Planting bulbs and life after pests: October tips for balcony and urban gardeners

The Telegraph

26 OCTOBER 2019

Alice Vincent in her balcony garden

Been a bit of a damp squib, October. Seemingly relentless rain marking a premature end to many of late summer’s offerings, among them my white window box cosmos, which started the month off quite blowsy and bright and is now something of a straggle; I’ll pull it out soon enough, to make room for something else.

Among these downpours, there have been other small upsets on the balcony; namely, vine weevil. It was not my first experience of the notoriously container-prone pest, but arguably the most devastating: half a dozen once-prideful heucheras and tiarellas savaged from the roots up. 

Vine weevil are pernicious beasts, the kind of pest that casts a pall just by mentioning its name. I may have…


Gardening: Seven design tips to make your tulips in garden pots stand out in a crowd

26th October 2019
Tulipa ‘Queen of Night’

Even if you only have room for one pot in the smallest space, plant some tulips in it to make your garden spring to life, says Hannah Stephenson.

It’s almost time to plant your tulips to give you a flush of flowers in spring.

But don’t despair if you only have a small space because tulips can work in pots too, whether you want a clutch of scorching reds or sizzling yellows, or a more subtle display of whites or soft pinks.

So, how do you make the most out of tulips in pots?

1. Opt for shorter stemmed types in smaller pots

The varieties which don’t grow too tall look best and tend to stay upright in windy conditions. Also, make sure you keep the size of the tulips in proportion to the size of your pot.

2. For a wow factor, go for a block colour

It’s very much up to personal taste, but I find that in a small space, one colour goes a long way. I prefer one cultivar in a pot, but you can become more adventurous with bigger containers. As a rule, the bigger the container, the more variety of colour you can have.

Some people prefer two contrasting colours such as red and yellow in a pot – their clashing tones will bring a dull area alive.

3. Choose types which flower at the same time

If you are planting different types of tulips together as a combination of colour and form, make sure they bloom at the same time. So, two types from the same group, such as Parrot, Triumph, or Single Late, should flower simultaneously.

If you want your pot to have a longer flowering period so that your tulips bloom at different times, bear in mind that the earlier flowering candidate is likely to have wilted leaves and faded petals by the time the later variety is in flower, which can spoil the overall look.

4. Select contrasting blooms to lengthen interest period

If you want earlier flowers add crocuses to the outer edge of the pot, which will provide late winter colour before the tulip leaves cover them up when the crocuses are dying down. Other good foils for tulips include muscari and Anemone blanda.

Tall, sleek lily-flowering tulips are complemented with low-growing foliage plants such as dwarf hebes, thyme and helichrysum. Blue forget-me-nots go well with early double tulips in virtually any colour.

5. Plant them in groups

Tulips need to be planted in groups of at least three, and in larger containers more, for the best visual impact. You can plant them closer together in containers than you would in beds and borders, but don’t let them touch. Plant several clumps of the same varieties through your border for maximum impact.

5. Don’t let the bulbs rot

When planting, line the bottom of your pot with crocks or pebbles and free-draining soil mixed with a handful of grit. Make sure your container is at least 30cm (12in) deep so that the bulbs can be planted at a reasonable depth, as well as making room for the roots. Place your pot on feet to avoid the bulbs getting waterlogged from below.

6. Keep them sheltered in the depths of winter

Tulips like a period of dormancy and they don’t want to be saturated, so move them to a sheltered location in the worst winter weather, moving them into their flowering position in spring. Make sure they don’t completely dry out, though, as this can lead to stunted growth.

7. Choose tried and tested varieties

Well-established favourites for pots include Tulipa ‘Ballerina’, a weather-resistant lily-flowered type with rich orange blooms, ‘Queen of Night’, which has tall, strong stems which carry purple-black flowers, or the compact variety ‘Peppermint’, whose closed red flowers open to reveal a white marking.

For shallow containers go for a dwarf or specie variety such as ‘Red Riding Hood’ or ‘Lady Jane’, which produces pencil-thin flowerbuds which open to delicate-looking flowers which are deep pink on the outside and white and yellow in the middle.

How To Grow Philodendron House Plants

By Matt Gibson

Philodendrons are a great house plant to grow even if you don’t know much about gardening and haven’t had much success growing things in the past. Philodendrons are often recommended to beginning gardeners or kid gardeners, as they are nearly impossible to kill off.

They are available in trailing/climbing types, meaning that if you provide a trellis or railway, that they will wrap around it for support. There are also stand alone, vertical philodendron species. In the outdoors, they are easy to care for because they basically tell their caretakers what they need in order to do well. If grown indoors, they adapt easily to any environment that you can throw at them.

Native to Central and South America, the philodendron was naturalized and brought to Europe and the US. Philodendron is a happy camper indoors all year round, but it is one of the few houseplants that also truly enjoy a little time in the shade outdoors when the weather permits. Unlike most houseplants, philodendron doesn’t experience too much shock when it is brought outdoors for small period of time. This brief vacation also gives you a chance to water the plant and clean the leaves without making a mess inside.

The name philodendron comes from the Greek words for love and tree, and though it is much smaller than the typical tree, it does improve the mood and provide feelings of warmth and joy to those around it. Philodendron is often found in offices and waiting rooms due to its easy maintenance requirements and its ability to clean and purify the air in the area that it inhabits. If you are looking for a decorative plant for your indoor space, chances are, one of the 500 plus varieties of philodendron will be perfectly suited for the occasion.


