Organic Gardening Diary

Welcome to my organic gardening blog - where I post updates on my garden, the challenges, successes and failures along with what you need in your garden now:
  • Seasonal gardening jobs & how to tackle problems e.g. pest control, drought, frost...
  • Gardening advice when you need it,
  • Summaries of new web pages plus updates to existing information.
Happy gardening (-:
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Apr 11, 2014

How To Make Your Earth Right For Seeds

Have you been out sowing seeds? It is the cheapest way to fill your garden with lovely plants and I recommend you do it every week if not every day.

I'd like to show you a good way to prepare your garden soil for seeds - See below...

At this time of year you may have seeds germinating early in boxes indoors. I have lettuce seedlings coming up in my greenhouse already. They will be my first lettuce crop in 2014 and I will transplant some of these outside soon.

Seeds sown outside in the open will be much slower and later. But from the earliest onwards, my supply of vegetables will be continuous.

And so it is important in organic gardening to keep sowing. Because there will be some plant failures. Yet when you always have a wide variety of seeds on the grow every week, then you are sure to get results. And variety is great to have...

Clod of Earth

Clod dries from soft/sticky & black
to friable light grey.

Clod breaks open cleanly

Clod breaks open cleanly when earth is right for cultivation.

Summer is coming the earth is getting warmer.

For my garden friends in Australian & New Zealand - I am developing links to your national garden sites - you will be able to enter your nationality one-time after hovering on a link.
Very soon my garden earth will change from being black soft and sticky to friable and drying to light grey. A clod of earth will break open cleanly when it is just right for cultivation see picture.

Adjustable Spring Rake

Adjustable Spring Rake
See rakes on garden tool shed & click Rakes link.

To prepare a seed bed for small seeds it is very important to break the soil down into bread crumb sized particles. I find the adjustable width spring rake to be an ideal tool.

Spread the rake so the tines are open a small amount. Then move the tines from side to side along the seed bed that you are cultivating. Hold the tines so they are more or less of a right angle to the direction of travel.

In this way many tines with small gaps between break down the soil into a fine texture. I find this to be a highly effective method.

You can find Adjustable Spring Rakes by clicking the link below and selecting the link to Rakes.

Continue reading "How To Make Your Earth Right For Seeds"

Apr 02, 2014

Create A Frog Patrol To Protect Your Seedlings

What Happened To The Frogs?

About 3 weeks ago there were many frogs on the surface of my pond as large as life and mating - see pictures below on March 8. They are more vulnerable to attack like this, but that's all in the breeding.

Then with a small drop in temperature they disappeared.

Satisfied after 2 weeks of romance, they must go somewhere in my garden to feed. The spawn has become a seething mass of wriggling tadpoles still sticking tightly together in a group.

At this time it does not surprise me to find that frogs die in the garden too. An occasional frog can be found lying on its back. The biggest may survive best, I hope the smaller ones don't die from lack of food. So where have all the frogs gone?

Lesser Celandine is Sheltering My Frogs...

I mentioned this wild weed below on my previous blog of March 31.

Wherever I leave this early flowering plant it provides nectar and pollen for wildlife. The dense clumps of heart shaped leaves also give moist shade and shelter for all my frogs!

So by leaving this wild weed to grow around the plants I want to protect - such as lettuce or brassica seedlings - I gain an effective Frog patrol to eat plant pests. I'll root it out from the veggies later.

Now that may not be perfect but I have many other innocuous ways to protect your plants in addition...

More gardening soon...

Continue reading "Create A Frog Patrol To Protect Your Seedlings"

Apr 01, 2014

On Top of The Organic Gardening Heap

Let's look at a few ways to reduce slug pests. The top of a heap contains lots of compost worms. Among the rough organic matter you are also likely to find quiet a few slugs.

Leopard & Garden Slug On Compost

Leopard Slug & Garden Slug. Hiding under the lid on garden compost.

Compare with the bottom where your garden compost is black, fine and ready for use. The organic matter consumers are rare at the bottom as they keep moving up to where their food is.

However, the top of your heap could be a breeding ground for slugs as they are well protected from predators here. There is a possibility that their eggs could pass through a cold heap to the bottom.

A problem arises if you have an abundance of slugs breeding in your heap leading to an explosion in numbers. The Leopard slug seen in the photo apparently breeds in a tree - surprise! But where does it lay its eggs?

To kill the slugs that you see in your heap, simply slit them with a pair of scissors. They become part of the compost and are eaten by other slugs.

Digging around back in the garden there seem to be quite a few small slugs in evidence. With the temperature warming and the soil still moist, it is a good time to consider applying an anti-slug bio-control such as Nemaslug. Useful links - and there's more below on Frogs.

See Nemasys Grow Your Own Pest Control offered here at a nice value for money price for hungry gardeners. This bio mix covers many garden pests.

Use biological control by specific nematodes for particular pests.

More later on how to get Frogs to patrol the growing areas that you want them to protect...

Continue reading "On Top of The Organic Gardening Heap"

Mar 31, 2014

There's food in my garden for early risers

Some of you may not recognize my description of last winter as being mild. Yet for many more of you this is becoming a frequent reality.

Tortoise Shell on Celandine

Lesser Celandine with a Tortoise Shell butterfly

Celandine with cabbage attracts butterfly
Yesterday was warm and my organic garden was fluttering with several different butterflies including the large Peacock and a Small Tortoise shell. The Peacocks seem to be mating already. Large Bumblebees are also active in my garden now.

Therefore it is now very important to grow early food plants like the Lesser Celandine pictured here. These wild plants are considered to be weeds, but don't worry about that.

I have many clumps of them. Some as in this picture are even growing around vegetables - here next to Red Cabbage. They will be dug out - roots and all - in a month or two. But not before they provide that vital pollen and nectar for wildlife.

Lesser Celandine spreads rampantly from bulbils and after root tubers are disturbed, so take care to weed it all out. I get away with this by focusing weeding effort selectively on some growing areas. The rest is fine.

Take it easy, as these early clumps of pretty yellow flowers are more attractive than Daffodils. Other suitable plants include Winter Aconite, and Doronicum.

More later...

