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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 Anita Kundu from New Zealand who has found that gardening helps her mental health

Hi! My name is Anita Kundu and I live in Auckland, New Zealand. I used to be a lawyer. I spent five years living in London and Paris working at a Magic Circle law firm. In 2010, my life changed quite suddenly when I had a psychotic episode out of the blue. Three years later, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. It has been a very long and difficult journey but one of the things that has really helped me is gardening. It is great therapy for my condition and depression, which I also suffer from. Over the past decade, I created an urban homestead at my mother’s property and we are largely self-sufficient. I am also a passionate flower gardener. Before the pandemic, mum and I used to host wwoofers (travellers with working holiday visas) who would stay with us in exchange for some help around the garden. We really enjoyed getting to know young people from all around the world who shared our passion. I run a not-for-profit enterprise called Anita’s Garden to help people learn about gardening. I write a free weekly gardening newsletter and blog. I also have some collaborations. My website is http://www.anitakundu.co.nz You can also follow me on Instagram at @anitakundu.nz and look me up on Facebook by searching for “Anita’s Garden”.
We had a very long lockdown in Auckland last year from August until December. One of the things that helped us get through this time was our spring garden. I love growing spring bulbs, especially tulips. Here are some peony tulips which flowered in September.

We have a lot of standard roses. I love David Austin roses. One of my favourites is Abraham Darby.

I am a huge fan of Floret Flower Farm and really enjoyed reading their latest book, Discovering Dahlias. Last summer, I added a number of dahlias to our garden. One of our favourite varieties is called the Labyrinth. Dahlia mania and the scarcity of this tuber in New Zealand has sent the price skyrocketing. I paid $10 for it two years ago and in spring it fetched $400 in an auction.

Every summer, I look forward to growing zinnias. They are so colourful and cheerful. Zinnias are also a great bee and butterfly magnet.

We have a large edible garden. Fruit we grew last summer include strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries, blueberries, peaches, apples, figs, passionfruit, guavas and feijoas.

We also grew the following vegetables: potatoes, pumpkins, butternuts, spaghetti squash, gem squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicums, chillies, zucchini, beans, okra and eggplants.

There have been two major challenges as a gardener. The first is climate change. When I first started gardening, the summers were long and hot with little fluctuation in temperature. I was able to grow melons successfully. My record is 38 rock melons in one summer. That was about five years ago. Now, I can’t grow them at all. The second is the increasing number of new pests and diseases. In my early years of gardening, garlic was one of the easiest things to grow. I simply popped cloves in the ground on the shortest day of the year (21st June for us) and harvested enormous balls of garlic on the longest day (21st December for us). In recent years, this has changed for many gardeners in New Zealand due to a particularly aggressive strain of rust. I have trialled many different sprays, to no avail so I have simply given up. There is also an insect called the guava moth which targets many different fruit trees including feijoas, stone fruit and citrus. It destroys the fruit and is difficult to control. While I have not yet had this problem, there is another insect called the Tomato Potato Psyllid (TPP) which infects everything in the tomato family. Commercial growers drape mesh over potatoes to protect crops.
My dream is to spend time gardening in other countries so I can learn about different plants and growing conditions.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Matthew Thomas, The Sales Director at Frank P Matthews Ltd.

