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.

Getting your garden ready for spring

spring gardening tips

Getting your garden ready for spring

One of the most joyous times of year is during the first days of spring when you can watch your garden come to life. Fragrance is bursting forth from beautifully coloured beds and the chirping of happy little birds and lush greenery are all around you.

A springtime garden is a real delight, so full of life and potential, however, there’s also a bit of work involved in maintaining a healthy, beautiful garden so here are some great spring gardening tips.

After winter, you may find that your raised beds are now filled with mud, vegetation laying on the ground needs to be cleaned up and your tools may need a thorough cleaning.

RELATED: Do I need to clean my pruning shears? How Do I prevent rust and bacteria from developing on my secateurs?

Take stock and start a list.

Before starting any large tasks, make sure to check your inventory. Figure out what you have on hand make a list of what you need. This is a great time to stock up on supplies as there may be spring gardening sales near you. Creating a list will help keep you on track and prevent over-buying of things you may not need.

Examine and care for your raised beds.

After winter, your beds may need to be repaired or even replaced. Check to see if there’s anything left alive in them and clear out any dead plants and leaves. Make sure to remove all the weeds and prune overgrown shrubs. Early spring is the best time to work on your raised beds to make sure they will be fresh and ready for planting. This is also the time to Divide your perennials if they’re getting to big. Simply dig them up and divide them. If you have extra, you can give them to your friends, family or neighbors. It’s a nice way to share your gardening experience and you just never know what you might get in return.

Planting, sorting and preparing.

Your ground may be too soggy to plant in right now. If that’s the case, use this time to organize. Sort your plants, cuttings and seeds. Decide which you will plant first, maybe even mark the planting locations on paper or actually at each location with a marker. Kudos to you if you already had your seeds sorted into warm and cold weather categories so you don’t need to do it now, in the spring.

Once your soil is dry enough, start planting your spring cool weather plants. There are many choice when it comes to planting in the spring, including kale, lettuce, radish, broccoli, spinach and peas just to name a few. Remember to use your organic compost to add important nutrients to your soil.

RELATED: Which is better for plants, chipped mulch or shredded mulch?

Since seeds are less expensive than plants, you can save some money by planting warm weather plants, indoors and then relocated to the garden once it warms up. These warm weather plants include cucumbers, runner beans, tomatoes, peppers and melons just to name a few.

Repair damage from pests.

Look for mounds of soil which could be indicative of gopher and mole tunnels. Fill in the holes and collapse all the tunnels. Reseed with grass and keep checking to make sure these pests don’t return. Check also for rodents that may have gnawed on your wood, wires, strings and ropes. Also check your bags for chewed holes. Check to make sure pests haven’t moved into your birdhouses.

How are your garden stones structures doing?

After a long winter, take some time to examine your garden stones. Are the stepping stones in your pathway uneven, are there cracks or missing stones in your walls? Do you have tumbling or crooked dry stacked stone walls? Right now is the best time to repair or replace these stone structures.

Take care of your birdhouses.

Spring is a great time of year to clean out your birdhouses. Make sure there’s no mold, mildew or parasites living in them and make sure they are firmly attached and in good condition. If you want to be really helpful, you can leave some piles of nesting material near the birdhouses, which will surely make our feathered friends happy. After you take care of the birdhouses, make sure you don’t neglect the bird feeders and bird baths. These should be scrubbed and carefully examined.

Proper gardening can be a very rewarding, year round endeavor, however here are some ideas for springtime gardening chores:

  • Remove debris from ponds and other water features.
  • Clean gutters to facilitate proper plant to water disbursement.
  • Remove dead wood from trees.
  • Remove suckers from shrubbery and trees.
  • Cut perennials back to almost to ground level.
  • Remove parasites from trees and shrubs.
  • This is the time to move or plant dormant shrubs and trees.
  • Scrub out your pots.
  • Check hoses for leaks, kinks and clogs.

Here are some more simple tips for springtime gardening:

Rotate your crops. This reduces crop specific diseases from building up in the soil and keeps the soil from being depleted of certain nutrients the previous plants thrived on.

Avoid gardening in the rain or walking on wet ground. Doing so can cause the ground to become compacted, ruining the structure of your soil which can cause your roots to suffocate.

When planting rows, run them north to south to allow your crop equal exposure to the sun.

Remember, to use care when digging early in the season as some of your perennials may be slow to appear and difficult to see.

Plant half of your vegetable rows now and the rest a couple of weeks later so you don’t get overwhelmed when it’s time to harvest.

