Awnings, Current Issues, Flowers, Gardening, Gardening Year, George, Greenhouses, Grow Your Own, Herbs, How To, Planting, Plants, Weeding

Gardening in the Rain

Why on earth would you want to try gardening in the rain? It’s a perfectly reasonable question. But, daft as it may seem, there are a surprising number of benefits if you’re prepared to brave the elements. And as our wet summer becomes an even wetter autumn, getting outside on drizzly days will enable you to get a huge amount more done in the garden. Plus, cloudy weather makes for cooler air, which is always a relief for hardworking gardeners. The damp keeps away most insects and, of course, the rain waters your plants for you. So grab your coat, and get outside!

What Can You Do in the Rain?

  • Planting. One common concern that puts people off gardening when it’s wet is whether you can really plant in the rain. In actual fact, it’s fine – as long as there’s no standing water. Just use a pot, or place in the garden, that has good drainage. For new seedlings, planting in the rain can be of great benefit since you don’t have to worry about watering them.
  • Feeding. As well as sitting back and making the most of the rain watering your plants for you, you can take the opportunity to feed them too. Get out there with your fertiliser and sprinkle around the base of each plant. The rain will then help it to run straight into the roots for maximum uptake.
  • Harvesting. Some fruiting plants and vegetables love wet weather, and will produce lots of great crops for you to harvest. So while the season is rainy, it’s the perfect time for picking salad plants like lettuce and watercress, or herbs like mint.

What Can You Do After the Rain?

  • Weeding. Just after a good downpour is the perfect time to get your weeding done. Heavy rainfall means damp soil, which loosens up the weeds’ roots, making them much easier to extract. This is particularly useful for weeds which are notoriously difficult to remove, such as dandelions and those with taproots. Taproots are the thick, original root stems of weeds like creeping buttercup and wood sorrel. It’s much better to get taproots out while the soil is wet so that all the offshoot roots also slide from the earth, since if they break off they can regrow into new plants.
  • Edging. If you’ve ever tried to neaten up the borders of your lawn, you’ll know it can be a challenge to dig a crisp edge in the turf. Garden edging – usually plastic or metal strips – are the best solution for maintaining a trim border, and just after a rainy day is the best time to install it. Just like with weeding, the damp soil is your friend here. It’s much easier to shape with a spade or trowel, and the edging pins will sink into the ground much more freely.
  • Tidying. Though rain is of course essential to a healthy garden, it can also leave a few problems in its wake. When you go outside after a downpour, look for anything that’s been washed out of place, particularly soil or fertiliser. Make sure you turn the compost heap too, if it’s an open one, to help with the air circulation and prevent it getting waterlogged.

Snail in Rain

How Can You Prepare Your Garden for the Rain?

Not all parts of your garden are going to appreciate a real British deluge, so it’s best to be prepared. If you’ve just planted seeds they may be vulnerable, but simply covering them with a plastic cloche or sheeting should shelter them from the worst of the weather. If you have fragile plants in pots, an easy alternative is just to bring them inside while the weather is bad.

What to Wear for Gardening When It Rains

Gardening can be mucky, and never more so than when it’s pouring outside. But don’t let that put you off – with the right clothing you can easily stay warm and dry. Obviously a raincoat is a must. But it’s also worth investing in a pair of waterproof trousers if you’re going to be outdoors for a while, as normal materials will quickly become soaked through and weigh you down. You’ll want something to cover your head, but a waterproof hat is actually better than a hood for gardening since it allows for more flexible neck movement as you’re working outside. For your feet, walking boots are generally more practical than wellies. They’re lighter and don’t restrict your ankles, which makes it much easier for trampling through undergrowth and flowerbeds. Just make sure to check if your boots need spraying with a waterproofing agent first.

