Category Archives: Uncategorized

all change – goodbye old blog, hello new

Goodbye dear blog. I’m leaving this little area of cyberspace to go to pastures shiny and new.

You can find me at

Thanks for your comments, support, views and readership. Hope to see you at  x


In a field in Surrey…

Somewhere in the middle of a field in Surrey: (Loseley Park, Guildford), to be precise.

Potting up wine tasting glasses at Seed Pantry/Cono Sur

That is where I found myself today – along with my other half and the smalls. The reason we were there? To investigate what the ‘Grow Your Own Show’ had to offer us. I was intrigued to check it out, as it targeted the expanding ‘grow your own’ community (which I’m very happy to be part of). It will be interesting to see how this event develops (this is its first year). It may even turn into a kind of ‘Glastonbury’ for the grow your own community!

What did we see? Edible snails, pigs, goats, chickens, hen houses, urban gardening initiatives, dog poo composting (don’t ask), bee keeping, wine tasting, the secret seed society, square metre gardening, mini allotment bed building, vertical gardening, heritage seed companies and pop-up poly tunnels.

I was delighted to meet the Secret Seed Society (

The Secret Seed Society

For those of you who haven’t yet heard of them, they’re on a mission to get kids curious about the food they eat. Amy Cooper, the creative director of the company was on her secret seed museum stand, dressed as a carrot and smiling at all the kids, which got my vote of course. This lady is onto something here, she understands enquiring minds and has produced a beautifully illustrated set of secret agent kits. I’m not easily parted with my cash, but was so impressed, that I bought ‘The Mighty Messenger’ a pack containing a story about Mingo Mung, seeds, and props to help propagate). Hooray for ‘Adventures in Vegetables’…

Another favourite company of mine is ‘Seed Pantry,’ ( who specialise in everything for the urban garden (no matter how tiny your outdoor space is).

Seed Pantry

A big draw for me is their design aesthetic: superb graphics printed on eco friendly packaging. (I am now indoctrinated in all things graphic, type and line – having an art director for a husband). As well as selling their wares, (seeds, compost blocks, veg kits, kids growing kits, windowsill boxes etc) they were also planting seeds in wine tasting glasses. From running my own workshops, I have an affinity with any company supporting kids and gardening, so was interested to see them teaming up with ‘Cono Sur’ (an award winning winery), recycling plastic wine glasses and repotting them with radish and sunflower seeds. It really makes a difference when you engage with your customers and do more than just ‘sell’ a product. This is what good branding is about and why I would recommend Seed Pantry and the Secret Seed Society. They know their market, and are passionate about their products and customer base – it makes such a difference to potential consumers. #justsaying… 

Did anyone else go the Grow Your Own Show? What did you see? What caught your eye?  Let me know your thoughts!

Sowing Tomatoes, Tea & Sympathy

Try as I might, I can’t always blog on the day things happen. Life usually gets in the way – but anyhow, THIS is what girlwithaspade and friends got up to last week at Workshop 24, Peel Precinct, South Kilburn.

"The best time of my life"

Twas a bitterly cold, rainy day, so I decided to host a tomato sowing workshop. The photo above is a quote from the guestbook at Workshop 24, courtesy of Adriana age 10, who came along with her friend to plant tomato seeds in peat pots. Makes your heart sing…I am sooo glad that I saw this. This is one of the best times of my life.”

To have an impact like that on someone so young is a real honour to be honest. That’s what makes working on community projects so worthwhile.

Waste not want not

Before I had kids I was carefree. I’d have lunch at 3pm, decide what to eat when I felt hungry. The whole idea of planning meals ahead totally baffled me. Boy did that change when I had my first baby. Boot camp had arrived and I either ‘got with the programme’ or nobody would eat until 9pm.

In retrospect, I also used to waste money on food shopping. Going shopping on an empty stomach and without a shopping list is probably one of the worst things you can do. I should know – being an ex-serial offender. Around 3 and a half years ago, I decided to use a meal planner. The idea being that we would stop throwing away food, become more organised, use the food we grew in the garden in specific recipes and spend less money but buy more ‘quality’ ingredients. It worked, I use the analogy, “Cook more – spend less, live well.”

Here’s a couple of links to meal planners: Love Food Hate Waste have a blank meal planner. You can also download either a weekly or monthly version from Netmums.  Or you can scribble one down on scrap paper and keep it next to your recipe books. Not rocket science by any stretch of the imagination, but thanks to this little piece of paper, life is that little bit easier and more organised. It’s also great planning new curries from scratch or working out what to do with the overload of courgettes in your veg patch…

The photo is a Nigel Slater quick lamb curry recipe. I must/will post it on le blog for you!

Inspired by something intangible…

Pure Scotney Castle (National Trust)

I’ve always found gardening to be quite a profound experience. Cathartic, calming;  it also quietens my busy mind. I spend so much of my life on overdrive that it’s a much needed tonic. Even thinking about gardening makes me smile. Most of us are plotting, planning and organising our veg patches, ordering seeds and re-designing our outside spaces at the moment. Dark, cold, wet January days are perfect for thinking about the growing season.

I find it fascinating how, when and why people get into gardening. Once bitten by the bug, life changes overnight. For me, after years of living in London (you know the scene: flat, no garden), I bought my first house and inherited a garden (vastly overgrown and packed with bindweed) – having my own outside space was an ephipany. But there’s another story…

So, how do you know when the gardening bug has well and truly hit you? Suddenly, phrases like ‘perennial’, ‘annual’, and ‘hardy’ pepper everyday conversations. You find yourself straining to look at seed packets, stroking horticultural fleece and musing over fertiliser. Sound familiar?

In my previous life (not so long ago), I wrote articles about fashion. Now, I get serious palpitations over a new cultivar. Some of you will be seasoned horticulturists and may have grown up with gardening in your blood. My mum was a fan of the ‘evergreen’ – ‘hebes’ (can’t bear them now), the odd conifer, laurel and Euonymus (always variagated, which alas I can’t put in my garden on principle). No flowers, certainly no veg (too much mess) all neat and there to give a feeling of dark green year-in-year-out. Anyhow, I digress: I love seasonal planting and feel exhilarated to watch the garden play its part throughout the year. Things come and go, plants shoot up and die down: it’s all part of the natural order of things.

There’s an old Chinese proverb which says: “If you want to be happy forever, make a garden,”…

I couldn’t agree more.

How did you get into gardening? I’d love to know.

n.b. I took the above photo at Scotney Castle, Kent. It’s well worth a visit. For more info, see the National Trust website.

Sunlight in a woody glade

Sun through the trees

It’s so lovely walking through woody glades. I was compelled to take photos of the sun through the trees. Amongst trees, undergrowth and ferns. Sooo beautiful..

Dappled shade

There’s nothing like nature to calm and delight eh? Life’s simple pleasures are always the best…

Hello world!

Hello and thanks for reading my blog. You may already know me from my twitter @girlwithaspade. I’m looking forward to blogging about gardens, gardening, other peoples gardens, food, growing your own, plants, recipes, communities, families, anything to do with the great outdoors…

wild flowers at Tyland Barn, Kent Wildlife Trust