Posts Tagged ‘autumn planting’

Slow and steady wins the race for Mr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners – how to grow bare root perennials

October 27th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners | 0 Comments

Nation of Gardeners across the UK for Mr Fothergill's growing trialsWhen it comes to planting bare root perennials, Mr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners has found that over wintering in pots in cold frames and then planting out in spring make stronger plants in the long run.

The group of amateur gardeners based in various locations around the country received ten bare root perennials in November 2013 and were asked to report back on how they fared over winter.

They received five varieties (Astrantia Moulin Rouge, Cimicifuga James Compton, Eryngium Super Nova Starlight, Papaver Place Pigalle and Sedum Xenox), with two of each plant supplied; one for planting in a pot and one to go directly in to the open ground. The gardeners found that whilst those in the open ground, on the whole, survived the winter, those in pots were stronger and produced more flowers. Those planted in open ground may have had a quick start, with the potted version being much slower, but by April the pots were catching up with their counterparts in the ground around the country and were much stronger.

Sedum Xenox growing in Renfrewshire for Nation of Gardeners

Many of the gardeners’ bare root perennials did not bloom but they still saw new growth and Mr Fothergill’s is confident they will bloom more consistently in year two. This was most common of the plants in pots.

The most prolific bloomers were the Sedum Xenox and the Papaver Place Pigalle which were reported to be strong plants with lots of flowers, which for some of the Sedum Xenox, extended until October 2014.

Commercial director of Mr Fothergill’s Seeds, Tim Jeffries, commented, “We wanted to see how our gardeners got on with the perennial across the country throughout winter. Undoubtedly, planting in pots seemed to be the way forward to boost the plant’s strength in spring and bloom as summer approached. The results we are seeing from the Nation of Gardeners are proving very useful and will no doubt be beneficial to us in long run for giving advice on how and when best to grow our products.”

Papaver Place Pigalle in bloom in DevonThe gardeners also found that planting in pots was not just beneficial to the plants’ bloom and strength, but the pots also provided protection from slugs who found Mr Fothergill’s bare root perennials rather tasty! Whilst the pots protected the plants and boosted their survival chances, the gardeners sought other options for their open ground varieties with the Derbyshire representative seeing good results from a vigilante approach and a coffee based mulch that helped her ground grown plants become strong, tall and bushy. One county away, in Staffordshire, the rabbits feasted healthily on the open grounds.

From the 16 areas that the gardeners represent, the Surrey and the Cheshire representatives had the best results for their perennials – both seeing six of their perennials bloom in their first year. The Surrey gardener had three of her potted plants bloom, as well as three of her open grounds varieties. Whereas the Cheshire gardener had four pots flower as well as two in the ground.

For more about Mr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners visit their blog at blog.mr-fothergills.co.uk or follow #NationofGardeners on Twitter.

Astrantia in bloom in Pontypridd, South Wales

What to do in the garden in October

October 2nd, 2014 | Garden Diaries, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

As summer started to edge gently into autumn during September, misty mornings gave way to plenty of still-warm days, even if conditions remained overcast rather than sunny for much of the time.  We received very little rainfall in this most westerly corner of Suffolk, and September has been generally a very pleasant month, providing us with, as it often does, an ‘Indian summer’ to enjoy before autumn arrives.

As October now gets underway, autumn now seems to be well and truly on the way, although at the end of September our trial field in Kentford was still full of colour from all the flowers and full of vegetables ready for harvesting.

Photo 11-09-2014 12 57 20

On the whole, we feel this summer has been one of the better ones, although the above-average temperatures we experienced for so much of the time meant many of our annual flowers ‘went over’ rather more quickly than we would have liked.  We are never satisfied, are we?

 

Jobs in the flower garden in October

Sweet Pea ErewhonWe always like to begin October by looking at sweet peas.  To many keen growers of this favourite annual this is the start of the sweet pea season with seed being sown either in pots to over-winter in a cold frame or greenhouse, or direct in the garden in the plants’ flowering position.  Many sweet pea enthusiasts make their sowings during the first fortnight of the month, but there is a no hard-and-fast rule about this.  Late September through to mid November is the ‘window’ in which many people sow their seed.

There is no doubt that sowing sweet pea seeds in autumn has many benefits.  The resulting plants, which are usually hardy in all but the severest of winters, have a head start come next spring.  They flower earlier and longer than those plants produced from spring-sown seed, so we get more bunches of flowers and for longer.

