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Knowledge Base

We have years of experience in producing and sourcing some of the finest topsoils and with this experience comes knowledge, so we thought we would share this knowledge with you in the form of our knowledge base.  

Below are several articles we have put together to help you understand and make the most of your topsoil and garden.

What is Subsoil?

The definition of subsoil 

Directly beneath the surface soil (topsoil) lies a layer known as Subsoil. Worn and weather-beaten, this eroded material is a salient part of the environment. 

The majority of subsoil is made up from materials that have undergone the leaching process. This process entails said materials being removed from a solid via percolation. Materials such as clay and sand are most commonly what it comprises of.

What are the properties of subsoil?

  • Less organic matter

Unlike its companion above, subsoil has a significantly lower ratio of organic material. As well as containing less humus, it also contains less plant nutrient content. This goes hand in hand as humus is very nutrient-rich. The smaller amount of humus contained within subsoil is carbon-based and has great longevity.

  • Diverse Colouring

A constant brown colour does feature consistently throughout the varying types. And a combination of brown-yellow or brown-red are the two widespread additional colours. And the colour of is also paramount to indicating the effectiveness of the drainage. The varying moisture levels are revealed easily to the naked eye. The brighter the better! When an increased amount of iron is oxidised it exhibits a more ‘rusty’ colour.

  • Minerals and Materials

For what it lacks in humus, it makes up for in rich minerals. Iron, magnesium and calcium are commonly featured. Roots are therefore rewarded greatly when they venture below the topsoil. And one process that can transfer minerals and materials from the topsoil to the subsoil is Surface runoff. This occurs when a heavy amount of stormy weather/rain hits. When the soil is overly saturated with water, the topsoil can suffer from a shortage of minerals. Because of the increased ratio of clay in the subsoil, a higher volume of water can be held. 

What is it used for?

  • Converting to Topsoil 

Consistent and concerted erosion can niggle away at the topsoil until a small amount if left. If this happens and a solution is needed - subsoil can step up! If a great quantity of organic matter is added, it is plausible. Manure is a popular choice and it must be mixed and combined with the existing matter thoroughly. 

Fertility is also a key aspect of the conversion process. And this can be achieved through liming. Once the conditions are correct for the change, it’s just a matter of waiting. Let the decomposing commence!

  • In Construction

With the advantageous ability that it has to drain water, it is often used in the construction industry. It stores moisture incredibly well as it is particularly dense. After building structures have been completed, topsoil is often added above. This is to encourage growth while giving the area high stability. 

One example of a functional structure created using it is an actual drain! The main purpose being to reduce the likelihood of dampness in buildings. Made from a combination of possible materials including plastic and concrete, they are incredibly effective. But it’s vital not to forget how integral the subsoil underneath is to this system.

Give your borders a winter holiday

We’ll all be catching up on some rest over the winter break, but how can you help your garden get 2019 off the best possible start?

Mulch

By mulching you can help improve drainage in your beds and borders, boost fertilisation and insulate your plants from frost damage. Using different materials for mulching can offer different effects: using bark chips can offer excellent protection from cold, while a sandier mulch can improve drainage and reduce moisture build up. Mulch can be anything- from dead plants to grass to stones. One useful tip: after the big day has passed use the branches of your Christmas tree! Pine needles are also an excellent compost for acid-loving plants.

Compost

Composting is a great solution for building fertility in your soil, using the winder months to recover from a year spent growing your plants. Use the right compost for your soil pH and build the right growing environment for 2019’s plants. Unlike mulch, you won’t need to remove the compost after the last winter frost.

Cover

 Cover your borders for the winter to protect from frost and allow your plants to rest without sustaining damage from frost. There are plenty of materials available to use, of varying thicknesses and weights, and you can also use gardening fleece to wrap vulnerable plants for added protection off the ground. Alternatively, a cloche or small polytunnel will keep the frost off your plants without limiting sunlight. You will need to check your plants continually however, for moisture build up, insects or weeds.

                     

Whatever you’re planning for your garden this winter, you can rely on the Topsoil Shop for all your supplies. We test all our products on the farm to ensure you only get the very highest quality materials. View our shop or speak to our team today to learn more about how we can help your borders and beds enter 2019 healthier than ever.

