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Your Ultimate Guide to Compost

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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?

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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.

 

How to Start Growing Your Own Vegetables

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How to Start Growing Your Own Vegetables

 

February is a fantastic time to prepare your garden and greenhouse for spring, whether you’re sowing or planting there is a large variety of plants you can continue to grow, or newly introduce. Often being the coldest month of the year, growing in February can be touch and go depending on where you’re located in the country. As a result, it’s always best to leave the sowing of seeds to later in the year if the ground is particularly frozen or waterlogged. However, if you can start working on your garden, our handy little guide will help you on your way, read along to find out how!




If you’re looking to sow seeds, the very first thing you must do is ensure that the ground is suitable for the seeds you’re sowing. No matter what type of soil you have, one thing you can do that will benefit your plant growth is supplement the soil with compost. Compost will provide vital nutrients and minerals, which are essential to plant growth, while also helping to retain moisture and making the ground generally easier to work. There are numerous ways to produce your own compost, from using a hot composter, a wormery, and more. This ensures you can have a fresh supply, of perpetual compost all year round.

To prepare your ground for sowing there are a few small steps you can take to make the most of the soil in your garden or allotment:

 

  • Remove weeds from the site you intend to sow your seeds. At this time of year there may not be too many weeds taking root, but you may start to see a few sprouting. There are a few ways to make sure that weeds don’t return, the most effective being to remove the weed in its entirety, root, and all, if there is even a small part of the root left it can potentially grow back.
  • The site for sowing is also incredibly important, different plants will have varying needs in terms of shade/sunlight, so check this before sowing. Generally, you want to choose a spot which won’t be affected by strong winds, and that receives an adequate amount of light.
  • Break up the soil using a garden fork, this can help with moisture drainage, you can also remove any large stones or debris at the same time. You want to aim for the consistency of breadcrumbs for the most effective soil, take some of this soil from the ground and mix it together with your compost, reapply this mix to the top of your soil.  
  • Depending on how many varieties of plants you are sowing, you can arrange your seeds in what is known as drills, these are rows made in the soil which differ in depth (depending on the type of seed being planted), this can help to arrange your plants effectively and maximise the space available to you.

 

Once your seeds are in place, you’re going to want to keep a careful eye on them as often as possible, the re-emergence of weeds, frost, and insects, can and will cause issues. To repel pests, we recommend alternatives to harmful chemicals and pesticides. One of the most effective ways to keep your garden pest free is by embracing the biodiversity that is present in most gardens. Frogs, birds, and hedgehogs all love to feast on slugs, so they do a great job at keeping the most common pests at bay. Read our guide on increasing biodiversity in your garden to find out more.

Keep an eye out for any weeds that come back, if you see any hints of them simply remove them by hand, if possible, this will keep the root intact when you pull it out. Alternatively, you can also use a hoe to remove them.

Frost will potentially become an issue this time of year, one way to protect your seeds from the cold is to employ some cold protection, such as a cloche or hoop tunnel. Not only will this retain heat around the seeds, but it will also stop them getting buffeted by wind. Once the seeds have started to grow you can also use a layer of mulch to insulate them further.

You can also sow your seeds in containers, which in many ways is similar to planting in the ground. Simply fill your pot or seed tray with a mix of compost and soil, firming down the top layer, and then placing your seeds at their required depth, cover lightly with more compost (some seeds may need more coverage than others). When you’re watering your seeds, the best approach is to use a spray bottle, or a watering can with a rose head (if you’re not familiar with these, they look like shower heads), this helps to avoid dislodging the seeds by avoiding large quantities of water all at once. One benefit to sowing seeds in a container is that you can keep them indoors, or in a greenhouse, until the weather becomes warmer, or until the plant is big enough to brace the cold weather, and then transplant them outdoors.

