Tag Archives: gardening

The great autumn garden clean up…

autumn-greenhouse

I love taking photos of my greenhouse from this angle but if you look closely you’ll see that the bed to the front left and indeed the path in front is actually littered with weeds and rubble. There’s also a box of pears and the last apples. Yes, it is the great autumn garden clean up!

I don’t normally like to show photos of my garden in a total mess but in all honesty it’s been very untidy all summer due to ‘shed works’ and only Adam doing the majority of the gardening.

The clean up this autumn has been particularly hard because I’ve been nesting at home getting ready for the new arrival. Nesting has involved everything from clearing cupboards to decorating whole rooms! Then of course the weather has been hit and miss, some weekends are lovely and I manage to get outside to potter and some weekends are dire so I stick to DIY. Of course, when I say ‘I’ it really means Adam too because there’s a lot of things I just don’t have the physical strength to do. So yes, I’ve definitely been clearing cupboards but Adam has been on the DIY duties,  so that means very little time for the garden.

garaden-clear-up

Ah, there’s my lovely heuchera! We really enjoyed ripping the annuals and weeds out of this bed. In the spring and summer it was full of foxgloves, which looked great but did swamp all the other plants, killing all my heathers and the Christmas tree didn’t survive either. I’ll have to watch out for that next year.

allotment-late-spetember

The remnants of the old shed littered the front of the allotment for weeks, as did weeds and general ‘mess’ that I was just unable to shift due to my baby bump.

autumn-clean-up

autumn-pumpkins

pumpkins-and-sweet-peas

pumpkins-patch

Clearing out the courgettes was a real highlight because these beautiful pumpkins appeared underneath the foliage (so did a hanging basket that I’d ‘lost’!)

pumpkins

Last year my attempts with pumpkins failed due to the damp summer, so I went a little overboard with the planting this year hoping that I’d get at least one. All the seedlings fared well and my patch resembled something similar to a jungle. I’m delighted with all the pumpkins now of course.

patty-pan-squash

The squash plants produced some interesting shapes too, a lot of the plants had rotted so we had to pick some of them before I would have liked but they are making the best ever autumn harvest display in my kitchen.

Adam brought the little orange pumpkin (below) home in July. He was really happy about our ’round courgette’! They’re green when they’re growing of course, hence the mix up, so it spent a few months ripening in a cupboard.

squash

There’s always something to do in the garden but at this time of year I find it particularly demanding. With the darker evenings it means there’s only really the weekends to get out there. Along with the clean up there’s also all the bulb planting… and my winter containers…. and window boxes to finish. It’s very exciting but this year it’s also very difficult!

What have you been doing in your garden over the last few weeks? Do you find there’s a lot to do in the garden at this time of year?

Growing a special bean in time for Christmas

harlow-carr-christmas-greenhouseA greenhouse at RHS Harlow Carr last December

After keeping this on the down low for months I’m very excited to reveal that Adam and I have our very own little bean growing, due in December!

It’s one of the reasons I’ve been blogging less over the last few months, I was literally too tired to read blogs and even muster up a blog post to begin with. Then, like the garden, I started ‘blooming’ but now I’m just exhausted all over again!

I’ve encountered another slight problem too – gardening when pregnant…

broad bean

Before I knew I was pregnant I was in amongst the weeds, digging and planting and not thinking anything of it. When I found out, someone told me about Toxoplasmosis and suggested that my gardening days were over until next year. No chance!!

We do see a lot of cats at the allotment so I’ve been very careful. I make sure I always wear gloves and wash my hands thoroughly afterwards. I’ve also avoided picking and eating fruit whilst pottering. Now I take it home for a wash first.

I’ve been spending time in the greenhouse on seed sowing and potting on duties, container gardening, some light weeding and cutting flowers. This is a big change for us as I normally do my fair share of that plus the digging and veg planting while Adam builds things. This year he’s had to do pretty much everything apart from pick flowers and light weeding! No wonder he’s still not finished the shed!

gardening pregnantHere I am late spring/early summer, trying to look energetic. My bump has grown considerably since then!

