Composting, Garden Tools, Gardening, How To, Plants, Weeding, Zoe

There are mixed opinions about whether you should bother to sterilise your compost. Some gardeners choose not to, which is fine, but we believe there are many benefits to this very simple process:

  1. It kills off harmful bacteriaSome may argue that in turn you will be killing useful bacteria but this is not the case. The only way you will kill of beneficial bacteria is by baking your soil at a temperature that is too high; we talk about this in more detail later. Professional nurseries sterilise their compost, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t either.
  2. It’s proven to keep away pests such as thrips that are particularly annoying when using compost in your home and sterilisation can prevent such unwanted house guests.
  3. Prevention is the solution. Prevent disease in your compost before the problems arise, rather than skipping past the sterilisation stage and then making the situation a lot worse later on.
  4. Sterilised soil ensures that your plant will be happy and healthy, and this means the best optimal growth.
  5. Better safe than sorry. The methods outlined in this blog are super easy to do, and will make sure your compost is definitely safe for your plants. So why wouldn’t you want to give it a go?

    Making Compost

    Outlined here are three easy methods to sterilise your compost from your home:

     

    Oven

    Using your oven at home you can sterilise your compost easily; be warned that baking compost can create a smelly odour, so you may wish to open your windows whilst doing this.

    • Firstly, you need to use moist soil, do not over water the soil however you only want a slight dampness.
    • Use an oven safe tray and fill it with your soil until it is around 10 cm (4 inches) deep.
    • Cover the tray loosely with foil.
    • Put your tray in the middle of a pre-heated oven that’s around 80° For a more accurate result use a thermometer in the centre of the tray and bake between 80-90°c
    • Do not exceed the temperatures stated above, at temperatures above 90°c is when the good bacteria is killed and toxins are produced.
    • Bake for 30 minutes before taking out, make sure to take the foil off and leave it to cool for a while before handling the soil.

     

    Microwave

    The easiest and quickest way to sterilise your compost is with your microwave. We suggest using an old microwave in your garden shed or greenhouse to prevent bringing compost into your home, and this way you can get on with other gardening jobs whilst it’s baking.

    • As before you will need moist soil, but not too wet that it is slushy.
    • Find a microwave safe container and fill this with your soil.
    • Do not use foil in the microwave, instead cover with cling film with holes for the steam to escape or a plastic lid with air holes.
    • For every two pounds of soil will need 90 seconds in the microwave.
    • After it’s pinged, leave the soil to cool before handling.

     

Alternative method:

  • Place two pounds of moist soil in a polypropylene bag
  • Leave the bag slightly open for ventilation
  • Zap in the microwave for 2-2 ½ minutes on full power before removing and cooling

 

Pressure Cooker

  • Start by pouring a few cups of water into the cooker
  • Next add your pans of soil, be careful not to add more than 4 inches, and pop it on the top rack.
  • Make sure to cover these with foil to help insulate the soil.
  • Close the lid for your cooker but make sure you leave the steam valve

For every ten pounds of soil, leave it to steam for 15-20 minutes.

Voila! You now have sterilised soil that will be sure to sprout stunning plants in no time! If you prefer shop bought compost, read our Primrose Guide to Compost for further advice and information.

Sterilised Compost

Zoe at PrimroseZoë works in the Marketing team at Primrose, and is passionate about all things social media.

After travelling across Europe and Asia, Zoë is intrigued by different cultures and learning more about the world around her. If she’s not jet setting, Zoë loves nothing more than curling up with a good book and a large glass of red wine!

She is an amateur gardener but keen to learn more and get stuck in!

See all of Zoë’s posts.

Charlie, Garden Tools, Gardening, Gardening Year, Grow Your Own, How To

One of Primrose's many fruit storage solutions.
One of Primrose’s many fruit storage solutions.

Following on from David’s post about the harvest, I thought I’d share with you Primrose’s top tips for keeping your fruit fresh all winter.

  1. Throw away bruisers. Despite the old saying, the truth is one bad apple really can spoil the bunch. Segregate any apples with bruises or rot on them. Storing them with healthy apples can lead to the good apples rotting as well.
  2. Space the apples out. Another way to prevent rot spreading is to space your apples out so they are not touching. It also helps to keep different varieties of apples on different shelves, as they tend to decay at different rates and you don’t want your faster spoiling golden delicious apples spoiling your long lasting cox apples, for instance.
  3. Wrap your apples. Following on from this, one piece of advice is to wrap your apples in newspaper – this will prevent contact and stop any rot from spreading between apples. Be sure to use plain black and white newspaper or paper as coloured ink contains poisonous elements that you don’t want in prolonged contact with your apples.
  4. Don’t let your apples freeze. Frozen apples are spoiled apples. This is why it’s best to store apples in a cool cellar, but don’t worry, you can always bring your apples into your conservatory or kitchen for a few nights if you know it’s going to be below freezing for extended periods.
  5. Don’t forget – here at Primrose we have a great range of fruit storage solutions. Check out our range of fruit racks here. They’re perfect for keeping out rodents and other pests and keeping your fruit off the ground and fresh through the autumn.

