Posts Tagged ‘flower gardening’

Sunny Babe and Buttercream lead the way for Mr Fothergill’s Sunflower Year

February 17th, 2015 | News, The flower garden | 0 Comments

Year of the Sunflower seed stand

Mr Fothergill’s is putting its weight behind a Europe-wide celebration of the once-humble, but now trendy sunflower by introducing nine new varieties, including brand new  Sunny Babe and Buttercream F1, to its range of these bright, bold annuals for 2015.

The initiative comes from the home gardening division of Fleuroselect, the organisation which assesses new flower varieties from around the world to determine their suitability for European conditions.  Mr Fothergill’s Tracy Collacott is the sole UK seed company representative on the Fleuroselect Home Gardening committee.  2015 has been declared the Year of the Sunflower by the organisation, which hopes to see them grown in gardens everywhere.  Easy to grow, great favourites with children and now available in so many different colours and plant forms, sunflowers are really versatile subjects for modern gardens.

Sunny Babe is a multi-stemmed variety, producing an abundance of golden orange 3-4in wide single heads on plants which grow up to 5ft.  Buttercream F1 has soft, butter-yellow heads which are pollen-free.  Again multi-stemmed and reaching around 5ft, its blooms are slightly larger at around 6in across.  Both varieties are great for garden display and for cutting.

Other F1 hybrid sunflowers being introduced by Mr Fothergill’s include Infrared in a range of rich bicolour shades, Summer Breeze with unusually green centres and Copper Queen, a superior ‘take’ on the traditional sunflower and pollen-free.

You can order Sunny Babe and Buttercream F1, or any other sunflower seeds from our extensive range from Mr Fothergill’s on the website, or by mail order from our catalogue.

Serenity and a Ripple new at Mr Fothergill’s: Osteospermum and Petunia new varieties added to the range

February 16th, 2015 | News, The flower garden | 0 Comments

Osteospermum and Petunia“The best osteospermum available” is how Mr Fothergill’s plant manager Tom Stimpson describes the company’s brand new variety Osteopermum Serenity Blue Eyed Beauty.  “The Serenity series is famed for its naturally well branched, compact and rounded habit and long flowering season – from early June through to October, and this latest addition is a real stunner,” says Tom.  “It is easy to grow, with the minimum of attention required to keep plants looking good, and has superb garden performance, where it is ideal for patio containers in a bright, sunny spot.”

Serenity Blue Eyed Beauty is a unique colour in osteospermums, has the added advantage of remarkable floriferousness, and is already proving very popular with Mr Fothergill’s customers.  Plants reach a height of 35cm (14in).  A pack of five young plants cost £8.95, with despatch from mid to late April 2015.

Another brand new introduction for the 2015 season is the Cambridgeshire-bred Petunia Ripple – pictured here is Tumbelina Damson Ripple.  The Tumbelina series is well known to Mr Fothergill’s customers, who appreciate its reliable nature and abundance of fully double blooms.  Tom says what sets this new colour apart from many of its competitors is the reliable nature of the colour combination; blooms do not revert to one single colour, but keep their unique white and rich damson format all through summer, from June to October.  Tumbelina Damson Ripple is an outstanding subject for hanging baskets and other containers, where it trails to around 45cm (18in).  Again, a pack of five young plants cost £8.95, with despatch from mid to late April 2015.

You can order Osteopermum Serenity and Petunia Ripple from Mr Fothergill’s on the website, or by mail order from our catalogue.

What to do in the garden in December

November 28th, 2014 | Garden Diaries, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Winter finally arrived in this corner of Suffolk with a few hard frosts at the end of November, preceded immediately by a prolonged period of heavy rain.  We do not normally experience too many pre-Christmas frosts nowadays, but it will be interesting to see what December has in store for our trial ground.  Next summer seems a long way off at present, but it will not be many weeks before our trials team makes the first seed sowings in readiness for next year’s displays and crops.  We hope you will be doing the same for your garden.

GroBox line-up

With Christmas also looming on the horizon, we have pulled together a few ideas on inexpensive gifts for gardening friends.   There are lots of things you can buy a gardener, and something else is always needed whether it is a new plant, new tools or something as extravagant as a bumblebee lodge or a polytunnel.  So take a look at our ideas and find something to suit your budget.

