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5th March 2021

15 garden tips for March

15 garden tips for March

With daffodils in flowers and leaf buds swelling on branches, spring is definitely in the air again. Get your garden into shape for the year with our top gardening tips for March.

Top gardening tips for March

  1. Now’s the time to plant your chitted first early potatoes. (You can also plant unchitted potatoes, but chitting them will give you a better harvest.) Plant onion sets, too, covering them with netting to stop birds pulling them up.  

  2. Once the daffodils have finished flowering, deadhead them. Leave the foliage to die back naturally so that the plants can store enough food in their bulbs to produce next year’s blooms.

  3. Dig up large clumps of snowdrop clumps while their leaves are still green and divide them into smaller clumps for replanting. This will encourage them to spread.

  4. Choose a day when the grass is dry, and cut your lawn on a high setting.

  5. In parts of the country with milder climates, you can start sowing seeds outdoors towards the end of March. Hardy annuals like Californian poppies, Nigella, cornflower and nasturtium can all be direct sown outdoors now, as can carrots, parsnips, radishes and broad beans. If the ground is still frozen, sow them indoors in pots instead.

  6. Sow tomato seeds and chillies indoors in pots, and put them in a greenhouse or warm sunny windowsill to germinate and grow.

  7. Plant summer-flowering bulbs like gladioli, agapanthus and lilies in pots indoors, ready for planting out once the frosts are over.

  8. If you haven’t pruned your bush roses yet, do it now, cutting away all dead, damaged and crossing branches, removing spindly growth and cutting the remaining stems down by a third to a half.

  9. Prune mophead hydrangeas, cutting back last year’s flowering stems to the first strong buds below the dried flowerheads.  Prune fuchsia, too, cutting back last year’s flowering stems to one or two buds from the older woody growth. 

  10. Lift and divide big clumps of perennials like daylilies, agapanthus and hostas. Lever fibrous clump apart using two garden forks inserted back-to-back in a clump. Use a sharp knife or the cutting edge of a spade to divide woody roots. Dividing overgrown perennials will rejuvenate them and gives you extra plants.

  11. Feed roses with general-purpose fertilizer and blueberries, camellias and rhododendrons with ericaceous fertilizer.

  12. Clear weeds from borders and dig compost or well-rotted stable manure into your vegetable beds to get ready for spring planting.

  13. Put in plant supports now, while your plants are still small, and it’s easier to work around them. As the plants grow, they can be trained into the supports.

  14. Get ready for summer by installing a water butt connected to a downpipe to collect the rainwater from your roof.

  15. Top-dress shrubs in pots by removing the top 5cm (2in) of old compost and replacing it with fresh.

Visit Willowbrook Nursery for tools, seeds and all your gardening needs, and get your garden looking great this spring!

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18th February 2021

Top 10 scented plants

Top 10 scented plants

Find out our top 10 scented plants and enjoy the spread of natural scent in your garden. We have a wonderful range of plants with a nice fragrance. Fill your garden with scented plants and your garden will not only look fantastic but also smell fantastic! 

1. Honeysuckle

The sweet fragrance of Honeysuckle brings a heady scent to the garden. Not just beautiful with flowers varying from white to cream and salmon pink but also a wonderful climber, ideal for pergolas and archways. It’s especially good where you might be able to sit near or walk by to fully appreciate it, along with the many beneficial insects that it will attract. >>>

2. Lemon Balm (Available later)

One of the most fragrant of herbs and great in a cooling glass of water to refresh you on a hot day in the garden. Lemon Balm is very easy to grow and ideally in pots or contained well, as it is similar to Mint with respect to taking over. Lemon Balm can be used to calm and ease anxiety as well. 

3. Nicotiana (Available as seeds)

A wonderful annual for beds and borders and highly fragrant in the evening time. Protect seedlings and young growth from slugs and snails, otherwise, they are really easy to grow. A variety of colours from lime green to white, pink and red. You will even find some moths are attracted and will put on quite a display at night. 

