Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Ties on for Tim Again as Mr Fothergill’s Seeds Raises Money for BBC Children in Need

November 15th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Once again, the team at Mr Fothergill’s Seeds have donned their finest ties to help raise money for BBC Children in Need – an idea which came about as Tim Jeffries, Mr Fothergill’s Commercial Director is the last and only person to ever wear a tie in the office! And this year their colleagues in Australia have done exactly the same. Tim again donated £1 for each person wearing a tie with the company’s joint Managing Directors John Fothergill and David Carey matching his donation.

Mr Fothergills UK office taking part in Ties for Tim to raise money for BBC Children in Need

Mr Fothergills Austrailia office taking part in Ties for Tim to raise money for BBC Children in Need

‘Ties for Tim’ is part of a week of fundraising activities at the Mr Fothergill’s offices in Newmarket, with staff also taking on the challenge to ‘Be the Masterchef’, the Children in Need annual duck race and coming dressed up in their Pudsey inspired yellow or spotty outfits, with all proceeds going to BBC Children in Need.

The money raised during the week will be added to sales of Mr Fothergill’s Sunflower Pudsey and Pumpkin Pudsey seed packets, with 30p from each going directly to BBC Children in Need. To date, this donation has reached over £24,000.

Tim commented “It’s fantastic that everyone at Mr Fothergill’s gets behind such an important cause, having fun in the process. If only everyone came to work looking as smart as they did on Monday! But it’s just as important that our retail customers and their customers are engaged and we have seen that through sales of our Sunflower Pudsey and Pumpkin Pudsey seed packets.”

Sunflower Pudsey and Pumpkin Pudsey have an RRP of £1.99 and are available from selected garden retailers, online at www.mr-fothergills.co.uk and in Homebase stores.

Give Pests the Boot!

November 13th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

A gardener tending to their garden in the winter

Tidying up the garden for winter is a balancing act. On the one hand, you don’t want to leave hiding places for pests to overwinter. But on the other, you want to ensure that beneficial bugs – including pest predators – have somewhere safe to sit out the cold so they’re about for the next growing season. The advice we’re given to banish pests often has the unintended effect of discouraging beneficials too. So what is a wildlife-friendly gardener to do?

Read on or watch the video and we’ll help you to achieve that all-important balance.

Should I Cover or Expose Soil?

Perhaps the greatest area of confusion lies around whether or not to cover the ground or leave it exposed to the cleansing effects of frost and hungry birds. In general, it’s best to follow nature’s lead and keep soil covered during winter. Lay thick mulches of garden compost, leaf mould or other organic matter over the surface to stave off soil erosion and sustain beneficial soil dwellers such as earthworms and ground beetles.

An interior shot of composting leaf mulch leaf mould in a wooden compost binIn areas of the garden where pests have been a problem a good compromise is to delay laying down organic matter until midway through winter, or rake back mulches during cold snaps to temporarily expose ground. Raking or lightly forking the soil will help to reveal lurking grubs both to frosts and insect-eating birds, helping to dent their numbers before spring. This is a particularly good technique to use around fruit trees, bushes and canes, where leaves of any plants that were affected by pests or diseases should also be raked up and removed.

To Weed or Not to Weed?

When it comes to weeding, the best course of action depends on the type of weeds you’re dealing with.

Late autumn and early winter is a good time to get rid of perennial weeds, whose growth should hopefully have slowed enough for you to finally catch up with them! Be thorough and remove all of their roots too, otherwise they’ll just regrow again.

While weeding clears growing areas ready for springtime sowings, don’t be too hasty. Annual weeds like bittercress and deadnettle can be left to provide insect habitat and protect the soil over winter, before hoeing them off in the spring. Just be sure to remove them before they produce seeds.

Where possible, seedlings of self-seeding flowers such as calendula or nigella should be left to attract next season’s beneficial bugs because they’ll flower earlier than new sowings. And clumps of nettles left untouched in an out-of-the-way spot are a great food source for many beautiful butterflies and pest-hungry predators such as ladybirds.

