Monday, 31 January 2011

Gardeners' Restraint

I am biting at the bit! 

It’s that time of year when I am itching to get gardening.  I’ve entertained myself throughout the Winter with various tasks including clearing the garden and allotment plot of unnecessary rubbish and some of the leftovers from the growing season, whilst remaining mindful that some of the mini-beasts I need to keep many pests at bay require shelter from the elements too.   I’ve also concentrated on landscaping, a great job to keep you ticking over during the Autumn and Winter months, with the addition of raised beds to help improve drainage, create a good root run for root vegetables and to potentially adopt a no-dig regime.  I took the plot on last May and raised beds were high on my agenda, after all the weeds, stones, boots, wire, plastic bags and brambles had been removed of course.  My plot is also at the bottom of a slope near to a ditch that is usually filled with run-off and with the plot being on clay soil raising the beds will hopefully prove to be quite beneficial. 

After raising the beds, and in my desperation to keep active, I’ve embarked on creating a dead hedge.  This was going quite well, with most of my uprights going in ready to be filled with dead branches, twigs and the like, until of course the cold weather hit again making the ground completely unworkable.  That is unless you can muster up the energy to attack the ground with a pickaxe or indeed have a JCB at your disposal.  Instead I have taken to collecting toilet roll tubes and egg boxes in readiness for seed sowing and chitting of potatoes (although it’s unlikely I will ever get round to doing this).

The cold period is yet to go away leaving the garden and allotment completely frozen.  The Brassicas look as though they’ve just about had enough of the cold, having battled through several periods of fluctuating weather, and are on the verge of giving up or at least it looks that way for now.  The Rhubarb appears to be the only thing that wants to get going and is even more excited about Spring than I am.

Unaware of the weather, the chickens have positively thrived and despite a minor moult have laid throughout the Winter.  They’ve been treated to warm breakfast everyday, lots of corn in the evening and regular mealworm treats.  Despite this I think some warmer weather would be greatly appreciated as their new coop extension can begin construction and a few new members will be added to their flock, if of course two chickens could constitute a flock?

In terms of gardening, however, I’m struggling.

As I’ve completely run out of things to do now I guess I’ll just wait for Spring then?  My ever-growing seed collection filled with many exciting potential plants is quietly waiting in a near motionless dormancy, the tubers, corms and bulbs are waiting patiently (some more patiently than others) and as I write I spy a collection of 66 toilet roll tubes that only add to my ever growing concern that gardening is slowly alienating me from society and giving me an air of “crazy”.

So Spring, do me a favour – hurry up!

Jekka's Herb Farm: Free Entry for Ryan's Garden Readers

Image Courtesy of Jekka's Herb Farm
Jekka McVicar is a name synonymous with growing herbs and incredible quality.  Ryan's Garden in association with Jekka's Herb Farm are delighted to be able to offer FREE entry to Jekka's Herb Farm open days on production of this post.  Simply print out this page and you and a guest can enter the farm with no charge on Saturday 30th April and Sunday 1st May.

Jekka’s Herb Farm, near Bristol, is usually closed to the public making open days a unique opportunity to browse and buy, breathe in and taste the scents and flavours of 650 plus organically grown herb varieties. Please view the main website for dates of open days. You can also pick up some expert tips from award-winning, organic herb farmer, writer and broadcaster, Jekka, and partake of locally grown, seasonal refreshments in the ‘Berry Blue’ café. Herb workshops with Jekka (pre-bookable via take place on each Open Day at 12pm and tickets are £15 per person. Dates and details below:

  • Friday 1st – Sunday 3rd April:  How to raise herbs from seed 
  • Saturday 30th April – (Bank holiday) Monday 2nd May:  How to combine herbs in pots and window boxes 
  • Friday 17th – Sunday 19th June: How to take herb cuttings
  • Friday 22nd – Sunday 24th July: How to grow salad herbs for autumn
  • Friday 2nd – Sunday 4th September: How to maintain your herbs over winter
We hope you enjoy this great offer and look forward to hearing more about your time at the farm!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Best Laid Plans