How to Plan an Orchard

An orchard can be any planting of three or more fruit trees. Domestic orchards vary according to the size of the garden and an individual’s personal requirements. Commercial orchards can be thousands of trees, selected and managed to produce maximum yield.
The first thing to consider when planning a domestic orchard is what size tree would work best in the space available.
The most vigorous rootstocks, such as M25 for apples or Pyrus communis for pears, will produce large, traditional, standard trees that are best planted about 30ft (10 metres) apart. Trees this vigorous can reach 20ft tall and whilst they may take a few years to produce a good crop, they will ultimately live much longer than trees on dwarfing rootstocks and provide lots of fruit for many years.
Semi-vigorous rootstocks are an excellent choice for a typical domestic orchard, MM106 for apples or Colt for cherries, for example. This size tree can be pruned as a bush with branches lower down or as a half-standard with a clear stem of a metre or so. Lower branches make harvesting fruit more straightforward but a taller stem makes it easier to mow between the trees. A planting distance of about 15ft (5 metres) is recommended. Semi-vigorous rootstocks are also ideal for training trees as espaliers or fans against walls or along wires.
Smaller trees on dwarfing rootstocks are ideal for growing more varieties in a limited space. They can be planted 10ft (3 metres) apart and tend to start cropping within the first few years. Some varieties can be kept in a container. Cordons and step-overs are also worth considering for small spaces.
For more information on rootstocks visit www.frankpmatthews.com/advice/fruit_rootstocks/
Once you have decided the most suitable sized tree, you can calculate how many trees will fit in the space.
The next task is to research which varieties will thrive in your location. Most fruit trees will do well in most areas of the UK, but some may not be very successful in coastal regions, high altitudes or northern parts. Earlier flowering varieties, such as peaches and apricots, prefer a warm, sheltered location so the blossom isn’t damaged by frost. Apples and plums are usually very hardy, pears and cherries do better in sunnier locations.
Deciding which particular varieties to plant will be mostly down to personal taste. Choosing a selection that produces fruit over several weeks will extend the cropping period. It is also worth checking which varieties produce fruit that stores well for later in the year.
Pollination is generally not something to worry about, unless the planting site is very remote. Bees and other insects travel long distances so there should be no issue in urban areas. You can aid pollination by including some self-fertile varieties.
Tree stakes and ties are recommended for the first few years whilst the trees get their roots down. After this they can be removed, except for trees on dwarfing rootstocks which can benefit from a permanent stake, especially in exposed areas. A sachet of rootgrow at planting and some liquid Tree Feed can help provide a good start. If the soil is poor, adding some general purpose compost is recommended.
If there is any risk of rabbits or garden strimmers then a guard around the tree trunk is essential! More substantial protection will be needed if there are deer or large animals such as sheep, cattle or horses.
Trees should be watered well in the first summer. The following years will require less watering and once the tree is established it shouldn’t need watering at all.
An orchard will provide plenty of fruit for many years and will enhance any garden. The trees also make great habitat for wildlife, so well worth planting.
If you would like assistance with planting an orchard on any scale, please email enquiries@fpmatthews.co.uk

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Paul Zimmerman who owns his own business, promoting the cultivation of roses.

Paul Zimmerman

Paul Zimmerman is the owner of Paul Zimmerman Roses, a company dedicated to Budding the Rose Grower In All Of Us. He is also an Independent Consultant to Jackson & Perkins as well as a garden designer and consultant to
botanical and private gardens.

He has written articles for Fine Gardening, Organic Gardening, American Nurseryman and other gardening magazines. He hosted the blog “Roses Are Plants, Too” on Fine Gardening Magazine’s website for numerous years.

He lectures internationally and has also served as an International juror for numerous Rose Trials. He is the author of the book “Everyday Roses’ published by Taunton Press.

While living in Los Angeles, California Paul founded and ran “Hundred Acre Woods Rosescapeing”, a company specializing in the care, design and installation of rose gardens; particularly Antique, Shrub and David Austin Roses.
After moving to South Carolina he started Ashdown Roses Ltd a rose nursery offering A World of Garden Roses, which he closed in 2009 to focus on rose growing education.

Among some of his other accomplishments are founding a You Tube Channel on rose care with to date some 4 million views, creator and host of the Craftsy) class “A Gardener’s Guide to Growing Roses”, was hired by the New
York Botanical Garden to review their care protocols and was hired by the Chinese Government to present a two day seminar on the American Rose Industry and American Rose Gardens to a delegation of rose experts from China.

