Alex, Current Issues, Gardening Year, Plants

how to deal with frost

2017 has seen unprecedented weather challenges for growers. An extremely dry winter was followed by an unseasonably warm early spring. This encouraged plants to start throwing out shoots very early. We were then hit by very hard, very late frosts. To make it worse, the frosts were quite unexpected, coming during clear nights in late April off the back of good weather. The mercury plummeted to -6℃ in some rural areas and across the country, crops and gardens alike were hit hard.

Winemakers have suffered badly in the UK and across the continent. Up to 75% of some crops have been ruined by the cold snaps, with vineyards filled with huge candles to ward off the chill. In France, temperatures have dropped below -7℃, harming the new growths brought on by previous warm weather. Champagne may be in shorter supply this year, despite attempts to save crops with the down-draught from helicopters.

frosty vineyards

The frost was even more damaging as there was a lot of young, tender new growth triggered by the early warm weather which was particularly vulnerable. With many plants, the freeze decimated the new growth, killing it right back, and leaving plants looking very sorry for themselves indeed.

This is particularly bad for those of us expecting fruit crops this year, like the winemakers, who reported up to 50% of their crops may be lost and the rest delayed significantly. Strawberries, young tomato plants and other less hardy varieties that may have been moved out of the greenhouse too early on the back of the good weather, have also been wiped out throughout the country.

Late frost 2017

So what can we do to save our plants from the late frost?

  • Be prepared for unpredictable weather in the UK. Keep a close eye on the forecasts, with mild early springs followed by sudden chills the real killer.
  • Check out our tips for protecting plants against frost, including cloches, fleeces and greenhouses.
  • When moving plants outside after winter, do so carefully in stages to harden them off.
  • Choose some hardy plants like lavender and holly to keep some colour going in the garden whatever the weather throws at it.

AlexAlex works in the Primrose buying team, sourcing exciting new varieties of plants.

As a psychology graduate it is ironic that he understands plants better than people but a benefit for the purpose of writing this blog.

An enthusiastic gardener, all he needs now is a garden and he’ll be on the path to greatness. Alex’s special talents include superior planter knowledge and the ability to put a gardening twist on any current affairs story.

See all of Alex’s posts.

Amie, Current Issues, Gardening, How To, Plants, Ponds, Primrose.co.uk

The garden is our sanctuary, our area of peace, a place for personalisation, and with roughly 90% of households owning a garden, they’re a large part of Britain’s landscape. With over £4 billion spent annually on our gardens, they are unfortunately a prime target for thieves, with latest statistics showing roughly 1 in 7 households has an item stolen from their garden , and more gnomes (9.6% of thefts) being stolen than credit/ debit cards (8.2%). Only last month did someone have an elephant memorial (3ft brass ornament, chained and drilled to a post) stolen from their garden – it’s absurd the extreme lengths thieves go to.  Therefore, it’s more important than ever to prevent theft and we will show you some easy ways to do so.

Don’t put plants and ornaments in your front garden
One of the most common thefts are potted shrubs and trees from the front garden or door area, especially at night. Without a front gate or fence, it’s easy for passers-by to take them, and being fairly common, they’re even more tempting. So my advice is keep the plants and trees for your back garden, providing it’s secure. You can create a gorgeous front garden area without the need for plants (and gnomes).

Store valuable machinery and BBQs when not in use
It’s very easy for someone to enter your garden and remove an item, especially if not kept in a shed or outbuilding. For heavier items, it has been evident of people using machinery to remove such items. The best advice here is to simply lock all machinery and tools you have up, whether that be in your house or a shed. If possible, lock up the goods inside any outbuildings for extra precaution, and put a cover over them so potential passers-by can’t see what goods you’re storing.

Install security camera systems
Available for a reasonable low cost, CCTV and security systems are effective for two reasons; deterring and identifying. Many will be put off coming near your house if they saw a security system, with reports stating roughly 83% of burglars try to find out if there is a security system first. You could even be sneaky and put up a fake camera outside your house! If the unfortunate happens and you do experience a robbery, you have a greater chance of obtaining the thief with visual evidence.

