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I first grew Chinese Kale ‘Kai lan’ (also known as Gai lan or ‘Kailaan’) in about 2006; I was really impressed by this vegetable’s speedy growth and the bounteous harvest my plants produced.  ‘Kai lan’ leaves, flower buds, and stems are all edible, but it’s the stems that provide the main harvest.  Try it raw, stir-fried, steamed, or boiled; ‘Kai lan’ is a little like broccoli.   

My Wildlife Pond in Springtime & Early Summer

I thought I’d share with you some photographs I’ve taken of my wildlife pond this spring and early summertime.  I’m not sure if you’ve seen my pond before; this pond was created last year (here’s the first article I wrote about this pond).  To guide you through the season, I’ve added my photographs to this article in date order. 

In times of stress, our gardens and allotments become our refuge and remind us of the true value of plants and outside spaces.  For me, time in my garden is priceless; it lifts my spirits, leaving me feeling revitalised.  One of my favourite things to do is to grow my own food.

You don’t need a large garden to grow your own vegetables. 

RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Decade

Today the Royal Horticultural Society launched a competition inviting the public to vote to decide the winner of the prestigious accolade of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Decade.  The nominated plants are all winners of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year Competition.  Here are the nominees……

Anemone ‘Wild Swan’

Back in 2010, Anemone ‘Wild Swan’ ‘Macane001’ was the winner of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year Competition. 

Growing tomatoes is so much fun!  Tomato plants will grow happily in a sunny border or in large containers of peat-free compost.

There are two types of tomatoes – cordon and bush tomatoes.  Cordon (also known as indeterminate) tomatoes can form tall plants, reaching 2m or more!  Don’t worry – you can ‘stop’ your plants from growing any taller by simply pinching out the tip of your plant’s stem, when your plants have reached your desired height.

Grow your own figs and grapes

Holidaymakers buying plants or collecting plant material as holiday souvenirs often bring home more than they bargained for and unwittingly transport pests, diseases, or invasive species into the UK; causing lasting, and sometimes irreversible, problems for themselves and UK horticulture as a whole.

Instead, make your holiday excitement last all summer, every year, with UK grown plants that will flourish inside your conservatory or glasshouse, at your garden or allotment. 

Last month, I published a lovely competition from Burpee Europe and Mr Fothergill’s who gave readers an exciting opportunity to name their first ever blight-resistant orange tomato!  Thank you to everyone of you who entered; it was tough to decide on a winner as we received heaps of super name suggestions for this interesting new tomato.  Our favourites were:

Sweet Amber, suggested by Laura Blackburn
Tangerino, suggested by Roger Seaman
Golden Girl, suggested by Irene Wilson
Merrygold, suggested by Ann Page
Hope, suggested by Penny Grant and Helen Tottle-Nugent
Sunpop, suggested by Georgina G.

I feel a strong and passionate desire to protect our planet’s peat bogs.  This is an urgent matter, it’s not something we can keep putting off to consider again in the future, at a more convenient time – for the peat that is being extracted now can’t be saved and so if we continue as we have done in the past, the opportunities we have in our hands, right in front of us now, will be lost forever.

NB. I wrote this article about space2grow in Farnham, before the COVID-19 crisis started and quarantine measures were put in place.  Naturally, all of space2grow’s clubs and activities are closed at the moment, but this fantastic initiative will reopen when it is safe to do so.

Space2grow: community gardening in Farnham, Surrey

For every problem we experience in life, nature provides us with the ingredients we need to heal ourselves. 

Brilliant plants for bees and butterflies!

The furry bees, colourful butterflies, mysterious moths, darting hoverflies, and other pollinating insects that visit my garden are just as fascinating as the plants I grow.  The sound of bees buzzing and the sight of butterflies fluttering relaxes and inspires me.  I want to help you find the best pollen and nectar-rich plants to attract insects and bring your garden to life!

The Frensham and Dockenfield Horticultural Society cannot run their Spring Show in the Marindin Hall on Saturday 4th April 2020, as they usually would – but this society have no intention of giving up their flower show!  So this year, they’re holding an Online Spring Show!  There won’t be any trophies or prizes – the show is just for fun.

