Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Creative Places To Set Up An Allotment

Securing and setting up an allotment can be a challenge, but there are innovative options for the creative and driven…

Despite the legal obligations of authorities to provide allotments, and even new affordable options for securing allotment insurance, the dream of flexing green thumbs and embracing sustainability doesn’t always play out as smoothly or quickly as imagined.

Aspiring gardeners in central London can certainly find allotment waiting lists long, even after property is designated. Between travel costs, commuting times, and finding a loo in semi-rural allotment locations more and more individuals and families are increasingly turning to more creative allotment and growing strategies.

Prime Central Living with a Vertical Veg Edge
Vertical Veg master Mark Ridsdill Smith who has spoken at Kew Gardens, the London Permaculture Festival, and Manchester International Festival, Ideal Home Show, and on television, tells the Guardian of his move to grow at home and how “the happiness he found completely changed his life.” After discovering the local allotment waiting list would have meant he would have long died of old age before getting to plant his first seedling in the ground Smith began his veg empire from his small London balcony. He has since grown hundreds of pounds worth of produce.

Urbanites are also seeing builders increasingly including more eco-friendly and sustainable elements within their designs which incorporate or achieve some of the same goals. For example; Carlton House in London has integrated solar, rainwater harvesting, living walls and rooftop gardens, while ensuring each apartment unit has its own private balcony.

Growing Higher
Inner city innovators can find rooftops a natural choice. In fact, rooftop gardens can be adopted everywhere. What’s really interesting is just how many rooftops are available as allotments. It’s not just limited to going it alone at home by any means. Facebook’s legendary new campus in California is to sport a rooftop garden, and in New York one farm took over the roof of a bowling alley, and is now selling its produce to high end supermarkets, celebrity chef Mario Batali’s Eataly and in NYC’s highly acclaimed Gramercy Tavern. For many their workplaces could provide allotment space to help fulfill corporate responsibility goals, increase appeal to eco-friendly staff, and build in more community and team loyalty.

Deeper Roots
One London project has launched a 2.5 acre farm 100 feet under the surface. Zero Carbon’s hydroponic system claims to use 70% less water than open farming. The first round of produce was expected to yield broccoli, garlic, mustard, Thai basil and other herbs.

Keeping it Behind Closed Doors
Fortunately, you don’t have to have a nice boss, rooftop, World War II bunker under your home, or even a balcony to have your own ‘allotment’. In Chicago, NYC and Detroit urban farmers have been taking over abandoned property. In Chicago this has resulted in a 90,000 square foot warehouse being turned into an indoor organic farm. In New York new pioneers are combining growing, education and revitalization with aquaponics. A new aquaponics kit from Portable Farms claims a modest 3m x 6m unit will produce 1,100 vegetables and 400 pounds of fish for owners each year.

Get Growing

Evidently, location and available green space aren’t a big of a challenge to those serious about getting their own allotments and growing their own organic and sustainable gardens after all. Individuals and small groups of residents looking to find out more about their entitlements to traditional allotments can discover more from Channel 4’s programme ‘How to Start an Allotment’ and those interested in securing their investment with allotment insurance may check out more details from Shield Total Insurance which works closely with the National Allotment Society.

