for Gifts ers grow

Does your loved one have green fin­gers? Brian Cal­laghan of­fers some ideas for their Christ­mas presents

Country Smallholding - - IT'S TIME TO GET GROWING -

Cloches

The ex­tra pro­tec­tion pro­vided by a glasshouse or poly­tun­nel al­lows ten­der crops to be started into growth ear­lier in the year whilst also ex­tend­ing the crop­ping sea­son at the end of sum­mer. Less com­mon fruits, such as mel­ons and grapes, which might oth­er­wise strug­gle in some parts of the coun­try, can be brought to a suc­cess­ful con­clu­sion un­der cover and many over­win­ter­ing sal­ads re­main more ed­i­ble than those grown out­side, which of­ten be­come tough and stringy.

Al­though poly­tun­nels and glasshouses pro­vide a valu­able work­ing en­vi­ron­ment, they also in­volve a ma­jor in­vest­ment, so why not con­sider the hum­ble cloche as an in­tro­duc­tion to pro­tected crop­ping? They are rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive, easy to main­tain and pro­vide a very flex­i­ble means of pro­tec­tion for both in­di­vid­ual plants and those grown in rows.

The key ben­e­fit is that of move­able pro­tec­tion which al­lows the struc­ture to fol­low crop ro­ta­tions and pro­vide pro­tec­tion where it is needed rather than fixed in one place as with glasshouses and poly­tun­nels. Add the fa­cil­ity for swap­ping the plas­tic cover for a net pest-pro­tec­tion ma­te­rial and you have a very flex­i­ble piece of grow­ing equip­ment.

Cloches are sim­ple to con­struct from spare ma­te­ri­als if you have old ir­ri­ga­tion pip­ing ly­ing about and might make an in­ex­pen­sive home-made Christ­mas gift for a grower ( see

pages 29-30). Al­ter­na­tively, pur­chas­ing a set of hoops such as those sup­plied by Two Wests and El­liot at just over £ 50 for a 12ft run (their mea­sure­ments, not mine) would form the ba­sis for a solid sys­tem that could be ex­panded as fu­ture needs de­vel­oped.

Note­book and pen­cil

As any­one who keeps a diary will at­test, we do so much more in our lives than we ac­tu­ally re­mem­ber. Grow­ing is a con­stant state of learn­ing from ob­ser­va­tion and ex­pe­ri­ence and the in­ten­tion to write things down ‘later’ is of­ten for­got­ten when we get back in­doors.

En­ter the sim­ple note­book and pen­cil. I have tried voice recorders, of many sorts, and they have been lost, ru­ined by mud and wa­ter and more of­ten never re­played and writ­ten up af­ter­wards. Buy­ing a pocket-sized note­book for each sea­son and keep­ing them in or­der as a point of fu­ture ref­er­ence means be­ing able to iden­tify that crop of pota­toes which you for­got to la­bel; or re­mem­ber­ing the area of ground when or­der­ing seed; or what date blight af­fected your toma­toes when you switched from hand wa­ter­ing to over­head ir­ri­ga­tion. Such valu­able in­for­ma­tion might oth­er­wise be for­got­ten. Un­til we make the same mis­take again.

Why a pen­cil and not a pen? Pen­cils will write on damp pa­per, can still be used when bro­ken and do not fade if used on plant la­bels ex­posed to ul­tra­vi­o­let light.

Max/min ther­mome­ter

Most plants grow best in a tem­per­a­ture range of ap­prox­i­mately 10 – 35C. Too far out­side of this zone and growth slows and dam­age may oc­cur even if the plants are only ex­posed to the ex­tremes for a brief pe­riod. In ad­di­tion to tem­per­a­ture vari­a­tions over the day, there are many fur­ther vari­a­tions within sites, of­ten re­ferred to as mi­cro-cli­mates, which can be iden­ti­fied via use of a ther­mome­ter.

The old-fash­ioned, but re­li­able and bat­tery-free, type con­sists of a U-shaped glass tube. As the tem­per­a­ture rises and falls the al­co­hol in the tube is pushed up and down where its height may be read against a cal­i­brated scale. Mag­netic point­ers which record the max­i­mum and min­i­mum tem­per­a­tures over the record­ing pe­riod need re­set­ting each day.

Dig­i­tal types can be more ac­cu­rate and many have the ca­pac­ity to store read­ings for more than one day thus ob­vi­at­ing the need to carry out daily checks. They do need bat­tery changes, but power consumption is very low and many in­cor­po­rate ex­ter­nal probes al­low­ing tem­per­a­ture mea­sure­ment at more than one

A note­book is a must! BE­LOW: A wire­less in­door and out­door ther­mome­ter

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