Posts Tagged ‘winter gardening’

December Gardening Advice

December 3rd, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

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The smell of pine, the taste of mulled wine, and the promise of a large gentleman in a red suit bearing gifts, means the festive season is once again upon us. Hard to think that we’re about to wave goodbye to another year. But what a year! The sun shined, the flowers bloomed and the crops flourished.

So, while we make merry with friends and family, it’s also the ideal time to find a quiet little nook, away from the usual television repeats, to reflect on this year in the garden and on the allotment. Think about your successes and failures, and how to improve things next year.

Browse through the seed catalogues, write your ‘wish lists’, and draw your blueprint for 2019. It’s never too early to plan ahead. Before you know it, the sun will be shining and the flowers blossoming.

In the flower garden

Plant up

Why not greet the festive season with an array of outdoor colour? Pansies, cyclamen and winter heathers can be bought in most nurseries, or ordered online. Plant up in containers, pots or hanging baskets, then place them around your front door and path to make a warm welcome for any guest or carol singer this season.

Prune

This is the time to prune wisteria. Cut back any growing side shoots to two or three buds, and tie-in. You might also need to improve the support structure of the plant for next spring. You should also prune and tie-in climbing roses. Any established stems shouldn’t be cutback to more than two thirds. Remove fallen leaves from site, as they could be harbouring blackspot, and that will only spread come spring.

Greenhouse

If you have plants in the greenhouse, then a heater might make all the difference on a cold night. If there is a snowfall, ensure all snow is removed from the greenhouse exterior, as plants growing inside will need all the warmth and light they can get. However, a warm greenhouse does increase the risk of pests and diseases, so regularly check all plants, pots and trays.

Root cuttings

Consider taking root cuttings from herbaceous perennials. This will increase your flower border supplies, and save you the expense of having to buy new plants next season.

Wreath

You can also save the pennies by making your own festive wreath. A homemade wreath looks great on a front door, all you need is a little patience and imagination. With secateurs, scissors, wire and string as your tools, take a foamed floral-ring as your foundation and soak it in a bucket of water for a few minutes before plugging it with cuttings. There’s plenty of stunning foliage and plants to use at this time of year, including holly, mistletoe, ivy, rosehips and pine cones. Any leftover cuttings can decorate a mantle or make a table display.

Structure

Now’s a great time to make repairs or build new garden structures. Whether it’s fences panels, pergolas, sheds or trellises, with plants pruned or tied back, you can see clearly where to install new structures, or make good on damaged ones. Once you’ve completed the structure, treat it with a wood preservative or give it a coat of paint.

Think about how you want your garden to look next year, and make the changes now. Lift, divide, and re-plant perennials and hedging. Inspect any established hedging for damage or disease, and remove.

Add new structure by introducing bare-root roses and hedging. But remember, plant in well, and give roses a thick mulch to protect them from winter weather.

Indoor sowing

If there isn’t a heat supply in your greenhouse or polytunnel, a warm conservatory or a well-lit window ledge might be the solution. Using a seed tray, seed compost and horticulture grit, you may want to think about sowing cyclamen or geranium. Ensure the seed is sparingly spread. Cover over lightly with a thin layer of compost or vermiculite and place in a tray semi-filled with water. This allows the water to seep into the soil from the bottom up, without disturbing the seeds.

On the veg patch

Leeks, carrots and parsnips

If you’ve been growing leeks, carrots or parsnips and hoping to enjoy them alongside your turkey on the big day, try to harvest them when the ground is not frozen, ideally in the afternoon. Once lifted they can be heeled in gently, and left until Christmas morning, or when you’re ready to use them.

Brussels sprouts

By now, your brussels sprouts should be swelling up nicely. To keep the plants at their best, remove the yellowing lower leaves. As the top of the plant is now a lot heavier, ensure they are staked in well, otherwise they make suffer wind rock, which could harm or kill the plant.

Structure

With most crops now lifted, the exposed view will reveal the structure of your allotment or kitchen garden. If you’re thinking of adding plots, paths or borders, now’s the time to carry out these tasks.

Christmas potatoes

After months of growing and topping up the soil, the big day is nearly here, and so are your spuds. Whether they’re in grow bags or sacks, tip them out into an empty wheelbarrow, and search through the soil for your golden treasure. With all potatoes removed, the leftover soil can be tipped into veg beds, and worked in.

Beans

If you want a bumper harvest of beans next year, select your plot and dig a trench. Over a period of time, fill the area with festive kitchen food waste (not meat or dairy). Once filled, mark the area, and backfill with soil. This will rot down, providing a rich growing bed for your young legume plants next season.

