Nation of Gardeners April planting update: follow the Cucamelon craze!

Live plants delivery for #nationofgardenersThe weather in April was warm and mild.  When the sun came out, a foretaste of summer was gifted to us and the showers that accompanied the warm weather made for a perfect Spring in gardening terms.  This has certainly helped our Nation of Gardeners to raise some healthy plants for Mr Fothergill’s trials.

During the previous two months, our group of gardeners have been sent tomato seeds, totalling 6 varieties. Everyone has been getting along rather well with tomato growing on the whole, with some very impressive plants being seen from some of gardeners around the UK.  We certainly seem to have the green-fingered amongst us that is for sure.

In the April parcel there were yet more tomatoes for our Nation of Gardeners to grow. This time they were supplied in plug plant form having been grown in the Mr Fothergill’s nurseries in optimum growing conditions.

We also sent out sweet peas and garlic, which had been received before in the autumn in order our group of gardeners could make more comparisons between spring and autumn planting.   And, since everyone seems to be talking about them this year, we also included a pack of Cucamelons in the April parcel in order to see if these plants live up to their hype!

You can follow the gardener’s progress as they post regular updates to the Facebook wall or by following the #nationofgardeners hashtag on Twitter.  Feel free to post your own garden updates to Mr Fothergill’s too.


A round up of April’s planting tasks

A new species has hit the headlines in 2014, most probably due to the efforts of James Wong!   In 2014 Mr Fothergill’s is proud to present to the public the Cucamelon!

We have found at Mr Fothergill’s a huge increase in interest in this greenhouse crop, so much so that we have run out of supplies of Cucamelon once already this year and have had to restock. We thought we would give this newly available plant a run through with our Nation of Gardeners to see how they got on with it.

Cucamelons germinating

Bristol Cucamelons starting to climb

The variety is Cucamelon Mexican Gherkin, which promises an abundance of fruit that resemble tiny watermelons.   With a taste that is similar to cucumber but with a citrus-y, lime-y tang, they will be perfect for scattering whole on summer salads.  Unless the taste is an acquired one!

Our gardeners sowed their cucamelons in mid-April, though for some germination was erratic.  This was mostly due to a lack of sufficient heat.  Cucamelons need a constant 20 degrees C to get going, whereupon they can tolerate lower temperatures thereafter.  So a bottom heat supply is the best way of getting this seed to germinate well.

Bristol Cucamelons

Shown above are the newly emerged seedlings in Devon and in Bristol.  Above and to the right here are the same Bristol seedlings on 10 May, and to the left here by 18 May.

Heat again seems to have separated the field on this crop once they had started to grow as small plants.  We have seen in a short space of time some large-and-already-climbing plants like these ones pictured to the left that are being grown in Bristol, whereas others are still only small.  As the vines start to establish themselves we shall be able to see who gets the best results out of these plants, and whether they are a taste that is to everyone’s liking!


A fourth and final shipment of Garlic Solent Wight was sent out in April.   After the autumn and spring planted Garlic Solent Wight from bulbs in October and February, and a planting of pot grown garlic in March, Mr Fothergill’s supplied the gardeners with a final set of three pot grown garlic plants to test whether the plants supplied in this way will bolt.


Parcel arrival in AprilOur group also received tomato plants grown in the Mr Fothergill’s nurseries this month.  These were the same three varieties that the gardeners had already received the month before in seed form.  Three young plants each of Tomato Ferline F1, Tomato Sakura F1 and Tomato Sungold F1 were sent out in order to compare growth and yield against the plants raised from seed.

The plants arrived moist and unruffled by Royal Mail as the picture here to the left shows and so they were given the best start they could have.  At only 5-6 inches high upon receipt, these plants have shot off in the month our gardeners have had them.  Many of these supplied plants are now blooming ahead of the seed raised plants of the same varieties and are standing now at about 2 feet tall.

The pictures below show some of our first tomato blooms in Pontypridd and Buckinghamshire.

Tomatoes in bloom May


The gardeners were also supplied with fresh batches of Sweet Pea Sir Henry Cecil and Sweet Pea Old Spice Mixed so that they could test the sowing of these seeds in the Spring against the plants they sowed back in the Autumn of 2013.  Germination rates were very good for these seeds with everyone – apart from our gardener in Pontypridd! – producing healthy seedlings very quickly.


With the first blooms being seen on the autumn sown plants for many of our gardeners, there is no doubt that these spring sown seeds will ever be able to catch up with their autumn cousins though!

Autumn sown sweet peas


October through to March updates

There is now so much going on in the gardens of our Nation of Gardeners that we can merely pick out edited highlights for you here:

  • Autumn sown sweet peas were planted into the ground during early April for some of our gardeners and many more have followed suit as the warmth of May has become a persistent feature in our gardens.   The few frosts we have experienced don’t appear to have had a lasting damaging effect and we have seen our first sweet pea blooms during April and May.
  • Potatoes in planters in PontypriddPotatoes across the country are doing really well for most.  The first shoots started to push their way through the soil in patio planters and in the ground around the UK in late March.  By mid May many of our gardeners have huge top growth on their plants and no more space in their planters for any more earthing up to be done.
  • Basil PiccolinoGarlic – planted out twice from individual cloves in autumn and again in the spring – is looking to be growing at a similar rate for many gardeners.  Whilst we only have the top growth to make our judgements on at this stage, it may well be that all the differences will be underground where the new bulbs for this summer’s crops are developing.
  • Basil Piccolino was sent out in December to our group of gardeners and progress on these plants has been pretty slow, but now Basil Piccolino seems ready to grow!  This plant has a slow growing and compact habit, but once it starts to mature, it creates a dense bush of aromatic basil leaves.  It’s a pretty bush and is an excellent variety to grow for basil plant afficionados who would like a change from the more common Genovese types.
  • Antirrhinums growing in RenfrewshireOur gardener in Renfrewshire has giant antirrhinums now hardening off in her garden.  Our gardeners in Cheshire, Buckinghamshire, Devon, Pontpridd, Worcestershire and Suffolk have all managed to grow some specimens and so summer will show us how these new and exclusive snapdragons perform.
  • Cimicifugas are starting to show more top growth after a very slow start for these plants.  This plant has been very reticent to show any promise all winter and so it is with some excitement that the gardeners are greeting these plants into their borders.

Keep an eye on the hashtag #nationofgardeners on Twitter for more updates as the gardeners post them, or follow the postings to the Facebook wall where you can also find a gallery of plant pictures that chronicle the Nation of Gardeners activities to date.

April 2014′s planting

March 2014′s planting

February 2014′s planting

January 2014′s planting

December 2013′s planting

November 2013′s planting

October 2013′s planting


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