Transplanting plants comes with it’s own set of problems too, you want to prepare the ground first by creating a hole at least as tall as the root of the plants, and twice as wide, this will ensure there is adequate space for it to grow. Water the plant once more before transplanting it to the hole, this will help the soil adhere to the roots much easier. Once you have added your layer of soil and compost back over the roots, you’re going to want to maintain the soil be keeping it moist, when you start to see any sign of growth from your plant, you will know that the transplant was successful.

No matter how your seeds are planted, you might run in to the issue of overcrowding. If too many plants are growing close together there may be too much competition for light and nutrients, this will have detrimental effect on all the plants, so it’s best to remove any seedlings which are looking weak and keep the healthiest ones.



If you want to start sowing right now, or even next month these are some great choices of vegetables that will grow well this time of year:

Parsnips – 14 weeks to harvest


Parsnip seeds only last for a year, so be sure to use them if you’ve got them! If you want to increase the likelihood of successful growth you can pre-germinate the seeds prior to sowing them, this is achieved by mixing the seeds with compost and leaving in a small bag for a few days somewhere warm and dark. When you go back to the bag after a few days you’ll start to see evidence of growth. It’s then just a case of transplanting these to the outdoors.

Broad Beans – 15 weeks to harvest



Broad beans can grow very well with full sun coverage, being placed around 5cm deep and 25cm apart from each other. Due to their weight, it’s wise to provide some sort of support for the plants once they start to get larger. A pair of sticks and a suspended string is more than adequate to provide the support needed.

Salad Onions – 10 weeks to harvest



Salad onions are best harvested before they grow too large, when they are smaller they are much sweeter and easy to eat, once they get to a certain size the flavour becomes too strong to eat raw.

Garlic – 39 weeks to harvest



Keeping garlic well-watered is key to ensuring they reach a decent size, you will want to stop watering as soon as they become large, as any more water can instigate the onset of rot.

Shallots – 20 weeks to harvest



Shallots are prone to flowering, so the moment you see any starting to form it’s best to remove the flower entirely. This will prevent the shallot from expending energy into the flower and preserve it for the bulb.




Sometimes it’s not always practical or advisable to sow certain plants in February, instead there is always the option of planting, normally from a container or pot, as previously mentioned. There are several advantages to planting, rather than sowing, one benefit is that it makes it much easier to allocate space for plants, as you already have a good idea of the space they will take up, they will also grow quicker than starting from seed, so if the weather is particularly poor you can still make some headway. Conversely, plants will be more expensive than seeds, and you’re normally more limited with the range that is available.

Some vegetables which grow well when planted this time of year include:

Kale – 30 days to harvest



Kale is a particularly hardy vegetable, able to grow in almost any type of soil and soil conditions. However, soil should generally be more alkaline than acidic, if this isn’t the case you can always add lime to the soil to bring the pH level in line with what you need.

Tomatoes – 40 days to harvest



Tomatoes need a lot of sunlight so take care when choosing where to plant them, if light levels are waning you can always start the tomatoes indoors and use LED light strips to supplement their needs.

Chillies – 70 days to harvest



Chillies are best suited to being kept under cold protection if being planted outdoors and supported with a stake and string, so they don’t buckle under their own weight. Harvest them when green for a milder flavour, harvest when they are red for some bite.

Aubergines – 6 months to harvest



Spider mites are a common pest for Aubergines, one way to prevent this is to give the leaves a light misting a few times a day with a spray bottle. Remove any flowers that appear to ensure that energy is conserved.

Basil – 21 days to harvest



Once basil has fully grown, simply clip off the amount of leaves you need to use for food and more, this will allow more to grow, giving you a long-term supply for up to two years. Regularly harvest the leaves in order to encourage growth.





Whilst it is possible to grow the following vegetables outdoors this time of year, it’s advisable to keep them under cover, on a windowsill, in a cold frame, or in a greenhouse for the most part. One of the many advantages of growing in a greenhouse is that you can have a large degree of control over the temperature throughout the year.

Lettuce – 30 days to harvest



Lettuce needs at least six hours of sunlight per day, and adequate watering, try to maintain a gap of 8 – 16 inches between each plant to ensure maximum growth.

