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3 Editor's welcome 6 First Pickings

Our monthly crop of news and views

26 Letters & Readers' Tips

Share your views and advice with other readers

36 Toby Buckland

Battles to install his 'new' shed

45 Next Month

A preview of great features in our May issue

46 Tom Barber -cover story

Tom and his team put 16 rakes through their paces

54 Allotment Plotting

Edwin Oxlade puts the case for digging

57 Growing to show

Andrew Tokely's winning ways with sweetcorn

64 Bob Flowerdew

Helps you to prioritise in the garden

72 Peter's Plot

Peter Surridge recommends the best veg for small gardens

82 Chickens from scratch

Sue Hammon's top tips on coping with broody hens

86 Classified Ads

Top gardening companies offer their wares

90 Diary dates

Forthcoming events across the country


8 Sweeter peas ^VERsOi™

Andrew Tokely explains how to stretch the season for this useful crop

15 Lessons that last a lifetime ^OVElsTOl^

Rebecca Pow visits a group of children as they discover the delights of veg growing

30 Courgettes-a-plenty

Sue Stickland has some great advice on growing this prolific crop, while top chef Nigel Slater, suggests a mouthwatering recipe for you to try

40 Your blue heaven

Jennifer Trehane was ^COVElsTOl^

growing blueberries long before they were fashionable and offers advice on growing this must-have health-giving crop

50 Take on your weeds and win!

Our comprehensive guide to weed control. Tips on getting rid of them whether they are annual, perennial or just plain stubborn

69 Gone with the wind?

Wind-free Jerusalem artichokes - fact or fiction? Gunars Ulmanis investigates

81 Herb for April

Pam Deschamps tips on growing dill, a useful and attractive herb




Pam Mallender, brings you more delicious, easy recipes based on seasonal and stored veg, such as blueberries, apples, sun-dried tomatoes and the first asparagus

76 Roasted asparagus

A delicious way to make use of the new season's crop

77 Apple and blueberry pie

Indulge yourself with this wonderful combination of fruits

78 Pizza Florentine

A great snack for hungry seed sowers

79 Prawn wraps

Rocket and watercress add zing to this favourite seafood

80 What's cooking?

News, advice and book reviews from Pam's kitchen


20 Your Plot

Six pages of tasks, tips and reminders to keep you busy on your plot this month

90 Seed companies


14 Save over £5 on a super pea collection

44 Using your FREE seeds 56 Subscribe

To Kitchen Garden and save £4.60

60 Show sweetcorn collection, save £2

The 92-page May issue will be out on April 6 will include a FREE packet of lettuce 'Salad Bowl Red & Green' -don't miss it - take out a subscription today!

61 Giveaways worth over £1300!

Including virtual vouchers from, massive Mantis Compost-twin, Defenders Slugsure and Bokashi Buckets from The Recycle Works

62 Reader Offers - save £30

Save up to £30 on vegetable starter plants, herbs, kiwi fruit, blueberries, courgette seeds and Jerusalem artichokes

74 £10 worth of seeds FREE*

*Just pay p&p

81 Lucky giveaway winners

First pickings

Our monthly harvest of news and views


It's official! Britain's 10 most wanted

The Royal Horticultural Society, has announced its annual poll of pests which most trouble UK gardeners. Among the old troublemakers there are some newcomers, such as rosemary leaf beetle (Chrysolina americana), which, says the charity, shot up the polls to become the fourth most enquired about pest in 2005.

A more familiar adversary, leatherjackets (Tipula spp), which cause untold damage to turf and seedlings planted on veg gardens newly converted from lawns are also a new entry into the top 10 with a record number of enquiries. Slugs and snails were named gardening enemy Nol for the third time in five years while lily beetle and vine weevil, last year's joint No Is, came second and third in the grisly chart.

Andrew Halstead, Principal Entomologist for the RHS, said: "Unfortunately, it appears that this year's newcomers are going to cause problems for gardeners for a while to come. Occasionally we encounter an 'outbreak' year for a particular pest, such as last year's woolly beech aphid, which generated a record number of enquiries in 2004 but only six in 2005. However, the rosemary beetle has been steadily spreading across southern England for the past few years and it is likely to continue doing so."

Both adults and larvae eat the foliage of rosemary, lavender, thyme and sage. Gardeners can identify the adult beetles by the metallic green and purple stripes on the wing cases and thorax. The grubs are greyish-white with five longitudinal darker lines; fully-grown larvae can reach 8mm (Xin), the same size as the adult beetles.

Andrew went on: "Rosemary beetle can be controlled either with insecticides or hand picking of the adults and larvae. There are no recommended insecticides that can be used on herbs if they are to be used for culinary purposes. Where pesticides are used, these are best applied in late summer to early autumn or in the spring.

