Companion Planting – easier than you think!

Companion planting is the growing of different plant species close together, for expected benefits in productivity – and it’s easier than you think.

It is hardly surprising that companion planting can seem to be a rather mysterious art. Many books and articles throw around statements such as “carrots love onions!” with little explanation or evidence, and in fact the expected benefits of companion planting come in many different ways.


Our guest blog this month on Companion Planting is from Naomi Distill, a very knowledgeable gardener and the inspiration behind Incredible Edible St Albans, a project of FoodSmiles St Albans and a past winner of Environmental Champion in the St Albans Mayor’s Pride Awards.


Every garden is an eco-system – with more organisms than we know – affecting it…

Benefits of Companion Planting

  • Pest control 
    • using plants which repel pests by smell
    • using plants which attract predatory insects to eat pests
    • by trap-cropping (using alternative plants as decoys to attract pests away from the main crop)
    • by disrupting the odds of a pest successfully landing on its desired host plant 
  • Increased pollination (using plants that attract extra pollinators)
  • Maximising use of space or time (e.g. catch-cropping by planting fast-growing extra crop between a slower-growing main crop, or growing plants with different root depths together to make the most of root space)
  • Maximising efficiency by grouping plants with similar needs
  • Exploitation of another plant’s physical properties (e.g. one that shades, supports or protects another, or one that provides groundcover to reduce weeds and evaporation)
  • Effects from chemical secretions released into the soil by roots
  • Adding nutrition to the garden (i.e. nitrogen-fixing plants or those with very deep roots can accumulate nutrition and make it available to other plants).

Companion planting is an inexact science

Though beginners often get started with companion planting using a long list of ‘rules’ that simply pair plants together – or forbid pairing them – these rules fail to take into account the complex relationships found in a garden, and can make veg-plot planning feel like doing an impossible jigsaw! But companion planting is an extremely inexact science.

Every garden is an ecosystem, with more organisms than we know affecting it: feeding from it, fighting for survival in it, and putting inputs into it. Soil life below the surface is even more complex, and the unique mineral make-up of your soil has its effects too, and then there’s the microclimate of your garden to consider. No two plots are the same – and no two years are the same.

Learning the Hard Way: Mistakes and Myths

The first year this trial of companion planting worked a dream; not an aphid in sight and the lettuces seemed better than ever. The second year however, there were soon aphids all over the lettuce – and the coriander too! Its repellent power could obviously not be relied upon.

As I looked round the allotment at all the other plants nearby, I quickly realised there were, of course, other factors in play when you tried companion planting. Perhaps something else nearby attracted the aphids? Or a shortage of other food plants elsewhere brought them? Maybe those lettuces were particularly attractive? Could there have been higher numbers of the pest this year? The possibilities were endless.

“Little did I know that horseradish plants are thugs, with deep roots, and very hard to remove!’

Horseradish and Potatoes – yes or no?

Another memorable lesson of trying out companion planting was realising how foolish it had been to plant horseradish throughout my potato patch. I had read that horseradish repels potato-munching eelworms and wireworms. Little did I know then that horseradish plants are thugs, with deep roots, and very hard to remove! How anyone can make that pairing work is a mystery to me!

Onions with carrots? Sage with brassica?

Two pairings often quoted in companion planting books are onions with carrots (to repel carrot fly), and sage with brassicas (to repel white butterflies). However, in truth it seems that you need far more of the repellent plant than the intended crop in order for the rules to work well. Companion planting here means several rows of onions per row of carrots, and many sage plants per brassica plant. It might just work out if you don’t eat very many carrots, but who can use that much sage?

Green Beans and nitrogen

Another common companion planting suggestion is that beans should be grown close to crops that would benefit from the extra nitrogen fixed by their roots, however this is not supported by science (see this article, or this). Though the bean roots may gather nitrogen early on in life, most of it is used by the plant for the formation of flowers, pods and seeds, and only a negligible amount remains or goes into the soil.

Cabbages with calendula

An Easier Method: Companion Planting- the four rules

So I’d like to propose a different approach to companion planting, focusing on biodiversity and natural design. This method means including as many useful plants in the garden as possible, in any layout. Our Incredible Edible gardens use this approach and I have used it in my allotment and garden for years, and there are only four rules:

1. Right plant, right place

Plant the sun-loving crops in the sunny spot, the shade-tolerant ones in the shade, the damp-loving ones in the wet corner. Keep the tall ones out of the worst of the wind, if possible. Under the trees in the Incredible Edible gardens we have adopted a forest gardening approach. We choose low-maintenance edibles that happily grow under trees in the wild.

