This Week’s Guest Blogger is Amy Hitchcock who offers tailor-made foraging tours with Forth and Forage

I fell in love with my Kent coastal town years ago. That’s when I got majorly into exploring the stunning landscape of the Herne Bay downs, its flora, and the abundance of wild food.

When we think about foraging, blackberry stained hands might come to mind. The joy of juicy berries – sometimes tart, often sweet, can’t be ‘proper’ foraging I’ve been told. It shocks me that many discount blackberry picking – which for many are our first fond memories out in nature.

When I take locals out on a foraging tour, it’s simply the continuation of their journey. Every new plant identified – whether edible or toxic – is a step in understanding and respecting our local landscapes. Foraging throughout the year, you become connected to the seasons, come to appreciate the rain which nourishes and sun which ripens. Summer is a parade of fruits- cherries, raspberries, damsons. Cardamom, pepper and orange are some of the surprising autumn flavours available from seeds. Winter sees edible ‘weeds’ emerging when little else will. Spring is an explosion of garlic, tender greens and fragrant herbs. Each year is an adventure with more to discover.

Guiding locals on their foraging journey, experience doesn’t matter so much as a respect for nature. Litter picking, spreading ripe seeds and introducing native wild food plants to our own gardens are ways to give back for what we take.

With this in mind, I’d like to share my top tips for the sustainable forager:

  • Only forage a plant where it is truly abundant. Forage small amounts from multiple plants.
  • Research the plant and its value to wildlife
  • Leave a wild space in your garden
  • Plant native species in your garden
  • Share your love and knowledge with others! The more people care about our wild places, the easier it is to protect them.

To join a foraging adventure in Kent, check out or forthandforagekent on instagram

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Derrick Spencer, the “Edible Gardener” at Wynyard Hall, Stockton-on-Tees

Hi, my name is Derrick and I currently work for Wynyard Hall, located in the beautiful North East of England. I am the ‘edible gardener’, planning and maintaining the fruit and vegetable garden. The garden will supply the new restaurant at Wynyard Hall, called The Glasshouse, offering a ‘plot to plate’ dining experience. There are views of the garden from the restaurant, so diners can see exactly where the produce is coming from!
My journey into gardening would have been far from a safe bet for anyone who knew me when I was younger. I grew up in suburban Leicester, with little or no interaction with gardens; I didn’t even like eating vegetables until my late teens! Something must have clicked, as I started to cook from scratch, using fresh ingredients. I enjoyed looking up recipes and rising to the challenge of using ‘strange’ ingredients such as fennel, or the ugly one, celeriac! Of course, they not strange, but they were to me!
During my early twenties, whilst studying, I developed a strong interest in the environment and climate change. I had no idea what my future career would be, but I had a strong inkling that I would explore this avenue and try to make a difference somehow. I decided that whilst on a gap year it would be great to volunteer on environmentally friendly farms, as a cheap way to travel and learn new skills. I was so impressed by the farms and gardens I visited! Whilst helping I was able to learn about environmentally friendly ways of farming, as well as witnessing the results. The produce was amazing and tasted great! I knew that once I finished my travels I would look for work on a farm and try to make a career out of it.
Since then, I have worked on some large organic vegetable farms, as well as therapeutic farms and gardens, whilst providing gardening workshops for vulnerable adults.

Now I am at Wynyard Hall and I am really enjoying growing produce for a restaurant, whilst also welcoming visitors to the garden. This is a great opportunity for me to showcase a beautiful veg garden, local and seasonal produce, all whilst using environmentally friendly techniques. I try to avoid disturbing the soil with digging and rotovating by layering compost or well-rotted farm yard manure on the surface of the soil. This helps to promote the ‘soil food web’, a network of fungi and micro-organisms, which enable a ‘living soil’ with access to plenty of nutrients for the plants I want to grow.
I grow lots of flowers amongst the vegetables to promote biodiversity in the garden. There are lots of beneficial insects attracted to the flowers which can help to keep pests under control, as well as attracting bees who will do lots of pollinating in the garden! Bird boxes, insect and hedgehog hotels, or a pond, are other great ways to make the garden look nice and help to attract beneficial birds, insects, mammals and amphibians to the garden. Rather than using insecticides, I can use very fine nets which will keep things like the cabbage white moths off the brassicas. I also follow a crop rotation, meaning that the crops I grow will be in different parts of the garden year on year. For example, legumes (peas and beans) have the benefit of fixing nitrogen, so I would follow them with brassicas who would appreciate a larger quantity of nitrogen. Moving the crop families around will also help to prevent the build up of diseases and pests attracted to each crop family.
One day I would like to have laying hens on-site. Not only would we enjoy the fresh eggs, but their straw bedding with added chicken poo (brown gold!), would be a great addition to my compost heaps for the veg garden, as it is very high in nitrogen! This would help to keep the fertility of the garden ‘in house’.
Although gardening has been a great job for me, it would also be a great hobby which can be really healthy and rewarding, as well as contributing to helping the environment. One of the things I love about gardening is that almost everyone can relate to it somehow. We all have a flower, fruit or vegetable that we really enjoy. If we try to grow it ourselves it only magnifies how much we love it! Choosing the variety, watching it grow, and then eventually eating it, or putting it in a vase! As I grow produce for a restaurant, I have the luxury of selecting varieties of fruits and vegetables for their amazing taste rather than yield; such as a Nantes carrot, a Black Cherry tomato or a Cerbiatta lettuce. I would recommend that when growing produce for yourself, search out the ‘heirloom’ or ‘traditional’ varieties that are identified to have the best taste, as it makes your work in the garden so much more worth it!

