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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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Interested in organic compost? UK gardeners are increasingly making the move to organic soil improvers- here are some of the reasons why.

  1. It’s cost effective

Unlike synthesised fertilisers, natural organic compost provides comprehensive nutrition for your plants- eliminating the need for additional feeds and saving you money. By going fully organic, you can save even more money by eliminating the need for pesticides and other synthetic compounds- and enjoy the benefits.

  1. It’s safe for pets

One big advantage of making the change to organic compost is the pet-friendly composition. Dogs and other pets can be made sick by chemical fertilisers, and shouldn’t be allowed outside for up to 48 hours after fertilising plants. In addition, neighbours’ pets who might come through your garden should be kept out. By using organic compost, your pet will be able to safely play outside all the time.  

  1. Organic compost is best for the long term fertility of your soil

Overusing synthetic fertilisers saturates the soil with chemicals that harm the long term fertility of the soil and prevent the natural breakdown of nutrients. By switching to organic fertiliser you can encourage the build-up of a wide range of microorganisms which can break down nutrients and promote long term soil fertility.

  1. It’s easier on your plants

Harsh chemicals in strong concentrations can cause leaf burn and harm plants. Plants need to absorb a range of nutrients, and dousing tender new plants in one particular nutrient can obstruct this process. By using organic compost you can be confident your plants are getting balanced nutrition. In addition, as mentioned above, organic compost is the perfect long-term soil improver, and is almost impossible to over-saturate your plants with. With synthetics, a very precise amount must be used to avoid killing your plants with a nutrient overdose.

  1. It’s best for the environment

We all know the advantages of avoiding harmful pesticides and chemicals that can harm the ecosystem. Made from non-renewable sources like oil, and requiring a huge processing effort to manufacture, synthetic fertilisers have a bad environmental profile before they even touch your garden. Once they do, they harm your soil fertility and the wider ecosystem.

If you’d like to discover for yourself why so many gardeners are switching to organic compost, UK-based supplier The Compost Shop offer great prices on a range of composts and soil improvers, including bulk orders and home delivery to make your gardening project even simpler! With top quality organic compost for sale at very competitive prices they’re the UK’s leading supplier of bulk soil improvers, and also have a range of turf, sands and topsoils available.

So the summer has rolled around, and you’re sneezing again. The hottest months of the year and you’re feeling distinctly un-summery. The times you want to be outside most of all, and you can’t step outdoors without feeling the tingle of swelling sinuses, irritated eyes and a sniffling nose.

The good news is, you don’t need to sacrifice a beautiful garden to create an allergy-free environment- in fact, you can create a space that’s ideal for local wildlife. This is because heavier pollen- i.e. that which needs insects, rather than the breeze, to spread it around, is less prone to causing allergies.

Avoid lawns

As mentioned above, plants with heavier pollen also present less of a threat of hayfever, so rather than keep a large lawn consider expanding borders to accommodate flowering plants, shrubs and other ornamental plants. Many flowers, especially those with closed blooms, such as tulips, keep pollen tightly packed away from the air. Open-bloom flowers, such as sunflowers, dahlias and asters, expose more of their pollen to the air and can therefore spread more around. Highly fragrant flowers are believed to be more likely to trigger allergies, and are therefore best avoided. The worst offenders in the average garden, however, are trees and grasses, which can produce huge clouds of wind-blown pollen that will not only trigger allergies outside, but worse can make their way indoors.

Choose wisely

Fuchsias, geraniums, tulips, penstemons, and clematis all produce low levels of pollen and can create a favourable garden for hayfever sufferers. With their pollen-enclosing flowers and heavy pollen particles that are unlikely to drift far, you will find these create an attractive garden while minimising airbourne pollen particles. Intersperse these with berries, cactus, and winter-flowering plants that will be easier on your allergies.  

It’s healthy, tasty, and looks like little trees- of course it’s broccoli – and it’s a crop that’s missing from many of Britain’s gardens. Despite this, it’s rewarding to grow successfully, and provides a great value staple veg to accompany your more pedestrian potatoes and carrots, as well as being far healthier. Discover more about the benefits of broccoli and the secrets to cultivating this magnificent crop in our guide below.

Growing from seed

Broccoli is best grown from seed in a greenhouse, regularly watered & fed with fertiliser. Plant the developed root balls out into a fertilised allotment with plenty of space between plants, and good level of sun. You’ll also need excellent drainage to prevent the plants developing club root. Broccoli prefers slightly acidic soil and as you continue to feed you plants you’ll want to use a nitrogen-based fertiliser along with their water. As they continue to grow you’ll need to continually space them out until there’s about 30-60cm between each plant, depending on layout (planting in rows requires more space).

Pest control

Pests pose a big threat to broccoli, and resisting their attempts to feast on your young plants is a big part of cultivating them. Make sure to control the various birds, caterpillars, cabbage root fly, slugs and snails which can seriously damage your young plants & the grown heads if allowed to. Use high quality netting & repellents to deter pests- unfortunately broccoli attracts a wide range of wildlife- if these get access to your broccoli plants, especially when younger, they will wreak havoc. There will be visible damage to leaves and heads if insects can reach your plants, and there’s also the risk of larvae growing around the shallow roots, causing considerable harm and eventually killing your plants.

Harvesting

Your broccoli will be ready to eat once the heads are well developed but the flowers have yet to open. Take the top spears first, before the ones from the sides.