Anyone can access advice and

British Gardener's Most Wanted

1 Slugs and snails (various species) -No 3 in 2004

2 Lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii) -joint Nol in 2004

3 Vine weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus) -joint No l in 2004

4 Rosemary beetle (Chrysolina americana) - new entry

5 Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) -No l4 in 2004

6 Leatherjackets (Tipula spp) - new entry

7 Chafer grubs (several species, mostly Phyllopertha horticola and Hoplia philanthus) -No 5 in 2004

8 Soft scale (Coccus hesperidum) -No 7 in 2004

9 Cushion scale (Chloropulvinaria floccifera) -Nol0 in 2004

10 Glasshouse mealybugs (various species) - new entry information on garden pests and other horticultural problems by visiting the advisory pages on RHS Online - visit

For details on becoming a member of the RHS call 0845 130 4646 or visit and click on the 'Join Us' icon.

Foliar feeding the key to great veg?

"Foliar feeding is an effective method for correcting soil deficiencies and overcoming the soil's inability to transfer nutrients to the plant." That's the message from Josef Pichler of leading fertiliser manufacturer, Travena Ltd. His comments are backed up by research at Michigan State University,


All Weather adhesive

The UniBond No More Nails range has been extended to include an 'all weather' product, ideal for gardeners with DIY projects in mind. Unibond says that this product will stick outside products such as decking, wall panels, and roof tiles. It will stick to damp surfaces, non-porous surfaces, metals, plastics, brick, concrete and wood, making it ideal for securing just about any material you are working with.

Unibond No More Nails All Weather can be over-painted and used in all weather conditions. It is also flexible, making it a great permanent sealant or filler in areas where there may be movement.

Unibond No More Nails All Weather is priced at around £8.99 per tube.

Contact 01606 593933 for details of local stockists.

where radioactive tagged nutrients, proved that foliar feeding can be eight to10 times more effective than soil feeding.

The success of foliar feeding does depend on several important factors however and these include the condition of the leaf surface (very waxy leaves can limit nutrient uptake), the length of time the nutrient remains dissolved in the solution on the leaf's surface and the type of formulation.

Water-soluble formulations generally work better for foliar applications, as they are more easily absorbed when compared to insoluble solutions.

For best results Josef recommends applying foliar feeds such as Trevena Biomagic in late evening or early morning, and to avoid spraying when the temperature is above 27C (80F) or when the plants are dry at the roots.

"Ensure the fertiliser is thoroughly mixed in water - apply in a fine mist and avoid drenching," says Josef. "Foliar produces results in just one to six days and feeding with Biomagic will promote growth - even in a cold spring - plant health and resistance to pests and diseases."

For more information on Trevena Biomagic Organic Seaweed Foliar Feed tel 0845 2579123.

Use up that Weedol!

The Scotts Company, manufacturers of Weedol, one of Britain's most popular weedkillers, has reminded gardeners that they need to use up stocks of Weedol before government approval expires on 30 April. The product for which approval expires contains diquat and paraquat and should not be confused with its replacement, Weedol 2, containing diquat alone and for which sales are not affected.

New planters

Growing-bags have been a popular choice for tomato and cucumber growers since the 70s, but the small volume of compost they contain can cause problems due to restricted root room and drying out. Alternatives in the form of larger planting bags have become popular and two new


New salads

Mr Fothergill's seeds has launched two new salad varieties to interest kitchen gardeners.

Pepper 'Sweet Orange Baby' produces lots of conical deep orange fruits up to 8cm (3in) long and was voted top in taste tests at the company's Suffolk trials ground last summer. The plants remain compact, making them ideal for pots and patio containers, where they are highly decorative. Seed of pepper 'Sweet Orange Baby' can be sown in March and April to produce a crop from July onwards. A packet of 30 seeds costs £1.60.

Mr Fothergill's is making a bold claim about its new tomato 'Sparta F1'. Could it really replace 'Shirley' as one of the nation's favourites in seasons to come? You'll have to grow it and decide for yourself. 'Sparta F1' is said to thrive in both cool and warm greenhouses, and produces heavy crops of medium-sized, bright red fruits. Seed can be sown

indoors from now, and plants will have resistance to tobacco mosaic virus and to various types of fusarium. A packet of 10 seeds costs £2.99.

To order telephone 0845 1662511, or go online to

New planters provide lots more room for hungry roots

ones are due to hit the market this spring.

The Levington Tomorite Giant Tomato Planter has double the depth of standard bags and also contains seaweed, which the manufacturer claims gives fuller flavour crops.

