Thompson & Morgan Gardening Blog

Our gardening blog covers a wide variety of topics, including fruit, vegetable and tree stories. Read some of the top gardening stories right here.

Propagation, planting out and cultivation posts from writers that know their subjects well.

It’s been a while.

Actually it’s been nearly a year since I last wrote a blog. This year has been an eventful one for me, not only in my home life but in my gardening life too.

In June this year I decided that my gardening business was no longer giving me the satisfaction (or the financial comfort) that I had when I first started. So after many attempts at job applications to anyone and everyone and kept being told I didn’t have what they were looking for or I had too many qualifications just not in the right areas I came across a job advert for a Gardener at my local, private residence hall on the North Norfolk Coast. It’s a place I’ve walked around many times and always admired the six acre walled garden but could only dream of working there. Needless to say I applied and I spent a long while writing a covering letter about how much I loved the gardens and the park and how I came to be in the Horticultural profession.

I was lucky enough to land myself an interview and a week later I went back for a second interview as they had whittled it down to two of us. I was really doubting myself that I would get the job because the other candidate was a lot older than me and had already been working on other estates of a similar nature. Luckily though they couldn’t choose between the two of us and they ended up taking both of us on. I started late July this year and I have loved every minute of it! It has taught me many new things already. Not just about gardening but about gardeners ourselves.

There are 7 of us on our team, myself being the only female and rather lacking in height compared to the lads, but each of us has a different strength. My boss, DW, the head gardener, is a veg man. Like me, he got his love for gardening from his grandfather. He showed him how to grow veg and DW told me a story of how he helped his grandad one day tying his runner beans up. His grandad said to him ‘you’re doing it wrong’ to which DW asked why. He had twisted the stem the wrong way around the cane and beans, as many of you will know, wrap themselves a certain way around the cane because of geotropism. An invaluable piece of knowledge to be passed down.

Then there’s the manager of the walled garden. He ran a nursery with his parents before moving to the hall and he is a people person. He doesn’t have any interest in veg because ‘why would you want to put all that effort into growing something that another animal is going to eat?’ (we have a slight problem with pigeons, pheasants, and rabbits not to mention the cabbage white on the brassicas). But S loves nothing more than to get stuck in with our volunteers and re-shape the future of the garden and seeing plants thrive in the beds.

T is a more organic gardener and this winter is going to be implementing a ‘no-dig’ bed using his own compost made from the shredded plant material from the walled garden and leaves off the estate. He grows veg too and has had a very successful year with onions, carrot, chard and varieties of squash, with the latter three still producing good crops. He knows his stuff about ornamentals too and always has a thirst for more knowledge.

We also have DB on the team who loves nothing else but grass. He doesn’t really care for flowering plants (only in his own garden but shhh that’s a secret) and has had an amazing time this last month with a vertislitter aerating all the lawn areas on the estate. I drew a classic picture of a clump of grass with a seed head one day on the bottom of his mug and he said I had drawn annual rye grass (Poa annua). DB has been asked by members of the public if the lawns he maintains by the corporate function room are in fact real or astro turf because they look too good!

DH likes to do the mowing and care in the other public areas of the estate such as the village, industrial complex and the pub. He takes great pride in what he does and is even re-instating the bowling green in the village with his favourite piece of machinery being a flail mower that is used on the steep hill to cut the meadow like grass up at the estate church.

Now P (the other new employee alongside my self) doesn’t know much about flowers but is a machinery guy. He and DB share the mowing and they also have a mutual love of mole hunting (another pesky pest problem). He knows a bit about trees too but also shares one of DB’s passions of creating foods and drinks with the produce that comes from nature.

Lastly onto me. You already know a little bit of my gardening preferences but I generally love all things gardening. I get excited when cuttings I’ve taken have shot, I love the idea of producing my own food, I always want to know more about any plant that is a bit quirky and will try my hand at any different gardening techniques such as Bonsai (not very successful), topiary, landscaping and making my own juice from fruits. I do also enjoy a good grass cut every now and again. Seeing those perfectly alternating lines in the grass gives me huge satisfaction.

My new job has made me realise that us gardeners are much like plants – no two are the same yet we all have a common interest. So what type of gardener are you?

 

Smile,

Lesley.

P.s. I’ve been given the task of learning about all things Fig and how to get them to fruit so if you have any tips or secrets please let me know!

Lesley Palmer

I’m a 23 year old female horticulturalist. I studied at Easton College for two years until June 2014 and became self employed providing garden care and design in North Norfolk. I currently care for around 20 gardens and have now achieved a few designs and a small landscaping project.

I am passionate about getting young people, especially primary schools, involved in gardening again. I have a project running to do with children’s gardening, so if you’d like to know more please get in touch! I began because of spending so much time in the garden with my granddad as a child. I was also a member of my primary school’s environment club.

I am a fan of Michael Perry and James Wong and I love finding out about edible flowers and how to live more independently from my own garden.

