Composting, Gardening, Gardens, Grow Your Own, Megan, Organic, Plants, Vegetables

What Is Organic Gardening?

The most basic interpretation of organic gardening is  ‘gardening without the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, or other artificial chemicals’. But organic gardening is about much more than simply avoiding pesticides and fertilisers. It is about working as one with nature and viewing your garden as part of the wider, balanced ecosystem. Organic gardening is fabulously rewarding for the environment, wildlife, plants and the gardener!

Organic Gardening - Rainbow Chard

What Are The Benefits Of Organic Gardening?

There are numerous benefits to organic gardening. Not only will the quality of your crop intensify, you will save money, improve the health of your soil (and yourself) and help contribute to a more sustainable way of living.

  • Quality of your crop – it is well known that organically grown food is significantly higher in vitamins and minerals than its non-organic counterparts, not to mention you won’t be ingesting chemicals that may be harmful to the body.
  • It’s money saving – by gardening organically, you will alleviate the need to buy expensive fertilisers and pesticides. You may think that because the prices of organic fruit and veg at the supermarket are inflated, that organic gardening will cost you a buck. In fact it is quite the opposite!
  • Soil health – adding organic matter to your soil adds vital nutrients to your soil and helps create a good soil structure. Further information about how composting improves soil health can be found below.
  • Sustainability – organic gardening contributes to sustainability by conserving resources, causing no harm to the earth and gardening in a way that is sensitive to the environment. In addition, growing your own fruit and veg means you will have to buy less in the supermarket.

How can I start organic gardening?

Compost, compost, compost!

Organic Gardening - Hands Holding Compost

Compost is a great, all natural, organic soil amendment. Work it into the soil, or spread it on top to allow weather and worms to do the job for you. Compost will improve the quality of your soil in a number of ways; it will add valuable nutrients, help soil retain moisture, contributes to balancing the soil’s pH and improves the soil’s overall structure. Composting also saves money you would be spending on chemical fertilisers that could be causing harm to you and the environment.

Plant in perfect pairs (companion planting)

Organic Gardening - Hand Holding Plant

Companion planting and organic gardening go hand in hand. It is a great way to reduce pests and naturally block weed growth. Additionally it supports plant diversity thus benefiting the soil and the ecosystem. With companion planting, you really can let nature do a lot of the work for you. To find out more, check out our post here.

Choose the right plants

Organic Gardening - Seedlings

Plan and assess what plants will flourish best in your garden. Choosing plants that are native to your area will allow for easier growth. It is also more sustainable than trying to change your environment to suit a plant that is destined for another land. Look for plants that will be sure to thrive in each spot you plant it. Take into consideration light, drainage, moisture and the quality of the soil.

Control pests naturally

Organic Gardening - Ladybirds On Plant

Prevention is the best and first step to discouraging pests from devouring your precious plants. Composting, mulching and the use of natural fertiliser will develop strong, vigorous plants that are less susceptible to pests. Using seaweed spray also enhances growth and helps repel slugs. Another great way to prevent pests is attract beneficial insects to your garden. These prey on the insects you’re not so keen to welcome.

Overall, organic gardening reaps more benefits than you can initially imagine, and today is the perfect time to start. In no time your garden will be flourishing into an organic and chemical-free oasis of nature at its very best.

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Allotment, Flowers, Gardening, Gardens, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting, Plants

Clematis are immensely popular climbing plants, flowering from late winter to late summer, depending on the variety. Grow them on walls, pergolas, in containers, scrambling through trees and shrubs or left sprawling along the soil as unusual ground cover.

Planting guide

If planting next to a wall or fence, dig the hole at least 60cm (2 feet) away and train the plant along the cane. Clematis perform best when their roots are shaded – either plant in front of them or cover the area with a mulch of stones or pebbles. They need moisture-retentive, but well-drained soil, in full sun or partial shade.

Dig a hole twice as wide as the plant’s pot and half as deep again. Add well rotted organic matter to the bottom of the hole and a handful of general granular fertiliser.

After soaking the plant in its pot, remove it together with its cane. Tease out some of the roots and place in the hole.

Plant large-flowered cultivars that bloom in May/June with their root balls 5-8cm (2-3in) below the soil surface. Herbaceous and evergreen species can be planted with the crown at soil level. Fill the hole with a mixture of soil and compost and water in well.

If planting in containers, choose a smaller-growing cultivar, using a pot at least 45cm (18in) deep and wide with a soil-based potting compost such as John Innes No 2.


