Amateur Gardening

  • 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

     

  • Self Watering Tower garden

    The Self Watering Tower Garden is self watering. That's right!  Self watering!

    Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden water reservoir

    It does what it says on the tin, or would do if it came in a tin.  But why is this important when actually, plants love water and I quite like watering them too?  Don’t know about you, but for me it’s a calming activity during which I contemplate life, the universe and beyond.   This watering zen is the ‘ideal’ though and some weeks the ‘ideal’ is as rare as a blue rose.  The plants will survive my inattention.  The rub is that not only do plants love water but more than this they like regular water.  Otherwise it can have a drastic effect on their output.  Who hasn’t taken their eye off the ball and ended up with split tomatoes?

    Cue the Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden . So on those weeks when the cat needs the vet, the kids need new shoes and the fridge definitely needs a clean out the ingenious wick is doing what you can’t and keeping your plants happy and healthy.  No more coming back to dejected looking plants and a guilty conscience. Problem solved.

    Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden with Vigoroot pots Self Watering Tower Garden with Vigoroot pots

    My Tower Garden is in its second year and the Vigoroot pots can be washed at the end of the season and stored flat by the organised gardener.  I am not an organised gardener though (must have been one of those weeks) so I had just emptied them and stored in the shed.  A quick brush off left them looking as good as new though and I was able to start planting.

    Not only does it solve your watering issues but it also allows you to grow a staggering amount of plants in a very small area.  My garden is large but with building work about to start most of it is off limits for this season.  The 3 layers allow me to have 12 x 5L pots  in a tiny space.  Each layer has 4 Vigoroot pots which air-prune the roots to give healthier plants with better roots that lead to higher yields.

     

     

    Three Layers:

    Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden with strawberries, herbs and tomatoes Fully planted!

    I won't even have to worry about watering when I go away for a week's holiday in summer which is a bonus. All that is left to do now  is to make sure that the water reservoirs are full once a week and then and wait to pick my very first crop.   Might just have to plan a nice bruschetta recipe for all those glorious tomatoes...

  • Grandpa Haxnicks offers advice on Ground Elder

    Dear gardeners,

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

    Ground Elder in Garden Borders

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

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

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

    Replant your plants in pots or clear soil

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

    The Roots of Ground Elders

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

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

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

    Goodbye for now,
    Grandpa Haxnicks

  • Thinning Carrots and Potted Primulas

    Happy Easter from The Potty Gardener

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

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

    Haxnicks Flower Pots

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

    Next week I will be sowing turquoise tomatoes,

    Happy Easter!

  • Sweet Peas and mice!

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    The Potty Gardener

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

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

    Growing Sweet Peas in Haxnicks Rootrainers

    Sweet pea fortress

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

  • Sowing Tomatoes for planters

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    I went to the garden centre this morning to buy my tomato seeds and was amused to find that all the staff were wearing tomatoes…on their noses! Well I felt that I had to try it for myself and I must say that it greatly enhances the experience of sowing tomatoes and I would recommend it to everyone.

    Having learnt last week that it is important to identify with your plants I bought 3 different types of tomato seed to reflect different parts of my character:

    Tumbler promise to be small, delicious and good in pots.
    Artisan™ bumblebee mix are colourful and go on giving.
    Tomatillo’s (lime flavoured tomatoes that come in a Chinese lantern) are suffering from an identity crisis!

    Tomato Seeds ready for planting in Haxnicks Rootrainers

    I sowed the seeds in seed trays and covered them with 6mm of compost. I then made some smart labels for the trays so that I could identify the seedlings as they appeared and bring them up according to their expectations. Finally, I proudly placed them on my kitchen windowsill. However, someone (I won’t mention names, but it wasn't my cheeky chickens this time), helpfully removed the ‘little bits of paper’ from the seed trays so I now have no idea which is which. Someone says that it doesn’t matter, and anyway it is not politically correct to use labels at such an early stage in development!?

    Speaking of labels, Grandpa Haxnicks told me a marvellous fact that made my day- apparently the word tomato comes from an ancient Aztec word meaning ‘plump thing with a navel’. So when my tomato seedlings are ready to be transplanted into their pots or planters I will label them 'plump thing with a navel', and maybe even give some as a present to Grandpa Haxnicks reminding him that it is important for him to identify with his plants.

  • Potatoes in Planters

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    The time has come, I can no longer tolerate their mischievous presence on my kitchen window sill. If they have eyes on stalks that grow by the day who knows what else they might develop? I certainly cannot risk the possibility that they may someday be able to talk and expose my fifty shades of green lifestyle! So the potatoes are going under….well some of them anyway, the rest have been relegated to the windowsill at the back of the larder to chit behind a closed door.

    Grandpa Haxnicks advised that I shouldn’t sow them all at once unless I want to harvest them all at once and have a glut of potatoes, and then I would have to eat them all at once and have a gut full of potatoes and end up looking like a potato, not one of my ambitions, so I will sow one planter at a time.

    Planting Potato Seeds in Haxnicks Potato Patio Planters

    Job done. I chose the 4 seed potatoes with the most prying eyes, about 2.5cm long and buried (I think the kinder word is planted) them in a potato planter on top of 10cm and under 5cm of multi- purpose compost. When their prying shoots appear through the soil I will bury them further!

