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This Week’s Guest Blogger is Ollie an English Permacultor in Spain who writes about Companion Planting

Companion planting is a gardening technique that involves growing different plants together in a way that benefits both species. This age-old practice aims to create a harmonious and mutually beneficial environment for plants, promoting healthier growth, pest control, and increased yields.

Here are some key aspects of companion planting:

Pest Control: Certain plant combinations can deter or confuse pests. For example, planting marigolds alongside tomatoes can help deter nematodes, while basil can protect tomatoes from aphids and whiteflies.

Improved Soil: Some plant combinations work together to enhance soil quality. Leguminous plants like beans and peas, for instance, fix nitrogen in the soil, benefiting neighbouring plants’ nutrient uptake.

Space Utilization: Companion planting optimizes space by pairing plants with different growth habits. Tall crops like corn can provide shade for shorter plants like lettuce, maximizing space and light utilization.

Attracting Beneficial Insects: Flowers such as sunflowers and lavender can attract pollinators and beneficial insects like ladybugs and parasitic wasps, which help control garden pests.

Crop Diversity: Mixing various plant species can reduce the risk of diseases spreading within a single species. This diversity also disrupts the life cycles of specific pests.

Flavour Enhancement: Some combinations are chosen for culinary reasons. For instance, the classic pairing of tomatoes and basil complements flavours and makes harvesting for recipes more convenient.

Native and Indigenous Wisdom: Companion planting techniques have been passed down through generations, with indigenous communities often having a deep understanding of local plant interactions.

Trial and Observation: Successful companion planting relies on experimentation and observation. Gardeners often discover which combinations work best in their specific climate and conditions through trial and error.

Crop Rotation: In a broader sense, crop rotation is a form of companion planting that involves changing the location of crops seasonally to prevent soil depletion and disease build up.

Overall, companion planting is a holistic and sustainable approach to gardening that harnesses the power of nature’s relationships to create healthier, more productive gardens while reducing the need for synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Raine-Clarke Wills, a RHS Award Winning Garden Designer based in Guildford

Why We Should ‘Bee’ Planting Bulbs in Autumn

People often leave it far too late to plant their bulbs ready for spring. As the nights draw in and autumn begins to wrap us in its orange, effervescent glow, you likely have the taste of pumpkin spice on the mind, alongside the promise of cosy autumn walks, bundled up in your best coat. Spring certainly feels far away currently. However, there is exceptional benefit to preparing for this season now.

Autumn offers the perfect conditions to plant your spring bulbs, to give them the best chance of blooming in spring rather than summer. During September and October, the soil still preserves some of summer’s warmth, meaning the bulbs roots have the advantage of fully integrating into the earth, before lying dormant throughout winter. It’s currently November, but it’s not too late! As a general rule, planting bulbs up until December should still be sufficient, it just means waiting a little longer for your blooms.

When done right, one can delight in the sight of bulbs beginning to spring up from February onwards. The season opens with the exquisite beauty of snow drops (Galanthus nivalis), their delicate, pale petals a whispering hint of the stunning, visual cacophony to come. Following closely behind, the bodacious brightness of daffodils (Narcissus) begin to scatter in charming clusters, their tender, buttery shade a reflection of the much-anticipated spring sunshine. Hyacinths chase the daffodils with their charming, multi-colour hues and enchanting, textural beauty. Tulips (Tulipa) in hot pursuit, possessing the very essence of springs sensuality within their luscious buds. Before long, grape hyacinth (Muscari) enters, with her precious plumb tinged, indigo florets. Finally, Allium joins, a little late, a mesmerising orb, bold and elegant, she stands tall above the rest, her willowy stem swaying gently in the early spring breeze.

