Garden Updates with Green Fingered George

Monday, 28 August, 2023

Welcome to my RocketGro blog, where I share my personal gardening tips and how I use RocketGro’s range of peat-free organic products to get the most out of my garden.

Hello green fingered friends, sadly, this will be my last blog post for RocketGro as I hang up my trowel (temporarily) and head up north to Uni. I’m studying Environmental Science at Stirling University (my insurance choice, I didn’t get the grades for Glasgow!). What does the course involve? Well, it’s all about finding solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems from climate change, pollution, and the loss of biodiversity to the sustainable provision of energy, food, and clean water. Studying an environmental course in Scotland, links everything I’m passionate about, so I’ve chosen well.

I’m wrapping up my final blog with a summary of how I’ve used RG products in my garden, starting with the Harvest of ’23 as we say goodbye to a very wet summer. We’re picking fresh fruit and veg on a daily basis. The harvest has been phenomenal this year, definitely the result of using a combination of RocketGro products in the growing season. Dad made a comment the other day about the soil health in the veg beds, being the best it’s ever been and that’s a combination of things really. Before putting the veg beds ‘to bed’ for the winter, we spread soil improver and our own organic home-made compost over them. That marriage has created really good quality soil and provided the right nutrients for healthy plant growth.

We grew lots of veg, herbs and flowers from seed, using seed & cutting compost. As the seedlings became healthy and strong, we planted them out using multipurpose or fruit & veg compost. Magic mulch locked in moisture, supressed weeds and gave the plants that extra boost. The garden looked incredible and after growing our own veg for over 10+ years, I’d say this year it’s the best it’s ever been.

Check out our harvest pictures; some things never made it to the kitchen – namely the peas & strawberries – they tasted divine. It was deffo the year of the spud in ‘23 – varieties: Casablanca, Vitabella, Charlotte, Pink Fir Apple and a purple type that I was given and don’t know the name of – mega harvest, it’s been spuds with everything!!
We’ve grown lots of herbs this year too, which was Mum’s request – coriander, rosemary, bay, tarragon, mint, oregano, thyme, sage to name a few.

Tomatoes grew really well in RocketGro’s tomato & veg planter in the greenhouse; the issue has been the sun, or rather the lack of sun to ripen them. So, we’ve picked any ripe ones on a daily basis, which is actually a great way to use them I suppose, rather than the massive glut you sometimes get when everything is ready at the same time. Tomatoes grown outside weren’t so lucky, plants were stripped literally overnight by hungry slugs! Parsnips, carrots and onions were also disappointing this year, they just never really got going; you can’t win ‘em all!

We moved a hydrangea from the front to the back garden earlier this year and replanted an azalea in the top garden using RocketGro’s tree & shrub compost, both of these have done really well in their new home. We also trialled the RocketGro beds & borders compost, growing amongst other plants nicotiana grandiflora, they are actually still growing strong all over the garden.

We’ve dabbled with most of the RG products, and I can firmly say they are all absolutely top notch. I’ve also shared the products with my gardening buddies, and they’ve reported it to be, ‘quality!’

Working with RocketGro has been an amazing opportunity, my first as a ‘influencer!’. I’ve learnt so much and met incredible people, especially RG director, Toby (over a pint!) & RG growers Kirsty (in person at Chelsea Flower Show) and Steph, virtually!
RocketGro strive to be the best and biggest peat-free compost supplier in the country, and you know what I don’t doubt they will achieve their ambitions. They have been a fantastic company to work with, they are fair and ethical in both their business and professional approach and it’s been a delight to be part of the journey. I’ll never forget the start they gave me in my professional career and for that I’ll always be grateful. Cheers to the RG team and good luck conquering the peat-free world!

George 😊

With the garden in full bloom, I thought I’d ‘focus on flowers’ for this month’s blog, in particular the plants in our dry garden.

We have some different varieties of lavender in a couple of places, the one in the dry garden grows like a giant crown. Its beautiful scent, wafts all over the garden when the sun comes out and it’s absolutely covered in bees.

Sun loving sedum is one of the hardiest plants; come late summer, early autumn it has these beautiful pink flowers, which the butterflies adore. Interestingly, the thicker leaves where they meet the stem retain water, making it a tough plant, surviving the foulest of weather.

One of the best wildflowers you can have is knapweed, it’s always full of bumblebees, you see it a lot out in the countryside. Having it in your garden is a surefire way of attracting pollinators.

Another favourite is teasel, what an architectural plant. The lilac-headed flowers are amazing for pollinators and once it’s flowered the seed heads are great for finches. Rainwater gathers in pools, where the leaves meet the stem, which is really cool to help the plant retain water. If you’ve got the space, get a teasel.

Grown from seed using RocketGro’s seed & cutting compost, borage is a bee and butterfly’s best friend. Similarly, the sunflowers (also grown from seed) are coming into their own and towering over most other plants.

