Monday 21 September 2015


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Courgettes are easy vegetables to grow and very productive, although they do require a lot of space. You can grow courgettes either in containers or in the ground.

There are many varieties to chose from which vary in their growing size and fruit that is produced. Compact varieties are ideal for growing in areas with restricted room and include 'Venus' and 'Supremo'. 'El Greco’ is an open habited plant and ‘Tiger Cross’ produces large striped fruits.  Popular varieties used for cooking include Striato d’ Napoli, Verde d’ Milano and Trieste White Cousa.

Courgettes like fertile, moist soil in a sunny position. Prepare the ground by digging over the soil several weeks prior to planting out in June, incorporating a well rotted manure or compost into the bed. Similar to their relatives squash and pumpkins, courgettes need a lot of space.  Allow each plant 1 m2 growing space for optimum results.

You can give your courgette plants a head start by growing from seed indoors in March and plant out when the weather starts to warm up. Fill 7.5 cm pots with John Innes seed and cutting compost and firm the soil gently. Plant a single seed vertically in each pot and water well.  Cover with a transparent plastic cover or piece of glass until germination and place on a sunny windowsill. Harden off any seedlings in May prior to planting outside. 

Alternatively you can plant your courgette seeds directly into the soil in late May.  Place two seeds side by side and later remove the weakest plant. You may chose to plant your courgettes in a container or grow bag.  Place one plant in a pot and a maximum of two in a grow bag.

Courgettes require a lot of water, especially when flowering and the fruits start to swell.
However courgette plants will rot if the collar sits in water so ensure that they are not waterlogged. Mulch around the base of the plants to lock in moisture and feed fortnightly with a high potash liquid fertiliser.

Harvest your courgettes when they are 10 cm long.  You will need to harvest your courgettes every few days to ensure a constant production.  Expect to harvest 3-4 courgettes a week.

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Saturday 12 September 2015


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Passion flowers (Passiflora) have deeply lobed leaves which are followed a month or so later by a proliferation of showy, creamy-white flowers with purple-blue zoned coronas. Towards the end of the summer the passion flower will produce its golden, egg-shaped fruits.

Passion flowers always bring a touch of the exotic into the garden.  But you don't need tropical conditions to grow the in the UK.  There are species that can easily be grown in our weather conditions, and others than can be grown successfully indoors. 

Although they are cited as evergreen in all but the coldest regions, they generally suffer some cold damage and look best in the summer/spring when the new growth is visible. Therefore it is best to position your passionflower in a sheltered position in full sun or dappled shade such as south or south west facing area. In colder areas passion flowers can be grown successfully in a greenhouse or conservatory.  

Passionflowers are woody climbers and will grow to 2-10 m in height and spread.
Passion flowers will  thrive in any soil type that is moist, but prefer moderately fertile, well-drained soils. Plant out your passion flowers in the spring or autumn.

Water passion flowers freely during the growing season to ensure that they don’t dry out. Water them more sparingly during the winter, allowing the compost surface of container grown specimens to begin to dry out between watering.  Top dress plants with a general fertiliser in the spring.

Passion flower can also be grown successfully in a container. However if growing indoors in a south facing conservatory or windowsill  you will need to protect the leaves from scorch by shading.

Although passion flowers are self climbing they benefit from fan training. Carry out pruning just after flowering by shortening flowered tips and side shoots to a couple of buds from the main fan framework.

Passion flower can propagated through layering in spring, from softwood cuttings in spring or from semi-ripe cuttings in the summer.Species plants (but not named cultivars) will come true from seed.You may choose to grow your species passion flowers from seed, although named cultivars will not come true from seed. Use either John Innes No 3 potting compost, or good quality multipurpose or peat-free compost.

Outdoor species
Passiflora incarnata 
Passiflora caerulea
Passiflora lutea

Conservatory species
Passiflora mollissima
Passiflora × exoniensis
Passiflora antioquiensis
Passiflora x alatocaerulea
Passiflora × allardii
Passiflora × caeruleoracemosa
Passiflora manicata
Passiflora alata 

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How to grow passionflower
How to grow passionflower from seed

Tuesday 8 September 2015


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1. All Year Round Maintenance Operations                                            

Grass Cutting Operations - General

Cut all football pitches with a cylinder cut mowing machine fitted with turf tyres and with no less than five blades per cutting reel.  Cut the sward allowing all clippings to fly and ensure that excessive arisings are evenly distributed over the site.                  

Throughout the playing season (August to May) maintain the height of grass between minimum 40mm and maximum 50mm. During the post season period (May-Aug) maintain the height of grass between a minimum height of 25mm and a maximum height of 40mm.

Mark out all pitches in accordance with Football Association Rules and Regulations. 

Remove all deleterious materials from the pitch area prior to the commencement of the match. Ensure that all potholes and other such holes are filled in prior to commencement of the match.

Ensure that all goalposts are erect and straight, and that they are firm in the sockets and upright.  Also ensure that all net hooks are in place.

Aerate the Pitch

Aerate the pitch on one occasion per month from September to April at equally spaced intervals, using tractor mounted equipment equipped with turf tyres. Aerate using slit tines penetrating to a minimum depth of 100mm.

