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Welcome Town & Country Gardener is the gardening blog for Garden Seat and is designed for both keen and part-time gardeners to cover everything about gardening in the both the town and in the countryside; throughout the different seasons of the year. As well as plant care and horticultural issues this site covers garden design, outdoor entertaining, garden buildings, water gardening, wild gardens, garden problems and pests. Whether you have an urban or a country garden, you’ll find a wealth of practical help and information, as well as ideas and inspiration for your own garden. In addition there is advice on keeping garden livestock, growing your own fresh produce and exciting step-by-step project guides. Don't forget to make a visit to Garden Seat where you can compare prices on garden furniture and much more.

Q – Is it possible to keep a pig in my back garden? I have the room but am worried about regulations and what the neighbours might say.

A – There is no reason why you souldn’t keep a pig in your garden provided you are sensible in your approach. Keeping a pig could be not only be a new hobby but also the solution to combat rising food prices? As the ‘grow your own’ movement continues to rise in popularity more people are considering the benefits of keeping a pig, to produce their own bacon, pork and ham. Just bear in mind that even if you buy pigs to keep as pets they are still classed as farming livestock and therefore you will need to register with DEFRA and  inform them you are planning to keep pigs. Do also check with your neighbours first that they have no violent objection to you keeping pigs in your garden. If things look a bit awkward a few ‘porky’ bribes might just do the trick!

Many DIY and country stores now are stocking pig housing and pig feed to fill a burgeoning need. This said you can keep a pig, or even two, in a large apex wooden shed in a fenced off area in your garden. A wooden shed is always best as it is warmer in winter and cooler in summer than a metal shed.

However don’t put it on a wooden base; it needs to stand on a concrete base that it is securely fixed to, so that the pig can’t push it over. You don’t want them escaping into your flower beds!

Traditionally pigs were always fattened on household scraps but this is now illegal and no food for pigs may be prepared indoors but they can have leftovers from the vegetable plot. They love rooting around in overgrown areas and fallen fruit is a great treat. Don’t however make the mistake of feeding pigs raw potatoes as they are very bad for them.

Pigs are pretty easy to keep and low maintenance. They will need feeding twice a day with pelleted feed and must have constant access to clean water. They are clean animals by nature and won’t muck in their ark so they don’t need mucking out as often as say a cow. However they do root around a lot and in the winter the area where they are kept can become quite muddy so you will need your wellies. Do make sure they have plenty of clean straw and room to move around outside.

All pig manure can be scooped up and stored somewhere away from the house to be used on the garden, once it is well rotted. Pigs will need a pen with sturdy one metre high fencing and barbed wire or electric fencing along the bottom to stop them digging their way out. The more space the better but two pigs could just about be kept in a 10m x 10m area.

A pig that is to be reared for meat is normally bought at two months old and sent off at six to eight months old. Therefore if you buy a pig or pigs in the spring they can be fattened up and then the ground can be left to recover over the winter months. If you have the room it is always kinder to buy a pair of pigs as they are sociable animals and thrive better with company. Also they won’t depend on you so much, which could make it much harder to send them off when the time comes.

If you run a few sheep to keep the grass down in your orchard or a rough wildlife area of your garden, there may come a time when you want to have a go at making your own yarn ready for weaving or knitting. There is nothing quite like the thrill of producing cloth, blankets or hand-knitted garments from the fleeces from your own small flock, which, if well handled, can also make marvellous pets for all the family to enjoy.

Sheep’s wool is probably the most popular fibre for spinners. This is because it is versatile, easy to spin and in plentiful supply. If you don’t have quite enough wool from your own fleece or fleeces take a bag with you when you go walking in the country and start collecting all the bits of wool stuck on wire fences and prickly hedges; you will be amazed how it soon mounts up. While you can also buy wool that has already been washed dyed and combed if your wool is coming directly from your own sheep, bear in mind that it is much easier to spin if it’s prepared by separating the fibers properly first. Read more »

When it’s cold and wet and I’m stuck indoors with a few minutes to spare I sit by the fire and sometimes daydream about my first trips to the West Country. When I was a child every year I travelled down to Devon, with my parents, to holiday on a working farm with one of my mother’s old friends and her hen-pecked husband.

To me they were always Uncle Joe and Auntie Nan and remained so until they died. Auntie Nan was fierce and bossy and held the farm together. This was because dear old Joe was a dreamer.

He was also a full blown procrastinator; but I simply adored Uncle Joe. He was kind, gentle and patient with a real feel for everything natural around him. Read more »

In her book ‘Country Notes’, penned in 1939, famous gardener and writer Victoria Sackville West wrote that her garden had behaved in an extraordinary way in the previous year; that of 1938. In January, for instance, blue primroses were in full flower, in very early March all her primroses were flowering in earnest and by the end of the month the garden appeared to have gone quite mad.

For, to her complete amazement, in her she witnessed, flowering freely, the pink clematis Montana, tulips, hyacinths, anemones and even a few flag iris. By April she was eating her own asparagus and during that Easter she was picking roses that shouldn’t have bloomed for at least another four weeks. Read more »

Most people simply can’t abide January. It is too stationary, not enough is happening and everyone is usually broke after Christmas. I, on the other hand, have always rather liked this month of severe frosts, damaging winds, steady freezing rain or even deep snow. Perhaps it’s because it is the formal start of a new year and the potential for new life and the first tentative signs of spring.

As a gardener I am a born optimist and each and every January fully believe that this is the year that my garden will look its undoubted best, the weather will be kind and my vegetable plot will finally feed us for a full twelve months. Stupid I know, but what is man (or woman) without hope? Beside there are many other joys in this month if you only look for them. Read more »

Where a cottage is surrounded by small borders beneath its windows it is a delightful idea to include a selection of night scented plants under living room or bedroom windows. This way on a warm calm evening in summer or at the end of a sunny winter’s day you can enjoy the rich perfume of flowers at any time during the hours of twilight and darkness.

Damask roses, honeysuckle, jasmine and night scented stock spring to mind for this exquisite purpose but there are also many other contenders to be considered, such as old fashioned pinks, Nicotiana affinis and in winter cheerful Mahonia and the delicious Daphne odora. For those confined indoors, or to a bed by illness, the scent of plants, as the day draws to a close, can give a feeling of great contentment is to be had from being able to enjoy rich ambrosial scents. Read more »

Having spent the morning at the fabulous Endsleigh Gardens Nursery, choosing some wonderful plants for my new winter garden, we set off to do some final Christmas  shopping in Tavistock but not before we had eaten a filling and warming lunch, on what turned out to be a really miserable day. The road from Tavistock to Pricetown was bleak and almost eerie as we drove cautiously through an ever thickening mist, until we finally found the perfect spot to pull in off the road and tuck in to our lunch. A café in Tavistock simply didn’t appeal today, instead we were setting off for one of our favourite lunches up on the high moor, on the way to Princetown. We had bought fish and chips and, as it is nearly Christmas, this was going to be washed down with a miniature bottle of sloe gin. Read more »