How to grow : Potatoes.

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Potatoes would have to be the absolutely best vegetable there is, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that there is virtually no one who doesn’t like to eat potatoes in one form or another, yet, I know quite a few people that grow their own veg but have never grown potatoes. I don’t know why this is, maybe they’re not sure how, or they think that they don’t have the space? Well, I’m here to tell you that growing potatoes is really easy and there are ways to grow them in small spaces too.

Leave your seed potatoes somewhere bright for a week or so until they 'chit'.

Leave your seed potatoes somewhere bright for a week or so until they ‘chit’.

Potatoes are best grown from certified disease free seed potatoes, but if you have never grown potatoes before, you could use a few shop bought ones that have sprouted in the pantry and plant them in a large container. They can be planted from late winter to early spring. In order to give your potatoes a good start, leave them on a sunny windowsill for a couple of weeks until they start to sprout, this is called ‘chitting’. Not all gardeners chit their potatoes and they will still grow if you plant them without chitting, they’ll just take a little longer.

Dig a trench to plant your potatoes.

Dig a trench to plant your potatoes.

Once your potatoes have chitted, you’re ready to plant. If you’re planting in the ground, dig a trench about 10cm (4 ins) deep, a bit of well rotted manure in the bottom will give your potatoes a flying start as they are heavy feeders. Put your potatoes in the trench about 30 cm (12 ins) apart and cover them with a little soil.

You can easily grow potatoes in a large container if you have no space in your garden.

You can easily grow potatoes in a large container if you have no space in your garden.

As the potato plants grow, cover all but the tops of the plants with soil, the more you cover the stems of the plant, the more potatoes you will have at harvest time. The same principles apply to potatoes grown in a container, simply plant your potatoes in a small amount of soil in the bottom of the container and then fill the container with more soil as the plants grow.

harvest your potatoes once the plants have flowered and begun to die back.

harvest your potatoes once the plants have flowered and begun to die back.

Your potatoes will be ready to harvest once the plants have flowered and begun to die back, dig them up carefully, trying not to stab any (virtually impossible, but try anyway). If you are growing in a container, simply tip it upside down to harvest!
Don’t wash any potatoes that you’re planning to store as they will not store as long once they’re clean, try to store them in a cool dark place and never store the with apples as the ethylene gas that they emit will make your potatoes rot.
So, if you haven’t tried growing potatoes before, why not give them a go? They’re extremely low maintenance, ¬†you can grow them in a container if you’re short of space and, in the case of all home grown veg, they taste fantastic!

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How to grow : Asparagus.

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Asparagus is a real luxury veg and pretty expensive to buy in the shops. It’s easy enough to grow your own though, all you need is an area that you’re not planning to use for the next 25 years and some patience.

Asparagus is easy to grow from year old crowns.

Asparagus is easy to grow from year old crowns.

Asparagus is a perennial, so it needs to be planted somewhere that it can grow undisturbed year after year. It can be grown from seed or from year old crowns. Both are straightforward but, as the name suggests, year old crowns will give you a harvest sooner than growing from seed. Because Asparagus plants are so long lived, the soil needs to be prepared with plenty of compost and well rotted manure before planting. The crowns should be planted in winter while they are dormant in a trench big enough to accommodate the spread out roots, cover with compost. The crowns should be planted about 40 cm (15 ins) apart.
The crowns will send up ferny shoots in the spring.

The crowns will send up ferny shoots in the spring.

In the spring, the crowns will send up ferny shoots and this is where the patience comes in, it will take another couple of years before anything can be harvested from your Asparagus bed. The fronds need to be allowed to grow so that the crowns can produce some good, strong roots.
These plants are a few years old and are producing asparagus for harvest.

These plants are a few years old and are producing asparagus for harvest.

Once the strong frond growth has yellowed in the autumn, it can be cut back to ground level. The crowns will then remain dormant over the winter until finally sending up edible shoots in the spring.
Edible shoots will emerge in the spring.

Edible shoots will emerge in the spring.

The wonderful home grown asparagus shoots will increase in number every year, the bed needs to be kept weed free and fertilized in spring and autumn. If you follow these simple instructions, you’ll have sweet, tender Asparagus in your backyard in a few years time, and remember, patience is a virtue!

How to grow : Onions

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At Franger Farm, we firmly believe that almost every dish tastes better with an onion or two in it. We have a number of things that we just can’t grow enough of, and onions are well and truly on the list. Home grown onions are so full of flavour when compared to shop bought ones and can be grown in available spaces in sunny borders around the garden.

Onions need to grow in full sun in well drained soil.

Onions need to grow in full sun in well drained soil.

Onions are a cold weather crop, they can be grown in three different ways, from ‘sets’ (bulbs available from garden centres) from seed or from seedlings. We grow our onions from seed and occasionally, seedlings. Sow your seed about 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) apart, the same for seedlings, if you’re using sets, space them 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) apart. Ensure that your soil is weed free as onions are slow growing and can be quickly overwhelmed by fast growing weeds. Don’t bury your sets or seedlings too deeply or their growth will be restricted. Don’t bury your onions as they grow, the bulbs should sit proud of the soil.

The tops of your onions will fall over as the onions mature.

The tops of your onions will fall over as the onions mature.

The tops of the onions will begin to die back and fall over as they mature. Once the bulbs have swelled nicely and the tops have died back, you can harvest your onions.

Dry your onions on a wire rack or shelf.

Dry your onions on a wire rack or shelf.

If you want to store your onions for use throughout the year, they need to be dried first. Spread them out on a wire rack or shelf so they have good airflow around each bulb. The onions are ready to store once the skins have become dry and papery. The onions will need to be stored in a cool dry area to prolong their storage life.
I hope we’ve inspired you to give growing your own onions a go, but be careful, you may end up like us, chasing the holy grail of growing enough onions for your family for the entire year!

How to grow : Garlic.

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Garlic is an essential ingredient in so many of the meals we cook here on Franger Farm. Every year, we try to plant enough to see us through to the following year, and if I’m honest, we don’t always get it right. The good news is that it’s really simple to grow and we’ll tell you how.

Separate your cloves for planting.

Separate your cloves for planting.

Garlic takes quite a few months to grow, it’s planted in the Autumn/Fall and harvested in late spring or early summer. You can grow an entirely new bulb of garlic from a single clove, simply separate your cloves to get them ready for planting.

plant pointed end up.

plant pointed end up.

Garlic likes a sunny position in well drained soil, you should plant the cloves pointed end up about 15cm/3ins apart. It doesn’t like competition from weeds, so make sure that you keep the area around your garlic nice and weed free.

The garlic will send up shoots quickly.

The garlic will send up shoots quickly.

It won’t take long for your planted cloves to send up shoots and the bulb development to begin.
It’s time to harvest in the late spring or early summer when the foliage has died back. It’s fairly easy to loosen the bulbs with a small hand fork to harvest them, simply brush of the dirt, allow to dry a little and store until needed.

Brush of the dirt and allow to dry before storing.

Brush of the dirt and allow to dry before storing.

It doesn’t take a lot a room to grow quite a large crop of garlic and the flavour is far superior to shop bought garlic. Find yourself a nice little sunny spot and get growing.