Stop Pests Overwintering on Fruit Trees

A glue trap on a fruit tree in winter to deter pests such as winter moth caterpillarsThe bark on fruit trees offers good hiding places for pests like aphids and scale insects. Once all the leaves have dropped you can apply a winter tree wash to bare branches. This is a natural plant or fish oil-based treatment which should be sprayed on a windless day to avoid drifting. It will help to control pest numbers while causing minimal impact to other wildlife. But as with all treatments, it’s best to only use it if you’ve experienced pest problems on your trees during the previous growing season.

Paint tree barrier glues, or tie on grease bands around the trunks of fruit trees to help prevent damage caused by winter moth caterpillars. The sticky barriers prevent the egg-laying wingless female moths from climbing up into the canopy from ground level. Grease bands work best on trees with smoother bark where moths won’t be able to simply crawl under them, while glues are best for trees with deeply fissured bark.

Clean Greenhouses and Cold Frames

Winter’s a good time for a thorough clean of greenhouses and cold frames. Move everything out and clean greenhouse staging, all equipment and dirty pots and trays too. Leave it to dry while you then clean the glass using water with a little added natural disinfectant or greenhouse cleaning solution. Be sure to get into every corner, crack and crevice, any way you can!

Spaces for Beneficial Bugs

To keep beneficial bugs onside leave the rest of the garden a little wilder during the colder months. Allow grass to grow longer so caterpillars and other bugs can bury themselves into the thatch. Hollow stems and fallen leaves should be left where possible to provide habitat for all manner of insects. Old seed heads give shelter to ladybirds and other pest predators – and food for hungry birds. Cut them back in spring just before growth resumes. Hold off digging in ornamental borders until spring too – and then only if absolutely necessary – so that insects such as bumblebees can sit out the winter in peace.

You can provide additional homes for beneficial bugs by dotting bug hotels – big and small – around the garden, and, as long as you’re not in an area with termites, by creating log or stone piles, which will also prove popular with small mammals and amphibians such as toads.

So tackle pests where they have been an issue, but hang back from being too tidy to give the good guys have somewhere safe and secure to bed down for winter. Do you have any tips for booting out pests while giving beneficial bugs a helping hand? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Christmas Gifts for Gardeners From Mr Fothergill’s Seeds

November 7th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Christmas is nearing once again! If you are thinking of what to buy for your friends and family, Mr Fothergill’s has got some great growing options for kids and beginners or experienced gardeners. Widely stocked by garden retailers and online, you can choose from a number of innovative gardening gifts from windowsill kits to fun ‘grass head’ kits for youngsters, which make perfect stocking fillers.

For anyone new to gardening, Mr Fothergill’s offers the patented GroBox (RRP £6.99) range of easy-to-grow, pre-sown gardening products. GroBox is a bio-degradable cardboard box containing four varieties of pre-sown vegetable or herb seeds in compost, which is planted, covered and watered in the garden or in a container. The range also includes a children’s flower garden and a children’s vegetable garden.

The GroBox collection - Childrens vegetable garden, Childrens flower garden, Easy herb garden and Easy salad garden

There are four windowsill kits – Herb Garden, Fragrant Garden, Strawberry Garden and Sunflower Garden – each comprising a galvanised metal windowsill container, seeds, compost and instructions. Each has a recommended retail price of £7.95. The Herb Grow Kit (RRP £10.95) has three galvanised pots on a tray, basil, parsley and chive seeds, plus compost discs, while the Grow Your Own Pesto Kit includes basil seed, compost discs, a ceramic pestle, mortar and instructions on how to make the much-loved Italian sauce for pasta. It has a recommended retail price of £6.95.

GroBox windowsill kits - Herb Garden, Fragrant Garden, Strawberry Garden and Sunflower GardenGroBox Grow Your Own Pesto Kit

Eye-catching grow kits in the caricature form of various animals would make ideal stocking-fillers to encourage youngsters to take an interest in growing from seed. The ceramic egg cup-style planters known as Munakuppi (Finnish for ‘egg cup’) Hair Grow Kits have a recommended retail price of just £3.95. Each Munakuppi includes two sachets of seed – basil for short ‘hair’ and ryegrass for long ‘hair’ – plus compost and growing instructions, so anyone can simply sow, water and watch the green ‘hair’ grow. The six hand-crafted animals, including a frog, dog, pig, duck, seal and cow are becoming collectables. Children would also enjoy any of four smiley faces or four adorable cats. These gorgeous kits come with a pot, coir pellet, grass seed and instructions. These ceramic characters can be used again and again.

