Here are some helpful tips for growing fruit and vegetables in and around your home.

basket of colourful veggies grow your own vegetables in your garden
farmer planting seeds helpful tips for growing fruit and vegetables in and around your home

Avoid growing plants of the same family in the same soil each year. By using crop rotation, not only will you be maintaining soil structure and nutrient levels by using crop rotation but you can also prevent diseases and pests from becoming established in the soil.

Plant Roots helpful tips for growing fruit and vegetables in and around your home

Think about the roots of your plants. It’s a good tip to grow plants with shallow roots with those that have longer roots such as lettuce and tomatoes. Growing plants with different root lengths allows the nutrients of the soil to be used at all depth levels.

working in the garden shovel dirt helpful tips for growing fruit and vegetables in and around your home

Cultivate your fast and slow growing plants together in the same space. This will allow both species to fully develop and be harvested at different times, causing less damage to each other. Also, harvesting the full grown plants will make the space needed for the less developed plants to grow to maturity.

bags of seeds and nuts helpful tips for growing fruit and vegetables in and around your home

Fix low nitrates in your garden with legumes. Did you know that growing alfalfa, clover, beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, carob, soybeans, peanuts and other legumes can replenish the nitrogen in your soil? Legumes have nodules on their roots that contain bacteria which converts atmospheric nitrogen into the nitrates needed by plants. Be aware that some vegetables and plants may not do well growing near them, so it’s advisable to use crop rotation when growing legumes.

Get rid of pests helpful tips for growing fruit and vegetables in and around your home

Having a problem with plant pests? Try growing natural pest controlling companion plants mixed in with your fruit and vegetables. Pest repellent plants such as; garlic, leek, onions, lemon balm, lavender, marigold, nasturtiums and oregano to name just a few, are a great natural way to reduce these damaging pests. As an example, Marigolds have thiophenes that repels nematodes. These roundworms are parasites that commonly attack your potatoes and tomatoes, so grow some beautiful marigold flowers in and around your tomatoes to reduce pests and have a more bountiful harvest.

farmer working in soil helpful tips for growing fruit and vegetables in and around your home

Try to avoid growing plants that consume large amounts of soil nutrition, especially nitrates. If you must grow these “nutritional vampires”; mix them with plants that are less demanding of the soil. Keep in mind that these plants should all have the same water needs. Also make sure to rotate where you grow these plants each year.

Old age pensioner working in the garden helpful tips for growing fruit and vegetables in and around your home

Don’t let your large plants cast shadows over the smaller ones. When planning your garden, keep the height and size of each fruit or vegetable in mind. By maintaining a size balance, you can control the amount of shadow your taller and leafier plants cast over your shorter ones. Alternately, you can use these larger plants to your advantage by growing arugula, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, mustard, parsnips, peas, potatoes and others that grow well in shade.

Grow your own peanuts! helpful tips for growing fruit and vegetables in and around your home

Grow your own peanuts! England is great for growing peanuts. They are self-pollinating and not very difficult to grow. After about 120 days of growing and 3 or 4 days of drying, you will have a fresh supply of tasty and nutritious peanuts. Peanuts are actually in the bean family. If you do plan on growing your own peanuts; make sure you have 4 to 5 months of warm weather, unless you plan on growing them indoors. Also, peanuts require regular watering in multi-purpose compost or soil that is well-drained. Raw peanuts are a nutrient-rich, low carbohydrate, fibre filled food. They are also a great source of healthy fats, protein, and full of fiber. Peanuts also contain plenty of potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, and B vitamins. Due to peanut allergies, it is important to alert anyone who may be working in or around your garden.

helpful tips for growing fruit and vegetables in and around your home

Easy and delicious fruits to grow, even in limited space. Figs, raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries, blackberries, honeyberries, goji berries, currants, strawberries and rhubarb are just a few fruits that flourish in England, and you don’t need to have an orchard. If you do not have space for a garden, you can grow many of these in containers or even hanging baskets. Many people are unaware that you can easily grow grapes in your own home! Make sure your pot is placed at the window that gets the most sun. Grapevines will grow quickly and the tendrils will grab everything they can as they spread out. If you don’t want them taking over your book shelf and picture frames, you may want to build a tall frame around your large, deep pot. Bamboo is a natural and pleasant looking material to use. The best grape varieties for indoor growing are the ones that produce fruit close to the trunk. “Muscat of Alexandria”, “Black Hamburgh”, “Early Muscat,” “Seyval,” “Canadice,” “Interlaken” and “Swenson Red” are just some of the varieties that do well in pots. The warmth of being indoors will help them ripen and become sweet.

