Grandpa Haxnicks

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

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

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

    Some detective work - root zones and rhizospheres...

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

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

    The Culprit!

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

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

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

     

  • Broad bean experiment: did it work?

    How to Grow early Broad Beans with Vigoroot Pots, Growlite Coir and Water Saucers

    I have an update for those of you following my early broad bean experiment (Original blog post).  Firstly to recap, this is a new and rather different method of growing broad beans in Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots, Growlite and Water Saucers.

    Broad beans in Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots Beans have started to grow

    You will recall I sowed the beans in December.  Possibly much too early for broad beans but I like to experiment.  Then I kept them permanently indoors on large, bright windowsills. They must have liked the conditions as they soon began to grow.

    The Haxnicks Water Saucers meant watering was a fortnightly task so very low maintenance.  I just checked the water reservoir and topped up as needed.  The integrated wicks did their job taking the water and food directly to the plant on demand.

    Pollination

    The next challenge was the lack of pollinators in the house, and generally around this early in the year.  So I stepped in with my soft paint brush and gently dusted the flowers to transfer the pollen.  Then it was a waiting game to see if the pollination had worked.

    Paint brush being used to pollinate broad beans Delicate touch to pollinate the flowers

    Pretty soon the flowers fell away and the swelling of the bean pods could be seen.  As often happens with these experiments we didn't quite get it right.  We didn't pollinate quite as many flowers as we should have done meaning that the crop is a little smaller than expected. Still enough to make a great meal, with more to follow, and we now know that we just need to do a bit more brush work next time.

     

    Young broad beans pods growing on a plant The broad beans starting to grow
    Young broad beans pods on a broad bean plant More broad beans growing

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Broad bean pods on bean plants Broad bean pods almost ready for picking

    In conclusion the experiment was a success and it is possible to have home grown broad beans on your table by May 1st.

    The only thing left now is to make the huge decision between simply drenching them in luscious melted butter or trying something  new like Olive Magazine's Broad Bean and Mint Panzanella with burrata  

    Decisions, decisions!

     

  • Growing early broad beans, from leggy to luscious

    How to Grow Broad Bean Plants with Vigoroot Pots, Growlite Coir and Water Saucers

    Now I would like to share with you a new and rather different method of growing vegetables.  In this case broad beans. I have been experimenting with air-pruning pots, coir growing mediums and self-watering systems for many years.  It gives me great pleasure to see Vigoroot Pots, Growlite and Water Saucers on the market and available to everyone.

    This very simple demonstration shows how to use these three products to grow some broad beans.   An old favourite of mine best eaten smothered in melted butter.

    I sowed the broad bean seeds in December, which is really much too early for broad beans.  I wanted to see just how early the beans would grow if kept permanently indoors on large, bright windowsills (a bit of an experiment in itself).

    Broad Beans growing in Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots

    The beans were germinated in Haxnicks Growlite. They were then potted on in Growlite.  Growlite is a coir based growing medium that I have experimented with, developed and perfected over roughly the past 8 years. It has excellent water retention as well as good drainage and although it naturally contains only low levels of nutrients it can hold other added nutrients well and allows easy absorption by plant roots. Growlite includes various organic nutrients including seaweed and will feed a wide variety of plants during the first 8-10 weeks of their life. After this I simply add a little organic plant food on a regular basis to the water I give them.

    Haxnicks Water Saucers making watering a doddleVigoroot Pots

    We make the Vigoroot pots from recycled polypropylene. The density of the fabric is designed to air-prune the roots of the plants. As the tips of the roots grow into the fabric, their tips die off (air-pruning), which stimulates the plant to grow more roots from its core, and these roots become more fibrous and are able to absorb more nutrients. The result is that the plants don’t get ‘root-bound’ and don’t need to be potted-on into larger pots, but grow larger, faster and healthier, producing more abundant crops. Vigoroot Pots work especially well for fruit trees and fruit bushes as well as flowers, herbs and vegetables.

    Haxnicks Water Saucers showing their wicks

    The kit

    I used the new Haxnicks Water Saucers as a permanent watering and feeding system for the bean plants. Each Water Saucer comes with a capillary wick that is pushed up into the middle of the Vigoroot pot (cut a small hole first), and the plant then draws up the water through the Growlite and capillary wick from the water saucer, which needs topping up every few weeks. After the first two months I started adding a little Maxicrop plant food to the water. Obviously you can choose your plant food to suit the type of plants you are growing.

