Monthly Archives: August 2020

  • What things grow in Winter? How to keep kids gardening all year

    So you have taken advantage of Lockdown to grow things as a family.  Your kids have been watching their sunflowers tower above them and stealing cherry tomatoes and cucamelons from the vine but what things grow in winter?  

    Winter is actually a great time to get kids involved.  They will just need a little more patience as some of what you will be planting will be for Spring.  There are plenty of little jobs to keep them going though.

    Garden Jobs

    growing_in_winter_boy_with_watering_can_watering_plantsBelow you will see lots of things that you can plant over winter.  The list is not exhaustive but it should be enough to keep the patch producing.  But added to this there are other tasks that have to carry on.


    Your overwintering veg needs to contend with the weather.  It shouldn't have to compete with weeds too though.  So it is good to get your little one to regularly weed their bit of the patch so the nasty weed don't take over.  Caution: you may need to help them understand what is weed so that all your spring onions aren't accidentally weeded out!


    Even though it can be wet there may be times that you need to water too.  Especially when you are growing in containers.  Get them their own mini watering can and your little one can help with this.


    If the weather is bad and you really can't get out then planning your planting is a great way to keep kids involved.  They can look over seed catalogues and pick out what they would like to grow then make drawings or collages of the plot and how it will look.  Maybe imagine how a little raised bed all of their own will be planted.

    Build a Bug Hotel

    Bugs are always fascinating so use twigs and things from around the garden to make your own little bug hotel.  Hours of fun, counting bugs and identifying which bugs have made their home there.

    Look after the Wildlife

    Wildlife is part of the garden's ecosystem so look after the birds by giving them food and water over the winter.  And they will return to eat the caterpillars from your plants in the Spring and Summer.  You could even put up bird boxes and make a hedgehog house if you have the time and space.

    Veg that Grow in Winter

    Swiss_chard_growing_in_winterSo on to what you can plant....

    Swiss chard

    Swiss chard is a fabulous colourful veg and now is the perfect time to plant it. It is a cool season crop so put in plug plants now and then plant the seeds 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost date.  It is ideal for containers too so you can plant it right outside the kitchen door.  Harvest it as a “cut-and-come-again” crop and use it as you would spinach.

    Onions & Garlic

    Plant over-winter onion and garlic bulbs which will be ready to harvest next year. Find out how here Grow at Home: onions from Sets and Grow at Home; Garlic

    Chilies & Peppers

    January is a great time to start to grow chilli plants on a warm windowsill.  Check out how to grow them here.  Grow at Home: chilli Peppers and once they are started in about February you can start off your pepper plants. Grow at home: Sweet Bell Peppers/ Capsicum


    What could be more fun than growing Mushrooms?  Do these at any time over the winter - just find a spot where they aren't going to dry out and you are away.  There are several ways to grow them which are all covered in this blog so take a look if you fancy your own mushroom farm Grow at Home: Mushrooms.


    This is another indoor growing activity that could get your kids trying all sorts of veg (without knowing it!) You can grow most veg such as beetroot, peas, rocket, cress, broccoli, chard, cauliflower, cabbage.  You just eat them when they are very young sprinkled on sandwiches, pasta, soup etc.  It is a great one to balance all the waiting for things to sprout in Spring as they are ready to eat in a few weeks.

    Top Tip: microgreens seeds come in packs of 100s of seeds as you need quite a few of them.  They cost about the same as regular seed packets though so are much cheaper 'per seed'.  They are the same seeds you would get in the regular packets though so keep a few to fill your veg garden next year.

    You can read about it here Grow at Home: nutritious Microgreens or see the mats in action over on our YouTube Channel Microgreens Growing Mats 



    Spring_crocus_growing_in_winter_gardenFlowers are important in your garden as they attract pollinators which you need for veg growing.  Certain types can also ideal as Companion Planting to deter pests form eating your crops.   And of course they look pretty.


    For Spring colour now is the time to plant flower bulbs - crocus, snowdrop, daffodil and tulip are all easy for children to plant. They can also be grown in pots if you don't have space.  Just show them which way up they go and you are away.  To keep things moving set up a production line with one person digging the hole and the next planting the bulb.  Then swap when they (and you!) inevitably get bored.


