Happy Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone from The Diligent Gardener

Perfect Christmas Parsnips

Parsnips are one of the best vegetables for winter with a lovey nutty taste and there are so many wonderful ways to prepare them. Heres a few I love.

Parmesan crusted Parsnips.
Cook the parsnips in boiling salted water until tender. Add oil to baking tray and sprinkle grated parmesan, polenta and mustard powder, heat for about five minutes and then add the parsnips, and transfer the tray to the oven cooking for about 30 to 40 minutes turning at least once.

Parsnip Crisps.
Use a swivel blade peeler to peel strips from the parsnips. Coat them in oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Place them in backing trays in single layers and bake for about 30 minutes until they are crisp  Grind sea salt over them and eat them hot.

Roast parsnips
Cut your parsnips into bite sized chunks and simmer in boiling water for about five minutes. Preheat your oven and a baking tray with oil. Remove the parsnips and add them to the hot tray, ensuring you coat them all in the oil. Roast for about 30 to 40 minutes turning at least once. Serve whilst hot.

If you do make the crisps then its worth making a lot at they are very moorish and I find they get eaten very quickly. You can make vegetable crisps from other vegetables for extra variety.

Growing Raspberries

To ensure you can enjoy delicious raspberries it's essential you prepare well beforehand. Choosing the best area to grow raspberries will ensure good growth; they thrive in sheltered yet sunny conditions although they can still bear fruit when partly shaded. Once you've found the prime position remove any weeds and add plenty of well rotted manure into the soil. Raspberry plants benefit from slightly acidic soil - a pH testing kit will allow you to determine whether you need to add ammonium sulphate to your soil to increase its acidity.

Now that you've found the perfect spot and made sure the soil is in an ideal condition you can turn your attention towards actually planting the raspberries. They can be planted anytime during the dormant season (November-March) provided the soil isn't frozen or waterlogged.

Types of raspberry

There are two types of raspberries - autumn fruiting and summer fruiting. Summer fruiting varieties grow raspberry canes once a year and bear fruit the next (you still harvest fruit every year - just from different canes), while autumn fruiting raspberries grow and fruit every year.

Supporting growth

For raspberries to grow to their full potential you need to provide them with the right support. Plants should be planted 2ft apart - if growing multiple rows, these should be 6ft apart. Hammer two 8ft stakes about 2ft deep into the ground, 10ft apart. Three layers of 12 gauge galvanised wires should be stretched between these posts at 30, 42, and 66 inches above ground level, held firmly in place with straining bolts.

Raspberry maintenance

Summer fruiting raspberries should have their fruit bearing canes cut to ground level during the autumn - take care to make sure you don't prune the growing canes. The eight strongest pruned canes can be tied to the wire supports, leaving a gap of 3-4 inches, while the remaining canes can be removed completely.
Autumn fruiting raspberries on the other hand should have all their canes cut to ground level in February, although the canes can be trimmed in summer if overcrowding is hampering growth.

Container planted raspberries

If you can't grow your raspberries directly into the ground don't despair - raspberries can also be grown in containers. A single plant can successfully grow in a 15 inch diameter container filled with an 80:20 mix of multipurpose compost and loam-based potting compost, which is fed during the growing season with a general purpose liquid fertiliser. Canes can be trained up bamboo cane in a similar way to single plants grown into the ground.


As long as you remember to keep raspberry plants well watered and give them plenty to feed on (mulch general purpose granular fertiliser with rotted farmyard manure in spring) you can look forward to a bountiful yield. Whether eaten with pavlova, turned into a delicious jam or eaten alone, you can delight your taste buds with the fresh, fruity taste that just isn't available from the shops.

Author Bio: YouGarden is an online gardening center run by three horticulturalist who have over 50 years combined experience. They have one simple ethos “Gardening for Everyone” and sell everything from soft fruit plants and bushes to flowers and fruit trees

Perfect Brussels

Brussel Sprouts are often ready for harvesting now, but to many people they bring back memories of childhood, being forced to stay at the table until you have eaten (or hidden) the last brussels on your dinner plate. Heres several options to make the perfect Brussel Sprouts

Brussels with Bacon and Chestnuts
First fry your bacon in a hot pan without any oil for about 10 minutes until it is crisp. Then add chestnuts and fry until they are beginning to colour and coated in the bacon fat. Drain off the excess fat, then place the fried bacon  with the chestnuts into a bowl and allow them to cool. Beat some butter with a spatula to soften, then mix in the bacon and chestnuts. Season the mix with black pepper, and store in fridge. This will keep fresh for about 3 days in the fridge or could be frozen.