We have 2 types of Crocosmia, George Davison with its small, delicate yellow flowers (great if you haven’t got a lot of space) and its big brother, Lucifer, with its bold, dramatic over-hanging red flowers – one of my all-time favourite plants and great for hoverflies, bees and butterflies.

A trial this year in a newly established seed bed has seen mainly corn cockle pop up and thrive. A tall and slender plant with delicate pinky/purple flowers, it looks really pretty.

We’ve continued to harvest fruit & veg daily; the peas & beans came to an end; they have been great this year. We picked 1kg of blackcurrants – leaving the rest for the birds – Grandma turned it into jam. Proper chuffed with the garlic harvest, as we pulled out big fat bulbs, they are currently drying/curing in the greenhouse. We’ve continued to harvest courgettes and this year has been fantastic for potatoes, they’ve grown really well. As something comes out, leeks go in, making sure we make the most of our beds.

I’ve been feeding the fruit & veg regularly; the tomatoes and cucumbers are on a weekly slurp using RocketGro’s liquid feed; just need some sun to ripen those tomatoes!

As we move into August, we will:

  • continue deadheading flowers.
  • collect seeds from flowers, for us that’s sweet peas and vetch.
  • collect and store rainwater, though I can’t say we’ve had much problem with watering the garden recently!
  • harvest fruit & veg on a daily basis.
  • top up the pond – again that’s not been a job in July after all the downpours we’ve had!
  • Support plants that have collapsed from all the rain.
  • Summer prune the apple trees – we’ve thinned out the apples, taking off the small ones and some fell naturally – this will help next year’s growth and keep it as a cordon.

How’s your garden growing and what’s the star of the show?

The glorious June weather has been very kind to us gardeners, everything is looking marvellous at the moment. I’ve been revising for my ‘A’ level exams this month, so I’ve been glad of a place to sit and chill. Now that exams are over – thank goodness – I’ve been doing a fair bit of work in the garden, including lots of potting on!! I’ve also spent a lot of time walking on the moors near my house, I find them so inspiring.

A focus on fruit

Like most people, we’ve picked and scoffed plenty of home-grown, warm, and super sweet strawberries. They grew really well in a matter of a few weeks, planted in RocketGro fruit & veg compost. We planted 2 further blueberries a few months ago and can see the berries turning from green to black and plumping up; the blackcurrants and apples are all growing well too.

We’re on daily picks with the summer veg harvest – peas, courgettes, radish, potatoes – all make their way to the kitchen and are prepped/cooked pretty much straight away for our meals.

All but one of our tomato varieties are growing well; Garden Delight in the veg beds, Piccolo and Supersweet in a RocketGro tomato & veg planter, a battered Golden Pearl has sprung to life with a weekly RocketGro liquid feed, but it’s the Tiny Tim that’s a bit rubbish and I can’t work out why? It’s just not grown much, so I’ll keep a close eye on that one.

Flowers and plants this month, include:

  • sweet peas, with their perfume smell, growing among the peas & beans.
  • honesty, a biennial, has been planted in the very top bit of the garden.
  • we lost our Mexican daisy in November when there was a particular hard frost, so we’ve bought another as we like the pretty daisy-like flowers on this variety.
  • red hot pokers have sprouted up, providing both colour and height in the dry garden.
  • annuals, nicotiana, started off as plug plants are now dotted about the garden.
  • re-potted a lupin, grown from seed; it seemed to burst into life overnight.
  • and the star of the show is the Viburnum Kilimanjaro sunrise, a gift from when I was made RHS Ambassador in 2015.

A pair of wrens, nested in the dead ivy in our back yard, providing us with hours of entertainment as they fed their chicks. Potting on has never been such fun as they flew back and to with beaks full of grubs.

We’ve kept on top of mulching the veg beds, with the hot weather, ensuring when there’s been a downpour, we lock in the moisture. We’ve also fed and mulched the apple trees to make sure those apples are ripe for picking come autumn.

With exams in the bag, I headed over to my Grandma’s garden, to start work on completing a wall around the grass bed. It was a really satisfying job to do and I feel it’s neatened up that area.

Over in the pond, we’ve done a bit of careful cleaning, making sure not to disturb larvae, although the tadpoles do a lot of the cleaning for us. We dropped a new plant in there, brooklime, with its spiky, blue flowers, growing alongside the flag iris and lily, it’s looking rather splendid in that area.

As we move into July, it’s always a good time to dead-head flowers, to encourage new blooms. Ensure new plants are watered well, keep one eye on courgettes, blink, and they’re marrows! And just like us, it’s time to harvest them spuds, simply steamed with equal amounts of butter, ‘nowt better’!

