Archive | Environment & Green Gardening

Tips for ecologically friendly gardeners and gardens that green and protect the environment.

Woody Prunings and Compost


I have 3 good sized compost bins and the Metro district council supplies and takes away a brown bin  each month (for an annual fee). However that is still not enough at this time of year and I can fill the car boot many times over to take thick hedge prunings and woody bits to the local recycling center.

I need one of those – a big rolling compost smasher. It is used to tamp down the tipped compost so we can tip more and the trailer can carry larger loads to the ultimate council compost site.

Other Woody Composting

  • In the past I have had a shredder that was great when it didn’t get clogged up. Sadly it rusted away and I couldn’t foil to do all the extra shredding hence the trips to the tips.
  • In my enthusiastic days I spent many happy hours cutting twigs and prunings into small pieces to encourage early rotting down.
  • Oft times I had a bonfire but then moved on to a dustbin with chimney that is useful for collecting those annoying bits that I want to burn.
  • I had a special 2 year compost bin which reduced volume considerably but the woody bits lingered longer. It is now one of my 3 bins.
  • Garotta compost maker is not man enough for woody items even though I have tried more in hope than expectation.
  • I have never tried guerilla composting ( called fly tipping) but I often see the result of other people trying this antisocial method of eliminating their compostibles.
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August Garden Needs More Colour Less Green


Shrubs rule the roost in August and apart from some Hebe there is not much other than green and a bit of leaf colour. Roll on the second flush of roses.

Next year I will think about more annuals and a better range of perennials with August in mind.

There is nothing wrong with green, it is what Chlorophyll is all about.

It is no surprise that many colours related to green have connections with natural items: –

Lawn green, sap green, chartreuse, sage, lime, olive, moss, mint, emerald, viridian, virdigris, avocado and British racing green.

Not real greens :-

Envy green, Lorne Green, Hughie Green, Ever Green, Green Gills, Thumb or finger green (enough ed.)

 

 

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Successful Upgrade to My Compost Bins

You can see photographs of my former compost bins in an  old 2014 post

I just updated the introduction as follows ‘5 years ago our council  provided a brown bin for garden waste. Shortly after they introduced a charge to have the bin emptied.  Larger branches, gnarled roots and diseased wood  now goes in this bin’.

Improved Bins for Better Compost

  • Keeping the heat of decomposition within the pile speeds up my composting.
  • A large bin helps me keep the garden tidier.
  • I am encouraged to make more compost and tip far less.
  • Green household waste also goes in the new bins.
  • The bins content tends to get a bit dry despite the rain drops you see. So I add water and comfrey leaves/juice.
  • The lower openings intended for shoveling out the compost tend to get a bit clogged and thus I empty by opening the whole side.
  • The black bin is smaller and was bought for slow to rot rubbish and composting/rotting down leaves. This years luxuriant growth has taken over and the more I spread compost the more compost I generate (Thanks Les Barker)

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Insect Heaven for Your Garden

Virtually no flies on your car windscreen, sterile fields with no hedgerows and a multi-million pound insecticide industry not much heaven for insects. The hope for bugs, flies and little creatures may rest in your garden.

We hear about the need to protect bees due to there essential role in pollination. The contribution plus the complexity and interdependence of all creatures is not fully understood. We should all take care not to cause damage with our ecological footprint.

Insect house

Options For Helping Nature

  • Gardens need insects and bugs so why not treat them to a snug insect house.
  • You can build a multipurpose house from wood, stones and old pipes similar to the one above. Fill gaps with twigs, straw and rotting wood which will provide some food. The insects will make a home in the cracks and crevices that provide winter shelter.
  • A pile of old logs in a quite part of the garden can provide a haven for fungus and beetles.
  • Try growing butterfly friendly nettles and other plants that can act as breeding grounds.
  • Do not be too keen to clean and tidy up – tolerate a bit of leaf litter.
  • The charity Buglife has a guide that shows which plants help which insects and how to grow a mini meadow.
  • Insects around the world are facing an apocalypse as a result of toxins we humans put into the environmentso think about the effect you are going to have and spare a thought for bugs.

Book CoverBee nesting boxes will cater for bees and ladybirds.
Place on a south facing wall for optimum sunlight to help bees and for ladybirds place the nester in a sheltered area near tree branches and vegetation such as nettles.

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Gardening as A Stress Buster

Gardening is good for you not just physically but mentally and emotionally acting as a stress buster and promoting optimistic activity.

Book Cover

Meditation

  • A garden can and should be an oasis of calm so a specific quiet area is worth creating.
  • Make paths long and curving  to extend the journey through the garden. If paths are  narrow you will need to concentrate on where you put your feet and hopefully forget your problems.
  • A solitary seat placed with a calm view can help your contemplation.
  • Water helps with it’s light reflective nature and the gentle sound of moving water can be soothing and calming.

Colour

  • Green is a natural neutral colour often found in Hospitals for its therapeutic effects. It is not hard to combine  foliage like Bamboos, Ferns and Mahonia for shape, texture and the green colours.
  • Red is the most stimulating colour and can increase your heart rate and stimulate your appetite.
  • Blue has the opposite effect generating calm and lowering blood pressure.
  • The colour effect can be enhanced by including a small quantity of the complementary colour orange with blue, green with red.