2. Mix things up

Minimise traditional rows, and interplant with abandon! Add flowers and herbs to your veg patch and veggies to your flowerbeds. When a pest settles on a new plant, don’t let it find a whole tasty row all laid out and waiting! Make it harder for them. This intermingling approach makes crop rotation much less important, which is a help in any small plot where rotation can be tricky.

3. Common sense first!

Let common sense and your own observations rule. Use trial and error to find what works best in your own garden and your own microclimate. Think logically about the relationships between your plants, and the physical shade and shelter they provide. If you’re not sure how big a plant will get or how long it will live, look it up! But don’t overthink it. With gardening you always get another chance next year.

4. Maximise plant diversity

Employ plenty of great all-round companion plants to increase diversity: those listed below will enrich your garden, whatever plant you grow them next to. The more biodiverse your garden is, the more easily it will find a healthy natural balance. It will give you better crops, with fewer problems. Animal diversity helps too, so keep your garden free of pesticides, and welcome wildlife by providing plenty of habitat.

Eight best companion plants to use in your garden

Eight Best Companion Plants To Use In Your Garden

Edible Alliums

Garlic, chives and onions repel a variety of pests – including the four legged kind. They also attract pollinators with their flowers. Their roots accumulate antifungal sulphur in the topsoil which can benefit nearby plants. They are a great companion for virtually anything!

Calendula (pot marigold)

This is a brilliant plant for a veg plot, as it attracts a wide variety of insects including aphid-munching hoverflies. It is edible and medicinal, flowers from early till late and often overwinters (cut back the dead bits and it’ll often reshoot from near the ground). It is always happy among veggies and easily self-seeds to save you a job next year.

French marigold

Another powerhouse in the garden; repelling pests, attracting beneficial insects, and releasing secretions in the soil which keep nasty nematodes away.

Nasturtiums

As well as attracting pollinators, these are an excellent ‘trap’ crop, attracting blackfly and cabbage butterflies to lay their eggs away from your main crops. Once they’re infested though, don’t let the pests breed in your garden! It’s better to dispose of the infested parts right away.

Flowering herbs: mint, oregano, marjoram, thyme, dill, fennel, lovage, lavender, hyssop, camomile

Herbs are a worthy addition to your garden for their culinary benefits alone. But they also attract a huge variety of insects, many repel pestilence, and some (especially camomile and parsley) are said to improve the health and flavour of nearby plants in more subtle ways through the soil too. Note that lovage and fennel are larger plants than most here. Give each a good space to itself and note that they can get very tall. In fact, their height will attract insects from even further afield!

Comfrey or stinging nettles

Though you’ll want to give these a corner of the garden to themselves (there is no digging comfrey out once it’s in!) they can provide a really useful service in the garden by bringing extra nutrition up from the depths of the soil with their deep roots. Harvest this nutrition by cutting the leaves a few times a year and adding them to your compost heap, or scattering them on veg beds and leaving them to decompose. You can also leave them rotting in water to make a (smelly!) concentrated liquid plant feed. Comfrey attracts bees too, and stinging nettles are an important food plant for certain butterflies.

Clover

Experiments showed that growing clover under brassicas consistently reduced the success of cabbage moths looking for a host plant, thus bringing a protective effect. What’s more, the clover offers bee-attracting flowers, and anytime it gets too much you can dig areas of it into the soil (preferably in spring before flowering) for a nitrogen-boosting effect.

Nectar-rich annual flowers (e.g. sunflowers, borage, cosmos, cornflowers, zinnias, scabious, echium)

A few favourite annual flowers such as these will fill gaps in the garden and spread insect-attracting colour anywhere; your local pollinators and predators will thank you! Many will self-seed too (stop deadheading by late October to allow this) and give you a new round of flowers for free next year.

So put the rulebooks away, focus on increasing the diversity in your garden, and always let common sense rule!


Local Food Gardening Events: find out more

Come and grow with us! Volunteer at the Incredible Edible gardens on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Email Incredible Edible here to join the mailing list or find out more about Incredible Edible St Albans

See more about FoodSmiles here

Find out about Sustainable St Albans Open Food Garden summer programme

If you live in Sopwell ward, you can try some food gardening at the Grow Community Sopwell Community Garden

SustFest22 Gardening Events

During SustFest22 (15-31 May) there are loads of gardening events to look out for.  

The programme comes out on 14th April, on social media and the Sustainable St Albans website. Here are just a few events, to whet your appetite! 

