Tag Archives: Grow your own

Fragrant garden pot – perfect for foodies

 Bay, Thyme and Lavender


This fabulous project, taken from our book Seasonal Garden Ideas smells divine and provides you with fresh herbs year-round.


Bay, Thyme & Lavender

Three strongly aromatic plants combine here to make an enticingly scented corner. A  standard bay in a large ceramic pot is circled by a medley of low-growing thymes, with lavender surrounding the base.

Plant in spring.
All of these plants have a year-long presence – bay and thyme are evergreen, while lavender, which flowers in summer, retains its grey leaves throughout winter.

Allow a couple of hours to complete this container and the surrounding bed.

What you need


  • One bay tree (Laurus nobilis), trained to standard shape and clipped to a ball.
  • Eight thymes (Thymus serpyllum and Thymus citriodorus varieties – here golden leaved, variegated and grey-leaved forms as well as the more usual dark green).
  • Eight lavenders (Lavandula variety, such as ‘Munstead’).


  • Large ceramic container (or any other pot large enough to take the bay tree).
  • Soil-based potting compost with added grit or sharp sand for drainage.
  • Broken crocks for drainage.
  • Trowel.


  1. Position your pot where it is to stand – it will be too heavy to move once planted. Here the pot is surrounded by a narrow bed of lavender which will need about 45cm (18in) of planting space all around the pot.
  2. Line the container with broken crocks for drainage, then half-fill with compost. Check the level of the bay’s rootball by placing it in its original pot on the compost. Adjust the level as necessary to get the rootball to the same depth it was in before, then plant the bay, placing it centrally in the pot. Firm in.
  3. Top up the container with more compost – the thymes will have much shallower rootballs than the bay. Plant the thymes in a circle around the bay, firm in, then top up again with more compost to within 2.5cm (1in) of the rim. Water thoroughly.
  4. Work some of the compost/grit mix into the soil around the pot, then plant the lavenders all round. Water thoroughly.

If you wish, choose a dry, sunny day and cut some of the lavender flowers when they are at their peak. Leave them to dry in bunches, then use them in a vase or a potpourri, or make little sachets and stuff them with the lavender flowerheads – place in linen drawers or hang in clothes cupboards to keep the clothes smelling fresh and sweet.

Both the bay and the thymes are culinary herbs, so use them freely in your cooking.

All these plants do best in full sun and need light, well-drained soil. Keep the bay in shape by trimming any straggly shoots in summer; remove any frost-damaged leaves/shoots in spring. Remove faded lavender flowers in autumn, then prune in April – but do not cut into old wood. Clip the thyme, removing dead flowerheads and straggly shoots in spring.


Seasonal Garden Ideas £3.99Seasonal Garden Ideas
is available for just £3.99!

A perfect gift for your
green-fingered friends.








Create a gorgeous garden by planting a tree

How to plant a tree

Create a gorgeous garden by planting a tree – Dairy Diary shows you how

We might not be spending much time in the garden at the moment, but the long dark evenings give us a great opportunity to plan for the spring and summer.

Use Pinterest to create inspiring moodboards with images of gardens and plants that you love. You could even plan to plant a show-stopping tree.

In the 2016 Dairy Diary we show you how to choose the perfect spot and the ideal specimen.

Dairy Diary 2016The Dairy Diary is still
available to buy here
or by calling 01425 463390.




Grow your own tree

How to plant a treeTrees, beautiful and ever-changing, bring a reassuring sense of continuity – plant a tree and in the normal course of events it will be there for generations to come.

Besides this, the bare fact is that trees play a vital role in all our lives. We breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide; trees do the opposite, although in fact they store carbon dioxide rather than releasing this ‘greenhouse gas’ into the atmosphere. The leaves absorb various pollutants including nitrous oxides, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide.

So trees not only produce oxygen but help clean the air, too, and they help to decontaminate the soil by absorbing noxious chemicals, either storing them or changing them into a less harmful state. These are the fundamental reasons why it is so important to maintain woodlands and parks, especially in urban areas.

“We breathe in oxygen
and breathe out carbon
dioxide; trees do the opposite”

There’s more: trees prevent soil erosion, slow down water run-off (particularly important in storm or flood conditions), act as windbreaks, deaden noise and give shade and shelter. They provide natural habitats for birds, insects and other animals, support other plant life and offer a terrific harvest in the form of timber, fruit and nuts, not to mention soil-enriching compost from leaf fall. Life would be poorer – not to say impossible – without trees, so the more of them the better.

At least two charities are on the case. The Woodland Trust organises tree planting, including acres of new woodland to commemorate the First World War, as does the Tree Council, which also runs National Tree Week as an annual autumn event (check websites for details). The National Trust is another great defender and planter of trees. A one-off On a less ambitious scale, you could consider cultivating your own tree. Just one would be a great asset to the garden whether deciduous or evergreen.

Think about whether you want one that produces lovely flowers in the spring, such as a magnolia, or has colourful foliage in the autumn, such as a maple. A fruit tree will provide you with a succulent harvest or perhaps you prefer a tree that’s purely decorative, such an ornamental cherry, paperbark maple or a weeping silver pear. Consider how tall your tree is likely to grow and how much it will spread. When deciding where to put it, and whether you want it to be a focal point in the garden, take into account how the shade cast will affect the house and the rest of the garden, and indeed your neighbour’s house and garden.

Soil type is critical. Different species of tree prefer different conditions, so don’t skimp on your research. Get the match wrong and your long-term beauty is likely to turn into a short-term flop. You can grow a small tree in a container, and thus control soil type, but position the container carefully because, once your tree starts growing, the pot may be difficult to move.