    Haxnicks Giant Standard Easy Fleece Tunnels

    EasyFleece Tunnels warming the soil

    I went to visit Grandpa Haxnicks this week hoping for a cup of tea and some gardening gossip (mostly vegetable based rivalry with his neighbour), only to be put to work preparing some of his raised vegetable beds for the growing season ahead. We removed all the weeds, dug it over and then put out some Easy Fleece tunnels to help warm the soil presumably so that he can get his growing season well under way before Mr Perfect Parsnips next door.

  • Sweet Peas

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    I have chased away my rainy day blues by envisaging the cheerful pots of sweet peas that will hopefully grace my garden this summer. There were so many varieties to choose from in my garden centre; whole racks of pretty seed packs with romantic names such as ’Romeo and Juliet’, ‘Turquoise Lagoon’ and ‘Northern Lights. I asked the young man in the shop which sweet pea he felt would suit me best, hoping he would suggest; a tall, leggy and beautiful, pale and interesting, or perhaps delicate and unusual variety.

    However he took one look at me and advised; ‘Madam you need something small and simple, I suggest dwarf patio mix.’ Not quite so romantic sounding. Still, perhaps it is important to identify with your plants.

    Haxnicks Deep Rootrainers

    Grandpa Haxnicks tells me proudly that Deep Rootrainers are just the thing to give my sweet peas the best possible start and other gardening experts seem to agree. Sweet Peas have a deep, sensitive root system and they don’t respond well to disturbance (the more I learn about them the more I identify with them). Rootrainers are shaped to encourage strong healthy root formation, and open like a book for easy transplanting without damaging the roots. I filled the Rootrainers with compost, giving the tray a bump to settle the contents, then gave the cells another top up and a sprinkling of water…then a splash…then a deluge (note to self: remember to  tightly screw on watering can hose). I replaced the drenched compost then sowed the seeds, one per cell, a centimetre deep and topped with compost. I have put on the propagating lid to protect the seedlings from uninvited pesky visitors such as mice, chickens, snails and heaven forbid garden gnomes

  • Carrots in Planters

    The Potty Gardener

    Last week, when I was busy preparing the greenhouse to be a suitable horticultural haven to kick start my potted garden, I had to evict some sitting tenants. Eggnog and Wotsit, my pesky hens, have been using the greenhouse as a conservatory over the winter and were most disconcerted to be sent packing back to their less luxurious day room, under the hedge. However, I will have to be on my guard (or just remember to shut the greenhouse door) as the cheeky chooks seem to be claiming squatter’s rights and proposing to sabotage my project.

    Sow easy! Preparing a bed to sow carrots would normally involve some muscle power, but all I had to do was fill my carrot planter (thoughtfully carrot coloured so I won’t forget what’s in it) with multi-purpose potting compost, then sow a few rows of seeds whilst quietly humming ‘Mary, Mary quite contrary..’ and imagining the neat little rows of bright green feathery carrot tops that would soon emerge filling me with simple satisfaction and wholesome happiness. Unfortunately when I turned my back to pick up my camera Eggnog and Wotsit silently tottered in and rearranged my sowing!

    Haxnicks Carrot Patio Planters

    As far as I am concerned carrots and chickens go very well together…on a plate not in a planter! I have managed to calm my feather induced fury by thinking about the next part of  my project... Sweet peas, who can ever feel anything but serene when thinking about their delicate scented ethereal blooms.. 'Mary, Mary, quite contrary....tummm te tummm.

  • Seed potatoes and Spring cleaning

    Haxnicks Potty Gardener

    The Potty Gardener

    There are some peculiar brown, wrinkly things lurking on my kitchen windowsill. They may be small and silent but rather alarmingly they seem to be growing poisonous eyes on stalks! Grandpa Haxnicks assures me that they can’t see me (I have my doubts), but I am relieved to know that in a few weeks I can safely bury them out of sight. If they continue to grow and possibly reproduce I am told that it is quite reasonable at some stage to dig them up, boil them alive and eat them (shhh maybe they have ears too).

    Haxnicks Tips on Seed Pots

    These chitting seed potatoes, sporting the racy names of ‘Swift’, ‘Rocket’, and ‘Red duke of York’ promise to give a good summer crop and I’m told are ideal for growing in planters. Who gets to choose potato names I wonder, because if these little chitters don’t live up to their names I shall be offering to rename them (shhh maybe they have ears too)? If my potty ramblings haven’t satisfied your curiosity about growing potatoes in planters then have a look at Haxnicks Potato Planters

    Haxnicks Patio Planters

    Anyway, as well as keeping a careful eye on those potato eyes I have gathered some pots, planters and grow bags ready to create my self-contained garden. Grandpa Haxnicks has kindly delivered some goodies and I have scrubbed up some old pots. I have also cleaned up and cleaned out the greenhouse and green it was, every pane coated in verdant mould, so I scrubbed the glass with a vinegar solution which apparently made me smell like an old gherkin. Lovely!

    The next stage in my plan is carrots, Amsterdam Forcing Carrots to be precise. I also wonder who names the carrots? They sound even more imposing than the potatoes, why not something gentler like Nether Wallop Nudging or Trumpton Tender? Any more suggestions…..?

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