Carrots - 14 weeks to harvest



If growing in a greenhouse, it’s vital to make sure that any container used is deep enough for it. Any container that has a depth of between 6 and 15 inches is ideal for carrots.

Radish – 4 weeks to harvest



Radish’s quick maturing time makes them the perfect vegetable to grow in between other, more time intensive crops. Unlike carrots, they do not need a great depth to grow, 1cm is more than enough.  

Rocket – 4 weeks



Much like basil, rocket can be harvested as needed, simply cut off the leaves to the desired amount, and then wait for them to grow back. Taking too much off of the leaves can cause the growth to be weakened, so it’s best to allow time for leaves to grow back.

Runner Beans



One useful technique to help your runner beans grow to their full potential is a bean trench. A bean trench consists of a trench around 50 cm front to back, and as wide as needed for your seeds. You want to dig to a depth of around 30 cm’s and then start lining your trench with newspaper, this will help the trench to maintain moisture. The trench then effectively acts as a composter, with garden and food waste being added, if you’re not sure what type of items to add you can check out our composting guide here. Alternatively, you can remove some of your half broken down compost from any composters you have and add that to the trench. Simply cover the trench with soil once full, and then start sowing your bean seeds, not only will the compost provide the much-needed nutrients to your seeds, but the decomposition process will also produce heat, which is essential for this colder time of year.

The lack of light is one of the biggest problems this time of year, especially in areas of the garden with shade. One handy trick is to use mirrors or other reflective materials such as foil, to direct sunlight to those areas which are starved of sunlight, while this may not seem like it would make a big difference, it can be very effective.

Handy Tips:

  • Label your plants so that you know which section is which
  • Use a raised bed to keep your plants organised, and insulated from the cold earth
  • Use garden wildlife to your advantage, bees help polinate plants, and hedgehogs eat slugs
  • Mulch not only insulates but also helps to deter weeds from growing

Maintaining Your Plants in January

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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’.

Top Ways To Have A Sustainable Christmas

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Top Ways to Have A Sustainable Christmas

From Nut Roasts to Nutmeg, There Are Plenty of Ways To Have Your Greenest Christmas Yet

This year is the perfect opportunity to start living an eco-friendly lifestyle, with Christmas coming up there has never been a better time to focus your efforts on all things sustainable. There are many ways in which you can make your Christmas the greenest one yet, whether big changes or small, you can make a difference.

Sustainable Wrapping Paper (or fabric)

wrapping paper

Christmas wrapping paper is one of the more prominent items amongst the store shelves leading up to Christmas, but it seems awful wasteful to spend money on an item that is designed to be discarded. What’s worse is that some wrapping paper can’t be recycled, and those that can be aren’t always produced using sustainable paper sources.  So, whenever you can, always try to purchase an FSC certified wrapping paper, or alternatively you can utilise reusable wrapping materials such as fabric (and save them again for next year!). Sellotape can’t be recycled, so using a fabric wrapping makes even more sense.

Gifts That Last

gift

Similar to wrapping paper, gifts have become disposable in nature to so many people. When purchasing a gift, it’s always worth considering how long the item will last, or if it serves a long-term function.

If you can’t find any gifts which are long lasting you can always consider pre-loved items. Many charity stores will have treasure troves of used and unused items on display, so you’re sure to find a bargain or two, plus you have the benefits of saving a bit of money and helping a charitable cause. You can also re-gift previous ones you have received, there’s always going to be someone who can make use of those unwanted gifts!

Why not turn your hand to making something homemade? Nothing says thoughtful more than going through the effort of creating something yourself, plus you can reuse and recycle old items lying about the house for fresh new purposes.

Alternatively, you can opt for an eco-friendly gift, or a product which will enable a friend or family to start living a sustainable lifestyle.