To serve, place your sprouts in a microwaveable bowl, and pour in approximately 100ml of water, cover with cling film and pierce a few holes in the top. Microwave your sprouts on High (850W) for about 16 to18 minutes, stirring at least twice during cooking, or alternatively cook in a pan of boiling water for 5 mins. Drain  off the water and place into a warm serving dish, then add the butter over to melt.

Brussels with pancetta 
Blanch the Brussels sprouts in a pan of boiling salted water for 3 mins. Drain the water away and place into a bowl of iced water to quickly cool them. Drain off any water again and set aside until nearly ready to serve. Sauté the pancetta in hot goose fat until crisp, add in the sprouts and stir-fry everything for a further 2 to 3 minutes, before placing in a bowl to serve.

Brussels with hazelnuts 
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the sprouts and cook them for about 5 minutes until just done. Drain well and place the sprouts into a warmed serving dish. Meanwhile, melt some butter in a small frying pan and add your hazelnuts. Cook the hazelnuts until they just start to brown, and the butter is turning a lovely deep golden brown. It should smell delightful, a lovely nutty smell. Tip this mixture over your sprouts, and add pepper to your taste.

Hopefully there will be no more hiding the sprouts round the back of the plates or feeding to the dog!

Planting Winter Onions

Following on from our post earlier this month about how to grow onions its worth reminding ourselves that there are actually quite a number of different varieties of onions from sets that can planted in your vegetable plot or allotment now. Sets are the simplest way to grow onions yourself much easier than from seed. They have the bonus that they can be harvested earlier on in the year as well.

Electric is a good red set, Radar a good yellow and Shakespeare is a highly reliable white.

You can also sow some spring onions now: White Lisbon Winter Hardy is a good one that we like to use. Check your local garden centre as quite a lot of them will have shallots available now for plantin. Jermor is already available in my local garden centre. These are good to be planted about now or though until just into the New Year.

Winter Greenhouse Prep

If you have a greenhouse or even a coldframe, lean-to or conservatory, then you should be thinking about preparing it for use over winter or for the growing season next year. A greenhouse is ideal for storing plants over the winter, but they need a bit of preparation first. .

Cleaning: Before starting it is important to clean the greenhouse, removing algae build up, grime and any left over debris from the summer.

Insulating: to protect plants over winter add insulation, big bubble bubble wrap is ideal. Of course insulation on its own will not keep out the coldest temperatures so its worth adding a small heater. Either electric if you have a safe supply or a paraffin heater.

Soil care: if you have beds in the greenhouse then remove weeds and consider enriching the soil for next year.

Pest and diseases: As part of the cleaning regime ensure pests and disease are dealt with, fungal problems can be solved by the use of anti-fungal treatments. If you have pest problems then treat these, either organically or via a pesticide.

Plant care: tidy the plants you plan to store, cut back any dead or damaged sections and remove dead leaves. Keep removing any leaves that fall over winter to reduce teh risk of rot or fungal problems.

Delicious French Onion Soup with your Harvest

Following on from our post the other day about how to grow onions, we thought it would be a good time to think about what to do with some of them! Onion based soups have been popular at least as far back as Roman times. They were then usually seen as food for poor people, as onions were plentiful and easy to grow. The modern version of this soup originates in France in the 18th century, made from beef broth, and caramelized onions. It is often finished by being placed under a grill in a ramekin traditionally with croutons and gruyère melted on top. The croutons on top is reminiscent of ancient soups
  • 6 large red or yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced.
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups of beef stock
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dry thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 slices of toasted French bread
  • 1 1/2 cups of grated Swiss Gruyere with a little grated Parmesan cheese
1 Cut each onion in half lengthwise, then slice into half-moons. Slice these half-moons in half again. Place them into a large saucepan, sauté the onions in the olive oil on medium high heat until well browned, but not burned, about 30-40 minutes (or longer). You can let them cook even longer — an hour and a half will give you deeply caramelized onions! Just let them cook, stirring at times, as you see dark colour emerge. After 45 minutes they will look pale mahogany in colour. You can let them get even darker if you like — just don't let them burn or get black. Adjust the heat as necessary.

