Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Get Growing

Growing your own food is all the rage at the moment, but more than just being a trendy fad there are lots of benefits of growing your own.

By growing your own fruits and vegetables you are in control, therefore you can reduce the amount of pesticides compared to supermarket produce, making them healthier and helping to protect the bees.

Growing your own fruits and vegetables will save you money, no more trips to the supermarket so at the same time helping you to reduce your food miles - you cant get much more local than just outside your own back door. The food is fresh, so the fruit and vegetables grown in your garden will promote health because they are rich in nutrients, especially in phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A and folate.

If you have children then teaching them to grow their own fruit and veg shows them where the food comes from and also can hep encourage them to eat something they would otherwise ignore -fresh veg is often much sweeter than the supermarket produce.

Read more on growing your own fruit and get tips

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Is it a Cucumber, Is it a Melon, No! Its Cucamelon

How cool are these, not a melon and not a cucumber but a cucamelon. One of the highlights of James Wongs new book "Home Grown Revolution".

Described by the seed company as follows:
An heirloom that packs a lot of flavor in an adorable, teaspoon-sized treat! These little charmers are like no other, packing a powerful, sweet, cucumber flavor with a tangy, citrus twist. Delicate foliage and fist-fulls of fruit that look like doll-sized watermelons make these plants pretty enough to grow trellised in a flower garden or cascading in a hanging basket.
They are very small, just an inch and a half tall, light-green fruits with darker mottling look like watermelons for a doll house, which gives them one of their common names, mouse melon. The scientific name of this plant is Melothria scabra and it comes from Central America. The flesh is white, crisp, crunchy with a slight lemony tartness. The flavour is closer to a cucumber than a melon with a dash of lemony zest thrown in for good measure.

Competition: How To Grow Vegetables DVD

We have kindly been given a copy of Thompson and Morgan's DVD "How to grow Vegetables" to give away to one lucky reader. Normally selling for £14.99 on the T&M website it could be yours.

With step by step instructions on how to prepare, sow and tend to your vegetables this DVD will assist new grow-your-own fans as well as old hands.

To be in with a chance to win simply tell us what your favourite vegetable is and why.

Extra entries can be made by sharing this competition on Twitter (include #DiligentGardener) or by liking our page and sharing the competition on Facebook.

An additional entry can be made by "following" this blog via Google Friend Connect

Terms and conditions: This competition closes at 23.59 on 31 May 2015. Any entries received after this time will not be counted. Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter. By entering this competition you agree and consent to your name being published and by taking part in the competition, entrants are deemed to have read, understood and accepted all of the Terms and Conditions and agreed to be bound by them. The winner will be selected at random from the valid entries and will be announced here on the blog. Please make sure we are able to contact you if you do win.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Hedgehog Awareness Week 2015

Hedgehog Awareness Week runs from 3rd-9th May 2015 and hedgehoggy events are being organised all around the country!

Hedgehog Awareness Week is organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and takes place every year.  It aims to highlight the problems hedgehogs face and how you can help them.

This year efforts are focussed on gardeners – there is so much that gardeners can do to help the hedgehog, very simple things like:
  • Ensuring there is access into the garden (all that is needed is 5” square gap).
  • Checking areas before strimming or mowing.
  • Moving piles of rubbish to a new site before burning it.
  • Ensuring netting is kept at a safe height.
  • Checking compost heaps before digging the fork in.
  • Stopping or reducing the amount of pesticides and poisons used.
  • Covering drains or deep holes.
  • Ensuring there is an easy route out of ponds and pools.

BHPS Chief Executive, Fay Vass, Said “There is so much the gardener can do to help hedgehogs, and with hedgehog numbers in decline it is more important now than ever.  We have produced a poster highlighting dangers hedgehogs face in our gardens to mark this Hedgehog Awareness Week.”  For a free copy of the poster or for membership details send an A5 sae to BHPS, Garden Dangers, Hedgehog House, Dhustone, Ludlow, SY8 3PL or see

We are asking people to pledge to do something positive for hedgehogs during the week.
Here are a few ideas of how you can help:
  • Organise an event such as a cake sale, fun day, sponsored event, coffee morning or jumble sale.
  • Display information (BHPS can provide) in your local Garden Centre, School, Library, etc.
  • Contact your local newspaper or radio station and ask them to help hedgehogs by printing a letter from BHPS (we can provide a letter to the editor on request) or by arranging an interview with us during the week (ask them to call 01584 890 801).
  • Post leaflets in your area letting people know how they can help hedgehogs (BHPS can provide leaflets).