If this hasn’t persuaded you to spend a few hours flexing your green thumb, then it’s worth bearing in mind the beauty is not just a feast for the eyes of human beings, but the nectar produced can provide vital sustenance for our friends, the bees. You get to spend rest of winter in delicious anticipation, content that your actions have contributed fruitfully to natures remarkable eco-system.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Elaine Fraser-Gausden, one of three sisters who like to garden and have a website dedicated to a light hearted look at seasonal gardening issues

My love affair with roses

I have been conducting a very long love affair with roses, and they and I are not done yet! After over forty years of gardening, I have grown almost every kind of rose, not every variety, of course, but still …..an awful lot. Over the decades, I have found out a few things about them through trial and error (mostly error) and I thought it might be of value to enumerate a few:

  1. Roses in general love clay – and I reckon the heavier and claggier the better. Though they will grow on the chalky alkaline soil of my Eastbourne garden, they HUGELY prefer a rich clay loam, and the more you can give them that, the happier and more flowery they’ll be.
  2. I have now given up spraying them against aphids. I have come to the conclusion like many folk that insecticidal sprays are too blunt an instrument. I am not prepared to jeopardise all our precious pollinators for the sake of slightly fewer perfect blooms. I stroke them off with my hand if I see them, or jet them off with a water-sprayer; otherwise, I leave them for the birds and ladybirds to feast on them.
  3. Miniature roses are extremely difficult to grow successfully for any length of time, and I don’t bother with them any more. They can look extremely sweet in the garden centre, and then they might flicker on for a couple of years with you (meaning ‘me’) before I chuck the spindly things out as being not worth the space. And they’re horrible to weed around!
  4. Roses grown on their own roots have a naughty habit of producing suckers all over the place. My sister tells a nightmare tale of a rooted cutting of the glorious old rose ‘Charles de Mills’ that I gave her, which then suckered all over a corner of her garden. It had to be killed off and the whole area left fallow for a year. Ooops sorry, Sis
  5. Old rose varieties IN GENERAL have the glorious cabbage-like blooms, a swooning scent, the propensity to blackspot and only flower once (yes, I know there are a few exceptions). Modern roses mostly have less scent, more resistance to disease, and flower all summer. But: David Austin English roses have it all – the petals, the perfume, the disease-resistance, the repeat-flowering………they may be expensive, but utterly, utterly worth it, and a helluva good investment.
  6. Some roses are really rubbish in the rain – I’m mostly talking about the very double-flowered kinds here. I have a deep pink rose called ‘Mme Isaac Pereire’, for instance, whose scent is to die for, but a quick summer downpour turns all her emerging flowers into browning soggy balls of mush, which really isn’t a good look.
  7. Epsom Salts are very good for rose bushes – the magnesium makes them stronger, more resistant to disease and better able to absorb Phosphorus – another essential ingredient for healthy growth. The generally-accepted dosage is I tablespoon of salts to I gallon for each foot of rose bush. Purists apply this treatment every month through the growing season. I do it when I remember, and sometimes even just sprinkle some round the bottom of the roses to let the rain and the worms take it down to the roots.
  8. While the cabbage-roses are fabulous, I have come in recent years to appreciate the single-flowered roses much more, and now grow lots of them. Bees and butterflies love them for the ease with which they can reach the nectar – indeed a large bush of a single-flowered rose can often resemble a huge flock of dancing butterflies – delightful!
  9. Roses aren’t just for one season. I have learnt to look for varieties that have plum-coloured shoots that look fabulous with spring flowers, or bear beautiful rosehips and autumn leaf-colour – the rugosa types score highly here.
  10. Lastly, roses are mostly tough old things and they are quite hard to kill. They can usually put up with a lot of mistreatment (wrong soil, wrong pruning, wrong feeding, wrong position…. – believe me, been there, done all that). They might not thrive as they would if you got it right, but they are quick to forgive you when you do.

And then they will repay you in spades.

Elaine Fraser-Gausden

I am one of the3Growbags – three sisters (all getting on a bit now!) who write a popular light-hearted weekly blog about gardening. I am actually a retired Classics teacher and have a small garden in Eastbourne (open yearly for the National Garden Scheme) and a much larger garden in Lower Normandy created from a field.

Please visit my website to find out more http://the3growbags.com

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Ashley Walker who writes all about Nature’s Rainbow, a business he runs with his wife that produces natural dyes

With my wife Susan we run a small natural dye business called Nature’s Rainbow. Our activities include selling dye plant seed, running natural dye workshops and giving talks. We have a small half allotment plot dedicated to growing dye plants which we use ourselves for various craft projects and also to provide dyes for our workshops.

