This Week’s Guest Blogger is Dustin Pope the President of Tree Doctor USA – a team of certified arborists who offer tree and plant care services.

How to keep your trees disease-free?

Keeping your trees and bushes in good health requires severe prevention measures. Tending to insects, pests and illness issues at the beginning is vital to guaranteeing healthy trees across all seasons. By forestalling illness and pest infections before they happen as opposed to figuring out the arrangement later on, you can save many dollars on pesticides and receive the rewards of a noteworthy scene.

Starting off bright and early on managing bug and sickness issues can have a significant effect between lovely, sound greenery scenes and one that is tormented by issues all season, every season. By zeroing in on prevention, rather than responding to illness and bug invasion when it occurs, you can protect your green buddies as well as deflect any financial liability.

Prevention includes various advances, including appropriate checking, plant care, and treatment. It regularly follows a methodology called Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

This smoothed out, biological way to deal with bothering the executives gives more successful outcomes less requirement for destructive synthetics. At last, results are more fruitful and the interaction is more secure for individuals, pets, and the climate. This article talks about the Best Plant Health Care Services to keep your plants and trees in a perfect condition.

Plant Diseases That Require Attention-

The following are probably the most well-known illnesses that plague trees and bushes:

  • Leaf spot sickness – They make spots on the leaves of trees and bushes. Leaf spots can be tanish, tan, or dark and make dull spotting on leaves.

  • Apple scab – This leads apple and crab apple trees to rashly shed their leaves during pre-summer and late-spring. A tree impacted by apple scab will have leaves with brown and dark spots.

  • Dark bunch – This sickness makes a delicate, olive-green matter around the twigs which in the end changes to hard dark bunches when fall comes. Dark bunch regularly contaminates the leafy foods.  This sickness can kill off a tree if treatment is not received.

  • Anthracnose – Sometimes misdiagnosed as oak shrivel, anthracnose makes the leaves foster dry, brown, and smeared spots before they drop. Anthacrose can assault trees and bushes right off the bat in the season.

  • Cytospora infection – This sickness causes discolouration on specific spaces of a tree’s trunk and branches. Normal among trees matured 15 years and more seasoned, cytospora ulcer can turn a tree’s needles to brown and kill its lower branches.

Integrated Pest Management : How does that work?

Integrated Pest Management includes the utilisation of specific techniques in battling irritations and infections. These techniques reliably screen bug populaces for sure fire activity, appropriate plant care works on, establishing nuisance safe plant assortments, and right treatment draws near (depending on the situation). The objective of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is to foster early and long haul counteraction of nuisances and infections. Assuming nuisance populaces are diminished or dispensed with toward the start, they won’t cause monstrous harm in your nursery/yard.

The following steps can ensure that your trees live long and healthy lives. It is better to avail the Best Plant Health Care Services to account for the same.

  • Monitoring-

Monitoring your plants consistently permits you to identify early indications of nuisance invasion when populaces are still low and simple to take out. At this stage, you can intrude on their development before they gain out of influence. For example, distinguishing the presence of mountain pine bugs. The ideal opportunity to screen these vermin is in the cold weather months.

You would realise they’re taking safe houses in a tree when you notice “pitch tubes” on the trunks. In case you see these pitch tubes, remove a piece of bark and check for discoloration of the wood under the bark (somewhat bluish grey). Provided that this is true, you really want to call an arborist to have the tree eliminated. Customary observance of pine trees in winter and quickly eliminating invaded trees keeps the creepy crawlies from harming adjoining trees. That is the reason coordinated checking and moment activity has a tremendous effect in keeping your trees and bushes sound.

  • Appropriate Plant Care Practises-

Insects and pests are controllable just by adhering to good tree and plant care practises.

It is just about as straightforward as keeping up with neatness and keeping your plants and beds all around tended to. This can keep creepy crawlies and irritations under control. Pivoting your yearly harvests to various pieces of the nursery consistently limits specific vermin issues. Tidying up old leaf litter on the foundation of plants is a successful method for warding off risky creepy crawlies. Noticing the ideal opportunity to establish trees and bushes to stay away from the rise of explicit kinds of bugs additionally brings down the danger of plant harm.

It additionally pays to keep your plants all around hydrated consistently. Particularly in the hotter months, as dried out and worried plants are more inclined to harm. If necessary, change the dirt preceding planting and apply natural matter consistently. Put a thick layer of natural mulch to forestall the development of weeds and hold dampness. Take additional consideration of recently established plants, just as trees and bushes that have supported harm.

