Archive for the ‘News’ Category

10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

January 21st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

Harvesting more from your vegetable garden is a worthy ambition, but just what are the most effective ways to increase productivity? Healthy soil, careful planning, and defending your crops from pests, weeds and weather extremes is the answer, so let’s dig a little deeper.

Read on or watch the video for 10 proven ways to boost productivity in your vegetable garden this growing season.

1. Feed Your Soil

Deep, nutrient-rich soils encourage extensive root systems and strong plants, so nourish your soil with plenty of organic matter such as compost, manure, or leaf mould. Compost and leaf mould can be easily made at home for free, so compost everything you can and put a thriving composting setup at the heart of your garden.

The best time to add most organic matter is in winter, to give enough time for it to become incorporated into the ground before spring. Then, top up with more organic matter during the growing season, laying it 2-5cm (1-2 inches) thick around existing crops. This surface mulch will also help to slow moisture loss and suppress weeds, saving you time watering and weeding.

2. Feed Your Plants

Many plants will benefit from a further boost of organic fertiliser such as liquid seaweed concentrate.

Alternatively, grow a patch of comfrey – next to your compost bin is ideal – and make your own comfrey tea, a potent brew ideal for hungry plants like tomatoes. Cut leaves can also be laid around plants, or added to the compost heap where they will help to speed up decomposition.

 10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

3. Grow in Beds

Convert to a system of permanent beds and minimise wasted space while concentrating your resources. Beds may be accessed from all sides and plants can be grown in blocks which maximises productivity. And because you’ll add organic matter directly to the beds, there’s no wasting it on paths or other unproductive ground.

4. Choose Plants that Thrive

It may seem obvious, but growing what thrives in your soil and climate will result in stronger growth and bigger harvests. For example, warm climates are ideal for growing sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Or in cooler areas, opt for crops like chard and cabbage that can cope with the cold.

Choose varieties that have been bred to thrive in your climate. Early varieties are great for short growing seasons, while heat-tolerant varieties are a must for areas with scorching summer sun.

5. Grow More in the Shade

Increasing productivity means making the most of every space available to you – and that includes shadier areas. They’re great for leafy vegetables such as lettuce or Asian greens, slow growers including leeks and parsnip, plus hardy fruits like blackcurrants and gooseberries. You can use the Mr Fothergill’s Garden Planner to filter crop choices to show only those suitable for growing in the shade.

 10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

6. Collect More Rainwater

Rainwater is the best option for watering vegetables. Rainwater is softer, contains fewer contaminants and is at a pH that is preferred by most plants, encouraging better growth all round. So if you’re still using treated water to irrigate your crops, now’s the time to install additional water barrels and collect as much rainwater as you can. You can use a connector kit to join multiple barrels together.

 

7. Extend the Growing Season

Get familiar with your first and last frost dates, then plan to push your growing season further using plant protection. Cold frames, row covers and cloches enable sowing and planting to begin up to two weeks sooner, while harvests can continue a few weeks longer at the end of the season.

The Garden Planner demonstrates this beautifully. Add crop protection such as a cold frame to your plan. Then bring up the accompanying Plant List, which now displays earlier planting and later harvesting dates for the plants grown under protection.

A permanent structure such as a greenhouse opens up more possibilities, making it easy to enjoy an even earlier start to spring while affording just enough protection for winter-long cropping of, for example, hardy salads.

8. Space Plants Correctly

Be careful to leave enough space between plants – plant too close and your crops will fail to grow properly and be prone to disease, but plant too far apart and you won’t make the most of the space you have. The Garden Planner shows you exactly how many plants may be grown in the area available.

Excellent soil can help you to push the boundaries by growing vegetables a little closer than recommended. Square Foot Gardening takes this to the extreme, with plants spaced up to five times closer. Select the SFG option in the Garden Planner to design your own square foot beds. The planner shows you how many of the selected crop will fit into each square foot.

