Colin and Laraine Lambie, a landscape gardener and childminder, from Livingston, West Lothian, have created a self-designed, wildlife-friendly garden. Here Laraine shares their discoveries.

How did you fall in love with gardening?

I have been interested in gardening for as long as I can remember. I don't know where or when it started, but I took a greater interest in design and gardening when I met Colin. We started to create our own garden more than 20 years ago.

Colin's great-grandfather was a commercial tomato grower and his dad used to help when he was a wee boy. Colin's dad was a keen tomato grower himself and you could always find him in his greenhouse when he retired.

The first thing Colin did when got his own house was to buy a greenhouse: gardening must be in his blood. I have taken over the tomato growing now but Colin still helps out with pinching out the side shoots and training them up the canes.

At night, we sit in our conservatory listening to old records – we don't watch television – and plan the garden.

Sum up your garden in five words?

Unique. Contemporary. Practical. Eco-friendly.

What makes it so special?

We planned the layout together. The plants in some areas have been changed a few times until we got the garden the way we have it now. We love sitting in our conservatory watching the birds at the feeders during the day and the frogs hopping in and out of the pond, while the hedgehogs run around the garden at night.

We have six strategically placed lights that are bright enough for us to see the garden but with sufficient shady areas for wildlife to feel safe. The lights attract moths which fall to the ground and the hedgehogs eat them – as well as the slugs and snails.

Our garden is terraced with a large variety of trees, shrubs and flowers, including our wildflower bed. Our stumpery/fernery is beside the living willow den and encourages invertebrates to live in the nooks and crannies which the hedgehogs love.

I am a childminder and proud of my child-friendly area which has artificial grass to allow play in all weathers. There is a child-sized working sink, mud kitchen with utensils, raised digging bed, sunken trampoline and a treehouse that looks like a pirate ship with a chute.

Tell us about your favourite garden projects?

We took the water pump and fish out of our pond. We use plants to keep the water healthy – it is now full of frogs and tadpoles. We cut holes 13cm x 13cm (5in x 5in) in our fence to allow the hedgehogs to visit and also raised the gate so they can get underneath it.

We have two shop-bought hibernation nesting boxes and one homemade from logs. We have cut three hedgehog highway houses in the frame of our decking to give access underneath.

We pile all our dead leaves in a quiet corner for insects and small mammals to shelter. We have built a compost box with a window to allow the children to see the worms wriggling in the soil.

Colin has made two log walls with varying size holes drilled into them for solitary bees, lacewings, ladybirds and spiders to shelter and lay their eggs. Our slate-filled gabions and bug hotel also provide shelter for insects and arachnids.

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What is important to you?

We try to upcycle and recycle as much as possible. We have used dead trees to hang bird feeders on. Since I started filling the feeders with sunflower hearts, we have seen goldfinch, greenfinch, chaffinch and the occasional great-spotted woodpecker.

There's two hedgehog feeding stations, one made from a plastic storage box and one from a large plastic flowerpot. Both have tunnel entrances to prevent cats from eating the food which is a mixture of dried cat food and canned dog food.

Old Belfast sinks provide attractive features and additional planting areas. A shower tray filled with Alpine plants helps disguise a drain cover.

After our gazebo was wrecked by the wind, we took two of the L-shaped pillars and turned them into planters to grow peas in. We fill old, large glass bottles with water and add blue food dye, so that when the sun shines through it, it gives a lovely blue flash across the steps.

What do you enjoy most?

Watching the garden change through the seasons. Knowing that we support wildlife. Growing and sharing the produce from the garden and the greenhouse with family, friends and neighbours.

This year, we have enjoyed peas, new potatoes, strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, cucumber and aubergines – and we are going to keep enjoying produce from the greenhouse making tomato soup and pasta sauce to freeze.

Top tips for any aspiring gardeners?

Take your time. Think about what you want from your garden, whether it's entertaining space, a place to grow vegetables or just somewhere to relax. See what grows well in your neighbours' gardens as there is a good chance it will grow well in yours too. Watch gardening programmes to get ideas. And if you see a black poo that looks like a dried-out slug? Congratulations, you've got hedgehogs.

