Hints on growing on Veg patch

July 19, 2013 at 2:22 pm. Growing.

This is an article written for the May addition of Le Tortevais


The scandal of horsemeat substituted for beef and perhaps more to come, what does a packet of processed food contains and is it healthy?

I have even been told the horsemeat may be donkey and I do not as “Je sis ni enne Ane de Guernsaise” wish to eat my cousins.

Our Guernsey food production up to the 70’s was self sufficient, exporting to Britain when I first started working for my father. Now with local growers forced out of business, with food shortages and importing 80% of our needs, should local food be protected under the Fair Trade banner.

Large areas of early potatoes were grown at Pleinmont and my father brought  potatoes from Frank and John and many a discussing in Guernsey French (with Bernie Girard as referee) over a few pints at the Imperial, on how many stones in a 56 lb bag of potatoes.

When I describe double digging on my growing courses for the WEA, you can see the look of terror come unto their faces but not to worry it’s not as bad as it appears.

The reason for this is that your soil is different as it goes down and like doing a cake, the good soil has to be mixed. So start one end, take the first two spade widths and put them to the end of your plot. This will open up your trench, next cut the turf in squares, put up side down in the trench with manure on top and dig the ground turning over as you go. When you have dug both spade widths continue as before and when you get to the end the first two trenches dug, will be used for the finishing two.

You will only need to do this every 3 to 5 years. The manure can be vraic, chicken, cow, horse or others but be careful with the high nitrogen chicken and cow manure. Natural leaching manure is always best as your plants will grow healthier and will have least problems with pests and fungal diseases.

To avoid double digging and take an easier route Mob. David Mahy 07781423079) he has a mini tractor, spader and rotovator.

Before planting have the ground annualized at the Horticultural Advisory Station and take a random sample from around your patch for them. They can if giving your intended crops, advice on what levels needed for your Ph (lime) and Nitrate etc.


I can give you my best advice and opinion

If you have a rabbit problem you can fence using 4ft small gauge stockmen’s fencing, buried 3 ins., 3 ins. timber posts with gates.

  • Get good quality tools, spade, fork, draw hoe and rake are essential.
  • Have soil annualized, double dug and prepared for planting.
  • A simple tests is take a hand full, if does not cake, or all fall out but is between these two it is ready.
  • When sowing your seeds use advice from packet, whether in the ground or trays.
  • I use specialty mixed seedling peat from Stan Brouard Ltd rather than the general imported ones.
  • For early seed germination up to late March you can use a warmer place Greenhouse, radiator, over boiler or inside plastic. Make sure the seedling are strong, well rooted and not over watered before or after planting.
  • It is difficult to be general when sowing direct into the ground, as varieties are different. For example carrots should be sowed in a prepared ground, a 3 ins. furrow but not watered after as it would harden the ground and stop the carrots coming though.
  • You must keep your plot tidy and uncluttered, if you bring something in take something out and the same goes if you take a lot of fruit and vegetables from your plot put back the manure in again.
  • My grandfather filled up the rabbit holes with his waste (broken dishes etc.)
  • I have always used natural manure as the plants grow better, are more resistant to pests and diseases.
  • Hoe your weeds when only just almost invisible to see (millions are just about to come though) as this also moves your ground around. It is important to do all jobs when they need to be done, when the weather permits, you must make time and not when it suits.
  • Rotate your crops as some do suffer when there is club root. If you do plant brassicas in ground with club root make a hole about 12 ins. Wide and fill with peat, so roots can expand.


So if you have marais, salty, poor quality low lying soil or just try using raised beds and these can be made from old scaffolding boards, greenhouse timber or cut down pallets lined with mypex. They can be filled with manure at the bottom topped up with Guernsey Mushroom Farm spent compost (Tel. 254941)

The advantages of raised beds.

  • Better drainage, less weed with every three years taking off top layer to put more mushroom compost so as to continue.
  • Less slug damage, as they do not like the dryer compost.
  • You can pin chicken wire around sides to stop rabbits.
  • Carrots and parsnips like unrestricted growth and potatoes chard and spinach grow clean.
  • Cover with growing fleece for less wind damage, earlier, later planting and harvesting.
  • Use natural manure vraic or horse rotted over winter, forked in or double dug.

Cloches or Greenhouses

  • Make these from blue plastic water pipes put outside the ¼ ins. Freesias stays as posts.


Use of water

  • Do not over water larger seedlings but allow to go a little dry, as they will have more root action, when planted these roots will take more moisture from the surrounding ground.
  • Well prepared plot,(as stated before) you may not need to water until you use for second crop. Beware of using too much as plants will flag, not though lack of water but a large tap root with lack of root mass.
  • Fruit & veg. like melons, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, straws (raise banks), etc. do need more and make a well around the base , so as the water does not go over stalk.
  • Over watering with the sunshine causes blights and other fungal problems.
  • Also with wet soil better environment for slugs and other pests.

Compost Heaps

  • A double one made from old pallets and lined with mypex and when the two are filled up you can use the first. Put in all the grass cutting, green waste and even cut up the old stalks, just leaving the wood bit at the end. My father said not using green waste (nitrogen) was like throwing pounds notes in the fire.
  • To speed up the process you can use tiger worms or accelerants and use the compost for mulching.
  • What I advise to grow or not to
  • Root crops like carrots, parsnips, Swede, leeks, onions, white or red cabbage etc. can all stay in the ground. Green beans, (frozen and dry for bean jars), courgette, (frozen) etc. you can make different uses for a long time.
  • I do not grow late potatoes or tomatoes as the blight can cause other fungal diseases.
  • Salads are fast growing and the land can then be used for late crops.
  • There is no better time than now to get people outside growing yourself and selling surplus to requirements to others.

There are many highs and lows in growing.

The low: When my father in the late 50’s planted all of the now allotments in outdoor Toms, was just about to pick with excellent prices. After overnight rain, saw all the toms bursting, pips flying and dreams vanishing. First time and only time I saw my father a strong and hard man cry.

 The high: My father and brother took a load of pig potatoes for the Le Lacheurs of Torteval, as they only had a car for transporting. After sampling their cider they arrived home at 11.30pm very high with their tea in the dustbin.  

That said there may be no better time than present to get people growing and selling surplus to requirements to others.

 Guernsey needed farmers and growers to support the Islanders during and after the occupation perhaps the old saying “your islands needs you, dig up your lawn and grow vegetables.”

Any further information you can view on www.davegorvel.com

Dave Gorvel

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