Are you stepping out of your comfort zone this year to try something new?
Image source: Tom Gowanlock
Are you looking for fresh inspiration? It’s easy to get stuck in the trap of repeating successful plants, flowers and crops year after year, rather than trying new things.
We caught up with a few gardening bloggers to see what they’re trying differently this summer. And as there’s nothing quite like learning from mistakes, we’ll catch up with them later in the year to find out how things went! In the meantime, check out these pioneering ideas to see if anything takes your fancy…
Know your onions
Mark of Mark’s Veg Plot is test-planting onions in bunches of half a dozen, rather than planting them individually, which is what he’s been doing up until now. The advantages? A saving of space, and no fiddly pricking out – but at the potential cost of smaller veg, as they don’t have quite as much room to spread out.
To be properly scientific, Mark’s also growing individual onions so he can compare results. He’s testing out the Ailsa Craig variety, which often grow into large, globe-shaped bulbs, so it’ll be interesting to see how they fare when planted so closely. We’ll find out later in the year!
Starting from scratch
Having moved house in 2018, Ronnie’s starting from scratch, and shifting her gardening habits to an allotment plot. It’s early days yet, but this Hurtled to 60 blogger has already established a cottage garden with a small wildlife pond, and is currently inundated with dahlia and sweet pea seedlings!
Determined to cultivate some food as well, she’s decided to set up ‘Christmas lunch beds’, where parsnips, carrots, beans, peas and more are growing. We look forward to catching up with her closer to the time to see how her festive feast shapes up.
Flowers and feasts
Sally of Sally’s Garden Blog is always looking for new ideas, and her focus for the next season is very clear:
“I will be growing as much food [as I can] for my family and visiting wildlife this year.”
So root-bound fruit trees in pots have been finally planted out, and an old, plastic fish container is now home to dill, chives and marjoram – all perfect for a fish dish!
Much of Sally’s outside space consists of containers in a paved yard, which she moves around for variety. If you’re a container lover, take a tip from her and reorganise the space regularly. One new idea she’s kept from last year, though, is to grow Dahlia ‘Black Beauty’ again – there’s no point changing something you love simply for change’s sake!
Chickpeas and competitions
Richard at The Veg Grower Podcast is up for a challenge – and this year, it’s chickpeas! So far, the seeds have germinated, and are “growing into some rather attractive plants” – so he’s got his fingers crossed they’ll soon become something edible.
He’s also entered into a competition with fellow bloggers, Lee, Kirsty and Lucy. The rules are simple. They each have a vegepod, and all have to grow the same plants. The winner will be the gardener who manages to produce the most food – so it’s all down to growing techniques. We’re intrigued to find out what works best.
Are you feeling competitive? Perhaps your local gardening club has something beyond prize marrows to wager your green fingered reputation on…
A word to the wilds
Nic at Dogwooddays has a new mission on her to-do list this year:
“…adding holes in the fences and a gate for hedgehogs…”
She’s also installed a selection of nest boxes around her garden to help a range of bird species find a good home.
The commitment to supporting wildlife doesn’t end there. She and her family are developing a wildflower area, along with a pond, and log piles for insects to inhabit. They’re even planting brassicas just for the large white, small white and green-veined white butterflies!
Having made the commitment to accommodate as much wildlife as possible, they’ll be surveying the biodiversity in the garden later this year to try and measure the success. You can follow their highs and lows on Nic’s blog, and we look forward to hearing her tips once they’ve had a chance to get everything up and running.
Are you trying something new in your garden or veg plot this year? Drop us a line to let us know at email@example.com or pop over to our Facebook page.
Get inspiration in the garden with these eight horticultural podcasts
Gardening podcasts are a fabulous source of horticultural entertainment and inspiration. They make perfect rainy-day listening and can also get you through the most mundane of gardening tasks.
So pop in your headphones and join us as we visit eight of the best gardening podcasts around.
Cotswold-based horticulturalist Joff Elphick has worked in some of the country’s finest gardens, including Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Barnsley House, and Sir Chris Evans’ private estate. He’s also the host of the popular Pot and Cloche podcast.