Continue reading "There's food in my garden for early risers"

Mar 14, 2014

My Special Garden - provides special food all year long

What a delight to see the garden growing again. Here's a

-Romanesco- Ornate Cauliflower

'Romanesco' Cauliflower now - late Feb early Mar - straight from garden to kitchen.
 

a beautiful crunchy 'Romanesco' Cauliflower cut from my garden only last week. Moreover, I have another even bigger waiting to be cut.

These are small but valuable delights that come from keeping active in an organic garden.

Add to that last year's harvest of Garlic, or growing fresh Garlic Chives, plus fresh beetroot - left in the ground - plus a few carrots that I missed earlier but I'm still pulling now... ...

Crunchy -Romanesco florets

Individual florets ready to be cooked.

The Cauliflower florets in the picture can be snapped off individually. After cutting new florets grow out again. Now I have to decide whether to keep cutting or start with new plants.

Gardening with seeds can bring you many unusual and attractive varieties that you don't get in stores.

Indeed the mix of grow your own veg on the following links is the most colorful and attractive I've ever seen - Rainbow carrots, Rainbow Chard, stripy Beetroot and pear shaped tomatoes, beautiful Radicchio, tasty salad leaves and herbs.

These grow-your-own links help you serve more attractive and healthy meals that you and your children will love. You'll find easy to grow potatoes that are unique in shape color and good flavour.

Why not try the attractive vegetables on the links below in your flower borders too.

Organic Kitchen Garden - can't miss these:

  • Garlic - very healthy for you & it's used to protect other plants. I also have early and late onions, shallots, leeks and spring onions. Never be without great flavour.
  • Potatoes - nowadays they come in an interesting range of shapes, textures and colours.
  • Beets & Swedes - health protecting antioxidants are found in red coloured vegetables. Add to that crunchy red radicchio.
  • Herbs such as origanum, chamomile, marigold, nasturtium, mint, help to protect your crops, besides adding great flavour to meals.
  • Fine tasting Brassicas - Cauliflower in varied shades, and a nice crop of brussel sprouts, plus red leaved Pak Choi.
When selecting for organic gardening remember that resistance is an important organic defense strategy.

You'll find Carrot 'Resistafly' is an improvement on 'Flyaway' for larger roots.

I'm also sowing 'Sugar Snax' which is remarkably sweet, plus 'Nantes 2' 'Chatenay Red Core' & 'Autumn King' are my favourites. More coming up later.

Wishing you the very best of health.

Continue reading "My Special Garden - provides special food all year long"

Mar 08, 2014

Which garden animal likes, blinks, smiles...

...And provides an important natural link with WEB feet no less.

Of course - all organic gardeners should celebrate the frog!
Here's a few pictures from my pond taken last Thursday 6th March.

Frog Likes

Frog Likes

The More Frogs the Merrier.

Frogs - the more the merrier.
How do I know what they eat? Well slugs definitely decrease in number after you make a thriving pond. I have already started to make a second pond for them.

One frog blinked - so my new camera reported

- so the camera actually detected a FACE here!
I will adjust it to detect a froggy smile.

Frogs blink & smile for my camera.

Thinking about capturing your own garden photos? Compact bridge cameras give you the controls to capture quality pics.

Continue reading "Which garden animal likes, blinks, smiles..."

Mar 05, 2014

Your Garden Thrives When Nature Thrives

Is this the last year that you will put up with your crops and flowers being eaten by pests? Is this the year that you will resort to using pest killers?

If you are used to everything being very neat and tidy then you may not be leaving enough room for natural controls to thrive.

More than simply not using poisons, organic gardening also involves actually doing something different. It involves nurturing wildlife so as to achieve natural control through balance.

Remember: by killing off the natural controls or by not leaving any room for them to thrive, the pests in your garden get a free run at your plants.

However, by encouraging diversity in your garden, nature controls the pests for free.

Goldfinch feeding on Teasel in February.

Goldfinch feeding on Teasel in February - but only because I didn't tidy it all away

You want more from your garden.
Now I know life is not perfect. Some damage will occur. However, by ingenuity we gardeners can add in some smart methods that work with nature.

Among these are biological controls, resistant varieties, companion plants, and barriers. I'll be writing more on using all these this year...

But one of the most important controls is nature itself and the eco system you create around your home.

Frog spawn appears late February

Frog spawn eggs look similar to a lens that concentrates the suns rays to warm the embryo.
Birds are splashing all over the pond but they don't seem to have a taste for eating the nutritious spawn. Nature knows how to survive.

Goldfinch beautifully colorful with a lovely summer song.

Goldfinch are beautifully colorful with a lovely summer song.


Later I'll be posting my methods on how to combat pests around your plants: slugs, carrot root fly, beetles and more... Be wary of using anything that is an indiscriminate killer even if it is organic in make up.

Continue reading "Your Garden Thrives When Nature Thrives"

Feb 22, 2014

Organic Greenhouse Growing Needs Extra Care

When you think about organic gardening all your attention may be on not using poisons. Actually there are many more positive must do activities, such as compost making and companion planting...

Garlic Chives - clean fresh flavour

Garlic Chives fresh & clean for eating
Scent may deter pests.

However, there is one garden area where not using poisons really must take priority.

I mean the confined dryish spaces found inside greenhouses, cloches and polytunnels. Why?

Well, we are often told that poison residues biodegrade. Yet under cover the dryish conditions will retard biodegradation. Under protection these synthesised toxic residues have less chance of being washed or blown away.

So the concentration of poisons could increase in confined spaces.

You'll find
Organic Pest
Controls

on links just below
VVVV

And it's not only poisons you need to take care of. Without rain to wash salts into the soil, salty fertilizers will be drawn up to form a deposit on the surface. This could poison the soil for seedlings.

At this time of year many gardeners will want to give the earth under cover a good deluge of water to wash the problem down.

Of course, if you rely more on nutrients bound into complex organic materials rather than using fast liquid feeds, then this problem is reduced. Actually nutrient removal should occur mainly through the baskets of fruit and veg that you harvest.

Now if you are wondering how to deal with pests in your greenhouse without using poisons, then I recommend you try out biological controls.

Various kinds of specific organism: wasps to eat aphids, nematodes to infect slugs for example, work well in confined spaces. This year I will be trying a special mix of nematodes to control greenhouse ants.

They do need a minimum temperature to get going - nematodes also need moisture. Before then you might simply use vigilance. But whatever you do don't mix poisons with biological controls. Then you really do have the worst of both worlds.