Munakuppi Hair Grow Kits

For chilli lovers, there are Chilli Pepper Grow Kits available for classic, great tasting, fiery red chillies or juicy medium-hot green chillies, perfect for pizzas. Available as complete kits, with an RRP of just £4.99.

Mr Fothergill’s range of seeds and kits is available from garden centres, supermarkets and leading DIY stores throughout the UK.

November Gardening Advice

November 1st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

The spiky shell of a chestnut conker partially open. The nut lies on autumn leaves on the ground and peeks out of the shell.

The smell of wood burning, the crackle of bonfires and the colourful explosion of fireworks means we’re into November, so get your month off to a bang by wrapping up warm and embracing the season. Light home fires, collect conkers and enjoy hearty soups made from your homegrown vegetables. This is the cosy season!

However, don’t get too comfortable. There are still plenty of gardening jobs to be done, which will keep you warm on a chilly autumnal day.

But if venturing out into the cold doesn’t appeal to you, then kick-back in front of a warming fire and reminisce over your recent growing season. Think about your growing successes, the failures, and then consider what you want to grow, or change, next year. Draw up lists, make plans, and think ahead. If you need inspiration then go online and look at what other people have achieved. The internet is full of gardening websites, blogs and forums, by gardeners who inspire and pass on seeds of good advice.

Start planning now! Because before you know it, spring will be knocking on your door.

In the flower garden

Perennials

Perennial plants have done their job and are now looking worse for wear. If garden wildlife has eaten the seeds, and you don’t want structure in your garden over the winter months, cut down the plant and mulch.

Any plants that aren’t frost hardy, and can’t be lifted for storage, give them a heavy mulch around the base. Don’t cover over the plant, as the moisture can cause the plant to rot. Failing that, protect the plant with horticultural fleece.

Tulip bulbs on the ground, ready for planting in autumnTulip bulbs

Whether it’s swathes of tulips, container-grown, or individual flowers dotted around your garden, now’s the time to plant your bulbs. Temperatures are dropping daily, so there’s no longer a threat of tulip fire infection. Avoid bulbs that show signs of decay, mould or damage, and plant three times to the depth of the bulb. If you’re planting into heavy soil add grit for drainage, as bulbs sat in water will rot. You may want to cover the area with netting, to prevent mice and squirrels digging them up.

Roses

Most plants and shrubs are dormant over the winter months, so this is an ideal time to move and plant new roses. Bare root varieties tend to be cheaper than potted plants and the choice is endless. Once planted, water in and mulch thoroughly to prevent frost from damaging the roots. If you already have established roses, make sure any fallen leaves are burnt or removed from the site, as these may have suffered blackspot and could infect your plant next year.

Dahlias

Depending where you are in the UK, you may have already had your first frost. If not, it’s only a matter of time. Therefore, ensure your dahlia tubers are dug up and stored. This also applies to cannas. Dahlias can be stored in boxes filled with scrunched paper and placed somewhere cool and dark. If this isn’t an option, place tubers in a pot of damp compost and kept somewhere cool.

Hedges

Time to plant hedgerows and conifers. Before planting, ensure you incorporate plenty of organic matter into the soil. With clay soil, you may also want to add grit for drainage. Depending on the hedge it may need a support and tying in, just until it establishes itself. Water in well and mulch.

Hard-wood cuttings

It’s not too late to take hard-wood cuttings, Plants include buddleia, vines and cornus. Make a sharp cut just beneath a bud and an angled cut across the top of the cutting. The angle ensures moisture runs off and doesn’t rot the cutting. Your cutting should be the length and width of a pencil. Place the straight end into a pot of compost, up to its middle. Try to use a square pot and place cuttings in each corner, any heat will bounce off the corners of the pot and onto the cutting. Ensure the compost is damp, and place in a cold frame and greenhouse.

A compost bin full of autumn leaves to provide leaf mulchLeaf mulch

There are plenty of fallen leaves to clear away, but don’t get rid of them. Create a pen with chicken wire and four wooden stakes. Then place the collected leaves within the wired square and leave for up to twelve months. This will breakdown into a rich mulch, which can then be used for your garden. If you don’t have the space for a pen, either an old plastic bin or garden bags will do. Create several holes, so moisture can drain away and the airflow will help the bacteria breakdown the leaf matter. Store them out of the way, where they won’t be disturbed.

