4 new gardening trends to try in 2017

4 new gardening trends to try in 2017

Many recent studies indicate that time spent in and amongst nature plays an instrumental role in reducing stress and improving general health & well-being. Fortunately, due to modern advancements, it’s not necessary to go into the woods to spend time with nature. You can do so in the comfort of your own home, office or garden.

No longer are we limited by climate, rainfall, space, and soil conditions when it comes to growing plants. The advancement in modern techniques and technology enables virtually any available space to be transformed into a plant haven. Here are four new gardening trends to consider.

Vegetable seedlings

  1. Growing herbs & vegetables indoors

Indoor gardening techniques and equipment have improved in leaps and bounds over recent years. People are often choosing (or being forced) to live in smaller spaces without large gardens, whilst at the same time the demand for local and organic food has increased tremendously. Hence, many are opting to grow their own herbs, salads and other vegetables such as pak choi and chillies indoors. You can also grow your own herbal plants for infused teas, soaps or medicinal treatments. A windowsill is a perfect site for all this. You might also have a small balcony area that you can dedicate to these plants; or, failing that, grow plants under lights or use aquaponic systems.

Swallow greenhousecredit

  1. Greenhouses

If you do have some outdoor space, it doesn’t need to be large or expansive in order to grow your own food. You can have a Swallow greenhouse installed in your backyard or flat roof terrace. These greenhouses are specifically manufactured to help grow delicate plants that require specific conditions. They are constructed of timber that is heat-treated up to 215ºC, protecting the construction from rotting. Hence, you can be assured of the durability of Swallow greenhouses as they’re built to handle cold and damp weather conditions with ease. If you’re considering installing a Swallow greenhouse in your backyard or other potentially suitable space, pay a visit to the site greenhousestores.co.uk.

Cacti and succulent house plants

  1. Jungle and desert-inspired interiors

A trend that has been gaining momentum recently is grouped collections of house plants. If you browse magazines and interiors websites, you’ll see that many home-owners are using house plants to decorate their homes – arranged in wonderful assemblages of various sizes and shapes. Many have broad, glossy, architectural leaves and others cascade down from shelves and hanging planters. This gives quite a jungle-inspired feel and they’re currently all the rage.

The same can be said of cacti and other succulents. Again, they’re arranged in concentrated collections for maximum impact. Various pot colours & sizes – and using alternative containers such as up-cycled tins can add further interest. When decorating your home, consider these bold and intriguing house plants – for both the natural air purification benefits and to make a real interiors statement.

Click Grow house planting kit

  1. Hi-tech gardening tools

There’s some great new technology on the market for the both the experienced and aspiring gardener.

There is a growing range of apps available for your smartphone or tablet. There are plant identifiers such as the RHS ‘Grow Your Own’ which tells you what fruit & veg you can grow; when to plant and harvest and what pests and diseases you may encounter. There are also a number of podcasts that you can download and watch to improve your gardening knowledge.

The Parrot Flower Power plant monitor is a little device that you stick into your plant’s pot (either indoors or out) and it monitors and analyses the growing conditions. It sends you alerts to your smartphone via an app to let you know if the plant needs more or less light, water, warmth or even if it needs to be re-potted!

If there are rooms in your house that get little natural sunlight, you may find it a challenge to grow plants successfully. This dilemma has now been solved. There are now planting kits that come with integrated LED lights to ensure that your plants get all the light they need.

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Price Points: Strawberry pots

Strawberry pots | H is for Home

Our summer fruit harvest has been pretty good this year. We have a few strawberry plants that have produced lots of fruit – and now, dozens of runners between them. We don’t want to just cut them back and waste them. Also, you shouldn’t just keep the same strawberry plants, growing on the same plot (or in the same soil) year after year, as they accumulate viruses – and crops diminish.

About three years is the optimum life for a strawberry plant apparently, so we’re going to propagate a few over the coming weeks. We had a look at what the venerable Monty Don had to say on how to go about it – and it’s incredibly easy. You can never have too many strawberry plants because you can never have too many strawberries!

Here’s a trio of different strawberry pots – from less than a tenner to over £50 – which we’ve found that would be perfect for our allotment and garden…

  1. Large 45-litre plastic herb / strawberry planter / grow bag: £7.95, Amazon
  2. Terracotta strawberry pots: £35.00, Etsy
  3. Terracotta strawberry planter: £64.99, Crocus

Take to the stage!

Top of trestle staging | H is for Home

We’ve recently been sent this wooden trestle staging by First Tunnels, a polytunnel and garden structure firm based in Barrowford – not that far from us, over the Lancashire border.