4. Lilac Bush 

The stunning Lilac gives out an incredible late spring fragrance with pretty flowers, perfect for using in baking or sprinkled on flowers. Often used for hedging, they just need pruning after flowering and watering when first planting. >>>

5. Daphne

The sight and smell of Daphne is a staple late winter/early spring plant for the garden. The clusters of pinkish flowers can be smelt quite far away so they are great for entrances, driveways and anywhere you walk by to breathe in the beauty. >>>

6. Eucalyptus (Available later)

Not just for bouquets of flowers! Eucalyptus looks great in the garden, especially in pots. Trim the stems and hang up in your home. Not only smells great but even helps medicinally as well. 

7. Gardenia

The pretty white flowers of Gardenia are unmistakable not just for their beauty but for their gorgeous fragrance. They grow well in containers when planted in ericaceous compost and if you stand your container by the front door, it will be an entrance full of perfume. >>>

8. Sweet Box

A welcome sign in late winter, as the flowers dangle from long stems with glossy foliage. But it is the fragrance that will really hit you. The wonderful sweet fragrance that is a sign of the garden coming alive again for the seasons ahead, is most welcome. >>>

9. Rose

The classic fragrant garden plant! With the many many varieties available there is a rose for everyone. From the intoxicating 'Chartreuse De Parme’ to the now becoming well-known fragrance of 'Chandos Beauty'  >>>

10. Stocks (Available as seeds)

The cottage garden favourite, Stocks are incredibly fragrant with pretty flowers and full of colour. Equally, they look perfect in a bunch of flowers as they do in pots. 

Get sowing your seeds, nurturing plug plants and fill your garden with fragrance from our range of seeds and plants in store. Happy Gardening.

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4th February 2021

Top 15 gardening tips for February

Top 15 gardening tips for February

In February, you can really sense that spring is just around the corner, with snowdrops and daffodils starting to appear and buds swelling on the trees. Please make the most of dry days with our top 15 gardening jobs for February.

Top 15 gardening tips for February

  1. Prune winter-flowering shrubs like Mahonia and Viburnum x bodnantense as soon as they’ve finished flowering, to keep their shape neat.

  2. Prune bush roses now while they are still dormant. Remove spindly growth and any dead or crossing branches, then cut the remaining stems down by half, cutting just above strong, outward-facing buds.  Use a sloping cut so that rainwater drains away from the growing buds.

  3. It’s time for your wisteria’s first pruning of the year. Prune last year’s long whippy stems to within 3-4 buds of the main stems.

  4. Prune fuchsia and buddleja, cutting fuchsias back to one or two buds from the old wood, and buddleja stems back to about 30cm (1ft) above ground level.

  5. Once deciduous grasses like Deschampsia and Calamagrostis start to look bedraggled, cut the dead foliage back. (Leave Miscanthus and Pennisetums until later in spring.) To keep evergreen grasses like Carex and Festuca looking good, comb through with your hands (wearing gloves) to remove dead foliage.

  6. Cut back epimediums to remove old dead leaves, so that the new flowers are easier to see when they appear.

  7. Cut back Cornus sanguinea (Dogwood) to 15cm (6in) above ground. This will promote the growth of new, brightly coloured stems for next winter.

  8. Prune autumn-fruiting raspberries now before the new growth starts. Cut all canes down to ground level.

  9. February is a good time to plant new shrubs and trees, as long as the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged. Water new trees in well and stake after planting.

  10. Once snowdrops have finished flowering, dig up big clumps, divide and replant to encourage them to spread.

  11. From mid-February onwards, start chitting first early seed potatoes.  Place the potatoes in a bright, frost-free spot indoors, with the buds pointing upwards. They should start to sprout shoots and be ready to plant in 4-6 weeks, once the shoots are about 2cm (1in) long.

  12. Get your seeds organized by sowing month, so that it’s easier to remember to sow them on time.

  13. Start sowing seeds indoors. In late February, sow summer favourites like tomatoes and cucumbers in small pots place them on a sunny windowsill or in a greenhouse to germinate.

  14. Clear weeds out of vegetable beds and dig in compost.

  15. On a dry day, spring-clean glasshouses and cold frames, washing them down with warm soapy water to get rid of lurking pests and diseases.

Get your gardening year off to a great start. Whether it’s tools, plants or seeds you’re looking for, you’ll find everything you need in our centre, so visit us today!