The month of May saw some spectacular wildlife in my garden; there was birds fledging from nests, damselflies emerging from the pond, a mouse running in and out of our scarecrow’s stomach (a botched heron deterrent), bats scoffing insects, shield bugs landing on my shoulder and a whole variety of bees feasting on nectar rich flowers. We created a wildlife garden and we’re certainly reaping the rewards. Satisfying my plant addiction, I’ve had many a visit to garden centres & nurseries this month too; I just can’t stop buying plants, is anyone else the same?

Vegetable growing – we are seeing the results of using a combination of RocketGro products in the veg beds. Here’s our RG journey – before putting the veg beds ‘to bed’ for the winter, we spread some soil improver over them. We then grew peas, beans, etc.. from seed, using seed & cutting compost. As the seedlings became healthy and strong, we planted them out using a bit of fruit & veg compost. Just last week, we had a sustained dry spell, followed by a downpour; with further dry weather predicted, we magic mulched in order to lock in moisture, supress weeds and give the plants that extra boost. I CANNOT begin to tell you how incredible it’s looking. We’ve grown our own veg for 10+ years now and I’d say it’s the best it’s ever been. RocketGro stuff is just the business!!

Veggie jobs in May have included potting on leeks, and some back up purple sprouting broccoli (just in case those in the beds fail), same approach for beetroot, there’s lettuce & tomato plants everywhere, the autumn planted garlic is really coming on, the peas and beans are looking great, and radish are a standard, succession crop to grow. A reminder to earth up your spuds, if you haven’t done that job yet.

In terms of fruit, the apples, blackcurrants, and strawberries are doing their thing, sadly the raspberries don’t look too clever, so we might have to replace them next year.

We try to keep a steady supply of herbs going and mum’s dabbling with French tarragon, coriander, sage, and lemon thyme – all of which are heading to the kitchen at some point.

Planted from seed, flowers including borage, cornflowers and sunflowers are all on their summer growing journey, whilst in the garden at the moment there’s an explosion of Welsh and Californian poppies. Dad’s been pruning the flowering currant (after it flowered) and he’s fed and mulched the honeysuckle & rambling rose, with RocketGro liquid feed.

My local community growing group made good use of some multi-purpose compost as they ‘spruced up the swing’ area. And I also got involved in Manchester’s Flower Festival, donating an English lavender to ‘In Our Nature MCR’s Putting Plants & People on Podiums’ display, planted up in RocketGro’s multi-purpose compost, obviously!

As we move into June, one of our jobs is to plant one of our tomato varieties, Golden Pearl in a hanging basket. Described as a golden-coloured cherry tomato that boasts an incredibly sweet taste. These plants are bushy so leave sideshoots in. Apparently, they are great for planting in hanging baskets and patio containers, so fingers crossed they’ll grow well. We held back doing this is May as we were going on holiday and didn’t want it drying out.

June is a time to stash your water in case of drought, for us that’s water butts, header tanks and bowls everywhere in the garden; also, a good time to use your magic mulch.

In terms of veg, June is a good time to harvest and plant out salad items for a steady supply. From sunflowers to peas & beans you might have to stake anything that’s getting a bit floppy and in need of support. Also remember to crank the greenhouse open in the morning if you’ve closed it at night!

I was really inspired by the show gardens at RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year, especially as sustainability was a key theme. Lots of talk of peat-free compost too, which signifies a real shift in the right direction. The show had such an amazing energy and vibe about it too and it was great to bump into fellow RocketGrower Kirsty, we had to do the obligatory selfie!

I’ve been revising for my final ‘A’ level exams in the garden, I find it a great way to concentrate. They come to an end in June thank goodness and then I’ll be popping over to my Grandma’s house to continue with my first solo garden design (maybe not quite up to Chelsea standards, but one can dream!). Can’t wait for that.

Happy gardening folks!

April is a time where everything ramps up and most gardeners are busy preparing veg beds, sowing seeds and obsessively watching the weather forecast for any signs of a late frost!! There are flower seeds to sow, second early potatoes to plant out and as the early flowers die back, forget me nots and marsh marigolds spring into life.

College has been particularly stressful, and I felt the need to be immersed in nature; a trip to Scotland over Easter, did the trick. The wildlife blew me away, and a visit to Tarbert’s community orchard restored my faith in humanity. Perched on a hill in the grounds of a ruined castle, it was fantastic to have free access into the community garden. The gate was unlocked, as was the tools and brew stuff; in a week that highlighted vandalism at community plots, here was an example of such freedom and trust.

I’m so involved with our wildlife garden, that I barely mention the yard at the front of our house. This month it has looked particularly stunning, with the daffs and muscari going head-to-head in the prettiest flower competition, however the star of the show has to be the aubretia, with its small purple flowers, cascading over the wall, we certainly get a lot of admirers.

We started off a ‘Grow Your Own Thai Meal’ kit indoors (a gift from my cousin), which was fun to do, but also challenging. I’ve tried to grow some of the ingredients, like lemongrass, in the past and the seeds didn’t even germinate, so time will tell whether we actually harvest anything!!

