Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Optigrow Vegetable Range Marks Biggest Advancement in Seed Technology Since F1 Hybrids

September 12th, 2017 | News | 0 Comments

We are marking 40 years of business in 2018, with what could be the most exciting development for home gardeners since the introduction of F1 hybrid seed varieties.

In a first for home gardeners, we are bringing revolutionary Swedish seed priming technology to 20 of its most popular garden vegetable varieties in a brand new Optigrow seed range for the 2018 sowing season.

Priming, previously only practical for commercial farmers and growers is now available with this new, all natural, vitalising process.

Not only do Optigrow seeds promise superfast germination, they are also proven to produce vigorous seedlings able to out-grow competing weeds. Extensive trialing of Optigrow seeds under garden conditions has consistently produced more uniform crops, better harvests, and quality vegetables.

There is also evidence that germination becomes possible under a wider range of conditions, allowing gardeners to sow Optigrow seeds in colder, warmer and drier conditions than the ideal.

In comparison trials nearly 80% of Optigrow-treated Carrot Amsterdam seed germinated within 50 hours from sowing, compared to 90 hours for the same percentage of standard seed.

Unlike chemical seed coatings commonly seen on the market, Optigrow uses just water and air to get the seed biologically ready for germination, breaking dormancy prior to use. It is then quickly dried back to a storable state for packing, just like any other seed. The treatment means seeds wake up and get underway within hours of hitting the soil.

Mr Fothergill’s Retail Marketing Manager, Ian Cross, said:

“All Mr Fothergill’s seeds are quality tested to ensure high germination rates, but we are always looking to make our best sellers even better. The world exclusive launch of the Optigrow range marks a real step change in the seed market and is certainly the most exciting development since the introduction of F1 hybrids. These super-charged seeds will take the worry out of vegetable sowings and bring benefits right through to harvest.”

The Optigrow range will be available from garden centres from January 2018.

Help Mr Fothergill’s fundraise for charity

September 6th, 2017 | News | 0 Comments

At Mr Fothergill’s we like to support as many charities as we can – so far we’ve raised over £150,000. Over the last few years, we’ve supported and fundraised for the Royal Hospital Chelsea Appeal, Greenfingers Charity, and RSPB – among others!

For these charities, in particular, we’ve have been selling sweet peas, seeds or fundraising through events. If you’ve contributed to any of these, then thank you – all of these charities need help and we are grateful to have given them the chance to assist their causes further.

We’ve recently completed a 20 mile walk, that some of our team took part in to raise money for the Greenfingers Charity. You can find out more about our walk here. In addition to this walk, we’ve set up a page for each of the charities that we support – so if you’d like to help with our fundraising efforts, you can find each of the pages below.




If you’re going to donate your hard earned money to a charity, it’s important that you know what your generous donations are going towards. Each of these charities supports very different causes and all of them important.

Greenfingers Charity

Greenfingers Charity is dedicated to supporting the children who use hospices around the UK, along with their families, by creating beautiful, well-designed outdoor spaces for children to enjoy with family, friends and siblings, whether through play and fun, or therapeutic rest and relaxation.  To date, Greenfingers Charity has created 51 inspiring gardens and outdoor spaces in hospices around the country and has a further waiting list of hospices that need our help now.


RSPB are the largest nature conservation charity in the country, consistently delivering successful conservation, forging powerful new partnerships with other organisations and inspiring others to stand up and give nature the home it deserves.

Royal Chelsea Appeal Limited

The Chelsea Pensioners are the iconic faces of the UK’s veteran community. They reside at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, their 325-year-old home founded by Charles II, in the heart of London.

Thank you in advance for all the support you’ve given us and these charities over the years, we hope we can continue to help them through the sale of our seeds and fundraising. 



If you can’t stand the heat, grow for flavour!

September 6th, 2017 | News | 0 Comments

As the gardening industry gets set to celebrate 2018 as the year of the pepper, Mr Fothergill’s calls on gardeners to forget about the fire and instead explore the many fine flavours found in the chilli kingdom.

If the heat of a hot curry just isn’t your thing, growing the world’s hottest chilli isn’t going to hold much appeal, but if you’ve never grown chillies for that reason you really are missing out. With the industry turning its attention to capiscums in the 2018 Year of the Pepper, Mr Fothergill’s is keen to point out that just as sweet peppers have different flavours (orange cultivars are noticeably sweeter than red ones, and green ones have a level of bitterness) so too do the hotter chillies.

