The Three C’s – courgettes, cucumbers and cucamelons!

The Three C’s

Every time I offer some knowledge with regards to growing crops for your business, the first question is always, so how long have you been growing the beard?

It’s not really the first, it’s about the 5th question!

They actually want to know the easiest Vegetable/Fruit they can grow and that’s where the three c’s come in.

Number one…..

Courgettes are by far the easiest in terms of germination, care, maintenance and yield!

But I’m not talking about your average green bog standard courgette.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good standard courgette, sliced and cooking in butter on a BBQ but if you’re trying to get people excited when visiting your restaurant, pub or cafe you want something a little different.

Courgette summer ball

At the Pub I only grow a variety called One Ball/Summer Ball. The courgettes are bright yellow and grow to the size of a large tennis ball. They are perfect for hollowing out, stuffing and roasting in the oven.

Other unusual varieties I’d recommend are Eclipse(round), Parador(yellow) and  Safari(stripped).

Number Two…..

I’ve always preferred the taste of a home grow Cucumber, fresh from my Fathers greenhouse. Shop imported cucumbers are just rather tasteless!

So last winter I went on a cucumber internet safari and was blown away with different cucumbers varieties you can actually grow!!

cucmber crystal lemon & Poona Kherra

Two I’ve chosen to grow this year are Poona Kherra, which is an Indian cucumber with a brown/orange skin. It’s really refreshing to eat but you must remove the skin as its super bitter.

The other is called Crystal Lemon/Apple which I’m sure some of you have already tried. They are very vigorous and produce large amounts of round cucumbers. I pick them when slightly green in colour as the skin becomes slightly tough when yellow.

Slice them like a lemon and pop them in your favourite alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverage.

growing cucumbers

I’ve also grown three high yielding varieties which are Carmen, Louisa and Bella. The reason for this is I wanted to try and get the pub to no longer buy in cucumbers throughout the year. That way we don’t have to buy them from abroad, save money and it’s just generally better for the environment.

I’ve grown nearly 100 plants in a new poly tunnel and they’ve produced over 500 cucumbers to date.

cucmbers harvested

It’s safe to say they no longer buy in cucumbers and we’ve even had enough excess to sell them inside the pub!

Number Three

It used to be just Two C’s but then I discovered Cucamelons! These little beauties were said to be the ‘next big thing’ but I’m yet to see them catch on.

I love them; they originate from Mexico which makes them drought resistant. They grow like crazy and produce copious amounts of grape sized fruits which taste like cucumber with a zesty kick.

They are very simple to germinate but can be a little tricky to get going as they can suffer from damping off and drying out but once they are off you can’t stop them.

As you can see from the pictures I tend to grow them up string and let them ramble everywhere.

cucamelons

What can you use them in I hear you ask??

Well, now I’m more than happy to eat them as they are but if someone “forced” a large gin and tonic in front of me I’d chop a couple down the length and throw them in for good measure! They are also lovely in a salad or any fish dish.

You’re not growing them?

Go on……

Please do…….

If you’d like any more info or tips about the varieties listed here, just pop a comment below!

Now where did a leave my gin and tonic…..!

 

Sam Corfield
Having trained at Duchy College in Cornwall, he then spent 10+ years on and off working at The Lost Gardens of Heligan. In between Sam has setup a garden at RHS Hampton Court show, lived and worked on large private garden in New Zealand and worked for the BBC as a Natural history cameraman.

Sam now advises, designs and builds vegetable gardens for businesses, allowing them to grow their own crops. He tends to grow slightly more unusual crops and loves experimenting!

Oh peas behave!

Shiraz peas

I just love growing peas throughout summer. Possibly because it brings back happy memories of foraging in amongst rows, the enjoyment of hunting for the largest pods and trying to hide the fact you’ve eaten half the pods your mother needs for dinner!

At the pub (one of the businesses I grow at) this year I’m growing four 12 metre rows, sown every two weeks. The variety is ‘Shiraz‘ and grown as a Mangetout. The plants have colourful flowers and stunning purple pods. I find they have a slightly more earthy taste to them which I really like. Working with the chefs we’ve found that if you stir fry them very briefly they hold their colour and keep their crispness!