Put up spikes (fence and thorny bushes)
Thieves like to climb over fences to enter the garden, especially if inaccessible from the front, so what better way to deter them than to give them a shock. Fence spikes are an easy, cheap solution which can be applied to fence tops, and are available in a number of colours (brown being a popular choice so it blends in with your fence).  Thorny bushes such as holly bushes are also a nuisance for thieves, but will require more time and maintenance.

Fence and Wall Spikes - Brown

Get to know your surroundings
This might seem a bit obvious (or perhaps inconvenient) but research the local area, especially if you are planning to move. Is there a high crime rate? Is it a hotspot for thefts? There are plenty of tools online to help research crime statistics and you can explore theft and crime in an area . Likewise, get to know your neighbours. If you are friendly with the locals in your area, they are more likely to keep an eye on your house.

Whilst the possibility of theft is ultimately low, it’s still better to safe than sorry. So follow these tips to ensure your garden is as safe as houses (excuse the terrible pun).

AmieAmie is a marketing enthusiast, having worked at Primrose since graduating from Reading University in 2014.

She enjoys all things sport. A keen football fan, Amie follows Tottenham Hotspur FC, and regularly plays for her local 5 a side football team.

Amie also writes restaurant reviews on  Barnard’s Burger Blog.

Callum, Current Issues, Gardening

Thrive Logo

Gardening really is fantastically therapeutic as many of you all know, in fact a recent study found that 88% of gardeners chose mental wellbeing as a key benefit for spending time in the garden. Not only that, gardening can help rebuild a person’s strength after an accident or illness, and can provide a purposeful activity for someone coping with a difficult period in their life.

So when I came across the charity Thrive, I really was impressed with what they are doing. They are the leading charity in the UK using gardening to change the lives of disabled people. They have allotments in four locations across the UK, which in 2014/15 delivered 10,000 gardening sessions to 450 disadvantaged clients. 38 went on to achieve an accredited horticultural qualification which for many was their first ever qualification.

Allotment

You might not think it, but there are endless benefits to working in the garden with disabled people. It provides them with better physical health through exercise and learning how to use or strengthen muscles to improve mobility. As stated at the start, it improves mental health through a sense of purpose and achievement. The opportunity to connect with others helps reduce feelings of isolation, acquiring new skills to lead a fuller and more independent life and just generally feeling better for being outside in touch with the ‘great outdoors’.

As well as the help they provide for disabled people, Thrive also assists the 50+ community. The Sow and Grow project started in 2010 and achieved great success. It is a free, eight week indoor gardening course for people over the age of 50 who are keen to make new friends, improve their general health and learn more about gardening. The results showed that almost three quarters of participants felt less isolated which is a big result considering loneliness is often cited as one of the biggest contributors to poor mental health.

sow and grow

As you can see this isn’t just about helping disabled people. As fantastic and standout as that is, this is about showing what benefits everyone can get from gardening and the improvements it can make to your mental health. Spread the word about Thrive and remember happy gardening!

Callum is currently on his placement year here at Primrose with his parents being huge garden enthusiasts.Callum

In the time he has free from his parents rambling on about the garden, he is being a typical university student experiencing life to the full and supporting his beloved Reading FC.

See all of Callum’s posts.

Amie, Animals, Current Issues, How To, Primrose.co.uk

Hedgehog awareness week runs from 1st – 7th May, so we’re giving you a heads up on everything you need to know to keep these animals alive in the British wild.

Hedgehog, Garden, Spur, Nature, Animal World, Cute

Hedgehogs are one of our favourite mammals, noticeable from their small, spiky bodies, roaming freely in our gardens. However, according to a recent report from BBC Gardener’s World magazine, almost half of us have never seen the cute, prickly critter. Even more worrying, only 29% have seen a hedgehog in the last year. Their presence is in decline, and is happening for a number of reasons, including changing environmental habitats, intensive agriculture and built up urban areas.  It would be a great shame to lose one of our favourite animals from the wild, but there are a few simple things you can do to help.

