3 Common Garden Planning Mistakes – How to Avoid Them

February 22nd, 2017 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Avoiding Mistakes - Garden AdviceWhen planning a vegetable garden, there are three common mistakes you can easily make; overcrowding, ignoring nature and planting everything at the same time. In this post we are here to help you avoid all these vegetable gardening mistakes, before it’s too late!

Overcrowding – every now and again, any gardener can succumb to the temptation to try to grow more in the space they have. This could be due to seed packets having generous quantities of seeds, tempting the need to raise more plants than required. To begin with, they may appear to be growing perfectly well, but as plants reach their full size, the problems will start. Each plant’s root system starts to compete with its neighbours’ roots for water and nutrients. These plants will then fail to mature properly, which in turn will end in a disappointing harvest.

How to avoid overcrowding: Using recommended plant spacing is a great first step to overcrowding. You’ll need to calculate how many can fit and how much space they’ll need for strong root growth. If you have poor soil, it’s good to leave a little more space between plants.

Ignoring nature – Pests & aphids will strike on your crops, so it’s best to prepare for this. Forward planning can ensure that Mother Nature is on your side.

How to avoid ‘ignoring nature’: Using companion planting is a great way to help with pests. This will attract beneficial insects; like hoverflies – when pests descend, these natural predators will keep them at bay. Your plants will thank you for this! You can also use netting or protection for your plants to keep certain pests away.

Planting everything at the same time – planting out all your tender crops at once is dangerous, especially if you’re struck by a sudden late frost.

How to avoid ‘planting everything at the same time’: Sow your seeds in small batches every 2 or 3 weeks.

Hopefully, these few tips have helped you in the early stages of your vegetable garden. If you need further advice, the video below has plenty more tips and tricks on planning your veg patch!

GrowVeg – 3 Common Garden Planning Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

3 Common Garden Planning Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Enriched Garden Soil – Supercharge Your Soil This Spring

February 20th, 2017 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Enriched Garden SoilSoil may not give us much to look at but when it comes to growing healthy fruits & vegetables, healthy soil is vital. Top-notch soil is the secret to successful harvests. Time to prime your soil for the growing season and we are here to help!

  • Adding organic matter – organic matter is the gardener’s cure to all, no matter what soil type you have. It will make heavy clay soils lighter & improve drainage. It will also retain both moisture & nutrients in sandy soils. Organic matter is simply decomposed plant or animal matter – garden compost, animal manure or leafmold. It will improve structure and feed the essential microbial life with it.
  • Lay organic mulch – if your soil has crops growing in it, you can spread organic matter as thick as mulch, deep in between plants. The worms will dig in the mulch for you improving the soil for the vegetables that will follow. Organic mulch can improve fertility and soil structure around perennial plants such as fruit trees, bushes and canes.
  • Consider no-dig growing – leaving soil undisturbed encourages a thriving soil ecosystem which can enhance growth. No-dig growing suits narrow beds, like raised beds – all cultivation is completed from the sides. This ensures there is never a need to step on soil and risk compacting it.
  • Go easy on winter weeds – by winter it’s too late to sow a cover crop or green manure, however many overwintering annual weeds will help to protect the soil from erosion and heavy rain. Weeds such as chickweed and bittercress, plus self-sown salads like winter purslane and corn salad will create a mat of foliage.
  • Plant a comfrey patch – get ready for the growing season by planting a clump of comfrey. Comfrey is a leafy plant with long roots that draw up minerals from deep in the ground. The leaves are full of plant-nourishing nutrients which can be cut and used for feeding your soil and plants.

If you’d like to find out more about each of these methods for super enriched garden soil, you can find more information in the video below.

GrowVeg – Enriched Garden Soil: Supercharge Your Soil This Spring

Enriched Garden Soil – Supercharge Your Soil This Spring!

More Annuals That Are Really Perennials: Lobelia, Nasturtium, Nicotiana, Petunia…

February 17th, 2017 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Nicotiana langsdoffiiHere’s a second selection of plants grown as annuals that are really perennials, including two of the most popular in both forms: geraniums (pelargonium) and petunias.

Lobelia
Raising lobelia from seed can be a tricky business, the seeds are tiny and often damp off. But lobelia is a perennial and the best of all trailing lobelias for hanging baskets are propagated from cuttings. The problem is, cuttings-raised lobelias are not cheap and are rarely available. My solution: grow ‘Wonderfall’ seed-raised lobelia, but buy plugs.

Nicotiana
After the very first summer when I grew Nicotiana langsdorffii (above) with its dainty dangling green bells, I cut the plants down in the autumn and left the roots in place – as I thought, to rot. The following spring I was surprised to find that the overwintered roots produced shoots and flowered again. They behaved just like hardy perennials and only require a warm site and fertile but well-drained soil.

Pelargonium (Geranium)
Until the 1960s, zonal pelargoniums (geraniums) were always raised from cuttings – partly because they took so long to flower when raised from seed. But new plant breeding techniques allowed plants to develop that grew much more quickly from seed. Now we have Divas, Maverick and the best seed-raised traditional red geranium ‘Moulin Rouge’.