It’s never too late to sow peas in my book, especially if you’re after mangetout and shoots. I’ve sowed small rows in August/September and still had a decent glut.

Peas germinating

I start by getting my peas to shoot in an air tight container. I find the best ones are my partner’s cake boxes (she’s never that happy about that) but any sealable container will do. Place a layer of damp newspaper in the bottom; add the peas and a little water. Cover with another layer of damp newspaper and seal up. Leave for around 48hrs or until they start to shoot.

Not only does this give them a kick up the backside, it also stops rodents using them as an all you can’t eat buffet.

You can sow them in pots, tubs or gutters but I’ve always sown direct and I’m yet to have a failed crop.

sowing peas

I rake out a furrow along the row with a depth of roughly an inch. It’s important not damage the shoots that have appeared on your peas when you remove them from the container.

covering peas

Spread them along the length of your desired row, no need to be too precise or stingy with the coverage as they won’t struggle being so close. Cover them all with a layer of soil and a sprinkle of water if the weathers dry!

protecting peas

I also cover the ground with a homemade chicken mesh cover but you can get proper cloche hoops/kits for small rows.

This is mainly to stop your not so friendly pigeons indulging in fresh pea shoots!

 

Once the peas have reached around 15cm I set up a 4/5ft post and netting support frame. This is perfect for long rows but for small rows you can use string, twine, hazel and sycamore…. basically anything they can grab hold of!

supported peas

After that just sit back and wait for your first pods…..

shiraz peas harvest

 Peas always behave and I can’t wait!!

Sam Corfield
Having trained at Duchy College in Cornwall, he then spent 10+ years on and off working at The Lost Gardens of Heligan. In between Sam has setup a garden at RHS Hampton Court show, lived and worked on large private garden in New Zealand and worked for the BBC as a Natural history cameraman.

Sam now advises, designs and builds vegetable gardens for businesses, allowing them to grow their own crops. He tends to grow slightly more unusual crops and loves experimenting!

Potatoes, Full Fruit Cages and Chickens!

planted potatoes

I have taken advantage of the long weekend to get more of my potatoes in the ground. One of my favourites is Mayan Gold, lovely knobbly potatoes with yellow flesh and ideal hot or cold. My insurance is two rows of Sarpo Mira as they are blight resistant and can stay in the ground until September. I like to grow lots of potatoes as everyone likes them and they store well all through the winter.

Fruit Cage

The fruit cage is full of flower now on all the currants , blueberries and gooseberries. Luckily one of my neighbours keeps bees so they have been busy pollinating them and the apples, plums and cherries in our very small orchard.  There are lots of small weeds in the fruit cage so an hour spent weeding now will save a lot of time later in the season.  The chickens live in the fruit cage in the winter where they are safe from Buzzards and foxes and they do a very good job of cleaning out all the pests that live in the soil and manure the ground at the same time.  At the moment they are eyeing up the asparagus ( Connover’s Colossal and Purple Pacific) so they are confined to quarters for a while.

chickens eating weeds

In the conservatory  the tomato plants are really growing on well and I have put in my Squash,( Harrier and Crown Prince) Courgette(Defender and Parador) and Cucumber ( Burpless, Bella and Cucino)seeds.  These will be ready to go into the green house in a couple of weeks. but we are forecasted some cold weather in the next few days so I have fleece and plastic to hand to protect inside and outside.

plants in conservatory

Theresa Bloomfield
I have had my hands in soil ever since I could crawl. I remember well going out into the garden and watching my Father double digging the vegetable plot and being shown how to pick caterpillars off the brassicas. You could say he was an early organic gardener. There was something nice about sneaking round behind the outhouse and pulling rhubarb and dipping it in sugar, picking raspberries and stuffing handfuls into my mouth. It is these memories of taste and smell that never leave you and make you want to grow your own fresh fruit and vegetables.

It has been something of a treat then, to find myself working for Thompson and Morgan for the past 13 years and being able to help customers to solve their gardening problems

La Bonnotte – Chitting the most expensive potato in the world?