Over 60 new varieties in innovative seed range for 2019

 

Innovative new seed range launches with over 60 new varieties

The New Product Development team at Thompson & Morgan (read more) has been busy. The first item on the newly-formed team’s agenda has been to put together our biggest ever introduction of new seed varieties. Over 60 varieties will be introduced in the company’s 2019 seed range; a significant number are from our own renowned breeding programme headed by Charles Valin, T&M’s resident master plant breeder.

Joseph Cordy, Thompson & Morgan’s head of B2B sales, said:

We are delighted to be able to announce the biggest ever range ‘refresh’ in our retail seed offering; this confirms our commitment to innovation and quality. There are some really exciting new varieties, including several which are completely exclusive to Thompson & Morgan. This is just the start of an extensive programme of innovation in which we are investing heavily and further announcements concerning the range will follow.”

T&M’s head of commercial, Chris Wright commented:

Joseph has been working closely with the horticultural team since joining Thompson & Morgan and this news is a direct result of all the hard work they’ve put in. He is already proving to be a major asset to the company and as he has said, there’s a lot more to come!”

 The 2019 seed range will be available to garden centres and other retailers from July 2018 and to online customers from early September 2018.

 

Sonia Mermagen

Sonia returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer in 2016. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia is a big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’. In her own garden, Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach and believes that this encourages bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

9 fantastic flower garden blogs

flowers in a garden

Flowers are the fruits of many gardeners’ labours

You can’t beat time spent gardening, but even the most enthusiastic of growers need a little downtime. Here are nine of our favourite flower garden blogs – reading to enjoy over a well-earned cuppa and a biscuit.

The Amateur Plantsman

chrysanthemums blooming for the amateur plantsman

Glorious chrysanthemums in the sunshine
Image: Amateur plantsman

There’s nothing like chrysanthemums for coverage and colour, but if you’re worried they can’t withstand the vagaries of the British climate, the Amateur Plantsman says: “While the large decoratives, pompoms, incurves, spiders, quills and other…forms might not stand up to the cold, there are others, with smaller, simpler flowers, that are tough enough to withstand winter.”

Early retirement saw this Berkshire based gardener freed to indulge his passion for plants. Join him as he shares his hopes and disappointments, successes and failures – anyone for a winter-flowering fuchsia?

Helen Gazeley

begonias

Begonias provided a lightbulb moment for Helen

“Do I like hanging baskets? Oh, come on! Who doesn’t?” says gardener and blogger Helen. She was blown away by the stunning display of begonias her first attempt at hanging baskets produced – it’s just a pity she’d hung them at her father-in-laws. She won’t make that mistake again!

A wealth of information, gardening tips and advice awaits you here. Helen’s blog features product and book reviews, show news, garden visits, plant information, and more. Always up for gardening related chat, she says: “I’ll be really interested to hear what you think,” she says, “whether you agree with something I’ve said or not.”

Rachel the gardener

rachel the gardener salix kilmarnock

This Salix Kilmarnock needs potting and pruning
Image: Rachel the gardener

A weeping willow is a spectacular tree, but as blogger Rachel says, there aren’t many gardeners who’ve got the space for a 60ft tree. But you can always buy a dwarf willow which is created by grafting weeping branches onto an upright trunk. This little tree makes a wonderful flower garden feature, she says, but only if you plant and prune it correctly.

Rachel the gardener is a horticulturalist well worth a read – do check out her botany guides, “for use in the field by UK Botanists, both Improvers and complete beginners, to help swiftly narrow down the identification of a plant.”

Hurtled to 60 and now beyond

hurtled to 60 zinnia

Peach delight – one of several zinnias “on trial” at Parham gardens
Image: Hurtled to 60

If you haven’t visited the National Memorial Arboretum yet, why not let this avid gardener, photographer and blogger give you a taste of what’s in store? The 150 acre site is home to over 30,000 trees, almost all of which are dedicated to the memory of service and sacrifice.

The prairie-style garden plantings are impressive too, says  Hurtled to 60 – if only she knew who the designer was. Here you’ll find a host of musings from the flowerbeds, as well as garden visit reports to inspire. Short of planting ideas for next season? Check out her report on the Parham plant trials –  the zinnias are to die for.

Flowers from the farm

flowers on the farm

British flowers at their best
Image: Flowers from the farm

Do you like your flowers with no air miles and few road miles? Flowers from the farm is a network of “farmers, smallholders and gardeners, who…grow and present a different range of flowers from those available in the supermarkets and the wholesale markets.”

If you thought British flowers were a summer only luxury, think again. Narcissi flourish in Cornwall and the Scillies during the winter, as do tulips from Lincolnshire, which are available from Christmas. Flowers from the Farm boasts over 500 members – want to be a flower farmer but don’t know how to start? You’ve come to the right place.

Catharine Howard

catharine howard potager

Catharine’s mini potager is a bit like a giant window box
Image: Catharine Howard

How many self-sown edibles can you grow in a small space and still manage to create an alluring garden feature? That was the challenge garden designer and coach, Catherine Howard set herself when she planted a mini potager in her own Suffolk garden.