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22nd January 2021

Planting a deciduous hedge

Planting a deciduous hedge

If you’re thinking of planting a hedge, it’s well worth considering deciduous shrubs. Deciduous shrubs are easy to grow and need an occasional trim. Deciduous hedging plants often have beautiful flowers and berries that attract wildlife to the garden, contributing to biodiversity. Many shrubs have fabulous autumn foliage, too. So, what are you waiting for, here are six of our favourite deciduous hedging plants.

Top 6 deciduous hedging plants

1. Beech

One of the most popular traditional hedging plants, beech (Fagus sylvatica) grows well in most free-draining soils, in sun or light shade. The new leaves are vivid green in spring, darkening slightly in summer and then turning gold in autumn. For real impact, choose copper beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Atropurpurea’) with deep purple-bronze leaves that turn copper-coloured in autumn. 

Beech grows about 30-60cm (1-2ft) per year and should be trimmed in late summer, giving it time to put on new leaves before winter. These leaves will turn brown but will stay on the plant until new leaves appear in spring, providing screening. >>>

2. Hornbeam

If you like the look of a beech hedge, but your soil is heavy clay, hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) is the answer. It looks very similar to beech, but copes better with wet soils, although it doesn’t hold its leaves for as long through winter as beech does. Hornbeam grows faster than beech, so prune it twice a year, in June and September. >>>

3. Forsythia

For a fabulous splash of early colour, it’s hard to beat a forsythia hedge. In spring, before the new leaves appear, the bare branches are smothered in a blaze of golden yellow flowers. This reliable shrub will grow in most soils, in sun or light shade. Cut it back immediately after flowering, and trim it again lightly in late summer to shape. >>>

4. Rugosa rose

Rugosa roses (Rosa x rugosa) make a lovely informal hedge, with large colourful flowers all through summer followed by spectacular red hips in winter. Birds and bees will love it, and the very thorny stems provide good security. Trim in spring, wearing gloves! Rugosa roses are ideal for coastal gardens, grow well in sandy soil and like a sunny position. >>>

5. Hawthorn

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is another excellent choice for wildlife-friendly gardens, with flowers in spring for bees, followed by berries for birds. The thorny branches also provide good security for nesting birds. Colourful autumn leaves and berries keep it looking good into winter. Trim in early summer after flowering is finished, and try to leave a few berries for the birds.  For a more formal look, trim again in late summer. >>>

6. Hardy fuchsia

In areas with mild winters, hardy Fuchsia magellanica makes a spectacular informal hedging choice, with vivid lipstick-pink flowers for months from summer well into autumn. It does best in a sheltered spot in partial shade. Trim it in early spring. (Available later in the Spring)

Winter and early spring is an ideal time to plant deciduous shrubs, while they are still dormant. Visit Willowbrook to choose from our wide range of hedging shrubs for your garden or browse online >>>

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13th January 2021

January is 'Walk The Dog' Month

January is 'Walk The Dog' Month

January is Walk The Dog Month. But if you have a dog, you already know you have to walk it every day, so what’s new? Well, it turns out Walk The Dog Month is also a great way to get your own New Year off to a good start. Not only your dog needs a daily walk, but you should also reach the 10.000 steps a day! Want to know how? Here are a few ways to turn walking your dog from a chore into a treat.

Get the walking habit

Were you one of the thousands of us who made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight or get fitter? The good news is, your dog can help you to achieve this resolution. Walking your dog every day forces you to get into the habit of walking yourself. And research says that if you do something regularly for three weeks, it’s much more likely to become a habit, so by the time February comes, you’ll have got both yourself and your dog into a good place for the coming year.

Being outdoors is an excellent mental health tonic, especially at this time of year. Take the opportunity to de-stress, get some perspective and enjoy watching for the first signs of spring to appear.

Why dogs need regular walks

Like us, dogs can easily put on weight over Christmas, with all the little treats, we slip them and have less chance to get outside and exercise. Obesity can be a serious problem for dogs, causing a range of health problems, including arthritis and breathing difficulties. Lack of exercise can also cause behavioural problems, leaving dogs bored and under-stimulated. Getting your dog out for a good walk every day can really help with their general fitness and behaviour.

How to make walks fun for you and your dog

If you and your dog both enjoy your daily walk, it’s much easier to make it a habit. These tips will help to keep things fun for both of you.

