Potting on tomato plants

Tomato seedlings

I have just potted on thirty six tomato seedlings of seven varieties. Mountain Magic for its blight resistance, Country Taste for those big tasty fruits, Sweet Aperitif and Sungold for the delicious little mouthfuls, Red Alert a bush tomato that fruits very early on the bench outside and San Marzano for the best tasting pasta sauce to see me through the year.

I also spent some time in the sunshine yesterday digging bean trenches and filling them with compost from the heap, it will have time to settle before putting in the canes.  The chickens enjoyed that, pulling out a few worms, wireworms, ants and those tiny black slugs that only they seem to see.

water wizard nozzleMore compost was laid on the flower beds around the herbaceous perennials and shrubs to help keep down the weeds and retain moisture. We do have very dry summers here in East Anglia and every drop of water is precious.  Three IBC (Intermediate Bulk Container) tanks with a watering system attached are in the fruit and vegetable garden but the flowers have to fend for themselves so mulching is a great help.  We channel all our surface water collected in water butts to a large underground storage tank and from there it can be pumped into the IBC’s throughout the season.  How lucky am I to have a very practical husband!

 

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

T&M catalogues come alive with augmented reality

Always striving to provide gardeners with the very best customer experience, Thompson & Morgan is now able to offer its customers a new interactive element to its catalogues. Working in conjunction with Layar, a global leader in augmented reality and interactive print, T&M’s products are coming alive in the pages of its plant catalogues this spring.

Easy to use and extremely user-friendly, Layar is the world’s most popular platform for augmented reality. The company aims to ‘bridge the gap between the print and digital worlds’ – meaning that their technology can make printed images ‘come alive’ on the screens of our smart phones and tablets.

Since launching the Layar facility in January of this year, Thompson & Morgan has noticed that an increasing number of its customers are using Layar to view pages in its spring catalogues and are enjoying the new interactive digital experience.

Once customers have downloaded the Layar app onto their smart phone or tablet, they can scan the pages in the T&M catalogue which display the Layar logo. The scanned page then comes to life! Users can tap their device’s screen to view ‘how to’ videos and photo galleries; to buy products; to contact Thompson & Morgan and to share content on social media.

If it all sounds a bit sci-fi and techy and like something from a film starring Tom Cruise, then go to www.thompson-morgan.com/layar for more information and tips on how to get the most out of this fantastic technology.

Thompson & Morgan’s marketing services manager, Clare Dixey said ‘We’re really excited to be offering an augmented reality experience to our customers. T&M is keen to stay abreast of developments in technology which can provide our customers with an enhanced experience. We’re aware that not all of our customers will use the facility, but we’re noticing a good number of customers are enjoying the added content and ease of browsing and ordering’.

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!)

Chickens, slugs and clearing up the vegetable plot

Theresa's Garden

The vegetable garden is looking a little sorry for itself at the moment.  The last of the winter roots and leeks and brassicas are waiting to be harvested and there are a few weeds showing now.  Nothing that a dry, sunny winters day cannot sort out. I have heavy clay soil so I use long planks resting on the side of the raised beds to work on to prevent compacting  the soil, which has had some good productive frosts this year breaking up the clods.

broad beans, garlic, shallots

The autumn planted garlic and shallots have benefited from  the frosts as well and are looking good. So too are the autumn sown Aquadulce Claudia Broad beans.  I always get a nice early crop which means some for us and the rest for the freezer and the ground can then be used for the spring onionslettuces and radishes which I plant in the spaces between the old bean stalks that stay in the ground making nitrogen nodules on their roots to feed the brassicas next year.

I am eagerly awaiting  the arrival of my potato tubers, egg boxes are ready for chitting on the conservatory window sill, The ground for these will be dug over after the last red cabbage and sprouts have gone.

The garden has suffered with plenty of slugs over the last couple of years so I am very diligent about cleaning up leaves weeds and old plant stems where they like to hide.  Any that I do find go straight into the chicken run where they are devoured with relish!  Chickens are very good re-cyclers, they love all the outside leaves from the brassicas , swede tops and fallen fruit which they instantly turn into quality manure which is added to the compost along with the nest box material and newspapers I use to line their sleeping quarters.  My reward lovely fresh eggs every day to share with family and friends.

sowing, propogating, thinning out

Seeds for the season have arrived so I must dust off the propagator to set the peppers and tomatoes at the end of the month. How quickly it all comes round!

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

Spuds up? T&M’s are down!

charlotte potato

With spud prices set to soar for retailers and consumers, Thompson & Morgan brings down the price of seed potatoes and repeats its mantra to ‘grow your own’.

