Posts Tagged ‘gardening tips’

10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

January 21st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

Harvesting more from your vegetable garden is a worthy ambition, but just what are the most effective ways to increase productivity? Healthy soil, careful planning, and defending your crops from pests, weeds and weather extremes is the answer, so let’s dig a little deeper.

Read on or watch the video for 10 proven ways to boost productivity in your vegetable garden this growing season.

1. Feed Your Soil

Deep, nutrient-rich soils encourage extensive root systems and strong plants, so nourish your soil with plenty of organic matter such as compost, manure, or leaf mould. Compost and leaf mould can be easily made at home for free, so compost everything you can and put a thriving composting setup at the heart of your garden.

The best time to add most organic matter is in winter, to give enough time for it to become incorporated into the ground before spring. Then, top up with more organic matter during the growing season, laying it 2-5cm (1-2 inches) thick around existing crops. This surface mulch will also help to slow moisture loss and suppress weeds, saving you time watering and weeding.

2. Feed Your Plants

Many plants will benefit from a further boost of organic fertiliser such as liquid seaweed concentrate.

Alternatively, grow a patch of comfrey – next to your compost bin is ideal – and make your own comfrey tea, a potent brew ideal for hungry plants like tomatoes. Cut leaves can also be laid around plants, or added to the compost heap where they will help to speed up decomposition.

 10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

3. Grow in Beds

Convert to a system of permanent beds and minimise wasted space while concentrating your resources. Beds may be accessed from all sides and plants can be grown in blocks which maximises productivity. And because you’ll add organic matter directly to the beds, there’s no wasting it on paths or other unproductive ground.

4. Choose Plants that Thrive

It may seem obvious, but growing what thrives in your soil and climate will result in stronger growth and bigger harvests. For example, warm climates are ideal for growing sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Or in cooler areas, opt for crops like chard and cabbage that can cope with the cold.

Choose varieties that have been bred to thrive in your climate. Early varieties are great for short growing seasons, while heat-tolerant varieties are a must for areas with scorching summer sun.

5. Grow More in the Shade

Increasing productivity means making the most of every space available to you – and that includes shadier areas. They’re great for leafy vegetables such as lettuce or Asian greens, slow growers including leeks and parsnip, plus hardy fruits like blackcurrants and gooseberries. You can use the Mr Fothergill’s Garden Planner to filter crop choices to show only those suitable for growing in the shade.

 10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

6. Collect More Rainwater

Rainwater is the best option for watering vegetables. Rainwater is softer, contains fewer contaminants and is at a pH that is preferred by most plants, encouraging better growth all round. So if you’re still using treated water to irrigate your crops, now’s the time to install additional water barrels and collect as much rainwater as you can. You can use a connector kit to join multiple barrels together.

 

7. Extend the Growing Season

Get familiar with your first and last frost dates, then plan to push your growing season further using plant protection. Cold frames, row covers and cloches enable sowing and planting to begin up to two weeks sooner, while harvests can continue a few weeks longer at the end of the season.

The Garden Planner demonstrates this beautifully. Add crop protection such as a cold frame to your plan. Then bring up the accompanying Plant List, which now displays earlier planting and later harvesting dates for the plants grown under protection.

A permanent structure such as a greenhouse opens up more possibilities, making it easy to enjoy an even earlier start to spring while affording just enough protection for winter-long cropping of, for example, hardy salads.

8. Space Plants Correctly

Be careful to leave enough space between plants – plant too close and your crops will fail to grow properly and be prone to disease, but plant too far apart and you won’t make the most of the space you have. The Garden Planner shows you exactly how many plants may be grown in the area available.

Excellent soil can help you to push the boundaries by growing vegetables a little closer than recommended. Square Foot Gardening takes this to the extreme, with plants spaced up to five times closer. Select the SFG option in the Garden Planner to design your own square foot beds. The planner shows you how many of the selected crop will fit into each square foot.

9. Pair Up Plants

10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

Some plants are mutually beneficial. Grown together they can help to increase overall productivity.

Companion planting takes many forms. For example, lofty corn can be used as a support for climbing beans, while lettuce grown in-between rows of carrot or onion helps to smother weeds while these slower growing crops establish. The Garden Planner takes care of companion planting too. Simply highlight a crop then select the Companion Planting option to display suitable partners in the selection bar.

10. Work to Prevent Pests

Take a preventative approach to pests to stop them in their tracks. For example, place barriers over susceptible plants to protect them from flying insect pests, or reduce a nuisance slug population by removing hiding places such as upturned pots or long grass in and around growing areas. Then every few weeks, head out when slugs are feeding in the evening to pick off and dispose of them by torchlight.