Gardening tips for landlords

The surge in rented property doesn't have to mean the death of the garden 

 

More and more people are renting properties, and for longer. Home ownership is at its lowest level since 1985 –doubling since 2004- and by 2021 it’s estimated that 25% of all UK households will rent. Gardens are a vanishing dimension of Britain’s urban landscape: the number of gravelled or paved gardens has tripled in number over the last decade. Evidence shows it’s rented property that undeniably bears the brunt of the decline of the garden- landlords seeking a low-budget, zero maintenance solution, and ‘generation rent’ who, very often, will not see gardening as a make-or-break issue when choosing a tenancy. This is not due to lack of interest- in many cases renters have simply ceased expecting to be lucky enough to have a garden to care for.

 The end result is a rapid decline in both gardens and interest in gardening across the country as millennials find themselves deprived of a space in which to develop their gardening skills. The increase in paved or concreted yards also strips nature of a space to thrive, harming local wildlife, killing pollinators, as well as reducing drainage and increasing the likelihood of flooding. Concreted, paved or decked yards do nothing to absorb greenhouse gases, and can harbour bacteria far more effectively than turf making them far more unsanitary areas for children and pets. Altogether there are palpable environmental disadvantages to concreting a yard- and to cap it all off, it’s ugly as sin, practically irreversible and could lower the resale value of your property! Yet landlords keep persisting with it- judging the hassle of trusting tenants with a garden to be the greater of two evils. In truth, there are palpable financial benefits to allowing tenants the freedom to garden. There’s an obvious disincentive to having an empty house, and the promise of caring for a garden can appeal to renters of all ages. Here’s our guide to finding that sweet spot, where low maintenance meets high desirability:

When letting a home with a cultivatable garden, there’s no guarantee that your tenants will have the time, skill or inclination to maintain a garden consistently through the year, as you might. Therefore, you’re essentially outfitting a garden for beginner gardeners- it needs to be attractive, but hardy and low maintenance.

  1. Assess the space

As with any property, you should first evaluate the usable space for your garden. Creating a nice space that will remain pleasant throughout the year is more of a priority than creating a lot of mediocre space, so aim for quality rather than quantity- lots of sun and sheltered.

  1. Keep it simple

You’re not trying to recreate Kew Gardens in the back of your terraced house- your tenants need a blank canvas, not the Chelsea flower show. There’s a lot to be said for a simple garden with room to grow.

  1. Keep it tidy- but flexible

Use features such as rocks, fountains, decorative bird baths, sundials etc to departmentalise your garden and create an attractive environment in which fewer plants can make a bigger impact. This allows your tenants to plant into the unused space while also creating an uncrowded and low-maintenance garden based around reliable old favorites.

  1. Go for borders or beds, not a lawn

A lawn can quickly look untidy, and despite being a popular garden feature its need for constant mowing and maintenance may make it an unappealing chore for tenants. Far better to arrange beds, borders or baskets around features to create versatile and attractive spaces.

  1. Choose perennials

Though more costly, you can create a lasting garden by using perennial flowers- so even if your tenants ignore the garden, they’ll be back year after year.

Our top five plants for a rented house:

  1. Miniature trees. Dwarf shrubs and miniature trees look great among a summer garden, and don’t steal all the other plants’ sunlight. They can be transported in pots, and add a real sense of space to your garden. Consider an ornamental acer tree, which will add a distinctive dash of colour to your back garden.
  2. Lavender. One of the top low-maintenance plants, this classic English garden favourite is pretty, fragrant, and can be brought indoors to liven up the home with its distinctive scent. Your tenants will love it, and it won’t be put off by a lack of regular TLC.
  3. Buddleia. Though entirely portable thanks to growing out of a pot, these beautiful plants will be far too popular to go: they’re known for attracting butterflies all summer long with their stunning flowers.
  4. Heather. With gorgeous flowers and a rugged, moorland look, once established heathers are virtually indestructible- making them perfect for any garden. Perfect for ‘framing’ other plants or in a rockery.
  5. Hostas. As attractive as it is tough, this durable perennial will make a welcome appearance in even the most overlooked garden, year on year.

Is it time to bring your potted plants inside?

It's getting colder outside- so what to do with your pot plants? 

 

It’s the end of summer, the nights are drawing in and your potted plants in the garden are starting to feel the chill. As much as we don’t want to it to be true, it’s time to begin preparing for autumn and winter.

Your potted plants have looked fantastic all summer. They've lapped up all that sunshine and grown impressively. But as the nights get colder and the chilly October air sets in, how can you judge when to start moving them back indoors for the winter? Many plants have their own temperature tolerances, however as a rule of thumb when the nights drop below 7-10 degrees, it’s time to begin thinking about evacuating your pot plants inside.

