Two new books to kick-start your gardening year

While your garden lies dormant, this is the perfect time of year to bury your nose in a gardening book to pick up some skills, tips and inspiration for the year ahead. Here are two brand new releases to get you started…

101 Organic Gardening Hacks: Eco-friendly solutions to improve any garden – by Shawna Coronado

The word ‘hack’ may seem a little, well, hackneyed nowadays but in this context it hints at some easy, clever and smart ways to improve your garden, eco-style. Shawna Coronado, one of America’s most creative gardeners, has compiled a phlethora of her own ingenious tricks – from practical time-savers to clever ways to upcycle everyday items in your garden. All are completely organic and environmentally-friendly.

There are pages of easy-to-follow steps, illustrations and photos, all divided into a dozen different categories for easy reference. Find out how to replicate Shawna’s own hacks – creating a garden bench from leftover wood posts, or creating your own blend of organic soil. It’s full of sustainable ideas that you’ll be itching to try this year.

‘101 Organic Gardening Hacks’ is out now in paperback, priced £12.99 (pub. Cool Springs Press).

Buy it here 101 Organic Gardening Hacks: Eco-friendly Solutions to Improve Any Garden

Build a Better Vegetable Garden: 30 DIY projects to improve your harvest – by Joyce Russell, photographs by Ben Russell

Following up from their well-received ‘The Polytunnel Book’, this new tome is full of practical ideas to get the most out of your vegetable plot. Joyce has over thirty years of practical fruit and vegetable growing experience, as well as contributing to several magazines. Her easy-to-follow projects are accompanied by Ben’s clear photographs, plus lists of materials and a relative skills rating.

These DIY projects aims to help you either improve your yields, extend the season, or protect your crops from pests. All will transform your garden into somewhere more productive, attractive and secure.

‘Build a Better Vegetable Garden’ is out now in paperback, priced £16.99 (pub. Frances Lincoln).

Buy it here Build a Better Vegetable Garden: 30 DIY Projects to Improve your Harvest

We have a copy of ‘Build a Better Vegetable Garden’ to giveaway. To be in with a chance of winning, simply share this post on Twitter or Facebook tagging @Goodtrippers and using the #competition – before midnight on 21st February 2017. One winner will be chosen at random by 28th Feb.

Deck the halls…with real holly and ivy

There’s nothing like bringing the outdoors in, and the best dressed homes this Christmas will be festooned in real festive foliage. But taking your pick from the nearest woodland isn’t really the sustainable way to do it – here’s an easier way to get the look…

Cornwall-based Rocket Gardens sent us one of their Festive Foliage Boxes (£29.99 for a large box; £19.99 for small) to get our decorating started. The large box really is large (60cm x 45cm x 45cm) and full to the brim with real sprigs of holly, ivy, bay, fir, rosemary, mistletoe and pine cones. It instantly brings that lovely smell of greenery into the home, let alone the distinctive rosemary (pop a sprig or two on a radiator or stove hotplate for a fantastic natural fragrance).

Everything in the box is grown and harvested at Rocket Gardens, and dispatched the very same day so you receive fresh foliage ready for sprucing up your home (note: don’t let the box sit around as it can go brown in centrally-heated homes after a few days!).

Rocket Gardens suggest a few ideas for what to do with your festive foliage, including making table decorations, stocking trims, ‘rosemary snowflakes’, candle rings – visit – but you can also do a few quick Christmas spruce-ups by gathering together bunches and putting in vases on tables, in the fireplace, around mirrors or up bannisters. Be aware that the Festive Foliage Box only includes the greenery, you’ll need your own wire, string, tape and other choices of fastenings and fixings to actually deck your halls!

Festive Foliage Boxes will be dispatched until 21st December. For more details and ordering visit

To get you started, here is a step-by-step guide by Rocket Gardens to making your own natural table settings:

Natural Table Settings

You will need:

  • Stem of Bay, stem of Holly and a couple of sprigs of Rosemary
  • Floristry Wire
  • Gardening Twine
  • Scissors


Step by step:

  1. Select a stem of Bay, a stem of holly and a couple sprigs of Rosemary
  2. Cut them to size.
  3. Arrange them how you want them to look when bunched together. Keep the foliage facing forwards. You don’t want any getting squashed when placed on the table.
  4. With floristry wire bind the bunch of foliage together.
  5. Go over this wire by wrapping the twine over the top and forming a pretty bow at the front. You can completely cover the stems with the twine or leave some showing, it’s up to you.


Why not also attach a personalised tag to each one and use them as place settings for your Christmas dinner table.

Book review: Moon Gardening by John Harris

Is it ‘lunacy’? This new book promises to reveal the secrets to lunar gardening for plots of all sizes…

John Harris, author of ‘Moon Gardening‘, is head gardener at Tresillian House and Gardens, one of Cornwall’s most attractive and visited estates. Many years ago Harris took on the job of restoring Tresillian’s kitchen garden under the condition that he be allowed to apply the principles of moon or lunar gardening – and today the results speak for themselves.