Eco-Friendly Gifts

barrel water butt

There are plenty of eco-friendly gifts available, with many being beneficial in everyday life. Wormeries are a great project to start if you love gardening, they can be a prime source of vermicompost (the most effective type of compost), and they’re educational for the young ones too.  

A water butt will help supply your garden with water, so you can save money on water bills all the while helping to save the planet! Water butts don’t have to be plain either, there are many types which will find themselves perfectly at home within your garden, from clay effect water butts, to water butt planters, there’s ample choice to fit your style.

Our range of VegTrug products make gardening much more accessible, with easy to reach planters for any size garden, you can start providing your own home with fruit and veg in no time. These natural looking yet stylish products are sure to make a great gift.

Decorations

decorations

LED lights require less power than traditional bulbs, so if you’re looking to decorate your tree consider using them for an eco-friendly alternative. For many decorations you can go the DIY route, if you’ve got children this is a fantastic chance to get them involved too! Compostable decorations are becoming more and more popular, with dried oranges, bay leaves, and more working together to create an aesthetically pleasing garland, which smells nice too! A wreath is also easy to construct, with almost everything you need to make it being found amongst nature.

Sustainable Tree



You might be wondering just how eco-friendly a Christmas tree can really be? This is a reasonable concern to have, with the answer not being as clear cut as you might think. We all like to try and live as sustainably as we can, so even a small change such as swapping out one Christmas tree for another, can make a big difference. We have an entire guide about choosing a sustainable Christmas tree here.

Recyclable Christmas Cards

christmas card

Similar to decorations, you can also make your own Christmas cards from scratch, all you need is some eco-friendly card to get started. If you want to make it even more festive you can use some eco-friendly glitter, as the normal type isn’t recyclable. If you’re not that crafty you can also get hold FSC certified cards much easier than you used to be able to.

Food Waste

food

It’s no secret that Christmas day is notorious for producing vast amounts of food waste, but there are solutions to this all to common problem. The first and most obvious one is to simply reduce the amount of food you purchase in the first place; however, this isn’t always easy to do. So, if you do find yourself with more food than you realised there are several options available to you.

Adding your food waste to a compost pile is one way to dispose of it in an eco-friendly manner, and if you don’t have space in your garden for a large composter you could always use a kitchen-based composter such as a Bokashi Bin or Junior Wormery. For those with a bit more space in the garden there is the Aerobin, a hot composter which can produce usable compost within 12 weeks!

Vegan Christmas

vegan

One of the best ways you can help the environment is by switching to a meat-free diet. While there are no strictly defined practices of veganism, the core tenets of the belief include 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. There are plenty of vegan options available these days, it doesn’t all have to be tofu and nut roast! The UN states that meat and dairy livestock account 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.


Can You Compost Pasta

Can You Compost Pasta Header Image

Can You Compost Pasta?

There are many food items you can add to your composter, but is pasta one of them?


Today is World Pasta Day, a day to celebrate, promote, and most importantly: eat pasta! Established in 1995, World Pasta Day is now commemorated the world over, with some people choosing to set up and attend events, while others just choose to participate by cooking their favourite pasta dishes!

Food is a topic that we like to explore, whether it's growing your own food, or composting food, we've got a large variety of items to help you on your way. Today we want to explore the topic of pasta, and specifically it's use in compost.



Composting Pasta

pasta

Both cooked and uncooked pasta is perfectly fine to be composted. However, there are a few caveats to this which need to be explained.

If you are adding cooked pasta to a regular composter you need to be aware that without certain precautions it will attract pests and vermin. Pests can make your compost ineffectual, and all your hard work will go to waste.

Make sure that your compost container is sealed tightly with no way for pests to get inside. You can also make sure that any pasta added is buried under a pile of carbon rich materials such as leaves or cardboard, this will make it harder for pests to access, and more difficult for them to detect in the first place. Use an aeration tool to mix the pasta deeper in to the pile.