The first steps- prepare

As with all things gardening, laying the groundwork before you make your move is vital. Find the best place in your home for your summer plants. Map out the areas with the best spots for sunlight and warmth- usually these offer an unobstructed south facing view. Clean your windows to maximise light, and prepare a stand, table or space where your plants won’t obstruct or get knocked over by day to day activity, kids or pets. When each plant has its designated spot, you can begin to move them indoors. It’s also a good idea to give the pots a clean too!

Make a gradual transition

Your plants can’t handle a sudden change in conditions, and need the make the change slowly. Gradually acclimatising your potted plants to life indoors is key to helping them adjust to their new surroundings. Even the slightest difference in light, heat and moisture can make a striking difference

Adjust for the change:  less light less light means less water evaporation, so reduce watering and if in doubt don’t water your plants. It’s very easy to overwater and the most common killer of household plants is definitely an overenthusiastic owner!

If the weather changes should I move them back outside?

It’s unlikely the weather will change dramatically enough, and for long enough, to justify the harm that another two sudden changes of environment will do to your plants (outside, then back inside). Once you’ve begun the process to the move them indoor, your plants will thank you for letting them adapt- they shouldn’t need light so badly that they need to leave their new home. If they do, you should consider moving them to a different spot.

Should I prune them?

If your plants have grown over their summer, you may feel the need to trim them back a bit before bringing them back indoors. Pruning is very different to dead heading, which as summer is starting to come to a close, you should consider for all your plants. However there’s no immediate need to prune your plants- in fact, unless you absolutely have to, it’s worth avoiding. Removing healthy parts from your plant is rarely a good idea, and when moving them indoors they might need as many healthy leaves as possible to get maximum sunlight. You should expect some leafs to drop after the move- this is simply due to the loss of light. It’s not a sign your plant is dying, just that it’s adapting to the new conditions. If parts begin to die, you can consider pruning or dead-heading these. 

Grow up! How to produce huge yields in a tiny garden

 Discover how 'vertical gardening' is taking allotment yields through the roof!

Winter is, meteorologically speaking, behind us (even with its particularly nasty sting in the tail) and we’re looking forward to a new year full of gardening successes. How to make it happen if you’re short on space? More and more UK households are subjected to smaller and smaller gardens, and while smaller urban properties are frequently to blame, there are also space problems facing those even with comparatively large gardens- with increasing development, more and more gardens have problems with light, as well as needing to find sheltered spaces suitable for less hardy crops. Patios, conservatories, paving and decking and even shade-casting washing lines all seem to be among the features conspiring to limit the modern backyard gardener’s options. 

So how do you overcome space limitations?


Vertical gardening! The answer to small urban gardeners having trouble with limited space is fast becoming expansion upwards. This skyward-looking trend is helping those without access to large gardens to unlock the potential for high-production vegetable crops. Now, in reaction to the growing trend of upwards gardening, more and more equipment is becoming available to help make the most of your space. However for those on a budget, the flexibility provided by vertical gardening is one of its attractions- very often everything you need can be assembled from recycled materials.

To begin gardening upwards, you need to establish a framework through which you can elevate your plants. This can be a typical frame- for example made from guttering or similar improvised beds raised on legs, a traditional trellis or simple ‘green wall’ of containers mounted on a frame. From hanging baskets suspended above your garden to ‘containers’ improvised from everyday items and mounted above one another, there’s lots of potential in recycling and inventiveness. As long as you have a sturdy frame with good light and a potent growing medium, you're off to a strong start. A couple of things to bear in mind, though: that the weight of your frame will increase as plants grow, as soil absorbs water or freezes, when it snows, and in high winds the structure will be subject to lots of pressure- especially when your plants are in bloom- so strength will be vital. What looks sturdy carrying empty containers may not be so when they’re each filled with sodden earth. 

Another consideration is accessibility- while the temptation might be to push your skyward expansion as far as it goes, you will need easy access to all your plants- so bear this in mind when engineering your design. You will need to protect your plants from both birds and frost, too, meaning built-in support for netting and horticultural fleece may prevent having to break down your structure later on in the year. With these simple considerations, you can create an amazing vertical garden that stands the test of time while doubling or tripling the quantity of plants your space can accommodate.

