet meal was pork with roast beetroot (red & orange) and carrots.

    On Saturday we had a real ‘rock and roll lifestyle’ evening and spent hours cleaning, topping and tailing and peeling shallots and by the end of the weekend had six jars of them pickled and ready to store. Similarly the onions were cleaned up and put into store. Clare was a bit miffed as she was hoping to get three that were good enough to enter into one of our local shows next week but we just couldn’t find three that were the same size and shape. The potatoes that we harvested last weekend were similarly cleaned, sorted and put into boxes for storage in the garage.

    As always, there were plenty of courgettes to harvest, so many so that Clare decided to bake a courgette cake. I realised she was baking, but hadn’t realised that it was courgette on the menu until I had my first slice to eat and noticed the green flecks. How was it? Well, it wasn’t long before I was tucking into my second slice; I think that answers the question! Moist & yummy is another answer; as you'll see I'm a real connoisseur when it comes to food.

    By the end of yesterday the whole of the garden was looking much better, I’d moved a tonne of gravel, I ached all over, I’d eaten well from produce we’d grown ourselves, and was wondering why I’d been moaning about what a waste of time, money and effort gardening was a couple of weeks before! A happy ending to a happy bank holiday.
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  • Mixed fortunes

    Geoff Hodge on 19 Aug 2008 at 09:28 AM

    Right! This is getting silly! I know each year in the garden is different – but I just wish they were different in a good way. Two years ago we were over-run with tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and aubergines and the freezer was swollen with ratatouille. Last year was the ‘blight year’ and tomatoes and potatoes took a bit of a hammering. This year – it has been beans all the way – in all their forms. But the tomatoes, peppers and aubergines…!


    We’ve just come back from a holiday in the south of France – every day hot, sunny and glorious. And while I’m lying next to the pool trying not to become a British lobster I’m thinking it MUST be sunny back home and all the fruiting crops must be bursting with fruit. Luckily, the mother-in-law was house sitting so everything would be fed and watered as and when needed

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  • Where's the summer gone?

    Geoff Hodge on 21 Jul 2008 at 09:33 AM

    I haven't blogged for a few weeks - simply because I haven't been around much the last few weekends to get any actual gardening done. After spending the weekend at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show we've spent the following weekends visiting family, goings to christenings and having a weekend away in Pembrokeshire - revisiting old haunts that I used to go to as a child.

    This weekend has been the first one spent at home for ages - and yes there has been some inevitable catching up to do in the garden. Naturally, I've been doing things in the evening after getting back from the office, but it has only been 'maintenance work'. And to be fair, that's what tends to happen at this time of year: watering plants in containers, feeding plants in containers, tying in plants to supports (we've had some really windy days, which have caused even the runner beans to comeaway from their supports), sideshooting tomatoes - and, the one thing that makes all the hard work worthwhile - harvesting

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  • Up to date & happy

    Geoff Hodge on 24 Jun 2008 at 12:05 PM

    Despite some other commitments this weekend, I've managed to catch up with my backlog of veg jobs.

    I picked the last crop from the broad beans that had been inhabiting the growing frame at home (that's where they were overwintered) and then cut down and pulled up the plants - stripping off all the nitrogen-rich root nodules and digging them back into the soil. This left space for the melons. I planted out three of these and then had a blinding flash of inspiration; they grow as ground cover so there's plenty of vertical room for more peppers. Eight plants have gone in and the warmth and light should ensure a good crop

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  • Itching has been scratched

    Geoff Hodge on 17 Jun 2008 at 11:06 AM

    My itchy fingers from last Friday were well and truly scratched over the weekend - I had a good catch up at home and at the allotment.

    My main bug bear was the number of tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, cucumbers and squashes that needed to be potted up into their final growing pots. So, armed with a trusty tenner I went to my local independent garden centre and bought three 70-litres bags of compost. This equates to 22 final growing pots, and so now most of the plants have a resting home to grow into. Once potted up they needed some bamboo cane supports and tying in. So now everyone's happy

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  • Itchy fingers

    Geoff Hodge on 13 Jun 2008 at 04:08 PM

    Boy, how they're itching! Last weekend I spent absolutely nil time in the garden and there is lots that needs doing. The recent lot of rain hasn't helped - poor light levels have drawn everything up, only for the weather to bash it down again.

