Posts Tagged ‘gardening tips’

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

How to plan a low maintenance garden?

April 18th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

For many of us, a low maintenance garden is a must. But don’t worry, low maintenance doesn’t have to mean bland or a garden completely paved over! Growing a gorgeous garden, which is easy to look after, simply requires a little bit of forward planning.

 

Mr Fothergills gardening advice on how to create a Low Maintenance gardenSimplify your Lawn

Small, awkward shapes of lawn take longer to mown. Simplify things by straightening or smoothing edges. Lawns with hard edges are easier to mow with a wheel mower and leave clippings on the grass. No need to dispose of them and they’ll feed the lawn too.

Even better, is to replace out of the way areas of lawn with beautiful wild flower meadows, which only need trimming occasionally. Opt for a native wild flower mix suitable to your local conditions.

 

Plan an Efficient Garden Layout

Keep the shapes of borders and beds straight or gently curved. Raised beds clearly delineate vegetable and herb drain areas and can help to bring the growing area closer to the gardener so they’re easier to tend. Bring elements of the garden that require more maintenance closer to where you’ll access them, or closer to your tool shed, so you don’t have to carry your equipment to far.

You can also replace narrow winding paths, with wider and straighter paths.

Remember that thirsty plants need regular watering, so grow for example salad leaves closer to a water outlet. If you have little time to water, consider installing an automatic irrigation system. Pots can require a lot of maintenance, so consider grouping containers together, or using fewer larger pots slows the rate to which they dry out while making watering much quicker.

 

Low-Maintenance Crops

If you are looking to save time, then grow bigger vegetables that don’t need regular maintenance. For example, pumpkin and winter squash need little more than occasional watering once they are planted; while a block of corn will outgrow any weeds and can normally be left to its own device until its harvest time.Growing-pumpkins-in-your-easy-maintenance-garden

For easy growing leaves; try chard and perpetual spinach, which will give a steady supply of leaves with little fuss. If picked regularly continuing for anything up to a year.

Soft fruits like currants or autumn fruiting raspberries are a great choice for a low maintenance garden; because once they are, they’ll only need pruning once a year.

Similarly, free standing fruit trees such as apples and pears, need minimal pruning and will give years of service in return.

 

Easy-care Garden Plants

Trees and shrubs tend to be lower maintenance choices in most gardens. Pick one suited to your soil and climate as they are more likely to thrive without any special care. Common easy care shrubs include Euonymus, berberis, magnolia, and hardy herbs such as lavender. Many grasses require cutting back just once a year, for example miscanthus; while ground covering perennials like begonia or geranium will leave little room for weeds.

Don’t forget bulbs too. Many of which will naturalise and pretty much look after themselves.

Keep on top of weeds with thick mulches of organic materials such as bark chippings, which will help to feed the soil and the plants growing in it as they gradually rot down.

 

 

These are just a few tips and ideas to help you create an easy maintenance garden. If you have any additonal tips on how to make life easy in the garden, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page and tell us what you would recomend.