Composting is a huge trend in the gardening community and it has become a household norm to have a compost bin alongside your general waste and recycling bins. Although the thought of composting may seem cumbersome, there are a tonne of fantastic benefits of making your own compost.
Monty Don has shared his pearls of wisdom regarding the best way to compost, and if Monty is doing it, then it’s safe to say we should probably be doing it too!
What are the benefits of composting?
Composting at home has a heap of benefits including:
It helps cut CO2 emissions that are harmful to the environment.
It encourages natural wildlife such as small insects which then help to feed birds and hedgehogs.
By making your own compost you get to save money by not buying the expensive brands!
Turning your compost heap once monthly provides excellent exercise for you no matter what age or ability you are.
No matter the size of your home and garden there is an easy way for you to start composting. Head over to Recycle Now for specific tips on the space you have available.
How does it help the environment?
Rubbish ordinarily sent to a landfill omits harmful greenhouse gases because there is a lack of air getting to the waste. This in turn creates methane which can damage the Earth’s atmosphere. However, if you compost at home the oxygen will help the waste decompose aerobically which significantly reduces the methane produced, which is great news for the environment. By composting at home you also save the petrol used to transport compost rubbish sent to landfill each week!
How is the compost produced better?
The compost you can produce at home will help improve your soil structure and also help fight plant disease. Home produced compost contains ingredients your plant love such as: potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus which will make your plants look glorious all year round.
Won’t having a compost heap attract pests?
A well looked after compost bin should not attract any pests such as rats and flies unless it has not been properly secured. One way to help prevent these unwelcome guests is to make sure the moisture levels do not get too high, and you could also keep chicken wire at the base of the bin which can help obstruct an entrance for small mammals.
A compost bin will however host smaller creatures such as slugs and worms – but do not panic! These creatures will help decompose the waste in your compost bin, and they should love their home so much that they do not feel tempted to stray to other areas in your garden.
Won’t having a compost heap promote weeds?
There is a fear that homemade compost will introduce weeds into your garden. This will only happen if your compost bin does not produce enough heat to kill the weed seeds, so be sure to monitor the temperature of your compost heap with a thermometer – don’t let it drop below 43 degrees Celsius.
What time of year can I compost?
You can compost all year round!
Have we convinced you yet? Head over to our specialist range of compost bins to find the perfect one for you and your garden, and keep your eyes peeled for our next blog on How To Create The Perfect Compost!
Zoë 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!
If you’ve renovated your home to maximise its value, don’t neglect your garden. Property experts claim that great outdoor space can add up to 20% to the price of your property. So, let’s take a look at the top 3 ways you can grow the value of your garden.
1. Add a garden room
The humble garden shed is now more popular than ever. In fact, Cuprinol even run a Shed of the Year competition. However, contemporary sheds bear little resemblance to those of old. Today, the common garden shed has morphed into a much grander and useful garden room.
These extra rooms can be used for a multitude of purposes, such as:
Additional living space
Studio or workshop
Making the most of any underused space makes sense, particularly if you are squeezed for room in the main house.
What’s more, there is a new breed of garden room, with something to suit all tastes. If the traditional design of the summerhouse is not for you, what about a log cabin, garden pod or minimalist contemporary box design, with plenty of glass.
Also gaining in popularity are shepherd’s huts. Back in the 19th century, these were placed in fields to allow shepherds to keep watch over their flock. Designed to allow the shepherd to live out in the fields for long lengths of time, they had kitchen, sleeping and storage facilities. The huts were built with hinged stable doors and strong cast iron wheels so they could be easily moved when necessary.
Built using traditional methods and placed in a modern garden, a shepherd’s hut is a romantic alternative to conventional garden rooms. They can look lovely placed close to fields or wooded landscapes.
2. Add an outdoor kitchen and entertaining area
Cooking is now one of our favourite pastimes. If you enjoy entertaining friends, an outdoor cooking and entertaining area can be a valuable addition to your home.
Where once there was the portable or, if you were lucky, built-in barbecue, today things have moved on apace. Outdoor kitchens can now include wood-fired pizza ovens, over-sized grills and granite worktops. The addition of plumbing and electrics allow you to add an outdoor sink, task lighting and electrical sockets, which all make conjuring up your culinary finest a real joy.
Once you’ve set up your outdoor dining and lounging furniture, an outdoor kitchen makes a great extension to your living space and a wonderful area to entertain friends.
If you love barbecuing, maybe a BBQ hut will appeal? This is a round wooden construction with a central smoke stack, chimney and grill. There is a removable table built around the grill and circular benches for sitting or sleeping on. Designed for nomadic herdsmen living in Arctic Lapland, they look great styled with faux fur hides, fairy lights and lanterns. They are the perfect place to cook and relax with friends, whatever the weather.
3. Add a hot tub or swimming pool
Having a place to unwind and have fun in the garden can also be a valuable asset. The addition of a hot tub or, if you have the room, a swimming pool, can transform your life in a number of positive ways.
Hot tubs offer the benefits of both health and relaxation. A great antidote to stress and insomnia, a hot tub is a great way to upgrade your outside space. You will need a cover to keep out any debris and it’s a good idea to install it under roof protection. This will make it weatherproof and guard your privacy.
But the most luxurious addition to your garden has to be a swimming pool – it’s hard to name a more glamorous feature. A pool will increase the amount of quality time you spend with your family, provide a glorious location for exercise and be a great place for entertaining family and friends.
What’s more, a swimming pool can be quick and easy to install. With contemporary designs and materials, the number and quality of fast pool builders has increased, so you can be up and swimming in no time.
