Posts Tagged ‘winter gardening’

Bird Feeders: Encourage Birds into Your Garden This Winter

January 31st, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Bird-feeder-winter-gardening-tips

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.

What to do in the garden in January

December 30th, 2014 | Garden Diaries, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

So here we are once again at the start of another year in the garden and on the allotment.  Christmas indulgence and relaxation all over for another year, New Year’s resolutions made – and some already broken – and raring to get going whatever the weather.

It may be winter, but there is no better time to start looking forward to the year in the garden – deciding what to grow, reflecting on the past season’s successes and, perhaps, an occasional failure.  The spring edition of our seed, plant and bulb catalogue has been published, full of fascinating new varieties and a wealth of trusted favourites to get you in the mood for gardening in 2015.  We hope you will make a New Year’s resolution to grow one or two varieties which you have not grown before.

Many gardeners traditionally spend the time between Christmas and New Year browsing our seed catalogue or looking through our selection online, dreaming about the frost-free spring and summer of unbroken sunshine, with rain falling only in the hours of darkness from May to October, that is sure to be in store for us all again this year.  Well, we did say ‘dreaming’, but now back to reality.  Of course we would say this, but it really does pay to place your seed order as soon as possible this month, as some varieties inevitably sell out quickly.  If you want certain varieties or like the sound of new ones in our listing, it pays to order now.

Whatever you grow in your garden in 2015, may we wish you a successful season of beautiful flowers and delicious fruit and vegetables.

Jobs in the flower garden in January

Sweet Pea selectionIf you made an autumn sowing of sweet pea seed, it is time to pinch back the shoots of the seedlings to just two or three pairs of leaves.  This will encourage more compact, bushy growth and prevent your plants getting too tall too quickly.

If you did not sow in autumn, make up for lost time by making a sowing during January.  Start the seeds off in a little warmth and when seedlings have emerged they can be transferred to an unheated greenhouse, where they will benefit form a some fleece protection when frosty nights threaten.

Remember there is an even bigger incentive to grow these beautiful annuals in 2015.  We shall be running our third 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, and with the date a fortnight later than in earlier years, there is no reason not to enter.  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 devised a sure-fire method 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 on our website.

If you intend using your greenhouse for producing a range of half-hardy bedding plants this spring for your summer display, now is the ideal time to wash the panes to maximise sunlight, and to give the inside and the outside a good wash-down with a solution of Jeyes Fluid or similar to ensure it is clean and disease-free for the season ahead.  It may be a cold job, but think how virtuous you will feel when the work is done!

Zinnia Lilac roseMay we draw your attention to some of the new half-hardy annuals we have launched for 2015 and which we feel are well worth consideration?

Zinnia Lilac Rose pictured to the left here is an exclusive introduction, which will look really good in beds and patio containers.  Its beautifully coloured blooms are very long-lasting.

Look out too for our brand new zinnias Zinderella Lilac and Zinderella Peach.  These have very unusual, double, scabious-like flowers which will make a real conversation piece in your garden.  We are sure your visitors will admire them, but will have to ask you what they are!

Gazania New Day Rose Stripe F1Other brand new flowers for this year include the large flowered aster Balloon Mixed (expect blooms up to 6in across!), Gazania New Day Rose Stripe F1, the white background and rich stripe of which present a stunning contrast in beds, borders and terrace pots – this one is a real head-turner.  Order seed of all these now ready for sowing from February onwards.

Cornus (dogwood) can be planted this month to provide you with dramatically coloured stems in winters to come.  They really seem to set the garden alight at the darkest time of year, and require very little maintenance to ensure a good display for several years.  If you appreciate some winter fragrance to cheer up the garden, look out for Chimonanthus praecox (wintersweet), Viburnum x bodnantense or winter-flowering Lonicera (honeysuckle).

Privet is still favourite for hedging, but do not forget deciduous native subjects such as hornbeam, hawthorn, beech and blackthorn if you prefer a more natural look and one which will be appreciated by an abundance of wildlife all through the year.  All these can be planted during January when soil conditions allow.