In late winter or early spring, apply a potassium-rich fertiliser (such as rose fertiliser) and mulch afterwards with well-rotted manure, leafmould or compost. Water regularly during dry weather in the first few seasons.

For container plants, top dress each spring by replacing the top 2.5cm (1 inch) of soil with fresh potting compost. Protect roots in winter from frost by wrapping the pot in bubble wrap.

Water thoroughly and feed monthly during the growing season.



Clematis is notorious for being difficult to prune but that’s not the case, as long as you know which pruning group it belongs to (based on when it flowers).

When first planted, cut all clematis back to 15-30cm (6”-1ft) from soil level in February or March, cutting just above a bud. This will encourage branching and more flowers.

Pruning groups:

Group 1 – flowering in spring on shoots produced the previous season, such as C. montana, C. cirrhosa, C. alpina. Prune just after flowering in mid- to late spring if needed – no regular pruning is essential.

Group 2 – large-flowered hybrids, blooming May/June. Prune in February/March and after the first flush of flowers in early summer. The aim is to keep a framework of old wood and promote new shoots.

Group 3 – plants that flower on that season’s growth and herbaceous clematis. Cut back hard in February/March 15-30cm (6in-1ft) from soil level to healthy buds. If left unpruned, they will continue growing from where they left off the previous season, flowering well above eye level and with a bare base.

Small-flowered clematis with attractive seedheads can just be trimmed back to the main framework of branches.

Current Issues, Gardening, Lotti, Wildlife

wild space in garden

The State of Nature Report

In 2013 over 50 British wildlife organisations worked together to release the State of Nature report, the first report of its kind which set out to undertake a “health check” of nature in the UK. The results were, to say the least, troubling. All around the UK, all kinds of wildlife was suffering – there were declines in populations of insects and butterflies, in birds and mammals and even in plants.

The UK is not left wanting when it comes to green space as over half of the total urban area in England is made of green space: parks, gardens and allotments as well as grassy verges take up a significant amount of room. The demand for houses with gardens is still very high but the shrinking amount of land available means these gardens are getting smaller and smaller. The urbanisation of formally wild spaces can even increase the impact of invasive species on local wildlife populations as they usually arrive via human transport routes.

In non-urbanised patches or arible or farm land, the trend continues. The report showed that since the 1970s there has been a rapid decline in farmland bird populations which showed no indication of improving any time soon. There were similar results when looking at farmland moths and beetles, with 64% of moths and 70% of beetles in decline.

A further report taken in 2016 held similarly worrying results, showing that 56% of species in the UK were in decline and 165 species were considered critically endangered – that’s one in ten species across the UK. One in six animal, bird, plant, insect and fish species had been lost altogether. While between 2013 and 2016 more steps were being taken to combat these problems, researchers could find no statistically significant improvements between the two reports that showed long-term change for the good.

The reports picked up on two trends which could be most closely linked with the continued drop in numbers of local birds, animals and insects. These were the lack of wild, uncultivated spaces and the use of pesticides, particularly agricultural ones.

Britain is, thankfully, a nation of nature-lovers. We’re birders and badger-watchers: where else would Springwatch reach as many people? The two State of Nature reports demonstrated this, as hundreds of volunteers popped up all over the country (and in Britain’s overseas territories) to count, track and observe the plants, animals and insects that the reports were focusing on. England loves its wild spaces – loves its moors and mountains, loves its beaches and brooks.

But do we love our gardens more?

The English Garden

It’s no coincidence that the word “paradise” stems from the ancient Hebrew word “pardes”, meaning “park” or “garden”. If a man’s home is his castle, then his garden is his estate. The garden is an important motif in popular culture; from the romantic gardens in which the heroine and hero walk in regency novels to the biblical Garden of Eden. The garden is the backdrop to scandalous love affairs, secret meetings and grand denouements.

English garden

The lawn – that big patch of green space you’ll probably find at the back (and front, if you’re lucky) of your house – has been a staple of Western homes for hundreds of years. The garden how we imagine it today has a carefully curated image which has evolved over time to become what we know today – a couple of flower beds, a vegetable patch hidden near the back, maybe a some patio furniture and, most importantly, a lot of grass. The lawn is as far from a “wild space” as it’s possible to get. Considering its popularity, then, what kind of impact is the British garden having on local wildlife?

Homeowners’ love of open spaces, trimmed lawns and pesticides is making it harder and harder for our favourite species to continue to survive. Bugs which would breed in long grass have nowhere to go, making it harder for garden birds to find reliable sources of food. Butterflies and bumblebees, which are integral for pollination, have fewer wildflowers to feast on and often find pesticides in maintained flower beds. Wild mammals such as hedgehogs, badgers and rabbits have nowhere to hide, breed and hibernate and the changing climate often means that those animals who do hibernate are waking up far too early.

