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.

Peonies – 6 Fun Facts & 5 Essential Growing Tips

The peony is a famed ornamental flowering plant in the genus Paeonia. Their stunning, voluminous blooms are on show for a short season each year running from late spring through to early summer. They’ve long been a favourite of many a gardener and the best floristry studios where they feature prominently in weddings, bridal bouquets, table centrepieces, and floral arrangements. What’s more, the venerable Peony also has a fascinating story to tell across history and in modern culture. Plus, we’ll share 5 of our favourite peony growing tips. Read on!

Peony bouquet

©Thompson & Morgan – Peony flowers feature prominently in weddings, bridal bouquets, table centrepieces, and floral arrangements.

Peony flowers – rooted in Greek Mythology

Peonies are native to the Mediterranean in addition to Western parts of the United States and China. Whilst there are references to the flower in ancient Chinese texts dating back as far as 1000 BC the name ‘Peony’ is thought to originate from Greek Mythology.

The story is centred around Paeon (or Paean), who was a student of Aesculapius – the Greek God of medicine. When Paeon healed Pluto using the root of a peony plant, Aesculapius became jealous of his young maestro’s talents and tried to kill him. Fortunately, Paeon was saved from death thanks to the mighty Zeus who transformed him into a flowering ‘peony’ plant. A flower Zeus was sure others would long admire and look on with affection.

peony flower

©Shutterstock – Peony flowers are rooted in Greek Mythology

The healing power of peonies

Peonies have long been coveted flowers for both their medicinal benefits as well as the gorgeous flowering displays.

Across China, Korea and Japan, peony seeds and roots are utilised to treat an array of ailments including convulsions and insect bites. Dried peony petals are also a popular herbal remedy in teas.

Peonies: The go-to petals for your next tattoo

The peony for many centuries has been one of the most popular floral symbols used in tattoos. For instance, in Japanese and Chinese body art you’ll often find an interplay between powerful animals and mythical beasts (such as lions and dragons) with delicate floral components. The peony is one of the most popular floral symbols representing the intersection between power and delicate beauty.

The Official 12th Wedding Anniversary Flower:

Peonies also have a deep association to romance and with gestures of the heart and are officially recognised as being the 12th Wedding Anniversary Flower.

Peony flowers

©Thompson & Morgan – Peonies are the recognised flower for 12th wedding anniversaries.

The ‘Queen of Flowers’

China, in particular, has long held a deep cultural appreciation of the peony flower. Before the plum tree, the peony flower was considered the national flower of the country. It was also adorned the title of ‘Queen of Flowers’ and came to symbolise both honour and wealth.

Red, White and Pink Peonies (each symbolise different emotions)

Peonies have an underlying association with love, compassion, good fortune and prosperity. As with many flower varieties, symbolism is often tied to the colour of the petals.

red, white and pink peonies

©Shutterstock – Peonies have an underlying association with love, compassion, good fortune and prosperity.

Whilst shades of red peonies lend themself to romance, white peonies are often associated with sorrow, remorse and regret. The mighty pink peony, so often the centrepiece in a bridal bouquet, is a symbol of young, early love and a celebration of life.

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5 Essential Peony Growing Tips:

Here are 5 essential tips I’ve picked up over the years to help your homegrown peonies thrive:

1) Plant Peonies in late Autumn

Whilst you could plant peonies in early spring, they never seem to do as well. Aim for late September into October to give the plants an opportunity to settle before winter draws in. You’ll see the benefits come May the following year, especially if you give them a feed at the time of planting out.

2) Peonies love full sun-light

Once bedded in, peonies are actually quite self-sufficient. Just ensure you plant in conditions with maximum light as they adore the sun’s rays to flourish.

Grow Peonies in full sun

©Thompson & Morgan – Grow Peonies in full sun.

3) Ensure enough spacing between peony plants

I’d recommend a minimum of 3 feet between each plant to ensure enough space for the plant roots to breathe and grow. There’s nothing worse than overcrowding to create an environment where disease and rot can spread.

4) Support the stems!

Peony flowers aren’t shy in terms of their size and volume. Sometimes the sheer weight can place a strain on the stems so ensure they’re suitably supported with a wire support, or bamboo stakes and cable ties if required.

Peony Frame

©Thompson & Morgan – Support Peony flowers with a frame.

5) Ants love peonies too (leave them alone!)

You might notice ants have a particular affinity to the peony flower. Worry not. The ants are just after the sweet nectar and help protect the plants from other invaders which would be a much bigger concern.

 

 

 

How to Grow Calatheas

Calathea is one of the prettiest tropical houseplants from the Marantaceae family that you can have in your home or office.

If you want to create a jungle feel in your home, then you simply have to include some leafy Calathea plants. All of them require similar care, which makes your job easier.

Types of Calathea

There are a lot of different species of Calathea plant, over several dozen of them, with distinctive colors, shapes, and sizes. They are mostly grown in pots and containers. Let’s check some of the most popular ones.

 

Calathea orbifolia

Calathea orbifolia is one of the largest-leafed Calathea plants. Each leaf can grow up to 30cm (12″) wide!

Its leaves have a round shape and striped, metallic appearance. This species forms a dense clump, with new leaves developing from the middle part of the plant.

Calathea orbifolia

©Thompson & Morgan – Calathea orbifolia

Calathea orbifolia, like most other Calathea species, likes a warm environment, where the temperatures are between 18°C (65°F) and 24°C (75°F).

 

Calathea ornata ‘Sanderiana’

Calathea ornata ‘Sanderiana’ is one type of Calathea ornata species. The most important difference between the mother plant and ‘Sanderiana’ is in the leaves. ‘Sanderiana’ leaves are shorter and not so spear- shaped as common Calathea ornata’s leaves.

Because of the distinctive foliage striping,’ Sanderiana’ has earned a nickname ‘Pin Stripe plant’, which is shared with many other cultivars of Calathea ornata.

