Love to Grow

  • Growing on a balcony, a roof top and more!

    Whether it’s a balcony, a roof top or a terrace, urban gardeners need to be creative about growing in small spaces. I met a lovely lady in a nice hat at Chelsea Flower show who has this balcony in central London. I think it would look marvelous adorned with pots and planters, but she claimed to be rather too busy!

    Over the years, all sorts of gardeners have been kind enough to share their pictures of creative growing in unusual places….

    Haxnicks patio planters and pots growing in a treehouse.

    These crazy crops are 30 ft high in a tree house. I am told the benefits of growing so high outweigh the impracticality. Not only are the planters out of reach from the family goat, but slug pellets are not required at such dizzy heights. Even the least sluggish slug would find the climb beyond his capabilities. Watering requires a cleverly devised pulley system that keeps the children fully entertained, mostly due to the soaking of unwary passers-by.

    Haxnicks patio planters on the roof of a river boat

    No problem with watering here! This floating herb garden in pots and planters helps to add a little home-grown flavour when cooking up a feast in the galley.

    groing tomatoes in a telephone box

    In the absence of a Greenhouse this disused telephone box is a great place to grow tomatoes. Not only is it a warm shelter, but the perfect width to support the plant as the stems become heavily laden with fruit. It’s the perfect colour too!

    groing plants in the back of a car

    More colour matching here. This car may have reached the end of its useful life on the road, but makes a perfect greenhouse now. It’s cosy for germination in the early Spring and the windows can be wound down for ventilation on warmer days. When crops are ready they can be popped on the top out of reach of cats, dogs, goats and slugs. Carrots à la car!

     

     

  • Growing Courgettes in a Small Space

    Courgette Growing in a Haxnicks Planter

    After potatoes, courgettes (or zucchini if you’re across the pond), are one of the easiest and most satisfying vegetables to grow. Fast emerging seeds rapidly turn into triffid sized monsters with tropical looking flowers. Before you know it, you have a continuous supply of shiny green (or yellow) veg that can be included in every conceivable recipe from stews to salads, stir-fries to cakes. Pick a handful, turn your back and more will emerge in just a few days, and there are always the ones that get away. Those carefully camouflaged courgettes that lurk under the shady green canopy catch me out every year and before I know it I have a monster marrow to wrestle with.

    If you think you don’t have space to grow courgettes, then think again. If you think you don’t have enough space to grow courgettes in pots or bags, then think again. If you think what you buy in a supermarket tastes the same as a home-grown courgette, then think again. Or just stop thinking and grow some! It is remarkable that what I consider to be one of the hungriest, thirstiest vegetables to grow can be sustained in a very small growing space with the right care and attention. So, even if your only outside space is a balcony or a front doorstep you can still have a summer-long crop of deliciously nutty home-grown courgettes.

    Courgettes Growing in Small Spaces

    You can plant up to 3 courgette plants in just one of our Haxnicks veg planters. It seems like a lot, considering how huge they will grow.  The key to success is a good multipurpose compost, lots of water and nutrition. I use liquid Growmore to feed my courgettes, but any good liquid fertiliser will do the trick. A weekly dose seems to be sustaining them well. These particular plants are already dishing out a steady crop. Courgettes require lots of water, their huge leaves quickly droop if you haven't given them enough, so keep on top of watering.

    Courgette Seedlings Growing Healthy

    I grew my tropical looking giants from seed in Rootrainers on a warm  windowsill back in February.

    Planted Courgette Seedlings

    I transplanted them into pots briefly until they had 2 pairs of leaves and a good strong stem meaning that they were strong enough to go out in the greenhouse and cope with the chilly nights. It was a little bit risky putting them out so early, but as I was growing some in time for Chelsea Flower show they had to be coaxed to magnificence in good time!

    Grandpa Haxnicks

     

     

  • Chelsea Flower show preparations 2017

    Hello gardeners,

    The Chelsea Flower show is fast approaching and plant preparations have been under way for quite some time now. If only the show was in July, my job would be made a lot easier. Forcing summer-grown fruit and vegetables to be at their best in mid May can be a little bit touch and go, but despite the chilly temperatures over the last couple of weeks my container-grown plants are looking good.

