January 2014 Newsletter

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January Newsletter

Well, it’s the New Year already, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a good break but now I’m sure you’re bristling with the anticipation of planning your spring garden.

If you’re like me then you probably need to go outside and get physical after all that Christmas holiday indulgence! Gardening in January is primarily about preparation for the coming season and with a little extra effort you will reap the benefit of not only your figure but the rewards of your own produce later in the season. Don’t be tempted by the occasional bright and mild day and begin your sowing too soon, you should be driven by the conditions in your area and not what it says on the seed packet or growing calendar and you will enjoy the best results later in the season.

Happy planning


To avoid disappointment try to get your Seed Potato order in early to ensure your favourite varieties are still available. With potato prices increasing dramatically in the shops, it makes more sense than ever to grow your own. Our brand New and Exclusive Salad Potato Rockstar produces tasty, good looking round tubers with white skin and white flesh it has good disease resistance making it perfect for the home gardener and don’t forget the mint, if you don’t have any already Brundall Mint is a great partner for new potatoes!

Begin chitting your Seed Potatoes as soon as they arrive by placing them in a tray with the ‘rose’ end - the end with most ‘eyes’- uppermost - your free chitting tray will 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.

If you don’t have space for a couple of rows of potatoes you can still get a worthwhile crop by growing in Gro-Sacks, they are very strong, sturdy containers and there is a choice of Potato Swift (the earliest new potato), Charlotte (salad variety), or Hunter (second early) to give you continuity. So don’t be caught out, order your potatoes now!

If you would like to grow vegetables but haven’t the facilities for sowing seeds then we can help. Marshalls Vegetable Young Plants have been expertly grown under ideal nursery conditions to ensure well developed plants with a good root system we do the work of sowing, pricking out and growing on for you. They will be despatched to you only when they are sturdy enough to be planted out ready for rapid establishment in your garden.

The Extra Early Brassica Collection will kick-start your growing year - plants will be delivered in March, several weeks earlier than the main brassica delivery period so you can begin your harvesting in May-June!
The rest of the young veg plants range is very varied from Artichoke, Runner Beans, Courgettes, Peppers, Celery, to Cabbage, Broccoli, and much, much more. There are enough varieties to keep you in vegetables for most of the year!

Look out for the Special Offer Seed Collections in the catalogue and online they are excellent value and you get a FREE Windowsill Propagator with each Collection. The Propagator is designed to provide ideal conditions for germinating seeds. Just choose whichever seed collection is best for you there are plenty to choose from.

You can sow Onion Seeds in modules anytime now sow three or four seeds to each module. Cover with a layer of vermiculite or compost and keep the greenhouse temperature at 10-16°C (50-60°F). Unless you want to show your onions there is no need to thin them out, once they are planted the onions will form a clump of bulbs which push themselves apart as they grow.

Harden young onion plants off before planting out in spring trying not to disturb the roots, keep free from weeds which will compete for light and water. Onions grown from seed tend to bolt less and usually store well.

Fruit Trees and can be planted now while they are still dormant. Even if you don’t have a lot of space you can still find room for at least one tree. The new apple Tickled Pink has deep red fruit and striking red flesh and the spring blossom is gorgeous!

Good for both cooking and juicing, the fruit keeps its’ shape and colour when cooked and the juice is also pink. It makes a superb garden tree with ornamental red-violet flowers in spring.

Good for both cooking and juicing, the fruit keeps its’ shape and colour when cooked and the juice is also pink. It makes a superb garden tree with ornamental red-violet flowers in spring.
Fruit trees can be trained and grown very successfully as a fan or espalier against a wall or fence. Apples Scrumptious or Discovery are ideal varieties to train, as is Pear Doyenne du Comice or Beurre Hardy a delicious dessert pear which is heavy cropping and has blossom that copes well with late frost.  For a space saving fruit tree why not  try a Family Tree with three varieties on one tree or for a patio then Dwarf Fruit Trees are best as they are just perfect for containers.

