Love to Grow

  • Growing early broad beans, from leggy to luscious

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

    Now I would like to share with you a new and rather different method of growing vegetables and in this case broad beans. I have been experimenting with air-pruning pots, coir growing mediums and self-watering systems for many years, and it gives me great pleasure to see our Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots, Growlite and Water Saucers now on the market and available for anyone to use.

    This very simple demonstration shows how to use these three products to grow some broad beans (an old favourite of mine best eaten smothered in melted butter).

    I sowed the beans in December, which is really much too early for broad beans.  I wanted to see just how early the beans would grow if kept permanently indoors on large, bright windowsills (a bit of an experiment in itself).

    vigoroot, beans, window, light, haxnicks, broad beans, growlite, water saucer, watersaucer Broad beans in Vigoroot pots

    The beans were germinated in Haxnicks Growlite. They were then potted on in Growlite which is a coir based growing medium that I have experimented with, developed and perfected over roughly the past 8 years. It has excellent water retention as well as good drainage and although it naturally contains only low levels of nutrients it can hold other added nutrients well and allows easy absorption by plant roots. Growlite includes various organic nutrients including seaweed and will feed a wide variety of plants during the first 8-10 weeks of their life. After this I simply add a little organic plant food on a regular basis to the water I give them.

    vigoroot, beans, window, light, haxnicks, broad beans, growlite, water saucer, watersaucer Water saucers making watering a doddle

    We make the Vigoroot pots from recycled polypropylene. The density of the fabric is designed to air-prune the roots of the plants. As the tips of the roots grow into the fabric, their tips die off (air-pruning), which stimulates the plant to grow more roots from its core, and these roots become more fibrous and are able to absorb more nutrients. The result is that the plants don’t get ‘root-bound’ and don’t need to be potted-on into larger pots, but grow larger, faster and healthier, producing more abundant crops. Vigoroot Pots work especially well for fruit trees and fruit bushes as well as flowers, herbs and vegetables.

    Vigoroot, broad beans, beans, watersaucer, water saucer, cior, growlite, hydroponics, veg, vegetables Water saucer wick

    The kit

    I used the new Haxnicks Water Saucers as a permanent watering and feeding system for the bean plants. Each Water Saucer comes with a capillary wick that is pushed up into the middle of the Vigoroot pot (cut a small hole first), and the plant then draws up the water through the Growlite and capillary wick from the water saucer, which needs topping up every few weeks. After the first two months I started adding a little Maxicrop plant food to the water. Obviously you can choose your plant food to suit the type of plants you are growing.

    vigoroot, beans, window, light, haxnicks, broad beans, growlite, water saucer, watersaucer Getting leggy

    As I had started growing the plants too early in the season, they didn’t get enough hours of sunlight during the first few months . Subsequently they grew a little too tall and ‘leggy’ as they searched for more light. I decided to cut them back to about half their height.  Within a few days their energy was diverted to producing an abundance of flowers, which hopefully will start to turn into beans before too long.

    vigoroot, beans, window, light, haxnicks, broad beans, growlite, water saucer, watersaucer

    This whole system of growing plants using the Vigoroot Pots, Growlite and Water Saucers is remarkably simple to set up and incredibly ‘low-maintenance’. The plants require almost no attention other than a few kind words of encouragement every now and then, and their use of water and plant food is almost 100% efficient - very similar in fact, to a hydroponics set up. So far, the beans are growing beautifully, and look set to produce a great crop later in the season.

    Must put butter on the shopping list...

  • March gone already? Jobs for the Spring

    March is supposed to be spring. ‘In like a lion, out like a lamb’ is one of the sayings about this particular month. Literally meaning that often the beginning of March feels like mid-winter but then it all warms up and becomes very spring like by the end of the month.

    I'm not sure this will relate to March 2018 because as far as I can see we have only had a couple of nice days and three sessions of Beasts from the East! 

    Eiffel Tower plant support in spring Eiffel Tower in the Spring!

    On the sunny days that we did have I think that anybody who has a garden simply had to get outside. Also if we don’t plant our seeds now we won’t have any plants to plant out in May. 

    So what to plant now then? Here is my list to start you off.

    Seeds to sow now indoors: 

    Aubergines, Brussels sprouts, celery, courgettes, cucumbers, fennel, kale, lettuces, melons, nasturtiums, marigolds, peas, rocket and spring onions. 

    Seeds and plants to sow now directly outside:  (if the ground is not too sodden)

    Onions (sets), parsnips, potatoes, spinach, rhubarb (crowns) and strawberry (plants). All these will have an even better chance if you cover them with either fleece or Easy Seedling Tunnel 

    I used these wonderful seedling tunnels in my greenhouse, later on when the seedlings are large enough I plan to transplant them. 