Gardening is something I couldn’t give up easily and has really kept me going through the nausea and tiredness. The garden has been a wonderful place to relax and switch off but it’s also allowed me to stretch my legs and get some all important fresh air.

I’m having to be far more organised this year because of the little bean. There can be no last minute bulb planting or late night gardening in November! I’ve chosen my winter garden plants already and I do hope that we have some nice Autumn weather so I can still spend time out there pottering – keeping active is very good for pregnancy.

harlow-carr-christmas-1Natural Christmas decoration ideas from Harlow Carr last year

Since our baby is due in December, hopefully in time for Christmas (if he or she is late the birth could be on Christmas Day), I’ve entered this blog post into a competition on Dotcomgiftshop to help everyone get into the Christmas mood. I have to admit that I don’t usually think about Christmas this early but this year I really have to. It just won’t be possible for me to do my usual last minute stint round the shops on Christmas Eve!

I’ve been eyeing up a few presents for people on the internet and I’ve also gone ‘nesting’ crazy and can’t wait to decorate my house to make it all homely and cosy while I’m waiting for the bean to arrive. I also fancy decorating my garden too, just like they do at Harlow Carr! Cute twinkling lights and lanterns have never been more appealing. These are some of my favourite Christmas ideas for gifts and decorations on the Dotcomgiftshop website.

dotcomgiftshop-christmas-gifts-decorations

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The competition prize is an iPad Mini and I do hope I get everyone in the mood for Christmas because I’d simply LOVE one of those! I have a laptop and iPad from work that I use now but in a few weeks time when I start maternity leave I have to hand it all back – how will I cope! So an iPad Mini is No 1 on my Christmas list because it will be the perfect size and so handy for me to keep in touch with my favourite blogs, order my baby supplies and google like crazy when I have no idea what I’m meant to be doing with the new bean! I suspect I’ll also be reading a lot more blogs about gardening with kids too.

harlow-carr-christmas-2

I can’t wait to have a little one to share the garden with :)

harlow-carr-christmas-3

Have you organised your winter planting schemes already? Do you prepare early or are you a last minute gardener and shopper?! Are you in the mood for Christmas?

 

Setting the scene for the autumn garden

 pumpkin-patch

This weekend felt like summer again, it was sunny and warm and as well as starting my big autumn garden clean up I also enjoyed spending time outside relaxing, tending to the last of the harvest and noticing the changing shapes and shades of autumn.

At this time of year some plants really come into their own and some just seem to battle on regardless. The sky is grey today so it’s these stars of autumn that provide the warmth and colour and help me to remember the good weekend I’ve had rather than focusing on any impeding gloom of winter.

I’m hoping for a sunny October, the reality might not be so good but I still enjoy the plants that continue to thrive despite the changes in the weather.

echinops

The echinops are going to seed now and I’ve stopped dead heading them but the ones still battling on attract the bees and it’s lovely to see them buzzing around and even sleeping on the flowers.

echinop-bee

sweet-peas

Also battling on are my absolute summer favourites – the sweet peas. I’m still cutting them and they continue to come back. Their stems are a little unruly but I love that!

persicaria-in-border

The persicaria provides great ground cover and colour from spring. It looks as good now as the day it came into bloom. The only problem I have are the weeds that grow amongst it, but hey, there’s always going to be weeds and it’s quite therapeutic getting down to ground level and weeding them out. Although, I did save that for another day ;)

rudbeckia

This rudbeckia is a real suprise. We salvaged some last year that were meant to be the annual rudbeckia cappuccino, so when this started to grow in the summer we were a little confused! It’s either a different variety, a perennial that snuck in somehow or it’s very confused too! Either way I love it and despite all my struggles with rudbeckias in the past, this one (although looking somewhat tatty now) is still a real star.

semperivivum

I just love houseleeks and a simple pot provides a lot of interest and a fresh green colour to the garden.

crocosmia

Crocosmia is often regarded as ‘common’ but I love the vibrant colour and the way that the flowers really stand out against the foliage at this time of year.

succulents

What fantastic plants sedums are, they attract wildlife and definitely come into their own in autumn. The plant above is providing good cover and colour in my long border.

