Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Six Ways to Extend Your Harvests

September 5th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Pickings from fruiting and pod-producing vegetables such as beans and tomatoes are coming thick and fast right now, but as summer wanes both the quantity of what you pick and how often you are able to pick it will begin to tail off.

Keeping these productive staples cropping for longer is the aim of the game, so read on or watch the video for some top tips to keep those pickings coming…

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Keep on picking

The first rule with any fruit or pod-producing vegetable is to keep up with the picking.

Leave those courgettes to swell into marrows and you’ll inadvertently slow the initiation of new flowers and fruits. Beans will also stop producing more pods if the existing ones are left to ripen to biological maturity – by forming seeds, the plants will have completed their lifecycle, and will have no reason to continue flowering.

Check plants every couple of days and remove fruits and pods before they get too large or overripe. And if you’re heading away from home for more than a week, encourage your neighbours to harvest them – they’ll get free food and you’ll come home to more pickings!

Keep watering

All vegetables need water, but fruit and pod-producing vegetables are particularly thirsty – water-stressed plants quickly slow down.

Aim to water regularly for consistent soil moisture which will encourage plenty of well-formed fruits and pods, free of problems such as blossom end rot. It will also avoid the annoyance of fruits splitting, which happens when they have dried out too much then receive a sudden deluge of water.

Continue feeding

Don’t scrimp on feeding your crops. Continue watering a suitable organic liquid fertiliser on to fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and aubergine.

Feeding plants costs money but does mean more fruits of better quality, so the investment is well worth it. Or why not make your own liquid feed from fast-growing, nutrient-rich plants such as comfrey?

Top up mulches

Mulches of organic material applied earlier in the season may now be looking a little scant.

Top up mulches with new material – straw that’s free of seeds is a great mulch for many fruit-bearing crops including, of course, strawberries. It’s naturally full of potassium, which fruit and pod-bearing plants love. Grass clippings are a ready-to-hand source of instant mulch too, and will help to keep plant roots cool and moist in hot, dry weather.

Let the sunshine in

Strong growth over the summer months can mean that taller plants cast shade where they didn’t before, compromising crops that need plenty of direct sunlight. Consider cutting back overhanging foliage and act promptly to remove spent crops so that those remaining enjoy plenty of sunshine and good air circulation.

In cooler climates, now may be the time to wash off or remove any greenhouse shading, to trap more of the late summer sunshine.

Keep plants warm

Later on in the season stragglers can be encouraged to keep producing for a week or two longer by adding the thermal comfort of a floating row cover such as horticultural fleece or plastic.

Remove covers during the day to enable pollination, then replace it in the evening to provide a little warmth and protection against lower temperatures.

 

If you have any advice on how to keep the pickings coming, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

 

 

Mr Fothergill’s Boosts its Plant Tonic Offering with NEW Seasol 4-Litre

September 4th, 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’ve launched the seaweed-based plant tonic in a 4-litre format!

Ian Cross, Mr Fothergill’s 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.

Studies confirmed that soaking seeds in Seasol prior to sowing, or watering with Seasol immediately after sowing, gives seeds the best possible start in life and leads to vigorous, uniform plants.

Mr Fothergill’s trials team took seeds of Delphinium ‘Raider Mixed’, which is known to be tricky to germinate, and set about two separate trials. In the first, two seed trays were half-filled with multi-purpose compost and sown with delphinium seeds, which were covered with vermiculite. One tray was soaked from below with water, while the other was soaked from below in Seasol solution. Both trays were then left to germinate with no further watering.

Trials manager Brian Talman said: “The overall percentage of germination was better in the tray treated with Seasol, but it was the quality and the size of the seedlings that was visibly better. The cotyledons were slightly bigger and without any deformities, as opposed to the tray with Delphiniums that had not been treated with Seasol.” Two weeks on, seeds treated with Seasol had produced bigger and better plants, with more vigour and no deformities.

