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Welcome to the Garden Guru!

You will find lots of usefull information on compost, composting and all things grow your own, from hints and tips to step by step how to guides on all sorts of interesting subjects.

Browse through all our garden guru's articles below to find the subject you are interested in.

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Have you just dug out your gloves, only to uncover something that looks and smells like it belongs on your compost heap? Gardening gloves can be found in every hardware shop or garden centre, but are very often made using cheap fabrics and poor manufacturing that means they quickly become filthy, smelly and pretty unhygienic.

Aside from being an excellent filler for a gardening-addicted relative’s Christmas stocking, the problem of buying the right, considered pair of practical gloves is something everybody encounters- though admittedly some more than others. A shed that’s simultaneously damp enough for mildew to prosper, but warm enough for mice to find inhabitable has over the years combined with more than a little bit of fussiness to ensure a steady turnover of gardening gloves in this author’s garden. The worst ever proved to be a very cheap and thin fabric pair- despite washing they succeeded in causing an extremely nasty thumb infection (green fingered indeed) and since then the motto has been quality over price.

A good pair of gloves is worth hanging on to, and while you can get a pair for pennies, there’s a lot to be said for paying a little more to get something that will last- something that holds true for most outdoor tools and equipment.

Maintenance

Never put your gloves away wet or dirty- especially if they’re stored somewhere damp or cold. Clean them thoroughly with a damp cloth after each use, and if they’re leather top up some dubbin once they’ve dried. Always let gloves dry naturally, not on a radiator or near any other heat source- this will crack the leather. Don’t put gloves in the washing machine (especially on a hot cycle) and certainly never in the tumble drier!

Some styles

Gauntlet’ style gloves- these are named after medieval hand armour, because of the long protective edge extending over the wrist and forearm. Some can reach all the way to the elbow- ideal for reaching deep into thorny bushes like roses.

‘Rigger’ style gloves- typically thick and durable, consisting of separate panels offering increased protection from wear & tear. They will give eventually, especially if not properly cared for, but can be trusted for most heavy duty tasks like tree care or clearing land. They feature a degree of cut-resistance, though can sometimes be a little unshapely and prone to rubbing. Like cowhide they tend to dry out if not cared for, and can stiffen which can cause blisters or aggravate existing scratches. The panels ensure great durability but if badly made all those edges can be uncomfortable if the lining starts to go.

Disposable Gloves- These aren’t for delivering miracles, but at a push can be used for handling less…tasteful outdoor materials. However at a minimum get some disposable latex (surgical-style) gloves underneath as these cheap, mass produced gloves may not feature much moisture-resistance. A very heavy duty rubber glove (Cold War-era surplus protective gloves are ten a penny online, & about as heavy duty as it’s possible to get) will probably do a better job of keeping your hands away from any nasties- just remember to hose the glove, wash in hot, bleach-water mixture and after removing, soak again with disinfectant to purge any germs.

Cowhide and leather gloves- these typically feature a short wrist, and offer high flexibility and excellent scratch protection. A lined glove is usually better, as long and it doesn’t reduce flexibility on those tricky jobs, and the slightly thicker leather gloves offer less grip for muck than drier, rougher cowhide. You can mould them by wearing them and submersing your hands in warm water with a tiny splash of washing up liquid (to break down the oils holding the leather in its current shape). After several minutes the gloves with adapt to the shape of your hand- so ensure to hold something- this will reduce hand soreness, prolong the life of the glove and provide better grip. Always treat the clean leather gloves with dubbin regularly, particularly between fingers (where moisture can become trapped)- this will improve comfort, protect the leather and ensure the surface doesn’t attract grime.

Polymer gloves- there is a very wide selection of synthetic gloves available, featuring all kinds of padding, enhanced finger or palm grip, even extensive padding for use with power tools. While natural fibres almost always provide a better balance of protection and dexterity, it’s hard to find a clear fault with material like nylon. However it’s important to bear in mind that stretch fabric will reduce in thickness when worn, and very often while some areas are well protected from wear and tear, often others can be weaker. 

 

From farmers to homesteaders to allotment gardeners, everyone benefits from a crop rotation strategy, yet many newer gardeners are nervous at the prospect of employing such a rigid method. However as environmental and organic-minded gardeners continue to eschew chemical fertilisers, new methods of enhancing production are a great way to keep your garden productive.