  • Grow Community Sopwell Community Garden Open Day including Seed & Seedling Swap, 15th May, 10:30am-12:30pm
  • ‘Adopt a plant for your pollinators’ at Greenwood URC, May 17th and 19th,    2:30-3:30pm
  • Visit the CDAH Community Garden on Hixberry Lane, 19th May, drop in 10:30-2pm
  • ‘How to grow Asians herbs and spices’ with HAWA, also 19th May, 12-2pm, at the CDA community garden on Hixberry Lane
  • ‘Gods Green House’ plant sale and eco garden tour, at St Paul’s Church Blandford Road, 21 May, 10:30-12:30pm
  • ‘Come and Grow’ at Incredible Edibles, Russell Avenue, 22nd May 1-4pm
  • ‘How we built an eco garden for next to nothing’, at Marshalswick Baptist Free Church, 24th May, 2-3pm
  • FoodSmiles open day, Hammonds End Farm, 25th May, 1:30-4pm
  • Grand Opening of the George Street Canteen Wildlife Garden, 29 May, 11-3pm

Look after local trees, and they will look after you!

St Albans has numerous special places – in the parks or little walkways, overhung with native trees, or sentinels in our own roads. They provide familiarity and comfort.  Read on to find ways to look after local trees.


This blog, from founder members of Trees of St Albans and local tree wardens Anthony Helm and Amanda Yorwerth, celebrates the beauty, and vulnerability, of the trees which surround us, and how you can help. 


Celebrate trees!

Looking after trees is as much about care for ourselves - this blog celebrates trees and explores simple ways that you can help your local landscape.

We have grown up with them.

They act as touchstones: we want to explore more.

Woods; in fiction and in real life, are highy evocative places.


The loss of tree canopy matters

Sadly, many trees are under threat, and some might not be enjoyed by those who will succeed us.  The reasons are varied.  

Some, like cherry trees, were planted long ago and have come to the end of their natural life; others are succumbing to disease, like ash dieback, or pests.

  • Vehicles are in many places destroying the soil through which trees breath, move and feed
  • More are being lost because of building developments or the possibility of legal actions
  • Others are felled under the accusation of being ‘overgrown’ or ‘casting shade’

Trees offer ‘silent benefits’

All this matters not just because trees are beautiful.  More importantly they provide a myriad of unseen services: shelter from winds; cooling from increasingly harsh heat waves; filtration of harmful airborne particles; baffling sound from noisy roads; rejuvenation of soil; amelioration from devastating flooding; habitats for many species.  

If all this were not sufficient, trees absorb carbon dioxide (the principal greenhouse gas) – and provide oxygen – without which humans would suffocate.

Old trees need protection
To look after local trees, as a matter of the greatest priority, we must maintain and rebuild our local tree canopy. 

“The loss of a significant mature lime or 150-year-old plane tree in a city road will have an immediate aesthetic impact but also a serious, unfelt ecological impact.”

One mature tree is worth thousands of new plantings.

A major focus for everyone in St Albans District wanting to look after trees must be to work a lot harder to retain these silent friends; we should stand up and speak for our trees, with neighbours and our political representatives, at all levels.

New trees should be planted 

We have to renew as well, and pre-pandemic proposals gave the prospect that thousands of trees would be planted in the District.  Now organisations, families and many individuals look after local trees by actively planting, or are planning to plant, trees over the next year or so.  

The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative, and other projects aim at tackling climate change and improving the environment.  

St Albans District Council, Herts County Council, the Parishes, and many others, e.g. schools, are involved, with local people, especially children, keen to assist, in the significant plantings of very young trees.  Councillors, from their own budgets, are also planting single trees on highway verges and in green spaces.  And we are seeing that sustainability is inspiring the planting of community orchards in small pockets of land for local food.

If you are part of a group which manages pockets of land – a school, a church, a parish council – then why not plant a tree (or more!) as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy?

Despite all the above, there is a net loss of tree canopy in urban areas and each of us can do our own bit.  

We can all do our bit to look after trees! – planting in the garden


Those with gardens can:

  • Find a space for a fruit tree
  • Replace a fence with a hedge of native plants (especially at front of properties)
  • Gardening is about possibilities and change; nowadays the options for species selection are vast. See the RHS guides to trees, hedges, and flowering hedges.

We can also spend more time looking around our immediate locality; seeing which trees are damaged or diseased or need releasing from a choking tree-tie.  In the dryer months new trees will need watering.  Pop out and water the young trees near your house, or on your regular dog walk. 

