Posts Tagged ‘autumn sowing’

What to do in the garden in October

October 1st, 2016 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

On the whole September was warm and pleasant in our part of Suffolk, and many of the flowers on the trial ground have looked good right through the month. Not surprisingly, our tuber-raised dahlias have been the stars with their magnificent blooms in so many colours and bicolors. Seed-raised dahlias also perform really well, and we know it still surprises some customers that they can be raised from seed, and will easily flower in their first year. While many gardeners tend to treat them as half-hardy annuals, they are actually half-hardy perennials and will produce tubers which can be lifted after the first frosts and stored somewhere cool and dry until next spring, when they can be replanted. All that for the price of a packet of seeds!

October - Sweet PeasFlowers
It’s October, so we make no apologies for making a big mention of sweet peas. This is the best month to sow sweet pea seed in pots to over-winter in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse. The stocky little plants can then be planted out in March or April to produce an early and long-lasting display of these beautiful flowers.

Our range of sweet peas is one of the best and widest you will find anywhere. In recent years it is true to say the sweet pea has almost become our ‘flagship’ flower, and we are proud of the worthwhile and exclusive introductions we make every year. Among our new ‘exclusives’ ready for sowing this month are two which we feel deserve special mention.

Chelsea Pensioners were on hand at our trial ground recently to name a blend of sweet peas in red shades aimed at raising funds for the Royal Hospital Chelsea. It has been called Scarlet Tunic, after the Pensioners’ distinctive apparel, following a ballot of the residents of the Royal Hospital Chelsea and a public online vote. We will donate 25p to the Royal Hospital Chelsea for every £2.19 packet of 20 seeds sold.

We hope Britain’s gardeners will help us to raise more funds for the Royal Hospital Chelsea with the launch of Scarlet Tunic for the 2016/17 season and in the years ahead. Our great customers have already helped raise more than £50,000 for the Royal Hospital Chelsea through sales in 2015 and 2016 of poppy Victoria Cross. A very big ‘thank you’ to you all.

We are also pledging our support for Greenfingers, the charity dedicated to creating magical gardens for children’s hospices, by naming another new and exclusive sweet pea after it. Sweet pea Greenfingers has an old-fashioned grandiflora flower form and the strong, memorable scent associated with those types in their Victorian heyday; its blooms are a rich cream with a delicate wire rim or picotée of pale violet. The climber is well suited to both garden display and as a cut flower, when its fragrance fills a room.

We have guaranteed 25p to Greenfingers for every packet of 20 seeds priced at £2.45 we sell during the 2016/17 gardening season. Greenfingers is a national charity dedicated to supporting the children who spend time in hospices around the UK, along with their families, by creating inspiring gardens for them to relax in and enjoy. The charity makes beautiful, well-designed outdoor spaces for children to share with family, friends and siblings, whether through play and fun, or therapeutic rest and relaxation. To date Greenfingers Charity has created 51 such gardens and outdoor spaces, and has a further waiting list of hospices that need its help.

October - TulipsMost summer-flowering bedding and container plants will be ‘going over’ this month, and can be lifted and composted. Once the ground is clear and has been forked over, why not plant some spring-flowering bulbs and start looking forward to the first colourful display of 2017? We offer a terrific range of tulips – surely the most flamboyant of all spring performers. Plant them in October or November, and you can just about forget about them until they burst into bloom next April and May. This year we are offering many collections of tulips in complementary or contrasting colours, and plenty of single varieties for those of you who prefer to do your own colour-coordination.

Hardy perennials can be cut back during October to within a few inches of the ground. Discard the cut stems and any foliage strewn around the plants, as this will discourage pests and diseases which may otherwise lurk there during the winter. Once dahlia foliage has been blackened by the first one or two frosts, carefully lift the tubers with a fork, as you would potatoes, leave three or four inches of stem and store them somewhere dry, cool, but frost-free until you want them to burst into growth again next spring.

As buddleias finish flowering, it is advisable to cut them back to around half their height so they do not become rocked by autumn and winter gales, causing them to become loose in the soil. Next March they can be cut back much closer to the ground to encourage new growth and plenty of butterfly-attracting blooms.

