Posts Tagged ‘gardening advice’

Help Your Garden Survive a Summer Drought

August 17th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

gardening-during-a-summer-drought-can-be-a-struggle

Struggling with a summer drought is no fun, and keeping your plants quenched and happy can feel like a non-stop battle.

Don’t be a slave to the watering can!

Read on or watch the video for top tips on how to keep your garden healthy in drought conditions. They’ll save you time – and a lot of water too!

Watering

top-tips-for-saving-water-and-time-in-a-drought

Prioritise watering

When water is precious it pays to be prudent. Concentrate your watering where it is needed; young seedlings to help them establish, leafy salads to stop them wilting, fruit and vegetables like tomatoes, and anything growing in a pot.

Balance and speed

Using a watering can? Try two! One for each hand. It will help you balance and you’ll be able to water twice as quickly. If your water source is some distance from your beds, it also means less walking back and forth.

Another option is to use a portable tank, to cart water to where it will be dispensed.

Don’t blast your plants

A strong spray from a hose can knock plants about, or blast potting soil out of containers. Get around this problem simply by placing the end of the hose in a watering can so that it fills as you pour. This means you can water carefully and precisely, enjoying the convenience of a hose without wasting a drop.

Water from the bottom

Watering pots from the bottom, rather than the top, can save a lot of time and water in hot weather. Fill up a suitable sized reservoir, adding any liquid feed you’d like to apply at the recommended rate. Sink your pots into the water and leave them to soak up the liquid for at least an hour.

You can speed things along by adding a splash of water to the top of the pot before it’s left to soak. This technique helps ensure a thorough watering that makes very efficient use of your water.

Automate watering

An automatic irrigation system connected to a timer will take the strain out of watering. Set it to come on very early in the morning, before things heat up. The best set up to use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to deliver water is right at the base of your plants, near the roots.

Some can even be fitted to water barrels, so you can make the most of any rain water you’ve managed to collect.

Keep their Cool

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Drought can play havoc with seedlings, hampering germination and causing young plants to struggle. Here are a few ideas to help:

Success with seedlings

In hot dry conditions getting seeds to germinate can be tricky, particularly those of cool season crops such at lettuce. The solution is to wet the seed drill before sowing to give them the cool, moist surroundings they crave. Water along marked out drills, allow the water to completely drain away, then fill and drain once again before you sow.

Once you’re done sowing cover the seeds back over, but don’t water again until after germination. The moisture in the drill will drain through, encouraging the seedlings’ roots to follow.

Add some shade

Young seedlings, and cool season crops in general, perform better under the protection of some shading in hot summers. Prioritise shady areas for crops that prefer cool conditions, such as salad leaves. You can use taller crops to shade shorter ones, but in scorching weather drastic action may be needed.

Shade cloth can cast just enough shade to keep your plants happy in severe heat and can be easily removed when the weather turns cooler. Suspend it over plants to help them keep their cool.

Soothe the Soil

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Mulch around plants

Mulches are a must in any summer drought, and a mulch of organic material such as compost, leafmould or even dried grass clippings is best.

This extra layer serves two purposes; it shades the soil from the sun helping to keep it cooler, and it acts as a barrier to the sun, dramatically slowing evaporation.

How to apply a mulch

Thoroughly soak the ground before adding your mulch. If it’s exceptionally dry, water again a few hours later to recharge all that valuable soil moisture. Lay the mulch so it’s at least an inch (2 cm) thick and feed it right around all your plants.

Fruit trees, canes and bushes can be mulched with chunkier materials such as bark chippings, or fibrous materials like straw. Mulches may not be very high-tech, but they are incredibly effective in a hot summer.

 

If you have any tips for gardening in a hot, dry climate, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

August Gardening Advice

August 1st, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

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Temperatures are soaring, the sun is shining; summer is well and truly here.

Flowers are bursting with vibrant colour. From golden heleniums to fiery dahlias, the reds, oranges and yellows have taken over from the pastel shades of spring.

But with scorching weather comes the ongoing battle to prevent plants from drying out. Watering cans and hoses are the gardener’s ally, but use water sensibly. Water butts, drip irrigation systems and water-retention gels are good items to have in your arsenal.

