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11 Garden Facts you didn't know

11 Garden Facts you didn't know

11 Interesting Facts About Your Garden

  1. 20'000 slugs live in your garden 

  2. Hydrangeas can change colour from PH levels in soil

  3. Vanilla Beans are from an orchid variant

  4. Apples and Strawberries are types of Roses...

  5. Baking soda can sweeten tomatoes

  6. Butterflies prefer weeds to flowers

  7. Music helps plants grow

  8. A sunflower is not just one flower

  9. A teaspoon of soil contains more organisms than people on the planet

  10. Pumpkins are fruits

  11. Peanuts are not nuts

 

1. 20'000 slugs per average UK garden.

Over 390 billion slugs live in UK gardens. There are on average up to 20'000 slugs per garden in the UK, 200 per square metre!

2. Hydrangeas can change colour from PH levels in soil

A more alkaline soil (PH 7+) will result in pinker blooms, while more acidity (<PH7) will produce blue blooms. Blue tones can be found by adding organic matter to your soil, like egg shells and coffee grounds. Overtime the balance will change. 

3. Vanilla Beans are from an orchid variant

The vanilla orchid (Vanilla planifolia) produces vanilla beans and is the only orchid that produces an edible fruit. The vanilla orchid is not the only interesting variety; oncidum hybrid (Sharry Baby) is said to smell like chocolate, the cymbidium Golden Elf smells lemony, and the phalaenopsis violacea has a cinnamon scent.

4. Apples and Strawberries are types of Roses...

Apples, strawberries, pears, peaches, cherries, raspberries and more of the rose family and cousins of the classic red rose.

5. Baking soda can sweeten tomatoes

By reducing the acidity of the soil, tomatoes sweeten their taste. However, it is a delicate balance where a high PH can produce a healthy plant with no tomatoes. The balance of acidity and sugar determines the sweetness and smaller varieties will prove to be sweeter on average. Genetics play a large role in natural sweetness but some say baking soda works. 

6. Butterflies prefer weeds to flowers

Trading beauty for scent, butterflies will navigate towards nectar regardless of how visually appealing your garden may be. Research by the Smithsonian Institute, discovered popular flowers have been bred for enhanced colour and size, but at the cost of fragrance in the process. Therefore, untouched and non-selectively bred weeds, like dandelions and clovers, are actually more interesting to butterflies. As a bonus a natural weed garden will not contain pesticides, even better for our pollinating friends. 

7. Music helps plants grow

As Prince Charles discussed, "I just come and talk to the plants, really. Very important to talk to them; they respond." As with most fables and tales of time, the story is based on some fact and adapted over the years. Studies have shown, vibration, like music, or a voice can affect plant growth. As shown on Myth Busters, the comparison of a silent greenhouse to one with a vocal soundtrack, found that plants with vibrations grew more. 

Studies from 1848, by Gustav Fechner in the book Nanna (Soul-life of Plants) stemmed the subsequent research into the matter. A 2007 paper from South Korea's National Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology proposed that two genes involved in a plant's response to light—known as rbcS and Ald—are activated by music played at 70 decibels (conversation level). The higher the frequency, the more active the genetic response. However, a Canadian research paper revealed seed germination was only influenced at 92 decibels. 

Marini of the Korean research states, "Plants exposed to wind produce a growth-retardant hormone called ethylene, which causes the plant to be shorter and to have thicker stems. So plants exposed to wind can better survive very windy conditions." Wind or vibrations could therefore be one and the same in their influence of plant growth adapting to potentially volatile environments and requiring a genetic growth response to survive. 

8. A sunflower is not just one flower

The classic brown center and even the yellow petals are actually 1,000 – 2,000 individual flowers. The large petals are individual ray flowers, which do not develop into seed. Pollination and seed development are contained to the brown area taking about 30 days from the time the last flower is pollinated to maturity.

9. A teaspoon of soil contains more organisms than people on the planet

If you ever wondered how organic material decomposes so quickly in the garden, especially in non-domestic areas, the level of organisms existing in that space may explain it. 

Table 1: Relative Numb​er and Biomass of Microbial Species at 0–6 Inches (0–15 cm) Depth of Soil
Microorganisms Number/g of soil Biomass (g/m2)
Bacteria 108–109 40–500
Actinomycetes 107–108 40–500
Fungi 105–106 100–1500
Algae 104–105 1–50
Protozoa 103–104 Varies
Nematodes 102–103 Varies

10. Pumpkins are fruits

Similar to avocados, pumpkins not vegetables but fruits, because they produce seeds. This also works the other way with Rhubarb, a vegetable.

11. Peanuts are not nuts

Peanuts are actually legumes like beans and lentils. This may explain why they have more protein, niacin, folate, and phytosterols than any nut... as they are not nuts. This demotion of nut status comes directly from the National Peanut Board.

Growing Wellness | How Gardening can Benefit Your Mental Health

Growing Wellness | How Gardening can Benefit Your Mental Health

Growing Wellness: How Gardening Can Benefit Your Mental Health

Gardening is a fantastic activity for your mental health. It has been proven to reduce stress, increase positive feelings, and improve overall well-being. Research by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) found that living with a regular view of a green space provides health benefits worth £300 per person per year.

This article explores the many ways in which gardening can benefit your mental health, as well as providing practical tips and advice to help you get the most out of your gardening experience. Whether you're just green or an experienced green thumb, we'll provide you with all the guidance you need to maximise your hobby and reap the mental health benefits.

 

The benefits of gardening on mental health

Research has shown spending time with plants and being in outdoor environments can have a positive impact on our mental wellbeing.

 

1. Reducing Stress and Anxiety

Firstly, plants themselves have the ability to reduce stress and anxiety. Simply being around greenery and natural elements has a calming effect on our minds. This can help to lower our heart rate and blood pressure, leading to a greater sense of relaxation and tranquillity.

 

2. Physical Calming of your Body

Gardening can be a low-intensity exercise and mindfulness practice. Digging, planting, and weeding all require physical effort, which can help to release endorphins and improve our mood. Focusing on the act of tending to plants and being present in the moment can serve as a meditative practice, towards mindfulness.

