Madeleine's Corner

  • Empty the Greenhouse!

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    Post by Madeleine Cardozo

    It’s all very exciting, everything has started growing like mad – including the weeds!
    So really you could be spending a lot of time outside enjoying the garden, weeding the flower beds and planting out all sorts of exciting things.
    You shouldn’t need to water your vegetable patch unless we have a heat wave. Do not overwater.

    Jobs for the garden this week

    1. Start to take most things out of the greenhouse as it will get too hot in there. Plants like tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, peppers, chilli’s and aubergines can all stay in there as they love the heat. Don’t forget to water well.

    2. Plant out all kinds of beans, sweet peas, peas, courgettes, tomatoes, lettuces.... Make sure that you harden off the plants before actually planting them. When planted water well straight away. Some plants will benefit from still keeping the tunnels on such as tomatoes and strawberries.

    3. Pinch out extra stems from tomatoes, pinch out broad bean tips.

    4. Weed any beds that are getting out of control, try to keep on top of the weed situation. Don’t let your vegetables have to compete for energy from the ground.  If you keep using the hoe you will save yourself heaps of work later.

    5. Sow another batch of salads. If you are doing 2nd batches of beans or peas sow these too. Sow carrots too...

    6. Harvest asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, and salads.

    7. Get ready to protect any flowers on your soft fruit - more on this coming soon.

    Tools/accessories to get out of your gardening shed this week:
    Haxnicks Raised Beds Growing System
    Time to swap poly for mesh
    Giant Micromesh Easy Tunnel For keepings bugs off and providing shade
    Micromesh Pest & Wind Barrier Put this up as soon as you've sown your carrots
    Net Easy Tunnel keep crops from being pecked at.  Shading conserves moisture so you don't have to keep watering too.
  • Jobs for the beginning of Spring

    Is the 21st March the Official First Day of Spring?

    Jobs for Spring with HaxnicksSpring is definitely here, the daffodils, hyacinths and tulips are in full flow. The smell of freshly cut lawn is telling us to do the same and it is dry enough to do so. So out we must go.

    Job list

    1. Put manure on the vegetable patch if you haven’t already done so.
    Put manure onto the bases of your young trees. Don’t forget that the manure must have be well rotted.

    2. If you have a fig tree now is the time to prune it. The fruit for this year at the moment are little pea sized things so don’t cut the branches off that have these on. Cut any dead, damaged or diseased branches. Cut any shoots that are coming from the base of the tree.

    3. Carry on sowing seeds, this goes on for months, I sow about 3-4 packets a week at the moment. Seed trays and rootrainers are all over the windowsills of my house and in the greenhouse. In about another months time I shall be able to start planting things straight out into the garden. This can be done earlier if you have tunnels or some sort of frost protection.

    4. Some plants such as the tomatoes can already be moved from their seed trays into individual pots, this will enable them to grow bigger sooner. ‘Move them on’ At the moment it is all a question of juggling space until it gets warmer and the last of the frosts have been.

    Remember to 'subscribe' to the blog if you want to stay up to date with Madeleine's gardening tips.

  • What to do in the garden this week - Mid March

    Blog post by Madeleine

    Things are Beginning to Happen in the Garden...

    Here in Dorset we have just had a glorious weekend and doing any kind of gardening meant having a purpose to be outside fiddling about.
    Lawn mowing season has just about arrived, so neatening up the garden is now possible. This always makes the garden look as though it has been hoovered!

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online
    Broad beans in tunnel to protect

    Job List

    1. Sow more seeds. 

    Sow lettuces and rocket every other week.  Only sow about 15 seeds at a time.  The packets contain hundreds but don’t use them all up at once! This is called staggered sowing.

    Sow flower seeds, marigolds, nasturtiums, sunflowers.  We are holding a family competition on who can grow the tallest and best.

    Lupines, delphiniums, aquilegia’s – all cost a fortune in garden centres and don’t take long to grow at all.  I also find them easy to grow.

    Sow peas and beans, this may seem a little early, but I am going to have two batches, you can wait a few more weeks for these.

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online
    Tomato seedling ready to be moved

    2.Transplant your broad beans out into the vegetable patch, but only if you have a small poly tunnel in which to cover them.  A frost could kill them. If you sowed sweet peas last Autumn they should be also ready to be planted out, try to keep these covered too with maybe some kind of cloche or solar bell. If your tomatoes are large enough, you may feel that they are ready to be transplanted from their seed trays into larger pots and put into a greenhouse/on windowsills. Mine are getting large and leggy, so I will. Use ordinary compost with a 1/8th mix of sand to help with retaining water.
    3. Dig or rotavate beds to get ready for planting out your potatoes.

     As ever, please use the comments section below to ask Madeleine any questions.

