Best of Bob

Best of Bob’s, The collected articles

I currently write freelance at home and abroad and regularly for Amateur Gardening, Kitchen Garden Magazine and BBC Gardeners World Magazine. I have written articles for many other journals and whole series in Living Earth, Organic Life, Gardens Monthly, Gardens Illustrated, Readers Digest and the Eastern Daily Press. Not all of these have as yet agreed but hopefully will soon and then all my articles will be republished here. Many of the following were originally contributed to Kitchen Garden Magazine and so heavily biased towards ‘grow your own’ food. As well as those articles on fruits and vegetables and cultivation under cover there are also essays on such as weeding, mulching, pest control, and sward and lawn maintenance.

Articles have been allocated into different groups depending on their emphasis although very occasionally for convenience one may appear in more than one group- advice- are essays on my best Advice about what I find the most practical of gardening methods fruits- are about growing the many Fruits we can choose for fruit-cage and orchard greenhouse- are on growing in a Greenhouse and polythene covered tunnel informative- are Informative horticultural discursions & arguments with practical advice sundry- are Sundry on storage, processing and preserving, recycling, wildlife and livestock vegetables- concerns the multitude of Vegetable crops including herbs and saladings

Advice

Earlier crops With most of the crops in our Kitchen Garden there is always a pressure for earlier...
Alternative composting methods Everything that has ever lived will rot down eventually but by changing the conditions we...
Bigger is better; composting, my way Any pile of organic matter can rot down eventually, but the time taken and the value of...
Composting, in theory and practice There is an old adage that says ‘in theory the theory and the practice are the same but...
Crop protection from both weather and fo... Some of the biggest difficulties most kitchen gardeners come up against are losses caused...
Drainage and Aeration We may be under-estimating and not optimising the undoubted benefits obtained by '...
Extending the harvest Right now in this month of abundance there seems to be plenty but all too soon the...
Grass care; sward for fertility Although a kitchen garden rarely has place for a lawn as such it most certainly may...
Green manuring The idea of green manuring is simple. We grow crops on the soil when it is not otherwise...
Greener manuring Green manures, crops grown especially for returning to and improving the soil, have a...
Hardening off and transplanting, the fac... There is no operation more critical in the kitchen garden than that of transplanting...
In pot or border? When I first started gardening I rarely had much of a garden, or one for very long. I...
More effective weed control This is the month when everything in the garden grows like topsy. The days are long, the...
More successful sowing This month is when we begin sowing most crops in the open garden. So although we have...
Mulching Other than water I find mulches to be my greatest aid to getting more crops for less work...
Plant supports and training At this time of year our soft fruits are swelling to their ripe fullness, the top fruits...
Pollination concerns Almost every fruit we grow needs pollinating and in many cases if we want the best crops...
Preparing for winter Although there are always plenty of crucial jobs to be done at almost any time of the...
Pruning simplified One of the things that may discourage gardeners from growing some sorts of fruit is the...
Self saved seeds Saving our own seed for sowing over the following years is probably done by most of us...
Structures and siting Rudyard Kipling's poem The Glory of the Garden reflected on "the potting sheds and planks...
Suck it & save; syphons increase you... Syphons (or Siphons) are one of the most useful but underrated and ignored aids for the...
The use and care of turf in a kitchen ga... When turf is thought of the allotment, vegetable plot or kitchen garden does not usually...
Utilising the hidden power of weeds Without doubt one of the most important jobs for any gardener is the suppression of weeds...
Water storage Our watering makes all the difference to most of our crops, and with some much more than...
Water, which water where In Kitchen Garden Feb 05 I discussed watering and ventilation under cover where we have...
Watering regimes examined Although it is quite possible to garden successfully in many ways without hardly ever...
Weeding methods We all do it and indeed much of our total gardening time and effort is devoted to it yet...
Which tool? One question I'm often asked at talks is 'which tool I consider most useful to a gardener...

