Posts Tagged ‘vegetable seeds’

Fascinating Facts And Figures About Spinach

July 1st, 2016 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Spinach seedlings

Generations of children will remember  the cartoon character Popeye the sailor man and his large, muscular arms which he fortified by eating tins of spinach. This gave rise to the belief that spinach was a ‘superfood’ because the very high levels of iron it contained helped make the body stronger. While spinach does have a good level of iron, its reputation is based on a mistake made accidentally by a German chemist in 1870. Erich von Wolff analysed spinach, but put his decimal point in the wrong place. He noted spinach contained 35mg of iron per 100gm serving, whereas it was later found to contain just 3.5mg per 100gm serving. More recently, some opinion believes von Wolff did not make such a mistake, but it all still makes for an entertaining story.

We still believe spinach helps to increase our vitality and boost the quality of our blood thanks to its good level of iron. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, K and folic acid, plus a good source of manganese, magnesium and vitamin B2. Vitamin K is important for maintaining bone health, and few vegetables are richer in this than spinach is.

We cannot be sure of it’s origins, but it is highly likely it is a native of Persia – modern day Iran and its neighbours. From there it spread to India and China, where it became known as ‘Persian vegetable’ or ‘Persian green’, by which name it is still known today. It also spread westward to Europe, developing a reputation for promoting good health as it did so.

When spinach reached Provence, it became a very popular, widely used vegetable. In the 17th century the English philosopher John Locke reported having eaten spinach and herb soup in his travels in south west France.

Dishes including spinach and a creamy sauce are often referred to as ‘Florentine’. Catherine of Medici, who married King Henri II of France, is said to have introduced spinach to the French court and named dishes containing spinach ‘à la Florentine’ in honour of her Italian heritage.

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea), an annual grown for its edible leaves, is a member of the Amaranthaceae family. The English word ‘spinach’ dates from the 14th century. It does best in fertile soil which is both free-draining and moisture-retentive. Light, dry soils are best avoided, as these are likely to result in premature flowering and running to seed (bolting). Spinach needs plenty of nitrogen, responding well to top-dressings of a general purpose fertiliser or sulphate of ammonia. It tolerates light shade and because of its often-rapid growth it is suitable for catch-cropping and intercropping.

The sprawling perennial Tetragonia tetragonioides is known as New Zealand spinach, where it was found growing wild by Captain James Cook in 1770. It is also found in Tasmania and coastal areas of Australia.  Grown for its young shoots and leaves, it is drought-resistant and heat-tolerant . New Zealand spinach is an acceptable substitute for true spinach in hot dry conditions, where bolting is likely.

To browse all the spinach we have on offer at Mr Fothergill’s just follow these links to the spinach seeds section of our website

 

Royal Horticultural Society

 

This article was first published on the RHS website June 2016. 

Read more on the RHS website about growing spinach successfully.

Red Bodyguard – Taste the Tomato, Read the Book

February 11th, 2016 | News, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Ron Levin, author of The Red Bodyguard

A book written about the beneficial properties of the tomato has given its name to a new British-bred variety launched exclusively for the 2016 season by Suffolk seedsman Mr Fothergill’s. “The Red Bodyguard: The Amazing Health-promoting Properties of the Tomato” by Ron Levin is published in its third edition by IRIS (International)  Ltd.

Ron’s daughter-in-law Sarah Levin contacted Mr Fothergill’s to see if a new tomato might be named in honour of her father-on-law’s 90th birthday. Staff at the company read Ron’s book and liked the idea. Tomato Red Bodyguard F1 is the result of various crosses made by renowned breeder Simon Crawford using seed harvested from Mr Fothergill’s trial ground. The result is an indeterminate, early cropping, high yielding, new strain, with some resistance to late blight, which produces medium-sized, juicy, delicious and aromatic fruits.

“We have developed strong links with Simon through the years, and are delighted to have launched his excellent Red Bodyguard F1 for 2016, especially as this has been nominated internationally as the Year of the Tomato, which we shall be emphasising through our retail stockists”, says Mr Fothergill’s technical manager Alison Mulvaney.

