Thursday, 28 July 2011

Enjoy the fruits of your labour!


This month I've been asked lots of, "What next?" questions and it's true, there are always plenty of jobs to be done with a vegetable garden. For example there is still time to be sowing quick cropping veg into those gaps created by harvesting other plants.
But one really important thing not to forget is to enjoy the fruits of your labour! At this time of year you'll be finding you have so much lovely produce to choose from in your garden, it's all too easy to be too busy to really take the time to appreciate it all.

So my advice is to get out there regularly with whatever you collect your fruit and veg in and really enjoy the picking of those strawberries, the digging up of those potatoes - like finding treasure I always think, the pulling of those carrots, the snipping of those lettuce leaves. Growing Your Own really is wonderful!

-- Holly Rowan Hesson

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Inspired: Gardens for Play

In celebration of the beginning of the summer holidays and finally seeing some sun I have decided to do an 'Inspired' post this week. I've always loved playhouses and after having three daughters that all LOVE playing outside and getting dirty I'm currently longing for an awesome playhouse for them to spend more time outside come rain or shine.


I know this isn't something 99% of the population can afford, never mind fit into their suburban garden but Oh My Lord it's the most amazing structure I've ever laid eyes on.


This one reminds me of all the Enid Blyton books I read as a child. It has a thatched roof, which as a grown-up I know it is impractical yet I still want! The size and shape is more fitting to a UK suburban garden, if not made from totally the wrong materials for our climate, but I'm sure you can all take inspiration from this and build something amazing for your children!

Now the obvious course of action here is to follow on to games you can play in your garden, and I don't mean tennis or football but indoor games... MEGA sized for the garden.

Twister has to be my favourite by far, ideal for a children's party or even a wedding reception! And here is it in all its garden sized glory...



The possibilities are- of course- endless and I'm sure the children would enjoy painting the spots on as much as playing the game with their friends and family. The special garden games spray paints are available from garden centres and don't damage the grass. Instead you could cut out fabric or card spots and simply lay them on the grass, or you could chalk the spots onto the patio.

Another family favourite is Jenga and what garden should be without a giant-sized version?

Of course you don't need to buy one this enormous! Argos and other retailers sell a garden version for not very much money but you could always- if you're crafty- make your own. There are many, many others, such as chess and draughts which are also great for garden fun and simple enough for children to understand and take part.

I'm a sucker for pretty things whether clothing, homewares or gorgeous things in your garden and the following pics are no exception! Maybe one day I'll get it looking like this!
I love arches and this is totally beyond belief! 'The Secret Garden' is an amazing book and inspiration just flows from it. This would be an amazing entrance to any garden, secret or otherwise! The possibilities are endless in regard to what you have climbing up and over your own archway. There are plenty of frames or shaped metalwork out there to achieve a fabulous shape for any archway.

I love our garden at night, you can't see the neighbours and we get a great view on the sky but my trouble has always been making somewhere amazing to sit and spend an evening. I long to create a space like this and it's easy and low cost to do. Most importantly, you need trees or a structure to sit beneath for your hanging lanterns, etc.


I challenge you this summer break to create something amazing yet family friendly for your garden, ours is in progress!

-- Liz Longworth

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

So much to do in July!

Now I have been so busy with work over the past few weeks that I have slightly neglected the garden - thankfully we now have some rain in East Anglia so all my veggies have been growing away happily on their own! I have remembered to water the tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse though and am now being rewarded with lots of flowers and the beginnings of fruit.


The Tenderstem Broccoli is also coming along well, although I have had to cover it with mesh netting to stop the slugs and cabbage butterflies and I have already started to harvest small carrots and my fabulous new potatoes, grown in bags this year. One of the reasons for “growing you own” is because the vegetables taste so much better and this is particularly true of these two crops - there is nothing better than digging up your spuds, cooking them straight away and then covering them in butter and a spring of mint before serving! The carrots are so tasty they don’t even make it as far as the pot.

Salads are also a great idea at this time of year and if you choose the cut and come again varieties you can have salad leaves on tap whenever you require them. Once other crops have been harvested, salads can easily be sown in the space as they germinate quickly in these sunny/showery conditions and grow quickly - some take as little as three weeks before you can start to eat them.

I always grow sweetcorn - again because it is far superior to that which you can buy in the supermarket and this year is no exception -my plants are coming along and will hopefully be ready next month. The same goes for my runner beans - a ‘dead cert’ with my two boys who will eat their own body weight in beans! Have to wait for next month before harvesting though, but it’s nice to know that things are growing and nearly ready to eat.


Now is a great time to enjoy the garden as well as work in it, so make sure that you put down your hoe and take some time to relax and enjoy all the hard work you put in months ago by sitting out (when the sunshine prevails) with a cuppa or glass of wine!

-- Jane Dubinski

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Tools

I am quite often asked about the tools I use and what are the most necessary items for a gardener. Quite often I reply that it is whatever tools you feel are necessary for your garden, but I do have my favourites.
I love my vintage border fork. The tines are so sharp as to scare me, but used properly it is better than a hand trowel or long cultivator. I can gently aerate lawns with it and lift waste or straw like a pitch fork. It is without doubt my favourite tool.

Second come the secateurs. A good pair is definitely worth investing in. There are the Swiss kind, or perhaps one of the other common brands but again a vintage pair properly made, always seems to work best for me. Lastly but not least, I insist on a good pair of gloves. I cannot stress this enough. Working in comfort and without fear of thorn or blister is something I relish.


On another note, I recently visited Devon and was quietly delighted in finding a hidden gem of a garden in Shaldon. Nestled above the River Teign is a small garden of historical note, which goes by the name of Homeyards Botanical Gardens. Five years ago, the garden had been an abandoned mess of weeds, but today it is a story similar to Heligan (yet less widely publicised). The overall design is in the process of still being discovered as there are no plans in existence, so by visiting and showing your support, not only are you creating history but perhaps one day this forgotten corner will be celebrated as other gardens are today.

-- Guy Deakins

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Laidback gardening...

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the information that there is about gardening. I can wind myself into a knot trying to work out which things I should be pruning and which I should be tying in.
I am gradually coming to the conclusion that it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you do something. Even a brief wander around the garden when you get in from work can pay dividends. Just to pull up a few weeds before they take hold, or to pick a few fresh berries before anyone else gets to them can be as useful or pleasurable as a planned day of gardening.

Some of the best things that happen in our garden happen by accident anyway. Flowers that you didn’t cut down can self-seed in the prettiest of places, late sowings can provide some unexpected autumn colour, even an unkempt lawn can provide a beautiful blanket of flowers.

I have spent some time searching around the internet to find out what these purple lawn ‘weeds’ are. I think they are called ‘Selfheal’ (prunella vulgaris) due to their medicinal uses. I don’t quite know how our small front lawn became quite so invaded with the amazing violet flowers, but I guess it is mainly due to our laziness about mowing the front lawn.
It’s a bit of a pain to get the lawn mower down the side of the house, as en route you trip over spare decking planks and graze your knuckles on the textured render on the wall. So more often than not the discussion will go “Does the front lawn need doing?” then “No I did it last time it will be ok” So it lasts another week and gradually turns into a meadow filled with clover, selfheal, buttercups and daisies.
From what I read they are quite difficult to get rid of...so I won’t. They are pretty so they can stay.

Another happy accident.  Here is another accident that occurred in our garden this week. involving a baby greenfinch: http://thingswemake.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/a-teeny-pond-ray-the-bird/

-- Claire Sutton