I hope you are all well.
These last few weeks have been really busy, April is an inspiring month. Before I set out to write this I had a quick read of my April 2015 diary and last years blog, as I was convinced that I was lagging behind in the greenhouse. However, according to my journal we had only just finished constructing the big greenhouse and we only had potatoes growing in sacks, onions and strawberry plants in the greenhouse so it turns out I’m actually a little ahead this year.
It’s hard to know where to start so I will begin by saying that my plug plants from Thompson & Morgan arrived, they include a Barnsley Baby Mallow, Nicotianas and Petunias. They have been potted on and are growing rapidly. To make room for my ever increasing seedlings, last September I sowed Yarrow, Californian poppies and nigella which have been hardened-off and planted either straight into the borders or into decorative pots. I have saved a few for mum as I like to share my plants with her in return for cookery lessons.
The September sown sweet peas have been pinched out and I would recommend reading Kris Collins sweetpea diary for some really good tips on successful sweet pea growing. The geraniums have germinated and are taking on that distinct leaf shape that makes them so identifiable. Before long they will be transplanted into pots of their own so they can establish into healthy specimens before being moved outdoors. I thought I planted a pot of red and a pot of green basil but one pot has nothing in it whilst the other has both in it! The variety shown looks really pretty together and I’m wondering if I have stumbled across a new summer taste sensation Basil Lemonade and Rubin mixed with fresh tomatoes. Has anyone else combined two basil tastes together?
Only one sunflower has germinated I’m not sure why this would be as they are in the same small greenhouse. I have sown more as these are one of my favourite plants. I’m still waiting for Malvin Mystic Merlin. I am also waiting for the Dahlia Cactus Flower, the Hot Chilli Peppers Prairie Fire, the Cycads, most of the Squashes and the Perennial Sunflower Helianthas Maximilian.
I have very recently sown two cucumber seeds, two pots of Baby Leave Lettuces, more Spencer Sweet peas, five pots of Everlasting Strawflowers, five pots of the half-hardy annual Bells of Ireland, three pots of Snapdragons, as well as several pots of Verbena Bonarienses as although this hardy perennial will happily self seed in our garden, last year the Blue Tits stripped the seeds and we have only two or three plants left out of the many we grew from an original seed packet at least six years ago. I have also sown some Asters as I love that it flowers mid summer to late autumn so it’s perfect for pollinating insects. In addition I have also taken the Begonia bulbs out of storage and put them in individual pots of compost to bring into growth.
We are really impressed with the Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’, all the seeds have germinated and there is rapid growth. I decided to plant a whole packet on the basis that they might not all grow, but I should of had more faith. Luckily I can give some plants to family and friends as well as keeping three for myself. The Aubergines have germinated and so has the Sweet Bonita Pepper. These have been moved onto the hanging shelves in the big greenhouse and they are loving their new position. Also on the shelves are the Aloes, Cactuses and Spider plants, as well as a germinated Banksia Hookerenia, I can’t wait to see how long it takes for this to grow into a decent sized plant, at the moment they have a pair of leaves that seem to be opening wider apart and getting bigger each day. I have trays of germinating seeds on the shelves too, a mixture mostly of the flowers mentioned above. What has surprised me most is that as the shelves are nearer the roof the plastic tubs stay hotter for longer, meaning that the compost warms up quicker hopefully giving the seeds a more temperate state. One drawback is though that they do dry out a lot quicker.
Also in the bigger greenhouse are the Charlotte Potatoes. They have, in the last month, grown so rapidly I cannot earth them up any more as the sacks are full. The leaves are strong and vibrant, although I am tempted to put them outside I always wait until the farmers in our neighbourhood take the plastic off their crops before I even think of hardening them off.
As I mentioned I am waiting for most of the squashes but I do have one Patty’s Pan that has grown, albeit a little weedy. Not everything has worked out unfortunately. My direct sown two dozen radishes shot up for about two weeks then died. I don’t know if it was the rapid change of temperature from cold to very warm and then back to very cold again or the fluctuating light levels. Either way they are no more. I don’t know if I will grow any more of them. I don’t have a specific veg patch in the garden so perhaps I will wait until early autumn and try them in the bigger greenhouse in pots on the shelves.
