Saturday, 25 June 2011

Ryan's Garden Photography Competition: Win £100 from The Range

I'm really happy to announce the launch of the Ryan's Garden Photography Competition in association with The Range who have provided a £100 gift voucher as a prize.  We also have a great guest judge on board to choose the winner in the form of professional photographer Charles Hawes.  
This is the first photography competition that I've launched on the blog and I'm really excited to see what you come up with.  Whether you are a complete novice or experienced snapper, the competition is open to all who wish to post and images will be judged on individual merit.  Of course the theme is loosely based around the garden but I wont dictate anything more specific.  Just get snapping!
To enter the competition simply email: with your picture.

A 'People's Choice Award' will also be given to the person with the most comments on the facebook page where all entries will be posted, although I'm yet to decide what the prize will be.
This prize has been supplied courtesy of The Range: shop online and buy everything you need for a summer in the garden, from plants and compost through to garden furniture and barbecues.

Terms and conditions: The competition closes 31.07.11. Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter.  By entering this competition you agree and consent to your name and selected image being published. The competition is not open to employees or affiliates of The Range.  You may submit two original images only.  In cases where more than two images are submitted only the first two images uploaded will go through to be judged.  By taking part in the competition, entrants are deemed to have read,understood and accepted all of the Terms and Conditions and agreed to be bound by them.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Ryan's Garden Loves: Matchcarden

You may remember that I featured Postcarden on the blog a little while back here.  Well it seems as though the creative bods. behind the Postcarden have come up with a whole new range of designs which I absolutely love.  Much more intersting than your typical greetings card they allow you to interect and provide so much more interest for the recipient.  Personally I think they make for great quirky adult cards and are equally fascinating for children. 

Matchcarden is a little house with its very own garden.  When you open the box, as well as finding your greeting, you find everything you need to get growing.  Once started, the garden springs in to life and is just great fun to watch.  The collection has two themes: The City Street (Above) and The English Village (Below).  
The cards come with their own range of accessories that allow you to add chimneys, rooftops, street lamps and weather vanes.  Something that the older designs lacked.
I absolutely loves these designs and so I thought I'd share this with you.  Also, my birthday is on . . . 

Friday, 17 June 2011

Ryan's Garden Competition: Win a Garden Bench

This competition is now closed.  The lucky winner is: Pukkapad (@kirstylou29 on twitter).

Once again I'm really pleased to announce that we have a great competition prize to offer you.  The Sherwood Garden Bench (worth £99.99) is up for grabs and one lucky winner will get the chance to take this home.  Provided by The Garden Furniture Centre, this bench would be ideal for informal style gardens, community or school projects and allotment sites.

To enter the competition and for your chance to win this great prize simply answer the question below, placing your answer in the comments box along with a method of contacting you and let us know that you've commented by tweeting us: @ryansgarden to @gfcuk or add a comment to facebook using the link:

Question: The Sherwood Bench is made from FSC Pine.  But what does the acronym FSC stand for?

Good luck and thanks for reading!

Terms and conditions: The competition launches on 17.06.11 and closes at midnight on 15.07.11. Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter. Answers should be made in the comments section.  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.  By taking part in the competition, entrants are deemed to have read,understood and accepted all of the Terms and Conditions and agreed to be bound by them.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

I'm Not a Bunny Hugger

This year I’ve embarked on a simple and uncomplicated vegetable growing regime, one that I’ve always practiced in my garden at home. I’ve done away with peat and chemicals, raised my beds, fed the soil with organic matter, reduced watering and now I’m totally at one with mother nature.  Okay, so I’m being a little sarcastic here but  even the mention of doing something like this brings groans and an expectation that you must be some eco-sort.  But as Prince Phillip put it, and eloquently I must add, "I think that there's a difference between being concerned for the conservation of nature and being a bunny hugger...." and I echo that (i).  I don't really conform to a type of gardener and I don't follow exact methods of growing but I am open minded to anything that works, within reason of course, and if that involves practices that cause less harm to the environment then I’m all for it.   Why do we even contemplate using things that are potentially harmful when the alternatives are available?  Why are we resistant to change?