Fruits

Acid lovers and cane fruits- Blueberries... The majority of soft fruits love moist rich soil, preferably well mulched with leaf mould...
Apples Almost every garden most of will ever have known, at least those other than the very...
Apricots-not as difficult as you think There are many fruits that taste considerably better off the tree than their equivalent...
Climbing & clambering vines (Grape,... To all intents and purposes there’s only one perennial vine for a kitchen garden, a grape...
Fruit pollination Almost every fruit we grow needs pollinating and in many cases if we want the best crops...
Grafting -for fun Recently I was one of several gardeners putting together an excellent book on gardening...
Grow your own fruit varieties Most of us are quite happy if not overwhelmed by the very wide choice of fruit varieties...
Grow your own fruit varieties Most of us are quite happy if not overwhelmed by the very wide choice of fruit varieties...
Making the most of currants The Ribes or currants are the poor relations of the kitchen garden relegated to shady...
More fruits than you can imagine Fruits are good for us. They are the only food nature wants us to eat. Forget...
Not another nut? As you may have noticed in my previous articles I am obsessed by the need to develop more...
Not very hardy fruits (Citrus, guava, loquat, myrtle, olive, physalis, melon and watermelon) These tenderer...
Nut crop The Nuts as a group have one immense drawback to most kitchen gardeners- they generally...
One size does not fit all -planting frui... There is one question which regularly appears in every batch that I receive in the post...
Ornamental garden fruits There is no accounting for taste, we all may like completely different fruits, or not...
Peaches, easier than you think You have not fully lived till you have eaten a luscious perfectly ripened home grown...
Perennial berries (Black, Rasp, Logan, T... Associated by name and preferred conditions these berries are reliable croppers of...
Pruning simplified One of the things that may discourage gardeners from growing some sorts of fruit is the...
Renovating old fruit trees Probably one of the most difficult decisions to make with a garden is what to do about...
Stone fruits The Prunus or Stone fruits, plums, cherries, peaches and apricots, are some of the most...
Strawberries and figs What connection could there possibly be between these two fruits- other than both...
Summer pruning In the fruit garden no work is so rewarding as summer pruning. A little effort spent on...
The Orchard house method This is probably one of the most important ways you can extend your season for fruits,...
The Pome or apple related fruits The Pomeor apple related fruitsAlmost every garden of any size has an apple tree or two....
Thinning –the way to quality and pest an... Most gardeners are well aware of the benefits of thinning when applied to seedlings. Few...
Vegetable fruits (tomato/pepper/cucumber/aubergine/squashes) Often excluded from works on fruit as they’...
Which grapes where Over the last quarter century I have tried many dozen grapevines. Most of them in trials...
Which training for which fruit? There is a lot to be said for growing fruit, and for the lazier gardeners amongst us,...
Why fruits, 100 good reasons Well perhaps I am exaggerating a little, if not a hundred there are still a host of good...
Your own vineyard Grapes are one of the most varied of all fruits; they come in a host of different colours...

Informative

Alternatives to powered machinery Although gardening is about as green a thing to be doing as you can get we all can be...
Companion planting pt 2 in-soil inter-ac... In part 1 I postulated that with the thousands of different plants that grow in our...
Companion planting pt1 the many interact... Fifteen years before this I had just finished writing my first book on Companion Planting...
Coping with climate change If you believe the weathermen we are experiencing more erratic and extreme weather...
Coping with climate change pt 2 I contributed an article to Kitchen Garden, in 2009, on how we gardeners should be able...
Could we be polluted unknowingly? I guess one of the commoner reasons many of us grow our own produce is to avoid the...
Crops by work or value? At this time of the year our memories are still fresh and we can recall how our...
Curious experiments There are strange plants in the world; have you ever heard of Laburno-cytisus adamsii?...
Expert advice -too often inappropriate Now I don't want to ruffle too many feathers and I'm in danger of shooting myself in the...
Gleanings from the past -old gardening b... Now I do not wish to put you off buying new gardening books (especially as I have several...
Good old days People sometimes use the phrase 'the good old days'. I wonder which period they could be...
How long will it last? Plant lives and how we alter them.In a way a garden is not so much a thing as a process,...
Hygiene in the garden -is this sensible... As a child I was already interested in plants and browsed the gardening magazines and...
If money was no object- the Ideal Kitche... You know the sort of thing- there it is at the start of so many old gardening books. “For...
Keeping down pollution levels One of the reasons many of us may have for growing our own fruit and vegetables is...
Kitchen gardening by law I propose that kitchen gardening is so important and valuable to the individual, the...
Limiting Factors A chain is only as strong as it's weakest link. A limiting factor is rather like that...
Magic in the garden Organic gardening was once labelled 'all muck and magic' but now as we start to...
Making money from your garden? For many years I have been a consultant to horticultural businesses. Theirs is a very...
Micro climate enhancement Whether or not we as a species are responsible for any significant change to our climate...
More magic in the garden In part one I started writing on this same topic but as I looked into it there was too...
Spreading our diet I've heard it said that many Japanese try to eat thirty different foods a day and one...
There's no evidence... An argument has been going on in kitchen gardens for over a hundred and fifty years. Ever...
To dig or not to dig -all things conside... It is amazing how many gardeners still believe a regular dig each year is essential. Some...
What makes a difference and by how much? Much of gardening is about making tiny adjustments, improving our soil or conditions,...
What may be better not taken on As they say on so many occasions “don’t try this at home”. We know why. For it’s not just...

