Category Archives: Grow your own

Starting off seed potatoes

First and second early potatoes are sprouted (chitted) before planting. This helps reduce the time the tubers spend in the ground and may lead to increased yields.

Put the seed potatoes in a single layer on a seed tray (or an egg box) with the end with the most ‘eyes’ or buds facing upwards. Keep in a cool, light, frost free place (an unheated room is ideal, but avoid direct sunlight). Dark shoots should grow to about 5cm (2in) within around 6 weeks. If conditions are too dark and warm – shoots will be pale and leggy. Choose four strong shoots and rub off all weaker shoots.

The tubers are now ready to plant in the ground, as long as soil conditions are suitable – around March in sheltered areas; April in colder places.

You can find a range of seed potatoes online or in store now.

marchplants17-image7

Baby bedding plants from Perfect Choice

These are great value for money costing only a fraction of fully grown plants with the added bonus of being past the tricky germination stage.

The best place to grow them on is a greenhouse or conservatory (temperature 16-18°C is ideal). Alternatively, grow on a well-lit windowsill. Carefully water the pots (using a watering can fitted with a fine rose) and allow them to drain. Gently remove the plants from their pots and replant into 9cm pots using a multi-purpose compost. Water in and feed fortnightly with a liquid fertiliser ( such as tomato fertiliser, Phostrogen or Miracle-Gro all-purpose plant food).

Alternatively incorporate continuous release fertiliser granules into the compost (such as Miracle-Gro or Gro-Sure). Make sure the plants have good ventilation and are spaced apart and not over watered; to avoid diseases like grey mould, damping off and mildews. Harden off plants (acclimatise to outdoor conditions) once weather conditions are much warmer (around mid-May) by putting outdoors in a sheltered position during the day, but covering with fleece to prevent leaf damage. Take plants indoors at night. In the second week, remove the fleece during the day but bring in at night. Once night temperatures are above 7°C, plants can be left uncovered unless frosts are forecast.

You can find a range of bedding plants online and our full range in stores.

marchplants17-image11

Planning Your Small Scale Garden

Part 2 – Planting Your Small Scale Garden


In a small garden every plant counts and plants with ‘multi-season’ interest are particularly valuable. Look for plants that offer flowers and fruit, foliage and flowers, or plants that have autumn colour or interesting stems or foliage during winter.

Plants that have both flowers and fruit
These include plants that have the added bonus of foliage interest as well. Berberis forms can really come into their own here, for example the tiny Berberis thunbergii ‘Tiny Gold’ which has yellow leaves, young red shoots, yellow spring flowers and red fruit in autumn. Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea ‘Admiration’ has red-orange leaves but is otherwise similar. There is now a range of disease-resistant Hypericum which have yellow flowers and coloured fruits, try Hypericum Magical Beauty = ‘Kolmbeau’ for its berries that start peachy-pink. If you want a good-sized, handsome shrub the fan-shaped, golden-leaved Leycesteria formosa Golden Lanterns = ‘Notbruce’ has red flowers and purple fruits that provide interest all summer through.Small Garden Flowers and Fruit
Plants that have winter interest
Consider flowering plants with foliage that changes colour in winter. Some Hebes have this quality, coming in a range of sizes and needing a spot that has sunshine in winter. Try the compact Hebe ‘Caledonia’ with violet flowers and rose-purple winter foliage whilst Hebe ‘Pascal’ has copper-red winter foliage. Amongst herbaceous plants Bergenia often have burnished winter foliage, for example Bergenia ‘Overture’ has bright pink spring flowers and leaves that are burgundy in winter. The stems of dogwoods can positively glow in winter sunlight – for beautiful variegated foliage and red stems try Cornus alba ‘Spaethi’ or Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ for good autumn colour followed by orange winter stems. These are cut back to near ground-level in spring, once established.Small Garden Winter Interest Plants
Plants with exceptional foliage
Evergreens in particular can provide interest throughout the year. Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Gold Star’ has dainty shimmering foliage and can be pruned for containment if space is limited. In warm gardens the exotic Coprosma and Lophomyrtus forms, some of which change colour at different seasons, can be fascinating. Try Coprosma repens ‘Tequila Sunrise’ or Lophomyrtus x ralphii ‘Red Dragon’ with red to black foliage. Slow but beautiful Nandina domestica ‘Wood’s Dwarf’ glows red in winter and is gold, green and red in summer. For foliage drama where a feature plant can be accommodated Fatsia japonica ‘Spiser’s Web’ is exotic, with huge variegated leaves.
Plants with Exceptional Foliage
Plants for a hot and dry place
Where your garden has a hot and dry area, herbaceous plants can be invaluable. Slugs permitting, try Alstroemeria, coming in a huge range of sizes and happy in a container, such as Alstroemeria ‘Orange Gem’. Striking Abutilon with big bell-flowers can be grown as annuals, try apricot-flowered Abutilon ‘Linda Vista Peach’. Colourful Zinnias have a long season, if deadheaded, an example being Zinnia marylandica ‘Zahara Yellow’ (Zahara Series). Sedums also have a place in a hot spot. In winter they provide architectural interest with their flat brown seed heads, try grey purple Sedum ‘Matrona’. Frothy purple fennel is lovely placed at the rear, especially Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’. Requiring little attention Salvias, such as the small shrub Salvia microphylla ‘Pink Blush’ has rich pink flowers for months whilst silvered Convolvulus cneorum is decorative all summer.Plants for a Hot and Dry Place