And that’s our top five tips for keeping apples fresh. But what to do with those rotten apples I mentioned? Well they’re perfect for making cider…

 

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

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

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

 

 

Animals, Bird Baths, Garden Design, Garden Tools, Gardening, Gardening Year, George, Greenhouses, Heated Clothing, How To, Planting, Plants

Gardening in Winter

When the cold winds blow and snow begins to settle on the lawn, it’s tempting to close the backdoor and spend the winter curled up by the fire. But if you’re an outdoorsy person then there’s no need to give up on the garden for a whole season every year. With our guide to gardening in winter you’ll find plenty of projects to crack on with before the spring, how to protect your plants against the cold and top tips for making the most out of your time outdoors.

Winter Gardening Jobs

  • Pruning. Some plants are best cut back and pruned over winter, such as roses, shrubs, fruit trees and deciduous hedges. This will encourage healthy new shoots to grow when the weather warms up again.
  • Cleaning. While the life in your garden is less demanding, it’s a good opportunity to sort out a bit of general maintenance. Hosing down your paths and patios will not only spruce them up, but also ensure they’re free of grime which could become slippery in the cold, damp conditions.
  • Checking for structural damage. If you have a greenhouse, conservatory or shed then winter is the best time of year to give them a good inspection. Most of the surrounding foliage will have died back, leaving a clear path to see any cracks in the frames or broken window panes. Fixing these now is crucial for protecting any plants inside from freezing draughts.
  • Ordering seed catalogues. Get prepared for the sowing season by choosing seeds and plants to buy. It’s a good time to sit back and plan how you might like to redesign your planting or reflect on which flowers grow best in your garden.
  • Cutting the lawn. You won’t need to mow the grass anywhere near as frequently as in the summer, but if the weather is mild it will need doing every now and then. The grass won’t grow as fast, so you can leave it longer than normal.

Winter Gardening Tips

  • Don’t compact the soil. During wintertime, the ground will likely be saturated from excess rain and freeze due to the plummeting temperatures. It’s best to avoid treading on the earth too much as you will compact the already dense soil, making it even more difficult to work in the spring. So try to step lightly when you need to go over it.
  • Maintain tools. There won’t be many labour intensive jobs to do in the garden over winter so it’s a good opportunity to show your tools some TLC. Oil any machinery that requires it and sharpen the blades of your trimmers and secateurs. Then you’ll be all set for cracking on when the frost thaws.
  • Keep watering. It’s easy to overlook watering your garden when the weather’s so rubbish this time of year. But it’s still important to go outside and give your plants a quick water every now and then, particularly if it hasn’t rained in a while. And don’t forget to water your indoor flowers too!
  • Plan ahead. Winter is a great time to plan your garden design for the coming year. Most of the plants and trees have died back, leaving the core layout of your plot clear. Take advantage of this by mapping out new paths or patios, or deciding where to put that new shed or greenhouse.

Trees in Winter

Winter Planting

  • Winter loving plants. Surprisingly, there are a few plants that defy nature and come into their own in the chilly months. Besides evergreen trees, these include witch hazel, winter jasmine, winter honeysuckle and viburnum. Add a few of these for a colourful flowerbed all year round.
  • Winter vegetables. If you have an allotment or kitchen garden, then there are plenty of hardy vegetables that will keep you going over winter. In early summer you can sow broccoli, leeks, winter cabbage and brussel sprouts, which are all capable of enduring the frost – and perfect for a Christmas dinner!
  • Frost protection. As any gardener will no doubt be aware, most plants don’t take well to frosty nights and freezing temperatures. There are many methods to protect your plants against frost, from cloches and fleece blankets to careful watering and layering mulch.
  • Indoor gardening. Perhaps the simplest way to get your gardening fix without having the brace yourself against the chill is by planting inside. Not all plants will grow well indoors, so make sure you do your research. Most plants will grow best in rooms full of light and insulated against draughts. For the most effective indoor growing, it may be worth investing in specialist lights and a grow room.

Winter Wildlife in the Garden

Wintertime can be harsh for animals in the wild. Food is scarce, conditions are icy cold and shelter is hard to come by. You can help out the creatures that come to your garden by providing a little assistance. For the birds, leave out extra food in your birdfeeder and keep your birdbath topped up with water – though make sure it doesn’t freeze. A tennis ball in there should do the trick. You can also plant berry bushes, which will provide a source of winter food and a place to shelter.
For other creatures, make sure there’s somewhere for them to bunker down and sit out the winter months. Simply leave out a pile of leaves or uncut grass for groundlings to nest in.

