Episode 100 - Show Notes & Advice

episode 100 | show notes & advice

episode description


For episode 100, Sarah is joined by her husband, writer, Adam Nicolson, to talk about new year’s resolutions in the garden that can help towards creating a more sustainable future and greener planet. From how to feed visiting birds, to the best ways to offset carbon in the garden, Sarah and Adam share their fascinating findings and aspirations for the year ahead.

in this episode, discover


  • Sarah and Adam’s resolutions for a greener Perch Hill in 2023
  • Updates from Adam about the carbon and biodiversity audit at Perch Hill
  • The best plants for garden and woodland birds

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advice sheet


Findings from the carbon audit at Perch Hill (1:45)  

  • Soil samples from Perch Hill were sent off to a lab to be analysed. The lab looked at what’s being grown, how it’s being grown, the hedges and trees on site. What long grasses and permanent grasses are on site and where, and areas of tillage. 
  • The findings revealed that around 83 tons of carbon dioxide were being emitted a year, but as there are so many trees and hedges at Perch Hill, 56 tonnes are being sequestrated by the foliage. 
  • Adam explains that the main cause of the carbon dioxide levels comes from the fuel to drive the tractors, mowers, and agricultural equipment, as well as visitors and staff. 

Adam provides some top tips for keeping your carbon footprint down (4:10) 

  • Keep the soil covered – long-term naked soil produces significant emissions, so keeping it covered with a green manure or mulch, definitely helps to reduce emissions. 
  • Plants to offset carbon – the longer and taller a sward like plant grows, the deeper its roots become too. Longer roots also mean that more is carbon stored. Adam suggests that permanent planting is really good thing to support this - look to add more greenery, hedges, trees and shrubs to your garden, a tried and tested away to offset carbon in the atmosphere.
  • More shallow ponds and water – it’s no secret that we’re experiencing a water crisis. Revisiting the surfaces, we use in modern construction and swapping out for greener solutions, is definitely a step in the right direction. Sarah explains that Perch Hill aims to build more shallow bodies of water in 2023.

Sarah and Adam’s New Year’s Resolutions (9:13)

  • Decreasing the number of imports in the gardens at Perch Hill. This includes limiting what is bought in at Perch Hill, like potting compost. Sarah says they intend to learn more about how to make their own manure and mixing their own compost. As an organic garden, Perch Hill doesn’t use nitrogen fertiliser, but they do use seaweed fertiliser which is put on container plants as a sort of tonic. Moving forward, Sarah explains that they will be taking an active approach to reduce this as much as they can by creating their own feeds and fertilisers too. 
  • Reducing plastic – Sarah explains that at Perch Hill, they have already made great strides towards cutting out plastic, but this is something that they intend to take further in 2023.
  • Planting more hedges – To embrace the findings from the carbon audit, Adam suggests that introducing more foliage would be a wise choice. Colourful, seeded, dynamic, berry-rich hedges which will work wonders for the environment and look lovely too. 

Biodiversity and garden birds (12:27)

Adam is currently working on a book on woodland and garden birds. Here, he explains what can be done to make garden’s more inviting and hospitable for visiting birds. 

  • The first step is to look after the birds. Treat them kindly as you would do pets. 
  • Adam explains that birds become easily reliant on bird feeders and the access to food that we provide. So, when it comes to feeding birds, consistency and continuity is key.
  • Cleaning bird feeders - Adam says that it’s vitally important that we clean bird feeders to prevent passing on parasites from bird to bird. This is partly the reason we’ve seen a decline in green finches of up to 60% in recently years which equates to nearly 5 million green finches lost. 
  • The feeders should be cleaned weekly, disinfected, and thoroughly rinsed. Done right, bird feeders are massive life-enhancers for the birds and for their watchers too. 

Bird friendly plants for your garden (20:18)

Adam’s favourite plants for woodland birds: 

  • Adam says he recently hand-spread an agricultural mix in his local woodland to support the woodland birds. This contains plants like ‘Stand and Deliver’ or Perennial Chicory, which often stands at the side of the road with bright blue flowers. Phacelia tanacetifolia and Linseed – which have high protein and omega for the birds. Brassicas too like mustard and rape seed, kale, fodder radish would work well at the base of a hedge, providing it gets plenty of sun.

Sarah’s favourite plants for garden birds:

  • Verbena bonariensis and Verbena rigida – incredibly prolific seed producers, the best way to see a charm of goldfinches, which self-seeds all along the drive.
  • Ammi Visnaga – A favourite of sparrows and dunnocks. Incredibly dense seedheads, jam packed with seeds. Sarah notices that the top layer is always laden with sparrows and smaller garden birds like robins and blackbirds, which love to feed on the dislodged seeds below. 
  • Red millet or Panicum miliceum ‘Violaceum’ – one of Sarah’s favourites in her classes and often used in game crops. It’s elegant, non-invasive, and perfect for the birds.
  • Nicandra foilseidies ‘Shoo-fly plant’ – loved by the tit-family, who like to feast on the seed pods like apples. 
  • Crab apple and apple trees – You really don’t need a big garden to have an apple tree. Varieties like ‘Red Sentinel’ or ‘Golden Hornet’ are compact, can be pruned easily. Sarah says they have ‘Dartmouth’ and ‘Hupehensis’ at Perch Hill, which are wonderful plants for providing birds with forage from early in the year until late.