Vegepod Raised Garden Beds

I love growing vegetables, it’s a truly wonderful, soul enriching experience to grow your own food!  Sadly an increasing number of us are without the luxury of a garden or allotment and have nowhere to grow vegetables, herbs, fruit, or flowers; while a great many others struggle to garden in small, often paved spaces, without any access to the soil.

For me, deliciously scented flowers are a delightfully uplifting feature of the garden.  A beautiful moment spent enjoying garden flowers and their fragrances is utter bliss!  Time spent with delectably fragrant flowers eases life’s worries and stresses, brings joy to our day and makes everything feel better.  I have a particular fondness for scented daffodils or Narcissus.  Narcissus is the botanical name for this genus, while daffodil is the common name we use, but both names refer to the same group of plants.

Through my work I have become very well acquainted with so many fascinating plants, but I have also enjoyed getting to know some interesting people, many of whom I have met at the different gardens I have visited.  I hold a deep affection for the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, I am a great fan and supporter of Kew’s work in conservation and plant science, and I love to visit the beautiful glasshouses and gardens at Kew; Kew’s plant collections amaze and delight me! 

I love our planet, I love plants and nature.  I want to protect our environment.  I want to live more sustainably.  Sustainability is not a new desire for me, it is something that I have always aspired to.  Firstly though I must tell you that I am far from perfect, I make mistakes and I am always learning.  I want to improve, I want to make changes to live more sustainably and to live ethically. 

Why Use Peat Free Compost?

Peatlands are extraordinary environments, which cover just 2-3% of the planet’s surface.  These scarce ecosystems are also very fragile, they are dependent on sufficient moisture levels being available, and they require a slightly cooler temperature range to allow the necessary sphagnum moss, which slowly forms peat, to grow, flourish, and reproduce.  Peat bogs can increase at a rate of one millimetre per year if the desired conditions are present. 

If you’re looking to plant up containers to bring an immediate dose of cheer to your garden, varieties of pansies and violas, purchased in flower from your local nursery, in your favourite colours, will brighten your garden.  With regular deadheading they, will flower from now until summer arrives.

If you’re looking ahead to the summer and you’re keen on bedding plants, this is a great time to sow seeds of Lobelia, Antirrhinums, and Pelargoniums, in the warmth indoors.

Why Peat Free Compost?

There are many wild, beautiful, and fascinating areas of our planet that are diminishing due to human destruction.  These precious natural areas require our protection urgently, before it’s too late and they are destroyed or lost altogether.  There are relatively small areas of rainforests, peat bogs and peatlands remaining on our planet, yet these areas are continuing to be destroyed by humans. 

I have found that peat free composts can vary enormously: from bags of compost filled with bark chips, which could be used as a mulch, but can’t be used as intended – as a compost to grow container plants or seedlings, right through to the other extreme – the finest quality composts, which are capable of producing prize and award winning plants, and of course, every compost in between these two polar opposites! 

For the last few years I have used Deep Rootrainers to grow the sweet pea plants for my Sweet Pea Trials.  I had been happy with the results that I had achieved using Deep Rootrainers from Haxnicks, but last year I decided to trial Deep Rootrainers against Maxi Rootrainers, which are also available from Haxnicks, to discover if using a larger sized, deeper Rootrainer would be beneficial for my sweet pea plants.

As autumn turns to winter, days shorten and the prospect of warming ourselves by the fire may be more enticing than being outdoors, take time to warm your heart with thoughts of elegantly perfumed roses.  This is the perfect opportunity to order roses as bare root plants to plant during the winter time, while the plants are dormant, to deliver charming, beautiful rose blooms and delectable fragrance to your garden or allotment next summer.

One of the gardens that I was most excited to visit at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2017, was the RHS Kitchen Garden.

The Royal Horticultural Society commissioned Garden Designer Juliet Sargeant to design this special Feature Garden, to demonstrate the many interesting methods that gardeners can use to grow vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers.  The RHS Kitchen Garden has been designed to showcase the extensive variety of beautiful, edible plants that are available for us to grow and eat.  

Containers filled with your favourite coloured flowering plants can bring so much joy to you, and to the bees and butterflies in your garden.

Beautifully scented plants are always top of my list.   The dwarf, compact, lavender cultivars, known as Lavandula angustifolia, are such lovely options for containers in a sunny spot, where their calming, soothing fragrance can be welcomed and enjoyed by all.  

The Festival of Roses Marquee at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

One of my favourite features of the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, is The Festival of Roses Marquee.  This marquee features the latest rose introductions, many of which are launched at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, alongside modern roses, historic roses, and old, much loved favourite roses.  

The Sir Simon Milton Foundation Urban Connections Garden was sponsored by the Victoria Business Improvement District.  This Fresh Garden was designed by Lee Bestall & Paul Robinson, and built by Jon Housley from JPH Landscapes.  The RHS judges awarded The Sir Simon Milton Foundation Urban Connections Garden a Silver Medal, at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

Whether you’ve got a garden, patio, balcony, or a windowsill, remembering to choose flowering plants that produce pollen and nectar that bees and other pollinating insects can access when you’re selecting new plants is a wonderful and worthwhile thing to do.

Gifts for Gardeners

Giving a gift is such a special thing to do, if you’re buying a present that you’ve seen online or in the shops, it’s not easy to tell how useful, wonderful or lasting the gift will be in reality, when you haven’t tried it yourself.  With this in mind, I have sought out some super gift ideas, which I have reviewed and tested, so that you can hopefully find the perfect presents for your friends and family this Christmas.

At this time of year, it’s lovely to look through the catalogues and choose seeds, plants and other exciting new products to try out.  While I was looking through The Organic Gardening Catalogue I spotted the EarthBox, a patented container gardening system, developed by commercial farmers, who designed it especially to offer a low maintenance, self-watering, portable method to garden and grow vegetables, even if you don’t have a garden.

At Christmas, there’s nothing like having a real Christmas tree.  A real, living, growing, potted Christmas tree, that will grow on and live for many more Christmases to come is even better!

At Wheeler Street Nurseries in Witley, in Surrey, you can purchase your own living, Christmas tree that has been grown locally, in Witley.  I chose this very sweet, smaller sized tree, it’s a Norway Spruce (Picea abies), trees this size are priced from £15 – £17.  

Most garden centres and nurseries have a section featuring some of the loveliest seasonal plants currently in flower or berry, potted up, ready to purchase and take home.  These plants look at their best at the very moment you visit, and make a super gift, either for yourself or for a loved one.

If you’re looking to purchase a winter flowering plant and pot it up yourself to give as a Christmas present, maybe because you’re looking for a specific plant that’s a favourite of the recipient of your gift, or because you want to design and plant up your own container, it’s important to use a good quality growing media or compost.

The One-pot Gourmet Gardener – delicious container recipes to grow together and cook together
By Cinead McTernan, with photographs by Jason Ingram
Published by Frances Lincoln
ISBN: 978-0-7112-3590-8

Cinead McTernan has devised 25 container recipes for her book, ‘The One-pot Gourmet Gardener’, so you can grow the ingredients you need for one dish, in a single pot, on your front step, in your garden or at your allotment.