 See Nemasys Grow Your Own Pest Control offered here at a nice value for money price for hungry gardeners. This bio mix covers many garden pests.

 Use biological control by specific nematodes for particular pests.

 More information on biological controls here.



Grow Your Own with Harrod Horticultural

Continue reading "Organic Greenhouse Growing Needs Extra Care"

Feb 20, 2014

One Week On - Rhubarb is on the March

I'll be taking regular 'my garden' photos this year so you'll actually be able to see my plants growing.

Rhubarb - valentine

Rhubarb 1 week later than pics below.

Compare this photo with the one I took just 8 days ago. Now you see - not so long waiting and excitment mounts as I can actually see my healthy meals growing day by day.

I will also be adding a long awaited section on organic vegetable growing. This is so big it has to wait for me to finish my garden.

It's all being worthwhile and very green and healthy... so come again.

Continue reading "One Week On - Rhubarb is on the March"

Feb 15, 2014

Cleaning & Cloches

A big advantage of toughglass greenhouse panes is that one piece

No Overlaps With Toughglass.

spans the whole roof from eaves to ridge and, on the sides, from the bottom sill up to the eaves.

This not only makes construction much easier, it also eliminates those glass overlaps. This is important because when you clean your greenhouse with a cloth or brush you can't reach into that gap to remove any algae.

Even with large panes there are just a few overlaps to accommodate shaped glass at the gable end. You can see from the picture that soap has cleaned it but the algae are likely to grow back from the overlap.

My notes below contain links to some cleaning materials.


Always consider the advantages of cloches in your garden. I recently read an article extolling the virtues of polytunnels, but I can't agree. The experience being described was based on commercial horticulture. Most organic gardens and small homesteads are very different.


Warm up & grow
with cloches

Find cloches in U.K.

Yes a polytunnel can grow all kinds of crops, and get an early start. But cloches will do that for you more flexibly and with less cost. And just to detail my earlier comments on this the heat captured will raise the temperature in a cloche more than in a polytunnel.

Here's the equation:

Heat input is proportional to ground area. Heat required to raise the temperature is proportional to the volume.


Let's illustrate this with a standard cube
A - 6 Feet X 8 Feet X 6 Feet
and one half size in every dimension
B - 3 Feet X 4 Feet X 3 Feet .
Volume of A = 288 cuFt and Ground area of A = 48 sqFt
Volume of B = 36 cuFt and Ground area of B = 12 sqFt

Ground Area / Volume is proportional to the ability of the structure to raise the temperature from absorbed heat.

A - (Ground Area / Volume) = (48/288) = 0.17
B - (Ground Area / Volume) = (12/36) = 0.33

B (0.33) is greater than A (0.17).

The smaller cloche sized structure can raise the inside temperature more than the larger structure.

Clearly you can further reduce the volume and the heat lost through the surface by selecting a tunnel shaped roof rather than a vertical sided square shape. However rectangular forms maximise internal space while curved shapes throw some space outside.

Consider this when comparing several bell jar cloches with one long cloche. Space outside a bell cloche may be wasted.

Continue reading "Cleaning & Cloches"

Feb 12, 2014

My Valentine Always Appears On Time

My garden loves me for real as the delightful Rhubarb 'Valentine' shows up on time once again.

Rhubarb - 2014 valentine

Love from my
Rhubarb 'Valentine' 2014

Valentine has to be one of the earliest Rhubarbs to appear, and this year it's a date almost ready for picking. Just look at that! You can see this is a variety with deep red stems.

I should fork some chicken manure into the surface and mulch around it with a thick layer of garden compost.

Some gardeners like to force Rhubarb. They do this by covering the plant completely from light with an upturned container. This produces thin sweeter stems. However, 'forcing' uses up a lot of the plants stored resources. It should only be done in alternate years when you have 2 plants.

Rhubarb - 2014 valentine

Rhubarb 'Valentine' looking forward to my sweet.

A good way to try this would be to establish the Rhubarb in a free draining container. Leave the container out to get the winter cold then cover the plant from the light and bring it into the warmth.

Well I still have 2 more varieties of Rhubarb to come up in my garden. 'Champaign' is showing some signs of growth too.

In the U.K. the Royal Horticultural Society has a national collection of 112 Rhubarb cultivars.

Now Thompson & Morgan are offering cultivars from the collection that have been recognised with the Award Of Garden Merit (AGM).

So I think my next buy will be 'Stockbridge Arrow' for attractive accented leaves. With more plants to draw on I can force one. Plus I'll have plenty of healthy filling for pies and crumbles to last a whole year. Check them out on the link.

For my American friends I have a link to Rhubarb 'Victoria'. This one variety has been recognised as a top British variety for so many years it's a tradition.

Now as soon as the ground is workable you can plant perennials like Rhubarb. For Rhubarb prepare the ground with well rotted garden compost or manure, and a good 3 handfuls of an organic fertilizer such as bone meal or hoof and horn. The crowns should be at ground level in earth that doesn't become waterlogged.

Happy organic gardening in 2014.

Check the great prices at DirectGardening.com




  

Continue reading "My Valentine Always Appears On Time"

Feb 08, 2014

Greenhouse Glass Sparkling Clean

Well hello again. I'm writing to finish off the greenhouse cleaning blog. No secrets here - I simply used dish soap and vinegar along with a sponge and scraper, and a long handled brush for the roof. This easy job has made the glass look clean and sparkling again.

I could have used bicarbonate and some people use washing soda, but both these introduce salt. Whatever I use, I would have to buy it. So for your information I've included links to products specially made for the job from plant extracts.

The UK link to a natural Greenhouse Cleaner is best.
And there's more on maintaining UK greenhouses when you click below...
Quality Aluminium Greenhouse Staging and Shelving from Harrod Horticultural

American gardeners will find more information here

Do use the Contact the Gardener link on the navigation bar if you have any solutions that you would like to share with my readers or comments about the quality of organic products.

I'm looking forward to lots more organic growing in my greenhouse this year. Cultivating seedlings has already started. You may find more help on the links above and below.

Do consider cloches as a good alternative to a full sized walk in polytunnel or greenhouse. I've outlined some of the physical advantages for gardening below.

Continue reading "Greenhouse Glass Sparkling Clean"

Feb 04, 2014

Organic Mulch

Learn about organic mulch here - homemade mulch, agricultural & forestry mulch. See my recommendations on how to use & not to use organic mulch in your garden.

