Sarah & Guests

  • Make it a very Merry Christmas for the gardener in your life...

    Here comes Christmas, the offices are festooned with decorations and everyone is starting to get excited!

    For the serious gardener, pretty much any Haxnicks product makes a cracking present.  For those of you who are still struggling to complete that oh so challenging gift list, I thought I'd highlight the best that we have to offer when it comes to getting the perfect present.

    You'll find everything on our website, just use the links or tap in the name in the search box.

    Bell_Cloches_in_3_sizesHaxnicks Bell Cloches King Size, Original or Baby  are a popular gift item, being aesthetically pleasing AND very practical.  Whether sitting over a prized plant in the garden deterring pests, cats, children and any number of other hazards or keeping out the frost and howling wind these bells will always make an original and successful present.

     

     

    Haxnicks_veg_sacks_with _cane_toppers_christmas_present

    How many times do you receive gifts that you will never use?  Gifts that are pretty quickly shoved to the back of a cupboard or given swiftly to charity?  We are all being asked to buy less so why not buy something you know will be used and enjoyed?

    Here's an idea: With a trend towards natural wrapping rather than 'glittery' wrapping paper that can't be recycled, the Haxnicks Vegetable Sacks double as wrapping and a gift.  Stuff full of gardening related stocking fillers. Add a reusable bow and you'll have a hit on your hands and somewhere to store your spuds come autumn.

    A little knowledge?

    Down_to_earth_gardening_book_madeliene_cardozoA gardening book will keep giving year after year. 
    Down to Earth 
     is a practical veg growing guide that covers the most common household favourite as well as some less often grown choices.  Beautifully photographed it is as at home on the coffee table as in the potting shed.  It makes an ideal present for the novice or the experienced gardener wishing to expand their range.

    New & different?

    wrapped_veg_with_bamboo_pots_and_christmas_treeIts always nice to be the first to have something so make them the envy of their gardening chums with Haxnicks Bamboo Pots, Saucers and Seed trays.  These are new and different and make a great gift.

     

     

    Hampers

    Pea_growing_hamperHow about a Christmas present and New Year's resolution all rolled into one?  Does your other half yearn to eat their own potatoes at Christmas Dinner 2019?  Is a planter full of fresh peas or beans on their 'to do' list?  Making up a hamper couldn't be easier - Rootrainers, planters, cane toppers, soft tie, veg sacks  Some things they will already have but add the things they don't and they will be ready to go once the weather warms up.

    Finally a great reason for choosing a gardening gift is that you can get it at a Garden Centre.  There is nowhere more Christmassy than a good Garden Centre.  So you will get your fill of Christmas spirit with loads of parking and its open right up until Christmas

     

    Haxnicks_Stocking_fillers

     

    Happy Christmas from all at Haxnicks, and we look forward to seeing your growing projects in the New Year.

  • How to photograph your garden

    Be it allotment or garden.  Do you ever gaze at the beautiful oasis you have created and wish that you could capture just how fabulous it is?  To let others feel the beauty of the sun shining through the leaves?  Or the dew clinging to a newly opened rose?  Only to find that despite best efforts the image you get lacks the magic that your eye could see.   Well I decided to put this right by attending a garden photography course and wanted to share the secrets with you.

    Know Your cameragrasses_in_garden

    This wasn't learnt on this course but its important, so my first tip to you is learn as much as you can about your camera.  For example on the course I did in the summer I learnt that my camera has a built in spirit level.  Not sure how I didn't know this - I should have, its there in the viewfinder.  But I didn't.  This one nugget has lead to much more of my images actually being level and will save hours in editing time!

    I had an equally Eureka moment at a course run my Olympus (I have an Olympus Mirrorless Compact) where they told me that you could switch which functions were controlled by which dials.  This let me put the controls back where they had been on my beloved Nikon DSLR and meant that my instinctive actions were back where they should be so I could think of other things.

    Help can come from a variety of places. The manufacturer will often run workshops and clinics to help you get more out of your equipment,  Failing that YouTube is full of helpful videos and if you search your camera model then you will likely find a photography forum where people will be able to help.

    So on to what I actually learnt from the course.

    Shoot into the Light

    Japanese_anenome_backlit Backlit is best

    This is radical and takes a bit of getting used to.  The first thing we are taught when we pick up a camera as a child is to get the sun behind you to take the picture.  Try and unlearn this when it comes to your garden because what plant doesn't look better with the sun streaming through it?  You have to avoid pointing your lens directly at the sun by blocking it with trees or foliage but all in all shooting into the light will enliven your plants and let you capture that sparkle that makes your garden pop.

