Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Growing Beans from Sowing to Harvest

July 3rd, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

If there’s one crop that sums up the sheer joy and plenty of growing your own, it’s the humble bean. Most beans are very quick growing and, once they get going, you can expect week after week (after week!) of tender, tasty pods. We’re going to look at two types of bean: bush beans, and climbing pole types. So let’s get started!

Mr-Fothergills-growing-beans-from-sowing-to-harvestTypes of Beans

Bush beans are very quick growing and may be sown every three or four weeks from spring to give a succession of pickings throughout summer. They’re handy for filling in any gaps and perfect for tubs and window boxes.

Pole or climbing beans need a little more space and some form of support to help them climb, but on the flip side you’ll get many more beans from each plant. They’re a great way to add height to the vegetable garden and can make an attractive feature.

Beans can be further categorized by their pods. Green beans generally have smooth, slender pods. Depending on where you live, you’ll also know them as string beans, snap beans or French beans. Runner beans tend to have slightly coarser pods and continue cropping a few weeks later than string beans. Then there are the beans exclusive to warmer climates including soya beans, lima beans, and the appropriately named yard-long beans!

Grow High Yields of Beans

All beans prefer a sunny spot in well-drained soil that was improved with compost or well-rotted manure the autumn before sowing.

A clever technique to boost growth is to create a compost trench. Dig out a trench about a foot (30cm) deep where your beans are to grow. Fill it up with kitchen scraps and spent crops, top with leaves then cap it off with soil. By spring the ground will be beautifully rich and moisture-retentive, and your beans will thrive in it.

How to Sow Beans

Sow beans where they are to grow, against their supports or, for bush types, four to six inches (10-15cm) apart with 18 inches (45cm) left between each row. Use a hoe to scratch out rows or dig individual planting holes with a trowel. Drop in two seeds per hole, so they fall about an inch (2cm) apart, and are two inches (5cm) deep. Make the first sowing one week before your last expected frost date, then continue sowing every three or four weeks until midsummer. Thin each pair of seedlings to leave the strongest.

Or sow in a greenhouse or cold frame for the earliest start – up to a month before your last frost date. This will also help protect young seedlings from slugs and snails. Use deep plug trays or pots so there’s enough room for the roots, and sow into any general-purpose or seed-starting mix. You can get away with sowing one seed per module or pot; but sow a few extras just in case!

Planting Bush Beans

Beans don’t tolerate frost. Transplant them outside only when you’re sure there’s no chance of a late frost. Harden seedlings off a week beforehand by leaving them outside for a few hours, increasing the time gradually each day. A shaded cold frame is great for acclimatizing plants.

Space bush bean plants at the same distances as used for sowing. Carefully ease them from their plugs or pots, then lay them out where they are to be planted. Use a trowel to dig a hole, drop the plant into place then fill in around it and firm into position.

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Planting and Supporting Pole Beans

Plant pole beans at least six inches (15cm) apart, with rows around two feet (60cm) apart. The traditional way to grow beans is against parallel rows of bamboo canes, joined where they cross at the top to a horizontal cane.

Or try a bean frame. Instead of leaning into each other, the canes lean out and are secured to a rectangular frame at the top. It’s a simple take on the usual ridge-supported setup, and by having the canes leaning away from the center like this the beans hang to the outside, so they’re a lot easier to pick.

But it’s bean teepees that are arguably the prettiest support option. Take the opportunity to create a centerpiece to your garden – a vertical leafy accent brimming with blooms and beans!

Caring for Beans

Seedlings may sometimes need a little encouragement to latch on to their supports, but they’ll quickly find their own way up. Bush types rarely need much support, though top-heavy plants, laden with beans, will appreciate short canes, twigs or peasticks to keep them off the ground.

Keep your beans well watered in dry weather, especially once they begin to flower. Mulching around the base of the plants helps to keep the ground moist for longer, and it gives weeds a tougher time. Any weeds that do peek through should be removed by hand to avoid disturbing the bean plant’s roots.

Pinch out the tops of pole beans once they’ve reached the top of their supports. This prevents them from becoming an ungainly tangled mass, and it concentrates the plants’ efforts into producing more flowers and beans.