2 Add the sugar about 10 minutes into the process to help them to carmelise. The rich flavour of the base is not due just to the broth, but to the caramelized onions (typically, the pot is full of sliced onions, which will shrink down to less than half the volume on cooking).

3 Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the stock,  wine, bay leaf, and thyme. Cover partially and simmer until the flavours are well blended, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaf.

4 To serve you can either use individual oven-proof soup bowls or one large casserole dish. Ladle the soup into the bowls or casserole dish. Cover with the toast and sprinkle with cheese. Put into the broiler for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned. Serve immediately.

Getting Busy in November

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!


Fruit Tree Planting

If you’ve never experienced the sheer unbounded joy of casually picking some apples or plums from your own fruit tree and then sharing them with friends and family then you’re missing out on an unique experience.
Apple, pear and Victoria plum trees are all ideal fruit trees to plant in your garden. Not only will they enhance its natural beauty but they will also provide you with the most organic and natural fruit money can’t buy. The fruit is delicious in itself and can also be used to make delicious ciders, wines, moonshine, chutneys, preserves and jams. But it’s important to note that to ensure a healthy tree and productive harvest, it’s always best to plant certain fruit trees in Winter.

What Type of Fruit Trees are Suitable for Planting in Winter? 
Deciduous fruit trees such as apple, pear trees and Victoria plum tree should always be planted in Winter, as opposed to evergreen fruit trees such as Olive and Loquat which are hardy but best planted in the spring or more tender trees such as lemons which should be overwintered in a cool conservatory. Deciduous fruit trees have evolved in a temperate climate and require exposure to the cold of Winter in order to produce fruit and flowers. This is known as the minimum chill requirement. The growth buds of these particular trees do not blossom properly until they experience a full winter.

How to Plant a Fruit Tree in Winter 
Fruit trees are in their dormant stage in late Autumn and early winters, so this is the best time for planting. Always soak the roots thoroughly and avoid placing in the ground if there’s a frost because the soil needs to be moist. Place your fruit tree in a position in you garden which benefits from both sun and shelter. When it comes to digging a hole ensure it is a third wider than the tree’s roots and the same depth. Insert a stake to support the tree and fill the hole with soil. Water the ground well, but only well enough to keep it moist. You do not want to drown the tree’s roots.

Things to be Weary of When planting fruit trees in winter 
To maximise the amount of fruit they yield almost all deciduous fruit trees require careful and regular pruning. It’s also a good idea to apply a grease band to the trunk of your tree at least 18 inches above soil level to protect it from moths and other insects who will eat its leaves and fruit. The application of fertilizer, organic or chemical, is a personal preference but it can give the fruit tree just the boost it needs to start bearing the sort of fruit that will make you the talk of the town.

This article was first published last year.

Autumn Chores

Many believe that the cooling weather means it's time to pause gardening efforts for the year. However, if you're hoping to have healthy plants growing when next year rolls around, you'll want to do a bit of planting in the coming weeks, sowing seeds that can survive and grow through the winter to sprout and bloom in the spring!

Specifically, there are a number of delicious vegetables that you can plant during the autumn and early winter so as to harvest in spring. If this is something that interests you, and you like the idea of plotting a vegetable garden before the real cold weather sets in, here are a few tips for cool weather gardening, as well as a few great vegetables to plant.

Tips For Cold Weather Gardening Comfort

  • Purchase Gloves - Generally, some manner of gardening gloves are recommended for your yard work in any season - but particularly with the weather cooling off, it might be a good idea to buy new gloves. Cold, stiff hands make it very difficult to handle equipment and go about gardening, and it's an easily avoided problem!

  • Wear A Winter Hat - This may seem like a very obvious suggestion, and for some it is. However, it's important to emphasize the hat above other cool weather attire. Bulky jackets and overcoats can make gardening tricky, as they make it harder to be flexible bending to plants, getting on the ground, etc. Keeping your head warm warms your body effectively, however, and a winter cap doesn't get in the way of your activity.

  • Address Seasonal Irritation - Allergies are generally more closely associated with the spring season, but different people react differently to cold weather. One example is in eye irritation that can result from spending time outside in your garden in an unfamiliar season. If this is an issue for you, a quick visit to Acuvue can help you to identify potential reasons for irritation, as well as different solutions - eyedrops, contact lenses, etc. - to keep you more comfortable.

