Make Your Own Easy, Cost-free Biodiversity-Boosting ‘Insect Hotels’ For Your Garden or Allotment and Encourage Wild Solitary Bees and Pest-eating Wasps to Live and Nest There

Media buzz about bee conservation can have a real and positive effect, but virtual wildlife gardening only goes so far. I wanted a more immediate way of boosting wild bee (and wasp) populations on my own, real-life patch, so I grabbed some found, free materials and got to work.

By John Walker. Originally published on the Hartley Botanic website as ‘Bee positive’, 29th April 2014

During the last year I seem to have spent a lot of time tapping my computer keyboard to help improve the lot of bees, large and small – signing a petition here, retweeting a link to yet another campaign there, nudging my MP when needed. These wonderful, beneficial and utterly beguiling insects have rarely been out of the news, such are the mounting, human-driven threats to their future existence: loss of the wild, unkempt places where they live, ever-intensifying farming and horticultural methods (including the use of silent but deadly pesticides such as neonicotinoids) and jumbled, juddering seasons due to our changing climate.

leafcutter-bee-calendula-flowers

Leafcutter bees (Megachile spp), which gather pollen on the undersides of their abdomen, were regular visitors to my single-flowered pot marigolds last summer. I’m hoping my bee-boosters will encourage them to hang around and make themselves at home.

Although this virtual petitioning and digital information-sharing is vital and unquestionably invaluable in influencing anything from government policy to a change of mind, its results tend to happen down the line and far away. We shouldn’t give up on the coaxing and lobbying on behalf of bees (or the rest of nature), but I’ve decided that the best way to bump up my own bee-boosting efforts this spring is actually to give the keyboard a well-earned rest. I want to do something positive and practical for bees that happens right here at my end of the ‘line’, something I can plan, touch, admire and, above all, make happen myself – all without spending a single penny.

You can spend far more than a penny if you’re lured by the proliferation of bee and insect ‘homes’ now on sale. They are intended to provide somewhere for smaller ‘solitary’ bees and other insects, such as the smaller wasps, to make their nests, but some of these well-meant ‘bug hotels’ are unlikely to have any invertebrate checking in soon. Many fail to attract visitors because their ‘rooms’ are simply too big and/or badly designed. Their tariff can be off-putting too, not to mention the fact that many have been manufactured en masse in faraway lands. Even the bee-friendly products which do work often come at a price. My bee-boosters won’t cost you anything, but I’m hoping they’ll turn out to be priceless in terms of coaxing more solitary bees to inhabit your garden. You will need to invest a little time in making them, but they’ll last for yonks, and it trumps sitting – backside going numb – at a keyboard any day.

Both of my home-made bee-boosters are intended to give both solitary bees – including leafcutter (Megachile spp.) and mason bees (Osmia spp.) – and solitary wasps somewhere to build their nests. Solitary bees are smaller, quieter and less conspicuous than bumble or honey bees, but are important pollinators of our garden crops, especially fruit. As their name suggests, they do their living solo, and don’t form social colonies. Solitary wasps are also less noticed than their larger, irascible cousins, but they do a grand job for gardeners by catching and paralysing aphids, caterpillars and other plant pests, which they feed to their offspring. Several solitary bees and wasps make their nests in hollow plant stems, and in holes found in dead wood. My bee-boosters use simple, found and free materials to create accommodation that I’m hoping will prove irresistible…

Can o’ bees (and wasps)

making-wild-solitary-bee-nest-using-can1 Once you’ve enjoyed baked beans on toast, wash the can out and turn it into a bee-booster (cans with pull-off lids work best as these don’t leave a sharp edge). Carefully drill a row of 13mm (1/2in) diameter holes down one side; these will sit at the bottom of the bee-booster and let any water drain out. Use a sharp drill bit, and flatten or smooth off any sharp edges. Gloves optional.

