February Gardening Advice

February 1st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

February Gardening Advice

Not even the promise of romance this Valentine’s Day can melt the cold heart of winter. But the sight of a shy hellebore or a solitary crocus might be just the thing to break the ice. This is an unpredictable month, so don’t be in a hurry to sow as before you know it, the weather will have turned for the worse, and your hard work will be ruined. Patience is key.

So, wrap up warm, go outside and enjoy the stillness of winter. A lone robin, a snow-covered allotment, or frozen husks of perennial plants huddled together are unique sights that should be enjoyed.

In the flower garden

Borders

Borders may have suffered over recent months, but now’s the time to prepare them for the warmer months ahead. Cut away last season’s dead perennial foliage, and remove all weeds and fallen debris. Give the area a thick mulch, as this will help suppress weeds. Do not cover perennials, shrubs or protruding bulb shoots, as this will prevent sunlight and warmth reaching them and will encourage the onset of rot.

Whilst in the borders, turn your attention to perennials. If you’ve left their seeded heads for nature, or as something structural to look at over winter, now’s the time to cut them down to base level. Encourage more plants by dividing them with a sharp spade. Think ahead to how you want your summer borders to look.

Grasses

Deciduous varieties will now benefit from being cut back hard with a pair of shears. This may seem drastic, but don’t worry, they will thank you for it. Varieties such as stipa, need nothing more than a good comb. By using your hands and a sensible pair of gloves to prevent cuts, simply drag your fingers through the clump, removing old growth.

February Gardening Advice - Snowdrops

Divide

Snowdrops will now be fading and returning to their green form. Although they will naturally increase in number over time, you can speed up the process by lifting, dividing and re-planting, and now’s the time to do it.

Pruning

This is the month to prune late-flowering clematis. They flower from mid to late summer, and on newly grown stems. Cut back last year’s growth to a strong pair of buds, about 30cm above the ground. Tie them into a support frame, and mulch around the base of the plant. As soon as the temperature starts to rise, they will quickly put on growth.

Prune wisteria by cutting back to three buds, and prune hard on shrubs such as cornus, buddleia and salix.

Pansies and Violas

Keep pansies and violas looking their best by deadheading regularly. This will prevent them from going to seed. Remove fading or diseased blooms by making the cut just above a lower pair of leaves. If you’re growing them in pots or containers, ensure they don’t dry out, but don’t overwater. If you have them in the ground, keep an eye out for pests, such as slugs and snails.

Sweet Peas

Sweet pea seeds can sometimes be challenging to germinate. Leave them overnight in water, or create a tiny hole in the seed so it can take in water. Fill 7cm pots with multi-purpose compost and sow three seeds to a pot. Cover with 2cm of compost, and water. Remember to label your varieties, then place the pots in a greenhouse or cold frame.

February Gardening Advice - Polytunnel

Greenhouse

If you have a heated greenhouse, a polytunnel, or even a well-lit, warm, windowsill, hardy annual and perennial seeds such as cornflower, cosmos and echinacea can now be sown. Overfill a small pot or tray with either seed or multi-purpose compost. Tap the container gently, and brush the excess soil from the rim. Sow your seeds thinly over the surface, and then cover over with a thin layer of compost, or vermiculite. Once labelled, place your container in a couple of inches of water. It’s preferable to let the pot draw the water from the bottom, leaving the seeds undisturbed, as watering from above can easily scatter the seeds, disrupting their growing environment and hampering germination. Place in a bright and warm spot.

Garden Wildlife

Continue to keep bird-feeding stations supplied with food and fresh water. If the weather is too bad to work in, then this might be the time to retreat to the shed and think about building a nest box. Garden birds will soon be looking for nests to hatch their chicks, and installing a nest box will encourage them into your garden.

On the veg patch

Raspberries

Cut autumn fruiting raspberries down to an inch above the ground. Mulch around the raspberry stalks, ensuring you don’t cover them over. If you want a longer growing season, cut only half of your stock down to above the ground. The untouched canes will provide fruit earlier in the season.

Fruit Trees

Although spring will soon be here, there’s still ample time to prune dormant fruit trees and soft fruit. Beyond this, tree sap will be on the rise, and pruning too late could damage the tree. Consider buying bare rootstock varieties, and rhubarb crowns, and plant out.