What is it they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? Obviously I can't speak on behalf of the mice but I can speak for myself and tell you that right now my plans are most certainly going awry.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook then you will probably know that right now I am writing this post on a back-up computer that I'm not entirely at home with. I usually use my ever faithful Mac to write blog posts, check email and complete freelance work, however, following a freak Border Terrier and Tea incident the Mac has since ceased functioning - In fact it's completely dead. Suffice to say that the combination of energetic and somewhat psychotic puppy, mug of glorious morning tea and beautiful Mac are not conducive to a mornings work. Well not anymore anyway. For the past three years this hasn't been a problem. My older Border Terrier Maggie, and mum of the recently coined "one speed" puppy - Olive, has quietly and reliably sat beside me when working, checking emails or just twittering and I have rarely had a problem with her, unless of course you count the silent but deadly cabbage-like odor she often produces of an evening. Olive on the other hand is a complete liability. She does not have the ability to walk calmly or even trot in to a room, no; she has to fly at lightning speed directly at any person or other pet that happens to be in the vicinity, often leaving a trail of destruction in her wake. She was of course the runt of the litter that we took pity on, hand fed and molly coddled. Maybe that should have been warning enough? The last "runt of the litter" dog I owned as a child was an equally psychotic West Highland White Terrier that had a penchant for car oil and a touch of OCD as he had to close any door that was left ajar. Forewarned is forearmed? Anyway, my Mac is now hands of the insurers and I hope and pray that at least some of my files can be saved (the majority are backed up). The puppy on the other hand is demoted to third-best dog. As a result of the 'Terrier and Tea' incident I'm unable to upload photos for my 'Image of the Day' feature, but fear not, I am determined to continue with my resolution and I'll be taking a picture every day on my mobile phone.

In the garden and at the allotment my plans have also been halted as once again we are in the grip of yet another cold snap. Every day this week, with today being the only exception, I've been met by a hard ground frost, which means that the ground is not workable at all. In fact it’s hard as stone. The pond at home is frozen solid and the Chicken drinkers have also been in need of a daily addition of hot water. I had intended to start on the chicken coop extension, the cutting garden and a compost bin area screened with a dead hedge but this has not been possible. Despite this I have managed to start on filling the raised beds with some beautiful black and rich compost.

In other news, one competition has just ended and already I have another fantastic prize lined up to offer you along with a couple of great offers. Thank you to everyone who entered the last competition.  We had a massive response with over 190 entries!  Please take a look at the all new Competitions & Offers area that will be posted shortly. 

Competition: Wooden Wheelie Bin Cover

This competition has now ended.

I'm pleased to announce that the winner of the competition is MrsT.  Please can you email me with your address and we can arrange for your prize to be delivered!

As one competition ends another begins. are offering one lucky winner the chance to win a very useful and aesthetically pleasing single whelie bin cover (pictured above) worth £99.99! 

To enter the competition simply leave the answer the question below in the comments section of this post.

Question: From which material is the wheelie bin cover made?

To gain additional entries to the competition simply mention the competition on twitter, facebook or on your personal blog, coupled with a link to:

Entries will be counted as follows:

  • Comment on Ryan's Garden - 1 entry
  • Retweet, tweet or facebook mention of competition link - 2 entries
  • Blog post with competition link - 3 entriesGood luck to all who enter!
Terms and conditions: Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter. The winner will be chosen at random and you agree that by entering your name may be published. Prizes will be delivered by courier within 28 days. The competition is not open to employees or affiliates of The Garden Furniture Centre Ltd. Entries for this competition will close at midnight on 12th February 2011.

AcryliCloche® Garden Cloche Discount for Ryan's Garden Readers

At this time of year the ground is cold or in many cases completely frozen and strangely enough most seeds don't appreciate that.  But with Spring just around the corner why not get a head start on the growing season with an AcryliCloche® Garden Cloche by
Manufactured in the UK, AcryliCloche® is designed to help the home gardener extend their growing season, protect against frost and pests, and harden off tender plants.  Not only do they help with many of these problems but they also look great too!

Tests have shown that even during winter soil was 2.7 ºC warmer when using the AcryliCloche® than not and that temperatures would rise within hours, much faster than previously predicted, and something that most gardeners know can make a huge difference at this time of the year. 

All AcryliCloche® cloches are sold with a 5 year guarantee against UV deterioration, and made from robust acrylic. Prices start from £9.99 for a 50cm tent cloche and there are also affordable package offers available.

Ryan's Garden can offer a further 5% discount on all purchases over £20.  All you have to do is enter the code RGTWJAN1 when placing an order at the PoshCloche website. The offer is valid for 30 days only and delivery is restricted to the UK only. PoshCloche reserve the right to withdraw the offer at any time.

So what are you waiting for?