RSPB Give Nature a Home

Newly introduced for 2015 and especially for those who are relatively new to ‘growing their own’ we have introduced a range of Grobox and Gromats pictured above.  You should also take a look at the RSPB range of seeds we’ve developed specially chosen to help our birds, butterflies and bees.   There are three seed collections and three shaker boxes of seed blends which will both help our native birds and pollinators, but also make great stocking fillers this Christmas too.

But before we send you out to your labours in the garden this month, may we just take this opportunity to wish you all a happy Christmas and a fantastic year in the garden throughout 2015.


Jobs in the flower garden in December

Pansy seedsDecember is generally one of the quietest months in the garden, but why not plant up a patio pot or two with pansies,  primroses and polyanthus to bring some welcome colour in the weeks ahead?

If you have an unheated greenhouse with space at the moment, plant some bowls with crocus or hyacinths.  With the protection the greenhouse gives, they will probably flower ahead of those planted outside and can be brought into the house in early spring to cheer up the home.  There is also just about time to plant tulip bulbs outside;  they are still on offer in our local garden centres.


On the subject of early seed sowings, summer bedding favourites such as geranium (Pelargonium zonale) and fibrous-rooted begonia (Begonia semperflorens) can be sown  from January onwards, either in a heated propagator or on a warm windowsill.  If you are looking for the classic red geranium, always a great favourite with our customers, look no further than our Moulin Rouge F1, which boasts an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society, which means it should perform really well in your containers, beds and borders.  This one really looks superb in traditional terracotta pots on a terrace or patio.

Fibrous-rooted begonias are unbeatable for edging beds and borders, and they never seem to know when to stop flowering.  They remain neat, compact and full of flower from early June onwards.  This year, some of ours at home were still in bloom until the middle of November, which just goes to show what great value they are.  Begonia Mr F’s Special Mixed F1 includes both green- and bronzed-leaved types and is a real star performer.  Remember that both begonias and geraniums will need frost protection as they develop next spring before being planted out to their flowering positions in late MaBegoniasy.

Seed of sweet peas can also be sown in January, so now is the ideal time to place an order for our seed.  Sowings can be made in pots of good quality compost in an unheated greenhouse.  Although sweet peas are hardy annuals, it is a good idea to protect the emerging seedlings and young plants with some fleece when hard frosts threaten, but they need very little pampering.

We are rather proud of our range of sweet peas, which includes lots of individual varieties, plus many blends and mixtures.  As you browse our selection, you will see that several of our sweet pea varieties are labelled as ‘Bred by Dr Keith Hammett’, who is the world’s leading breeder of these beautiful flowers.

Sweet Pea Jimelda

We have become great friends with Keith and have the highest regard for his work – that’s why we like to single out his varieties for you as being something rather special.  For example, Keith is responsible for our latest exclusive introduction Jimelda, which we have named in honour of husband and wife actors Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton.  We really love this crimson and cerise bicolour, and it will certainly stand out in your garden.

Roses, especially taller ones, can be pruned back to about half their height ahead of more severe pruning early next spring.  Remove all rose leaves on the soil’s surface to prevent the build-up of disease through the winter months.

If you notice any hellebore leaves with brown patches (leaf spot), remove these by cutting the whole leaf stem off at the base.  Taking off these diseased leaves also makes it easier to see the flowers when the appear.  Follow this with a mulch of well-rotted organic matter such as leafmould to give the plants a boost.

Azaleas are popular house plants at this time of year, and they benefit from correct watering.  Keep the pot in a saucer and poor just a little water at a time into the saucer when you notice the surface of the compost is dry.  Rain water is best for this purpose, but boiled (not boiling!) water is a reasonable alternative as it has less alkalinity than water straight from top.  Always ensure the water you use is at room temperature.  Tap water tends to make the foliage turn yellow.


Jobs in the vegetable garden in December

Brussels sprouts

Out in the vegetable garden or on the allotment, seed of broad beans Aguadulce and Superaguadulce can be sown direct in their cropping positions when soil and weather conditions permit.  The plants are usually as tough as the proverbial old boots, but the beans they produce early next summer are deliciously sweet and tender.

