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.

Garden Design, Gardening, Gary, New Products, Planters

There are a lot of different planters out there, with styles to match every garden design and climate. With so much choice it can be hard to know what to buy; a stone planter may look nice but might be too heavy, a zinc planter may give you the sleek look you want, but not be strong enough. If you are looking for a catch-all planter material we would recommend you consider Fibrecotta. 

Fibrecotta Planter in Garden
Fibrecotta Planter in Garden

 

What is it ?

Fibrecotta is a compound material made from layering cellulose fiber and clay with fiberglass. Once shaped, the finished material is then set, rather than fired. This manufacturing process leaves very little waste when compared to other materials and because it is set rather than fired it is more environmentally friendly.

Why Fibrecotta?

Lightweight –  Fibrecotta is a lightweight material that lets you easily position even large planters wherever you want in your garden.

Durable  – Because of their fiberglass content, Fibrecotta is a strong material that can cope with everything the weather can throw at it. Importantly, it is frost resistant so you can leave the planter out all year. It will also not corrode with the natural acids and alkalis in the soil.

Easy drainage – Like it’s heavier cousin, Terracotta, Fibrestone is porous, meaning that water will naturally filter through the planter providing you with drainage without having to drill holes.    

Good for soil – the porous walls of this planter not only allow for easier drainage, but they have a great effect on the soil too. As the water drains it takes the soils naturally present minerals with it helping your plant to thrive

Ages naturally – The passing of minerals through the planter means that it ages at the same rate as Terracotta. If you are looking for a planter that matures alongside your garden, Fibrecotta is the ideal choice. 

There are many benefits to planters made of this material. Not only is durable, lightweight and good for your plants, but it comes in many shapes and colours. Sound like the type of planter for you? Shop the range now at primrose.co.uk.

Set of terracotta coloured Fibrecotta planters from Primrose.co.uk

 

Gary at PrimroseGary works in the Primrose product loading team, writing product descriptions and other copy. With seven years as a professional chef under his belt, he can usually be found experimenting in the kitchen or sat reading a book.

See all of Gary’s posts.

Current Issues, Jorge, Plants, Trees

It is illegal to sell ‘Pink Lady’ apple trees as the variety can only be grown under license, and the license holder – Apple and Pear Australia – refuses to license to British growers. You won’t be able to grow the tree from the apple’s seeds as they are a combination of genetic information from the variety and another apple.

‘Pink Lady’ is representative of the rise of foreign cultivars, a story that is detailed below, but if you want to still grow a tree, there are many excellent, arguably superior alternatives below.  

Contents

The Decline Of British Cultivars

There was once a time when UK supermarkets were stacked with traditional Victorian varieties such as ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’, ‘Egremont Russet’ and ‘Worcester Pearmain’, but then came the American ‘Golden Delicious’ and Australian ‘Granny Smith’ with the UK’s entry into the common market and after that the “antipodean four”: ‘Gala’, ‘Braeburn’, ‘Jazz’ and ‘Pink Lady, which originate from New Zealand and Australia – a region sometimes known as the antipodes. Now, you may have noticed the introduction of the American ‘Opal’, which is unique in its resistance to browning.

The growth of such varieties highlight changing consumer tastes, the commercialisation of apple growing and the supermarket’s demand for uniformity – a trend now in reverse with today’s consumers fed up of plastic packaging and commercial waste.

Put ‘Granny Smith’ and ‘Bramley’ side-by-side and rate them on aesthetics, you can see something like the descent of man with the heavily-russeted, misshapen ‘Bramley’ evolving into the shiny, round ‘Granny Smith’. The new introduction was cleverly marketed as a dual-purpose apple, but perhaps is only good in a salad. Anyone who has bitten into a ‘Granny Smith’ will note its overwhelming acidity, which will stop all but the bravest.

The “antipodean four” all share a crunchy texture, good skin finish (typically red), and high sugar content, which originates in part from the antipode climate and the long sunlight hours that the UK can’t match.

Sunlight, of course, plays a key role in photosynthesis, which results in light energy being converted into sugar, which is primarily stored in fruit. These apples are well-adapted to the UK’s changed palette, now accustomed to highly processed foods that are full of sugar.

A key determinant of colour is the pigment anthocyanin, which is again driven by sunlight helps such cultivars such as ‘Pink Lady’ stand out against traditional English cultivars such as ‘Cox’. Appearance is unfortunately associated with taste and Britons eat 80% more red apples than green.

Crunchiness is caused by the mechanical damage of your bite, which breaks cell walls, causing the release of juice. Crunchiness is a factor of the strength of the cell walls and the rigidity of the cells, which is a function of the water and sugar stored with the cell, as well as the age of the apple. It can be said that the sunlight hours also drive crunchiness.

Apples with the right size, shape and colour receive the highest prices from supermarkets, with apples divided into class I and class II fruit, with class II rarely being sold. (You may have noticed those “little less than perfect apples” at Waitrose.) A ‘Gala’ tree produces a significantly higher proportion of class I fruit than a ‘Cox’, resulting in such varieties being taken up UK growers.