 

 


hollow-plant-stems-wild-solitary-bees-nesting2 Enjoy a wander around your garden (or along a lane) and collect as many dead and hollow plant stems as you can find. You need stems in all sizes with holes from around 4mm (1/8in) up to 13mm (1/2in) in diameter. The stems must be dry, hollow and smooth on the inside. I gathered up Japanese knotweed (dead), stinging nettle, foxglove, hogweed and Iris sibirica, in 10 minutes.


hollow-plant-stems-wild-solitary-bees-wasps-nesting3 Now comes the therapeutic part. Snip off a ‘master’ stem to a length that will sit 13mm (1/2in) inside the can’s rim. Use snippers (or scissors) to cut your haul of dry stems into identical lengths – mine were 10cm (4in). Aim for a mix of different diameter holes; different species of bees and wasps will each pick the best size for them to use. Each stem must be hollow; hold it up and check for light at the other end.


hollow-plant-stems-wild-solitary-bees-wasps-nesting4 When you’ve snipped a sufficient amount, fill the can up with the stems, in a random, higgledy-piggledy pattern. The stems need to fit tightly in the can to stop them falling out (and to deter blue tits from pulling them free), so ease some of the stiffer and thinner shoots into any gaps as the can fills up. Packed tight, the stems should stay put when the can’s turned upside down.

 

 


position-wild-solitary-bee-wasp-nest-box5 Location is everything: your bee-booster needs to be in an open, sunny spot which isn’t shaded by plants, about 1m (3ft) from the ground. I used a length of wire around the can, looped at the end, which I screwed to the frame of my log store. The drainage holes should be at the base of the can. The fixing must be secure – the can shouldn’t flap and move about in the wind.

 


hollow-garden-plant-stems-used-by-solitary-bees-wasps6 All you can do now is wait for guests. Nesting bees and wasps lay their eggs next to a food store inside the stems. Once a stem is ‘full’, its entrance will be sealed with a plug of ‘mortar’ (see below); leafcutter bees use fresh leaves. In winter, move the can to a dry, unheated garage or shed, then put it back outdoors the following spring, when adult bees/wasps will emerge from the stems.


Bee-rise block

wooden-block-solitary-bees-wasps-wild-nest1 Wooden pallets aren’t just for making compost bins; the solid wooden blocks they contain can, with any nails removed, be turned into bee-boosters, as long as they are 10-15cm (4-6in) deep and not treated with preservative. Use sharp drill bits to drill a selection of smooth vertical holes, between 4mm (1/8in) and 13mm (1/2in) in diameter, randomly across one face of the block. Drill almost to the other side, but not right through the block. Gloves optional.


wooden-block-solitary-bees-wasps-wild-nest2 Give the holes a good clear-out by tapping the block to remove any sawdust (or use a vacuum cleaner). Solitary bees and wasps will be much more inclined to nest if the entrance holes are completely smooth; carefully shave off any splinters with a sharp penknife, and/or work a narrow roll of fine sandpaper around the inside edges of each hole – even the smallest ones – to smooth them off.


wooden-block-solitary-bees-wasps-wild-nest3 Your bee-boosting block needs to be in an open spot which is sunny for most of the day, and which won’t disappear under plants. I fixed mine to a wooden post using a small section of right-angled metal, so it’s 1m (3ft) above the ground. Blocks can be fixed to any sunny wall or fence, but no higher than 1.8m (6ft). A deluxe booster could be made with a sloping top to shed rain.

 

 


 wooden-block-solitary-bees-wasps-wild-nest-occupied4 Unless you’re eagle-eyed, the first sign of take-up will be when you spot holes sealed with plugs of mortar-like mud (or cut leaves). Patience pays: bees and wasps might spend this spring/summer nest-hunting, but only move in next year, when the booster is more ‘weathered in’. Occupied blocks can be moved to a cold, dry place in winter to stop the seals washing away. Put them back outdoors in early spring.

 

 


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Posted in allotments, bees & other insects, eco gardening, food & kitchen gardening, green gardening, nature & the natural world, neonicotinoids or 'neonics', pesticides in the garden, published articles, wildlife gardening | Leave a comment

Gardening in England is Set to be Completely Peat-free by 2020 – Where is The Persuasive, Compelling & Inspiring Green-fingered Roadmap That’s Going to Get Us There?