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Cassandra Rosas who has recently started a plant nursery at her home and works for

How to Design a Plant Nursery at Home that Thrives

Plants provide us with something beautiful to look at, delicious food, and a unique way to lower stress levels. Even if you don’t consider yourself to have a “green thumb,” it’s easy to design and nourish your own plant nursery at home. From a rooftop garden to some backyard agriculture, you can enjoy the many benefits that plants provide without ever having to leave your house. In this guide, you’ll discover some information and helpful tips to design a plant nursery at home to enjoy for years to come.

What is a Plant Nursery?

A plant nursery is where plants are grown from seed and cultivated and harvested once they reach a certain age. When designing one at home, the same general rules apply in terms of caring for and nurturing your plants. Even if you don’t have a large backyard, you can easily design your nursery with some simple tips. Large commercial nurseries grow plants for landscaping and decoration and sell them to vendors and retail stores. For a home nursery, you can cultivate various plants based on your region and climate, your ability to care for different plants, and how much room you have available. Even a rooftop garden can be a fantastic home nursery.

Types of Nurseries

There are several different types of nurseries, and the one you choose depends on the kind of plants you want to grow and the plant’s purpose. Here are some examples of plant nurseries to help you decide which one is best for you:

Fruit plant nursery. Grow and enjoy your own delicious fruits with a fruit plant nursery. Fruit needs lots of sunshine and warm temperatures to grow. You may need to learn about which types of fruit require other plants for them to produce a harvest. From citrus fruits like lemons and oranges to delicious cherries and apples, fruit typically grows on trees, shrubs, or vines.

Vegetable nursery. Try your hand at organic gardening with a vegetable nursery. You don’t need as much space to grow a vegetable nursery since most veggies grow low to the ground or underground, with a few exceptions. Make sure that you protect your vegetables from winter’s frost to keep them alive during the colder months of the year.
Ornamental plant nursery. Ornamental plants can be anything from flowers to succulents. Explore a range of ornamental plants that will thrive in your particular growing zone or plant hardiness zone to determine which ones are best for you. An ornamental plant nursery does well in a greenhouse, or you can even start a small one inside your home.

Medicinal and aromatic plant nursery. From healing herbs to delicious homegrown spices, a medicinal and aromatic plant nursery is an excellent choice if you enjoy cooking. Grow everything from basil to rosemary in your nursery, and you’ll never have to shop for these items again. You can also dry your herbs and spices to create homemade potpourri or a beautiful dried bouquet.

Forest plant nursery. If you want to contribute to the environment and have a lot of outdoor space, a forest plant nursery is a good choice. These plant nurseries tend to contain oak, pine, elm, and other trees that can be re-planted to help restore the forests. Some people grow pine trees on their property to sell during the holidays as Christmas trees, too.

How Much Space is Needed and Adjustments Required

It’s essential to make sure that you have plenty of room if you’re planning to design a plant nursery at home. Here is some information about the amount of space you’ll need and any adjustments that might be required before you start gardening:
Backyard. Measure the size of your yard and draw out how much space you plan to allocate for your plant nursery. Vegetables, ornamental plants, and herbs tend to take up less space than larger species like fruit or woodland trees. You’ll also need to check the soil to make sure that it’s fertile. Test the pH level of your soil and add some topsoil and fertilizer if necessary. It’s also a good idea to till the ground before you plant your seeds, so they have a healthy environment to grow their roots. Ensure you practice sustainable and eco-friendly pest control and growing methods to keep the plants and the environment safe.
Rooftop. If you live in an apartment or condo, a rooftop garden is a fun way to grow various plants. After you get permission from your landlord, fill several containers with soil and seeds, or add them to a raised garden bed, this way would make it easier to move your garden if you ever decide to go to a new home. You don’t need as much space if you grow this type of plant nursery. However, vining plants are best since they don’t spread vertically, saving you valuable rooftop real estate. Your roof will get a lot of full sun, so make sure that your plants get adequate shade and plenty of water to keep them happy and healthy.