We think you’ll agree the tulips looked great – check out the post to find out what came next.

Catherine’s gives you the lowdown on garden design and offers her professional services as a gardening coach, plus there are plenty of garden visits to inspire inform.

Susan Rushton

susan rushton colchicum

Blooms to die for – literally
Image: Susan Rushton

Fancy some killer plantings for autumn? Colchicum autumnale are deadly – and they look awesome too. The foliage of these delightful blooms is known to have been confused for wild garlic and consumed, with unfortunate consequences. We think you’ll agree, they’re gorgeous, but perhaps best left to “RIP” in someone else’s garden…

Blogger Susan says: “I’ve seen far too many trendy, almost flowerless gardens, but for me, a garden just isn’t the same without them.” A woman of her word, you’ll find a wealth of rose, prose and photos here. Looking for some floral punch to bring your garden to life? Check out these orange lilies.

London Cottage Garden

london cottage garden

Can you spot David Hockney’s influence here?
Image: London cottage garden

From where do you draw inspiration for your garden design? The London cottage gardener shares his gardening muses – the Hockney vibe really stands out, but you’ll also find influence from 1960s textile and interior designers, Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell, plus Kaffe Fassett and more.

The London Cottage Garden is, as the name suggests, all about one gardener’s transformation of a patch of the big smoke into “a chaotic abundance of colour, scent and movement”. We think he’s done it – you’ll love the before and after pics.

Jeremy Bartlett

jeremy bartlett fungus

Piggybacking toadstools
Image: Jeremy Bartlett

Stepping back from flowers for a moment – how about a piggy back in a fairy ring? We’re talking about Piggyback Rosegill, Volvariella surrecta, a parasitic fungus that grows on the caps of decaying Clouded Funnel toadstools. Blogger jeremy Bartlett is as mad about fungi as he is about flowers, which makes for an interesting read.

Interested in plants since he transformed his sandpit into a garden when he was five, Jeremy studied Botany at university, before graduating with a genetics degree. He subsequently gained a PHD in plant genetics. Want to learn more about wild fungi and flowers? He’s well worth a read.

Have you come across any excellent flower gardening blogs we’ve forgotten to mention? Do let us know – just pop over to our Facebook page and leave us a message.

Our newly formed New Product Development team boasts over 140 years’ horticultural experience

L to R: Peter Freeman, Paul Masters, Charles Valin, Colin Randel

With 140 years of horticultural experience between them, our newly formed new product development team is able to boast a rich diversity of expert horticultural knowledge.

True to our tradition of providing gardeners with the newest, most interesting and best quality flower and vegetable varieties, our new product development team is pulling out all the stops. The first catalogue since the team’s formation is due out between Christmas and New Year and information on exclusive new products and innovations that are in development will be released over the next few weeks.

Paul Masters, who heads up our horticultural team said:

“I’m really excited about the range that we’re planning for next season. Our plant breeding team, led by Charles Valin, has been working overtime and the new varieties that we’re going to be offering are phenomenal! Some of them are completely revolutionary in the gardening world.”

 Paul brings over 36 years of horticultural and gardening expertise to the team. He started his career as an apprentice at Notcutts, rising to the position of production director and has travelled extensively in Europe and North America in his search for new and interesting plant varieties to offer to UK gardeners.

 

 

 

Colin Randel is widely known in the horticultural business as an authority on vegetables, and in particular, potatoes. Affectionately known as ‘Spud’ here at T&M, his experience of growing vegetables and developing varieties to bring to the gardening public extends to almost 50 years. Colin was Chair of the RHS Wisley vegetable trials subcommittee for 8 years from 2006 to 2013.

 

 

Peter Freeman is the most widely travelled member of the team having visited the Far East and India as well as many European countries looking for new products to enhance our plant and seed range. Over his 38 years’ in the horticultural business, he has worked in nurseries and garden centres, as well as in buying and management. Peter has a particular passion for herbaceous perennials!

 

 

The impressive line-up of our horticultural team is soon to be further boosted by the return of Kris Collins to the T&M fold. Kris takes up his new role as quality control manager on the horticultural team in mid-December and brings with him a veritable mine of knowledge and experience gained from his almost 20 years in professional horticulture.

 

 

Our latest catalogue, the Spring 2018 edition, will be out just after Christmas.

 

Sonia Mermagen

Sonia returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer in 2016. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia is a big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’. In her own garden, Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach and believes that this encourages bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

California Dreaming!

At the time of writing this blog I am visiting Palm Desert in California for a few days with my Husband Alan and my Sister who lives in Huntington Beach Ca.  Today`s temperature has been 104`F, how do they keep their plants alive in such hot weather?  Gradually over a few days the temperature dropped to 100`F.  Unfortunately brush fires have broken out in many areas, so sad to see people lose their homes, belongings and gardens.  We have a lot to be thankful for in the UK even when we get the storms.   We shall be visiting the Palm Desert Visitor Centre which has hundreds of different cactus growing – you do have to keep your eyes open as there are notices about rattle snakes hiding near the rocks.  You also have to be careful when taking photos as my Sister discovered a couple of years ago when she backed up to a large cactus bush with unpleasant affects.

