vegetables

  • Grow at Home - Broad Bean

    Broad_bean_plant_in_flowerThe Broad Bean is the hardiest and earliest of all the beans to grow yourself.  Like many vegetables, shop bought versions don't do the tasty flavour justice.  They are well worth growing to enjoy fresh from the furry pod.  There many varieties to try including the Red Flowered which has stunning deep red flowers and a beautiful fragrance as well as delicious beans.

    Soil and Aspect

    Grow Broad Beans in heavy soils that are well manured and have good drainage - Manure should be incorporated and dug in during the Autumn.

    Choose an open sunny site, protected from strong winds, especially if growing over the winter.

    Broad Bean Sowing

    Overwintering varieties are sown in late Autumn.  Other varieties can be started off from late winter through to the end of the Spring.

    Sow in double rows in a shallow trench 20 cm wide and 4 cm deep with 20 cm between the seeds.  Alternatively Broad Beans can be started off in Rootrainers in the greenhouse early in the year for planting out in the Spring.

    Aftercare

    Broad_bean_pods_on_bushKeep weed free throughout the growing season - a Speedhoe will make short work of weeds between the rows.  If there is a dry spell, give plenty of water throughout the period until the pods start to swell.  Provide support for taller varieties with canes or an Ornamental Frame. When the first pods start to form, pinch out the top 8cm of growth - This will reduce the danger of black fly attack and aid pod formation.

    Harvesting and storage

    Pick the pods when they have become swollen. Do not allow the pods to become too mature because they will become leathery and tough.  Continuous harvesting extends the cropping season.  Broad Beans are best picked and used fresh.  Any surplus beans can be frozen or dried.

    Pest and Diseases

    The most serious problem for the broad bean is black fly - Removing the growing tips when the pods are starting to mature will help to deter this problem.

     

  • Grow at Home: Asparagus

    What it is

    Asparagus (Asparagus Officinalis) is a perennial flowering plant species in the genus Asparagus. It is long lived and once established the plants can last for 20 to 30 years.   Its young shoots are a much sought after spring vegetable.

    Types

    Asparagus_spears_in_soil

    Asparagus is either male or female. The male plants produce more plentiful and larger spears so gardeners often prefer them.  The female plants expend a huge amount of energy producing seeds and so provide less for your table.

    In the past all asparagus varieties produced a mix of male and female plants. However, ways have now been found to effectively propagate all-male varieties of asparagus.  So look out for all male varieties such as the Jersey Series when buying your seeds or crowns.

    Timings

    Asparagus is a vegetable for the patient gardener.   It can be grown from seed or from mature crowns bought from a garden centre. The plant needs to establish a strong root system though so, if grown from seed, the shoots will not be ready for harvest for 3 or even 4 years.  Even if grown from a crown, the shoots should not be harvested until the year following planting.  In short, asparagus epitomises the saying "Good things come to those that wait"!

    Seeds

    IN GREENHOUSE/ WINDOWSILL:             February
    Depth: 1/2" (1cm)

    TRANSPLANT OUTDOORS:                       April to June

    Crowns

    SOW CROWNS DIRECTLY OUTDOORS:   April to June
    Depth: 6" (15cm)

    Both

    DISTANCE BETWEEN ROWS:                     30” (80cm)

    DISTANCE BETWEEN PLANTS:                  20” (50cm)

    HARVEST:                                                    May and June – (once plant is mature - see Timing above)

    Planting

    Asparagus does not like to have its feet “wet,” so be sure that your garden bed has excellent drainage.  Raised Beds are a great place to plant asparagus and mean a lot less digging.

    How to plant

    Firstly, clear the bed and make sure there are no weeds.  Then, work in a 2"-4" layer of compost, manure or soil improver.
    Prepare shallow trenches about 12" (30cm) wide and 6" (15cm) deep.  You might want to make these slightly deeper if you have sandy soil (8"/ 20cm) or slightly shallower if you have heavy soil (4"/ 10cm)
    Space the crowns 15" to 20" (38-50cm) apart in rows that are 30" (80cm) apart. Spread the roots out in the trench with the buds pointing upward.
    Lastly, once planted, completely fill in the trench with soil.  In your grandfather's day many people used to gradually fill the trenches with soil as the plants grew but no one seems to do this anymore.  When the trench is filled, add a 4-8" (10-20 cm) layer of mulch and water regularly.

