Sparkling wine, mushroom logs and dog poo wormeries

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I’ll admit that the above may sound like a rather unappealing combination, but these were just a few of the things that made the Grow Your Own Show so much fun. The lovely people at Cono Sur gave me tickets to the show, so that I could meet the team along with their partners in crime, the rather wonderful Seedpantry who sell ‘grow your own’ packs like the gorgeous kid’s starter seed kit pictured above. The two companies joined forces to offer people the chance to pot up seedlings and sip wine: two of my favourite things. Throw in other stalls offering cooking demonstrations, bee-keeping advice, raised bed growing demos and gardening tips, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a bank holiday.

Set in the idyllic Losely Park, the Grow Your Own Show was a little smaller than I’d expected. However, it had a joyfully ‘village fete’ feel about it which it would be great to see develop further at next year’s show: whack a rat, bobbing for apples or fishing for ducks would all have added extra entertainment and fitted in perfectly with the style of the show. As it was, I had to make do with stroking lambs and admiring chickens and pigs  (should you wish to go on a pig or smallholding course, check out Tedfold Cottage Farm).

I also developed mushroom envy, courtesy of Woodfruit who sell the most amazing Grow your own Mushroom kits along with dowels designed for growing mushrooms on logs. To use, simply drill holes in a log, insert the dowels and leave the log in a damp area for a year for the mushrooms to spread over the log. I am sorely tempted to go on one of their mushroom growing courses too: they’re certainly won a convert in their aim to turn the UK into a nation of fungiphiles.

Artisan food producers sold delicious bacon sandwiches, with other stalls offering posh sausages, chocolate, asparagus and rhubarb. It would seem that jam and chutney-making is one of the UK’s key growth industries if the amount of preserves available at the show is anything to go by. Every third stall seemed to be selling conserves which provided limitless snacking opportunities courtesy of crackers to dip in the jams.

And there weren’t just free snacking opportunities. Cono sur were giving away free samples of their wine. Given that I’ve written about their eco credential before but hadn’t sampled the fare, it was good to discover that their wine tastes as good as the product is virtuous. Their sparkling wine was light, dry and sophisticated, and is definitely something I’ll be buying (sadly, I didn’t win their competition to win a free crate of wine.)

Of course, there were also lots of gardening products on offer: heirloom seeds from Pennard Plants, who gave me a top slug-fighting tip: simply crush a few cloves of cheap garlic in water and spray it over your produce to keep the slugs at bay (though it’s probably best to stick to copper tape around your strawberries unless you fancy a garlicky tang); an intriguing garden irrigation system; some great raised beds; and then there was the idea that made me go both ‘ick’ and ‘wow’.

The Dog Poo Wormery claims to be a ‘quick, easy and efficient method for recycling dog waste’, using worms to compost your dog’s defecation and turn it into worm castings which can be safely used in the garden. Further checks suggested that the resultant compost isn’t usable on fruit and veg patches, or in areas that children are likely to play in (it did seem too good to be true otherwise) but if you have a flower garden, own a dog and are looking for an eco way to deal with waste disposal, it’s an innovative idea.

All in all, the Grow Your Own Show was a fab day out. It’d be good to see more exhibitors there next year, and even better if there were some more complex cooking demonstrations, as the one I saw was rather basic. However, wine, chutney, garden talk and cuddling fluffy animals all combined to make a wonderfully relaxing afternoon.

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