There’s evidence that vertical gardening has other benefits, too. From protecting your masonry from damage to boosting insulation and lowering energy bills, enveloping your garden in greenery has many benefits. The only consideration when setting up your vertical garden is moisture- use plastic sheeting where necessary to reduce prolonged exposure to water for any porous stonework that might become damaged.

 

Whatever projects & challenges 2018 brings, our online store is the perfect one-stop-shop for all your gardening needs, with a wide range of topsoils, composts, soil improvers and more to get you started. Check it out now and discover why we're one of the UK's top gardening suppliers!

The topsoil shop- home of the highest quality topsoil and turf

Discover the advantages of buying topsoil for your garden

How does topsoil help your garden grow? With quality topsoil from the Topsoil Shop, better than ever!

Topsoil improves your garden in several ways- increasing fertility, drainage, protecting plants during winter and helping lawns overcome bad weather. By improving your plant’s soil base with quality topsoil, you’re giving your plants the best chance of prospering.

What’s the best topsoil for me?

As the UK’s leading supplier of quality topsoil and turf, as well as sand, compost, gravel and a wide range of other gardening & landscaping products, we provide a broad variety of specialist topsoils to ensure you can find the best topsoil to buy for your plants. Choose the perfect blend for your project in our shop.

Struggling to choose the best topsoil to buy for your garden? Why not check out our store for the highest quality topsoil and turf, as well as compost, landscaping supplies and other essentials. We offer a unique home delivery service that’s based around you, with a network of national depots to ensure a truly rapid, personal service. So if you’re buying topsoil in bulk, or any of our other products, we’ll ensure your order is delivered on a pallet directly to your garden! No fuss, no stress, hassle free.

Buying topsoil, in bulk or single bags, is easier than ever with our network of delivery centres. With a wide range available, and our expert team on standby to help you choose the best topsoil, to buy from The Topsoil Shop is to buy from UK’s leading bulk soil improver supplier.  

10 Gardening Facts To Blow Your Wellies Off

10 things you probably never knew about gardening!

 

We all enjoy spending time in the garden it's a peaceful, contemplative, relaxing time. Yet while we might pride ourselves on know when to plant out what, what to pot a certain plant in etc., we tend to know very little about the world of gardening beyond our own garden fence. Here are a few tidbits of gardening trivia to expand your mind and impress your neighbours.

 1.Top of the crops

  • The most widely grown crop in the world (by weight produced) is sugar cane, which hit an incredible 1.7 million tonnes in 2007 and has held its top spot since  despite being grown in just 17 countries.
  • Lagging far behind is corn (maize) at 822,000 tonnes and wheat, at 690,000 tonnes  although it can be argued that these are farmed in more countries, and are therefore candidates to the ‘most widely grown’ title.
  • Another popular crop, rice, falls in at 685,000 tonnes while the humble potato takes an equally humble fifth place at 314,000.
  • It might come as a surprise that at Cassava, a root crop widely eaten in South America, Africa and Asia, but little known in Europe, comes in next with 232,000 tonnes.
  • Following this are soybeans, sweet potatoes, sorghum (a grain popular in Africa), yams and plantains.
  • While the top crops are nearly all carbohydrate staples isn't surprising, the dramatic regional variations between the different continents and climates, and the unmatched superiority of sugar shows how global trends can reveal interesting secrets about our world, our diets and our gardens.

2. The biggest garden in the world is the Dubai Miracle Garden, which covers 72 square km and contains over 60 million flowers.

  • Built specifically to take advantage of the hot climate, the park is completely redesigned every season, and it’s not exactly subtle  recent attractions include a life-size Emirates Airbus A380, covered in petunias, marigolds, snapdragons, geraniums, and more.
  • Unfortunately, while the weather for much of the year is conducive to gardening, during the hot summers the park has to be closed.
  • If that all sounds a bit over-the-top, then the somewhat smaller Kew Gardens in London and the Eden Project in Cornwall are among the most exciting public gardens in the UK.

