This Week’s Guest Blogger is Joe Harrison, a Gardener, Veg Grower and Garden Writer

Gardeners are normally a very patient bunch. In winter we spend hours, reading books and gardening magazines on our favourite subject looking for ideas and inspiration. When we’re not doing that we’re thumbing through seed catalogues, planning what we’re going to grow in the new year, almost waiting in anticipation for someone to finally pull the trigger on the seed sowing starters pistol.

Sometimes this eagerness to grow can be our downfall. The winter months in the UK can lull you into a false sense of security, offering us beautiful crisp sunny days (perhaps making us regret wearing that extra thick jumper), turning our greenhouses or polytunnels into warm, inviting retreats. But, as quick as Mother Nature giveth, she can taketh away just as fast, providing us with gale force winds, driving rain and freezing temperatures, dashing any hopes we may have had of sowing anything any time soon.

That being said our eagerness to sow seeds can sometimes get the better of us and despite the conditions outside we go ahead and do it anyway.

Enthusiasm to get the growing season started is a major factor for this but I also think social media can be the cause too. Seeing lots of fantastic photos of healthy new seedlings emerging in propagators, on windowsills and in greenhouses posted by other growers makes you think, ‘should I be doing that?’, or, ‘well, if they’re sowing those seeds now, I better start too!’. I am definitely guilty of having those thoughts at times, but sometimes you have to stop and think about it logically. If you see people sowing chillies, tomatoes or aubergines in January, that’s absolutely fine. It could be something they have tried and tested in their part of the country which works for them but it may not necessarily work for you. For example, we always sow sweet pea seeds in an unheated greenhouse in December because we know that works for us, whereas other gardeners wait until January or February the following year to sow theirs.

Gardening can be trial error and I’m a firm believer that you have to make mistakes in order to learn from them. This means that if you do sow too early and your plants get too leggy or are killed by a cold snap, it’s obviously extremely deflating but, you will learn what not to do next time.

Obviously there are cold hardy seed varieties which can be sown early like broad beans, onions, leeks, cabbage and cauliflower, but just remember to use the instructions on the back of the seed packet as a guide, they’re there for a reason and are full of really useful information.

I would never discourage someone from getting involved with gardening or sowing. That being said, I also don’t want other gardeners, especially new growers, to feel pressure to start growing after seeing others doing it on social media, because gardening should be an enjoyable, rewarding and relaxing experience.

The best advice would be; if you’re unsure, ask other growers in your area who have similar growing conditions for a little advice and don’t forget to check out the information provided on the back of the seed packet. Do both of these and you can’t go too far wrong and most of all, enjoy it!

Joe is on Instagram as Grow With Joe

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Paul Leitch, Creator and Editor of the Garden Visit website Great British Gardens

Great British Gardens Website contains a wealth of information regarding gardens to visit

in their gardens guide you can find:-
• Open Gardens to visit near me and you
• Beautiful Places to visit for you and your family
• Days out and things to do near me and you
• Ideas for day trips with the children.
• Flower gardens
• Woodland Walks
• Historic Houses and Castles with gardens
• Places for School trips
• Nature trails for kids
• Wildlife Gardens
• Gardens and places to visit during School Holidays
• Find Gardens the best and most beautiful gardens near me and you to visit. You can find them by using their town or postcode search.
• You can also find gardens by category, such as Autumn colours, Roses, Rhododendron Gardens etc.
• You can also keep up to date by visiting their Facebook and Instagram pages with up to the moment images and comments.
• They also include many comfortable places to stay nearby.
• Use their map search so that you can plan your journey
• Many of the garden attractions have events throughout the school holidays for children including The National Trust.



This Week’s Guest Blogger is Matthew Appleby the Editor of Horticulture Week and an Author

I’m glad to see vegan gardening – going beyond organics – taking off, at long last.

Many studies show cutting out meat and dairy is good for you and the planet. Vegans try and broaden their outlook into all areas of their lives, including gardening. There’s three benefits for gardening without animal inputs –  better animal welfare, an improved environment and better human health. With all those potential gains, I’m glad this was the first popular guide to growing veganically, Super Organic Gardener: Everything You Need to Know About the Vegan Garden (2018) and I’m glad it isn’t the last.

COP26 has brought home the benefits for the planet of growing plants rather than farming animals – it’s a big debate – too big to go into in depth here, and has plenty of strong opinions on all sides. I’m all for the gentle approach. Some are a bit more bullish than me.

Here’s what it’s about – be mindful of how you grow and what you put on your crops. Avoid animal manures from farmed animals and make your own compost and fertiliser or use vegan ones. Even bigger producers Westland, Melcourt and Happy Compost make vegan products now.

Grow plants that offer high levels of protein and vitamins to supplement the vegan diet.

Garden writers John Walker and Stephanie Hafferty are now advocates, while long-time vegan gardeners such as garden designers Cleve West and Darryl Moore, and the Vegan Organic Network, remain active.

In Autumn 2021, the RHS added two further commitments related to the climate change and health benefits of veganism to its Sustainability Strategy targets of becoming ‘Climate Positive by 2030’ and ‘Biodiversity Positive by 2025′. This followed a campaign by Cleve and I.

Back in 2018, Hampshire nursery Hortus Lcci held the first vegan gardening festival. Cleve, me and Darryl were among speakers. Darryl is set to design at Chelsea 2022 with a St Mungo’s charity garden, which will be veganically-sourced, with plants from Hortus Loci.