Friday, 28 November 2014

5 Tips on How to Make Your Sun Room the Best Room

The sun room is the ideal room for daytime relaxation; an unspoiled view of your beautiful garden, great natural lighting, and natural warmth only serve to soothe the mind and body. But what can be done to really make the most of a wonderful space such as a sun room? Here are some great tips for cultivating the most comfortable and clear space in your home.
Bring some of your beautiful garden into your sunroom, metaphorically break that barrier between you and the outside world! A few select potted plants and small trees, strategically placed in corners of your sun room towards your garden, will serve to blur the lines between outside and in, and provide a fresh, relaxing feel to the room in the same breath.
The Right Flooring
When considering how to go about decorating your sunroom, the flooring is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle. What goes down, and what lays on top, really pulls everything together. Light colours work best, reflecting instead of absorbing sunlight and consequently brightening the room yet more; studies show that lighter, cooler colours like blue and green are the best for projecting calm and harmony into a room. A rough-pile rug would add some texture, and provide a slip-free surface for any coffee tables or central furniture.
A Day Bed
Since much of your weekend relaxation will be taking place in this arena of light and colour, why not invest in a comfortable day-bed to take the weight off your legs? It would allow for stress-free napping, while adding to the room’s d├ęcor in whatever stylish design you choose. It would also double as a handy sofa/lounging space for family and guests alike – the perfect multi-use piece of furniture for your sunroom.
Art Features
Rather than seeking to clutter your sunroom with all sorts of furniture, keep storage to a minimum, seating a priority, and tactfully use some house-ward corner space to display some visual art – a sculpture or arrangement goes a long way to promoting relaxation and introspection, provides a talking point for when hosting guests, and in general another beautiful thing to take in as you sit.
A nice set of curtains would serve not only to block the sun out! Purple, being another relaxing colour, would provide an interesting frame to the outside world when undrawn - and implicitly also a beautiful feature for your walls – and when drawn, obscure your belongings from view and ostensibly prevent any opportunistic burglaries. Practical and aesthetically pleasing!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Hanging Basket Challenge

We have been challenged by Plant Me Now to create a hanging basket design for next year. Our normal approach to creating our baskets on the patio is to cram various bedding plants in left over from doing the pots without too much thought. So actually planning the basket has been a fun and different approach.

Our central plant in our basket design is Fuchsia Snowcap an upright variety that produces masses of semi-double red and white flowers all summer long.

This Fuchsia has an RHS award for garden merit and its easy to see why, with fantastic vivid flowers. In Fuchsia circles its a famous variety bred more than a hundred years ago and still very popular.

It is equally happy in cool shade or alternatively in sun so it works well as a basket plant. It can be kept alive for the following year if you over winter in a frost free place such as your greenhouse.

We have selected a number of plants from the Plant Me Now's fine selection of bedding plants.  Around our focal point we will plant petunias (Petunia Fanfare Royal Purple), Verbena (Aztec Burgandy and Estrella Pink Star)

Petunia Fanfare Royal Purple is a trailing Petunia with a naturally compact habit. This variety flowers early and produces masses of large brightly coloured flowers, that last all Summer long. Making it an outstanding patio performer, in baskets and containers. Verbena Estrella Pink Star is a upright/semi-trailing variety of Verbena that performs well in full sun or part shade and flowers from June to August.

To tone down the pink just a little and pick up on the white of the Fuchsia flowers we have also added a double white Calibrachoa - Can Can.

Softening the edge of the basket we have added Lysimachia nummularis Aurea which is a trailing lysimachia.

To care for your basket remember not to hang out side until all risk of frost has passed. Do remember to water every day and dont allow your basket to dry out. There are often many plants in a small space so it is important to give them lots of water. Feed them weekly with a general purpose fertiliser. If you dead-head the flowers after they have finished you will keep the basket looking good for a longer time.

Here is a sketch of our design

So there you have it, what do you think?


Thursday, 13 November 2014

Things to Grow in the November Allotment

Although the weather is still reasonably mild, and lots of trees are still hanging on to their leaves, there are plenty of signs that winter is on its way now. The days are getting shorter and after the clock went back last weekend its dark in the evening too. Frosts will soon be a regular visitor... so it is easy to relax and imagine that there is little to grow at this time of year. Think again! There's actually lots of preparation and plants to get started in November. So what vegetables can be grown in November in the UK? 

Of course it is possible to start your garlic in the the Spring with some varieties being perfectly happy being planted in early spring, November is by far the best time. Garlic really does need a good dose of frost as this cold will encourage the bulbs to split into cloves. And whilst planting them you can think back to the sunnier times in June and July when you were harvesting them. 

