Archive for the ‘The vegetable garden’ Category

November Gardening Advice

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

Cold temperatures and winter rain bring a certain feeling of urgency to garden work through November. The trick is to work with the weather not against it. Pay attention to weather forecasts and plan your time in the garden accordingly. November is an excellent time to dig new beds and turn over existing borders for example but you need to work in dry conditions – treading over wet soils will ruin their structure, doing more harm than good. The focus for the month is maintenance and tidying, whether it be clearing spent stems or whole plants from borders, a full greenhouse clean, or keeping on top of autumn leaf fall. The bare root season gets underway this month, making it the perfect time to plant new trees, shrubs, soft fruit and fruit trees.

In the flower garden

Tulip planting
November is the best month to set out Tulip bulbs. By leaving it as a late task, soils will have cooled enough to have eradicated diseases in the soil which could infect your bulbs – Plant tulips in earlier in September with other spring flowering bulbs, and there is a greater risk of tulip fire infection.
Set tulips in free-draining soil, as least three times the depth of the bulb, with the pointed tip facing up. Alternatively set them in large patio containers filled with bulb fibre compost. For extra impact in containers set two or three layers of bulbs per pot, for tiered colour come spring. Little to no maintenance is needed as winter wet will settle them in.

Last chance winter bedding
If you are still to set out your designs for winter and spring colour, time is now against you. Plants need time to settle in and send out new roots ahead of prolonged periods of frost and freezing temperatures. Wall flowers, bellis, violas and primroses make excellent spring subjects for sunny borders, patio pots and hanging baskets. With Christmas fast approaching, why not think about festive planters and hanging baskets to welcome visitors to the home over the holiday season.

Lilies for summer
Lily bulbs can be potted up now and left in a sheltered spot outside for colour and scent next summer. If you have the space in a cool porch or unheated greenhouse the pots can be brought under cover in late winter to encourage an early display of colour in late spring or early summer.

Perennial tidy
Continue to work through mixed and perennial border this month, cutting out spent foliage and stems now that plants are in full dormancy. Decorative seedheads can be left in place, not only to look stunning when covered in a hard frost; they will also provide a winter food source for birds and other wildlife. Once tidy, plant crowns should be surrounded with a protective layer of mulch (leaf mould, garden compost, bark chippings etc) to keep the worst of winter frost away from fleshy roots and dormant shoots.

Whole plants can still be lifted and divided to ease congestion in the border and ensure strong flowering. Divisions can be potted and swapped with friends or set back out in the border to fill any gaps that showed this year.

Perennials in pots
Permanent patio pots will benefit from some winter protection. This is done for one or two (or both) reasons. Covering patio pots in bubble wrap, hessian sacking or horticultural fleece with prevent frost prone material such as terracotta, from cracking and will also add an insulating layer to prevent frost damage to roots inside the pots.

Lift tender tubers after the first hard frost
The general advice for overwintering dahlias, tuberous begonias and cannas is to leave them in situ until the first hard frost has blackened their foliage. They are then cut down to ground level, lifted and stored in cool but frost-free conditions ready for replanting next spring. However, if frosts are late in your region, or you live in a particularly cold part of the country, there is a risk that a hard frost can be accompanied by a hard freeze, making it impossible to lift the tubers from frozen ground. Here is pays to lift tubers ahead of the frosts. In warmer locations that generally receive milder winter temperatures and less rainfall, the tubers may be left in situ and covered with a deep layer of straw or mulch to keep the frosts away.

Early hellebores
Despite their common name of Christmas roses, Hellebores rarely flower in time for the festive season. To ensure some floral colour the Christmas, cloches can be placed over plants to provide extra warmth and protection.

On the veg patch

Sow broad beans
In mild areas, broad beans can be successfully sown this side of winter for earlier crops next year. Even in colder regions you can make a start outside by planting under cloches or tunnels, or started in pots in an unheated greenhouse or cold frame. Not all broad bean varieties are suited to autumn sowing. For the best sowing success this November try Bunyards Exhibition, Aguadulce or Superaguadulce.