Fruits trees

Gooseberries, raspberries and currants will make a welcome addition to your garden or veg plot. Before planting bare-root plants, soak the roots in a bucket of water for half an hour. Dig the hole, adding compost (and grit if the soil is heavy) and plant in well. Water and mulch. If you’ve planted large plants, or plants that will take on vigorous growth in the spring, consider adding a support structure to the growing area.

Blueberries are another great plant to grow. When planting, remember these will need to be grown in ericaceous soil (which is acidic), and only water with rainwater.

If you have a fig tree, then wrap it in horticultural fleece. The colder weather could potentially damage the end branches of the tree, and hamper next season’s growth.

For apple and pear trees, prune now whilst they are dormant, removing any dead, damaged or diseased branches.

Other Jobs

Christmas is not just about the tree – hyacinths, indoor cyclamen and poinsettias can all join the party. If you haven’t had the opportunity to grow them from bulbs, they can easily be bought from nurseries or online.

As the weather becomes bitter, move indoor plants from draughty and open door areas. Keep away from radiators and sun spots. Check foliage regularly for mildew, yellowing or disease.

Continue to look after the garden wildlife. Ensure there is a fresh water supply for birds, and break up frozen water. Keep bird feeders and tables topped up.

Install a compost bin in your garden or allotment, or remember to turn over the contents of any established bins.

How to Prepare Your Garden Against Frost

November 5th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Temperatures have noticeably dropped over the past few weeks. The garden has gotten close to freezing on a number of occasions, so it’s safe to say the first frosts of winter will be with us any minute. Preparing the garden for the colder months ahead is a wise move to keep overwintering plants and your hard-working soil happy.

Read on or watch the video to discover simple, cost-effective ways to do just that.

Mulch Bare Soil

Leaving soil exposed risks depleting the beneficial life contained within it. Keep the likes of worms, bugs and fungi happy by laying organic matter over the surface before it gets too cold. A layer of  material such as well-rotted compost or manure, spread 1-2in (3-5cm) deep is thick enough to keep soil life fed while nourishing the soil itself, yet thin enough to enable hard frosts to penetrate the soil below, thereby helping to control overwintering pests.

Row Covers at the Ready

Keep row covers or horticultural fleece at the ready.

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Store it somewhere dry, ideally neatly rolled up and off the ground out of the way of vermin such as mice.

Dirty polythene covers should be washed down then dried so they’re ready to deploy.

When frost threatens, or if you simply want to extend your cropping period, the row covers can quickly be put into position, held down at the sides with stones, bricks or staples.

Homemade Protection

Don’t forget the many homemade options for cold weather protection. Clear plastic bottles, cut in half, are great for slipping over individual small plants, either outside or as an added layer of warmth inside the greenhouse.

Cold frames can be costly but it’s very easy to make your own. For example, one can be made by securing a rigid piece of polycarbonate onto a simple wooden frame, with hinges at the back to allow for the lid to be opened and closed – very simple, but very effective.

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Temporary Hoop Houses

Row covers may also be secured onto homemade hoops, making a handy hoop house. A way of achieving this is by using lengths of PVC water pipe secured onto lengths of rebar hammered into the ground and connected at the top by a central ridge of piping. It’s an effective way to keep winter hardy salads and vegetables safe from harsh weather.

 

Protecting Root Crops

Many root crops such as carrots and beetroot can be left in the ground until they’re needed. Some, like parsnips, actively improve with frost, becoming more tender and sweeter.

Lay a mulch of compost, straw, dried leaves or leaf mould about 6 inches (15cm) thick to help keep frosts at bay, but if the ground is likely to freeze solid for weeks on end, dig up your root crops to store them somewhere cool, dry and frost-free.

Protect Containers

In winter the biggest threat to containerised plants like herbs is wet. Persistently wet potting soil can freeze, turning lethal in cold weather. Make sure excess moisture can drain away by lifting up containers onto pot feet. You can use elegant purpose-sold pot feet, or just improvise with stones, for example.

Delicate containers can also crack if potting soil freezes solid and expands. You can stop this happening by wrapping pots up in bubble wrap, burlap or hessian, or look for pots sold as frost-resistant. Sensitive plants and pots can also be moved somewhere more sheltered – against the house for instance, or into a greenhouse.

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Warmer Greenhouse

Inside a greenhouse it makes more sense to protect individual plants rather than trying to heat up the entire structure. Wrap frost-sensitive plants up in row covers or fleece, or section off an area of the greenhouse and heat this smaller space instead.

