Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Cram More Into Your City Vegetable Garden

April 4th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

It’s a common complaint among gardeners – there’s never quite enough room to grow everything you’d like. It’s a predicament that’s especially true in small city gardens, where space really is in scarce supply. So what to do about it? How can you cram more vegetables, herbs and fruits into even the tiniest of spaces? Read on or watch the video to find out.

Choose Crops with Care

When every last nook and cranny counts, choosing what to grow takes on a whole new importance. In tiny gardens there’s little sense in growing slow or space-hungry vegetables like Brussels sprouts or parsnip. Opt for quick growers like lettuce, radish or beets instead, or go for vegetables such as chard or courgette that offer high yields or repeat harvests.

Herbs are high value crops that go a long way in the kitchen, and their flowers help attract pollinators like bees into the garden. Don’t miss out on fruits too. Cordon or step-over forms of apple and pear, cane fruits such as raspberry and, of course, compact strawberries are a few wise choices for space-strapped gardeners. Many fruit and nuts may also be grown as edible boundary hedges.

Space Plants Efficiently

Traditional long rows of vegetables aren’t especially space-efficient. Using narrow beds on the other hand makes it easier to grow in blocks, with plants spaced equidistantly.

Compact but deep raised beds are great for when you're stuck for garden space

This helps crowd out weeds as well as making best use of the space.

It also helps to concentrate resources where they are needed, avoids the risk of compacting the soil by stepping on it, and makes tending to crops easier.

Square foot gardening – where crops are grown at reduced spacings in square-foot blocks – takes raised bed growing one step further. By using deep raised beds and a soil mix designed for optimal root growth, crops may be grown even closer.

Make the Most of Pots

Containers offer instant impact, flexibility and convenience. They’re the go-to choice on patios and balconies, and are easily moved to make the most of sunlight or to protect plants from harsh weather. Be opportunistic about where you put your pots – any flat surface is fair game!

Smaller containers are good for compact crops like salad leaves and annual herbs, while vegetables with bigger root systems such as tomatoes need suitably larger pots. Check that containers have adequate drainage. If necessary punch or drill extra holes into the base so there’s at least one drainage hole every 3 inches (8cm). Stand containers on pot feet or blocks to further improve drainage and airflow for healthier plants. Make sure to keep plants in pots well watered and fed.

Grow Vertically

Make the most of limited garden space by growing some crops verticallyWhatever the size of your garden, there’s always plenty of vertical space! Train vining or sprawling crops such as beans, peas, cucumber and squashes up and over trellising, canes and other supports. Use their rambunctious habit to create a soothing green backdrop to your tiny oasis of calm.

Wall-mounted planting pockets and tubes will really pack in the pickings, while fence-hugging pots and hanging baskets bring bursts of colour and an opportunity to graze on the likes of cherry tomatoes or juicy strawberries.

Give Plants a Boost

When you’re cramming more in than is normally recommended it’s essential to feed plants properly. Naturally-derived organic fertilisers such as chicken manure pellets are preferable to artificial fertilisers, which increase the risk of a harmful build-up of salts around the roots.

If you don’t have space for a traditional compost bin, consider a worm bin or ‘wormery’ instead. It’s more compact and the hundreds of worms within it do an efficient job of turning kitchen scraps into growth-boosting worm compost and a nutrient-dense liquid feed.

Have Transplants at the Ready

Plan ahead to have young plants ready to replace crops as they’re harvested or spent. You don’t need a greenhouse for this – a simple cold frame will do – and you’d be surprised just how much you can start off on a sunny windowsill. Plug trays are convenient because you can sow straight into them then grow the seedlings on right up to the point of planting them.

Don’t let the size of your garden compromise your quest for a cornucopia of crops – big ambitions can grow from tiny spaces! If you have any tips on cramming more into a postage stamp plot, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

April Gardening Advice

April 1st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

April Gardening Advice

Spring has sprung! We have more daylight, which is just as well, as we’re going to need as much time as possible to get our gardens and allotments summer-ready. But don’t be fooled into thinking winter has completely gone. Those sharp frosts are the sting in a waning season’s tail. Hold off planting what can’t be fleeced, cloched, or protected, until the last of the frosts have gone.