February Gardening Advice - time to start chitting your potatoes

Chitting

Order your stock! Leave it any later and you may find your favourite variety is no longer available. As soon as your potatoes arrive, place them in a warm, dry area with plenty of sunshine. Stand them upright, egg boxes make a great holder, with their eyes facing upwards. After several weeks they should have healthy shoots.

Sow

With the soil prepared, early varieties of carrot, such as Early Nantes or Amsterdam Forcing can be sown under cloches.

With a cold frame or greenhouse, the following can be sown into plug trays; onions, beetroot, cabbage, leeks, spring onion, lettuce, radishes, and tomatoes. If you sow into large plugs, and thin your seedlings out accordingly, then your young plants can continue to grow on until you’re ready to plant out. This method gives you time to prepare the plot, and also gives the soil an opportunity to warm up.

If you’re hoping to sow seeds, such as carrot, straight into the ground, wait until at least the end of the month. Ideally, warm the allocated plot, by covering the soil for a few weeks with either a cloche, or plastic sheeting. This extra warmth is precious when trying to germinate seeds, such as carrots and parsnips. Remember to stagger your sowing to avoid gluts.

Broad Beans

You can begin sowing broad beans now. As these legumes have a deep root system, ideally you want to sow them in root trainers as they don’t like their roots disturbed. Not only are you providing the best opportunity to grow strong plants, but when you plant out, the roots won’t suffer from stress. Use a good multi-purpose compost, push the seeds down to the depth of 2cm. Water well and place in either a greenhouse or cold frame. They’ll be ready to plant out, come March.

February Gardening Advice - lift and store any parsnips growing over winter

Storage

Check regularly for any damage or decay on any fruit or veg you having been storing over winter. Anything spoilt, remove at once and destroy. Ensure remaining produce is individually spaced to prevent further contamination, and to encourage a good airflow. If you still have parsnips growing, lift and store them. Place carefully into a box, cover with dry sand, and store somewhere cool and out of sunlight.

 

Other Jobs

  • Check houseplants for whitefly and aphids
  • Any remaining bulb plants that have finished blooming can be taken outside, or kept in a greenhouse, to let the foliage die back. However, continue to water and feed amaryllis bulbs, as this may encourage the flower to return late next autumn, or winter.
  • Order seeds, summer plants and plug plants.

Mr Fothergill’s Boosts its Seaweed Plant Tonic Offering with NEW Seasol 4-Litre

January 30th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill’s Boosts its Seaweed Plant Tonic Offering with NEW Seasol 4-Litre

As spring is just around the corner and greenhouse gardeners are about to start sowing, Mr Fothergill’s offers a natural seaweed concentrate that improves seed germination and root growth. Studies confirmed that soaking seeds in Seasol prior to sowing, or watering with Seasol immediately after sowing, gives seeds the best possible start in life and leads to vigorous, uniform plants.

The 1 litre Seasol is now stocked in over 650 retail outlets nationwide, but Mr Fothergill’s has launched the seaweed-based plant tonic in a 4-litre bottle for the 2019 season.

Ian Cross, Mr Fothergill’s Marketing Manager comments: “The great thing about Seasol is that because it is a natural plant tonic, you can use it regularly throughout all stages of growth, from seed to mature plant, unlike chemical fertilisers. The new 4-litre bottle will not only give our customers great value for money, but as you can use Seasol on most areas of the garden, at any time of the year, it also won’t run out as quickly.”

Seasol is derived from a blend of the finest brown kelps and is proven to stimulate root development. The tonic promotes healthy growth of plants, flowers and vegetables, enhances flowering and fruiting and increases resistance to heat, drought, frost, pests and diseases. It can be applied directly to soil or foliage, contains beneficial micro-nutrients and is also rich in trace elements.

A 4L bottle of Seasol is priced at £19.99. Visit your local garden centre, head over to www.mr-fothergills.co.uk to shop or request your copy of the Mr Fothergill’s latest seed catalogue here.