    This is one for right now and the kids will love it.  Get them to collect seeds from - Sweet Peas, Sunflowers, Love in the Mist, Poppies, Calendula or Lupin.  Dry them out and label them so that you can sow them when Spring comes.  If you aren't growing any of these then ask neighbours if you could collect any they aren't using.  The advantage of this is that if they are growing well in your neighbours gardens then they will likely grow well in yours as you'll have similar soil.  You can also look out along the road side.  You may find the odd poppy or other flower that has sprouted where it shouldn't.


    You could even think big and grow a tree!  Trees grow in winter so take an apple pip, an acorn or a horse chestnut and plant them in a little pot.  They will be fine outside as they need the cold to germinate. Then come Spring you will start to see your own mini forest!

    Left Overs

    carrot_tops_growing_in_winter_from_leftoversIf you want a low cost way to keep your gardening going during winter then you can start to grow veg from your left overs.

    Place cut carrot tops in a shallow dish of water and they will sprout - you can use the tops as fresh carrot flavoured leaves for salads and soups.  You could also regrow lettuce and celery from the base in the same way.

    Try growing orange or lemon pips in a little pot.

    What did you do?

    So, there are plenty of things that can keep you and your little ones on your growing journey.  I hope this has inspired you.

    This blog was produced as a direct result of a request from one of our Instagram followers @shedsews so if you have an idea for a blog or a gardening subject that is really puzzling you then do let us know. We would also love to hear what you will try to grow in winter - whether it is one of the ideas here or something of your own.  Please comment or tag Haxnicks in your picture so we can see what worked and share it with others!

  • Grow at Home: How to harvest pumpkins. Is my pumpkin ripe?

    Is my pumpkin ripe?

    multi_coloured_pumpkinWhat colour is a ripe pumpkin?  The answer is ususally orange but they can come in shades or grey, blue or white and some are even stripey.

    But generally colour is a pretty good indicator - if it is orange all the way round then it is pretty likely to be ripe.  However, it you've grown something a bit different then it is important to hold on to the seed packet so you know what colour to expect.

    Whatever colour it is there are other ways to check if your pumpkin is ripe though.

    1. The Rind - the rind will be hard if the pumpkin is ripe. To test its readiness try to pierce the skin with your fingernail.  It should be strong enough to resist puncture so if the skin dents but doesn’t puncture, the pumpkin is ready to pick.
    2. The Sound - a ripe pumpkin will sound hollow.  So try tapping it.  Listen for a hollow sound and that will tell you that it is ripe.
    3. The Stem - when the stem above the pumpkin becomes hard this is another indicator that your pumkin is ripe.

    How to harvest Pumpkins

    Harvesting correctly is important if you want to store the pumpkin for later use. There are some key steps.

    1. Try and harvest when it is ripe.  Pumpkins harvested too early will still ripen but are more prone to rot.  You may want to harvest early if there is a chance of frost but otherwise try and leave them until they are ripe
    2. Pick a dry day - pumpkins harvested when wet are agian more likely to rot.
    3. Use a sharp knife so you do not leave a jagged cut on the stem.  A jagged cut will allow disease to get into your pumpkin which could cause it to rot.
    4. Leave at least several inches of stem attached to the pumpkin.  Again to prevent disease.
    5. Clean the pumpkin - after you harvest the pumpkin, wipe it down with a 10 percent bleach solution to kill any organisms on the skin. You might want to rinse it before eating but the bleach solution will evaporate in a few hours so will not be harmful.
    6. Store in a cool dark place out of direct sunlight.  Pumpkins will continue to ripen once off the vine (see section below) so if yours is already ripe it needs to be out of the sun.

    Will a pumpkin ripen once picked?