Bird in Winter

What to Wear Outside

Obviously the priority when gardening outside from November to February is keeping warm. Wrap up as much as you can with hats, gloves, scarves and coats, while allowing enough ease of movement to be able to get on with your digging and pruning. A great way to cut back on the layers while retaining the warmth is with heated clothing. You can use heat pads for your hands or even battery heated socks and gloves for long-lasting toastiness. Just make sure that you don’t spend too long outside at a time, especially if you’re feeling unwell. There’s nothing like a regular tea break to warm yourself up!

One Year Ends, Another Begins

So don’t let the cold weather and long nights dishearten you too much – there’s still plenty of opportunity to get outside and enjoy your garden in winter. From protecting the plants you’ve tended all year to planning new features for the next, winter is the perfect time for reflection and inspiration. Take a brisk walk through the grass before huddling up inside with a hot drink and admiring your garden through the window. Treat someone special to a book full of gardening ideas for Christmas. And most of all get ready, for spring will soon begin!

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, Composting, Garden Tools, Gardening Year, Heated Clothing, How To, New Products, News, Primrose.co.uk

Again, summer draws to a close before it seems to have started with the nights getting longer and the mornings carrying that distinct chill indicative of the changing of seasons. Slowly, the leaves begin a spectral shift rightwards and we find ourselves staring ahead into an inevitable downwards spiral of temperatures and an overall deterioration of atmospheric conditions with great trepidation, tinged with a hint of sorrow. Or at least we would be, if it wasn’t for the shining light of Primrose’s Autumn Gardening Essentials List penetrating through that inter-seasonal gloom bringing with it hope; hope of better days, promises of better gardens.

All drama aside, it’s time for a change of tactics and like any great tactician we must utilise all resources available to us fully to optimise our time in the field. Autumn brings with it its own challenges with plenty of preparation to be carried out in time for winter but equally an opportunity to create a garden that looks great throughout the colder months and ultimately all year round. So here is the Primrose list of essentials to help you to make the most of these autumn months:

Garden Track

Garden_Track

I’ll start with this because it’s something you should consider before cracking on with work in the garden this autumn. Garden track can protect your lawn from all the activity taking place as you work in the garden, guarding against boots, barrows and just about anything else from churning up the ground as the weather gets wetter. This is the first step in lawn care preventing the ground from compacting and turning to mud.

Leaf Blower

The build-up of leaves can be often be underestimated and considered merely a nuisance. Of courseburiedbanner_4 they are a
nuisance often leading to slippery paths and general untidiness but they can also cause more lasting damage, especially to your lawn. A covering of leaves can starve the grass of light whilst encouraging disease so it’s best to stay on top of this. Besides, they make great compost, so why let them go to waste? Depending on the size of your garden a rake may suffice but for larger gardens a leaf blower can be a shrewd investment making light work of an otherwise monotonous task.

Compost Bin

Compost_Bin

This brings me nicely to my next item as leaves provide an essential ingredient for compost providing good balance to supplement your other green waste. At this time of year there should be plenty of green waste building up too as you chop back and tidy your garden for winter making it an ideal time to fill that compost heap. A good quality composter will help retain heat over the winter speeding up the decomposition process and require only a bit of aeration from time to time. Compost bins are also a great way to help divert your kitchen waste from landfill and so are a must have for the environmentally conscious gardener.

Mulching

Mulching

Basically a protective covering for your garden, mulching is key during the winter protecting from frost to which less hardy plants are especially susceptible to during the first few cold months. This is perfect for giving borders a cleaner finish and also provides the added benefit of improving the soil and can be home-made from a well-mixed garden compost combined with a bit of green waste. 2-4 inches should do the trick and to give those less hardy plants a bit of extra protection you can cover with straw or bark which provides a great looking finish.

 

Hand Warmer

handwarmer

Give yourself that bit of extra comfort whilst out in the garden this autumn with a hand warmer. Good for morale and dexterity it fits nicely in your pockets so you can keep those digits warm as the weather gets cold. The Warmawear™ hand warmer boasts platinum-catalyst flameless technology which ensures easy lighting and long-lasting, comfortable temperatures of between 42-50°C. It’s easy to use, simply add the fuel, light, replace the protective lid and place in the soft bag for up to 12 hours of warmth at your fingertips.

These items should get you started but stay tuned to the Primrose Blog as over the next couple of months we’ll have plenty more tips and how-to guides to ensure you make the most out of autumn this year!

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.

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