Joff speaks to authors, head gardeners and “other interesting horty types” about all things gardening. The subject mix is eclectic – with Pam Ayres talking hedgehogs, Tomorrow’s World’s Judith Hann on herbs, and writer Stephen Anderton on nymphs, fauns and wenches.
Charlotte Petts is an engaging speaker with a talent for getting the most from her interviewees. Her award-winning podcast, Growing Wild, showcases the benefits of connecting with nature – covering community gardening, wild food and foraging, to wild swimming and outdoor adventure.
Learn everything you need to know about soil health and improvement, alongside an expert panel comprising Liz Bowles, Soil Association; Lucy Nixon, Brighton composter, and Jackie Stroud, Rothamsted Research. “You need more paper than you’d think to produce a good compost,” remarks Nixon. Tune into this monthly podcast for more nuggets like this.
“Do you want to reduce your impact on the planet but you’re just not sure where to start?” asks Sustainable(ish) podcaster Jen Gale. This podcast features chats with sustainable-living heroes about the small, achievable changes we can all make to look after our planet.
Jen created Sustainable(ish) for people who care about the environment but struggle to do anything about it. “It’s very easy to have all good intentions, and to WANT to do things differently, but when we’re busy and frazzled, those good intentions can all too easily fall by the wayside.” This podcast is the solution to that. Start with her 5(ish) Minute Guide to Creating New Sustainable Habits.
“Some of the excitement in pruning apples is that’s it’s a job that has genuine potential for disaster,” says podcaster and horticulturist Ben Dark. In fact, says Ben, you can destroy an apple tree with poor pruning. With that in mind, The Garden Log’s guide to pruning your apple trees is essential listening. Be warned: there should be “no gratuitous cutting”.
This podcast started when gardener Ben Dark got the job of turning three good gardens into three amazing gardens. He decided to share the journey and this audio show is the result. Over 50 episodes later, The Gardening Log has become cherished listening for many. And given the quality content and Ben’s relaxing, mellow tones, it’s easy to see why.
How much do you really know about what’s in your garden manure? Podcaster Sarah Wilson talks with Matthew Appleby about vegan gardening on her Roots and All podcast. It’s a thought-provoking episode – did you know that animal muck can contain pesticides from the food they’ve been eating, plus viable pathogens from infected animals?
Roots and All began when Sarah, “had the niggling feeling that things could be done better to introduce people to horticulture.” A talented interviewer and gardener, there are some real delights here. Have a listen to Poisonous Plants with Dr Liz Dauncey. You’ll find out that the castor oil plant is one of the most deadly, but only if you chew the seeds.
You’d probably recognise Lee Connelly’s face from the TV. He was Blue Peter’s gardener for three years, built the kitchen garden for fellow Essex boy Jimmy Doherty of Jimmy’s Farm, and is the garden expert on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. He’s also the Skinny Jean Gardener behind his eponymous podcast.
Lee’s show has a relaxed (skinny-jean) vibe. Tune into his weekly podcast for expert interviews, live phone-ins and plenty of garden inspiration for adults and children.
If you like your podcasts low key, meditative and infused with the sounds of nature doing her thing, you’ll love Gardens, weeds & words. Listen as host Andrew O’Brien waxes lyrical about just enjoying your garden in its entirety “…you never get to enjoy your garden in all its fullness until you learn to stop…listen…stare at nothing in particular…and just be.” A wonderful reminder of the simple joy of just living in the moment.
Andrew describes his podcast as: “A blend of slow radio, gardening advice and conversation, and readings from the best garden and wildlife writing.” If you’re looking to embrace seasonal living, we’d recommend Andrew’s interview with Almanac, a seasonal guide to 2019 author, Lia Leendertz.
Fancy a quick stroll around Bodnant Garden in Conwy, Wales? If so, you’re in for a listening treat, courtesy of the National Trust Podcast. Bodnant was the creation of Henry Pochin, a renowned plant collector who favoured the Welsh estate for its mild microclimate and protected valley location. Take an audio tour from the comfort of your armchair as National Trust Head Gardener, Alan Power explores this high-Victorian formal garden.
