Innovative growing concepts for 2016

Thompson & Morgan promises best year on the vegetable patch with host of innovative growing concepts for 2016

2016 product developments from the specialists at Thompson & Morgan are paving the way for the easiest ever route to fresh home grown produce this season. Whether you’re short on time, space or knowledge, there’s now an easy solution for you.

Following success with our groundbreaking Tomtato®, a hand grafted plant producing both potatoes and tomatoes, T&M has launched Egg & Chips®, a world first in duo grafting. Gardeners can now grow aubergines and potatoes on the same plant. What’s more the potato ‘root stock’ gives the aubergine part the extra energy needed to crop successfully under UK conditions. You don’t need a greenhouse to grow Egg & Chips®, a large pot on a sunny patio will produce perfect plants. £14.99 for one Egg & Chips®, £19.99 for two.

krisC1

Egg & Chips®, Tomtato®, and Pea ‘Terrain’

Staying with the grafted concept a new Grafted Summer Vegetable Collection has also been launched for the season, made up of Cucumber ‘Mini Stars’, Pepper Orlas, Tomato ‘Solena Red’ and Tomato ‘Sportivo’, promising to increase yields by up to 75%. Joining a fruiting variety to a more vigorous rootstock has brought massive benefits to commercial crop production. Now T&M customers can bring the goodness of grafted veg to their own pots or plots.

Vegetable Grafted Collection

Vegetable Grafted Collection

T&M Vegetable Expert, Colin Randel said: “Some vegetable varieties produce fantastic fruit but are weak growers, others are vigorous growers with poor fruits. We’ve selected the best grafting matches to bring you the best possible results from a single plant. Spend a little extra on our grafted plants and reap the rewards right through the season.” 4 plant collection £19.99.

Changes in EU regulation mean that for the first time in a long time, Thompson & Morgan is now able to offer mixed vegetable seed varieties in the same packet, creating the easiest route to success on the veg patch and the longest harvest, with no need for successional sowing.
The All Season Collections take the hard work out of crop planning. Each is made up of several toptasting and top-performing F1 varieties that can be sown in one hit, but will crop at different times to give a harvest window of up to 36 weeks. The All Season Leek Collection for example, offers a nine month harvest from a single sowing of three trusted varieties – ‘Lincoln‘, ‘Oarsman’ and ‘Below Zero’. The collections have been based around the most popular crops grown by British gardeners, including peas, beans, broccoli, sweet corn and cabbage. The collections are the perfect solution for novice gardeners and those without the time (or skills!) for detailed crop planning at the start of the season.

All Season Leek Collection

All Season Leek Collection

Stand out vegetable seed introductions for the season include Pea ‘Terrain’ and Tomato ‘Mountain Magic’. The T&M trials team was stunned at the results of new Pea Terrain in 2015 and are heralding the variety as the most exciting introduction since the launch of existing bestseller Hursts ‘Green Shaft’. Paul Hansord said: “We’ve been truly amazed at the outstanding performance of this powerhouse pea. Yield, pod quality and taste – Pea Terrain couldn’t be beaten in our 2015 trials, but most impressive was the resistance to both downy and powdery mildew. In a field surrounded by a dozen infected varieties, only Terrain stood clean and green, making it the best pea for late harvesting. A final sowing on 31st July lead to a mildew free harvest at the end of October. Plants would have kept going if it had not been for a frost.” 99p for 300 seeds.

Tomato 'Mountain Magic' and Potato 'Jazzy'

Tomato ‘Mountain Magic’ and Potato ‘Jazzy’

Similarly, Tomato ‘Mountain Magic’ has shown full resistance to all blight strains currently prevailing in the UK, making it the best option for outdoor growing and late cropping. Thompson & Morgan is so impressed with the performance and flavour of the new variety, it is championing Mountain Magic as its Vegetable of the Year for 2016. £3.99 for five seeds or £9.99 for five plug plants.

