Love to Grow

  • How to garden in small spaces

    The top 5 tips for living in small spaces are quite easy to follow and with a few handy products we can apply this to the garden, the allotment or the balcony too.

    1.  Get Rid of Stuff

    Start by having a good declutter and creating a blank canvas.  The decaying plastic pots that sit mouldering in the corner enjoyed by no one but snails.  The old garden chair that the last plot owner forgot or the wood that you were going to make into... what were you going to make that wood into?
    A good afternoon of clearing and you will be able to see the trees for the wood.   You will reveal space to grow.

    2.  Double Up With Bunk Beds

    On the surface this one doesn't translate easily from the house but there are many reasons why rising above the garden will work.  Firstly it is quick and you can get results in a weekend or less.  Secondly, if your soil is poor this can be solved in a flash.  You could dig it, add organic matter. You could even throw chemicals at it to get it to a healthy growing place.  Or you could get our screwdriver out, put in 16 screws and have a Raised Bed ready to fill with soil before the kettle has boiled for your well deserved cuppa.  A fully functioning strawberry patch / salad bed by nightfall.

     

     

    3.  Find yourself Small Furniture

    Getting a bench so you can enjoy your garden should be simple.  Second hand shops are a place for bargains or garden centres stock a wide range to suit all sizes.  But what about your growing space?  There are many corners of the garden or plot where the careless previous owners didn't think to add a bed.  Spaces wasted in terms of growing. Pots and planters are the way to solve this problem and use every inch.  Transform a corner of  the garden or balcony with a Pea & Bean Planter. This provides the space to grow up to 6 plants in just 2ft x 1ft.  Or stylish Oxford Planters could have you growing potatoes, courgettes, tomatoes or herbs & salads in a disused corner and can be folded up and packed away once the season is over.

    If you want to really use your space well and make life easy for yourself then the Vigoroot Easy Table Garden is a raised bed, a mini greenhouse and an irrigation system all in one!  The Vigoroot™ fabric ‘air-prunes’ the roots of plants, dramatically changing their formation and increasing their ability to sustain the plant in a limited volume of compost.  In real terms this means it punches above its weight in terms of yield compared to growing in the ground.

     

    Vigoroot Table Garden

    4.  Expand Your Space With a Large Mirror. ...

    Seems like the space is never big enough?  Accessorising it with a mirror will add the illusion of more space.  It works for gardens or balconies and will also reflect light into shady corners of the area.  Small round mirrors surrounded by foliage will give a window into another world effect  Trick your visitors into thinking there is a whole secret garden beyond.  Be careful what you reflect and try and position it so that it reflects foliage rather than your wheelie bins!

    mirror-in-garden-with-butterflies Image courtesy of keen gardener Tracy Chapman

    5.  Maximize Vertical Space.

    Your plot space is your plot space and not much you can do to increase the footprint.  So if you can't go out then you have to go up.  Architectural and design prizes are all going to dramatic living walls.  These might be ambitious for the home gardener but wall space can still be growing space with products such as the Herb Wall planter.  So if you like your pesto fresh or a muddle of mint in your mojito then space should not be an excuse.

     

    herb-wall-planter Up, up and away - herbs are go!

     

    If herbs aren't enough for you, you could also try the Self Watering Tower Garden.  Like the Easy Table Garden this is a raised bed, a mini greenhouse and an irrigation system all in one.  I have this at home (see my Blog for the full story) and have 4 bush tomatoes, 4 strawberries plus mint, coriander, chives and thyme in a little space under my scaffolding.  All I have to do is check the water level once a week and give the odd once over to check for any snails that have set up home under the pots (2 snails and 1 mini slug found and removed to date).  Other than that it seems to be looking after itself and the plants are thriving.  If you are both short of space and time poor then this one is for you!

     

    So small is beautiful and can be bountiful too and I hope this has inspired you to have a try.  Happy growing!