Meeting the UK government target of turning gardening peat-free by 2020 will bring a dark, nature-damaging side of gardening to an end. But it will only be achieved with determined effort – including a campaign to educate all those non-gardening folk buying a ‘bag of dirt’. 

By John Walker. Originally published on the Hartley Botanic website as ‘The Path to peat-free’, 19th December 2016 (revised and updated March 2017)

There are less than three years to go. Just 11 of our increasingly blurring, juddery seasons left. And then we gardeners – and the businesses that profit handsomely from us – will together make gardening history. We will be filling our trays, pots, hanging baskets and containers with something that supports life in, but also way beyond, our gardens, rather than impoverishing it. Our gardens and greenhouses will be replete with signs that this historic, nature-saving change has happened. Seeds will come up, buds will burst, fruits will swell and ripen, and none of it will denude our fragile natural world. As gardeners we’ll finally be in sync with ecological reality – not bumbling along with our heads stuck two spits deep in our compost heaps. At the dawn of 2020 we can raise a trowel and rejoice, because gardening will have gone completely peat-free (in England at any rate, though there’s no reason why the rest of the UK can’t muck in).

sylvagrow-peat-free-added-john-innes-dahlia

Based on a peat-free mix used by professionals, SylvaGrow with Added John Innes grew some of the best dahlias I’ve ever grown. It recently bagged a Which? Gardening Best Buy for seed sowing.

“As gardeners we’ll finally be in sync with ecological reality – not bumbling along with our heads stuck two spits deep in our compost heaps.”

That, according to the voluntary target set by the government in 2010, is the plan. This will be a history-making moment because gardening is responsible for 70 per cent of the UK’s peat use. Most of this peat is imported, meaning that we simultaneously export environmental destruction. When demand for mined peat, mostly from sphagnum bogs, has fallen by 70 per cent – which should have happened by 2020 – it will in all likelihood simply become uneconomic to dig peat up. Our greatest terrestrial carbon stores will finally get a break, and our passion for plants won’t be eroding diversity or helping ramp up climate chaos. Pro-peat pundits, who’ve spent careers urging us to stick it to nature, will gag on peat-free pie. By 2020, even they’ll be tapping into proven, sustainable and renewable peat-free mixes.

The date is set, but what about the three-year horticultural road map required to get us there? Where are the compelling, persuasive initiatives to inform, educate and inspire millions of gardeners and – even more crucially – non-gardeners to transition to using the modern and reliable peat-free composts our top growers pot up in? What schemes involving influential gardening celebrities and the print and broadcast media are taking shape to help us, collectively, to bring this dark, damaging side of gardening to an end? Who is co-ordinating the effort that will recast the businesses that comprise Big Peat – should they survive its retirement – from environmental vandals to champions of nature-friendly gardening?

“Pro-peat pundits, who’ve spent careers urging us to stick it to nature, will gag on peat-free pie.”

Where, what and who, indeed. As 2017 takes its first gasps, the only ‘plan’ on the table appears to be the entirely voluntary target (‘voluntary’ usually translates as something that’s as moveable as it is meaningless) of phasing peat out of gardening by 2020 (with commercial horticulture, the minority peat user, following by 2030). Unless I’ve missed it, the when – ‘by 2020’ – is all we have.

As a gesture of gardening goodwill, I want to offer my own gift of tips and pointers to anyone charged with plotting the path to 100 per cent peat-free gardening four years from now (I’ll take ‘by 2020’ on good faith). If you’ve suggestions of your own, you can pop them in the comments below.

peat-free-compost-trials

‘Use a peat-free compost’ is meaningless advice unless it’s qualified. Here two top doers, SylvaGrow (top left) and Fertile Fibre Multipurpose (top right), are compared with two duffers, Lidl Grandiol Peat Free (bottom left) and Poundland Multi Purpose (bottom right).

“It’s non-gardeners that need to hear the peat-free message most loudly.”

