Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Gardening for Wildlife

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

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Cottage garden with borders, paths and shedImage credit: Kellan

Nothing beats sitting in your garden on a sunny afternoon, listening to the birds sing and watching other little wild creatures shuffle in and out of your garden. To encourage more wildlife info your garden, there are lots of tips and tricks you can implement so your garden is even more welcoming.

Starlings eating on a bird tableImage credit: pjs2005

Bird Tables

Having a bird table is a wonderful addition to a garden: you’ll have so many different bird species fluttering in and out of your garden throughout the year. There are many different types, from free standing bird tables, through wall mounted, ground feeding and small ones hanging from trees or fences. Place yours in front of a window so you can watch the birds even when the weather is chilly, and keep it stocked up with bird feed throughout the year to ensure you have your fair share of feathered visitors.

detailed view of a log pileImage credit: Martin Bamford

Log Pile

Piles of logs not only allow your wood to dry out for the best log fires in your fireplace, but they also allow biodiversity to thrive. It’s a great location for growing different mosses, and encouraging small mammals, insects and amphibians. Build it in a pyramid shape if you’d like to attract hedgehogs too, but never set it alight without checking for wildlife.

frog popping its head out of a pondImage credit: Dan Zen

Pond Life

Ponds are great for wildlife, and they’re really easy to construct. Make sure the edges are shallow: that’ll allow easy access for little creatures like frogs and newts. Install plants around the edges to shelter the pond life, and keep it clean with pond cleaners that aren’t made with too many chemicals.

Virginia creeper growing on a wooden fenceImage credit: Laura Bernhardt

Plants

Climbing plants are not only beautiful, but they also provide excellent nesting habitats. There are lots to choose from but good ones are roses, honeysuckle and clematis. If you have a bit more space, plant a hawthorn hedge, blackthorn or hazel: the hedge will provide nesting sites along with nuts and berries for wildlife during the harsh winter months.

Bee on lavenderImage credit: Alden Chadwick

Flowers

Encourage bees with pollen and nectar-producing plants like lavender. The Royal Horticultural Society can advise on the best plants, and you can also provide a dry nesting box for bees: one with a see-through window would allow you to watch them at work!

The garden is an amazing place for wildlife if you can create the perfect environment. With just a few easy steps you’ll have a garden bustling with life!

Homegrown & homemade

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

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vegetables from our allotment

We’ve got an Allotment Diary with a twist today. We’re sharing what we did with some actual homegrown produce! One day last week we collected some peas, cavolo nero and lamb’s lettuce. Sounds like the start of an episode of Ready, Steady, Cook!

lettuce from our allotment

We also had some of the home-made soft cheese we blogged about last week.

cubed homemade paneer

All the essentials for a favourite dish of ours – lasagne. A bit of preparation beforehand, but then just pop in the oven for about half an hour when you decide you’re ready to eat. No last-minute running around. The perfect dish if you fancy a pre-dinner drink or have friends round and want to chat and be sociable.

uncooked lasagne made using our homemade paneer and veg from our allotment

This version has a white Béchamel sauce with the soft cheese, peas, cavolo nero, toasted pine nuts & basil – with a lambs lettuce garnish of course.

cooked lasagne made using our homemade paneer and veg & salad from our allotment

Very pretty and very delicious!

6 Tips for newbie allotmenteers

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

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Blue painted wooden shed on an allotmentImage credit: Karen Jackson, The Garden Smallholder

This week is National Allotments Week so we wanted to mark the occasion by sharing a bit of useful advice to fellow newbie allotmenteers.

sketch of our allotment

Plan!

Sketch out your plot on a sheet of paper. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy and you don’t need a degree in draughtsmanship. Work out where the sunny and shady spots are. Get a compass out if need be – you can download free compass apps for your smart-phone.