Calathea 'Sanderiana'

©Thompson & Morgan – Calathea ‘Sanderiana’

The plant has very glossy, broad, and colorful leaves, with the dark green topside, combined with rose feather-like stripes, while bottom sides are dark purple.

The stem is purple, and it can grow up to 60cm (2ft) in height when the plant reaches peak maturity.

 

Calathea zebrina

Calathea zebrina, otherwise known as Zebra Plant, is one of the Calatheas that are very commonly found almost everywhere, even though it originates from Brazil.

It has very distinctive green stripes on the leaves, which look like Zebra patterns, hence the name. The underside of the leaves is purple, like with some other Calathea species.

Fully grown Calathea zebrina can be up to 90cm (36″) height and width and have leaves that are over 30cm (12″) in length.

Calathea zebrina

©Thompson & Morgan – Calathea zebrina

Calathea zebrina can also produce white and purple flowers during springtime, which is not so common for Calatheas.

 

Calathea roseopicta

Calathea roseopicta, otherwise known by the name of Rose Painted Calathea, has big glossy and circular green leaves, which are also purple on the underside.

What is distinctive about this Calathea subspecies is that every leaf has a very pretty pattern, which looks like a leaf inside the leaf. There are also different cultivars of this plant that have leaves with different patterns.

The plant usually grows up to 60cm (24″) in height and width. It likes moist soil, which is capable to provide excellent drainage.

 

 

Calathea roseopicta Medaillon

©Thompson & Morgan – Calathea roseopicta Medaillon

 

Calathea rufibarba

Calathea rufibarba doesn’t look like most other Calatheas at first glance. It doesn’t have similar markings and colors, but it is still very beautiful.

It is also known under the name of Velvet Calathea, as well as Furry Feather because its leaves look like feathers and have a distinctive texture that resembles fur on the bottom side of leaves.

Another characteristic of this plant is burgundy stems that are quite long, and the plant itself can grow up to 60cm (24″) in height and width.

Calathea rufibarba

©Shutterstock – Calathea rufibarba

Calathea Care

Calatheas need sunlight, of course, but not direct sun. They thrive the most in the shade because they are tropical plants, and are mostly found in the jungles. Exposing them to direct sunlight might cause burns on the leaves.

They prefer distilled water. You can also use water purified through filters to water these plants. Even though Calatheas like moist soil, make sure not to overwater.

Being tropical plants, Calatheas like warm temperature, between 18°C (65°F) and 24°C (75°F). Also, make sure to put them in a humid environment.

Calathea in a window

©Thompson & Morgan – Calatheas need sunlight, but not direct sun.

Fertilizing is not essential for Calatheas, but if you insist, you can use normal fertilizer for indoor plants during the autumn, spring, and summer.

Propagation of Calathea Plants

It is possible to propagate Calatheas from divisions, simply by repotting them. New divisions need to be kept moist and in a warm place. It is also advised to cover them with plastic and put them on indirect light until they start growing again. Always use the fresh potting mixture to grow a new plant.

Pruning Calathea Plants

Calatheas do not require any special pruning. The only thing you might worry about is removing occasional leaves that have turned brown or yellow.

 

 

Gardening blogs for the whole family

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

The world’s youngest gardening instructor
Image source: The Newhouse Family Blog

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

Encourage your children to grow into great gardeners
Image source: 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

Old wellies make a boot-iful planter!
Image source: 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.’

The Small Gardener

Little girl digging a wildlife pond in the garden

Kids love watching the wildlife that ponds attract
Image source: The Small Gardener

If you’re looking for a family project to get everyone outdoors, why not enlist the kids’ help to create a wildlife pond? Professional garden designer Rajul Shah shares step-by-step instructions over at her blog, The Small Gardener. Her top tip? Design a shallow, sloping ‘beach’ at the front so wildlife can enjoy a drink or bath without falling in.

Rajul’s own garden is a wildlife-friendly space. There are natural play areas where her children can hide, a fruit and vegetable patch, and a studio where she works. Kids will love her family-friendly projects like this hedgehog hotel too. Made using simple household objects, it’s a brilliant way to occupy a quiet afternoon.

Inspire Create Educate

Lauren has a helpful gardening team on hand
Image source: 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.

Mummy Matters

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”.

Growing Family

Two kids gardening in a plant pot

Children make natural gardeners
Image source: Growing Family

Children make very natural gardeners in my experience,” says Catherine over at Growing Family. “They love hands-on activities, they’re curious about nature and the world around them, and they generally relish the opportunity to get grubby!

You’ll never run out of ways to entice kids out into the fresh air once you’ve bookmarked Catherine’s Growing Family. With easy-to-grow veg, homemade bird feeders and loads more, there’s something for everyone. Fussy eater? Few children could resist tasting a vegetable that has their name on it! Here’s how to grow your name in a courgette this summer. For quick ideas that fit around busy family life, Growing Family is the place to be.

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.

10 awesome allotment blogs

Check out these awesome allotmenteers
Image: shutterstock

There’s an allotment revival going on at the moment. And it’s no wonder. Growing your own helps you eat better and cheaper, get fit, and spend quality time outdoors with friends and family.

If you fancy grabbing a piece of the ‘good life’ for yourself, then have a nose through these awesome allotment blogs. With practical how-tos, delicious homegrown recipes and inspirational pictures, they’ll make an allotmenteer of you yet.

Veg Plotting

veg plotting's home grown figs

Homegrown figs queuing up to feature in Michelle’s figgy cheese tart
Image: Veg Plotting

Ever wondered if you should break the rules when it comes to bulbs or asked yourself how to deal with ‘June drop’? Michelle, the green fingers behind Veg Plotting, has all the answers. This allotmenteer and ‘subversive soprano’ from Wiltshire has been tending her plot since 2003, when her husband’s illness inspired her to grow good, honest fayre for her family.

