Love to Grow

  • Love to grow August Competition 2010

    Just a quick note to say that July is almost over, and entries for the July competition will have to be in by the end of the 31st July. Don't worry if you're not ready, as there's still the August competition to go,

    Remember, we're looking for the best photos of Haxnicks products in use - quality of image, setting, background, and plants will all be taken into account. Also, you can enter as many photos as you want, so get snapping! E-mail entries to [email protected], along with your name, address and phone number, or if you prefer, send us a link to your online photo gallery (if you have one..)

    Haxnicks -  Love to grow

  • Potato progress - Winter crops

    Haxnicks Potato Patio Planters

    Hopefully, you are all enjoying your own home-grown potatoes by now, and doesn't the taste make it all worthwhile? But it ain't over til the fat lady sings (at christmas) - Once you've emptied your Potato Patio Planters, keep them in mind, as you can very easily have another batch of fresh home-grown spuds ready for the Christmas table!

    All you have to do is replant from mid-August to early September. Seed potatoes will be available from most garden centres and mail-order companies - Alternatively, you could just keep back a few spuds from your summer crop and use them as your seed potatoes! Add a little straw/old leaves to the bottom of your planter - as this rots it will help to provide some warmth, protecting your winter potatoes from the cold. Then plant as normal.

    Potato foliage cannot handle the frost, so ideally bring your planters inside as the cold comes on - a greenhouse, barn, or the kitchen will do, as long as there is some light. As normal, don't soak your potatoes, but ensure the soil remains moist. (Sorry to all those of you who dislike the word 'moist', but it does the job!)

    Haxnicks Fleece Jackets

    It will also help to cover your plants with fleece to warm them - there are various fleece jackets available, which pop over the plant very easily - why not choose a decorated one for a bit more colour against the drabness of winter?

    Hope you're enjoying your harvests, long may they last!

    Love to grow!

  • Pippa Greenwood - Q&A - Part II

    Pippa_Greenwood_with_Victoriabn_Bell_ClocheThe second in our series of questions and answers from Pippa Greenwood.  Please remember we are open for more questions at the bottom - just leave a comment and we'll get our panel of experts to answer your questions.

    Q: How can I keep my greenhouse a bit cooler in the height of the summer?

    A: Make sure that greenhouses and conservatories have adequate shading – temperatures soon soar in this warmer weather and plants inside will dry out rapidly and may be severely scorched. Paint on shading is the cheapest and is readily available from the garden centre but a conservatory is better fitted with more attractive looking blinds in the long term. Keep vents and windows open as much as possible too so that cooler air can come in. Try to allow a through draught, and even consider fitting an extra window or vent. The old-fashioned remedy of ‘damping down’ works brilliantly too – simple water any hard-standing such as the path in the greenhouse, as the water evaporates it uses heat energy and so temperatures drop.

    Q: There is ivy growing up through my well-established hornbeam hedge, will it harm the hedge?

    A: Much as I love ivy (and am not one for removing it from trees), if the ivy is starting to get a hold in your hedge, I’d be inclined to try to remove it. It is a vigorous plant and although I’m sure it won’t kill the hedging plants, it can start to swamp them and may lead to a degree of gappyness in the foliage covering as the hedge comes in to full leaf. The easiest way is to try to dig out the ivy at the base, or failing this, to sever the stem from the base, and then pull off the dead ivy plants once they have turned brown.

    Q: My hostas are riddled with holes, any suggestions?

    A: Hostas and holes pretty well always means slugs, and possibly snails.

    If they are growing in pots try using a copper based paint or a self-adhesive copper tape applied around the rim of the pot – slugs and snails hate crossing copper. If they are in open ground I suggest you try setting traps eg beer traps, and also consider using a nematode biological, or an organic slug control as this way you can kill them off without endangering the wildlife.

    Q: Can I grow a rose in a pot?

    A: yes, you can.  But looking after it will definitely be much more effort than if it were growing in open ground! If you cannot plant it in open ground then I suggest you use as large a pot as possible, ideally something like a half barrel, and use a loam-based compost with added grit, something like John Innes number 3 would be good, plus some horticultural grit.

