Tag Archives: gardening

13 Glorious Gardening Blogs (we’re one of them!)

img_2890We were delighted to hear that A Pentland Garden Diary has been listed as a ‘glorious gardening blog’ by the lovely people at Waltons Sheds.

Not only that, they kindly sent me this mug – if every there was one with my name on, then this is it – thank you!

Here’s their round-up of gardening blogs – why don’t you go check them out.

In other news, it’s feeling decidedly Spring-like today despite the weekend of blizzards and the biting Easterly wind – there’ something smelling amazing in the garden but I have no idea what it is (yet!).

Garden Planning for Biodiversity

A relatively clear weekend meant that I finally got the chance to settle down with a gardening magazine (I was given a subscription to Grow Your Own for Christmas. an excellent present), my notebook and some seed catalogues.

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This year we’re planning on being a bit more structured as last year was poor in terms of harvest – the weather didn’t help but we also sowed seeds way too late for them to come to anything and were just generally a bit disorganised.

This time round we’ll be growing things we actually like to eat and in the quest for beauty and biodiversity we’ll be companion planting too. Starting to get impatient now, however, the garden needs a really good Spring clean so there’s plenty to be done.

My latest succulent and cacti pots
My latest succulent and cacti pots

Am considering getting a heated propagator to get things started – saw an amazing looking one in a magazine but it was over £100. Think I may try a smaller one first to see how it works. I met someone a couple of weeks ago who uses one when making bread so at least it’ll have another use if it doesn’t work out.

In other news our new bulb planter arrived – it was one of those deals you get when ordering plants that seem like a really good deal – £5 instead of £15 – thank goodness it was only £5 as I can’t for the life of me see how it’s going to add much value, guess I’ll find out when our Summer bulbs arrive and I can put it into practice.

Bulb Planter - any good? or waste of time.....
Bulb Planter – any good? or waste of time…..

Books For Garden & Nature Lovers

Since starting an MSc in Gastronomy at Queen Margaret University I may not have had much time for gardening but I do seem to have acquired a lot of new books, fifty and counting to be precise.

The topics cover a broad spectrum including food culture, philosophy, history, agriculture, soil science, nutrition, rewilding, the effects of our agriculture systems on the environment, food communications, foraging and food production. I’ve not read them all yet, some are for reference and dipping in and out of and others have been complete page-turners.

Recently I’ve been asked for reading recommendations so here are some of my favourites from my newly acquired collection that relate to gardening, soil fertility, foraging and botany. In no particular order (although Feral by George Monbiot was an amazing read).

concisefloraThe Concise British Flora in Colour by W. Keeble Martin

First published in 1965 this is not a new book, however, the artwork is a delight to peruse and makes it possible to identify plants at different stages of growth, along with accompanying descriptions of habitat, time of flowering etc. The drawings are categorised into plant families which can help when looking up a specimen. Both the botanical (Latin) names are noted along with their more common names. A beautiful book for those who live in the country or have a love of flora whether wanting to identify plants or simple browse the pages.

rhsbotanyRHS Botany for Gardeners: The Art and Science of Gardening Explained & Explored 

RHS Botany for Gardeners is more than just a useful reference book on the science of botany and the language of horticulture – it’s a practical, hands-on guide that will help gardeners understand how plants grow, what affects their performance, and how to get better results. Illustrated throughout with beautiful botanical prints and simple diagrams. For easy navigation, the book is divided into chapters covering everything from Plant Pests to Pruning with feature spreads profiling the remarkable individuals who collected, studied and illustrated the plants that we grow today.

hiddenhalfThe Hidden Half of Nature – The Microbial Roots of Life and Health by David Montgomery and Anne Bikle

The Hidden Half of Nature lays out the astonishing reality we’ve been missing in the soil beneath our feet and right inside our bodies- our world depends on a foundation of invisible life. This is a captivating story of the least-loved part of nature, taking readers through major milestones in agriculture and medicine to untangle our uneasy relationship with microbes. From the challenge of turning their barren Seattle lot into a flourishing garden through Bikle’s struggle with a surprise cancer diagnosis, the authors discover the power nature’s smallest creatures wield over our lives and stunning parallels in the relationships that microbes develop with plant roots and the human gut.

cowssaveCows Save The Planet And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal The Earth by Judith Schwartz

Journalist Judith Schwartz looks at soil as a crucible for our many overlapping environmental, economic, and social crises. Schwartz reveals that for many of these problems climate change, desertification, biodiversity loss, droughts, floods, wildfires, rural poverty, malnutrition, and obesity there are positive, alternative scenarios to the degradation and devastation we face. In each case, our ability to turn these crises into opportunities depends on how we treat the soil. Drawing on the work of thinkers and doers, renegade scientists and institutional whistleblowers from around the world, it challenges much conventional thinking about global warming and other issues.

hedgerowhandbookThe Hedgerow Handbook, Recipes, Remedies and Rituals by Adele Nozedar

If there’s one distinctive feature of the British countryside, it has to be the hedgerow. It’s not only plant life that thrives in the hedgerow – native wild animals, birds and insects are protected and nourished by them. Hedgerows can also provide fresh, wild food for us, too, Nozedar reintroduces the wild and natural hedgerow ingredients that our grandmothers used on a regular basis from angelica to borage, from pineapple weed to wild garlic, each entry is beautifully illustrated to help you identify each plant or flower, along with its history and folklore, and culinary and medicinal uses.

