Grandpa Haxnicks’ advice on how to make cut flowers last

I am not a huge fan of cut flowers unless they have come straight from my garden. However, at this time of the year, with Mother’s day looming and little to pick in the garden, then shop-bought flowers may be your only option. I have often been asked about the many old wives’ tales about keeping your cut flowers looking fresh. Well here is some old man’s wisdom instead!

Make Shop bought Roses and Tulips last longer with great advice from Haxnicks

As soon as a flower is cut it’s access to food and water via a root system is cut too, but it can continue to draw water and nutrients up through the cut stem. On first cutting, air can enter the stem and cause a sort of embolism that prevents further absorption. Re-cutting the stems when you first get the flowers home can remove any trapped air and help the flowers to re-hydrate.

How to prepare and cut flowers for your home

Put some lukewarm water in the sink. Using sharp scissors,  cut 1-2 inches off the stems underwater at a sharp angle. Then remove any foliage that will sit below the water line in the vase.Display your Cut Flowers in your favourite Vase

Often flowers are provided with a small sachet of ”flower food” to add to the water. This is most likely to contain some sugar, some acid and some bleach…sounds harsh! The sugar is a feed, the acid is to kill off bacterial growth and the bleach to maintain a ph balance in the water. All this is designed to keep your flowers in tip-top condition. If you don’t get that little sachet then a drop of apple cider vinegar and a small teaspoon of sugar will do a good job too. Make sure that you change the flower water every 3 days and you can also re-cut the stems if you don’t mind rearranging the flowers.  Another good tip to prolong their life is to put the flowers somewhere cool overnight such as the garage or porch.

Grandpa Haxnicks

 

Know your Onions with the Potty Gardener

The Potty Gardener crying with pride over OnionsDo you know your onions? I don’t, so I have been seeking advice from someone who does. Grandpa Haxnicks is going to guide me towards a healthy crop of container-grown onions that will have me crying with pride and joy.

Haxnicks' Potty Gardener's Onion Sets

Onion sets

You can grow onions from ‘sets’ or from seed. Sets are small immature onions that can be planted directly into the soil in March or April. Despite being drawn to small, immature things I have decided that I will have a go at growing from seed as it is far cheaper . Grandpa Haxnicks has given me a few tips for success. Success will be judged on how many tears are shed after harvest.

Onion Seedlings growing on a windowsill

Onion seedlings on a sunny windowsill

You will need to fill a seed tray filled with a good multi-purpose compost. Sow the teeny-weeny onion seeds approx 1cm apart and lightly cover with a thin layer of compost. They will need a temperature of 20-25˚C to germinate, so make sure that they are placed on a warm, sunny windowsill or in a heated greenhouse. The seed trays can be placed in a clear plastic bag or covered with cling film to help maintain a warm, moist environment for the seeds to sprout. After approximately 8-10 days little green lassos will emerge from the soil. Onion seeds can do a poor job of pulling away from their seed husk so you can always give them a little helping hand by gently teasing off the seed.

Onions Spacing Guide for the perfect growth

Onions need about 8 cm of space to grow

Once the seedlings have reached onion adolescence (approx  8cm (3 inches) tall with 3 leaves)  they can be gently pricked out into the growing container.  The container will need to be at least 25cm (10inches) deep and each onion will need about 8cm (3 inches) of space to grow. So, the wider the container the better.  Make sure that the compost you use to fill the container is not too high in nitrogen as this will give you a lovely leafy display above ground and very little below ground and in the case of onions it’s what goes on below ground that counts. Make sure that that the young onions get plenty of light. If you are not growing in a greenhouse, then put the seedlings outside on warm sunny days to get maximum light benefit and to help harden them off. Use a large Bell cloche, poly lantern cloche or poly tunnel to help protect from wind and temperatures below 10˚c. Once you are happy that night time temperatures are well above 8˚C then the onions can stay out without protection.

Store Onions in a Jute vegetable sack

Store onions in a Jute vegetable sack

Keep your onions well-watered and when the leaves start to yellow, bend the tops over and brush back the soil to help the onions ripen. Pull them up and leave to dry in the sun until, like Grandpa Haxnicks, the necks are dry and the skin is papery (his joke, not mine!).  Store in a cool, dry, frost free place with plenty of air circulation. Jute veg sacks are great for this.

The Potty Gardener ventures out to sow broad beans

The Potty Gardener

I have been hiding for the past week, paying heed to the storm and snowfall warnings from the met office. At last, it seemed that it was safe to emerge. In fact, having had a cursory nose poke outside, it was almost as if the terrible weather had never happened. After such confinement, I was eager to kick off the growing season and get my green fingers grubby.

Broad beans ready to harvestSo, what could I grow in a pot outside in late January? Broadly speaking, not a lot. Narrowly speaking, broad beans. I am a big fan of broad beans. Not the big tough ones in their chewy grey skin, but the young baby ones. When they have been blanched for a few minutes and then popped out of their little leather jackets, the bright green beans are sweet, tender and pretty. I feel a song coming on…

Broad beans in Haxnicks Rootrainers

I am starting my beans off in Rootrainers and transplanting them into large pots to grow on later in the Spring. I have chosen a popular dwarf variety, ‘the Sutton’ as I intend to grow them on in containers. I have also mixed in a few ‘Crimson flowered’ beans for that ornamental touch.