    Q: How do I know what size containers to use for my patio veg. I have a tiny flat with a small balcony and need to be as space-saving as possible?

    A: Assuming the balcony is up to the job (and please do check first!!) the bigger the better, but generally speaking I find pot-shaped containers work better than growing bags as they allow you to put in a top quality compost, and are easier to keep moist. A minimum of about 30cm3 , but ideally bigger is what I would recommend. If space and weight are an issue, then try the crop bags made from a sort of plasticised hessian material as these are very light weight, available in a range of sizes, fold flat and tiny for off-season storage, and have brilliant drainage holes in them!

    Q: I’ve just noticed that my apple tree has several areas on it where the branches are all bobbly and swollen.  They seem to be coming in to leaf OK.  What is this?

    A: It sounds as if they were hit by woolly aphid. This sap-sucking pest causes you stems to swell and distort as it feeds, but its a symptom that is often first noticed when the plants start to grow in the spring. Once this damage has appeared the infested stem may start to die back, especially when the damage is severe, or if apple canker disease gets in via the wounded bark. I suggest you prune out the worst affected areas.

    Q: Pippa, is it too late to sow peas in March?

    A: Its certainly worth sowing some peas in March.  In many areas, the soil stays so very wet and so extremely cold well into March.  So for much of the country sowing any earlier is not possible! If the soil is still a bit wet and cold where you are, I suggest you sow the seed in cells, root-trainer pots or small flower pots and then transplant the peas when the plants are three or four inches tall and things have warmed up a bit. Remember to get some twiggy sticks in to the soil when you sow the seed or plant the young peas out, these will act as supports as the peas grow.

    Q: Is it true that it is not a good idea to cut an established hedge in spring.  If so, why?

    A: Its certainly true.  In fact as the bird nesting season has officially started in spring, it is actually illegal to do anything which might disturb nesting birds! The hedge itself would not mind. But you could very easily cause tragedy as far as the wild birds are concerned.

    Q: Some of my seedlings have suddenly died, sort of flopped over, can I save them?

    A: The most likely cause is damping off disease. This is caused by fungi, often introduced via unclean compost, trays or pots, or from non-mains water. Sadly there is no way you’ll be able to resurrect the seedlings but do check on your gardening hygiene. Its also worth watering seedlings with a dilute copper fungicide. This can help to prevent the infection getting a hold in the first place.

    Q: The winter has left my lawn riddled with moss, what can I do?

    A: First try to alleviate any compacted areas using a fork driven in deeply at intervals over the lawn. Then if you wish you could use a proprietary moss killer.  Once the moss has been killed off, and after the delay period suggested on the pack, rake out the dead moss.

    Don’t do this any earlier than suggested or you may end up spreading the moss! If areas are very thin, you could then roughen up the surface and re-seed with fresh grass seed. Good lawn care ie feeding, scarifying and adequate water are the real key to a moss-free green carpet!

    Once again Pippa has given us a bonus question:

    Q: Pippa, I am fed up with all the caterpillars I get in my brassicas, especially the calabrese. Please, please suggest a chemical free solution?

    A: I never spray mine either, but with out a physical barrier you can guarantee a good crop of caterpillars! I plant low-growing brassicas under fleece or fine net pull-out tunnels.  Taller ones a brilliant metal frame which comes with a fine mesh ‘jacket’ and a zip-up doorway.  This is great because it is just tall enough for me to get in and so amongst the crop.  It makes it very easy to harvest just what I want. Mesh covers like this will also protect against other flying pests such as aphids, cabbage root fly and flea beetle.  They make organic veg growing so much easier!

    We cannot thank Pippa enough for these valuable tips and answers.  Please add your own questions and we'll try to help.

  • Pippa Greenwood - Q&A - Part I

    We are delighted to welcome Pippa Greenwood to our Blog and to start things off we have a small Q&A session. Please feel free to pose your own questions at the bottom of this list and we'll  get our panel of experts to help answer them.