  • Adhering to proper planting techniques-

The following are some basic plant care practises that helps in preserving their good health :

  1. Plant varieties that can endure pest infections- As a rule, there is a safe assortment reproduced for a well known plant that is helpless to explicit irritations. You may likewise need to pick assortments that are more hearty, energetic, and impervious to numerous nuisances.

  1. Plant the right kind of plants in the right space- Each plant has a dirt, daylight, dampness, temperature, and space prerequisite to accomplish ideal development. Jumbling a plant to an off-base area or conditions will just pressure it and cause the plant to turn into a simple prey for bugs and illnesses.

  1. Consider a wide range of plant variety- When pests/insects like the Mountain Pine Beetle invade your plants, they might possibly annihilate a whole gathering of trees and bushes. This is the reason it’s fundamental to develop numerous sorts of plants, trees, and bushes to guarantee you will have something left assuming the bugs harm your plants. Having different plants in your nursery or yard likewise works on the overall look of your scene.

  • Acknowledge the treatment required-

Before you resort to applying substance medicines like insect sprays, see whether there are “organic controls” accessible. The most widely recognized illustration of organic controls utilised in homes are gainful bugs. They are garden-accommodating bugs like ladybugs, asking mantis, parasitic wasps, and lacewings, that can eat up enormous quantities of bugs in a given time. You might need to dump the pesticides to let the beneficials deal with the bugs.

Assuming utilising natural controls can’t get the job done and more forceful nuisance control measures are required, don’t stop for a second to call a tree bug or tree sickness master. They are furnished with the right devices and skill to analyse an issue and recommend the best and eco-accommodating arrangements.

  • Diagnosis of trees and shrubs-

Assuming you experience issues telling whether or not your trees and bushes are unhealthy, it’s a good thought to call some tree experts.

Some tips to help you keep your trees disease-free

At the point when you realise how to perceive vermin or infection, you’ll regularly observe that you’re ready to distinguish issues while they’re in the beginning phases.

  • Select bug safe varieties

Headways in science and innovation have made it workable for bug safe assortments of many plants to be created. Assuming you need to establish something especially inclined to bug or sickness, it might be a smart thought to choose the vermin resistant variety that is more grounded and more sturdy.

  • Pick the perfect place

Various kinds of plants and trees have various inclinations with regards to soil, dampness, daylight, and the sky’s the limit from there. You must pick the perfect place. Some unacceptable spot might put it under pressure and hold it back from flourishing.

  • Apply medicines when vital

Few out of every odd creepy crawly that you spot in your yard is awful. There are a lot of things like ladybugs, lacewings, and imploring mantids. And more that assist you with keeping your plants and trees solid by eating risky vermin. There is positively an appropriate setting for bug sprays. Be that as it may, assuming you detect these nursery well disposed creepy crawlies, allow them an opportunity to do what they specialise in first.

  • Acquire the specialists

You can do a considerable amount to forestall other invasions and sickness from going to your yard all alone. Be that as it may, there are most certainly times when you’ll have to get the specialists. Tree care experts can assist you with tending to your plant and tree issues while limiting harm.


Arranging your nursery so that you’re planting perfectly located is significant for developing solid plants. Yet all things being equal, irritations and illnesses can scupper your great work. Getting issues early is vital to keeping your nursery bug-and infection free. While you’re watering the plants, watch out for brown, twisted or stained leaves, openings in leaves. Moreover for stems that have kicked the bucket.

Please click on the link below to find out more Tree Doctor USA

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Award Winning Designer and Horticulturist Peter Dowle of Leaf Creative who talks about the importance of gardens to him

My love of plants and gardens began when I lived in New Zealand as a child. I remember going into habitats with tree ferns and subtropical rainforests where you could walk into spaces that were green and they smelt different, felt different. It gave me a real connection with nature.

I also remember cycling through giant redwood forests and being completely in awe of these huge trees.

When I studied horticulture at Pershore College, I began to develop an almost spiritual connection with nature, gardens, and gardening.

A Garden of Quiet Contemplation at 2019 RHS Malvern Spring Festival

A garden space or natural space can be such a source of inspiration. The huge intelligence that is behind a flower, when you look at it in detail, or behind a seed, or a leaf, is the same huge intelligence that you see when you gaze into the sky and see stars or the moon. It’s a reminder that this is just part of a much bigger picture.

Garden design for me is all about providing places and spaces within gardens where people can connect with nature and see that far bigger picture.

My appreciation of what comfort a garden can bring individuals came from studying gardens in Japan and being inspired by the tea gardens and Zen gardens where nature and meditation are strongly connected.

Tree Ferns

It’s something I’ve brought into my garden design by creating spaces for quiet repose, using water and rocks, with areas for yoga or meditation where you are just surrounded by nature.