From Planting to Plate: helpful tips for growing fruit and vegetables in and around your home

From planting to plate. Quick growing healthy UK vegetables.

  • From planting to plate, radishes only take about 25 days and are not only easy to grow but packed with vitamins E, A, C, B6, and K. They are also high in antioxidants and rich with fibre, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, calcium, iron and manganese.
  • Salad leaves are another quick growing vegetable which can be on your plate or in your sandwich in as little as 20 days. They not only grow fast and taste delicious, but the crunchy leaves are nutrient rich and chock full of vitamin A and vitamin C. They are a great source of beta-carotene, calcium, folate, fiber, and phytonutrients.
  • Baby carrots are a crunchy delight and take only about 6 weeks to be harvest ready. They are a particularly good source of beta carotene, fibre, vitamin K1, potassium, and antioxidants. Carrots are considered to be a weight-loss-friendly food and studies show they may lower cholesterol levels and improve eye health.
  • At only about a month to grow, spinach is a healthy and delicious leafy green vegetable full of vitamin C, A, K, magnesium, manganese and of course, iron. Spinach has been found to benefit eye health and reduce blood pressure.
mix of seeds healthy helpful tips for growing fruit and vegetables in and around your home

Think about the future. Collect seeds from plants so you can grow them the following year. Most seeds can be stored in paper envelopes or bags which are placed into air-tight containers. Make sure to label them with name, date and any other pertinent information to someone else who might inherit your seed stash. For long term storage, most seeds can be kept in the fridge or freezer, provided you educate yourself on proper seed care and storage.

We hope you found this information helpful and interesting. If you’re looking for garden design, maintenance and construction service in Kent including Maidstone, Sevenoaks and the surrounding areas, get in touch to arrange a free consultation and start the process of getting you the garden you always dreamed of. Contact us at: 07598 160812.

 Images used are licensed through pexels.com.

How to fight climate change from the comfort of your own garden!

Feed the birds
Can an individual really make a difference

Can an individual really make a difference? How to fight climate change from the comfort of your own garden! 

Planting a tree is a great way to help sequester carbon emissions. Through photosynthesis trees absorb carbon dioxide to produce oxygen and wood. By ensuring that the trees planted are native broad leaf species you can help to preserve the UK’s environment and biodiversity. It doesn’t have to be a large tree but if everyone planted just one tree in their garden, just think of the difference it could make!

Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air, during the process of photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide diffuses through the small holes (stomata) present on the lower side of leaves. Owing to these loose-fitting cells on the lower side of a leaf, carbon dioxide can easily penetrate and reach other types of cells. The stomata open wider to let in more carbon dioxide when they are exposed to harsh, drying effects of direct sunlight. Aerosols and clouds scatter sunlight in the atmosphere; this scattered sunlight helps forests and vegetation to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide more efficiently. More leaves of trees are exposed to scattered sunlight, thereby increasing the rate of carbon dioxide absorption and photosynthesis.

Forests have become extremely important as they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigate the effects of climate change in the environment.

During the process of photosynthesis, atmospheric carbon dioxide is converted into sugar and cellulose; this sugar is stored in the wood, leaves and roots of trees. Trees are 50 percent carbon by weight, so growing trees can help in reducing greenhouse effect of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide.

What else can i do

What else can i do?

Whether you live in a house or an apartment, planting some greens is a quick and easy way to reduce your carbon footprint.

We all know plants are beneficial for humans and that we should all be seeking to nurture them. Plant some bee friendly flowers, a few trees, or a vegetable garden. Balcony gardens are great for urban dwellings. Cities often need to reduce urban heat – basically, cities tend to be hotter than rural areas because of vast pavement areas, concrete buildings, and increased human activity.

