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Why should we buy ‘Peat Free’ products for your garden.

In CategoryLorna Sinnamon
ByLorna Sinnamon

 

Peat is formed over thousands of years by decaying vegetation, it is unique to bogs and peat lands and is one of the biggest sinks for carbon. When Peat is harvested this carbon is released into the environment and contributes to global warming

As a carbon store peat holds more carbon than the combined forests of Britain, France and Germany, it is beneficial to wildlife as many rare species inhabit peatland, for water management peat holds up to 20 times its own weight in water and and helps control flooding, peat can also preserve vegetation, landscapes and people that arechaeologist can use to study our past.

Peat reforms at a rate of 1mm a year  this is a limited resource, so we need to look at alternatives. The  3 main uses of peat in the garden are as soil improver, improving structure and draining in sandy and clay soils, as a growing medium for seed sowing and planting and as a garden mulch although it dries out quickly and can be blown off the soil surface.

Some alternatives that are available are.

As a soil improver,

Well rotted garden compost,

Composted bark or wood chippings

Farmyard manure this can be used on soil in autumn and weathered and broken down over the winter.

Leaf mold, if you have the space fallen autumn leaves can be collected and placed in wire bins and left to rot down for a couple of years, this can then be sieved and added to the soil.

As a growing medium

Well rotted sieved garden compost, can be used to make a potting mix but as you can not be sure of the nutrients it contains you may need to add fertilisers.

Composted bark, this is usually composted forest products like bark and sawdust and if this is well composted it will provide a structure very similar to peat, however it may be difficult to know the nutrient content.

Coir, this is a by product of the coconut industry and has become very popular as a substitute for peat, when left to rot down it can act in the same way as peat improving drainage and water retention.

As a mulch

Organic garden materials such as  manure, grass clippings, leafmould, bark, straw or stalky material etc.

Non-organic materials such as black polythene, stone chippings or crushed slate etc.

Dalefoot composts have developed a natural alternative to peat based composts using a mix of wool and bracken, the bracken contains high levels of potash which is essential for all fruiting and flowering plants, the sheeps wool ensures good moisture retentiveness due to its natural hygroscopic qualities, as the wool breaks down it releases  nitrogen acting as a slow release fertiliser. They have a range of composts available including mixes for bulbs, vegetables and seeds plus a soil improver for clay soils. Dalefoot compost are produced in the uk and can be delivered directly to your home.

If you are looking at ways to garden more sustainably, reducing or cutting out peat and trying some of the alternatives can really help to  slow down the destruction of peat areas and reduce carbon emissions into the environment.

 

Wildflowers in your garden to add a splash of informal colour

In CategoryLorna Sinnamon
ByLorna Sinnamon

 

We would all like to encourage beneficial insects into our garden and one of the easiest ways we can do this is to grow wildflowers.

Wildflowers are plants that are uncultivated and are found growing in the wild.

Wildflowers can be incorporated into existing borders or sown in large swathes or meadows. Different flowers need different care so this is something you will need to think about when choosing your plants,it can be difficult to choose as there are so many different mixes available.

Wildflowers are available to buy in different ways, you can buy seed mixes, plug plants or as a turf with wildflowers seed already sown into it.

What types of wildflower are there.

Annual Wildflowers

Cornflower

Field poppies

Corn marigold

Annual wildflowers are usually very colourful but they will only last a growing season, they take around 8-12 weeks to flower but they do put on a colourful display, annuals will die back with the first frosts, they do however self seed very freely.  You can harvest seed to sow the following year.

Perennial wildflowers

Ox eye daisy

Red campion

Meadow buttercups

Perennial wildflowers differ from annuals as they will continue growing year after year, they may not be as showy as the annuals but they are reliable, these are best grown from plug plants and a huge selection is available from plants for shady spaces to plants that will grow on the side of a pond.  Cut back perennial wildflowers in Autumn and they will grow again in spring.

