Gardening, Gardens, Jenny

gardening fitness routine

Get fit and feel great from my head to-ma-toes

You could pay a small fortune in the gym with a personal trainer trying to develop your core, leg, back, shoulder and arm muscle groups… or you could get up and shovel something. No, really! Shovelling is a high intensity workout where, depending on your pace and stamina, you can burn up to 250 calories per 30 minutes of work. You can burn even more calories than that in lower temperatures as your body works harder to keep warm. The weeks between January and early spring is the best time of year to get the garden ready for new growth so get out and get shovelling! We have a great range of luxury tools to get you started.

Shovelling isn’t the only garden workout: weeding can burn up to 150 calories for 30 minutes of work. As well as being a great calorific workout, gardening helps you reawaken old muscles as you get your body bending and moving in new ways. From squats to lifts, gardening encourages you to give the whole of your body an effective workout.

Shovelling is great cardio and works a vast range of muscle groups so don’t forget to get ready. Like any exercise it’s important to warm up, so start with light gardening first and most importantly, don’t get too cold! If you get too cold your muscles will tighten up and you put yourself at risk of injury. Layer up and be responsible. Listen to your body when you think enough is enough. To give yourself the best chance possible of staying out in the cold while keeping warm you can use heated insoles, socks, gloves, gilets and so much more.

yoga in garden

Mind your back! With safety in mind do try to reduce the risk of strain with clever tools to help you lift bulky loads. Keep pathways clear and accessible to avoid sudden twists or strain while you move. Most importantly, lift with your legs and keep your back straight.

If you don’t do much gardening and the excuse is always that you simply don’t have room in the house for working out, why not invest in an extra room? No, not an expensive house extension, a garden room. Summerhouses are ideal spaces to adapt to your needs, whether personal gym, yoga studio or home office, a summerhouse gives you almost all the benefits of a house extension at only a fraction of the cost.

Working out in the garden isn’t just great for burning calories. With gardening you can expect to gain other great benefits such as decreased blood pressure and lower levels of cholesterol. Depending on the intensity and regularity of your gardening, over time you will strengthen joints, improve flexibility and even slow the onset of osteoporosis. Generally improving your fitness has a multitude of long term health benefits and doing so with gardening means you help out nature too! Building projects such as setting up water features and birdbaths are great physical activities with long term benefits for you and visiting wildlife.

There are a huge number of health benefits associated with exercising outside in this way. The psychological impact of growing a healthy crop of vegetables or seeing your garden full of beautiful blooms will give you a great sense of achievement. This kicks off the “feel good” reaction in the body where dopamine, well, makes us feel good! Hence the name. Dopamine has a range of health benefits including memory development and learning, decreases inflammation, improves sleep, and much more. Besides all that, you get tomatoes! Long-term, sustained cardio workouts (like the sort you’ll be getting in your garden) increase your levels of serotonin, which leaves you feeling happier and more sociable. There’s also a lot of research that shows just being outside can have a big impact on your mental health, leaving you less likely to feel symptoms of anxiety or depression.

gardening exercise

Jenny at PrimroseJenny works in the Primrose Product Loading team working on adding new and exciting products to the website. When she’s not writing, proofreading or drinking the strongest coffee possible Jenny loves to climb and can often be found halfway up a wall at the local climbing centre.

See all of Jenny’s posts.

Current Issues, Gardening Year, Lotti, Wildlife

friluftsliv

In the lonely mountain farm, My abundant catch I take. There is a hearth, and table, And friluftsliv for my thoughts.

– Henrik Ibsen

According to The World Happiness Report, Norway is the happiest country in the world. There’s a huge number of reasons for this, from their supportive welfare system to their high average income, but when you ask Norwegians why their country appears to be so content, there’s a very consistent answer: friluftsliv.

