Home-grown fruit & veg is back on the menu

More and more people are keen to get their hands into trying home-grown fruit & veg in order to cut down the cost of their weekly shop. Combined with healthy eating campaigns such as Jamie Oliver in schools, the appetite to become more self-sufficient is higher than ever.

Growing your own fruit and veg is both satisfying and healthy. The best part is; it is a lot simpler than what you might think. You don’t even need an allotment or a big to garden to be able to grow your own. If you need a little more guidance on how to grow your own fruit and veg, we have a wide range guides to help you.

Gardening technology and innovation has also come on leaps and bounds, and this innovation has allowed us to become more savvy and smarter with our gardens. New concepts such as Raspberry ‘Ruby Beauty’™ mean that you can have delicious raspberries straight from your balcony or patio without the use of invasive canes. So whether you have a huge garden or lack space, everyone can enjoy the benefits of home grown fruit and veg.

fruit & veg

We want to know if our customers find one fruit & veg easier to grow than others and if our customers have a ‘favourite veg’. We took to our social media pages to find out. Topping the leader board for customer’s favourite vegetable is carrots!! Closely followed by; beans (runner and broad) potatoes and tomatoes.

Judith Allen on Twitter said ‘Carrots. Easy to grow and love them raw and cooked’.

Catherine Thomson on Facebook said ‘Carrots as they are so versatile and yummy’.

Are you crazy about carrots? Or do you have a different favourite veg? Then post your comment below.

Terri Overett
Terri works in the e-commerce marketing department assisting the busy web team. Terri manages our blog and social media pages here at Thompson & Morgan and is dedicated to providing useful advice to our gardeners. Terri is new to gardening and keen to develop her horticultural knowledge.

How to grow fuchsias

There are few plant groups that are as diverse as the fuchsia. These exotic looking beauties are firm favourites for their pendant flowers in a wonderful range of colour combinations. Fuchsias may be deciduous or evergreen depending on their variety and growing conditions. They’re versatile too, growing happily in sun or semi shade. These hard working shrubs will flower virtually all summer long, filling borders, beds, window boxes, hanging baskets and patio containers – in fact, they will bring colour to almost any position that you can think of.

FuchsiaHow to grow Fuchsias

Pot up fuchsia plug plants using a good quality, well drained compost such as John Innes No.3, and grow them on in warm, frost-free conditions. Trailing fuchsia plug plants may be planted directly into baskets, window boxes and containers. These should also be grown on in warm, frost free conditions until they are well developed.

Pinch out the growing tips of each plant while they are still small to promote bushier growth and more flowers. When all risk of frost has passed, gradually acclimatise fuchsia plants to outdoor conditions over a 7 to 10 day period, before moving them (or planting them out) in their final positions. Watch our helpful video to learn how to pinch out Fuchsia stems.

Fuchsias are very versatile and can be grown in sun or semi shade in any fertile, moist well drained soil, although they will appreciate some shade during the hottest part of the day. Choose a position that offers shelter from cold, drying winds.

When growing hardy fuchsias in the ground they are best planted so that the base of the stem is 5cm (2″) below the soil surface. This will help to protect the crown of the plant during cold winter weather.

Feeding and watering fuchsias

Water fuchsias regularly to maintain moist, but not waterlogged conditions. Fuchsias that are grown in containers will need frequent watering depending on the size of the container and weather conditions. Hanging baskets should be watered at least once a day during hot summer weather. Fuchsias that are planted directly into borders will become more self sufficient once established.

Although many fuchsia plants are naturally floriferous, it is well worth feeding them every few weeks throughout the summer, especially those grown in hanging baskets and containers. Use a soluble fertiliser such as Chempak Fuchsia Feed. Regular feeding will encourage an endless supply of flowers and frequent deadheading will also prolong the flowering period.

Sue Sanderson
Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman’s nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online. I have a keen interest in drought resistant plants and a passion for perennials, particularly hardy Geraniums. I’m a regional secretary for the International Plant Propagation Society which gives me lots of opportunities to see what other horticulturalists are up to in their nurseries and gardens.

How to get an Allotment – with Michelle Stacey

michelle stacey Hi, my name is Michelle and I was a contestant on BBC2 big allotment challenge 2014, and also BBC1 allotment wars. I have my own allotment and have done for 5 years now, the lovelies at Thompson & Morgan have asked if I would like to write an allotment blog, so I thought we would start right back at the beginning.

