allotment

  • Make it a very Merry Christmas for the gardener in your life...

    Here comes Christmas, the offices are festooned with decorations and everyone is starting to get excited!

    For the serious gardener, pretty much any Haxnicks product makes a cracking present.  For those of you who are still struggling to complete that oh so challenging gift list, I thought I'd highlight the best that we have to offer when it comes to getting the perfect present.

    You'll find everything on our website, just use the links or tap in the name in the search box.

    Bell_Cloches_in_3_sizesHaxnicks Bell Cloches King Size, Original or Baby  are a popular gift item, being aesthetically pleasing AND very practical.  Whether sitting over a prized plant in the garden deterring pests, cats, children and any number of other hazards or keeping out the frost and howling wind these bells will always make an original and successful present.

     

     

    Haxnicks_veg_sacks_with _cane_toppers_christmas_present

    How many times do you receive gifts that you will never use?  Gifts that are pretty quickly shoved to the back of a cupboard or given swiftly to charity?  We are all being asked to buy less so why not buy something you know will be used and enjoyed?

    Here's an idea: With a trend towards natural wrapping rather than 'glittery' wrapping paper that can't be recycled, the Haxnicks Vegetable Sacks double as wrapping and a gift.  Stuff full of gardening related stocking fillers. Add a reusable bow and you'll have a hit on your hands and somewhere to store your spuds come autumn.

    A little knowledge?

    Down_to_earth_gardening_book_madeliene_cardozoA gardening book will keep giving year after year. 
    Down to Earth 
     is a practical veg growing guide that covers the most common household favourite as well as some less often grown choices.  Beautifully photographed it is as at home on the coffee table as in the potting shed.  It makes an ideal present for the novice or the experienced gardener wishing to expand their range.

    New & different?

    wrapped_veg_with_bamboo_pots_and_christmas_treeIts always nice to be the first to have something so make them the envy of their gardening chums with Haxnicks Bamboo Pots, Saucers and Seed trays.  These are new and different and make a great gift.

     

     

    Hampers

    Pea_growing_hamperHow about a Christmas present and New Year's resolution all rolled into one?  Does your other half yearn to eat their own potatoes at Christmas Dinner 2019?  Is a planter full of fresh peas or beans on their 'to do' list?  Making up a hamper couldn't be easier - Rootrainers, planters, cane toppers, soft tie, veg sacks  Some things they will already have but add the things they don't and they will be ready to go once the weather warms up.

    Finally a great reason for choosing a gardening gift is that you can get it at a Garden Centre.  There is nowhere more Christmassy than a good Garden Centre.  So you will get your fill of Christmas spirit with loads of parking and its open right up until Christmas

     

    Haxnicks_Stocking_fillers

     

    Happy Christmas from all at Haxnicks, and we look forward to seeing your growing projects in the New Year.

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

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

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

    Some detective work - root zones and rhizospheres...

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

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

    The Culprit!

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

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

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

     

  • Halloween special... Pumpkin Pie anyone?

    From the pictures on Social Media it appears that this was a bumper year for pumpkins and squashes.  I am sure that this was not without its difficulties, particularly keeping them watered in the long hot summer.  Not something we have cause to worry about often!  But the results speak for themselves so I am sure that there are many of you in need of another pumpkin recipe so here it is.

    Pumpkin Pie topped with Pecans

    Some say pumpkins are not that flavoursome however, after spending hours hollowing them out at Halloween you can’t possibly let all that free food go to waste! So I have this recipe for a sweet pumpkin pie that makes a change from what you eat during the year.

    This pie can be eaten hot or cold, and is rather nice with cream, ice cream or crème fresh. Delish!