Friluftsliv (literally, “free air life” or “open air living”, and pronounced free-loofts-liv) is one of those scandinavian words which which is so unique to a language and culture that it becomes hard to describe in English. Like its Swedish predecessor Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga), friluftsliv encompasses an idea which is both familiar yet near-impossible to put into words.

In short, friluftsliv describes a connection to nature, a strong desire to spend time outside and connect with the world around you. To describe Norway’s infatuation with the outdoors as a “way of life” is, really, disingenuous to the real meaning of Friluftsliv. Friluftsliv is a feeling, a sense of self. It goes far beyond a mere life choice and becomes more like a cultural identity.

free land

In 1957, Norway officially introduced Allemannsretten (the ‘all man’s right’) with the passing of the Outdoor Recreation Act. This right to roam means that in Norway you can go on skis or foot wherever you want provided you are within unfenced land – this means all land that isn’t privately owned (like a garden) or cultivated land being used to grow crops or rear animals. In the winter months, when Norway is transformed into a white blanket of snow, Allemannsretten is extended to fields and meadows. Not only can you go wherever you please, you can also set up camp and sleep everywhere except in lay-bys or cultivated fields so long as you remain over 150 meters from the nearest house. If you want to stay another night, you need to ask permission from the owner of the land (unless you’re in a remote area).

It’s well researched that spending more time outside is better for your overall mental and physical health, yet in the UK, lots of people avoid going outside unless they have to. Going outside is part of a chore, of a larger pattern. You need to walk to work, you need to take the dog out, you need to bike to the train station to visit your family. This isn’t friluftsliv – friluftsliv means going outside because you want to, because nature calls to you, not because you need to.

In the UK there are fewer wild spaces than ever, and it can often be difficult to “get lost” in nature in quite the same way as our Scandinavian neighbours. In the UK, where our population is fifteen times that of the Norway’s and our land mass smaller, there simply isn’t the space for rolling wilderness. If you’re very lucky, you might live near a patch of National Trust land which (save for the odd sheep) will be left as nature intended. So, if you don’t feel like emigrating to Norway, you’ll have to start looking for nature a little closer to home.

lake

There’s a surprising number of wild spaces in the UK if you just know where to look – the lofty peak district, the rambling chilterns or the Cornish Heritage Coastline. There’s something very atmospheric about finding yourself alone in nature – be it the middle of a deep wood, atop a mountain doused in clouds or perched on a cliff watching the sea beat at the rock. Finding land which is completely untouched by humans can be difficult in the UK: you can see the annals of human history spelled out before you in the land itself in ancient stone circles or crumbling tin mines. Sometimes, despite our best intentions to run away from the effect of people on the world around us, it has an unerring way of following us. It shows us that humans have, for thousands of years, been wanderers. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

On my way to work I used to travel through a strange patch of wilderness on the outskirts of Wokingham; partly a dirt track through fields and partly through an actual wood. When you grow up in a busy town with only man-made outdoor spaces (which tend to be flat, grassy affairs), finding a wood feels almost like a miracle. On the way home after one particularly stressful day, I thought to myself there’ll always be another bus, and let myself get lost. At first I followed the little dirt paths and then I decided to forego the paths entirely and just wander whichever direction I felt like.

Wandering through the woods was freeing. I was there for no reason other than that I wanted to be there, crunching through the leaves and running my hands along trees older than my great-grandparents. I followed a robin hopping from branch to branch and spent a good ten minutes chasing down a strange noise which turned out to be an angry squirrel – something I’d never heard before. I walked past the same group of ramblers three or four times, who’d at first looked at me (dressed in my work clothes and unsensible shoes) like I’d gone mad, and then started to greet me with the rambler’s head nod. This is what friluftsliv feels like.

fjord

There’s a sense of freedom synonymous with Friluftsliv which is what makes it so appealing. A sense of disconnection from the rest of the world and contentment with being at one with nature. Our lives are driven by purpose – we have to do this, we must do that – and so when that falls away and the only purpose is to simply exist, it’s a lot easier to feel content.

