Archive for the ‘The flower garden’ Category

September Gardening Advice

September 6th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

The onset of Autumn sadly marks the end of the gardening year for far too many gardeners, who view it as a time to tidy up and shut down before winter arrives. However, for those in the know, Autumn actually marks one of the busiest seasons in the garden and is the perfect time to get planting plans in place for the following year.

Our gardening advice for September and indeed the next few months will lighten your workload next spring and in many cases offer an easier start to establishing new plants in the garden.

In the flower garden

Border tidy – mixed borders can start to look unkempt this month as summer performing perennials start to wane.  The plants should be cut down as they die back, restoring order and tidiness to displays. Use a knife, secateurs or shears to cut the spent stems and foliage down to the crown (base of the plant).
A mulch of garden compost or similar will help to protect the dormant crowns from winter damage.  If the plant in question dies back fully, it can be fully covered with mulch. If it dies back to a basal rosette of leaves, these should be surrounded by mulch but left uncovered on top.
Any borderline hardy perennials such as penstemon, phygelius and salvia should be mulched, but their spent top growth should be kept in place until spring as extra winter protection for the crowns below.

Eking out summer displays – Summer hanging basket and patio containers will continue to run into mid-autumn if you keep up with deadheading, watering and feeding.  Even plants that are starting to straggle can be given another month or so of life by cutting them back and allowing new shoots to take over, but with our winter and spring bedding plants despatching now it may be best to empty containers and get them prepped ready for re-planting.

September sowing – Many flowering hardy annuals can be sown in beds and borders in September for earlier colour next year. They will establish roots and foliage this side of winter, waking up in early spring to put on a strong floral display in late spring/early summer.

Seeds should be sown in prepared, weed-free soil that has been raked level to a fine tilth. They can either be scattered (broadcast) over the area and raked in for an informal look, or the area can be divided into various patches and the seeds sown in drills for a more ordered look.

For more detailed advice on direct sowing see our guide.

If there is no space due to winter performing bedding displays, hardy annuals can be started off under cover and then hardened off for overwintering in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse for planting in out in spring.

Spring bulbs – Our selection of spring flowering bulbs start to dispatch through September, at the perfect time for planting for the best displays. We work very closely with our growers to ensure we offer the very best, top sized bulbs, which will provide you with a glorious spring show. All of the bulbs we offer have been trialled and tested, either on our own Suffolk trials ground or on those of our growers, to ensure we offer the best range for British gardens.

Bulbs are one of the best value investments for the garden, returning year on year with the absolute minimum of upkeep and care. Simply plant this autumn for years of bold spring colour in borders, containers, lawns, rockeries – these versatile garden additions will pretty much grow anywhere you plant them. For the best performance choose a sunny to partially shaded location in any moist but free-draining soil.

September planting – September is a perfect month for planting out new container grown perennials, trees and shrubs. Soils retain some of their summer warmth through the month but moisture levels are on the rise thanks to the autumn rain. This creates the perfect conditions for early root establishment and also reduces the level of watering needed during the critical early stages of establishment. Watering may be needed in prolonged dry spells next year, but winter wet will have done a large part of the settling in process for you.

Cold season colour – Our winter and spring bedding plants are dispatching now. These winter hardy plants have all been selected to guarantee winter and spring colour in borders, baskets and patio containers. Stunning on their own or mixed together, our pansies, violas, primroses, bellis daisies, wallflowers, and forget-me-nots all offer effortless colour for the colder months of the year.

Plant by variety, or mix together for a kaleidoscope of colour. All our bedding plants work perfectly with spring flowering bulbs too. As you plant your beds and borders add a bulb in between each plant for extra height and colour some spring.

On the Veg patch

Sowing – as in the flower garden, there is a range of hardy vegetables that can be sown this month for overwintering and early cropping next spring. If you are looking to avoid empty veg patches through winter, make sowings of the following in coming weeks: winter lettuce, corn salad, turnips, spring onion, broad beans, spinach, Oriental vegetables including Choi Sum and Pak Choi.

You can also make the last sowing of quick-cropping summer vegetables including radish and salad leaves. If autumn arrives fast in your area, these can be sown in containers and brought under cover when the first frosts threaten.

Spring cabbages – Spring cabbage seedlings sown in July and August should now be large enough to plant out. Soils should be improved ahead of planting by adding well-rotted manure or garden compost. Cabbages prefer a firm soil, so tread over the area and rake flat before planting. Set out in rows leaving 30-45cm between each plant and row.