In the flower garden

Deadheading

The once-glorious daffodils will by now have seen better days, so deadhead them, before they go to seed. The energy will transfer to the bulb, in readiness for next year’s display. But don’t cut away the foliage, let it die back naturally to harness the sun’s energy, fuelling the bulbs for future seasons.

Winter pansies, will be keen to set seed, so regularly remove faded flowers to encourage new displays.

PrimrosesLift and divide Primroses for bigger displays next year

Another flower that has probably passed its prime is the primrose. If you’re hoping for bigger displays next year, then this is the time to lift and divide them. Whether it’s with your hands, or a trowel, prise the plants apart. Don’t worry about damaging them as they’re quite tough, and will respond quickly. Re-plant where you would like to see them appear next year, and water in well.

Support

The roses you finished pruning last month will now be full of life, sending new shoots skywards. You may need to stake and tie-in new growth. This also applies for other tall, climbing perennials. Not only will this help support the plant, but it’ll help prevent high winds from causing windrock to the rootball, or damaging young stems.

Weeds

With plants and borders springing into life, weeds will also start flourishing as they feed off the nutrients given to your flower borders. Ensure you weed regularly or they could smother young, emerging plants. Remove tap roots entirely or they will re-grow. Finally, mulch around your plants to suppress weeds and help retain moisture.

April is the time to get those summer bulbs in the groundBulbs

It’s time to get those newly-bought summer bulbs and corms into the ground, or into pots. If you’re planting in pots, ensure the compost has plenty of grit, so water can drain off easily and not cause the bulbs to rot. It’s also a good idea to place crocks at the base of the pot to improve drainage.

If you’re planting bulbs into beds, think about how the final display might look. Make sure there’s sufficient space and plenty of sunlight. If you haven’t planted bulbs before, then the rule of thumb is to plant the bulb at a depth of three times its height. If your soil is heavy, add grit to the base of the hole, and then fill with a gritted-compost mixture.

Sweet Peas

After pinching out your sweet peas last month, they should now be bushing up. Towards the end of the month, depending on weather, these can be planted out into their final growing positions. Whether it’s directly into the ground, or container, make sure you use a support so the tendrils have something to latch onto and push the plant up. Keep an eye on their growth, as they will quickly need to be tied in.

Container Plants

With new growth appearing daily, you may need to introduce a regular watering regime to your container plants. Make sure you remove weeds, and top up the soil with fresh compost or general-purpose fertiliser. Check that plants aren’t pot bound, and are free of pests. Finally, place them in the appropriate growing area, to ensure they respond successfully.

Hanging Baskets

If you’re looking forward to big floral displays this summer, then get your plug plants into your hanging baskets. Use fresh compost and a slow-release fertiliser. Water retention gel is a good option, to help them through those long hot summer days. Once potted up, keep them in the greenhouse until the last frost has passed. This will also give your plants a chance to grow on and settle into their hanging baskets. Next, place them in a cold frame, or outside during the day, for a week or two. Finally, place them in their final hanging positions and ensure a regular watering regime. Bear in mind they will require extra watering and feeding during the summer months.

April is the time to establish a regular lawn mowing routine

Lawn

It’s time to begin a regular mowing routine. Place the mower’s blades at a low level for a clean, sharp cut. Scarify and fork over any thatched areas to help with drainage. Keep borders strimmed, and cut edges with an edging tool. If your lawns aren’t seeing too much action at the moment, this might be the opportunity to give them a gentle feed, or sow grass seed onto bare patches.

Greenhouse

If you haven’t done so yet, clear and tidy your greenhouse. After a hard winter, there will be items stored that can be removed. Overgrown foliage needs to be cut away to ensure maximum sunlight, and it’s advisable to give the greenhouse a thorough clean, inside and out with warm soapy water.

Hardening Off

Towards the end of the month, you may want to start hardening off certain plants to get them ready for planting out in May. By hardening off, you’re simply getting indoor-sown plants acclimatised to cooler, outdoor temperatures. For example, if you’ve been growing sweet peas, they will grow all the better for a few weeks in a cold frame before planting out into their final position. If you don’t have a cold frame, then place your plants outside on a bright day for a few hours, then bring them in before the temperature drops, or the weather takes a turn for the worse.

