Gardening, Grow Your Own, How To, Jorge, Planting, Plants

Growing your own goji berries is an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint, save money and provide a source of nutrients for your family. High in vitamin C, B2, A, iron, selenium and the antioxidant polysaccharides, they constitute a welcome addition to a balanced diet and are great as part of a smoothie, or served with oats. Growing goji berries is relatively easy as it is well adapted to the UK’s climate as with other himalayan species.

Growing goji berries from seed is not recommended as seeds are prone to rot and seedlings require warm conditions for 12 months, which is both impractical and costly. Hence, we recommend two year old plants that are winter hardy and ready to fruit. It you do wish to grow from seed, rot can be prevented through an irrigation system ensuring moist soil. Goji berries work well in containers and normal advice applies.  

Soil and Sun Requirements

Goji berries are from the solanaceae family and possess a similar nutrient requirements to tomatoes. Hence, as nitrogen hungry plants we recommend applying fertiliser at the start of the growing season. However, as they are sensitive to salinity, we recommend avoiding inorganic fertiliser, which contains soluble salts. Compost also contains salts, so should be a small proportion of the potting mix (20%). Goji berries require full sun, but also benefit from shelter. They work well as hedges and possess delicate white and purple flowers, so function well as an ornamental.

Planting

Mature plants can reach 3m high and 1.5m wide. Hence, we recommend they be spread at 1m apart. As with all potted plants, it is important to keep the soil ball intact and ensure it is planted at the same depth as it is in the container. (Using a spirit level or ruler can help you keep it is level.) This will ensure the roots are within range of the nutrient rich top soils, but not exposed as to lead to air pruning. We recommend you dig a hole bigger than the circumference of the container and fill it with a mix of fertiliser, compost and garden soil, which is superior in structure and nutrients to garden soil. Be sure not to pack the soil too tight or compress the soil as this will reduce retard root growth. Once this is complete be sure to water thoroughly.

Next, you are to remove all nearby plant life and mulch. By doing this you are reducing competition, allowing the growth of a healthy root system, and improving the soil’s structure, which gives the plant access to air and water. Mulch should not come into contact with the shrub’s main stem as to ensure it does not come diseased, and be level with a depth of 2 and 3-4 inches for fine and coarse materials respectively. Mulch can be replenished annually, depending on the material, and the area it covers should be increased as the shrub’s roots expand.

Pruning

The most important function of pruning is to remove old, dead and damaged stems to make room for new stems. (Flowers and berries are borne on stems grown in the spring and autumn of the year before.) By pruning stems you encourage the production of more laterals, leading to higher yields. Pruning has the additional advantage of increasing sunlight penetration and improving foliage drying, which is especially important with goji plants susceptible to verticillium wilt. Hence, it is also important to water at the base of the plant. We recommend watering thoroughly, every so often, rather than little and often, as this will encourage the formation of deep roots, which helps the plant endure dry periods. Pruning should take place in the spring, just as the plant starts to grow.

Harvesting

Goji berries produce the biggest yields in their fourth year, while at two you can expect a kilo of fruit. To harvest, wait till the fruit is deep red and fully ripe (usually midsummer), and then shake them onto a blanket. Handling can make them turn black. To dry goji berries, leave them on a sheet of baking paper in a cool, dry spot out of direct sunlight.

If you are interested in growing your own goji berries, Primrose offers two year old goji berry plants from just £4.99.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

Becky H, Grow Your Own, How To, Infographics

If you’ve found yourself with an abundance of apples this autumn, we suggest you make your very own apple cider this year to enjoy with friends and family. Because when life gives you apples, you should definitely use them to make cider!

We’ve made an infographic just for you that lists all the steps involved in making your very own apple cider, but of course this could be adapted to include pears. Let us know if you have tried making your own cider, we’d love to see how you got on in the comments section below or on Facebook!

How to make apple cider

Author

Becky Hughes is a designer at Primrose, and currently in her final year of Digital Media Design at Bournemouth University. When she’s not studying Becky enjoys keeping fit and gardening in her family home.

Dakota Murphey, Gardening Year, Grow Your Own, Hedging, How To

Wild food foraging

Who doesn’t have fond memories of collecting blackberries along an overgrown pathway? Even city dwellers will have come across an alleyway with a siding of brambles somewhere. Of course the countryside is the best place for foraging, especially woodland, and getting the family out of the city for a day without spending a fortune is a great idea, if only for a breath of fresh air.

It’s a great way to get the kids away from screens and indulge in some good old-fashioned fun. Much has been written about the health and developmental benefits of engaging children with nature, so a foraging adventure will be doing much more than you think.

Foraging for food can be risky if you don’t know what you are picking. Many plants, flowers and berries are poisonous and mustn’t be consumed. But don’t let that put you off. With a watchful eye and a little education you can safely pick the things that are edible and teach your children a thing or two about nature along the way.

Read through our safety tips, to be clear about what it is you are foraging for and you’ll have a fun and fruitful day. If you don’t feel confident, there’s plenty of information available from organisations such as the Woodland Trust. Or experience day companies, such as Into The Blue offer foraging courses with an expert (a great gift idea for the nature lover in your family).

foraging in the wild

Safety tips

  • Avoid picking plants from busy roadsides, near to landfill sites or close to stagnant water/foul ponds.
  • Don’t pick plants that look as though they have been recently sprayed – check for signs of wilting or residue on leaves.
  • Don’t consume diseased or dying plants, and never eat dead leaves.
  • Only take what you need, and try to pick leaves from several plants rather than all the leaves from one plant, so that the plants can continue to flourish.
  • Wash all your leaves and fruit before eating.
  • NEVER consume anything you aren’t able to 100% identify as safe. If in doubt, leave it alone!
  • There are some plants you should never eat raw, so do your research.
  • Wear gardening gloves to protect from spikes and thorns.
  • It is illegal to disturb or pick plant material that belongs to any protected wild plant.