While we were at our overnight hotel at Heathrow Airport I had a text and photos from my Daughter in Law to say I had won a Gold Award for my hanging baskets and a Gold Award for my container Garden.  I was thrilled as we have had a rough few months when my Husband was to and fro from hospital following a serious eye operation.  I am sure concentrating on the garden really helped me.

Now down to work:

What a funny month August was – not funny ha ha – In the South we have had several really bad storms and gales with torrential rain and on one occasion hail which shattered a lot of the flowers.  The plants did not recover so quickly as they did earlier in the season.  As all  my plants were in containers on the front decking some of them looked really sorry for themselves so emptied them out and cut some back with the hope that they might recover.  A few did but became very untidy.  The Apricot Shade Begonias have lasted right through the summer until mid October, also the Non Stop Begonias Citrus variety.

I had four dahlias for trial from Thompson & Morgan which turned out to be very prolific.  I grew them in containers and were around 18 inches high although one variety were a little taller.  The flowers were stunning with a slight perfume.  I was also given two Hibiscus for trial, these have proved very successful growing to around 12 – 14 inches high and continuously flowered.  They were still flowing when bought indoors for the winter before the cold nights.   They are to be treated as indoors plants until next Spring when they can go back outside.

As I finish the blog we are back in Huntington Beach where we have had some heavy rain and still looks stormy – just to remind me of home.

As we look forward to Christmas have fun everyone and enjoy your gardening…………………..til the next time

Jean.

Jean Willis

I started gardening 65 years ago on my Dad’s allotment and now live in Bournemouth, where spend a lot of time gardening since retiring. In 2012 I won the Gold Award for Bournemouth in Bloom Container Garden. I am a member of Thompson & Morgan’s customer trial panel.

Where Have All The (Wild) Flowers Gone?

This year marks the 40th anniversary, since The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady was published.  Amanda Davies looks back at her life, and asks if written today would it be as charming?

cover of the book by edith holdenEdith Blackwell Holden was a romantic ecologist as well as a celebrated artist. Born on the 26th September 1871, she was one of several children belonging to Arthur and Emma Holden, of Holden and Son’s Paint Factory in Kings Norton.   After leaving school Edith trained as an artist and took the opportunity to enhance her skills by spending a year under the tutorship of the painter Joseph Donovan Adam, at the Craighill Art School in Stirling and at the farm that he owned there, sketching the natural world.

Greatly influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement her paintings were displayed both in the Royal Birmingham Society of Arts and The Royal Academy of Arts in 1907 and 1917.   In addition she did artwork for four volumes of The Animals Friend, a publication for the 1920’s London based charity National Council for Animal Welfare; plus illustrations for “The Three Goats Gruff” storybook when it was translated into English – a considerable feat in an age when women weren’t supposed to have careers.

From 1906 to 1909 she taught Art at the Solihull School for Girls; and it was for this reason that she made her nature notes – these recordings were never meant to be published; instead they were designed to help structure the course material for her students.  In 1911 Edith married Alfred Ernest Smith, eight years her junior; the marriage was frowned upon by her family, so they moved to Chelsea, London, where they associated with Sir George Frampton, the Countess Fedora Gleichen and King Faisal of Arabia.

Edith and Alfred were married for nine years; they didn’t have any children, and it’s reputed that when she met her untimely death on the 18th March 1920 (by falling into the Thames whilst reaching across the bank with the aid of her brolly to gather Chestnut buds to draw,) Alfred never got over it.

illustration inside book by cover of the book by edith holden

So how did we get access to one of the world’s most popular books?  The answer is simply down to the insightfulness of her great niece Rowena Stott; who in 1977 (when she herself was an art student,) showed the family’s most treasured pages to a publisher.  Seeing the potential of the chronological recordings of the flora and fauna in Edwardian England, it was published in its facsimile form, and has been translated into thirteen different languages; it remains number four in the world’s most popular book list of the last forty years.

In 1984 a twelve-part mini-series was broadcast on television charting her life; and she is as popular today as she ever was – her illustrations are currently being used in adult colouring books, as well as inspirational designs for the home including wallpaper, napkins, and crockery.   A leading high-street store still holds the longest continually running licence certificate to produce its annual ladies diary, based on her original works, with quotes and poems and mottos.