Old polystyrene fish boxes are great for insulating smaller plants like winter salad leaves against the worst of the cold. Most already include drainage slots at the corners, so you can fill them with potting soil and plant directly – or just drop trays and pots into the boxes for a snug fit. Cover with fabric or plastic overnight for extra temporary protection on extra-cold nights.

Know Your Frost Date

Knowing when to expect your first frost is important for planning your frost protection. The GrowVeg Garden Planner uses your precise location to anticipate the date when this is likely to occur, so you’re pre-warned and can take action to winter-proof your plot. Check the calender to find your expected first frost date, but don’t forget to keep an eye on the weather forecast too.

Help your plants stay warmer or use the frosts to your advantage. Either way, being prepared will help you to successfully work with winter.

If you have any tips or tricks for getting your garden winter-ready, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Bird Feeders: Encourage Birds into Your Garden This Winter

January 31st, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

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Did you know how important birds are for your garden? They make a substantial impact on pests. So it makes sense, to make our gardens as bird friendly as possible, especially when food is scarce. Here are some tips on how to help our feathered friends during the Winter:

Feed Garden Birds

  • Feeding birds, will encourage then to return repeatedly, so they’ll be on hand in Spring to keep pests away.
  • Leave areas of your garden undisturbed, this will provide shelter for insects, which in turn offers a ready supply of protein for insect-eating birds.
  • Don’t forget t include plenty of berries and seed berry plants in your garden. Shrubs like hawthorn will hold its berries well into winter. Offer birds some additional foods
  • Winter digging can also help exposing slug eggs.

Additional Feeding

  • Offer birds an additional selection of foods to keep them healthy, like bird seed mixtures or unsalted peanuts. Leftovers like cooked rice and potatoes, cooked or raw pastry, unsalted bacon or even hard mild cheeses.
  • Hang feeders where birds have a good view of their surroundings so they can fly away when they feel threatened. Don’t put too much food out at once and make sure there is a continuous supply.
  • Don’t forget tree fruits such as apples and pears.
  • You can also make bird cakes. They are really easy to make. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Melt some animal fat to bind the ingredients together. You can now use that mixture to fill pots or pine cones. Watch our video to see how to make your own bird feeder.

Offer Fresh Water

Water is essential for both cleaning and washing. In really cold regions, you could use a bird bath heater, to stop the water from freezing solid. Or just put out fresh water first thing every morning.

 

 

These are just a few tips and ideas to help you feed birds in your garden. If you have any top tips that you can offer us let us know in the comments below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page

What to do in the garden in December

December 1st, 2016 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

December bulbs

December is traditionally one of the quieter months in the flower and vegetable garden. Winter vegetables really come into their own now, especially once parsnips and brussels sprouts have had a frost or two to improve their flavour. While most spring-flowering bulbs should already be in the ground, there is still time to plant tulips, which actually benefit from this later planting. Many are well suited to growing in containers too.

Remove all plant debris from round the garden or on the allotment, as fallen foliage and the like encourage pests and diseases to over-winter and cause us problems next spring and summer. This is particularly important if you grow roses.

Flowers

December - Sweet PeasIf you made a sowing of sweet pea seeds back in October and have them in the greenhouse or a cold frame, pinch out the growing tip after two pairs of leaves have formed; this will encourage the development of side-shoots and bushy growth through the winter, and stop the young plants becoming ‘leggy’. They will then make steady progress and be ready for planting out early next spring.

House plants make attractive features through the dark winter months. The compost of azaleas should be kept wet, but never saturated. Poinsettias, on the other hand, should have compost which is only just moist. If you are yet to buy these Christmas favourites, always choose plants from stock which has been kept in warm spot indoors in a shop; never buy plants from outside, as they will not thrive when you get them home, and may well die.

Where containers planted for winter displays are close to the house or other buildings, check them regularly to see whether they are receiving enough moisture from rainfall. If not, water them to prevent the compost drying out. It can be easy to forget them at this time of year because they tend not to need as much watering as summer containers.

Keep a look-out for pale blotches and grey mould on the foliage of violas and pansies, as these are the symptoms of downy mildew. The affected leaves will gradually die. Unfortunately, there is no chemical treatment. Remove infected leaves as soon as the discolouration appears.December - Pansy 'Cool Wave Mixed'

If the weather remains relatively mild this month, you may see that some spring-flowering bulbs start to show above ground already. In fact we have noticed this happening already! There is no need to be concerned about this, because as the weather becomes colder their rate of growth will slow accordingly and they will still flower when we expect them to.