There are many benefits for crop rotation in your allotment- not least increasing yield while limiting waste. Besides this you can limit the spread of disease, prevent pollutant run-off and help fght weeds. Many people opt for a four-year rotation structure- this is time most diseases take to be fully eradicated from the soil.

Did you know a simple crop rotation between seasons helps to balance the fertility needs of your crops? Many beginners falsely believe that different veg has roughly similar soil or nutrient requirements, however if you’re seeking the maximum return from your garden you should try to match your crops to the soil that best suits them.

For instance, following legumes with cabbage best utilises the nitrogen left in the soil by the beans, while weeds can be controlled by crops such as potatoes.

 By moving your crops around, you can inhibit the spread of certain plant diseases. Be careful not to follow one crop with another of the same family as this could perpetuate diseases- ensure to research transferable diseases between crops, as well as fertility requirements.

Winter

Winter plays an important part in crop rotation. The aim is to restore the fertility of the soil, so naturally over winter crops need to fit into this strategy. Ideally leave ground over every other winter to recover, combined with compost suited to the crop planned for summer you can expect the soil to be far more productive. Over winter ideally you should consider planting out similar families of plants, under cover if necessary. Cabbages and potatoes that can develop over both growing seasons can be a useful way to keep the soil productive without draining it.

 

 

 

Compost can be daunting- while lots of information exists on the best way to create your own, how best to use it? If used correctly, compost can boost the fertility of you garden dramatically.

Lawns

While we often think of fertiliser as only of interest to flower or vegetable gardeners, it can be a huge help to your turf too. Installing a new lawn for the first time may seem like an overwhelming task- however compost will assist your new turf in taking root for the first time. Add a little compost to the exposed ground before installing your new rolls of turf.

Thinly sieve compost onto the grass before evening it out with the back of a rake- alternatively wheeled dispensers are available fairly cheaply. This process is best done in September- this will give your lawn time to utilise the compost before the winter chill slows growth down.

Soil

The traditional use for compost is to restore fertility to the soil. Find the right kind of compost and mix it carefully into the soil to improve prospects for a wide variety of plants. Be aware that long term use of some types might lead to residue, such as mushroom compost leaving chalky deposits after heavy use. The best type of fertiliser for this depends on the plants you’re trying to boost, for example John Innes Number 1 compost helps new plants still growing.

Mulch

When the weather gets a bit cooler it can be worth thinking about mulching as an alternative to lifting delicate plants for indoor storage. Mulch acts as insulation for plants during hard winter frosts, and early summer work to conserve moisture.

The compost shop stocks a wide variety of tried & tested compost blends for all stages of plant growth. View our range to find the perfect compost for your project.

Keen to set up a garden but short of space? Towns and cities may not seem compatible with the peace and tranquillity of gardening, yet each year millions plant their first seed and embrace the urban garden revolution!

Many of us harbour a deep desire to garden. But with more and more people living in densely populated urban areas it seems that the simple pleasures of tending to plants is on the decline. Yet a dedicated few are fighting to adapt, and get green fingers pruning, planting and picking in the cities of Britain. Whether you live in a terrace or a bedsit, there are ways you can foster your love of plants. So if you’ve decided this Spring will see your gardening ambitions blossom into reality, here’s The Compost Shop introduction to urban gardening to get you started!

Be Creative

Urban gardening has always sought to turn its chief limitation into its chief advantage. The dearth of space in city housing is going to be a challenge, however with a little creativity many gardeners have found ways to overcome this in magnificent style.

One of the great advantages to gardening in the city is the ready availability of recyclable materials that can help you give your urban garden a unique look. While the more traditional back yard might accommodate a neatly squared-away vegetable patch, if you’re limited to a balcony, roof or even less, consider using something to create a novel, innovative home for your plants. Amazing trellises, baskets and beds can all be improvised with a little imagination, however plenty of purpose-built options are available at garden centres too.

Being creative also applies to your plants. Whatever kind of space you’re working with, you will be able to find something suitable. Climbers and pot plants are a great place to start if you’re very short of space- even a small balcony can accommodate them.