All go for garlic
Garlic crops can be planted this month in mild areas with low rainfall and free-draining soils. Individual cloves should be set out in well fed soils, spacing 15cm (6in) apart in rows spaced 30cm (12in) apart. The cloves should be set just below the soil surface.
gardeners in colder regions and those working with heavy clay soils should instead set their cloves in module trays in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse.

Pigeon patrol
With natural food sources declining over winter, leafy brassica crops become a target food source for pigeons. Bird scarers can be set around your crop but the most effective control is to cover plants with netting.

Winter brassica care
Cold, wet conditions bring the risk of grey mould and brassica downy mildew to winter brassicas. Safeguard your Christmas Brussels sprouts and other overwintering brassicas by removing any yellowed leaves, as this is where problems always start.
While inspecting your sprouts think about staking any plants that appear tall and leggy, this will prevent wind rock, which can weaken plants and reduce their cropping potential.

Veg patch tidy
Keeping the veg patch clean and tidy over winter is essential for the ongoing health of your plot and future crops. An untidy growing areas littered with plant debris allows pest and diseases a better chance of overwintering to cause problems next season.
Clear soils of all plant debris – if material looks diseased, do not compost it. Either add to household waste or add to the autumn bonfire.

Bare root Fruit
Bare root plants offer the most economical way of bringing fruit to the garden.  soft fruit canes and fruit trees are lifted from the field while dormant and sent out with no soil or compost on the roots, for immediate planting on delivery. The dormant plants are simply set into garden soil or containers to the same soil line that will be apparent on the base of the plant. Fruit trees should be staked after planting. Soft fruit canes should simply need firming in well.

Winterise your Greenhouse

Keep things ticking over in the greenhouse with some winter prep:

  • Clean glass to maximise natural light levels
  • Add an insulating layer of bubble wrap on the inside of the greenhouse
  • Install an electric heater or paraffin heater to prevent freezing temperatures.
  • Install lighting so you can keep working during short winter days (opt for a grow light for the benefit of your plants).
  • If your greenhouse is clear of plants, think about having a deep clean with disinfectant such as Jeyes Fluid

Top tip for winter house plants: Set houseplants on trays of damp gravel, this will raise humidity around the plants, helping to combat the dry conditions of a heated home over winter.


Fascinating Facts: Pears  

November 1st, 2017 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Botanical name: Pyrus communis
Origins:  Western China, but found in all temperate regions from western Europe, North Africa and across Asia.

First cultivated:  There is evidence of pears being used as a food source since prehistoric times.  They were widely cultivated by the Romans with over 30 varieties recorded during their reign.

Types: More than 3,000 pear varieties are grown world-wide. For the best flavours and widest use in the kitchen, opt for a firm dessert variety.

Skill level: Beginner to skilled – once established minimal care is required.

Preferred location and conditions: Full sun or shade (depending on variety) on fertile, moisture-retentive, loamy soil with plenty of added organic matter. Avoid shallow soils over chalk. A windbreak should be used on exposed sites during establishement.

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

Possible problems:  Brown rot and pear rust.

Health benefits:  Pear fruits contain good levels of dietary fibre, antioxidants, minerals and vitamin A, C, E and K.  They are low in calories and are considered an extremely safe food source for those with food allergies

Potted history

The pear follows a similar development to that of the apple. The first proper British pear cultivation was implemented by the Romans. Slower to gain popularity, it was not until the mid17th Century that pear breeding caught up with apple development – each having around 60 cultivars in UK production by the 1640s. However there is mention in the Domesday Book (1086) of old pear trees being used as boundary markers .

Less than 200 years later, thanks to further developments of French and Belgian varieties by UK horticulturists (most notably Thomas Andrew Knight early in the 19th century), 622 cultivars were recorded growing in the RHS gardens at Chiswick House, west London.

The Doyenne du Comice pear was introduced to the UK from France in 1858 and together with the Conference pear (1858) quickly became the dominate varieties in UK production.  Conference pears now account for more than 90% of UK commercial production.