    In the example below I took an ordinary leaf and shot it with the light behind me to get the first image.  This is a very ordinary looking leaf.  The second image is toward the light but it is too strong and it ruins the image.  Changing my position slightly to shield my lens form the glare with the trees makes the leaf shine, showing the red tips along the leaf and giving some nice Bokeh in the background.  An ordinary slightly ragged leaf still but a much stronger image than the first one.

    Leaf_shot_into_the_light Shooting into the light brings out colour and texture

    Layers and Background

    It is important to look at the whole picture and not just the beautiful specimen that you want to photograph. So if you take my stunningly charismatic Swiss Chard I didn't really want the road barriers and the car my husband is respraying in the middle of the lawn (WHY?) to feature in the photo.  A slight change of angle sorted it.  As you can see I am still learning to look at the whole picture!

    Autumn_shades_in_plants Capture the colour

    See your garden as a palette of different layers - so what plants are behind your prize specimen?  Can you move round it to get a better angle and take the shot with something it will stand out against as the background?  If all else fails can you lie down and take the shot against the sky or tower above it and use the lawn as a background? This way of thinking may even influence your planting in future years.

    Don't be afraid to move.  Crouch down low and shoot upwards, shoot from directly above your plant, shoot through other plants so they form a frame.  Try 5 shots from one location and then force yourself to move, try 5 more and move again and keep going until your lettuce feels like its walking the red carpet at the Oscars!

    Make Mistakes

    seed_heads_waer_plants Strong shapes like seed heads work well

    Now you have a mass of photos its time to review them.  Hopefully you will have made loads and loads of mistakes.  Mistakes are good news as you can learn much more from a bad photo than a good one.  So rather than scrolling through them and hitting delete, delete, delete...STOP. Compare one you like the look of to one you didn't.  Was the shutter speed to slow so it was blurry?  Was the aperture too small so that you had a big depth of field and could see the rubbish bin in the background?  If you don't know much about photography then there are lots of people out there who do so join a forum, show them your image and ask your questions.  You don't need to know the technical terms as you can pick these up as you go along.

     

    I hope these few tips will help you take better pictures.  Remember for every stunning image you see on Instagram there are probably 100 disasterous ones that were delete, delete, deleted!

    We'd love to see your new found skills - tag your images @Haxnicks and we can share them for you.

  • Time to harvest courgettes and see what has and hasn't made it this year...

    WEEK 15

    Firstly, I have to say we seem to have been very lucky with the English weather this spring/summer. The Haxnicks Raised Beds have worked spectacularly with the help of the rain and sun.

    Early in the season we took the polythene cover off as the air temperature was so high we feared the plants would get too hot. Within weeks there were courgette flowers and tiny courgettes... so tempting to pick them in over excitement.

    courgette-with-flower

    By week 8, fully grown courgettes were ready to be made into ratatouille using my trusty Rocknife

    Unfortunately the cucumbers seemed to have vanished - where they have gone is beyond me. I imagine that when we took the polythene cover off a little mouse came along and ate them.

    Elsewhere in the garden the tomatoes are coming along nicely, I'm just waiting to see their fruit.  We also have a bed full of the most humongous sage and thyme ready for picking.  And whatsmore the courgettes are still coming through thick and fast.

    This is honestly the first time I have grown a vegetable and I know that I will be doing this next year without a doubt. - Absolutely effortless!

  • How to garden in small spaces

    The top 5 tips for living in small spaces are quite easy to follow and with a few handy products we can apply this to the garden, the allotment or the balcony too.

    1.  Get Rid of Stuff

    Start by having a good declutter and creating a blank canvas.  The decaying plastic pots that sit mouldering in the corner enjoyed by no one but snails.  The old garden chair that the last plot owner forgot or the wood that you were going to make into... what were you going to make that wood into?
    A good afternoon of clearing and you will be able to see the trees for the wood.   You will reveal space to grow.

    2.  Double Up With Bunk Beds

    Haxnicks Raised Bed SystemsOn the surface this one doesn't translate easily from the house but there are many reasons why rising above the garden will work.  Firstly it is quick and you can get results in a weekend or less.  Secondly, if your soil is poor this can be solved in a flash.  You could dig it, add organic matter. You could even throw chemicals at it to get it to a healthy growing place.  Or you could get our screwdriver out, put in 16 screws and have a Raised Bed ready to fill with soil before the kettle has boiled for your well deserved cuppa.  A fully functioning strawberry patch / salad bed by nightfall.