    Q: I have noticed a brown, powdery substance on the under surface of the leaves on my plums and something rather similar on my roses; is this rust?
    A: Yes indeed! Rusts, of all the diseases, are probably those which thrive and spread particularly well when the air is moist and at this time of year they often become a real problem. I have also rust on the foliage of garlic this year. You should ensure that you collect up and compost, bin or burn all the infected leaves on a regular basis as this will help to decrease the likelihood of them spreading and over-wintering successfully. Generally rust on a plant such as plum or willow is unlikely to have any significant effect on the tree’s vigour in the long term, and so on these plants I would be less inclined to worry.

    However, on things like roses, they can have quite a weakening effect after a while and so I would suggest you may like to consider spraying the plants, as well as carrying out routine clean ups. I rely on purely cultural techniques – keeping the rose well pruned, avoiding wetting the foliage and prompt clearing up if rust appears

    Q: The garden that I have recently taken on seems to have more nettles and docks in it than anything else. What can I do?
    A: If you are happy to use chemicals, I suggest that you choose one based on glyphosate. These chemicals are translocated and that means they will be carried down from the foliage that you spray into the entire root system and so you should find that with one application now and then perhaps another one early next year, you can clear the ground completely. If you don’t want to use chemicals then I suggest you cut back as much of the foliage as you can manually and then cover the soil with old carpet. This will prevent light from getting through to the plants and smother them, so gradually weakening them. You should find that this will help to kill off the majority of the weed growth, although you may still need to dig out some by hand. Do be wary because both nettles and docks have extremely pernicious underground parts, which means that even a small section left in the soil has the ability to root and form a new plant. Whatever you do, do not incorporate the underground parts of either of these weeds into the compost heap.

    Q: My apple is showing signs of slight dieback and I have noticed similar problems on the mountain ash or rowan tree. The dieback seems to be associated with roughened patches on the bark; is there anything I can do?
    A: This sounds like apple canker, a fungal problem which is quite common and which you may also find on pear trees. The cankers that form start to ring the infected stems or branches and as a result, growth becomes poor and spindly and if the canker rings the branch entirely then everything beyond that point will die back. You should take action promptly because this fungus is likely to spread fairly effectively and I suggest that you prune out all the infected limbs, taking the branches back to perfectly healthy growth and to a suitable outward facing spur or bud. If the canker is present on the main stem or trunk of the tree, then obviously you cannot cut this out and I would suggest that you take a really sharp knife and attempt to scoop out the entire cankered area, once more cutting back to really clean and healthy looking wood.

    Q: How can I go about controlling slugs and vine weevils without using chemicals?

    A: Both these pests do have some natural predators in the garden, including ground beetles, so you should do everything you can to encourage these.

    In addition, I suggest you attempt to use some of the biological controls. There is a nematode-based control which is suitable for use against slugs and another, quite different nematode which you can use to control vine weevil grubs. Sadly these are not available in garden centres because, as they are living organisms, they would not survive life in a garden centre for long, but you can buy them from mail order suppliers and these should be delivered promptly, ready for you to use.

    In both cases they result in the pest being poisoned without posing any threat to other creates. There are several different suppliers of biological controls.

    Q: How can I control the algae which is spoiling my patio area?
    A: Algae usually builds up because the surface is moist for prolonged periods, so the first thing you should do is to try and find out why this is happening. Certainly check nearby guttering and drainpipes to ensure that there is nothing leaking onto your patio. In addition if the area is quite heavily shaded or gets a lot of run off when it rains from nearby trees, then this too could be involved. There are lots of proprietary patio cleaners on the market which you can use, but do check that the one you choose is safe for use in the vicinity of plants. If you do not want to use any chemicals as such, then quite often, provided you can sort out the source of the excess moisture, you will find that scrubbing the surface of the paving with a stiff brush or yard broom may be sufficient to dislodge the algae. Some people also treat the area with small quantities of salt and find that this works well, although again you must take caution if there are plants nearby.