How to Harvest Beans for Pods

Once your beans are ready, it’s essential to remember the three Ps: pick, pick…and pick some more! When they’re in full flow beans are almost unstoppable, but only if those precious pods are picked as they appear, while they’re still relatively young and slender. At this point they’ll be nice and tender, but leave them too long and they’ll turn stringy and tough. Stop picking, and production will grind to a halt.

Towards the end of the season it’s worth leaving a few pods of open-pollinated or heirloom varieties to dry out on the plant. Shell the dried pods then bring the beans inside to dry further in an airy location. Store the beans in paper envelopes, labeled with the variety and date, then use them for next year’s crop.

 

These are just a few tips and ideas to help you grow your own beans. If you would like to share any tips on how you grow your beans, then please, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Journal Your Garden Progress to Become a Better Gardener

June 26th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Gardeners never stop learning, and when it comes to gardening, the best education is experience. Keeping a gardening journal is a great way to build up a record of your experience, so you learn from the things that work – and don’t!

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Why Use a Garden Journal?

A gardening journal helps you to keep track of what was sown, planted, tended and harvested during the growing season. It gives you control, so you know exactly what you’ve done and which jobs need doing over the coming days and weeks.

By referring back to previous years you can refine timings and methods to reflect the unique conditions in your garden. Did the carrots you started early last spring struggle? You’ll know to sow them a little later next time. Or perhaps your tomatoes failed to ripen. Then learn from that by choosing a faster-maturing variety in future, or starting your tomatoes earlier.

Use a journal to record any pests and diseases you encounter, and the strategies you used to bring them under control. Note things down, remove the guesswork, and you’ll steadily improve the way you garden.

Many gardeners use a simple week-to-view diary for day-by-day entries, but accurately recording everything you do can quickly get messy. And what if you also want to include visual records? Perhaps you spotted an unusual bug or maybe you’d like to photograph different lettuce varieties to compare appearance for future reference. Taking photos on the go is easy enough, but adding them to your diary isn’t exactly straightforward.

 

Introducing the Garden Journal

Since launching the powerful Garden Planner, we’ve had lots of feedback from gardeners around the world asking for a better way to record what’s going on in their garden. We’ve come up with what we believe is a super-convenient, intuitive journal that is a pleasure to use.

Making notes is easy in the Garden Journal, whether you use a PC, tablet or phone

The Garden Journal is a pocket-sized solution for tracking progress in the garden, quickly and easily. Access it from a smartphone, tablet, or computer. You can instantly upload photos and notes, straight from your device. Its online interface means you can record as you work, building up a Garden Journal of exceptional detail that will help you to learn with every observation, note and photo you add.

And the best bit? It’s completely free to use!

 

Mr-Fothergills-garden-journalRecord Your Gardening

So let’s take a look at how it works. You can access the Garden Journal by logging in to your Garden Planner account and clicking the Garden Journal link. The Journal is divided up by weeks. When you open it up it automatically shows the current week, but you can choose to view a different week from the Timeline at the top.

You can add your own notes, observations, and ideas, or click on any of the Planting, Watering, Tending or Harvesting options to record what you’re doing. The Tending option is further divided so you can specify whether you’ve weeded, fertilized, transplanted, mulched or pruned.

The Garden Journal enables you to quickly record your gardening activities so you know what you’ve accomplished

Let’s say you’re planting tomatoes. After selecting the planting option, start typing ‘Tomato’ (or scroll down through the list of plants) and then select the tomato icon. You can also record the variety you’re growing by clicking on the number in the Varieties column next to the plant name. The next step is to record the quantity and whether they were planted as seeds or plants.

When you’re done, you’ll see that the Planting icon for that day has been updated. As you add more records to the week, the icons and + buttons build up a visual summary of your activity.

A glance at the Timeline at the top of the page provides a snapshot of your weekly activity: light green indicates Planting, blue indicates Watering, purple indicates Tending; orange indicates Harvesting; and darker green shows the weeks where you’ve made notes.

Instantly add photos to your Garden Journal

Adding a photo to your Garden Journal is easy – you can drag and drop photos, or select photos from a folder. If you’re using a phone or tablet, you can take a photo there and then for immediate upload.