My first and possibly most crucial tip is to remember that it’s non-gardeners that need to hear the peat-free message most loudly. It’s not most folk watching Gardeners’ World, or reading gardening magazines, that need informing and persuading, but those rolling up at garden centres and DIY stores to buy a ‘bag of dirt’. Whether it’s a nature-wrecking pure peat compost, or a bag of the finest, most ecologically sustainable peat-free mix, matters barely a jot to them. What most folk are buying is a bag of brown stuff, and that bag is most likely to contain peat-based compost; it’s those towering pallets of bagged-up peat bogs, often on a ‘buy three for £12’, that still rule. It’s here, among those who enjoy growing things, but who probably don’t see themselves as gardeners, that the educating and informing desperately needs to happen, and fast.

We also need a step change in how we talk about peat-free compost. This lesson needs learning quickly by people like me, who put pen to paper, but also by those who put face to camera or voice to microphone. Part of the lesson requires running lazy journalism out of town. ‘Use a peat-free compost’ just doesn’t cut it any more – it’s a cop-out that implies that any bag with ‘peat-free’ on it will perform just as well as any other. It won’t. We know there are a small handful of quality, modern peat-free composts that give excellent results from bag to bag, year after year. We need to spell out which they are, to sift them from dismal bandwagon products (let’s name and shame them, too). Imploring your reader, listener or viewer to ‘go peat-free!!!’ is meaningless unless it’s backed up with a solid recommendation – no matter how many exclamation marks you use!

“‘Use a peat-free compost’ just doesn’t cut it any more – it’s a cop-out that implies that any bag with ‘peat-free’ on it will perform just as well as any other. It won’t.”

My own recommendation for a peat-free 2017 is the SylvaGrow range (already used for decades by professional plant growers), Cumbria-made Wool Compost (who deliver to your door), or Fertile Fibre Multipurpose Compost, which, together with SylvaGrow Multipurpose, has just bagged a Which? Gardening magazine 2017 Best Buy for container compost. All have proven to be excellent doers in my garden and greenhouse compost trials. SylvaGrow Multipurpose comes with the added assurance of having gained (so far) four Which? Best Buys, and is endorsed by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). Their professional gardeners use it too, and it’s stacking up in more and more garden retailers. SylvaGrow with Added John Innes (which contains sterilised loam and horticultural sand), a newcomer in 2016, recently bagged a 2017 Which? Best Buy for sowing seeds.

dalefoot-peat-free-wool-compost-dahlia

Made with composted Cumbrian wool and bracken, Wool Compost is a top performer for me. These ‘Bishop’s Children’ dahlias flowered their socks off.

I’d love organisations such as the RHS to get their creative, cross-pollinating caps on. Working on the basis that the proof is in the potting, we need a rolling programme of ‘open access’ weekends (think Open Farm Sunday), linking up gardens, garden centres and nurseries, big and small, where anyone with an interest in growing things can go along and see modern peat-free growing in action. Compost-makers could join in, and on-the-fence celebrities could come along. Surely, in the name of turning gardening credibly green, it’s not beyond the wit of garden centres to actually start trying out the quality peat-free composts they flog. They could display the plants they’ve grown next to the compost they’ve used, and their customers, imbued with renewed confidence in peat-free mixes, would, er, buy it. Now that’s responsible, persuasive and profitable selling in action. Wince at ‘Peat-free on Parade’ weekends if you must (I did), but you get the gist.

And just think of the enormous potential of our national flower shows to become peat-free persuaders. Multi medal-winning peat-free plant growers are already part of the fabric of RHS shows such as Chelsea and Hampton Court, so let’s tap into that, by showcasing potted proof that you don’t need peat to bag a gold medal. This is no time for peat-free nurseryfolk to be meek about how they grow – we need you to roar.

“Surely, in the name of turning gardening credibly green, it’s not beyond the wit of garden centres to actually start trying out the quality peat-free composts they flog.”

We gardeners must join in, too – but hang on a sec: we’re already harnessing the power of social media, especially via Twitter’s #peatfree hashtag. We’re sharing results and spreading the word about modern peat-free gardening, connecting mindful growers with eco-friendly gardeners, while demolishing outdated pro-peat myths, one gentle yet powerful tweet at a time.

