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Urgent Action is needed to protect our peatlands

We urgently need our leaders to take responsibility and introduce laws and treaties that will protect our environment.  There is so much to be done that could help our planet and not enough action being taken.  Many of the messages and promises that were shared at COP26 are statements that have been shared many times before but are yet to be acted upon. 

Happy new year!  I want to help you create a positive and uplifting garden where you can relax, grow your favourite plants, and make real connections with nature.

Do you have a compost heap in your garden?  How about in your college or office garden?  Composting is such a wonderful thing to do; it’s great for the environment, good for wildlife, produces amazing compost, and saves money! 

New Miniature Orchid Flowers

I’ve taken pictures of a few of my miniature orchids to show you the plants that I’ve been focusing my attention on this week.  Currently, my main preoccupation has been to be poised and ready to pollinate my Aerangis macrocentra plants, in the hope that the last remaining flower of my first plant to bloom survived long enough for my second plant’s first flower to open. 

Winter provides us with a wonderful opportunity to plant trees.  What could be a better Christmas gift than planting a tree with your family?  I’m a particular fan of planting bare-root trees: trees that are grown in the ground (not containers) and then lifted, dispatched, and planted while they’re dormant.  Bare-root trees are grown in the soil, they’re naturally peat-free, require less watering at the nursery, and can be grown plastic-free – as there’s no need for containers. 

The Aerobin 200 Litre Home Composter

I’m such a fan of home composting; I want to encourage everyone to set up a compost bin!

Last year, the designers of Aerobin sent me one of their Aerobin 200 Litre Home Composters to try out.  Over the past year, I’ve put the Aerobin 200 Litre Home Composter to the test.  I decided to trial this product because it’s designed to be placed on a paved or concrete area, and this together with the product’s compact size makes it perfect for small patio gardens. 

One very good thing to come out of the pandemic has been the rise in online talks and events.  We’ve realised that we don’t have to get in our cars and drive to meetings, we can enjoy listening to speakers, learning about plants, and connecting with groups, charities, and organisations, from the comfort of our own homes.  Together we can discover more about plants and make real connections online, whilst saving money on transport and avoiding all the associated environmental costs. 

The Kew Declaration on Reforestation for Biodiversity, Carbon Capture and Livelihoods

I attended the ‘Reforestation for Biodiversity, Carbon Capture and Livelihoods’ conference, hosted by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Botanic Gardens Conservation International.  I fully support the Kew Declaration on Reforestation for Biodiversity, Carbon Capture and Livelihoods.  I am just one of the 3000 global experts and concerned citizens from 114 countries that signed this declaration which aims to promote the long-term protection and restoration of natural forest ecosystems worldwide. 

An Update from my Wildlife Pond in Autumn

Hello, and welcome to my wildlife pond in October.

I’ve been very fortunate – the wish I made for autumn sunshine (I expressed this hope at the end of my last update) came true!  September blessed us with glorious warm weather and uplifting sunshine; it was so hot on a couple of days that it felt like mid-summer!

Planting bulbs is rather like giving yourself a wonderful promise of future flowers and happiness.  What could be lovelier?  If you want to enjoy spring flowers, such as daffodils and crocus, and early summer-flowering bulbs, like alliums, then it’s time to start planting bulbs!

When purchasing bulbs, wherever possible choose top-sized bulbs, as larger bulbs are more floriferous than smaller bulbs. 

For the past fourteen years, I’ve grown a delicious harvest of Florence Fennel bulbs by going against traditional gardening advice; instead of ending my sowings of Florence Fennel seeds by June or July, I’ve continued sowing seed throughout August and September.  Gardeners in Northern regions of the UK would be unlikely to succeed following my advice, but in my Surrey garden’s sandy soil these later sown seeds have produced a wonderful last hurrah of medium-sized sweet tasting Florence Fennel bulbs.

Alliums: Spectacular Summer Flowering Bulbs!

