The Potty Gardener sows Christmas Potatoes

The Potty gardener growing christmas potatoesSurely it’s too early to be thinking about Christmas, I hear you say. At least I think I do, amongst the many other voices in my head. I am indeed thinking about Christmas. More specifically I am thinking about potatoes at Christmas. Even more specifically, delicious home-grown roast potatoes at Christmas being proudly placed on the table to gasps of awe and admiration and maybe a harmonious chorus of Gloria!

Normally, British potatoes are home-grown from early spring throughout the summer. Instead I am planning to sow some spuds now in Potato Planters, nurture them through the autumn and hopefully harvest them in time to share oven space with whatever beast we decide to roast for Christmas lunch this year.

Haxnixks potato patio planters pack of 3

At this time of the year, you should be able to get hold of cold-stored potato tubers from specialist seed merchants. Maris Peer or Nicola potatoes make a good winter variety that doesn’t need chitting. I have had varying success in the past just using supermarket spuds. Grandpa Haxnicks tells me that this is because after a potato is harvested it goes into a dormant state for some months before it is ready to produce new shoots. So, either my successful supermarket spuds were particularly resistant to the stress and trauma of harvest or they had been on the shelf for a long time and were very ready to get off it and breed!

Haxnicks potato patio planter foliage

Plant your eager-to-breed tubers in the potato bags on about 6 inches of multi- purpose compost and cover with the same amount again. Each time the foliage pushes through the soil, cover it again until the bag is full. Keep them watered and fed with a liquid fertiliser. The potato bags can be kept in a greenhouse, but they should also be OK outside in the open provided they are given adequate frost protection. A cosy Fleece Jacket should do the trick, no need to bother with a scarf or gloves. In the autumn, when the foliage yellows and dies back you can cut it off and leave the potatoes in fairly dry soil until Christmas. Once harvested, be reassured that they will then enter their dormant state and therefore won’t suffer when it comes to peeling and roasting.

The Potty Gardener At War With Slugs

 

Haxnicks' Potty Gardener Fights with SlugsEating a freshly picked salad, followed by a bowl of home-grown strawberries in the sunshine is the perfect lunch for me in this lovely sunny weather. It is also the perfect lunch for slugs. I have been battling to make sure that they don’t help themselves to more than their fair share. There has been a brief truce during this hot, dry spell when I guess they have travelled (on foot of course) to damper destinations, but I am armed with a multitude of slug-busting strategies ready for the next stealthy invasion.Slug Damage on a Leaf

In my be-more-tolerant-to-molluscs moments (usually at the beginning of the growing season), I find that gently removing the slugs from the vicinity and hurling them into the field next door strikes a good balance between welfare and warfare. A slug’s homing instinct has a range of 20 meters, so be sure to calculate the slug’s flight path carefully. If you are attempting this operation without gloves or a catapult, then you may need to de-slime afterwards. Vinegar is an excellent de-slimer.

Catching Slugs on Oranges with HaxnicksIf you want an easy way to round up a large group of slugs, rather elegantly known as a cornucopia, then oranges could be your answer. Hollow out some orange halves and place them upside-down near vulnerable plants. The citrus-loving slugs will crawl under the oranges for a midnight feast, where they should remain in their departure lounge until their early morning flight into the field next door.

Slug-Buster Slug Trap from Haxnicks

If you think that this all sounds rather unkind, then maybe stop reading. As the summer goes on, my slug tolerance levels go down and I turn to another strategy that involves a medieval style slaughter…drowning in a vat of ale. The Slug-Buster is a neat, discrete little execution device that sinks surreptitiously into the soil. Filled with beer, this tempting hideout becomes not so much a departure lounge as a pub with a permanent lock-in where the sloshed slugs slowly sink….say that after a few beers!

 

You say Zucchini, I say Courgettes!

Haxnicks' Potty Gardener Going on Vacation

Both myself and my potted plants have been travelling, but in completely different directions. Most of the contents of my Sunbubble took an exciting trip to London. Beans, peas, tomatoes, herbs and lettuces, were chauffeur driven to the Chelsea Flower show in their Sunday best (Vigoroot pots) to take part in a fabulous display.

Growing Courgettes in Haxnicks' Sunbubble

I was particularly proud of the courgette plants that were not only in full flower, but managed to produce some fully fledged veg just in time for the first day of the show. With 3 plants growing in one small pot I thought that this was fairly impressive and a great demonstration of the magic of growing in Vigoroot

Growing Climbing Plants and Courgettes with Haxnicks

Meanwhile, I was far away in Chicago where the sun shines brightly. Out in the suburbs gardeners are mad for mulch at this time of year. They use it to lock moisture into the soil before the intense heat of July and August and to keep weeds at bay. There were lots of funky self-watering systems in action, helping to keep the front lawns in immaculate condition and unsuspecting passers-by refreshed!  I was keen to share my potty enthusiasm for home grown edibles with all, and with an English accent on my side people seemed happy to listen, but not necessarily understand! Tomaytoes, tomatoes, potaytoes, potartoes….no problem. But rocket, coriander and courgettes become arugula, cilantro and zuchinni- much more exciting names!

