August Gardening Advice

August 1st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

August Gardening Advice

This is the month when burnt tones of yellow, red and orange set alight your flower borders. On the allotment, crops are being harvested daily as we do our best to deter gluts.

With the kids now on holiday, this is the perfect time for families to pack their suitcases and get away from it all, for a week or two. But while it’s good to take a break, leaving your plants unattended for several days, could have you returning home to withered flowers and thirsty crops. So, it’s important to maintain a regular water regime, and make plans if you are going away. Make use of drip irrigation systems, water butts and water retention gels. Methods that won’t put a strain on your water bills, or be affected by any looming hosepipe ban.

In the flower garden

Holiday

If you’re going away, ensure you make plans to keep your garden from drying out. Ask a neighbour to pop over once every few days to water and check on your garden. If you have pots and containers, group them all together under some shade, to make the job easier. Keep greenhouses ventilated, and if necessary, create shade to prevent certain plants from getting scorched.

Watering

A close up of a wooden water barrel or water butt, great for collecting water to reuse in the gardenWhether there’s a hosepipe ban in your area or not, using water sensibly is a good habit to get into. Make use of water butts, re-use old dish water, and water either early in the morning or at dusk, when the lower temperatures mean less water evaporation and little chance of scorching plant foliage.

Keeping your garden well-weeded also ensures the water goes to the plants that need it.

If you’re planting up containers and hanging baskets, add water retention gel to the soil. If you’re growing tomatoes, create a drip irrigation system.

Deadheading

Deadhead regularly to keep flowers blooming into autumn. Fresh blooms not only look good, but continue to feed bees, butterflies and hoverflies, which are essential to a garden’s wellbeing. Sweet peas will be keen to set seed, so it’s important to deadhead daily. Keep up with the water regime, and add a weekly plant feed.

Perennials

With heavy blooms and ever-growing stems, plants such as dahlias and gladioli will need staking. This extra support will not only prevent damage, but discourage ground pests from attacking low-lying plants.

Lavender

Stop lavender from becoming leggy by cutting into a compact shape, but don’t cut too far back as new flowers can’t grow on old wood. Use the cut flowers around the home. You could create lavender pouches to scent drawers or pillow cases, or use it in your baking.

Wisteria growing on the side of a manor houseWisteria

Ideally, you should prune wisteria twice a year. Once in late winter, and once in August. There’s been a lot of growth during the summer months, so cut these newly-formed long laterals back to the fifth set of leaves on each shoot, and tie-in where necessary. This restricts the growth, creates better ventilation, hardens the remaining summer growth, and encourages new flower buds for next year.

Hedges

Hedges can become unruly in summer, and now that the birds have fledged, it’s time to give them a prune. Whether you’re using shears or a hedge trimmer, think about how you want your hedge to look. Work from the bottom up in a smooth, controlled motion. Prune all sides and finish with the top. Wear protective clothing and use the correct height support if the hedge is high. Once completed, clear away all debris.

Pond

Remove any build-up of algae and weeds, placing it beside the pond overnight. This will give any captured wildlife the opportunity to return to the water. If you have water plants, now is the time to thin them. Clean the pumps and filters of any water features you may have. If you have fish, feed them regularly.

On the veg patch

Feed

You should be feeding your tomatoes weekly now to ensure a healthy, tasty crop, but tomato feed can also be used for cucumbers, aubergines, peppers, chillies and sweetcorn plants.

Fresh potatoes being dug up and harvested from the ground with a shovel

Potatoes

When the leaves on your main crop turn yellow and wither, it’s a sign your spuds are ready to be dug up. If you’re not going to eat them straight away, rest them on the topsoil for a few hours to dry the excess moisture, then place in hessian sacks. Ideally, the sacks should be stored somewhere with ventilation, where it’s cool, dark and pest-free. Check on them regularly to make sure none have spoilt.