  • Your dog needs to know you’re in charge, so walk confidently, and train them to walk beside or just behind you, not ahead, and without pulling on the lead. Reward good behaviour with treats.

  • Take a leaf out of your dog’s book and practise living in the moment, appreciating the sights, sounds and scents around you as you walk.

  • Leave all your screens at home and enjoy a dose of real life. Walk with a friend and spend some quality time catching up in person. Walking a dog is also a great way to get to know other people in your neighbourhood and bond over dog stories.

  • Change your route occasionally to stop it getting boring. Investigate new paths and explore your neighbourhood.

  • Dogs need to stay hydrated, even in cold weather, so give them plenty to drink before and after walks. On long walks, take a travel bowl and a bottle of water with you.

For all those little treats, toys and extras that make taking care of your pet even more rewarding, visit Willowbrook Pets where you’ll find everything you need.

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16th December 2020

Time to prune perennials, roses and fruit trees

Time to prune perennials, roses and fruit trees

It's time to prune plants, roses and fruit trees as they enter dormancy. The temperature drop and less sunlight mean many garden plants will now drop leaves, stems will die back, and you may think some perennials have disappeared! In fact, they will be storing energy under the soil so they can burst back into bloom the following year when the weather warms up again. It’s a great time to tidy up in the garden, so here are some gardening tips to help you during the colder months. 

Now it's time to prune perennials

You will notice many perennials will have already died back. Make sure you remove any dead foliage, or it could go mushy in the soil, encouraging pests and diseases. Remove stems and any remaining foliage for the compost heap. Most perennials can be pruned back to the ground and mulched for the winter period. You might want to leave some with stunning seed heads for structure and interest over the next few months, and many will also provide food and homes for insects and other garden wildlife. 

Time to prune roses

The abundance of gorgeous blooms will be well and truly finished by late Autumn, with perhaps a few petals desperately holding on. Depending on the type of rose that you are growing, but generally, now is the time to prune off any dead, diseased or damaged material including any remaining flower heads. Prune back any suckers from your roses to the ground, and your roses will be nice and tidy. 

Now is the time to prune some fruit trees 

Most deciduous trees should be pruned when dormant in late Autumn and no later than early March. There are various methods dependant on the type of fruit tree. Make sure you have some sharp tools such as secateurs and loppers. For larger branches, a pruning saw will be needed. Remove any stems and branches that are crossing over or rubbing on each other as this can contribute to damage and disease. Prune out any dead or diseased materials and your trees will then be given some shape and good airflow. 

Pruning plants in late Autumn allows them to use all of their energy in storing nutrients so they can regrow and thrive in the following years. It’s an essential gardening task, so wrap up warm, grab a flask of tea and enjoy late Autumn in the garden. 

We have many options in store to help you prune your plants from tools to bags and compost bins

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3rd December 2020

15 Garden tips for December

15 Garden tips for December

December’s the perfect time for tidying up the garden and taking stock, thinking about what worked well and what you might change next year. Catch up with all those little jobs you never get time for during the year, like organising your shed and cleaning your tools. And when the days are cold and dark, start planning for next year’s planting! Here are our top 15 gardening tips for December.

Top 15 garden tips for December

  1. Rake up leaves on lawns and put them in a pile, or collect them in black plastic bags to make leafmould. Avoid walking on your lawn when it’s frosted or covered in snow, as this damages the grass.

  2. Clear fallen leaves from beds, as they can harbour slugs and snails. If the leaves are affected with black spot, don’t compost or store them, but put them in your garden waste bin or burn them if permitted.

  3. Wrap pots in bubble wrap or fleece to protect them from frost damage, and put them on pot feet to prevent waterlogging which could kill plants.

  4. Lift and store dahlia tubers once frost has blackened the leaves. Brush off the soil once dry and store the tubers somewhere cool in boxes filled with moist sand.

  5. Plant bare-root roses, as well as deciduous shrubs and trees.

  6. Mulch beds with a soil conditioner or well-rotted farmyard manure. Spread a thick (5cm/2in) layer of mulch on the soil and leave the worms to work it in over winter.

  7. Prune climbing roses, removing any dead wood, tying in new shoots and cutting back flowered side shoots by two-thirds of their length.