The Nature’s Rainbow Dye Garden in April

Ashley (on garden) and Susan (in light blue top on right) giving a talk on dye plants at the Groundswell regenerative agriculture festival in 2023

I am not a qualified gardener or horticulturalist but I was for a number of years a qualified Social and Therapeutic Horticulture therapist. Note that the Social part comes first, because that is the most important bit! I don’t want to go into too much detail as the subject is massive but basically I helped people to get some control and meaning in their lives through gardening. I specialised in helping people with mental health problems. One of the most healing things you can do is talk about your problems with an understanding colleague but this is not always easy. Joining someone else in the activity of gardening gives you a fall back activity if the talk is not going well. In this way trust is forged as the details of gardening prevent the therapist / client relationship from becoming unequal. Of course there is a great deal more to it than that and much research has been done that shows a green environment is beneficial to wellbeing.

Dahlias, African Marigolds and Coreopsis lanceolata

Plants are usually grown for a number of reasons chiefly for food, to provide an aesthetic environment and as herbs. Dye plants are herbs in that they are used to colour textiles and produce pigments for paint or inks. In the past all textiles and fibres were coloured using natural dyes but with the invention of synthetic dyes the natural dye industry all but disappeared. However, today there is a resurgence going on and we like to think we have helped that happen particularly in the world of social and horticultural therapy.

What all people seek is meaning and control without which our lives can fall into helplessness and depression. Growing dye plants in a social situation gives the gardener something new and rather special – a way of bringing colour into the world via living things rather than as a trip to a shop to buy a box or tube of synthetic pigment made in a chemical factory. Growing your own colour gets you outside, connecting with the living environment and encouraging bees, pollinators and other wildlife.

Dyer’s Chamomile (Cota tinctoria)

Cosmos sulphureous

Dyer’s Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria)

Many dyes are obtained from flowers; buttery Dyers Chamomile, rich yellow and red Dahlia, fluorescent orange Cosmos sulphureous and startling red and yellow Coreopsis blooms. So you can grow a useful crop and have a stunning flower garden at the same time. With just a few plants you can obtain all the colours of the rainbow. Many of the dyes obtained are as permanent as synthetics so it’s possible to make dyed items that can last for generations. When so many people are falling through societies safety net because they cannot find meaningful occupation, growing dye plants as part of a therapy project is something that can be done. The fact that we have been able to help so many projects to get started with their dye garden adventure is testimony to the need out there.

With just a few plants you can obtain all the colours of the rainbow

If you would like to set up a dye garden and are part of a community or social and therapeutic project then contact us and we may be able to help.

Ashley in madder dyes jumper

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Rebecca Paddock a professional gardener

‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’ – Unknown. I am aware of how just how lucky to be able to use that quote to describe my work. My love for gardening spills over into all aspects of my life, when I’m not working in a client’s garden I will be pottering around my garden or holed up in my beloved but messy potting shed.

The Night Garden – I loved designing and creating this area. By night a haven to toast marshmallows over the fire pit, drink hot chocolate and look at the stars and by day a quiet spot to have a cuppa.


I spent a vast majority of my childhood outside, covered in mud. I would build herringbone paths through my Mum’s flower beds, make screens by lashing bamboo together. My Dad was a professional gardener and I would sometimes join him at his client’s gardens. Trapesing through delipidated orangeries with overgrown vines, walking through bluebell laden woodlands, playing in outbuildings and wading into lakes to see how far we could make it before the water poured over the top of our wellies. It was incredibly magical and sparked a real curiosity in my mind that remains even today.

Greenhouse – repurposed our old shed into a growing space.


I love creating spaces within my garden, evoking memories from an adventure or holidays, somewhere to grow delicious homegrown produce, to a space that allow me to connect with calm and to remember to just breath. Being creative and designing is one of my great loves and a new border often starts with a heap of research, sketches, and extensive plant lists. I’m really looking forward to getting back to studying in 2024 at Capel Manor College to learn more about Garden Design.