    My non-gardening sins of last weekend were due to extracurricular activities. On Saturday I was putting together some information for the Garden Media Guild, of which I'm a committee member, web editor and newsletter producer

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  • Stenner line

    Geoff Hodge on 04 Jun 2008 at 10:11 AM

    Last night I gave a talk to the Kimble & Ellesborough Horticultural Society. Like most gardening club evenings they had a raffle and, unusually, always give the guest speaker a strip of tickets too. To my delight I won a prize! To my further delight one of the prizes still sitting on the table was a tray with six pots of Stenner runner beans. These are the ultimate showing runner bean - selected by Brython Stenner - or 'Taffy' Stenner as he was known.

    I've never grown these before - and I've certainly never eaten them, so I'm looking forward to planting them out this week. If they don't match my taste expectations I can always put them into a show! 

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  • Back in the saddle

    Geoff Hodge on 02 Jun 2008 at 10:17 AM

    Having spent five long days at Chelsea Flower Show, the Bank Holiday weekend last week was the perfect opportunity to recharge my batteries - but I didn't even have the energy to do much in the garden. Apart from walking the plot checking on things (the best way I think to nip pest and disease problems in the bud before they get out of hand), doing a bit of hand weeding and looking after any watering needs I decided to give actual hands-on gardening a rest.

    This weekend I realised that decision was a mistake! Everything needed doing!! The most urgent task was to look at all the young veg plants growing in cell trays, modules and pots and start planting them into their final growing positions or repotting them. I love this job as I know it means that actual crops are not far behind (hopefully). So I potted up cucumbers, tomatoes, courgettes and peppers

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  • A few days away

    Geoff Hodge on 17 May 2008 at 09:39 PM

    There'll be no veg gardening for me this weekend - or for the next few days for that matter. I'll be at the Chelsea Flower Show until Tuesday afternoon,so won't be getting my fingers dirty at all for four days.

    Look at the RHS Online at the shows blogs to see how I get on at Chelsea

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  • Phew, what a scorcher!

    Geoff Hodge on 12 May 2008 at 09:59 AM

    Another atypical early May weekend got me out of bed early Saturday morning to start the rounds of watering. By seven o’clock the hose was busy giving relief to gasping plants.

    All the young plants in the lean-to frame needed looking at, so I got out my faithful flat Tubtrug, filled it with water and gave everything a good soak. This method not only ensures the compost is thoroughly moist, but gives me the opportunity to pick up each plant and give it the once over. A couple of the peppers had started to develop greenfly, so these were squashed before the plants had their much-needed soak. As everything is growing furiously it also gives me the opportunity to re-space everything, but this meant a few things had to come out to make enough space. The peas had already had a period of hardening off as Clare was going to plant them at the allotment on Sunday (I wasn’t going as I had the excuse of watching the last day of the Premiership on telly!)

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  • Don't get caught out

    Geoff Hodge on 07 May 2008 at 01:51 PM

    A word from the wise (or at least someone who nearly got his fingers (or his plants) burnt - literally!): don't get caught out by this spell of hot weather like I nearly did.

    I got up early yesterday morning as I had to go to RHS Garden Wisley. I'd opened the lean-to frame and the greenhouse to let in some air, but as the frame contains a lot of newly potted seedlings I wanted to ensure they didn't get too cold or blasted by wind - so only opened the glass doors a tad. I didn't get back from Wisley until late and it was too dark to see anything much in the garden. I checked everything early this morning and lots of the young plants were visibly panting for water. I had a look at the max/min thermometer and it registered a high of 39C yesterday!
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  • Glorious Bank Holiday

    Geoff Hodge on 05 May 2008 at 08:38 PM

    There’s only one thing that I like more than the weekends – that’s a three-day weekend, commonly called a Bank Holiday! And what a wonderful one it was too.
    Saturday was spent doing general ‘life’ things to get them out of the way, so it freed up the other two days.

