Posts Tagged ‘allotment garden’

February Gardening Advice

February 1st, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Hearts beat a little faster this month with the arrival of Valentine’s Day. Likewise, for gardeners, pulses begin to race with the prospect of spring on the horizon.

Whether you’re working on the allotment, or in the garden, the jobs list is beginning to increase as we start to prepare for the arrival of a new season. However, don’t be seduced into thinking you should immediately start sowing outside. Jack Frost is a cunning cad, and is always seeking the opportunity to break hearts. Whether it’s a severe frost, or a late flurry of snow, gardening plans can be quickly scuppered. Right now, in this unpredictable month, patience is the key.

So, why not take a moment to enjoy what February has to offer. Hellebores, crocuses, even an early daffodil, can be just what’s needed to get you in the mood for spring.

In the flower garden


Most snowdrops have now bloomed and will start to fade before returning to their green form. Now’s the time to lift, divide and re-plant. Over the years, they will naturally increase and spread. However, a gardener’s intervention can result in larger displays, without such a lengthy wait.

This process can also be applied to the perennial plants in your herbaceous borders. Quite often a sharp spade is the best way to divide them. Think about how you want your border to look this summer, and re-plant accordingly.


At the moment, borders aren’t looking at their best, but this is the time to get them ready for the growing season ahead. Remove all weeds and fallen debris, and cut away last season’s dead perennial foliage. Finally, mulch the area, ideally to the depth of six inches, as this will help suppress weeds. Be careful not to cover perennials, shrubs or protruding bulb shoots as this will prevent the sunlight and warmth reaching them, and could encourage rot.


Ornamental grasses in winter can add wonderful structure to a vacant gardening space. But as winter wanes, they will start to look a little ragged. Deciduous varieties will 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.


Despite the cold month, if you’re lucky enough to own a heated greenhouse, polytunnel, or a well-lit, warm, windowsill, you could think about sowing hardy annual and perennial seeds. Whether it’s Cornflower, Cosmos, French marigolds or Echinacea, these can be sown now. 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. Finally, place in a bright and warm spot.


Pansies can provide well-needed colour during the solemn winter months. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep them in check if you want them to continue providing colour. Deadheading is key. Remove any fading or diseased blooms, making the cut just above a lower pair of leaves. Do not let your plants go to seed, as they will stop producing blooms. 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.


This is the month to prune late flowering Clematis, Prune Group 3 (For definitions of each group, go to ). They flower from mid to late summer, and on newly grown stems. Therefore, you can cut back a lot of last year’s growth, down to a strong pair of buds, about 30 cm above the ground. Ensure you spread out the stems, 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.

Similarly, you can prune shrubs that have just finished flowering such as Witch Hazel, and prune hard on shrubs such as Cornus, Buddleia and Salix. Also, prune Wisteria by cutting back to three buds.


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. So why not help bring birdlife into your garden, and install a nest box.

On the veg patch


Cut all autumn fruiting varieties 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.

This is the last opportunity to plant bare root varieties. Once summer varieties are planted and mulched, cut canes down to ten inches. Again, with autumn fruiting varieties, mulch and cut-down to an inch above the ground.


There’s still time to prune your fruit trees and soft fruit, such as gooseberries, as they’re still dormant. Beyond this, tree sap will be on the rise, so pruning too late might create a seeping wound, thus damaging the tree. Consider buying bare rootstock varieties, and rhubarb crowns, and plant out.


Up and down the land right now, windowsills are dominated by seeding potatoes sat on eggbox thrones, with their eyes looking skyward. However, if you haven’t bought your tubers yet, it’s still not too late. Get them chitting as soon as possible, and six weeks from now you could be sitting them in the warming soil of your allotment, or in growing bags.


If you have a cold frame or greenhouse, ideally with a heat source, then you might consider sowing into plugs the following; 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 will not only give you the time to prepare the plot, but give the soil an opportunity to warm up in the early spring weather. Bear in mind, it’s still a low winter sun, so light levels can make plants leggy.

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 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, otherwise months from now you may find yourself with a glut.


You can begin sowing early varieties indoors. 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.


If you still have parsnips growing, lift and store them. Beyond February, these tapered beauties will sprout. Place carefully into a box, cover with dry sand, and store somewhere cool and out of sunlight.


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.



Any remaining bulb plants that have finished blooming can be taken outside, or kept in a greenhouse, to let the foliage dieback. However, continue to water and feed any Amaryllis bulbs, as this may encourage the flower to return late next autumn, or winter.

Fascinating Facts: Kale

February 1st, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Botanical name: Brassica oleracea var. Sabellica

Origins: Both the ancient Greeks and Romans ate leafy greens believed to be ancestors of the Kale varieties we eat today, consuming them as medicine as well as food. By the middle ages, Kale had widely spread through Europe and Asia.