Trial results and customer feedback for Potato ‘Jazzy’ have been so impressive it now comes with a Double Money Back guarantee if T&M customers fail to produce 35 potatoes or more from a single tuber. This new second early potato can be grown in small 8 litre pots to easily achieve this number, so is a great space saving option. Pricing for ‘Jazzy’ starts at £3.99.

Many of the varieties are available from selected garden centres now. All are available for order at www.thompson-morgan.com

Kris Collins
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

Thompson & Morgan Rhubarb beats forced ‘Golden Triangle’ produce to market by three weeks

Hobby gardener’s favourite becomes important commercial crop in race for earliest stems.

Couldn’t wait for your home-grown forced rhubarb this winter? Chances are if you relied on the first supermarket produce of the season, you’ve been eating Rhubarb ‘Thompson’s Terrifically Tasty’.

This extra early forcing variety was on sale in the wholesale markets from 30th December, beating forced rhubarb from the ‘Golden Triangle’ in West Yorkshire to stores by a full three weeks. Traditionally Golden Triangle rhubarb is the first to market every year.

The area is renowned for early rhubarb production and at its peak in the 1930s produced 90 per cent of the world’s forced winter rhubarb. It seems the region now has some tough competition from Essex growers producing commercial crops of Rhubarb ‘Thompson’s Terrifically Tasty’. And home growers could be beating the professionals at their own game too.

Rhubarb 'Thompson's Terrifically Tasty'

Rhubarb ‘Thompson’s Terrifically Tasty’

Thompson & Morgan Horticultural Director, Paul Hansord, said: “We’ve sold this top variety to home gardeners for many years, with the promise of the earliest natural harvest. Thick flavoursome stalks are produced in March –a full month ahead of all other varieties. But it now seems you could be enjoying your own fresh stalks with your Christmas leftovers!”

Industry experts agree. Fruit specialist Will Sibley said: “I cannot imagine that there is an earlier variety in commercial production. To bring the season on by a full three weeks, just goes to show the qualities of this top-tasting variety.”

If you are not already growing Thompsons Terrifically Tasty, a favourite with T&M customers, orders are now being taken for spring planting crowns, two for £9.99 or four for £17.99. Visit www.thompson-morgan.com or call 0844 573 1818

Forcing rhubarb for a late December or early January crop is simple. In late November cover crowns with straw and place a forcing pot, large tub or dustbin on top to block out the light. This will initiate out of season stem growth leading to the earliest possible harvest.

Kris Collins
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

I can’t wait for spring!

The T&M spring catalogues arrived this week and I am so excited! I have been choosing my plants for the summer customer trials. I shall concentrate my efforts on two areas – patio containers and hanging baskets and our allotment and greenhouse.

 

Petunia 'Cremissimo', 'Peach Sundae' and Begonia 'Garden Angels'

Petunia ‘Cremissimo’, ‘Crazytunia Mandevilla’ and Begonia ‘Garden Angels’

 

The theme on our patio is exotic, with year round interest provided by abutilons, ferns, fatsias, phormiums and heucheras so I have planned my selection to complement that: everything citrus coloured including NEW Petunia ‘Cremissimo’ – if its anything like last year’s ‘Peach Sundae’ then it’s going to be stunning! NEW Calibrachoa ‘Kabloom Terracotta’, NEW Petunia ‘Crazytunia Mandevilla’ and NEW Begonia ‘Garden Angels’, which look like heucheras-on-steroids! I am also going to try my hand at growing Ricinus Communis ‘Impala‘ from seed, Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ bulbs & NEW Curcuma ‘Twister’ tuber to go with the potted ginger lilies and cannas.

