How To

A Guide to Perennial and Alpine Care

The term ‘perennial’ encompasses dozens of species, so many gardeners can feel perplexed when deciding how to care for the differing plants in their garden. Within this post, we will detail the best way to care for your perennials, covering their planting, maintenance, and advice on mitigating common problems once they have become established. Please note, a section on alpine care will be published within the coming days. 

Perennials

A Guide to Perennial and Alpine Care

A perennial can be defined as a plant that will live in the ground for beyond two years. It will retreat into the ground during Autumn, and subsequently reemerge in Spring. As such, the planting and nurturing of perennials in your garden can be a satisfying activity, where you will be rewarded with a beautiful flowering display amongst your flower beds and borders. 

Nevertheless, it is important that you do not make any errors in terms of their planting and care, as their requirements are less versatile than an alpine’s (which are inherently accustomed to growing on more unusual surfaces, such as rockery and gravel).  

The most appropriate method to plant your perennials will depend on whether they are container-grown or bare-rooted.

Planting Container-Grown Perennials

These consist of a small-sized perennial that has been placed into a container of soil. To plant your perennial, dig a hole in your garden that is slightly larger than the container itself. The hole should be greater in terms of its width, as opposed to its depth. This will ensure that the perennial’s roots are well-buried, yet their shoots and stems will be bordering ground-level (where most moisture and nutrients is present).

To remove perennials from their container, gently tease their roots out from the soil (if you discover any spiralised roots, ensure that they have been adequately freed up from the soil).  Once finished, place your perennial into their hole, and lightly pat-down the surrounding soil. 

After your perennial has been  planted into the ground, provide it with a nourishing drink. This should be given even if the soil is presently moist, because it will mitigate against future dryness and help settle the soil.

Planting Bare-Rooted Perennials

Upon receiving your bare-rooted perennial, it is best to firstly assess their size. If they are over 75 millimeters in length, they can be planted into your garden immediately. 

If your perennial is of a smaller size, we advise you to initially place them into a pot to be ‘hardened off’ under a sheltered area. This will contribute to a more established perennial that will flourish beautifully within the impending months. 

Caring for your Perennials

A Guide to Perennial and Alpine Care

Once planted into the ground, we encourage you to water your perennials generously; with such efforts most integral during their initial growing season. Deadheading is also recommended, as this will prevent your perennials from wasting valuable energy on spent flowers. Nonetheless, you can allow the nearby leaves on the plant to remain, as they can leverage more energy into their roots for enhanced flowering.  

How to Deadhead your Perennials

Deadheading your beloved perennials is a brilliantly-straightforward undertaking, with the only equipment required being a pair of scissors or secateurs.   To deadhead, identify any flowers on your perennial that appear spent, and carefully rescind them from below their base.

Dividing your Perennials

As part of ensuring unrivaled flowering, once every few years, it is beneficial to divide your garden’s largest-appearing perennials. If your perennials are exhibiting the following signs, they are most likely ready to be divided;

  • They have outgrown their assigned space.
  • They are producing a lesser amount of flowers.
  • The inside of the perennial appears to be in worse health.

If you wish to relieve yourself from the duty of dividing your perennials, why not purchase one of our enchanting Begonias. Due to their blooms naturally dropping off when their lifespan has completed, a Begonias’s care will not necessitate any dividing, making them a lower-maintenance option for your outdoor space.

It is most sensible to divide your perennials on a drizzly day.  If the soil appears dry, soak the soil that encircles the perennials you will be relocating. It is also important that the perennials themselves are thoroughly watered; this will provide ease in their removal from the ground.

Taking good care, loosen the soil around each perennial, and gently pick them up in their clumps. To help assess precisely where they should be divided, using a hose or a watering can that produces a gentle stream, wash off the soil to expose the roots.  With a garden fork, slowly separate the roots, and prune away any damaged areas. Once this step has concluded, you can then re-plant each segment into a hole (with their depth matching what they were previously accustomed to).  Finish off the job with a generous watering, and await your perennials’ greatest return yet.

Greenhouses

With January always marking a fresh start, now is the optimum time to begin preparing your greenhouse for the seasons ahead. 

As quiet as your garden might appear, its life will tentatively reemerge. It is therefore important to encourage your garden’s exciting return, and ensuring that your greenhouse is fully in check is the perfect starting point. 

Give your Greenhouse a Clean

Greenhouse Gardening Tips

Understandably not the most exciting of gardening activities, cleaning your greenhouse for the busier months ahead will prove a highly rewarding activity. A good clean will let in more light for your plants, and mitigate the risks of pests and diseases. 

