5 reasons why you should consider a hot bed in your garden

Have you ever thought about using a hot bed in your garden? Here’s 5 reasons why hot beds might work for you…

  1. They extend the growing season potatoes-1585075_1920

If you sow your seeds by the end of January, germination will take place by mid-February! In May you could already be nibbling on fresh salad leaves and enjoying new potatoes.

  1. They are pest-freesnail-405384_1280Because you are sowing your seeds so early, snails are still in hibernation, and most of the aphids and slugs are absent. Hot beds are a natural method which lets you avoid all those pesky snails who like nibbling on your vegetables.
  1. They only require a small spacegarden-spade-1510736_1920

You don’t need much space to have a hot bed, and despite what you might think there are no unpleasant odours around them.


  1. They help retain soil nutrients.drought-780088_1920

Soil nutrients are often washed away by rain during the winter, but if you are using a hot bed, soil nutrient status usually increases, despite the heavy yields!


  1. They can be reused.recycle-1699572_1280

Once you’re done with your hot bed for the season you can make compost or mulch out of it. If you mix it some with more soil, it makes a very good growing medium for your next hot bed!


To learn more about how to grow vegetables in hot beds, have a look at Jack First’s book Hot Beds: How to grow early crops using an age-old technique . Jack First has pioneered the hot beds method in the United Kingdom and he has tried and fully tested all the methods described in his book. His hot beds have been featured on BBC TV’s Gardeners’ World.

If you want super-early crops without the hassle and expense of a heated greenhouse, look no further than Hot Beds by Jack First. A must-read if you’d like to pursue a low-cost, eco-friendly approach to out-of-season crops. –Grow Your Own

Jack is a fount of knowledge and the expert on hot bedsJoe Swift, garden designer and TV presenter

Hot Beds by expert Jack First

Hot Beds by expert Jack First

All images used here come from Pixabay.

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7 ways to save energy in your home

We all know we should turn the lights off when we’re out, but what else can we do?

  1. Vacuum the dust off the coils behind your fridge (unplug it first) to make it work more efficiently.full-fridge-1729681_1920
  2. Descale the kettle to lengthen its life and reduce the electricity needed to make your favourite cup of tea.electric-kettle-1644823_1920
  3. Don’t put the oven on until you start food prep – it doesn’t need half an hour to get to temperature. You can turn it off five minutes or so before the food is done – it will finish the cooking if you leave the door shut.kitchen-930781_1920
  4. Wash full loads only and run the dishwasher when full.dishwasher-449158_1920
  5. Save the tumble dryer for emergencies. An outside clothes line or indoor clothes horse is the way forward 90% of the time.laundry-963150_1920
  6. Choose your activities carefully. Do you really have to drive to that yoga class 12 miles away? Wouldn’t the one that is walking distance do a similar job?driver-1149997_1920
  7. Think about which activities don’t require electricity and which do (for example, reading on a tablet versus reading a book, watching television versus playing a board game).book-1291164_1280

The article is based on Katie Blincoe’s The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting . All images come from Pixabay.

book cover

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Would you like to grow your vegetables in hot beds?

What is a hot bed?



A hot bed is a warmed protected environment, created by heat generated from decomposing organic matter, used for growing crops months earlier than usual. The traditional material used to create a hot bed is horse manure, but you can use other materials such as leaves, straw, wool or even old clothes.


How does it work?


When decomposing organic matter is stacked high, the microorganisms that feed on it produce heat. For example, fresh horse manure will within a week or two attain a temperature of 65 °C. When the microbes’ food supply provided by the manure runs out, the heat gradually fades. At this point (usually in spring) earthworms usually enter the hot bed and aerate it. You can use a hot bed to grow vegetables in the long cold months from January to March.


Who invented hot beds?


It has always been problematic to grow early crops in a temperate climate. In ancient Rome, the gardeners of one of the emperors were faced with a seemingly impossible task- growing salad leaves out of season. It is those poor stressed gardeners who created the first hot beds. They technique has been tried and tested for two thousand years!

To learn more about how to grow vegetables in hot beds, have a look at Jack First’s book Hot Beds: How to grow early crops using an age-old technique . Jack First has pioneered the hot beds method in the United Kingdom and he has tried and fully tested all the methods described in his book. His hot beds have been featured on BBC TV’s Gardeners’ World.

If you want super-early crops without the hassle and expense of a heated greenhouse, look no further than Hot Beds by Jack First. A must-read if you’d like to pursue a low-cost, eco-friendly approach to out-of-season crops. –Grow Your Own

Jack is a fount of knowledge and the expert on hot bedsJoe Swift, garden designer and TV presenter

Hot beds cover

Hot Beds by expert Jack First

The image of the aqueduct comes from Pixabay. All other images and text come from Jack First’s  Hot Beds: How to grow early crops using an age-old technique .

