Gardening, How To, Liam, Planting, Trees

Staking tree

Staking a young tree helps provide it with that much needed support before the roots have had the chance to fully grow out and establish themselves. Staking a bare root and a containerised tree has slight differences in the method; with this guide we’ll explain how to stake both.

With that being said trees need a certain room to move if they are to develop a strong trunk and roots which provide a healthy, natural anchorage. For this reason it is important to give the tree some space to move and to remove the stakes after one growing season. Failure to do this could result in the tree snapping under pressure as it matures. If you are planting the tree in a sheltered site, you may not need to stake your tree at all.

How to stake a bare root tree

First, for bare root trees you’ll want to place the stake into your hole before you have planted the tree. This will prevent any damage to the roots. As bare root trees generally have more spreading roots they will be able to support themselves more and so we recommend only using one stake.

Stake in place for a bare root tree

Your stake should reach roughly to just below the branches, this will prevent any of the branches scraping up or snapping against the stake. You can saw the stake down to the required height after you have planted the tree.

Use a broad, smooth cord to tie your branch to the stake so not to cut or scrape away at the trunk. We recommend tying the cord in a figure of 8 to keep the tree secure but also to give it room. The ties shouldn’t be much higher than 2/3s up the trunk.

Recommended figure-of-eight tie

How to stake a container grown tree

With a containerised tree the roots are generally less spread out as they have been restricted to a pot; for this reason we recommend using two stakes instead of one.

Plant the tree first and then plant the stakes as to not disturb and break the soil around rootball. Remember how large the rootball is as it is important not to drive the stake through it as this will damage the developing root system and with some tree varieties it will lead to death.

Stakes in place around a containerised tree

Tie the steaks to your tree, in a figure of eight and the tree should now be well supported as it establishes itself. Remove the stakes after one growing season to promote more natural strength and flexibility.

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.

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.

Dakota Murphey, Gardening Year, Grow Your Own, Hedging, How To

Wild food foraging

Who doesn’t have fond memories of collecting blackberries along an overgrown pathway? Even city dwellers will have come across an alleyway with a siding of brambles somewhere. Of course the countryside is the best place for foraging, especially woodland, and getting the family out of the city for a day without spending a fortune is a great idea, if only for a breath of fresh air.

It’s a great way to get the kids away from screens and indulge in some good old-fashioned fun. Much has been written about the health and developmental benefits of engaging children with nature, so a foraging adventure will be doing much more than you think.

Foraging for food can be risky if you don’t know what you are picking. Many plants, flowers and berries are poisonous and mustn’t be consumed. But don’t let that put you off. With a watchful eye and a little education you can safely pick the things that are edible and teach your children a thing or two about nature along the way.

Read through our safety tips, to be clear about what it is you are foraging for and you’ll have a fun and fruitful day. If you don’t feel confident, there’s plenty of information available from organisations such as the Woodland Trust. Or experience day companies, such as Into The Blue offer foraging courses with an expert (a great gift idea for the nature lover in your family).

foraging in the wild

Safety tips

  • Avoid picking plants from busy roadsides, near to landfill sites or close to stagnant water/foul ponds.
  • Don’t pick plants that look as though they have been recently sprayed – check for signs of wilting or residue on leaves.
  • Don’t consume diseased or dying plants, and never eat dead leaves.
  • Only take what you need, and try to pick leaves from several plants rather than all the leaves from one plant, so that the plants can continue to flourish.
  • Wash all your leaves and fruit before eating.
  • NEVER consume anything you aren’t able to 100% identify as safe. If in doubt, leave it alone!
  • There are some plants you should never eat raw, so do your research.
  • Wear gardening gloves to protect from spikes and thorns.
  • It is illegal to disturb or pick plant material that belongs to any protected wild plant.

Test your tolerance

Some people are extremely sensitive to certain foods and for that reason it’s really important to test your tolerance of a new food you haven’t tried before.

Take a small piece of the raw edible part of the plant (make sure it is a plant that is edible raw). Put it in the front of your mouth and bite on it a few times, then spit it out. Wait for 60 minutes. If you experience no bad reaction, proceed to the next step.

Now try a larger piece of the plant (edible part only!). Try boiling the edible part of the plant you are tolerance testing and eating and swallowing a tiny quantity of it (about a quarter of a leaf for example). Wait for 60 minutes and see how you feel. If you don’t experience any negative reaction, proceed to the next step.

Try a tablespoon mixed into a suitable recipe. If you do not experience any negative reaction after 60 minutes, your body should be OK consuming that specific wild edible plant in larger quantities. But don’t overdo it.

foraging tips

Here are some tips on a good old family hedgerow favourite to get you started. Good luck with your foraging!

Blackberries

Plump blackberries are a winner for the kitchen. A foraged crumble is the perfect treat after an afternoon of standing on tippy toes to reach the most luscious and juicy fruits on offer. These divine hedgerow berries are ripe for picking in August and September and are great in lots of favourite family recipes. Try cheesecakes, smoothies, hedgerow jams, or simply mix with roughly chopped almonds and plonk on top of a bowl of porridge. Yum!

