Archive for the ‘The vegetable garden’ Category

How to Prepare Your Garden For Winter Frosts

February 5th, 2019 | Garden Diaries, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Temperatures have noticeably dropped over the past few weeks. It’s got very close to freezing in my garden, so it’s safe to say the first frosts of winter aren’t far off. Preparing the garden for the colder months ahead is a wise move, to keep overwintering plants and your hard-working soil happy. Read on our watch our video to discover simple, cost-effective ways to do just that.

warm soil protect from frost

Protect Soil in Winter

Leaving soil exposed risks depleting the beneficial life contained within it. Keep the likes of worms, bugs and fungi happy by laying organic matter over the surface before it gets too cold. A layer of organic material such as well-rotted compost or manure, spread 1-2in (3-5cm) deep is thick enough to keep soil life fed and protect the soil itself from erosion, yet thin enough to enable hard frosts to penetrate the soil below, thereby helping to control overwintering pests.

Fast Frost Protection

Keep row covers at the ready so they can be used at a moment’s notice. Store them somewhere dry, ideally neatly rolled up and off the ground to keep them clear of vermin such as mice. Dirty polythene covers should be washed down then dried so they’re ready to deploy.

When frost threatens, or if you simply want to extend your cropping period, the row covers can quickly be put into position, held down at the sides with stones, bricks or staples.

Homemade Crop Protection

Don’t forget the many homemade options for cold weather protection. Clear plastic bottles, cut in half, are great for fitting over individual small plants, either outside or as an added layer of warmth inside the greenhouse.

Cold frames can be costly but it’s very easy to make your own. Check out our step by step guide to making your own cold frame.

garden-fleece-and-hoops-are-great-for-protecting-crops-during-colder-monthsTemporary Tunnels

Clear plastic may also be secured onto homemade hoops, making a handy hoop house. The one below uses lengths of PVC water pipe, secured onto lengths of rebar hammered into the ground and connected at the top by a central ridge of piping. It’s an effective way to keep winter hardy salads and vegetables safe from harsh weather.

Protecting Root Crops from Frost

Many root crops such as carrots and beets can be left in the ground until they’re needed. Some, like parsnips, actively improve with frost, becoming more tender and sweeter.

Lay a mulch of compost, straw, dried leaves or leaf mold about six inches (15cm) thick to help keep frosts at bay, but if the ground is likely to freeze solid for weeks on end, dig up your root crops to store them somewhere cool, dry and frost-free.

Protect Containers

In winter the biggest enemy of containerized crops such as herbs is the wet. Persistently wet potting soil can turn lethal in cold weather. Make sure excess moisture can drain away by lifting up containers onto pot feet. You can use elegant pot feet, or just improvise with stones, for example.

Delicate containers can crack if potting soil freezes solid and expands. You can stop this happening by wrapping pots up in bubble plastic or burlap. Or look for pots sold as frost-resistant. Sensitive plants and pots can also be moved somewhere more sheltered – against the house for instance, or into a greenhouse.

Insulate Your Greenhouse

Inside a greenhouse it makes more sense to protect individual plants rather than trying to heat the entire structure. Wrap frost-sensitive plants up in row cover fabric. Alternatively, section off an area of the greenhouse and heat this smaller space instead.

Old polystyrene fish boxes are great for insulating smaller plants like winter salad leaves against the worst of the cold. Most already include drainage slots at the corners, so you can fill them with potting soil and plant directly. Or just drop trays and pots into the boxes for a snug fit. Cover with fabric or plastic overnight for extra protection.

Know Your First Frost Date

Knowing when to expect your first frost is important for planning your frost protection. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the weather forecast too.

Help your plants stay warmer or use the frosts to your advantage. Either way, being prepared will help you to successfully work with winter. How do you get ready for the frosty weather? You can let us know in the comments section below.

Try some of these techniques to protect your garden from frost! If you have any of your own tips and tricks for for the winter months, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Mr Fothergill’s Is On A Quest To Find The UK’s Longest Runner Bean!

April 2nd, 2018 | Competitions, News, The vegetable garden | 2 Comments

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Are you up for a challenge?  If you always clean up at the village show for the coveted title of ‘longest runner bean’ then this challenge is the one for you this summer!