The Levington Giant Vegetable Planter is a 100 per cent organic growing-bag and is said to be perfect for peppers, lettuce, herbs, peas and beans.

Both bags are priced at £3.99 and are available nationwide.

New plant support

A new product which can brighten the garden as well as offer practical support to your runner and French beans, peas and squashes, enters the market this spring.

The Haxnicks Garden Maypole is more than 1.8m (6ft) tall. The centre pole and finials are made from sturdy black powder-coated steel and these are used to anchor the rot-proof polypropylene strings at the top, while galvanised steel anchor pegs hold them to the soil at the base.

Costing £19.99, the Haxnicks Garden Maypole is available from garden centres, gardening catalogues or via Haxnicks on 0845 2411555. Alternatively visit the Haxnicks website at A smaller version is also available priced at £14.99.

OPPOSITE PACE The whole family will enjoy picking fresh, young peas RIGHT Mangetout peas such as 'Oregon Sugar Pod' are great eaten raw, gently cooked or stir-fried

Sweeter peas

Fresh home-grown peas taste like no other! Andrew Tokely explains how to get the best from your crops and how to extend the harvesting period from May to September

If there is one vegetable that always tastes best when freshly picked, it has to be peas. I love them, especially picked straight from the vine, shelled and eaten while wandering around the vegetable plot on a warm summer evening. I have known days, when I've eaten so many that by the time I go indoors my tongue has turned green.

Peas eaten fresh like this are very sweet, and always have that melt-in-the-mouth flavour. For the sweetest flavour, peas are always best picked and eaten straight away, because the sugars soon begin converting to starch. That's why those pods you buy in the supermarket never taste the same as your own.

When a bumper crop is at its best and is ready for harvesting, I make sure that all the family are ready to help, I transform them into my own gang of pea-pickers ensuring the job is completed as quickly as possible.

It is also important to pick, shell and freeze surplus peas within hours, so you capture that sweet flavour, and ensure that they are at their best when you eat them later in the year.

Many gardeners I meet on allotments only make one or two sowings of peas each year. What a shame, since with a little planning, sowing in succession and choosing the correct varieties you will have bumper crops to pick from May to September.

Remember also that peas are great for producing nitrogen for future crops, so the more you grow, the better. Once you have finished harvesting, cut off the vines (tops) and put them on the compost heap. Then dig in the nodule-covered roots, which in combination with a certain type of bacteria, produce nitrogen for the pea plants, and you have an easy and natural way of adding valuable nitrogen back to your soil for future crops to benefit from.

Sowing and growing

For the best possible crop, peas like to grow in a well-drained, rich fertile soil. Although over the years in the three different vegetable gardens I've had, I have always managed to grow peas. Each site has had different soil, ranging from light loam to heavy clay, and all of them gave me bumper crops.

In the winter, dig over your soil and add a good layer of home-made compost or manure, so it increases the fertility of the soil.

If you are sowing peas for overwintering in October or November, then I always sow mine into ground that I lifted my potatoes from in the autumn, as this soil will have been well manured the previous year and will be very fertile.

Once you have got the soil right you must then consider its warmth before sowing your seeds. If peas are sown in cold soil, or the weather turns cold once germination has started, the quantity and quality of seedlings produced will be greatly reduced. This is because the colder the soil the higher chance there is of fungal or bacterial disease attacking and causing the seed to rot.

Before sowing I always give the soil a good dressing of Growmore fertiliser at 60g per sq m (2oz per sq yd), raked lightly into the surface of the soil.

I like to sow my peas into V-shaped

'Hurst Greenshaft' is a wrinkle-seeded maincrop variety with an Award of Garden Merit from the RHS

1 One of the best early varieties is also one of the oldest. 'Onward' produces heavy crops and holds the RHS Award of Garden Merit

2 Snap peas such as 'Sugar Ann' produce the sweetest crops of all

3 Pea 'Greensage' is good for the garden and exhibition. Planted at close spacing it becomes largely self-supporting

4 Second early pea 'Jaguar' produces two pods to each leaf joint (node)

5 If pea sticks are hard to find, some wire or plastic netting is just as good for supporting plants

1 One of the best early varieties is also one of the oldest. 'Onward' produces heavy crops and holds the RHS Award of Garden Merit

2 Snap peas such as 'Sugar Ann' produce the sweetest crops of all

3 Pea 'Greensage' is good for the garden and exhibition. Planted at close spacing it becomes largely self-supporting

4 Second early pea 'Jaguar' produces two pods to each leaf joint (node)

5 If pea sticks are hard to find, some wire or plastic netting is just as good for supporting plants drills drawn out with a swan neck hoe approximately 5cm (2in) deep. Some gardeners prefer flat bottom drills, but I have always had more success from V-shaped drills.

