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Sow seeds of something different this spring!

April is the month for seed sowing.  We can sow hardy annuals and half-hardy annuals now, as well as the seeds of fruit and vegetables, but perhaps you’d like to grow something different?  Mistletoe berries are ripe now, so it’s the perfect time to gather berries and raise your own mistletoe plants!

Mistletoe (Viscum album)

Mistletoe doesn’t grow in the soil; it grows up in the branches of trees. 

Sow pea seeds now to enjoy decorative flowers and the sweet taste of delicious peas, pods, leaves and tendrils in late spring and summertime!

Homegrown peas are a taste sensation!  Peas are decorative plants that produce handsome flowers and tasty edible leaves, tendrils, pods, and peas.  You’ll need a bright and sunny area to grow these delicious vegetables (peas won’t grow in the shade). 

I adore my houseplants.  I relish the tranquil, serene, and yet simultaneously refreshing atmosphere that indoor plants bring to my home.  Not all houseplants are easy to grow.  Many plants need much higher humidity and light levels than we naturally have inside our homes.  I want to help you find houseplants that are true heroes, eager to grow in the same conditions we have indoors. 

In my last pond update, I showed you the shape of our wildlife pond after it was dug out and explained my thinking behind the design for the contours of my new wildlife pond.  With the pond now all ready to set up, the next phase of our wildlife pond project is to prepare and install the equipment needed to make it all work!

Butterfly Conservation report that in the UK, long-term trends show that 80% of our butterfly species have decreased in abundance or distribution – or both – since the 1970s.  Do you see many butterflies and moths in your garden?  I hope to inspire everyone to help butterflies and moths.  Please don’t allow any pesticides, insecticides, or herbicides to be used on your garden, allotment, or indeed on any area in your locality, as these products obliterate our bees, butterflies, and moths.

June bestows blessings upon us – a final opportunity to grow incredibly productive and delicious vegetables this summer!  Savvy gardeners who sow cucumber and courgette seeds directly in the soil now avoid the hassle of washing up pots, the time needed to pot up seedlings, and the expense of buying compost.

All risk of frost has passed so you don’t need a greenhouse. 

I enjoy running horticultural trials; I spend much of my time searching for the most gorgeous plants that will produce a profusion of flowers and attract bees and pollinating insects.  I love to share the most successful plants from my trials with you to help you find top quality plants to enhance your garden.  The plants I recommend in this column need to be grown in a bright and sunny location, in well-drained soil or containers filled with peat-free compost.

I never purchase supermarket watermelons; I dislike their lack of flavour and irritating hard seeds.  However, after years of growing melons for Melon Trials, I hope I always spend spring and summertime growing watermelons!  The best watermelon I’ve grown so far is ‘Little Darling’.  I adore this watermelon’s sensationally sweet flavour and refreshingly crisp texture.  ‘Little Darling’ produces hardly any seeds, the few seeds that do materialise are soft and not noticeable. 

Grow Mint: Reinvigorate Your Life & Awaken Your Senses!

I adore mint and relish this herb’s energy.  Freshly harvested mint leaves can be used to make enticing cocktails, herbal teas, and an array of delicious savoury and dessert recipes.  Most people are familiar with peppermint or spearmint, but have you tried any other varieties?

A whole world of different flavoured mints is available to those who grow their own plants. 

Vegepod Gardening in the Shade

Whether you garden in sunshine or shade, there are plants that will be perfectly suited to growing in your garden – it’s just a case of finding them!  In 2019, my Vegepod was moved from a sunny spot, to a new enclosed, deeply shaded area of my garden.  I am not exaggerating when I say that in its new position my Vegepod truly was shaded – my Vegepod was sandwiched in a tight space, wedged between a tall conifer hedge, a two storey high wall, a tall fence, and an 8ft tall pergola that was smothered with climbing plants – the plants growing in my Vegepod did not receive any direct sunshine whatsoever.