Creating more spaces for plants, grasses, and trees can mitigate this effect and lead to better cooling, which will be a necessity with worsening climate change. Help avoid the “heat island” effect by planting trees or maybe try a green roof or community garden.

Manicured lawns are a desert for pollinators (and most wildlife), but you can make your garden a pollinator paradise! In spring, leave twig piles and bare ground. Come summer, let veggies bolt. Provide a source of water and don’t rake all the fallen leaves. Build homes where pollinators can lay eggs or overwinter.

Bees eat two things: nectar (loaded with sugar and a bee’s main source of energy) and pollen (which provides proteins and fats).

Choose a variety of plants that flower at different times so there’s always a snack available. As a rule, native plants attract native bees and exotic plants attract honeybees.
Flowers bred to please the human eye (for things like size and complexity) are sometimes sterile and of little use to pollinators. Native plants or heirloom varieties are best!

Bees have good colour vision. They especially like blue, purple, violet, white and yellow. Create floral bull’s eyes: Plant flowers of a single species in clumps about four feet in diameter instead of in scatterings so bees are more likely to find them.

Take care of the bees

Feed the birds..

Feeding birds allows you to get really close to some of our most amazing wildlife. You might think great tits, robins and finches are nothing to shout about, but the more you look, the more you see their fantastic colours and interesting behaviours. We can all benefit from sharing our lives a little bit more with wildlife.

Over the past 50 years the numbers of many so called ‘common’ birds have dramatically declined. We don’t know for certain why this is, but changing agricultural practices and a lack of food in the summer and winter are likely to have taken their toll.

Sometimes when we look out of the window, it is difficult to believe that song thrushes, sparrows and starlings are all struggling to survive in the countryside, but they are. These, among many others, are now red listed as birds of extreme conservation concern.

By supplementary feeding at the right times of year, you can make sure your garden supports lots of birds. If enough gardens provide food, water and shelter in a neighbourhood, it creates essential corridors for wildlife to move along and live in.

Feed the birds

Compost.

Do your bit to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill. Even for households that are already composting, new research has found that almost half of the food waste in their rubbish bins could have been composted.

Did you know, composting at home for just one year can save global warming gases equivalent to all the CO2 your kettle produces annually, or your washing machine produces in three months?

We’re often asked “Why do I need to compost when my waste will break down in landfill anyway – and why should I worry when my local council does food waste collections?”

When waste is sent to landfill, air cannot get to the organic waste. Therefore as the waste breaks down it creates a harmful greenhouse gas, methane, which damages the Earth’s atmosphere, however, when this same waste is composted above ground at home, oxygen helps the waste to decompose aerobically which means hardly any methane is produced, which is good news for the planet. And what’s more, after nine to twelve months, you get a free fertiliser for your garden and plant pots to keep them looking beautiful.

organic composting

Pesticides. 

Pesticides impact nearly all life on earth. Pesticides are designed to kill pests. They include a wide range of compounds including herbicides (designed to kill plants), insecticides, fungicides, rodenticides, molluscicides and nematicides, but also include plant growth regulators, defoliants and desiccants.

Pesticides are mainly used in the growing of agricultural crops, but are also used in our towns, cities, homes and gardens.

Contemporary pesticide products consist of active and inert ingredients. The active ingredient is the chemical designed to kill the targeted pest. However, inert ingredients often make up the bulk of the product and include emulsifiers, solvents, carriers, aerosol propellants, fragrances and dyes.

Pesticides are toxic chemicals designed to be deliberately released into the environment. Although each pesticide is meant to kill a certain pest, a very large percentage of pesticides reach a destination other than their target. Pesticides easily contaminate the air, ground and water when they run off from fields, escape storage tanks, are not discarded properly, and especially when they are sprayed aerially.

More and more people are moving towards a more organic approach in growing flowers and food crops.

pesticides in your garden

These are just a few examples of the steps you can take to begin living a more environmentally- conscious, sustainable lifestyle using your garden. All of these steps benefit not only the environment but you as well, either through your health or your wallet!

With your garden, you really can help in the important fight against climate change.

Tips for growing healthy, beautiful roses: Plenty of sun

Rose gardening in kent beautiful sunlit roses

When deciding where to plant your roses, keep the sun in mind.