Being a plant breeder and having a young family doesn’t leave me a lot of time for leisure gardening, but still, as an unashamed plant geek, I can’t resist indulging in a few plants and veg. This month is all about a humble potato.

In early February I started chitting tubers of a very special potato on my windowsill: La Bonnotte. Being French you may think I am a bit biased, but of all the potato varieties I have ever had the chance of tasting, this definitely tops my gourmet list. Sautéed whole in their skin, simply with salted butter and herbes de Provence, they are truly divine, with an unforgettable sea-like, sweet, citrusy and chestnutty note. It’s important to cook them in their skins to keep the taste, but the inward eyes would make peeling almost impossible anyway. I had ordered 2kg of seed potato and when they arrived, I was very tempted to cook some straight away… This was far worse than the Stanford marshmallow experiment, but I shall wait until harvest time!

la bonnotte

La Bonnotte is normally grown on the small island of Noirmoutier, where the light sandy soil, oceanic microclimate and the addition of seaweed all participate in developing the unique flavour. It may also have to do with the absolute TLC every plant receives: La Bonnotte is planted by hand using the old technique of lazy beds – definitely not for the lazy gardener – which are essentially wide, parallel raised beds without any wooden borders. On the mere 5 hectares where they are grown, the tubers are planted on the 2nd of February and harvested before maturity 90 days later. The backbreaking job of harvesting and severing the growing tubers from the mother plant is again all done manually; machine harvest would just ruin the soft skins and delicate aromas.

With the mechanisation of agriculture in the 60s, La Bonnotte very nearly became extinct, but it was saved in extremis by passionate Noirmoutier growers and the INRA in the 90s. By April 1996, it was ready to go back on the market to the delight of chefs and gourmets alike. The first hand-harvested crop of 5 kg was auctioned and fetched the incredible price of €2,300, making La Bonnotte the most expensive potato in the world. Nowadays the price is more like €10 a kilo for the very first ones, still a high price for a spud!

Now back to reality. I very much doubt I’ll have the time and dedication to build lazy beds and add Irish moss seaweed when my own La Bonnotte tubers are finally ready for planting. I think I’ll plant some in the ground and some in bags. I’ll also be growing some tasty Jazzy as backup and comparison. Suffolk is a tad colder than Noirmoutier so I plan on planting in early March and won’t be able to taste them until the end of May. By then I’ll know if La Bonnotte tastes just as good without the influence of the sea, even if in Noirmoutier it has been nicknamed pomme de mer.

Charles Valin
During his time with Thompson & Morgan, Charles has developed over 40 unique creations across a wide range of genera, while overseeing T&M’s unique breeding programme. It can take many years to develop a new variety that would be suitable for us to share with our customers and so we are always thrilled when a brand new variety is ready to add to our catalogue.
One of Charle’s proudest achievements is the Multi Award Winning Foxglove ‘Illumination Pink’ which not only was winner of ‘Plant of the Year 2012’ at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show but also Best New Product at the Anglian Business Awards and Best New Product at the Garden Retail awards. In addition to all these awards, James Armitage, Principal Scientist of Horticultural Taxonomy at RHS Garden Wisley, has announced Digitalis x valinii as the correct botanical naming convention for all existing and future crosses of D. purpurea and D. canariensis.

How to grow roses from seed?

Growing roses from seeds is not the fastest method for propagating roses but has several advantages. Roses from seeds take a little longer but then you end up developing a new set of varieties. Professional hybridisers select a new line of easy to grow and disease resistant rose to propagate. However, for you, each seedling will be a surprise when they finally bloom. It is like opening your birthday present when you were a kid. You never really knew what to expect! That is the same feeling seeing those little seedlings opens up for the first time.

There are several processes one must follow when growing roses from seeds. For professionals, the process starts in the garden where they monitor the flowering and pollination process as they choose favorite varieties. For our case, we will start with the seed collection process.

Seed collection

The rose hips must be allowed to develop on the plant for at least four months for them to fully ripen. They have to be collected in autumn, cutting them off using the right garden tool. You can use cuticle scissors or tweezers to cut them off before cleaning them.

