Composting, Gardening, How To, Megan, Organic

Why Compost?

There are countless benefits to composting and it is easier to get started than a lot of people think! When you use it as a soil amendment it improves the soils structure, provides a source of plant nutrients and stimulates beneficial organisms. Other benefits include saving money you may be spending on expensive soil amendments and reducing waste sent to landfill, contributing to a more sustainable planet. It is also great if you want to transition to transforming your garden into an organic, pesticide-free environment. It is easy to learn how to compost and it is a great investment of your time!

Compost Bins

How to compost: compost bins
How to compost: compost bins

First things first – investing in a great compost bin will make your life as a composter gardener a lot easier. There are numerous compost solutions on the market today. These include easy-load compost bins and tumbling compost bins for faster composting. Accessories such as compost aerators which helps speed up the decomposition process are also available. If you want to be extra kind to the environment, avoid plastic and invest in a wooden compost bin.

Alternatively, you can recycle and use an old rubbish bin as a compost bin. Saw off the bottom and drill holes in the bottom half of the bin, then bury the section with holes in the soil. This will allow microorganisms to more easily enter your pile.

We have highlighted below some items you can and cannot compost. All you need to do to get started is start loading into your compost bin, and wait for it to do its magic!

What You Can Compost

How to compost: peeling potatoes

You can compost the majority of the organic matter from your food waste, including but not limited to:

  • Tea bags (be wary that some tea bags are encased in plastic and other inorganic materials.  If in doubt cut open and just compost the contents)
  • Egg shells
  • Fruit & vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grounds & filters
  • Leftover cooked pasta & rice
  • Stale food, such as bread, cereal and crisps (bury bread deep to discourage pests)
  • Cardboard food packaging with any plastic removed, cut up for easier decomposition
  • Herbs & spices

But composting materials aren’t just limited to kitchen scraps! Many people aren’t aware you can also cultivate other household waste, including:

  • Facial tissues
  • Cotton items – cotton wool, clothing, fabric
  • Newspaper & waste paper, as long as it’s not glossed (best to feed through a shredder first)
  • Crumbs and dust collected from your dustpan
  • Uneaten dry dog & cat food
  • Dead house plants & flowers

And last but not least, don’t forget to compost your garden waste, such as:

  • Grass trimmings
  • Leaves
  • Dying plant material
  • Non-toxic weeds

What You Can’t Compost

how to compost: walnuts

There are some things better left out of compost. These items may slow decomposition and produce a lower quality of compost. Others aren’t just bad for compost, but bad for the environment. The general rule is you can compost anything that is organic matter that was once living. Some exceptions to this rule are:

  • Cooking oil
  • Diseased plants
  • Dairy products, including milk (although plant-based milks can be composted)
  • Meat scraps
  • Any inorganic materials
  • Walnuts
  • Pet faeces

How to Use Your Compost

how to compost: compost in scoop

Compost can be used in many beneficial ways. As already mentioned it is a great organic soil amendment. Simply spread it onto your flower bed or veg patch to make your flowers lusher and your vegetables hardier. Compost can also be used as a lawn topper. It will encourage growth and ensure your grass is as green as can be. It can also be used as mulch, helping retain soil moisture as well as boosting its health.

What about pests?

It is pretty easy to keep unwanted pests just as rats, away from compost. Keeping meat and dairy products out of your compost will help as these are big for attracting rodents. Another solution is to buy a closed compost bin with a lid. This will keep pests away as well as conceal the smell of the compost. Also be sure to keep your compost bin away from other animal food sources, such as berry bushes or bird feeders.

Overall, composting is a great thing to do for you as a gardener, your garden and the wider environment. The benefits are endless and there is no better day to start than today!

Megan at PrimroseMegan 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.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Composting, Gardening, Gardens, Grow Your Own, Megan, Organic, Plants, Vegetables

What Is Organic Gardening?

The most basic interpretation of organic gardening is  ‘gardening without the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, or other artificial chemicals’. But organic gardening is about much more than simply avoiding pesticides and fertilisers. It is about working as one with nature and viewing your garden as part of the wider, balanced ecosystem. Organic gardening is fabulously rewarding for the environment, wildlife, plants and the gardener!

Organic Gardening - Rainbow Chard

What Are The Benefits Of Organic Gardening?

There are numerous benefits to organic gardening. Not only will the quality of your crop intensify, you will save money, improve the health of your soil (and yourself) and help contribute to a more sustainable way of living.

