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.

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.

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

Rhododendrons and azaleas usually bear their spectacular, large, often scented flowers in spring – but do you know the difference between the two?

Well, both are in the genus Rhododendron –  but azaleas can be distinguished by having five stamens per flower (one per lobe), whereas rhododendrons have 10 or more (two per lobe). Azaleas can be deciduous or evergreen but rhododendrons are all evergreen. Finally there is a difference in size. Azaleas are small to medium shrubs – rhododendrons range from prostrate shrubs to huge trees.

Within this guide you will find information about some of the different varieties of rhododendron and azaleas, as well as information about how to successfully plant and maintain your own.

Main Species

There are more than 28,000 rhododendron or azalea hybrids, as the plants readily cross breed. However, here are the most popular varieties for gardeners:

  • Hybrids or hardy hybrids: What gardeners would consider a ‘traditional’ rhododendron with large flower trusses, some scented, blooming anywhere between January until July – often growing very large.
  • Dwarf rhododendrons: Mainly alpine varieties, ranging from 20cm-80cm, flowering in April.
  • Yakushimanum: Mound-shaped plants reaching 80-100cm, often with unusual leaves. Many brilliant flower colours available.
  • Williamsianum: Unusual rounded leaves, 80-100cm.
  • Deciduous azaleas: Sun lovers, growing up to 150cm, often scented, (especially R. luteum) with rich autumn foliage. They can be divided into Species (Sciadorhodion, Pentanthera, Rhodora, Sinensi or Brachycalyx); Ghent (the oldest hybrid group with multiple small flowers); Knaphill (large flowered hybrids, some of which are scented); Mollis (earlier flowering, more compact and spreading); Rustica (small double flowers, some scented). Other deciduous azaleas include Pratt hybrids, viscosum, occidentale and the Northern Lights series.
  • Evergreen azaleas: Small, slow-growers, suitable for pots, up to 75cm, some are prostrate in habit, with autumn colour. Flowering season is usually May.


Choose a sheltered site with dappled shade, however, dwarf alpine species will tolerate full sun. Avoid sites exposed to early morning sun in spring, as this may damage frosted flowers.

The most important factor deciding whether rhododendrons or azaleas will grow well in your garden is the pH of your soil. They must have moist but well-drained, acid soil between pH 5.0 and 6.0 that is rich in organic matter. Reducing soil pH is not easy.

October or March/April are the best times for planting – dig in acidic organic matter before you begin (leafmould, rotting pine needles or composted bracken will work well). Don’t just concentrate on the planting hole – mix well around the surrounding soil. Don’t plant deeply, as rhododendrons are surface rooters. Apply a loose 8cm mulch of acidic organic material and water well to finish.


To keep your plants performing at their best, in spring, apply slow-release ericaceous fertiliser and renew the acidic mulch and keep well watered.

Rhododendrons grow best in areas of high rainfall, which is naturally slightly acidic. Using tap water, especially in hard water districts, is not good for the plant as it contains too much calcium which reduces the acidity around the plant’s roots. However, if rain water runs out, tap water is OK to use for a month or so in summer.

Rhododendrons don’t require pruning apart from removing dead wood and deadheading if practical. If the plant outgrows its space, cutting back is tolerated best from deciduous azaleas and rough-barked rhododendrons. After cutting back, mulch, feed and keep well watered.

Growing in Containers

If you have alkaline soil, grow rhododendrons and azaleas as container plants. Use ericaceous loam-based compost and repot every other year into fresh compost in spring. When not fully repotting, top dress the top 5cm of growing medium with fresh compost.

Common Problems

Most problems with rhododendrons and azaleas stem from the soil being too alkaline, drought or other extreme weather conditions. Here are signs to look out for:

  • Non-flowering and bud drop: Flower buds actually start forming in late summer – dry conditions at this time can lead to a total bud formation failure or a partial formation, causing buds to dry up and dropping unopened in spring. Mulch and water thoroughly and regularly during dry periods in summer.
  • Leaf drop: Older leaves droop and roll, then drop off, following extreme moisture conditions – drought or waterlogging. Newer leaves show browning at the leaf tip or edge. However, it is normal for the shrub to shed some older leaves in spring and summer.
  • Leaf droop: Usually a response to severe cold, but they usually recover.
  • Leaf scorch/flower damage: Often caused by windy, cold or wet weather.
  • Yellowing foliage: Caused by nutrient deficiency known as chlorosis, an iron deficiency caused by high alkalinity in the soil.
  • Pests: Vine weevil can be a nuisance for container-grown plants, as can rhododendron leafhopper and scale insects.
  • Diseases: Relatively uncommon are bud blast, azalea gall and honey fungus.