• 04 January 2021

    A snowdrop for everyone

    Galanthus ‘Trumps’, in Dalefoot Compost
    Caption: Galanthus ‘Trumps’, in Dalefoot Compost
    Snowdrops thriving in Dalefoot Composts.
    Caption: Snowdrops thriving in Dalefoot Composts.

    ‘Most gardeners will have a place for snowdrops and there must be a snowdrop for everyone…’
    …So say Margaret and David MacLennan who hold part of the National Collection for Galanthus (Snowdrops). They have more than 1500 different varieties of snowdrop at their nursery, including species and named varieties and encourage us all to share in this passion.

    Of course, January is the time for admiring snowdrops, rather than planting them. The first weeks of the New Year are perfect to get outside and either find a spot in your own garden that could accommodate some or get inspired to add some new varieties for next year.

    For those of you who read our blog last year about Margaret and David’s Snowdrop Collection, you’ll know they started trialing Dalefoot Composts in 2017 and have produced excellent results.

    Now, four years on, they’ve found that over time, Dalefoot has produced bigger bulbs and bigger, stronger and healthier plants compared to other composts. Not only that, when using Dalefoot they didn’t need to add any additional feed for the whole of the four years!

    So Dalefoot’s peat-free composts really do provide the perfect growing environment for snowdrops. If you’d like to start a collection of your own in your garden, the best time to plant is when they are freshly dug, either when the foliage is dying back in late spring or ‘in the green’ just after flowering. David and Margaret recommend using a mix of Wool Compost and Lakeland Gold. They say aim for a moist, well-drained planting pit with plenty of grit and incorporate a mix of Wool Compost and Lakeland Gold.

    They are now looking at using our products elsewhere in their garden. We’re just delighted to be contributing to their nationally significant collection of snowdrops.

  • ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way!’, by Sara Venn of Incredible Edible Bristol.

    Over this challenging year at Incredible Edible Bristol, we changed how we work to ensure the growing spaces we could access were as productive as possible. In the face of a food crisis not seen across the country since WW2, our core team of community gardeners set about growing as much food as possible and getting it to communities where food access had suddenly become more of a challenge than ever before.

    In our different gardens, we tailored the crops knowing that the communities they support have very different needs. In one space we know from working with the community that they love fresh runner beans, carrots and cabbages, broad beans in early summer, and peas for as much of the year as possible! Most of this food went to those who were shielding or was used in soup and was delivered to the vulnerable families and individuals in the area. We did this by co-ordinating with both the local community centre, who were doing collective shopping for those unable to do their own for whatever reason, and the local food bank.

    In other gardens we focused on getting food to individuals at risk of hunger and vulnerable families by collaborating with people who would prepare the vegetables and then deliver the produce, but to very different communities. Bristol has 91 languages and therefore 91 food cultures so we concentrated on a slightly more diverse harvest. Different squash, patty pans, spinach, oriental greens, chillies and garlic along with corn and kale were split between 5 organisations all cooking for people unable to get out or to access the foods they needed. Being able to offer this produce for free gave a boost to organisations already struggling to keep producing what they knew was needed for their communities.

    We are often asked about how we ensure food gets to the people who needed it, and we would always advise finding an organisation who provide hot meals to the community and give them the resources to do what they do!

    Our growing challenge was supported by Dalefoot who kindly provided us with some Wool Compost for Vegetables and Salads and some Lakeland Gold following the Garden Press event in March, which really supported us to mulch areas we had not used before and led to us ordering 2 tonnes of their vegetables and salad compost for what then became our main space! You can see some of the results.

    If you’d like to donate to Incredible Edible Bristol, there is a donation button on our home page ediblebristol.org.uk

    Or if you would prefer to support a national organisation or a charity local to your area, Sara suggests looking for your local Fareshare who will put you in touch with organisations who will welcome both food and cash!!

    Sara Venn Incredible Edible Bristol and Juliet Fossey, Staff Writer, Dalefoot Composts.

  • 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.



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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

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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