Roses do best in plenty of direct sunlight, at least 5 to 6 hours a day, if possible. The sun in the morning is the most important because it helps prevent diseases by drying the leaves of your roses.

If your roses are not getting enough sun, they may display sub-par blooms, weaken and become more  susceptible to parasites and diseases. Inadequate sun will make it less overwintering less likely.

The more sun, the more flowers. When deciding where to plant, keep in mind that the angle of the sun changes throughout the season. Try and choose an area that offers the most sun the year-round.

Rose gardening tips for growing healthy roses: Dig a big hole

Beautiful rose garden in Kent.jpg

When digging a hole for your roses, size matters and is a key factor in giving them a great start.

Whether you’re planting container roses or bare-root roses,  you will need to dig a hole that is both wide enough to accomodate the root structure. Having your hole deep enough is paramount to good drainage.

Give at least three feet of space between your rose bushes when planting to allow for room to grow as your plants mature.

rose gardening tips for growing healthy roses

10 Mental Health Benefits of Gardening

cowen landscaping in kent

Research has shown that spending time outside is good for our bodies and our minds. I’m sure you’ve experienced these benefits: After feeling stressed out or bored indoors, you step outside and your spirits lift.

This article was written by Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. for Psychology Today.

cowen landscaping in kentOne great way to spend time outdoors is to garden. My dad always had a garden when I was a kid, and now I understand more about what drew him to it. I’ve always enjoyed being outside and gardening, but it took on special significance for me when I was recovering from an extended illness. As I began to recover, I felt compelled to greatly expand my garden beds and the things I planted, even though I was still struggling physically and mentally.

The experience seemed to accelerate my own healing. It felt like even as I was building the garden, it was helping me come back to life. One day as I stood in the afternoon sunlight and looked with amazement at all that had grown, I felt my own strength that had returned over the same stretch of time.   

This personal experience along with numerous studies about the positive effects of time outside made me curious to explore the many benefits of gardening.

Recently I discussed this topic on the Think Act Be podcast with professional gardener Joe Lamp’l, creator of joe gardener®.

Here are 10 benefits of gardening that emerged from our conversation:

1. Practicing Acceptance. Most of our suffering comes from trying to control things that we can’t. The more we can accept the limits of our control and the unpredictability of life, the more peace of mind we can find—and gardening is a great way to practice. “Every day is one more reminder from Mother Nature that I’m not in control,” Lamp’l said, which he finds helpful as a self-described “control freak.”

I learned to practice acceptance in my own garden as the first baby lettuces were ready to harvest in mid-April. I had looked forward to spending time in the garden with my family, but when my 4- and 8-year-old daughters asked if they could help me harvest the lettuce, I was less than enthusiastic. What if they “messed up” my carefully planted garden? What if they broke off the stem instead of a leaf?

Thankfully I managed to get over myself and welcome them into the garden even with the possibility that they could break something. I realized that a “perfect garden” could wind up being a pretty lonely place, which wasn’t my idea of perfection. 

Acceptance in the garden or elsewhere doesn’t mean giving up, of course. We bring our best efforts to what we can control, and we let go of the rest. With gardening that means “preparing the best environment you can possibly make for your plants,” said Lamp’l, and allowing nature to take it from there. Your garden (like your life) is in bigger hands than yours. 

2. Moving Beyond Perfectionism. If you’re prone to perfectionism, you’re probably well aware of the costs. Trying to make things perfect can lead to frustration, missed deadlines and opportunities, and strained relationships. It can also lead to not even trying to do something, with a mentality of “why bother if it can’t be perfect?”

Given the lack of control we have, gardening can be a good antidote for perfectionism. No matter how carefully you plan and execute your garden, there are countless factors you can’t predict—invasions by bugs, inclement weather, hungry rodents. Years ago one of our neighbors had a beautiful garden growing until a neighboring resident sprayed weed killer on a windy day, damaging many of my neighbor’s vegetable plants.  

Gardening offers an endless supply of these kinds of “neutralizers for perfectionism,” as Lamp’l called them. He confessed to being a perfectionist himself and knows firsthand that “pursuit of perfection is a waste of time—especially in the garden. So don’t bother!”