Vegetables To Plant This Season

  • Asparagus - This is a long-term project, as Asparagus beds require 2 years to be ready for picking, but it's nonetheless a vegetable that can be planted in cool weather.

  • Onions & Shallots - There are many varieties of onion that can be planted now for harvest in the spring. Telegraph notes several suitable varieties, and even sells them in their garden shop online.

  • Spinach - A common favourite among home vegetables, sowing spinach now can give you a beautiful salad supply come spring. Merlo Nero is one recommended variety.

  • Cabbage - This is a great option because it will be ready in some capacity by early spring, but will continue to grow thicker and heartier after your initial harvest.

  • Peas - Another delicious option, fairly easy to grow and which will be ready by spring or early summer if planted in the next month.
Whatever you opt for I hope they do well for you.


Using Plants for a Healthier Life

With many of us working from home or in offices, clean air is important. Air purification systems can be very expensive and an alternative and attractive solution is through the use of house plants. Not only do they look good, they also do good for your home.

Much of the research into the best house plants for cleaning air has been undertaken by the scientists at NASA, who have spend significant time and resources researching space station living conditions. Clearly if astronauts are to spend a lot of time at a space station then all aspects of their health and well being needs to be planned, investigated and researched. Put simply every indoors plant that you may have. regardless of whether if flowers is able to purify the air in your home to some degree through the normal photosynthesis process. However NASA identified that a number process the air in a much more efficient manner, an thus are more beneficial than others when it comes to removing harmful household toxins as well as removing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. The best performing were able to remove 90% of the chemicals in the air in just a single day.

The plants listed by Nasa include a number of common household plants, such as Rhapis excelsa, Dracaena reflexa, Ficus benjamina and Ficus elastica.

In your home the three household toxins of greatest worry are benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethane. All three are carcinogenic chemicals that are used in the manufacture of synthetic substances and materials. The chemicals themselves are released from new materials for some time, this process can last several years in some cases, so there is an ever present release of chemicals into the air in your home.

Benzene can also be emitted from gas ovens or heaters during normal everyday use, which gives you a good reason to properly ventilate such rooms and have house plants in them. Many people are aware of the risks of carbon monoxide as well, and plants can reduce the levels of this, however do not use plants in place of a proper maintenance routine or a carbon monoxide detector.

NASA researchers suggest efficient air cleaning is accomplished with at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space. Most of the plants on the list provided by NASA are native to tropical and subtropical environments. With their ability to flourish on reduced sunlight, their leaf composition allows them to photosynthesise well in household light. As part of the testing each plant type was placed in sealed, Plexiglas chambers in which chemicals were injected. Philodendron, spider plant and the golden pothos were labeled the most effective in removing formaldehyde molecules. Flowering plants such as gerbera daisy and chrysanthemums were rated superior in removing benzene from the chamber atmosphere. Other good performers are Dracaena Massangeana, Spathiphyllum, and Golden Pothos. “Plants take substances out of the air through the tiny openings in their leaves,” Wolverton said. “But research in our laboratories has determined that plant leaves, roots and soil bacteria are all important in removing trace levels of toxic vapors”.

The best plants most effective in removing: Formaldehyde, Benzene, and Carbon Monoxide from the air according to NASA were as follows.
Bamboo Palm – Chamaedorea Seifritzii
Chinese Evergreen - Aglaonema Modestum
English Ivy Hedera Helix
Gerbera Daisy Gerbera Jamesonii
Janet Craig - Dracaena “Janet Craig”
Marginata - Dracaena Marginata
Mass cane/Corn Plant - Dracaena Massangeana
Mother-in-Law’s Tongue Sansevieria Laurentii
Pot Mum – Chrysantheium morifolium
Peace Lily - Spathiphyllum
Warneckii - Dracaena “Warneckii”

So if you don't have many house plants in your home or office, what are you waiting for!


Vertical Herbs

Following on from this post about growing herbs with limited space it is possible to take this one step further and create vertical herb gardens.

Using either a custom kit (widely available) or if you are good at DIY creating your own the key is to use good quality compost and water regularly. Also by harvesting your herbs you will keep it all in check.

How to Divide Rhubarb

If you grow rhubarb in your garden or allotment you should be thinking about dividing it over the next few weeks if you haven't done it for a while. Rhubarb plants should be divided every five years or so giving you additional plants but also healthier ones too.

