Gardening, George, Grow Your Own, Hedging, How To, Plants

Caring for topiary

Growing topiary is one of the most magical arts you can master as a gardener. We all love the huge hedge animals and blooming box clouds. But maintaining and caring for topiary plants can be a lot of effort, so we’ve broken down the steps into our top tips. Keep this checklist handy as you get to work on your creations!

  1. Plant your high hedges wide as they’ll need a lot of root space.
  2. Topiary needs aerated soil so make sure it doesn’t become waterlogged. Use good compost, bark mulch and grit.
  3. Feed your plants with slow release fertiliser granules, and Growmore once every spring.
  4. Water regularly over summer and give a light watering in winter.
  5. Sterilise your cutting equipment with antibacterial spray to avoid transfer of disease.

Clipping topiary hedges

  1. Clips your plants into shape once or twice a year. During summer is the best time to do this – start after frost season is definitely over and finish up by September.
  2. Only cut the topiary on an overcast day as bright sunlight will scorch the leaves.
  3. Experts recommend trimming first with power tools for speed, then cleaning up with sharp shears.
  4. If you’re training growing branches then use soft twine so it doesn’t cut into the wood.
  5. Watch out for signs of disease. Box hedges are particularly affected with box blight and box suckers. Yew can be hit with phytophthora root rot.
  6. If your topiary has been neglected then hard prune it in early spring to get it back into shape. Then give it plenty of feed and mulch.

Topiary maintenance

We hope these tips will get you started on the path to topiary perfection. If you have any other points on how to care for topiary then please share in the comments below!

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.

Gardening, George, Greenhouses, Grow Your Own

Greenhouses are a staple of English gardens and an aspiration for all serious home-growers. But how do greenhouses work and what benefits do they provide for your plants and vegetables?

How do greenhouses work

What is a greenhouse?

A greenhouse is an external structure for growing plants, primarily made of a transparent material like glass or polycarbonate panels. They’re used in professional agriculture for growing huge volumes of crops, as well as by enthusiasts in their own back gardens. Inside you get a stable, warm environment that makes cultivating fruit and vegetables much easier throughout the year.

How do greenhouses work?

Greenhouses work by letting in as much light as possible then trapping this as thermal energy. The transparent walls and roof of the greenhouse allow all the visible rays of sunlight to pass through. This light heats up the air and objects (like the plants and soil) inside the greenhouse. But the glass also acts as an insulator, so this heat is locked inside the structure, keeping the temperatures warm all through the day.

Greenhouses are great at moderating a stable temperature. Matter within the greenhouse like soil and water absorb the thermal energy from sunlight and release it slowly, so they keep the greenhouse warm even after the sun sets. If the greenhouse contains lots of soil, the iron content within this has high enough thermal mass to regulate the temperature in this way with gradual heating and cooling throughout the day. Since the greenhouse is a closed structure, there is no breeze to disperse the warm air.

So the temperature remains constant, generally much warmer than the cold snaps we face outside, and your plants stay happy. They get all the sunlight they need to grow healthily and are sheltered from any harsh weather.

What are greenhouses used for

What are greenhouses used for?

Greenhouses effectively allow you to cheat the weather. In Britain we often have unreliable seasons at best, with cold winters and short summers. With a greenhouse you can extend the growing season – for example by sowing seeds earlier and growing vegetables like French beans and cucumbers for most of the year. Outside they would get too cold, but in the greenhouse they are protected.

The warmer environment in the greenhouse also means you can grow plants maladapted to our climate. Exotic species, such as melons and sweet potatoes, can thrive under the hot glass and delicate plants that would normally die in the winter frosts can be kept safe.

What are the benefits of having a greenhouse?

  • You can extend the growing season.
  • You can keep crops safe from pests within the physical structure, and so minimise the use of chemical pesticides you need to spray on produce.
  • You will protect plants from excessive temperatures (both cold and hot) and extreme variations in weather.
  • A greenhouse offers protection from strong winds which can damage delicate plants.
  • Shelter from rain and snow allows you to manually regulate how much water each plant is getting. This can be made easier with irrigation systems.
  • Temperatures can also be regulated with ventilation systems like auto vents to open windows and let air in, or shading to reduce light getting in during the peak of summer.
  • You can grow plants that wouldn’t normally survive in your climate.