 

Jobs in the vegetable garden in January

Burpees Short & SweetWe often say it at this time of year, but if you have not completed your winter digging of the vegetable plot, aim to have it complete by the end of the month, so frosts and rain can work on it in the weeks ahead to break down clods.  By the middle of March it should be ready to be prepared for the first sowings of the spring – often parsnip, beetroot, peas and carrots.

On the subject of carrots, we have two new varieties – one exclusive and one brand new – for you to try in 2015.  Burpees Short & Sweet (pictured left here) is to exclusive to Mr Fothergill’s.  Bred with heavy or poor soils in mind, this short-rooted type is also good for growing in containers.  Sweet, crisp and high in sugars, we strongly recommend Short & Sweet.  By the way, the name ‘Burpees’ refers to its breeder, not to any side-effects it may have!

Red Samurai F1Also brand new is our red-skinned Red Samurai F1, which has long, tapering roots.  Inside the flesh is pink and it holds its colour well when cooked.

Seed of slower growing greenhouse crops such as aubergine and peppers, both sweet and hot types, can be sown during January.  Sow seed in either a heated propagator or a warm kitchen windowsill.  Emergence can often be rapid in a propagator, so take a daily look and reduce the heat as seedlings start to show, as this will help to prevent them becoming drawn up and ‘leggy’.  There are scores of pepper (capsicum) varieties from which to choose, but we believe we offer one of the finest and carefully selected ranges.

Tomato 'Orange Slice'January is not too soon to make a sowing of tomato seed, but only if you are intending to grow the plants to maturity in a greenhouse.  The seed of plants destined to be grown outdoors should not be sown until March at the earliest.  Our exclusive new beefsteak variety Orange Slice F1 can be grown either indoors or outdoors.  Its fleshy fruits can weigh 8oz each and they have a superb flavour.  If you love ‘beef’ tomatoes, we are sure you will enjoy Orange Slice F1

If you enjoy Brussels sprouts after Christmas rather than before, our brand new Braemar F1 is for you.  The rather tall plants produce their crop of medium-sized, bright green buttons from January onwards, often lasting until early April.  The solid sprouts hold well on the stem and have a great flavour.

Braemar f1 brussels We often wonder why the Brussels sprout is such a maligned vegetable.  In our book, it is up there with the best of them.  True we would not want them cooked until they are grey and sloppy, and nor do we care for them too al dente, but boiled or steamed just right and nothing beats them – and we do not need chestnuts, pancetta or flaked almonds added to make them more palatable!  Seed of Braemar F1 can be sown from February onwards.

You will also see we are offering a small range of vegetable seed of varieties chosen with the exhibitor in mind.   Time and time again the winning exhibits at horticultural shows come from a small group of tried and trusted varieties, which give growers a head start.  So if you fancy having some fun by growing a few varieties with the local summer or autumn show in mind, take a look at our range.  Not only will the varieties look good on the showbench they are also great in the kitchen, so even if you do not win prizes you will still have a delicious crop to enjoy!

 

Jobs in the fruit garden in January

strawberry long seasonIt is hard to believe that such a sweet taste of summer is best planted out in the depths of winter, and so January is a good time to establish or renew a strawberry bed.  When planning a strawberry bed try to incorporate a few varieties that will crop across the whole season to give you that most precious of crops for most of the summer.

If you are establishing a bed for the first time, then try our Strawberry Long Season Collection with a mix of varieties to keep your kitchen supplied long term – the varieties included are Mae which is an extra-early cropping from early June; Elegance for picking from late-June to late July; and Malwina which will provide fruit until August.

If you already have a bed that produces fruits, but that has gaps, then plant according to the part of the season where you are not getting fruit.

