Growing carrots in containers to thwart carrot fly

If carrot fly get at your carrots, their larvae can munch through your crop. So how do you stop them? Erecting a 2ft tall barrier of horticultural fleece is often quoted as a solution (female carrot flies stick close to the ground). But I tend to go for two options: Grow carrots in my parents’ veg patch,…

Hanging a plum moth trap

Every summer I have terrible problems with my plums. No, this isn’t some kind of Carry On film double entendre, I’m referring to my annual battle with the plum moth. Plum moth caterpillars burrow into the ripening fruit (they also like damsons and gages) in June and July. And, as the RHS advice on plum moths…

Cheap containers for growing fruit and veg

I like to plant as much as possible in the soil because I find it easier than watering lots of containers. But sometimes, pots are better. Unless you’ve got acidic soil, blueberries will need pots. And I prefer using containers in the greenhouse because I can move them around and it’s easier to manage pests and diseases….

How to look after your knees in the garden

If you spend a lot of time kneeling to work in the garden (or kneeling to do any other sort of job) then it’s important to look after your knees. Housemaid’s knee, or prepatellar bursitis to give it its proper name, is more common in people who kneel a lot. That’s why trades like plumbers or…

Pea sticks or pea netting?

This week I planted out a second lot of pea seedlings grown in guttering into my parents’ veg bed. Last time, I used traditional pea sticks coppiced from a hazel tree. This time, my mum put up some plastic pea netting supported by canes. So which method is better: old-fashioned or modern? Traditional hazel pea sticks…

Ten tips for watering your fruit and veg effectively

The arrival of some hot weather means I’ll soon be worrying about keeping my plants wet enough instead of keeping them warm enough. Here are ten tips I’ve found really useful when it comes to making sure your fruit and veg get the water they need without wasting this precious resource: Collect and use rainwater if…

Planting sweet potato slips

This year I’m experimenting with growing sweet potatoes. And over the weekend, the slips I’d ordered arrived. Slips are the long shoots trimmed from chitted sweet potatoes which you can, apparently, grow into more sweet potatoes. I say apparently because they don’t look too promising to start out with. The label on the brown paper…

Overseeding the bare and compacted bits of the lawn

I view our lawn as a bit of a necessary evil. It’s good for sitting on and playing on, but I’m not really that interested in its upkeep. So it tends to get a bit of a battering. As spring arrived with the lawn looking rather sorry for itself, I resolved to do something about…

How to stop frost damaging fruit tree blossom

There’s some bad weather around at the moment. Despite being in the relatively temperate Midlands, we had torrential showers of hail today and frost this morning. This is, of course, potentially bad news for any blossom that’s around. Frost damages blossom, which means less fruit and potentially no fruit at all. We’ve got cherry, pear, plum…

Weeding the veg patch with a Japanese razor hoe

A visit to my parents to weed their veg patch gave me the chance to have a play with one of my favourite garden tools: a Japanese razor hoe. This kind of mini-scythe-cum-hoe thing is great for slicing up the tiny weeds that are just germinating, stopping them in their tracks before they have the…

Exploring Europe’s largest Georgian walled garden

I’ve wanted to have a peep inside Croome Court’s privately owned walled garden for a few years now. This year it’s open to the public more often, so I took the chance to go last Saturday. Behind the blue door there’s an awful lot of garden. Originally a 5-acre plot, Capability Brown extended it to 7…

How to grow blueberries

We love blueberries in our household – they’re tasty and full of antioxidants. So to try and keep up with demand, we have three blueberry bushes in different varieties: Duke, Bluecrop and Sunshine Blue. Although I think I’m going to stop at three, if you haven’t got any blueberries there’s still plenty of time to…

A (play) home away from home

If you were to walk down my parents’ garden, you’d see something lurking among the shrubs where there used only to be a flower bed. Yes, the proud grandparents have acquired a playhouse for my little boy. I thought their chosen location of the middle of a flower bed was a bit eccentric, but having helped…

This is how I’d like my garden wall to look in 300 years’ time

We met up with some friends today for a visit to Blenheim Palace. There’s lots to see there of course – the house, the Capability Brown parkland, the formal gardens. But it was a little sign on the wall in the old kitchen garden that caught my attention: The walls of the old kitchen garden…

Planting out peas sown in guttering

I like to start off an early crop of peas by sowing the seeds in lengths of guttering in the greenhouse – because I think it’s a method that works really well. I don’t usually bother to drill holes in the bottom of the guttering, I’m just careful with watering. And I usually put some gaffer tape over…

Ouch! The garden split my skin

I love gardening, but the wear and tear does tend to split the skin of my hands – even though I wear gloves. I’ve currently got a split on the top of my thumb that goes down behind the nail. Skin splits are like paper cuts – narrow, deep and surprisingly painful for their size….

Sowing wildflower mini-meadows

I’ve spent some time this week sowing what I hope will become mini-meadows around the fruit trees in my front garden. I have vague ambitions of turning the front lawn into a wildflower meadow. But I doubt I’ll ever do it because it’s far too much work. That’s the thing with wildflower meadows – their popularity…

How do you like to grow your potatoes?

This year I’m growing some Red Duke of York and International Kidney potatoes in raised beds, an approach which has worked well for me in the past. I’ve been chitting them in the utility room and planted out the first earlies (the Red Duke of York) this week – with a little help from my little boy:…

Overwintered carrots

The carrots I sowed in a large container late last season didn’t mature before winter, so I left them in there and I’m hoping they’ll swell into some nice little baby carrots as the spring warmth hits. If I’m lucky I’ll have some baby carrots to nibble throughout the hungry gap in April and May. If the…

Do you grow onions from sets or from seeds?

Over the weekend I planted Red Fen and Fen Early onion sets in my parents’ veg patch. I like the ease of onion sets, although they’re much more expensive. The Red Fen, for example, cost me £3.50 for 75 sets. You could get 1,000 seeds of some varieties for that. So if all my sets come…

Using rosemary for edible topiary and hedges

If, like me, you enjoy some formal structure in your garden but also want to maximise the productive space, rosemary is a good option. I already have a low rosemary hedge along the edge of the driveway and I’d like to introduce another somewhere in the garden. I’m also toying with the idea of trying…