This has just dipped a toe into the possibilities. We haven’t even started on walls and fences that can be clad in repeat-flowering climbing Roses paired with Clematis…

Enjoy!

This blog post was kindly contributed by Susan A. Tindall

Brand new to Longacres | Miniature World from Vivid Arts

Vivid Arts Miniature World Display

So many of us are renting houses or flats these days that not all of us have the luxury of a large garden, nor the time, to be able to make it lavish and beautifully planted. Similarly, many people are downsizing their gardens, or may only have some planters and pots on a garden patio. As a result of this, many people have begun a hobby of creating miniature gardens.

The craze of creating miniature ‘fairy-sized’ gardens kicked off in the USA and has finally reached our shores, and we at Longacres are thrilled to be a part of it.

Vivid Arts Miniature World DisplayBrand new to Longacres Garden Centre is the Vivid Arts Miniature World range, a wide selection of hand-painted and highly detailed fairy doors, cobbled paths, wildlife, lamp posts, garden gnomes, gypsy caravans, bridges, terracotta pots and much, much more. Along with our extensive range of plants, pots and planters we have everything you need to create your very own miniature world.

You can view and order the Vivid Arts Miniature World range on our website. Alternatively you could pop in to our Bagshot store and see the beautiful display we have in our houseplants area if you require some inspiration, where our knowledgeable team will be able to offer some great advice on which plants would really complement your miniature garden.

Prices of the ornaments range from just £2.49 to £21.99.

Here are some of our top tips for creating a miniature garden:

  • Vivid Arts Miniature World DisplayYou can create them in a window box, an overgrown area, your garden’s border – you can even revive an old broken pot too! So long as they are in an area where they won’t be harmed by too much sunlight or water (it all depends on which plants you choose – feel free to ask a member of our plants team for advice if you are unsure!)
  • Miniature gardens work both indoors or outdoors – just make sure you don’t over water an indoor one!
  • Be prepared to frequently maintain your miniature garden. They are living and breathing after all – just a few snips here and there will stop the garden looking overgrown.
  • Cobbled paths and wooden fences really add to the realism of the garden.
  • Dwarf and slow-growing plants work really well in miniature gardens!

Autumn Bulbs at Longacres Garden Centre

It seems like Autumn has arrived doesn’t it? Hard to believe we’re only just approaching the end of August.  At least the rain is good for our gardens (and ducks apparently). Whilst many of your plants are still blooming in the garden, the weather is definitely beginning to change and it would seem a good time to consider the next crop of flowers that you would like to see in your tubs and borders.  Bulb planting time has arrived.

At Longacres you can choose from a wide range of bulbs.

At Longacres you can choose from a wide range of bulbs.

One of the advantages of bulbs is that we tend to forget about them a bit after planting, and then get a lovely surprise the following spring.   Having a range of bulbs within your garden or pots can mean you are treated to flowers almost year round.

Many of us probably think of plants in terms of those that traditionally bloom in spring – daffodils, crocus, tulip – and those that bloom in summer.  However, there are many that happily bloom in autumn and even mid-winter. Cyclamen, for example, can survive in temperatures from zero degrees upwards and come in a range of stunning colours.  Winter Aconite, with their look very similar to that of the humble buttercup, can flower from late winter to early spring.  The Lance Leaved Lily produces fragrant flowers from late summer through to early autumn.  Not forgetting the Chinese Chive, or to give it its Latin name – Allium Tuberosum. Doesn’t that sound like a great Harry Potter spell?

