Animals, Composting, Gardening, Zoe

 

Compost Bins

Composting is a huge trend in the gardening community and it has become a household norm to have a compost bin alongside your general waste and recycling bins. Although the thought of composting may seem cumbersome, there are a tonne of fantastic benefits of making your own compost.

Monty Don has shared his pearls of wisdom regarding the best way to compost, and if Monty is doing it, then it’s safe to say we should probably be doing it too!

What are the benefits of composting?

Composting at home has a heap of benefits including:

  • It helps cut CO2 emissions that are harmful to the environment.
  • It encourages natural wildlife such as small insects which then help to feed birds and hedgehogs.
  • By making your own compost you get to save money by not buying the expensive brands!
  • Turning your compost heap once monthly provides excellent exercise for you no matter what age or ability you are.

No matter the size of your home and garden there is an easy way for you to start composting. Head over to Recycle Now for specific tips on the space you have available. 

How does it help the environment?

Rubbish ordinarily sent to a landfill omits harmful greenhouse gases because there is a lack of air getting to the waste. This in turn creates methane which can damage the Earth’s atmosphere.  However, if you compost at home the oxygen will help the waste decompose aerobically which significantly reduces the methane produced, which is great news for the environment.

By composting at home you also save the petrol used to transport compost rubbish sent to landfill each week!

Landfill

How is the compost produced better?

The compost you can produce at home will help improve your soil structure and also help fight plant disease. Home produced compost contains ingredients your plant love such as: potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus which will make your plants look glorious all year round.

Won’t having a compost heap attract pests?

A well looked after compost bin should not attract any pests such as rats and flies unless it has not been properly secured. One way to help prevent these unwelcome guests is to make sure the moisture levels do not get too high, and you could also keep chicken wire at the base of the bin which can help obstruct an entrance for small mammals.

A compost bin will however host smaller creatures such as slugs and worms – but do not panic! These creatures will help decompose the waste in your compost bin, and they should love their home so much that they do not feel tempted to stray to other areas in your garden.

Slug

Won’t having a compost heap promote weeds?

There is a fear that homemade compost will introduce weeds into your garden. This will only happen if your compost bin does not produce enough heat to kill the weed seeds, so be sure to monitor the temperature of your compost heap with a thermometer – don’t let it drop below 43 degrees Celsius.

What time of year can I compost?

You can compost all year round!

Have we convinced you yet? Head over to our specialist range of compost bins to find the perfect one for you and your garden, and keep your eyes peeled for our next blog on How To Create The Perfect Compost!

Zoe at PrimroseZoë works in the Marketing team at Primrose, and is passionate about all things social media.

After travelling across Europe and Asia, Zoë is intrigued by different cultures and learning more about the world around her. If she’s not jet setting, Zoë loves nothing more than curling up with a good book and a large glass of red wine!

She is an amateur gardener but keen to learn more and get stuck in!

See all of Zoë’s posts.

Gardening, How To, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell, Planting

Dig a big hole
Dig a big hole

November is the ideal time for planting bare rooted trees. Essentially this is a tree grafted onto a root that controls the growth of the tree.

In recent times there has been a move away from grafted plants, especially in roses. You can buy ‘own root’ roses, mostly imported from America. But the majority of trees and shrubs come with grafted roots. The root is called the ‘stock’, the shoot is called the ‘scion’. The joint is usually a little lump known as the graft.

Some roots produce small trees, and are known as ‘dwarfing stock’ some produce whoppers. For the majority of gardens, and fruit trees, I would go for a ‘semi-dwarfing stock’ that gives a plant of around eight to ten feet.

Dig a hole twice the size of the root in depth and three times in diameter. Half fill the bottom with a good rich well rotted compost and then position the plant with the graft just above the level of the soil. Infill and firm in, firm in a lot with the heel of your boot. Give a top dressing of compost as a mulch and then knock in your support, well away from the root.

Use a proper tree tie, rather than a bit of string, to hold the tree in place.

If it is a fruit tree, feed in the Spring, but do not let fruit set – just pull them off. Don’t collect any fruit for at least three years, but keep feeding well in the Spring and mulch in the winter. It sounds a long time, but remember you will collecting fruit for a good decade or two, so it’s worth the wait.

Mr Digwell gardening cartoon logo

Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.