    If you wondered, do pumpkins ripen after picking? Then the answer is Yes.  If your pumpkins are still green, there are a few things you can do to ripen them.  Especially useful if you want them nice and orange for Halloween.

    pumpkin_yellow_stripedPumpkin Ripening Ins and Outs

    The speed a pumpkin ripens at - both on and off the vine - depends on the temperature and the amount of sun it gets. Its fairly logical: quicker when its warm and the sun is out and slower when it is cold and dull.


    So even after pumpkins are picked they need as much sun as possible.  The best place to put them is an open space facing South.

    Make sure the pumpkins are kept free from dust and dirt by wiping them occassionally.  You don't want anything blocking the suns rays, especailly if those are few and far between.

    Make sure that the sun gets to the whole pumpkin by rotating them every day.


    Another problem with ripening pumpkins is the weather. Temperature drops will cause ripening to slow.  If possible, move your pumpkins inside the house on nights when temperatures drop below freezing. Returning them back outside if the weather is set to be sunny.  Or, if there is no sign of good weather store the pumpkins inside in a warm, airy room with large windows and plenty of direct sunlight. This way the pumpkin will continue to ripen.


    The best storage temperature is a cool 10-12° C (50-55° F)

    A healthy, disease free pumpkin can be stored for 8 to 12 weeks.

    Your traditional Halloween Jack-o-lanterns don't last as long though.  Possibly due to the size but you are looking at a week to 10 days for these.  As an aside, if you are carving and not eating them then giving them another 2 minute soak in bleach solution once carved will also prolong your art work over Halloween.

    For further info on growing pumpkins check out this blog Grow at Home: Perfect Pumpkins

    Oh and before you go, if you are looking for something to do with your pumpkin seeds check out this post What to do with Pumpkin seeds


  • Product Bite: Bamboo Plant Markers

    What are Bamboo Plant Markers:  

    new_rpoduct_2019_bamboo_plant_markerHow do you mark a vegetable garden?  Bamboo Plant Markers are a set of three labels that will allow you to mark what you have planted where.

    It is easy to mix up seeds once planted and be left guessing as to how to care for your emerging plants.  These Markers take away the worry when using seed trays, planting in rows or even placing specimen plants.  They have a life span of around 3+ years and are biodegradable and fully home compostable after use.

    What's so special about it?

    The material we make the markers from is its real selling point.   Is bamboo a good material?  Yes it is!  It is the fastest-growing woody plant in the world. It can grow up to four feet in one day and to do so it needs no pesticides and little water compared to other crops.  Our markers are made from sustainable bamboo with natural resin made from rice.  This material is free from petroleum-based plastics and BPA and a great way to help reduce plastic in the garden.

    How do i lable my plants?

    If you are already using plastic plant markers then keep using them until they wears out (or get lost!).   However, if you have muddled up your seeds this year and are womdering 'what can i use for plant markers?' then these are the best choice.

    Find out more: 

    See it in action: The markers don't have their own video yet but they are made from the same material as our bamboo pots and seed trays.  You can find out more about it including how to dispose of it after use over on our YouTube channel Bamboo Range

    Related Blogs:  Read about it in use New sustainable gardening tools

    Buy it Now:  See the full range here Bamboo & Sustainable Gardening


  • Gardening Tips for August from Pippa Greenwood

    Still Time for Salad

    August_gardening_tips_fullframe_of_mixed_salad_leavesThe first of my August gardening tips is for the kitchen.  If you’ve ever been to the supermarket on a sunny weekend, you’ll know just how difficult it can be to get hold of the ingredients you need for a delicious salad.  Plus all too often those bagged salads are rather the worse for wear too.  So why not save the hassle, save the petrol and enjoy an even tastier, juicer (far fresher) and more delicious salad that you’ve grown yourself?

    Provided the compost is moist, they grow at a surprising speed too.  It is that magical combination of a warm (but not too hot) and moist soil which gets the seeds germinating.  Then the seedlings put on growth at an amazing rate.  In no time at all you’ll have a really scrumptious and very tender crop for you to harvest as and when you need it.  No more bags of supermarket salad leaves going soggy in the fridge.  When you grow your own there is always a supply to be had.  Much fresher more tender and packed full of health-giving ingredients than you’d find in bag!

