ACTIVEARTH soil conditioner – product review

I’m extremely careful with products I bring into my garden. I’m mindful of the creatures that share this patch of earth with me. There’s the obvious: birds, hedgehogs, hares, rabbits, frogs, toads, grass snakes and newts. Then there’s the less noticeable, all the insects and beetles which fascinate me and play their part in the food chain for all the other inhabitants here. So I don’t use chemicals. No fertilisers, weed killers or poisonous pest and disease sprays are used. And yet, the garden thrives and is beautiful and productive. Flowers and food crops do well.

It’s well known I’m an organic gardener, so I’m often asked to try out new products. Recently I had a delivery of Envii Activearth an organic ‘soil fertility activator.’ This contains nutrients and beneficial bacteria which helps to enrich poor soil and encourages worm activity. I care about my earthworms, so the product was ‘sold’ to me when the makers said it would benefit them.

I sprinkled the granules around in my veg plot, especially where I’m growing some beans which need good fertile conditions to do well.

The product smells pleasantly of chocolate. A small sachet goes a long way. I spread it at about 40g per square metre. I saw on the packet the product is also suitable for flower borders and lawns. It contains magnesium, calcium, hydrogen and potassium.

I was pleased to see the packaging can be composted and doesn’t have to go into landfill. Mine went into my green compost bin.

Here’s a peaceful stroll around my garden. Aren’t the birds loud this spring, I can’t ever remember so much birdsong. Or perhaps I have just always been too busy to stop and properly listen. If you love cow parsley you’ll enjoy my woodland walk at the moment. The paths are lined with gorgeous lacy white flowers. I’m planting white foxgloves amongst them just now for next spring’s display.

There’s a patch of wild garlic and three-cornered leek too. I’ve tried making soup with the garlic. Very useful when there’s little in the cupboards at the moment. I’m still not getting out and about, keeping safe and busy at home. I’m resisting attempts to call me back into the world for work. I’m quite happy mooching here in the potting shed. It’s so peaceful here.

This is the view from the potting shed. A favourite layered viburnum. Possibly Viburnum plicatum Mariesii. There were wild violets all around the base. They are still there, hiding under the stinging nettles. I’m working on reducing some of the nettles and adding wild flowers this summer.

We planted these foxgloves, Pam’s Choice, last summer. They brighten up a shady patch round the back of the pond. They stand up to high winds, which is just as well as we’ve had gales gusting 42 knots (says my husband – who is a sailor).

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s ramble around the garden. What’s looking good in your gardens today, and what plans have you for new plantings this summer?

Disclaimer: I didn’t pay for my sample product, but in common with most other bloggers, I only accept samples for review if there’s no payment given, and I can freely give my honest opinion.

Links : https://www.envii.co.uk/shop/activearth/

Blagdon Pond-In-A-Box. Review and prize draw

The sight of goldfish takes me back to my early 20s when I travelled several times to China. I was lucky to get the chance to visit many gardens, while working for a newspaper. The Leicester Mercury was invited to send a representative to the army base of the Leicestershire Regiment, stationed at Stanley Fort in Hong Kong. Luckily, the editor chose me. And while there, I flew back and forth all over China, including to Shanghai and Guilin to view the gardens. It was the experience of a lifetime, something I’ll never forget. Some of the gardens had huge ceramic bowls of water, filled with goldfish. I’ve always wanted a goldfish pool, to remind me of those fabulous care-free days of travel. Here at bramble garden, we have a large horseshoe pond with a stone and gravel beach. But it is mainly for wildlife and it’s away from the main house, in the paddock. I thought it would be lovely to have a pond right by the back door, under the kitchen window.

I’d heard of the pond-in-a-box concept, and recently, Blagdon asked if I would like to try one of their ‘Affinity’ ponds. This has been a wonderful project to work on during the covid lockdown. It’s given us something lovely to work on together. And the calming sound of water is very welcome. We haven’t finished our project. There’s no fish or pond plants available at the moment. But I thought I would share this with you now, especially as Blagdon have offered a smaller ‘ Affinity corner pond’ as a prize.

So here’s what arrives in the post:

It’s hard to believe that everything for the pond arrives in one box! The word ‘Tardis’ springs to mind.

