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Autumn

Now that summer is definitely behind us, we can enjoy the gentle decay of perennials and autumnal tree colours. We are much less concerned with tidiness at this time of year than in the past, ensuring plenty of shelter and food for the garden wildlife as well as providing protection for the soil over winter. […]

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Now that summer is definitely behind us, we can enjoy the gentle decay of perennials and autumnal tree colours. We are much less concerned with tidiness at this time of year than in the past, ensuring plenty of shelter and food for the garden wildlife as well as providing protection for the soil over winter.

There is, however, still plenty to be getting on with in the garden. One of the loveliest jobs at this time of year is planting as many bulbs as possible. There’s is nothing more encouraging than seeing new growth poking through the soil; crocus opening up in late winter sunshine for newly emerging queen bumblebees; dwarf narcissi in all their many shapes and colours; bold, bright and blousy tulip combinations.

Now is the perfect time to plant most bulbs. Tulips are better delayed until November and even December as the cold temperatures reduce the risk of tulip blight, but all others will be happy to get into the ground while it is still quite warm and before frosts. There are so many possibilities with bulbs, definitely something for everyone: from indoor pots to naturalising in lawns; outdoor containers and window boxes; borders and under trees.

By following a few simple rules you will get the most out of your bulbs and can look forward to cheery spring colour.

When planting, a good guide is to plant to a depth 3 times the size of the bulb, so larger daffodils will be deeper than tiny crocus, for example. One of the main causes of daffodils coming up with leafy growth but no flowers is planting too shallow.

Bulbs should be planted with the pointy end upwards, more obvious in some than others but the blunt end may have remnants of the roots as a guide.

All bulbs like a free draining soil so if your garden soil is quite heavy then fill the bottom of the planting hole with some gritty compost. We used some of last year’s leaf mould mixed with some grit, or you could use some old compost from this year’s pots.

If your garden becomes quite waterlogged over winter you might be better to plant your bulbs in pots and place them in gaps in the garden next spring.

Ideally bulbs in pots should be planted at the same depth as in the ground but this will depend on your pot size, and the most important thing is to have about 4cm of compost below the bulbs. A bulb ‘lasagne’ is a great way to layer up different bulb varieties in the same pot to give you many weeks of flowers. Begin with the largest bulbs at the bottom eg tulips, cover with a layer of compost, then add another layer of a different bulb eg narcissi, and finish with some wee crocus or iris. You could add some evergreen herbs and ferns to give your container some winter interest before the bulbs appear in the spring.

This year we are planting gaps in borders with crocus, allium and narcissi; filling containers and pots with tulips and muscari; lining the nook path with fritillary and experimenting with camassia, narcissi and alliums in the lawn.

To achieve a naturalistic feel to bulbs in your lawn it is best to scatter them on the ground and plant them where they fall. We have done this along the strip of lawn we leave unmown throughout the summer months. Fingers crossed the squirrels don’t get them!

Collecting Seeds From Your Gardens

Summer holidays are over and schools are back. The weather has turned cooler and unpredictable, there is the odd hint of autumn here and there. Rather than mourn the passing of the summer season it can help to spend time planning and preparing; taking stock of the triumphs (and disasters) in the garden and embracing […]

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Summer holidays are over and schools are back. The weather has turned cooler and unpredictable, there is the odd hint of autumn here and there. Rather than mourn the passing of the summer season it can help to spend time planning and preparing; taking stock of the triumphs (and disasters) in the garden and embracing the changing seasons.

Throughout the summer months, we spend time continually deadheading summer annuals. This is important to ensure continued flowering for as long as possible. The main aim of an annual plant (one which grows from seed to flower and seed in one year) is to set seed. Once this has happened, as far as the parent plant is concerned, its job is done! If we keep deadheading, the seeds never get a chance to develop and the plant keeps producing new flowers until it is eventually killed by the winter frosts.

However, there comes a point towards the end of the summer when we are not going to get many more flowers, and it is time to think about seed collection. If you let seedheads develop on the plants and collect them when ripe (usually they will have turned a brownish or black colour) you will have a plentiful supply of your own seeds to sow.

