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At Great Little Garden, we love to celebrate gardening and to help you make the most of your garden, balcony or patio. What better way to celebrate than by having a BBQ with friends and family?
That’s why we’re giving you the opportunity to win one of our fantastic Barbecook Major Charcoal BBQs worth £149.99. The prize includes a Barbecook Major Charcoal BBQ with quick start and quick stop systems, a height adjustable grill, windshield, warming rack and an easy to remove ash catcher. Plus, in striking chili red- one of this season’s most fashionable colours - this new barbecue will make you the most stylish BBQ chef around.
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Deadline for the entry is the 21st of May 2017 and the winner will be announced the following day.
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- The winner has 48 hours to reply. If the winner does not respond within 48 hours, the prize will be transferred to another winner.
Posted: March 13, 2017|
Every plant has a story or meaning in my garden.
Even gardening chores often remind me of places, friends, occasions and fond memories. I bet you are the same.
There's a smashing little plant called Erigeron karvinskinaus or Mexican fleabane. It loves dry conditions and popping up all over the place. Whenever I see my own plants, small yet thriving and standing up to winter without any bother, it takes me back to many super family holidays when the children were small, admiring the same plant flowering its socks off in Padstow. The smell of a warm pasty does the same.
A great herbaceous plant called astrantia always transports me to my first Chelsea Flower Show (back in the mists of time now) where I manned the stand for a world leading nursery. The very first technical question I was asked - as I stood nervously next to the most gorgeous plants ever - was from some dignitary who wanted to know where the toilets were. 'Turn left at the astrantia stand'. Life was never the same.
Even now, sun ripened tomatoes, still warm in a late summer afternoon, remind me of my teenage years when my dad used to pick them for his lunch straight from my little greenhouse (I didn't like eating them back then – I tolerate them now but they are great fun to grow). I must ask him if he really liked them or was just keeping me happy!
Any cactus or succulent drives me back decades and straight to the door of Bury Town Hall on a misty Saturday in September and the autumn horticultural show. All these years later I think fondly of those days and still support my local show. I do wish I still had that duffel coat. Paddington Bear was always a favourite.
Whenever I prune the apple trees, I clearly remember climbing down the ladder to take the desperate phone call bringing news of a death in the family. Apples themselves, however, transport me to memories of wonderfully tasty and eye opening apple days at RHS Wisley.
Digging my veg plot? Straight back in time to my first allotment aged thirteen. I can still see an old chap, leaning on the allotment gate, scowling as I sowed carrot seed too thickly. I still do. He'd still scowl. He'd be right.
In fact, every plant, every last one, reminds me of someone, something, somewhere. And that is surely what a garden should be – personal. Gardens are much more than a collection of pots and plants. As for the hardy flowering cyclamen currently doing their stuff in a shady border right now, today… well, that's another fond memory.
So, what about your plant memories – anything you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below…
SHOP our range of plants here and see if you can find your most treasured memories in plant form.
I've been reading an article about some of the household jobs we are all supposed to complete every day, every week, every month and once a year. I get the whole 'feed the dishwasher every day' type of suggestion. I even, at a push, get the vacuum the mattress idea (to remove what exactly?). But wipe light bulbs? Come on. Light bulbs? Wipe? But it got me thinking about the same type of jobs in the garden. So, for the benefit of all gardeners needing guidance on what to do and how often in the garden you should do it, here we go:
Do it daily
- Make time to walk round your garden. Look at the plants and enjoy their development. You'll also spot any nasties getting a hold, giving you time to plan your defence.
- Always check the greenhouse and tend to plants wherever necessary. It may be nothing, it may only be a minute but it will keep things ticking over nicely.
- Gross as it may seem (and is), squash any aphids populating and sucking your rose buds dry.
Do it weekly
- Even though you think the weeding is done, it never is. Hand-weed your beds and borders. If weeds develop, flower and then set seed, you will be in for far more than a weekly chore. Annual weeds can go in the compost bin but perennial weeds are best gifted to the council in their green waste bins.
- Never fail to flop in your favourite chair and take in what is happening in your plot. It's why you work so hard.