If Edith were alive today what would she think of the countryside now?  How many of the two-hundred and fifteen plants or seventy-six bird species she documented are around to record now?

illustration inside book by cover of the book by edith holden

When did you last see a Bee Orchid?   According to the Woodland Trust, they are common in marshland and native to coastal regions of Wales; you can probably name several flowers in the hedgerow, but can you identify them all?   There are native plants including clover, dead nettle and thistle in our gardens; there are many pretty weeds too; what are their names?

illustration inside book by cover of the book by edith holdenThere are numerous reports available suggesting that adults and children don’t spend as much time in the outdoors as they should; however, there are also a number of bodies trying to redress the balance; Natural Resources England/Wales and Scotland, have a wealth of information on things to do in the countryside, as does the Woodland Trust and Citizen Scientist too.   You can also access the Government’s website that lists all of the currently endangered plant and animal species in the UK – and important advice on legislation when it comes to protecting them.

One innovative American charity, accessible to all online, entitled Children and Nature encourages youngsters to keep a year’s worth of drawings, photographs and notes on what they see in the of the natural world starting in their own backyard.   Imagine what the results might be.  Closer to home the Facebook group 30 Days Wild encourages everybody to send in a daily update of wildlife in their area.

Possibly record a journal yourself; because who knows, just like the unassuming Edith Holden, in forty years’ time, your memoires could be important too!

 

 

 

© Amanda Jane Davies 2017.  A.449davies@btinernet.com

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs and share with me your gardening stories.

Nine notable seed bloggers

seeds in a pot

Ready to be planted…
Image: shutterstock

Nurturing plants from seed is the ultimate way to grow your own. It’s rewarding to tend your plants from first sprout to bumper crop, and it saves a fortune on buying plug plants. Here we present nine of the best gardening blogs we’ve found, that have an emphasis on growers who like to start from the beginning.

Mud and gluts

mud and gluts apple blossom

Gorgeous apple blossom – this is Christmas Pippin
Image: Mud and gluts

Taking on allotment is a steep learning curve, so why not let blogger, Beryl guide you through the process? Her blog details her transformation of an overgrown allotment plot into…well…she’s let it go a bit lately, but it’s still producing some excellent crops.

A self-confessed seedaholic, Beryl says “Seed-saving and unusual edibles have quickly become a bit of a ‘thing’.” Check out her trees grown from nuts and cuttings – you’ll love the crab apples – such stunning deep-pink blossoms.

Alan’s allotment – Man vs slug

cadalot CAD allotment plan

The engineer’s approach to gardening
Image: Cadalot

What happens when you cross an allotment with a structural engineer? Precision planting for one thing, attention to detail for another, and plenty of notes to help you with your own plot too. Wondering about the best configuration for planting your onions? The 55 seed layout does the trick for Alan.

If you’re about to take on a new allotment, this is the blog for you. Follow Alan’s progress as he puts his systematic, logical approach to work to clear, prepare and plant the plot. Expect CAD drawings and step-by-step instructions.

Weeds up to me knees

cactus dahlias

In a Dahlia state of mind?
Image: Pete Polanyk

Punk gardening, podcasting, and tunes to die for make Weeds to me knees an experience more than simply a mere blog. We love the combination of record selections, and tales from the garden – it’s an eclectic mix – just like some of Pete’s plantings – check out his magnificent walking onion.

Fun and informative, you’ll love Pete’s blog. Can you name a song with a Dahlia in the title? He can. Why not slip over to take a look, and have a listen?

The Propagator

propagator blog seedlings

Happy seedlings: hollyhocks ‘powder puff’ and ‘creme de cassis’
Image: Propagator blog

You’d be surprised just how many plants do best when sown in the autumn and overwintered ready to plant out as the weather warms. Sweet peas, hollyhocks and calendula – and that’s just for starters, says the Propagator.

An excellent resource for anyone who relishes the challenge of growing from seeds or cuttings, the Propagator is a self-confessed seed nut. Why not follow his “ramblings, progress, disasters, setbacks, results and some tips along the way”?

Life on pig row

greenhouse harvest life on pig row

Just a sample of the greenhouse harvest
Image: Life on Pig Row

Carry on growing and harvesting herbs right through the autumn by sowing growing them on your windowsill say the guys at life on pig row. Their top tip: “Plants hate massive leaps in temperature, as we all do, so give them a woolly jumper at night in the shape of a bottle cloche.”

Life on pig row grew out of the Oldham family’s ambition to grow a “Dig For Victory” garden on their half-acre plot, learning over the years to be as self-sufficient as possible. If you’re a gardener on a budget this is a great blog for you.

Mark’s veg plot

chilli harvest from mark's veg plot

Harvesting the chilies before the weather turns… chilly
Image: Mark’s veg plot

If you look at blogger Mark’s PSB – purple sprouting broccoli – and don’t go green with envy, you must be an expert grower too. Insect netting has made all the difference, says Mark, who also recommends regular watering, a good feed, and making sure you tie the plants to sturdy stakes to stop the wind from blowing them over.

An excellent blog with plenty of growing ideas, tips and insights, Mark says now’s the time to prepare your favourite chilli plants for overwintering in the house. His advice is to prune hard and replant in fresh compost to reduce the number of beasties that migrate indoors with the old soil.

