10 bloggers who review gorgeous gardens to visit

English garden in full bloom

Spend your time in some of the nation’s best gardens
Image: Yolanta

Did you know that the gardens at Chatsworth are being transformed? Have you always wanted to immerse yourself in the jungle at The Lost Gardens of Heligan? Visiting gardens is something of a national occupation for us Brits. And with good reason, because here in the UK we have some of the most beautiful stately homes, gardens, and parks to be found anywhere. To give you a taste of the best of the best gardens, here we present our pick of bloggers who review gorgeous gardens – enjoy. 

Susan Rushton

The Dorothy Clive Garden with a laburnum arch

Magical – the Dorothy Clive Garden’s laburnum arch in all its glory
Image: Susan Rushton

A laburnum arch in full flower? You’ll have to time your visit just right if you want to see the one at the Dorothy Clive Garden in Shropshire. Garden, nature, and photography enthusiast, Susan Rushton just missed it in 2015, but saw it in all its glory this year – and has this beautiful photograph to prove it.

Think rhododendrons are a little too showy? Check out Susan’s incredible photography – she used to think so, but not any more. Her visit to this atmospheric garden proved to her that: “rhodis can be as ethereally lovely as any plant you’ll find in a shady spot.

The Green Fingered Blog

Abbey House Garden – clever use of planting makes the most of the ruin
Image: The Green Fingered Blog

‘Borrowing the landscape’ is a well known garden design trick, but they way it’s done here is cleverer than most.” So says Paul at The Green Fingered Blog. His visit to Abbey House Gardens in Malmesbury in Wiltshire just goes to prove how visiting professionally designed gardens can help provide the inspiration you need to get the most out of your garden at home.

At Abbey House, it’s the planting that leads the eye to the Abbey ruins next door that has Paul excited. And then there’s the use of focal points and the curve of the lawn. We can’t all live next door to a spectacular ancient ruin, but we can benefit from this blogger’s beautifully considered Abbey House Gardens masterclass.

Pumpkin Beth

The Victoria Garden, Farnham
Photo © David960 (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Isn’t a peaceful retreat at the heart of a busy town centre, exactly what every shopper needs? In Farnham – there is just such a place. The Farnham Swimming Baths Trust is a charitable organisation that has created a truly magical garden from the town’s derelict Victorian outdoor swimming pool.

With mosaic hopscotch for the children, and for the adults, rose-covered arches and sculptures to enjoy – there really is something for everyone at the Victoria Garden. As for Pumpkin Beth – a self-confessed “gardening evangelist”, she grows the best organic pumpkins around!

Haarkon

Lost Gardens of Heligan from Haarkon

The nearest you’ll get to a jungle in the UK – the Lost Gardens of Heligan
Image: Haarkon

It’s probably one of the most romantic names for a garden imaginable – The Lost Gardens of Heligan – in deepest, darkest Cornwall. They’re actually not that lost, according to India and Magnus of Haarkon – in fact they’re very much found. All the same, expect to discover “the closest we’ve been to an outdoor jungle in this country”.

Haarkon is all about celebrating “people, processes and the often-overlooked details of life”, and the result is a completely unique blog experience which features some truly incredible photography from all around the world. Thinking of making the trip to Cornwall’s most famous lost garden? Find out what lies in store right here.

Garden Visit

Visit Sandy Lodge to discover how to make your garden more bird-friendly
Image: E Gatehouse

Take a stroll around a wildlife garden in the heart of Bedfordshire. The grounds of Sandy Lodge, the home of the RSPB, take the concept of bird-friendly to a level you won’t find elsewhere, and so they’re well worth a visit for anyone interested in tempting bird life to their patch.

Garden Visit is a superb resource for anyone interested in exploring UK gardens and parks – and has plenty of information about far flung botanical treats too. A site where you’ll find concise reviews along with opening times and directions, Garden Visit is a must for gardeners everywhere.

The Frustrated Gardener

Visit Cornwall’s Morrab Gardens to see sub-tropical plants flourish!
Image: Giz Edwards

Walking towards Morrab House one passes through a damp glade filled with enormous tree ferns,” says The Frustrated Gardener, Dan. Morrab Public Gardens in Penzance are testament to the Victorians’ obsession with collecting, there being a sizeable ensemble of sub-tropical plants gifted by some of Cornwall’s most famous plant collectors.

Well worth a look if coastal gardening is your yen – Dan himself gardens a seaside plot in Broadstairs, Kent, and his own efforts are well worth a look. The highlight of Dan’s visit to Morrab? “Succulents, including the mighty Agave Americana, opuntias, aloes and aeoniums.

The Chatty Gardener

Chatsworth House from The Chatty Gardener

Chatsworth in all its glory as the transformation of the gardens begin
Image: The Chatty Gardener 

Get the lowdown on the Chatsworth House transformation. It’s a work in progress says The Chatty Gardener, Mandy, but you can already catch a glimpse of how it’s going to look when complete. These alterations will be the “biggest since changes by Joseph Paxton more than 200 years ago.”

Exciting times – the developments at the great Derbyshire estate are well worth discovering for yourself. Four new glades and a bog garden are just two of the planned works, says Mandy, a dedicated gardener and 2018 PPA Garden Journalist of the Year.

Kevin Gelder

The stunning hot border at Renishaw
Image: Kevin Gelder

Looking for inspiration for your summer herbaceous borders? Take a turn around the gardens of Derbyshire’s Renishaw House with gardener, blogger, and writer, Kevin Gelder. Full of pinks, purples and blues, the Renishaw borders are “almost overwhelmingly beautiful”, crescendoing from the lawn-edge planting to the yew hedges behind.

You’ll also find a sparkling “white garden”, as well as a perfectly stunning hot border featuring nasturtiums, white buddlejas, roses and clematis. And before you leave, Kevin says, do stop to admire the statuesque lilies which, planted alongside roses, are a scent sensation not to be missed.

