Tag Archives: organic

Getting Rid of Those Aphids

Have had loads of inquiries about how to deter Aphids without using chemicals.

Aphids
You could plant onions, garlic, coriander and french marigolds to put them off (incidentally they love Nasturtiums so perhaps planting these could attract them away – works to keep caterpillars off your cabbages too, but I always feel so sorry for the Nasturtiums! )

Nasturtiums
Before I suggest other stuff though, emphasise that I’m not trying to sell you anything it’s just that we do have various remedies because that is what we’re all about, using nature’s natural stuff to help solve problems.
Firstly there are bio controls  http://www.thenaturalgardener.co.uk/aphids.php these are mainly little wasps that get stuck in, they are only suitable for greenhouse application though, but they certainly won’t sting you !
Secondly we have had a lot of success with Neem Oil  http://www.thenaturalgardener.co.uk/pure-organic-neem-oil.p… this is quite thick though and you keep on having to shake the sprayer, coating the leaves and stems really helps ( though some people think it’s smelly.)
Then there is a solution made from boiling soap nut shells  http://www.thenaturalgardener.co.uk/soap_nuts.php, let it cool and spray all over.


We have heard of people digging in banana peel around plants, but a surest, most natural, method is getting lacewings, ladybirds and hoverflies into your garden and I have shown below just some plants that will attract them.

LadybirdlacewingHoverfly

(Always feel the Hoverfly gets a really hard time – whopped regularly because people think they are wasps!)

Achillea – ladybirds and lacewings

Alyssum – hoverflies

Alyssum – hoverflies
Angelica gigas – lace wings
Convolvulus minor – ladybirds and hoverflies
Cosmos bipinnatus – ladybirds and hoverflies
Daucus carota (Queen Anne’s lace)- ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies

Queen Annes Lace
Filipendulina – Ladybirds and lacewings
Foeniculum vulgare (fennel) – ladybirds and lacewings
Iberis umbellate – hoverflies

Iberis
Limonium latifolium (Statice) – hoverflies
Lupin – hoverflies
Petroselinum crispum (parsley) – hoverflies
Tanacetum vulgare (tansy) – ladybirds and lacewings.
Tagetes tenuifolia Marigold – lemon gem – ladybirds and hoverflies (This plant deters Aphids by itself.) 

Lemon Gem

There are some weeds that are also ideal to attract these good guys – Dandelions for example – but maybe that’s going too far (but I leave an entire patch ‘cos bees like them too!)

Have a great season.

Dreaming of …….anything but mud !

“Really welcome the seasons, each has its joys”, that’s what I’m supposed to say.

But really I hate being cold, surrounded by greyness and constantly having my wellies pulled off in the mud !

O.K., O.K. I know it’s essential, that this dormant period really is part of the overall ‘design’, and  so many plants needing the cold – but I don’t have to like it.

Particularly needed cheering up today as we have had to take down a lovely old apple tree that grew outside our back door.

People who know, practical people, said it was causing the cracks in the wall, causing subsidence ; they were right of course, practical people nearly always are.

But where are the blue tits and sparrows going to squabble when they wait in the queue for the bird table ?

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And what is that beautiful, wonderfully smelly, Musk Rose now going to grow up ?

Mind you, it was when I thought of this glorious, if short flowering rose, that I began to cheer up.

Cheer up by planning what plants, what climbers, I could plant on perhaps a trellis or pagoda to if not replace at least partially compensate for the loss of our old tree.

(And I’m sure the birds will squabble quite happily on the ‘cross’ pieces – sorry terrible pun !)

There are so many to choose from, and here is just a few ‘contenders’.

I love the fragrance of Woodbine (Lonicera periclymenum) and Fragrant Virgin’s Bower (don’t you just love the old names – we call it Clematis flammula)  although I know I would have to keep both under control.

             Clematis - Virgin's Bower

         ‘Virgin’s Bower’

But there are so many others, Forsythia Vermont Sun (Forsythia mandschurica), Chocolate Vine (Akebia quinata ), Lemon Vine  (Aloysia triphylla), Pink  Jasmine ( Jasmine x stephanese), a  lovely Honeysuckle (Lonicera delavayi )

                                              lonicera delavayi                                                            Lonicera delavayi

or then there are  roses: the ‘Dublin Bay’ with so many flowers, the ‘Maigold’  really cheering us up with early flowering and then on to ‘Golden Showers’ which will bloom well into the Autumn.

