30 Days Wild: Day 5-Grow your own for wellbeing week

A little bit of exciting news for the blog first. The Wildlife Trust got in touch to ask if they could use one of my blogs to feature on their 30 days of wild bloggers. So one of the blogs from earlier in the week was featured on their site. Nice to be asked as I’ve taken part for 4 years now and I’m happy to carry on supporting the campaign for lives more engaged with nature.


Yesterday I decided we’d have a go at a handful of the activities from National Grow Your Own for Welfare Week. Not the snappiest of titles for a national week but a good cause. This initiative has come from Life at number 27, a social enterprise that pushes the mental health benefits of gardening and particularly of grow your own. With many mental health services pushed to the limits through government cuts the last few years the need for organisations like this has gone up. They have put together a nice little booklet of activities to do perfectly suited to kids and fun for the adults as well. Growing your own fits in perfectly with anyone taking part in 30 days wild. It gives you a chance to help create a more sustainable lifestyle, cut your food miles and it’s good fun. Allotment holders are always experts at the sustainable lifestyle side with lots of ideas for creating their plots on a shoestring budget, reusing materials, composting, water collection and all the rest. Whether you grow your own on an allotment, in your garden, a community space or on your windowsill eating your own produce gives a burst of happiness making it well worth the effort.

We started Wednesday evening with some rock labels for the veg pots. Amy and Alice employing their superior artistic talents.

A few made by drawing and some with decoupage using paper tissues Amy bought with bees and butterflies on. I wonder if you can guess some of the things Alice is excited to grow?

Then we carried on with learning a bit more about butterflies reading “what’s the difference between a butterfly and a moth?” This unimaginatively named book gives children lots of key facts to help identify between the two. Sadly out of print currently so a bit expensive for a book I used a lot for teaching.

Then on Thursday, I decided Alice would buy into these activities more as a list. She then got the satisfaction of ticking each activity off as we did them. No pressure was put on to finish them all but it lays out what the options are.

We started with the cress caterpillars and had a bit previously grown to eat along the way.

Then the two have been placed ready to grow.

We had made a few seed bombs during National Children’s Gardening Week so rather than repeating the activity we just went to do a bit of bombing on some of the unkept grass behind the garden.

We headed back in to have a go with the paper pot maker. The sooner Alice masters this skill the less I’ll need to make. These give use a biodegradable pot and a use for newspaper and excess paper packaging with deliveries.

Back outside we got them potted up with some red marigolds (Alice’s current favourite colour).

Then we got some cut and come again lettuce sown in a pot. I prefer growing the salad leaves in batches in small pots as it means we have salad at various stages so we don’t get a glut all at once.

Another task ticked off, we moved onto lip scrub. Olive oil, sugar and fresh-picked mint and a little lemon were mixed together in a bowl and spooned into some tins I had spare.

I think this may have been Alice’s favourite activity of the day but that may have something to do with the size of her scoops of sugar. While she did count out the 6 spoons of sugar she put more effort into getting six large scoops of sugar than 2 of olive oil. She was very excited to show her mum her tin.

After a decent sugar dose, we went out to let off some of that excess energy with the scavenger hunt included in the booklet.

She had good fun dashing about. Here she is finding water.

Another activity in the booklet was to make your own bug hotel. We built a fairly substantial one a few years ago with old bricks and decking panels and tile offcuts.

So we added some of our stones to the top to add some extra decoration.

I think Alice enjoyed herself. She asked to make some more lip scrub, so we tried the lemon recipe as well. And she’s now waiting for our lettuce to grow. She’ll eat it from the veg patch but she isn’t convinced by the shop stuff. She’s also taken a liking to the mint, so I’m not sure I’m going to have any left for my intended mojito but nevermind. But nice that she’s trying new food. The activities today all came from the growing for welfare pack, so if you fancy any of them check it out and there a few competitions to try.

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Six on Saturday: 9.5.20

Well, we started the week with lots of glorious rain refreshing the garden no end. Then back to glorious sunshine mid-week before dropping in temperature again. We’ve had a good bit of time in the garden though. I’ve dug out lots of self-seeders for plant sales and divided a few perennials. The garden is getting to a nice point of filling up and I’m selecting what remains.

1. Radish-cherry belle

We harvested our first crop form the raised bed. Still, a few more of these that have some more growing to go and a second variety coming through. I’ve planted a few of the little gem lettuces and the broad beans have gone in. Alice has been enjoying eating these over the week knowing she helped grow them.

2. Red Riding Hood tulips

These were Alice’s choice. They are dotted around the border. They are normally a pretty reliable choice but have been a bit weak this year. But never mind I’ve had plenty of other spectacular tulips over the last month.

3. Azalea japonica-Agadir

The Azalea is going through its first proper year of flowering. There are a mass number of flowers and they are lovely but the foliage is a bit sparse. Not quite the tightly clipped Japanese ‘Kokarikomi’ I had in mind. So after these have flowered I’m going to be looking to try to prune it. The advice from Jake Hobson in his book Niwaki was to treat like box and start by pruning little and often. So I’ll start with pruning some of the dead growth back hard and pruning the rest back behind the flowers.

4. Clematis Montana

Last week my neighbours Montana featured. My own Montana is on the opposite fence. It isn’t as showy a flower. These are smaller, more delicate flowers. I forget the variety but it is doing well, interlinking with the climbing rose nicely.