On the veg patch

Sow

Now is the time to sow crops such as salads, radishes, beetroot, chard, kohl rabi, carrots and parsnips. If the ground is too cold, sow into modules, trays or pots. Keep them somewhere warm, with plenty of sunlight, such as a greenhouse or polytunnel.

If the ground is too cold then sow seeds into module trays or pots

Any seeds sown back in March may now need thinning out, or even re-potting. As you do so, remember that it’s important to hold the seedling by their ‘true leaves’, not their stems. While a damaged leaf won’t hamper the plant’s growth, a damaged stem will leave the young plant helpless.

If your ground is prepped and ready to go, think about sowing peas, leeks, carrots, broad beans or cabbage. Remember to sow little and often, otherwise, in a few months’ time you could end up with a glut.

If you have sown onion sets, make sure you net them. Birds will see them as a potential food source and remove them from the ground.

Potatoes

You should have now planted your chitted tubers. If they produce substantial foliage, earth up as this will both protect the plant, and encourage it to produce more potatoes. However, it’s a good idea to keep horticultural fleece handy, as a sharp frost could burn the plants, destroy the foliage and potentially kill the plant.

Structures

If you’re growing beans and peas, then think about setting up your runner bean poles. Peas will also need a support structure, such as netting, poles or twiggy hazel sticks. Prep the beds and get your structures ready.

Soft Fruit

Fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries should be mulched. This feeds the plants, helps retain the moisture in the soil, and should give you better-tasting fruit. If you grow blueberries, make sure you use an ericaceous compost.

Remember to keep bird feeders topped up

Other

  • Keep an eye on weather reports, as sharp frosts can still occur, and potentially damage or kill young plants and seedlings.
  • Warmer temperatures will also encourage indoor plants to grow, so step-up their watering and feeding regime.
  • Continue to keep bird feeders topped up.

Grow the Biggest Sunflower Head with Mr Fothergill’s and BBC Children in Need

March 26th, 2019 | Competitions, News | 0 Comments

Grow the Biggest Sunflower Head with Mr Fothergill's and BBC Children in Need

Calling all sunflower growers!

Now that spring is in the air, why not have a go at growing one of the UK’s favourite flowers and enter our competition to grow the biggest sunflower head.

Sunflowers are easy to grow, so it’s also the perfect challenge for children – they can challenge their friends or get their school involved.

How to Enter

The competition is open to anyone and any type of sunflower can be grown, but we would recommend Mr Fothergill’s Sunflower Pudsey (RRP £1.99) – for each packet sold, Mr Fothergill’s will donate 30p to BBC Children in Need. You could also turn the challenge into a fundraising event for BBC Children in Need – take a look at their website for loads of great ways of doing this here.

You have until 30th September 2019 to grow and measure your sunflower. Post us a picture on Facebook or Twitter of your flower head with proof of its size – use a tape measure to show the width of the flower head, not including the petals.

  Grow the Biggest Sunflower Head with Mr Fothergill's &  BBC Children in Need

There will be 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes for the 3 largest sunflower heads.

Mr Fothergill’s Top Tip

For larger sunflower heads, try applying a feed and water well only once the flower head starts to appear. And of course, you could always try talking and singing to it! We’d love to hear your own tips – share on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #SunflowerTips.

Good luck, and happy growing!

The Prizes

  • 1st prize: £50 worth of Mr Fothergill’s seeds
  • 2nd prize: £30 worth of Mr Fothergill’s seeds
  • 3rd prize: £20 worth of Mr Fothergill’s seeds

The Rules

  • The winners will be chosen after the competition closes at midnight on 30 September 2019.
  • There are three prizes.
  • The 3 largest sunflower heads will be chosen based on the photos submitted proving their size. The judge’s decision is final.
  • There is no cash alternative, the prize is non-transferable and may not be substituted by the winner.
  • If you are not the sunflower grower and the photo you submit is not your photo, we reserve the right to disqualify you – only your own picture of your own flower please!

Mr Fothergill’s Sunflower Pudsey (RRP £1.99) is available from selected garden retailers and Homebase stores, and online at www.mr-fothergills.co.uk.

Growing Potatoes from Planting to Harvest

March 13th, 2019 | News | 2 Comments

Growing Potatoes from Planting to Harvest

Potatoes are one of the most satisfying vegetables you can grow. It’s not just the growing part that’s so satisfying – harvest time is what makes the potato really special, when those delicious tubers are finally unearthed like buried nuggets of gold. Garden-grown potatoes are really something else! So if you’ve never tried growing them before, make this the year you do.

