Helping Hands - advice and information

Vegetables, herbs and growing spaces were just a part of TEGS 2013
I have just returned from The Edible Garden Show (TEGS) at Stoneleigh Park, right in the heart of the Midlands, but with visitors travelling from near and far. The first gardening show of the year and held under cover in a spacious hall, which made for easy – and dry – access to all the exhibits. There were of course numerous stalls selling seeds and plants equipment and sundries, but I decided to take a look at organisations offering help and advice to gardeners. So often, those new to gardening – and even the experienced – are unsure to whom to turn, and are unaware of new initiatives. Which is what this blog is all about. INFORMATION.

The BBKA bee-friendly garden
I write regularly of the importance of an eco-friendly garden, and probably write more about bees than anything else. So straight to the BBKA (The British Beekeepers Association) to find out what they were encouraging the gardener to think about, “for all over the world, honey bees and other insect pollinators are facing problems of survival.” That’s the keyword: pollination – for without it, our crops will be diminished. Bees need a banquet of nectar and pollen all year round and gardeners can provide this feast by suitable planting of trees, hedges, shrubs, climbers, perennials, annuals and bulbs. Entice bees with a feast, and your veg will benefit, too. An excellent booklet on Pollinator Food Sources is available free of charge from the BBKA (ref IL02).

Discussing the co-op's 'Habitat Heroes' and other matters
I asked The co-operative why they were exhibiting at a gardening show. Known since their founding in 1844 as being ethically responsible, I was nevertheless surprised to learn of their new plans for communities in this, the International Year of Co-operatives. The Co-op aims to encourage more schools to become involved in the ‘Green Schools Revolution’, to continue their ‘Plan Bee’ campaign, and are seeking more Habitat Heroes. Schools can register, but even at home, everyone can become a Hero – protect declining species by doing a few simple things in the garden. (More on this in the next Dobies e-news at the beginning of April.)

Looking at available literature on the NVS stand
The National Vegetable Society are keen to encourage more members. In existence since 1960, the NVS offers contact with like-minded people who can help you to grow better vegetables. Members receive a quarterly bulletin which contains useful information and articles on vegetable culture, as well as branch newsletters outlining local news of seminars, shows and events. Additionally, the NVS website provides a members’ forum that can provide instant answers to growing questions. Gardening clubs, horticultural societies and schools can also become members.

Visiting Garden Organisc's Ryton Gardens is now on my list for 2013
Garden Organic offers many benefits to members – an excellent magazine, the opportunity to make a difference in your community by becoming a Master Gardener- a scheme begun in April 2010 after sustained demand for personalised growing advice. Project Manager, Philip Turvil reports: “After 12,000 hours from 449 trained Master Gardeners, the pilot areas demonstrate positive behavioural change for the volunteers and householders they mentor to grow food." Case studies can be studied here. Then there’s Ryton Gardens, southeast of Coventry – 10 acres of individual gardens which are open every day except Dec 25th & 26th, a conservatory café, play area for children, and special events throughout the year.

Exchanging information so that I can include NFU updates in future posts
I had always understood that the NFU (National Farmers’ Union) championed the countryside and British farming, until their eye-catching display caught my eye at TEGS, and particularly this statement: “We celebrate all that is great about rural Britain and growing your own food, whether it’s on a veg patch, an allotment or even a smallholding.  How do we do it? Through our website, e-newsletter and award-winning glossy magazine (Countryside) which is full of articles providing expert help and advices. This includes inspiring recipes and practical tips.” Aiming membership at gardeners is a new initiative, so take a look at the website to see if it would suit you; summing up, Countryside is a membership organisation for those passionate about food, farming, gardening and rural life.

Remember to check for all your gardening requirements (all seeds, plants and other topics) on the Dobies website by clicking on the generic links. You may particularly like: vegetable seedsvegetable plants, flower seeds, flower plants, herbs, fruit and equipment. And don't forget their regular mailings and special offers online. Just keep visiting so you don't miss anything special.

Next week’s blog post will focus on a number of topics running up to the Easter break. Coinciding with the first days of Spring, exactly what I will write about will very much depend on the weather which so far here in the north Cotswolds is distinctly un-Spring-like! And a very big THANKYOU to all my blog readers and followers: when I switched on my computer this morning, I noticed that the 'pageview' statistics have reached 50,150 - extremely gratifying; I hope all my posts bring you joy and delight.

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