Continue reading "Organic Mulch"

Feb 04, 2014

Landscape Mulch

Create a neat, easily maintained garden area of natural texture & continuity using landscape mulch

Continue reading "Landscape Mulch"

Jan 30, 2014

Get growing under cover now

Welcome to the new gardening year once again. I want to start positive by considering glass or poly houses.

Polythene seems to lack the purity of glass, but the big advantage is that it can be tailored to fit small spaces with ease. And this is a better match for price.

So I've put a link at the bottom to an attractive poly house that includes a versatile ventilated design. I'd really like to see these features built into larger structures where ventilation is even more important.

My own greenhouse is made of coated aluminium and toughened glass, and it's still as good as new. For larger structures a higher price makes durability an important issue.

But with a small poly house it would be possible to move the structure around year on year. Check out the links to see what's new.

Ordinary horticultural glass is the cheapest but potentially dangerous. It breaks into sharp pointed shards. Alternatively toughened glass is tough, and when it breaks it forms glass crumbs that are easy to sweep up.

Polycarbonate has better insulation, it is strong and light but has the problem of being difficult to secure against the wind. It rattles.

Plastic often appears pale rather than clear because it diffuses the light. However, I'm not convinced that UV protective coats will keep this material from dulling and becoming brittle over the life time that I expect to use it. Yet, for a small structure poly makes more sense.

In the next week or so I'll be making up a wash to clean the glass and frames on my greenhouse. In the next blog I'll describe what I've used to get it clean. All the best.

American plant houses for your gardeniconPlant houses for more British flowers

Quality Aluminium Greenhouse Staging and Shelving from Harrod Horticultural

Continue reading "Get growing under cover now"

Jan 23, 2014

Polytunnels, greenhouses, or cloches?

Polytunnels have become a fashion but don't get carried away by that if you're a gardener. Larger producers are attracted by easy to handle and build materials. But for the small gardener the advantages are doubtful. See below...

First, polytunnels are not very adaptable to mounting ventilation, or staging. And for growing many plants adequate ventilation is very important. Your conclusions may depend on the scale of garden that you manage.


Greenfingers.com
Because small is beautiful when it comes to heating - I'll explain why below...

Consider cloches if you are not growing tall plants and don't need to walk inside. The heat from the sun is absorbed by all the surfaces inside your poly, greenhouse or cloche. This heat is transmitted to the air inside, and this circulates by convection inside without blowing away.

So think about the ground area relative to the volume inside i.e. the air space.

The greater the ground area the more heat is absorbed. One tip is to hang black strips inside where they don't shade your plants. In winter black polythene over the ground will help absorb more heat from light.

So the larger the volume the more heat you will need to keep the temperature up. The larger the ground area the more heat will be absorbed from light and transferred to the air inside.

So if you are not growing tall plants, and if you don't need to walk inside your plant house, why not consider cloches instead. This tip may allow you to extend your growing season at both ends. But I can't describe using fuel oil to heat plants outside as being an organic method. More on this later...

Do contact me if you have actually tried this and have some results to support my hypothesis.

Continue reading "Polytunnels, greenhouses, or cloches?"

Dec 11, 2013

Growing Runner Beans

Check out my tips on growing runner beans for a nutritious crop that fits into any garden. You can get a bountiful crop for freezing

Continue reading "Growing Runner Beans"

Sep 17, 2013

Face of The Organic Gardener

Here's just a quick invite with a link to Home of The Organic Gardener on Facebook. I'm adding my pictures, you can too.

Join me there to add your comments and pictures and share it with your friends. We will build a growing community of gardeners. Click below.

Continue reading "Face of The Organic Gardener"

Aug 02, 2013

Ventilate Your Greenhouse Garden

Well here's a quick look at my packed greenhouse.Full Greenhouse I decided to fill it with everything I could get in - details below...

First a quick word on greenhouse ventilation.

Today, after very clean growing, I discovered some strawberry fruit overcome with furry botrytis fungi. There are 2 reasons for this outbreak.

I've not been ventilating. Concentrating on not letting temperatures go too high I forgot about the need for ventilation. Today I opened the second window, widened both side ventilators and left the door open an inch.

Second reason is that I've been unusually extravagant in watering this year with my underground seep hose. The soil surface usually remains dry but I've had too much water going in overall and the pathway is damp.

Bye-the-way I added liquid feed inside my greenhouse and outside on my potatoes see next post. Don't over do high potash liquid feeds as you'll get blossom end rot and hard growth.

Cucumber - FemspotAnd here's a picture of my cucumber 'femspot'. I'll post another picture when the fruit are ripe for picking.

2 melon plants are growing up and now as they reach the top the leader will be stopped. Several side shoots will be trained along horizontal wires allowing just 1 melon fruit to grow on each side lateral stem.

What's in my greenhouse?

There are 2 varieties of strawberries - still fruiting - 6 varieties of Chilli Peppers, 4 varieties of tomatoes, 2 x Cucumber 'femspot' 2 Melon 'Sweetheart' several unknown cucurbitaceae which may turn out to be gourds or melons - I mixed up the seeds.

All the best to my fellow gardeners for a good greenhouse crop.

Continue reading "Ventilate Your Greenhouse Garden"

Aug 02, 2013

Organic Tomato Fertilizer

Healthy plants from an organic tomato fertilizer that also works for several kinds of greenhouse and herbaceous fruit. To enjoy all the health benefits of your tomatoes visit here.

Continue reading "Organic Tomato Fertilizer"

Aug 01, 2013

Pretty White Butterflies Laying Eggs

Butterflies are great to see but some are laying eggs on my plants...
more below on protection...Silver Studded Blue Butterfly

I'm enjoying the rewards of diverse planting as my garden is home to a wider range of beautiful fluttering species.

This Silver Studded Blue butterfly might otherwise be seen on Broom / Gorse and heaths but is happy in my garden today.

Chillier air may cause butterflies to fully open wings to bask in the sun. Normally folded wings are less visible to predators. Under cover of darkness moths can spread their wings.

The other frolicking white butterflies may be engaged in territorial claims. They can't be allowed to get away with my garden greens.

Cabbage White butterflies have started laying eggs on my broccoli and cauliflower. The butterflies are distracted to some extent by companion plants such as beans. When insects find the wrong plant they may move to another patch - but not for long.

