Love to Grow

  • Product Bite: Tomato Tubes

    What are Tomato Tubes :

    tomato_tubes_on_tomato_plant_in_potTomato Tubes are simple tubes of aerated, UV Stabilised polythene that you put over tomato plants.  They offer simple, inexpensive, organic crop protection for tomato plants grown outside.

    What crop are they for:

    Tomatoes that are grown outside a greenhouse.

    What's so special about it?

    The special thing about them is that they are, like so many brilliant ideas, extremely simple.  Tomato plants thrive when they are warm.  Unseasonal weather can cause havoc with outdoor tomato crops. Too much rain, too little sunshine, harsh winds, plummeting temperatures...the great British summer is not always ideal for a bumper crop of tomatoes! Even this week we are set to swing between 11 and 37 degrees!

    However, if you just pop over a length of Tomato Tube it will protect the plant from dipping temperatures as well as fruit pinching pests. it is easy to take off for the day if conditions change  for example on a super hot day and then pop it back on to retain that warmth.  The holes in the polythene will allow air to circulate around the plant giving the plant the ideal environment to boost ripening.  Great for late season toms.

    Tomato Tube comes as a 3pk of 2m lengths. Once over support the plant in the pot with canes and tie off at the top and bottom with the tie wires included in the pack.

    Find out more: 

    Related Blogs:  Read about it in use Grow at Home: Tomatoes

    Buy it Now:  See them here Tomato Tube

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    However, if you just pop over a length of Tomato Tube it will protect the plant from dipping temperatures as well as fruit pinching pests. The Tomato Tube also gives the plants the ideal environment and boosts ripening.  Great for late season toms.

    Tomato Tube comes as a 3pk of 2m lengths. Once over the plant it can be supported in the pot with canes and tied off at the top and bottom with the tie wires included in the pack.

  • 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.

    Sowing

    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!

    Care

    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.

     

    Pests

    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 .

    Harvest

    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_contianing_tree_saplings_on_table_with_other_plants

    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?

     

    Rootrainers_diagram_showing_root_formation

    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.  

    Sowing

    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.

    Aftercare

    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

  • Product Bite: MicroMesh Pest & Wind Barrier

    What is MicroMesh Pest & Wind barrier:

    The MicroMesh Pest & Wind Barrier is a barrier to put round plants to protect them from low flying insects such as carrot fly whilst also protecting crops from wind damage. It is also perfect for keeping cats, chickens and even children off the crops!

    What crop is it used for:

    It is particularly good for the protection of all crops in the parsley family such as carrots, fennel, dill, coriander, parsnips and celery. However it will shelter any plants from the wind if your plot is in an exposed area.

    What's so special about it?

    It protects your plants but still allows sunlight, watering and easy access to crops.  it is made from tightly woven ultra fine 0.6mm mesh with bamboo supports stitched in so it is easy to erect.  Adaptable to surround different plot shapes and will cover up to 4m²

    When using, make sure that there are no gaps at the sides or bottom of the barrier and your plants will be fully protected.  For best results we recommend using the barrier from sowing to harvest.

    Find out more: 

    See it in action: To see it in action head over to our YouTube channel Organic Pest Protection 

    Related Blogs:  Read about it in use Grow at Home: Parsnips

    Buy it Now:  See ithere MicroMesh Pest & Wind Barrier

  • Product Bite: SpeedWeed

    What is SpeedWeed:

    Haxnicks_speed_weed_with_large_thistleSpeedWeed is an innovative weeding tool. It is designed for large areas and is great for lawns, orchards, paddocks, grassy banks and verges.  Using it is effortless. Unlike other weeding tools there is no digging, pulling, twisting or bending  required.

    This precision tool has a high quality hardwood handle and sharpened stainless steel cutting scoop and foot bar. 