Fifteen years on, Michelle grows pretty much everything. Veg Plotting is a wonderful mix of advice, inspiration and humour. You’ll find a wealth of tutorials and some magnificent recipes including allotment soup and figgy cheese tart.

Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments

The berries are in at Green Lane allotments!
Image: Green Lane Allotments

It all started in the ‘80s with a single plot on a West Yorkshire allotment. As growing went out of fashion and neighbouring plots became vacant and overgrown, Sue and her husband took another plot, then another, and so on, until they ended up with five!

Sue is now the oracle on all things allotment-based. She generously shares growing techniques and top tips with her readership; such as why you should always leave slug-nibbled berries on the plant. Plus there are garden sudokus for rainy days and ‘young seedlings’ ideas to get the children hooked on growing.

Flighty’s plot

Flighty is pleased as Punch with his Polka Dot cornflowers
Image: Flighty’s Plot

Flighty’s Plot is tended by Mike: ‘allotmenteer, armchair gardener, blogger and sofa flyer’. Mike took over his allotment in 2007 and instantly fell in love with growing, getting to know the local wildlife and regular chat with fellow plot holders. Indeed, reading Flighty’s Plot feels a lot like chatting to an old friend.

Let Mike keep you up to date with the progress of this season’s crops and his close encounters with Foxy. When he’s not tending his allotment, Mike can be found on the sofa with a good book and a nice cup of tea. Our kind of chap.

Living on one acre or less

Photo of Udo from Living on one acre or less

Sally’s blog is the place to go for unusual produce
Image: Living on one acre or less

You don’t see udo very often in the UK,” says Sally Morgan. This huge Asian ‘vegetable’ is strikingly ornamental and has medicinal properties. If you’re fascinated by unusual produce or dream of living the good life on a modestly-sized smallholding, Sally Morgan’s blog, Living on one acre or less, is a brilliant resource.

Looking for organic crops to sow and harvest in 60 days? Sally has the ideal way to get your plot off to a flying start. Whether it’s “no-dig”, peat-free or “deep mulching,” she generously shares her own successes and failures along with plenty of tips. Sally writes about what she’s growing, the animals she keeps and different techniques to try. And with a Natural Sciences degree from Cambridge, it’s no surprise that Sally likes to experiment with different methods.

Agents of Field

agents of field's jam

Follow these beauties as they journey from allotment to breakfast table
Image: Agents of Field

Sophie and Ade are the Agents of Field and their mission is to save the Earth ‘one forkful at a time’. Their superpowers are sustainability, thriftiness and some very green fingers. And with twenty years of film and TV production between them, their blog is bursting with beautiful images and witty words.

So dive in and let horticulturalist Ade show you how to battle aphid invasions and upcycle just about any old rubbish into vital equipment for the allotment. Then settle down and discover how chef Sophie transforms both crops and weeds into mouthwatering meals. Nettle pesto, anyone?

Sharpen Your Spades

peas from sharpen your spades

Richard’s Blauwschokker peas are thriving in his no-dig allotment 
Image: Sharpen Your Spades

Richard Chivers is the man behind Sharpen Your Spades. His early growing career was a tempestuous one as he hurtled from one short-lived allotment fling to the next. But in 2015 he settled down with the plot of his life and hasn’t looked back since.

In his blog you’ll find a wealth of goodies from an allotment diary – a record of the frustrations and successes of organic growing – to comprehensive growing guides. Having sharpened his spade in the past, Richard has recently hung it up in favour of the no-dig gardening technique. Intriguing, huh?

The Event Gardener

Freshly harvested asparagus

Sandra enjoys growing tasty & more unusual varieties in her garden
Image: The Event Gardener

Every gardener nurtures their crops, but The Event Gardener’s Sandra Lawrence takes this to another level. Less concerned with high yield than taste and quality, Sandra delights in cultivating varieties that are expensive or hard to find in shops. Each crop’s arrival is celebrated with special meals, parties with friends, and new recipes.

How many packets of seeds do you have that you meant to sow but just didn’t get around to? Sandra’s top tip for finding out if they’re viable is to test on a dinner plate with some kitchen roll, clingfilm, moisture and a little patience. And if fruit trees hold more interest than veg seeds for you, Sandra has some top advice on how to transform the humble apple into the main event.

Sally Nex

Sally’s blog is full of tried-and-tested advice for gardeners
Image: Sally Nex

With over 20-years experience of vegetable growing, Sally Nex is a garden writer and the green fingers behind this recently restarted blog. Her own 250 square metre plot feeds her family all year round, and she loves experimenting with new crops as well as heritage varieties.

Sally’s simple vegetable plot tips for complete beginners will set you up for success. She’s also a keen advocate of gardening without plastic, and shares some great ideas about different alternatives, such as the pros and cons of wooden seed trays. Of course, you’ll need compost, too – ‘how to make a compost bin‘ is a fantastic guide to making the only system you’ll ever need – from scratch!

Horticultural ‘obbit

gooseberries from the horticultural hobbit

These gooseberries will soon be simmering with ginger, turmeric and spices
Image: Horticultural Hobbit

‘You won’t find romance here,’ warns Punam Farmah, psychology teacher, adventurous allotmenteer and writer of the Horticultural ‘obbit. This honest blog documents the natural experiments – some successful, others not – conducted on Punam’s allotment in Birmingham.

Discover how she transformed the jungle that was Plot 2a into a treasure-trove of taste (it took two weeks and 48 full green waste bags) and follow her delicious tutorials to create delights such as gooseberry pickle.

Grow Like Grandad

eggshells don't deter snails

It’s official: eggshells do NOT deter snails
Image: Grow Like Grandad

The granddads Matt Peskett wants to emulate are his very own – Grandad Jack and Great-Grandad George, both head gardeners in their time. And it’s thanks to Grandad Jack that our blogger got his first taste for growing.

Grow Like Grandad is full of expert information on allotmenteering, from how to grow giant pumpkins to a comprehensive guide to tackling your first allotment. It’s beautifully written and there’s always something to make you smile. The Snail Barrier Performance Trial (time-lapse video) is not to be missed.

