And The Winner of Mr Fothergill’s Longest Runner Bean Competition Is…

October 23rd, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Congratulations go to June Saddington who has grown the winning pod – measuring an impressive 62.3cm! Alison Cartwright gained 2nd place with a 61cm long bean and David Graney gained 3rd place with a pod of 53cm.

In April 2018, we announced our quest to find the longest runner bean in the UK. Mr Fothergill’s Facebook and Twitter followers were asked to share pictures of their runner beans growing, where they could get spot prizes every month. To have a chance to win the main prizes they were asked for images of the longest beans with a tape measure showing the length.

It all started with Mr Fothergill’s staff competition for the ‘Year of the Bean’ and the introduction of new and exclusive Runner Bean Guinness Record in 2017. There was great interest when the competition was announced. The winning bean that year was 47.2 cm long.

This year’s winners come from around the UK and used various ways to succeed.

The-winner-of-Mr-Fothergills-Longest-Runner-Bean-Competition-2018

 

 

June Saddington said: ‘‘I grew the plants in a raised bed in my back garden veg patch, a bag of manure was dug in first then I grew 5 plants, one up each pole of a wigwam, and just watered lots over the hot summer.’’

 

 

 

2nd-place-of-Mr-Fothergills-Longest-Runner-Bean-Competition-2018-goes-to-Alison

 

Alison Cartwright applied a different approach: ‘‘My beans were surface sown in a seed tray of compost and then transplanted to one of my raised beds at the four-leaf stage. They were planted just as the hot summer weather started so this meant that watering every other day was necessary and on every third or fourth watering they were given a low nitrogen feed, they were also misted regularly to encourage the beans to set.’’

 

3rd-prize-of-Mr-Fothergills-Longest-Runner-Bean-Competition-2018-went-to-David

 

 

David Graney, who won 3rd prize, commented: ‘‘I prepped the bed with well-rotted manure, then fed with comfrey tea and also mulched with comfrey leaves when we had the heatwave.’’

 

 

 

Well done to all the winners!

Runner Bean Guinness Record costs £3.55 for 45 seeds.

Mr Fothergill’s has a wide range of Runner Beans. They are available from Mr Fothergill’s retail stockists throughout the UK and from the company’s latest Seed Catalogue or online. Visit your local garden centre for the full range or head over to www.mr-fothergills.co.uk.

Garden centres, catalogues and websites

October 19th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill's Plants A-Z

I went to the garden centre yesterday to buy some shrubs and perennials for a new border in a friend’s garden. I had my list, I had my cart, I was all set. But where are they?

I know it was naive, I can’t get out of the habit, but I still expected to find the shrubs, well, in the Shrubs section, lined up A-Z. But there was no Shrubs section. There was a large A-Z choice of Ornamental Trees but no displays devoted to shrubs or perennials or ground cover.

Instead, the shrubs and perennials were all mixed together and presented under headings such as Sun, Shade, and Foliage. So I trailed round looking for caryopteris and perovskia in the Sun display – no. I found a yellow-leaved caryopteris in the Foliage collection but that was not the one I wanted. In the end, I became so irritated that I went home.

Compare with the Mr F seed rack in that same garden centre, or the Mr F catalogue or the seeds and plants on the Mr F website. Seeds start with Abutilon, end with Zinnia. Plants start with Achillea, end with Zinnia. Want some busy lizzie seed? You don’t have to wonder if it’ll be presented in the Sun or Shade department. There it is between Begonia and Calendula.

OK, you might quibble and suggest that busy lizzie seed should go under its Latin name: Impatiens. I had a botanical training so that’s where I started but reality long since took over!

Have to say… There is something that Mr F could learn from that garden centre. A-Z is great, but sometimes we do need help: Seeds for Sun, Seeds for Scent – that sort of thing. Hit the Flower Seeds button on the front page of the website and a list appears on the left that includes some of these categories. More would be good.

Christmas Gifts for Gardeners

October 16th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

It’s just 11 weeks to Christmas!

If you’re thinking of what to buy for your garden-savvy friends or relatives, we have got some great options with a wide range of gifts for kids, beginners and experienced gardeners. Choose from a number of innovative gardening gifts from windowsill kits to fun ‘grass head’ kits for youngsters – perfect stocking fillers!