Bear in mind the space you’re using, its characteristics and limitations. How much light will your plants be getting? If you’re in a block of flats, will they be exposed to strong winds? If you can’t accommodate a greenhouse, what will you do with your plants over winter? Finding innovative solutions to these problems is what urban gardening is all about, and many people enjoy finding fun and clever ways to resolve such problems.

Another creative solution to gardening with very limited space is indoor gardening, using systems such as grow lights and hydroponics. While these systems can use a great deal of both space and electricity, and generate noise, the possibilities of efficient vegetable production from modern hydroponics have never been more promising.

Be Dedicated

Gardening takes work. Part of the attraction of the hobby is the quiet hours spent in caring for your plants as they grow- and the hours spent planning for the seasonal changes ahead. Plants need near-constant attention, especially in difficult or unique settings. Consider how much time you can commit to tending plants, but also expect that however much time you put in, will reward you with pleasure and relaxation.

There are many reasons to seek the enjoyment and serenity of gardening. As a challenging project it often serves as the antidote to the quick fix, instant gratification of modern life, yet as a peaceful and solitary activity it relieves stress, focuses the mind and increases pleasure in your surroundings. It also encourages time spent outdoors and physically active.

Being committed to your garden, however small, also means spending time researching and discovering the lessons others have learned in their own gardening journey. Many blogs and pages exist online, but plenty of books and magazines also cover what you need to know. Gardening may be a journey of discovery, but knowledge is your friend too- and learning all you can about the needs of your plants will build and feed your interest as well as increasing the chances of success.

Our range of composts and other gardening products will get your urban garden off to the best possible start, and we hope that whatever your ambition your enjoy discovering how much the world of gardening has to offer!

Compost: How does it work?

Ask a simple question…get a long answer! Compost is a miraculous, complex and ultimately essential weapon in the armoury of the organic gardener, and while the stuff itself seems simple if not crude, the nourishment it gives your garden is the product of an intricate reaction, a miracle of biodiversity. The combination of decomposing matter and the moisture/warmth of the environment allows the development of a universe of microscopic cultures that can produce vital nutrients for your plants over time. Achieving the right balance of factors to maximise fertility in your compost is a knack developed over years of composting experience. While your regional climate, garden size and other factors can affect the approach you need to take to composting you will need to carefully consider the needs of your plants the chemical balance required to offer them the healthiest and effective compost you can.

Bacteria are the key to all the wonderful benefits compost can offer your garden. These microscopic critters get to work on eating your leftovers even if they go straight in the bin- however you can make the situation perfect for them by keeping the right kinds of foods (for bacteria) in your compost bin. The magic transformation they kick start hinges on their digestion, and the…ahem, broken down matter they leave behind.

There are actually a lot of creatures eating away at your compost- but the most important ones are bacteria, specifically the small (even by the standards of microscopic bacteria!) ones who first tuck in when you start composting. These tiny heroes will raise the temperature of your compost with their activity and the gas they release, and this attracts larger and larger specimens to tuck into your heap- eventually worms, insects and fungus will also arrive. All of these will contribute to raising the temperature and breaking down the solids. Some compost heaps can get up to 60 degrees Celsius!

Location:

Drainage, odour, sunlight, surface and space are all things you will need to consider when picking a location for your compost heap. Light and moisture are especially important to the development of bacteria that will add the maximum nutrients to your compost. It is vital that your compost remains warm but is not too hot- so a shady spot on soil is ideal, this will prevent sunlight from heating the heap too much in summer and drying it out, while situating it on soil will allow excess water to drain and prevent mould.

Meat, bones, and things that might carry dangerous bacteria shouldn’t be composted.

Carbon Nitrogen:

The two fuels that keep the bacteria going and

You also need to keep your compost heap topped up with nitrogen-rich green materials: cuttings and trimmings from your garden, grass being a perfect example. Avoid using too much, as this can lead to an unpleasant release of ammonia gas- while add too little and the bacteria may not be able to speed the process of decomposition by increasing temperature.

Oxygen:

Mix your compost regularly with a fork or spade to add oxygen: this is a crucial ingredient for them to do their work. Too little oxygen will lead to anaerobic decomposition (while the kind we want is anaerobic) and this will both smell bad, and slow the process. 

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