There does seem to be an overwhelming number of parts to start with. But if you can put together a piece of furniture from IKEA, you can manage to make a pond. The instructions are clear, and after the initial panic, sorting all the parts into little piles and working methodically through the assembly leaflet, it’s possible to make the pond in just a few hours. We didn’t have any difficulty once we settled down to follow the step-by-step guide.

We first created a framework. We did this in the lounge in front of the fire. It might be much easier to work out on the patio. And a lot less overheated! Luckily we were able to turn it sideways and get it out of the doorway, which we hadn’t thought about when we started!

The side panels slide into the frame. I’d say this is easier with two pairs of hands. But you would manage, if you were on your own. A feature of the pond is the ‘porthole’ insets. Children will love being able to view the fish through the sides.

Here it is taking shape.

When it is all put together, there’s a liner that fits inside. Then it is just a case of carefully dropping in the pond pump. There’s lots of fountain and /or waterfall options. We started off with a sort of mushroom and played around with it until I found the gentle burble effect I was after.

There’s an LED spotlight that comes on automatically at dusk. And the Blagdon Inpond filters the water and keeps it clean. You can find out more about it on the website.

Here’s what it looks like at night. I must admit, sitting next to it at dusk, watching the fountain and hearing the splash of water is very soothing, especially in these troubled, stressful times.

Like any new feature, it can stand out and look quite stark at first. But I ‘dressed’ the sides of the pond with acers, ferns, hostas, grasses and rosemary plants. It blended in with the patio furniture then, and didn’t look so harsh. This is no criticism of the product, except to say that it is very new and fresh, and therefore stands out against ‘old’ paving and walls. Foliage definitely softens the hard edges. Pond plants would also help. There are planting pockets included in the package.

Luckily, I’ve got a few large potted grasses, which match the woven panels perfectly. I must admit, we forgot to remove the protective film from the portholes. The view is much clearer now!

I’m delighted with my pond-in-a-box. It’s been a fun project to focus on during a difficult time, and I’ve got all the pleasure of choosing fish and new pond plants to come. And finally I’ll have something that reminds me of those interesting times trekking all around China!

For the chance to win an ‘Affinity View’ corner pond, similar to mine, but with three woven front panels with viewing port holes, please leave a comment in the box below, right at the bottom of the page. A winner will be randomly selected by Blagdon. No purchase is necessary, and the usual rules apply. There’s no cash alternative and Blagdon’s decision is final.

Disclosure: I have not paid for my pond, or been paid to write about it. Views are my own and I’m free to comment as I wish.

Update: Two pond skaters, a water beetle and a water boatman have moved in! Within one day of setting it up. And a blackbird has decided it is a perfect place for a dip, balanced in the planting baskets at the side.

Links. Read all about Blagdon here: https://www.blagdonwatergardening.co.uk/Products/Ponds/Affinity-Pools-Complete-Kits

Available from all good aquatic retailers and also online.

Hozelock Pure Bokashi Composter on Trial- and one to give away- Saturday 21 March 2020

During these stressful and uncertain times, I swing between trying to keep things normal, and sitting pondering the dire straits we are in.

I’ve asked all my contacts in the gardening world to supply prizes for readers of this blog. I am determined to keep our spirits up! I’m very grateful everyone has so far responded with overwhelming generosity, and there will be a steady stream of little gifts to give away.

Today’s prize is a Hozelock bokashi home composter. I’ve never tried one of these before, but it seems a great idea. We will perhaps all be trying to grow at least some food this spring and summer. The best way to feed our crops is with home-made compost. Not everyone has space for a large compost bin. This one can sit in the kitchen, porch, garage or garden shed.

Compost is made by adding bran to food waste and peelings every day. The lid is tight fitting and there’s no smells from the composter.

The lid reminds me of those Tupperware containers you used to be able to buy. It’s tight- fitting, but easy to get on and off.

Inside the composter there’s some bran, a scoop and and container to catch the liquid feed that comes from the tap.

There’s a leaflet giving comprehensive instructions. The bottom of the bucket has a colander type filter to stop waste dropping down into the liquid feed collection area.

There’s a reservoir at the base of the bin to collect the liquid.