Frensham and Dockenfield Horticultural Society Online Spring Show is open to anybody who wants to participate, you don’t need to be a member of this society and you don’t have to be from Frensham, or even from Surrey; it’s open to all – wherever you live. 

WIN Seeds & The Chance to Name A Brand-New Tomato Variety

We could all do with a little cheering up and what better way than to get your thinking caps on and join in with this naming competition. How would you like to be in with a chance to name a brand-new tomato variety from Burpee Europe?

To help you with your creative juices, here is some more information on these sunny looking balls of joy!

What am I growing inside my Vegepod?

Since I first told you about my Vegepod much has changed.  Back in 2018, my Vegepod was set up in an area of my garden that enjoyed partial shade, but after trialling the Vegepod in this fairly beneficial position (vegetables thrive when they’re grown in sunny and partially shaded sites), I decided to move my Vegepod to a more shaded area of my garden, to see what I could grow successfully inside my Vegepod with more challenging growing conditions.

Peat free Compost Trial: Growing Broad Beans

Dalefoot Composts have produced the top performing peat free composts in all of the Compost Trials that I’ve run over the past seven years.  Rather than just continually highlighting every year that Dalefoot Composts are the best peat free composts to use, I designed this Compost Trial to demonstrate methods you could use to get the best results from one of their products, namely Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost.

Protecting peat bogs

Peatlands are extraordinary environments, which now cover just 2-3% of our planet’s surface.  These scarce ecosystems are very fragile; they depend on sufficient moisture being available, together with a slightly cooler temperature range, to enable sphagnum moss (which slowly forms peat) to grow, flourish, and reproduce.  If optimum conditions occur, a new layer of peat, (measuring up to one millimetre thick) can be created over the course of a year; consequently, this is not a resource that can be replaced in a hurry. 

Every year I run Compost Trials to discover the best quality peat-free composts on the market.  Dalefoot Composts have produced the top performing composts in all of my Trials over the past seven years.

One of my favourite products is Dalefoot’s Double Strength Wool Compost, a nutrient rich, organic compost, comprised of natural materials, including bracken and Herdwick sheep’s wool. 

2020 Calendar of Specialist Plant Fairs, Festivals, Sales, and Swaps

Happy new year!  Happy new plants!  Here are the dates and details of plant sales, plant festivals, plant swaps, seed swaps, and other super opportunities to buy wonderful, locally grown plants at fantastic prices; as well as details of events where you can swap plants or seeds for free!  Great quality, rare, hard to find, special, and unusual plants can be found at the specialist plant fairs and other events that I have listed for you below, in this, my 2020 Calendar of UK Specialist Plant Fairs, Festivals, Sales, and Swaps!

2020 Calendar of Specialist Plant Fairs, Festivals, Sales, and Swaps

Happy new year!  Happy new plants!  Here are the dates and details of plant sales, plant festivals, plant swaps, seed swaps, and other super opportunities to buy wonderful, locally grown plants at fantastic prices; as well as details of events where you can swap plants or seeds for free!  Great quality, rare, hard to find, special, and unusual plants can be found at the specialist plant fairs and other events that I have listed for you below, in this, my 2020 Calendar of UK Specialist Plant Fairs, Festivals, Sales, and Swaps!

East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing
Author: Meera Sodha
Publisher: Fig Tree Books
ISBN: 978-0-241-38756-6

I discovered Meera Sodha‘s recipe for Vegan Cauliflower Korma in Meera’s ‘The New Vegan’ column, in The Guardian, back in October 2018.  I’ve been a huge fan of Meera Sodha’s recipes, right from the first moment I tasted this delicious roasted cauliflower curry. 

Christmas Gifts for Gardeners 2019

Christmas time is such a special time of year.  It’s a time for meeting up, celebrating, and showing our thanks and appreciation to those around us.

Make the promise of a day out together, to visit a snowdrop or daffodil garden

Love and friendship are priceless gifts.  Why not gift the promise of a day out together in a magnificent snowdrop garden, in January or February?