Lawn

Lawns won’t need to be mowed now until next spring. However, with leaves and debris falling, you need to ensure you keep lawns clear. This will prevent pests taking shelter, and there’s no chance of damaging your lawn with the ‘browning off’ effect. Finally, if you wake to frosts, try to keep off the lawn, as you could potentially damage it.

Maintenance

With less to do on allotments and in gardens, you can switch your attention to carrying out repairs and maintenance on garden tools. From secateurs to shears, your tools should be cleaned and sharpened. Ensure your lawnmower has been cleaned, checked, and drained of fuel.

Pots and seed trays will also need cleaning – warm soapy water will do – and stored. Try not to buy new plastic pots to reduce waste and use what you’ve got, or why not make your pots? There are kits available for making biodegradable plant pots that will add a personal touch to your plant growing next season.

If you’re leaving stone or terracotta pots outside over winter, make sure they’re standing on clay feet or bricks. Otherwise a ground frost can damage and cause pots to crack. Being off the ground will also help potted plants as it drains off excess water.

Pots can be expensive, so protect them as best you can by grouping them all together in the sunniest part of the garden. You could also try wrapping them in bubble wrap.

A wooden bird feeder in the shape of a house against an autumn woodland backgroundWildlife

If you haven’t done so yet, fill your bird feeders. Ensure they’ve been thoroughly cleaned with warm soapy water and rinsed.

Put out fresh water for the birds, but try to ensure it doesn’t ice over.

You can also consider building insect hotels. Leave small piles of wood in corners of your garden to allow wildlife somewhere to rest over winter.

On the veg patch

Broad beans

If you’re hoping for an early crop of broad beans next year, sow now. Ensure all weeds are removed and add plenty of organic matter. Plant seeds in double rows, to the depth of two inches and nine inches apart. Water in well and cover over with either a cloche or horticultural fleece. Not only will the seeds benefit from the extra warmth, but they’ll be protected from birds and vermin.

Certain crops benefit from a good frost, turning their starches into sugars. Parsnips, swede, and Brussels sprouts will be tastier after a cold spell. If you are lifting these crops on a cold day, make sure you do it with a fork, carefully prising them from the hardened soil.

Spring cabbages

If you sowed cabbage seed weeks ago, they should now be healthy young plants ready for planting out. Brassicas are hungry plants, so ensure the bed has been well cultivated with plenty of organic matter dug in.

Plant your plants deep, just below the first set of leaves, to prevent damage from ‘wind rock’. Water in well and mulch. You may also want to protect your plants with horticultural fleece or cloches.

Leafy potato tubers growing in a green grow bagChristmas potatoes

If you’re growing spuds for the big day, then check them regularly. If they’re in grow bags or sacks, try to keep them somewhere, bright, warm and protected. As the stems gather height, ensure you earth them up. Not only will this encourage further tubers, but it will protect them from the chill. Finally, with dampness in the air and fluctuating temperatures, keep an eye out for blight.

Glue bands

Pests will be looking for somewhere to rest up over the next few months, laying eggs and eating tender shoots which can have a devastating effect on fruit trees. Try wrapping glue bands around the trunk base of your apple, pear, cherry and plum trees to stop pests, such as winter moth caterpillars, climbing the trees to lay their eggs.

Other Jobs

  • Disconnect garden hoses and protect garden taps as frozen water can burst pipes.
  • Bring inside potted up herbs.
  • Regularly check stored fruit, onions, squashes and potatoes for rot. Disregard any that have been spoilt.
  • As gardens die-back, you get a real sense of the blueprint of your garden. So, if you’re thinking of doing structural work, such as laying a new path or building a fence, now’s the time to do it.
  • If you’re planning a bonfire, check the woodpile first for any hidden wildlife.

Gardening Without Plastic

October 31st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Seedlings growing in a cardboard egg carton container

As gardeners, we try to work with nature where we can, and that’s one of the joys of growing your own – fresh food without the nasty chemicals and pesticides.  But what about that artificial material we’ve been hearing a lot about recently – plastic. It gets just about everywhere, doesn’t it, including the garden. Well if you’re looking to purge your plastic use, then this one is for you. Read on or watch the video for some great ideas for growing and storing food without the plastic.