     

  • How to protect carrots from carrot fly

    If you have yet to experience that awful sinking feeling of lifting carrot after carrot riddled with dark crevices, tunnelled out by the dreaded carrot fly larvae, then consider yourself lucky. But for those of you that have, fear not! Haxnicks have been fighting various garden pests for over 20 years, and have picked up a few tricks along the way...

    carrots_with_leaves_on_board_no_carrot_fly
    Image courtesy of www.morguefile.com

    But first... some facts about carrot fly:

    • Carrot fly also affects other vegetables in the parsley family, such as Parsnip, Celery, Dill, Coriander, Fennel and Celeriac
    • They are attracted to the smell of bruised foliage
    • The larvae that damage the roots can continue to feed through the autumn into winter, moving between plants
    • The adult carrot fly is approximately 9mm long.  It is a slender, metallic, greenish-black fly with yellow legs and head. Larvae are creamy white, tapering maggots

    How can you tell if your carrots are infected? - Check for reddening of the foliage and stunted growth

     

    So now we know a little bit about the pest itself, we can look at some of the ways which we can protect our crops from infestations:

    1.  Make sure to avoid using previously infested ground. Carrot fly larvae are capable of surviving through the winter, so avoid re-sowing any vegetable from the Parsley family (see above)
    2. Avoid sowing during the main egg-laying periods, which are (for most parts of the UK): mid-April to the end of May & Mid-July to the end of August.
    3. Sow disease and pest resistant varieties such as Fly Away F1 and Resistafly F1, available from garden centres and online seed suppliers.
    4. Erect a fine-mesh barrier at the time of sowing – at least 70cm high. Check out our Micromesh Pest & Wind Barrier which will work for containers and open ground.  Or a Micromesh Tunnel - with 0.6mm netting it will keep the Carrot Fly from getting to your precious crop.
    5. Sow thinly so as to avoid ‘thinning out’, releasing the smell of bruised foliage
    6. Thin out or harvest on a dry evening with no wind – or use scissors so that no bruising of foliage occurs
    7. Try companion planting - growing varieties of pungent Rosemary, Sage or Marigold as a deterrent/’smokescreen’
    8. Grow your carrots in planters taller than 70cm - for example the Haxnicks Oxford fabric planter or Carrot Patio Planters
    9. Lift main carrot crops by Winter, especially if any are infected – don’t leave them in the ground to serve as food for overwintering larvae.

    Thinning out tip: Use scissors to avoid bruising the foliage (and releasing the carrot-fly attracting scent)

    To find out more about carrot fly, and the other pests that may arrive in your garden check out Pippa Greenwood's excellent RHS book for plant by plant advice on Pests and Diseases

    Have you any experience of carrot fly damage? What do you think went wrong? Please let us know your thoughts using the comments section below.

  • Slugs & snails and pints of ale!

    As a gardener, I’m guessing that missing National Snail Day last week on the 24th May is not the biggest problem you have with snails.  Same here! My house was empty for 2 years before I moved in.  This meant the garden was like an ‘all you can eat’ buffet for our unchecked slimy friends.  Seems like the slugs in particular have thrived to Jurassic Park like proportions.

    I have started to remove them to the other side of the garden where they can munch as much ground elder as they like. (Why is it they don’t touch that??)  As much as this seems a good idea I have learnt that common garden snails have a top speed of 45 metres an hour. This might make the snail one of the slowest creatures on Earth but still means they can be back on my lettuce before nightfall. Sigh.

    If I had time, space and a good flashlight then I would happily remove them physically.  However, I have neighbours on all sides who would not appreciate my gastropod cast offs.  Therefore, a trap of some sort is needed.  I also have 2 children, a cat and regard for the planet so slug pellets are not an option.

    The Slug-Buster (also bad news for snails!)

    I am far too much of a wuss to be sprinkling salt on them so enter The Haxnicks Slug-Buster.

     

    Whilst salt seems cruel, drowning in a pool of something you find delicious seems a better way to go.  Despite the name The Slug-Buster is equally good at getting rid of snails.  It was super easy to set up.  I just dug a hole to partially bury it, opened a beer, poured it in and popped the lid on.  Then I waited for the slugs and snails to come (not a long wait in my over-populated garden!)

