Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Bank holiday weekends are for - digging out compost

About this time of year, I need more compost. My tomato plants are itching to be in bigger pots, my overwintered salad is exhausted, and I need more good stuff to plant into.

Luckily I always have compost bins at the bottom of the garden, that are just waiting to give up their overwintered black gold.

Last Autumn, we replaced our lovely wooden bins with an extra plastic darlek, and a compost tumbler. Our grass cuttings, surplus apples (there are 2 huge trees next door, I did make chutney and have an apple a day through to December honest!) shrub prunings, chicken manure and our kitchen waste were all added in.

After a few months, we now have the end results.

The tumbled stuff was a lot wetter and darker than the plastic bin compost, - I used this for mulching on the vegetable patch.

The Darlek bin compost was sieved with my tumbling machine

This is an electric rotary sieve, that is an expensive piece of kit, but means you can empty a full compost bin in less than an hour. - The sieved stuff drops through into the wheelbarrow below, the large un composted lumps fall out the end to be returned to the bin for another couple of months.

This compost is really rich and very easy to plant in, and I had 2 wheelbarrows full, enough for all my tomatoes and peppers, which I grow ring culture style in recycled florists tubs. 

Free plant food, waste food eaten, - why not try a wormery?

I've been a worm fan for 12 years now.  That's how long ago I got my first junior wormery. 

The first one, wasn't a great success. I drowned my first set of worms after only 3 months. They were producing me plenty of Leachate (worm wee!) and I wasn't draining it off to feed my plants on a regular basis.

CanOWorms A year later, I tried again with a Can-O-Worms. This was a layered wormery, with stacking trays that your kitchen waste, plus cardboard can be fed in to at a regular intervals.

I had a lot more sucess with this one, and have been composting with worms ever since.

Worms are hungry creatures and can eat up to half their body weight in food each day.

They love vegetable peelings, uneaten fruit, saladings and tea bags. They are great at eating cardboard loo roll middles, egg boxes and other un plasticized cardboard. They are not great fans of too much onion skin or citrus, and avacado skins and egg shells go mostly untouched, so they go in my compost bin.

I also use my shredded security paper (envelopes with addresses on, old bill etc) as a layer to keep the bin oxygenated and stop it going soggy - they won't eat the plastic windows from envelopes, so they have to be removed, but I feel very safe knowing that my confidential papers are being eaten and used to provide great garden food.


Continue reading "Free plant food, waste food eaten, - why not try a wormery?" »

February Seed Sowing

It may be freezing, and still dark in the mornings, but i've aready started  my propagating season.

I love growing new plants. I always grow too many, so some always end up in friends and clients gardens, and there is the Horticultural Society Show's plant sale in May, but this year I can grow even more, as the School is doing a plant sale at the end of May as well.

January/early Feb is way too early for most seeds to be sown outdoors, although Broad Bean Aquadulce is meant to be hardy enough to be sown now (i've never remembered in time and always had to buy plants)

This year, I had a lovely Christmas present in the shape of this great seed tin.

it has different sections for each month, so i've gone thorugh my huge pile of seeds and sorted them into months that they can be sown in. - There are actually quite a few for January, - The Tomato Red Cherry that I sowed on 18th Jan has already germinated on the windowsill in the study, - i'll keep turning the seed tray around every couple of days to stop them going leggy, - that way they don't stretch towards the light.

The other seeds i've already sowed, - Aubergine, Tomato ildi, Parsley, Mizuna and Rocket have all been sown in recycled plastic containers, - those that are for fruit like Blueberries are the best as they already have drainage holes in them, and are mini greenhouses themselves


if you've got a pile of seeds packets, that could be from some years back and you're not sure whether it's worth sowing them, - check out this handy seed viability guide on the fennel and fern blog

i've been saving my containers, so i'll be out there this weekend, sowing a whole lot more.

Recycling your Christmas tree

 12th night is getting closer, and if you chose to have a real Christmas tree this holiday, 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 (like us) 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 finAllgers crossed.

 if your tree was  are one, it's now probably starting to shed a lot of needles, and recycling it is a good idea.

Last year our 9 foot Christmas tree, with a little pruning, became three tub trugs of fantastic smelling shreddings for our compost bin.

If you don't have a shredder or a compost bin, - there are lots of places that are happy to turn your trees into mulch.

Guildford borough Council have a list of local drop off points where you can take trees between Tuesday 5th and Monday 18th January

Are your Council stars or stinkers when it comes to recycling?

 I'm a keen fan of all kinds of recycling, with compost bins, wormeries and chickens to take some of my waste, but I do find (particularly when it's cold and the compost isn't producing  quite as fast), that have leftovers of Newspapers, food waste and garden waste like leaves, and then it's a lot easier when your Council are also good on the recycling front. I like to give credit where it's due, and Guildford Council started a new recycling scheme at the beginning of November.

So far this scheme has been excellent. As well as newspapers, cardboard, bottles, batteries and clothes, that have been recycled in various bags and boxes over the last few years, we now have a green bucket to take away all our cooked or uncooked kitchen waste.

 All the recycling is collected every week, and in addition green garden waste bags are collected every other week, with the wheelie bin, which is now mostly plastic waste, being collected on alternate weeks.

The only difficulty is remembering whether it's a green bag week or wheelie bin week, but in this age of modern technology they've even come up with a solution to that.

Now every Wednesday evening at 6 PM I get a text to tell me whether I should be putting out my recycling on my rubbish.