And I’m going to sneak last weeks Montana back in. This time as a silhouette by the light of the moon.

5. Brick spires

Last week I’d shown my seagull defense spires. I’ve managed to find enough bricks to fill each of the spires most of the way up. I could do with one or two more for each to fill them completely. I’ve then added some rope between to block the seagulls and act as if it’s a handrail. Looking at the positioning of the plants the hydrangea limelight could probably do with moving slightly so that it is in the middle of the space between the two-stepping stone paths but that can be left till it’s dormant. So far it seems to be working as no more plants have been dug out.

6. Lilac

The lilac has got a great spread of flowers this year. Every so often I contemplate removing it as it takes up a lot of space but when it’s in flower it is tremendous. While it might not have the most exciting foliage or nices growth for the rest of the year it does seem to be tolerant of our sea breezes at least.

The garden is starting to look really nice now, if I do say so myself, with lots of foliage looking lush and many plants coming into flower. I’m attending a Zoom lecture online with Fergus Garrett from Great Dixter on layered planting through the season. Thoroughly looking forward to this as I’d never normally be able to make it to one of his lectures. I hope you are all getting plenty of pleasure from your gardens this year. Stay safe and don’t forget to check the propagator’s blog to see more six on Saturday posts in the comments.

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Six on Saturday: 11.4.20

We’ve had a good week in the garden with some nice weather. The GYO is coming on well. The lettuce and radishes seedlings germinated well, the potatoes are planted and the broad beans are almost ready to go in the bed. I’ve found time to help sort a bit of the neighbours garden. One of my blogs is now featured on Haith’s bird food website if you didn’t catch it earlier in the week. My first assignments for the RHS level 2 in horticulture has been submitted. And I also made the press as the rubbish grower of sunflowers. The seeds are progressing well. More of the sunflower seeds saved from my parents have germinated but should have something to show eventually. Anyway on with this weeks six.

1. Plant food maker

Having seen Karen’s blog on the Bokashi composter I fancied getting back into making my own liquid feed. You can do this just in a bucket but it’s a bit pleasanter on the nose if you can have something with a better fitting lid. I found this one for just over a tenner. For the price, it feels pretty solid. It has been set up in the lesser photographed compost corner. It is hidden by the euonymus and rarely features within blogs. I have a few compost bins hidden away, though I used much of the homemade compost on next doors garden. I had a fresh delivery of Dalefoot Compost from my local peat-free nursery ‘The little green plant factory‘. I’m rationing out my compost for my GYO and my dahlias later in the month. I’ve got a good few seedlings on the go but should alright for a little while.

Back to the composter. Inside is a cage to fill with green material. I will probably cut some nettles as they are high in plant nutrients. The composter is then filled with water and the green material allowed to break down. The liquid can then be drained through the tap to then be diluted as a liquid feed. It comes with a convenient storage bottle that slots underneath to keep the concentrate in. It will hopefully give me a convenient, thrifty, sustainable way of creating some extra feed for my plants.

2. Radishes

The raised bed has had its first produce planted. I’m starting with an easy grow with some Cherry Belle radishes that were bought from my work before it closed. Then I’ve sown some globe radish seed direct in the soil. They’ve shown signs of germinating. So should get a harvest of the Cherry Belle radishes followed by the globes. My broad beans are growing in paper pots and they are almost ready to go in as is my lettuce.

3. Tulip alectric

These tulips were planted a couple of years ago and didn’t do much the first year. There were a few last year and then this year they have put on a proper show.

4. Tulip tarda

These were part of a Morrison’s naturalising blend. I’ve tried to shift gradually away from too many bulbs that need replacing each year and looking at bulbs that will naturalise and spread. In part this saves money, but it’s also probably better for the environment not having the transport miles and the wastage in the industry. It’s a very short variety and is getting a bit lost amongst the daffs that are still out. It was listed as flowering late April so it’s growing up under the sealing wax daffodils currently. They may settle into a rhythm next year or they may need moving further forward in the border. They are normally used in rockeries where they will show. I bought the set more for the Muscari and Chinodoxa but these are rather lovely. I’ll be happy if they spread.

5. Toy photography

Not to be outdone by Alice’s photography, Amy is now exploring the world of toy photography. She is looking to take multiple images and stack the photos, so it looks like the tripod and ring flash will be claimed for a while. I quite fancy taking part in the plot on a plate competition from Chelsea Physics garden so that will give her something to photograph. I think Batman on the edge of Alice’s fairy garden works well with the reflection of the blue gems behind.

6. Seagull deterrent

The seagulls seem to be missing their fish and chips during lockdown so they are invading the garden more than normal. I don’t normally mind them eating from the feeders but they’ve broken one and eaten some of my salvia seedlings. So, we are trying to keep them off the patio. They can go on the lawn but don’t want them eating my seedlings before they get a chance to establish.  Alice shouting and armed with a water pistol seems to be working as a good deterrent. The plants also get a bit of water though I can’t get her out of the habit of shooting the flower heads rather than the roots.

I’ve got lots to keep me busy. With the extra time and the mini-greenhouse, a lot of extra seeds have been sown. The weather is meaning the pots all need watering and the less hardy plants still need bringing in on a night. My upcycled seat project needs finishing and still need to keep on top of the rest of the garden. I hope you’re all keeping well.

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