Category Archives: People & Products

An Introduction to Bee Keeping with Brian Pool

I’ve long been interested in beekeeping and although we don’t have enough land to have hives of our own I’d still been wanting to find out more so when we got the opportunity as part of our MSc Gastronomy course, I was on it like a buzzy bonnet.

Brian Pool is a commercial beekeeper and as it turns out he lives just a few miles from me in the Scottish Borders. As well as having hives across many sites including Edinburgh Zoo, on Edinburgh city-centre rooftops, at The Secret Herb Garden, Stobo, Biggar, on The Pentland hills and East Lothian, he also runs bee keeping classes. We visited him at Colstoun Cookery School just outside Haddington in East Lothian for an Introduction to bee keeping.

Photo'bummed' by a bee!
Photo’bummed’ by a bee!

Brian has been keeping bees since he was 5 years old and is a 3rd generation beekeeper and he clearly knows his stuff, the day was incredibly interesting as we were taken through the activity and life cycle of honey bees – wow, is all I can say! Some of it was pretty mind blowing:

  • A Queen lays 1500-2000 eggs a day & lives up to 5 years
  • A female worker bee lives 6 weeks & produces just 1 teaspoon of honey in that time.

We covered all aspects from the components of a beehive and different types of hives, different types of bees, best plants for foraging bees throughout the year, swarm control and colony management, disease and pests management.

Colstoun Cookery School whip up a great lunch
Colstoun Cookery School whip up a great lunch

We also got to get suited and booted to visit the bee hives where Brian prepared the hives for the Winter season and removed the honey crop so that we could take it back and try the honeycomb. There was something incredibly dreamy about the sound of the bees in the Autumn sunshine, it made me feel quite drowsy.

This was a really special day, made even more so by the spectacular al fresco lunch that Fiona at Colstoun Cookery School put on for us. I so wish we could have bees too, we really need a bigger garden…

Getting Our Hands Dirty – Foraging and Soil Science

This week the Gastronomy MSc kicked off properly and Monday was a brilliant day – we were looking at Food Procurement – a brief history and consideration of the methods and location from which we acquire our food and how this shapes our relationship with the environment.

Foraging with Fi Martynoga
Foraging with Fi Martynoga

This included a guest lecture and foraging session with food historian and author Fi Martynoga. amazingly we found so many wild edibles within the campus environs – yarrow, hogweed, vetch, chamomile, brambles, rosehips, elderberries, barberries, beech nuts, hazelnuts, ground elder and also some leftover oats and barley – probably from a time when the land was farmed.

Tuesday began with a session in the campus allotment, it’s been a little neglected over the past year so our job will be to take it on and sort it out over the coming months. First, we got our hands dirty by examining the soil, looking for worms and testing the PH to see what we’ve got to play with.

Getting to grips with our campus allotments
Getting to grips with our campus allotments

This was followed by a lecture on understanding soil – love this quote “understanding soil isn’t rocket science, it’s far more complicated” Mark Kibblethwaite.

We also had a guest lecture from Dr Kenneth Loades from the James Hutton Institute who gave us a fascinating insight into Scottish soils, agriculture, root systems, erosion, the yield gap and other issues for soil and ultimately our food and drink supply.

Green Manure Seeds
Green Manure Seeds

We took a brief look at urban agriculture as well. So far so good, this is going to be one very interesting course. Off the back of this we discovered that Whitmuir Organic Farm, just along the road, is running a series of participative workshops with scientists, farmers, politicians and other interested parties over the coming months – I’ve applied to be part of this, couldn’t be more relevant so fingers crossed. More info here

On of my fellow cohorts, who also has a particular interest in gardening, kindly gave me some ‘Green Manure Seeds’ to try out as a soil improver through the Winter. I’ve got Red Clover, Winter Tares & Italian Ryegrass – the idea is to plant them now let them grow and in the Spring cut them back, cover with a good layer of compost/manure and sow our next lot of crops in much enriched soil. Really looking forward to seeing how they work!

WIN a gorgeous Julie Dodsworth Buff

Being a keen hillwalker, I’ve long been a fan of the ‘Buff’ as a great way to keep my hair out of my face (it’s usually windy up there) and also the sun off my head. The lovely folks at Kitshack sent me this gorgeous one from the new Julie Dodsworth range and they’re offering one of you lucky readers the chance to win one too.

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I’ve been wearing it out in the garden pretty much every time I’ve been out since getting it, it’s perfect, pretty and functional – and ideal now that the midgies are about again. Love that it can be worn in so many different ways, ingeniously simple product design at it’s best.

All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning one of these is to follow the rafflecopter link and choose how you would like to enter – GOOD LUCK!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(If you would like to see the range you can choose your prize from, please click here)

GTech Cordless Strimmer – Product Review

The lovely people at Gtech recently sent us a cordless strimmer to review, and typically, it’s rained ever since. Thankfully we had a break this past weekend so finally got to road-test it, let’s just say it had it’s work cut out – here’s how S got on with it.

Assembling the strimmer out of the box was very easy – there were only a couple of pieces which clicked together easily, and which didn’t even require instructions.  My first impression was how light it was.  The battery had been charging before this point and even after pushing that into place at the head of the handle it made no difference to the weight and feel of it.  The cutting blades were also amazingly easy to fit – no cartridges needing plastic wire threaded through here – instead, just a small plastic blade which you pop into the head.

 

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Yes, that’s really how bad it got!