When applying for an allotment you need to contact your local council offices parks and gardens department. They will inform you of your nearest allotment site and availability. You can choose whether to apply online or they will send you a form in the post. Waiting times vary from site to site, I was really lucky I only waited for 4 weeks for my allotment but unfortunately for some sites people can wait for years. Sizes of plots vary massively. The traditional method of measuring an allotment is in rods, perches and poles an old measurements dating back to Anglo-Saxon times. Ten poles is the accepted size of an allotment that’s the equivalent of 250 square meters. A rod was used to control a team of oxen when working the land and measures 5.5 yards.

michelle staceyThis translated into more modern terms as 10×5 x 5×5 as an area required to produce enough vegetables to feed a family of 4 for a year, obviously a rough guide as every site is different.  I measure my allotment in ft. it works out at 120ft long and 30ft wide all this measuring fuddles my brain! Whatever space you end up with finally you always learn to maximise. When you’re weeding and digging your allotment, it always feel like you have too much space. But when you’re planting, it feels like you don’t have enough. I still remember the over excitement of receiving my letter to say plot 4b had been allocated to me, I was to meet the site rep and he will show me round. Of course I arrived on site trying to keep excitement in check. To start with I only had half a plot which is 50ft x 30ft covered in bramble 6ft high in some spots, and couch grass (a gardeners nightmare), none of that mattered to me and I couldn’t wait to get started. After much preparation I was fully equipped with a spade, fork, rake, sheers, gloves and wellies. I was ready to go to war with my plot.

This is a very small part of my allotment now, in my next post I will tell you how I went from bramble and mess to a fully productive plot.

Michelle Stacey
Hi my name is Michelle, I was a contestant on BBC2 big allotment challenge 2014, and also BBC1 allotment wars. I have my own allotment and have done for 5 years now, so I will be discussing all things allotments from locating to preparing with you.

A year in the greenhouse – Amanda

Hello everyone, my name is Amanda and this is the first of what I hope will be one of my many blogs for Thompson & Morgan. I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. It’s situated at the top of a hill and literally a five minute walk from the Cleddau Estuary. Being so close to the Irish Sea means that we get mild temperatures in the winter, however we also have to cope with the very strong salt-laden westerly winds that can blow up at any time of the year.

I started gardening later in life, for a few reasons, they are in no particular order but I would like to share them with you.

The first reason is for my physical and mental wellbeing. As I was born with a congenital heart disorder, and didn’t want to pick up any germs, I was a little scared of gardening. Especially as a youngster – but over the years I have realised gardening is actually very beneficial. It’s a great form of exercise, it is approved by my cardiologist to help maintain a healthy weight, keep muscle tone and improve lung capacity. It helps to reduces stress, it gets me outdoors, even in the winter, and I can enjoy super fresh fruit and veg, knowing exactly where it comes from and how it was grown. Which is to say, two minutes from my kitchen and mostly organic.

I’m not sure if using water from our four foot fish tank to drench the garden is classed as organic because of the colourings that go into fish food but the plants seem to like it. I do not water the plants that are eaten raw, just the potatoes, rhubarb and pretty flowers. Has anyone else used water from a fish tank to feed their plants? I have a feeling that I read something that said goldfish water is a good fertiliser, but I can’t remember where I read it.

a year in the greenhouseThe second reason I garden is because I wanted to learn a new skill.  I didn’t think I would be very good at growing something from seed or cuttings, and I hate failing at things, but without trying I would always be wondering if it was something I could have done. Luckily Thompson & Morgan have handy growing hints and tips on their website and their products always come with detailed instructions. I started off with simple seeds like sunflowers, sweet peas and asters, then progressed onto mini plugs of more tender plants and tomatoes when I got one of those plastic pop up greenhouses. I now have a 6×6 horticultural glasshouse. After eight years or so I can now say I am okay at growing things, but I still consider myself to be a beginner. Does anyone else feel this way?

For example I can grow peppers, aubergines and tomatoes from seed every year without encountering problems. Yet, every year without fail I kill my cucumbers before they are more than a foot high.

Two years ago I tried to grow carrots, the slugs had them. Last year I beat the slugs by moving the pots around constantly, but the carrots were so small, (even though the leaves were huge) that not even a carrot fly could go to the trouble of nibbling on them. It was pretty pathetic. This is why I still feel like a beginner. I have a lot to learn.

The third reason I garden is because of tradition. My paternal grandparents ran a farm so growing crops is in our blood. Whilst my maternal grandparents worked on the land and recycled everything before it became trendy to do so – they were also fantastic cooks and grew a variety of fruit and vegetables in their garden at the back of the house and to me were able to create magical food from a surprisingly small number of ingredients. If we wanted a pudding after our meal we were told to go and eat the raspberries or suck the nectar from the nasturtiums.

