Garden Tools, Gardening Year, George, Hiring Help in the Garden, How To, Trees, Wildlife

how to deal with falling leaves

As anyone with deciduous trees in their back garden will know, autumn can be a beautiful, but laborious, time of year. As the foliage turns to stunning shades of reds and yellows, it begins to drop, and drop… and drop. Learning how to deal with falling leaves is a challenge every gardener must face, so to help out we’ve rounded up the best tips for you.

Why do you need to sweep up leaves?

Fallen leaves can smother the lawn, suffocate plants and introduce diseases into the soil. If you can’t see the top of the blades of grass, or if over a third of the lawn is covered, then it’s time to clear away the leaves.

Remember leaves will continue to fall throughout the season, so it’s worth planning a day to clear up the leaves every few weeks until winter.

Are leaves good for wildlife?

Some creatures do like to use fallen leaves as shelter, particularly worms and other insects. So it’s good to do your bit for the local wildlife and leave a small patch of leaves undisturbed.

wildlife in leaves

Is it OK to mow over leaves?

Yes, mowing over leaves can help to shred them and make them easier to mulch. But heavy falls and wet leaves can be tough to mow.

Watch out for pine needles

Pine needles will decompose into an acidic mulch, which is only suitable for certain plants. So it’s worth sweeping these up and bagging them separately from the leaves for later use. Helpfully, pine needles usually drop first.

How to clear up fallen leaves

  1. Rake the leaves into piles. You can use a leaf blower to help create rough piles first (or blow the leaves straight back into woodland).
  2. Rake the piles onto leaf bags or a sheet and gather up. The folding Leaf Eazi Leaf Collector is a great tool for this.
  3. Drag these bags off the lawn and store for later use.

A leaf vacuum is another useful tool for collecting autumn leaves. Look for one with a shredding function to make disposing of the leaves even more efficient.

raking leaves

Should you rake wet or dry leaves?

You can rake up leaves when they are wet or dry. If they’re wet, they’ll form a more grabbable solid lump, but be much heavier to move. Beware wet leaves can also contain mould or mildew, which can set off allergies. To use a leaf vacuum the leaves will need to be dry.

What do you do with leaves after you rake them?

The best thing to do is turn fallen leaves into compost. This saves waste and returns the nutrients back to your garden. Firstly, make sure you remove diseased leaves from the pile and bin them to avoid spreading the infection. If you can, shredding the remaining leaves will help speed up the decomposition process. Then put the leaves onto the compost heap to biodegrade. Use the fresh compost on your flowerbeds the following spring!

Are leaves good for garden soil?

You can mulch some of the leaves directly into the lawn, provided there is not too thick a layer, and send their goodness straight into the soil. You need to see at least half the grass through the leaves for this to work. Start by aerating the lawn. Then chop the leaves into small pieces using a lawn mower. As the leaves mulch, they will decompose and their nutrients will run straight down into the soil.

mulch

If you have plants that like a lot of mulch (like shrubs, garlic and roses) you can make the mulch and then rake it straight onto the flowerbed. The best time of year for mulching is in the autumn, to help protect your plants over the winter frosts.

Help for dealing with falling leaves

If all else fails you can hire a professional leaf cleaner. But clearing up the leaves is a rewarding task, and with the help of our leaf collectors, should be done in a breeze!

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

Garden Design, Gardening, Liam, Plants, Trees, Wildlife

Cherry trees are one of the nation’s, if not the world’s, favourite species of ornamental tree. However, there is another tree which flowers heavy, remains small but also gives the added appeal of bright and colourful fruit; the humble crabapple. Often overlooked by gardeners a crabapple tree is fully hardy and well suited to the UK climate with a fantastic spring bloom. With smaller growth than most cherry trees they are perfect for a more modern, compact garden. The benefits and aesthetic achieved with a crabapple tree can be a refreshing surprise.

In many ways the crabapple serves a national duty. Native to these shores they tolerate the worst of the British weather and can be grown in almost any soil type as long as it is well-drained. Nearly all are recognised wildlife benefactors and so are fantastic for up-keeping our national biodiversity. There really should be a crab-apple for every home!

Crab-Apple Blossom
Beautiful Crab-Apple Blossom

Most crabapple varieties produce a bloom heavy enough to rival that of any cherry tree and can come in a variety of different tones. You may get light white or deep pink, sweetly scented flowers. Flowering in Spring they are one of the first to add colour to the garden. This is an essential helping hand to pollinating insects coming out of winter. All of this keeps the rest of your garden healthy and looking great!

