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!

Finally, some rain!

Theresa vegetable garden after the rain

After several weeks without any significant rain last night we had 21mm enough to create puddles and fill all the water tanks.  The potatoes have visibly grown during the day and everything looks green and healthy.

The spring onion White Lisbon and the Radish Bacchus only sown 6 days ago are up as are the Little Gem lettuce and the Lollo Rosso.  We’re looking forward already to fresh salad from the garden.

I have sown the first Parsnip Tender and True; this seems to do very well here and overwinters nicely in the ground.  I shall do another row in a couple of weeks.  The cabbage Hispi and Red Jewel and beetroot Boltardy seeds sowed in cells will be ready to go out  in about a week, then I shall do a second sowing of them as well.   The runner beans are out as they were growing very quickly, the second sowing will go out a in a few weeks to stagger the crop a little.

Peonies

The spring garden is all finished and everything is growing very fast now for the summer. Bearded iris, Peony, Alliums and Perennial wallflowers are all colouring up.  Soon it will be planting out for the bedding and tubs.  Have bought some colourful pots today and will fill them with Garden Ready plants as I do not have enough greenhouse space to grow on small plugs. The pots are destined for decorating a wedding venue in August so I have got to get that right!

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

4 steps to successful vegetable gardening in containers

No garden? No allotment? No problem. You can grow plenty of vegetable varieties in containers. Follow our 4 steps to successful vegetable gardening in containers.

As our so-called spring gets under way, we’re noticing that one of this season’s hot trends is growing vegetables in containers. Like many other aspects of our lives, this is all about maximising time, space and effort. Well aware of the health benefits, many of us are keen to grow our own vegetables, but are time poor, so we’re looking at ways to make things easier. Lots of people don’t have a huge garden or allotment, so growing in containers, whether flowers or vegetables, seems to be the way forward.

Here’s some advice on how to get the most out of your container vegetable patch so that you can enjoy that ‘fresh-from-the-garden’ taste even if you only have a small patio, balcony or roof terrace. Use these tips as your next step to fresh and delicious – and convenient – vegetables

hands in soil1. Soil  – Starting your seeds and plants in good soil is really important. If you’re using containers and pots that you used last year, remember that it’s fine to reuse the soil as long as you give it a bit of a boost of nutrients with compost and fertiliser. You should try to avoid growing plants from the same family in the same soil as last year – it’s the same theory as the crop rotation principles that farmers work to. If you’re just sIncredicrop for vegetablestarting your container veg growing experience this season, then you can’t go wrong with our incredicompost® which has been independently trialled and verified as the best overall compost for raising seeds and young plants. Using this, along with our incredicrop® fertiliser, will go a long way to giving your vegetable plants the growing environment they need to produce really good crops of tasty and nutritional vegetables.

 

2. Sun  – It’s important to consider how much sun your patio/balcony/roof terrace gets when choosing imaginewhich vegetables to grow in containers. Plants that you will pick fruit from, such as tomatoes, need a good dose of sunshine – 6 to 8 hours a day – whilst vegetables that you pull out of the ground need approx. 4-6 hours. Leafy greens can manage on just 3 to 4 hours. Don’t panic if your outdoor space isn’t graced with non-stop sunshine – plenty of edible crops will thrive in partial sun and you’ll still get a good crop. Just be mindful of keeping your plants watered and fed, especially if they ARE in full sun.

3. Size  – It’s worth considering the size of your container when you come to sowing your vegetable seeds and planting your vegetable plants.  Think about it – for some plants, you’ll need deeper pots, planters or tubs – it’s not rocket science. As a guide, for shallow-rooted vegetables, such as radishes, lettuce and other leafy vegetables, and herbs, you’ll need about 20-30cm (9-12in) of depth in your container. For medium-rooted plants, you’ll need 30-35cm (12-14in) depth and for larger plants, such as tomatoes and potatoes, you’ll need 40-45cm (16-18in) depth. Of course, there are many options when it comes to buying containers for growing vegetables – there’s a huge choice of patio planting bags which have the benefit of being easy to move and position, as well as being reusable, and they’re easy to fold down and store when you don’t need them.  Have a look at our brilliant VegTrugs™ which are just perfect for growing vegetables in!

  

vegetables in containers

4. Selection  – Most edible vegetable plants can be grown in containers, but these days there are many varieties which have been especially developed to grow in pots and containers. These varieties will be more compact – meaning that they won’t get too big – and easier to harvest. See below for some of our container variety suggestions.

 

Start your shopping list here:

TomTato® – amazing variety from Thompson & Morgan’s own breeding – tomatoes and potatoes on the same plant!

Egg & Chips® – aubergines and potatoes on the same plant! More brilliant breeding from T&M!