  • Quality of your crop – it is well known that organically grown food is significantly higher in vitamins and minerals than its non-organic counterparts, not to mention you won’t be ingesting chemicals that may be harmful to the body.
  • It’s money saving – by gardening organically, you will alleviate the need to buy expensive fertilisers and pesticides. You may think that because the prices of organic fruit and veg at the supermarket are inflated, that organic gardening will cost you a buck. In fact it is quite the opposite!
  • Soil health – adding organic matter to your soil adds vital nutrients to your soil and helps create a good soil structure. Further information about how composting improves soil health can be found below.
  • Sustainability – organic gardening contributes to sustainability by conserving resources, causing no harm to the earth and gardening in a way that is sensitive to the environment. In addition, growing your own fruit and veg means you will have to buy less in the supermarket.

How can I start organic gardening?

Compost, compost, compost!

Organic Gardening - Hands Holding Compost

Compost is a great, all natural, organic soil amendment. Work it into the soil, or spread it on top to allow weather and worms to do the job for you. Compost will improve the quality of your soil in a number of ways; it will add valuable nutrients, help soil retain moisture, contributes to balancing the soil’s pH and improves the soil’s overall structure. Composting also saves money you would be spending on chemical fertilisers that could be causing harm to you and the environment.

Plant in perfect pairs (companion planting)

Organic Gardening - Hand Holding Plant

Companion planting and organic gardening go hand in hand. It is a great way to reduce pests and naturally block weed growth. Additionally it supports plant diversity thus benefiting the soil and the ecosystem. With companion planting, you really can let nature do a lot of the work for you. To find out more, check out our post here.

Choose the right plants

Organic Gardening - Seedlings

Plan and assess what plants will flourish best in your garden. Choosing plants that are native to your area will allow for easier growth. It is also more sustainable than trying to change your environment to suit a plant that is destined for another land. Look for plants that will be sure to thrive in each spot you plant it. Take into consideration light, drainage, moisture and the quality of the soil.

Control pests naturally

Organic Gardening - Ladybirds On Plant

Prevention is the best and first step to discouraging pests from devouring your precious plants. Composting, mulching and the use of natural fertiliser will develop strong, vigorous plants that are less susceptible to pests. Using seaweed spray also enhances growth and helps repel slugs. Another great way to prevent pests is attract beneficial insects to your garden. These prey on the insects you’re not so keen to welcome.

Overall, organic gardening reaps more benefits than you can initially imagine, and today is the perfect time to start. In no time your garden will be flourishing into an organic and chemical-free oasis of nature at its very best.

Megan at PrimroseMegan 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.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Composting, Flowers, Gardening, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting, Plants, Primrose.co.uk, Watering, Wildlife

Rose

There is no doubt that roses are one of the most popular flowers to grow in Britain. In fact, so many are planted each year that if you set them out as a single row these plants would circle the equator! With the proper care and maintenance you can expect your rose to last for at least 20 years. However, many roses fail to thrive and a lot of that is due to improper planting and care. There are several elements to consider before attempting to plant a rose in your garden and this step-by-step guide should help you to navigate the pitfalls ensuring your rose is a success!

Planting

Planting Position 

Choosing the correct position for planting your rose is crucial. If it is not in a suitable spot it will not thrive. Plenty of sun is needed for your rose to grow, slight shade in the afternoon is good but not continuous shade. Your rose needs shelter from the cold winds. A nearby hedge or fence is good but should not be too close that it shades the bush. Your rose will need good drainage as it will not grow in waterlogged soil.

 Soil Conditions 

When planting your rose it is important that the soil is suitable. Ideally the soil should be medium loam, slightly acid with a PH of 6.0-6.5 and reasonably rich in plant foods and humus. Roses cannot thrive if the soil conditions are poor. Roses should be planted from Late October to March and the ground should not be waterlogged or frozen.

Preparing the Rose 

Cut off any leaves, hips or buds that may still be present. If the stems are shrivelled place all of the bush in water for several hours. Cut off any decayed or thin shoots before planting. Plunge roots into a bucket of water if they seem dry. It is crucial that the roots do not dry out before planting and make sure they remain covered until you are ready to set the bush in the planting hole. Cut back any long or damaged roots to about 30cm.

Planting the Rose 

Mark out planting stations to make sure your rose bush has enough space. There should be a distance of about a metre between each plant. When planting make sure that the bud union is about 2-3cm below the surface.

Caring and Maintenance

Mulching 

Roses benefit from having a layer of mulch on the soil surface around the plants as it reduces weeds, keeps soil moist in summer, improves soil structure, reduces black spots and some mulching material provides plant foods. Some suitable materials used for mulching include moist peat, shredded bark, well rotted manure, good garden compost and leaf mould. Prepare the soil surface for mulching by clearing away debris, dead leaves and weeds. Water the soil surface if it is dry. Spread a 5-7cm layer around the rose. Mulching reduces the need for watering and hoeing but does not replace the need for good feeding.