Do it monthly
- Try to plant something. It could be some veg seeds, a bulb or two or even a shrub. If you do, chances are your rewards will return monthly – brilliant. Gone will be the days of a garden looking good for a week at most. It's the start of a 12 month of the year garden.
- Obviously, your own garden is your main concern – but get out and visit a garden open to the public (as opposed to nipping over the wall of a good-looking plot and having a furtive scout about). You will learn lots, get loads of ideas and, of course, eat home-made cake. You can easily visit a different garden every month and most donate cash to charity. Everyone’s a winner.
Do it annually
- Spend quality time with your mower: drain it, clean it, sharpen it, refill it with whatever lubricants it needs. Cherish it and it will serve you for years. It's a good way to spend a day out of the way giving something back. Good times.
- Go to your local horticultural show. Hopefully yours is in a large marquee where the smell of crushed grass combines evocatively with the pure sound of a brass band drowning out the warning from a village elder shouting, 'Watch yourself on that low-slung bunting'. Or it could be in a purpose built 80's brick block – it doesn't matter – just go and support. Drink tea from the ubiquitous green cup and saucer (Woods pottery, Beryl style – I've done by homework you know!). It really will taste better. 50p for a slice of homemade coconut cake? Don't mind if I do! Even better, grow an onion, a super long carrot or back-breaking pumpkin and take on the usual cup winners. It only comes around once a year.
I've just been reading about new research suggesting that instead of the 5-a-day guideline for fruit and veg, we should all up it to ten! Ten a day seems a lot. For a start, my fridge isn't big enough to take it all. I haven't got room for another fruit bowl. There is only one thing for it – grow more of my own.
Grow your own
There a few ways to get any garden more productive for the kitchen table. Mixing veg and flowers is the main one. Lots of different types of veg looks terrific when mooching about in beds and borders. Take the feathery fronds of your average carrot. I'd quite happily grow a block of them just for the look of the leaves. The tasty roots are actually a bonus. And now I’ll have to grow more as I need to cram in ten a day. Carrots are easy to grow. You can put a few seeds directly into the soil and away they go. Or you can buy ready growing seedlings and do the same. You don't even have to put them in soldier straight lines. Scatter the seeds thinly in a block or a drift, rake over and stand back. You might not win any silverware at the village show but you soon will be pulling crunchy roots to nibble on.
Containers and hanging baskets
Containers are another wonderful way to get more edibility into a garden, and that means anything that can hold compost. Recycle old cans, hassle your local restaurants for catering sized metal containers (any place serving up olives will have decorative containers piled up outside ready to throw away – ask and get your hands on some of the trendiest plant pots you will ever get for free). Hanging baskets are also a great opportunity to grow a few of your ten-a-day. Cherry tomatoes are a popular choice. Beautifully compact plants, stems all bunched up and trusses of the sweetest toms you will ever eat. And all hanging just outside your door. Grab a handful for your lunch on the way out or pick a few as a snack as you walk around your garden. Chin-dribbling deliciousness. When growing in containers, whatever you manage to use, always ensure you drill drainage holes in the base and always use a quality compost. Plants may only be in there for a few months but it's a good idea to give them the best start possible. And most veg needs a sunny position to really thrive. Other than that, that's the start of a few more of your ten-a-day.
See our best plants for containers here
Fruit and vegetable garden
Of course, you can turn a patch or the whole of your garden over to fruit and veg. And why not? All those years ago (can it really be 45 years?) Barbara and Tom in the Good Life gave it a go. But honestly, you don’t have to take the spade to everything. Keep it small and simple at first and grow just a few fruit and veg. Prove to yourself it's a good idea and that you can do it. I get that. Redcurrants are easy if you have a wall and a bit of time to fix pieces of trellis or wires, and any upright supporting roses or sweet peas can also be used for climbing French beans (the variety called 'Cobra' is superb).
Clever, tasty and productive
Then of course you may decide that 'No - hanging baskets are not for veg' and 'No - the front lawn is staying put.' And even 'No - veg does not belong in the gladioli bed. Veg is veg and that means a veg patch.' OK, you can still grow more. Have a go at this – sweet corn as an upright support for French beans and down below, sprawling all over the place, keeping the roots cool and the moisture in the soil is a heavy cropping courgette. Three crops out of one small space. Clever, tasty and productive.