August is also the month for harvesting your homegrown fruit and veg. Try to manage your gluts by blanching and freezing any excess veg for a later date. Or, be the most popular person in your street by sharing produce with your neighbours!

Summer won’t last forever, but while it’s here, take the time to relax in the garden with a glass of something cold, and enjoy the fruits of your labours.

 

In the flower garden

HOLIDAY

August is traditionally the month to pack your suitcase and get away from it all. If you are going away, ensure you make plans to keep your garden from drying out. Ask a neighbour to pop over once every few days to water and check on your garden. If you have pots and containers, group them all together under some shade, to make the job easier. Keep greenhouses ventilated, and if necessary, create some shade to prevent your plants from getting scorched.

DEADHEADING

Deadhead regularly to keep flowers blooming into autumn. Fresh blooms not only look good, but continue to feed bees, butterflies and hoverflies, which are essential to a garden’s wellbeing. Sweet peas will be keen to set seed, so it’s important to deadhead daily.

PERENNIALS

With heavy blooms and ever-growing stems, plants such as dahlias and gladioli will need staking. This extra support will not only prevent damage, but discourage ground pests from attacking low-lying plants.

Summer-gardening-cut-your-lavender

LAVENDER

Stop lavender from becoming leggy by cutting into a compact shape, but don’t cut too far back as new flowers can’t grow on old wood. Use the cut flowers around the home. You could create lavender pouches to scent drawers or pillow cases.

WISTERIA

Ideally, you want to prune wisteria twice a year. Once in late winter, and once now in august. There’s been a lot of growth during the summer months, so cut these newly-formed long laterals back to the fifth set of leaves on each shoot, and tie-in where necessary. This restricts the growth, creates better ventilation, hardens the remaining summer growth, and encourages new flower buds for next year.

HEDGES

Hedges can become unruly in summer, so now’s the time to give them a prune. Whether you’re using shears or a hedge trimmer, think about how you want your hedge to look. Work from the bottom up in a smooth, controlled motion. Prune all sides and finish with the top. Wear protective clothing and use the correct height support if the hedge is high. Once completed, clear away all debris.

WATERING

This year, temperatures have been at their hottest, and our gardens and allotments are relying on us to sustain them.

Whether there’s a hosepipe ban in your area or not, using water sensibly is a good habit to get into too. Make use of water butts, re-use old dish water, and water early in the morning or at dusk, when the lower temperatures mean less water evaporation.

Keeping your garden well-weeded also ensures the water goes to the plants that need it.

If you’re planting up containers and hanging baskets, add water retention gel to the compost. If you’re growing tomatoes, create a drip irrigation system.

Every drop of water you save means less strain on our reservoirs.

POND

In the warmer weather, check pond levels daily. Remove any build-up of algae and weeds, placing it beside the pond overnight. This will give any captured wildlife the opportunity to return to the water. If you have water plants, now is the time to thin them. Clean the pumps and filters of any water features you may have.

 

On the veg patch

FEED

You should be feeding your tomatoes weekly now to ensure a healthy, tasty crop, but potash/tomato feed can also be used for cucumbers, aubergines, peppers, chillies and even sweetcorn plants.

MAIN POTATOES

As the leaves on your main crop start to turn yellow and wither, start digging them up. If you’re not going to eat them straight away, rest them on the topsoil for a few hours to dry the excess moisture, then place in hessian sacks. Ideally, the sacks should be stored somewhere with ventilation, where it’s cool, dark and pest-free. Check on them regularly to make sure none have spoilt.

ONIONS AND SHALLOTS

With foliage bent over and turning yellow, onions and shallots are now ready for lifting. Once lifted, leave them on the surface of the soil for a few hours to dry in the sunshine. Then, shake off the excess soil from the roots, careful not to damage them, and place somewhere warm so they can dry out. After a week, or two, they should be ready for storing somewhere cool, dark and dry. Either tie them together and hang them up, or place them in onion bags. Both storage methods should prevent mould, but check regularly to make sure none have perished.

