Archive for the ‘Garden Diaries’ Category

An update from our Incredible Edible friends in Ilfracombe

July 14th, 2015 | Garden Diaries | 0 Comments

Snack time at Kid's ClubDuring the past couple of months, the Incredible Edible Kid’s Club in Ilfracombe, Devon has been proving popular with parents, carers and children alike.   Snack time is rapidly being supplemented with pickings from early radishes, chives, spicy salad leaves and carrots.

The Kid’s Club runs on a large site that was uncultivated when the Kid’s Club moved in earlier in the year.   The group are successfully but slowly taming it bit by bit, and as summer hits its stride and plants are cropping, the focus now is on what can be sown to see the plot through the winter months.


Tomato trials in the polytunnel

Carrying on from last year’s Nation of Gardeners Project with Mr Fothergills where organiser Lindsay learned a lot about growing tomatoes under various conditions, she has led the group in planting up half of of the polytunnel with a range of varieties of tomato.

Tomatoes growing in the polytunnel

Roma plum tomatoes have been planted for making sauces, tomatoes Ferline, Sakura and Sungold varieties, which were favourites from last year’s Nation of Gardeners project were also planted alongside Red Bodyguard, Sunlemon and Sunchocola that are being grown as part of this year’s trials. to test these varieties that will become available as seeds in the 2016 growing season.

Lindsay, who is co-ordinating these fabulous growing efforts commented, “Growing undercover is all new to me, vague childhood memories of family holidays in Guernsey visiting the greenhouses sprung to mind and off I researched growing techniques. Tying string from the polytunnel frame and placing underneath each seedling as it was planted into the raised beds has provided a strong enough line to train the cordons around as they grow. Come early June we spied our first of the green tomatoes and mid July we are now starting to see the first ripe tomatoes.”

Alongside the tomatoes, the group have also sown marigolds to encourage the pollinators inside, and spicy salad  and basil have also been sown as a complimentary catch crop.


Charlotte potatoes in tyre plantersPotatoes – Ground versus tyre planters

Back in rainy February the group planted Mr Fothergill’s Charlotte potatoes with the children; choosing to plant both directly into the soil and into tyre planters to see what the difference in these two techniques would be.

Within 12 weeks, the soil planters are now flowering, and the planters are already half harvested!   This shows that the tyre planting works like a raised bed or patio planter by warming the plants up and getting them to crop a little earlier.  It’s also a great way to recycle tyres that will last in the plot for many years to come.


Permanent Plantings

Young asparagus growing in raised bedsAwaiting a permanent home to be built, the Artichoke Green Globe were left to sit it out in the potting shed until late June, when they moved into their new des-res.  They are now nicely established and will reward the group with their precious crops in the seasons to come.

The group also wanted to grow Asparagus and test out the differences between growing from a crown versus seed.  Asparagus Ariane was selected from the Mr Fothergill’s seed range, as can be seen in the picture here.   Obviously, there will be no pickings from the asparagus for two years from the crowns, and three from the seed, but in future years cropping will begin and we will be able to see how the two compared.


Currently harvesting

Having inherited a potting shed of seedlings of which the varieties were unknown the group are now reaping surprise rewards of the most amazing fennel bulbs.  These have been cut just above the soil line, and now a second cropping is coming along.   With plenty of leeks, beetroot, chard, garlic and onions the group shall soon be harvesting and storing these for future use.  Aguadulce Broad Beans were directly sown into the raised bed in February, and these are now ready for picking.

Lindsay says, “My personal favourite is the Kale bolshoi which has provided us with a lovely bitter green veg and I am quite partial to eating this raw whilst watering the plot.”


Mr Fothergill’s have supplied the Incredible Edible pre-school garden club in Ilfracombe with all the seeds they need to produce a really productive school garden this year.  The Incredible Edible pre-school gardening blog posts are written by parent Lindsay Derbyshire who also co-ordinates Incredible Edible Ilfracombe.  Find out more about Incredible Edible on their Facebook page 

St Joseph’s High School’s vertical garden blossoms for Horwich in Bloom

July 8th, 2015 | Garden Diaries | 0 Comments

St Joseph’s High School students

These amazing baskets and troughs are being taken care by St Antony’s Support centre which is based at St Joseph’s High School in Horwich.

This centre is a very special place were young people which are maybe suffering with anger, social or friendship issues can visit to take time out and speak with Counsellors Mr Charnley and Miss Philpott.  It’s vitally important to give these young people a place to come and relax, and having the building surrounded by flowers makes it even more special.

Miss Philpott explains more “St Anthony’s is a place to talk openly and relax, we even have a little veg plot were we grow vegetables to make into soup to sell, raising money for charity.  The Young people who come here are really great and help out painting and watering the plants.”

