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March 2009

What are Bokashi bins? Do I need one?

I've been all excited for the last few weeks, as i've finally got round to using Bokashi bins.  I first heard about them a couple of years ago and thought they sounded like a good idea, but I already fed my wormery with my kitchen scraps and egg boxes and put the excess in the compost bins to make lots of compost, so did I need anything else? - well one of my favourite garden goodies website, Wiggly Wrigglers has great informative explanation of Bokashi, which starts with

What if there was a method of composting that was so simple that it could easily be fitted into even the busiest lifestyles? What if there was a method of composting that was so quick that the kitchen waste from a large family could be composted in something as small as a 19 litre bin? What if there was a method of composting that meant that even the smelliest meat scraps (old fish skins anyone?) could be composted indoors; without smells and without attracting vermin? What if there was a method of composting where the drained-off liquid could be used to keep drains fresh?
Not even our superb composting worms can achieve all those things; but now there are some creatures that can! We'd like to introduce you to Effective microOrganisms... Ems for short.
To read the rest of their description click here

As we now live in a slightly more rural location, and I have my lovely open compost bins as well as my plastic darlek composters, I didn't want to be attracting vermin, and I do have food scraps (thanks to a picky DH and DS) and I want to reduce my landfill as much as possible, so at the beginning of the year I decided to give it a go.  I bought the multi pack, which has  2 bins. They are square plastic bins with taps at the bottom to drain off the liquid, - you put a tray in the bottom that has slits in it to let the liquid fall through, and then you add your food waste as you make it.  After you've put in a whole layer, you squash it down, and add the Bokashi Bran which has the Ems in it. - it took 3 weeks for us to fill our first bin, and it squashed down well, - we put in leftovers from our plates, egg shells, tea bags, bread, vegetable peelings and out of date things lurking in the fridge (jars of olives and cottage cheese) - the only thing they suggest you don't put in is bones , although reading the reviews, people have put in chicken drumsticks etc and they've rotted down fine - rotting isn't actually the right word, as apparantly the waste pickles itself.  I'm now onto my second bin, so the first one is outside pikling, - i'll let you know when it's time to put it on my compost heap outside. - There is no smell in the kitchen, there is a slight whiff when you lift the lid if you've only just put smelly things in (out of date sausages!), - but then the bran gets to work and a day or 2 later, no smell.

i'm really please so far, and there is loads of stuff that otherwise would have gone into landfill, - the best thing is, as my bin bag now has no food in it, I can put it out without the foxes having a go and ripping it to shreds, - tidy garden as a bonus.
I'll update you in a few weeks time.

Time to divide and multiply snowdrops

Snowdrop elwesiismall I think i'm beginning to be a bit of a Galanthophile (snowdrop lover), i've been propagtating some more today, and these were Galanthus Elwesii, which smell lovely when they are on mass. 
Now, when snowdrops have finished flowering, but are "in the green" is a great time to be lifting any clumps that you have and splitting them into 2 or three, - just dig a clump out with a trowel or spade, and then ease the clump apart. Don't be tempted to plant individual bulbs as you won't get as good an effect when they flower.
The garden I was in today, I had split most of the clumps last year, so I only attacked the biggest groups this year, but I now have 2 extra groupings, and so the snowdrop carpet will be spread just that bit further next year.

Gin and tonic with your fresh lemon?

When I was lucky enough to visit Versailles a couple of years ago, one of the best memories from the gigantic gardens there was the scent of the citrus flowers.  It was June when we visited, and the sheltered garden by the house had hundreds of potted up Oranges, Lemons, Limes and Calamondin which were in flower and bud. - I'm sure that even in the shelter of Versailles Palace they wouldn't have been able to stay outside all winter, so they must have had a giant greenhouse to put them in, as Citrus are slightly picky about changes in temperature, and will defoliate in an alarming way.