 

3. Boost your Mood to Fight Depression

Sometimes, the British weather can put a downer on your spirits. Being outdoors and connecting with the natural world can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve your self-esteem, and boost overall mood.

 

4. Gardening with Friends

Finally, gardening can also provide social benefits. Joining a gardening community or participating in group gardening activities can make you less lonely or feel isolated, especially if you live alone or away from family.

With so many benefits, no matter the weather, gardening could be your solution to a happier, healthier life. So why not grab your trowel and get gardening for the sake of your mental well-being?

BucketBarrow URBAN88 Wheelbarrow Kit

How plants can reduce stress and anxiety

The National Institute for Health Research found that people who spend time in the garden report better physical and mental health levels than those who do not [1]. More interestingly, the specific health benefits were similar to those of the wealthiest and poorest countries, suggesting a multitude of long-term benefits for life expectancy.

 

Green Neighbourhoods

Research has shown that plants have a remarkable ability to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Being in the presence of greenery and natural elements has a calming effect on our minds, helping to lower heart rate and blood pressure. Just imagine the feeling of sitting in a peaceful garden, surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers, feeling the weight of the world melt away. It's like a natural therapy for the soul.

The Natural Environment Survey shows a positive correlation of improved wellbeing based on people's reported contact with the natural world, including parks and fields.

But how do plants actually have this effect on our mental well-being? Well, studies have found that simply looking at plants can induce a relaxation response in our bodies, releasing endorphins and promoting a sense of tranquillity. The colour green is particularly soothing to the eye and is often associated with feelings of calmness and harmony. It's no wonder that so many meditation and relaxation apps use nature sounds and imagery to create a peaceful atmosphere.

Furthermore, plants have the incredible ability to purify the air, removing toxins and releasing oxygen. Breathing in clean air has a direct impact on our mental health, improving our mood and cognitive function. So, by filling your living space with plants, you're not only creating a beautiful environment but also promoting better mental wellbeing.

The Global Centre for Clean Air Research at the University of Surrey, reported trees and hedges reduced pollution by diverting, diluting or capturing pollutants. Small leaves, high foliage and either evergreen or semi-evergreen varieties were best.

Whether it's a small potted plant on your desk or a full-fledged garden in your backyard, surrounding yourself with plants is a simple yet effective way to reduce stress and anxiety. So, why not bring a little bit of nature into your life and let the plants work their magic on your mental well-being?

 

Maze 55 Litre Composting Cart

The perfect companion to the small and portable composting cart to follow around the garden with 55L of capacity for plants, soil, tools everything you need.

  • Stays low to the ground to make the collection of compost easier
  • Can sit under the composter to collect nutrient-rich liquid
  • Easily transports ready-to-use compost around your garden
  • Strong and sturdy design
  • Removable handle for storage

 

Gardening as a form of exercise and mindfulness practice

Gardening is not just a hobby; it's also a great way to incorporate exercise and mindfulness into your daily routine. When you're out in the garden, digging, planting, and weeding, you're engaging in physical activity that can help release endorphins and improve your mood. Plus, being active in the fresh air and sunlight is beneficial for both your physical and mental well-being. It's a win-win situation!

But gardening is more than just exercise. It can also serve as a form of mindfulness practice. When you're tending to your plants, you're fully present in the moment, focusing on the task at hand. This helps to quiet the mind and bring a sense of calm and tranquillity. As you engage with nature, you become more in tune with your surroundings, and the worries of the day seem to fade away.

So, the next time you're in the garden, take a moment to appreciate the physical effort you're putting in and the mental clarity it brings. Gardening is not only good for your plants, but it's also good for your body and mind. Embrace it as a form of exercise and mindfulness practice, and reap the numerous benefits it has to offer.

 

The positive effects of exposure to nature on mental wellbeing

Being exposed to nature has a multitude of positive effects on our mental well-being. Spending time in natural environments, whether it be a lush green forest or a peaceful garden, has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Being in nature allows us to disconnect from the demands of daily life and connect with the beauty and serenity of the natural world.

Exposure to nature has also been found to improve our self-esteem and boost our overall mood. It provides us with a sense of awe and wonder, reminding us of the vastness and beauty of the world beyond ourselves. This can help to put our own worries and problems into perspective, leading to a greater sense of contentment and happiness.

Furthermore, being in nature encourages physical activity and promotes a healthy lifestyle. Whether it's going for a walk in the park or tending to plants in the garden, being outdoors encourages movement and can improve our physical fitness. This, in turn, has a positive impact on our mental health, as regular exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

 

The social benefits of gardening

Gardening isn't just a solitary activity – it can also provide numerous social benefits that contribute to better mental health. Joining a gardening community or participating in group gardening activities allows you to connect with like-minded individuals who share your love for plants and nature. By engaging with others who have similar interests, you can form meaningful connections and combat feelings of loneliness or isolation.

Being part of a gardening community provides opportunities for social interaction, whether it's attending workshops, joining gardening clubs, or volunteering at community gardens. These activities not only allow you to learn from experienced gardeners and exchange knowledge and tips, but they also create a sense of belonging and camaraderie. The shared experience of nurturing plants and working together towards a common goal fosters a supportive and uplifting environment.

In addition, gardening can also provide a platform for social activism and community engagement. Many urban gardens focus on sustainable practices, organic gardening, and food security. By participating in such initiatives, you contribute to creating a greener and more sustainable community while engaging in meaningful social interactions.

So, don't underestimate the social benefits that gardening can offer. It's not just about plants; it's about connecting with others, building relationships, and being part of something greater than yourself. Get involved in the gardening community and reap the social rewards for your mental well-being.

 

Gardening for those with mental health challenges

For those who are dealing with mental health challenges, gardening can be a powerful tool for healing and finding solace. The act of nurturing plants and watching them grow can provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment, boosting self-esteem and overall well-being. Gardening offers a peaceful and therapeutic environment where individuals can escape the stress and pressures of daily life, allowing them to focus on the present moment and find a sense of peace.

