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.

Ten Wonderful Wildlife Blogs

Feel inspired – and grab your binoculars – for a chance to spot these elusive little creatures this summer
Image: Shutterstock

If you love nothing better than to “stand and stare” in the hope of spotting some of the UK’s phenomenal, but rather shy, wildlife, have we got a treat for you. Here’s our round up of some of the best UK wildlife blogs around. These blogs are filled with great wildlife stories, gorgeous photos, live webcam footage and more. Perfect to enjoy over a hot cuppa.

 

Wildlife Kate

Customers at Kate’s bird snack bar
Image: Wildlife Kate, sponsored by CJ Wildlife

With heaps of live webcam action, wildlife blogger Kate’s site is a must. Enjoy footage of birds stopping off at her purpose-built bird snack bar, and mice dropping into the festive mammal feeding station she built complete with Christmas tree and roaring log fire. It’s wildlife footage with a difference.

A wildlife expert with a passion for education, you’ll have seen Kate on Countryfile, Springwatch and more. Check out her photo of the foxes visiting her garden. There are two dogs and four vixens, three of which look pregnant. She hopes to be “filming cubs visiting around the middle of May… Exciting times.”

Brigit Strawbridge 

Female hairy-footed flower bee
Image: Brigit Strawbridge

Have you ever spotted a hairy-footed flower bee buzzing around your garden? Brigit says they’re smaller than a bumble bee and have a zippy, unbeelike flight path. But the telltale sign that alerted her was the characteristic high-pitched buzz of a female – like the one pictured – supping on the nectar from a snowdrop.

If you’d like to learn more about bees, Brigit’s blog is the place to go. Based in Dorset, she gives talks in the local area as well as further afield – like this lecture she gave at the National Honey Show. She’s also working on a book which is due to be published in Spring 2019. You can read a few excerpts from it on Brigit’s blog.

My Life Outside

‘Owls’ about that?
Image: My Life Outside

Having spent eight years searching for the elusive little owl – but never being lucky enough to spot one – Wales-based wildlife photographer Adam didn’t hold out much hope when he took his mum on an owl-spotting trip to Kenfig near Bridgend. But then his mum said, “isn’t that one over there?…”

Here you’ll find stunning wildlife photography from someone who likes nothing better than to grab his hiking gear and camera, and head out into the magnificent wilds of Wales. Check out Adam’s series of badger photos from Dinefwr Castle.

The Reremouse

The striking Noctule bat – with his beautiful auburn fur
Image: The Reremouse

How well do you know your bats? If you’d like to know more than you currently do, take a look at this blogger’s bat pages. It turns out the gingery Noctule (pictured above) is the UK’s biggest bat. And, up to 40g, he’s about the size of two small hamsters.

Passionate about wildlife, The Reremouse offers a great source of information to help you do your bit. Tempted to leave food out for local wildlife? “Anything you put out… needs to at least be similar to food sources that they would use in the wild – i.e. fruits, seeds and nuts.” And don’t feed too often or too regularly, or there’s a risk creatures could become dependent.

Why Watch Wildlife?

A black-headed gull was food for someone. But who dunnit?
Image: Why Watch Wildlife?

When visiting Scarborough, wildlife watcher David came across a bundle of feathers belonging to a hapless bird that had clearly become something’s lunch. But whose? Check out the clues that will set you on your way to discovering the likely identity of the killer.

David says that although we spend £200 million each year on attracting birds to our gardens, we’re actually spending less time in wild environments. If you’re in need of a little inspiration to help you step into the great outdoors, you’ve come to the right place.

British Wildlife Centre, Surrey

Meet Harry and Beatrix Otter!
Image: Matt Binstead, British Wildlife Centre, Surrey

Keep up to date with the comings and goings at the British Wildlife Centre at Lingfield in Surrey. Setup in 1997 by former farmer, David Mills, the centre now houses the UK’s finest collection of British native species.

You’ll love keeper Matt’s blog post about the centre’s two baby otters. Imaginatively named, Harry and Beatrix Otter (get it?), they’re already almost as big as their mother. Featuring a wealth of information about our British wildlife, the blog presents some wonderful photography too – our favourite is Susie the stoat in ermine.

Isle of May National Nature Reserve

Dolphins playing in the waters off the Isle of May
Image: Isle of May National Nature Reserve

What do you do when you’re trying to get off the Isle of May, and a grey seal decides to hide under your quad bike? That’s just one of the many stories in the life of this small island nature reserve, off the east coast of Scotland.

An island teeming with bird and animal life, the Isle of May hosts spectacular seabird colonies in the summer, while in the autumn it’s a breeding site for the biggest colony of Atlantic grey seals in Britain. Well worth a visit.

Butterfly Conservation

Butterflies actually benefit from a cold snap
Image: Wikipedia

Despite their fragile appearance, a winter cold snap can actually benefit butterflies and moths. In fact, the folk at Butterfly Conservation say some species including Large Skipper, Large White, Ringlet and Chalk Hill Blue, see their populations increase after a winter of extreme cold.

If you’d like to learn more about what you can do to encourage a wide range of butterflies and moths to visit your garden, this is the blog and website for you. One top tip: “Leave bare patches of wall, fence or earth, or place large stones in sunny borders, so butterflies can bask.” Check out the site for more like this.

