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The trend of using liquid extract from compost to fertilise your plants is becoming more widespread, but the so called ‘compost tea’ is not free from controversy. Here is a brief introduction to compost tea.
Well, obviously. But ‘tea’ implies certain qualities, namely that there is an infusion, or essence which is mixed or brewed into water. And while many qualities of the solid compost might filter into the tea, the valuable fertility-enhancing quality, or at least some of it, does not. This is because the microorganisms in compost tea that decay and enrich your garden are those who dwell in water, not on the solid matter which will remain. Unlike a tea which captures the ‘essence’ of the infused plants, compost tea contains only the nutrients & living organisms that can transfer to water.
Compost tea does not store well. The breakdown of organic matter requires oxygen which, as we all know, is not abundant in water. Anaerobic decomposition (decomposition without oxygen) can produce a finished product rich great & valuable stuff like compost leachate, which has a variety of beneficial uses distinct from tea, but also risks harming plants if applied directly (see Bokashi Juice on this topic).
3. Use with care-
Compost tea is a versatile & quick way to give your plants an extra nutrient boost. However it is not its own substance- rather it’s a diluted blend of whatever was in the compost to begin with. This means that some non-plant composts can deliver unbalanced or unhealthy chemicals into the tea, without the added nutrition of solid compost. High nitrogen, manure-based compost will produce high nitrogen tea, and this could potentially burn plants if too much is used. Rather than some magic potion that will nurture your plants indefinitely, the tea will be a diluted blend of what’s already in the mix. The content of the tea will depend entirely on the composition of your compost- bear this in mind as you mix your tea. It is also work diluting tea for plants that are not in urgent need of extra nutritional help.
4.The benefits of compost tea-
Compost tea is versatile & useful for assisting weak plants. If used correctly it can help development quickly and without depleting your stocks of ready-to-use solid compost- most of us don’t have the space for extensive composting. If you do your research and take care not to overuse, you might find your plants come back stronger & healthier than in previous years.
If you don’t have a greenhouse- maybe you don’t have the space, or the money - February can be a pretty dull month for gardening. Obviously the days are short and weather is still cold (if not colder) as previous months, and even though Spring is round the corner, it’s very much winter. Add to this that you’ve maybe not been able to get on with very much through the dark, dreary winter months, and that you’re probably full of ideas and pent-up energy for the coming Spring. Indeed, for an enthusiastic newcomer, the down time of winter can seem drag on forever. By late winter, the thought of something, anything growing fresh shoots can be a joyful one and an antidote to the winter gloom. Indeed, the presence of a growing plant always has the ability to relax and restore you after a miserable winter.
So what about indoors? For a recent convert to gardening, there can be few outdoor options available in February, and the warmth and protection from the elements afforded by planting indoors provide excellent growing conditions, all year round. So here’s our guide of top tips for growing veg indoors in February:
For most of us, space at home is enough of an issue without adding plants into the equation! So watch out you don’t plant anything that’s going to grow too large for the sun-lit spot you’ve selected for it, unless you have somewhere more suitable, like a conservatory or greenhouse, where you can move it once it has grown. Remember to select a plant based on how much sun you can provide for it without changing its position – plants generally respond poorly to being moved. Those requiring lots of light should be kept to West and South facing windows.
Think outside the box- surprisingly, pole beans and peas can be easily grown indoors, either with a shortened length of bamboo or by hanging strings from the ceiling for it to climb. With beautiful flowers, these can be attractive and unusual plants to keep indoors- however with a maximum grown height of almost two metres, they may require a bit of forward planning. Broad beans like the Super Aquadulce –extremely hardy, even to be planted outside in February- or peas like the alderman or Kelvedon Wonder can be planted this time of year, the latter are very suited to indoors growing due to their reduced size.
If you aren’t keen on legumes, there are lots of alternatives. Basil, oregano and dill are all suitable to growing indoors, as are salad leaves, and possibly even peppers or tomatoes. With enough care and attention you will surprise yourself!
Indoor plants need more water than outdoor plants. So you will need to stay on top of your watering plan. It’s not enough to water only if it crosses your mind- chances are once in a while will not be sufficient in a warm house, and any attempt to make up with an extra helping will result in killing your plant. For the most efficient drainage, water with a consistent amount of water at a set time. Remember to bear in mind the type of plant you’re watering and the amount it needs. One advantage of indoor watering is relatively consistent air temperature, which can help with keeping your watering measured and avoid under watering.
Needing more water means more risk of overwhelming the plant, so drainage becomes even more important. It’s vital to ensure adequate drainage by placing some gravel, stones, or wood chips in the bottom of the pot, and to use a perforated pot that allows the excess water to pass through. Place this inside a watertight container to ensure your plant remains well watered without wallowing in stagnant water which can cause rot or attract unpleasant insects. Unglazed terracotta pots are porous and can offer some natural evaporation to reduce excess water.
When planting pot plants for the first time it’s important to take steps to nurture them – take care over your first steps and your new veg will be able to prosper and grow in the coming months. The best way to do this is thorough research into the specific needs of the species you’d like to grow. And of course using the correct compost is a great way to help your seedlings thrive. For small seeds and seedlings we recommend John Innes No. 1 compost. With carefully balanced nutrients, John Innes No. 1 has been used for over 50 years to help seedling stage plants develop. Too dense a nutrient profile can actually damage your young plants, so be certain to use the best compost for them. For larger, grown plants we suggest John Innes No. 2 compost and for the largest, fully grown specimens in their final stage of potting we think you’ll find John Innes No. 3 compost provides the best support. John Innes was specially formulated for potted or container plants at different stages of growth- so if you’re looking to give them a bit of boost this blend would be a great start! For more information on John Innes composts, see our blog the subject.