Spring Tips

Gardening nourishes the mind, body and soul when you spend time caring for your plants, helping them to thrive and enjoying the meditative benefits of enjoying nature. If you love to garden but are not always sure how to keep your plants green and healthy, look no further, here are some great tips for newcomers on how to keep your garden thriving:

Keep pruning
By regularly pruning your plants you will prevents them from growing out of control. Just go through and trim the ends off your plants every so often to keep them tidy. What’s more, keeping your plants trimmed helps then to grow more healthily. It’s just like your hair; if you let it grow and grow it will become long and straggly, but when you trim off the dead ends, both your hair and your plants are able to thrive.

It is important to weed regularly in order to prevent them from taking over all the healthy soil. Weeds should be taken care of as soon as possible by pulling them out by the root. If you miss the root, they will only grow back with a vengeance. You might decide to spray the area with a weed killer after you have pulled them out. There are different varieties to choose from, some more natural than others. Using groundcover plants or mulch will help prevent weeds from spreading, because without light they are unable to grow.

Use mulch
When it comes to soil, you have lots of different options for what to use for your plants. Mulch is a rich, healthy type of soil that will give your plants all the nutrients they need to grow strong. Spread mulch over the soil straight after planting your latest purchases to help prevent weeds from growing. Mulch also helps cool down the soil in the summer months and keeps it warm in the winter.

The best way to maintain a healthy lawn is to make sure you keep it mowed regularly. Mow as high as you can, because the lower you mow, the more you leave the grass vulnerable to weeds or other problems. When you are mowing use an even pattern across the lawn, moving up and down until you have covered the entire space. This will ensure that you cut all areas evenly. If you have moved into a new property with a large lawn, do not be intimidated by the area to be cared for. With the proper mowing equipment it will simply be a weekly task to maintain the quality of your lawn. A specialist garden tool supplier is a great place to find all the gardening equipment you will need.

Irrigation system
It is important to maintain a constant supply of water to your garden, no matter what the time of year. In the rainy season, you obviously get a pass here, but during the summer or dry months, you might like to set up an irrigation or sprinkler system to ensure all your plants stay nourished. Clean out your irrigation several times per year to make sure the system does not become blocked.


Friday, 24 April 2015

The Chelsea Flower Show: what to see at the biggest event of the year

The M&G Garden from Chelsea 2012
On 19th May, thousands of horticulture fans will head to the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea to take in some of the most stunning displays the garden world has to offer.  The Chelsea Flower Show remains incredibly popular, and it’s not hard to see why.

If you’re heading down to the biggest garden event in the world, you might be a bit stumped as to which of the many hundreds of displays on offer you should check out.  We’ve already earmarked these…

It’s a mouthful of a name, but this garden looks like it will be a superb representation of the 105 acre Chatsworth Garden, all slotted into a smaller Chelsea space.  Inspired by both the ornamental trout stream of Chatsworth and the Paxton Rockery, this garden will reflect the lightness, freshness and delicacy of the almost iconic Champagne House.

The Royal Bank of Canada have contributed a garden at the event for the last five years, and they’re returning again with this Matthew Wilson-designed space.  Exploring sustainability through design, the garden is split into three sections: a zero irrigation ‘dry garden’, a central water harvesting and storage zone and then an edible garden complete with a full dining platform.  It’s set to be one of the most unique spaces at the show.

For history fans, The Living Legacy
Created to mark the 200th anniversary of Wellington’s victory at the battle of Waterloo, the Living Legacy garden will take in the fascinating atmosphere of the battle and work through into a brighter look that represents the progressive and positive future that occurred post-battle.  Elements of the garden are in fact directly inspired by the terrain at Waterloo itself.

The debut of John Tan and Raymond Toh at the flower show, the Hidden Beauty is heavily inspired by the suburb of Singapore known for its lush natural landscape, tropical plants, orchid farms and wetlands.  The garden is filled to the brim with tropical plants and ferns and is flanked by coconuts, palms and figs.  If you want to be whisked away to a foreign shore, The Hidden Beauty is a must-see.

For traditionalists, The Retreat
The brainchild of award-winning designer Jo Thompson, The Retreat is the work of show sponsors M&G Investments.    With a beautifully crafted oak-framed building, a natural dipping pool and an assortment of irises, roses and geraniums spread across the plantation, it almost resembles a classic English country garden: a must for any flower show in itself.

Where to stay?
If this is the first time you’ve headed to London, there are three main options you should look at in terms of where to stay.

·         Hotel rooms.  This might well be the best option if you want to be as close to the event as possible.  Given that the event is in central London, it should come as no surprise that there are hundreds of rooms within easy reach!  Chelsea is one of the most expensive areas in the capital, though, so rooms won’t be cheap.

·         Bed and breakfasts.  A budget option if you don’t want to stump up for a hotel room, B’n’Bs can cheaper than hotels.  The one thing to consider is that you often don’t get the mod-cons such as breakfast and dinner or daily cleaning that you’ll get in a hotel.