According to sources such as the Financial Times (Feb. 3 2017) and London-based data firm, Mintec (30 Jan. 2017), UK potato prices are up 30% year-on-year due to a decline in production.  Their figures show a reduction in UK potato output for 2016/17 of 5%, whilst yields for the 2016/17 season are estimated to be down 8% on last year due to adverse weather conditions seen throughout the growing season.  At 5.2 million tonnes, the total UK potato crop was the fourth smallest on records going back to the 1960s. (AHDB Potatoes analysis)

However, while retailers and consumers keep a keen eye on rising potato prices, horticultural mail order company, Thompson & Morgan has brought its seed potato prices DOWN for the 2017 season. As an example, the firm cites one of its most popular potato varieties, Lady Christl. Last year, a bag of 60 tubers of this favourite, creamy-fleshed, easy-to-grow variety was selling for £12.99; this year a 4kg bag containing 64-72 tubers is selling for £9.99 – that’s a per tuber drop in price of 23%!

potatoes being harvested“I really urge people – gardeners or not – to have a go at growing their own potatoes”, says Colin Randel, Thompson & Morgan’s resident potato expert. “Not only does it look likely that potato prices will go up in the shops, but you know what you’re eating when you grow your own. There’s no need to worry about the pesticides, the food miles, the months spent piled up in storage – you just dig up tasty, wholesome spuds from your garden or allotment”.

And you don’t even need a garden or an allotment; you can easily grow potatoes on your patio or balcony. There really is nothing like the satisfaction of tipping a crop of home-grown potatoes out of a handy grow bag just in time for supper.

 

 

 

For Thompson & Morgan’s full range of potatoes, go to http://www.thompson-morgan.com/potatoes-inspiration and for tips on growing potatoes at home, look at T&M’s handy guides How to grow potatoes in the ground, How to grow potatoes in bags and Potato Selector Guide.

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!)

Anyone out there looking for left hand gloves?

Gloves

Why oh why don’t they make gardening gloves reversible? Being right handed I have a drawer full of superfluous intact left hand gloves as all my right hand ones get ripped and worn with monotonous regularity. As I value my nails I opt to double glove, that is, to don surgical gloves first (well, I do come from a medical family) followed by fine weave gardening gloves with reinforced palms and fingers. I find this way I can actually feel what I am doing! But it seems such a waste to throw a whole pair away just because one glove has had it. So if there are any dainty size 6½ left handed gardeners out there in need of spares please do get in touch!

And so…….Spring is here, that is if you are of the meteorological persuasion. Personally I feel like that’s cheating and am opting for Monday March 20th before I celebrate the demise of Winter. But the frogs are definitely in the first category! Having sluiced out the fermenting rill (oh boy did we stink; even after our clothes had gone in the wash the smell lingered on in our olfactory senses) we decided not to refill it straightaway. (Why not, David? You still haven’t given me a viable explanation.) So when David came running in from the garden a couple of days later, lamenting that it was, “Too late, too late”, I wondered what on earth had happened. I should have put two and two together when the previous evening friend Lesley reported hearing strange throbbing noises whilst sneaking a fag on the patio, during our pancake eating Shrove Tuesday Book Club: Frogspawn in the rill! One centimetre of rainwater was all the encouragement they needed. So now what? Do we gently fill it up and hope the frog spawn rises with the tide, or run the risk of evaporation if we leave it be? And how would they climb out? Eventually, having watched a group of five milling around (is that what they call it in polite society?) amongst the frogspawn, David came up with a makeshift ladder cut from a piece of tongue and groove floorboard. They queued up to use it but slid down again, so he then applied a piece of fine grade abrasive anti-slip tape. Lo and behold, off they went to find fresh fields, croaking away happily…..

frogspawn

Accident prone as ever, I dove into the flower bed to prune a clematis, only to catch my toe on the irrigation pipe coming out, and landed knee to shin on the stone path. Dear me, the air was blue and so were the bruises! Undeterred I soldiered on (back of hand to forehead) until rain sent me under cover. Oh the inevitability of my seed sewing failures: Basil nothing, leeks eaten by mice (you’ve overstayed your welcome folks), broad beans etiolated under protective tray cover, sweet peas dying of thirst. However all is not lost. I have managed to prick out three each of T & M tomato Garnet & Indigo Cherry Drops but alas no sign of Artisan Mixed. Perhaps a few cells of tomato Mountain Magic will produce better results. So the next lot of greenhouse sowings for March are as follows:

Sweet pepper Gourmet
Pepper Sweet Boneta
Courgette de Nice a Fruit Rond
Nasturtium Troika Spotty Dotty (surely these can’t go wrong)