Useful Kit to Cope with the Showers

  • Greenhouse. Although more of an investment, a greenhouse will offer a permanent sheltered spot for gardening in a downpour. You’ll be able to get on with repotting and planting seeds whenever the weather decides to turn. It can also be a useful area to have for unexpected rainfall, as you can shift delicate plants undercover in an instant without having to worry about causing a mess indoors.
  • Garden track. One of the best ways to deal with the muddy ground rainfall causes is some garden track. This is a plastic roll out path that provides a solid surface to ensure you don’t slip over on the wet lawn, and is especially useful for stopping wheelbarrows sinking into sodden earth.
  • Garden shade. Sometimes you may just want to relax in your garden without the risk of sudden rain spoiling your day. Having an awning or shade sail installed is a great way to cover your furniture or guests when you’re entertaining outside. No more events ruined by bad weather!

So I hope some of these ideas have inspired you to not be downcast the next time the clouds appear on your gardening day. As we’ve seen, there are always a few bits and pieces you can crack on with in the wet weather, and even some benefits that the rain brings. It’s a garden essential. And if all else fails, stay inside, put your feet up and enjoy a nice cup of tea. After all, you were out working hard in the garden all summer…

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

Alex, Current Issues, Herbs, How To, News, Plants

Office Plants
Dramatic Introduction

There once was a time, many moons ago, when humankind led a much simpler existence. The struggles of modern life, in comparison, seem menial to that of the Neolithic man. Survival would be an outside bet as a response if you were to ask the average British 21 year old to list their top 10 priorities at present. Yet, I can’t help thinking that this would have been a more liberated state of existence. An existence more in tune with nature with a more focused sense of priorities; no need to despair at the lack of interactions on your latest social media post, no anxiety caused by the ability of an “every 7 minute” bus service to be late by more than half an hour, no burning desire to photograph every meal ever laid before you to show people you hardly know so that they can hardly care.

So, I decided to investigate the primordial aspects of the human psyche, searching deeper and exploring the development of the mind over the millennia. Here, I studied a plethora of cognitive schemas and emotional structures crafted over millions of years of evolution and ignoring trends developed over decades of increasing mind pollution. I chose to explore one of the most primal aspects of the human consciousness: Our relationship with nature. I was interested in how it affects us consciously and subconsciously, and how we can implement this knowledge in the modern world.

After many, many minutes of research I came to the conclusion that our relationship with nature was indeed an intense and deep -rooted one. A relationship forged during the dawn of our species’ time on earth when nature ruled this planet and we were simply its newest guests. It treated us well. Like any good host it provided us with anything and everything we could ever need and asked for little in return, except respect. Unfortunately it seems this relationship has wilted over time. It turns out we might not have been the best guests. A greedy race we became, taking without gratitude and losing touch with the force that provided both the fuel and the catalyst for our meteoric expansion.

As I continued, I grew saddened by this decline in what was once such a beautiful, synergetic relationship. It seemed that in losing this link, we had become resigned to losing a part of ourselves as if it was an inevitable part of evolution towards a society that existed online, in clouds on servers as our reality became more virtual and less… natural. But then, just as I was about to close all my Chrome tabs in despair and give up on the human race, out of the corner of my eye a shining beacoOffice Plant Psychologyn of hope punctuated the cold, grey background. In this moment, my despair evaporated and I realised there was a chance yet. A single symbol reminded me that this link was not eternally forsaken, that deep down this relationship still had life. I am, of course, talking about the humble office plant.

 

The Research

Now the dramatic intro is complete I can get onto the science. Plants in the office may seem to many at best a nice touch, but research is emerging to support the hypothesis that they may actually be having a more profound impact than we have recognised in workplaces around the globe. The benefits provided by a shade more greenery in the office are being picked up upon by researchers as they seem align with two of the most fundamental aims of occupational psychology: Reducing stress and increasing productivity.

Occupational Psychology

As a science, occupational psychology grew rapidly over the 20th century with an increase in the gradient of that development towards the end of the century and carrying on into the start of the 21st. Companies realised the potential benefits to come from this research and ploughed millions into projects to gain those extra few percent increases in productivity. The field has evolved massively since its conception with an increasing understanding of stress and its relationship with productivity with the modern day focus shifted towards reducing stress and increasing employee well-being.

