Jorge, Plants

Soil types, such as clay, sand and silt, are compositions of different size rock particles, which affects a soil’s nutrient and water holding capacity and drainage. They aren’t as important as made out as every plant will adapt to its conditions and every soil type is improved the same way – through maintaining plant life and adding organic matter. 

What are soil types?

When people are talking about soil types, they are usually referring to soil texture. A soil’s texture is determined by the composition of rock particles in the soil. These particles come in different sizes, and the smallest are known as the fine earth fraction, which range from the largest sand (.05-2mm) to the smallest clay (<.002mm) with silt (.002-05mm) in the middle. 

Within clay are very small particles (0.0001mm) known as colloids. Colloids have the ability to absorb, hold and release nutrients and are important as without nutrients would simply leech away. This occurs as they are negatively charged and attract positively charged ions such as nutrient atoms and water molecules, which bind to the surface. Hence, as particle size decreases, water and nutrient holding capacity increases. 

particle composition of soil types
Picture credit: Mikenorton (2011) licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

From this, we arrive at the different properties each soil texture possess. Clay and silt are rich in nutrients and have good water holding capacity, but drain poorly, and are vulnerable to being waterlogged. Sand is poor in nutrients and water holding capacity, but drains quickly. Loam famously has the best properties of any texture. 

Soil is composed, not just of rock, but decomposed organic matter known as humus. Silt and sand particles are bound to clay and humus particles forming peds (aggregates). All soil types benefit from adding organic matter and maintaining plant life. 

soil peds type

In clay soils, adding organic matter acts to increase aggregate size, decreasing the amount of macropores, improving drainage. In sand, adding organic matter acts to increase the amount of micropores, improving the water holding capacity. This is because organic particles can also be very small (colloids) but are even more chemically reactive. 

So how does organic matter improve silt and loam soils? Organic matter provides feed for plants and soil organisms that act to increase the porosity of the soil and break down minerals into soluble forms. 

Chalk and peat soils are slightly different. Chalk soils can be made up of different particles sizes, but are notable for being alkaline. Peat soils are heavily organic and are often acidic. 

Are soil types important?

Soil types aren’t as important as made out as every plant will adapt to its conditions. Most plants are planted/seed in suboptimal conditions and provide good results. More important is how you look after the plant, such as whether you water, fertilise and apply mulch. Planting is critically important. Avoid compacting the soil or otherwise a soil’s porosity will be reduced. 

Now, it’s important to avoid waterlogged soils, which act to starve a plant of oxygen, causing root rot, and eventually root death. pH is also important. Camellia, rhododendrons, and blueberries will not do well in neutral or alkali soils, so are best grown in pots. 

What’s the best soil for pots? 

Using a mix of garden soil and compost will produce the best mix of macropores and micropores. Again, care is key. Potted plants are especially liable to drought, so be sure to apply mulch, which helps trap moisture. Ensure you drill a hole in the bottom of the pot, so water can drain. 

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.

Flowers, Jorge, Plants, Trees

bee pollination

Pollination involves the transfer of pollen from one flower to another, resulting in fertilisation. Fertilisation is important as without plants will not produce fruit. It’s likely you don’t need to do anything to ensure pollination, as it’s probable a compatible tree will be in the vicinity. However, it is beneficial to buy a pollination partner to guarantee and improve pollination, boosting yields. 

What is pollination?

Pollination involves the transfer of male reproductive cells from a plant’s male reproductive organ to a plant’s female reproductive organ, in within there are female reproductive cells. The reproductive cells then fuse, forming a new cell, which divides rapidly eventually forming a seed. 

In plants, male reproductive cells are located within pollen cells, which are found on flowers, on the part known as the stamen. The female cells are located within the ovule, found in the ovary, which is part of the carpel. Often, both the male and female reproductive organs are found on the same flower – such flowers are known as perfect flowers – but sometimes they are not. Sometimes, male and female reproductive organs are found on different trees, known as male and female trees.

flower parts

The male reproductive cells must be compatible with female reproductive cells or otherwise fertilisation will be inhibited. Fertilisation can be inhibited if two varieties are too closely related or too distantly related. Some varieties – known as self-fertile plants – can fertilise themselves, while others – known as self-sterile plants – can’t, and therefore need to be partnered with another variety. 

As pollination is sexual reproduction, resultant offspring necessarily contain information from both male and female reproductive cells. Therefore, the seeds of any fruit will be of a different variety than that of the parent. (This is true even in the case of self-fertilisation, because of genetic recombination and Mendel’s law of segregation.)

Most plants, including most fruit trees, rely on insects, primarily bees, to transfer pollen between flowers, but some rely on the wind. 

walnut flowers
The male and female flowers of a walnut. Walnuts rely on the wind for pollination. Picture credit: Dalgial licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

What we are interested in is not fertilisation, but the production of fruit, which unfortunately, most trees will not bear without fertilisation. This is because fleshy fruit develops from the ovary, which encloses the ovules that form seeds.

Do I have to worry about pollination?