Chilli Pablano seedling in a small terracotta pot

Plant seeds into pots first

Consider planting seeds into small pots of sterilised compost before planting out into the allotment beds. They’ll get a head start and we’ve found that the small seedlings are more easily identifiable too. You can then weed around them without damaging those precious crops.

outdoor thermometer with pink rambling rose

Wait for the soil to warm up before planting your seedlings out

“Never cast a clout ’til May is out”. This means don’t stop wearing your coat until the Hawthorn tree has flowered. This also pertains to delicate seedlings. The hawthorn, also know as the May tree, flowers in late April-early May. Don’t impatiently transplant your seedlings outside too soon. Keep them protected under a cloche if necessary. One night’s frost will ruin all your weeks of hard work and tending.

selection of seed packets and vintage garden tools

Grow things that are hard to come by in the market /supermarket or are expensive to buy

Don’t grow things just because they’re easy if you don’t actually like the way they taste. Grow fruit & veg that are renowned for tasting great straight out of the ground our off the bush. For example – ripe, sun-warmed tomatoes, sweet & juicy strawberries or peas snapped & eaten straight from the pod. Nothing’s as good as home grown fruit & veg!

clear plastic umbrella being used as a cloche on an allotmentImage credit: Permaculture

Be mindful of pests

There’s another old farmers’/gardeners’ saying, “One for the rook, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow”. In our case it was one for the wood pigeon, one for the snail, one for the squirrel, one for the neighbourhood cat… You’ll almost always need to plant more than you think you’ll actually need or can consume. If you have a glut, you can always trade with fellow allotmenteers or give away any surplus to friends, family and neighbours. Also, invest in a bit of garden netting or covers as a hungry caterpillar or slug can do a lot of damage very quickly. There are lots of home-made options too – old plastic bottles cut in half is a common solution – and this up-cycled, clear plastic umbrella being used as a cloche is a great example.

Cover image from the 'Shed Chic' book by Sally CoulthardImage credit: Shed Chic

Make your allotment look attractive

It might sound a bit superfluous, but it’s wonderful to have an attractive-looking plot – a place where you really want to spend time. Hopefully there’ll be some beautiful vegetables & flowers to look at – but how about a nice place to sit out with table & chairs, bunting, strings of lights, a barbecue maybe? A potting shed or greenhouse to while away a few hours on a rainy day. Well maintained paths & beds. Recycled metal containers or old ceramic sinks can look amazing planted up. Nothing beats a bit of allotment chic!!

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Allotment Diary: Lots of weeds!

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

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old ceramic sink where we're growing salad, full of weeds

It’s been a whole three weeks since we’ve last been to our allotment. Whenever we had the time to go, it was pouring with rain; when the weather was fine, we were busy with other commitments. We entered the plot with trepidation – in what kind of state was it going to be? This old sink we’d planted with mixed salad seeds was quite typical – what’s salad and what’s weeds? This scene was repeated all over the plot.

pea seedling and sunflower seedling

Weeds were our main problem, but pests had taken their toll too. Of the half dozen apiece of garden pea and sunflower seeds we planted in this bed – once we’d finished weeding around them – only a single specimen of each had survived some phantom killer! We definitely can’t leave it 3 weeks again!

wheelbarrow of potato plants to be transplanted

We discovered some (unplanned) potato plants that had erupted in some of our beds. We dug them up and transplanted them into a big black bin that we’d inherited from the previous allotment custodian. We don’t know if they’ll produce anything, but thought we’d give them a chance.

unripe currants

One thing that we didn’t need to worry about were our fruit bushes. We certainly won’t be short of berries to pick in a couple of months time. There are about a dozen shrubs full of young fruits – red, white and blackcurrants. A bit of research into interesting berry recipes will be needed!

Allotment Diary: Instant gratification

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

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tray of Savoy cabbage seedlings bought from Gordon Rigg

We succumbed to a bit of instant gratification prior to this week’s allotment visit – impatient waiting for all our seeds to sprout! :-)

tray of French marigolds bought from Gordon Rigg

We pass Gordon Riggs garden centre on our way there, so we pulled in and picked up a few things. Some pretty French marigolds – a perfect companion plant for the tomatoes we planted last time – its smell discourages whitefly that feed on the tomato leaves and cause the fruit to ripen unevenly.

tray of kale seedlings bought from Gordon Rigg

A tray of Cavolo Nero – a very hardy variety of kale that’s disease resistant and unlike cabbage, not considered a tasty snack by hungry pigeons! Some Savoy cabbage too – and a few young celery plants.

tray of French marigolds bought from Gordon Rigg

They went into our newly created beds – in neat rows at the specified distance apart. At least we’re sure which are the vegetables and which are the weeds. It’s not quite as easy when seeds go straight into the ground. We have to confess that after this small job, the rest of the afternoon was spent drinking tea and reading the papers!