The path to ecologically sustainable, peat-free gardening by 2020 is already sown with the seeds of opportunity. All we need now is the vision and determination to make sure they grow.

Did you enjoy this article? Please consider making a donation to earth-friendly gardener. Even a modest amount (£3-£5) helps to meet the ongoing costs of running the site and allows new content to be added for all gardeners to benefit from. You can donate, safely and securely, here. Thank you.
Posted in climate- & earth-friendly gardening, container gardening, eco gardening, environment, garden centres & gardening industry, garden compost & composting, media, nature & the natural world, organic gardening, peat & peat-free compost, published articles, renewable gardening, tv gardening & celebrities | Leave a comment

Here’s Some Real Gardening News: Peat-free Composts – Fertile Fibre and SylvaGrow – Bag Two Out of Three Which? Gardening Best Buy 2017 Awards for Container Growing

s-grow-mediumThe April 2017 issue of Which? Gardening magazine brings good news for gardeners, and for our natural world: two out of three of its Best Buy awards for container compost have gone to modern and reliable peat-free compost brands (the other went to an ultra-expensive compost containing 70% peat, whose manufacture contributes directly to the destruction of carbon-storing peatlands).

Best Buys stack up for professional-grade SylvaGrow

Hot on the heels of three previous Which? Best Buy gongs*, SylvaGrow Multipurpose Compost now adds a fourth Best Buy for container compost. As the press release from Melcourt, the makers of SylvaGrow highlights, ‘our sustainable peat-free growing media has become the only brand to have received Best Buy accolades in the last five reports on gardening compost from Which? Gardening. Indeed no other brand comes close to that record.’

sylvagrow-stock

Stocks sown in SylvaGrow Multipurpose Compost got off to a flying start.

It’s not so much of a surprise. SylvaGrow is a professional-grade peat-free compost (a mix of composted bark, coir and wood fibre) which has been proven in use over many decades by some of the UK’s top commercial plant growers. I’ve used it for several years in my garden and greenhouse. It’s cracking stuff.

Pipped to a Best Buy by one point is peat-free SylvaGrow with Added John Innes (the basic SylvaGrow mix but with sterilised sand and loam added, giving it a more soil-like feel), which earns a Recommended Buy for container compost.

mp-compost-jiSylvaGrow with Added John Innes hit the Best Buy big time in Which? Gardening’s most recent trial of composts for sowing seeds (Which? Gardening magazine Jan/Feb 2017) and scored highly for growing on young plants. It’s been a top performer for me, giving seeds of all shapes, sizes and requirements an excellent kick-start in life.

sylvagrow-john-innes-dahlia

I was chuffed with these dahlias sown in SylvaGrow with Added John Innes, which recently bagged a Which? Best Buy.

SylvaGrow peat-free mixes and most other products in Melcourt’s ‘passionate gardener’ range are endorsed (and used and sold by) the Royal Horticultural Society. The range also includes SylvaGrow Ericaceous Compost, for acid-loving plants, and will be joined in spring 2017 by SylvaGrow Organic, certified by the Soil Association.

SylvaGrow peat-free composts can be found in an expanding network of independent garden retailers (in handy 15 litre, and 50 litre bags). There’s an excellent online stockist locator here. If your gardening group or club is into bulk buying, it’s worth asking about having SylvaGrow delivered by the pallet load (you might save a few quid).

* Which? Best Buy container compost, April 2016, April 2015; Which? Best Buy compost for raising young plants, Jan/Feb 2016 (also a Recommended Buy for sowing seeds).


Fertile Fibre coir compost the best peat-free on test

Narrowly beating SylvaGrow Multipurpose Compost to the top spot in the 2017 Which? trial of container composts is Fertile Fibre Multipurpose Compost, made mostly of coir (milled coconut husks which are often burnt as waste) plus some vermiculite.

Fertile Fibre Multipurpose already has Best Buy form: in Which? Gardening magazine April 2015, it was described it as the ‘best peat-free’ for container growing.

fertile-fibre-mpFertile Fibre mixes are used by both gardeners and professional growers, and are organically certified by the Soil Association. It’s been a good and reliable performer on my patch over many years.