    What is SpeedWeed used for:

    Weeds such as dandelions and thistles can quickly spread and  become a real nuisance. In large grassy areas, or for organic gardeners, weed  killers are not an option. SpeedWeed offers a quick, satisfying and efficient way to rid gardeners of the problem.

    What's so special about it? 

    The special thing about SpeedWeed is that you get the same result as other root weeders with half the effort as it is so easy to use.   With a simple push on the foot bar the cutting scoop will slice through the weed below ground. No need to get on your knees. The process will kill most weeds off instantly.  If there is any regrowth then this will be weak and another ruthless round of Speed Weeding or mowing will get rid of it.  

    Weeding tools that take out the main root require more precision and effort for the same end result.  Whatever weeding tool you use, roots can easily snap, or fragments and remain in the soil.   The result of all the extra effort will be the same level of regrowth as Speed Weeding.

    Find out more: 

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

    Buy it Now:  See it here SpeedWeed

     

  • Grow at Home: what size pot do you need for growing tomatoes?

    One of the most often asked questions is "what size pot do you need for growing tomatoes?"

    So we looked at lots of sources and this is what we concluded.  Perceived wisdom is that the ideal pot size is 18-inch (45cm) diameter for determinate tomatoes and 24-inches (60cm) diameter for indeterminate tomatoes.  That is 30L to 60L of compost.  If you want to grow tomatoes like this then hop over to this blog post Grow at Home Tomatoes which will tell you all you need to know.

    But what if you could do it with a lot less compost - maybe 5L?

    We have been running an experiment to prove this is possible.  We have concluded that it is not only possible but actually quite easy.  Our plants have been producing vines of lovely rosy tomatoes for a couple of weeks now so its time to share the secrets.

    The Planter

    The first thing you need is a Vigoroot 5L planter.  This special fabric allows the roots to Air Prune.  If you haven't heard of this before then it is a way to get a super efficient root system.  The roots grow out from the centre and through the porous Vigoroot fabric.  When they hit the air the root end dies off.  This causes the plant to send more roots out from the centre. As you will see from the diagram below this means that you get lots of small effective roots rather than long pot bound roots.

    Haxnicks Normal Vigoroot PotHaxnicks Vigoroot Pot

     

    The Water

    Container grown tomato plants need more watering than garden tomatoes. The soil in planters heats up faster which leads to more water evaporation.

    For plants grown in regular pots or planters a good rule is to water until water runs freely from the bottom. Water in the morning and check the soil moisture levels again in the afternoon. If soil feels dry about 1 inch below the surface, it’s time to water again.

    A lack of water can stunt growth and inconsistent watering will cause splits in the fruit which allow diseases in.  The watering is even more important with Vigoroot as it is porous so will require slightly more than regular pots.  So we used Water Saucers

    Vigoroot, broad beans, beans, watersaucer, water saucer, cior, growlite, hydroponics, veg, vegetables Water saucer wick

    Water Saucers are simple but effective - a water container and a super absorbent capillary wick deliver water straight to the plant as and when it needs it. They are perfect for Vigoroot but can be used with any pot.  The wicks can even be retro fitted to a plant already potted.

    They are quite thirsty plants.  We are refilling our Saucer once every 3 days, adding liquid tomato Food direct into the water.

     

     

    The results

    So here are our tomatoes.  As you can see they grew quite tall!

    We got the seeds from our friends at Jungle Seeds.  They are an indeterminate tomato so should need around 60L of compost to grow this well.  They are Rapunzel Hybrid-i, and are characterised by these amazing long, cascading trusses, each with up to 40 tasty sweet, bright red shiny cherry tomatoes that keep coming all summer long. These are picked individually as they ripen and have a superb flavour that rivals Sungold.

     

    Vigoroot_with_RootsAnd as for those roots - the ones meeting the sides of the pots have air pruned.   And the ones near to the wick have used it to seek out the water.  This gives a partially hydroponic set up.  With a full hydroponic set up the water needs to be oxygenated but this is not needed here. With this set up, the advantage is there is an air gap between the bottom of the pot and the water which allows the roots to access vital oxygen.