What a crabapple gives you over an ornamental cherry tree however is the colourful, jewel-like fruit which can hang on well into winter and even through to the new year depending on variety. The tree therefore gives you a rich and varying pallet of tones potentially for over half a year! The deeper roots of a Crabapple also make them a safer bet to maintaining a healthy lawn than a cherry blossom.

But that’s not all, the fruit serves more functions than those purely aesthetic. Despite the fact that nearly all varieties are far too sour to eat in their natural state crabapples serve a host of culinary functions. Rich in pectin crab apples are used for making fantastic jams and jellies which can be served on bread, scones or used to compliment various meats. And if you won’t eat the fruit, birds and small mammals certainly will in those tough winter months.

If you already own apple trees then you’ve just been given another huge reason to love the crabapple. Crabapples can cross pollinate nearly all other varieties of apple as long as they both have a similar flowering period. It is for this reason that crabapples are often dotted around apple orchards to offer variety and pollinate the edible cultivars enriching their flavour.

Bird Enjoying Crabapples During Winter

So there you have it; if you have an ornamental cherry (or two) in the garden, or if you are just looking for something a bit different then look no further than the crabapple. Hardy, beautiful and versatile they continue to serve us well and are becoming increasingly important as our gardens become smaller and our native species come under increasing attack.

Liam at PrimroseLiam works in the buying team at Primrose. He is passionate about studying other cultures, especially their history. A lover of sports his favourite pass-time is football, either playing or watching it! In the garden Liam is particularly interested in growing your own food.

See all of Liam’s posts.

Composting, Flowers, Garden Design, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Liam, Pest Advice, Planting, Wildlife

For hundreds of years farmers have used companion planting as a method to help improve their yields and get the most out of their fruit trees. This organic solution does far more than simply prevent pests from eating your fruit. Certain plant combinations serve a whole host of benefits including increased pollination, weed prevention and improved soil nutrition. Additionally it is a great way to cover the space under a fruit tree offering more colour and variety to your garden!

The Basics

As fellow gardeners I’m sure you recognise it is important to try and keep a natural balance, even in your garden. A key premise to companion planting is trying to avoid monocultures by planting a variety of different plants together. Among other things, you make it difficult for pests to find their desired food and spread amongst your crop.

For the Love of Fruit

Many people believe that it is difficult to grow anything under a tree. However, there are a great variety of plants which naturally thrive in this space. With that being said it is important to remember that if your fruit tree is trying to establish itself it is important to water it regularly, especially if you plan on planting more plants around it.

Fruit trees constantly come under attack from various pests because of their delicious fruit. They also require extra levels of potassium to help stimulate bud and fruit growth. If you want to avoid using chemical fertilisers or pesticides here is an essential list of companion plants for your fruit tree:

  • Chives – The scent of chives provides a strong deterrent to pests including deer and rabbits as well as insects and yet is attractive to the more beneficial pollinators. Additionally chives have been known to prevent apple scrab which is a notorious scrounge of apple fruit. A cautionary note is that chives are aggressive growers and so they will require maintenance to stop them invading the entire bed.
  • Nasturtium – A real favourite in the world of companion planting. This is a great plant to lure away aphids and particular caterpillars from your trees. It is a sacrificial crop. Nasturtium requires minimal nutrients, sun or water and so is brilliant for diverting pests while keeping your fruit tree strong. It has also been known to repel codling moth, a particular scrounge of apples.
Companion Planting - Nasturtium
Nasturtium in bloom
  • Fennel – This plant is fantastic for attracting pollinating and predatory insects. Hoverflies, ladybirds and parasitic wasps all love fennel and they love aphids and caterpillars even more. Plant this in your garden to help wage a natural war against these pests. Fennel can of course also be used for cooking and has been known to carry medicinal properties.
  • Dill – Very similar advantages as fennel; it attracts a host of predatory and pollinating insects… and it can also be used in cooking. Win win!
Companion Planting - Dill
A Hoverfly resting on a Dill plant.
  • Comfrey – Not only has this plant been used medicinally by people for nearly 2,500 years it is an amazing miner of soil providing nutrients for your tree! Being a deep-rooted plant it draws nutrients from the soil and then can be cut back and the clippings used as an organic mulch. Comfrey is drought, frost and pest resistant and grows well in partial shade so is perfect for the space under your tree. I would recommend trying to plant the ‘Bocking 14’ variety developed by organic pioneer Lawrence Hills. ‘Bocking 14’ being sterile won’t self-pollinate and spread all over your garden.
  • Chamomile – This beautiful flower deters pests with its strong scent while drawing in pollinators. Being drought and frost resistant and also not afraid of a little shade makes it perfect to plant around a tree. If suffering from a pest infestation a triple strength chamomile tea can be brewed and used as a spray for the affected area.

