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20 July 2013

Growing Swedes

I really enjoy swedes in soups and stews or mashed with potatoes and/or carrots, and, as they are fairly easy to grow, why not give them a try.

Swedes are best sown in a sunny position on moist, free draining and very fertile soil that has had manure or garden compost added. The soil ph should be between 6.6 and 7.3.

Seeds are usually sown between April and mid-July and need a firm seed bed. Sow 1/2 inch deep in rows 15in apart, and thin to 9inches apart. My seed packet has a note advising not to delay thinning out your seedlings as this will have an adverse effect on them.

They can also be sown in plug plant modules, filled with multipurpose compost. I have some growing in 3 inch pots ready to plant out when I have the space for them.

Swedes can take up to six months to mature but you probably won't have too much else growing in your vegetable patch through the autumn so this shouldn't be a problem. Keep the area weed-free over the growing period.

The soil needs to be kept moist so water during dry periods, though you should try to keep the soil evenly moist to prevent cracking and corky growth. Dryness at the roots can also lead to a bitter taste. Using a mulch such as grass-cuttings will help retain moisture.

During dry periods of a week or more you should water gently but deeply once a week, using approx 10 litres per sq metre of soil area. Avoid splashing the leaves, watering the soil instead.

At about the sixth or seventh week after seed germination and while plants are growing strongly you can apply a well balanced fertiliser such as Growmore or fish blood and bone. Rake the fertiliser into the soil's surface and water it in.

The time from sowing to harvest is from 20 to 24 weeks and you can begin lifting as soon as the roots are the size of a large orange. However the flavour improves with a bit of frost and they can be left in the ground most winters and then dug up when needed. In cold regions store them in containers of soil or potting compost in sheds or garages, remembering to twist off the leaves first.

As swedes are members of the brassica family they suffer from the same diseases as cabbages. However the most likely problems are:-

Powdery Mildew, which leaves a White powdery deposit over the leaf surface, and where leaves become stunted and shrivel. This can be remedied by keeping the soil moist, spraying using plant and fish oils or sulphur-based controls and by growing in cool locations.

Club Root, where roots become swollen and distorted, and leaves become pale and yellow and wilt easily. Plants also droop in hot weather and may die. Improving drainage and adding lime to make soil more alkaline may help. Remove and burn all infected plants immediately and try to avoid moving soil around on your boots and tools.

Some cultivars have been developed to be resistant to some diseases and the following are recommended:-

‘Angela’: This is well flavoured and resistant to powdery mildew.

‘Magres’ AGM: Has full-flavoured yellow flesh and is mildew resistant.

‘Marian’: Purple with yellow flesh and a nutty flavour. Powdery mildew and clubroot resistant.

'Wilhelmsburger': This boasts a creamy, golden flesh covered with a green skin. It keeps well and is resistant to clubroot.

You may also need to take measures to keep birds away from your seedlings.

Good luck with your swede-growing and enjoy your meals - there are plenty of recipes out there.

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