Growing Runner Beans in Haxnicks Sunbubble

It is always exciting for me to come back to my garden after being away from home, but more so at this time of the year when a week of good weather has given everything a mighty boost. With peas swelling in their pods, beans flowering in the Sunbubble and the first tomato fruits beginning to blush, my early potted veg is nearly ready for a first tasting. Inspired by my trip to the states I am planning on a zucchini and arugula soup….yeehaaah!

The Potty gardener Growing Beans in Pots

Haxnicks' Potty Gardener running up Runner Bean PlantsSince discovering the secret to growing beans in pots I have been impatient to put it to the test. Veg growers might not normally consider growing runner beans in pots, but these are not normal pots and, as you may have noticed, I am not a normal veg grower. I am some way off reaching the giant at the top, but the beans are certainly racing up and I can’t help but mutter fee-fi-fo-fum whilst tending to these lean, mean, fast-growing beans.

Haxnicks Rootrainers used in Growing Beans early

I chose an early variety of Runner bean; Scarlet Emperor that claims on the pack to be ”very popular”  and give ”excellent garden performance”. …hmmm, I hope that I won’t be upstaged by this garden celebrity! Eager to get an early crop, the beans were sown in Rootrainers 2.5cm, and placed on a warm windowsill to germinate. Once both leaves had unfurled,  I moved them into the Sunbubble. Here in the cosy, moist environment they took only a few weeks to reach potting-on stage.

Haxnicks Sunbubbles used for Growing Beans

And this is where the secret of potted bean success comes… in the form of these felty green pots. Vigoroot Pots are porous, allowing the roots to be ‘air pruned’ as they reach the edges of the pot, and causing a much stronger root system to develop. As the plants don’t become pot bound and have such super roots, then less space is required for healthy growth.  This may be the latest conspiracy theory, but I have a sneaking suspicion that when Jack swapped his cow for magic beans and went on to grow a huge beanstalk that his beans weren’t magic at all…I think that actually he had discovered growing in Vigoroot! Moving on…and up…Once the bean plugs had grown out of their Rootrainers I potted them up in 10Litre Vigoroot pots and gave them a stick each to guide their ascent up the strings that I had tied in at the top of the Sunbubble. They are growing fast and furiously, needing plenty of watering and I am looking forward to the early beans and hopefully a hen who lays golden eggs at the top!

 

Growing Broad Beans in Rootrainers

Hello Gardeners,

I hope that your gardens are flourishing with this recent burst of warmer weather. The contents of my greenhouse are certainly bursting into life and I am now beginning to really see the results of some of my New Year sowing and planting. Back in February I sowed some broad beans in Rootrainers. Having not quite got around to digging over the veg patch, I felt that this would give them a head start, and now the veg patch is ready and the young plugs are perfect for planting out.

Haxnicks Deep Rootrainers growing Broad Beans

As you can see, every single bean has germinated and gone on to produce really healthy looking young plants. The great thing about using these Rootrainers is that the plant ends up with a truly super root system making the plants much stronger. The grooves in the Rootrainer cells guide the first roots towards the drainage holes at the bottom where the tips die off. Then, lots of little side roots develop higher up in the cell. This process of air-pruning gives each plant a set of strong, straight roots. Of course I am bound to be a proud exponent of this product, but any avid Monty Don fans out there will know that he is pretty keen on Rootrainers too. Look no further than the most recent episode of Gardener’s World!

Haxnicks Rootrainers with Healthy Broad Bean Roots

Because the Rootrainers open up like a book it is really easy to remove the plug plants without disturbing or damaging  the roots. You can easily have a peak to see how things are getting on. Opening up the Rootrainers like this is also great for showing children what goes on below the soil too!

Haxnicks helps Zambian Orphans grow their first VegetablesThese children have been learning all about growing plants in the best way possible, by growing their own vegetables. This image has been sent to me by my great grand daughter of the first veg coming in from The Haxnicks garden in Zambia  where all looks like it’s going to plan!