A second trial found that soaking seeds with Seasol prior to sowing offered improved germination. Two batches of fifteen seeds of Delphinium ‘Raider Mixed’ were sown in two 11cm pots of multi-purpose compost and covered with vermiculite – but only one batch of seeds had been soaked in Seasol for 15 hours prior to sowing, using 10ml of Seasol concentrate mixed in 500ml of water.

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Brian added: “Even though 7 seeds germinated in both pots, the advantage was once again clear for the Seasol-treated seed. The seedlings germinated quicker, were visibly bigger, with better vigour and no deformities. In comparison, the untreated seeds were slower to germinate and had slightly deformed cotyledons.” As plants were grown on, those treated with Seasol proved to be more vigorous, leading to bigger plants.

Overall, the trial found that seed treated with Seasol led to healthy plants with better colour and a more developed root system.

Seasol 1-litre (RRP £7.99) and NEW Seasol 4-litre (RRP £19.99) are available from selected garden retailers.

To find out more about Seasol and the rest of the Mr Fothergill’s range, log on at www.mr-fothergills.co.uk.

Carrots Take Centre Stage in Mr Fothergill’s New Variety Line-up for the 2019 Season

August 29th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Supporting Fleuroselect’s Year of the Carrot, Mr Fothergill’s has added four new varieties to its existing selection.

RHS AGM winner Carrot Malbec F1 (RRP £3.05 for 350 seeds) is a red long rooted, imperator type. It is perfect for roasting with exceptional flavour. The unusual hue makes it a greatest addition.

Carrot Gold Nugget F1 (RRP £3.05 for 350 seeds) produces long smooth-skinned yellow roots.

Exclusive to Mr Fothergill’s, Carrot Volcano F1 (RRP £3.05 for 350 seeds), distinguishes itself with strength and reliability. It is resistant to breakage, splitting and disease.

For maincrop, Carrot Purple Haze F1 (RRP £3.05 for 350 seeds) provides ‘Nantes’ type, dark purple roots with a bright orange core.

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Kale Candy Floss (RRP £2.10 for 50 seeds) features large leaves enveloping a central heart in an eye-catching pink colour. Its leaves are full of flavour and will retain the colour when cooked. It is a vibrant variety that can be grown for both ornamental and edible purposes.

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Other vegetable highlights include new and exclusive Dwarf French Bean Red Swan (RRP £3.05 for 100 seeds), a remarkably decorative heritage variety with pink flowers and pink tinged pods. For high yields of extra fine green pods Dwarf French Bean Nautica (RRP £2.75 for 100 seeds) is a perfect choice, whereas Dwarf French Bean Cala d’Or (RRP £2.75 for 100 seeds) provides large crops of yellow, great flavoured beans.

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Among the new flower varieties in Mr Fothergill’s, look out for Morning Glory Party Dress (RRP £2.30 for 30 seeds), which produces pink blooms that flower noticeably earlier than other cultivars. This vigorous climber will keep this colour spinning all summer long. Large magenta flowers contrast beautifully with white centres.

Other new introductions include Brachycome Blue Star (RRP £1.80 for 200 seeds), Cornflower Classic Fantastic (RRP £2.35 for 200 seeds), Poppy Lauren’s Grape (RRP £2.10 for 500 seeds), Silene Blue Angel (RRP £1.80 for 1000 seeds), Sweet Pea Balcony Mixed (RRP £2.35 for 25 seeds), Sweet Pea Teresa Maureen (RRP £2.35 for 20 seeds), Sweet Pea Terry Wogan (RRP £2.35 for 20 seeds), Sweet Pea Capel Manor (RRP £2.35 for 20 seeds).

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How to Save Seeds from Beans, Peppers, Onions and More

August 28th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

You’ve sown it, grown it and harvested it. But how can you take your vegetable growing one step further?

Easy: by saving your own seed from this year’s crops to sow next season.

