Growing Salad Vegetables

Lettuce

There are three different types of lettuce : cabbage, cos and loose leaf. Cabbage lettuces are divided into two groups: Butter-head, e.g. ‘Unrivalled’, ‘May King’. Crisp-head, e.g. ‘Webb’ s Wonderful’, ‘Windermere’. Sowing The sowing times are linked closely with varieties. The table shows when to sow for successional crops.

Sow fairly thickly in 1-in, deep drills, 9 in. apart if all the seedlings are to be dug up and the stronger plants transplanted. If the seedlings are to be thinned to leave strong plants at 1 ft. apart in the row, rows should be 1 ft. apart. Sow pelleted seeds 1 in. apart. Keep down weeds and water well in dry weather. Cos make quicker, tighter hearts if tied loosely with string or raffia just when hearting starts. Tomatoes These vary very much in shape and size. ‘Big Boy’ averages from 8 -12 oz. Each; ‘Sugarplum’ (Gardener’s Delight) measures no more than 1 in. in diameter. Most varieties produce tomatoes weighing 8 or 9 to the pound. Red is the usual colour; white is rare, but yellow tomatoes, e.g. `Tangella’, are liked by some gardeners. `Tigerella’ and ‘Tiger Tom’ are red tomatoes with yellow striping.

Lettuce Sowing Times

Most plants are grown as single standards; there are also self-stopping bush varieties such as ‘The Amateur’. Varieties were and are bred usually for greenhouse cultivation; ‘Outdoor Girl’ (a standard) and the dwarf bush tomatoes are for open garden cultivation only.

Sowing

Sow seeds in the greenhouse in late February or March in a temperature of 65°F (18 C). After germination maintain day temperatures of 60°F (I 50C), dropping a few degrees lower at night. In the south of England sow seeds in an unheated greenhouse in early April. Slight heat is needed elsewhere. For plants to be moved into the garden later, sow in early April.

Sow seeds about 1 in. apart in JI seed compost or soilless compost and cover with more compost. Firm gently, water thoroughly and cover with a sheet of glass and lay a sheet of brown paper over it. Turn the glass daily to rid it of excess moisture. As soon as germination is seen, remove the glass and paper. Two to three weeks later pot the seedlings into 31-in. Pots. Always hold seedlings by a seed leaf, never by the stem. A night temperature of at least 56°F is best.

In the greenhouse border space the plants 18 in. apart and tie them as they grow to stout bamboo canes. The soil should be well drained and enriched with partially rotted strawy manure or garden compost. Plants must never be short of water. Good ventilation is necessary. Side shoots must be pinched out frequently, when they are small. When the plants have attained their fall height, nip out the growing point.

Tomatoes

There are four other ways of growing tomatoes in a greenhouse:

1. IN POTS: Plants may be grown successfully in large pots filled with a suitable compost, housed on the greenhouse staging.

2. RING CULTURE: Soil in the borders is removed to a depth of 6in. And replaced by an aggregate (sieved clinker, ash or screened, washed, coarse gravel). Plants are grown in clay, plastic or whalehide ‘rings’, which allow the roots to grow easily into the aggregate.

3. STRAW BALE: A 56 lb. Bale of wheat straw will take two tomato plants. Lay bales in position on the greenhouse border and sprinkle a gallon of water on to each bale every day for 12 days. Then apply to each bale: 1 lb. of Nitro-chalk, 1 lb. of potassium nitrate, 1 lb. of triple superphosphate of lime,1 lb. of magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts), 3 oz. of sulphate of iron. Water these chemicals in well. Fermentation of the straw occurs in a heated greenhouse and plants are set out in the fermenting straw when the temperature within the bales falls to 37°C.

4. THE TOM-BAG SYSTEM: Bags filled with a suitable compost are laid down and panels of the bag are removed and one plant is set in each of the spacings. Using any of these methods it is necessary to feed with a tomato fertilizer.

Although many varieties are capable of ripening fruits in gardens of Southern England, gardeners elsewhere should choose a hardy variety such as ‘Outdoor Girl’ or ‘The Amateur’. Harden off plants before moving them from a greenhouse to the open garden. Plants to be grown under cloches may be moved directly from the greenhouse to where they are to grow. Plant standard tomatoes 15 in. apart with 30 in. between rows and push a bamboo cane alongside each one or erect a simple wire trellis to which plants may be tied periodically. Allow bush plants 2 sq. It. Of soil surface; no staking is necessary Keep plants watered in dry weather, hoe to keep down weeds, de-shoot standard plants and stop them during the first week of August by pinching out the growing point.