  • What to do with your pumpkin seeds

    Post by Madeleine Cardozo

    I am really hoping that you didn’t just throw away all those wonderful pumpkins seeds.

    I keep about 50 of them, placed in a saucer to dry out on the windowsill ready for sowing in April next year.

    With the rest you can bake them and eat them as a nutritious snack:

    Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

    1. Separate the seeds from the flesh of the pumpkin but don’t wash. 
    2. Place them onto a baking tray
    3. Pour a little olive oil over them and then sprinkle with salt 
    4. Mix them about. 
    5.  Put them into the oven (375°F, gas mark 5, 190°C) for about 20 minutes until they are golden brown.  You can keep them for months but they will tend to lose their flavour after 6 weeks.


    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    Haxfact!: Pumpkin seeds are a super food full of iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium and are also a source of protein and omega 3.

    Storing Apples

    If you want to store apples, you need to store them directly from the tree. The apples need to be handled very carefully.  Each one wrapped in newspaper and then place in a dark cool place such as a shed, cellar or garage. They need to go somewhere where they will not be disturbed until you need them. Alternatively you can peel, core and slice them, then put them in the freezer ready for that wonderful French apple tart that you are dying to make.

    Other things to do in the garden this week:

    If you would like onions for the summer you had better get your skates on and plant out the sets now.
    You can still sow winter lettuces under cloches, when these have come up plant them out in the greenhouse or under poly tunnels, my rocket is doing amazingly well.

    The next post will be about protecting your garden from frost and winter weather.  Subscribe to the blog to be notified as soon as it has been posted!

  • Madeleine's Corner: Get the Cloches Out!

    October - time to get your cloches out!

    October is a mix of protection (cloches, tunnels & fleece), harvesting, planting and thinking of Spring.

    As a result of rapidly cooling temperatures, the amount of growth in the garden has slowed down enormously. This has meant that I have been a little lazy recently. So I forced myself to go outside and see what needed to be done. There was so much.

    Haxnicks Garden Tunnels

    Mowing needed to be done around the vegetable patch, weeding around the lettuces and rocket. It's important to harvest as much as you can and either freeze the vegetables or store them.
    Throw a little soil over the tops of the carrots to stop them going rubbery or green and I am happy to report that there are fewer caterpillars gnawing at my purple sprouting broccoli than last week.

    Courgettes, squash and pumpkins need to be placed onto something solid like a tile or paving.  They do not want to linger on the damp soil for too long as they will rot. This is a way of hardening the skins and they could last for a few months if you let them ‘dry’ in the sun.

    Spring Colour

    I really want to grow tulips and spring flowering bulbs.  However, I always seem to lose them and not look after them in my flower beds.  So I thought why not plant them in a space in the vegetable patch?  They would have flowered by May which is when you begin to plant out your summer vegetables, so perhaps I can do both.

    So I cleared a patch, fed it with old manure, spent a few bob on matching coloured tulips and now I will wait and see what happens.

    Protecting with Cloches

    Use cloches such as Victorian Bells and Easy Poly Tunnels to keep your rocket and lettuce warm and growing. Spinach is hardy so you can leave that to the elements.

    Seed Collection

    Lastly, collect your seeds! I wonder round the garden every now and then with a couple of envelopes, in them I put seeds from flowers and vegetables. Or if I cut up a courgette, tomato, bean or melon, I put them on a saucer and let them dry on the window sill and then put them into an envelope for next Spring. It saves you lots of money so why not.

    Any questions related to this post, as ever, let us know in the comments box below and we'll answer as soon as we can.

  • Madeleine's Corner: Harvesting vegetables & making leaf mould

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought onlineThis week we have all had a new lease of life in the garden, the plants are growing like mad as this extra bit of warmth has given them another chance. If you were worried about your tomatoes never ripening or your squash not getting large enough, your worries are over!


    Harvesting vegetables

    So back to the nitty gritty of harvesting vegetables to keep your crops coming, like courgettes, raspberries, rocket and beans. Clear any unwanted weeds from the bases of your vegetables and while it is still dry mow the grass.
    Water anything you have in the greenhouse regularly as this weather is drying everything fast.

    Leaf Mould

    Leaves are starting to fall and it is a good time of year to make leaf mould. To do this rake up the damp leaves and put it into aerated bags, you can use a bin liner having stabbed lots of holes into it or you can buy fairly cheaply jute ones that look much nicer and rot down completely. In a years’ time from now this will have decomposed to a wonderful compost that is incredibly good for your vegetables.

    There is a 'comedy gardener' called Rabbie, who shows you how to use the sacks in YouTube video if you like that sort of thing.

