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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To join a foraging adventure in Kent, check out http://www.facebook.com/forthandforage or forthandforagekent on instagram

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

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


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


https://www.instagram.com/dez_ontheveg/
https://www.wynyardhall.co.uk/

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

How to Design a Plant Nursery at Home that Thrives

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

What is a Plant Nursery?

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

Types of Nurseries

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

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

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

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

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

How Much Space is Needed and Adjustments Required

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

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

Propagation Techniques

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

Planning your nursery

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

Planting the plants

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

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

Autumn Seed Sowing and Flower Garden Planning


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


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


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

http://www.camillagrayleydesign.com

This Weeks Guest Blogger is Soham Kacker, a Horticulturist and Member of the Young Propagators Society

A Passion for Propagation

I’ve always found there to be an element of wonder and curiosity in sowing seeds and waiting for them to germinate; or taking a cutting and watching it seem to shrivel before it unexpectedly bursts into new growth; or grafting two stems together to observe them slowly fuse together. The ability of plants to regenerate, renew and reproduce is placed front and centre in the techniques of propagation – which seem to lie firmly in the overlap between art and science.

Seeds from tropical trees I propagated while working at the city forest

From the first time I began growing things, I became fascinated with the minute details of these techniques – and how each plant needed a slightly different approach informed by an understanding of its preferences, natural habits and characteristics. I started with the basics: softwood cuttings of houseplants like coleus; growing annual flowers and salad greens from seeds; dividing bunches of daylilies in my garden… Gradually, the more I read, practiced and spoke to more experienced growers, I learnt more complex techniques – air layering the citrus trees in my yard; grafting mulberry saplings (my favourite fruit as a child) in early spring; and germinating many species of tropical trees from seeds which each needed unique care.

Tropical tree seeds (Cassia fistula) a few weeks after germination

In high school, I sought out opportunities where I could broaden my skills and knowledge while practicing on many different plants. I volunteered in the nursery at my local city forest helping to grow native trees and shrubs for habitat-restoration efforts, and apprenticed at the Auroville Botanical Gardens in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu where I learned how to grow collections of exotic plants. My love for propagation only grew (pun intended?) and with each new experience – be it a success or failure – I acquired a deeper understanding and appreciation of the plants I worked with.

Calculating seed viability by tests on damp paper towels

The wonderful thing about propagation is that there’s something in it for everyone. Whether you are a beginner or someone with years of experience, there is always room for more experimentation and growth. The Young Propagators Society was founded to unite people who are similarly interested – so that they could discuss, interact and learn from each other. The steadily growing self-published zine (distributed both in paper form and online) combines tips and tricks, interviews, articles and art – all with the common background of propagation. The recently launched YPS website allows members to share and communicate more directly, and aims to promote a global and inter-generational flow of scientific knowledge and horticultural skill. I have been able to ask other growers about the methods they use, the materials they employ, and the results they observe – and I have gained much from these exchanges. The YPS has also encouraged me to share my experiences with a passionate and nurturing community, and has ensured that we – as gardeners – continue to grow.

Nursery beds at the nursery at the Auroville Botanical Gardens

You can look up the YPS website here: https://www.youngpropsoc.com

Instagram: @youngpropagatorssociety.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Georgie Newbery an Artisan Florist and Flower Farmer

Here at Common Farm Flowers in Somerset, our ethos is clear: look after the invertebrates, and the rest of the food chain will look after itself. It may look as though we grow flowers to make a living… Well, we do! But we choose to make a living growing flowers because that way, so long as we grow flowers with an eye to the invertebrates who will profit from the flowers we sow, then our whole environment will be enriched.

And having been invited to write a post for The Gardening with Disabilities Trust I wonder if I can encourage you to do the same.

Whether you garden a large space or a small pot, you can always sow a seed with the environment in mind and there are lots of ways you can do it.

1 make sure the compost you use is peat free: peat based composts are created using peat cut from fast disappearing peat bogs which, undisturbed, act as huge carbon sequestering sinks. There are lots of alternatives to using peat based composts. Always ask for peat free when visiting the garden centre or ordering online as the more the customers ask the more suppliers will know that the demand is there for peat free compost.

2 make sure that the flowers you sow are bee and pollinator friendly and haven’t been dipped in herbicide or fungicide. You can usually tell seed which has been treated with poison because it’ll will be an unnatural colour – a strange green, or unnatural looking yellow. It should say on the seed packet when seed has been treated. Always check. Equally varieties which are advertised as ‘pollen free,’ or ‘hayfever friendly,’ will be no good for your environment. They may not make you sneeze, but they will not give anything to your local invertebrate population who may go hungry as a result.

3 sow varieties which are easy for your flying friends to feed from, so flat face flowers, not so heavy with petals that only those air born creatures with incredibly long proboscis can access the pollen or nectar. A flat faced flower, with easy landing stages (petals,) and wide areas of pollen for collecting will please your flying friends no end, as well as pleasing you. You could choose an easy mix of repeat flowering annuals to sow in a pot or a bed, and both your vases and your invertebrates will be full.

