Grow At Home

  • New sustainable gardening tools

    new_prodcut_2019_bamboo_scoopHaxnicks Bamboo Scoop

    A garden scoop is one of the most useful things to have in the garden.  Yet, many gardeners get by without one.  They scoop compost out with a whatever is to hand.  A handy trowel maybe?  It works but as it has no sides it holds very little it makes pot filling much longer than it could be.  The alternative is to pick up the bag of compost and tip it.  Cue compost all over the floor and an aching back at home time!  So, i say even though you can get by without a garden scoop make 2020 the year you treat yourself to a Bamboo Scoop!

    The new Haxnicks Bamboo scoop is made from the same tough material as the Bamboo pots.  If treated nicely (don't leave it down the side of the shed in the rain all winter!) It will last 5 years +.  After use it is fully compostable.  Just break into pieces to speed the process and add to your compost heap.  See exactly how, and learn more about the material in this video. If you have a trusty plastic one then do keep using it until it gives up the ghost. But when it comes to replacing it, the more sustainable Haxnicks Bamboo scoop is the way to go.

    Bamboo Plant Markers

    new_rpoduct_2019_bamboo_plant_markerAnother first from Haxnicks.  The first sustainable Bamboo Plant Markers.  There's purpose needs no explanation but I'd just add they are compostable just like the rest of the Bamboo range and free of BPAs and petroleum based plastics.  And they will help you remember where you planted your carrots. Because, lets face it, although you are 'sure' you will remember - if you are like me, you never will!

     

     

     

  • Grow at Home: Cauliflower

    Growing Cauliflower

    cauliflower_purple

    Cauliflower can be a tricker crop than many to succeed with, but the effort is well rewarded, with beautiful white or purple heads (also known as curds) that taste delicious and leave the shop bought versions behind.

    Soil and Aspect

    Cauliflowers need a well-consolidated soil which is deep, fertile and moisture retentive, so best to dig several months before planting, incorporating well-rotted manure or garden compost.  Alternatively plant after a crop of nitrogen-fixing green manure.

    Best planted in an open sunny site, it is important to avoid frost pockets if growing winter varieties.

    Sowing Cauliflower

    Sow the seeds of summer varieties in a cool greenhouse in mid-winter for an early crop. Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough and harden off for a couple of weeks before planting out in rows 50cm apart with protection in early spring.

    Autumn and Winter varieties can be sown outdoors in the late spring.  Sow thinly in nursery beds before planting in a permanent site. Thin to 5cm apart and transplant seedlings when they are 10cm tall and bearing 5 to 6 leaves - take care in lifting them.  Remember to water in well.

    Depending on the variety the final spacing should be 60-70 cm apart.

    Aftercare

    After planting, mulch the crop with garden compost - quick to produce in a Rollmix Composter.

    Water in dry periods with occasional feed and cover with netting to protect from birds - Giant Easy Net Tunnel will help shade from the sun too.

    Fold the leaves up around the head to protect from rain and frost.  Then use collars around the stems to protect from cabbage root fly.

    Harvesting and Storage

    Start harvesting when the heads are small so that not all of the crop is taken at the same time.  Florets separate or turn brown when they are too mature.  So better to opt for smaller specimens than leave it too late.

    Cauliflowers can be stored on the stem, hung upside down in a cool dark place for up to three weeks - mist occasionally.

    Pests and Diseases

    Cauliflowers are susceptible to the issues as cabbages - pick up some tips in our Spring Cabbages Blog.

     

     

     

  • Grow at Home: nutritious Microgreens

    What are Microgreens?

    new_rpoduct_2019_microgreens_closeup

    Microgreens are tiny, edible, immature veg plants.  They are ready - from seed to plate - in just a few weeks so are satisfyingly quick to grow.  They need very little space or equipment so are great for beginners or urban gardeners.  You can eat both the leaves and stems and harvest them simply with scissors or snips as and when you need them.

    As an extra plus side they are packed with a higher percentage of nutrients than their more mature versions.  Do not confuse them with sprouts which are generally grown in a jar and are germinated seeds that are eaten root, seed and shoot.