But development of cuttings-raised geraniums has progressed too and plants in the semi-double Designer Series are exceptionally prolific, more rain resistant and flower for longer. ‘Designer Scarlet’ (below) has been used in the beds outside Buckingham Palace.

Petunia
Since the 1800s, petunias have been raised both from seed and from cuttings but were originally often grown in pots in conservatories to protect their fragile flowers from rain. As with geraniums, more sophisticated plant breeding techniques led to more resilient petunias – seniors will remember ‘Resisto Rose’ (says he showing his age), as the first big step forward in weather tolerance.

Modern cuttings-raised petunias were developed from seed raised types and since then, in the development of both groups, one group has been used to improve the other. Doubles from cuttings, such as the Tumbelina Series, are especially good compared with seed-raised ‘Duo’ and ‘Pirouette’.

Tropaeolum (Nasturtium)
It’s easy to root cuttings of nasturtiums, just put them in a jar on the windowsill and they’ll root, and there are some superb fully double flowered types available as cuttings raised plants. But Mr F doesn’t list them, partly because gardeners think nasturtiums are easy and should be cheap and propagating them from cuttings commercially, and ensuring that they’re disease free, results in plants that are just too expensive. However lovely they are, people don’t buy them.

Geranium Designer Scarlet

Nicotiana langsdorffii close-up ©Magnus Manske licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Thank you.!

Tomato Red Bodyguard F1 remains exclusive after impressive show in Mr Fothergill’s Trial

February 16th, 2017 | News, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Tomato Red Bodyguard F1 “Outstanding in every respect” is how Mr Fothergill’s technical manager Alison Mulvaney describes the company’s British-bred tomato Red Bodyguard F1, as she reveals its exclusivity is being extended for a second season in 2017. “Once again it was trouble-free to grow, and produced a heavy crop of really tasty, succulent beefsteak fruits in our 2016 trial”, she reports. “In addition, several of our team grew it in their own greenhouses at home last year, and were equally impressed as we were by the plants in our trial”.

Tomato Red Bodyguard F1The tomato derives its rather unusual name from a book written about the beneficial properties of the tomato. “The Red Bodyguard: The Amazing Health-promoting Properties of the Tomato” by Ron Levin is published in its third edition by IRIS (International) Ltd. Ron’s daughter-in-law Sarah Levin contacted Mr Fothergill’s to see if a new tomato might be named in honour of her father-on-law’s 90th birthday. The company read Ron’s book and liked the idea.

Tomato Red Bodyguard F1 is the result of various crosses made by renowned breeder Simon Crawford using seed harvested from Mr Fothergill’s trial ground. The result is an indeterminate, early cropping, high yielding, new strain, with some resistance to late blight, which produces medium-sized, juicy, delicious and aromatic fruits.

Ron Levin, a Fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, was intrigued by the World Health Organisation’s promotion of eating portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and wondered whether some were better than others for human health. He read hundreds of studies on tomatoes, and the more he read the more he was convinced of the remarkable properties of the tomato. “The ripe red tomato is surely a health gift from Nature”, says Ron. It was this huge amount of research which spurred him to write “The Red Bodyguard” in the hope of making as many people as possible aware of it.

Tomato Red Bodyguard F1A packet of 10 seeds of tomato Red Bodyguard F1 costs £1.99. It is available from garden centres and other retail outlets throughout the UK, and from Mr Fothergill’s mail order catalogue. Seed can be sown from February to April. The plants require support, the removal of side-shoots, and should be grown in a greenhouse or polytunnel.

Choosing A Good Location For Vegetable Beds [Video]

February 13th, 2017 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Choosing a location for your new vegetable beds

When expanding a vegetable garden, or even building one entirely from scratch, it is vital to ensure that the location for your vegetable beds is chosen carefully. If you just build your beds without consideration to location, you may end up with a failed garden. So, here is a video guiding you through choosing a good location for vegetable beds in your garden.

  • Most vegetables need as much sun as possible, an open site with a south facing aspect with no overshadowing by walls, trees or hedges is perfect.
  • In contrast, there are many vegetables that may need to stay cool in hot climates such as spinach or lettuce that can bolt in hot sunshine. And so if you have shady areas, putting these sort of crops in the shade or under shade cloches will assist in keeping the plants cool.
  • Solid walls and fences can be used to good effect to shelter plants from any turbulent weather your garden may experience.
  • Soil must be moist to enable the plants to thrive… but soil must also be well drained so it doesn’t get water logged.  So, for instance if you live in a new build the quality of the soil may be very poor near to the foundations of your house meaning choosing a location further away from the building will help.
  • Frost pockets are usually collected at the lowest part of the garden.  Avoid planting in these areas as it can reduce the range of plants you can plant there which will remove whole areas of your garden from the crop rotation plan.

These are just a few tips that can assist with locating new vegetable beds, there are plenty of other aspects to consider and these can be found on the video below. Have you got any tips on choosing a good location for vegetable beds? Share them with us and help some new gardeners out!

Choosing A Good Location For Vegetable Beds [Video]