Archive for the ‘The flower garden’ Category

How to Harden Off Indoor Sown Plants

May 15th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Tomato Plants

Preparing plants for planting outside is an important part of the growth process when plants have been sown indoors so that it is not a shock to the system. So how do you harden off indoor sown plants?

Hardening off involves acclimatising plants that have previously been sown inside.  If this process is not followed through correctly it can destroy the plants that you have so lovingly taken the time to grow and nurture.  The process of hardening off should take a week but may possibly take up to two.  It important to not harden off your plants too soon as it can weaken them, the timings to hardening off can be discovered in the video below.

However there are some top tips offered for the hardening off process:

  • Always grow a few extra plants in case of failure in timing, if you have too many you can pass them on
  • Never rush hardening off, your plants will benefit dramatically from the process
  • You must also harden off shop bought plants, as they will also need to be acclimatised to your garden and may have been grown in glasshouses and polytunnels meaning they are not so hardy as they might look.

These are just a few of the tips offered within this video. If you have any tips for the hardening off process yourself, please do share them and let us know!

Maximize Your Space: Stunning Designs for Small Gardens [video]

May 9th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

small gardens designMany of us have a garden that’s smaller than we’d like, but there are plenty of clever design techniques you can use to make the most of your space. In this post, we’ll give you some pointers on making the most of your garden. 

  • Use vertical space –  all gardens, even smaller ones, often have lots of vertical space. You can attach planters to walls or fences, or secure mesh or trellising to encourage climbers to reach for the skies.
  • Even walls shaded at the base may still have plenty of sunlight for climbing plants, setting up the perfect combination for many perennial plants of cool moist roots and sunny leaves.
  • Natural climbing or sprawling plants that can be trained to grow upwards include delicious kiwi fruits, grapevines and a whole host of climbing beans, peas, squashes and vining tomatoes. Make sure supports are sturdy enough to hold the plants up – a squash in full fruit can be very heavy.
  • Many fruit trees can be trained into particular shapes to hug walls or fences.
  • Single-stemmed cordons espaliers with their parallel branches or radiating fans look beautiful, whilst making incredibly efficient use of ground space. While most of these fruits will prefer a wall that catches plenty of direct sunlight.
  • Mix plants up – The traditional approach is to set aside a dedicated area for growing vegetables, fruits and herbs. In small gardens, it’s simply not possible.
  • Try growing edible and ornamental plants together – the results can be stunning!
  • There are many benefits to this approach. Planting flowers and vegetables together makes it harder for pests to hone in on a specific crop while an abundance of blooms ensures there are always beneficial insects on hand to pollinate flowering vegetables such as squash.
  • Select edibles with both good looks and taste. Contrast different leaf textures or colours, for example billowing green curly kale with red cabbage or lettuce in green and red.
  • Choose varieties with interesting flowers or unusual but handsome looks such as bulb or Florence fennel or a variety of chard with colourful stems.

These are just a few methods and ideas for making the most of your small garden. For more advice, take a look at the video below. Be sure to let us know if you have any tips on making the most of small gardens!

Maximize Your Space: Stunning Designs for Small Gardens – GrowVeg

Recycling for the Garden: Upcycling Items for a More Productive Vegetable Garden

May 9th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

garden-recycling-bottlesGardening  doesn’t have to be expensive, you can recycle and reuse items which will save money as well as keeping your gardening as green as possible. This post gives plenty tips on recycling for the garden. 

  • Using yoghurt pots for sowing seeds is a great way to start recycling. Puncture holes into the base of yoghurt pots for drainage.
  • Old fruit trays are also perfect as they already have holes perfect for drainage.
  • Toilet tubes are ideal for deeper rooted vegetables, such as peas, beans and corn.
  • Old guttering offers a great depth for the sowing of peas.
  • Polystyrene cups make fun sized containers for kids to learn to grow salads and radishes in.
  • Newspapers can be fashioned into pots, by wrapping it around toilet tubes. A detailed tutorial for this can be found in the video below.
  • Strips of yoghurt pot, lolly sticks and baton can all be used to create labels. All you’ll need in addition to this is a permanent marker. These mean you can label rows of your plants.
  • Many plants need protection before they are fully established. Clear plastic bottles can be cut in half, creating two miniature greenhouses. These can be used for individual plants.
  • Bubble wrap from postal deliveries can be reused to keep plants warm on frosty nights. Polystyrene boxes provide warm micro climate for seed trays.
  • Old windows can be used to create a homemade cold frame. A short tutorial on this can be found in the video below.
  • To protect your plants from pests and birds, you can use netting over canes that are topped with pots.