    So if you are looking for freshness and want to to make your home cooking a little more "fine dining"  without breaking the bank then try microgreens.  They can be used in many dishes and will add flavour, colour and texture to even a simple sandwich.

    Which seeds to choose?

    Most of the veg you would normally grow in the garden such as beetroot, broccoli, chard, cauliflower, cabbage, salad greens, herbs etc can be grown as microgreens.

    You can buy specific microgreen seeds which are sold in most garden centres.  This is a good place for beginners to start as they are specifically designed for easy, successful growing and often contain a colour coordinated mix which will look good too.   If you have seeds that weren't sown last year though - or know someone who does -  it is worth giving these a go as microgreens too.

    Microgreens are usually grown inside.  They can be grown outside in warmer months too though.  As you will have to do more pest protection plus remember to water them it is probably easier to keep them on the windowsill where they will get your attention though.

    Sowing Microgreens

    Take a shallow container or seed tray - the Haxnicks Bamboo Seed tray is ideal.  Next take a Haxnicks Microgreens Mat and place it into the tray.  The Microgreens mat is a made of natural materials making the whole set up plastic free.

    If you want to use a different seed tray or a container like the plastic container your grapes came in or an old take-away container, then just poke some holes in the bottom to make sure there is drainage and cut the mat to fit.

    • Check the seed packet for any special instructions.  Sprinkle the seeds evenly onto the mat
    • Water lightly - or mist if you have a suitable sprayer.
    • Place it on a warm, sunny (ideally south facing) windowsill in direct sunlight.   If the weather is not too warm then you may wish to cover with a piece of glass or clear plastic to encourage germination.
    • Mist or water the mat once or twice a day- depending on the temperature - to keep it moist not wet.  Sprouts should appear within around four to seven days.  Continue to water once or twice daily.
    • Once the seeds have sprouted, remove the cover (if you used one.) Continue to mist once or twice a day.

    Harvesting

    microgreens_in_seed_trayThey should be ready in around two to three weeks.  Harvesting is simply a case of taking scissors and snipping off a few.  Cut just above the mat as and when you need them.

    This is where the Microgreens mat really comes into its own.  The microgreens need to be washed but as they have not been in soil this process is much easier than it would if they had been grown in compost,  Simply wash them  as you would salad and pat dry on paper towels.

    Use in sandwiches or to scatter over salads, soups and other dishes to give an extra punch of flavour.

    You can pick what you need and leave the rest to continue growing.  However, if you feel the microgreens are getting a little large then you can cut them.  Store them unwashed  in a plastic bag in your refrigerator.  Then just remove, wash and use as required.

    Pest and Diseases

    As you are growing inside pests are much less likely but light may be an issue early in the year.  Like any plant, Microgreens need direct sunlight to thrive.  Around four to five hours a day should be enough.  However, watch out for spindly, pale growth which might indicate insufficient light.  If you find they aren't getting enough then either use a grow light or wait until a little later in the year to try again when days are longer and can meet the plants' light needs

  • Grow at Home: Shallots

    Shallots are a member of the onion family.  Divine in stews where they enrich the whole dish as they melt into oozy gorgeousness.  They can also be pickled if you like a crunchy tang.

    Sowing Shallots

    banana_shallots_cut_in_half_on_slateShallots can be grown from seed but sets (immature bulbs) are the more common way to start them. Sets are quicker to mature and better in colder regions.  They are also harder for pests such as birds to unearth giving a greater success rate.  Seeds are, of course, more economical as you get more of them for your money.

    Plants are easy to grow and can be grown in any well-drained, fertile soil in a sunny position. They need a long growing period but make a good companion plant so can be planted between faster-growing crops.

    Preparing the Ground

    To prepare your bed add some organic matter such as manure or garden compost.  Also add in a moderate dressing of any general purpose fertiliser.

    Plant the sets 10" (25cm) apart in rows 16" (40cm) apart from mid-November to mid-March. Gently push them into soft, well-worked soil so that the tip is just showing and firm the soil around them.