3. Developing a Growth Mindset. The inability to garden perfectly is actually cause for celebration. Psychologist Carol Dweck developed the distinction between “fixed” and “growth” mindsets, and gardening is a great opportunity to develop the latter. With a growth mindset, we assume that we’re constantly learning. When something doesn’t work out the way we had hoped, we view it as a learning opportunity rather than as a “failure.”

We can even look forward to our mistakes. “I love making mistakes,” said Lamp’l, “because I look at them as a chance to learn something new. Through those mishaps, you can understand what happened and why, and you can be empowered to relate that learning to new things.” So more mistakes just mean more learning and more growing.

I certainly make my share of gardening mistakes and find a growth mindset to be so helpful. For example, this season I experimented with a seeding method that I didn’t do quite right and ended up with plants that were overcrowded and nearly impossible to disentangle when it came time to put the seedlings in the garden beds. My initial reaction was to feel stress about needing to “do it the right way,” and then I realized all I had to do was the best I could do, and I would learn something for my fall planting. 

I’ve experienced that quick connection myself when meeting other gardeners, and there’s so much to talk about—not only the nuts and bolts of gardening but the emotional and spiritual connections we can experience with our gardens. “It’s a collective effort,” said Lamp’l, “and we’re all better together when we share our experiences.”  

5. Connecting to Your World. Gardening provides a connection not just to other people but to our world. Many people feel that connection in a visceral way when they eat food they’ve just harvested. “We all have an innate connection to the earth,” said Lamp’l, “and that connection manifests itself when we consume what came from the ground—which is where we came from and where we all end up.” 

Having a garden really means having a relationship with the plot of ground you’re tending. Since I’ve gotten more into gardening I’ve had to be much more aware of the elements: the first and last frosts of the season, how much rain we’ve had, the temperature, where sunlight falls throughout the day. Gardening also connects us intimately with the cycle of the seasons.

And as Lamp’l described, it’s easy to feel “like a parent” to one’s growing plants. “You nurture the seedlings and do everything you can for them,” he said, “and then it’s like you’re putting your babies in the soil”—much as we might nurture a young child who eventually heads out to meet the world. “They don’t call it a ‘nursery’ for nothing!” Lamp’l continued. “I put a lot of care and emotion into the garden.” 

These studies have found evidence that being in green, or even being able to look out on a green landscape, is linked with better recovery from surgery, less anxiety and depression, better stress management, and many other positive effects. 

The nice thing about a garden is that it can be right out your back door. And while you could just as easily spend time sitting in your yard, you’re much more likely to be outside consistently when the work of a garden requires it. 

7. Being Present. Mindful presence is tied to a long list of positive outcomes, like relationship satisfaction and less emotional reactivity. The garden can be a protected place where we practice being where we are and actually doing what we’re doing.

Lamp’l described finding his “Zen moment” in his garden, where he tunes in to his experience. For example, while he generally loves to listen to podcasts, he doesn’t when he’s in the garden. “That’s sacred time for me,” he said. “When I’m out there weeding, I want to hear the birds. I don’t want to hear anything else. It’s a quiet time, and I relish it.”

I often find that centering effect in my own garden. Just last night after heavy rain I sat in my garden in the dying light of the day and took in what was around me. It was striking how quickly I felt a sense of ease.  

The movements are varied, too, which may mean fewer repetitive use injuries compared to more structured exercise. “When I do my weeding, I’m on my belly, on my butt, lying on my side—doing a lot of things you probably do in a yoga class,” he said. “I can give up my gym membership.”   

9. Reducing Stress. Not surprisingly, time in your garden can be a great way to release stress. There’s something about feeling the life all around you, the warmth of the sun, the soil in your hands. As I sit in my own garden these days I see rainbow Swiss chard and lettuces shaking in the wind, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries ripening, and feel the breeze as clouds move across the blue sky. 

Just don’t forget to spend time simply being in your garden. There’s always the next thing to do, as Lamp’l pointed out, so take time deliberately to step away from activity and experience what’s around you.  

10. Eating Healthfully. Last but not least, a garden can yield the freshest and healthiest foods available—the types of food that can have a significant impact on our mental health. For example, two studies showed that dietary changes can be an effective treatment for depression. 