 

Calibrachoa 'Kabloom Terracotta', Ricinus communis 'Impala' and Curcuma 'Twister'

Calibrachoa ‘Kabloom Terracotta’, Ricinus communis ‘Impala’ and Curcuma ‘Twister’

 

In the greenhouse we have room for half a dozen cordon tomatoes and a couple of cucumbers, so this year we’re trying Tomato ‘Tutti Fruitti Collection’ for a change, but are sticking to Cucumber ‘Cucino’ as I haven’t found a mini cucumber to rival its productivity. I am fascinated at the thought of edible fuchsia berries so we are having a go at the NEW Fuchsia Berry. More modest trials for the allotment due to time constraints makes us focus on the more unusual, so after tastings at the T&M Trials Open Day last summer, we will try growing Cucamelon ‘Melothria’, Squash [Patty Pans] ‘Summer Mix’ and Courgette ‘De Nice A Fruit Rond’.

 

Tomato 'Rainbow Blend' Cumcumber 'Cucino' and Fuchsia Berry

Tomato ‘Rainbow Blend’ Cumcumber ‘Cucino’ and Fuchsia Berry

 

Of course I couldn’t stop there without buying a couple of things that I have no room for, so NEW Brunnera ‘Alexander’s Great’ and Digitalis ‘Illumination Ruby Slippers’are on the list too!

David has been busy too, adding a small living wall to the front garden display; an area by our front door of about W:25cms x H:40cm with room for about 16 plants. It’s a north facing aspect so more ferns & grasses, and maybe a couple of hostas and herbs. Installing a drip irrigation system should be easy as the tap is situated conveniently right underneath.

The new planting scheme out front is settling in well, spring bulbs are coming up throughout and I have added a beautiful Hellebore ‘Spring Promise’ and a couple more ferns. David succeeded in finding two lovely tall containers to go either side of the front door for my Christmas present. Once installed securely I planted each one with chinodoxa bulbs for spring colour, three huge tree lilies for summer colour, infant contorted willows for year round interest (these quick growers will have to come out when we can no longer get through the front door) and hakonechloa aurea grass for good measure! Think I’ve been a bit too over-enthusiastic but hey, what the heck. David has created some unique lights too which are attracting lots of comments – using recycled bottles and jars.

 

Caroline's house and front garden

Caroline’s house and front garden

 

Today it has snowed for the first time this winter, and a long time coming too! But never to be distracted from my plant addiction I’m off to the garden centre for my ferns and grasses! Watch this space……..

Blueberry surprise

Hey, look what I grew! Ok, so it doesn’t look like much, but these are the first few blueberries from my blueberry plant. I had them on my cereal and although they weren’t huge, they were really sweet and all the more delicious because I grew them myself! And frankly, if I can grow blueberries, then anyone can.

Blueberry surprise

Breakfast blueberries!

Let me be clear; I’m not really a gardener. I don’t have the time to nurture my plants; I tend to just stick them in a pot or in a spare place in one of my rather weedy beds, and hope for the best.

However, on the advice of my mum (she’s a proper gardener), I wrapped my blueberry plant in some voile netting that I had left over from making a fancy dress outfit for my daughter in an attempt to keep the birds off any blueberries that might appear. They were probably put off as much by the ghoulish appearance of the bush as the inaccessiblity of the growing berries!

Blueberry surprise

That’s a fine mesh you’ve got us into…

I simply draped the material around the bush and secured it with some clothes pegs – nothing fancy or remotely expensive or scientific. But it seemed to do the trick!

Blueberry surprise

Voile netting and clothes pegs – the perfect bird deterrent

I started to notice that there were some blueberries on the plant towards the end of the summer and because of the hot weather, I did actually make sure that I watered the plant fairly regularly. I’d read on the Thompson & Morgan website that it was important to water blueberry plants near cropping time as it helps to ‘plump the berries’.

I’ve only got one plant so I haven’t had an enormous crop, but I can’t tell you what a pleasure it’s been to wander up the garden in the morning to pick a handful of delicious blueberries to have on my morning cereal. And the fact that they’re home-grown really does make them taste sweeter!

Blueberry surprise

Plump, juicy blueberries

Sonia Mermagen
Sonia has worked for Thompson & Morgan for 7 years as a marketing assistant and copy writer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. A big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’, Sonia has had some success this year with T&M’s giant fuchsias, buddleja ‘Buzz’ and lily ‘China Girl’.