Early season:

  • Strawberry Romina is newly introduced for 2015 and is a June bearer with a sweet, high sugar content flavour.
  • Strawberry Christine has good disease resistance and produces fruits from early June

strawberry mara de boisMain Season:

Late season/Everbearing varieties:

If you do not have a garden in which to plant strawberries, they will also crop well in window boxes, hanging baskets and other containers – so just about anyone can grow their own home-produced strawberries this summer.

 

A year of Nation of Gardeners: 2014 gardening highlights in pictures

December 24th, 2014 | Garden Diaries, Nation of Gardeners | 0 Comments

2014 has been a busy year for our gardening folk in the Nation of Gardeners group and so we thought we would put together a gallery of highlights from the group’s gardening year.

The group autumn planted bare root perennials in late autumn 2013. The survival rates overwinter were what we were looking for when protected in pots under cover, versus open ground planting.  By spring we were seeing what had survived such as these Cheshire planted Papaver Place Pigalle and Astrantia Moulin Rouge.

Cheshire Papaver comparison Spring 2014

Cheshire Astrantia comparison Spring 2014

By summer there were blooms like fireworks bursting into life in gardens around the UK from these autumn planted bare root perennials.

Papaver Place Pigalle in bloom in Devon

The Papaver Place Pigalle pictured to the left here in our Devon gardener’s hillside plot, impressed with its beauty – albeit a beauty that lasted only days on these young plants. We shall see if year two gives these plants longer flowering power.

Astrantia Moulin Rouge and Sedum Xenox also performed well; flowering long and hard from late summer onwards, as did any of the Eryngiums that survived slug attacks.  Pictured below and to the right here is a wonderful shot of the Eryngium in flower, again in our Devon gardener’s plot.

Devon eryngium2014 was ‘the year of the slug’ with a mild winter over 2013/14 not keeping these pests in check sufficiently.  Many of our gardeners reported in defeated tones of visiting their gardens where an overnight devastation of plants had taken place, which is a heart breaking moment many gardeners will empathise with.

The only bare root perennial that failed to perform significantly was the Cimicifuga. If not consumed by slugs, the surviving plants threw up a couple of leaves this year, but we shall have to wait a while to see these notoriously slow growers bring anything more exciting to our beds!

Antirrhinum Purple Twist in CumbriaThere were other blooms in the gardens too.  A new variety of Antirrhinum called Purple Twist was sent out to the group for raising from seed.

The seedlings proved tricky to raise, and were nicknamed by our Cumbrian gardener as ‘moody teenagers’. Of the plants that pulled through the perils of legginess and damping off, the results were quite amazing.

The snapdragon plants that actually made it out of ‘seedling-hood’ and into to our Nation of Gardener’s plots flowered profusely throughout the summer.  They needed a thorough frost check to diminish them at the end of the year, and being a perennial will likely reward our gardeners for many years to come.  Our Cumbrian gardener’s picture here shows them standing proud and tall in her beds in the North of England.

Sweet peas, a cultivar of which Mr Fothergill’s is justly proud, played a big part in our group’s activities.   Autumn versus spring sowings were tested which gave us some glorious results in summer.  We asked our gardeners to sow a reliable variety Sweet Pea Old Spice alongside an exclusive chocolate flake variety Sir Henry Cecil.

Hertfordshire and Suffolk sweet peas

Above are sweet peas just emerging in Hertfordshire and then just planted in Suffolk.  Below, are sweet pea blooms for our gardeners in Worcestershire, South Wales and Renfrewshire.  The best of both worlds, the scentless Sir Henry Cecil impressed our gardeners with the upright habit of these large blooms, and the scent of the Old Spice added that much sought after quality in bowls of sweet peas around the house.

Sir Henry Cecil didn’t only impress our gardeners either.  The blooms grown in the Peak District, Devon and Hertfordshire were all entered into sweet pea shows and won prizes, and so they are officially award-winning sweet peas by independent jury!