We offer one of the finest ranges of sweet peas and have a good relationship with Dr Keith Hammett from New Zealand, who is the world’s best breeder of these beautiful flowers.   Browse our range of sweet pea seeds and take a pick of what you fancy in your garden this season.

Calendula grown by one of our Nation of GardenersIt really is not too soon to start thinking about next year’s display of hardy annuals either, so why not direct-sow seed of subjects such as calendula, nigella, candytuft and cornflower during October?

The soil will still be warm, so seedlings will germinate quickly and make enough growth before any hard frosts arrive later in the year to see themselves through the winter, bursting into flower early next summer considerably earlier than seedlings produced from spring-sown seed.  If you have never tried this method before, it really is well worth a go!

While roses are generally given their main prune in February or early March, just before the new season’s growth begins, it is a good idea to cut them back by about half during October, as this stops them being rocked and sometimes disturbed by the wind.  Shrubs such as buddleia and lavatera would benefit from the same treatment.  After giving rose a ‘half-prune’ collect up any remaining foliage from the soil to prevent the development of fungal diseases which can attack the plants.

Tulip bulb collectionThis is the month when many of us start planting spring-flowering bulbs.  Hyacinths, daffodils (narcissi) and croci (we still use the old fashioned plural!) can all be planted during October, but delay tulip planting until late in the month or into November, as this will tend to help them prevent being attacked by tulip fire disease.  We think all these bulbs look best planted in informal drifts and close together to create dense patches of colour.  Remember too the great majority of spring bulbs can also be planted in containers where they will flower successfully.  Bulbs are surely the easiest of all flowers to grow – it is virtually a case of plant them and forget them!

Pansy BeaconsfieldAs half-hardy annuals, bedding and container plants start to fade, pull these up and add them to the compost heap.  They can be replaced either by pansies, violas, primroses and polyanthus, which will all give a welcome splash of colour during milder winter spells, or by spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and hyacinths.  Dwarf daffodils are particularly versatile because they look great in beds and at the front of borders and are also perfect for planting in containers close to the house.  Remember to plant a tub or two of hyacinths near the house too, so you can appreciate their heady perfume every time you come out of the door next March and April.

If dahlias are still flowering into October, keep removing any dead-heads to encourage them to keep on blooming until they are cut down by the first frosts of autumn.  No need to lift the tubers until the foliage has been blackened by a hard frost or two.  Only store sound specimens, keeping them somewhere dry, cool and frost-free over the winter.

 

Jobs in the vegetable garden in October

Brussels sproutsWe particularly enjoy October in the vegetable garden, as this is the month when the traditional winter vegetables are just becoming ready to harvest.  Parsnips, leeks, Brussels sprouts, savoy cabbages and kale now take over from summer crops of runner and French beans, courgettes and sweet corn – and are every bit as eagerly anticipated.

We know you can buy so many vegetables all the year round from the supermarkets, but we sometimes wonder where the fun is in that?  As a certain book tells us ‘To every thing there is a season‘, and this is the season for parsnips and Brussels sprouts!

Autumn sown broad beans from our Nation of Gardeners

October means it’s also time to sow broad bean seeds and look forward to that early crop next May.  Aguadulce is a splendid choice, as is Bunyards Exhibition.  In colder areas the seed and seedlings will benefit from a little fleece protection.  Aguadulce produces small, fine beans of lovely quality and flavour, while ‘Bunyards’ generally gives larger beans and one or two more per pod.

Pea MeteorWhere you have a spare patch or two in the vegetable garden or on the allotment, how about an October sowing of early peas?  Meteor is probably still the best early pea for autumn sowing, even if it has been about for donkeys’ years!  It only grows to around 2ft tall, does well even in exposed sites and will provide you with that unforgettable first picking of home-grown peas early next summer.  It’s what vegetable gardening is all about, surely!

If you are growing pumpkins, squashes and marrows, cut these and bring them in before the first frosts arrive.  It is best if pumpkins and squashes can be left in the greenhouse or cold frame for a week or two to ‘cure’ before being put into storage.  Pumpkins will be in demand from youngsters as Hallowe’en approaches at the end of the month.

Runner beans will just about be over now, so they too can be pulled up and composted.  The top growth of Jerusalem artichokes can be cut down virtually to the ground, chopped up and added to the compost heap.  Maincrop carrots can continue to be lifted as required.  Our light, free-draining soil has yielded some excellent crops this year and the quality of some of the roots of our F1 hybrid varieties has been very good indeed.  The seed may be more expensive than that of open-pollinated varieties, but at harvest time it is easy to see how worthwhile the little additional cost is.