It’s easy to change anything, at any time. Select a day or directly select an icon, view the details then change the quantity or planting method. Or, select one of the plant symbols to clear that entry and start afresh. To edit an entry from a previous week, simply select the week from the Timeline, then select ‘Edit it’ to do so in exactly the same way.

Plan Ahead with the Garden Journal

Efficient gardeners plan ahead, and the Garden Journal helps you to do just that. Click on a future week to add a reminder. Make a note to yourself – you can add a related plant here too. Once you’re done, your reminder is logged for reference. You can edit or delete reminders at any time.

You’ll also find seasonally-relevant gardening guides here as a source of timely ideas and to help you plan. Read more, look up other growing advice, then go back to your Garden Journal.

Use the Reminder feature to schedule tasks for the future so you never forget!

Weeks further into the future display typical highs and lows for those dates, while the current week includes an up-to-date weather forecast so you can, for example, plan the best days to be out in the garden, or when to protect against frost.

As your Garden Journal develops, you’ll be able to look back at previous weeks, months and years to see what you did when, gaining a better understanding of your gardening and learning from your own unique experiences. Or jog your memory next year by adding reminders for the following season.

It’s all very powerful stuff! To start using the Garden Journal – for free! – login to your account at the top right corner of your screen, or click on Create an Account.

And this is just the start – we have plenty of new features planned and would love to receive your ideas too. Let us know what you think of the Garden Journal in the comments section below.

These are just a few tips and ideas to help you start a gardening journal. Let us know what you think about the gardening journal idea by commenting below or heading over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Our Award winning seed range with the RHS exceeds sales expectations

June 22nd, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Now stocked in over 1,000 retail outlets and approaching its second season, the Award of Garden Merit range from Mr Fothergill’s and the RHS is set to continue its success into the 2019 season. We can report that 2018 sales into garden centres have reached 137% of target for the vegetable collection, whilst the flower range is at 125%.

From the 61 flowers and 55 vegetables available in the range, Erigeron Profusion and Courgette Defender F1 top sales of individual varieties since the launch, whilst four new specially selected AGM varieties have been added for the 2019 season:

Onion (Spring) Matrix (RRP £2.50 for 350 seeds) is a winter hardy variety, slow to form bulbs and shows good disease resistance to ensure stems remain in top condition for longer.

Sweet Corn Mirai Gold F1 (RRP £3.05 for 35 seeds), a naturally bred variety with unbelievably sweet tasting cobs. Each is up to 20cm in length and packed with extra-tender kernels.

Pea Starlight (RRP £2.75 for 300 seeds) is a top-quality variety producing generous, wilt resistant and extremely reliable crops. Pods are uniquely held above the canopy for easy picking and well filled with delicious, medium-sized peas.

Sunflower Teddy Bear (RRP £2.35 for 20 seeds) is the new flower addition. Compact and bushy, it is a well branched variety producing lots of double, uniquely soft-to-the-touch blooms.

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Ian Cross, our Retail Marketing Manager commented “We are proud to be the RHS’s preferred seed partner and are delighted with how the range continues to be received by our trade customers and their customers alike. We have picked only the very best varieties to include in the collections so that every gardener, from the amateur to the enthusiast, can be assured of getting the results they want.”

Each variety in the RHS AGM range has received the prestigious Award of Garden Merit – a mark of quality awarded to garden plants with excellent garden performance.

Growing Sweet Corn from Sowing to Harvest

June 20th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

There’s something pretty special about a handsome stand of homegrown sweetcorn. But the real prize lies in harvesting it. Picking the cobs, then excitedly peeling back the sheath to reveal those full, creamy kernels is just magical! And there’s no better treat than cooking them straight away for the sweetest possible taste. If you fancy growing your own sweetcorn this year, you’re in good company. Here are some tips to set you up for sweet success…

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Growing Super Sweet Corn

Grow sweetcorn in a spot that receives plenty of sunshine, in soil that’s been enriched with a lot of well-rotted organic matter such as compost. Corn’s lofty habit and feathery tassels makes it an attractive plant in its own right.

Hybrid varieties are usually the most reliable choices for cooler climates. If you want especially sweet cobs, then choose varieties described as such – many will even have the word ‘sweet’ or ‘sugar’ in the name.

