Mr Fothergill’s 2017 seed catalogue features several new bean varieties, as the Suffolk seedsman supports the pan-European Year of the Bean initiative in the hope of encouraging gardeners to grow more of these tasty vegetables in 2017. Exclusive new runner bean Aurorais unique in being both pink flowered and producing self-setting pods. It is British-bred and produces an abundant crop of usually stringless, succulent pods whether conditions are cool or hot and dry in our unpredictable summers. A packet of 45 seeds costs £3.35.
Broad bean Eleonora is offered as organic seed. Mr Fothergill’s says the beans, often five per pod, are both juicy and very tasty, and are recommended by all staff who have taken home pods grown on the company’s Newmarket trial ground. Fast growing and not too tall, Eleonora is a good choice for windy sites. A packet of 45 seeds cost £3.35. Reintroduced dwarf bean Coco Noir Starazagorskican be eaten young as sliced green beans or left to mature and the black beans shelled as haricots. Ten seeds cost £3.35.
Three other new and exclusive beans are offered both via mail order and from retail stockists of Mr Fothergill’s throughout the UK. Exclusive runner bean Guinness Record could be well-named. This exhibition-quality runner bean produces large crops of very long, smooth, tasty, slender pods up to 45cm (18in) from July to October. The vigorous, red-flowered plants are resistant to all bean viruses. A packet of 45 seeds costs £3.25.
Runner Bean Snowdriftis a white-flowered variety specially bred to yield large crops of succulent beans. White-flowered beans are often less prone to bird attack than scarlet-flowered ones. Pods set reliably in cold or hot and dry conditions, helping to ensure a good harvest. A packet of 40 seeds of Snowdrift costs £3.25. Also exclusively from Mr Fothergill’s comes pencil-podded climbing bean Python. Its uniform, succulent pods, up to 15cm (6in) long, are produced abundantly through a long summer cropping season and into autumn. A packet of 50 seeds costs £3.25.
While I was nosing around on the Mr F trials field last month I noticed an exciting new ornamental vegetable, a very attractive new variety of kale, ‘Red Devil’.
I’m a great believer in ornamental vegetables: they look good, they taste good – what more can you ask for? I even went so far as to write a book about them, The All-In-One Garden. For me, it all started back in the 1980s when the summer bedding in front of Kew’s Palm House – one of the most prestigious summer displays in the country – was entirely given over to ornamental vegetables, combined with a few flowers.
We’ll get back to that Kew display next week, but what about this kale? The purple curly kale ‘Redbor’ and the grand old steely blue ‘Nero di Toscana’ have been my favourites for being tasty at the dinner table and for looking good with flowers: ‘Redbor’ with pink and white annuals, and ‘Nero di Toscana’ with blues. But now we have ‘Red Devil’.
‘Red Devil’ is, basically, ‘Nero di Toscana’ but with a ‘Redbor’ coloured stripe along the centre of each and every leaf. It looks great and the dual colouring expands the range of appropriate partners: red flowered annuals to connect with the central stripe, blueish colours to connect with the basic background colour of the foliage and white and pastel pinks and blues to work with both.
To grow ‘Red Devil’ kale, or any of these other kales, with annual summer flowers, treat these kales in the same way as the flowers. Sow them in pots in spring – they’re happy much cooler than many summer flowers – move the seedlings into individual pots as they develop and grow them on a little before planting out in late May with the all those fabulous flowers.
Flowers are great for many uses in the garden, but they are perfect for companion planting. Find out how flowers can help in getting the most out of your garden.
Flowers planted in and around the vegetable garden offer many benefits;
Vegetables left to grow in isolation are more vulnerable to pests. By growing flowers nearby, they will naturally attract beneficial insects. These will feed on pests, preventing them from attacking your precious vegetables. The best flowers for drawing in beneficial bugs are those rich in pollen and nectar.
By growing flowers among edibles, this will create a sea of colours, textures and smells. This can confuse many insect pests, as they will struggle to choose a vegetable they wish to feed on.
Sowing a flowering cover crop or green manure such as buckwheat, in between crops can attract beneficial insects and confuse pests. As well as attracting pest-eating insects, these flowers smother the ground to suppress weeds. Further to this, they will improve the soil quality by breaking it up with long, fibrous roots.
Many herbs such as; oregano, lavender and borage produce flowers. These pull in beneficial bugs like ladybugs, whose larvae will feast on fleshy pests like aphids.
These are just a few reasons that flowers are perfect for companion planting. Take a look at the video below to find out more tips on companion planting. Let us know any tips you have on companion planting in the comments below.
Make a bug hotel this autumn; bug hotels are great for attracting insects that are beneficial to your garden. Bugs, both of the crawling and flying varieties, are great as natural pest controls, and they work hard to pollinate your crops and blooms too. Bugs keep the cycle of life in the garden running smoothly so it is wise to welcome them in with open arms. Watch the video for a tutorial on creating your own bug hotel to offer shelter for these hard-working garden visitors.
Bug hotels can be made from salvaged and natural materials, such as prunings, sticks, bricks and old pieces of wood and so is the ultimate in recycling.
The secret to making a good bug hotel is in providing a variety of materials and creating gaps of differing sizes to suit the needs of a variety of insects.
The simplest bug hotels provide a dry, sheltered space, in which bedding materials are stuffed. More complicated hotels may be created with a wider variety of materials, stacked together which will draw in the widest range of insects.
Various materials will attract different insects. Decaying wood is likely to attract wood boring bugs and centipedes, whereas bark is perfect for woodlouse and millipedes.
To tempt in beetles pack in plenty of twigs and branches.
Bees and hover flies love hollow stems and spiders will happily make a home in any dry environment.
Ladybirds love to hibernate in hollow stems so don’t clear away those end of season garden trimmings in too much of a hurry.
Learn How to Make a Bug Hotel
If you have any other methods of creating a bug hotel, do let us know and share with fellow gardeners.
Yes, here I am again bashing on about sowing sweet peas in the autumn.
You’ll remember that you get better and more prolific plants that start flowering sooner and last for longer if you sow in the autumn rather than in the spring. No doubt about that. And I usually recommend Rootrainers which give the best root run and the minimum of root disturbance when you plant them out. But they’re not cheap and they’re fiddly to clean.
So, of course, you can use any old pots. A hundred years ago sweet pea growers used clay pots called (because they were taller than other pots for the same width) long toms and in the garden centre you’ll sometimes see clusters of sweet pea seedlings sold in regular 7.5cm or 9cm pots or even in smaller shallower pots.
Until the arrival of Rootrainers many growers sowed five or six seeds in a 12.5cm pot but the fact is that sowing in almost any pot in autumn is better than sowing in spring. And this applies not only to the Spencer varieties but also to the old Grandifloras and the modern shorter types such as the lovely ‘Solway Blue Vein’ (below).
What’s important is to wash your pots well, you might like to add a little disinfectant but be sure to rinse thoroughly – and use fresh seed sowing compost. I tend to mix some perlite with my seed compost to improve the drainage, important during the winter months, and be sure not to firm it; just tap the pot on the ground or on the workbench to settle the compost.
Five or six seeds can go 2-3cm deep round the edge of a 12.5cm pot, spaced out evenly about 2cm from the edge; three can go in a 7.5cm or 9cm pot, or if you prefer to give each plenty of space, sow just one seed in each 7.5cm pot. Stand them in a cold frame or in a sheltered place outside. And most important: protect them from mice.