Rosehips ready for collecting

Rosehips ready for collecting

The ripened rose hip is then placed on a clean cutting board and cut in half to remove the seeds. Place the seeds in a clean container. Add some diluted bleach to kill off any bacteria and fungus spores. You can make the bleach by mixing drinking water with two teaspoons of household bleach. Stir the seeds well before rinsing them and using bottled water to remove all the bleach. To further clean and disinfect the seeds, put them in the container and add some hydrogen peroxide. The seeds can be soaked for up to 24 hours before rinsing them with clean water to clear all the hydrogen peroxide.

Collecting rose seeds

Collecting rose seeds

Soaking the seeds is a crucial step if your seeds will germinate properly and stay clear of any diseases. You MUST not mix the bleach with the hydrogen peroxide as this results in a chemical reaction. 3% peroxide for 24 hours is just fine. This is also a good time to perform the water float test. Remove all seeds that float as they might not be viable.

Starting the rose seeds

Before growing the roses from seed, the seeds have to undergo a period of stratification. This is a cold moist storage that gets the seeds ready for germination.

Cold Treatment

Chilling your seeds in a refrigerator for about six to ten weeks encourages them to germinate faster once planted. However, you must take care to avoid keeping them cold for long as they can germinate while still in the refrigerator. Place your seeds on a paper towel before moistening them. Use half purified water and half peroxide to prevent the growth of mould. You can then place them in a plastic zippered bag, mark the date and variety before placing in a refrigerator set at 1 to 3 degrees C. The paper towel should remain moist for the entire period. You can check occasionally to see if it needs remoistening. Make sure you don’t freeze the towel.

There are other ways to stratify the seeds like planting them in a tray of potting mix and refrigerating the entire tray for weeks. The tray is usually enclosed in a plastic bag to keep it moist.

Planting your seeds

When you think your seeds are ready for planting (6-10 weeks), remove the bag from the refrigerator if that was your stratification method. You will need shallow trays or small pots to plant your seeds. Whatever works between the trays and pots is fine as long they have good drainage. The ideal size of the trays or pots should be 3-4 inches deep.

You can use separate trays when planting seeds from different varieties of rose hips. You must follow your labeling all the way down from harvesting, treatment, and planting. The rose bush name and planting date are some of the details to indicate on your trays or pots.

Next fill your trays or pots with the potting soil. You can opt to use 50% sterile potting soil and 50% vermiculite, or half peat and half perlite. When the potting mix is ready in the trays or pots, this is the time to take off your seeds from the towel. Remember the seeds must not be removed from the plastic bag until they are ready to be planted. You lightly dust them before planting.

Place your seeds about ¼ inch into the soil and dust the surface again to prevent the damp off disease that kills seeds. Water them properly and place them outside in direct sunlight. If there is frost, it is advised you place your seeds under a tree or in a sheltered part of the patio to protect them. There is no need for grow lights.

Keep the soil pots or trays watered but not soggy. Do not let them dry up as this might affect the germination of your seeds.

Watch for germination

After about six weeks, the first two seed leaves will start to emerge before the true leaves can emerge. The seedling must have three to four true leaves before they can be ready for transplanting.

Planting your seedlings

Seedlings coming through the soil

Seedlings coming through the soil

When the seedlings are grown a few inches tall with at least three true leaves, they are ready to be transplanted. You can transplant them into a four-inch pot of your liking. You don’t have to plant all your seedlings but only the healthy ones. You can choose to monitor them on the tray and only transplant them when they have outgrown it.

You must monitor the seedlings as they grow in their new pots for colour, form, bush size, branching, and disease resistance. Roses with weak, unhealthy or unattractive flowers can be discarded. It will take your new seedlings at least three years before they reach maturity and develop into a big bush. However, the first flower can be seen after one or two years.