What are the common mistakes to avoid with wildlife?

Don't put out milk for hedgehogs as they are lactose intolerant. Don't feed them dried mealworms as it is like giving them chocolate or anything that has fish in it as it is not part of their natural diet.

Put a ramp in your pond. Hedgehogs can swim but not for very long. If they fall in, it gives them something to hold onto to climb back out.

Don't be too tidy in your border. Put off cutting back your plants until next year as the decaying leaves make an ideal place for insects and small mammals to hide and hibernate.

Best gardening advice you have received?

We recently heard if you dissolve a soluble aspirin in a litre of water and spray it on your unripened tomatoes, it makes them taste sweeter and gives them 50 per cent more vitamin C. That's something we are trying out.

How do you make the most out of your garden in autumn?

Autumn is a lovely season. The types of rowan trees we have are Olympic flame, Autumn spire, Sorbus cashmiriana, two Sorbus vilmorinii and a Joseph Rock. They all have different coloured berries ranging from white to yellow, pink, red and orange.

READ MORE: Scotland's 25 best-loved trees

READ MORE: Conkering heroes know where to root out the best horse chestnuts

We have an Acer tree which changes from green to yellow to orange. At least 70 per cent of our plants are evergreen so we have structure and interest all year round. We look forward to seeing the funny antics of the wildlife on the night vision camera.

Colin and Laraine can be contacted at:

Nigel Buchan, landscape architect and plotholder at Inverleith Allotments, Edinburgh

What have you been growing this year?

A big variety of fruit and vegetables, all selected for their flavour and eaten as fresh as possible. There is nothing like peas straight out of the pod or sweetcorn cooked right away. Surplus produce goes to friends and neighbours or is frozen to keep me going over the winter.

What are you most excited about harvesting?

This is the first time I have grown mini plum tomatoes (Santonio F1 from Kings Seeds) which have a superb flavour and are productive enough to make lots of tomato sauce for the freezer. You only get six seeds in a packet, which is a bit of a shock when you open it.

I'm excited to see how the lemongrass turns out, I haven't grown that before. Outside the greenhouse, the sweetcorn (Earlibird F1 from Kings Seeds) has been a real treat, with really full and sweet cobs. Some years they don't do so well.

And this is the first year my new raspberry canes have produced a crop. Glen Fyne from Thompson and Morgan have a really good flavour, are easy to pick and are very productive.

Sum up your gardening style in five words?

Minimum effort for maximum flavour.

How did you fall in love with gardening?

My parents let me have a small corner of the garden. I planted some chrysanthemums and was mesmerised by their colours and smell. I have been a plotholder at Inverleith Allotments since June 1996, so just over 23 years.

Tell us a bit about your day job?

I'm a freelance landscape architect, specialising in landscape assessment and rural design. I mostly work on the reports that accompany planning applications and environmental statements. This gets me out and about, often in isolated parts of the country. I love getting to know a new landscape through my work and have worked on Shetland and the Western Isles, in Hull docks and in deepest Surrey.

Do you ever bring this expertise to your allotment?

I guess I bring a similar rigour to my allotment, for example, I apply permaculture principles, so it's mostly no dig, laid out in four-foot-wide beds that I can reach from paths on either side, so I rarely walk on them.

The soil is amazing, full of earthworms and so friable you can scoop potatoes up with your hand. I don't use artificial fertiliser or pesticides, harvest rainfall from the greenhouse roof, and recycle organic waste through the compost heap.

Is there a standout feature on your allotment?

I have a row of apple trees, planted in 1998 and trained on wires to form an espalier. In spring they produce a spectacular swathe of pink flowers.

What are the biggest challenges?

The vagaries of the weather. Warm, damp spells in spring that encourage lots of fleshy growth, followed by harsh winds that knock the plants to the ground. Every year brings different challenges and you learn not to get too stressed about failures, there's always something that does well.

What do you enjoy most?

Sharing plants, seeds, produce and gardening tips with other allotmenteers. There is a great sense of community and common endeavour that is really special.