Carrots and Calendula

Ruined Nymans in its autumn splendour
Image: Carrots and Calendula

How about some theatrical beauty? Overlooking the South Downs, Nymans, replete with romantic ruins, must be one of the loveliest gardens to visit any time of year. Catch it in summer for its blazing borders, or go there during the autumn when you’ll be rewarded with beautiful salvias offset against the flame colours of the trees in the background.

A serious fire ravaged Nymans during the late 1940s, but the family still live in the usable part of the house. A visit should include a browse around the second-hand bookshop and – of course – the plant shop. When she’s not visiting gardens, Ciar of Carrots and Calendula cultivates a sunny suburban plot in East Sussex.

The garden gate is open

Wander the paths of this extraordinary healing garden in the heart of Chelsea
Image: The Garden Gate is Open

Now for a “remarkable garden originally created in 1673 by the Apothecaries in which to grow medicinal plants.” When Julia, the blogger behind The Garden Gate is Open had a few hours to spare during a visit to London, she decided to call in at the Chelsea Physic Garden – four acres of calm in the heart of the busy metropolis.

Look out for beautiful woven sculptures by Tom Hare, a stunning collection of cacti, a fernery, and much more. And if you’d like to know more about the wonderful plantings at this historic garden, an audio tour will keep you informed as you wander. This blog is full of wonderful gardens to visit – take a look and you’ll discover some gems.

Did we miss one of your favourite blogs or gardens to visit? Drop us a line via our Facebook page and we’ll try to feature it next time.

Grow your own summer drinks recipes

People sitting around a table in the summer

Enjoy sharing homegrown food and drinks this summer 
Image: Jack Frog 

There’s nothing more satisfying than sharing fresh, homegrown produce with friends and family on a warm summer evening. Except, perhaps, relaxing with a cool sundowner to properly enjoy the garden you’ve spent all year working on!

We asked green-fingered bloggers to tell us their favourite homegrown summer drinks recipes. From light and refreshing cordials the whole family can enjoy, through to something a little stronger to keep you warm as the sun goes down, here’s how to distil a glut into a glass.

Non-alcoholic summer drinks

 

Richard’s mint lemonade

Stock image of a lemon and lime drink

Zesty and refreshing, this lemonade tastes even better with local honey
Image: Artsyslik

Richard over at The veg grower podcast has a quick and easy recipe for homemade lemonade that tastes so much more delicious than anything you can buy in a shop. To get the maximum flavour from your garden mint, he recommends making the ‘syrup’ the night before and adding soda water just before serving.

You will need:

  • mint leaves
  • lemons
  • limes
  • honey
  • soda water

Katie’s strawberry and elderflower cordial

Katie's Strawberry and elderflower cordial from Lavender and Leeks

Intensely fragrant and delicious
Image: Lavender and Leeks

According to Katie over at Lavender and Leeks, the combination of elderflower and strawberries is “a match made in heaven.” Not only is the smell of her strawberry and elderflower cordial amazing, it’s lovely with plain water, soda water, lemonade, prosecco or even added to cake mixtures and jams. In short, it adds a welcome shot of sunshine to almost anything you like.

You will need:

  • strawberries
  • elderflower heads
  • lemons
  • limes
  • caster sugar
  • citric acid
  • water

Lou’s ginger and thyme fizz

This spicy mocktail is a winner with all ages
Image: Little Green Shed

Over at Little Green Shed, Lou’s simple recipe for a delicious non-alcoholic cocktail is a great way to jazz up an impromptu barbecue. Family-friendly, and healthier than reaching for a beer, a long glass of this ginger and thyme fizz has a botanical undertone that’s hard to resist.

You will need:

  • fresh ginger
  • fresh thyme
  • lemon
  • runny honey
  • ice cubes
  • sparkling water

Choclette’s strawberry rose mint fizz

This simple alcohol-free aperitif is the perfect way to start any summer event
Image: Tin & Thyme

The strawberry hit is as good as a Wimbledon grand slam – it’s delightful with subtle undertones of fragrant rose, fresh mint and cooling ice” says Choclette, sharing her Strawberry rose mint fizz recipe over on Tin & Thyme. The secret to this delicious drink is the rose syrup, which Choclette makes herself. Check out the full recipe on her blog to find out how.

You will need:

  • strawberries
  • rose syrup
  • mint
  • ice cubes
  • fizzy water

Robin’s nettle cordial

Red nettle cordial from Eat Weeds

Turn annoying weeds into healthy elixirs!
Image: Eat Weeds

If keeping on top of weeds is a constant battle in your garden or allotment, you’ll be delighted for this delicious excuse to relax courtesy of Robin Harford over at Eat Weeds. His nettle cordial tastes like nothing you’ve ever tried before. What’s more, nettles are good for you – naturally high in antioxidants and polyphenols – powerful compounds believed to help with inflammation, obesity, cancer, and heart disease. Keep this pink cordial in your fridge for up to four weeks and add to water, soda water or lemonade when guests arrive. They’ll never guess your secret ingredient!

You will need:

  • freshly picked nettle tops
  • granulated sugar
  • citric acid
  • water

Grace’s strawberry, cucumber and mint infused water

A healthy alternative to sugary drinks
Image: Eats Amazing

Inspired by tall jugs of perfectly chilled Pimm’s, Grace from Eats Amazing suggests a alcohol-free version that children will love. “I’m a great believer in eating with your eyes,” says Grace, so she serves her strawberry and cucumber and mint infusion in clear bottles or mason jars to give it real visual impact. If your children aren’t keen on plain water, perhaps growing their own simple ingredients will encourage them to experiment with healthy alternatives to sugary drinks. Check out Grace’s blog for the full recipe and more inspiration.

