Help Mr Fothergill’s fundraise for charity

September 6th, 2017 | News | 0 Comments

At Mr Fothergill’s we like to support as many charities as we can – so far we’ve raised over £150,000. Over the last few years, we’ve supported and fundraised for the Royal Hospital Chelsea Appeal, Greenfingers Charity, and RSPB – among others!

For these charities, in particular, we’ve have been selling sweet peas, seeds or fundraising through events. If you’ve contributed to any of these, then thank you – all of these charities need help and we are grateful to have given them the chance to assist their causes further.

We’ve recently completed a 20 mile walk, that some of our team took part in to raise money for the Greenfingers Charity. You can find out more about our walk here. In addition to this walk, we’ve set up a page for each of the charities that we support – so if you’d like to help with our fundraising efforts, you can find each of the pages below.

 

 

 

If you’re going to donate your hard earned money to a charity, it’s important that you know what your generous donations are going towards. Each of these charities supports very different causes and all of them important.

Greenfingers Charity

Greenfingers Charity is dedicated to supporting the children who use hospices around the UK, along with their families, by creating beautiful, well-designed outdoor spaces for children to enjoy with family, friends and siblings, whether through play and fun, or therapeutic rest and relaxation.  To date, Greenfingers Charity has created 51 inspiring gardens and outdoor spaces in hospices around the country and has a further waiting list of hospices that need our help now.

RSPB

RSPB are the largest nature conservation charity in the country, consistently delivering successful conservation, forging powerful new partnerships with other organisations and inspiring others to stand up and give nature the home it deserves.

Royal Chelsea Appeal Limited

The Chelsea Pensioners are the iconic faces of the UK’s veteran community. They reside at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, their 325-year-old home founded by Charles II, in the heart of London.

Thank you in advance for all the support you’ve given us and these charities over the years, we hope we can continue to help them through the sale of our seeds and fundraising. 

 

 

Nasturtium lessons

October 11th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Nasturtium 'Bloody Mary'

This year has been the Year of The Nasturtium! We’ve had marigolds and sunflowers and cosmos, most annuals are going to get a turn, and next year it’s rudbeckia. But we learned something important from growing nasturtiums this year.

Well, I say we learned something… It’s more that we were reminded of two things that we knew all along: pests can destroy the display and the leaves tend to hide the flowers.

The best nasturtiums I ever grew were in pots, long ago, when we could buy an insecticide to mix into the compost and which was taken up by the roots. I never saw a blackfly or a caterpillar on my nasturtiums all summer. Now, like so many effective but harmful sprays, it’s no longer available – and quite right too. Organic treatments can be very effective, but you have to keep at it.

Also, at both the Mr F trials and at the display at the RHS Garden at Hyde Hall, the leaves overwhelmed the flowers. This happens when the stalks on the leaves grow longer than the stalks on the flowers, so the leaves are held higher.

In general, modern varieties tend to have shorter leaf stalks than older varieties so the flowers are more likely to be prominent. But the key is to avoid overfeeding, or any feeding at all! Never use Miracle-Gro or other general plant foods as it encourages too much growth. Next year I’m going to try old, exhausted potting compost without any nutrients and, if I feed my nasturtiums at all, I’m going to use tomato food which doesn’t encourage leafy growth.

Varieties? Try this year’s newcomer, ‘Bloody Mary’ (above), and any of the Tip Top Series – they all tend to hold the flowers above the leaves.

End of Summer Finale for Mr Fothergill’s Staff Competitions

October 9th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Every year, our trials team organises gardening-related challenges to Mr Fothergill’s employees. This summer, volunteers could grow a children’s garden or the largest onion. Teams designing the gardens used their creative skills and came up with lots of great ideas that were then judged at our annual Press Day by visiting journalists.

Competition was stiff and closely matched, so much so that we ended up with joint 2 winners and 5 more competitors drawing in 3rd place! Congratulations to Garden 8 (Mr F Minion’s Garden) & Garden 9 (Mr McGregor’s Garden) for taking home joint first place.