 

So, with that, I was very keen to try it out.  I was wanting to level out a small patch of lawn, which had got very long and thick (20+ centimetres in bits).  Starting it up was easy, with the safety switches not requiring you to change your grip on the handle at all.  It performed very well, there was plenty of power and, because it is so light, was very easy to precisely cut through to the right length.

 

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S in full strimming action

 

While using it the blade pinged off a couple of times (and had to search for it in the long grass), but that was due to getting too close to a rock on the border.  However, there is no worry at all about the blade getting broken and jammed in the rotating head – it just can’t happen.  I got through a couple of blades, although did not do too much experimenting with how much life you can get from one use.  The plastic did not have a particular cutting edge as such – and could be inserted either side up – but did get a little rough and flattened round the edges, possibly from hitting the stones and rocks. But, again, it was easy to pop another one in and so much better than some which use plastic wire.

The plastic did not have a particular cutting edge as such – and could be inserted either side up – but did get a little rough and flattened round the edges, possibly from hitting the stones and rocks. But, again, it was easy to pop another one in and so much better than some which use plastic wire.

 

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That looks better!!!!

 

I used it for about 45 minutes in total until the battery was used up, but that was plenty of time to do several passes over the surface, cutting down to the right level, and through some pretty thick and long grass.  I didn’t try out the option to rotate the head for edging.  That wasn’t quite so straightforward to push the sides in to allow the rotation.

In conclusion, I’ll be using this each time, since it is so light, easy to use and handle and makes doing the chore much more appealing!

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 To find out more about GTech’s range of cordless garden equipment you can check out their website here

Self-watering Hanging Basket – Review

I’ve been looking at various slow-watering watering methods on Pinterest recently, many involve sticking a plastic bottle with pierced holes into the soil – a nice, thrifty idea, however, a bottle can take up quite a bit of room so when Stewart Gardens asked if I’d like to trial one of their self-watering hanging baskets I was keen to see how it works.

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It’s actually really simple and very clever – there’s a plastic disc that sits above the bottom of the basket with a fibre mat, that dips into the well below that continually sucks up moisture from below into the soil. The water is added via a tube inserted into the plastic disc.

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It’s good design in action, the watering tube takes up very little room and the basket is a decent size. You only need to fill the water reserve every 7-10 days – ideal if it’s hot weather and you’re planning on going away, or just to save precious watering time during more clement weather.

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I’ve potted mine up with a beautiful Heliotrope in the centre surrounded by white Surfinia. It looks ok just now but once the Surfinia starts to grow and trail I’m hoping this will a quite lovely display.

I’ll definitely be getting some more of these, so much better than the others I’ve tried so far and at £5.99 a bit of a bargain too.

www.stewart-garden.co.uk

@stewartgarden

An Obelisk and Multi-layered Bulb Combo

The lovely people at The Orchard (I LOVE their site) came up trumps again and this week sent me one of Poppy Forge’s wrought iron obelisks to try out. I’d been looking at some in the garden centre recently and fancied giving one a go so it was very timely.

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The wrought iron design makes for a sturdy yet elegant garden feature – I got the 4ft high one which is a perfect size to create a nice vertical feature for a dull corner. I hadn’t really thought through where I was going to put it, or what to plant around it for that matter, but I soon hit upon a solution.

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I’ve been digging up all the Spring bulbs we have in pots to replant on a multi-layering basis to give lots of different blooms for a longer length of time. I found a perfectly sized planter for the obelisk, layered up a load of bulbs and then planted sweet peas all around the base of the obelisk.

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Perfect, now we’ll have the sweet peas through the Summer and then when they die back the bulbs can do their thing, well that’s the plan anyway. It doesn’t look much now but I’m sure once the sweet peas have climbed their way up the legs it’ll be quite lovely.

If it works well then I might get a couple more for climbing veg or possibly a clematis or two. At £34 for the 4ft one, and £38 for the 5ft and 6ft ones, they’re pretty good value too and will last for years.

@theorcharduk

www.theorchardhomeandgifts.com

Gardener’s Question Time Summer Party at The Botanics

This is VERY exciting, quick, get the 9th July in your diaries….

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It’s the gardening event of the year – and for the first time it’s coming to Scotland. BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time is celebrating the joys of summer by hosting its annual Summer Garden Party at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

The day-long gardening festival offers visitors the opportunity to meet the GQT team face-to-face, take part in recordings of the programme, enjoy horticultural walks, talks, plant sales and demonstrations happening right across the Garden – ranging from pest and disease clinics to tips on how to maintain a healthy and productive herb garden.

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The garden party will feature the pick of the crop of gardening gurus, including GQT’s Bob Flowerdew, Bunny Guinness, Matthew Wilson, Pippa Greenwood, Anne Swithinbank, Matthew Biggs and Chairmen Eric Robson and Peter Gibbs. They will be joined by Scottish gardening hero, and star of the BBC’s Beechgrove Garden, Jim McColl.

We’ll have live entertainment throughout the day, with hands-on activities, demonstrations, food, drink and fun for all the family.

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There will be two recordings of GQT at the garden party, and BBC Radio 4 listeners will be able to hear all the highlights on Friday 15th July at 3pm (repeated Sunday 17th at 2pm) and Friday 22nd July at 3pm (repeated Sunday 24th at 2pm).

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TICKETS and Times

Saturday 9th July, 10am – 5pm

Tickets (inc. booking fee): Adult £10.50, children (5-16 yrs) £5, under 5’s free. Tickets available to buy online HERE

Please Note: The ticket price gives visitors access to all the events happening at the garden party. However, entry to the main marquee recordings of GQT is limited and seats will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis to ticket holders on the day.

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