You won’t find Fertile Fibre in garden retailers, but they do offer a reliable home-delivery service. Clubbing together with gardening friends (or even foes if you want to persuade them that modern peat-free composts are the future of gardening) or a local group can help bring the price down.

fertile-fibre-dahlia

My ‘Bishop’s Children’ dahlias germinated well in Fertile Fibre Multipurpose Compost and soon made sturdy seedlings.

It’s well worth checking out the Fertile Fibre website. They offer both seed and multipurpose composts (including biodynamic and vegan options), together with dry coir products for those wanting to make their own mixes, together with plant foods suited to their products.

They also supply ‘green’ peat – not mined from peat bogs but peat that’s eroded from upland blanket bogs and then collected from the screens in water filtration systems. It’s certified organic by the Soil Association.

Posted in blog, climate- & earth-friendly gardening, eco gardening, environment, garden compost, garden compost & composting, nature & the natural world, organic gardening, peat & peat-free compost, renewable gardening, vegan-organic gardening | 3 Comments

Falling Assets: How to Turn Your Free and Renewable Autumn Leaves Into Rich, Life-giving Leaf Mould to Improve Soil and to Make Your Own Peat-free Potting Compost

Canny gardeners don’t leave any leaves lying – this beautiful and noisy autumn windfall matures into gardening gold that’s free for the raking, and is infinitely renewable year after year after year…

By John Walker. Originally published on the Hartley Botanic website as ‘Falling assets’ , 7th October 2014
renewable-gardening-leaf-mould-john-walker

Of all the free gifts nature gives to gardeners, autumn leaves are both seriously useful and infinitely renewable.

There’s one turning of the seasons which arrives here with a right old clatter. After a cold jolt in August, most gardeners have been teased throughout September with only vague hints of impending autumn. In my garden, warm, balmy days and the on-and-on-and-on growth of sweet peas, mangetout peas and runner beans – not to mention defiant, please-let-me-set-just-one-more-truss tomatoes, plus runaway weeds – have taken my eye off the clues all around. A bronze tint amongst the larches, rust flushing into the oaks, and butter-infused willows have all crept up on me thanks to subconscious blind-eyeing. Even the pumpkins, orange skins deepening by the day, somehow slipped from the scene. So far my garden has only flirted with frost, but the clock is now ticking. Autumn begins officially here when I wake to a deep blue sky, brilliant, squint-making sunshine, and a clattering chorus of falling leaves. Any day now.

Of all nature’s free and infinitely renewable gifts to gardeners, fallen leaves are right at the top of my list. Sunshine and rain come close behind, but they lack the grab-a-handful quality of leaves and – in their own good time – the product of their unhurried, magical decay: leaf mould. Being effectively manure-less here (and wanting to eliminate animal-derived inputs anyway), I’ve had to rely more on other, gentler ways of mustering my soil’s fecundity. Adding compost, mulching with seaweed and growing green manures have all played their part, but the most conspicuous, most multipurpose, and most copious ally to my garden-making is leaf mould. Enjoy a twinge of envy when I tell you that I collect builders’ bags brimming with leaves from along the lane here, but even modest leaf-gathering yields something useful – even if it’s just enough leaf mould to mulch your indoor plants.

“Of all nature’s free and infinitely renewable gifts to gardeners, fallen leaves are right at the top of my list.”

renewable-gardening-leaf-mould-cages-bins-john-walker

My big leaf mould ‘cages’ overflow at collection time, but soon sink (as in the cage on the left) as countless leaf moulders get to work.

