Posts Tagged ‘gardening for beginners’

10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting a Vegetable Garden

March 4th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting a Vegetable Garden

Longer days and the first brave flowers pushing through – spring is nearly here! This is the perfect time to plan for the coming growing season. If you’re new to gardening – welcome! This is for anyone looking to start a new vegetable garden. You’re about to embark on a journey that’s equal parts challenging and rewarding, mystifying but uplifting. Read on or watch the video for the top ten things I wish I’d known when I started out…

1. Let the Sunshine In

The first thing to consider when starting a vegetable garden is light. Most vegetables, fruits and herbs grow best in full sunshine – somewhere that receives at least 6 hours and preferably 8 hours of direct sunshine a day, though some shading is welcome in hotter climates.

Some cool-season crops – for example spinach, cabbage and radishes – can be grown in part shade, while there are plenty of flowers for both sunny and shady locations.

2. Convenience is Key

You’ll need to tend your garden regularly, so if possible position it close to the house where you will see it – that way you won’t forget about it and can see what needs doing as it needs doing. Try to site it near a source of water too, or install water barrels or other means of collecting rainwater close by to make watering quick and easy.

Nourish your soil with organic matter, including garden compost and manure

3. Love Your Soil

Lavish your soil with love! Nourish it with organic matter, including garden compost and manure. Manure must be rotted down for at least 6 months before applying it because fresh manure contains weed seeds, can harbour disease and may ‘burn’ plants due to its very high nitrogen content.

Add organic matter whenever you can, and at least once a year. This can be simply laid on the soil surface as what’s known as a ‘mulch’. Over time your soil structure will improve, becoming better draining and a healthier environment for roots. You can add organic fertilisers too of course, but think of these as a short-term boost rather than building up long-term soil health like organic matter can.

4. Don’t Be Too Hasty

As a new gardener it’s easy to get carried away, but a little restraint is essential. Plant too soon and tender plants are likely to be caught out by a sudden frost or will fail to thrive as they grow on. In most areas your last and first frost dates define your growing season.

Our Garden Planner can help. It automatically calculates your frost dates based on your location. As you add plants to your plan the accompanying Plant List grows too. Open it up and you’ll be able to see exactly when you should be sowing, planting and harvesting your chosen crops.

5. Give Plants the Best Start

Begin sowing outside only once your soil has warmed up and dried out enough to become workable. Seed beds – that’s the area you sow into – should have a fine, crumbly texture. Sowing under cover into plug trays and pots is a great way to get a head start while outside temperatures are still too low.

Transplants need planting holes that are bigger than the existing rootball. The soil then used to fill in the hole will be looser, which will make it easier for new roots to grow out into the surrounding soil and help plants to establish quicker in their new home.

Most plants need an average of 2-5cm of water a week

6. Water Well

Most plants need an average of 1-2 inches (2-5cm) of water a week. You’ll probably need to water more as it gets warmer, but this does depend on rainfall. It’s better to water heavily once a week than a little every day. This forces roots to reach further down into the soil to seek moisture, improving self-reliance. Plants in containers can’t do this of course, so water them more often.

7. War of the Weeds

Remove weeds as soon as you see them so they don’t have a chance to produce seeds and spread. Hoeing is quick and easy, and severed weeds may be left where they fall to wither in the sun. Keep the blade edge sharp and close to the surface to prevent damaging crop roots. Hand-weed where the hoe can’t reach.

Mulching with organic matter is a great way stop new weeds popping up as well as improving your soil as it gradually rots down.

8. Keep Picking

Some vegetables must be picked regularly to keep the harvests coming. Beans, courgettes and tomatoes are just a few examples where picking will encourage even more pods and fruits to follow.

Similarly, removing old blooms from ornamental flowers – called ‘deadheading’ – encourages more to follow, extending the display a little longer.

9. End of the Season

Add leaves to compost heaps, compost them alone to turn them into leafmould, or pile them thickly over tender perennials to protect them over winter

An end-of-season tidy up is a great way to ensure a clean start the following year, but don’t get too carried away. Old seed heads of, for example, coneflowers and thistles will help feed birds over winter, while ornamental grasses can be left to add movement and structure to the garden – and overwintering sites for beneficial bugs such as butterflies.

Fallen leaves are a welcome resource. Add them to compost heaps, compost them alone to turn them into leafmould, or pile them thickly over tender perennials to protect them over winter.

