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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.

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

An Update from my Wildlife Pond in Late Winter

Hello, and welcome to my wildlife pond in winter!  It feels funny saying ‘winter’, as the weather has been so mild this season that it already feels like spring.  Many of my aquatic plants are now coming into growth.  Last weekend, whilst I was observing all the new leafy growth on our aquatic plants and marvelling at the abundance of duckweed, I spotted a frog! 

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. 

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.

2020 Compost Trial: Growing Dwarf French Beans

I’m a peat-free gardener; I am a passionate advocate for peat-free composts – I want to encourage everyone to go peat-free!  However, I do understand that gardeners who use peat-based composts might be reluctant to switch to a peat-free compost, if they aren’t familiar with this type of growing media.  Trying a new compost can feel like a venture into the unknown; none of us want to start the gardening season off on the wrong foot, to be unnecessarily delayed, or to have our gardening compromised by using products that are not as good quality or effective as we might wish for. 

If you suffered any gardening disappointments last year, I want to help you improve your growing techniques, so you’ll experience the uplifting joy of gardening success, this year!

Gardening is such a positive hobby, growing plants truly enriches our lives; yet it can be utterly disheartening when seedlings die, our plants decline to flower or fruit, or don’t perform as well as we hoped. 

Chilli pepper seeds are usually sown from February to the end of April.  However, these vegetables command a long growing season, requiring sufficient time for the plants to mature and their fruit to develop and ripen.  Accordingly, I find that chilli peppers are best started from seed sown in January.

Nurseries stock a limited range of chilli pepper plants in springtime, but gardeners who grow chillies from seed are blessed with the choice of a vast range of varieties. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to plant spring flowering bulbs

Pieter and Ben, from Dutch Grown, have very kindly sent me a range of their bulbs to try out.

When these bulbs arrived, all of my containers were already allocated to specific trials, so I am incredibly grateful to my wonderful friends, Terry and Nicky, who were absolute superstars and saved the day by lending me a number of their pots. 

The Quadgrow Self Watering Planter

Earlier this year, Greenhouse Sensation sent me a Quadgrow Self Watering Planter to try.  If you’ve not seen a Quadgrow before, it’s a plastic container growing system (made from recycled plastic) that uses capillary action to provide plants with automatic watering.  This clever design alters the way we irrigate plants.  Instead of watering plants in the traditional sense (watering plants from above with a watering can), with the Quadgrow we deliver the water and nutrients right where they’re needed – at the plants’ roots. 

What to do with your tomatoes in September

As autumn’s whisper reverberates through our landscape, many plants are now fading, as they respond to the changing season and become rapidly aged by the ever lengthening nights’ embrace.  This is a season of salvage, protection, and celebration; it’s time to bring tender plants inside our homes, conservatories, and glasshouses, and to gather in our harvest.

Summer’s golden sunshine warms our gardens and gladdens our hearts, it’s sublime!  Make time to sow seeds now to enjoy stunning flowers next spring and delicious vegetables over the coming months.

Cornflowers (also known by their botanical name, Centaurea cyanus) attract a wide range of bees and butterflies; these rosette shaped blooms make great cut flowers, too. If you’re not a fan of the traditional blue cornflower, take your pick from the white, pink, cerise, lilac, purple, and (almost) black flowered forms available.

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. 

Trying to control blanket weed and algae in my pond

Over the past year, I’ve watched in despair as algae has wrapped its ever extending arms around my pond; I feel like algae is threatening to suffocate my pond at any moment.   The other ponds I’ve created in the past have never really suffered with algae to the same extent that my current pond has. 

Grow your own figs and grapes

Holidaymakers buying plants or collecting plant material as holiday souvenirs often bring home more than they bargained for and unwittingly transport pests, diseases, or invasive species into the UK; causing lasting, and sometimes irreversible, problems for themselves and UK horticulture as a whole.

Instead, make your holiday excitement last all summer, every year, with UK grown plants that will flourish inside your conservatory or glasshouse, at your garden or allotment. 

Last month, I published a lovely competition from Burpee Europe and Mr Fothergill’s who gave readers an exciting opportunity to name their first ever blight-resistant orange tomato!  Thank you to everyone of you who entered; it was tough to decide on a winner as we received heaps of super name suggestions for this interesting new tomato.  Our favourites were:

Sweet Amber, suggested by Laura Blackburn
Tangerino, suggested by Roger Seaman
Golden Girl, suggested by Irene Wilson
Merrygold, suggested by Ann Page
Hope, suggested by Penny Grant and Helen Tottle-Nugent
Sunpop, suggested by Georgina G.

What am I growing inside my Vegepod?

Since I first told you about my Vegepod much has changed.  Back in 2018, my Vegepod was set up in an area of my garden that enjoyed partial shade, but after trialling the Vegepod in this fairly beneficial position (vegetables thrive when they’re grown in sunny and partially shaded sites), I decided to move my Vegepod to a more shaded area of my garden, to see what I could grow successfully inside my Vegepod with more challenging growing conditions.

Peat free Compost Trial: Growing Broad Beans

Dalefoot Composts have produced the top performing peat free composts in all of the Compost Trials that I’ve run over the past seven years.  Rather than just continually highlighting every year that Dalefoot Composts are the best peat free composts to use, I designed this Compost Trial to demonstrate methods you could use to get the best results from one of their products, namely Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost.

Things to look our for when you’re setting up a new Terrarium

I’m currently in the process of setting up a new terrarium, which is very exciting!  Don’t worry, I’ll take you on a tour of my new Tall Orchidarium in due course.  However, today I wanted to tell you about something unexpected that happened to me, while I was gathering together the materials for this new enclosure.