“Consider how tall your
tree is likely to grow and
how much it will spread”

Planting a Tree Autumn and winter are the recommended times to plant a tree, whether bare-rooted or container grown.

About a month beforehand, prepare the site by loosening the soil and digging in some organic matter or fertiliser. in a wide area (about 3m/10ft). When it comes to planting, leave the tree in a bucket of water for an hour, still in its pot, if that’s how it came.

Dig the hole as deep as the roots and about three times as wide. The base of the trunk should be a fraction above the soil when the hole is backfilled. Backfilling is a job for two. Ask someone to hold the tree upright and make sure soil fills in around the roots, leaving no air pockets – best done with your hands.

Firm the soil, not too hard. No need for more fertiliser, which may damage fragile roots, but do mulch with well-rotted compost, not right up to the stem. Support the sapling with a stake or two, secured with tree ties. Remember to loosen them as the tree grows.

The young tree will need plenty of watering in its first few years (even if it rains a lot!) and it’s best to keep the area around it clear of other plants. Mulching is good but, again, not right up to the trunk because if this is constantly damp, the bark may rot.


It can be worrying if you have a tree near the house, but usually it’s not a problem – as far away from the house as it’s tall is a good rule of thumb, and keep it neat and well pruned. It may be a good idea to have it surveyed from time to time, so that if any problems do arise, they can be nipped in the bud. Serious subsidence or structural damage to a building are rarely the fault of a tree, although it may add to the problem; and subsidence may be a risk on clay in prolonged dry weather, since the tree taking water from the soil may cause shrinkage.

Generally, tree roots don’t block drains – only if the drain is already damaged, allowing the roots a way in. A tree is the responsibility of the landowner, and so you may be liable for any damage caused by branches breaking off in the wind, for example. Check your insurance to make sure you’re covered, and for specific conditions that may apply to your property. And before doing anything drastic to a tree, check with the Local Authority to see whether it’s subject to a Tree Preservation Order (when various restrictions apply).







Easy homegrown tomatoes for British Tomato Week – no greenhouse required!

Seasonal Garden Ideas


Easy homegrown tomatoes for British Tomato Week – no greenhouse required!

I can still conjure up the sweetly acidic fragrance of ripening tomatoes in my Grandad’s rickety old greenhouse.

They were the sweetest most delicious tomatoes on the planet, though everything my Grandad grew or cooked tasted wonderful to me as an adoring granddaughter!

As this week heralds British Tomato Week, I thought I would attempt to grow my own. As I don’t own a greenhouse, this project from our book, Seasonal Garden Ideas, is perfect.

Fingers crossed, I can grow those sweet little morsels that Grandad excelled at.


Seasonal Garden Ideas.

Tiny Tomatoes in Terracotta

The taste of a sun-warmed tomato picked straight from the bush is leagues removed from anything you can buy in a shop.

Container-growing is easy and you are rewarded with a succession of tasty toms beyond compare.

  • Pot up young tomato plants in late spring or early summer when all danger from frost is past for cropping throughout the summer.
  • Plant in full sun.
  • Planting four to six pots shouldn’t take more than an hour.


What you need


  • Four to six (or more) young bush tomato plants – a wide range of different varieties is available from garden centres – including red, yellow and even purple ones. ‘Red Alert’, ‘Pixie’ and ‘Tiny Tim’ are all good small-fruited varieties with excellent flavour. ‘Roma’ is a plum-shaped variety.


  • Terracotta, plastic or ceramic pots with drainage holes in the bottom.
  • Soil-based potting compost.
  • Broken crocks for drainage.
  • Trowel.
  • Liquid tomato fertiliser.



1 Line the containers with broken crocks for drainage. Three-quarters fill with potting compost.

2 Plant the tomatoes, one to a pot, firming them in well and topping up with more compost.

3 Place the pots in a sunny, sheltered site – water well.

4 The tomato compost needs to be kept just moist at all times. Try to water regularly, little and often – an irregular regime could cause the tomatoes to split. Feed regularly with a liquid tomato fertiliser to ensure consistent development of the fruits.



As an alternative to pots, try raising tomatoes in growbags – the advantage here is that the bags come complete with just the right soil conditions. You can grow bush or cordon varieties in growbags. Cordons needing staking and you have to pinch out side shoots to restrict the plant to one main central stem.



For successful tomato growing in containers, make sure you buy an appropriate variety. Check that it is a bush variety AND check that it is suitable for outdoor cultivation – many are bred for growing in greenhouses and won’t thrive outside. Take care, too, to choose as sunny and warm a site as possible.



Bush tomato varieties don’t need any pinching out of side shoots. Pick the tomatoes as they ripen. If there are still some green tomatoes on the plants when frost seems likely, pick them all and bring them indoors to ripen.


Project taken from Seasonal Garden Ideas.


Seasonal Gardens Ideas

Seasonal Garden Ideas £3.99Seasonal Garden Ideas

A beautiful book packed full of easy little projects like this and is available for just £3.99 (plus P&P).

Seasonal Garden Ideas £3.99







I’m going to grow my own!

With the launch of our new gardening book – Seasonal Gardening Ideas – I have been totally inspired to ‘grow my own’ this year.

I am not going to try and be too ambitious, as I have never done it before but I am going to start with these fun and quirky Pot Herbs for the Kitchen. They look great and I will have a constant supply of my favourite herbs right next to the kitchen door.

Seasonal Garden Ideas features many more fabulous mini-projects for the whole year and easy enough for anyone to tackle. It’s on sale now just in time for the start of the gardening season

And when the herbs are established try this delicious recipe for Salmon with Minty Salsa taken from Clever Cooking for One or Two.

Win a copy of Clever Cooking for One or Two

Simply enter here before Tuesday 4 May – we have ten to give away. Good luck.

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