What are your tips for growing veg?
If you want to start growing your own veg, then you don't need a whole vegetable patch. There are so many containers out there, or you can add fruit and veg amongst your flower beds, which can look quite pretty.
For instance, you can grow runner beans amongst your roses, no problem, they're all going to die in the winter anyway. And you only need two or three runner bean plants to get a good crop. Tomatoes in a container look lovely with sweet basil or parsley underplanting. It's quite straightforward.
So for someone starting off I'd say go for the salad vegetables and keep it simple by going for four or five varieties. Try…
- a type of lettuce
- a couple of tomato plants
- some runner beans
- coriander or rocket
Got any tips for choosing a water feature?
I'd recommend thinking about the sound you'll get from your water feature, because while water can sound very relaxing, it can be a bit overpowering in a small conservatory or enclosed space.
Even a birdbath counts as a water feature, and every form of wildlife needs water. You'll have butterflies drinking from it, and bees and birds bathing and drinking in it. Some people think that ponds are parts of the garden that are low maintenance – that's not true.
How should you maintain your pond?
The plants will keep a pond balanced, clean and looking nice. But because they're herbaceous plants, you need to split them through and revamp them every 5 – 7 years, which is quite hard work. That's why you may be better off with a water feature that has moving water, but which isn't a pond. A water feature is easier to maintain because it's just water and you can drain it down and refill it.
A pond for me is a whole micro-environment which you can stand and watch for ages – suddenly you realise you've been stood there for three-quarters of an hour and you haven't done anything! Ponds are very relaxing and interesting, but they're not low maintenance.
What plants do you recommend for ponds?
It depends on whether you're going to keep fish in there, but for your average ornamental pond, you must have two types of plant: oxygenating weed, and water lilies or something similar that lays on the surface to cut out the sunlight.
These are your key workers to help keep your pond clear and balanced. The other marginal plants around the edge are much more aesthetic and don't do any hard work.
What's your own garden like?
It's quite cottage-like – my front garden is totally chaotic and everybody turns up and goes 'Oh, what a mess!" but I've left it like that for the wildlife.
You don't want to be too tidy in your garden, have one or two areas where you just let things happen – then you'll have more wildlife and less pests. In my back garden I've got a pond with a little waterfall. It's very cottagey so I've got lots of poppies, corn cockles and roses, lilies, clematis and a few bedding plants. And then I've got a nice big vegetable patch!
For more gardening advice see Richard Jackson's blog