Animals, Conservation, George, Pest Advice, Wildlife

Badgers are one of the most iconic and well loved wild animals of Britain, though for some they can be seen as a garden pest. So whether you’re keen to spot more or you’re fed up with them digging up your lawn, we have everything you need to know about badgers in the garden.

Badgers in the garden

Signs of badgers

Badgers can be a little more destructive than most wildlife on their travels through your garden, leaving notable signs behind. They’re creatures of habit, following the same routes from their setts (underground tunnel complexes where they live in families) through local gardens in the search for food. You may see tunnels dug under your fences or chunks clawed out of the lawn. These are caused by the badgers digging for larvae below the turf, most common in spring time. You may also find they’ve burrowed into vegetable patches or flowerbeds – hunting for bulbs – when food is scarce. They are strong animals, so can also break into bins and compost heaps.

Like a lot of territorial creatures, badgers mark their area with urine and faeces, for which they’ll often dig latrines. You may spot one of these in your garden – it’ll be a trench about 15cm deep and 15cm wide.

Badgers rarely build their setts close to humans as they’re generally scared of us. But if you think they may be digging one in your garden – look out for tunnels of about 25cm diameter – then contact the Badger Trust immediately for advice.

Badger sett
A badger sett

Legal protections for badgers

It’s worth noting that badgers are the most protected of all British wildlife under strict laws, specifically the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. This makes it illegal to trap, harm or kill a badger, or to interfere with its sett. You could face up to 6 months in prison and an unlimited fine if you do so.

How to prevent badger damage in the garden

Given that badgers are so protected, you must be careful about any measures you take to control them on your property. You can try to make your garden less attractive to them or, in some cases, restrict their access.

The main reason badgers come into your garden is in search of food. So to discourage them, make sure any tasty treats like spilled birdseed (especially peanuts) or fallen fruit are cleared up each night. If you have a compost bin, ensure it’s sealed against pests.

Badgers dig up your lawn in search of insect larvae, but a well-drained and moss-free lawn is best for reducing insects laying larvae there. You can also embed a wire mesh over the lawn to make it harder for badgers to dig up.

If your garden is on a badger path, it’s common to find they dig under fences. They’re also strong – and determined – enough to climb over or tear down a weak fence. You can restrict their access by using electric fencing (including a timer to only turn it on at night) or reinforcing your fence with a strong wire mesh underground as illustrated below:

Securing fence against badgers

You must be careful with these methods though, as blocking up an entry point into your garden could be an offense if it prevents a badger getting to its sett. You may be better off putting a two-way hatch in the fence to allow badgers to pass through without digging or damage.

Lastly, no chemical deterrents for badgers are legally approved and the effects of ultrasonic repellers are unknown on them (although they are audible and used as a deterrent for a wide range of other pests).

Benefits of badgers

Badgers aren’t all bad in the garden. In fact, if you take the steps above to minimise their damage, they can be beneficial. Occasionally badgers will eat other pests like rats and mice. Plus, they are fascinating to watch and great for educating young children about wildlife and nature.

Group of badgers

Tips for spotting badgers

Badgers are beautiful creatures and – at up to 1m long – some of the largest wildlife to visit your garden. If you’re keen to catch sight of one outside, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances.

Try putting out some of their favourite food like peanuts, raisins, bread or soft fruit on your patio – but no milk or meat. Of course, if they learn that your garden is a source of food, they’ll come back determined to find more whether you put it out or not! And this may attract unwanted pests to your garden too.

As badgers are nocturnal, you’re going to look out for them at nighttime. They have poor eyesight but good hearing, so if you sit quietly you may be able to watch them up close. Or if you don’t fancy staying up, you could invest in a wildlife camera instead.

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.

Current Issues, Flowers, Gary

remembrance poppy

On the eleventh of November 1918, France fell silent as men all over Europe put down rifles and stepped out of trenches – the world began to slowly awake from a five-year nightmare: millions were dead, hundreds of thousands injured and the world map changed forever. One hundred years on, the symbol most synonymous with the chaos of the First World War is not the stone crosses that sit on village greens across the country, but a small red flower.

poppy symbol remembrance

Every year, around the start of November, the poppy begins to appear on the coats and jackets of almost everyone you walk past on the street. These little paper flowers are one of the key markers of the year and have become an integral part of how we remember those who have died in conflict. But why has this symbol become so prevalent?

The plant was a cornerstone of the British Opium Trade and the wars it caused, but at this time it was merely a crop plant and only became associated with conflict during the Napoleonic wars.