Biennials

Foxgloves

Hollyhocks

Forget me nots

There is another group of wildflower plant and these are biennials, these plants flower every other year, producing green leafy growth in one growing season and flowering the following year, they can be raised from seed or plug plants

 

If you’re looking for a fun way to sow seed maybe you could try seedballs, these are clayballs that contain a mix of wildflower seeds, peat free compost and paprika ( to keep the slugs and snails off), you simply scatter these onto prepared soil, keep watered and within a couple of weeks they should start to germinate, these can be great in pots or window boxes if you don’t have a garden and will help to provide food for bees and butterflies.

 

Pesticides in the garden – Try to avoid using pesticides if you can

In CategoryLorna Sinnamon
ByLorna Sinnamon

 

Any one that has a garden knows that you will always have unwanted visitors, from snails and slugs chomping on  fresh new growth to aphids and blackfly infesting our roses and vegetables. As we are becoming more aware of the long term effects of chemicals on the environment we need to start looking at different methods to control these pests,

Here are a few tips that may help.

Identify what the problem is, it’s far easier to find a solution if you know what you are dealing with.

Try to avoid using pesticides if you can.

There are lots of methods you can use to deter and get rid of pests in your garden,start with  good housekeeping, keeping your garden clean and tidy and allowing enough space for plants to grow in an area that is suited for them will give stronger plants that will be less likely to be attacked by pests, ensure that pruning, feeding and watering is carried out at the right times and that this done correctly, this will keep plants healthy, any pests can be removed by hand or even blasted off with the hose pipe (taking care not to damage the actual plant).

Use a biological control, this means introducing natural predators in your garden that will go after pests, these work really well for aphids, mealybug and slugs.

If you really need to use a pesticide, only use new products and only buy as much as you will need. Make sure you follow the instructions to minimise environmental damage and as with any chemical always store in its original container out of reach of children.

When using pesticides use correct equipment, don’t use more than recommended as it’s not going to work any faster and may cause damage to your plants and surrounding areas.  Don’t spray on windy days as the chemicals can be carried onto other plants and into water and this can be harmful to animals and birds.

When you have finished make sure you rinse everything thoroughly, do not dispose of this into the drain as it can affect the water supply, simply pour your rinsings onto the taea you treated.

You can dispose of old pesticides at a local recycling centre and empty well rinsed ready to use containers can be recycled, and concentrate containers  can be put in normal domestic waste.

Have a go with the non chemical treatment for pests and see what works best for you not only will you save money you will help to save the environment too.

 

How to select and care for houseplants

In CategoryLorna Sinnamon
ByLorna Sinnamon

House plants in the home not only add to the overall look and feel of your home they can also have many benefits that we might not realise.

Choosing plants.

There is a lot of choice in garden centres  and supermarkets so how can you choose the right plant for you and your space. Here are few questions to ask yourself when selecting a plant.

 

Do I want the plant to look good all year round?

Chose foliage plants if you are looking for a year round display, plants such as ferns and palms do well. If you are looking for something just to bring a little colour for a short period orchids and bromeliads are easily available.

 

How much time do I have to look after my plants?

If you live a busy 24/7 lifestyle easy care is a must, Mother in laws tongue and succulents are good choices.

 

Where will the plant be placed?

Think about what room it is for, somewhere with high humidity like a bathroom would suit a croton, where as a shady room would be ideal for the double z plant.

 

What do plants need?

Plants have 6 basic requirements, and if you get these all in balance then your plant will thrive.

WALNUTS…

Water

Air

Light

Nutrients

Temperature

Soil/Space

If your plant starts to look poorly you should check you are getting these right first.

 

Plants for a specific purpose.

Purifying air,

Plants are natural air purifiers and can absorb chemicals from the air such as formaldehyde and benzene that are released from things like paint, cigarettes and solvents.

Some of the top air purifying plants are

Mother in laws tongue

Peace lily

Spider plants

 

Reduce stress

Many studies show that if you have plants on or near your desk at work can reduce stress and improve productivity, some have even shown that they can reduce heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory problems.

 

Aid sleep

Certain plants in your bedroom such as Jasmine and Lavender can have a gentle soothing effect at bedtime.

 

Improve mood and wellbeing

Plants stimulate all our senses with bright flowers, colourful foliage, beautiful scent and velvety leaves, a plant creates an inviting and welcoming space to be in, looking after nurturing your plants and watching them grow can be very rewarding.