The pot below was started as a small cutting just two months ago and its growth rate has been amazing.

succulent-pot

hosta-damage

Hostas provide amazing foliage but as you can see, it’s a shame when they get eaten. They will die down completely over winter but for now, despite being chomped on, they’re battling on!

I’ve got 4 hostas and I confess I’ve neglected all of them. I need to consider this for next year. I think they look great in huge pots and I might relocate them to help protect them from damage next year. I could also divide some of the hostas now, maybe leaving a bit in the borders and moving some on into pots. I’m still pondering!

cuphea-cyanea

A few posts back I mentioned my little evergreen cuphea, above is cuphea cyanea a totally different looking plant altogether. My cousin bought me this when we visited Sissinghurst in June and it’s been amazing, growing and growing and still flowering. Apparently it’s only half hardy though so you can be sure I’ll be looking after it in the greenhouse over winter. Its acidic summer colours brighten any grey day and on sunny days it really shines.

sissinghurst-climber

Another plant my cousin bought me from Sissinghurst is this rhodochiton or purple bell vine. Another half hardy perennial that I’ll be taking great caution with over winter. It’s still flowering intensely now and along with the cuphea cyanea it’s definitely a special kind of plant.

lavender

lavender-october

One of my lavender varieties is still flowering, you can see it’s coming near to the end but this one lasts so much longer than the others. It still gets covered in bees and has the most beautiful colour and fragrance. I just wish I knew which variety it was.

ivy-pelargonium

At the front of my house, the rose and the window boxes of pelargoniums are still flowering profusely and looking very healthy. So I have time to plan my container garden collection for the winter.

heather-heuchera

In preparation for winter I’ve stuck with the pink and purple themes that I picked up in Provence and I’m thinking about lots of heucheras and heathers. I’m going to go for foliage this winter as I think there’s a lot to be said for interesting leaf shapes, shades and textures. Lots more shopping to be done!

teasle

How’s your garden looking and are you enjoying the changing shapes and shades of the autumn plants? Will you be making any changes in your garden for the rest of autumn and winter?

 

Summer favourites – sweet peas

sweet-pea-garden

I have to admit that I’ve never picked sweet peas for the house before and I’ve only been growing them for a couple of years. I used to think the sweet candy coloured varieties that were popular years ago were sickly and a little kitsch but after buying a willow planter full of them two years back, I’ve changed my mind! So much so, I even started sowing the seeds for this summer back in November.

sweet-pea-close-up

My experiments with sweet peas:

A) November: Sowed a batch indoors, they germinated quickly and survived the whole winter on a windowsill. In the new year they went soft and leggy. Potted them on in February and moved them to the cold greenhouse, heating it at night. Mixed them into the willow planter with my next batch (experiment ‘B’ below) and I’m not entirely sure what happened to them?!

B) November: Sowed a batch straight into my willow planter inside the (very) cold greenhouse. Waited… At the end of January they started to come through, it took until March for them to look established but they were far tougher than the floppy things that had been inside the house. They flourished and flowered in May and they continued to flower until July when we went on holiday and they didn’t get watered. Being in a planter, with room for only shallow roots, the basket quickly dried out in the heatwave and expired.

C) April: Sowed tons of sweet peas in pots in the greenhouse. A very slow start and I vowed never to sow them again as they also grew leggy and soft. Planted them out not expecting too much….. boom! They grew and grew and are still growing. They’re very healthy plants and gorgeous colours.