But even if you just try to grow one more veg, it will make a difference. And honestly, once you have succeeded - and you will - you'll never turn back. Ten-a-day? Pah - make mine twenty.
TING (one hour is up)
Clocks go forward
It's that turning point of the year. The clocks spring forward and we all have an extra hour of light in the evening. Beautiful. A whole extra hour to do…what exactly? 60 whole minutes. Fingers at the ready because your one hour starts... wait for it... now!
I've got to be looking at sowing some seeds. An hour is enough to find a few seed trays, fill with multi-purpose compost, water, allow to drain, sow and put in the propagator. Leaving time to label, of course. TING. One hour is up.
Or I could rake over a piece of soil I don't usually grow anything in, scatter some hardy annuals - thinly of course - tamp down with the back of the rake and ... TING. One hour is up. (Flowers will be produced within about 9 weeks and will look sensational – an hour well spent).
Or how about… walk on the soil where I am growing some caulis, stamp it down, rake it over, find the trowel and plant the brassica seedlings up to their lower leaves into the compacted soil. TING. One hour is up. (Brassicas grow best when the soil is super solid. The firmer the soil the better the brassica crop)
Or... disentangle the pressure washer from behind that pile of boxes that will come in handy if we ever sell anything on a certain auction website, scrape off the spiders’ webs and flick away the mouse droppings, find the hose connector... TING. One hour is up. Guess the paths will be cleaned when I have more time.
Or... start to sort the pile of unopened bills.... TING. One hour is up.
Or... get to grips with the ironing... TING. One hour is definitely up.
Or... dismantle the guttering around the shed and refit to ensure...TING. One hour is up.
What do do with that extra hour?
I could always vacuum the whole house and not just the bits friends will see when they visit at the weekend. I said…vacuum the …TING. One hour is up (had to wait for that one to TING). Permanently delete all spam emails. TING. Organise someone to take away ironing. TING. Clean inside of cupboards in case friends look in (they won't – why would they? That would be weird) TING. Check tyre pressures on car. TING. Add blue stuff to the windscreen washer bottle and lecture family on why it goes down too quickly. TING. Chat to neighbour about the control of ground elder and how it can creep under the fence if left to its own device. Twice. With added info on ensuring that if it continues to happen there are laws about it. TING. Check legalities of hassling neighbours over weeds. TING. Nip to shops to buy chocs and wine to give to neighbour as an apology. TING. Drink wine and eat chocs on new garden furniture with neighbour (TING) extolling the virtues of fire pits at this time of year (TING) and vowing to see more of each other and be bezzie mates after all (TING) and how in the future we will all laugh about this (TING TING TING)
This extra hour isn't enough. There's so much to do in the garden and house that I need a major change to legislation and indeed physics (or is it general science – do year 7 homework and actually understand it. TING. One hour is up) to have 24 hours’ daylight in a day.
So, what will you do with your extra hour of daylight once spring really springs? Or do I really want to know? - Let me know in the comments...
How about growing more fruit and veg to hit that 10-a-day target? Check out the 10-a-day blog
Posted: February 20, 2017|
I'm looking into hats. Not actually looking into them – that would be too strange and weirdly whiffy- nor am I a trainee millinerphile. It's just nowadays (and I know why!) my bonce gets cold when out in the garden. I need to get a hat and it has to be the right one.
I have experimented with a couple of different types of hat. I did, for one weekend only last summer, try a baseball cap. I have to admit it did the job of shielding me from the sun, and therefore should also keep me warm, but it did look ridiculous. At what age should someone vow never to wear such caps again? Seventeen, I reckon. I have also rather admired a hat worn by a friend of mine who's a landscaper. It's a leather cowboy type of hat that come rain or shine and with quite a flair, my mate wears. On chatting to him on rainy days, I've seen the drops of water dripping from the front, and on a hot day in summer, hat still in place, he looks cool as a cucumber. I tried one at a local county show and only managed to pull off the look of a character out of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. And not the smart one.