10. Keep Records

Good gardeners make lots of mistakes, but they learn from them! By keeping track of when, where and what you grew and noting any pests, diseases or failures, you can build up a personal record of what works best for you and your garden.

Take advantage of our free online Garden Journal, which makes record keeping easy. Take photos outside on the go, then upload them with your written notes. Record when you planted, watered and tended your crops, get to the bottom of problems, and see how much you’ve harvested.

These tips are our recommendations, but of course everyone has a different opinion based on their own experiences. So if you’re not so new to gardening, what advice would you give to beginners? Let us know by commenting below, or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Growing soft fruits for Beginners

March 1st, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

In a few weeks fruit bushes will be bursting into leaf, ready to start a new season of delicious abundance.

Many soft fruits are both heavy cropping and surprisingly easy to grow; and when you consider how much it costs to buy them in the shop, there is every reason to grow them!

If you have never tried growing fruits before, watch this video, it will show you how to grow soft fruits for beginners.

Mr-Fothergills-growing-soft-fruits-for-beginners-strawberries

Strawberries

With so many varieties you could be picking fruits from spring all the way through to autumn.

Strawberries will crop the first summer of the planting, and because they aren’t woody plants, the only pruning they need is pruning back the leaves after fruiting.

Fruits that lie on bare sole can rot, you can protect them by laying straw around them when they begin to flower. You can even enjoy a late crop of strawberries by protecting them with row covers or cloches.

 

Raspberries

There are two types of raspberries: summer fruiting and autumn fruiting or fall bearing .  Autumn fruiting raspberries are the easiest to grow because they only need minimal support to stop them flopping over. Pruning couldn’t be easier too. Simply cut back on the old canes in late winter, ready for new canes to replace them in spring. Autumn fruiting raspberries produces a steady supply of berries from late summer to the first frosts.

 

Blackberries and Hybrid Berries

Most modern varieties are thornless and their fruits tend to be bigger and sweeter than their wilder counterparts. The canes are vigorous and generally trouble-free. Simply tie them to support to maintain order and cut out old canes to encourage new growth.

Hybrid berries such as boysenberry or tayberry are the result of a cross between the blackberry and other cane fruits; often raspberry or another hybrid. The result are tasty berries, all easy to grow and all juicy and delicious.

 

Mr-Fothergills-growing-soft-fruits-for-beginners-currantsCurrants

With red, white and black currant to choose from you’re immediately spoilt for choice. All currants crop well, producing heavily laid in clusters or streaks of currant to eat fresh, use into sauces or turn into jam or jelly. They also go wonderfully with apples in pies!

Red and white currants prefer cooler climates and will even grow well in shade. If you got a sweet tooth, opt for white currants. Which tend to be a little sweeter than reds.

Blackcurrants require very little care. They even crop when neglected; But prune them in winter to remove some of the older branches, and you will encourage a lot of new, healthy growth and plenty of fruits.

 

Gooseberries

They are near to indestructible and will strive in any soil, though it prefers cooler climates and some shelter from the wind. You can choose between culinary varieties and desert varieties.

Gooseberries will produce their fruits even when neglected, but if you show some care by feeding, pruning and mulching, you will have many fruits to enjoy every summer.

They have been some restrictions for growing gooseberries and currants in the United States. The reason is that they served as intermediary host for the white pine blister rust disease, which is fatale to white pines. Thankfully, modern breedings created varieties resistant to the disease and restrictions have been lifted in most states. However, there are still some restrictions in some area, so make sure to check the situation where you live before planting.

 

General care

Generally, soft fruits require less space than trees, and are quicker to reach maturity, so you won’t have to wait long before your first pickings. Container growing soft fruits can be planted at any time of year, while bare root fruits are best planted from late Winter to early spring; or in milder climates from autumn onwards.

Keep your soft fruits striving by watering thoroughly once a week in dry weather, especially in the first year.

In spring, top up with mulch, such as compost, to help feed the plants, while improving soil structure. Lay it at least a couple of inches or 5cm thick, taking care to keep it clear of the canes or trunks of the plant.

You may find birds like your fruits as much as you do. Netting or a walk-in fruit cage will keep them off.

While soft fruits are delicious eaten fresh, most currants and berries can also easily be frozen or dried, to enjoy later in the year.

 

 

These are just a few tips and ideas to help you grow soft fruits for the first time. If you are already growing fruits let us know which ones in the comments below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page and tell us what you would recomend for beginners.