A flying visit to Beechgrove

We celebrated the first day of May by flying from Bristol to Aberdeen, to visit Beechgrove Gardens.
Charles had been invited to appear on the programme. I’ve never seen Beechgrove but have heard so much about it that I was keen to see the garden. The Beechgrove team not only allowed me to come along but also Charles’ son Edward, who is a student at Edinburgh University and makes many of Charles’ popular You Tube videos. It was great to visit this inspirational garden during National Gardening Week

It felt a bit strange sitting at the airport in my gardening clothes! The plane was so small, just 3 seats wide.  I think it was the smallest plane I have flown in since I was a teenager, we flew in a tiny plane over the Grand Canyon!


The Beechgrove team arranged for a taxi to pick us up at the airport and take us to the garden. Here we were welcomed by some of the team and taken to the garden.

Having never seen the programme,* I had no idea what to expect, so it was more of an adventure! The camera crew were getting ready to film Carole Baxter in one of the greenhouses and we were introduced to Jim McColl, who was sitting in this stunning greenhouse. It’s not stunning in a architectural sense, but rather in a practical one.

Jim McColl is brilliant, an absolutely delight to meet and listen to. He has the best stories, I could have listened to them all day.

(* I haven’t had a TV since it broken down 9 or 10 years ago. With everyone having a computer, there didn’t seem any real need to replace it and it is rather nice having a sitting room with the fireplace as the main focus, rather than a television. I’m not anti-tv and subscribe to Netflix so my children can watch whatever they fancy, but have rather got out of the habit of watching TV programmes).

The practical and homely (can one say that about a garden? Should it be ‘gardenly’?) feel of the shed and greenhouse area is reflected in the rest of Beechgrove garden. The thing that struck me the most was the ordinary-ness of it all: everything on a scale that made one think “I could do that” rather than “I could do that if I won on the lottery”!

I can see why so many people praise the programme for its genuine feel and people-scale practical advice.

In this greenhouse, I loved the espaliered fruit trees all around the edges, making full use of that space, and am thinking of how I could do this in the back of my own greenhouse, but not quite sure how I’d fit in somewhere to sit… there must be a way… it’s a nice puzzle to ponder and solve! During the summer, the gravel area in the center will have planters filled with other edibles.


Everyone at Beechgrove is so genuinely warm and friendly, they all seem to be happy to be working together and enjoying themselves. We had such a laugh there! I’m sure this must come across in the programme itself which is celebrating it’s 40th year.

After tea, snacks and a chat, Jim showed us around the garden until lunchtime. I was particularly taken with some cold frames and walls made from Wood Blocx, which slot together and can even work around curves. These would be ideal for people like myself who dream of all kinds of lovely garden structures but lack the carpentry skills.



This is one of the Beechgrove trials. The zig zag planting are different kinds of hedging, which are being trialed as potential alternatives to box, for gardens affecting by box blight.

I remember box blight when I’ve worked in large private estate gardens, not a problem for me as a kitchen gardener but seemed to be something of a headache for the ornamental garden team. The treatment can involve some strong chemicals, so having alternatives for people who want that kind of hedging or for topiary is a much better solution than spraying (with who knows what consequences for the soil and wildlife).

Each tree was chosen by one of the presenters – I can’t recall why! There was so much to take in that I don’t remember what influenced their choices…. The ‘triangles’ on the other side are green manure trials, a different one in each space.



We often hear people suggesting that one should grow green manures to keep weeds down, but it doesn’t seem to be working very well in that respect. As a no dig gardener, the concern I have with many green manures – those that are not killed by frost such as mustards or can have their roots left in the ground, for example field beans – is the damage to the soil structure as a consequence of digging them in which seems to defeat the objective of protecting the soil (another reason why some people advocate green manures). Why protect the soil and then break up the structure and harm it?

The growing season here is at least 3 weeks ‘behind’ where we are in Somerset however there’s still so much to see in the garden. I especially enjoyed all of the different distinct growing spaces, each with different trials and the honesty of the team explaining where things had not quite worked out!

This is the main veg growing area:veg is grown here using a 4 crop rotation scheme. The large sheet of white tarpaulin (nothing fancy, it is an old piece which had been discarded and reused here) helps to warm the soil before planting. Light can get through so weeds germinate; I expect these are hoed off prior to planting.


In some of the raised beds, plastic pipe is pushed into the soil and fastened securely. This is a good tip for people with wooden sided raised beds who want to use cloches and something I shall try in my front garden beds at home. A piece of dowling is pushed into each secured pipe and  then more pipe attached to this. It helps to stop the cloche hoops from wobbling about or flying off in this windy location.


After a delicious hot lunch, I watched the filming. The programme is being aired in a week, so I’m not giving any of the content away here – but it does include Charles and Jim !

