Archive | Environment & Green Gardening

Tips for ecologically friendly gardeners and gardens that green and protect the environment.

Hedgerows Worth Watching

Hedgerow flowers

January started the year quite well with a few early snowdrops and the remnants of primulas. February will be even better snow permitting. Leap forward to June which is a spectacular month for flowering hedgerows and particularly in the under-storey.

Identifying plants whilst out walking as a child, was my first introduction to the environment and natural gardening. There is still a buzz seeing a plant growing in the wild that some careful gardeners has subsequently developed for the garden or nursery trade.

Why not under-plant your garden hedges with native species of hedgerow flowers. The trick is to leave them undisturbed, unfed and untreated with chemicals. I would bank up the soil to start your hedge’s lower storey.

Hedgerows by County

  • I nominate Somerset as my favourite hedgerow county but I would like to know what other UK counties can lay claim to be hedgerow county 2010.
  • Cornish hedgerows have a soil banking (so that helps the smaller plants) with a rocky top and shrubs.
  • Devon hedges are similar to Cornwall but with turf on and at the top of the banking.
  • The Yorkshire Dales tends to have dry stone walls rather than hedges but the understorey plants can still be attractive.
  • In Perth, near Blairgowrie, is the tallest and longest hedge on earth. Meikleour Beech Hedge, planted in 1745, is 98 ft in height and nearly half a mile long. (I wouldn’t want to trim it).

Book Cover

‘Hedgerows, moors, meadows and woods – these hold a veritable feast for the forager.’ and all is laid bear in the River Cottage Handbook. Book link

The English Hedgerow Trust provided this apposite quote from Shakespeare.

I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows
Quite canopied over with luscious woodbine
With sweet muskroses and with eglantine.

For a bit of fun read Copper Beech Hedges
Green Garden Habitats


Gardeners Year for Organic Fruit and Veg

Book Cover

‘Organic Fruit and Vegetable Gardeners Year, The A Seasonal Guide to Growing What You Eat’ by Graham Clarke

Yesterdays Gardeners Question Time on radio 4 featured many questions on this subject. The main advice that appealed to me was to concentrate on growing more fruit. (We all more likely to take the advice we want to hear.)

Gardeners Tips on Organic Fruit Growing

Organic Principles
Organics should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animals and humans as one.
Organic growing is based on ecological systems and cycles that are worked with and sustained.
Organic gardening should be done in a precautionary manner to protect the health and well being of current and future generations.
Organics promotes the concept of fairness with regard to common environment and life opportunities.

Soil Fertility

Chemical fertility is the availability in the soil of all the elements, nutrients, ions,   traces and inorganic chemicals that plants need to grow.
Biological fertility includes micro organisms that help nutrient recycling’ including fungi, bacteria and protozoa that clean up bacteria. It also covers macro organisms such as arthropods that break down organic matter in the early stages of decomposition, worms that help drainage and aeration and nematodes that help in various ways but   occasionally act as pests.
Physical fertility is the mix of sand, silt and clay that makes up the soil and determines texture, ability to hold water and sustain life.

Weed Management Continue Reading →


Conservation Mixes of Seeds

If you want a new idea in seeds that will help create an eco-friendly garden try these mixed from Wallis seeds or our seed suppliers.

Beetle and Insect Bank a mixture of grasses to encourage beetles and insects to feed and breed. Can be planted in a small area in the garden

Pollen and Nectar Mix. A good mixture of flowers and grasses for butterflies, insects and birds to feed. A sunny area may be best but a small space will suit.

Wild Bird Mixture of plants producing seed or providing cover for birds. Ideal for small birds like finches, buntings and sparrows.

Clover Mix – red and white clover ideal for butterflies and helpful for bees

Bumble Bee & Butterfly mix to attract what it the name implies plus other insects
Continue Reading →


Winged Insects in your Garden

This summer has been damp and the plants have grown lush. In some way this has contributed to a dramatic cut in the number of greenfly on my roses and other plants (perhaps they found other feeding grounds or did not mate as prolifically).

By contrast there have been lots of Bees and Flies and last week the Wasps came for my plums and apples. On the bright side it has been easier to get some photographs that would other wise not been practical. The fly wings show up well against the Cystus that if flowering for the second time this year.

Like many gardeners I regard Ladybirds as posative helpers in the garden. It is therefore a concern to be confronted with the aggressive Harlequin Ladybird that is invading  and threatening our 45 native species. Originally from Japan it was introduced to North America 20 years ago as an aphid control and it now out numbers all American species. Log any UK sightings here.


Uses for Crab Apples

Crab apples can be used as food, for ornamental effect, to help pollination, or for the wood. The wild crab apple found individually in woods has green fruit turning golden in Autumn. Cultivated crab apples vary in habit and grow upto 10 feet. Fruiting this year looks like a bumper harvest after the wet weather earlier in the year.

Crab Apples make attractive ornamental trees with their pink or white blossom, followed by colourful autumn fruits that make delicious preserves. Varieties John Downie, Golden Hornet, Laura and Red Sentinel are all self fertile. Crab apples planted near fruiting apple trees make excellent pollinators and will help pollinating bees to increase your crops.

Crab apples are used to make jelly, pickles or can be roasted and served with meat or added to winter ale or cider. Any unpicked fruits will soften after a few frosts and will create a sumptuous food source for wild birds from late January until March. For a jelly recipe with a chillie kick try Cottage Smallholder

The timber of the crab apple is uniform in texture and if dried slowly, is excellent for woodworking. At one time it was used for making set-squares and other drawing instruments. Failing that apple wood burns in your chimenea of fire grate with a nice aroma.