But then thinking about Autumn made me think of winter again, and was warmed by the idea of another Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), which blooms when Spring seems so far away.

  Winter jasmine

Winter Jasmine

Broadly though, for both colour and beautiful fragrances, I think I will concentrate on three particular families, Jasmine, Honeysuckle and Roses.

But which to choose ?

Think I have decide – for today at least !

Jasminum officinale ( Poet’s Jasmine – so much nicer than calling it ‘Common’ Jasmine) with its summer long white flowers would be wonderful, particularly if planted with  Lonicera x heckrottii ( Goldflame Honeysuckle) as both really release some wonderful fragrances in the evening – or white wine time as the period is also known . Evergreen ( ‘ish’ in the case of the honeysuckle) and easy to care for, both love the Sun but will tolerate a bit of shade at least – I just can’t be doing with fussy plants ( or kids !)

An added bonus is that birds love the red berries of the Lonicera, and so that got me on to roses, or rather rose hips.

One of our summer evening delights, as well as sipping chilled white wine surrounded by fragrant climbers, is watching the birds feed.

So next I think it will have to be, as I say for now at least, a ‘Francis E. Lester rambling rose.

This is a really tough, strong rambler which may need a firm hand and, as with most roses, you must watch out for the thorns.

But it is so beautifully fragrant in the summer, the dark foliage really setting off the pale pink and white flowers, and in the Autumn there are simply masses of small orange/red rosehips which the birds will absolutely love !

So these are my three choices on this particular grey winter’s day – birds, bees and us all catered for.

But I may have other ideas tomorrow !

The choices we have are so wide, and so wonderful, that thinking about planting new fragrant plants is a perfect way to put grey, damp, cold days into the background.

There is one thing about these winter days in this dormant period though, it is the best time to plant your bare root shrubs and roses.

Just drop me a line if you need any help, but one thing I would definitely recommend is organic Mycorrhiza for the roots.

(O.K. I know, we just happen to sell it http://bit.ly/mj7NKw  – but buy it anywhere you like because it really is one of nature’s ‘wonder drugs’ !)

On to tomorrow now…… perhaps on reflection something really practical would be a real boon, a real addition –  and I love the flowers of runner beans ….. sound of the bees ….

Runner bean 2

Autumn Preparation for Clay and Heavy Soil

It’s the ideal time to prepare your clay soil before it gets too claggy and wet.

Digging away on a sunny Autumn day but thinking about the Spring to come I find is a wonderful pastime, but it can also reap benefits.

Digging in those essential nutrients, and then using the winter to breakdown the soil, will give your Spring planting a real initial boost (that’s not to say you can’t plant things now – but that’s another discussion.)

When I say ‘digging’ I’m not a great fan of deep digging, or double digging for that matter. You are probably preparing your veg. beds or raised beds and neither will require backbreaking work, let the coming frosts do that for you! Try and remove any remaining weeds (but I do have a cunning plan) but then dig in as much natural manure (it need not be fully rotted) as you can find plus your green compost. To give an extra boost I would be very tempted to dig in some organic soil improvers like seaweed granules http://bit.ly/nYipdT and some biochar http://bit.ly/KlvCYg ( but leave specific fertiliser and growing aids like wormcast extract http://bit.ly/1BQJxOC until you actually plant.)

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Turn the  soil enough to give a spread to your natural additions, but again do not break your back by digging in too deeply, a fork is probably best for the task. (An old gardener once said to me “Dig for brassicas, and you’ll keep the green grocer happy” – nothing against green grocers mind!)

Just let nature take it’s course over the winter period, breaking down your soil and integrating all your organic help into its structure.

Remember though that nature is not really that fussy about which plants grow, and weeds are certainly very ‘successful’ plants which will probably arrive before you are ready to plant your vegetables so my cunning plan is why not cheat a bit? How about covering the soil you’ve prepared with a mulch you can easily clear away when ready, and will also improve the ground a little. It may be easier for me as I mainly grow in raised beds, but I apply a layer of straw and grass cuttings then cover with hessian to keep out the light and prevent new weeds both arriving and existing ones germinating (yep, they will be there!)