  8. Lift and divide large clumps of rhubarb.

  9. Cover winter brassicas like kale and sprouts with netting to stop birds eating them. Harvest leeks, parsnips, winter cabbage and sprouts.

  10. Look after your garden wildlife in winter. Keep bird feeders topped up and birdbaths filled with clean water for birds to drink and wash in. Float a ping-pong ball in your birdbath to stop it freezing over in icy weather. Make a log pile in the corner of your garden to provide a home for toads and other garden wildlife.

  11. Take advantage of having less to do in the garden, and clean out your shed. Clean your tools and get shears, secateurs and lawnmowers sharpened ready for next year. 

  12. Check tree ties and stakes are secure enough to stand up to winter storms.

  13. Clean your greenhouse, washing the windows, floor and benches with disinfectant to get rid of any pests and diseases.

  14. Water houseplants sparingly in winter, and check that they are not placed too close to radiators.

  15. Scrub patios or pressure-wash them to stop slippery patches of moss building up.

Whatever the time of year, you’ll find everything you need for your garden in our centre. We also have a great range of gifts for the gardener in your life, so come and visit us soon!

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19th November 2020

8 tips to bring the outdoors inside this Christmas

8 tips to bring the outdoors inside this Christmas

Top tips to bring the outdoors inside this Christmas

  1. Add a festive touch to your flower arrangements. Combine dried seed heads with fresh flowers, or use them on their own for long-lasting displays. Teasels, honesty, echinacea and ornamental grasses have beautiful seed heads, and red rose-hips and holly berries add a seasonal dash of bright colour. Coloured dogwood stems also make a spectacular addition to flower arrangements. 

  2. To preserve the gorgeous colours of autumn leaves, make up a solution of one part glycerin to two parts water. Cut sprays of leaves when the colours are at their best, tap the cut ends with a hammer to crush them, and stand them in containers filled with the glycerin/water solution for up to a month. Once the glycerin starts to appear on the leaf surfaces, remove the sprays, wipe the leaves and use them to decorate your home. They should last for several months.

  3. If you want fresh flowers in winter, now’s the time to plant a winter-flowering shrub. Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ flowers from late autumn to spring, bearing clusters of pink flowers with a fabulous fragrance. Cut a few flowering stems and place them in a vase to perfume the whole room.

  4. If you didn’t get around to planting prepared daffodils or hyacinths in pots indoors in September, buy ready-potted bulbs and put them on a sunny windowsill to give you beautifully scented flowers at Christmas. 

  5. Few plants say Christmas like poinsettias, with their spectacular crimson flowers. To keep your poinsettia looking good, protect it from draughts and put it somewhere warm and bright, out of direct sunlight. Don’t overwater it – wait until the surface of the compost is practically dry to the touch before watering.

  6. Save autumn leaves with interesting shapes, like maple or oak. Put them between two sheets of paper and press them under a few heavy books for a couple of weeks until dry. Then spray them silver or gold and scatter them over shelves or use them as table decorations.

  7. Make a change from the traditional Christmas tree this year. A Corkscrew hazel (Corylus contorta) in a pot is like a natural sculpture with its quirky, twisted branches, ideal for hanging baubles. Or why not drape a potted olive tree or standard bay in Christmas lights? 

  8. Get the kids involved in making Christmas pomanders. Tie ribbons around oranges to give them a festive look, then press cloves into the skins and hang the pomanders up to fill the house with fragrance as they dry.

Whether you’re looking for colourful winter plants or traditional Christmas decorations, you’ll find them at Willowbrook. Let us help you make your house spectacular this holiday season.

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5th November 2020

15 garden tips for November

15 garden tips for November

Whether you’re harvesting the last of your summer vegetables, tidying up your borders or planting spring bulbs, there’s plenty to do in the garden in November. Make the most of those clear autumn days with our top 15 November garden jobs.

15 garden tips for November

  1. November is the best month to plant tulip bulbs in pots and borders. There’s still time to plant other spring bulbs like daffodils, crocuses, irises and fritillaries too.

  2. Sow broad beans in the ground or pots, and sow salad leaves on sunny windowsills for winter picking.

  3. Carrots, cabbage and celeriac can all be harvested now. Harvest parsnips after the first frosts, when they will have a sweeter flavour. 