Make it easy for hedgehogs to roam between gardens 
One of the best things you can do to help hedgehogs is to allow free movement between gardens. By doing this, you make it easier for them to obtain food (did you know they travel up to a mile a night in search of food?). If you haven’t a fence in your garden, or you’re debating replacing them, look at fencing with gaps underneath. Else cut a hole in your fence roughly 13cm x 13cm, giving plenty of room for them to pass through. If you’re worried about your fence looking aesthetically unpleasing, simply place shrubbery or foliage near the hole to cover it up.

Build a habitat in your garden
Hedgehogs love twigs, leaves, bushes and foliage, which feature in many gardens, so why not make your own ‘hogitat’? Ensure there are no obstacles around the shrubbery, and ideally locate this in a corner of your garden, keeping the habitat warm and dry. This will not only provide a good place for hedgehogs to hibernate and nest in, but it will also be a hotspot for hedgehog grub to shelter such as slugs (meaning they are less likely to wonder the streets, crossing busy roads looking for food). You could even make your own DIY hedgehog box (similar to a rabbit hutch, but much smaller). Hedgehogs breed between April and September so this is a good time to provide warmth and shelter for them.

Hedgehog, Garden, Spiny, Animals, Leaf

Check any obstacles in your garden
Many gardens have features which can pose a danger to hedgehogs, so you need to rectify this. It’s all about applying common sense here. If you have a steep pond, then this is an instant death trap. Although hedgehogs can swim for short distances, they have difficulty exiting steep sides, so look to create a slope or place a log to allow for easy access. Or another solution is to place a netting over ponds to avoid falling in. If you had a bonfire in your garden, ensure this is fully dismantled and extinguished so it’s not disguised as a hibernaculum.

Warn off any predators that enter your garden 
Whilst hedgehogs feature a clever defensive mechanism in the way of their sharp hairs (known as quills) utilised through curling into a ball, there is still a danger posed to them by larger animals. Birds of prey such as hawks or owls, foxes and weasels are some of the more well-known predators that lurk in British gardens, and whilst deterring foxes (without affecting hedgehogs) isn’t straightforward, it’s very simple and cheap to place a bird decoy in your garden. Likewise, if you own a pet, try and ensure they don’t pose a threat to hedgehogs, by warding them off their habitats where possible.

Owls, Burrowing Owl, Casal, Nest, Hole, Bird Of Prey

Leave out extra food 
Whilst all the above gives the best possible chance of providing food and insects for hedgehogs, it’s useful to leave out supplementary food such as meat-based pet food, crushed peanuts, mealworms or raisins. Ensure any food you leave out is not only digestible, but is placed upon a pesticide free lawn (avoid slug killer, weedkiller etc).

Care for injured hedgehogs
If you see an injured hedgehog, then do what you can to assist. The safest way to pick up a hedgehog is underside first, to avoid being pricked. Bring the hedgehog inside, and place it in a box, wrapped up in a towel. This is less likely to frighten them, but will also allow them to keep warm. You can call your local hedgehog hospital or the British Hedgehog Preservation Society who will be happy to help. Many rescued hedgehogs fortunately are released back into the wild once they’re recovered.

Hedgehog, Mammals, Breeding, Animal

Follow our tips, share with your friends, and become an advocate for hedgehog conservation. With your help, we can create safe, hedgehog friendly communities, not just single garden habitats, which will give hedgehogs less chance of disappearing from our gardens.

AmieAmie is a marketing enthusiast, having worked at Primrose since graduating from Reading University in 2014.

She enjoys all things sport. A keen football fan, Amie follows Tottenham Hotspur FC, and regularly plays for her local 5 a side football team.

To see the rest of Amie’s posts, click here.

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