Test your tolerance

Some people are extremely sensitive to certain foods and for that reason it’s really important to test your tolerance of a new food you haven’t tried before.

Take a small piece of the raw edible part of the plant (make sure it is a plant that is edible raw). Put it in the front of your mouth and bite on it a few times, then spit it out. Wait for 60 minutes. If you experience no bad reaction, proceed to the next step.

Now try a larger piece of the plant (edible part only!). Try boiling the edible part of the plant you are tolerance testing and eating and swallowing a tiny quantity of it (about a quarter of a leaf for example). Wait for 60 minutes and see how you feel. If you don’t experience any negative reaction, proceed to the next step.

Try a tablespoon mixed into a suitable recipe. If you do not experience any negative reaction after 60 minutes, your body should be OK consuming that specific wild edible plant in larger quantities. But don’t overdo it.

foraging tips

Here are some tips on a good old family hedgerow favourite to get you started. Good luck with your foraging!

Blackberries

Plump blackberries are a winner for the kitchen. A foraged crumble is the perfect treat after an afternoon of standing on tippy toes to reach the most luscious and juicy fruits on offer. These divine hedgerow berries are ripe for picking in August and September and are great in lots of favourite family recipes. Try cheesecakes, smoothies, hedgerow jams, or simply mix with roughly chopped almonds and plonk on top of a bowl of porridge. Yum!

High in antioxidants and vitamin C, blackberries have great health benefits too. Be careful of the blackberry bush thorns while you are picking, and beware the juice stains, so don’t wear your best clothes. Inevitably a few nicks and stains will be forgotten about when you get to eat the fruits of your labour. If you are out picking with younger children, be mindful of the height at which they are picking. Better to lift them up, than gather contaminated fruits at doggy-leg height! You get the gist!

Family tip: make some smoothies with blackberries. Your children can set up a stall to sell small cups at the end of your driveway, or instead deliver a surprise smoothie treat to neighbours. Soak your fruits in water for 30 minutes and rinse before eating, or using in recipes.

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.

Charlie, Grow Your Own, How To, Plants

As the autumn approaches, and summer’s rays (or rain in this summer’s case) start to fade, thoughts can turn to the harvest. Whether you’re an urban harvester seeking out the best picked fruit in your local market or even supermarket aisle, driving down to a local orchard for a spot of apple picking, or gathering in your very own harvest from apple trees in your garden, look no further than Primrose’s guide to apple harvesting to help you get only ripe, unspoilt fruit in your larder.

A Pick Your Own Orchard

One of the perplexing things about apple harvesting is the dazzling variety of types of apple available to harvest, and the different seasons in which the apples can be harvested. One of the most popular supermarket varieties, for example, the Gala apple, is harvestable from May to September. Whereas one of the most common non-commercial apples, Cox’s Orange Pippin is generally harvestable from around mid-September. Producers tend to favour the Gala over the Cox because the latter does not tend to keep well after harvesting – but it is still grown commercially to brew cider.

So it is important to consider, before your visit to a pick-your-own orchard, whether you are after apples to eat, apples to cook or apples to make a refreshing cider, and whether it is important that the apples keep for a long period. What you are going to use the apples for will influence the quality of apples you need.

Tips for visiting orchards:

  • Plan your visit! There is a great site at http://www.pickyourownfarms.org.uk/ that showcases where the pick your own sites are in the UK near you.
  • Be clear on the varieties the orchard in question contains, and plan your visit when the variety you want is in season.
  • When it comes to picking, you will know the fruit is ripe when the starches are beginning to turn to sugar. However, it is probably not advisable to do a taste test on each apple you want to pick!
  • The colour of a ripe apple changes depending on the variety, so your best bet at a pick your own orchard is to ask the farmer which trees are ripe. He will be able to tell you what characteristics to look for in each variety and should have a record of how many weeks it was since the tree flowered.
  • Watch out for bruised apples. Even if you just want to press the fruit to make cider, bruises often indicate rot and despite the famous saying, one rotten apple really can spoil the whole batch!
  • Don’t shake the tree! This can cause other apples to fall which may then spoil. Instead, pick the apples in a twisting motion to free them from the branches. This should be done gently, leaving the stem intact.
  • Place the fruit in the basket or container, do not throw them as this can cause them to bruise. A bruised apple rots easily, as it is the hard skin that ensures its longevity.


Harvesting apples at home.

If you’re lucky enough to have an apple tree in your back garden, harvesting can be done at home. If you don’t, why not? Primrose have a wide variety of apple trees available now for purchase for delivery in November, to ensure they are bedded down nicely in your garden in time for the spring.

Harvesting apples at home can be easier, as while not good etiquette at a pick your own orchard, shaking the tree is permissible on your own property. A good tactic is to place a sheet under the tree and then shake the tree onto the sheet, this will ensure only the ripe apples fall from the tree. However, many of the other apple picking tips above still apply.

Follow this advice and you’re sure to have a bumper crop of apples this autumn. Don’t forget to check out our guides to apple storage and cider making for advice on what to do with your apples once you’ve harvested them.

 

CharlieCharlie works in the Primrose marketing team, mainly in online marketing.

When not writing for the Primrose Blog, Charlie likes nothing more than a good book and a cool cider.

To see the rest of Charlie’s posts, click here.

 

 

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