The National Trust Podcast is a true gem – painting intimate audio portraits of some of the nation’s most treasured homes and gardens. It’s a wonderful archive you’ll want to revisit time after time.
We hope you’ve discovered some gardening podcasts that you’re itching to tune into. If you have any favourites that we have overlooked here, we’d love to hear about them. Share them on our Facebook page.
Thompson & Morgan’s little book of garden wisdom – ready to download now!
Imagine having a team of gardening experts by your side, whenever you need a little help. Imagine having their accumulated knowledge and experience at your fingertips. Well, that’s what we’re bringing you with “Thompson & Morgan’s little book of garden wisdom”.
Sixty of the UK’s leading gardening bloggers have shared their sage advice, innovative ideas and hard-learned lessons in this free, downloadable book.
You’ll find helpful hints on growing the best fruit, veg and flowers, and expert advice on allotment growing, container growing and growing from seed.
There are sections on looking after your soil, your tools and the local wildlife, as well revolutionary ways to banish weeds from your garden for good.
We believe our little book of garden wisdom is a great resource for all gardeners and we hope you agree. Please download it, print a copy for your shed, share it with friends, and tell your allotment pals all about it. Help us spread this valuable wisdom to as many gardeners as possible.
We’d like to thank all our experts for taking the time to make the book possible. We know their generous contributions will help you get the most from your garden or allotment for years to come. And if you’d like to join the conversation, send us your own top tips through our Facebook page,Twitter or Instagram. Let’s continue to share our garden wisdom!
Gardening is a great bonding opportunity
Image source: Shutterstock
What better way to get your kids excited and interested in the garden than inviting them to get their hands dirty? To help you pique their interest in all things green-fingered we’ve ploughed the internet for some great ideas to get your kids outdoors and digging.
The Outdoor Dad
Oli and Sonny don’t let cold weather stand in the way of their adventures
Image source: The Outdoor Dad
Does your toddler love to copy your every move? Two-year-old Sonny has a great time helping his dad, Oli of The Outdoor Dad, brush leaves in the garden. Oli and Sonny also have an awesome time bug hunting, looking for birds’ nests and building dens.
An ambassador for getting muddy, first time dad Oli shares his passion for adventure in the garden and beyond. He says, ‘there’s so much to see in the big wide world that I want him to get started early.’ Check out his 101 outdoor activities for families, for ideas like building a compost heap or giving geocaching a try.
The Newhouse Family
Little ones chomping at the bit to get into the garden will love Gardening with Willow, the Youtube gardening show with the world’s youngest presenter. When your kids watch Willow harvest runner beans and plant mushrooms they’re bound to want to have a go too.
A journey ‘towards a greener, cheaper lifestyle,’ The Newhouse Family Blog details the family’s quest to turn their garden into a sustainable paradise. Even if you only have a patio or balcony, you can still teach your kids eco-friendly gardening. Check out this family-friendly guide to organic growing to find out how.
The Ladybird’s Adventures
Join Claire and her toddlers over on The Ladybird’s Adventures as they make bird feeders, butterfly biomes, and bug hotels in their back garden. Passionate about ‘learning through play and encouraging creativity,’ Claire also buys her kids their own mini tools, lets them choose their own seeds, and encourages them to keep a journal to track seedling growth.
Check out the rest of Claire’s tips and tricks for budding gardeners to encourage young children to engage with the garden. You’ll love the scavenger hunts she’s designed for you and your family to use.
Kids of the Wild
Pairs of outgrown wellies kicking around the house? Get your kids growing boot-loads of herbs by turning them into planters. That’s just one of Lucy of Kids of the Wild’s creative outdoor gardening activities – she and her daughter Caroline also show you how to grow a willow den, dig a pond, and create wildlife havens.
A go-to resource for all things wild, Lucy’s passion for the outdoors helps spread the message that nature is transformative – a lesson she learned when Caroline was battling cancer. As she says, you and your family will benefit from getting outdoors, ‘even if you think you don’t have time.’