When moving on to the plot last year I appeared to prompt a cautious response from the committee when asking if I could keep chickens; outrageous I know.   I  assumed that this is what allotmenteers did and at the time it didn't seem like a big ask.  Was such a request actually not all that commonplace?  I stated my case, pushed the point a little, I even went for the overkill method of involving the other half and a vet friend to offer “expert advice” and my plan was eventually given the go ahead.   I was thrilled at this point thinking that very shortly I’ll have on-site weed disposal, a small manure factory and as a reward a bounty of freshly laid eggs.  On several occasions I was told ‘there are some big dog foxes up here boy’, ‘those badgers will get them’ and ‘you’ll bring rats to the site’ but despite the initial comments dooming me to failure I’m yet to experience any problems and the girls appear to be very happy and healthy.  Back then I began to wonder if change was really such a scary thing.

Late last year I installed raised beds, a seemingly sensible thing to do on clay soil at the bottom of a slope where water often pools in autumn and winter, and after many a day of trudging around the plot in wellies and getting covered in mud I decided that this was certainly the right thing to do.   I want my plot to be as productive as it can be but last winter was so wet and cold that anything that was planted directly in to our heavy clay soil would have simply frozen solid or rotted off in the sodden conditions.   My end goal is to create a no dig system and give plants better drainage and warmer soil early on in the season.  More strange looks followed and on one occasion I was actually told ‘that’s a waste of time’.  Now, I’m all up for constructive feedback and my god some of the guys on the plot have been growing here for 25 years but this feedback was not from them and at that point in time it made me question my own practice.  On looking at the plot now I feel completely vindicated and I scored a goal when one of the plot-holders asked me how my beans were so much bigger than his despite me planting them much later and them being the same cultivar.  I can only put it down to good soil preparation.

Some things are to be expected and are brushed off without a second thought but one thing that I didn’t expect to excite curiosity or give me the ‘hippy’ tag is homemade liquid fertiliser.  Comfrey grows all over our plot and I assumed that most people used it but to find out that my neighbour didn’t know what it was led me to think again.  I offered liquid feed to three or four people but I might as well have been talking a different language.  I explained what it was and even added a dash of reassurance – ‘go on take it, it will all be okay’, but I think that the hard sell only added to their concern.  After making comfrey fertiliser last year (ii) and viewing the results it was only sensible to do the same thing again this year.  About a month ago I collected lots of comfrey, nettle and marestail (Equisetum arvense)(iii) and plunged them in to a bucket, weighed them down with a brick and covered them with rainwater.  A few weeks later and the rotting solution was ready for use.  I may be slightly biased here but it did appear to perk plants up even after the first use.  The plan is to water plants with the watered down solution (one part fertiliser, 15 parts water) every two weeks and I’m hoping that this, coupled with the addition of  manure and compost earlier in the year will be enough to satisfy the crops.  I’m also planning on boiling up some garlic in water to use on any aphids or blackfly that appear but so far they have not become a problem.  After the sterling job the ladybirds and hoverflies did last year I may just leave it to them to sort out.

It appears that simple and uncomplicated is my gardening style and if I can promote some of this, minus the hippy tag (iv), then maybe, just maybe, we can see a new positive approach to growing plants.  I might even suggest bees or a compost toilet next!

(i) Although I do have an evil bunny at home.  I defy anyone to try and hug him.
(ii) This was almost a complete disaster.  When lifting the stone slab I placed on top of the bucket I was met by hundreds of gnats, some of which I may have inhaled, which caused me to tip the bucket all over my jeans and shoes.  Anyone who has made comfrey tea will know that the smell is akin to rotting sewage and as you can imagine I was rather fragrant on my return home.
(iii) I added the marestail as a source of silica, nicotinic acid and other alkaloids that should in theory work as a fungicide and may even help to fight pests.
(iv) I couldn’t be further away from wearing hemp.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Ryan's Garden Summer Competition: Win a Standard Garden Plant

This competition is now closed.  The lucky winner is @CrystalMSE.  Congratulations and I really hope you enjoy your new plant!

Ryan's Garden has teamed up with Interflora to offer one lucky winner the chance to win one of five standard garden plants worth £29.99.  The lucky winner will choose either a Bay tree, Hibiscus, Rose, Olive or Acer all of which have been grown as standard specimens and are ready for planting in the garden or in a container.

To enter the competition and for your chance to win this great prize simply leave the answer the question below in the comments box.

Question: In what year did the Mercury Man become the official logo for Interflora?