    Slug-Buster_with_Oxford_Planter Slug-Buster keeping guard over my mixed leaves

    It might be too late for my bean plants but the Slug-Buster has so far proved phenomenal in keeping my rocket and my young juicy lettuce safe. Now I can make the Veg Society's Pasta with Rocket and Chilli recipe that I have had my eye on. It's all about the eating!

    To get yours click here Slug-Buster

  • Potato growing for beginners - growing stars for the plate.

    When I went to Ecuador they had over 200 varieties of potato in use and all of the ones I tasted were subtly different from each other. Not a big deal?  Maybe, but actually could you tell a supermarket King Edward from a Maris Piper by taste alone?  I certainly couldn't so finding actual distinct taste in potatoes was a revelation.  They went from 'side' to 'star' on my plate.  Most of all they tasted delicious.

    So my mission now is to grow my own in the hope of getting some of that flavour onto my plate.  I started late - toward the end of April - when it was unseasonably cold still.  I bought everything I needed

    • first early seed potatoes
    • veggie compost (could have gone multipurpose but on a mission to get it right)
    • Haxnicks Deep Oxford Fabric Planters (could have used compost sacks but who wants to look at those in their garden all summer?)

    To chit or not to chit...

    Then I ran into my first challenge: to chit or not to chit.  The Jury is out.  Monty Don, who was starting a trial in the Vigoroot Potato Planter  at the same time as me said "No!" whilst lots of others said "you MUST".  So I decided I would (sorry Monty) but with a time limit.  They had until the end of April then it was time to plant.

    On my north facing windowsill they grew into nice little characters - seemed a shame to plant them.

    How many potatoes to plant?

    Reluctant to leave any of them that had made the effort to chit, I planted 3 per pot.  Again, against Monty Don's Gardeners World advice as he only suggested 2.  But as I am mainly looking for small salad potatoes I figured that 3 would be OK.  A little water then a nice sunny position next to the tulips and I was done.

    Oxford Fabric planters

    I didn't have to wait long before I saw the first luscious green leaves coming through.

    Potato plant just coming through the soil Potato plants begin to appear

    Just a few weeks later and the are starting to fill the planter.

    Potato plants in Haxnicks Oxford Fabric planters The plants start to grow

     

    The next stage was to earth them up.  Not sure if this is a must but it seems that everyone does it so I covered the carefully grown leaves with soil.  it seemed wrong when they had spent the time pushing their way out but I am assured that this will give a great crop.  Now I am waiting again.

    Waiting, watering and wondering what I might make with them.

    Chip them, stew them, fry them, deep fry them even triple cook them.  Or just boil and serve warm with melted butter dripping off them.  I still have time to choose a recipe from  our friends at The Tasty Potato to make the most of what I hope will be a bumper crop!

     

     

     

    Potato potato plants in Haxnicks Oxford fabric planters Potatoes by evening light
  • Speed Hoe comes top of the class

    The highly respected publication Garden News has conducted a trial of slicing hoes.  According to Geoff Hodge, writer, broadcaster and product guru, The Haxnicks SpeedHoe has come out top of the class.

    The Hoes

    The hoes were tested for quality, comfort, performance and value for money.  The SpeedHoe got 5 stars on all counts.  It was especially noted for how sharp the edges were all round it, greatly increasing the ease of use.  As a result it beat off stiff competition from bigger brands with big price tags to be crowned the best slicing hoe in the trial.  As much as other hoes had their benefits they all scored less in at least one area.  One proud owner commented that it was "the best hoe on earth" and we aren't going to disagree with her.

    Read the full article below to understand more,  Furthermore if you want to make sure you are receiving the best possible gardening advice every week then you can subscribe here Garden News magazine.

    Garden News Magazine review of hoes trial in which the Haxnicks SpeedHoe came top The full article

     

  • Broad bean experiment: did it work?

    How to Grow early Broad Beans with Vigoroot Pots, Growlite Coir and Water Saucers

    I have an update for those of you following my early broad bean experiment (Original blog post).  Firstly to recap, this is a new and rather different method of growing broad beans in Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots, Growlite and Water Saucers.