Aromatherapy

  • Stimulating all the senses means you need some good scent. Lavender is calming and not stressful to grow.
  • Herbs like Basil, Rosemary, Mint and Thyme can have a stimulating effect.
  • Relaxing or balancing aroma comes from Camomile, Clary Sage or Marjoram.
  • There is an added bonus from herbs as they can have culinary and medicinal purposes in addition to the scent.
  • Floral scents are a matter of taste but the power of  Lilies, Phlox, Hyacinths and Roses can sweep away all my moody thoughts.

Physical Therapy

  • It may be a cliche to say ‘exercise is the best therapy’ but it may be a cliche because it is true.
  • 10 minutes in the garden can lead to hours disappearing as you find you are drawn to more garden jobs  because you can always make a further impact.
  • Vigorous digging can be as  therapeutic as along walk or run and your garden is improving at the same timedue to your activity.
  • Grass cutting and lawn edge trimming seems to work well for my wife (I am happy to let her do this job as my therapy).
  • My physical therapy is standing over the compost heap chopping down stems and twigs so they rot quicker and more comprehensively.

‘The Healing Garden a Practical Guide’ from Amazon

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Allotments Replaced by Trees

 

allotments

We used to have allotments in our village until the blight. That was not a gardening blight or a problem growing anything but a planners and local politicians blight.

A large green open space surrounding an old hospital ‘High Royds’ was too good an opportunity for power broking and developers profits so the old hospital and the village allotments all had to go. I blame ‘careless of the community’.

Now the ‘new’ village is built and called Chevin Park (not High Royds because the hospital was a former lunatic asylum. Other name changes such as Windscale to Sellafield also springs to mind.)    Many properties are empty partly due to the property recession but also due to the paltry size of the gardens and lack of allotments that could so easily have been restored.

What has replaced our allotments? As you can see a veritable forest of plastic tubes protecting newly planted trees and the flimsiest stakes you could imagine after 3 foot canes. As I said earlier this week this is an updated post for National Tree Week 2018. The plastic tubes are now litter around some decent young trees.

Tips for Planting Trees

  • Dig a good sized hole and incorporate some slow release fertilizer like bone meal. The tree should be there for a long time.
  • Spread the roots of a bare rooted tree or tweak the edges of a container grown tree to give roots the encouragement to spread. Trim off any broken roots.
  • Plant at the same depth to which the tree has been grown.  There is usually a soil mark on bare trees to help. Do not bury any graft.
  • Drive the stake into the bottom of the planting hole before planting the tree and try to ensure that 2/3rds of the stake is underground when the soil is returned to the hole. Continue Reading →
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Trees for Carbon Capture and Global Warming

Church Lane

I am  unsure about all the fuss over carbon emissions and the impact of humans on the environment. There is a finite amount of carbon in our world and it cycles around in solids, dissolved in water or in gaseous forms. Plants helped convert the primordial carbon gasses and  volcanoes eruptions into solid carbons. Trees capture carbon and hold as wood for long periods and historically many trees fossilised into coal.

Other key examples of carbon capture include the stores of hydrocarbons in the form of tar, oil deposits and shale from which gas is now fracked. Less related to tree carbon capture is the vast quantities of limestone deposited from crustaceans and coral.

Many ecologists and scientist now believe we should invent mechanical ways of storing carbon as there is a perceived imbalance in the carbon cycle caused by human activity. I am amused by the idea of sending carbon dioxide down the mines and oil wells to be retained for some future ill defined purpose.

Personal View on Global Warming

  • The above photograph of the Yorkshire Dales including a tree and dry limestone wall contains a substantial amount of captured carbon as does the peat up on the moor.
  • All Yorkshire can’t compare to the Amazon rainforest or the dissolved carbon in the sea. Since I first wrote about carbon capture major advances with shale gas exploration have highlighted again the plants of eons ago that were converted into captured carbon and are now giving up their bounty to modern man.
  • All the hot air about global warming and political influence isn’t going to change me or my gardening approach.
  • I will garden responsibly but I do not think I will take my gardening to extremes. However, I am going to plant some trees, grow some hard carbon and hope these trees have a long and hard carbon producing life, I just regret I won’t be around to carbon date them.

Amazon Rain Forest

  • This resource is often quoted as a shorthand for the ills of global warming. Is it better to use the land freed up by deforestation for human or animal food production? I don’t think there is a perfect answer but avarice and vested interest is a poor driver of policy.
  • If a tree grows 10% each and every year ( at least until adult maturity) then if follows that small young trees will capture less carbon than stately relatives. There is also a potential amenity benefit from large well managed forests so lets encourage the big and beautiful.
  • In National Tree Week we should be celebrating our British heritage of trees and those organisationst and woodland charities that help manage them.
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Watering Lessons from a Dry Summer

After a wet early spring 2018 the UK had a very dry summer. You are never to old to learn and I picked up some new tips and reinforced some old watering tips.

                        water butt but where is the water?