My search widened – fedoras are way too clumsy and would get soggy in the rain; a trilby is too London-centric for me; bucket hats are strictly for Madchester devotees; and my fez kept falling off. I say 'kept' because for some long forgotten reason I had one languishing in the garage and I did try it whilst weeding around the snowdrops the other day. Not practical. Maybe a chin strap would be a useful addition. I'm not sure. The tassel did swing around a bit when I was turning the compost. I could, of course, swap hats during the course of a gardening stint to reflect upon my job in hand. A beret whilst tending the French lavender for example.
None of the above seem right. How about that good old fashioned staple diet of the hat world – a flat cap? I am, after all, from the North so allowed to wear one without explanation or justification. Along with sparking clogs and a ferret in my overcoat pocket of course. Sadly, I just haven't got the right face for one. More Steptoe and Son than Peaky Blinders.
So, it has to be a woolly beanie type of affair. But now that I've settled on one - or actually a choice from ten donated from various members of my family - I have realised it might not be the perfect attire for me. One problem is my head is big. I've bent the arms of glasses stretching them around my head. I've ripped my earlobes (ever so slightly) once when pulling off a jumper. Nice chunky knit cardigans are the answer. Woolly hats also give me headaches due to constriction. If I deliberately choose a size that's too big it slips around causing no end of harrumphing. And once dampened by the rain they do tend to stink like a wet dog. Or is that just me? Wet dog or cold head? Benny or Beckham?
I have to persist with it though. Keeping warm is far better than having to get warm. I've also got some new gardening footwear to sort – boots or wellies? But that’s for another day.
I really don't expect to be attacked in my own home - or anywhere really- but, to be honest, I feel as if I'm currently repelling an invasion by wildlife. And it really isn't pleasant.
A few nights ago, I settled down to a bit of computer writing malarkey when I spotted the most distressing of sights. At first I thought it was the last remains of a muesli bar I'd tucked into as a late afternoon snack. After all, a keyboard is a magnet for all food detritus. But, on closer inspection, the back end of what I thought was a shiny black seed was actually moving. I found a pen and started to poke and delve in between the B, N and H keys and managed to extricate the smallest of slugs. Dis-gust-ing. A slug in the keyboard. I obviously probed it a little bit with the nib, took a picture and then deposited it on the bird table outside. I hope it's joined the food chain.
That got me thinking as to how it managed to find its way in. My desk and keyboard is 2 metres from the outside garden. The table leg is a metre – so that makes a monumental (for a small slug) 3 metres of travelling. And I know they don't move fast. An epic journey. Anyway, I settled down and after cleaning the keyboard by shaking it upside down (and it is interesting to see what falls out – try it) and spraying and wiping clean, I went about my work. Then the second wave of attack arrived.
I knew it was trouble from the minute I allowed it to nuzzle into the corner of the window frame. It must have been warmed by the recent milder air or the heat from me burning the midnight oil (OK- Halogen bulb at 8.30pm). A particularly nasty looking ladybird took off and went straight for my face. 'Go for the eyes, go for the eyes ' were its instructions and it carried them out to the letter (not B, N or H this time). Obviously, I reacted like anyone would do when being attacked by any member of the Coccinellidae family. I screamed in a high pitch voice, knocked the table spilling my cocoa down the wall and flailed my arms around like a windmill – natural reaction I think. But we all know ladybirds are good. After all, they published all those family friendly books so they can't be all bad. It settled. I pounced like a tiger, in its prime, on an unsuspecting wild boar (or aged sloth flicking at a Cecropia twig). I put it back on the window to think about its actions, apologise for its disgraceful behaviour and to wait for spring.
I was proper spooked but things went quiet for a day or two. Then, just as I was relaxing, the final (for now at least) incident occurred. The other Saturday morning just as dawn was breaking, I was awakening from a deep sleep. I was in that '5 more minutes' state of mind when I heard a deep buzzing sound. I thought my ears were playing up again but on glancing around to check the time came eyeball to compound eyeball with a wasp. A big one at that. And it looked angry. Now, if you are of a certain age you will remember a yoghurt advert on telly where the whole family leap out of bed, springing into joyous activity, to consume their vitality giving bacterially-fermented milk product. I did that. Without the yoghurt bit. Or the rest of the family. Or the brightly lit Nordic landscape in the background. Or the laughter and smiles. 'Wasp, wasp, wasp,' I yelled and within seconds it was dispatched.
