• As temperatures rise and wildlife take to the shade, garden plants can often get covered in greenfly. It can be frustrating as your flowers and vegetables (which are finally repaying all your hard work) get ruined and makes it all too tempting to reach for the spray. However, is it possible to manage those bugs using natural predators in the garden?

    Recently, I’ve read that wasps are big eaters when it comes to bugs, this is good news and has pricked my otherwise indifferent attitude to wasps. Then there’s Lady birds who are the most quoted when it comes to loving the green-goop but do they warrant their reputation? Well it turns out that ladybirds can eat up to 5000 greenflies in their life-time. They are so effective that it is possible to buy Ladybird larvae online and so desirable they have their own bughouse product-lines! How do the wasps compare? There doesn’t seem to be as much information re their capabilities compared to Ladybirds but they definitely do consume aphids. Hoverflies get the next best press after Ladybirds with claims that they can eat around 150 greenflies in their (short) life-times.

    In the bird world, Blue Tits are voracious greenfly eaters and are often seen scouring roses to pick them off. Apparently, Sparrows don’t eat greenfly themselves but will feed them to their chicks therefore keeping numbers down. Yet another reason to love the cheeky Sparrow who already does the job of eating loads of flies. Just remember to supply these hard-workers with plenty of water, especially in hot weather.

    Overall, the message from the RHS website and greengardener.co.uk is that it is indeed possible to manage these bugs naturally. By encouraging more birds and insects into our gardens we create habitats that can more easily cope with spikes in greenfly numbers. Dalefoot Composts fits into this ‘natural’ ethos as we provide Soil Association accredited products that are chemical free. They’re perfect for the environmentally conscious gardener who want to grow organically, avoiding sprays and powders. We’re totally and always have been peat-free which means that gardeners grow quality produce without compromising peat-land habitats which in turn provide important environments for wildlife. In fact, we professionally restore degraded peat-bogs across the U.K.

    Going back to the original question of Spots versus stripes? It’s clearly spots all the way. They are champion of champions when it comes to the volume consumption of green-goop. So much so, I’m considering committing to some bug-house real estate for next year.

  • Caption: RHS Tatton Park
    Caption: Let's go fly a kite garden
    Caption: The top bowl shows gooseberries grown with Double Strength Wool Compost

    Last week was RHS Tatton Park flower show – a show bursting in colour and imagination from magnificent floral displays, rainbows of Dahlias, gardens for bees and bugs, creations from local schools, hands-on floral workshops and a bug inspection station. It was fantastic to see the presence of Dalefoot throughout the show, here are our highlights:

    Our first stop was the ‘Let’s go fly a kite’ garden, designed to embody the transformative effect that engaging with outdoor activity can have on children with disabilities. Designers Jane Bingham (The Cheshire Garden) and Penny Hearn (Planting with Penny) picked up the well-deserved award for ‘best construction in show’ for their symbolic garden. Top-dressed with our Lakeland Gold for the perfect finish, the garden was filled with a variety of plants and colour from Agapanthus, Borage, Geranium, Mentha, Organum and Sedum - symbolising Love, Courage, Determination, Precious moments, Happiness and Tranquillity - to name a few, representing the journey taken by children who have benefitted from Children Today’s work.

    In the Dig In tent we discovered Hilary of the Northern Fruit group, who has been conducting a 5 year long independent trial on enhancing soft fruit production. In 2014, 4 plots were prepared with the following treatments:
    1. soil as on site
    2. mycorrhizal fungi
    3. wool bracken compost
    4. Fertilizer

    It was clear to see which treatment had performed the best...Our Double strength Wool Compost! Not only was the yield twice that of the others, the fruit was much bigger, greener and sweeter than the rest. See more of their trial here.


    The Bug Hub and theatre was a hive of activity – literally! Set next to a live bee hive it was a place for the whole family to get close to all kinds of creepy crawlies found amongst our garden plants. The hive was managed by professional apiarists who ‘smoked’ the bees each day to keep them calm and explained how to look after the hive.