Although they like to be outside all summer,  they won't appreciate the winter cold and wet as i've found to my regret a couple of times when i've killed off plants by forgetting them and leaving them in my greenhouse (unheated) in January. They particularly don't like termperature change when they are flowering - so make sure they are in a pot that is easy to move around, - shade in the summer and inside in the winter.

What Lemons and co do like is rainwater,(their ideal pH is 6.5). You should give a good soak and then allow to completly dry out before watering again.

I'm going to try again this year, as the lemons i've got in the past are great with g&t, - although i've never got a lemon to go the same banana yellow as those in the shops!

Have you got bugs in your borders

While gardening this morning, i've just found in the borders a whole load of Vine weevil grubs, - how did they get there? well probably from a plant from a garden centre -because where I found the most was a suspicious pot shaped lump of peat. This would normally have had a lump of roots through it, but Vine weevil grubs eat roots, causing plants to wilt and die with no chance of survival. Early in the season is a good time to be catching them, and they are a lovely creamy white colour, so they show up well against newly turned soil, - obviously these weevils are now deceased, but I have left that patch of ground with no plants in it, and I will turn it over again at my next visit before replanting that patch of ground. I may also use Bio Provado or a nematode later in the season to check they havn't returned- things that I won't put in now I know there are likely to be vine weevil present are Heucheras, Sedum, Agapanthus, Asters,  Fuchsias and Cyclamen plus bedding plants like pansies, impatiens and begonias.

Vineweevil grubs

How to get the best from your mint this season.

The promise of spring is with us, and one of the most spring indicating herbs is Mint, - just think of roast lamb and mint, and new peas and mint, and you just know that you want tender shoots to use in the kitchen over the next few weeks.
If your mint is dead stems in the pot, - or worse, peeping up all over your veg plot, Now is the time to take action.

Mint is very invasive, so needs to be grown in a pot, - The best type is a 12-14" terracotta pot with a large drainage hole sunk into the bed.

If you've been growing mint in a pot already, then it will have outgrown its space, - dig it up, tip it out of the pot, and use a knife (an old bread knife is excellent if you don't have a gardening knife) to cut it into 3. Don't worry if you are cutting through a thick matt of roots, mint doesn't need a large amount of root to start off again, so you won't damage it by being over enthusiastic on your division.

Replace a 1/3 in the pot, and refill with compost, - leaving enough room at the lip to fill with water (plant with the compost 2-3cm below the lip of the pot) - the remaining 2/3 can be given away to friends.

If you are using piece that have spring up in your border, - again use a pot as above, with some compost (homemade preferably, but a mixture of John innes and multipurpose if not).  Don't worry if your piece is quite small, - a 9cm pot size will fill a 12" pot within one season.

My favourite mints are Spearmint and Tashkent, although I tried basil mint last year, as a interesting change, - what are your best varieties?

Bulbs - lots of green growth but no flowers

Over the next few weeks, the bulb displays are likely to be stunning, as all the cold weather over the winter will have reset the bulbs timeclocks, and they'll all know when to come out at the same time.  So if you've got a clumps of greenery that has no flowers at all, - what do you do?

This is know as bulbs being "blind", and can be for several reasons,
1) if the bulbs weren't planted deep enough, - and maybe dried out in the summer
2) if the bulbs had all their foliage removed before it had died down naturally, thereby depriving it of food to grow the bulb for this years flowering
3)if the bulb is multiplying and creating small bulbs (bulblets) that aren't large enough to flower

The third one was what had happened in the garden I was in this morning, - there were huge clumps of Muscari leaves, with a few tiny flowers poking through, but on taking them out, I discovered hundreds of tiny bulblets, which wouldn't be big enough to flower for a couple of years.  This has probably happened because the soil is fairly dry and sandy (it's under a tree), and may also be because we fed the soil last year for the other plants in the bed, - which may have encouraged new bulb development rather than bulb growth for planting, - we've solved the issue by removing them, and we'll plant more of the mini narsissus, which are already doing well in that bed.