Taller varieties of Brussels sprouts can sometimes work loose in the soil due to high winds.  It is worth checking plants and firming the soil in with your heel around any which look a little wobbly.  On exposed sites it may even be worth staking them for extra stability.

While parsnips are often ready by October, the flavour always seems to improve once the roots have experienced a frost or two.  We believe the frost makes them sweeter and tastier – and a lot of gardeners believe the same is true of Brussels sprouts.

parsnipsWhile conditions allow it is a good idea to continue digging over any bare patches of the vegetable garden or allotment.  If you have well-rotted farmyard manure or other bulky organic matter to incorporate as you dig, so much the better.

December is a good month to start making plans for next year’s vegetable garden and ordering seed of favourite varieties. So put on a pot of tea and sit back in a comfy chair to peruse your catalogue or browse through the website’s vegetable seed offerings.

If you like the idea of growing some large onions from seed (and incidentally the largest bulbs are always produced from seed rather than from sets), you must try The Kelsae, which is capable of yielding large, heavy bulbs even with the minimum of attention.  It remains one of the finest strains for producing large, heavyweight bulbs and is a showbench classic.

The Kelsae

Serious onion growers sow their seed in gentle warmth in late December or in January to give the plants as long a growing season as possible.  Growing large onions is one of the most satisfying aspects of vegetable gardening.  For the best results and heaviest bulbs, sow seed of The Kelsae from December onwards in gentle warmth – and even if you don’t win first prize at your local horticultural show, the bulbs make excellent eating, with a lovely mild flavour.

Aubergine MoneyMaker f1Aubergines need a fairly long growing season, although they are not difficult.  Their seeds can also be sown in gentle warmth from January onwards – the earlier you start it, the better.  Our Moneymaker F1 is many people’s idea of the best of the purple-skinned varieties, being heavy yielding and well suited to our climate, but if you are looking for something rather different and very colourful, take a look at our aubergine Mixed, which includes long thin fruits, red and green Asian types, plus small red ones and both large white and purple types from the Mediterranean area.

Many of our customers also grow potatoes, and as we begin delivery of our seed potatoes in January, it is certainly not too early to take your pick from our extensive collection.

We have a superb offer, which combines great old favourites, such as Epicure, King Edward and Desiree, with the best of modern breeding, such as Vivaldi, Picasso and Apache.  Few crops are as rewarding or satisfying to grow as potatoes.  Even seasoned gardeners still get a thrill when they put their fork into the soil to reveal the first new potatoes of the summer.  By the way, all our seed potatoes are certified ‘Safe Haven’ or equivalent status, so you can be assured they are of the finest, healthiest quality and will give you superb results.  All our seed potatoes are also grown in mainland Britain.  To grow the best, you must plant the best.


Jobs in the fruit garden in December

Apple trees

Apple and pear trees can be pruned during December.  Take a look at the tree and first remove any damaged, broken or crossed branches, especially those which are growing into the centre of the tree.  Nowadays spur- and tip-bearing fruit trees tend to pruned similarly.  Cut back this year’s growth on main branches by around a third.  Do not prune side-shoots (laterals), as these will develop fruit buds in their second year.

Autumn fruiting raspberry canes can also be pruned back in December.  Cut back all canes to within 2-3in of the soil surface, as next year’s crop will be borne on stems produced next summer.  With the canes gone, cut out any suckers, remove all nearby weeds and finish off by giving your canes a good mulch with well-rotted organic matter to give them a great start to their new growth next year.

On less wintry days in December, it is possible to get out there and plant fruit trees during this month.  Although fruit trees are all dormant now it is the perfect time to ensure the root balls establish well as next year gets underway.

Take a look at our range of fruit trees on offer and consider planting a mini orchard in your garden this season!


Nation Of Gardeners October Planting Update: the last of the blooms and the protection of overwintered peas

November 18th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners | 0 Comments

We were only a few days into the month of October and the warmth we had enjoyed across the UK during September was consigned to memory only.  The month started with wind, very heavy rains and frosts in some areas of the UK which had us wondering if this was a foretaste of what is to come this winter.  The month continued to be very wet and windy with a miserable grey murky sky becoming a regular feature.

