Alex Mungo, Gardening, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting

Have you ever wondered why you can go in a shop and buy lovely potatoes and onions throughout a long and very cold winter that have been grown right here in the UK? Actually, it’s all in how they are grown, harvested and stored that makes a difference. You, too, can grow your own potatoes and onions with just a few tips so that you know when and how to plant them and, of course, when and how to harvest and store.

Growing your own potatoes
It isn’t as difficult as it may seem, but you will need to be aware of a few well-placed bits of advice from farming experts such as Carpenter’s Nursery and Farm Shop who make it their mission to provide the best products and information specific to UK growers.

Choosing and Planting Your Seed Potatoes

The first thing you need to know about growing potatoes is in how to choose your seed potatoes to ensure you have virus-free, certified seed and that you’ve prepared your soil approximately two weeks prior to planting. Of course, you also need to have previously placed your ‘seeds’ in trays that are well ventilated with the eyes facing upwards and outwards.

Allow them to grow to at least ½” to 1” in length, or if you prefer metric, 12 to 25 mm. This will take a few weeks, but when they have grown to a good length, you can now plant them in soil that was properly prepared and ready to accept your crop.

Growing potatoes at home

How Long Before You Can Harvest?

This is a question most asked by those who are planting potatoes for the first time. There are actually various times you can harvest and the exciting thing to learn here is that you don’t need to harvest the entire crop at the very same time! You can scrape off a bit of soil to expose the upper potatoes and once they have grown about the size of an egg, you can safely harvest a few new potatoes.

This is approximately 12 weeks, or a bit longer, into the growing season. The rest of the crop will take 6 to 8 weeks longer and at that point you will need to learn how to ‘lift’ them from the soil so that you don’t damage the tubers.

Growing Onions at Home

Like potatoes, onions should be planted sometime between mid-March through mid-April but unlike potatoes, you need to be very careful not to have manured the ground too close to planting. While potatoes can go into ground which has been manured two weeks prior to planting, soil prepared for onions should be prepared a good bit earlier than that as freshly manured soil can easily lead to rot and you surely don’t want that!

Growing onions at home

A Few Closing Words

While potatoes are technically tubers and onions are a root variety plant like garlic and shallots, both will have the main ‘edible’ under the soil. What you have just read through is but a brief idea of just how easy it can be to grow your own potatoes and onions and since both are planted and harvested at about the same times of year, it helps to learn how to do both as it saves you unnecessary steps when preparing and planting your garden.

Both can be stored over a long winter and both are hardy if you start with certified seeds and bulbs. This year, why not plant your own potatoes and onions and enjoy home-grown, organic crops. It’s fun, easy and absolutely rewarding.

Alex MungoAlex is a professional writer with a keen interest in gardening. He currently contributes written articles to various gardening websites such as Carpenters Nursery & Farm Shop.

Christmas, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Jorge, Planting, Plants

There have been a number of new trends in Christmas plants, where gardeners have sought to brighten up their gardens and homes with new exotic varieties. Our traditional roster of Christmas plants consists primarily of evergreens that can subsist in Northern Europe’s cold winters. These plants – coloured green, red and white – are often shrubs with berries. Now, plants brought in from further afield include hardy winter-flowering plants suited for Europe’s climate and other ill-suited plants to be grown indoors.

Christmas Cactus

new christmas plants
The Christmas cactus originates from the Brazilian rainforest and is related to Christmas only inasmuch as it flowers from late November to early January. A competitor to the Mexican poinsettia, the plant also blooms in pink, red and white but has a long life span. Grown as a houseplant, it is vulnerable to temperatures below 10°C although it is relatively easy to grow. As a cactus, it is necessary to give the plant a resting period after it flowers through watering only so it does not dry out. Interestingly, as an epiphyte the plant can grow harmlessly on other plants.

Christmas Rose

The Christmas rose is a bit of a misnomer for the plant is a helleborus, rather than part of the rose family, and often flowers from January to March as opposed to December. Brought over from the Alps, this hardy perennial is well suited to the temperate climate of the United Kingdom. The variety associated with the Christmas rose is the ‘Potter’s Wheel’ variety with its white petals and golden stamens. More recent popular varieties include the early flowering ‘Praecox’ variety that can flower for Christmas, and the ‘Snow Frills’ variety that is designed to flower from late autumn to early winter and is characteristic for robust double-flowers.

Hippeastrum

new christmas plant

Recently, the Hippeastrum has gained popularity as a Christmas plant. While the genus comprises of around 90 species, the most popular varieties resemble a six pointed star. Included in this is the ‘Double Delicious’ with its Christmassy bright red petals. Originating from the Caribbean and South America, it is necessary to keep the perennial indoors at Christmas, although can be left outside in the warmer months.

The Hippeastrum is sometimes confused with the Amaryllis. This confusion originates out a dispute between botanists over the taxonomy of two similar genera from different continents. Subsequently, it was decided that the plant in question – the plant from South America – should be labelled a Hippeastrum, while the plant from South Africa an Amaryllis.

