April 2012 Newsletter

Water ButtWith water in reservoirs at an all time low investing in a Water Butt makes perfect sense. It seems such a waste for all that lovely rain water to pour off our roofs and be lost in the ground when many of us are facing a hosepipe ban! A good Water Butt can make all the difference to our gardens during times of drought. Any building that has a gutter can be fitted with a Water Butt whether it’s a garage, greenhouse or even a garden shed, they are so simple to install and it’s amazing how quickly they will fill up. So be prepared this summer don’t lose your precious plants to a hosepipe ban - install your Water Butt before it kicks in!

There are other ways you can help your garden during periods of drought, adding Water Retaining Gel to the compost for all your hanging baskets and containers, putting a saucer under patio containers which prevents excess water running away saves water and time. Add a mulch such as fine gravel, to the surface of containers and hanging baskets after planting to trap moisture and help prevent evaporation.

Use the ‘grey water’ from your bath and kitchen to water your plants. After planting in your veg garden and borders mulch the soil with a thick layer of compost to help retain moisture and prevent evaporation or plant through Weed Control Matting which helps moisture retention as well as keeping down the weeds. Adding lots of organic matter to the soil when planting improves the soil's structure helping to retain moisture.


Greenhouse crops can be started in earnest now, they really benefit from the longer, warmer days and higher light levels.  Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Sweet Peppers, Chillies and Aubergines can all be sown in a frost-free greenhouse. Wait until they have their first true leaves before you prick them out, pot on into 3 inch pots and do not allow them to dry out. Standing the pots in a seed tray or on capillary matting will help keep them moist, Shuttle Trays have 18 x 3 inch terracotta-coloured plastic pots specially made to fit securely inside the trays keeping pots stable and make it easy to move plants around for maintenance and when planting out.

If you are gardening  in the north of the country bear in mind you may need to sow two or three weeks later, be led by the weather and the condition of your soil, not what it necessarily says on the packet. Don’t be tempted to transplant your young plants outside too early. Harden them off well and do not leave outside overnight until you are sure the overnight weather will not damage them.

VegEncourage bees and pollinating insects into your garden by planting nectar and pollen rich plants close to your vegetable plot. The best habitat has a range of plants to provide a succession of nectar and pollen rich flowers throughout the summer which in turn will attract the biggest range of pollinators to your garden.

Many perennial plants are excellent nectar providers, plants such as Verbena bonariensis, Rudbeckia Goldsturm and Agastache are all great favourites with bees and butterflies.

Bumblebee Margin Mix contains Borage, Phacelia and Essex Red Clover – all of which are a real magnet for bees they can have a huge effect on improving pollination and crop yields. Hardy annuals such as Calendula, Scabious, Larkspur, Nasturtium Cornflowers and Poached Egg Plant (Limnanthes) can all be sown direct into the space you want them to grow and will also help local bee population.  

Herbs are a magnet for bees and pollinating insects, grow them as a mix in a large pot or in individual pots. Of course they also make excellent plants for the border. The lovely blue flowers of Borage are irresistible to bees and butterflies. Try putting a Borage flower in each section of an ice cube tray, cover with water and freeze, they look gorgeous in summer drinks! My absolute ‘must have’ summer herbs include Chives – even the flowers are edible and look fantastic in salads - Coriander, Oregano and Basil of course. Thyme and Parsley are a necessity.


potatoThe simplest patio or garden can be transformed by the clever use of containers. You don’t just have to use flowers in containers. There are many fruits and vegetables which will grow very well too. Tender varieties such as Aubergines, Tomatoes and Peppers make very attractive plants and can be grown in a sunny sheltered place during the summer. You don’t even have to sow the seeds, our Vegetable Starter Plants are grown in individual modules so you can be sure they have been given the very best start in life on our nursery. They are well rooted plants, ready for you to pot on.

Grafted Vegetables make excellent patio plants, they have been grafted on to a hardy base plant and produce stronger plants less susceptible to nutritional disorders and have a greater resistance to pests and disease.

Marshalls Gro-Bed has been such a popular introduction - it is as at home on the patio as it is in the greenhouse and is perfect for a multitude of plantings. It is great for growing a variety of herbs, vegetables and salads and is great for Tomatoes and Strawberry plants.


BeansThe soil is really warming now so Runner Beans and French Beans can be sown outside in situ. Make further sowings of Carrots, Beetroot, Summer Cabbage and Cauliflower, Leeks, Radish and Salad Crops too. If you made an earlier sowing of Salad Leaves, Spring Onions or Radishes there may be some large enough to use already, don’t leave them until they are full size – the secret is to start harvesting as soon as you can - that way they won’t run to seed before you have time to eat them all. Covering them with Insect Netting or a Micromesh Tunnel will keep out carrot and cabbage root-fly whist also giving some protection from cold nights. Continue harvesting the last of your Sprouting Broccoli, Leeks and Kale, sprinkling some Organic Extra around the plants will give them a final boost before they finish cropping. You can sow Peas in succession from now until June to give you a really long cropping period. Sowing a short row every 2 weeks will give good continuity of cropping. Applying a top dressing of Organic Extra a day or two before any planting will release nutrients to your plants over a long period and add humus to your soil.

Tips for the garden...

NemsSlug Slugs and Snails will be really grateful to you for supplying them with lovely tender seedlings to snack on now the weather is a bit warmer! They are active overnight and can devastate a young crop while you are sleeping! Biological controls - tiny microscopic organisms that you simply water into the ground around your precious plants is by far the best and safest way of combating these pests.  Nemaslug consists of naturally occurring nematodes (Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita) and controls all common species of small to medium sized slugs (up to 8cm - 2½-3 inches) both above and below ground.