These are just a few tips and tricks on recycling in the garden, the video below has further advice as well as detailed tutorials for creating garden containers. Let us know if you have any garden recycling tips.

GrowVeg – Recycling for the Garden: Upcycling Items for a More Productive Vegetable Garden

What happened in April at the Mr Fothergill’s Trial Ground

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

May is the time when things really start to move on the trial grounds.  This is the month when we see our bare, brown field start to transform into the bright colourful, productive space we know it will become later in the summer.

Temperatures are still very low, we’ve had several nights in April when the night temperature dropped below zero.  However, soil temperatures are actually higher than we expected – around 10-11°C – due, we believe, to the fact that the soil is so dry!  We haven’t had any reasonable rain for April, the total up to 27th April was only 4.6mm and most of that was on the 26th!  This has caused some problems with preparing the land and meant that we had to bring in a small tractor cultivator to help break down the ploughed furrows.  Unfortunately, our trusty rotavator wasn’t quite up to the job.

Despite this, we have managed to get the carrots and parsnips sown in the main field, so we’re now anxiously waiting to see the first signs of germination.  It’s great to see the first seeds going out in the field and we really feel the season has started.

African Marigolds Trial groundsThe focus for the last week and continuing into May will be pricking out the seedlings that have germinated over April.  We currently have about 1000 pots of various seedlings, including tomatoes, aubergines, African Marigolds and other half hardy annual flowers, all waiting to move on to bigger cell trays ready for hardening off and planting out once the last frosts have passed.

The onions and leeks have been moved into our cooler tunnel along with the first year flowering perennials, which are now looking more and more like young plants!  We did have a problem last week with some of the trays of first year flowering seedlings with labels pulled out and seedlings damaged.  Closer inspection showed that these were seedlings of Nepeta cataria – Catmint!  So we think we know who the culprit was!  The seedlings have now been moved to a more secure area away from prying paws.

Sweet peas were sown at the end of April, directly into their flowering position.  This is a lot later than the normal sowing time for Sweet Peas, but we are aiming to have a spectacular display in time for our annual open day for press guests in August so the timing is critical.  We’ll be keeping an eye on how this trial develops and checking daily for the signs of green shoots.

The biggest jobs on the list for May are the sowing of the hardy annuals, which we sow directly into the ground.  We currently have around 300 different lines going into this trial, so it’s all hands on deck when Brian gives the green light that conditions are right for sowing.  We’ll aim to get them all in the ground over a day or two.

First year flowering perennials will be going outdoors onto the gravel area to harden off before they are planted out later in the month.

On the veg side, we’ll start indoor sowing of sweet corn next week, along with squashes, pumpkins, brassicas and melons.  Later in the month it will be the turn of the courgettes.

The polytunnel is already bursting at the seams with pots and trays of seedling and young plants and over the month of May it’s only going to get worse!  Planning and organisation is the key during this critical, exciting time.

What to do in the garden in May

May 1st, 2017 | News, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Plug plants - MayThings really step up in the garden through May. For much of the country, threat of frosts are gone by the middle of the month, meaning planting for summer can really begin, though the further North you are, the longer you’ll have to have frost protection at the ready – even into Early June for parts of Scotland.

For those without indoor space for early sowings, this is the month to sow outside in earnest – pretty much all hardy annuals and even the half hardy types can be sown outside this month in the warming soil. Those that do make an early start will have windowsills, cold frames and greenhouses brimming with young plant waiting to go outside.

Whether you have flower and vegetable sowings to undertake, young plants to prepare for planting, or are simply looking for some green-fingered inspiration for the month ahead, we’ve got some simple pointers and ideas to get your plants and garden set for summer.

Preparing young plants for the garden
Plants raised under glass or on windowsills will be looking lush and ready to plant through May, but their soft growth is not ready for outdoor conditions. Some acclimatisation is needed for successful establishment out in the garden. Plants should be placed outside by day (unless conditions are really cold, wet and windy) and brought back under cover in the evening over a 10-14 day period, adjusting them to cooler temperatures, lower humidity and increased air movement. This toughening up process is called ‘hardening off. All young plants started from seed or plugs this spring, and any plants overwintered under glass should go through this process. Even plants classed as ‘hardy’ will need this treatment to establish them outside.