We hope these wonderful blogs have inspired you to get growing or even to start your own allotment blog. And if you write about growing we’d love to hear from you. Visit our Facebook page and share a link to your gardening adventures.

 

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 you 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 2020 sunflower challenge? He has three categories this year: tallest, largest head, and best display in a group – check out the video for info.

Sean James Cameron

Sean from Diary of a UK Gardener on his allotment

Follow avid gardening vlogger Sean in his endeavours down the allotment
Image: Sean James Cameron

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 is: “The Good Life meets urban London living.”

Simplify Gardening

For seasoned growing advice, make sure to bookmark Tony’s channel
Image: Simplify Gardening

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.

 

Choosing the Right Plants for Growing on and Around Patios

Introduction – How to choose the right plants for your patio

Adding an element of life to your patio area is a great idea. It makes the space feel different – not only will plants add colour, but they make a space feel alive. But how do you make sure you are selecting the right plants? There are many guides on making sure you select plants that will survive your space, but we want to make sure they also fit with your design goals. There are normally two styles of designs that you are likely trying to achieve with your space: a traditional area, or a modern area.

Your choice of plants will be different depending on which of these you are aiming for:

A modern space – using plants as art installations

The purpose of modern spaces is to create specific focal points within your space that draw attentions – like an art installation. You should consider tall, strong and striking plants to place on and around your patio. They should immediately draw attention, whether that is through their imposing stature or vibrant colours, the plants should stand alone and work incredibly hard to draw focus.

©Thompson & Morgan

Plants suchas Agave, Bamboo (potted!), of Feather Reed grass are tall and imposing and will draw focus because of their structure. Bamboo is a particularly good conversation piece, just make sure it is potted, as it can really grow out of control if you let it!

©Primethorpe Paving

Alternatively, you can go for splashes or colour to create a visual effect. These colours should be a direct contrast to your patio, so for example if you have a patio with a warm, red hue, then colder colours such as blues or purples should be chosen.

Plants such as Fuchsias, Princess Flowers, or Hibiscus plants are all great options depending on your patio colour. The bright colours will do a great job drawing focus.

A traditional space – let the eyes wander naturally

A traditional space is quite a contract to the modern space described above. The aim of this space is to not draw attention to one area and to let eyes explore the space naturally. The plants you choose here should compliment each other and fit the colour scheme of the rest of the space.

©Primethorpe Paving

The colours of your plants should complement your patio colours rather than create a contrast. If your patio consists of earthy colours, then go with earthy and pastel colours for your plants. Try Tall Tails of Green Jewels for the earth colours and mix them in with Park Princesses. In general, a mix of wild grasses natural coloured flowers is going to go a long way to creating a traditional space. If you are potting plants, ensure the pot colours match the patio as closely as possible to maintain flow. If done correctly, a traditional space is a pure joy. It’s just tough to get it right!

In conclusion – pick a style and get creative

Choosing the right plants can seem daunting, but it shouldn’t. You should enjoy the task of learning which plants may survive in your space and once you’ve got the technical knowledge, the task of choosing which plants suit your garden is an artistic hobby like any other. Express your inner artist and treat you garden as your easel. There is no right or wrong answer if you know the effect you are trying to achieve – pick a direction and then embrace your creative mind. You will love the result.

Perfect gardens: tips for growing veg

freshly-harvested-carrots-veg-growing-top-tips

Growing your own fresh fruit and veg is hugely rewarding
Image: Wollertz

Decided to try to grow your own? Growing veg in your garden takes less effort than you might think and is a cost-effective way to enjoy delicious herbs, fruit and vegetables. 

To help you take your first steps, some of our favourite gardening bloggers have kindly shared their top tips, perfected over many years of trial and error. Here are our handy hints…

Where’s the best place to grow vegetables?

raised-veg-beds-veg-tips-article

Raised beds will solve the problem of poor soil
Image: Derek Harris Photography

Where are you thinking of growing your veg? An old flower bed, new raised beds, containers or maybe a window box? Wherever you decide to plant your produce, the location should satisfy three basic criteria: good soil, some sunshine, and stable growing conditions.

The best soil is a rich loam – it’s fertile and holds moisture without becoming waterlogged. If that doesn’t sound like the soil in your back garden, don’t despair – adding plenty of organic material helps to improve poor soils, and if your soil is prone to waterlogging – build raised beds.

South-facing plots make good veg gardens because they get the best of the sunshine throughout the day. But just because your garden lacks the perfect orientation doesn’t mean it can’t be productive – some veg, like salad leaves and brassicas, prefer slightly shadier conditions. Avoid planting fruit and veg in areas that suffer from extreme conditions – choose somewhere sheltered away from cold winds and pelting rain.

How to choose vegetables for a small garden

Swiss-chard-closeup-veg-growing-tips

Showy veg like chard look pretty in flower beds
Image: Kelly’s Kitchen Garden

You don’t need a big garden to grow lots of tasty veg, but if you’re short on space, it’s important to plant smartly. Mark Willis of the perennially informative blog Mark’s Veg Plot uses a scientific planting scheme he learned from garden writer Joy Larkcom – the Value for Space Rating. VSR takes into account things like crop yield per square metre, growing time, availability of the crop and its quality relative to supermarket purchases. So what’s the best thing to grow if space is at a premium? Mark says:

The best examples of VSR are in the herb department. Herbs don’t take up much space, and they are usually expensive to buy (and never available when you want them).

Richard, producer of ever-popular The Veg Grower Podcast, adopts a similarly scientific approach. Under his scoring system, top marks go to asparagus, tomatoes and garlic, which is great because he likes all three!

In a small garden, Caro Shrives at The Urban Veg Patch goes for small plants that work hard. She says: “Plants that keep on cropping are a good choice; compact courgette plants look good, have vibrant flowers and provide a decent amount of small courgettes without overwhelm.”