Vegetables

December - First early potato DivaaMay we remind you that it is not too early to order seed potatoes, especially if you are keen to grow particular varieties. We begin despatch from January 2017 onwards. Please have a look at our new varieties. Elfe is a second-early with yellow flesh and a rich, almost buttery flavour; it’s really great for making mash or for baking. Gemson is another second-early, and we recommend this for its large crop of smaller tubers. It boasts the famed Maris peer as one of its parents, and has excellent disease resistance. The tubers have a firm, creamy flesh, and are perfect for steaming, boiling and as a salad potato. White and pink-skinned Pink Gypsy is a maincrop, and this one is particularly versatile, being superb for mashing, baking and roasting.

If you enjoy growing large onions, whether for the kitchen or for the showbench, do consider trying our new variety called, simply, Exhibition; this splendid strain was bred in East Anglia from The Kelsae, the most famous of all onions. It produces large, flask-shaped bulbs with a golden skin colour and a deliciously mild, sweet flavour. It can reach 454gm (1lb) in weight with very little care, but considerably larger specimens are achievable with a little ‘TLC’. Seed of Exhibition can be sown in gentle warmth from December through to February. It’s well worth growing!

Now is a good time to dig over any part of the vegetable garden or allotment which is not in production. This is best done when the soil is not too wet and certainly never when it is frozen. Dig to a spade’s depth (a spit), and leave the soil in clods as it falls to be broken up by frost and rain action in the weeks ahead.

Fruit

December - Raspberry Polka canes from Mr Fothergill'sAutumn-fruiting raspberries can now be pruned back virtually to ground-level. This will allow next spring’s new shoots to develop strongly, allowing them to flower and fruit next autumn. If you like the idea of some summer raspberries from the same plants, leave two or three of the strongest canes tied into the framework, and these will provide you with some tasty summer berries ahead of the autumn harvest.

This is the best time to give fruit trees and bushes that have been subject to attacks by pests such as aphids a spray with a ‘winter wash’; this should see off any over-wintering pests and their eggs. Modern winter washes use surfactants and natural oils, rather than being tar-based like the old-fashioned remedies. This treatment should mean a healthy start to next year’s growing season. Winter washes are available from good garden centres.

Fascinating facts and figures about Broad Beans

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

Broad BeansThe broad bean has a very long history of cultivation, although it no longer exists in the wild. We believe it originated in north Africa and south-west Asia. It was well known to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and it had reached Britain by the 17th century. The ancient Egyptians regarded it as a food of the lower classes.

The Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras forbade his followers from eating, or even touching, the beans because he believed they contained the souls of the dead. In Rome, beans were prepared at the annual Lemuralia festival (9, 11,13 May) as a dish to appease restless spirits that were haunting households.

In Luxembourg, the national dish is Judd mat Gaardebounen, which is smoked pork collar and broad beans. The Dutch often eat broad beans flavoured with the herb savoury. Broad beans are high in protein and fibre, an excellent source of folate and a good source of other B vitamins. Around 10,000 tonnes are grown commercially in the UK every year. In the USA they are known as fava beans, derived from their botanical name Vicia faba.

There are two main types of broad beans – longpods and Windsors. Longpods are hardier, so well suited to autumn and very early spring sowings and their seeds are kidney-shaped. Windsor types produce rounder beans in shorter, broader pods. Several of the cultivars we still grow today have a long history. For example, Green Windsor was introduced in 1809, Bunyards Exhibition in 1884, Aquadulce Claudia in 1885 and White Windsor in 1895. A small-seeded variant of the broad bean, known as the field bean, is extensively grown as feed for livestock.

It was once widely believed that rubbing a wart with the furry inside of the broad bean pod would cause it to shrivel and disappear. In some parts of the UK, and particularly in Suffolk, the scent of broad bean flowers was said to be an aphrodisiac.

Broad beans grow best in reasonably fertile, well-drained soil into which plenty of well-rotted compost or manure has been incorporated. A sheltered site is best for autumn sowings, but spring sowings are fine in an open, sunny part of the garden. It is not advisable to grow broad beans in the same spot two years running, as this may encourage soil-borne foot and root rot diseases. In many gardens broad beans are often the first fresh vegetables of the year and, picked young, are a real treat when little else is ready.

To browse all the broad bean varieties we have on offer at Mr Fothergill’s just follow this link to the broad bean seed section of our website

Royal Horticultural Society

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

Read more on the RHS website about growing your own broad beans.