    Broad beans in Vigoroot Pots Beans have started to grow

    You will recall I sowed the beans in December.  Possibly much too early for broad beans but I like to experiment.  Then I kept them permanently indoors on large, bright windowsills. They must have liked the conditions as they soon began to grow.

    The Haxnicks Water Saucers meant watering was a fortnightly task so very low maintenance.  I just checked the water reservoir and topped up as needed.  The integrated wicks did their job taking the water and food directly to the plant on demand.

    Pollination

    The next challenge was the lack of pollinators in the house, and generally around this early in the year.  So I stepped in with my soft paint brush and gently dusted the flowers to transfer the pollen.  Then it was a waiting game to see if the pollination had worked.

    Paint brush being used to pollinate broad beans Delicate touch to pollinate the flowers

    Pretty soon the flowers fell away and the swelling of the bean pods could be seen.  As often happens with these experiments we didn't quite get it right.  We didn't pollinate quite as many flowers as we should have done meaning that the crop is a little smaller than expected. Still enough to make a great meal, with more to follow, and we now know that we just need to do a bit more brush work next time.

     

    Young broad beans pods growing on a plant The broad beans starting to grow
    Young broad beans pods on a broad bean plant More broad beans growing

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Broad bean pods on bean plants Broad bean pods almost ready for picking

    In conclusion the experiment was a success and it is possible to have home grown broad beans on your table by May 1st.

    The only thing left now is to make the huge decision between simply drenching them in luscious melted butter or trying something  new like Olive Magazine's Broad Bean and Mint Panzanella with burrata  

    Decisions, decisions!

     

  • Salad anyone?

    We have returned back to a very grey and rainy England with not much hope for our little shoots after slight neglect for a week. However, we were greeted with huge shoots bursting to get out of their Rootrainers!  Seems like time to get the husband out building the Haxnicks Raised Bed with it’s very handy Raised Bed Polythene Cover to keep those courgettes, cucumbers and tomatoes growing upwards and outwards into something edible for my plate.

    Haxnicks raised bed with polythene cover on and plants inside I have plants now in my Raised Bed

    Most of all, the joy of this Raised Bed is that you construct and locate it wherever you wish, so for convenience it is sitting right outside our kitchen garden door.  As much as I love my garden who wants to traipse to the end of it to pick their veggies!  We have added a variety of herbs too - why not!

     Haxnicks raised bed with polythene cover off and salad plants showing  

    Pull back the polythene cover for easiy watering and as you can see we have a little bed of very healthy young plants which we hope to harvest sometime in July.  We will be back in July with an update!

    Haxnicks raised bed with polythene cover off and slightly larger salad plants inside Really growing now - here comes summer!
  • The Potty gardener Growing Beans in Pots

    Haxnicks' Potty Gardener running up Runner Bean PlantsSince discovering the secret to growing beans in pots I have been impatient to put it to the test. Veg growers might not normally consider growing runner beans in pots, but these are not normal pots and, as you may have noticed, I am not a normal veg grower. I am some way off reaching the giant at the top, but the beans are certainly racing up and I can’t help but mutter fee-fi-fo-fum whilst tending to these lean, mean, fast-growing beans.

    Haxnicks Rootrainers used in Growing Beans early

     

    Growing Beans

    I chose an early variety of Runner bean; Scarlet Emperor which claims on the pack to be ''very popular'' and give ''excellent garden performance''. ...hmmm, I hope that this garden celebrity won't upstage me!I Eager to get an early crop, the beans were sown in Rootrainers 2.5cm, and placed on a warm windowsill to germinate. Once both leaves had unfurled,

    Moving them on...

    I moved them into the Sunbubble. Here in the cosy, moist environment they took only a few weeks to reach potting-on stage.