Watering 

Roses have a deep-rooting habit meaning that the watering of established plants is not crucial in some seasons. However, some roses need watering after a few days of dry weather. For example, newly planted roses, climbers growing against walls and roses planted in sandy soils. All roses will need plenty of water in a period of drought in spring and summer. When watering, use about 5 litres of water for each bush or standard rose and 15 litres for a climber.

Hoeing 

The main purpose of hoeing is to keep down weeds that are not smothered by mulching. Hoeing needs to be done frequently to make sure that the underground parts of the weeds are starved. Do not hoe any deeper than 2-3cm below the surface or the roots could be damaged.

Cutting 

Roses are perhaps the most popular flower for cutting and using as decoration. To make sure you don’t weaken the rose bush, do not take more than one third of the flowering stem with the flower. Cut just above an outward facing bud. Do not cut struggling or newly planted roses.  

Feeding 

Roses make heavy demands on plant food reserves in soil. If one or more vital elements run short your rose will not thrive. Feed your rose every year using a proprietary compound fertiliser containing nitrogen, phosphates and potash. You can use powder or granular fertiliser, liquid fertilisers or foliar feeding.

Deadheading 

It is important to regularly remove dead blooms. Remove the whole truss when the flowers have faded. Cut the stem just above the second or third leaf down. This will help the rose conserve energy.

 Pruning 

Roses do not produce shoots that increase in size steadily each year. Therefore, if they are not pruned the rose becomes a mass of live and dead wood. The purpose of pruning is to get rid of the dead wood each year and encourage the regular development of strong and healthy stems. For more details click here.

 

Animals, Bird Baths, Composting, How To, Megan, Ponds, Wildlife

How To Care For Wildlife in Winter

As we approach the winter months, it is time for a lot of wildlife to find a cosy spot somewhere to hibernate. Species that do not hibernate prepare for harsh weather and a lot struggle to find food. This is where your garden can come in. By learning how to care for wildlife in winter you can save the lives of some wildlife that otherwise wouldn’t make it through the harsher winter months.

Hedgehogs

how to care for wildlife in winter - hedgehog

In order for hedgehogs to survive their winter hibernation, they need to have a substantial amount of fat stored. You can help boost their fat reserves by leaving out small plates of meaty pet food, along with crunchy pet biscuits, which will help take care of their teeth. Once hedgehogs are ready to hibernate they like warm spots under piles of leaves and in logs. We suggest when collecting leaves, instead of composting all of them, place some underneath hedges at the edge of the garden. This creates welcome places hedgehogs can make a home for the winter. Talking of compost heaps, hedgehogs often like to nest in them so ensure you check your compost for hedgehogs before turning it over. Alternatively you could buy a ready-built hedgehog home for hedgehogs to settle in to.

Birds

how to care for wildlife in winter - bird on a branch

As birds do not hibernate, it is important to provide them lots of food and a water source over winter. Food in the wild can be scarce over the colder months. To help prevent starvation, have a variety of foods available to them over a number of feeding stations. Feeding stations range from bird tables to hanging feeders to ground feeding stations. The more variety of bird food you put out, the more diverse a species of bird you will find in your garden. Peanuts, bird seed mix, fat balls as well as any leftover dried fruit are all good choices and will attract blue tits to robins to goldfinches. To find out more about what bird food to put out check out our article here. It is also important to make sure birds have access to fresh water. Keep your birdbath topped up and ensure it doesn’t freeze over by placing a table tennis ball at the surface of the water.

Pond life

how to care for wildlife in winter - frog in a pond

Many of your fish will hibernate at the bottom of your pond during the winter months. It is vital that your pond does not freeze over during extra cold spells. This can trap poisonous gases, as well as suffocate frogs and the like. Help prevent this by placing a tennis ball at the surface or installing a pond heater. If it does freeze over, place a pan of boiling water on its surface to allow the ice to melt. Ensure you remove any fallen leaves and dead plant matter from your pond. If you leave this it can release harmful gases as it decomposes.

Insects

how to care for wildlife in winter - butterfly on leaf

Insects are often long forgotten when it comes to garden wildlife, but they are an important part of your garden’s ecosystem. Many play the vital role of pollination in your garden. Others are great predator control. One way you can help insects in the winter is by letting the grass on your lawn grow wildly. Try and resist mowing it until spring. This allows a place for butterflies and other insects to shelter from the harsh weather. Another way to provide shelter, as well as food for some creatures, is to create a log pile. You can also drill holes in the logs to create housing for solitary bees. Alternatively, buy a solitary bee pollinator house. Once you’ve built your log pile, be sure not to disturb it as not to interfere with the wildlife community inside.

Megan at PrimroseMegan 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.

See all of Megan’s posts.

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