Gardening can also serve as a form of self-care, providing a healthy and constructive outlet for managing emotions and reducing anxiety. The physical activity involved in gardening can release endorphins, improving mood and promoting a sense of calm. Taking care of plants and witnessing their growth can also create a sense of hope and optimism, offering a tangible reminder that even in the face of challenges, growth and renewal are possible.

Additionally, gardening can provide a sense of connection to the natural world, offering a sense of grounding and perspective. Spending time outdoors and connecting with nature can be incredibly grounding and soothing for individuals with mental health challenges, offering a sense of peace and tranquillity.

In summary, gardening can be a powerful tool for those with mental health challenges, providing a safe and therapeutic space for healing and growth. By engaging with nature, nurturing plants, and finding solace in the act of gardening, individuals can find comfort, resilience, and renewed hope. So, whether you're struggling with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health challenge, consider giving gardening a try and experience the healing benefits for yourself.

 

 

[1] Thompson, R. (2018). Gardening for health: A regular dose of gardening. Clinical Medicine, 18(3), 201-205. https://doi.org/10.7861/clinmedicine.18-3-201

The Ultimate Composting Guide for Best Results

1900 Litre Blackdown Range Triple Standard Wooden Composter With Lids

As we move towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle, composting has emerged as a crucial tool for managing our waste and helping the environment. Composting is a process of converting organic waste materials into a nutrient-rich fertilizer for plants, reducing the need for harmful chemical fertilizers that damage the soil and surrounding ecosystems. The best part? You can easily make your compost right at home, regardless of the space you have.

BEST SELLING COMPOSTERS

        

To get the best results from composting, you must have a clear understanding of the basics, from the type of materials you should include to how you should layer your compost bin.

Here is a guide that will help you master the art of composting and get the best results:

  1. Know What to Compost

To achieve the best results, it is important to know what kind of organic waste to include in your compost bin. Good sources of organic matter include kitchen waste, like fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and eggshells. You can also add leaves, grass clippings, and other garden waste. Make sure to avoid adding meat, dairy products, and anything that may attract pests and cause unpleasant odours.

 

  1. Use the Right Composting Equipment

The equipment you use for composting plays a significant role in determining the quality of your compost. If you have a small garden or balcony, you can use a compost bin or a compost tumbler.

Make sure that the equipment is well ventilated to avoid any unwanted odours.

 

  1. Maintain the Right Balance of Moisture and Air

To make high-quality compost, you need to keep a balance of moisture and air in your compost pile. If the pile is too dry, add some water, but avoid saturating it with water, as it will create an anaerobic environment that promotes the growth of bacteria. Similarly, if your pile is too wet, turn it frequently to increase airflow with a compost aerator.

 

  1. Layer your Compost Bin

Layering is an essential aspect of composting, and it helps in maintaining the proper balance of nutrients. Alternate the layers of brown and green matter. Brown matter, such as leaves, provides carbon, while green matter, such as food waste, provides nitrogen. A good rule of thumb is to add two to three parts of brown matter to one part of green matter.

 

  1. Monitor Your Compost

Once you have set up your compost pile, it's essential to monitor it regularly to ensure everything is working as it should. Your compost should be slightly moist and warm to the touch, with an earthy aroma. If your compost is smelling off or has any unwanted odours, it could be due to a lack of air or too much moisture.

 

By following these composting guidelines, you can create high-quality compost that can improve the soil quality of your garden and support a sustainable lifestyle.

It is essential to be patient, as it takes time to get your compost right.

Reduce Waste This Christmas by Using a Composter or Wormery!

If you've bought way too much Christmas food, you can also recycle your food waste by using a composter or wormery. Not only does this stop waste going to landfill, it also provides usable compost for your garden! However, there are limits to what types of food you can add to your composter. For most composters, putting meat and dairy products in is not a good idea, as it is the perfect recipe to attract pests and vermin. Using a hot composter is one way to avoid this problem, their accelerated aerobic decomposition process allows these type of foods to break down quickly, before problems can arise.

Christmas can make us realise just how many items are and aren't recyclable.It's always great to try and improve our efforts to become more sustainable.

Christmas is a time to get together with family and friends, celebrate the year behind us, and to look forward to the future. Another staple of Christmas is the food, and for all the wonderful roasts that are cooked over the festive period, there is unfortunately an excessive amount of food waste.

You can also recycle your food waste by using a composter or wormery. Not only does this stop waste going to landfill, it also provides usable compost for your garden!

Wormeries
Composting
Hot Composters
Kitchen Caddies

 

Most households tend to overbuy the amount of food they really need. Plan as much as you can in advance: how many people you need to feed, what their dietary requirements are, how much they typically tend to eat, etc. Once you have a good idea of this, you can calculate roughly how many of each food item you will likely need.

Reorganise your fridge and freezer in advance to make the most of the space available.

Fridge too full? Take advantage of the cold weather and store food items outside. Just make sure they can' be reached by rodents!

Take photos of the inside of your fridge and freezer, that way you will always know exactly what you have in there, and won't end up overbuying.

Protecting your Plants this Winter

Winter Plant Protection

Colder Months & Plant Protection

We know that it can be difficult to keep your plants safe from frost or snow when you live in a place like the UK where we have drastically different weather patterns across our small country, but don’t worry—we have some tips for protecting your plants regardless of where you live!

The first thing you need to do is make sure that your plants are adequately insulated by putting something around them like plant fleece to keep them warm at night when it gets colder outside. 

Looking for something to protect your plants in the colder months?

We have just what you need!

Our range of cloches are perfect for keeping your plants protected from the cold weather while still letting them absorb all that lovely sunshine! They're lightweight, easy to use and come in different sizes depending on how big your plant is. Plus they're really affordable too so there's no reason not to invest in one today!


You can also use a cold frame to keep your plants protected, think of a cold frame as essentially a mini greenhouse, you can get various types to go straight on the ground, or over plants, or you can even build your own one! 