I gather up my leaves (ideally when wet) using a spring-tine rake and two pieces of 60cm long floorboard (to give me longer fingers), and pour them into 2m diameter, 90cm deep circular wire mesh ‘cages’, of which I have three (1m wide is the minimum to go for). Each year I aim to empty the cage containing the maturest, crumbliest leaf mould, before refilling it with fresh leaves. With a three-cage system I can, depending on what I need it for, dive into leaves in any of their stages of slow, glorious decay. This spring, the dark ‘crumble mix’ I sieved for my home-made, peat-free potting compost was all that remained from 2010’s autumn haul. This crumble is mixed half-and-half with worm-turned, sieved compost from one of my ‘cool’ bins, which gobble up kitchen and household waste. Leaf mould gives my DIY mix its body and holds onto water, while the rich worm-workings give it added oomph. I use it for sowing and potting up, and bar a few weed seedlings, it works a treat. But digging out this sweet-smelling crumble marks the end of a longer journey, with spin-offs for wild life of all sorts along the way.

The first thing that happens to my brimful cages is that they heat up, even steaming a little on sub-zero mornings (they don’t match the finger-scalding temperatures in a big, well-mixed ‘hot’ compost heap). This brings blackbirds and thrushes, flicking through the top layers, and wrens skittering over the cages, picking off insects. Next up is the invasion of the fungi. Although most leaf-moulderers go about their quiet business unseen, I often get a sudden show of toadstools pushing up from the warm, settling mass. As things cool off toward winter, in come small, red and lively worms (more flicking, sometimes by an odd jay or raven). These relocate from the surrounding soil, along with gazillions more of nature’s unseen decomposers. Toads, frogs, newts and slow-worms move into the ground floor to hole up for winter (look out for them when you’re taking leaf mould out).

“I often get a sudden show of toadstools pushing up from the warm, settling mass.”

renewable-gardening-leaf-mould-mature-sieved-peat-free-compost-mix

Sieving leaf mould gives dormant muscles a workout. It also gives me a fine ‘crumble mix’ for use in my own peat-free potting mix, and coarser sievings for mulching and to use as soil improver.

By spring the early heat is long gone, and below the crisp top layer, mouldering is full-on, pale strands of mycelia weaving amongst their feast. If I need coarse, chunky mulch, these just-rotting leaves are just the job. I’ll take them straight from the cage, or pass them through a 25mm sieve to remove twigs. If I need soil improver, my 13mm sieve gives me something finer, which works easily into my soil beds (try a bucketful per square metre, forked into the top 10cm). As spring unfolds, the level in a cage soon sinks; you can expect, eventually, to take out around a third, at best, of the volume that originally went in. I try hard not to disturb a cage until it’s at least a year old, which is easier when there are three on the go (never settle for less than two). As the birds seek richer summer pickings and worms head off back into the soil, voles and mice tunnel through the settling heap, and fledgling oaks and hazels sprout. After a full year, most leaves will have fragmented and lost their identity; the deeper in the mass you dig, the less recognisable they become. Only the toughest bits are left behind, and these make up the final, spongy crumble.

If you manage to let your leaves moulder undisturbed for a whole year, by the following spring you can harvest mulch, soil improver and potting mix material (my 6mm sieve gives a fine grade that’s ideal). Time does the hard graft; the longer you lay off your leaves, the finer the mould becomes, and nothing ever needs turning. Any tough, sieved-out bits are tossed back into the cage (or the next-door one) to keep on rotting.

“If you find great swirling ‘leafdrifts’ forming in your local park, see if it’s all right to go along and bag some.”

You don’t need big cages to make leaf mould. Turning an empty compost bag inside out, stuffing it with leaves (pack them in firm, but not tight), tying it off, and jabbing some holes all over it, works fine. Filling a reused builders’ bag (or three) with leaves, then lashing its handles together, is a piece of cake. Leaves simply piled up in an unused corner will eventually become crumble. Your only limit is the amount of leaves you can get your mitts on, so it pays to source laterally. Once you’ve scooped up everything from your own patch, ask the neighbours if you can have theirs (as a sweetener, offer to go and collect them). If you see bin bags filled with leaves on the street, ask if you can have them. If you find great swirling ‘leafdrifts’ forming in your local park, see if it’s all right to go along and bag some – or perhaps think about organising a community ‘love those leaves’ day, by collaborating with your local authority (so that health and safety requirements are met).

Leaves will soon be everywhere, so grab them while you can. I can’t wait for the clattering to begin.