No one’s asking that we all suddenly rise from our desks, leave our jobs and run away to live in the woods. Sure, it sounds like a great idea now, but soon enough the last phone will run out of battery and then we’ll all be stuck with nowhere to watch Game of Thrones. Whether you live in the middle of London or in the concrete jungle of Milton Keynes, there’s always a place to find a bit of nature. Every town or city will have a park somewhere, even if it’s just a small patch of land in between office blocks and rows of terraced houses. The thought of going outside and standing in the garden in the middle of winter doesn’t necessarily fill people with inspiration, but finding and supporting local wild spaces is easier than it seems.

In the harsh winter months it can be tempting to stay indoors and avoid the chilly bite of the cold air. But in Norway, where the temperature regular dips into the minus digits (currently standing at a brisk -7°C), spending time outside is simply the done thing. As the Norwegians say – there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing. So it’s time to swap those jeans for a pair of practical waterproof hiking trousers, the slippers for a sturdy pair of boots and get outside to get back in touch with nature.

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

Pollination is important as without it trees will not produce fruit. Most trees require insects to transfer pollen between male (anthers) and female structures (stigma), ensuring fertilisation. Some trees, however, can self-fertilise. Without fertilisation, trees would be unable to propagate and the production of seeds and fruit would be useless. In the case of cherry trees, some are self-fertile and others are self-sterile, depending on the variety.

Cherry trees require another variety flowering at the same time to ensure fertilisation. They are henceforth put into flowering groups from 1 (very early) to 5 (very late). A cherry tree can be partnered with another in a group that is plus or minus 1 (+-1) its own group. To make matters more complex, even if some varieties have their flowers open at the same time they may not pollinate. They are henceforth put into groups (from A-O). Cherry trees thus require another tree in the same group and within plus or minus 1 flowering groups.

Thankfully, this is where universal donors come in that will pollinate any cherry tree within plus or minus 1 flowering group. We henceforth recommend, you pair one of these fertile varieties with another. As previously mentioned, some cherry trees are self-fertile and do not need to be paired with another. However, they do benefit from cross-fertilisation, so for heavier crops we recommend pairing.

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Another factor you need to consider is the date of the last frost in your location. Frost can be extremely damaging to blossoms and will reduce your crop. It is henceforth important to choose trees in the latter flowering groups if you have a late last frost. Your locations date can be found using this resource online. It should also be noted that bad weather such as rain and wind will prevent pollinating insects from visiting your blossoms and could reduce your crops.  

It is important to note that cherry blossom trees will not fertilise edible cherry trees, although acid cherries will. As cherry trees are somewhat common, it is possible that another tree could fertilise your own tree. As bees forage widely, a tree within 30m could fertilise one of your own, although it is simpler to plant another within the immediate vicinity. If you believe pollination has been disrupted, you can pollinate yourself by using a paintbrush and transferring pollen from one plant to another.

So why do growers bother with multiple varieties and not just choose a self-pollinator? Firstly, just like apples, different varieties produce different tastes. And secondly, growing multiple varieties allows you to ensure a steady supply of cherries throughout the warmer months. Lastly, some varieties have preferable traits such as resistance to cracking, larger crop, larger size and others are edible right off the bat, requiring no cooking.

As a rule, acid cherries are predominantly self-fertile, while sweet cherries require are self-sterile. Now without further ado, here is a quick overview of the different varieties characteristics.

