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Devon Association of Smallholders

Vegetable and Fruit Growing Progress

On a rather good, and thankfully dry, Saturday 5th April DASH members attended our vegetable growing day here at Whitehaye. The morning was spent on the theory of growing, discussing the facilities and the construction of raised beds, polytunnels, both walk in and low types and propagation requirements. Nutrition, being an essential part of plant growth, eased our discussion into the role of Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potassium and into the practice of composting, both hot and cold. The emphasis on organic principles, important in it's application for the small-scale grower, involved recycling garden waste and the use of resources on the holding such as FYM from various sources.

Touching on the science of growing, with a bit of soil science, pH, botany, transpiration, photosynthesis and the need for clean glass and polythene giving maximum light transmission, I hope, enlightened the gathering and illustrated the need for cleanliness and hygiene in the garden. Cultivation, under cover where pests and diseases can flourish, it is important to give ventilation and air movement to reduce humidity and supply air charged with carbon dioxide. Biological control, using introduced predators and companion planting is always a popular subject, however, Integrated Pest Management as the commercial growers call it, can be applied to the garden, as can many commercial practices.

In the afternoon after the distribution of catalogues, brochures and contacts for all these bits and pieces needed in the garden, I demonstrated seed sowing, pricking out lettuce seedlings and potting on of tomatoes. The importance of correct handling, compost and the sterilizing of containers was also demonstrated. Great interest was shown in the construction of our roll up doors on the tunnel as an easy, cheap, and effective system for ventilation, plus the low baffles stopping low draught and badgers. Interest was also shown in our cheaper alternative to small-scale heated propagators. Constructed in the greenhouse on a well insulated bench, a heat mat laid on polystyrene and covered with polythene and landscape fabric, gives ideal conditions both under a polythene frame for germination and on the open bench for hardening off young plants. Of course the kitchen window-sill in non-direct light works on a smaller and cheaper scale.

Looking at Tools needed in the garden and the construction of our raised beds brought our day to a close and, although specific vegetables were not discussed, examples such as multiple sowing of onions, parsnips and sweet corn was demonstrated, as well as plant spacing.