Archive for the ‘The vegetable garden’ Category

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: http://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Home/Growing-Guides/Direct-sowing-in-the-garden.html#.WaUtbyiGOM8

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

Fascinating facts and figures about pumpkins.

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

Botanical name: Mainly Cucurbita pepo, giant forms are derived from Cucurbita maxima

Origins:  Central and North America

First cultivated:  Seeds have been found on Mexican archaeological sites, dating back to 5,000 – 7,000BC

Skill level: Ideal for both beginners and experienced gardeners

Preferred location and conditions: Full sun on fertile, moisture-retentive soil with plenty of added organic matter. Avoid shallow soils.

Good for containers: Smaller varieties such as Pumpkin Small Sugar and Pumpkin Munchkin grow well in large patio pots and growing bags.
Harvest time: Autumn, before first frost strikes.

Possible problems:  Powdery mildew – usually due to dry soils and humid conditions. Poor fruit set  – usually due to cold conditions at the start of the season and is usually remedied once temperatures increase.

Health benefits:  Low in calories, high in vitamin A and C, minerals and health-boosting beta-carotene

Potted history

Pumpkins are actually forms of winter squash and are now grown on all continents other than Antarctica. Early pilgrim settlers were introduced to the pumpkin via Native American Indian cultivation. Many tribes used the Three Sisters planting method, setting them amongst sweet corn and climbing beans, each bringing benefits to the others.
Pumpkins remain an important commercial US crop, with 680,000 tonnes produced each year, The harvested fruits are an iconic food ingredient in the US, with pumpkin pie a staple in Thanksgiving and Halloween celebrations. In the UK, culinary use is second to decorative use at Halloween, even though all parts of the plant – fruit, seeds, flowers and leaves –  are edible. Competitive growing at local and national level remains a popular pastime in the UK.

The record for the biggest outdoor UK pumpkin was set in 2016 with a 605KG giant grown by gardener Matthew Oliver at RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Essex. The biggest grown under glass in the UK was produced by Stuart and Ian Paton in the New Forest in 2016, weighing a staggering 1022kg.

Why grow pumpkins

Pumpkins are a great introduction to grow-your-own for children. The large seeds are easy to work with and the swelling fruits provide a real sense of achievement, leading to confidence with other crops. The harvest, of course, leads to the fun activity of carving and decorating for Halloween.  Pumpkins grow with few problems, given a sunny spot sheltered from cold winds, and while they take up a good amount of space on the vegetable patch, they can be trained along the ground between rows of sweet corn and other tall crops. Some of the best pumpkins are grown directly on the compost heap.

Planting and growing: 

Seeds can be sown outdoors in late May-June, but in colder regions, it is best to start them under cover at 18-21°C and plant out in June after hardening off the seedlings (place plants outside by day and bring in at night for a week before planting). Earlier crops can also be had by sowing indoors from mid-April.

When planting out, create deep pockets of compost in the soil, around a spade spit deep and wide, and set plants into the compost. You can also grow pumpkins in growing bags or containers (at least 45cm/18in wide). Plant one or two per growing bag, or one per container.

Smaller varieties with prolific fruiting can be left to grow and crop, but to get the best results with larger fruiting varieties, only allow 4 or 5 fruits to mature on the plant. After first fruit set, offer a high potassium feed every 10-14 days to support swelling growth.

Keep fruits off of the soil by supporting them with straw, sacking, roof tiles, stone slabs or similar. Allow the fruits to ripen on the plants and harvest before the first frosts of autumn. Allow skins to harden in the sun if you plan to store over winter.

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

Royal Horticultural Society

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

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