I sow the seeds 5cm (2in) apart in the drill, which is slightly closer than some gardeners, but if the germination is lower or a friendly sparrow or pigeon decides to have a meal, I will still have a good row of peas. Anyway, if later on I decide they are too thick in places I can always thin the plants out to a spacing of 7-10cm (3-4in) apart.

Once the drills are sown, rake the soil over each drill and lightly firm with the back of a rake.

If you want to try the flat bottom drill method, you need to take out a flat bottom trench 45cm (18in) wide by 5cm (2in) deep, with a spade, then broadcast sow the peas along the trench. Once the peas are sown, rake the soil over the trench and lightly firm again with a rake. Some gardeners swear by this method, but I still prefer and get better results from my V-shaped drills.

To help stop the birds from eating the peas before you do, cover the rows with cloches made from chicken wire. If you don't have access to chicken wire you can also keep birds at bay by stretching strands of black cotton along the rows attached tightly to short canes. The cotton needs to be placed no more than 2.5-5cm (1-2in) from the ground, because for some reason the birds don't like this and when they touch the cotton it scares them away.

Supporting your crop

Peas sown in flat bottom trenches can often be grown without supports as their close spacing enables the vines to hold each other up. But if the vines are provided with supports, I find the harvest is usually greater because the pea pods are kept off the ground making it easier to pick and you won't miss hidden pods.

The traditional way of holding up peas is to use twiggy pea sticks, but I find these

Twiggy sticks make great pea supports, but can be hard to find in sufficient quantity

LEFT Notches are commonly eaten in the edges of pea leaves and these are caused by pea and bean weevils. Fleece or a dusting with derris can reduce the damage MIDDLE Covering rows of peas with chicken wire cloches helps to keep off marauding birds RIGHT Peas germinate best when the soil or compost is warm. The rapid germination keeps disease at bay.

LEFT Notches are commonly eaten in the edges of pea leaves and these are caused by pea and bean weevils. Fleece or a dusting with derris can reduce the damage MIDDLE Covering rows of peas with chicken wire cloches helps to keep off marauding birds RIGHT Peas germinate best when the soil or compost is warm. The rapid germination keeps disease at bay.

are getting a lot harder to find, so I now use 90cm (3ft) high chicken wire to support the shorter growing varieties. The wire is held up by simply interweaving canes through the wire, and pushing them into the ground next to each row.

If you are growing taller varieties like 'Show Perfection' or 'Alderman' then it is best to put up a 1.8m (6ft) high pea and bean net supported by posts and rails to hold the net taut. Make sure you use strong posts because a net fully loaded with vines and peas can get quite heavy.

While the peas are growing, keep a close eye on them and take off the wire cloches and cotton before the young plants get too big. Then put up your supporting nets straight away; otherwise you are likely to cause damage to the young plants.

If like me you decide to train two rows up a single net you may find that you need to tie a loose string alongside the pea plants so the plants lean towards the nets until they get a good hold.

Coping with pea moth

I don't think there is anything worse than picking a trug full of peas and finding maggots have ruined them. The maggots are the larvae that hatch out from eggs laid by the dreaded pea moth.

As a rule pea moth is more of a problem on peas that flower in mid-June to August and don't normally attack the earlier sown rows, as these have usually finished flowering before the pea moths are very active. To help combat this problem you need to spray with a suitable chemical that controls pea moth such as Bio Liquid Derris or Scotts Bugclear. I like to spray mine early in the morning or in the evening just as the flowers develop and again just as the flowers are setting the pods, hopefully stopping bad attacks from this pest.

If you grow organically or you don't like I>

Also if your vines look like they are going to give you a bumper crop, take precautions so you don't loose it. I always put another string along the row about half way up the net, as this will give the vines some extra support, so they can take that extra weight from the pods.

General care

During the growing season keep the crop free of competing weeds by hoeing regularly in-between the rows.

Watering has to be done at the right time to get the best from your harvest. Only water peas in their early stages if the weather is very dry otherwise yield may be reduced. However, it is important to never let your rows of peas get too dry when they are in full flower or when the pods are starting to swell otherwise this will affect the quality of your crop . Pods that go short of water usually have gaps where peas have not developed properly in the pod and may well develop powdery mildew.

Pea moth must be controlled when the flowers are forming and starting to open as it is then when it is most vulnerable

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Building Your Own Greenhouse

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  • arja riihij
    How to tell the difference between sugar pod peas, early onward and greenshaft when they are growing?
    7 years ago

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