    Q: Can you suggest a few shrubs that would be looking good in my garden in early September?
    A: There are lots of things which should be particularly attractive, including potentillas, Perovskia, Indigofera, hypericums, hydrangeas, fuchsias, Hibiscus syriacus, Buddleja davidii, Caryopteris, Ceratostigma, vincas, hebes and Abelia grandiflora. In fact, if you pay a visit to your local garden centre at this time of year, you can be sure that many of the shrubs which are looking particularly good at that time of year, will be prominently displayed, so you have got the pick of the bunch and of course you have also chosen a perfect time for planting.

    Q: Help! My pond is now bright green and packed full of what my neighbour says is blanket weed, is there anything I can do?
    A: If your pond has become green and full of a tangled mass of strands of that common problem blanket weed it will not only look awful but may also entangle fish or wildlife as they swim. I find the best method of control is to regularly use a rake or a stick to remove the blanket weed, pulling it out of the pond and composting it or binning it if you do not have a compost bin.Make sure you leave the mass of weed on the side of the pond, and trailing in to it slightly for a few days before composting so that pond life can escape back to the pond!

    Q: This year I grew some bedding plants from seed, they germinated OK, but many were massively tall, any clues?
    A: As bedding plants grow it is essential to pinch out the growing tips on the shoots. Doing this helps to encourage plenty of side shoots to develop so creating good bushy, compact plants. This is easily done using your forefinger and thumb.

    Q: I planted some shrubs and a few trees in my new garden in early spring, but am now scared they won’t thrive, please can you help?
    A: Trees and shrubs which were planted earlier this year will need extra care and attention right now as their roots will not have grown out into the soil to any great extent and because the weather is a lot warmer and drier they could easily suffer from drought. Give regular drenchings of water applied in early evening for best effect. Once the soil is thoroughly wetted, if you have not already done so, apply a 5-7.5cm (2-3in) deep mulch over the entire root area and this will help to preserve water.

    Q: I want to grow strawberries but my first attempts in my other garden were regularly wrecked by birds and slugs, any suggestions?
    A: To keep slugs and snails away from the developing fruits your really should place mats or straw under developing strawberries – this way you can drastically reduce the damage done by slugs or snails without having to use chemicals. Try suspending old CD’s close to the crop and using other bird scaring devices, but for me the only fool proof way is to protect the crop under nets, the easiest to use are the pull-out mini tunnels covered in fine green mesh as these are easy to remove and replace for harvesting.

    And thank you Pippa a bonus question...

    Q: My peach has peach leaf curl disease, can it be saved?
    A: Definitely ! First you should pick off the infected swollen and reddish purple leaves which develop on peaches, nectarines and edible and ornamental almonds. These are caused by the peach leaf curl fungus (Taphrina deformans) and removing them promptly reduces the risk of the problem spreading. A feed then helps the plant perk up ans it should be able to produce a second flush of clean, new foliage. Once the plant is clean again, often helped by spraying with a copper based fungicide according to the instructions, try covering it with an open-sided clear polythene shelter between leaf fall and spring to reduce the risk of spores landing.

  • Haxnicks' Vegetable Patio Planters reach the Top Table

    Far be it from this website's purpose to even lean towards the political.  So we'll keep this neutral, but we thought we would share this with you.  Sarah Brown demonstrating that she is clearly a lady of taste, using the original Haxnicks Vegetable Patio Planter. Enjoy...

    Sarah_Brown_Haxnicks_Vegetable_Patio_planters

    Sources: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/2010/apr/18/sarah-brown-downing-street-fair-trade & http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/competition/2010/apr/12/ofmapril

  • More Tips on Tomato - growing in Patio Planters.

    Haxnicks' Tomato Patio PlanterTomatoes are one of the most rewarding things to grow, because they taste SO delicious when freshly picked - Some say you'll never eat a supermarket tomato again.

    Using patio planters makes growing your own tomatoes easier than ever - You can choose between the Climbing Tomato Patio Planter, which has a three sided metal climbing frame, or the Bush and Trailing Tomato Patio Planter, designed for tomatoes that are happy growing without a climbing frame.

    Also, you can use one of the three general use Vegetable Patio Planters (we recommend the deepest one for climbers, or the medium one for bush tomatoes.)

