About Roger Brook

Cathi tells me it’s the done thing to provide a potted history about oneself on a blog. So, here it is.

Born and lived in Huddersfield 1942-47. Gardening memory - making mud pies with Christine.

Normanton 1947-50. Gardening memory - ‘mother die’ growing in the hedgerow.

Barnsley 1950-55. Gardening memory - digging well rotted compost from the base of my dad’s heap and selling it in our street at sixpence a bucket. One lady complained and turned away a bargain.

Peterlee (a year) and then Hartlepool 1955-65. I was thirteen when my green genes switched on. Upon their methylation I took over the garden. Gardening memory - growing coloured sweet corn, forgetting and giving the cobs to a neighbour. I feared it might poison them!

In 1961 I gained my first professional experience working at Brinkburn park nursery. It was  next door to my old grammar school. Gardening memory - my excruciating embarrassment doing the headmaster’s desk flowers every Monday morning!

1962-64  A wonderful three years as a student at Wye College, partly squandered by my then overwhelming shyness. Gardening memory - a pollarded paulownia and a new scented dwarf cyclamen.

1964-68 Lecturer at Lancashire College of Agriculture and Horticulture. Gardening memory - an ancient overgrown shrub border completely rejuvenated when cut to the ground.

1968-1990 Lived in Bolton Percy and taught at Askham Bryan College. Gardening memory - knocking on the rector’s door in 1974 and offering to spray off the weeds in the overgrown churchyard. Later the ‘special award’ for ‘cemetery of the year’ in 1988.

My time at Askham Bryan was when they taught proper practical technical horticulture to students who had decent pre-college experience. I now wear rose coloured spectacles but concede not everything was perfect. Gardening memory - digging in steam sterilisation tubes in the glasshouses in my first practical class there.

I took voluntary early retirement in 1990 and supplemented my pension by working for clients as a ‘hands on’ consultant. That work has never ended although it is now unpaid and done for friends and relations. Gardening memory - rubbing soil on pruning wounds so spouses failed to notice. One lady asking how to kill a tree without her husband knowing.

2001 Moved here to Boundary Cottage. Met Harry and Cathi, Peter and Julie.

2012 Started blogging and acquired a lovebird. Poppy now rules our roost. Life has never been the same.

My greatest attainment was to raise two fine sons - who wish to be anonymous. Probably embarrassment! My contribution was small but they have a good mother: I was always to be found in the garden!

I now have two cemetery gardens and maintain the local village plot. I have opened my gardens for the ‘Yellow book scheme’ for the past thirty years. I hold the National Dicentra Collection and a Harlow Carr medal.

My other hobby is bridge, now in steep decline. I take a keen interest in healthy living. I sometimes stand on my head as part of gentle Yoga. I drink far too much wine. I have a firm belief in vitamin D and seek out the sunshine.

My permanent sunshine is living with Brenda.

Late notice
After twenty years I have made an honest woman of Brenda! Here are my wedding pictures


  1. When Poppy heard himself in Cathi's video he squawked to himself and did a dance on my keyboard.

    1. Hi Roger
      Great site I’m on my first cactus golden barrel I’m wanting to start growing them cactus in my in heated greenhouse. What would you start with as a beginner for growing them in my greenhouse. And keeping them there in winter also the barrel cactus is about 4 inch across it’s just no quite filled the pot but it has small roots just coming out the bottom does it need repotting and how often does it require watering throughout the summer
      Many thanks David rose

  2. Dear Roger,
    You did a great job at Askham Bryan - what a college!
    I owe you and your colleagues so much. I've been a horticulture lecturer for over 20 years and enjoy reading your blog and I recommend it to my own students.
    A belated and sincere thanks for everything you did for me.
    Best wishes
    David Francis (NCH 1977-78)

    1. Great to hear from you David and that you are now a horticultural lecturer. Compliment indeed to be recommended to your students!
      I wonder where you are now?
      You can always get in touch at nodiggardener@gmail.com

  3. hello

    glad I found your site

    How do I get rid of ivy


    1. Welcome anon
      cut it out, pull it out, break it off! Keep on top!
      Glyphosate or brushwood killer takes for ever!

  4. Hello, I have found your blog via Angies blog.l too am a no dig gardener, interestingly I did a agriculture student exchange with Askham Bryan collage in 1970 from Walford Farm Collage, Shropshire.

  5. Thanks Angie for the introduction!
    Good to hear from you Brian
    I was at Askham Bryan then as an innocent young lecturer!

  6. Hello Roger .... I came across your blog some months ago and have been enjoying reading it from time to time. I really must get on top of this weed killing, especially in my very old and very sloped orchard where I have been clearing brambles to reveal daffodils and primroses and nettles and all sorts, selective spraying seems to be the answer.