A natural way to protect your plants is to check them daily and rub out the eggs that you find. This depends on how many plants you have to take care of.

Probably the best protection comes in the form of netting. It is clean and relatively harmless.

The July break is long over. With a productive organic garden you will be pushed to keep up with the harvest now. The hedges need trimming too. Indeed they should have been done in July.

p.s. If hedgehogs move around your organic garden take care to bank up the sides of your netting, or add a barge board or strip to prevent entanglement.

All the best.

Continue reading "Pretty White Butterflies Laying Eggs"

Jul 25, 2013

Organic Gooseberries & Fruit in Plenty

I'm in the thick of harvesting fruit. Gooseberry 'Invicta' produces my earliest crop. Leave it just a little longer for the best sweetness. Yet what would a Gooseberry be without its sharp taste?Gooseberry Pax ripens from pale to deep red

The picture right shows how Gooseberry 'Pax' ripens from pale to deep red. 'Pax' is a thornless Gooseberry.

I suggest that you don't pick the whole crop at once. Pick the largest ripest berries first and leave the others to ripen.

This year the sun has been so hot that the berries are almost cooking on the bush. You may need to pick any berries where that happens.

It's been very dry so if we get a massive down pour of rain the fruit may split. To avoid that I've been keeping the roots moist with my own water.

Thornless Gooseberry Bush 'Pax' will ripen to a deeper red yet.

Gooseberry Pax ripens from pale to deep red

Gooseberry 'Invicta' is a good reliable massive cropper & early.

Gooseberry Invicta good reliable cropper & early


You'll find more organic gardening and meet my friends on this link. You may find it easier to join in here and you are welcome to comment.

Continue reading "Organic Gooseberries & Fruit in Plenty"

Jul 15, 2013

Priority Organic Garden Watering Tips

Get it right when you water your garden

Here are my hot tips.

Always use either a soaker hose or watering can. Except for lawns don't use a sprinkler.

Potatoes
Direct water onto shady ground under the leaves.
Aim to keep the air and the leaves themselves dry to reduce infection with Blight Fungus.

Flowers
Flowers fade earlier when it's dry. Many are on the way to setting seed. Keep flower beds moist.

Use a soaker hose, direct water at the base of the plant.

With plants that are susceptible to slug attack water them in the morning.

Fruit - Gooseberries, Blackcurrants, Raspberries
Soak the fruit bushes as above. Your fruit may have a late 'June drop'. Keep them from drying out and you're fruit will swell up big time and sweet.

Mine aren't quite ready for picking.

Seedlings
Cover sown seed or seedlings with green shade netting.

Run water down a channel next to your seedling row.

Sprinkle dry soil over the surface after you've watered them.

It's not too late to sow. I'll be sowing more French Beans, Carrots, Summer Savory, plus Basil, Kale, and who knows what else. I still have peas coming up. But I'll have to keep them moist and weeded.

Here's a perforated seep hose to sink under the soil. You can water mid day with these.

It's worth checking this UK Page For Garden Watering cans too.

For American Gardeners check this Perforated Seep Hose and related equipment.icon

Australian Gardeners see Save Water blog below to get ready for next year.

Continue reading "Priority Organic Garden Watering Tips"

Jul 13, 2013

Busy but Resting on My Fragrant Chamomile Lawn

It could have been several weeks since your last grass cut. Because grass growth has paused leaving you and I free to take a rest.

How admirable to have a flowering lawn at this time of year. You have a colourful carpet of low spreading plants: the blues of Self-Heal (Prunella), white and yellow Daisies (Bellis perennis), spreading aromatic Thyme (Thymus serpillum), tiny yellow flowers of Black Medic (Medicago lupulina), and in the same family Clover (Trifolium repens), plus Veronica and Eyebright too.

To think that commercial horticulture has taught us to eradicate these pretty flowers from our lawns brings tears to my eyes.

What the intelligent organic gardener must know is that commercial lawn care products are designed for specialised greens. Bowling, putting and croquet greens, tennis and cricket pitches, of course need to be uniform and level and flowers can't be tolerated there.


This garden could be a landing site for Dr. Who and his Tardis. Has that bowl of shrubs landed from outer space? How incongruous they look. Perhaps Androids live here.

None of those standards apply to most lawns at home and certainly not at the home of the organic gardener. Here we have a colourful and lively lawn as the pretty flowers attract dozens of insects pollinators.

Compare that with the sterile gravel garden in the next photo. Really it could be a landing site for Dr. Who and his Tardis. No animals live here. Yet this contrast shows how sterile, barren and machine like we have become. :-)

Continue reading "Busy but Resting on My Fragrant Chamomile Lawn"

Jun 28, 2013

Summer Is Breaking Up Wet Again

Here in the north west of England we've had a few good weeks of sun and little rain. Now the weather has broken into grey skies, cool air and even a stiff breeze earlier in the week. So what should you do now?

Well first, the heavy Peony flower heads that I'd staked up during the wind now need firming up. The stakes are leaning in the soft ground. So I've added two small rocks to firm the soil around them.

Slugs are out in the day in this wet weather and the birds are enjoying a good feed. Nevertheless it's a good time to apply Nemaslug, a nematode preparation for biological control. Nemaslug sometimes fails if the ground is dry - do follow instructions. But in this weather it works well - we can't have it all ways. You can get it here.

The best selection for Organic Pest Control that I've seen in the UK.
American Gardeners. Scroll down Slug Magic on this page which is another type organic control. I think it works in the wet?

For controlling weed seedlings there's a preparation based on Corn Gluten. Like the weeds it needs damp soil to start off. When the conditions become dry these weedlings dry up as the natural powder does its work. It's great for use around carrots and onions as they don't like weed competition and you need to get them young.

Be sure you get the right stuff - I can only find this in the USA just now.

Of course the damp conditions make it easy to pull weeds straight out of the ground whole. Keep on growing :-)

Continue reading "Summer Is Breaking Up Wet Again"

Jun 27, 2013

Big Organic Vegetables

I want to share this photo I took just 15 minutes ago.

Here's cauliflower 'Igloo'. You may think it gets its name from a resemblance to an Eskimo igloo. Equally the name might come from it's preference for sowing in cold conditions.

I have several of these now that are ready for picking today. I sowed it from seed in my greenhouse during winter. The plants became established and as the days warmed became so large I thought I'd loose them. By the way you can't beat chicken manure as an organic nitrogen fertilizer.

