• 04 December 2020

    The Christmas tree dilemma

    As a child, I loved decorating the tree and have carried on enjoying this pleasure as an adult. The tough part of the tradition comes after Christmas, when the poor tree has dropped its needles and spends weeks at the end of the garden before being chopped up and wrestled into a wheelie bin.

    A couple of years ago, I decided to spend our tree budget (about £40.00) on a British grown ‘living Christmas tree’ from a local nursery. The investment afforded us a 3ft pine that brought derision from my stepsons at its puny dimensions and height. In the back of my mind I thought, we’ll be back to a ‘single use’ one next year! It was duly transplanted from its pot into a much larger black trug with drainage holes. I used a bag of Lakeland Gold, left over from mulching season, to bed it in and the container was nearly as big as the tree!

    Sure enough, come January, it was abandoned at the end of the garden and forgotten. Occasionally I’d have a look at it as it gradually became lopsided pushed against the hedge. Around November I let it have more light and space and was surprised how quickly it expanded outwards. When it came to decorating with Christmas baubles, I realised it had put on at least a foot of growth over the year.

    Another year on and with better care throughout 2020, I’m pleased to report it’s doing rather well. Perhaps 5.0 foot in height and has a decent spread and healthy needles. The slightly acidic Lakeland Gold seems to have suited the tree and the open structure of Lakeland Gold has stopped it getting waterlogged.

    It’s good to share at Christmas so here is the ‘British grown living Christmas tree’ fully dressed and thriving in Dalefoot Compost’s Lakeland Gold. Happy Christmas to one and all!


  • 19 November 2020

    Remember to mulch!

    Talk about windy! Here in the Lake District we’ve had plenty of rain and wind in the last few weeks. It’s been a blustery introduction to the coming winter. The leaves have been spectacular this Autumn, but they have to come off sometime and sure enough after the recent winds they are now all over the lawn. They look well past their red and yellow glory days and are now brown and ragged, ready to rake.

    Gardening in November means three things to many of us; tidy up, plant tulip-bulbs and mulch. So far, I’ve stared out of the window at the rain and done none of them. But today, with a break in the rain and a warmer wind, the first job has been finished!

    It’s very satisfying to get the leaves raked and, in a pile, then they go into our compost heap. A couple of ginger biscuits and a cuppa later, I’m ready to mulch the fruit trees with Lakeland Gold. It’s the turn of the apples first. Before applying the mulch, it’s important to clear any weeds from around the base of each tree, so that the weeds don’t get all the benefit rather than the tree. Once this is done, generously spread a couple of inches around the base. The size of the tree will dictate amounts, but for young espaliers a bag of Lakeland Gold can be shared between two or three fruit trees.

    Once you’ve mulched, remember to take a break having completed a key November task, have a stretch, listen to the birds and enjoy the light as the early nights draw in.


  • 05 November 2020

    First frosts

    Caption: One of the compensations of the end of summer; the architectural form of cardoon and grasses

    This morning the water on the bird bath was frozen, not just a little bit, but with proper pieces of ice. There’s a moment when we accept summer really has finished and this morning I shrugged my shoulders and sighed, ‘well that’s it gone’.

    After a cup of tea, a digestive biscuit and a moment of sadness, my thoughts turned to the list of things that need doing before the days really shorten. Growing some autumn sown broad beans is something you read about in magazines and I’ve always wanted to try. So this year I’ve bought a packet of Acquadulce broad beans ready to sow in November that will go in a raised bed once the old courgette plants are cleared.

    In addition to the beans, Kale is invaluable for spring eating and I’ve have been planting out some heirloom varieties that I grew from seed earlier in the season. Try ‘The Real Seed Company’ who have old varieties available like Asparagus Kale and Southerland Kale. These can be grown as perennials apparently which seems incredible, but I’m giving them a go. My plants are looking good and strong to date and I’m excited to see how they’ll come on in March.

    So all in all, there’s plenty to get on with and that’s before planting the 250 tulip bulbs ‘accidentally’ purchased via the internet and catalogues. The retreat indoors may have started but there’s still lots to keep us gardening.


  • 21 October 2020

    Let's get ready to Crumble!

    Forgive the title but needs must in difficult times. Yes, it’s apple day! What with Bonfire night cancelled and apple bobbing practically illegal, we are left with home comforts. So let’s go big this year. If ever we need comfort food as winter approaches surely it’s this year.

    I suppose apple pie should be included as comfort food too. The thing is, pastry can be tricky whereas who can’t make crumble? It’s the fail-safe of comfort eating, especially if custard is involved. Of course, there are alternatives to custard; yogurt or oat cream both go well. That’s one of the joys of this dish, it lends itself to dairy lovers and the lacto-avoidant equally.

    Even the topping can be made from oats and nuts and oil with no need for butter. It truly is a pudd-for-all.

    If you’re lucky enough to grow a few apples, what a blessing it is to turn them into heart warming fare. We have an old Bramley tree in the garden and it has found new vigour over the past few years, having had a prune and good mulch with Lakeland Gold. Our hens enjoy pecking at the windfall apples that bruise whilst I nip in to seize the best of the crop.

    So get the peeler out and pan on and let’s celebrate this most British of fruits with bowls full of crumble.


  • 01 October 2020

    Bulbs, glorious bulbs!

    Oliver Twist famously says, ‘can I have some more?’. Well, the same thing can be said about bulbs! Like laying down stores of food in the autumn for the cold days ahead, bulbs are a way of storing colour to brighten the drab days of February and March.

    Amid all the current uncertainty, I’ve been poring over the bulb catalogues and taking comfort in this familiar activity. I have already gone overboard with my ordering, not wanting to miss out on a particular snowdrop or Dutch crocus or rare narcissi. To avoid disappointment with any ‘no-shows’ in spring, I have learnt at my cost to use a decent compost to put these precious bulbs in.

    This is where Dalefoot Composts excels, our Bulb Compost is perfectly formulated to feed the bulbs once they get going and provide the right drainage, so you get the best results. Indeed, our compost readies the bulbs for the following season, providing feed into the second year. This means you can expect another spring of glorious blooms (as recently independently trialled and reported that our compost was the only one to provide the same number of blooms the following year – all others halved). 

    So, get stuck into the catalogues and maybe try something new with your free bag. I’ve never tried dwarf iris and am going to give them a go this year, but then I just love some of the more extravagant parrot tulips and there’s a tiny narcissi called ‘Minnow’ that smells nice and a white crocus called ‘snow bunting’…

    … ‘can I have some more?’


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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

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