Posts Tagged ‘Windowsill gardening’

5 Ideas to Help You Start Growing Earlier This Year [video]

January 16th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

 Sweet peas all in a rowAre ready to get gardening even though it feels a little soon?  Well, we are here to help. In this video, you can find some top tips to help you start growing earlier this year.  Growing earlier means cropping earlier and so every little tip and trick will help.

  • Some crops can be sown and grown directly in the ground if they are offered some protection. Late winter is the best time to do this as the soil will be warmer than the depths of winter, and the days are getting longer offering more light.
  • Cold frames can be used to great effect to start off some vegetable crops.  Even though the temperature inside is not balmy, the difference is just enough for a lot of the more hardy crops.  Cold frames also offer protection from snows and wind to overwintered plants too.
  • Cover soil a week or so before sowing your seeds, this will allow the soil to dry and warm up a little before sowing.
  • You can create mini greenhouses from recycled plastic bottles.  Popped over the top of young plants will assist with growth early on when the weather can still be quite sharp.  The video below gives you instructions for creating mini greenhouses – a great way to reduce, reuse and recycle!
  • Other early varieties can be planted into a greenhouse or polytunnel.  Sown in pots, seed trays or cells, young plants will grow slowly and steadily until it is time to plant them out.
  • Some seeds must be grown indoors if they are sown earlier, this allows them to germinate and they can be moved outdoors at a later date.
  • In winter, if plants are being grown indoors you can use grow lights to allow seedlings to get enough light to grow healthily.

These are just a few tips to start growing earlier, there are plenty more in the video below. As always, if you have any more suggestions on how to start growing earlier, do let us know and help your fellow gardeners!

 5 Ideas to Help You Start Growing Earlier This Year

 As noted in the video, onions and shallots are great vegetables to start growing early. You can find our selection of onion and shallots here. Happy early sowing!

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.

Nation of Gardeners January planting update: are our gardeners nurturing some winning blooms?

March 3rd, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners | 0 Comments

After the hectic schedule most of our gardeners kept during the festive period, Mr Fothergill’s decided to hold back the January parcel until mid-way through the month to give them a chance to catch their breath!

In January the gardeners were sent a mixed bag to test out for the Company.  Their parcel this month included two varieties of pepper and a new variety of Antirrhinum on offer for the first time in 2014.  Also, because January is the perfect time to source seed potatoes, the group were sent Potato Charlotte to begin chitting in preparation for growing on the potatoes later in the year.

And as the weather – that has been sodden but nevertheless seasonally mild – has turned more Spring-like in recent weeks there has been plenty of activity seen in lots of the previously dispatched parcels.  And so, our gardeners have had their hands full keeping on top of recording changes across a whole range of plants, and taking photos for posting updates to the Facebook wall.

 

A round up of January’s planting tasks

Potatoes chitting

The gardeners were each sent a pack of Potato Charlotte in order to test open ground planting versus patio planter growing of the tubers.  The gardeners will be asked to put half in the ground – using any method of planting of their choosing – and to plant the other half into patio planters that were provided to them in their parcel.

The decision on whether to chit or not has been left to the gardeners and the decision of *when* to plant their potatoes has also been left to them to decide based on their own local conditions and knowledge for their areas.

As the pictures here show, chitting in egg boxes and in food cartons, in garages, sheds and in porches is occupying cool and light spaces in each of our gardeners’ households as they attempt to develop shoots big enough to get their potato crops planted with a good head start.

Our Cheshire gardener also discovered that, hitherto unknown, rodents also share her garage.   She had left her potatoes chitting overnight only to discover them all mostly eaten one morning.  Happily Mr Fothergill’s rushed to provide her with another pack to help her catch back up with the other gardeners, and which she has promised to keep absolutely mouse-proofed this time!

Coming back indoors, the gardeners were asked to grow two varieties of pepper.  Mr Fothergill’s asked the gardeners to compare two seed varieties – Snackbite and King of the North.  This latter variety is not on general sale yet and so the Nation of Gardeners are testing this seed out in tandem with the formal trials that are taking place at Mr Fothergill’s headquarters in Kentford this year.

For this task, warmth was required to get the seeds to germinate.  Again, method of germination was left to the gardener’s individual experience.  It was suggested that this could either be provided by a propagator or a heated mat, or, if the warmth is sufficient enough indoors to achieve a consistent 15-18° Centigrade, then in pots covered with plastic bags.  Our gardeners chose a variety of methods, with the heated propagator method proving to be most efficient at bringing these seeds to life.