Everyone relaxes better in a haven of plants and flowers and this school is harnessing the power of the world around them to help their young people.  They were over the moon with the donation of seeds from Mr Fothergills and the baskets and troughs from Horwich in Bloom. The Young People and the staff have worked so hard to create a wonderfully beautiful centre the school must be incredibly proud of their achievements.

Pictured are St Joseph’s High School students Camryn, Anna and Shannon 

Mr Fothergill’s have supplied St Joseph’s High School with all the seeds they need to produce a really beautiful school garden this year as part of Horwich in Bloom.  The blog posts are written by Vicki Robinson, who writes for the Bury Times and the Bolton News and is involved in Horwich In Bloom for 2015.

What to do in the garden in July

July 1st, 2015 | Garden Diaries | 0 Comments

It’s supposed to be summer, but we have not seen much evidence of it yet!  A few warm, sunny days here and there during June, but far too many overcast and indifferent ones.  And another moan – a little more rain would have been handy to give all the newly planted flowers and vegetables on the trial ground a better start.  Let’s hope July brings some real summer weather for us all.  All we want are warm, sunny days and a steady two hours of rain every night while we sleep – not much to ask, is it?


Jobs in the flower garden in July

Sweet peas from Mr Fothergill'sSweet peas  should be in full bloom through July, especially if you keep cutting the blooms daily for bringing into the house.  Just half a dozen freshly picked stems will fill a room with their perfume – there is no better scent of summer in our view.  A certain television gardener still says most modern sweet peas have little or no scent, but please do not believe everything you hear on TV!  Most recently bred sweet peas have as much fragrance as those bred 50 or 100 years ago.

We know we have mentioned this before, but please remember we are holding our annual national sweet pea competition again at Capel Manor College, north London, on Saturday, 18 July.   It is open solely to ‘ordinary’ gardeners, plus classes for schools and individual youngsters.  There are big money prizes up for grabs, so growing sweet peas can be rewarding in more ways than one!  If you cannot make it to Capel Manor, we have a great way of making sure blooms reach us safely by post – all it takes is a two-litre soft drink bottle!  Full details of how to do it are on our website.

Dahlias from Mr Fothergill'Dahlias will now be getting into their stride, so remember to keep them well watered in dry spells.  When the soil is wet, a mulch with well-rotted organic matter will do them a power of good, keeping the moisture at their roots and helping to suppress weeds.  If you want larger, but fewer dahlia blooms, carefully remove the side-shoots.  A fortnightly feed with a high-potassium food is beneficial to both dahlias and cannas.

Dead-head summer bedding plants such as  French and African marigolds and petunias regularly.  As the petals die they tend to stick to new buds, which encourages the formation of grey mould.  Dead-heading also makes your displays look more attractive, of course.

Ratchet pruner from Mr Fothergill'sRoses are often in need of a feed at this time of year.  Choose a granular rose fertiliser for best results or, failing that, a good quality general fertiliser.  Roses too will benefit from regular dead-heading; this can usually be done by snapping off the spent bloom and seedpod between your thumb and first finger. Mildew can be a problem for roses in warm, dry spells.  As soon as you see the tell-tale white powdering coating on foliage, saray with a systemic fungicide.


Jobs in the vegetable garden in July

Squash seeds from Mr Fothergill'sCourgettes, marrow, squashes and pumpkins are all thirsty vegetables, so water the plants liberally in dry spells.  Keep cutting courgettes with a sharp knife when they are 4-6in long, but we bet you always miss one or two and notice them a few days later when they are well on the way to becoming marrows!  Use courgettes as soon as possible after harvesting – and don’t forget the flowers can be dipped in batter and deep-fried or stuffed with a favourite filling.

If conditions turn warm and damp, look out for blight on both potatoes and tomatoes.  It may be worth looking at to see if conditions in your area are likely to be favourable for blight.  This site is actually aimed at commercial growers, but gardeners can benefit from it too.

The only preventative spray still available is Bayer Fruit and Vegetable Disease Control, and we believe the company is not producing this at present.  When blight attacks you will see large brown spots on foliage, which spread and kill the plant.

If you have not already done so, there is still time to thin eating apples.  It may seem wasteful, but leave just one or two fruits to form every 4-6in.  It will mean bigger apples in a few weeks’ time.

Aubergines need all the help they can get if they are to produce a worthwhile crop in our all-too-brief summers.  Although the plants are naturally bushy, it is a good idea to pinch out the growing tips when they reach 12-15in high.  This should encourage more side-shoots to develop.  Regular high-potash feeds and plentiful watering should help each plant to yield five or more fruits.

