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Wednesday
Sep282011

What to do with a glut of fruit and veg

In recent news we’ve heard the government’s plan to scrap ‘sell by’ dates in a bid to cut £12 billion worth of food being unnecessarily binned every year. According to Wrap (Waste & Resource Action Programme), 5.3 tonnes of edible food is annually being thrown away, costing the average family £680 a year. So what should we do with our glut of fruit and veg?

We all know September is a busy month for harvesting, so if you’ve had bumper crops this year and are at a loose end with what to do with it all, why not follow these useful tips?

1.    Freeze - one of the simplest and easiest ways of managing a glut of fruit and veg is simply storing them in your freezer at home. Beans, peas, herbs, blackcurrants and blackberries all freeze well.
Tip: Group small quantities of each fruit and veg into separate freezer bags, so you only defrost what you need.
2.    Create some ready-made home cooked meals - there are always days when you don’t feel like cooking, so making and freezing some ready-made home cooked meals can be a great idea. Use your soft veg. such as courgettes and tomatoes as ingredients for a chilli con carne, spaghetti bolognaise, soup and stew. Tomatoes can also be used to create pasta sauces and ratatouille. 
Tip: We also found these delicious Top 8 Vegetable Glut Recipes, which we think you’ll love.
3.    Make pickles, jams and chutneys - this is a great way of using excess fruit and herbs. Herb jellies are easy to make; simply use a jelly such as crabapple as a base and simply add herbs like rosemary. To create fruit jams follow this easy recipe.
4.    Flavoured vinegars - again, this is a great way to use up excess fruit. All you need to do is empty a bottle of either white wine vinegar or cider vinegar into a bowl, add your fruit (e.g. raspberries or blackberries), leave to stand for five days and pour back into the bottle, straining the fruit.
5.    Pickling - you can pickle almost anything, including vegetables and fruits. So why not get your creative juices flowing and experiment with different combinations of vinegars and spices?

Storing fruit

If you don’t want to preserve your fruits and prefer to eat them later, you can store harder fruits like apples and pears. When storing apples and pears, simply place them on a tray and store them in a cool dark space.

Gardener’s notes:

•    Never store bruised or blemished fruit.
•    To keep fruit at its best, it is a good idea to wrap each fruit in tissue paper or newspaper and ensure that there is no contact between each fruit.
•    The storage area should be well ventilated.
•    Check regularly, removing bad apples as quickly as possible.

Tip: Softer fruits are best kept in the freezer.

Get the community involved with the joys of growing your own, and show them just how wonderful and tasty home-grown food can be by hosting a vegetable and fruit sale.

Notcutts


Tuesday
Sep272011

The Magic of Gardening Competition Winners

Ali Patel's ’My Sister and Our Giant Allotment Pumpkin‘Our Magic of Gardening photography competition has closed and our winners have been announced. Since May we have received some truly inspiring pieces from some extremely talented photographers; you certainly didn’t make it easy for our panel of judges. Overall there were 39 regional winners, hand selected by British gardening writer, Peter Seabrook and TV presenter, Christine Walkden. However, and we know this is the part you’re all interested to find out, there were only two photographers that took home the big prizes and crowned the ultimate competition winners.

In our Junior category, Ali Patel from St Albans won a compact digital camera for the submission of ’My Sister and Our Giant Allotment Pumpkin‘. We were really impressed with the size of their pumpkin, it’s sure to be a prize winner and may even create some friendly neighbour rivalry when it comes to Halloween this year.

Liz Dineley was our winner in the Adult category, winning a top of the range digital camera and £500 worth of Notcutts vouchers for the submission of ’Orchard‘. These succulent apples had our mouths watering, we’re sure they’re going to be bursting with flavour... delicious.

Congratulations to all of our winners, it has been a joy seeing everyone’s photographs.

Notcutts


Monday
Sep262011

Planting Spring flowering bulbs

Spring flowering bulbs can offer a brilliant display of colour, as long as they’re grown in the right area and in well prepared soil. The simple trick of the trade when it comes to growing large and healthy bulbs is providing them with rich and well drained soil, along with a balanced pH level. Having the right pH will feed the underground bulb, which will promote growth and an abundance of flowers.

Preparing your soil

Organic matter is a preference many bulbs share, so before you plant your spring flowering bulbs, make sure to dig in some compost. To ensure your bulbs grow to become healthy plants, good drainage is essential.