Ben Porter Wildlife

Can you spot the plastic fragments amongst the plankton?
Image: Ben Porter Wildlife

Exeter Uni student Ben Porter spent a chilly day hauling nets near Falmouth in Cornwall. He and his fellow students were looking to establish the ubiquity of plastic and microfibres in the seawater samples they took. Sadly, Ben’s photos speak for themselves – a stark reminder of the scale of the problem facing us.

As well as flagging up environmental pollution issues, Ben, who studies conservation and ecology at the University of Exeter, is into birds, moths, mammals and more. He also takes a mean photo. Check out his spectacular snap of an oystercatcher in mid flight.

Mark Warnes Photography

Beavers have been reintroduced in Camarthenshire
Image: Mark Warnes Photography

Take a look at photographer Mark’s pics of the beavers at the Bevis Trust in Wales. This cornerstone species was hunted to extinction in the 1600s. The trust, which is working towards their reintroduction, hopes that bringing back them back to Welsh rivers will also help re-establish other species too, like otters, water voles, frogs and newts.

Mark’s blog offers a kaleidoscope of stunning nature photography, from the colourful puffins on Skomer Island to the badgers of Carmarthenshire. If you’re looking for some inspiration from the natural world, you’ve come to the right place.

Have we missed any of your favourite wildlife nature blogs? If so, do let us know by heading over to our Facebook page and leaving us a message.

 

From Rake To Bake – Curried Cauliflower Crunch

Welcome to Baking Blog. Each month will feature an in-season fruit or vegetable dish to make with a little bit of grow-your-own information on the side.

March is perfect for making Curried Cauliflower Crunch.

Cauliflower doesn’t have to be boring, there are many different varieties to sow, grow, and eat. With colours such as green, orange and purple, why not try this often-neglected vegetable served raw, roasted or fried, instead of just boiled or steamed.

Amongst other things cauliflower contains high levels of vitamin C, and being related to Broccoli, Kale and Cabbage it also contains vitamins B and K, as well as dietary fibre.

Prep Time 5 minutes. Cooking Time 10 Minutes. Skills Level Seasoned Kitchen Gardner***

Utensils

  • Chopping Board
  • Vegetable Knife.
  • Measuring Spoon
  • Spatula.
  • Frying Pan with Lid.
  • Serving Dish.

Ingredients

  • Cauliflower.
  • 6 Tablespoons of Vegetable Oil.
  • 1-2 Teaspoons of Garam Masala.
  • 1-2 Teaspoons of Black Pepper.

Method

  • Wash the cauliflower thoroughly. Remove the leaves and dry florets with kitchen paper.
  • Cut the florets into mouth-sized chunks or cubes.
  • Put the oil in the frying pan add the Black Pepper and Garam Masala, swirl with the spatula cover with the lid and warm on a low heat for a few minutes. Swirl again.
  • Once the fragrance of the spices come through add the cauliflower chunks. Swirl until the chunks are evenly coated, then cover with a lid and keep on a medium to low heat.
  • Occasionally swirl the cauliflower around so that all edges are crispy. They will look dark because of the spicing, but they should not be burnt.
  • After ten minutes the cauliflower should be just tender, enabling you to spear with a fork, but not mushy.
  • Drain excess oil and either eat warm or allow to cool completely.

Serving Suggestions

Serve hot with a curry dish, or cool with mango chutney as a starter or side dish.

Go Italian and season with salt and pepper instead of the Indian spices. Once cooled, drizzle with white wine vinegar, olive oil, basil and oregano.

Go Chinese and season with 5 or 7 Spice mixes.

Go individual and try it with whatever herbs and spices you have, including chilli powder and dark chocolate.

Grow Your Own.

Cauliflowers can be grown from January to May and again in the autumn under glass. Whether direct sow in a warm bed, or in singular cells seed trays in a greenhouse. Sow at 1/4 deep

They are hungry plants so prepare their final growing position with well rotted manure, and use a liquid feed throughout the growing season. It’s best to ensure that the soil is moist before planting out as dry roots can cause club root causing the plants to wilt and die.

For more information on growing cauliflower why not read Sonia Mermagan’s blog here.

*** Easy Peasy – Basic techniques/Suitable for Children with adult supervision/help.

Treat as Tender – Intermediate Skills required/Children may need more help with this.

Seasoned Kitchen Gardener – Confident Baker/Children might not be suited to this.

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.

Beautiful botanical crafts on Instagram

Check out these crafty creatives inspired by mother nature
Image: Marisa Morton / Unsplash

Nature has always provided inspiration to artists – whether writers or musicians, poets or makers. If an afternoon in your garden or a walk in the woods leaves you energised and buzzing with creativity, why not take up a botanical craft? Follow some of these nature-inspired makers on Instagram to get you started.

@wilddyegarden

Beautiful wild-dyed textiles made from foraged dyes
Image: @wilddyegarden

“The plants that are most familiar to us can be the ones that surprise us the most,” writes Flora Arbuthnott of Wild Dye Garden. Flora is a printmaker, forager, and natural dyer who can transform a whole host of plants like nettle, onion, rosemary and bay into beautiful textile dyes. Follow Flora as she experiments with madder and lady’s bedstraw. And be inspired to ditch fast fashion in favour of natural dyes.

@botanical_threads

Hues of walnut, pomegranate and madder create this divine patchwork
Image: @botanical_threads

Did you know that avocado stone makes a gorgeous blush-pink dye? Or that the crispy outer skins of an onion produce coppery, rusty tones? Alicia Hall is a botanical dyer and National-Trust gardener who creates beautiful hand-crafted textiles for her company Botanical Threads. Her Insta feed is a calming, beautiful space where chlorophyll meets cloth.