What Can I Do To Help?

By making room for a wild space in your garden, you can start to support British wildlife in a real, active way. You don’t need to transform your whole garden into a meadow, but something is always better than nothing. Take a few square meters of space at the back of your lawn, overturn an unused vegetable patch or repurpose some beds and borders and allow the space to return to nature. By letting grass grow out and planting wildflowers (which often take a full season to come in), you can encourage more insects to land and breed, in turn feeding your garden birds. Long grass and flowers give small mammals more places to hide and you can combine your wild space with a compost heap or log pile to provide hedgehogs with a safe space to hibernate in the winter.

wild hedgehog in garden

Stop your endless battle against the weeds and simply let them grow – and put that bottle of weedkiller down! A weed is just a flower that’s grown in the wrong place: start viewing it as a flower that’s grown in the right place. Plant more self-seeding flowers (or make an effort to seed your own flowers) which not only saves you money but also encourages plants to grow just as nature intended: wherever they land! Replace traditional fence panels (which can often trap animals) with hedges which allow them to pass from garden to garden, as well as providing a safe place for birds to nest.

If you’re keen on growing your own food, step away from pesticides and try using garlic water instead. If you’re still worried about slugs, encourage nature to solve the problem for you – a pond will attract frogs and toads, and they’ll eat the slugs. A garden pond with sloping sides (or an exit ramp) will also give garden birds and wild mammals a safe place to drink and bathe.

A wild garden is, invariably, a messy garden. For hundreds of years we’ve taken pride in our perfectly manicured, well-curated gardens with neat flower beds and horizontally-striped lawns. But in 2018, we have to ask ourselves a question: what do we value more – our perfect lawns or the beautiful, natural world which is struggling to thrive around us?

Jenny at PrimroseLotti works with the Primrose Product Loading team, creating product descriptions and newsletter headers.

When not writing, Lotti enjoys watching (and over-analyzing) indie movies with a pint from the local craft brewery or cosplaying at London Comic Con.

Lotti is learning to roller skate, with limited success.

See all of Lotti’s posts.

Jorge, Plants, Trees

The Rowan tree, commonly referred to as ‘Mountain Ash’ has become an incredibly popular tree in the UK.  With a compact habit and high tolerance of pollution, it has been widely planted in urban spaces. Rowan trees are easily identifiable in the winter with their colourful displays of red, orange, or even white berries.

It was similarities between the Rowan and the Ash’s pinnate leaves that led to the tree’s misnomer ‘Mountain Ash’ – the mountain part having its origin in that Rowan’s are found at much higher altitudes. However, Rowan is completely unrelated to the Ash with the former of the rose family Rosaceae, the later part of the Oleaceae family.

Rowan is typically associated with the European variety Sorbus aucuparia which derives from the Latin word sorbus for ‘service tree’ and aucuparia which is formed from the latin words avis for ‘bird’ and capere for ‘catching’. Rowan trees were traditionally used in game hunting as many birds were attracted to the tree’s berries.

There are other species with the Sorbus genus found throughout the Northern hemisphere including Asia. Sorbus commixta or ‘Japanese Rowan’ is native to Japan and Korea where it is known as nana-kamado, which literally translates to ‘seven (times in the) stove’ as the wood is robust and can be used several times in fires. Additionally there is the Sorbus aria, or ‘Whitebeam’ which hails its name from the lightly coloured timber it produces.

Despite being currently popular in urban spaces, the Rowan Tree has held a special place in our collective imaginations for centuries. The European Rowan is richly documented in folklore as protecting people from evil and demonic spirits and was commonly referred to as the ‘Wicken Tree’ or ‘Witch Wood’. It is for this reason that Victorian writers commented on people, especially in Scotland, having Rowan trees planted outside of their homes. S. aucuparia has also been known as the ‘wayfarer’s tree’ and the ‘traveller’s tree’ as it protected travellers on treacherous journeys and prevented them from getting lost.

One thing is almost universal about the Rowan and that is that they are adored by wildlife. Come Autumn all manner of birds will gorge themselves readying for winter. In their natural form, however, the berries are far too bitter for human consumption, although they can be freezed to break down the acids and then cooked to make jams, chutney, jelly or even a wine! An exception to this is whitebeam whose berries are edible when rotten. Enjoy!

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.