    Haxnicks Sunbubbles used for Growing Beans

    And this is where the secret of potted bean success comes... in the form of these felty green pots. Vigoroot Pots are porous, allowing the roots to be 'air pruned' as they reach the edges of the pot, and causing a much stronger root system to develop. The plants don't become pot bound and have such super roots they grow well with less space.  This may be the latest conspiracy theory, but I have a sneaking suspicion that when Jack swapped his cow for magic beans and went on to grow a huge beanstalk that his beans weren't magic at all...I think that actually he had discovered growing in Vigoroot!

    Moving on...and up...Once the bean plugs had grown out of their Rootrainers I potted them up in 10Litre Vigoroot pots and gave them a stick each to guide their ascent up the strings that I had tied in at the top of the Sunbubble. They are growing fast and furiously, needing plenty of watering and I am looking forward to the early beans and hopefully a goose who lays golden eggs at the top!

     

  • Self Watering Tower garden

    The Self Watering Tower Garden is self watering. That's right!  Self watering!

    Haxnicks Self watering Tower Garden water reservoir Water reservoir ready for filling

    It does what it says on the tin, or would do if it came in a tin.  But why is this important when actually, plants love water and I quite like watering them too?  Don’t know about you, but for me it’s a calming activity during which I contemplate life, the universe and beyond.   This watering zen is the ‘ideal’ though and some weeks the ‘ideal’ is as rare as a blue rose.  The plants will survive my inattention.  The rub is that not only do plants love water but more than this they like regular water.  Otherwise it can have a drastic effect on their output.  Who hasn’t taken their eye off the ball and ended up with split tomatoes?

    Cue the Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden . So on those weeks when the cat needs the vet, the kids need new shoes and the fridge definitely needs a clean out the ingenious wick is doing what you can’t and keeping your plants happy and healthy.  No more coming back to dejected looking plants and a guilty conscience. Problem solved.

    Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden with Vigoroot pots Self Watering Tower Garden with Vigoroot pots

    My Tower Garden is in its second year and the Vigoroot pots can be washed at the end of the season and stored flat by the organised gardener.  I am not an organised gardener though (must have been one of those weeks) so I had just emptied them and stored in the shed.  A quick brush off left them looking as good as new though and I was able to start planting.

    Not only does it solve your watering issues but it also allows you to grow a staggering amount of plants in a very small area.  My garden is large but with building work about to start most of it is off limits for this season.  The 3 layers allow me to have 12 x 5L pots  in a tiny space.  Each layer has 4 Vigoroot pots which air-prune the roots to give healthier plants with better roots that lead to higher yields.

     

     

    Three Layers:

    Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden with strawberries, herbs and tomatoes Fully planted!

    I won't even have to worry about watering when I go away for a week's holiday in summer which is a bonus. All that is left to do now  is to make sure that the water reservoirs are full once a week and then and wait to pick my very first crop.   Might just have to plan a nice bruschetta recipe for all those glorious tomatoes...

  • A poke in the eye with a sharp stick anyone?

    Canetoppers are the perfect solution for the tops of your tomato, bean or sweet-pea canes.  They make your garden just that little bit safer and more attractive.   

    CaneToppers™ are fun, yet very practical, garden accessories from Haxnicks. They come in three configurations suitable for use with 6mm to 10mm canes, and are available in a choice of  three colours – smart black, stylish olive and playful pink.

    If you have ever poked yourself in the eye with a cane, or had a near miss? Then you will find these a great addition to your garden.  They will also help stop you getting in a tangle if you need to put netting over later in the season.  When the time comes to cover your ripening crops then the Canetoppers will help to stop snagging and make the whole process just that little bit easier.

    CaneToppers™ (1 Cane) act as safety tops for single canes, making an attractive and fun addition to any flower border or vegetable bed. Each pack contains ten CaneToppers™.

    Cane Tepees

    There are two configurations for making cane tepees

    3 bamboo canes with a Canetopper on them and purple flowers Olive 3 cane Canetopper

    3 cane - CaneToppers™   - holds three canes gripped tightly by the tough, rubbery plastic, with three toppers per pack.

    8 cane CaneToppers™ - these are slightly larger to hold eight canes firmly in a tepee, with one topper per pack.

    Haxnicks CaneToppers™, priced from £4.99 per pack, are widely available from good garden centres or direct here. 

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