Ron Levin, a Fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, was intrigued by the World Health Organisation’s promotion of eating portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and wondered whether some were better than others for human health. He read hundreds of studies on tomatoes, and the more he read the more he was convinced of the remarkable properties of the tomato. “The ripe red tomato is surely a health gift from Nature”, says Ron. It was this huge amount of research which spurred him to write “The Red Bodyguard” in the hope of making as many people as possible aware of it.

A packet of 10 seeds of tomato Red Bodyguard F1 costs £1.95. It is available from garden centres and other retail outlets throughout the UK, and from Mr Fothergill’s mail order catalogue.

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.

 

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Nation of Gardeners November planting update: fresh salads in the depths of winter

December 11th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners | 0 Comments

The winter truly made its presence felt in November with winds, rain, first frosts and generally colder temperatures for many of our Nation of Gardeners.  Most gardeners in our group experienced a hard frost in November with the UK-wide frosts that most residents of the country saw on 24/25 November.

Arrived parcel

For some of our gardeners this was not the first frost though, with the earliest frost being reported in the Peak District on 27 September and Buckinghamshire seeing first frosts on 5 October.   For the rest of our group, it was not until November arrived that they saw their first frosts with Pontypridd leading on 4 November and most of the rest of the gardeners reporting a first frost on 6 November.  Our Devon based gardener experienced no frost at all last winter, but finally was able to report a frost on 24 November.  This winter looks set already to be colder than the last.

November and December is always a quiet time in the year for growing as we enter the true depths of wintry short days, cold overnight temperatures and much reduced light levels.  However, these are perfect conditions for testing seed sowing to its limits!  And so that is what we have asked of our group in November.

 

A round up of November’s planting tasks

Winter Pak Choi - RenfrewshireLast year we asked our Nation of Gardeners to sow winter salads in the cold, dark days of December.  We saw some mixed results from these trials.  The low light levels caused problems for some of the herbs and salads sown – especially the sensitive varieties like basil, or the red salad leaves that needed much more light to develop.  Although some windowsill leaves did well last year, others showed a lack of healthy development of leaves, damping off issues and in the case of the basil, simply a lack of assured germination.

Interestingly for those gardeners who elected to sow salads under cover outside there were better results seen.  Salads sown into pots in coldframes germinated a lot more slowly than their indoor counterparts, but the leaf development was better than the ones sown onto windowsills indoors.

So this year we have brought this task forwards a month with some different varieties to see if we can push the boundaries a little and get better results by asking our gardeners to sow all the salads outdoors under cover.

lindsay_late-sown-salads_7dec2014In the parcel this month, our gardeners found several packets of salad leaves that we asked to be grown as ‘cut and come again’ crops under cloches or other protection over winter.

  • Pak Choi Colour & Crunch F1, which strictly speaking is less of a salad and more of a vegetable.  Although it can be eaten as salad, it can also be used like spinach as an accompaniment or it can be cooked in stir fries, soups and oriental noodle recipes.
  • Mesclun MixedMixed Spicy Salad Leaves and Mixed Mild Salad Leaves were all varieties sown last year indoors on windowsills in December.  Of the few Nation of Gardeners who also elected to sow outside under cloche protection, these did well and so they have been sown outside under cloche or coldframe this year too.
  • The Mixed Oriental Salad Leaves supplied can be used as baby leaves in salads.  More mature leaves can be cooked like Pak Choi.
  • Lettuce Winter Density is a hardy ‘cos’ type lettuce that will produce heads from March, but can also be grown as a cut and come again during winter.
  • And finally we supplied Lettuce Vailan (Winter Gem) – a ‘little gem’ type for greenhouse and cold frame growing.

Pontypridd Winter saladsEveryone sowed their seeds and many saw good germination very quickly for many of the varieties.  Pictured to the right above are the salads grown by our gardener in Devon who has not protected the seedlings yet in an open raised bed, and pictured to the left here in our Pontypridd’s gardener’s seedlings that emerged a week after sowing.

A range of methods were employed with some sowing straight outside to open ground or under cloches, into pots in coldframes and on windowsills to get germination going before transferring outside.  The Winter Lettuce varieties Vailan and Winter Density were slowest to germinate, and for some, showing no germination at all.  As the pictures below show of our gardeners’ sowings in Elgin, Renfrewshire and Cheshire, good germination was seen shortly after sowing.  Our Bristol gardener found that there was peril for her small seedlings however, as she caught birds in the act of pulling them up by their roots and flying off with them, and our Pontypridd gardener reports that something is eating the Vailan and Winter Density seedlings though it is leaving the other varieties alone.