 

Caring for your plants.

Watering there is no rule for watering  house plants, some like lots others like hardly any and this is where most people go wrong, you want to see your plant grow so you water and water and then end up with a dead plant, this is where it is important that you do a little research and look at how the plant would grow naturally and try to adapt your watering schedule accordingly, a desert plant like a cactus should not need more than a few spoons of water through the summer and virtually nothing over winter.

 

Feeding, It’s always good to give your plants a little boost especially over their growing period of spring and summer, but don’t over do it, too much can burn the plant as it will not be able to process the nutrients quick enough, every couple of weeks is usually enough but always follow the directions.

 

Position, make sure your plant is in the right position most houseplants dislike direct sunlight but they all require some natural light so rooms without windows and hallways can be challenging for plants. Think about temperature too, most house plants require an even constant temperature, central heating and air conditioning blasting on a plant can have a negative effect. Make sure your plants have enough space to grow if they are constantly being brushed by people and pets the leaves can become damaged and unsightly.

Cleaning and dusting, it is really important to keep your plants clean and dust free,plants have small pores on their leaves that they ‘breathe’ through so it’s important to keep these clear,  and is simply done with a damp lint free cloth, it’s an activity that is often neglected but very satisfying to do.

 

Growing Media, make sure that your plants are growing in the correct type of soil, a succulent such as a money plant will need a free draining compost and will rot away if planted in a water retaining multi purpose type compost, again a little research will help you find the right mix. Hydroponic ways of growing are becoming popular and this has a lot of benefits of being able to know the amount of water and nutrients your plants are receiving, as they are grown without soil they are much cleaner.

 

Now that you have been looking after your house plants and they are growing you could be faced with the problem that they are getting too big, it’s really easy to pot them on into larger pots, or you may want to think about dividing them up into smaller plants that you will be able to pass on to friends and family.

If you’re feeling adventurous you may want to start propagating your favourite house plants, Geraniums for example can be grown easily from cuttings that can be taken in spring and by summer you will have an established plant, Mother in laws tongue can be propagated by cutting off the tip and placing that in a  pot of loose compost, begonia rex, can be propagated by leaf cutting, with a tradescantia you can cut off the shoots and leave these in a glass of water for a couple of weeks until they sprout roots which can then be transplanted into pots, the spider plant and probably the easiest of all produces little plantlets than can be easily removed  placed in a pot and then grown on.

 

All you really need to get started with your house plants is a little knowledge, a little time for their care and some patience, remember there will be casualties along the way but that may be because they are just not suited to the environment and not through anything you are doing wrong, try again with a different plant.

 

Earthworms Friend or foe

In CategoryLorna Sinnamon
ByLorna Sinnamon

 

Earthworms are essential to our garden, worms burrow through the soil creating pockets for ventilation and drainage and this improves the soil structure, worms break down decaying organic matter from the surface like leaves,dead plants and animal manure this process releases the nutrients into the soil and increases the amount of fungi and bacteria in the soil. In an acre of healthy farmland there can be up to 1.75 million worms.

There are different types of earthworm in the UK, our common earthworm (Anecic) burrow vertically into the ground leaving casts on the soil surface at the entrance, there are also the non burrowing type that live on the soil surface such as the brandling or tiger worms that are used in womeries, be careful the burrowing type worms are not suitable for the wormery, another worm you may come across are non native flatworms from New Zealand that are a predator feeding on our earthworms.

So our hardworking earthworms seem to be the gardeners friend, unless you have a lawn, as the worms burrow and make there way into the soil they leave casts on the surface of the lawn  it does not take long for your carefully tended lawn to become a muddy mess, so this leaves us with the problem of wanting to keep our worms but not wanting the casts on our lawns, what can we do about it without using harsh chemicals?  The traditional method of waiting for a dry day to sweep off the casts using a besom broom is good but with a busy lifestyle we need to look for an alternative. CastClear have produced a non hazardous nutrient based deterrent to reduce the casts on your lawn and breaks down naturally into the soil. Casts start appearing from February so if you want to improve the health and longevity of your lawn without harming our earthworm population, this may be an alternative solution to the perennial problem of worm casts.