     

     

    3.  Find yourself Small Furniture

    Getting a bench so you can enjoy your garden should be simple.  Second hand shops are a place for bargains or garden centres stock a wide range to suit all sizes.  But what about your growing space?  There are many corners of the garden or plot where the careless previous owners didn't think to add a bed.  Spaces wasted in terms of growing. Pots and planters are the way to solve this problem and use every inch.  Transform a corner of  the garden or balcony with a Pea & Bean Planter. This provides the space to grow up to 6 plants in just 2ft x 1ft.  Or stylish Oxford Planters could have you growing potatoes, courgettes, tomatoes or herbs & salads in a disused corner and can be folded up and packed away once the season is over.

    If you want to really use your space well and make life easy for yourself then the Vigoroot Easy Table Garden is a raised bed, a mini greenhouse and an irrigation system all in one!  The Vigoroot™ fabric ‘air-prunes’ the roots of plants, dramatically changing their formation and increasing their ability to sustain the plant in a limited volume of compost.  In real terms this means it punches above its weight in terms of yield compared to growing in the ground.

     

    Haxnicks Vigoroot Table Garden

    4.  Expand Your Space With a Large Mirror. ...

    Seems like the space is never big enough?  Accessorising it with a mirror will add the illusion of more space.  It works for gardens or balconies and will also reflect light into shady corners of the area.  Small round mirrors surrounded by foliage will give a window into another world effect  Trick your visitors into thinking there is a whole secret garden beyond.  Be careful what you reflect and try and position it so that it reflects foliage rather than your wheelie bins!

    Mirror in the Garden with butterflies Image courtesy of keen gardener Tracy Chapman

    5.  Maximize Vertical Space.

    Your plot space is your plot space and not much you can do to increase the footprint.  So if you can't go out then you have to go up.  Architectural and design prizes are all going to dramatic living walls.  These might be ambitious for the home gardener but wall space can still be growing space with products such as the Herb Wall planter.  So if you like your pesto fresh or a muddle of mint in your mojito then space should not be an excuse.

     

    Haxnicks Herb Wall Planters Up, up and away - herbs are go!

     

    If herbs aren't enough for you, you could also try the Self Watering Tower Garden.  Like the Easy Table Garden this is a raised bed, a mini greenhouse and an irrigation system all in one.  I have this at home (see my Blog for the full story) and have 4 bush tomatoes, 4 strawberries plus mint, coriander, chives and thyme in a little space under my scaffolding.  All I have to do is check the water level once a week and give the odd once over to check for any snails that have set up home under the pots (2 snails and 1 mini slug found and removed to date).  Other than that it seems to be looking after itself and the plants are thriving.  If you are both short of space and time poor then this one is for you!

     

    So small is beautiful and can be bountiful too and I hope this has inspired you to have a try.  Happy growing!

     

  • Slugs & snails and pints of ale!

    As a gardener, I’m guessing that missing National Snail Day last week on the 24th May is not the biggest problem you have with snails.  Same here! My house was empty for 2 years before I moved in.  This meant the garden was like an ‘all you can eat’ buffet for our unchecked slimy friends.  Seems like the slugs in particular have thrived to Jurassic Park like proportions.

    I have started to remove them to the other side of the garden where they can munch as much ground elder as they like. (Why is it they don’t touch that??)  As much as this seems a good idea I have learnt that common garden snails have a top speed of 45 metres an hour. This might make the snail one of the slowest creatures on Earth but still means they can be back on my lettuce before nightfall. Sigh.

    If I had time, space and a good flashlight then I would happily remove them physically.  However, I have neighbours on all sides who would not appreciate my gastropod cast offs.  Therefore, a trap of some sort is needed.  I also have 2 children, a cat and regard for the planet so slug pellets are not an option.

    The Slug-Buster (also bad news for snails!)

    I am far too much of a wuss to be sprinkling salt on them so enter The Haxnicks Slug-Buster.

    Haxnicks Plant Protection Kits

     

    Whilst salt seems cruel, drowning in a pool of something you find delicious seems a better way to go.  Despite the name The Slug-Buster is equally good at getting rid of snails.  It was super easy to set up.  I just dug a hole to partially bury it, opened a beer, poured it in and popped the lid on.  Then I waited for the slugs and snails to come (not a long wait in my over-populated garden!)