Vegetable

Asparagus time There is no crop more valuable than asparagus. Not just by financial measures either,...
Better tomatoes There is probably no more widely grown crop than tomatoes. Almost every kitchen garden...
Cabbages and coles When you think of kitchen gardens you think of cabbages, well maybe other things as well...
Carrots are not the only roots In terms of glamour root crops seem to score pretty low. Very often seen as a bit boring...
Crop comparisons by work or value At this time of the year our memories are still fresh and we can recall how our...
Drying Beans -a barometrically challengi... I doubt there is a vegetable plot in the country that does not grow some beans, however...
Earlier crops! With most of the crops in our Kitchen Garden there is always a pressure for earlier...
Fixed beds, raised beds, rows and record... The way we lay out our vegetable beds should not be random or haphazard as it can have a...
From flat to raised trench beds One of the most noticeable changes in the kitchen garden over the last decade or so is...
Get better sweet corn, earlier One of our tastiest and most rewarding crops can be sweet corn, easy in the southern...
Globe, Chinese and Jerusalem Why artichokes? By any other name would they taste the same, these are reckoned to be...
Nitty gritty methods on my 40 beds I'm often asked what differences there are between growing on fixed beds like mine...
Now I want salads…. One of the perversities of our human condition is the desire for foods when they’re out...
Perennial vegetables Although any favourite crop is worth whatever efforts it takes, on the whole it's better...
Potatoes and all their wrinkles The potato is one of our most important kitchen garden crops. It’s the mainstay of home...
Pretty and edible, or oh no not another... Those who’ve read my works before may have noticed a certain prejudice against most...
Rarely grown esculents Of the tens of thousands of plants available our remote ancestors found a few they could...
Rotate or just move stuff around We almost all attempt to practice some sort of rotation though I suspect in practice...
Seed crops, not for seed but to eat Of all the plant parts we eat the most generally nutritious are probably the seeds. All...
Spring has sprung again I don't know if it's the same where you garden but for me for the last few years Spring...
Spuds you like; cunning ways to improve... The 'usual' way of growing potatoes is well known to most of us and though good enough it...
Sweet corn success You never taste the finest sweet corn unless you grow it yourself. Buying frozen or '...
Tropical & tender crops, for indoors... Over the years I have tried to grow almost every edible plant and crop and sometimes been...
Unusual vegetables, actually worth tryin... How many distinct vegetable crops are there in an average kitchen garden? Most will...