    Haxnicks Potato Patio PlanterThere was one particularly warm day when I decided that the potato patio planters should venture out of the Sunbubble as I was worried that they might be growing too fast. I then forgot to put them back under cover on the very evening that one of those cheeky late Spring frosts decided to descend. It was extremely lucky that I woke up at midnight, realised the peril the potatoes were in, and rushed out in my pyjamas to put them to bed. There was a little bit of frost damage to some of the leaves, and I got cold, wet feet, but both quickly recovered.

    Haxnicks Strawberry Patio PlanterThe container-grown strawberries are in flower and some small green fruits are appearing. I am very much hoping for some warmer weather to ripen them to a rosy hue in time for the show.

    Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots with lupins, strawberries and herbs

    The Vigoroot grown plants  are looking fabulously green and healthy and ready to grace the stage on our Haxnicks stand at Chelsea.

    Haxnicks Vigoroot Easy Table Garden New Product FinalistOther seeds for success were sown this time last year. Those were the seeds of an idea to develop a new product that would combine the magic of our hugely successful Vigoroot™ fabric with a simple self-watering system. From this idea grew The Vigoroot Easy Table Garden. This exciting new product is a raised table garden, greenhouse and irrigation system all rolled into one. The RHS are excited about it too as it has been nominated for the Chelsea New product of the Year finals…watch this space!!

    Grandpa Haxnicks

  • Keeping Out the Easter Bunny and all his friends!

    Keeping the Easter Bunny at bay with Haxnicks' Potty GardenerThe Easter Bunny is no myth. Every year, just as carefully nurtured seedlings are beginning to flourish, the Easter bunny appears. Sponsored by Cadbury’s he is duty-bound to hide chocolate eggs in your garden. However, he and his accomplices seem to think that in return for this uninvited favour it is perfectly acceptable to help themselves to whatever delicacies lie in their path. So, be ready this Easter and protect your emerging crops against these greedy nibblers!

    Keeping Rabbits away from Garden Plants

    Growing your veg in pots and planters means that juicy crops may be harder to reach for the rabbits, but those of you with a ground level vegetable patch have a harder task. Rabbit-proof fencing needs to be at least 120cm high with 30cm dug below the ground and a 15cm 'skirt' bent outwards to stop them digging their way in. When you factor in the fence posts this all adds up to beyond the annual defence budget of most gardeners.

    Protecting Garden Plants from Rabbits

    So, instead of protecting the entire garden you could just protect the most vulnerable plants.  A Micromesh Pest and Wind Barrier is a cheap and easy way to surround a raised bed and due to the tiny gauge mesh will also give protection against insect invasion such as carrot fly.

    Haxnicks Micromesh Easy Tunnels offer great protection for garden plantsA crop cover such as a net or poly tunnel  can quickly be rolled out over a row to deter the rabbits. Just remember to pull the drawstring tight at the ends!

    Garden Cloche offers great protection for your Garden Plants from pests and wild animalsFor smaller, individual plants Bell Cloche will, amongst many other things, help to keep the bunnies at bay.

    Finally, if all else fails you could take a Mr McGregor style approach and chase the bob-tailed bandits with a rake. However, this may involve endless night-shifts as rabbits normally emerge to feed between dusk and dawn.  No wonder Mr McGregor was so grumpy!

  • The Potty Gardener on strawberries without slugs

    Haxnicks' Potty gardener eating home grown strawberriesI don’t have a lot in common with slugs and snails, but if I was looking for common ground then I might choose our shared love of strawberries. Those sweet, red, juicy berries are simply irresistible to me, so I don’t blame the marauding molluscs for wanting a munch too. However, I would rather not share my strawberries with anyone, let alone slugs and snails. One simple solution is to grow them in containers, raising the plants and their fruits above the path of destruction.