Everything is now calm. My keyboard is clean. The bedroom window is permanently closed. And the ladybird...isn't where I left it. Just look up 'Inspector Clouseau and Kato' and you'll know what I am going through...it's here somewhere.
Ladybird: wanders about the house now. It's become a family pet. Might be strange to take it out for a walk on a lead though. Going to set up a new house for it in the garden - this will do the job
Slug: no more house slugs. Using Slug and Snail Killer in the garden to keep numbers down.
Wasp: still wake up in a cold sweat thinking about what could have happened.
Ears: phantom buzzing – might be tinnitus.
Yoghurt: not for me.
Cecropia: currently unavailable online (and will be for a long time – the sloths have them all). Other trees will be available.
What have the blockbuster film La La Land, Donald Trump and The Pantone Color Institute got to do with plants? Well, they all influence trends – even in gardening. Yellow (that dress – so I'm told!), the gold of Trump Tower and green (Pantone 15-0343 to be precise) are all in.
Looks like primroses are the plant of choice this spring then. Yellow is all over the place – daffodils, achillea and the stunning foliage of Choisya Sundance will all be in high demand. And as for that gold – it's something you will either love or hate. A broom called Allgold would be a good bet to storm up the charts, and the mock orange with golden leaves, Philadelphus coronarius 'Aureus' is a sure-fire hit.
Yes, the Pantone colour of 2017 is officially 'Greenery' – and a stunning shade it is. Described as being fresh and 'zesty' it also, apparently, has attributes that 'signals consumers to take a deep breath, oxygenate and reinvigorate.' Something we may all need to do after emerging out of the cinema, blinking pit-pony style into the sunlight, to catch up on the news.
So green is good. Plants have known this for a long time.
Outside influences may nudge us towards certain colours but, without doubt, the growing trend for 2017 is, yet again, growing your own food. Perhaps it has been downgraded to a trend-let, as we all have been talking about it for a few years now, but it still makes sense. Crafting meals from scratch is the way forward; growing as many of the ingredients in your own back (or front) garden is even better. Sugar laden ready meals can be a thing of the past if you grow a bit of the good stuff yourself. Think food metres rather than food miles. (I know I'm mixing my imperials and metric but it sounds better!)
You'll be glad to know that the pressure is off doing a Tom and Barbara and going all self-sufficient. Even allotments are being found out as being too hard work for time starved grow-abees. Start basic. Get a large container and grow just one thing. Anything. Grow it well. Harvest and eat. You'll never turn back. Can I suggest potatoes in a kit? Everything you need to start your veg journey in one package. It's brilliant and easy.
Dinner parties will never be the same: ‘Oh yeah, of course they're home grown. Everything is. Anyone fancy a nibble on my cherry toms?' Never the same again- I promise you.
Along with veg we'll see fruit making a resurgence. Again, you don't need a walled garden or an orchard the size of a small county to grow a few juicy razzers or crisp apples. Choose carefully and bingo – tasty fruit straight from your patio.
Without doubt 2017, just like every other year, will be turbulent. Things always happen. That’s where your 2017 blooms come into play. Go flower-tastic. Plant ebullient blooms in bold pinks, steamy reds and sultry oranges (peonies, crocosmia and geums are great). Mix them and don't bother matching. Shove in a few veg amongst them and make the most of your plot, however large or small. Throw off the debilitating shackles of trends (sorry La La, Trump and Pantone) and do your own thing. Just make sure you can eat something you grow.
Color: the same as colour but I have to spell it like that to avoid litigation
Grow-abees: completely made up word; based on 'wannabee'
Razzer: or raspberry - I was rushed to meet a deadline
Trend-let: a little trend
Tom and Barbara: 1970's sitcom The Good Life based around self sufficiency (and Felicity Kendal…I was at a certain age)
Bingo: a numbers game but also an expression of 'ta dah'
Ta dah: see bingo; alternative to 'there you go'
Planting bulbs is one of the easiest gardening tasks, yet it can result in some of the most effective displays in spring. All you need to do is select the right bulbs for you and there are many to choose from. These include favourites likeTulips and Daffodils as well as Hyacinths, Fritillarias and Crocus.