@lovely.greens

Lovely greens in Tanya’s homemade peppermint soap
Image: @lovely.greens

“Live simply, grow your own food, make natural things,” is the motto Tanya, of Lovely Greens, lives by. From her allotment on the Isle of Man, Tanya shares gardening tips, beauty recipes and herbal remedies. So if you’d like to try making Turkish delight from your own rose petals, or cedarwood and lemongrass soap, Tanya is your woman. Follow her on Instagram for these and other botanical secrets.

@rebeccadesnos

Rebecca’s favourite local dye-plants include nettle and hawthorne
Image: @rebeccadesnos

“I’m the happiest when making things with my hands,” writes natural dyer, Rebecca Desnos. Using vegan dyeing techniques – plant-based fabrics, soy milk as mordant, and plants and vegetable dyes – Rebecca creates beautiful textiles. She forages plants on walks with her son, and rescues avocado stones and pomegranate skins from her kitchen to add to her rainbow of natural colours. The results are breathtaking.

@kathryn_davey

Crumpled linen and peonies – two of Kathryn Davey’s favourite things
Image: @kathryn_davey

Peonies and crumpled linen are two of designer and natural dyer, Kathryn Davey’s favourite things. She learnt natural dyeing techniques whilst living in Northern California. Kathryn now designs luxury textiles in Dublin, using Irish linen, sustainably hand dyed in her studio. With muted hues of turmeric, iron, tea and madder, expect a feed as romantic and beautiful as those peonies.

@gentle_work

Christine’s gentle work is nature-inspired hand stitching
Image: @gentle_work

“Sometimes your soul just needs a few moments alone…”, writes Christine Kelly. This self-taught textile artist and mother gets few moments to herself but, when she does, she makes the most of them hand stitching beautiful images from nature onto vintage textiles. Christine’s feed is a delicate space to pause and reflect on the gentleness of her work.

@spindrift_crafts

Shetland wool dyed with dried heather
Image: @spindrift_crafts

“The plants that survive the diverse climate never cease to amaze,” writes Bunchy Casey of her Shetland home. Landscape and fauna inspire Bunchy in creating her hand-dyed wools and natural leaf prints. She uses heather, willow bark and alder cones in her work, dyeing wool from the hardy sheep that share her island home.

@silverpebble2

Drawing plants foraged on a winter’s walk
Image: @silverpebble2

“Collecting nature finds can help to divert your mind away from daily stresses,” writes Emma Mitchell. This illustrator, naturalist and designer-maker uses botanical crafts to boost her mood and combat depression through the long winter months. She gathers the natural treasures spied on her daily walks into beautifully curated collections – drawing, pressing, preserving and crafting them into works of art.

We hope you feel inspired to turn your hand to botanical crafts like these. Share your creations with us on Instagram or Facebook. And if you post plant-inspired art on your own feed, we’d love to see and share your work.

A February full of drama

Hi Everyone,

February might be the shortest month, but boy has it been packed with drama – at least for me anyway. First we had the wicked west winds so bitter they could have given an expresso a run for its money. These annoying gusts meant for several days we couldn’t go in the greenhouses for fear of the glass being blown out on opening the door. How the flowering marigolds inside Ty Mawr managed without a drink for three weeks is pretty astounding.

On the second weekend of the month I happened to stay with my mum on the Saturday night, we had met friends for lunch and that evening I was trying to teach her Logic colouring-in puzzles. We didn’t notice the wind picking up and by the time I did it was too late for me to text Mark to check the cold frame was secure. It was wedged under the shelter of the eaves between the bungalow wall and the side of a garden bench, plus there was a large plant pot just in front it, so I assumed it would be fine. I had overwintering Violas, cornflowers, foxgloves and calendula in it .Mark is pretty good at checking the cold frame as the pesky thing likes to make a dash for the shed in windy weather. Credit where it’s due, Mark spent most of Sunday morning walking around the neighbourhood looking for Rhett Butler(aka the cold frame), as now it had literally Gone With The Wind- He broke the news on the drive back from mum’s. – the plants were okay, they hadn’t moved from their position. I was upset, I didn’t cry but I was mad at myself for not noticing the inclement weather, and for the fact that I won Rhett in a T&M blogger only photo competition

In frustration I put a post on Pembrokeshire-Bay asking if anyone had found an unexpected polycarbonate cold frame in their gardens near me. Lots of people replied, many had even gone to check their gardens for me. One extremely kind Gardening lady who lives eight miles away said I could have hers for free if I wanted. I was touched, and told her I would contact her again in a few days if mine was gone for good. Her generosity sparked offers of free manure from a person with horses, and thus my post grew, so I thought, well at least Rhett leaving brought out the best in other people.

Mum called for over the following Monday, we went for a short walk,with her peering into gardens and hedges still seeking Rhett. It’s okay mum, I said, Mark has looked and looked. Do you think it was stolen? she asked. I replied No, they would have taken the plants and solar lights as well. Anyway our part of town is relatively crime-free.

Much later, when we were doing the dishes after supper Mark suddenly exclaimed, “I know where your coldframe is!”

“Please tell me…you didn’t put it in the shed and forget did you?” I ask.

“Would I be that stupid?!”

