Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Wildlife in the garden

This evening, i'm talking to my local WI group about attracting wildlife to even the smallest garden. (Smart move on their part, to have a speaker who's within walking distance for if it snows later)

We're very lucky in this part of the world to live in a semi rural area, with an abundance of wildlife. - I'm not sure how i've managed to do the school run yet this winter without running over a pheasant.

As gardeners though, I truly believe that we have a duty to make sure that our gardens are as hospitable as possible for all kinds of wildlife. Really there is an amazing synergie between gardeners and the creatures that inhabit our trees shrubs and borders.


This Robin loved me weeding this border under a beech hedge last week. Getting rid of the bindweed and celandine meant he could get to the worms beneath, and there were plenty of empty snail shells around, so I think maybe he'd already been feasting on them.

Of course one of the best things for wildlife is also very good for us gardeners with not that much time on their hands. - Don't make things too tidy. Clearing beds and borders of debris and seed heads just a couple of times a year, and leaving a corner of the garden were things can grow wilder than normal is just fine.

Unfortunately for me, the wildlife has made too much use of the seedheads i've left in my borders, and i'll just have to show the WI ladies photos, of the sunflowers, eryngium, and other stripped bare seed treasures that the birds have found.

Recycling and reusing your Christmas tree

12th night is nearly here, the decorations are being removed, but what do you do with the remains of your christmas tree?


For the last few years, we've got a needle last Nordman fir, as a Cut tree.

Only Pot grown (not potted) trees, have a chance of growing in the garden after being inside for the last few weeks. However i'm not going to feel that i've wasted this wonderful tree, as after giving us weeks of pleasure, we're now going to shred it and add it to the compost bin.

This will balance out the weeks of only putting in kitchen waste, and will give our compost bins a good layer of "brown" composting material to aerate the bin, and stop our mixture going sloppy.

If you havn't got a shredder or compost bin, make 2012 the year you get these fantastic garden additions, - but in the meantime, - here's the list of where you can take Christmas trees to be recycled locally.

Quick Gardening tip - as the leaves start to fall


As our Indian Summer ends, and the winds pick up this week, - the trees will suddenly realise that Autumn is upon us.

Make sure that you protect your lawn, by regularly sweeping up the leaves, - but not with a metal spring tyne rake. That is great for getting moss out, but for taking the leaves off the top, use a plastic rake.

There are plenty of large fan shaped ones in garden centres and the DIY sheds at the moment, - but I love this one from Wolf tools, as I can put it on to different sized handles, depending on where i'm trying to clear.

Make sure you use your leaves. - I've written before about the benefits of leaf mulch. - It takes slightly longer than compost to rot down, but makes lovely organic soil improver.


Catching all the rain

Well it's been duck weather today. Almost Monsoon type showers, with sunny patches (short patches) in between.

i'm now drying out my second set of clothing, so it's time for some more reflection of my day at Hampton Court Flower show on Tuesday.


I always suggest to clients that they get waterbutts to put on their house downpipes. However one of the downsides of waterbutts is that they can look - well decidedly Plastic.

These Wooden Barrel butts seem infinitely more stylish than a plastic bin, and will be just the job for watering all your hanging baskets and pots that sit in the rain shadow of your house.

Now this might look a tad silly next to the house, - but if you've a shed or greenhouse in a woodland corner of the garden, - this could blend in nicely


Don't forget that you need to be able to either dunk, or put a watering can under a tap to fill. Having 2 decent watering cans means you can be filling one, while emptying the other.

These were shown on the Getting greener stand


A new set of garden friends

Those of you that follow me on Twitter will know that we lost our 3 chickens to the fox last week, - In daylight with me in the house.

Unfortunately like last time, - The fox didn't take the chickens for food, - he just broke their necks and left them there.

We were going to wait until we had completely redone our outer run, - but by the weekend I was missing having company in the garden, and there was noone to feed the slugs to, - so we phoned our Chicken Guy, Dean, and he'd just had a delivery of rescue chickens earlier in the week.


Here are 2 of our new girls (they wouldn't all stay together to get a picture of all three of them.)

They are really nervous to start with, making it quite difficult to catch them, but they'll get used to us in the coming months, - and will soon get used to running up to me to catch slugs.

When they arrive with us, these rescue chickens look in a rather bad way, but by the time they've been with us for a few weeks, they will have plumped out, and have all their feathers back. particularly if they get to sun themselves.


After spotting Mr Fox again last night (they were all safely locked away, but made enough fuss to make me look up) we won't be letting them out except when we're in the garden,

I've had lots of suggestions for helping to deter foxes, - Human hair will get tried, we will look into an electric fence, but I think the shotgun may be a step too far.



Quick Composting Nirvana. Top marks tumbler.


I may have mentioned before (just a couple of times) that i'm rather into composting. Turning as much of my garden and kitchen waste as possible into stuff that I can put back into the garden, either as mulch or a growing medium.

I thought i'd found the ultimate composting bins when our 3 bay wooden wonder made a batch of compost in 5 months.


Unfortunately not long after that, we found that a couple of Rats (probably from the farm fields opposite the houses behind us) also liked our compost bin, so much that they had a whole family and were most reluctant to leave us.

So the open compost bin had to go.

In it's place, I foolishly let my husband loose on the Henchman stand at the Hampton Court Flower show.

My hubby is a gadget man, - usually IT stuff, but heh, if the wife insists on a day out at a flower show, then gardening gadgets will do just fine. Which is how we got to order a rather expensive compost turning gadget.