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Create a winter garden with 7 of these delicious vegetables

Are you feeling the autumn blues? Start a winter vegetable garden and you’ll be able to enjoy an abundance of greens even in the darkest times of the year. Here are a few of the tasty greens that you can harvest from a winter vegetable garden.

  1. Brussel sproutsbrussels-sprouts-463378_1920

If you give them plenty of room and a long period of growth, brussel sprouts offer tasty harvests in winter, when cold weather helps to sweeten their flavour.

  1. Kalevarieties-of-kale-1167557_1920

Kale is probably the easiest green leaf to grow for winter harvest and is one of the hardiest. There is a good choice of varieties with a range of colours and leaf shapes, and there are also flat-leaved kales, which taste sweet in salad.

3.Purple sprouting broccolipurple-711208_1920

Purple sprouting broccoli is a vigorous plant which, as with many brassicas, can make new leaves and shoots at relatively low temperatures. As long as plants have had enough time to grow to a good size, and have survived any extreme frosts and grazing by pigeons, they can use their established roots and leaves to make delicious new shoots of broccoli in any mild winter weather. Timing of broccoli growth depends on variety.

  1. Cabbage savoy-1713225_1920

Cabbage can cover a long season according to the variety you grow – do make sure you buy seed or plants of varieties that heart up (more or less) at the time you hope to be eating them – for instance, ‘January King’ (although this one may mature any time between November and February). Savoy cabbages are the hardiest of all, and late varieties of savoy will heart up from February to early April at a time when greens are extremely precious.

  1. Swedeswede

Swede grows little in winter but is extremely frost hardy and can safely be left in the soil for harvesting when needed. Sometimes my swedes have all their leaves eaten by pigeons yet still sit proudly and in good condition until early April. Swede has a more solid and sweet flesh than its cousin the turnip, which is less frost hardy and best stored indoors.

  1. Parsnipparsnip-20320_1920

Parsnip is the king of winter roots, much denser, sweeter, hardier and stronger tasting than potatoes. Parsnips sit happily in the soil all winter, ready for harvesting when needed at any point until about late April, when new growth takes goodness out of their roots.

  1. Leeksleek-1291340_1280

Leeks are not all capable of surviving hard frost, so be sure to choose a variety such as ‘Bandit’ or ‘Atlanta’ if you want harvests in a cold winter. Leeks can put on a lot of new growth in March and up to the end of April, so are a most welcome addition to the small group of hungry gap vegetables.

To learn more about starting you own winter vegetable garden, have a look at Charles Dowding’s How to Grow Winter Vegetables HowtoGrowWinterVegetables_Cover for RP Sept11.indd

Image credits: Pixabay- apart from image 5 which was created by Charles Dowding.

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5 reasons why you should grow nuts in your garden

  1. Eating nuts helps you live longer. Nuts contain precious minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Eating nuts regularly is associated with lower death rates and a lower risk of diabetes. For vegetarians and vegans, nuts are a valuable source of protein and a super healthy source of whole-food fats.nuts-1620814_1920
  2.  Nuts are easy to grow. You only have to plant a nut tree once, and after that you just need to harvest your crop. Weeds are usually not a problem, and neither are weather conditions: nut-trees can tolerate droughts and short floods.garden-1176406_1920
  3. They’re beautiful trees. Many nut trees are grown simply for ornamental value: think of the gingko or the monkey puzzle tree.gingko-tree-610016_1920
  4. They’re good for the environment. Nut trees mostly don’t require soil cultivation, which means that planting them does not damage the soil structure. Nut trees also have strong root systems, which means they work against soil erosion. In short, nut trees are a perfect crop to keep the earth happy.drought-780088_1920
  5. They’re incredibly tasty!  It seems we’ve gone nuts about almonds, salting them, roasting them, making them into curries and burgers. And on a September morning, foragers can be seen out and about, knocking the walnuts out of the trees, ready to make delicious walnut balls and pasta sauces with the harvest. Hazelnuts lend themselves to specialties like Linzertorte and muesli and even liqueurs!nut-cake

To learn how to grow nuts in your garden, have a look at Martin Crawford’s unique guide to nut growing:  How to Grow Your Own Nuts



Martins Cover 10.2.16.indd

Cover image: by Joanna Brown ©

Images in article: Pixabay.com and unsplash.com

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A book launch fit for a bride

One of our latest books is Georgie Newbery’s Grow Your Own Wedding Flowers. As part of the publicity for this, we organised a book launch in two parts: a bloggers’ tea and a more traditional evening launch. Sadly, we couldn’t invite all of you, so instead we’re sharing the pictures here.