Conclusion: I’ll sow again in November but I wont bother bringing them on early in the house. I’ll just leave them to their own devices in the cold greenhouse (B) because that did produce a very healthy crop in spring. I’ll also sow again in April (C),  the more the merrier in my opinion and I’ll get them outside a lot quicker to avoid them going soft and leggy, even though they recovered well once I’d planted them out. I’ll avoid the planter next year too because sweet peas do put down long roots if allowed and will spread and grow a lot bigger if they are planted into the ground.

collecting-sweet-peas

I do believe the continued success of the sweet peas has been my cutting. I’ve been cutting all the flowers off and by about 4 days later they are back and ready to cut again.

cut-sweet-peas

They attract a lot of greenflies, so I give my picked bunches a good shake. This seems to knock most of them off quite easily.

growing-sweet-peas

cutting-sweet-peas

I just love having freshly cut sweet peas in the house and I also just love cutting bunches. It’s such a nice, quiet and relaxing job to do in the garden and walking home with my bag full of flowers or a bunch in my hand feels wonderful!

sweet-pea-vase

sweet-peas

Do you grow sweet peas? Do you enjoy the ‘cut and comeback’ flowers they produce? When do you sow or plant yours out?

The late summer harvest – growing apples and pears

apple-tree

I love growing apples and pears and I’m so lucky to have two mature trees in my allotment garden. They were both planted around 4 years before I took over the plot and I’ve been there around 10 years myself now.

Each year the quantity and quality of the harvest is different and depending upon what I’m doing around harvest time, how I store them and what I do with them also differs. For example, in previous years I’ve been away on holiday around this time only to return to find the trees stripped bare. Some years all the fruit falls off so quickly I’m left with hardly anything and some years we pick it all and then it ‘goes off’. So, basically we either have too much fruit, or we don’t have enough and vow to make the most of it the following year.

pears-growingBaby pears last month, I love the way they grow up in the air!

Pears seem to be a lot easier to store, they last longer and they get eaten by Adam very quickly so it’s just apples that I need to work on.

We’ve undertaken various tasks to over the years to make the most of our harvest. We’ve subjected ourselves to mammoth picking sessions just before we go on holiday, but often only to return to mouldy fruit. Adam also made an ingenious ‘apple catcher’ a couple of years ago but of course the majority of the apples that fall off (windfalls as they call them round here) are usually damaged so there’s not much point in that either.

One year we bought a fruit press and made cider. Never again! It was a lot of effort, a lot of apples and not much cider. It took us hours and all the juice squirted through the muslin and wooden slats splatting everything in sight! There was definitely some comedy value in what we did but not much else.

Then other years things go very well and we have just enough fresh apples and pears and no hassle! Those years are the ones where the harvest isn’t too overwhelming. This year, thanks to the amazing blossom in spring we have more apples and pears than I’ve ever seen before and I’m definitely overwhelmed!

apple-tree-blossomFruit blossom in spring

This year I want to do something different and I need ideas! I’m very lucky that dotcomgiftshop asked if I would like to review a product and knowing that I have this big apple and pear harvest to contend with I chose their vintage style apple produce tray. I promised them a review in exchange for the tray so I’ll have to come back to that later when it’s really been put to the test! I’m really impressed with it so far though. It looks great and it’s a lot bigger than I thought it would be. It’s also got really nice smooth surfaces and I like that because I can keep it clean more easily than a rough finished tray and avoid dragging dirt into the kitchen.

dotcomgiftshop-vintage-tray

I’ll be able to get two stacks of apples in my tray separated with brown paper. Then I can store them, I’m just not sure where to store them this time, in the light or in the dark? I’ve tried both in the past but still end up with a few mouldy apples.

In terms of eating my harvest this year, I also have elderberries in my garden and I’ve seen a gorgeous recipe for stewed apple and elderberry pancakes in my new Nigel Slater book! Adam bought me his Kitchen Diaries II book for my birthday and it’s full of seasonal recipes using up everything he grows in his garden. So, apart from stewed apple and just eating apples as they are, what else can I do this year? I fancy getting a juicer (I’m never using the fruit press again!) but I have no idea which one to buy and how much use I’d get from it…decisions, decisions!

