Hellebore season

January 20th, 2017 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Hellebore flowers

It’s hellebore season… I know, the weather has been a bit grim in many parts of the country but if there’s one thing about hellebores – apart from their delightful speckled gorgeousness – it’s that they’re tough. On frosty mornings their stems may be bent right over and the flowers touching the ground – but by midday they’ll be back to normal. They can take it.

But here’s the thing. At this time of year it’s very tempting to cut them and bring them indoors. After all, how much more comfortable to admire them in the house than to get kitted out with a warm coat and a woolly hat to enjoy them outside.

But the thing is, it’s not easy to make them last for more than a few hours in a vase. So here’s a better idea.

First, find your most elegant bowl. A simple glass bowl 20-40cm across is good, or a ceramic bowl you bought at a craft fair, perhaps, or your favourite salad bowl that you won’t be using so much in the winter. Fill it with water to within an inch of its rim.

Next, get that coat and hat on, just this time, and go outside with a plastic kitchen box. Look closely at your hellebores and nip off, with your finger and thumb, or a pair of nail scissors, an individual flower or two from each plant – or all the flowers from one plant, if you like – and put them in the box. Try to choose those flowers that don’t look fluffy around the middle (those where few anthers are shedding pollen). Bring them indoors.

And float the flowers, on their backs, in the water.

You’ll be able to appreciate their subtle colouring, admire the patterns of their colours, and the flowers will last far far longer than if you’d cut the whole stems.

But what got me thinking about hellebores, in fact, was seeing the hellebore seed in the Mr F catalogue. Hellebore seed is fussy, it needs a period of moist warmth followed by cooling temperatures before it will germinate. Cold first, heat later, will give you almost no germination. So order hellebore seed now, by all means, before it sells out. But put it at the back of a kitchen cupboard until June – and sow it then, in pots placed outside.

Louis King appointed to rule London and Kent

January 18th, 2017 | News | 0 Comments

Louis KingEssex-based Louis King has been appointed territory manager for Kent and most of London by Mr Fothergill’s. He comes to us from a similar rôle with Unilever. Prior to this, Louis lived in Sweden for eight years, where he was a semi-professional footballer.

Announcing the appointment, our joint-managing director David Carey said “This is an additional territory manager appointment, bringing us up to 16 in our field teams. We believe we have the largest UK seed-dedicated field-team in the market and our team expansion is in keeping with our belief in being ‘traditional’ seedsmen, and the importance of customer service and seed stand management. This belief has been reflected in several sales successes in recent years”.

Louis King will be introduced to Mr Fothergill’s stockists in the near future. In his leisure time he continues his keen interest in football and gym work.

For more information on our range of seeds you can visit the website here, or to request a catalogue please fill out the form here.

Crop Rotation Made Simple [video]

January 17th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Crop rotation can be a headache for many gardeners, but there is an easy way to master it. This post and the following video can show you how.

Cabbage Advantage F1 Seeds - Crop RotationThe vegetables that we grow can be grouped into several plant families, they often have similar characteristics and suffer from the same pests or diseases. Crop rotation is where we grow vegetables from each major plant family in different areas of each year. There are many reasons for this. Firstly, there are several problematic pests and diseases that can build up in the soil if the plants they affect are grown in the same area each year.

  • Nematodes, such as eelworm can devastate potato crops grown in the same place year after year. They can also affect other vegetables in the same crop family, such as tomatoes.
  • Onion rot is a serious fungal disease that can persist when crops from the Allium group are continuously grown.
  • Cabbage root maggots affect all brassica crops.
  • Fusarium root rot can wreck pea and bean harvests.

These are just a few soil-borne pests and diseases, crop rotation is almost universally recommended to prevent them all. Secondly, different vegetables take different balances of nutrients from the soil and their roots access different levels of the soil structure.

  • Cabbage family plants like a lot of nitrogen, tomatoes need plenty of calcium, beets & beans require manganese.
  • Many salad crops are shallow-rooted.
  • Other vegetables like potatoes and sweet corn have roots that extend deep into the soil, to bring up nutrients from those layers.

Because of this, growing the same vegetable in the same place year after year can lead to nutrient deficiency and poor growth. Some plants, like potatoes, act as a good ‘clearing crop’, meaning their dense foliage helps to suppress weed growth. When they are dug up, birds can eat pests in the soil, such as slugs and wireworm.