We can all do our bit! – caring for street trees

We, as individuals, can do the detailed monitoring and undertake the small actions that councils can’t. 

Report major issues here – www.stalbans.gov.uk/trees-contact-us-or-report-problem.

Care for trees, and you care for yourself

It can create a spring in your step. But you already knew this….

Looking after our own patch (our borrowed landscape) is a pleasure.  It is not difficult or time consuming and can be built into normal activities.  It allows us to form our own connection with nature; release tensions; make us physically stronger and build creativity.  

Get more involved

To follow up and support local trees, why not become an SADC Tree Warden, join a Wilderhood Watch Group (wilderhoodwatch.org) and sign up to Trees of St Albans on Facebook?


SustFest22 – If you are in a local group and planning an action to support trees – why not do it as part of the 2022 St Albans Sustainability Festival? See more here.

Quick and Easy Ways to Eat More Plants

Let’s take a look at some easy, quick ways to cut back on the amount of meat we eat and switch to enjoying a more plant-based diet, as painlessly as possible.


This is Week 5 of our #CountdowntoCOP campaign, encouraging people to sign up for one or more of the 16 Count Us In steps.  We will have a guest blog each week until November’s UK-hosted COP, focusing on one of these 16 steps.

This week, Becky Alexander, local food writer and Herts Ad columnist, gives us simple steps to eat a more plant-based diet (and love it!).


We are a nation of animal lovers – dogs are family members, we put out seeds for the birds, and sign petitions to save pandas. But when it comes to the animals sold to be eaten, we seem, in the UK, to turn a blind eye. We like to think the chickens we eat roam happily under apple trees and our cows explore beautiful Scottish Highlands, but this is not the case for the vast majority of animals eaten in the UK. Industrial meat farming is very problematic.

Meat also contributes to climate change. Did you know that producing one joint of beef accounts for 85kg of carbon pollution – the same as flying from London to Paris?

“We like to think the chickens eat roam happily under apple trees…but this is not the case..”

I get the challenges: Life is busy. We all need to eat three meals a day. We need decent quality protein and a good range of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. What if the kids/partner don’t like vegetarian food? Or you love ham sandwiches? Yet we all need to find a way to eat more plants and less meat.

So, what’s the answer? I think a few, simple steps will help.

1. Eat plants at lunchtime

How about switching to veggie lunches? You can make that swap without impacting on evening meals (if that is a barrier to you). There are so many options – salads, soups, wraps, dips, things on toast, nut butters, falafel, hummus, black bean burritos… there are so many ways to get protein into your lunch without meat and fish. 

2. Start with 5 plant-based meal ideas

Some easy lunch options are: beans on toast; tomato and butterbean soup; scrambled tofu with pesto (for recipe see below); black beans mashed into wraps with tomato and pepper; roast vegetables with lentils. You only need 5 new lunch ideas and that’s midweek sorted! I really like the grilled tofu banh mi sold by Taste of Vietnam on Thursday lunchtimes.

 Banh Mi from Taste of Vietnam. Photo: Taste of Vietnam

3. Drop the meat and fish Mon-Thurs

How about saving your meat and fish cooking for the weekend, and eat vegetarian or vegan food Monday-Thursday? Keep the meals that matter to your family, like roast on a Sunday, fish on a Friday? Old-fashioned, perhaps, but affordable. No-one needs red meat every day, and imported beef is particularly bad environmentally.

4. Discover quick and convenient plant-based store cupboard staples

Tins/jars of cooked beluga lentils, juicy butterbeans, red chickpeas, creamy Borlotti beans… there is so much choice now. These are ready to eat so perfect for easy summer cooking. If you are aiming for a veggie meal rather than vegan, add grilled halloumi or scatter over your favourite crumbly cheese, add leaves, slices of pepper and radish and you have a meal fit for Instagram that is packed with flavour and protein. 

5. Be inspired by recipe books

Invest in a new cookery book if you need a couple of new ideas for evening meals. The Green Roasting Tin, Bosh!, and One Pot, Pan, Planet are great books for creative vegan and vegetarian meals. 

6. Choose plants when you’re out

When eating out, choose a plant-based option. Everywhere has great choice now and this is an easy way to try something new. Megan’s do a very nice Earth Bowl and Lussmanns do a great Chargrilled cauliflower with chimichurri. Turkish and Indian food lends itself to plant cooking with flavour. Wagamamma is brilliant for vegan options for choosy teens – but they do use a lot of imported products. Why not try Tabure’s signature Stuffed Courgette Flowers and their Fava Truffle Hummus? A chef really shows their talent when cooking with plants (cooking steaks is basic to them).

