Looking for something new to try in your garden next year?
Image: Shelli Jensen
This spring, we asked five of our favourite garden bloggers if they were planning anything new and exciting over the summer. Their responses varied from experiments with onions to enticing a hedgehog into their garden, and more.
Now it’s autumn, we’re intrigued to see how they got on. If you’re hunting for new ideas for your garden, there’s plenty of hindsight here to help you get it right first time. You may even be inspired to run your own controlled experiment next year…
Bunches of onions
Planting in bunches saves space but produces a slightly smaller onion
Image: Mark’s Veg Plot
“This year,” says Mark of Mark’s Veg Plot, “I planted onions two ways…”
- 30 sets were planted individually
- Other sets were planted in clumps, each containing 6 – 7 onions
He used the Ailsa Craig variety for both planting methods to see which yielded the best result. None of the onions got off to a great start, Mark says, but once the weather finally improved at the beginning of June, they soon got going. As expected, the clumped onions produced smaller veg but, according to Mark, the overall yield was about the same.
So – pleased or not? It turns out Mark is very satisfied with the outcome of his experiment: “We like to have onions of lots of different sizes for use in our kitchen. The small ones are particularly attractive since you seldom see ones like this in the shops.”
Sally finally has a hedgehog!
Image: Anney P
This summer “I will be growing as much food as I can for my family and visiting wildlife,” said Sally of Sally’s Garden Blog. So how did she do?
“I’ve been really quite happy with the amount of veg I’ve produced…I love eating salad with a meal, so [I grew] lots of fast cropping salads, and quite a lot of coriander.” Then there’s the basil and spinach plus six different types of tomatoes this year… According to Sally the tomatoes have been slow to ripen, but it’s great that she hasn’t had to buy any for over a month now. And you must try Sally’s favourite breakfast tip – toast, marmite and sliced tomato…
All in all a good summer for produce then; but how did things go on the wildlife nurturing front? Sally says:
“Our garden has literally been full of bees, moths, butterflies, birds and we finally have a hedgehog! We have had a lot of fledgling robins, sparrows and bluetits in the garden… it is joyous just sitting and listening to them all.”
For Sally the highlights of the summer were her crunchy Trombamico courgettes, and her Black Beauty Dahlias – her favourite plant. “I truly think it is the most beautiful flower I have ever grown. It is so simple in its form, and dainty, and the colour of the petals when they first come out is really almost black.”
Nic is aiming to attract house sparrows – a red-list species of high conservation concern
“Adding holes in the fences and a gate for hedgehogs,” was how Nic at Dogwooddays hoped to encourage some of these special creatures to take up residence on her patch. Sadly, despite her best efforts, none have turned up to fill the vacancy yet – a bit of a tragedy given how close to extinction our prickly friends are, here in the UK.**
Things weren’t all bad though, with Nic recording success on the bird front with blue tits nesting in one bird box and and white-tailed bumblebees taking over the sparrow box. Despite a blackbird nesting in the honeysuckle, Nic says, “the sparrows haven’t nested in the terraces yet, but it’s early days and they have started to visit the garden regularly.”
If you’d like to encourage wildlife to your garden, the key, she says, is to let parts of your plot go wild: “leave bushes overgrown for nesting birds, plant climbers as habitat for invertebrates and birds, leave piles of grass, leaves, logs and stones for the hedgehogs, and ensure that creatures can get in and out of the garden.”
Bird boxes, hedgehog houses and bird feeders are all fine ways to attract wild creatures, but as Nic explains – good natural habitats for wildlife are just as important.
** Nic has just reported some good news on the hedgehog front! They’ve found hedgehog droppings on the path and outside their back door so they’re investing in a trail cam to keep an eye on these most welcome nocturnal visitors. The holes in the fences have clearly worked. We’re delighted to hear it!
Richard found his poorest, driest soil was most successful for chickpeas
Image: Jose Luis Vega
What’s the best place to grow chickpeas? Richard at The Veg Grower Podcast tried several locations:
- One plant went into good soil in his home greenhouse – it died.
- Two plants went into heavy clay at his allotment – one died and one survived.
- Two plants went into his allotment greenhouse where the soil is poor and rather dry – these survived and prospered.
This year, Richard harvested about 100g of dried chickpeas, but next year he plans to plant a lot more saying, “Overall I found these plants to be quite attractive, growing to about 2 foot high with a fern like appearance. Very easy to look after, just a little bit of watering as they seem to like dry conditions.”
If chickpeas were a mixed bag, Richard’s vegpod was a great success. He says there was no weeding required and the built-in reservoir made watering a cinch. “What this means is that we have not had to buy in any salads at all this year as it’s all been grown in the pod.”
The ‘three sisters’ method for sweetcorn, runner beans and pumpkin is a work in progress
Image: Hurtled to 60
Over at the excellent gardening blog, Hurtled to 60, Ronnie’s plan was to set up the makings of a festive feast in a special ‘Christmas lunch bed’. So how did this work out? “My ‘Christmas Lunch’ bed idea was a little ambitious with the veg peaking too soon…” says Ronnie. Unfortunately the parsnips, a vital part of any Christmas dinner, failed completely. Planting them along with radishes didn’t work. Although it produced excellent radishes, there were no parsnips at all.
What other lessons did Ronnie learn this summer? She also tried the ‘three sisters’ planting method for pumpkins, runner beans and sweet corn. She didn’t quite get it right this year, but she’ll let the sweetcorn get better established next time, before planting the beans.
That said, she chalked up some fantastic successes in other parts of the garden. Her ‘no-dig’ potatoes – International Kidney (Jersey Royal) and Charlotte – tasted fabulous. Her garden peas proved another hit with the heritage ‘Champion of England’ variety providing an excellent harvest.
But the real star of the allotment for Ronnie, this summer, were flowers. Including roses, gaura, salvias, larkspur, day lilies and cosmos, Ronnie says her bed “has drawn a lot of admiring comments and is somewhere to sit with a cup of coffee between doing a spot of gardening.” With such a lovely place to relax and ponder, no wonder Ronnie is already full of plans for next year – including merging her narrow beds into larger, more productive ones.
It’s great to see our favourite green fingered gardening writers and broadcasters prospering in their patches and we’d like to thank them all for taking the time to update us on their progress. If you’ve got a favourite gardening or allotment blog you’d like us to feature, why not drop us a line? We’d love to hear from you.
You can win T&M’s beautiful ‘Urban Jungle’ house plant collection
Image: Thompson & Morgan
It’s competition time, and we’re giving away two prizes of our ‘Urban Jungle’ house plant collection, which consists of four beautiful plants:
- Calathea orbifolia – This Bolivian native has elegant silver and green stripes on gorgeous rounded leaves, creating a textural, corrugated appearance.
- Monstera deliciosa – Instantly recognisable, the ‘Swiss Cheese’ plant has lustrous, heart-shaped leaves. This climber plant is happiest trained onto a moss pole.
- Ficus elastica ‘Robusta’ – The rubber plant’s large, dark green leaves are beautifully glossy, with paler undersides. Over time, this plant will form a stunning indoor tree.
- Chlorophytum comosum ‘Variegatum’ – The soft structural leaves of the spider plant brighten up any room, and help to keep air clean.
Take part in our Rafflecopter competition below by entering your email address to subscribe to the T&M mailing list, and let us know your favourite house plant (it doesn’t need to be one of these). You’ll also have the chance to share the competition for more entries.
We’ll choose two winners at random and announce them on Monday 30th September. The closing date is midnight on Sunday 29th September.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
These plants are ideal for any home, and will brighten and freshen your rooms – so get your entries in, and good luck!
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!