Why grow pears

A perfectly ripe pear takes some beating. Bursting with flavour and juice, home grown pears are a highlight of the harvest season – hard, dry supermarket fruits pale in comparison.  Store bought produce centres around just a few common varieties, whereas gardeners have a wide selection of cultivars to choose from for something truly different for the kitchen or fruit bowl. Dwarfing root stocks and the various pruning and training methods mean pears can be grown in almost any garden situation, no matter the available space.

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

For the best fruit production some annual pruning is required, and just as with the more commonly grown apples, this will differ depending on your preferred training method. Again like apples, but even more importantly for pear crops, pears require a pollinating partner. If space is limited, why not encourage a neighbour to plant one too? You can then split your harvests 50/50 for a share of each variety.

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

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

Royal Horticultural Society

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

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


Growing Raspberries from Planting to Harvest

October 9th, 2017 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Every garden should have some juicy raspberries, they don’t take up much space yet they provide you with an abundance of fruits. Enjoy them fresh or freeze them for later in the year! Here are some top tips on growing raspberries from planting to harvest.

  • Raspberry canes grow best in a sunny, sheltered position. They can also be quite successful in a part-shaded area.
  • They love soil that is rich and moisture retentive. Add plenty of well-rotted nutrient-rich organic matter such as compost.
  • Choosing your raspberry type is easy. You can choose summer-fruiting raspberries, these develop their fruit on last year’s growth. Autumn fruiting types produce berries on new canes. A mixture of both varieties is a great way to maximise your harvest period.
  • Start with one-year-old raspberry canes. Dig generous holes for each cane, then fork in a bucket of compost. Once you’ve planted in each cane, fill the soil back in and form it down with your foot.
  • You’ll need to create a support system for the raspberries, use upright posts or bamboo sticks to train the plants to grow upwards.
  • When harvesting your raspberries, they should detach easily from their central plug.

These are just a few tips and tricks for planting taking care of your raspberries. If you have any top tips that you can offer us let us know in the comments below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Weird or Wonderful? Growing Food In Unusual Places!

October 9th, 2017 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Growing your own fruit and veggies offers you the opportunity to live a healthy lifestyle. You can pack plenty of fruit and veg in the garden by growing food in places you wouldn’t have imagined you could. Here are a few unusual places to grow your own!

Quirky containers: a great way to add interest and fun to your patio fruits and veg! Old boots and chests of drawers make great alternatives. Wooden crates also look lovely.

Recycling the old: crops in old tyres look quirky in your garden and it’s a great way to recycle. You can even stack them to make larger planters!

Vertical growing: saving space and looking lovely at the same time. Vertical growing bags are ideal for smaller gardens that need to make use of the spare space they have.

Old drain pipes: perfect for starting seedlings or sowing salads that can be placed on the windowsill.

On the roof: this may not always be feasible, but the roof is a great place to fix pots and add in your plants!

Take a look at the video below to discover in more detail all the great places you can successfully grow your fruits and veg.

These are just a few tips and tricks for planting your fruits and veg. If you’ve created your own wonderful methods and have any top tips that you can offer us let us know in the comments below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter pages.

October Gardening Advice

October 2nd, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Nights may be drawing in and winter may be around the corner, but there are plenty of timely tasks to keep you busy in the garden through October. In fact, while many concentrate on shutting down the garden until next spring, this is a key month for establishing new planting displays. Spend time this month planting out new perennials, trees, shrubs and you’ll be rewarded with a stronger performance from next spring onwards. Surprisingly perhaps, a wide range of seeds can be sown both for the flower border and the veg patch, all with the inbuilt hardiness to make it through the winter for earlier results in 2018.

Storing summer bulbs and tubers
Gardeners in cold regions or working with wet soils should lift and clean summer bulbs such as gladioli for storing in a frost-free location over winter. The bulbs should be stored in paper bags or boxes of sawdust to keep them dry and prevent moulds setting in. Dahlias and begonia tubers should also be given the same treatment, but wait for the first hard frost to attack plants before lifting them from the garden.