Five faves: Ammi majus for lace
Cosmos for a daisy shape
Chinese forget me not – the bees LOVE them
Sweet peas for scent
And last but not least nigella because the birds too will be happy if you let them set seed for the birds to eat as the seed scatters.

Georgie Newbery is a flower farmer and florist based between Bruton and Wincanton in Somerset. Join her online or at the farm for one of her popular workshops, or follow her on youtube for lots more gardening tips and tricks.

http://www.commonfarmflowers.com

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Gary Webb, Head Gardener and Garden Blogger with Gardening Ways

As a gardener, I count myself lucky to have worked in some stunningly beautiful locations throughout my career. There has been a good deal of heavy and physical labour I can assure you, but there has also been many times when my gardening activity would simply fall in the areas of mental stimulation or mindful observation.

Throughout my gardening life though, I’m drawn to recall that whilst many of my most enjoyable moments have been in the midst of serious graft and team effort, there have also been countless happy moments spent gardening in complete isolation. Even in some of my biggest gardening venues, there have been moments when it has been just me, immersed in designed landscape and charmed by the sounds of wildlife.

When I stop and think therefore about the importance of gardens and gardening to me personally, I can easily split the whole into two parts. Firstly, has been the value of all those moments shared with some very special people, be it in the working environment, whilst visiting gardens for recreation, or whilst at home enjoying a memory making time with my family.

Secondly, and amounting to significantly more time than the first, is the importance of those many moments spent working alone with my thoughts. Those moments, even if I didn’t realise it at the time were vitally important in providing a balance, and have provided opportunity to soothe my soul yes, to consider and form strategies yes; but most often they have simply given time to be at peace and to study how exquisitely amazing the many elements of a garden can be.

All things considered then, whilst I’ve become accustomed to the physical aspects of tending gardens, I have learnt that it is equally, if not more important to consider the wellbeing benefits that gardens can provide. The value to me therefore of engaging with a garden hasn’t always come from the doing, but often from simply observing it, from mulling it over and talking about it, from seeing how wildlife interacts with it, and from opening my mind to the real values of the garden and its connectivity with the world around.

If I can therefore offer a morsel of advice for anyone, it would be to make sure you get into a garden, any garden, regularly, and that you pause there to consider the elements that are around you. Close your eyes for a while and allow your senses time to tune into the environment. Try if you can to make time to ‘be in the moment’ as people say. You can do this in a public park or garden, where no maintenance issues exist for you, in a show garden, from a balcony or in a favourite part of your own garden.

All that matters I guess, is that you make time to be there, to immerse yourself to a degree that you’re happy with, and you simply enjoy the garden both for itself, and for yourself.

Gary Webb is the Author of Gardening Ways
https://gardeningways.wordpress.com/about/

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Tanith Perry-Mills, a Freelance Garden Writer living in in Saskatchewan, Canada

Tanith Perry-Mills is a freelance garden writer for hire specializing in gardening, landscaping, and homesteading. When she’s not writing, she’s keeping her two cats out of her houseplants and growing her own sustainable vegetable garden.

Find out more about her services at http://tanithperrymills.com.

Three Ways to Make Your Garden More Accessible for Chronic Fatigue

I discovered my love for vegetable gardening at the same time I realised that my debilitating fatigue was not going to go away on its own. I still tried to grow a 200 sq ft garden, through which I learned a lot, but it quickly grew unmanageable.

This year, I don’t have access to an in-ground garden of any size, only a 2m x 2m patio. It could have felt like a letdown. Instead, it was an exciting opportunity for me to make a garden that is way more me-friendly.

Here’s 3 ways I’m making my garden more accessible:

#1 – Container gardening with an elevated planter

Last year, I struggled with kneeling down, planting seeds or weeding, then standing back up to move and do that over again. And that was before the heat wave destroyed my remaining stamina and gave the weeds super growing powers.
So this year, I built (with the labour of my husband) a 4 ft x 2 ft elevated planter with a handsaw and a power drill.
Elevated planters are fantastic! They allow you to:
Cut down or eliminate weeds altogether
Bring the garden up to you, whether that’s sitting or standing (which is easier for me)
Be short enough across that you can reach the back without having to strain
If you’re in a wheelchair, buying or making one with a sloped box can give you more space to get close to it.
I also added a few other large containers at ground level with climbing plants like cherry tomatoes.

#2 – Tank sprayer / pump action pressure sprayer

I don’t have access to a hose and holding up a 2 gallon watering pot is just not in the cards for me. Instead, after seeing it crop up in a video by Garden Answers, I bought a tank sprayer.
With a tank sprayer, I can set the heavy tank part down on the ground or on a stool, pump it a few times (or have someone else do it), then just hold the wand to spray water over my plants. The pressure lasts a pretty long time. It’s slow at moistening large amounts of potting soil, but it’s fantastic for seedlings. I used this when starting seeds this year, and the difference between using a spray bottle and this was incredible. 10/10 would recommend.
While they’re more expensive than a plastic watering can, it’s still pretty inexpensive overall (mine cost $30), and has made watering so much easier for me.