It is important to collect ripe seeds on a dry day. Cut off the seedheads and pop straight into a paper bag or a tray and let them sit in a greenhouse or windowsill. The seeds should naturally fall out of the pods, but you may need to gently crush them open to release the seeds. Store in a paper bag or envelope, not plastic, in a cool dry place and remember to note the variety along with date of collection and where you collected from. It can be interesting to look back and see if the same variety of seed grows better from seed collected from one location rather than another.

The advantages of harvesting your own seeds are many. You are building up a collection of plants that grow well in your garden, under those particular conditions, and by growing your own plants, you will be able to choose only peat free composts, reuse your plastic plant pots, use recycled containers or make paper pots. There are no transportation issues and you will save some money. You can share and swap with friends and neighbours, and enjoy the whole process of growing your own plants.

Of course it is not just ornamental plant seeds that can be collected, you can collect seeds from your allotment or back court veggies. Some plants are easier than others; peas and beans are easy, chilies are fun to do, but Cucurbit family (courgettes, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers) are promiscuous and collected seed will rarely give you what you expect unless you ensure the flowers are isolated from others. Real Seeds have a great website with loads of information about seed collection, and many great seeds to buy if you are just getting started on this journey.

Remember to leave some seedheads to develop on the plants and stand throughout the autumn and winter. They will look architecturally stunning in your garden, catching the dew, or frost or snow, and they will feed birds and provide shelter for hibernating insects such as ladybirds.

Gardening jobs to do….or not!

May has not started with the warmth of early summer, we are clinging to the remnants of wintery chill especially at nighttime with temperatures plummeting to zero or below. Challenging times in the gardening calendar as we juggle trays of seedlings still needing the protection of the greenhouse or kitchen windowsill, but desperate to stretch […]

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May has not started with the warmth of early summer, we are clinging to the remnants of wintery chill especially at nighttime with temperatures plummeting to zero or below. Challenging times in the gardening calendar as we juggle trays of seedlings still needing the protection of the greenhouse or kitchen windowsill, but desperate to stretch their roots and put on growth outside. We do expect Spring to throw us some variable weather, but we are increasingly experiencing more extreme weather events as part of the changing climate. Gardeners have to learn to anticipate and adapt to these challenges, but we can also do so much to help reduce our impact on the environment.

Gardens are increasingly important for wildlife and more and more of us are embracing the wilder aspects of gardening, ensuring they providing food, water and shelter within a range of habitats, throughout the year. There are approximately 1 million acres of garden in the UK, with up to half of that grown as lawn. This is potentially a very valuable wildlife haven and Plantlife wants to find out just how important they are. By taking part in ‘No Mow May’, then ‘Every Flower Counts’ survey of your patch at the end of the month we can all help to build a picture of our lawns as wildlife sanctuaries.

Taking part in No Mow May has many benefits; leaving our petrol mower in the shed cuts down on fossil fuels and air pollution, allowing plants to flower provides food for pollinating insects and we can expect to see daisies, dandelions, self-heal, buttercup, clovers, speedwell, longer grass provides places for sheltering insects which in turn provide essential food for the busy parents feeding young birds in the nest. Blackbirds particularly love to forage for food across our lawn.

This year, with the coldest of Springs and a record dry April, it will be interesting to take part and see just how much our lawn has grown in height and diversity.

The plants we choose to have in our gardens have a huge impact on the insects that will come and visit or live on them, and this, in turn, will affect the birds, bats, mammals that choose to make our gardens their home.

We are all busy making sure our gardens are blooming with bright cheery summer flowers, but it will benefit your garden wildlife as well as the planet if you spend some time planning before plundering the garden centres. Not all flowers are equal. As a general rule, simple flowers provide pollen on the stamen and sugary nectar for visiting insects. The fancy doubles have been bred to turn stamen into extra petals, which in turn make the nectaries inaccessible, so no pollinator food. These cultivars are also rarely pollinated so the flowers tend to remain open for longer, another plus for the gardener. However, although they may appear attractive to us, they offer little for wildlife. Of course they are fun to grow, but it pays to consider making sure you include some flowers for the bees too. For example we have dahlia ‘bright eyes’, loved by bees throughout the summer, but the snazzy cacti varieties offer little to pollinators. Just spend some time watching which flowers are buzzing with insects and you’ll know soon what to choose.