Speaking of harvest, this month we’ve had a modest crop of purple sprouting broccoli, leeks and chives and we pulled up the celeriac, which I have to admit was a total disaster. Anyway, it’s made room for the veg seedlings currently in the greenhouse.

In containers we have 2 different types of lettuce (which are in and out of the greenhouse depending on the weather) and 2 varieties of spuds, which we’re growing in RocketGro’s multi-purpose. In the greenhouse there’s sunflowers, cornflowers, and borage, germinating at a 100% success rate in RocketGro’s seed & cutting compost. Our old strawberries had seen better days, so we purchased 3 plants for a fiver, planting them in RocketGro’s fruit & veg compost, I’m looking forward to scoffing them in summer!

I shared basic gardening tips on socials for the Wild Weekender, which is a joint initiative with the RSPB, WWF and National Trust. The campaign is linked to the #SaveOurWildIsles and aims to help protect and restore UK nature. I’d filmed a video in my garden sharing some gardening basics, including the importance of using peat-free compost.

Early in May you can earth up spuds, once the first signs of foliage appear. Towards the end of month, you can plant out summer bedding – a good time to trial the RocketGro beds & borders compost – for us nicotiana grandiflora will be planted in various places. This is a cracking night-scented plant, great for moths, which in turn is great for bats. Don’t forget to crank open the greenhouse door on warm days. You can also harden off seedlings in readiness for planting out and lots of veg, herb and flower seeds can be directly sown outdoors.

I’ve got a couple of community gardening projects lined up in May and did someone mention Chelsea Flower Show, the FA cup final for gardeners!!

I spent a precious half hour staring into the pond the other Sunday morning, anyone watching me would have thought, ‘what’s he doing?’, I was doing nothing, just staring, it was the business! The sun was shining on my back, the dog at my feet, bubbles floated to the top alerting me to the life below and it made me think as spring hits, just how much I love sitting in the garden, it’s so good for my head, particularly when it’s mashed after all the exams I’ve done!

Speaking of the garden, we continue to make good progress with the new wildflower areas. Our garden is on 3 levels, built into a slope and all higgledy-piggledy, so we’ve built up the banking a bit higher and back filled the slope to level it all out. We’ve mixed a bit of RocketGro seed & cutting compost, with a bit of sand and sprinkled the wildflowers lightly over the top. Time (and a decent bit of sun!) will tell if it all works out.

In the veg beds the Golden Gourmet shallot sets have gone is, as has the Vitabella early potatoes. I’ve been given some purple seed spuds, they are currently chitting and I think I’ll plant them in a trug. I’ve got another variety of shallots to go in, then white, rose & red onions and 2 more types of spuds – pencilled in those jobs for next weekend.

March is a good time to prune climbing roses; we have one in the very back bit of our garden and come summer we’re rewarded with its sweet smell. Another job this month is to lift and divide perennials, such as the daisy we’ve just split into 3, planting them in the new, bottom garden.

Our monthly Young Operation Farmers get together saw us scoffing jacket potatoes, making newspaper seed pots and seed sowing at our newly installed seed station complete with a bag of RocketGro seed compost. We had some new kids join us, which is great as soon us ‘older kids’ will be moving on to Uni.

In the shaded area of our garden the epimedium flowered all the better for its winter prune and the wild garlic is popping up everywhere; its proper pokey and makes fab garlic butter and pesto.

As spring sprung the garden came alive with wildlife. The frogs ended up laying 7 blobs of spawn, it’s going to be busy in the pond this year! This of course attracted the attention of the pond predator, the resident heron. Dad spotted him scoffing a frog early one morning, so we’ve done all we can to protect our amphibian friends. Great to spot the early bees as they feasted on the stuff in bloom, including beautiful pulmonaria and the heather we’d planted in autumn. And a breeding pair of woodpeckers have been visiting our feeders, which is cracking ‘cos we haven’t seen one in our garden for years.

My community work this month took me ‘down the road’ to Friends of Egmont St, where they were planting a fruit tree avenue for the Queen’s Green Canopy. Using RocketGro’s tree & shrub and multi-purpose compost, topped off with magic mulch ensures they ‘grow well’. The trees are now logged on the national map and will form part of the Queen’s Green legacy. Great work guys!

Moving on to April we will directly sow broad beans and peas in to the veg beds, we don’t do this any earlier than after Easter as it can still be a bit nippy where we live. You can also start off chard, sweet peppers & chillies, tomatoes, beetroot and salad. We’re also going to buy some established tomato plants as back up and some strawberry plants as ours have seen better days. Also, April is a great time – if you haven’t already – to plant some sunflowers. It’s a new variety for us, Rouge Royale; we should start a RocketGro Comp, who grows the tallest – no cheating though!