Make room for flowers in the vegetable garden too. Flowers like alyssum, calendula and poached egg plant don’t take up much space and will improve productivity by attracting predators such as hoverflies and ladybirds to control pests including aphids, mites and mealybugs.

Try some – preferably all – of these techniques for yourself and enjoy the boost in productivity you deserve! If you have any of your own tips and tricks for boosting yields in the vegetable garden, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

 

How to Save Seeds from Beans, Peppers, Onions and More

August 28th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

You’ve sown it, grown it and harvested it. But how can you take your vegetable growing one step further?

Easy: by saving your own seed from this year’s crops to sow next season.

When you come to think about it, saving seed is the ultimate in self-sufficiency; it’ll save you money and closes the loop on your growing but, above all, it’s delightfully satisfying.

Read on or watch the video to find out how to save those seeds.

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What to save

Some vegetables are easier to save seed from than others. Especially suitable candidates include peas and beans, tomatoes, peppers and lettuce, which can all be saved at the same time they are harvested or very soon afterwards.

Some biennial crops, such as onions, shallots, leeks, carrots, beetroot and chard are also worth saving, though you’ll need to overwinter a few plants from one season to flower and set seed the next.

What not to save

Avoid saving seeds from the cabbage family. These plants readily cross-pollinate with other members of the same family, so you’re unlikely to get what you hoped for.

The same goes for F1 hybrid which, because they are created from two separate parent varieties, simply won’t come true to type. For this reason, only ever save the seeds of traditional, open-pollinated varieties. F1 hybrids should include ‘F1’ in the variety name on the seed packet.

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Saving bean and pea seeds

Peas and beans are the easiest of the lot. As the end of the season approaches leave some pods to dry out on the plants. You’ll be able to see and feel the beans swelling within their pods. They’re ready to pick and collect when the pods themselves turn leathery or crisp to the touch.

You can get a lot of seeds from just a few plants, which makes saving these seeds very worthwhile indeed. Shell the pods to reveal the beans or peas inside, then discard any very small, misshapen or damaged seeds. Save only the best clean seeds. Spread them out onto newspaper to dry out on a warm windowsill for 7-10 days.

Fava beans, or broad beans, can cross-pollinate with other varieties, so only save seeds from these beans if you are growing just one variety.

Saving lettuce seeds

Lettuces produce literally thousands of seeds on each seed head. You may find you need to stake the plants as they stretch out to flower.

Once the plant displays its fluffy seed heads, pull it out of the ground and hang it upside down indoors to dry. After a few weeks like this the seed heads can be rubbed between the palms of your hands to coax the seeds free.

As with any vegetable, it’s important to choose the very best plants to collect seed from. This way you will actively select for those plants that perform the strongest and are best suited to the conditions in your garden.

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Saving pepper and tomato seeds

The seeds of tomatoes and peppers are ready when the fruits themselves are good for eating.

Wait until sweet peppers and chillies show their mature colour, then simply scrape away the seeds from the pith. Spread the seeds out on paper to dry out for a week or more before storing.

Before drying and storing tomato seeds, the pulp around them must first be removed. This isn’t difficult, but there is a specific process to do this correctly. See more on our blog for tips on how to do this.

Saving onion and leek seeds

Onions, leeks and shallots set seed in their second year. These plants cross-pollinate, so you’ll need to overwinter more than one plant of the same variety to flower the following season. The flowers are beautiful though, and provide welcome food for local bees and other pollinators.

The seed heads are ready once they have dried out and can be flaked off into a bag for cleaning and sorting. But if you need the space, you can hurry things along by cutting the heads a little earlier. First, check the seeds are ready by opening up a seed pod to observe the seeds inside. If the seeds are black, then you’re good to go.

Leave the seed heads to dry out in a warm, well-ventilated place, such as a greenhouse. Once they’ve turned a straw colour, simply rub the seed heads between your fingers to release the seeds.

How to store saved seeds

Dry seeds can be cleaned before storing by carefully blowing away any remaining chaff, or separating out the seeds through a series of screens or sieves.

Seeds should be stored in paper envelopes labelled with the variety and date.

Store them somewhere cool, dry and dark until you’re ready to sow in spring.

If you have any top tips for saving seeds, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Growing Cucumbers From Sowing to Harvest

June 11th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

If you are wondering if you should plant cucumber or not, the answer should be yes!

They are cucumber varieties suitable to be grown outdoors or in the greenhouse, so watch this video to find out how to grow your own cucumber.

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Where to grow cucumbers

Outdoor cucumbers also called ridge cucumbers will tolerate cooler climates.

Greenhouse cucumbers form smoother fruits but do need the extra warmth for success.

Some varieties will happily grow inside or out, pick a sunny, sheltered spot in the garden.

