Nation Of Gardeners July Planting Update: It’s a time of plenty in the flower and vegetable gardens

Max winning2nd prize in the Capel Manor sweet pea competitionJuly was a very busy time for the staff at Mr Fothergill’s.  The Capel Manor Sweet Pea Competition kicked off proceedings, drawing in a large number of stunning applications from across the UK.  This was swiftly followed by attendance at RHS Hampton Court which dominated the start of the month.  The Sweet Pea Competition also produced good results for two of our Nation of Gardeners as Max in Hertfordshire and Georgina’s young daughter in Cheshire were both awarded prizes – in the blind judged!! – competition at the start of July.

Sir Henry Cecil Sweet Peas awarded first prizeOur gardener in Devon, Lindsay, wasn’t able to muster enough blooms for an entry for the Capel Manor Competition, but by the end of July her sweet peas had starting blooming strongly which made her jump at the chance to enter some in her local Ilfracombe Horticultural Show.

Lindsay was coached by the other Nation of Gardeners to enter the Sir Henry Cecil rather than the Old Spice Mixed variety as they are so visually striking.  Many gardeners commented that their friends and neighbours heads had been turned by the Sir Henry Cecil sweet peas in their gardens, with many vowing to grow them for themselves next season.  So Lindsay set to work selecting the best of her blooms for the ‘9 sweet peas in an oasis’ category.   She came out a winner for her submission of 9 stems of Sweet Pea Sir Henry Cecil winning… well, nothing apart from the proud fact that hers were the best.  We can probably safely claim that Mr Fothergill’s sweet peas officially produce award winning blooms – a fact of which we are also very proud!

But we are not a group to rest on our laurels and so next up in July were the plant growing tasks  for the month which set our gardeners to work once more.  Along with the crops that are producing pounds and pounds of fruit and vegetables, vases full of blooms and healthy growth on younger plants, our gardeners never have an idle moment!

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 on social media too.


A round up of July’s planting tasks

Seed tape trial in July 2014We asked our group of gardeners to experiment with us again in July.  We are testing a new development in the form of pre-sown seed tapes.  Now, pre-sown seed tapes are nothing new, and are very popular with many gardeners as it takes away the need for thinning in awkward crops like carrots and parsnips, but it also takes the fiddle factor out of sowing small and tricky to handle seeds like lettuce.

The difference with these pre-sown seed tapes is that they are also infused with a weed suppressant, which we like the idea of very much. The seed tapes have weed suppressant bands alongside the row of seeds – so we wanted to know does it help keep weeds at bay?  As a control, the seed tapes containing All Year Round lettuce were supplied with a packet of the same variety for testing.  With the warm weather we have been blessed with in July and August so far, it will not be long before we are seeing results from this particular trial.

Next up was Broad Bean Luz de Otono.  This plant is promoted as an autumn cropping variety with long pods of flavoursome beans ready for picking from late August and in to September.  We sent out 10 young plants ready for immediate transplanting into the garden and so now we just need to sit back and wait to see how long it takes to get a crop from these plants.

gwynne_elgin_christmas_potatoes_2August2014Finally in July we asked our gardeners to plant more potatoes.  This time we asked our gardeners to plant potatoes for producing a Christmas crop.  Christmas potato growing is an emerging trend in vegetable growing, with many people producing great results across the UK already.  To produce Christmas potatoes, we keep some stock in our cold store from our earlier supplied seed potatoes to delay them chitting too much.  We then despatch these from late June and through July ready for immediate planting.   They soon spring into action once out of the cold store and usually start to crop from September, though they can be manipulated to crop at varying other times according to how warm or cold you let the plants grow.

The main trouble with growing potatoes  in this way is that they are hit by blight pretty quickly which can stop growth of the tubers sharply.  And so we supplied 5 tubers to each gardener along with a patio planter sack to plant them in to help the gardeners control the environment in which the potatoes will be growing a lot more easily.  They can also be moved into a greenhouse or shed when it gets too cold to prevent frost nipping of the plants and to keep growth going.


