Here’s hoping that ‘Bigfoot’ could exist

In a world where a large, ape-like creature could possibly exist is a world that I dream of living in; large forests, woodlands, green cities filled with flora and an abundance of wild, natural landscapes. Bigfoot should be able to hide from us, undetected, in the darkest deepest corners of wild areas.

This isn’t the world that we currently live in. “In the UK, 97 per cent of our hay meadows and wild grasslands have been wiped out since the 1930s (The Wildlife Trusts).” We can almost confirm that Bigfoot doesn’t exist as its ‘supposed’ habitat is divided by grey roads, towns and cities. Whatever Bigfoot eats, I’m pretty sure it’s not concrete or tarmac. Further to this, “The world has lost just over half of its biodiversity – 52 per cent since 1970 (Living Planet Report, 2014 WWF),”; a shocking percentage. We haven’t left room for enough plants or trees that create these desired environments; let alone space for any undiscovered species of ape.

How to help:

  1. Leaving parts of your garden ‘wild’ and ‘un-manicured’. By this I mean: letting the grass grow, sowing wild flower seeds, leave brambles/’weeds’ and encourage a meadow-like vibe.
  2. Leave hedgerows and trees to thrive. Don’t replace them with fencing (unless necessary).
  3. Increase native planting in your borders, containers and in the lawn itself. I use Penlan nursery as a guide on British native perennials.
  4. Increase amount of planting overall; fill borders, containers etc to the maximum. Watch the amount of weeding, tidying and work you have to do on the border decrease and the amount of wildlife increase dramatically.
  5. Grow fruit and vegetables.
  6. Visit conservation areas, wetland centres, moors/grasslands etc for inspiration but also to support these charities; this will help these areas thrive.
  7. Volunteer for ‘In Bloom’, the Forestry Commission or local horticulture groups; all who are trying to keep environments green and not grey.

This list seems so trivial, but it’s a small step towards bigger plans. Imagine every UK garden as a haven for wildlife and flora; this in turn will create an abundance of green space that will start to spread into large towns and cities. At the moment, I can walk a mile without seeing a plant and this drastically needs to change.

Article inspired by ‘Wild Thing‘ a podcast by Laura Krantz and Foxtopus. Ink.

Also inspired by Singapore, written about in this National Geographic article: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/urban-expeditions/green-buildings/green-urban-landscape-cities-Singapore/


Starting out as a gardener

I began my gardening career in 2015, I took on a few general maintenance clients and did some work experience with various companies. It was great, but without a network of people to learn from/aspire too, I was lost.

What I’ve learnt in these past few years:

  1. Be energetic, enthusiastic and friendly. Interacting with customers and other gardeners is useful; it builds strong relationships that can provide future work.
  2. Create a Twitter/Instagram account and connect with fellow horticulturists on there. Read their blogs and listen to their podcasts because you will learn a lot!
  3. Never turn down an opportunity! Use the connections you build in person/on social media to go on courses/find work experience/expand your knowledge.
  4. Knowing what tools are necessary; take a look at my toolkit blog here.
  5. PPE is absolutely necessary.

Finally, garden maintenance is a great place to begin in horticulture, you learn a lot more about plants and from doing a job than you do from just reading about it.

Favourite seeds for 2018

I have three medium sized vegetable beds. One of these is filled with strawberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, a gooseberry and dahlias; the other two are empty and ready for spring.

Sorting through the seeds I’ve been hoarding over the past few months and I’ve found some that I am so excited to try and grow!

It can be easy to sow seeds that are tried and tested; each year I choose a few that are new and unfamiliar to me.

  1. Tomato ‘Black Russian’
  2. Tomato ‘Yellow Pear’
  3. Kale ‘Dwarf Green Curled’
  4. Broccoli ‘White Sprouting Early’
  5. Pumpkin ‘Munchkin’
  6. Squash ‘Turks Turban’
  7. Borlotti Bean ‘Lingua de Fuoco 2’
  8. Kohl Rabi ‘Delicacy Purple’
  9. Samphire
  10. Trachymene Coerulea ‘Blue Lace Flower’
  11. Nasturtium ‘Empress of India’
  12. Dill

Let me know the new seeds that you are trying this year on Twitter or Instagram @eogardening.

‘The plastics’ – mean girls of gardening?

The use of plastic is a huge debate in gardening right now. Us gardeners create wonderful gardens for wildlife and grow our own vegetables to avoid buying too much plastic but we sow our seeds in plastic trays and buy plants in plastic pots? This should change!

Plastic has filled our oceans and landfills. It takes hundreds of years to break down and we use it for the convenience.

Module trays, flower pots, compost bags, seed trays, compost bins… the list continues. I’ve heard that Monty Don has commented on the over-use of plastics however, as he hasn’t mentioned any, here are some alternatives.