Even in very small spaces, I think there’s always an opportunity for people to explore an area that grounds you in a bigger picture of the universe.

I feel incredibly blessed to be a gardener, to share some design and my passion for plants. I couldn’t think of a better career.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Ignacio Silva , Head Gardener at Emmetts Garden who writes about the Robinsonian Wild Garden

The Robinsonian Wild Garden

Ignacio Silva, Head Gardener at Emmetts Garden

Recently, the idea of the ‘wild garden’ has become increasingly popular. Some people associate this idea with informal garden designs and planting schemes which resemble natural scenes: a wildflower meadow, a woodland garden, or a pond surrounded with native vegetation. To others, it suggests gardens which support wildlife, including bees, butterflies and birds, and are managed according to certain ecological principles, such as using the no-dig method and avoiding the use of pesticides. The great popularity of Isabella Tree’s book Wilding (2018), describing a rewilding project in West Sussex, also indicates the widespread concern with the decreasing biodiversity in our gardens. However, rewilding, which involves a conservation approach and aims to restore a space to a more natural state which encourages wildlife diversity, has little to do with the original concept of the wild garden.#

The Rose Garden at Emmetts Garden

The term ‘wild garden’ was coined by William Robinson (1838–1935), an influential gardener and journalist from Ireland. In his book The Wild Garden, published in 1870, he advocated the idea of naturalistic gardening. According to him, the design of these plantings should be dictated by the plants’ habit and their cultural preferences. However, for Robinson, this did not mean letting the garden run wild. Rather, plants should be allowed to develop their natural forms and achieve a natural look, while the role of the gardener was to manage them in order to obtain and maintain this aesthetics. Robinson’s wild garden was carefully designed to imitate nature, and the gardener’s intervention was both pivotal and hidden.

The Rock Garden at Emmetts Garden

Robinson is credited with the introduction of the mixed herbaceous border and large drifts of native hardy perennial plants. However, his concept of the wild garden did not imply the exclusion of exotic plants. Indeed, he encouraged ‘the use of any plant that could be naturalised, including half-hardy perennials and natives from other parts of the world’, in order to create “naturalised” plantings. His ideas about wild gardening also led to a resurgence of the English Cottage Garden. His book Alpine Flowers for Gardens (1870) showed, for the first time, how to use alpine plants in a designed rock garden.

The Rock Garden at Emmetts Garden

The impact of Robinson’s ideas can be seen at Emmetts Garden, a National Trust property on Ide Hill near Sevenoaks, in Kent. Emmetts’ origins date back to the nineteenth century, but its current layout and design is largely due to Frederick Lubbock, who owned it from 1890 until his death in 1927. Lubbock expanded and transformed the Victorian garden, adding the Rose Garden (fig.1), the Rock Garden (figs.2 and 3), the North Garden (figs. 4 and 5), and the South Garden. The design and layout of these additions, particularly the informal planting style, was greatly influenced by Robinson. Although there is no proof that Robinson ever visited Emmetts, he must have been familiar with the garden through correspondence. References to Emmetts, with an image are included in the third edition of Robinson’s Alpine Flowers for the Garden (1903). Robinson’s influence can be traced in the design of the naturalistic Rock Garden, aiming to provide ideal conditions for the growth and display of alpine plants. The South Garden and the North Garden are examples of essentially Robinsonian wild gardens. The South Garden comprises a specimen collection of exotic trees and shrubs underplanted with naturalized bulbs in grass. The North Garden contains specimen shrubs interplanted with bulbs and herbaceous perennials, closely corresponding to Robinson’s guidelines for creating a garden of flowering shrubs. Further, the bog garden, which is associated with the lower pond in the North Garden, appears to have been inspired by Robinson. Finally, the formal Rose Garden terrace echoes, perhaps, Robinson’s paved Rose Garden at Gravetye.

‘Pine Border’ in the North Garden

Gardening has evolved since Robinson’s times. It has moved on from his concern with aesthetics and the plants’ cultural preferences to include aspects such as the interactions between the plants and the planting designs with the wider landscape, the use of plants which are adapted to the specific local conditions (i.e., Beth Chatto’s ‘right plant, right place’), and the creation of wildlife havens. These features take the wild garden to a new level. However, it could be argued that, rather than moving away from the Robinsonian concept, these developments bring gardens closer to it, as Robinson regarded nature as the source of all true garden design.

The North Garden at Emmetts Garden

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Boris Mackey, the Community Outreach Manager for Rehab 4 Addiction, a UK Based addiction helpline

Mental Health at Christmas Infographic

Surveys show that Christmas is the nation’s favourite time of the year. The December holiday comes with expectations of warm fires, snuggly Christmas jumpers, and too much eggnog.