Mr-Fothergills-growing-beans-from-sowing-to-harvestBEANS

Whether it’s runner beans or French beans, the key is to pick them regularly. By doing so, you’re preventing them from setting seed. Ensure they are well watered, and that the base of the plant is well-mulched. Once the plant reaches the top of its staked cane, pinch out the top.

PESTS AND DISEASES

August is the time for pests and diseases. Heat, humidity, and occasional rainfall are the perfect conditions to encourage blight. Check both tomato and potato plants regularly. If you see any signs of the fungal infestation, remove plant/s altogether. If you catch it at an early stage with your potatoes, leave the tubers in the ground, as they may not be affected. Do not place infected plants on the compost heap. Instead, either burn immediately or remove from the site altogether. To reduce blight, encourage a crop rotation system, and try to use blight resistant varieties.

Cabbage White Butterflies will be eyeing up your brassicas to lay their eggs. Check your crops regularly, and remove any eggs or pests you find. Net your crops, use brassica collars when planting out, and introduce nematodes to control caterpillars.

 

PICK REGULARLY

Courgettes, marrows and cucumbers will continue to produce so long as you pick regularly. Cut away excess foliage to help sunshine reach your crops and to prevent powdery mildew. Mildew can also be prevented by watering at the base of the plant rather than on the leaves.

FRUIT

With gooseberries now harvested, it’s the perfect time to prune the plant. You want to create a ‘goblet’ shape to encourage as much ventilation as possible. Remove the inner branches of the plant, and reduce the rest of the plant to about six leaves per branch. This will encourage fresh shoots to grow.

Keep an eye on plum and apple trees that might be weighed down by fruit. If the tree appears to be stressed, support and tie-in where possible. If you’re growing grapes, ensure the growing vines are being tied-in regularly.

Summer raspberry canes should have now fruited. Cut back the fruit canes, and encourage fresh new canes by tying them onto a support.

SOW

Although we’re mostly harvesting now, there are still things to grow. Succession sow salad leaves and spring onions for a continuous crop, and beetroot, kohlrabi and pak choi can also be sown now for a late harvest.

GREEN MANURE

As your veg beds start to empty, consider sowing green manure if you don’t plan to grow  winter crops. Not only will it improve the quality of the soil, but it will help suppress weeds.

 

 

Mr Fothergill’s Easy Grow Guides: How To Grow Carrots

April 24th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

 

 

Carrots are one of those vegetables that you can grow at home in your garden really easily and taste *better* than what you can buy in the shops.  A freshly pulled carrot from the plot tastes better than even the best quality organic carrot in a little boutique farm shop.  This is because the sugars in a freshly pulled root haven’t had time to turn to starch, and so the very best tasting carrot is eaten straight from plot to pot to plate.

You can sow carrots from early spring until mid-summer.  Try out different varieties to give you an array of colours from the regular orange through to the deepest of purples and reds, or to the other end of the colour spectrum with pale yellow and cream roots.

You can sow carrot seeds regularly – try every three week intervals – to ensure you have a continuous supply for the kitchen.  Towards the end of the sowing season, sow varieties that stand well in the soil as it turns colder during winter and you can maybe manage to supply yourself with carrots all year round.  No more tasteless supermarket carrots!

Our best selling carrots are reliable for beginner growers and seasoned gardeners alike, so think about trying from the following selection if you are growing for the first time, or if you want to try something new then explore the many carrot varieties on offer in our website 

  • Autumn King 2: A reliable maincrop that has a long season and a Best Buy variety recommended by gardening press and consumer groups.
  • Carrot Nantes 5: A delicious early variety good as ‘finger’ carrots. The blunt-ended roots have an outstanding flavour.
  • Royal Chantenay 3: Distinctly sweet tasting and succulent, short conical roots that can be used whole as ‘baby’ carrot or left to mature.
  • Parmex: A super early, round carrot, suitable for raising under glass, in the flower garden or on patios. Ideal for shallow soils.
  • Resistafly: A British-bred variety with improved resistance to carrot fly.  The roots have superb colour, a small core and a sweet taste.
  • Harlequin F1: Highly attractive Nantes variety with an unusual mix of colours, from purple and orange to yellow and white.
Mr-Fothergills-Carrot-Resistafly-F1-Seeds