My big campaigns when the book came out were ‘hug and slug’ and ‘don’t feed the birds – your garden is not a zoo’. Not ideas designed to make me popular, as I found out after being grilled by John Humphreys on Radio 4 and Richard Madeley on ITV. How many did the book sell? Not that many. Maybe it was ahead of its time.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Nikki Gardener, a Podcast Host, Blog Writer who writes about how she discovered the joy of gardening and how it helped her and her husbands mental and physical health

My Gardening Story

I am Nikki and I live with my husband Neil, our puppy Lyla an our two rabbits Simba and Cinnamon in Glasgow. My story started when I met my husband, he brought the world of gardening into my life. I never really thought about gardening as such before I met Neil and his papa Joe.
My interest in the garden began when myself and my husband bought our first house and I began to discover flowers and the ones I loved which were Lilies, Sunflowers and Dahlias. Which I still love today! But it was really when my husband began to suffer with his depression and anxiety that it took us both into the garden.

I had no previous knowledge of depression and when my husband first started showing symptoms of being depressed, I was unsure of what was wrong. But as I started to notice signs and symptoms I began to research on my own at first before speaking to my husband. Neil was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety which we both thought may have started with the lost of his gran in previous years. Being diagnosed with depression was something that has and continues to have an impact on my husband, although he is happy for me to talk openly about him and our story, he struggles with telling others that he has a mental illness. It is something that truly upsets me is that there is such a stigma being attached to having a mental illness. That is why I want to use my platform I have to talk about our story and live in hope that one day I won’t have to worry or even think about the stigma of mental health existing.
When we were dealing with coming to terms with Neil being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, we were also about to be hit with another challenging time to come when my husband started to suffer from sore hands and ankles. My husband hates to go to the doctors so it wasn’t until my husband was in agony in everyday life to the point where he was struggling to walk up the stairs in our house that he went to see a doctor and after a long wait even in pre-covid times he was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is an auto immune disease where your body is fighting itself. This has been one of the hardest challenges for my husband was that his own body was stopping him from being able to walk and do the things he loved.
This is where I began to help in the garden more, as my husband couldn’t do the physical jobs like weed or at the time mow the grass. Weeding for me even though I didn’t know it, was actually helping me and was a form of therapeutic gardening. I noticed that when I went outside and began weeding that it gave me time away from everything, it shut me off from the world and it made me feeling lighter when I came back in from the garden. I always knew how much the garden lifted my husband‘s mood when he went outside but I had never really thought about how it was helping me.
It was then that I discovered the gardening bug and I began to have a dream of growing my own food. I suffer with low self esteem and low self confidence and after watching all the gardening programmes, I didn‘t believe that I would be able to grow anything. I told my husband that I wanted to grow my own fruit and vegetables in the garden and he was the one who encouraged me to give it a go. He took me to a local garden centre and he bought me two tomato and two strawberry plants.  He gave me a challenge of looking after the plants, finding out about them and nurturing them.
I took on the challenge and I absolutely loved it! I still have my two strawberry plants which I have added to over the years in my garden now. This was as such the seed that started my dream of growing my own food, but as well as growing my own food I wanted to help others too. I work in a nursery as a Nursery teacher and I wanted to teach not only the children but their families too about how to grow their own food at home. I took my love of gardening in to my job and I shared my passion with the staff and we were lucky to be given a small space in a local allotment to work in with the local community.

Which then lead me onto an opportunity of my own where I was given a space growing space of my own to develop which completely scared me! The thought of designing and growing on my own plot was one that at first filled me with fear. But my husband and the Chair of the allotment both told me that I would be fine and they had every faith in me that I could achieve it. Little did we all know that when I took that allotment space on in December 2019 that we were all going to be hit by a massive pandemic.
This was the start of my dream becoming a reality. I was ill with a chest infection for most of January and February that year and in March 2020 when covid began to hit in the UK. I was asked to work from home for 12 week initially which turned into 6 months eventually. I was asked to work from home and the two days later we were all put into lockdown. Which I will openly admit had a terrible effect on my own mental health and wellbeing. I was taken away from my friends & family and I was also terrified that my husband who has an auto immune disease would catch covid.
It was the garden who saved me and my allotment, if I didn‘t have my garden and the plot I don’t now how else I would have coped through such a horrible time. But this meant that due to everyone being scared of a lockdown happening; I had purchased all my seeds, my mini propagators and everything I needed in the greenhouse to start my new adventure of growing my own food. I should add that my friend Gary back in December 2019 had said to me that I should start an Instagram account and share my journey, which at first I was reluctant to do but for some reason in January 2020 I decided to do it!
Due to my self confidence, I started up my first Instagram account @gardenernikki where at first I was only posting pictures and video of me talking where you could not see me. This is my gardening brand, which I didn’t know at the time was going to be one of the best things I ever did. I have grown as a person from taken on the new challenges of the allotment and gardening has completey changed my life.  I have now started a Tiktok, Youtube, and podcast of my own where I speak to fellow gardeners and podcaster about their story and how they started gardening. I was given a fantastic opportunity in the summer of last year in 2021 to volunteer with a great company Help Yourself grow who provide gardening classes for people with additional supports needs in Glasgow who are from the age of 18-30.
I have a passion to help others through the power of gardening. Which has lead me on to have an opportunity where I work currently, have released me to be able to go and work in the garden at Help yourself grow and teach therapeutic gardening classes. This is a new challenge that I am currently taken on and I am really enjoying teaching in the garden. I feel as if this was all meant to be and I feel as is this was my fate to be teaching in a garden. I continue to grow and develop my own self confidence and skills through learning about gardening and I look forward to whatever new challenges and opportunities that may come my way!