    Our Wool Compost was used in Pennard Plant’s vegetable garden who sell heirloom seeds and plants. We got the chance to attend their talk on companion planting, which is all about planting the right plants in the right place to encourage natural predators and control weeds and disease so that you can grow organically. Chris spoke of various types of Marigolds – extremely fragrant to mask smell of carrots deterring the ever-hungry carrot fly or used in the polytunnel to deter greenfly.
    Did you know mint is a natural repellant of ants and rodents? Or that Nasturtiums planted near roses will deter black/green fly? Parsley and basil put amongst vegetables will encourage the health of your plants and suppress weeds. There was so much to learn from the likes of Chris, who dedicate their time and energy to growing healthy plants in balance with nature, truly inspiring.

    Lastly, we’d like to say congratulations to Westdale Nurseries, specialists in the cultivation of bougainvillea’s, who picked up another Silver Gilt award and also Chrysanthemums Direct for their impressive display of the stages of growing chrysanthemums, voted RHS Master Grower, Tatton Park.

  • There’s one day in the year when every Yorkshire Man and Woman’s heart beats proudly in their chests and one farm receives a very innovative award!

    The Tye Trophy is an important prize which gets awarded annually at The Great Yorkshire Show. It recognises the achievements of successful farms who go above and beyond when it comes to environmental sustainability. In true Yorkshire style, this isn’t about paying lip service to green issues, it’s about rewarding those farms doing a ‘proper job’ of setting environmental standards for the future.

    Dalefoot Farm, in the Lake District, has been proud to be shortlisted this year. As an upland sheep farm we are also home to Dalefoot Composts and Barker and Bland Peat Bog Restoration Ltd. Our farm, maybe highly diversified but is made up of inter-connected businesses which enhance wildlife habitat, transform wool and bracken into nutrient rich products and sustain the cultural heritage of our location.

    At a time when we’re told that successful farming and landscape enrichment are mutually exclusive, Dalefoot Farms challenges this assertion. By harvesting bracken from the fells of Cumbria creating habitat and easier gathering, and buying-in low-grade Herdwick and Swaledale wool from neighbouring farms, we produce a high-quality peat-free compost that enables gardeners to go green with award winning results. Peat-free compost reduces the demand for peat in our domestic horticulture market. This along with our peat bog restoration breaks the cycle of degradation to our U.K. Bogs. By healing and repairing them we create native habitat, increase bio-diversity and have the add-on social benefits of carbon sequestration and flood resilience.

    Although we’re just runners-up in this year’s competition, we’re very proud to have been considered for this prize. The worthy winners this year are the Robinson family at Strickley Farm, Kendal, an organic dairy farm. We’ve been delighted to meet with them and hear what they’ve been doing in the North west to increase yields etc.

    We’re enjoying our ice-creams and admiring the livestock now... we have to say The Great Yorkshire Show doesn’t fail to impress - All in all a great day out!

  • Caption: Degraded bog
    Caption: Sphagnum moss with sundew
    Caption: On site assessing the job

    The restoration of a peat extraction site, is no easy task. Take Bolton Fell Moss in Cumbria, which had been severely degraded after years of peat removal. As gardeners, we like to think of ourselves as nurturing plant-life but the sad fact is that most of the peat extracted from this U.K. bog supplied the Gardening and Horticultural Industry. All is not lost though, as thanks to the efforts of Natural England and the technical expertise of our sister company Barker and Bland ltd, the bog has been fully restored.

    Doing this takes a lot of work; firstly, preparing the site using big machinery, secondly raising water levels by damming and blocking channels and thirdly replanting thousands of native bog-land species. When we say thousands, we mean it… Bolton Fell Moss Bog covers over 224 hectares of land and with approximately 1000 plants per square metre, you do the maths!

