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.

This month I am celebrating some of our succulent, soft fruit superstars: plums, damsons, and greengages!  This closely related group of fruits require less pruning than apples and pears and offer a contrasting range of flavours: from deliciously sharp and tart damsons, sweet-tasting plums, and syrupy, honey-flavoured gages.  Greengages, damsons, and plums all have different flavours, but tastes also vary from one named variety to another. 

When midsummer passes us by, rhubarb production naturally slows down.  Unless you’re growing a late summer and autumn cropping rhubarb (like ‘Livingstone’), stop picking rhubarb now to allow your plants to build up their strength for next year’s harvests.  Rhubarb thrives in wet summers.  After heavy rain (or a thorough watering), spread a mulch of well-rotted manure or homemade garden compost over the soil around your plants.

June blesses us with the truly wonderful convenience of being able to sow seeds outside without any risk of frost culling seedlings or dashing our hopes.  Make the most of this wonderful moment: summer can feel endless, but speed is of the essence if you are to provide your courgettes, pumpkins, French beans, and runner bean plants with sufficient time to grow, mature, and produce a decent harvest.

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. 

The Most Sustainable Compost is Homemade – Sharing Over 20 Tips for Successful Composting!

To celebrate Compost Week, I’m sharing tips to help you make top-quality compost in your garden, allotment, or neighbourhood.

Why Compost?

Making a compost heap or setting up a compost bin is such a positive thing to do.  Even if you don’t really care about getting fabulous (free) compost delivered straight to your garden, or you’re not interested in improving your garden soil, if you compost your grass cuttings, prunings,  and vegetable peelings, you’ll save yourself time and energy, and spare yourself the need to make trips to the tip to get rid of your garden or kitchen waste at weekends. 

Spring is such an uplifting time in the garden.  As the days lengthen and spring flowers come into bloom, the anticipation of the wealth of flowers we’ll admire in our countryside and gardens over the coming seasons provides me with an abundance of reasons to be thankful.  If your garden is looking a little lacklustre at the moment, don’t worry – there are some delightful spring-flowering perennial plants available at nurseries and garden centres, which will brighten up our gardens this spring and in the years that follow.

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! 

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. 

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. 

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021 (part two)

Welcome to part two of my overview of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021 (if you missed part one, please click here).  Let me take you on a tour of the gardens and exhibits I visited at this year’s very special autumn RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021…..

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021

For one year only, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show 2021 has moved to September!  How has the change of date affected this event?  Moving from a late spring show to an early autumn spectacle has opened Chelsea’s door to allow new VIP (very important plant) access for late summer flowering perennials, berries, seed heads, dahlias, pumpkins, tomatoes, and vegetables!

2021 Compost Trial: Growing Broad Beans

I’m a peat-free gardener; I am a passionate advocate for peat-free composts.  I know from experience, that it’s not always easy to find a good quality peat-free growing media.  I understand that gardeners who have used peat-based composts all their lives might be hesitant to switch to a peat-free compost; while gardeners who have purchased a poor performing peat-free compost could naturally be reluctant to try peat-free growing media again. 

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.

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.

An Update from my Wildlife Pond in Early Summer

Summer has finally arrived!  Hello and welcome to my wildlife pond in summertime.  It’s so lovely to be able to share my wildlife pond with you through these updates; I am looking forward to taking you on a tour of the aquatic and herbaceous plants growing in this area of my garden. 

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.