    I did get time to go down to the allotment. The grass paths were in desperate need of mowing, so I quickly whizzed around and got them looking decent. Next job was to earth up the spuds, which have started to show through. Then finally put up some supports for the peas, which Clare planted out and devise something that Heath Robinson (who’s correct name, apparently, is William Heath Robinson) would be proud of, involving mesh, string and metal pegs to keep off the damn pigeons.
    During Sunday morning and early afternoon I was busy in the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire studios on Dougan Does Gardening answering questions. We had a few veggie ones, including: was it too late to sow runner beans – well, no, it’s possibly a bit early; how to stop leeks bolting – it wasn’t really bolting in the true sense of the word, it was how to stop leeks going to seed now, and that’s easy – lift them and eat them!; why were tomatoes and chillies producing brown, shrivelled leaves – it turns out they had been planted outside (already) on a very cold, exposed balcony!
    When I returned home there was some general gardening to do, lead by Clare who had been busily hacking back the holly

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  • It's all my fault!

    Geoff Hodge on 01 May 2008 at 11:14 AM

    I'm really sorry about all the rain we've had over the last couple of days - I think it's my fault.

    You see, I planted out some broad beans and some other bits and bobs on the allotment on Monday, but forgot to take the watering can. I went back on Tuesday and gave everything a thorough watering to settle them into their new home. Within about 45 minutes of finishing, the heavens opened and it hasn't really stopped since. So I apologise

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  • Massed seedlings

    Geoff Hodge on 28 Apr 2008 at 06:06 PM

    As predicted last week, this weekend involved plenty of pricking out and potting on. And, as far as the veg garden was involved, that was about the size of it.

    That’s the problem with any form of seed sowing – the seeds only take up a pot or tray when you sow them, but each plant needs its own cell in a cell tray or individual pot to grow on in and the room these take up can be phenomenal. Especially when the – ‘can’t bear to throw it out’ syndrome comes into play.
    The propagators were full of pots of germinating or germinated seeds and young seedlings – including I don’t know how many different cultivars of peppers and tomatoes, aubergines, melons, cucumbers, courgettes plus some flowering ornamentals (but we won’t mention them here!). So, there was only one thing for it – a strategy had to be thought up. The answer, in the end, was quite easy. *** out everything into individual pots and cell trays and move them into the lean-to frame. This was full of the shallots, onions and leeks plus broad beans and peas. There was only one thing to do – move the peas and beans out to harden off and ask girlfriend Clare to go get a tan at the allotment and plant out the allium crops. This she did with her allotment buddy Michelle and came back three hours later with very sore, red arms – sunburn in April!
    Having cleared out the propagators of the seedlings that needed pricking out, there was just one more thing to do this weekend – fill them up again with more pots and trays of seeds. Clare and I set up a production line in the conservatory and after a couple of hours had sown more peas, French and runner beans, an assortment of brassicas, three different squashes, sweet corn and leeks.
    We ran out of compost and trays so popped along to the garden centre where, as usual, unplanned purchases joined those things we’d gone for – a couple more cucumber plants and, despite the already burgeoning National Collection of Tomatoes that was growing at home, I was taken by three plants of tomato ‘Black Russian’.
    Luckily, we plan to swop some of the tomatoes with friends, so we won’t have to grow them all on and we always give some to Gino from the Pasta Shop – always a good idea to keep in with the local shopkeepers!
     
    Now this veg blog only contains a bit of the work I got up to – all my general gardening can be read on my own blog

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  • Crazy weekend

    Geoff Hodge on 21 Apr 2008 at 09:10 AM

    Yet another forecast for a mixed bag of weather meant that this weekend I needed to get cracking early – just in case, just in case things turned really nasty and put the kybosh on my plans. As a result I was out in the garden by 8o’clock on both days.

    The weather wasn’t as bad as I’d expected – Saturday was great until about 5o’clock; Sunday started out dull, damp, dingy and wet, but by 11.15am(having gone indoors for American pancakes and The Archers) it had stopped raining and the rest of the day was fine

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  • In & out

    Geoff Hodge on 16 Apr 2008 at 04:18 PM

    Because we’ve been away the last couple of weekends and haven’t managed to spend much time on the garden or on the allotment, jobs were beginning to pile up – and both my girlfriend Clare and I were beginning to get just a tad twitchy about the situation.