If you’re really short of square footage, Youtube presenter Kelly, of Kelly’s Kitchen Garden, suggests vertical growing: “Growing crops like beans, cucumbers and some types of squash up trellis, supports and cane wigwams can save a lot of space.”

And if you have no garden at all? Kelly says that as long as you have a balcony or somewhere to stand a few pots, you can still grow fresh produce in containers or window boxes: “I’ve had fantastic success growing lettuce in containers. By picking individual leaves to increase yield, I harvested 5.5lbs (2.5kg) from a container measuring no more than two square feet.”

Grow what you like to eat

Tomato-Tumbling-Tom-Red-Thompson-Morgan-veg-growing-tips

These tumbling tomatoes are perfect for patio containers or hanging baskets
Image: Tomato ‘Tumbling Tom Red’ from Thompson & Morgan

If you’re lucky enough to have room to grow whatever you like, how do you narrow down the choice? We asked our favourite bloggers that very question – the consensus – though growing expensive or rare veg is a fun and tasty sideline – concentrate on growing what you enjoy eating.

There’s little point cultivating exotic veg if you won’t eat it reckons Pete Polanyk of Weeds up to me Knees. Pete, whose blog offers a wealth of encouragement for beginner gardeners recommends bog standard spuds, tomatoes, runner beans, peas, carrots, beetroots, onions, garlic and herbs. Simple fare maybe, but “they’re a lot more tasty, fresh from the garden.”

Jackie Gulland of Reclaiming Paradise agrees, saying that you’ll be surprised by the flavour of freshly picked produce from your own garden. Although she has an allotment, she explains why she still grows some of her favourites at home:

The garden [is ideal] for picking herbs to throw in your cooking or a handful of soft fruit for your breakfast and for keeping on top of beans and peas which can grow too fast to eat sometimes. It’s great to go out after work and see what there is that you can have for an evening meal, rather than planning further in advance.

Whether you go for the VSR method or simply plant what you think you’ll enjoy, it’s important to feed your soil and rotate your crops. Avoid planting the same thing in the same place each year to help keep your ground fertile and free of pests.

Start small

Small-garden-patch-veg-growing-tips

Just a small patch of soil and a few pots are enough to get started
Image: Joanne Dale

A well-planted plot of about 12’ x 10’ is the ideal size to supply most of a family of four’s summer and autumn veg needs (with a little left over for freezing). If you start small, you won’t get overwhelmed with veg you can’t eat.

If you’re just testing the water to see if you like growing veg, why not follow Pete’s lead? He planted tomatoes in his flower beds next to his dahlias, pointing out that there’s nothing wrong with a bit of gardening anarchy.

Other options for the first-timer might include planting a few containers. Richards a great fan of growing new potatoes this way:

They’re easy to look after and, if grown in pots, can be moved around if needed. They don’t take much care – plenty of water and food as they are hungry and thirsty plants, and that’s about it. The flavour of homegrown new potatoes far exceeds anything you can buy too.

You might also consider building a raised bed which doesn’t need to take up much space and can easily produce a significant quantity of your favourite veg. Use good quality seeds and plug plants, avoid planting your veg too close together, water well and reap the rewards.

Growing alone? Caro does too. She says: ”It’s tempting to give up when things don’t work out. Joining a local horticultural society, visiting kitchen gardens and attending courses and talks gave me more confidence. Growing food should be fun!”

5 top tips from our brilliant bloggers

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Kelly recommends cost-effective crops like fresh peas and vibrant radish
Image: Kelly’s Kitchen Garden

  1. “The most cost-effective crops are the ones that are expensive to buy [in a shop] and don’t keep well – such as Purple Sprouting Broccoli and salads…[but] my favourites are still tomatoes and chillies.”  Mark – Mark’s Veg Plot
  2. “Growing your own is a good way to try unusual veg, especially if you have children. I grow yellow beans, oca, spaghetti squash, sweet red gooseberries – none of which is available in the shops – and physalis (Cape Gooseberries) that taste much nicer freshly picked.”  Caro Shrives – The Urban Veg Patch
  3. We have rosemary, thyme and bay in the garden that we planted years ago. They’re easy to grow, you just bung them in and voila, you’ve got fresh herbs when you need them.” Pete Polanyk – Weeds up to me knees
  4. I try and practise successional (staggered) sowing with salad leaves. This gives our household plenty of delicious salad leaves all year round saving us having to buy those expensive bags from the supermarket.” Richard – The Veg Grower Podcast
  5. “Things like peas, radishes, salad/spring onions and deliciously sweet turnips are on my budget list – great for the beginner gardener and take up very little space.” KellyKelly’s Kitchen Garden

If you’re thinking about growing your own vegetables we hope our gardening bloggers and YouTubers have provided the inspiration and advice you need to get started. As Kelly says: “Just give it a go and have fun!”

What to do when your plugs arrive

We’re so pleased to see so many photos on social media of the plug plants that you’re receiving in the post. Some customers – perhaps those of you who are turning to your gardens during this time of social distancing and self isolation – are asking us about what to do with their plug plants when they arrive. We’re aware that many of you may be new to gardening and might need some help and advice, so here’s a quick guide to what to do when your plants are delivered.

What to do when your plugs arrive

  • Unpack your plants as soon as they arrive – even if you haven’t got time to plant them up straight away – they’ll need some air after being enclosed in their packaging.
  • Give them a drink! The plants may well be thirsty after their journey, so moisten the plugs of soil at the roots of the plants if they are dry.
  • Don’t worry if the plants look a little sad on arrival; they should perk up once you give them a drink.
  • When you’re ready, gently tweak each plug plant out of its packaging and plant each one into a 7-9cm pot, filled with a good quality, multi purpose compost. This is what is known as ‘potting on’.
  • Gently press the plug plant into the compost, adding more to top up the pot if necessary. Don’t fill the pot to the very top with the compost – you need to allow for watering.
  • Place your pots somewhere where they will stay fairly warm and get lots of light – a windowsill, or a table near a window is fine if you don’t have a greenhouse or conservatory.
  • Keep the compost moist, but try not to overwater.
  • Your plants will start to grow; getting bigger and stronger by the day.