I won’t suggest using terracotta pots as they are expensive; they are also heavy; people with limited mobility need lighter materials that can be handled easily. On the other hand, they are worth the money if they are available to you.

  1. Flowerpots:
    • Make your own 9cm pots using a paper pot maker and newspaper
    • Recycle cardboard tubes from toilet/kitchen rolls
    • Buy biodegradable peat-free fibre pots
    • Buy The Hairy Pot Plant Company from local stockists, link here. Great company and great plants! They also sell hairy pots without plants in; look here!
    • Make your own using cement mix, vermiculite and coir. Blog to follow on this soon.
  2. Seed trays:
    • Biodegradable coir seed trays, available here.
    • Wooden seed trays
  3. Plant labels:
    • Try to use plant labels made of slate, bamboo, aluminium, copper or oak. Interestingly, pencil becomes permanent when used on aluminium.
  4. Compost:
    • Best peat-free compost I’ve ever used is Dalefoot; check it here. It does come in plastic bags but these can be used to make your own leaf mould compost.
  5. Compost bins:
    • Make your own using wooden stakes; hammer these into the ground and staple chicken wire to it to create a wire frame
    • Use old pallets for an entirely wooden bin
    • Reuse one-trip bulk bags
  6. Dibbers:
    • Wooden or metal dibbers are available to buy
    • You could whittle your own wooden one (be careful when using sharp knives)!

Thought of anything else? Let me know on Twitter or Instagram @eogardening.

Can social media become your horticultural tutor?

Being self-employed means I work alone. It’s hard to experience new things/be exposed to new gardening techniques when I don’t have a traditional, real life, role model; so I’ve let the people I interact with on social media become mine.

After a few years as a gardener, you find yourself beginning to repeat what you’ve done year after year; using the same tools, same techniques, sowing similar seeds and planting the same plants.

Last year, I challenged myself to follow every new person I came across on social media that would enhance my horticultural knowledge; botanists that specialise in unique plants, garden maintenance business owners that thrive and private gardeners who have long-term experience etc.

It’s provided a great wealth of knowledge and taught me things that makes jobs easier and a lot quicker. I’ve also discovered new plants that have diversified my planting plants.

Instagram is most valuable for video content, which is easy to follow; horticultural theory can be complicated to understand. It’s also great for tool reviews, there are so many different tools on the market and finding one suitable is difficult. Twitter is best for discovering unusual plant species, seed exchanges, diagnosing a pest/disease and general chat!

It’s also nice to upload a post and be given confirmation that what you’re doing is correct!

Some of the best (I could have continued this list for days):

  1. @fittleworthhousegardens
  2. @stvnhwrd14
  3. @ljclementsgardener
  4. @s.hockenhull
  5. @thomasdstone
  6. @mightyoaksfromtinyacorns
  7. @rekha181
  8. @botanygeek
  9. @alysfowler
  10. @headgardenerLC
  11. @DHgardening
  12. @londnplantology
  13. @j.l.perrone
  14. @hugh.cassidy
  15. @papaver

 

Let me know who else I should follow in the comments!

 

*NOTE: as a professional horticulturist you should study for qualifications.*

Toolkit

Tools need to be clean and sharp to be useful. Tool maintenance is essential so you aren’t buying new tools every spring!

The most used items in my toolkit include:

  1. Secateurs: Felco
  2. A Dutch hoe: Spear and Jackson
  3. Hori-hori: Niwaki
  4. Broom
  5. Leaf grabs
  6. Garden spade: Bulldog
  7. Garden fork: Bulldog
  8. Shears: Niwaki/Spear and Jackson
  9. Loppers: Spear and Jackson
  10. Pruning saw: Silky

Top 3 machinery:

  1. Stihl HSA86 hedge trimmer
  2. Stihl FS40 strimmer
  3. Stihl MS170 chainsaw

Ladder in image above is a Niwaki Tripod ladder.

#3

It’s the third year anniversary of Eleanor Owens Gardening! Cracking year out and about looking after my lovely maintenance clients’ gardens and expanding my horticultural knowledge with online courses.

Targets completed this past year include:

  1. Buying a van (which was honestly changed my life for the better!)
  2. Expanded my botanical knowledge
  3. Learning to craft wooden spoons to recycle the wood from the trees that I fell
  4. Bought a Stihl FS40 strimmer and HSA46 battery-powered hedge trimmer

Targets I hope to complete in the year to come:

  1. Gain more garden design experience
  2. Take on one-off design/clearance jobs that will increase my knowledge and confidence
  3. Have an ‘Eleanor Owens Gardening’ logo placed on my van
  4. Buy roof bars for my van so I can carry around my Niwaki tripod ladder with ease