Read on or watch the video for our planting to harvest guide to potatoes…

Types of Potato

Before you plant you need to decide what to grow. There are two main types of potato: maincrops and earlies.

Maincrop varieties are usually bulkier and give a bigger harvest, and many can be stored for winter use. Maincrops are typically harvested in late summer or autumn.

Early varieties are ready from early to midsummer and are further divided into first earlies and second earlies. First early varieties are first to crop, while second earlies follow on a few weeks later. Early potatoes tend to be smaller than maincrop types, but they have the best flavour and often have a smoother, waxier texture that makes them perfect in salads. They’re also sublime when served steaming hot, finished with a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of herbs.

Check variety descriptions for potatoes suited to different uses, whether baked, boiled, sautéed or cut up into wedges – or even a combination of these. Some varieties offer good resistance to common diseases including blight, which can ruin a crop in warm, wet summers. Or grow first earlies, which are usually harvested before the main blight risk.

Prepare for PlantingFebruary Gardening Advice - time to start chitting your potatoes

To plant a crop of potatoes you’ll need to get hold of some seed or sprouting potatoes, also sold as simply ‘tubers’. Large seed potatoes can be cut into smaller pieces to make them go further. Make sure each piece has at least two ‘eyes’ and allow the cut to air dry for a day before planting.

In regions where spring’s arrival is a little slower to arrive, it’s worth sprouting or ‘chitting’ your seed potatoes. Do this up to six weeks ahead of planting to give your crop a head start. Lay them out in a single layer so the ends with most eyes – that’s the dimples where the shoots will sprout from – face up. Place them into trays or old egg cartons, which hold the potatoes steady. Keep them in a cool, bright place to sprout thick, sturdy shoots.

Where to Grow Potatoes

Potatoes love rich, moist soil that’s been gradually improved with organic matter such as well-rotted compost or manure. Avoid poorly draining soil to prevent tubers from rotting. A sunny spot on the plot will encourage the strong growth you’re after.

How to Plant Potatoes

Plant first earlies once the soil has begun to warm up in early spring. Second earlies are planted a few weeks later, while maincrops follow on a couple of weeks later still, in mid-spring. You can use our Garden Planner to check the best times to plant in your area, based on data from your local nearest weather station. The Planner is also a great resource for browsing variety descriptions and, of course, to lay out potatoes on your plan so you’ll know exactly how many seed potatoes you’ll need to fill the area you have.

Plant seed potatoes into dug trenches or individual planting holes. Space them out so that they’re a foot (30cm) apart along the row. Additional rows of early varieties should be spaced at least 18 inches (45cm) apart, while maincrops need a minimum of 30 inches (75cm) left between rows. Dig a hole for each potato and plant so it’s around 6in (15cm) deep.

Caring for Potatoes

Shoots should poke above ground within about 2-3 weeks. They’ll tolerate very light frosts but are best covered over with row cover or fleece if something colder is forecast.

Once they reach 6 inches (15cm) tall, begin hilling or earthing up your potatoes. Hilling mounds up the soil along the row to encourage more tubers to grow and to reduce the risk of light exposure, which turns them green. Use a hoe to draw up the surrounding soil around the shoots, leaving just the very tops exposed. Hill in stages like this each time the foliage reaches a similar height above soil level, and continue until the mounds are either a foot (30cm) tall or the foliage above has closed over.

Remove weeds early on, but fast-growing potatoes soon crowd out any competition. Potatoes need ample moisture for all that growth though. Water thoroughly in dry weather so tubers grow to their full potential, free of any cracks or hollows.

When to Harvest

You can harvest tubers small as new potatoes as soon as the plants begin to flower a couple of months after planting. Continue harvesting early varieties in stages from this point on, leaving the remaining plants to grow on until needed. This staggered approach to harvesting makes it easier to enjoy potatoes at their freshest and tastiest.

Maincrop potatoes are usually harvested towards the end of summer or in early autumn once the foliage has died back. Leave the tubers underground for a further two weeks then, on a dry day, lift them up with a fork, taking care not to accidentally pierce any of the tubers. Brush off excess soil, let the potatoes air dry for a few hours then store out of the light in a cool but frost-free place.