Chilli PeppersIf you have not already so, harvest any remaining chilli peppers.  Green fruits tend not to be as hot as orange and red ones, but take care when preparing any of them.  It is a good idea to wear disposable, clear plastic gloves when handling and chopping them because it is so easy to touch close to your eyes with your hand while preparing them, which is not a pleasant experience.  Remember that any glut of chillis can be frozen and used throughout the year until next year’s crop is ready.

There is still time to plant garlic, shallots and over-wintering onion sets in the garden in October to provide an early crop next summer.  Once planted, they require very little attention, but do keep any competition from weeds to a minimum.  They are much more susceptible to poor drainage than they are to low temperatures and, given good drainage, they are hardy even in very cold winters.  Garlic in particular generally produces heavier and better crops from an autumn planting than from a spring one.

The first frosts may mean winter is well on the way, but we welcome them if only because Brussels sprouts and parsnips both taste sweeter once they have been ‘frosted’.  It’s a matter of personal opinion, of course, but in our view a couple of frosts seem to concentrate the flavour of these vegetables.

 

Jobs in the fruit garden in October

Rhubarb

We know that technically rhubarb is a vegetable, but because it is used mainly in dessert dishes we think of it more as a fruit.  We have a real treat for all rhubarb lovers, because now they can enjoy those succulent, sweet sticks from September to November.  Our Livingstone rhubarb plant is the first autumn-cropping variety, it’s British bred and has had its summer dormancy eliminated; this is what causes rhubarb to stop cropping by the middle of summer.  So for the first time you can now combine fresh rhubarb with other autumn fruits to create mouth-watering desserts such as rhubarb, apple and blackberry crumble.

Livingstone yields an excellent crop of high quality, deep red skinned stems. It’s very easy to grow – just incorporate some bonemeal or organic matter when planting and, once established, it will crop heavily from September onwards.  It can be ordered from us now for planting this autumn.  It is delicious and we are sure you will enjoy it.

On already established plants in the garden you will now find that rhubarb leaves have died back.  The dormant crowns will benefit from a 3in mulch of well-rotted garden compost or farmyard manure.  If you feel any clump is now too large, lift and divide it, getting rid of the central section and re-planting the younger sections from round the outside of the crown.

Choosing plants for your autumn vegetable garden

September 17th, 2014 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Kale 'Nero di Toscana' in the autumn gardenNow is the time to think about sowing and planting into those gaps left by harvesting the vegetables grown over the summer growing season. It’s important to understand a little about your autumn gardening conditions to help you plan to maximise your autumn vegetable garden growing space. Knowing when your first frosts will come to where you live is an important factor as, although the soil is warmer allowing good germination, the days are getting shorter leaving less daylight so you need to plan around these factors.

This video guides you through the three groups of veg that help you figure out what to grow, where and when.

  • Group 1 vegetables can be sown directly to the ground and will germinate quickly in the warmer soil of early autumn.   Included in this group are Peas (quick growing varieties), Beetroots, Kale, Leeks and Radishes
  • Group 2 vegetables can be started indoors to get a head start on growing before winter sets in, and these plants will thrive in lower soil temperatures. Included in this group are Chinese Cabbage, Endive, Raddichio, Lettuce, Parsley and Spinach
  • Group 3 vegetables are for sowing when the soil has cooled and includes mainly leafy greens including Coriander, Rocket, Lettuce (winter varieties), Lambs Lettuce, Mizuna and Turnips.

Our Garden Planner tool will help you plan your autumn garden specific to your own garden space and growing conditions.

Nation of Gardeners March planting update: time to compare spring planting with autumn planted varieties

April 22nd, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

March parcel for Nation of GardenersThe March parcel marked the half-year of this project.  We have passed from autumn, through the hard winter months and back out into spring where the lighter days are making everything feel more hopeful.  It is safe to say that at the 6 month mark we have a network of full gardens and full windowsills stuffed to brimming with Mr Fothergill’s produce around the UK.

The weather in March turned mild, and then even turned sunny, before the sting in the tail of the last week of the month.  However, this  break in the weather enabled our gardeners to get going with no impediments for this month’s parcel which contained three varieties of tomato to trial.  Also in their sixth parcel, they found Garlic, Broad Beans and two varieties of Strawberries – Buddy and Sweetheart – all of which they had grown before.

