With eyes twitching, hands fidgeting, and minds racing, gardeners are all too aware of the new growing season just around the corner.
Garden bloggers, podcasters and Instagrammers are buzzing with conversation. They summarise last year’s growing season with a checklist of what worked, and what didn’t. They explore new seed varieties while holding tightly onto old favourites. On Twitter, shout-outs for snaps of perennial colour have Twitter followers leaping for their ‘like’ buttons, while letterboxes across the land are under daily siege from seed catalogues and gardening supplements.
It feels like we’re all on our horticultural pilgrimage, seeking the ‘Holy Grail’ of gardening techniques. As the days tick by, we’re edging closer to the moment we can finally get our hands back into the soil again. A new year, a new growing season approaches. This is a great time to be a gardener!
I too have been gathering resources and information. I love digging, but I also want to try the ‘no dig’ approach. I’m a sucker for a new tool, but it doesn’t get better than a trusty, old tool with a worn, wooden handle. Can I continue my usual gardening practices, or is it time to reduce my use of plastic on the allotment? It’s such a useful, cheap material; from plant pots to seed labels, it covers all my gardening needs, yet it no longer sits as comfortably with my ethics. Plastic has quickly become the planet’s number one enemy, but are things shifting? Microbeads have recently been banned, and the amount of plastic packaging in supermarkets is finally being discussed.
As a gardener, I’m trying to be more environmentally aware. Not just in my gardening practices, but through the items I buy, as well as the retailers I choose to purchase my gardening products from. I realise this can, at times, be tough for gardeners. Cost is one concern, and convenience is another. However, there are garden companies out there that can make the switch easier. One such business, is Dalefoot Composts.
A sheep farm based in The Lake District, they have kept traditional farming alive for over two hundred years. Farm owners are husband and wife, Simon (fifth generation farmer), and Jane (Environmental Scientist). Having spent eight years experimenting, they have created a compost made of 100% natural ingredients. Peat free, and with wool from their sheep livestock, and bracken taken from their surrounding land, this is a company that has environmental integrity at its heart. They have also done extensive work to maintain and restore natural peat land.
2017 was a huge year for them. As well as selling over 50,000 bags of compost, they appeared at many garden shows and festivals, and have enjoyed a growing presence in national garden centres and nurseries, as well as a television appearance on BBC2’s ‘Back to the Land with Kate Humble’.
But combining wool with bracken – is this just a novelty, or is there some real science behind their compost?
If you’ve ever gotten a woolly jumper wet, then you’ll know how well wool retains water. Wool also has a slow release of nitrogen. If you combine it with bracken, and its high level of potassium and minerals, then you’ve got the basics for a highly desirable compost.
This time last year, I was fortunate enough to receive a complementary crate of their compost. From seed compost, to ericaceous compost, to compost specially made for vegetables, I quickly set about putting it all to good use.
After opening a bag, the first thing that struck me was the feel of the product. Firm yet smooth, and with none of the stones or twigs that occasionally find their way into bags of compost, the texture was fine, with a rich and dark colour. It was clearly packed with goodness.
I have three blueberry bushes, two of which I repotted with Dalefoot ericaceous compost. Last summer, those two bushes produced larger and sweeter fruit. Even the foliage of these two plants looked healthier, compared to the blueberry plant I repotted with a different ericaceous brand.
The vegetable compost I gave over to the squashes and pumpkins. Being a greedy bunch, they lap up water and nutrients as their fruit swell, so I thought they’d be the perfect test subjects. It is now January, and our house is still full of gourds. You can’t turn a corner, without a squash looking back at you. I’ve never had so many, and each variety has had a wonderful taste. With Soph currently taking part in Veganuary, the gourds have become her best friends.
Dalefoot Composts prove that you can work with the environment, not against it, and the results can be far superior. As customers, we need to keep an open mind and make an effort to find more ethical alternatives. There will be a few tough choices to make in the coming years, but if we can embrace change, the future of our gardens and allotments will start to look a lot rosier, particularly if someone manages to invent an ethical alternative to the plastic compost bag!