Last autumn, Dutch Grown sent me a range of their bulbs to try.  I planted all the bulbs Dutch Grown sent me in containers filled with peat-free composts from Dalefoot Composts, Melcourt SylvaGrow, and Happy Compost.  I’ve already published one update full of pictures of Dutch Grown’s colourful spring flowering bulbs; this update is dedicated to Dutch Grown’s Alliums…here are the results!

Colourful Vegetables

Swiss Chard is one of the most strikingly beautiful garden plants. Its vibrant colourings and exquisite beauty earn Swiss Chard a deserving place in decorative gardens, as well as in kitchen gardens and potagers.  These magnificent vegetables produce fantastically colourful, edible stems which are best sautéed or steamed.  Swiss Chard’s lush green leaves can be eaten in a similar way to spinach or used as a vegetable wrap.

At this time of year, foxglove flowers pulsate with the relaxing, soothing sound of summer, as bees hum happily whilst they disappear in and out of the tubular flowers.

Foxgloves are superb plants for bees; they’re fantastic plants for gardeners, too!  These obliging plants are self-supporting and rarely need any assistance.  Water your seedlings in dry weather until they’ve settled in; once they’re established, foxgloves are fairly drought tolerant and slug resistant.

Colourful Spring & Summer Flowering Bulbs

If you’re in need of some early summer cheer, I’ve got a stack of photographs I’ve taken of vibrant and flamboyant flowers that I hope will brighten up your day!

Last autumn, Dutch Grown sent me some of their bulbs to trial.  I’m sharing my photographs I’ve taken of these flowers along with some info about each of the plants to help you, if you’re considering planting bulbs this autumn.

I remember heading out on a sunny day in May, some years ago now.  My new raised bed was completed, so I was heading over to my allotment, filled with excitement and armed with an open packet of Hesperis matronalis var. albiflora seeds.  Somewhat comically, I tripped up en route, throwing myself and the entire contents of my seed packet down onto my neighbour, Caroline’s allotment.

April is a truly generous and forgiving time of year for gardeners.  This month provides us with numerous opportunities to grow an extensive range of exciting and exotic fruit and vegetables from seed.

Although there’s a wealth of seed choices on offer, not all of the unusual edibles we can grow are guaranteed to succeed in our variable climate and not every variety produces the best flavoured harvest. 

Sow these tomato seeds now to grow the tastiest tomatoes this summer!

Every year, I trial new plants and products in my quest to discover the top performing composts and the tastiest and most productive edible plants.

Last year, the Quadgrow Self Watering Planter performed exceptionally well in my Trials.  Growing tomatoes is easy with the Quadgrow; simply top up the Quadgrow’s 30l reservoir with Nutrigrow and water and the planter will automatically water and fertilise your plants for around two weeks. 

An Update from my Wildlife Pond in Late Winter

Hello and welcome to my wildlife pond.  In this post, you can see the pictures I’ve taken of my wildlife pond throughout autumn and winter 2020/21, right up to this weekend and the present day (hello future readers, this weekend was the 27th and 28th of February 2021).  Other than observing my aquatic plants as they’ve died back, my husband and I have not carried out any maintenance to our pond since my last update, but that’s all about to change!

Growing Microgreens & Edible Sprouting Seeds Indoors

One of the many joys of growing our own food is that this wonderful process allows us a marvellous opportunity to eat freshly harvested fruit, vegetables, and herbs, which usually have a dramatically improved flavour and freshness compared to the equivalent alternatives we can purchase in our local supermarket.  Usually, when we imagine growing our own produce, we think of a process that takes anywhere from between a number of months to a number of years to produce vegetables, fruit, or herbs. 

Finding the Best Composts to Grow Tomatoes

I’m a peat-free gardener; I am a passionate advocate for using peat-free composts.  Every year, I uncover the best quality peat-free composts on the market in my peat-free Compost Trials.  I ran this Compost Trial to help you find top quality composts that will enable your tomato plants to produce bumper harvests of tomatoes!