Grandpa Haxnicks

  • Exploring the rhizosphere: how to grow trouble free onion sets...

    Rootrainers are what I've chosen for years to grow overwintering onion sets, garlic and spring planted onion sets. Onion sets (small immature onions) allow me to have onions all year round. But, originally manufactured to grow tree seedlings, why would I use Rootrainers for onion sets?

    Growing Onions using Haxnicks Rootrainers
    Growing onions from seeds can be a hit and miss affair, with weather, birds and the like all affecting the young seedlings’ growth outdoors, particularly those seedlings that have to overwinter. I am not after prize winning onions anyway or even huge onions so don't need to use onion seeds. I prefer sets. However, whenever I planted sets direct into the soil outdoors, within a few days, I would find many of the sets had been pulled up from where I had planted them and scattered all over the soil. Who or what was responsible?

    Some detective work - root zones and rhizospheres...

    The root zone is the name for the region of the soil around plant roots as they grow.  The roots produce secretions that help and protect them as they force their way downwards through the soil. The immediate area around the root is called the rhizosphere. There will be many rhizospheres within the root zone of a plant.

    The rhizosphere is the most dynamic environment in the soil, or a microbe ‘hot spot’, the fast food areas of the soil! The roots are also continually shedding old tissue and sloughed-off plant cells. The root secretions and dead plant cells are a feast for microbes living in the soil. In return the soil microbes provide nutrients for the plants, which encourage plant growth. More plant growth means more roots. A win-win situation! Hence soil microbes themselves congregate around the roots. Microbes in turn are a beacon for earthworms, who sense the root secretions and microbes in the soil and target such ‘hot spots’ to feast upon them!

    The Culprit!

    In my garden its the blackbird.  Blackbirds deliberately pull up the onion sets to seek out earthworms and other such tasty morsels, living and feeding in the root zone underneath the onion set.

    By planting onion sets in Rootrainers, the roots will grow in and around the compost, binding it together.  Then when planting them outdoors, unless the blackbird has fed on at least 3 Weetabix (!) that morning, it will not have the energy or strength to pull out the onion set with its well rooted fibrous compost ball, which is a lot heavier than an onion set on its own. Result:  no more scattered onion sets!

    Due to their size onion sets are great for children and school projects too.  Handling them is easy.  Planting requires less skill as sets are easier to handle than seeds.  Together, sets and rootrainers make the exercise easy and interesting for children to do for themselves. One major advantage for schools is that the children can grow AND harvest them all within the school year.

     

  • Don't let your plants go outside without a jacket or a blanket to keep them warm!

    Fleece_jacket_to_protect_from_frost Easy Fleece Jacket (small). by Haxnicks

    Plants cost a lot of money.  Plus if you've grown them from seeds or cuttings, then an awful lot of research, time and anxious moments too!  So you don't want early frost to catch you out.  This could at best set their growth back and at worst kill them off.

    The RHS offer several ways to avoid frost damage:-

    • Choose plants that are reliably hardy and suited to your growing conditions.
    • Cold air flows downwards on sloping ground, collecting at the lowest point creating what is known as a 'frost pocket' - avoid planting tender plants in areas such as this.
    • Grow slightly tender plants in a warm sunny spot like a south-facing wall, to provide extra warmth and winter protection
    • Cover plants with a double layer of horticultural fleece when frost is forecast
    • Mulch the root area of evergreens, conifers, tender shrubs and tender perennials with a thick layer of organic matter to prevent the ground becoming frozen
    • Move container grown plants to a sheltered part of the garden in cold weather and provide some extra protection by wrapping the pot in a fleece jacket
    • Leave the previous seasons’ growth on more tender plants until spring,  to provide valuable frost protection
    • Lift Tender plants or move them to a more sheltered position or greenhouse.  Ensuring that adequate heating and insulation is in place to prevent damage.
    • Protect fruit and strawberries from frost by packing with bracken or straw or fleece
    • Avoid applying nitrogen-rich fertilisers late in the season as they stimulate soft growth which is especially vulnerable to frost damage
    • Plant tender bedding plants out after the danger of frost has passed; this is generally late May in the south of England and June elsewhere. Always harden plants before planting outside

    So choosing the right plant in the first place is clearly a good idea.  As is, moving them to the greenhouse if you have one, or a more sheltered spot.  A good solution but not always possible with larger heavier plants.  As the RHS recommend a great alternative as autumn approaches and early frosts threaten is to use a fleece.  The Haxnicks Easy Fleece Jacket.  is a simple way to protect exotic plants, hanging baskets and other semi-hardy plants in pots patio containers.

    You may have used horticultural fleece, bought off a giant roll at the Garden Centre?  But this is unruly and requires securing.  The fleece jacket is quicker and easier.  Slip it over your plant and the job is done. Secure with the integral, rot-proof drawstring and locking toggle = instant protection against frost, harsh weather and pests.

    Fleece_cloche_over_bedIf your plants are in the ground rather than containers then it may be a fleecy cloche or even a blanket you need to instantly cosette your crops.  Both have the advantage that not only will they protect crops this end of the season but, laid over the soil in Spring they can bring it up to temperature before all your friends.  This allows you to sow or plant out weeks ahead of others.  As a result it will extend the growing season and hopefully reward you for your care with an increased yield.

    Haxnicks Easy Fleece Jackets are available in three sizes, priced at £7.99 per pack

  • 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...

    How to protect your Carrots from Carrot Fly with Haxnicks
    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.

  • 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 Haxnicks 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!

     

  • 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 threHaxnicks CaneTopperse 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 Haxnicks Canetopper on them and purple flowers

    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. 

  • 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).

    Broad Beans growing in Haxnicks 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.

    Haxnicks 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.

    Haxnicks Water Saucers showing their wicks

    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.

    Broad Beans growing in Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots

    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.

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    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...

  • 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”

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    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”

    4 striped tomatos on a plate

    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.

  • Growing Courgettes in a Small Space

    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.

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    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.

    Growing Courgettes in your Garden with Haxnicks Garden Products

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

    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.

    Other 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

  • 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!

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    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.

    Preparing Cut Flowers for the home with Haxnicks

    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

     

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