July 30, 2019
Gardening is all about planning and August is when we truly get to reap what we sow.
After all the effort put into the garden earlier in the year, now is when we gather cut flowers for the house and enjoy feasts of homegrown fruit, veg and herbs. During August we get to sit out and enjoy what we have created – it makes those blisters all worthwhile!
August is a time of plenty and when it comes to tomatoes, beans, peppers, chillies, cucumbers and of course courgettes, it is often a time of glut. So, wash out those preserving pans and Kilner jars and start to pickle! Preserving food was once essential if you were to survive the winter months when fresh food was scarce. That pressure no longer exists but many of us still prefer to make our own preserves rather than buying ones stuffed with additives.
The phenomenal rise in the popularity of gin means that many of us will be making our own this month. By which I mean buying bottles of plain dry gin (at hopefully discounted prices!) and jazzing it up with the addition of garden produce. Cucumber gin is a great favourite and so very simple.
- Peel a couple of cucumbers, slice them in half horizontally and scoop out the seeds
- Roughly chop the cucumber and pop it in a Kilner jar with the gin
- After a week spent lurking in a cool dark cupboard your gin is ready for bottling
Oh, and don’t through away the cucumber once you’ve strained it off – freeze it in a bag and plop a couple of chunks into your gin, in place of ice cubes. Delicious.
Jobs to Do
No heavy-duty jobs this month, just some gentle pottering:
- Pruning your wisteria in August will not only tidy it up but will also divert energy away from producing tendrils and into producing flower buds for next year
- Order bedding plants to brighten your autumn/winter garden
- Prune any rambling roses that have finished flowering
- Keep an eye on the level of water in your pond and top it up when necessary. This will also help to oxygenate the water
- Water, feed and deadhead. Water, feed and deadhead. And keep repeating
- Some hardy annuals can be sown now, direct in their flowering positions meaning early flowers next spring/summer
- Salad leaves can be sown this month – in fact, keep sowing and you’ll be eating homegrown salad all year round
2019 Bulb Catalogue
Our 2019 Bulb Catalogue will be available latest this month! Featuring autumn and spring-flowering bulbs, the catalogue also includes winter bedding, perennials, fruit and veg. Plus some fantastic offers of course!
Our buyers have travelled to Holland to hand-select our exciting new bulb range for 2019 – many of which feature in our fantastic £5 Bulb Offer!
Pick & Mix Bulbs – £5 Per Pack
Create your own creative colour themes with bulbs for just £5 per pack when you buy any 6 or more bulbs packs from the offer selection. Includes new varieties such as Narcissus Polar Ice, Tulip Spring Green, Iris Germanica, Allium Pink Jewel and more! Browse and buy online.
Don’t miss our fantastic competition to win a trip for 2 to see the Dutch bulb fields in Keukenhof! See page 2 of our catalogue for details.
If you’ve bought bulbs from us in the past, then a catalogue will be sent to you automatically. Otherwise please take a look at the online version or order your free print copy online.
August means sweet peas, both in the garden adorning fences and obelisks and in the home, filling vases, jugs and jars. A member of the Leguminosae family, the sweet pea is indeed a pea. The Greek name is Lathyrus odoratus meaning literally fragrant pea. Yet whereas peas are of course edible the sweet pea is poisonous and can cause convulsions, paralysis of the legs and unconsciousness.
Discovered in Sicily in the 1690s by a Franciscan monk, Brother Franciscus Cupani, the original sweet pea was a small fairly insignificant flower but with a beautiful strong perfume. Keen to share his find, Brother Cupani sent seeds to various breeders across the world. Some reached Dr Robert Uvedale in the UK who went on to develop several different forms including the well-known Cupani and Painted Lady.
Over the years, the number of species increased with perhaps one of the most famous being the Spencer type, which was a mutation discovered naturally growing in the gardens of the Earl of Spencer.
The popularity of sweet peas continued to grow and by the early 20th century reached almost fever pitch with shows being dedicated to this single cultivar and large sums of money being won as prizes.
Today there are approximately 150 species of sweet pea in a wide spectrum of colour, some with amazing perfume, some with large flowers and some with long straight stems designed specifically for cutting. There is even a sweet pee that will happily cascade down from hanging baskets.
Sweet peas are easy to grow and, providing the soil is rich, will need little maintenance. During dry spells water regularly and feed fortnightly from mid-summer onwards as this will help them to flower for longer.
The key thing with sweet peas is to stop them from forming seed pods and the best way to do this is to keep picking the blooms! Remove any seed pods that you miss and pick the blooms every other day. This way your plants will just keep on flowering and your house will smell absolutely gorgeous!
