Posts Tagged ‘gardening advice’

5 Ideas to Help You Start Growing Earlier This Year [video]

January 16th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

 Sweet peas all in a rowAre ready to get gardening even though it feels a little soon?  Well, we are here to help. In this video, you can find some top tips to help you start growing earlier this year.  Growing earlier means cropping earlier and so every little tip and trick will help.

  • Some crops can be sown and grown directly in the ground if they are offered some protection. Late winter is the best time to do this as the soil will be warmer than the depths of winter, and the days are getting longer offering more light.
  • Cold frames can be used to great effect to start off some vegetable crops.  Even though the temperature inside is not balmy, the difference is just enough for a lot of the more hardy crops.  Cold frames also offer protection from snows and wind to overwintered plants too.
  • Cover soil a week or so before sowing your seeds, this will allow the soil to dry and warm up a little before sowing.
  • You can create mini greenhouses from recycled plastic bottles.  Popped over the top of young plants will assist with growth early on when the weather can still be quite sharp.  The video below gives you instructions for creating mini greenhouses – a great way to reduce, reuse and recycle!
  • Other early varieties can be planted into a greenhouse or polytunnel.  Sown in pots, seed trays or cells, young plants will grow slowly and steadily until it is time to plant them out.
  • Some seeds must be grown indoors if they are sown earlier, this allows them to germinate and they can be moved outdoors at a later date.
  • In winter, if plants are being grown indoors you can use grow lights to allow seedlings to get enough light to grow healthily.

These are just a few tips to start growing earlier, there are plenty more in the video below. As always, if you have any more suggestions on how to start growing earlier, do let us know and help your fellow gardeners!

 5 Ideas to Help You Start Growing Earlier This Year

 As noted in the video, onions and shallots are great vegetables to start growing early. You can find our selection of onion and shallots here. Happy early sowing!

How to Grow Fresh Food In Winter [video]

December 12th, 2016 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

sprouting mung beans

Here we have a short video showing you how to grow fresh food in winter.   In the winter it may seem as though you can’t do any gardening or grow anything to give you a fresh taste.   But sprouting mung beans come to the rescue!  Take a look at our video to find out more and add these tasty fresh micro-veg to your winter diet this year.

Beansprouts or mung beans are great to grow indoors. They only take 5 – 6 days to reach maturity so provide you fresh veg all year round.

  • Rinse mung beans that are fresh and especially for sprouting
  • Put them into a bowl and cover with water
  • Leave them to soak overnight or for at least 12 hours
  • Thoroughly wash a juice carton and cut small holes in the top of the carton
  • Drain the beans and pour them into the carton
  • Fill this with water and screw the lid on
  • Tip it upside down and pour out the water, you should do this twice a day
  • Repeat this for a few days until day 6, which is when you need to cut open the carton and reveal the beansprouts
  • Wash the beansprouts and place them in the fridge, they should last up to three days in the fridge

This is a quick written tutorial on using cartons to grow mung beans for a taste of fresh food in winter, the video below gives a more detailed explanation. Let us know if you have any recipes or ideas for beansprouts!

How to Grow Fresh Food In Winter

What to do in the garden in December

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

December bulbs

December is traditionally one of the quieter months in the flower and vegetable garden. Winter vegetables really come into their own now, especially once parsnips and brussels sprouts have had a frost or two to improve their flavour. While most spring-flowering bulbs should already be in the ground, there is still time to plant tulips, which actually benefit from this later planting. Many are well suited to growing in containers too.

Remove all plant debris from round the garden or on the allotment, as fallen foliage and the like encourage pests and diseases to over-winter and cause us problems next spring and summer. This is particularly important if you grow roses.


December - Sweet PeasIf you made a sowing of sweet pea seeds back in October and have them in the greenhouse or a cold frame, pinch out the growing tip after two pairs of leaves have formed; this will encourage the development of side-shoots and bushy growth through the winter, and stop the young plants becoming ‘leggy’. They will then make steady progress and be ready for planting out early next spring.

House plants make attractive features through the dark winter months. The compost of azaleas should be kept wet, but never saturated. Poinsettias, on the other hand, should have compost which is only just moist. If you are yet to buy these Christmas favourites, always choose plants from stock which has been kept in warm spot indoors in a shop; never buy plants from outside, as they will not thrive when you get them home, and may well die.

Where containers planted for winter displays are close to the house or other buildings, check them regularly to see whether they are receiving enough moisture from rainfall. If not, water them to prevent the compost drying out. It can be easy to forget them at this time of year because they tend not to need as much watering as summer containers.

Keep a look-out for pale blotches and grey mould on the foliage of violas and pansies, as these are the symptoms of downy mildew. The affected leaves will gradually die. Unfortunately, there is no chemical treatment. Remove infected leaves as soon as the discolouration appears.December - Pansy 'Cool Wave Mixed'

If the weather remains relatively mild this month, you may see that some spring-flowering bulbs start to show above ground already. In fact we have noticed this happening already! There is no need to be concerned about this, because as the weather becomes colder their rate of growth will slow accordingly and they will still flower when we expect them to.