Garden 8, Mr F Minions Garden. A small garden including crafty and colourful homemade decorations made from pots, buckets and other garden materials, set on a raised display draped with hessian fabricGarden 9, Mr McGregor's Garden. A small garden featuring a round wooden sign that reads "Mr McGregors WELCOME", colourful flowers and Peter Rabbit references, including a Peter Rabbit stone statuette and photocopied pages from a Peter Rabbit book.

The largest onion competition also had its keen participants. 25 people competed with each other with good-natured banter and secret growing methods employed.

In the end, the heaviest onion was grown by Paul, our Head of Mail Order with a weight of 1.54kg. Finance Director Phil gained 2nd whose onion was 1.38kg in weight, Aga and Rob from our Sales Office were just behind him with 1.34kg.

The 4 winners of the Mr F staff growing onion competition, stood in a row holding their prize onions and smiling.

Everyone grew Mr Fothergill’s Exhibition Onion but could use any fertiliser they wanted. Many went for Seasol, others tried chicken manure or even sheep poo. The winner said: ‘As a first-time onion grower I had no magic formula, so just did a bit of research. I fed my plants weekly with sulphate of ammonia (nitrogen) and every two weeks with a plant tonic.’

Aga and Rob commented: ‘‘From the very first day, we watered our onion every day and made sure we raked the soil around it, to air the soil and allow the water to get down to the roots. From an internet tip from Peter Glazebrook, we used a sulphate of ammonia growth booster which was a good source of nitrogen, which encouraged leafy growth. The more leaves the larger the onion should grow. We used Seasol every time we watered.’’

Mr Fothergill’s has a wide range of easy to grow varieties for children. Exhibition Onion is ideal for shows and cooking alike. Our seed is available from Mr Fothergill’s retail stockists throughout the UK, from our latest Seed Catalogue or online. Visit your local garden centre for the full range or head over to www.mr-fothergills.co.uk.

4 Super Hardy Salad Leaves to Grow in Winter

October 8th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

4 Super Hardy Salad Leaves to Grow in Winter. Lamb's lettuce, or corn salad, growing in rows in soil.

Salads may be the epitome of sunny summer days, but there’s a lesser-known band of salad leaves full of interesting flavours and textures that will faithfully offer fresh pickings for winter. Able to withstand frost and standing firm through the grim weather, they are hardy souls most definitely worth growing. Read on or watch the video to discover four of the very best super-hardy winter salad leaves.

Why Grow Winter Salad Leaves?

Fresh leaves in the depths of winter are a real treat. While they won’t give masses of pickings, what they do produce is truly appreciated. Then as the weather warms up in spring, harvests come thick and fast – at a time when there’s very little else to pick.

Sow winter salad leaves in late summer or early autumn so they go into winter at just the right size – big enough to survive the chill but not so big that lush growth is clobbered by hard frosts.

Most winter salad leaves can grow outside in mild or temperate climates, but you’ll get more leaves if you can offer some protection from the weather, for example by using a hoop house or by growing salads in a greenhouse or tunnel.

What to Grow

Here’s our pick of the hardiest and most reliable winter salads:

1. Mache, aka Lamb’s Lettuce or Corn Salad

Mache, which also goes by the names lamb’s lettuce or corn salad, produces tender leaves with a smooth texture. This is the hardiest salad leaf of our quartet and grows very well outdoors.

2. Land Cress

Land cress, sometimes known as American cress, has rich, dark leaves that taste similar to watercress. It’s one of the quickest winter salad crops, giving leaves to pick as soon as eight weeks from sowing.A close up of winter purslane salad leaves with little white flowers, AKA miner's lettuce or claytonia

3. Claytonia, aka Miner’s Lettuce or Winter Purslane

Claytonia, also called miner’s lettuce or winter purslane, grows soft, succulent leaves and, come spring, tiny white flowers that also make for good eating. Use it in salads or cook it as an alternative to spinach.

4. Watercress

You don’t need running water to grow watercress, so long as you can ensure the soil it’s growing in is consistently damp, which shouldn’t be too difficult in winter! The mildly peppery leaves of watercress make it salad royalty.