Craig planned his garden with his little ones in mind
Image source: Rambling Dad
Craig has achieved the impossible and encouraged his little ones to try more vegetables. How, you ask? By showing them how to grow their own. Rambling Dad blogger says his kids ‘have a better understanding of where food comes from’ and are way more likely to eat sprouts if they sowed the seeds themselves.
Dedicated to breaking routines and making nature a bigger part of his family’s life, Craig has won awards for his 30 days Wild challenge. Follow his lead to make your whole garden child friendly, build a wormery, and squeeze in as many trips to local wild spots as possible.
Inspire Create Educate
Let your kids sow and grow their own plants from seed to harvest, says Lauren of Inspire Create Educate. That’s because there’s no better way of getting children to fall in love with gardening and the environment, than by putting them right at the heart of the growing cycle.
Green-living guru Lauren’s blog is a handbook for living sustainably with kids – and garden activities are key. Here you’ll find all you need to teach your little ones about ecosystems. Looking for something for impatient kids to do while they’re waiting for their seedlings to grow? Easy, Lauren says. Get them to dig a big muddy hole.
Even small hands can get to grips with garden tasks
Image source: Mummy Matters
Teach your kids to grow plants even when there’s no outside space by using Sabina at Mummy Matters’ guide to growing indoors. She proves you can turn those little fingers green even if you can’t access a garden, with tips on what thrives in tight spaces, and even without sunlight.
Find out how to grow veg, herbs, and make personalised pots with your kids’ names on, and more. And when sometimes enthusiasm just isn’t enough to get the little ones excited about gardening, why not get your kids to plant seedlings? As Sabina says, “they’ll grow much faster and the reward will come much sooner”.
Earth Based Fun
Kids love seeing things grow and it’s a great learning opportunity
Image source: Earth Based Fun
‘Gardening has amazing developmental benefits for children,’ says Vicky from Earth Based Fun – like helping to encourage healthy eating habits, develop maths skills and more.
Forestry school teacher-in-training Vicky used to work in the hotel trade, but these days, the only hotels you’ll see her running are for hedgehogs! Check out her blog for more outdoorsy ideas like how to build a DIY bird bath and going pond dipping.
We’re sure you can’t wait to pull your wellies on and get your little ones’ hands dirty in the garden. Let us know what inspires you to move playtime outdoors by heading over to our Facebook page and dropping us a line.
Gardening could be described as bending nature to our will. It’s the selection, planting, shaping, pruning, training, pollinating, pinching, grafting, thinning out and harvesting of plants to suit our requirements. But what happens above the ground is only the tip of the iceberg – half the story. How much more goes on beneath the earth that we never get to see?
In a recent study, a team at the University of Nottingham were curious to find out. Using cutting-edge imaging techniques (and a pile of seeds from Thompson & Morgan) they investigated a variety of plant roots without having to dig them up. The results are out of this world!
For the first time, these X-ray CT images showcase the diversity and complexity of plant root systems in their undisturbed soil environment. What no-one was expecting, is just how strikingly beautiful these images of everyday plants, vegetables and flowers actually are.
Why study plant roots?
Producing safe, nutritious food to feed the world’s growing population is a huge challenge for the future. We need to develop new, resilient crops, and do do that, we need better knowledge.
When we properly understand how plants grow, and have identified how specific features (e.g. root depth, thickness, angle or number of lateral roots) can be improved, this knowledge can be applied to allow more efficient food production. Particularly in regions with limited water or nutrient supply.
Finding out what happens beneath the soil could help eliminate hunger and famine around the globe. But in the quest for scientific breakthrough, it’s the beauty and resilience of nature that has been revealed in these never-before seen images – the secret life of plants.
Check out the full directory of images of plant root systems at The Hidden Half website, and follow their Twitter feed at @UoNHiddenHalf to get updates on their work. But for now, just scroll down and enjoy some of the incredible pictures the boffins have shared with us.