First off, a huge thank-you to the wonderful Clifton Nurseries, who hosted us, and to The Quince Tree cafe who did the catering. As if the oasis of green in the middle of London wasn’t enough of a draw, Cliftons also doubles as a wedding venue, making it the perfect place to launch a book about growing your own wedding flowers.

Grow Your Own Wedding Flowers is a fantastic book for anyone planning a wedding, whether you just want to keep the cost down, are concerned about the environment, or just like the idea of having an extra hand-crafted element in your wedding. If you’re not sure it’s the right choice for you, then read Georgie’s book: her advice is simple, to-the-point, and realistic.

The secret to successful wedding flowers according to Georgie: planning, practice, and a big badge saying BOSS to let your helpers know who’s in charge.

To give us all a taste of what it takes to arrange some wedding flowers, Georgie talked us through making our own little buttonholes using fresh flowers and greenery brought up that morning from Somerset.

Needless to say, Georgie’s buttonhole was much better than mine, but I still wore it proudly throughout the launch.

The evening launch was equally fun, with lots of people coming along to celebrate the launch of the book, and buy themselves a signed copy.

We’d like to say Georgie’s off for a well-earned rest after two books a year apart but… she’s busy working on her next book for us, a grow-your-own-Christmas book!

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Have Yourself A Merry Green Christmas

Christmas is round the corner – it’s time to get wrapping (and maybe buying) gifts, time to put up the Christmas tree and time to dig out the festive decorations from the attic. You might not think of Christmas as a particularly environmentally friendly festival, but have no fear! Kate Blincoe’s The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting: How to raise your child, help save the planet and not go mad shows you how have a very merry Christmas, whilst still keeping an eye out for the planet:

Eco gifts

Whether it is for Christmas or birthday, mass gift-buying is one of the pleasures and pains of being a parent.

When it comes to selecting presents, the first rule is to avoid spending money where possible. Can you give your time instead? Many tired parents would love a day of babysitting their kids, or how about gardening for Granny, decorating for your sister or baking your best friend a cake of their choice? Homemade gifts are always a big hit, such as jam, chocolate truffles or sloe gin. Of course you will have to open your wallet, but try to support your high street, avoiding retailers who keep their doors pinned wide open in freezing weather, wasting precious energy. Garden and wildlife gifts are brilliant for the environment. A nectar-rich plant is a gift for bees and butterflies, and a Christmas box bush is a lovely choice. It provides a source of winter nectar for early bees, is easy to grow and gives a glorious scent in the coldest months. Bird boxes, bulbs and bird feeders (for example, a nyjer seed feeder to attract goldfinches) can bring a lot of pleasure through the year too.Pressies

For children, try nature magazines, some binoculars or a wormery. Membership to organisations such as the RSPB or Wildlife Trusts can open up new horizons. Where possible, choose sustainable wooden toys: they are far lower in carbon and more likely to be passed on to the next generation. You can also buy battery-free torches and wooden phones, wooden construction kits and Fairtrade soft toys. Older children are inordinately delighted with a paper present – that’s the good old-fashioned ten-pound note. It may feel lazy to you, but having their own money means a lot, and you can be sure they will buy something they really want.

Don’t be shy – ask people what they want and drop a few hints yourself. Nothing is worse for the environment than something that ends up straight in landfill, however gorgeous it may seem to the giver. And as for the guilt of re-gifting or eBay-ing unwanted items? Get over it: it’s the greenest option for rejected gifts.

Greetings cards

If you love to send cards, seek those made from sustainable forests that support a nature charity. You could buy blank cards and make your own, or get the children to help cut up and stick old Christmas cards on to coloured card at Christmas. Don’t forget to save this year’s cards for cutting up next year. They’re great for DIY gift tags too. If you’d rather save the carbon, consider donating the equivalent to charity and phoning the people you care about.

Wrap attack

Try wrapping up gifts in old magazines. Wildlife ones are great, as are the glamorous ones such as Vogue for the ladies. These can be easily recycled, as can brown paper. Your children’s pictures will also make very cute, customized wrapping paper, as will fabric remnants from craft projects. And in this day and age of the sat nav, dig out those neglected old maps and use them too. A few re-used ribbons will finish off the package, as well as a sprig of holly or mistletoe for Christmas gifts.”

You can find more inspiration on how to raise your children in a fun and environmentally friendly way in The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting.

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