Have you tried these lazy tricks to grow more organic vegetables in your garden? In my experience, even the strangest ones do work in the sustainable garden!
Beans: runner, common and broad.
Plant half your runner beans in mid-April under a cloche. Then plant one quarter in mid-June and the rest at end-June. Why? It minimises the risk of beans not setting due to poor or variable weather. It avoids a glut and gives you the maximum successive yield.
The principle of staggered planting also works for dwarf beans, sweet corn and, of course, brassica and salad crops.
Here’s an even lazier idea to grow more vegetables. It works with most large seeds like beans, peas, squash and cucumbers that you’ve saved from last season. Segregate the seeds into large, medium and small sizes. The larger ones will mature earlier. So plant a calculated mix of all three sizes together and they’ll mature at different times! You’ll have a longer season and fewer gluts.
Another idea for broad beans is to let them flower again after the first crop is picked. You’ll get a further small second crop in October.
And here’s an idea I wager you’ve never read before (yet it works) to grow more vegetables. When it’s late in the season and your climbing beans look tired – and you’ve taken off every pod – strip off all the leaves. Pour manure water lavishly around the base. And stand back.
Provided there’s no frost, you should be rewarded by a second bloom of flowers – and beans. Runner beans are perennials! This idea succeeds outdoors in temperate climes only if you’ve started your beans very early. But greenhouse and polytunnel owners should have no problems.
‘Heel’ the roots of cabbages – or of any brassica that have had their stems cut – into a trench. Mulch the trench heavily with leaves over-winter, and set the roots out again in spring. They burst into new life to give early leaves, which can be eaten like collards.
A tip: to give brassica transplants a good start, dunk them in thick manure water or kelp solution before planting. This also deters club root.
Cut off all but the top foliage of Brussel sprouts when the buds are forming to give firmer, bigger sprouts.
Plant offshoots of kale in soil and they’ll grow into new plants. This is useful, if you want to conserve rare specimens. (So if you plant out a Brussel sprout bud, does it grow into a cabbage? No.)
Don’t pull an entire leek. Instead, cut off just the outer leaves, so the white pith stays in the ground to regenerate. It will give you a second crop. Then leave the roots in the ground to flower and produce seed next year (plus pretty seed heads for flower decorations).
This works with onions too. Take the outer layers off an onion and eat them. Replant the core and you’ll have another onion. Or plant it indoors to get continual onion greens.
Plant shallots or onion sets in a trench eight inches deep – far deeper than the textbooks say – then earth them up as they grow, like potatoes. You’ll get thick necks so they won’t store, but this method yields nearly double as much onion. Onions will also flourish if crushed washing soda is put around them then watered in, or so some Victorian gardeners believed.
Peas buried 6-8 inches deep will take longer to show but produce twice as many peas as those covered conventionally just an inch deep, it’s said. Would this tip work for beans too?
To get bigger potato crops, cut a big chitted (pre-germinated) seed potato in three. Plant just the rose end (the end with the most ‘eyes’) and the middle bit and discard the haulm end, that with the fewest ‘eyes’. It crops late and gives smaller crops.
To boost the yield, remove the flower heads and seed pods from the potatoes as they grow.
Another idea… more potatoes can be grown from one seed potato by, first, pre-germinating it in the usual way. Then remove each shoot with an apple corer thrust into the potato. Each sprout plus plug of potato should be dried for 24 hours then sunk in a pot of compost. When leaves emerge, plant the plug out. This can produce six plants per tuber, albeit with a smaller yield, as opposed to one plant.
Grow giant pumpkins by putting a rubber tube into a pumpkin stalk attached to a bottle of milk. Capillary action draws in the milk and pumps up the pumpkin, or so it’s claimed. Sugar water is used in this way to bloat exhibition marrows, and it’s less offensive if you dislike pumpkin cheese.
To get more fruit from a tomato plant, place thin wire mesh over the tomato seedlings when they’re 14 days up. Leave it for 12 days. The stems bend over at a 45° angle, grow thicker stems and don’t become leggy. When transplanted, they grow erect into bushier plants with higher yield.
Do these odd ideas work? They work for me. Try them for yourself!