3. Greenhouses have been used since Roman times!

  • Romans used ‘stone mirror’ sheets (semi-transparent minerals such as selenite or mica) or oiled cloth stretched over frames to grow cucumbers for the emperor Tiberius (below) at his palace on the Isle of Capri.
  • These were known as specularia (meaning glazed). The plants would be planted in wheeled beds and taken outside during the day before being taken inside at night.
  • After the Romans, it took many centuries before effective greenhouses could be built again in Europe though the same technology prospered in the Far East.
  • As renaissance explorers and scientists brought more and more valuable, beautiful or delicious plants from the new world, European aristocracy continually experimented with greenhouses (the orangery at the palace of Versailles, built to house orange trees in 1663, is particularly impressive) but it was not until the 1800s that successful greenhouse gardening took off.
  • While ‘orangeries’, ‘pineries’ (for pineapples) and ‘conservatories’ were popular additions to stately homes throughout the enlightenment essentially summer houses with many large windows the Victorian age saw modern-looking, glass-and-steel greenhouses take off among amateur and aristocratic gardeners alike, with greenhouses becoming huge engineering projects.
  • Kew Gardens’ famous Palm House, Chatsworth House’s Great Conservatory and the famous Chrystal Palace in London were among them.

 

4. Gardening for aesthetic pleasure, rather than food or medicine, has been recorded since ancient Egypt where images survive showing ornamental plants.

  • The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built in modern-day Iraq in the 6th century BC  supposedly as a gift to the wife of the king, as she was said to miss her lush, mountainous homeland in the barren desert.
  • It’s suggested that the original purpose of ornamental gardens were to provide shade under trees and to create cooling ponds and pools.
  • As with many things, the practice of keeping gardens was adopted by the Romans, who kept elaborate private gardens featuring many of the flowers we know today.
  • Monks kept the ideas of gardening alive after the fall of Rome and kept much of the ancient writing on the subject, and also penned some of the first gardening manuals.
  • It was not until the renaissance, with its revival of ancient practices, that gardening for pleasure became more widely pursued.

 

 

5. The most popular flower in Britain is Rose.

  • The English rose topped a 2014 poll by the BBC to claim the title of the UK’s most popular flower.
  • With 37% of the largely online vote, this was a decisive victory over the sweet pea (29%) and the iris (14%).
  • Despite its funerary associations, the lily scored 12% of the vote and the tulip 8%. Hydrangeas came last out of the 30 options in the vote, beaten by dandelions.

 

6. Lawns date back to the middle ages and were mowed by hand!

  • At a time when regular gardens were more often about growing for food or medicinal herbs, aristocrats began paying servants to trim open spaces around their castles with hand scythes, to allow sentries an unobstructed view of the surroundings.
  • Villages had maintained communal meadows as grazing grounds around their outskirts for centuries, but this also allowed them to see attackers coming from further away.
  • Castle owners adopted this approach, probably by experience from fighting wars in Scotland, where wide-open spaces (as opposed to English forests) gave defenders a natural advantage.
  • In lawn-related activities, the Scots were many years ahead of the English, with games like golf and shinty (an early form of hockey) played on the abundant natural grassland for centuries.
  • Over time the open grounds became a popular place for games (there are references to bowls being played on grass from the late 12th century) and by the 16th century dedicated public ‘parks’ began to appear.
  • The most popular game in the middle ages was football, which set villages against one another in massive, violent games lasting days and requiring huge outdoor spaces to hold  quickly migrating to wide, flat patches of land.
  • They were, however, more often considered a nuisance  so violent were these early ‘mob football’ matches, they were banned in England 31 times between 1314 and 1667!
  • However the enduring popularity of the game ensured lawns were used, and their maintenance became everyday practicality.
  • Lawns were also used to host important events like jousting tournaments and the mandatory archery training all English men had to undertake.
  • Besides the original association with gentry and castles, the sheer wealth required to keep good land clear of housing, crops or livestock, while paying an army of servants to maintain it, quickly cemented the keeping of a ‘lawn’ as being an upper-class activity.
  • By the 17th century, lawns had become a sign of wealth and sophistication. And the rest, as they say, is history!

 

 7. You can produce enough food to feed 1 person from just 1 acre of land.

  • In recent years there’s been an increase in interest in what used to be called The Good Life – people living self-sufficiently from their gardens.
  • These days this movement has assigned itself a more scientific name - ‘permaculture’ (permanent agriculture).
  • It’s been theorised that the amount of land required to produce enough food for one person could be very low indeed.
  • While some claim the area needed could be as low as a quarter of an acre, most reliable sources suggest about an acre.
  • The key to producing food in volume from a small area is using the space available as efficiently as possible, good climate, good soil and a lot of good luck.

  8. The biggest flower in the world is the Rafflesia Arnoldii, found in the forests of Indonesia and first discovered in 1797.

