Tag Archives: compost

Penny’s gardening blog – preparation tips for spring

Spring is finally here and although it has been rather wet and cold, we are now approaching the busiest time of year in the garden. 

Feed your soil: The most important task in any garden, be it a vegetable garden, herb garden, ornamental, cutting or even a container garden, is to look after the soil. I am totally insistent on composting in all the gardens I work in, mostly for this very reason, but also as it provides an area to recycle waste from your garden in the form of your lawn clippings, weeds, leaves, some paper and cardboard too, plus kitchen waste such as veg and fruit peelings and puts it all to really good use. All this, if managed properly, will make great compost to feed your garden with and improve the structure and fertility of your soil.

 

I won’t bore you too much as I have already written a blog about composting (see here), but if you are keen to start composting, or want to improve your techniques this link will help you gain more knowledge. I have known Nicky Scott for about thirty years, around here he is renowned as being the ‘Devon Composting Guru.’ He is also an accomplished musician and I remember being very impressed when I noticed a large sticker on his guitar case promoting composting. This is my kinda guy!

Weeding: If you already have a compost heap, this is the time of year to empty it out and feed your soil with it. 

Image

Digging compost out of the heap, ready to spread

 

Before spreading your compost, it is essential to thoroughly weed your beds, digging out any perennial weeds.

Dig between existing plants looking carefully for weeds, such as bindweed, buttercup, couch grass and nightmare of nightmare, the worst of all, in my eyes…. the dreaded ground elder. I have some appearing in various areas of my garden and am slightly obsessive about weeding it out. Once it gets a hold you are done for. Time to sell the house and move elsewhere!  I spent a couple of hours digging it out, lifting clumps of perennials and teasing it out. 

Becoming familiar with these weeds is a good idea so here are some pictures of just a couple of the worst. In my next blog I will add more:

Know your weeds!

Bindweed roots

Image

Ground elder

Image

 

Growing veg?

If you are growing veg this year you need to prepare the ground. Some of you have ordered our veg, herb or flower grow your own kits to kick start the season.  If you are still thinking about it, hurry, do not procrastinate and avoid disappointment as we have limited numbers. The veg box to grow starts being delivered on the 21st April, so now is the time to get busy.

Feeding the soil is key to your success in growing anything.  Weed your beds and apply compost from your heaps and for extra fertility, some well rotted organic farmyard manure. This is particularly important to growing veg and should be spread a few weeks before planting and sowing. Chicken pellets can also be used.

If you’d like to ask me any questions, comment here and I’ll get back to you.

Penny

In my next blog I’ll be sharing tips on how to divide perennial clumps and what to plant now for summer flowering, check back here or look out for news on our social media.

Follow us: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram.

 

In Penny’s gardening blog – how to make use of those fallen autumn leaves

Image.

Autumn

The leaves this autumn are spectacular. I don’t know about any of you, but I have a tendency to get a bit down towards the end of September. The nights drawing in, everything coming to an end in the garden and the thought of a long, cold, damp winter fills me with dread, gloom and doom.

But once the leaves have turned I force myself out of my sorry state of mind and there is nothing more cheery than a good walk in the local woods. I am lucky enough to live close to Hembury Woods, which skirt the River Dart and is full of many ancient trees. It is predominantly a western oak woodland with a wet alder wood in the valley. There are plenty of silver birch, beech, holly and hazel. The colours alone are so uplifting that the experience of walking amongst these trees really gets me into the spirit of autumn and winter, hot fires and chestnuts, big scarves, thick socks, woolly hats and all those sorts of things.

Image

Leaf Mould

My point is there are lots of leaves falling off the trees at this time of year. Raking them up is a good idea and why not make some leaf mould which makes a great soil conditioner when left to rot over the winter and ready for the summer.

You don’t want to put leaves onto your compost heap as they are slow to rot down. If you have space, make a separate heap for leaves alone or otherwise a put them in a black plastic sack with holes punched in the bottom.

