Victoria Cross Poppies Raising Funds for Chelsea Pensioners

April 10th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, known as ‘D-Day’ and ranks as the boldest and most successful large-scale invasion in military history. Hundreds of men were sent to the front to help with the war effort. Today, Mr Fothergill’s asks Britain’s gardeners to mark the anniversary and help Chelsea Pensioner veterans by growing Poppy Victoria Cross again in 2019. 25p from each packet sold is donated to the Royal Hospital Charity.

There are over 1,000 stockists of the special counter-top display of fundraising Poppy Victoria Cross around the UK, including Blue Diamond, Kew Gardens, RHS Gardens, QD stores and many other leading garden centres.

Mr Fothergill’s joint managing director, David Carey, Chelsea Pensioners with Poppy Victoria Crosssaid: “We are proud to be supporting the Royal Hospital Chelsea and pleased to see so many gardeners joining with us to do that’.

Poppy Victoria Cross is a popular choice among gardeners and makes a fitting remembrance symbol with its bold white ‘crosses’ across single red flowers. Easy to grow and quick to flower from a spring sowing, this form of Papaver somniferum is ideal for informal borders and cottage garden settings. Its distinctive ‘pepper-pot’ seed heads are also useful in dried arrangements when flowering ends.

Established in 1682 by Charles II to provide a safe home for military veterans ‘broken by age or war’, the Christopher Wren-designed Royal Hospital admitted its first pensioners in 1692. The scarlet tunics and black tricorns of its residents and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Flower Show held in the Royal Hospital grounds every May are equally well known and respected around the world.

Poppy Victoria Cross seeds are available from garden retailers, mr-fothergills.co.uk and the Mr Fothergill’s Seed Catalogue. RRP £2.10 for 250 seeds.

Sow Seeds with Ease with the Mr Fothergill’s Pro-Seeder

April 9th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Sow Seeds with Ease with the Mr Fothergill's Pro-Seeder

Here at Mr Fothergill’s we believe that gardening is for everyone, and should be accessible to everyone, too. But when it comes to sowing seeds, especially those pesky smaller ones like tomato, lettuce or begonia seeds for example, problems can arise when trying to sow one seed at a time, particularly if you have a disability or dexterity issue that makes sowing seeds difficult. The Mr Fothergill’s Pro-Seeder is great for tackling this problem.

The Pro-Seeder is a great little gadget which allows you to sow seeds of all shapes and sizes one at a time – no seed is wasted and it reduces the need for thinning out seedlings later. It works on a suction method and full easy-to-follow instructions are included, featuring a key diagram to show which nozzle to use when sowing seed.

Recently blogger Ross Minton, AKA Grow Your Own Life, who regularly vlogs about his allotment as well as his own experience with disability, reviewed our Pro-Seeder as a person with a disability that causes dexterity issues and therefore affects his ability to sow some of the smaller seeds by hand.

Check out Ross’s Pro-Seeder vlog below, which includes a full demonstration of how to use the Pro-Seeder. Be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel and follow him on Twitter and Instagram for more content, and join the conversation with the hashtags #AnyoneCanGarden and #InvisibleDisability.

Buy your own Pro-Seeder here from the Mr Fothergill’s website.

Goodbye to the dreaded orange alstroemeria

April 5th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Alstroemeria 'Inticancha Imala'

We sometimes still see those fiery orange alstroemerias, romping through neglected borders and smothering everything in their path. They’re undeniably colourful, but they can also be a menace.

When I was a student at Kew – long, long ago – I remember planting a collection of alstroemeria species grown from seed harvested in the wild in mountains of South America. They were noticeably different from those orange ones in the range of their pink and purplish and white flower colours, they were also much shorter in growth and spread less vigorously.

It’s blood from these wild South American species that’s gone into the creation of modern varieties. Many of the resulting varieties are tall and were developed as cut flowers, and let’s remember that two weeks looking good in a vase is nothing for an alstroemeria.

But some of the most useful varieties are those in the much shorter Inticancha Series. Reaching just 35cm in height, one plant is ideal for a 30cm pot or they can be planted at the front of a sunny border. Flowering begins in June and continues into the autumn, dead heading by pulling out the individual stems as their final flowers fade is preferable to cutting off the stems.

To be honest, those I planted in May of last year were a little too short last summer, now they’ve settled down I’m sure they’ll develop more typically. But they’ve been well behaved, they’ve stayed as neat clumps. I also planted the taller Majestic Collection, one of which, ‘Authion’ – in just one year – has already escaped its bed and emerged in the bark path.