Sowing broad beans in Haxnicks Rootrainers

As the beans are going to stay in their Rootrainers for a while, I used potting rather than seed compost for extra nutrition.  I got my green fingers grubby by poking a little hole in each cell ready to receive the beans. Then I popped one bean in each hole and covered them over with more compost. The beans should be happy outside under-cover in my cold frame, as long as I remember to water and ventilate them on warmer days.

Broad Bean Flowers

If you have a veg patch that isn’t too soggy, you can sow where they grow now under cloches. The advice from Grandpa Haxnicks is to only sow broad beans directly in the ground now if you have well drained soil and a cat. The cat is to eat the mice who will eat your beans!

New Products for 2017

Happy New Year to you all! We have a host of exciting new gardening products to inspire you in 2017.

Maxi Rootrainers from Haxnicks with tree saplings growing.

Bigger Rootrainers

Due to customer demand we have extended our range of Rootrainers to include a larger size only previously used for commercial growers. Maxi Rootrainers are perfect for creating super-strong roots necessary for establishing trees, shrubs and prize-winning plants. With the extra deep cells, plants can remain in the Rootrainers for up to 2 years without the need for potting on.

Putting out a Haxnicks Easy Seedling Tunnel.

Smaller Easy Tunnels

Inspired by a keen gardener in the family Haxnicks have recreated one of our best-selling products in miniature. The Easy Seedling Tunnels have all the benefits of our larger Tunnels and make for an inexpensive way to maximize sowing success.

Haxnicks Tree Mat protecting a young tree.

Tree Care

It seems we all love our trees! Following on from the success of our Flexi-mesh tree guards and StrimGuards we are expanding our tree care range. Our coir Tree Mats are biodegradable, natural looking mulch mats that will give vital support to young trees by suppressing weed growth and aiding water retention.

Haxnicks Fruit Tree Protector being put on.

Those of you with fruit trees and bushes will be well aware that a badly timed frost or greedy birds can hugely reduce summer crops. Now you can easily protect the blossom from harsh weather and the fruits from pest invasion with our carefully constructed Fruit tree protectors. Having battled with ordinary netting in our orchard we have gone to town on designing a net that is easy to use and fit for purpose. Hooks, toggles and loops for lifting over the net, a sealable opening side, reinforced seams, a drawstring bottom, wildlife friendly mesh…this is no ordinary net!

 Haxnicks' Herb Wall Planter laying in the Sun

No garden required

For those of you growing in smaller spaces, vertical gardening is a great way to maximise your outdoor space and make a feature on bare wall or fences. Our simple Herb Wall Garden will enable you to grow fresh herbs without needing any ground space. Perfect for roof terraces, patios and balconies this smart oxford fabric planter can be planted up with your favourite culinary herbs in each pocket, hung within reach of your kitchen and out of reach of pets and slugs!

Haxnicks' Vigoroot Easy Table for the Garden

Another small space growing solution comes in the form of our Self-watering Vigoroot Easy table garden. This raised fabric planter comes with a poly protection cover and has a hidden 5 litre reservoir that waters the plants via capillary action. This clever little growing system is made from our revolutionary Vigoroot fabric that will ‘air prune’ roots for a healthier plant and more abundant cropping.

Haxnicks' Boot Clamps to protect from rain against a brick wall

Leaving the best to last, this has to be my favourite new product for 2017.  Anyone with a new year’s resolution to be more organised is going to love the BootClamp. A simple device to clip over the top of your boots means that they they can be hung up out of the way and be kept in a tidy pair, but best of all muddy boots don’t need to come indoors! The clamp fits so well that neither rain nor spiders will get a look-in.

So, hopefully there is something here for all types of gardeners. We are already thinking about our new product designs for 2018, so if you have any bright ideas let us know!

Happy gardening,

Grandpa Haxnicks

 

 

 

 

The Potty Gardener and Manure in the Garden

The Potty Gardener gives advice on manure in the garden

I have been busy helping Grandpa Haxnicks to dig manure into his vegetable plot and learning some of the ins and outs of using various types of animal excrement in the garden. What comes out of the animal and goes into the soil is so much more than a pile of poo. All creatures great and small can provide free plop for your plot that will vastly improve soil texture, boost nutrient levels and give you bigger, better and healthier crops.

Poultry Manure for the Garden

If you happen to keep chickens, then as well as eggs you have a readily available source of useful fertiliser. Fresh chicken poo has high levels of ammonia so should be dug into vegetable plots at least 4 months before planting. Or you can add it to a compost heap and let it rot down before using it. It makes particularly good top dressing for blackcurrants and plum trees, but tends to be quite alkaline so not so suitable for acid loving plants such as blueberries, or camellias.

Horse Manure and its nourishing factors

Cow poo is great for improving soil structure. Again, it should be left to rot down in a compost heap or dug in a good few months before planting. Autumn is the perfect time for digging it in, particularly if you want to use it in areas where you might be planning to grow root vegetables in the spring. If you try to grow root vegetables in freshly manured soil the results can be a little alarming. Carrots will grow into multi-limbed aliens, beetroot will go barmy and potatoes go scabby. A great plus point for cow poo is that it has been well digested, passing through multiple stomachs a process that kills off any weed seeds.

Weed seeds are something to watch out for with horse manure. So be sure that it is well aged to give time for any seeds to compost. Another benefit of horse poo is that it is considerably less stinky than chicken or cow. But if you want a completely non-stinky manure then worm poo is your best bet. Obviously, it is going to take a biblical proportion of worms to create the equivalent of a few cow pats, but I am told that you can make worm poo tea out of worm casts from a wormery and feed it to your potted plants!

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

Choosing

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.

 

Planting

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!