The final job we did before I wrote this blog was to decide what to do with my massive Peace Lily, Money Plant and Aloe Vera. They had outgrown their pots, and last summer I let them live outside, and apart from the Peace Lily the others successfully overwintered in the large greenhouse. Unfortunately they are now too big for the windowsills in my bungalow. My home is compact so we try not to have too many pots or ornaments cluttering the shelves. So I asked Mark if I could dig up the expired radishes in the border in the small greenhouse and settle them in the soil in there. I have no idea if this is a good idea or not, but I really didn’t know what to do with them. I didn’t want to give them away or plant them outside. I am hoping that it might make my small greenhouse look tropical and provide evergreen foliage throughout the year. I am hoping the heat they may generate will keep the seedlings warmer at night. I’m hoping it’s not a decision I live to regret!
I still have plenty of other jobs to do. I need to build my cane and string wigwam for my eating peas, keep an eye on the long term weather, as believe it or not there are sleet and snow showers forecast as well as frosty nights. I have to find and wash the bigger pots for the next stage of transplanting. If that’s not enough, I also want to keep up with all of the other cracking blogs on the T&M community page, and take a look at some of the growing guides. Whilst sorting out some DVD’s last weekend I came across the T&M E-zee Guide to planting Flower Pouches, I must watch this again as I would like to be able to gaze up at my ‘Night Sky’ Petunias.
Soon it will be May, another busy month, what with watering, thinning out, and repotting. But for now, I’m going to continue to enjoy the longer lighter evenings, pottering about after work with sieving, sowing and settling plants, sitting on a stool listening to the blackbird singing his evening song. The best things in life are definitely free.
Until next month,
Love Amanda X
Spring is on its way! Every farmer, gardener and outdoor working person will be able to identify with this, there is something in the air. One day we just step outside and the air feels and smells different. Bulbs are flowering, birds are singing and there is more heat in the sun. But it’s more than that, it’s an essence of things to come.
Amanda’s Potato Sacks & T&M Potato Sacks
My greenhouses are now filling up with fruit, veg and flower seeds that have been recently set. I love this time of year. I started out by asking Mark to find my potato sacks and give them a cold shower, so that there was no risk over overwintering pests or diseases in them that could affect my crop. After leaving the sacks to dry out in the big greenhouse until the weekend, I then set about choosing which seeds to grow. I did plan in January what I wanted, but then I changed my mind again. I do understand why garden designers say to just plant a few types of seeds with the same colour palette as it gives the garden uniformity, but I don’t like this style. I agree that it looks really effective, but to me, life is too short to just grow one type or colour of something.
So come Saturday, I sowed my potatoes and put them on the path of the large greenhouse where they will stay until the frosts have passed and they have been earthed up maybe once or twice. I also potted up some hot chillies and some mild peppers.
On Sunday I emptied everything out of the smaller greenhouse and gave it a good brush out. Mark then dug the greenhouse border over for me, pulling up a few weeds that had germinated in there over winter. Whilst he did this I took a variety of different sized pots into the house to give them a warm soapy wash in readiness for refilling.
Potato ‘Charlotte’ & Chilli Pepper ‘Poblana Ancho’
While the pots were drying I then set about sieving the garden centre compost. I enjoy doing this as its a great workout for my upper body. I place about three to five scoops of soil into the sieve and then shake it like mad until I have a fine potting compost in the tray below. The rougher stuff that is left in the sieve then gets thrown into the large borders in the bigger greenhouse, as its still good stuff just not great for the seeds. Sieving the compost also shows me what quality the shop bought stuff is like. I have bought what I thought was good value compost only to find out that it’s full of twigs and hard material and vey occasionally some clippings that seeds would not be able to push through. T&M sell incredicompost® but I have not used this as yet.