 

How to Sow Sweetcorn

Corn loves the warmth and won’t tolerate frost. While the seeds may be sown directly outside once the soil has warmed up, the safest way to sow is into pots in the protection of a greenhouse, polytunnel or cold frame. That way you can begin sowing three to four weeks before your last frost date and enjoy a head start on outdoor-sown corn – a huge advantage in shorter growing seasons.

Sow eight to ten seeds half an inch (1cm) deep into four inch- (10cm) wide pots. You can use any general purpose or seed-starting potting mix. Alternatively, sow into smaller pots or plug trays, sowing two seeds to each pot or module then removing the weakest of the two seedlings.

Sweetcorn hates the cold and is best started off in a greenhouse, polytunnel or cold frame

Keep pots moist as they grow on. Ideally they should be about six inches (15cm) tall by the time you’re ready to plant them outside. Harden off the plants as your recommended planting time approaches by leaving them outside for increasingly longer spells over the course of about a week.

 

Mr-Fothergills-patch-of-growing-sweetcornHow to Plant Sweetcorn

Sweetcorn is wind-pollinated, so instead of planting them in a long row, set your plants out in a block for the highest chance of success. If the corn isn’t well pollinated, it will still grow but will be missing many of the kernels from the cob.

Remove your young plants from their pots, then very carefully tease their roots apart. Try to retain as much of the soil around the roots as possible. Now plant your sweet corn 18 inches (45cm) apart in both directions. Dig a hole for each plant, feed the roots to the bottom of the hole then firm the soil back in.

Sweetcorn is best grown in blocks rather than rows for the best harvests

Sprawling squashes make a great companion for sweet corn. The squash will carpet the ground and help suppress weeds as the sweetcorn grows skywards.

 

 

Caring for Sweetcorn

Remove any weeds that pop up within your sweetcorn by hand and continue weeding while you are still able to get between the plants. Sweetcorn is sturdy and shouldn’t need supporting. It will appreciate watering in very dry weather, particularly from late summer as the tassels appear and the cobs begin to form.

Sweetcorn is ready to pick when the tassels turn dark brown

 

When to Pick Sweetcorn

The cobs are ready to pick when the tassels at the end turn dark brown, usually around six weeks after first appearing. If you’re unsure whether a cob’s good to go, try the fingernail test. Peel back the top of the protective sheath then sink a fingernail firmly into a kernel. If it exudes a creamy liquid, it’s ready. If it’s not quite there the liquid will still be watery, and if there’s no liquid the cob is already past its best.

To harvest, twist the cob and pull it away. Aim to enjoy your harvested corncobs as soon as you can. Try it boiled or barbecued then served up with lashings of butter and pepper!

Corn is sweetest cooked as soon as possible after harvesting

Do you know there are even some gardeners who swear by getting a pan of water on the boil before harvesting their sweetcorn so it can go from plot to pan in mere seconds?

 

These are just a few tips and ideas to help you grow your own sweetcorn. If you would like to share any tips for growing or enjoying super sweet corn, then please, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

We are Boosting our Plant Tonic Offering with NEW Seasol 4-Litre

June 12th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Buoyed by recent sales of our Seasol 1-litre product, which is now stocked in over 650 retail outlets nationwide, we are launching the seaweed-based plant tonic in a 4-litre format for the 2019 season.

Ian Cross, our Marketing Manager comments “The great thing about Seasol is that because it is a natural plant tonic, you can use it regularly throughout all stages of growth, from seed to mature plant, unlike chemical fertilisers. The new 4-litre bottle will not only give our customers great value for money, but as you can use Seasol on most areas of the garden, at any time of the year, it also won’t run out as quickly.”

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Seasol, a seaweed-based complete garden health treatment is derived from a blend of the finest brown kelps and is proven to stimulate root development. The tonic also promotes healthy growth of plants, flowers and vegetables, enhances flowering and fruiting and increases resistance to heat, drought, frost, pests and diseases. It can be applied directly to soil or foliage, contains beneficial micro-nutrients and is also rich in trace elements.

New Seasol 4-litre has a RRP of £19.99 and is available for retailers to purchase as outers of two.

To find out more about Seasol and the rest of our Mr Fothergill’s range, log on at www.mr-fothergills-trade.com or telephone 01638 554111.