Field Studies

So, the growing body of research to suggest that plants in the workplace both reduce stress and increase productivity is music to the ears of occupational psychologists across the world. One of the most convincing studies to date was produced by the team of researchers from the UK, Australia and The Netherlands who carried out a field study comprised of three experiments in two large commercial offices in the UK and The Netherlands. They found that enriching a “lean office environment” with greenery led to an increase in productivity by 15%. Lead researcher Marlon Nieuwenhuis noted that the results of this first long term study carried out in “real life conditions” “closely align with previously conducted laboratory studies”. He continues to discuss how “at odds” these findings were to the current political and economic zeitgeist as well as with modern “lean” management techniques and office design.

There are a number of previous laboratory studies into the area as Mr Nieuwenhuis mentioned and the majority note the stress relieving, therapeutic affect that plants can have on a workforce. A similar study carried out in Washington found a 12% decrease in stress levels of computer programmers, notoriously stressed individuals, when just a few plants were added to their office. Despite this, a causal link between the two, as with so many cases in psychology, is difficult to ascertain for certain.

 

My Theory

There are many theories but one I tend to lean towards is a combination of the improved aesthetics of the workplace, leadiWorkplace plantsng to temporary,
interspersed, mood elevation, with the effect created by plants on the physical environment. The second half of that may be overlooked by some but research from Washington found that transpiration by plants leads to an increase in air humidity to a level matching most closely that  shown to be found most comfortable to the average person. In addition, this process improves air quality and can reduce the ambient temperature as much as three degrees generally leading to more comfortable working conditions. If the wellbeing of your employees wasn’t enough to persuade you to invest in a few plants, think of the money you can save on your utility bills!

 

Final Thoughts…

Finally, there is data to show that an attractive workplace can help attract and retain the best employees in today’s competitive workplace market. It follows that if you have office full of competent employees, your stress levels and productivity are likely to be lower and higher respectively. With that I end my case. I hope, at very least, I have convinced you to get up an hour or so earlier, take a slight diversion to the nearest garden centre on the way to work tomorrow morning and fill a wheelbarrow full of shrubs and perhaps small fruiting trees and make your office a better place.

AlexAlex works in the Primrose marketing team, mainly on online marketing.

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.

Allotment, Charlie, Composting, Current Issues, Gardening Year, Grow Your Own, How To, Recipe

Nothing says autumn like the sight of earthy, delicious apples falling from the trees. But have you ever thought about turning those same apples into something a little more refreshing? Yes, I’m talking about cider making, and how it can be easily done even in your own back garden. Follow these steps and you’ll soon be enjoying a rewarding glass of cider of your own creation.

Step 1 – Collect the Apples

apples on the grass

While the ideal is to have an apple tree or two in one’s own garden, don’t despair if you don’t – market bought apples will do, or even wild apples from the roadside or country lanes. If you do have your own apple tree, a good tactic is to place a sheet under the tree and then shake the tree onto the sheet, this will ensure only the ripe apples fall from the tree. You’ll need approximately 2kg of apples for every 1 litre of cider you want to produce. It is worth spending some time here thinking about what kind of cider you’d like to produce, as the kind of apples you pick for the cider will, naturally, have the biggest impact on this. Sweet or sharp depends on the apples!

Step 2 – Preparation for Pressing

It never hurts to give the apples a good wash before you do anything else. The apples may have pesticides or bacteria on them which could harm the brewing process. Then, it’s crushing time. You can use a fruit crusher available here from Primrose, although if you are aiming for a lower quantity of cider a normal kitchen fruit juicer may also do the job – you could even try simply smashing them up in a bucket with a piece of timber if you’re so inclined – watch out for splinters though! At the end of this stage, you should end up with a mushy substance known as pulp.