The startup price for one of these is £315. Yep sharp intake of breath, even with a show special offer, these are in the Expensive with a capital E range.

It says that you can get compost in 6-8 weeks, but for that you will need to turn the handle to roll it over slightly more often than me (which is whenever I remember, but not every day!)

The first load for us took about 5-6 months, but that was over the winter. Since then we have got better and quicker. It is only 9 weeks since we last turned out this bin, but this was what greeted me when I discovered i'd run out of shop bought growing media and stil had seven dahlias to pot up on Sunday.


with a quick sift through the rotaseive (about 90% went through) this was a fantastic growing compost that looked a lot better for plant growth, and was practically peat free 

(* please note for those campaigning against any use of peat, until ALL plants sold at nurseries are peat free, what comes out of my compost bin can't be peat free, as I recycle any dead plants)

I won't be wandering onto the Henchman stand this year at the Hampton Court Flower show, as i've done my bit for keeping them going. But if you want a rodent free composting system, and think home composting is worth doing, - get saving

Top tips for planning your best garden ever. No 2 - Empty your Compost

Ok, hands up, who's got a compost bin at the bottom of the garden? - good, most of you with your hands up, - keep those hands up, if you've emptied it in the last 6 months? - where did all those hands go?

Ok, so compost isn't the most glamourous topic, but especially if you've got a free draining soil as those of us near the North Downs and in the Surrey Hills have, - you need as much compost and mulch on it as possible.

I emptied my compost bins this weekend, and spread the contents on the vegetable beds and filled a couple of large pots that i'll be growing veg in. - i've got three bins, and I empty them at least 3 times a year, sieveing  the contents with my mega machine.

This means that I get fine compost, and put the partially decomposed stuff back in the bins to be got out in a couple of months time.

But if you havn't emptied your bins recently, that probably means that you havn't got anywhere to put this years supply of grass clippings/kitchen waste/soft weeds and hedge trimmings/shredded paper or card (50% or each please)

At this time of the year, your borders are fairly empty, and have lots of new shoots poking through that would love a warm carpet of compost to help them through to May, - take pity on your borders, and empty your compost bins.

Planning for 2011 - Borders full of flowers without the full price cost

In February, (wow, nearly here already!) the garden is often looking at its drabest. No leaves remaining on the deciduous bushes or trees, seedheads that looked fantastic in the Autumn are now rather bedraggled, border perennials have been cut back, (and if they havn't been, look out for my post about winter border clearance soon) and although the bulbs are starting to poke through the ground, a lot of borders are empty of plants. But for me, February is a great playtime for making new plants. Seed sowing, division and cuttings can start off in earnest, and from this early season start there will be harvest of flowers this year.


So this week, ahead of a mammouth seed sowing and gardening weekend, my priorities will be

1) sort through my seed boxes, - work out all the vegetable and flower seeds that can be sown in February and set them aside

2) get together all the recycled containers that i'll be using for my sowings and divisions. This would normally mean a visit to the Squires recycling crate for pots and trays, - plus gathering together all the leftover loo rolls and fruit containers that make wonderful seed trays


3) and go back through my photos of my borders last summer. So that I can work out what was taking up too much room and could be split.


If you havn't taken photos, by this time of year, it is very hard to believe that your border will fill out in the summer


So as with all things in life, planning is the key, and i'll be burning the midnight oil, as I plan that my garden will be its best ever 2011


How to recycle your Christmas tree

It may not be 12th night yet, but hubby is back to work tomorrow, and i'm ready to get out of Christmas mode now. If you chose to have a real Christmas tree this holiday, like me, now you have to work out what to do with your conifer when you've removed your decorations.

Which Tree did you get? If it was pot grown tree, then you can quite safely put it out in the back garden, either leaving it in its pot when you've given it a water, or planting into the ground (if it's not frozen). If you got a potted tree then you might be able to get it to grow again next year, now is the time to put it out in the back garden (after a water) and keep your fingers crossed.

If your tree was a cut one, it's now probably starting to shed a lot of needles, and recycling it is a good idea. Ours is a noble fir, and although it has held on to its needles very well, they are no longer glossy green.

Our tree (with a little pruning) will become tub trugs of fantastic smelling shreddings for our compost bin.


But if you haven't got a shredder, or don't have room for composting, - don't despair. When all your decorations have been removed, there are a list of places that will take your sad looking reject, and recycle them.

Squires Garden Centre already have their Pen ready for your dead trees, and Guildford Borough Council have a list of places you can take your trees to between Today (3rd) and the 16th January.

Happy New Year

Can I put leaves in my compost heap?

with all the rain and wind last week, most of the leaves are now on the floor, so there's going to be lots of hard work over the next few weeks to rake them all up, - but what do you do with them?


Mixed leaves like those I swept onto this groundsheet last week, will rot down to make a fantastic leaf mulch over the next 18 months to 2 years, even if you just leave them in a heap, or put them in a bag.


but can you put them in a compost bin?

Well in small amounts you can, - BUT, because leaves take 18-24 months to become this fantastic mulch, and the other contents of your compost bin will only take 6-9months (if layered properly), I've found that it's a lot easier to separate them out where ever possible, and use leaf bins, or bags.

plastic or wire mesh will make a great bin, or big bags (like builders bags) - the 3 things that are needed are water (wet leaves rot down a lot better than dry ones - not usually a problem here in England) air, and time.

more details about making leaf mulch here