Direct Sowing Winter Salads

Winter salad leaves are well suited to sowing direct into ground recently vacated by summer crops. Remove any weeds first, as they might smother your plants, then rake the soil to a fine tilth.

Mark out drills according to the instructions on the seed packet. Depending on what you’re sowing, rows will be spaced between 9-12 inches (22-30cm) apart. Sow the seeds very thinly, then water them. Once they’re up, thin the seedlings in stages until plants are about 6-8 inches (15-20cm) apart within the row.

Sowing Winter Salads into Plug Trays

Winter salad leaves are also prime candidates for starting off in plug trays. At sowing time the ground is often still occupied by summer crops, but sow into plug trays and your salad leaves may be started off away from the vegetable garden, giving earlier crops a chance to finish. Plug trays also reduce the risk of slug damage at the vulnerable seedling stage and produce sturdy young plants able to outcompete weeds.

Fill trays with general-purpose potting soil then firm it in, adding a little more if needed. Firming in the potting soil creates small depressions in each of the plugs, which are ideal for sowing into. Drop about two seeds into each plug. Some seeds like claytonia are tiny, so don’t worry if you end up with more – you can always thin out the seedlings after they’ve germinated to leave just the strongest in each plug.

Once you’re done sowing, cover the seeds with a very thin layer of more potting soil, then label your tray so you don’t forget what you’ve sown – essential if you’re sowing more than one type of plant in a tray! Water the tray with a gentle spray, or place plugs into trays of water to soak it up from below. Remove trays from the water once they’re ready.

Grow the seedlings on until the roots have filled their plugs, when it’s time to plant them. If the ground is still occupied by other crops, you can re-pot into bigger pots or plug trays, buying you another week or two before planting outside.

A close up of watercress salad leaves with drops of water on the leaves, taken from abovePlanting Winter Salads

Set your winter salad leaves out at the recommended spacing. Planting in a block, so plants are the same distance apart in both directions, is perhaps easiest. Allow 7 inches (17cm) both ways for mache, 8 inches (20cm) for claytonia, and 9 inches (22cm) for land cress and watercress. Dig holes into prepared soil, enriched with organic matter such as compost if it’s likely to have needed a boost after summer, then pop the young plants in. Fill the soil back around them, firm in and water.

Wonderful Watercress

Watercress may be grown like any other winter salad, but a handy alternative is to sow the tiny seeds into containers of potting soil.

Scatter seeds thinly across the surface, then cover with a very fine layer of more potting soil. Containers must be kept moist at all times or the seedlings will quickly die. Once stems have reached about 4in (10cm) high, you an begin harvesting either individual leaves or clusters of stems.

Caring for Winter Salads

Weeds and slugs are the enemies of winter salads – keep on top of both. Slug traps filled with beer to attract them work to a point, but keeping growing areas clear of weeds and debris, while planting at the correct spacing, should do a lot to deter slugs.

How to Harvest Winter Salads

Harvest leaves once plants have formed mounded clumps. Cut stems with a sharp knife, taking care to leave the lowest leaves and those towards the centre untouched so they can continue to grow. As growth picks up in spring, so do the harvests and how much you can remove from plants on each occasion.

By mid-spring plants will be flowering. Young flower stalks may be eaten but in time they will become tough. At this point it’s time to dig up and remove winter salad crops to make way for your summer staples.

If you thought winter meant time to retire the vegetable garden till spring, think again. Winter salad leaves will keep the fresh pickings coming. Are you growing some of these sensational salad crops this winter? What are you growing and how? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

New ways with calendulas

October 4th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Calendula 'Porcupine Yellow' (left') and 'Playtime'

Calendulas often feature here. And not just because I like them so much. There’s a quiet but continuing strand of development in calendulas that stretches from Oregon to Holland and to Norfolk and Cambridge and has given us an increasing range of flowers in some lovely, and unexpected colours.

They range from short bushy little plants for edging, and more especially containers, to taller types for borders and cutting. Perennial varieties raised from cuttings have also made a stir recently.

But perhaps the most striking feature of modern calendulas is the range of flowers forms and flower colours that is available compared with traditional types. They now come with single flowers, double flowers, anemone centred flowers, flowers with the fluted petals rolled into tubes and various combinations.