It takes me at least an hour to sieve about thirty litres of compost, it thirsty work but it’s nice in the sun. Mark is cutting the lawns so I sneak off to put the kettle on. Once inside I then look through my three tins of seeds. I am banned for buying seeds, according to Mark I have enough seeds to last me a few years. I like to have a choice though, and I always grow something new each year. Although I do have my favourites that I grow each year. These include sunflowers, peas and tomatoes.
Cycad seeds, Sunflower ‘Russian Giant’ & Pea ‘Aderman’
I am probably too methodical, but once my compost is sieved, I three-quarter fill all of the clean pots, this way I can see if I have enough compost, as it annoys me when I get to the last three or so pots at the end of the day only to find I have to drag everything back out and start sieving again.
I then put my seeds packets in order and using my seed sower device that looks a bit like a syringe I plant the number of required seeds into the pots. Sometimes I will sow the whole packet, but occasionally I just like to try a few seeds, this way if they fail the first time around, or an unforeseen change in weather kills them. I can always make a second sowing.
I start by planting three pots of Geraniums, I have not grown these from seed before so am excited to see how they differ from shop bought ones. There are eleven seeds in the packet so I put three per pot. Then I plant a single pot of Basil ‘Lemonade’, I love this herb, it’s so versatile. I also do a single pot of Basil ‘Rubin’, this is a very strong burgundy basil that I want to share with my friends and family. The Sunflower ‘Russian Giant’ are next, I plant five pots, two seeds per pot. Next is another plant I have not grown before, it’s called Malvin ‘Mystic Merlin‘ and it’s a mallow. The packet says its good for cottage style gardens and back of the borders, the flowers are lilac, purple and blue. This pack of seeds was part of a gift that I had for being blogger of the month towards the end of last year. I don’t think I have ever seen this plant before, so I can’t wait to see what it looks like. The tomatoes are next on the list. I am growing the Vegetable of the Year (2016) Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’ variety. It’s the best for blight resistance and as we had blight last year because of the warm wet summer, I am hoping I will have a much better crop. It’s also Year of the Cosmos so I plant up three pots with these seeds. Summer isn’t summer without going out into the garden and eating peas from their pods so I sow ten Pea ‘Alderman’ Heritage, they go into individual one inch pots. I never grow rows of peas, I train them up a wigwam and do succession sowing during the year. This way I can avoid the pests and crop for longer in the year.
Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’ & Cosmos ‘Xanthos’
I am eager to try a new vegetable too, so I sow three pots of Patty Plum Squash. These green skinned ones look like they would be nice stuffed and roasted. They also look good for a squash soup.
Finally I plant up my Cycads Species Mixed, again a free gift from T&M, there are only three seeds in this pack and one of them is huge as large as a fifty pence. It says they take one to three months to germinate, this is another new plant for me. I have seen them growing in botanical garden greenhouses, and I am a bit dubious about how big they are going to grow, but like I stated earlier, life’s too short to just grow one type of seed. I have a plan, that if they do grow they can stay in my small greenhouse turning it into a nursery and tropical space, whilst the bigger one can be for my fruit and veg. Mark did say if it gets too big it can always go outside, but being a greenhouse plant I don’t think it will survive. The Cycads are slow growing though so hopefully I will have few years to think about what to do with them if they actually grow.
After writing out a set labels on the back of old lolly sticks for each set of seeds, I then placed the tubs in wicker baskets and cover them with cling film to help retain heat and moisture during germination. I need to find my Dymo Machine so I can make individual labels for each pot, as I can guarantee things will grow at different times and I will move things around on the staging, and before I know it, my tomatoes will be in the garden borders and peas will be in the greenhouse, as I will have muddled the labels, or worse Mark will knock the labels off whilst watering and then I will have no idea what is what.
Just when I thought I had finished, I decided I would direct sow two dozen radish into the small greenhouse border. After all the soil was looking bare.
The above list might sound excessive but in all I only planted about thirty five pots and four sacks of potatoes. This will give me a good start and add to the plants that are now recovering from last month. It also leaves me with the opportunity to sow again later in the spring.
