Love to Grow

  • CaneToppers for the Potty Gardener

    Haxnicks CaneToppers

    My planters, pots and their contents have happily survived our house move but did suffer somewhat along the way due to abandonment and stormy weather…

    Having packed up the removal lorry and two family cars, locked up the old house, pulled out of the drive in triumphant convoy and traveled 350yds with a satisfied smile, it suddenly dawned on me that we had left behind my entire potted garden. The satisfied smile was replaced by a weary wince as I realised that we barely had room for a single strawberry (a squashed one at that), let alone a dozen pots and planters. I did for a moment consider swapping my noisy children in the back of my car for the placid plants, but I didn’t think the next occupants of our house would be quite so understanding about left over children as opposed to left over plants. So it was clear that we would have to return to Gloucestershire to collect a final car load of plants. Just one more 120 mile round trip to add to the many made in the last few weeks!

    Haxnicks Range of Patio Planters

    Amazingly, despite the searing heat and lack of tender loving care that followed before someone was able to bring home the plants, they neither died of thirst nor were eaten by giant slugs. However, they did then suffer from rough man-handling (definitely not woman-handling) in transit, arriving home with a few broken stems. More damage was done when they were left overnight in an exposed position without support canes and were somewhat battered in an amazing blockbuster style thunder storm.

    Haxnicks Patio Planters with CaneToppers

    Our new garden is a little more exposed to the wind than the last and so the reinstated bamboo support canes need a little extra help to stand to attention. I subtly suggested to Grandpa Haxnicks that some CaneToppers would be the perfect moving in present. Subtle suggestion turned to pleading request and the cane toppers duly arrived on my doorstep. Popped on top of the wind wobbled canes ( a hair-raising job for me ) they are helping to add stability and a little more style than the scrappy bits of string that were holding the canes in place before.

    Happily all is now good, the sweet peas are blossoming, the strawberries are juicy, the tomatoes are swelling and I have faith that the potatoes and carrots are doing their stuff down in their earthy depths. I am very much looking forward to harvesting and feasting soon.

     

  • The Potty Gardener growing her own strawberries

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    Pick up a punnet of strawberries from the supermarket and you will have an instant bowl of super-sized, plump, scarlet fruits. They may look pretty on the plate, but they can be a little disappointing on the palate and I find that I have to dress them up in all sorts to bring out their strawberryness. You can adorn them with a splash of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of vanilla sugar, or (like slipping on that little black dress) you can really add some excitement with a little black pepper (I may be Potty but believe me, it works!)

    Haxnicks Strawberry Planter

    However if you want strawberries that taste good naked (the strawberries, not you) then growing your own is the answer. I have known strawberries grown in rows, rounds, pots, baskets and guttering, but I am of course growing mine in planters. You can fit a whole row's worth of strawberry plants into one planter- 4 in the middle and 1 in each of the eight side pockets. With no threat of weeds and a prime location in the sun my strawberries are coming on a treat. With the fruits raised off the ground the berries won't rot, but I must still be on my guard for strawberry pick pockets. Slugs, birds and worst of all greedy children will need to be kept at bay!

     

     

     

     

     

  • The Potty gardener prepares to move house, garden and slugs

     

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    With one week to go before we up sticks and move house to sunny Dorset (I bet it rains on moving day!), I have prepared my portable, potted garden for travel. The tomatoes in the green house needed to get used to the outside world. With their cosy life under glass coming to an end I have made certain to prepare them for life in a new location. Each day I moved them out of the greenhouse for a little longer, making sure that they were tucked up again by early evening. Eventually they spent the night out alone and having suffered no ill side effects I decided that they were hardy enough to remain in the open.

    Haxnicks Patio Planters

    Carrots, sweet peas, potatoes and strawberries have been outside for sometime now, their only enemy being the slugs. There is one particularly huge and predatory slug that I am sorry to say I have not managed to capture on camera for you, but I know where he has been by tracing his long slimy footprint! He comes in to the house through the cat flap, munches on some cat food, then slimes back out the way he came. With a belly full of whiskas he then trundles round the corner and slimes his way up the pea and bean patio planter for some pudding! Strong enough to open the cat flap, and well fed on 'carefully prepared, complete nutrition for cats'  I imagine he is nearing the size of a small kitten.

    Orange Peels attracting SlugsOne of my solutions for slug tackling is to put out some orange peels as they rather effectively do the job of redirecting and collecting the slimy fellows without much effort. Anyway, having fed, watered and hardened off all the plants I now declare them fit for travel. All that remains is to pack up myself...which as you can see can have it's difficulties!

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  • The Potty Gardener and her Travelling Teenage Tomatoes

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    Recently I decided that my tomatoes had reached teenage-hood. Much like adolescents become tall, leggy and outgrow their shoes in the blink of an eye, in a very short space of time my tomato plants became tall, leggy and their toes ( tom-toes of course!) began pushing out of their pots.