The winter storms will try and blow your cover and mulch around a bit, but I peg it down using any old thick, short sticks I can find.

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Just before I finish loads of people have asked me about biochar. I was introduced to it by a lovely, young (she made me feel very old) Oxford Professor Cécile Girardin when we took part in the http://www.bigbiocharexperiment.co.uk/)

If you would like to know more about this ancient organic gardening aid take a look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNM4CNiSeKE where not just one but three Oxford professors explain it all.

biochar

It’s Time To Take Those Cuttings

The best way to increase you garden’s stock is to nurture cuttings into healthy, organic and sustainably sourced plants ready for the spring.

We did want to offer some input in your plans, which all gardeners know is needed if you’re going to spend your time efficiently, but watching cuttings grow into healthy plants is one of our favourite parts of gardening. Isn’t it just amazing how a whole plant can continue to grow from a small cutting and become a new, individual member of your garden?

It’s not all about beauty and replicating your favourite plants. By taking cuttings you’ll add extra insurance for your Lavender, Rosemary, Bay, Caenothus in case of a severe winter, and that’s only a few of the plants that would be damaged or lost over the cold months.

If you’re pushed for time, concentrate on the tender plants to take your cuttings from. It’s also a lot warmer to stay in the green house around now, and you will have already stored up your tender plants ready for the winter, so it’s a good place to start.

We’ve found the best mixture for cuttings is about 15 per cent sand, 20 per cent biohumus and about 10 per cent biochar added to the equal balance of peat-free compost. It’s always worth carefully watering out air pockets and sprinkling Mycorrhizal Fungi to help boost root production before spring.

If you do get a bit nippy inside the greenhouse then we know a great trick to turn two plant pots into an incredible heater. All you need is a couple of candles, honestly. If you’ve never tried this trick or have no idea what we’re talking about, have a look at the video below on how to create one of these incredible, eco-friendly heaters.

 

If you do want to venture out to plant some cuttings then it’s a good time to take some semi-ripe cuttings. Try to get material that’s soft towards the tip that has a hard green stem and a semi-wooden base or heel. The heel will be an important source of food that facilitates the cutting to develop an adequate rooting system.

Most of the cuttings can be placed in coir trays in a cold frame or green house. Find some form of heat to come from below Heathers, Salvia, Hebe and Penstemon.

Although tender cuttings will need to remain in the warm until the following spring, semi-ripe cuttings need only be protected from the severe cold and frost inside the glass frame or greenhouse. They need a lot of sunlight and on milder days in mid-winter, you could also ventilate the area.

We’ll be out taking cuttings this weekend ready for the cold. If that is what you’re planning then please keep us updated with how it’s all going. It’s always lovely to read your messages with number fingers during a tea break!

Planting Bare Root Trees and Shrubs (Including Roses)

Now is the season of greyness and damp – but interspersed with wonderful clear, crisp days of sunshine and light which makes you just makes you want to shout ‘I’m alive’.

Sorry, getting carried away !

It is also the beginning of the season for planting bare root trees and shrubs, including roses.

Own Roots David Austin Roses.

When you shrub arrives (the one shown is from David Austin) or you have bought it home from the garden centre, first take off all of the covering. I then soak it in a bucket of water for a while, couple of hours should do it.

While your roots are having this long drink, prepare the hole where your shrub is going to to thrive.

It shouldn’t be too deep, just the length of the root plus an inch or so, but wide enough to give the roots room to spread easily. The best guide is to gently spread the bare roots out, and make the hole 3 to 4 times the width of the ‘spread’. (If you are a bit worried about the soil getting waterlogged, then add some drainage, some gravel or even old broken pots will help.)

I would then line the hole by forking in a good dollop of green compost, or well rotted manure if you have some. It would not hurt either to give the ground around a bit of compost/manure too – those roots are going to spread.

Now at this stage I have a secret ingredient – mycorrhiza fungi  – I never plant without it now particularly as it is so economical, you can read about it on http://bit.ly/mj7NKw  . Sprinkle just enough, a good desert spoon should do it, all around the area where your bare roots will go (or you could put the plant in first then sprinkle over the roots.)

