Hedgehog Garden for Hampton Court

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) are pleased to announce that their joint submission for a hedgehog-friendly garden has been selected as one of this year’s summer gardens at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.  The charities’ summer garden, called Hedgehog Street, aims to raise awareness of the plight of threatened hedgehogs and show how gardeners can help the species in their very own back yard.
Created by award-winning garden designer Tracy Foster, the garden will feature various elements that are beneficial to our native hedgehogs.  Hedgehog populations in the UK have plummeted by over a third in the last ten years, and one of the factors contributing to this decline is tidy, fenced-in gardens.
Fay Vass, Chief Executive of BHPS explains: “The decline of hedgehogs can be attributed to a number of environmental factors, including neat and tidy gardens that are isolated from one another by fences or walls, preventing hedgehogs from finding shelter, food and mates.  The average range for a hedgehog in an urban area covers about 500 gardens, so we need people to help these iconic creatures by joining up their gardens.”
One of the simplest steps gardeners can take to help hedgehogs is to link gardens in their neighbourhood by teaming up with their neighbours to make a small hole in shared boundaries so that the creatures can roam freely.  A hole that is 13cm2 in size at ground level will be big enough for a hedgehog to pass through. 
Jill Nelson, Chief Executive of PTES said: “The hedgehog is known as the ‘gardener’s friend’ and by creating a summer garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show we hope to prove to professional and amateur gardeners-alike that it is easy and inexpensive to create a hedgehog-friendly space, no matter what type of garden you have, whether modern and contemporary or wild and rustic.”

Spring Greens Soup

With Spring officially here, even if the weather is suggesting we are back in winter at the moment its a good time to think about what to do with all those Spring greens from the allotment. Spring Greens Soup is delicious and simple.

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 spring onions chopped finely
3 sticks celery, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g courgettes, cut intochunks
300g potato, cut into cubes
1 lemon, juice and zest only
1.5 litres good quality vegetable stock
1 Little Gem lettuce, sliced
100g broad beans
handful baby spinach
2 free-range eggs

Heat the oil in a large pan and then add the onion and also the celery and fry them until the veggies have softened but not started to brown. Next add the chopped courgettes, potatoes and the lemon zest and fry everything for roughly 2 to 3 minutes.

Now slowly add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. As always it is worth using a good stock. Then add the lettuce and broad beans and simmer for another 25 minutes,  until the potatoes are completely cooked. Don't let it boil as this can spoil the flavours.

Add the baby spinach leaves and cook for one minute. In a separate bowl beat the eggs and lemon juice together, then add to the simmering soup, stirring constantly.

Cook for one minute, then ladle the soup into a bowl. Garnish to your choice and add salt and pepper to taste. Eat and Enjoy!


Win a Fantastic Healthy Veg Box

Riverford delivers delicious and award-winning organic vegboxes and other food fresh straight  from the farm to your door and for this months competition we have one of their delicious hampers to give away.

Riverford offers a range of weekly organic essentials like vegetables as well eggs, milk, meat, juices and cereals, they can even deliver wine and chocolate when you need a treat and their amazing Organic vegboxes start from just £10.45. The Riverford box scheme began when Guy Watson started delivering vegetables locally to 30 friends in Devon. They now deliver around 40,000 boxes a week to homes around the UK from their regional farms. Ordering is easy and flexible, delivery is free and you don’t even need to be at home.

The prize is a large vegbox with meet that will be enough organic meat and veg to feed 4+ people for around a week. Typically 12 veg varieties with potatoes, carrots and onions most weeks. You’ll also get 3 RSPCA award-winning meat items that will always include a joint and mince, plus a different cut such as diced chicken.

To be in with a chance simply tell us what you would like to cook with your prize.

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 30 April 2014. 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.

How to Grow French Beans

It is just about the right time to start sowing, your French Beans indoors. I always start mine indoors by sowing each seed into a small pot of a good quality multipurpose compost After sowing water them and allow the pots to drain. Place them on a warm windowsill until the beans germinate. 

Alternatively if you want to waiting a bit longer then  you can sow them outdoors in May. I sow two seeds together straight into the ground in rows, spaced about a two feet apart with the beans planted about 20-30cm apart. But dont rush if its still too cold and wet, allow the soil to warm up a bit first.

Your will need to provide support for your beans to grow up using bamboo canes and a bean netting (or whatever else you may have to hand for a similar effect. Seedlings started indoors will  be ready to plant out after about three or four weeks, but only after the last frosts. You will need to harden them off before planting out by placing them outside during the day and bringing them back inside over night for at least a week before planting out. Plant them to the same spacing as for ground sown plants above planting two pots together.

You should be able to start harvesting from July :)


Spring to me is bulbs, and my favourite has to be the daffodil, its bright cheerful and sometimes snubbed by snobs! But I love it.

Creating the perfect spring garden

The first signs of spring are a heartening sight for many of us after the bleakness of winter. November, December and January are relatively quiet times when it comes to outdoor work, but in order to achieve a perfect spring garden you need to have done a lot of the prep work in advance. Spring is also the time to get your garden in good order early to give you a head start on the busy period that is just around the corner. So, what are the key things you should be doing?

Plan ahead
For a vibrant spring time garden, you need to have planted your bulbs between October and December, ideally before the first frost. Tulips, hyacinths, crocus and daffodils are all spring flowering and provide welcome splashes of colour. Early spring is also the time to think about the plant bulbs you need to get in the ground now to make sure you get the look you want for summer. Grab a cup of tea and get yourself to a computer because this is the perfect task to do from the comfort of home on a rainy, windy day. Check out your local garden store online to browse and plan.

Clean and clear
Spring is the time to give your garden a general tidy up. You need to remove debris and leaves from borders, the lawn, and any water features. Give your greenhouse a good clear out too – before long it will be essential to bring on cuttings and seedlings. Give the floor a sweep and you could also do a spot of disinfecting to get rid of overwintering pests and disease. Wipe down any benches and the inside of the glass. It’s a good idea to give plant pots and trays a wash too; giving young plants the best chance of avoiding disease is a priority. Once your spring cleaning is done, ventilate the greenhouse well so it dries.

Cut back
To be as wildlife friendly as possible, wait until early spring to cut back old dead growth of deciduous grasses and herbaceous perennials. Tidy gardeners will be tempted to prune back earlier, but waiting provides food for insects and birds during some of the coldest months.

Make it surprising
Spring is all about nature and the amazing way the environment changes as the warmer weather approaches. When planning the perfect spring garden, bear this in mind and work with it rather than against it. One great way to do this is to brighten up the base of trees before they have all their leaves back. Something like crocus or scillas will grow well in the moist, light soil underneath a tree.

You could also try planting bulbs in your lawn; by the time they start to appear you will have forgotten where you planted them, making for a pleasant surprise. Plant bulbs like snowdrops and winter aconites, you’ll just need to let them die down after flowering before you mow over them (you can always go round them, of course). The key is to make it look natural, like the bulbs have just decided to grow there of their own accord. You could even throw bulbs into the air and plant them where they land.

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