If you’ve been thinking about trying to eat more plants, it’s time to take that step. Buy just one thing different this week in your supermarket shop that will make one of your lunches plant-based –  perhaps a simple swap from tuna to baked beans on your baked potato, or a tin of black beans or cooked lentils on your salad instead of chicken. Better yet, why not make it some tofu and give my easy recipe a go. Enjoy!

Becky’s Quick and Easy Scrambled Tofu

100 g firm tofu

1 tsp pesto (green or red)

splash rapeseed oil

  1. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. 
  2. Add the tofu and break up using a wooden spoon. Add the pesto and stir to break up the tofu further and to mix the ingredients. Cook for 2-3 minutes until any liquid is reduced and serve on hot toast.

For more plant-based meal ideas and free recipes visit Becky’s website.

We’re in! – are you? Local residents Emily, Lizzie, Alastair, Kate, Caroline and Catherine are all taking action.

Join in with #CountdownToCOP today

It’s easy to join in with #CountdownToCOP. Environmental groups of St Albans District have come together to set up the St Albans Climate Action Network who are hosting their own special St Albans District Count Us In page. Simply visit the page, explore the 16 steps and pledge to take one step by choosing “Take a Step”. When you register, tick that you are part of the “St Albans Climate Network” to have your step counted on the St Albans page.

Join in today and use Becky’s inspiring advice to choose the “Eat More Plants” Step as your pledge.

You can track the carbon impact of your own actions. As more people join, we will all see our cumulative efforts across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages. 

We will have a blog every Sunday until the international climate talks in November, COP26. Each blog will focus on one of the 16 steps. Look out for next week’s blog on solar panels by Will Tucker.

We’re in – are you? make the changes that matter in the #Countdown To COP

We're in! - are you?  Local residents Emily, Lizzie, Alastair, Kate, Caroline and Catherine are all taking action.
We’re in! – are you? Local residents Emily, Lizzie, Alastair, Kate, Caroline and Catherine are all taking action.

#CountdownToCOP will show you how you can take steps in your life to make a big difference to our planet. Join us over the next 16 weeks as we encourage St Albans District to make the changes that matter and protect what you love.


It’s easy to join in with #CountdownToCOP. Visit the St Albans District Count Us In page. Simply visit the page, explore the 16 steps and pledge to take one step by choosing “Take a Step”. When you register, tick that you are part of the “St Albans Climate Network” to have your step counted on the St Albans page.


In November this year, the UK will host COP26, the international conference where countries will agree the next steps on tackling climate change.  Sustainable St Albans is linking with environmental groups and volunteers across the district to encourage ordinary residents like YOU to take your own steps too. It’s called #CountdownToCOP.


In the build up to the COP26 conference, we are encouraging people across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages to take your own steps to reduce your carbon pollution using the Count Us In framework.  These 16 steps have been selected based on what is most effective at reducing your personal carbon pollution, their power to influence leaders and their ability to involve everyone. 

Wearing clothes that will last or speaking up at work are just two of the 16 most effective things you can do to reduce carbon pollution and encourage others to do the same. These are both Count Us In steps. From now till November, in the #CountdownToCOP, we will feature one of these steps each week. We will share resources to help you take each step, and inspiration from others who have.  Watch out for our blogs and social media posts with more information each week.

The 16 highest impact steps, to cut your carbon and inspire others to do the same.

“Wearing clothes that will last or speaking up at work are two of the 16 most effective things you can do to reduce carbon pollution.”

Join in with #CountdownToCOP today

It’s easy to join in with #CountdownToCOP. Environmental groups of St Albans District have come together to set up the St Albans Climate Action Network who are hosting their own special St Albans District Count Us In page. Simply visit the page, explore the 16 steps and pledge to take one step by choosing “Take a Step”. When you register, tick that you are part of the “St Albans Climate Network” to have your step counted on the St Albans page.

You can choose whether to appear on the St Albans District Count Us In page with your full name, your first name or anonymously.

You can track the carbon impact of your own actions. As more people join, we will all see our cumulative efforts across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages. 


Which of the 16 highest impact steps will you commit to do?

