You will have heard (maybe from the lips of the legendary PopEye) that spinach is super high in iron. This, and the rumor that a scientist put the decimal place in the wrong spot thus multiplying the iron content by ten, both appear to be unsubstantiated and probably false. However, spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C and folate as well as being a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron and vitamin B2. It is also tasty and versatile and can be used from smoothies to stir fries to salads. Oh, and its easy to grow!
Spring Gardening with Haxnicks
The moment that the days become longer and we get the first glimpses of new growth we are all encouraged to start preparing our gardens for Spring. For those of you with small gardens or no gardens we have so many ways to grow that you need not miss out on the joys of an early Spring vegetable garden. From growing in bags to pop-up greenhouses there is something here for all gardeners. We have a huge range of propagation and plant protection products that will help you get growing this Spring. We also have lots of Spring planting tips and advice here on our website…so dig in!.
Watch our Spring Videos
We've put together a collection of Videos from our Spring Gardening archives that demonstrate the great things our gardening products can do.
A-Z Grow Your Own Advice
- Beans - Climbing
- Beans - Dwarf
- Broad Beans
- Brussels Sprouts
- Chilli Peppers
- Courgettes / Zucchinis
- Onions (seeds)
- Onions (sets)
- Peas (and mangetout)
- Sweet Corn
- Zuchinnis / Courgettes
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- Pippa Greenwood (Horticulturist, grow-your-own TV and radio expert, garden writer)
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The News by Haxnicks
Grow at Home: Companion Planting
15th July 2019
Companion planting is where two or more crops are grown together for the benefit of one, or all. The most successful combinations mirror nature. They can be an important part of planning a successful and productive garden.
Plants have natural affinities with others of their kind. The smell of volatile oils from many plants can above all discourage pests, making them excellent companion plants. Perhaps the most well known is the relationship between the tomato plant and the strong smelling French Marigold. This is said to deter whitefly, for instance.
While there is little scientific proof of these associations working, if you talk to any experienced gardener they will certainly provide plenty of anecdotal evidence. Tomatoes like to be grown with Basil and Parsley. Useful for cooks as well as gardeners. And separating rows of brassicas with onions has always been popular. This is possibly due to the strong scent of onions confusing the cabbage pests.
English Marigold (Calendula) can provide welcome splashes of colour in the kitchen garden. The added benefit is that they attract pollinators. Along with Yarrow (Achillea) and Hyssop they also attract hover flies. The hover flies will lay their eggs around these plants and when they hatch the larvae feast on aphids.
Some gardeners know Chamomile as the 'plant doctor'. This is because of its alleged ability to encourage the production of essential oils making their scent and taste stronger. It is attractive and easy to grow so a worthwhile addition to any planting scheme.
Another garden 'must have' is the super fragrant Lavender. This acts as a general insect repellent whilst still attracting bees to your plot.
Crops and their Companions
Different combinations work in different conditions, so experimentation and experience is the best guide. Below are some combinations of crops and their companions that work well in most situations:
- Asparagus: Tomatoes, Parsley, Basil
- Beans: Carrots, lettuce,parsley, spinach
- Beetroot: Onions, cabbages
- Cabbages: Celery, mint, thyme, onions, nasturtiums
- Carrots: Peas, radish, chives, onion, leek
- Courgette: Nasturtiums
- Lettuce: Strawberry, beetroot, radish
- Onions: Carrots, beetroot, chamomile, courgette
- Parship: Garlic
- Peas: Potatoes, radish, carrot
- Spinach: Strawberry
- Tomato: Celery, basil, marigolds, foxglove
Grow At Home: Rocket
8th July 2019
Who doesn't love a little peppery rocket in their salad? And who hasn't gone to the fridge and found a bag of sorry looking rocket that is more limp than lovely! The solution is simple. And that is to grow your own.
Rocket can either be started off in small pots on the windowsill, in the greenhouse, or it can be sown directly outside.
Sow seeds inside from March to June or outside from June to September. Sow small amounts at regular intervals (say every 3 to 4 weeks) so that you don't create your own rocket glut and instead have a nice steady supply all summer long.
Choose a sunny spot with rich, fertile well drained soil. Sow thinly, 0.5-1cm (¼- ½in) deep in rows 20cm (8in) apart.
Keep the seedlings covered with a Easy Poly Tunnel or a Victorian Bell Cloche during the Spring and with a Easy Net Tunnel or a Easy Fleece Lantern Cloche during the hotter months, This helps to protect them and speed up their growth. When the seedlings are big enough to handle, thin them out a little and use the thinnings in salad. Your first taste of home grown rocket!
Rocket very quickly goes to seed once it has matured, keeping it watered well can help stall this and stop it bolting. As flower buds appear, pinch them out to prolong cropping, unless you want the plants to set seed. The flower buds can also be used in salads.
If you do turn your back for a moment and find your rocket bolted then you can always harvest the seeds for next year and tell people it was deliberate! This means the next sowing has cost you nothing which will make it taste even better!
Provide some shade in really hot weather as too much sun will make the leaves tough and not nice to eat. Also, try not to over water as this will dilute the taste.
Flea beetle are sometimes a problem on rocket. The leaves will become covered in small holes and damaged areas turn brown. To prevent this use fleece, especially whilst its still young, and keep the soil moist. If you water in nitrogen-rich fertilser then the crop can recover from this .
Harvest lasts from April to November but you can pick your fist leaves around 4 weeks after planting. Don't pick all the leaves form one plant as this will weaken its growth. Instead, pick a few leaves from each plant and they will keep providing so you can ‘cut-and-come-again’ for much longer.
Try to pick just what you need but if you do pick more you can store them in a paper bag (will work just as well as a plastic one without the environmental impact) in a cool place for 2-4 days. Don’t let the rocket get too cold or it will wilt as soon as it warms up.
Rocket adds a great peppery taste to salads. It is delicious with a balsamic vinegar dressing, in a bacon butty or scattered over pasta.
For grow a whole range of salads along with your rocket see our Grow at Home: Salad Leaves Blog too.
Grow at Home: Spinach
1st July 2019
Sowing & Harvesting
Sow your spinach seeds directly outside in their final positions from March to August. Sow them in shallow lines quite thinly. Cover them with poly tunnels or cloches to protect them and to encourage growth, you may also need a Slug-Buster. If you don't have a large garden then spinach will also thrive in a container. Choose a Shallow vegetable planter -as spinach doesn't 't have long roots - and plant thinly exactly as you would outside.
As the seedlings appear, thin them out to about 6-8” 15-20cm apart. You can pick the smaller more tender leaves when they are about 3” 7cm long and use them in salads, anything bigger than that should be cooked for a short amount of time and be eaten as a hot vegetable.
Keep picking the leaves so that a) they don’t run to seed and b) they keep on growing.
Perpetual Spinach is the one that I always plant as you only need to plant one lot and it lasts for months and months, sometimes even years – Very easy. Perpetual spinach is not actually spinach but looks and is eaten in exactly the same way.