January 2012 Newsletter


Gro BedIf growing space in your garden is tight Marshalls Gro-Beds can make quite a productive growing area for vegetables and salads on a patio. The big, collapsible Gro-Bed just needs 4 canes to slide in the special sleeves at the top for rigidity. Then fill with good loamy soil or compost and you're ready to grow. They are perfect for growing a wide range of vegetables and allow intensive planting with just 4-6ins between rows and at 30cms deep you can even grow carrots. The 4 strong carry handles mean it can be moved around the garden at different times of the growing year. They make a superb container for outdoor Tomatoes and Peppers and you can repeat sow and harvest super quality salads all summer long.

Gro-Beds are an excellent choice if you have a greenhouse and want to increase productivity, the design is perfect in terms of size at 80cm (32in) long and 54cm (21in) wide, 6 will fit neatly into an 8ft x6ft greenhouse. Spring sowing can be started earlier allowing you to grow salads etc. much earlier. Using these Gro-Beds and repeat sowing means you can have crops in your greenhouse just about all year round - as many of you may remember from our stand at last years Hampton Court Flower Show where we won a Gold Medal for our unique concept!

They are perfect for Greenhouse Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Aubergines and Peppers and are large enough to under-plant these with a catch crop such as Salad Leaves, Herbs or with companion plants such as Marigolds to help deter aphids and whitefly - I had the best crop of TomatoesAubergines and Peppers ever last year by using this method of growing!

You can start autumn crops outdoors and move your Gro-Beds inside as the space becomes free and the weather turns colder. And at just £11.95 for 3 of these large bags they won’t break the bank either!

 

   

fruitFruit bushes and trees can be planted now while they are still dormant. Soft Fruit is always a popular choice and the New Strawberry Malwina was chosen as a Which Best Buy - once tasted it’s easy to see why - it has large dark red fruit with succulent red flesh and is easy to pick. New Blackberry Reuben is Britain's first Blackberry that fruits on the first year's growth. It has an upright habit with compact fruit-bearing laterals, which makes picking easier making it a garden friendly variety. Cropping from late August it will continue fruiting right up to the first frosts. The fruit is sweet and can be up to twice the size of most garden varieties.

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.

If you only have a patio Dwarf Fruit Trees are just perfect for containers, Peach Garden Lady is a self fertile, genetically dwarf variety producing beautiful pink blossom in the spring and then, in late summer, really sweet, juicy, yellow-fleshed fruit. Fruit set is normally quite heavy so it is advisable to thin them out a bit and allow the remaining peaches to mature to full size, ready for picking in early August.

   

VegStart getting children involved in growing some easy veg – they just love watching things grow – there is a whole new generation of vegetable gardeners out there just waiting for a little nudge in the right direction! Gardening gets children outside in the fresh air (and away from computer games!) and once they are interested in growing their own plants you will be amazed at how quickly they begin to learn about the food we eat and more importantly how keen they will be to eat their own produce! There are loads of varieties that are very easy and will give children quick results. Begin with Salad Leaves, lettuce, radish, carrots – Purple Haze is a good one, it has a funky purple colour and sweet flavour.

If the weather isn’t conducive to outdoor gardening growing Micro-Leaf vegetables on the kitchen windowsill is a doddle for children! What on earth are Micro-Leaf vegetables you might ask! Well they are simply vegetables harvested at a very young and tender stage in the growing process, usually at cotyledon or first true leaf stage (just like cress growing in a punnet). They practically grow before your eyes – quick results always spark an interest with children!

 

   

potatoBegin chitting your seed potatoes once they arrive by placing them in a tray with the ‘rose’ end - the end with most ‘eyes’- uppermost ( included with your potato order this year will be a free chitting tray to help keep them upright and stable).

Keep them in a cool, fairly light position but avoid direct sunlight (don’t put them in the dark - this will only produce pale spindly sprouts and weak growth). Shoots will begin to form in a few weeks and the tubers will be ready to grow away as soon as they are planted. Do not plant before March in sheltered Southern areas or April for chillier parts of the country, unless you have warmed the soil and can give some protection against frost.

There are some very good new disease resistant varieties for 2012 such as Robinta, a very productive red skinned variety and Setanta which has good foliage and tuber blight resistance

 

   

tomatoesGrafted Tomatoes were such a success for our customers last year that we trialled more vegetable varieties and the results were so good that we have increased our range of Grafted Vegetables for 2012. Included this year are Aubergine, Pepper and Cucumber.

Grafted Vegetables are much more vigorous, producing larger, stronger plant that are less susceptible to nutritional disorders. They have a greater resistance to pests and diseases, will produce fruit earlier (by two to three weeks) giving high yields of top quality fruit over a longer period compared with normal plants.  They are particularly recommended for greenhouse growing especially when planted directly into the soil when crops can’t be rotated as we would like.

Growing Grafted Varieties in these situations can have an immediate and significant effect. The rootstocks used for grafting are selected for their ability to resist infection by certain soil borne pathogens as well as their ability to increase vigour and yield. If you’ve never grow Grafted Vegetables you will be amazed at the health and vigour of the plants and the bumper crops they produce!

 

   

Firestorm Runner BeansIf you are thinking of trying something new for 2012 have a look at the New and Exclusive Runner Bean Firestorm. This is a red flowered bean and has the same great breeding as Runner Bean Moonlight (white flowered) which was one of the best new beans for years and has many of the same attributes – self pollinating, stringless and succulent with a superb flavour, the flowers set well even in poor weather or high temperatures. This is sure to be a popular heavy cropping customer favourite.

If French Beans are your favourite check out the beautiful Climbing French Bean Purple Cascade. This caused quite a lot of interest on our stand at Hampton Court Flower Show last year, it has very pretty purple flowers and lovely tender purple pods – it’s pretty enough to grow in the flower border!

Also new this season is  the delicious round Courgette Piccolo. Plants produce an abundance of nearly round green striped courgettes – a perfect shape for kebabs – they can also be left to mature into small round marrows perfect for stuffing.

If you enjoy pickling onions give the new Gherkin Partner a try, it pickles perfectly and can also be eaten fresh for salads.

 

   
   

RhubarbBegin 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.

Rhubarb Champagne is considered the ultimate variety for forcing, with it’s slender pink stems and sweetness it is a delectable variety loved by many fancy chefs!

 


seakaleSeakale can be forced in just the same way as rhubarb, and will produce lots of tender, creamy-white stems but unlike Rhubarb it can be forced in the first season. You won’t find this unusual vegetable in supermarkets but growing your own is so simple - it is actually a UK native hardy perennial which can be found growing above the high-tide mark along many of our coastlines.

Seakale is quite a pretty plant in its own right, with fleshy, glaucous leaves and abundant white flowers, so it has good ornamental value too! Once forced the tender, blanched stems can be cooked and served like asparagus.

 


FruitIf 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.

 


leftPinch 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.

 


Raised BedIf you are thinking of using raised beds for growing your veg, begin planning now while there is plenty of time to build them, you can fill them with all the lovely compost you have been making over the last year!

There is no need to go to the expense of filling the beds right up with bought compost, this is expensive and - unless your garden soil is really poor - unnecessary. The level will increase and the structure improve year on year as you empty your own compost onto the beds and the worms get to work.

Using spent compost from grow bags, patio pots and hanging baskets will all add bulk and improve the quality and structure of the soil within your beds. And the very fact that you don’t need to walk on the soil with Raised Bed gardening will help prevent compaction and keep the structure well aerated.