Allotment, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Kaitlin Krull

Thanks to the development of science and technology over the last few decades, most of us understand the importance of sustainability and environmental consciousness in the 21st century. However, it can sometimes seem impossible to bring this understanding into our day to day lives beyond the basics of recycling, eating organic foods, and using natural products. One of the best ways to bridge this gap is by growing your own edible garden at home. If this sounds like something you’d like to try but you’re not quite sure how, here are five reasons to help you make up your mind.

Grow Your Own Edible Garden

1. Learn how to live sustainably

One of the timeliest and more important reasons to grow and consume your own produce is in order to increase sustainability at home and decrease reliance on shop bought products. In addition to saving money, growing your own food also gives you control over what exactly you harvest and how often you harvest it. At Modernize, we know that sustainable living is about providing for yourself exactly what you need; no more, no less. Grow your own herbs, fruits, and vegetables, and you will be one step closer to a sustainable home life.

2. Encourage healthy eating

Plant and consume your own fruits and vegetables and you will be able to say without a doubt exactly what you are putting into your body. Choose your own produce and cultivate your edible garden without the use of herbicides or pesticides in order to achieve the best, healthiest result.

Home Grown Produce

3. It’s super simple

If you think that cultivating your own edible garden is difficult, you couldn’t be more wrong. While the process will take time, patience, and care, companies like Primrose take all the stress out of gardening with their Grow Your Own products. Simply choose from their wide variety of herb, tomato, strawberry, and other planters and grow kits, add in gardening basics such as raised beds, mini greenhouses, pots, trays, tools and watering equipment, and you are ready to begin your gardening adventure.

Indoor Herb Growing Planter

4. Save money

Sustainable living is just as much about saving money as it is about providing for yourself. By growing, harvesting, and consuming your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs, you will decrease your food bills, full stop. If you think that the initial financial outlay for a sustainable garden will be too high, think again. Shopping at affordable garden centres such as Primrose will give you high quality products for the lowest possible prices and help you on your way to self sufficiency.

5. Get the whole family involved

The best part about gardening is that absolutely anyone can do it. If you have young children, encourage them to get involved in your edible garden process. Kids love getting dirty, so let them help and they will learn about sustainability, accountability, and environmental responsibility without even opening a book. On top of all that, involving your children in the development of your edible garden will instill in them a love for nature and the environment that will last for years to come.

Kaitlin KrullKaitlin Krull is a writer and mom of two girls living the expat life in the UK. Her writing is featured on Modernize.com and a number of home decor sites around the web. She can also be found blogging from time to time on her personal blog, A Vicar’s Wife.

Allotment, Bulbs, Charlie, Composting, Flowers, Gardening, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting

Compost – a gardener’s friend, a great way to give a boost to all your plants, from seedlings to mature shrubs and trees – but which compost is the best for the job? We take a look at the things to keep an eye out for when buying your compost.


fresh-soil-1468423

Q) What do you call an irishman lying at the bottom of a bog for 1000 years?
A) Peat!

Since the 1970s, most composts use peat as a central ingredient. Peat is great for compost as, being made up of decayed vegetation, it contains in abundance many of the nitrates needed to help plants grow. However there are environmental drawbacks – namely the destruction of huge areas of natural wilderness owing to the harvesting of peat. While most of the peat used in the UK is imported, the amount of peat used from UK sources still far outstrips the rate at which it is naturally produced.

Thankfully, there are now on the market many peat-reduced or peat-free alternatives to the regular types of compost, many of which are just as effective as helping your plants grow. Generally made out of coir, wood fibre and composted bark, which mean they are good at holding water, but are also well drained. At Primrose, we only stock peat-free compost.

As well as the peat content, another thing to keep an eye on is the acidity. Composts that are too alkaline or too acidic can be damaging to many plants, while some plants do thrive in acidic soil conditions this is not the case for most. An ideal pH is around 7, but due to the salts containing the nutrients plants need to thrive,most composts will be a bit off from this. Too low and it can spell disaster for plants.

Drainage/ Water Retention. How well a compost drains and contains water is also important. If a compost has poor drainage it can lead to waterlogged root, on the other hand, if a compost has poor water retention, it can lead to there being not enough moisture for the plants to really thrive.

Fertiliser Levels. How much fertiliser is in the compost will naturally affect how well a plant grows. What might be less apparent however is that too much fertiliser can also be a bad thing, as well as too little. Too much fertiliser is not needed by many plants, and putting too much in can cause the soil’s pH to fall to dangerous levels.

We at Primrose hope this helps you make a more informed choice, and buy the best compost for your plants and the wider environment, as long as you buy from us!

 

compost

 

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.

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

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.

Allotment, Composting, Flowers, Gardening, Gardening Year, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell

Nicotiana
Nicotiana look lovely, but keep them deadheaded for the best display at this time of the year.