Universal Donors

  • Celeste: Large red/black cherries. Naturally compact and great for patio.
  • Lapins: Red and mild tasting. Highly productive and vigorous.
  • May Duke: Tangy versatile fruit, great for eating fresh and making jams.
  • Merchant: Good flavour. RHS Award of Garden Merit awardee.
  • Morello: Acid cherries that are perfect for cooking. RHS Award of Garden Merit awardee.
  • Nabella: Acid cherries that are great for jams, pies, and liqueurs.
  • Sasha: Dark red cherries that are sweet and juicy. Heavy cropping.
  • Stardust Coveu: Very sweet white cherries. Great flavour and firmness.
  • Stella: Large blood-red fruit. Very juicy and sweet tasting. Highly productive, but sensitive to cold. RHS Award of Garden Merit awardee.
  • Summer Sun: Great tasting dark red fruit. Extremely hardy and RHS Award of Garden Merit awardee.  
  • Sunburst: Very productive with large, firm fruit.
  • Sweetheart: Excellent flavour red cherries that are best eaten straight off the tree.
  • Van: Reddish black, sweet cherries. Superb flavour.

Self-Sterile

  • Bigarreau Napoleon: Another “white” cherry with pale golden white flesh. Firm-fleshed with a sweet tangy taste.
  • Burlat: Dark, red sweet cherries. Easy to grow.
  • Colney: Large burgundy coloured fruit. Resistant to bacterial canker and RHS Award of Garden Merit awardee.
  • Karina: Hard and tasty. Perfect with meringue and ice-cream. Not widely available in the UK. .
  • Kordia:Glossy, black and large fruit. Resistant to cracking.
  • Merton Glory: Large, red fruit flushed with white. Very tasty but not suitable for storage.
  • Morello: Acid cherries that are perfect for cooking. RHS Award of Garden Merit awardee.
  • Regina: Mild and sweet fruit and resistant to cracking. Balanced flavour.
  • Sylvia: Compact with upright growth. Similar taste to Stella.
  • White Heart: Large yellow-red fruit. Good resistant to bacterial canker.

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, Garden Edging, Jorge, Planters

The difference between softwood and hardwood sleepers is the wood the sleepers are sawn from and whether or not they are treated. Softwood is distinguishable from hardwood in that it comes from gymnosperm trees – that is, trees that with unenclosed seeds – while the latter comes from angiosperms – trees with enclosed seeds. Gymnosperms include such trees as pines and cypresses that bear cone-bearing seeds, while angiosperms include apple trees and oaks that inclose their seeds in fruits.

Horse Chestnuts and Pine Cones.

Gymnosperms differ from angiosperms in other ways. Most importantly, there are differences between the physical structures of the wood that can be viewed differently at a microscopic level and at the naked eye. Softwoods have a different cellular structure from hardwoods with tracheids and medullary rays transporting water, while hardwoods have vessel elements to do the same, which under the microscope appear as pores. Under the naked eye, softwoods have light grains, while hardwoods have prominent grains.

Hardwood (top) with its large pores.
Hardwood (left) with its distinctive grains.

The differences in structure lead to different physical properties. In general, hardwoods are denser and more resistant to fire, but they are also slower growing and heavier. Henceforth, this explains their greater price originating from higher transport costs and longer times spent in nurseries. Although, it must be noted that this is simply a rule of thumb as there are extremely dense softwoods such as yew and soft hardwoods such as Aspen. As such, you should research a timber’s properties when deciding whether it is suitable for the task at hand.

In regards to outdoor use, the most important property is a timber’s resistant to decay and in general hardwoods are far more resistant than softwoods. Oak, for example, is highly resistant to decay and can last up to 30 or 40 years untreated. Pine, on the other hand, from which our softwood sleepers are constructed, are less resistant to decay and are henceforth treated with either Tanalith green or Tanatone brown. Both have similar properties and one can expect 15 to 20 years of use.

Another difference between softwood and hardwood sleepers is that the former’s treatment colour will fade to grey within 18 months. Oak sleepers, on the other hand, will maintain colour, which is great for rustic beds; and as they are free from treatment they are suitable for use in building water features. As mentioned previously, hardwoods are denser than softwoods, so oak sleepers are heavier than pine, which can make construction more difficult.  

If you are interested in garden sleepers, Primrose stocks both the hardwood and softwood variants at only £4.99 delivery, regardless of quantity ordered.

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.

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