Remember, there is an abundance of tips for indoor & outdoor gardening online, with lots of information available- however don’t feel overwhelmed or under pressure to use every garden blogger’s favourite garden ‘hacks’- be positive, go at your own speed and the pleasure of growing indoors will last a lifetime!
Make Sure You Feed the Birds in January!
January is a tough month for birds to get food so it is essential that you keep feeding birds food and water. You can expect to see many birds coming to eat from your garden regularly. In return they will help to keep your lawn lush by controlling slugs, snails and greenflies, limiting the damage that these garden pests can do.
Winter is a great time of year for working soil.
January is an ideal time to work soil because the weather is cold. The benefit to doing this at lower temperatures is that soil will not stick to your tools as it would do in summer. As such you can prepare the soil in anticipation for the better weather to give yourself an advantage. Wait until a few days after rainfall and this will be the perfect time to turn over the soil and break up the more compact and lumpy soil. This will help to remove weeds and bring air to the soil making growing in the spring and summer months easier.
Start to dig in manure now.
While you are digging out the soil you can also dig in some mature manure. Look to spread this evenly over the surface. Aim to dig to a depth of between 20-30cm. Leaf piles and compost heaps can be raked and spread over vacant beds. Look to use well rotted composted horse manure or regular organic garden compost.
Start sowing seeds indoors.
Outdoor work can often be difficult over winter so look to start sowing early seeds inside in a controlled temperate environment. You can use a heated greenhouse or propagator to sow and plant seeds such as Begonia, Lobelia and Salvia.
Plan ahead for the year.
If you need motivation to get out in the garden why not order your spring and summer flower bulbs, seeds and other essentials now. The start of the year is a great time to buy these as they will often be available at a reduced price. Having all the necessary equipment such as string, stakes and canes and your bulbs, seeds, compost and fertilisers all ordered and ready gives you no excuse not to get out in the garden this year!
Storing compost through the winter is a great idea so that you can have perfect compost ready to use as soon as the end of winter approaches. This means that you can begin planting seed right at the start of growing season and gain a distinct advantage out in the garden.
Buying compost now and storing it means that you can reap the benefits of wonderful crumbly compost when the sunshine arrives and you are looking to begin planting. This is rather than having to deal with frozen, clumpy compost which will not contribute to good harvesting.
Right now at Compost Shop we have some excellent deals on compost and you can purchase our highest quality compost at a fantastic low rate. We recommend doing this before spring arrives to beat the rush and secure everything you need to grow well before the demand for Compost rises. If you buy compost now you can use a potion to mix into your heap now and save the majority anticipation for the better weather post winter.
Buying compost in bags rather than harvesting your own means that you can purchase the best quality compost and be confident that it will be sufficiently protected from rain and snow. This gives a much superior quality compost that you will notice the benefit of when you are rewarded with a fantastic harvest.
The scientific reason for why it is important to store compost well is because in the right conditions microbial communities shift which causes the compost to cure properly, this facilitates for far better growth of plants, fruits and vegetables when you come round to using the compost. Soil needs fungi and bacteria in order to be as effective as possible. Buying compost in bags and storing it well means that in creates the perfect habitat for microbes to transform compost to make it wonderfully spongy loose humus.
If you poke a few small holes in the compost bag it will allow a limited amount of fresh air in which will encourage microbes to create the spongy compost that you desire without freezing it or drying it out.
At present you can enjoy fantastic discounts on some of our most popular composts. Our mushroom compost is reduced to under £100 and our best selling multi-purpose compost is also on offer currently. John Innes number one, two and three varieties are all also in stock and available to purchase.
If you’re using a real Christmas tree this year you will be pleased to know that those pesky needles that would otherwise go on the floor to be hoovered up, can in fact be put to great use.
You can add a real Christmas tree to your compost heap so get saving any needles that you can and be sure to compost your Christmas tree once the festive season has passed.
The pine needles will take a long time to decompose so don’t expect instant results but if you compost your Christmas tree each year it’s a sure-fire way of ensuring high quality compost for the long term. There’s another reason to opt for a real tree instead of a false one!
Pine needles are slightly rubbery in feel and notoriously tough in order to last harsh winter conditions. For this reason they can take a long time to break down and the trunk of tree can take even longer. To help move the process along quicker it is a good idea to cut up the tree or to shred it if possible before composting.
It can be used as a positive that Christmas trees take a long time to rot. The needles can be used to cover muddy areas of lawn; the branches and trunk can be used as a natural wildlife habitat that encourages flower growth.
Putting fallen and dried out needles into your compost heap will not influence the pH level of the soil. It is a common misconception that pine needles are not good for composting. Pine needles are acidic whilst they are on the tree but by the time they are ready to be composted they are no longer acidic to any considerable level.
If you want a real tree but want to dispose of it after use, in most areas your local council will happily take away your real Christmas trees after you have finished with it. Real Christmas trees are classed as green waste. Many local authorities have green schemes or local environmental projects and will be glad to take real Christmas trees off your hands. Each local council will be different so you should check this first.
The team at The Compost Shop would like to wish season’s greetings to one and all. We hope that you have a great festive season and that the presents you want lie in wait under the tree (real or fake) on Christmas morning!
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