Mixed Rose bed


At home I’ve been working on a mixed Rose bed design which I began planting up this year, using a pink and white planting scheme. I was inspired by Jenny Barnes (IG @niffbarnes) and was blown away by her incredible rose sculpting. I’m going to emulate this style. with star of the show being the stunning and beautifully fragranced but very prickly ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ climbing rose. Sculpted around a tall garden obelisk. Two ‘Geoff Hamilton’ roses accompanied by mixed planting consisting of Veronicastrum Virginicum ‘Album’ and ‘pink glow’ which will provide height at the back of the border. Hydrangea petiolaris climber for the north facing trellis. Achellia ptarmica ‘the pearl’ (a Gertrude Jekyll favourite apparently) Achellia millefolium ‘pastel’, Phlox paniculate ‘david’ and ‘famous white eye’, Geranium alba, Stachys ‘summer crush’. Cosmos ‘seashells’ and Gypsophila ‘Covent Garden’ to fill the gaps.

Tropical inspired border.


‘Make do and Mend’ features heavily in my home garden, the kids’ trampoline has been remodelled and turned into a growing arch. The swing frame is now destined to be a fruit cage, the humble pallet makes great seating, I even stripped back my old shed and used the frame to build a bespoke greenhouse. For me looking outside the box is far more fulfilling than trying to meet expectation.

Sometimes the garden exceeds my aims and sometimes it falls way short, but I find that gardening be it in a clients’ garden or my own garden, removes me from my modern life, rushing from one place to the next, the pull of social media, the pressure of Mum guilt. The great outdoors is my support network and I couldn’t imagine a life without it.

To find out more about Rebecca’s work her Instagram account is rebecca_gardening

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Linda Minchener who is passionate about plants, gardens and garden design.

We moved here to our third house and garden, approximately halfway between Gloucester and
Cheltenham, almost 26 years ago. The plot is ⅔ acre and the garden wraps around the house. It’s
taken time to get to grips with it, mainly because three weeks after moving in we had our fourth
child, and my husband, who still works full time at 69, has often had to work overtime and away
from home.
Our soil is clay, but there has been a garden here for ~120 years, so it’s been well worked,
although we have created new borders which initially were quite hard going. We have a gamut of
urban, railway and rural weeds since we’re on the edge of urbanisation and very close to the
mainline to London, including patches of nettles, which apparently is a sign of soil fertility,
buddlejas, brambles, bindweed and ragwort (an “illegal” weed as it’s toxic to equines and cattle
so it’s dealt with promptly).
Usually Winters here are relatively mild, but this last one managed to kill or damage quite a few
plants, mainly penstemons and ornamental sages, but that won’t stop me growing these beauties
again. I must remember to take cuttings though!
Other favourites are roses, mainly David Austin’s but also “Compassion”, “High Hopes” and
“Mountbatten”, peonies, daphne, dahlias, oriental poppies, hellebores, honeysuckle, jasmine and
herbs, many of which are grown in terracotta pots by the back door.
I love visiting gardens, and shows such as Malvern and Chelsea, for inspiration and perhaps to
buy plants, but I love it even more when people comment on how lovely the garden is, especially
after our daughter’s wedding here last Summer. It makes it all seem worthwhile

photo credit Marcus Ward bigeyephotography.co.uk


Our daughter and son-in-laws garden which I co-designed

Note the 4-sleeper high raised beds which are brilliant if you are able to stand to garden but can’t bend due to back problems

photo credit Victoria Minchener

If you’re new to gardening, perhaps with a disability, I encourage you to take it up – you can grow
fruit and veg to feed your stomach, and flowers to feed your soul. It’s also good exercise with lots
of fresh air and will help your mental health. It teaches you patience, and that it’s (often) okay to
make mistakes. Also, gardeners are usually generous with their knowledge, plants, seeds and
excess harvests, and generally long lived.
Grow the plants that appeal to you and which suit your conditions. The late, great Christopher
Lloyd famously got rid of his rose garden and replaced it with an exotic one. Conversely, we
ditched our veg patch and are turning it into a rose garden. Learn to recognise weeds and deal
with them before they flower and set seed! Finally, take a few moments to listen to the birdsong
and look at the sky, and encourage wildlife and pollinators to visit. Remember, bees don’t just
need Summer flowers but Winter ones also, and birds need long-lasting berries and seed heads.
Both need safe, shallow fresh water too

Some winter flowers for bees

Clockwise from top left: Lenten rose hybrid (Helleborus x hybridus),
Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’, Cyclamen corm, Viburnum x
bodnantense ‘Dawn’

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Stacy Cronly-Dillon a beekeeper who offers courses at Sunnyfields Apiaries on the Norfolk/Suffolk border

Photographer: Ant Jones

Building a pollinator friendly patch.

