Posts Tagged ‘spring gardening’

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.

What to do in the garden in May

April 30th, 2015 | Garden Diaries, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | Comments Off on What to do in the garden in May

April on the whole has been warm and sunny, and at times positively hot!  There have also been the opposite extremes with frosts still being a regular feature of early mornings, and so it has been a confusing time for young plants.

The very warm days coupled with a regular watering routine means that everything seems to be growing rapidly; we can almost see some plants getting bigger in front of our eyes!  With luck we may be able to wave goodbye to the frosts soon, but we can never be really sure until the last week of May, so at the trials field in Kentford, we are still keeping tender flowers and vegetables under wraps for some of the time.  We are lucky enough to have been able to install a new polytunnel at the trials field which is a great addition to our trials team’s growing space and helps us keep young plants and seedlings warm through the frosty mornings.

So, what do you need to do in the garden in May?


Jobs in the flower garden in May

Canterbury Bell Seeds from Mr Fothergill'sSo as May begins, it is time to start the process of hardening-off half-hardy annuals and perennials ready for your summer displays.  All this means is gradually accustoming them to outside conditions before planting them out to their flowering positions later in the month.  To begin with, take them from the greenhouse or cold frame for a few hours a day, returning them at night and protecting them with fleece or newspaper if frost is forecast.  Then they can be left outside all day for a week or two, again returning them under cover at night, before leaving them out night and day for a week or so until they are acclimatised enough to be planted out.  They should then grow away with the minimum check to their systems.

Once the weather warms up a little more, half-hardy flowers destined for bedding schemes, borders, hanging baskets and other containers can begin to be ‘hardened off’ or become gradually accustomed to outside conditions before being set out to their flowering positions.  To begin with, take them out of the greenhouse on warm days and place them somewhere sheltered, returning them to the greenhouse at night.  After a week or so, start to leave them out overnight, as long as frost is not forecast, taking them back into the greenhouse if this is the case.

By the end of May they should be outside virtually all the time, although local conditions will vary around the UK.  Most half-hardies can be planted out in late May and early June to provide you with a wealth of colour right through the summer until the frosts return in the autumn.

sweet peasIf you have not already done so, plant out sweet peas either from an autumn sowing or ones made earlier this year.  They require the same support system of canes and netting or ‘wigwams’ as runner beans do and they are just as easy to grow, being naturally self-climbing and self-clinging.   They may, however, require a little encouragement in the earlier stages of growth, so be prepared to tie them in for the first few inches.  Keep a look-out for slugs around newly planted sweet peas, and keep them well watered at all stages of their growth.

If you fancy growing some really long stemmed and large flowered blooms, why not try growing a few plants as cordons?  This is really no more difficult than training indeterminate, greenhouse tomatoes.  Train just the strongest stem up a single cane, removing the weaker ones.  Remove tendrils and side-shoots as they appear and tie in the stem to the cane as it grows.  It’s a little harder work than growing them as ‘bushes’, but you may be impressed buy the quality of the blooms you produce.

Don’t forget we are holding our annual national sweet pea competition again at Capel Manor College, north London, on Saturday, 18 July.   It is open solely to ‘ordinary’ gardeners, plus classes for schools and individual youngsters.  There are big money prizes up for grabs, so growing sweet peas can be rewarding in more ways than one!  If you cannot make it to Capel Manor, we have a great way of making sure blooms reach us safely by post – all it takes is a two-litre soft drink bottle!  Full details of how to do it are here.

Helenium seeds from Mr Fothergill'sAs forget-me-nots finish flowering, you may wish to pull them up, as they self-seed very freely.  Alternatively, if you are happy to have ‘volunteer’ plants popping up throughout the garden to flower next spring, leave them a little while longer to let the ripe seed disperse before removing the spent plants. Looking ahead to next year’s forget-me-nots and other biennials, May is the ideal time to make sowings of these.  Wallflowers, Canterbury bells, foxgloves and Sweet Williams can all be sown now.  Sow in trays or in the open in a seed bed, although wallflower does much better if sown in a seed bed, as tray-grown plants do not thrive.  Plant them out to their flowering positions in the autumn and forget about them until they burst into life and flower next spring and early summer.

Have you heard of the ‘Chelsea chop’?  It’s less painful than it sounds and is a  technique used to promote better flowering in some perennials.  By cutting back border plants such as helenium, echinacea, solidago and a host of other perennials to about half their size, they will branch out, make bushier growth and produce more flowers than if you had left them to grow unchecked.  This procedure is best carried out with a pair of secateurs in late May, around the time of the Chelsea Flower Show, which serves as a timely reminder.