Before the cleaning activities commence, make sure that your plants have been relocated to an area sheltered from the elements, ideally protected beneath a fleece. Once your greenhouse’s residents have been moved, brush away dirt and debris from your greenhouse’s floor; a broom will be perfectly sufficient. 

Once the floor is nice and clean, move onto the cleaning of your greenhouse’s panes; cleaning them both internally and externally. Add some glass cleaner into a bucket of warm water, and using a sponge, scrub the dirt of each pane, leaving them to dry naturally. For the most immaculate finish, use a scraper you consider best for the job to remove any trapped dirt between each pane.

Once your greenhouse’s panes are bright and clear, apply some rubber gloves and begin brushing away accumulated leaves and dirt from your gutters. Use a hose pipe to rinse out the remaining dirt, or, if you wish to be gentler, a watering can.

When rinsing, try to guide the flow of water into a bucket which can be disposed around your garden’s trees and shrubs. If significant, make use of the debris you have collected by placing it onto a compost heap. The removal of your greenhouse’s debris will help protect your plants from blight, mealy bugs, and mites. Besides from deterring pests, a sparkling and refreshed greenhouse may be the push you need into reacquainting yourself with your beloved garden, which is capable of bringing so much delight.  

Plant Strategically

Greenhouse Gardening Tips

The early weeks of the year is an ideal period for planting crops that entail a longer growing season, with chillies being the perfect example. If chillies experience a generous period of growing, they will grow and flower more significantly, and the larger the plant, the greater number of vegetables yielded.

Your chilli seeds should be thinly scattered over a tray of peat-free compost, which will retain moisture and release nutrients over their extended growing season. Water your compost sparingly; it is best for the soil to be moist, as opposed to overly soggy. 

To allow their successful germination, it is crucial to ensure that your greenhouse is suitably warm.  At Primrose, offer a diverse range of greenhouse heaters, available here.

The germination process can be very long, so do not be disheartened if no progress is apparent after several weeks. Once your chillies have developed some leaves, pot into 75 millimeter pots to ensure their continued growth. 

Growing your own produce can appear daunting, and even unpredictable at times. This can particularly be the case if you are new to the world of gardening. Why not browse our ‘Grow your own Extreme Chilli Kit’, which encompasses everything you need in order to grow your very own chillies at home.  

Prepare your Tools

Greenhouse Gardening Tips

Make use of your garden’s mid-winter quietness to be one step ahead by preparing your tools accordingly. A thorough mid-winter clean and sharpen will help them function seamlessly and prevent disease from being spread around your garden. 

Cultivation Tools

Cultivation tools, such as hoes, spades, forks, and trowels, should be cleaned by a scrubbing brush to remove soil. It is beneficial to wet them if they are particularly dirty, however make sure you dry them rigorously, if they are left damp, their metal could rust and their handles could swell. Once cleaned, particularly for older tools, we recommend that you apply a layer of oil to them with an old but clean cloth. The oil you apply need not be of a specialist kind; all-purpose oil will do an excellent job. 

Before you oil your tools however, a sharpening may very well be necessary. Using a whetstone or a file, sharpen the blade of each tool several times, before tightening any loose bolts to allow your tool to be as reliable as possible for the busy months ahead. 

An important tool to pay added attention to in terms of its care will be your secateurs, as they will help you guide and nurture the growth of your plants, shrubs, and trees throughout the year. Due to being multi-purpose, they are likely to become tired perhaps quicker than your other tools, so it is therefore wise to be extra attentive in their maintenance. 

Accompanied by a little bit of vigour, you can successfully remove the rust from your secateurs with some wire wool, before sharpening them in the same manner as you would for the aforementioned tools. Freshly sharpened secateurs will prove a pivotal asset to gardening, and will make pruning a walk in the park, or the garden, should we say. 

Cutting Tools

In addition to your secateurs, your wider collection of cutting tools, such as knives, loppers, and shears, are likely to have gathered sap on their blades from your pruning and cutting activities. We therefore recommend that you remove this residue by initially applying a displacing solution to loosen the sap, before cleaning it away with wire wool. Once you are satisfied with your cleaning, wipe away the displacing solution, before tightening loose bolts and placing a few drops of oil onto the inner blades, which can be opened and closed a few times for it to spread. Your tools can then be put away, to be used for the exciting months ahead.

 

Grow Your Own, How To

Growing your own Crops

The growing popularity of sustainable living is inspiring more and more of us each day to begin growing our own crops. However, often due to space constraints, limited disposable income, or simply inexperience, many of us are hesitant about entering the seemingly complex world of grow your own.

Within this post, we will detail the necessary steps for successfully growing your own crops, applicable to every outdoor space, budget, and primed with beginners in mind. 