For a guide to growing garlic, check out our handy guide on how to grow garlic. 

Onions & shallots
By now we are just about as late as we can go for planting onions or shallot sets in before Winter really gets going. Personally my favourites are the Japanese Sensyhu onions as these are nice and hardy as well as being pretty easy to raise (a perfect combination). 

Broad Beans 
Usually the advice is to sow your broad beans late Winter to Spring between February and May, so why would we be advising growing them in November? The reason is to extend the growing and therefore the cropping season. If one just relies on your Spring sowings then you would expect to be harvesting your produce between July and August. However by having an Autumn sowing as well you'll then be able to have an additional crop in June as well.

Exactly the same idea as with your broad beans, start some early and crop earlier as well potentially up to 6 weeks earlier.

Whatever you choose to grow enjoy it and keep warm!


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

3 Chances to Win our TD368 Plastic Garden Cupboard worth £59.88 each!

Filplastic shelving unit
In spring 2014 Filplastic introduced a range of plastic shelving & cupboards, perfect for outdoor use. We’re giving away 3 of our most popular plastic cupboards, the TD368.  The model has 4 adjustable shelves, and a compartment to store brushes or garden tools. It is lockable with a padlock (not supplied) and made from 100% recycled material. To see more about this model, plus the full range please visit

The cupboard retails at £39.95, plus delivery and VAT making a total of £59.88 per unit. We will deliver to the competition prize to anywhere on the UK mainland. The competition closing date is 21/11/14, winners will be notified

To be in with a chance simply tell us what you plan to store in your cupboard, should you be one of the 3 lucky winners.             

Extra entries can be made by sharing this competition on facebook via the Diligent Gardener Page.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Extending the season

With winter fast approaching, now is the time to do a little garden prepping. From storing summer furniture in the garage, to transplanting any delicate plants from the garden to pots and moving them indoors, there are a number of factors to consider.

Dealing with the cold frosty weather

Harsh weather, particularly frost, can trigger a freezing process to take place in the water in plant cells. When this happens, plants appear blackened, limp and distorted. Even hardy plants can be damaged by severe spells of cold weather.

In order to prevent this damage, it’s wise to choose plants suited to your local climate. If you have the room, transfer any smaller plants indoors. Asides from plants, harsh winter weather can also have an affect on the home’s exterior.

From loose roofing ties to broken garden fences and cars damaged by debris, storm damage isn’t uncommon today. If you don’t already have home insurance in place, now may be the time to enquire about a More Than home insurance quote.

In the case of accidental storm damage, you can turn to your insurance provider instead of having to deal with any unplanned damage alone.

Growing herbs indoors

Growing herbs indoors allows keen cooks to enjoy the pleasures of freshly picked herbs each and every season. The likes of coriander, basil, mint and wild bergamot will all come in handy when garnishing warming winter soups and creating tasty Christmas dinners.

When moving these plants indoors, it’s important to do so carefully. Begin by digging around the roots to avoid damaging them and place them in a pot that is big enough to allow them to breath.

If you have a conservatory, this is a great place to put herbs, tender perennials and immature annuals whilst the weather is a little on the cold side. Once spring arrives, simply return them back to their rightful place in the garden.

Brightening up the home

As well as growing plants indoors, flowers can add a great deal of warmth to the home’s interior come Christmas time. Opt for floral arrangements in red, orange, yellow and green.

A vase of hot-hued flowers will make a great table centrepiece this festive season.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Are You Replacing Garden Tools Unnecessarily?

Do you recognise this scenario? You’ve done a heavy but satisfying day in the garden of weeding, pruning and digging. The hot bath and the drink with your name on it are calling to you. You know you really should clean your tools before putting them away, but surely that’ll wait until tomorrow? Carrying out simple maintenance directly after using your tools should make them last, but if you do need to replace, never buy ‘cheap and cheerful’. Investing in top quality hand tools that will last, is the smart option.