Always leave tomatoes on the plants until they are really ripe. Pick unripe fruits on outdoor plants in late September; the larger fruits will ripen quickly in a warm room indoors. Small green tomatoes are excellent for chutney.

Tomato Problems

Tomato leaf mould, a fungal disease, is common on greenhouse tomato plants. Yellowish spots appear on the leaves with a pale greyish mould on the underside of the leaves. The foliage dies and the disease passes from plant to plant rapidly. Hot, moist conditions favour the disease. Take care not to over-water, and provide ample ventilation. Never water in the evening. Pick off and burn infected leaves. If the outbreak is severe spray with a copper-based fungicide. Many new varieties resist this disease.

Tomato plants can suffer from several different disorders. Almost always they are caused by faulty cultivation. Should flowers fall without fruits setting it may be that the plants are not receiving sufficient water. Over-watering or irregular watering are two possible causes of blossom end rot, which shows as a dark green patch at the blossom end of the fruit. The patch changes to brown or black and has a leathery texture. If the greenhouse temperature is very high but the soil itself is on the cold side the tomatoes may not ripen well, a condition known as blotchy ripening. Very strong sunlight can lead to a disorder known as greenback. The stalk end stays green or yellow but the rest of the tomato ripens well. Some varieties never suffer from greenback. These are catalogued as ‘greenback-free’. Potato blight can attack outdoor-grown tomato plants, more often in the wetter, western half of Britain. If, because it blight, the growing of outdoor tomatoes is difficult, be prepared to spray regularly from ‘ilk to September with Bordeaux mixture or upper-based fungicide.

Radishes

Those grown for summer salads vary in shape from round, ‘tankard’ and long. Varieties are: ‘Scarlet Globe’, round – ‘French Breakfast’, tankard; ‘Icicle’, long; ‘Yellow (fold’ oval. Autumn/winter radishes are large; ‘China Rose’ and ‘Black Spanish’ are grated for salad use.

Sowing

Sow in late March; for sowing under cloches choose ‘Red Forcing’ (Sutton’s). For open ground sowings between late March and late July all summer varieties are suitable. Sow winter radish in mid to late July. Sow in fairly fertile soil, keep the plants moist and thin seedlings to 1 in. apart each way. Sow the large seeds of winter radishes 1 in. apart in 1 in. deep seed drills. Thin seedlings to 8 in. apart. Pull summer radishes as soon as some are sufficiently large for use. Pull winter radishes for use in autumn. Harvest those remaining in late October. Cut back the foliage to an inch from the radish and store the roots in sand in a shed or garage.

Cucumber

Cucumbers grown in the greenhouse or frame are tender plants. There are varieties which bear both male and female flowers and new, all-female flowering kinds. Older, ridge sorts bear short cucumbers and the plants roam over the ground. Some newer varieties need a trellis to which plants may be tied – these are very suited to unheated greenhouses in the midlands and north.

Cucumber Varieties:

1. Suitable for heated and unheated greenhouses (F)= all-female flowerer: ‘Butcher’s Disease-resisting’ – ‘Conqueror’; Temina’ (F1) (F); ‘ Teminex’ (F1) (F); Temspot’ (F1) (F); ‘Improved Telegraph’; ‘Rocket’ (F1); ‘Topnotch’ (F1).

2. Suitable for the unheated frame in warmer areas: ‘Conqueror’, ‘Improved Telegraph’.

3. Suitable for the unheated frame or for outdoors-ridge sorts: ‘Apple-shaped’; ‘Burpee Hybrid’ (F1) ‘Burpless’ (F1); `Greenline’; ‘Long Green’ – ‘Nadir’ (F1).

4. Suitable for the unheated greenhouse in most parts and for the open garden in the south-trellis sorts: ‘Barton Vert’ (F1); ‘Chinese Long Improved’, `Kaga’; `Kariha’; ‘Ochiai Long Day’ (F1).

Sowing

For greenhouse cultivation sow in late March. Otherwise, wait until late April. A temperature of 75°F (24°C) is needed for rapid germination. Sow two seeds in a 3 ½-in. Pot. Later pinch off the weaker seedling.

