Composting is a great way to reduce the waste you send to landfill and produce organic fertiliser for your plants. One of the biggest concerns around having a compost bin in the garden is whether it might attract pests or vermin. The short answer is yes, it can. But that’s why we’ve gathered advice to ensure you can build a pest-proof compost bin and enjoy all its benefits without the pain.
Why are pests attracted to compost bins?
The most likely pests to seek out you compost are rats and mice. They are a common part of a residential ecosystem and look for two things: food and shelter. This is why rodents are particularly attracted to compost heaps, especially in winter. It provides them with food and a warm, sheltered spot to sleep in.
Insects, however, are generally nothing to worry about in compost heaps. Worms, slugs, millipedes, spiders, beetles and more are regular guests. They are a crucial part of the decomposition process, so embrace the bugs!
Tips for deterring pests
Avoid putting any meat or dairy products in your compost, including fatty oils or bones. This would smell like a feast to rats.
Over autumn and winter keep your compost bin damp – this will help with the decomposition process and make it less attractive to rodents.
They also don’t like disturbance, so be sure to turn your compost regularly or give the bin a kick when you walk past!
Cover food scraps with dry leaves or soil in the bin to conceal the smell of decaying food.
Rodents are reportedly put off by the aroma of mint, so try sprinkling peppermint oil on your compost or planting mint nearby.
How to protect your compost bin
It’s very hard to completely protect a compost bin against vermin as mice can squeeze through holes as small as a penny, and rats can chew through almost anything. Compost bins are much easier to seal against invading pests than open heaps, so if you’re worried about rodents then they’re the better choice. Surrounding your bin with rocks and bricks can make it a bit more fortified.
If you have a plastic bin, this is easiest to seal. The best time is before you start using it as you’ll need to line the bottom with wire mesh. Ensure the holes are only small enough for bugs to get through, not burrowing mice.
If you have a wooden bin, again you’ll need to line the bottom and sides with wire mesh. Make sure this is sealed firmly round all the edges with no gaps.
Hopefully these tips will make your compost bin as unattractive to pests as possible. While the best defense is prevention, if you’re still experiencing issues then it might be time to look into pest control, such as traps.
George 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.
Reducing the use of plastic is all the rage at the moment, and for very good reasons. Making a commitment to reducing plastic in the garden has many benefits. It will not only help the wider environment, but will help you become a more self sufficient gardener. In the long run, it could even save you money.
There is a surprising amount of plastic used in gardening, from plastic plant trays to cable ties that keep bamboo canes together and even microplastics in some fertilisers. Every little helps and your contribution in the form of reducing plastic in the garden is just as important as any. Big corporations tend to try and avoid reducing plastic as it is cheaper than many more eco-friendly alternatives. So what you do counts!
Why Is Plastic bad?
Plastics are extremely damaging to the environment:
Plastic takes 450 years – 1000 years to decompose.
It is made from unsustainable products.
Animals are injured and even killed by plastic waste, especially sea life. Many unknowingly ingest it or get caught up in it and suffocate.
Did you know, every plastic toothbrush you have ever used is still on this earth? It’s pretty hard to swallow. The importance of reducing plastic waste in every area of our lives is vital if we want to live in a cleaner and more sustainable world, living happily alongside the wildlife that inhabits it.
Plastic really is everywhere. Reducing plastic in the garden may seem like a daunting task, but fear not! It is possible. We’ve highlighted some key sources of plastic waste in the garden and come up with some ways of reducing plastic in the garden.
Products Sold In Plastic Packaging
You may currently buy plant food in plastic bottles. Although these bottles are often recyclable, plastic can only be recycled a certain number of times. It is therefore best to find an alternative all together to plastic-packaged plant food. Look out for plant food in cardboard boxes which is 100% biodegradable.
An even better alternative is using an all-natural plant food that alleviates the need to buy plant food at all. There are a number of items that are probably already in your kitchen that can be used as plant fertilisers
Bananas – a great source of potassium for plants.
Blackstrap Molasses – rich in lots of nutrients such as magnesium, calcium and manganese.
Coffee Grounds – particularly useful on acidic plants such as evergreens and roses, containing nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potash. You can use these out of your coffee machine or pick them up for free at many local coffee shops.
Epsom Salts – popular for popping in your bath, epsom salts can also be dissolved in water and sprayed onto your plants to give them a shot of magnesium and sulphur.
This one has a simple solution – make your own compost instead of buying it! Composting is a very rewarding experience for any gardener. It will also help you reduce food waste as well as plastic waste. Make sure you invest in a wooden compost bin rather than plastic, as this rather defeats the point. Check out our how to compost guide to find out more about how to get started.
Similar to the above, you can reduce the waste from plastic packeted mulch by making your own. You can do this by collecting dried leaves over autumn and shredding them to use as mulch during spring. Grass clippings and pine needles are also good mulching materials.
