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October offers us many opportunities in the garden.  The soil is still warm, so it’s a great time for planting or moving plants that aren’t yet in their ideal position.  It’s worth taking time out to consider how your garden works for you.  Did you sustain any losses over the dry spring and summer?  Has this opened up any new planting opportunities?

Wildlife Around my Pond

I am so grateful for my little pond; this small area of water attracts many insects to our garden.  As well as planting up my pond with aquatic plants that live in water, I’ve planted the narrow border around my pond with garden plants that will attract bees, butterflies, moths, hoverflies, and other insects.  If you’re interested in growing plants for bees and butterflies, you won’t need a pond or a boggy area of ground to grow these garden plants – they grow in regular garden soil – my plants are growing in free draining, sandy soil; so I’ve chosen mostly drought tolerant plants.

You may remember back in 2018, the proposed plans for improving the A3/M25 interchange in Surrey were set to result in the compulsory takeover of 10,000sq meters of the RHS Wisley Gardens and the destruction of over 500 important specimen trees, including the treeline, which provides shelter between the busy A3 and the RHS Wisley Trials Field.  Although Highways England’s plans have now changed, the new plans that are being proposed by Highways England are set to destroy 44 ancient trees and cause great concern for the Royal Horticultural Society.

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.

Butterfly Conservation Big Butterfly Count 2020

Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count runs from Friday the 17th July 2020 until Sunday 9th August 2020.  A butterfly Count lasts for 15 minutes, it’s a fun, relaxing and easy thing to do.  You don’t need to know anything about butterflies to take part.

Why count butterflies?

The information gathered from all the Butterfly Counts across the nation, will help Butterfly Conservation identify the species of butterflies and day flying moths that are becoming more scarce. 

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. 

I first grew Chinese Kale ‘Kai lan’ (also known as Gai lan or ‘Kailaan’) in about 2006; I was really impressed by this vegetable’s speedy growth and the bounteous harvest my plants produced.  ‘Kai lan’ leaves, flower buds, and stems are all edible, but it’s the stems that provide the main harvest.  Try it raw, stir-fried, steamed, or boiled; ‘Kai lan’ is a little like broccoli.   

Wildlife in my Wildlife Pond

The reason we created our wildlife pond was to support and encourage wildlife.  I’d love to be able to tell you about every creature that has ever visited my pond, but I don’t manage to spend as much time here as I would like and I’m not the fastest mover, so I’ve only managed to capture a fraction of the wildlife that has visited this area of my garden.

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.

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. 

I feel a strong and passionate desire to protect our planet’s peat bogs.  This is an urgent matter, it’s not something we can keep putting off to consider again in the future, at a more convenient time – for the peat that is being extracted now can’t be saved and so if we continue as we have done in the past, the opportunities we have in our hands, right in front of us now, will be lost forever.

NB. I wrote this article about space2grow in Farnham, before the COVID-19 crisis started and quarantine measures were put in place.  Naturally, all of space2grow’s clubs and activities are closed at the moment, but this fantastic initiative will reopen when it is safe to do so.

Space2grow: community gardening in Farnham, Surrey

For every problem we experience in life, nature provides us with the ingredients we need to heal ourselves. 

Brilliant plants for bees and butterflies!

The furry bees, colourful butterflies, mysterious moths, darting hoverflies, and other pollinating insects that visit my garden are just as fascinating as the plants I grow.  The sound of bees buzzing and the sight of butterflies fluttering relaxes and inspires me.  I want to help you find the best pollen and nectar-rich plants to attract insects and bring your garden to life!

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. 

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.

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.

If you’re looking for ways to make a positive difference to the environment, why not build a pond?  Ponds support a vast range of wildlife, from the bottom to the top of the food chain.  Insects, invertebrates, amphibians, and birds, all need ponds.  These ecologically important habitats give us the chance to see dazzling dragonflies and get closer to nature.  Ponds grant us exciting opportunities to grow waterlilies and aquatic plants! 

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.

East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing
Author: Meera Sodha
Publisher: Fig Tree Books
ISBN: 978-0-241-38756-6

I discovered Meera Sodha‘s recipe for Vegan Cauliflower Korma in Meera’s ‘The New Vegan’ column, in The Guardian, back in October 2018.  I’ve been a huge fan of Meera Sodha’s recipes, right from the first moment I tasted this delicious roasted cauliflower curry. 

Christmas Gifts for Gardeners 2019

Christmas time is such a special time of year.  It’s a time for meeting up, celebrating, and showing our thanks and appreciation to those around us.

Make the promise of a day out together, to visit a snowdrop or daffodil garden

Love and friendship are priceless gifts.  Why not gift the promise of a day out together in a magnificent snowdrop garden, in January or February?