    Broad Beans growing in Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots

    As I had started growing the broad bean plants too early in the season, they didn’t get enough hours of sunlight during the first few months . Subsequently they grew a little too tall and ‘leggy’ as they searched for more light. I decided to cut them back to about half their height.  Within a few days their energy was diverted to producing an abundance of flowers.  These will hopefully start to turn into beans before too long.

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    This whole system of growing plants using the Vigoroot Pots, Growlite and Water Saucers is remarkably simple to set up.  It is also incredibly ‘low-maintenance’. The plants require almost no attention other than a few kind words of encouragement every now and then.  Their use of water and plant food is almost 100% efficient - very similar in fact, to a hydroponics set up. So far, the beans are growing beautifully, and look set to produce a great crop later in the season.

    Must put butter on the shopping list...

  • Grandpa Haxnicks’ Brexit Busting Striped Tomato

    Striped tomatoes??

    If you have the time, energy and the space, breeding your own tomato variety - with the traits and taste that appeal most to you - can be quite easy and fulfilling.  Striped tomatoes are  certainly no exception.  It takes little equipment and is immensely satisfying.  

    The difficulty in slicing a tomato evenly to make the perfect cheese and tomato sandwich is clear. Its something that I have been pondering in my greenhouse for quite a while.  A problem indeed. The tricky hybrid has finally come to fruition with the perfection of my Brexit Busting Haxnicks’ Striped Tomato which is set to revolutionise sandwich production from this day forward.    

    “Brexit and American trade tariffs are looming.  People will be ditching the fancy brie and cranberry in favour of the traditional British cheese and tomato sandwich. And I am pleased to say they will no longer have to struggle”

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    Locally sourced

    In line with their belief in working with local suppliers the new tomatoes launched in the Co-op Store in  Mere, Wiltshire today.  April 1st. Andrew Tuck, Store Manager said “customers absolutely love them, its solved a problem they never really knew they had and we sold out within hours of them arriving in store”

    4 striped tomatos on a plate

    There are three common ways to There are three common ways to create your own tomato variety,, and each can be done by the home gardener with time and patience.  The one I chose was cross-pollination to create Grandpa Haxnicks’ Brexit Busting Striped tomato. Normally I would select my tomatoes grown from F2 seed in terms of attributes such as taste and colour.  But this time it was all about the stripes for me and solving the major problem facing the British public.

    I am currently working on a chequered tomato for easy Bruschetta production.  This will hopefully be ready by 1st April 2020.

  • Chelsea Flower show preparations 2017

    Hello gardeners,

    The Chelsea Flower show is fast approaching and plant preparations have been under way for quite some time now. If only the show was in July, my job would be made a lot easier. Forcing summer-grown fruit and vegetables to be at their best in mid May can be a little bit touch and go, but despite the chilly temperatures over the last couple of weeks my container-grown plants are looking good.

    Potatoes

    Haxnicks Potato Patio Planter

    Strawberries

    There was one particularly warm day when I decided that the potato patio planters should venture out of the Sunbubble as I was worried that they might be growing too fast. I then forgot to put them back under cover on the very evening that one of those cheeky late Spring frosts decided to descend. It was extremely lucky that I woke up at midnight, realised the peril the potatoes were in, and rushed out in my pyjamas to put them to bed. There was a little bit of frost damage to some of the leaves, and I got cold, wet feet, but both quickly recovered.

    Haxnicks Strawberry Patio PlanterThe container-grown strawberries are in flower and some small green fruits are appearing. I am very much hoping for some warmer weather to ripen them to a rosy hue in time for the show.

    Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots with lupins, strawberries and herbs

    The Vigoroot grown plants  are looking fabulously green and healthy and ready to grace the stage on our Haxnicks stand at Chelsea.

    Other seeds for success were sown this time last year. Those were the seeds of an idea to develop a new product that would combine the magic of our hugely successful Vigoroot™ fabric with a simple self-watering system. From this idea grew The Vigoroot Easy Table Garden. This exciting new product is a raised table garden, greenhouse and irrigation system all rolled into one. The RHS are excited about it too as it has been nominated for the Chelsea New product of the Year finals…watch this space!!