Do carry out aeration in periods of inclement weather to avoid damaging the pitch.

Harrow the Pitch                                                                     

When required chain harrow the whole pitch. making two passes in different directions along the length of the pitch, ensuring no overlapping. Use a tractor fitted with turf tyres and make sure that ground conditions are suitable for such vehicles.  

2. Post Season Operations                                                                      

The post season shall run from May till August. Carry out and complete all post season renovation operations by the end of May.

Remove all goalposts from the pitches and cap off the goal sockets. 

Cultivate all areas of wear, these will normally be in the goal and penalty areas and the centre of the pitch. Cultivate to a depth of minimum 50mm. Following cultivation operations level and produce a tilth ready for overseeding. Overseed all cultivated areas with a seed mixture of 80% perennial Ryegrass and 20% Browntop Bert or Smooth Stalked Meadow Grass. Irrigate areas to a minimum depth of 50mm per occasion, to ensure the sufficient growth levels are achieved.

Carry out contravation operations on all areas of the pitch not renovated above by the use of a tractor mounted contravator. In periods of dry weather suspend the contravating operation until September, substituting during May by overseeding all areas at rate of 30 grams per square metre.  Erect and maintain a fence or similar barrier surrounding these areas.

The renovations should be subject to standards and rate of growth as follows:

(Establishment Minimum)
Weed Content
End of June
End of July
Wk 3 of August

Supply and Apply Selective Herbicide                                        

Every two years supply and apply a selective herbicide to the whole pitch to kill turf weeds such as daisy and clover.  This operation should be undertaken in May or June.
Supply and Apply Spring/Summer Fertiliser       
Apply during suitable weather conditions a spring/summer fertiliser at an N:P:K OF 15:5:5.  Apply the fertiliser while the grass is actively still growing and cover the whole grass area, ensuring that there are no gaps between the strips and no overlaps occur.

3. Pre-Season Operations   

During August paint the goalposts. Rub down and apply white paint to all goal sets.  During this operation inspect all posts for damage.

Set Out Pitch                                                                          
During August set out all pitches, ensuring that all pitches are set out in accordance with Football Association Regulations.   At the commencement of the setting out operations, decide where pitches need to be relocated to prevent wear.  Goal sockets should be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Erect Goal Sets                                                                        

Erect all goal sets during August, ensuring they are firmly inserted in the sockets and upright with no leans, and that crossbars and uprights are level.

4. Surface Drainage

Sanding Goal Mouths                                                              

Where drainage is a problem apply a lime-free sand evenly across the require areas to goal mouths and other areas of the pitch.

Vertidrain Pitches                                                                     

It may be necessary to carry out vertidraining of the whole pitch or the goal mouths and centre circles or other areas of compaction. Ensure that any vertidraining operation is carried out in suitable weather conditions. Ensure a minimum depth of penetration of 50cm and a size of tine of 20mm.  When using hollow tines, ensure that all cores are removed from site to the designated location for disposal at the end of the work period.

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Tuesday 1 September 2015


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Fruit trees can be trained in a range of shapes and sizes, from large standards trees with a clear stem of 2 metres to small, stepover trees only 45 cm tall with a 1.5 m long horizontal stem.

Most fruit trees are grafted onto rootstocks and these determine the eventual size of the tree.  Intensively trained trees such as cordons and espaliers give a harder yield for a given area than larger trees, are easier to manage and are particularly useful where space is limited. 

All forms will have had some pruning to establish them and will need further regular pruning, as left unpruned the tree will become crowded and congested with most of the fruit at the top of the tree where it is out of reach.

To establish a well shaped tree it is the early years that are important.  For many tree shapes such as step overs, espaliers, fans, double u cordons, bush and standard trees it is possible to obtain part-trained trees that are two or three years old, making it easier to develop the framework further.  However they can also be started from maiden trees (one year old plants), which although take longer are cheaper and have a greater range of both cultivars and rootstocks.

Early training relies on hard pruning to encourage growth.  Make cuts in winter; once the shape has been established, summer pruning keeps growth in check.  Avoid pruning stone fruits such as cherry in winter due to the risk of disease infection.

  • The leader is the shoot used to extend the branch of a tree.  
  • A lateral is a side shoot from a branch (a spur is a short lateral branch with the leaf nodes close together).  
  • Basal cluster describes a cluster of leaves at the base of a shoot.
  • Grafting is the method used to attach the cultivar to the rootstock
Cordons make the best use of space and come into cropping early in the life of the tree, often in the second summer. Plant a feathered maiden or a part trained cordon at 45 degrees and tie the main stem to a cane attached to horizontal wires.  Shorten any side shoots to three buds from the main stem and shorten the leader by a quarter.

Prune annually in late summer (usually August).  Shorten laterals from the main stem that are longer than 15 cm to three leaves beyond the basal cluster, usually 5-7 cm, to create spurs where the fruit will form.  Prune laterals growing fro existing spurs to one leaf beyond the basal cluster (2-3 cm from the main stem).

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