Once your plants have developed more leaves and are looking more robust – usually in late April to mid May (depending on the weather/climate in your area) – you can toughen them up ready for planting out in the garden by popping them outdoors during the daytime and bringing them in at night. You should do this for 7 – 10 days prior to planting out. This is known as ‘hardening off’. It’s important to protect your growing plants from any possible spring frosts, so do keep an eye on the weather forecast!

After you’ve ‘hardened off’ your plants, they’re ready to be planted out into the garden where you can watch them continue to grow and flourish – just remember to water them!

NOTE: If your plants are destined for baskets or containers which can be easily moved indoors and out again, then you can plant your plants into their final containers a little earlier if they have made good growth. You can then harden them off as explained.

Top tips for Instagram-ready gardens

Person taking photo of garden with smartphone

Get your garden grid-ready with these top tips
Image: leungchopan

Instagram gardening is huge these days. This social media app is a great virtual place to make friends with like-minded growers, swap advice and grow an online audience as you grow your own.

But if you’re not sure how to get started, or would love some ideas for improving how you Insta-garden, we’ve got some amazing tips to share with you.

We asked some of our favourite instagram-loving gardeners for their best advice on growing and capturing Instagram-ready gardens, and here’s what they said:

Dave @greedy_gardens

Dave from greedy gardens standing in his allotment

Dave shares allotment growing with his two green-fingered sons
Image: @greedy_gardens

“My home garden is for the chickens and kids, with flowers around the borders so it will never be award winning. I’ve had my allotment for 5 years now, I’ve learned to grow things that we all like, although I always end up with too many courgettes!” says Dave of @greedy_gardens.

Dave’s priorities are growing things he and his family love, plus keeping his two sons busy on the plot – with a mud kitchen for the youngest and a ‘Minecraft’ related veg patch for the oldest.

With regard to what ‘works’ on Instagram, Dave feels that’s a bit of a mystery: “In the past I have posted what I thought were great photos of flowers only to get very few ‘likes’, then I’d post a muddy carrot and would get loads of likes.” 

His advice is to concentrate on the social side of social media:

I would never consider myself an expert gardener or instagrammer but I would say try and be enthusiastic and interesting. Interact with the gardening community; I think that’s more important and fun than trying to create an amazing photo.

August @augusts_garden

August with her children in the garden

August enjoys teaching her girls about the joy of gardening
Image: @marklordphoto

Seeing my girls faces light up when the seeds they have sown poke through the soil, and then even better when they get to eat their creations, is something I desperately want to share with other families and this is quite simply what motivates me to share photos and posts on Instagram.

August of @augusts_garden loves to grow unusual shapes and rainbow colours to get her girls enthusiastic about growing – and eating – good food. And as market gardener at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, August certainly knows her onions. She loves bright colours, so her Instagram feed is a treasure trove of fruit, flowers and delicious veg:

“I find so much beauty in nature which Is why I find it difficult to stick to a scheme resulting in a garden bursting with colourful vegetables and flowers. If you look at my page I strongly recommend sunglasses!”

Her main advice for Instagram gardening is to follow your heart:

“I think you have to stick to what you love and trust in yourself even if it’s not what everyone else is posting. It’s not just a picture you post, the words also make an impact. If you love what you grow it’s hard for it not to come across in your posts.”

Amy @amyskitchengarden

Amy standing on her balcony with a box of potatoes

Amy grows amazing produce on her tiny Brighton balcony
Image: @amyskitchengarden

Amy of @amyskitchengarden describes herself as a ‘rookie veggie grower’. She rediscovered her childhood love of gardening last year and started with potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and aubergines. Now she’s getting great results from her Brighton balcony garden (although she openly shares the not-so-great ones too).

“I try not to think too much about my Instagram channel when I’m planning my garden,” says Amy. “I always choose interesting seeds that catch my eye, rather than thinking what will do well on social media… I have to admit, I did buy some rainbow sweetcorn last month because of it’s beautiful colourful kernels too!”

She advises using lots of flowers and bright colours to jazz up your feed. But her main concern is looking after the environment and spreading awareness:

I try to use upcycled materials in my gardening, the most eye catching of which are my big recycled beer keg containers! I’m always keen to do my bit for the environment as sustainability and minimising waste are super important, so whilst my garden isn’t the most ‘Instagrammable’ I think people really enjoy seeing how they can take these tips into their own garden.

Lucy @shegrowsveg

Lucy standing in garden with a pink striped top

Lucy has created a beautiful Instagrammable edible garden
Image: @shegrowsveg

Lucy of @shegrowsveg takes her Instagram presence seriously:

I completely ripped out, redesigned and replanted my garden to showcase what you could do with fully edible planting. I wanted to take the opportunity to show that choosing edible plants did not mean compromising on beauty or design or mean that the entire garden looks like an allotment.

Her grid is full of lush, large veg and vibrant colour. And she loves to showcase specialist and unique fruit and veg that looks great in her photos and inspires her audience.

But, despite her commitment to Instagram gardening, Lucy’s main piece of advice is to follow your heart rather than the likes:

“Don’t make it all about Instagram, remember this is your garden and it should still be a place that makes you happy. People enjoy following accounts that are genuine as opposed to content simply created for a good photo. If you are loving your garden, other people will love it too!”

Will @solegardener

Summers day at South Wood Farm with a topiary garden

Stunning topiary at South Wood Farm, taken by head gardener Will
Image: @solegardener

The garden that Will shares on Instagram is grander than your ordinary backyard or allotment. He’s head gardener at South Wood Farm in Devon, and his Instagram account @solegardener is packed with stunning images of the grounds.