    Grandpa Haxnicks

  • Grandpa Haxnicks' advice on how to make cut flowers last

    Cut Flowers

    I am not a huge fan of cut flowers unless they have come straight from my garden. However, at this time of the year, with Mother's day looming and little to pick in the garden, then shop-bought flowers may be your only option. I have often been asked about the many old wives' tales about keeping your cut flowers looking fresh. Well here is some old man's wisdom instead!

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    Cutting

    As soon as a flower is cut it's access to food and water via a root system is cut too.  Of course it  can continue to draw water and nutrients up through the cut stem. However, on first cutting, air can enter the stem and cause a sort of embolism that prevents further absorption. Re-cutting the stems when you first get the flowers home can remove any trapped air and help the flowers to re-hydrate.

    Preparing Cut Flowers for the home with Haxnicks

    Put some lukewarm water in the sink. Using sharp scissors,  cut 1-2 inches off the stems underwater at a sharp angle. Then remove any foliage that will sit below the water line in the vase.Display your Cut Flowers in your favourite Vase

    Feeding

    Often flowers are provided with a small sachet of ''flower food'' to add to the water. This is most likely to contain some sugar, some acid and some bleach...sounds harsh! The sugar is a feed and the acid is to kill off bacterial growth.  Finally the bleach to maintain a ph balance in the water. All this is designed to keep your flowers in tip-top condition.

    If you don't get that little sachet then a drop of apple cider vinegar and a small teaspoon of sugar will do a good job too. Make sure that you change the flower water every 3 days and you can also re-cut the stems if you don't mind rearranging the flowers.  Another good tip to prolong their life is to put the flowers somewhere cool overnight such as the garage or porch.

    Grandpa Haxnicks

     

  • New Products for 2017

    It is Happy New Year to you all! We have a host of exciting new garden products to inspire you in 2017.

    New Garden products Maxi Rootrainers from Haxnicks with tree saplings growing.

    Bigger Rootrainers

    Due to customer demand we have extended our range of Rootrainers to include a larger size only previously used for commercial growers. Maxi Rootrainers are perfect for creating super-strong roots necessary for establishing trees, shrubs and prize-winning plants. With the extra deep cells, plants can remain in the Rootrainers for up to 2 years without the need for potting on.

    new garden products Putting out a Haxnicks Easy Seedling Tunnel.

    Smaller Easy Tunnels

    Inspired by a keen gardener in the family Haxnicks have recreated one of our best-selling products in miniature. The Easy Seedling Tunnels have all the benefits of our larger Tunnels and make for an inexpensive way to maximize sowing success.

    new garden products Haxnicks Tree Mat protecting a young tree.

    Tree Care

    It seems we all love our trees! Following on from the success of our new garden products Flexi-mesh tree guards and StrimGuards we are expanding our tree care range. Our coir Tree Mats are biodegradable, natural looking mulch mats that will give vital support to young trees by suppressing weed growth and aiding water retention.

    new garden products Haxnicks Fruit Tree Protector being put on.

    Those of you with fruit trees and bushes will be well aware that a badly timed frost or greedy birds can hugely reduce summer crops. Now you can easily protect the blossom from harsh weather and the fruits from pest invasion with our carefully constructed Fruit tree protectors. Having battled with ordinary netting in our orchard we have gone to town on designing a net that is easy to use and fit for purpose. Hooks, toggles and loops for lifting over the net.  A sealable opening side.  Reinforced seams, a drawstring bottom, wildlife friendly mesh...this is no ordinary net!

    new garden products Haxnicks' Herb Wall Planter laying in the Sun

    No garden required

    For those of you growing in smaller spaces, vertical gardening is a great way to maximise your outdoor space.  It also makes a feature on bare wall or fences. Our simple Herb Wall Planter will enable you to grow fresh herbs without needing any ground space. Perfect for roof terraces, patios and balconies this smart oxford fabric planter can be planted up with your favourite culinary herbs in each pocket, hung within reach of your kitchen and out of reach of pets and slugs!

    new garden products Haxnicks' Vigoroot Easy Table for the Garden

    Another small space growing solution comes in the form of our Self-watering Vigoroot Easy Table Garden. This raised fabric planter comes with a poly protection cover.  It also has a hidden 5 litre reservoir that waters the plants via capillary action. This clever little growing system is made from our revolutionary Vigoroot fabric.  This fabric will 'air prune' roots for a healthier plant and more abundant cropping.

    new garden products Haxnicks' Boot Clamps to protect from rain against a brick wall

    Leaving the best to last, this has to be my favourite new product for 2017.  Anyone with a new year's resolution to be more organised is going to love the BootClamp. It is a simple device to clip over the top of your boots.  It means that they they can be hung up out of the way and be kept in a tidy pair.  But best of all, muddy boots don't need to come indoors! The clamp fits so well that neither rain nor spiders will get a look-in.