Disease resistant nicotianas

January 25th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Disease-resistant Nicotiana 'Babybella'Disease wiped out the trials of tobacco plant, Nicotiana, at the RHS Garden at Wisley in Surrey in 1997. Tobacco blue mould also ruined the trial in 1998 and again when they tried in 2001and most varieties vanished from catalogues and gardens for almost fifteen years. There was no point growing them as, unless you were isolated from sources of infection, they were simply wiped out in most gardens.

But a plant breeding company in Norfolk has worked diligently to develop attractive varieties that are also tolerant of disease and Mr F now lists the best two of their introductions. With blood from a number of mould-resistant wild species added to the floral impact of traditional types, they developed ‘Whisper’, introduced a few years ago, and now we have another: ‘Babybella’.

Reaching about 90cm in height, the slightly bell-shaped flowers reveal the influence of the old lime-green favourite Nicotiana langsdorfii. But ‘Babybella’ not only comes with flowers in rich crimson but they’re carried on very well branched stems to create a plant that’s ideal in mixed borders with perennials and shrubs and also in large containers.

‘Babybella’ also makes a fine cut flower, the slender but wiry stems supporting the mass of flowers very effectively and the elegant way in which the flowers are held on the stems ensures that the cut stems fit well into large mixed arrangements.

‘Whisper’ is available to grow from seed sown from February to May, ‘Babybella’ is available as young plants to order now for planting in May.

New Introductions in Mr Fothergill’s RHS Award of Garden Merit Seed Range

January 25th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

If you are thinking of what reliable and prolific plants to grow this upcoming spring, Mr Fothergill’s has got some great options to choose from in the RHS endorsed flower and vegetable seed ranges.

Among the top selling varieties are Courgette Defender F1, Runner Bean Firestorm, Lettuce Sioux and Erigeron Profusion.

RHS Onion (Spring) Matrix - A New Introduction in Mr Fothergill’s RHS Award of Garden Merit seed range

New to the range for next season, Mr Fothergill’s has introduced Onion (Spring) Matrix (RRP £2.50 for 350 seeds), a winter hardy variety which is slow to form bulbs and shows good disease resistance.

Sweet Corn Mirai Gold F1 (RRP £3.05 for 35 seeds) produces unbelievably sweet tasting cobs, up to 20cm in length and packed with extra-tender kernels.

Pea Starlight (RRP £2.75 for 300 seeds), is a top-quality variety producing generous, wilt resistant and extremely reliable crops. Pods are uniquely held above the canopy for easy picking and well filled with delicious, medium-sized peas.

Runner Bean Stardust (RRP £3.55 for 50 seeds), is a modern variety bred in the UK and ideally suited to our climate, giving maximum crop yields. The self-fertile white flowers give fantastic results as well as a sweeter tasting pod.RHS Sunflower Teddy Bear - A New Introduction to Mr Fothergill's RHS Garden Award of Merit Seed Range

Sunflower Teddy Bear (RRP £2.35 for 20 seeds) is a compact and bushy, well-branched variety producing lots of double, uniquely soft-to-the-touch blooms.

The RHS Award of Garden Merit is a mark of quality, awarded to garden plants with excellent garden performance. Each award is given only after a trial at an RHS garden and judged by a team of experts.

Visit your local garden centre, head over to mr-fothergills.co.uk to shop or request your copy of the latest Mr Fothergill’s seed catalogue here.

10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

January 21st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

Harvesting more from your vegetable garden is a worthy ambition, but just what are the most effective ways to increase productivity? Healthy soil, careful planning, and defending your crops from pests, weeds and weather extremes is the answer, so let’s dig a little deeper.

Read on or watch the video for 10 proven ways to boost productivity in your vegetable garden this growing season.

1. Feed Your Soil

Deep, nutrient-rich soils encourage extensive root systems and strong plants, so nourish your soil with plenty of organic matter such as compost, manure, or leaf mould. Compost and leaf mould can be easily made at home for free, so compost everything you can and put a thriving composting setup at the heart of your garden.

The best time to add most organic matter is in winter, to give enough time for it to become incorporated into the ground before spring. Then, top up with more organic matter during the growing season, laying it 2-5cm (1-2 inches) thick around existing crops. This surface mulch will also help to slow moisture loss and suppress weeds, saving you time watering and weeding.