9. Pair Up Plants

10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

Some plants are mutually beneficial. Grown together they can help to increase overall productivity.

Companion planting takes many forms. For example, lofty corn can be used as a support for climbing beans, while lettuce grown in-between rows of carrot or onion helps to smother weeds while these slower growing crops establish. The Garden Planner takes care of companion planting too. Simply highlight a crop then select the Companion Planting option to display suitable partners in the selection bar.

10. Work to Prevent Pests

Take a preventative approach to pests to stop them in their tracks. For example, place barriers over susceptible plants to protect them from flying insect pests, or reduce a nuisance slug population by removing hiding places such as upturned pots or long grass in and around growing areas. Then every few weeks, head out when slugs are feeding in the evening to pick off and dispose of them by torchlight.

Make room for flowers in the vegetable garden too. Flowers like alyssum, calendula and poached egg plant don’t take up much space and will improve productivity by attracting predators such as hoverflies and ladybirds to control pests including aphids, mites and mealybugs.

Try some – preferably all – of these techniques for yourself and enjoy the boost in productivity you deserve! If you have any of your own tips and tricks for boosting yields in the vegetable garden, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

 

New and Exclusive Seasol Tops Mr Fothergill’s Best Seller List for 2019

January 15th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

  New and Exclusive Seasol Tops  Mr Fothergill’s Best Seller List for 2019

It seems that gardeners can’t get enough of Seasol, the new and exclusive seaweed concentrate plant tonic from Mr Fothergill’s. Mail order sales of our new 4L sized bottle have exceeded all expectations and currently sit top of our best sellers for early 2019!

Exclusive to Mr Fothergill’s, Seasol seaweed concentrate is an all-natural plant tonic offering a complete treatment for all areas of the garden and promoting healthy growth of plants, flowers, vegetables and even lawns. It contains useful micro-nutrients and is rich in trace elements. Used regularly, the concentrate has been proven to provide excellent chemical-free plant nourishment.

“Gardeners have really taken to Seasol and the new 4ltr size is proving a real hit” says Paul Pates, Head of Mail Order for Mr Fothergill’s Seeds, “It’s a fantastic product that really does work and the new size is very cost effective, making up to 1,200 litres of tonic for only £19.99 – enough to cover over 500 square metres!”

As well as being watered directly into the soil for uptake at the roots, Seasol can also be applied as a foliar spray for fast absorption of nutrients. What’s more, it’s chemical free and completely organic!

The new 4L size is available from www.mr-fothergills.co.uk and is priced at £19.99, with a 1L offering priced at £7.99. It also features in the new Mr Fothergill’s seed catalogue, available online or by telephone on 0845 371 0518.

Mr Fothergill’s Names its New Sweet Pea Capel Manor After Well-Known College and Partner

January 8th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Leading sweet pea seed supplier Mr Fothergill’s has introduced a new and exclusive large flowered variety for the forthcoming season which has been named after Capel Manor, as it was to Dr Robert Uvedale, a schoolmaster at the college, to whom Franciscus Cupani sent the first sweet pea seeds to arrive in England, back in 1699.

Sweet Pea Capel Manor has large, frilly two-tone, deep purple-blue blooms that are lightly scented. This classic Spencer type sweet pea will add colour and create perfect displays when planted over trellis or fences. A packet of 20 seeds of Capel Manor is priced at £2.35.

Sweet Pea Capel Manor

Capel Manor College educates new generations of horticulturists offering a range of courses for those who are interested in plants, trees and environment. Mr Fothergill’s has a long-established relationship with the College working together to produce spring and summer display gardens and providing an award for exceptional students every year.

Among other new Sweet Peas introduced in the 2018-2019 season is the gorgeous dwarf and compact Teresa Maureen, with RRP at £2.35 for 20 seeds. This highly scented variety stands out from other Lathyrus odoratus with a mass of small flowers in pink, white and lavender shades.

