Conservation, Current Issues, Organic, Scott, Sustainable Living

world soil dayWe’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?

world soil day

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?

world soil day

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.  

organic produce

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.  

soil

See our quick list below for ideas on how you can celebrate:

  1. Get out in the garden and test your own soil.
  2. Get a local school involved with a soil health workshop.
  3. Shop your local area for organic farms to try and locate fresh produce.
  4. Plan a sponsored run or walk to raise awareness of soil erosion and wider climate issues.
  5. 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 at Primrose

Scott 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.

See all of Scott’s posts.

Animals, Megan, Organic, Pest Control, Slugs & Snails, Wildlife

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.

Natural Slug Deterrents

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.

Why Natural?

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.

Natural Slug Deterrents

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

Improving Soil

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.

Natural Slug Deterrents

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.

Natural Slug Deterrents

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.

Tidying Up

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.

Natural Slug Deterrents

The following annuals and perennials are particularly resistant against slugs:

  • Hydrangeas
  • Roses
  • Poppies
  • Geraniums
  • Mint

Natural Slug Deterrents

Vegetables that are generally disliked by slugs include the following:

  • Asparagus
  • Beetroot
  • Onions
  • Parsnips

Natural Slug Deterrents: Slug Repelling & Attracting Plants

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:

  • Allium
  • Chives
  • Garlic
  • Foxgloves
  • Fennel

Natural Slug Deterrents

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.

Hedgehogs

  • Leave part of your garden wild
  • Provide a hedgehog home
  • Leave out a bowl of water for your hedgehog to quench their thirst
  • Invest in a compost bin where your hedgehog can make a home

To find out more about attracting hedgehogs to your garden, check out our post on preparing hedgehogs for winter.

Natural Slug Deterrents

Thrushes

  • Provide thrushes with suet and hulled sunflower seeds to initially attract them to your garden
  • Invest in a bird bath near ground level, so thrushes have fresh water
  • Thrushes prefer thick foliage to nest in rather than bird houses, so leave part of your garden wild to encourage them to nest

Natural Slug Deterrents

Frogs & Toads

The simplest way to attract frogs is to build a frog-friendly pond. There are number of things you can take into consideration in terms of attracting wildlife when building your pond:

  • Frogs like tranquil water so there is no need to add a filtration system or aerator
  • Build the pond with sloped sides so frogs can easily get in & out of the pond
  • Don’t add any fish! Fish are natural predators of frogs and feed on their eggs and tadpoles
  • Add a variety of pond plants
  • Embrace the ‘wild’ of your pond and don’t keep it too clean

Natural Slug Deterrents

Ground Beetles

  • Mulch your garden well and often
  • Plant perennials where ground beetles can take shelter

Natural Slug Deterrents

 

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!

Copper

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.

Natural Slug Deterrents

Eggshells/Nutshells

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.

Natural Slug Deterrents

Nutshells work in a similar way to that of above. The hard shells of nuts such as walnuts work best.

Seaweed

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.

Natural Slug Deterrents

Last Resorts

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.

Natural Slug Deterrents

Grapefruit

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.

Natural Slug Deterrents

Beer Trap

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.

Natural Slug Deterrents

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 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.

Animals, Megan, Mice & Rats, Organic, Pest Control

Rats are considered vermin by the majority of people, so it’s no wonder they are one of the most hated of garden pests. This is mostly down to their ability to spread potentially disease – and those creepy long tails.

As rats are nocturnal, you are unlikely to see them in the day. If a rat has taken shelter in your garden, however, there are some tell-tale signs you may discover:

  • Runs and tunnels against garden walls and fences
  • Rat droppings
  • Gnawed wood

To find out how to deter rats naturally from your garden, read on.

How to Deter Rats Naturally

Why Go Natural?

The most common way to get rid of rats from gardens is the use of rat poison and traps.

Rat poison is toxic and may pose danger to wildlife, pets and humans. High levels of rat poison have been found in wildlife higher up the food chain, including red kites which are near threatened species. 

Additionally, neither traps or poisons are sustainable ways to deter rats from your garden. Both merely get rid of them. If you want a sustainable and natural way to deter rats, prevention is the best answer to deter rats naturally.

Remove Food Sources

Rats are attracted to gardens because they  contain bountiful food sources. There are a number of steps you can take to ensure your garden doesn’t become, or stops being, so attractive to rats.

Compost bins are a treasure trove to rats. Ensure your compost bin is secure (invest in an above-ground compost bin with a lid) and move it away from possible routes of access, such as fences and walls. You can find out more about pest-proofing your compost bin here.

If you love feeding the birds, there’s a good chance rats may be getting into your bird see and nuts. A squirrel-proof bird feeder will block off rats, and using no-mess seed mix will ensure there is no discarded food left on the floor that may attract rats.

Ensure you collect fallen fruit from your fruit trees soon after it falls, otherwise rats may start to feast on your harvest. Store them somewhere secure where rats will not be able to access them.

How to Deter Rats Naturally

Block Off Potential Shelter

Rats make home under existing structures, such as garden buildings and decking. To prevent this, block entry to areas beneath these – no matter how narrow the space. Before you do this, ensure there are no rats living underneath the structure you are blocking off, as they will die an unpleasant death.