It’s great to be back as a RocketGrower for the start of the 2023 growing season, I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get cracking. We usually start work in the garden from around the middle of February onwards and do things in stages to try and avoid disturbing any over-wintering creatures as much as possible. One of the first jobs of the year, is one of my favourite jobs, seed sowing, and I’ll be deffo using RocketGro’s brand new seed & cutting compost.

We’re back working on cutting back the ivy, this time we’re working around the edge of the garden, alongside pruning some of the shrubs. Other winter jobs have included, clearing and cutting back as much as possible in the pond before the frogs arrive. And literally a few days after doing this job, the frogs arrived and left us a big, gorgeous gloop of frogspawn! If you follow me on my socials, you might know that one year a heron pretty much picked off every single frog in our pond, so with that in mind we cover the pond as soon as the first spawn is spotted.

This hydrangea has been in the front garden for a few years now and it’s just never flowered properly, so we’ve planted it in the new back space, where the soil is deeper and richer; adding some RocketGro tree & shrub compost, in the hope that it will flower better.

Over a few sessions, we’ve levelled off and prepared an area at the top of the garden ready to sow wildflower seeds in March. The mix is aimed at attracting bees & butterflies and contains a mix of perennial & annual wildflower seeds and native grass. It will look cracking if we pull it off!

In the raised beds, we’ve got some crops on the ‘grow’, including leeks, swede & celeriac, some (completely battered by the wind) purple sprouting broccoli and garlic. Then we’ll need to start working on our other veg beds in preparation for sowing.

A few weeks ago, we visited the amazing community-based project, Hulme Community Garden Centre for our seed spuds, buying 4 varieties – Casablanca, Pink Fir Apple, Charlottes and Vitabella. They are currently ‘chitting’ on egg trays, which basically means encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before planting. I’d encourage anyone to grow spuds – in a raised bed or container – they’re really easy to grow and come harvest time you won’t be disappointed with your tasty treasures.

It’s a good time to:

  • divide bulbs and plant those that need planting out ‘in the green’ such as snowdrops; ours are looking particularly spectacular at the moment.
  • plant fruit bushes – we’re looking at getting 2 more blueberry bushes for the very top area of the garden.
  • sow seeds – sweet peas & cornflowers, broad beans & brassicas
  • harvest cabbage, celeriac, leeks and parsnips – but ours aren’t quite there yet!

Current campaigns – I’m absolutely delighted to go from ‘winner to judge’ in the RHS School Gardener of the Year competition. Joining me on the judging panel will be Gardeners’ World presenter, Frances Tophill and Matt Willer, founder of The Papillion Project.

This month I dropped off some RocketGro compost at People First Tameside, an organisation for adults with learning disabilities near me. They have just taken over 2 very large raised beds at a community garden. Good luck and grow well guys!

Like me, I’m sure you can ‘smell spring’ and feel motivated to get going in the garden.

Happy gardening folks!

November saw me meeting up with Rocket Gro Director, Toby, where we chatted about the RG plans for ’23, including improvements to both product and packaging – exciting times! We also got all geeky about the science behind the amazing products, who knew compost could be so mind blowing! I asked, “What makes a good compost?” and it was really interesting to learn all about the nitrates and bacteria that improve the health of the compost.

Over on my socials, I posted a summary video of how I’d used Rocket Gro products over the growing season. It seemed a good time to highlight the benefits of using such a top-notch product; we’ve seen a huge difference in our harvest for example. The Magic Mulch was particularly beneficial this year, with it being a very hot, dry summer, as well as feeding the plants, it helped to lock in moisture, around the fruit trees and on the veg beds. I’ve been adding quite a bit of Soil Improver in the autumn, so it’s got time to work into the soil for next year.

Whilst the garden sleeps in winter there’s still a lot you can do to protect and attract wildlife. We clean and fill our bird feeders in autumn and it’s really important during winter to keep them topped up as it increases their chances of getting through the cold winter, when there’s less food around. As there’s no berries and nuts around, putting out feeders also increases the breeding next year. We have a variety of plants, trees and shrubs, which provide a place for them to roost and forage.

If you’re lucky to have ivy, like we do, try not to cut it back, as their flowers provide late pollen, and their leaves can provide a foraging habitat for insect-eaters such as tits. We’ve noticed lots of things hibernate and shelter there in the winter, making ivy a top plant for wildlife.

We’ve had some extremely windy days lately and we’re constantly removing leaves from our ponds and as we move into the thick of winter, they also run the risk of freezing over. When this happens, we break a hole in a shallow spot just near the beach bit, to allow wildlife access to water. Just take care though, as you don’t want to shock the life below! As well as the ponds, we have shallow containers of water all over the garden, as this benefits all species of garden wildlife that needs to drink.

We spread leaves over our garden and let them rot down as creatures hide in leaf litter and birds like to pick through it. We’re not too tidy in the garden either, we leave dry plant stems and seed heads, which provides shelter for all kinds of insects. When we cut them in spring, we leave them in a stack until towards the end of the season to allow the overwintering insects to emerge.

