Posts Tagged ‘Soil’
Posted by editor on Saturday, 31 March 2012
If you want to garden organically, save money, and – so important right now – save water, think seriously about composting your garden and household waste. Even in the smallest garden, using your own compost you can grow plants, fruit and vegetables without chemicals – and it’s free!
What you CAN compost:
- Pet manure and bedding
- Vegetable peelings
- Uncooked kitchen scraps, eggshells and fruit skins
- Dead flowers
- Hedge and grass clippings
- Coffee grounds and spent tea bags
- Wood ash
- Natural fibre fabrics
- Shredded paper and cardboard
- Human hair
What you CANNOT compost:
- Plastic bags, foam and plastic packaging
- Medicines and chemicals
- Spray cans, metal cans
- Disposable nappies and synthetic fabrics
- Glass bottles
- Cooked food
- Heavy root material, branches and some straw-like grasses may take just too long to compost so are best left out
WHERE to make compost:
- You can buy a huge variety of types and sizes of compost bin, you can even just build a heap and cover it over with some polythene or cardboard – however a bin of some sort is neater and easier to manage.
- Site your bin in a sunny or semi-shaded position, and on bare earth or turf
- It should be easily accessible (maybe positioned so that you can access with a wheel-barrow), and have a lid or cover
HOW to make compost:
- Aim for a balance of materials, and aim to add to the bin in layers at regular intervals (every couple of days or so)
- Keep the material damp, but not over wet or it may not produce a very pleasant end product
- Turn occasionally – you may have a compost bin that turns on an axle, or use a special tool which you push into the compost, twist and pull out again, thus bringing the lower levels up to the surface – in this way you can also tell whether the lower layers have composted
- If you have two or more bins, you can rotate – fill one bin then turn it into the next bin, then start filling the bin you have just emptied – and so on…
The best compost is loose, rich, dark brown and earthy smelling – this can take from as little as two months to a year depending on conditions and content. It is ‘black gold’ and positively the best feed, mulch and soil conditioner you can create.
Posted by editor on Saturday, 22 January 2011
Although the weather is still likely to be at its worst there will be plenty of signs that things are beginning to wake up. Bulbs are breaking through the soil, buds are beginning to swell on trees and shrubs, and inevitably you’re anxious to get working.
This helps prevent pests and disease harbouring in piles of rotting vegetation. Do bear in mind that weeds will still grow this time of year, especially if this month stays frost free and damp. Remove these ensuring deep roots of perennial weeds are dug out completely.
If soil is prepared for planting cover it with polythene sheeting, this will stop it from getting wet and warm the soil so that when you do plant they will get away quicker.
It’s an ideal time to plant any new bare-rooted specimens, such as deciduous trees and shrubs along with roses. These will benefit from the addition of slow-release fertiliser to the surrounding soil, which in turn should be applied to all your beds.
It is also time to prune late-flowering clematis. These flower on the current years growth, so cutting the stems hard now will prevent plants becoming tangled and untidy. Cut back to the hard woody stems, removing any green growth from last year.
The best place to be at this time of year is in the greenhouse, but don’t start your annuals to early, it’s a long time for seedlings to be in trays and they could get drawn.
Since we have many frosty days this month, it’s a great time to find a comfy seat, a steaming cup of coffee and cake – and look through the seed, plant and landscaping catalogues to let you imagination run wild and decide how you can improve your garden this coming year…
Posted by editor on Monday, 22 November 2010
In natural ecosystems, autumn leaves are a crucial part of the natural cycle, returning complex chemical compounds to the ground where they are broken down.
The first phase in this breakdown is often carried out by worms, slugs, woodlice and other small animals on the woodland floor. So just piling leaves in out-of-the -way places, or spreading them under shrubs, will see many of them disappear by spring.
