Grow At Home

  • Grow at Home: Winter veg planting

    Now the main growing season is nearly over I'm sure you  - especially if you are new to veg growing - are wondering what to plant now.  Well, winter veg planting is not as straightforward as you might think.

    What it reminds me of is a well-known joke about a tourist who asks one of the locals for directions. The local replies: ‘Well sir, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here’.

    Why? you ask.

    Well, the traditional 'winter' veg such as brussels sprouts, leeks and parsnips are actually sown much earlier in the year. Don't worry though, there are still plenty of vegetables to grow.

    Autumn / Winter Veg planting & the Soil

    It is good to think ahead to what is going on in the soil in winter.  When temperatures drop and the soil cools below 5°C in November, there won’t be any growth until the following Spring (March/April). Virtually none.

    So whilst Autumn is still productive in the vegetable garden, growth slows dramatically in October before grinding to a halt in November.  There are ways to extend the season like using a greenhouse or keeping the soil and plants warm with a Easy Poly Tunnel.  All in all though, the short days, cold temperatures and 'locked away' water means growth outside is going to be minimal.

    What veg can I plant in September?

    There are really 3 main groups of autumn winter vegetables and it’s handy to understand these so that you can plan your veg.  Some vegetables can fit into more than one category depending on the variety you choose so pay attention to the recommended planting dates to make sure you get the right one.

    Autumn Vegetables

    These are still up for grabs for planting and eating this year.  Autumn veg are planted in August/September but grow quickly so that they are harvested before growth stops in November. These include salad crops, turnips, spinach, Swiss Chard and radish.  Plant now and they can fill up your beds and give you some nutritious veg in the short days of winter.



    Autumn Overwintering Vegetables

    These are planted in September time but won't be harvested until Spring.  They will become dormant in the ground over Winter.  Then come Spring, when the temperatures rise in March/ April time, they will start growing again. These include Spring Cabbage, garlic and onion sets.  Some of them need a period of cold to grow properly for example garlic needs a period of 6 weeks below 10° C for the bulb to divide and form into cloves.

    You can also overwinter broad beans and peas. If you do this they will crop about a month earlier.  Good if a) you really like peas and beans and want to eat them for longer or b) you are a competitive gardener and want to beat your neighbour to the crop!

    Spring Overwintering Vegetables

    Now these are the ones that are traditionally winter veg but in fact should have planted months ago.   These have a long growing season and are ready in the winter months but require planning make this happen. Sowing season is around April (Sprouts) to June (Leeks) if you are going to be having them for Christmas Lunch.

    So, what veg can I plant in September?

    Here is a list of 12 candidates for you to consider.  You can either grow from seed or may even be able to pick up plug plants from your local garden centre.

    Autumn Vegetables

    • Kohl Rabi
    • Turnip
    • Radish
    • Onion
    • Spring Onion
    • Oriental Salads
    Overwinter Spring harvest
    • Garlic
    • Spring Cabbage
    • Broad Beans
    • Kale
    • Chard 
    • Perpetual Spinach

    Let us know what you decide to go for in the comments...

  • Grow at Home: The 'No Dig' method of gardening

    spade_in_soil_no_dig_gardeningPut simply ‘No dig’ is exactly that - a means of gardening without digging over the plot each year.

    It is a a gardening method that is gaining popularity in sustainable gardening and farming communities around the world.  It is the passion of award winning expert and writer Charles Dowding who runs courses on his farm in Somerset.  In these he shares the technique with hundreds of new gardeners every year.

    The basic principle of ‘No Dig is that rather than seeking to cultivate soil we should leave it to manage this process on its own. By simply weeding at surface level, minimising disruption to the soil and keeping the structure intact you can achieve a perfectly balanced medium for gardening.  This will allow you to enjoy fantastic results, with a lot less back breaking work!

    For years we have been told the secret to success is to dig over your soil and ‘improve’ it.  The basis of this is that this promotes healthy soil and discourages weeds.

    In fact, Charles Dowding’s research suggests the opposite is true. His work shows that intensive ‘dig’ cultivation is actually harmful to the soil.  It promotes weed growth and leads to a reduction in crop production.  And of course, it uses a lot of time and energy!

    With a ‘No dig’ garden you only disturb the soil to plant seedlings and undertake some light hoeing.  A Speedhoe or SpeedHoe Precision depending on the size of your bed will give you that light touch across the surface. The only extra work is to add a compost mulch once a year and that’s it!

    How to Start 'No Dig'

    Careful preparation of your growing area is the key.   Starting with the removal/smothering of weeds, followed by a thick mulch of cardboard then compost.  Your bed might be out of action for 6 months to a year so it might be best to do this one bed or portion of the garden at a time so you can carry on growing.


    For those new to gardening - mulches are loose coverings or sheets of material placed on the surface of soil. They can be biodegradable matter such as compost, bark or cardboard.  Or they can be non biodegradable matter such as gravel, sheets of cardboard, lino or landscaping weed barrier fabrics.

