• 09 September 2019

    The year of the Tomato

    Caption: Pauline Pears' Lizzano Tomatoes
    Caption: Pumpkin Beth's Tomatoes
    Caption: Pannier tumblers - Terry Marshall

    2019 has been the Year of the Tomato here at Dalefoot Composts. We launched our no-feed Wool Compost for Tomatoes at Chelsea in May and have been amazed at the uptake in the market. Now is the time to report back as it’s also Organic September: Organic September is a month-long campaign run by The Soil Association designed to encourage more people to try organic as a way to promote and educate people about organic food & farming practices.


    The feedback to our Wool Compost for Tomatoes has been overwhelmingly positive. The most common theme has come from growers who have been happy to save themselves the bother of buying and using additional feed:


    ‘I love your new Tomato Compost…My tomatoes are thriving’ See picture of Lizzano Tomatoes, July 2019. Pauline Pears.
    She adds, ‘I love the fact that I don't have to feed them – one of my least favourite jobs’. Pauline is the author of The Organic Book of Compost.


    In a similar vein, horticultural blogger, Beth Otway has grown cherry tomatoes this year. Her plants put on lots of healthy growth and have set plenty of fruit. They have been slower to ripen this year due to sowing seed slightly later than normal and lower light levels for a few weeks in July and August.


    Beth says, ‘I’ve attached some photographs I’ve taken of the Tomato Honeycomb plants that I’ve grown in Dalefoot Tomato Compost. I am looking forward to enjoying the fruits as they ripen over the coming weeks.’


    Beth adds, ‘I am a passionate advocate for going peat free. I’ve always been a peat free gardener, but I’ve not always managed to find good quality peat free compost. To search for good quality peat free products, I run peat free Compost Trials every year. Dalefoot Composts have been the top performing compost brand, in all of my trials to date.'


    Thanks Beth! It’s dedicated growers like you who have inspired so many gardeners to go peat-free with your excellent results. You can follow Beth’s trials here.


    If you fancy growing heart-shaped Tomatoes next year then try Rienhards Purple Heart. Master Tomato Grower, Terry Marshall has had stunning results with this variety.


    Terry is also author of Tomatoes; The Inside Story, he repeatedly astounds us at Dalefoot Composts with his reliable and plentiful tomatoes. For those of us at beginners' level, he would recommend trying a bush variety like Tumbler. The photo opposite shows two Tumbler plants growing in our Tomato Compost used pannier-style over a post. As you can see, there’s plentiful fruit and no need to pinch out makes Tumbler ideal for novices. It’s so simple as the compost contains all the food you need, so just add water!


    Terry sends us pictures taken on his ‘old-school’ camera so we’ve scanned this one in to share with you.


    We’d like to make a photo gallery of tomatoes you’ve grown in our Tomato Compost this year, please email us your pictures to lizzi@dalefootcompost.co.uk.

    Juliet, Dalefoot Composts. 2019

  • 22 August 2019

    A Tulip Adventure

    September is the month for planning which bulbs are going to add colour to your garden next Spring. Remember bulbs need 14 weeks of cold temperatures to ensure a good root system develops, giving you full Spring blooms. For more advice, visit the RHS website for their top tips.


    Earlier this year, our Laura and her husband Luke, cycled 368 miles from Cumbria to Amsterdam on a tandem to admire The Netherlands' famously beautiful, colourful and fragrant flower-bulb fields. Here's her story...


    Ever since planting my first bulbs and discovering the joy of growing Tulips, I’ve really wanted to visit the Netherlands at tulip time. They are world famous for their tulip, daffodil and hyacinth fields and we could think of nothing better than a cycling holiday around the miles and miles of tulip fields!

    Straight off the ferry, we cycled the 17 miles through gorgeous national parkland to the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens. The park boasts 32 hectares of gardens which showcase 800 different varieties of tulips. Making up the showcase gardens are 7 million bulbs from 500 different flower growers showcasing the best of the Netherlands floriculture sector.

    For us, the Keukenhof Gardens were the highlight of our entire Netherlands trip! Although an incredibly popular and busy attraction, the sheer size of the gardens mean that everyone is accommodated and can appreciate the tulip in all its glory.

    Stands where you can make your own fresh flower crowns are dotted through different installations and exhibits which celebrate tulips, hyacinths and daffodils. I urge you to visit the Keukenhof gardens at least once in your lifetime at tulip time. The photos will not do it justice!



  • Here at Dalefoot Composts HQ, we’re starting to get excited at the sight of our ripening tomatoes in the polytunnel and outside at our allotments! This year they are all grown in our new ‘no need to feed’ Wool Compost for Tomatoes and they are thriving.

    We’re imagining-up all the best tomato recipes that we can cook that will really showcase these fresh, juicy and succulent tomatoes…

    Shona wants to cook with her heritage tomatoes - tomato, mozzarella and basil bruschettas drizzled with the good olive oil and balsamic vinegar …..

    Lizzi can’t wait to make a zingy and fresh tomato salsa with onion, chillies, lime and a good helping of fresh coriander….

    Pauline is keeping it classic and slicing the very best of her salad tomatoes with black pepper and olive oil and leaving them to marinate for as long as she can stand….

    Robin is going to slice up his beefsteak tomatoes and add them into his local Cumbrian beef burgers with mustard mayo….

    Alison always enjoys her tomatoes whizzed up into a fresh tomato and basil soup with good dose of garlic and olive oil….

    Laura is dreaming up a special Pasta Puttanesca recipe with slow roasted cherry tomatoes, black olives, capers and anchovies with a glug of red wine…..

    Jane is making Gazpacho…. with those tomatoes that actually make it into the kitchen – yum yum!


