Garden Journal 18.4.21

Is the garden as safe as can be – did we leave any tools out or gates unlocked? Have all the containers been watered and dead-headed? Has the play equipment been checked? Was the tree survey thorough enough? Are we on top of the edging-up and weeding? Did I get all the plant names correct on the ‘plants in flower’ notice board? It goes on, and on.

Flowers and a notice board at garden entrance to say what is in flower
Flowers all present and correct!

The answers to all those questions are of course “yes, to the best of our ability”.

I know, it can be something of a stock, cover-all answer, but there really is only so much anyone can do given not only the hugely diverse offering that a public garden is – and the varied nature and interests of every possible visitor. Still, when working away with that open day deadline looming, it always comes down to planning and prioritising, and more-so this year when actual hours dedicated to many gardens have been slashed through lockdown and furlough.

Well, someone had to check it was OK!

The garden though looked fabulous when leaving on Tuesday evening, and whilst I wasn’t in for the first open day itself, it was with pride that I witnessed staff and volunteers working together to neaten and tidy the garden as far as possible. Yes – there’s always more to do the very next day, but gardening generally is like that – and surely we wouldn’t have it any other way?

At the time of writing then, we’re partly through the second sunny open day of the season, and it’s all systems go. Some of the exquisite autumn planted bulbs are beginning to flower in many areas, the glasshouse is filling up with seedlings and there’s lots of work ahead to get the Tudor vegetable garden growing. The herb garden needs much input, the glasshouse is never at rest, and of course there’s planning yet to do for the summer containers. No rest for the wicked as they say!

Home Gardening

After Friday’s seven plus miles of mowing at work, I have to say I was looking forward to taking things a little easier this weekend. Indeed one of the largest tasks has been reorganising my containers into something akin to a display. I say display, but seeing as most of the clay pots contain plants growing on for eventual planting into the ground, it’s been more about arranging tidily as opposed to set dressing a carefully planned exhibit!

Mixed and mingled…

Being fair on myself though, a handful of containers are planted for long term display, including an olive and some box, a clipped cedar and a bay laurel, along with a range of smaller clays with a range of alpine style plants. Added to this are a few pots with autumn planted bulbs, of which Fritillaria imperialis ‘Aurora’ is confidently crowning the lot! Besides these my hyacinths are going strong, and following soon will be a small range of tulips that were carefully selected.

Fritillaria imperialis ‘Aurora’ in photograph with its orange petals
Fritillaria imperialis ‘Aurora’

I’ve chosen not to sow much this season pending some changes I have in the pipeline, and so what is growing at home now will be pretty much it for the season – no vegetables or salad, at least for the time being. Mind you, whilst on the subject of food growing, I was heartened to hear this week that I’m inching my way up that list for a local allotment, and so hopefully by this time next year I may be in with a proper chance of sowing some decent crops for use in my home kitchen – I can hardly wait!

Peat Free April

Last, but certainly not least for this week’s journal, I want to add my name to the long list of people supporting the Peat Free April campaign. Or I would say – Peat free for life campaign.

Personally I have been a user of peat free compost for many years now, having understood that the concept of digging up peat bogs was a poor one. Yes, I can see that in times past it would have been seen as a natural material to utilise, and yes I have used peat as have generations of gardeners. I also understand that an industry has built itself on the use of peat and that it takes time to test new materials and to adapt.

However, as knowledge has grown about the harmful effects of digging up peat bogs, to ecology and to the environment and climate, then it must dawn on each of us at some point that we can do something about it. Therefore, there seems like no better time than the present to join my colleagues and for what it’s worth, to throw my words into the mix; I simply chose to stop buying it in its bagged form, and I try hard to source plants in peat free compost.

One of the many peat free alternative growing mediums

Being realistic, I understand that losing peat in its entirety is a huge challenge for industry, and the easy option for the home gardener to select either peat based or peat free products may be some distance away. However, whilst peat free plants are available in the market place, though less easy to find; there is something we can all achieve on the home gardening front – we can all choose to stop buying bagged compost containing peat.

Now, the typical garden centre, if there is such a thing will have a range of shiny bags offering different compost mixes that will allow you to create that perfect growing environment. But typically on closer inspection or enquiry, few of them will claim to be peat free – if it’s peat free it’ll usually be from a supplier who will be proud to proclaim it on the tin, so to speak.

Therefore, and this is what I and most people I know have done for some years now, look and ask for the peat free options – for most of us it’s as simple as that. At this time of year especially, when we need a bit of compost here and there, choose to leave the other bags on display. From a commercial viewpoint, if we stop buying them, they’ll soon stop selling them – and there are alternatives after all.

Now, if my slender argument hasn’t convinced you, or indeed if you’d like to support the peat free campaign yourself, there’s a link below to On there you’ll find resources such as a nationwide peat free nursery list, and a link for a petition to parliament calling for a ban on use of peat in horticulture and all growing media by 2023. Please have a look, if not now but after you next see how much peat based compost is on sale, and please support if you can. It’s often said, but together we can make a difference.

Until next time, do have a good one. Gary.

Please check out these resources and Dave Goulson’s message video about the Peat Free April Campaign:

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