Sweet Pea Balcony Mixed is a stunning blend of large white frilly blooms with coloured markings in red, orange, pink, blue, purple and magenta. This versatile, scented variety is perfect for large patio pots. A packet of 20 seeds of Balcony Mixed is priced at £2.35.

Sweet Pea Terry Wogan distinguishes itself with an incredible warm salmon rose colour which is more intense on the petal edges. It produces large fragrant blooms that makes it one of the nation’s favourite cultivars.

Sweet Pea Teresa MaureenSweet Pea Balcony MixSweet Pea Terry Wogan

All sweet peas are available from Mr Fothergill’s retail stockists throughout the UK and from the company’s latest Seed Catalogue or online. Visit your local garden centre for the full range or head over to www.mr-fothergills.co.uk.

January Gardening Advice

January 8th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

It’s time to say goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019. To the relief of many, the days are beginning to uncurl and stretch out once again. Sunlight hours increase daily as gardeners relish the prospect of a new growing season ahead. Perennials mark the occasion as they set about putting on new growth.

However, let’s not forget, we’re still in the depths of winter. Snow flurries are likely, as Jack Frost continues to bite, leaving landscapes shy of colour.

Nevertheless, what can’t be done outside, can be planned inside. Lists are drawn, and seed catalogues marked for must-haves and old favourites.

A new year brings with it resolutions. Maybe it’s time to sign up for an allotment, join the gardening committee, or be part of a community garden project. Could this be the year you bring your gardening to a wider audience, by creating a blog? Write about your horticultural experiences, the successes and failures. Or, perhaps take pleasure from reading other gardening blogs. If writing isn’t your thing, how about photography? You don’t need to be an expert to point you phone camera at your winter hyacinths and take a picture. Open an Instagram account and fill it with snap shots of all your gardening triumphs and failures. The internet can be a wonderful place to meet like-minded people, to share tips, and ideas. So, start the year as you mean to go on, and grow.

In the flower garden

Mulch

Don’t be too quick to bin your exhausted Christmas tree as there’s still plenty of value in it. Shred it for chippings to spread on ericaceous plants, such as blueberries, or use it to create allotment paths. The branches can also make useful allotment plant supports for peas and broad beans.

Perennials

Make way for new growth by cutting down and tidying up flower borders. Ensure you do not cut into new growth as not only will you lose vital young shoots, but an exposed wound will be open to the elements, which could potentially kill the plant.

 

Sprinklers-on-lawnLawn

If you can, keep off the grass. The freezing weather combined with your weight can cause permanent damage to your prized lawn.

 

Water supply

If you haven’t done so already, cover those garden taps. Frozen water can expand, forcing taps and pipes to burst.  Better still, if you can, turn off the external water supply altogether.

 

Snow

With the prospect of snow more likely this month, it’s important to brush fallen snow from greenhouses, cloches and cold frames. The extra weight can break the glass, plus the plants inside need all the warmth and light they can get. Remove snow from delicate evergreens and tree branches to prevent damage.

Greenhouse

A heat supply in your greenhouse will give you the advantage of making early sowings, for plants such as sweet pea and aquilegia. If you’ve been growing sweat pea since last autumn, then pinch out the tips, this will encourage side-shoots, and result in a bushier plant.

Storage

Any fruit or veg currently in storage should be checked regularly to ensure they haven’t spoilt. Turn them over, and remove any decaying or damaged produce. Ensure they aren’t touching to encourage a good air supply around them.

Snow drops

If you’re lucky enough to have inherited a garden with established snowdrops, or you planted bulbs yourself last autumn, you just might see their delicate little heads rear themselves from the hardened, snow-covered ground this month. Not only is this a beautiful sight, but it’s a welcome indication to gardeners that spring is on its way!

Blue-Tit-Feeding-in-winterGarden wildlife

If you have bird-feeding stations, ensure food supplies are topped up, and water supplies are changed regularly and not left to freeze. If you have a fish pond, avoid smashing the ice if it freezes over, as this can shock, or even kill the fish. Instead, try to melt the ice gently with hot water. Don’t worry about harming the fish as they tend to remain at the bottom of the pond during the winter.