He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden. You can also see more about him on our Mr Digwell information page.

See all of Mr Digwell’s posts.

Gardening Year, Greenhouses, How To, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell

Sometimes the November garden seems like July
Sometimes the November garden seems like July

The old coats are dusted off. Gardening in hats and coats, boots and string tied trousers. Hardly moving against the wind, spectacles splattered with fat raindrops that fly up the valley looking for someone to annoy. In and out of focus the last blooms of Autumn brighten us, feeling warm-hearted and wondering how on earth dahlias face the weather with such exuberant joy.

But cold fingers and cheeks make working in the November garden peevish. Snatched jobs, unfinished projects punctuated with promises of getting back on the job, later, tomorrow, when I have warmed up a bit, when it stops raining, maybe.

The opposite of November is April, when we are sowing and planting, and although it is cold in April, snowy cold, somehow it’s not so doom laden as November. But there is plenty to do, between the showers. At least April warms up, November gets darker and colder, and even though we are all glad of the clocks going back, we gardeners regret the sudden disappearance of the light.

Sowing and planting:

It is possible to sow and plant. Lettuce, radish, spinach, onions. Yes, you can sow onions in a cold greenhouse. You have to wait a while for germination, but by the time Spring arrives, they are well on the way to being transplanted.

Believe it or not you can sow peas now. Keep them under a cloche, more for protection from mice than anything else. They will germinate, and then stop growing when the temperature really drops, and burst into life in the Spring.

The cabbage variety ‘All Year Round’ can also be sown now with pretty much the same results. Now I have a trick with cabbage at this time of the year. I sow the same variety in pots of compost indoors. What you get is a plant that grows tall and doesn’t look much like a cabbage at all. But the leaves are edible, they still cook like cabbages, they still taste like cabbages. I tend to eat them in salads. They do just as well in the cold greenhouse.

And sometimes the November garden seems like November
And sometimes the November garden seems like November

You can still plant onion sets and garlic, particularly garlic. It rather reminds me of my grandmother, who used to call me ‘brass-neck’ quite a lot, can’t think why. But garlic comes in two forms, hardneck or softneck. Hardneck varieties have a thicker central stalk and bigger corms, softneck have smaller corms, more paper and more flavour.

Of all my favourite is Chesnock Wight, a hardneck. If you don’t manage to plant garlic this month, Solent Wight can be planted as late as January.

Jerusalem artichokes can be planted now. Treat them a little like potatoes, bury them at about 30 cm and they will pop up in Spring when the soil warms. Why November? They get the earliest start, and since they are very hardy, they are not bothered by frost, though I do plant them a little deeper than Spring planted tubers.

Actually it is a sunflower, not a relative of the globe artichoke at all. And they are said they are aphrodisiac in nature. The queen of Henry IV of France, Catherine de Medici was said to eat hardly anything else.

I rather envy pipe smokers. Well only inasmuch as it seems cosy, sitting in the shed on rainy, sleety days, puffing on a pipe, keeping the fingers warm. But there are plenty of things to be doing indoors in November.

Cleaning and disinfecting pots and utensils. Sharpening tools, especially spades and cutting tools. A good grindstone is one of your most important pieces of equipment. And get into the greenhouse, if you haven’t already, and clear out all the old compost filled pots with dead plants in them, shift the moss between the glass before the frost comes and freezes, expanding to cause a broken pane.

Clear your gutters, and add some bleach to your water butt. This will clear any algae or other nasties growing within, and will have all vanished away before you come to use it again.

Mr Digwell gardening cartoon logo

Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.

He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden. You can also see more about him on our Mr Digwell information page.

See all of Mr Digwell’s posts.

Allotment, Composting, Flowers, Gardening, Gardening Year, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell

Nicotiana
Nicotiana look lovely, but keep them deadheaded for the best display at this time of the year.

How long will it last?

I don’t think it really matters. The still air, silvered light, some might think thin especially when it takes all day for the sun to appear over the trees, October is that cool evening at the end of the day, a time of rest and peace. And the best seat in the house is in the garden.

I love the October garden.

Yes, there are plenty of jobs to do, hedges and lawns to trim and cut, beds to clear, fruit to gather, but to sit amongst the insects sipping the very last drop of nectar from the nearly spent flowers, wings caught in the ethereal light is the nearest we get to a transport to another world.