Whilst the farming grandparents allowed us the freedom of playing in the barns, walking the sheep dogs, helping harvest potatoes or go running and sitting in the fields, the village dwellers who only had a small garden allowed us to collect ladybirds and caterpillars and grasshoppers and study the insect world for ourselves, so long as we didn’t break the dahlias or peony or roses in the front garden. We never played in the back; I guess we were too scared of damaging grandpa’s regimented rows of produce. Both sets of grandparents taught me lessons I would like to share in future blogs.

a year in the greenhouseThis tradition of growing is the real reason why I want to be part of the blogging community.  Almost two years ago my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I wasn’t as close to him as my brothers were as my parents divorced when I was thirteen, but luckily through gardening we were able to mend our relationship. Before his illness became too aggressive I told him I was growing potatoes in a grow bag, being a farmer he thought this was the funniest thing anyone had ever told him. He said it wouldn’t work. I saw this as a challenge and gave him daily telephone updates of the potato progress along with taking photos on my phone to show him when we visited on the weekends. I didn’t realise how pleased he was until I overheard him telling his health visitor that I had fantastic food growing in the greenhouse as well as tasty spuds.

As his health began to fail he kept asking me if he could buy me another greenhouse for Christmas, I told him it was too expensive a present and that he needed to keep his money for heating, especially as the cancer had spread to his spine and shoulder bones. I tried to keep his spirits up by having a potato growing challenge – I would grow potatoes again in my grow bags if he grew two in a large plastic pot. After thinking about it he agreed saying he was wrong to say potatoes in sacks would never grow. Sadly dad died in June 2014 two weeks before our potatoes were ready. I inherited the plastic pot with them in it and at first I didn’t want to eat the spuds as that was the last thing he grew. In the end I knew he, like my grandparents, would be mad if I let good food go to waste, so ate them and they were delicious.

Dad also left us a little bit of money – I am not someone who has to have the latest tech, or have to spend it straight away. He didn’t leave us a fortune but it was enough for me to buy a new greenhouse with, it’s a 10×6 one. He also wanted me to be like his father and keep a diary of my gardening year. I have kept diary for most years but they have just been about random bits of daily life. I had no idea my granddad kept a diary of his life and farming methods, just before dad died I had the pleasure of reading the ones he had translated from Welsh from the years 1973, 1974 and 1975. So, forty years on I want to honour my past, be grateful for my present, and look forward to my future. I want to write about a year in my new greenhouse, covering everything from its construction to first fruits. I want to record everything from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs.

My actual diary is a physical paper journal where each day I will record things like when the greenhouse was delivered, how many blocks were laid for the base, the weather, things in bloom, and the cost of compost, anything greenhouse related. I sourced my diary on the Internet as the one I wanted includes sections for each week to record things like to do lists, weather patterns and interesting gardens to visit. Each month I will give you a concise update on my progress; I will include photos of significant events, and write some hopefully interesting things. In return all I ask is if you could share some of your gardening moments with me? Please leave me anything from comments, to hints and tips to improve my gardening, or pictures of your own plot. I promise I will try to respond to each one.

Until next month – Happy Gardening!

From Amanda.

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs and share with me your gardening stories.

Climbing fuchsias

Pop along to any garden centre and you’ll probably see the same few climbers; there’ll be some straggly honeysuckle, quite a few large-flowered, dull clematis, thugs like Virginia Creeper, and so on… Surely it’s about time there was a plant that’s a bit classier, a plant that’s easier to prune, a plant your garden hasn’t seen before? Step right up climbing fuchsias!

climbing fuchsias

Introducing our new bright spark, Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’, which is the best ‘climbing’ fuchsia we’ve ever seen. Before we go any further though, remember it isn’t a true climber and won’t produce sticky pads or tendrils. But, the growth is so vertical and upright that you’ll find it virtually hugs the wall, and plants will shoot up more than 5 feet in a single season.

climbing fuchsias

climbing fuchsias

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fuchsia ‘Lady Boothby’ is the predecessor to ‘Pink Fizz’, and was actually introduced back in the 1930’s, but was never very well-known, and didn’t have the flower power to back up its vigorous growth habit. New ‘Pink Fizz’ is English-bred, and the plant represents the ‘second generation’ of climbing fuchsia, with flowers appearing on almost every internode on the plant. As you can see in the photos above, the Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’ looks amazing when planted in one of  our Tower Pots™.

‘Pink Fizz’ isn’t just a flash in the pan though- plants will not only flower from June to September, but this hardy fuchsia variety will come back every year too, as they’re hardy down to -10C. Pruning Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’ is a doddle, wait until the spring and trim your plants back by a third.

So, if one of your New Year’s resolutions was to try something different in your garden, there’s no need to look any further…!

Michael Perry
Michael works as Thompson & Morgan’s New Product Development Manager, scouring the globe for new and innovative products and concepts to keep the keen gardeners as well as amateurs of the UK happy!

