Composting, Garden Tools, Gardening, How To, Plants, Weeding, Zoe

There are mixed opinions about whether you should bother to sterilise your compost. Some gardeners choose not to, which is fine, but we believe there are many benefits to this very simple process:

  1. It kills off harmful bacteriaSome may argue that in turn you will be killing useful bacteria but this is not the case. The only way you will kill of beneficial bacteria is by baking your soil at a temperature that is too high; we talk about this in more detail later. Professional nurseries sterilise their compost, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t either.
  2. It’s proven to keep away pests such as thrips that are particularly annoying when using compost in your home and sterilisation can prevent such unwanted house guests.
  3. Prevention is the solution. Prevent disease in your compost before the problems arise, rather than skipping past the sterilisation stage and then making the situation a lot worse later on.
  4. Sterilised soil ensures that your plant will be happy and healthy, and this means the best optimal growth.
  5. Better safe than sorry. The methods outlined in this blog are super easy to do, and will make sure your compost is definitely safe for your plants. So why wouldn’t you want to give it a go?

    Making Compost

    Outlined here are three easy methods to sterilise your compost from your home:

     

    Oven

    Using your oven at home you can sterilise your compost easily; be warned that baking compost can create a smelly odour, so you may wish to open your windows whilst doing this.

    • Firstly, you need to use moist soil, do not over water the soil however you only want a slight dampness.
    • Use an oven safe tray and fill it with your soil until it is around 10 cm (4 inches) deep.
    • Cover the tray loosely with foil.
    • Put your tray in the middle of a pre-heated oven that’s around 80° For a more accurate result use a thermometer in the centre of the tray and bake between 80-90°c
    • Do not exceed the temperatures stated above, at temperatures above 90°c is when the good bacteria is killed and toxins are produced.
    • Bake for 30 minutes before taking out, make sure to take the foil off and leave it to cool for a while before handling the soil.

     

    Microwave

    The easiest and quickest way to sterilise your compost is with your microwave. We suggest using an old microwave in your garden shed or greenhouse to prevent bringing compost into your home, and this way you can get on with other gardening jobs whilst it’s baking.

    • As before you will need moist soil, but not too wet that it is slushy.
    • Find a microwave safe container and fill this with your soil.
    • Do not use foil in the microwave, instead cover with cling film with holes for the steam to escape or a plastic lid with air holes.
    • For every two pounds of soil will need 90 seconds in the microwave.
    • After it’s pinged, leave the soil to cool before handling.

     

Alternative method:

  • Place two pounds of moist soil in a polypropylene bag
  • Leave the bag slightly open for ventilation
  • Zap in the microwave for 2-2 ½ minutes on full power before removing and cooling

 

Pressure Cooker

  • Start by pouring a few cups of water into the cooker
  • Next add your pans of soil, be careful not to add more than 4 inches, and pop it on the top rack.
  • Make sure to cover these with foil to help insulate the soil.
  • Close the lid for your cooker but make sure you leave the steam valve

For every ten pounds of soil, leave it to steam for 15-20 minutes.

Voila! You now have sterilised soil that will be sure to sprout stunning plants in no time! If you prefer shop bought compost, read our Primrose Guide to Compost for further advice and information.

Sterilised Compost

Zoe at PrimroseZoë 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!

See all of Zoë’s posts.

Chidinma Zee, Gardening, Gardening Year, How To, Planting, Plants

If you like plants as much as I do, you devote time and energy to your garden throughout the year. But then winter comes and you feel as if all your hard work was for nothing. I decided to do some experimentation and finally came up with a few ideas that can help you keep your garden and plants alive during the cold weather.

I even like to plant my own vegetables like basil, spinach and sometimes even things like garlic, but it can be hard to get started. I recommend potted plants and herbs to begin with, but be careful when you start your garden.

First, let me begin by saying winter is different in every place. Sometimes you may experience the coldest winds and no snow, while others you experience tons of snow and almost no wind. Nonetheless, you should always have a plan in mind, and I recommend having a year-long plan.

keep plants alive over winter

Here are my ideas for keeping your plants alive during winter:

1. Plant them in cloches or cold frames

Cloches are bell-shaped glass covers, also known as bell jars, that help your plants grow even in temperatures considered very low for seeds to germinate. However, you should know that these are very susceptible to wind, so you should always keep the soil leveled before putting the cloche down.

Keep in mind that cloches work better when they have some sort of wind protection, which is why you can try to put them near a wall or a hedge. Though watering plants is considered hard when using a cloche, the soil around it will not only keep it in place, but also keep the plants watered.

Cold frames are very easy to make and they resemble a small greenhouse. Usually, a cold frame is made up of four boards with a removable glass or plastic top. By using solar energy and insulation, your plants will thrive even during the cold months of January and February.

When you use a cold frame, you should keep in mind that though humidity is important to germinate seeds, excessive heat can harm them, even during the winter.