Carrot Resistafly F1 Seeds

Mr-Fothergills-Carrot-Autumn-King-2-Seeds

Carrot Autumn King 2 Seeds

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Carrot Harlequin F1 Seeds

Mr-Fothergills-Carrot-Royal-Chantenay-3-Seeds

Carrot Royal Chantenay 3 Seedsw to

What to do in the Garden in April

April 1st, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

April is perhaps the busiest month in the garden. With temperatures fast warming, it’s time to get all your plans in place for the season ahead (but don’t forget about Mr Frost, who can still catch you out!).

By this stage in the season you more than likely already have vegetable and flower seedlings to tend to, along with ambitions to get plenty more sown for a productive and colourful summer season.
Hardy annual flowers and vegetables can now be sown outside, directly where you want them to grow, reducing your work load.

April offers the ideal conditions for planting out a wide range of larger container plants, too. Perhaps you over-wintered last year’s sowings of herbaceous perennial plants. They can now be moved from cold frames and nursery beds and planted in their final positions.

Strawberry Sweetheart - AprilTrees and shrubs can also be set out this month to provide shape, structure and ‘backbone’ to your border and container displays. Hardy fruit trees, bushes, canes and runners can all be planted too. Strawberry runners for example are despatching from the nursery now.

With so much to be done this month, the question is how will you fit it all in to your schedule. Our breakdown of essential jobs for April, should help you get your plans and plants in order.
In the flower Garden/on the patio

April - Sweet peas from Mr Fothergill'sSweet peas sown last autumn or during the winter months should be ready for planting out this month. These tough scented climbers will cope with cooler soils and late spring temperatures, quickly establishing for a show stopping display of early summer colour. Just make sure to harden them off before planting, by placing them outside by day and back under cover each evening for a week or so. Then set them out in well prepared soil, with lots of added manure.
If you haven’t already sown sweet peas you really are missing out. These easy to grow climbers offer some of the best scent and colour for the garden (and for indoor vase displays). Fortunately they can be sown outside this month too.  If you don’t have space for the climbing varieties, try dwarf types such as ‘Patio Mixed’ or ‘Dwarf Explorer’.

  • Plenty of life left in spring containers and bedding displays

Spring bedding plants such as pansies, primrose and bellis, whether set out in the soil or in patio pots and baskets, should have enough reserves to carry on until late May when you can replace them with summer options. To ensure they go the distance, use these three top tips:

  • Deadhead: remove all spent flowers to prevent plants diverting their energy on setting seed. Removing flowers encourages more to develop, carrying colour through to summer.
  • Chop back: If plants have become straggly you can cut them back by half. They’ll lose their looks for a week or two but will soon be flowering again over neat and tidy foliage.
  • Offer a regular feed: With plants in full swing, offer a liquid feed every two weeks to support their growth and encourage the best looking displays.

 

Ornamental grasses from seed

Ornamental grasses add a touch of elegance to mixed summer borders, creating movement with their nodding seedheads, and going on to add autumn interest – the dried golden seedheads and foliage look stunning when caught by an autumn frost.
As you make your flower sowings this month, save some space for these classy border additions. Sow indoors or directly outside where they are to grow.
Top choices to try include Bunny tails (Lagurus ovatus,), cloud grass (Agrostis nebulosa), goldentop grass (Lamarkia aurea) and silky spike melic (Melica ciliate). For a winning mix of annual and perennial ornamental grasses try the Mr Fothergill’s Grasses Collection:

Hardy herb containers

grow new herbs - AprilWhile tender herbs need to stay on the windowsill, you can get creative with hardy herbs in the garden this month.  Not many gardeners have the luxury of a dedicated herb garden, but fortunately most hardy herbs grow under the same conditions and will thrive together in a mixed herb container.
Avoid traditional herb planters with side planting holes, unless you can be sure you’ll keep up with watering. These dry out very quickly and are hard to rewet fully. Instead, select a wide container and add a mix of herbs as you would a mixed summer patio container.  A 50:50 mix of multipurpose compost and loam-based John Innes no.3 is ideal for herb containers.  Top tip: Use a high nitrogen feed with low potassium levels when feeding herbs. This will encourage lots of leafy growth rather than flowers.