    Haxnicks Strawberry Patio Planter on show Haxnicks Strawberry and herb patio planter

    There are all sorts of weird and wonderful shaped strawberry containers available from dinky hanging baskets to sky-scraping towers. Strawberry patio planters come with 8 planting pockets so that the strawberries can be sown both in the top and sides of the planter, allowing you to sow 12 plants in a very compact space. The added advantage of using this type of lightweight planter is that you can plant it up earlier in the season, keeping it undercover in a greenhouse or conservatory and then moving it outside when the risk of frost has passed. This could mean that you can harvest your first strawberries well before Wimbledon!

    Elsanta bare rooted strawberry plant

    Strawberries sown from seed can take up to a month to germinate and usually won’t crop until the following year. That’s a long wait (even for a snail). So, I buy my strawberry plants as bare rooted runners. Elsanta are a reliable type for spring planting.  They look a little like a dying alien life-form when they arrive in the post and may make you wonder what you have paid for. Don’t worry, just follow your first instinct to soak the roots in water and get them planted as soon as possible.

    Strawberry Patio Planters from Haxnicks, offering the best and healthiest way to grow Strawberries

    In no time at all the rather miserable looking plants will spring into life and start looking healthy. Keep them well watered and feed fortnightly during the growing season. For extra fabulous fruiting you can give them a feed of high-potash liquid fertiliser during flowering. Come June you should have some crops of large, fat, juicy strawberries growing nicely out of reach from  large, fat juicy slugs and snails.

  • Grandpa Haxnicks' advice on how to make cut flowers last

    I am not a huge fan of cut flowers unless they have come straight from my garden. However, at this time of the year, with Mother's day looming and little to pick in the garden, then shop-bought flowers may be your only option. I have often been asked about the many old wives' tales about keeping your cut flowers looking fresh. Well here is some old man's wisdom instead!

    Make Shop bought Roses and Tulips last longer with great advice from Haxnicks

    As soon as a flower is cut it's access to food and water via a root system is cut too, but it can continue to draw water and nutrients up through the cut stem. On first cutting, air can enter the stem and cause a sort of embolism that prevents further absorption. Re-cutting the stems when you first get the flowers home can remove any trapped air and help the flowers to re-hydrate.

    How to prepare and cut flowers for your home

    Put some lukewarm water in the sink. Using sharp scissors,  cut 1-2 inches off the stems underwater at a sharp angle. Then remove any foliage that will sit below the water line in the vase.Display your Cut Flowers in your favourite Vase

    Often flowers are provided with a small sachet of ''flower food'' to add to the water. This is most likely to contain some sugar, some acid and some bleach...sounds harsh! The sugar is a feed, the acid is to kill off bacterial growth and the bleach to maintain a ph balance in the water. All this is designed to keep your flowers in tip-top condition. If you don't get that little sachet then a drop of apple cider vinegar and a small teaspoon of sugar will do a good job too. Make sure that you change the flower water every 3 days and you can also re-cut the stems if you don't mind rearranging the flowers.  Another good tip to prolong their life is to put the flowers somewhere cool overnight such as the garage or porch.

    Grandpa Haxnicks

     

  • Know your Onions with the Potty Gardener

    The Potty Gardener crying with pride over OnionsDo you know your onions? I don’t, so I have been seeking advice from someone who does. Grandpa Haxnicks is going to guide me towards a healthy crop of container-grown onions that will have me crying with pride and joy.

    Haxnicks' Potty Gardener's Onion Sets Onion sets

    You can grow onions from ‘sets’ or from seed. Sets are small immature onions that can be planted directly into the soil in March or April. Despite being drawn to small, immature things I have decided that I will have a go at growing from seed as it is far cheaper . Grandpa Haxnicks has given me a few tips for success. Success will be judged on how many tears are shed after harvest.

    Onion Seedlings growing on a windowsill Onion seedlings on a sunny windowsill

    You will need to fill a seed tray filled with a good multi-purpose compost. Sow the teeny-weeny onion seeds approx 1cm apart and lightly cover with a thin layer of compost. They will need a temperature of 20-25˚C to germinate, so make sure that they are placed on a warm, sunny windowsill or in a heated greenhouse. The seed trays can be placed in a clear plastic bag or covered with cling film to help maintain a warm, moist environment for the seeds to sprout. After approximately 8-10 days little green lassos will emerge from the soil. Onion seeds can do a poor job of pulling away from their seed husk so you can always give them a little helping hand by gently teasing off the seed.