Order now for winter delivery Crab Apples at Thompson & Morgan


Garden Bonfires for Gardeners

Once a regular weekend event, Garden Bonfires are now fewer and further between since recycling, reusing and composting got to the top of the green agenda.
There are still occasions when a fire is the right way to go and I use one of these dustbin burners. The holes at the bottom provide air flow and the chimney restricts the amount of flying debris.
I collect the none compostable (often diseased) wood and brash in the bin until I have a load then set fire to it. After 4-5 years the bin bottom burns through and I need a new bin.
For large chunks of wood I used to have a November 5th fire but now with chimineas and Council recycling they have gone the way of Guy Fawkes.

Burning Tips

  • Avoid excessive smoke by burning dry material not soggy wet compostable stuff.
  • Do not burn plastic, foam, paint, rubber or household rubbish.
  • Be safe by not using oil, methylated spirits, or petrol to light or encourage a fire.
  • Avoid lighting fires in unsuitable weather conditions such as damp, still days or when the wind will blow smoke over roads or into neighbours gardens
  • Try to avoid bonfires when people want to enjoy their gardens such as weekends or Bank Holidays.
  • Wood ash contains potassium and is good for root crops bulbs etc.

Early Seed Sowing

Victorian gardeners seem to have coped very well with the winter conditions and were able to get seeds off to an early start. The climate was not too different 150 years ago to that which we endure today so how did Victorians cope. Seed was often sown earlier than we do now and the varieties of seed were no different except for some of our softer hybrids. ‘The answer lies in the soil’ and copious amounts of compost.

Soil Condition
Great quantities of manure, ashes, soot and household waste were added to the soil. This made the soil blacker and prone to absorb what heat there was making it warmer.
Ground was deep dug in a methodical and extensive manner and potentially this broke down the frozen soil quicker than on our compacted soils.
Bell cloches walled areas and other protective measures were taken. We could make more use of the cheap cloches now available to us, using lights and cold frames is more in tune with Victorian methods..
Some beds were dressed with straw that heats as it rots away making a fermenting hot bed to get seeds started.
The sweat of the gardeners brow also contributes to a warm garden, the more effort the more you are likely to succeed.

Hotbed Structure
Building a hotbed structure to protect delicate plants involves a lot of fresh manure, details of one method are found on Gardeners Calender


Fantastic Fruiting Fungus

The mushroom we see is the fruiting part of a fungus that distributes the spores of the fungus for its own reproduction.

Fungus Facts

  • Most fungi are small microorganisms that live in soil, on dead matter, or as a symbiont of plants or animals.
  • Fungi perform an essential role in the decomposition of organic matter and have fundamental roles in recycling nutrients.
  • The study of fungi is known as mycology, which is often regarded as a branch of botany
  • Yeasts and moulds are forms of fungi but slimes are not.
  • The Kingdom Fungi has been estimated to include approximately 1.5 million species, most of which have not been classified.

Continue Reading →


Kids Plants to Make Them Gardeners

Book Cover

Kids can have fun in the garden and on a windowsill. It can give them an understanding of food and green issues in a fun environment. Help them grow plants that are easy, reliable and develop quickly to maintain interest. Give them good soil, a sunny location and help so they are not put off  gardening in the future.
Kids can be turned into enthusiastic gardeners from an early age and with luck it will stay with them for life

Plants for Kids

  • Mustard and Cress are quick germinators and growers and produce an edible crop in days not weeks.
  • Sunflowers are very popular with children, the seeds are easy to handle and the growing plants look bigger every week.
  • Nasturtiums are quick growing and even if they do not like the peppery tasty the flowers and leaves are edible. The three seeds per flower show how plants reproduce year after year whilst providing food for other creatures.
  • Plants from tubers or bulbs such as Dahlias and Lilies are popular for the flowers. For indoors as a present for Mum try a Gloxinia
  • Seed potatoes. Peas or Courgettes are reliable croppers.

Indoor experiments that we tried as children Continue Reading →


Soya Bean Superfoods ‘Glycine max’

Grow and Crop your own Soya Beans

  • For a little grown vegetable Soya are an easy and attractive crop to grow.
  • Sow in a propagator or into warm soil May or June if sowing direct outside.
  • Plant in well-drained, moist rich soil, 6 inches apart. Keep well watered, particularly as pods are setting.
  • You will get 3-4 beans to a pod but you get lots of hairy self pollinated pods at the top of the plant.
  • Plants are virtually pest and disease free.

How to Use Your Soya Beans

  • You can pick pods whilst beans are still green and boil them in the pods with salt. Butterbean & Envy are good varieties for this purpose available from
  • Shelled the green beans can be treated like broad beans
  • When pods turn brown harvest the dry beans and they can be stored in an airtight container. Soak them for 12 hours before using.
  • Good varieties include Ustie, Butterbean and Elna.
  • Commercially grown Soya is often GM but produces oil, Soya milk, Bean Curd or Tofu and can also be fermented to make Soya sauce.

Japanese Beans

  • Azuki beans are a hairy annual similar to Soya beans. They have yellow flowers and longer pods.
  • Daizu is the Japanese Soya rich in oil and protein. Flowers are violet or white and pea shaped.
  • Miso is a bean paste made from Soya beans rice and salt.
  • Tofu is an easily digested protein made from soaked and curded soya beans.
  • Natto is fermented Soya beans often eaten at Japanese breakfasts.

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