The smell of far away burning fires reminds you that someone, somewhere, is doing some gardening.

The compost heap is a great place to start, largely because we have so much plant material about. Herbaceous borders we are clearing, cabbage roots, carrot tops, a million vegetables that have been pulled, preserved, stored or eaten.

New raised beds
New raised beds, and yes, I need to cut the grass before I cover with membrane.

I don’t compost potato vines or tomato vines because I might just infect the heap with fungal blight. I know the heap is supposed to be hot and this kills diseases, but you cannot always guarantee it’s uniformly hot etc. Besides, I worry about it. So I don’t compost it. What I do is burn it, and then the ashes go onto the compost heap.

Any really herbaceous material gets mixed with newspaper. This soaks up the liquid, particularly from material like grass clippings, that gets terribly wet. It’s good also to intersperse some woody material, anything that bulks out the material, and maintains a few air pockets.

Then, of course, it’s raining leaves! The paths, lawn, pavements and roads are increasingly covered with falling leaves. I sweep them into piles and give them a day to allow any wildlife to escape before popping them into a wire basket for a year to rot down. You get really wonderful seed compost from leaf mould.

The wire basket is important, being mostly wood, their rotting takes a great amount of air, even though it gets cold, it’s the air that does the job.

Autumn leaves
Leaves keep falling on me ‘ead! but they’ll soon be in the wire basket rotting down!

More than anything, October is garlic time. I am amazed how hardy garlic actually can get.

Planted in the teeth of the first gales of the year usually around the middle of the month, they sprout nicely and grow into pencil-sized plants that resist the worst of frosts, indeed they thrive on it, their best flavour coming from a good frosting.

Do buy good quality corms for planting in the UK. Avoid supermarket ones, which only work in very special circumstances. There are two types, hard-neck and soft-neck. Hard-neck garlic has a central stalk from which all the corms come. They are usually bigger, more robust in flavour, but there are fewer of them than soft-neck garlic which has no central stalk and smaller corms, but with more of them.

It is remarkable how summer bedding continues to do well deep into the month, and it is worth deadheading these plants, even if it is too late for replacement flowers. Something like a nicotiana throws out white and pink flowers, and looks lovely, so long as you remove the dead flowers. When there is a mixture of dead and new on the same plant, the garden looks as though the end of the year has come with neglect.

Do you need a low maintenance garden?

The very idea had always seemed to me to be spoiling my fun. After all, I like digging and weeding. But whereas age might not weary nor the years condemn, a heart attack certainly messes with your gardening plans. So for me, like so many, it’s time to make the garden easier to work with.

The starting of a hedge
The starting of a hedge, cotoneaster, mahonia, all we need now is the blackthorn.

This has started with raised beds. We pulled out, well I started but my son finished, a huge hypericum, and the spare land this triffid was taking we installed some raised beds.

We made them from decking plants, treated wood, cheap and easy to use, but if I didn’t have a son-in-law who was not only handy with wood, but strong enough to carry the beds into position, I would have bought them. They will make life so much easier.

My next purchase is about 50 sq metres of ground cover material. Not just the flimsy stuff, but the really heavy duty material. It will cover a significant part of the garden so I can cover with more beds, and then for making paths between the beds, which will then be covered with gravel.

Where I live there isn’t a lot of garden theft, but I do like to cover the paths with something that makes a noise to deter anyone walking on them, so they might just give up and go somewhere else if they are up to no good.

With this in mind, the bottom of the garden needs a little attention. Fortunately for us it runs into a farm where two of the nastiest dogs you could imaging are constantly on guard, but I am a little worried about these gorgons getting through into ours, and now we have become grandparents, we would feel a little safer with a good hedge. So we are planting a mixture of blackthorn (not just for the sloes but the two inch thorns!) some Mahonia japonica and various other nasties that will keep man and beast at bay.

It is remarkable how fast and stock proof this combination goes, and you can eat the fruits of both plants – actually, ask me for the recipe for mahonia lemonade sometime!

So, how long will it last, this balmy early Autumn? So long as there is a garden to look at, to potter about in, or simply to sit in the shed with a warm mug, peeping through the door, gardening’s a great life!

Mr Digwell gardening cartoon logo

Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.

He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden. You can also see more about him on our Mr Digwell information page.

See all of Mr Digwell’s posts.