The history of our current relationship with the poppy begins on the 3rd of May 1915, during the second battle of Ypres. John McCrae was an officer in the Canadian expeditionary force, and he had just presided over the funeral of a close friend. As he sat on the back of an ambulance he began writing the poem that would become “In Flanders Fields”: one of the best-known pieces in the cannon of wartime poetry. It is this poem that starts the story of the poppy as we know it today.

John McCrae
John McCrae

Much poetry from this time in the war makes reference to the poppy. The small red flower was a welcome burst of colour amongst grey upturned earth and a reminder that a world beyond no man’s land existed. The summer of 1915 saw an explosion of the flowers across the newly fertilized battlefields of France. The irony that all this new life came from their fallen comrades was not lost on the soldiers. To them, the millions of flowers that sprouted that summer were a symbol of hope at a time when attitudes in the trenches were changing. The chivalric dreams of unready teenagers were giving way to the realities of war and it’s horrors. The melancholy poems that poured out of the front at the time track this seachange in attitudes.

McCrae’s poem was published in Canada a few months later and it quickly took hold in the Canadian psyche as a symbol of remembrance. The poppy was such an important aspect of National mourning at the time that in 1918 – three days before the end of the war – Professor Moina Michael vowed to wear a poppy as a private symbol of remembrance, and did so for many years.

Moina Michael

After the war, Moina became a teacher to disabled veterans and soon found that many of them were struggling financially as they were unable to work. In an effort to help, Moina began selling silk poppies to raise funds and the practice was soon adopted by the British Legion Appeal Fund (later The Royal British Legion). 1921 saw the first poppy appeal in the UK, and since then it has been held every year; raising money to help veterans and those affected by war. 2018 marks the centenary of the armistice and the poppy is still one of the most recognisable signs of remembrance for many around the world.

Gary ClarkeGary works in the Primrose product loading team, writing product descriptions and other copy. With seven years as a professional chef under his belt, he can usually be found experimenting in the kitchen or sat reading a book.

See all of Gary’s posts.

How To, Jorge, Planting, Plants, Trees

planting and caring for apple trees

Autumn is the best time to plant trees as this will allow time for your tree to establish its root system in preparation for next summer’s heat. Whenever a tree is uprooted, it loses most of its root hairs from which a tree absorbs much of its water and nutrients. These hairs will begin to regenerate upon planting, but it takes time. Transplant shock is a result of a tree’s water and nutrient absorbing capacity decreasing suddenly. To minimise transplant shock, it is important to regularly water your tree thoroughly, especially in the few weeks after planting.

Spacing should be based on a tree’s rootstock, which controls how large a tree ends up. M27, M26 and MM106 should be spaced 1.2m, 3m and 3.5-4m apart respectively. This ensures there is adequate light levels and air flows, which prevents disease spread.

Planting In The Ground

Before planting your tree remove any plants in the circumference of your tree’s canopy as they will compete for nutrients and water. Dig a hole no more than an inch deeper than your rootball. With bare root trees ensure the graft point is above the ground.

Digging a hole with a larger circumference will allow you to improve the horizontal layers from which a tree gathers most of its nutrients. A mix of compost and soil will produce superior drainage/retention properties. Fertiliser will improve the soil’s nutrient profile and mycorrhizal fungi will ensure your tree can gather these nutrients.

A larger hole will allow you to plant a stake, which is essential for any tree with a M9/M26/M27 rootstock as the roots are too brittle. The stake should be in pointing away from the prevailing wind, so as the tree will not rub against the stake, and no more than 2-3 inches away from the stem.

Scrumptious on an MM106 (left) and M27. Note the difference in foliage and stem thickness.

Water the root ball of your tree and free up any roots with your hands to ensure they aren’t growing in unnatural directions. Potted trees will sometimes have roots growing around the circumference of the pot.

With bare root soak the roots in a bucket of water. 30 minutes to 2 hours is common. Remember to not leave for too long as the tree needs oxygen too. Pruning woody roots back a few inches will stimulate the growth of more fibrous roots on which most root hairs reside.

Place the tree as so the graft is above ground level. Fill up any gaps with your potting mix, but do not compress the soil! Compaction will make it more difficult for water and air to reach your plant’s roots. The soil may reduce over time, so check up on your tree and add additional soil if necessary.

Give your tree a good watering and water bimonthly for the next two months. Adding mulch is recommended as it will improve the soil’s moisture retention. You can use bark and wood chipping, compost, manure, leaf-mould and stones, but be sure not to use infected materials. Make sure the mulch doesn’t touch the stem or it may transfer disease.

Mulch will help your tree retain moisture.

