July is the first month of the year where you get a really bountiful harvest. Loads of fruit and veg are ready to harvest this month, and there’s even more ready to be planted. Here is our at a glance guide to your allotment this month.
Chillies and peppers
Mulch to conserve moisture
Feed tomatoes and peppers
Net against birds
Pinch out tomato shoots
Pests and Diseases
Aphids – spraying your brassicas with diluted washing up liquid will deter them from landing on your crops. You can buy insecticides if you prefer, including a fatty acid soap to spray on the plants.
Carrot fly – a particular problem between May and September when female flies lay their eggs the best defence to cover plants with horticultural fleece or place two-foot high barriers around the plants.
Cabbage root fly– attacking the roots of brassicas, these flies can cause a lot of damage to your plants. Female flies lay the eggs on the surface of the soil next to the stem of the plant. Place a piece of carpet (or cardboard or fleece) around the base of the plant to create a collar, this will stop the flies from laying their eggs on the soil.
Bees are highly beneficial creatures, responsible for pollination an estimated 80% of the western diet. However, due to attack from the varroa mite and agricultural pesticides, their numbers have been in steady decline. British gardens cover a combined area estimated at over 10 million acres, and as agricultural land becomes less bountiful for pollinators, they are becoming increasingly important in conserving bees and the environment as a whole. So here are some eco-friendly gardening techniques for bees you can use to help preserve pollinators and the planet.
An immaculate garden is great for impressing the neighbours, but not so great for wildlife. To encourage bees and other wildlife, allow your garden to grow a little wild, with overgrown shrubs and climbers, leaves, and dead stems. It is a good idea to allow an area of your grass to grow long, which will allow wildflowers to grow and increase insect diversity. Allowing a few weeds to flourish also provides food for insects.
Choose open flowers
Bees need flowers to feed on the nectar, and how accessible the nectar makes a big difference. Open flowers such as daisies, or any set on a “bobble” such as thistles are perfect. Unhybridized species tend to be a richer source of pollen than elaborately-bred show blooms. Bees also love fruit trees, flowering trees, legumes, blackberries, and ivy. Growing a variety of species is also important for attracting a diverse range of wildlife.
Avoid chemical pesticides
Pesticides and insecticides can be highly efficient in disposing of unwanted pests, however, these chemicals do not discriminate, and will also destroy many beneficial organisms. Alternative methods to protect your plants include using copper rings or beer traps to deter slugs; covering plants with fleece or netting; and encouraging pest-eating animals such as birds and hedgehogs into your garden. Companion planting can also be highly effective. Garlic, dill, chives, borage, basil, and nasturtium are good pest deterrents, and planting spring onions near carrot plants can deter carrot fly.
Peat-based compost and synthetic fertilisers are damaging to the environment, as naturally-occurring peat bogs absorb a great amount of carbon dioxide, and the process of making synthetic fertilizers can emit CO2. Making your own compost is an eco-friendly alternative that has the added advantage of recycling your household waste. You can compost leaves and other foliage; grass and wood cuttings; dead plants and shrubs; leftover food such as vegetable peelings; and old newspaper, cardboard, and paper. Avoid any diseased plant parts, anything sprayed with pesticides, or pet waste. You can use a ready-made compost bin, create your own using a metal bin or plastic bag, or simply pile up the compost material. Composting is also great for wildlife as it enhances the bacterial and fungal life in your garden.
Not only can a garden water supply be great for wild birds, but it is also important for bees. A garden pond is ideal, but otherwise, you could put out a bucket or tray filled with water. There are some great eco-friendly alternatives to lessen the demand on mains water. A water butt can store rainwater, which is great for watering plants as it is chemical-free, and it can also be used for filling your wildlife drinking area. Add rocks, or floating plants or wine corks to give bees a safe place to land. For watering plants, you can also purchase a greywater diverter to reuse water from your kitchen sink, showers, and baths.
Many species of bee are on the decline due to lack of suitable nesting areas, so a bee hotel is a great way to help bees in your garden. These handy homes provide a sheltered area for rainy days, along with purpose-built tubes for female bees to lay their eggs. You could even build your own bee hotelwith bamboo canes. Place in a sunny area facing south to the south-east at least a metre off the ground, and watch as bees come to stay.