In fact, among the commonly cultivated species, C. annuum, chinense and baccatum, there are thousands of cultivars, representing not only many different heat levels but also flavours; from sweet to sour and smoky to fruity.

We trial around 100 varieties each year, assessing them not only on greenhouse and garden performance but also on flavour. Mr Fothergill’s trials manager, Alison Mulvaney explains:

“While the majority of popular chilli peppers stem from Capsicum annuum, gardeners and cooks really are missing out by not exploring the flavours found among other species. We work with the top chilli breeders in the UK to find the best flavours and the best plants suited to UK growing conditions. The recent introduction of Capsicum annuum Biquino Yellow to our range is a perfect example of a chilli chosen for flavour not heat. This mild Brazilian pepper carries an interesting smoky flavour with just a little heat to add a mild spice and aroma to any dish.”

Outside of C. annuum, mild Peruvian ‘Aji’ chillies are taking centre stage with chefs at the moment. These Capsicum baccatum varieties produce hundreds of medium sized chillies with a sweet, fruity flavour laid over a mild, medium heat.  Lemon Drop is a good introduction to the Ajis, providing a spicy lemon flavour and manageable heat somewhere between a mild Jalepeno and warm Tabasco chilli.

Capsicum chinense is the dominant species in the Caribbean, with fiery habaneros and scotch bonnets widely used across the islands to bring a unique balance of sweet, sour and fruitiness to dishes along with intense heat. But there are also varieties among the species that carry the pungent flavours with no heat.

Gourmet Genetics teamed up with Mr Fothergill’s at a recent summer open day at its Suffolk trial ground to extol the virtues of chilli flavours. The specialist UK chilli breeder has carved a niche in the seed world, producing cultivars that are naturally suited to UK growing conditions while representing breakthroughs in flavour. Its Chilli Midas for example is a cross between a sweet pepper and mild, fleshy chilli. The result is a pepper with extra depth of flavour and a mild spiciness, ideal for cooking or slicing raw in a salad. Its next big release is an as-yet un-named cultivar of a  C. baccattum  x C. frutescens crossing (the latter of which requires warmer conditions than the UK can offer). Gourmet genetics promises a remarkably rich and complex flavour and low heat.

If you are looking for flavour from your chillies in 2018, look out for Mr Fothergill’s varieties that carry a one chilli rating, denoting a milder, spicy heat, rather than a three chilli rating demoting the hottest types in the range.

Fascinating Facts & Figures: Apples

September 6th, 2017 | News | 0 Comments

Botanical name: Malus domestica
Origins:  DNA analysis has traced back the origins of the domestic apple to a small region on China’s border with Kazakhstan and the wild species M. sieversii

First cultivated:  There is evidence that wild apples grew in Neolithic Britain, but it was the Romans who brought sweeter tasting varieties to the UK

Types: More than 7,500 apple varieties are grown worldwide

Skill level: Possibly the easiest fruit to grow in the garden

Preferred location and conditions: Full sun or shade (depending on variety) on fertile, moisture-retentive, loamy soil with plenty of added organic matter. Avoid shallow soils over chalk.

Good for containers: Yes – if produced on dwarfing root stocks
Harvest time: late summer – early autumn

Possible problems:  apple scabcankerbitter pitbrown rotpowdery mildewapple sawfly and codling moth. These can usually be avoided with careful management and cultivar selection.

Health benefits:  Often ranked by medical experts as the number one health food, apples are high in vitamin C, B-6, riboflavin, thiamin and disease-fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients.  They contain no fat, sodium or cholesterol and are a good source of fibre. They also offer good levels of minerals such as calcium, potassium and phosphorus.


Potted history

The first British apple orchards were implemented by the Romans. Many of these were abandoned following Roman departure, due to raids by the Jutes, Saxon and Danes. It was not until after the Norman Conquest that orchards were redeveloped with improved varieties from France.
Many of the Norman orchards were developed on the grounds of monasteries, with monks undertaking cross pollination work to develop new varieties. One of these, Costard, was widely grown by the 13th Century, the fruits of which were sold by ‘costardmongers’, from where we take the word ‘costermonger’ for a general fruit and vegetable seller. The variety remains available to gardeners today.

UK apple growing declined again during the War of the Roses and Black Death, until 150 years later in Tudor times, when Henry VIII instructed his fruiterer Richard Harris to source new varieties for an introduction to his orchard in Teynham, Kent.  Though the first Pippin was introduced from France at this time, Queene was the most common Tudor apple.

