Love to Grow

  • Grow at Home: Florence or Sweet Fennel

    Fennel the vegetable or Fennel the herb?

    There are two sorts of fennel: one is classed as a herb and the other a vegetable.

    bronze_fennelThe herb - Foeniculum vulgare- reaches up to about 1.5m (5 foot) tall.  It produces the leaves and seeds that you see in fish recipes.

     

     

     

     

    fennel_bulb_growing

    The vegetable - Foeniculum dulce - swells at the base to produce a vegetable with a strong aniseed flavour.  This is the one you can slice into your salad or smother in cheese sauce and bake into a delicious gratin.  This is the one we are talking about today.

     

     

     

     

     

    Growing Fennel

    Florence Fennel is a tricky customer. It thrives on warm, moist, fertile, sandy soils. However, it is prone to bolting and sensitive to day length.  You need to be on the ball with watering and make sure fennel is first in the queue so that it never dries out.  Otherwise, it will decide it needs to flower and bolt with lightening speed the moment your back is turned.  Always look for bolt resistant varieties to give yourself the best chance of success.

    Sowing

    Because of its sensitive to day length the best time to sow is in mid June for an autumn crop. You can try sowing earlier (April-May) but because of the shorter days and higher risk of a sudden temperature drop it is more likely to bolt.

    So, choose an open, sunny site and pray for a long, hot summer. If you are organised prepare the bed by adding plenty of well-rotted organic matter the winter before you plant.

    The plants dislike root disturbance and don't transplant well from standrd pots. However, sowing single seeds into Rootrainers will allow you to transplant without this root damage.  When your seedlings are established simply open the Rootrainer a little to take a peek at their roots.  Plant out when you see a good set of striaght roots. 

    Or you can plant seeds direct into the ground.  To do this water the soil really well first.  Then plant 15mm (½in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart. You can either, set three seeds together at intervals in a row and thin the seedlings to leave the strongest one. Or, you can sow seed thinly along a drill and thin after.  Whichever you choose, thin to 30cm (12in) apart in the rows when the soil is warm from May to July.

    If you are planting in June you should be fine but if you are planting early then use Bell Cloches or Easy Tunnels to protect seedlings from the weather.

    Growing

    Water well throughout the growing season, keep weed free and mulch to conserve moisture.  Feed with high potassium fertiliser every two weeks once established.

    As the bulbs begin to swell from mid summer, you will need to earth them up (as you would with potatoes).  This will protect from early frost and leave you with blanched, tender white bulbs.

    Fennel will tollerate light frost, but will not survive outside through any but the mildest winter.

    Harvesting

    fennel_with_vegIf you plant in late June then you sould be able to harvest your bulbs in mid to late October.  They will be ready for harvesting when the bulb is about 7-10cm (3-4in across).  Cut them 2.5cm (1") above the ground.  If you are lucky, they may sprout feathery shoots from the cut bulb.  You can use these as you would use herb fennel to flavour fish dishes etc.

    Pest & Diseases

    Bolting: Try and head it off at the pass by using only bolt-resistant varieties. Sow or plant at the correct time and keep the soil or compost moist at all times.  Don't let them go thirsty!

    Slugs and snails: These mini predators love fennel seedlings.  Use the usual Slug Buster beer traps or stage a midnight intervention and pick off any heading toward your plants.

     

  • Product Bites: natural bamboo Tunnel Hoops

    What are natural bamboo Tunnel Hoops:

    tunnel_hoops_aerofabricHaxnicks Bamboo Tunnel Hoops are sturdy curved bamboo that you can use to create your very own natural looking tunnel cloche.  No more unsightly blue plastric tubing or rusting metal hoops.

    What crop are they for:

    Use them for any crop that needs covering for protection from adverse weather such as wind, heavy rain or frost.  It will also protect against pests from slugs and snails, to birds, rabbits and the tiny critters like aphids.  Add your plant protection fabric of choice and your plants will be safe.

    Every garden is different so the advantage to using tunnel hoops is that you can make the tunnel the exact length you need it to fit your own particular beds.

    What's so special about Tunnel Hoops?