    Ingredients

    Filling                                                                                           Pastry

    2 eggs                                                                        6oz 170g plain flour

    2 tablespoons soft dark brown sugar                                  2oz 50g icing sugar

    1 can sweetened condensed milk                                         5oz 140g salted butter

    400g pumpkin flesh                                                                  1-2 tbsp. cold water

    50g plain flour

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

    100g pecan halves broken into little bits

    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    Preparation time: 25 minutes Cooking Time: 45 minutes Serves: 6-8

    1. Firstly make the pastry: Sieve the flour and icing sugar into a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water to make a good dough, do not overwork the pastry.
    2. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave in the fridge for 15- 20 minutes.
    3. Grease a 9”, 23cm diameter pie tin and place in fridge.
    4. Turn the oven on to 190°C, gas mark 5.
    5. Now for the filling. Cut the pumpkin flesh into thin slivers or little squares ½ cm x ½ cm.
    6. In a separate bowl place ALL the other ingredients and mix hard with a wooden spoon until you have a gooey consistency.
    7. Add the pumpkin pieces and mix in.
    8. Get the pastry and tin from the fridge. Roll out the pastry to fit the tin then add the filling ingredients - If there is too much mixture you can always bake it in a little ramekin and cook separately.
    9. Lastly, put your pecan nuts into a bowl and bash with the end of the rolling pin until they are the size you want them.  I like little chips.  Then sprinkle them on top of the pie and place the pie into the oven for 35-45 minutes.

    For a printable copy click here Pumpkin Pie topped with Pecans

  • How to photograph your garden

    Be it allotment or garden.  Do you ever gaze at the beautiful oasis you have created and wish that you could capture just how fabulous it is?  To let others feel the beauty of the sun shining through the leaves?  Or the dew clinging to a newly opened rose?  Only to find that despite best efforts the image you get lacks the magic that your eye could see.   Well I decided to put this right by attending a garden photography course and wanted to share the secrets with you.

    Know Your cameragrasses_in_garden

    This wasn't learnt on this course but its important, so my first tip to you is learn as much as you can about your camera.  For example on the course I did in the summer I learnt that my camera has a built in spirit level.  Not sure how I didn't know this - I should have, its there in the viewfinder.  But I didn't.  This one nugget has lead to much more of my images actually being level and will save hours in editing time!

    I had an equally Eureka moment at a course run my Olympus (I have an Olympus Mirrorless Compact) where they told me that you could switch which functions were controlled by which dials.  This let me put the controls back where they had been on my beloved Nikon DSLR and meant that my instinctive actions were back where they should be so I could think of other things.

    Help can come from a variety of places. The manufacturer will often run workshops and clinics to help you get more out of your equipment,  Failing that YouTube is full of helpful videos and if you search your camera model then you will likely find a photography forum where people will be able to help.

    So on to what I actually learnt from the course.

    Shoot into the Light

    Japanese_anenome_backlit Backlit is best

    This is radical and takes a bit of getting used to.  The first thing we are taught when we pick up a camera as a child is to get the sun behind you to take the picture.  Try and unlearn this when it comes to your garden because what plant doesn't look better with the sun streaming through it?  You have to avoid pointing your lens directly at the sun by blocking it with trees or foliage but all in all shooting into the light will enliven your plants and let you capture that sparkle that makes your garden pop.

    In the example below I took an ordinary leaf and shot it with the light behind me to get the first image.  This is a very ordinary looking leaf.  The second image is toward the light but it is too strong and it ruins the image.  Changing my position slightly to shield my lens form the glare with the trees makes the leaf shine, showing the red tips along the leaf and giving some nice Bokeh in the background.  An ordinary slightly ragged leaf still but a much stronger image than the first one.

    Leaf_shot_into_the_light Shooting into the light brings out colour and texture

    Layers and Background

    It is important to look at the whole picture and not just the beautiful specimen that you want to photograph. So if you take my stunningly charismatic Swiss Chard I didn't really want the road barriers and the car my husband is respraying in the middle of the lawn (WHY?) to feature in the photo.  A slight change of angle sorted it.  As you can see I am still learning to look at the whole picture!

    Autumn_shades_in_plants Capture the colour

    See your garden as a palette of different layers - so what plants are behind your prize specimen?  Can you move round it to get a better angle and take the shot with something it will stand out against as the background?  If all else fails can you lie down and take the shot against the sky or tower above it and use the lawn as a background? This way of thinking may even influence your planting in future years.