Moon Gardening by John Harris

Throughout the book, Harris shares credible horticultural knowledge that will surely dispel any fears that lunar gardening is simply “hocus pocus or hippy nonsense” – Harris himself has appeared on BBC Gardener’s World and been featured in several national newspaper gardening columns. This technique is all about planting to the cycles of the moon, taking advantage of optimum soil conditions and moisture levels. It’s about helping you grow more and better for less effort and less cost – sounds like a good plan!

Lunar gardening is an ancient technique (the book refers to how New Zealand’s Maoris have used moon gardening for thousands of years) and Harris encourages us to respect ancient knowledge and use it to our advantage today. Colour photographs of some of the abundant produce grown by this method at Tesillian (including some enormous, and we’re assured flavoursome, garlic bulbs) provide compelling evidence.

It goes without saying that by practicing moon gardening, you’ll almost certainly be gardening organically, or at least with minimal chemicals – Harris also covers more commonly known wildlife gardening methods such as compatable planting.

Gardener’s sketches, charts and calendar plans throughout the book ensure it remains a handy and practical guide, rather than simply an interesting read about ancient lore. John Harris is a trustworthy author and peppers the narrative with charming tales of his own childhood, his first forays into gardening, his family influences and his motivations today.

All in all, a comforting gardener’s handbook full of fascinating (almost magical) techniques that we can’t wait to experiment with!

‘Moon Gardening’ by John Harris (with Jim Rickards) is available in hardback, priced £12.99, from 20th October 2016 (published by John Blake Publishing).

Buy at: Moon Gardening: Ancient and Natural Ways to Grow Healthier, Tastier Food

Take the Bee Trail around King’s Cross, London

There’s a real buzz (ahem…) around King’s Cross right now – take this new tech-enhanced walk around the city’s regenerated area to find out why…

On a sunny Sunday in King’s Cross last week, we tried out the BeeTrail app, created by social enterprise The Honey Club. With a mission to create the largest bee-friendly network in the world, The Honey Club encourages people to get involved with helping vulnerable bee communities in our cities and beyond. This new app, free for iPhone or Android, is part of that mission.

Bee Trail, King's Cross

The Bee Trail app takes you on a 45min walk around some of the ‘buzziest’ spots in King’s Cross. Starting at restaurant The German Gymnasium, into Granary Square, down to the canalside, up to the community gardens, past the outdoor swimming pond and ending at the fantastic Skip Garden – the walk takes in eight stops. Turn on your Bluetooth and at each stop the app will automatically ‘unlock’ the next stage (or you can manually type in a code found at each check-in point).

Each stop unlocks a few pages of fascinating bee facts and more about how London’s biodiversity supports the bee population. We learnt a few new things including the stunning fact that there are around 250 different species of bee in the UK!

Bee Trail, King's Cross

Several of the stops prompt a ‘bee count’ task – start the app timer and count how many honeybees, solitary bees and two types of bumblebee you can spot within 30 seconds (a pictorial ID guide is provided if your bee knowledge is a bit rusty). On our sunny afternoon, some of these spots were surprisingly light on bees, except for two hotspots literally humming with activity. All counts are recorded as part of a wider survey on bee populations, so your ‘game’ is also a very useful bit of research.

As a thank you, each completed count unlocks rewards in the form of vouchers for discounts or freebies from some of our favourite places in the area including Dishoom, Caravan, The Grain Store, The Skip Garden, German Gymnasium, The Greek Larder, Rotunda and The Lighterman. We recommend ‘eating and drinking’ your way along the trail as you win your reward vouchers (not filling up on lunch beforehand like us – although vouchers are valid until 4th September). As an aside, do make sure you take your time at The Skip Garden – this excellent community garden has been made almost entirely with reclaimed, salvaged and recycled materials. They grow their own produce and have a cute little cafe serving great coffee and cake (and they have a covetable outdoor pizza oven!).

Bee Trail, King's Cross

Exploring the redevelopment of King’s Cross, with its influx of new restaurants, bars and event spaces, you can’t help but be impressed with the fact that nature has not been forgotten in this part of the capital. Flowerbeds and window boxes full of bee-friendly plants are found all over the place – along lavender-scented pathways, within playgrounds, and lining the outdoor dining areas of restaurants. It’s a buzzy slice of nature in the city.

The Bee Trail runs until 4th September 2016 – download the app for free at

Flowered Up! Chelsea Fringe blooms for 2016

There may be a rather large RHS flower show taking place in the neighbourhood this May, but this year’s Chelsea Fringe is coming up roses…

Robert Bradford, Flower Poodle, 2016 (Courtesy the artist and Rebecca Hossack Gallery)
Robert Bradford, Flower Poodle, 2016 (Courtesy the artist and Rebecca Hossack Gallery)

The 2016 Chelsea Fringe, the alternative garden festival, has plenty of quirky delights of the floral variety to keep gardeners (and non-gardeners) alike in the pink. Art, design, poetry, music, science and food with a horticultural focus will come together for three weeks of events from 21 May – 12 June across London, the UK and four international locations.

