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.

George, Greenhouses, How To, Pest Advice, Pest Control, Slugs & Snails, Spiders

Greenhouse Pest Control

Greenhouses are wonderful tools for keen gardeners, offering a much needed space to tend to gardening projects outside of the usual summer season. But while protecting your plants from the elements, greenhouses can also be prone to sheltering pests and diseases that will ruin all your hard work. Armed with our top greenhouse pest control tips, you should be well equipped to give your plants the best protection possible.

1. Keep your greenhouse clean

As with any form of disease or pest prevention, cleanliness is the number one priority. As part of your general upkeep, it’s worth thoroughly emptying and cleaning out your greenhouse once a year. This involves washing down the windows and surfaces, hosing off the floors and cleansing all the pots. Doing this should give you a fresh, pest-free start for growing each year.

2. Inspect your plants

It’s vital to check over all your plants before they enter the greenhouse in order to prevent pests spreading inside. Just as flowers and crops love the warmth of a greenhouse so too do bugs, and they multiply in the heat. So give any new plants a thorough inspection for signs of insects or larvae on the leaves or stem before bringing them inside.

3. Disinfect your tools

Most gardeners will regularly use the same tools all round the garden, transporting them around the shed, flowerbeds, lawn, vegetable patch, compost heap and greenhouse. This means they can pick up pests from the soil outside and infest the plants inside the greenhouse. So to be extra careful, it’s worth giving your spades, trowels and other tools a good clean every now and again – a soak in soapy water should do fine.

4. Use insect catchers

Chances are, insects will always find a way into your greenhouse. Catch them where they fly, with simple greenhouse pest control products, like hanging fly papers and wasp traps, or using spider spray at the door.

5. Use netting

Obviously, greenhouses need good ventilation and it’s never worth sealing them up completely to stop incoming pests. But you can easily cut down on the number of large flying insects entering by hanging netting across open windows or other vent points.

6. Move pots outside in the heat

In the summer months, greenhouses can often become hot and dry throughout the daytime. Moving potted plants outdoors not only helps cool them down but also reduces the build up of spider mites on the plants. Spider mites increase rapidly in number in dry heat so it’s worth keeping the greenhouse ventilated and also using a mister to keep the humidity up. If you’re going out for the day a good trick is to dowse the floor with water, which will evaporate into the air throughout the rest of the day.

7. Use potting soil

Often regular soil from the garden will be packed full of creepy crawlies, insect eggs and other pests. So for the container plants in the greenhouse, it’s a good idea to pot them in shop-bought potting soil or compost. This should be sterilised free from any pests or diseases and well as being rich in nutrients to help the plants grow.

8. Rotate crops

If you plant directly into the ground inside your greenhouse, clearly you won’t have as much control over the spread of potential pests within that soil. A method of combatting this is crop rotation – each year vary what type of plant you are growing in that piece of ground. This tends to prevent the buildup of pests in the soil, as similar plants usually encourage the same types of pest.

9. Freeze the pests

This is an extreme measure that you could perform once a year if you believe your greenhouse is truly infested. During the winter, allow your greenhouse to enter a chilling period by opening up all the doors and windows for a day or two. The temperature will drop right down, killing off any pests inside, including their eggs and larvae. As long as it’s not cold for too long, the plants should survive this. Obviously, any tropical plants or those that require constant warmth should not be left out for this.

10. Use biological pest control

Many common greenhouse pests, such as vine weevil grubs, whitefly and spider mites can be fought with biological control. Each pest has a corresponding organism that you can introduce to the infested area and it will feed on the pest, keeping its population under control. If the pest is eliminated then the control dies out too due to lack of food source, so you don’t need to worry about them destroying the plants instead. Some of these biological controls are available to purchase.

Hopefully by putting these tips into practice, your greenhouse will remain pest-free and your plants will thrive. Let us know how you get on or if you have any greenhouse pest control advice of your own!

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.

Gardening, Gardening Year, Greenhouses, Grow Your Own, How To, Kim Stoddart, Planting

I keep hearing what a harsh winter we’re going to have this year. It’s even been dubbed Freezageddon by some commentators, which is a little dramatic if you ask me. None-the-less, whether it is going to be the coldest winter in 50 years, or indeed just ….cold, having a greenhouse or polytunnel in which to grow over winter is very handy indeed.