    Don't be afraid to move.  Crouch down low and shoot upwards, shoot from directly above your plant, shoot through other plants so they form a frame.  Try 5 shots from one location and then force yourself to move, try 5 more and move again and keep going until your lettuce feels like its walking the red carpet at the Oscars!

    Make Mistakes

    seed_heads_waer_plants Strong shapes like seed heads work well

    Now you have a mass of photos its time to review them.  Hopefully you will have made loads and loads of mistakes.  Mistakes are good news as you can learn much more from a bad photo than a good one.  So rather than scrolling through them and hitting delete, delete, delete...STOP. Compare one you like the look of to one you didn't.  Was the shutter speed to slow so it was blurry?  Was the aperture too small so that you had a big depth of field and could see the rubbish bin in the background?  If you don't know much about photography then there are lots of people out there who do so join a forum, show them your image and ask your questions.  You don't need to know the technical terms as you can pick these up as you go along.

     

    I hope these few tips will help you take better pictures.  Remember for every stunning image you see on Instagram there are probably 100 disasterous ones that were delete, delete, deleted!

    We'd love to see your new found skills - tag your images @Haxnicks and we can share them for you.

  • Carrot or Courgette Cake

    Carrot or Courgette Cake

    This is a vegetable cake, it can be nutty by adding the walnuts, or extra yummy by adding the optional cream cheese icing, which is completely delicious. If you have too many courgettes you can even add these instead of carrots.

     Preparation: 20 minutes Cooking time: 50 minutes Serves: 8

    Ingredients:

     

    Cake:

    carrot-or-courgette-cake

    8oz (225g) plain flour

    1 tsp baking powder

    1/2 tsp baking soda

    1 tsp cinnamon

    1/4 tsp salt

    4 floz (110ml) vegetable oil

    6oz (175g) sugar

    2 eggs

    8oz (225g) grated carrots

    4oz (110g) chopped walnuts – optional

    Icing

    4oz (110g) cream cheese

    2oz (55g) soft butter

    1 tsp vanilla flavouring

    10oz (275g icing sugar

    Directions:

    1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C /325°F/ gas mark 3.
    2. Sieve the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon into a bowl. Mix

    3. In another large mixing bowl beat the eggs, add all the sugar and then slowly, little by little add the oil beating all the time. This may look a little odd but worry not as it will look better after you have added the rest of the ingredients.
    4. Add the dry ingredients, carrots and the nuts – if you are having nuts. Mix it all up.
    5. Pour the mixture into your tin and put it in the oven for 45 – 50 minutes, until it is golden brown and has passed the* cake cooked test.
    6. Take it out of the oven, allow it to cool for 20 minutes, before turning it out onto a wire rack.
    7. When it has cooled properly spread your icing on the top.

    Icing

    Cream together the butter, cream cheese and vanilla, when this is soft add in the icing sugar. It should have the consistency of very soft smooth butter.

    Downloadable pdf for you to print here Carrot or Courgette Cake.

    We would love to see your finished cakes.  Post with #Haxnicks

  • Speed Hoe comes top of the class

    The highly respected publication Garden News has conducted a trial of slicing hoes.  According to Geoff Hodge, writer, broadcaster and product guru, The Haxnicks SpeedHoe has come out top of the class.

    The Hoes

    The hoes were tested for quality, comfort, performance and value for money.  The SpeedHoe got 5 stars on all counts.  It was especially noted for how sharp the edges were all round it, greatly increasing the ease of use.  As a result it beat off stiff competition from bigger brands with big price tags to be crowned the best slicing hoe in the trial.  As much as other hoes had their benefits they all scored less in at least one area.  One proud owner commented that it was "the best hoe on earth" and we aren't going to disagree with her.

    Read the full article below to understand more,  Furthermore if you want to make sure you are receiving the best possible gardening advice every week then you can subscribe here Garden News magazine.

    Garden News Magazine review of hoes trial in which the Haxnicks SpeedHoe came top The full article

     

  • Broad bean experiment: did it work?

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

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

    Broad beans in Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots Beans have started to grow

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

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

    Pollination

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

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

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

     

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

     

     

     

     

     

     

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

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

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

    Decisions, decisions!

     

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