However, although Christmas is largely seen as time for relaxation spent with family and friends, it can also lead to stress and anxiety for a significant proportion of people. If left unaddressed, these pressures can have a very real negative impact on mental-wellbeing. 

Financial concerns, worries about feeling lonely, and anxieties about family drama are all among the causes of stress; most people can probably relate to feeling anxious about Christmas in one way or another. [1]

Despite this, if you find Christmas stressful, there are several practical steps that can be taken to reduce negative feelings, and therefore the impact on mental well-being. 

Although the season comes with promises of relaxation, in reality it can be one of the busiest times of the year.

Preparing for Christmas parties with work colleagues and friends, having long lists of presents to buy, drinking too much alcohol and more errands than usual can all mount up to become very time consuming. [2]

It’s easy to let all these pressures get on-top of you, and become stressed by the prospect of a never-ending to-do list. However, there are several ways to combat these feelings and ease the pressure on your mental well-being, including (and most importantly) learning how to say the word ‘no’.

Saying ‘no’ is a powerful tool, but it can be a difficult one to use. A lot of people struggle to decline invitations, worrying that they will be letting down their family or friends. [3]

However, agreeing to take up more errands, or attend another event, when you’re already busy is counter-productive. If you spread yourself too thin, you will have less time and won’t be able to complete your tasks as effectively.

Instead, focus on what it is that you want to do, and the parties you do want to go to, rather than what you simply feel obliged to do.

If you can politely turn down offers for things that you don’t think will make you happy, you’ll be less busy and will have more time to dedicate to things that you truly enjoy. Being overly busy can be very stressful, but by choosing to say ‘no’ to some things, you can begin to alleviate that stress. 

Being too busy can also lead to another common source of Christmas related anxiety. When we have less time and find ourselves more busy than usual, we’re more likely to see negative impacts on our physical well-being, which is strongly linked to our mental well-being.

Being too busy can make us over-tired, and it can also impact our diet and exercise routines.

Overeating and a lack of exercise during the Christmas period are common concerns, and can cause down-swings in mood, and negatively impact mental well-being during the Christmas period and after it.

If you, or a family member, have ever struggled with maintaining a weight that you’re happy with, this can be especially difficult to manage. This can contribute to a negative cycle: we eat badly when we’re stressed, and eating badly makes us more stressed.

The best way to break that cycle is to avoid it by steering clear of known causes of stress and pressure. Learning to say ‘no’ can again be helpful, as it can make it easier to manage our time, avoid causes of stress, and stick within a healthy diet and exercise routine.

Check out the infographic below to see more tips on how to avoid Christmas related declines in mental well-being, and make the most of the festive season.


[1] Loneliness at Christmas Statistics

[2] You can learn more in the article titled Alcohol rehab in Bristol

[3] Coping with Mental Health at Christmas

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Beth Otway a Freelance Gardener Writer, Photographer and Horticulturist at

Beth Otway’s Wildlife Gardening Tips


We don’t all need to possess large gardens to help wildlife, small spaces can form valuable refuges and habitats. Wildlife gardens are especially precious in our towns and cities, where space is at a premium.


Instead of putting up a fence, could you plant a hedge? Hedges are more resilient and longer lasting than fences; they withstand stormy weather and provide food and shelter for wildlife. Hedges will enhance any style of garden, adding beauty to modern, traditional, and wildlife gardens. Hedging plants, like blackthorn, hornbeam, holly, hazel, and beech, can often be purchased as multiple plants in low-cost bundles and so can be very economical to buy.

Why not plant an edible hedge and grow your own fruit, nuts, berries, and edible flowers? You could grow your own elderflowers to produce your own home-grown and home-made elderflower cordial and if you’re feeling more adventurous, you could create your own elderflower champagne! Alternatively, leave the elderflowers to ripen to berries to produce your own elderberry wine, syrup, cordial, cassis, gin or jam.

There are many options when it comes to choosing plants for edible hedges, including:

  • hazel or cobnuts (Corylus avellana)
  • damsons (Prunus insititia)
  • sloes (Prunus spinosa)
  • plums and gages (Prunus domestica)
  • elderflowers and elderberries (Sambucus nigra)
  • blackberries (Rubus fruticosus)
  • redcurrants (Ribes rubrum)
  • gooseberries (Ribes uva-crispa)
  • rose hips (Rosa)
  • apples (Malus domestica)
  • pears (Pyrus communis)

Look out for bare root plants, which can be ordered from nurseries and delivered during the autumn and winter months, while the plants are dormant.

Shaping your hedge

When trimming your hedge, only trim the top and sides. Allow your hedge to grow right down to ground level, so hedgehogs can nest and hibernate underneath. Avoid cutting hedges whilst birds are nesting – birds usually start nesting in late winter or early spring and their nesting season continues until September.