    Feeding & Watering


    Make sure that you feed flowering and fruiting plants now.  The best thing is a liquid, high potash feed such as one sold for use on tomatoes.  That way you can use it on your edibles and your ornamentals.

    The potash will help to encourage more flowers to form and even at this time of year there should still be more potential from most crops.  Watering well before you feed is essential as the soil or compost should be moist first.  Try to avoid wetting the leaves and flowers with the fertiliser.  On a hot, sunny day even plain water can cause scorching.

    Super-speedy weeds are everywhere, still growing extra – at every opportunity on hot days.  Grab a hoe and hoe them off, leaving them on the soil surface to be baked dry in the sunshine. I'd not say I am lazy, but I do like to do thing quickly and efficiently.  My Speedhoe fulfills all my hoeing needs and is easy to manoeuvre in between plants too.

    So I hope you like my August gardening tips and find them useful.  If there is anything that you would like to read about then please comment below.  We'd love to hear from you!

  • Grow at Home: Raspberries

    raspberriees_canes_with_gnomes_hidingRaspberries are unusual in that their roots and crowns are perennial, while their stems or ‘canes’ are biennial.  This basically means that your raspberry plant will go on and on.  However, the branches (or canes) which bear the fruit live for only two summers making pruning especially important.

    During the first growing season, the shoots of summer raspberries will not fruit - these are called primocanes.  The following year these canes will flower and produce fruit and are now called floricanes. 

    The floricanes produce their fruit in early to mid summer and then die back. New primocanes are produced each year, so fruit production continues year after year. Your main task is to  prune out the dead canes each year.

    Autumn fruiting varieties however produce fruit at the tip of the current season’s growth. 

    It sounds far more complicated than it is! Once you have established which variety you are growing and how to handle the pruning regime there is perhaps no better soft fruit to grow for a prolific and delicious crop. 

    Planting Raspberries

    Although it is possible to grow raspberries from seed, by far the most common and straightforward way to cultivate them is to plant as bare root canes – usually available from nurseries and garden centres. 

    Soil and Aspect 

    Like most fruit, raspberries thrive in an open sunny site, but they will tolerate some light shade.  They prefer a deep, well drained but moisture retentive soil with a pH of around 6.0 to avoid iron deficiency. 


    Lone-raspberryRaspberries, whether bare-rooted or container-grown, should be planted out in late Autumn or early Winter.  Plant them a little deeper than they were previously growing (you’ll be able to see a soil mark on the stems of bare root plants) and space 45cm apart with 1.5m+ between rows. 

    Cut the canes to 15cm above ground and water thoroughly after planting. 

    Raspberries need very little or no feeding, but a mulch applied in the Spring will give the a nutrient boost. 

    Pruning Raspberries

    Summer Fruiting Varieties 

    These need to be pruned twice.  In early or mid-Spring remove all weak or damaged canes to ground level.  Leave the most vigorous canes and aim to have them spaced around 15cm apart. 

    After fruiting remove the spent canes – they will be brown in colour – to ground level after the last harvest of the summer to encourage growth of new shoots the following year. 

    Autumn Fruiting Varieties 

    In early Spring prune back all canes to ground level – no Summer pruning is necessary 

    Harvesting and Storage 

    Raspberries should be picked early in the morning before it gets too hot and are best eaten straightaway.  They can be frozen or made into jam too – they do not keep particularly well in the fridge. 

    Pests and diseases 

    The main diseases that commonly affect raspberries are botrytis (a fungus that affects many plant species) and mildew.  Keeping on top of pruning and watering will help avoid these. 

    Deter birds with a Birdscare tape and protect your crop with a Round Fruit Cage to make sure you get to enjoy a bumper harvest. 





  • Product Bite: Tomato Tubes

    What are Tomato Tubes :

    tomato_tubes_on_tomato_plant_in_potTomato Tubes are simple tubes of aerated, UV Stabilised polythene that you put over tomato plants.  They offer simple, inexpensive, organic crop protection for tomato plants grown outside.

    What crop are they for:

    Tomatoes that are grown outside a greenhouse.