“Umm…”

He takes a torch and no more than five minutes later he’s back with a disheveled looking Rhett. Apparently the one place none of us had thought to look was behind the wheelie bins between the old youth club and the surgery. I asked him what made him look there. He said because he saw an old patio table there yesterday and thought it was a funny place to put one – , so perhaps someone had fly-tipped it. So maybe Rhett is not Rhett, but then again maybe someone is still missing a patio table…

 

 

 

When the winds blew themselves out, I ventured into The Office as I needed that start off some seeds. The first packet were a Freebie from Just Bee Drinks, a lovely blend of bee friendly flowers, as I won them – and three cartons of Honey infused fruit juices for submitting a good bad-bee-pun at the end of January.

I am also taking part in a tomato germination seed trial with a different company so was keen to get that underway.

 

 

The Office was in a bit of a state as I had only being going in to check things and water small pots, so that afternoon I tried to rearrange the shelves. I was glad I had. After a wait of nearly nine months grass Ponytails had germinated and was in dire need of repotting. I found a surprise turnip, that needs transplanting and I nearly pitched a fit when I looked down to wipe water from my wrist to discover it was a baby slug happily sitting there.

 

 

 

A tray propagator that I had completely forgotten about had sprouted a couple of Heleniums and some Malvas as well as several kinds of disgusting white moulds. Holding my breath (not ideal with heart failure) and zipping my hooded fleece up to my nose I carefully carried the tray outside, rescued the good stuff then had Mark empty the tray. I moved another propagator (clean and empty) and found a remarkably big radish growing behind it in a three inch pot. I threw out the refused to germinate-in-a-year Liatris seeded pots as well as several Snow Princess Marigolds that were ruined by frosts and my new pet Slugsy, who I had put near the bird feeding station.

 

 

A few days later, I had Mark sieve fresh compost so I could start my T&M seeds. I set off some sweet peppers, Boneta’s and Bullhorns, then came the Cayennetta Chilli peppers. Fed up of buying supermarket mixed salad leaves, that are too much for one person to eat in a week, and washed in chlorine I sowed some speedy salad leaves, so we can just pick them as we need them. The final food item i sowed was my favourite basil variety Lemonade. This year, I am hoping to grow more flowers from seed, so I sowed Lewsia and Commelina Dianthifolia, both of which need cold weather to germinate. Talking of which I am hugely excited to announce that both my Himalayan and Grande Meconopsis Blue poppies have germinated. The Himalayan ones in the Plant Butler outside and the other type in the heated propagator on the kitchen window sill.

 

 

After seed sowing Mark watered the aloe border and swept up for me. I was back in Ty Mawr checking the status of the potato grow bags which were in need of water, so were the marigold  and cornflower borders. Mark watered these for me, while I mourned the loss of two baby money trees from the cold. Thankfully the newspaper wrapped dahlias are not affected. Ty Mawr is overcrowded now as I had to put the rescued cold frame plants on the path as the shelves are full. If I put them in the borders they will take root, which I don’t want. I need to cut off the dead foliage from last year’s pepper and chilli. I am not sure if the Nicotiana has survived I can’t climb over the pots to see. A sorry state really, but on the next warm day l’ll do a proper inspection.

 

 

Today the cold frame is in the confines of The Office. Mark has straightened it back out and secured lengths of narrow batons to three sides to make it heavier. He plans to add another baton to the top to keep the lids closed with clips of some kin, (don’t know what as I have no DIY skills whatsoever,) so that the lids don’t act like sails again. Fingers crossed that no other dramas occur, but with the Beast from the East on its way I wouldn’t be surprised if something did. Our coldest day so far has been 4°c and we had a light frost a few nights ago. I am not looking forward to the cold snap, even if it does mean more Blue Poppies.

Stay warm,

Until next time,

Love Amanda.

PS Does anyone have any idea why I can’t grow Welsh Poppies in the same heated propagator on the kitchen window in the tray next to Himalayan ones when they both require the same growing conditions, heat and light , AND I’m in Wales and in the Himalayas?

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.

Spring is on its way!

The days are beginning to pull out, lighter mornings and also evenings too. Yippee!

Washbrook church with daffodils

Washbrook Church

I love getting wrapped up and walking over the fields in our village with the kids and hubby this time of the year.  We love to visit St Mary’s Church in Washbrook which is in an isolated position among the fields, about three miles west from the centre of Ipswich. The church is now redundant and is under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.  There are parts of the church which dates to the 12th century but the majority is the 14th century. Well worth a visit!

Snowdrops in the graveyard

Snowdrops in the graveyard

My focus, this month are the beautiful graceful Galanthus. The children love exploring the snowdrops at their different growing stages. The graveyard is littered with these beauties and when they die back, they make room for decandant Daffodils.

More snowdrops out and about!

More snowdrops out and about!

The snowdrops have been cross polinating and there are doubles and singles, the way they sweep and cover the ground, it is truly a sight to see and worth the walk.

My mother in law is a “Galanthophile” (an enthusiastic collector of snowdrops species and cultivars).

A few years ago, for her birthday, (also in February) we bought her an expensive, highly sought after Galanthus plicatus “Wendys Gold”.

‘Wendy’s Gold’ is a bulbous perennial to 20cm with broad, grey-green leaves. The white flowers have a yellow-green ovary, and a long, yellow-green mark on the inner petals. She now has a couple of lovely clumps.

Wendy's Gold snowdrops

Wendy’s Gold snowdrops

She has a new Galanthus plicatus, it has wider leaves and delicately, dimpled white petals, which catch the light.

Mum's prized snowdrops!

Mum’s prized snowdrops!

 

 

There are so many beautiful snowdrops out there to admire and explore.