    Seedling tunnels spring planting Easy seedling tunnels protecting my seeds
    seed packets spring planting My seeds

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I think that we are all longing for April and better weather, we have had glimpses. I am forever optimistic.  

  • Grandpa Haxnicks’ Brexit Busting Striped Tomato

    If you have the time, energy and the space, breeding your own tomato variety - with the traits and taste that appeal most to you - can be quite easy and fulfilling and the striped tomato is certainly no exception.  It takes little equipment and is immensely satisfying.  

    The difficulty in slicing a tomato evenly to make the perfect cheese and tomato sandwich is something that I have been pondering in my greenhouse for quite a while.  A problem indeed. The tricky hybrid has finally come to fruition with the perfection of my Brexit Busting Haxnicks’ Striped Tomato which is set to revolutionise sandwich production from this day forward.    

    “With Brexit and American trade tariffs looming people will be ditching the fancy brie and cranberry in favour of the traditional British cheese and tomato sandwich. And I am pleased to say they will no longer have to struggle”

    4 sriped tomato on a plate Striped tomatoes

    In line with their belief in working with local suppliers the new tomatoes launched in the Co-op Store in  Mere, Wiltshire today, April 1st. Andrew Tuck, Store Manager said “customers absolutely love them, its solved a problem they never really knew they had and we sold out within hours of them arriving in store”

    close up of striped tomato on a plate Striped tomatoesT

    There are three common ways to There are three common ways to create your own tomato variety,, and each can be done by the home gardener with time and patience.  The one I chose was cross-pollination to create Grandpa Haxnicks’ Brexit Busting Striped tomato. Normally I would select my tomatoes grown from F2 seed in terms of attributes such as taste and colour, but this time it was all about the stripes for me and solving the major problem facing the British public.

    I am currently working on a chequered tomato for easy Bruschetta production which will hopefully be ready by 1st April 2019.

  • BootClamp: end of muddy, rain filled boots

    You're going to want one (or more) of these BootClamps!  My pet hate, dirty, muddy Dorset Wellington boots in the house, if only there was some way of keeping them outside without half the rainfall of North Dorset flooding my precious Wellies.  Then I discovered the amazing BootClamp from Haxnicks.  BootClamps are such an obvious but genius invention, my Wellies now take prime position in the porch or just lying around the driveway and not a speck of water or creepy crawly inside.  Of course, if you are more organised just hang them up with the carry handle, BootClamps are very clever indeed!

    Thanks for the the Blog post Fran - really glad you love the product! Haxnicks

    3 Haxnicks BootClamps lined up on doorstep Bootclamps - stopping the rain getting in
  • Clearing Sarah's Garden - Leaf Picker saves the day

    Having cleared the lawn with the Leaf Picker today I need to do some clearing of a different sort.  Serious thrash and burn style clearing as the house has been empty for 2 years and the part of the garden in question could charitably be deemed in need of some attention. This particular bit is covered in all sorts of unfriendly plants, brambles, what I suspect are very overgrown roses, tiny emerging nettles and more brambles – basically enormous prickly characters that mean me harm.

    Pile of cut brambles

    After weeks of busying myself with other tasks and basically avoiding it I have resigned myself to the fact that I will have to just get on with it.  Today was the day.  Braving the remaining snow and armed with my new secateurs (2 sets just in case), my lovely new gardening gloves, and with my Leaf Picker relegated to the subs bench, it was time to do battle. A slow job but apart from the brambles stealing my hat every time I turned round the going was good.  The pile was building and the ground was coming into sight – I was winning.

    Newly cleared ground

     

    Haxnicks Leaf Picker against felled tree

     

    Haxnicks Leaf Picker head in leaves

     

    But someone had been there before me and the ground was covered with dead bits of bramble which, for the record, are even sharper than the live ones.  If there was any hope of finding the inner manicured garden then this was going to have to be cleared.  Inspiration (and an aching back) kicked in and having resigned myself to not needing the Leaf Picker again until Autumn it was off the bench and back in play. Perfect for reaching behind the brambles, avoiding the gentle stings of baby nettles and picking up the 2 years plus of dead leaves.  It even picked up quite a few of the sticks littering the ground which was an added bonus.

    Leaf Picker spikes with leaves

    Rain stopped play and school run curtailed my explorations so the dream has not quite become reality at time of writing but, joy of joys, this part of the garden is starting to emerge from the mists.  A few more hours work and my neighbour’s plot will no longer be at risk of invasion thanks to the Leaf Picker.

  • Madeleine's Garden - Borders and Onions

    As the weather has been so inviting over the past few days with lots of sunshine and warmer temperatures I have been busy outside generally tidying up the garden and building site. Our house was ‘finished’ – well we call it finished but of course there is an everlasting list of continuing jobs – last year, which means that I can now start with a bit of landscaping and making of borders.