Seeds and Planting

Growing your own Crops

The most suitable seeds to sow will vary in accordance with the differing times of the year. If you  wish to begin growing your own during January (indoors), early potatoes and broad beans will prove reliable options. With the assistance of a heated propagator, celery and rhubarb will additionally be worthwhile choices. 

Similar to selecting the most appropriate seeds, the best method of their planting will depend on where you are within the year.  We therefore encourage you to continue reading for some helpful advice. 

Can I begin growing crops outside in January?  

For planting this early in the year, initially ‘starting off’ your crops indoors is recommended. For this temporary period, your seeds are best planted into a mix of sieved compost from your garden, and peat-free compost. If you are unable to obtain the former ingredient, simply using peat-free compost will be sufficient. 

When sowing your seeds into their containers, it is advised that you use 7.5 centimetre pots that are equipped with drainage holes. Please note, if you are planting broad beans, it is best to use a single container for each seed, and to make sure that the container is reasonably deep.

Each of your seeds should ideally be sown in rows that are well-distributed; this will enable each seedling to be easily watered, and transported when necessary.

It is no longer frosty outside, can I now begin planting?  

A guide to adopt is if the soil in your garden is loose, fluffy, and relatively warm to the touch, you can now commence your planting. Ideal crops to plant at this time include parsnips, broad beans, onions, beetroot, carrots, peas, spinach, and turnips. 

It is best to ensure that your seeds are planted in free-draining soil that is rich in organic matter, and experiences direct sun exposure for a minimum of half the day. Traditionally,  March will consist of the first month of the year regarded appropriate for sowing seeds straight into your garden. 

What is the easiest and most effective way to sow outside?  

When sowing, there are various techniques that you can adopt; these include direct sowing, station sowing, and thinning. 

The easiest method of growing your own crops is in the form of direct sowing, where your seeds will be planted directly into your garden, without necessitating an initial growing period in a greenhouse. 

To enhance the outcome of your sowing activities, it is beneficial to sow two or three seeds together, and to space them a few centimetres away from another two or three seeds that have been collectively planted. Once the seeds have developed their first leaves, you can then select the most healthy appearing plant, and thin out the other saplings accordingly. From this approach, which is also referred to as ‘thinning’, you are maximising the chances of growing a hardy, fruitful crop, that will neither have to compete for light, water, or nutrients. 

I don’t have a proper garden, can I still grow crops? 

If your outdoor space is restricted, you can instead use a few containers, or a raised bed or two. It is preferred that you use the native soil from your garden to fill your beds or containers, however, if you are unable to do so, you can purchase nutrient-rich soil from your local garden center. 

We sell a broad selection of affordable raised beds, available in a myriad of colours and sizes, available here

 

Caring for your Crops

Growing your own Crops

Once your seeds have been planted, it is important for their soil to be consistently moist. It is therefore recommended that you use a hose or watering can that releases a gentle stream of water. This will be achievable through an extremely fine nozzle. 

Once your seedlings have become established and are exhibiting steady growth, your watering activities can be reduced. Although precise watering needs will vary for each crop, a general rule to abide by is to water them every ten to fourteen days, that is, if there has been no rainfall. 

If your crops have initially been started off in a greenhouse, once each seedling has grown into a reasonable size, they should be placed outside in their containers for one to two weeks to harden off. When the soil is warm to the touch, your seedlings can then be planted into your garden, spaced six to nine inches apart. 

Protect your Crops

Although we must value slugs and snails for providing food for our wildlife and recycling vegetative matter, your seedlings can be extremely vulnerable to these creatures. To mitigate this, it is advised that you resist planting your crops too early in the year, and to not over-water.

Harvesting

Growing your own Crops

Assessing when your beloved crops are ready to be harvested can be rather puzzling. Size is never indicative of maturity, and whilst some plants can cope with their produce being partially harvested, others cannot.

A valuable guide to follow is if the ripest vegetables cannot be easily removed, they should be cut carefully with a knife.

Please read below for information surrounding the harvesting of all of the vegetables that have been detailed within this post. 

Harvesting Guides

Broad beans; These can be harvested when the beans become visible through their pod. 

Peas; A good indicator of ripeness is when each pod appears well-filled.

Celery; Generally, your celery can be harvested between August and October. To mitigate the risk of disease, each stalk should be rescinded from its base with a sharp knife. 

Rhubarb; The optimum time to harvest your rhubarb is when the stalks of their leaves are, or have, exceeded ten inches. Similar to celery, the stalks can again be rescinded from their base by a sharp knife. 