With such an excellent backdrop, it’s not surprising that Will has become an expert in getting the best out of garden photography. He has some advice on composition:

I find wide angle shots of plants or borders with a subject matter or focal point in such as a house/gate/bench always seem to be a lot more popular than just a plant portrait for example.

And his top tip for a successful instagram feed is incredibly simple:

“It sounds obvious but I’m always very aware of the lighting and weather when I’m taking pictures of the garden. Plants never look happy on a grey overcast day (much like the gardener!)”

Vera @growntocook

Vera standing in an allotment holding a pumpkin

Vera keeps a tidy plot on @growntocook
Image: @growntocook

For Vera of @growntocook Insta success starts with a tidy garden: “A well-organised garden with neat beds is generally easier to photograph than a jungle-like planting which can be very delightful in real life, but is not easy to capture well in photos.”

Vera’s kitchen garden comprises 15 rectangular beds which are very practical for the no-dig gardening she practises, while also looking great on camera:

“The photos that get the most likes on my feed are usually aerial shots of our kitchen garden, but the ones that generate most engagement are often those where I share more in-depth information about specific plants.”

Ultimately, says Vera, it’s your humanness that’s going to help you grow an audience:

… don’t be afraid to share your failures. If you don’t want to make them a part of your grid, share them in stories. We all have failures and ultimately, perfection is boring! Concentrate on what you love about gardening in the first place and then share that love with your audience.

Lucy @allotment.postie

Lucy standing on a garden fork in an allotment

Keeping an Instagram account motivates Lucy to visit her allotment on greyer days
Image: @allotment.postie

For Lucy of @allotment.postie, Instagramming is a great motivator to get down the allotment, even when the weather’s rubbish.

She told us that her most popular posts tend to feature pumpkins:

I think because they’re very exciting and satisfying to grow! Flowers are always a crowd pleaser also, and I’ve noticed if you have a personal project people like to follow along.

But as well as growing a following on Instagram, Lucy really values the community and support of other growers. She recommends engaging with other Insta gardeners, asking questions and spreading appreciation.

“The biggest mistake is to not share mistakes. Everyone knows life isn’t what social media shows, but by sharing your mistakes… you can get advice on how to fix it or move on. It may seem embarrassing to share mistakes but everyone has them, even the big names that seem to have it all figured out.”

Shannon @diaryofaladygardener

Shannon wearing bright pink gardening gloves on an allotment

Shannon wears bright accessories in her winter pictures
Image: @diaryofaladygardener

Shannon of @diaryofaladygardener doesn’t let Instagram sway her planting decisions too much.

This year my focus is on things that we’ll actually eat at home rather than what looks best (although I’m still hoping it’ll all look lovely too). That said, I’ve got my eye on an awful lot of dahlias for this year because I got such flower envy from everyone else’s feed in 2019!

When it comes to photography, Shannon takes a lot of photos. For every one photo she posts, she’s probably taken about 30-40. Her advice? Introduce a dash of colour wherever you can: “that’s why my gloves are bright pink and my wheelbarrow has splashes of yellow – the extra colour can really bring a photo to life, especially during the winter months.”

And Shannon also recommends showing yourself in your feed:

“I personally love to follow the people who have really authentic feeds and have themselves in the photos – you can really see how happy growing makes them and the love that’s gone into growing those plants, fruits and veggies!”

Dave and Joy @our_tiny_garden

Dave and Joy holding their baby on the allotment in the winter

Dave and Joy have recently grown from a tiny garden into a large allotment
Image: @our_tiny_garden

Dave and Joy of @our_tiny_garden grow fruit and veg in their small back garden and have just taken on a new allotment. Their Instagram feed is full of colour and beautiful close ups.

We’re growing some coloured corn this year because it looks amazing, and Chioggia beetroot too. Fundamentally though, we grow for taste. And we’re just lucky that tomato plants and tomatoes are super photogenic, and yellow courgettes are delicious too!

We asked the couple for their photography tips and they shared this with us:

“A good camera helps a lot, but it doesn’t need to be an expensive DSLR. All of our photos are taken with a mobile phone camera… Our major tip would be to use natural light. Sunshine if possible, as it lifts the colours and the feel of the photo massively.” 

And when it comes to those stunning close ups, take note of this advice: “Don’t use a digital zoom – Take a larger area photo and zoom in afterwards. This prevents the image from pixelating as much.”

Claire of @sowing_at_the_stoop

Portrait of a thriving garden with green leaves and canes in an allotment

Claire’s passion for growing is clearly evident
Image: @sowing_at_the_stoop

“Having an Instagram page was my way of making me keep up my home allotment and to make sure I spent some time out there every day,” says Claire of @sowing_at_the_stoop.

“It’s turned into much more that .. I’ve ‘met’ some truly great people always on hand with advice or ideas as well as being involved with the Thompson and Morgan trials last year … which I loved!”

When it comes to photography, Claire says:

I think a more natural setting works best with social media… the colourful images seem to be popular or some garden hacks that I share… Summer watering or propagation… that type of thing does well too.

Like many of our Instagrammers, Claire urges you to do what you enjoy: “Do what you love and garden in a way that suits you.. don’t go for the ‘likes’. If you enjoy what you do, that will shine through onto your IG page.”

Rachel @thegoodlifeainteasy

Rachel holding a kale haul and standing in front of a shed

Rachel celebrating her kale haul
Image: @thegoodlifeainteasy

Rachel of @thegoodlifeainteasy (but it’s worth it) colourfully documents her efforts to live as sustainably as possible on her Instagram account. She’s got an organic allotment and some lovely ex-battery hens to help her in her mission.

Despite her large Instagram following and an engaged audience, she doesn’t garden for the Gram:

To be honest, I don’t really think of Instagram when I plan my garden. I just do what I love and what I’ll enjoy, and then share that. So if anything I think my tip would be to be authentic and just share what you love and your passion will come through.