A couple of years ago we ran a staff runner bean growing competition and the winning runner bean was a whopping 47.2cm in length. This year we want to throw the net wider and get the nation growing lengthy beans, and so are launching a competition to seek out the UK’s longest runner bean.

There will be 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes for the 3 longest beans, and of course, the winner will get to proudly state they are officially the UK’s Runner Bean Growing Champion of 2018 too!

How to Enter

  • You can grow any type of runner bean in this competition but we would recommend Runner Bean Guinness Record or Runner Bean Enorma if you really want to grow some lengthy beans.
  • Post pics of your beans on Facebook or Twitter and let us know how your young plants are getting along. We’ll have some random giveaways each month for great pictures posted with the hashtag #MrFLongestBean
  • You have until 30 September to grow the UK’s longest bean. Post us a picture on Facebook or Twitter of your bean with proof of its length.

The prizes

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

The Rules

Let’s not drag things down with loads of rules!  But…

  • The winners will be chosen after the competition closes at midnight on 30 September.
  • There are three prizes, with spot prize giveaways each month for fabulous runner bean pictures.
  • Mr Fothergill’s team reserves the right to choose the photos they deem the best for the spot prizes each month. Our decision is final and we will not enter into correspondence on our choices.
  • The 3 longest beans by 30 September will be chosen based on the photos submitted proving their length.
  • There is no cash alternative, the prize in non-transferable and may not be substituted by the winner.
  • If you are not the runner bean grower, and the photo you submit is not your photo, we reserve the right to disqualify you! Only your own pictures of your own produce please!

April and May is the perfect time to set your prize beans going. Take a look at the runners we have on the website here: http://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Pea-and-Bean-Seeds/Runner-Bean-Seeds/

And good luck!!

April Gardening Advice

April 1st, 2018 | News, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

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This is the month we take our foot off the brake, and dive headlong into sowing and planting. However, an overnight frost can undo all our hard work, so proceed with caution. The days may feel balmier, but Jack Frost is still waiting in the wings, and will take great delight in scuppering your plans.

 

In the flower garden

WEEDS

At the first sign of warmth, weeds will make their presence felt. Young plants need all the nutrients they can get, so don’t let them lose out to weeds. Remove all weeds from beds, making sure you pull them out by the roots.

 

ROSES

As climbing and rambling roses start to flourish, you may need to tie in the new growth. As it’s April, there’s still potential for a late frost and high winds, so secure them safely, and you will be rewarded with a display of stunning blooms later in the season.

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STAKING

You may notice perennials starting to sway under their new growth. To prevent damage, stake them. Do it sooner rather than later, as the root ball is keen to grow, and you run the risk of damaging it if you leave it too late in the season.

 

BULBS

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

 

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

 

DAFFODILS

Your yellow and white floral trumpets are probably now past their best. Before they go to seed, deadhead them. That way, the energy will go into the bulb in readiness for next year’s display. Let the foliage die back naturally to harness the sun’s energy.

 

WINTER ANNUALS

Flowers, such as winter pansies, will be keen to set seed, so regularly remove faded flowers to encourage new displays.

 

PRIMROSES

At this stage, they have probably finished flowering. Now’s the time to lift and divide. Whether it’s with your hands, or a trowel, prise the plants apart. Don’t worry about damaging them as they’re quite tough. Re-plant where you would like to see them appear next year.

 

HANGING BASKETS

If you ordered annuals for your hanging baskets earlier this year, they could now be turning up on your doorstop. Get them into their baskets, with a good compost and slow-release fertiliser, and also consider water retention gel to help them through those long hot summer days. Once potted up, keep them in the greenhouse until the last frost has passed, giving a chance for your plug plants to grow on. Then either place them in a cold frame, or outside during the day, for a week or two. Then place them in their final hanging positions and create a regular watering regime. Bear in mind, they will require extra watering during the summer months.

 

PLANT OUT SWEET PEAS

If you pinched out your sweet peas last month, then they should now be starting to bush up. Towards the end of the month, you should think about planting them out. Whether it’s directly into the ground, or into a container, make sure you use a support so the tendrils have something to latch onto. Keep an eye on their growth, as they will quickly need to be tied in.

 

LAVENDER, SAGE AND ROSEMARY

April is the time to prune these herbs. Try to do it on a dry, sunny day. Remove any dead and diseased foliage but avoid cutting into the woody parts of the plant.