The newest of the “antipodean four” – ‘Jazz’ and ‘Pink Lady’ – are cleverly marketed and carefully managed. Their names for example are actually trademarks with ‘Jazz’ the name of the variety ‘Scifresh’ and ‘Pink Lady’ ‘Cripps Pink’.

‘Jazz’ was developed by Enza, New Zealand Apple and Pear Marketing Board, and Plant & Food Research, while ‘Pink Lady’ was developed by Apple and Pear Australia. They can both be only grown under license, and the trademark holders refuse to license ‘Pink Lady’ to UK growers, fearing the climate will not do it justice. This is why you will never find a ‘Pink Lady’ apple tree for sale.

‘Pink Lady’ has its own website as well as Facebook and Twitter. The brand was keen to give out apples for free on launch at various London stations and even had a tie in Great Ormond Street Hospital. It has its own logo “so much more than an apple”, which is again trademarked. The campaign was so successful, it even won an award at the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Alternatives To Pink Lady

As detailed above, even if you were able to grow an ‘Pink Lady’ apple in your garden, it would be unlikely to taste like one found in the supermarket, owing to the UK’s climatic conditions. The UK’s lack of sunlight can actually be an advantage as when yields are smaller flavour is often concentrated. Flavour is more than just sugar content, but acidity and mouthfeel. ‘Cox’ is famously aromatic and high in both sugar and acidity, creating well balanced flavour.

The Antipodean Apples

Braeburn’ and ‘Gala’ are both easily available and indeed ‘Braeburn’ remains the bestseller at garden centres, but not online (perhaps due to the canniness of the online shopper).

RHS Award Of Garden Varieties

Modern AGM cultivars include ‘Discovery’, ‘Pixie’, ‘Sunset’ and ‘Scrumptious’, which are all easy to grow. Discovery, Sunset & Pixie come recommended from our nurserymen.

Cox

A British classic, but somewhat difficult to grow. You won’t be disappointed with apples you recieve!

Unique Flavours

Egremont Russet and Worcester Pearmain are notable for their unique flavours with hints of pineapple and strawberry respectively.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

Current Issues, Events, Gardening Year, George, Hampton Court Flower Show, News, RHS

Once again it’s time to look forward to a new year, and we’ve found plenty of festivals, shows and exhibitions to get you excited. So without further ado, dive into our gardening events 2019 calendar and find your favourite.

2019 gardening calendar

January

26-28Big Garden Birdwatch – Get set for a weekend of spying the fabulous winged wildlife in your own back garden.

February

9 Feb-10 MarchKew Orchid Festival – Columbia is the theme for this year’s show, so expect vibrant displays and a ‘carnival of animals’.

March

3Forde Abbey Plant & Gardening Fair – Take in over 30 plant stalls offering stock and expertise, plus explore the abbey’s award-winning gardens.

April

12-14RHS Flower Show Cardiff –  Alongside expert talks and shopping, expect to see inspirational gardens from recent graduates and the new Blooming Borders competition.

25-28Harrogate Spring Flower Show – See the biggest floristry exhibition in the country as well as fabulous show gardens.

30 Apr-6 MayNational Gardening Week – Across the country, gardeners will be sharing their love of all things outdoors – get involved!

May

9-12RHS Malvern Spring Festival – The focus this year is on encouraging health and wellbeing, celebrating garden photography, and introducing indoor greenery.

21-25RHS Chelsea Flower Show – The most famous gardening event on the calendar, Chelsea is packed with global flower displays, fine dining with Raymond Blanc and the world’s most ambitious show gardens.

25 May-2 JunNational Children’s Gardening Week – Make gardening fun for the younger generation while supporting the charity Greenfingers.

31st May-2 JunGardening Scotland – The 20th anniversary of Edinburgh’s biggest garden celebration, packed with plants and fun for kids.

June

5-9RHS Chatsworth Flower Show – Ask floral experts your questions, shop outdoor living goodies and indulge in some afternoon tea, all in the grounds of the Chatsworth estate.

13-16Gardeners’ World Live – Your favourite magazine comes to life with talks from experts like Alan Titchmarsh and Monty Don, alongside show gardens and shopping.

22-23Woburn Abbey Garden Show – Go to see private gardens, free tours, Q&As, live music and more at Woburn Abbey.

July

2-7RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival – Explore the new Global Impact Gardens, learn about garden wellbeing, take part in workshops and pick up some great gifts.

17-21RHS Flower Show Tatton Park – Be inspired by the Young Designer of the Year competition and discover vegetable growing expertise.

August

10-11The Great Comp Summer Show – Enjoy the 17th edition of this annual spectacular with some local jazz and Pimm’s on the lawn.

15-18Southport Flower Show – Visit the UK’s largest independent flower show, where the theme this year is ‘The Garden Party’.

September

13-15Harrogate Autumn Flower Show – Plan your garden with nursery displays, demonstrations, shopping and of course the giant vegetable competition!

28-29RHS Malvern Autumn Show – Close out the season with some retail therapy, gardening demos and plants at Malvern.

We hope this calendar has whet your appetite for the coming year. If so, get the dates in your diary and start booking tickets!

George at PrimroseGeorge 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.

See all of George’s posts.