Have a general clear up in your garden, getting rid of any debris and cutting back overgrown vegetation. This will provide rats with less cover. Keep your grass short. You can also take this opportunity to move things around in your garden. Rats are neo-phobic, and this disruption of their territory will confuse them and encourage them to make home elsewhere.

How to Deter Rats Naturally

Natural Deterrents

Essential Oils

Rats have one of the best senses of smell in the animal kingdom, trumping that of dogs.When used in concentration, essential oils can do wonders in deterring rats from your garden due to their potency.

Peppermint oil, citronella and eucalyptus essential oils in their pure form are all smells that rats will dislike. A few drops of these oils in their pure form around the areas you know the rats have been should do the trick. Alternatively, soak cotton wool in essential oil and place in rat traffic areas.

How to Deter Rats Naturally

Hot Pepper

Similarly to essential oils, rats high sense of smells means they can’t stand hot pepper or anything very spicy. To make homemade natural rat repellent spray:

  1. Mix cayenne pepper or chilli flakes with water
  2. Heat the mixture vigorously to infuse the chilli
  3. Allow to cool – the longer you leave it, the more potent the chilli will be
  4. If you used chilli flakes, sieve them out
  5. Add a little castille soap (which is biodegradable)
  6. Pour into a spray bottle
  7. Apply liberally to areas where their is evidence of rats

This spray also deters other pests, such as squirrels and rabbits.

How to Deter Rats Naturally

There are many different ways to deter rats from your garden without resorting to toxic rat poison or inhumane rat traps. If you try any of these methods, let us know in the comments!

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.

Birds, Conservation, Current Issues, Gardening, Guest Posts, Organic, Sustainable Living

In today’s fragile natural world, where we’re constantly facing the negative impact of previous and ongoing environmental damage, building and maintaining a sustainable garden simply makes sense.

Whether you’re looking to add one or two sustainable features into your small backyard, or you’re thinking of starting a large-scale project to make your garden an eco-friendly, bio-diverse habitat, there are plenty of features and elements you can incorporate into your outdoor space to make it more earth-friendly – no matter your budget or the size of your space.

In today’s post, we’re considering everything from bird feeders and vegetable patches to ‘green roofs’ and the materials you can use to create your summer decking, to help you discover different ways you can maximise the sustainability of your garden space.

sustainable garden design

Build sustainably

If you’re thinking of building your sustainable garden from scratch, then there are a whole host of things to consider before you do. Firstly, think about new, innovative and long-term ways that your outside area could help the environment and those living in it, such as by installing a ‘green roof’.

A green roof can either be built on top of your home or a shed at the bottom of your garden, or to liven up your bland and boring garage roof. Partially or completely covered with shrubbery, not only do green roofs attract an assortment of wildlife to them, but, because of their ability to absorb large amounts of rainwater, they also provide an eco-friendly insulating element to the interior they are installed on top of.

If you’re looking to build a structure from scratch, make use of innately sustainable building methods, such as modular construction – as this way, you’ll reduce the environmental impact from the offset and can benefit from in-built features like grey water recycling and renewable energy systems.

Cultivate your own vegetables

There’s nothing better than being at one with nature – and particularly within the comfort of your own home and garden. A vegetable patch makes this possible, while remaining sustainable and adding an element of fun in the process.

Growing your own food is a guaranteed way to reduce your carbon footprint, as the distance your food travels to the shop – which you then drive to to buy – is all reduced by the simple act of you stepping out your back door, and pulling out a homegrown vegetable, fruit or herb from your self-built patch. With so many different types of plant beds to choose from, regardless of the size of your space, you are sure to find a way to incorporate a vegetable patch into your garden that suits both the needs of your family and the environment you’re working with.

Create a biodiverse haven

Another vital ingredient when it comes to creating a sustainable garden is creating a space that attracts and provides resources for the wildlife that inhabits it.

Invite bugs and birds into your garden by choosing plants aimed at encouraging biodiversity, installing water baths and hanging up bird feeders from trees and sheds. Choose a range of plant climbers and shrubs that consist of a healthy mix of fruit, pollen and nectar to encourage bees and birds to feed alongside each other. In addition, consider putting up ivy either around a shed or across the corners of your outdoor area, to give a variety of wildlife – such as bugs and even small mammals – a place to shelter from the elements.

Use what you’ve got

One of the most important things to remember when creating a sustainable garden – either from scratch or when incorporating a few eco-friendly features into your space – is to make sure that the materials you’re using are as environmentally friendly as possible.

Recycled wood can allow you to create beautiful outdoor decking that lets you enjoy the wildlife in your garden – and natural resources such as collected rainwater will allow you to harvest crops from your new vegetable patch. Additionally, don’t let your food waste go to waste. Create an area in your garden where your leftover dinners can be put to good use by composting them so they can be used in the future, to fertilise your new and flourishing sustainable garden.

sustainable gardens

Complying to, and encouraging, the general practice of sustainable living isn’t a hard task. From adding small-scale features into your existing garden that encourage wildlife to thrive, to building a sustainable garden from the ground up (literally), an eco-friendly exterior will not only reduce your carbon footprint but, because of its lush greenery and abundant wildlife, will look undeniably stunning, too.

Alex Jones is a content creator for Elements Europe, an industry-leading offsite construction company specialising in sustainable modular building systems, and part of the Pickstock Group.