Well I tackled the transplant by removing a large root ball, i.e. keeping roots undisturbed by included a lot of soil. As the greenhouse earth was relatively dry it all held together rather well.

The large holes that I dug outside were well fertilized, garden compost was added, plus bone meal, and I poured in plenty of water.

After replacing the earth I firmed it down well. Also, as the sun was full on, I shaded the leaves for a few days with opaque sheeting.

Great news, these often hard to transplant crops are nearing perfection.

Now to protect your crops from pest attack see the links in the blog below. I have my slug traps on guard around these prize plants.

Continue reading "Big Organic Vegetables"

Jun 26, 2013

Water and Pest Control

Are your plants suffering from slimy critters that come out at night when it's damp.

First - water your plants in the morning. After a sunny day the surface will be dry and less inviting to slugs and snails.

Some plants survive the battle with pests by having their own chemical deterrents. You only have to touch the leaves to smell the odour from your plants.

So grow garlic and give the leaves a bash in the evening to generate the odour.

Equally some pests are surviving by having an attraction for plant scent.

So be very careful with tasty succulent leaves. Don't knock or bruise them as this may attract the pests.

If you're looking for well established solutions to pest control then try the links below.

The best selection for Organic Pest Control that I've seen in the UK.

American Gardeners. Scroll down the page on this link to find Slug Magic which is an organic control.

You'll find lots more on the above links for combating all kinds of pest and disease problems.

Comments will be coming to these pages soon - and I'll be explaining how to solve more gardening problems with a creative organic approach based on knowledge.

Happy gardening :-)

Continue reading "Water and Pest Control"

Jun 22, 2013

Liking The Organic Gardener

Here's some news for those who like gardening and want to share on favourite social media. Now I'm promoting The Home of The Organic Gardener on Facebook - you can find it on this link http://www.the-organic-gardener.com/OG-FB

Do Subscribe To or Like it so that you can post your comments and pictures. I expect the content to reveal your likes in gardening - your special plants, gardening styles, frustrations etc... Tell us what you think.http://www.the-organic-gardener.com/OG-FB

The blog on this page will continue to update - more frequently from now on - with news of practical gardening challenges that are in season. Here I'll be posting my organic methods to tackle problems and we'll link between each other.

I'll also be starting a network for professional landscape gardeners and growers over at Google plus - more on that later. There'll be news coming up on plans to develop local growing and markets for organic produce.

My long delayed News from The Organic Gardener will be going out by email soon - I'll explain more about how we can keep in touch and learn more from each other. The sign up form is at the top of this page.

Well do check out the link below. This is for all those who want to change the world for the better by growing better. Let’s start now.

Continue reading "Liking The Organic Gardener"

Jun 14, 2013

Module Plants Make The Break in Organic Gardening

The long days are lovely but we are having some rain just now. Although it is very welcome - my water butt was completely empty - this weather will give the slugs a chance.

And this is where I find larger module grown plants have already made the break. My cabbages were planted into rich soil as ready grown and robust plants. Now they're growing handsomely.

Indeed they have outpaced any attacks from the slimy critters. They have become unstoppable.

Pea seeds are a problem. They can take quite a while to germinate. The reason they don't seem to germinate outside in my garden is nearly always due to slug attack.

Put your beer traps out. There is nothing more effective at killing slugs. I put the remaining half of a one day opened can of Carling Beer into my trap. Soon it was full of slugs and some very large. Once they go in they don't come out.

All the best to my gardening friends.

Continue reading "Module Plants Make The Break in Organic Gardening"

Jun 05, 2013

Potato Plant From The Ground Up

Here's how a potato plant grows, its origin, growing needs & the diseases affecting potatoes.

Continue reading "Potato Plant From The Ground Up"

May 30, 2013

Gravel Gravel Everywhere & Not a Stone Will Grow

Please, please don't put gravel down in your garden over good ground. You may think it's a great idea to solve your problem. All too often it turns into a very costly mistake.

I continually find myself with gardeners who have messed up with garden gravel. Sometimes it is the previous garden owner who messed up.

Either way too many gardens now need help in digging up gravel and taking it away. This sometimes involves massive quantities. Somewhere else in the country a real mountain has been demolished. Now where will it go?

In other gardens where the gravel is not required to be removed it still creates a massive obstacle to simple planting and good gardening.

Oh it was all a fashion - can I hope for no more? The gravel gardens that were not laid properly with sheeting beneath the stones are growing weeds as I write this. Indeed those weeds are really the best bit of the garden.

So please do the other thing, get out into your garden, plant some spreading ground cover plants and stop messing with nature. It will cost you a fortune.

Alternatively contact an organic gardener for help and do get some better advice.

Continue reading "Gravel Gravel Everywhere & Not a Stone Will Grow"

May 25, 2013

Flower Garden Design

Use these essential flower garden design guidelines when you plan & develop a beautiful garden landscape. This page is a must-read guide for the creative gardener.

Continue reading "Flower Garden Design"

May 25, 2013

Lawn Mowers

Find lawn mowers for your kind of lawn. Practical advice on selecting machines for sloping lawns, fine lawns, rough grass, large and small areas... Check their advantages & ease of use here.

Continue reading "Lawn Mowers"

May 10, 2013

A Dark and Desert Land

You may have heard the poem about England's Green and Pleasant Land by William Blake. Sadly this vision of living beauty is no more than a memory of our elders.

Nowadays our people grow up knowing nothing of that beauty. Of course they can still look out and see fields. But the singing, vibrant, living nature of our countryside has all but gone.

Even in my lifetime I have witnessed this decline. Gone are the small song birds I once heard like: Yellow Hammer, Sky Larks, Linnets, Redpoll, Buntings and Cuckoo, while Greenfinch, Goldfinch even Chaffinch are following in the same decline.

A silent spring seems to be a real prospect for our land in the coming years.

Here's a few links that may be of interest on this subject. For more on what YOU can do about it read my section below...
Britain's best-loved species in terminal decline
Green and Pleasant Land: hard times for Britain's trees

The above reports were preceded this week by a grim account of the prospects for amphibians like frogs and toads. I heard from conservationists who are currently spending their evenings at roadsides to rescue hundreds of toads from being squashed. A death toll of this magnitude is not something these creatures can tolerate.