Karen @welliesandwaffles

Karen kneeling in the garden whilst doing cabbage watch

Karen on ‘cabbage watch’ in her kitchen garden
Image: @welliesandwaffles

“I think my most liked photo is actually of some chard roots which were bright pink,” writes Karen of @welliesandwaffles. Colourful images are key to engaging Karen’s audience, but they’re not the only things that count:

I also find that a good description works very well… alongside the photo. Otherwise it’s like having cheese without the crackers!

She continues: “Showing a wide variety of plants, detailed descriptions and adding tips always adds to the post. It takes time and effort to get a garden to look great so show this and take people along on the journey. The gardening community loves a ‘before and after’ photo.”

Jane @plot_life_

Allotmenteer Jane taking a selfie whilst overlooking her thriving allotment

Allotmenteer Jane enjoying her allotment
Image: @plot_life_

“For me, the best images come from something that you’re passionate about. The growing community on Instagram are a wonderful bunch: the best posts are made with an enthusiasm that often transcends the image on a grid,” says Jane of @plot_life_.

When it comes to plants that make the best images, Jane has been experimenting lately, and with some success:

Last year, I experimented with vertical growing: the aesthetics of crops at various heights across the plot was very pleasing to the eye and is something I’ll probably build on this year.

But, ultimately, says Jane, don’t worry too much about what’s going to ‘work’ on Instagram or not:

“Grow what you love: be driven by your personal taste, not by what others are growing or what you feel you ‘should’ be cultivating. You will spend far longer in your garden than the person scrolling through your feed, so make sure you love it!”

@inatinygarden

Inatinygardener holding a bunch of rainbow carrots

Rainbow carrots are a feast for the eyes and the table
Image: @inatinygarden

“I started my Instagram account to encourage people to grow their own, showing it’s possible even in a small space with limited time,” says @inatinygarden.

And for this Instagrammer, it’s the pollinators who govern all her decisions.

I grow a variety of plants in order to have flowers all year round for multiple pollinators… So my advice is, don’t grow for what will get the most likes on Instagram, grow for the pollinators, Mother Earth and last but not least for your own enjoyment!

We’d like to thank all of our wonderful Instagram gardeners for their generous advice. And we hope you’ve found some inspiration to help you start – or grow – your own Insta accounts.

BUZZING WITH EXCITEMENT… GOOD NEWS FOR GARDENERS!

We are in the midst of somewhat dark and difficult times. Newspapers, social media and television constantly reminding us of the troubles that loom uneasily around us. Every day seems like a battle. And yet, there is one battle that continues to fly beneath the radars of far too many of us; let alone the political leaders across our planet.

Soiltary bee on cornflower

©Shutterstock – A solitary bee visiting nectar-rich Cornflowers

Bee populations in decline

Our bee population is in a worrying state of decline. Without bees and other pollinators, there is no pollination of crops, 70% of which feed the world. And without food crops the survival of the human race itself is questionable. If current trends continue some bee species will be lost from Britain altogether; and one in ten of Europe’s wild bees will face extinction. It’s serious.

A number of factors are at play here including the ever topical climate change, the destruction of bees’ natural habitats and the continued overuse of bee killing pesticides.

Wildflower Meadow

©Shutterstock – 97% of our wildflower meadows (a natural habitat for wild bees) have been lost.

Pollinators need food, water and shelter, and since World War II, 97% of our wildflower meadows (a natural habitat for wild bees) have been lost. As such, pollen and nectar rich flowers in our own green spaces provide both much needed food and indeed shelter for the beleaguered bee.

Planting to attract pollinators

As gardeners and plant lovers this is a call to arms. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder, trowel to trowel and do what we do best.  Eliminate the usage of harmful pesticides and most effectively, plant, plant and plant more.

The plants that we so adore, that we spend our last single penny upon are the single most important factor in this worrying dilemma. Luckily, it’s a rousing cheer for us gardeners as we can cheerfully proclaim to our long-suffering but significant other halves, that we are helping to save the planet by buying more plants.

But what plants too choose?  Like many garden centres and online plant retailers, Thompson & Morgan have adopted the beneficial ‘RHS Plants for Pollinators’ logo which highlights plants which will attract pollinators into our gardens.

RHS Plants for Pollinators logo

©RHS – RHS Plants for Pollinators logo highlights plants which will attract pollinators into our gardens.

Scan through Thompson & Morgan’s catalogue and you’ll see the ‘RHS Plants for Pollinators’ logo sprinkled liberally across its pages.

Attract pollinators all year round

As gardeners our endeavour is to attract these precious pollinators into our plots year-round. In the depths of our dreary winters plant cheerful, yellow winter aconites and beautifully scented Mahonia x media ‘Charity’.  Spring heralds the much anticipated arrival of our beloved snowdrops, drifts of golden narcissus, stunning hellebores and a bounty of beautiful tulips, all of which will have the bees buzzing for joy. Summer naturally brings with it a seemingly never-ending parade of pollinating plants; a confection of Cosmos, fantastic fuchsias and geraniums galore. An endless summer bouquet of blooms. And finally, into the listless, mellow days of autumn, delightful dahlias, echinaceas, asters and the ever-popular bee magnet, sedums provide a final hurrah for our busy bees.

Flower border with nectar rich plants

©Shutterstock – As gardeners our endeavour is to attract these precious pollinators into our plots year-round. Cosmos, Dahlia and Monarda are all valuable plants for pollinators.

No matter what size our garden, be it a solitary, veronica packed window box, a hanging basket crammed with a cascade of lobelia or perhaps a single patio container playing host to exquisite agapanthus, there is no excuse. 

It is estimated that there around 27 million gardeners in the UK (from a current population of 64 million). Think of the positive implications of each of us 27 million gardeners planting just one container of pollinating plants.

We have to take action before its too late.  Let’s make sure the sting in this tale is ensuring we still have a bee population that has a sting in their tails.

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