You will need:

  • cucumber
  • strawberries
  • mint sprigs
  • water

Alcoholic summer drinks

 

Nick’s ‘cool as a minty cucumber’ cocktail

This cool classic tastes even better when you’ve grown the ingredients yourself
Image: Two Thirsty Gardeners

We’re not suggesting that Nick grows mint and cucumber just to give his ‘cool as a minty cucumber’ cocktail a more interesting twist, but when you’re a ‘Thirsty Gardener’ it’s entirely possible! This zesty aperitif is a great way to welcome friends and family to a summer drinks party. Not to be outdone, the other ‘Thirsty Gardener,’ Rich, shares his delicious rhubarb collins recipe in the same post. Two Two Thirsty Gardeners’ drinks recipes for the price of one…

You will need:

  • gin
  • mint leaves
  • a slice of cucumber
  • half a lime
  • tonic water
  • ice

Janie’s blackcurrant cassis

blackcurrant drink

Deliciously more-ish cassis can be added to a wide number of cocktails
Image: 5PH

If you grow blackcurrants, this one’s for you. Janie at The Hedgecombers describes this delectable blackcurrant cassis syrup as a bottle of pure summer: “At first sip you get the scent of fresh blackcurrants, quickly followed by a nice warm glow before tailing off with the sweet childhood taste of Ribena. Weird and wonderful all at the same time!” Check out the full recipe over on her blog.

You will need:

  • blackcurrants
  • sugar
  • brandy

Eli’s elderflower champagne

Elderflower champagne is not as difficult to make as you might think
Image: Antonina Vlasova

Ever tried making your own elderflower champagne? Eli and Kate share two slightly different recipes over at their blog In the garden & the kitchen with Eli & Kate, including useful tasting notes to help you decide which is best for you. If you’re surrounded by elders in bloom, brewing your own bubbles is a great way to celebrate nature’s bounty! Read their full post to see just how easy it is to make.

You will need:

  • elderflowers
  • lemons
  • sugar
  • champagne yeast

Helen’s rhubarb and ginger gin

Don’t waste a glut of homegrown rhubarb on crumbles and fools!
Image: Fuss Free Flavours

After receiving a bottle of rhubarb gin as a gift one Christmas, Helen set out to create a homemade version of her own. The resulting rhubarb and ginger gin recipe is shared over on her blog – Fuss Free Flavours – along with some clever twists and serving suggestions. The trick for achieving such a beautiful colour? Pick the pinkest rhubarb stems advises Helen. “Stronger, cheaper and far better tasting than buying a ready made – what is not to love?

You will need:

  • rhubarb stalks
  • white caster sugar
  • gin
  • fresh ginger

Milli’s rhubarb vodka martini

A summery twist on the classic cocktail
Image: Crofter’s Cottage

Milli over at Crofter’s Cottage describes the blustery beauty of her homegrown rhubarb with infectious joy: “Slender long legs in an elegant shade of green, a hat, bigger and floppier than anyone else’s, wearing those daring, bright pink shoes; she’d be well at home at any summer party!” Who could refuse a sip of Milli’s rhubarb vodka martini after that show-stopping introduction! And adding a dried rose petal to finish your summer cocktails is simply inspired.

You will need:

  • rhubarb
  • vodka
  • sugar
  • vermouth
  • dash of bitters
  • dried garden rose petals (optional)

Wendy’s strawberry cocktail with basil

strawberry and basil cocktail

An unexpected hint of basil takes this simple cocktail to a whole new level
Image: AnikonaAnn

If, like Wendy over at Moral Fibres, you’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of strawberry season, you’ll love her strawberry cocktail with basil served over crushed ice. When in season, British strawberries are bursting with flavour in a way that imported counterparts simply cannot match, says Wendy. Do you grow your own strawberries? If you suddenly find yourself with more ripe fruits than you can eat, Wendy’s clever tips for making them last longer are a great way to prevent wasting this precious summer fruit.

You will need:

  • strawberries
  • fresh basil
  • gin
  • tonic water
  • lime
  • granulated sugar
  • ice cubes

Sarah’s rosehip liqueur

Similar to sloe gin, rosehip liqueur is an excellent way to enjoy local hedgerows 
Image: Craft Invaders

Sarah’s rosehip liqueur is so good that she hides it from her husband in case he drinks it all before it matures! Made from hips collected from the wild dog rose bushes growing in hedgerows around her house, Sarah harvests after the first frosts and stores her foraged bounty in the freezer until she’s ready to make her liqueur. Prized for their health benefits and packed full of vitamin C, Sarah says “syrup made from these fruits has a long history of being used here in the UK to prevent colds.” If you return from your summer holiday with a sniffle, or just fancy something a little different for cooler evenings around a camp fire, this is the drink for you. Get the full recipe and instructions over at the Craft Invaders blog.

You will need:

  • rosehips
  • lemon
  • cloves
  • cinnamon stick
  • brandy
  • soft brown sugar

We hope you’ve enjoyed our round-up of homegrown and foraged summer drinks recipes. If you do decide to try some of them over the next few months, tag us on your photos and show us how you celebrate long warm summer evenings in your garden.

How to stop cats using your garden for a toilet

Fluffy ginger cat walking along a fence

Looking for ways to prevent unwanted cats visiting your garden?
Image: lkoimages

Fed up with neighbourhood cats fouling your flower beds, digging up seedlings, and damaging your plants? Potential solutions to the problem are many, but no one method is 100% successful, which is why it’s best to deploy an integrated anti-cat strategy. Think of yourself as a Monty battling the moggies, it’s time to plan an effective – non-harmful – campaign to rid your garden of cats. Here are some tried-and-tested options…

Secure your outer perimeter

British shorthair cat clambering over a fence

Make your boundaries difficult to navigate
Image: Tomas Wolfschlager

Make getting into your garden as awkward for cats as you can, and they’ll slink off to use someone else’s flower beds for their relief. Try stretching a string or wire a few inches above your fence line, or fix a band of soft, collapsible fencing to the top of your garden wall or fence – cats will find it tricky to negotiate these kind of hazards, and won’t be able to rest on top of your fence.

You might also like to try tacking chicken wire to your fence top, angling it away from your garden so cats will have to hang backwards if they’re determined to access your backyard. Do bear in mind, however, these kind of solutions look somewhat unsightly – you have to be pretty desperate to resort to them!