We’ve got some winter crops growing and I’ve just planted the garlic, but otherwise we’ve put the veg beds ‘to bed’ for the winter and moved some of the tender plants into the greenhouse, a sign the frosty mornings are on their way. At the tail end of autumn, I feel quite sad when the summer colour has gone from the garden, but to be honest I do actually like winter gardening. Even though it might be more about maintenance, it’s still a good excuse to get outdoors and get some fresh air, it helps to clear my head, especially as it’s full-on exams and essays at the moment. Before you know it, spring is round the corner and all that attention you gave the soil to make sure it is well nourished, will ensure the plants are ready to bloom into life once again.

Grow well this Christmas and New Year folks from Green Fingered George.

Earlier in the summer my nepenthes was looking a bit ropey, deffo in need of some TLC. So, I took a bit of a gamble and re-potted it using RocketGro’s mulch; it certainly worked its magic as it bounced back and is now looking rather handsome. I’ve moved it to its winter accommodation, my bedroom, which actually isn’t much warmer than the greenhouse! Speaking of carnivorous plants, my sarracenia will be dying back for the winter so that they return stronger in the Spring.

The snowdrop bulbs arrived, and I planted them in clumps in the new area of our top garden, alongside another couple of bargain basement heathers. That area will look cracking come spring ’23.

Over in the veg beds, we’ve put an area ‘to bed’ for the winter, adding RocketGro’s soil improver and then a layer of cardboard to suppress any weeds and also to prevent the local cats from doing their thing!! Whilst veg such as swede, leek and celeriac grow strong. A few weeks ago, I planted some onion sets and when the garlic we’ve ordered arrives (!) that will be going in too.

Speaking of swede, my mum is running a winter project, with her gardening/food charity, Operation Farm; she’s looking at, ‘the veg that grows well in this country, that is underused’, basically making swede, SEXY!!! We’ve been scoffing spicy root veg soup, with loads of ginger, perfect for after an autumn walk and she’s trialling a veggie version of a traditional Cornish pasty, I flipping love them!

Speaking of swede, my mum is running a winter project, with her gardening/food charity, Operation Farm; she’s looking at, ‘the veg that grows well in this country, that is underused’, basically making swede, SEXY!!! We’ve been scoffing spicy root veg soup, with loads of ginger, perfect for after an autumn walk and she’s trialling a veggie version of a traditional Cornish pasty, I flipping love them!

I was really chuffed to be asked by my hero and wildlife legend, Chris Packham to be a judge for his Hedgerow of the Year Competition. The competition celebrates ‘what’s good about hedgerows’ – a fantastic haven for wildlife. Entwined shrubs and buffers of scrub. Birds galore. Dense banks tangled with arable wildflowers. Living walls; full of buzzing, humming and scuttling beings. And it also highlights the ‘hedgewrecks’ – Over 118,000 miles of hedgerows have been lost from the countryside since the 1950’s. The remaining ones are still at risk – not being managed means they’re becoming relics of the refuges for wildlife they once were. The competition will be judged in 2023.

I’m now in my second year of sixth form college and I’ve been busy looking into Uni courses. At the end of Oct my family and I visited Glasgow Uni, which would be my number one choice for a degree in Environmental and Geo Science. I was blown away with everything about the course and the Uni itself, so I need to get my head down this winter and achieve good grades!!!

Hope you’re enjoying autumn in your garden.

The seasons might have changed, but there’s still plenty to be done in the garden; here’s my September update:

We’re working on a new space in the very top bit of our garden. It’s a little bit shady there and we’ve mainly focused on wild woodland style planting. We’ve dug out and cleared an area, planted an azalea using Rocketgro Tree & Shrub Compost, 3 red hot pokers, which were gifted from Grandma’s neighbour and also a couple of heathers, from the garden centre bargain basement. Fifty snowdrop bulbs have literally just arrived, so they’ll be going in there too.

Azalea & heathers in the top garden
Azalea & heathers in the top garden

Meanwhile in the bottom garden, we’ve had to hack away at a load of the jasmine, which was beginning to crush the pieris and the berberis, it was beginning to grow over the top of them and pull them over. We’ve cleared another area, which was getting really wild and overgrown and started to plant that out, with a large daisy, which we’ve split from the top garden – another gift from my other Grandma’s friend – it’s been split into 3, 2 in new space and one in the front garden. We’ve planted a phlox (another gift!), red hot poker and replanted the camassia bulbs that were dug up; they’ve gone in the top and bottom gardens, spread out all over the place. Next year we’re hoping to plant some blueberries in there as well.

Honesty Seeds
Honesty Seeds

We’ve cleared out an area where we’re hoping to put some wildflower seeds down and planted a rudbeckia which we bought from a canal side community project in Slaithwaite.