Asparagus – September is a key month for establishing new asparagus crowns. They perform best in well drained fertile soils, rich in organic matter. Crowns should be set out in long trenches, 20cm deep and 30cm wide. Fill the bottom of the trench with a 7.5cm mounded layer of compost and soil.  Place the asparagus crown on top of the ridge, draping roots over the sides. Cover with another 7.5cm of soil, firm down and water. As growth commences next spring, gradually fill in the remainder of the trench as the spears develop.
Established plants should be cut down to the ground as soon as the foliage has browned. With easier access to the soil, the area should be thoroughly weeded and a good layer of mulch applied afterwards.

Onions, shallots and garlic – September is a great time to plant onions, shallots and garlic as the soil is still warm and the long days give high light levels. Overwintering your alliums will allow them to develop strong root systems to see them through the winter, ready to burst in to life in early spring. Our tried and tested varieties are guaranteed to produce fantastic yields of flavoursome and tender crops.

Onions, shallots and garlic should be set out in rows, in firm, free-draining soil in full sun. Soils should be improved ahead of planting but avoid setting them on a freshly manured soil. Leave 10cm between each bulb and 30cm between rows. The bulbs (or sets) should be planted with the tip of the bulb just showing above the soil surface.


In the greenhouse/on the windowsill

Overwintering – Towards the end of September start to bring prized tender plants under cover of the greenhouse to keep them frost free through winter. Many summer bedding plants can be overwintered this way, leading to bigger better displays the following year. Try it with fuchsias, begonias, geraniums, petunias and marguerites. Water sparingly until spring, but ensure good light levels by washing off shade paint and removing shade netting.

Early bulb colour For early indoor displays of your favourite spring flowering bulbs, pot up tulips, daffodils and hyacinths this month and leave them outside for six weeks or so.  Then bring into the greenhouse to encourage early growth. As soon as flower buds develop the pots can be brought into the house for spring colour in the middle of winter.

What To Do In The Garden In July

July 1st, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Well planned summer gardens will be moving into their peak this month. The majority of perennials, biennials and annuals will already be in bloom, and seasonal fruit and vegetable crops will need picking in earnest, making July one of the best times to be out in the garden.

If other commitments are keeping you busy the main jobs to focus on through July are watering, feeding and regular removal of spent flowers to keep displays looking good for as long as possible. For those with more time, there are plenty of other tasks to keep you busy in the garden through July.

In the flower garden

Deadheading: Bedding plants and perennials will benefit from regular removal of spent flowers through summer. Not only does it keep plants tidy, it encourages them to put on more flowers. Bedding plant flowers are easily pinched off by hand, but it may be better to use snips or secateurs on perennials with thicker, harder flower stalks and stems to avoid damage.

Perennials: Cut back faded perennials to keep borders in peak condition. Many varieties such as hardy geraniums, delphiniums and lupins will put on a second flush of flowers if cut back immediately after the first flush has finished.

Divide bearded iris: These early flowering perennials, and stars of the Chelsea Flower Show can be divided now that flowering is finished.  Splitting mature plants will keep them productive – crowded iris plants produce fewer flowers than well-spaced plants.

  • Start by lifting from the ground with a spade or digging fork, aiming to lift the whole clump.
  • Knock off as much soil as possible from the fleshy rhizomes.
  • Now you can see the rhizomes clearly, cut into 10cm pieces, ensuring each division has one fan of leaves. Keep as many roots on the rhizomes as possible.
  • Cut down the fan leaves to around 20cm – new plants can then focus on root development.
  • Set out the divisions in prepared soil in a sunny, sheltered location, spacing 45cm apart. Fan out roots in shallow planting holes and cover so the rhizomes are just below soil surface.
  • Keep well-watered for the rest of the summer season.

Three tips for top sweet peas: Sweet peas can quickly go over during summer heat, but there are three simple tips to ensure you get the longest display from these heavenly scented plants:

  1. Pick flowers daily – if not for vases, then simply to stop pods forming. As soon as seeds start setting, flower production is greatly reduced.
  2. Water thoroughly and deeply – sweet peas are prone to powdery mildew, which presents itself as a grey mould on the foliage. It is a common problem at this time of year where soils are dry and the air humid. Fungicides are available to tackle the problem but prevention is better than cure. Reduce the risk by watering regularly and heavily to keep soils moist. Good air flow around plants also helps.
  3. Aphids love the soft new growth on sweet peas. These sap suckers risk bringing viral infections, leading to distorted foliage and stunted growth. Infestations can be prevented and controlled with the use of insecticides, but many gardeners prefer to tackle them with home-made remedies such as garlic or soap sprays. Even a jet of water from a hose can do its part in knocking aphids off of plants.