Insulation

Besides using cloches and cold frames, it is wise to try and protect your plants for as long as you can. One way of doing so is by planting them deep enough in their pots - this prevents moisture from escaping from within. When summer arrives again, you can easily lift them out of their pots if need be.

The Top 10 Composters to Get You Started

Composting at home can help provide your plants with useful nutrients, and stimulate growth, while also increasing yields! Not only is this a useful way to improve your gardening, it’s also a fantastic way to dispose of kitchen and garden waste, preventing it going to landfill, and thus reducing your impact on the environment.

Composters come in all different shapes and sizes, and it’s not always immediately apparent which type will be suitable for your needs. Whether it’s large-scale hot composters, plastic garden composters, or small-scale kitchen composters, that's why we’ve broken down our top 10 composters to give you the lowdown of each and every one!

 

400L Aerobin Hot Composter - Brunswick Green

 

Our Aerobin Hot Composters are the ideal composting solution, with three different sizes (200L, 400L, and 600L) to fit any size garden! Not only can they speed up compost production, they're also easy to assemble.

With an Aerobin:

  • There is the potential to add meat, bones, fish, eggs
  • Usable compost is produced in as little as 12 weeks
  • There is no need to turn your compost
  • You can do all-year-round composting due to weatherproof insulation
  • There are no odours

An Aerobin is a great way to get started with composting, perfect for beginners who are hoping to get the most out of their garden, and what’s more our 200L Aerobin has double the capacity for the same price as other major brands.

 

220L Green Compost Converter

 

Made from recycled plastic, the Blackwall 220 Litre Compost Converter can help you to convert any garden or food waste in to useful, nutrient rich compost. It’s straightforward design in perfect for beginners, and easy to use. Due to its robust design, it provides a secure environment for compost, protecting it from vermin and pests.

This compost converter also requires no assembly, so simply remove it from the box and you’re good to go. An extra-large hatch located on the bottom makes removing compost easier than ever.

 

3 Tray Standard Tiger Wormery Black

 

Wormeries provide an efficient method of composting at home, as well as a valuable way to get rid of kitchen waste. A wormery is normally organised via trays, with the bottom tray housing the worms and any organic matter added to it. The worms eat their way through the organic matter (preferring rotting matter over fresh!) and produce worm castings in the process (worm poo). These castings are known as vermicompost, one of the richest and most efficient types of compost available.

There are also pet poo wormeries available, meaning you can turn your pets nasty brown mess into black gold. It is recommended that a wormery is kept under cover during wet weather and insulated or kept inside during cold weather. A wormery is a unique way to create usable compost, and it’s also a great educational tool for children, making great garden projects, ideal for young kids or schools.

Our wormeries are available in a variety of colours and configurations.

 

Maze 245 Litre Compost Tumbler + 55 Litre Composting Cart Set

 

The Maze 245 Litre Compost Tumbler and Cart set is an excellent way to speed up your compost production, with it’s two compartments you have the option to produce, as well as store compost. The principle of the Maze Tumbler is that unlike a traditional composter, the compost does not require turning with a fork, instead aeration is achieved by rotating the compost drum via a handle.

The act of turning the compost ensures that it is mixed, and that the heat contained within is distributed evenly. In a traditional composter this is only achieved by turning the pile, which when you’re dealing with a larger composter can be quite difficult. By allowing an even distribution of heat, the process of decomposition is increased, and therefore usable compost is created much quicker.

The included 55 litre cart makes the process of emptying and using your compost that much easier, simply turn the access hatches towards the ground, slide the cart underneath, and fill to the required amount.

We have a large variety of tumbler composters in addition to the Maze 245.

 

330L Green Johanna Hot Composter

 

Similar to the Aerobin Hot Composter, the Green Johanna is a more affordable hot composting solution. With 330L of composting space, you’ve got plenty to work with, and when it comes to composting, bigger is almost always better. The abundant amount of space helps to speed up compost production, and also gives you much more freedom to add organic materials as often as you like. Like the Aerobin, the Green Johanna composter is able to break down, meat, fish, and bones without any trouble.

When it comes to cold weather, hot composters fare better than most, however in certain temperatures you may want to add an additional level of insulation. Luckily, we offer a specific winter jacket for the Green Johanna which is tailored to fit the shape of the composter perfectly.

 

Gardening Naturally Dual Tumbling Composter 2 x 70L Cells

Like the Maze 245 composter, the Gardening Naturally Dual composter relies on the act of the compost being spun to produce compost. However, unlike the Maze composter, this one does not have a handle, which is reflected in it’s more affordable price point, this isn’t a reflection of its quality mind you. This composter is just as capable of breaking down organic material as most other composters.

Each chamber can be rotated independently, allowing you to keep one for storage, and one for production, this allows you to constantly have a cycle of compost production on the go.

 

260L Garden Compost Box

 

If you’re looking for affordability and capacity, you can’t go wrong with the 260L Garden Compost Box. Akin to a traditional wooden composter, but less prone to weathering due to its plastic construction, this composter does not rely on being airtight in order to break down organic matter, instead it requires turning and time.

It’s top loading lid, while not airtight, prevents rain from finding its way in. It’s easy enough to put together and compact enough to not take up all your free garden space.

 

Thermo Wood Composter 600L

 

Made from 100% recycled plastic, the Thermo Wood Composter is a hot composter with a wood effect finish. If you’re looking for a more understated, large capacity hot composter, then this is the one for you. This composter features ventilation openings on all four sides, concealed under the wood effect planks, this allows air to circulate through the compost – aiding in the decomposition process.

Due to its convenient easy lock system, assembling this composter can’t be simpler – no tools required.

 

315L CompoSphere Rollable Tumbler Composter Green

 

The CompoSphere is a tumbler style composter which is turned by rolling it on the ground, and while the capacity of it is a generous 315L, it’s still easy enough to move, even when full. With full UV protection, you can guarantee that it won’t be weathered over time, maintaining its look for years to come.