The winter of 2013 to 2014 was warm, with some areas of the UK not seeing any frosts at all, and many areas that ordinarily would have snow seeing hardly more than a scattering.  We cannot depend on this being  a new theme for the upcoming winter of 2014/15 though.  It seems fitting therefore that we test out an overwinter plant for its winter hardiness, which is what our October parcel asked our gardeners to do.

We selected a plant that is particularly well suited to surviving the winter, but we wanted to see exactly how these plants perform in the UK’s very diverse range of winters.  Winter in the South is not the same as winter in the North as many people across the UK will be able to testify.


A round up of October’s planting tasks

Pea Meteor freshly plantedPicking the first crop of peas has to be one of the highlights of the vegetable growing year with a taste that is so delicious and sweet when picked straight from the plant and popped into your mouth whilst still out in the garden.  And so being able to pick them a month or so earlier must be a temptation that is almost impossible to resist.

In October we sent out Pea Meteor plants that had been module raised in the Mr Fothergill’s nursery and that already had a well-developed root system.  Pea Meteor is a strong and robust performer and if sown in October from seed and planted out in the garden by the end of the month, will crop from as early as May.  At least this is the theory and we wanted to see if this was true across the UK. We suspect that our more Southerly based gardeners would find this claim to be true, but farther North there may be some trouble getting these plants to perform.

In order to put these pea plants through their paces, we asked our gardeners to plant out in the open ground rather than keep them protected under a coldframe or in a greenhouse.  We suggested that a little cloche protection to prevent heavy snow destroying the plants would be ok, but that otherwise, we wanted these plants to fight for themselves.

By the end of the month, most gardeners had lost some of their plants and some gardeners had lost all their pea plants altogether – such as in the Peak District and Hemel Hempstead.  By mid-November as the picture below shows we have flowers forming in Suffolk, Cheshire and Pontypridd, and there is a pea pod forming on the plant to the right in Devon.  Our gardener in Bristol also has flowers and our gardener in Buckinghamshire also reported a pea pod forming on her plant there too showing that the pollinators haven’t gone into hibernation just yet.

Meteor Peas



October 2013 through to September 2014 updates

The focus for many of our group during October was to finish off harvesting flowers and vegetables, but also to get down to the pernickety business of pricking out seedlings and preparing winter pansies for planting out in beds.  Our gardener in Bristol is much enamoured with her pansies already and sent us these wonderful portraits of the different ‘personalities’ blooming forth from her pots and beds around the garden.

Bristol pansies

As this picture from our gardener in Suffolk below shows, we have some very neat and tidy gardeners in our midst!  Thus far into late autumn and early winter, late sown perennials and the planted out winter pansies are all doing very well for our gardeners.  How the late sown perennials will survive the winter months as it gets colder remains to be seen though.  They are very young plants and so will have to fight for survival, along with a little careful protection from our gardeners, as the winter really starts to bite.

Late sown perennials pricked out in Suffolk

joanne_radish_26Oct2014Our Suffolk gardener also posted us this wonderful picture of her first crop of radishes on 25 October.  This was a variety in a group of late sown salad crops that we asked our gardeners to put in the open ground in September.  While for some, the salads have been slow to develop, our more southerly located participants have been enjoying tasty crops of crunchy salads for weeks now.

These salads have been perfectly complimenting the remainder harvests of Snackbite and King of the North peppers.

Cheshire Snackbite peppers

Shown here is our Cheshire gardener’s crop of Snackbite peppers, and she also reported that her cucamelon still had tiny fruits forming on the plant that was still green and healthy by the close of October.

It seems that some valuable learning has come out of the Nation of Gardeners trials for our participants.  Many of our gardeners have elected to autumn sow broad beans following the success of their experience doing this in the autumn versus spring trial conducted as part of the project in the last 12 months.

During October a lot of our gardeners were also harvesting their ‘Christmas’ Potatoes!  A full two months early, we can safely conclude that this experiment didn’t fare too well.

The warmth of the summer and early autumn resulted in many of the plants developing very quickly and going over far too soon.  The yield was also disappointing for some, with 5 tubers producing a couple of pounds on average.  Good for a meal or two, but not the bumper crop we might otherwise have anticipated.  Shown below from left to right is the potato crops of our gardeners in Renfrewshire on 9 November, Suffolk on 17 October and in Cheshire on 14 October.