Modern veg plot

achocha from the modern veg plot

Why not give the Achocha a try?
Image: Modern veg plot

What do Chinese green noodles, Hidasa reds and Ojo de Tigra have in common? They’re all beans – and just three of over 20 varieties this blogger grows. Quite simply, if you love tasty, delicious, nutritious beans, Modern veg plot is the place to start, with some interesting beanie delights for you to try.

Modern veg plot documents one gardener’s “adventures in growing hopefully interesting and sometimes unusual edibles in my greenhouse and allotment plot”. Like the achocha pictured above which this blogger says tastes exactly like green peppers.

Real men sow

strawberry plant with ripening fruit

Get your fruit in before the first frosts

“If you’re thinking of adding fruit to your plot, now is the perfect time” says blogger, Jono. The soil’s still warm this month which means the roots have time to bed in before the first frosts bite. An allotmenteer and blogger par excellence, Jono (aided by mum Jan), says taking on the plot is the best thing he’s ever done.

If you’re new to growing, Jono’s blog is for you. Not sure which fruit plants to go for? Jono gives you the lowdown on what to plant and how many plants you’ll need. Useful and well written, his top ten tips for beginners are also a good place to start – “Just plant,” Jono says, “Plans are for next year.

Sunday Gardener

sunday gardener sweet peas

Sweet peas add a splash of colour to your veg plot 
Image: The Sunday Gardener

Have your tomatoes stopped ripening? There’s only so much chutney you can make, so why not take a leaf out of the Sunday Gardener’s book? This blogger says the foolproof way to ripen tomatoes is to cut them from the plant but leave them on the vine, then lay them on cardboard indoors, preferably by a window.

“An independent website offering down to earth gardening advice and tips”, Sunday Gardener does exactly what it says on the tin. You’ll love the monthly rundown of jobs to do in the garden  – have you potted up your strawberry runners yet? Now’s the time.

Have we missed a seed blog that you love? Please do send us your recommendations– just visit our Facebook page and leave us a message.

October

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all feeling good, and still working hard in the garden. This month has been so mild,it’s been the best year ever for Autumn sowing. Well at least it has for me here in Pembrokeshire. I feel so privileged to spend so many warm dry days pottering in the greenhouses, especially as I was so unwell for the first six months of the year.

So what have I been up to? Well lots of things – apart from my gardening, I’ve been taking part it in a long distance writing course, two online mini photography courses, and I’ve set up my own blogs on Weblogit and WordPress. Both of them are about living with Fallot’s Tretology, Ovarian Cancer and Heart Failure. My personal blog links are on my Facebook page If you would like to read them.

Gardening-wise – since being off sick, I have had an awful lot more time to study my garden. I’ve been able to understand more clearly why things are failing, (unfavourable conditions/wrong site,) the areas of deep shade, the sun’s path through the garden, micro climates, soil types and wildlife. I have made many plans in my head, about what to improve or change altogether. I have fallen in love with simple flowers that have done nothing but flower their hearts out all summer. My surprise love is French Marigolds.

 

But most of all I have learned to live in the moment. Best described by the words of the late great Welsh Poet William Henry Davies’ poem; Leisure

. “What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?”

 Well I have found plenty of time to stand and stare!

I have been keeping a paper diary of my gardening year. Again I feel so lucky to have done this. I would encourage any gardener to keep a diary similar to mine. Track the sun’s path, note your soil and weather conditions, record the wildlife. Draw your plans, jot down your favourites to grow. However, most importantly, record your mistakes. Mistakes, show that you tried something that didn’t work this time around, but maybe you can improve it next year, or at least not make the same mistakes. It’s really is better to try and fail, rather than never try at all. I’ve failed at growing pumpkins because my supports were not good enough. I can change this if I grow them again. I failed at melons, as the weather changed, so there was nothing I could do, but I will try again next year. I grew cucumlelons two years ago, I hated the taste. A mistake? No as other people liked them, they were easy to grow. Though I won’t do them again.

The last bit of news is I have got so many new blog ideas for here, that I am hoping the kind people at Thompson and Morgan will let me write some additional blogs apart from my monthly ones. It’s so lovely writing for them, as well as sharing my gardening exploits with you lovely readers, I also get given some excellent seeds free to grow and write about. Occasionally, I win blogger of the month and as winner, they give fantastic prizes. Have a look at the photo below, it shows my latest box of goodies sent by the editor. I especially love the teal Gubbins tray, flower pouches, and vermiculite.

October has given me many things – let’s start in The Office – it’s so well stocked, I could give my local garden centre a run for its money! I have recently had to move a load of plants to the cold frame as they are growing too quickly in the warmth of the staging under glass. The border is almost carpeted by Aloe Vera’s rooted houseplants are flowering, the spiky cactus has got fatter, and the yellow tomato is still producing. The money tree, is definitely becoming more tree like.