Spring-flowering species of clematis such as Clematis armandii, alpina and montana can be pruned back now that flowering has finished.

Once you have weeded round roses and perennials and the soil is damp, this is the perfect time to give the plants a 3-4in deep mulch of well rotted farmyard manure, home-made compost or composted bark.  This will help trap the moisture in the soil, suppress weed growth  and improve the structure of your soil as it is gradually taken down by worms.  We believe mulching is one of the most valuable actions you can do in the garden, but

What to do in the garden in April

March 31st, 2015 | Garden Diaries, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

As we wave goodbye to March and welcome in April we can finally start to see the growing year unfold rapidly ahead of us after patiently waiting for the busiest time of the year in the garden.  So without further ado, here is what you must do!


Jobs in the flower garden in April

Zinnias from Mr Fothergill'sIf you have not already done so, make sowings of seed of annual bedding and container plants.  We covered the subject last month, but there is still time for flowers such as French and African marigolds, dahlias, zinnias and petunias.  Sow these now and you will have a riot of colour in your borders and patio pots from June right through to the autumn.

Petunias from Mr Fothergill'sAs the soil warms up (well, we hope it will!) and begins to dry out a little, direct sowings of seed of hardy annuals can be made in their flowering positions.  This is just about the easiest way to have some splashes of colour this summer, as most will start to bloom just a few weeks after sowing.  Virginian and night scented stock are about the fastest of all hardy annuals to burst into flower, so are great subjects to sow with children, who will not want to wait long to see the results of their work.
There are plenty of easy-to-grow hardy annuals in our range, including cornflower, godetia, nasturtium, linaria, candytuft and nigella (love-in-a-mist).  If you are unsure of which to grow, sow our Mixed Annuals or Mixed Californian Wildflowers.  Remember sweet peas are also hardy annuals, so they too can be sown direct this month, requiring only the same support as you would use for runner beans.  When they start blooming, keep cutting the flowers to encourage more to be produced.

mixed annuals

Towards the end of the month summer-flowering bulbs, tubers and corms can also be planted in borders where you want them to flower.  Dahlias and gladioli are some of our favourites, but cannas also look stunning and bring a really tropical touch to any garden.

As spring-flowering bulbs’ flowers fade, remove the dead heads, but let the foliage die back and turn yellow to allow energy to pass back into the bulbs underground.

Roses will benefit from feeding with a good quality general fertiliser or one formulated specially for them to give them a boost ahead of flowering.  The same goes for perennials in your borders.  The winter rains will have depleted nutrients in the soil, particularly on light, free-draining land.

Prune spring-flowering shrubs such as Ribes (flowering currant) and Forsythia when they have finished  flowering.  If you have Cornus (dogwood) it usually needs cutting back, as the colourful winter stems are produced only on young growth.  Cornus alba and sericea can both be cut back hard to within a few inches of the ground, while Cornus sanguinea is not as vigorous as those, so only needs to be cut back by a half to two thirds of its present growth.

Now is a good time to divide and replant hostas.  Lift plants carefully with a spade and divide up the clump with an old serrated knife, making sure each section has both fibrous and fleshy roots.  Replant, taking care not to do so too deeply.  The crown of the plant should be just at ground level.  Water the new plants in well and remember to watch out for slugs, which are particularly fond of hostas.


Jobs in the vegetable garden in April

April is the best month to plant maincrop potatoes.  Where space permits, they should be planted 16-18in apart with about 24in between rows.  Earth up the foliage as it develops to prevent damage from late frosts, which will cut back their development.  Many of our customers now grow potatoes in pots, and good crops can be achieved with this method.  Use a 12-15 litre pot for each tuber.  Add compost to a quarter the depth of the pot, plant one tuber, cover it to  about half way with more compost.  Keep the port watered and keep adding more compost as the foliage shows through until the compost is almost to the top of the pot.  The potatoes you produce in pots will usually be of the highest quality and blemish-free.

Savoy cabbage from Mr FothergillsThis is perhaps the busiest month of the year for sowing vegetable seed direct in the garden or on the allotment.  There is a huge range which can be sown during April, but do be guided by the prevailing weather and soil conditions.  If your soil remains cold and very wet, delay sowing until conditions become more favourable  Seed sown in cold, wet soil will often rot before it has a chance to germinate, while a delayed sowing will produce young plants which soon make up for lost time.  If you really cannot wait to sow, try broad beans as they can withstand poor conditions better than most other vegetable seeds.