Dealing with Dry Weather

  • Water the plants not the soil in between them. Pay special attention to new plants as their roots are more vulnerable than established plants. Cut back perennials if they look like they might die, be cruel to be kind.
  • A wet spring will not leave the soil wet through summer. Chalky and sandy soils will dry out fastest.
  • Water the right amount at the right time. A good soaking once a week is better than a light sprinkling every day. Water when it has time to soak down to the roots in an evening or early morning.
  • Protect plants from drying wind with a windbreak.
  • Let lawn grass grow a bit longer during dry spells and do not bother watering your lawn.
  • Don’t bother watering fruit trees once the fruit has started to set and swell.
  • Group vegetables together according to their watering needs. Leafy crops, tomatoes, runner beans and potatoes need most water. Courgettes only when they start to swell and asparagus and root crops are more drought tolerant.
  • Patio plants need attention and care. The bigger the pot the more moisture the compost will hold. If they are drying out add a drop of washing up liquid the the water and or create a sump in a saucer or tray.
  • Don’t let clay soil develop cracks for more evaporation to escape. Add organic compost, mulch and sharp grit.

Make Watering Easy and Effective

  • Watering around the base of a plant means some water evaporates before it reaches the roots.Dig a channel between rows and fill with water from a can or use a length of guttering with holes in the sides to channel water where you want it.
  • Sink pots into the ground near plants so roots do not need to come to the surface to get a drink. Larger pots for established plants can have an old dish cloth in the bottom to deter slugs and slow down the seepage.
  • A mulch of grass clippings or Strulch will slow down evaporation .
  • Many contraptions can be created to drip feed or target water to the roots. A half buried plastic pop bottle with holes in the side or try a piece of hose with a funnel.
  • Soaker hoses need to be in the right place but are a simple solution to efficient watering.
  • Turn off your fountains and moving water when practical.

A Word About Recycled Water

  • Adjust water features to minimise splashing and spray drift.
  • Use a pond liner near the water feature to capture excess water and channel it back into the sump or reservoir.
  • Clean household water can be used in water features as any soap or detergent is not aimed at your plants.
  • Rain water is a valuable commodity for watering some plants as it is soft and gently acidic.
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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose in the Garden

reuse

Now part of this garden is down to crazy paving the Qualcast grass box is needed less and can be put to a different use.  It looks like a ‘unibarrow’  has got in on the act to make a feature planter for these pansies.

Being green is second nature to Gardeners because we are so near to nature so reuse, reduce and recycle is part of our DNA.

Tips to help you reuse old tools

  • Sharpen blades, even on old spades, with a whet stone – angle the blade at 5-10° and push and pull across the stone – 5 times should be enough
  • Bind the handles of old tools with bright insulating tape so you can find them easily.
  • Look at car boots and secondhand sales for special tools that you will only use occasionally. I got an Onion hoe this way.
  • Put on a new handle or repurpose a tool so it can do an easier task. An old hand fork can be given a long handle for light digging without bending.
  • Go to a hire shop and reuse their tools
  • Old tools are often very well made and it is worth the effort of having them repaired professionally. If they have lasted a long time it is a sign they are fit for purpose.
  • Remember the 70 year old spade that had 10 new handles and 3 new blades.

Other Re-Tips

  • I get most of my many gardening books from charity shops and I recycle them there too.
  • I reuse garden center pots for seedlings and growing-on but would prefer more compostable materials to be used by suppliers.
  • Good gardeners recycle old plants via cuttings, seed collecting and splitting of clumps.
  • Buy locally grown plants as they will suit the local conditions and don’t come with exotic airmiles

What to Reduce in the Garden

  • Make low maintenance areas and reduce the labour you need.
  • With the right plant selection you will also reduce the amount of chemicals required.
  • Reduce the need for water by clever garden design
  • Reduce your carbon footprint. Grow dense hedges and trees to capture carbon.

Recycled greenhouse

Credit
Recycled greenhouse by scrappy annie CC BY-NC 2.0 ‘A greenhouse spotted in Stropkov, Slovakia a few years ago.
It was made from recycled plastic bottles, strung on to wires. A brilliant idea….’

Book Cover

Cooking Green: The Essential Guide to Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen by Kate Heyhoe

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Meterology for Gardeners

In theory Meterology should help our ability to predict weather conditions including snow, rains and floods based on seasonal cycles using observation, measurement and atmospheric conditions.

Red Sky at Night …………………

Old wives or gardeners tales and sayings such as rain before seven fine by eleven, wet on St Swithens day rain for 40 days, wet seaweed, cones opening in wet weather etc are based on observation and experience. However hightech is taking over with models used to predict the long term climate around the Earth.

Meteorological Equipment & Instruments

  • Gardeners rely on the thermometer for soil and air temperature. A max min thermometer will help measure/control night time temperatures.
  • Commercial growers will have sophisticated humidity meters to assist controlling growing conditions.
  • Anometers are used for measuring wind speed but I am happy enough with a simple wind vane in the garden.
  • There is now a plethora of digital weather stations for home and garden use

Flood Warning

Professional weather forecasts and warnings are important as they forewarn gardeners of potential problems. I usually react to them just too late not just in time.

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