First cultivated: Kale has been cultivated for over 2000 years.

Types: There are numerous varieties of Kale, popular ones include: Cavolo Nero, Curly Scarlet, Redbor Kale and Red Russian

Skill level:  Easy/Intermediate

Preferred location and conditions: Kale tolerates most conditions but requires nitrogen-rich, free-draining soil.

Good for containers: Yes

Harvest time: September to May

Planting and growing: Sow seeds from March to June, ensuring the soil remains moist. Flat leaved kales should be sown in situ but you can start off curly varieties in modules. Plant out from May to July at spacings of at least 45cm, ‘puddling’ the plants with plenty of water.

Possible problems:   Birds can be a problem, so it’s advisable to net the plants.

Did you know?

Kale is an excellent addition to any vegetable garden. Hardy and disease-resistant, it can adapt to most conditions and is one of the easiest brassicas to grow. It is also one of the most nutrient-rich. Hailed as a superfood, a serving of Kale contains more absorbable calcium than a small carton of milk. It’s low in calories, high in fibre and packed full of antioxidants. It’s high in vitamins A, C, E and K and rich in folate, manganese, magnesium, iron and potassium. It’s beneficial for the brain, heart, bones, skin, eyes and hair and has been linked to lowering the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

In much of Europe, Kale was once the most widely-eaten green vegetable. It thrived in cold climates because of its resistance to frost (which makes it taste sweeter), and was so commonly eaten in Scotland, that ‘kail’ became the generic word for dinner and all kitchens featured a ‘kail-pot’ for cooking. ‘Kailyard’ was a Scottish colloquialism for vegetable garden, and the term lent itself to the Kailyard School of Literature, a critically reviled group of Scottish writers (including Peter Pan author, J. M. Barrie) who revelled in sentimental descriptions of life in rural Scotland in the late 19th century.

Kale slipped out of fashion after the Middle Ages, when cabbage became more popular. Despite a brief renaissance during the Dig for Victory campaign of World War II, people stopped eating kale, and it was more commonly used in cattle feed. At the start of the 21st century, kale started to regain popularity, and after being named a ‘superfood’ in 2008, and with celebrity endorsements from the likes of Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, interest in the vegetable skyrocketed.

Kale remains one of the trendiest vegetables available, adapting itself to smoothies, salads, juices, stews, bakes and even cocktails (kalejito, anyone?) However, the British haven’t gone quite as cuckoo for kale as the Americans, who have not only devoted a national day to this highly-esteemed leaf (4th October 2018), but launched the first ever world kale-eating contest in 2016. Gideon Oji holds the current record, consuming 25 bowls of the vegetable in just eight minutes. And the obsession doesn’t end there; according to America’s Social Security Administration, 262 babies were named Kale in 2013.

Even if you’re not a fan of the vegetable on your dinner plate, there are ornamental varieties of Kale available, with showy leaves in shades of pink and purple, which can add a welcome blush of colour to winter borders.



To browse all our varieties of kale seeds just follow this link to the kale seeds section of our website.

Royal Horticultural Society

This article was first published on the RHS website February 2018. 

Read more on the RHS website about growing your own kale.

Growing Carrots from Sowing to Harvest [video]

April 21st, 2017 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Growing Carrots from Sowing to Harvest - Mr Fothergills BlogEvery vegetable garden needs carrots and it’s actually quite easy to grow them from seed – but you must bear in mind some golden rules! In this post, we offer you some top tips on where to grow carrots, what type to grow and when to sow. The following video goes on to tell you the best way to plan your carrots and follows through to their harvest!

Where to grow carrots

  • You can grow carrots in raised beds or in patio tubs – the choice is yours, carrots can be grown just about anywhere.
  • They prefer full sun and well-dug, stone free soil.
  • Beds improved with well-rotted compost are ideal, though recently-manured beds may cause the roots to fork.
  • For best results, follow carrots on from a heavy feeding vegetable such as cabbage.

What type to grow

  • There are so many different carrots to choose from – sometimes it can be confusing on which one is best for you to grow!
  • Stump-rooted and finger-sized carrots are the quickest and can be grown on heavier soils that would cause longer roots to fork.
  • Medium or long-rooted carrots can be grown in lighter soils or in raised beds or deep containers filled with potting soil.
  • Maincrop types are perfect for sowing later in spring to produce roots for winter storage.
  • Carrots don’t just come in orange they have many colourful varieties!

When to sow carrots

  • Sow carrots from early spring to mid-summer, to then be lifted from late spring to early winter.
  • Stored roots will tide you over until the following spring.
  • Make the earliest sowings of fast-growing early varieties into greenhouse or polythene tunnel beds or pots kept under cover.
  • You can also sow earlier outside by using row covers or cold frames.

If you have any top tips on growing carrots then let us know on our blog or social media.

GrowVeg – Growing Carrots from Sowing to Harvest