    If you're using a planter without a frame to grow climbing tomatoes, you'll need to provide some kind of support - 2 or three ordinary garden canes should be adequate, then use some of our Soft-tie to gently tie the plants to the canes as they grow (it's a good idea to leave space for the stems to grow when you tie around them).

    If you plan to grow from seed we recommend rootrainers for the best start, or you can buy some small plants from your local garden centre who will be able to help you choose the right sort of tomato.

    Haxnicks Patio PlantersTwo tomato plants should be enough to fill a Tomato Planter. The planters have drainage holes in the bottom, but for tomatoes we recommend adding a thin layer of gravel/stones at the bottom of the planter to assist with drainage. Then fill with a good-quality multi-purpose compost to about 4cm from the top of the planter.  Water the plants and allow to drain before planting them - also water after planting, but be careful not to soak the compost.

    Do not place tomatoes outside until after the last frosts - Keep them in a light sunny position. As the plant grows, side-shoots must be removed (just pinch them off with your fingers) - Otherwise you'll end up with lots of foliage, and not much fruit - side-shoots grow from the joint between the main stem and the leaf branches.
    Lower leaves should be removed if they start yellowing, to reduce the chance of infection. Frequent watering is vital but we have to add dry periods lead to splitting tomatoes.  You can also just rub off Aphids with your fingers, or spray them off with water. Finally you will have a better crop if you feed your planter regularly from mid-summer onwards, with a good liquid feed (many are available in your garden centre).As soon as the fruit is ripe, pick and eat! - This is a) delicious, and b) encourages more fruit to grow. Best of luck with it.
  • Gutter Planting Success

    Planting Vegetables with Haxnicks

    Sarah Raven in her article "The Veg Patch, Part III: How to Sow Seeds" which appeared in The Daily Telegraph, shows how by a series of experimentation she has achieved nearly a 100% germination success rate by using lengths of guttering to sow her seeds in. She advocates sowing "at least half the vegetable crop into gutter lengths filled with a non-peat-based potting compost.

    The Haxnicks Rowplanter offers exactly the same benefits which Sarah outlines in her article, and is much more convenient than the unwieldy method of traditional gutter planting.

    The Rowplanter comes in manageable lengths that can be placed in a small protected space. They have their own tray to hold them, so they will not fall over, and there is a propagating lid to assist the germination period.

    The rows (gutters) do not need a large amount of soil preparation and sowing into the rows takes no longer than if you were sowing directly into the ground, but there is no need to bend and stoop, it can be done at a table or on your greenhouse bench.

    Sowing can be done with care and spacing can be evened out and when germination takes place thinning out can be done in the rows without any kneeling or bending. This means this method conserves seed as well.

    Sarah Raven says this method, traditionally suited to peas, is also ideal for serial sowing of salad crops, leafy greens (mizuna, rocket, chard, spinach, chervil) and herbs (coriander, parsley and basil).

    Radishes can be left in the rows and eaten straight from the rows without being planted out and the rows are also ideal for parsnips provided they are transplanted before they are 2,5cm high. Even carrots can be grown in the Rowplanter lengths and if left till the seedlings reach 4cm in height you will be sure of a "baby carrot crop right through to Christmas."

  • The Birds!

    Birdscare

    Spring has sprung, and all that sort of thing, and I'm sure you're all getting pretty busy in the garden. I wanted to write a little article about a very underestimated product, which has been doing some pretty amazing things.

    We have had reports from Spain telling that it has been the best thing for keeping wild boar off the crops - Tales from St. Tropez claiming that nothing keeps a yacht more free from seagulls and their droppings - and also praise from the gardens of England.  One of which I've pasted below for you to see.  And the name of this 'many-beast-repelling' and magical product? Birdscare!

    Letter from Warwickshire

    Here's a letter i received from Warwickshire: 

    Hi, I must let you know about this item. Do you realise you can make a fortune with this stuff. We have had a heron problem for over 3 years and lost a lot of fish/frogs and tried EVERYTHING to no avail, the thing keeps coming back for the restocked stuff.