When you come to think about it, saving seed is the ultimate in self-sufficiency; it’ll save you money and closes the loop on your growing but, above all, it’s delightfully satisfying.

Read on or watch the video to find out how to save those seeds.

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What to save

Some vegetables are easier to save seed from than others. Especially suitable candidates include peas and beans, tomatoes, peppers and lettuce, which can all be saved at the same time they are harvested or very soon afterwards.

Some biennial crops, such as onions, shallots, leeks, carrots, beetroot and chard are also worth saving, though you’ll need to overwinter a few plants from one season to flower and set seed the next.

What not to save

Avoid saving seeds from the cabbage family. These plants readily cross-pollinate with other members of the same family, so you’re unlikely to get what you hoped for.

The same goes for F1 hybrid which, because they are created from two separate parent varieties, simply won’t come true to type. For this reason, only ever save the seeds of traditional, open-pollinated varieties. F1 hybrids should include ‘F1’ in the variety name on the seed packet.

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Saving bean and pea seeds

Peas and beans are the easiest of the lot. As the end of the season approaches leave some pods to dry out on the plants. You’ll be able to see and feel the beans swelling within their pods. They’re ready to pick and collect when the pods themselves turn leathery or crisp to the touch.

You can get a lot of seeds from just a few plants, which makes saving these seeds very worthwhile indeed. Shell the pods to reveal the beans or peas inside, then discard any very small, misshapen or damaged seeds. Save only the best clean seeds. Spread them out onto newspaper to dry out on a warm windowsill for 7-10 days.

Fava beans, or broad beans, can cross-pollinate with other varieties, so only save seeds from these beans if you are growing just one variety.

Saving lettuce seeds

Lettuces produce literally thousands of seeds on each seed head. You may find you need to stake the plants as they stretch out to flower.

Once the plant displays its fluffy seed heads, pull it out of the ground and hang it upside down indoors to dry. After a few weeks like this the seed heads can be rubbed between the palms of your hands to coax the seeds free.

As with any vegetable, it’s important to choose the very best plants to collect seed from. This way you will actively select for those plants that perform the strongest and are best suited to the conditions in your garden.

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Saving pepper and tomato seeds

The seeds of tomatoes and peppers are ready when the fruits themselves are good for eating.

Wait until sweet peppers and chillies show their mature colour, then simply scrape away the seeds from the pith. Spread the seeds out on paper to dry out for a week or more before storing.

Before drying and storing tomato seeds, the pulp around them must first be removed. This isn’t difficult, but there is a specific process to do this correctly. See more on our blog for tips on how to do this.

Saving onion and leek seeds

Onions, leeks and shallots set seed in their second year. These plants cross-pollinate, so you’ll need to overwinter more than one plant of the same variety to flower the following season. The flowers are beautiful though, and provide welcome food for local bees and other pollinators.

The seed heads are ready once they have dried out and can be flaked off into a bag for cleaning and sorting. But if you need the space, you can hurry things along by cutting the heads a little earlier. First, check the seeds are ready by opening up a seed pod to observe the seeds inside. If the seeds are black, then you’re good to go.

Leave the seed heads to dry out in a warm, well-ventilated place, such as a greenhouse. Once they’ve turned a straw colour, simply rub the seed heads between your fingers to release the seeds.

How to store saved seeds

Dry seeds can be cleaned before storing by carefully blowing away any remaining chaff, or separating out the seeds through a series of screens or sieves.

Seeds should be stored in paper envelopes labelled with the variety and date.

Store them somewhere cool, dry and dark until you’re ready to sow in spring.

If you have any top tips for saving seeds, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Getting Rid of Weeds

August 22nd, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

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Weeds are a bane to gardeners. The combination of persistence and resistance makes them so frustrating.

Weeds can employ some pretty underhand tactics to get the better of us – breaking off bits of root that then regrow, throwing up seedheads that blow all around the garden, or sending their roots deep underground to evade capture.