I’ve had great success with germination and transplanting of Calendula Snow Princess, and Orange English Marigolds. There are a few nasturtiums appearing too. I have a mass of beautiful Black Ball Cornflowers ready to go out in spring. There a numerous pots of Viola Jonny Jump Up ready to go outside.

Next job pot on Amaranthas Ouesburg seedlings from an old soft fruit punnet (I like to recycle) to singular pots are – these I would sorely miss if I didn’t collect the seeds each year. I think the most similar type that T&M do are called Ribbons and Tails. However, mine look more like a cross between a bottlebrush and a pampas grass flower. They have dark red/chocolatey leaves, that start off a deep grey green. The flowers are a cerise/burgundy, soft and fluffy to the touch. They don’t seem to have any scent, and the only thing I have seen feeding from/pollinating them are tiny bugs. They grow anything up to six foot in a hot summer, or even taller under glass. I’ve not tried eating the leaves, although it’s a delicacy in France and akin to spinach, nor have I wanted to try the flowers either. I have no idea which Amaranthas varieties are edible, so I wouldn’t chance it

Once I have done these, I then need to transplant the Larkspur, which look so pretty when they are small; as well as a few lavenders, Malva Moschatas, Heleniums and Radish. I also have a surviving turnip after a pesky slug got in and munched its way through them, as well as my cabbage and broccoli.

There is still no sign of the Kniphofias, Lupins, Foxgloves, and Stevia. Nor the grasses, nigella, hollyhocks or liatris. I’m not ready to give up on them yet.

In gaps on the middle shelves are White Lavender cuttings, a Christmas Cactus, some hyacinths that I have just started to water, two slightly dead looking buckthorn alder trees and a broken stem off my apple tree, that I’m hoping might root. It probably won’t, but I want to give it a chance. On what little space I have on the lower shelves, I have pots, vases, baskets, and various gardening equipment and tools.

Ty Mawr has been mostly prepared for late autumn and early winter. After giving fruits from late July until just a few days ago, the left border has now been cleared of tomato vines. What were left of the fruits were splitting at every opportunity, or failing to ripen. I made green tomato chutney once, but the bungalow stank of vinegar for days after, so I vowed never to make it again. There were hardly any green ones left anyway, so it wouldn’t have been worth the bother.

The only things remaining are a slightly floppy Amaranthas and a few French Marigolds. I plan to put the turnip and radish in this border for winter pickings. I also plan to overwinter my strawberries here too. I’m tempted to try some really late potatoes, but usually it’s best to get them in by September, so I might do onions instead.

The back border has been stripped of all except one aubergine plant. They didn’t really amount to much, maybe two or three fruits per plant. We just didn’t have the long hot summer they prefer. This is my least successful year for aubergines. Strangely the plant that’s left is a tiny T&M one, I grew from very late seeds. It isn’t even four inches, and has stayed this size all through summer, it had food and water and heat like the rest of them, but it just never grew any bigger. It’s the only one not to succumb to powdery mildew, mould or blight. So it’s staying for now. I have no idea if it will be strong enough to cope with winter. I may have to put a little cloche over it, even though it’s already under glass.

The right border has the two peppers which look really healthy, so again, I’m hoping to overwinter them. The chillies are turning a hot red, so fingers crossed I can keep this plant going too. Behind the chillies are ever expanding Nicotianas. One purple, one lime green. They are still flowering and smell divine. However, if they carry on multiplying as they are they will have to be evicted. Or even potted up to put outside next year.

Next to the chillies is a Sweet Aperetif tomato vine, that it still producing little red treats. I’m hoping to beat my personal best and pick tomatoes in November. The plants have usually caught blight by now, so I’m really chuffed this hasn’t happened yet. Spotted between the vine stems is a mini Amaranthas. I have a feeling they will grow like weeds in the greenhouse next year.

We had to take the Yellow Stuffer tomato out from the left border as it looked odd. The leaves were turning brown and the fruits were becoming mottled with brown patches. It didn’t look like blight, but I didn’t fancy eating the fruits so out it went. Lastly, there are two garlic plants growing. They have shot up over the last week, and have three leaves each.

 

 

On the hanging shelves in Ty Mawr are two money trees, repotted and brought in for the winter, as well as the spider plant that had to go out for the summer. There is also a single leaf from the money tree in a pot of its own, as it fell off one of the little ones. It had such good roots to it, I thought it might propagate this way. The other hanging shelves hold random pots, tomato feed, secateurs, a few garden ornaments, and outdoor solar lights so they don’t get damaged in the high winds and frost. There’s also a couple of China coasters for when I bring my hot chocolate with me on a plant inspection.

 

Anyhow, that’s enough from me.

Happy Gardening,

Love Amanda xx

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs and share with me your gardening stories.

Autumn Sunshine

A beautiful sunny autumn day is just the inspiration need to go out and do some tasks that have been put to one side and the prospect of cold weather is another good reason to be busy.

