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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moors Meadow Gardens

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


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

http://www.moorsmeadow.co.uk

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

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

Celebrating 10 years in horticulture 🍾🎊☺️⏳

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

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

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

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

Gardening for Wellbeing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find Debi on Twitter and Instagram @DHgardening and at www.debihollandgardening.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joe is on Instagram as Grow With Joe

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

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

https://www.greatbritishgardens.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=11&Itemid=312

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

 

 

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

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

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

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Books-Matthew-Appleby/s?rh=n%3A266239%2Cp_27%3AMatthew+Appleby

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

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

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

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

https://veganorganic.net/

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

https://www.rhs.org.uk/about-the-rhs/sustainability

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

https://www.hortweek.com/homelessness-charity-st-mungos-showcase-gardening-recovery-scheme-chelsea/landscape/article/1737143

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

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

My Gardening Story


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


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


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

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Graham Porter FCIHort, a Horticultural Advisor, Author and current BBC Radio Leeds Gardening Expert

From Winter into Spring.

As the days lengthen and the snowdrops emerge from their dormancy, on those occasional and increasingly more frequent balmy winter days, we might be lucky enough to see a Queen bumblebee bumbling about in our gardens searching for a quick nectar fix for energy and a few micrograms of pollen to help her with egg production. Of course, if our gardens have nothing in flower during the November to March period of the year, she may run out of energy as she expands her range to other gardens.


These visits may seem insignificant in the great scheme of things, but, once spring gets into full swing, her dedication and our gardening support will pay dividends for both, as some of our spring flowering fruit trees wake up and she and her offspring start to do their vital work of pollination.


So, what should we be planting in our gardens that flower in the dormant season, for our pleasure and the Queen bumblebees needs? There are a number of shrubs that flower on and off during the winter and spring months, many of which are highly scented as well as being spectacular in their flower displays – Chimonanthus praecox, Cornus mas, Edgeworthia chrysantha, Hamamelis mollis, Lonicera fragrantissima, Mahonia japonica, Sarcoccoca confusa, and Viburnum farreri are amongst the best to search out, giving nectar and pollen to a hungry bumblebee. As winter roles gently into spring, the pollen provided by male willow (Salix) and hazel (Corylus) flowers can provide our bees with an important source of food to help her produce more eggs.


Alongside the shrubs, there are a number of bulbous and herbaceous plants that can provide a vital nectar and pollen source –

Anemone blanda, Crocus spps, Eranthus hyemalis, Galanthus nivalis and Helleborus spps will all provide a feeding opportunity for our native bumblebees as well as giving us pleasure.

Graham Porter FCIHort.
You can read more on this subject in Graham’s book, The Yorkshire Organic Gardener (ISBN 978-1-911148-24-1)

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Neil Wilson who writes about his “NoDig Allotment”

I am a retired Food and Beverage Manager and have been a very keen gardener all my life. I am a Director on the committee at Tilling Drive Allotment Association CIC in Stone Staffordshire. I`m helping others turn their allotments / gardens onto the NoDig system.

What is NoDig gardening? Fundamentally, it is where you disturb the soil the least amount of times as possible. Instead of conventional digging, turning organic matter into the soil, I have used a layer of brown cardboard with no plastics or coating, you spread your organic compost over the top of the cardboard and plant seedlings into the compost. Having this base layer of organic matter encourages worms and microorganisms to come to the surface to feed, which in turn, produces a more fertile and stable base to grow your produce.

This way of gardening has many benefits, (not least – no more back breaking digging!) including a significant reduction in weeds and no need for bed preparation between crops. NoDig produces a good soil structure, draught resilience by retaining more water and reducing evaporation, which as a result, requires much less watering than traditional methods of gardening.

In January 2021 I turned my allotment into a NoDig plot, and for experimental comparison, I am recording everything harvested over a three year period. Throughout 2021 I noticed that there was a significant reduction in slug/aphid damage to my crop in comparison to the previous year. I was keen to continue producing a crop organically, the only feed I have used is a homemade fermented plant juice, extracted from nettles and sprayed as a foliage spray onto runner beans as another experiment.

Since starting to harvest (April –December 2021) we have enjoyed a total of nearly 194kilos of produce. Given that my allotment is only a half plot at 100 square metres, I am growing as much seasonable vegetables as possible. I could see the benefits of NoDig gardening immediately and without any effort.

I have found that, combined with sowing seeds at the right time, this way of gardening produces excellent, bountiful produce. I sow all my seed using the Wining and Waxing moon phases, which give seeds that little extra help with germination making a healthier and stronger plant.

Having just completed my first year of NoDig Gardening I am convinced this is the way forward for me.

Neil Wilson has created “Neil Wilson’s NoDig Allotment” group on Facebook if you would like to find out more about his allotment.