Autumn Bulbs at Longacres

Bulbs are an ideal choice for young children.

At Longacres you can choose from a wide range of bulbs for your pots and borders; some of which are on fantastic deals of 3 for £10 and 3 for £12.  Bulbs are an ideal choice for young children as, unlike established flowering plants, they cannot really damage a bulb when planting – especially if they are as enthusiastic about gardening as their parents!

Both children (and adults, of course) may like to take advantage of our ‘cram a pot’ section.   A large pot of daffodil bulbs is just £3.99 – and you can even keep the pot!  Also on offer are a range of specialist bulb planters, starting at just £1.99.  You can find them all around the bulb section.

Autumn Bulbs at Longacres

Longacres offers a ‘cram a pot’ section in their bulbs area.

We look forward to seeing you at Longacres soon.

Impatiens

Monty Don Says There are “Not Enough Gardens” | Longacres Garden Centre

Brits are not doing enough gardening; at least that is the sentiment of renowned English television presenter, gardener, writer and speaker Montagu Denis Wyatt “Monty” Don.

More Green Opportunities

Monty Don, the current host of the BBC television series Gardeners’ World, said that many young people are being turned off by gardening because they can no longer pay for homes with green spaces. Don said it is a “tragedy” that not enough young people are learning gardening skills. He is concerned that spiralling house prices and lack of space could mean people do not have opportunities to get green fingered.

“My generation grew up expecting some sort of ownership and access to gardens. I had my first home aged 26 and started growing things then. My three kids are in their 20’s and none of them rent or own homes with gardens,” the BBC host told Radio Times magazine, as quoted in a report in mirror.co.uk— the online edition of The Daily Mirror.  “A generation is growing up with no access to green space. There’s an increased remoteness about it all. Gardens can reach into life in a way that’s beyond horticulture. It’s about how we choose to live our lives and how younger people engage with them.”  He added, “We’ve lost so many of our allotments and it’s a tragedy. They’re increasingly important as young people have less access to gardens. Don, who is returning as the host of this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, explained gardens are “part of our
way of life and we can’t keep building on them. Councils are selling them off and say they’ll find
allotment space somewhere else but this is missing the point.”

Gardening the Easy Way

We stand behind Don on this issue. Gardening should be something that everyone does. Experts are even saying gardening is key to longer life. We’ve always encouraged everyone to have some sort of green patch in their home, even if it’s just a few potted plants by the windowsill or by the front garden. We have a range of plants and other products that make gardening easy. You can get the seed, the pots, and the feeds to give your plant a boost all in one convenient centre.

Longacres Garden Centre is one with horticulturists and gardeners in encouraging everyone to grab a shovel, dig in, and start planting. Get in touch with us today and we’ll be happy to provide you with any gardening products you need.

Planting peas in the Longacres garden

Plant your pea plants now for a great early harvest!

Peas are one of the more hardier vegetable plants that you can get hold of or grow. You can sow pea seeds in Autumn – overwintering them in a greenhouse till spring, or sow them now (March / April) ready for planting out in a few weeks time. The other alternative is to buy a 6 pack or pot of pre-grown pea seedlings ready to plant out! (available in store)

Peas are a great starter crop as they are easy to grow and require little care after initial establishment to grow well. The first thing to make sure you have done is to prepare your site and improve your soil – if you haven’t done this already then you can view my previous video and blog post on how to do this.

Once you’ve improved your soil and you know where you want your pea plants to grow you’ll need to assemble, create or purchase a frame for them to grow up. Peas climb naturally so this is vital for supporting good healthy growth. You can get great, simple to use kits like we have here at Longacres, or you can assemble your own with just simple string and some bamboo canes.

Once the frame is in place you plant out your peas! Dig a small hole about the same size of the current pot they are in. Gently push the root ball up from the bottom of the pot or 6 pack and place gently into the hole you have just dug. Carefully backfill (move back around the plant) the soil that you dug out to create the hole. And that’s your peas planted!

The next step is to pinch out your pea plant growth tips if you want them to be more busy and compact. Do this by cutting or ‘pinching’ about a third of the growth of the pea away from the plant down to above a node – see my video on peas to find out more about this! You may also need to tie your peas to the canes or supports using jute twine if they are already tall.

The final step is to water them in (unless its raining of course!) I added the new Baby Bio Top Defence feed to my water which helps plants with stressful situations such as transplanting, drought and cold. It will be interesting to see how this product works over the season.