As a result, and like our hedgehogs, these creatures are in decline. Does it matter? Yes, it is vandalism to destroy an amphibian species that could hold a medical key to curing human disabilities. And in the same week we have also heard again about the decline of honey bees.

My week was completely spoiled after visiting a farm in the heart of the Cheshire countryside. I couldn't believe my eyes, but the landscape that I saw was merely a blade of grass from being a desert landscape. There were virtually no hedges from horizon to horizon. This exposed place of fields for rearing animals will surely be silent too. I did see some crows.

So what can you and I do about it?

Look at your organic garden. Are you one of the growing number of home owners who have turned to low maintenance gardening by removing plants but topping it with gravel? Are you merely growing a few highly bred attractive but expensive horticultural specimen plants instead of masses of native flowers?

There's really no need to worry about the effect of neonicotinoids if you are not helping the bees and butterflies and other important pollinators by providing their natural food and a place to live. A pond for example will bring frogs, newts and toads to your patch and they will feed on pests such as slugs. Please take a look at this page on natural flowers and the link below will help you plan a better garden.

Continue reading "A Dark and Desert Land"

May 04, 2013

Organic Gardening Diary - Spring Flowers

A slow start to the year, but just look at the garden now. Here's what's bright and blooming in my garden.

My Shrubs In Flower:

  • Forsythia - yellow flowers.
  • Flowering Quince Chaenomeles red flowers.
  • Mountain Witch Alder Fothergilla major.
  • Red Currants, Blueberries, Gooseberries are flowering now.
  • Plum Prunus avium pretty white flower stars are promising.

Early Herbaceous Flowers

  • Heathers are covered in red, pink and white flowers.
  • Lenten Rose Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' - very handsome early flower no sign of fading.
  • Violas, Primroses and Primula veris or Cowslip from tiny blue, sun-tanned, red and yellow faces, to neat clumps of small twinkling flowers these look lovely in groups in semi-shaded glades.
  • Leopard's Bane Doronicum - attractive large yellow star flowers.
  • Daffodils - Narcissus.

Flowers On The Wild Side

  • Blue Forget-me-not Myosotis swathes of blue like a ribbon winding through my garden.
  • Lesser Celandine Calendula escaped from woodland this weed has taken over larger areas at the edges but is very attractive now.
  • Corn Salad Valerianella locusta is slightly fragrant and Hairy Bitter Cress Cardamine hirsuta - I'm picking both these to eat in salads or stews.
  • Saxifrages and Arabis are showing tiny white star flowers in the rock garden.
  • Common Daisies Bellis perennis I planted a triangle of these common plants and now it's covered in pretty white and yellow stars - spectacular!
  • Taraxicum I leave a few Dandelions to show off their pretty yellow flowers then try to catch them before they spread seed.
  • Ajuga is pushing up small blue flower pyramids too. - But I haven't seen any Anemone flowers yet.
There are many more flowers to come. Today blue flowering Phlox looks like it can't wait to spring into full blossom.

The weedy plants mentioned above add lots of colour and variety to my spring garden. They are also important to wildlife which in turn is important for protecting and pollinating my cultivated plants.

And this evening I saw a bat flying out and about - I hope it feels at home in my garden.

Continue reading "Organic Gardening Diary - Spring Flowers"

May 04, 2013

Hands On Organic Gardening Days - Holiday

It's going to be a great organic gardening weekend. Where I live the earth is just right for doing just about everything - sowing, planting, transplanting. Where I live the right amount of sun and water has made it just right - just now. If you're looking in from Australia check the 2 blog posts below...

So here's how I planted my onion bulbs yesterday.

  • First I weeded my patch for growing onions using a new garden hand fork with round tines, and collecting weeds in a bucket to add to the compost bin.
  • Then I spread 3 handfuls per square metre of chicken manure pellets - but the horse manure pellets available on the above link might be better for onions.
  • Then I spread on top a large bucket of black homemade garden compost. I pick out any remaining tough stuff or weak filmy weedlings into the weed bucket.
  • Then I use a large garden fork and my Garden Claw to break up the clods and work everything into a fine soil.
  • Then importantly - I firm the site by treading, this also helps to crush large lumps, and remove large air pockets. I can push my fingers straight down into this.
  • Now I draw out the rake I'm going to plant in.
  • I think it's important with onions not to plant in a hollow especially if your soil is heavy.
  • For each onion set I make a shallow hole with a narrow trowel and push the bulb down into the loosed earth.
  • Then I firm down around the onion, draw in more loose soil and firm that down around the neck just leaving the tip exposed. I push a trowel in about 2 inches to one side of the bulb and lever it over to firm soil around the bulb. My garden soil was in ideal condition.
Job done - and those I planted earlier that are already coming up strong. Note that most gardeners advise adding fertilizer/manure a few weeks before hand but... This advice mainly applies to seed sowing and salty fertilizers not used in organic gardening. The manure pellets will take a little time to break down. A previously grown green manure dug in a few weeks earlier helps to grow strong organic crop plants following on.

I'll be adding more practical information about hands-on organic gardening methods later - potatoes, carrots, beetroot, greens, cuttings...

Continue reading "Hands On Organic Gardening Days - Holiday"

May 04, 2013

Australian Organic Gardening - Save Water

Well it still looks balmy weather for most of my Australian garden friends while it's barely making 9oC in London. This year the Metrological Office added a new color to their map to scale high temperatures in Australia. So I wanted to refresh an earlier post with my friends down under.

Good planning is vital for good gardening in the year ahead. Can you really count on getting enough rain? Water is needed for so many things from washing to watering - the more you have to go around the better.

Should we have water shortages later would you consider saving rain water into a water storage tank for later and using tap water now if necessary?

Put down a seep hose before you plant. Underground water systems save lots of water. Use them in raised beds outside and in polytunnels or greenhouses.

Grow your seeds in modules and plant out when the roots have developed. That will avoid watering seedling beds and encouraging weedlings.

The next link is about using water wisely in your garden...

Continue reading "Australian Organic Gardening - Save Water"

May 01, 2013

Plant & Garden Watering - the Organic System

Save on garden watering with the techniques described here. These organic gardening methods are becoming more critical as droughts become more frequent.