 

Creating a mediterranean style garden

In CategoryLorna Sinnamon
ByLorna Sinnamon

If you are looking for a reasonably low maintenance garden that can cope with stresses of climate change maybe a mediterranean style garden might be worth some consideration.

When you say mediterranean garden to someone they will have their own idea of what that may mean, for some it’s terracotta pots, brightly painted walls and vibrant plants, for others its more muted with soft foliage and fragranced plants. Whatever your vision here are a few tips to get the look.

Let’s start with the plants,

Olive trees can be grown in pots or as a large specimen and they can really create a statement, with their gnarled trunks they look incredible lit up at night,

Lemon trees can be grown as standards in terracotta pots to sit on patios or outside doors.

Oleander and Bougainvillea with their bright colourful flowers delight the senses, they may not be hardy enough to survive our damp winters so growing these in pots will make them easier to move inside.

Conifers such as Juniperus ‘Skyrocket’ or Cupressus Sempervirens add height but be warned some can reach up to 80ft in height so always check the label for information.

Palms can add an exotic touch to the garden and the Trachycarpus fortunei and the chamaerops humilis both do well in the british climate.

Succulents such as sempervirens, sedums and agave add to the look and require very little care once established.  

Let’s add some colour with plants such as cannas, agapanthus, osteospermum, santolina, crocosmia, gaillardia, rudbeckia, verbenas, salvias the choice is only limited to your imagination, but don’t forget must have geraniums for pots and windowsills.

No mediterranean garden would be complete without scented plants and some to consider would be Rosemary or Lavender and of course trachelospermum jasminoides that releases its heady scent on summer evenings.

Mediterranean life revolves around food so rustic tables and chairs for dining al fresco are essential.

Provide some shade to escape the midday sun with a Pergola it’s also perfect to grow climbers such as wisteria, honeysuckle or jasmine.

Use gravel, stones, slate or large pebbles as a top dressing over your soil.

Hopefully these ideas that can help you start to plan your garden with a mediterranean influence for additional help check out our MyGardenTeam service and our one day gardening courses carried out in your own garden.

 

Free garden plants for creating some winter interest

In CategoryLorna Sinnamon
ByLorna Sinnamon

 

If you are looking for some winter interest in your garden I would highly recommend planting some dogwoods, these shrubs can provide a stunning display of brightly coloured stems throughout the winter months, whilst the variegated varieties can provide interest throughout the year.

Dogwoods can produce stems from dark purple to bright yellow so whatever your favourite colour your sure to find something you like, one of my favourites is Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ this has individual stems of  yellow blending into orange then red like a flame, when this is planted en- masse it produces a magnificent display. Other varieties to check out are Cornus alba sibirica for intense bright red stems, Cornus Sanguinea for light red stems Cornus alba Kesseringii will produce dark dramatic stems and the Cornus sericea Flaviramea will give you lime green stems.

To ensure that you have a cornus display every winter it is important to know when and how to prune them, when your first buy a plant you will need to let it establish for the first year, after this you can start to prune your plants,  in order to get lots of long colourful stems in winter you need to cut back the old stems back to approximately 15 cm from the ground in spring, Mid-March to mid April, it may seem harsh but this will allow a full growing season for the new stems to develop.

What can you do with all the bright colourful stems now, if you are creative the cornus stems can be woven together to make attractive plant supports or something else you could try would be hardwood cuttings, these are so simple,

Choose a straight stem about pencil thickness

Take a cutting of approximately 25-30cm

Look at the bumps on the stem these are the nodes and this is where the plant will grow from.

At the bottom of the cutting make a cut straight across UNDER a node.

Count four nodes up an make a slanted cut ABOVE a node.

You have your cutting.

Now you can put these in the ground in an undisturbed area or put them in pots in a gritty compost mix, plant them with about 2/3rds of the cutting in the ground.

Forget about them now and after few months they will have rooted and started to grow into new plants.

This is a simple way to get free plants  from your garden that you can either plant in other areas or give away to family and friends, so give it a try.