Posts Tagged ‘garlic’

Nation of Gardeners results: Garlic Solent Wight pot grown

April 22nd, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Garlic Solent WightGarlic Solent Wight produces very large bulbs and is a softneck variety which makes them better for storage.  All of Mr Fothergill’s garlic is grown on the Isle of Wight in the traditional way, and though most people plant into open ground, they can also be grown in pots on the patio.

Our Nation of Gardeners were originally asked to plant Garlic Solent Wight 1″ deep in October 2013 to test autumn sowing against spring sowing.  In February 2014 our gardeners were asked to plant out another batch of Garlic Solent Wight as a comparative trial against the October sown bulbs.  And then finally in March 2014, they were asked to plant out 3 pot grown garlic plants to test if the plants will bolt quicker if grown on by the Mr Fothergill’s nurserymen in this way.

The table below charts their progress.

Location Elevation Date planted Date first signs of growth Notes
Cheshire 49m 13 March 13 March Planted in open ground in west facing position.
Renfrewshire 28m 15 March Planted out in raised bed
North Devon 30-50m 17 March 24 March 23/03 – seem very settled, hard to spot first signs of growth as look so at home! Planted in raised bed with sout east facing aspect
Worcestershire 55m
Herefordshire 16 March 16 March Planted in raised bed on open site
Cumbria 90m
Ceredigion 131m 13 March In pots outdoors
Bristol 55m 13 March 14 March Planted in raised bed on open site
Suffolk 6m 13 March Planted in open ground
Hertfordshire 150m 23 March 23 March Planted in south facing window box
Surrey 58m 20 March 26 March Planted in raised bed south west facing
Pontypridd 157m 15 March 26 March Planted in open ground in south facing position. Look healthy not much happened but plants are now slightly taller 13/04/2014
Buckinghamshire 66m 13 March 13 March Planted in open ground
Guildford 56m
Gloucestershire 74m 13 March 13 March Planted out in greenhouse
Moray 30 March Planted into open ground
Derbyshire 241m 16 March 16 March Planted in open ground on south facing plot. Well established and look similar in height and development to autumn sown bulbs.

Autumn vs. Spring garlic – Mr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners investigates

April 8th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners | 0 Comments

Nation of Gardener's across the UKFor the past six months, 18 amateur gardeners across the country have been trialling seeds, plants and bulbs on behalf of Mr Fothergill’s Seeds as part of its Nation of Gardeners campaign.

The representatives, in each region of mainland UK, have received monthly parcels. They have been asked to plant the contents at approximately the same time as each other and to report back on their findings to show what grows best where, and when.

As well as garlic issued in autumn as well as in spring, the gardeners have so far received a plentiful list of broad beans, sweet peas, five different bare root perennials, a blackberry plant, strawberry runners, basil, coriander, four types of salad, peppers, antirrhinum, potatoes, six types of indoor and outdoor tomatoes, and two types of blackcurrant.

One of the key aims of the campaign is to carry out comparative trials of the same variety but at different times of the year. The gardeners have now carried out their first seasonal comparative test having received garlic bulbs in their October and February parcels, as well as some experimental pot-grown garlic in their March parcel. And the results have been fascinating.

Throughout most of the winter, the gardeners reported back about the speed, or lack of, of their October planted garlic cloves. Throughout March, however, there were regular exclamations of surprise as the spring planted cloves burst into life.

On average the first signs of growth for the autumn garlic took 57 days, whereas green shoots on the spring garlic were appearing after an average of 11 days – with the earliest coming through within just one week.

In mid March the garlic cloves in the Ceredigion garden that were planted in October stood at 28cm, whereas the February planted garlic was rapidly catching up and had reached 10cm.  The Staffordshire gardener’s autumn garlic took approximately three months to show life, but the garlic cloves planted at the beginning of February in this same garden took only 10 days.   Similarly, the representative in Renfrewshire was shocked to see her spring garlic coming through after just six days as her autumn garlic had taken two and a half months to show itself.

Commercial director of Mr Fothergill’s Seeds, Tim Jeffries, commented, “These are very interesting results and make the campaign come to life. We set out to see how planting at different times of the year would affect growth and this certainly shows that. The spring garlic really is a fast mover!”

Direct comparison of autumn sown and spring sown garlic

Nation of Gardeners February planting update: plenty of eating to be done with this month’s parcel

March 21st, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

With the January parcel having been sent out fairly late in January, it seemed that the February parcel arrived in next to no time.  In mid-February, the gardeners each received their fifth consignment from Mr Fothergill’s which once again had them utilising different gardening techniques to enable them to carry out their tasks.

Even though the weather across the UK was grim for much of February, there was still plenty for our gardeners to do to get growing under shelter.  February is a good time for sowing indoor tomatoes to get a head start on greenhouse-grown plants.  February (and March!) also gives gardeners a good chance to get last-minute soft fruit bushes into the ground.   And so, in this parcel were three varieties of tomato and two varieties of blackcurrants to trial.