    Birds can be a problem lifting the sets; covering with fleece will prevent this.  If this is a problem in your area you may actually want to sow the sets into Rootrainers instead.  See this Exploring the Rhizosphere blog if you'd like to know why this works!

    If you would rather start shallots from seed, sow from March to April 1cm (½in) deep in rows 12 in (30cm) apart. Each seed produces a single shallot. Thin seedlings to anything from 1-3in (2.5-7.5cm) apart, depending on how large you want the individual shallots to develop.

    Growing Shallots

    You will need to keep them weeded so that they don't get overwhelmed.  The SpeedHoe or SpeedHoe Precision if you have planted them in a busier bed will both be perfect for this task.  Water if the weather is dry.  Try to avoid overhead watering as this could encourage Onion Mildew (see below). Remove any flower spikes as soon as they are seen.

    Harvesting

    In around July the foliage will start to turn yellow.  this means that the shallots are ready to harvest. Use a fork to lift the bulbs.  Separate the clusters and allow to dry. Store them like onions in a Haxnicks Veg Sack in a frost free place.

    Pest & Diseases

    Onion white rot - A soil-borne fungus that can cause yellowing and wilting of the foliage and  rotting of the roots and bulb below the soil. A white fluffy fungus appears on the base of the bulb and later becomes covered in small, round black structures.

    There is no real cure for onion white rot once it is in the soil. Get rid of contaminated plants.  Take care to avoid spreading it to other sites on muddy boots or tools used in the area.

    Onion downy mildew - another fungal disease that damages foliage and bulbs. Watch out for this when there are very damp conditions.   It leads to reduced yields.

    Try to avoid it by using the recommended spacings and not sowing plants too densely.  Weed regularly too.  This will ensure that they have plenty of light and air around them.   Remove any affected leaves.

     

  • Grow at Home: Spring Onions

    spring_onion_cut

    These easy to grow and quick to harvest salad essentials can be eaten either raw or cooked. Spring Onions must be eaten fresh and cannot be stored like other onions - a perfect reason to grow them at home and enjoy fresh from the garden. Sow continuously throughout the growing season and harvest eight weeks after sowing.

    Soil and Aspect

    Like most onions, Spring Onions prefer a light soil, but there will grow in most soils that are rich in organic matter. Crop rotation helps prevent infection from pests and diseases. They can also be grown in window boxes or planters in a peat free potting mix such as Growlite.

    Spring Onions grow best in an open sunny site, but can tolerate some shade.

    Sowing

    Sow every three weeks from early Spring to late summer for a continuous crop from spring through to early Autumn. To harvest an early Spring crop sow ‘White Lisbon Winter Hardy’ or any other hardy variety in late summer or early autumn. This crop will overwinter and be ready for picking in early Spring. Sow crops thinly in rows 1cm deep with 10cm between each row.

    Aftercare

    Water in dry condition and weed during the growing season. Protect overwintering spring onions with a cloche in cold weather - Easy Tunnel would be ideal.

    Spring_onion_tops

    Harvesting and storing

    From sowing to harvesting takes around seven to eight weeks. Use a small hand fork to loosen the ground before pulling. Thin out the crop when harvesting, taking out every other plant and leaving the rest to grow on.

    Pests and diseases

    Onion fly is the main pest, turning the leaves yellow as the bulb is eaten by the maggots eventually killing the plants. Onion eelworm is another major pest killing young plants and damaging older ones by softening the bulbs. Destroy affected plants. Diseases such as onion white rot and onion downy mildew can also affect the plant. This is not a severe problem, however as their lifespan is so short – move to another growing site if symptoms appear.

     

     

  • Grow at Home - Pak Choi

    Pak_Choi_cut_on_white_Background

    The standard Pak Choi (sometimes known as Bok Choy) is juicy, crisp and fast-maturing with a really good, strong flavour, good resistance to bolting and fast growth.  A welcome green leaf in any winter kitchen garden.