The border soil must drain well and should be rich in organic matter. A framework of wires or of canes and wires is needed, to which plants may be tied. Set out plants 2 ft. apart and do not plant deeply. Stop the plants when they reach the top of the supports. Prevent fruits from setting on the main stems by pinching off flower buds. Tie side shoots to horizontal wires and prune back these shoots to the second leaf beyond the first small cucumber on each of them. Cucumber plants like a warm, moist atmosphere so keep plants well watered and spray with tepid water each evening in hot, sunny weather. In late July mulch the bed with a layer of garden compost or strawy horse manure.

Frame Cultivation

When plants have made four true leaves pinch out the growing point. As side shoots develop pinch these out too, at four leaves. Stop all fruit-bearing shoots at one leaf beyond each swelling cucumber and stop main lateral shoots when they reach the sides of the frame.

Ridge Cucumbers

Plant these in early June, 18 in. apart. When plants have made seven leaves nip out the central growing point to induce branching.

Trellis Cucumbers

Plant 1 ft. apart alongside a trellis 4-6 ft. high; a wire mesh garden fence or bean netting is suitable. Pinch out growing points of plants when they reach the top of the supports. Water often in dry weather.

The Onion Family

Onions do best in a medium loam or reasonably light soil, provided that it does not dry out excessively.

Onions from Sets

An easy way of growing maincrop onions is by planting ‘sets’ (small immature onions) during the second half of March. After digging rake the site level and simply press sets in the loose soil 9 in. apart, in rows 1 ft. apart.

Onions from Seed

In late August sow seeds thickly in a 1-in. drill. It pays to protect with cloches from October to early March. Dig up all the young plants in March and transplant them 9 in. apart in good rich soil. Do not plant deeply. ‘Giant Zittau’ and are good varieties for August sowings. Alternatively, in late March/early April sow seeds fairly thickly in 1-in. deep drills, 1 ft. apart.

Varieties

`Ailsa Craig’; ‘AA (Autumn Queen’; ‘Bed fordshire Champion’ – ‘Big Ben’; ‘Cranston’s Excelsior’; `Crossling’s Selected’; `Endura’; ‘Giant Zittau’; ‘James’s Long Keeping’; `Superba’; `Unwin’s Reliance’; ‘Up-to-Date’; `Wijbo’.

  • Hoe and hand weed.
  • Start thinning spring sown seedlings in June and continue doing so until mid-July.
  • Plants left to bulb up should be around 9 in. apart.

The maggots of the onion fly burrow into young onions. The foliage withers and the plants die. Autumn-sown onions and those grown from sets are unlikely to be affected, spring-sown seedlings are likely to be damaged in June and July. Female onion flies find onion plants by their odour. Prevent broken roots and foliage during thinning by watering beforehand if the soil is dry. Bury unwanted thinnings in the compost heap or the ground.- Avoid breaking onion foliage when hoeing.

Hoe occasionally to keep down weeds. Water generously in dry weather. Liquid feeds may be given weekly when bulbs are swelling, but over-feeding will lead to onions which will not store well.

When in August the foliage yellows and topples over on to the soil, stop watering and feeding. When the foliage is brown, dry and brittle, just lift the onions off the ground. Hang the onions in bunches in full sun for a week when they are quite dry, rub off dead roots, dry soil and very loose scales. Store in a cold place such as an unheated greenhouse, a garden shed or a garage, in trays or, better still, roped.

Salad Onions

  • Although thinnings of spring-sown onions are of use in early summer salads, ‘White Lisbon’ is grown solely for salad use.
  • Sow seeds in August or March, quite thickly.
  • Use thinnings as soon as they are large enough.

Pickling Onions (Shallots)

These are generally grown for pickling, although they may be used in soups and stews. As soon as the soil dries somewhat in March, push bulbs into it, 9 in. apart, in rows 1 ft. apart. Keep the rows weed free. Lft the clumps in July, separate the bulbs and spread them out to dry. Store in a cool place. There are also brown-skinned (‘Brown Pickier’) and white-skinned (Paris Silver Skin’) onions for pickling. Sow seeds quite thickly in March in a 4-in, deep drill. Keep down weeds and dig the crop when the foliage withers.

Garlic

Plant ‘cloves’ (segments of garlic bulbs) 6 in. apart, 1 in. deep in a sunny site during February or March. Dig the crop when the foliage dies. Hang clusters of bulbs to dry before storing them in string nets. Leeks Sow seeds late March/early April; keep down weeds and water well in dry weather. Dig up all the seedlings in late June and replant at once. Use a dibber to make holes 4 in. deep about 8 in. apart in rows 1 ft. Apart. Drop a seedling into each hole and pour in a little water. Weed when necessary. Dig leeks for use at any time between November and late April.

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