Border defences

Lavender and gravel garden planting scheme

The combination of lavender and gravel is unpleasant to cats
Image: Del Boy

Cats love to be comfortable while about their “business”, so make your patch as unpleasant as you can and, with luck, they’ll seek alternative arrangements. Cats hate the feel of chicken wire under their sensitive paws, so place a layer over your flower beds, cutting holes through which your plants can grow.

Alternatively, use a sharp gravel mulch, put down eggshells, sprinkle holly leaves, or place pine cones around the base of trees whose bark you wish to protect from cats’ clawing and climbing. Cats love dry, loose soil for their toilet, so water well and fill your borders with plants so they don’t have room to squat.

Plants to deter cats

Coleus canina (scaredy-cat plant) from Thompson & Morgan

The scent of the ‘scaredy-cat’ plant deters cats, dogs, rabbits and foxes
Image: Coleus canina (scaredy-cat plant) from Thompson & Morgan

Cats have a powerful sense of smell which you can use against them. By growing plants with strong perfumes that cats find distasteful, you make your garden a whole lot less attractive to feline visitors. Bear in mind that, just as some cats don’t love the smell of catnip, not all cats react to plants intended to deter them – but these are definitely worth including in your strategy:

  • Lavender – this garden favourite produces dainty purple flowers and smells divine to us humans. Bees love it and cats do not.
  • Rosemary – a kitchen staple, rosemary is a hit with pollinators. It prefers a sunny spot with well-drained soil.
  • Rue – once known as a medicinal herb, rue has bluish foliage and yellow flowers – grow with caution because rue is poisonous and physical contact can cause skin blistering.
  • Lemon balm – cats don’t like the smell of citrus and will avoid plants that smell of it.
  • Pennyroyal – with a powerful spearmint smell, this plant is an antiseptic, and an insect repellant.
  • Scaredy cat – specially bred as a cat deterrent, coleus canina smells horrible to cats and other animals but, provided you don’t touch the leaves, you won’t be able to pick up the whiff of dog urine this plant emits.

Chemical warfare against cats

Hand holding watering can pouring water over a flowerbed

Water around your flowers with a vinegar solution, or try heavily scented essential oils
Image: iko

Jeyes fluid and mothballs are often touted as effective cat deterrents, but they’re poisonous to cats and other animals. Natural options are a better alternative to using harmful chemicals to repel cats.

Try spraying white vinegar diluted in water – but be cautious – a vinegar solution won’t harm acid loving plants, but could potentially damage other garden plants if it’s too concentrated. That being the case, another option is to soak tea bags or cotton wool balls in vinegar and place them strategically about the garden – cats don’t like the smell and will avoid them.

Moggies are also dislike the smell of citrus and other herbal extracts – add a few drops of essential oils to your watering can. Citronela, lavender, orange, peppermint are all effective, especially when you use them in combination.

Cat scarers

Pest XT Solar Powered Ultrasonic Flash Pest Repeller from Thompson & Morgan

Cats will avoid the high-pitched screech of sonic scarers
Image: Pest XT Solar Powered Ultrasonic Flash Pest Repeller from Thompson & Morgan

Sonic cat scarers are a proven technique for scaring cats away. When animals cross the sensor, these systems emit a high-pitched sound barely audible to the human ear but very uncomfortable for cats.

Unfortunately cats sometimes get used to the sound from a sonic system and learn to ignore it, others will ignore it from the get go; still others learn to walk around the problem, and foul other parts of your garden. Sound is one weapon in your arsenal, but it’s far from the whole deal.

Attack is the best means of defence

Cats and water don’t mix
Image: Pest XT Battery Powered Jet Spray Cat Repeller from Thompson & Morgan

Cats hate to get wet, and learn to fear the jet from a spray cat repeller. It works when the cat triggers a sensor, switching on a water spray connected to your garden hose – they’ll pelt for the fence as fast as their paws can carry them.

Cats make wonderful pets but when they use your garden as a public convenience, they’re a “purr–fect” nuisance. Hopefully these anti-cat measures will keep your lawn clean – if not, perhaps it’s time you resorted to the “nuclear” option – a dog.

 

Ten top YouTube gardening channels

Young male gardening vlogger filming in a greenhouse

Learn from these informative gardening YouTube channels
Image: silverkblackstock

With so many sources of online gardening help, advice and information to turn to, it can be difficult to know where to start. To help you sort the good from the not so good, we’ve checked out a plethora of gardening YouTube channels for the quality of their content. Here’s a selection of some of the best. Enjoy.

Kelly’s Kitchen Garden

Kelly from Kelly's Kitchen Garden sitting by a raised bed

Kelly keeps her kitchen garden flourishing with a simple sowing system
Image: Kelly’s Kitchen Garden

Do you struggle to manage your sowing and successional sowing schedules? Let Kelly show you how she keeps her busy kitchen garden planting organised – her simple system is easy to replicate, helping you make the most of your garden or allotment.

A brilliant channel with heaps of handy gardening tips, green-fingered Kelly is a friendly and informative host who shows your her mistakes as well as her triumphs. She’s also a passionate baker, loves to cook over a live fire, and because she gardens in Scotland, her channel is also a must for cool climate growers.

Garden Organic

Head of Garden Organic sowing seeds

Tune into Garden Organic for green fingered tutorials from a community of gardeners
Image: Garden Organic

If you’re sick of slugs and snails devouring your seedlings and garden plants, Garden Organic has some simple fixes you can try without resorting to nasty chemicals. Like leaving an upside down empty grapefruit half, baited with lettuce in a strategic location; slugs will congregate underneath ready for you to eliminate them.

Garden Organic is the UK’s biggest organic gardening charity with over 20,000 members and 60 plus years experience of promoting green growing practices. Looking for some quick tips on siting a garden pond? Look no further – stay away from hedges and tree roots and don’t forget that slope to ensure amphibians have easy access.