#3 – A dedicated potting station

I struggle with pacing. When I had to pull out the potting soil and clean up afterward, it seemed way more efficient to do all the seeding and potting up in one go. 2 hours later (why do seed trays always take way longer than expected?), I’m so exhausted I have to haul myself up to bed.
Learning from this mistake, I set up a potting station in my house using a Rubbermaid bin. I can do one thing a day with minimal setup and clean up. Seed 3 trays one day. Pot up the tomatoes the next day. Direct sow the day after. That way, I can limit my active time.
And this has one other bonus: because I don’t need to somehow put aside 2 hours of energy for gardening on top of other essential things like work, I’m actually getting more done with less procrastination.

Using these three methods, I feel way more on top of the garden this year and I’m confident that I can grow as many healthy vegetables as I have space for, without the crashes.

Tanith Perry-Mills is a freelance garden writer for hire specializing in gardening, landscaping, and homesteading. When she’s not writing, she’s keeping her two cats out of her houseplants and growing her own sustainable vegetable garden. Find out more about her services at tanithperrymills.com.

This Week’s Guest is Michelle Starling, a Gardener at the Wellcome Geonome Campus in Cambridgeshire

Always being out in the garden with my dad when I was a little girl ,eating peas straight from the pod instead of helping to weed round them.
Dad then gave me a little corner of my own ,to grow veg in, easy to grow stuff, like radishes and carrots.
i left school ,worked with horses for 10 to 12 years and then went in to factory work. Working indoors, I missed the fresh air, the summers and wet winter days. Anyhow I got chatting to a fellow, he had an allotment which had been in his family for years. This chap was getting old and was struggling to keep up with the allotment. I offered to help him but instead he signed it over to me.


It wasn’t in a terrible state but needed time and work to bring it back to a plot to grow vegetables in.
The plot measures 5 x 200m. Two thirds is for vegetables, flowers and fruit, the rest is fruit trees, a mini orchard if you like. In the mini orchard I only cut the grass in late September. I have done this over a few years now and this has enabled lovely wild flowers to flourish, such as cowslips, bluebells, even bee orchids.
I also made a little pond last year during lockdown. This pond with the wild flowers, has helped attract insects and more birds, so I kind of got my own ecosystem going.
Having the allotment gave me the confidence to look for jobs outside ,and was lucky enough to work for a countryside management company. I gained a few qualifications with them.


In 2012, I started work at the Welcome Sanger Institute as a gardener, and am still there.
Over 100 acres of wetlands nature reserve, lawns, orchard and gardens to look after. There are 8 gardeners in total, sometimes we work on one job together, sometimes we work on our own.
Whilst I have worked there, I have been able to learn lots about gardening, nature and ecology, and we are encouraged to learn.


It can be a miserable job, sweeping up leaves on a cold wet day, but in the spring when the blossoms appear on the fruit trees. Then in summer, when the flowers are at there best, its a great job to have.
Now people are starting to return to campus after being at home, due to lock down, we are getting comments on how much they have missed the gardens and seeing us gardeners too.
We are on Instagram, pictures uploaded most days find us we are genomegardeners

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Tom Cutter, a Senior Gardener at the National Trust’s Glendurgan Garden.

Fern Your Keep

Some of my favourite plants in a garden are often those overlooked by so many, but ferns play such a vital role in creating the atmosphere that allows you to appreciate a space.


It is often said that green is the most important colour in the garden, and I couldn’t agree more. While it often plays the extra in the show of a garden it makes its importance none the less essential, it embodies the whole atmosphere of the show. Ferns are great for providing this atmosphere with their almost Jurassic foliage, transporting to a time of dinosaurs and jungles. While they may not catch your immediate attention like an individual bloom from a Rose, collectively they make you feel, daydream even, and that could be one of the most important things a garden can do.
Caring for ferns is surprisingly easy provided you choose the right fern for the right spots; they really aren’t needy at all. So, make sure to do your research before buying them; look at your soil, consider your climate, look up – how much light is there?


We are lucky in Cornwall to have the climate that we do as it creates plenty of humidity for moss to form on trees and in turn lends itself to epiphytes. Our native Polypodium vulgare is a natural at forming colonies on the branches of trees but with our milder winters, we can experiment with some more tender ferns. The most successful being Microsorum pustulatum, otherwise known as the Kangaroo Fern, which has these incredible shiny but deeps lobed fronds that look jungle like and unlike anything you would expect to see growing in this country. The Kangaroo Fern does exactly as I said earlier, it makes you feel, you daydream that you’re in a jungle waiting for the dinosaurs to run past; and there is nothing more you could ask of a plant.
I hope I have inspired you to try more ferns out in your gardens, if you are a dreamer, you will never look back.