By visiting out plant sale kiosk you will be able to pick up some interesting summer annuals, perennial border plants or interesting herbs and edibles to grow at home. These have all been grown here so have had to put up with our erratic weather conditions and will be fully hardy. We don’t use peat in any of our compost mixes and we are introducing take away cardboard containers for you to decant your purchases into. This way we get to keep our plastic pots to reuse time and time again, and you don’t end up with stacks of used pots taking up space in the back of your shed, and less plastic is good news for the climate.

Create a Runner Bean and Nasturtium Tower!

Flowers for pollinators and edibles for you to enjoy! Runner beans and nasturtiums planted in the last few weeks will be too big for their pots now – learn how to pot them on and create a beautiful tower to benefit people and wildlife in your sunny back court or garden.

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Flowers for pollinators and edibles for you to enjoy!

Runner beans and nasturtiums planted in the last few weeks will be too big for their pots now – learn how to pot them on and create a beautiful tower to benefit people and wildlife in your sunny back court or garden.

Poetry by David

We are delighted to share these beautiful poems created by Men’s Group participant David. Music The beat of the drum matching your heart beatYour body resounding to the beatThe beat uplifting you higherYou feel if the beat is lifting you into the air as the beat gets fasterThen the beat slows and gradually you feel […]

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We are delighted to share these beautiful poems created by Men’s Group participant David.

Music

The beat of the drum matching your heart beat
Your body resounding to the beat
The beat uplifting you higher
You feel if the beat is lifting you into the air as the beat gets faster
Then the beat slows and gradually you feel as if the beat is putting you down
You come back down to earth not with a bang but gently
The feeling of exhileration
The gradual release of the energy
Tired but happy.

New Year

A new year start feels just like the last.
But the new brings with it the promise of change.
Whether good or bad just like weather.
The weather can be heavy snow in some places and none in others.
The other places can have dry sunny days or a downpour of cold rain.
The weather will change from the dismal to the cold but dry to warmer but dry days.
To finally hot sunny days.
These are the promise of the new year things getting better.
Not just in regards the weather but in all things in life.
A new year brings change in all things not just the weather or life but everything that the year will brings.

Check out David’s blog for more thoughts & scribbles

Cultural Cookery recipe book Feb- March 2021

Download our latest Cultural Cookery group recipe book with recipes from; Uruguayan Pumpkin soup and Cuban rice pudding North Africa; Vegetable tagine and Moroccan Couscous with Chickpeas Somalian dishes; Somali Rice Pilaf (Bariis Maraq) and Digaag Qumbe (yogurt- Coconut Chicken) Philippines; Eggplant adobe, mango salad and Ginataang Kalabasa, Sitaw at Hipon (Prawns, Pumpkin and Bean […]

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Download our latest Cultural Cookery group recipe book with recipes from;

Uruguayan Pumpkin soup and Cuban rice pudding

North Africa; Vegetable tagine and Moroccan Couscous with Chickpeas

Somalian dishes; Somali Rice Pilaf (Bariis Maraq) and Digaag Qumbe (yogurt- Coconut Chicken)

Philippines; Eggplant adobe, mango salad and Ginataang Kalabasa, Sitaw at Hipon (Prawns, Pumpkin and Bean stew).

Mezze dishes; baked feta with thyme, crushed potatoes with lemon and garlic, fried aubergine with honey and tahini and mashed courgettes with chilli, yoghurt and mint.

Check out all the Cultural Cookery Show videos on our Facebook page- you dont need a Facebook account to watch

Grow delicious pea shoots on your windowsill

Grow delicious pea shoots on your windowsill to add to your salad and discover how to start off your runner beans indoors. Find out what is blooming in the gardens in March. Big thank you to our funder The Scottish Government!

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Grow delicious pea shoots on your windowsill to add to your salad and discover how to start off your runner beans indoors. Find out what is blooming in the gardens in March.

Big thank you to our funder The Scottish Government!