Top tips for any aspiring gardeners?

Take it slowly; don't invest too much in equipment or structures until you are sure it's for you. A blank canvas can be pretty daunting. Try to keep it simple at first. Potatoes are good to start with. They are pretty straightforward to grow, spread a lot and tend to shade out weeds

What are the common mistakes people make on the allotment?

Not getting rid of perennial weeds, such as couch grass or ground elder, before doing any long-term planting. This is really hard, as you may have waited years to get a plot, but if you put a strawberry bed in soil with even the smallest amount of couch grass, you will never get great crops and probably end up having to take out the strawberries to dig out the weeds.

Best gardening advice you have received?

I read an article by Sarah Raven about doing a sowing of hardy salads, herbs such as coriander and vegetables like chard, towards the end of August. I cover these with Veggiemesh and they usually crop right through all but the hardest winter.

READ MORE: Scotland's 25 best-loved trees

READ MORE: Conkering heroes know where to root out the best horse chestnuts

Any gardening disasters over the years?

My hut was burnt down a few years ago. Nothing was left of the hut or its contents, but amazingly the loganberry growing up the side survived being burned to the ground. I now have a metal hut, designed by my architect wife.

How will you get the most out of your allotment this autumn?

I love the autumn mornings, dropping by as I walk the dog to check on the windfall apples and water the greenhouse.

Visit and

Fergus Walker, Glasgow project manager for The Orchard Project

What do you enjoy most about autumn in the orchard?

This is my favourite time of year. I love harvest time when all the fruits and nuts are ripe – and I love the autumn colours. The best kind of autumn day is spent up a ladder picking the plums, apples, pears or hazelnuts that you have spent all summer watching ripen.

Tell us about what you have been growing this year?

The orchard year is unpredictable; it is the trees themselves that decide which species or varieties are going to crop well. It takes about three years before the trees you planted come to fruition – that's all part of the excitement. Victoria plum, James Grieve, Bramley and Bloody Ploughman apples have been great this year. The blueberries that I planted this year have fruited and taste fantastic.

Are you on track for a good harvest?

It's been a bumper crop for most fruit thanks to a mild summer, but we have been affected by various diseases – scab, canker, brown rot – due to all the rain. So, we'll need to pick and store carefully, but much of what looks bad is just cosmetic. This is the biggest harvest of hazelnuts I've seen in years.

What will you do with your crop?

I will be drying apple and pear rings (core, cut in slices, dip in saltwater and hang on a string in a warm room for a fortnight then store in an airtight jar), making apple juice and maybe even cider. Storing apples overwinter by laying them out in trays or cardboard crates works well if you have a cool dry place like a shed or coal cellar. Check periodically and remove the rotten ones.

Top tips for making the most of the garden in autumn?

I would suggest getting together with your local community to have an apple day on a sunny autumn day. Hold a preserve-making party, press some juice, hold a longest peel competition. It's also a good time to think about making sure your beasties and other beneficial wildlife have a home for the winter by building a bug hotel.

What garden jobs should we be doing during the autumn months?

This is the best time to feed your trees as the feeder roots are in uptake mode: well-rotted compost, seaweed, comfrey tea and chicken manure are all good. If you had problems with disease, then a garlic spray after leaf fall can work wonders at combating that. Make sure you remove any leftover fruits as when they rot in situ this can provide a way in for canker or other disease.

And what should gardeners avoid?

Don't prune too soon! Wait until full dormancy, ideally the end of the winter for pip fruit (apples and pears), but next summer for stone fruit (plums, cherries etc).

READ MORE: Scotland's 25 best-loved trees

READ MORE: Conkering heroes know where to root out the best horse chestnuts

Do you have any top tips for fallen leaves?

If you had problems with disease, ideally hot compost them elsewhere to reduce risk of reinfection. Otherwise, just rake them round the base of the tree as a great mulch because the nutrients will get cycled back for next year's harvest.

The Orchard Project is launching a new pedal-powered apple juicing machine at its Apple Day at Alexandra Park Food Forest in Dennistoun, Glasgow, on October 19. Visit and