In the veg beds, we’ve come to an end with some produce – onions, shallots and courgettes. Some of the winter/early spring produce is growing great, especially the PSB, whilst others – swede – have been totally scoffed by slugs!

Back in July I should have sown some honesty seeds I’d collected, but if I’m ‘honest’, I forgot and it was August before I actually got round to it. Course I didn’t think they’d all germinate (must have been the RocketGro seed compost working its magic) but they did and now I’ve potentially got 32 plants! And now I need to pot them on, but after that, I don’t know whether to keep them in the greenhouse or leave them outside?? Maybe I’ll do half and half???

Apple pressing with Operation Farm
Apple pressing with Operation Farm

I’ve had a really busy time with my campaign work, having been interviewed by a few organisations this month mainly about gardening for biodiversity, have a nosey at my socials for the links.

Autumn is a time when my community volunteering for Operation Farm ramps up and let me tell you it really has! As I write this we have picked and pressed ½ tonne of apples, serving the juice at community events; it’s been so busy!

Blink, and we’re nearly at the end of summer, and what a top summer it’s been. The harvest has been incredible this year, we are literally picking, cooking and eating our home-grown veggies on a daily basis. We deffo feel the Rocket Gro products have helped this year; from starting off with the seed compost, to using the soil improver in the beds, regular liquid feeds, to mulching the plants, we have seen a massive difference in the amount and quality of what we’ve grown.

The blackcurrants ripened a little earlier than usual and the birds took advantage of our absence, as when we returned from holidays there was barely enough for a pie (we usually harvest enough for 10+ jars of jam!). We managed to harvest enough for Mum to make her famous frangipane, so at least all was not lost.

As per usual for this time of year it’s courgettes with everything. They’ve done particularly well, and the flowers are a proper delicacy in our house. The shallots & onions have been so great this year, I’d be tempted to enter them in a show.

We summer pruned the apple cordon this month, which ensures those on the tree get a good chance to grow big and juicy and good cropping the following year. We’ve also put some tarpaulin under the trees to collect any windfalls.

August is a great time for garden centre bargains, and we picked up a tray of lettuce for a few pence. So, it was spuds out, compost back in, mixed with a little soil improver and lettuce planted, job done.

The wildlife visiting the garden has blown us away. Early August, Dad and I were working in the garden, we got totally distracted by the variety of butterflies & bees flying in. Best of all was a female common darter and the daddy of all dragonflies, an emperor. Incredible!

I’ve done 2 days in Grandma’s Garden this month. Rain showers prevented me from cracking on with the wall construction, so I just did some chopping back of the smaller trees to let more light through and tidied up the rockery to stop some plants from taking over.


As we move into September my community gardening work ramps up. I’ve volunteered with Tameside Abundance/Operation Farm since it started a number of years ago; we pick surplus fruit from community orchards and private gardens that would otherwise go to waste. The fruit is pressed commercially, and the juice is distributed to community groups, food banks and fruit donors. We also rock up and press at harvest events and horticulture shows – I’m actually a judge at one of the local hort shows, looking forward to marvelling at those massive marrows!!

We’ll be harvesting our apples too; varieties Katy & Sunset have done particularly well this year – that magic mulch must have helped, back in late spring. There will be daily picks of the autumn bliss raspberries too, they are so delicious, really fragrant.

We’ll be ordering a bag of Rocket Gro’s ericaceous compost soon, as we have an azalea luteum to plant in the top garden. Happy gardening folks!


Grow Green with George during July


Welcome back to my garden blog where I share my top tips of the month and show you how I’ve been using RocketGro’s organic peat-free gardening products to get the best out of my plants.

In the middle of July I went on a two week camping adventure with one of my friends at Global BirdFair and then my parents in Norfolk. The temperature rose but we cooled off by the coast. In anticipation of the dry spell hitting whilst we were away, we used RocketGro’s Peat-Free Magic Mulch after a particular wet spell and this paid off. When we returned from the holiday there were no heatwave plant casualties!


Garden Redesign

For those of you who also follow my socials, you will know that I’ve also been working on a garden design for my Grandma Barbara. As soon as school ended, I was able to spend a day in her garden and started the foundations for a new wall encircling the grass bed.

Grandma had bought a geum, so I planted that using some of RocketGro’s Peat-Free Multipurpose Compost. The garden was desperate for a bit of TLC so I gave the plants some water using RocketGro’s Natural Organic Plant Fuel and added RocketGro’s Peat-Free Magic Mulch to a few areas too.

I will be returning to Grandma’s garden next week so stay tuned for an update.

Green Fingered George

 Trees and Shrubs

It was also my Grandma Brenda’s birthday during July and she needed a bit of help repotting a rose bush that had become pot bound. There was also an apple tree that hadn’t produced much fruit this year.

With the help of my Aunty Claire, we repotted them both using RocketGro’s new Tree & Shrub Compost in the hope that the larger pots and better compost will encourage growth next year.

