Nation of Gardeners October planting update: Mr Fothergill’s growing community is growing!

The Nation of Gardeners project is now in full swing with our regional gardeners having received their first parcel in October to the unanimous delight of the selected participants.

First Mr Fothergill's parcel of seeds in October

In this welcome pack, everyone received the seeds and bulbs they were tasked with growing over the coming months, but there were plenty of goodies in the pack too to help start people on their gardening journey.

Enthusiastic amateur gardeners have been selected from around the country, growing in gardens and allotments, on patios and in greenhouses. They are distributed across England, Scotland and Wales and range from almost sea-level gardens to the highest which is at an elevation of over 240m above sea level.  It is hoped that this broad spectrum of growing conditions will test the chosen seeds, plants and bulbs for surety of results across the UK.

The selected gardeners for the Nation of Gardeners project post their findings as they happen on Facebook and Twitter.    Members post ‘breaking news’ from their region to report growth and share information on the successes of others’ seeds.

On Facebook, the gardeners compare techniques offering each other advice, discuss their gardening ‘roots’ and backgrounds and have co-ordinated planting dates to be able to sow in unison.  The Nation of Gardeners has also become a real-time weather forecast system with the gardeners posting weather warnings to let us others know as bad weather makes its way across the country. This definitely came in use, particularly to our gardeners in the south of country, when St Jude’s storm hit towards the end of October.

Most importantly, our Nation of Gardeners is reporting back with progress of how their first batch of seeds is getting on.  Regular photo updates go out on social media to report real-time progress.  To follow the gardeners on Twitter, use the hashtag #nationofgardeners, or go along to the Mr Fothergill’s Facebook page and ‘like’ it to see postings by members on the wall there.

Here’s a round up of findings from the October plantings so far.

broad bean aguadulceDistributed in October were Broad Bean Aguadulce, which is a hardy variety.  A fresh batch of the same seed will be sent out in spring for fresh sowings to test autumn versus spring sowings on this plant.

Autumn sown plants are supposed to crop earlier than their spring sown counterparts, but they are also more difficult to care for and need protection from frosts, wind and damage from heavy rain and snowfall.

From a mainly mid-month sowing, the broad beans breaking through largely coincided with storms hitting the country, but the Nation of Gardeners’ plantings all survived and a strong germination rate for broad beans has been seen across the UK with the small plants growing sturdily and with a consistent surety of results.  The broad bean seen here is in our Pontypridd gardener’s plot.  By early November, many gardeners, particularly those at lower levels are reporting lots of energetic growth, to the extent that they are considering staking the plants to support them.

Sweet peas germinating in root trainers

Two varieties of sweet pea were also sent out. Sweet Pea Sir Henry Cecil which is a variety exclusive to Mr Fothergill’s and is named in honour of Sir Henry Cecil the champion racehorse trainer; and  Sweet Pea Old Spice Mixed.

Germination was reported within a week of sowing in many places and with the Old Spice Mixed variety taking a slight lead on germination rates and speed of growth.  Members of the group came forwards with a variety of methods of sowing sweet peas, including soaking in cold, lukewarm or boiled water as well as just leaving it to nature.  Pots were also sown in either pots with 5 seeds per pot, or in root trainers like the ones illustrated here. Again, by early November, some members are considering pinching out the tops to strengthen the plants for the coming winter months.

And finally, Garlic Solent Wight was included in the October pack.  The garlic so far has been the slowest plant to emerge after being put in the ground across the UK during mid-October.  Gardeners  in Buckinghamshire and Pontypridd reported seeing roots growing on cloves that had been pulled up by birds, but for most regarding garlic, there was nothing to report.   The first sign of any growth in the garlic to be reported was in Suffolk – a promising swelling of the cloves 11 days after planting – but it was in Bristol on 30 October 18 days after planting that the first shoot was seen.

To follow the results of our gardeners in more detail, take a look at our table of stats for each of the varieties:

 

Looking forward into November

The November parcels have now also been issued and include the following bare root perennials and strawberries:

Also a blackberry variety – Blackberry Reuben – was sent out.  This variety is the World’s first primocane blackberry and so has been sent out to trial fruiting results in the late summer/early autumn of 2014.

composition of bare root perennials for nation of gardeners

 

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