For anyone new to gardening, why not try our patented GroBox and GroMat ranges of easy-to-grow, pre-sown gardening products.

GroBox is a bio-degradable cardboard box containing four varieties of pre-sown vegetable or herb seeds in compost which is then planted, covered and watered in the garden or in a container. Our range also includes a children’s flower garden and a children’s vegetable garden – great for the budding young gardener in your life.

GroMat is a two-metre bio-degradable mat pre-sown with a mix of either flower or vegetable seeds, and can be rolled out as it is or cut to fit any size of plot, border or container. You can choose from Poppy, Wildflowers, Blue Mix, Red Mix, Salad or Vegetable Mix!

We also have four windowsill kits – Herb Garden, Fragrant Garden, Strawberry Garden and Sunflower Garden – each comprising a galvanised metal windowsill container, seeds, compost and instructions.

The Herb Grow Kit has three galvanised pots on a tray, basil, parsley and chive seeds, plus compost discs, while the Grow Your Own Pesto Kit includes basil seed, compost discs, a ceramic pestle, mortar and instructions on how to make the much-loved Italian sauce for pasta.

Our eye-catching grow kits in the caricature form of various animals make ideal stocking-fillers and encourage youngsters to take an interest in growing from seed, like our ceramic egg cup-style planters – the Munakuppi (that’s Finnish for ‘egg cup’) Hair Grow Kit!

Each Munakuppi includes two sachets of seed – basil for short ‘hair’ and ryegrass for long ‘hair’ – plus compost and growing instructions, so anyone can simply sow, water and watch the green ‘hair’ grow. The six hand-crafted animals, including a frog, dog, pig, duck, seal and cow are becoming collectables.

Children will also enjoy our four new adorable smiley cats! These gorgeous kits come with a pot, coir pellet, rye grass seeds, instructions and growing tips for easy and instant display in the home. Unlike traditional grassheads kits, these ceramic characters can be used again and again.

Mr-Fothergills-Munakuppi-kits-now-come-in-four-new-adorable-reusable-cat-pots

For chilli lovers, there are Chilli Pepper Grow kits available for classic, great tasting, fiery red chillies or juicy medium-hot green chillies, perfect for pizzas. Available as complete kits!

Mr Fothergill’s range of seeds and kits are available from garden centres, supermarkets and leading DIY stores throughout the UK.

Happy cornflower harmonies

October 12th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Cornflower 'Classic Fantastic'

One of the easiest ways to ensure harmonious colour co-ordination in our borders is to choose plants whose flowers come in different shades of the same colour. Mahogany, gold, yellow and primrose, for example.

But it can take a lot of chasing round and picking varieties from different catalogue and nurseries to get the blend right. Fortunately, this spring sees the introduction of three rather cleverly formulated cornflower mixtures that do the choosing for you.

The Classic Series of cornflowers comes in three different colour formulations, all of which are made up of tallish plants reaching about 75cm in height, ideal both for borders and for cutting.

‘Classic Fantastic’ (above) comes in dark blue, mid blue, pale blue and a white with a blue eye. ‘Classic Magic’ comes in deep red shades, various pink tones and a white with a pink eye. In the ‘Classic Romantic’ blend the flowers are plummy purple, some almost black, dark purple with white tips to the petals, various purplish and lilac shades and white with a purple eye.

All three blends will look good sown in clumps between roses, especially between English Roses or long flowering shrub roses. Sow in a few short rows to create a patch to fill the space and thin the plants to about 15cm apart. Don’t thin too severely or you might end up with an unbalanced range of colours.

I’d be tempted to sow a few now, if you’ve got your borders all tidied, although I’d usually prefer to get the seed in by the end of September. Otherwise leave it till March. For cutting, a few rows of cornflowers can transform your veg garden. And the harmonious colouring is all there in the packet.

Apple Storing and Processing Made Easy

October 9th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Isn’t autumn magnificent!

All those colourful leaves, fresher mornings and wild pickings to be had – and then there’s the abundance of awesome apples! They’ve been cropping since summer, but it’s the later to mature apples that will keep the longest.