Some folk rake all the leaves onto the lawn first and then mow them up, which chops them up a bit. You can mix them with some lawn cuttings too to help speed up the rotting process a little. Either way is fine.

Put the leaves in heavy duty black bags. Once filled, pierce the bottom of the sacks and put them in a corner out of the way and by next summer you should have some good leaf mould. This is a great low nutrient soil conditioner and can be spread onto your flower or vegetable beds or added to pots and tubs. It will improve the structure of your soil.

Next gardening blog

I am going to give you tips on putting your gardens to bed for the winter and what you can do in your kitchen gardens to prepare for next year. I will also make suggestions on things to plant now for a spring display.

Penny’s Gardening Blog – Ground and Site Preparation

Penny's Gardening BlogIn My Gardening  Blog This Week

I will be covering ground preparation and tools and kit needed. As the weather has suddenly turned arctic and the ground is pretty frozen in many parts of the country there is really not a lot one can do in these conditions. No one in their right mind would willingly stomp forth into their garden brandishing fork in one hand and bag of manure under the other arm. I really feel for the field workers out there picking leeks and kale etc. Come rain or shine they just get on with the job. So I am going to introduce composting into the arena too. This is a massive subject so-introduction- I mean.

Ground and Site Preparation
Now is the time to choose a site in your garden, if you haven’t one already. I am a great fan of pinching some of your lawn, redesigning your garden so that you can have a go at growing. Lawns are great, yes, but take a lot of care and are not half as rewarding as producing flowers, veg and herbs for your table, in my opinion.

A decent amount of sun and light are needed to grow successfully. Good well drained ground is a bonus but you can do a lot to improve your soil and its make up by adding well rotted manure and your own compost made from veg and fruit peelings and waste from your garden. Weather permitting, now is a good time to get out there and dig out perennial weeds such as docks, dandelions, couch grass, buttercups and the like.  Spread some well rotted manure and any rotted compost from your own compost heaps and lightly dig in. Covering the ground with plastic sheeting or even cardboard will warm the ground slightly and stop weeds from germinating.

Recommended Kit

Fork, spade, hand trowel, hoe, watering can with rose, hose and bucket, plant labels and pencil, fleece, well rotted manure.

gardening blogComposting

To make compost you need to build up a good mix of nitrogen rich waste from your garden such as grass clippings, annual weeds and carbon rich materials such as newspaper, cardboard and bark. The smaller the material is chopped up or shredded, the faster it will decompose.  Fruit and veg peelings from your kitchen may be added but no cooked foods or proteins should be used as these attract vermin. Clippings from pruning can also be added but nothing too woody. Ash from fire places and woodstoves can also be added too. Turn the heap regularly as air is an important factor to encourage decomposition. Be careful not to add huge amounts o lawn clippings at once as you will end up with layers of slime.

There are lots of different compost bins available on the market and it really depends on the size of your garden/outside space as to what is suitable for you. Just make sure to place straight onto soil, no plastic is needed at base as its good to encourage the worms up out of the ground to work your compost for you.   If you only have a patio a wormery is perfect and takes up very little space. If you have a large

garden, building your own heaps out of wood (old pallets are ideal) is the way to go. Having two compost heaps side by side is best, as you can fill one up and leave to rot and then start building the second one.

Avoid putting in perennial weeds, especially bindweed, couch grass and ground elder.  Also avoid adding diseased materials and weed seed heads. These should be put in the dustbin. Make sure to add layers of different materials and water if looks too dry. Cover with old carpet or plastic. The level of the contents will drop as it rots. This process happens faster in the summer when it is warmer. It really depends on how you keep your heap as to the speed of decomposition. Over the spring/summer period you can produce good compost within four to six months. It’s a slower process over the autumn winter months. When ready add to your garden and lightly dig in. This will improve the make up of the soil and adding nutrients and fertility.

In My Next Gardening Blog

I will look at propagating from seed and suggesting some easy varieties to try.

Read the rest of Penny’s Gardening Blogs