Basic Tools
Here are some essential tools you’ll need before you get started designing and cultivating your plant nursery:
A quality pair of sharp pruning shears
Durable gardening gloves
Stakes to help support your plants as they grow and get strong
Healthy soil and fertilizer or compost to nourish your plants
Ground cover like netting or burlap to protect the earth and keep it warm
Small trays and pots to start your seeds in
A shovel, trowel, garden rake, and tiller to move dirt easily
A high-quality garden hose and/or a sprinkler system
Soil thermometer to check the temperature of the dirt
Fencing or protective netting to keep large animals out of your nursery

Propagation Techniques

The term propagation refers to the creation of new plants from existing ones. There are two main types of propagation techniques: sexual and asexual. Sexual propagation uses the plant’s floral parts and requires the union of the pollen and the egg of the plants. This union gathers the genes from both plants together to create a new individual plant. With asexual propagation, you can simply take a cutting of the plant and place it in water until roots begin to form. Other methods of asexual propagation include grafting and budding. Some species of plants require sexual propagation to grow, while others don’t. Research your plants carefully to determine which method will work for your nursery.

Planning your nursery

Once you’re ready to start your nursery, it’s time to do a bit of advanced planning. First, determine exactly where you want to grow your nursery and make sure that the soil is ready to receive seeds. You may want to draw the layout on paper to give you a better idea of where things will go and how everything will look. Make sure you have everything on your primary tool and accessories checklist, and then you can begin the work of gardening.
Choose what to grow. The most important part of planning your nursery is choosing what you want to grow. Look at your plant hardiness zone and pick out plants based on the climate and the location of your nursery, as well as the size. Research a variety of species to determine which ones will be the easiest to cultivate based on the maintenance that they require.

Planting the plants

Now it’s time to plant your seeds and watch your beautiful new plant nursery flourish. Here are some tips to help you grow plants from seeds and propagate your plants through cuttings.
Growing plants from seeds (how to sow): Different plants may need different conditions to grow from seed, but there are some basics you can follow to ensure success. Start your seeds indoors and place them in a seed tray or a variety of small cups or bowls. Use a seed starting mix to help encourage your seeds to grow faster and sprout roots. Moisten the seeds before you mix them so that they get just the right amount of water. Monitor the temperature and make sure that it’s within the appropriate range based on your specific seeds. Cover everything with a clear plastic lid and place them under a grow light until they’re ready to be relocated to the ground. Keep in mind that it can take six to eight weeks or longer for your seeds to start growing, so patience is key.
Propagation by cuttings: Once your plants grow to a healthy full size, you can propagate them via cuttings. Start with a cutting of about four to six inches long and cut them just where the leaf meets the stem using a sharp knife or pair of scissors. Remove any flowers and excess leaves, then place your cutting in a soil mix in a small container. You can dip the cutting in a plant growth hormone to encourage faster growth. Water your soil till damp, and then cover everything with a clear plastic bag to hold the heat and moisture in. Once the plant is large and strong, you can move it to a larger pot or add it to your garden.
Keep these tips in mind if you’re ready to design your own plant nursery at home. From an organic vegetable garden to ornamental flowers and shrubs, the possibilities are endless. With the right techniques and plenty of room, you’ll be able to grow and cultivate a beautiful nursery for many years to come.
Originally posted on

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Camilla Grayley, a Garden Designer who runs her own business

Autumn Seed Sowing and Flower Garden Planning

Some of the most popular gardening items this year have been bags of compost and packets of seed, with more time at home there has been a chance to grow your own and enjoy seeing the fruits of your labour. While vegetable seeds were top of the list there are plenty of flowers that are easy to grow too, particularly annuals. Ideal for filling in gaps in the borders while waiting for the garden to mature, to experiment with new colour combinations and particularly for growing a few bunches of cut flowers.

Many flowers need sowing in autumn, some under glass whether this is in a greenhouse, cold frame or on a window sill and some can be directly sown into the ground. California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) are happy to be sown outside, the bright orange varieties such as Orange King are more familar but some of my favourites are the cream varieties such as Ivory Cream or the Thai Silk series. Probably because I enjoy mixing them with a vaseful of cornflowers, Centaurea cyanus ‘Blue Boy’ and oxeye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) and the bees will thank you too. For a colour palette of deep rich reds Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Ball’ and poppy varieties Papaver somniferum ‘Black Single’ and ‘Dark Plum’ will add that sumptuous velvet quality to the garden.

One flower that never seems to go out of favour are sweet peas, whether because they come in such an array of colours there are bound to be a colour to suit every garden or just a chance to inhale their heady scent. Sweet peas can either be sown now and kept under glass or sown directly into the ground in spring in any colour from the frothy pink of Lathyrus odoratus ‘Gwendoline’ or the pale blue of Noel Sutton. A firm favourite is Matucana with its bicolour flowers in magenta and purple, I tend to buy a packet every year. Often mixed in with a deep red like Midnight or some of the new varieties such as Nimbus, a delicate shade of lilac and white where the colours seem to merge into each other like ink drops. While waiting for spring to come around, to be able to start sowing more seeds the dark winter nights are perfect for perusing the seed catalogues and planning.