Vegetables
October - Broad Beans AguadulceWinter-cropping brassicas such as Brussels sprouts, kale and savoy cabbages will benefit from the application of a general-purpose fertiliser such as blood, fish and bone to help them grow a little more before the weather deteriorates. Hoe it in carefully round the stems without damaging the plants.

Seed of hardy peas and broad beans can be sown during October to provide a really welcome, early summer crop next year. Pea Meteor is one of the best for autumn sowing, and it does well with minimal support, even in cold, exposed locations. There are several excellent over-wintering broad beans from which to choose. Bunyards Exhibition and Aguadulce (formerly Aquadulce) are probably the two most widely grown, but The Sutton is a great choice for small gardens or windy sites, as the plants remain dwarf and compact throughout their life. Broad beans do best in well drained soil and in a reasonably sheltered position.

If you have not already done so, lift any remaining maincrop potatoes still in the ground as soon as possible. This will save them from either slug or frost damage. Store the tubers somewhere cool, dark and dry. Once the tops of Jerusalem artichokes start to turn yellow, the plants can be cut back close to the ground, leaving the tubers beneath the soil to be harvested as required in the weeks ahead.

If any parts of the garden or allotment are currently fallow after earlier crops have been harvested, sowing a green manure can do the soil a power of good. Depending on what is sown, it is possible to improve soil structure, increase its fertility, prevent the leaching of nutrients, and they will all help to suppress weeds. Among others, we offer crimson clover, lucerne (alfafa) and winter grazing rye.

Whether you are growing tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers or aubergines in the greenhouse, it is a good idea to pick all you can this month and discard the plants. By the end of the month it should be possible to clean it out with warm water and a proprietary disinfectant to ensure it is not harbouring any diseases through the winter.

Fruit
October - Raspberry Polka canes from Mr Fothergill'sIf you like the idea of a fruit bush or two in the garden or on the allotment, remember we are despatching our bare-root currants and gooseberries from this month onwards. We are very keen on the new blackcurrant Ebony, which is the sweetest one we know. The currants are larger fruited than other varieties and contain up to 15 per cent sugar, giving them a lovely full, rounded flavour. Ebony does well in our climate and has some resistance to mildew. In gooseberries, Xenia is one of the sweetest in our experience. This early season variety can be picked from June and into July, and the berries are sweet enough to be eaten straight from the bush.

Freshly picked raspberries take some beating in our book, and the new autumn-fruiting (primocane) Paris is one of the very best. The large berries can weigh more than 5gm each, and they are wonderfully sweet, aromatic and juicy. You should be picking Paris from August through to October. We begin despatch in 9cm pots from November, so now is the time to order this rather special new variety.

A year of Nation of Gardeners: 2014 gardening highlights in pictures

December 24th, 2014 | Garden Diaries, Nation of Gardeners | 0 Comments

2014 has been a busy year for our gardening folk in the Nation of Gardeners group and so we thought we would put together a gallery of highlights from the group’s gardening year.

The group autumn planted bare root perennials in late autumn 2013. The survival rates overwinter were what we were looking for when protected in pots under cover, versus open ground planting.  By spring we were seeing what had survived such as these Cheshire planted Papaver Place Pigalle and Astrantia Moulin Rouge.

Cheshire Papaver comparison Spring 2014

Cheshire Astrantia comparison Spring 2014

By summer there were blooms like fireworks bursting into life in gardens around the UK from these autumn planted bare root perennials.

Papaver Place Pigalle in bloom in Devon

The Papaver Place Pigalle pictured to the left here in our Devon gardener’s hillside plot, impressed with its beauty – albeit a beauty that lasted only days on these young plants. We shall see if year two gives these plants longer flowering power.

Astrantia Moulin Rouge and Sedum Xenox also performed well; flowering long and hard from late summer onwards, as did any of the Eryngiums that survived slug attacks.  Pictured below and to the right here is a wonderful shot of the Eryngium in flower, again in our Devon gardener’s plot.