    Companion Planting - Chamomile
    Chamomile
  • Daffodils – Flowering early in the season daffodils are perfect for bringing in and supporting those pollinating insects. For a splash of spring colour plant in a circle around your tree at around 1ft from the base.
  • Lavender – Truly a favourite amongst all pollinating insects, including and especially bees; it’s strong scent also confuses pests. Lavender not only looks great in your garden but can be used for various DIY product such as soaps or teas. Or you can simply pick it and put it into a bowl for around the home to create a calming aroma.
Companion Planting - Lavender Flowers
Some bees thoroughly enjoying the pollen rich Lavender flowers

Understandably when it comes to food, especially food you’ve devoted labour and love to, you are cautious about spraying it with potentially harmful pesticides or even using fertilisers. Companion planting therefore offers an age-old organic method to ensuring healthy fruit trees while adding a touch of vibrancy and colour to your garden. You may also end up with some extra herbs to liven up your dishes!

Jorge at PrimroseLiam works in the buying team at Primrose. He is passionate about studying other cultures, especially their history. A lover of sports his favourite pass-time is football, either playing or watching it! In the garden Liam is particularly interested in growing your own food.

See all of Liam’s posts.

Animals, Bird Baths, How To, Wildlife, Zoe

The long awaited Big Garden Birdwatch has finally arrived this weekend – hooray! With this handy guide we will teach you how to make an irresistible bird feeder no sparrow could refuse!

Many of us may notice our little visitors in the garden, but do we really know what kind of bird it is? Luckily for you, our beautifully illustrated infographic may help you identify even the most exotic of species! Top marks if you manage to spot a Chabert Vanga…

The best way to entice any guests is of course with a free buffet, and in this blog we suggest a fantastic range of treats and scrummy dishes no bird could refuse.

Dangerous Food for Birds

However if you want to feed wild birds be careful that it is safe, the following cannot be used to feed wild birds:

  • Spoiled seed – make sure the seeds you put out have not started rot. It should be dry without any strong odour.
  • Large quantities of bread – although filling, bread does not contain any of the lovely goodness that wild birds need in their diet.
  • Milk – Avoid leaving out milk for your birds, many experts claim this will make them ill.
  • Cooking fat, margarine & vegetable oil – These are all unsuitable for birds.

Ingredients Needed for Your Bird Feeder

Now for the fun stuff!

It is SUPER easy to make your own bird feede, and it’s a fantastic activity to get the whole family involved and share in the joy when you spot a red breast in the garden.

Firstly, you will need to get your hands on some lard. This is a great glue that will bond all your ingredients. You want one part lard to two parts of your bird seed.

Next, you can pick and choose what treats you want to include for your birds. We suggest the following, with a brief description of what birds love this treat the most:

  • Millet – sparrows, dunnocks, finches, reed buntings and collared doves
  • Flaked maize – blackbirds
  • Peanuts & Sunflower seeds – Tits and greenfinches
  • Pinhead oatmeal – All birds love this!
  • Nyjer seeds – goldfinches and siskins.
  • Cooked rice – All birds lap this up
  • Mealworms – excellent protein source for many birds

You can also add some grated cheese, dried fruit and much other variation of seed in your unique mix!

Now you have binded the lard and your bird seed you will be able to mould this into a variety of different shapes to catch the eye of birds or as a interesting activity for your children. This is a great alternative to shop bought fat balls that often come in nylon bags that are very harmful to birds that get their beaks or feet trapped in them!

Coconut Shell Bird Feeder

Mould Ideas for Your Bird Feeder

  • You can use a halved coconut shell to fill with your bird food; make sure there is no traces of coconut milk left in this shell however.
  • Orange peel! Remove the fruit from the skin of the orange and, like the coconut, fill to the top with the food for a vibrant feeder.
  • Pine cone – roll the pine cone in your lard and seeds for a more decorative feeding treat.
  • Toilet roll – yes really! Once you’re left with the toilet paper roll you can roll this in the seeds for an innovative feeder for the birds. (Be careful in wet weather as the cardboard will begin to disintegrate)
  • Cooker cutters – fill your cookie cutters with the mix and leave them to harden in the fridge.
  • Or be creative and create a shape of your own!

Once you’ve made your treats place them in different areas around your garden to attract a range of birds, and remember to consider the little birds that will need low hanging treats.

Have fun this weekend, and be sure to send us your photographs to photos@primrose.co.uk, we’d love to see them!

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.

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