    But another matter - do you remember my father, Douglas Williams, from Lancashire College? I saw him last week on his 89th birthday and he remembered you ... he might just get to look at your blog someday

    1. How could I forget him! Please give him my regards. Happy memories
      Rowena K and Peter W both follow my blog!

  7. Good day Roger. I have just taken over a garden gone wild and need to get rid of an infestation of wild garlic and bluebells in the wrong place. Could you recommend a suitable spray to do the job please? Thanks. Manny.

    1. If by garlic you mean Ransomes then a 1 in 40 commercial glyphosate/water mix in the next fortnight will really knock it back but a repeat spray will be needed next year.
      It is best to carefully fork out bluebells!

    2. Thanks for replying Roger, Much appreciated. Yes it's a crazy mix of garlic and bluebells left to go wild. I will do as suggested as the leaves are nice and tender right now. Shame but they are as thick as a lawn and in the wrong place. Thanks again. Manny.

  8. Hi Roger
    I remember you from Askam Bryan 1979-1982 and your lectures were very funny - in a good way.
    Can you tell me if the wildflowers in my lawn will recover from being sprinkled with Sierrasol iron?

    1. Always good to hear from old students Christine.
      I have never used this product but would I think there will not be much scorching. Indeed I am surprised there is any at all.

  9. Great to find your blog Roger. You lectured me at Askham 82-85, great lecturer. Many happy memories. Thank you.
    Best Wishes Jeremy Shaw
    (Aggy) HND Hort

    1. Good to hear from you Aggie. Its great to have a way to communicate with former students - spread the word!

  10. Hi Roger

    Was dipping into your blog and my own approach to growing plants overlaps with your philosophy and style of working with, rather than against, nature and having an intuitive sense of what nature 'does' instead of merely following hand me down advice on garden techniques. Like you, I don't dig as a gardening routine unless essential and throw vegetable compost directly on the soil and let fallen leaves etc compost naturally rather than obsessively clear them away.

    One thing that I did notice with concern is your recommendation of glyphosate weedkiller. I haven't looked at your site extensively so foregive me if I've missed relevant parts. You might not know glyphosate is the subject of a lot of controversy (e.g. the EU is on the brink of banning its use as its implicated in cancer and other very serious health conditions) It is an insidious chemical that is not biodegradable as claimed by the manufacturer and passes widely into the environment. There are studies demonstrating how routinely it is found in urine samples, even of people living in cities away from its widespread use in the countryside. Here's a recent example:


    It was found in the urine of all 48 MEPs who provided samples at an average of 17 times higher than the European drinking water norm: "everyone we tested was way above the limit for residues of pesticides in drinking water".

    I'd urge you to research it for your own benefit and advise you and others against its use which is very contrary to a natural approach to gardening and potentially very damaging both to the environment and to other people. Hopefully, before long, it will be banned and taken off the shelves. I firmly believe that what we do for the better in our own back gardens has an impact well beyond their actual confines.

    Happy gardening

    1. I fear it won’t be happy gardening if I believe ecowatch propaganda! I am afraid you have been taken in by zealous agitators.
      I take issue with you on several points.
      There are thousands of chemicals out there in the environment that you emotively describe as invidious. We know many are in our bodies and it is remarkable that modern techniques can measure quantities in almost homeopathic amounts, In most cases and certainly so in the case of glyphosate at levels greatly below any significant biological action. Many such chemicals are bi-products of modern living and industry and include domestic products, perfumes, plastics, food, pharmaceuticals – just about everything.
      Many pollutants – not all of which are made by man – are massively more harmful than glyphosate that has a remarkable safety record.
      You offer no evidence whatsoever that glyphosate is toxic, merely assert it is so

      What on earth is ‘the permitted level for pesticides in water’? How can you have a single level for pesticides, some of which really are toxic and a harmless chemical like glyphosate
      As to the MP’s urine, was it a stunt for their then impending discussion on glyphosate? I agree that glyphosate is present in many people’s urine but at levels that are measured by equipment with sensitivity to parts in a billion Its accuracy is such that its great inventor is himself embarrassed by the uses it is put.
      It is not surprising that glyphosate levels are elevated in urine The kidney has evolved to remove foreign substances from the body and your figures demonstrate its efficiency. You should smell my pee today, it stinks of asparagine after eating my asparagus. It has now been flushed away.

      I also take issue with your suggestion that glyphosate is unnatural Do you include all herbicides as unnatural – and if so what about the phytotoxic chemical produced by plants to kill their neighbours. Why is glyphosate unacceptable for being unnatural when alternatives digging and ploughing are even more unnatural.
      Just about everything we do in modern life could be described as unnatural!

      It would seem to be a coincidence that your comment has appeared on the day I have published a post arguing why the proposed ban on glyphosate was intensely misguided. And of course it was rejected by all those MEPs. Perhaps the glyphosate had gone to their heads.
      I venture the glyphosate in my own urine is more than that of the MEPs! Draw you own conclusion!

