Posts Tagged ‘winter gardening’

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.

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.

Nation of Gardeners December planting update: Who needs the shops at Christmas when you have Mr Fothergill’s?

January 15th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

The Nation of Gardeners' gardens are getting very fullAs we enter 2014 and pass the three month mark, it is safe to say that the Nation of Gardeners project is well and truly underway.  The gardens, coldframes and greenhouses of our gardeners are starting to get very full, and so in December, Mr Fothergill’s decided to fill up their windowsills for them as well!

December is a good month for sowing herbs and salad leaves for growing on a sunny windowsill.  Fresh leaves can be picked for up to 4 cuts in as little as 6 – 8 weeks.  Mr Fothergill’s were very interested to know if this could be achieved successfully in all parts of the country.  During milder months it is expected that the first cut can be taken at 6 – 8 weeks, and so this growing task was to test how long they take ‘out of season’ when light levels and ambient temperatures inside and outside are low.

 

A round up of December’s planting tasks

With the winter weather setting in, the December parcel took our gardeners indoors for windowsill sowings of basil, coriander and four types of salad leaves; mild, spicy, red and green.

The salad leaf varieties were as follows and were suggested to be sown in 25cm pots and to then be placed in a sunny position either indoors on a windowsill or outside in a frost-free greenhouse or coldframe:

It was the salad leaves that surprised many of the gardeners and had them racing for the quickest results. Some salads were seen to be germinated within 48 hours, and all gardeners had sturdy seedlings within a couple of weeks of sowing.

Our Pontypridd gardener decided to test indoor versus outdoor sowing in a frost-free greenhouse in this trial across each of the seeds he was sent.  He reported back that his outdoor salads looked sturdier and less leggy than their indoor sown counterparts.   Our Devon gardener also tested the Spicy Salad Leaves in a coldframe outside – whilst sowing the other three varieties inside – and she too reported back that the outdoor sowings looked much healthier than her indoor specimens.

The ‘legginess’ of the indoor sown seedlings was widely reported back – due to lack of good quality, long periods of daylight perhaps – and so time will tell if the salads respond well to the lengthening of the days now we are past the winter solstice.

Salads grown in December 2013

Two varieties of herbs, Basil Piccolino and Coriander Calypso, were also sent out in the December parcel.  Both of which were suggested to be sown and grown in 9cm pots and then placed on a sunny windowsill and kept moist.

The ambient temperatures both inside and outside was recorded by the gardeners at time of sowing and the gardeners were also asked to record the aspect of windowsill the pots were placed to gauge the effects of the low light levels of winter on the seedlings’ progress.

Coriander seedlings in Scotland

Temperature seems to have been a deciding factor in getting the basil to germinate successfully.  Although some basil sowings for some did germinate within 3 days.  For others it took decidedly longer, with radiator heat being used to warm things up a bit where windowsill temperature could not provide.   Subsequent successful sowing into heated or even just covered non-electric propagators from the same batch of seeds seemed to prove the point that basil needs heat to get going.

Coriander showed itself to be slightly less fussy about temperature, though for some was slow in coming.  Our gardeners with the ‘quickest’ Coriander were in Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire with a 7 day germination rate, although our Pontypridd gardener reported back germination in 6 days.  Otherwise the general germination rate for Coriander showed itself to be 10 to 14 days.

A new dimension to the trials project emerged over Christmas, when the Mr Fothergill’s parcel became a Mr Fothergill’s festive food parcel, when many of the gardeners were able to use their first Fothergill’s batch of produce to garnish their meals over the festive period.  One gardener used their salad leaf micro-greens sprinkled over a prawn and smoked salmon salad on New Year’s Day, and another chopped their baby spicy salad leaves to use in a tomato salad and used their mild leaves as a garnish on top of egg mayonnaise.   The salad leaves had the gardeners discussing recipes and uses from sandwiches to salads, which led one gardener to question “who needs shops”!

October and November planting update

Autumn-sown garlic in DevonOctober and November’s plantings have now fully established and the gardeners have been noting some significant progress lately.   Least magnificently – but most significantly for our group of gardeners perhaps –  is visible progress with the Garlic Solent Wight which was received in the first packages sent out in October.  Many of the gardeners were reporting no movement on their garlic plantings all through October and November, but now the colder weather has arrived most are seeing shoots of green emerging, which has been welcomed with some relief.

The bare root perennials planted in November have shown variable results depending on the variety.  Varieties such as the Papaver  have settled into their new homes very well with lots of new top growth, and the planted Sedums are also looking well settled.  For some, the Astrantia and Eryngium still have top growth intact, but for others the leaves have faded away, leaving a patch of bare ground with a marker the only evidence that something is planted there.  For most, the Cimicifuga appears to have all but disappeared entirely, although this shy-to-show-itself plant is showing minuscule evidences of growth for some observant gardeners who have seen slight growth of only millimetres, or a change in colouration of the growing tip just poking above ground level.

October and November plants for Nation of Gardeners

By far the most robust performers in the trials so far are the autumn planted Broad Beans, the Strawberry Buddy and the  Strawberry Sweetheart, and the Blackberry Reuben.  All gardeners are reporting back strong and healthy growth of these varieties.

Storm damaged blackberry plant in Scotland

Some plants, such as the Broad Beans planted in more southerly areas are continuing to grow right through the winter without check, to the extent that their caretakers are worried they are growing too far, too soon.  In early January, the first flower buds have also started to form on the strawberry plants for our gardener in Devon.  She has nipped these off to strengthen the plant.

Sadly, the storms that have ravaged the country have created plant casualties for the Nation of Gardeners, with both the Renfrewshire and Peak District gardeners losing their Blackberry plants to the high winds.  The stump shown in the picture to the right here is our Scottish gardener’s blackberry plant, which due to where it has snapped, may never recover.

 

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

December 2013′s planting

November 2013′s planting

October 2013′s planting

 

Looking forward into January

The next package has just been sent out to the group of gardeners who will be receiving their parcels within the couple of days.  For this task, we give them some more crops to grow and a new variety of flower that will be introduced in 2014 for general sale to see how they fare with this new variety.