There’s a tap at the base of the composter. Liquid feed is rich in nutrients. It can be diluted down 1 to 10 with water and used to feed tomatoes, salads and vegetables. And it’s free. That’s the beauty of composting, you are using your waste peelings and food and turning it into something useful for the garden.

All is explained in the leaflet contained in the box. Resulting compost is apparently called ‘digestate.’ How it is made is magical indeed, and I am constantly amazed by nature. The resulting compost is very high value and good for the garden.

I would use the liquid feed for my orange trees, which are starting to produce this summer’s crop in the greenhouse. Just in time for orange cakes and marmalade.

Please leave a comment below if you would like to be entered in the prize draw for a bokashi composter. Hozelock will choose a winner, randomly selected. Usual rules apply, there’s no cash alternative. Prizes may vary from the ones shown. Sorry it’s for UK entries only due to postage costs. Good luck everyone.

I realise composting might not be uppermost in everyone’s minds just now, but we have to keep going. Gardening is certainly keeping me sane at the moment when there seems to be everything to worry about. Please let me know what you are growing, and what methods you are using to keep motivated!

Lots of love, karen x

Hozelock Tuffhoze – on Test at Bramble Garden

Prize Draw for readers.

*update: Mary Thomas has won the prize draw. Thank you everyone for leaving a comment.

Having been sent a new Hozelock hosepipe to try out, I discovered there’s a limit to my artistic talents. I just couldn’t think of any fancy ways to photograph said hosepipe! So here it is, piled on my garden bench. Even the cat is looking quizzically at me.

Anyway, my trial went much better than my picture-taking. I can confirm that the new Tuffhoze is a wonder. It’s lightweight and doesn’t twist, kink or trip you up.

As you can see, my old hosepipe has a leak, which means you get sprayed up the back every time you switch it on. It also almost causes a hernia when you need to manoeuvre it. It’s heavy and cumbersome, and wastes precious water.

Whereas the Tuffhoze is light enough to be carried on one arm. And here I am – arm outstretched, holding the hosepipe. I don’t think they will give me a job in their promotional department, but I’m trying very hard to make a hosepipe exciting!

As you can see from the box, the new hosepipe is a hybrid combining the best of two types of hose technologies; traditional pvc and textile. With a good 30 year guarantee, it should be hard wearing and long lasting.

I was delighted to be asked to try out the new hose and give it 10 out of 10 for being easy to use and light weight. I am always looking for ways to make gardening easier, and this addition to the garden will be a boon next summer.

I used the hosepipe to give my plant pots a clean, as there’s not much watering needed at this time of the year. All my spare plant pots are going to Dobbies garden centres where a new recycling scheme has just been launched. All plastic pots of any size and colour, and also trays are being accepted – but not polystyrene containers. Dobbies say the plant pots will be turned into pellets which will then be recycled into new plastic items. They say the pots will not end up in landfill. There are 34 garden centres in the UK and all are taking part in the recycling scheme. They just ask that the pots have been given a quick wash first, as too much soil will hamper the process.

So to sum up, the main plus points for Tuffhoze, for us gardeners, are:

* Easy to move about and lightweight

* Doesn’t kink

*UV resistant and hardwearing

* Good quality, leak free fittings

*Easy to clean

*Coils up neatly, making it easy to store. Can be wound on to a cart, but mine went back in the box.

*Comes with a jet nozzle with variable sprays.

*Has a tap converter, with two types of thread.

Fresh water is a luxury, and so, all the water I used to clean the plant pots was saved and will be used to water the poly tunnel over the winter. I didn’t need much as the powerful sprayer washed the pots really well.

Please leave a comment below if you would like to have your name put into a prize draw. The prize draw ends on Sunday 8th December.

Hozelock are running the competition and a name will be randomly selected. All the usual rules apply, there’s no cash alternative and Hozelock’s decision is final. I’m not sure what size hose they will be sending out, to be honest. It will either be 15m or 25m. Probably after Christmas now. Good luck!

Please help me spread the word about bramblegarden.com by sharing this post with a friend, a neighbour or via any social media platform you like. Thank you.

Winners….

Many thanks for reading my book and product reviews. Here are the names of recent winners:

An Orchard Odyssey by Naomi Slade : won by 30 Days of Wild Parenting, Joshua Johnson.