My advice, wrap up warm and get out there!

Sue Russell

One of my earliest memories; helping my Mum and Dad weed the veggie plot and collecting chicken eggs from the chooks at the end of the garden. I grew up on a farm as a child and always had my own piece of land to grow and learn with, so I suppose its in the blood!
In my mid twenties, I re trained in Horticulture (Professional Gardening ANCH) and set up my own Gardening business working for clients in the Suffolk/Essex area. For the last thirteen years Ive had the pleasure of working on a private twenty five acre estate tending to the grounds.
Most recently, eighteen months ago, I joined the team at Thompson and Morgan in the Customer Care department.
Also season ticket holder at Ipswich Town Football Club!!

Nine wild plant lovers on Instagram

These Instagrammers will inspire you to get back to your roots and forage delicious food from the wilderness.
Image source – Shutterstock

If you love country walks, fine food, and communing with nature, give foraging a try. Whether you’re hunting for wild food or wildflowers, there’s plenty of hidden treasure in our countryside. And for a little support or inspiration, here are ten of the best wild-plant Instagrammers to follow.

@emmatheforager

Foraged salad with ground elder, violet leaves and garlic mustard
Image source: @emmatheforager

Carragheen (Irish moss seaweed) makes a great vegan alternative to gelatin, writes expert forager, designer and writer, Emma Gunn. This “all-round plant guru” uses the seaweed to set her coconut panna cotta. Emma leads foraging walks and lunches in and around Cornwall. Understandably, seaweed is often on the menu, as is sea buckthorn, from which she makes a delicious-looking cheesecake and a rather cheeky gin!

@handmade_apothecary

Jelly-ear fungus is said by some to be great for adding texture to soups, gravies and stocks
Image source – @handmade_apothecary

Did you know that nutty flavoured hawthorn makes a great anxiety-reducing tea, or that elderflower cordial can bring down a temperature? The Handmade Apothecary is bursting with traditional remedies and herbal lore. Follow

Medical herbalists Kim and Vicky as they share their wild-plant knowledge. “Our aim is to help others to re-establish a bond with nature and use plants and natural ingredients for health, home and self-care,” say the pair.  That self-care extends to foraging safety too. They’re careful to let you know to never consume a plant or mushroom from the wild unless you are 100% of its ID”. Wise words.

@wildflowerhour

Early marsh orchids can be found across Britain and Ireland
Image source – @wildflowerhour

“Feeling a bit grey and miserable? There really is no better antidote than flooding the internet with wildflowers every weekend,” says Wild Flower Hour. Join the hundreds of people who share photos of flowers found growing wild in Britain and Ireland every Sunday, using the eponymous hashtag: #wildflowerhour. With a weekly podcast and a bevy of experts eager to help with identification, this could soon become your new weekend ritual.

@fathenforager

Beautiful, edible chanterelle and amethyst deceiver foraged in Cornwall
Image source – @fathenforager

“Never take any chances with the carrot (apiaceae) family…..it’s not worth the risk. If you don’t know what it is don’t eat it,” warns Caroline Davey of Fat Hen wild cookery school. She is a master forager, leading wild food weekends and ‘forage, cook, feast’ days around the beautiful county of Cornwall. Follow her on Instagram for mouthwatering recipes like nettle pasta ravioli or hake wrapped in kelp, and for sound foraging advice – like what to do with late-season rock samphire.

@foragefinefoods

Delicious za’atar with marjoram, sumac and bergamot, foraged in Herefordshire
Image source – @foragefinefoods

Elderberry balsamic, hawberry ketchup and rose-petal preserve are just some of the delicacies foraged and produced by Liz Knight of Forage Fine Foods. Liz also teaches wild cookery courses and sells her own range of wild flavourings inspired by the countryside of rural Herefordshire. Follow her on Instagram for tips like adding ladysmock into apple cider vinegar or cooking lavender leaves with peas.

@totallywilduk

Turkey-tails mushroom make a good natural chewing gum
Image source – @totallywilduk

Immune-boosting turkey-tails mushroom can be turned into a delicious broth or a forager’s chewing gum, says James Wood of  the UK’s only Ofqual accredited foragers, Totally Wild UK. James has spent years developing his knowledge of all things wild and runs foraging and cooking courses in the North of England.

If you fancy tapping (and cooking with) birch sap, distilling troublesome knotweed into a tasty jam, or eating roasted dandelion roots, this is the Instagram account to follow. And if you want to dig even deeper, check out James’ book, The Forager’s Cookbook.

@the_wild_room

Salty fingers – a delicious Cornish succulent
Image source – @the_wild_room

Steer clear of wild chervil unless you’re a seasoned forager, advises Mike de Stroumillo of The Wild Room: “This charming wild herb is ubiquitous but has a handful of dodgy lookalikes”. Mike (AKA Mushroom Mike) is an expert forager and supplier of fungi and other rare treats to fine-dining restaurants. His Instagram account will introduce you to delicacies such as bearded milk-mushrooms, pine-needle tea, and salty fingers.