    Whatever mulch you use, the purpose of mulching is to save water, suppress weeds and improve the soil around plants.  It also gives your garden a neat, tidy appearance and can reduce the amount of time spent on tasks such as watering and weeding.


    Initial Preparation

    The key steps are:

    • Clear the site a little if needed - there is no need to remove weeds, with the exception of tough woody species such as brambles which should be cut out as much as possible so that it is flat enough to lay your cardboard.
    • We recommend cardboard as it will decompose.  Avoid plastic as they may break down into microplastics which will stay in your soil.  Carpet is often used but these days most carpet has been treated with chemicals which will poison the soil so its not a good option.
    • Lay your thick layer of cardboard and cover with mulch.  The mulch could be one or more of: homemade compost, fully-rotted manure, leaves or grass mowings.  You need about a 15 - 20 cms (6" - 8") layer.  The aim is to exclude the light so the weds can't grow.
    • Most perennial weeds will be weakened and then killed off with the cardboard and mulch. Ground Elder, Bindweed and Mares Tail might need some additional hoeing, but all will be weakened over time.
    • Now all you have to do is wait!  It can take 6 months to a year for all the weeds to die off.


    The focus is on feeding and looking after the soil, rather than the plants – the No Dig principle is that organic matter is all you need to provide all the nutrients for a healthy crop, fed by the soil.

    • The mulch needs topping up each year to enrich the soil..  So, lay a layer of compost about 8cm (3") thick (laid on top - no digging in)
    • Keep a clean and tidy plot - remove damaged leaves and hoe regularly to reduce the chances of pests
    • Plant closely and harvest regularly leaving less space for weeds to grow and maximise your crop.

    Whether you’re new to gardening and have always been put off by tales of backbreaking work or have been working your plot for years and keen to try something new – give No Dig a go!

    Find out more about Charles Dowding and his work on his website









  • 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


  • 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. 





  • 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.

  • Product Bite: Maxi Rootrainers for planting trees

    What are Deep Rootrainers :

    Maxi Rootrainers with tree saplings growing.Rootrainers are innovative planting cells and Maxi Rootrainers are the king of all Rootrainers.

    They are perfect for growing trees from seeds or cuttings.  So, either plant your tree or, if you have a favourite tree that you want to preserve then you can take a cutting and give it the best start.

    The young trees can be left in them for 2 to 3 years to fully establish a good set of deep roots.  This will help them to establish and give them the best chance of survival.

    There are 40 cells which come in openable 'books' so that the saplings can be planted on without disturbing the roots.  The cells fit snuggly into a tray.

    What crop are they for:


    Maxi Rootrainers are perfect for broad leaved trees that have deep roots.  They are especially good if the tree is to be planted in a tough, dry or windy location.

    They are also popular amongst those wanting to grow extremely large veg to thrash their neighbours at the village show!

    Rapid Rootrainers and Compact Rapid Rootrainers are also available for bedding plants, salads and herbs.  And Deep Rootrainers are most commonly used for growing deep rooted veg such as peas, beans and sweetcorn.

    What's so special about them?



    What's really special in terms of trees is that you can leave them in the Rootrainers for a long time and they will never become pot bound.  So if you aren't ready to plant the tree this season then carry on watering and feeding and the sapling will be perfectly healthy.

    Strong straight roots are a fundamental requirement of healthy and successful growth.

    The rectangular shape provides a greater surface area and the grooves allow more roots to develop on the outside of the plug. Plants are also easily extracted from the ‘open books’ without root disturbance providing the perfect plug plants.

    Rootrainers are well known and well loved by horticulturalists, commercial growers and all the best gardeners.

    Find out more: 

    See it in action: To see it in action head over to our YouTube channel Rootrainers

    Related Blogs:  Read about it in use Rootrainers What size cell to use  

    Buy it Now:  See the full range here Rootrianers


  • Grow at Home: Soft Fruits Currants

    Growing Currants

    white_currants_hanging_on_bushIf you’ve got enough space to dedicate an area to growing soft fruit it is always worth growing currants.  Black, Red and White varieties are all easy to grow, tolerate a little shade and will reward with a heavy crop of vitamin rich fruit.

    Currants from cuttings

    Currants can be propagated quite easily from hardwood cuttings taken during the dormant season.  Choose healthy blemish free branches from the previous seasons growth that are about 20-25cm long and cut it from the plant right at the base.

    Trim the cutting just below a bud at the base, and above a bud at the top. Remove any soft growth at the stem tip. Leave all the buds on for blackcurrants.  For redcurrants and whitecurrants remove all but the top three or four buds to create a clear stem.

    Make a trench and add a little sand to it if you have it.  Then plant the cuttings around 20cm apart. insert them into the soil to about half their length.  Water well and they should be ready to transplant in about a year’s time and to fruit in around 3 years.

    Alternatively Nurseries and Garden Centres can provide an array of mature plants ready fruit straightaway.

    Aspect, soil and Growing in Pots

    Currants are heavy feeders that need a deep, fertile and well drained soil. It’s well worth taking the time to prepare the soil properly.  Dig well rotted compost or manure in prior to planting. For heaviest crops choose a sheltered sunny site but all varieties will cope with some shade.