    For the first year, just let the asparagus grow to give the crown a chance to get well established. If growing from seed then repeat this for the next 2 to 3 years! The following spring, remove the old fern growth from the previous year.  You should see new spears begin to emerge.

    Pests

    Though not a huge threat, the main threat to your asparagus is the Asparagus Beetle - read more about this in out Pests & Diseases: Asparagus Beetle Blog

    Harvesting

    Only harvest from established plants - see Timings above.  Allow the shoots to grow to roughly 6” (15cm) then cut it 2” (5cm) under the ground with a sharp knife.  This will give a partially blanched stem where the lower stem has had no light.  The French, who are great lovers of asparagus,  like to grow it under mounds, blanching them when the tops peek out.  They then cut them 10” (25cm) under the ground.  So if you prefer your asparagus white then this is an option.

    The spears grow quickly so leave it no longer than every other day to check for spears ready to harvest.  They will quickly become woody and inedible of you miss your window,

    Once an asparagus spear starts to open and have foliage, it’s too tough for eating. Stop harvesting spears when the diameter of the spears decreases to the size of a pencil. At that point, it’s time to let them grow and gain strength for next spring.  

    Immature plants will have a season of only 2 to 3 weeks. With proper care though this will extend to up to 8 weeks for established plants.

    When the harvest is over let the plants grow into fun leafy plants. Always leave at least one spear.  Keep the area around them weeded to keep the plants strong. Cut back the asparagus to about 2" (5cm) above the ground in autumn when the foliage has died back and turned yellowy, brown.

    Lastly, before cutting back, mark the bed well so that you don't accidently dig up your precious plants.  Otherwise your patient waiting will have been for nothing!

    Storing

    Asparagus does not last for long, best to eat the spears as fresh as possible. It has to be one of the main benefits of growing it yourself to pick it straight from the garden to eat the same day.  You can of course blanch them and then freeze them, but they are never as good.

    If you do need to store them then the best way, if you have enough space in your fridge, is to  treat them just like cut flowers and place the spears in a 2-3" of water.  Alternatively, bundle the spears together, wrap the stem ends of the spears in a moist paper towel, and place the bundle in a plastic bag. Store in the salad drawer of your refrigerator. 

    Eating

    Simple is best.  Lots of melted butter or a simple Hollandaise Sauce are perfect accompaniments.

    To see an asparagus bed being put together and get more hints and tips why not visit our YouTube channel and take a look at Madeleine's helpful video Growing Asparagus ?

  • Grow at Home: Leeks

    What are they?Leeks_in_soil

    Leeks, which are famous as the Welsh national emblem, are related to the onion but easier to grow.  They have flat overlapping leaves forming an elongated cylindrical bulb which together with the leaf base, is eaten as a vegetable. They generally mature in autumn/winter and hence are a tasty addition to any winter stew or soup such as your classic Leek and Potato.

    Types

    As with other plants there are three main varieties – early, mid season and late. So decide which ones you want to have or get all three. I would just go for one variety as I want as many different vegetables growing in my patch as possible. It depends how many leeks your household gets through...

    Planting

    SOW SEEDS IN GREENHOUSE/ON WINDOWSILL:       February to April

    SOW SEEDS DIRECTLY OUTDOORS:                            March to April

    TRANSPLANT OUTDOORS:                                             May to July

    DEPTH TO PLANT SEEDS:                                               ½” (2cm)

    DISTANCE BETWEEN ROWS:                                         12” (30cm)

    DISTANCE BETWEEN PLANTS:                                       6” (15cm)

    Soil Type

    Leeks are tolerant of a wide variety of soil types but prefer firm, well drained soil.  A safe bet is to dig well rotted garden compost into your soil.  Freshly manured soil is not suitable.  There will be too much leaf growth and the resulting leeks will be coarse, tough and no good for eating. 

    When to Plant

    There are 3 sowing dates for leeks – if planting from seed they should be sown in Rootrainers before planting out

    Variety Sow Plant Out
    Summer and Autumn (Hannibal)

     

    February Mid April
    Autumn & Winter(Blue-green winter, Northern lights)

     

    Mid March Mid May
    Late Winter (Blue Solaise)

     

    Early May Early June

    It is usual to start the seeds off in containers or a seedbed before moving them to their final position once they are established.  This is because sowing them directly into their final position takes up a lot of space which could be being used for fast growing crops such as lettuce. Leeks are perfectly happy to start off in the greenhouse or windowsill and move when your salads are done. 