    What's so special about it?

    The special thing about them is that they are, like so many brilliant ideas, extremely simple.  Tomato plants thrive when they are warm.  Unseasonal weather can cause havoc with outdoor tomato crops. Too much rain, too little sunshine, harsh winds, plummeting temperatures...the great British summer is not always ideal for a bumper crop of tomatoes! Even this week we are set to swing between 11 and 37 degrees!

    However, if you just pop over a length of Tomato Tube it will protect the plant from dipping temperatures as well as fruit pinching pests. it is easy to take off for the day if conditions change  for example on a super hot day and then pop it back on to retain that warmth.  The holes in the polythene will allow air to circulate around the plant giving the plant the ideal environment to boost ripening.  Great for late season toms.

    Tomato Tube comes as a 3pk of 2m lengths. Once over support the plant in the pot with canes and tie off at the top and bottom with the tie wires included in the pack.

    Find out more: 

    Related Blogs:  Read about it in use Grow at Home: Tomatoes

    Buy it Now:  See them here Tomato Tube

    White text

    However, if you just pop over a length of Tomato Tube it will protect the plant from dipping temperatures as well as fruit pinching pests. The Tomato Tube also gives the plants the ideal environment and boosts ripening.  Great for late season toms.

    Tomato Tube comes as a 3pk of 2m lengths. Once over the plant it can be supported in the pot with canes and tied off at the top and bottom with the tie wires included in the pack.

  • Grow At Home: Rocket

    Rocket_in_seed_trayWho doesn't love a little peppery rocket in their salad?  And who hasn't gone to the fridge and found a bag of sorry looking rocket that is more limp than lovely!  The solution is simple.  And that is to grow your own.


    Rocket can either be started off in small pots on the windowsill, in the greenhouse, or it can be sown directly outside.

    Sow seeds inside from March to June or outside from June to September.  Sow small amounts at regular intervals (say every 3 to 4 weeks) so that you don't create your own rocket glut and instead have a nice steady supply all summer long.

    Choose a sunny spot with rich, fertile well drained soil.  Sow thinly, 0.5-1cm (¼- ½in) deep in rows 20cm (8in) apart.

    Keep the seedlings covered with a Easy Poly Tunnel or a  Victorian Bell Cloche during the Spring and with an Easy Net Tunnel  during the hotter months, This helps to protect them and speed up their growth.  When the seedlings are big enough to handle, thin them out a little and use the thinnings in salad.  Your first taste of home grown rocket!


    Mid _size_rocket_growing

    Rocket very quickly goes to seed once it has matured, keeping it watered well can help stall this and stop it bolting.  As flower buds appear, pinch them out to prolong cropping, unless you want the plants to set seed. The flower buds can also be used in salads.

    If you do turn your back for a moment and find your rocket bolted then you can always harvest the seeds for next year and tell people it was deliberate! This means the next sowing has cost you nothing which will make it taste even better!

    Provide some shade in really hot weather as too much sun will make the leaves tough and not nice to eat.  Also, try not to over water as this will dilute the taste.



    Flea beetle are sometimes a problem on rocket.  The leaves will become covered in small holes and damaged areas turn brown. To prevent this use fleece, especially whilst its still young, and keep the soil moist. If you water in nitrogen-rich fertilser then the crop can recover from this .


    pasta_bowl_with_rocketHarvest lasts from April to November but you can pick your fist leaves around 4 weeks after planting.  Don't pick all the leaves form one plant as this will weaken its growth.  Instead, pick a few leaves from each plant and they will keep providing so you can ‘cut-and-come-again’ for much longer.

    Try to pick just what you need but if you do pick more you can store them in a paper bag (will work just as well as a plastic one without the environmental impact) in a cool place for 2-4 days. Don’t let the rocket get too cold or it will wilt as soon as it warms up.

    Rocket adds a great peppery taste to salads. It is delicious with a balsamic vinegar dressing, in a bacon butty or scattered over pasta.

    For grow a whole range of salads along with your rocket see our Grow at Home: Salad Leaves Blog too.

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