Old friends in the garden (6 on Saturday)

Hello everyone! It’s been a cold week here in Belgium but the compensation has been some stunning blue skies against which the plants and bare tree branches look gorgeous.

My gardening activity has centred around sowing seeds indoors, and laying down some mulch outdoors. I can’t stress enough how valuable mulch is in improving the soil, retaining water all through the hot summer and doing a great job at keeping weeds down.

Old friends: an ancient forest floor rich in invisible microbes

Old friends: my title in today’s round up is all about the invisible but incredibly valuable microbial life in our soil and plants, and in the air around us. As gardeners, we are immersed in this ecosystem just by being in our gardens, and it can do us a lot of good! I delved into the health benefits in this article I wrote for Radicle.

Microbes are our old friends because we coevolved with them as hunter gatherers, they became a part of us, living happily in our guts. But in modern times many people don’t get this crucial exposure to the microbiome in nature, and scientists believe this may be why so many of us suffer from immune disorders and allergies. One interesting finding for us gardeners is that we can create a rich microbiome in our garden by planting a wide variety of plant species, as the biodiversity of plant life will increase the biodiversity of microbial life. Researchers also suggest planting in layers so that you have vertical as well as horizontal plantings, echoing the layers found in a forest – from groundcover, to shrubs, to trees.

We are lucky to have a band of mature trees on the boundary of our garden, overhanging the terrace. As well as enhancing the microbial ecosystem, these trees attract plenty of other wildlife, including woodpeckers and our resident red squirrels. Not bad for a city garden – just goes to show you don’t need to live in glorious rural seclusion to have a garden teeming with life.

It’s still a little early for colour in the garden, but this window-box pot of Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ and Crocus makes a vibrant splash on the terrace.

But spring is most definitely coming as far as the chickens are concerned. Laying has resumed, as has lots of early morning clucking. I hope our neighbours are also in tune with the diurnal rhythms. I personally find it much easier to get up earlier in the mornings when it’s lighter, how about you?

Seed sowing is also well underway now, here are my first batch of tomatoes sown. I have also started off aubergines, sweet peppers, chilli peppers and alpine strawberries. I have never tried strawberries from seed before, and am hoping that I can use them as edging in the allotment. All these seeds are indoors and being kept warm, they won’t be planted out until the risk of frost has passed.

And finally….drum roll….my newsletter project has finally launched! The Green Gardening Newsletter will be published monthly and will provide a mix of advice, inspiration and sustainable gardening news. There will be recommendations of podcasts, book reviews and links to other content, like articles and blog posts. Do sign up if this speaks to you. First one will go out tomorrow.

That’s all from me, but for more inspiring gardens and great gardening blogs, head over to Garden Ruminations, the home for Six on Saturday. Have a lovely weekend.

21 thoughts on “Old friends in the garden (6 on Saturday)

  1. What variety of aubergine did you sow? I sowed the same variety as last year (A. de Barbantane) and my seedlings are starting to sprout ( 1 week later)

    1. Aubergine Viserba which has long fruits and apparently no bitterness, we shall as long see! Also a small round variety that a friend from India gave me. Here’s hoping for a hot summer, right?

  2. Good luck with the newsletter. What a project! My chilli seeds sown two weeks ago have just germinated but I’m holding off on tomato seeds as this year I am down a greenhouse due to storm damage. How lovely to have the chickens laying again, another encouraging sign that eventually this cold spell will be over and the garden will be glowing again.

    1. Thank you! Yes I remember seeing your poor greenhouse after the damage. If we get another hot summer you should be ok, there’s so much that can be grown outdoors now.

  3. First of all my compliments for your first shot of the beautiful “parelstuifzwammen” (don”t know the english name). I also read the article about the importance of microbes in the soil, interesting for gardners but also for all life on earth in general. I also subscribed for your Green Gardening Newsletter (having no garden but maybe also of use for the plants on our balcony). Have a lovely weekend and hope to see you again on my new brand new website ( https://picpholio.com )

    1. Thanks Rudi for subscribing to my newsletter! Your new site looks great and is easier for me as it has a translate button for use on the phone 🙂 What was the reason for changing sites?

  4. I used to keep a few bantams, and was thoroughly entertained by them, What variety do you have? Are they full sized hens? Just finished spreading a layer of matured manure on the top of the veggie area ready to take my plants in a few weeks, which I grow on the no dig principle as per Charles Dowding. He is a real inspiration and worth looking him up. I’ve signed up to your newsletter by the way.

    1. Aren’t bantams a lot of fun! These are Pekin bantams. Full size, which isn’t very big! They do go broody an awful lot so am making the most of this egg laying interlude. I have Charles Dowding’s original No Dig book – he has been so influential.

  5. Bravo for this inspiring article. I’m so thankful for the tall trees in our garden. Planted nearly 30 years ago it took a long time for them to grow tall but it was definitely worth it. I just wish that our chalky soil wasn’t so dry and that we had more of that lush woodland feel at their feet. I’m working on it and hopefully we’ll get there in the end😉 I’ve signed up for your green gardening newsletter and look forward to receiving the first one

    1. I used to garden in chalky soil in South London and it can be tricky. I guess lots of leaf mould helps? Amazing though to see your own trees grow over 30 years, so satisfying. Am glad you enjoyed the article, and thanks for signing up!

  6. I haven’t begun to sow anything yet as my conservatory is still very cold overnight (and not much better during the day) No place inside. I look forward to your newsletter

  7. I’ve not begun sowing yet either. There is some debate here about whether we should go away in Summer in which case I don’t want to have a load of watering which someone else will need to do. Decision, decisions.
    I’m hoping, after reading your post, that I have a garden rich in microbes too.

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