Sow speedy seeds: It’s too late for the majority of annual flowers to be sown at this stage in the year – the first autumn frosts will kill them off before they have had a chance to put on a good display. Fortunately there are some speedy varieties that will give results in as little as 6-8 weeks, ensuring a good show of late season colour.  If it’s fast colour you are after, sow the following in the next week or so: nasturtiums, night phlox, calendula, poached egg plant, swan river daisy, Californian poppy
These are all great options for filling gaps or replacing other annuals such as pot marigolds that have often exhausted themselves by this stage in the year.
Simply scatter your seed where you want them to grow or set them in small pots to get them started and transplant them when large enough to handle.

Sowing Biennials: With so many annual flowers to choose from why pick biennials that only flower in their second year? The answer is sheer flower power! The majority of biennials reward gardeners for their patience by putting on an extra generous display of blooms, often early in the season, really kick-starting the colour in your summer displays.
July is a perfect time to sow biennials. By sowing in the next few weeks, the resulting plants have time to put on good foliage and root growth before resting over winter. This gives them the reserves to grow strongly the following spring, going on to offer good colour from late spring onwards. Traditionally biennials are sown in a dedicated nursery bed and transplanted to their flowering position in autumn. These days, very few of us are lucky enough to have space for a nursery bed. Instead seeds can be sown direct where they are to flower or raised in trays and pots, for planting out in autumn.
Here are 10 top biennials to tempt you:
Sweet William
Canterbury Bells
Daucus Dara
All Mr Fothergill’s seeds come with sowing and growing instructions, but for more detail read our handy sowing guide here
Did you know? Many of the shorter lived perennials are better treated as biennials, looking best in their second year and losing their lustre in their third and fourth years. Aquilegia, hollyhocks, lupins, sweet Williams and many other popular perennials can be raised this way for better garden displays.

War on weeds: Keeping the garden weed-free is a constant battle. Cultural methods are always the kindest on the garden and wildlife – regular hoeing prevents annual weed species getting past the seedling stage, removing the need for chemical sprays. However, if you’ve let things slip this season, or if perennial weeds are the main problem, July is perfect for tackling weed growth with glyphosate and other chemical sprays. Weeds will generally be at their peak of growth meaning lots of foliage surface area for absorbing the active ingredients of your chosen spray. If you do choose to spray, make sure to first remove any seeding flower heads as they can continue to disperse around the garden after spraying. Do this early in the morning or late in the evening, avoiding times when pollinating insects are on the wing.
Perennial weeds can be tackled by hand but it is harder work. Many perennial weeds will regrow from the smallest piece of root left in the ground – ground elder, dandelion, bindweed and creeping buttercup are renowned for this. If digging weeds by hand, be extra vigilant to remove all roots to prevent further problems arising.

Pest controls: A wide range of insects can take hold of susceptible plants in summer. Regular checks should be made as early treatment is always the most effective.

On the patio

Watering: The most important job on the patio this month is ensuring plants receive enough water to get them through the heat of the day. During particularly hot weather patio pots should be watered once a day. Hanging baskets can dry out even quicker, and may need watering twice a day to keep plants looking lush.  It is best to water plants early in morning or late in the evening, reducing water evaporation and the risk of leaf scorch – water droplets can act like magnifying glasses when sun shines through them.
Pot trays and saucers can be used to hold water at the roots during summer heat, but make sure to remove these as temperatures cool.

Feed container plants:  Unless you added slow release fertiliser at time of planting, available nutrients in pot compost will be soon be exhausted and additional feeding will be required to carry summer displays through to autumn. Granular or pelleted fertiliser can be scratched into the compost as a top dressing or liquid feeds can be applied every week or two from now until displays finish.
If plants are already showing a lack of nutrients – reduced flowering and yellowing foliage – a foliar feed can be sprayed over them as a quick fix.

Continual container colour: There is always room for one more pot on the patio! Any late additions to the display should include later flowering bedding and perennials – dahlias, coreopsis, gaillardia, geraniums (pelargoniums), begonias and fuchsias will all keep on going to the first hard frosts of autumn – even longer if set in a sheltered location.

On the veg patch

Keep vegetables patches well-watered through July to prevent any check in growth and reduce the risk of leaf and root crops from bolting – running to seed.

