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Grow Your Own - Mediterranean Style

Grow Your Own - Mediterranean Style

There are some exotic vegetables you can grow in your garden when the weather improves that are natives of warmer climes.
Tomatoes, Aubergines, Chillies, Sweet Peppers, Cucumbers and Melons are a few from countries around the Mediterranean but with a little added protection can be grown here in UK gardens.

Starting with the favourite Tomato which is actually a member of the Potato family here’s how. Tomatoes produce edible fruits rather than swollen roots but are regarded as a vegetable. Start by germinating your seeds on a warm windowsill in a propagator. These plants will mature and crop earlier than those sown later outdoors or grown in a cold greenhouse. Once the seedlings have produced their first set of adult-shaped leaves, after about 21 days, they can be carefully separated and potted individually into 9cm and then 13cm pots. They should be planted in their final position either a 40cm pot, growbag or greenhouse border when the first flowers appear. Use a peat free compost that has John Innes No. 2 added which will hold water and nutrients in the compost but still drain easily. Support the larger climbing varieties with bamboo canes and pinch out any side shoots from the main stem as and when they appear. Bush varieties should not need restricting. The night time temperature also will need to be a minimum of 10c. There are many types and colours of tomato to grow so why not experiment. Sungold is a classic sweet tasting yellow cherry tomato, Cocktail Crush excellent flavour salad tomato or Celana a red cherry plum Italian variety.
If you are growing tomatoes outdoors buy the plants from the garden centre in early May and plant in large pots in a sunny sheltered place. When they start to flower feed with a diluted high potassium liquid tomato food and keep them evenly watered.
Melons can be grown outside in a sunny and sheltered place from June but are best in a greenhouse or poly tunnel. Grow them in large pots with rich compost like Jacks Magic. Train them up a thin rope attached to the roof of the greenhouse or fence and remove the side shoots until they reach 150 to 175cm high and then pinch out the top. The new shoots that then occur will have female flowers and require hand pollination or allow the bees to do the work for you. Feed them regularly with tomato feed until the fruits are ripe. If you are lucky, you may get up to 4 fruits per plant. You will know they are ripe when they smell very sweet and are soft to the touch at the base. There is nothing quite like the taste of freshly picked melons from your own plot.
Both Sweet and Chilli Peppers need a long growing season so if you haven't already germinated your own you should buy ready grown young plants from the Garden Centre. The Sweet pepper is the easiest to grow in the greenhouse soil, Grobags or 30cm pots in a sunny sheltered place. Chillies take longer to grow than sweet peppers. Chillies set their fruit easily while sweet peppers need to be pollinated by bees. Feed them weekly with tomato food. You can harvest sweet peppers green or wait until they ripen to yellow, orange or red. Chillies picked green will be moderately hot compared to red ones.
As with melons Cucumbers require warm humid conditions for maximum growth. Do not grow with tomatoes which require a warmer drier environment. Sow them in early May and keep them growing in a warm sheltered place giving copious amounts of water. Support with canes or string allowing one cucumber to form per leaf axil. If you plant 1 or 2 plants in June and another 1 or 2 in July you will have Cucumbers until October. Train the growing shoot upwards and then across the greenhouse so the fruits have the space to grow down and straight. Mini Cucumbers can be grown in the same way while outdoor Ridge Cucumbers should be planted out in a sunny and sheltered area in June allowing the plants to scramble over canes or netting. They have a better flavour than the long cucumbers.
Finally Aubergines are easy to grow in a greenhouse or sunny sheltered place in rich compost like Jacks Magic in a large pot. When the flowers start appearing feed weekly with tomato food and harvest when they are the size of pears, a rich purple colour and shiny.
So have a go at growing Mediterranean this year and enter your successes in MEGC Horticultural Show at the end of August.
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