Good things about leaf mould:
- It’s easy to make
- It cuts out bonfires
- It saves using peat
- It’s free
Good things about using leaf mould:
- It’s clean and easy to handle
- It’s good for the soil
- It cuts down on watering
- It can be used on any soil
- It can be used at any time of year
The second phase is helped by invertebrates which are aided by fungi. These work slowly on tough and nutrient -sparse old leaves, which the bacteria that fire up our summer compost heaps find hard to deal with. For this reason large quantities of leaves slow down the composting process and are best dealt with separately.
Dry leaves won’t decompose so water them if they are dry to help them rot. All you need is a secluded corner of the garden or a simple container, to stop the leaves blowing away. Black bin bags can be used, when full of leaves make a few holes in the bag and tie the top loosely.
Leafmould makes a good winter cover for bare soil; mulch around shrubs, herbaceous, trees, vegetables or dig in as a soil improver for sowing and planting. Use as an autumn top dressing for lawns. It also makes a good seed sowing mix – mix with equal parts well rotted leafmould, sharp sand, loam and garden compost.
Leaves on the lawn are easily dealt with. Run the mower over leaves on the lawn with the grass box off, the shredded leaves will soon disappear into the lawn – OR run the mower over leaves on the lawn with the grass box on, then add the chopped up mown leaves and grass to a leafmould heap. They will be quicker to rot than whole leaves.
So turn the autumn leaf fall to your garden’s advantage! But remember, don’t disturb drifts of autumn leaves under hedges and other out of the way areas – they may be used for hibernating sites by hedgehogs and other creatures.
Posted by editor on Wednesday, 14 April 2010
Pricking out seedlings, hardening off and sowing outdoors. There’s still time to sow more half-hardy annuals and vegetables. If you haven’t already, sow under glass courgettes, marrows, pumpkins, sweetcorn and greenhouse cucumbers. Outdoors, sow beetroot and turnips, peas and broad beans, broccoli, cabbage, carrots and chard amongst others. Continue to sow lettuce and salad leaves.
Seeds sown a few weeks ago should be sprouting now and ready for pricking out.
- Fill a seed tray with moist John Innes No 1 potting compost or similar.
- Firm the soil then mark out planting holes with a pencil or dibber, approx 1-1-1/2” (2.5-3.5cms) apart each way.
- Gently ease out a small clump of seedlings, with some of their compost (a small plastic plant label is ideal for this delicate task). Hold each seedling by one of its leaves and tease it away from the others (never handle by the stem).
- Lower the individual seedlings into their planting holes and firm the compost around each. Take care not to damage the roots.
- Label, then water with a fine mist sprayer. Place out of direct sunlight for a day or two, then move into the light. Keep the compost moist, but not wet.
Once established – four to eight weeks after pricking out – harden off young plants.
- Move the tray or pot to a sheltered spot outdoors in fine weather, bringing back indoors at night.
- After a week or so, leave outside permanently, but protect from harsh weather and shelter at night.
- A cold frame is an ideal place to harden off young plants. For the first few days, open the frame slightly, during the day only. Increase ventilation gradually, until by late spring the cold frame is completely open.
All hardy annuals and most half-hardy annuals can be sown directly outdoors.
- Prepare the soil: In autumn, work in some compost or well-rotted manure. Come spring, as soon as the soil is reasonably dry, break up the soil further, sprinkle in a good general-purpose fertilizer, then rake thoroughly creating a fine, crumbly tilth.
- In dry weather moisten the soil a day or two before sowing, then again two or three days after sowing.
- Sowing in drills: Make shallow drills approx 1-1.5cms deep (for planting distances check the seed packet carefully). Sow thinly to avoid too much thinning later. Cover seeds by running the tip of the hoe along the ridge of the drill, then tamp down to lightly firm the soil.
- Once seedlings appear, start to thin out the weaker seedlings.
- Sowing in borders: Prepare a sketch plan of your desired layout, and mark out the sowing areas with a trail of sand or the edge of a hoe.
- Scatter seeds over the area, then rake over gently.
- As with sowing in drills, water the area in advance then again a few days after sowing if the weather remains very dry.