How long will it last?

I don’t think it really matters. The still air, silvered light, some might think thin especially when it takes all day for the sun to appear over the trees, October is that cool evening at the end of the day, a time of rest and peace. And the best seat in the house is in the garden.

I love the October garden.

Yes, there are plenty of jobs to do, hedges and lawns to trim and cut, beds to clear, fruit to gather, but to sit amongst the insects sipping the very last drop of nectar from the nearly spent flowers, wings caught in the ethereal light is the nearest we get to a transport to another world.

The smell of far away burning fires reminds you that someone, somewhere, is doing some gardening.

The compost heap is a great place to start, largely because we have so much plant material about. Herbaceous borders we are clearing, cabbage roots, carrot tops, a million vegetables that have been pulled, preserved, stored or eaten.

New raised beds
New raised beds, and yes, I need to cut the grass before I cover with membrane.

I don’t compost potato vines or tomato vines because I might just infect the heap with fungal blight. I know the heap is supposed to be hot and this kills diseases, but you cannot always guarantee it’s uniformly hot etc. Besides, I worry about it. So I don’t compost it. What I do is burn it, and then the ashes go onto the compost heap.

Any really herbaceous material gets mixed with newspaper. This soaks up the liquid, particularly from material like grass clippings, that gets terribly wet. It’s good also to intersperse some woody material, anything that bulks out the material, and maintains a few air pockets.

Then, of course, it’s raining leaves! The paths, lawn, pavements and roads are increasingly covered with falling leaves. I sweep them into piles and give them a day to allow any wildlife to escape before popping them into a wire basket for a year to rot down. You get really wonderful seed compost from leaf mould.

The wire basket is important, being mostly wood, their rotting takes a great amount of air, even though it gets cold, it’s the air that does the job.

Autumn leaves
Leaves keep falling on me ‘ead! but they’ll soon be in the wire basket rotting down!

More than anything, October is garlic time. I am amazed how hardy garlic actually can get.

Planted in the teeth of the first gales of the year usually around the middle of the month, they sprout nicely and grow into pencil-sized plants that resist the worst of frosts, indeed they thrive on it, their best flavour coming from a good frosting.

Do buy good quality corms for planting in the UK. Avoid supermarket ones, which only work in very special circumstances. There are two types, hard-neck and soft-neck. Hard-neck garlic has a central stalk from which all the corms come. They are usually bigger, more robust in flavour, but there are fewer of them than soft-neck garlic which has no central stalk and smaller corms, but with more of them.

It is remarkable how summer bedding continues to do well deep into the month, and it is worth deadheading these plants, even if it is too late for replacement flowers. Something like a nicotiana throws out white and pink flowers, and looks lovely, so long as you remove the dead flowers. When there is a mixture of dead and new on the same plant, the garden looks as though the end of the year has come with neglect.

Do you need a low maintenance garden?

The very idea had always seemed to me to be spoiling my fun. After all, I like digging and weeding. But whereas age might not weary nor the years condemn, a heart attack certainly messes with your gardening plans. So for me, like so many, it’s time to make the garden easier to work with.

The starting of a hedge
The starting of a hedge, cotoneaster, mahonia, all we need now is the blackthorn.

This has started with raised beds. We pulled out, well I started but my son finished, a huge hypericum, and the spare land this triffid was taking we installed some raised beds.

We made them from decking plants, treated wood, cheap and easy to use, but if I didn’t have a son-in-law who was not only handy with wood, but strong enough to carry the beds into position, I would have bought them. They will make life so much easier.

My next purchase is about 50 sq metres of ground cover material. Not just the flimsy stuff, but the really heavy duty material. It will cover a significant part of the garden so I can cover with more beds, and then for making paths between the beds, which will then be covered with gravel.

Where I live there isn’t a lot of garden theft, but I do like to cover the paths with something that makes a noise to deter anyone walking on them, so they might just give up and go somewhere else if they are up to no good.

With this in mind, the bottom of the garden needs a little attention. Fortunately for us it runs into a farm where two of the nastiest dogs you could imaging are constantly on guard, but I am a little worried about these gorgons getting through into ours, and now we have become grandparents, we would feel a little safer with a good hedge. So we are planting a mixture of blackthorn (not just for the sloes but the two inch thorns!) some Mahonia japonica and various other nasties that will keep man and beast at bay.

It is remarkable how fast and stock proof this combination goes, and you can eat the fruits of both plants – actually, ask me for the recipe for mahonia lemonade sometime!

So, how long will it last, this balmy early Autumn? So long as there is a garden to look at, to potter about in, or simply to sit in the shed with a warm mug, peeping through the door, gardening’s a great life!

Mr Digwell gardening cartoon logo

Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.

He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden. You can also see more about him on our Mr Digwell information page.

See all of Mr Digwell’s posts.

Share!