Early potatoes; It is advised that you wait for their flowers to open, and their buds to drop. Once the tubers themselves have become the size of an egg, it is a positive sign that they can be harvested. 

Parsnips; These crops can usually be harvested from the end of August until the end of January. A good indication of ripeness is once their foliage has begun to reduce. 

Onions;  Your onions can be harvested when the bulbs have achieved a large size and their apex has yellowed.

Beetroot; This crop can be harvested once the roots have exceeded the size of a golf ball.  Your beetroot can be lifted from the ground by gently holding the foliage and simultaneously levering beneath the root with a fork.  

Carrots; Although this is subject to variation depending on the type of carrot, if their shoulder ranges from half to three quarters of an inch in thickness, they can be harvested. 

Turnips; A degree of subjectivity surrounds the harvesting of turnips. Whilst some prefer younger roots, others relish larger bulbs. A general guide to use is if the turnip has had its greens removed,  if it has reached three inches in width, it is ready. For a turnip that still has its greens intact, if it has reached two inches, it can be harvested. 

Spinach; Upon being sown, your spinach will typically be ready for harvest in 37 to 45 days, once a rosette of several leaves becomes apparent.

 

Alice, Animals, Birds, Conservation, Wildlife

Many species of wild animals are on the decline, including hedgehogs, sparrows, and song thrushes. With an estimated 24 million gardens in the UK, these outdoor spaces have huge potential to nurture an array of creatures. Here are some simple solutions for how to help wildlife in your garden.

how to help wildlife in your garden

Go natural

An immaculate garden with with a tidy lawn, perfectly pruned hedges and every fallen leaf disposed of will impress your neighbours, but isn’t the best way to welcome wildlife. Leaves, weeds, and overgrown shrubs provide shelter for insects, birds, and small mammals. Long grass in particular is a great habitat, so make sure to leave at least a patch of your lawn unmown. Weeds are also a food source for many insects, including butterflies and moths.

Avoid pesticides

Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides will destroy unwanted pests, however chemicals are not selective: they will also destroy other insects including beneficial pollinators. Even insects such as aphids and slugs can be beneficial in maintaining the food chain. Alternative methods to protect your plants include using a cloche or fleece, companion planting, and using grease bands for trees.

Just add water

A pond is a great way of attracting an array of wildlife into your garden, including frogs, newts, birds, and insects. Make sure to incorporate a sloping bank area so animals can easily step in and out, and avoid adding fish as they eat tadpoles. If you don’t have space for a full-blown pond, a birdbath is a great way of providing drinking and bathing water to wild birds, and make sure to leave a bowl of water for thirsty wildlife on hot days.

Feed the birds

Food supplies for wild birds can run short, particularly in the winter, so it’s a great idea to offer nutrition for our feathered friends. It’s important to stick to a regular feeding schedule as irregular feeding could cause birds to expend energy flying to your garden then find there is no food. Make sure food is kept out of the reach of cats, and some of it is protected to allow small birds to feed in safety. Our range of bird feeders has a range of styles to suit various species and garden styles.

how to help wildlife in your garden

Bee-friendly flowers

Bees are highly beneficial pollinators, however due to the varroa mite and agricultural pesticides, their population is declining. Make your garden a rich food source for these creatures by planting open flowers such as daisies; flowering trees (including fruit trees); and legumes such as beans, peas, sweet peas. Sowing multiple plants in succession rather than occasional plants dotted around your garden works best. You can find out more about bee conservation in this article.

Diversity

A garden full of the same flower species creates a bold display, but isn’t great for wildlife. Growing a range of flowers provides a strong supply of nectar and helps create a healthy ecosystem with a wide range of insects, birds, and mammals.

Animal habitats

Bird nest boxes are a great way of providing shelter for wild birds and protecting them from predators. Our collection includes a variety of models to accommodate various species of bird; from small round-holed boxes for tits to more open styles for robins. There are now more habitat options available for other creatures. Our Hedgehog House Care Pack provides a great hibernation haven, and our Ladybird Tower is perfect for housing beneficial insects. Piles of logs and sticks can also provide shelter for various critters.

Compost

In addition to recycling kitchen waste and enriching the soil, compost can also enhance the bacterial and fungal life in your garden, which provides a base for other wildlife. A compost heap can also provide a home for creatures such as woodlice, worms, and frogs. Check out our guide on how to compost here!

A gap in the fence

Make sure animals such as hedgehogs and frogs can benefit the new wildlife-friendly additions to your garden by making sure your fences have some gaps at the bottom to allow wildlife to move through. This will also help link habitats together. However, if you or one of your neighbours have a dog, ensure that the gap is small enough that the dog cannot escape!

Let us know which adorable creatures have been visiting your garden on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!