Do you harvest apples and pears? How do you store them? Do you freeze them, juice them and do you have any recipes? All ideas welcome!

 

A week in Provence – the ‘no gardens’

provence

I’ve just returned from a much needed holiday with Adam in the beautiful Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in France. As well as enjoying typical Provencal 3 hour lunches I’ve also been admiring a multitude of gardens.

When garden writer Louisa Jones first moved to Provence she was told there were ‘no gardens’ apart from certain famous historic properties but for her first book she visited around 300 gardens and has since written many more books about the beauty of Mediterranean gardening.

french-garden

A while back I wrote about my container garden at the front of my house. I felt that some people in my neighbourhood must think they have ‘no garden’ as they choose to do nothing with their space, whereas some people plant theirs up with lovely displays.

I spotted the same thing in France and I found the most inspiring gardens in the most unassuming places. My favourite being the pavement gardens – or the ‘no gardens’, as I now like to call them.

mouans-sartoux-street

mouans-sartoux-garden-3

mouans-sartoux-village

oleander

mouans-sartoux-front-garden

mouans-sartoux-container-gardening

cat-deterrant

I think the water bottles are used to deter cats. Also handy to give the plants a quick watering.

container-garden

All the photos in this post are taken in the little village of Mouans-Sartoux. From the main road you would not know that in the heart of the village lies these colourful narrow pedestrian streets where the doorsteps, windowsills, walls and pavements are planted with stunning visual effect.

I loved walking through the streets getting ideas for my own garden.

mouans-sartoux-gardening

mouans-sartoux-garden-2

mouans-sartoux-for-sale

table-garden

Arranging pots on a table provides height and shade.

simple-front-door-garden

The wonderfully trained foliage above provides the perfect place for a sit down in the shade.

purple-house

For the colour co-ordinated gardeners out there the purple theme above was less than twee.

provencal-garden

pretty-garden

mouans-sartoux-window

front-door-garden

Even a green foliage garden has huge ‘no-garden’ appeal.

provence-village

street-gardening

I never imagined that plants I perceived to be large garden plants would work so well on the kerbside. Large pots of oleander provide a stunningly colourful display.

oleander-france

mouans-sartoux-palm

Even the simpler options had an appeal that I found most chic.

minimal-garden

mouans-sartoux-pelargonium

mouans-sartoux-container-garden-plants

I love the little bamboo trellis in the pot below.

provence-contaner-garden

All the no-gardens I saw, from the crammed full to the elegantly simple had a style and beauty that I just want to recreate back home.

Have you been to Provence? What do you think of these ‘no-gardens’?

 

Welcome to the jungle – the garden has taken off!

allotment-courgettes-july

Since my last post from the garden in late June/early July things have developed drastically! While I’ve been away on holiday the plants have grown, or should I say over-grown in the remarkable British weather!

allotment-july

Adam was a little worried that the sprinkler system he set up would not work…but it did.

We returned to an abundance of foliage, crops and what I can only describe as a jungle in the pumpkin patch!

tomatoes-growing-in-greenhouse

greenhouse-july

We have lots of crops to harvest and a great big yellow courgette! The first of many.

allotment-harvest

apples-and-pears

broad-bean-harvest
brocolli-july
desert-gooseberries
grapes
green-tomato
peas-and-gooseberries-harvest
redcurrants

The higgledy-piggledy wildlife border is a bit of a mess now the foxgloves have died off. Looking forward to the teasel and echinops coming out though and the persicaria is still looking good.

I’ve got some late summer planting ideas for this border and can’t wait to get started.

persecaria

pink-dahlia

Unfortunately we didn’t have a sprinkler system for the front garden but we took all the containers, including window boxes up the road to the allotment so they would be watered. My pots of dahlias have come out while we were away and look great.