Studies in this area tend to find benefits of the “Mediterranean” (and similar) diet, which emphasizes consuming minimally processed whole foods—exactly the types of food that your garden will yield. Plus there’s the added benefit of knowing you played a role in growing the food.

Image result for gardening

How to Get Started

Ready to start a garden of your own? Here are six quick tips that Lamp’l recommends for beginners.

Just start. Decide that you’re going to get started, even though you don’t know how it’s going to go or even exactly what you’re doing. “Try it, and so what if you fail?” asked Lamp’l. “The worst that will happen is you’ll learn something. And that’s worth the price of a plant, every time.”

Start slow. Lamp’l noted that it’s easy to get excited when starting out and plant too much, which ends up being hard to keep up with. As a result, you could end up feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. So get started, but don’t overdo it. You can always add to your garden over time. A simple first step is to grow something in a container that you can put close to your house, so it’s easy to take care of and enjoy seeing every day.  

Focus on healthy soil. Successful gardening starts literally from the ground up, according to Lamp’l. “Soil is life. When you focus on that, good things happen.” He strongly advises gardeners to avoid synthetic chemicals and “start feeding the soil with organic material.” That can include compost, the “single best thing you can add to the soil because there’s so much in it,” and anything else that nature provides, like shredded leaves, shredded bark, or aged manure. 

Grow what you like. Choose fruits and vegetables to grow based on “what you want to eat or what you like looking at,” advised Lamp’l. “Grow something that’s easy and that grows quickly, like a radish or lettuce.” The ease and quick reward will be motivation to stick with it. 

Know your plants’ needs. “Learn something about the plant before you stick it in the ground,” said Lamp’l. “Read the plant tag so you know if it likes sun or shade and wet or dry, and do your best to give it the environment it wants to thrive in.” After all, plants can’t move themselves, so it’s up to us to “put the right plant in the right place.” Your plants will reward you for it. 

Pay attention to your plants. Spend at least a little time in your garden every day observing what’s happening. That way you can “be proactive when problems arise and can circumvent potentially bigger problems,” said Lamp’l. Besides, there’s really no downside to spending time in your garden, given all the benefits discussed here. 

The full conversation with Joe Lamp’l is available here: How to Renew Your Mind, Body, and Spirit in the Garden.

Can compost be used as mulch? What is the purpose of compost?

Can I use compost as mulch what is the purpose of mulch

Here’s a question about mulch asked by Dexter Roona.

Can compost be used as mulch? What is the purpose of compost?

Mulch reduces moisture evaporation, moderates the temperature of the soil, reduces compaction of the soil, suppresses weeds and should eventually break down and become part of the soil.

So, in answer to your question of can compost be used as mulch, it depends on the type of compost. If the compost you wish to use is has the traits described above, then yes, you can use compost as mulch. However it’s unlikely that it will perform as well as mulch. I would recommend you staying away from chipped or shredded mulch and try using composted mulch.

Here’s an interesting article about composted mulch.
Which is better for plants, chipped mulch or shredded mulch? – Cowen Landscapes Landscaping & Gardening Services in Maidstone

Do YOU have a question for Cowen Landscapes? Send us a message, we’d love to hear it.

3 Tips on planting and how to stop plants from wilting

Planting tips keep plants from wilting

Here are three quick tips from Blossom on Instagram to make your plants grow healthy and fast while preventing them from wilting.

  1. Use an ice cream cone
    In the short video, a dry wafer ice cream cone is used to place seeds inside to help them grow. After the seeds have blossomed, the cone is then placed into a larger pot outside where it will eventually naturally decompose. It acts a biodegradable seed starter and will help flowering plants. 

  2. Growing green onions in an empty egg carton
    The next brilliant tip is to regrow green onions in an empty egg carton, instead of throwing them away. Turn the egg container upside down, pierce a small hole in the top and place in the ends of the green onions. Ensure there is water in the bottom and watch them grow overnight. 

  3. Rusty nails can help revive plants
    Not sure how to put your old rusty nails to use? This trick is an easy and smart way to save your plants, using something as simple as an old metal nail. Simply place rusty metal nails with water into a bottle and leave for a few days until the water has turned a brown-like colour. Then pour the water onto your wilting plants and watch their leaves revive again. The rust releases iron which is crucial in helping to nourish dying plants.