He is now also leading garden tours in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. It is this hands on experience with roses in a general garden setting that Paul draws on for his Talks, You Tube Videos, Articles, Tours, and Workshops

To find out more about roses please visit his website http://www.paulzimmermanroses.com

This Week’s Guest blogger is Caroline Crooks who is an Allotment Holder, Teacher and Mum and blogs about her gardening adventures through the seasons

I’ve had my allotment for just over a year and I’m loving the challenge and the way the whole community shares their wealth of experience and advice! It has massively improved my well-being, particularly being a primary school teacher and mum of two girls.
Here’s my blog all about seed sowing…

Seed sowing for summer colour

Last year, I created a raised bed surrounding the patio area of our allotment plot and filled it with lots of flowers grown from seed. The pollinators loved it and it was a great riot of colour right through until October. I managed to use lots of them as cut flowers to brighten up my kitchen and to give away as gifts to friends and family!

Cut flowers from our allotment last year- zinnia, cosmos, calendula, cornflower and nigella.

This was last year’s flower bed surrounding our patio area and picnic bench. The lupins were bought as small plants and everything else was grown from seed.
This year, I have collected seed from some of the flowers we grew last year and I’m hoping that I can create another burst of colour like last year. Sowing flowers from seed is extremely satisfying and much more economical- especially if you can collect seeds from your own plants

Calendula and marigolds This year I am using collected seeds and hoping to grow enough to plant throughout the allotment- both of these are great companion plants for many fruit and vegetables that we grow on our plot. I started off the marigolds first using a windowsill heated propagator and it didn’t take long for them to germinate. The calendula I started off just in a seed tray on the windowsill and it wasn’t long before they began to germinate also.

Calendula seeds collected from last year’s flowers

Marigold seeds

Marigolds in the heated propagator

Calendula seeds beginning to grow

A few weeks on and the marigolds are doing amazing! I have potted them on into individual modules and they have even got buds on them! I’m going to keep them indoors a while longer before moving them to the unheated greenhouse.

Marigolds with flower buds already! The calendula are almost ready for potting on too and are just getting their true leaves.

Cosmos I’ve grown Cosmos from seed for a few years now for the garden but last year I added them to the allotment too. I’ve started them off from seed just on a warm windowsill and they have germinated really well!

The Cosmos have started to get their true leaves and will be ready for potting on very soon.

Zinnia.  Zinnia were a first for me last year – I hadn’t really even heard of them but I got a free pack of seeds in a magazine. I sowed them and planted them out on the allotment- what a stunning flower! Each one slightly different from the next and they almost seem to have a second flower inside the first!

Beautiful zinnias- such bright, bold colours! I knew they were a definite for the allotment and the garden this year so I have sown quite a lot of seed! They have germinated really well and I have begun to pot them on. I can’t wait to see their bright colours again this year!

Zinnias emerging from the seed tray.

Potted on zinnias with their true leaves beginning to show. When potting on any plant it is important not to damage the root- tease it gently out of the soil and hold the plant carefully with the leaves before placing in the fresh compost.

I have also sown some cornflower, nigella and nasturtium seeds to add to the mix!

Sowing your own annual flower seeds is extremely rewarding. The resulting blaze of colour in the summer is worth all the time and anticipation at this time of year!

Cosmos are planted in the ground now and some have begun to flower. I’ve been pinching out the tops to encourage side shoots and a bushier plant.

The allotment is coming on a treat and we have planted out marigolds, calendula, nasturtium, Cosmos and zinnias as companion plants throughout the allotment.

This week I have sown a few more zinnia in gaps for use as cut flowers. The soil is lovely and warm now so hopefully, they’ll germinate quickly!

To read more about Caroline’s adventures on her allotment follow her on Instagram @plot23_our_allotment_adventure

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Cheryl Miller who writes about growing tomatoes in containers

Hello everyone! I’m Cheryl. I moved to Los Angeles a little over 5 years ago from Singapore. I am an avid container gardener who enjoys providing tips and inspiration on IG by sharing ‘how to’ videos and step-by-step photos on how to grow just about anything in containers. My hope is that I am able to show that it doesn’t take much space to grow your own food.