Divide perennials
As summer-flowering herbaceous perennials start to die down and move into their dormant phase it is a perfect time to lift and divide them. Not only will you get more plants to fill other areas of the garden, it will help avoid congestion and maintain health and vigour, for the best performance next year. Here are some simple tips for easy plant division:

  • Using a garden fork, aim to lift as much root mass as possible with minimal damage the roots. Shake off excess soil or wash it away so you can see what you are working with.
  • Some plants produced individual plantlets that can be teased apart and replanted or potted.
  • Other with small fibrous rots are best pulled apart gently by hand to create small clumps for replanting.
  • Those with thicker fibrous roots can be pulled apart by inserting two forks, back to back, into the centre of the crown. Push the handles together to create a levering action to break the root mass apart. Really congested, dense root masses can be divides using a sharp knife or saw.
  • Plants should be replanted or potted immediately and water well

Winter protection for perennials
As perennials are cut back ahead winter or divided for more stocks it pays to provide the exposed crowns with some winter protection.  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.

Planting spring bulbs
For the best spring bulb container displays it pays to get creative with lasagne layering. This simple process involves planting several different types of spring bulb together in one pot. Instead of setting them at the same depth, the bulbs are set in layers within the compost. This creates a tiered effect to the spring colour as the bulbs then bloom at different heights adding real punch to your pot displays. Try it with

Planting for spring.
October is a perfect month for setting out traditional mixed spring displays of flowering bulbs and bedding.  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.

Sowing for Spring
Many flowering hardy annuals can be sown in beds and borders in October 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 undercover and then hardened off for overwintering in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse for planting in out in spring.

Sowing sweet peas
Exhibition sweet pea growers will be busy sowing this month and it pays to follow suit if you want the biggest and best flowers next summer. By sowing now and overwintering the seedlings in a cold but frost-free greenhouse you will have the biggest, strongest plants to set out in April next year, leading to earlier flowering and bigger blooms.

October planting
October 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 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.

Prepare lawns for winter
Lawn grass continues to grow while temperatures remain above 5C, so continue to mow through October where needed. For the best condition for your lawn there are a few simple extras to carry out in October for pitch perfect performance:

  • Autumn feed: Look out for specialist autumn lawn feeds that are low in nitrogen and higher in potassium and phosphorous. This will reduce top growth while promoting root growth and boosting hardiness and disease resistance.
  • Aeration: Use a garden fork to pierce the lawn to a depth of 10-15cm, this will improve drainage and open up the soil structure to get air to the roots for healthier growth. The holes can be filled in with a topdressing of lawn sand or left to close naturally.
  • Leaf Collection: Autumn leaves should be raked off of lawns. If allowed to settle, sunlight is blocked and the grass below dies off, leaving patches where weeds could establish.

Make Leaf Mould Mulch
Rather than add autumn leaves to your general composting bin, think about making pure leaf mould. As you rake up fallen leaves, stash them in a large thick bin bag. When full, pierce a few aeration holes, sprinkle the leaves with water, shake the bag and tie.
Store in a shady spot out of sight. By next autumn the leaves will have broken down into a crumbly texture, which can be used as a mulch.

Grow your own

Top tip for late potatoes Lingering potato crops can be cut down to ground level know, to avoid frost damage. The tubers can then be lifted as needed over the next month or so. The crop should ideally be lifted and stored ahead of any prolonged frosts and severe winter weather.

Top tip for late tomatoes If you have lingering tomatoes plants under glass that are slow to ripen you can speed up the process by stripping all the foliage from the plants  Pack hoses away

Planting Fruit
October is a perfect month for planting out new container grown top fruit and soft fruit, grapes, nuts. Soils retain some of their summer warmth through the month but moisture levels are on the rise thanks to 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.

Divide rhubarb
As rhubarb plants start to die down and move into their dormant phase it is a perfect time to lift and divide them. Not only will you get more plants to help fill the fruit patch, it will help avoid congestion and maintain health and vigour and better ongoing stalk production

October Greenhouse maintenance

  • Remove shade paint and netting to maximise light levels
  • Have a general sweep down of all surfaces
  • Disinfect benches, pots and tools,
  • Check heaters are ready for use fit bubble wrap insulation.
  • Open doors and vents still on sunny days, but close up again before late afternoon