Onions and shallots

With foliage bent over and turning yellow, onions and shallots are now ready for lifting. Once lifted, leave them on the surface of the soil for a few hours to dry in the sunshine. Then, shake off the excess soil from the roots, careful not to damage them, and place somewhere warm so they can dry out. After a week, or two, they should be ready for storing somewhere cool, dark and dry. Either tie them together and hang them up, or place them in onion bags. Both storage methods should prevent mould, but check regularly to make sure none have perished.

Beans

Whether it’s runner beans or French beans, the key is to pick them regularly. By doing so, you’re preventing them from setting seed. Ensure they are well watered, and that the base of the plant is well-mulched. Once the plant reaches the top of its staked cane, pinch out the top.

Pests and diseases

Cabbage white caterpillars on a brassica plant. Check your crops regularly, remove any eggs or pests you find and protect your brassicas with netting and collarsHeat, humidity, and occasional rainfall are the perfect conditions to encourage blight. Check both tomato and potato plants regularly. If you see any signs of the fungal infestation, remove plants altogether. If you catch it at an early stage with your potatoes, leave the tubers in the ground, as they may not be affected. Do not place infected plants on the compost heap. Instead, either burn immediately or remove from the site altogether. To reduce blight, encourage a crop rotation system, and try to use blight resistant varieties.

Cabbage White Butterflies will be eyeing up your brassicas to lay their eggs. Check your crops regularly, and remove any eggs or pests you find. Net your crops, use brassica collars when planting out, and introduce nematodes to control caterpillars.

Pick regularly

Courgettes, marrows and cucumbers will continue to produce so long as you pick regularly. Cut away excess foliage to help sunshine reach your crops and to prevent powdery mildew. Mildew can also be prevented by watering at the base of the plant rather than on the leaves.

Fruit

With gooseberries now harvested, it’s the perfect time to prune the plant. You want to create a ‘goblet’ shape to encourage as much ventilation as possible. Remove the inner branches of the plant, and reduce the rest of the plant to about six leaves per branch. This will encourage fresh shoots to grow.

Keep an eye on plum and apple trees that might be weighed down by fruit. If the tree appears to be stressed, support and tie-in where possible. If you’re growing grapes, ensure the growing vines are being tied-in regularly.

Summer raspberry canes should have now fruited. Cut back the fruit canes, and encourage fresh new canes by tying them onto a support.

SowA close up of a hand sowing beetroot seeds into the soil with the seeds on a plate. Sow beetroot in August for a late harvest.

Succession sow salad leaves and spring onions for a continuous crop, and beetroot, kohlrabi and pak choi can also be sown now for a late harvest.

Green manure

As your veg beds start to empty, consider sowing green manure if you’re not growing winter crops. Not only will it improve the quality of the soil, but it will help suppress weeds.

Other jobs

  • Although we’re at the height of summer, now’s the time to order your spring bulbs for autumn planting.
  • In hot spells water compost heaps and turnover.
  • If you’ve run your water butts dry, give them a clean, removing all dirt.
  • Towards the end of the month you may have to start closing greenhouse vents and doors in the evenings, as night-times can become cooler.

Garden Heatwave: How to Care for Heat-Stressed Plants

July 30th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Garden Heatwave How to Care for Heat Stressed Plants

Phew! It’s been a hot and humid one recently. It’s bad enough in the UK, but lots of you have to cope with weather that’s considerably hotter and drier. So whether you’re struggling with a miniature heatwave or a summer-long slog of extreme high temperatures, read on or watch the video for a few tips to help you to help your plants cope.

Smart Watering

It’s obvious that in hot, dry weather, plants will need more water to keep them healthy and productive, but it’s important to use smart watering techniques to make the most of every drop.

The best time to water is early in the morning, when moisture is slower to evaporate and water levels can be recharged ahead of the heat of the day. Check soil regularly – every day if you can – and water if it’s dry at finger depth. Remember, it’s better to really drench the soil once every few days, rather than merely dampen the surface daily.

A close up of a drip irrigation system in a dry gardenScrape soil into ridges around plants to create bowls to water into, or water into old pots or bottles sunk into the soil next to plants. That way the water will go directly to the roots where it’s needed, instead of running away over the soil surface.