2. Feed Your Plants

Many plants will benefit from a further boost of organic fertiliser such as liquid seaweed concentrate.

Alternatively, grow a patch of comfrey – next to your compost bin is ideal – and make your own comfrey tea, a potent brew ideal for hungry plants like tomatoes. Cut leaves can also be laid around plants, or added to the compost heap where they will help to speed up decomposition.

 10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

3. Grow in Beds

Convert to a system of permanent beds and minimise wasted space while concentrating your resources. Beds may be accessed from all sides and plants can be grown in blocks which maximises productivity. And because you’ll add organic matter directly to the beds, there’s no wasting it on paths or other unproductive ground.

4. Choose Plants that Thrive

It may seem obvious, but growing what thrives in your soil and climate will result in stronger growth and bigger harvests. For example, warm climates are ideal for growing sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Or in cooler areas, opt for crops like chard and cabbage that can cope with the cold.

Choose varieties that have been bred to thrive in your climate. Early varieties are great for short growing seasons, while heat-tolerant varieties are a must for areas with scorching summer sun.

5. Grow More in the Shade

Increasing productivity means making the most of every space available to you – and that includes shadier areas. They’re great for leafy vegetables such as lettuce or Asian greens, slow growers including leeks and parsnip, plus hardy fruits like blackcurrants and gooseberries. You can use the Mr Fothergill’s Garden Planner to filter crop choices to show only those suitable for growing in the shade.

 10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

6. Collect More Rainwater

Rainwater is the best option for watering vegetables. Rainwater is softer, contains fewer contaminants and is at a pH that is preferred by most plants, encouraging better growth all round. So if you’re still using treated water to irrigate your crops, now’s the time to install additional water barrels and collect as much rainwater as you can. You can use a connector kit to join multiple barrels together.

 

7. Extend the Growing Season

Get familiar with your first and last frost dates, then plan to push your growing season further using plant protection. Cold frames, row covers and cloches enable sowing and planting to begin up to two weeks sooner, while harvests can continue a few weeks longer at the end of the season.

The Garden Planner demonstrates this beautifully. Add crop protection such as a cold frame to your plan. Then bring up the accompanying Plant List, which now displays earlier planting and later harvesting dates for the plants grown under protection.

A permanent structure such as a greenhouse opens up more possibilities, making it easy to enjoy an even earlier start to spring while affording just enough protection for winter-long cropping of, for example, hardy salads.

8. Space Plants Correctly

Be careful to leave enough space between plants – plant too close and your crops will fail to grow properly and be prone to disease, but plant too far apart and you won’t make the most of the space you have. The Garden Planner shows you exactly how many plants may be grown in the area available.

Excellent soil can help you to push the boundaries by growing vegetables a little closer than recommended. Square Foot Gardening takes this to the extreme, with plants spaced up to five times closer. Select the SFG option in the Garden Planner to design your own square foot beds. The planner shows you how many of the selected crop will fit into each square foot.

9. Pair Up Plants

10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

Some plants are mutually beneficial. Grown together they can help to increase overall productivity.

Companion planting takes many forms. For example, lofty corn can be used as a support for climbing beans, while lettuce grown in-between rows of carrot or onion helps to smother weeds while these slower growing crops establish. The Garden Planner takes care of companion planting too. Simply highlight a crop then select the Companion Planting option to display suitable partners in the selection bar.

10. Work to Prevent Pests

Take a preventative approach to pests to stop them in their tracks. For example, place barriers over susceptible plants to protect them from flying insect pests, or reduce a nuisance slug population by removing hiding places such as upturned pots or long grass in and around growing areas. Then every few weeks, head out when slugs are feeding in the evening to pick off and dispose of them by torchlight.

Make room for flowers in the vegetable garden too. Flowers like alyssum, calendula and poached egg plant don’t take up much space and will improve productivity by attracting predators such as hoverflies and ladybirds to control pests including aphids, mites and mealybugs.

Try some – preferably all – of these techniques for yourself and enjoy the boost in productivity you deserve! If you have any of your own tips and tricks for boosting yields in the vegetable garden, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.