Raised bed preparation I have dug over the ‘squash bed’, the planting moves around the bed but there is plenty of space for the trailing plants.  I am going to try growing them up a trellis this year, In saw this done at Hyde Hall and it saved space and gave a good crop.  One corner of the bed I have created a new raised strawberry bed to have new plants as the old ones are very tired and I wanted new varieties. Flamenco and Everest which is a variety that can be trained up a trellis both are ever-bearing so have a long productive season.

 

 

broad beans planted outTwo weeks ago I planted some broad bean Aquadulce Claudia seeds in cells in the greenhouse, they have grown big enough to be planted out today, I have put in the support canes now so that I can tie them up as the winter winds blow, but it will be worth the early crop.

 

 

 

turnip snowballWhile watching Monty Don a couple of months ago he was planting seeds for Swedes and Turnips. I planted some myself and I am surprised how fast they have grown, Swede Brora and Turnip Snowball both doing well.  The latent heat in the ground germinated them quickly and a few  showers of rain have swelled them well.

 

 

 

garlic germidorThe Garlic Germidor planted a couple of weeks ago is up well and I have put the shallots in next to them.

The ground has been well composted and we should get a good crop of both next summer.

 

As there is cold weather expected I have moved all my lovely geraniums into the greenhouse along with the Ginger Lily, the Agapanthus and Fuchsias are in the cold frames but will get plenty of fresh air on sunny warmer days to prevent botrytis and mildew.

The chickens are in the fruit cage for the winter doing their usual clean up around the fruit bushes. Last year I took cuttings from my gooseberry which is a good large fruiter and I wanted to have more of them. So after seeing Monty Don  plant his to create cordons I have done the same, I will keep you posted on their progress.

chickens in fruit cage

Theresa Bloomfield

I have had my hands in soil ever since I could crawl. I remember well going out into the garden and watching my Father double digging the vegetable plot and being shown how to pick caterpillars off the brassicas. You could say he was an early organic gardener. There was something nice about sneaking round behind the outhouse and pulling rhubarb and dipping it in sugar, picking raspberries and stuffing handfuls into my mouth. It is these memories of taste and smell that never leave you and make you want to grow your own fresh fruit and vegetables.

It has been something of a treat then, to find myself working for Thompson and Morgan for the past 13 years and being able to help customers to solve their gardening problems

And I’m done… kind of!

And I’m done… kind of!

I’m sat in my cottage and the log burner roaring; the smell of burning cat hair fills the room- Martha once again has attempted to melt her tail on the fire door. Outside the leaves have all but dropped and my beard is a scruffy mess!

It’s been a while since I last managed to sit down and excrete horticultural information. The past few months have been even more hectic than the previous year!

I feel slightly lost now that I don’t have to harvest, water and tend to everything 7 days a week.

So apart from abusing your facial hair, what has been happening Sam?

cucumbers

Well, Cucumber Armageddon is complete. I feel rather elated and proud of what I’ve achieved. The plan was to grow every cucumber needed for every meal at the pub- that’s a lot! They regularly serve 300+ meals a day and most include a salad garnish. Apart from couple of days in mid-summer, I did it!!! 1678 straight, wonky and green cucumbers from 86 plants. That’s 19.5 per plant, which isn’t bad. It wasn’t easy but it proves other small businesses could do the same achieving great success.

The most successful varieties from this year are:

mange tout peasGolden Sweet Mange-tout that’s well…sweet.

Shiraz Mange-tout that’s well…purple.

ringed beetrootCandied Beetroot with its vibrant growth rings.

 

 

 

 

 

rainbow carrotsHeirloom Rainbow Carrots picked small and fried in a pan.

Every new crop I trialled at the pub gets reviewed by myself and the chef, every September. This gives us a chance to find out what worked and in some cases what didn’t. We then discuss new varieties and I ramble on about random tropical fruit that might be the next big thing in 2018……keep an eye out for Actinidia arguta (Hardy Kiwi). 

horned melonThe one tropical fruit I’d recommend trying next year is Horned Melons! These peculiar climbers originate from Africa and have been a great talking point in the polytunnel. Once ripened, you can use the pulpy interior to flavour jelly, desserts or cocktails but it is rather ‘snotty’ in texture! The taste is a weird but good fruity banana ish thing.

 

 

 

 

radish seedsFinally, I’m currently trialling Bluemoon and Redmoon radish in pots. You can just about get away with it in a polytunnel/greenhouse/window sill. It’s a good way to test varieties you might have missed in the summer.

 

 

 

 

 

Now I better put the kettle on, light a scented candle and clean burnt cat hair off the fire!!

Martha

Martha

 

Sam Corfield

Having trained at Duchy College in Cornwall, he then spent 10+ years on and off working at The Lost Gardens of Heligan. In between Sam has setup a garden at RHS Hampton Court show, lived and worked on large private garden in New Zealand and worked for the BBC as a Natural history cameraman.

Sam now advises, designs and builds vegetable gardens for businesses, allowing them to grow their own crops. He tends to grow slightly more unusual crops and loves experimenting!

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