    For a start they aren't made of plastic.  So, they are great for the gardener who wants to take a more natural approach in their garden. 

    They can also be used with any fabric which makes them very versatile.  The fabric can be swapped as the plants' needs change during the year.  From Fleece to warm the soil prior to planting, to shade netting to keep off the sun on to Micromesh to keep out insects.  Simply drape the fabric over and secure with U-shaped fabric pegs to ensure that the fabrics stay grounded.

    Find out more: 

    Related Blogs:  Read about it in use 4 Easy ways to grow in a wet summer

    Buy it Now:  See the full range here Bamboo Tunnel Hoops

     

  • Product Bites: Rapid Rootrainers & Compact Rapid Rootrainers

    What are Rapid Rootrainers:

    Compact RootrainersRootrainers are innovative planting cells.  And Rapid Rootrainers are a shorter version for plants that don't have very long roots.  They are the perfect start for nearly all plants and especially those that are sensitive to disturbance.  INot only is it great for the plants but it means that you don't waste compost filling space the roots won't need.

    The Rapid Rootrainers have 32 cells whilst the Compact Rapid Rootrainers have 20 cells for gardeners who want to grow slightly less.  Like all Rootrainers they come in openable 'books' so that the seedlings can be planted on without disturbing the roots.  The cells fit snuggly into a tray and there is a clear plastic lid that can be

    Root structure from Rapid Rootrainers cell. by Haxnicksused as a drip tray to water and then flipped over to turn the set up into a mini propegator.

    What crop are they for:

    Rapid_Rootrainer_plant_sowing_rootsRapid Rootrianers are ideal for bedding plants, salads and herbs, seeds, seedlings and cuttings.  They require less compost than ordinary pots.

    Deep Rootrainers are also available for deep rooted plants like beans, peas and sweet peas.  And Maxi Rootrainers are the biggest in the range, used for growing broad leaved trees.

    Where can I use them:

    They are great for the greenhouse, a window cill or with the lid on they can act as a mini-greenhouse if you want to use them outside.

    What's so special about them?

    Rootrainers_diagram_showing_root_formation

    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  or Grow at Home: Container Gardening

    Buy it Now:  See the full range here Rootrianers

     

  • Product Bite: Bamboo Scoop

    What is the Bamboo Scoop:  

    new_prodcut_2019_bamboo_scoopThe Bamboo Scoop is a generously proportioned scoop for quickly filling pots, planters and seed trays.

    It is brilliant for planting seeds, potting on and even repotting.  It has a life span of 3 to 5 years and is biodegradable and fully home compostable after use.

    What's so special about it?

    The material we make the scoop from is its real selling point.   It is strong, sustainable bamboo with natural resin made from rice.  This material is free from petroleum-based plastics and BPA and a great way to help reduce plastic in the garden.

    Another great reason to use one of these is filling pots can be a very messy operation with it spilling off the trowel.  Holding 600ml at a time this wonderful sage green compost scoop will make the process simpler and far less messy.

    If you have a plastic scoop in your current kit then keep it until it wears out.   However, if you are muddling by using a trowel or need to replace your plastic scoop though - this is the best choice.

    Find out more: 

    See it in action: The scoop doesn't have its own video yet but it is made from the same material as our bamboo pots and seed trays.  You can find out more about it including how to dispose of it after use over on our YouTube channel Bamboo Range

    Related Blogs:  Read about it in use New sustainable gardening tools

    Buy it Now:  See the full range here Bamboo & Sustainable Gardening

     

  • Grow At Home: Iceberg lettuce

    The key to growing lettuce, and Iceberg lettuce is no different,  is to plant at regular intervals.  This ensures that you have a regular supply throughout the summer.  Its a good idea to plant a variety of different lettuces too.  Today we are going to concentrate on Icebergs.

    Icerberg Lettuce

    The Iceberg lettuce is tightly packed with only the outer leaves seeing direct light,  This means that it is less green and therefore less nutritiious than a lot of other leaves.  So why grow it?  Well the best reason for growing it is for the crisp texture which gives it its other name "crisphead lettuce" and adds a little crunch to any salad.  The other excellent reason is that it keeps a lot better than many other lettuce.  It can last a month if properly stored in the fridge.  So a great one to grow toward the end of the year if you want to keep on eating your own food long after others have turned back to the supermarket.

