March 2012 Newsletter

Gro BedShallots, 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!

Get ahead with your indoor sowing, especially if you live in colder area - where a greenhouse can be a valuable asset! There are a many ways to help you make the most of a shorter growing season and making an earlier sowing can really make a difference for frost sensitive plants such as Runner Beans, Tomatoes, Aubergines and Peppers, allowing you a much longer growing season.

Greenhouse Gro-Beds are a superb way to begin early sowing in your greenhouse. Cut and Come Again Salads such as Provencale Mix, Salad Bowl or Baby Leaf Salad Mix will crop well before any that are sown outdoors. They are perfect for Tomato, Aubergine and Pepper Plants just transplant them into your Gro-Beds when they are about 6 – 8 inches tall, you can under plant with quick growing salads or herbs to make the most of the space. Companion plants such as Marigolds help deter aphids and other pests from your greenhouse so planting these in your Gro-Beds with Tomatoes is a great idea.

VegIf you don’t have a greenhouse or space for a vegetable plot and would rather not give up any of your flower garden for growing vegetables, but still like the idea of home grown produce, Gro-Beds are also perfect outdoor planters. They are large enough to give you worthwhile crops of many different vegetables and plenty of salads, they are even deep enough to grow carrots!

Outdoor Tomatoes crop very well in Gro-Beds and Chillies, Peppers and Aubergine can also be grown in a sunny sheltered spot. Young Plants are the simplest way to grow these tender plants as all the hard work is done for you and all you need to do is plant them straight into your Gro-Bed when the weather has warmed up enough and there is no danger of frost. Grafted Vegetable Plants will give you even quicker results, these plants just shrug off pests and diseases and have increased vigour and give high yields.

Herbs make great container plants, the Herb Plant Collection gives you enough plants for a couple of mixed pots or a plant up a Gro-Bed Herb Garden to keep nice and handy by the back door.  Salads, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Radishes and Oriental Veg will all grow well in a Gro-Bed - and at £11.95 for 3 beds they won’t break the bank either! They are also great for growing Strawberries, you can get a very worthwhile crop from a Gro-Bed filled with Strawberry Plants.

potatoSpring is the perfect time to get children involved in gardening, the key to keeping kids interested is quick results - so bear that in mind when buying seeds for them to grow. There are lots of quick grow seeds that are favourites for children to grow - cut and come again Lettuce and Salad Leaves with a mix of colours, shapes and textures is always a good one, red leaved lettuce Amaze is a small Little Gem type perfect for kids. Carrots are great favourites – it doesn’t matter if the seed isn’t sown evenly, some interesting carrot shapes can be found when seed is sown a bit higgledy-piggledy! Choose an early variety that can be eaten when small or for something a bit different what about Carrot Purple Haze, this is a funky purple colour with an orange middle and is so sweet kids love to eat it straight from the garden.

Allowing children a little area of their own in the garden or a couple of troughs or large pots to work on and grow their own flowers and vegetables will give them a wonderful sense of achievement when their seeds flourish and grow. Sunflowers are always a favourite with children, especially the very young and Poppy Californian Mix, Limnanthes (Poached Egg Plant) and Nigella (Love in a Mist) all of which you just scatter where you want then to grow, will bring masses of fascinating wildlife into the garden. Children just love watering and tending the seedlings every day watching them grow.

tomatoesIf 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 Clapton and Brussels Sprout Crispus are very desirable varieties that have proven to be highly resistant to most clubroot strains. Clubroot is a nasty fungal infection which causes 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 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.

Tips for the garden...

seakaleFinish preparing your seed beds 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

FruitPlant 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. First Earlies and Salad Potatoes are usually planted first followed by Second Earlies then Maincrop Potatoes.

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.

leftIn 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!

Pot up your seed raised bedding plants as soon as they arrive and grow on ready for planting out from the end of May when all risk of frost is past. They are invaluable in the summer border and a very cost effective way to get lots of plants for a small outlay. Plant them in large groups and drifts for the most impact Begonia Non-stop does exactly that – it flowers non-stop all summer in borders or pots. Mixed Geraniums are perennial favourites for beds and containers and a massed bed of Scarlet Geraniums will always turn heads. Lobelia Regatta is the perfect choice for mixing in pots and hanging baskets and a bed of Antirrhinum Liberty can keep you in cut flowers for most of the summer.

Basket and Patio Young Plants will soon be arriving.  The more vigorous varieties such as Fuchsia and Petunias can be planted directly into your containers but most 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 - it’s very tempting to get your planting underway especially if the weather is good over Easter but the UK climate is very fickle and a short cold blast at the end of April or even May can wipe out all your hard work!

For late summer colour in the border and the vase you can’t beat Chrysanthemums, they remain a firm customer favourite year after year. Early Decorative Sprays will flower from mid-August providing blooms for cutting until the first frosts and isn’t difficult grow your own large Bloom Chrysanths.   Hardy Garden Mums have so many flowers they form a complete dome and completely hide the foliage!  These easy to grow plants deserve a place in any border and will pop up every spring for years to come.