    So this weekend we were going to get on with things whatever the weather. Perhaps a touch too much bravado considering the forecast

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  • Best laid plans!

    Geoff Hodge on 25 Mar 2008 at 10:20 AM

    What a washout - or snowout this Easter was. This is one of the most unpleasant ones I can remember. Snow, biting cold winds, frosts and sub-zero temperatures. They all combined together to make me feel more inclined to stay indoors and eat Easter eggs and hot cross buns.

    On Saturday, I braved the snow, sleet and horrendous driving conditions on the M11 to shoot down to Chelmsford for my monthly slot on Gardening Plus on BBC Essex. I think most of the good people of Essex had decided to stay indoors too, as we were really busy with phone calls, texts and e-mails

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  • Busy, busy --- and busy!

    Geoff Hodge on 17 Mar 2008 at 11:19 AM

    As it was an awful weekend weather-wise (not sports-wise - Wales beating the French at rugby and winning the Grand Slam), I spent most of the time indoors - but luckily I had plenty to entertain me there, too.

    The seed potatoes were put out to chit - yes I know it should have been done earlier, but I had no room in the conservatory to put them and I wasn't sure whether I was going to chit or not this year. Anyway, I convinced myself to do it and now there's a tray of ‘Rocket', ‘Charlotte', ‘Desiree' and ‘Pink Fir Apple'. The shoots had only just started to show, so no damage done there

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  • Things are on the move

    Geoff Hodge on 28 Feb 2008 at 01:25 PM

    The broad beans and lettuces in the growing frame seem to be doing really well. They even needed a watering this week, as the conditions in there are so warm that the soil had dried out quite a lot. The slug pellets are holding their own in there too and so far no damage at all.

    The garlic plants growing in cell trays in the lean-to frame, which were meant for the allotment are also growing well - too well - and have put on a mad spurt of growth. Sadly, the allotment isn't ready for them yet, so I had a change of heart, made an ‘executive decision', and planted out two rows in the raised beds. There's still a tray of 12 left so these can go out onto the allotment at a later stage. They might need potting up first though as the cells are getting chockablock with roots

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  • Early starters

    Geoff Hodge on 28 Jan 2008 at 03:04 PM

    This weekend I was involved in a couple of local radio gardening phone-ins - Garden Plus on BBC Essex on Saturday and Dougan Does Gardening on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on Sunday. It would seem that everyone is desperate to get growing, probably because of our extremely mild January weather - is this climate change?

    Everyone wants to start sowing seeds - both inside and out. Now I'm as mad keen as the next person, but as I told the listeners and as I said in my last blog - be patient

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  • To start or not to start - what a question!

    Geoff Hodge on 25 Jan 2008 at 04:24 PM

    "I'm late!, I'm late! For a very important date." So said the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. And if I was an exhibition veg grower I would be late. I've just sown some ‘Mammoth Improved' onion seeds, whereas exhibition growers always try to sow their onions on Boxing Day or as soon after the shortest day as possible.
    These are now sitting in the propagator in the garage. Sadly, I can't get electricity down to the greenhouse, so always have to sow seeds nearer to the house. In the past I've always used the conservatory, but light levels there (it's north facing) mean that the seedlings grow a bit tall and lank. But how can the garage be any better? Well, we've just got our hands on a growlight and we've set it up in the garage to see how well it does. We'll be using it to grow on a range of plants; I'll let you know how we get on.

    But at this time of year seed sowing is a real matter of timing. Like you, I'm itching to get going, but I know that starting too early is a mistake. It's fine sowing peppers, tomatoes and other crops needing warmth in a propagator now (January/February) as they'll germinate quickly, but if you don't have the right conditions to grow them on afterwards (a minimum temperature of 10C and good light levels) they'll start to suffer. Sowings made in March (and even April for crops being planted outside) will soon catch up with these early starters and often produce far better plants and crops as they've had better conditions to grow in

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  • New year - new commitment

    Geoff Hodge on 14 Jan 2008 at 10:29 AM

    I don't make New Year resolutions as I think they're a waste of time and effort - if you want to do something just do it. But I feel I need to ensure I get something done this year - so here's my mid-January resolution: "I will keep up with my veg blog this year".