    Many people ask how the sphagnum gets established which is a very good question. Basically, it involves a special mulch or ‘living carpet’ of millions of sphagnum fragments and nurturing species from donor sites being translocated to the bog. This ‘living carpet’ enables the sphagnum to in-bed and do the work of healing and restoring the bare, degraded peat left behind after extraction.

    The most exciting thing is that the bog has now been designated a brand-new National Nature Reserve (NNR) by Natural England. This means its future is much more secure and the Bog can get on with being host to a fabulous range of plants and providing a wide range of wild-life and social benefits: The plants used are Sphagnum based and peat forming which means they’ll begin the journey of re-creating the peat we’ve taken away over time. Peat itself is precious stuff, it stores more even carbon than trees! By locking carbon away, the bog helps mitigate the rising temperatures of climate change. Not only that, peat acts like a sponge and will hold up to 35 times its weight in water, truly ‘slowing the flow’ and improving flood resilience.

    The habitat Bolton Fell Moss provides will entice rare butterflies, bugs and birds to make it their home and increase in numbers, another reason it’s been made a National Nature Reserve.

    As gardeners, many of us have already gone Peat-free. Dalefoot Composts produce prize winning growing mediums that enable green fingered folk to keep nurturing their plants without compromising the natural environment. By continuing to support the peat-free industry, we not only enrich our own gardens but actively support the creation of a new garden; Bolton Fell Moss - the biggest bog garden in England!

  • Last week we celebrated our 10th year exhibiting at RHS Hampton Court. Set in the grounds of the historic Hampton Court Palace which was famously the home of Henry VIII. The palace provides an impressive architectural venue for not only enjoying the atmospheric show gardens but also live music over the water and fountains, and plenty of retail therapy opportunities with the extensive range of trade stands. See the RHS’ best bits here…Youtube

    We were all inspired at our first stop of the day – ‘The Edible Eden Kitchen Garden’ – Designed by Chris Smith of Pennard Plants, Burpee Seeds and Lubera. This garden boasted a variety of colourful ripening fruit and vegetables and a sea of yellow sunflowers, whilst produce from the garden was used for daily cooking demonstrations and sweet tomato tastings. Pennard Plants grow in our compost.

    Pauline had a quick chance to grab a cup of tea in the Rose Garden Tearoom where she was ‘blown away by the scent in The Rose Garden containing the most perfect roses I’ve ever seen’. Here was the place to acquire top rose growing advice from exhibitors such as David Austin Roses, Peter Beales and Fryer’s Roses who released a new elegant white rose ‘The Little Angel’. 

    We all took a wander round the story-telling show gardens which highlighted topical issues of Climate Change – the Global Impact Garden, Believe in Tomorrow and The Smart Meter Garden; the importance of a wild garden – The Wild Garden and BBC Springwatch Garden, and encouraging pollinators to thrive – The Urban Pollinator Garden.

    ‘The floral marquee’ was a wall-to-wall display of exotic floral colour> ‘Brighter Blooms’ picked up a Gold Medal for their impressive Zantedeschia Lily exhibit as did Hogarth Hostas – their 3rd RHS award this year. Hogarth Hostas use a blend of Wool Compost and Lakeland Gold to grow their Gold medal award winning Hostas. 

    Back at the Dalefoot stand, we were honoured to host a successful book signing of the recently-released ‘The Climate Change Garden’. Co-author Sally Morgan was taking questions on how we, as gardeners, can start to adapt to Climate Change. 

    On Press Day, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Parliamentary Under Secretary (DEFRA) headed to our stand where Simon took the opportunity to reinforce the urgent need to stop using peat and also outlined our nationwide Peatland Restoration work.

    Lastly, Special thanks to Charlie at Westdale Nurseries for providing us with some impressive Bougainvilleas for our stand. 

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© Barker and Bland Ltd t/a Dalefoot Composts 2014 - 2019. All rights reserved.
Barker and Bland is a limited company registered in England and Wales. Registered office: Dalefoot Farm, Heltondale, Nr Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 2QL. Registered number: 8312959

This project is supported by the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) for which Defra is the Managing Authority, part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas.

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