Archive for the ‘News’ Category

What Happened In May At The Mr Fothergill’s Trial Ground

May 26th, 2017 | News, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Hard to believe it’s almost June already, time does seem to fly at this time of the year!  Frosts should be at an end now so there’ll be nothing holding us back from filling the trial field with all the more tender young plants from the polytunnel.

Over the last few weeks we’ve finalised the planting plan and we now have a much clearer idea of what will be going where and how much space we’ll have for each trial which helps with putting together the list of items to include.  It’s still a bit flexible of course as things can change on a day to day basis and the plan will continue to evolve as we get through the next month.

One important job completed over the last week was to put together the tubs and troughs to decorate our stand at the Chelsea Flower Show.  It was great to see them go off.

Trial Ground – Carrots

The first signs of green growth are now appearing everywhere out on the trial field, the carrots and parsnips we sowed in April are well up, helped by the first decent rains we had for weeks – 13.8 mm on one day last week certainly broke the dry spell we had all through April.  The sweet peas too are now showing themselves and we’re checking daily to see if there are any lines that need a re-sow.

Trial Ground – Hardy Annuals

The direct sown annuals were sown a couple of weeks ago, with the ground so dry we had to water for a couple of days prior to the sowing date to give them a good start, but we were saved further watering by the perfectly timed onset of the rains.  Just occasionally it seems that nature is on our side!  The green shoots of many lines are already poking up through the soil and with the warm weather predicted this week we’ll expect them to romp away from now on.

Brian always delays the sowing of some species of hardy annual, the eschscholzias and calendulas in particular, as they are so fast growing that they would be past their best by our big open day in August so they are due to go in over the next couple of weeks.

We’ve now planted out the exhibition onions that were started indoors earlier in the year, they need some of our best land to make sure we see the biggest and best bulbs later in the summer.  They’re sharing a patch with a trial of Alstroemeria plants which we’re reviewing for future introduction.  Some of these plants are already showing buds so we’re looking forward to a great show over the summer.

Plants sown indoors for the half hardy annual and first year flowering trials have now been moved outside onto the mypex covered area.  Brian has kept some fleece on hand just in case we get late frosts, it would be a disaster if we were caught out by a cold snap at this point with over 500 trays of young plants at stake!

Trial Ground – Polytunnel

The polytunnel is now in full production, sunflowers, sweet corn and annual climbing flowers are all happily growing away in the protected conditions ready for planting out later.  With the big temperature rises forecast for the end of this week and over the bank holiday we need to get as much as possible outside in the open or they will start to suffer from the excessive heat.

Next it will be time to plant up the hanging baskets, sow the cucumbers and melons and prepare the sugar snap peas, runner and French beans ready for sowing.  We’ll start off the runners indoors but the French beans and sugar snap peas will be sown directly into the ground outside.  The brassicas sown earlier in the month now need pricking out into separate pots.  Unfortunately, the welcome rain also brings the dreaded weeds – they love these conditions as much as our crops – so it’ll be out with the hoes to keep on top of them, especially around the newly germinated rows of carrots, parsnips and direct sown hardy annuals.

RHS join forces with us to launch trusted AGM seed range for 2018

May 16th, 2017 | News | 0 Comments

We are delighted to announce that we have become the preferred partner for licensed seed and seed gifting products for the Royal Horticultural Society. We’ve worked with the RHS to offer a new seed range built on the reputation of the Society’s prestigious Award of Garden Merit which is being offered to trade outlets now.

The RHS has recently won the coveted “Best Licensed Heritage or Institution” section in the 2017 Brand & Lifestyle Awards. Mr Fothergill’s bright new seed range will add further to the strong RHS licensed gardening offer.

We are delighted to announce that we have become the preferred partner for licensed seed and seed gifting products for the RHS.Split into vegetable and flower offerings across a two-stand display, both selections include a balance of top performing modern strains and traditional favourites that have all received the famous Award of Garden Merit. With no cross over with existing lines the range can be treated as a stand-alone display or integrated into a larger offering of Mr Fothergill’s seeds.

Clean and elegant packet fronts carry the widely recognised RHS emblem and the trusted AGM insignia alongside the Mr Fothergill’s logo, creating immediate brand recognition and consumer confidence as soon as the range is displayed in store. Quality plant photography, and soft pastel shades add a premium feel to the range, making it the jewel in the crown of the 2018 seed season launches.

David Carey, Mr Fothergill’s Joint Managing Director, said:

“We are delighted to be working as the preferred seed partner of the RHS. The packaging and display that we have developed together will really lift this range in-store and will perfectly complement our existing offer. We look forward to seeing the Mr Fothergill’s RHS Award of Garden Merit range enter stores in August and we are already working with the RHS to develop exciting product concepts for future release.”