The Garden House sells many hardy and half-hardy seeds – see SHOP on this website for more details. Our seed packets are beautifully illustrated by Brighton illustrator Vicky Sharman – see PICTURES on this website to view the individual seed packets.
Posted by editor on Thursday, 25 February 2010
The weather is warming up and soon we will be able to get into our gardens and allotments. For some of us this will involve preparing new beds by digging – hard work but therapeutic. I love this evocative poem by Seamus Heaney as he relishes the picture of his father digging.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.
Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.
My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
Posted by editor on Tuesday, 20 October 2009
Allotments are not only functional places to grow vegetables, they are also peaceful havens in which you can relax, meet friends and exchange produce and tips.
Bridgette Saunders is an experienced horticulturalist, planstwoman and lecturer. She runs courses on allotment gardening from her home in Brighton and teaches at City College, Brighton and Hove, where she enjoys inspiring her students to grow a variety of plants, both edible and ornamental.
Bridgette’s book Allotment Gardening, published this month, deals with all aspects of the allotment ‘experience’. How to plan and design your allotment, whatever its size and aspect; considering the soil quality; what fruit, vegetables and flowers to plant; how to tackle pests, diseases and predators; and most importantly, what to do when – the seasonal calendar.
The history of allotments is also covered: the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign during the war years, the subsequent decline of allotment-keeping in the 1960s and 70s, and the extraordinary rise in popularity in recent years.
Allotment Gardening is beautifully illustrated with photographs taken by Rhoda Nottridge.
Published: 22 October 2009
Publisher: The Crowood Press Ltd
Posted by editor on Monday, 5 October 2009
Last month The Garden House invited rose expert Simon White to give a talk on roses – and, having worked at the renowned Peter Beales Roses nursery for almost twenty-five years, Simon certainly knows a thing or two!
He’s a great character, amusing us all with anecdotes from the nursery, and scarey tales of setting up the beautiful – and mammoth! – Peter Beales stand at The Chelsea Flower show! Simon took us on a fascinating visual journey through the A-Z of roses, their history and types; how to propagate roses, how to plant to avoid disease, and how to prune climbers and ramblers.
He also had some good tips on how to grow roses in pots and containers. Most roses cope well with shade and are happy enough in pots– so great news for those of us with smaller shady gardens!
- Pots should be minimum 20” diameter, filled with John Innes no3 (NOT multi-purpose compost, as once dried out this never gets properly wet again). After planting cover the top surface with horticultural grit.
- If planting a larger shrub rose or climber/rambler, create a robust obelisk or tripod out of bamboo, willow or hazel (Simon told us that, amazingly, even ramblers can be happy in a large pot!)
- Water every day April to October, and feed with Tomorite fortnightly (or weekly at half-strength).
- Bare-root roses can be planted anytime from Nov-Jan. The soil-level should be above the root-stock union, and the rose should be pruned hard in Feb (3-5” from the ground!).
- Container-grown roses should be planted in June – if you buy your rose before June, simply plant in position WITH the plastic pot, then plant properly into the soil in June.
- As the plant grows tie stems loosely around the obelisk, spiralling the branches gently in both directions.
- Every year in Dec/Jan, scrape out any loose exposed soil and replace with fresh John Innes no3. In the third year, again in Dec/Jan, re-pot completely (not necessarily in a larger pot, the aim is simply to refresh the rose with new soil).
- Organic care: grow chives as companion planting, and spray with 50/50 skimmed milk and water once a fortnight to protect against mildew, and an occasional spray with diluted washing-up liquid to keep greenfly at bay.
Finally a great tip for planting a new rose into soil where roses have grown before – use a cardboard box! Dig a hole large enough for the box (a good sized box large enough to take the roots without cramping), position box in the hole, position plant in box, and fill with a mix of John Innes no3, some well-rotted manure and a small handful of bonemeal (and Simon recommends a sachet of Root Grow) – then water well!
A highly informative hands-on day – we all went home with boundless confidence, armed with some good advice and a long list of ‘must-have’ roses!