5 surprising broccoli facts:

  • Broccoli was first eaten by the Romans in the 6th century, when they created it by cross-pollinating kale plants.
  • 100g of broccoli contains more vitamin C than an orange, and fewer calories and only 1.7g of sugar- compared to 12g in an orange! That makes it brilliant for anti-aging, healthy skin and eyes, and immunity.
  • Broccoli comes from Italian, meaning the flowering top of a cabbage. It’s a word English people have trouble with- it’s said to be the 6th most commonly misspelled word in English. Go on, close your eyes and give it a try.
  • In a shock 2017 poll by Diabetes UK, broccoli came in as the nation’s favourite vegetable, clocking an impressive 18% of the vote in Scotland and overtaking other regional favourites such as tomatoes (London, not a vegetable) and Brussels sprouts (the North East).
  • There’s a world broccoli eating contest! The current record holder allegedly consumed 453g of broccoli in just over a minute and a half.

broccoli

 

With a brilliant crunch & a fantastic fresh taste, home-grown cucumbers are a popular addition to many people’s allotments.

It’s not too late to get some cucumbers this year- in warm weather they can prosper even with late planting. Seeds or small plants can be planted out in late May or June and covered with fleece or a cloche to achieve the warm temperatures required. Aim to keep your cucumbers at around 15 degrees Celsius once planted.

Before you plant your seedlings, acclimatise your plants by keeping them outside in pots for several days. When you decide to plant them, space them around 90cm apart in a sunny, well drained bed, or better, in a greenhouse.

It’s vital to use quality compost to enhance the fertility of your soil. Mixing in screened, friable compost gives your cucumbers the best possible start- though nonetheless you should attempt to use the most fertile, well-lit and sheltered parts of your garden. Use plenty of compost, well mixed into the topsoil, and also add fertiliser- around 100g per metre. Wet the ground around the plant, ensuring it’s not allowed to completely dry- but avoid saturation. Once the plant is developing, remove the head above the stems to encourage outward growth, until there are several shoots developing. This allows the plant to develop plenty of flowers & creates a more impressive yield. Establish canes or a similar structure to support your shoots as they grow- all the time controlling their growth to produce more shoots, as this will maximise yield.

Common sense advice we all need reminding of occasionally!

Whether you’re trying to get your plants through the colder months or giving chilly wildlife a helping hand, you may find yourself heading to the garden. When you do, make sure to keep warm and safe with a good mix of common sense, hot drinks and our winter warmth tips!

The sheds and gardens of Britain won’t have seen much pottering recently- most of us will have been safely hunkering down indoors. But the outdoors sometimes has other plans. From looking after local wildlife to broken guttering to clearing away snow, bad weather sometimes can’t be avoided. When you do venture out, make sure you keep warm to avoid illness or injury as a result of the freezing temperatures.

 

1.Be warm before you go out

Keeping warm is all about preventing your body’s core temperature from falling too far- it will fall, but the higher it is when you set out, and better you’re insulated against heat loss, the longer before you begin to feel the chill. Before you head outside make sure you’re nice and warm to avoid the chilling effects of cold wind. Keeping warm is actually about retaining heat, so put your jumper, coat and shoes near a radiator. Have a hot cup of tea before heading out. Make sure your coat is done up and your hat’s on before leaving the door. These small things all help retain the heat you built up indoors.

 

2.Layer up

Without getting too scientific, it’s not the clothes themselves that keep you warm: it’s the warm air they trap. Therefore the idea of creating as many pockets of warm air as possible, by layering clothes on top of one another, is now widely seen as better for warmth than one very thick outer layer. In addition, it allows flexibility, taking off one layer without removing too large a part of your own protection from the cold. Advanced modern fabrics are excellent for this sort of careful layering, however wool is an excellent choice, warm but breathable. This reduces sweating, which helps keep you warm but dry- very important in cold weather.

 

3. Put the kettle on

Regular hot drinks are a great (and delicious) way to boost your body’s temperature. Just holding a warm cup of tea, coffee or cocoa can make a big difference- as well as being a morale booster when working hard in the frost! Of course- most of us won't need reminding of this fact! Regularly topping up from a thermos is a must for everyone outdoors for longer than a few hours.

 

4. Avoid moisture

There’s nothing worse than being cold…except being cold and wet. Moisture permeates fabric and drops the temperature right down to freezing. Water is far more effective at causing heat loss from the body than air. Warm, waterproof gloves, such as ski gloves, are far better than simple fabric ones that, once wet, will lose all their thermal qualities. Take care as ice may cover puddles which, once disturbed and cracked, might leave an unsuspecting gardener soggy and freezing! If you clothing gets wet, make sure to change it. Similarly, while keeping moving is, of course, a sure way to warm up, building up too much of a sweat can cause your body temperature to drop, as the moisture loses its heat and quickly becomes very cold.

 

5. Try not to get dirty

This might sound like strange advice for gardening- but contact with soil is by far the fastest way to sap heat from your body. Cold soil is icy and very slow to warm up. Only dig, or handle earth with gloves on- otherwise you’ll quickly feel the nip. Wear suitable shoes that won’t pick up cold earth or freezing mud. And remember to clean any tools you've used, as icy mud can cling on and cause damage to metal or fabric.

 

6. Wear a hat

Have you heard that most heat leaves your body through the head? This has been debunked as a bit of a myth, however because of the amounts of blood present, it’s true that both the head, face and chest sense temperature changes more sensitively than other body parts, and, if uncovered, you will lose most heat through the head- but only because it's uncovered when other parts are wrapped up warm. 

        

Common sense advice such as this can make a big difference, from preventing muscles & joints seizing up to reducing illness and, of course, helping maximise time spent keeping your garden from lapsing into frost-ravaged tundra come spring.

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