    Sowing

    You can start sowing indoors from January to Spetember and transplant outside from April to October.  Sow around eight seeds in a small pot or seed tray. Place them in a cool space to help the seeds grow faster.  Once plants reach 8-10cm (3-4 inches) move the plants to their final place in your planter or garden.  

    Lettuce grow quite big so leave 30cm (12") between plants and rows.

    Position

    Compared to Cut and Come Agian leaves, iceberg lettuce is trickier to grow.  It bolts quite easily if you leave it too long. The plants are also easily affected by wind or cold, or too much or too little water.

    Finding a sheltered spot will help a lot with this.  So a raised bed with a raised edge or collar or a protective tunnel will help massively. Choose your tunnel carefully depending on what time of year you are planting.  When closed all offer pest protection but for soil warming and warmth for early season and frost protection then choose Easy Poly tunnel or Easy fleece tunnel  And for shading from hot sun to lessen bolting - Easy Net tunnel  

    Care

    Make sure you have some pest protectio in place  They are very tasty, especially when young, so the tunnel or cloche you are using to protect them from the wind will work here too.  It will prevent slugs, snails, birds and rabbits arriving en masse.   

    If there are large leaves dragging on the ground then remove these to deter snails etc. A SlugBuster beer trap is also a good idea.

    Water the lettuce often, it will help it grow and get nice and crispy. Use a liquid feed every copule of months too.

    Harvest

    Icebergs take between 50 and 90 days to grow.  When the head is large and feels tightly packed it is ready to cut.  Cut with a knife to harvest.

    A note of caution - take them inside and store as soon as you cut them.  If you leave them in the garden while you complete other jobs then they will wilt and you'll lose the crispness you grew them for.

  • Product Bite: Bamboo Seed Tray

    What is/are : 

    It is a seed tray made out of sustainable bamboo fibre, rice starch and resin made from naturally occurring organic compounds. This material is free from petroleum-based plastics and BPA.

    Bamboos are some of the fastest-growing plants in the world.  Some species can grow 91cm in a 24-hour period, a rate of almost 4 cm an hour.  This makes the core material truly sustainable.

    They can be used year after year so they are a great alternative to single use trays.

    What crop are they for:

    Sow anything you would have sown in a plastic seed tray into a Bamboo Seed Tray.

    Where can I use them:

    Seed_TrayThese soft colours and the finish on pots will look just as good with herbs on a kitchen windowsill as in the greenhouse.

    They come without holes for indoor use where you don't want them to drip.  However it is easy to add holes for drainage.  Simply punch out where marked with a screwdriver or tip of a trowel.

    What's so special about it? 

    Whilst you can find some biodegradable pots for sale, at the time of writing this is the only biodegradable seed tray on the market.

    It’s estimated that 500 million plastic plant pots are sold every year. The majority end up in landfill or are incinerated.  Very little is recycled and there are few facilities to do so. A large amount of fossil fuel is used in the production of plastic pots, and they take around 500 years to decompose.

    The difference with the Bamboo Seed Tray is that you can dispose of them on your home compost heap.  Composting may take 6-12 months. Breaking the products into small pieces before adding them to your compost heap will help speed up this process.

    Find out more: 

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

    Related Blogs:  Read about it in use Grow at Home: Spring Onions

    Buy it Now:  See the Seed Trays and full range here Bamboo & Sustainable Gardening

    The difference with the Bamboo Seed Tray is that you can dispose of them on your home compost heap.  Composting may take 6-12 months. Breaking the products into small pieces before adding them to your compost heap will help speed up this process. The difference with the Bamboo Seed Tray is that you can dispose of them on your home compost heap.  Composting may take 6-12 months. Breaking the products into small pieces before adding them to your compost heap will help speed up this process. The difference with the Bamboo Seed Tray is that you can dispose of them on your home compost heap.  Composting may take 6-12 months. Breaking the products into small pieces before adding them to your compost heap will help speed up this process.