Tip: Digging in organic compost is essential if you have clay like soil.

Where to plant

Make sure you choose a site with good drainage or add sand or grit to the soil. The majority of hardy bulbs originate from the Mediterranean and so thrive in sunny positions with freely draining soil. When buying your spring flowering bulbs choose them according to location and soil type that best describes your garden.

Herbaceous borders

Planting bulbs such as daffodils, winter aconites, tulips and fritillarias in a herbaceous border will help to fill in gaps and provide colour and interest before early spring plants begin to grow.

Tip: Mix different varieties for a striking array of bright colours.

Formal planting

Spring flowering bulbs can make a valuable contribution to formal bedding displays when planted in a large group.  It’s best to plant large varieties in a formal position as this can create a wow factor in the garden.

Tip: Grow groups of early flowering tulips in a bed, which will be occupied by annuals later in the summer.

Bulbs in pots

Large, showy flowers such as tulips, lilies and alliums are ideal for growing in containers and have a wondrous effect when planning a spring patio.

•    Plant your bulbs in a container that is made up of three parts multi-purpose compost and one part grit.
•    Plant three times their depth and one bulb width apart.
•    Water bulbs regularly when in active growth.
•    Reduce watering once the leaves start to die down and then through the dormant season. However, do keep checking your pots throughout winter, ensuring they don’t die of drought.
•    Feed bulbs as soon as the shoots appear every seven to ten days with a fertiliser like liquid tomato feed.

Gardener’s Notes

Plant the label: Simply placing the bulb’s label in the ground will help you know what bulbs you have planted and where. This will ensure you don’t disturb your bulbs by planting another variety in the same spot.

Dividing your bulbs: Many bulbs spread during the growing season, so to ensure they’re never over crowded, it’s best to divide or move them when they enter their dormant period. This is usually just after the foliage completely dies back.

Spring Care: Cut back your bulbs once they’ve finished flowering. Don’t be scared, take the stems back to just above ground level and they’ll soon replace themselves. Resist the temptation to cut it back while still green, but floppy.

Notcutts


Friday
Sep232011

A great time for planting shrubs

HydrangeaShrubs are the essential building blocks of planning a garden and are a basic plant to use when filling out borders and empty spaces in an existing garden. They can easily provide structure and substance to a garden, but thoughtful planning and careful plant selection is essential when ensuring the success of new shrubs.

Autumn is the best time to start planting your shrubs due to the temperature of the soil below ground. The temperature will have dropped, but the heat from the summer months would still remain in the soil, which is beneficial to root growth. When planting during the fall season, the shrub will become dormant above ground, but the roots will have several months to grow and engage with their new home. When spring arrives, the plants have already established themselves and so will produce strong leaves, new top growth and plenty of flowers.  

Planting shrubs is not a difficult job and when it’s done right you’re sure to have a garden full of colour and fragrance.

Preparing the soil

Before commencing any planting it’s best to ensure you have the right pH levels for your chosen shrubs. With few exceptions, most shrubs prefer a soil pH to be between 5.8 and 6.5 – it’s important to know what the preferred level is to ensure your plants get all the nutrients that they need.

Tip: Soil testing kits can be found in most garden centres

Prepare the soil with adequate drainage as many shrubs won’t thrive in either poorly drained clay soil or exceedingly sandy soil.

Planting Shrubs

After ensuring your soil is well prepared there are six simple stages to complete when planting your shrubs:

1.    Fork over the soil and incorporate compost into the ground.
2.    Dig a hole, twice as wide as the diameter of the shrub’s root spread and with enough depth to ensure that the top of the roots are level with ground surface.
3.    Separate the shrub roots and place in the centre of your planting hole.
4.    Backfill the hole, covering all the roots and firm using your boot to remove any air pockets.
5.    Water in well and spread a thick layer of compost around the shrub.
6.    Water weekly.