Elizabeth Lawrence (garden writer) wrote “the hum of bees is the voice of the garden” which is written on a plaque in my own garden, where honey bees, bumblebees and solitary bees all live in harmony enjoying the blossoms produced by the many plants that fill our outdoor space.

Where in the garden you’ll find the bees, depends on what time of year it is. In spring the dead nettles are allowed to flower in patches and this is glorious forage for the bumblebees who come in all shapes and sizes to visit the tiny flowers, this is whilst the honey bees visit the pollen rich willow trees and hawthorn hedgerows; preferring the plants that produce flowers full of pollen and nectar en-masse. By summer the bumblebees are bouncing from flower to flower, enjoying the lawn filled with clover and buttercups, the lavender bushes, and foxgloves. The bumblebee’s tongue being long enough to reach the sweet syrup deep within the foxglove’s flower whilst the honey bees are searching for simpler flowers with more direct access to their food supply.

When we moved to our house in 2021 we inherited a garden that was overgrown and wild with signs of previous love that time had started to strangle. The plot is just over three quarters of an acre, surrounded by fields on three sides and a woodland on the third. Our plan is (as we’re still working on it) to find a balance between wilderness and beauty. To allow nature some freedom whilst also having a space that is productive and attractive. The reason for this is our desire to create a healthy ecosystem where the use of weed killers and insecticides is banned, where the ‘pests’ have predators, where insects are encouraged and where we can also enjoy the space that provides food and relaxation for us and our pets.

We’ve started in a corner we call the “productive garden” and I also call “Jurassic park” because it’s where the beehives are situated (bees have been around for millions of years), as well as the chickens (our own mini-dinosaurs).

Along with the honey bees and chickens we have built a veg garden using raised beds, this is because the ground gets very waterlogged and is on a slight slope, digging down wasn’t really an option. Within the raised beds we are growing vegetables alongside pollinator friendly and pest controlling flowers such as borage, nasturtiums, sweet peas and marigolds, and follow the no-dig process.

To further reduce the waterlogging we’ve started to grow the grass longer with variations on length throughout the area. In some places it’s cut to a height of a couple of inches where the clover and buttercups flourish and then we have sections which are only cut a couple of times a year, creating corridors and hiding places for wildlife as well as nesting sites. Dave Goulson Author, and Professor of Biology at University of Sussex specialising in bee ecology, suggests in his book “the garden jungle” that mowing paths through the longer grass creates a sense of order and this is completely true, some wavy paths through and around the long grass provides a neatness that we seem to desire in our gardens, whilst allowing the garden to thrive.

Within this garden we have some outbuildings which have been fitted with drainpipes leading to a series of water butts. This is used to water the gardens during the dry spells but is also used to top up the watering stations we have around the plot for the wildlife and of course bees. For the bees we add stones to a saucer of water which gives them little islands to stand on and drink from.

We also have a natural pond which we ensure has a path down to it for the deer, hedgehogs, pheasants and other garden critters to drink from. Providing plenty of water sources within the garden is so important with our summers becoming warmer and dryer and watering the plants during these dry spells is also crucial as if plants get too dry they reserve their resources in order to survive, and so stop producing nectar which is an essential food source for many insects but particularly bees.

The final piece of the puzzle for our productive patch is the provision of additional nesting sites for the insects; we’ve got the food and drink covered so places to make a home or lay eggs is next on the priority list. For this we have a variety of options – the wild areas work for some and we leave areas with stems and piles of leaves over the winter months. We have piles of sticks and bricks which also provide protective areas to hide and rest. We also have wildlife ‘hotels’ specifically for solitary bees and wasps which are hung on sunny walls where we observe the mason bees, leafcutter bees and ruby-tailed wasps laying their eggs.

We started working on the ‘productive garden’ last year and this year we’ve noticed more species of bee visiting than usual this year already, the insect hotels are putting up “no vacancy signs” as have been filled and the veg plot is starting to find a balance. It’s all a work in progress but it’s a clear sign that we can all work with nature to produce beautiful gardens that work in harmony with nature.

