Choosing the right fertiliserΒ 

Fertilisers provide plant nutrients. But what nutrients do your plants need and how do you know what to use?

Garden centre shelf full of an array of different fertilisers
I should mention right up front that this article has been a long time in the making. There has been much debate at Quest for Veg HQ about what to include and how to make it easy to understand. We have tried to produce a simple, readable guide to a complicated and sciency area. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let us know.
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Setting up our tunnel cloche

It had no instructions, some of the parts were missing and the box had been partially eaten by snails.

But we weren’t going to let those sorts of details put us off trying to erect the tunnel cloche we inherited from the previous plot holder.

And besides, the greenhouse was overflowing with plants and the risk of frost diminishing daily. It was time to think about moving our plants to the plot. We would need a structure to give them a little bit of protection while they were hardening off.

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Preventing damping off disease

A zinnia seedlings which has gone brown at the base of its stem

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It looks like we’ve been visited by damping off disease. We found this little zinnia seedling flopped over, and going brown from the base of the stem upwards.

It looks as though we have been lucky in that we only seem to have lost three zinnia seedlings to date. It can wipe out a patch of seedlings in a tray or spread to the whole tray or beyond.

What causes damping off?

Damping off is caused by several types of organism, particularly certain types of fungi and bacteria. They live in the soil and are usually carried by water.
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Our first harvest

Quite unexpectedly, Andrew spotted a radish that looked ready to eat. 

He carefully extracted it from the soil and here it is: the first vegetable to be sown and harvested on the Quest for Veg plot.

Our first harvest was a small radish

Radish Scarlet Globe

We carefully carried this little jewel home to wash it and try it.

I should say at this point that neither Andrew nor I like radishes. I have wondered why we are growing so many. So we were a little bit apprehensive as we sliced into this tiny prize.
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End of April tour of the plot

On the face of it, the allotment looks pretty similar to how it looked at the end of March. This is partly because much of the obvious activity has happened in the greenhouse, and partly because the things that we’ve planted – mainly potatoes – have yet to show much growth.

But we have come a long way. It’s good to look back to remind ourselves of the progress we’re making.

April started with the exciting news that our blog was featured in Grow Your Own magazine.

Page from Grow Your Own magazine featuring our blog
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We’ve been sent some seeds to try

We all like to be asked our opinion, right? So, when Westland got in touch and asked if we’d be interesting in trialling and reviewing some of their products, of course we said yes.

As a start, they sent us some seeds from their Bursting with Flavour range.

The six packets of seeds we received

According to the Westland website, the Bursting with Flavour range has been designed: “… to help food enthusiasts reach new flavour heights in their home-cooked meals. The range includes a mix of easy to grow fruit, vegetable and herb seeds that can be grown in small spaces …”

I think that here at Quest for Veg we can safely be described as food enthusiasts!

The seeds we received were:

Here’s Andrew sowing the tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in the greenhouse, and the radishes in a raised bed in the allotment:

We’ll sow the carrots and beetroot as soon as we get the beds prepared.

One thing that did strike us was that for the ones we sowed in the greenhouse: there were not many seeds in each packet. The average packet contents for the peppers is just six, and the tomatoes and cucumbers ten in each. At Β£2.99 per pack, I think if we were buying these in the garden centre, we’d probably choose a variety with more seeds in the packet – we do like to feel we’re getting our money’s worth! But if space is at a premium, or you’re looking for something promising more flavour, why not give these a try?

I am happy to report that we will probably not go short of beetroot (200 per pack),  radish (400 per pack) or carrots (500 per pack).

The soil miller and the oscillating hoe

We were very fortunate to have been given two tools for cultivating the soil and hoeing by our good friend David.

In this video, Andrew talks about how to clean and care for your tools, and we show them both in action.

The soil miller

Close up of the head of a Wolf Garten soil miller
The soil miller is a Wolf Garten product. With its star shaped wheels, it looks fabulously medieval! They are designed to break down the soil as you work it back and forth, and a rear blade that cuts through any weeds.

Not only that, but the soil miller comes from the Wolf Garten multi-change tool range, which comprises a selection of handles and tool heads. Having got a handle we could potentially explore other tool heads in the range.

The oscillating hoe

Close up of the head of an oscillating hoe
Also known as the stirrup hoe, the swivel hoe or the reciprocating hoe. The stirrup shaped head has a swinging motion that keeps it at the right angle. It should have a sharp edge that cuts through weeds as you move it back and forth through the top layer of soil.

It should be self sharpening. We cleaned ours up and Andrew gave the edge a bit of a sharpen. Hopefully, that’s all we need to do to keep it in good working order.

A very quick tour of the greenhouse

It’s the middle of April and we have a full house – the greenhouse is bursting at the seams!Β We’re aiming to bring on a succession of seedlings over a range of plants and we’re not quite ready to start hardening things off.

Not only that, Andrew won some zinnia seeds from Mr Fothergill and couldn’t resist sowing them. We have no idea where we’re going to plant them but their rosy purple flowers should look amazing.

You may get the impression from this video tour that Sandra is not a huge fan of marrows. Can you convert her? If you have any recipe suggestions, please let us know!

And here are a couple of pictures:

A pumpkin plant surrounded by tomatoes to the left and herbs to the right with aubergines and courgettes beyond that

A pumpkin plant surrounded by tomatoes (to the left) and herbs (to the right), with aubergines and courgettes beyond that

A tray of parsley and dill, with tomatoes to their left and lettuce seedlings beyond that

A tray of parsley and dill, with tomatoes to their left and lettuce seedlings beyond that