Please don't forget to check the Competition page for more competitions and offers.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

New Year Competition: Winners Announced

To welcome in the New Year I offered you the chance to win 20 packets of seed from the more than fantastic Seed Parade range and even better than that the lucky winners have been allowed to choose which  seeds they want to win to suit their growing needs.  I asked you a simple question, which I think everyone answered correctly, to be in with a shot at winning and the reponse was fantastic.
The great news is that over 190 entries were received, a record for Ryan’s Garden, and that three lucky individuals have been chosen at random to win.  I can also confirm that we have secured another fantastic competition prize and a few great offers which I will notify you of shortly.  Please ensure that you sign up for email alerts so that you do not miss out on new posts and competitions.  You can sign up by simply entering your email address in to the text box at the top left hand side of the main blog page.
So without further ado I will announce our winners.  The three lucky individuals that will walk away with 20 packets of seed from Seed Parade are:
·         Amy
·         Lily F
·         Zoё
If your name is listed above please can you email me at with your choice of seed and  your desired postal address.
Thank you to everyone who entered and don’t forget to visit again for the next Ryan’s Garden competition.  Simply check the Competition tab at the top of the main page to see what competitions and offers we are running.  This tab will be updated shortly and should have a new look making it easier to view current competitions and offers.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

A Cutting Garden for a Pound

Do you view the price of plants as an indicator of quality?  The perceived notion of ‘Well, it’s expensive so it must be good quality’ is sometimes justified but on many occasions, and more so with pedestrian planting, it is baffling at best.

Today I ventured in to testing out the hypothesis that price does not necessarily justify quality and as such in the next year I want to see if plants bought at a pound shop really can compete with pricier rivals.  I’d like to say this non-scientific experiment was planned but alas it was not.  In fact it followed the reason I popped in to town, a haircut, and it preceded an equally impulsive fifteen-minute shopping spree in Topman costing over £130.  All in all a good start to the day given that I was home by 10.30am.

Some of you may remember that last year I had the bright idea of creating a cutting garden (the competition has ended sorry) on the allotment and minus a few purchases my plans have gone a little awry.  That is until now.  On my crazed, yet cheap, Poundland shop I bought a mix of Dahlias, Paeonies, Gladioli, Asiatic Lilies and Poppies that should go a long way to producing some great blooms for the home.  They’re not really what I wanted but such a bargain was too hard to resist.  From what I could see the quality of what was on offer was not too bad either and after a little rummaging I picked out tubers, bulbs, corms and bare rooted plants that appeared largely healthy.  It seems that I caught the pound shop on a day when the plants still appear quite fresh as there was very little leggy growth to be seen and many of the bulbs, corms, onion sets, seed potatoes, etc were still content in their dormancy, something that cannot always be guaranteed.

So there we have it.  A cutting garden on a serious budget.  I plan to get most things planted up in the next few weeks and look forward to reporting back here on the blog.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

A New Year, New Competition and New Feature

A new year has begun and I'm feeling very festive and celebratory indeed!    2010 has been a great year for the garden and allotment and it has even seen the arrival of chickens, which have all brought a lot of joy and excellent produce.

I'm hoping that 2011 is going to be just as good, if not even better.  The allotment beds have been raised this Autumn and all the plantings have been planned and prepared ahead of time with a few exciting rare and unusual edibles added to the list of great fruits and vegetables I'll be growing.  The  chicken run is awaiting an extension so that three new arrivals will have plenty of space to run around and forage.

In other news, Ryan's Garden has a new feature - 'Image of the Day'.  This is something that I've wanted to do for a little while now ever since I heard of Project 365.  I will take a picture every day, which may or may not be garden related, and I'll post it here for everyone to see.  I'm hoping that a single photo will be enough to micro-diarise my year and prompt some memories and emotion on reflection.  I hope you enjoy the images too.

Also, in typical Ryan's Garden style I thought it only right to celebrate the new year with you by launching a brand new competition in association with one of our sponsors - Seed Parade.  

The very nice people at Seed Parade are offering three lucky winners the chance to win 20 packets of seed each.  And if that wasn't good enough they are allowing you, the winner, the chance to choose which seeds you want, whether it be fruit, vegetable or flower.  Seed Parade have a lovely selection of seeds available and if you haven't already, you should have a good look at their website when you get the chance.

To enter the competition simply leave the answer the question below in the comments section of the competition area here.

Question: Which delicious and prolific Courgette supplied by Seed Parade shares its name with a fictional horse?

Thanks to everyone who has read, commented and contributed to Ryan's Garden this year and a massive thank you to all of our sponsors and to the great companies that have offered some excellent prizes for our regular competitions.  

Here's wishing everyone a prosperous and happy 2011 - Cheers!

This competition has now ended.
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