Petunia ‘Anna’ & Petunia ‘Night Sky’
Greenhouses aren’t just for germinating seeds though, they are a great place for bringing on plug plants, I am expecting a delivery soon from T&M of Petunia ‘Anna’, Petunia ‘Night Sky’ and my favourite Nicotiana ‘Eau d’ Cologne’. I have also ordered the shrub Barnsley Baby a Lavatera x clementii I have always fancied one of these and as it was on a special offer I could not resist. It comes in a seven centimetre pot so I might need to bring it on before it gets planted in the garden.
Greenhouses come in all shapes, sizes and prices, I started out with the plastic pop up ones many years ago, and I would recommend starting with these before investing in a horticultural one as this is a great test to see if you have the time and energy to devote to gardening whilst on a budget. My brother bought a lean to greenhouse last year, but as yet he hasn’t even built it, although he says its definitely going up this year and please can I supply him and the girls with some plants including aubergines. I hadn’t got around to sowing the aubergines.
So I now have another list of other plants that I have to grow for myself and the family, Aubergines, for my brother Sweet Peas and more Cosmos for mum, and a selection of herbs for someone at work. I usually grow loads of plants anyway so what’s a few more?
Do you end up growing more than what’s on your original gardening list or is it just me?
Until next month, Happy Gardening,
At Thompson & Morgan we know our customers demand high quality with exceptional value, which is why we have worked hard to produce a range of products which exceeds the high standards our customers have come to expect from us.
We have awarded our ‘Grow the Best’ rosette to some of our highest performing plants.
Our horticulturalists and customer trial panel carried out extensive field tests and put the plants through their paces in a variety of environments. Once the testing is completed we are given a considerable amount of feedback from our customer trial panel which without, we could not guarantee our ‘Grow the Best’ varieties with such confidence.
Potato ‘Jazzy’ & Begonia ‘Inferno’™
With this confidence we are able to offer a DOUBLE your money back guarantee if you are unhappy with any of our ‘Grow the Best’ products.
In this range of ‘Grow the Best’ we have both flowers and vegetables, with our Potato ‘Jazzy’ providing enormous yields both in the ground and in potato bags. These really exceptional second early potatoes are full of flavour and have been awarded the RHS AGM for their fantastic garden performance.
Customer favourite Petunia ‘Frills and Spills’™ Mixed’, is grown in the British climate for the British climate which means these delightful fragrant double bloomed petunias are completely weather tolerant and resilient to whatever the British weather can throw at them. The blooms are larger than normal petunia blooms, so when they cascade over the side of window boxes or hanging baskets they will provide a stunning summer display.
Fuchsia Giant Collection & Fuchsia ‘Bella Collection’
We have three varieties of fuchsias in our ‘Grow the Best’ range, the Fuchsia ‘Giant Collection’ which is our best value fuchsia. With giant frilled blooms which can flower up to 10cm (4”) across these eye-catching fuchsias will fill baskets and containers and last right through summer. Fuchsia ‘Bella Collection’ includes a range of five different varieties with some upright and bushy and others ideal for cascading; making these beautiful fuchsias perfect for almost any type of container. Our final fuchsia in this exceptional range is Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’ which produces in excess of 2,000 blooms from the beginning of summer right through until November. Outlasting almost everything else in the summer garden, this hardy shrub can tolerate temperatures down to -10C (14F), which means it can be planted to cover unsightly walls or frames and will perform better and better year after year.
Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’
Out of all the begonias we produce, Begonia ‘Inferno’™ is one of our customer favourites. Bred to perform whatever the weather it offers colour, vigour and unstoppable flower power! Perfect for low maintenance gardens and fast growing, this is one for those who don’t have much time but still want to enjoy an awesome display.
Why not peruse the ‘Grow the Best’ range as we are sure you will find plenty of the varieties are already your favourites.
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.
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
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
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’
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
No, your eyes do not deceive you! This is a plant which produces tomatoes AND potatoes. That’s a whole meal in one; ketchup AND chips!