@foragerltd

 

Garlic-fried toothed wrack with roast squash and black pudding
Image source – @foragerltd

“The forager’s eyes are always open,” says Miles Irving of @foragerltd. When it comes to sourcing the tastiest wild ingredients, these guys are true pros, exercising their expert eyes for a number of high-end restaurants. Follow Forager for exotic wild-food recipes including: forager soup – made with sargassum stock, three cornered garlic and lacto-fermented ramsons – and garlic-fried toothed wrack

@edulis_wildfood

Goodies collected on one of Lisa’s foraging courses
Image source – @edulis_wildfood

A super-low tide means only one thing to Lisa Cutcliffe of Edulis Wild Food: “time to go spooting!!” Spoots, or razor clams are only accessible at these precious times of the year. Lisa has been foraging since childhood and now describes herself as a wild-food foraging tutor and “all-round mushroom nut”. Follow her Insta for such treats as truffle-honey vodka, foraged toffee apples, and aelder and stout chocolate cake.

With spring almost in the air, now’s the time to dig out your walking boots and get foraging with the best of them. If you know of any wild plant Instagram accounts we should follow, please let us know via our Facebook page or Instagram account.

10 green-fingered allotmenteers on Instagram

For these amazing allotmenteers, it’s a way of life…
Image: Shutterstock

Are you a proud allotment cultivator? Or do you have your name down on the waiting list? If you’d like to learn a little more about how to get the most from your plot, these allotment Instagrammers are a green-fingered bunch whose photo journals are guaranteed to delight, educate and inspire.

Little_Leicester_Lottie

Homegrown tomatoes ready to be sun dried
Image: Little_Leicester_Lottie

About 3 hours on gas mark one should just about roast your tomatoes for long enough to make Lesley’s fab garlic and herb sun-dried tomatoes. A former teacher, wedding planner and allotmenteer par excellence, Lesley’s growing adventures are worth following – check out her highly original melon holders – the ideal support for swelling fruit.

My_little_lotty

February snowdrops
Image: My_little_lotty

Looking for some bumble bee-friendly plantings for your garden or allotment this season? My_little_lotty’s borage is a good bet – and you don’t necessarily need a greenhouse to bring it on. This instagrammer says her seedlings are doing well in the spare room. Looking for a longer read? Don’t forget to check out My_little_lotty’s allotment blog.

Annas_goodlife

Anna’s allotment companions
Image: Annas_goodlife

How do you get a sickly hedgehog to uncurl? Find out how Anna nursed her underweight garden visitor back to rude health with her blow-by-blow pictorial account of “Hogatha’s” treatment. One Lhasa Apso dog, three hens, four quail, and an allotment combine to make up Anna’s little corner of the good life, not to mention the bees, who for reasons unknown, seem to have made their home under their hive.

The crochet gardener

Isabel’s garden looking its best in June
Image: The crochet gardener

What do you do when you’ve got to say goodbye to your allotment? Easy – Isabel, aka, “The crochet gardener” is simply boxing up all her favourite plants and taking them with her as she makes the move from Wigan to Wales. When she’s not busy in the garden or allotment, this greenfingered seamstress is creating unique allotment-inspired crochet pieces – you’ll love the one with the rhubarb.

Wellies and wheelbarrows

A winter harvest to brings some colour to a grey day
Image: Wellies and wheelbarrows

“Does anyone else struggle with weeds around/under raspberries” asks Emily of Wellies and Wheelbarrows? From adding wood chips to leaving the mess to do its own thing, you’ll find some great solutions here. And when she’s not in the allotment, Emily’s a dab hand in the kitchen too – check out her delicious looking rosemary and lemon shortbread – the perfect pick-me-up for the weary gardener. Enjoy with a well-earned cuppa.

The veggie chronicles uk

This year, the veggie chronicles will have a chili flavour
Image: The veggie chronicles uk

Crop rotation helps keep your soil in fine fettle – which is why the veggie chronicler has come up with a scheme for one of her plots. She says I find it helps me to plan what seeds i need to sow and check my seed stash as we draw nearer to spring.” Some good ideas here to keep you interested – like her Growlight garden which is all set for bringing on her precious chilli seedlings.

Shropshire gardener

A carrot with “crossed legs”
Image: Shropshire gardener

Want to help keep the birds fed during the winter months? Save your summer flowerheads, says the Shropshire gardener – it’s a cost-effective and attractive way to look after garden birds, plus keeping some seeds aside guarantees you’ll have plenty of blooms in your borders next year too. A lovely mix of fruit, flowers and veggies, there’s something for everyone here.

Allotment_23

“Enjoying every moment of harvests like these” says the holder of Allotment_23
Image: Allotment_23

Looking for some recipe ideas for your home-grown carrots? This instagrammer enjoys hers roasted with chicken thighs in paprika and cumin”, along with some cabbage and peas she grew earlier and put in the freezer. As-well-as plenty of harvest pics to inspire, you’ll find some excellent recipe ideas here – like this roasted treat inspired by none-other-than the Hairy Bikers – a pumpkin tray bake to die for.

Plot_37

This Instagrammer hopes the frost stays away
Image: Plot_37

“There were actual “ooohs” when we unearthed it this morning,” says the owner of Plot 37. She’s talking about the rather marvellous parsnip she dug up. She says she’s more pleased than is reasonable, but it looks pretty big to us. An allotmenteer from SW London, here’s proof that you can grow your own even in the big smoke – the hens recently began laying again too. Well-fed, they pounce whenever there’s digging happening.

Greedy_gardens

One gardener who talks the “torc”, and wears it too
Image: Greedy_gardens

Pretty cool glass gems are coming good now. I may have a go at making popcorn for the chidlers!” says dad of two, Dave Graney. We’d say his multi-coloured maize is “amazing”. To say Dave’s allotment is productive is an understatement to put it mildly. Check out his incredible haul of squashes – they’re so big and bountiful, his boy has to move them by JCB!