Stacy Cronly-Dillon is a professional beekeeper and owner of Sunnyfields Apiaries, a training and education business based on the Suffolk/ Norfolk border. She runs bee experiences and beginner beekeeper training, as well as speaking to groups and organisations about the wonders of bees, around the country. To learn more visit www.sunnyfieldsbees.com

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Jane Lord who writes about her Cottage Garden in Yorkshire

Hi, I’m Jane, happily retired and a hobby gardener.

I’ve always liked my garden to look nice, but I didn’t really have the time before I retired, due to having a busy working life and bringing my two daughters up. Spring 2020 was what I call the start of my ‘gardening journey’, as I had lots of time to do what I wanted and of course it coincided with the arrival of the covid pandemic and ‘lockdowns’. I suffer from anxiety, so my garden turned out to be my sanctuary very quickly during those strange and challenging times.

I live in a grade II listed cottage in West Yorkshire with my husband and Murphy, our cocker spaniel. We moved here in 2011, and we couldn’t be happier. The previous owners had renovated the cottage and done a lot of work on the garden, particularly at the back, where they had had to do a lot of landscaping and built a small pond. It was lovely, but it definitely lacked the ‘cottage garden’ feel.

So, gradually we started to put our own stamp on it. The first plant I definitely had to buy was a climbing rose for the front of the cottage, after all, who can have a cottage garden without roses? I was walking around the garden the other day and counted my roses. I’ve now got 21, climbers and shrubs, my favourites being ‘Lady of the Lake’, ‘The Generous Gardener’ and ‘James Galway’, all by David Austin. June is definitely my favourite month in my garden, there’s nothing better than losing myself deadheading the roses early in the morning with my first coffee of the day!

Gardening is a fantastic hobby, it gets me out in the fresh air, keeps me active and definitely helps my mental health, but it can be expensive. Being a true Yorkshire girl, I like to look after my pennies, so during the pandemic I started growing my own flowers from seed and propagating some of the plants that we already had in the garden.

I’m lucky that I have a greenhouse, one which my husband built me several years ago and now it’s my ‘happy place’, particularly in the spring when I’m sowing my seeds and planning my summer garden. I grow both flowers and vegetables, but I admit that flowers come first. There’s nothing better than sowing seeds, nurturing them and seeing your hard work pay off in the summer months. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a visit to our local garden centres, and generally buy more than I intended, but I appreciate the flowers that I’ve grown myself so much more!

Some of the plants I’ve grown this year include Cosmos, Verbena, Stocks, Antirrhinum, Salvia, Ammi Majus, Lavatera, Poppies, Sunflowers, Foxgloves, Asters, Chinese forget-me-not, Erigeron, Cleome, Pansies and Scabious. We have a vegetable garden at the back of the cottage with nine beds. This year I’ve taken over two of them for a little cutting garden area, where I’ve planted a lot of my annuals and also some dahlias. They’re doing well, and I can’t wait to see the results, but it’s been quite challenging to keep them happy with the recent heat wave we’ve had. We also have a shady area at the back of the cottage, where we have a small pond and a large old potting bench where I like to display my pansies. I love pansies and have grown my own for the first time this year, why I haven’t grown them before, I’ll never know.

When I started gardening, I knew that I had a lot to learn, and don’t get me wrong, I certainly still do. I think gardeners are learning all the time, no matter how much experience you have. I was actually surprised at how much I did know though. I remember spending many days as a child watching my Mum and my grandparents in the garden and I must have picked up a little bit of knowledge from them. I’m really pleased that my eldest daughter has also recently taken an interest and she is has even started sowing seeds instead of calling to ‘borrow’ seedlings from my greenhouse! Our young grandson likes to help me water the plants when he visits and has helped me sow seeds too; I hope his early interest continues, children are our future gardeners after all.