There are twenty three varieties in the Inticancha Series, but Mr F have picked the very best Inticanchas and narrowed the collection down to just five including ‘Inticancha Imala’ (above). For containers, borders and for cutting – give them a try.

Cram More Into Your City Vegetable Garden

April 4th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

It’s a common complaint among gardeners – there’s never quite enough room to grow everything you’d like. It’s a predicament that’s especially true in small city gardens, where space really is in scarce supply. So what to do about it? How can you cram more vegetables, herbs and fruits into even the tiniest of spaces? Read on or watch the video to find out.

Choose Crops with Care

When every last nook and cranny counts, choosing what to grow takes on a whole new importance. In tiny gardens there’s little sense in growing slow or space-hungry vegetables like Brussels sprouts or parsnip. Opt for quick growers like lettuce, radish or beets instead, or go for vegetables such as chard or courgette that offer high yields or repeat harvests.

Herbs are high value crops that go a long way in the kitchen, and their flowers help attract pollinators like bees into the garden. Don’t miss out on fruits too. Cordon or step-over forms of apple and pear, cane fruits such as raspberry and, of course, compact strawberries are a few wise choices for space-strapped gardeners. Many fruit and nuts may also be grown as edible boundary hedges.

Space Plants Efficiently

Traditional long rows of vegetables aren’t especially space-efficient. Using narrow beds on the other hand makes it easier to grow in blocks, with plants spaced equidistantly.

Compact but deep raised beds are great for when you're stuck for garden space

This helps crowd out weeds as well as making best use of the space.

It also helps to concentrate resources where they are needed, avoids the risk of compacting the soil by stepping on it, and makes tending to crops easier.

Square foot gardening – where crops are grown at reduced spacings in square-foot blocks – takes raised bed growing one step further. By using deep raised beds and a soil mix designed for optimal root growth, crops may be grown even closer.

Make the Most of Pots

Containers offer instant impact, flexibility and convenience. They’re the go-to choice on patios and balconies, and are easily moved to make the most of sunlight or to protect plants from harsh weather. Be opportunistic about where you put your pots – any flat surface is fair game!

Smaller containers are good for compact crops like salad leaves and annual herbs, while vegetables with bigger root systems such as tomatoes need suitably larger pots. Check that containers have adequate drainage. If necessary punch or drill extra holes into the base so there’s at least one drainage hole every 3 inches (8cm). Stand containers on pot feet or blocks to further improve drainage and airflow for healthier plants. Make sure to keep plants in pots well watered and fed.

Grow Vertically

Make the most of limited garden space by growing some crops verticallyWhatever the size of your garden, there’s always plenty of vertical space! Train vining or sprawling crops such as beans, peas, cucumber and squashes up and over trellising, canes and other supports. Use their rambunctious habit to create a soothing green backdrop to your tiny oasis of calm.

Wall-mounted planting pockets and tubes will really pack in the pickings, while fence-hugging pots and hanging baskets bring bursts of colour and an opportunity to graze on the likes of cherry tomatoes or juicy strawberries.

Give Plants a Boost

When you’re cramming more in than is normally recommended it’s essential to feed plants properly. Naturally-derived organic fertilisers such as chicken manure pellets are preferable to artificial fertilisers, which increase the risk of a harmful build-up of salts around the roots.

If you don’t have space for a traditional compost bin, consider a worm bin or ‘wormery’ instead. It’s more compact and the hundreds of worms within it do an efficient job of turning kitchen scraps into growth-boosting worm compost and a nutrient-dense liquid feed.

Have Transplants at the Ready

Plan ahead to have young plants ready to replace crops as they’re harvested or spent. You don’t need a greenhouse for this – a simple cold frame will do – and you’d be surprised just how much you can start off on a sunny windowsill. Plug trays are convenient because you can sow straight into them then grow the seedlings on right up to the point of planting them.

Don’t let the size of your garden compromise your quest for a cornucopia of crops – big ambitions can grow from tiny spaces! If you have any tips on cramming more into a postage stamp plot, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

April Gardening Advice

April 1st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

April Gardening Advice

Spring has sprung! We have more daylight, which is just as well, as we’re going to need as much time as possible to get our gardens and allotments summer-ready. But don’t be fooled into thinking winter has completely gone. Those sharp frosts are the sting in a waning season’s tail. Hold off planting what can’t be fleeced, cloched, or protected, until the last of the frosts have gone.