Out front the clematis has suffered, so has the rose and the rosemary plant actually died. Wow it must have been hot!

The day lilies are amazing though and have really spread since last year so they’re providing some lovely colour.

Day-lilies

I’m full of inspiration from our holiday in Provence and decided to take the opportunity to have a bit of an overhaul at the front anyway for my late summer display, by moving some containers around and buying some new plants – there’s nothing like a bit of retail therapy!

flowers-front-garden

How are your gardens doing? Do you have a good harvest this year? Do you have any tips for keeping your gardens in shape while you’re away on holiday?

 

Down at the allotments – what’s growing on!

allotmentA few weeks back the pumpkins and courgettes were still tiny..

I’m really enjoying myself at the allotment lately. I’m finding it a wonderful place to put my feet up and relax and I also love potting on in the greenhouse and watching the crops grow.

courgetteThe pumpkin patch growing a little more

Last year was also very enjoyable but because we had so much wet weather followed by lots of dry weather the harvest was quite mixed. I had amazing tomatoes, chilies and peppers but a severe lack of pumpkin, squash, courgette, beetroot, peas and potatoes. I suspect those crops didn’t enjoy the grey sky and rain.

allotment-courgettesNow the pumpkin patch is taking over!

This year I’m hoping for an all-round better performance from my edible plants and so far things are looking good (apart from the mess caused by ‘shed’ making!)

We are currently on holiday in Provence and I hear that there is a heatwave at home. Adam set up an ingenious timer controlled watering system and ‘allotment Bill’ has offered to help out too, but if this is what my crops were like before we left then I imagine (and hope) we will go back to a full-on harvest festival!

Here’s what was happening before we left…

tomatoes-growing

pears-growing

gooseberries

curly-kale

broad-beans-and-strawberries

lettuce

peas

The pea plants are so short and sparse this year but they cropped a long time before anyone elses at the allotments. I think this is because I sowed them earlier in guttering in the greenhouse.

broad beans

My broad beans have been cropping for many weeks now too, maybe because I sowed them back in November. The ones I sowed direct in March had caught up in size before we left but not with the beans.

peppers-growing

potatoes

redcurrant

I’m looking forward to these little cucumbers growing a bit more!

cucumber

I can’t say that I’m 100% looking forward to going home because our holiday in Provence is wonderful but I am looking forward to doing some gardening and seeing how much our plants have grown.

How are your crops getting on? Are you finding them better this year compared to last?

 

Meet the people – Judi the gardener!

Judi's-first-day-in-Joanna's-garden-Sept12

I love meeting and talking to fellow gardeners and so my new series ‘meet the people’ is a perfect way to do more of it! I’m going to attempt to conduct interviews and publish tips from expert gardeners and fellow allotmenters over the next few weeks.  My first interview is with blogger Judi Samuels from ‘judithegardener.co.uk’. I enjoy reading Judi’s blog and am intrigued by her day job as a professional gardener, which I assume is far more exciting than my office job. On Judi’s ‘about’ page she introduces herself as, “bonkers mad about plants” and her passion for them even comes with a warning!

Q. Hi Judi! I’m intrigued to know more about your passion for gardening? Can you tell us a bit about how and when it all started?
I was about ten when I first put my hands in the soil, my mother used to ask me to pick the stones out from the flower beds. Ever since, I have developed a relationship with gardens. Wherever I’ve lived I have always nurtured whatever there was in a garden and enjoyed adding plants. I have turned a passion, which has grown and grown, into a profession. I studied garden and planting design at Capel Manor in 2008 and this really helped me to build horticultural knowledge and the studying process completely immersed me in my love affair with gardening.

judi-the-gardener-dingly-dell

Why did you choose gardening as a career?
Gardening was the natural progression for me after redundancy in 2010 from an office-based communications job. It was a scary leap but I knew I wanted and needed to make it. I have never looked back and I learn so much each and every day, because there are so many discoveries to make. I also love working with the diversity of people, who I share the joy of gardening and horticulture with.