The festival expands beyond SW3 to every London quarter, the far corners of the UK including the Isle of Mull in Scotland, Monmouth in Wales, Margate, Leeds, Bristol and Henley-on-Thames in England, and internationally to Sweden, Poland, Italy and Australia.

Emerging themes for the 2016 Fringe include: health and well-being – the essential benefits of medicinal plants and gardening in battling depression and other health issues; wild food is the new street food – urban food foraging and how to spot edible plants and flowers in a city’s green spaces; a history of guerilla gardening – the importance of green spaces in urban planning and public spaces; domestic farming – how to use your garden space for small-scale food production; and the more decorative art of flower arranging – from how to make posies & table centerpieces to a floating flotilla on the Thames.

Covent Garden Flower Market (Image courtesy the Chelsea Fringe)
Covent Garden Flower Market (Image courtesy the Chelsea Fringe)

A few highlights from the festival include:

Heywood and Condie’s Greenhouse – horticultural installation artists Heywood & Condie have created a piece of sculptural architecture on the forecourt of Royal British Society of Sculptors consisting of a greenhouse constructed from discarded 18th and 19th stained glass. The Christian imagery has been dismantled and reused to present a world of chimeras, mythical creatures and folkloric hybrids. 25 May until September. FREE.

Borough Market: Find and Feast – Join urban forager, Ceri Buckmaster, on a wild food walk around Southwark and discover how to identify seasonal plants and flowers in some unexpected locations, then finish the morning at the demonstration kitchen in Borough Market and learn how to cook delicious recipes using them with chef and food blogger Celia Brooks. 27 May, 11am-2.30pm. FREE.

Perfume in Georgian Londoneast London Antique emporium, Townhouse, present a series of talks by renowned horticulturist, Stephen Nelson, focusing on the English garden and its direct link to perfume over the past four centuries. 31 May,  3-4pm. FREE.

Prescribing gardens and gardening for mental health and well-being – the British Medical Association Mind Garden presents a lecture series on medicinal plants and their health benefits. 26 May, 2 June, 9 June, 4.30 – 6.30pm. FREE.

Behind the Wall – New Covent Garden Flower Market are offering free tours behind the scenes of the UK’s largest flower market. Visitors will get to see what inspires London’s florists and learn about the market’s history. 21 May, 7 – 8.30pm, FREE.

Floral Flotilla – A fabulous show of a range of river craft covered in variety of floral displays will moor up adjacent to Mill House in Henley-on Thames. Visitors on foot can enjoy a picnic on the bank accompanied by live music by local musicians. 21 May, 11am-3pm. FREE.

For full details and all visitor information, visit



Escape the daily grind on a National Trust working holiday

No laptops or business calls from a hotel room – guest blogger Erin Moncur discovers how a working holiday can be a very good thing when the National Trust are involved…

Are you team spirited? Do you enjoy the great outdoors? If you answered ‘yes’ to both of those questions and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, then a National Trust Working Holiday might be the thing for you.

The National Trust runs over 400 volunteering projects a year, giving people the chance to help the environment while escaping the daily grind. The holidays range from two to seven days and with so many options to choose from, there is something for everyone.

work and stay in Dovedale, Peak District (photo by Erin Moncur)
work and stay in Dovedale, Peak District (photo by Erin Moncur)

For families or solo holiday-makers

The National Trust highlight six main categories to choose from, including youth discovery – a chance for teenagers to carry out conservation work while enjoying social activities with others the same age; independent; and family. Most include youth hostel style accommodation, with prices starting at £85 for a short break.

The family option starts at £125 and is aimed at children aged between 6 and 16 and their parents. Fun activities such as pond dipping, survival skills and scavenger hunts make this a great family holiday option. (Find out more about the types of holidays on their website.)

volunteer at Blickling Hall (photo by Erin Moncur)
volunteer at Blickling Hall (photo by Erin Moncur)

Holiday Activities

There are so many activities to chose from, whether you’re a budding archeologist, sports fan, a lover of outdoor activities or a keen gardener, they have got you covered. You can get involved in an existing archaeological project, mix the conservation work with wild swimming and help create a garden masterpiece.

History lovers have a chance to take on a character and walk around a historic building at one of their popular events, or to handle and archive some wonderful, historic collections. Regardless of your interests, you are spoilt for choice.

sheep at National Trust property Felbrigg Hall (photo by Erin Moncur)
sheep at National Trust property Felbrigg Hall (photo by Erin Moncur)

Help Overseas

The National Trust have an expanded selection of holidays abroad. For the last four years they have teamed up with the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) to send keen volunteers overseas to countries such as Spain and Slovakia. If you fancy helping to restore a historic fountain in the heart of the Czech Republic, or an ancient staircase in a castle in France, look no further.

So, if you are looking for a break with a difference, want to help the environment, like the idea of waking up in a beautiful location and would love the chance to enjoy some exciting conservation activities with great new friends, then a National Trust Working Holiday could be what you’ve been looking for!

For more information, visit the National Trust website at

Email: or call 0344 800 3099