To outwit weeds you’ll need to wage a concerted campaign on several fronts, but it can be done – and without resorting to weedkillers.

Read on or watch the video for tips and tricks on how to win the war on weeds.

The Enemy

There are two types of weeds: annual weeds and perennial weeds.

Annual weeds complete their life cycle – sprouting, flowering and setting seed – in one season. They’re easier to control, but spread quickly by seed.

Perennial weeds continue growing for a number of years but have far-reaching roots, making them harder to control.

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Fight Back

Starting with a weedy garden can be intimidating and demoralising.

Begin your campaign to gain back control by cutting or mowing weeds to the ground, then cover with a light-excluding membrane or mulch to deprive the weeds beneath of life-sustaining sunlight. Black polythene is very effective for this.

Alternatively, you can use pieces of cardboard. Remove any staples or tape, then position the cardboard so there is a wide overlap between each piece to make it harder for weeds to push through. Weigh the cardboard down to stop it blowing away. You will probably need to replace the cardboard as it rots down.

Perennial weeds with deep or spreading roots including bindweed, ground elder and nettles can take a year or more to die off but all those weeds will eventually rot down, helping to feed the soil for the plants that follow.

Remain Vigilant

With the ground cleared, it’s important to act quickly to remove any resurfacing weeds.

Carefully dig out the resurgents with a trowel or fork, taking care to remove all of the roots. Fragments of perennial weeds can easily re-root and spread, so dispose of the root away from your compost heap.

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Sink Them

Another option is to submerge roots in a bucket of water for at least a month, until they turn into a sloppy ‘goo’ which can then be poured over your compost.

Zero Tolerance

Tackle recently germinated weeds in existing beds by disturbing the surface of the ground as soon as they appear. Use a sharp hoe to skim the surface and dislodge the seedlings.

Do this in the morning if possible, and on a windy or sunny day, so that the exposed seedlings quickly wither. Regularly sharpen your hoe so that the blade slices through the weeds like a knife.

Act fast – a little effort now will save you considerable trouble later on! Revisit growing areas once a week to remove young seedlings before they’ve had a chance to establish.

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Quell the Uprising

The adage ‘one year’s seeding makes seven years weeding’ is very true!

Prolific weeds such as dandelion quickly spread if they’re allowed to produce seeds, so always aim to remove weeds before they get a chance to flower and set seed.

Keep on Top of ’Em

Organic mulches like compost and leafmould help to suppress weeds while feeding the soil for the crops you’re growing. Lay them around existing crops to give them an advantage over the yet-to-emerge weeds beneath. Mulching like this also means you can adopt a no-till method of gardening. By sowing and planting into this top layer of compost there’ll be no need to disturb the soil below, so the weed seeds within it will never reach the surface to germinate.

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Ground Resistance

Resistance is far from futile!

Consider covering bare soil with a cover crop or green manure to crowd out weeds and add valuable organic material. Fast growers like mustards may be sown as late as Autumn to cover the soil surface in a matter of weeks. Weeds won’t get a look in! Then, just before the new growing season, dig them in or pull them out to reveal clear soil ready for planting.

Intensive cropping using leafy vegetables to stop light from reaching the ground is another efficient way to clean the soil of weeds. Potatoes, for example, have masses of lush foliage that are great at excluding light.

Every gardener should aim to keep soil covered as much as possible, whether through efficient use of space with multiple crops grown side by side, or with generous layers of organic mulch or a temporary cover crop to nourish and protect the soil.

Peace Treaty

Peace at last! Once your garden is clear of weeds, you’ll want to keep it that way.

Check new plants for lurking weeds like creeping buttercup, and check that any bought-in manure or compost is well rotted and free of weed seeds too.

Keep compost heaps and potting mixes covered to prevent blown in seeds from settling, and maintain clean tools and boots to minimise the spread of weeds.

If you have any tips or tricks for doing battle with a weedy, jungle-like garden, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.