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Thursday
Sep222011

Jobs to do in September

September marks the beginning of a new season; leaves turn from luscious greens to shades of amber and burgundy, layers of moss develop on fallen leaves and plants begin to settle in. Autumn is one of the most beautiful times of year and as the season begins to change, a new wave of gardening tasks await us.

Autumn is one of the best planting seasons; the heat from the summer sun remains in the ground and as the rain falls, moisture also seeps into the soil, giving plants all they need to survive the winter months. However, when it comes to your lawn, you may want to incorporate an autumn feed.

Now is the time to start planting your evergreens, tender Mediterranean plants such as rosemary and lavender and spring flowering bulbs. It’s important to plant evergreens this month or next to give their roots time to engage with their new surroundings before the winter months. If the roots are not engaged and are unable to draw water, they’re more liable to die of drought.

With bulbs, separate the woodlanders (for example, anemone and dog tooth violet) from the dry varieties. Prioritise the planting of woodlanders and leave the dry bulbs, such as tulips and narcissus in a dry and airy place before planting.

September is a great time to get your hands dirty planting a variety of perennials, climbers and shrubs. To find out more, we here at Notcutts have an extensive list of plants you can incorporate into the garden in our September and October Monthly Calendar.

Allotment

Allocate as much time on the allotment as you can as September can prove to be an extremely busy month. Now is the time to start sowing spring lettuces, salad leaves, winter spinach, pak choi and turnips and planting spring cabbage and autumn onion sets.

Harvesting is also a big job this month, so start digging up your:

Salad leaves, lettuces, radishes, potatoes, globe artichokes, Spinach, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, cucumbers, Runner beans, beetroot, leaf beet, spring onions, Bulb onions (from store), carrots, parsnips, peas, Squashes, marrows and courgettes.

As the chillier months are descending upon us, September is the best time to begin protecting and enriching the soil. Simply sow green manures; doing so will help retain the nutrients in the soil instead of them being washed away by the winter rain. These plants not only provide a covering over the soil, generating a protective shield, but they also absorb nutrients such as nitrogen, locking them up to be released once the plants are dug back into the soil in spring.

Notcutts


Thursday
Sep152011

Mad About Chickens

As the trend of becoming self sufficient increases, many are taking up the spade and fork to grow vegetables and fruit Why not take a step further and raise a few chickens? The benefits you’ll receive are unparalleled to anything else; free range and organic eggs to feast on at breakfast, organic poultry (if you choose), a healthier diet and free lessons to children, not to mention they also do wonders for your garden.

Did you know that eggs collected from garden chickens provide a lot more nutrients than factory farmed eggs? Home raised chickens produce eggs that have:

•    25% more Vitamin E
•    A third more Vitamin A
•    75% more beta carotene
•    Significantly more Omega-3 fatty acids

This makes them the perfect breakfast or lunch for growing kids and those looking to change their diets. The same can be said for the chickens themselves. In comparison to factory farmed chickens, ones that are raised with a healthy diet and are free to hunt and peck for bugs have more nutritious value.

It’s a marvellous idea to raise a few chickens when you have children as well. It can teach them responsibility as the chickens will need to be fed daily as well as provided with fresh water every day, the coop must be cleaned regularly and the chickens inspected from time to time. Every child would love to have a pet and chickens are no exception; plus children are sure to enjoy collecting their breakfast every morning.

You will also see positive effects in your garden too. Did you know having chickens hunting and pecking at bugs will not only reduce the amount of pests in your garden, it will also help aerate your lawn?

Keeping your chickens safe and secure

Keeping chickens in urban areas is on the increase and so ensuring their safety is a top priority. Having a chicken hutch or house with a secure run is one of the best ways to guarantee your brood are always kept safe.

Not only is security a priority when keeping chickens, providing warmth during the colder months and supplying them with a space to run around is also imperative. All of this can be provided with one of our houses, which have been specially designed for your brood’s requirements and well being.

A lot of joy can be given when raising your own chickens, why not find out for yourself?

Notcutts

Wednesday
Sep142011

Be Green Go Peat Free

If peat-based composts had to have warning labels, like cigarettes, more people would think twice about buying them - having something in your trolley labelled "Harvesting this peat destroyed a valuable wildlife habitat" would become as much of a social faux pas as dolphin-unfriendly tuna.

But peat composts don't have to be labelled as such, and so it's up to gardeners to look for composts that are 'peat-free' if they want to be green. It's easy enough to forget in the spur of the moment, but perhaps if we knew a little bit more about peat then it would be easier to remember.

Peat is a special kind of soil, formed when sphagnum moss (for the main part) rots down very slowly in acid, waterlogged conditions. It therefore only occurs in peat bogs and fens, which are rich wildlife habitats that support a variety of plants and animals that only thrive in these circumstances.

Peat bogs form at the rate of about one millimetre every year, which is roughly the thickness of a paper clip. If you dig down a metre you're digging into a thousand years of history, and peat bogs often preserve archaeological treasures.