Benefits of a greenhouse

Tips for keeping plants healthy in a greenhouse

While your plants will be kept warm and protected from the elements, you need to make sure they still get all that they need. Since they won’t receive water naturally from rain, you must remember to water regularly or set up an irrigation system to do this for you. It’s also worth setting up greenhouse guttering and a waterbutt to harvest rain falling on the roof.

During the summer months, the greenhouse can sometimes get too hot, which isn’t healthy for everything growing. So be sure to open a window or door if it gets too stuffy. You can also use a ventilation system like louvre windows or automatic vent arms to manage this for you. If excessive sunlight is causing the greenhouse to heat up uncontrollably, then hanging or spraying temporary shading on the roof windows can alleviate this.

Your greenhouse will also need taking care of to make sure it’s at its best year after year. This includes things like an annual deep clean, sterilising pots and checking for damage. You can read more in our greenhouse maintenance guide. Also make sure that you keep on top of pest control in your greenhouse.

Lacewing greenhouse

Different types of greenhouse

Thankfully there’s not just one type of greenhouse to satisfy all gardeners. If you have space, then it’s worth getting the biggest freestanding one you can to maximise your growing area. But if space is limited then you can get a lean-to greenhouse attached to the side of your house, which offers the same robust frame and panels. For allotments and patio gardening, mini greenhouses and cold frames provide very compact space for crops, and can be portable too.

Read more about how to choose your greenhouse.

So we hope you now have a better understanding of how greenhouses work and why they’re such an invaluable treat for hobby gardeners and pros alike. If you’re interested in buying one for yourself, Primrose has a great range of high quality greenhouses available.

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 Mungo, Gardening, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting

Have you ever wondered why you can go in a shop and buy lovely potatoes and onions throughout a long and very cold winter that have been grown right here in the UK? Actually, it’s all in how they are grown, harvested and stored that makes a difference. You, too, can grow your own potatoes and onions with just a few tips so that you know when and how to plant them and, of course, when and how to harvest and store.

Growing your own potatoes
It isn’t as difficult as it may seem, but you will need to be aware of a few well-placed bits of advice from farming experts such as Carpenter’s Nursery and Farm Shop who make it their mission to provide the best products and information specific to UK growers.

Choosing and Planting Your Seed Potatoes

The first thing you need to know about growing potatoes is in how to choose your seed potatoes to ensure you have virus-free, certified seed and that you’ve prepared your soil approximately two weeks prior to planting. Of course, you also need to have previously placed your ‘seeds’ in trays that are well ventilated with the eyes facing upwards and outwards.

Allow them to grow to at least ½” to 1” in length, or if you prefer metric, 12 to 25 mm. This will take a few weeks, but when they have grown to a good length, you can now plant them in soil that was properly prepared and ready to accept your crop.

Growing potatoes at home

How Long Before You Can Harvest?

This is a question most asked by those who are planting potatoes for the first time. There are actually various times you can harvest and the exciting thing to learn here is that you don’t need to harvest the entire crop at the very same time! You can scrape off a bit of soil to expose the upper potatoes and once they have grown about the size of an egg, you can safely harvest a few new potatoes.

This is approximately 12 weeks, or a bit longer, into the growing season. The rest of the crop will take 6 to 8 weeks longer and at that point you will need to learn how to ‘lift’ them from the soil so that you don’t damage the tubers.

Growing Onions at Home

Like potatoes, onions should be planted sometime between mid-March through mid-April but unlike potatoes, you need to be very careful not to have manured the ground too close to planting. While potatoes can go into ground which has been manured two weeks prior to planting, soil prepared for onions should be prepared a good bit earlier than that as freshly manured soil can easily lead to rot and you surely don’t want that!

Growing onions at home

A Few Closing Words

While potatoes are technically tubers and onions are a root variety plant like garlic and shallots, both will have the main ‘edible’ under the soil. What you have just read through is but a brief idea of just how easy it can be to grow your own potatoes and onions and since both are planted and harvested at about the same times of year, it helps to learn how to do both as it saves you unnecessary steps when preparing and planting your garden.