Not only will gardeners be guaranteed excellent performance from the new range, they will also be doing their bit for local wildlife and the charitable work of the RHS. The flower varieties in the collection have, wherever possible, been selected from the RHS Perfect for Pollinators list, maintained by RHS entomologists and beekeepers.

What to do in the garden in May

May 1st, 2017 | News, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Plug plants - MayThings really step up in the garden through May. For much of the country, threat of frosts are gone by the middle of the month, meaning planting for summer can really begin, though the further North you are, the longer you’ll have to have frost protection at the ready – even into Early June for parts of Scotland.

For those without indoor space for early sowings, this is the month to sow outside in earnest – pretty much all hardy annuals and even the half hardy types can be sown outside this month in the warming soil. Those that do make an early start will have windowsills, cold frames and greenhouses brimming with young plant waiting to go outside.

Whether you have flower and vegetable sowings to undertake, young plants to prepare for planting, or are simply looking for some green-fingered inspiration for the month ahead, we’ve got some simple pointers and ideas to get your plants and garden set for summer.

Preparing young plants for the garden
Plants raised under glass or on windowsills will be looking lush and ready to plant through May, but their soft growth is not ready for outdoor conditions. Some acclimatisation is needed for successful establishment out in the garden. Plants should be placed outside by day (unless conditions are really cold, wet and windy) and brought back under cover in the evening over a 10-14 day period, adjusting them to cooler temperatures, lower humidity and increased air movement. This toughening up process is called ‘hardening off. All young plants started from seed or plugs this spring, and any plants overwintered under glass should go through this process. Even plants classed as ‘hardy’ will need this treatment to establish them outside.

Keep new plugs under cover
Any plug plants delivered in late April, and those due to arrive this month, should remain on the windowsill or in the greenhouse until early- to mid-June, giving them time to grow to a suitable size for the garden. Plug plants destined for borders and veg patches can be grown on in small pots or cell trays. Plants for the patio can go directly into their final containers if you have the room for them in the greenhouse.

In the flower garden/on the patio

  • Spring perennials – get a second flush of colour from early flowering perennials such as pulmonaria and doronicum by cutting out flowered stems to encourage strong regrowth. Sadly this doesn’t work on early flowering dicentra – simply cuts plants down as their foliage fades and allow summer varieties to take their place.
  • Move spring flowering violas to shadier parts of the garden for continual displays through summer. Cut back plants by half and offer a feed – they’ll bounce back within two weeks or so for a really strong summer show.
  • Keep on top of seasonal growth on climbers. Tie in new stem growth with wire or twine. New shoots on self-clinging types can be tucked into their support frames to keep the summer display neat and tidy.
  • Cut back trailing spring flowering alyssum and aubrieta as blooms fade, to keep the plants tidy. Use shears to cut back hard, which will encourage a new tight cushion of foliage growth.
  • If fading spring bulbs are in the way of your summer planting plans, lift them once flowers fade. Drop them into pots of compost and allow them to die back naturally before storing in cool, dark conditions for replanting in autumn. If leaving in place, remove spent flowers but allow foliage to die back naturally. You can also apply a dressing of sulphate of potash to build up their energy stores for nest spring’s display.
  • Mulch around mature trees, shrubs and perennials to retain soil moisture.
  • Direct sow hardy annual flowers right through May
  • Direct sow half hardy annuals in the second half of the month. This is particularly useful when it comes to These are a garden favourite but they do not like being transplanted from pots to soil. Far better results (albeit later flowering) will be had by sowing them in situ where roots can grow undisturbed.

What to prune in Mayshutterstock_563939443
The majority of spring flowering shrubs flower on the previous year’s stem growth, cutting them back this month as flowering finishes gives them a full season to put on new shoots that will carry next spring’s flowering display.
No matter the variety, all pruning cuts should be made just above a healthy bud point using clean, sharp secateurs or loppers. A pruning saw may be needed on thicker stems. Once you are happy with the overall size of the shrub, you can get among stem bases to remove older wood, improving air flow and light penetration to the center of the plant.
Common shrubs to prune now:
Daphne odora

shutterstock_338531273PLANTING PROJECT: Create a hanging veg garden on the patio

The warm, sunny locations often reserved for hanging basket displays are ideal places to grow a wide range of fruit and vegetables –simply swap your summer basket flowers for your favourite summer crops.
Many fruit and vegetable plants have pretty flowers so you don’t have to give up on good looks, your edible displays can be as pretty as your floral ones. Don’t forget that many flowering plants have edibles blooms too, so you really can get creative.

What to growSalad leaves, herbs, tomatoes and strawberries are obvious choices for hanging baskets, but there is a surprising range of dwarf vegetable varieties across our whole range that will give great results and easy pickings in baskets.