If you live in an urban area, it’s probable there will be another compatible tree in the vicinity, and as bees forage for miles, there is a high chance of pollination. If you live in an isolated location, where you can’t be certain of another compatible tree, it might be best to buy a pollination partner.

Now, just because you live in an urban area, it doesn’t mean there is no benefit to buying a pollination partner, which will not only guarantee pollination, but help improve pollination. You can tell if a plant has been poorly pollinated, if it’s fruits are small, misshapen and have few seeds.

Low temperatures impede pollination as frost can damage blossoms, which will fail to turn into fruit. Early flowering stone fruits, such as almonds and apricots, are especially vulnerable, and the former will not reliably crop in the UK. As bees will not forage when it is cold or windy, bad weather impedes pollination also.

fruit trees flowering timeline

As pollination is primarily carried out by bees, it’s necessary that insects can access your flowers. It’s also necessary that two varieties flower in the same period. Hence, why trees are put into flowering groups, with any variety being able to pollinate another in +-1 flowering group. Flowering groups are preferred to specific dates, as plants will flower at different times in different parts of the country. A variety in flowering group 1 will always flower before a variety in flowering group 2.

apple pollination groups

pear pollination groups

cherry pollination groups

Unfortunately, even if a plant is in the same flowering group, it doesn’t mean pollination is guaranteed, due to genetic incompatibility. Cherries are notorious for this, so it’s always best to buy a self-fertile variety. Triploids, such as Bramley, are sterile and are unable to pollinate other species. So, if you want a triploid, it’s necessary to partner with two non-triploid varieties. 

Different species can sometimes pollinate one another. Famously, crabapples can pollinate apples, and are often used as part of an orchard to help with pollination. Ornamental cherries, however, can’t pollinate cherry fruit trees. 

cherry and apple pollination compatibility diagram

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.

Gardening, Gardening Year, Gardens, Gary, How To, Plants

Autumn leaves waiting to be raked

The September heat is fading, and Autumn is in full swing. As it gets colder, the trees begin to change and nature becomes gold for a few months. We have put together a list of the essential gardening jobs for October to help you make the most out of the transitional season in your garden.

General 

  • Mulch the borders with compost if not done in the spring to boost the quality of your soil and help it retain water and nutrients during the colder months. 
  • Continue to tidy borders of weeds and leaves. These will become slippery over winter, but will also be harder to remove once the soil freezes.
  • Apply autumn lawn feed. These specialised feeds help to fortify your lawn from frost and icy conditions. 
  • Cut back perennials that have died down. 
  • Renovate old lawns or create new grass areas by laying turf. By doing this now you encourage root growth instead of leaf growth which allows your grass to survive the winter, and cuts down on and mowing in the cold

Animals 

  • Refill Feeders regularly This well help late migratory birds on their way, but also provide a constant food source for wintering birds. See our range of bird feeds here.  
  • Install insect hotels. This is the easiest time of year to find the raw materials you need to build an insect hotel. By doing it now you’ll also have it ready for the Insects try to get away from the cold. 

Plants 

  • Remove fallen leaves from roses to prevent blackspot – a fungal disease that can spread quickly to your whole rosegarden. 
  • Pot up your herbs and take them inside, either to a frost-free greenhouse or windowsill.
  • Move tender plants, including aquatic ones, into a greenhouse or conservatory
  • Bring potted tropical plants inside, including bananas, pineapple lilies (eucomis) and brugmansias.

Produce 

  • Begin planting garlic for a good summer harvest.  
  • Apply fleece to late season crops when frost is forecast
  • Harvest apples, pears, grapes and nuts

Greenhouse

  • Clean out the greenhouse to get rid of debris that can harbor overwintering pests
  • Attach guttering to the greenhouse and install a water butt, to make good use of autumn rain. You can reuse this water elsewhere in the garden, it also discourages water from freezing on the greenhouse
  • Wash greenhouse glazing to let in as much of the weaker autumn daylight as possible. This will keep your plants healthy as well as warm during the cold winter months.

It’s a busy time of the gardening year, but putting in some hard work now will give you great results in spring. Let us know what your up to on social media

 

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.

Gardening, Greenhouses, Grow Your Own, Scott, Vegetables

Greenhouse Gardening

Greenhouses help us in creating stable conditions for nurturing and growing a wide variety of plants. During the colder parts of the year, greenhouses allow us to store, prepare and grow so we can extend the success of our gardens throughout the whole year. Below are just a few greenhouse gardening ideas that you can make use of throughout the changing seasons. 

Autumn

Autumn

Maintenance

The perfect time to prep your greenhouse for the cold months ahead. Some essential maintenance will put you in good stead for keeping everything functioning at its best:

  1. Clean the glass to make sure you’re getting the maximum levels of light in.
  2. Check for cracks in the glass and seal appropriately to keep insulation efficient. 
  3. Organise your inside space making sure everything is tidy and easily accessible.