The Flowery Meadow

Towards the end of winter, one of the many jobs to tackle in the Gardens is cutting down the old foliage and seed heads from the flowery meadow. These have been left over winter to provide food and shelter for wildlife, but also to enjoy and appreciate the turning of the seasons within the gardens, […]

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Towards the end of winter, one of the many jobs to tackle in the Gardens is cutting down the old foliage and seed heads from the flowery meadow. These have been left over winter to provide food and shelter for wildlife, but also to enjoy and appreciate the turning of the seasons within the gardens, the architectural beauty of the seedheads, and the subtle tones of autumnal colour.

Now we want to remove the fallen leaves, mosses and old growth to make way for the new seedlings. Using the green tracking allows us to work through the meadow without compacting the soil or damaging the new growth; old scaffolding boards or planks of wood work just as well.

This is a joyous task, particularly on a day when you begin to feel a hint of warmth in the sun. Spotting tiny seedlings and imagining the flowers to come is magical, and a challenge to identification skills!

As the days lengthen and the bare soil warms, the plants grow quickly. No two years are ever the same and it’s so exciting to watch and discover which plants have survived, or flourished, or need a bit of intervention later in the year!

There are many descriptions of ‘meadows’ in gardening: wildlife meadows where only native wildflowers are used recreate a particular natural habitat; annual meadows or mixes of arable ‘weeds’ such as poppies, corn marigolds and cornflowers; pictorial meadows of colourful plants taken from all over the world. These all require some work, and have varying maintenance regimes. If you have ever scattering some meadow mix seed or throwing a ‘seed bomb’ and been lucky enough to end up with a flowering meadow year after year, then I’d like to know your secret!

Meadow cranesbill, Ragged Robin and Ox-eye daisy

Our meadow began by clearing the site then sowing a ‘bee and butterfly’ mix from Scotia seeds. This was quickly swamped by vigorous grasses so we found that the most effective method was to supplement this by growing some plug plants, sowing seed in autumn then planting out in Spring, to give us variety. By spending time studying the plant groupings, tinkering and tweaking the plant mixes, taking out some that threaten to dominate the more delicate flowers eg oxeye daisy or greater knapweed, sowing seeds of desirable plants such as Ladys Smock to attract Orange tip butterflies or Birdsfoot trefoil for the Common Blue butterfly, we can continually experiment and learn.

Including a range of flower shapes, colours and sizes makes for a dynamic and interesting patch, but it also caters for the varying needs of the insect populations; long tongued bumblebees can access nectar in vipers bugloss, larger insects such as the garden bumblebee will appreciate the big landing pads of the umbellifers and oxeye daisies. We tend to plant out native Scottish wildlfowers, but we are not too strict about it, and I don’t think the bees, beetles and butterflies mind.

Common Carder bumblebee on Devils-bit Scabious

Paula, Head Gardener

Cultural Cookery Jan- Feb 2021 recipe book

Check out the Cultural Cookery Recipe book with wonderful dishes from; Italy, Turkey and the Middle East, Scotland, Jamaica, and Azerbaijan. Cultural Cookery Recipe Book January – February Featuring recipes from; Italy- vegetarian lasagna and minestrone soup Turkey and the Middle East; Basic Hummus, Baklava, and Turkish Ezogelin soup with red, lentils, bulgar and rice. […]

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Check out the Cultural Cookery Recipe book with wonderful dishes from; Italy, Turkey and the Middle East, Scotland, Jamaica, and Azerbaijan.

Cultural Cookery Recipe Book January – February

Featuring recipes from;

  • Italy- vegetarian lasagna and minestrone soup
  • Turkey and the Middle East; Basic Hummus, Baklava, and Turkish Ezogelin soup with red, lentils, bulgar and rice.
  • Scotland; Cullen Skink soup, Soda farls and Cranachan.
  • Jamaica; jerk chicken, rice and peas and pineapple salsa
  • Azerbaijan; Cabbage Aaash Soup, Halva Zanjabil, Kutab Azerbaijan Flat bread

Watch all the Cultural Cookery Show episodes on our Facebook.

How to sprout beans and sow microgreens

Learn about sprouting beans and sowing microgreens for your window ledge- fenugreek seeds, sprouts, microgreens and green lentils. And seeds you can sow indoors in February/ March like chillis.

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Learn about sprouting beans and sowing microgreens for your window ledge- fenugreek seeds, sprouts, microgreens and green lentils. And seeds you can sow indoors in February/ March like chillis.