Keep new plugs under cover
Any plug plants delivered in late April, and those due to arrive this month, should remain on the windowsill or in the greenhouse until early- to mid-June, giving them time to grow to a suitable size for the garden. Plug plants destined for borders and veg patches can be grown on in small pots or cell trays. Plants for the patio can go directly into their final containers if you have the room for them in the greenhouse.

In the flower garden/on the patio

  • Spring perennials – get a second flush of colour from early flowering perennials such as pulmonaria and doronicum by cutting out flowered stems to encourage strong regrowth. Sadly this doesn’t work on early flowering dicentra – simply cuts plants down as their foliage fades and allow summer varieties to take their place.
  • Move spring flowering violas to shadier parts of the garden for continual displays through summer. Cut back plants by half and offer a feed – they’ll bounce back within two weeks or so for a really strong summer show.
  • Keep on top of seasonal growth on climbers. Tie in new stem growth with wire or twine. New shoots on self-clinging types can be tucked into their support frames to keep the summer display neat and tidy.
  • Cut back trailing spring flowering alyssum and aubrieta as blooms fade, to keep the plants tidy. Use shears to cut back hard, which will encourage a new tight cushion of foliage growth.
  • If fading spring bulbs are in the way of your summer planting plans, lift them once flowers fade. Drop them into pots of compost and allow them to die back naturally before storing in cool, dark conditions for replanting in autumn. If leaving in place, remove spent flowers but allow foliage to die back naturally. You can also apply a dressing of sulphate of potash to build up their energy stores for nest spring’s display.
  • Mulch around mature trees, shrubs and perennials to retain soil moisture.
  • Direct sow hardy annual flowers right through May
  • Direct sow half hardy annuals in the second half of the month. This is particularly useful when it comes to These are a garden favourite but they do not like being transplanted from pots to soil. Far better results (albeit later flowering) will be had by sowing them in situ where roots can grow undisturbed.

What to prune in Mayshutterstock_563939443
The majority of spring flowering shrubs flower on the previous year’s stem growth, cutting them back this month as flowering finishes gives them a full season to put on new shoots that will carry next spring’s flowering display.
No matter the variety, all pruning cuts should be made just above a healthy bud point using clean, sharp secateurs or loppers. A pruning saw may be needed on thicker stems. Once you are happy with the overall size of the shrub, you can get among stem bases to remove older wood, improving air flow and light penetration to the center of the plant.
Common shrubs to prune now:
Daphne odora

shutterstock_338531273PLANTING PROJECT: Create a hanging veg garden on the patio

The warm, sunny locations often reserved for hanging basket displays are ideal places to grow a wide range of fruit and vegetables –simply swap your summer basket flowers for your favourite summer crops.
Many fruit and vegetable plants have pretty flowers so you don’t have to give up on good looks, your edible displays can be as pretty as your floral ones. Don’t forget that many flowering plants have edibles blooms too, so you really can get creative.

What to growSalad leaves, herbs, tomatoes and strawberries are obvious choices for hanging baskets, but there is a surprising range of dwarf vegetable varieties across our whole range that will give great results and easy pickings in baskets.

Tomatoes are the most popular basket vegetable by far, and there is still time to sow seed or pot up some plug plants this month. Look out for bush types, listed as ‘determinate’ varieties – Tumbling Tom, Garden Pearl and Cherry Falls are some of the best for basket use.

Planting by numbers – Tomatoes should be grown one per basket, as should aubergines and cucumbers. Two or three of the smaller pepper and chilli varieties can be grown together, while five is a good number for strawberries. Salads and herbs grown for ‘cut and come again’ use can be planted thickly. You could even plant six or so standard pea or bean plants and let them trail to the floor.