High in antioxidants and vitamin C, blackberries have great health benefits too. Be careful of the blackberry bush thorns while you are picking, and beware the juice stains, so don’t wear your best clothes. Inevitably a few nicks and stains will be forgotten about when you get to eat the fruits of your labour. If you are out picking with younger children, be mindful of the height at which they are picking. Better to lift them up, than gather contaminated fruits at doggy-leg height! You get the gist!

Family tip: make some smoothies with blackberries. Your children can set up a stall to sell small cups at the end of your driveway, or instead deliver a surprise smoothie treat to neighbours. Soak your fruits in water for 30 minutes and rinse before eating, or using in recipes.

Dakota Murphey

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.

Ade Holder, Current Issues, Garden Design, Gardening, Planting, Plants

Rain gardens

A rain garden in its simplest form stands as “a shallow depression, with absorbent yet, free draining soil and planted with vegetation that can withstand occasional temporary flooding”. Such gardens can be a very effective -a small scale community-led step towards preventing risks of flooding within homes and residential areas. A guide to rain gardens has been provided by raingardens.info for those interested in installing a rain garden within their property, together with further information on the benefits and effects of installing one. There are however much larger rain gardens being implemented in many urban and communal spaces.

The plants on the surface of the gardens act not only as an aesthetically pleasing aspect to the design, but as a natural flood defence to which water may infiltrate – slowing the rate of surface water build up on the roads. Beneath the surface of the gardens a water tank is fitted, which is backed up by an additional overflow pipe connecting it directly to the sewer or run off system.

These innovative garden designs have become ever more popular in recent years, as urbanisation continues to diminish our natural green spaces. This year’s Chelsea Flower Show also saw its first rain garden – designed by Dr Nigel Dunnett. His garden, named the ‘New Wild Garden’ is now situated in Gloucestershire. Here the idea of building a rain garden was promoted because not only could it primarily prevent flooding, but also allow wildlife to thrive as well as keeping plants hydrated without the need for watering as often – ideal for gardeners who prefer a low maintenance approach. Rain gardens can additionally be both inexpensive and sustainable, with Dunnett’s garden being built with emphasis on just this. According to The Guardian “many of the hard materials used to make the New Wild Garden were gathered from skips and charity shops. Insect habitats were made using old water pipes, bits of bark, drilled wood and the cross section of an ivy stem taken off a house. Dry-stone walls feature old books and toy cars, while the granite used to make the path was salvaged from outside the Natural History Museum”. Dunnett has even produced a book with Andy Clayden about rain gardens and their sustainability.

As highlighted by Dunnett’s rain garden, alongside many others, the concept itself invites innovation and creativity while remaining entirely flexible in fitting to its surrounding environment. Simple provisions still need to be considered however, such as ensuring the garden isn’t situated on too steep a slope or close to building foundations– as these factors can lessen the garden’s permeability.

Rain garden planting

Further note can be taken from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who have put together a webpage on which plants are native to, and thrive most, in each American state. This allows for gardeners to adapt to their local environments in ensuring that the plants they stock their gardens with conserve water at a level in sympathy with the shortages in the area. For instance the use of drought tolerant crops are encouraged in various states such as Arizona. When putting together a rain garden in the UK, it is important to stock it with plants native to the area, which can tolerate as much surface water as possible in order to resist flooding rather than drought. The Royal Horticultural Society have similarly put together a webpage on trees and shrubs that are native to the UK, which can be useful in considering the practical design for a rain garden.

Kent County Council will soon be implementing the very first series of seventeen ‘rain gardens’ in Folkestone, in order to combat flooding. Flooding in this area has proved hazardous in the past, where both roads, houses and businesses are vulnerable.

According to Kent County Council “this inventive initiative will increase the amount of water captured on Dolphins Road and provide storage below the rain gardens that then control the rate that water flows into the sewer. The tank lets the water out into the sewer at a much slower rate than conventional highway gullies and so won’t overwhelm the network.”

Folkestone

Southern Water has also become involved in the initiative, partnering with Kent County Council on researching further options to reduce flooding risks across the area, possibly through the installation of additional water storage facilities. However, while the implementation of these particular gardens remains more complex and high-tech, the concept of rain gardens isn’t entirely new and a return to more traditional flood control methods is becoming more common.

Flooding is becoming more and more of an issue in many parts of the UK and the world. British companies like UNDA provide an ever increasing number of flood risk assessments across the country as the need to know about the potential of flooding grows. The government and councils are rightly putting pressure on developers to make sure houses are being built in areas that are not likely to flood or are capable of dealing with flood water. Rain gardens are just one of many measures both the government and individuals should be thinking about. Not only do they look wonderful but hey provide a service to homes and those around them. Larger rain gardens like those planned for Folkestone should be employed in a number of areas to help protect surrounding properties.

Flooding

Of course, the reasons there is even a need for flood protection are many but most agree it is related to climate change. So as well and looking at mitigation devices like rain gardens it is important everyone continues to try to reduce their carbon footprint to stop things getting any worse over the coming decades.

Ade HolderAde Holder was once primarily a motoring writer but with a background in Zoology and Environmental Science as well as a deep passion for all things living and growing he found himself writing on a much broader range of topics. As well as writing on various topics Ade has also been called to speak on BBC radio on a number of topics. In his spare time he can often be found covered in mud on a mountain bike somewhere on the South Downs.