Fuchsia Festival at Driftwood

It’s like a fuchsia festival every summer in my garden! I have been collecting them since inheriting 2 standard specimens from family members, one from my Aunt, Margaret Grindrod, in 2004 (plant pictured in 2005 on left) and one from my father, Ron Stonebanks, in 2007, (plant pictured in  2007 on right).  My own enjoyment of fuchsias has clearly stemmed from these very first two. Dad and Auntie Margaret can be seen, sat together in my courtyard garden in North London, back in 2003 before we moved to Bishopstone, the following year.

fuchsias at driftwood

They had been very keen gardeners themselves, so after their deaths, I needed to make sure the plants did well and lived on in my new garden here on the south coast. Dad’s, I am led to believe is an Empress of Prussia and my Aunt’s a Geneii. My mother tells me that my Dad had bought the standard Empress for their ruby wedding anniversary back in 1990. Today, I still have both their original plants and have since propagated many specimens from them to either sell on when I open for the National Gardens Scheme every summer, or indeed to plant additional specimens in my own amazing garden, Driftwood.

fuchsia winston churchillIn addition to their original plants, I probably now have over 20  different fuchsias and maybe over 50 different plants, a mixture of trailing, standard and bushes both in the ground, in pots or raised beds! Some hardy and some not! They are the perfect addition to my coastal garden and one in particular, Winston Churchill. This variety thrives really well in my front garden, which directly faces the sea and takes the brunt of the salt laden winds we have here! You can see it protected by the upturned railway sleepers acting as wind breaks.

fuchsia festivalThe back garden has been described as an exuberant yet immaculate seaside garden, split into several garden rooms. It has an eclectic palette, creating a layered tapestry of coloured plantings, beautifully integrating wooden and rusted metal features with the landscape. The heavy, dense plantings (over 600 plants) with no lawn and no exposed soil create an illusion of a much bigger garden. Fuchsias delicate and intricate blooms have always drawn attention from the 10000 plus visitors to the garden in recent years. They love a story and to hear the provenance of the plants, so the one to tell of the Empress of Prussia and Geneii, go down very well. In the picture to the left, you can see one of the Geneii here on the left an Empress on the right with magellicana versicolour centre and Quasar and Pink Temptation in the foreground and Riccartonii in the background! To the right, a flower from Empress of Prussia.

 

In 2013 Thompson and Morgan sent me some Duke of Wellington plugs and 3 are doing really well in the garden now and are very easy to grow and seem to cope well with what the weather throws at them here. As is the stunning Quasar that were sent as a trial plant in 2014. Their enormous blooms making a real statement in any garden.  I also inherited some lovely terracotta wall pots from my Aunt as well and each summer I plant them up with two of my favourite fuchsias, Pink Temptation (a bushy, trailing and floriferous fuchsia with bright, fresh looking flowers) and  Lena ( a medium-sized deciduous shrub of open habit ) They seem to flower all summer long and look so dramatic tumbling out over the wall creating a stunning display of mini ballerinas!

fuchsia duke of wellington

That said, another pretty bloom that looks great in wall pots tumbling down is Ballet Girl which I have had in the garden for the last 3 years! It really is amazing the different colour palettes to be had with fuchsias. Another pretty one we’ve had for a few years is Miss California, another that does not seem to mind the weather conditions down here on the coast! A great coloured variety that looks great in any bed, mine are grown in a raised bed and large pot, are Lady in Black with stunning dark flower heads! No matter what the type, the bees seem to love fuchsias and flock to them in the garden each summer.

fuchsia variety

Last summer I decided to create a bed dominated by fuchsias as they just do not let you down with their beautiful, long lasting displays in the garden! The 2 images above are  Ballet Girl and Duke of Wellington. Other beds last summer had  mixes of Riccartonni,  Lady Boothby, Empress of Prussia, and Lady in Black, which looked amazing all through the summer.

fuchsia varietyLast year I bought a new hardy fuchsia, Versicolour Magellicana and put one in the front garden and one in a raised bed in the back garden and both have done really well flowering prolifically until the first frosts! Here you can see it dominate the raised bed with a Quasar and Pink Temptation in the foreground.

I would have no hesitation in recommending fuchsias to any garden owner wanting long lasting and interesting colour in their garden in 2015. There are so many to choose from that there can be no question of not being able to match the colour palette you want to create.

 

So come gardeners across the UK go out and plant some stunning fuchsias for the Thompson & Morgan Fuchsia Festival 2015!

Geoff Stonebanks
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden as a base, first opened to the public in 2009, he has raised over £47000 for various charities in 4 years, £23300 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Assistant County Organiser for the National Gardens Scheme and their Publicity Officer for East & Mid Sussex. Every 4 weeks he writes an article about his garden for Garden News Magazine.

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