Pasta tends to be cooked with meats and dairy products, you also need to be careful when adding these to your compost. Usually it is better to add these sort of food items in moderation, as they are very prone to attracting pests. Hot composters such as the Aerobin use a process which speeds up compost production, so this becomes less of an issue.

Pasta Sauce

pasta sauce

One of the most common bases for pasta sauce is tomato, tomatoes are acidic by nature, and acidic foods can cause issues when it comes to composting. Small quantities are usually okay, but anything more substantial will need an alkaline agent such as lime mix to counteract the PH level of the sauce.

Uncooked Pasta

uncooked pasta

Uncooked pasta is ideal for composting, as it won't having any extra ingredients added to it, making pests uninterested. Due to the size of some pasta varieties such as spaghetti, it is advisable to break them down as small as you can before composting, this will speed up the decomposition process. 

Maybe you don't have the space for composter in your garden, but that shouldn't stop you from composting. There are a few options available to you, with most being able to be placed right next to your kitchen bin, making it all the more easier to dispose of your leftover pasta!

Bokashi Bin is one of the most popular choices when it comes to household composters. With a sleek and ergonomic design, it's sure to fit in to your kitchen cupboard, shelf, or counter-top with little fuss, with no smells and zero insects.

 

Sustainable Tips for World Food Day

Sustainable Tips for World Food Day Header Image

Sustainable Tips for World Food Day

Adopt an Eco-Friendly Attitude Towards Food with Our Handy Tips on World Food Day


Today is World Food Day, an important day in the calendar of all who seek to live sustainably! Across the globe, events will be taking place to highlight the importance of food growth and sustainability, especially when it comes to nations with food scarcity.

We can all do our own part to ensure that we adopt a sustainable and eco-friendly attitude when it comes to food. Here are just a few of the ways you can start.

Growing your own vegetables will save you money, time in the supermarket, and slash your carbon footprint. Portable containers, crates or pots are a perfect place to start if you don't have enough space for a dedicated vegetable patch.



grow your own

Invest in a greenhouse to increase your yield of fresh fruit and vegetables and to save space, you can grow legumes (runner beans, broad beans, French beans, and peas), squashes and pumpkins vertically. Use a smaller planter to grow salad leaves, herbs and tomatoes grow well on balconies and patios.

greenhouse

Buy a water butt to collect rainwater. There are many good reasons to install a water butt, particularly if you’re looking to save money on your water bills if your home is run by a water meter.

water butt

Filling your buckets and watering cans with naturally collected rainwater also means that you will avoid the use of chlorinated tap water, which can be toxic to plants. You'll also have a consistent supply of water to keep all your fruit and veg fed through any dry spells!

aerobin

Making compost is all about layers. Regularly adding alternating layers of green (nitrogen-rich) materials like grass cuttings, weeds, and uncooked vegetable peelings and brown (carbon-rich) materials like leaves, wood chippings, shredded paper and cardboard, and sticks allows the compost to truly thrive. Some hot composters such as the Aerobin can make compost in as little as 12 weeks.

Using nutrient rich compost can increase the quality and yield of any fruit and veg you grow.

Tips To Have A Sustainable Halloween

Tips To Have A Sustainable Halloween

Halloween seems to become more popular each year, with increasing numbers of families joining in on the festivities, it’s a time to get creative and showcase your spooky side.

Pumpkins are a natural and iconic part of Halloween, but there are also many elements of Halloween celebrations which highlight ecologically unfriendly practices. To help you have a more sustainable Halloween, we’ve put together some useful tips!

Carving a pumpkin for Halloween has become a time-honoured tradition, starting in Ireland, and moving to the United States via Irish immigrants, it is nearly impossible to not see one adorning a doorstep on a late October evening.

However, the use of pumpkins during Halloween has become a large source for food waste, with an average of 18,000 tonnes being sent to landfill each year, but there are ways to prevent this.



Food

pumpkin pie

It’s all too easy to forget that Pumpkins are food, with a large variety of dishes being able to be made:

• Roasted pumpkin seeds are one of the easiest quick snacks to make and taste delicious! Simply use the seeds from the pumpkin and place on a baking tray in the oven. Cook with salt or sugar depending on your preference.