After heavy watering or summer downpours a mulch of compost or grass clippings can be laid over soils around plants to retain moisture. This will also help smother weed seeds and seedlings.

Net soft fruit, peas, brassicas to keep scavenging birds away from the crops.

Pinch out climbing beans once they reach the top of their supports to encourage

Successional sowing summer crops: For many summer cropping vegetables the first half of July is the last chance to make another sowing.  In the next week or two, make final sowings of peas, dwarf beans, beetroot, and carrots. Faster crops can be sown two or three times this month, ensuring regular pickings through to autumn. Continue to make regular sowing of lettuce, salad leaves, rocket, radish, kohl rabi and spring onions.
Continue to sow fast cropping herbs such as coriander, basil, dill and parsley. If sown in pots they can be brought inside towards autumn for continual cropping.

Sowing for autumn and winter: Keep productive in the winter months by sowing the following vegetables in coming weeks: Fennel, kohl rabi, endive, radicchio, perpetual spinach, chicory, chard, land cress, parsley, and oriental salad leaves.

Sowing for spring: July is perfect for starting spring cabbages from seed. The can either be sown where they are to crop, or started in seed trays, pots or seed beds for transplanting in early autumn once ground becomes available.

Transplanting: set out hardy vegetables including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, leeks, winter cabbages and parsnips for winter harvests.

Green manures: As harvesting clears soil on the vegetable patch think about sowing soil-conditioning green manures rather than more crops. This is an excellent alternative where farmyard manure or homemade compost is not an option.  Green manures can be sown year round and dug into the soils after 8 weeks or so in the ground, improving soil structure while adding nutrients to the mix – some green manures such as field lupins and clover fix nitrogen from the air into the roots – releasing it into the soil once dug in.
Sowing green manures in July allows for digging in ahead of planting overwintering crops in September/October. See our full range of green manures and what they can do for your soil here

What Happened In June At The Mr Fothergill’s Trial Ground

June 29th, 2017 | News, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

So June turned out to be as hectic as expected plus a bit more. Weeding and planting out were the themes of the month and the trial field is suddenly taking shape.

But the biggest transformation has probably been in the main polytunnel; all the early sown transplants had to be moved out to allow the indoors tomatoes to go into their final positions.  Brian’s tried and trusted method is three plants per grow bag, each planted into a 10 litre pot.  With over 90 varieties of tomato in the tunnel trial that’s a mammoth task.

We had great success with the few aubergine varieties we grew in the tunnel last year so we’ve increased that trial and we’re looking at 13 different varieties this year.  Brian likes to grow them the same way as the tomatoes, however they need to be kept moist to stop the dreaded red spider mite – at the first sign of these the plants will have to go!

Out on the field, the first-year flowering perennials were the first to be planted, followed quickly by the half hardy annuals.  We managed to pick some of the hottest days of the year to do this, but the trials team did brilliantly, helped out by several of the office staff who gave up their time to help.  The plants have had to be watered in well but they’re now looking great and we have some splashes of colour out there already.

On the veg front, the sweet corn, leeks and spring onions are all now out in the field and looking good.  We had a bit of a disaster with the brassica trial, first of all it was attacked by slugs and snails then it suffered with the high temperatures and it looks like we’ve lost several rows.  So a resow is in progress and hopefully we’ll still have something to see, albeit later than originally planned.


However, we’ve had great results so far with the indoor cucumber and melon trial.  This year we’ve allocated our two smaller tunnels to these two species, with 14 different cucumbers in one and 8 melons, including baskets of the fascinating Cucamelon in the other.  The melons include both water melons and more standard types so we’re excited to see how well they perform this year.

The staff competitions are now in full swing.  We’ve got several wildlife patches coming to life – the brief is to create a wildlife friendly garden to include a home-made insect hotel.  We’ve got 11 entries to the competition now underway with a wide range of style and ideas coming together on a daily basis.

What Happened In May At The Mr Fothergill’s Trial Ground What Happened In May At The Mr Fothergill’s Trial Ground







The pumpkin growing competition also kicked off this month.  14 teams are competing not only to grow a pumpkin but also to carve it for a Halloween display.  The variety they are all growing is Pumpkin Polar Bear which produces lovely bright white skin, so we’re hoping for some really imaginative creations come Halloween.

