Off to Warwickshire at the weekend to visit the Edible Garden Show, making a welcome return to its original home at Stoneleigh Park after an ill-advised foray into London for a year or two. That means the smallholding section is back (yay!) with proper pigs and a few chickens, some sheep and a few goats. Right up my street: when you start to grow your own food, assuming you’re not vegetarian, it’s not long before you start eyeing up a few livestock too.
Anyway: despite getting very distracted by piggies (my latest obsession: more later) I was really here for the kitchen gardening. Specifically, to see what’s new: this is a great show for tapping into the zeitgeist as anyone who has anything that’s a bit innovative to do with kitchen gardening shows up.
So here are a few things which caught my eye this year:
Sometimes the simple ideas are the best. Take an ordinary plastic drinks bottle: fill with birdseed: replace the lid with this handy little screw-on tray: turn it upside down and hey presto: you have a bird feeder.
About as luxury-end as the bird feeder was thrifty: but I did like the idea of a garden sauna. I had a sauna once, in Finland: it involved jumping into the Baltic Sea afterwards, which I could have done without, but the sauna bit was pretty fabulous and made you feel like you were playing a starring role in a Scandi-noir movie. This one retails for a shade short of £13k but that includes absolutely everything except the towels, and lets you choose from a range of finishes.
Now never mind all this fantasy gardening: let’s get down to the nitty gritty. I have for some time been agonising about the amount of plastic in my garden: in fact so much so that I’m on a bit of a crusade about it (I may shortly start banging on about it at more length on this very blog). So I was intrigued to see that soil blocks are now available in a more manageable size. Previously they’ve been whopping great tools requiring you to stand up to use them: for sedentary gardeners there are now these fantastic little gizmos. They make blocks up to 10cm across: no plastic module trays, no root disturbance. I will be giving these a try…
Whenever you see something and find yourself thinking, ‘Why hasn’t someone thought of this before?’ you know you’re onto a good thing. This is the Garden Tower: it might look like a big plastic planter: but in fact it’s a wormery. The central pipe is perforated: you fill it with kitchen waste and worms, and the outer pockets with compost to plant up as normal. Then the worms – as well as making worm poo compost and worm wee plant feed as they would in a conventional wormery – travel back and forth between compost and kitchen waste, pulling the nutrient-rich compost with them to feed your plants. Fantastic idea.
Now these caught my eye partly because they were circular – and I’m a sucker for a non-square bed – but also because there were people picking them up and walking off with them tucked under their arm. Not what you’d expect to do with a raised bed. But then most raised beds are made from heavy-duty scaffold boards and the like (part of the reason for the predilection for squares and rectangles): whereas Grow Rings are made from lightweight, flexible polypropylene. I wouldn’t like to vouch for their durability, but the man assured me they’ll last for five years. And you can stack them: put down a large (4ft diameter) one, fill with compost, then pop a smaller 55cm diameter one on top for a double-height tower effect with a much deeper root run in the centre. You can put them up in seconds, on a patio, a patch of grass, pretty much anywhere you want some growing space, really. Perfect for lazy gardeners – or just those who aren’t that good at woodwork.