And that is all you need to know about planting peas! I will have a blog and video update later in the season to show you tips on harvesting and show you how things are getting along during the main growing season!

Have any questions about growing your own, plants or houseplants? Send them to us in an email to: plantsonline@longacres.co.uk

Jack Shilley - Soil Improvement

Nurture Your Soil & Enjoy A Bumper Crop | Longacres Garden Centre

You can watch the accompanying video here: http://youtu.be/gDM9uYFZWN4

Arguably one of the most important parts of gardening and horticulture is looking after your soil. It contains all the vital nutrients that plants need to sustain healthy growth and produce a good crop, if the soil becomes worn down or isn’t nurtured you will start to run into problems with your plants and crops!

The first task you’ll need to do to start improving your soil is to clear it of weeds, heavy clay blocks, debris, stones & anything else which shouldn’t be there. It’s best to try and tackle weeds at the roots and remove as much of them as possible. Rake the soil over to remove any last obstructions.

Next is to begin to till or ‘turn over’ your soil whilst adding organic matter. Using a fork or soil tiller begin to lift & turn over the soil and break up any large clumps that may occur from doing this. As you are undertaking this begin to add your organic matter – this could be compost, manure, leaf litter etc… and continue to work the area until you’ve added a decent amount of organic matter and the whole site has been turned over.

Its always advised to read the label on the product you are using and care should be taken not to over-fertilise the site as this could lead to plant growth problems. Make sure any manure is well rotted before applying to your site!

I’m using Westland Organic Vegetable Growing Compost for this new vegetable plot – which is good for improving soil drainage, soil fertility and the texture of the soil. I’m also adding well rotted farmyard manure from Westland which contains a whole host of excellent nutrients required for plant growth and will again help with soil drainage and texture.

Thats all there really is to it! Now is the time to work the soil and your new vegetable plot, or existing patch ready for the season. Depending on the crops you are hoping to grow will determine what else you may need to add to the soil or what you may need to fertilise your plants with later on in the season.

This simple soil nurturing process can be carried out on a yearly basis and you’ll start to see the results of your improved soil in your flowers, vegetables or fruit – almost straight away!

Have any questions about growing your own, plants or houseplants? Send them to us here: plantsonline@longacres.co.uk

Combining Choisya ‘Aztec Pearl’ with bulbs

Choisya x dewitteana 'Aztec Pearl'This useful shrub with its shiny green leaves, rounded growth habit and starry white flowers from pink buds in April and May can be usefully combined with bulbs that are planted in front of it, and which can provide interest at different seasons of the year. Bulbs generally die back and become dormant once flowering is over so that their foliage doesn’t spoil any subsequent planting. Please remember that, as the foliage dies it has a week or two of untidiness as the plant concludes its lifecycle for the year.

For best results plant bulbs in Autumn, and organise their planting positions to suit their growth habit. You can also move bulbs planted in tubs into position in front of the Choisya.

Crocus go in front, they are small and their spent foliage soon lies flat on the ground. Behind them put the tulips. The foliage of tulips dies back very quickly once flowering has finished. The varieties suggested flower later than the daffodils and help to hide their foliage as it declines. At the rear put the daffodils as their foliage hangs around, very untidily, until June. They generally flower before the tulips, so don’t use dwarf forms or they can be hidden by the robust foliage of the tulips.

The bulbs for blooms from February to August

  • Crocus 'Prins Claus'February and March – a colony of plump purple and white Crocus. Crocus ‘Prins Claus’ sitting in sunshine in front of the green leaved Choisya can be pleasing.
  • April – Narcissus ‘Mallee’ is 30cm high in flower with blooms in shades of yellow and tangy pink and white. The buds of the Choisya are pink and this picks up that colour. Narcissus ‘High Society’ has white, pink-rimmed flowers and is tall, at over half a metre when in flower.
  •  April-May – Tulipa ‘China Town’ is 30cm high in flower with pink and green flowers and variegated foliage. Tulipa ‘Apeldoorn’s Elite’ is over half a metre high when in flower. It is yellow with a pink blotch.
  •  July and August – a tub or two containing a white Agapanthus such as Agapanthus ‘Snow Pixie’ can be placed on the earth, the green foliage of the Choisya again providing a rich green backdrop to the clear white of the Agapanthus.

These are just a few ideas if you are brave enough to experiment and heighten your enjoyment of your garden. Enjoy.

This Longacres Blog post was contributed by Susan A. Tindall