  • Grow at Home: Cucamelons a real crowd pleaser

    cucamelons_50pGrowing Cucamelons

    Cucamelons look like mini watermalons and taste like cucumber with a hint of lime. Also known as Mexican sour gherkin or Mouse Melon, they originated in Mexico but are easy to grow here.  They are drought tolerant and best of all most garden pests totally ignore them!

    Eating

    Beware!  Even though they produce masses of fruit throughout the summer, very little makes it as far as the kitchen, being eaten straight off the plant by anyone who passes. They are just so picakble and bite sized!

    If any of them do make it into the kitchen cucamelons can be eaten in exactly the same way as a normal cucumber in salads and sandwiches. They are also great served with drinks along with a few nuts and olives.  Alternatively use it in the drink itself and serve a Cucamelon Martini or add a  magic twist to G&T or Pimms on a summer day.

    Sowing

    Sow seeds blunt end down, 1cm (1/2") deep from April to May.  Keep on a window cill or greenhouse with a  temperature of 22-24ºC (71-75ºF) Water regularly.  When the seedlings are large enough to handle transfer them into 10cm (4") pot.

    Once they are established you can move them to their final growing place.  This can be a  greenhouse, or outside in a planter or the ground.  To grow them outside wait until the last frost date has passed and then plant 30-40cm (12-16″) apart.  They are climbers so need a support of some sort.  This could be canes or a planter such as the Climbing Tomato Planter that has an inbuilt support.

    Care

    cucamelonsWater and feed regularly with a liquid tomato fertilizer. Once the main shoot has reached a around 2.5m (8ft), pinch out the growing tip to stop it going further. Also pinch out the growing tip of the side shoots when they are about 40cm (16″) long.

    Harvesting

    The plants will start to fruit in July and carry on to late September. Harvest them when they are the size of olives or small grapes and are still firm. Don't leave them any longer or they will become bitter and/or soggy.

    Overwintering

    Cucamelons can be nursed through the winter to give fruit year after year. Once the fruiting period is over, lift the cucamelon’s main root and store in barely moist compost in a garage or shed over winter.  You can then plant it out again in April to start all over agian.

     

     

     

  • Product Bite: Easy Path

    What is Easy Path :

    EasyPath PE Wheelbarrow

    Easy Path is an instant fold-out garden pathway for placing between rows of vegetables, herbs, flowers or strawberries so that you can work between the crops without damaging the soil or weilding planks of wood.

    What crop is it for:

    Anything that you plant in a veg bed as well as flowers borders - its great for getting to the back of beds without leaning and stretching.  Much kinder on your back than trying to manage without.

    Where can I use it:

    Easy_Path_PotatoesUse it anywhere where you have soil that you don't want to tread on and compact.  In healthy soil half of the volume should be made up of solid material.  The remainder should be either water or air.  If the soil becomes compacted then it harder for the roots of plants to penetrate the soil.  There is also no space for the water and air that are needed for excahnge of gases a healthy ecosystem of soil microbes.

    What's so special about it?

    It is portable and lightweight and stores easily.  A plank of wood could do a similar job.  However, the Easy Path is much easier to move and can used in places where you wouldn't want to put a plank of wood.  It can be laid down and left but it can also be rolled out, used and then foded away.  For example it can be simply laid down in a flower border while weed, then packed away.  Much easier than carting a plant of wood round.

    Find out more: 

    See it in action: Easy Path doesn't have its own video yet but you can see it in action in our Frost Protection Video (about one minute in) - head over to our YouTube channel to see Frost Protection

    Related Blogs:  Read about it in use Grow at Home: Super Strawberries

    Buy it Now:  See it here Easy Path

     

  • 4 Types of Gardeners - which one are you?

    There are 4 types of gardeners -- which one are you?

    The Escapees

    Types_of_gardeners_The EscapeesThese people will generally have an allotment although they can be found in the garden shed equipped with a kettle or corkscrew.  They are generally there because they don't want to be somewhere else.  Even before Lockdown these gardeners were running away from busy households, stressful jobs and being trapped between 4 walls.

