Allotment, Composting, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Infographics, Jorge, Planting

Crop rotation is essential for any gardener who wishes to grow their own food as it greatly increases one’s vegetable yields. All it involves is rotating what you grow between plots as to maintain nutrient levels. The most common way to do this is by rotating four families of crops that complement each other. By waiting four years before growing vegetables from the same family in a particular plot, one can partly restore the soil’s nitrogen content, and avoid the buildup of disease/pests. The most simple way to do this is to use four equal-sized raised beds and rotate clockwise.

Crop rotation has long been practiced and even features in the Old Testament. After the advent of farming, farmers came to realise that growing the same crops year-on-year would exhaust the soil, so it became common to leave fields to fallow once every two years. By the Middle Ages a three-field system was developed, whereby legumes such as beans, lentils and peas were introduced and grown after nitrogen-hungry cereals.

The introduction was of great importance as the legumes can both thrive in nitrogen-depleted soil and restore the quantity of nitrogen for future use by cereals. Legumes are unique in that they form symbiotic relationships with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, exchanging carbohydrates for nitrogen. The bacteria acts to improve the soil as once it dies the nitrogen eventually becomes mineralised, available for use by bacteria, fungi and plants.

Charles “Turnip” Townshend introduced four field rotation to England.

From the 18th and 19th century, more advanced forms of crop rotation substantially increased agricultural output, partly enabling the growth of cities and the Industrial Revolution. Originating from Holland, came four-field rotation that was introduced to England in the 18th century by Charles Townshend. Townshend divided his fields into four different types with a different type of crop grown in each. The system allowed farmers to keep all the fields in use, and utilised clover, another legume, to improve the soil’s nitrogen content. Also grown was turnips that along with clover was used as a source of fodder. More nutritious than grass, the fodder produced healthier livestock, and richer manure that could be plowed back into the soil. By growing animal feed every year, livestock no longer needed to be slaughtered over winter, increasing their quantity and quality.

The benefits of crop rotation has been confirmed with multiple modern scientific studies. One recent study from the John Innes Centre found that growing peas and oats in soil that previously grew wheat significantly increased the diversity of microbes, which help plants acquire nutrients, regulate growth, and protect from pests and disease. Another from 2012 found that “grain yields, mass of harvested products, and profit in more diverse systems were similar to, or greater than, those in the conventional system, despite reductions of agrichemical inputs”. And finally, a study from 2009 found that organic sources of nitrogen (i.e. legumes) remained in the soil for longer than inorganic sources, reducing the pollution of water sources from run-off.

So, what plants should I grow in my beds? Presuming you are to practice four-bed rotation we recommend that of the six main vegetable families: potato (Solanaceae), pea (Fabaceae or legumes), cabbage (Brassicaceae), carrot (Umbelliferae), beet (Chenopodiaceae) and onions (Liliaceae), you grow them all separately with the exception of onions, carrots and beet that can be all grown together. By rotating between different families, you can avoid build up of disease/pests that tend to attack specific plant families, and grow a variety of different crops. In general, it is best that peas (Fabaceae or legumes) follow the nitrogen depleting potatoes (Solanaceae). This will help you maintain healthy soil. Simply plan out what you wish to grow.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

Allotment, Dakota Murphey, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Planting

Growing your own food is not only the obvious answer to lowering food miles and a cheap way to produce tasty fruit and vegetables for your own kitchen, it’s also a growing (!) hobby for many people. In fact, having raised beds in your garden or taking on an allotment on the edge of town can be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.

Vegetable gardening
We’ve come up with 7 compelling benefit of growing your own – and no doubt you can probably add a few more of your own.

1. Improve your mental and physical health

According to the National Allotment Society (NAS), ½ hour’s allotment gardening burns around 150 calories. That’s about the same as low impact aerobics, but with the added benefits of fresh air and working with the land.

What’s more, a vegetable patch or allotment can be your haven, somewhere to escape to from the hassles of everyday life. Just spending a few hours pottering around in the garden is a great natural stress reliever.

2. Discover the community spirit

Whether you have an allotment or a few vegetable beds at home, you’re not alone! There’s a whole movement of people discovering the joys of Grow Your Own. Why not get to know your fellow gardeners, meet up at Seed and Plant Swaps, share your interests and trade handy tips and tricks – and make new friends.

Vegetable gardeners are a friendly folk, always willing to give advice to newcomers, which is invaluable for learning the ropes.

Vegetables from the garden

3. Learn something new

Learning about the different varieties of fruit and veg and how to grow them in your soil is a process that never ceases to be exciting. Read around the subject, share any problems with the rest of the gardening fraternity and ask the old guard for gardening advice, then use trial and error to see what you can achieve.

If you can involve your children or grandchildren and pass on your skills and enthusiasm for allotment gardening to them, so much the better. It’s a great way to help children understand where food comes from.

4. Reap bountiful rewards

There’s a huge sense of personal achievement in growing a fruit or vegetable from seed in your garden or allotment, knowing exactly where it’s come from, how it’s grown and what it’s been treated with.

But surely the real beauty of growing your own is that the fruits of your labour are tangible – and you can eat them! There can’t be many more directly rewarding activities than harvesting your home grown veg, then create and serve up delicious dishes in your kitchen.

Home growing

5. Wow your taste buds

It is a (sadly surprising) fact that most of us only come to realise how delicious fresh fruit and veg can taste when we compare our home grown produce with mass produced supermarket foods. Once you’ve tasted the difference, there’s no going back.

Harvested fresh from the ground, potatoes and carrots taste more earthy, tomatoes plucked straight from the vine have a richer flavour, while sweetcorn cooked straight after picking tastes incredibly sweet.

6. Save money

Not only are home grown fruit and veg much tastier than their shop bought equivalents, they’re better quality and cheaper too. With some careful planning and regular gardening exercise (which will make your gym membership redundant), you can feed the whole family with fresh produce for most of the year.

Also, rather than hunting down unusual ingredients in the supermarkets and pay through the nose for them, why not grow new and different varieties yourself? For the price of a packet of seeds (try Seed Parade), you can try delicious Japanese radishes or Chinese artichokes, Red Russian Kale or Purple French Beans or any of thousands of other fabulous varieties out there.

Home grown produce

7. Help the environment

According to the NAS, even 1 square metre of land is enough to support hundreds of different wildlife species. Your ‘grow your own’ efforts will help to create the right habitat for bees and other wildlife to thrive, without which our ecosystem will deteriorate, crop yields will decrease and our planet will suffer as a result.

If you have the space, why not incorporate a wildflower meadow into your garden, add a pond, a beehive or a chicken coop?

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.

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.

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