Both can be stored over a long winter and both are hardy if you start with certified seeds and bulbs. This year, why not plant your own potatoes and onions and enjoy home-grown, organic crops. It’s fun, easy and absolutely rewarding.

Alex MungoAlex is a professional writer with a keen interest in gardening. He currently contributes written articles to various gardening websites such as Carpenters Nursery & Farm Shop.

Grow Your Own, How To, Jennifer Brown

preserve fruit and veg

Ever wanted to store your own fruit and vegetables so you live off your own produce? Preserving fruit and vegetables from your garden for future use is a great way to make sure that your family consumes fresh food, free from both growth stimulants and pesticides. Having said that, there are many different methods that you can use to store your vegetables. Read on to learn more about these methods.

1. Outdoor garbage can

Many vegetables can be stored outside and will maintain their freshness even after a long period in storage. To do this, you can bury a garbage can in a shallow trench or pit. It is best to select short plastic or metal cans that make it easy to store and retrieve your produce. Plastic cans are rust-proof but metal cans are preferred because they are rodent proof. You can use this type of storage to store cabbage, and root crops such as carrots, beets, and turnips.

2. In-ground pit storage

Another method to store vegetables is in-ground pits that can keep kohlrabi, root crops, cabbage, and potatoes. To set up in-ground pit storage, you need to excavate 6-12 inches into the soil. Next, arrange your vegetables in a cone-shaped pile and cover them with straw or other insulating material. Then, bury them 10 inches under the ground to prevent freezing. Make sure there is enough ventilation and place a suitable cover over the ventilator to keep out rain water and rodents.

3. A basement storage room

preserve fruit and vegetable

Another option for storing excess vegetables is a basement storage room. Since correct temperature is a must for preventing spoilage, a basement storage room is perfect as it will keep your vegetables at low temperatures. You can use the room to store vegetables such as cabbage, turnips, and rutabagas.

All you need to do is build a storage room in the corner of your basement and make sure the room is both insulated and ventilated as to keep the room cool and moderately dry.

4. Keep them in the dark

If you take the harvested vegetables to the outdoor, the light will raise their temperature causing them to root. Also, when vegetables are exposed to light they turn green as a result of chlorophyll production. Produce such as Belgian endive becomes bitter, while potatoes produce solanine – a chemical which is toxic to humans. So if you want your vegetables to stay safe for future use, it is wise to keep them in the dark. As such, place them in a dark closet or simply cover them with a thick cloth.

5. Canning

pickling fruit and veg
Canning is another option for preserving excess vegetables. The two methods for canning you can use include pressure canning and the boiling water bath method. The pressure canning method is the only safe way to can vegetables. You can use it to can all kinds of vegetables and fruits, from pumpkins to tomatoes.

In order for vegetables to be stored they need to be fully mature. Further, it is worthwhile to check the storage guidelines surrounding the fruit or vegetables you want to store.

6. Freezing

freezing fruit and veg
Freezing is an easy and reliable method that you can use to preserve excess vegetables. Types of vegetables you can freeze include onions, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes and leafy greens such as chard, spinach, and kale.

Before freezing, your vegetables need to undergo blanching. This procedure involves steaming or boiling them for some few minutes and then dipping them into icy water to cool. After that, you need to put them into a freezer in order to freeze. Once frozen, transfer them to a plastic container and they will be ready for storage.

7. Pickling Vegetables

storage of fruit and vegetables

Pickling is reliable way to preserve excess vegetables. Preservation involves either submerging the vegetables into brine or vinegar solution. If you are using brine solution, your produce needs to stay at room temperature for several weeks to turn acidic. This occurs because of the naturally occurring bacteria turns them acidic.

Quick pickles are produced using a solution of hot vinegar and they take few days. If you are a fan of pickles, there are several half sour pickles recipes out there which you can try and all you need is to follow the instructions carefully.

Jennifer BrownJennifer is a certified cook enthusiast and a legit photographer from Ohio, USA. She is a food lover and thus makes blogs about it at Imaddictedtocooking, which include her own photos for the demonstration of how the recipes are made. Contact her at @jenniferimaddi1

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