How to divide Rhubarb
Dig up the crowns and roots taking extra care not to damage the crown. Divide the roots into 4 to 8 pieces depending on the size of the plant you are lifting. It is best to divide the dormant crowns between two large buds called eyes so that at least a 5cm or so section of storage root is left attached to each bud. Remember to take care not to break off the delicate buds as these can easily be broken, but other that that the roots are actually pretty tough and can tolerate quite a lot of rough treatment. Small buds will give you small plants for the first few years after planting until the newly divided plant bulks up again, while four to ten new roots can usually be obtained from crowns that have been grown a few years.

Take care not to allow the divisions to dry out or to freeze if you are not to going to be planting the straight away. Remember that when you are dividing crowns for re-planting, it is a good idea to identify the most vigorous plants the previous summer and use these as planting stock in the Autumn. The depth of planting should be so that the top of the plant is at, or only just below the soil surface. Gently firm the surrounding soil and water the new plants in well. The space between plants should be approximately 75cm (30in) for smaller varieties, and up to 120cm (48in) for larger varieties. It is a good idea to identify where the newly divided crowns have been planted with a cane until new shoots appear above the soil surface in February or March.

It should be obvious but crowns from diseased plants should not be divided from.

Soil Preparation
All Rhubarb varieties develop a deep root system and will grow best in a fertile, partially shaded, free-draining soil. It is a good idea to prepare the ground in advance, start digging over your soil four weeks before planting and remove any stones you find and adding as much organic matter as possible.

Heres a useful video:

Planting for Spring

As we wave goodbye to summer for another year, many keen gardeners will no doubt be thinking ahead to what spring has in store.

Although decent weather might be at a premium over the next few months, there's no reason why you can't get your spring flowering bulbs into the ground.

Bulbs are generally some of the easiest things to grow - providing they are planted well, they can pretty much be left to their own devices.

When should I plant spring flowering bulbs?

If you want a colourful garden in the spring, then you need to think about planting your bulbs between October and December. Frosty conditions can make life difficult for bulbs, so try to get them in the ground before temperatures plummet.

What conditions should I be planting the bulbs in?

The easiest way to know where to plant bulbs is to look at the guidance on the back of the packaging. Some will thrive in certain types of soil more than others - it might be a good idea to look at what conditions you have in your own garden before making a purchase.

For example, crocus bulbs particularly enjoy moist and light soil and are perfect for planting at the base of trees or in shaded areas. Tulips, on the other hand, appreciate sandy soil with good drainage.

What is the best way to plant bulbs?

Experts often recommend that spring flowering bulbs are planted at around two to three times their own depth, and approximately two bulb widths apart. This will give them ample space to grow without affecting other plants in the area.

You will also need to make sure the bulb is facing upwards when it is placed in the soil - if you're not sure which way this is, then put it on its side just to be sure.

If you are short on space, there is no reason why you can't plant spring bulbs in pots. If you have an especially large container, then you can place bulbs at different depths for a really impressive and colourful springtime display.

When can I expect to see flowers?

Depending on the variety, you should start to see your bulbs flower during the spring and summer months.

Crocus, daffodils and hyacinths are usually among the first to emerge, followed several weeks later by lilies and alliums.

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

Garden Furniture

Whilst many peoples thoughts at this time of year are focused on Christmas and winter, it is a good time to give some consideration to choices of furniture for the garden for next year. With the dark wintery weather you may think i'm suggesting something strange but far from it.

There are often sales on in garden centres or DIY sheds to clear surplus stock in the run up to Christmas, if they have the design you like then it may be possible to obtain a good discount or get something extra included, and who doesn't like that!

But the benefit of sales aside, its also a good time to plan. Summer and Autumn have only recently finished, and one can think back to how they used the garden, patio and seating areas this last year. By doing this you can think about what you would actually use and get the most benefit from, without too much time having elapsed. The garden is also clear from summer distractions, bedding plants and deciduous plants have gone over meaning you can see the bones of the garden far more clearly.

A choice of furniture shouldn't be decided based on the colours in the garden just this year, you may have a different planting scheme next year. Or you may want to fit the scheme to the furniture. If you grow your own plants from seed then choosing furniture now gives you plenty of time to then grow plants that will fit your planned scheme with new furniture. You also have plenty of time to research the options and investigate different designs, styles and colours from the comfort of your own home using the internet.