Rose floribunda 'Blue For You' & Rose 'Easy Elegance - Yellow Brick' Shrub Rose

Rose floribunda ‘Blue For You’ & Rose ‘Easy Elegance – Yellow Brick’ Shrub Rose

Garden tools you will need to grow your rose seeds:

• Cotton buds
• Tweezers and cuticle scissors
• Clear plastic film canisters
Labels for the paper and plastic bag
• Wax pencil or black permanent marker pen

Growing roses from seeds appears a pretty long process but one that is rewarding when you follow all the steps as indicated. If you are a great DIY fan, then this is a nice project for you to enjoy as you brighten your outdoor space with blooming roses.

Dianne Lampe
http://www.igardenplanting.com/

Dianne Lampe
My name is Dianne and I am passionate about all things related to gardening. I blog about indoor and outdoor planting as well as offering useful information about the best gardening products.

Fabulous fuchsia tipped for success in 2017

Fabulous Fuchsia ‘Icing Sugar’ tipped for success in 2017: will this year’s cover outdo last year’s best seller?

T&M will give customers DOUBLE their money back if they don’t agree that this is the best fuchsia they’ve ever grown.

When Paul Hansord, horticultural director of Thompson & Morgan gifts the UK’s largest online plant retailer, saw Petunia ‘Night Sky’ last year, he immediately tipped it for success and featured it on the front cover of T&M’s spring catalogue. Sales of the spectacularly different petunia, which was a world first in flower patterning, exceeded all expectations with over 175,000 plants despatched last season. Retailers commented that they could have sold many, many more plants than stock levels allowed.

This year a fabulous new fuchsia is gracing the cover of Thompson & Morgan’s spring 2017 catalogue, and forecasts suggest that it will be the mail order specialist’s best seller for next season. Paul Hansord says: “I’m so convinced of the performance and flower power of Fuchsia ‘Icing Sugar’ that I’ll give our customers double their money back if they don’t believe that this is the best fuchsia they’ve ever grown!”*

Fuchsia 'icing Sugar'

Fuchsia ‘icing Sugar’

Paul’s confidence in Fuchsia ‘Icing Sugar’ is understandable. With its stunning frosted purple and cerise blooms and its compact habit, it is perfect for large patio pots and eye-catching border planting. Thousands of blooms are produced over the summer on a tidy cushion of dense foliage giving gardeners a great value, full season of colour. What also makes this fuchsia so special is that the rich, true fuchsia-pink sepals unfurl to reveal an unusual two-tone, twisting central corolla that has an intriguing frosted sheen to it.

Geoff Stonebanks, gardening writer, blogger and creator/owner of The Driftwood Garden near Lewes in Sussex, trialled ‘Icing Sugar’ for T&M last year and says: “The beautiful new fuchsia, ‘Icing Sugar’, certainly lives up to its name; a delicate and frosted gem.” Geoff added: “As an avid fuchsia lover, this delicate and frosted “Icing Sugar”, on show in my garden for the first time this summer, is utterly stunning.”

Petunia 'Night Sky'

Petunia ‘Night Sky’

Petunia ‘Night Sky’ has not, as is often the case after a loud launch and high initial sales, dropped off the best seller list and T&M forecasts the continued success of this very special petunia. Unlike the markings of other varieties, which can be inconsistent, the speckled stars of ‘Night Sky’ are consistent across all the blooms with every flower offering a different astral constellation. When Petunia ‘Night Sky’ was first introduced, some gardeners speculated that the images of had been digitally ‘enhanced’ until they grew the plants and saw the stunning markings for themselves.

Petunias and fuchsias are top of the UK’s list of favourite bedding and container plants and consistently come first in consumer surveys. With Petunia ‘Night Sky’ winning a People’s Choice Competition at Thompson & Morgan’s show garden at Jimmy’s Farm, in Suffolk last summer, there is every hope that Fuchsia ‘Icing Sugar’ will have similar success as T&M’s lead cover item this year. Paul Hansord’s confidence in offering a ‘double your money back’ guarantee would suggest that he is in no doubt that it will be a big hit in gardens this summer.
For information on how to grow fuchsias, go to www.thompson-morgan.com/growfuchsias

*see website for terms and conditions.

Sonia Mermagen
Sonia has recently returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia is a big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’. In her own garden, Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach and believes that this encourages bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

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