Seeds Tested Whatever the Weather

August 9th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

As all gardeners know, 2018 has been a challenging year weather-wise and Mr Fothergill’s, the UK leading seed company, can confirm it from their Suffolk weather station data!

In the February to August period the range of temperature was 41C, between -7.2c and +33.8C.
After a particularly cold and wet winter, where temperatures were at freezing from early October and still very cold well into May, the weather changed dramatically. The great drought then arrived in the main growing period with 54 days of no rain – only 21 mm coming on the day the heatwave broke on Friday 27th July when the temperature also peaked at 33.8C.

In June and July 2018 Mr Fothergill’s experienced 33 days where the temperature was over 24C. In June and July 2017 there were only 6 days including the annual high of 27C!

From January to the end of July 2018 Mr Fothergill’s received 230mm of rain which is actually more than the same period in 2017. The difference was distribution with most of that rain coming in the first three months of the year and little since while it was more evenly spread over the six month is 2017.

Despite the vagaries of the UK weather, the seed trials were doing their job at Mr Fothergill’s and looked superb. In this way the company are testing all their varieties in real life conditions to ensure everything is fit for purpose for the home gardener.

Rachel Cole, Seeds Manager at Mr Fothergill’s said: “The weather is different every year and that’s why our trial grounds are so important to us. We can be sure of the quality of everything we sell and absolutely certain things will perform in UK conditions, however varied. Our weather station has proved invaluable in allowing us to track performance against conditions.”

We are 40 and fabulous!

August 8th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

We are celebrating our 40th year in business this year. On the 17th August 1978 our company was created by Brian Carey and Jeff Fothergill. Jeff’s surname was chosen for the company’s brand and the ‘old boy character’ was born. The objective was to create a friendly and established feel. This certainly worked as many people are surprised that they’ve not been around much longer, convinced that they remember their parents buying Mr Fothergill’s seeds years before it existed. In fact compared to other seed brands Mr Fothergill’s is a relative youngster but it was the injection of new ideas and application of our youthful enthusiasm for selling seeds that has driven the company from a tiny start-up to one of the largest packet seed suppliers in Europe.

A printed declaration of seeds per packet, foil sachets and pictoral packets of British native wild flowers are just a few of the things that where pioneered by us and are now taken for granted.

Over the past four decades we have added other brand names to our portfolio and now operate three brands in the retail market with Mr Fothergill’s, Johnsons and Country Value. These brands have also worked in partnership with well-known organisations and personalities to produce separate specialist seed ranges including; The Royal Horticultural Society, Sarah Raven, Jekka McVicar and David Domoney. They have also been keen to support charities where ever they can and currently raise funds through product sales and other activities for Greenfingers, The Royal Hospital Chelsea, Plant Heritage, The RSPB and The Bumble Bee Conservation Trust.

Management of the company has now changed to a second generation with John Fothergill and David Carey taking over the reigns as joint managing directors so it remains a wholly family owned and run business.

David & John said “We feel lucky to be working in an industry that ultimately creates joy, satisfaction, relaxation and purpose (to name but a few things) across such a wide spectrum of people. Service, quality, choice and innovation are the four cornerstones of our business that shape what we offer and how we work with our customers. Something that we will remain focused on for the next forty years and hopefully beyond”.

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The 1970’s Garden

The Modern Garden

Our Mr Fothergill’s trials team have created two gardens on the Suffolk trial ground this year to celebrate the 40th anniversary. They have been designed to show the shift in trends over the years with a typical small garden of the 70’s with neat formal lines of bedding versus an up to date small garden that incorporates flowers with fruit and vegetables, upcycling and area for relaxation.

 

 

 

King of the sun

August 3rd, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Sunflower 'Sun King'

One of the great things about being able to visit the trial ground at Mr F is that it’s possible to see all the varieties of a single plant growing side by side. This year, it’s nasturtiums (more on them another time) and last year I paid special attention to the sunflowers. This one, ‘Sun King’, really stood out.