Clip garden gloves: won by Wilma Wilson

Dancing with Bees by Brigit Strawbridge Howard won by Debi Holland.

Incognito insect sprays and sun cream collection won by Suella.

The Good Bee Book, won by Florasforum.

Links: Orchard Odyssey review: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/09/27/an-orchard-odyssey-book-review-and-prize-draw/

Clip Gloves: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/09/15/clip-glove-on-trial/

Dancing with Bees https://bramblegarden.com/2019/08/04/dancing-with-bees-a-journey-back-to-nature/

Incognito https://bramblegarden.com/?s=Incognito+

Good Bee Book https://bramblegarden.com/?s=Good+bee+book

Thanks again for reading and taking part. New Books to Follow: Wilding by Stephen Rutt. We Made a Meadow, Yvette Verner. The Light in the Dark by Horatio Clare. There’s also new watering hosepipes from Hozelock and a biomix plant feed maker. Are there any new products/ books you would recommend?

Products on Trial- Bloomin’ Amazing Soil Enricher

As we are in August now, it might seem odd starting with a photo taken on the 5th March. There’s scented spring bulbs in pots, and root trainers contain broad beans. Summer days full of flowers, fruit and veg are months away.

But I’ve been carrying out a six month trial of new soil improver, Bloomin’ Amazing. So I needed to re-wind back to spring, where it all started. I sowed broad bean De Monica on February 25th, but half were eaten by mice. I re-sowed the root trainers March 1st, and you can just see they sprouted by March 5th.

On March 25th I weeded the plot and spread the soil improver. I have 10 beds, 1.3m wide by 3m long, with little slab paths between. It’s a no-dig garden following the system of growing made famous by Charles Dowding. No-dig means no heavy double digging over the winter. Basically, after harvesting crops, you just add a few inches of compost and plant through. Not digging the soil means weed seeds are not brought to the surface to germinate. And soil creatures such as worms and black beetles are not damaged. Worms are left in peace to aerate the soil, and beetles eat the slugs.

Bloomin’ Amazing is a by-product of a renewable energy business, following from a joint venture between the Duchy of Cornwall and three farmers. It’s made from farm crops, maize and rye.

I found it easy to handle. It’s fairly light, I didn’t have any difficulty manoeuvring the bag, and the product is dry and easy to spread.

I set out my broad beans in two rows along the bed, and then drew the soil improver around them as a mulch.

The plants thrived and grew strongly. The mulch seemed to deter slugs. I didn’t use any other slug killers or deterrents and the plants were hardly touched. I realise this might be partly down to the weather. It was a cold spring and few slugs were about initially.

I started off with really good, healthy plants using the Haxnicks root trainers. Although they are plastic, I will carefully wash and re-use them. They are strong enough to last for years. I must admit, I ordered them before we all became aware of the problems with plastic.

I didn’t have time to weed or work on this bed again until July 12th when these photos were taken. I’m really delighted with the weed -control element of the mulch, and it must have fed the beans because they are the best I’ve ever had. No other fertilisers were used on this bed.

We’ve been eating broad beans for weeks, and I’ve filled the freezer too so there will be a little taste of summer in the middle of winter.

In amongst the beans I grew Lady Christl and Charlotte potatoes. I didn’t have time to earth them up, just relying on the mulch to keep in the moisture and exclude the light. And again, none of the potatoes were munched by slugs. Usually a few have holes in them.

Links : Blooming Amazing and supplier info: https://www.bloominamazing.com/

De Monica broad beans: Mr Fothergill’s : https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Vegetable-Seeds/Broad-Bean-De-Monica-Seeds.html#.XUmuNmfTWfA

Charlotte potatoes: https://www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk/charlotte-seed-potatoes-pid1890.html

Lady Christl potatoes : https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Potatoes/Early-Seed-Potatoes/Potato-Extra-Early-Lady-Christl.html#.XUmvL2fTWfA

Charles Dowding no dig courses: http://www.charlesdowding.co.uk/courses/

Six on Saturday – a walk around my garden- 3rd August 2019

Short of time, I usually post photos of my garden at dusk in a last-minute dash about the place. Today, I got up early at 6am. And, surprisingly, the back fields are as misty as an October morning. We are having some really strange weather conditions this year.