Drip irrigation systems set up on a timer are a good option if you’re not able to water daily in hot weather.

Container plants dry out very quickly and may need watering twice a day, especially if it’s windy too. Check that the water is actually being absorbed – you don’t want it just running straight down cracks between the potting soil and container wall. Continue watering until you see water running out of the bottom. Pot saucers can be used to hold the water around your containers for little bit longer.

Lock in Soil Moisture

When you’re done watering, it’s time to lock in that valuable moisture. Mulches of organic material such as compost, leaves or grass clippings all help to slow evaporation by shading the soil from the sun’s rays. Mulches also keep the root zone cooler, reducing the stress your plants are under.

You can create a living mulch by planting densely or using rambunctious, sprawling plants like squashes to shade the soil.

Stop Feeding

When temperatures rise above 85-90ºF (29-32ºC), many plants really start to struggle. Some, like tomatoes, cope by rolling up their leaves – a natural response that reduces water loss. Many fruiting plants, including tomatoes, beans and peppers may also drop their flowers or stop producing new ones as they try to cope with the heat.

Now you may think the answer is to fertilise your crops to make them stronger, but this only exacerbates the situation, because plants will then need even more water to process all that fertiliser. A sudden flush of nutrients also signals to the plant that it’s time to grow – a dangerous and stress-inducing move in soaring temperatures. So stop fertilising and concentrate on watering instead.

Add Some ShadeGarden shade cloth protecting crops in the garden

When it’s hot we love to seek out some shade, and so will many of your crops. Shade plants with anything you can get hold of – old net curtains or tulle cloth works well, as do old white bedsheets. Purpose-sold shade cloth is available in different levels of sun block, from 15%, 30%, 40% – right up to 100%. Plants won’t grow as fast under it, but they’ll still receive some sunshine and will be a lot less stressed.

Pin the shade cloth into position with bulldog clips or clothes pins, using frames or hoops to support it. Many plants will benefit from some shading from hot afternoon sunshine, including cool-season vegetables like cabbage and lettuce, and fruits such as strawberries.

Harvest Promptly

Removing plant material by harvesting it means that there’s less foliage or fruits for your plants to have to service. Fruiting and pod-producing plants especially should be harvested promptly to save the plant’s energy. Finish ripening fruits that haven’t fully coloured up in the kitchen to give your plants a break. They’ll switch back to their productive selves once the weather cools.

Extreme summer heat can be as stressful for plants as it is for us, but give these simple strategies a go and save your plants a lot of suffering. What are your tips to help your plants keep their cool? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Christmas is coming (sorry…)

July 26th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Chinese lanterns in the garden and in the house

Sorry… Sorry… Let’s talk about Christmas! No no, not this Christmas, Christmas next year. And let’s talk seed sowing, Chinese lanterns in particular.

The idea is that you sow the seed of Chinese lanterns, Physalis alkekengii, now and by Christmas next year you’ll have a mas of bright orange lanterns to use in your indoor Christmas decorations. And it’s not difficult.

As you may remember, the plants produce small, white and not very showy flowers in summer. These are followed in autumn by the vivid orange papery lanterns and inside each lantern is a red berry. This is an usual plant in that all parts of the plant can cause skin rashes – except for the ripe berries, which are edible. In a way, yew is similar: all parts of the plant are poisonous except for the fleshy red berry around its seed.

Anyway, sow seed outside in pots now. I’d suggest using a 12cm pot, sowing the seeds thinly, covering with half a millimetre of grit and leaving the pot in a sheltered place outside. The seeds will germinate before the winter, die down and then as they start to grow in the spring you can pot them up individually.

Later in the spring you can plant them out. And now comes the warning: Chinese lanterns are very very vigorous. Unless you have a large garden and can plant them in an out of the way corner they will romp into areas where they’re really not wanted.

The other alternative is to grow them in a large – preferably very large – pot. Just make sure the roots don’t escape through the drainage holes.

OK, this all sounds like a lot of trouble. But being able to use those fiery lanterns in Christmas decorations really makes it all worthwhile.