    Growing Seeds in Haxnicks Plant PotsAfter a good drink (just water-they are not true teenagers after all) I carefully persuaded them out of their pots and settled them into their new accommodation - A Haxnicks Tomato Patio Planter which comes complete with 3 integral cane pockets and en-suite drainage holes- luxury accommodation indeed!

    Haxnicks Tomato Patio PlantersThe tomatoes had barely settled in their planters a week when they received an invitation from Grandpa Haxnicks to take up temporary residence amongst the very best of plants at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Of course, I proudly accepted on their behalf. The marvellous thing about using Patio planters is that no uprooting is involved in relocation.

    Haxnicks at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015 Haxnicks stand at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015

    So I fed and watered my tomatoes in preparation for an arduous week of being poked and prodded on a Chelsea Flower Show Trade stand. I'm happy to say that they survived rain, wind, sunshine, hail and being knocked over by a Pimms soaked punter. Like post party teenagers they are now back home recovering, and I very much look forward to seeing them blossom into fruit bearing  maturity.(NB: the teenager analogy does not extend to fruit bearing!)

  • Haxnicks Fruit Cage Five Star Review

    Haxnicks Fruit Cage in the Press

    Hello Gardeners.

    Just a quick boast from a proud Grandpa.. look out for our fruit cages featured in the June issue of Kitchen Garden Magazine this month. I am proud to say that they received an overall five star verdict from the grow-your-own experts in the KG team.

    Haxnicks Round Fruit Cage

    Round Fruit Cage

    It can be a bit of a chore keeping birds and animals away from your precious crops, involving a tangle of netting and poles, but hopefully we have made it a little easier for you.  All our Fruit cages come with helpful instructions telling you how to put them together. The netting fits neatly over the top and because we are so nice we also give you the pegs to keep it all in place.

    Haxnicks Grow Cage Chicken

    Grow Cage

    We have also added to the range with our new Grow Cage which is perfect for protecting precious veg from all manner of invasions and in particular from cheeky chickens.

    Goodbye for now,
    Grandpa Haxnicks

  • Rhubarb and Sweet Cicely

    Hello Gardeners,

    Here is a little known herb that is easy to grow and looks as pretty as it's name. Sweet Cicely has an aromatic aniseed like flavour and has been traditionally grown in cottage gardens to sweeten sharp fruits in tarts and puddings.

    Sweet Cicily Plants grown in the Haxnicks Garden

    Sweet Cicely looks very similar to cow parsley with frond-like leaves and delicate white flowers and grows best in well drained soil in a sunny position. It can grow quite tall but can be cut right back after flowering.

    The seeds can be used whole in cooking or as a ground spice, but I use the leaves for a little culinary trick taught to me by my mother. If you stew a handful of the leaves in the same pan as your rhubarb, removing them when the rhubarb is cooked through they will not only give a delicate aniseed flavour, but also cut through the acidity of the fruit. The tartness of stewed rhubarb that makes your teeth feel furry magically disappears. One grandchild of mine overheard me talking about this and asked to be shown the 'teeth fairy plant'! So that is what it's known as in our garden.

    Goodbye for now,
    Grandpa Haxnicks

  • The Magic of Vigoroot

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    The Potty Gardener

    Without any April showers I hope that you are not forgetting to look after any plants in pots and making sure that they get enough water to reach their roots. Be careful not to fill your boots as I did posing for my photo! I have been told to pay particular attention to watering my recently potted herbs that are growing outside the back door in a Vigoroot herb planter. Plants in Vigoroot pots need more water to support their vigorous growth.

    According to Grandpa Haxnicks, Jack started off his beanstalk in a Vigoroot pot. Apparently the healthy strong roots and abundant growth of his beanstalk were a direct result of growing it in a pot made of a fabulous felty fabric called Vigoroot.  Hmmmm Whilst I do have my doubts about the truth of some of this tale (Grandpa Haxnicks does have a rather long nose), I do believe, as do many green fingered, (short nosed) scientists that growing plants in a pot made of a porous fabric like Vigoroot gives you stronger, healthier plants.

    Haxnicks Normal Vigoroot Plant Pot
    Haxnicks Vigoroot Plant Pot

    What happens in these pots is a process called 'air pruning'. As I understand it 'air pruning' is not, as I first suspected, the gardener's equivalent to air guitar, but rather a clever process that changes the way the roots form, giving healthier, more vigorous roots that won't grow too long or result in a 'pot bound' plant. So what you get is a larger, healthier potted plant.

    Haxnicks Vigoroot Pot

    Vigoroot Herb Planter

    Call it magic, or call it science but I thought it best to try Vigoroot for myself. I was not over keen to grow a giant bean with a resident hungry giant at the top, ( I already have enough resident hungry giants...3 teen-aged children ) and instead opted for some handy herbs to keep outside the kitchen door in a Vigoroot herb planter.

    You can find out lots more about the magic of Vigoroot and many more Vigoroot products on the website. Let me know if you decide to grow in Vigoroot pots too, especially if it's a giant beanstalk!