I used to grow a double flowered variety called ‘Teddy Bear’ but I found that it had become less and less consistent, especially in terms of its height: It’s supposed to be relatively short, about 60cm, but some were noticeably taller than the others and that sometimes made for a very odd looking group.

‘Sun King’ reaches 2m and they’re all consistent at about that height. The flowers are larger too – and don’t they look spectacular, packed with petals around that vivid green eye.

I raised them by sowing three seeds in 9cm pots, in April, and keeping the pots in the cold greenhouse. They were soon through – well, the ones the mice didn’t get were soon through – and by that time the greenhouse door and all the vents were open and so hardening off wasn’t really necessary.

I planted the whole potful of seedlings when they were about 10cm high, watered them in with liquid feed and away they went. When they were about 60cm tall I supported them with a 1.2m bamboo cane to each group of plants intending to add a stout dahlia stake later but that never happened. And they stood tall and upright through the hammering rain and the wild wind without the extra support.

I haven’t picked any yet, I should have sown a few more potfuls after the episode with the mice so there’d be plenty. But they’re branching well and just one head, in a heavy vase on the kitchen table, will be just the thing.

August Gardening Advice

August 1st, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Mr-Fothergills-August-Gardening-Advice

Temperatures are soaring, the sun is shining; summer is well and truly here.

Flowers are bursting with vibrant colour. From golden heleniums to fiery dahlias, the reds, oranges and yellows have taken over from the pastel shades of spring.

But with scorching weather comes the ongoing battle to prevent plants from drying out. Watering cans and hoses are the gardener’s ally, but use water sensibly. Water butts, drip irrigation systems and water-retention gels are good items to have in your arsenal.

August is also the month for harvesting your homegrown fruit and veg. Try to manage your gluts by blanching and freezing any excess veg for a later date. Or, be the most popular person in your street by sharing produce with your neighbours!

Summer won’t last forever, but while it’s here, take the time to relax in the garden with a glass of something cold, and enjoy the fruits of your labours.

 

In the flower garden

HOLIDAY

August is traditionally the month to pack your suitcase and get away from it all. If you are 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 some shade to prevent your plants from getting scorched.

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.

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.

Summer-gardening-cut-your-lavender

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.

WISTERIA

Ideally, you want to prune wisteria twice a year. Once in late winter, and once now 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, so now’s the 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.

WATERING

This year, temperatures have been at their hottest, and our gardens and allotments are relying on us to sustain them.

Whether there’s a hosepipe ban in your area or not, using water sensibly is a good habit to get into too. Make use of water butts, re-use old dish water, and water early in the morning or at dusk, when the lower temperatures mean less water evaporation.

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 compost. If you’re growing tomatoes, create a drip irrigation system.

Every drop of water you save means less strain on our reservoirs.

POND

In the warmer weather, check pond levels daily. 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.

 

On the veg patch

FEED

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

MAIN POTATOES

As the leaves on your main crop start to turn yellow and wither, start digging them 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.

Mr-Fothergills-growing-beans-from-sowing-to-harvestBEANS

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

August is the time for pests and diseases. Heat, 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 plant/s 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.

SOW

Although we’re mostly harvesting now, there are still things to grow. 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 don’t plan to grow  winter crops. Not only will it improve the quality of the soil, but it will help suppress weeds.

 

 

Growing Cabbages from Sowing to Harvest

July 30th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

A vegetable plot isn’t complete without cabbage. Shredded, stir-fried, steamed or baked, there’s not much you can’t do with one! And with a little planning it’s even possible to enjoy cabbages year round.

Read on or watch the video to find out more about growing cabbages.

 

Types of Cabbage

From green to Savoy, there’s a fantastic range of cabbage varieties to choose from, offering different shapes, colours and textures.