October through to July updates

Runner Beans in Pontypridd first crop in early AugustOur gardeners were asked to sow  Runner Bean White Lady  and Runner Bean Moonlight during May to record flowering, yield and setting habits as well as the flavour of the beans once ready to pick. These beans have been rapidly developing since sowing for our group of gardeners with our Bristol and Pontypridd gardeners getting their first pickings from their White Lady variety in the first weekend of August.

All our other gardeners are reporting flowers on their plants and good height gain and so it will not be long before the rest of the group is picking their veg for their Sunday dinner too!

This is a timely introduction of a new bean crop for our gardeners as the spring sown Broad Bean Aquadulce have been slowly coming to a halt for many in late July and early August. It has been a long picking season for this variety with the two sowings in autumn and spring. A more detailed comparison of this part of the Nation of Gardeners trial is being put together as we speak and so watch this space for conclusions on these tests.

Strawberry Sweetheart planted in both the autumn and the spring produced lots of berries for our gardeners in June, and these plants are now exhausted of fruits, with many plants now putting out runners to ensure their continuation and multiplication next year. As August begins, Strawberry Buddy is stepping forwards into the spotlight. And boy are those plants producing some huge fruits!!

Strawberry Buddy producing huge fruits in North and South

Pictured here is our northerly-most gardener in Elgin proudly displaying three huge fruits that almost covers her hand.  In the meantime way down south, our Devon gardener has produced a tape measure to show the size of the fruit she picked in her garden. These fruits are monsters, but they are also reported to be sweet to the taste. As an everbearing variety, there will be many more to come over the coming weeks and so it looks as though  Strawberry Buddy is a good compliment for anyone with an established strawberry bed that fruits at other times of the year.

The June sowing of annuals beyond the recommended sowing dates on the packets has been producing good results for many of our gardeners so far. Sown in the June trial were the following varieties:

All sown in the last few days of June to keep pace with the Mr Fothergill’s repeat trial of these varieties this year, the early results look promising.   Germination was quick and successful where our gardeners could keep the seedlings from being munched by slugs, and many gardeners opted to sow both in the ground and into pots as insurance against this peril.

Annuals starting to bloom in early August

By the end of July, small flowers could be seen on the Alyssum in Cheshire (pictured here) and flower buds on the Cornflowers in Pontypridd (also pictured). By the end of August, many of these plants ought to be in bloom if Mr Fothergill’s are correct in their hunch, and we may find that we can alter the instructions on our seed packets if we find that the plants behave uniformly across the UK.

But the stars of the show this month have surely had to be the Antirrhinum Purple Twist that have been putting on quite the most beautiful displays during July and early August.  This variety has been introduced to the Mr Fothergill’s range for the first time this year and it has produced some stunning results even though these plants had a wobbly and delicate start for some of our gardeners.

Antirrhinum Purple Twist

Blackberry in WorcestershireBlackberry Reuben was planted way back in November 2013 and it is now starting to fruit for the gardeners who managed to over-winter this plant successfully.  Pictured here is the single fruit cropped to date by our gardener in Worcestershire and it is a beauty!  Measuring a whopping 3cm by 2.5cm and with a delicious sweet taste, the only problem is that it had to be shared amongst the family who were all vying to complete the taste-test part of the trials! May there be a few more cropping for them in the coming weeks!

Tomato Sungold in Cheshire in late JulyOtherwise, the fruit that has been occupying the minds and the watering cans of most of our gardeners in July  have been the tomatoes that the group is raising in abundant quantities.  Our Cheshire gardener posted us this picture to the right here of one of her hugely successful Sungold tomato plants which has pounds of fruit developing on a very healthy looking plant.

Equally, most of our gardeners across the UK are having success with some or all of the plants they have raised.  Sungold and Sakura seem to be the most prolific tomato varieties being grown with long trusses of small tomatoes growing heavily on the plants.  But our Elgin gardener also has a fine display of Tomato Ferline (pictured in her greenhouse in the centre of the picture below), and many gardeners have posted up pictures of their Tomato Black Opal (with much bemusement about the black skins and black flesh of these fruits), Pink Charmer and Orange Slice.

The salad plates of our gardeners are being furnished on a regular basis with a wonderful selection of differently coloured tomatoes that have a range of tastes to offer.

Tomatoes cropping across the UK

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