  • Deadhead spend spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. But leave their stems and foliage to die back naturally, placing energy back into the bulbs for the best display next year.
  • Treat fences, sheds and other wooden structures with a paint or preservative before spring growth makes access difficult

 

On the veg patch

  • Successional sowing

When it comes to vegetable sowing don’t, do it all in one hit, this will simply lead to a glut of produce later in the year. Instead, adopt the successional sowing method – smaller batches of seed sowing done every two weeks or so, which leads to a constant supply of ready to pick produce through the season, with few gaps and no gluts.

April - Broad Beans AguadulceHardy vegetables to sow outside this month:

Broad beans
Beetroot
Brussels sprouts
Calbrese
Broccoli
Summer and autumn cabbages
Cauliflower
Chicory
Carrots
Leeks
Pak Choi
Parsnip
Radish
Spinach
Spring onions
Swede
Swiss chard

Also plant out onions sets and seed potatoes

  • Hand pollinate early fruit trees

Early flowering fruits such as cherries, greengages, nectarines and peaches will benefit from hand pollination, as it may be still too early for most pollinating insects to do the work for you. Use a small artist’s paint brush to gently transfer pollen from one flower to another.

 

In the Greenhouse/ on the windowsill

  • Focus on Half Hardy Annuals

With hardy annual sowings now being made outside, you can give windowsill and greenhouse space over to half hardy annuals that need a bit of extra warmth to get started. If this is not possible, wait until the second half of May and sow half hardy annuals outside where you want them to grow.

  • Plug plants

If sowing isn’t your thing, or you’ve simply run out of space already, our bedding and vegetable plug plant varieties become ready for despatch this month. Here we’ve done the finicky first-stage work for you, simply pot up our plug plants on delivery and grow on in frost-free conditions until ready to plant out in late May/early June. If you’ve got the space to grow them on, you can even set them directly into hanging baskets and patio containers, for effortless displays come summer.

  • Early start on summer herbs

It’s too early and too cold to think about sowing or planting tender herbs outside, but you can make an early start with your favourite flavour boosters this month by sowing small pots on a sunny windowsill.  Basil, coriander, oregano, chervil and other frost tender herbs can be sown every four weeks or so between April and July for consistent supply of succulent fresh leaves. If sowing your favourite herbs this way is too time consuming try the Mr Fothergills’ Pot Toppers – a range of popular herbs embedded into seed mats – simply fills a large pot with compost, place a seed mat on the surface, cover lightly with more compost and water in. With 3 x 20cm mats per pack you’ll have a full summer of fresh herbs ahead of you.

Greenhouse growers will already have their tender crops well underway, but if you grow tomatoes, peppers and chillies out in the garden, April is the ideal month to sow their seeds. This ensures that the plants will not get too big before planting out in early June, once all threat of frost is gone.April

Sow seeds in trays, modules or small pots of multipurpose compost and set on a warm windowsill or in a heated propagator, aiming for around 21C.  Turn off the heat and remove covers once the majority of seedlings are on show. Transfer individual seedlings

Greenhouse growers can now prepare greenhouse borders, or stock up on grow bags and containers ready to plant out or pot up tomatoes, chillies and peppers. Other things to plant in the greenhouse include watermelons, cucumbers, sweet potatoes.

  • Sowing sunflowers

There’s a simple pleasure in watching a towering sunflower develop through the season, especially when you’ve raised it from seed yourself. If you are looking to grow a giant this summer, it pays to start as early as possible, giving your plants the longest growing season. Sow seeds indoors through April, ready for hardening off in late May for planting out.

For the tallest plants try Sunflower ‘Giant Single’. For the largest flower heads and lots of edible seeds, try Sunflower ‘Titan’. For a shorter, decorative addition to your summer displays try Sunflower ‘Sunburst’, ‘Magic Roundabout’ F1 or ‘Little Leo’.