    Onions Spacing Guide for the perfect growth Onions need about 8 cm of space to grow

    Once the seedlings have reached onion adolescence (approx  8cm (3 inches) tall with 3 leaves)  they can be gently pricked out into the growing container.  The container will need to be at least 25cm (10inches) deep and each onion will need about 8cm (3 inches) of space to grow. So, the wider the container the better.  Make sure that the compost you use to fill the container is not too high in nitrogen as this will give you a lovely leafy display above ground and very little below ground and in the case of onions it’s what goes on below ground that counts. Make sure that that the young onions get plenty of light. If you are not growing in a greenhouse, then put the seedlings outside on warm sunny days to get maximum light benefit and to help harden them off. Use a large Bell cloche, poly lantern cloche or poly tunnel to help protect from wind and temperatures below 10˚c. Once you are happy that night time temperatures are well above 8˚C then the onions can stay out without protection.

    Store Onions in a Jute vegetable sack Store onions in a Jute vegetable sack

    Keep your onions well-watered and when the leaves start to yellow, bend the tops over and brush back the soil to help the onions ripen. Pull them up and leave to dry in the sun until, like Grandpa Haxnicks, the necks are dry and the skin is papery (his joke, not mine!).  Store in a cool, dry, frost free place with plenty of air circulation. Jute veg sacks are great for this.

  • The Potty Gardener ventures out to sow broad beans

    The Potty Gardener

    I have been hiding for the past week, paying heed to the storm and snowfall warnings from the met office. At last, it seemed that it was safe to emerge. In fact, having had a cursory nose poke outside, it was almost as if the terrible weather had never happened. After such confinement, I was eager to kick off the growing season and get my green fingers grubby.

    Broad beans ready to harvestSo, what could I grow in a pot outside in late January? Broadly speaking, not a lot. Narrowly speaking, broad beans. I am a big fan of broad beans. Not the big tough ones in their chewy grey skin, but the young baby ones. When they have been blanched for a few minutes and then popped out of their little leather jackets, the bright green beans are sweet, tender and pretty. I feel a song coming on…

    Broad beans in Haxnicks Rootrainers

    I am starting my beans off in Rootrainers and transplanting them into large pots to grow on later in the Spring. I have chosen a popular dwarf variety, ‘the Sutton’ as I intend to grow them on in containers. I have also mixed in a few ‘Crimson flowered’ beans for that ornamental touch.

    Sowing broad beans in Haxnicks Rootrainers

    As the beans are going to stay in their Rootrainers for a while, I used potting rather than seed compost for extra nutrition.  I got my green fingers grubby by poking a little hole in each cell ready to receive the beans. Then I popped one bean in each hole and covered them over with more compost. The beans should be happy outside under-cover in my cold frame, as long as I remember to water and ventilate them on warmer days.

    Broad Bean Flowers

    If you have a veg patch that isn't too soggy, you can sow where they grow now under cloches. The advice from Grandpa Haxnicks is to only sow broad beans directly in the ground now if you have well drained soil and a cat. The cat is to eat the mice who will eat your beans!

  • New Products for 2017

    Happy New Year to you all! We have a host of exciting new gardening products to inspire you in 2017.

    Maxi Rootrainers from Haxnicks with tree saplings growing.

    Bigger Rootrainers

    Due to customer demand we have extended our range of Rootrainers to include a larger size only previously used for commercial growers. Maxi Rootrainers are perfect for creating super-strong roots necessary for establishing trees, shrubs and prize-winning plants. With the extra deep cells, plants can remain in the Rootrainers for up to 2 years without the need for potting on.

    Putting out a Haxnicks Easy Seedling Tunnel.

    Smaller Easy Tunnels

    Inspired by a keen gardener in the family Haxnicks have recreated one of our best-selling products in miniature. The Easy Seedling Tunnels have all the benefits of our larger Tunnels and make for an inexpensive way to maximize sowing success.

    Haxnicks Tree Mat protecting a young tree.