You can follow the gardener’s progress as they post regular updates to the Facebook wall, and if you feel the need… then join in the conversation!  We’ve been finding that other people are joining in and posting pictures of their own developing crops and seedlings which is great to see how they compare with what our own group of gardeners are seeing.   This makes it a true Nation of Gardeners!  So if you are growing and have plants emerging for the first time, please feel free to also post your updates to the wall.

 

A round up of March’s planting tasks
Potted garlicA third shipment of Garlic Solent Wight was sent out in March.   After the autumn and spring planted Garlic Solent Wight from bulbs in October and February, Mr Fothergill’s decided to test out supplying the gardeners with some pot grown garlic – pictured here to the left.

The gardeners were supplied with three plants that were already growing in pots of compost, and were asked to keep an eye on these for whether they bolt having been grown on by the Mr Fothergill’s nursery team in this way.

Together with a final shipment of pot-grown garlic that will be sent out in April, it is hoped we get some firm conclusions on garlic growing across the UK using direct comparisons on techniques for growing to give us the optimum method and time of year to plant out.  See this article on early results published earlier in April for more on garlic growing across our UK sample of gardeners.

Strawberries in water prior to planting out

The gardeners received Strawberry Buddy and Strawberry Sweetheart again during March in order to test these spring planted strawberries against the ones planted out in the autumn.  The autumn-planted fruits have shown varying degrees of success around the country.  Largely they have overwintered well, but other gardeners in the group have found them to have drowned in the heavy rains we had over winter, or found them nibbled by hungry creatures.

Of the healthy plants – which form the majority – these will be tested against the spring planted versions for yield, time to crop from planting and duration of cropping season to see if they perform as well when planted 6 months later.  Many gardeners are already reporting that their autumn planted strawberries are in flower now, and that the spring plants are establishing well and growing on quickly.

Another packet of Broad Bean Aquadulce was also sent out for sowing to compare the crops with the autumn sown seed.  

Spring sown broad beans

By the end of March, many of the gardeners have raised some fine and healthy looking autumn-sown plants that are already in bloom before Spring had arrived.  The pictures below show some of the fabulously healthy looking plants in the care of our gardeners.  The mild winter has enabled this early blooming to some extent, but if there are enough pollinators around whilst these plants have been flowering away, there will be very early crops of broad beans for our gardeners to enjoy.  The mild weather in March has also enabled quite a few gardeners to germinate their spring sown broad beans pretty swiftly too.

By early April, some gardeners are starting to wonder if their autumn-sown plants have ‘run out of steam’.  And so the real test for the spring sown broad beans will be if they produce as heavy crops and with more certainty than the autumn grown seeds.  It seems clear that they certainly won’t be able to catch up and compete with the autumn grown plants in terms of ‘first to crop’, but maybe their growth will prove to be more assured.  Watch this space!

Broad beans sown in the autumn

New to the gardeners this month were three varieties of Tomato for growing outdoors.  Tomato Ferline, Tomato Sungold and Tomato Sakura were supplied as seed for sowing in March with the intention of growing these outside eventually.

March tomatoes for growing outdoors

The gardeners set to this task quickly, with some good germination rates being seen across the board. Whether the change in light and heat conditions in March versus February had an effect or not is not clear.  However, these March sown seeds went ‘leggy’ for some gardeners very quickly meaning they got potted on before the first true leaves had truly established themselves on the plants.   This has not had a detrimental effect on the plants though, with gardeners across the UK reporting some fine looking plants in their care.

The tomatoes supplied in February – Tomato Black Opal, Tomato Pink Charmer and Tomato Orange Slice – have got underway well  for most gardeners, though some reported difficulty in germinating them.  The best results seen were those that had an element of heat available for successful germination.  Intended for indoors growing only, these tomatoes will need more care than the March issued varieties.  This seems to be reflected in the relative ease of germination for the March varieties also, where a greater germination success rate was seen.

 

October through to February updates

The gardeners have been very busy in the last six months and so there is always something to report on.  Of note in March though, our gardeners have observed a number of things.  Here’s a whistle-stop tour of what’s been going on.