    I love wildlife so would never hurt it BUT really was a real pain. We put netting, old tyres supporting canes, fruit netting, poles suspending even more netting. It looked like a rubbish tip on speed. What a sight - AND we couldn't see what we had left. He still got in - under - through and even on.

    We put on this line (with some scepticism!) and were stunned. Not only did it WORK but it WORKED immediately. Down he came, cocked head on one side, took a look/listen/see and WENT without even coming close. We have watched for nearly 3 weeks now - he came back twice but we have not seen him since! Only snag is we are scared it will break in really high winds we have sometimes. But nevertheless we are DELIGHTED. You should tell ALL. Tx

    So if you're being hunted by wild boar, (or even if you just want to keep your plants unpecked),  take a look at the Birdscare Humming Line.

  • Growing Brassicas From Seeds

    Growing brassicas

    Cabbages, kale, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussel Sprouts are all varieties of the same species of Brassica oleracea which is native to the Mediterranean. Brassicas thrive on transplanting and some gardeners even swear by transplanting them twice.

    • Brussel Sprouts sow the seeds in March early April
    • Spring Cabbage' make two sowings 4 weeks apart in February
    • Summer Cabbage sow in March
    • Winter Cabbage sow in May
    • Summer Cauliflower sow in March
    • Broccoli sow in April

    purple_sprouting_broccoliDeep Rootrainers make an excellent way to start them when growing from seed, just fill with compost (preferably peat free) and cover with a clear propagating lid and leave to germinate in a warm place.  if you are using Rootrainers then just flip the drip tray over when you have watered them and you have your propagator lid.

    Once plants start emerging use as a drip tray under the tray and grow on in a good strong light place,

    When plants are ready plant out into a deep, rich well composted and moist soil. Make 15cm deep holes with a garden stake and place the seedling into the hole. Don’t close the hole with soil .  Instead, water the plant which will close the hole with the right amount of soil.

    Watering of the young plants is vital until they are well established and weeding is just as essential.

    Using Garden Cloches from Haxnicks

    If pests are a problem when growing brassicas or you want to bring on growth a little quicker then we do recommend our Victorian Bell Cloches, these provide instant weather protection and additional warmth for faster growth.

  • Haxnicks Releases New Range of Patio Planters

    It's still freezing outside, and Spring seems a thousand miles away, but it's time to get growing - and we would like to get some opinions from you our customers.

    This season Haxnicks has several new additions to its hugely popular Patio Planter range. There are now available from Garden Centres up and down the country and of course as usual on our website.  But we want to know what you think, we want to hear from you.

    Most Patio Planters come in a range of attractive rustic shades, and we are trying to brighten up the range when they are sitting outside the back door. But what colours do you like, should we try using patterns.  Do you have a favourite?

    Vegetable Patio Planters from HaxnicksRaised Bed Patio Planters
    We making 3 Raised Bed planters - a full sized Patio Raised Bed, one special half-sized Balcony Raised Bed, and a quarter-sized Space Saver Raised Bed.

    No matter what space you have available to you, we are trying to ensure as many of our customers as possible can get their green fingers working!

    But are we missing a size? Is the depth right? Are they strong enough (they should be!)?

    Patio Planters from HaxnicksCane Support Patio Planters
    We also thought it might be fun to get some upwardly mobile growing going on on your patios, so we have introduce a Three Cane Patio Planter and a Six Cane Patio Planter, for all the peas, beans and tomatoes you could want.

    The Patio Planters have pockets in built that you can slot the canes into, giving a strong and easy to assemble feel to the product.  But we would love to hear from you our customers. Are these flexible enough? can you grow all the plants you want to? is it strong enough?

    Haxnicks' Patio PlantersCarrot Patio Planter
    Finally, we thought the carrot deserved some recognition - So here is a carrot-coloured planter, with sufficient depth to grow your own delicious carrots.

    It is a generous 11" (30cm) deep which should be enough space for downward growth, we've tested, we experimented, but now we want your opinion? Deep enough, wrong colour? Please let us know.

    However tight you may be on space, there's now a way to grow a huge range of vegetables with minimum difficulty - and the patio will look great too. Please view the whole range of Haxnicks Patio Planters.

    Happy Planting!

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