Once thought of only as a horticultural phenomenon, the TomTato® is now a reality. Despite reports of ‘Frankenstein food’, the TomTato® is 100% natural and is created by grafting, a natural process which has been carried out on plants for many years.
Experts in the Netherlands take a baby potato plant and slice the top off it; they then do the same to a baby tomato plant, and finally clip the 2 together. Compatibility (both are members of the Solanaceae family) means that those 2 plants then grow together as one!
It took many years to get the TomTato® project just right though! We had to consider many things. Firstly, we needed an early tomato and a later cropping potato, as you don’t want to lift your potatoes and ruin your ripening tomato crop! Next, we had to make sure we chose just the right varieties; we needed a strong stemmed potato, which could take the weight of that bumper tomato fruit crop above! Plus, of course, we had to consider flavour- the tomato on the top of the ‘Ketchup and Chips’ plant is super sweet, with an exceptionally high brix content (measure of sweetness in fruit and veg), and a tangy flavour. It is remarkably high cropping too, 100’s of fruits per plant. The potatoes on the bottom are just as delicious; and can be boiled, mashed or roasted!
We launched the TomTato® to much fanfare in 2013, and twitter and facebook went mad for this crazy new food crop! Young and old were fascinated by this plant, which wasn’t just a novelty, but was space-saving, productive and exciting to grow!
Secure your TomTato® plants now for delivery next Spring. Hurry whist stocks last!
Which vegetables will store and how long will they keep? This is an annual dilemma faced by many gardeners. Often the need for storage is caused by gardeners being too generous in their sowings and planting and creating their own ‘gluts’ and ‘surpluses’. Why plant 200 onion sets if you only use a single bulb per week?
Sowing little and often reduces the wastage and ‘glut’ of the most popular subjects – lettuce, spinach, radish, spring onions, beetroots – some of these, particularly the leafy vegetables, are unsuitable for storing anyway, as they quickly go limp, lose their freshness and visual appeal. The most important thing to remember is ‘Fresh Is Best’, that is why you are growing your own in the first place – for their taste, freshness, quality and nutritional values. Freeze surpluses of shelling peas and sweetcorn, as they quickly lose their freshness and taste once picked. Frozen peas are one of the few vegetables that are worth buying in the supermarket as they are harvested and frozen very quickly so maintaining their taste and nutrition. Broad Beans, the green seeded varieties are less prone to discolouring in the freezer. French and Runner Bean varieties freeze exceptionally well.
Brassicas, winter cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kales, savoy and winter cabbage are best left where they are growing, although need to be netted against pigeons. They can be dug up leaving the soil attached to the roots and hung upside down by tying with string suspended from a beam in your shed. They will store for a good couple of months.
Storing Onions and Shallots
Lift the bulbs on a dry, sunny but windy day and leave them on the soil surface to ‘set’ skins. Do not rub these off. Carefully remove any soil from the roots, and store bulbs in slatted trays, used tights, or polyproplene onion nets, or tied in ropes and hung in the shed.
Maincrop beet, carrots, swede, turnip, parsnip can be left in the soil, although soil pests and rodents may take advantage, and prolonged severely cold soil temperatures can affect the root texture and reduce quality and flavour. We suggest lifting some of your roots and twist off the leaves and store in layers of barely damp multipurpose compost, sieved soil or sand in boxes. Keep cool but frost free. Place a blanket over the boxes to keep dark. Roots in boxes should not touch each other to avoid rots spreading and to allow easier air movement and moisture between the roots.
Leeks and Trench Celery really are best left where they are and lifted as required. Soil can be earthed further up the stems to protect during harshest weather.
Sound, dry, fully ‘set’ skin tubers are best stored in hessian sacks or thick paper bags and covered with a blanket to blank out any light. Potatoes must be stored in cool but frost free conditions in the dark and will store for many months.
Important reminders – Store only blemish free, sound good quality produce. Check these regularly and remove any showing rotting or disease symptoms. Never store in polythene as sweating will quickly encourage rotting. Sheds/ garages should be cool but frost free, although use of blankets for insulation and darkness may suffice. Ideally some air circulation is beneficial for storing most crops.