Planting trees in urban environments

If you’re planting a tree in an urban area where there are high levels of traffic, choose a tree that’s tolerant of pollution. Hornbean (Carpinus betulus) trees are especially useful as they survive in areas where pollution levels are high, making hornbeams the perfect choice of tree for an urban environment. Acer campestre, Alnus glutinosa, Corylus avellana ‘Aurea’, Mespilus germanica, and Taxus baccata are other tree options for city gardens.

Bare root plants

Bare root plants provide an environmentally friendly and economical way to purchase top quality plants including trees, roses, hedging, top and soft fruit plants, for gardens and allotments. These plants are field grown, so at the nursery they require far less water than plants grown in containers. Bare root plants can be grown, purchased, and delivered without using plastic, and because bare root plants are grown in the soil, these plants are usually peat-free.

There are so many benefits for gardeners who purchase bare root plants. I find that bare root pants tend to become established more readily than container grown plants. Customers ordering online, who are unable to inspect their plants will have no risk of purchasing a pot-bound plant, if they buy a field-grown, bare root plant.

Mycorrhizal fungi

Mycorrhizal fungi are UK species of fungi that occur naturally in the soil. These useful fungi form beneficial partnerships – symbiotic relationships with plants. Mycorrhizal fungi and plants effectively join forces in a lifelong alliance. The fungi attach themselves to the plant’s roots, creating a fast growing and extensive root system, that takes in a far greater quantity of nutrients and moisture than the plant could procure alone. This partnership greatly benefits plants, protecting and supporting plants through times of drought or stress.

You can purchase a concentrated amount of these beneficial, UK grown, mycorrhizal fungi at nurseries and garden centres. Mycorrhizal fungi are especially useful when you’re planting bare root plants, container-grown plants, or moving plants within your garden. A gel form of mycorrhizal fungi is available for bare root plants; whilst there are also selections of mycorrhizal fungi especially formulated for container grown plants, roses, bulbs, lawns, and other plants.


Nettles are food plants for caterpillars of a number of butterfly species, Comma, Peacock, Red Admiral, and Tortoiseshell butterfly caterpillars, all feed on nettles. Nettles are also an important food plant for the caterpillars of many moths. If you want to help butterflies and moths, nettles are well worth including in your garden!

Although it’s wise to grow stinging nettles in an out of the way area, so you can avoid stinging yourself; choose a sunny location, as butterflies lay their eggs on nettles growing in bright sunshine. I have planted a number of large containers with nettles in my garden, as planters are a good way to contain and manage these plants.

Nettles offer other benefits for gardeners; they attract ladybirds and can be used to a make home-made fertiliser. Nettles are edible and make delicious soups and teas.

Peat free compost

If you want to help nature and the environment, avoid using peat-based composts. Peat bogs are precious habitats that desperately need our protection. Peatlands cover just 3% of our planet’s surface but our peatlands hold more carbon than all the world’s forests; in fact, peatlands store more carbon than all our vegetive plants combined.

I’m a peat free gardener. Over the years, I’ve found that the majority of plants actually prefer peat-free compost. I even grow blueberries and Rhododendrons successfully in peat-free compost. I run Compost Trials to find top-quality peat-free composts (see my Compost Trials in full at

Artificial turf

I’m deeply saddened to see how popular artificial turf has become. These artificial layers of plastic cover the ground, preventing birds and other wildlife from reaching the soil and foraging for insects.

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance solution for your garden, why not plant a flowering lawn, using naturally low growing plants like thyme (Thymus), daisies (Bellis perennis), clover (Trifolium), thrift (Armeria maritima), and birds foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)? These plants will flourish in a sunny or partially shaded site with well-drained soil.

If you’d prefer a green lawn, why not create a blissfully relaxing space using scented chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)? Chamomile grows best in well-drained soils, in bright and sunny areas.

If your garden is shaded or damp underfoot, why not think about cultivating a smooth velvety carpet of moss?

Why not take part in No Mow May and leave areas of long grass for wildlife? Grasses are food plants for many insects, including butterflies and moths.


If you are planning to have a bonfire, the easiest and most wildlife friendly method is to gather your bonfire materials together in one go and light your bonfire immediately (or at least the same morning or afternoon).

If you have already gathered branches, leaves, and plant material, all set for having a bonfire another day, your bonfire stack might have appeared to be the perfect hibernating spot for hedgehogs and other wildlife. In this instance, it’s best to dismantle your bonfire and move all the materials you want to burn, checking for hedgehogs and wildlife as you go, and then light your bonfire in another spot. This will take extra time and effort, but it is worth it to know you haven’t killed a lovely hedgehog!