Gardening at 58 North

plant pots sitting on the balcony from Gardening at 58 North

Gardening at 58 North specialises in small space and balcony gardening
Image: Gardening at 58 North

Have you ever wondered what’s going on beneath the surface when your seeds germinate? You need to take a look at Gardening at 58 North’s awesome 10 day time-lapse video of a runner bean taking root and growing shoots; you’ll be amazed.

Focusing on small space and balcony growing, this channel is a must for anyone who likes to maximise their plot’s performance. Find out just how easy it is to turn one anaemic-looking supermarket basil into multiple lush, bushy plants with nothing more than a pair of scissors, a mug or two of water and some potting compost.

Allotment Gardener

Man standing over freshly dug earth on an allotment

Follow Matt’s journey as he transforms a disused wasteland into a bustling allotment
Image: Allotment Gardener

Don’t forget to keep checking your onions for flowering heads – an important job around planting-out time in May, says Allotment Gardener, Matt. These second year plants won’t get any bigger but if you leave them, they’ll throw all their energy into flowering.

Matt is informative and has that wry sense of humour all good gardeners possess – the ability to laugh at the vagaries of nature. Since taking over his plot in 2016, Matt has turned a wasteland into a working allotment. An inspiration as well as an excellent source of handy gardening hints and tips, Allotment Gardener is highly recommended viewing.

Garden Ninja

Garden Ninja Lee with a plastic-free greenhouse

Lee gives plastic-free gardening a try with great results!
Image: Garden Ninja

When the Garden Ninja – professional garden designer, Lee Burkhill set himself the challenge of eliminating single use plastic from his garden, a steep learning curve ensued. Join him as he repurposes cardboard egg boxes, loo rolls and more, to prove that with just a little bit of willpower and imagination, going plastic-free is easily doable.

Winner of the BBC and RHS Feel Good Gardens Competition, Lee’s video guides help you create awesome garden designs of your own. Check out his Family Garden Design Transformation for a wealth of fun, creative ideas.

Nick’s Allotment Diary

sunflower seeds sown in plastic growing tubs

Take on Nick’s sunflower growing challenge today!
Image: Nick’s Allotment Diary

Try and get as much of the root as you can when you’re pricking out seedlings, says YouTuber, Nick; that way the plant has the best chance to establish itself. Potting on brassicas? Make sure you firm around the roots to make it harder for the wind to push the plants over.

Share in Nick’s journey as he grows fruit and veg on his North Wales plot. Fancy joining Nick’s 2019 sunflower challenge? He has three categories this year: tallest, largest head, and most unusual variety – check out the video for info.

Diary of a UK Gardener

Sean from Diary of a UK Gardener on his allotment

Follow avid gardening vlogger Sean in his endeavours down the allotment
Image: Diary of a UK Gardener

Think you can remember everything you’ve sown so far this season? Organic allotmenteer and avid Vlogger, Sean thought so, but it turns out he sowed Evening Primrose twice in one month. That’s why he says it’s so vital to take an inventory of what you’ve already sown and what seeds have yet to go in the ground.

Sean has been filming his gardening adventures since 2012. Last year he walked away from his allotment of 11 years to a much bigger plot of land. Follow his YouTube adventures as he develops this new allotment to a productive vegetable and fruit garden. Later this year Sean plans to take on another allotment and run it using information supplied by the 1940’s Dig for Victory campaign. Sean James Cameron’s Diary of a UK Gardener is: “The Good Life meets urban London living.

UK Here We Grow

For seasoned growing advice, make sure to bookmark Tony’s channel
Image: UK Here We Grow

Problems with creeping cinquefoil? This troublesome weed looks a little like a strawberry plant, only with five-bladed leaves rather than three. Just like strawberries, cinquefoil spreads by sending out runners, but each node sends down a deep taproot. The bad news, vlogger Tony says, is that if you leave even the tiniest piece of root in the ground, it will regrow. Check out his tips to get rid of it for good.

Want to grow nutrient dense organic food? Tony’s channel is the perfect place to start. Covering everything greenfingered, including beekeeping and poultry, you’ll find just the helpful advice you need to get the most from your plot. Check out Tony’s 12 tips to grow better tomatoes – give the roots plenty of room…

Yorkshire Kris

Visit Kris’ channel for advice on growing exotic plants in a colder climate
Image: Yorkshire Kris

Think you can’t grow a tropical garden in Yorkshire? Kris can – check out his video of his plot in the coldest temperature he’s ever experienced in his garden. The mercury read -5.8C, but plenty of fleece, good positioning, and the plants’ own defenses save most from the worst of the frost.

The UK isn’t perhaps the best place to grow tender plants, but as Kris demonstrates, it is possible. If you’d like to give it a go, this is the YouTube channel for you. That said, there are some tropical species best avoided. Check out Yorkshire Kris TV for the top 10 – sasa bamboo for one – once you plant it, it’ll spread like crazy and you’ll never get rid of it.

Tony C. Smith

On his channel,Tony shows off both the good and the bad days at the allotment
Image: Tony C. Smith

Bad day at the allotment? Pigeons ate Tony’s brassicas, other birds feasted on his banana shallots. The red onions? Scythed. And when he went to buy replacements, he bought the wrong ones – not to worry – planting chard is just the thing to cheer Tony up.

Informative and entertaining, Tony’s YouTube channel is full of handy hints and good ideas, and he also makes a witty, warm, and energetic presenter. Thinking of growing your own? Check out what a good day in the allotment looks like – remember, a bad day in the garden beats a good day in the office.

Did we miss one of your favourite YouTube gardening channels? Head over to our Facebook page and let us know what gardening vlogs you love to watch. Alternatively, you might be interested to know we have our own YouTube channel – Thompson & Morgan TV. It’s packed full of useful info, hints and tips to help you get the most from your gardening.

 

Plot to plate recipes for National Vegetarian Week

assorted raw vegetables on a wooden board

Celebrate National Vegetarian Week with delicious recipes from gardening bloggers around the UK
Image: monticello

At Thompson & Morgan, we’re passionate about growing our own food. But sowing, growing and nurturing delicious produce is only half of the story. Harvesting, preparing and eating these vitamin-packed wonder foods is just as important, right?