Among the 500 plus varieties of philodendron that are available, there are two different types: climbing and upright. The climbing varieties are the most common. They have dark-green, heart-shaped leaves, and can be urged to grow along windows, up poles or a trellis support, down a container or shelf, or along just about anything you can think of. The upright varieties usually have larger leaves and a more compact, slow-growing style, though they can become quite large if they are not trimmed and kept from reaching out too far.

A comprehensive list of philodendron varieties would be far too much information to compile or to sift through when looking for the right choice for your indoor decor. So, we narrowed it down to a list of some of the more popular choices, some of our favorite varieties, and a handful of rare standouts that deserve a spot on the list. One of the following selections is sure to be the perfect fit for your indoor plant collection:


How to make a vertical strawberry tube planter

April 28, 2012

Seeing as this is around the time you should be planting your strawbs I thought it timely to write about this vertical strawberry planter I made a few months back. Instead of writing about it straight away I thought it would be better to test it first so have waited until it was established, yielding fruit and can advise on where I would do things differently.

After I built this, I found a version for sale at a major garden retailer so you can just go and buy one if you can’t be bothered making it but they’re pretty easy to make.

You will need:

  • An electric drill with a hole cutting bit that will cut a 5 – 7cm hole
  • A 2 or 3mm drillbit for the watering pipe
  • A length of PVC downpipe 100mm or 150mm diameter. (The length will = the height of the unit)
  • End cap for the downpipe
  • A narrower diameter (15mm or thereabouts) length of downpipe for watering. Make it about 8 – 10cm longer than the downpipe. If you have a pressurised irrigation system, you can use a length of soak hose instead
  • A cork
  • A knife
  • Duct tape
  • A length of geotextile (or hessian would do) for wrapping the watering pipe
  • Twine for tying the fabric to the watering tube
  • Good fertile soil (test it if you can – strawbs prefer it slightly acidic)
  • 1 litre or so of coarse gravel
  • Strawberry plants (I used a mixture of different varieties)
  • A few companion plants (nasturtiums or marigolds)
  • Large tub or box (to stand unit in whilst filling)
  • Fixing collar or ties

Parts and tools for the strawberry tower. Chickens not necessary!


* Vegetables you can Grow in Pots – Top 10

The list below includes some of the easiest vegetables you can grow in pots but remember there are many more options depending on your preference. Our list is ideal for a beginner gardener and represents a good range of the basics, for more information on growing vegetables in containers please feel free to contact us.

Most vegetables can be successfully grown in pots or other growing containers provided you use a nutrient rich compost or soil mix. If you are growing vegetables in smaller pots make sure you use compost rather than soil because soil will dry out too quickly and your plants will struggle.

Compost mix in plant potFor larger pots you can use a soil mix with approx 40% good quality loamy soil and 60% compost. As a rule of thumb I would recommend compost for plants grown in pots for one season and soil based mixes for more permanent planting like woody herbs or fruit bushes.

We recommend using a good multipurpose compost as a base with the addition of a slow release organic fertilizer like our ‘Seafeed’ seaweed and poultry manure pellets. ‘Rockdust’ ground volcasnic basalt is also a helpful addition in soil-less compost mixes as it provides the mineral content usually provided by the soil.

OK, here we go:

Please read the full article: Quickcrop

* How to change lives with school vegetable gardens.


Photo credit:Trish Travel Food


Siem Reap in Cambodia is the tourist gateway to the temples at Angkor Wat. When I flew there from Vietnam in March I headed two hours further north to Samrong and visited something completely different – school vegetable gardens! I travelled with a friend to visit three schools that are involved in the Green Shoots Foundation program for developing Agricultural Skills in Public Schools (ASPUS).

Green Shoots Foundation is a small charity based in London and this visit was arranged by Muneezay Jaffrey the Operations Manager there. On arrival in Samrong we were met by Ratana Oeurn and the team at the Community-based Integrated Development Organisation (CIDO). CIDO is the local partner of the foundation and delivers the programs incorporating sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural skills within the school curriculum.

I am grateful to both Muneezay and Ratana for the time and care they took in arranging this visit and the willingness they had to answer my questions about the program. I would also like to thank the schools, teachers, and students who took the time to meet with us, talk with us and to show us and share with us the vocational vegetable gardens they have developed.

To date, in Odar Meanchey province, there are 43 schools with vegetable gardens, 48 teachers trained in sustainable gardening and 8,900 students trained in sustainable gardening.

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Bansay Reak Secondary School Vegetable Garden 3.jpg –

The School Vegetable Gardens

The three schools we visited were a mix of primary and secondary level and in all three schools, you could see the vegetable garden as you came into the school. I loved the ‘impression’ that having such an instantly visible garden gave to the school grounds. It was immediately clear that each garden was a dedicated and well-tended space and was integral to the school. 

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2nd Schools vegetable garden.jpg –

The children we met were enthusiastic about being a part of the vegetable garden project and we felt welcome as guests. The school children had helped to build each of the gardens and they had been designed such that there was plenty of space to walk around and between the rows of crops, and to be able to easily tend to and harvest the crops from either side of a row.

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As part of the Green Shoots Foundation’s Food Agriculture & Social Entrepreneurship program ASPUS, as its initial focus specifically addresses a lack of education and skills in rural areas and promotes sustainable farming techniques. I was, therefore, interested to see and learn more about which environmental, sustainable and regenerative agricultural practices were being used in the vegetable gardens and how these worked or were adapted to the Cambodian climate. The staff I chatted to at the schools were happy to point out these practices and to share more information about them.

Below are photographs of some of the practices being used in the vegetable gardens.