• Pumpkin Pie is another popular dish, utilising the flesh of the pumpkin as a pulp to make the pie filling.

• Pumpkin pie leather (also known as pumpkin fruit leather) is made by dehydrating the pureed pumpkin, a great snack while on the go!

• Pumpkin soup is a nice and simple dish to make, and perfect for the colder months.

Composting

pumpkin

Pumpkins make ideal compost fodder, just make sure to reduce the pumpkin into smaller pieces before composting, this will speed up the decomposition process. This is even more important when placing pumpkin waste in to a wormery, as too much food at once can cause problems for the worms. It is imperative to remove any traces of candle wax from the pumpkin before composting.  You can even organise a pumpkin smash, turning a laborious chore in to a fun filled activity for the kids!

Most Halloween treats and sweets can also be composted but it is ideal to always use them if you can, pass them on to friends, or donate them if you can’t eat them in your own household.

Growing

seeds

Pumpkins are filled to the brim with seeds, and if you’re not looking to compost or eat them, why not grow them?

• Take the biggest seeds you can find and aim to keep around three times the number of pumpkins you are looking to grow, this will give the plants a better chance to grow.

• Dry out the seeds for roughly one week, before storing them in a cool, dry place. Pumpkin seeds are typically sewn in the latter half of April, starting with indoor growth, and then planting outdoors later.

Utilising the benefits of Pumpkins isn’t the only way to have a sustainable Halloween, you can also adopt an eco-friendly attitude to Halloween costumes and decorations.

The Benefits of a Sustainable Christmas Tree

The Benefits of a Sustainable Christmas Tree

Each and every day we are drawing closer to Christmas, and of course no Christmas is complete without a Christmas tree. You might be wondering just how eco-friendly a Christmas tree can really be? This is a reasonable concern to have, and it’s one that we are going to address, and hopefully give you a better insight in to Christmas trees, and what type is right for you. After all, we all like to try and live as sustainably as we can, so even a small change such as swapping out one Christmas tree for another, can make a big difference.

Artificial Trees

artificial trees


Artificial trees are the biggest point of contention; can they really be sustainable? The answer isn’t quite as black and white as you might imagine. Most artificial Christmas trees are made a combination of plastic and metal components, with a large proportion being produced using PVC (a type of plastic which has a very negative effect on the environment).

Not only is PVC unable to be recycled, with 100% of it being sent to landfill in the UK, it also means the majority of artificial tress are made in China (where most PVC products are produced). This results in a massive carbon footprint to ship them to the UK, a footprint which gets bigger every year as the population increases.

In order to offset the impact to the environment, you would have to re-use the same tree each year for up to 20 years, which seems unlikely for most people, but not impossible. The other alternative is to buy a pre-loved artificial tree, which would be less damaging than buying a new one.

Real Trees

real trees


Some people may be concerned that buying a real tree may promote deforestation or unsustainable logging practices, however there are ways to ensure this isn’t the case. First, if you are looking to buy a real tree for Christmas, look for an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) approved tree, this means that it is from a sustainable source.

One extra benefit of buying a real tree is that during the growing period, the tree will absorb carbon dioxide, while the soil will also trap ten times the amount of C02 as the tree.

If you buy a tree with the roots intact you can also keep it growing for future Christmases, just make sure to keep it well watered and cared for while it is indoors during the Christmas period.

If you don’t want to keep the tree, or can’t, one of the distinct advantages of buying a real tree is that it can easily be recycled in a variety of ways, with mulch or compost being an effective way to dispose of it.

Christmas trees require more attention than most people think, dependant on whether you have it indoors or outdoors a Christmas tree will also have different needs. Some people are unaware that when a tree is cut at the trunk, within twelve hours a strong resin will form where it was cut. As most trees will be pre-cut it's important to cut the trunk again before placing it in it's pot. This will enable the tree to absorb any water you feed it with.