    So, hopefully there is something here for all types of gardeners. We are already thinking about our new product designs for 2018.  So if you have any bright ideas let us know!

    We hope you enjoy these new garden products.  Happy gardening!

  • How to Choose and Look After Your Apple Trees

    Apple Trees in the sun by Haxnicks' Potty Gardener

    Today, 21st October, apple lovers all over the country are coming together to celebrate Apple Day.  Garden and cookery writer Madeleine Cardozo has joined us as a guest blogger today to offer her juicy fruity advice on growing apple trees.

     

    Growing Apple Trees

    Plant from October to March

    Harvest from July to November

    Prune January to February

    Choosing Apple Trees

    I have noticed that we get the most amazing apples from our two apple trees. This is because they are two trees of the same type; they blossom at the same time and pollinate each other. These are the ideal circumstances for apple trees, two of each. There is a lot that I could write about apple trees but I shall try to keep it simple. It may seem that I am contradicting myself on occasions too, that is because there are loads of rules you can break.

    What kind of apple tree would you like? A cooking apple tree or an eating apple tree? Really you should have at least two apple trees within 30m of each other, they need to blossom at the same time and therefore pollinate each other in order to produce fruit. You can get varieties that are self pollinating but they are not so reliable e.g. Chiver’s Delight or Worcester Pearmain.   As you can imagine they come in all shapes and sizes.

    Madeleine Cardozo's Apple Trees

    Option 1:

    Why not choose an early harvesting variety for eating e.g. Discovery , these are rubbish for storing, but you can pick them off the tree for a good couple of months. You could then have a late harvesting variety for eating that you can store for the winter e.g.  Ashmead’s Kernel. Lastly a cooking apple tree e.g. Bramley’s seedling, for making chutneys and apple crumbles. Make sure that their blossoming time overlaps to cross pollinate.

    Option 2:

    There is an apple tree that has been developed called a family tree, providing a way that you can have only one apple tree. A number of stems of different apple varieties have been grafted onto the ‘root stock’ (trunk). This apple tree will pollinate itself, but it may be slightly lopsided as the different varieties will grow to different sizes. This may be fun experimenting with if you don’t have much space.

    Option Three: Buy a variety like the James Grieve or Blenheim Orange, which bears a fruit that will taste sweet but is a good cooking apple as well. You will need two of these trees.

     

    Planting

    Depending on the size of the tree and what you want to do with it will determine how far apart you plant them.  Full sized, free standing trees will need to be about 5m 15ft apart. If you are growing ‘trained’ trees such as espaliers they can be 50cm 1½ ft apart. A hole needs to be dug, larger than the roots and the earth that will surround the roots needs to be loosened. Put some manure into the hole, place your tree roots in and cover with earth. Make the ground firm on top. Add a good lot of manure or compost to suppress the weeds and keep it moist. Hammer a large supporting stake next to it to stop it blowing over and tie the tree to it. Lastly water it well. It will take approximately three years for the tree to establish itself.

    Bad things that can Happen to your Apple Trees

    Maggots – when your lovely looking apples get holes in them. You can buy codling moth traps and hang them in the tree from May to August.

    Mildew – When the young shoots and flower buds have a dusting of grey powder. Ignore if it is not too bad, if it is a medium attack cut off the affected branches, or for a heavy attack you will need to spray on a fungicide.

    Aphids – cause leaf curling, not much you can do and it doesn’t affect the fruit really.

    Canker – causes the bark to shrink back and flake usually in rings, the first signs are little black rounds, then holes in the leaves.  If you can, cut off affected branches further than you have to. There is no cure.

    Fireblight – Makes leaves and shoots look as though they have been burnt – This is a bacterial disease and can affect many trees and roses. Cut off any branches that are affected, cutting 2ft, 60cm further back than you need to. All tools need to be disinfected and if the tree is badly infected dig it up and burn it. There is no cure.

    Choosing the Perfect Apple Tree by Haxnicks

    Looking After your Tree’s and Pruning

    When in drought – water small trees. Large trees should be able to look after themselves.