Happy gardening,

Grandpa Haxnicks

The Potty Gardener and Easter Bunnies

The Potty Gardener and the Easter BunnyI understand that Easter Bunnies don’t like chocolate and are especially keen to give it away at this time of year. I am happy with this arrangement. I am not happy with the flip-side of this arrangement. (In the case of this particular lop-eared bunny I will call it the flop-side.) The flop-side of this Easter bunny’s game plan is that in return for secretly leaving chocolate for me she seems to think that it’s acceptable to help herself to anything that takes her fancy in the garden, wreaking havoc and causing considerable damage. In this particular case the problem is easily solved by returning her to her secure accommodation. For her wilder and far naughtier cousins the problem must be solved with plant protection.

Baby Victorian Bell Cloches from Haxnicks

For me, growing in pots and planters makes it less tempting and trickier for rabbits to nibble at any new plantings and soft growth, but for those of you growing in rows it may be a different story. Those early bean and pea shoots that may be popping up soon are at particular risk of becoming a bunny salad. So unless you have a rabbit proof fence surrounding your veg plot then some Bell Cloches or an Easy Tunnel pegged over the plants should keep the naughty nibblers at bay and keep the plants cosy and moist too.

Flexi-Mesh Treeguards from Haxnicks

At this time of the year there are far more tempting treats than tree bark for bunnies to gnaw on, but when other vegetation is sparse beware! If trees are ringbarked (nibbled all the way round) it can kill them. You can protect young trees easily with a tree guard, just make sure that it is over 50cm in height to allow for a giant rabbit invasion, small rabbits on stilts and normal sized rabbits on their hind legs. I have ambitions to grow small trees in pots  which should mean that they are growing high enough off the ground to be out of rabbit reach. Anyway that’s quite enough of me rabbiting on, I’m off to hunt for chocolate !

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haxnicks finalist at Chelsea Flower Show

Hello Gardeners,

Preparations are already underway here at Haxnicks for Chelsea Flower show and they have been given en extra boost this month with the news that our Big Ben Bean Frame has been chosen as a finalist for the Garden Product of the Year Award!

Haxnicks' Big Ben Bean Frame for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016

Could our Big Ben Bean Frame be heading for further fame? Well it was designed to attract attention, and where better to do that than at the fabulous Chelsea Flower show just a few miles down river from its iconic inspiration. Haxnicks Big Ben Bean Frame is just one of our new and exciting range of architectural growing frames that include Eiffel Tower and London Eye Plant Frames. The range is designed to inspire creative, ornamental vegetable growing, offering the necessary support for climbing veg and making the most of limited ground space. The officially fabulous Big Ben Bean frame will be on display at RHS Chelsea flower show this year as part of the Haxnicks range on the Agriframes stand (RHW/356).

This Grandpa is very proud of the accolade, but not half as proud as he will be if he can manage to grow early enough runner beans to climb up our Big Ben bean Frame in time for the show on 24th May!

Happy gardening,

Grandpa Haxnicks

 

 

Haxnicks helps orphans in Zambia to Grow their Own

Haxnicks Speedhoe in full use in The Heal Project in Zambia

Hello gardeners,

I Have a heart-warming story to tell this month. Haxnicks has been preparing a new vegetable garden far from its homeland in sunny Zambia. Inspired by my great grand-daughter Lali Cardozo and her work with an orphanage near Lusaka, we sent out a team of enthusiastic gardeners armed with Haxnicks products, a generous donation of seeds from Suttons and lots of energy. Our aim was to kick-start a vegetable garden enabling the children of the orphanage to grow some exciting new fruit and veg that might make a refreshing and healthy change from maize and cabbage.

Zambian children choosing Seeds given by Haxnicks

Lots of children from the orphanage chose their own packets of seeds to plant: they all wanted to plant cucumbers, strawberries and melons!

 

Zambian Children at the Heal Project planting Seeds from Haxnicks

Rootrainers were used for the larger seeds such as squash, melons and cucumbers and the speciality tomatoes, when the Rootrainers ran out the children ran off to find any old empty plastic water bottles, or cups to sow more seeds in.

 

Haxnicks Garden at the Heal Project in Zambia

Easy net tunnels were used for protecting the seedlings in pots, micromesh fabric was laid over rows of seeds to protect against heavy downpours of rain during the rainy season. Micromesh barriers were put up around the beds to protect them from the cats, dogs, snails and wandering children. Birdscare was used to ward off the birds. Last but not least the ornamental frame of Big Ben was erected at the top of the patch in the hope that eventually peas will clamber up and the children will have great fun harvesting them.