You could also, as I do, gently fill around the roots with biohumus (wormcast  http://bit.ly/1iACO26 ) before, also gently, refilling the hole with soil. You want to try and eliminate any air pockets but do not start jumping up and down on the soil, it’s therapeutic I know but unnecessary.

I water in in stages as I’m filling the hole, but that’s my choice. Fill in the hole completely, then tread the soil around, but do make sure there is plenty of moisture to give that plant a good start. (That’s why I like to plant early in the winter planting season, I do not want the water to freeze in the soil.)

A mulch mat – http://bit.ly/1vneI5M  – would be a great help now, not just stopping weeds taking away nourishment around the planting area but keeping the ground just that fraction warmer (although cold is necessary, icy ground is not normally a help to young plants.)

Easy peasy.

You have just  given your plant an extra start in life by using totally natural, organic aids – making really sure it grows strong and healthy.

Now indoors to warm your hands around a nice cup of tea, and think of the Spring!

Stop Those Leatherjackets & Scale Insects Now!

Daddy Long Legs climbed out of the ground and really started partying early this year.

It may be a charming little creature but the bumbling, clumsy Crane Fly’s but their larvae are called Leatherjackets and far from charming, these little critters will destroy your lawn. After all, Daddy Long Legs party hard but have yet to discover birth control!

If you’re a lawn lover then now is the best time to apply bio-controls to prevents these pests from desecrating your pride and joy. The window to do this is pretty small, and is only going to last for another couple of weeks. After that the ground will get too cold for the nematodes (nature’s natural bio control) to function. If you don’t do it now, your lawn could end up looking like this…

lawn

You could apply the nematodes in spring when the ground begins to warm up again but that’s also when the Leatherjackets will be getting into their stride. Their ‘jacket’ will also be pretty thick by then, so you will have to apply twice the amount of nematodes to ensure they’re effective.

You can see a bit more information on this underground situation here but we’re always happy to answer any questions if you contact us.

One more thing, loads of people are mentioning that scale insects are really prevalent this year. We don’t really know why, as they don’t get around much, but the problem with scales is that they seem pretty impervious to pesticides. They literally run straights off their backs.

Bio-controls really are the only answer, both a ‘lady bird’ Chilocorus nigritus and some specialist wasps are pretty effective (if your pesticide residue doesn’t knock them for six). There more information on this too here and here but again, if we can answer any questions just ask.

Now, get back to enjoying this lovely Autumn!

Sustainability or organic – which is more important ?

Most of us tend to choose organic, if the price differential isn’t too much !
But recently I’m beginning to wonder, what is more important, sustainability or organic certification ?

Leaving aside the debate as to the provenance of some approved organic treatments, copper sulphate for example, is the lack of an ‘organic’ tag putting us off sensible, sustainable practices ?

For example, we start all of our plants in a compost blend of wormcast and coir – full of good stuff and it’s nice and light. http://bit.ly/ipAEbW

We first experimented with this compost ( and then became totally hooked) when we found out these  worms are fed on waste paper collected from offices and organisations around Herefordshire ( where the worm farm is) plus farm manure, green waste and especially grown comfrey. An ideal way of recycling waste stuff, and fits perfectly with our objective of using ‘Nature’s Natural Cycle’

You cannot get organic waste paper though ! So what’s more important do you think ?

We also think that people need sustaining a bit to, that’s why our coir pots, produced from the waste husk of coconuts, are made for us by ladies in southern Sri Lanka. http://bit.ly/k8GGjI

It’s quite a cottage industry too, for the ladies of the area, to collect all of these waste husks but again can we be sure they are all organically grown ? (Although the ‘ Sri Lankan Coconut Development’ certifies they are.)

We have decided though that the benefits to the people of a poverty stricken area, the saving in the use of plastic and the returning of stuff back to the soil it came from ( that’s that ‘Nature’s Natural Cycle again)  outweighs the benefits of ‘organic’.

Most of what we sell though is, in fact, organic, everything from Neem fertiliser http://bit.ly/mvVNuF to Soap Nut Shells http://bit.ly/iJ98KQ ,but if we have to choose between sustainable practices or organic certification – we’re more and more coming down on the side of sustainability.