    The green-stemmed cultivars tend to have a better flavour than white-stemmed varieties.  They can  also be eaten raw, stir fried or lightly steamed and served with soy sauce.

    Soil and Aspect

    Grow Pak Choi in full sun or part shade in well-drained but moisture retentive soil rich in organic matter. Add  compost to  beds before planting and mulch with compost again at mid season to help with moisture retention.

    As it is shallow-rooting Pak Choi is ideal for container growing - try growing on a patio or balcony in Vigoroot or Patio Planters 

    Sowing Pak Choi

    Pak choi is a versatile plant that can be cultivated as a cut-and-come-again crop - ready to harvest in as little as 30 days - or harvested as a mature plant.

    It is best sown before or after the hottest part of the year, either around April, just after the last frost date in your area or in August for a late-season crop.

    Cut and come again seedlings can be sown any time from April if you use bolt-resistant varieties and offer some shade in the hottest weather -  Easy Net Tunnels will help reduce bolting.

    Sow seeds in situ as soon as the soil is workable (early crops should be sown under cloches) and continue sowing until late summer.

    Space 15cm apart for small varieties, 20cm apart for medium-size and 35cm apart for large.

    Aftercare

    Pak choi has shallow roots so needs watering little and often in dry spells rather than drenching.

    A nitrogen rich liquid feed will help produce a bumper crop and shade from Easy Net Tunnels will prevent bolting.

    Harvesting and storage

    Pak_Choi_flowersA Cut and come again crop can be harvested at any stage from 4-13cm high.

    Depending on conditions, this could be within three weeks of sowing and two or three cuts should be possible. A headed crop (ready after around six weeks) can be lifted entirely.  Alternatively, you can cut 2.5cm above ground level and leave to re-sprout.

    Less likely to go limp than lettuce, Pak Choi is best kept cool and eaten within a week.

    Pest and Diseases

    Pak Choi is susceptible to all of the brassica problems.  Flea beetle, aphids, cabbage whitefly, caterpillars, root fly, slugs, snails and birds.

    But don't be put off!  As it is so fast growing, it is perfectly possible to avoid most issues with some protective netting and regular watering. This will keep the plants in top condition.

    Companion planting with Onions or Garlic can be very effective.  A row of sacrificial radishes is also good to draw the flee beetle away!

  • Grow at Home: Chives

    Chives_flowers_on_plantsChives are a low maintenance perennial herb.  The botanical name, Allium schoenoprasum, derives from the Greek meaning reed-like leek - a very accurate description as they are a member of the onion family.  Their leaves therefore have a mild onion flavour and are great when chopped up finely and added to dishes.  They add that little extra to a potato salad and give scrambled eggs a boost. 

    They are a great addition to your diet as they are a rich source of vitamin K, C and folic acid and minerals such as manganese, magnesium and iron. As well as eating the leaves, they also have edible pink flowers that make an attractive garnish for salads.

    Sowing

    In early spring, sow a few seeds thinly across the surface a 3 inch or 4 inch pot or into plugs.  Cover with a thin layer of vermiculite, water and place in a heated propagator or warm windowsill to germinate.

    If you forget to sow seeds or want to save time, buy ready-grown plants.

    Growing

    Chives form 1ft (30cm) tall clumps.  They grow well in ground or in pots of soil-based compost  preferring a moisture retentive, well-drained soil.  Outside, plant them in a sunny or partially shaded position.

    Chives are very low maintenance.  Just keep them well watered, especially during long dry spells in summer.

    Lift plants every 3 years or so and divide them.  Simply cut with a sharp knife and replant the sections.  This will rejuvenate congested clumps in the ground or pots.  If they are in containers, either divide them or you could move them to a slightly larger pot.

    Chives die back in late autumn. Clear away any dead leaves to discourage pests.

    Harvesting

    Chives_chopped_and_cutYou have a win win situation with chives.  The more you cut the more they will produce. Simply snip the leaves with scissors close to the base of the plant.  To keep plants going, remove the flowers as they start to fade.  Don't forget to or use them for your salads.