feralFeral: Rewilding The Land, Sea and Human Life by George Monbiot

How many of us sometimes feel that we are scratching at the walls of this life, seeking to find our way into a wider space beyond? That our mild, polite existence sometimes seems to crush the breath out of us? Feral is the lyrical and gripping story of George Monbiot’s efforts to re-engage with nature and discover a new way of living. He shows how, by restoring and rewilding our damaged ecosystems on land and at sea, we can bring wonder back into our lives. Making use of some remarkable scientific discoveries, Feral lays out a new, positive environmentalism, in which nature is allowed to find its own way.

Getting Experimental On The Allotment

A large focus of our Gastronomy MSc just now is soil science – with horrifying losses on a global scale (75 billion tonnes of soil are being lost each year due to erosion and poor land management and it takes nature 50-100 years to make 2.5cm of soil) and with a growing population this is a very real concern with regards to the future of our food supply.

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We’ve been studying the history of agriculture and different methods being used and have decided to get experimental on our own campus allotment and see how it goes. It’s fair to say that it’s very exposed and was certainly very windy out there for yesterday morning’s session. Note to self to take warmer clothing next time!

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We decided to try a no-till approach to two beds by cutting down the existing weeds, laying them down back down on the beds, covering them with cardboard and then heaping compost over the top and then covering them with burlap sacking. The aim of this is that the existing organic matter and microbes will continue to do their thing in the soil and we’ll keep the weeds out until we’re ready to plant in our lovely healthy soil in the Spring.

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In our existing perennial bed, which has a bio-diverse approach we decided to try out some green manure seeds in some barren areas to help regenerate the soil. We removed the burlap sacking in a few areas and lightly tilled the area and sowed a mixture of Phacelia, Clover, Italian Ryegrass and Winter Tares. The aim of this is to fix Nitrogen back into the soil and to help prevent erosion from the winds through the Winter. We’ll then cut them back in the Spring when we’re ready to plant other things.

I’ll also be trying out both of these methods in my own garden with a view to starting a brand new bio-diverse garden next Spring – very excited about that!

The Hidden Half Of Nature – Book Review

This week I became a ‘Gastronaut’ as I started an MSc in Gastronomy at Queen Margaret University – it’s very exciting and covers all aspects of food. We have a healthy reading list and The Hidden Half of Nature – The Microbial Roots Of Life and Health was one of the first books to be tackled.

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Who knew that I would be getting excited about microbes – I’ve since found myself quoting from the book an awful lot. I’ve even been and got myself some Kefir fermenting away and am on the hunt for manure. 

I’d never really thought about the similarities and connection between the soil and our stomachs, it’s fascinating. It did get a bit technical at times but was mostly a very eye-opening an enjoyable read. 

The Blurb:

The Hidden Half of Nature lays out the astonishing reality we’ve been missing in the soil beneath our feet and right inside our bodies-our world depends on a foundation of invisible life. Montgomery and Bikle share a captivating story of the least-loved part of nature, taking readers through major milestones in agriculture and medicine to untangle our uneasy relationship with microbes.

From the challenge of turning their barren Seattle lot into a flourishing garden through Bikle’s struggle with a surprise cancer diagnosis, the authors discover the power nature’s smallest creatures wield over our lives. Stunning parallels in the relationships that microbes develop with plant roots and the human gut reveal ways that farmers can restore degraded fields and doctors can reverse the modern epidemic of chronic diseases. For in cultivating the beneficial microbes that make soil fertile and keep us healthy, we can suture rifts never meant to be.

The Hidden Half of Nature

 

 

 

A disappointing year for produce

IMG_9495This has to be one of the worst Summers I’ve experienced since living in Scotland, incessant rain, unseasonal high winds and low temperatures (we’ve had to put our heating back on) means that we don’t really have much to show for our gardening efforts this year. 

Our local Rural Produce Show at Carlops is coming up on the 20th August but I doubt we’ll have much to enter this year. I thought I’d catalogue what we’ve grown and where we are with them, it’s a sorry tale…

Eggs – down to 2 chickens after two fox attacks

Gooseberries – 2 berries between two bushes

Blackcurrants – about enough to make one pot of jam

Courgettes – doing ok – they like the rain

Potatoes – small potatoes & small crops

Rhubarb – plentiful

Apples – not a single blossom this year so definitely no apples

Salad – radishes are good, lettuces & salad leaves are ok

Garlic – usual crop, quite small

Beans – doing ok

Carrots & Parnsips – doing ok

Herb Garden – doing very well, the Mint has gone bananas

Tomatoes (indoors) – late but plentiful and starting to ripen

Tomatoes (outdoors) – not worth mentioning

Ginger – doing well

Sweet Peppers – doing ok but not ripening

Strawberries – very poor

Raspberries – the wild ones in front of the house are doing well

Chillies – smaller than usual

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Looks like we’ll need to enter the baking or preserves classes if we want to get involved this year. Everything crossed that next year isn’t such a washout.

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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)