Wooden trestle staging | H is for Home

We’ve been in need of a potting station on our allotment, however, we thought we’d have a dry run and assemble it in the garden before taking it down there.

Bottom shelf of trestle staging | H is forHome

In fact, we needn’t have worried about a tricky construction. No tools, nails, screws or allen keys were required – job done in 30 seconds flat! The kit came in a single piece; all that was needed was for the folded, hinged legs to be stabilised with a metal pin on either end and the under-shelf slid under.

Detail showing hinge of trestle staging | H is for Home

The trestle staging is made of planed, tanalised pine – First Tunnels is FSC certified which means all the wood they use is responsibly sourced. It’s not just ideal for the allotment; it can be used in the garden, conservatory, potting shed, greenhouse, garage or boot room.

Detail from wooden trestle staging | H is for Home

It’s 6ft wide and the under-shelf is useful for storing tools, pots and watering cans whilst the top is the perfect height for sowing seeds and potting on. The structure is very sturdy – it can easily support heavy things such as tomato grow bags and bags of potting compost.

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Price Points: Tomato supports

Tomato supports | H is for Home

A couple of months ago, we planted out a few packets of tomato seeds, including some that were sent to us by Heinz. Fast-forward to June and we have about 3 dozen plants that are fast outgrowing their pots and need to be planted out on our allotment.

Last year’s crop was very disappointing; some of it was down to the weather, but if I’m being truthful, they were a little neglected and were in dire need of some tomato supports.

We’re really impressed by the plant halos (#2). They’ve had lots of good reviews and it’s claimed that they can boost your yield as it encourages two sets of roots to develop.

We didn’t really think about using tomato grow bags on the allotment, the tomato plants have always gone into beds – in which case frames #1 or #2 would work well. However, if planting into the ground isn’t an option – or you’ve had good results with grow bags, there’s currently an offer on a set of halos with an eco-friendly reusable grow bag for £17.00. We don’t have a greenhouse ourselves, but we might actually try one on a windowsill to test and compare results.

  1. Tomato support cage: £7, Wilko
  2. Tomato plant halos (set of 3): £10.95, Harrod Horticultural
  3. Fold-a-frame: £19.99, Suttons

Price points: Terrarium

terrarium choices | H is for Home

Terrarium? Terraria? Terrariums? Which is the correct plural term? Following on from last week’s cactus lights round-up, today we’re looking at the real thing.

We don’t have that many house plants, but we seem to be able to maintain our little collection of cacti and succulents. A terrarium is the ideal micro-climate for housing these kind of plants; keeping them in this way makes these low-maintenance plants almost no-maintenance!

12 perennial vegetables to grow for a low-maintenance allotment

12 perennial vegetables to grow for a low-maintenance vegetable garden or allotment | H is for Home

You may or may not have noticed that we haven’t done an update about our allotment in quite a while. Yes, we still have it. Unfortunately, because of Justin’s back injury, poor weather and neglect due to time pressures, this year has been a wipe out!

In an ideal world, we’d potter about amongst the fruit and veg every day – alas, this just isn’t possible at the moment. We’ve come to the conclusion that, for the time being, we’d be much better off concentrating on low-maintenance perennial vegetables. We’ve done a bit of research online and from Eric Toensmeier’s book, Perennial Vegetables. This is our short list of 12 that we’re going to try out.

Allium fistulosum - Welsh onion

Allium fistulosum – Welsh onion

It may say Welsh on the tin, but this allium actually originates in China. We think it would be perfect for our allotment. Not only is it good for cooking and eating, it’s a beautiful ornamental when it’s in flower. It’s used widely in East Asia in miso soup, stir fries and in salad garnish.

Available here

Allium ursinum - Wild garlic, damsons, wood garlic

Allium ursinum – Wild garlic, damsons, wood garlic

Wild garlic grows… well, wild in lots of places near where we live. We have an old tin bath that we planted up with a few wild garlic bulbs a couple of years ago. It absolutely loves the dark, damp spot where we put it and its spread has already doubled. We’ll dig up a bit of it and replant it in a similar position on the allotment. We look forward to the wild garlic season every year, we use the leaves a lot in cooking.

Available here

Growing asparagus in a pot

Asparagus officinalis – Asparagus

Asparagus is one vegetable that I wish we’d cook and eat more often. It’s always so expensive in the shops – and it’s almost always thick, fibrous spears on offer. Because the soil in or garden and on our allotment isn’t at all sandy, we think we’ll grown a little asparagus in containers. Maybe one green, one white and one purple.

