• One of my heroes

Charles Dowding is one of my gardening heroes. He is an advocate of the 'no-dig' method of growing veg that aims to learn from nature and cut down on unecessary labour. He creates the growing conditions plants need to thrive by applying compost and manure on the surface, covering with a thick layer of mulch & then letting nature work its magic and especially our best friends the common garden worm. His website is an Aladdin's cave of gardening treasure with videos, advice and links to his online courses. He also writes excellent books.

If you want to create a veg plot from scratch:
How to create a new vegetable garden

If you are just starting:
Organic Gardening: The Natural No-Dig Way

Hardening off your seedlings

Well done if you have already started your veg seeds indoors. Hopefully you can enjoy your own fresh produce a few weeks early but beware! If you transplant your seedlings straight from a warm conservatory or greenhouse into the soil, they will not be happy and could die. You need to harden them off: during the day put them outside so they can gradually acclimatise to the great outdoors. Bring them into a cool room at night.

Don't water your plants drinking water

Tap water is precious and requires energy to purify and transport it to your home. Harvesting rainwater is a good way of being a zero-carbon gardener and will save you money if you have a meter. It is especially important if you have ericaceous plants - blueberries, camellias, magnolias - which hate the hard tapwater in this area.

Some forecasts are predicting a baking hot beginning to the summer so it might be a good time to install a water butt. If you're a serious gardener, especially if you are growing veg, think about one or even two IBCs - the 1000 litre containers used to transport liquids in bulk. If you are concerned about having two large containers next to your house… connect a Rainpod to your diverter and you will be able to move your water butts where you need them most - next to your veg beds, so you don't have to carry your watering can quite so far. If you are worried about the industrial appearance of IBCs… the aluminium frame is perfect as a trellis for edibles such as kiwi, grape of climbing French beans.


Dave Richards

Dave studied geography and social science at Uni and then trained as a teacher. He has been involved in community growing projects since the late 70s - initially with city farms in Bristol and for the past 20 years at Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC). He has been inspired by the RISC roof garden as it has matured into an oasis of edible calm in the town centre and was the inspiration for RISC's Food4families project that has created over 25 school and community gardens all over Reading.

Written on day date Month 2021.

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