This Week’s Guest Blogger is Jenny Howarth, an allotment gardener on Instagram as @life_on_the_lot

Viewing an Allotment? The Questions You Need to Ask!

So, you have had the call from the Site Secretary and you are off to view your first allotment. I remember it like it was yesterday when we viewed ours on a cold early spring morning, right at the beginning of the season. Our allotment shop had just opened and the promise of the bountiful harvests ahead had brought all the plot owners out to make a start, there was a real buzz in the air and the community alone completely sold it to me! Although, I do wish I had known then what I know now…

Here are some of the important things to go armed with to help you when taking on your first plot!

  1. Soil Type

What type of soil are you working with? Its a good idea to have a little read into different soil types and what grows best in them. This will hopefully give you a good start as you may be able to plant things straight away depending on the time of year. Regardless of your soil type, this can always be improved so its definitely not a deal breaker for your plot if it doesn’t come with a perfect loam!

  1. Water Supply

Do you have access to a water supply? Water is a precious resource on your plot especially during those summer dry spells! Lots of water to carry is also heavy, back breaking work which can be make or break for your crops. Plan in advance how you will water if you don’t have access to a supply and how you can save as much water as possible!

  1. Perennial Weeds

Do you have any perennial weeds on the plot? Any of these nightmare weeds including couch grass, bindweed or marestail to name but a few! Again, I would never see this as a deal breaker but this information will enable you to come up with an action plan of how to tackle them. It will also give you an idea of how big a job you have ahead of you so you can plan accordingly – unless you are lucky enough to walk onto a perfectly previously maintained plot!

  1. Grow What You Like to Eat

In my first year I grew around 20 turnips just because I could. I then realised no one in our house actually likes turnips and they all went to waste. Never mind the time and effort into growing the seedlings, planting out and watering. Your time is valuable – don’t be a busy fool and make sure your harvests are worth the effort!

  1. Don’t Try To Do Everything At Once

Split your allotment plan into manageable chunks! Its easy to become overwhelmed, especially when that first blast of warm spring air hits and the weeds start to grow before your very eyes! If you don’t get to everything in your first year, that’s OK! This is a marathon not a sprint! Cover it up and plan it in for next year. Document your journey and keep looking back at how far you have come.

for more information about Jenny’s allotment visit her website


This Week’s Guest Blog is about the Fundraising of our Fabulous Charity, focusing on our Open Garden and Plant Fair on Wednesday 27th April 2022

Last Year we awarded nearly £58,000 in grants and helped over 1200 beneficiaries, so fundraising each year is very important. Please consider supporting us.  There a number of ways you can help.

This years’ Open Garden and Plant Sale at is being held at Old Place Farm, High Halden, Kent on Wednesday 27th April from 10am to 3pm. It is a 4 acre garden around a Tudor Farmhouse which is not normally open to the public.  Entrance is £7, homemade lunch is £10 or you can buy tickets online where you will receive a discounted price – entrance ticket and lunch for £15.  There will be fantastic nurseries selling loads of super plants.

Other fundraising garden visits and talks take place from time to time so please check our website regularly.

We are always looking for other fundraising ideas perhaps help us by having a collection instead of receiving presents for a birthday or wedding anniversary for example.

We run our charity on a shoestring and our accounts are available for scrutiny on the charity commission website just like all other registered charities so you can see how wisely we spend peoples donations.

Our fundraising book ‘Cuttings’ A Cornucopia of Gardening tips from famous, expert and green-fingered friends has raised over £18,000 and is now on its third reprint.

We are looking for people to stock the book in garden centres, gift shops , cafes etc.

Please consider helping us to help raise more money to help more people get back into their gardens gardening again.  We look forward to hearing from you

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Ros Bissell who owns Moors Meadow Gardens

Moors Meadow Gardens

I was brought up on a very small farm but as us children left home my parents love of plants took over and they started planting the 7 acres into garden. I never knew what career I wanted for myself and in my early 40’s I moved back home so my mother could continue to live there and we spent all our days gardening together and visiting other gardens, it hit me that I had arrived and this was my ideal career. My mum took early retirement from gardening at 94 due to ill health but I cared for her at home so she could continue to enjoy the fruits of our labours from her armchair on the veranda.

To me there is nothing like planting a seed and watching it grow to maturity, every spring to watch as the fresh young leaves unfurl and the flowers delight us, followed by the fruits and on to the autumn tints. To watch that plant through the years and know that I am doing something very worthwhile to help protect our fragile environment. I revel in walking through the garden allowing the senses to be assailed from all sides, all heightened by having no man-made noise to detract from the thrill of my wildlife haven. I cannot stress enough the pleasure I get from all the birds, over 70 species counted so far, the buzz of insects, the frogs and newts or watching a stoat as it hunts and the many other animals that call my little bit of heaven their home. I continue to plant, now mostly concentrating on rarely seen species as well as creating new features, I cannot imagine a time without my garden, it brings me a peace within myself like nothing else can.