Lots of people say that it can’t grow in pots but we’ve seen on the internet that it can be done. Apparently, the container needs to be very deep with very good drainage – so we were thinking of using a couple of old metal dolly tubs. The downside of container-grown asparagus is that it doesn’t live anywhere near the 10-20 years that it does in open ground and the resulting spears can be a little spindly. The upside is that the taste of asparagus cut from the earth and cooked within hours is incredible – as is the feeling of knowing you’ve grown it yourself.

Available here

Brassica oleracea botrytis asparagoides - Broccoli, Nine Star Perennial

Brassica oleracea botrytis asparagoides – Broccoli, Nine Star Perennial

A broccoli that looks like a cauliflower and is a perennial? We’d never heard of it! Each head grows to the size of a tennis ball – so the perfect portion. It would be great roasted or served with a cheese sauce and a crunchy breadcrumb topping.

Available here

Cynara scolymus - Globe artichokes

Cynara scolymus – Globe artichoke

Yes, it’s a faff to prepare. Yes, there’s a lot of wastage in its preparation. But you never see it in the supermarket and rarely on a veg stall at the market. And it’s such a show-stopping, architectural plant in the garden or on the allotment; we think it earns its place on this list.

Available here

Helianthus tuberosus - Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke

Helianthus tuberosus – Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke

Another vegetable that you don’t see in the supermarket, the Jerusalem artichoke (it’s not an artichoke… and nothing to do with Jerusalem for that matter!) is a relative of the sunflower. As such, this perennial root vegetable doubles up as an ornamental having bright yellow flowers on a stem that can grow 5-10 foot tall.

Available here

Matteuccia struthiopteris - ostrich ferns and fiddleheads

Matteuccia struthiopteris – ostrich fern, shuttlecock fern

It’s the young unfurled fronds, or fiddleheads, of the ostrich fern that can be eaten – not raw though. Neither of us have ever tried them, but they are meant be delicious sautéed in butter. They contain omega-3 & omega-6 fatty acids, fibre, potassium, antioxidants… full of goodness!

Available here

Phaseolus coccineus - Scarlet runner beans

Phaseolus coccineus – Scarlet runner beans

The pods of the scarlet runner bean conceal the most beautiful beans! Eat them in their pods while they’re still young & tender, cook the shelled beans from fresh or dry and store them for a later date. Grow & train the plant up a wigwam or trellis where you can appreciate the scarlet flowers in all their glory. Even the roots are edible – a true perennial all-rounder!

Available here

Polygonatum biflorum canaliculatum - Solomon's seal

Polygonatum biflorum canaliculatum – Solomon’s seal

We’ve had a pot of Solomon’s Seal in our garden for years and never knew that it’s an edible plant. Talking of all-rounders, the starchy rhizomes of Solomon’s seal can be used to make bread and soup, the young stems can be eaten like asparagus and it’s used in herbal medicine as an anti-inflammatory, sedative and a tonic.

Available here

Rheum rhabarbarum - Rhubarb

Rheum rhabarbarum – Rhubarb

One of my favourites! I love it in pies, crumble and as a compote atop plain yoghurt. We may use it like a fruit, but it’s actually a vegetable, similar to celery.  It’s a beautiful, sculptural plant with its huge, tropical-looking leaves at the end of bright pink stalks. It’s only these stalks that are edible – the leaves are famously poisonous… but they are terrific for the compost heap, the toxic oxalic acid quickly breaks down. Rhubarb is known as a bit of a bully and can become rampant, so keep an eye on its spread. We already have a couple of varieties growing in dolly tubs in our garden.

Available here

Scorzonera hispanica - black salsify

Scorzonera hispanica – black salsify

If you live in a cold part of the country like we do, black salsify can cope with that. Another relative of the sunflower, it has lovely yellow flowers. If you’re growing carrots on your allotment, use this as a companion plant as it’s believed to repel carrot fly. Another nutritious root vegetable, it’s rich in potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, and various vitamins.

Available here

Urtica dioica - Stinging nettle

Urtica dioica – Stinging nettle

Most people see stinging nettle as a weed, a pest. Poor thing, it doesn’t deserve that reputation! It’s really versatile. We inherited a couple of patches, which we have left alone, when we took on our allotment (their presence is an indicator of a good quality soil!).

Pick the young leaves (wearing gardening gloves) and cook with them in much the same way as you would use spinach. It’s full of protein, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. It can be used to brew tea and beer. Use the leaves and roots to make natural dyes. Even the stalks can be used to make a textile similar to linen. Soak it in a large watering can or water butt to produce home-made liquid fertiliser. Insects love it,  If you keep chickens, feed it to them and the yolks of their eggs even more yellow. If you still feel the need to uproot it, put it on your compost heap, it’s full of nitrogen which helps in the breakdown of the organic material. What’s not to love about the humble stinging nettle?