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Monday, 31 January 2011

Gardening in Cyprus - Tasks for February

The temperatures in February ranges from around 5c to 16c, the month averages around 10 rainy days. and frosts can occur at anytime during the month. There are lots of jobs to get on with which will keep you warm during February. The following can all be done during the month. 

1.  Plant out Jerusalem Artichokes at 15cm deep and 40cm apart.
2.  Sow peppers in a propagator
3.  Sow parsnips
4.  Start shooting sweet potatoes
5.  Tomatoes can be started in a propagator
6.  Flax (linseed) and sage can be started in a propagator
7.  Sweetcorn can be started in mid-February in a propagator
8.  Chrysantheums can be started in a propagator
9.  Spinach can be sown 
10.Sow aniseed, chamomile, chicory, chives in your herb patch
11. Sow directly marigolds and nasturniums
12. Egg plants can be started in a propagator mid-month
13. Marrow/squash/pumpkin can be started in a propagator mid-month
14. Sow directly into a prepared bed spring onions, beetroot, salad leaves, radish
15. Sow oregano, basil and tumeric in a propagator
16. Plant out comfrey offsets
17. Start chitting potatoes for planting in March
18. Plant out lettuce started in propagator in January and sow more in a  propagator
19. At the end of the month sow directly spring onions into a pre-prepared bed
20. Prune Olives at any time during the month

Happy gardening - remember it's safer to grow your own. For further advice go to cyprusgardener.co.uk

Friday, 28 January 2011

Which fruits and vegetables contain highest pesticide residues?

One of the primary reasons we started growing our own vegetables, herbs and fruit, over twenty years ago in the UK, was the worry over what we were feeding our young family.The over use of  pesticides which are toxic chemicals mainly used to kill weeds, insects or fungal growth leave residues in most of the food we consume. These toxic chemicals can harm our health, wildlife and the environment. Every year agricultural workers are accidentally poisoned or after constant exposure to these harmful chemicals many suffer from long term health problems such as cancers. After researching the control of pesticides, I found that the government tests thousands of foods a year for pesticide residues. These results are published by the Pesticide Residues Committee quarterly. 

These reports show that between a third and half of all fruit and vegetables sampled contain detectable traces of pesticide residues and somewhere between 3% and 4% have residues over the legal limit. Residues get into the produce when overused on crops or when crops after harvested too soon after pesticide usage but can even be detected if used according to the pesticide manufactures instructions.

A few thousand tests are a very tiny percentage of the fruit and vegetables consumed and can only provide an indication of which produce are more likely to contain residues. A high dose of chemical residues may cause a short term problem such as a stomach ache but I am more worried about the long term damage caused by small amounts of a chemical cocktail. Although the manufactures tell us that individually these chemicals are safe in minute doses, it is the damage caused by a lifetime of exposure to a cocktail of chemicals which has never been tested.

The amount of pesticides applied to crops is high and one crop may be treated with several different chemicals all leaving residues. For example, a lettuce may be treated up to five times and strawberries about twelve times.  

So it is wise to grow as much of your own food as you can. Or alternatively buy organic fruit and vegetables. If using conventionally grown crops - thoroughly wash all fruit and vegetables and scrub root vegetables, discard the outer leaves of leafy crops, don't use the peel or zest for cooking and for small children peel all fruit.

If you can only afford limited organic produce or limited space to grow then concentrate on the following which have consistently been found to contain the highest pesticide residues.

Apples, strawberries, grapes, peaches, celery, peppers, spinach, nectarine, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and potatoes. 

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Lemon

We are fortunate to have friends in the village who are happy to provide us with a bag of lemons whenever we want them. The lemon is a much undervalued fruit and is much more than just for lemon curd or lemonade, it has very many health benefits and uses. We planted a young tree about a year ago and it will probably be another few years before we can have our own supply but at least we can rely on our friends in the meantime.

Lemons are vitamin and mineral rich, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, anti-rheumatic, anti-viral and act as a diuretic.

Lemon juice can be diluted in water and used as a gargle for sore throats. Diluted in a little olive oil to relieve insect stings. Mixed with honey to treat colds and flu's. Rub around your teeth to remove plaque.

Lemons are also useful in the kitchen. Add lemon juice to stop the smell of cabbage and greens spreading. To crisp up limp lettuce, place the lettuce in a bowl of cold water with added lemon juice.

We have recently been making a regular batch of lemon curd. The curd, as it contains eggs, has to be refrigerated and used within 2-3 weeks, although this has not proved a problem as it tastes delicious. The recipe is available at http://sites.google.com/site/cyprusgardener/home/preserving-and-storing-produce/preserve-recipes if you would like to try it for yourself.

The lemon is useful in so many ways for making home made cleaning products, home made beauty treatments, a multitude of recipes and for use in home remedies.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Gardening in Cyprus - Tasks for January

January still provides warm days of between 15-18c but colder evenings and hopefully some more welcome rain. January though is a good time to get vital gardening jobs done and work off the excess Christmas kilos. The following jobs can be done in January

  1. Olive, apple, almond, plum, fig and citrus trees may need heavy remedial prunings. Younger ones and all other fruit trees will require annual pruning to stimulate flowers and fruit this year.
  2. Prepare raised beds or your vegetable plot for sowing/planting up from March onwards.
  3. Hedges can be trimmed as part of the winter cutback.
  4. Compost can be turned and chopped pruning's and weeds added. Last years fully composted heap can now be worked into vegetable plots or used for mulching shrubs and trees.
  5. Branches cut from trees will need cutting, stacking and drying ready for burning next winter in the wood stove.
  6. Continue cropping citrus and dry, make marmalades, jellies or dry to preserve
  7. Sow salads, pak choi, beetroot, carrots and parsley
  8. Start sowing tomatoes and okra in the propagator.
  9. With more and more chemical gardening products being banned consider organic altenatives
  10. Plan, plan and plan again. There is no reason why you should not be able to enjoy something fresh from your garden 365 days of the year