  • Potatoes breaking through the soilGeorgina in Cheshire, Gwynne in Morayshire and Max in Hertfordshire all got busy planting their potatoes out in early March.  Many gardeners have followed suit later in March and early April, with the first shoots pushing their way through the soil in patio planters and in the ground around the UK, such as this potato pictured in Ceredigion.
  • Our gardener in Bristol has potted on her salad leaves as individual plants with the intention of growing on outdoors.
  • Hannah in Guildford, Joanne in Suffolk, Lindsay in Devon and Mags in Renfrewshire have all planted out their autumn sown sweet peas in early April. However, it seems that this may have been too early as frosts came in Devon and Guildford shortly afterwards, so we shall have to see if they recover.
  • For many, the antirrhinums have been an unusual growing challenge.  Some of the seedlings collapsed totally for some gardeners whereas others, such as the ones being grown in Renfrewshire, are very well established if a little ‘leggy’ and seemingly on the point of collapse.  Our gardeners in Cheshire, Buckinghamshire, Devon, Pontpridd, Worcestershire and Suffolk have all managed to grow some specimens and so summer will be the real test for these new and exclusive variety of snapdragons by Mr Fothergill’s.Strawberries in bloom
  • The first broad beans sown in the autumn have set tiny beans in early April in Devon and there are flowers coming on the autumn planted strawberries for many gardeners such as these ones pictured in Pontypridd.
  • The bare root perennials planted in the autumn have started to come back to life in the last month. There are some casualties and there are some ‘missing in action’ plants.  Time will tell if these are truly lost or whether they are just being shy at presenting themselves.  The plants that are definitely starting to put in some spring growth are looking handsome and healthy – Astrantia, Papaver and Eryngiums are all performing well.  Perhaps most excitingly, the Cimicifugas have started to unfurl a leaf from the growing tips in the last few weeks for many of the gardeners who had previously doubted there was ever going to be a plant to see come Spring.  This plant has been very reticent to show any promise all winter and so it is with some excitement that the gardeners are greeting these small leaves.
  • February issued tomatoes grown from seedThe tomatoes issued in February, March and April all appear to be healthy so far and are at varying stages of development.  Mags in Renfrewshire appears to have grown some strong plants from seed leaving many other gardeners playing catch up.  In Derbyshire, the March sown seeds have overtaken the February sown seeds.  In Cheshire the gardener there has already planted to the outdoors.  With high levels of germination success, there are going to be bumper crops of 6 varieties of tomato in the gardens of our Nation of Gardeners this summer.

Keep an eye on the hashtag #nationofgardeners on Twitter for more updates as the gardeners post them, or follow the postings to the Facebook wall where you can also find a gallery of plant pictures that chronicle the Nation of Gardeners activities to date.

March 2014′s planting

February 2014′s planting

January 2014′s planting

December 2013′s planting

November 2013′s planting

October 2013′s planting

 

Autumn vs. Spring garlic – Mr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners investigates

April 8th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners | 0 Comments

Nation of Gardener's across the UKFor the past six months, 18 amateur gardeners across the country have been trialling seeds, plants and bulbs on behalf of Mr Fothergill’s Seeds as part of its Nation of Gardeners campaign.

The representatives, in each region of mainland UK, have received monthly parcels. They have been asked to plant the contents at approximately the same time as each other and to report back on their findings to show what grows best where, and when.

As well as garlic issued in autumn as well as in spring, the gardeners have so far received a plentiful list of broad beans, sweet peas, five different bare root perennials, a blackberry plant, strawberry runners, basil, coriander, four types of salad, peppers, antirrhinum, potatoes, six types of indoor and outdoor tomatoes, and two types of blackcurrant.

One of the key aims of the campaign is to carry out comparative trials of the same variety but at different times of the year. The gardeners have now carried out their first seasonal comparative test having received garlic bulbs in their October and February parcels, as well as some experimental pot-grown garlic in their March parcel. And the results have been fascinating.

Throughout most of the winter, the gardeners reported back about the speed, or lack of, of their October planted garlic cloves. Throughout March, however, there were regular exclamations of surprise as the spring planted cloves burst into life.

On average the first signs of growth for the autumn garlic took 57 days, whereas green shoots on the spring garlic were appearing after an average of 11 days – with the earliest coming through within just one week.

In mid March the garlic cloves in the Ceredigion garden that were planted in October stood at 28cm, whereas the February planted garlic was rapidly catching up and had reached 10cm.  The Staffordshire gardener’s autumn garlic took approximately three months to show life, but the garlic cloves planted at the beginning of February in this same garden took only 10 days.   Similarly, the representative in Renfrewshire was shocked to see her spring garlic coming through after just six days as her autumn garlic had taken two and a half months to show itself.

Commercial director of Mr Fothergill’s Seeds, Tim Jeffries, commented, “These are very interesting results and make the campaign come to life. We set out to see how planting at different times of the year would affect growth and this certainly shows that. The spring garlic really is a fast mover!”

Direct comparison of autumn sown and spring sown garlic