I opened up the summerhouse in the hope of a nice day. The weather report says it’s going to be 23C.

Things I can hear at this time in the morning: Cows in the field opposite. They line up along the hedge to see what I’m doing. Snorting, sniffing and generally jostling for space, they are noisy and rather nosy neighbours.

I like to walk the perimeter of the plot twice a day, at dawn and dusk. We’ve made a kind of avenue of trees accidentally. We just happened to place the cherry, maple and ash trees wide enough apart to drive a lawn mower between. It makes a lovely calm leafy track, and the view out across the field changes daily. This path is good for watching the owls. They can’t see us, but we can see them.

On the other side of the trees, there’s a small paddock, an orchard and veg plot. This year, there’s more cut flowers than veg, although we are enjoying Charlotte Potatoes, and broad beans at the moment. I planted some French beans a fortnight ago and they will be cropping in another couple of weeks. The cut flowers have all been battered down by the rain. We had a whole month’s worth of rain in 36 hours. Floods are out in surrounding fields. Growing in a total jumble is Ammi, dahlias, rudbeckia, nicotiana, borage, verbascum, sweetpeas, cosmos and pot marigolds. There’s cabbage and garlic squeezed in there somewhere.

On the garden table there’s pots of the new Agapanthus Fireworks. My trial plants flowered from March and have now produced another three stems. I’m delighted with my plants and can highly recommend them. They are easy to grow and flower for a long period without needing anything more than watering.

My trial Aeonium plant is also looking really lovely. It’s a gorgeous colour and shape.

That’s my six photos for this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed your ramble around my garden- at an much earlier time than usual!

links :

Six on Saturday : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/08/03/six-on-saturday-03-08-2019/

Agapanthus Fireworks : I wrote about them here : https://bramblegarden.com/tag/tulips/

Agapanthus from Wyvale Nurseries : http://www.wyevalenurseries.co.uk/news/news/agapanthus-fireworks-wins-new-product-award-at-glee/

Aeonium Review here : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/04/12/review-of-garden-beauty-web-shop-and-prize-draw-for-aeonium-schwarzkopf/

Please feel free to share this blog post.

Prize draw winner – Hansford Coil Spring Chair

Congratulations to Julie Skelton who has won a Hansford Coil Spring garden chair. Hansford’s James Samuels drew the name (out of a hat) at the Gardeners’ World Live Show where the garden furniture company staged a display.

I wrote a review of the chair here : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/05/31/product-review-hansford-coil-spring-chair/

Thank you to James for helping to organise the prize draw and supplying the chair.

Mine is perfect for relaxing after a long day in the garden. I particularly like the rocking element of the design, which is quite soothing if you suffer from a bad back. I’ve been sitting in mine while listening to the birds, watching the fledglings find their way around the wild garden. It’s been a joy this week. All the nests are now empty and I can report that the blackbirds who made precarious nests just 3ft off the ground, under the house windows, have successfully fledged their chicks.

Today, mum came to visit, and we planted out the rest of the dahlias grown from cuttings. We planted anything we could find in the greenhouse. I like taking cuttings, but I’m slow to move plants on. They languish in little pots. Eventually, I take pity on them, and plant the whole pot in a clump. More or less thrown into the ground. It’s amazing how resilent plants are. Mum goes home with two posies we cut from the garden; one of white flowers, and the other sweet williams, pinks, carnations and sweet peas.

The chair is light enough to carry around the garden. When I’ve finished working on the plot, I move it under a cascading New Dawn Rose. The evening scent is fabulous.

I never prune or spray this rose, it just looks after itself. Wonderful as the sun sets behind it and shines through delicate shell pink petals.

A lovely place to sit at the end of the day.

Links : https://hansfordfurniture.com/

Julie Skelton : https://www.julieskelton.com/category/garden/

Product Review – Hansford Coil Spring Chair

*Please leave a comment at the end of this review to be entered in a prize draw to win a Hansford Coil Spring Chair.

Gardening is hard work. By this time of the year, I’m starting to groan at the size of the brambles and painful stinging nettles. It’s a job to keep up with the weeds. So I really look forward to flopping down on a comfortable chair at the end of a gardening session.