Soft Fruit is always a popular choice, Everbearer Strawberry Buddy had a good review in Gardening Which? for it’s ‘fantastic flavour’ and Strawberry Marshmello remains our best selling main season variety by miles!. Raspberry Joan J gives a large crop of juicy and sweet-tasting berries from around the end of July. In a good year you can still be picking fresh raspberries in October!

Rhubarb although not technically a fruit it is always treated as such and is the earliest ‘fruit’ of the season. Rhubarb crumble made with the first tender pinky-red forced Rhubarb is everybody’s favourite! If you want to force your own it really isn’t difficult you just need to cover plants with a large bucket to exclude the light. The best way is to have 3 plants so you can force one, rest one and crop one normally each season in rotation. Forcing takes a lot of energy from a plant so giving a season of rest allows the plant to build itself back up again, it will then crop heavily the following year. Our Special Offer Trio Pack is the perfect buy giving you all the flexibility you need to grow delicious Rhubarb every year.

If growing space in your garden is tight Marshalls Gro-Beds can make a productive growing area for both vegetables and salads on a patio. The big 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 Vegetable Seeds and Salads and allow intensive planting with just 4-6ins between rows and at 30cms deep you can even grow Carrots.

Gro-Beds are an excellent choice if you have a greenhouse and want to increase productivity,using Gro-Beds and repeat sowing means you can have crops in your greenhouse just about all year round.  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.  For the earliest strawberries plant up some Vibrant Mammoth Plants inside in January and you could be cropping in April and if you move them outside in late spring you can expect a second harvest in late summer!

Start early spring crops indoors and move your Gro-Beds outside as the weather turns milder. And at just £11.95 for 3 of these large bags they won’t break the bank either!



Tips for the garden...

Add bulk and nutrients to your vegetable beds with a thick layer of lovely compost! I’m sure everyone makes their own compost by now, it’s so easy. Good compost is a combination soft green, nitrogen-rich material such as weeds (do not compost any that have set seed!), soft prunings, grass clippings and vegetable peelings and dry, brown, carbon-rich material like hedge prunings, bedding from pets such as rabbits, chickens, hay, wood shavings, shredded newspaper and torn up cardboard in roughly even quantities. Don’t let one material dominate the heap. First time compost makers tend to add rather too many grass clippings which tend to stick together in soggy smelly layers with very little aeration, so try to avoid this by adding plenty of coarser matter. Turning the heap from time to time mixes up the green and brown materials, aerates it and helps it heat up which in turn speeds up the composting process.

Making compost relies on the micro-organisms and soil dwelling creatures that feed on decaying matter, to get your composting system working faster you can add a compost activator. ‘Make Your Own Compost’ contains a balanced mixture of microbes and the right levels of organic nutrients to support their activity and kick start them into action. It is a perfect way to get a new heap started.

Spread the lovely brown crumbly compost from the bottom of the heap onto your weed free beds. If it’s a bit coarse or stringy with bits of twig or other material that hasn’t broken down don’t worry it is still usable. You don’t have to dig it in yet, just spread it over the soil and let worms and frosty weather do some of the work for you. Any large un-composted material can be returned back into your new compost heap.

If you haven’t enough home made compost add some Organic Extra to your beds. This super concentrated fertiliser adds plenty of rich nutrients to the soil.

If you haven’t already done so it’s time to Spring-Clean the greenhouse! A quick and simple way to remove green algae from the glass is by using EcoSure Green-Off, it is the safe and environmentally friendly way of removing algae from greenhouses and all garden surfaces. It is a biological control containing natural enzymes and cultures which effectively remove algae - and the results last for months!

It’s so easy to use too, the spray-on-and-leave formula of EcoSure Green-Off means
there's no need to scrub, just mix it, spray it on to the glass and leave! It couldn’t be simpler. It also removes algae from decking, stone paths, patios, steps and driveways, pots, wooden sheds and fences.

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.

Seakale 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.

Start formative pruning of young fruit trees, early removal of any weak or crossing branches develops 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.

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 allow the ground to settle before planting out in spring. If you didn’t get to sow yours you might want to try our Sweet Pea Plants they are grown in large multi-sown modules and will get your garden off to a flying start.