On the veg patch

Winter veg

Continue to harvest veg, such as swede, parsnips, carrots, winter brassicas, Brussels sprouts, leeks and artichokes. As beds become bare, turn over the soil and add a thick layer of well-rotted manure, or compost. You should aim to get all of your winter digging done by the end of this month at the latest, to give the mulch time to deteriorate and work into the soil.

Seed potatoes

Potatoes-in-soil-in-hands

You’ll find most suppliers are already delivering stock to customers. If you leave it too late, you could run the risk of your chosen varieties being unavailable. Get them ordered now and you could be chitting your first earlies by the end of the month.

Chitting is purely speeding up the aging process of a tuber, and letting its eyes sprout. By the time you come to planting, ground temperatures still won’t be at their warmest, but those weeks of chitting will give your tubers a valuable head start.

Remember, stand the tubers apart (egg boxes make ideal holders), with their eyes facing upwards. Place somewhere warm, dry and with plenty of sunshine, such as a kitchen windowsill, porch or warm greenhouse. Try to keep sprouts down to three maybe four, so the energy isn’t too dispersed, thus producing weaker shoots. Six weeks on, and tubers should be ready for planting out.

Onions

If you have a heat supply to your polytunnel, or greenhouse, you might consider sowing onion seeds. They will need that extra protection, but by giving them an extended growing season, the end result will be worth it.

Chillies and peppers

These crops need a long growing season, so get sowing now. With so much variety and choice, growing these fruits has never been so popular. The seeds can be grown in modules, pots or trays to the depth of 6mm, on a windowsill. Although germination can be slow, once their true leaves have been revealed, it’s important to pot them up. Keep them warm, lit and well-watered.

Fruit

Rhubarb

By forcing rhubarb now, you’re simply speeding up its growth for an earlier harvest, and sweeter stems. As soon as new growth appears from the crown, cover the plant over with a rhubarb forcer or container, excluding all light. Eight weeks on, the stalks should be 20-30cm long, and ready to harvest.

Apple and pear trees are still dormant, and can be pruned. Bare rootstock varieties can be bought, and planted out.

Continue to ensure all trees, fruit canes and climbers are staked and tied-in, thus avoiding wind-rock, and potential winter damage.

 

Indoors

Indoor plants

With Christmas now firmly behind us, the only reminders of the festive season are plants such as Poinsettias, Amaryllis, and early blooming Hyacinths. However, their time is drawing to a close, so introduce a new range of indoor plants to your home. Whether it’s the exquisite Cyclamen persicum, trendy cacti and succulents, or a refined orchid for the bathroom, there are options to give the home-grower endless hours of pleasure, with as little or as much effort they desire. With different structures, styles and colours, the choice is endless; a quick scan of Instagram will show you houseplants have never been so fashionable.

 

Could this be the year you bring the outside in?

 

How to Plan a Low-Cost Vegetable Garden

December 18th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

recycle-materials-such-as-newspaper-for-a-low-cost-garden-solution

Seeds, plants, tools, soil amendments, row covers, supports – it all adds up. But if your pockets aren’t bottomless, or you simply don’t fancy forking out fistfuls of cash, there are lots of ways to grow more for less. Read on or watch the video for tricks and tips for planning a low-cost vegetable garden suitable for any budget.

Cheap Seeds and Plants

To grow a garden you need seeds and plants, but the cost of them quickly adds up.

Local seed and plant swaps are a great way to bulk out a new garden on the cheap – or even for free! Choice will be limited so you’ll need to be flexible, and as it’s a swap, you’ll of course have to have something to offer in return.

If you have to buy seeds, which you probably will, look out for special offers on seed supplier websites (like us!) both before the start and towards the end of the growing season. Remember, while most seeds keep for more than one season some will need replacing every year or two, including parsnip, corn and spinach.

