March Newsletter 2011

If you are short of space for growing your own vegetables

If you are short of space for growing your own vegetables, but are eager to give it a try there are lots of varieties you can grow on a patio. Marshalls New Greenhouse Gro-Beds are perfect for growing on the patio as well as in the greenhouse. Each bed will produce lots of cut and come salads such as Provencale Mix, Salad Bowl or Baby Leaf Salad Mix with lots of different coloured and textured leaves, they look good as well as taste good. Tomato Tumbling Tom Red and Tumbling Tom Yellow are excellent for growing in a hanging basket! Runner Bean Hestia has been specially bred for container growing. It has stringless beans held well above the compact foliage and has pretty bi-coloured flowers too. Another very pretty bean for the patio is Dwarf French Bean Amethyst with gorgeous mauve flowers and deep purple pods. If you fancy something a bit more exotic try the baby Aubergine Ophelia, it is a very pretty plant and the glossy dark purple fruit are freely produced.

Marshalls Gro-Sacks make ideal containers for growing many vegetables as well as some delicious early potatoes – they are even deep enough to grow carrots – try Marion or Amsterdam Forcing for the earliest crops.

Herbs make great container plants, the Herb Plant Collection containing Common Thyme, Thyme Silver Posie, Sage Growers Friend, Sage Tricolor, Tarragon, Rosemary, gives you enough plants for a couple of mixed pots or a Greenhouse Gro-Bed Herb Garden to keep nice and handy by the back door. .

Shallots, Onions and Garlic

Shallots, Onions and Garlic can be planted this month provided the weather hasn't been too wet and the ground is workable. If you have ordered Heat Prepared Onion Sets they will be delivered in late March – early April, which is the ideal time to plant them out. They have been specially heat-treated for a period of 20 weeks, which helps to prevent bolting. The skin of heat treated sets is a bit darker than regular sets and they have slightly lower moisture content. They cost a little more but the increased growing period and high quality yield more than makes up for it. New Fen Globe and Fen Early will be ready a little earlier than Hyred and Hytech.

If you are a regular exhibitor at your local show you will need no introduction to Marshalls Showmaster Onions - they can reach up to 4lbs each with a just a little extra care and attention! So if you enjoy exhibiting, or would like to give it a go at your local produce show, try our module-grown onion plants. They are raised early under carefully controlled conditions to produce strong young plants ready for you to pot up into 3½inch (9cm) pots and grow on. Harden them off before you plant them out at the end of April-early May and they will produce some of the biggest and best onions you have ever seen.

Even if you don’t grow for exhibition, Showmaster is a useful garden variety, it has a mild sweet flavour similar to Spanish onion types, perfect for using raw in salads. If you prefer a standard maincrop onion but want to grow from plants rather than sets then Sturon is the one for you, slow to bolt with very good storage qualities.

If you do not have the space for a vegetable plot

If you do not have the space for a vegetable plot, would rather not give up any of your flower garden for growing vegetables, but still like the idea of home grown produce, you may like to think about planting a Potager style garden. This is a very old, French way of gardening in which ornamental fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers all mingle together. A Potager can be an informal mix of these, a bit like a cottage garden or it can be laid out in a more formal way in squares or as a knot garden edged with Lavender or clipped buxus. It is simple gardening and very easy to do. It doesn’t take a lot of extra planning to tuck some Lettuce or Chard here and there among your flowers, or to interplant Marigolds and Basil with Tomatoes.

It is the planting which is important, with attractive vegetables such as Swiss Chard Bright Lights, Runner Beans, French Beans, Carrots, Lettuce, cut and come again Salad Leaves, Beetroot and Spring Onions to name but a few, mixed with Herbs like Oregano, Tarragon, Fennel, Sage and Thyme. Intermingled with these are usually grown Marigolds, Nasturtiums, Sweet Peas and Cornflower, which in turn will encourage bees to pollinate Runner Beans, Peas and fruit such as Strawberries and Currants (all these flowering plants have edible flowers)! If you want make a permanent potager, a framework of more permanent planting can be provided by Rosemary or Lavender. Fruit trees such as Apple, Pear, Cherry or Apricots can be fan-trained and grown against a warm wall or fence to take up less space.

Spring is the perfect time to get children interested in gardening

Spring is the perfect time to get children interested in gardening they just love watching things grow and hands on activities such as sowing seeds will keep them entertained while they learn. Allowing them a little area of their own in the garden to work on and plant their own flowers and vegetables will give them a wonderful sense of accomplishment when their seeds flourish and grow. Some quick growing seeds will kick-start their interest, cut and come again Lettuce and Salad Leaves with a mix of colour, shape and texture is always a favourite. Red leaved lettuce Dazzle is a small Little Gem type perfect for kids to grow. Carrots are great favourites try the unusual Purple Haze to get them really interested and of course Radish is firmly near the top of the list.
Sunflowers are always a favourite with children, especially the very young and Poppy California Mix, Limnanthes (Poached Egg Plant) and Candytuft Dwarf Fairy Mixed will bring loads of fascinating wildlife into the garden. Children just love watering and tending the seedlings every day watching them grow.

If the weather isn’t conducive to outdoor sowing yet why not get them to sow some Micro-Leaf Vegetable seeds indoors on the windowsill? These tasty little plants are harvested as soon as the first true leaves appear, they are easy to grow and best of all they give very quick results which will surely get your children raring to get outside and grow even more vegetables!