Herb seed such as coriander, chervil, parsley and dill can also be sown direct in the garden.  If you grow coriander specially for adding to Asian dishes, do try Cilantro, which produces masses of large leaves and is slow to run to seed, which can sometimes be a problem with coriander.  While most of us grow the curly-leaved parsley, the Italian flat-leaf type, such as our organically-grown Giant of Italy, has a stronger flavour and is great added to soups and to many other dishes.  Basil is hugely popular in the UK, but it is tender, so best to sow indoors in pots at present before transplanting outdoors in a few weeks time.

CorianderAutumn- and winter-cropping brassicas such as savoy cabbage, Brussels sprouts and curly kale can be sown either in a seed bed in the garden or in trays of compost in the greenhouse or cold frame.  This should produce plenty of young plants for setting out in summer.

Later in the month you may wish to make an indoor sowing of French and runner beans, although it is far too early to sow these direct because they too are frost-tender.  Sow the seed individually in small pots of compost and leave them in an unheated greenhouse.  When frosts are forecast, cover the seedlings with horticultural fleece or a layer or two of newspaper.  Harden the young plants off gradually before planting out to their cropping positions at the end of May.

Monte cristo beanIf you have never grown climbing (as opposed to runner) beans before, please take a look at Climbing Bean Monte Cristo.  As easy to grow as ‘runners’, it is a very heavy cropper, producing stringless, pencil-podded beans, which are fleshy and full of flavour.  The plants have the advantage of resistance to most common diseases, so remain healthy.  Well worth growing, in our opinion!

There is still time to plant onion sets, but it is best done sooner rather than later.  Most varieties can be planted about 4in apart, allowing about 9-12in between rows.  Just leave the very tip of each set visible above the soil and keep a look-out for birds pulling them out before have a chance to grow.




Top performing Stellar Geraniums

February 26th, 2015 | News, The flower garden | 0 Comments

Geranium Grandad Mac

Stellar geraniums (Pelargonium) have their origins in Australia, with some varieties being bred more than a century ago.  Mr Fothergill’s has been trialling several varieties which are not often seen and rarely available, in conjunction with a local  grower, and has selected three of the best performers for British gardens.

The fascinating series comprises the semi-double, coral coloured Grandad Mac, the double, pale pink Rookley and Robyn Hannah, which has bright cherry red blooms, each with a contrasting white eye.  “The plants grow up to 40cm (16in), and are ideal for baskets and other containers either in sun or partial shade.  They really are fantastic performers all summer long, and we are delighted to offer them to our customers,” explains Mr Fothergill’s Tom Stimpson.

Stellar geraniums are characterised by their unique, lobed foliage and brightly coloured flowers, they are excellent garden performers, providing colour from early to late summer, have excellent disease resistance, are easy to grow and require the minimum of attention to give their best – the perfect plants, according to Tom.

Three plants of any of the three varieties costs £7.95, while anyone ordering all nine plants may do so for £16.85.  Last order date for Stellar geraniums is the end of April 2015, with despatch from early May 2015.

Social media voters pick Fuchsia Amelie for Mr Fothergill’s catalogue front cover

February 25th, 2015 | News, The flower garden | 0 Comments

Fuchsia Shadowdancer Amelie (close-up)

When Mr Fothergill’s was undecided which new flower variety to feature on the front cover of the new spring edition of its seed, plant and bulb catalogue, it decided to ask gardeners via social media.  The four choices were posted on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, with votes cast on Facebook.  In a closely run contest, the winner was fuchsia Amelie, which is part of the Sundancer® series, famed for its neat, compact habit and outstanding garden performance.

Mr Fothergill’s Tom Stimpson comments that although not a brand new series, Sundancers® are not readily available and make a pleasing change from some of the more common varieties.  “They are incredibly floriferous, in fact some of the most profuse bloomers I’ve seen, with plants smothered in attractive blooms from early to late summer. The frilly, light pink sepals contrast wonderfully with the intense purple corolla to create a fantastic summer-long show,” he says.  “We’ve trialled them for several years, and Amelie is the best in the series.  Its neat, upright, yet somewhat lax habit makes it suitable for both patio containers or as a centre plant for a hanging basket – the flowers are well displayed on the plant too, so all of them are clearly visible – no hiding behind the foliage!”

Fuchsia Amelie grows to a height of 30cm (12in) and has a spread of 25cm (10in).  A pack of five young plants costs £8.95, but two packs may be ordered for just £6.45 per pack, with a saving of £5.00.  The company can accept orders until the end of April 2015, with despatch from late April onwards

You can view and order from our extensive range of fuchsia plants from Mr Fothergill’s on the website, or by mail order from our catalogue.