Additionally, the first of the comparative trials came in the form of a second shipment of Garlic Solent Wight.  Last October the gardeners received Garlic Solent Wight for autumn planting and in this parcel they received the same variety for sowing in the Spring.

Throughout the wintry weeks that February served upon us, our gardeners made sure to keep on posting updates to the Facebook wall and to keep Twittering away on the hashtag #nationofgardeners giving great blow-by-blow accounts of what is happening, and where, around the country.


A round up of February’s planting tasks

Our Scottish gardener potted up her blackcurrant into a large pot.The parcel that arrived in mid-February was a fragrant one indeed!  Within the brown bag the smell that greeted our gardeners as they opened up their mystery parcels was divine.  Supplied in this shipment were two varieties of Blackcurrant for testing out comparatively for yield later in the year.

Modern blackcurrant breeding has produced two varieties which produce fruit more than double the size of standard types and are sweet enough to eat straight from the bush.  These varieties are called Big Ben and Ebony and so Mr Fothergill’s wanted to find out how the gardeners felt these varieties performed.  They wanted to know how they grow, but also whether they demonstrated good disease resistance.  Most importantly they would like to know how sweet the fruits are with an all-important taste test at fruiting time later in the year.

Our gardeners chose a variety of places to put their plants.  Though the supplied plants look small and relatively tame right now, they will grow up one day to be enormous beasts! Our Scottish gardener potted up her blackcurrant into a large pot – pictured here to the right. But many other gardeners chose to plant in open ground where the root balls will be able to develop to their full potential.  And so for this, they had to take care to choose a site that can eventually accommodate the full 3 or 4 foot canopy of the mature bushes.

By mid-March, many of these plants have started to wake up to Spring.  Small leaves are starting to emerge from the buds of many of the plants across the country as the pictures below show from our Scottish, Buckinghamshire and Cheshire gardeners.

Blackcurrants leaves emerging in March

February is good for sowing indoor tomatoes although in cooler parts of the country where winter is reluctant to leave, holding back on sowing tomatoes is wise.  For gardeners with a greenhouse, getting going early with tomato plants during February enables them to benefit from the lengthening days.  Given a warm summer like the one we experienced last year, gardeners with early sowings are rewarded with early crops – as long as they can maintain a good warm environment in which to grow their tomato plants.

For this task it seemed only natural to ask the Nation of Gardeners to grow  tomatoes.  But these aren’t common-or-garden tomatoes – the varieties they were asked to sow in February come in every colour except for red!

In February they sowed:

Tomatoes sown in February germinated quickly

Black Opal was selected for trial, and it is a tomato that is bred from the old variety ‘Black Cherry’ crossed with a modern variety with high sugar content in order to give it more flavour.  The flavour is supposed to improve during cooking and so Mr Fothergill’s wanted to find out what our group of gardeners thought of them.

Pink Charmer has been bred for the colour, which as the name implies, is pink!  But where a particular quality like colour has been bred into a variety, flavour is often lacking and so Mr Fothergill’s want our gardeners opinions yet again on a taste-test.

The third variety, Orange Slice, is a greenhouse-only variety that is still on trial by Mr Fothergill’s.   Just like the January issue of Pepper King of the North this is an unreleased variety, and so our gardeners are growing in tandem with the formal triallists at Mr Fothergill’s in the spacious trial grounds in Kentford.

Germination was good across the three types of tomato with it coming quickly for most using heat to bring on the seedlings.   The Orange Slice fell behind the other two varieties in terms of germination rates, with the seeds hitting the 66-80% mark.  Many of the gardeners also commented that the Orange Slice were ‘more puny’ than the other two varieties with our Ceredigion gardener commented that the root system looked much weaker too when she repotted them in March.  The pictures above show windowsill propagators being used by our Devon and Ceredigion gardeners to bring their tomatoes to life.  Heated propagators, heated greenhouses and pots on windowsills indoors were all used.

Along with the tomato seeds, the gardeners also received some more Garlic Solent Wight as part of a comparative trial against the same variety of garlic the gardeners put in during autumn 2013.  These spring bulbs will be observed for speed of ‘catch up’ with their autumn sown counterparts. Conventional wisdom says that autumn planting is better but our gardeners have found within days of planting out the bulbs were ready to go and off they shot!

This picture below shows a direct comparison of top growth on the autumn-sown versus the spring-sown garlic.  Whereas the autumn sown cloves took 8-12 weeks to show any signs of growth at all for many of our gardeners, the spring sown cloves were shooting with green top growth within days for some, and within 2 weeks for most.

The theory is that although spring-sown garlic catches up with it’s autumn-sown counterpart, the bulb development is held back due to the lack of dormant time in the ground over the main part of winter, and so the autumn-sown cloves will produce better bulbs when cropping in July comes along.  So we are able to test this theory thoroughly in this trial.

Direct comparison of autumn sown and spring sown garlic


October, November, December and January updates

Potatoes chittingThere is so much going on now that the weather is starting to warm up, that the following are just a few of the highlights from previous plantings.