This year, 13 – 19 May is National Vegetarian Week. To celebrate, we asked our favourite green fingered bloggers to share their best vegetarian plot-to-plate recipes. Here are some of their ideas and delicious serving suggestions to help you make the most of your fresh fruit and veg.

 

Main courses

 

Richard’s tomato and coconut curry

tomato and veg curry from Richard at veggrowerpodcast

Packed with antioxidants, fresh tomatoes make a healthy and flavour-packed curry
Image: theveggrowerpodcast

Richard, from The Veg Grower Podcast, loves a good curry, and this is one of his favourites. A great way of using a tower of homegrown tomatoes, it’s so tasty that people don’t miss the meat!

Ingredients:

  • A splash of olive oil
  • 1 onion peeled and chopped.
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger peeled and chopped.
  • 3 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped.
  • 1 chilli chopped. (I used a scotch bonnet from my greenhouse which is fairly hot. However use any chilli that you would like)
  • 1 tin of coconut milk.
  • 1 vegetable stock cube.
  • 1kg of tomatoes.
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder.

Method:

  • Gently sweat the chopped onion in the olive oil.
  • After a minute or so, add the ginger, garlic and chilli. Gently stir for a couple of minutes until softened.
  • Add the coconut milk and crumble in the stock cube. Stir to blend.
  • Add the tomatoes and curry powder.
  • Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring regularly.
  • Serve with cooked rice.

Richard’s top tip: “I’ve also served this curry with cauliflower rice. Simply take a cauliflower and blitz it up in a blender. Boil the cauliflower ‘rice’ for a few minutes, drain and serve.”

Jane’s fried halloumi with lentils and sweet chilli

Jane’s fried halloumi with lentils and sweet chilli

This tasty recipe is a firm favourite with Jane’s friends and family
Image: Onions and Paper

Jane, who blogs about food and craft at Onions and Paper may not even know that her famous fried halloumi recipe is being featured here, as it was sent to us by her lovely husband Mark! Let’s call it a team effort though, as Marks Veg Plot provides the homegrown produce for Jane’s gourmet prowess!

Ingredients:

  • 100g small green or brown lentils (e.g Puy lentils)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 150g Halloumi cheese, cut into 4 slices
  • Generous dash of chilli oil
  • 2 x tbsp Sweet Chilli sauce
  • 2 x tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil

Method:

  • Cook the lentils, onion and carrot in plain, unsalted water until tender.
  • Drain the lentils, and while still warm, add the chilli oil, and season to taste.
  • Meanwhile, fry the sliced halloumi in the sunflower oil, turning at least once, until nicely soft, brown and bubbly. (This only takes about 5 minutes.)
  • Arrange the lentils on plates and top with the halloumi.
  • Drizzle the sweet chilli sauce over the cheese.
  • Serve with a nice salad – we had a Tabbouleh made with herbs from the garden (mostly mint and parsley), and a (deliberately!) burnt shallot and tomato salad with watercress.

Jane’s top tip: “Don’t use commercial stock to cook your lentils. It often contains a lot of salt and this prevents the lentils softening.”

Belinda’s smoked ‘salmon’ carrot lox

For an impressive amuse bouche or a simple brunch, this is a carrot, but not as you know it!
Image: Plot 7 Marsh Lane

As Belinda of Plot 7 Marsh Lane blog hasn’t eaten meat for about 30 years, she can’t be sure if this tastes more like smoked salmon or bacon, but it’s a tasty and unusual way to transform a humble carrot! She first came across this recipe back in 2017 via Shaheen’s Allotment2Kitchen blog.

Ingredients:

  • 360g sea salt
  • 3 large washed carrots
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of liquid smoke
  • ½ teaspoon white wine vinegar

Method:

  • Line a 1lb loaf tin with baking parchment and preheat the oven to 200°C.
  • Tip half of the sea salt into the loaf tin, lay the carrots on top and sprinkle with the remaining salt.
  • Cover the loaf tin with foil and place in the oven for about an hour.
  • Remove, and allow the carrots to cool on a chopping board.
  • When cool enough to handle, brush away any excess salt, using it to help peel off any loose skin.
  • Finely slice the carrots into long, thin strips using a mandolin, and transfer to a glass container with a lid.
  • In a small bowl, make the marinade by whisking together the oil, liquid smoke and vinegar.
  • Pour over the carrots, pop on the lid, and leave in the fridge for 2-3 days for the flavours to develop.
  • Serve on warm bagels with vegetarian cream cheese.

Belinda’s top tip: “I’d probably add a little more smoke to the marinade and use a little less salt next time.”

Claire’s summer pasta sauce

Claire’s summer pasta sauce

This simple summer sauce is a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds
Image: Daria Vinek

According to Claire over at Sowing at the Stoop, this delicious pasta sauce is a firm family favourite that uses up any gluts of precious produce whilst completely capturing the taste of summer. What’s more – it’s super simple too!

Ingredients:

  • Tomatoes
  • Courgettes
  • Aubergines
  • Garlic
  • Fresh basil

Method:

  • Roughly chop all of the veg and pop it into a roasting tin with some chopped garlic. Spray with a little oil and add a pinch of sea salt and pepper.
  • Put the tray into the oven at 180°C and roast for 30 minutes.
  • When cooked, use a hand blender to blitz the roasted veg and add some freshly picked basil.
  • Add to cooked pasta. We love it with penne.

Claire’s top tip: “This is ideal on a meat-free night but it also tastes great over oven roasted cod. It freezes really well too, so even after summer is long gone, you can still get that fresh flavour of home grown veg!”