  11. Dear Roger I hope you will not mind me mentioning and it is only a mention but I've had a passion for citrus ever since I wen to Spain
    south of Barcelona some 50 years ago & saw lemons which I didn't notice much when I took the photo of my motor engineer pal but I noticed them on the actual photo which I still have.....
    Any way back to what I hope you don't mind me mentioning.........
    I have a citrus tree outside please see it( UK citrus home nottingham citrus) If you look at our citrus you;ll notice the leaves are a bit or a lot yellow. That's because Citrus in the UK are not in the ideal climate & I'm jealous of a friend in Crete who has better conditions than us to grow them. But technically you will see that the experts
    reccomend that citrus no matter where they are will benefit from foliar feeding and that applies to in the ground citrus or in containers...... I keep promising our Citrus outside that I will spray it's foliage and I will this year.... Please see Zinc shortage re citrus may be regularly short of that chemical always! even in citrus climes. I have found too late in my view at 76 that citrus love foliar feeding and I'll make an effort to foliar feed all my citrus plants until the day I die..... As you said there is no need for 'special Citrus products but foliar feed with all citrus trace elements is essential and any one regularly condesending to feeding their citrus by the foliar route will be amazed at the difference re the dark green leaves that foliar feeding produces......

    Citrus as you may well already know do not store their nutrients to a great degree in their roots but this store is in the leaves and twigs that's why citrus growers notice a decline in fruiting quality and amount if the leaves are not in a prolific and healthy condition.
    My wife swears by a product called Richard Jackson's plant invigorator which she sprays on the leaves but I saw a bargain on Amazon Formulex which apparently is a professional foliar spray (concentrate) based omn seaweed and it has worked wonders on a Lidl lemon tree I have that showed it was suffering from chlorosis. I sprayed it 3 times and the leaves are now dark green as they should be.
    What beautiful plants Citrus are.... The best of wishes with your tree/ trees.....

    1. I have pasted this letter Michael in the post on calamondin orange as my answer is more appropriate there.If you cannot find that post here is a link - I don't think it will be live but you can copy and paste it into your own searchbox

  12. Hi Roger, is there a way I could contact you directly, Kathryn Braithwaite Gardeners' World.

    1. Apparently if you google Roger Brook my preferred e mail comes up at the bottom of the page! Otherwise try

      nodiggardener @gmail.com I am intrigued

  13. Great Blog Roger...keep up the good work..just recently became interested in gardening (age 53)...liked the vid of Poppy, I keep and show Fife canaries, and also have a pet parrotlet!,

    Sean Keenan, Durham

    1. It's never too late Sean. I know some very fine gardeners who started at your age. My best advise is to devour a gardening magazine every week for two years and then move on....
      Your interest in birds will easily translate to understanding plants.
      Unfortunately Poppy had a sad demise two years ago. We now have a hand reared conure whose favourite perch (after Brenda's head) is on my shoulder. If you see any pictures of me ignore any stain on my pullover!

  14. Hello, Ive just discovered your blog and have really enjoyed reading it! I have an allotment and have been searching out answers as to whether I can use glyphosate right now. I believe your answer is that I can, but it will be slower than when used in the summer. Is that right? Thankyou.

  15. Hi Clare
    This post has that very title

  16. This came in from Jim

    Jim has left a new comment on your post "About Roger Brook":

    Stumbled across this and great to see you, Brenda and Boundary Cottage so well.
    Ironically (given the “challenging garden” we left you with, I am now a keen gardener although with a manageable garden in Pocklington.
    I must pop down and say Hello.
    (Previous owner of Boundary Cottage and Barney the three legged cat!)

    1. Good to hear from you Jim.
      I remember you told us Barney was an outdoor cat. That lasted about a couple of hours!
      We loved him dearly and he went on for another six years
      We would love you to call round

  17. I wonder if you have reconsidered the use of glyphosate?

    1. No. I have seen no evidence of any reason why I should. A lot of misguided propaganda. You will find several posts where I justify my position

    2. PS Here is a link to one of them Penny http://www.nodiggardener.co.uk/2016/07/why-banning-glyphosate-to-amateurs.html
      (It might need to be cut and pasted)

  18. Dear Roger,

    I'd really love to contact you and talk about possibilities of out collaboration. Please, send me an email, if you'd be interested!

    Looking forward to hearing back from you!

    Kindest regards,

    1. I don't know if you'll see my email address so just in case: agnes.grenner@gmail.com

  19. Hi Roger, I was chatting to my neighbour tonight and she mentioned her admiration for Charles Dowding 'no dig gardening'. I told her I remembered a lecturer while at ABC 1985-88. I googled and found a link to you! Loads of memories of my time at ABC and yours and other lecturers. Mike Ashford, Barry Maxim, Stan Ridgeway et al. Glad to have found your blog. Take care, Colin Hamilton

    1. One of the pleasures of blogging has been contacts with old students such as yourself Colin. We see Mike Ashford quite often.


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