Ditch That Dirt
Make sure you wash the dirt off thoroughly. Use a hose and if you’ve let the dirt dry, have a stiff brush handy to remove stubborn bits. If your pruning shears have sap on them, you may need a solvent to shift this. It may seem obvious but once the tool is clean, dry it completely. Have a towel handy in the shed or garage for this purpose.

Even if you think your tools are rustproof, it’s still a sensible idea to oil them. This has the added benefit of stopping them seizing up. Ever own a pair of secateurs that gave you an RSI from using them? Keep them greased.

During the winter, it’s a good idea to have some tools sharpened, depending on how much they’ve been used. Spades, trowels, hoes and forks all benefit from sharpening. You could use a grinder or sharpening file and do it yourself, or take it to a garden centre that offers this service. Hedgetrimmers, etc, should probably be left to a professional.

Power Tools
As careful as you might be with corded power tools, it’s worth checking the cables on a regular basis for splits, nasty kinks or frays. If you catch problems early, they can be easily rectified; far better than taking a trip in an ambulance!

Simple Checks
Check those handles. Imagine what damage a pick axe could do if the handle was loose. Wooden handles are prone to drying out and splitting, so you may need to replace some.

If your garden tools are all piled in a corner or shoved in a shed, isn’t it more difficult to find what you need? Having a peg board for smaller items and wall hooks for larger tools can make life much easier. It also keeps them off the ground, where the damp can reach them.  

If you love gardening, then you should also love your tools. The amount of time invested in maintaining them will pay dividends.

Friday, 10 October 2014

How to Create an Exotic Garden Pond

Garden ponds add a great point of interest to your garden and they can also help to improve the environment by creating a safe and diverse habitat for many different species. From frogs and newts to harmless leeches and freshwater mussels, a variety of different fish to the Great Pond Snail, a pond can be a great home and resting place for a whole host of wildlife. Garden ponds also provide fresh drinking water for birds and mammals, and it also gives them a safe area to cool off in the hot summer season. So keeping your pond thriving all year round is very important and beneficial to the environment.

If you want to create an exotic garden pond, full of interesting wildlife and plantlife, read on to find out how.

Agave on edge of Koi Pond

Choose Interesting Plants
There are many ways of making your garden pond look exotic; whether you want to choose an Eastern landscaping theme or you just want to bring together an eclectic and colourful mix of flora and fauna, an exotic pond can be engineered from your choice of plantlife. When digging your pond, be sure to dig different levels in the ground to create plant shelves. Plant shelves at all levels are essential if you want to create diversity and variety; different plants will need to be planted at different heights to the water level.

In the UK, we are not blessed with tropical weather but it isn’t completely impossible to create a tropical-inspired garden. If you want something different to a traditional English garden, take a look at the tropical garden design on for inspiration.
 Exotic planting approaching the new Koi Pond

Add a Stylish Water Feature
Water features are one of the easiest and quickest ways of adding another dimension to your pond design. Does your garden pond currently look a bit lacklustre and boring? Add a water feature such as a beautiful fountain or a tumbling waterfall and you can really turn your pond into a focal point on your garden.

Installing a water feature will not only make your garden look pretty but the sound of trickling water or the soft surge of a waterfall is extremely relaxing. For pond landscaping supplies, visit All Pond Solutions for a wide range of products including fountain and waterfall pumps and pond liners.  

Exotic Fish
If you’re a keen fish keeper or breeder, there are some very beautiful and exotic species you could keep in your outdoor pond, including the very desirable and sought after koi carp. The information on this website tells you how to build the perfect outdoor pond for keeping koi and also advices on how to feed them.
 Koi Pond

Other interesting fish species you can keep in a cold outdoor garden pond include the beautifully pattern shubunkins, sarasa comets, golden orfe, and tench. 
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