Christmas potatoes


The late sown annuals – sown later than recommended at the end of June – have continued to reward our gardeners with some wonderful colour at the time of year where colour is rapidly failing.  Throughout October and into the start of November there are still many flower heads to be seen on these plants, though by mid-November their days are numbered.

Annuals October


What to do in the garden in November

October 31st, 2014 | Garden Diaries, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

There have only been a few signs during October that autumn is on the way, as temperatures have generally held up well and rainfall has been low.  The soil still feels warm, which means that onion sets, shallots and garlic planted recently should get off to a good start – and the same goes for October sowings of hardy annuals to provide plenty of colour from early summer onwards next year, which is something to look forward to.

The trial grounds have now been cleared of this summer’s flowers and vegetables, and all varieties of both have been assessed by our horticultural team, who can now make use of the information when they start to decide which new strains we should consider listing for the future.  One of the main functions of our trials is to decide whether new strains of flowers and vegetables are improvements on those we already offer.

The trials team will soon start preparing and improving the soil during the autumn to make sure it is in as good condition as possible for next year’s sowings.  Our soil here at Kentford is light and rather stony, but trials manager Brian Talman does a superb job in getting it into shape to produce plants of outstanding quality.  His knowledge and expertise is the result of 50 years spent in horticulture – and it shows!

Pumpkings on the trial field at Kentford

Now the clocks have been turned back, it really does seem that summer is over and that we are heading into winter.  As the nights draw in, the best type of gardening is sitting in a comfy armchair armed with a plant and seed catalogue or browsing the website before deciding what to grow next year.  Do try and grow one or two of our new introductions to see how they compare with your favourite varieties.  We go to great lengths to select only those varieties which we feel are improvements on older strains and those which we feel will perform well in our uncertain climate but we are always happy to hear feedback from our customers on how seeds perform around the UK.


Jobs in the flower garden in November

Tulip Prinses IreneAny remaining spring-flowering bulbs still to be set should go in the ground or containers this month.  Ideally, daffodils and hyacinths should already be planted in the garden in October, but tulips are usually planted later than these.  Unlike daffodils, they do not root until the weather turns colder.  Tulips originate from Turkey’s mountain slopes, where they experience cold winters, wet springs and roasting hot summers.  The closer we get to these conditions, the happier our tulips should be!

There are 15 ‘divisions’ or types of tulips, so we really are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing which sorts to grow.  The so-called botanical tulips (divisions 12-15) include the compact growing Tulipa kaufmanniana and Tulipa greigii, which are just the job for planting in containers or at the front of beds and borders.  For sheer exuberance it is difficult to beat the Rembrandts (division 9), which includes the ‘broken’ colours, which were so sought after at the height of ‘Tulipmania’ in the Netherlands.  For large-headed, tall tulips, look out for the Darwin Hybrids (division 4); these look particularly effective in massed plantings, where they make a great splash of colour in late April and early May.

Tulip Couleur CardinalAnd so, November is the ideal time to plant tulip bulbs.  They do best in well-drained soil and in full sun.   Plant them deep – with 4-6in of soil above the top of the bulb.  Try tulip varieties such as Prinses Irene, Couleur Cardinal and Abu Hassan in the garden in November for some strong and vibrant extra colour in your spring beds next year.

Gladiolus corms can now be lifted ready for drying and storing for next year.  Carefully fork them out of the ground, removing all soil from round them before cutting off the dying stems about 5cm above the top of the corms.  Dry them in trays in the greenhouse or shed before removing the final piece of stem and storing the corms somewhere dry, cool, but frost-free until the time comes to plant them again next spring.

Beds and borders can now be given an autumn overhaul, removing leaves and other debris.  Falling leaves from deciduous trees are best swept up from lawns and borders as soon as possible to help prevent the build-up of pests and diseases.  Some people cram them into black binbags, spike them liberally with a fork and put them somewhere out of sight and mind for a year or so, after which they should have magically transformed into rich, crumbly leafmould, which makes a very good soil improver.