Seeds appearing in Haxnicks Rootrainers in the Vegetable GardenWith a downpour of rain and temperatures of 25 degrees within 4 days all the radishes had appeared as well as all the squash, melons and courgettes. 100% germination rate in the rootrainers! The children are hoping that they will have more than they can eat, and some to sell in the market. The orphanage has the space to make the garden bigger and Haxnicks plan to return to help expand the garden, build a fence around it with a gate, set up an automatic watering system and much more. Now the gardening team have returned, wondering in anticipation which seedlings are appearing, whether they will be washed away by the rain, die from drought, or mature into healthy bumper crops to fuel the children and a market stall business. Lali hopes to be able to send some updates and let us all know how things are progressing, but in the meantime she has sent this to tell you a little bit more about her friend Jeannie’s orphanage.

Lali Cardozo teaches at Heal Project School in Zambia

‘My friend Jeannie Mulenga is the inspiration behind The Heal Project, a charity set up in 1999 in Zambia. The Heal Project supports people living with HIV/Aids in Zambia working together towards a better life. Jeannie has 3 of her own children as well as thirty children who have nowhere else to turn, all of whom have lost their parents and many of whom are living with HIV. If you have been inspired, as I have by Jeanie and her wonderful children then please have a look at our Just Giving page.’

I hope to be able to update you all soon with how things are going and growing at the orphanage, but in the meantime,

Happy Gardening,

Grandpa Haxnicks

The Potty gardener growing peas in containers

Haxnicks Potty Gardener Growing Peas

Last month Grandpa Haxnicks  gave me 3 tips for growing peas in containers for an early as possible crop…

Rootrainers

Warmth

Love

So I got hold of some Rootrainers, wrapped up warm, and gave myself a hug. So far so good, my peas are doing well!

Peas growing in Haxnicks Rootrainers

I chose an early variety of pea suitable for container growing. Douce Provence claims to be sweet and compact, growing to approximately 60cm tall. Just my sort of pea. I sowed the first peas half a finger deep in Deep Rootrainers about 6 weeks ago and since then have made two other fortnightly sowings for a longer cropping season.  Thanks to the cosy environment of my Sunbubble, an unusual amount of sunshine and of course tender, loving care from me, the peas are now healthy looking plants.

Healthy Pea Roots in Haxnicks Rootrainers

It is not surprising that they are looking so good on top when you see what a super root system they have formed in the Rootrainers.  As you can see the Rootrainer cells open up like a book making them easy  to plant without disturbing the roots.

Haxnicks Pea Bean Patio Planter

This morning, I found last year’s pea and bean patio planter in the darkest most spidery corner of my garden shed and filled it up with a good multi purpose compost ready to accommodate the first pea plugs . With 1m bamboo canes and some Soft-Tie I built a tepee for the Pea and Bean Patio Planter. There are some helpful little cane support pockets on the outside which keep the support canes in place. The peas are now happily bedded in and hopefully ready to climb towards fruition. It is such a sunny day that I’m leaving them out to get used to the big wide world and adjust to outside temperatures, but I will be sure to tuck them up again tonight (perhaps with a bedtime story, there is one about a fussy Princess that I think they will enjoy).

Rootrainers, warmth and love…easy peasy!

5 Ingredients for Home Made Seed Compost

Carrot Seeds in Seed Compost from Haxnicks

Hello Gardeners, I have some advice for saving money and making your own seed compost. Making any kind of compost does of course require advance preparation, and I am beginning from the assumption that you already have some mature compost. If you don’t then perhaps you might be inspired to get some going for next year. Haxnicks have already considered those of you who may not have space for a full scale composting area in your garden. Have a look at our Rollmix Composter page where you will find plenty of advice on the easiest way to create compost in a small space with our amazing rolling compost bin.

Haxnicks Rollmix Composter for Seed Composting

Here are the 5 Free ingredients for seed compost:

One part mature Kitchen/garden compost

One Part mature Leaf mould

One Part Mole hill/topsoil

Water

Elbow grease

Haxnicks Easy Riddle Compost

It is far simpler and less time consuming to simply buy a bag of seed compost, BUT it will not come with wholesome ingredients of physical effort, self-satisfaction and thriftiness! Any good seed compost should be nutrient rich, moisture retentive, and have a fine uniform consistency that allows for good air circulation. The mix of above ingredients should give you all that. You will also need to sieve the mix to take out the lumps and achieve the fine airy consistency. For many years I have used a large heavy wooden riddle to sieve compost, but since being closely involved in the product design of Easy Riddle  I am well and truly converted to using this lightweight garden sieve. Far less elbow grease required!

Strictly speaking home garden compost should be heated to kill off pathogens. There is a fine balance between killing off pathogens and destroying the nutrients in the heating process. Frankly, I have never bothered and can’t say that my seedlings have suffered as a result, besides I am certain that my homemade seed compost would not be welcomed in the kitchen! For more information about composting and our composting products please go to our composting page. In the meantime,

Happy gardening!

Grandpa Haxnicks