Open-pollinated or non-hybrid varieties of vegetables open up the possibility of saving your own seeds. Tomatoes, beans and many leafy salads are very easy to save seeds from, which means you’ll only have to buy once.

Feeding Soil

Nutrient-rich organic materials are the best way to build soil fertility and structure.

Make-your-own-compost-heap-using-old-pallets-for-a-low-cost-garden-solution

You can make your own compost for free, and you don’t need a special container or compost bin to make it in. Set up a compost heap in a quiet, out-of-the-way corner, sheltered from strong winds, and preferably with some sun to help warm the heap and speed up decomposition. Keep the heap tidy by hemming in the sides with recycled materials such as old pallets, which can usually be acquired for free.

There’s never a shortage of leaves! Gather them up to make your own leaf mould, a great soil amendment. If you can’t get enough leaves, ask friends and neighbours if you can have theirs – most people will be only too pleased to get rid of them!

Farms and stables will often give away manure if you’re happy to collect, but check that the animals haven’t been feeding on plants treated with herbicides or you may unwittingly damage the plants you plan to grow in it. Also make sure it’s well rotted down or composted before using.

Grow Plant Supports

Climbing crops like beans and cucumbers need proper supports.

Bamboo canes aren’t that expensive to buy, but they’re free if you grow your own. In fact, any strong, straight, woody stems make excellent poles for climbers including stems cut from the likes of hazel and buddleia.

Cheap Crop Protection

Many crops need protecting at some point, whether from the cold, sun or pests.

For cold protection, make use of old clear bottles, polythene stretched over homemade hoops or recycled glass doors and windows. Improvise shade cloth with old tulle or net curtains. Newly-sown beds of cool-season crops like lettuce can be shaded with cardboard until the seedlings poke through, or protect recent transplants with upturned pots for a couple of days, until they settle in. You can also make collars against cold wind for earlier on in the season, since the drying effect of the wind is often more damaging than low temperatures.

Natural Pest Control

include-nectar-rich-flowers-like-cosmos-in-your-low-cost-garden-to-attract-pest-predators-in-their-droves

Don’t fork out on costly artificial pesticides, which tend to kill good bugs as well as bad. Leverage the power of nature to help you defeat pests on the cheap.

Include nectar-rich flowers in your plan to attract pest predators in their droves. Flowers such as coreopsis, cosmos, poached egg plant and alyssum will draw in hoverflies, lacewings, ladybugs and parasitic wasps that will make short work of pests like aphids. Equally effective are flowering herbs such as dill, fennel, parsley and coriander, or leave some carrots and onions in the ground to run to flower the next season.

Tubs, Pots and Baskets

Remember, just about anything that holds potting soil can be used as a container for plants.

Whatever you do use, make sure you punch holes into the bottom for proper drainage. For seedlings you can’t beat old yoghurt pots, soft fruit trays and mushroom trays, or make your own from toilet tissue tubes or newspaper. Toilet tissue tubes are especially suited to deeper-rooting seedlings such as corn or beans, encouraging a more extensive root system which will help plants to establish quicker once they’re planted.

Paths and Boundaries

Paths can be as permanent or ephemeral as you choose.

Make low-tech, cheap paths by simply covering the ground in bark chippings, you can add a double layer of cardboard beforehand to help smother any weeds beneath. You’ll need to top up the woodchips from time to time, or opt for something more substantial made from salvaged slabs, bricks or cobbles. You can make purchased hard landscaping go further by in-filling with cheaper materials like gravel.

A living boundary can also be a cheap one if you buy the plants bare-rooted in winter. You’ll need to be patient while it grows, but a hedge is always going to look better than a fence! And don’t forget, you can also make it productive by planting trained fruit trees or fruiting hedgerow species like blackthorn.

Don’t let anyone tell you you need lots of money to start a new garden – it’s perfectly possible to create a beautiful garden for next to nothing. If you have any tips or tricks for planning a low-cost garden, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.