Onions from Mr Fothergill'sAs onions continue to swell and ripen, carefully weed round them, taking great care not to damage the bulbs, as this will prevent them from storing and let in disease.  Onions benefit from regular hoeing to reduce the competition from weeds, and a good watering will also be beneficial.

Tomatoes  in the greenhouse should be going great guns, producing masses of foliage as well as fruit.  It is a good idea to remove plenty of the lower foliage, cutting through the leaf stalks close to the main stem.  This lets more light into the plants, promotes fruit development and ripening, and it also makes side-shoots easier to spot and to remove.  Continue the part-defoliation as the plants become higher, but never remove all the foliage.  Dampening the greenhouse floor daily creates the humid atmosphere in which the plants thrive.


Jobs on the lawn in July

A light dressing of fertiliser is worth applying, especially if growth seems weak or thin, but ensure NPK levels are fairly low.  Rose feed is often good for this purpose.  Aeration is also beneficial during July, and can be done by pricking the lawn’s surface with a fork.  Both the grass itself and the microbes in the soil will be in need of oxygen.

Meet the enthusiastic, and very young, Lord Street Primary School Gardeners!

June 25th, 2015 | Garden Diaries | 0 Comments

Lord Street Primary School Gardeners


These have to be the youngest school gardeners we’ve had the pleasure to meet.  Introducing Mrs Maxwell’s nursery class, these mini gardeners are only 3 years old!  They all attend Lord Street Primary School in Horwich.

Mrs Maxwell and Joe their trusty gardener have worked so hard to put their wall baskets and troughs together which were donated by Horwich in Bloom and were so thankful to Mr Fothergills for their huge bundle of seeds.  Mrs Maxwell said, “It’s been amazing to watch the children learning to sow, water and care for them, thank you so much Mr Fothergills!”

If you think about it, sometimes handling tiny seeds is tough enough for full sized gardeners, let alone those who are only 3 years old. But that’s the thing about gardening with children. They are learning so much in one lesson.  Things like hand-eye coordination and how to hold something carefully and gently are little life lessons which are so important to youngsters. Then at the end of it they watch nature unfurl in front of their eyes like magic!

Mrs Maxwell commented, “One of our boys asks every morning when he arrives if he can water the plants!  So it just shows you how getting our children gardening early teaches them how to care for another living thing.”

Let’s hope these mini-gardeners carry on enjoying nature and the world around them and good luck for Horwich in Bloom!


Mr Fothergill’s have supplied Lord Street Primary School with all the seeds they need to produce a really beautiful school garden this year as part of Horwich in Bloom.  The blog posts are written by Vicki Robinson, who writes for the Bury Times and the Bolton News and is involved in Horwich In Bloom for 2015.

Chorley New Road Primary School Gardening Club is borne out of a love of knitting!

June 24th, 2015 | Garden Diaries | 0 Comments

Chorley New Road Primary School Gardening Club

This gardening club at Chorley New Road Primary School started off as a knitting club who then swapped needles for trowels and set to work making a whole new front garden for the school.  Every Tuesday they now meet up to do a spot of weeding and planting, and these kids certainly know what they are doing!

We asked them if they had some advice for us grown ups to which they replied, “don’t forget to water”, which I’m sure you’ll agree is something we are all guilty of from time to time.

Miss Burrows the Headteacher was beaming with pride and thanks for the kind donation of seeds from Mr Fothergills and the Hanging Baskets and Troughs from Horwich in Bloom.  “The Kids have worked so hard, they are even working on making the school badge in flowers with a little bird house to represent our clock tower, I’m really proud of them and with thanks to Mr Fothergills, I’m sure we will win Horwich in Bloom 2015, we are going to win everything!” It was so great to hear the enthusiasm from not only the children but all the staff too.

It hasn’t been a bed of roses though.  Perils of young seedlings being accidentally trampled by the nursery children were a hot topic, the memory of this disaster still fresh in the young gardeners’ minds.  Gardening in schools isn’t easy but when you have a fab team of keen gardeners like these, the teachers can definitely sit back and smell the roses!

Mr Fothergill’s have supplied Chorley New Road Primary School with all the seeds they need to produce a really beautiful school garden this year as part of Horwich in Bloom.  The blog posts are written by Vicki Robinson, who writes for the Bury Times and the Bolton News and is involved in Horwich In Bloom for 2015.

Chorley New Road Primary School Gardening Club members pictured: Tanith Lewis, Sophie Garrity, Emily Leake, Katrina Bremners, Serafim Johnson, Sasha Harwood and Head Teacher Miss Burrows.