Cabbages are grouped according to when they’re harvested. Spring cabbages are ready from mid to late spring. Summer cabbages crop from summer into early autumn, while autumn cabbages and winter varieties cover the remainder of the year. Savoy cabbages have a long harvest period, stretching from autumn all the way through winter to early spring.

 

Where to Grow Cabbage

Many cabbage varieties will tolerate below-freezing temperatures. But for the healthiest growth they need an open, sunny site and rich soil. A bed improved with compost or well-rotted manure is ideal, and will appreciate a further boost in the form of an organic general-purpose fertiliser raked into the ground at planting time.

In a traditional crop rotation cabbages follow on from peas or beans, which naturally lock nitrogen away at their roots. Left in the ground when the crop is cleared, these roots will help to feed the cabbages that follow.

Unless your soil is naturally alkaline, sprinkle garden lime onto the soil either after you’ve dug it over, or rake it in at planting time.

 

How to Sow Cabbage

Cabbages may be started off in an outdoor seedbed to transplant once they’re bigger, or under cover into modules or pots, which also enables an earlier start to the season.

Prepare seedbeds by treading on the ground in a shuffling motion before raking to a fine tilth for sowing.

When you sow depends on what type of cabbage you’re growing. Summer cabbages are the first to be sown, in mid spring, followed by autumn and winter types later on in spring. Spring cabbages are sown from the second half of summer to harvest the following year.

Mark out drills about half an inch (1cm) deep and 6 inches (15cm) apart. You can use a string line to ensure nice, straight rows. Sow the seeds thinly along the row then cover over and water. Keep the soil moist. Thin the seedlings once they’re up to one every couple of inches (5cm).

Under cover, start seeds off in plug trays of all-purpose potting soil. Sow two to three seeds per cell about half an inch (1cm) deep. After they’ve germinated, thin to leave just one seedling per cell. Or sow into trays or pots then transfer the best seedlings into individual cells or pots to grow on.

 

Transplanting Cabbage

You-can-sow-cabbages-in-soil-trays-or-pots-Transplant-cabbages-when-they-have-at-least-three-or-four-adult-leaves

The seedlings are ready to transplant about six weeks after sowing, by which time they should have grown at least three to four adult leaves. Make sure spring cabbages are transplanted no later than early autumn, so they can establish before winter bites.

Plant your seedlings into prepared ground. Leave about 18 inches (45cm) between each seedling. Additional rows of spring or summer cabbage should be set around the same distance apart, while autumn and winter types need a little more space between rows – about 2 feet (60cm) is ideal.

Firm your cabbages into the ground well, then water generously to settle the soil around the roots. Seedlings transplanted from a seedbed should be lifted up with as much soil around their roots as possible. This avoids unnecessary root disturbance, helping the seedlings to quickly adapt to their new growing positions.

 

Caring for Cabbage

Cabbages are prone to attack from pigeons and caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly, also known as cabbageworms. Wire mesh will protect seedlings against pigeons, but to stop butterflies from laying their eggs on the leaves it’s best to use netting during the summer months.

Another clever technique is to grow nasturtiums close by as a sacrificial crop, also known as a trap crop. Caterpillars prefer nasturtiums, so they’ll be more likely to eat these instead of your cabbages. Mint can be used to help deter flea beetles.

Continue to water cabbages as they grow. Ensure they have all the space and nutrients they need by carefully weeding between plants with a hoe or by hand. Winter cabbages are very hardy but during exceptionally cold weather they may need some form of cold protection such as a row cover tunnel or cloche. In very cold regions, growing cabbages in a greenhouse or cold frame is a great way to guarantee a winter-safe crop.

 

How to Harvest Cabbage

Use a sharp knife to cut your cabbages once the heads have firmed up. Savoy and other winter cabbages benefit from a light frost to bring out their flavour. Spring cabbages may be harvested young and loose as greens for repeated cutting, or left to grow on to form a tight head of leaves. Either way is totally delicious!

If you have a variety you’d particularly recommend, or perhaps another tip for growing cabbages, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.