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Looking after your Crop

Youíve sown your veg seed or planted your vegetable plants and are looking forward to a bountiful harvest. And then a late frost kills your seedlings, caterpillars eat your broccoli and the birds make off with your soft fruit. A lot of common problems can be prevented by taking some simple preventative measures. Taking simple steps to care for your crop will increase yields and make your veg growing experience so much more rewarding.


Feeding

All crops will benefit from a feed with an appropriate fertiliser. Manure in itself it not enough and certain crops such as root veg donít like freshly manured soil anyway. Always prepare new beds for all veg crops with a dressing of Growmore 2 weeks before sowing or planting.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and other Ďfruití should be fed regularly with a high potash feed such as Tomorite or any of the tomato feeds. Maxicrop do a good organic tomato feed which contains seaweed extract.
There are now a number of specialist feeds on the market which have been designed with specific crops in mind. There are chilli feeds, potato fertiliser, citrus feeds Ė see our Specialist Feeds section for more details.
Green leafy veg such as cabbages will benefit from a high nitrogen feed such as Chempak No. 2 in the spring.

Weeding

Weeds compete with your growing vegetables for nutrients and moisture so itís important to keep on top of them. Use a hoe being careful not to damage the growing vegetable plants. If necessary weed by hand between vegetable plants or seedlings. You might want to consider laying weed control membrane down between rows or even planting through it for leafy crops. It also helps to retain moisture and warms the soil underneath aiding the crop.
If you are clearing a new area to make a veg patch, use a glyphosate weedkiller. There are lots on the market, including Round Up. The advantage of glyphosate is that it breaks down on contact with the soil so that you can start planting as soon as the area is cleared. With weedkillers, do not be tempted to clear the area of weeds until the weedkiller has had sufficient time to get to the roots and take effect. This may take a couple of weeks and the weeds will be brown and dry. Tough perennial weeds may need a second application so factor that in when planning a new veg patch in a previously uncultivated area.
When digging in the winter, may sure you pull out the roots of any perennial weeds you come across, as these are just waiting for the weather to warm up before springing into life and taking over your patch.

Watering

Vegetables grown in containers will need careful watering to make sure they donít dry out and the soil is kept just moist. Crops in the ground will only need watering during dry spells. Spinach is prone to bolting if it becomes dry for too long and root crops and tomatoes can split if there is a drought followed by a downpour. Aside from the usual watering aids, there are now micro-irrigation systems which are ideal for automatic watering in the greenhouse or for patio containers. Soaker hoses are ideal for use in the traditional plot or in raised beds and simple to install. Simply lay the hose along the rows and the drip watering provides a steady level of moisture.
If you veg patch is a long way from a tap, install a water butt. Plants prefer rain water to tap water, so a water butt is a good idea regardless. If you donít fancy lugging watering cans around, you can now get a water butt pump which takes the hard work out of getting the water from the butt to your veg plants.

Crop Protection

There are a multitude of crop protection aids on the market. From greenhouses and polytunnels down to growing tunnels, mini greenhouses, coldframes, growhouses and cloches.

For frost protection use: Fleece, Fleece Tunnels, Plastic Tunnels, Cloches, Coldframes, Mini Greenhouses, Growhouses, Walk-in Greenhouses, Pop-up Greenhouses, Polytunnels, and Greenhouses.

For protection against insects use: Cabbage collars, Insect Protection mesh, Enviromesh tunnels, Fleece.

For protection against birds use: Tunnels, Fruit Cages, Netting, Bird Scarers, Bird Repellant.

For protection against rabbits and animals use: Grazers, Cat Repellant, Wild Animal Repellant, chicken wire.
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