Devon eryngium2014 was ‘the year of the slug’ with a mild winter over 2013/14 not keeping these pests in check sufficiently.  Many of our gardeners reported in defeated tones of visiting their gardens where an overnight devastation of plants had taken place, which is a heart breaking moment many gardeners will empathise with.

The only bare root perennial that failed to perform significantly was the Cimicifuga. If not consumed by slugs, the surviving plants threw up a couple of leaves this year, but we shall have to wait a while to see these notoriously slow growers bring anything more exciting to our beds!

Antirrhinum Purple Twist in CumbriaThere were other blooms in the gardens too.  A new variety of Antirrhinum called Purple Twist was sent out to the group for raising from seed.

The seedlings proved tricky to raise, and were nicknamed by our Cumbrian gardener as ‘moody teenagers’. Of the plants that pulled through the perils of legginess and damping off, the results were quite amazing.

The snapdragon plants that actually made it out of ‘seedling-hood’ and into to our Nation of Gardener’s plots flowered profusely throughout the summer.  They needed a thorough frost check to diminish them at the end of the year, and being a perennial will likely reward our gardeners for many years to come.  Our Cumbrian gardener’s picture here shows them standing proud and tall in her beds in the North of England.

Sweet peas, a cultivar of which Mr Fothergill’s is justly proud, played a big part in our group’s activities.   Autumn versus spring sowings were tested which gave us some glorious results in summer.  We asked our gardeners to sow a reliable variety Sweet Pea Old Spice alongside an exclusive chocolate flake variety Sir Henry Cecil.

Hertfordshire and Suffolk sweet peas

Above are sweet peas just emerging in Hertfordshire and then just planted in Suffolk.  Below, are sweet pea blooms for our gardeners in Worcestershire, South Wales and Renfrewshire.  The best of both worlds, the scentless Sir Henry Cecil impressed our gardeners with the upright habit of these large blooms, and the scent of the Old Spice added that much sought after quality in bowls of sweet peas around the house.

Sir Henry Cecil didn’t only impress our gardeners either.  The blooms grown in the Peak District, Devon and Hertfordshire were all entered into sweet pea shows and won prizes, and so they are officially award-winning sweet peas by independent jury!

Worcestershire, Pontypridd, Renfrewshire sweet peas

 

There was an abundance of things to taste as well as grow this year too including, from left to right, salad leaves (Buckinghamshire), garlic (South Wales) and cucamelons (West Wales).

diana_salad_jonathan_garlic_laura_cucamelons

There were also peppers (Elgin), broad beans (Devon) and tomatoes (Bristol).

Elgin Peppers, Devon Broad Beans, Bristol tomatoes

 

There were blackcurrants (Renfrewshire), blackberries (Worcestershire) and black tomatoes! (Bristol)

Blackcurrants renfrewshire, Blackberries Worcestershire, Black Tomatoes Bristol

We mustn’t forget the strawberries!  This was another autumn planting versus spring planting trial.  Alongside this we also tested out our ‘Berry Quick’ product line of commercially ‘frozen’ strawberry plants that guaranteed fruit within 30 days of planting.  The Berry Quick did indeed produce fruits within 30 days for all of our gardeners, but the taste of the spring and autumn planted strawberries were preferred universally by our group proving that a longer and slower growing season is worth the wait.

Pictured here are the strawberry crops of our gardeners in Surrey, Renfrewshire and Ceredigion.

Surrey, Renfrewshire, Ceredigion strawberries

We trialled the late sowing of annuals and perennials in late summer.

Cheshire Godetia

In particular the Godetias impressed (pictured here in our Cheshire gardener’s plot).   These plants gave vigorous and long lasting blooms for many gardeners, and perhaps most impressive for many was the fact that it is a variety not grown so often.

Though a summer annual, these plants also proved to be reasonably cold tolerant with our Pontypridd gardener reporting that his Godetia still had flowers even after the first hard frosts in his area.

Late sown annuals in late September

Otherwise the annuals grown were workhorse varieties such as Calendula, Marigolds, Cornflowers and Alyssum, all of which produced beautiful mixed beds of flowers for our gardeners.  Pictured here is our Surrey gardener’s annuals bed pictured in late September in a prime condition.