Is there a fab allotment Instagram account we’ve missed? Tell us where to look by visiting our Instagram or Facebook page and leaving us a message.

6 inspiring garden blogs

inspiring gardens

Some gardens are made to inspire – and here are some inspiring garden blogs
Image: shutterstock

Some gardens and gardening blogs are just too good to not to share, which is why we’ve scoured the web to bring you a bunch of superb blogs that showcase some really special gardens and truly dedicated garden owners and keepers. From the Sussex Weald to craggy Cumbria, here are eight extraordinary garden blogs.

The anxious gardener

anxious gardener tulip tree

The tulip tree in spectacular autumn display
Image: The anxious gardener

Here’s your chance for sneaky peek at not one, but two five-acre plus private gardens – one in the South Downs National Park, the other in the Sussex Weald. This charming and well-written blog is gardener David’s way of bringing these enchanting but rather secluded spaces to a wider audience.

You’ll love David’s post about the tulip tree, which having been planted too close to the house in Sussex, presents a pain in the proverbial for the man tasked with clearing the gutters. But every autumn, this large, but unremarkable tree has a chance to shine – and with his wonderful photography, David does his subject full justice.

Growing family

growing family gardening

Make every minute in the garden count
Image: Growing family

Time starved? From lifting your patio containers to prevent winter water-logging, to a reminder to deadhead your summer flowers, blogger Catherine’s 10 minute gardener  series gives you quick, manageable jobs to help you keep on top of your garden when life’s hectic and crazy.

An account of her gardening life which revolves around growing her family as well as her plants, you’ll love reading about Catherine and co’s latest ventures in and out of the garden. From what to look for when choosing outdoor clothing for kids, to family-friendly holiday activities, there’s something for everyone here.

The middle sized garden

middle sized garden

The magic of an overgrown garden
Image: The middle sized garden

“A middle-sized garden doesn’t usually have a drive, and vistas and views tend to be of next door’s garage,” says gardener, author, blogging expert and writing coach, Alexandra Campbell. But that doesn’t mean a middling-sized patch can’t be something special – which is the raison d’etre of this fun, friendly, info-packed blog.

Renovating a garden, and wondering whether to bulldoze the lot? Don’t says Alexandra: There’s a “magic about it that a brand new garden can never hope to achieve.” Take a look at architect, Tom Croft’s extraordinary garden renovation – we guarantee inspiration awaits.

Dinchope diary

dinchope windfall for birds

Leave some of your windfall fruit for the birds
Image: Dinchope

Want to bring more wildlife to your garden but don’t know quite where to start? Let Jenny Steel be your guide. A plant ecologist and author with over 30 years experience as a wildlife gardener, she certainly knows how to make your garden a hotspot for birds and other wildlife.

About thirty percent of us put out seed and peanut mixes to help keep the birds fed during the winter, but do remember give your feeders and bird tables a clean from time to time, Jenny says. “There are several bacterial and viral diseases that affect our birds and these can be passed from one to another in their droppings or by close contact.”

DIY garden

diy garden butterflies

Grow the right plants and the butterflies will come
Image: DIY garden

Help save the butterflies, says Clive Harris – “Gardener, blogger, outdoor enthusiast, husband, dad, and all the rest!” That’s because three quarters of British butterfly species and a quarter of moths have declined over the last 40 years.

Help by growing butterfly-friendly plants, like nettles, bird’s-foot trefoil, nasturtium, garlic mustard, ladies smock, long coarse grasses, oak, elm, holly, and ivy, says Clive. And that’s just for starters – checkout his post for a wealth of information about the lives of our fluttery friends. DIY garden does exactly what it says on the tin – everything you need to help your garden grow.

Growing nicely

borage growing nicely

Jill looks forward to enjoying her Pimms with a sprig of borage in it
Image: Growing nicely

New to gardening and wondering how to harden off your seedlings for planting out? Find an area of dappled shade, says blogger Jill, and, on an overcast day, put your young plants out for a couple of hours before bringing them back inside. Repeat over the next two weeks, gradually extending the outdoor time until the plants adapt to life in the garden.

Blogger Jill is a professional gardener, garden designer, and instructor, and now creates this wonderfully informative blog which showcases her garden, and gardening adventures, from garden visits to how to grow food for the plate. You’ll love her recipe for elderflower cordial.

Have we missed any fab gardening blogs you love to follow? Do let us know what we’re missing by popping over to our Facebook page and leaving us a message.

From Rake To Bake – Leek Muffins

Welcome to February’s Baking Blog. Each month will feature an in-season fruit or vegetable dish to make with a little bit of grow-your-own information on the side.

February is perfect for making Leek Muffins.

Have you ever wondered why Welsh fans carry inflatable leeks to Rugby or Football matches? Legend says Cadwaladr a 7th century King of Gwynedd once ordered his men to wear one into battle for identification purposes. But this tasty veg, is more versatile than identifying troops, rich in antioxidants Leeks are packed with vitamin K, manganese, vitamin B6, copper, iron, folate and vitamin C, as well as vitamin A vitamin E, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. Leeks may be perfect for roasting, souping and frying, but they make surprisingly good cakes too.

Prep Time 5 -10 minutes . Oven Temp 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Cooking Time 25-30 minutes

Skills Level Easy Peasy.***

Utensils.