It’s ability to roll is a two-fold benefit, first of all it helps to mix the contents and break down organic matter, secondly it enables quick and easy movement of the CompoSphere, so you can apply your home-made compost anywhere in the garden, with little hassle.

Not sure where to start when it comes to composting? Click through on to our ultimate composting guide for more info!

Your Ultimate Guide to Compost

Your Ultimate Guide to Compost Header Image

begin your journey


Compost is one of the most important elements of gardening, a special ingredient that can completely change your gardening landscape. With some special attention, and proper application of compost, your garden can thrive, your plants will grow tall and vibrant, and your fruit and veg yields will increase!

Not only is compost easy to get started with, it’s also a free commodity with numerous benefits. You might be wondering just how to start composting at home, and why you should in the first place? Read along to find out more about composting!


The Benefits of Compost

 

  • Compost is a fantastic alternative to chemical plant feed, some of which can have long term detrimental effects on your soil, and the environment.
  • Compost contains all kinds of materials, one of which are microorganisms. These microorganisms are great at breaking down organic matter within soil, and thus help to feed plants. In addition to supplying plants with nutrients, these microorganisms also help to ward off diseases which can damage your plants.
  • Compost can help balance the PH level of your soil, aiding plant growth.
  • Compost can be produced using kitchen and garden waste, meaning that you can start making your own compost at home. Not only is this a great cost-free way of improving your garden, but it also ensures that less waste goes to landfill.

 


 

Now that you know why compost is beneficial, you might be wondering how to get started? The first thing to know is exactly what materials you can or can’t use for composting. Various composters will be able to break down different materials, so it’s important to know what type of composter you have.

One of the key ingredients to whether a compost bin will succeed, or fail, is the ratio of green and brown materials. Green materials are defined as materials which contain large quantities of nitrogen, including grass clippings, weeds, and kitchen scraps. Brown materials are defined as materials which are low in nitrogen and high in carbon, such as leaves, wood, and paper.

Where you place your composter depends entirely on your garden/home setup, generally it’s better to have your composter located on bare soil/ground, this will allow organisms such as insects and microbes easier access (which will help accelerate compost production). However, if you do place your composter on decking or concrete it will still function correctly. One of the great things about composting is that you can do it all year round, so there’s no better time to start than now!



Brown and green


Generally, you want your compost pile to have more brown materials than green, therefore autumn and winter can be very productive for composting, as there is an abundance of fallen leaves. A good rule to apply is that there should be two thirds of brown material, and one third of green material. Too much green material is normally accompanied by an unpleasant smell, so this is one way to know if you have the right balance of materials.




  • Meat, bones, fish, and dairy products are difficult to break down, so for most composters it’s not recommended to add them. Hot composters are much more capable of breaking this sort of food down, due to their aerobic decomposition process.
  • Adding too many acidic foods to your composter can also cause complications, especially if you are using a worm composter or ‘wormery’.
  • Pet poo is another material that shouldn’t ordinarily be added to composters, however you can use bokashi bran to break down animal waste, if you’re using a pet poo wormery.
  • Any time you add garden waste to your composter, there is the potential that seeds can start to germinate inside the composter. This isn’t usually a problem, as it is easy enough to identify and remove the shoots of any plants that start to grow.





Now, to actually start your compost, the process is fairly similar whether you have a compost container/bin or if you are starting to compost with an open top composter.

 

  1. Start by placing a layer of brown material at the bottom of your container.
  2. Alternate between brown and green layers.
  3. If your compost gets too dry you can always add water to it, similarly if your compost gets too wet you can add some more brown materials to absorb moisture. You want to aim for a moist but not wet compost.
  4. If your composter doesn’t have a lid, you’re going to want to cover it with something to protect it from the elements, and to keep the warm air in, such as a compost duvet.
  5. Most composters will require turning every couple of weeks, this will help the materials to degrade, and introduce air to the pile. Aeration and heat are key to breaking down materials quickly. If you’re using a hot composter or compost tumbler, this step is taken care of for you.
  6. Depending on your type of composter, your compost will take between 12 weeks to a whole year to be usable.
  7. You will know that your compost is ready for use by the feel and smell of it. It should be crumbly in the hand and have a rich earthy smell. If in doubt leave for a few more weeks before using.

 

 

Once your compost is ready you can either mix it in with your soil, or you can sprinkle it on top of the soil this can improve insulation during winter and help to maintain moisture. Mixing it in with soil is an effective way to make sure that plants get the nutrients they need, either way the compost will likely end up being mixed to some degree due to worms. Raised beds are an easy way to keep your ratio of compost and soil balanced, and your plants organised.

You can also use your compost for potted plants, simply mix it in with your potting soil. The use of compost with fruit and vegetables will greatly increase the yield of your plants, but if you are using pet poo compost it is best not to use this as you could contaminate your food.

Trees can also benefit from the use of compost, by adding compost to the roots of your trees you can ensure they grow faster and taller and will be more protected against disease. You can also add compost to your lawn to give it an extra boost, you’ll want to separate some of the larger pieces of compost from the mix first. This can be an effective way to boost your soil when mixed with traditional lawn care products.

 


 

While the process for composting is relatively similar no matter how you decide to do it, there are different types of composter available which require some slight differences in the way you approach them. Here are just a few of the different types of composters, this is by no means an extensive list, but there should be enough info here for you to make an informed decision as to which one is right for you. 




Hot composters are unique in the fact that very few of them require turning of the pile, instead hot composters rely primarily on aerobic decomposition, that is when organic material is exposed to oxygen.

Different hot composters employ this technique in a multitude of different ways, varying between manufacturers. One such hot composter is the Aerobin, which relies on a patented central aeration lung, this allows oxygen to become present throughout the composter, rather than at the top, or edges. Hot composters are much more efficient at breaking down certain types of organic waste than other composters, for example the Aerobin can break down meat and dairy.  

Compost production in a hot composter can be as quick as 12 weeks, so if you’re looking for a fast and efficient composting solution, you can’t go wrong with a hot compost bin.