From Plot to Pot
I still remember the first time I ate sweetcorn straight from the garden. Super sweet and juicy, having had no time for the sugars to turn into starch, it was like nothing I’d ever bought from the market. Thankfully, modern super sweet varieties, such as Sweetie Pie F1 and Vanilla Sweet, have been developed to retain their sweetness for longer, but why wait?
Planted in blocks, rather than rows, sweetcorn is a fairly space-efficient crop. When the tassels have gone brown and a kernel pierced with a fingernail produces a creamy liquid, then the time has come to harvest and enjoy your sweetcorn.
The simplest, and possibly the best way to enjoy your homegrown sweetcorn is to place the cobs directly on the BBQ, having first soaked them in water for a few minutes. The kernels inside will gently steam and when ready you can peel back the husks (careful you don’t burn your fingers!) and tuck in, using them as a handle.
Other methods of cooking will require you to remove the husks first and some will ask that you also cut the kernels off the cob or to cut the cob in half. Any leftover cobs will be gratefully finished off by yours or your neighbour’s chickens!
Sweetcorn can be boiled, steamed, roasted, braised or grilled. Just remember to be generous with the butter.
Sweetcorn’s friends are:
Butter – lots Chilli Chilli sauce Lemon Lime
Tomato Onion Courgette Runner beans French beans
Celery Peppers Mushrooms Basil Parsley
Thyme Chives Bacon Ham Chicken
Seeds to Sow in August
Sow under cover:
- Spring cabbage
- Pak Choi
- Salad leaves
- Pak Choi
Many a vegetable comes into its own at this time of year when the weather can be a little cooler. If you plan carefully, the veg you sow this month will grow into delicious autumn dinner ingredients for the family. Buy your seeds to sow in August here.
Plants of the Month
Our Plants of the Month for August are these three cracking cruciferous vegetables, which are available in packs of value plugs from £6.99-£8.99!
Cauliflower Plants – Sapporo
Plant Sapporo in autumn for a late spring crop and look forward to a harvest of tasty cauliflower in April/May. This variety is extremely productive with excellent disease resistance. Its leaves will wrap around the cauliflower to protect it from sunlight in the summer and frost in the winter, keeping the cauliflower with a uniform pure white colour.
Cabbage Plants – F1 Winterjewel
Who says you can’t keep growing in your garden during winter?
Winterjewel displays exceptional winter hardiness and resistance to bolting, so you can look forward to delicious spring greens and compact 8oz heads. Lovely veg to grow during the winter and harvest in the spring.
Broccoli Plants – F1 Stromboli
There’s nothing more satisfying than serving up a plate of winter wellness from your own garden. Stromboli is extremely productive broccoli, so you can look forward to long, tasty florets harvested March-April next year.
Order your plugs today and you’ll be harvesting creamy cauliflowers, brilliant broccoli and sensational spring greens next March-May!
July 1, 2019
Welcome to our July Newsletter
Well, what happened to flaming June? Despite the past few days, it’s been a dreadful June for many of us although it did make a bit more effort towards the end. Not just wet but also chilly and our poor plants have been sitting with damp cold bottoms and no motivation to grow. The one positive being that we haven’t needed to spend much time watering. We can only hope for better things in July, so keep those fingers and toes tightly crossed.
July is when we (hopefully) get to eat the edibles that we’ve grown and to fill our vases with colourful blooms. True satisfaction and pleasure can be gained from a delicious meal of homegrown fruit and veg eaten outside in a well looked after garden with a vase of sweet smelling, freshly picked annuals adorning the table.
Jobs for July
- Give sweetcorn a gentle shake to help spread the pollen
- Remove duckweed from ponds and keep the water level topped up. It’s surprising how much water will evaporate during a sunny spell
- Tie in climbers and stake dahlias and other tall plants to prevent them flopping
- Maintain a consistent watering and feeding regime, remembering that different varieties of plants will have different needs and that plants growing in pots will need a little extra
- Keep up the fight against slugs, snails and other pests. Encourage birds and other wildlife into the garden and they’ll lend their support
- It can get very hot in the greenhouse, so leave the door and vents open and consider applying shading paint or similar. Damping down the floor with a hose will help to reduce the temperature and increase humidity
- Pick cucumbers as soon as they’ve reached the right size for the variety and are still nice and firm. A slice of cucumber in a G&T makes a lovely change to the traditional lemon
- Keep picking courgettes to encourage the plant to keep producing. Share with friends and neighbours until they beg you to stop!