    I am planning to make a border all the way around the house, some parts gravel and some parts climbing roses, wisteria, a self-fertile kiwi tree, bulbs and other things that I haven’t yet chosen. It would be fun to have a theme perhaps, an Italian or French corner or maybe all white and pink. We’ll see... Let me know if you have any good ideas.

    Building, beds

    A small update on my tomato seedlings, they have just started to grow their real leaves although they are still tiny weeny – 2cm high, which is lucky as there is so much more cold weather to come and they love the warmth of my windowsill.

    The sweet peas are getting taller I think that next week I will pinch off the tops so that more stems grow from the bottom making bushier plants, therefore, more prolific in flowers.

    I had a rummage in my seed packet drawer and came to the conclusion that I had no more seeds to plant at the moment except for my onion sets, I couldn’t resist and today I planted them and then covered them with fleece tunnels.

    Onion sets planted at about 10cm apart. Fleece tunnels to keep the ground warmer.

    I have placed the onion rows to the outsides of the bed as they act as an insect repellent later on when I have rows of carrots and salads in between.

     

     

  • Madeleine's Garden 12th February

    Winter jobs in the Garden

    Today was a beautiful sunny day here on the Wiltshire/Dorset border.

    We are spoiled by having such lovely warm houses, that going outside can seem a little daunting as it is so cold. So I wrapped up warmly - woolly hat and all, and ventured into 2°.

    Finally my two little garden gnomes saw light as I pruned the raspberry canes down to about 3 inches high and got rid of any dead ones and unwanted weeds. Maybe tomorrow I will spread some manure around their bases to give them a little warmth and nourishment – The raspberries not the gnomes!

    I'm never quite sure how garden gnomes actually find their way into a garden.... they are never invited, they just seem to turn up.  Maybe someone brought them here as a birthday surprise one year, sneaked them in and then forgot to say anything. Anyway, it doesn't seem very fair to get rid of them just because I didn't choose them myself.

    Before                                                                   

    After 

    I have decided to plant a beech hedge along our 'drive to be', ready for when we can start to use it. I always admire people who can think in advance. So I bought 30 plants from a mail order catalogue. They arrived and this is the perfect time of year to plant them. Hedging and trees like to be planted when they are dormant during the winter months.

    Lastly I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that some of the sweet pea and tomato seeds that I had sown less than 2 weeks ago were appearing. Doesn’t time fly.

        

  • Madeleine's garden 30th Jan 2018

    30th January – Mending fences and sowing the first of the seeds – Tomatoes, Sweet Peas and Delphiniums.

    Well I still haven’t pruned the raspberries. But with the help of my university student son who was anxious to earn a few pennies before returning to university, we mended the fence. He hammered the sledge hammer and I held the post. I was a little too close and received a thump on the collar bone from the hammer, thank goodness I was alright and my son was truly concerned and apologetic.

    This morning was beautiful and I managed to sow the tomato seeds, some delphinium seeds and sweet peas. I have a large windowsill in our house so have brought them all inside so that they can germinate. They all need roughly 15-20 degrees. I have often been tempted to sow tomatoes earlier and it never pays off so the end of January is an ideal time to start.

    Seeds just emerging

     

     

  • Madeleine's Garden 10th Jan 2018

    January 10th 2018 – checking out the patch again and writing.

    The storms have died down for the moment and the sun is creeping out from behind the mist, so I am eager to have a look at my garden and see what jobs I could possibly do while the weather permits.

    The fence has been blown down and snapped by the harsh winds on one side of my patch, so that will need rebuilding, and for the moment the wooden entrance is leaning to the south in a rather relaxed looking way.

    I haven’t yet pruned the raspberries from late Autumn, I must have forgotten.

    The patch generally needs tidying up, but I don’t want to do too much yet as the ground is very wet and I don’t want to make it any muddier than necessary.

  • Madeleine's Garden

    Madeleine’s Garden 2018

    January 8th 2018 – Inspecting the Patch and buying seeds

    I haven’t had a minute to even look at my vegetable patch for at least 6 weeks, Christmas has been time consuming and the weather has been grotty.

    I passed a garden centre and had a good rummage through their seed selection, in between the left-over Christmas decorations, choosing which tomatoes to sow this year and finding any new fun seeds to sow. For some reason butternut squash seeds are outrageously expensive £3.99-£4.99 for about 8-12 seeds. I chose some normal courgette seeds as actually having tried so many different varieties I decided that I like the green ones best.

    I also saw some onion sets and bought some giant onions and some red onions, wondering when I should plant them. It looks like I shall have to wait until March unless of course I use a Haxnicks poly tunnel………

     

     

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