Being greenfingered runs in our family and my Aunty Claire is an amazing gardener. Her take on the RocketGro products: ‘the compost is just fab, it’s a much better texture than other peat-free products we have used in the past, they’ve always been quite fibrous’

Green Fingered George

Harvest Season

Now is the time of year when the garden is giving back and we are harvesting on a daily basis which makes Mum extremely happy! Our courgettes, peas, beans, and beetroot have been particularly great this year. I take them to the kitchen and mum ‘free-styles’ a salad and we have to tell her how amazing it is every single mouthful.


The sweet peas grew amongst the peas and beans and smelled gorgeous, as does the white buddleia at the moment. The moths and butterflies love them.

Green Fingered George

Summer Maintenance

The pond requires continual maintenance throughout summer and it’s time to say goodbye to our little froglets as they hop out of the pond to pastures new. You have to be careful where you step at the minute as they are all over the garden!


Looking Ahead

As we move into August, it’s time to give the fruit trees a summer prune. In July we removed some of the smaller apples from the tree and some had fallen on the ground anyway. Summer pruning ensures those on the tree get a good chance to grow big and juicy. It also makes a good crop for next year.


There is plenty of deadheading and cutting back to do now I’m back from holiday as the garden has become rather wild in our absence. With my birthday round the corner we will be having a family party in our garden- sometimes we need reminding that our gardens are for partying in too.


Dig Deeper in June with George Hassall

Welcome to my June blog where I share top tips on how to get the most out of your garden using RocketGro’s organic peat-free gardening products. Discover the full range of products here.

It’s June! I spent a wonderful week in the Cairngorms at the start of the month, so I returned to the garden looking more like a jungle- I spent a lot of time cutting stuff back. 


People say ‘it’s the year of the foxgloves’ and I couldn’t agree more. Our garden is full of them, and the bees love it!


Vegetable Beds

 I have tied and supported the beans and peas. For the peas I’ve used canes, twigs, and branches, and planted courgettes and radishes out.

It’s been quite dry recently, so I’ve made sure to do plenty of watering and given all the vegetables a boost of nutrients with RocketGro’s Organic Liquid Plant Food Concentrate. It’s really done the trick and all the vegetables are growing amazingly.



I’ve been mulching the fruit trees and bushes with RocketGro’s Magic Mulch, my dad really loves it. We have a lot of comfreys growing at the back of the garden, so Dad made some stinky comfrey tea and used that as well. 


The combination of RocketGro’s Organic Liquid Plant Food Concentrate , RocketGro’s Magic Mulch, comfrey tea, and some good old sun and rain, the garden is looking pretty lush.


Herb Growing

My mum uses culinary herbs all the time and the cinnamon basil grown from seed using RocketGro’s Seed & Cutting Compost is nearly ready to use.

The tarragon survived the winter as did the apple mint and bay leaves so she will be going full throttle on summer salads!


Wild Wildlife

The main aim of our garden is to encourage and support wildlife and it’s been proper buzzing with life recently. The scabious, for example, had a ladybird, small tortoiseshell butterfly, and a bee all at the same time. It’s a real wildlife magnet.

You do have to manage a wildlife garden though. We’ve cleaned out the pond of blanketweed and you really do have to keep on top of it.

Dad has cleaned out the birdfeeders, there is plenty of food around now, including the purple berries on the berberis that are just about to turn to colour, which the blackbirds love. Looking forward to the purple goo all over the garden.


 Looking Towards July

We will be doing general maintenance around the garden, dead heading to encourage new growth and keeping on top of the watering. Sadly, one section of the ivy died so that will need to be cut back. There are birds nesting in there so that will need to be done after they’ve fledged.


Repotting tomatoes and sunflowers is also on the agenda for July. They’re doing really well and we’ll continue to earth up the spuds. 

I will be sowing more salad crops, lettuce and radish etc. I also saved up some honesty seeds, which look pretty decent come next spring. Of course, July is also a time to enjoy your garden and I will definitely be doing plenty of that.



During May, Mum harvested some herbs for the kitchen:

  • Wild garlic for pasta
  • Leeks in soups
  • Chives for potato salad
  • Thyme used in roast dinner


BBC Radio

I filmed some clips for BBC Radio 2 with RocketGro’s Seed & Cutting compost, highlighting how you can grow amazing houseplants from seeds using recycled containers. The videos for these are on my socials here.



Towards June

There are more veg seedlings to plant out into the beds, including courgettes, which have all germinated and grown into healthy plants.

Sunflowers will need potting on- far too many for just my family so will be handing out to friends- and potatoes to be earthed up.

Right, that’s me signing off for May. I’m off to stare at the wildlife in my pond. Happy gardening, folks!

Check out the full range of RocketGro’s peat-free organic gardening products here and make sure to come back next month for my June updates.


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