Many ornamental grasses hold onto their foliage overwinter; this provides a delightful structural softness, texture, and delicacy for our winter gardens.  Grasses will be producing new growth soon; therefore, this is the ideal moment to pop on some gardening gloves and use your fingers to comb through deciduous grasses, removing all the old stems ready for the arrival of fresh new growth.

Over the past ten years, we’ve experienced an increasing number of droughts in spring and summertime.  Applying a mulch now, while the ground is still moist from the autumn and winter rains will protect and enhance your soil, adding nutrients that will support soil microorganisims and feed your plants.  Mulching will suppress weeds, and help the soil retain moisture.  Early spring is the perfect time to apply an organic mulch of homemade garden compost, Strulch®, woodchip, well-rotted manure, or peat-free compost

In case you missed it, last week I posted my latest Compost Trial Report.  The top-performing composts in this trial were Heart of Eden All Purpose Natural Compost, Harmony Gardens Multipurpose Compost, and Bathgate Horticulture Peat-free Multi-Purpose Compost; these are all peat-free growing medias.  I’d urge everyone to use peat-free compost.  Peatlands are unique wetland nature reserves and habitats for rare plants and wildlife

2022 Compost Trial: Growing Dwarf French Beans

Going peat-free is a positive action that each of us can take to protect our peatlands, safeguard nature, and protect our planet.  When you are buying plants, before you make a purchase ask if the plants were raised in peat-free compost.  When buying compost, check the packaging to see whether the growing media contains any peat – look to buy growing media and composts that are 100% peat-free. 

Celebrating Self-Watering Containers: Making Growing Edibles Easier for All & Saving Water too!

Spring and summer weather often leaves plants and gardeners wilting during punishing droughts and intense heatwaves.  Raising plants in containers requires far more water than growing plants in the ground.  If you’ve got a penchant for container gardening, I’d like to introduce you to self-watering containers: literal lifesavers for plants and gardeners! 

2022 Compost Trial: Growing Broad Beans

I’m a peat-free gardener and a passionate advocate for peat-free gardening.  I want to help you be a successful gardener, so every year I run independent Compost Trials and share the results on my website.

I’ve included organic and vegan, peat-free composts in this Compost Trial.  All of the composts in this Compost Trial are 100% peat-free.

Runner beans are miraculous vegetables that will comfortably fulfil any gardener’s lofty ambitions to grow stunning plants that look attractive, flower freely, and produce an abundant harvest of delicious beans within a small space!

I am a self-confessed runner bean fan.  For years, I’ve been running Runner Bean Trials searching for the best tasting and most productive runner bean varieties and the optimum growing methods to cultivate these vegetables. 

An Update from my Wildlife Pond in Springtime

Hello and welcome to my wildlife pond in springtime.  Over the past few weeks, our weather has been so very summery; my Marsh Marigold flowers have simply sparkled in the sunshine!  I’m having an amazing time by my wildlife pond.  I’ve got some really exciting news to share with you about the wildlife I’ve seen by my pond; I’ve even got a homemade video for you – so you can share in the excitement, but first of all, let me tell you about the water in my pond and show you how my aquatic plants have developed since my last update

Water Levels

I took this picture not long after my last pond update

Sunflowers bring such positive energy and welcome cheer to our gardens!  If you want to brighten up your garden with pollinator-friendly flowers in summertime, April is the ideal time to sow sunflower seeds.  There’s no need for any special equipment; sunflowers are hardy annuals that can be sown outdoors now.  Seeds can be started off in containers of peat-free compost and planted out after they have developed their first true leaves. 

Featured

Magnificent Bluebell Woods and Bluebell Gardens

Bluebell woods are such relaxing and uplifting places to visit.  I hope you can enjoy time walking in amongst the bluebells this spring, so you can envelop yourself with the scent and beauty of these awe-inspiring flowers.  This is truly magical time of year!

I am a huge fan of our native British bluebells, which are also known by their latin name of Hyacinthoides non-scripta.