Hazel’s crowd-pleasing cauliflower cheese

stock image of cauliflower cheese with two wooden spoons

This is comfort food at its best!
Image: AS Food studio

Mother of four, Hazel from The Newhouse Family blog, knows how to cook up a tasty storm to please a large family. This green-living bunch don’t like to waste a thing, so the tip for adding homemade breadcrumbs is about more than just texture.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine
  • 4 tablespoons of plain flour
  • 500 mls of milk
  • 100g cheddar cheese (you can add more if you like a really cheesy sauce!)

Method:

  • Take your cauliflower and break it up into pieces. You’ll want a nice mix of large chunks and some smaller pieces.
  • Boil the cauliflower for 5-10 minutes until cooked, but still firm. Drain and leave to one side.
  • Grate the cheese into a bowl.
  • To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan, stirring continuously. Sprinkle in the flour and mix into the melted butter to form a paste.
  • Slowly add the milk, stirring rapidly continuously with a whisk.
  • Add ¾ of the grated cheese to the sauce, whilst stirring quickly with the whisk to eliminate any lumps.
  • Tip the cauliflower into a large dish. Pour over the cheese sauce. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese on top.
  • Place into a hot oven for around 20 minutes, until the cauliflower cheese is bubbling and the grated cheese on top has browned a little.

Hazel’s top tip: “We like to use homegrown cauliflowers as they have the best flavour. When you sprinkle the remaining grated cheese on top, just before popping the dish in the oven, try adding breadcrumbs and a little salt and pepper as well.”

Kev’s beetroot tart

image from An English Homestead of chopped beetroot

A clever way to show off a variety of unusual homegrown beets
Image: An English Homestead

Is there a better match for gloriously sweet beets than salty white feta? Kev from An English Homestead says his beetroot tart is even more impressive when made with a variety of different coloured beetroots that you’ve obviously grown yourself!

Ingredients:

  • Various fresh beets
  • Puff pastry (ready made is fine!)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Feta cheese

Method:

  • Boil the beets in a pan of salted water until they just start to soften.
  • Remove from the water, roughly slice and lay in a roasting dish.
  • Drizzle the beets with a little olive oil, a good slug of balsamic vinegar, and some sea salt.
  • Lay a sheet of puff pastry over the top and pop in the oven for about 25 minutes until golden and puffed up.
  • Remove from the oven, place a large platter or chopping board on the roasting dish and turn it over, so that the tart is removed and the right way up.
  • Crumble good quality feta over the top and bring to the table while still warm.

Kev’s top tip: “The tart is also nice cold, so perfect for a lunch box the next day if you have any left over!”

 

Sides and small plates

 

Michelle’s zingy tzatziki

Michelle's tzatziki recipe from Veg Plotting

Fresh and light, this is a real taste of the Mediterranean
Image: Veg Plotting

Low fat doesn’t necessarily mean boring, as Michelle over at Veg Plotting found when she came up with this delicious way to use up her glut of cucumbers. Her recipe makes a cool and refreshing lunch for one, or a perfect side dish for two alongside a main meal or BBQ.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small cucumber, diced (include the seeds if desired)
  • 4-5 large teaspoons of Skyr Icelandic yogurt
  • Black pepper
  • Za’atar to taste (an Arabic spice blend combining toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme, dried marjoram, and sumac)
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 1 wholemeal pitta bread, toasted

Method:

  • Place the cucumber in a small bowl, add some freshly ground black pepper, and a generous sprinkling of za’atar.
  • Add the Skyr and mix well.
  • Garnish with the thyme leaves and serve with the freshly toasted pitta.

Michelle’s top tip: “If you’re growing outdoor cucumbers like me, don’t forget to rub off the outside bristly bits first.”

Adam’s potato pancakes

Adam’s potato pancakes from Carrot Top Allotments

Homegrown potatoes take this recipe to a whole new level
Image: Carrot Tops Allotment

Hash browns, rosti, platzki: call these what you will, says Adam of Carrot Tops Allotment. His grated potato cake recipe originates from Poland and is super easy to make. Cold, wet, tired? This is comfort food personified.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 medium sized potatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil

Method:

  1. Grate the potatoes and onion into a bowl and season to taste.
  2. Remove some of the excess water by pressing the potato mixture into a sieve.
  3. Return to the bowl and add the beaten egg, stirring well.
  4. Set a frying pan over a medium heat and add a generous amount of oil. It needs to be hot enough to sizzle when you start to fry your potato.
  5. Drop a tablespoon of the potato mixture into the pan, flattening it down so it cooks evenly. If your pan is large enough, you should be able to fry 3 or 4 platzki at once.
  6. Cook each side of the platzki for about 3-4 minutes.
  7. Place the platzki onto a piece of kitchen roll before serving, to soak up any excess oil.

Adam’s top tip: “Delicious served with sour cream, or (vegetarian) goulash!”

Alexandra’s corn on the cob ‘cookout’

stock image of corn grilling on a BBQ

Roast fresh corn on the bbq and you’ll never want to eat it any other way again!
Image: Anan Chincho

Freshly picked home grown produce often needs very little messing with to deliver a powerful flavour punch. Just to prove it, this BBQ ‘cheat’ from Alexandra over at The Middle Sized Garden is pure genius in its simplicity. With a smear of butter and a sprinkle of salt, it doesn’t get much better than this for a taste of summer!

Ingredients:

  • Freshly picked corn on the cob, one per person
  • Butter and salt

Method:

  • Pick your sweetcorn, leaving the leaves intact (don’t peel anything off)
  • Place the cobs straight onto a warm bbq, simply as they are.
  • Roast on the bbq for around 15 minutes, turning occasionally.

Alexandra’s top tip: “When ready, peel the leaves back (but don’t cut them off) to use as a ‘handle’ to hold the cob.”

Katie’s wild garlic and cheese scones

Wild garlic and cheese scones from Lavender and Leeks

Serve warm with butter or alongside a big bowl of vegetable soup for a hearty supper
Image: Lavender and Leeks

Katie from Lavender and Leeks is a little bit in love with garlic, and when she discovered a hoard of this lovely ingredient growing wild, she couldn’t resist experimenting to make one of her other favourite things of all time – scones!