    Growing from seed is easy and germination rates are high.  Sow your seeds into Rootrainers or small 3” (8cm) pots.Germination should take from 14-21 days.
    Start thinning the seedlings out straight away.  Thin to about 2" (5cm) the first time as some of the plants may die, and then thin again when everything seems to be going well, so that the plants are about 4" (10 cm) apart.

    If you don't want to plant seeds you could also let someone else do the work and buy established seedlings and plant out as the weather permits.

    Planting Out

    When the leeks are about 8" (20cm) tall, plant them into their final positions. If possible plant when the weather is showery, if not then water them well. Keep watering well until they are really established.

    To ensure you get lovely blanched stems make a deep hole around 6" (15cm) to plant the leek.  Fill in with an inch or two of soil and allow the remainder of the hole to fill up with soil as it is washed in with watering.  This will ensure some white stem on your leek which many think is enough (both white and green parts of the leek are edible).  If you want more white and less green though, see the section below on Blanching, for how to use collars.  

    Where to plantContainer_Leeks_in_snow

    When choosing the site to sow leeks make sure you consider that you might want to leave them in the ground to be dug as required during the winter months, and you could leave them in the ground for a year or more.

    It is not advisable to grow leeks in the same place year after year as there will be an increased risk of pests and diseases such as Leek Rust. 

    In crop rotation, leeks follow lettuce, cabbage or peas.  Many people leave planting their leeks until immediately after lifting early potatoes. However, do not plant them where the potatoes were as the soil will be too loose and disturbed and leeks do best on a firm soil.

    Feeding

    Leeks need food and will benefit from a sprinkle of something like a seaweed feed around the roots. This will increase the thickness of the leeks. Don’t feed overwintering leeks after August.

    Blanchingpulled_leeks

    The leeks you buy in the supermarket will have long white stems.  To increase the length of white stem in your home grown leek, blanch the stem by gently drawing up dry soil around the stem in stages.  Start this process in August. 

    If you have your leeks growing in a trench, gradually fill the trench in with soil to the bottom of the lowest leaves each time until the plants have finished growing, which will probably be around mid to late autumn. You are aiming for 4-6" (10-15 cm) of blanched stems. Use dry, fine soil to do this as wet soil will cause rot to set in and lumpy soil wont keep out the light properly.

    If your leeks are growing in a flat bed or container, push the soil up around the plants increasing the soil depth by about 2" (5 cm) each time. You can keep the stems free of soil by using collars.  Secure them around the leeks leaving around 5" (12.5cm) of leaf showing. 

    Collars

    Get your recycling hat on for this bit as many materials are suitable to make a collars. For instance, sawn lengths of plastic piping, the middle of toilet rolls and wrapping paper, or brown paper tied up with string or rubber bands. Whatever type of collar you decide on the minimum diameter should be 3" (7.5 cm) and 12-15" (30-37.5cm) long. Attach the collars before carrying out the earthing-up process.  The collar will keep the light out and the soil will stop it blowing away in the wind.  As the plants grow, draw up more and more soil adding another collar if needed.

    This will increase the amount of the plant that is edible and improve the flavour.  Keep the soil from falling between the leaves otherwise you will have a lot of cleaning to do or risk gritty stew!

    Harvesting

    HARVEST: September to Mayfrosty_baby_leeks

    Harvest your leeks by lifting gently with a fork, either as pencil thin baby leeks or as fully grown 3” (8cm) diameter ones.

    If you want to eat them then do not let your leeks flower as the leek turns into a woody stem once the plant flowers and is too tough to eat.  Leek flowers are a very decorative addition to the garden though so you might want to let some of them flower as they will produce seeds that you can happily collect to use the following year.

    Eating

    Leeks will stay fresh for 1 to 2 weeks if stored in a cool place. Once harvested they are delicious in soups or stews or try them in a white sauce covered in cheese and grilled.  A perfect side dish for your Sunday roast and a lovely vegetarian lunch in its own right..       

  • 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.

  • 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!