Any remaining annuals can also go on to the compost heap and perennials trimmed back to about half their full height.  Remember to remove any supports which were assisting taller types and store these in the shed until required again next summer.

Winter and spring bedding plants, such as polyanthus, primrose, pansy, bellis (double daisy) and forget-me-nots can now be planted out to the garden or to patio pots and containers.  They should be hardy and come through even tough winters relatively unscathed to provide us with some welcome early colour in the weeks and months ahead.

There is still just time to lift, divide and re-plant Iris reticulata, before they start to flower again in late winter and early spring.  They do best in full sun or partial shade, and are also well suited to pot culture thanks to their neat, compact habit.  The pale blue and yellow Katharine Hodgkin is deservedly one of the most popular of this type, and is widely available.

Gardener's fleeceBefore winter really arrives, wrap tender container plants with plastic bubble-wrap, fleece or hessian sacking, taking care to protect the stems well.  Alternatively, move the pots into a greenhouse or outhouse, if space allows.  Most of these tender plants will require only minimal watering in the months ahead as they pass into their dormant stage.

If you have any Begonia semperflorens still flowering in the garden, and in our experience they often flower into November in mild autumns, why not pot up one or two of the better looking specimens and bring them indoors to provide you with some ‘free’ house plants for a few more weeks?  They should do well on a warm windowsill.

If you have shrubs such as Deutzia, Buddleia, Forsythia and Viburnum growing in the garden and wish to increase your stock, why not try taking hardwood cuttings of these?

Once they have lost their leaves and start to become dormant, it is easy to choose healthy shoots from this year’s growth.  Remove any soft growth at the very tip and then cut into 15cm sections.  Make a sloping cut just above a bud at the top and a horizontal cut just below a bud at the base – so you will know how to plant them.  Fill a large pot with a gritty potting mixture (half coarse grit and half multi-purpose compost is good) and plant the cuttings so just a third of their length is above the surface.  Next spring they should make leaf growth, keep them well watered during the summer and next autumn you will have young plants for potting on or planting out.

As autumn winds increase, prune back hybrid tea and floribunda roses to at least half their height to prevent them becoming loose in the soil.  Final pruning, when they are cut back harder ahead of next year’s new growth, can be delayed until next February or March.

Wild birds love holly, pyracantha and cotoneaster berries at this time of year, but if you want to save some to use as part of your Christmas decorations in a few weeks’ time it is a good idea to net a branch or two now so you still have some left!  Many people feed the birds all-year-round, and they certainly need help during the winter.  Sunflower hearts are a superb (if rather expensive!) high energy food much loved by goldfinches, blue tits and a host of other birds.  Finely diced hard cheese, chopped up apples and mealworms (which can now be bought in dried form) are other treats which will ensure a wide range of feathered visitors call regularly at your bird table.  Place your feeding station in an open position, where predators will have no cover in which to lurk, and ideally somewhere it can be seen from your windows to provide you with a little entertainment.

If you are looking for shrubs which provide fragrant flowers at this darkening time of year, consider planting Daphne odora, viburnum and chimonanthus (wintersweet) close to a door or path which is used regularly and where you will be able to appreciate their wonderful scents.  They will make you feel spring cannot really be that far away!

It is becoming rather trendy to leave the skeletal forms of herbaceous perennials in place, as they can sometimes look good when frosted.  On the other hand, do not feel guilty if you like to have the garden ‘put to bed’ by the end of the year by cutting them down to ground level during November!


Jobs in the vegetable garden in November

EnviromeshPigeons can often be a nuisance on brassicas at this time of year, stripping the leaves and leaving the plants struggling to survive.  A netting or fleece cover should help to protect your winter crops from these damaging marauders.

Check that Brussels sprout plants are still firm in the ground.  If they are becoming loose, heel them back into the soil to prevent them being blown over by strengthening autumn winds.  Pick up any yellowed leaves they have shed to prevent them harbouring any pests or diseases.

When conditions allow, start digging over any fallow sections of the vegetable plot or allotment. If you can incorporate well-rotted farmyard manure or home-made compost so much the better, as this will improve the fertility and structure of your soil. When you are clearing runner bean plants from the vegetable plot or allotment, why not just cut off the stalks at ground level, leaving their roots in the ground?  These provide a good source of nitrogen, which will be of benefit to subsequent crops planted in the ground.