2. Protect Your Potted Plants

If you are planning to have your potted plants outside during winter, you have to make sure that they are plastic pots planted into the ground. There isn’t a clay or stone-like material that will last during winter when temperatures drop below freezing.

By planting the plant directly into the soil, the plastic pot will protect the most important part of the plant, the roots. Just make sure you water them directly and then dig them out when the weather is warmer–most likely in spring.

3. Apply Mulch

Mulch will act as an insulator, which holds heat and moisture for your plants. The easier way to do this is to use mulch made of wheat or pine straws, as it is easy to remove after winter and works well keeping in the heat. This is an easy and affordable way to keep large plants safe.

apply mulch

Beware of using too much mulch. With some plants, such as roses, or fruits like strawberries, if you leave them covered for too long, they will not cool down in time for spring.

4. Bring In Your Exotic Plants

There are some plants that will definitely survive the cold weather outside, whether in a cold frame or potted right into the ground, but your exotic plants will not make it outside. The solution is to bring them inside, even if it sounds crazy, tropical plants will thrive when you keep them warm inside, especially when you keep them somewhere moist, like the bathroom or laundry room and when they have a window nearby.

5. Grow Plants That Will Flower During Spring

If you want to have healthy and pretty plants, it might be better to plant bulbs such as daffodils, day lilies or tulips, during the early winter so that by the end of the end of winter, beginning of spring, they will flower.

There are many other tips for keeping your plants alive during the harsh cold season. Make sure you don’t leave potted plants unprotected, water your plants constantly even when they are inside – but be careful about the amount of water, create insulation for your plants, and if needed, even find another source of heat.

We all love to have our gardens looking good during spring, and winter may not be that terrible, but rather a great time to start working towards your perfect plants for the new season.

ChidinmaChidinma is the founder of Fruitful Kitchen, a blog that shares delicious recipes and lifestyle tips. Most of her recipes help women with fertility issues, especially fibroids, PCOS, and Endometriosis. Sometimes, however, you will find other interesting recipes, as well as cooking tips and tricks there.

Christmas, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Jorge, Planting, Plants

There have been a number of new trends in Christmas plants, where gardeners have sought to brighten up their gardens and homes with new exotic varieties. Our traditional roster of Christmas plants consists primarily of evergreens that can subsist in Northern Europe’s cold winters. These plants – coloured green, red and white – are often shrubs with berries. Now, plants brought in from further afield include hardy winter-flowering plants suited for Europe’s climate and other ill-suited plants to be grown indoors.

Christmas Cactus

new christmas plants
The Christmas cactus originates from the Brazilian rainforest and is related to Christmas only inasmuch as it flowers from late November to early January. A competitor to the Mexican poinsettia, the plant also blooms in pink, red and white but has a long life span. Grown as a houseplant, it is vulnerable to temperatures below 10°C although it is relatively easy to grow. As a cactus, it is necessary to give the plant a resting period after it flowers through watering only so it does not dry out. Interestingly, as an epiphyte the plant can grow harmlessly on other plants.

Christmas Rose

The Christmas rose is a bit of a misnomer for the plant is a helleborus, rather than part of the rose family, and often flowers from January to March as opposed to December. Brought over from the Alps, this hardy perennial is well suited to the temperate climate of the United Kingdom. The variety associated with the Christmas rose is the ‘Potter’s Wheel’ variety with its white petals and golden stamens. More recent popular varieties include the early flowering ‘Praecox’ variety that can flower for Christmas, and the ‘Snow Frills’ variety that is designed to flower from late autumn to early winter and is characteristic for robust double-flowers.

Hippeastrum

new christmas plant

Recently, the Hippeastrum has gained popularity as a Christmas plant. While the genus comprises of around 90 species, the most popular varieties resemble a six pointed star. Included in this is the ‘Double Delicious’ with its Christmassy bright red petals. Originating from the Caribbean and South America, it is necessary to keep the perennial indoors at Christmas, although can be left outside in the warmer months.

The Hippeastrum is sometimes confused with the Amaryllis. This confusion originates out a dispute between botanists over the taxonomy of two similar genera from different continents. Subsequently, it was decided that the plant in question – the plant from South America – should be labelled a Hippeastrum, while the plant from South Africa an Amaryllis.

Hyacinthus

new xmas plants hyacinth

Hyacinths are the indoor pot plant par excellence as they are leafless, fragrant and highly prolific at producing star-faced bells. As they usually flower in the spring, you will need to buy the special winter flowering varieties. They can be planted in September and October, although they are usually brought in once the temperature drops, and it is recommended that you transfer them to pots once they reach 4 to 5cm high. Particularly popular at Christmas is the ‘Pink Pearl’ variety with its two shades of pink.

Crocus

Crocuses may not be on everyone’s mind at Christmas as they usually come in yellow or purple and flower in autumn or spring, however there are winter-flowering varieties. Varieties sold include the white ‘Snow Bunting’ and others that are often hybrids.