By the mid-17th Century, some 60 cultivars were recorded in UK production, divided by use: eating, cooking, cider and pomatum  – an ointment used to treat skin ailments. Perhaps the most renowned of the time is cooking apple Flower of Kent, one of which fell next to Sir Issac Newton, inspiring his understanding of gravitational force.

Apple breeding and cultivation hit its peak in the late 19th and early 20th Century, with the introduction of many varieties that remain in popular today. Extensive hybridisation work was carried out in most estate gardens and by commercial nurserymen in a bid to produce outstanding flavour.  Richard Cox introduced Cox’s Orange Pippin in 1850, and Bramley’s Seedling, still considered the very best cooking apple, was first exhibited in 1876.

The development of new rootstocks following the Second World War brought the height and habit of apple trees under control, vastly improving orchard production, but also making apple trees better suited to smaller gardens.  Great success can now even be had on the smallest of patios or balconies with varieties on dwarf rootstocks that are ideal for growing in pots. The various training methods – fan, cordon, espalier, step over etc. mean that apples can be grown in almost any garden situation, no matter the available space.

Why grow apples

Apples are easy to grow and are an excellent investment for the garden, going on to produce bumper crops for many years. With so much choice on offer, it can be hard to choose the right cultivar for your needs and situation. See our advice on choosing apple cultivars.

For the best fruit production, some annual pruning is required, and this will differ depending on your preferred training method and whether your tree produces fruit on the shoot tips or on fruiting spurs along the branches. Fruit pruning can be a little unnerving for new growers but don’t let the process put you off. Our easy pruning guide should set you on the simple road to success.

Planting and growing:  Autumn to spring is the best time to plant apples, though container grown trees can be planted at any time of year. Bare roots trees are available in the dormant season and these offer an economical and easy start to apple growing.

For the best pollination and fruit set, apple trees require pollen from a different cultivar, though a few self-fertile varieties are available.  Where space is available two or more trees from the same or adjacent pollination group. However, there are often so many apple trees growing in neighbouring gardens or public land that there is a high chance your chosen apple tree could be pollinated anyway. For compatible varieties download our Apple pollination groups fact sheet.

Trees should be staked and tied, against wind rock and for best fruit production and feed each year in late winter/early spring with a high potassium feed. Newly planted trees should also be mulched in spring and autumn for the first three or four years to conserve moisture and reduce competition from weeds and grass.

To browse all the apple varieties we have on offer at Mr Fothergill’s just follow this link to the apple section of our website.

Royal Horticultural Society

This article was first published on the RHS website August 2017. 

Read more on the RHS website about growing your own apples.

David Domoney Seed Range Makes Grow-Your-Own Easy

September 6th, 2017 | News | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill’s have teamed up with celebrity gardener, David Domoney to launch a brand new seed range aimed at newcomers, to grow-your-own.

Love Your Garden presenter David Domoney has joined forces with the vegetable experts at Mr Fothergill’s to develop David Domoney’s Get Growing seed range for the 2018 season. The collection comprises 56 of the most popular vegetable varieties in the Mr Fothergill’s range, plus 10 easy to use seed mats and tapes for no-effort sowing.

Though aimed at building confidence and ensuring success among new gardeners, both novice and experienced growers will benefit from the tried and tested range of quality seeds. Each packet offers simple, jargon-free growing instructions and easy reference icons, while a QR code on every packet links gardeners to further ‘on the spot’ advice from David’s website

Launching the range through garden centres and our online shop this autumn, David Domoney said:

“I am delighted to be working with the team at Mr Fothergill’s. Growing seeds is such great fun, and I want my range to encourage many more budding gardeners to get growing from seed. Whether garden experts or first-timers connecting with a plant, the moment seed germinates is a special experience that everyone should enjoy.”

Mr Fothergill’s retail marketing manager, Ian Cross, added:

“David Domoney’s Get Growing range is the perfect starting point for anyone new to growing vegetables from seed and fits perfectly with David’s passion for encouraging everyone to discover the life-long joy that gardening can provide. Displayed A-Z at the garden centre, newcomers can now make a quick and informed buying decision from a honed offering that is just for them.”

The David Domoney Get Growing range will be available from garden centres and online from August 2017. Varieties include Lettuce Little Gem, Beetroot Solist, Carrot Nantes 5, Dwarf Bean Ferrari and Climbing Bean Cobra.

Visit your local garden centre for the full range or head over to