When should you begin to plant your bulbs?
- Spring flowering bulbs (Daffodils, Crocus, Hyacinths) – plant ideally late September, but you can plant between October to December before frost starts to form.
- Summer flowering bulbs (Lillies, Gladioli) – Plant in March to early April.
- Autumn flowering bulbs (Dahlia, Begonia) – Plant late-July into September.
Best locations to plant your spring bulbs
Generally, spring bulbs like a warm and sunny area in your garden, but your soil must have really good drainage to ensure roots aren't crushed during winter. If you have clay soil you may need to dig out and add a layer of aggregate, followed by good quality compost (ideally home made) to improve drainage.
If planting on a terrace or balcony, make sure it isn't too shady. Your choice of container such as a garden planter, is also important and it needs to be a suitable size to house your bulbs. Always use good compost and add a layer of grit or stones to the bottom of your planter to aid drainage. Water often and protect from frost during winter, as this can damage the roots.
- Drainage is important as poorly draining soil can freeze in cold weather, damaging your bulbs root system.
- When buying bulbs, generally bigger bulbs will yield more flowers.
- You could plant bulbs in random clumps of 6-10 (1 bulb length apart) to create a colourful highlight whenthey flower.
- For ease, you could use a special bulb planting tool or dig a hole roughly as wide as the bulb and aim to have around 10 cm of soil above.
- In a planter, you can plant the bulbs fairly close together. One bulb length apart and three times theirheight deep. To help next years flowering potential, use fertilizer every couple of weeks once they start to grow shoots, until the leaves fade.
- Don't be tempted to cut back leaves or tie them up – you need to let them photosynthesis as much as possible to replenish their energy stores for next year.
Hints and tips
- When choosing bulbs and before planting, check that they are healthy and not rotting
- Be warned, squirrels will try to dig up your bulbs so you may need to cover or use chicken-wire
- Slugs and snails also love to snack on your daffy's, so surround them with coffee grounds
Posted: January 17, 2017|Categories: Grow Your Own|
When thinking about growing food at home you need to decide what you'd like to eat what are the best all year round options. A good group of plants to consider are the Brassica (Brassicaceae) which include great staples like kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts.
So what are the health benefits?
All Brassica are naturally high in vitamin C and soluble dietary fibre, but each type is nutrient packed. This is the main reason why these plants are excellent ideal all year round vegetables.
Broccoli, in particular, contains high levels of diindolylmethane which is a immunostimulant that also exhibits antiviral, antibacterial and anticancer activity. There are also good amounts of glucoraphanin, which is a precursor to sulforaphane. This is potentially an anticancer compound, currently in clinical and phase II trials. Unfortunately, boiling reduces the levels of these compounds. However, steaming or frying doesn't degrade sulforaphane levels to the same degree.
Brussel Sprouts are also high in vitamins, diindolylmethane and sulforaphane, but are also a good source of indole-3-carbinol. This compound boosts DNA repair in cells, which in turn helps to reduce your chance of getting cancer.
- The biggest enemy for your cauliflowers or broccoli are slugs and snails, so defending against them is paramount.
- Brassica require really good soil and fertiliser as they require a lot of fixed-nitrogen, the better the soil then the better the crop. You may want to consider using mulch to protect the soil and this will reduce weeds. It's also a good idea to use a raised bed to grow these vegetables.
- You will need to cover your crop to protect it from birds, especially in winter.
- Ideally grow your Brassica in a greenhouse as this extends the harvest window, allowing them to be grown and enjoyed all year round. But you must control temperature and ventilation, heating may be required in winter.
- That said, sprouts are at their sweetest after a good winter frost.
- Broccoli goes well in most Indian curries or stir-fries. The florets also soaks up flavour and heat.
- Brussels can go beyond christmas dinner, they're great with bacon and chestnuts, but also in Chinese dishes, particularly with black bean sauce.
- Cauliflower is also great in curries such as aloo gobi