The gardeners were each sent a pack of Potato Charlotte in order to test open ground planting versus patio planter growing of the tubers.   A patio planter was provided along with the potatoes in the January parcel and so all the gardeners got busy chitting during the colder weeks of the winter, with a few of the gardeners – Georgina in Cheshire, Gwynne in Morayshire and Max in Hertfordshire  – planting their potatoes out in early March.

The Snackbite and King of the North sown in January have shown some rapid progress with many gardeners having pricked out and potted on within a couple of weeks of sowing.  For our Suffolk gardener though, she has observed that her peppers and tomatoes have stopped growing all of a sudden.  Through discussion between the gardeners, there’s a consensus that watering style may be the problem.  Tomatoes and peppers like to be moist but not wet and so bottom watering or misting is the recommended method to keep them in shape.  Time will tell if our Suffolk gardener’s plants will come to life again, or if they are no longer viable.

Antirrhinums ready for pricking onThe Antirrhinum Purple Twist F1 has shown promising growth for many of the gardeners who successfully germinated them and brought them on. These seeds were supplied in a small phial and the seeds were microscopic.  They came along with the warning that germination can be erratic – and so our gardeners rolled up their sleeves to take on this challenge!  These seeds again are warmth loving and require a gentle heat of 15-20° Centigrade to germinate and survive. Our gardeners deftly managed to germinate these seeds pretty successfully, and as February came to a close, many were thinking of pricking out and growing the plants on individually.  Pictured here are the handsome plants brought on by our Renfrewshire gardener.

For many, the Blackberry Reuben has taken a real hit over the winter from the wind and the rain, with many specimens looking very bedraggled.  The question of whether to cut back or not to cut back is now a hot topic of discussion amongst the gardeners to see how they can renovate their plants back to the healthy looking specimens that were delivered in the autumn.

For those with great sweet pea plants sown in the autumn, the future of these plants is looking very bright indeed.  There’s lots of healthy top growth, and those that developed well enough to get pinched out are looking simply fantastic.  And so, with a promising set of blooms on the way, a number of our Nation of Gardeners members have gamely agreed to enter them for the upcoming Mr Fothergill’s 2014 Sweet Pea Competition at Capel Manor in July.  Will they grow some prize winning blooms? Who knows?  Watch this space!

To follow the results of our gardeners in more detail, take a look at our table of stats for each of the varieties:

February 2014′s planting

January 2014′s planting

December 2013′s planting

November 2013′s planting

October 2013′s planting

Looking forward into March

The gardeners have just received their latest package in mid-March including three types of tomato – Ferline F1, Sungold F1 and Sakura F1.  Also supplied were 3 pot-grown Garlic Solent Wight supplied as live plants, and a second sowing of Broad Bean Aguadulce that is to be grown in comparison with the autumn-sown seeds.  Also to be grown in comparison with their autumn-planted cousins are another issue of Strawberry Buddy and Strawberry Sweetheart.  Let’s hope the gardeners are fond of tomatoes, garlic, broad beans and strawberries!

Nation of Gardeners results: Garlic Solent Wight

March 21st, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Garlic Solent WightGarlic Solent Wight is a softneck variety that produces very large bulbs, making them better for storage.  All of Mr Fothergill’s garlic is grown on the Isle of Wight in the traditional way, and though most people plant into open ground, they can also be grown in pots on the patio.

Our Nation of Gardeners were asked to sow Garlic Solent Wight 1″ deep in February 2014 as a comparative trial against the autumn planting of the same variety.   The gardeners were asked to record details on the bulb development and size comparisons between the two planting dates.

The table below charts their progress.

Location Elevation Date planted Date first signs of growth Notes
Cheshire 49m 17 February 1 March Planted in open ground in West facing position. 4 degrees C at time of planting.
Renfrewshire 28m
North Devon 30-50m 16 February 24 March Planted in open ground in South East facing position. 4 degrees C at time of planting.  27 out of 29 cloves have sprouted.
Worcestershire 55m 8 March 15 March Planted in open ground in North facing position and also into pots in the greenhouse.
Derbyshire 39m
Cumbria 90m 15 February Planted in open ground. 6 degrees C at time of planting.
Ceredigion 131m 20 February 6 March Planted in bucket in South East facing position.  14 March: Garlic planted 12/10/2013 is 28cm, Garlic planted 20/02/2014 already 10cm
Bristol 55m 17 February 24 February Planted in open ground in South facing position.
Suffolk 6m 19 February 1 March Planted out to west facing part of garden
Hertfordshire 150m 3 March 14 March Planted outside in sunny position
Surrey 58m 23 February 7 March Planted out to south east facing part of garden in raised beds and in pots.
Pontypridd 157m 20 February 7 March Planted out to south facing part of garden.  Much quicker germination than the Autumn sown ones up in just over 2 weeks
Buckinghamshire 66m 15 February 27 February Planted to pots. 27 February: First green shoots. 9 March: transplanted to ground.
Guildford 56m 23 February c. 26/27 February Planted in raised beds.
Gloucestershire 74m 13 January
Derbyshire 241m 23 Feb first bulb, 1 March second bulb 11 March Planted in two batches next to each other on south facing slope.