In colour they range from the traditional bright orange shades through to primrose yellow plus an increasing range of peachy tones. Dark colouring on the backs of the petals creates a whole new look and when the young petals are still rolled inwards in the centre provide a dramatic dark eye.

Two new calendulas have arrived this season. I’ve already sown mine and they’re up and thriving but even now its worth sowing.

‘Porcupine Yellow’ is like a yellow version of the old 1930s orange-flowered favourite ‘Radio’. Its mass of quilled petals are a lovely bright but soft yellow. And while ‘Porcupine Yellow’ harks back to the past, ‘Playtime’ is a carefully blended mix of the latest colours with single, semi-double and fully double flowers and includes some of the prettiest shades.

Sow now or sow in March, March sowings will germinate more promptly if sown under cloches or in a cold greenhouse – but we’ll get to that in the spring.

October Gardening Advice

October 1st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill's October Gardening Advice 2019

If you listen quietly to your pumpkin patch, you’ll hear the growing whispers of ripening pumpkins, eager to take centre stage on Halloween night. There’s a chill in the air. As nights draw in, and temperatures drop, we need to prepare our gardens and allotments for the cold months ahead. Whether it’s making warming soups from homegrown produce, or planting bulbs for the spring season ahead, this is a busy time. But it’s also a glorious time, as autumn’s palette is awash with rich golds, reds and oranges.

So, raise a cup of homemade soup, and celebrate the harvest season.

In the flower garden

Bedding

It’s fair to say that summer bedding plants have had their moment in the sun. Remove them from your pots, containers or borders and replace with polyanthus and pansies. Give them fresh multi-purpose compose and water in well. However, if you’re leaving your borders bare, then clear the area of weeds, cutback and remove any unwanted debris and mulch the area with a thick bedding of well-rotted manure, compost or bark chippings. This will not only suppress weeds, but add nutrients to your beds.

Hardy annuals

If you’re looking ahead to next spring, then now’s the time to sow hardy annuals. Cosmos, marigolds or cornflowers can either be sown directly into the soil or into seed trays with sieved seed compost. Place in water-filled tubs, and let the trays soak the water up, as watering overhead will disrupt the soil, and spoil the seed. Place carefully in a warmed greenhouse, and keep an eye on them throughout winter. You can also sow sweet peas in pots, and let them grow on in the greenhouse.

Tender plants Protect tender plants with fleece in the winter months

As temperatures begin to drop, you need to bring think about winter protection for your tender plants. Cannas are not made for colder weather, so find a spot in your greenhouse or shed, where it’s light and frost-free. Cut away dead flowers or leaves to help prevent rot. For further protection, wrap them in fleece. Check plants regularly.

Bulbs

Now’s the time to plant tulip, daffodil and crocus bulbs. Whether they’re going into pots, containers or the ground, the golden rule is plant them to the depth of three times their height. Ensure the soil is well drained, as sitting in water over winter will increase their chances of rotting, so consider adding grit for drainage.

If you’re planting in pots, you may want to think about using the ‘lasagne’ method. This is when you take different flower types and layer them one above the other. For example, first to flower would be snowdrops, so they would sit at the top of your ‘lasagne’. The next layer would be crocuses, and so on, until finally, tulips. It’s a great way to get the most from one pot or container, giving you continuous colour throughout the spring.

Dahlias

Unless you live in the south of the UK where winter temperatures are more forgiving, now’s the time to lift your dahlias as a harsh frost could put an end to any further blooms. Once lifted, foliage should be cut back to a few cms above the tuber, turned upside down and left to drain for a few days. Once dried, these can be placed somewhere cool, dark and frost free. Ideally, place them in paper, or straw, in a box, and check on them every so often to make sure they haven’t rotted.

Roses

Once your rambling and climbing roses have finished flowering, give them a prune. Then tie them in, to prevent any damage over the coming winter months. Remove all foliage from site, if your rose has had black spot, then it can fester in any foliage not collected, and re-appear next year.