Grow Your Own

Though the warmer months present the height of the growing season for vegetables, greenhouse gardening means there’s no reason to stop growing produce through the winter.  Some ideas for planting are:

  1. Potting potatoes to harvest for Christmas.
  2. Potting up hardy herbs like chives, parsley and mint to continue growth through the winter.
  3. Sowing spinach, rocket, kale and pak choi seeds in trays before transferring seedlings to larger containers for use in winter salads.
  4. Sowing brassicas like cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprouts that can be enjoyed later in the year.

Planting

The colder months can be an ideal time to get a head start on your plans for next spring too:

  1. Lots of perennials can be kept in the greenhouse over winter to keep them alive until the return of warm weather. Fuschias, Pelargoniums and Dahlias are ideal for bringing inside or taking cuttings from which to propagate.

Winter

Winter

Temperature

As we head into the coldest part of the year, temperature control can be your biggest challenge to greenhouse gardening:

  1. At the start of the season, you should monitor the temperature and consider opening the greenhouse door on warmer days to keep everything ventilated.
  2. As the temperature drops, covering your greenhouse glass with large bubble wrap is a cost-effective way of providing extra insulation.
  3. You may want to consider getting a greenhouse heater. Both electric and gas heaters can be purchased depending on your set up and both will permit more accurate and consistent temperature control.

Grow Your Own

Making use of a greenhouse heater and the consistent temperature it provides makes it ideal for planting in preparation for spring:

  1. With a stable warm temperature, you can start growing peppers in the greenhouse. These can be transplanted outside when warm weather returns or kept inside the warm greenhouse. 
  2. Peas, squash, cucumber, courgettes and aubergines can all be started in late winter in preparation for planting in the spring. Getting a head start now will set you up well for success later.
  3. Towards the end of winter, you can begin planting seeds for spring and summer flower beds. The seedlings can be incubated before being transplanted outside in warmer weather.

Frost Protection

Now is also the time when our greenhouse can act as a refuge for tender plants in the garden:

  1. Potted plants can be moved into the greenhouse to avoid damage from changing temperatures and frost. Consider some greenhouse staging to organise your pot storage.
  2. Move tropical specimens into the greenhouse perhaps with an insulating layer of fleece and straw. 
  3. Your perennials can be kept in the greenhouse ready for spring. 
  4. Remember to water sparingly at this time and according to each plant’s separate needs.

Spring

Spring

Freshening Up

As we move into spring and the warm weather starts to return we can begin moving things out of the greenhouse back into the garden:

  1. With the warm weather returning you can give the glass another good clean to remove the marks left by winter and maximise the amount of light getting through.
  2. With changing temperatures, it may be good practise to heat your greenhouse at night and ventilate it during the day at the start of spring.
  3. Setting up a water source like water buts or a connected hosepipe will make greenhouse gardening much easier when you start watering more regularly.
  4. The arrival of spring can also mean the emergence of pests so keep an eye out and rid accordingly with sprays.

Grow Your Own

Now is an ideal time to begin planting your summer vegetables:

  1. Courgettes, cucumbers, squashes and sweetcorn are ideal for planting in the greenhouse ready for transplanting to the outside when the summer warms the garden properly. 
  2. Plant tomato saplings in grow bags so they can establish through summer when the greenhouse doesn’t require additional heating.

Back Outside

When the warm weather makes itself felt across your garden you can start moving overwintered plants back outside. Bear in mind that your plants that are cultivated inside will need a period of “hardening off” with increased ventilation and cooler temperatures before being moved outside fully.

  1. Perennial cuttings can be transported to pots or flower beds perhaps with the protection of a cloche until the warm weather fully returns. 
  2. Tender potted plants can be moved back outside, though you may remove any fleece insulation at a later stage in spring or summer. 
  3. Towards the end of spring, you can plant more seeds to transplant during summer such as marigolds. 

Summer

Summer

Sun Protection

With the warmest part of the year now in full swing you can make full use of all that light and energy coming into your greenhouse: 

  1. You may need to add netting or some light shade to prevent overheating or scorching during higher temperatures.
  2. Make sure you have enough ventilation, keeping vents and doors open on warm days and some nights if occasion requires it.
  3. Dampening the floors and staging each day can help add humidity to the greenhouse on warmer days. 

See What Grows

Greenhouse gardening means having a lot more control over the immediate environment. Have fun and experiment with some other plants:

  1. Harden off your summer bedding blooms to clear room in the greenhouse for other plants.
  2. You can make use of the hottest part of the year by growing some different plants; maybe try propagating some house plants for inside the home like crassulas or sansevierias.
  3. Feed and water your plants regularly to make full use of the peak growing season. 
  4. Take cuttings from perennials like fuschias and pelargoniums.

Harvest

This is also a great time of year for harvesting your well-earnt produce! 

  1. Tomatoes, cucumbers and chillies can be picked regularly to encourage further growth. 
  2. Plants moved outdoors for the summer should begin to reach full maturity towards the end of summer and can be incorporated into your summer meals. 
  3. There is still time through summer to plant crops that have a fast yield such as carrots, beetroot, beans, spinach and kale.

Follow us on Instagram and tag us in a photo of your greenhouse. We love to see great gardeners in action and we may even feature your photos on the Primrose feed. 

Scott at PrimroseScott 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.