 

Wormeries, or vermicomposters, are a different type of composting system which relies on the use of worms, specifically tiger worms (Eisenia fetida), to break down organic matter. Tiger worms, unlike earthworms, spend most of their life inhabiting topsoil, and don’t tend to burrow deep into the ground. This makes them ideal for composting in trays, as the shallow environment mimics the earth in which they dwell.

A wormery is normally organised via trays, with the bottom tray housing the worms and any organic matter added to it. The worms eat their way through the organic matter (preferring rotting matter over fresh!) and produce worm castings in the process (worm poo). These castings are known as vermicompost, one of the richest and most efficient types of compost available. Once the worms have finished in one tray, they will seek food in the tray above their current one, working their way through small holes in the bottom of the tray. This process ensures that the worms are always working in an upward direction, allowing you to harvest the rich vermicompost once they have left the bottom tray, this means that no worms are removed from the wormery in the process! There are also pet poo wormeries available, meaning you can turn your pets nasty brown mess into black gold.

One thing to keep in mind about wormeries is that they require more maintenance than a standard composter, without regular organic matter being added, the worms will look for food elsewhere and start to leave the wormery. As worms are living creatures, they also don’t tend to do too well in weather that is too cold or too wet, while this seems to be the climate of the UK, it is recommended that a Wormery is kept under cover during wet weather and insulated or kept inside during cold weather.












A bokashi composter
is a great solution for homes with small or non-existent gardens. An easy, no-smell and less messy method of home composting, bokashi composting is a quick fermentation process, originating in Japan. Unlike most other forms of composting, you can add anything to your bokashi bin—including meat and dairy, and you won’t need to turn its contents.

Most bokashi composters are small enough to fit on your kitchen counter, or cupboard, meaning that you can make it part of your kitchen routine when clearing food waste. Simply add your food waste to the bokashi bin with a handful of bokashi bran (a substance filled with beneficial microorganisms) and push down the material. Over time the mix will ferment and start to grow white mould, this whole process is generally odourless, with a slightly sweet smell being a possibility.

In opposition to hot composting, bokashi composting relies on the absence of air to work, therefore it is essential to keep the lid tightly closed whenever it is not being used. The pushing down of material is another element in forcing out air from the mix. Another difference is that once fermented (which takes around 30 days), it is not recommended to be added straight to soil for planting, instead it is best to bury it under a layer of soil for two weeks for a further breakdown of the material, which can then be used for planting.

One way to prepare your bokashi compost for planting is to start a soil factory, a separate area or container where you mix your bokashi compost with soil, leave for a few weeks, and then add to your garden for planting once it’s done. Using a bokashi bin can be a worthwhile investment!













A compost tumbler
is a barrel that can be rotated with a crank, or simply by rolling the barrel to aid the mixing up of your organic compostable materials. Using a tumbler for composting will lead to higher temperatures that encourage bacteria within the tumbler to break down your organic materials for compost which you can use within a few weeks.

Some composters come with multiple compartments so that you can store your ready to use compost, while still breaking down garden/food waste.











 

  • If your compost starts to smell very unpleasant it may be that there are certain foods being added which aren’t breaking down, or that there isn’t the right ratio of green and brown material.
  • Hedgehogs love to make their homes in compost piles, so be careful whenever you’re turning the compost. Encourage hedgehogs to nest elsewhere by utilising a hedgehog barn or house.
  • Worms will inevitably find their way into your composter, no matter what kind you have (provided it’s outside). This is no cause for concern, in fact it’s the opposite, worms will help to break down organic material and create worm castings (worm poo!), this is known as vermicompost, the richest type!
  • You can add accelerators to your compost to help speed up the decomposition process, some accelerators can also take the place of garden/kitchen waste in case you have a period where you have less of these.
  • If you start to see flies being attracted to your compost, check to see if there is any food waste which is uncovered. Simply add some brown garden waste on top of the food, this should stop flies noticing your compost.
  • Many composters will produce a substance known as leachate; this is a liquid which is essentially the runoff of moisture from the compost. Leachate can be used as a liquid fertiliser for your plants, but must be diluted first (a one to ten ratio with water is a good start, one part leachate, ten parts water).
  • Compost can last indefinitely but will start to lose nutrients after around four to five months, so it’s best to make the most of it once it’s ready to be used. If you’ve produced more than you need, you can always give it away to friends or family if they have a garden too, always encourage as many people as you can to garden naturally!

 

 


How Do You Use a Rhubarb Forcer?

How Do You Use a Rhubarb Forcer Cover Image

How Do You Use a Rhubarb Forcer?

 

At this time of year there are a multitude of crops which can grow fantastically, providing us with tasty and nutritious food that keeps us sustained, however there are other crops that either don’t grow that well, or at the very least need a little bit of help to reach their potential.

Greenhouses and cold frames do a fine job of nurturing our plants and ensuring their growth during colder weather, but it’s not always possible to use these due to space limitations, that’s where a rhubarb forcer can be useful. Don’t let the name fool you however, rhubarb forcers can be used on a large variety of fruit and veg, and we’re here to show you exactly how, so read along to find out more!

 

How Does a Rhubarb Forcer Work?

 

A rhubarb forcer works by limiting the light that reaches a plant, in many cases, and especially in the case of rhubarb, the lack of light prevents the plant from producing chlorophyll (which normally is what causes leaves to turn green). Chlorophyll is associated with a bitter taste, so by producing less chlorophyll the rhubarb naturally tastes sweeter. A secondary effect of light deprivation is that the rhubarb will expend more of its energy trying to seek any light it can, this produces long, stretched out stems, which are far less tough than their regular variety.

 

 

How to Plant Rhubarb

 

Rhubarb is regularly grown from crowns, but can also be grown from seeds, although this will take much longer, and be prone to more variety. If you plan to sow, any time between March and April will be fine.


 

Using a Rhubarb Forcer

 

Rhubarb forcing can happen anytime between November and March, many gardeners tend to start forcing around January/December time, as there is usually a lull in the gardening calendar at this time of year.