Keep an eye on maincrop carrots and swede still to be harvested. If cold weather threatens, they may benefit from a mulch of compost or straw to protect them.  Alternatively, lift them and, if space allows, store them in boxes of dry sand until  required later in the season.

If parsley is still looking green and healthy in the garden, cover it with fleece or a cloche to keep it going for as long as possibly.  With a little luck, you should be able to keep a supply going through the winter and into next spring.  It makes a great addition, finely chopped, to home-made vegetable soup using leeks, potatoes, carrot, swede and parsnip, plus a stock cube or two.

Tomato,  aubergine and pepper plants can now be cleared out of the greenhouse and composted, along with the contents of any growing bags.  If the greenhouse is now empty, this is the ideal time to clean the panes inside and outside and to give it a thorough clean with a solution of Jeyes Fluid or similar to ensure it is as clean as possible for your next crops.  Seed trays and pots will also benefit from similar treatment, if you can find the time.

Staying in the greenhouse, there is a still time to make sowings of salad leaves in troughs or other containers.  Sow the seed thinly, and in just a few weeks you will be cutting tender ‘baby leaves’ for early winter salads.  Most are suitable for ‘cutting and coming again’ to give you more than one harvest.  Rocket, winter lettuce and mizuna are just some of the leaves you can sow.

salad leavesWhy not make sowings of salad leaves such as mixed lettuce or rocket in half-size seed trays and grow them indoors if you don’t have a greenhouse?  Placed on the kitchen windowsill, they will provide plenty of baby leaves for winter salads, sandwiches or simply as an attractive garnish to other dishes.  It is also worth sowing a pot or two of basil to grow alongside the leaves, if you love its Mediterranean flavour in your dishes through the autumn.  Even the very young leaves have that characteristic smell and taste!


Jobs in the fruit garden in November

November is usually a good month in which to plant bare-root fruit trees.  The soil is not yet hard and still retains some warmth, giving roots a chance to get established before winter really begins.  So if you have always wanted to create an orchard in your garden, or wish to expand the number of trees you already have, then now is the time to think about what you would like to plant.

Victoria Plum tree

We dispatch our fruit trees from late November onwards and offer a fine selection of both old favourites, such as Victoria Plum and Egremont Russet apple, and top-class modern varieties such as apricots Tomcot and Flavourcot.

Established fruit trees will benefit from an autumn mulch with well rotted organic matter.  This will not only help the soil to retain moisture and suppress weeds, but it will be drawn down into the soil to enrich it as autumn progresses into winter.

Trim out dead wood on summer fruiting raspberry canes if you have not already done so and either add the canes to the bonfire or chop into a compost heap for slow decomposition.  As the first hard frosts come in November you will find your autumn fruiting raspberries will suddenly stop fruiting and so keep on picking until this happens as they will not keep on fruiting forever!

japanese wineberry

Fancy growing some melt-in-the-mouth, juicy raspberries next summer?  We start despatch our top-quality canes this month as it is now also the perfect time to plant new soft fruits such as raspberry canes, gooseberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants or lift and divide (or lift and donate to friends!) any canes that have run out of their beds to help keep them in check.

Specially selected and grown from certified stock, our raspberry canes have a well developed root system and will start cropping as early as next summer.  Why not place an order for early season Malling Minerva, main season Glen Fyne or later cropping Tadmor?  Better still, order all three to ensure as long a season as possible.  You can never have too many raspberries!

Remember you will need strong posts at either end of the row, with thick wire running between them at regular intervals.  The canes can then be tied on to the wires as they grow next spring.  When planting the canes, spread the roots out carefully and plant at the same depth as the soil mark on the stems.

If you are looking for some unusual soft fruit to plant this autumn, our boysenberry, LingonberryJapanese wineberry and tummelberry may just take your fancy.  They need only the minimum of care and will reward you with good crops for many years to come.

Check stored apples and pears regularly to ensure they remain sound.  Remove and discard any which are starting to rot before they start causing those close to them to deteriorate.  Moving them around a little as you check also improves air flow round the fruit.