     

  • Growing early broad beans, from leggy to luscious

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

    Now I would like to share with you a new and rather different method of growing vegetables and in this case broad beans. I have been experimenting with air-pruning pots, coir growing mediums and self-watering systems for many years, and it gives me great pleasure to see our Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots, Growlite and Water Saucers now on the market and available for anyone to use.

    This very simple demonstration shows how to use these three products to grow some broad beans (an old favourite of mine best eaten smothered in melted butter).

    I sowed the beans in December, which is really much too early for broad beans.  I wanted to see just how early the beans would grow if kept permanently indoors on large, bright windowsills (a bit of an experiment in itself).

    Broad Beans growing in Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots

    The beans were germinated in Haxnicks Growlite. They were then potted on in Growlite which is a coir based growing medium that I have experimented with, developed and perfected over roughly the past 8 years. It has excellent water retention as well as good drainage and although it naturally contains only low levels of nutrients it can hold other added nutrients well and allows easy absorption by plant roots. Growlite includes various organic nutrients including seaweed and will feed a wide variety of plants during the first 8-10 weeks of their life. After this I simply add a little organic plant food on a regular basis to the water I give them.

    Haxnicks Water Saucers making watering a doddle

    We make the Vigoroot pots from recycled polypropylene. The density of the fabric is designed to air-prune the roots of the plants. As the tips of the roots grow into the fabric, their tips die off (air-pruning), which stimulates the plant to grow more roots from its core, and these roots become more fibrous and are able to absorb more nutrients. The result is that the plants don’t get ‘root-bound’ and don’t need to be potted-on into larger pots, but grow larger, faster and healthier, producing more abundant crops. Vigoroot Pots work especially well for fruit trees and fruit bushes as well as flowers, herbs and vegetables.

    Haxnicks Water Saucers showing their wicks

    The kit

    I used the new Haxnicks Water Saucers as a permanent watering and feeding system for the bean plants. Each Water Saucer comes with a capillary wick that is pushed up into the middle of the Vigoroot pot (cut a small hole first), and the plant then draws up the water through the Growlite and capillary wick from the water saucer, which needs topping up every few weeks. After the first two months I started adding a little Maxicrop plant food to the water. Obviously you can choose your plant food to suit the type of plants you are growing.

    Broad Beans growing in Haxnicks Vigoroot Pots

    As I had started growing the plants too early in the season, they didn’t get enough hours of sunlight during the first few months . Subsequently they grew a little too tall and ‘leggy’ as they searched for more light. I decided to cut them back to about half their height.  Within a few days their energy was diverted to producing an abundance of flowers, which hopefully will start to turn into beans before too long.

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    This whole system of growing plants using the Vigoroot Pots, Growlite and Water Saucers is remarkably simple to set up and incredibly ‘low-maintenance’. The plants require almost no attention other than a few kind words of encouragement every now and then, and their use of water and plant food is almost 100% efficient - very similar in fact, to a hydroponics set up. So far, the beans are growing beautifully, and look set to produce a great crop later in the season.

    Must put butter on the shopping list...

  • March gone already? Jobs for the Spring

    March is supposed to be spring. ‘In like a lion, out like a lamb’ is one of the sayings about this particular month. Literally meaning that often the beginning of March feels like mid-winter but then it all warms up and becomes very spring like by the end of the month.

    I'm not sure this will relate to March 2018 because as far as I can see we have only had a couple of nice days and three sessions of Beasts from the East! 

    Haxnicks Eiffel Tower Plant Support

    On the sunny days that we did have I think that anybody who has a garden simply had to get outside. Also if we don’t plant our seeds now we won’t have any plants to plant out in May. 

    So what to plant now then? Here is my list to start you off.

    Seeds to sow now indoors: 

    Aubergines, Brussels sprouts, celery, courgettes, cucumbers, fennel, kale, lettuces, melons, nasturtiums, marigolds, peas, rocket and spring onions. 

    Seeds and plants to sow now directly outside:  (if the ground is not too sodden)

    Onions (sets), parsnips, potatoes, spinach, rhubarb (crowns) and strawberry (plants). All these will have an even better chance if you cover them with either fleece or Easy Seedling Tunnel 

    I used these wonderful seedling tunnels in my greenhouse, later on when the seedlings are large enough I plan to transplant them. 

    Haxnicks Seedling tunnels spring planting

    Seed Packets ready for Spring

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I think that we are all longing for April and better weather, we have had glimpses. I am forever optimistic.  

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