Winter salads

Renfrewshire Woodland Strawberry

We also sent out an unnamed Woodland Strawberry that we received at Mr Fothergill’s from BBC Gardener’s Question Time’s Bob Flowerdew.  Though not a variety in commercial production, we wanted to find out more about these plants and how they performed. Each gardener received two of these plants to try out.

We don’t really know much about this strawberry and so this will be a voyage of discovery for us all!  We believe it to be an ever-bearer type which will crop from July to October (earlier in the south) and we also think it will perform in pots and containers as well as the open ground.   We asked our gardeners to plant the strawberries in a pot and give some winter protection so that we can monitor this variety and formulate an idea of its performance, fruiting habits and flavour next year.

 

October 2013 through to October 2014 updates

Godetia Pontypridd

There was certainly a lot to report earlier in the autumn, with flowers and harvest time crops keeping our gardeners busy.  As we have slipped into the colder months, there is a lot less vigorous growth being seen in the plants we are tending, and harvest time has drawn to a halt.

There are still splashes of colour to be found if you look carefully though such as this handsome Godetia that seems to be undiminished despite being hit by frosts in November.  This picture was taken on 2 December by our Pontypridd-based gardener.

Cheshire Antirrhinum Purple TwistOur Cheshire gardener also posted us this picture to the right of her Antirrhinum Purple Twist making a comeback in late November, long after she thought it might have exhausted itself.  Many of the gardeners have reported how well they think this plant has performed, giving a continuous display of blooms throughout the summer on tall flowering spikes.

The perennials supplied as bare roots in autumn 2013 have put themselves to their wintry beds during November and early December.  We have had some wonderful displays from the Papaver Place Pigalle, Eryngium, Sedum Xenox and Astrantia Moulin Rouge all summer.   Some plants have now faded away entirely such as the Cimicifuga, of which there is no trace once again, whilst plants such as the Sedum Xenox and the Astrantia Moulin Rouge (pictured below) have left their summer ghosts in flower beds that have a faded beauty in their own right.  The group now have to wait to see if these plants will return with even better displays next year.

Fading Astrantia

Our gardeners have been asked to sow winter salads in November, but they are also still munching their way through the leaves they were asked to sow in September.   The ones shown here in Cheshire to the right are still producing baby leaves at the end of November.  If this month’s winter salads grow well, there will be an almost continuous supply for our gardener’s kitchens this year!

Cheshire late sown salads

Of the other crops being grown by our group, the Pea Meteor planted out in October is having very variable results. Many of our gardeners have lost their plants entirely, whilst others still have a good proportion of the plants they put outside the previous month.  The winds the UK has been experiencing has made these surviving specimens look rather ragged, but they are still soldiering on.

In October 2013 we asked our group of gardeners to plant out garlic and broad beans for overwintering.  Some were so impressed by the performance of these varieties planted at that time of year that they have decided to do this for themselves again this year. So, not only do Mr Fothergill’s get to learn from the results by our gardening group, the gardeners themselves are receiving an enrichment to their usual gardening habits.

Mr Fothergill’s produce a world-first packaging design to help gardeners with companion planting

September 26th, 2014 | News, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill’s believes it is the only company in the world capable of filling two different types of seeds into a perforated twin pack of two discrete chambers – and it is putting its technology to good use for the 2014/15 season with the introduction of its Planting Companions range.

Planting Companions Twin packs of seedsThe company’s production director Jeremy Sharp says “The technical developments made in our machine seed filling process now means Mr Fothergill’s can combine 80 per cent of its seed varieties in any twin combination.  We have been working towards this goal of giving customers one package of Planting Companions varieties since we acquired the packing lines in 2012.”

The launch is based on the popularity of its Value Twin Packs for the 2013-14 season.  Planting Companions Twin Packs is a mini-range which pairs eight species known to work naturally together to reduce pests when growing close to each other, otherwise known in the gardening world as companion planting.  Mr Fothergill’s believes Planting Companions will prove popular with those gardeners who prefer to combat pests by natural means.  Each is priced at £2.75 per double packet.

The pairings are:

Mr Fothergill’s unique Planting Companions are available from retail outlets throughout the UK.