Step 3 – Pressing the Pulp

Apple Press

Once your pulp is prepared, the next step towards making your cider is to press it. This can be done using Primrose’s range of fruit presses. Simply put the apple pulp into the provided mesh and place in the fruit press – then squeeze! Not forgetting to place a container below the press to collect the apple juice and always remember to perform this step outside – things can get a little messy! One good tip is to let the pulp “breathe” for a while after pressing, let the juice pour out then come back and press some more – this way you’ll ensure you get all the juice out of your apples that you can, and you let the press do the work.

Step 4 – Sterilisation

This is where things can get a little complicated. Firstly, you might want to sterilize your juice, particularly if many over the apples are over-ripe or have many brown and rotten bits in them. This will help kill off any harmful bacteria that might spoil your juice. You can do this by adding sodium metabisulphite (also known as E223) in the form of a Campden Tablet. You CAN skip this step, especially if you want to produce an all natural product, however this is not really advisable. All natural cider is very difficult to get right. If you want to try it though, good luck! If your goal was simply to make delicious homemade apple juice – then congratulations! You’ve made it. If you’d like turn it into cider, however, then read on.

Step 5 – Fermentation

Cider Fermentation

Once you’ve got your sterilised juice, the next stage is the fermentation itself. If you’re going for an all natural brew, you can simply leave the juice in a plastic or glass sterilised container and wait, hopefully, with enough time the natural yeasts already present will start to ferment the apple juice. However, the safer bet is to add some yeast yourself, remembering, however to wait 24 hours after sterilising to do this, otherwise the sterilising agent may kill off your yeast before it has a chance to turn those sugars into alcohol. Any wine or beer grade yeast should do the job. Bread yeast does not yield such good quality cider.

Fermentation should take between 5 and 21 days and be in a sterilised container at a temperature of about 20 – 27 degrees celsius. If you’re going the techie road you could use a hydrometer to measure when the fermentation is finished, otherwise you’ll have to go by taste. It might also be a good idea to conduct most of the fermentation in a demijohn or similar container with an airlock or fermentation trap. This will prevent oxidisation of your cider, which leads to vinegar being produced. You’ll only want to use an airlocked container, however, after a few day of leaving your brew exposed to the air, as at the start the yeast will need some air to do its job.

Step 6 – Bottling

Once the cider is fermented, you’ll want to get the cider ready for drinking. Ensure that the sediment left at the bottom after fermentation doesn’t get into the bottle. You can achieve this by either pouring carefully from whatever container you used for fermentation, or by using a sieve. If you’re a purist like me you’ll be wanting flat, not sparkling cider, in that case remember to give the cider a good stir to release any extra gas before storing it.

And that’s it, enjoy your cider!

cider glass

CharlieCharlie works in the Primrose marketing team, mainly on online marketing.

When not writing for the Primrose Blog, Charlie likes nothing more than a good book and a cool cider.

Animals, Cat, Current Issues

More Than Honey film poster

If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.

Albert Einstein

We have spoken about our love for bees before – Claire has done two excellent posts on saving the bees and farming alternatives that don’t involve the use of neonicotinoid pesticide.

In addition to producing honey, bees are responsible for pollinating flowers. As it is described early on in the film, bees are helping flowers have procreate as, after all, flowers cannot just get up and mingle amongst each other themselves.

More Than Honey is a film created by Markus Imhoof and chronicles honeybee colonies in California, Switzerland, China and Australia. It talks about the problems facing modern bee-keeping and the loss of sometimes up to 90% of the bees in colonies – particularly disturbing as 80% of plant species require pollination.

The film opens in the UK later this year.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylK9cDjhNQY]

wedding-meCat works in the marketing team and is responsible for online marketing, social media and the newsletter.

She spends most of her time reading about a variety of interesting facts, such as oddly named Canadian towns, obscure holidays and unusual gardening.

She mostly writes about Primrose news and current events.

See all of Cat’s posts.

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