    In Pots

    If you want to grow soft fruit in a pot then 20L Vigoroot Pots are ideal.  Currant bushes will do well in normal pots for several years but they will eventually become pot bound.  The result of this will be to stop fruiting.  You will find that once this has happened even repotting is unlikely to reverse it and the plant will never fruit again. This will not happen in Vigoroot pots as the roots will be air pruned.  Therefore if properly watered and fed currants will go on indefinitaly in Vigoroot pots.

    Cultivating Currants

    currants_in_Haxnicks_round_fruit_cageContainer grown stock can be planted out at any time but bare root stock should be planted in late Autumn or early winter. Plants should be spaced 1.5m – 2m apart to allow for growth and easy access for picking.

    Encourage new shoots by planting 5cm deeper than it was grown in the nursery – currants grow as ‘stooled’ bushes sending up new shoots from below ground level.

    Blackcurrants in particular will benefit from feeding – they have a high nitrogen requirement so use blood, fish and bone or other similar feed in the spring.  Additionally, a mulch of well rotted manure will help support the fruit production.

    No support or training is needed for currants – they grow well as free standing bushes. Fruit is produced on wood made the previous year, which means that little or no pruning is needed in the first year, other than removing damaged or diseased branches.

    After the first year, annual pruning should be done in late summer after fruiting.  It is best done on a three-year cycle, pruning out growth over 2 years old down to ground level to thin out the bush but still leave branches that will fruit the following year and others that will mature to fruit the year after that.

    Harvesting and Storage

    Pick the fruits as clumps when they are ripe. Some gardeners prefer to cut out the whole branch for convenience, pruning the bush at the same time!

    Currants are best eaten straightaway or otherwise frozen for use later.  They do not store particularly well in the fridge. Delicious used to make puddings, jam, cordials or liquers.

    Pests and diseases

    A Fruit Cage or net will help prevent the birds from stealing the crop.  Birdscare could allso be used but otherwise currants are fairly resistant to disease when well fed and grown in an open sunny spot.

  • Grow at Home: Carrots

    Growing Carrotsorange_purple_carrots_on_a_table

    There are few vegetables that taste better when they are home grown than carrots.  Freshly pulled, sweet and full of favour compared to what can be bland and watery 'shop bought' versions.  You don't need to stick to traditional orange either.  There are purple, yellow and white varieties to try and many shapes and sizes as well.

    Where to grow carrots

    Although they will grow in heavy clay, carrots do best on light sand soils where the drainage is good and root growth is not restricted.  The soil should be free of stones and not too rich - both will cause the carrot to 'fork' so avoid manuring ground you plan to sow carrots in next season.

    As with many crops, an open sunny site will suit carrots best.  Carrots also grow well in containers and Haxnicks do a specific Carrot Patio Planter.  The planter means that anyone can grow carrots even if they don't have a garden.  Plus no digging is needed which is a bonus, simply fill it with compost before planting your seeds.  


    Sow thinly outside from early spring or under cloches from late winter - Easy Tunnel would be ideal to keep them warm.  Plant around 1cm deep with 15-20cm between the rows.  If you make a new sowing every few weeks through to early summer you'll be well supplied throughout the year.

    In summer, begin sowing seeds for autumn and winter carrots.  Its best to do this at the latest  10 to 12 weeks before your average first frost date.

    If your soil is very heavy you may like to dig deep along the trench and loosen the soil with a mix of compost and some grit and then sow on top of this.

    Thin the seedlings to around 5 cm apart. Do this on a still evening to avoid attracting carrot flies and bury the thinnings deep in the compost heap to hide the smell.

    Another way to reduce the chance of carrot fly is to 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 will also keep the Carrot Fly from getting to your precious crop.


    Weed the crop regularly making sure not to disturb the roots too much.  A good mulch will help to retain moisture and keep the weeds at bay - keep the seedlings well watered in dry weather.

    Harvesting and storage

    Start to harvest from late Spring onwards - usually 7 - 8 weeks after sowing. Lift carefully with a fork rather than pulling, especially when the soil is dry.

    Maincrop carrots can be left in the ground and harvested as required.  Later in the year you may need to cover with straw of fleece as the temperature drops.

    Alternatively you can lift your crop in mid Autumn and store in a box of sand or dry potting compost.  Trim the foliage to 1cm and make sure the carrots are not touching. Stored in this way they should last throughout the winter.

    Pests and diseases

    The main pest is Carrot Root Fly which lays it's eggs on the plant and can destroy the whole crop.

    There are several ways to deter the fly:

    • A later sowing in early summer will avoid the main egg laying periods in late Spring and early Autumn
    • Lift early summer crops before the risk of infestation
    • Use a micromesh barrier around the crop - the carrot fly stays close to the ground and so will not approach the plants from above
    • Companion planting of strong smelling crops such as onion will mask the carrot smell which attracts the fly

    For more information on carrot flies and tips on how to get a successful crop see our Carrot Fly Blog

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