The Biggie – Plastic Plant Pots
Plastic plant pots – they are everywhere at garden centres, and as a gardener it seems impossible to get away from them. Almost every plant in the garden centre comes in a plastic pot or tray.
One way to alleviate the problem is to take some plant pots you already own to the garden centre, and leave the plastic pot it comes with there. Alternatively, you could stop buying plants in plastic pots altogether. Opt to grow from seed or only buy plants sold in non-plastic containers.
If you simply can’t get away from plastic plant pots, reuse them. As mentioned above, use them when you pick up new plants from the garden centre. Or get creative. There are many different uses for plant pots other than holding plants. Some ideas are using pots to organise smaller items in your shed or garage, and using plastic trays to hold breakable Christmas decorations.
Many nurseries have schemes where you can return your used empty pots and plant-carrying trays. Make sure to check your local nursery before carting a car-full there. If your council already recycle plastic pots, tubs and trays, they will also accept any non-black plant pots.
Recycling is a last resort. Although it is better than throwing it away, recycling uses energy and thus still contributes to the wider problem. It is much better to come up with a creative idea to re-purpose your pots or donate them than recycle.
Reducing plastic is an important step in securing a healthy future for our planet. You can do your bit and start reducing plastic in the garden by making some small changes. You could make a big difference in making our planet a better place for us as humans, wildlife and nature as a whole.
Megan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegan feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.
Live More Sustainably by Cultivating your Kitchen Waste – Start Growing Vegetables from Kitchen Scraps!
Composting is a great, sustainable way to reduce your kitchen waste – but did you know lots of kitchen scraps you toss into your compost can be used to grow a new crop of vegetables? Growing vegetables from kitchen scraps is easy, fun and will help you reach a new high of sustainability in your kitchen.
This one is probably the most straightforward on this list! Simply place the root ends of the spring onions in a jar of water and let it do it’s thing, it should start to grow within a few days. Make sure you replace the water when it needs it. It’s as simple as that! The same technique applies to leeks and fennel. Spring onions are the perfect vegetable to begin with when delving into the world of growing vegetables from kitchen scraps.
Want to make smashed avo on toast with you very own homegrown avocados? It’s easier than you think! After polishing an avo off, take the pit (which is actually the avocado seed) and give it a wash to rid it of any left over green flesh. Identify which end is the top and bottom. The top, where the sprout will grow out of, is slightly pointy and the bottom is flatter. Take three or four toothpicks and stick them around the circumference of the avocado at even intervals. Place in a cup of water with the toothpicks resting on the rim, so the bottom of the pit is immersed in water. Set on a windowsill where it will get some sunlight, and change the water every few days. Once the pit starts to grow roots, place in potting soil and you’ve got yourself an avocado plant!
We’ve all left potatoes a little too long and opened the vegetable draw to find them sprouting. Once the potatoes are at this stage they are inedible, so instead of tossing in the compost why not try planting them and see what happens? Make sure you bury them deep into the soil and add a little compost. Water & mulch the potato plants well and cover the stems as they grow for the optimum crop turnout. Growing potatoes is very cost effective and one potato will give you 1kg+ of homegrown produce! If this isn’t proof that growing vegetables from kitchen scraps isn’t one of the most economical and sustainable things you can do in your kitchen, then what is?
If you buy carrots with their tops, you can use the tops to grow carrot greens which can be used as a garnish for salad, added to smoothies or even made into pesto. Place the carrot top cut side down in a small bowl of water and place on a sunny windowsill. Change the water every day and wait for the tops to sprout shoots. Once sprouted, plant in soil. Harvest the greens early if you prefer baby greens or later if you prefer a more developed, deeper flavour.
Garlic is an essential ingredient for all food enthusiasts, and it is easy to grow – all you need is a single clove. Plant in potting soil with the roots facing down. Garlic likes lots of direct sunlight. Once the clove starts to develop shoots in the form of green stalks, cut them back. The clove will then start to grow into a full bulb. Garlic is a crop that keeps on giving – simple take one of the cloves from the newly grown bulb and plant again and you will never be short of garlic in the kitchen again!
Ginger & Turmeric Root
As ginger and turmeric already come in root form, all you need to do to regrow them is place them in soil with the largest buds at the bottom. Soak the roots in water before planting to help the root retain moisture. Keep the soil moist but be careful not to over-water. Be patient with this one – they take a while to grow. After a few weeks you should see shoots develop and after a couple of months small pieces should be ready to harvest.
Overall, growing vegetables from kitchen scraps is a great contribution to living a more sustainable lifestyle, so why not get started today?
Megan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.
The garden is one of life’s little luxuries – a place for relaxing, socialising, sun-worshipping, and leisurely pursuits. A well-kept garden repays us exponentially in line with the effort we put into it, so it’s worth learning some tips that will keep your soil healthy and your garden thriving all year round.