December - First early potato DivaaMay we remind you that it is not too early to order seed potatoes, especially if you are keen to grow particular varieties. We begin despatch from January 2017 onwards. Please have a look at our new varieties. Elfe is a second-early with yellow flesh and a rich, almost buttery flavour; it’s really great for making mash or for baking. Gemson is another second-early, and we recommend this for its large crop of smaller tubers. It boasts the famed Maris peer as one of its parents, and has excellent disease resistance. The tubers have a firm, creamy flesh, and are perfect for steaming, boiling and as a salad potato. White and pink-skinned Pink Gypsy is a maincrop, and this one is particularly versatile, being superb for mashing, baking and roasting.

If you enjoy growing large onions, whether for the kitchen or for the showbench, do consider trying our new variety called, simply, Exhibition; this splendid strain was bred in East Anglia from The Kelsae, the most famous of all onions. It produces large, flask-shaped bulbs with a golden skin colour and a deliciously mild, sweet flavour. It can reach 454gm (1lb) in weight with very little care, but considerably larger specimens are achievable with a little ‘TLC’. Seed of Exhibition can be sown in gentle warmth from December through to February. It’s well worth growing!

Now is a good time to dig over any part of the vegetable garden or allotment which is not in production. This is best done when the soil is not too wet and certainly never when it is frozen. Dig to a spade’s depth (a spit), and leave the soil in clods as it falls to be broken up by frost and rain action in the weeks ahead.


December - Raspberry Polka canes from Mr Fothergill'sAutumn-fruiting raspberries can now be pruned back virtually to ground-level. This will allow next spring’s new shoots to develop strongly, allowing them to flower and fruit next autumn. If you like the idea of some summer raspberries from the same plants, leave two or three of the strongest canes tied into the framework, and these will provide you with some tasty summer berries ahead of the autumn harvest.

This is the best time to give fruit trees and bushes that have been subject to attacks by pests such as aphids a spray with a ‘winter wash’; this should see off any over-wintering pests and their eggs. Modern winter washes use surfactants and natural oils, rather than being tar-based like the old-fashioned remedies. This treatment should mean a healthy start to next year’s growing season. Winter washes are available from good garden centres.

Companion Planting: Why Vegetables Need Friends

October 18th, 2016 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Dahlias fill a new border - Companion plantingFlowers are great for many uses in the garden, but they are perfect for companion planting. Find out how flowers can help in getting the most out of your garden. 

Flowers planted in and around the vegetable garden offer many benefits;

  • Vegetables left to grow in isolation are more vulnerable to pests. By growing flowers nearby, they will naturally attract beneficial insects. These will feed on pests, preventing them from attacking your precious vegetables. The best flowers for drawing in beneficial bugs are those rich in pollen and nectar.
  • By growing flowers among edibles, this will create a sea of colours, textures and smells. This can confuse many insect pests, as they will struggle to choose a vegetable they wish to feed on.
  • Sowing a flowering cover crop or green manure such as buckwheat, in between crops can attract beneficial insects and confuse pests. As well as attracting pest-eating insects, these flowers smother the ground to suppress weeds. Further to this, they will improve the soil quality by breaking it up with long, fibrous roots.
  • Many herbs such as; oregano, lavender and borage produce flowers. These pull in beneficial bugs like ladybugs, whose larvae will feast on fleshy pests like aphids.

These are just a few reasons that flowers are perfect for companion planting. Take a look at the video below to find out more tips on companion planting. Let us know any tips you have on companion planting in the comments below.

Companion Planting: Why Vegetables Need Friends

Companion Planting: Why Vegetables Need Friends

Hoop House: How to Make a Row Cover Tunnel [video]

October 12th, 2016 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

A simple hoop house or tunnel can extend the growing season as the weather turns colder.   With the added protection of a row cover tunnel, you could be picking crops throughout the winter – most especially if you already live in a mild area.  They’re easy to make yourself, and so this video show you how you can make them. 

hoop house

Firstly you will require these items; PVC water piping (0.5 inches/12 mm diameter), 20 inch/50cm lengths of rebar, two pipe caps and some strong garden wire. You’ll also require some strong plastic or polythene, pipe insulation and spring clamps or pegs. In terms of equipment to help you fashion your row cover tunnel you’ll need a hacksaw and hammer.

  1. Hammer in the rebar at equal distances along the garden bed. Space them about three feet apart and leave 15/20 cm sticking up above the ground.
  2. Next you need to cut up the PVC water piping to make plastic hoops. These should be long enough to create a half circle, ensuring they will be high enough for plants to grow inside the tunnel.
  3. Flex the pipe into position, placing registering them onto their rebar supports.
  4. Add a ridgepole along the centre to link the hoops together.  This will stabilize the structure and stop the plastic on the tunnel from sagging.
  5. Ensure that the two ends of the ridge pole are covered by the pipe caps or strong tapes so that no rough edges are exposed which will rip the plastic in high winds. Then use the garden wire to secure all the pipes together.
  6. Cover the hoop house with the plastic sheeting trimming off the excess.  Use pipe insulation as a protective barrier when clamping the polythene to the frame and to avoid fretting.

For a more detailed description on how to make a hoop house, watch the video below. If you have any tips of your own on protecting crops through winter, then leave us a comment in the comments section below.

How To Make Row Cover Tunnels (Hoop House)