Once your rhubarb crown is established in its planting location you will need to cover it with the rhubarb forcer. You can also add insulation to provide even more warmth to the plant, and accelerate its growth further, plant fleeces, bubble wrap, or a rug will do the job.

Luckily, by covering the crown with the forcer, it also helps to prevent pests from devouring your crop too, although this isn’t likely to deter them 100%. There are plenty of methods to deter pests from consuming your hard work, one of the best and most ecologically friendly methods is by using the natural wildlife present in your garden to do the work for you! Check out our guide on making your garden wildlife friendly to find out more.

The entire growth process should take around 7 to 8 weeks in total, at which point you can start harvesting. Your plants should become very pale, don’t worry this is just a result of the light deprivation, and is a sign that all has gone well.

 

Harvesting Rhubarb

 

Rhubarb will be ready once its leaves have spread, and the stems are at least 30cm in length. Simply remove the stem from the crown at the base, it’s best to only harvest half the stems at a time, this will keep the plant full of energy for future growth, however it is recommended to harvest the remaining stems before the end of summer.

 

Other Crops to Grow

 

In addition to rhubarb, rhubarb forcers are useful for growing other fruit and veg too! Nearly any plant which can grow with reduced light can be forced for an early harvest. These forced versions can look slightly different to their counterparts which are grown normally. 

 

 

 

Choosing a Rhubarb Forcer

 

Rhubarb forcers are traditionally made from terracotta clay, making them heavy and prone to chips and cracks (especially in cold weather). While their traditional style is a sight to behold, their weight can make it difficult to easily move them around and store them. For this reason, we prefer a more modern take on the rhubarb forcer.

Our plastic Rhubarb Forcers are the perfect replica of a traditional clay design, but with a fraction of the weight (saving your back in the process!), they are much more durable too, meaning that even the worst weather wont cause cracks or chips. Their lightweight design also makes storing them much more straightforward – stack multiples on top of each other with ease. The use of UV resistant plastic also means that they won’t fade in the sunlight.





Our rhubarb forcers also come in a grey marble effect, this rhubarb forcer can add a style and class to your garden with it striking yet practical design.

 

 

Tips

  • Rhubarb leaves are toxic, so be careful not to harvest these for food. You can always add them to your compost pile to make use of them.
  • Bacteria and fungi can infect rhubarb (known as crown rot), avoid having mulch and other bacteria rich materials too close to the crown as they can be a major cause of issues.
  • If you do see crown rot (identified by a red/yellow/brown decay on the leaves, and possibly black or brown holes appearing), simply remove the infected stems and monitor the rest of the plant.
  • You can grow rhubarb in pots too, just make sure that the pot is at least 20 inches wide and tall.
  • Avoid watering rhubarb too much, this can cause the onset of rot. However, it will need water the most when it is newly planted.
  • You can produce your own compost to supplement your plant growth by using a composter.

 

For all your growing needs shop Original Organics.

 

Maintaining Your Plants in January

Maintaining Your Plants in January Banner Image

January is more often that not the coldest month of the year, and while we are able to wrap up warm and keep ourselves cosy indoors, the same isn’t quite as easy for the plants in our gardens. We also deal with vastly different weather across the UK, with some regions experiencing snow, while others only have frost.

We’ve got some handy tips to keep your plants going through this cold period of the year, no matter what weather you’re experiencing!

 

Protection

 

Cloches are a great way to keep your plants protected from the elements, whilst also being able to absorb sunlight. You can also use different sized cloches, depending on the size of plant you’re trying to protect. Cloches are usually fairly lightweight, so may need weighing down to avoid being blown away in strong winds, there are a couple of solutions to this problem. If your close has a lip around the edge you can weigh it down with your soil or rocks, another alternative is to use tent pegs to keep it anchored in the ground, as long as the ground doesn’t become too hard you shouldn’t have any problems removing these when the time to water your plants comes.

You can also use a cold frame to keep your plants protected, think of a cold frame as essentially a mini greenhouse, you can get various types to go straight on the ground, or over plants, or you can even build your own one!  

 

Insulation

 

In addition to cloches and cold frames, you want to try to protect your plants as much as possible, one such way you can do this is by placing your plants directly into the ground, but with their plastic pot still attached – this will help to insulate and protect the roots. When the warmer weather comes around you can always remove the pots to allow the roots to spread.

Mulch is another method of insulating your plants, simply place your mulch around the base of the plants to help retain moisture and heat. Using your own homemade compost is a cost-effective way of insulating your plants, as compost can be used as an effective mulch.

One way to insulate against frost is to utilise a fleece jacket for your plants, not only will this keep your plants warm, it also acts as a barrier to stop pests from destroying them. An ideal way to keep the cold at bay is through the use of a greenhouse, you can even set up regulated heaters to ensure a steady temperature, or use bubble wrap as insulation for a low cost alternative.

If you’re looking to grow rhubarb you can also use a rhubarb forcer, this will allow you to simulate the warmer conditions in which rhubarb thrives, even in the coldest conditions you’ll still be able to ensure a bountiful harvest, so you can enjoy a warming rhubarb crumble!

 

Indoors

 

Another method for ensuring your plants survival is by eliminating the outdoors entirely and bringing them inside. However, this process isn’t quite as simple as it sounds, temperatures can fluctuate wildly inside, depending on how your heating is set up, and how insulated your home is in general.  If you do decide to bring your plants indoors it’s best to try and set them up in a place where they can get enough sunlight, and where the temperature will stay fairly steady, nowhere near radiators or drafts.

Dust tends to accumulate indoors, and this can very noticeable as soon as you start bringing plants inside, as the dust can stick to their leaves. Depending on the type of plant this can start to inhibit their ability to photosynthesise, so it’s best to keep the leaves clean by using a damp cloth. It’s best to remember that plants will lose less moisture when their inside, in comparison to being outside, so the amount that you need to water them also decreases.

If you’re not sure what type of plants you can continue to grow or plant over winter, check out our guides to ‘Which Flowers to Plant in Winter’ and ‘The Best Veg to Grow in Winter’.