Depending on your local climate, there may be times of dormancy when we believe that our labour is done for the year – but often, these are the most important periods for maintaining the vitality of your garden when it springs back to life the following year.
Disease is the most common cause of failing garden patches, so identifying, treating, and eradicating is one of the essential skill sets of any gardener. Taking that into account, our seven tips for keeping your garden healthy will help you avoid disease, and ensure that your soil is brimming with life, nutrition, and potential so that your garden will look at its absolute best.
1. Examine new plants before you buy them
One of the most common causes of disease is contamination from the outside. So, the simplest way to limit infection is to prevent introducing it in the first place.
When you’ve chosen your plant at the garden center, loosen it from the pot so that you can inspect its roots – before you buy it. You don’t see this happening very often, but it should be common-place behavior.
Healthy roots appear as a network of white tendrils which are reaching through the soil and will probably have molded themselves into the shape of the pot. Unhealthy roots look dry and withered – if you can see more soil than root, then chances are you’ve got yourself an unhealthy plant. However, it might just be a young plant in a large pot, so loosen a little soil around the roots to get a better look. If the root network looks healthy, then buy. If they look papery and brown, then put the plant back, and do not plant it in your garden.
The more immediately visible signs of illness can be seen directly on the leaves, of course. Make sure there are no yellowing or dying leaves, and that the leaves have a consistent colour, without dots of brown.
2. Make sure that your compost is completely rotted
We all love to compost, I’m sure. It’s so much better than throwing your uneaten raw food in the garbage. But not all materials decompose at the same speed. Thorough composting requires high temperatures for extended periods to kill pathogens in the rotting matter, so infected plant debris could re-contaminate your soil if it hasn’t rotted down.
If in doubt, leave it a little longer. Make sure that there’s enough moisture in the pile, and wait until later in the season, when your compost is uniform, crumbly, and earth-like before you use it.
3. Recognize bug damage
Although bug damage is often more of an aesthetic problem, nibbled leaves can provide a portal for viruses and bacteria to enter the plant. Some insects act as a conduit for viruses, spreading them from plant to plant. Aphids are the most common carriers.
As soon as you spot any insect damage, it’s time to act – spray with an approved insecticide immediately and treat the neighboring plants to ensure that you scupper the critters before they cause any permanent damage.
4. Clean up during the autumn
Even if you live in a moderate climate, you should still tidy the garden in the autumn when leaves begin to die and drop to the ground. Diseases can gestate over the winter on dead leaves and garden debris and in return attack new leaves in the spring. Iris leaf spot, black spot on roses, and daylily leaf streak are diseases that could be significantly contained if dead leaves are cleared away over the dormant period.
Stems and foliage left over winter to maintain shape and interest during the cold months should be removed before new growth appears in the spring.
5. Fertilise your soil – with the correct fertiliser
Over-fertilising the earth can burn the roots of your plants and impair their ability to absorb moisture, making your plants susceptible to stress from drought, or from extremes of temperature. Plants that live in well-fertilised soil have stronger resistance to disease and will thrive.
Soil test kits are available at your local garden center, or through online retailers. Gauging the existing nutrient level of your soil will help you to ascertain the precise level of fertiliser required to keep your soil healthy and your plants in tip-top shape.
6. Choose disease-resistant plant varieties
If you grow your plants from seed, look out for indications that they produce disease-resistant plants. You’re more likely to see resistance indications on fruit or veg seeds than on flowers, but wherever possible, aim for plants with biological resistance. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the plant won’t become infected, but they won’t succumb to disease like non-resistant varieties.
7. Water appropriately
Watering is one of the easiest things to get wrong. Underwatering causes bolting in root veg plants, and over-watering can cause mold and disease. Warm and moist is the most welcoming environment for pathogens, so be careful with your watering.
Your soil should never be arid, but neither should it be soggy and claggy. Your soil type will determine how often you need to water. Heavy clay soil retains moisture, while light, sandy soil dries out very quickly.
Recognizing your soil type is easy – take a handful of moist soil and squeeze it in your palm. If, when you release your palm, the soil has stuck together in a large, single clump which resembles clay, you have a heavy, clay soil. Heavy soils are rich in nutrition, but you shouldn’t over-water it. If, when you release your palm, the soil remains crumbly and falls apart, you have a light, sandy soil which will need additional fertilising and more frequent watering.
It’s generally best to avoid watering directly onto the leaves of the plant if at all possible, as leaf diseases can be exacerbated if left wet.
So, there you have it. Seven tips that will help maintain the healthiest possible environment for your plants to thrive and to make your garden a place that you’ll enjoy for years to come. Happy gardening!
Andrea Boffo is CEO of PlusVoucherCode, a website that provides discount codes to save money on online purchases.