How to Choose and Look After Your Apple Trees

Apple Trees in the sun by Haxnicks' Potty Gardener

Today, 21st October, apple lovers all over the country are coming together to celebrate Apple Day.  Garden and cookery writer Madeleine Cardozo has joined us as a guest blogger today to offer her juicy fruity advice on growing apple trees.


Growing Apple Trees

Plant from October to March

Harvest from July to November

Prune January to February


I have noticed that we get the most amazing apples from our two apple trees. This is because they are two trees of the same type; they blossom at the same time and pollinate each other. These are the ideal circumstances for apple trees, two of each. There is a lot that I could write about apple trees but I shall try to keep it simple. It may seem that I am contradicting myself on occasions too, that is because there are loads of rules you can break.

What kind of apple tree would you like? A cooking apple tree or an eating apple tree? Really you should have at least two apple trees within 30m of each other, they need to blossom at the same time and therefore pollinate each other in order to produce fruit. You can get varieties that are self pollinating but they are not so reliable e.g. Chiver’s Delight or Worcester Pearmain.   As you can imagine they come in all shapes and sizes.

Madeleine Cardozo's Apple Trees

Option 1: Why not choose an early harvesting variety for eating e.g. Discovery , these are rubbish for storing, but you can pick them off the tree for a good couple of months. You could then have a late harvesting variety for eating that you can store for the winter e.g.  Ashmead’s Kernel. Lastly a cooking apple tree e.g. Bramley’s seedling, for making chutneys and apple crumbles. Make sure that their blossoming time overlaps to cross pollinate.

Option 2: There is an apple tree that has been developed called a family tree, providing a way that you can have only one apple tree. A number of stems of different apple varieties have been grafted onto the ‘root stock’ (trunk). This apple tree will pollinate itself, but it may be slightly lopsided as the different varieties will grow to different sizes. This may be fun experimenting with if you don’t have much space.

Option Three: Buy a variety like the James Grieve or Blenheim Orange, which bears a fruit that will taste sweet but is a good cooking apple as well. You will need two of these trees.



Depending on the size of the tree and what you want to do with it will determine how far apart you plant them.  Full sized, free standing trees will need to be about 5m 15ft apart. If you are growing ‘trained’ trees such as espaliers they can be 50cm 1½ ft apart. A hole needs to be dug, larger than the roots and the earth that will surround the roots needs to be loosened. Put some manure into the hole, place your tree roots in and cover with earth. Make the ground firm on top. Add a good lot of manure or compost to suppress the weeds and keep it moist. Hammer a large supporting stake next to it to stop it blowing over and tie the tree to it. Lastly water it well. It will take approximately three years for the tree to establish itself.

Bad things that can Happen to your Trees

Maggots – when your lovely looking apples get holes in them. You can buy codling moth traps and hang them in the tree from May to August.

Mildew – When the young shoots and flower buds have a dusting of grey powder. Ignore if it is not too bad, if it is a medium attack cut off the affected branches, or for a heavy attack you will need to spray on a fungicide.

Aphids – cause leaf curling, not much you can do and it doesn’t affect the fruit really.

Canker – causes the bark to shrink back and flake usually in rings, the first signs are little black rounds, then holes in the leaves.  If you can, cut off affected branches further than you have to. There is no cure.

Fireblight – Makes leaves and shoots look as though they have been burnt – This is a bacterial disease and can affect many trees and roses. Cut off any branches that are affected, cutting 2ft, 60cm further back than you need to. All tools need to be disinfected and if the tree is badly infected dig it up and burn it. There is no cure.

Choosing the Perfect Apple Tree by Haxnicks

Looking After your Tree’s and Pruning

When in drought – water small trees. Large trees should be able to look after themselves.

Every spring add organic fertiliser (manure) around the base of the tree. Keep the tree weed and grass free for the first few years, this will help the nutrients from the soil get to the tree. After it is established you can have grass growing all the way up to the trunk, roses entwined and sheep grazing…….

The pruning for apple trees mainly gets done in the winter, November to March. Cut off the branches where they are crowded, maintain a good shape for the tree, cut off dead, damaged or diseased wood and trim down to the ‘spurs’ (short stubby twiggy bits). Your next harvest of apples will grow from these. Some apple trees are tip-bearing, which means that they grow on the ends of the branches, so if yours is like that don’t lob off the tips! Cut off any spindly shoots that sprout from the ground around the foot of the tree.

Summer pruning is usually done in July and only on ‘trained’ trees. Here you are training the tree to grow in the direction that you want it to grow, cutting off any extra shoots and taking the tips out of the main stem to halt the upward growth.

Grandpa Haxnicks tells of Adventures in a Sunbubble

A Haxnicks Sunbubble was originally designed as an instant pop-up greenhouse, but we had not envisaged that it might become so much more than that. Some people have been extremely creative with their Sunbubbles and I would like to share the inspiration.

Runner beans in a Haxnicks SunbubbleEarly this year our good friend, the The Potty Gardener, was tasked with growing runner beans in time for a display at the RHS Chelsea Flower show. The beans grew in Vigoroot pots and climbed up strings inside her Sunbubble.  With maximum daylight exposure in a cosy, moist environment the beans flowered early and produced great looking, healthy runner beans by mid May. Perfect timing for Chelsea.

Using a Haxnicks Sunbubble as a tent

One customer sent in this picture of a Haxnicks Sunbubble extension to his tent. A brilliant idea! Due to the great British weather, campers are often forced into the gloom of their tents. Now they can take a portable conservatory and enjoy the daylight.

Haxnicks Sunbubble at a festival

Then there were the festival goers who were thrilled that they could easily spot their Sunbubble in a sea of tents. Although they did have to remember that all in-tent activities were on view!

Haxnicks sunbubble as an art studio

But the most creative use of a Sunbubble this year has to go to Alice Maddicot who used it as travelling pop-up art studio. Touring Somerset in September, Alice invited members of the public to create work inspired by the landscape in a new location each day. You can read more about Alice’s artistic adventure with a Sunbubble here.

Haxnicks Sunbubble under cover

Finally, we are not sure what is going on inside here. A pop-up circus perhaps?

Goodbye for now,

Grandpa Haxnicks





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