Peppers germinating

By sowing at the same time some direct comparisons have been drawn between the two varieties.  Many gardeners reported that the King of the North was the quickest to germinate, with gardeners in the Peak District and Bristol both reporting a uniform 24 hour gap between King of the North emerging and Snackbite following suit the next day.  However, it took up to a week for our Cheshire gardener’s Snackbite to emerge after the King of the North.  Conversely, in Devon and Worcestershire it was Snackbite that emerged first.  And so, on these peppers, it seems that opinion is divided.  How they grow on will be the next test for the performance of these seeds, with of course, days to cropping and abundance of crops being closely monitored for consistency.

We shall see as time unfolds how the gardeners plan to grow these peppers – whether as houseplants, in the greenhouse, or outside on the patio.  The seeds have the potential to grow in all these situations but the outcome of growing in a variety of situations will, no doubt, show some very different results.

And finally our gardeners were also asked to trial a new variety of snap dragon.  Antirrhinum Purple Twist F1 is being introduced for the first time in the Spring catalogue for 2014 and so Mr Fothergill’s were really keen to find out how the group would get along with these flowers when grown as bedding plants.

These seeds were supplied in a small phial and were microscopic in size, so were tricky to sow evenly.  They also came along with the warning that germination can be erratic!  These seeds again are warmth loving and require a gentle heat of 15-20° Centigrade to germinate and survive healthily.

Many of our gardeners deftly managed to germinate these seeds successfully,  although in Buckinghamshire and the Peak District the Antirrhinums collapsed after successful germination.  As February has drawn to a close, many who raised their seedlings successfully are thinking of pricking out and growing the plants on individually and so we will have to wait to see what glorious displays we get as summer arrives.

Antirhinums germinating

 

October, November and December updates

Garlic in Guildford in JanuaryThere is plenty happening in the gardens of our participants now and plenty to keep abreast of.  For almost all gardeners, the Garlic Solent Wight has made a strong appearance, with one gardener noting that her Mr Fothergill’s supplied garlic looks healthy and strong whereas garlic she bought from another source (she declined to reveal who!) have failed and that part of her vegetable plot is looking patchy.  This picture of our Guildford gardener’s garlic is typical of what we are now seeing across the country for garlic sown in the autumn.

Where the sweet peas are strong, the sweet peas are strong!  Otherwise, they are almost entirely decimated by rodents.  And so comparative pictures of sweet peas between participants is either a tale of feast or famine.  Although it is nothing new to learn that mice are attracted to freshly germinated peas, it is perhaps interesting to note that mice over winter seem to be much more hungry than in the spring and so where you might not have thought you had mice because you have never sowed ‘food’ for them before, you suddenly discover that the reverse is true.

Despite the failures for some gardeners with sweet peas, the pictures below show some strong plants that look ready to take on the summer once the weather is warm enough to plant them out.  It may even be that these plants will end up becoming winning blooms at the Mr Fothergill’s 2014 Sweet Pea Competition at Capel Manor in July.  Who knows?  Watch this space!

Sweet Peas in January and February

There is positive movement for many bare root perennials now too.  Papaver and Sedum are definitely showing signs of waking up for many gardeners with some pretty consistent performance from those plants.  Eryngium and Astrantia are looking healthy for some gardeners too, with some having kept their green leafy top growth throughout the winter ready to take on the new year.

Bare root perennials

Casualties are starting to tot up steadily too.  In Renfrewshire and the Peak District the storms of December took the Blackberry Reuben, which is otherwise performing outstandingly for all other gardeners.  In the Peak District, the broad beans that were doing very well there were decimated overnight by a rodent.

Damping off claimed multiple sowings of red leafed salads regardless of heat and protection for many gardeners.  Upon further investigation into this, it seems that red leaves are not usually advised in the commercial salad growing industry until the light improves later towards the spring.   Due to reduced levels of chlorophyll the small plants struggle to survive in low light levels and this has clearly been seen in effect for our gardeners.

The basil has also proved to be a challenging crop to grow.  Over December, January and February, gardeners in  Renfrewshire, the Peak District and Bristol have all experienced repeated failures to successfully raise basil.   Our Renfrewshire gardener finally succeeding with a third sowing of basil with some bottom heat applied, though this technique did not help for the other two participants even though they achieved successful germination.