Good luck and thanks for reading!

The winner of the last competition was @KrisDelAgua (Twitter Username).  Congratulations and enjoy the hammock!

Terms and conditions: The competition launches on 08.06.2011 and closes at midnight on 17.06.11. 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.  Answers should be made in the comments section. Prizes will be delivered by courier within 28 days. The competition is not open to employees or affiliates of Interflora or anyone directly connected with the planning or administration of the competition.  By taking part in the competition, entrants are deemed to have read,understood and accepted all of the Terms and Conditions and agreed to be bound by them.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Gardening Against the Odds Awards 2011

2010 winner Andrew Barnett's winning garden

Honouring unsung gardening heroes who create beauty against the odds
With the perfection of the Chelsea Flower Show a mere memory, the search is now on for ordinary gardeners throughout the country who garden against the odds creating beauty and touching the lives of others.

The 2011 Gardening Against The Odds Awards, now launched by The Sunday Telegraph in association with The Conservation Foundation, call for entries from individuals and community groups who garden in often unpromising and unlikely places or in the face of physical or psychological difficulties and in so doing bring joy to all who see them.

Elspeth Thompson
The awards, in their second year, are dedicated to Sunday Telegraph writer Elspeth Thompson, who died in March 2010, and are named after her final online diary. A champion of the unsung gardening heroes to be found all over the country, Elspeth saw beauty in the unexpected and her weekly columns inspired a huge following.

Individual gardeners and community groups who garden despite physical difficulties or in the face of mental or psychological problems, such as depression and grief and those who have transformed inhospitable corners into green havens are all encouraged to enter. Relatives, friends, neighbours and passers-by are also urged to nominate those who deserve recognition but may hesitate to put themselves forward.

Joining the celebrity judging panel this year are The Duchess of Northumberland, creator of the world famous Alnwick Garden and author and Sunday Telegraph columnist Francine Raymond. The other judges are botanist David Bellamy, Elspeth Thompson’s Sunday Telegraph editor Anne Cuthbertson, garden writer and designer Bunny Guinness, actress Susan Hampshire, Guerrilla Gardening’s Richard Reynolds, Green & Black’s founder Craig Sams, Conservation Foundation director David Shreeve, Elspeth’s husband Frank Wilson and Christopher Woodward, director of the Garden Museum.

“When we launched the first awards we were all feeling the shock of losing a very special person, but thanks to those awards and meeting many of those taking part, we have seen what Elspeth knew - that there were other very special people and places making our world a better place,” says Conservation Foundation director David Shreeve. “We launch these new awards not out of a sense of loss, but out of celebration.”

"We are delighted to be launching the second Gardening Against the Odds awards," says The Sunday Telegraph Life editor Anne Cuthbertson. "The entries we received last year were so inspiring; they were stories that made your heart sing. The awards have been the most fitting tribute to our dear and much-missed colleague Elspeth Thompson. They continue Elspeth's championing of ordinary gardeners who create something beautiful and honest under challenging circumstances."

Last year’s winning gardeners, honoured at a presentation event in the Conservatory at Chiswick House in the spring, all had their own story of gardening against the odds. Overall winner Andrew Barnett  told of how his garden helped him to cope when severe depression left him unable to work as a head teacher. His daughter, who nominated him, wrote: “The garden saved dad and dad saved the garden.”  Other winners included Growing Together, a group of 16 blind people in Bingley who used to have only their blindness in common. Now their shared garden gives them great pleasure as well as a way out of isolation. Expert horsewoman Annie Maw thought her life was over when she broke her back. Her Somerset garden has helped her recover her joie de vivre, able once more to seize life by the scruff of the neck.

More information from The Conservation Foundation and Sunday Telegraph . Become a Gardening Against The Odds Facebook fan.


The closing date for entries is 16 September. Winners will be announced in Life in October. Full details on how to enter are at


The winner will be presented with the Gardening Against The Odds trophy and will receive £100 of Telegraph Garden Shop vouchers. The two runners-up will receive two garden kneelers, made specially for the awards in the Fine Cell Work workshops at HMP Wandsworth and £50 of Telegraph Garden Shop vouchers. The top ten winners will receive a choice of garden equipment from Hozelock 

The Gardening Against The Odds Awards are supported by The Tanner Trust
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