Hyacinthus

new xmas plants hyacinth

Hyacinths are the indoor pot plant par excellence as they are leafless, fragrant and highly prolific at producing star-faced bells. As they usually flower in the spring, you will need to buy the special winter flowering varieties. They can be planted in September and October, although they are usually brought in once the temperature drops, and it is recommended that you transfer them to pots once they reach 4 to 5cm high. Particularly popular at Christmas is the ‘Pink Pearl’ variety with its two shades of pink.

Crocus

Crocuses may not be on everyone’s mind at Christmas as they usually come in yellow or purple and flower in autumn or spring, however there are winter-flowering varieties. Varieties sold include the white ‘Snow Bunting’ and others that are often hybrids.

Azaleas

azalea christmas plants

Recently Azaleas have been shaped into Christmas trees to provide a colourful companion to the Christmas tree (although they are probably best left in another room). Varieties chosen are in the colours of Christmas such as the bright red of ‘Andy Wery’ or the appropriately named ‘Koster’s Brilliant Red’.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

Alex Mungo, Christmas, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting

grow your own christmas tree
Ever thought to grow your own Christmas tree? Growing your own Christmas tree offers a number of benefits over buying at a local nursery or tree farm. The experience of nurturing and shaping the tree for years leading up to its harvest will help you and your family develop a sentimental sense of kinship to an evergreen that will serve as the focal point of your holiday decorations. It’s also a great learning experience for children, and caring for a large patch of trees makes for a great pastime that will provide you with a new Christmas tree every year. Here’s some basic advice to help you prepare for growing your own Christmas trees in the UK.

Consider Starting with a Rooted Tree from a Nursery

Did you know it takes about 6-9 years for an evergreen to reach a desirable height for a Christmas tree when started from seed? Luckily, it’s possible to skip the long wait by purchasing pre-rooted trees that are already a few feet tall from tree farms and nurseries. Carpenter’s Nursery in the St Albans area is a great example of a nursery where you can choose from a variety of trees that have been grown locally.

Choose a Type to Grow

grow your own christmas tree 1

Christmas trees can be split into three main categories – firs, pines, and spruces. The type you choose to grow should be based on personal preference and the planting zone you live in. The most popular firs grown in the UK are Fraser, Noble and Nordmann. Lodgepole and White pines are also common choices, as are Blue, Norway and White spruces. Be sure to research the appearance and growing requirements of each kind before deciding which type you’d like best. Many people choose a few different kinds to line up their Christmas tree variety for the coming years. Spruces tend to lose more needles and are less fragrant than firs, while pines hold the middle ground in terms of aroma and shedding.

Watering, Shaping, Pruning and Shearing

Although Christmas trees are generally low maintenance plants, you will need to stick to a watering, pest control, and shaping regimen to produce a tree that will be worthy of being called a Christmas tree. After a tree is more than a year old, it’ll be established enough to only require supplemental watering during drought periods. Once the tree is 2-3 years old, it’ll need to be pruned or sheared annually after flushing new growth, which typically occurs in the middle of summer. The goal is to keep the tree shaped like a Christmas tree so that it grows into that shape. Gradually maintaining the shape of the tree with proper shearing techniques will prevent you from having to make noticeably visible cuts to the exterior during its final season.

Recognising Disease and Pest Problems

how to grow your own christmas tree

It’s normal for evergreens to drop about 30% of their needles every year, so some shedding of the older interior needles is nothing to be alarmed about. However, if you begin to notice substantial shedding or discoloration of the outer needles, that could be a sign that your tree is suffering from a deficiency or pest problem that should be addressed as soon as possible.

Alex MungoAlex is a professional writer with a keen interest in gardening. He currently contributes written articles to various gardening websites such as Carpenters Nursery & Farm Shop.

Gardening, Geoff, Grow Your Own, How To, Infographics, Planters, Planting

Continuing our complete guide to container gardening, we reach one of the most vital steps: how to repot a plant. You may have seen our previous 3 step walkthrough for repotting, but here it is in infographic form! Learn this simple method and you’ll be well on your way to supporting your potted plants through long and happy lives.

Choosing the best new container for your plant is vital. Luckily we have a huge range of planters in all shapes and sizes to give you some inspiration!

How to repot a plant

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In case you missed it, check out Part 1 in the Complete Guide to Container Gardening: How to Plant in Pots.

Next up is Part 3: How to Water Pot Plants, coming soon!

GeoffGeoff works within the Primrose marketing team, primarily on anything related to graphics and design.

He loves to keep up with the latest in music, film and technology whilst also creating his own original art and his ideal afternoon would be lounging in a sunny garden surrounded by good food, drink and company provided there is a football nearby.

While not an expert, his previous job involved landscaping so he’s got some limited experience when gardening.

See all of Geoff’s posts.