I do thrive on the independence of running my own small business, I even enjoy all the background work and sometimes it feels like ‘playing shops’, just as I did when I was a young child. There’s always marketing and paperwork, monthly accounts and keeping a constant eye on all the online communications and reading to be done. Believe me, updating my web presence alone could be a full-time job in itself.  I manage my professional profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Shoot Gardening, Landscape Juice Network (LJN), LinkedIn, Skills Pages, Google Place Page and my own blog. Using all these communications seems an integral part of any business these days and is expected, maybe that’s my marketing communications background coming through

Was it expensive to start your own business?
Setting up a business takes time and money.  I have begged and borrowed tools, books and equipment and slowly over time I have replaced them. I try to be diligent about cleaning and sharpening my tools to keep them in good shape for as long as possible. I have developed a penchant for old wooden tools and treated myself to two good pairs of Felco secateurs, which I lovingly look after. I have spent money on marketing, but do use as many free opportunities as possible, most of my work comes to me by word of mouth. I have always felt that if you give people a good experience, then people will want to talk about that with friends and family.

Bulb-planting-workshop-2-012

What’s it like being a gardener in winter?
Winter is a really tough time. I still have the usual bills to pay but without the same level of income. I am currently developing my gardening workshops and would love to secure some more teaching and writing work. I have kept myself busy this winter by working on promoting the Dingly Dells ™ and planting plans, as well blogging and giving gardening workshops. I advise anyone thinking about setting up a gardening business to think about their expenses during the winter and identifying possible income streams. It is a wonderfully comforting feeling when the phone starts ringing again and email notifications of new opportunities start flooding the inbox.

How much time do you spend on your own gardening projects?
I am always developing my own garden in my mind and whenever I’m not working on other people’s gardens, I am longing to get into it. There is a great crossing over between labouring and loving in my own and clients’ gardens. I take just as much pleasure in working in a client’s garden, (especially when I am commissioned to develop it by adding new plants species or creating a Dingly Dell), as I do with my own garden. I enjoy encouraging and enthusing about the relationship clients develop with their gardens. ‘I am bonkers mad about plants and my enthusiasm for them is infectious you have been warned’. This is not just my brand message; this is how I genuinely feel!

Laying-membrane---Prospects-project-Jan13

Do you grow any vegetables or herbs? If so, why is that important to you?
In November 2012 I began working with the Prospects Project (a recovery and reintegration project) based at the Welcome Centre (a homeless charity) in Ilford. I am helping them with their allotment site. It’s a huge project that I love and I’ve been giving classroom based learning in basic horticulture along with inside and outside gardening tasks. I asked fellow Twitterers for some seed sponsorship recently and people were amazingly generous with their seed donations.

We are planning on growing herbs, fruits, vegetables and flowers at the plot and just last week made our first indoor sowings of tomatoes, chillies, jalepenos, aubergine and onions. We do have many more seeds to sow over the coming weeks and months. I keep a photo diary of the classroom-based workshops and outdoor activity, which I turn into a blog post each week. I often wonder if anyone reads what I write (still feels a bit self-indulgent) and I am reassured that I am being read, by the fact that you [Anna B] wrote to me after reading my blog and invited me to be interviewed…and here I am!

judi_the_gardener_1

Do you think gardeners should plant for wildlife, i.e. bees, birds and butterflies and what do you feel about UK gardeners planting more UK native plants?
In my own and client’s gardens, (when making recommendations for pollen-rich plants) I compile plants lists that includes both native and non-native species, plants that will attract pollinators, such as: Anthriscus sylvestris (Cow Parsley), Osteospermum (Cape Daisies), Scabiosa (Scabious), Astrantias (Masterwort), Echinacea (Coneflower), Achillea millefolium (Yarrow) , Buddjela davidii (Butterfly Bush) but to name just a few. I am a great fan of Graham Stuart Thomas and his book ‘Colour in the Winter Garden’ which in its essence, provides an abundance of plants (including trees) recommendations, that will supply the winter garden with not only scented blooms and coloured stems, but berries and over-wintering insects, so that birds have access to food during the harshest season.