Of the late sown perennials we shall have to wait until 2015 as these young seedlings have all been tucked up safely in greenhouses and coldframes around the UK to sit out the winter.  We are promised Echinacea, Poppies, Aubretias, Hollyhocks, Aquilegia and Lavender so watch this space.

Later in the year we asked our gardeners to plant mini plug pansies for overwintering.

Pansies in Bristol

The variety dispatched to our gardeners is a trailing pansy called Cool Wave, a breeding break-through which is the first true trailing pansy to be grown from seed.  Our gardener in Bristol was soon enamoured with her small pansy plants posting in these wonderful portraits of their individual personalities!

We asked our gardeners to plant out winter peas – Pea Meteor – and to leave them to the elements.  In the more northerly parts of the UK, the elements took these plants pretty quickly.  We shall see how our south-based gardeners get on with these plants early in 2015 and if they get a welcome early crop of peas from them as a result of the plants enduring a UK winter.

Herrtfordshire Christmas potatoes in November

Christmas potatoes were also planted in early autumn.  However, Christmas came early for many of our gardeners!

The warm and late summer weather, where we had lots of warm days right through September and into early October pushed these plants on faster than anticipated.  The plants grew and then died back prematurely forcing the tubers to be lifted in October and November for many.  Our Pontypridd gardener is determined to lift on Christmas Day though, so we shall see what hides under the compost once he has had chance to turn them out.

Pictured here is our Hertfordshire gardener’s potato crop.  Not huge, but good to get a new potato taste late in early winter.

As we slip into the depths of winter, our gardeners are tending overwintered salad crops and some very special woodland strawberries. Bob Flowerdew supplied Mr Fothergill’s with a yet-to-be-named variety and so our gardeners are going to be testing them out alongside the nurserymen at Mr Fothergill’s in Kentford.  We don’t know much about these plants yet and so our group of gardeners will help us determine the growing and cropping habits of these plants.

It has been a busy year for our group of gardeners and one that has been fruitful, both figuratively speaking and literally!  Follow us into 2015 for more gardening adventures with our group as we see what year two brings for many of the plants.

For best broad bean results, Mr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners recommend autumn sowing

October 7th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Nation of Gardeners across the UK for Mr Fothergill's growing trialsMr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners has found that sowing broad beans in autumn produces stronger and more resilient beans with a longer cropping period.

The team of amateur gardeners are based in 16 regions across the country and receive a parcel each month from the company to find out what grows best when and where.

The Nation of Gardeners received Mr Fothergill’s Broad Bean Aguadulce seeds in their first parcel in October 2013 and again in March 2014, with the intention of comparing autumn sowing with spring.

Whilst the spring sown beans were quick to produce flowers (on average they appeared 75 days faster than the autumn ones), the gardeners reached the consensus that the autumn broad beans were not only stronger than the leggy and spindly spring plants but that they also cropped for longer.

Nation of Gardeners Pontypridd October Broad BeansThe first beans from autumn sowing appeared in Devon in mid-February and the rest of the country soon followed suit with the gardeners harvesting a plentiful crop on a daily basis, and they continued to be inundated throughout June and beyond.

Mr Fothergill’s Seeds commercial director, Tim Jeffries, commented: “Most gardeners sow broad beans in spring. We wanted the Nation of Gardeners to explore the potential benefits of autumn versus spring sowing and the results have definitely been interesting. The majority of our gardeners reported back that their autumn sowing had a longer cropping period with tastier results. This certainly makes a good case for everyone switching to autumn sowing!”

Good overwintering broad bean varieties include:  Aguadulce, Bunyards Exhibition, The Sutton, Witkiem (Vroma) and Superaguadulce.

Mr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners has now been running for 12 months and the parcels’ contents have ranged from windowsill planting of salads and herbs to overwinter protection of bare root perennials, and from testing the vigour of grow your own vegetable varieties to more recently, pushing the boundaries of when to sow with late sown annuals and perennials.

To find out more about Mr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners follow regular updates on the blog, follow the hashtag #NationofGardeners on Twitter or regular live updates by our gardeners on Facebook.

Horley broad bean crop