Wondering what UK gardening zone you’re in? Here’s a helpful list of gardening hardiness zones from PlantMaps.com

We are Cowen Landscapes, and landscape gardening and design is our passion. We’d love to speak with you about your garden and landscaping needs in Kent. https://www.cowenlandscapes.co.uk Please give us a call or send us a message.

01622 320277 The Old Dairy, Court Farm, Thurnham Lane, Maidstone, ME14 3LH

Do I need to clean my pruning shears? How Do I prevent rust and bacteria from developing on my secateurs?

how to clean gardening shears

Do I need to clean my pruning shears? How do I prevent rust and bacteria from developing on my secateurs?

From cutting away branches and pruning shrubs to gently snipping a beautiful flower to display in a vase, your shears can be one of the most important tools in your garden.

The one thing you don’t want is to spread harmful diseases, eggs and bacteria from plant to plant.

The blades of your shears can easily start to rust, become dirty, become sticky with sap and develop bacteria that can infect your healthy plants, however this can be prevented with these simple and helpful tips.

Use a stiff brush with a bucket of warm soapy water. Washing-up liquid works best, it is easy to rinse off and doesn’t leave a harsh chemical residue on the blades.

Use steel wool If the blades have started to rust. Sandpaper can be used as well.

After washing and rinsing, soak your shears for a few minutes in a pail of water mixed with a spoonful of bleach to destroy bacteria, eggs and other harmful organisms on your blades.

After soaking, dry them well with a cloth or air dry them.

Once they are dried, spray lubricating oil on them to prevent them from rusting.

Make sure to keep your shears hung and out of the elements when not in use.

Follow these simple steps and you will find this valuable garden tool will provide you with many, many years of quality service.

What are adelgids and how do I get rid of adelgids?

Conifers are a tree that bears cones and evergreen needlelike or scalelike leaves.  If you have conifer trees you may have to worry about Adelgids, which are are aphid-like insects that suck the sap from conifers.

Adelgid infestation close up zoomed in
woolly adelgid infestation Photographed by Michael Montgomery

Adelgids can cause distortion of shoots, affecting the appearance of trees. Yellow, winged adults leave galls in late summer and lay eggs on host plants. The nymphs soon hatch and overwinter close to buds. In spring these nymphs feed on plant sap but do not cause galls, maturing into light green wingless females. These females lay eggs covered in white waxy threads. The nymphs hatching from these eggs induce the galls when they feed at the base of needles. The galls contain numerous chambers within which groups of pale orange nymphs develop.

Adelgids only lay eggs, and never give birth to live nymphs as aphids do. Adelgids are covered with dense woolly wax. A complete adelgid life cycle lasts two years.

Adelgid nymphs are known as sistentes, and the overwintering sistentes are called neosistens.

Rain can kill adelgids by dislodging eggs and sistentes from trees.

So now that you know a bit more about adelgids, let’s discuss the reason why you’re probably reading this:

How do I get rid of adelgids?

The damage adelgids cause is often minor and can usually be tolerated, however, if you wish to remove adelgids from your plants, here are a few suggestions.

Adelgids can be difficult to kill with insecticides as they’re protected by waxy secretions. In addition it’s only feasible to treat adelgids on trees that are small enough to be sprayed thoroughly. It’s quite difficult to deal with  infestations on very tall trees.

hemlock wooly adelgid-bug macro microscope

The following insecticide information is from the RHS

  • Organic sprays, such as natural pyrethrum (e.g. Bug Clear Gun for Fruit & Veg, Defenders Bug Killer, Ecofective Bug Killer (also contains fatty acids)), fatty acids (e.g. Solabiol Bug Free, Doff Greenfly & Blackfly Killer) or plant oils (e.g. Vitax Organic Pest & Disease Control, Origins Bug Control) can give some control of adelgids. These pesticides have a very short persistence and so may require reapplication to keep adelgid numbers in check
  • More persistent insecticides include the synthetic pyrethroids lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Pest Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Pest Killer) and cypermethrin (e.g. Py Bug Killer)
  • The systemic neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra) can also be used

The College of Agriculture, Food and Environment offers some clever ideas for controlling and eliminating adelgids including:

Spraying foliage with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil at the proper times during the HWA life cycle.

Using a systemic insecticide that moves with the tree sap and is consumed by the adelgids as they feed. 

There are three main methods for introducing insecticides including trunk injection. soil injection and soil drenching.

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