Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


It’s such a wonderful time of year for getting into the garden. I’ve actually managed to mow the lawn – I’m afraid that I didn’t use a scythe. I’ve also been pruning the apples trees – and getting rid of the ivy that’s wrapping itself around them and planting vegetables.

Home-grown food is a real treat. Apart from an abundance of apples, which come regardless as to how much attention I give them, the rest of my produce was a little thin last year. Only enough tomatoes for an odd sweet mouthful. Cabbages, cauliflowers and purple sprouting that withered on their storks. And squashes that never materialised. Although I did have success with my globe artichokes.

I realised that what was needed was nutrients. The farmer next door gave me a whole heap of cow manure, which has now been dug in and planted with seed potatoes. My compost from food waste doesn’t look ready for spreading, so I went to B&Q to see if I could get some nice crumbly stuff for planting the other vegetable seeds.

I was rather disappointed to see that they were still selling products containing peat, albeit with a message saying that the peat had come from sustainable sources. I still don’t think it’s a good thing. Monty Don’s comment about peat just about sums it up “Digging it up is like ripping out ancient hedgerows just to make sawdust”. B&Q didn’t stock compost made by the council from household food and garden waste, so I didn’t buy it from them.

Another problem I have is weeds. One patch has been completely over-taken by nettles, dockleaves and buttercups. The gardener who came to help with some digging suggested that I spray it with Roundup. I’m afraid not – my garden is organic. Neither was I very enthusiastic about the recommendation to use slug pellets – I’ve got a jar of broken egg shells I’m going to try out to deter these pests. Or maybe I’ll go slug hunting at dusk.

Rabbits too like to eat my vegetables. Luckily there are two fearsome rabbit predators around – my cat, who likes to leave their remains around the house, and the farmer next door who shoots them and gives them to me for the pot.

This year, I’m hopeful there will be an abundance of vegetables, so my artichokes won’t be the only treat.

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  1. Hi Julia, why not try sheet-mulching that weed patch – knock em back with a scythe then stick a thick layer of newspaper (you can use cardboard, but it breaks down quicker) then build your compost on top of that.

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