You can’t beat a perfect potato! If you have any clever potato growing techniques or advice of your own, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Growing Peppers from Sowing to Harvest

March 7th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

 

Growing Peppers from Sowing to Harvest

Whether you like the sweet crunch of a bell pepper or the feisty fire of a chili pepper, there’s none like those you’ve grown yourself. There are literally hundreds of varieties to choose from – and deciding what to grow is half the fun!

Now’s the time to sow them, but before you so much as rip open a seed packet we thought we’d better share a few secrets to pepper growing success. Read on or watch the video for our sowing-to-picking guide to peppers.

Types of Pepper

Few crops come in the variety of shapes, sizes and of course heat levels as peppers and chili peppers. With so many to explore, there’s always something new to enjoy. Grow them yourself and you’ll be able to harvest at the peak of perfection and enjoy unrivalled flavour.

When to Sow Peppers

Peppers need warmth and sunshine to thrive. Warmth is especially important for germination and then to encourage strong seedling growth, so they will need to be started off indoors or under cover in most climates. Sow seeds in late winter or early spring, no more than two months before your last frost date.

How to Sow Peppers

Sow peppers into pots or plug trays of seed-starting mix

Sow into pots or plug trays of seed-starting mix. Space seeds at least an inch (2.5cm) apart across the surface then cover with a little more mix. You might want to wear gloves if handling seeds from especially hot varieties and -please – take care not to rub your eyes after touching them! Water the seeds in using a fine spray.

Seedlings appear quickly when pots or trays are placed onto a heat mat or into a heated propagator set to around 70ºF (21ºC). Alternatively, secure clear plastic bags over your pots using a rubber band then move them to a warm windowsill to germinate.

Once the seedlings are up, remove covers and then grow on somewhere warm and bright. After a few weeks, carefully transfer seedlings to their own pots. Do this while they’re still fairly small yet big enough to handle, and always hold seedlings by their leaves, not their delicate stems. Grow lights can be used to help give seedlings a strong start.

Continue growing, potting the young plants on again if the roots fill their pots before they are ready for planting.

Planting Peppers

Peppers love sunshine, so reserve them a place in full sun where they will get at least six hours of direct sunshine every day. Acclimatize plants before setting them outside by leaving them out somewhere sheltered for gradually longer timespans over a two-week period, taking care that a late frost doesn’t accidentally damage them. Plant out once your last expected frost date has passed.

Plant peppers directly into open ground that’s been improved with plenty of organic matter, such as garden compost. Set plants a minimum of 16in (40cm) apart, or plant into containers that are at least 1.5 gallons (6 litres) in volume. Use good-quality potting soil enriched with added organic matter and plant the young peppers so that the soil surface reaches just shy of the rim. This will help to avoid runoff every time you water.

In cooler temperate climates, peppers will come into flower far quicker if they are grown on with the added protection of a greenhouse, hoop house or conservatory. Plants may also be grown on a bright, sunny windowsill.

Caring for Peppers

Keep plants upright and encourage more reliable growth by pushing in a cane or stake next to each plant, then tying the main stem to it with twine. Larger plants may need several canes.

Pinch out the growing point at the top once plants reach about 8in (20cm) to stimulate plants to produce more branches. This creates a bushier habit and healthier plants with the knock on effect of more flowers and fruits.

In hot weather you may find you need to water your pepper plants daily

Once they start producing flower buds, feed plants regularly with a liquid feed high in potassium, such as a tomato fertilizer. Water plants often in dry weather so the foliage doesn’t wilt, as this can cause undue stress and potential problems such as blossom end rot or leaf curl. In hot weather you may find you need to water daily. A tray or similar reservoir at the bottom of pots helps to contain the water that drains through so it can be fully absorbed back up through the drainage holes.

 

Harvesting Peppers

Peppers are ready to harvest as soon as they have taken on their final colour. Cut the fruits away with a sharp pair of clean pruners then store in the refrigerator ready to enjoy. They freeze well too. Chili peppers may also be dehydrated then pulverized in a food processor to store as chili flakes in airtight jars. Or how about threading them in a spiral formation to create stunning chili ristras?

What sorts of peppers do you prefer? Do you have any tips or tricks for growing them? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.