Tomatoes are the most popular basket vegetable by far, and there is still time to sow seed or pot up some plug plants this month. Look out for bush types, listed as ‘determinate’ varieties – Tumbling Tom, Garden Pearl and Cherry Falls are some of the best for basket use.

Planting by numbers – Tomatoes should be grown one per basket, as should aubergines and cucumbers. Two or three of the smaller pepper and chilli varieties can be grown together, while five is a good number for strawberries. Salads and herbs grown for ‘cut and come again’ use can be planted thickly. You could even plant six or so standard pea or bean plants and let them trail to the floor.

Veg Basket Planting tips:

  • Always use the biggest hanging basket available to you. Small baskets dry out quickly in summer heat and restrict plant growth.
  • Most veg plants will thrive in multipurpose compost, but longer lasting fruit plants like strawberries and blackberries will appreciate a 50:50 mix of multipurpose and soil-based John Innes No.3.
  • It is best to plant hanging baskets by variety for ease of up keep – salads in one, runner beans in another etc., but it is always fun to get creative, so do try mixing things like salad leaves, beet root carrots and nasturtiums together in one display.
  • Crops grown in baskets will need regular watering and feeding to maintain healthy growth. Mix slow release vegetable feed with compost at planting time. Fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, chillies and peppers will need regular liquid feeds through the season for the best yields.

On the veg patchshutterstock_539319679

  • Planting All hardy veg plants raised under glass through spring can be hardened off and planted out this month.
  • Sowing As your first plantings of quick cropping hardy vegetables go out, make your first successional sowing alongside them. It is better to sow your favourite vegetables little and often in short rows or small patches to avoid a glut of produce. Sowing every two weeks or so through to mid July, ensures fresh crops every two weeks or so through summer and into autumn.
  • Plant supports Ensure climbing supports for peas are in place before growth really takes off this month. Supports can also be organised for runner beans and climbing beans ahead of planting in late May or early June.
  • Plant Protection Wild birds are a delight in the flower garden but can become a real nuisance on the veg plot. It’s good to have an array of plant protection equipment ready to hand at the start of the season – it always pays to be proactive rather than reactive.
    Fruit cages and tunnel netting are the best options for keeping hungry pigeons off your brassicas and blackbirds off your strawberries and raspberries, but if looks or cost are an issue you might want to try these prettier, cheaper alternatives:
    – Old CDs – hanging reflective CDs in fruit trees is a common bird scaring device but it can also be used elsewhere on the veg patch. Use string or wire to hang them on or between plant supports.
    – Scarecrows – This traditional bird scaring method can be a bit hit and miss, but they are fun to make with the family and add a touch of fun to the plot too. The trick is to add an element of movement to your design. The easiest way to do this is to leave the arms unsupported so they can flap in the wind.
    – Warning colours – red is the colour of danger and will keep many bird species away from crops, but most bright colours and reflective materials should help keep birds at bay. Set lines of string over crop tops and hang with strips of red material or tin foil.

In the greenhouse/ on the windowsill

Sow frost tender summer vegetables under glass this month, ready to plant out in early/mid-June once conditions are right. With hardier plants being moved outside in coming weeks, fill the space with pots and trays of the following vegetable seeds:
French beans
Climbing beans
Runner beans
Final planting for greenhouse crops Early sown tomatoes, chillies, peppers, cucumbers, melons etc. can all be planted into their final pots, grow bags or border positions in the greenhouse. The tomatoes, cucumbers and melons in the Mr Fothergill’s polytunnel are planted into 10litre pots and grown this way to harvest. Chillies and peppers are set into 3 litre pots then set on top of grow bags to root into the compost below. These methods consistently encourage excellent yields and plant vigour.

Sowing flowers You can continue to sow hardy and half hardy annual flowers inside, but to save on maintenance, you may prefer to start sowing outside. This will free up space for early sowing of biennial and perennials for planting out in autumn or next spring.

shutterstock_1503542696 essentials tasks for the greenhouse

Open greenhouse doors and windows each morning. Day temperatures can still fluctuate in May – think about adding automatic openers to roof and louvre windows so they close when temperatures drop too low. Close windows and doors each evening.
Raise Humidity
With good ventilation it is safe to raise humidity around greenhouse plants, helping to keep them cool during the hottest part of the day. Wet all hard surfaces in each morning. The water will evaporate and raise the humidity level around your plants.
Young plants growing under glass can quickly frazzle under direct summer sunshine. This can be prevented with shade paint or shade netting added to the south side of the greenhouse. Newspaper can also be used as a temporary fix.
There should be no need for daytime heating in May, but in case of overnight frosts it is worth keeping an electric heater on its frost guard setting, or setting a paraffin heater in place each evening though to June.
Water Wise
Prevent potted plants drying out during the day by setting them in trays lined with capillary matting. If pot compost dries, water is drawn up from the soggy matting via the pot drainage holes.
Pest Watch
Set sticky yellow traps just above the foliage of greenhouse plants to keep an eye on potential pest problems. As soon as troublesome pests like aphids or whitefly are spotted, action can be taken before a major problem occurs. Have appropriate spay controls ready hand or be ready to order biological controls.