If you are in the Guildford Borough Council area and like the idea of receiving a reminder text as well,

here's the link 

 What happens in your area? are your council stars or stinkers when it comes to recycling?

Gardeners love sharing

 One of the things I love about gardening with a lot of clients is that I get to see  different plants from those that I use at home.  Even better is that a lot of my clients are very generous and don't mind me taking home any cuttings, spare prunings, or seedlings that are excess to their gardens.

This week's bounty is some bay leaves from a Laurus Nobilis I've been pruning.


Rather handy as my packet of  bay leaves has just run out.  I've hung these up to dry next to my spice rack. As they dry out they'll give a lovely scent to my kitchen, but more importantly I'll have fresh dried bay leaves this winter from a source that I know doesn't use any chemicals and is pest free, and no cost at all.

 what do you like to share from your garden? 

Garden clearup - Recycling pots

Terracotta pots

it's at this time of year when I've planted as much as I can in the garden, and finally given up on the dead sticks in pots that have been dessicated since the summer, that I finally have a turnout of all the pots that have been lying around the garden all year.

Unfortunately my collection of pots isn't all terracotta and rustic looking, most of the plants I buy are in black plastic pots, and although I need a few each year to pot seedling on into, I don't need nearly as many as I use.

Continue reading "Garden clearup - Recycling pots" »

Falling leaves, - turn them into plant food and mulch

The nights are drawing in, the days are getting shorter and your lawn suddenly disappears under a sea of leaves.

Now raking leaves up can be invigorating excersise, or it can be boring and never ending at this time of year, - but it might cheer you up to know that all your hard work can be worth it, if you turn your leaves into leaf mulch.

2 years ago, I encouraged (ok, maybe bullied is closer to the truth) several of my clients to start leaf bins. - The results are now in.

and whether you leave your leaves in a large builders sack, -or in a purpose made bin, you can get great leaf mulch within 2 years to add to your garden.

To make really good mulch, you need 3 ingredients

1) Wet Leaves, - if you add them dry, then you need rain to be able to get to them to help them to rot down

2) Air, - either open sides, and open top or holes in the bags help with this

3) Time - leave it alone for a couple of years and you'll have deep rich crumbly leaf mulch

i'd also suggest you compact the leaves well as you put them in or this happens


there is a very good value leaf bin available through The recycle works But if you don't have a completly flat surface with lots of space, i'd recommend using extra canes as support to make sure the bin doesn't collapse like this one did. - also make sure you put the join in the mesh at the front, so that you can easily get the leaf mould out.

I hope you have fun making your leaf bins, -even if the leaf raking is slightly harder work.

Harvesting rainwater to improve your garden

We've had a water meter installed in the last week. We opted for it as we're sure that our water bill will be less, but it does focus the mind on not wasting water.  This week i've installed another 2 waterbutts, and there are 2 more on the way.

i've always used water butts, - even on my 6' x 4' shed at the last house, we managed to fit guttering to fill a space saver waterbutt from one side. However this morning crystalized how much water we can harvest, - my 200 litre plastic water butt, bought as a buy one get one half price deal and delivered and installed on Sunday is now full to overflowing with one nights rainfall falling on our porch roof.  This is plenty to water all my front garden plants for the next week or so, and it means that I need to think about a larger tank there, or connecting several in tandom.

Some water companies are currently doing very good deals, or even giving basic butts away for free, - if you'd like something a bit more stylish, there are plenty of oak barrels or italiante urns available, - my advice would be to buy online, - delivery is almost always included.

Most plants prefer rainwater rather than tap water, because it doesn't include any chlorine or limescale additives, - Most of Surrey has hard water, so limescale can also cause white marks on plant leaves, -

I just need to buy a couple more watering cans now, (that don't have handles on the back so that they fit under the tap, so that one can be filling while i'm watering with the other. This summer i'm going to save my hosepipe, and use my butt!

Could my compost bin attract rats?

This is a question that i'm asked often, and is used as an excuse for people not to set up a compost bin, - so here is my take on the subject

Rats want somewhere warm and dry to shelter, and they want to find food.  A compost bin may be warm but it shouldn't be dry enough for a rat, and the food that attracts rats i.e cooked or processed food, meat, fish or dairy products shouldn't be added unless they have been pickled in a bokashi bin first. so my top tips for composting to avoid making a comfortable home for rats are

1) Make sure that there are no sources of food in the garden that can attract rats -

leftover food on a birdtable, bird food bags left open in a shed, vegetables hung up to dry ( the Goods had the right idea using the spare bedroom in The Good Life), rubbish bags containing food scraps left outside

2) Be an active composter, - if you are disturbing their hiding place every day and walking past on your way to other parts of the garden, your compost bin will become an uncomfortable place to hide

3) Don't put your bin in a far away part of the garden, so that you can add things every day or so, and make sure there is space round it - no overgrown folilage for rodents to hide in

4) Rats like a dry environment, - a pile of leaves is perfect for them, a well balanced mix of vegetable peelings, grass clippings, shreddings, shredded newspaper and cardboard will give you a heap with the consistency of a wrung out sponge, and you can always water your compost heap if it is too dry

5) make sure the rats can't be tempted by using a closed heap, - a lid and a base, or a layer of plaster mesh underneath it.


It is always a good idea to wear gloves when handling compost, and if you do see any signs of Rats having been in your compost, - all is not lost as the compost can be used on the garden as worms will have helped the degradation process, or you can always put material back in the bin for a couple more months.

It is also worth knowing that Garden Organic have not had an increase in questions about vermin in compost over the last couple of years even though there has been a large increase in the numbers of people composting