Fallen leaves

A garden rake and a pile of fallen autumn leaves on a lawnAs the leaves begin to fall, it’s important you keep on top of them and rake them clear from your lawn. Any build-up can harbour pests, stop light getting to your lawn, and create a ‘browning off’ effect. It’s especially important to keep paths and patios leaf-free as with a layer of frost, it can be easy to slip and hurt yourself. If you’re not adding leaves to your compost heap, think about creating a wired pen. Leave them to rot down for six to twelve months and you’ll have free leaf mould which is great for mulching plants. If space is an issue, use bin liners which can be tucked away in small spaces. Make sure you create several small holes in the bags, however, or your leaves will quickly become a bag of badly-smelling slush.

Perennials

Leaving perennials untouched over winter not only adds structure to your garden, but it gives a well needed food supply to your garden wildlife. If you decide to cutback, then take it to the base of the plant. If they’re summer flowering perennials, consider dividing and re-planting, to increase next year’s summer blooms. Plant in well, water and give the plant a heavy mulch to protect it from the colder weather. Don’t cover the stems as this will cause the plant to rot.

On the veg patch

Pumpkins

Pumpkins and squashes should now be lifted. To ensure they last throughout the winter months, leave them in the sun for several days to harden their skins. After that, place somewhere cool.

Apples and Pears

This will be the final opportunity to harvest the last of your tree fruit, such as apples and pears. What isn’t going to be used straight away, can be stored. Ideally use slatted shelves or boxes, and place the fruit carefully on them. Check that each fruit is not bruised or damaged, and try not to let it rest on another fruit. Place in a frost-free, dark, but well-ventilated cool room. Check regularly, and remove any fruit that has spoiled.

Rhubarb

Now’s the time to lift and divide rhubarb crowns. Using a sharp spade, divide the crown, ensuring each section contains at least one growing point. Re-plant in well drained, fertile soil, ensuring each crown is well spaced.

Beans

With your bean plants spent, don’t be too keen to remove them from your bed. Instead, cut the plant to the base and remove the foliage. The roots produce nitrogen as they breakdown which will invigorate your bed for next season.

If you have a veg bed already ear-marked for next year’s beans, dig a trench. Over the coming months, layer it with kitchen waste or manure.

Garlic

A gloves hand planting garlic bulbs into some soilGarlic needs a good cold period to help develop its cloves. Don’t be tempted to use bulbs from a supermarket as they may harbour disease. Instead, buy them from a garden centre or online supplier.

In well-drained, fertile soil, place the individual cloves at 20cm apart, in rows 30cms apart. The cloves tips should be all you see of the garlic. You may want to cover over with either a fleece or netting, to stop birds from pulling them up.

Herbs

Herbs, such as basil, parsley and coriander are not frost hardy. Therefore, pot them up and bring them inside, keeping them on a well-lit windowsill.

Greenhouse

If you’re hoping to use your greenhouse over the colder months, but an electric heater is not an option, then consider insulating it with bubble wrap. As the days get colder, make sure doors and vents are kept closed and any damaged panels are quickly repaired.

Soil

If you’re leaving vegetable beds empty over winter, turn the soil. This will not only get air into the soil, but will expose hiding pests. You can also add a thick layer of well-rotted manure, or compost. Over winter, the worms and weather will help break it down, and integrate it into your bed.

Other Jobs

A selection of carved Halloween pumpkins on a table

  • If you’ve had houseplants outside, now’s the time to bring them back inside. Ideally, let them slowly acclimatise to the indoor heat, otherwise, the shock may damage them. Keep them away from direct heat sources, and place them in a draught free area which is cool but with good light.
  • Give nature a helping hand. Fill your bird feeders and hang fat balls. With cold days ahead, your garden birds will need all the help they can get.
  • If you have a pond, place a ball on the surface. This will keep the water moving, prevent ice forming and ensure any fish can still get oxygen.
  • As this is the month of Halloween, it’s time to carve your pumpkins! This is a great opportunity to get children involved with the allotment or growing patch. Not only will they have seen the pumpkin grow from seed, but they’ll get to harvest and enjoy it. Make sure you don’t waste the flesh; pumpkins make tasty autumn soups and risottos!