  • Squash or leafy greens can be used to suppress weed growth before growing a crop like onions or carrots which are highly susceptible to competition from weeds.

For all these reasons, it’s clear that crop rotation is an essential part of growing annual vegetables well. Just knowing why we should rotate crops, doesn’t make it easy to organise. The video below offers methods of crop rotation and how to keep track of previous crops. If you have any top tips for crop rotation, let us know in the comments below.

GrowVeg – Crop Rotation Made Simple: Rotate Your Vegetable Beds for Healthier Produce

Companion Planting Made Easy [video]

January 17th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Companion planting is when you choose to plant different plants together, so that one plant benefits the other. There are thousands of possibilities but choosing the correct plants can be tricky. GrowVeg has diligently researched companion planting to save you time when selecting the correct companion planting combinations for your garden. Let us guide you through easy companion planting.Lettuce 'Little Gem', an Award of Garden Merit variety. Image ©GardenPhotos.com

  • Many flowering plants attract pest-eating insects. Poached egg plants are great at drawing in hoverflies which control aphids on nearby lettuce.
  • Borage is known to attract both bees and tiny pest-eating wasps, making it a great companion for tomatoes.
  • Crimson clover has been proven to grow well with broccoli, it expanded the local spider population which in turn controlled pests.
  • Particular companion plants, lure insect pests away from crops. Nasturtium is a great example of this, if planted close to broad beans, so that blackfly will gorge on nasturtiums whilst ignoring the beans.
  • Similarly, nasturtium also attracts hungry caterpillars away from brassicas, like cabbage.
  • Other plants have a very strong scent, this confuses pests by masking the smell of the host plant. For example, garlic has been found to deter the green peach aphid. Therefore a perfect companion to vulnerable fruits such a peaches and nectarines.
  • In many instances, plants make suitable companions as they offer physical advantages. Tall growing sunflowers offer shade & support for scrambling cucumbers and climbing beans, which in hotter climates can become sun-stressed.
  • The ‘Three Sisters’ method is an example of physical advantages. This involves growing beans, corn and squash together. The large leaves from the squash help to smother weeds. Whilst the beans and corn return the favour by disorientating squash vine borers. The beans also use the corn as a support to scramble up, while fixing nitrogen at their roots to the benefit of the other sisters.

These are just a few scientifically proven companion planting combinations. The video below offers a few more for you to try. If you have any great combinations, please leave them in the comments below.

GrowVeg – Companion Planting Made Easy

5 Ideas to Help You Start Growing Earlier This Year [video]

January 16th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

 Sweet peas all in a rowAre ready to get gardening even though it feels a little soon?  Well, we are here to help. In this video, you can find some top tips to help you start growing earlier this year.  Growing earlier means cropping earlier and so every little tip and trick will help.

  • Some crops can be sown and grown directly in the ground if they are offered some protection. Late winter is the best time to do this as the soil will be warmer than the depths of winter, and the days are getting longer offering more light.
  • Cold frames can be used to great effect to start off some vegetable crops.  Even though the temperature inside is not balmy, the difference is just enough for a lot of the more hardy crops.  Cold frames also offer protection from snows and wind to overwintered plants too.
  • Cover soil a week or so before sowing your seeds, this will allow the soil to dry and warm up a little before sowing.
  • You can create mini greenhouses from recycled plastic bottles.  Popped over the top of young plants will assist with growth early on when the weather can still be quite sharp.  The video below gives you instructions for creating mini greenhouses – a great way to reduce, reuse and recycle!
  • Other early varieties can be planted into a greenhouse or polytunnel.  Sown in pots, seed trays or cells, young plants will grow slowly and steadily until it is time to plant them out.
  • Some seeds must be grown indoors if they are sown earlier, this allows them to germinate and they can be moved outdoors at a later date.
  • In winter, if plants are being grown indoors you can use grow lights to allow seedlings to get enough light to grow healthily.

These are just a few tips to start growing earlier, there are plenty more in the video below. As always, if you have any more suggestions on how to start growing earlier, do let us know and help your fellow gardeners!

 5 Ideas to Help You Start Growing Earlier This Year

 As noted in the video, onions and shallots are great vegetables to start growing early. You can find our selection of onion and shallots here. Happy early sowing!