Whittingham Garden Club

Thank you to all from Whittingham Garden Club who came to see my talk on Friday night, it was lovely to meet you all and it was a lot of fun sharing ideas with you about how to look after the garden.

Below are a few notes on things we spoke about, like plants for bees, no-dig gardening, wool compost, organic bulbs and more….

1. The Best Plants for Bees

The most valuable plant that has come up in research conducted by Rosy Bee is Helenium.

helenium best plant for bees

For a few more notes on what to do to help the bees, take a look at this blog post I wrote for Harlow Beekeepers.

2. Recycling your plastic pots

You can see here which nurseries and garden centres recycle pots. You can also buy plant labels made from recycled pots, or even outdoor clocks!

3. Wool Compost

Developed by Dalefoot Composts. Another fantastic peat free compost is Sylvagrow.

Buying as a group will get you a better value deal, but as always with compost you get what you pay for – so put your money there and you will get healthier plants!

4. Japanese Tools

We love them. Keep them sharp and you will make your pruning life easier.

5. Copper Tools

We love these too. They may not be a magic bullet to stop slugs and snails eating your hostas, but they are so good to use…

copper tools charles dowding

6. Organic Bulbs are Bee Friendly Bulbs…

We learnt about this a few years ago, so have been stocking organic bulbs ever since. We will make an order in the summer, so will let you know and as a group you can buy your bee friendly spring flowers in bulk.

7. A Welcome Branch

Make sure you have a fragrant, colourful, or beautiful plant by your front door. The strong form of an evergreen is good too.

It makes the house welcoming to you and other people, and can be as simple as a rose or as intriguing as something like these topiaries….

8. No Dig Gardening

We met Charles Dowding (a fan of copper tools) and saw for ourselves how good his vegetables and fruit are. You can read here about our visit to the garden of Charles Dowding.

Why does No Dig Gardening make sense? In a nutshell…

  • You mimic the way nature builds its soils, by improving from the top down – just like the forest floor.
  • Worms enjoy the organic matter you add to the beds, meaning they aerate the soil for you.
  • When starting a no dig approach, you add a good depth of compost. This means you don’t have to work hard removing all the weeds first, you can just get on with growing, as the weeds are smothered and kept away from sunlight. Any weeds that do come through all the compost will be weakened and so easier to pull out.
  • Soil won’t be dried out by the wind as you are not exposing it. It will also improve the soil texture, meaning it holds water better during dry weather.
  • Beneficial fungi is left undisturbed, allowing it to proliferate and work with the plant roots to find and access the goodness in the soil that the plants need to grow.
  • Weeds that appear on the surface of the beds can be hoed away. The amount of time saved means you can use your energy to grow more plants and work out how to crop them and process them.

The initial cost is going to come from the amount of compost you need. Building raised beds is unnecessary, Charles even suggests that wooden boards will harbour slugs, so it is detrimental to go to this effort!

Yields are close enough to be comparable between dug and un-dug growing, but taste seems to be far better and I am sure that the health of the vegetables in no dig beds will be higher – they have, after all, so much goodness to use from the vast quantities of compost.

If you are still unsure you want to save time and effort, for better vegetables, then you can peruse a few quick notes from Charles himself on why no dig is worth giving a go.

9. Finally, a note on Organic Gardening…

Organic gardening seems to be a term that puts people off – so perhaps you can think of yourself as being an earth friendly gardener…?

Wanting to grow great food, fragrant flowers and tend amazing spaces is for anyone – being an earth friendly gardener just means you don’t reach for poison to ‘get rid’ of something, but try your best to cultivate life in the garden instead.

Whether that life is flowers, vegetables, fruit, herbs, bees, worms, beetles and all the other forms that have evolved and enjoy this precious life, you will find that it won’t take long for your garden to step up to the plate and take some responsibility too – perhaps pests may eat your leeks the first year, but the strength and health of the garden will improve and find a way to defend itself the next, if you just hold off and refrain from poisoning.

A garden expert on BBC Radio Kent suggested that people want their gardens to ‘work right’ now. We all do, and there is nothing to suggest earth friendly gardening won’t work straight away.

But look at it the way you look at your own health – a crash diet doesn’t lead to a better lifestyle, it merely leads to huge weight loss that makes you look good for a month, before the weight piles back on.

Losing 1 lb a week over a year means you are healthier by simply changing your habits. Your body has time to adjust and you are unlikely to put weight back on because now you are habituated to living this way and so much stronger.

I have written a Manifesto for the Modern Gardener. I hope it helps you see organic (or earth friendly) gardening is simple – it is really just gardening the way your grand parents did – respecting the soil, enjoying the produce, cultivating life.

Thank you Whittingham Garden Club and happy gardening!


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