It’s important to remember that you don’t need a large area to be able to garden, I love growing plants in pots and all types of vintage containers. I’ve used everything from old dolly tubs, pans, kettles and sieves. During lockdown I ran out of pots and even grew some vegetables in old wellington boots! Gardening makes me happy, it’s both challenging and rewarding at the same time. It reduces my stress levels and helps me with exercise. There’s no better feeling than seeing seeds that I’ve nurtured, turn into beautiful flowers and healthy vegetables to eat. If you haven’t given it a go yet, then you should give it a try, I’d be amazed if you didn’t get hooked very quickly!

You can see more of my garden on instagram:


This Week’s Guest Blogger is Kay Maynard who writes about her life and garden in Wales on Instagram

We moved to our cottage in west Wales ten years ago, the garden was left untouched for many years as the cottage needed renovating.

I started gardening around four years ago after a bout of ill health. I had no gardening experience, I just wanted to give it a go, little did I know how addictive it would become and what a great sense of contentment it would bring. The garden was a total blank canvas, not one plant or tree. We did however have a lot of concrete and grass.

The first thing we did was plant some trees. I knew I wanted to attract wildlife into the garden, and add some height and privacy, so thought this would be the best place to start. We now have a good mix of trees, apple, plum, fig, cherry, hazel, willow, pine trees to name but a few!! The next thing we did was create flower beds, which over the years have become a little larger to accommodate more plants and produce. We then created a wildlife pond to try and attract more wildlife.

After a few years of getting to know the garden and what worked best in certain areas. We created different zones. The front garden was sectioned off with a side gate, we created a garden shelter so we could enjoy the garden whatever the weather (we do get rather a lot of rain here!!) a shady garden and then the back garden. I find it much easier to manage now, it feels less overwhelming.

I have a very eclectic approach to gardening, I love a mix of edibles and flowers. I grow flowers alongside fruit, vegetables & herbs. I’m not fortunate enough to have a green house but love to sow seeds, so have adopted a very laissez- faire approach to sowing seeds, I direct sow outdoors and hope for the best!

When I first started gardening, I had no fixed vision, as to what I wanted to create, I just knew I wanted to create a haven. Gardening for me is as much about the process as the end result. I love the physicality of it and the feeling of satisfaction, the joy of planting something and seeing it grow is so fulfilling.

Our garden is now concrete free, we now have beautiful trees, a wildlife pond, a fish pond, a couple of hand built pergolas, a garden swing, a very rustic reclaimed garden shed, quite a few garden planters, some very rustic flower beds, it’s very wild, very rustic, but maybe that was always the vision, I just didn’t know it.

For more information about Kay’s garden follow her on Instagram @brook_cottage_

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Carole Hussey, a retired Maths teacher who lives in Lincolnshire and who is slowly taming three allotments

Dear reader, at the tender age of 61 years, four months and a bit I have taken the next step in my gardening life.

An Allotment.

Some say foolish (less kind say senile) but I am thrilled. I have gardened as long as I can remember … as a very small child I spent hours with my Grandfather in his allotment style garden and my love for all things growing was born.

Yes, I’m the one wearing the dress and yes, life really was in black and white then!!

I have had lots of gardens between then and now but never an allotment … until this week!!

I have been sharing my garden and vegetable growing progress on Instagram and rapidly built up a following of like-minded folk of all types – younger, older, novice and experienced. To my surprise and delight, I find myself offering ideas and advice as well as picking up masses of information and becoming more and more envious of those with allotments. So what else can a girl do? I got one!

We are very lucky in the village to have a small number of allotments tucked away down a lane (called the Green Ramper ) and, even better, the site is five minutes stroll away from my house. It was meant to be.
For the princely sum of £25 per year, I am now the very proud holder of this weedy piece of land. Let the fun begin!!

And now …

So here I am, six years later (where did that time go?!), still allotmenting and loving it.

I have three plots now ( yes, THREE) and grow cut flowers as well as the more traditional veg and fruit. We have built up a good social vibe on the site and have reinstated the Allotment Association (a good excuse for a social gathering!) and had our first open day complete with a plant sale, scarecrows and a “Best Plot” competition. Yes, Dear Reader, I did win!

To find out more about Carole’s allotments follow her on Instagram @plot303


This Week’s Guest Blogger is Sue Bradley who writes about gardening for a variety of magazines and loves spending time on her allotment 850ft above sea level in the Cotswolds.

