The Wonderland Freelance roundup – everything journalism, gardening, health and fitness and food related from March 2017

The aim of this site is to give readers some interesting and useful advice on gardening, health and fitness and food, as well as share my thoughts on all those subjects that interest me – and I get to write about as a Northampton based freelance journalist. It’s also a great place to host an online portfolio of my published magazine features of course, so editors can see what I’m up to.

March was relaunch month for my Wonderland Freelance website, so I’ve been busy posting a selection of my articles that have previously appeared in other publications over the last few years. As a result, this will be a longer than average round up!

Freelance gardening journalist Alice Whitehead holds composting worms

The start of March welcomed the first ever post on the new-look wonderlandfreelance.co.uk site – a step-by-step guide to composting , which originally appeared in my monthly Vegetarian Living pages. Composting is an essential part of any garden or allotment, and provides not only an eco way to get rid of gardening waste, but a rich growing medium for future harvests on the allotment.

Like a good coffee everyone has his or her favourite blend, but there’s no mystery or magic involved in making compost.
For the perfect garden stew, you simply need a good balance of carbon (browns), nitrogen (greens), and air and water.
Browns can be provided by shredded paper and cardboard, while greens such as plant and kitchen waste inject the nitrogen – and you need roughly 50/50 of each. Good things to compost include coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells, egg cartons, vegetable and fruit peelings and garden cuttings, but go to www.recyclenow.com for a complete list of what you can and can’t compost.

The real heroes of composting are the worms, and this month also saw an opportunity for me and my son to find out more about worms, in the interests of science (and fun) for Earthworm Watch.

One of the delights of being a freelance journalist is the opportunity it gives me to get to know some fascinating people – whether they’re involved in gardening, food or the wellbeing industry – and hear their stories. In depth research is one of the things that defines me as a writer and I often have to remember to stop talking to people to leave enough time to write the articles!

Freelance gardening journalist Alice Whitehead explores growing on canal boats

Some good examples of the great people you meet when writing about gardening and allotments can be found in articles I wrote for Kitchen Garden magazine. Gardening on a narrow boat might seem like a difficult task, but I wrote about several people growing successfully on canal boats.

While historically narrow boats were used for carrying coal and grain – with the roof the only space to walk across – an increasing number of leisure boaters are utilising the space to grow their own, cultivating potatoes in raised bed planters, growing beans up trellis and herbs in Roses & Castles canal ware.

Growing your own on an allotment is a fabulous pastime in itself, but the Dean Gallery Allotments take that idyll to a new level. There were almost two many juicy details for a gardening journalist to cram in to one article – community, art, listed sheds, manure from Edinburgh Zoo…

Since then, 20 or so higgledy-piggledy plots have been created in the idyllic two-acre space – more country house garden than allotment plot – with some divided by box hedges, and surrounded on one side by original kitchen garden walls, and to the other by the grand baroque gallery, now renamed Modern Two (a twin to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art: Modern One).

In 2015, Vegetarian Living gave me the chance to meet some more fabulous people bringing community spirit and green spaces back to urban areas thanks to the Pocket Park Initiative . Not only do these initiatives inject colour and life into our communities, but they provide vital green corridors for wildlife, especially insects. I was delighted to discover a Pocket Park just down the road from me in Northampton. I explored the crucial part bees play in our lives along with some tricks and tips to attract bees to your garden in another article for Vegetarian Living earlier this year. 

I also provided useful tips to ‘growing up’ in a guide to vertical gardening, along with some advice for suitable plants, for those who want to maximise limited growing space.

One of the major considerations when it comes to vertical gardening is irrigation. While climbing plants will get their moisture and food sources from the ground, plants on living walls or shed roofs will need some help

Whether your garden is vertical or horizontal, at this time of year you might want to consider some salad crops, or even brighten up your plate with some edible bouquets. Last month, I shared some easy tips for growing salad as well as exploring the world of flowers you can eat.

There are, of course, lots more jobs gardeners should be doing in spring  – and don’t forget to enjoy the fruits of your labours with some tasty and healthy ways to eat salads and vegetables !

But thanks to the recent resurgence in foraging – and growing band of edible flower growers – all that is changing. Flower power is back on the menu!

 

Women gardeners can face sexist according to freelance journalist Alice Whitehead

Not everything that grows on an allotment is welcome though and in the first of my personal blogs, I talked about the unfortunate sexism in gardening that female growers sometimes experience.

Like a bad potato in the sack that risks rotting the whole harvest unless it’s identified, women on the allotment can still unearth the weeds of sexism popping up in an otherwise wonderful crop.

With spring here and summer around the corner, getting in shape and staying healthy is important for me – as it is, I’m sure, for you. Last month I posted a guide to low calorie cocktails, as well as 25 surprising benefits of yoga, 10 exercises you can do lying down , some tips from personal trainers for those who don’t have time to exercise and posted an article I wrote for Bitten magazine looking at why sugar is bad (or is it?).

 

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