Worcestershire, Pontypridd, Renfrewshire sweet peas

 

There was an abundance of things to taste as well as grow this year too including, from left to right, salad leaves (Buckinghamshire), garlic (South Wales) and cucamelons (West Wales).

diana_salad_jonathan_garlic_laura_cucamelons

There were also peppers (Elgin), broad beans (Devon) and tomatoes (Bristol).

Elgin Peppers, Devon Broad Beans, Bristol tomatoes

 

There were blackcurrants (Renfrewshire), blackberries (Worcestershire) and black tomatoes! (Bristol)

Blackcurrants renfrewshire, Blackberries Worcestershire, Black Tomatoes Bristol

We mustn’t forget the strawberries!  This was another autumn planting versus spring planting trial.  Alongside this we also tested out our ‘Berry Quick’ product line of commercially ‘frozen’ strawberry plants that guaranteed fruit within 30 days of planting.  The Berry Quick did indeed produce fruits within 30 days for all of our gardeners, but the taste of the spring and autumn planted strawberries were preferred universally by our group proving that a longer and slower growing season is worth the wait.

Pictured here are the strawberry crops of our gardeners in Surrey, Renfrewshire and Ceredigion.

Surrey, Renfrewshire, Ceredigion strawberries

We trialled the late sowing of annuals and perennials in late summer.

Cheshire Godetia

In particular the Godetias impressed (pictured here in our Cheshire gardener’s plot).   These plants gave vigorous and long lasting blooms for many gardeners, and perhaps most impressive for many was the fact that it is a variety not grown so often.

Though a summer annual, these plants also proved to be reasonably cold tolerant with our Pontypridd gardener reporting that his Godetia still had flowers even after the first hard frosts in his area.

Late sown annuals in late September

Otherwise the annuals grown were workhorse varieties such as Calendula, Marigolds, Cornflowers and Alyssum, all of which produced beautiful mixed beds of flowers for our gardeners.  Pictured here is our Surrey gardener’s annuals bed pictured in late September in a prime condition.

Of the late sown perennials we shall have to wait until 2015 as these young seedlings have all been tucked up safely in greenhouses and coldframes around the UK to sit out the winter.  We are promised Echinacea, Poppies, Aubretias, Hollyhocks, Aquilegia and Lavender so watch this space.

Later in the year we asked our gardeners to plant mini plug pansies for overwintering.

Pansies in Bristol

The variety dispatched to our gardeners is a trailing pansy called Cool Wave, a breeding break-through which is the first true trailing pansy to be grown from seed.  Our gardener in Bristol was soon enamoured with her small pansy plants posting in these wonderful portraits of their individual personalities!

We asked our gardeners to plant out winter peas – Pea Meteor – and to leave them to the elements.  In the more northerly parts of the UK, the elements took these plants pretty quickly.  We shall see how our south-based gardeners get on with these plants early in 2015 and if they get a welcome early crop of peas from them as a result of the plants enduring a UK winter.

Herrtfordshire Christmas potatoes in November

Christmas potatoes were also planted in early autumn.  However, Christmas came early for many of our gardeners!

The warm and late summer weather, where we had lots of warm days right through September and into early October pushed these plants on faster than anticipated.  The plants grew and then died back prematurely forcing the tubers to be lifted in October and November for many.  Our Pontypridd gardener is determined to lift on Christmas Day though, so we shall see what hides under the compost once he has had chance to turn them out.

Pictured here is our Hertfordshire gardener’s potato crop.  Not huge, but good to get a new potato taste late in early winter.

As we slip into the depths of winter, our gardeners are tending overwintered salad crops and some very special woodland strawberries. Bob Flowerdew supplied Mr Fothergill’s with a yet-to-be-named variety and so our gardeners are going to be testing them out alongside the nurserymen at Mr Fothergill’s in Kentford.  We don’t know much about these plants yet and so our group of gardeners will help us determine the growing and cropping habits of these plants.

It has been a busy year for our group of gardeners and one that has been fruitful, both figuratively speaking and literally!  Follow us into 2015 for more gardening adventures with our group as we see what year two brings for many of the plants.