New Gardeners Set to Cause a Buzz on the Mr Fothergill’s Trial Ground

April 10th, 2017 | News | 0 Comments

We have employed 20,000 new workers on flower and vegetable trial ground in readiness for our buzziest summer season yet!

A colony of honey bees is settling into a new home on our trial ground, ready to reap the pollen-rich rewards of over 2,250 flower and vegetable varieties being assessed for garden performance this summer.

Mr Fothergill’s technical manager Alison Mulvaney took on the colony three years ago, when it swarmed on a plum tree in her garden, and has tended to them in a purpose built hive ever since. Last year the colony rewarded her with her first batch of honey, producing more than 40lbs of golden nectar.

With UK bee populations in massive decline, Alison was keen to provide the colony with a safe environment, rich in pollen sources, on which it could thrive, while raising awareness of the importance of these perfect garden pollinators.

New Gardeners Set to Cause a Buzz on the Mr Fothergill’s Trial Ground
The trial ground location in Kentford, Suffolk, is the perfect des-res for the colony queen and her 20,000 plus workers. It is the bee equivalent of having a supermarket on your doorstep.

Foraging honey bees will travel up to 6 miles per day in the search for pollen. The Mr Fothergill’s colony will have everything it needs within meters of the hive. Alison says the queen is already busy laying eggs to increase the size of the colony ready for the summer season.

On site for the past week or so, workers bees have been busy orientating themselves to the new location and have settled in well. The colony has already made the most of spring blossom, with Mr Fothergill’s staff noticing worker bees bringing back lots of pollen of various colours. They really will be spoilt for choice when the trial ground starts to colour up as summer approaches.

Bees have arrived at the Mr Fothergill's headquarters in KentfordAlison said: “Now that the bees have a new home, we will be setting up a staff bee group to help look after the hive. It is a fascinating and rewarding hobby, and we are not going to be short of volunteers. Staff are looking forward to learning more about them.” Alison continued by saying: “It isn’t just about helping to support a threatened species, our bees will have a practical role to play too. Having them on site will be really useful in helping us pollinate the hundreds of peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers and squash we grow each year.”

Home gardeners can help bees by growing a wide range of flowers, ideally that bloom at different times in the season. Look out for the RHS perfect for pollinators logo on the front of Mr Fothergill’s seed packets that indicates good varieties for bees.

Mr Fothergill’s is urging any gardeners faced with an unwanted beehive or swarm to contact the British Bee Keepers Association to arrange for a swarm collection, rather than a pest control service. Visit to find a swarm collector near you.

Mr Fothergill’s Dutch Travels Reveal a Tasty ‘New’ Lettuce

April 3rd, 2017 | News | 0 Comments

Lettuce Gustav's Salad Seeds Hover to zoom, click to enlarge Lettuce Gustav's Salad Lettuce Gustav's Salad Seeds While Mr Fothergill’s small team of horticulturalists regularly visits the Netherlands on the look-out for possible new introductions to our seed and plant ranges, it is usually brand new varieties that catch their attention. But when they were travelling in the country’s southern islands in recent years, they heard of a butterhead lettuce developed and grown locally which had a lovely flavour and a real ‘melt in the mouth’ texture.

They learned a grower called Gustav used to save seed every year of a small butterhead lettuce, which he would grow on and then sell as fresh salad to the villagers from his bicycle every summer. The variety was known in the area as ‘Sla van Pa’ or ‘Pappy’s Salad’, and Gustav supplied his customers with his fresh lettuces for more than 40 years.

When the team from Mr Fothergill’s got to taste the popular strain, they were left in no doubt they wanted to offer the lettuce, subject to trialling it back in the UK. We grew the variety on our trial ground, where the team was once again impressed by the compact, fairly small heads with a soft texture and good flavour. They then sought permission from the late Gustav’s daughter Petra to produce a seed crop in the Netherlands, to which she agreed.

Mr Fothergill’s is now exclusively offering seed of what it terms Gustav’s Salad, with a packet of 1,000 seeds priced at £1.99. The company reports that Gustav’s family have now been in touch to say they will be growing Gustav’s Salad again in 2017 – from Mr Fothergill’s packets!

Don’t forget to request your copy of the Mr Fothergill’s Spring Planting catalogue.