    Last year I had so many other projects on the go that veg blogging just lost momentum. This year will be different! I'm also going to be looking at climate as well this year to tie in with our changing climate section (www.rhs.org.uk/climate), so I hope this isn't a false promise

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  • What's that wet stuff?

    Geoff Hodge on 24 Apr 2007 at 08:15 AM

    I woke up this morning to a strange noise on the conservatory roof - a noise that I remembered from a long time ago. What was it? Oh yes, rain. Rain! I immediately jumped out of bed and shot into the garden - remembering to put on some clothes first. All the protective covers over the crops were either removed or opened to let in this precious downpour.

    Where I live in the East Midlands this is the first rain we've had this month. Last Sunday morning I spent nearly three hours watering - and this is April! So I wanted to take full advantage of whatever was falling

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  • Oh what a beautiful morning/weekend

    Geoff Hodge on 11 Apr 2007 at 09:43 AM

    Easter weekend - what a glorious few days we had - and perfect for spending lots of time in the garden.

    Good Friday is traditionally a day to spend on the allotment and plant potatoes. So what did I do? Spend the day on the allotment and planted potatoes. But I also planted the shallots growing in modules. And there was so much else to do

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  • Fun with seedlings

    Geoff Hodge on 02 Apr 2007 at 08:47 AM

    What a glorious weekend - lovely, sunny weather, with just a hint of cold weather at night to get the nerves of anyone with seedlings and young plants jangling. So, it was a weekend in the garden, getting ready for Easter.

    In the veg garden there was plenty to do

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  • Let there be light - and lettuce!

    Geoff Hodge on 26 Mar 2007 at 09:32 AM

    I mentioned on Friday that the seedlings in the conservatory weren't getting enough light and that I'd installed a growlight. Well, to help things along even more I also made a 'light box' - a light-reflecting seedling box. Sounds fancy, doesn't it? Actually, it's just a three-sided, topless box lined with silver foil! The foil reflects the light at the back and bottom of the seedlings, so they get light from all sides and don't tend to become too stretched. Now, where's my Blue Peter badge?!

    I also sowed my three trial cos lettuces, following the method used by the Trials Department at Wisley - using a dibber to sow three seeds in each cell of a P40 cell tray filled with a peat-reduced compost; although I only used 30 cells, 10 of each cultivar. The tray was then put in the conservatory, along with all my other seeds, to germinate

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  • Cos I want to!

    Geoff Hodge on 23 Mar 2007 at 08:39 AM

    It's all gone quiet over here! No blogs from me for 11 days. The reason? I succumbed to 'man flu' and didn't get out into the garden last weekend, and have only just made it back into the office. So what's been happening?

    Well, not a lot really - on my behalf anyway. My veg, on the other hand, have been quite busy. Most of the first batch of pots of greenhouse and patio crops have germinated and I now have pots of seedlings growing rapidly. Because light levels are so low in the conservatory where the propagators are, I've rigged up a growing light to help give them a boost. They'll probably be ready to transplant in a week or so's time. The beetroot and carrots in the Rootrainers in the cold frame have germinated and are growing nicely; the broad beans have started and I even think my 'chancy' French beans might be coming to something

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  • Walking on sunshine

    Geoff Hodge on 12 Mar 2007 at 11:15 AM

    What a difference a week makes! After last weekend's swampy weather, this weekend was full of glorious spring sunshine. Saturday wasn’t spent in the garden though. I drove down to Chelmsford to make my regular monthly guest appearance on Down to Earth on BBC Essex with Ken Crowther. Our main subject was lawns and lawncare and, judging by the number of questions and phonecalls we received, there were a lot of people out gardening.