  • Fully grown, it can measure an amazing 3 feet across! However, before you buy an extra-large greenhouse, you probably don’t want it in your garden.
  • This giant is a parasite, meaning it clings to another, healthy plant to harvest nutrients and water.
  • It’s also incredibly smelly  to attract insects to help it pollinate, it emits a foul odour similar to rotting flesh, which has earned it it’s nickname ‘the corpse flower’.

 9. There are about 27 million gardeners in the UK!

  • Out of a population of 65 million, that’s an extraordinarily high proportion  around 41%.
  • It seems that the UK rightly deserves its reputation as a nation of gardeners. By comparison, the figure in the USA is 36%.

10. There are an estimated 389 billion slugs living in UK gardens (all of them, not just yours, however, it may seem).

  • There are on average up to 20,000 slugs per garden in the UK, around 200 per square metre!
  • However given that, that figure doesn’t include farms, garden centres, parks, forests or public gardens, the actual number of the UK’s slimy citizens will certainly be much, much more!

 

Another gardening fact you may or may not know is that the best value topsoil around comes in bulk from the topsoil shop. We deliver anywhere, and use only the highest quality materials to make sure your garden looks its best this spring. Check out our shop to learn more about the ways we can help you meet your gardening goals.

How do you take care of your plants in hot summer weather?

How do you take care of your borders and planters when a heat wave dries out the soil?

A sudden spell of very hot, very dry summer weather can spark a sense of panic as your borders become a dusty, crumbly desert and leaves begin to wilt. Naturally, you reach for the hose- but slow down, because simply drenching your borders, while making you feel a lot better, may not be what’s best for your plants.

Why is watering good for plants?

Water is the key requirement at the heart of all of a plant’s biology. Plants, like humans, are mostly water, and, just as with humans, keeping cells hydrated is key to maintaining health & development of plants. Healthy plants are hardier, grow larger, survive longer and produce greater yields. Deeper watering encourages strong & deep root growth, as the plants adapt to collecting moisture from further below the earth. This sets up your plants for better growth & improved hardiness the rest of the year round.

So how to keep your thirsty plants happy in hot weather? Check out our list of tips below!

  1. You can still overwater in hot weather

Hot weather means your plants will need more water, but it’s still possible to overfeed them. Allowing the roots to sit in stagnant, standing water is always unhealthy, and will allow rot to set in. Take care to monitor your water use, as you can still give them too much, especially if it’s at the wrong time of day.

  1. Water and strong sunlight can cause leaf burn

Remember that roots maintain water absorption & plant growth, so only by watering the soil above them can you feed your plants. Wetting the soft leaf tissue will leave droplets that can magnify rays which can burn your plants in hot weather. Water the base of your plants, but don’t go overboard- mulch and other materials will soak up water like a sponge, limiting the amount to reach the roots while also causing decay in your mulch material.

  1. Measure soil dryness

Before you water, you need to make sure your plants are as thirsty as you think- check the top 4-6 inches of soil around your plants- if this is dry, it’s time for watering. Some species will require different amounts of water, but if the ground is dried solid to a depth of more than 5 inches, small plants with even very developed root systems will start to become dehydrated.

  1. Sprinkle with care

Sprinklers are a great way to keep your lawn, allotment or borders fed & watered. Yet choosing the right sprinkler can make a big difference to your plants. A stream of water that’s too heavy can damage fragile plants and water unevenly, saturating the ground in places and leaving it dry elsewhere. Choose a gentle, oscillating sprinkler fitted with a timer that allows you to effectively manage plant feeding and avoid overusing water.

  1. Potted plants dry out faster

The design and materials used in the production of pots mean water can be lost quickly, through drainage and evaporation. Timing your watering to suit your potted plants can be tricky, as the size, species and location of the plant will inform your watering schedule. Remember that even hardy plants that can normally be relied on to look after themselves will need a helping hand in very hot weather.

  1. Timing is everything

Water in the morning, so that it has time to absorb before it evaporates, without risking too much moisture remaining by nightfall. Leaving a wet lawn or border to soak overnight will allow rot, disease and fungus to get a foothold. Root rot can seriously harm the health of your plants, and leaves your lawn looking withered and patchy.

Breaking new ground: 3 new garden experiments to try in 2018

Why not try something new in 2018?