Let’s go with gaillardias

July 19th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Gaillardia 'Arizona Red Shades'

My gaillardias have been flowering for a few weeks, now, so what makes me think that this is a good time to sow gaillardia seed?

Well, modern varieties are very different from the old and straggly types. I’ve been growing those, too, but I’m heaving them out this autumn. ‘Amber Wave’ is a recent variety in the old style and is not only very floppy, but in a couple of years the roots have run so much that shoots are coming up in the path. Not for long.

Modern gaillardias, the Arizona Series in particular, are shorter, bushier, don’t need support, don’t run at the root and come with enthusiastically upward facing daisies. Flowering starts in June or July and continues into the autumn, especially if the plants are deadheaded regularly.

There are three varieties in the Arizona Series: ‘Arizona Apricot’, ‘Arizona Sun’ (a red and yellow bicolour) and ‘Arizona Red Shades’. All are prolific plants for sun and soil that’s not too soggy. And you can sow seed now.

The trick is to raise the seedlings just as if you were sowing in spring: sow the seeds in a 9cm pot, prick the seedlings out into large cells or 7cm pots, grow them on until they’re big enough to plant, get them in and they’ll establish themselves before the winter.

At this time of year the seeds don’t need heat, they don’t even need a cold greenhouse. Simply cover the pots with a clear propagating hood, keep them out of the sun in case they get too hot, and make sure they don’t dry out.

I’ve seen them start to flower in May, they’ll certainly get started in June and if you dead head regularly they’ll just keep on going.

And if you just can’t be bothered with all that, as I write Mr F still has plants of ‘Arizona Apricot’ in 9cm pots and ‘Arizona Apricot’ in 2 litre pots available for planting now. Either way, give them a try.

Mr Fothergill’s Helps BBC Children In Need Raise £58 Million for 2018 Appeal

July 16th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill's Sunflower Pudsey and Pumpkin Pudsey seeds raising money for BBC Children In Need

Back in May 2018, at Mr Fothergill’s we announced our new partnership with BBC Children In Need and launched two new seed packets for children – Pumpkin Pudsey and Sunflower Pudsey. For each packet sold, we pledge to donate 30p to help make a real difference to the lives of children all across the UK. Since the launch of these seed packets and thanks to our wonderfully generous customers, we have been able to pledge over £16,000 to support Children In Need. Now, we’re delighted to find out that this contribution has helped BBCCiN raise a whopping total of £58 million in 2018!

Pudsey themed cakes at Mr F HQ fundraising for BBC Children In Needcake saleThe staff at Mr F HQ in Suffolk also joined in with their own fundraising efforts during Children In Need week last year – raising over £400 – which saw them taking part in a cake bake, the Children in Need annual duck race and coming dressed up in their finest yellow or spotty outfits. The office also took part in ‘Ties for Tim’ where Tim Jeffries, Mr Fothergill’s Commercial Director, donated £1 for each person who came to work wearing a tie, an idea which came about as he is normally the only person to wear one in the office.

BBC Children in Need is currently supporting over 3,000 projects across the UK that are helping children and young people facing a range of disadvantages such as living in poverty, being disabled or ill, or experiencing distress, neglect or trauma. In the last year alone, BBC Children in Need has been able to make a real difference to 580,000 young lives in communities the length and breadth of the UK.

 Mr Fothergill’s Helps BBC Children In Need Raise £58 Million for 2018 AppealSimon Antrobus, Chief Executive of BBC Children in Need, said: “Once again our incredible supporters across the UK have done themselves proud.  This is a tremendous result and will allow us to continue our vital work to help make a difference to disadvantaged children and young people across the UK. As a charity we exist to support organisations in communities across the UK which empower children and extend their life choices, and this phenomenal total will go a long way in helping us make a lasting impact. An enormous thank you to everyone who once again went above and beyond!”

 

Mr Fothergill’s is incredibly proud to support this amazing charity. For more information about BBC Children in Need, please visit www.bbc.co.uk/pudsey.