Contrary to what some may believe, plain water will be the best option for your tree. If you have a water butt available, this can give you a constant supply for watering your tree.

If you're looking to plant a Christmas tree in your garden there are a few steps for watering it:

• 1-2 weeks after planting, water daily.

• 3-12 weeks after planting, water every 2 to 3 days.

• After 12 weeks, water weekly until roots are established.

Prior to planting, the tree should be kept in a pot with adequate drainage to ensure it does not become waterlogged.

 

Which Flowers To Plant In Winter

Which Flowers To Plant In Winter Header Image

Gardening is a passion that is near and dear to our hearts, it is such a satisfying art, where the rewards commonly justify the effort. Of course, the Great British Summertime is a time of year for which we usually associate gardening, where the flowers are in full bloom, and the bees are out in droves.

We don’t necessarily equate gardening with the colder months, but that doesn’t mean that we have to stop gardening as soon as we see the first sign of frost, the very opposite in fact. The winter months can be a very productive time for flowers, so read through our list of flowers to plant in winter, and you too can make the most of those colder months!



Flowers To Plant

Tulips

Tulips have a tendency to grow fast, so avoid planting them too early as they may rise up too soon and freeze during winter. The time for planting tulips is quite broad, from mid-autumn until December is usually a good time, but sometimes even later will also work.

tulips

Daffodils

September is a great time to plant daffodils, but similar to tulips, anytime before December will usually yield results. Try to plant in groups or clumps, as they will look much more natural as opposed to being solitary flowers.

daffodils

Alliums

When planting the bulbs, make sure that the hole is roughly twice as deep as the length of the bulb, to ensure full growth. Alliums are fairly durable, so don’t require watering, the regular rainfall throughout winter will provide more than enough.

alliums

Hyacinths

If you want your hyacinths to bloom around Christmas time, its best to plant bulbs around September time. They’re a great addition to any garden, especially near to paths or doorways due to their particularly impressive scent. Due to the size of the flower heads, it’s recommended that they are supported by a small structure or stake, this will prevent collapse.

hyacinth

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle requires a lot of sunlight to produce full flowers, it will also need plenty of watering during the drier days, at least until it has had a chance to grow. Afterwards it is very easy to tend to, and only needs pruning if it is growing too large.

honeysuckle

Foxgloves

It is important to note that foxgloves are poisonous, so it’s imperative to keep pets away, especially if they are prone to eating plants. Some varieties of foxglove can grow in complete shade, which makes them ideal for the darker winter months, where sunlight is scarce. Foxgloves require very little care, which makes them a very low-maintenance option. The effects of the coldest weather on the plant can be prevented by using a fleece jacket.

foxgloves

Delphiniums

Delphiniums will benefit from a layer of mulch to keep them warm through the winter period. It is best to plant them in a place with minimal wind, as they are prone to collapsing if over-stressed. Soil must not be too dry, as the delphiniums will suffer.

delphiniums

Bluebells

Bluebells are very resistant to being planted at the wrong time of year, however it is still best to plant in late autumn and winter, and they fare well in shade. Bluebells can even be planted in clay soil, provided that it has been enhanced with compost.

bluebells

Crocus

Crocuses need full sunlight during the winter months, with close spacing between bulbs allowing them to grow as a group. Well drained soil is best for crocuses, with cold temperatures being ideal for their growth, due to their natural resistance. Of course the cold weather can make the ground much more unpleasant to be kneeled on for long periods, use of a kneeler or garden board can alleviate some of the worst effects of cold and wet ground.

crocus

Camassia

Camassia are very tolerant to all soil types and acidities, perfect if you have diverse garden conditions. During winter they will need a layer of mulch to keep them insulated, at least for their first year, afterwards they can adapt to the cold. They are even tolerant of damp conditions, due to their origins of growing near to streams.

camassia

All your winter planting tools and requirements can be found here.

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