    Tree Care

    It seems we all love our trees! Following on from the success of our Flexi-mesh tree guards and StrimGuards we are expanding our tree care range. Our coir Tree Mats are biodegradable, natural looking mulch mats that will give vital support to young trees by suppressing weed growth and aiding water retention.

    Haxnicks Fruit Tree Protector being put on.

    Those of you with fruit trees and bushes will be well aware that a badly timed frost or greedy birds can hugely reduce summer crops. Now you can easily protect the blossom from harsh weather and the fruits from pest invasion with our carefully constructed Fruit tree protectors. Having battled with ordinary netting in our orchard we have gone to town on designing a net that is easy to use and fit for purpose. Hooks, toggles and loops for lifting over the net, a sealable opening side, reinforced seams, a drawstring bottom, wildlife friendly mesh...this is no ordinary net!

     Haxnicks' Herb Wall Planter laying in the Sun

    No garden required

    For those of you growing in smaller spaces, vertical gardening is a great way to maximise your outdoor space and make a feature on bare wall or fences. Our simple Herb Wall Garden will enable you to grow fresh herbs without needing any ground space. Perfect for roof terraces, patios and balconies this smart oxford fabric planter can be planted up with your favourite culinary herbs in each pocket, hung within reach of your kitchen and out of reach of pets and slugs!

    Haxnicks' Vigoroot Easy Table for the Garden

    Another small space growing solution comes in the form of our Self-watering Vigoroot Easy table garden. This raised fabric planter comes with a poly protection cover and has a hidden 5 litre reservoir that waters the plants via capillary action. This clever little growing system is made from our revolutionary Vigoroot fabric that will 'air prune' roots for a healthier plant and more abundant cropping.

    Haxnicks' Boot Clamps to protect from rain against a brick wall

    Leaving the best to last, this has to be my favourite new product for 2017.  Anyone with a new year's resolution to be more organised is going to love the BootClamp. A simple device to clip over the top of your boots means that they they can be hung up out of the way and be kept in a tidy pair, but best of all muddy boots don't need to come indoors! The clamp fits so well that neither rain nor spiders will get a look-in.

    So, hopefully there is something here for all types of gardeners. We are already thinking about our new product designs for 2018, so if you have any bright ideas let us know!

    Happy gardening,

    Grandpa Haxnicks

     

     

     

     

  • The Potty Gardener and Manure in the Garden

    The Potty Gardener gives advice on manure in the garden

    I have been busy helping Grandpa Haxnicks to dig manure into his vegetable plot and learning some of the ins and outs of using various types of animal excrement in the garden. What comes out of the animal and goes into the soil is so much more than a pile of poo. All creatures great and small can provide free plop for your plot that will vastly improve soil texture, boost nutrient levels and give you bigger, better and healthier crops.

    Poultry Manure for the Garden

    If you happen to keep chickens, then as well as eggs you have a readily available source of useful fertiliser. Fresh chicken poo has high levels of ammonia so should be dug into vegetable plots at least 4 months before planting. Or you can add it to a compost heap and let it rot down before using it. It makes particularly good top dressing for blackcurrants and plum trees, but tends to be quite alkaline so not so suitable for acid loving plants such as blueberries, or camellias.

    Horse Manure and its nourishing factors

    Cow poo is great for improving soil structure. Again, it should be left to rot down in a compost heap or dug in a good few months before planting. Autumn is the perfect time for digging it in, particularly if you want to use it in areas where you might be planning to grow root vegetables in the spring. If you try to grow root vegetables in freshly manured soil the results can be a little alarming. Carrots will grow into multi-limbed aliens, beetroot will go barmy and potatoes go scabby. A great plus point for cow poo is that it has been well digested, passing through multiple stomachs a process that kills off any weed seeds.

    Weed seeds are something to watch out for with horse manure. So be sure that it is well aged to give time for any seeds to compost. Another benefit of horse poo is that it is considerably less stinky than chicken or cow. But if you want a completely non-stinky manure then worm poo is your best bet. Obviously, it is going to take a biblical proportion of worms to create the equivalent of a few cow pats, but I am told that you can make worm poo tea out of worm casts from a wormery and feed it to your potted plants!

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