  • Measuring Scales.
  • Measuring Spoons.
  • Wooden or silicon spoon.
  • Measuring Jug.
  • Cheese Grater.
  • Fork.
  • Vegetable Knife.Leek muffins - ingredients
  • Sieve.
  • Mixing Bowl.
  • Bun Tray.
  • Paper or silicon cases.
  • Cooling Rack.

Ingredients.

  • 1 Leek.
  • 1 Egg.
  • 175g of Plain Flour.
  • 1 Teaspoon of Baking Powder.
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda.
  • 100ml of Olive or vegetable oil.
  • 50ml of Milk.
  • 75g Cheddar Cheese.
  • 2 -3 Teaspoons of Mixed Herbs.
  • 1 -3 Teaspoon of Black Pepper.
  • 1-3 Teaspoons of Turmeric.

Method.

  • Preheat the oven.Leek muffins - preparation
  • Grate the cheese.
  • Line a bun tray with paper/silicone cases.
  • Wash the Leek throughly to remove any soil from between the leaves then slice into thin circles, then slice these into thirds.
  • Measure out the flour, baking powder, herbs and spices in the mix together in a bowl, then turn gently with a wooden/silicon spoon. (Note salt can be used if desired.)
  • Pour the measured milk into a glass and beat the egg into it with the fork.
  • Make a well in the flour add the milky eggs and required amount of oil.
  • Quickly blend together for one minute.
  • Next add the leeks and cheese. Continue stirring for two minutes until the mixture is of a stiff consistency.
  • Use a filled teaspoon to drop the mixture into the cases.
  • Place on middle shelf and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  • Cool on a wire rack before serving.

 leek muffins - baked and cooling

Serving Suggestions.

leek muffin - ready to eat!Go Welsh and serve with a bowl of Cawl.

Go Oriental and dip in a bowl of sweet chilli sauce or mango chutney.

Freeze for the summer and enjoy with an egg fried in plum tomatoes for lunch.

Grow Your Own.

Leeks are hungry plants, so add plenty of well rotted manure to your plot, or alternatively grow them in a deep container with fresh compost, adding a feed of Incredigrow. Start the seeds in late February or through March and April either in a single seed in cellular trays outdoors or direct in your soil. From May to July the plants can then be transferred to their final growing positions. To have a more blanched stem it is necessary to fork the soil around the stems as they grow, being careful not to get it between the leaves. Beware of the leek moth and leek rust – for more information on this you can always visit The RHS online guide How to grow Leeks.

*** Easy Peasy – Basic techniques/Suitable for Children with adult supervision/help.

Treat as Tender – Intermediate Skills required/Children may need more help with this.

Seasoned Kitchen Gardener – Confident Baker/Children might not be suited to this.

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.

Driftwood Garden’s Geoff Stonebanks’ trip to the Palace

Geoff Stonebanks attends Macmillan Cancer Support Volunteers Reception at Buckingham Palace, Hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales

Macmillan Cancer Support’s Patron, HRH The Prince of Wales hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace on 31 January. The event recognised and thanked exceptional volunteers for their life-changing contributions to helping people living with cancer.

The reception focused on the contribution these supporters have made, and celebrated the vital role volunteers play at Macmillan. One of our long serving customer trial members from Seaford, Geoff Stonebanks, was extremely lucky to be one of those invited to attend this prestigious event. Geoff is a local gardener and active fundraiser for the charity through his Driftwood Fundraising Group.  Macmillan said that all of those who attended had gone above and beyond their volunteer role.

Geoff raises money for The Macmillan Horizon Centre, over £54000 to date, through events in his own garden, Driftwood, and by single-handedly organising an annual Macmillan Coastal Garden Trail of approximately 25 gardens each year between Brighton and Seaford.

Geoff recounts how he brought the smile to The Prince’s face by telling him of a trick he had picked up for his own garden after a visit to Highgrove a couple of years ago. The Prince has some large urns at the back of the house which were looking a little faded and tired. As Geoff watched on, a couple of gardeners came up with a tractor and trailer loaded with pots of perfectly primed tulips, just about to burst into flower! They lifted out the tired, inner container from the urn and replaced it with one of tulips. Instant impact! This principle is something that Geoff now adopts, not on such a grand scale, in his own award-winning garden each season, where he has over 200 different containers. The Prince smiled.

Image by Paul Burns Photography, Courtesy of Clarence House

Geoff said:

This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and so totally unexpected. Never ever did I imagine I would visit Buckingham Palace and engage in conversation on one of my favourite pastimes with The Prince of Wales, utterly magical! Thank you, Macmillan!”

Image by Paul Burns Photography, Courtesy of Clarence House

The royal connection does not end there though! Geoff was dumbstruck in January to receive an invitation to The Queen’s Royal Garden Party, also at Buckingham Palace, in June, for his services to the local community in Seaford, where he lives.

You can see Geoff’s own garden and discuss with him the tips he pinched from Highgrove when it opens 8 times for various charities this Summer. You can also see and discuss the plants he will be trialling for Thompson & Morgan too!  www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk

Graham Ward

I’ve been gardening for as long as I can remember, my first earliest memory being planting seeds in my Grandfather’s prestige flower bed and having a prize lettuce growing there, which he proudly left to show everyone.

Since then, gaining knowledge and experience from both my Grandfather and my Father, I’ve continued to garden, both as a hobby and later on as a professional gardener and landscaper for 12 years. I love all aspects of it, from the design and build, to the planting out of summer borders with plants you’ve either grown from seed or raised from plugs. Unusual varieties always catch my eye and I’m keen to try growing them, even if sometimes it means learning from my mistakes.

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