    So if you are asking the question "what size pot do you need for growing tomatoes?"  then the answer that Google gives you is definitely not the whole story.

  • Product Bite: StrimGuard to protect young trees

    What is StrimGuard :

    StrimGuard_on_tree_with_strimmer_in_useStrimGuard is a unique product that addresses a specific need to protect trees from the age old problem of strimmer damage.

    It is important to clear long grass and weeds from around the base of young trees.  Otherwise they can sap nutrients from the plant and make it hard for the tree to get established. However strimming back grass and weed growth frequently results in accidental damage to the bark.  If the bark is damaged then this compromises the flow of water and nutrients to the upper part of the sapling. It can also leave open wounds which make the plant vulnerable to infection and mould.

    Where can I use it:

    Use it around the trunk of any young trees.  Simply wrap it around the foot of the tree and secure by clipping the ends together to provide vital protection against nylon strimmer wires, mice and other nibblers!  It comes in a pack of three and can be left in place on the trunk all season.  If you have a lot of trees though you could alwasy move it between trees when mowing.

    What's so special about it?

    Existing tree guards are not tough enough to withstand strimmer attacks!  This is specifically designed so you can strim with abandon to within an inch of the tree.

    Find out more: 

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

    Related Blogs:  Read about it in use Grow at Home:Nuts! Whole Hazelnuts

    Buy it Now:  See the full range here StrimGuard

     

  • Grow at Home: Spinach

    Growing Spinach

    Spinach_seedlingsYou will have heard (maybe from the lips of the legendary PopEye) that spinach is super high in iron.  This, and the rumor that a scientist put the decimal place in the wrong spot thus multiplying the iron content by ten, both appear to be unsubstantiated and probably false.    However, spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C and folate as well as being a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron and vitamin B2.  It is also tasty and versatile and can be used from smoothies to stir fries to salads. Oh, and its easy to grow!

    History

    It is believed that the first spinach grew in Persia. In the Middle Ages it then moved east to Nepal and at the same time was introduced to Sicily.  Clever irrigation methods made this possible and its journey continued until it came to the notice of the ruling classes in Florence.  From there the young Catherine de Medici took it to Frnace when she was married to Henry II, King of France. All this was playing to spinaches strenghts as it much prefers a cooler climate  than the heat of Persia.

    Growing Spinach

    So spinach is a cool-weather crop.  It doesn't like daytime temperatures above 24 degrees C (75 degrees F). Good moist, sandy soil is best, encouraging rapid growth. When temperatures soar and daylight increases (as in the summer months), the plants will bolt and go to seed.  Which is why it is ideal to plant it a little later in the year to avoid having to watch over it for problems.

    Sowing & Harvesting

    Sow your seeds directly outside in their final positions from March to August. Sow them in shallow lines quite thinly. Cover them with poly tunnels or cloches to protect them and to encourage growth, you may also need a Slug-Buster.  If you don't have a large garden then spinach will also thrive in a container. Choose a Shallow vegetable planter -as spinach doesn't 't have long roots - and plant thinly exactly as you would outside.

    As the seedlings appear, thin them out to about 6-8” 15-20cm apart. You can pick the smaller more tender leaves when they are about 3” 7cm long and use them in salads, anything bigger than that should be cooked for a short amount of time and be eaten as a hot vegetable.

    Keep picking the leaves so that a) they don’t run to seed and b) they keep on growing.

    tiny_spinach_plants_in_groundPerpetual Spinach is the one that I always plant as you only need to plant one lot and it lasts for months and months, sometimes even years.  Very easy. Perpetual spinach is not actually spinach, it is actually a chard (beet family) but looks and is eaten in exactly the same way.  Well worth planting for a regular supply.

    It does require some maintenance as trimming the leaves frequently helps improve the flavour of Perpetual Spinach.

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