You simply mix it with water in a bucket and water into the soil beneath your plants with a watering can. One application of Nemaslug provides 300,000 nematodes for every square metre of soil, giving at least six weeks control of slugs! This is generally enough time for seedlings and bedding plants to get well established. Nemaslug is easy to apply and does not leave any unsightly residues. The majority of the slugs will die underground, so don't expect to see too many dead slugs lying around. Apply Nemaslug to moist soil. The soil temperature should be 5ºC (40ºF) or over, this is also when plants naturally start growing. Nematodes are capable of surviving the odd frost, so don't worry if the temperature falls after you have applied Nemaslug. The nematodes are completely harmless to birds, animals and children. Start your control regime early and you will be able to target the young slugs growing under the ground feeding on humus.

If you are proud of your nice green lawn you will no doubt already be aware of the damage caused by Chafer Grubs - according to the RHS they are one of the top ten garden pests! They cause huge damage to lawns by eating grass roots causing growth to slow and yellow patches to appear. Nemasys Chafer Grub Killer contains the nematode Heterorhabditis megidis it seeks out the Chafer Grubs and attack them by entering natural body openings.

Once inside, they release bacteria that stops the pest from feeding, quickly killing the pest. They do not stop there. The nematodes reproduce inside the dead pest and release a new generation of hungry nematodes, which disperse and search for further prey. There is a whole range of Biological Controls for most common garden pests including Nemasys for Vine Weevil control, Leatherjacket Killer and Grow Your Own which targets a broad range of destructive pests.


As you get down to sowing and planting in earnest you will obviously want to get the most out of your plot. Companion planting with flowers such as Marigolds, Nasturtiums and Herbs grown alongside vegetables, both deters pests and encourages beneficial insects and pollinators to the veg garden.

Maximise all your available growing space by intercropping - planting quick growing crops between rows of slower growing or taller crops. This maximises space, increases productivity and helps to keep the weeds down - it is an invaluable growing system for smaller plots.

Some plants are mutually beneficial to each other when grown closely together, for example Peas and Beans of all types absorb nitrogen from the air and release it back into the soil. Nitrogen is necessary for leaf growth, so planting quick growing Lettuce and other leafy Salad crops close to or in between Pea and Bean crops makes good sense. The leafy Salads help keep weeds down between the Peas and Beans so they benefit too.

It makes complete sense to plant some faster growing vegetables between the rows of the slower maturing types. Some good growing partners include Dwarf French Beans with Sweetcorn, Beetroot between Brussels Sprouts or Cabbages, Spring Onions with Potatoes, Radish between Onions or Peas and Spinach or Salads with Sweetcorn or a mix of any of these. Many Oriental Vegetables are fast growing and are ideal for intercropping. The quicker crops will all be harvested before the slower ones have reached a size where they cover the soil and stop the light reaching the smaller plants.


Once your young tomato plants are large enough to plant into their final positions remove the lower set of leaves and bury the plant deeply - up to the top few leaves. They will develop roots all the way along the buried stem making them stronger and sturdier. If you are planting in a grow bag make sure you have loosened the compost well before planting, these bags are always compacted when you buy them and need a good pummelling before they are suitable for use! Using the grow bag on its side instead of the normal way will give the deepest root run for your plants or try Growpots with the grow bag. These give a much deeper growing depth to your grow bag allowing for better watering and feeding and much greater root growth resulting in healthier plants and better cropping.

Another trick I have found that works with Tomatoes and grow bags is to lie your tomato plant on its side when planting, remove lower leaves and bury the stem up to the top few leaves. The plant will automatically straighten itself and grow upwards towards the light. This especially suitable if the plant has become a bit leggy and the stem is a bit wonky! (For some reason I always seem to get some like that)!


As your Bedding, Basket and Patio Plants arrive they should be placed in a greenhouse, conservatory or other frost free place with good natural light. Pot them into 3½ inch pots to ensure they develop a strong, healthy root system. Shuttle Trays and pots consist of 5 trays containing 18 3½ inch pots which fit securely inside the black trays and are just right for potting on your young plants before planting out into hanging baskets, containers or directly into the garden. The trays keep pots stable and upright and make watering and moving plants around easy.

When you plant up your containers, incorporating Water Retaining Gel Crystals and Slow Release Fertiliser in the compost will help keep your plants in peak condition all summer long. The Gel Crystals hold 400 times its own weight in water and releases it to plant roots as required. The crystals re-absorb at each watering. The easy to use Slow Release Fertiliser Granules promote active healthy roots, greener foliage and abundant flowers. Just one application feeds plants for six months. Using both the Gel and Granules mixed with the compost at planting time reduces plant stress through lack of water and nutrients.


If you make your own compost (and I’m sure most of you do!) and if you haven’t already done so empty the contents over the soil on your veg plot, a thick layer around fruit bushes, raspberry canes and fruit trees will help conserve water, improve the soil structure and hopefully keep weeds to a minimum. One of the best uses for the rich mixture from your compost heap is planting courgettes and squash. Dig a large hole, fill it with the best compost from your heap leaving a slight mound. Plant one courgette or squash plant directly into the top of the mound. Keep the plants moist but do not water directly over the leaves, water around them to make sure the available water reaches the roots and does not sit round the neck of the plant which can cause it to rot. Once the first fruits begin to swell give a high potash liquid fertiliser every 10-14 days (tomato fertiliser is fine).

You can even use compost that hasn’t quite rotted right down and any vegetable peelings from the kitchen to line the bottom of a trench before you plant your potatoes or runner beans, it will help keep the soil moist while feeding the roots as it breaks down.