What are your top tips for this year?
I think planting for all seasons would be my greatest wish (therefore, my top tip) I do believe in the richness of diversity and the abundant joy that it brings. Happy Gardening!

Thank you Judi! I hope you enjoy the spring and I look forward to reading more about your projects.

~ ~ ~
I’ve picked up some great tips there on planting for wildlife and about what to consider if you’re going to set up your own business. I hope you enjoyed the interview!

It’s snowing again here today, not quite what I had in mind for the start of spring! I think I’ll do some more seed sowing and hope that by the time they’re through I can pot them on, move them to the greenhouse and then get them outside. What’s the weather like where you are? What will you be doing this week?

Spring is nearly here – what’s growing on?

adam_in_greenhouse

I’m so happy that spring is round the corner but in terms of it ‘feeling like spring’ I’m as confused as the weather! It’s snowing one minute and mild and sunny the next. Very random! On the milder days it’s been great getting outside into the garden. Adam’s been tidying the greenhouse and I’ve been doing the weeding and having a general potter around. The weeds have really started growing now and I enjoy trying to get rid of them as soon as possible.

weeds-3What is this plant? Is it a weed?

My soil is lovely and I wonder if the minimal digging we did in the autumn combined with a bit of mulching has helped it achieve a soft and crumbly texture. I really can’t remember what it was like this time last year – warmer and drier I think so I’m not going to be able to pin point exactly why my soil texture feels great but it’s very easy to spruce up and keep neat, which is good in my books!

broadbeans-under_netbox

A few weeks back I planted out my broad beans. I started them off indoors and then popped them into the greenhouse in big tubs until I felt the weather was a bit more stable. I’ve covered them with a net-box and sprinkled coffee grounds around them. One of my favourite local Cafes – The Cheerful Chili gives them away and they claim it works! So far, so good.

tulip_bulbs

Inside the greenhouse I have pots and pots of tulips. When they come into flower I’ll take them outside and most of them will go by my front door. I also have my ornamental kale which has bolted a bit. I’ve never grown this plant before so I’ve got no idea what I’m doing with it to be honest!

ornamental_kale

mini_lettuce

Inside the house things are also growing and I’m starting to sow all my seeds for March.

My lettuces are still tiny but looking really healthy and I expect to be potting it on very soon and starting my next batch.

mini_lettuce_2chilies_sowing_2

A couple of weeks ago I sowed my chilies in expandable coir pellets. I bought a kit with the propagator included for around £4.95, which is quite expensive compared to a big bag of seed sowing compost. I’ve never used these pellets before but they seem to be really popular. My chilies are still germinating (they take ages) so I have no real view yet on how good these modules are. They are extremely quick, easy and clean to use though, which is a bonus. I just hope the seeds grow well, I’m hoping they’ll pop through any day now.

mammoth_leeks

My mammoth leeks are potted on and still look like little stalks. I’ve never grown this large variety before so I’m just keeping them in the light, well watered and I’m hoping for the best!

iris_march

My irises have been lovely this year but some are already on their way out, which is quite sad. I have another variety to come up next and I can’t wait for my daffodils and tulips to flower. The lavender is looking very healthy and once spring is established I’ll be looking forward to that taking hold.

I spent the day at Harlow Carr on a photography course today. I discovered that I’ve pretty much been doing everything wrong! I’m looking forward to downloading the photos I took and I’ll post any good ones. I’m really looking forward to getting out in the garden tomorrow.

Have you started sowing anything yet? What have you been doing in your gardens and allotments?

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