For a start, even when there’s thick snow on the ground all around, you’ll still be able to dig out (and pick) some of your vegetables from inside. For a badly behaved gardener like me who loves gardening and doesn’t like having to wait till spring to get active again, I couldn’t imagine doing without.

Cleaning the Polytunnel
Be sure to keep your polytunnel clean over winter

Growing inside enables you to naughtily extend the growing season, carrying on that bit longer and starting earlier in the year. It boosts results from harder-to-grow, warmer climate craving produce no matter where you live and what the seasons throw at us.

Plus on a rainy day (and let’s face it we’ve had a fair few of those recently) you can still happily garden away protected from the elements.

Even the smallest, unheated polytunnel or greenhouse can make all the difference. While extra tricks such as using ground cover to warm the soil, using a cold frame for extra protection and an inside heating system will expand your opportunities even further…

Here are just a few of best things about growing inside:

Earlier planting

Peppers, aubergines and chillies in particular need a longer growing season and the professional growers I know all start them in January/February for a bumper crop.

Tomatoes and cucumbers also benefit from being inside, even the hardier varieties and especially here in West Wales.

Everything in fact can be germinated and planted out just that bit earlier…

Growing more exotic varieties

There is much more room for experimentation and growing a wide range of exotic and rather exciting plants that you might otherwise not have tried. Melons, sweet potatoes and okra are worth trying and more sensitive, heat-loving fruit trees such as cherry, lemon and lime and peach really benefit from being kept inside in pots over winter. Although the citruses will need extra protection if the thermostat does indeed plummet as predicted.

Later planting

If you’ve been a bit slack with some of your planting and maybe missed your usual planting dates, it doesn’t matter when you grow inside because seedlings will have that bit extra time to catch up. As long as it’s not too late and the plant has established itself (before the shortest days) it will remain intact (and fresh) for a lot longer than during the summer months. Some of the best for lazier, later planting include spinach, rainbow chard, winter salad leaves and cress which all shoot up quickly given half the chance.

So don’t fear the weather doom-mongers. Yes, they could be right but come rain, hail, snow… whatever climatic conditions are thrown at us; with just a little outside protection you can ensure that you and your produce are warm enough inside, which is where it counts.

Kim StoddartKim Stoddart is a gardening writer for the Guardian and blogs at www.getbadlybehaved.com.

Current Issues, Flowers, Gardening, Gardening Year, George, Greenhouses, How To, Planting, Plants

How To Protect Your Plants Against Frost

Winter is coming… and bringing the obligatory cold snaps to test your garden over the chilly season. No one wants the flowers that they tended so well over the summer to be ruined, which is why we’ve put together a simple guide on how to protect your plants against frost. Give the following tips a go, and be sure to let us know how you get on!

1. Move delicate plants inside

Anything that you know won’t survive the cold, like tropical species or houseplants, make sure they’re indoors from around November time until the spring.

2. Keep an eye on the weather reports

You’ll want to know when a frosty night is imminent so you can prepare your garden that evening. Forewarned is forearmed!

3. Water the night before a freeze

Cold winds and dry air will deplete moisture in plants, so keep them hydrated by topping the ground up with water the night before a cold snap. Water can act as an insulator inside the plants and moist soil stays warmer than dry.

4. Cover young plants

Another task to do before a frosty night is to protect delicate shoots of bulbs growing outside. Cover them with cloches if you’re prepared – or upturned buckets and plant pots will do in an emergency!

5. Use a fleece blanket for delicate trees and shrubs

If you know your tree won’t take well to a chilly night, keep it wrapped up warm in a fleece blanket or roll of fabric. Use a frame to avoid damaging the branches, and be sure to cover all the way to the ground to hold in maximum heat.

6. Build a cold frame

Shelter potted plants together in a cold frame. You can buy one ready-made or construct one out of bricks and an old window for a lid. Be sure to ventilate it to avoid the buildup of too much heat or moisture.

7. Lay down some mulch

Insulate budding plants and shrubs with a layer of mulch. This will trap in the heat well and provide them with nutrients.

8. Relocate plants inside a greenhouse

If you’re lucky enough to have a greenhouse in your garden, it’s invaluable during frosty periods. You can simply move all your pots inside, or even plant within the greenhouse to be prepared for winter.

9. Watch out for morning light

After a frost, be careful not to expose you plants to strong sunlight straightaway. If they defrost too quickly, it can damage the cells inside.

Hopefully these quick tips will get your garden through the winter safely. Please share how you get on, and let us know if you have any more helpful advice.

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.

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