Choose something you know is realistic, that you can do in the next few weeks:

  • Food
    • Cut food waste – Reduce the amount of food that is wasted or thrown away in your home.
    • Eat more plants – Reduce the amount of meat in your weekly diet.
    • Eat seasonal – Eat food produced at its natural time of the year.
  • Travel
    • Fly less – Reduce your plane travel to dramatically cut your carbon pollution.
    • Walk and cycle more – Travel by bike or foot wherever you can.
    • Drive Electric – Make your next car purchase an electric vehicle.
  • Home
    • Insulate Your Home – Install or enhance the loft insulation in your home.
    • Switch your energy – Move your home to a green energy supplier.
    • Get some solar – Install solar panels to generate energy for your home.
    • Dial it down – Turn down the heating in your home by a degree or more.
  • Lifestyle
    • Wear Clothes to last Buy fewer new clothes and wear them for longer.
    • Green your money – Choose financial institutions and funds that invest responsibly.
    • Repair and reuse – Repair your belongings rather than buying new.
  • Voice
    • Tell your politicians – Ask politicians to act or invest in infrastructure to support a step.
    • Speak up at work – Come together with colleagues to make change at a bigger scale.
    • Talk to friends – Start a conversation about Count Us In and encourage others to take a step.

“… all we need to do is pick a step, and give it a try.”


Sustainable St Albans will help you take your first step

For example, week one is all about “Talking to Friends” and you can find resources to help you here, including our free Climate Conversation pack.

The mission of Count Us In is to inspire one billion citizens to take a step.  Which step will you take? Explore the St Albans District Count Us In page now and take part in the #CountdownToCOP.

Fruit, Veg & Wildlife in a Smaller Garden

Our garden is not very big, and we have three different priorities for it: fruit and veg growing; wildlife; somewhere to sit and entertain. So, we’ve had to be creative with space.


To highlight 2021 Open Food Gardens summer programme this blog is about growing food at home by local gardeners, Nigel Harvey and Clare Hobba. They paint a picture of what food is possible to grow in a small garden when approached with a love of nature and a desire to #GrowYourOwn.  


Re-imagining the front garden #growyourown

For most people, a front garden is an area that we keep neat for the sake of others, but don’t get much benefit from. 

We use our front garden for growing fruit and veg

However, we use our front garden for growing fruit and veg at home.  Paths and low walls add structure, so it doesn’t look untidy. Bright flowers and shrubs grow round the edge and attract insects.    

Artichokes, gooseberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants and whitecurrants grow on one side; kale (curly, and black), beetroot, garlic and courgettes on the other. Not to mention dwarf versions of pear, apple and plum trees.  We kept a small cotoneaster tree which was in the garden before we arrived and it provides nectar for bees in summer and berries for redwing in winter.  All of that, just in the front!

“to save space we like anything that climbs upwards”

Gardening at the back

At the back, another patch yields kohl rabi, French beans, lettuce and chard.  In the little greenhouse, Nigel grows chilli and bell peppers, aubergines, cucumbers and three varieties of tomatoes, On the patio we also have physalis and cucamelons.  Patio pots also hold a great variety of culinary herbs.  

Vertical Growing

To save space, we like anything that climbs upwards and are experimenting with ivy gourd, tayberry and even a kiwi fruit vine. 

Watering, compost and fertilising

The plants are watered mostly from four large water butts which collect rain from the roof.  We make compost in a bin tucked behind the greenhouse and supplement it with llama poo from a local farm.

Gardening for nature

“the small pond attracts newts and frogs”

Insects are attracted by profusely flowering plants such as the hot-lips salvia. Bug and bee hotels offer them the chance to stay and to hibernate. Similarly, the small pond attracts newts and frogs. Nearby a pile of old wood and tiles gives them somewhere to over-winter.  All manner of birds arrive for the birdbath and squirrel-proofed feeders.  And we still have enough space for some seating from which to watch them!

Clare Hobba

Bug Hotel at the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust Wild Garden in St Albans

Want to know more?

How to Build a Bug Hotel

Pollinator Plants for insects

Recycled Wood for Garden Projects in St Albans

Vertical Veg Growing

Open Food Gardens Summer Programme 2021

Want to visit more food gardens?  Sustainable St Albans runs a summer programme of Open Food Gardens. It is like Open Gardens but with food growing too! These aren’t perfect show gardens, they are real gardens, owned and shared by real people, all of whom share a love of growing their own fruit and veg.  You can drop in for ten minutes or stay for two hours.  Find the dates of this year’s open gardens plus a range of videos on our website.

See the 2020 video tour of this garden below – but why not visit it on Sunday 20 June to see how it’s doing for this year – and talk to the gardeners yourself.

Open Food Gardens programme 2021