Thinning-your-apple-tree-produces-a-better-harvest-and-bigger-healthier-fruit

Read on or watch the video to discover how to store apples properly, as well as three delicious ways to process them!

How Long do Apples Keep?

When apples ripen is a good guide to how long they’ll store for. Early ripening apples don’t keep for long at all, so they’re best eaten straight off the tree.

Apples ready to pick mid-season generally keep a while longer – for around 2-3 weeks. To maintain freshness put up to 10 apples into a polythene bag, pierce some air holes into the bag then place your apples into the refrigerator.

Late-season apples are the real keepers. Most varieties should keep to the end of the year, and some as late as next spring – if they’re stored correctly.

Avoid-your-apples-touching-when-storing-by-using-slatted-boxes-or-wrapping-them-in-paper

How to Store Apples

Only store varieties known to keep well.

If you can, pick apples in the morning while it’s still cool, and slightly under-ripe so they don’t over-ripen in storage. Only perfect apples make the grade, so use up blemished or bruised fruits immediately.

It’s important to prevent apples from touching in storage – that way if one goes bad it won’t contaminate the others. You can loosely wrap the apples in paper to help avoid this.

Apples should be stored somewhere cool but frost-free. If it’s still warm and you only have a few apples, keep them in your refrigerator until the weather turns fresher.

Place the apples into slatted boxes, racks or a purpose-made apple store. Whatever you use, it must allow for good air circulation. Consider insulating boxes with hay, straw or shredded paper if temperatures are likely to fluctuate or drop too low. Suitable storage spaces include sheds, root cellars, well-ventilated basements and shaded, enclosed porches.

Small apples tend to keep for longer, so eat the largest ones first. Regularly check stored apples and use up or compost any that are going soft or beginning to rot. Your garden birds will appreciate any less-than-perfect apples, especially at a time of year when finding enough food is a struggle.

Freezing Apples

If you haven’t got anywhere suitable to store your apples, freeze them. Frozen apples can be used for baking, smoothies, jam, jelly and applesauce.

Begin by coring then peeling your apples. Cut them into slices then coat the slices in lemon juice to prevent them discolouring. One lemon should give enough juice to treat slices from six to ten apples.

Arrange the slices onto a cookie sheet or baking tray lined with non-stick baking parchment, then pop them into the freezer. Once they’re frozen solid they can be transferred into labelled freezer bags or containers to stop the slices from freezing into a single lump – or simply freeze them in portion-sized containers. You can also prepare ready-to-bake apple pie fillings for the freezer.

Making Apple Rings

You could also make your own apple rings.

Start with washed apples, either peeled or left as they are. Core the apples then cut into very thin slices – about 1/8-1/4 inch (3-5mm) thick. Arrange the slices onto oven racks or dehydrator trays so they’re not touching. If you like, add a dusting of cinnamon. Dehydrators make drying easy and give a uniform result. Set the temperature to 135ºF or 57ºC. If you’re using an oven, set it as low as it goes – usually 150ºF, 65ºC or gas mark 1.

Drying takes from 6 to 12 hours depending on slice thickness, water content and drying conditions. Your apple rings are ready when they’re dry and leathery to the touch. Or dry them further for crispy apple chips!

Once your apple rings have completely cooled pack them into airtight bags or containers and store somewhere cool, dark and dry for up to six months.

Making Apple Juice

Apple gluts can also be juiced – and you don’t need any specialist equipment!

Put cored, chopped apples into a large stew pot. Add just enough water to cover, bring to the boil, then cover and simmer on a low heat until the apples collapse to a soft mush. Now strain the mash through a fine-mesh sieve, working it back and forth with a spoon to extract all that lovely juice. This will need doing in stages.

If you prefer your juice clearer, filter it through cheesecloth or coffee filters. If necessary, adjust sweetness and add more water if it tastes too strong. Refrigerate your juice to enjoy within the week, can it by pouring hot juice into sterilized jars, or freeze in airtight containers to keep for up to six months.

Whether you eat them fresh, put them into store or process them into delicious snacks and drinks, there’s no excuse for wasting apples this autumn!

If you have any advice or top tips for storing and processing apples, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.