I open Moors Meadow Gardens for charity for 5 days a year for the NGS and a concert in the garden for St. Michael’s Hospice Hereford which is on 4th September this year.  I have also printed a book my mum wrote of her memories through her life that I am selling in aid of the hospice.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Scott H Smith, Head Gardener at the National Trust for Scotland, studying for his MHort (RHS)

Celebrating 10 years in horticulture 🍾🎊☺️⏳

Back in early 2012 I had failed and my life was over. Despite all my efforts in school to gain 8 highers (A-levels) to get into uni and get my degree so I could do well in life : I’d picked a course I hated and consequently failed. Life was over. Resigning myself to a life of servitude, I took the first job I could get at the job centre: a seasonal gardener at Kellie Castle with the National Trust for Scotland. Little did I know it was a job that was about to change my life. I knew absolutely nothing about gardening but my hero in horticulture, Mark Armour the head gardener; would give me a chance in life and inspire me so much to continue in horticulture that I would pursue it as my career. He not only took me in and inspired me but also helped me land the apprenticeship that secured my future. Heroes can just be ordinary people and he’s one of them 💪

Through the power of courage, determination, study and sacrifice I’ve gone from strength to strength and am now proudly head gardener of not one but two prestigious heritage sites and still growing. I am proud to represent an RHS partner garden and am currently diligently studying for the RHS Master of Horticulture award. Through horticulture I’ve met some truly weird, wonderful, talented and inspirational people from a huge range of backgrounds. I’ve been lucky enough to meet Prince Charles and Chelsea gold medal winning designer Chris Beardshaw whose plan I co-project managed and implemented at Pitmedden Garden. I was even lucky enough to meet my wife who came up to me and asked what a particular plant was (thank goodness I knew it was Carum carvi!) 🌿

I can’t stress enough to young and older people alike the brilliant power that horticulture has to allow us to grow as individuals and I’ve been truly blessed in life to have fallen into the field by accident at a tender age of 21. I can but one day hope to have inspired someone the way Mark inspired me and to have brought another soul into the beautiful world of horticulture. If I can do it anyone can! All the best to fellow plant enthusiasts and all future enthusiasts 🌱☺️

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Debi Holland, a freelance writer as well as running her own garden maintenance and design business

Gardening for Wellbeing

Gardening and plants have had a profound affect on people’s mental health and happiness, particularly over lockdown our gardens have become a sanctuary; a source of relaxation and escape.

Gardening can reduce negative emotions, boost energy, recharge our brains and promote joy. We can all appreciate the importance of getting outside and after spending time in our gardens we feel uplifted. Having a close relationship with the soil, plants, trees and wildlife allows us to reconnect with nature.

About seven years ago my name came up on a local allotment and this proved to be life changing. The allotment became my sanctuary and a respite from daily stresses.

I had been going through a tough couple of years after leaving my ‘job for life.’ I had lost direction and didn’t know what my future held. But going to the allotment each day gave me a purpose, a goal and this led to the revelation that I wanted to spend my days working with plants. One of the best decisions I ever made!

Gardening amalgamates strength, flexibility, physical endurance and balance and after a few hours digging, bending, stretching, weeding and raking both our mind and body have had a workout. The physical exertion of gardening releases endomorphs in the brain and gives us a buzz of positivity.

But there is also another reason why we can feel happy gardening. Soil contains the bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae, this natural antidepressant triggers the release of mood enhancing serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters make you feel alert and regulate your mood. Serotonin is linked with happiness and dopamine with feelings of reward so the simple act of gardening naturally promotes positive feelings.

So how we can use our gardens in different ways to help us appreciate nature? There are many therapeutic free activities we can do to improve our wellbeing.

Get outside. Natural light tops up vitamin D and regulates melatonin levels, which helps you sleep.

Sow seeds, nurture seedlings and propagate perennials and houseplants. These mindful relaxing tasks require focus and growing new plants will bring satisfaction.

Plant up pots of bulbs in autumn. You are literally planting hope and giving yourself something to look forward to with the anticipation of what will emerge in spring.

Take time to study wildlife in your garden. Get down to plant level and see how many mini beasts you can spot. It is always incredible to discover all the life going on right under our noses and see what a vital part they play in the garden ecosystem. Get your camera out and take photos from all angles, look skyward from the ground or elevate yourself for an aerial perspective.

As we all rush around our busy lives we must remind ourselves to take note of nature, the change of seasons, the cycle of life and not become plant blind, ignoring what is in front of us just because it seems routine. Study the patterns, textures and colours in leaves and flowers. Nature truly is amazing!

Keeping a visual log of garden plants through photos can be a very useful reference or if you are feeling creative grab a sketch book and get drawing or paint your favourite plants.

Visit gardens. Have a relaxing day out walking round local gardens or travel further a field for an adventure. A change of scenery can feel liberating and provide inspiration.

Gardening alone is a relaxing respite providing time to think and contemplate life but likewise gardening with friends and family can be a tremendous tonic! It’s a great way to discuss ideas or problems in a safe neutral environment whilst also getting a useful job done and feel productive.

Spend as much time as you can outside surrounded by trees. Trees emit ‘phytoncide’ wood essential oils which naturally enhance mood. Try ‘Forest bathing.’ Sit quietly in a wood or park, away from tech and take time to breathe. Use all your senses to connect with nature and the environment around you, be present in the moment rather than distracted by a ‘to do’ list and you will lower cortisol stress levels and blood pressure, improve memory and concentration.

There has been a growing understanding of the benefits of gardening, particularly over the last few years and it has become a recognised activity to help with mental health and can now even be prescribed as a ‘green therapy,’ a ‘green prescription’ by doctors to encourage people to spend a couple of hours a week in nature to help reduce anxiety, depression and social isolation.

Locate your nearest community garden or garden project. Volunteering gives an immense sense of achievement and belonging.

Nature is amazing. Just remember to take time to smell the roses!

Debi is a freelance writer for Garden News magazine and Richard Jackson Garden as well as running her own garden maintenance and design business in the South West. She is passionate about the benefits of gardening and this year introduces her first garden talk ‘Gardening for Wellbeing.’

Find Debi on Twitter and Instagram @DHgardening and at