2020 Compost Trial: Growing Broad Beans

I’m a peat-free gardener; I am a passionate advocate for peat-free composts.  I know from my own 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 and gardeners who have purchased a poor performing peat-free compost could naturally be reluctant to try peat-free growing media again. 

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.

Making Meadows

Meadows present a natural, seemingly effortless beauty, with an undeniable allure.  For the most part, meadow guardians save much of the energy that gardeners spend repeatedly mowing and maintaining traditional lawns.  Nevertheless, meadows are not an easy option; creating a meadow requires endeavour, careful planning, and time, to ensure success.

Perennial meadow plants

Our native British, perennial meadow plants flourish in poor soils, where they grow contentedly alongside sedately-growing, fine-leaved grasses. 

Peatlands and peat bogs: precious environments that urgently need our protection

Peatlands are extraordinary environments, which now cover just 2-3% of our planet’s surface.  Home to a fascinating range of native plants and wildlife, peatlands form unique ecosystems that support incredible flora and fauna.  Many of the plants, insects, birds, and wildlife that have evolved in these boggy, acidic areas can’t survive anywhere else.

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. 

Giving thanks for my Thanksgiving Cactus

Four or five years ago, two of my favourite people in the whole world gave me this lovely Thanksgiving Cactus.  I love this plant because I associate it with two people that I love very much but also because this cactus is a fun, easy going, and reliable houseplant that flourishes inside my home, in less than bright conditions.

April Gardening Opportunities

April is a magical time in the garden.  This month offers us so many wonderful opportunities.  There are so many seeds you can sow now, so whether you favour growing vegetables, herbs, fruit, or flowers, don’t miss this chance to grow the plants that hold a special place in your heart.

Viola tricolor

Viola tricolor, often known as ‘Heart’s Ease’ is a dainty, yet easy to grow plant, which produces edible and very pretty, purple, yellow, and white flowers that have an attractive painterly quality. 

Controlling sciarid flies around houseplants and inside terrariums, on plants grown inside our homes, conservatories, and glasshouses What are sciarid flies?

Sciarid flies are teeny, tiny flies, from the family Sciaridae, they’re also known as fungus gnats, or by their genera’s scientific names of Bradysia or Lycoriella.  Although sciarid flies live outdoors, as the flies are so minute in size, you’re unlikely to notice these insignificant little flies outside. 

Treat yourself to a new asparagus bed!

An asparagus bed is one of life’s luxuries; an area of ground dedicated solely to the production of one glorious vegetable!  It may seem an extravagance, but I can assure you that an asparagus bed is 100% worth the investment, as freshly harvested asparagus is a true delicacy.  Home-grown asparagus, cooked a short while after harvesting, is a vastly superior vegetable to shop-bought stuff, its sweet flavour is utterly delectable!

Growing tomatoes

I just adore growing fruit and vegetables!  Any form of edible gardening is a soul enriching experience, which I would encourage you to try.

When to sow tomato seeds and plant tomato plants outside?

Last year, I ran a Tomato Trial, to discover delicious, productive, and reliable tomato varieties.  My tomato seeds were sown inside my Access Garden Products Glasshouse in the middle of March. 

I love terrariums and bottle gardens!  I so enjoy designing tiny plant worlds and creating miniature gardens.  This is the ideal time to build a terrarium or bottle garden, these Lilliputian microcosms are fun to make!  Terrariums will enhance your home and provide the perfect gardening therapy through the autumn and winter months.

The photograph above shows some of the ingredients that I use to formulate my own compost mixes for terrariums and bottle gardens. 

Wildlife friendly ways to kill slugs and snails

I don’t like slug pellets.  Slug pellets have had a disastrous effect on the wild food chain – as well as killing slugs and snails, slug pellets harm hedgehogs, song thrushes, and other creatures.  Slug pellets kill these dear animals in the most cruel, drawn out, and painful manner.  Nothing could induce me to use slug pellets in my garden, allotment, or anywhere for that matter – however large the slug or snail population had become, and however many of my precious plants had been eaten. 

Sweet Pea Superstars!

I just love growing sweet peas!   I love to be enveloped by the sweet pea flower’s powerful and sensuous scent, while I’m encompassed by the flower’s beauty and charm.  Eternal bliss!  Everyone should have at least a few moments of pause and reflection, to recharge with their favourite sweet pea blooms each and every summer.

Now that the Christmas decorations have been taken down, if you find yourself wondering how to add a renewed freshness to your home, if you dream of an energising, yet relaxing sanctuary, then you might wish to consider growing some new houseplants and bringing some living greenery to your home.

It’s best to work with the conditions that your home can provide. 

Protecting your plants from Slugs and Snails

For many gardeners, the slug and snail population seemed to explode last year, with many fraught and distressed gardeners asking for my advice on the best way to protect their plants from slugs and snails.  I am strongly opposed to slug pellets.  I wouldn’t wish to kill any of the slugs or snails in my garden, as I believe a healthy eco system is important.

Specialist Snowdrop Nurseries and Bulb Merchants

Snowdrops are often offered for sale ‘in the green’, where the snowdrops are still flowering, or the flowers are just going over, but the leaves are still fresh and green.

It’s really important to buy quality snowdrops from reputable suppliers, firstly to ensure that you receive the snowdrop variety that you’ve purchased, and secondly to ensure that you aren’t buying bulbs that have been taken from the wild.  

Edible Plants to Entertain

To create a really sumptuous and relaxing outdoor area where you can dine and unwind, as well as sun loungers, garden furniture, fire pits and BBQs, you’ll require the perfect blend of aromatic, delicious and attractive plants to enhance your entertaining area.

I love hedgehogs!  Hedgehogs are so endearing and entertaining, every time I have seen or encountered a hedgehog has been such a special and uplifting moment.  Each hedgehog I have seen shuffling along or snuffling about has touched my heart, lifted my spirits and brightened my day.

Sadly nowadays there are many threats to hedgehogs – they’re in danger as they try to cross our busy roads, but even away from the roads, hedgehogs face many dangers in our own gardens, because of these dangers, hedgehogs are becoming more scarce, and these delightful, charming, and loveable creatures are now endangered.  

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.

It’s an exciting and romantic time in the garden, with lots to do this month, and so much to look forward to in the garden!  Take time out to relax and enjoy the wonderfully scented flowers of Daphne, Sarcococca, and Hamamelis.

Prune Buddleja davidii now.  If you’ve got an old, and maybe rather neglected, specimen then start to rejuvenate your plant now, by removing any old dead wood and cutting it back hard.