We’re experiencing a climate emergency. This message has finally found a voice in society and awareness of the issues facing our planet are beginning to be discussed with the attention they deserve. One of the most pressing but unreported of these is the condition of the Earth’s soil. You’ll know how important soil is to the health of your garden; the same is true for our nations soil and the soil of our planet. The 5th of December marks World Soil Day, an international project started by the United Nations to promote awareness and action over soil erosion.
So what is soil erosion?
When we think of the climate emergency we may think of large blocks of ice falling into the sea or freak weather showing on the news but soil erosion is an issue that is just as catastrophic whilst remaining widely unknown. Soil erosion is a wearing down of the most fertile layer of soil. This is the layer of soil that contains all the best nutrients and organic matter that’s suited for growing everything from forests to garden plants and vital crops.
Isn’t soil erosion natural?
Soil erosion is a natural process but it’s normally a slow one. As is so often the case in these stories, it’s the actions of humanity that have accelerated the issue to near breaking point. Intense farming, singular crop use, deforestation and expansive building of disruptive infrastructure are all things that have caused this process to accelerate. Dealing with the natural causes involved a shift in the way farms operate, due to human action, these shifts in behaviour need to happen on a global scale to help mitigate the damage.
How serious is the problem?
Time is running out to make such changes with the UN claiming we have less than 60 years before the planet runs out of fertile topsoil; a disaster considering this is where 95% of the world’s food is grown. Soil erosion is a silent symptom of the climate emergency but it can make its effects known via food shortages, lack of crop diversity, higher carbon levels in the atmosphere and accelerated climate catastrophe…
What’s being done?
Word is beginning to spread and actions are being taken. The formation of Groundswell in 2015, the UK’s leading agricultural conservation event, is a sign of farmers recognising the problem and vowing to make a change in how they work that will benefit everyone.
There are lots of practices that farms can introduce to regenerate their soil. Dropping the use of chemicals such as pesticides and insecticides, turning away from tilling machinery, planting more diverse crops and changing grazing practises can ALL contribute to healthier soil. The end result can be more nutrient-rich, varied and organic produce for us as consumers, farms that are more likely to stand the test of time and a healthier planet.
What can I do to help?
The best thing you can do to support the soil crisis is to be informed. Arm yourself with the know-how of what’s going on with our world’s soil and spread the word! This basic step will help you make more informed choices about where your food comes but also lend you a voice when it comes to communicating these ideas to those with the power to change them and stop bad practices causing soil erosion.
See our quick list below for ideas on how you can celebrate:
Get a local school involved with a soil health workshop.
Shop your local area for organic farms to try and locate fresh produce.
Plan a sponsored run or walk to raise awareness of soil erosion and wider climate issues.
Share this blog post and spread the word!
For more information on World Soil Day see this handy infographic from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations: Click here
Scott Roberts is a copywriter currently making content for the Primrose site and blog. When at his desk he’s thinking of new ways to describe a garden bench. Away from his desk he’s either looking at photos of dogs or worrying about the environment. He does nothing else, just those two things.
It is well known that slugs are widely disliked among gardeners, especially when they are invading your vegetable patch. It is true that slugs love to munch on your cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce – however, slugs are widely misunderstood creatures. Around 95% of slugs you won’t actually see nibbling on your plants as they live underground. Most slugs feed off decomposing plants, making them a vital part of our ecosystem. This is part of the reason natural slug deterrents are the best bet in getting rid of slugs from your garden.
Slugs are nocturnal creatures, only coming out at night to feed. They are lovers of dark, damp environments and are most active during the warmer more humid months; however you may see slugs around any temperature over 5 degrees celsius. Tell-tale signs include slime trails and irregular holes in the foliage of your plants. If the former is causing you bother in removal, white vinegar is a good solution.
Of the slugs that do feed off the plants you have lovingly grown, there are a number of things you can do to deter slugs naturally and organically. Read on to find out more about natural slug deterrents in the garden.
There are many benefits to choosing natural slug deterrents over traditional chemical pest control.
One thing to point out is that the use of slug pellets does not just affect slugs – it also affects the predators of slugs, including hedgehogs, ground beetles and frogs. The use of these slug pellets not only kill off these predators’ food source, but also cause them to ingest the poison present in the slug corpses they eat. Slug pellets can also pose a danger to any pets you may have.
Another is the effectiveness of slug pellets – although they are the number one choice for gardeners when it comes to slug pest control, they are not necessarily the most effective. They are said to only kill 10% of the slug population in your garden.