Some shrubs you can plant this September include:

ARBUTUS UNEDO E. Pendent, ivory coloured flowers.
COLUTEA ARBORESCENS. Bright yellow, pea-shaped flowers all summer.
DABOECIA CANTABRICA ‘ALBA’. 45-80cm. Pure white flowers.
ELAEAGNUS EBBINGEI E. Small, fragrant, silvery flowers on mature plants.
PUNGENS ‘MACULATA’ E. Small, fragrant, silvery flowers on mature plants.
ERICA CINEREA ‘ALBA MINOR’ E. White flowers. July/October.
HYPERICUM ‘HIDCOTE’ E. Shallow saucer-shaped, golden yellow flowers.
VAGANS ‘VALERIE PROUDLEY’ E. Good white heather.
VULGARIS ‘BEOLEY GOLD’ E. 45cm. Golden foliage, white flowers.
 ‘COUNTY WICKLOW’ E. 30cm. Double shell, pink flowers. August/October
 ‘DARK BEAUTY’ E. 25cm. Blood red, semi-double flowers.
 ‘ROBERT CHAPMAN’ E. 45cm. Soft purple flowers. Gold foliage in spring.
‘KINLOCHRUEL’ E. 20cm. Double white flowers.
ESCALLONIA ‘IVEYI’ E. Panicles of white flowers, very dark leaves.
FATSIA JAPONICA E. Milky white flowers in globular heads. Late September/October.
HIBISCUS ‘DOROTHY CRANE’. Large white/crimson flowers.
HYDRANGEA ARBORESCENS ‘ANNABELLE’. Heads of white sterile flowers.
‘MADAME E. MOUILLIERE’ (MOPHEAD). White with pink shading.
QUERCIFOLIA. Pyramidal panicles, white, ageing purplish.
LIGUSTRUM JAPONICUM E. Pyramidal panicles of white flowers.
LUCIDUM AND FORMS E. White flowers in handsome terminal panicles.
OSMANTHUS HETEROPHYLLUS E. Small, fragrant, white flowers in clusters.
POTENTILLA FRUTICOSA ‘ABBOTSWOOD’. White flowers, greyish foliage.
ROSES. Shrub, bush and climbing roses give colourful displays.
ROMNEYA COULTERI ‘WHITE CLOUD’. Sweetly scented, white, “Poppy” flowers.
SPIRAEA JAPONICA ‘ANTHONY WATERER’. Flat heads of carmine flowers, purple in bud.
‘LITTLE PRINCESS’. Pink heads. July/September. Small dark leaves.
TAMARIX GALLICA. “TAMARISK”. Pink flowers in plumes. Sea green foliage.

Notcutts


Thursday
Sep222011

Jobs to do in September

September marks the beginning of a new season; leaves turn from luscious greens to shades of amber and burgundy, layers of moss develop on fallen leaves and plants begin to settle in. Autumn is one of the most beautiful times of year and as the season begins to change, a new wave of gardening tasks await us.

Autumn is one of the best planting seasons; the heat from the summer sun remains in the ground and as the rain falls, moisture also seeps into the soil, giving plants all they need to survive the winter months. However, when it comes to your lawn, you may want to incorporate an autumn feed.

Now is the time to start planting your evergreens, tender Mediterranean plants such as rosemary and lavender and spring flowering bulbs. It’s important to plant evergreens this month or next to give their roots time to engage with their new surroundings before the winter months. If the roots are not engaged and are unable to draw water, they’re more liable to die of drought.

With bulbs, separate the woodlanders (for example, anemone and dog tooth violet) from the dry varieties. Prioritise the planting of woodlanders and leave the dry bulbs, such as tulips and narcissus in a dry and airy place before planting.

September is a great time to get your hands dirty planting a variety of perennials, climbers and shrubs. To find out more, we here at Notcutts have an extensive list of plants you can incorporate into the garden in our September and October Monthly Calendar.

Allotment

Allocate as much time on the allotment as you can as September can prove to be an extremely busy month. Now is the time to start sowing spring lettuces, salad leaves, winter spinach, pak choi and turnips and planting spring cabbage and autumn onion sets.

Harvesting is also a big job this month, so start digging up your:

Salad leaves, lettuces, radishes, potatoes, globe artichokes, Spinach, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, cucumbers, Runner beans, beetroot, leaf beet, spring onions, Bulb onions (from store), carrots, parsnips, peas, Squashes, marrows and courgettes.

As the chillier months are descending upon us, September is the best time to begin protecting and enriching the soil. Simply sow green manures; doing so will help retain the nutrients in the soil instead of them being washed away by the winter rain. These plants not only provide a covering over the soil, generating a protective shield, but they also absorb nutrients such as nitrogen, locking them up to be released once the plants are dug back into the soil in spring.

Notcutts