February 2011 Newsletter

Do you belong to an allotment club or garden society

Do you belong to an allotment club or garden society or do you have a group of like-minded gardening friends who regularly buy vegetable seeds? Then the Marshalls Garden Club may be a useful buying tool for you. It is a new scheme that is so simple to set-up and easy to operate, provides big discounts, valuable savings and great service. All we ask is that you have at least 10 members. Each club member orders directly online and manages their own payment All orders are despatched as one consignment to you, ready for distribution and individually packed to save you time. A club designed with garden clubs in mind – a simple, online bulk buy scheme taking out all the hard work for you, yet ensuring great prices for your members and great service too!

Bare-rooted fruit bushes and trees can be planted now

Bare-rooted fruit bushes and trees can be planted now while they are still dormant. Soft Fruit is always popular why not try growing a mix of different coloured raspberries? Glen coe is a lovely purple, Valentina a golden yellow and not forgetting the choice of red varieties such as Glen Ample. If you have a small garden do not be put off planting a fruit tree because you think they need a lot of space. Most modern varieties from specialist suppliers are grown on dwarfing rootstock and do not take up too much space. Fruit trees can also be trained and grown very successfully as a fan or espalier against a wall. Apples Scrumptious or Queen Cox are ideal varieties to train, as is Pear Doyenne du Comice or the New variety Humbug an unusual stripy colour. Peaches and Nectarines are perfect for growing against a warm, south facing wall.

If you would like to get ahead with early seed sowing

If you would like to get ahead with early seed sowing start now using a Heated Propagator. Tomatoes, globe artichokes, celery, early cabbage and cauliflower, lettuce and onions can all be started early with some heat and reasonable light levels. As can some summer bedding plants - varieties that need a longer growing period include busy lizzies, geraniums, petunias and nicotianas. They will need to be kept at a temperature of 21ºC (70ºF). You can also plant begonia tubers in trays of moist compost. Check tubers before planting and make sure the concave side is uppermost, lightly cover the top of the tuber with a layer of compost. Maintain a temperature of 16ºC (60ºF) in a bright position, water when the compost dries out. When shoots are 5cm-7.5cm (2in-3in) long transfer to permanent pots or hanging baskets.

If you would like to grow vegetables

If you would like to grow vegetables but haven't the facilities for sowing seeds let us do the work of sowing, pricking out and growing on for you. Marshalls Vegetable Starter Plants have been expertly grown under ideal nursery conditions to ensure well developed plants with a good root system. They will be despatched only when they are sturdy enough to be planted out ready for rapid establishment in your garden. There is a very varied range, from Artichoke, Runner Beans, Courgettes, Peppers, Celery, Cabbage, Broccoli, and many more. There are enough varieties to keep you in veg for most of the summer

Many of us have small gardens with growing space at a premium

Many of us have small gardens with growing space at a premium which may mean that we can't rotate crops as we would like. This is especially true if you grow Tomatoes in your greenhouse soil each year or in the same sunny spot in your garden. This can lead to soil sickness which in turn decreases vigour and yield although this may not be immediately noticeable.
Growing Grafted Tomatoes in these situations can have an immediate and significant effect. The rootstocks used for grafting tomatoes are selected for their ability to resist infection by certain soil borne pathogens as well as their ability to increase vigour and yield. The vigour of the rootstock means you can produce fruit two to three weeks earlier and plants can crop for longer. They are more resistant to disease both indoors and outside in a sheltered spot. If you've never grow Grafted Tomatoes you will be amazed at the health and vigour of the plants and the bumper crops they produce.

Gardening Tips
Pinch out the growing tips of autumn sown sweet pea plants

Pinch out the growing tips of autumn sown sweet pea plants grown over winter in a cold frame or greenhouse once they are about four inches tall, this will encourage side-shoots to form and produce stronger stockier, plants with more flowers. Keep the frame opened as much as possible to allow good air circulation and harden off the plants. Keep an eye open for slug damage to the young plants. Prepare your sweet pea bed by forking over and incorporating leaf mould, compost or fertiliser and allowing the ground to settle before planting.

For the earliest spring crops cover some areas of the veg plot with Fleece

For the earliest spring crops cover some areas of the veg plot with Fleece, or Cloches for a couple of weeks to raise the temperature and enable earlier sowings for extra early vegetable crops. Plan your crop rotation so that similar crops are not grown in the same space year after year. This will give a more productive plot and help to prevent soil borne diseases.

If you planted fruit trees last year

If you planted fruit trees last year it is time to begin formative pruning, this involves the early removal of any weak or crossing branches in order to develop a sturdy framework. Choose the best three or four shoots to form the main framework of branches. Remove the top shoot, if it is growing too vertically, in order to eventually obtain the best goblet shape. Shorten the selected branches by about one-third to an outward-facing bud and remove any low branches. Established trees should be pruned to an open bowl shape allowing light and air to reach all branches, remove any weak or crossing branches.
Existing soft fruit bushes should be pruned in much the same way to maintain an open goblet shape. Remove last seasons' fruited raspberry canes and tie in new stems which will produce this years' fruit.

Begin forcing Rhubarb Plants now for the earliest tender stems

Begin forcing Rhubarb Plants now for the earliest tender stems. Forcing simply excludes light from the growing crown by the use of a rhubarb forcer or just an up-turned bucket. Keeping the crowns in the dark encourages the plant to send out tender young stems, which are forced upwards looking for light. Heaping compost, straw or well-rotted manure around the forcer or bucket will generate a bit more warmth and they will start producing even sooner!
Rhubarb plants should be a couple of years old before forcing, as this process takes a lot of energy and plants are best left to establish a good root system first. Once forced, plants should be allowed to grow naturally the next season to recover their vigour. Growing three crowns allows you to force one each year in rotation thus giving you the best of both worlds and gives the forced crowns a recovery period. Stockbridge Arrow is one of the best varieties for forcing.