Courgette ‘Black Forest’ – this unique climbing courgette is a great space-saving container variety

Tomato ‘Bajaja’ (tomato seeds) – great tomato variety for growing in containers and it doesn’t require side-shooting. Try Tomato ‘Balconi Yellow’ if you prefer your tomatoes yellow – this variety makes a lovely colourful feature on the patio or balcony – and the tomatoes are very sweet and tasty too.

For another decorative and productive vegetable plant, go for the superb dwarf Runner Bean ‘Hestia’ or another dwarf bean, French Bean ‘Mascotte’.

Other varieties for container cultivation are radish, carrots, beetroot and salad leaves. And of course, many potato varieties can be very successfully grown in containers or potato growing bags

 

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!)

Tomatoes, potatoes and yoghurt pots

 

Theresa's vegetable garden

tomatoes in growing bag

The tomato plants in the conservatory have started to produce their first flowers so it is time to move them into their growing space.  I use re- useable Tomato growing bags and fill them with good quality compost mixed with some home grown compost, I like them because they give plenty of depth to plant deeply. This encourages the plants to put down extra roots which in turn makes for a stronger more productive plant. I also use collars around each plant this acts as a reservoir when you water and allows the water to seep into the bag slowly. I can fit 12 plants in the greenhouse and then have pots outside with about five more plants including my favourite bush tomato Red Alert.

The cucumbers, squash and courgettes have all germinated over the last week. I use large yoghurt pots for sowing in; this gives them plenty of depth to get a good root system going. They can stay indoors for a bit longer, until at least the end of May when we can be sure there will not be hard frost.

Having covered the potatoes last week because of the expected cold spell, they needed uncovering today, plenty of new growth so I shall be out there tomorrow ‘earthing up’.  There was a little frost damage on a few of the leaves but nothing serious.

 

We are eating fresh asparagus almost every day, if you have the patience to wait for two years it is a very rewarding crop to grow. A little weeding feeding and mulching in the winter and it will be growing for the next 15- years.

The flower beds are looking lovely, the Perennial Wallflowers with the Forget me Nots are one of my favourite sights. Two years ago I started off a Wisteria to grow into a free standing tree.  It has flowered this year for the first time and looks a picture.  When it has reached a respectable size I shall transfer it to the garden, maybe near the replacement pond we are constructing but that is another story……

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

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

Today is National Pumpkin Sowing Day!

In February, we launched April 12 as National Pumpkin Sowing Day and now that day is upon us! We hope that you’ve got your seeds at the ready – if you haven’t, there’s still time to get some – so you can get them planted and on their way.

As sponsors of the UK’s giant pumpkin growing competition each autumn at the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth’s annual event in Southampton, we decided to designate a specific National Pumpkin Sowing Day in response to the many queries that we receive around the time of the giant pumpkin weigh-in.  We thought it would be a great incentive for people wanting to try their hand at growing a record-breaker or for those simply wanting to grow a modest pumpkin for carving at Halloween.

Our commercial director, Paul Hansord, who himself sows a couple of pumpkins each year, said: “We decided to set April 12th as National Pumpkin Sowing Day 2017 and encourage people to get their seeds ready to sow on this date. We’ll show them how to sow and grow their pumpkin with useful tips and informative videos and hope someone out there might grow a pumpkin to rival last year’s winner”.

The heaviest pumpkin at last year’s giant pumpkin event weighed in at 2,252.3lb and was grown by Ian and Stuart Paton who have broken the UK record an incredible 7 times. The majority of entries to the 2016 official weigh-in at the Southampton pumpkin event were grown from seeds that came from giant pumpkins grown by the Patons. Seeds from the Paton twins’ 2016 record-breaking giant pumpkin are still available from T&M if customers want to invest in some excellent giant pumpkin genes. Go to Pumpkin ‘Paton Twins Giant’ to purchase.

RHS Hyde Hall’s Matt Oliver won the award in 2016 for the largest outdoor-grown pumpkin with a seed purchased for £1,250 by Thompson & Morgan. His pumpkin weighed in at an astounding 1,333.8lb (95 stone or 605kg) and the seeds from this aptly named ‘Matt’s Monster’ can also be purchased from Thompson & Morgan.  Matt had the crazy idea of hollowing out his pumpkin, along with some other giant pumpkins, and rowing them across the RHS Hyde Hall lake in November last year. Watch the Madcap Giant Pumpkin Rowing Race by clicking the image below

Giant pumpkin race

Whether you want try to grow a whopper or simply a modest-sized pumpkin to carve at Halloween, we are urging people to sow their seeds today.  We’ll be posting tips and updates on social media over the coming months, so be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep in touch with us, as well as with other budding pumpkin growers, using #growapumpkin

Did you know?  Pumpkin seeds are best sown on their sides

Our how to plant pumpkin seeds video guide can be found here

pumpkin seed sowing

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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