We’re now getting to the end of the planting out phase, with quick cropping courgettes, peas, lettuce, dwarf beans, beetroot, chard, spinach, radish and baby leaf left to go.  But before we can get on to them we have to clear a huge crop of the hated muckweed / fat hen / Chenopodium that has suddenly taken advantage of the warm, wet weather.  Seemingly overnight, bare areas of the trial field have been smothered with this amazingly fast growing weed.  Apparently, a single plant can produce 20,000 seeds so the focus is on getting rid of it as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The Big Bug Hunt: How to Prevent Common Garden Pests Damaging Your Crops [video]

June 27th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Prevent Common Garden PestsPests are an inevitable garden presence, they’re frustrating but it’s important to not get too irritated. It’s just another gardening challenge to overcome. This post looks into how to prevent common garden pests.

  • Slugs and snails are the bane of many gardens, they demolish leaves.
  • Prevent them by putting up barriers. Copper rings around the base of plants will deter them from nibbling at leaves by giving them a small electric shock.
  • Eggshells are also a great way to prevent slugs and snails from attacking your leaves.
  • Beer traps are another effective method, slugs will be attracted to the yeasty scent and will drown attempting to get to the scent.
  • Installing a pond in your garden can attract frogs; they are great at eating pests in the garden and steering them clear of your plants.
  • Cabbage white butterflies (cabbage worms) carry an appetite for the cabbage family.
  • Stop them laying eggs by laying butterfly netting over your plants. This can be draped over a simple wooden frame. Ensure it’s well secured.
  • Planting decoy plants at the end of a row can protect your important plants from the cabbage butterflies.
  • Aphids can attack your vegetables.
  • Spray colonies of aphids with soapy water, this offers some control.
  • Many bugs feast on these like ladybugs and hover flies. You’ll need to attract beneficial bugs, which can be done with particular plants and bug hotels.

These are just a few tips and tricks that you can put into practice, keeping your garden pest free. The video below discusses further advice and introduces the Big Bug Hunt. Find out more on the Big Bug Hunt site. If you have any pest prevention techniques you would like to share, please let us know in the comments below. 

The Big Bug Hunt: How to Prevent Common Garden Pests Damaging Your Crops

Dealing With Aphids: Pest Control Tips & How To Protect Your Plants [video]

June 13th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Dealing With Aphids: Pest Control Tips & How To Protect Your Plants Aphids are one of the most common garden pests, infesting and weakening our crops while spreading plant diseases. We are here to offer you a few tips & tricks on how to protect your plants from these pests!

  1. Squash & remove – start by checking plants regularly for any signs of aphids. As soon as you spot any, squash them by hand. Clusters of locally concentrated aphids, for example at the tips of shoots – may be nipped off in their entirety and destroyed. Pinch out the tips of fava (or broad) beans once the first pods appear to make the plants less attractive to black bean aphids.
  2. Blast them off – try blasting small infestations of aphids off your plants with a jet of water from a hose pipe. Adjust the nozzle or cover the end of the pipe with your finger to force the water out at higher pressure. The aphids will be knocked off and fall to the ground and will be unlikely to return to the plant.
  3. Spray soapy water – add a couple of drops of dish soap to a spray bottle, top up with water and shake to dissolve. Spray the solution liberally over the plants, remembering to reach all parts of the plant, including the undersides of the leaves. The soapy water traps and suffocates the aphids.
  4. Cover vulnerable vegetables – winged aphids can quickly spread plant diseases such as cucumber mosaic virus. To avoid this, cover susceptible plants with row covers of fleece in midsummer when the risk of disease is highest. Vulnerable plants include cucumber, spinach and celery, so prioritise covers for these vegetables.
  5. Attract aphid predators – where you find aphids, you’ll also find aphid predators. Ladybugs, especially their larvae, have a voracious appetite for these soft-bodied insects. Hoverfly larvae also much their way through aphids. As do lacewings and many types of tiny parasitic wasp. You can attract these beneficial insects to your garden by planting a range of flowering plants. Plants with simple single flowers are best, including the poached eggplant, marigolds, calendula, alyssum, buckwheat and echinacea. Flowering herbs are also a magnet for predators, including dill, fennel, parsley, thyme and mint. Grow these plants next to your vegetables so that beneficial bugs come to feed and hopefully bring their appetite for aphids with them!

Hopefully these tips will help you to combat any aphid struggles you’ve had in your garden. If you have any of your own then please let us know in the comments below or on our social media. The video below gives further information on aphids and how to fight back without using pesticides.

GrowVeg – Dealing With Aphids: Pest Control Tips & How To Protect Your Plants