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Transplanting With Jack First

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Like myself, some of you may be ready to transplant bare rooted transplants such as leeks, brassicas or others from the seed bed. If you think about it your plants are growing in a dark, cool and damp place. To avoid stress it is essential that transplanting is done so as to return the transplants to the conditions they were growing in the first place as fast as possible. Ideally all the ground should be damp, preferably after rain with the plants watered the evening before. It helps if conditions are cool overcast and not windy with the actual planting taking place in the evening. Prepare all planting holes beforehand and have water to hand. Carefully, usually with a hand fork remove a few plants carefully bearing in mind not to damage the root systems and within a second or two plant back into the dark, cool place from whence they came. Why all this fuss. There is a tendency as it seems methodical to take up the plants and leave them on the surface prior to planting. This is a huge mistake as desiccation takes place. It's an alien world with roots exposed to light like fish out of water. So back in the soil as soon as possible. In some books, they tell you to give a good watering and that will do, but if the surrounding soil is dry that soil will absorb the water which the plants need. Some soils can retain moisture but in soils that drain well such as sand or light loam watering must continue until the roots strike out.. It is one of those jobs that can lead to failure or at least a long recovery period when what is required is continuous growth.
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Huw Richards at Askham Hall Gardens

Some of you may have heard of Huw Richards, a young gardener from Wales who has already had three gardening books published along with many YouTube videos, along with a very large following on social media. To cut along story short he visited and filmed the community gardens at Askham Hall in Cumbria. This garden can be seen on one of Huws YouTube videos. Among this very productive garden Huw came across the Hot Beds. The managers of this project had visited myself at the Cellar Trusts Allotments in Keighley where clearly they understood the value of Hot Beds. Huw purchased my book and has since visited me twice where I demonstrated the method of construction. We have agreed to set up an online Hot Bed Course which, if all goes according to plan, will be available later in the year. 

Due to certain circumstances, I was late with the Hot Bed this year, not sowing until February the 23rd. Even so the carrots, spinach and salads are up and away. I tried an experiment this year sowing tomatoes, squashes, sweetcorn and others in pots which were plunged into the Hot Bed also on the 23rd. 100% germination was achieved quite remarkable when one considers that this is an outside Hot Bed with many frosty or near frosty nights. The tomatoes will be used in the greenhouse but I now have the interesting problem of keeping the squashes going.

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Jack First Food for Thought

For seventeen years prior to retirement I ran a horticultural project for people with various mental health problems on an allotment site near Keighley. One of my first priorities was to improve local wildlife so the perimeter was planted up with native hedging trees. A small pond with a seating area was soon established along with nesting boxes around the site. One of these nesting boxes was positioned on a shed close to the cabin where we had our breaks and from this cabin we could observe all the comings and goings of the blue tits that nested there every year. A small orchard planted nearby provided favourite perching places for the birds before they entered the bird box. We could clearly see all the various insects, caterpillars and worms still wriggling in the bird’s beaks prior to their entering the box.

Read more: Jack First Food for Thought

Fleeces in Growing

Not so long ago a sheep farmer could expect a fair return for fleeces sold by the bale. There was, for instance, a high demand for wool in the carpet manufacturing business.  That has all changed now with more and more synthetic products being produced. This lack of demand has led to a dramatic drop in the price of wool. My sheep farming neighbour  informs me that after shearing and transportation costs that there is a huge loss. When I inquired if he would sell to gardening  groups or allotment holders at a break even price his answer was of course yes. I have since contacted a farmer I know in Hipperholme with the same question who also was affirmative. I have used wool and daggings for years now and can safely say that wool is one of the best by products to use around the garden. For a start used around seedlings it will deter slugs and snails. As mentioned before the last thing a slug needs is to be dragging a wooly coat around. Wool will eventually rot down, fertilising that ground as it breaks down. It will make a very good compost when mixed with other organic materials. I use a great deal of it in my hotbeds. Having some wool about the garden in Spring will help some birds line their nests. I know for a fact that around Bradford, Halifax and Keighley that there are quite a few sheep farmers who you could approach. 
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Jack first on Compost

What more can be written about compost, a subject covered hundreds of times by different authors. Time and time again we read of the usual composting materials such as kitchen and garden refuse, of leaves and manures of garden pets such as poultry and rabbits. Horse manure might be available to a lucky few. One thing is for sure, for many there is never enough of these composting materials to meet all the needs around the garden. But have you ever passed by a landfill site on a frosty day and wondered about the clouds of steam rising. That steam can only be generated by all items created via photosynthesis and includes many items discarded by all that could be used to produce compost.

While living in Yorkshire I had no problem obtaining large quantities of horse manure for making Hot Beds or adding to compost heaps. But this supply has dried up as I now live in Wales with few stables nearby. So I have had to seek out alternatives sourced locally, some of which maybe local to you. Many leaves are gathered by the lane that runs by our house. Sacks of spent hops from the local brewery are collected free of charge. Local sheep farmers have delivered bales of daggings, the soiled part of sheeps wool separated at shearing time). A bunch of onions passed on in gratitude goes a long way. Seaweed is plentiful as we are close to the coast but check with your council first in case permission is needed to collect it.
To a lesser extent paper and cardboard can be used but remove tape, do not include glossy paper and check that cardboard is not plastic lined. All goods made from 100% natural fibres such as cotton clothes, sheets and other bedding can be included. Paper, cardboard and those items made from natural fibres should be weathered before including in a Hot Bed or compost heap. All the above have been used in Hot Beds and within ten months have successfully decomposed.
One can also assume that these materials will likewise decompose in a compost heap, providing air and moisture is present. The exceptions are underwear which can contain much elastic, and although 100% marked cotton trousers and jeans will mostly decompose, the zip, pockets, studs and washing instructions remain, all connected by nylon thread.
Typically a pair of my trousers and jeans weigh two and a half pounds. The remnants after being in hot bed weigh four ounces. So only 10% goes to landfill the rest totally decomposes.

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Terry's Tomato Tips

Heritage tomatoes on a tray with overlaid text reading "Terry's Tips: Everything about tomato growing"

Children's Section

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From Val's Plot

Drawing of alloment plants with clouds and blue background. Overlain text saying"From Val's Plot: Seasonal reporting from and everyday plot"

Jack First's Advice

person watering alloment plants with traditional mental watering can. Overlaid text reads "Organic growing advoce from Jack First"