Although peat bogs only cover around 3% of Earth's surface, they store as much carbon (in the decayed moss) as all of the world's forests put together. When the peat is dug up, dried out and processed into compost, all of that carbon is released. If we stopped using peat in our gardens we could keep all that carbon in the ground, and be well on the way to reducing our carbon emissions to manageable levels and preventing the worst effects of climate change.

Peat has only really been used in gardening since the 50s, when everything was standardized and mechanized and people came to expect every bag of potting compost to be exactly the same. The advantages of peat here are that it is sterile and stable, but it is very low in nutrients, and so those have to be added to the potting compost.

In recent times there has been a lot of investment in peat-free composts. Many of these are made from waste products (bark, or even garden waste that has been collected), and are far more environmentally-friendly that peat-based composts. It's true that some are better than others for particular purposes, so if you have tried one and found that you didn't get good results then try another brand.

While you're getting used to peat-free compost you'll need to keep an eye on your feeding and watering regime, as peat-free composts hold water and nutrients differently to peat-based composts. But once you've got the hang of that, your green fingers will really be green!

Emma Cooper is a freelance garden writer, based in Oxfordshire. She's been gardening without peat for over ten years, and if you'd like to know more about avoiding the use of peat in the garden you can read her new book 'The Peat-Free Diet' online at http://emmacooper.org/peat-free-diet.

At Notcutts we are supportive of the Government target for amateur growing media products to be peat free by 2020 and are playing an active role towards this.

By doing so we have proudly achieved ‘Full Member’ status of the Growing Media Initiative (GMI) following a recent audit of the bagged growing media we sell to the public.

Monday
Sep122011

Pond Care

I can always remember growing up, enjoying running into the garden to see what new wildlife had arrived at the pond; I used to take jam jars from the pantry and try to capture newts, dragonflies and frogs just to take a closer look at them. However, returning home to visit my mother one Sunday afternoon, I was in shock.  No more did the water draw and reflect the light and there were no aquatic creatures in sight, instead I was greeted by pea-green water, smothered in weeds.

I truly believe that all gardens need a focal point, a feature of some kind and nothing can be better than a pond. It’s not just because it’s aesthetically pleasing to look at, nor is it because it can attract an array of wildlife. It’s because it can play a central role in creating interest in the garden for children enabling you to teach them about the horticultural world.

So out came the gloves as I prepared myself to take action against the floating algal growth and the distinctive green ‘cloudiness’ in my mother’s pond.

My Guide to Maintaining a Beautifully Clear Garden Pond

1.    Clean and clear out the algal growth, which has been upsetting the equilibrium of micro organisms. Use a net to remove any other debris (leaves etc); clearing this will reduce the level of nutrients in the pool that feeds the algae.

2.    Use a rake to remove any exiting blanket weed (twist the rake to wrap the weed around).

3.    Next, clear any debris that has accumulated around the edges of the pond. However, it’s best to leave this for a few days to allow any exiting creatures to crawl out. (I didn’t have time to do this as I only had one afternoon.)

4.    Re-pot the marginals by simply lifting the container out of the water (look out for any wildlife), remove and divide the plant, then put into a new pot. This pot should be lined with hessian to prevent any aquatic compost falling out. Before placing it back into the water, place a thick layer of grit on top of the pot. Re-potting should be done every year.

5.    Introduce aquatic plants to soak up excess nutrients. These plants can include:

•    Utricularia vulgaris
•    Trapa natans
•    Elodea Canadensis
•    Fontinalis antipyretica
•    Water lilies

It’s hard work, but once I was finished and my mother and I looked back at what I had accomplished, I must say we were both quite proud. As a reward for my hard work I was able to sit down with a cup of tea and a piece of cake. It was a good Sunday afternoon.

Mr McGregor

Saturday
Sep102011

Spring Flowering Bulbs

Now that autumn upon us, it’s time to start your spring flowering bulb list. If you want your garden to bloom into a colourful, peaceful and beautiful sanctuary in the spring, plant your bulbs from October to December. Many bulbs have a very long dormant period and need this time to settle and grow, requiring very little attention. With most bulbs needing this long period of dormancy, now is the best time to buy your spring flowers.

At Notcutts we have just launched our Autumn collection of spring flowering bulbs. Our bulbs are always obtained from reliable growers to ensure you buy only the best of the best. You’ll find a great range to choose from including daffodils, crocus, tulips and many other well-known and some not so well-known varieties.

A new Lifestyle collection has also been launched where you can find bulbs such as Tulip Exotic Emperor, Narcissi Kendron, Ranucculi Purple and Iris Eye of the Tiger. Furthermore, to help you get on the way to creating the perfect spring garden, there is a Buy One Get One Free offer on a selection of tulips, crocus and daffodil.

Here are a few tips to bear in mind when buying and growing your bulbs:

•    Ensure they’re as healthy and as fresh as possible – look out for plump and firm bulbs
•    Bulbs shouldn’t feel soft
•    Choose bulbs according to their preferred location and soil type
•    When growing your spring flowering bulbs good drainage and plenty of light is key, especially as many bulbs are prone to rot when dormant

Further bulb tips can be found in our Garden Library.

Notcutts