One of the things that I find hard about gardening in central London is the fact although there are garden supply stores that may be easy to get to – many garden items are just to large/heavy to carry home on the tube. When filling pots or patches with soil and/or other amendments it is not very economical at all to buy products 10L at a time when you might end up needing 100L or more.
Luckily we live in the futuristic age of internet delivery. Below is a list of places real or online that I have found to be both economical and superior products. The delivery is sometimes free (or the same cost as the tube) and sometimes arrives quicker than you thought was possible. I will update as I find new useful places.
I try to go organic when I can – for some it is not affordable but try to make the best of your soil and then with a bit of luck you will not need pesticides to kill the few bugs on your healthy plants that you may find.
Seeds and Seedlings
Victoriana is a family run nursery in the middle of Kent; they have a large range of both edible and ornamental plants; plus seeds and annual vegetable seedlings. I have bought quite a few plants from them so far and they have always arrived very promptly and extremely well wrapped. The seeds the sell are mostly from their own plants so they vegetables that are used to growing in England. This is beneficial as they are able to choose the best plants to collect seed from so you always know they are reliable to grow with.
The other thing I like about them is that they sell both seeds and seedlings in small numbers – not bulk/mass-produced. You may think this is more expensive than B&Q but nobody really wants 6 or 12 Brussel sprout seedlings in a small garden (not when there are so many other plants to fit in) This means although you may pay a little more; you are buying strong individual plants that you actually want and will grow. The same applies to the seed they sell – seed has a shelf life so even though you think you may be getting a deal at B&Q buying 1000 tomato seeds – in reality the seeds will go off before you ever get to use them. Better to buy quality seeds in fewer numbers that you know that you will be able to use.
They also have many tutorials and videos of how to plant out and look after (prune etc) the plants they sell.
The real seed catalogue is a company that specialised in open pollinating plants seeds (as opposed to seeds from hybrid plants) so that if it takes your fancy you can collect the seeds of the plants you grow and never have to buy seeds again. They have vegetable, fruit and flower seeds and the instructions on how to collect, save and store the seed long-term so that will germinate readily the following and subsequent years.
They grow all the plants they sell so they know what does well and what does not – they of course only sell the plants that do well so you know you are getting a good product and they are not just guessing that the plant will do well in the UK. They also grow seeds that are aimed at small gardens – not seeds that are for growing large crops on farms.
The seeds they provide are sometimes rare or not on the EU approved seed list so you will not find them elsewhere for public sale. This means they only provide seed to club members and not the public – however member ship costs 1p a year so you are pretty much set.
Garden Organic is a website that provides information about organic gardening, monthly tips and courses workshops to attend if that takes your fancy. They work with schools and work groups to educate and improve awareness of organic gardening within the community. They have an online store that organic (and non-organic) seeds, plants and soil amendments – you can become a member of Garden Organic which gives you access to even more information and a discount to the store online but the more interesting thing is the Heritage Seed Library membership add-on.
The Heritage Seed Library is a catalogue of rare, usual and very non-mainstream vegetable seeds. Another seed catalogue that has seeds aimed towards the small gardener rather than the large crop farmer. The plants themselves are not always rare (regular old tomatoes and spinach etc) but the variety of the plants are heirloom and are not able to be purchase by regular means. Unlike Real Seed Catalogue, you pay an annual membership and pick six seed packets for free (plus a seventh lucky dip); all the seeds are ones that have been grown in UK. Most of the seeds are tailored to UK weather some having been grown since the 1800s. Without this charity, many of the heirloom varieties would be or become extinct. The have an excellent seed saving section for advice on how to collect seeds for growing the following year
Some of us are lucky and can grow plants straight in the ground – we are not so lucky as our back garden is made up entirely of clay, some sections heavier clay than others but definitely needs building on. Depending on how much amending you need to do – you might need to buy more than just a water-in fertiliser.
Raised beds are the perfect solution to most clay soils as you can have better soil and drainage than directly in the clay and eventually the clay below the bed will improve due to all the extra attention you have paid it. We bought ours from Harrod Horticultural
For those who would like a no dig garden in any form – I found it very hard to find hay or straw bales that were able to be delivered to central London. The only company that seem willing to are Pet BeddingUK they will send bales of hay or straw (or shredded paper) – the delivery is slightly costly but if you don’t have a car then there is not really any other way to get it (I don’t fancy carrying a bale on the national rail – even if I could get a friend roped in to help me)
Pretty much no one will deliver manure to your home – compost yes, manure no. There is one place called Mr Muck’s garden supplies which I am going to try next week. They deliver large bags with delivery included in the price; they do discount for large orders (I mean, Large) supply horse or general farmyard manure and they also do mushroom compost and ericaceous compost. As we are building garden beds this year we will get a large order and it seems they are the cheapest I have found so far.
Update to come when we order etc. I ordered with them and they seemed very nice/helpful on the phone – it is a family run business that saw no problem with delivering to inner London – delivery within a couple of days, however it is curbside delivery as we are ordering many bags. If you are ordering one or two I am not sure if they might carry to your door but the bags come in 40L so not to heavy to carry just once. They supply Buckingham palace he told me on the phone so it must be good stuff.
For (sometimes cheaper than Amazon) cheap items; general pots, water cans, rakes etc I order from Wilko – they have cheap delivery, although it is any time between 9-5pm within five days they are pretty good. The last order got arrived in a day and a half so it was really quick and unexpected. I have ordered very large pots (50L) and also terracotta (some broke and they refunded everything) They will deliver regular brand name compost and each bag comes in a handy plastic ‘hessian’ sack which I use for growing potatoes or other plants if I run out of room – basically a free ‘any size you want it to be’ pot (2L-50L)just roll down the edges.