    As you harvest more and more you will obtain space in your patch. I recommend forking it over, some people like the no dig method, but not me, it doesn't seem thorough enough. Do this little by little, 20 minutes at a time.  Unless you want to spend the next few weeks nurturing a bad back! Add any well rotted compost/manure to it as you go along.

    Plant: garlic, onions, sweet peas, broad beans, lettuce, rocket and radishes.

    Any questions, please put them in the comments box below!

  • Madeleine's Corner: Picking Courgettes, Herbs and Raspberries

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    This week my courgettes have started to enter our lives – the time has come for picking courgettes.  They are ready to be picked when they are small 10cm (4”) as baby courgettes or as large as 30cm (12”). I normally go for something in between. There are so many different ways of eating courgettes, I shall include a new recipe in an adjacent article.

    If you are like me and have planted nasturtiums as a companion plant in your vegetable patch, did you realise that you can eat the flower in a salad, or add them to a bacon sandwich to give them a fiery taste?

    Herbs need trimming, whether it is a perennial like rosemary or an annual like basil.  So if you are not trimming them to eat, you should trim them so that they don’t grow leggy and start to flower. Trimming them will encourage a better bushier plant.

    Autumn fruiting varieties of raspberries will now be beginning to fruit, don’t let the birds get them, either place a net over them or get some birdscare ribbon. I find that the ribbon works for me; others may need something a little more in the way of a fruit cage.

  • Madeleine's Corner: Harvesting and Storing

    I found that last week I spent a huge amount of my time harvesting my crops. This is one of the most prolific times of the year.  As a result, everything is shouting ‘I’m ready pick me, eat me, store me!’ So by now your redcurrants, blackcurrants and possibly gooseberries should be harvested.


    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought onlineYou need to pull up any lettuces or rocket that has bolted and replace them by planting out another batch to keep you going through the summer. Some carrots/beetroot may be ready, when they are small they are so sweet and delicious.  If you are going to cook them, cook them briefly.  if you do the flavour that you get from them will be so much better. You can also use the small beetroot leaves for salads.

    Keep anything you have in the greenhouse well watered, although limp plants can come back to life after being watered. Watering in the evening is the best time to water.  This is because it gives the plants the whole night in which to soak it up. Last week I made, strawberry sorbet with mint, gooseberry fool, and I froze the majority of my broad beans – otherwise they were going to get too big and bitter.

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    This is a fantastic time of year, the time when all gardeners want to show off their years work, now is the time to make yummy broad bean salads, have warm new potatoes, and summer puddings galore. Weed your patches. Harvest your crops, eat them, share them or store them.

    Storing – Blanch any peas or beans and put them in the deep freeze. Freeze any berries you don’t have time to eat. You can also freeze elderflowers to make elderflower cordial later on in the summer.

    Look at your tomatoes and check that they haven’t sprouted any extra branches; otherwise all the energy into making tomatoes will go into making more leaves. So, you do this by looking at the main stem of the tomato, branches should come off that, but only 1 branch. If there are two or more, pinch out the inner branches with your thumb and index finger. Also make sure that the tomato is well secured to the plant support, by using Haxnicks SoftTie.

    I have had great problems with finding more spinach to sow as it is not readily available like a lot of herbs or tomato seeds are. This is a good time to sow more of these to see you into the autumn. How about another batch of radishes?

    Go to the garden centre and see what tickles your fancy in the way of seeds, because it would be so nice to have some winter and spring crops too.

  • Madeleine's Corner: Glorious English Summer


    Glorious English Summer – well it is one minute and then not the next. One is never sure whether to water the garden or will the Good Lord do it for you? Just make sure if you can help it that it is neither feast nor famine. Lack of water means that your crops such as spinach and lettuce bolt: so water evenly. Anyhow, Last week there was an awful lot of weeding to be done/.  If you don’t do it the weeds take all the energy from the soil and your peas turn out more like pinheads.  Plus, your carrots will never grow. Which reminds me thin your carrots, I know this seems harsh but it’s worth it. Thin them to 1 every 2” 5cm.

    I use Haxnicks Speedhoe for saving energy and time weeding, and Haxnicks Micromesh to protect Carrots from Carrot Fly (especially important when thinning out as the Carrot Fly will no doubt get a whiff off the seedlings that have been removed).

    Cover any berries you have with netting, Bamboo Fruit Cages or rig up some Birdscare or old CD’s so that the birds don’t beat you to the crop, once they discover them there won’t be any left for you. Pick and eat Rhubarb, soft fruits, lettuces, broad beans and asparagus, pick some of the small beetroot leaves for a salad. Take the last of your plants to be planted outside and get them in the vegetable patch. Sow another batch of lettuce (if you do this monthly you will get lettuces all year round), rocket and radishes.

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