 

How to sow cucumbers

Sow cucumbers from mid-spring into small pots of seed starting or general potting mix. Sow 2 seeds about 1 inch/3cm deep and water well. To germinate cucumbers, need temperatures of at least 68⁰F/20⁰C; so place pots into a propagator for a speedier germination, or simply wait until later in Spring to get started.

Once the seedlings appear, remove the weakest to leave one per pot.

 

Greenhouse cucumbers

Greenhouse cucumbers can be planted into beds, large containers of potting soil, or growing bags. If using the latter, plant 2 cucumbers per bag into bottomless pots set on top of the growing bag. These will help to trap moisture every time you water instead of running off, over the surface.

Put in place support such as bamboo canes, vertical wires, strong netting or trellis. Train vines up their support, then pinch out the growing tips when they reach the top to encourage side-shoots. The side shoot should be pinched out after each developing fruit, to leave two leaves beyond each fruit.

 

Feeding

Feed plants every two weeks, with a liquid fertilizer, that’s high in potassium and keep these thirsty plants moist at all times.

 

Male and female flowers

Unless you are growing an all-female variety, remove the male flowers from greenhouse plants. This prevents bitter-tasting fruits. It’s easy to identify female flowers by the slight swelling of the embryonic fruit behind each bloom.

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Outdoor cucumbers

Outdoor cucumbers should be planted when the soil is warm, in late spring or early summer. Gradually acclimatise plants for a week or two beforehand. A cold frame is useful for this hardening off period.

In warmer climates you can sow seeds directly.

 

Soil requirements

Cucumbers prefer rich, fertile soil so dig in plenty of well-rotted organic matter, such as compost before planting.

If you are growing your cucumbers upwards using support such as trellis, set plants about 18in/45cm apart. Or if you are leaving them to grow over the soil surface instead, plant them about 3ft/90cm apart.

Pinch out the growing points after 6 leaves have formed to encourage plants to produce fruiting side shoots. Climbing plants might need tying to vertical supports, particularly as the heavy fruits start to develop.

 

Make a cucumber frame

Another option for outdoor cucumbers is a cucumber frame.

To make one, stretch wire or netting over a wooden frame and secure it into place using staples or U-shaped nails. Prop the frame up onto an A-frame of bamboo canes. The beauty of this type support is that leafy salads like lettuce may be grown underneath, to take advantage of the shade produced by the cucumbers. This is a clever solution for growing cools season crops in hot climates.

 

How to harvest cucumbers

Harvest cucumbers when they are still small and tender. Cut them free using a sharp knife or pruners. Pick often to encourage more fruits and if you can harvest in the morning while it’s still cool.

Gherkin varieties are picked very small, 1in/3cm long for crunchy cornichons or 3in/8cm long for larger pickles.

 

Cucumbers are always welcome, sliced into sandwiches or salads, pickled or dropped into soothing summer drinks; there are many ways to enjoy them.

 

 

These are just a few tips and ideas to help you grow your own cucumbers. If you would like to share any tips on how to grow your cucumbers or recipes with us, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

How to Build a Raised Bed?

April 30th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Spring is the perfect time of the year to start a raised bed. Here are some tips on how to build your own:

Prepare the Ground

  • Let’s start by laying cardboard over the area the new bed will occupy. This will help to clear all the grass and weeds beneath.
  • The first thing to do is to remove any staples and bits of tape that are left on the cardboard you are going to use, as they won’t decompose.
  • Then, spread your cardboard all over your growing area. This will stop the weeds and the grass growing through.
  • Lay bark chippings directly onto the cardboard to give a neat and tidy finish.
  • A good tip is to make the cardboard pieces overlap, so no weeds can creep through any gaps.
  • Once the ground covered you can start making your raised bed.

 

Make the Bed Sides

  • Measure and cut your wood planks to size. This will create the four walls of your raised bed, all of equal length.
  • Drill some pilot holes, this will make it easier to screw the walls together. 2 holes in each plank is sufficient.

 

Assemble the Raised Bed

  • The walls of the bed need to be laid out, so that each of the planks overlaps the next. With the pilot holes located at the overlapping end.
  • Use long screws to screw the walls together, so that each wall is properly secured to the next.

 

Fill your Raised Bed

  • To start, add a layer of compost to the bed. This will give a nutrient-rich, moister-attentive layer for the roots to grow down into.
  • Use a rich top soil for the second layer. Its finer texture will enable you to sow and plant immediately.
  • You can now sow and plant, enjoy!

 

 

These are just a few tips and ideas to help you create your own raised bed in your garden. If you are planning your own, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page and let us know your tips and what you are planting.

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.
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Carrot Resistafly F1 Seeds

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Carrot Autumn King 2 Seeds

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Carrot Harlequin F1 Seeds

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Carrot Royal Chantenay 3 Seedsw to