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.
Reducing water use in the garden is a no brainer as it saves both the environment and money, leading to lower energy bills. Surprisingly, for a country with supposedly so much rain, the UK’s water supply is under severe stress due to excess demand that has taken its toll on our rivers. This year, there are fears the UK could be heading for a summer drought with rainfall in April 50% below average. To solve this problem we need to improve water efficiency and doing so in the garden can be extremely enjoyable as it requires nous and experimentation.
Create a water thrifty garden
I recently visited the Cambridge University Botanical Garden, and saw a section comprised of plants that require no watering. The accompanying material described the fascinating ways plants have adapted to arid environments, such as how species of cacti reduced their leaves to spines and adopted spherical forms as to lower their volume to surface ratio, decreasing water loss.
Scientists have identified four strategies such plants use for coping with drought: escaping, evading, enduring and resisting that is described in detail here. Put succinctly, the first two strategies involve restricting growth and reproductive activities to the wet seasons, while the latter two involve reducing transpiration and growth (often through restricting photosynthesis) as to subsist in the heat.
Your own water thrifty garden (or section of the garden) doesn’t have to be made of just succulents or cacti, but can include many familiar plants, and even crops, creating a garden rich with colour and form, but with less maintenance. There are lists of drought resistant plants online and there is great guide to designing a stunning water wise gardens that can be found here.
Creating such a garden will involve a some trial and error, but there some general practices that can be followed:
Permeable paving is a must as it allows water to percolate into the soil below, feeding your plants’ roots. With non-porous materials water will sit on top and evaporate.
Divide your garden into hydrozones with plants with similar water needs together. This will allow you to water more efficiently.
By using less fertiliser, your plants will grow slower and use less water.
Water less, but thoroughly, watering the entire root system. You can gauge how well the water is penetrating through pushing a pipe into the soil (it will move more easily through wet soil).
Sometimes it can be difficult to gauge when to water. This can be ascertained by digging into soil. If the soil below the topsoil is moist, there may be no need to water. If it is dry, it’s time to water. It is important to factor in certain soils such as sandy that will feel more dry and clay that will feel more damp. Although, the ultimate measure is your plant’s leaves: darkening or drooping may indicate water stress.
Gauge your soil type. Some soils (clay) are better at holding moisture, and can be watered less frequently (but with more water), while others will need frequent watering (sandy soils).
Water in the morning and evening when less water will be lost to evaporation.
Dig channels, basins, or funnels to avoid run off.
Mulching, either with organic or inorganic materials (gravel) will help maintain soil moisture and protect soil life from the sun’s rays.
Forgo turf. A perfect lawn is difficult to maintain and will require constant watering in the summer months.
Hügelkulturs are raised beds constructed from rotten logs overlaid with organic matter and soil. They aren’t enclosed and therefore slope; henceforth the name: hill/mound (hügel) culture (kultur). Hügelkulturs can significantly reduce water use as the decaying wood acts as a sponge, soaking up rainwater that it slowly releases back into the soil. The beds are so effective that after the first year, there will be no need to water your crops for many years, provided the bed is of a certain size.
Constructing a hügelkultur is relatively simple, but they have to be of a certain height (between two to six feet). The height is important as it determines how effective it will be at holding water. In general, a six foot bed will require no watering after the first year, while a two foot one will hold moisture for three weeks. Upon construction, a bed will begin shrinking, and a seven foot bed will become six foot, so they should be constructed higher than the desired height. To avoid excessive compaction of the soil, and to maintain good aeration, it is recommended that you build your beds with steep sides (45 degrees).
Certain trees are unsuitable as some trees are allelopathic, that is, will harm your crops with allelochemicals that will persist in the soil. Others take too long to rot. Most tree logs should be fine, and there are lists of allelopathic trees and scrubs online, so do some research. Known trees to avoid include include cedar, black locust, black cherry and black walnut. Excellent species to use include alders, apple, cottonwood, poplar, willow, and birch.
Before building your own bed, it is worthwhile to decide on whether you want to construct it entirely above ground or in a shallow trench (about two feet deep). The latter, lower in a ditch, will not impose on the landscape and will be easier to construct. (Try throwing soil six feet high!) It will also save on digging, as you can reuse the materials acquired when digging the trench, and not dig up other sections of the garden. Building above ground is preferable if you already have materials on hand, or find digging difficult. Constructing on top of sod has the additional advantage in that once the plant matter breaks down it will produce nitrogen for the soil.
Once you have decided upon the above, simply pile your rotten wood, whether it be logs, sticks, timber or chippings, with the biggest at the bottom. Then give it a good drenching. (This will aid decomposition.) Fill in the gaps with kitchen waste, grass, leaves and manure. (Adding organic matter is useful as during decomposition wood will both take in, and then release nitrogen, so it is possible that the soil may be nitrogen deficient at points.) Then add a layer of sod upside down. (You can acquire turf when building a trench. If you have none, just use soil.) Next comes more soil as so the wood is fully covered. The degree the wood is encased is a matter of preference, although anything from a few inches to half a foot works best. Finally, top it off with mulch such as straw that is traditionally used.
Now your hügelkultur bed is complete, it is recommended that you start planting to prevent erosion. (Henceforth, it is useful to construct in time for the growing season.) Over time the wood will decay into rich humus, but at first, the soil will be fairly dense, so certain crops may be unsuitable for planting in its first year. Great crops to plant in this time include members of the cucurbitaceae family such as squash, melons and pumpkins.
Jorge 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.