 

 New year, new you- or at least, that's the idea. Whether the new year is about finding a new direction or just doing the same routine, a little bit better, it's part of the fun of gardening to embark on new projects and seek out exciting new ways to enjoy the outdoors. Each Spring we have the chance to pursue bold new objectives with our garden, and to improve on previous years' successes (or lack thereof) with optimism and the wisdom of experience. Here are our suggestions, some bold and some less so, for the gardener seeking to try something a little different in 2018. 

 

Growing mushrooms

Growing mushrooms is a lot easier than many gardeners assume. The unique nature of mushrooms mean they need completely different (in fact, almost opposite) conditions to normal plants, and once established and activated can be produced at an astounding rate. With a bewildering array of delicious varieties available for growing at home, and interest in the mouth-watering flavours available growing, there’s never been a better time to start producing your own. Check out our mushroom-growing blog for more information on the ways you can turn an unused corner of your garden into a perfect habitat for these tasty delicacies.

Whether it’s soil improvers for root veg or wood chips for the humble mushroom, compost delivery from our shop takes the effort out of boosting your plants and creating a fertile base from which to bear record yields for your springtime crops.

 

 

Breaking the ‘slime trail stalemate’

Though the Christmas truce between exasperated horticulturalist and gluttonous gastropod might stand for a few months, don’t rest on your laurels. There are many things you can do over the winter to prepare the ground for the next time these munching molluscs storm the border (or allotment, beds, containers, insert as appropriate). A cutthroat battle of wits it may be, but with a little help you can make this spring a turning point. Here’s some steps to reduce your slug infestation, and with it your blood pressure.

  • Break out the Copper: police the pests with the long arm of the lawn

Copper is a useful tool to prevent the spread of slugs across your garden. Small electrical charges make the metal plate uncomfortable for them to cross, meaning many avoid it. Copper rings, wire and tape is becoming more and more widespread in UK gardens, though its effectiveness compared to other new methods, such as fences, is a subject for debate among slug-afflicted gardeners.

  • Use pine straw to give pests a prickly welcome

Pine straw- essentially packed, dried Christmas tree needles- is widely used across the pond for mulching, and is popular with berries as it’s reputed to spread slight acidity into the soil. But it’s most popular as a solution to greedy trespassers- slugs hate the spikey needles, and won’t cross them. This makes them especially useful for ‘low hanging fruit’ such as strawberries, where mulching (hence straw-berries) is essential.

  • Make your own nematodes

Nematodes are a popular way to control the slug population in your garden- essentially bacteria that affect only slugs, they have come to the rescue of many exasperated gardeners. If you want to produce your own, you can save a trip to the garden centre. Many slugs already carry the bacteria, and once picked up and kept securely in a bucket with as many other slugs as you can grab, a little water (you’re not trying to drown them, this is more of a marinade) and some leaves for food, you can quickly produce your own nematode soup via your unwitting helpers. Mix them up and keep adding slugs caught in the act of invading your garden (a pair of rubber gloves might come in handy) and after a few weeks you’ll have a perfect nematode tea courtesy of your bucket of bacteria-carrying captives. This water can be strained, replaced, and used to spread slug-busting justice across your allotment.

 

 

Keeping hens

Following on from our tips on slug control, perhaps the ultimate anti-slug weapon is the humble chicken. Of course, the advantages to keeping hens extends far further than pest control. More and more families are keeping their own, savouring home-produced eggs and the bond between owner and animal. With an increase in interest in small-scale animal husbandry driven by an enthusiasm for animal welfare and organic produce, there is more information and material available to assist homeowners in keeping happy, healthy hens than ever.

 

Whether you’re treading new ground in 2018, or seeking to improve on last year’s rotation, our unbeatable topsoils, composts and other products will drive your garden to new success year after year. Check out our shop for more on our excellent range of products.

 

 

Growing citrus trees

Looking for a new challenge? Get the lowdown on growing citrus fruit at home!

If growing lemons, lime, kumquats, grapefruit or oranges in the UK is definitely toward the deep end of the horticultural pool, enthusiastic gardeners should take comfort in the fact that if successful, there can be fantastic yields with a really impressive taste.

Position- Where to plant citrus trees

Citrus trees need plenty of sunlight- they’re designed for Mediterranean climates that provide consistent warm sunlight for many hours per day for much of the year.  To emulate this you’ll need to prioritise sunlight in your positioning of your citrus trees. However, don’t go for too exposed a spot- wind can dry out your moisture-loving trees, so keep it fairly sheltered.