Basil growing successfully in Suffolk

Our Suffolk gardener observed that her basil  had stopped developing over winter and so she decided to give them more heat by popping the pot back into the propagator in February.  As if by magic the plants have started to grow again (pictured here to the left), and so this is a small triumph with this seemingly very difficult crop!

And so the Nation of Gardeners has produced a mixed bag of results so far from the very diverse range of seeds, plants and bulbs from the Mr Fothergill’s range.  There is one thing for certain though, that all of the gardeners are having great fun with their experimentations and eagerly anticipate their next growing tasks.

 

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

January 2014′s planting

December 2013′s planting

November 2013′s planting

October 2013′s planting

 

The next parcel

The February package includes:

 

Nation of Gardeners results: Pepper Snackbite Mixed F1

March 3rd, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Pepper Snackbite Mixed F1Snackbite Mixed F1 is a pepper that grows as compact plants producing sweet fruits which are perfect for ‘snacking’ on as they contain very few seeds.   This pepper can be grown in large pots and placed in a sheltered patio area.

Our Nation of Gardeners were asked to sow Snackbite Mixed F1 in January 2014.   The gardeners were asked to record details such as when the first pepper was picked from date of sowing, number of peppers over the season, size of plant etc.  to check for any variations around the country.

The table below charts their progress.

Location Elevation Date planted Date first signs of growth Notes
Cheshire 49m 26 January 3 February The peppers showed 100% germination. 10 seedlings from 10 seeds. King of the North was the quickest to germinate but after a couple of weeks both look exactly the same.
Renfrewshire 28m 18 January 23 February Pot placed on heated propagator mat.  4 out 5 seeds germinated.  As of 23/2/14 seedlings around 1.5 inches tall so transplanted to individual 7cm pots
North Devon 30-50m 22 January 6 February Sown on South East facing windowsill – no added heat source.  17/02 still only 2 seedlings showing.  24/02 3rd seedling showing, placed onto radiator for evening warmth and windowsill by day.  14/3/14 – potted onto larger pot for fresh compost and more growth – still slow but steady growth
Worcestershire 55m 27 January 19 February Sown in unheated windowsill propagator on East facing windowsill.  2 seedlings appeared by 19/2
Derbyshire 39m
Cumbria 90m
Ceredigion 131m 17 January 9 February Sown outside at 13C in caravan. Very slow to start.
Bristol 55m 30 January 7 February Sown in south facing room.
Suffolk 6m 21 January 28 January Pricked out 1 March.
Hertfordshire 150m 19 January 9 March Sown into West facing room.
Surrey 58m 26 January 2 February Sown into soil at 17c, room 16c. 20 February: 10 seedlings healthy and strong. 23 February: transplanted to larger pots
Pontypridd 157m 27 January 3 February 100% germination.  23 February: transplanted before true leaves formed as were getting leggy.
Buckinghamshire 66m 22 January 27 January Sown into West facing room. 4 out of 5 germinated.
Guildford 56m 28 January Sown on window sill in utility room. Slow to germinate but once appeared are very strong. KOTN quickest but both at the same stage by 4 March. 5 out of 6 germinated
Gloucestershire 74m 13 January Sown on south facing windowsill
Moray Elected not to sow
Derbyshire 241m 19 January 25 January Sown into South facing room in heated propagator. Looking strong.  100% germination. 8 March: potted on into individual pots. 2 true leaves showing.  21 March: 4 true leaves showing. 22 April: all strong and approximately 4 inches high

Using grow lights for healthier seedlings

January 27th, 2014 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

As our Nation of Gardeners have been finding with their growing task from December, seedlings sown at this time of year can suffer from a lack of sufficient light during the day.

This video gives a guide on how to use standard grow lights to best effect to raise seedlings in the darker winter months.  It also gives a good overview of crops and seedlings that are appropriate for growing under grow lights – and when certain crops need to be held back until the Spring gets closer.

It’s not worth using a grow light for crops such as beets, radishes, parsnips and carrots since they don’t transplant very well.   Lettuce, spinach and chard and crops such as sweetcorn, peas and beans are also better left until conditions outside are suitable for sowing.

Grow lights are great for getting crops such as tomatoes, squash, peppers, chilllis and melons however as these plants need a long growing season to develop and so it is a good way to get a good head start.