    Chives are best used fresh.  If you want to store them then snip them up finely, pack into an ice-cube trays and add a little water and freeze.

    Pests & Diseases

    Aphids: Greenfly may be seen on the soft shoot tips of plants.  If you catch them early then you can just wash them off or pick them off with finger and thumb and squash them.

    Leek rust: This is a fungal disease causing bright yellow spots on the leaves.  You are more likely to see this when the weather has been wet.  Mild attacks of rust won’t harm the plant.  There is no control for rust once the plant has it.  so the best option is prevention.  Avoid crowding the plants, to keep humidity down.  Cut any badly affected leaves and don’t grow other members of the onion family: garlic, leeks or onions in the same spot for three years.

  • Grow at Home - Broad Bean

    Broad_bean_plant_in_flowerThe Broad Bean is the hardiest and earliest of all the beans to grow yourself.  Like many vegetables, shop bought versions don't do the tasty flavour justice.  They are well worth growing to enjoy fresh from the furry pod.  There many varieties to try including the Red Flowered which has stunning deep red flowers and a beautiful fragrance as well as delicious beans.

    Soil and Aspect

    Grow Broad Beans in heavy soils that are well manured and have good drainage - Manure should be incorporated and dug in during the Autumn.

    Choose an open sunny site, protected from strong winds, especially if growing over the winter.

    Broad Bean Sowing

    Overwintering varieties are sown in late Autumn.  Other varieties can be started off from late winter through to the end of the Spring.

    Sow in double rows in a shallow trench 20 cm wide and 4 cm deep with 20 cm between the seeds.  Alternatively Broad Beans can be started off in Rootrainers in the greenhouse early in the year for planting out in the Spring.

    Aftercare

    Broad_bean_pods_on_bushKeep weed free throughout the growing season - a Speedhoe will make short work of weeds between the rows.  If there is a dry spell, give plenty of water throughout the period until the pods start to swell.  Provide support for taller varieties with canes or an Ornamental Frame. When the first pods start to form, pinch out the top 8cm of growth - This will reduce the danger of black fly attack and aid pod formation.

    Harvesting and storage

    Pick the pods when they have become swollen. Do not allow the pods to become too mature because they will become leathery and tough.  Continuous harvesting extends the cropping season.  Broad Beans are best picked and used fresh.  Any surplus beans can be frozen or dried.

    Pest and Diseases

    The most serious problem for the broad bean is black fly - Removing the growing tips when the pods are starting to mature will help to deter this problem.

     

  • Air Pruning: Pippa Greenwood Expert Advice

    Air pruning is an amazing way to grow healthy plants that give bigger yields.  Learn all about it from expert horticulturist and BBC Broadcaster, Pippa Greenwood.

    Click on the picture below to increase the size or download the document here Air Pruning pdf.

    Air Pruning Page1 Air Pruning Page2

    For products that air prune see the following links

    Rootrainers

    Vigoroot 

    Read more about air pruning in these blogs

    The magic of Vigoroot

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

     

  • Grow at Home - Garlic

    Used in everything from stir fry to Shepherds Pie it is pretty rare to find a household that does not have garlic in their kitchen cupboard. But, despite it being relatively easy to grow, many gardeners do not include it in their planting.

    It is a hard working plant that does more than just give a delicious crop though.  Like most of the onion family, garlic is great for companion planting.  Plant between rows of vegetables especially carrots and its scent will deter pests.  This gives a natural boost to your garden's pest protection.  Also, garlic is pollinated by bees, butterflies, moths, and other insects too so great for encouraging wildlife onto your plot.

    Types of garlic

    There are two main sorts.

    Softneck

    Softneck (Allium sativum var. sativum) is the garlic which most supermarkets stock.  The bulb has a slightly hotter flavour than the Hardnecks, produces more smaller cloves and stores very well. Since the necks are soft, this is the sort you want if you have the time and energy create a garlic plait.  They also sprout relatively quickly so are satisfying to grow for the garlic novice.