Hedgehogs need to be able to roam through a large area every night to source sufficient insects and food, to find a mate, and a safe place to nest. We can all help hedgehogs by ensuring that our gardens are connected. Make a passageway underneath a fence to allow hedgehogs to pass from your garden into your neighbour’s plot. Hedgehogs can’t manage steep slopes or steps, so cutting a hole at the base of the fence is often most effective solution. When adding a new fence, remember to always add a hedgehog passageway.

Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant. Please don’t ever give hedgehogs bread or milk – although hedgehogs relish the taste of bread and milk, they’re unable to digest this type of food – it makes them seriously ill. Instead, if you’d like to feed hedgehogs, leave out a meaty cat or dog food made with chicken or turkey, or complete cat biscuits. Look for cat or dog food without gravy, seeds, fruit, bread, dairy, fish, beef, or tripe, as these ingredients aren’t good for hedgehogs.

For more tips on sustainable gardening, visit my website:

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Alex Law, the Head Gardener at Wollerton Old Hall Garden, Shropshire

I was trying to get my head around the relationships between plant processes and the environmental factors under our control in a glasshouse or other protected growing environment. These spaces are incredibly dynamic, where the knock-on effects of adjusting one or two variables are numerous, so it makes sense to try to disentangle this web, to have a better handle on what we can do as gardeners or growers to ensure the healthy development of our protected plants or crops.

The mind map I’ve drawn below looks complex at first but is an attempt to make visual sense of a complex set of processes. Concentric rings are used to show three headings (‘Factors’, ‘Significance’ and ‘Control’), colour is used to link different branches of the diagram to core environmental factors (main colour of text boxes and corresponding arrows); control over pests, diseases and nutrients are included as these are further environmental factors but I wanted to give them slightly less emphasis compared to the more interconnected climatic factors. If I were technically gifted, I’d like to make the bullet points in each text box appear as pop-ups in a more interactive fashion, which would make the map less cluttered, but the points offer important explanations so I’m afraid there’s a lot to take in! I hope this helps others to understand what’s really happening in their protected growing environments.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Michelle Irizarry who owns Shellbie’s Garden

Composting for a Healthy and Sustainable Garden

My name is Michelle. I am the owner of Shellbie’s Garden LLC. As part of my business, I create dried flower and nature-inspired gifts and home décor with the flowers that I have grown from seed. I love plants, flowers, and gardening, and growing my own flowers and using them for my business is always an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

There are many factors involved in having a successful and healthy garden. It takes research, time, hard work, an open mind, and quite a bit of patience. I find that gardening can be both challenging and rewarding. One thing is true…each day in the garden is a learning experience.

Gardening is not simply throwing some seeds on the ground and waiting for them to grow. There are certain things that need to be done if you want to reap a good harvest. Aside from dealing with common garden issues such as insects and animal pests, weather-related factors, and other problems that can thwart your success, I have learned that I will have a much healthier garden if I have good garden soil.

I decided to improve and amend my soil, however, instead of buying countless bags of compost at the store, I chose to try my hand at making my own. I had wanted to try it for a long time, and I finally took the plunge. I believe making your own compost is rewarding, money-saving, and great for the garden.

What is compost? Compost is decomposed organic material that you can add to your soil to help your plants grow and thrive. Over several months, microorganisms break down the biodegradable material to create a rich, dark, nutrient-filled soil called humus. If you start composting in autumn, you should have some nice soil amendment for spring. A good compost should consist of a balance of the following materials:

· Browns such as dead leaves, twigs, branches to add carbon

· Greens such as fruit/vegetable scraps, grass clippings, coffee grounds to add nitrogen

· Water for moisture, but compost should not be sopping wet or soggy

· Oxygen for compost to thrive and to aerate it to prevent bad bacteria and rot

Why is compost good for the garden? The rich humus created from composting feeds the soil, produces healthy plants, suppresses pests and diseases, and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. In addition, unlike store-brought fertilizers, which can be expensive, compost is free. Lastly, having a compost bin is sustainable because composting is a natural process of recycling organic materials, and it lowers your carbon footprint.

How do you compost? If you have plenty of outdoor space, you can create an area any size you prefer in your yard, or you can simply buy a large trash can with a lid. I decided on the trash bin and purchased two 32-gallon containers. I also bought a mini metal trash can with a lid for the kitchen for fruit and vegetable scraps. I dump the little can in the larger bin once a week.