10 Sustainable New Years Resolutions

10 Sustainable New Years Resolutions header Image

Blog – New Year’s Resolutions

The new year has always been a time of renewal and rebirth, a time for new beginnings, that’s why new year’s resolutions have been so popular. You have the power to make changes in your life for the better, and what better way to start than by making a sustainable new year’s resolution. Help to make a positive impact on the environment, as well as in your own life, read along to find out how!

Christmas Tree



Start your new year with the right foot forward, by disposing of your Christmas tree in a sustainable way. Of course, this only works for real trees, artificial trees are generally made of PVC which isn’t recyclable. Many real trees unfortunately end up in landfill, where they release methane, a substance that is worse for the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Many local councils have a tree disposal system, where they will collect and compost your tree for free. You can also compost your tree at home, provided you can break it down small enough, a woodchipper is ideal but if you want to put in the effort you can also break it down with a saw.

The best option however is to replant your tree, provided it still has the roots intact, this is the most sustainable option of all.

Go Meat Free



January also coincides with Veganuary, a movement in the UK that challenges people to follow a vegan lifestyle for the whole month of January. For those that don’t know the core tenets of veganism are:

  • Living in a way which avoids exploitation and cruelty to animals.
  • This can be through food, clothing, entertainment, or any other purpose which requires animals

The UN states that meat and dairy livestock accounts for 14.5% of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions. This is roughly the same amount as all transport (car, ship, plane) emissions across the planet. Switching to a plant-based diet can cut emissions massively.

A plant-based diet may have the ability to lower your blood pressure. In a study of 89,000 people, those eating meat-free diets appeared to cut their risk of high blood pressure by 55 per cent but those eating a vegan diet had a whopping 75 per cent lower risk.

Research shows that we could feed an additional 4 billion humans if we grew our crops directly for human consumption, rather than feeding the crops to farm animals, and then consuming them.

Grow Your Own



There’s nothing more sustainable than growing your own food, even in winter there are so many fruits and vegetables that can be grown successfully. We’ve already posted our guide to growing winter vegetables, so if you missed that, you can check it out here.  One thing to keep in mind when growing plants in winter is that some plants do need more care and maintenance to protect them from the adverse weather. Plant fleeces, bell cloches, and hoop tunnels can provide the protection needed to survive through winter. If you have the space you can also invest in a greenhouse for all your growing needs.    

Avoid Disposables



Start your year with a pledge to avoid all single use plastics, the majority of which can be replaced with reusable alternatives. Many businesses have already phased out, or at the very least severely reduced their reliance on single use plastics such as shopping bags and straws. You can already start making these changes at home:

  • If you use straws often, try replacing plastic ones with metal straws. These can be cleaned and reused every time.
  • If you’re a coffee addict, try bringing your own reusable coffee container next time you head to Starbucks or Costa, most stores are more than happy to encourage customers to use their own cups (it saves them money in the long run too!).
  • Going shopping? Take as many reusable bags as you need with you, you can even get collapsible and easy to store bags that fit right in your pocket! So no need to worry about bags taking up space in your cupboard or car boot.

Shop Pre-Loved


Charity shops are a great source of several different items, whether it is clothing, toys, furniture, electricals, media, bric-a-brac, and more! With charity shops having to evolve with the state of the world, you would be surprised just how many high quality and brand-new items people donate to stores. Some stores also class themselves as ‘premium’ stores, and it’s much easier to find vintage and designer items than you would imagine.

Pre-loved items also works both ways, so instead of throwing away any items you no longer use, try asking yourself: could someone else make use of this? If the answer is yes, then it’s always worth contacting your local charity shop to see if it’s something they can sell.

Buy Local



If you’re in position to do so, try shopping locally. The carbon footprint of delivering items can be larger than you would think, and while it may not seem much on its own, the cumulative effect of items being delivered across the country (and globally) creates a larger environmental issue. You can also have double-whammy impact by walking or cycling to get your shopping and essentials.

Make Your Garden Eco-Friendly



There are a plethora of ways you can make your garden eco-friendlier, here are just a few ideas:

  • Use a garden composter to dispose of household food waste, as well as garden clippings, leaves, etc. You can then use this compost to provide nutrients to your plants
  • Utilise a water butt to harvest rainwater and create a sustainable source of water for your plants.
  • When buying furniture and tools for your garden, make sure to buy FSC certified products
  • Use sustainable alternatives to pesticides, not only will this benefit any garden critters in your garden, your plants and soil will benefit from avoiding harmful chemicals.
  • Make your garden wildlife friendly, bird boxes, bee hotels, hedgehog houses, and more can help maintain the ecological balance of your garden. Hedgehogs love to eat slugs, bees can pollinate your plants, and birds are known to pick at and eat unwanted weeds.


Conserve Water



Water butts and water tanks aren’t just for your garden; you can also use them to provide water for your home! Depending on the capacity of your tank or butt, you can potentially replace your entire household water supply with rainwater. On the lower side of the scale, you can start using rainwater for toilet water, dishwashers, and washing machines. Depending on your setup you may need alterations to your rain harvesting system, some tanks may not be directly suitable for supplying water to certain appliances or needs.

Shop Sustainably



When you’re doing your weekly food shop, plan ahead and stick to a shopping list. If you know exactly what you need before you enter the store, you can make sure you don’t waste money on food you don’t need. Supermarkets deliberately offer multibuy discounts and bulk food knowing that food will go unused, it is important not to buy in to this wherever possible, as most food will end up in landfill.

On the off chance you do end up buying more than you can use, you can always donate the food to a local foodbank or homeless charity.

Don’t Let Food Waste Go to…Waste



The majority of unused food waste and kitchen scraps end up going to landfill, whereby they contribute to pollution. There are a number of alternatives to this situation however, like the aforementioned garden composter. Kitchen top composters, bokashi bins, and wormeries are becoming more and more popular, with many being small enough to fit under your kitchen counter or cupboard. Simply place your food waste within and let nature do its thing.

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