    The lure is a combination of fresh air, a mug of tea enjoyed in silence and being surrounded by greenery.  They do like growing stuff but if its too wet to be out you won't hear them complain.

     

     

     

    The Tribe

    Types_of_gardeners_The_Tribe

    These are the the people who are there for the people.  They love other gardeners and like a chat as they lean on their spade.  You'll find them on allotments and at Gardening Clubs sitting in the back row.  They will be the one wearing a "Stay Calm and Keep Gardening" T-shirt to prove their dedication and will be happy to give and receive advice.

    All the chatting over the years may mean they turn into an expert.  Their plot may not have as much planted as the next person's (where does the time go?) but they'll have a chat about it if you like...

     

     

    The Warriors

    Types_of_gardeners_The_Warrior

    These gardeners are there with a purpose.  A higher purpose.  They are there to save the planet or at least do their bit.  Vegetables feature heavily on their plot and in their diet.  They will care deelpy about reducing food miles and will know the mileage between their allotment and their home so they can scatter their lengthy blog posts with the necessary stats.

    They are to be admired for eating seasonally and their in depth knowledge of international pickling techniques.

     

     

    The Snappers

    Types_of_gardeners_The_SnapperFor these gardeners the plot is a studio or film set for their life story.  These gardeners will be stocking their plot with all things photogenic  - they will have cucamelons tumbling from planters, carrots in every colour but orange and sunlight glinting through rainbow chard.

    They opened the Instagram account the day they go the plot - nothing like a good before and after picture!  And if you follow them you will get to experience every garden bird, shaft of sunlight and emerging seedling as they happen.

     

     

     

    Which one are you?

    Which one of our types of gardeners are you?  Most people will identify more with more than one.  Whatever category you fit into (or don't fit into) chances are you are getting a lot out of being in the garden.  A survey done by Gardeners’ World magazine in 2013 found that 80 percent of gardeners reported being “happy” and “satisfied” with their lives, compared to 67 percent of non-gardeners.

    It is hard to pin down why gardening works but it is proven to relieve stress.  Key reasons why gardening makes us feel good are that it is both physical exercise, which releases endorphins, and also a creative passtime that allows us to express ourselves.  It gives responsibility for nurturing the plants and a sense of achievement when you move from the 'before' to 'after'.  It has certainly been a sanctuary for many during the pandemic.

    So if you know anyone who is stressed then buy them a pot plant.  Its not a joke.  Just having a single house plant to look after has been proven to reduce stress and make you feel more energised.  It helps you think more clearly, and starts to relieve anxiety or depression.

    Even if we can't pin down the reason why gardening helps there are countless real life stories of it happening.  We'd love to hear yours...

    Types of gardeners

  • Product Bites - Tomato Tubes

    What are Tomato Tubes:

    Tomato Tubes_against_woven_fenceTomato Tubes are like a mini grenhouse for your tomato plants.  They are a tube of lightweight polythene which is fitted over the plant to give the tomatoes the warm moist environment that they need to thrive.

    They offer simple, inexpensive, organic crop protection for tomato plants grown outside the greenhouse.

    What crop are Tomato Tubes for:

    All types of tomatoes.  Anything from large corden varieties to small bush types can be successfully grown in Tomato Tubes

    Where can I use them:

    Use them outside to protect plants from changeable weather.  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!

    What's so special about it?

    Tomato Tubes_Close_UpGrowing tomatoes can be tricky if you don't have a greenhouse.  So Tomato tubes level this playing field a little for those without the money or space for a greenhouse.

    They are an organic way of protecting tomatoes from both weather and pests.  The Tube retains warmth and moisture and also 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.

    Find out more: 

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

    Buy it Now:  See them here Tomato Tube

    pADDING tEXT tOMATO tUBES

    Walk this way.  Talk this way. Padding this out to make it longer.  Use them outside to protect plants from changeable weather.  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! Unseasonal weather can cause havoc with outdoor tomato crops. Too much rain, too little sunshine

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