·         Serviced apartments.  A great option for those travelling as a family or as part of a larger group.  For the price of an equivalent hotel room, you can enjoy a full apartment with a complete living area and kitchen.  If you’re staying for the full show and want something bigger than a single hotel room, a serviced apartment from the likes of Refresh Apartments could be ideal.

Above all else, remember to have a brilliant time: the Chelsea Flower Show is something that every single gardening fan should visit at least once, but preferably more.  Get your tickets, and get down to London on 19th May!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Making the most of your Water

With the latest water bill landing on the door mat recently, I thought it would be worthwhile to explore some of the many ways of saving water in the garden in particular. As well as the garden there are lots of ways to save water in the home as well. However being a garden blog we will concentrate on what you can do in the garden.

Water butts
One way to reduce the amount of tap water you use in watering is to collect rain water. Water butts added to the guttering on your greenhouse, shed or ever the drainpipes on your house will soon fill up and give you a renewable source of water for a one off cost at the start.

Almost any container can be used to collect water, and old IBC containers can be bought for a similar price to a water butt, however they can hold 1,000 liters which is a huge amount of water to save.

Choosing the right pots and containers
Terracotta pots dry out much quicker than plastic ones. Most people however prefer the look of terracotta, so line the pot with plastic, to get the nicer look, but the water saving properties, Also make sure you mulch the top of the soil with gravel to reduce water loss. This will also cut down weeds and may well look better too.

Selecting the best plants
By choosing plants that prefer dryer conditions your water needs will be less. Choosing Mediterranean plants such as lavender, rosemary and plants with silvery leaves, all have lower water needs and so can tolerate less frequent watering.

Reusing water
Watering the garden with so called Gray water- if water that has had a use already means less goes to water. If you select washing liquids and powders that are ecological and safe for a septic tank then your garden plants will have no problem in being watered with this water. Using a washing up bowl and then putting the waste water on the garden will keep the plants healthy and slash your water use and costs. With the reuse of water in the the garden you need to consider whether you need to engage in any form of waste water treatment. In general most of the waste water from your home can be reused. But care should always be taken to ensure that sensitive plants do not get water with un-wanted chemicals. 

Mulching the borders
As well as pots mentioned above you can mulch the borders with bark chippings that will reduce weeds, keep the moisture in and also look good. The bark gradually breaks down improving the soil, and will need to be topped up from time to time. By reducing weeds your plants will have less competition for water and nutrients so should perform better.

With the ground still nice and damp it is a good time to mulch as you will prevent evaporation and thus reduce the water requirements of the garden.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Three Crucial Considerations before Buying a Conservatory

If you’re anything like the rest of us, you want to enjoy your garden all year round.

For most green-fingered Brits, however, the volatility of the weather in Dear Old Blighty is enough to make even the most serene gardener shake an angry fist at the threatening clouds above.

At this time of year, even when the sun is shining, it’s normally cold enough to break the smoke off your chimney, which makes sitting outside in your garden akin to an Arctic expedition.
But this is where a conservatory is worth its weight in gold.

Whatever the forecast, conservatories offer an agreeable space to take pleasure in your pansies or bask in your bellflowers, as well as adding around £9,000 to the value of your property.

Far from being a passing fancy, there are well over four million homes in the UK boasting a conservatory, with hundreds of thousands more being constructed every year.

Interested? Check out our three crucial considerations before you hotfoot it to Conservatories R Us (that’s not a real place) in a desperate bid to join the ranks ...

Select Your Style Carefully
Whether you live in a mock-Georgian mansion or a contemporary grand design, it’s important the conservatory you choose blends with the existing style of your home. Why? Because if you get the style wrong, it’s much like giving a horse a pair of stilettos – it just doesn’t work.

As a result, most folk tend to opt for a Victorian or Edwardian style of conservatory if they have a more traditional home. If you home is fairly new, however, it’s important to speak to your conservatory specialist to find a modern style that won’t stick out like a very expensive sore thumb.

Learn About Planning Permission
It’s natural to imagine that erecting a new structure onto the back of your home would require reams and reams of paperwork – but adding a conservatory is actually considered a permitted development, which means it doesn’t require a planning permission application.

However, according to the government’s Planning Portal, a single-story rear conservatory must not be higher than four metres or higher than the highest part of your roof. For further details, and to avoid the wrath of your local authority, familiarise yourself with the full guide here.

Chew Over Your Glazing Requirements
When you fork out for a new conservatory, it’s understandable you want to use your investment all year round – and choosing the appropriate glazing, which will also make it energy efficient and reduce your heating bills, is a crucial part of making that happen.

Therefore, be sure to choose a glass with a low U-value, especially if it faces north and receives less sunlight, which means heat will be trapped during the colder months, keeping you and your family warm without turning up the thermostat.

Fancy having your say?

Let us know what else our readers should consider when buying a conservatory by leaving a comment below – we’d love to hear from you. 
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