    Haxnicks Slug Buster with  our Oxford Patio Planters Slug-Buster keeping guard over my mixed leaves

    It might be too late for my bean plants but the Slug-Buster has so far proved phenomenal in keeping my rocket and my young juicy lettuce safe. Now I can make the Veg Society's Pasta with Rocket and Chilli recipe that I have had my eye on. It's all about the eating!

    To get yours click here Slug-Buster

  • Potato growing for beginners - growing stars for the plate.

    When I went to Ecuador they had over 200 varieties of potato in use and all of the ones I tasted were subtly different from each other. Not a big deal?  Maybe, but actually could you tell a supermarket King Edward from a Maris Piper by taste alone?  I certainly couldn't so finding actual distinct taste in potatoes was a revelation.  They went from 'side' to 'star' on my plate.  Most of all they tasted delicious.

    So my mission now is to grow my own in the hope of getting some of that flavour onto my plate.  I started late - toward the end of April - when it was unseasonably cold still.  I bought everything I needed

    • first early seed potatoes
    • veggie compost (could have gone multipurpose but on a mission to get it right)
    • Haxnicks Deep Oxford Fabric Planters (could have used compost sacks but who wants to look at those in their garden all summer?)

    To chit or not to chit...

    Then I ran into my first challenge: to chit or not to chit.  The Jury is out.  Monty Don, who was starting a trial in the Vigoroot Potato Planter  at the same time as me said "No!" whilst lots of others said "you MUST".  So I decided I would (sorry Monty) but with a time limit.  They had until the end of April then it was time to plant.

    On my north facing windowsill they grew into nice little characters - seemed a shame to plant them.

    How many potatoes to plant?

    Reluctant to leave any of them that had made the effort to chit, I planted 3 per pot.  Again, against Monty Don's Gardeners World advice as he only suggested 2.  But as I am mainly looking for small salad potatoes I figured that 3 would be OK.  A little water then a nice sunny position next to the tulips and I was done.

    Oxford Fabric Haxnicks Patio Planters Oxford Fabric planters

    I didn't have to wait long before I saw the first luscious green leaves coming through.

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online Potato plants begin to appear

    Just a few weeks later and the are starting to fill the planter.

    Potato plants in Haxnicks Oxford Fabric planters The plants start to grow

     

    The next stage was to earth them up.  Not sure if this is a must but it seems that everyone does it so I covered the carefully grown leaves with soil.  it seemed wrong when they had spent the time pushing their way out but I am assured that this will give a great crop.  Now I am waiting again.

    Waiting, watering and wondering what I might make with them.

    Chip them, stew them, fry them, deep fry them even triple cook them.  Or just boil and serve warm with melted butter dripping off them.  I still have time to choose a recipe from  our friends at The Tasty Potato to make the most of what I hope will be a bumper crop!

    Potato potato plants in Haxnicks Oxford fabric planters Potatoes by evening light
  • Salad anyone?

    We have returned back to a very grey and rainy England with not much hope for our little shoots after slight neglect for a week. However, we were greeted with huge shoots bursting to get out of their Rootrainers!  Seems like time to get the husband out building the Haxnicks Raised Bed with it’s very handy Raised Bed Polythene Cover to keep those courgettes, cucumbers and tomatoes growing upwards and outwards into something edible for my plate.

    Haxnicks Raised Bed with polythene cover on and plants inside I have plants now in my Raised Bed

    Most of all, the joy of this Raised Bed is that you construct and locate it wherever you wish, so for convenience it is sitting right outside our kitchen garden door.  As much as I love my garden who wants to traipse to the end of it to pick their veggies!  We have added a variety of herbs too - why not!

     Haxnicks Raised Bed with polythene cover off and salad plants showing  

    Pull back the polythene cover for easiy watering and as you can see we have a little bed of very healthy young plants which we hope to harvest sometime in July.  We will be back in July with an update!

    Haxnicks Raised Bed with polythene cover off and slightly larger salad plants inside Really growing now - here comes summer!
  • Self Watering Tower garden

    The Self Watering Tower Garden is self watering. That's right!  Self watering!

    Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden water reservoir

    It does what it says on the tin, or would do if it came in a tin.  But why is this important when actually, plants love water and I quite like watering them too?  Don’t know about you, but for me it’s a calming activity during which I contemplate life, the universe and beyond.   This watering zen is the ‘ideal’ though and some weeks the ‘ideal’ is as rare as a blue rose.  The plants will survive my inattention.  The rub is that not only do plants love water but more than this they like regular water.  Otherwise it can have a drastic effect on their output.  Who hasn’t taken their eye off the ball and ended up with split tomatoes?

    Cue the Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden . So on those weeks when the cat needs the vet, the kids need new shoes and the fridge definitely needs a clean out the ingenious wick is doing what you can’t and keeping your plants happy and healthy.  No more coming back to dejected looking plants and a guilty conscience. Problem solved.

    Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden with Vigoroot pots Self Watering Tower Garden with Vigoroot pots

    My Tower Garden is in its second year and the Vigoroot pots can be washed at the end of the season and stored flat by the organised gardener.  I am not an organised gardener though (must have been one of those weeks) so I had just emptied them and stored in the shed.  A quick brush off left them looking as good as new though and I was able to start planting.

    Not only does it solve your watering issues but it also allows you to grow a staggering amount of plants in a very small area.  My garden is large but with building work about to start most of it is off limits for this season.  The 3 layers allow me to have 12 x 5L pots  in a tiny space.  Each layer has 4 Vigoroot pots which air-prune the roots to give healthier plants with better roots that lead to higher yields.

     

     

    Three Layers:

    Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden with strawberries, herbs and tomatoes Fully planted!

    I won't even have to worry about watering when I go away for a week's holiday in summer which is a bonus. All that is left to do now  is to make sure that the water reservoirs are full once a week and then and wait to pick my very first crop.   Might just have to plan a nice bruschetta recipe for all those glorious tomatoes...

  • BootClamp: end of muddy, rain filled boots

    You're going to want one (or more) of these BootClamps!  My pet hate, dirty, muddy Dorset Wellington boots in the house, if only there was some way of keeping them outside without half the rainfall of North Dorset flooding my precious Wellies.  Then I discovered the amazing BootClamp from Haxnicks.  BootClamps are such an obvious but genius invention, my Wellies now take prime position in the porch or just lying around the driveway and not a speck of water or creepy crawly inside.  Of course, if you are more organised just hang them up with the carry handle, BootClamps are very clever indeed!

    Thanks for the the Blog post Fran - really glad you love the product! Haxnicks

    3 Haxnicks BootClamps lined up on doorstep - Stopping the rain coming in

  • Clearing Sarah's Garden - Leaf Picker saves the day

    Having cleared the lawn with the Leaf Picker today I need to do some clearing of a different sort.  Serious thrash and burn style clearing as the house has been empty for 2 years and the part of the garden in question could charitably be deemed in need of some attention. This particular bit is covered in all sorts of unfriendly plants, brambles, what I suspect are very overgrown roses, tiny emerging nettles and more brambles – basically enormous prickly characters that mean me harm.

    Clearing the Garden for Spring in Haxnicks Garden

    After weeks of busying myself with other tasks and basically avoiding it I have resigned myself to the fact that I will have to just get on with it.  Today was the day.  Braving the remaining snow and armed with my new secateurs (2 sets just in case), my lovely new gardening gloves, and with my Leaf Picker relegated to the subs bench, it was time to do battle. A slow job but apart from the brambles stealing my hat every time I turned round the going was good.  The pile was building and the ground was coming into sight – I was winning.

    Newly Cleared Ground at Haxnicks Garden

     

    Haxnicks Leaf Picker against felled tree

     

    Haxnicks Leaf Picker head in leaves

     

    But someone had been there before me and the ground was covered with dead bits of bramble which, for the record, are even sharper than the live ones.  If there was any hope of finding the inner manicured garden then this was going to have to be cleared.  Inspiration (and an aching back) kicked in and having resigned myself to not needing the Leaf Picker again until Autumn it was off the bench and back in play. Perfect for reaching behind the brambles, avoiding the gentle stings of baby nettles and picking up the 2 years plus of dead leaves.  It even picked up quite a few of the sticks littering the ground which was an added bonus.

    Haxnicks Leaf Picker spikes with leaves

    Rain stopped play and school run curtailed my explorations so the dream has not quite become reality at time of writing but, joy of joys, this part of the garden is starting to emerge from the mists.  A few more hours work and my neighbour’s plot will no longer be at risk of invasion thanks to the Leaf Picker.

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