  4. Net brassicas like cabbage against pigeons, and stake Brussels sprouts to keep them standing securely, ready for harvesting at Christmas.

  5. Lift dahlias after the first frosts have blackened the foliage. Leave them somewhere cool to dry, then store them in trays, covered with a layer of newspaper or dry compost to stop the tubers drying out.  You can do the same for cannas and tuberous begonias.

  6. Clear fallen leaves from lawns and beds. 

  7. Mulch beds with compost or well-rotted farmyard manure to improve the soil structure. Put down planks to work off, to avoid compacting the soil.

  8. Put pots on pot feet to stop them getting waterlogged. In cold areas, wrap pots with fleece or bubble wrap to insulate them against frost damage. 

  9. Prune roses by a third to prevent wind rock.

  10. Keep cutting back faded perennials, but leave some seed heads for the birds and to provide winter interest in the borders.  

  11. Cut old hellebore leaves off at ground level. This reduces the spread of hellebore leaf spot and also makes the winter flowers easier to see.  

  12. November’s a good time to prune apple and pear trees (but leave plum trees alone until midsummer). Prune blackcurrants, redcurrants, whitecurrants and gooseberries now too, removing deadwood and thinning out congested branches to achieve an open goblet shape. Prune autumn-fruiting raspberries, cutting all the old canes to ground level.

  13. Leave ivy over winter, as the flowers and berries are a valuable food source for both birds and bees. It also provides shelter for overwintering ladybirds and butterflies. Don’t worry about it getting out of control, as you can cut it back in spring.

  14. Clean your bird feeders and fill them up. Oil-rich, high energy foods like suet balls, peanuts and sunflower hearts will help birds get through the winter. Keep birdbaths topped up too. 

  15. Aerate your lawn by spiking it with a garden fork or a hollow tine aerator. Cut the lawn on a high setting to see it through winter. 

Whether you’re pruning trees, planting spring bulbs or planning next year’s vegetable garden, you’ll find everything you need in our centre, so come and visit us soon.

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22nd October 2020

How to harvest and store apples

How to harvest and store apples

If you’re lucky enough to have your own apple trees, autumn is a busy time of year. Delicious crisp, juicy apples are just waiting to be picked and eaten now or made into tasty pies and desserts. Here’s how to make the most of your apple harvest.

When are apples ready to harvest?

If you know what variety your apple tree is, in other words, whether it’s a Granny Smith, a Golden Delicious or some other named type, you can look it up and find out roughly when it is supposed to be ripe. Remember though that local weather and microclimates will affect how fast fruit ripens in different areas. If you’re unsure, try to pick one or two apples. If they come away easily in your hand, then they’re ripe. And if windfalls are dropping from the trees, then it’s definitely time to start picking.

How to harvest apples

To pick an apple, cup it in the palm of your hand, lift and twist gently. The fruit should come away quickly – if not, leave it for a few more days. Even on a single tree, apples will ripen at different times. Apples exposed to more sunlight will ripen faster, so those at the top of the tree, and on the sun-facing side, will be ready first. Keep picking as the fruit ripens. Use a ladder to reach the higher fruits.

If you’re picking apples for storing, take great care not to bruise them, as one bruised apple can spoil a whole batch. If you’re planning on using them straight after picking, however, the odd bruise here or there won’t matter.

How to store apples

The best apples for storing are the mid- and late-season varieties like Braeburn, Bramley’s Seedling, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious. Early-season varieties like Discovery and Ellison’s Orange don’t store well, so use these soon after picking. 

  • To store apples, wrap each apple in tissue paper or newspaper and place them in low-sided boxes or trays so that air can circulate. You can also store apples unwrapped, but if you do this, it’s vital to ensure that they don’t touch each other. 

  • Store your apples somewhere cool, dark and well ventilated. Apples give off ethylene gas, which encourages fruit to ripen and then spoil, so adequate ventilation is essential to stop this gas building up.

  • Check stored apples regularly and remove any spoiled fruit.

  • Store different varieties separately, so that you can use up the ones with shorter storage life first.

We have a great range of apple and other fruit trees in our centre, and autumn is the ideal time for tree planting. Visit us soon to choose the perfect fruit tree for your garden.

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