    Every spring add organic fertiliser (manure) around the base of the tree. Keep the tree weed and grass free for the first few years, this will help the nutrients from the soil get to the tree. After it is established you can have grass growing all the way up to the trunk, roses entwined and sheep grazing.......

    The pruning for apple trees mainly gets done in the winter, November to March. Cut off the branches where they are crowded, maintain a good shape for the tree, cut off dead, damaged or diseased wood and trim down to the ‘spurs’ (short stubby twiggy bits). Your next harvest of apples will grow from these. Some apple trees are tip-bearing, which means that they grow on the ends of the branches, so if yours is like that don’t lob off the tips! Cut off any spindly shoots that sprout from the ground around the foot of the tree.

    Summer pruning is usually done in July and only on ‘trained’ trees. Here you are training the tree to grow in the direction that you want it to grow, cutting off any extra shoots and taking the tips out of the main stem to halt the upward growth.

  • Grandpa Haxnicks tells of Adventures in a Sunbubble

    A Haxnicks Sunbubble was originally designed as an instant pop-up greenhouse, but we had not envisaged that it might become so much more than that. Some people have been extremely creative with their Sunbubbles and I would like to share the inspiration.

    Runner beans in a Haxnicks SunbubbleEarly this year our good friend, the The Potty Gardener, was tasked with growing runner beans in time for a display at the RHS Chelsea Flower show. The beans grew in Vigoroot pots and climbed up strings inside her Sunbubble.  With maximum daylight exposure in a cosy, moist environment the beans flowered early.  They produced great looking, healthy runner beans by mid May. Perfect timing for Chelsea.

    Using a Haxnicks Sunbubble as a tent

    One customer sent in this picture of a Haxnicks Sunbubble extension to his tent. A brilliant idea! Due to the great British weather, campers are often forced into the gloom of their tents. Now they can take a portable conservatory and enjoy the daylight.

    Haxnicks Sunbubble at a festival

    Then there were the festival goers who were thrilled that they could easily spot their Sunbubble in a sea of tents. Although they did have to remember that all in-tent activities were on view!

    Haxnicks sunbubble as an art studio

    But the most creative use of a Sunbubble this year has to go to Alice Maddicot who used it as travelling pop-up art studio. Touring Somerset in September, Alice invited members of the public to create work inspired by the landscape in a new location each day. You can read more about Alice's artistic adventure with a Sunbubble here.

    Haxnicks Sunbubble under cover

    Finally, we are not sure what is going on inside here. A pop-up circus perhaps?

    Goodbye for now,

    Grandpa Haxnicks

     

     

     

     

  • Growing Broad Beans in Rootrainers

    I hope that your gardens are flourishing with this recent burst of warmer weather. The contents of my greenhouse are certainly bursting into life. Back in February I sowed some broad beans in Rootrainers. I am now beginning to really see the results of some of my New Year sowing and planting. Having not quite got around to digging over the veg patch, I felt that this would give them a head start, and now the veg patch is ready and the young plugs are perfect for planting out.

    Haxnicks Deep Rootrainers growing Broad Beans

    Planting Out Broad Beans

    As you can see, every single bean has germinated and gone on to produce really healthy looking young plants. The great thing about using these Rootrainers is that the plant ends up with a truly super root system.  This makes the plants much stronger.

    Air Pruning

    The grooves in the Rootrainer cells guide the first broad bean roots towards the drainage holes at the bottom where the tips die off. Then, lots of little side roots develop higher up in the cell. This process of air-pruning gives each plant a set of strong, straight roots. Of course I am bound to be a proud exponent of this product, but any avid Monty Don fans out there will know that he is pretty keen on Rootrainers too. Look no further than the most recent episode of Gardener’s World!

    Haxnicks Rootrainers with Healthy Broad Bean Roots

    Because the Rootrainers open up like a book it is really easy to remove the plug plants without disturbing or damaging  the roots. You can easily have a peak to see how things are getting on. Opening up the Rootrainers like this is also great for showing children what goes on below the soil too!

    Haxnicks helps Zambian Orphans grow their first VegetablesThese children have been learning all about growing plants in the best way possible, by growing their own vegetables. This image has been sent to me by my great grand daughter of the first veg coming in from The Haxnicks garden in Zambia  where all looks like it's going to plan!

    Happy gardening,

    Grandpa Haxnicks

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