And then there is the allotment. When it comes to The Good Life I am definitely a fair weather gardener. My first visit since last November was relatively painless. Hardly any weeds, a few brave broad bean seedlings valiantly growing away in splendid isolation. So I achieved my objective of pruning the blackberry hedge and the strawberry patch, with the welcome help of the allotment tortie cat. Originally from an adjacent semi, said cat opted for the outdoor life by adopting a plot holder who now provides bed and board. He feeds her twice a day and makes alternative arrangements in his absence, and has provided shelter in his shed with access via a cat flap. She has the hump right now because the local vixen has taken up temporary residence whilst in confinement with her two cubs. Obviously I didn’t hear this from her (!) but she did share my hessian ground sheet for a good hour, purring away as I struggled with the thorny brambles. (Who’s the mug here?) Anyway I digress. On my next visit I shall sow T & M Pea Terrain and Pea Eddy direct: I always surprise myself with the success of peas and beans. I have decided that I shall relocate the T & M tree lilies from the front garden to the allotment, to join the existing half dozen four year olds that flower so profusely you could see them from space. As I can’t grow them at home (as all parts of lilies are poisonous to cats) I might as well enjoy them on the plot. I wonder if the dahlias Fox Mixed and Trebbiano have survived, this being the coldest winter since transferring them three years ago. Plenty of daffs coming up though, good for cutting. All the flowers and bulbs on the allotment are from previous T& M trials, which reminds me that I have been on the Plant Triallists’ panel since its inception in 2010.

dahlias peony tree lili

So with the growing season well under way, David and I have really got stuck in. Clearly not satisfied with the mess created by Rill-Gate, David pressure washed every hard surface in the garden. So traumatised am I by the inevitable mud splashes and sodden border edges that I won’t set foot outside until it’s all dried off and swept away. For my part, having completed all the heavy duty tasks – top dressing the borders with manure, successfully liberating T & M Tree Peony Hong Xia (2011) from its container to the pastel border, replacing aucuba with outrageously expensive cornus Kousa (and it’s not even my birthday for another month) and lifting & dividing monstrous miscanthus – I can smugly look forward to pottering about over the next few weeks. Who am I kidding; it’s almost time to hard prune the fuchsia and the hardy salvias, bring the giant cannas out of hibernation, and so the list goes on……..still, it keeps me off the streets! Love, Caroline

My first T&M blog…….

Hello Everyone. This is my first blog for T&M and I approached them because I want to try something new and grow something edible in my vastly overcrowded cottage garden.

We live in a 1920’s terrace house in North London and have a cottage garden front and back. We feel very fortunate to have a long front garden path and a back garden big enough to eat out in.

This is how it looked in 1988 when we moved in.

the garden in 1988

And this is how it looks now.

Here is a picture of the front

front garden now

And here is the back

back garden now

I fell in love with this style when I saw Geoff Hamilton on TV years ago building his Paradise Garden at Barnsdale. I was hooked. My style is to cram everything I like in to the borders and pots including scented shrubs, easy perennials, simple herbs, clematis and honeysuckle, Spring bulbs and autumn colour. Some of my favourites are hardy geraniums, pulmonaria, primroses, euphorbia of all kinds, heleniums and sedums.

Ideas for this year

So now my idea is to start small and grow something I can eat. After hours of browsing I’ve decided salad crops and maybe strawberries might be the best to start with. I don’t think I get enough sun for tomatoes and as you can see I have no greenhouse or cold frame.
Two problems spring to mind. As the borders become so abundant in summer any crops in the beds would surely get smothered. Secondly I do have to contend with rats, squirrels and pigeons running around the beds and pots. I don’t have a problem with slugs as I avoid growing anything they like to eat but if I want to grow salad crops how will I manage?

I intend to get all the advice I can from T&M and elsewhere and in my next blog I shall report my progress.

Until then, lots of research and planning awaits me but it will be worth it in the end!

Julie

 

Julie Quinn
I love the cottage garden style – it affects me emotionally where other styles I can admire and enjoy but they might not move me. Now in my sixties I only started gardening at 40 when we moved to our house with a front and back garden. To see what it looked like then and now you might like to look at my blog at www.Londoncottagegarden.com
We look out on it every single day so this garden needs to lift our hearts all year round. It teeters between abundant fabulousness and chaos. My gardening efforts aim to keep that balance but I’m against trying to control too much. I control other areas of my life but the garden gives me a place to let go and leave things alone to do their own thing.

My inspirations began with Geoff Hamilton on TV as well as Dan Pearson on TV and Anna Pavord in print. I learned some basics by trial and error and by working alongside professional gardeners who helped me. I found my style by visiting other gardens both grand ones around the south of England and local NGS ones here in North London who might share the same soil and conditions.

I look forward to sharing with you our garden through the year

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