Growing in containers mean that I can control exactly what goes into each pot and I know that it is 100% organic. I also like the versatility of being able to rearrange & move containers around easily according to the season, not having to weed or use any heavy equipment. I also like the overall look & versatility of containers.

1 of my favourite things to grow is Micro Tomatoes. I am lucky that I am able to grow them all year long inside on a sunny window sill. The sunlight they get from the SE facing window is enough to keep them happy.

My preferred size container is a 7 inch / 18cm container. I find that they fit well on my window sill and are large enough to be able to provide the micro tomato plants with enough space to grow. I start my seed directly in the container. I like that no transplanting or ‘hardening off’ is needed.

I grow my micro tomatoes in both terracotta and plastic. I like terracotta as it is porous and allows for air and water to flow through them. This is good for the roots but also means they can dry out quicker. Terracotta pots also tend to be heavier and if you’re not careful, can chip or break. Plastic is lightweight yet strong. It is available in every colour and allows you to design a space. Plastic isn’t porous so you don’t have to water the containers as frequently.

My tips for growing Micro Tomatoes are:
• Keep the soil moist during seed germination
• Don’t overwater the plant. On average I water my micro tomatoes 3x a week
• Don’t be afraid to prune the leaves as this ensures good airflow which will help keep your plant healthy

To find out more about Cheryl Miller and her container gardening in her garden in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains follow @mybrentwoodgarden on Instagram

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Kayleigh Tuvey who writes about her Allotment on Instagram

Hello my name is kayleigh! I started gardening when I was a little girl with my grandad! He had a huge allotment and as he got older he turned his back garden into a mini allotment too where we loved spending days together. He taught me so much and it was such a special bond we had. We would go into the garden and harvest vegetables for our dinner!

When my grandad sadly passed away I decided to get an allotment of my own as it used to bring me such joy and I missed being out in the garden! Eventually the time came and I got the keys to my allotment I was so excited to start growing my own produce even if I was heavily pregnant at the time which brought its own challenges!

I created a herb pallet with lots of herbs and lavender in! One of my favourite things to grow last year was pumpkin. I also grew lots of other vegetables including peas, potatoes, beetroot, sweetcorn and cauliflower! This year I am hoping to grow a lot more vegetables as I now have a greenhouse and a polytunnel! Inside the polytunnel I am hoping to grow tomatoes, chillis, peppers, aubergines, cucumbers and cucamelons. I have also made a new raised bed so that will give me a lot more growing space.

I have decided to grow a selection of flowers this year. I have dahlias which will be going into large pots and I have lots of different cut flowers. I have made a teepee which I will be growing sweet peas up the canes and I have four different sunflower varieties too!

I am also hoping to grow white munchkin pumpkins up my garden arches and I cannot wait to see all my plans become reality! Gardening has helped heal my pain of losing my grandad and my allotment is my little haven where I go to escape the world! With the online gardening community I have managed to connect with so many amazing people who have the same interests as me! I hope everyone has the opportunity to enjoy gardening as much as I do! If you are a beginner and not sure where to start please feel free to find me on Instagram @growingwithkaz and I will be happy to help.

This Week is Mental Health Awareness Week so our Guest Blogger is James Robert Faulkner, a recipient of a grant from Gardening with Disabilities Trust Charity.

What My Garden Means to Me

Today in my garden as it rains I feel the joy that gardening brings me. I looked at the daphne shrub and for a moment I forgot about how was I going to manage to pay my bills.

I live in social housing in Edinburgh, I am a 30 minute walk from the city centre but I am lucky to live in quite a green area and less than 10 minute walk to the sea.

I was on the waiting list for a flat, living in temporary accommodation from October 2014 until February 2019 as I had been made homeless twice, once in 2010 and again in 2014.
I am now the proud occupier of a ground floor flat with my cat, Klaus Nomi Malone, and a garden. At long last it really feels like I have a home.
Most social housing on ground floors are typically for people who have physical disabilities, but my flat couldn’t be adapted so when it came up I was so pleased to be offered it.
As it came with a garden, which I didn’t think I would ever have, and as I have had houseplants for many years (I got my first house plant at 6, a venus fly trap), I was very excited!