  • Grandpa Haxnicks offers advice on Ground Elder

    Dear gardeners,

    Over winter it is easy to forget about some of those nasty perennial weeds that lurk beneath the soil. One of the most rampant, vigorous and downright stubborn of these is ground elder, also known as gout weed, bishop weed and most appropriately jump about. Left unchecked, it will spread from one tiny corner of the garden and invade all useful growing space by spreading its network of underground stems (rhizomes). In an alien like fashion it can regenerate into a new plant from just a tiny fragment of those underground stems.

    Ground Elder in Garden Borders

    This weed has driven my friend The Potty gardener...well...completely potty. Living in a rented property where ground elder has been able to take a firm hold she has turned to gardening in pots, but there are other alternatives and as I am often asked for advice on beating the evil weed then I thought that it would be good to share that advice with you.

    For a serious invasion of ground elder you will need time, patience and lots of black polythene!

    Dig up any cultivated plants in the area and gently tease out any ground elder rhizomes from their roots. Do not put the weeds in the compost!

    Replant your plants in pots or clear soil

    Dig out the ground elder. You will need to dig to a depth of about 2 foot and be very thorough, making sure that you get out every last scrap of those rampant rhizomes. A second digging over is often required a few weeks later to catch the ones that you missed.

    The Roots of Ground Elders

    Alternatively you can cover the area with black polythene to starve the ground elder of light for at least a year and possibly two. A few years ago I helped friends clear a large patch of ground about 12ft square. The digging took us a few weeks and because they couldn't bare to stare at black polythene for two years we seeded the area with grass and mowed it regularly which seemed to work very well.

    You can, of course turn to a glyphosphate weedkiller, but for a large patch of ground that can be expensive, so I tend to advise that you use it for small areas or to keep on top of any new growth after an initial clearing.

    There is one saving grace for this pesky perennial, that it is edible. The young leaves are slightly nutty and can be used in a salad or cooked in butter like spinach. So if you can't beat it, eat it!

    Goodbye for now,
    Grandpa Haxnicks

  • Thinning Carrots and Potted Primulas

    Happy Easter from The Potty Gardener

    It is the first of April, but I am in no joking mood…I thought that growing your own vegetables was meant to be good for the soul, rewarding, satisfying, character building even, but my soul is sullied. Such seemingly benign gardening gurus as Monty Don and Bob Flowerdew have persuaded me to be ruthless and destructive. My lovingly sown carrot seeds, that I nurtured single handed into young carrothood, have been culled!

    Those that strayed from their row, did not grow enough, or simply got in the way of my clumsy fingers are now chicken fodder. Of course, thinning out seedlings to leave a few centimetres between each means that there is now room for them to grow healthily. In the end it will be the greatest good for the greatest number, but it is no less disturbing to have had to choose the lucky few. I will have to repeat this process in a few weeks with my second sowing of carrots that has yet to germinate...I think that perhaps they are too fearful. They may also be a little embarrassed due to their unusual, most uncarrot-like colour...they are purple.

    Haxnicks Flower Pots

    To cheer myself up I have potted up some primulas to add a touch of Easter colour outside the porch and despite being a simple task it has satisfied my horticultural soul and restored my mood....

    Next week I will be sowing turquoise tomatoes,

    Happy Easter!

  • Sweet Peas and mice!

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    The Potty Gardener

    At last the boring brown is yielding to verdant specks of life!  Potatoes are pushing up, and must be buried with another layer of compost, keeping their prying eyes covered. My first sowing of carrots has germinated in a most disorganised fashion thanks to some ‘help’ from my chickens. Tiny tomato seedlings are emerging and receiving a light misting of water when they ask nicely, but the biggest push has come from the sweet peas in their Rootrainers. Grandpa Haxnicks is full of advice about sweet peas, mostly mice advice…..

    Mice like cheese but mice LOVE sweet peas! Did I not soak my seeds in liquid paraffin overnight before sowing to put off the mice? Well no, actually that instruction was not on the seed packet. The sweet peas are now out in the greenhouse keeping cool to promote root rather than stem growth  (I grew up in a cold house, maybe that’s why I have long legs and a short body?). There is plenty of mousey evidence in the greenhouse so I had a good think out of the box, in the box and around the box about how to prevent my sweet pea seedlings from becoming a rodent salad.

    Growing Sweet Peas in Haxnicks Rootrainers

    Sweet pea fortress

    First, I have instructed my cat (who goes by the name of Mouse) that for once I will not get cross with her if she leaves me a furry present on the doormat. Second, I read that mice, like horses and elephants, do not like hanging upside down so I have raised the Rootrainers with a central flower pot so that a mouse would have to negotiate an overhang to reach the sweet peas. Thirdly, just in case a mouse might consider a Bear Grylls style ascent to the Sweet Pea summit I have surrounded all access points with holly bush trimmings to prick their little pink paws. My final fortification, should my first three fail to deter the ravenous rodents is a light sprinkling of chilli powder over the seedlings. Ha! So far so good, my four pronged approach seems to be doing the trick and keeping mice, horses and elephants at bay.

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