Tie your stake to the tree. Primrose recommends using a rubber tie that can be adjusted as your tree grows and nailed to the stake. Be sure to double knot your tie to prevent it from slipping. Placing a rabbit guard around the base of your tree is recommended as hungry rabbits nibble on bark come winter.

With bare root trees, cutting back the branches will produce a better balance between the root system and top growth, prevent the tree rocking in the wind and produce more fruit buds. Cut the central stem back by a third and the branches by half, snipping right above the buds.

Planting In Pots

40-60 litre containers (35-40cm2 planters) is the minimum volume for a M27 tree. Choosing a tree with a M27/M26 rootstock is wise. M27 rootstock produces the smallest trees, but M26 copes best with underwatering. 140L containers are recommended for more vigorous rootstocks.

With containers insufficient nutrient and moisture levels necessitates frequent watering in drought, biennial partial replacement of the soil and use of mulch. Using a potting mix of compost and garden soil will produce soil with the best drainage/moisture retention properties. Adding fertiliser is recommended to boost nutrient levels. When watering insure you give the pot a good drenching, this will ensure the roots grow to the extremities of the pot.

Care

Adding fertiliser in spring will help your tree grow once it comes out of dormancy. Replacing any decomposed mulch is worthwhile. Check your ties to ensure there is no unnecessary rubbing. Come autumn, collect and compost fallen leaves to remove potential vectors of disease.

Pruning is key to establishing an excellent framework. Trees need to be bottom heavy with larger branches at the bottom than at the top. The central leader (main stem) should be higher than any scaffold branches (branches growing from the main stem) and competing branches should be removed. Scaffold branches will often grow vertically, but need to be weighed down when young, so they grow horizontally. Scaffold branches growing too close together are best removed. Keep horizontal branches growing off scaffold branches, and remove vertical ones. Remove diseased, weak and twiggy growth and periodically thin to allow light to penetrate both the interior and lower portions of the 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.

Barbecues, Celebrations And Holidays, Charlie, Events

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

The 5th of November occupies a special place in the cultural memory of England. While it might superficially seem like a fun and innocent occasion where children toast marshmallows and fireworks displays are put on both in public and private to numerous oohs and ahhs, this actually belies the fact that the tradition is rooted in deep sectarian divisions that run through modern British history and that persist even to this day.


Unlike many other festivals, the celebration of Bonfire Night, or “Gunpowder Treason Day”, as it was originally known, is not rooted in any ancient tradition – but firmly in the bitter religious conflicts of the Early Modern Period between those who were loyal to the new Church of England with the Crown at its head and those who remain faithful to the Bishop of Rome and the Catholic Church on the continent. Specifically the failed coup of 1605, led by Robert Catesby which famously employed Guy Fawkes, an experienced military specialist, to blow up the houses of Parliament while they were in session.

The plan was forged after the Catholic nobility in England felt badly let down by James I as they had hoped for at least a softening of the stringent anti-catholic position of his predecessor, Elizabeth I, and that he would rule England as he had ruled Scotland – with (for the time) a remarkable amount of religious toleration. In fact, very little changed with James I’s ascension to the throne. It was at this point that Catesby and his co-conspirators decided to take action. The aim was not only to kill king James I but also most of his Privy Council and thus in the same fell swoop to destroy most of the noble and clerical opposition to Catholic rule. The plan was then to kidnap and install the king’s eldest daughter, who was nine years old at the time, as the titular catholic monarch with support from a popular rebellion in the midlands, where the old faith still had many adherents, as well as presumed support from the Catholic powers on the continent.

Of course this plan failed, when Guy Fawkes was discovered and eventually gave up details of the plot after several days of torture. Soon evolved a day of thanksgiving for the protection of king, realm and church, with effigies of, not guy fawkes, but the pope being burned on bonfires, such was the virulent anti-papist sentiment that surrounded the celebration. The burning of Guy Fawkes in place of the pope is in fact a far more modern twist on the event, starting in the latter 18th or early 19th century, when traditional English bigotry against Roman Catholics fell into decline. In fact, much like our national anthem, the original rhyme commemorating the event is now often shortened to remove the sectarian elements:

   Remember, remember!

   The fifth of November,

   The Gunpowder treason and plot;

   I know of no reason

   Why the Gunpowder treason

   Should ever be forgot!

   Guy Fawkes and his companions

   Did the scheme contrive,

   To blow the King and Parliament

   All up alive.

   Threescore barrels, laid below,

   To prove old England’s overthrow.

   But, by God’s providence, him they catch,

   With a dark lantern, lighting a match!

   A stick and a stake

   For King James’s sake!

   If you won’t give me one,

   I’ll take two,

   The better for me,

   And the worse for you.