I jumped at the chance to try out a Hansford Coil Spring Chair. I didn’t pay for this product. As usual, words and opinions are my own. By now, you’ll know I always give my honest view on books, products, composts, seeds, and plants that come to the potting shed for review.

My chair arrived three days after ordering. Email updates were reassuring and meant I was at home when the box arrived.

The chair arrived well packaged and undamaged. It took five minutes to assemble the chair which comes in two parts. Tools, a spanner and some screws, were included. I meant to take photos of the before and after, but it was so quick to put together, I got carried away.

The chair is light enough to carry about the garden and so I tried it out in various locations, under the sweet chestnut tree, in the wild flower border and in the orchard. I didn’t find it too difficult to move about.

I love the way the chair blends in to the planting, and doesn’t dominate the scene. It looks lovely set amongst cow parsley and pink campion. Which is just as well as 90 percent of my garden is cow parsley at the moment.

I have a black painted greenhouse and summerhouse, so I chose a black chair. Alternative colours are duck egg blue and green.

The mesh seat is comfortable in hot weather, and very lovely with lavender and rosemary poking through. I will probably have to buy another one to go with my review chair, as really a pair is needed. You could add cushions, but the chair is comfortable enough without them to be honest.

Information sheets that come with the chair say the product is powder coated and there’s a one year warranty. The web site states the chair is suitable for indoors, conservatories, and outdoors.

James, who set up Hansford Furniture with a friend is offering one chair as a prize draw win to readers of this blog and my instagram page. Please leave a comment below to be included in the draw. No purchase is necessary and Hansford are running this competition. James will randomly select (pull a name out of a hat) on 13 June at Gardeners World Live, where they have a stand this year. Please also say if you do not wish to be entered in the prize draw, which is also fine. Sorry, uk entries only, and there’s no cash alternative. Hansford decisions are final.

Information from the website:

*look in the comments below, James has sent a link for 15% off the price, for readers of bramblegarden.com. This discount is a promotion being offered by Hansford Furniture and I am simply passing on the information.

Links: https://hansfordfurniture.com/

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/karengimson1/?hl=en

Twitter : https://mobile.twitter.com/kgimson?lang=en

Mastergrip Gloves on Trial.

Review and prize draw for gardening gloves.

I’m not keen on cold wet hands, so I always wear gloves in the garden. Town and Country sent me some new Mastergrip gloves to try out.

The problem with gloves is you’ve often got a choice of wearing gloves- or doing some gardening. They aren’t always very flexible. So I’m often taking them on and off- and losing them.

In the past, I’ve just worn kitchen rubber gloves, but they are not ideal. They get hot and uncomfortable, and are easily damaged. However, Mastergrip have the advantage of being flexible and breathable.

I used them for dead heading in the greenhouse.

Pricking out and transplanting the delicate cherry tomatoes.

Weeding around the pot marigolds. These are seedlings of last year’s Calendula Orange Fizz.

The gloves are flexible enough to pick out tiny weeds. I’m not using any chemicals, so trying to keep on top of weeds is important for me.

Usually, I have to take my gloves off to do fiddly jobs like tying in the sweet peas. Luckily these gloves were easy to wear and stayed on for the whole morning while I was working in the veg plot, cut flower patch and greenhouse.

The information that comes with them says the palm and fingers have a latex coating. The back of the gloves are made from a breathable material for comfort and flexibility.

Mastergrip gloves, for everyday tasks, costs £6.99. There’s also Mastergrip Pro for tougher tasks, A thermal version for winter warmth, and a Mastergrip Patterns version for lighter tasks. There’s also versions for children, which is great. I’m always keen to get youngsters involved in gardening. They don’t usually take much persuading.

Town and Country sent these gloves unconditionally for a trial. I didn’t pay for them. However, I’ve been delighted with them, and I’m happy to recommend them.

The company has offered one pair for a prize draw. Please leave a comment below to be included in the draw. No purchase is necessary; names will be randomly selected by the company, and their decision is final. There’s no cash alternative. The deadline is Sunday 12th May, 8pm. Please also say if you don’t want to be included in the draw as all comments are welcome here. Enjoy your weekend gardening.

Links : https://www.townandco.com/