Sowing and seedlings

Let’s begin where most of our plants begin – with sowing. Swap seedlings flats or seed tray for wooden alternatives. They’re heavier and need watering more often, but will last for many years and are simple enough to make and repair. Wood also improves conditions around the roots because it allows the potting mix to breathe.

Replace plastic plug trays with ones made from pulped cardboard or pots pressed from fibre or coconut coir. Better still, make your own seedling pots from strips of newspaper. You can make pots of different sizes too. Cardboard egg trays are handy for most seedlings, or save toilet paper tubes to start off crops that prefer a longer root run, including corn, peas and beans. If you’d like to learn how to make your own biodegradable pots then check out this video. All biodegradable pots need to be watered a little more frequently,  but on the flip side they encourage healthier roots and can be planted whole, pot and all, avoiding disturbing the root system.

Pots and labels

A bunch of small biodegradable pots filled with potting soil with wooden lollipop stick labels sticking outIt’s easy enough to replace plastic pots with all manner of terracotta, metal, wooden, even slate alternatives, most of which look significantly more eye-catching anyhow. Remember that terracotta and metal pots take a lot of energy to manufacture, so a sturdy plastic pot may have less of an environmental impact over its lifetime, especially if it can be recycled locally.

Labels are easy to make from lollipop sticks, which you can buy in bulk from craft stores. Wood naturally absorbs moisture, which may cause ink to become blurred over time. Use a soft pencil instead, or try labels made of bamboo. For larger labels, opt for lengths of wood batten cut to size and painted with non-toxic paint to give a more durable, decorative finish.

Buying plants

Plants are typically sold in plastic pots but look out for fibre alternatives, often made with quick-growing sustainable grasses. Most trees, shrubs and perennials can be purchased bare-root over the winter months while they are dormant.

Some mail-order nurseries now dispatch young plants and seedlings with minimal packaging, just carefully laid between layers of newspaper or straw. And of course remember that the cheapest and most effective way to raise lots of plants is to propagate them yourself by sowing seeds, taking cuttings and dividing established plants.

Potting mixes

Potting soil or compost typically comes in plastic bags. These can be reused in a multitude of ways around the garden, but if you want to avoid plastic altogether, the simplest way to start is by making your own garden compost and leaf mould. Bear in mind that plastic composters tend to have a longer lifespan, so this is one area where you might want to relax the rules.

Compost and other soil amendments can often be bought in bulk bags which require less packaging per unit of product and can often be returned to the supplier, or make your own potting mixes by thoroughly combining garden compost, leaf mould, topsoil and organic fertiliser.

Looking after your plants

A close up of some brown natural fibre garden string or twinePlastic twine is out, replaced by string or twine made from natural fibres such as hemp, which is also less likely to cut into stems as they grow. Plastic netting is easily swapped with sturdy, long-lasting metal or wooden alternatives. Keep on using your plastic watering can, but when it finally needs replacing go galvanised with a traditional-looking steel can.

Water barrels have many metal or wooden alternatives which are pricier but look very attractive. Cold protection necessitates a return to glass, which is more durable and less likely to scuff, shred or blow away compared to lighter weight plastic cloches or row covers.

Storing produce

There’s really no need for plastic in or around your harvested fruits and vegetables. Use crates of damp sand to store root vegetables like carrots, boxes of straw to insulate fruits such as apples, or breathable hessian sacks for maincrop potatoes.

Keep just-picked leaves fresher for longer by washing then wrapping them in a damp towel destined for the refrigerator. Bunches of herbs should be popped into jars of water like cut flowers, a method that also works for asparagus spears. Twist of the leaves from roots like radish, beets and turnips, then store in a container in the fridge with a damp towel or cloth laid on top. Carrots should be placed into containers of regularly changed fresh water, while tomatoes and aubergine are best left at room temperature out of the sun in the dry.

Finally, store bananas well away from all other produce. It emits ripening gas ethylene which can lead other fruits and vegetables to quickly spoil.

Of course, plastic isn’t always bad and can sometimes form the most sensible and even sustainable choice. Nevertheless, we could all do with reducing our addiction to plastic, especially single-use plastic. Share your tips for a plastic-free gardening life – we’d love to hear your experiences! Have you managed to kick the plastic habit? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.