Before you start filling your compost bin, drill five holes in the bottom and several holes around the entire bin to allow oxygen into the container. (See picture below for an example). When you start adding to your compost pile, begin with a layer of twigs or straw to allow oxygen to enter from the bottom and to prevent the materials on the bottom from getting slimy or producing bad bacteria. When adding materials, make sure the pieces aren’t too large. If they are, chop or shred them to help them decompose faster. Add alternating layers of green matter for nitrogen, and brown matter for carbon. When the bin is full, cover and let it sit for the winter. Every few weeks, you should turn and mix the compost with a pitchfork. This provides oxygen which helps to aerate the pile and quickly break down the materials. This is important, because if the compost is too wet, it will become slimy, bug-infested, and have a terrible smell. If this happens, you will not be able to use the compost. Conversely, if the compost is too dry, it will be too dusty and unable to decompose, so try to have it moist, but not drenched.

In summary, the secret to a healthy compost is to make sure it receives oxygen, some moisture, balanced layers of green and brown materials, and make sure to turn it a few times over the winter.

Thanks for reading and keep growing!


Click to visit Shellbie’s Garden:

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Mark Lane, who is a Trustee of Gardening with Disabilities Trust Charity as well as a Garden Designer, Writer and Broadcaster

A Full Workout in the Garden

For many of us, the idea of having to go to the gym every day is both daunting and a chore, yet us gardeners don’t think twice when it comes to spending a day or just an hour in the garden. Exercise is good for us, both aerobic and anaerobic. Now, we could all start the day in our leggings and ankle warmers (I must be showing my age) in the great outdoors and do some star jumps, running on the spot and lunges, but gardening can burn a great number of calories. Research is telling us of the importance of being outside and the effect it has on our mental, spiritual and physical health and wellbeing. Gardening has therefore been shown to reduce our blood pressure, lift our mood, lessen our anxiety and spark our neurons.

The term biophilia is our innate need for greenery and for being outside. We are outdoor creatures by nature, that over thousands of years have succumbed to the warmth and safety of the great indoors. We have dropped the spear for a knife and fork and an open fire for central heating, but as living organisms we need to exercise. Now, I’m not advocating running across fields with a herd of buffalo, but I am on a mission to get us moving more, getting involved in social and community activities and just enjoying the warmth of the sun or the feeling of rain on our skin.

Gardening is good exercise. Cognitively, from the initial stages of looking through catalogues or the Internet for what new plants to grow or which seeds to sow we are stimulating our brain. In fact, research has shown that after just two gardening sessions there is a noticeably marked therapeutic improvement in our mood.

Gardening can help keep our mind clear and sharp, and again research has shown that gardening can significantly reduce the risk of dementia. Gardening promotes problem solving, learning and sensory awareness. Many people notice improved concentration, quicker recovery from mental fatigue as well as strengthening the brain and feeling connected to memories. While gardening, from amateur to professional, we are constantly learning new processes, plants and techniques.

So far, I have been writing about active gardening, but there is also passive gardening. Watching a garden, pot or border grow is still a magical process for me, but studies have shown that looking at greenery, a pot full of plants and gardens can improve focus and subsequent tasks. Also, nature improves cognitive ability in short timeframes, so mental ‘top-ups’ are provided. What you are seeing, hearing, experiencing at any moment is changing not only your mood, but how your nervous, endocrine and immune systems are working. Also, the presence of trees and green space give you a stronger feeling of unity with neighbours, being more concerned with helping each other and having stronger feelings of belonging. Parts of the brain, when using a fMRI, associated with empathy and love light up when nature scenes are viewed. Nature inspires feelings that connect us to each other and our immediate and larger environments.

Without having to watch a clock or count down the minutes until you are done, you can easily spend an hour or an entire day working out without feeling as though you are putting yourself through a gruelling workout. Ideally you need to garden for 30 minutes to provide a beneficial workout. If you weigh 11 stone you can burn 347 calories in an hour gardening, and at 14 stone 437 calories. I would always recommend that before venturing outside you undertake some gentle stretching exercises to prevent injury and to improve performance. Your muscles might be tight so it is essential to stretch for 15 minutes before any physical activity. This will also provide a cardio warm-up.

When outside, work at a constant steady speed to keep the heart rate up for the 30 minutes, such as digging and turning compost, and then swap to a less strenuous activity such as pruning. The important thing to remember is to swap hands whenever possible and alternate legs, whether leaning, stretching, walking or pushing up from a kneeled position. Think about your posture and use repetitive techniques rather than erratic movements. Keep your back straight, knees bent largely and your shoulders down – these will reduce stress on your lower back and muscles and help avoid aches and pains. In no time at all your body will be more toned, more flexible with improved strength and endurance. A little tip is to set a timer on your mobile phone or carry an egg timer and set it to 30 minutes. Pacing yourself and your activities is important. You will find that you will get more done in an allotted time if you pace properly.