    If you’re struggling to ripen your tomatoes into red ones, we suggest popping them next to a bunch of bananas in the fruit bowl and this will help them to ripen up more quickly. Remember that green tomatoes are still edible so if you still have a glut of green tomatoes – one of our favourite things to make is ‘green tomato chutney’ or ‘curried green tomatoes’.


    What will you do with yours?...

  • As temperatures rise and wildlife take to the shade, garden plants can often get covered in greenfly. It can be frustrating as your flowers and vegetables (which are finally repaying all your hard work) get ruined and makes it all too tempting to reach for the spray. However, is it possible to manage those bugs using natural predators in the garden?

    Recently, I’ve read that wasps are big eaters when it comes to bugs, this is good news and has pricked my otherwise indifferent attitude to wasps. Then there’s Lady birds who are the most quoted when it comes to loving the green-goop but do they warrant their reputation? Well it turns out that ladybirds can eat up to 5000 greenflies in their life-time. They are so effective that it is possible to buy Ladybird larvae online and so desirable they have their own bughouse product-lines! How do the wasps compare? There doesn’t seem to be as much information re their capabilities compared to Ladybirds but they definitely do consume aphids. Hoverflies get the next best press after Ladybirds with claims that they can eat around 150 greenflies in their (short) life-times.

    In the bird world, Blue Tits are voracious greenfly eaters and are often seen scouring roses to pick them off. Apparently, Sparrows don’t eat greenfly themselves but will feed them to their chicks therefore keeping numbers down. Yet another reason to love the cheeky Sparrow who already does the job of eating loads of flies. Just remember to supply these hard-workers with plenty of water, especially in hot weather.

    Overall, the message from the RHS website and greengardener.co.uk is that it is indeed possible to manage these bugs naturally. By encouraging more birds and insects into our gardens we create habitats that can more easily cope with spikes in greenfly numbers. Dalefoot Composts fits into this ‘natural’ ethos as we provide Soil Association accredited products that are chemical free. They’re perfect for the environmentally conscious gardener who want to grow organically, avoiding sprays and powders. We’re totally and always have been peat-free which means that gardeners grow quality produce without compromising peat-land habitats which in turn provide important environments for wildlife. In fact, we professionally restore degraded peat-bogs across the U.K.

    Going back to the original question of Spots versus stripes? It’s clearly spots all the way. They are champion of champions when it comes to the volume consumption of green-goop. So much so, I’m considering committing to some bug-house real estate for next year.

  • Caption: RHS Tatton Park
    Caption: Let's go fly a kite garden
    Caption: The top bowl shows gooseberries grown with Double Strength Wool Compost

    Last week was RHS Tatton Park flower show – a show bursting in colour and imagination from magnificent floral displays, rainbows of Dahlias, gardens for bees and bugs, creations from local schools, hands-on floral workshops and a bug inspection station. It was fantastic to see the presence of Dalefoot throughout the show, here are our highlights:

    Our first stop was the ‘Let’s go fly a kite’ garden, designed to embody the transformative effect that engaging with outdoor activity can have on children with disabilities. Designers Jane Bingham (The Cheshire Garden) and Penny Hearn (Planting with Penny) picked up the well-deserved award for ‘best construction in show’ for their symbolic garden. Top-dressed with our Lakeland Gold for the perfect finish, the garden was filled with a variety of plants and colour from Agapanthus, Borage, Geranium, Mentha, Organum and Sedum - symbolising Love, Courage, Determination, Precious moments, Happiness and Tranquillity - to name a few, representing the journey taken by children who have benefitted from Children Today’s work.

    In the Dig In tent we discovered Hilary of the Northern Fruit group, who has been conducting a 5 year long independent trial on enhancing soft fruit production. In 2014, 4 plots were prepared with the following treatments:
    1. soil as on site
    2. mycorrhizal fungi
    3. wool bracken compost
    4. Fertilizer

    It was clear to see which treatment had performed the best...Our Double strength Wool Compost! Not only was the yield twice that of the others, the fruit was much bigger, greener and sweeter than the rest. See more of their trial here.


    The Bug Hub and theatre was a hive of activity – literally! Set next to a live bee hive it was a place for the whole family to get close to all kinds of creepy crawlies found amongst our garden plants. The hive was managed by professional apiarists who ‘smoked’ the bees each day to keep them calm and explained how to look after the hive.

    Our Wool Compost was used in Pennard Plant’s vegetable garden who sell heirloom seeds and plants. We got the chance to attend their talk on companion planting, which is all about planting the right plants in the right place to encourage natural predators and control weeds and disease so that you can grow organically. Chris spoke of various types of Marigolds – extremely fragrant to mask smell of carrots deterring the ever-hungry carrot fly or used in the polytunnel to deter greenfly.
    Did you know mint is a natural repellant of ants and rodents? Or that Nasturtiums planted near roses will deter black/green fly? Parsley and basil put amongst vegetables will encourage the health of your plants and suppress weeds. There was so much to learn from the likes of Chris, who dedicate their time and energy to growing healthy plants in balance with nature, truly inspiring.

    Lastly, we’d like to say congratulations to Westdale Nurseries, specialists in the cultivation of bougainvillea’s, who picked up another Silver Gilt award and also Chrysanthemums Direct for their impressive display of the stages of growing chrysanthemums, voted RHS Master Grower, Tatton Park.

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© Barker and Bland Ltd t/a Dalefoot Composts 2014 - 2019. All rights reserved.
Barker and Bland is a limited company registered in England and Wales. Registered office: Dalefoot Farm, Heltondale, Nr Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 2QL. Registered number: 8312959

This project is supported by the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) for which Defra is the Managing Authority, part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas.

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