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HARDENING OFF

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

 

SLUGS AND SNAILS

At the first sign of warmer weather and fresh growth, slugs and snails are quick to appear on the scene. If the use of chemicals doesn’t appeal, then think about setting beer traps. Or, patrol your garden early in the morning, dusk or just after rainfall, remove by hand, and dispose.

 

On the veg patch

SOW

You can finally think about stepping up your sowing regime. Consider crops such as salads, radishes, beetroot, chard, kohl rabi, carrots and parsnips. If the ground is still too cold, sow into modules, trays or pots, then keep them somewhere warm, with plenty of sunlight, such as a greenhouse or polytunnel.

 

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

 

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

 

Towards the end of the month, you could consider sowing members of the cucurbit family; pumpkins, squashes, marrows, cucumbers and courgettes can all be sown indoors. You can also sow runner beans and sweet corn.

Mr-Fothergills-gardening-advice-April-2018-veg-patch

POTATOES

This is the month to finish planting the last of your chitted tubers, but it’s a good idea to keep your horticultural fleece handy. With one eye on the weather report, you may have to cover exposed foliage if there’s any sign of frost. If your potato plants have substantial growth, consider earthing them up. This will not only protect the plant, but will encourage it to produce more potatoes, stop them turning a poisonous green, and can even prevent blight.

 

HERBS

If you don’t have the space for a herb garden, then grow them in pots and containers. Give them plenty of sunshine, and plant them into some well-gritted soil. As herbs often originate from hot Mediterranean climates, it’s advisable to try and replicate these conditions, so don’t overwater.

 

STRUCTURES

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

 

FRUIT TREES AND SOFT FRUIT

A warmer climate will encourage hungry pests to seek out buds and blossom. Rid your plants either by chemical means or diluted soapy water. Failing that, a pair of hands can do the job equally well. Keep an eye-out for the eggs as well as the pests themselves, as once hatched, the damage can be devastating. It might be an idea to net your fruit to reduce pests such as aphids, and to also deter birds.

 

Indoors

WATERING

Longer days and warmer temperatures will encourage your indoor plants to grow, so you may need to step up your watering regime. Larger plants will require extra watering and possibly a liquid feed.

New Vegetable Varieties in our Seed Range

March 6th, 2018 | News, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

We have strengthened our vegetable seed range with the introduction of nine new and two exclusive varieties for the 2018 season, all of which promise excellent yield and flavour.

Carrot Speedo (RRP £2.29 for 350 seeds) is a fast growing and early maincrop ‘Nantes’ variety which matures 90 days after sowing. It has a uniform, cylindrical shape and smooth skinned roots. This high quality carrot has good external and internal colour and a well-rounded tip at maturity.

In support of Fleuroselect’s Year of the Pepper campaign we have introduced the exclusive Pepper (Hot) Curry Pepper (RRP £2.45 for 10 seeds). It produces 15cm long fruits on compact plants. It is full of hot flavour, can be used both fresh or dried and is at its best when still green or light green.

Another new pepper added to the range is Pepper (Hot) Havana Gold (RRP £2.69 for 10 seeds). It is a vigorous plant, great for large crops of attractive fruits. Havana Gold has the amazing habanero flavour but with half the heat. Perfect fresh or dried and suitable for freezing.

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Besides peppers we have also introduced a selection of other varieties including Pea (Mangetout) Sweet Sensation (RRP £2.69 for 150 seeds), well-known for good resistance to mildew. It is an early crop variety producing sweet and crunchy pods.

Broccoli (Autumn) Covina (RRP £2.45 for 50 seeds), quality harvests over a long season. It produces solid, domed heads with medium sized beads.

Carrot Purple Sun F1 (RRP £2.99 for 350 seeds), a maincrop sweet nantes type, with rich purple flesh throughout.

Leek Navajo (RRP £3.49 for 50 seeds), distinguishes itself with extreme hardiness for crops throughout winter, producing long, easy to clean shanks.

Lettuce Thimble (RRP £2.05 for 200 seeds), resistant to bolting and tipburn diseases, producing dense heads of crisp leaves. This mini-romaine type can be cooked, grilled or used fresh in salads.

Tomato Sweetbaby (RRP £2.29 for 10 seeds) is an indeterminate outdoors or greenhouse growing variety that produces delicious and sweet, small cherry-sized toms.

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.