I have always enjoyed looking after my own house plants as well as guerrilla gardening in my friend’s garden.
However my plants had to be fostered out to friends while I was homeless. I have an ancient yucca, a cheese plant and many more in my sitting room.
Once inside was sorted I looked forwards to turning my attention to outdoors and my garden.

For those of you who don’t know, Scotland has very late Springs and very short Summers!!
My garden is also not easy because of its proximity to the coast and the lack of trees and shrubs nearby the wind whistles through the garden.
I used to love spending time in other peoples garden helping them plant up their gardens, but was a bit daunted by mine because it was so overgrown.
However a dear friend of mine Georgina came to visit last August and she bought a spade, saw and secateurs and then set about it hacking away the overgrown flower bed.
Which uncovered an uneven path (which has now been lifted and will shortly be relaid).
Georgina’s nieces, Adelheid and Frederika and her nephew Caspar came and helped clear with us. Then Georgina started a second bed before returning home and left me to continue what she had started.
Then Georgina’s sister, Germaine and her husband Mark visited and bought me split cane fencing to make a windbreak. To make the garden more sheltered from the fierce winds blowing off the Firth Of Forth.

Around the corner from my flat is a demolished building that had bricks all over the site so I spent time bringing the bricks home for the path and I had enough leftover to make a little retaining edge for the third bed because it was on a slope.
In October I planted my first plant, a thyme, a gift from Georgina, the thyme is not necessarily for cooking, but because I just love the smell of it. I love rubbing the leaves and smelling that unmistakeable scent.
Then I made a layered trench of bulbs, alliums, lilies and tulips at the bottom, above it grape hyacinths, snowdrops and my favourite bulb white hyacinths. I had to cover the soil with bark to stop the local cats using it as a toilet.
Then I planted some heathers before winter really kicked in.

That was it until after Christmas, when Germaine and Mark gave me some old Edinburgh slates from their renovated roof. I used them as edging, but because of the lack of foliage it made my garden look like I had created a pet graveyard! A roofer friend of mine, put slates on my shed roof, it’s only a tiny sentry shed, but it’s for my tools and I have some beautiful Indian brass padlocks on it too.
Arguably one of the most handsome sheds in Edinburgh!

I shared my gardening updates and got positive responses from my friends and followers. Some very generous people who follow me have even sent me wildflower and poppy seeds, Casablanca lily bulbs and even a Scrumdiddlyumptious Peony. Some of my neighbours living along my street stopped to chat as I worked in my garden and I found I was inspiring them to start planting.

I am ADHD, Autistic and live with depression and anxiety. At various times in my life I have become so overwhelmed and have been unable to leave the house…in some cases leaving my bed was difficult.
My garden has helped to change my life for the better. Even on bad days I look out the window and I get pleasure from what I see. Today I had a long lunch, but was back out at 2pm, I moved a Camellia which was getting whipped by the wind where I had planted it originally, continued with the raised bed building and then suddenly it was 6pm. The time just flies by in my wee garden.

I found out about the Gardening with Disabilities Trust Charity and applied for a grant. I was overjoyed to be successful and bought my small shed, tools, enriching compost, manure and of course plants, I was so pleased, it was a dream come true. I was able to buy plants such as hydrangeas, daphnes, clematis, honeysuckle, lavender, and of course one of my favourites, more thyme, this time I bought three, a lemon one, a variegated one and a creeping one.
Gardening really helps me to lose myself in the moment. Just today I was building a raised flower bed with no cement (we aren’t allowed to make permanent structures as a council tenant) using more of the reclaimed bricks. At 8 am this morning I looked out of my spare bedroom window then dashed out to get started and the next thing I knew it was 11.30am…and I hadn’t had my breakfast yet!

 

My garden is so rewarding especially when people comment and it makes me smile, whether they are walking past or whether it’s from someone on social media. It drives me on to make it as beautiful as I can.