   A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,

   A penn’orth of cheese to choke him,

   A pint of beer to wash it down,

   And a jolly good fire to burn him.

   Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!

   Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!

   Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!


It must be remembered that throughout much of the early modern period in England, there was a continual threat of invasion from the Catholic powers on the continent who were keen, at the pope’s behest, to re-establish the old faith in England, often supported by loyalists to the Church of Rome in England itself. Central to these fears was the existence of the Jesuit missionaries to England who risked life and limb to minister to those in England still loyal to the old faith. The Jesuits were singled out for special abhorrence because of their loyalty to the Pope, even to this day Jesuits must swear a special oath of loyalty to the Roman Pontiff along with their regular vows, and indeed the coup of 1605 was sometimes known as the “Jesuit Treason”, owing to Jesuit priests being confessors to many of the conspirators – though historians question how actively they were involved with the plot itself.

Gunpowder Treason Day was formally celebrated by the state almost immediately with the passing of the observance of the 5th of November Act of 1605. Throughout various periods in English history the celebrations took on differing tones, but always with a strong anti-papist sentiment throughout, as the act itself set out “many malignant and devilish Papists, Jesuits, and Seminary Priests, much envying and fearing, conspired most horribly…” thus cementing a strong anti-catholic current in English culture. It was one of the few national celebrations to survive the Republican period of Oliver Cromwell, whose virulent puritanism famously led him to cancel Christmas, but festivities around Bonfire Night were still permitted due to the strong anti-Catholic message it sent out.


Another important historical event in the history of Bonfire Night was the Glorious Revolution. Some 80 years on from the 1605 coup attempt, William of Orange in conjunction with Parliament successfully staged a coup to remove James II from the throne – after he had not only secretly converted to Roman Catholicism, but also produced a male heir. James II also attempted to ban bonfires and fireworks on the 5th November, ostensibly because of the fire risk, but many felt it was because of his objection to the burning of the Pope’s effigy. This ban was largely ignored and indeed his conversion ignited ever more anti-papist fervour amoung much of the population. William of Orange landed on English soil to become William III of England, coincidentally, on the 5th of November 1688. His birthday was also on the 4th November and he decreed a “double celebration” for his happy arrival and the “Deliverance of the Church and Nation” and so the celebrations around the 5th November become even stronger.

William of Orange

As time progressed, the celebration of the 5th November became ever more a cultural celebration for the lower classes – an opportunity for mischief and to pit disorder against order. The famous bonfire of Lewes was reported to be an excuse for annual rioting and much of the original meaning was lost. While the restoration by the Pope of the Catholic Hierarchy in England and Wales, following on from Catholic Emancipation, saw a resurgence of anti-papist sentiments surrounding the day, with the new Catholic Bishops and the Pope being burned in effigy in Southwark, by this time effigies of the Pope had largely been replaced by effigies of Guy Fawkes and the term “Guy Fawkes Day” rather than “Gunpowder Treason Day” had begun to stick. Finally in 1859, the Observance of the 5th November act was repealed, and the anti-papist thanksgiving prayer in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer was removed.

However many of the sentiments of Bonfire Night live on to this day and throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, many popular hate figures were burned in effigy as part of celebrations: The Tsar of Russia, Kaiser Wilhelm II, women’s suffragists and, more recently, David Cameron and Theresa May were burned as part of the famous Lewes Bonfire. In a twist on the cultural memory of the event, Guy Fawkes has counter-intuitively become a cult anti-establishment hero, with the popular Graphic Novel and film “V for Vendetta”, and many don his mask to protest against the excesses of Capitalism and Government. Whilst at the same time, marketing campaigns by fireworks manufacturers have largely been successful in getting the 5th November to be called fireworks night, and indeed fireworks are now often the main draw of the event.

In conclusion, whilst this celebration may be steeped in old sectarian divisions, it has largely lost its original meaning – though there are notably parts of the United Kingdom where Guy Fawkes day still resonates with the old sectarian conflicts. The festival itself has also been overshadowed by the modern celebration of halloween, with its similar excuse for riotous disorder. Many suggest that there are are also superficial similarities between it and other festivals that occur at the same time of year, such as the Hindu festival of Diwali – the festival of lights, which symbolizes the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. Largely it is now a good excuse for gathering round the bonfire or firepit, toasting some marshmallows and enjoying the burning of whatever national hate figure has irked you for that particular year.

Some of the Primrose Staff Enjoying a Bonfire

CharlieCharlie works in the Primrose marketing team, mainly on online marketing.

When not writing for the Primrose Blog, Charlie likes nothing more than a good book and a cool cider.

See all of Charlie’s posts.