If you are gardening organically (and there are many benefits to doing so), slug pellets should not be used as they contain harmful chemicals that will disrupt the natural balance of your garden. With so many natural slug deterrents for your garden available, there is really no need to use slug pellets, unless as a very last resort.
Natural Slug Deterrents: Prevention
As mentioned previously, slugs thrive in damp conditions where soil structure and drainage is poor. Improving the soil in your garden may help deter slugs from making a home there.
One way to do this is by adding organic matter to your soil in the form of compost. You can find out more about how to compost here. You can also add leaf mould to your soil, which will improve its structure along with encouraging beneficial bacteria.
Creating a pond or water garden will help improve the drainage of your soil, as well as adding a beautiful extra feature to your garden.
Cultivating the soil in your garden involves breaking up and loosening it with a rake. Regularly cultivating will disturb slugs’ environment, leaving them more vulnerable to predators. It will also allow for the top of the soil to dry out more, resulting in limited movement for slugs.
Slugs thrive in dark, damp areas and make home in decaying plant matter, so keeping your garden clear from any debris will help deter them. Be sure to put any leaves and grass clippings into your compost heap instead of leaving it around. Additionally, be vigilant when tidying up any stacks of flower pots as you are probably likely to find a whole family of molluscs in there.
Choose Resistant & Trouble-Free Plants
Instead of waging a war against slugs once your garden is in full bloom, choosing plant varieties that are resistant to slugs may save you a lot of stress and time trying to deter slugs.
The following annuals and perennials are particularly resistant against slugs:
Although many believe slugs will eat anything and everything in their garden, there are some plants which slugs will not touch with a barge pole. Try planting these near the plants they love to deter them from the whole area. Slugs tend to dislike strong-smelling plants, and plants with hairy foliage. Here are some examples:
You can also try planting varieties that slugs love away from your prize plants. This will distract them away from what you don’t want them to eat. Lawn camomile is a good one for this. Rub the leaves of the lawn camomile to further release the aroma that attracts the slugs to the plant.
Natural Slug Deterrents: Attracting Predators
As mentioned previously, the predators of slugs include hedgehogs, ground beetles, thrushes, frogs & toads. Encouraging these natural predators in your garden will help control the slug population. There are a number of things you can do to help attract these predators to your garden.
Plant perennials where ground beetles can take shelter
Natural Slug Deterrents: Barrier Methods
You can deter slugs directly from your plants by creating barriers around them. Barrier methods come in the form of barriers that slugs cannot physically cross, and barriers that slugs could cross but would prefer not to due to discomfort and unpleasantness. Be sure your plants are free from slugs to start with before implementing either of these methods – the key is to trap the slug in the area away from your plant, not near it!
Slugs do not like to touch copper, as when they do, a chemical reaction occurs and they are given an unpleasant shock. This form of deterrent is available in the form of copper tape, copper rings and copper pot feet. Tape is useful to stick around the top of planters. Copper rings can be placed around small groups of plants.
Creating a barrier of broken eggshells around your plants will deter slugs, as they will dislike moving across the sharp and jagged edges. In addition, the eggshells add calcium to your soil as they decompose. Be sure the eggshells are clean and the inner membrane is removed before spreading around your plants.
Nutshells work in a similar way to that of above. The hard shells of nuts such as walnuts work best.
Not only is seaweed great for your soil, it is also a natural repellent for slugs. Slugs consist mainly of water, and the high salt content of seaweed will put them off venturing through it, even if there is food on the other side. Place the seaweed powder or fresh seaweed around your plants to ward slugs off. In dry weather, fresh seaweed will dry out and become rough, further deterring slugs from crossing it.
If all your efforts have failed, and slugs are still a problem, there are a few ways you can extinguish slugs you see in your garden. Be wary that doing this will affect the natural biological cycle of your garden and its delicate ecosystem, so it is only to be used as a very last resort.
Slugs are attracted to citrus. Leaving grapefruit halves around your garden and leaving overnight will attract slugs, and they will take shelter under the skin. In the morning, collect up the slugs and dispose of them in the compost heap.
Slugs love the smell of beer. Take a small container, such as an old tuna tin and fill it with beer. Slugs will take a sip and end up falling in and drowning. Be sure to place the container above ground, as otherwise it will kill other wildlife such as ground beetles, which are actually a predator of slugs. Although this method is effective, it will only trap slugs within a few feet of the beer, so a lot of beer traps are needed.
Overall, there are numerous natural slug deterrents available for you to try. If you try any of the above, be sure to let us know in the comments!
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.