New plants arrived, but the weather’s too bad to plant them up!

My new strawberry runners (Flamenco, chosen by my 7-year old daughter) arrived at the end of last week and I had hoped to get out into the garden to plant them. Ha! No such luck – a few inches of snow put paid to that idea. We got off quite lightly snow-wise compared to other parts of the country, but it was enough to stop me in my tracks and wonder what on earth I was supposed to do with these new plants.

New plants arrived, but the weather's too bad to plant them out!

Plant strawberries together in one pot

You see, I haven’t got a greenhouse, cold frame or a conservatory and my windowsills aren’t very deep, so any plants I order have to be pretty robust and able to take a bit of neglect. Our garden is south-west facing and gets a lot of sun and, as long as the weather behaves itself, plants usually do ok. I never order plug plants, simply because I haven’t got anywhere to grow them on, so bareroots, bulbs and hardy seeds are best for me.

However, my poor little strawberry runners are still in their packaging, simply because I have no idea what to do with them. They seem ok at the moment, but they won’t last long if I don’t do something soon.  It made me wonder how many other gardeners are in the same situation – unfavourable weather conditions present quite a challenge to gardeners who would normally be expecting a little more sunshine at this time of year!

New plants arrived, but the weather's too bad to plant them out!

Keep plug plants frost-free and in a light spot

I emailed our horticultural expert, to ask for advice…

Strawberry runners can be plunged together into a pot of compost and then planted out when the weather improves. (Great! A fairly quick job that’ll keep the strawberries alive until I can get them in the ground).

Bareroot trees and shrubs can be temporarily ‘heeled’ into a pot or piece of ground. Plant them out into their final position when conditions are more favourable and the soil is workable. (Heeled simply means covering the root itself with soil, but not firming it in as you would when planting into the permanent spot).

Plug plants should be unpacked immediately and watered if necessary. Keep them in a frost-free place, preferably a greenhouse or a warm windowsill and pot them up as soon as possible. You’ll need to keep them in a light position, but turn the pots/containers daily to avoid leggy growth. Move them to a cooler growing position when the weather changes, but make sure it’s still light and frost-free.

Asparagus, rhubarb and artichokes crowns and roots need to be removed from the packaging on arrival. We recommend to wrap asparagus crowns in a moist towel or cloth and place them in a frost free area. Asparagus particularly has fleshy roots which must not dry out so it is important to keep the towel moist, although not wringing wet, at all times. This can safely be done for up to 3 weeks whereby, hopefully, soil conditions will be suitable to plant out. Rhubarbs are less fussy and could be potted up in suitable sized pots of moist multipurpose compost and placed in a frost free area. If artichokes are on your order then these are frost hardy so could be planted individually in smaller pots of moist compost and placed outdoors.

New plants arrived, but the weather's too bad to plant them out!

Grow garlic in pots on a windowsill

I’ve also got some garlic waiting to be planted. Sue Sanderson suggests planting them into small pots or plastic drinking cups and grown on a windowsill – even my shallow ones could cope with this! Once the shoots start to grow they can be moved outside to harden off and then planted into a pot. The same goes for onion sets.

The weather reports aren’t looking very promising for the next few days, with forecasts of more snow into Easter.

On BBC 4’s Today programme, Jon Hodder, senior gardener at Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds stressed the importance of being patient: “Spring will come around, as sure as eggs are eggs. Anyone thinking of transplanting stuff just needs to hold on… just gently wait and keep an eye on the garden.” (Source: BBC News website)

Do you have any bad weather gardening hints to share? We’d love to hear them!

 

 

Rebecca Tute
Rebecca works in the Marketing department as part of the busy web team, focusing on updating the UK news and blog pages and Thompson & Morgan’s international website. Rebecca enjoys gardening and learning about flowers and growing vegetables with her young daughter.

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