I enjoy sitting in my garden now its progressing, some friends came over the other day and we sat in my garden and ate breakfast in the morning sunshine. I would say it was lovely, but lovely doesn’t begin to describe how I felt.
When I’m in my garden I feel a connection to my grandma. I spent a lot of time gardening with her when I was little. I have planted hebes and potentillia shrubs as I distinctly remember those being in her garden. Always covered with fat buzzing bumble bees.
There is nothing I like more than feeling my hands in the soil and I never tire of this in times of trouble. When I’m having a bad day I pop outside and see a new leaf emerging, pull up a weed or two or smell the scent of a flower which makes me feel like I’m caught up in the moment. There’s no past and no future. I’m just in the now.

I have found that people are so encouraging, this is my first ever garden and I love the fact I can watch the viola flowers, smell the daphne flowers and touch my thyme. I love watching the bees in my garden, it’s sad to know their numbers are declining. It always makes me smile when I see bees, hoverflies and butterflies fluttering around flowers I planted.

While I have been in my garden I have watched the yew tree across the road and the comings and goings of a pair of goldfinches who have nested in it and now I have seen the fledglings emerge, Something I would have missed before hiding indoors.

Recently I have been inspired to speak to local councillors and housing officers about the back green in the middle of the housing area, it has been used for fly tipping. Now we are at the early stages of planning a community garden. I showed them the area in the back green which I have sown the wildflower seeds and shown them what can be achieved. From my garden I have been talking to passing neighbours about having a community garden and before I had my garden I would never have been brave enough to encourage people to band together and now I am.

Not only has my garden bought me great joy making a wee haven for bees and butterflies but has empowered me to talk to neighbours and get a sense of community with my neighbours.

to hear about further progress in my garden please follow me on Instagram @that_jrf

 

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Natalie Buttenshaw who has produced a Beautiful Garden Paradise, in Montrose in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges in Australia

Seeds

The lifecycle of all plants begins as seed and ends as seed.

Seeds are the lifeforce of the garden, they are where all plants begin, and, if left in the ground long enough, they are where all plants finish.

Growing flowers & vegetables from seed is one of the simplest pleasures of the garden and an incredibly economical way to begin your gardening journey. By planting heirloom seeds, you are participating in an important link between the past generations who have saved these seeds for years & the future of food diversity.

One of the most important things after you get your hands on some seeds is how you store the seeds you are not planting immediately as this will affect your seed germination rates.

In general, seed viability decreases steadily over time, so the expiration dates printed on the backs of seed packets are not finite, it is not like you will have a packet of viable seed one day & no viable seed the next. The degradation of seed takes time, and is impacted by multiple factors. Seeds stored in hot, humid & bright locations will degraded much faster than those stored in cool dark locations.

Most seed types will be viable for at least twelve months from harvest if stored in a cool dark location, something like a wardrobe cupboard or desk drawer is far preferable to a hot tin shed, glasshouse or your kitchen bench.

All seeds have a finite lifespan, however, some seed varieties will remain viable much longer than others. Onions, Chives, Okra, Fennel and Parsnip are some of the seeds with the shortest lifespan lasting around 1 year. Other seeds such as Celery, Eggplant, Lettuce, Tomatoes & Melons will usually have a lifespan up to 5 years if kept in ideal conditions, and in the middle you have seeds such as Brassicas, Carrots, Beets, chard Basil etc which will last around 3 years.

If you do end up with more onion seeds than you can fit in your patch, you can share your excess seed with other gardeners, or you can increase the seed lifespan by keeping the seeds in sealed glass jars in the fridge. Adding rice or silica to the container to absorb excess moisture can also be beneficial. When you go to use your seed again take the entire container out of the fridge & let it come up to room temperature before opening the container to avoid condensation.

Storing your excess seeds in ideal conditions is incredibly important for near-perfect germination rates and producing good strong, healthy seedings.

Nat is on Instagram as @buttenshawbackyardfarm

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 http://www.lifeonthelot.co.uk