In the flower garden

Deadheading

The once-glorious daffodils will by now have seen better days, so deadhead them, before they go to seed. The energy will transfer to the bulb, in readiness for next year’s display. But don’t cut away the foliage, let it die back naturally to harness the sun’s energy, fuelling the bulbs for future seasons.

Winter pansies, will be keen to set seed, so regularly remove faded flowers to encourage new displays.

PrimrosesLift and divide Primroses for bigger displays next year

Another flower that has probably passed its prime is the primrose. If you’re hoping for bigger displays next year, then this is the time to lift and divide them. Whether it’s with your hands, or a trowel, prise the plants apart. Don’t worry about damaging them as they’re quite tough, and will respond quickly. Re-plant where you would like to see them appear next year, and water in well.

Support

The roses you finished pruning last month will now be full of life, sending new shoots skywards. You may need to stake and tie-in new growth. This also applies for other tall, climbing perennials. Not only will this help support the plant, but it’ll help prevent high winds from causing windrock to the rootball, or damaging young stems.

Weeds

With plants and borders springing into life, weeds will also start flourishing as they feed off the nutrients given to your flower borders. Ensure you weed regularly or they could smother young, emerging plants. Remove tap roots entirely or they will re-grow. Finally, mulch around your plants to suppress weeds and help retain moisture.

April is the time to get those summer bulbs in the groundBulbs

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. Make sure there’s sufficient space and plenty 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.

Sweet Peas

After pinching out your sweet peas last month, they should now be bushing up. Towards the end of the month, depending on weather, these can be planted out into their final growing positions. Whether it’s directly into the ground, or container, make sure you use a support so the tendrils have something to latch onto and push the plant up. Keep an eye on their growth, as they will quickly need to be tied in.

Container Plants

With new growth appearing daily, you may need to introduce a regular watering regime to your container plants. Make sure you remove weeds, and top up the soil with fresh compost or general-purpose fertiliser. Check that plants aren’t pot bound, and are free of pests. Finally, place them in the appropriate growing area, to ensure they respond successfully.

Hanging Baskets

If you’re looking forward to big floral displays this summer, then get your plug plants into your hanging baskets. Use fresh compost and a slow-release fertiliser. Water retention gel is a good option, to help them through those long hot summer days. Once potted up, keep them in the greenhouse until the last frost has passed. This will also give your plants a chance to grow on and settle into their hanging baskets. Next, place them in a cold frame, or outside during the day, for a week or two. Finally, place them in their final hanging positions and ensure a regular watering regime. Bear in mind they will require extra watering and feeding during the summer months.

April is the time to establish a regular lawn mowing routine

Lawn

It’s time to begin a regular mowing routine. Place the mower’s blades at a low level for a clean, sharp cut. Scarify and fork over any thatched areas to help with drainage. Keep borders strimmed, and cut edges with an edging tool. If your lawns aren’t seeing too much action at the moment, this might be the opportunity to give them a gentle feed, or sow grass seed onto bare patches.

Greenhouse

If you haven’t done so yet, clear and tidy your greenhouse. After a hard winter, there will be items stored that can be removed. Overgrown foliage needs to be cut away to ensure maximum sunlight, and it’s advisable to give the greenhouse a thorough clean, inside and out with warm soapy water.

Hardening Off

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 indoor-sown plants 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.

On the veg patch

Sow

Now is the time to sow crops such as salads, radishes, beetroot, chard, kohl rabi, carrots and parsnips. If the ground is too cold, sow into modules, trays or pots. Keep them somewhere warm, with plenty of sunlight, such as a greenhouse or polytunnel.

If the ground is too cold then sow seeds into module trays or pots

Any seeds sown back in March may now need thinning out, or even re-potting. As you do so, remember that 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.

If you have sown onion sets, make sure you net them. Birds will see them as a potential food source and remove them from the ground.

Potatoes

You should have now planted your chitted tubers. If they produce substantial foliage, earth up as this will both protect the plant, and encourage it to produce more potatoes. However, it’s a good idea to keep horticultural fleece handy, as a sharp frost could burn the plants, destroy the foliage and potentially kill the plant.

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.

Soft Fruit

Fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries should be mulched. This feeds the plants, helps retain the moisture in the soil, and should give you better-tasting fruit. If you grow blueberries, make sure you use an ericaceous compost.

Remember to keep bird feeders topped up

Other

  • Keep an eye on weather reports, as sharp frosts can still occur, and potentially damage or kill young plants and seedlings.
  • Warmer temperatures will also encourage indoor plants to grow, so step-up their watering and feeding regime.
  • Continue to keep bird feeders topped up.