Seed raised bedding plants are a very cost effective

Seed raised bedding plants are a very cost effective way to get a lot of plants for a small outlay. They are invaluable in the summer border, plant in larger groups and drifts for the most impact, a massed bed of Geranium Bullseye Scarlet will always turn heads. Begonia Non-stop does exactly that – it flowers non-stop all summer in pots and borders. Of course Lobelia Regatta is the perfect addition to pots and hanging baskets. A bed of Antirrhinum Liberty can keep you in cut flowers for most of the summer. Busy Lizzies are lovely in a shady situation and our mix stands up well to the vagaries of the British climate. Pot them up when they arrive and grow on ready to plant out strong little plants towards the end of May when all risk of frost is past.

If you have ordered your Basket and Patio Young Plants they will soon be arriving. The more vigorous varieties such as Fuchsia and Petunias can be planted directly into your containers but the others will benefit from potting into 3½in pots to grow on. Incorporating Water Retaining Gel Crystals and Slow Release Fertiliser with the compost will save you time and effort later in the summer. Even if the weather is mild do not be tempted to place these tender plants outside just yet. For late summer colour in both the border and the vase you can’t beat Chrysanthemums, Early Decorative Sprays will flower from mid-August providing blooms for cutting until the first frosts. Hardy Garden Mums have so many flowers they form a complete dome and completely hide the foliage! These easy plants deserve a place in any border and will pop up every spring for years to come.

Gardening Tips
If you are one of the many gardeners that struggle against Clubroot

If you are one of the many gardeners that struggle against Clubroot the scourge of the brassica grower - help is at hand! Cabbage Kilaxy and Cauliflower Clarify are two very desirable varieties that have proven to be highly resistant to most clubroot strains. Clubroot is a fungal infection causing the roots to swell into ‘finger’ like galls that interfere with the uptake of water to the plant, resulting in severely stunted growth. This horrible little pathogen can survive in the soil as ‘resting spores’ released from these galls, for up to fifteen years! Clubroot loves warm, moist, acid soil, which is why the normal recommended treatment is to improve drainage and to lime the soil prior to planting, but in a badly infected area this may only have be partially effective.

Bear in mind that Clubroot is easily spread through infected soil particles on shoes and tools. So clean and disinfect your garden tools and footwear after cultivation of any infected areas to avoid passing on the problem. Citrox is a natural garden disinfectant that can be safely used on all your tools and is effective against a wide range of bacterial and fungal diseases. It is effective on pond accessories and bird tables too. It can even be added to water butts to keep water sweet and free from disease.

Finish preparing your seedbeds incorporating plenty of compost

Finish preparing your seedbeds incorporating plenty of compost and organic matter to improve structure and drainage. Fork in a good multi-purpose fertiliser such as Marshalls Organic Extra – a super-concentrated farmyard manure which releases nutrients to the soil over a long period, boosting healthy growth and producing bumper crops, a couple of weeks before you begin sowing. It is a superb top-dressing for Fruit Trees and Fruit bushes too. When weather conditions are favourable sow Carrots, Parsnips, Beetroot, Broad Beans, Peas, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Lettuce, Summer Cabbage and Cauliflower, but be prepared to protect the beds if cold weather is forecast. In a frost-free greenhouse make the first sowings of Peppers, Tomatoes, Cucumber, Celery, Globe Artichokes and Salad Leaves.

Plant chitted early potatoes from the middle of the month

Plant chitted early potatoes from the middle of the month if the weather is fine and the soil has begun to warm up in your area. Add a light sprinkling of Potato Fertiliser or Organic Extra to your trench before you begin to plant. Lady Crystl, Foremost and Arran Pilot are among the range of First Earlies. If you are not sure which variety is best for you could try the Potato Taster Pack which contains a 1kg pack of a Salad Potato, First Early and a Second Early. When planting, handle potato tubers carefully so you don’t damage the shoots, and plant with shoots uppermost. Cover with soil and as soon as the new growth appears begin to earth up, covering the emerging shoots as they grow until they are just covered each time. Keep mounding up in this way until you have a good ridge and there is no more chance of a frost to damage the new leaves. You could cover them with Fleece to keep them warm and help give them a good start especially if the weather is still rather cold in your area.

In the fruit garden finish planting trees and bushes

In the fruit garden finish planting trees and bushes by the middle of the month. Prune out old wood on established Morello Cherries and Apricots. Blueberries do not need pruning in the first two or three years apart from keeping the plant tidy. When pruning established plants, take out any dead, dying or diseased wood and remove one or two of the oldest canes to the base each year. By removing the old stems that don't produce much fruit you encourage younger, more productive stems. Plant out Strawberry Runners and cover existing Strawberries with Cloches or Fleece for an earlier crop. Re-train and tidy up Blackberry and Hybrid Berry canes before the buds begin to burst. Apply fertiliser such as Marshalls Organic Extra – a super-concentrated farmyard manure which releases nutrients to the soil over a long period, boosting healthy growth - to trees and bushes if not already done in February and apply a mulch of compost around the base of young fruit trees, bushes and canes to conserve moisture and retain nutrients. Protect Apricot, Nectarine and Peach blossom from frost with fleece or a polythene frame – but leave the ends open so bees can find the blossom!