  • Keeping cool

On sunny days, greenhouses can quickly overheat- even this early in the season.  Prevent this with a three pronged approach:
1) Open vents and doors on hot days (think about fittings auto openers)
2) Put up shade netting or shade paint so vulnerable plants and young seedlings don’t frazzle on sunny days.
3) Damp down the floors and staging once or twice a day to raise humidity levels and bring the ambient temperature down.

 

What to prune in April

  • Stone fruit trees such as cherries and plums can be pruned now that the risk of contracting silver leaf disease has passed (it enters plants on winter rain).
  • Fig trees to can be pruned to keep their shape and size.
  • Check all shrubs and hedges for bird nesting activity before carrying out any pruning. If nests are spotted, wait until summer before trimming your plants – it is illegal to intentionally damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird whilst it is in use.
  • Winter-stemmed shrubs like Cornus and Salix should be cut back hard to encourage new shoots for next winter’s display.
  • If not already done, remove any dead foliage growth left on herbaceous perennials before new growth takes over.

 

Weed control

By mid spring weeds start to grow rampantly, annual weeds will be germinating freely in unworked soils, and perennial types will be setting down roots to really take hold.
Ideally dig out perennial weeds by hand, but be thorough. Many perennial weeds, including dandelion and couch grass, will regrow from the smallest piece of root left in the soil. If hand weeding is not possible use weedkillers responsibly, seeking organic options where possible.
The best way to keep on top of annual weeds such as chickweed and shepherds purse is to hose your border and veg patch soil at least once a week. Aim to do this on a sunny or windy day, so dislodged weeds wither on the surface – rainy weather can actually set them back into the soil!

Growing Leeks from Sowing to Harvest

March 27th, 2017 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Growing Leeks

Leek Musselburgh – Hardy, reliable & versatile

Leeks are hardy, often trouble free & offer beautiful long stems from Autumn to Spring – at a time when other harvests are lacking. Now is the time to start sowing them so here are a few top tips on sowing leeks and how to take care of them until harvest. 

  • Leeks are hardy, and in most regions, they will sit through frost and snow, then be lifted as needed. You can prolong the harvest period by selecting different varieties. Early season leeks aren’t as hardy but will be ready to harvest in Autumn, mid/late season leeks will give you smooth stems for winter and spring.
  • Grow leeks in a sunny, open position in well-dug soil that’s had plenty of organic matter added to it.
  • Fungal disease rust can be a problem with leeks, to help combat it ensure that they are planted with plenty of air movement between them and look out for varieties described as rust resistant.
  • Early varieties of leeks can be sown under cover from late winter, others following on from mid Spring.
  • Leeks are usually sown in pots or trays of potting soil, then transplanted into their final position when they are big enough.
  • Sowing is easy – sieve potting soil into pots or trays, gently tamp down the soil. Then sow the seeds very thinly so they fall about an inch apart. You can also sow two seeds per cell in a plug tray. Cover them over with a thin layer of more potting soil. Keep the potting soil moist as the seeds germinate and the seedlings grow on.
  • Early sowings should be placed on a sunny windowsill or into a greenhouse where the warmth will encourage quicker growth.
  • As the seedlings grow, you can separate the seedlings out and pop them into individual pots.
  • When planting young leeks, make sure you’ve acclimatised them to outdoor conditions by leaving them outside for increasingly long periods over the course of 1 or 2 weeks.
  • They’re ready to transplant when they are around 6 – 8 inches. Begin by digging holes in the well-dug soil, they need to be the same height as the leek seedlings. Make one hole for each plant – the holes should be about 6 inches apart, with 1 foot between rows. Carefully remove the leeks from their pots and tease the roots apart, place them into the holes. Water the holes to the brim and leave them to drain. Don’t fill them in with soil.
  • Leeks are often easy to care for – water them in dry weather and keep the soil between the leeks weed free.

This is the beginning of the leek sowing process, the video below continues to discuss how to care for your leeks and how to harvest them when it’s time. If you have any further advice for growing leeks then please do let us know in the comments or on our social media.

You can also find our range of leeks here on the Mr Fothergill’s website.

Growing Leeks from Sowing to Harvest – GrowVeg