So what are the main options?

Wooden furniture
Hard wood furniture has gained in popularity in recent years, with a wide range of styles, designs and prices to meet most peoples budgets. Wooden furniture should be regularly treated, either with a specialist wood oil  or varnish from time to time to keep it at its best.

Traditional wooden garden set
Maintaining a wooden table
Keeping wooden furniture maintained helps keep the colours as well as prevent damage from weather.

Rattan and Rattan style
Rattan and rattan style furniture has seem something of a makeover, the old fashioned image of 1970s conservatory furniture has been confined to history, and modern rattan styles, often plastic based for increased weather protection is both attractive and long lasting.

The modern imitation rattan will weather well and need almost no maintenance other than an occasional wash down. As Rattan is so adaptable a wide range of styles exists, from traditional colonial styles to modern chairs with hard lines and comfortable padding,

Personally im a fan of the modern Rattan, low maintenance, hard wearing and coming in a range of colours it will suit most styles of gardens from ultra modern to traditional english gardens as well as exotic or jungle styles, and to be honest almost everything in between!

Plastic furniture has had quite a makeover not just pub garden style chairs but a wide range of funky molded furniture also exists. Like modern rattan it needs almost no maintenance so if perfect for a modern and low maintenance garden.
Stylish Plastic furniture
Whatever you choose enjoy the selection process!

When life doesnt give you Lemons, grow them!

Sometimes the simplest things can be pretty amazing. Nature not only provides us with beauty but the practicalities of food. Some of the things we consume, however, have powers beyond the norm of filling the belly - they have, some might say, magical powers. One such item that can be lifted out of the innocuous is the humble lemon.

The glistening yellow fruit is one of the world's greatest foodstuffs. We don't eat it in its natural form as it is too sour, but it features in the cuisine of every country across the world. Whether it is to add zip to a salad dressing or zest up some fish, the lemon earns its position as an ingredient we can't do without.

The qualities of this tart fruit full of juice however, go way beyond its ability to lift a dish and add zing. It is not often considered nutritious, yet it is packed with vitamins and powerful anti-oxidants. Here are some very good reasons why you can benefit from placing a lemon tree in your garden.

Of course remember to grow citrus in pots and move into a conservatory or greenhouse for winter.


Thanks to the citric acid in lemons, they contain less natural sugar than other citrus fruit and so, are less calorific - just 29 calories in 100g. Lemons are also free from cholesterol and fat. Their real value comes from the high concentration of vitamin C. A single lemon can provide 88% of your RDV (Recommended Daily Value) of this essential vitamin. Vitamin C is beneficial in fighting the symptoms of and reducing the risk of the common cold (not a cure), and is also widely accepted as aiding immunity, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and pre-natal health problems, and also eye disease and reducing skin wrinkles. Interestingly, a single lemon can also provide you with 7% of your fiber RDV. Lemons also contain various complexes of vitamin B as well as essential trace elements iron, calcium, potassium and copper.


Over the last couple of decades, our understanding of anti-oxidants has greatly increased. Although the research world continues to study their seemingly magical properties, it is united in the view that anti-oxidants play a huge role in our general health and in particular, the ageing process. A number of foods have been designated as 'superfoods, ' as in being a great deal more beneficial than others, usually due to the high concentration of anti-oxidants. Lemons haven't yet earned this tag, but they contain a good level of flavonoids such as naringen and hesperin, anti-inflammatories known to boost the immune system, and protect cell DNA.

Around the house

If you have a lemon tree in the garden, you can find a great deal of uses for it other than culinary. The citric acid in lemon is a natural preservative, but it also makes a great cleaning product. Have you ever noticed that so many proprietary cleaning products have a lemon fragrance? Lemon is one of nature's greatest and most powerful smells. Not only does it smell good in itself, but it overpowers other odors. Got a smelly microwave? Put some fresh lemon juice in a bowl of water and turn it on for a few minutes – the odor will go. Put half a lemon in an odorous fridge, the smell will go. Lemon has properties for beauty too. It's the best natural hair lightener and a great conditioner too. Some also say lemon acts as a bleach, reducing freckles and age spots.

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.

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. For those of you with cordless mowers ensuring that you use quality Lawnmower Batteries is essential. 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.

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