    Sunday was spent gardening. After a spot of tidying up and then the annual pruning of the roses and clematis it was on to the veg garden. A few weeds had dared to raise their heads above ground so these were quickly dealt with. I then tidied up the overwintering crops, removing any dead or damaged leaves from the purple-sprouting broccoli, spring cabbages, spinach and chard. The broccoli had actually produced a few heads, so these were picked and made a delicious addition to Sunday evening's meal

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  • Rain, rain...and more rain

    Geoff Hodge on 05 Mar 2007 at 09:30 AM

    What a miserable weekend! Weather-wise that is. I decided to spend Sunday gardening, as I had lots of other things to catch up with on Saturday - not least, watching Liverpool v ManU. I've got a couple of friends who are massive Liverpool supporters and I knew/hoped this would be a great opportunity to take the mick out of them - and how right I was!

    So Sunday morning comes and so does the rain; a good opportunity to stay in and catch up with The Archers Omnibus. At 11.15am it's still pelting down, so there's nothing for it, but to venture out in the wet-weather gear. I actually like being out in the cold and the rain - as long as I'm wearing the right clothing. Even though it poured down all day, I managed to get plenty done in the veg garden

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  • To chit or not to chit?

    Geoff Hodge on 26 Feb 2007 at 09:52 AM

    For a potato grower that is the question! I've always chitted my seed potatoes, but recent research suggests it's not really worthwhile. Well I say pah to the research, I'm going to carry on.

    The reason for chitting (getting the tubers to shoot before planting) is to produce earlier and heavier crops. The other reason I chit is because I always like to buy my seed tubers early - so I get the best choice - and if I plant in late March/April what do I do with them for two months? Rather than have them sitting around in the shed waiting for planting day I think it's better to have them doing something

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  • Seed heaven

    Geoff Hodge on 19 Feb 2007 at 05:18 PM

    Unfortunately, due to other commitments (I'm writing a book and deadlines are approaching!) and the fact that the soil hadn't warmed up as much as I'd hoped, I didn't get around to any direct seed sowing outside this weekend.

    The broad beans sowed a week or so ago inside have germinated, so these will get a bit of hardening off and then go under the frame next weekend I hope

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  • Can't wait for the weekend!

    Geoff Hodge on 16 Feb 2007 at 04:09 PM

    I’ve just checked the weather forecast and it all looks good for a few hours in the garden this weekend.

    Providing the garden frame has done it’s thing and the soil underneath feels warm enough – good old black fen soil warms up so quickly, especially under cover in raised beds – I’m going to make a start on some outdoor sowings under the frame. And if the broad beans have germinated they’ll go out too

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  • A warming start

    Geoff Hodge on 12 Feb 2007 at 09:17 AM

    Snow! At least it only lasted a day and didn’t set me back at all in my fevered excitement to get started. And it’s often that excitement that puts the kybosh on early veg growers’ plans.

    If, like me, you get sweaty palms waiting for the seed-sowing season to start in earnest, you need to make some contingency plans. To get off to the earliest possible start I always warm up the soil in the raised beds. I either use clear polythene, cloches or growing frames. If you sow seeds too early when the soil temperature is too low (most won’t germinate below 7C) they’ll rot and so you’ve wasted the time and effort put into it. All three have their benefits, but the frame (pictured) is especially great as it provides lots of space, and it’s easy to get at the crops by just sliding the doors open

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  • Plot overview

    Geoff Hodge on 05 Feb 2007 at 09:33 AM

    Being the Online Editor you might think I'm a bit of a techie with no interest in gardening. On the contrary, my background is horticulture and I've been growing veg since I ripped up the garden at home at the age of 14 and put in veg beds.

    I now grow the majority of my veg in raised beds in the back garden, although my lovely girlfriend Clare has an allotment - which I sometimes get roped into helping on! The beds are 1.2m (4ft) wide, 4.8m (16ft) long and 20cm (8in) high. We use them for growing a good range of crops, especially salads and things that need more attention than we can give to those on the allotment. In the autumn and winter they’re used for overwintering crops; this year we’ve got perpetual spinach, chard, leeks, purple-sprouting broccoli and spring cabbages – not much I know but we didn’t have much time in the autumn to start a lot of things. The attached image shows my overwintered purple-sprouting broccoli

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