    Hardneck

    Hardnecks (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon) are closer to wild garlic, with more complex flavours. These garlics have subtle flavour differences created from the soil and weather patterns in the region where you grow them. The advantage of Hardneck varieties for the cook is that their skins usually slip off easily.  They do not store as long as Softnecks though.  Cure and eat them within 3 to 10 months, depending on the variety.

    Garlic_bulbs_with_flowers

     

    There is some debate about hardiness with some believing that Softneck will grow only in the warmer parts of the UK so if in doubt in the coolest parts of the UK it might be a better to choose Hardneck.  Which you choose is up to you though as there is anecdotal evidence of both thriving in areas of the country where they should be struggling.

    There are many varieties of each sort to choose from depending on the flavour and bulb size you would like to produce.

     

    Planting

    When to Plant

    Garlic needs a long growing season.  The cloves can be planted in late Autumn or early Spring but you will get a bigger crop if you plant in Autumn.

    Garlic_plants_in_bed

    Whatever variety you choose, to grow well, it needs a cold period of at least two months. For Autumn sowing, it is therefore essential to sow from early-October to allow the roots to develop before the cold weather sets in. With this in mind Hardnecks should be planted at the beginning of October but Softnecks can wait until around Christmas time. 

    The  Hardnecks will be slower to show themselves so even with this planting timetable you may see the Softnecks appear first.

    Where to plant

    We recommend growing garlic in a rotation system with carrots, onions, leeks, and other root vegetables.  A classic rotation is tomato family, broccoli family, onion family including your garlic.  But as a companion plant we find it makes a great space filler between carrots, sweet peppers, spinach, lettuce and parsnips, roses and other flowers too.

    How to plantrows_of_garlic_growing

    Garlic is rarely planted from seed with the cloves used instead.  These are readily available from seed companies and garden centres but you can use pretty much any garlic cloves hanging around your kitchen ... just gently break apart the bulb and each clove will produce it's own plant

    It can be planted directly into the soil but if you suffer from pests such as birds ripping out your young plants then sowing into Rootrainers first may help your plants survive.  See our recent Overwintering Onions Blog for the full story.

    Plant in fertile, well-drained soil. A Raised Bed works very well. Remove stones from the top 6 inches of soil. Work several inches of compost or well-rotted manure into the bed, along with your fertiliser of choice.

    Planting
    1. Break up the bulbs no longer than 24 hours before you plant them.  Be careful not to bruise or damage them.
    2. Sow the individual cloves 10 cm below the surface, root down (pointy end up) around 4 inches apart to give the bulb room to grow.
    3. Hardneck garlic loves to flower.  Cut off the stem close to the base of the bulb once the flower stem starts to coil.  This will concentrate the plants' energy into the crop beneath increasing the size of the bulb.
    4. Once the leaves go yellow/brown stop watering the plants.  Harvest 2 to 3 weeks later (June onwards)
    5. Try to harvest when the weather is dry.  Loosen beneath it with a fork to prevent bruising the bulb then pull up like a weed.  Leave the plants on the surface of the soil to dry in the sun for a few hours.  Move to somewhere warm and dry, to cure for 3 weeks.
    6. Thoroughly dry the bulbs then store them in a cool, ventilated place away from sun.

    Eating Garlic

    Garlic is unbelievably good for you.  It can lower blood pressure, fat and cholesterol levels.  It can also combat bacterial, fungal and viral infections.

    There are lots of opportunities for the gardener growing their own garlic to plant a few extra and leave it to flower or to experiment with young garlic, picked before it has matured.

    As well as eating the bulb the leaves and flowers are also edible.  They have a milder flavor than the bulbs, and are most often consumed while immature and still tender. You may see "green garlic" in the shops.  This is immature plant that has been pulled rather like a scallion.
    When green garlic has grown past the "scallion" stage, but not fully matured, it may produce a garlic "round", a bulb not separated into cloves like a mature bulb. This imparts a garlic flavor and aroma in food, minus the spiciness of the mature bulb.

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