 

Fertilisers

You will need to provide your citrus plants with fertiliser compost when planting, mulching to reduce moisture loss and prevent cooler temperatures taking a toll. Remember citrus trees (predictably) prefer acidic environments, so choose suitable fertilisers. There are plenty of specialist citrus fertilisers available. Add small amounts of citrus high-nitrogen fertilisers when watering.

Pests & problems

Pests:

Aphids

Scale insects

Mealybugs

Whiteflies

Ants

Citrus thrips

Fungus gnats

Spider Mite

Swallowtail butterfly

Snails

Diseases and conditions:

Root rot

Cold damage

Alternaria brown spot

Greasy spot fungus

Phytophthora

Honeydew, sooty mould & scale (see pests)

Citrus Canker

Melanose

Nitrogen deficiency

Feeding & watering citrus trees

Water

Citrus trees need plenty of water- give them regular watering in summer, preferably with added nutrients. They’ll need less in winter, when the plants do less growing and produce no fruit, though you’ll need to ensure they get plenty of warmth and light in these colder months.

Nutrition

Citrus trees require excellent nutrition. They have complex nutritional requirements which should be catered for to ensure good yields and a healthy plant. The nutrients your citrus tree most requires include nitrogen, iron, zinc, and manganese. Ensure any feed you use favours these minerals, or even better is formulated for citrus.

Growth and development

As your citrus tree develops, control the growth of shoots to prevent heavily overcrowded branches. The plants are fully fertile and should be able to produce fruit themselves. They have small, pretty flowers that makes them an attractive house plant in their own right. The fruit will not need picking immediately, and can last on the tree for some time.

The benefits of meadow: why you should replace your lawn today

Discover the new turf trend- home meadows, the local wildlife lifeline 

 

Lawns have long been the sign of a well-kept garden. Yet increasing awareness of the ecological benefits of variety, not uniformity, has challenged the long-established order.

Pristine, flat, consistent & uniform- the perfect lawn is the goal of many gardeners. Seen as the hallmark of true gardening excellence, it’s become a stereotypical, even clichéd, obsession among middle-class, suburban gardeners. There’s a great deal of attention paid to this area of gardening, with many products available promising the perfect lawn. For many it’s a timeless and constant goal, and good for those who choose to pursue it! But increasingly a new trend is overtaking our gardens: the wild flower meadow. For many years, wild flowers have been on the decline in developed countries due to the widespread uses weed killers, yet as more and more research into the role wild flowers play in our ecosystem is carried out, gardeners around the world are stepping in to revive this once-universal outdoor environment. Benefits to insects, birds, and other species are far more pronounced than on lawns: variety encourages a wide range of species, in comparison to the narrow benefits provided by the very mono-cultured lawn.

Delivering all the benefits to drainage & flood control that lawns do, meadow creates a beautiful, low maintenance surface that thrives even with low fertility. Bees love the flower rich environment which extends from Spring to Autumn, which also helps preserve many of the native flowers and grasses that are being slowly lost in the countryside to chemical-heavy industrial farming. Gardeners of all abilities are increasingly rejecting the traditional high maintenance lawn, now able to achieve an attractive and fragrant field of native flowers without the need to fret over poor pigment, bald patches or uneven edges. Without needing mowing, fertilising or scarifying, it increases local bee populations that boost flowers around the area while preserving a much-loved species that remains in decline with potentially catastrophic consequences.

It has to be said that it’s unfair to criticise the humble lawn too much. The wonder properties of turf are becoming increasingly widely known, and in providing a practical, usable, safe space for relaxing, a lawn is simply fabulous. Many lawn-minded garden owners are taking up the call to promote ecological balance in other ways, with borders, containers and baskets springing up around the country to support the bee population, among others. Indeed, compared to many of the destinies shared by our unloved and all too often neglected gardens- the lazy, ugly unholy trinity of concrete, AstroTurf or decking, which truly eliminate any chance of ecological usefulness, guaranteeing increased water run-off and depleted wildlife- a lawn is practically a godsend to the local ecosystem. It’s important to note there are many plus sides to keeping a lawn, and a wider variety of options means more gardeners- something that can only be a good thing!

If you’re considering establishing an eye catching, fragrant wildflower meadow, with all the benefits to wildlife that that entails, check out our amazing meadowmat- an ingenious, easily-laid, ready-grown meadow that quickly establishes in your garden to provide a great resource for insects, bees and birds.

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