Ingredients:

  • 250g self raising flour
  • 50g butter
  • 25g strong cheddar, grated
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 100ml milk
  • Small handful of wild garlic, chopped

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 220C/gas mark 7.
  • Chop the cold butter into small cubes and rub into the flour.
  • Add the grated cheese and wild garlic.
  • Beat the egg and milk together before gradually adding almost all of the liquid to the dry mixture, kneading gently until you have a soft dough. Keep a little of the milk mixture for use later.
  • On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 2 cm thick. Use a round 2 inch cutter to stamp out 10 scones.
  • Place them on a greased tin and use the remaining milk and egg mixture to brush over the tops. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the scones turn a golden colour.

Kate’s top tip: “They aren’t the type of scone you have with jam and cream but they are very delicious served fresh and hot from the oven with a spread of butter. This recipe makes 10. Be warned though… you might want to double the ingredients!”

Caro’s broad bean and mint hummus

broad bean and mint hummus from Urban Veg Patch

The ultimate snack to enjoy with a sundowner at the end of a long day in the garden
Image: The Urban Veg Patch

Caro from The Urban Veg Patch loves her snacks so much, she grows extra broad beans just for this recipe! As she says, who wouldn’t want to loaf around with a glass of wine/beer/gin (not in the same glass or even sitting) on a balmy evening, with this tasty homemade hummus and some flatbreads…?

Ingredients:

  • 400g un-podded broad beans
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil (more to taste)
  • Juice of half a small lemon
  • 2 stems of mint, leaves only
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  • Pod the beans and boil lightly in salted water for about 8 minutes. Small beans will take less time.
  • Drain the beans and remove the skins.
  • Blitz in a blender with the lemon juice, olive oil and mint leaves until you have a smooth paste.
  • Add more oil if needed and season to taste.

Caro’s top tip: “Use good quality olive oil. It really does make a difference.”

 

Something sweet

 

Kate’s cucumber ice cream

cucumber ice-cream from Diary of a Country Girl

We can’t think of a better dessert on a hot summer day
Image: Diary of a Country Girl

Last year Kate from Diary of a Country Girl had a mountain of homegrown cucumbers on her hands – so she decided to try and make cucumber ice cream. Apparently, back in the day, it was really rather fashionable! This gloriously refreshing and crisp dessert is what she came up with.

Ingredients:

  • 160g diced cucumber
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 60g runny honey
  • 240ml double cream
  • 240ml whole milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Method:

  • Peel, de-seed, and finely chop the cucumbers. Purée them in a blender with the lemon juice until very smooth.
  • Beat the eggs, sugar and honey until foamy and light with an electric mixer. Stir in the puréed cucumber, cream, milk and vanilla.
  • Strain through a sieve before whisking in the nutmeg.
  • Freeze in ice-cream maker.
  • If you don’t have an ice cream maker, pour the mixture into an air-tight container, freeze for an hour, then mix in a food processor. Freeze for a further two hours and mix again. Repeat the process after another two hours and return to the freezer until ready to eat.

Kate’s top tip: “I now make cucumber ice cream all throughout the year, but it’s always miles better with homegrown cucumbers!”

Lucy’s easy apple tart

stock image of glazed apple tart

Assemble the apples in a rustic or beautifully arranged pattern, depending on time available
Image: hlphoto

If you’re looking for a recipe with minimum prep and maximum flavour, Lucy from The Smallest Smallholding is a fan of letting good quality ingredients speak for themselves. What better way to celebrate a bag full of fat, autumnal apples than this super simple tart?

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 3 large Bramley apples, peeled & cored
  • Ready-made rolled puff pastry
  • Demerara sugar for sprinkling
  • Apricot jam for glazing

Method:

  • Preheat oven to Gas Mark 5/190C/375F
  • Line a tart tin or flan dish with baking parchment.
  • Using the upside down tin as a rough guide, cut a large disc of puff pastry to size, leaving an extra 2cm or so for the crust.
  • Press into the tin, moulding gently to the sides. It doesn’t have to be too neat!
  • Thinly slice the apple and create a spiral pattern on the pastry. Start at the outside edge and working in, overlapping each slice.
  • Sprinkle demerara sugar over the top and pop the tin onto the middle shelf of the oven.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes, until the pastry is a light golden brown. Make sure it has baked thoroughly in the middle.
  • Remove from the oven and glaze with apricot jam.

Lucy’s top tip: “Want to make this vegan? Simply buy ready made rolled vegan puff pastry. The serve it with vegan ice cream or Alpro custard. You can also make bite-sized tartlets using a greased, shallow muffin tray.”

Tanya’s honey and almond baklava

Honey and almond baklava from Lovely Greens

A sweet treat for those who grow their own honey
Image: Lovely Greens

Tanya over at Lovely Greens grows her own fruit and veg, but she also makes her own honey, hence her appreciation for this middle-eastern inspired treat. If you have a sweet tooth like Tanya, you have to try these sweet and crunchy morsels of deliciousness, oozing with rich honey and marzipan-like filling. For the full step by step instructions, make sure to head to Lovely Greens.

Ingredients:

Honey syrup

  • 1½ cups honey
  • 1½ cups caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 5 whole cloves

Filling

  • 2 cups chopped almonds
  • 2 cups chopped mixed nuts of your choice – peanuts, hazelnuts, pistachios
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup of caster sugar
  • 1 cup of melted butter

Pastry

  • Filo pastry – you need 24 sheets the same size as your dish. For my 12×9” dish, I used a single 250g pack.
  • ½ cup of melted butter

Tanya’s top tip: “I used my own raw honey for the syrup and highly recommend you source local honey too – the flavour will knock your socks off! Make baklava the day before you serve it to allow the syrup to really soak into the dish.”

We hope our bloggers have inspired you to try new and exciting ways to serve up your home grown fruit and veg. Tell us which of the recipes is your favourite? We’d love to hear your comments and see photos of your own creations over on Facebook and Instagram.

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