Azaleas

azalea christmas plants

Recently Azaleas have been shaped into Christmas trees to provide a colourful companion to the Christmas tree (although they are probably best left in another room). Varieties chosen are in the colours of Christmas such as the bright red of ‘Andy Wery’ or the appropriately named ‘Koster’s Brilliant Red’.

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.

Christmas, Gardening, Jorge, Plants

rosemary christmas plants

As to why the current roster of Christmas plants – holly, ivy, rosemary etc – exists is often unclear. Many of the plants’ hypothesised pagan origins aren’t well documented and it appears our current roster of Christmas plants are, in fact, a Victorian invention. What we do know is that our pagan ancestors were highly in tune with their environment and fascinated by the changing of the seasons. It is known that the winter solstice was celebrated, and it is likely wintergreen plants were venerated for their resilience and ability to maintain colour. As such, the origin of the plants of Christmas are often simply related to their physiology, or use in agriculture, rather than historical in origin.

Rosemary

Rosemary’s association with Christmas goes back to the Middle Ages when the herb was spread on the floor to be walked on as to fragrance the air. They did this in the belief that nice aromas were good for your health; in particular, smelling rosemary on Christmas Eve was believed to safeguard your health as well as promote happiness for the upcoming year. (Interestingly, one study showed that its aroma may in fact improve one’s prospective memory.) Today, the herb is also used to season our roast as well as decorate our houses and can be regarded as the quintessential Christmas herb.

Holly

traditional christmas plants holly

Like much that is customary at Christmas today, holly’s popularity was consolidated in the Victorian era when it featured on Christmas cards. Usage of the scrub goes back to Europe’s pagan era when it was used to decorate dwellings because it was viewed as an effective charm against witches and ill-fortune. With the emergence of Christianity, the shrub’s thorns and red berries would prove a perfect accompaniment to the religion’s imagery. The former representing the crown of thorns and the latter Jesus’ blood shed on the cross.

Holly also functions as a key source of nutrients for the woodland ecology in winter, in particular for small-berry eating birds such as the Mistle thrush. The plant is wintergreen and has the highest calorific value of any plants consumed by herbivores in the United Kingdom. Humans once managed the bush as to create protected holly enclosures called hollins or holms. They would harvest the plant by cutting off large chunks above head height and leave it to wilt as to create deer fodder. Until very recently, rural communities fed their ponies on a diet of wilted holly.

Ivy

Traditionally, ivy has been compared to holly as it was believed that the former is female and the latter male. In fact, both ivy and holly are dioecious and possess either male or female sex organs. As such, without a partner of the opposite sex, a lone plant is unable to seed. There are a number of myths documenting the special powers of this most adaptable plant at Christmas. In is known that as recently as the 1930s farmers would give their cows a sprig of ivy on Christmas day as to fend off the devil. It was also once believed that ivy could limit the negative effects of alcohol. Traditionally, ivy as well as holly, was utilised as a easily available material to create wreaths and other Christmas decorations.

Mistletoe

traditional christmas plant mistletoe

It is often claimed that the custom “kissing under the mistletoe” has pagan origins, emerging from Norse mythology, or perhaps the Roman festival of Saturnalia. One story goes that Hoder slew his brother Baldur with a spear of mistletoe over the female Nanna. Another, is that the sexual license of festival of Saturnalia combined with the Celtic use of mistletoe, although, it must be mentioned that neither of these accounts are well documented.

Instead, the tradition may originate from the plant’s etymology and form. It’s Latin name is viscum album, with viscum meaning sticky and album white. The plants appearance – its forked branches, coupled leaves and white sticky juices – can be interpreted in different ways, perhaps to represent sexual organs. In all probability the custom emerged in the 18th century. One early reference occurs in Lady’s magazine in 1784. Another, in 1791, from the newspaper the Star, confirms this, reading: “a custom of kissing women under the Mistletoe bush still prevails in many places”.

Poinsettia

Poinsettias are from Mexico and subsist in warm tropical climates that we do not associate with Christmas. Ostensibly, a Mexican fairy tale links the plant to Christmas. It states that a poor girl’s meagre offering of weeds to Jesus on Christmas Eve magically evolved into poinsettias, giving the plant its Mexican name “flowers of the holy night”. In fact, their association with Christmas originates from a New York department store’s decision to sell the plant in the holiday back in the 1870s. In the early nineteenth century, the plant was brought to America by Joel R. Poinsett, from whom its English name derives.

Christmas Tree

traditional xmas tree

The Christmas tree originates from Strasbourg, Germany. It was here in the 17th century where the tree was first decorated and named after the Christian holiday. In the 18th century, the practice spread throughout Germany and was popularised by Goethe in his novel, the Sorrows of Young Werther. It spread to Britain with the German Prince Albert marrying Queen Victoria, and arrived in America with Pennsylvanian German immigrants. Although, its popularity was only consolidated after 1848 after an American newspaper carried a picture of Christmas tree.

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.

Share!