Sundry

Backyard livestock So you already grow your own vegetables and fruits, make your own pickles, jams, juices...
Beekeeping reconsidered I used to keep bees, then when the lice like parasite varroa arrived I quit although now...
Big planters and more free! from cut and... I do not like using car tyres in the garden. I agree they are not aesthetic and they may...
Bob's bits and bobs Hands up any gardener who has not at least one recycled plastic bottle in use as a cloche...
Bringing in more beneficial insects In every garden there are very good reasons for bringing in more insects generally and...
Cats & birds -the gardener's be... I realise I'm on contentious ground here but none the less the gardener's case for both...
Drying, juicing, jamming and leathering Many of us grow a lot of fruit and naturally never wish to see any go to waste... Yet in...
Ecosystem enhancement -nest boxes of all... There are many reasons why we wish to encourage more forms of life to live in our gardens...
Free seeds and slips but which work? Although most of the food crops we grow are available as seed or plants there are some...
Freezing, drying, pickling With hard work and good weather this month should see your garden producing food much...
Garden fiends or foes At talks and question times over the years I have heard so many tales of woe but not...
Grow unusual fruit & veg There are many good reasons why we do not commonly grow the more unusual fruits and...
Grow your own sugar, sweet crops Almost all of us enjoy sweet things, it’s in our nature, and providing we get a balanced...
Grow your own –well everything One of the pleasures of gardening is that sense of righteous gratification in having...
Kitchen garden flower crops; for cutting... When one thinks of kitchen gardens, vegetable plots and allotments one rarely visualizes...
Organic quality and freshness all the wa... Growing the most divine fruits, herbs and vegetables is only half the fun. If like me you...
Pests, not a problem but an immense reso... Weeds can be looked at as useful because of their ability to thrive in adverse conditions...
Priority action! But which first? In many things timing is everything. “What is the difference between a good gardener and...
Pruning problem solved An old boy said to me the other day something quite true of his carpentry that applied...
Saving work! Easier ways to cut labour With nearly an acre of garden; forty raised vegetable beds, almost a thousand different...
Squeezing more from fruit Many of us are failing to make the most from our gardens. We would never plant a bed of...
Store what where? Often the problem is not of growing a crop but of having it when you want it. The...
Sui-Cider the traditional Norfolk brew -Every kitchen garden grows apples; but what are you to do with the inevitable surplus...
Tanks for the taking; Recycling dead ref... These apparently useless bits of junk are actually one of the most useful items a...
Tobacco Whether or not you think anyone should smoke or snuff Tobacco it is still an interesting...
Two legs good, four legs bad; pragmatic... My approach is not about the preservation of breeds, or production on a commercial scale...
Well, well, well I live in East Anglia, the driest region in the country with an average of only 18-22...
Winter salads Salads are often thought of as food for summer days. Indeed they are then often most...

Greenhouse

Better tomatoes There is probably no more widely grown crop than tomatoes. Almost every kitchen garden...
Citrus fruits The citrus family have long been favourite greenhouse and conservatory subjects. Indeed...
Double polytunnels; grow tropical fruit... My tropical paradise double tunnel evolved from a simple coldframe used in the greenhouse...
Ethnic and other roots (sweet potatoes,... Recently there has been a huge interest in growing sweet potatoes and to a lesser extent...
Frost free fruits- Guavas, custard apple... Although we think that nowadays we have a tremendous range of fruits to grow there are in...
Ginger and sweet potatoes Sweet potatoes are hardly ever attempted as crops, which is surprising. They give...
Hot beds revisited Used since Roman times with a coldframe on top hot beds were often referred to in older...
In pot or border? When I first started gardening I rarely had much of a garden, or one for very long. I...
Melons and Watermelons There can be few crops that are worth more apiece than melons and watermelons. These are...
Not quite tomatoes- the Physalis and oth... Almost every kitchen gardener grows potatoes and tomatoes and maybe sweet or hot peppers...
Peppers Sweet and Hot I doubt there is any other vegetable that has so rapidly become so widely popular even...
Pineapples, a serious crop Please don't think I'm joking, this is not a wind up or an early April Fool. Pineapples...
Polythene Vs glass, poly-tunnel Vs green... I doubt there is any gardener who has ever bought a new greenhouse who did not wish they...
Temperate tender fruits (Citrus, guava, loquat, myrtle, olive, physalis, melon and watermelon) These tenderer...
Tropical & tender crops, for indoors... Over the years I have tried to grow almost every edible plant and crop and sometimes been...
Tropical flavours and spices I’m amazed by the number of questions I receive on how to grow less common fruits and...
True you can grow bananas but... If you thought I was pushing the boundaries a bit suggesting we all could grow pineapples...
Under cover watering and ventilation Outdoors it's possible to grow most crops with a visit once a week, or even less. Under...
Vegetable fruits (tomato/pepper/cucumber... Often excluded from works on fruit as they’re annual, soft and herbaceous not perennial...
Why tea but not coffee, chocolate or cas... One of the most interesting changes over recent years has been the increased interest in...
Winter fruits Some ‘exotic’ winter cropping fruits are hardy enough to survive mild winters almost...
Winter salads Salads are often thought of as food for summer days. Indeed they are then often most...