Continue reading "Plant & Garden Watering - the Organic System"

May 01, 2013

Chicken Manure's Clean Rich Plant Food

Chicken manure gives your garden plants a big lift and improves your garden soil. Discover this easy to handle form of the organic fertilizer, how it helps gardens, its few limitations, along with where and how to use it

Continue reading "Chicken Manure's Clean Rich Plant Food"

Apr 21, 2013

Organic Pest Control

Replace poisons with organic pest control with my help. You can avoid pesticides yet build natural pest control into the design of your organic garden. Unlike industrial agriculture you really can succeed with an organic gardening approach that will keep you healthy.

Continue reading "Organic Pest Control"

Apr 19, 2013

Organic Lawn Care

You can up the look of your whole garden by organic lawn care. Improve your green areas, work on problem areas, learn about different lawn styles, get the right tools and help with this expert lawn care guide.

Continue reading "Organic Lawn Care"

Apr 10, 2013

Lawn Fertilizer For Top Organic Greens

Organic lawn fertilizer can improve your lawns all year around when they include the right stuff. You'll find more about the organic fertilizers, bio-feeds and supplements that make real healthy greens right here.

Continue reading "Lawn Fertilizer For Top Organic Greens"

Mar 17, 2013

Working Late Again - Organic Gardening Diary

The day has dawned - as it does every year - when I suddenly wake up and realise, that contrary to my best efforts, I am well behind on my garden tasks.

The ice, cold and wet has kept me indoors all too often with excuses. Then all of a sudden spring has arrived with warm air and singing birds. Only then do I realise that I am late again with my gardening.

By the way, I should mention here that gardening fleece and tunnel cloches are valuable gardening accessories to help you avoid this problem. Use them to warm up your soil ready for sowing and planting and to protect plants from frost.

And today I noticed frogspawn in my pond. Well that's good news - the frog is up and about too and the birds are scratching in the earth. I think they will be looking for nesting material. Perhaps it's not so bad to wait for nature after all. Don't forget to put some potatoes in. It should be a good gardening year.

All the best :-)

Continue reading "Working Late Again - Organic Gardening Diary"

Mar 02, 2013

Avoid Gravel Garden Sterility

Nowadays it is a fashion in the UK to cover acres of garden space in gravel. My plea to you - DON'T DO IT.

Borging Gravel GardenSuch gardens leave no place for birds to dig and scratch for grubs. It is yet another eviction order on innocent wildlife. The very same creatures that will help protect your garden from pests.

This style of garden reflects modern working lifestyles. Too busy to do any gardening people eradicate all trace of the living. The result is sterile.

Why not instead put down a scented chammomile lawn - you hardly have to mow it. See my page on types of lawn.

I will be writing more about these matters. I predict that herb lawns and scented gardens will be the fashion of tomorrow. So don't waste your time and money today on wrecking gardens with stones.

By all means, grow ground cover plants to smother weeds, and learn about the beauty and wide variety of plants that are available for growing. Do aim for a living and lively garden.

More later :-)

Continue reading "Avoid Gravel Garden Sterility"

Feb 26, 2013

Flower Garden Ideas

Find 15 flower garden ideas here plus links to essential garden design information. From formal to informal flower borders, you'll find ideas to help you create a special look & feel to your flower garden.

Continue reading "Flower Garden Ideas"

Feb 17, 2013

Organic Gardening is really modern

Would you say that your garden and the gardening tools that you use are really modern?

You see I'm always looking at gardening with a critical eye and trying to improve. Some things gardeners do nowadays are simply accepted without question. More often gardening is about following a fashion.

Let's take plant pots for example. Clay pots are round because that shape is easy to make on a wheel. Also, a round shape has all-around uniform strength - no weak points.

But think about it. If you could choose any shape for a pot, would you go for round?

Round pots waste space on the outside when placed next to each other or against any straight edge. While the somewhat jarring color of clay is simply accepted.

But there are more attractive alternative nowadays. Resin for example is a strong and light material used in some containers nowadays. And its material strength allows these containers to be made in rectangles and other more interesing shapes, as well as in harmonious and ornamental colors.

That was just an example - I would actually prefer glazed ceramic in my garden. There's more on plant containers here.

Another example of old versus modern that I've written about previously is evident in the round handles on garden hand tools. Easy to make no doubt. But you'll discover more egonomic and more comfortable handles on my page about Small Gardening Tools. You'll find small tools with curved handles to fit the natural posture of your hand.

The reason these tools were not made before is because the materials, methods, and knowledge were unavailable. Of course we can go on with tradition, but there is no harm in embracing new methods when they harmonise better and are more comfortable.

More later - happy gardening :-)

Continue reading "Organic Gardening is really modern"

Jan 17, 2013

Please Help Save Your Bees

Every gardener knows how vital bees are for pollinating food plants. And they are a delight to see in your garden too.

Growing an organic garden helps them enormously. But many other factors are out of our direct control. Something is wrong, as there is a widespread decline in bees over America and Europe.

Please sign the appropriate petition for your country on the links below. There's a petition for Americans and a petition for the U.K.

Please influence the politicians in your country to do everything they can to safeguard the Bee population.
1 - American Petition to Save Your Bees

2 - UK Petition to Save Your Bees

EFSA Report

The link below is about flower gardening with plants that attract beneficial insects.

Continue reading "Please Help Save Your Bees"

Jan 16, 2013

Landscape Gardening & Building are in Season.

Wet, snow, cold, mist and darkness - it hardly seems like a time to think about gardening. During winter it may be hard to visualise how your new spring to autumn garden will look. So think about those plans you drew up earlier in the year.

Later, when plants are actively growing all over the garden, it may be too late for major construction as then you will be too busy growing plants. Now really is the time.

Think about landscaping a whole new area of your garden or repairing an old part. Think how reconstruction will add to your garden in the coming year. This might include laying steps, building a rock or wall garden, raised beds or spaces to locate new seating or plant new hedges.

Landscaping may be necessary as a result of winter damage. Trees and shrubs that have been blown down or damaged by cold icy winds often need to be dug up or cut down. You may decide that it is time to replace them. These tasks begin now.

As long as the soil is not actually frozen, dormant shrubs and perennials can be transplanted. Of course, some soil needs careful treatment when wet. Avoid compaction and the shear forces that turn soil to mud. So that’s why hard landscaping is high on my agenda. Check the next link for landscaping ideas.

Continue reading "Landscape Gardening & Building are in Season."



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