- Carefully lift and then dry and store your garlic. If you fancy plaiting them, leave the stalks until they are dry but not brittle
- Sorry, but early this month you will need to stop harvesting rhubarb. Apply a layer of mulch or compost and leave the crowns to recover ready for next year
As you harvest your new potatoes, peas, garlic and beans you will be creating space for new crops. Seeds to sow in July include:
From Plot to Plate
Babies are apparently left under gooseberry bushes, so watch out for one when you go to pick your crop this month. Also remember to wear gloves, as they can be pretty spikey – the gooseberry plants, not the babies.
Low maintenance and long-lived, it is strange that gooseberries aren’t more popular. They are hardy, fairly disease resistant and will grow happily in any soil. And of course, the real joy is gained from the gorgeously sweet/sour fruits that you will be picking and eating this month. Providing that the blackbirds don’t get there first!
To keep your gooseberry plants happy, plant them in a sunny, well-drained spot. They will welcome a feed in spring and an application of mulch. Apart from that, they will just need a drink in dry weather, a tidy up in late July/early August and a prune when dormant.
Traditional gooseberry plants were fairly sprawling and space hungry, which may account for their lapse in popularity, but modern varieties can be trained as standards or cordons. These space-saving growing methods mean that gooseberry plants can have a place in most gardens.
Gooseberry fool, gooseberry crumble and gooseberry pie are oldies but goodies. However, gooseberries can also be enjoyed in many other ways. Focaccia bread studded with gooseberries prior to baking makes a wonderful sweetish partner to strong cheese. The sweet red desert varieties are lovely eaten raw, as you would grapes.
The flavours of elderflower and gooseberry work amazingly well together. So, when you are cooking with gooseberries, splash some of that fabulous homemade elderflower cordial in and it will make the dish even tastier.
Gooseberries work well with:
Lemon Blueberry Cream Yoghurt Cinnamon Ginger
Saffron Honey Mackerel Almonds Hazelnuts Elderflower
Now is a good time to apply some fresh compost to any pots containing tomato plants. This will add much-needed nutrients and encourage new roots. To get the most from your plants, do keep your watering consistent and feed weekly with high potash fertiliser. Keep removing side-shoots from cordon tomatoes. Most importantly, pick and enjoy!
It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”
– Lewis Grizzard
Offer of the Month
F1 Summerlast: 3 x 2-litre potted plants for £15!
Or 1 x 2-litre potted plant for £7.99
A new blight-resistant tomato that everyone can grow!
- Perfectly sized for patios
- Crops throughout the summer and into autumn
- Produces a good crop of large cherry-sized fruit
- Sweet fruits – great to snack on or for salads
- Stay green trait, so their leaves won’t turn yellow
Buy your F1 Summerlast plants while stocks last!
Understandably, there is a great interest in bees and other insects right now, with huge concern about the drastic reduction in insect life. Who remembers having to regularly clear the car windscreen of splattered insects? An unpleasant task that is now rarely (if ever) required.
Whilst doing what we can to encourage and help insects in our gardens, let’s not forget the other wildlife. Birds, frogs, toads and hedgehogs are all the gardener’s friend, as is the much over-looked worm.
There are several thousand different kinds of worm but those we see most often in our gardens are segmented earthworms. The richer your soil is in organic matter, the more worms you will have and they will tunnel hard, mixing and improving the soil whilst munching on live and decaying vegetation and turning it into hummus.
- There are many different species of earthworms and they range in size from 10mm to 3m!
- Worms create their tunnels by taking some of the soil into their bodies, pushing through and then secreting that soil as worm casts on the surface
- To help them move easily through their soil tunnels, worms secrete a slime and this slime contains and releases useful nitrogen
- Being an underground creature, worms like the dark. And although they don’t have eyes, worms are sensitive to light – if they cannot escape it, bright light will paralyse them
- If their skin dries out, worms will die, so they prefer damp soil. However, if the soil becomes waterlogged worms will drown. This is why, when it rains heavily, they push up to the surface. This is also why birds peck and stamp at the soil surface, to simulate rain – the worms pop up and are promptly eaten!
- Worms’ constant tunnelling not only mixes the soil but also increases the amount of air and water in the soil, thus improving it
- Most earthworms in our gardens live for 2 to 4 years but, under controlled conditions, they can live as long as 8 years
- Earthworms exist on every continent apart from Antarctica
How About a Wormery?
If you are keen to compost your kitchen waste, how about investing in a wormery? They are environmentally friendly and a great way to produce your own fertiliser and liquid feed. For your wormery, you’ll need brandling or red worms (not earthworms). These little chaps are brilliant at quickly turning green matter into compost and so are perfect for a worm city.