Veg Basket Planting tips:

  • Always use the biggest hanging basket available to you. Small baskets dry out quickly in summer heat and restrict plant growth.
  • Most veg plants will thrive in multipurpose compost, but longer lasting fruit plants like strawberries and blackberries will appreciate a 50:50 mix of multipurpose and soil-based John Innes No.3.
  • It is best to plant hanging baskets by variety for ease of up keep – salads in one, runner beans in another etc., but it is always fun to get creative, so do try mixing things like salad leaves, beet root carrots and nasturtiums together in one display.
  • Crops grown in baskets will need regular watering and feeding to maintain healthy growth. Mix slow release vegetable feed with compost at planting time. Fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, chillies and peppers will need regular liquid feeds through the season for the best yields.

On the veg patchshutterstock_539319679

  • Planting All hardy veg plants raised under glass through spring can be hardened off and planted out this month.
  • Sowing As your first plantings of quick cropping hardy vegetables go out, make your first successional sowing alongside them. It is better to sow your favourite vegetables little and often in short rows or small patches to avoid a glut of produce. Sowing every two weeks or so through to mid July, ensures fresh crops every two weeks or so through summer and into autumn.
  • Plant supports Ensure climbing supports for peas are in place before growth really takes off this month. Supports can also be organised for runner beans and climbing beans ahead of planting in late May or early June.
  • Plant Protection Wild birds are a delight in the flower garden but can become a real nuisance on the veg plot. It’s good to have an array of plant protection equipment ready to hand at the start of the season – it always pays to be proactive rather than reactive.
    Fruit cages and tunnel netting are the best options for keeping hungry pigeons off your brassicas and blackbirds off your strawberries and raspberries, but if looks or cost are an issue you might want to try these prettier, cheaper alternatives:
    – Old CDs – hanging reflective CDs in fruit trees is a common bird scaring device but it can also be used elsewhere on the veg patch. Use string or wire to hang them on or between plant supports.
    – Scarecrows – This traditional bird scaring method can be a bit hit and miss, but they are fun to make with the family and add a touch of fun to the plot too. The trick is to add an element of movement to your design. The easiest way to do this is to leave the arms unsupported so they can flap in the wind.
    – Warning colours – red is the colour of danger and will keep many bird species away from crops, but most bright colours and reflective materials should help keep birds at bay. Set lines of string over crop tops and hang with strips of red material or tin foil.

In the greenhouse/ on the windowsill

Sow frost tender summer vegetables under glass this month, ready to plant out in early/mid-June once conditions are right. With hardier plants being moved outside in coming weeks, fill the space with pots and trays of the following vegetable seeds:
French beans
Climbing beans
Runner beans
Final planting for greenhouse crops Early sown tomatoes, chillies, peppers, cucumbers, melons etc. can all be planted into their final pots, grow bags or border positions in the greenhouse. The tomatoes, cucumbers and melons in the Mr Fothergill’s polytunnel are planted into 10litre pots and grown this way to harvest. Chillies and peppers are set into 3 litre pots then set on top of grow bags to root into the compost below. These methods consistently encourage excellent yields and plant vigour.

Sowing flowers You can continue to sow hardy and half hardy annual flowers inside, but to save on maintenance, you may prefer to start sowing outside. This will free up space for early sowing of biennial and perennials for planting out in autumn or next spring.

shutterstock_1503542696 essentials tasks for the greenhouse

Open greenhouse doors and windows each morning. Day temperatures can still fluctuate in May – think about adding automatic openers to roof and louvre windows so they close when temperatures drop too low. Close windows and doors each evening.
Raise Humidity
With good ventilation it is safe to raise humidity around greenhouse plants, helping to keep them cool during the hottest part of the day. Wet all hard surfaces in each morning. The water will evaporate and raise the humidity level around your plants.
Young plants growing under glass can quickly frazzle under direct summer sunshine. This can be prevented with shade paint or shade netting added to the south side of the greenhouse. Newspaper can also be used as a temporary fix.
There should be no need for daytime heating in May, but in case of overnight frosts it is worth keeping an electric heater on its frost guard setting, or setting a paraffin heater in place each evening though to June.
Water Wise
Prevent potted plants drying out during the day by setting them in trays lined with capillary matting. If pot compost dries, water is drawn up from the soggy matting via the pot drainage holes.
Pest Watch
Set sticky yellow traps just above the foliage of greenhouse plants to keep an eye on potential pest problems. As soon as troublesome pests like aphids or whitefly are spotted, action can be taken before a major problem occurs. Have appropriate spay controls ready hand or be ready to order biological controls.