It doesn’t matter what age you are, or what level of ability you have, gardening is an activity that almost anybody can do, and why not? It is good for our cognitive, spiritual and physical wellbeing. (my YouTube channel with hints and tips)

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This Week’s Guest Blogger is Geoffrey Juden the Chairman of the East London Garden Society


The Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree

The Bethnal Green mulberry tree is an ancient black mulberry tree in Bethnal Green in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The exact age of the tree is unknown, Chartered Arboriculturist Julian Forbes Laird states that the earliest probable year of origin of the Bethnal Green Mulberry is around 1800, but it could be up to 400 years old and the oldest in the East End of London, some say it dates as far back to Bishop Bonner of the later period of Henry V111’s time.

In the archive of the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel there is an inkwell made in 1911 from a preserved slice of a tree, which is recorded as having been taken from a broken bough of a mulberry ‘reputed to be that under which Bishop Bonner went to sit in the cool of the evening’. If Bonner’s tree is not the current Bethnal Green mulberry tree, it could have been the mulberry from which a cutting was taken to propagate the current mulberry tree on this site.
The site is a conservation area, designated by Tower Hamlets council, therefore should be offered a priority when it comes to redevelopment, considering the tree is classed as a veteran tree. These days and times it is also important to promote environmental concerns when it alludes to development.

The trouble with The Bethnal Green Mulberry tree is that it is symptomatic of a malaise within our present planning system, at the same sight there are 27 mature trees to be felled, within this 27 eleven protected trees are to be felled, together with placing the entire conservation area under ecological stress.

I always believe that there is a garden in people’s minds, we may not agree with the interpretation of their garden, never less it is a person’s right to engineer their own garden. The matter of the conservation area in which The Bethnal Green Mulberry stands is that it is a natural garden, pre-ordained by at least 400 years of time. Knowing Tower Hamlets planning decision to, initially fell The Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree, with its friends in the conservation area, left the local population to raise funds to save what is an iconic natural garden from extinction, the fact that the position was moved within the council to have The Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree moved to another area to placate the local population, bore no weight as no guarantee could be given that the veteran tree could be saved. Raising over £20,000 for a judgment on the council’s decision was the only way forward, luckily it was found the council were in the wrong over this natural garden, it makes a statement, although an expensive one, that when it comes to urban green space, something which is becoming a rarity, we must all beware.

We should not have to fight to save nature, our gardens, whether natural or not, there should be a commonality of sense on the best way forward.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Karin, who is participating in The Glasshouse project, a horticultural rehabilitation project growing, nurturing and selling house plants from disused prison glasshouses in the UK.

Neorodiversity and Growing in Prison

Like many of us in prison, things in my life have not always been happy and merry. When I look back, I realise I lived most of my life trying to fake normality, often very successfully. I longed to be ‘standard’ and to fit in. I was told as a young girl that I was rude, that I needed to listen, to pay more attention, not to interrupt

A hectic and rebellious early life and many reprimands for not being normal led me to see myself as lazy, absentminded, difficult and naughty. I was bright and capable in my own way but I didn’t know it. I fought myself and tried hard to be what I thought was normal. My parents were at a loss with what to do with me and tried make me good with strict discipline,

I am now 60 and in prison. Since being in prison, I have had 2 important self-awakenings. I was diagnosed with ADHD recently which has been the most liberating moment of my life. I also have learned a new passion in growing and nurturing living plants in the glasshouses of the prison. ADHD continues to hinder my communication and make me doubt myself but learning new skills helps. In prison I have been working toward new qualifications and a new life. The Glasshouse project nurtures house plants in UK prison glasshouses and has been a true blessing, allowing me to find my own green fingers and care for myself whilst caring for living green things. Being around plants, I have found comfort and tranquility that would have been unimaginable a year ago. I think every person with ADHD would benefit from learning the intricacies of growing and gardening. It truly slows down the feelings of urgency and the outcomes are so beautiful, full of love and life.

I embrace my neurodiversity. I look back at the decisions I made in my personal and professional life that led to super-high highs and fiasco lows and I wonder if I’d known about my ADHD, or learned skills like growing, if I could have negotiated things differently, allowed my talent to overcome my deficiencies.

I am in prison and it is what it is. Every day is a struggle. Every day is also a blessing. I try to make the most of my time here. Now I recognise what I am and I accept my ‘abnormal’ way of thinking. I’m making my disability my super-natural power.

Provided by The Glasshouse project, a horticultural rehabilitation project growing, nurturing and selling house plants from disused prison glasshouses in the UK.  For more information or to order direct delivery of our very special house plants, visit