Sue Bradley Photo by Andrew Higgins

It’s my privilege to spend much of my working life admiring and writing about gardens of all shapes, sizes and styles, yet even the kindest people taking a look at my allotment would be pushed to describe it as even remotely ‘tidy’.

Scarlet Tiger Moth Caterpillar and Ladybird

The contrast between my haphazard and often unruly mix of fruit, vegetables and flowers is accentuated by the neat rows cultivated by the retired carpenter on the neighbouring plot.
That’s not to say that my allotment suffers from a lack of interest from me: I’m up there almost every day, delivering offerings for one of the many compost ‘daleks’ dotted around, topping up the tank of rainwater with the runoff from my greenhouse roof or simply taking a break from my computer.
And while I’m pottering around, pulling up a sprig of goose grass here or an emerging stem of bindweed there, often my attention is drawn to the wildlife that’s set up home on my plot.
There’s the cheeky robin chattering just inches away from my ear, stripy scarlet tiger moth caterpillars inching their way along the leaves of stinging nettles in a moist corner by the tiny pond or, if I’m very quiet, a couple of slow worms absorbing the heat beneath an old rubber dustbin lid on a compost heap.

Slow Worm

This year a tiny wren has built a nest in a narrow crack in the doorframe of my rickety old shed, constructed from pallets by a resourceful gardener many years ago. Even the retired carpenter says it’s ‘magic’ to watch the bird flying in and out when he’s taking a break.
Believe it or not, my allotment was even more untidy when I took it on 20 or so years ago. The soil, a clay-Cotswold brash combo, was horribly compacted; wet and sticky in winter and hard as a rock in summer. The roses I’ve planted over the years love it, but back then it definitely wasn’t what horticulturalists would describe as ‘friable’.

The Allotment

With two young children who didn’t share their mum’s enthusiasm for the ‘lotment’, and an undiagnosed medical condition that often left me doubled up with pain after digging and weeding sessions, getting the soil in any kind of state for growing vegetables was a real challenge.
So, I looked for ways to make life easier. A course organised by the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust introduced me to the concept of ‘lasagne gardening’, which involved putting sheets of cardboard directly on the soil, piling on vegetable waste from my kitchen and topping it off with grass cuttings. It was also recommended that holes were made in the cardboard and potatoes placed within them, which I also tried.
The thinking is that the cardboard stops weeds from growing and, together with the vegetable waste, slowly rots and is taken into the soil by worms. The grass cuttings provide a ‘thatch’, keeping the surface of the soil that bit warmer to encourage the process.
Harvesting the potatoes breaks up the soil and incorporates the composted materials, leaving it in better shape for future crops.
This method has assisted me in creating several clear patches of soil for sowing seeds over the years and I still use it when clearing weedy areas.
Another breakthrough came when I started growing carrots in containers, or rather, old galvanised dustbins; the holier the better! Previously, any attempt I’d made to grow them in the ground ended in tears due to a combination of slugs eating seedlings and carrot flies burrowing into any roots that had got past the starting point. But raising them in an elevated position where molluscs rarely trod and the dreaded insect didn’t fly meant I could harvest many sweet crunchy carrots. Even my kids were impressed.

Carrots grown in dustbins

And so my allotment life has continued, with more space becoming available each year and the soil greatly improved by the addition of the contents of my dalek compost heaps. Nine years ago a wonderful surgeon discovered the rare and potentially life-threatening cause of the random stomach pains that had plagued me for so long and, after an emergency operation to remove a section of large bowel that had been prone to twisting, I’ve not looked back.
As for my allotment, it’s tidier than it used to be, but I’ve grown used to, and take great joy from, sharing it with wild creatures: I’m never in a hurry to pull out the speedwell that emerges around my strawberries in spring as I know it encourages aphid-eating ladybirds, and I’ll leave many of the poppies that appear in my vegetable beds as I know they’ll encourage pollinating insects and, let’s face it, they’re so pretty.
My garden has taught me so much over the years: that mountains of compost and leaf mould spread over many autumns and spring makes such a huge difference to the soil I’m working with; that planting roses means I’m never without flowers over the summer months, and that things won’t always go my way, but when the pests strike, I’m surrounded by friends who will help me keep them at bay.

Poppies on the Allotment