This really was a flying visit as we flew back home after the filming. Not our usual lifestyle 🙂

Watch this episode of Beechgrove on Thursday 10th May, repeated on Sunday 13th May. I’ve been told that it will be available on iPlayer and also on Sky.

For more information about Beechgrove, including information about all four presenters, schedules etc visit their website:



I posted some photos of our visit in the no dig Facebook group. Here are some of the many lovely enthusiastic responses about the programme:

Tim – “love the Beechgrove garden”

Derek – “grew up with it as a programme, came to love it as a veg grower”

Christy-Anne – “Inspiration with masses of practical tips that motivate me to cultivate the immediate wilderness around my home. Started getting compliments about some of my garden. Thank you Beechgrove!”

Jan – “Love Beechgrove. A programme made by people with a life long love of gardening that they can’t wait to share without expecting anyone’s circumstances to be perfect”

Janet – “Love every aspect of Beechgrove. It’s all about gardening not the presenters”

Alex – “I’ve watched Beechgrove for years – I love the down to earth approach, the trials they do with products and plants and their visits to “ordinary” gardeners like me. I wish the series was longer every year!”

Angela – “Love it! A proper gardening programme applicable for us up North!”

Tim – “great for Bonnie Scotland”

MJ – “I only discovered Beechgrove last year and I love it, I really like the proper small scale trials they do and that they focus quite a lot on the practical bits of vegetable/fruit growing as well as including some standard gardening tips”

Catherine – “love Beechgrove, worth getting up early on a Sunday morning for”

David – “nice to see normally dressed presenters – about gardening not fashion”

Amelia – “love Beechgrove. Just looked on You Tube. Oh my !”

Liz – “I love Beechgrove, it reminds me of the old Percy Thrower programmes that I watched as a child. Real gardening for real gardens. Wish Charles could have his own programme”

Drusilla – “I love Beechgrove – so helpful and informative and humorous too! I particularly like the way they promote other gardens, large and small and I also appreciate their efforts to help community gardens. Well worth watching and I wish it was longer!”

Elizabeth – “gardeners and gardening at its best”

Melinda – “Beechgrove is my Sunday morning coffee allotment motivator, love it”

Susan – “Even though we live far from their gardening region, both my husband and I enjoy Beechgrove Gardens. I appreciate the gardeners’ openness to new methods and new varieties, all done with a sense of humour. I also enjoy the weekly newsletter with the show details”

Elaine – “Always watched Beechgrove when we lived in Scotland. Still love it now back down south”

Sue: “I love Beechgrove, the best gardening show on TV”

Jennifer – “I’m in Australia and can’t wait for each new Beechgrove episode on You Tube – it’s all about practical gardening and I love their trials!”

Linda – “Even though I’m in Spain and about 200 miles from Scotland – I love their practicality and put many of their tips to work. Beechgrove is on the TV planner!”

Su – “It’s a proper gardening programme”

Angela – “This is my Sunday morning ‘date’. It’s a great programme, very interesting and informative with down to earth presenting.

Dawn – “I wish I’d discovered it years ago! Such gentle and genuine souls – how gardeners really are”

Salv – “I love the programme – good sound gardening advice”

Paul – “I love Beechgrove. Lots of practical advice from people who all know what they are doing”

Drusilla – “Such a great bunch of people/presenters, full of inspiration and useful information and humour too. They seem genuinely to like each other and what they do .. and it shows!”

Nigel – “I do like Beechgrove. It’s a more real world gardening programme. It was good to see them trialing no dig “

Katherine – “Golly, I remember when Beechgrove started!”

Moray – “Great, practical advice and includes challenging conditions.”

Lesley – “I absolutely adore Jim Mccoll”

Wendy – “I love Beechgrove, always watch it, don’t watch Gardeners World, think Beechgrove more my style”

Del – “I prefer Beechgrove to GW and love listening to Jim McColl”

Liz – “I’ve been watching Beechgrove since it was actually at Beechgrove and before Jim arrived as the new young presenter. Best gardening show on the telly “

Maggie – “a great gardening programmer for real down to earth gardeners”


6 thoughts on “A flying visit to Beechgrove”

  1. Wonderful snapshot of Beechgrove. Thank you Steph! It takes me back to my growing up in Aberdeenshire, one of the reasons I love watching the programme too!

  2. Great detailed reporting. Thanks! I can watch it as a re-run on Sunday first thing.

    Re. Green Manures. What about sowing Phacelia in September and thus adding to the soil as it is killed by frost and then adding compost or covering it with black plastic if I don’t have/make enough compost to cover all of the garden? Two steps: Phacelia and then later compost/ black plastic?

    You’ve indpired some thoughts

    1. I’m not sure whether phacelia would grow much sown in the autumn, assuming it was being sown after crops are harvested. Might be worth a try though!

      Keep me posted 🙂

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