Did you enjoy this article? Please consider making a donation to earth-friendly gardener. Even a modest amount (£3-£5) helps to meet the ongoing costs of running the site and allows new content to be added for all gardeners to benefit from. You can donate, safely and securely, here. Thank you.
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How Free and Plentiful Woodchips can Help Your Organic, Earth-friendly – and Peat-free – Garden Grow

Mounds of woodchips are everywhere nowadays, they’re free for the taking – and they can help you go peat-free. Inspired by a pioneering vegan-organic vegetable grower, I’m now coveting every fresh mound of chips I find.

By John Walker. Published in The Telegraph, 23rd January 2016

have developed a more than passing interest in those mounds of fresh woodchips you see piled up along roadsides and on embankments. These are the pulverised remains of the shoots and branches of trees and shrubs deemed too puny to turn into useful firewood. This brash, which can’t be left lying around, is fed into large, noisy shredders, which spew it back out as chips of various sizes. The piles are bright and noticeable at first, but gradually fade and sink as nature begins its reclamation work. In 12-18 months you’ll have a job even finding them again.

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Fresh woodchips are light in colour and easy to spot, but soon darken as nature begins to reclaim them.

My growing interest in woodchips is driven by my insatiable gardening curiosity: they’re just sitting there, free for the taking, so what could I do with them? Shredded prunings make a great weed-blocking mulch when spread over the soil around permanent plantings (aim for 1-2in/2.5-5cm deep), so that’s one option. Sappy summer trimmings are a good source of “greens” to go into a compost bin or heap (they’ll help a big hot heap to cook). But what else? On excavating a roadside heap that, several months before, had bloomed with a wonderful crop of toadstools, I unearthed dark woody crumbs, coated in fungal hyphae, with a divine, earthy scent. Not long after that, a serendipitous visit to an innovative market gardener nudged the penny through the slot.

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Locally sourced and peat-free compost based on woodchips at work in Iain Tolhurst’s propagation greenhouse.

Iain Tolhurst (“Tolly”) has been an organic grower for 40 years. Tolhurst Organic Partnership, near Whitchurch-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, grows seasonal vegetables on two acres of the Hardwick Estate. Tolly is a pioneering grower who is constantly refining and testing his growing methods. Today, the fertility of the market garden’s soil is generated almost entirely within the holding itself, making the whole growing process a kind of “closed loop” – the epitome of the joined-up approach taken by savvy organic gardeners.

Closing the loop has been crucial to Tolly’s goal of growing not just organically, but vegan-organically, meaning that no animal inputs of any kind – manure, dried blood or ground-up hooves and bones – are used to grow his crops.

Soil fertility is maintained by growing some of it, in the form of sunshine-harvesting green manures which are dug back into the soil, and by adding lashings of home-made compost, of which, as we all know, there is never enough. But all that all changed when a local tree surgeon asked Tolly if he could make use of the chipped remains of trees and shrubs which would otherwise go (for a fee) to landfill sites. As trailer-loads of woodchips began turning up, Tolly set about working out what to do with them.

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As piles of woodchips cool down after their initial hot and steaming phase, fungi soon move in coating the chips with pale mycelium.

First, he lines them up in big windrows roughly 6 x 10ft (2 x 3m) tall and wide. They soon heat up, releasing plumes of steam. As they gradually cool down, they’re turned, a couple of times in summer, then again in winter. The heat is released as micro-organisms start breaking the chips down. When the heaps cool, and the woodchips turn darker, they’re soon invaded by fungal mycelium, and flushes of toadstools often appear.

All of this is nature doing its stuff – transforming complex organic materials into something which can be used again. At the start of his growing career, Tolly made the easy mistake of incorporating fresh sawdust into the soil, which starved it of nitrogen and damaged the crops, so he knew that woodchips needed time to get them ready to use.

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Fresh woodchips, with added shredded leaves (top), and how they look 18 months later after fungi have begun their work.

Digging into a windrow after 18-24 months brings up handfuls of dark, sweet-smelling chips with a distinctive ‘mushroom’ aroma. To make a sowing/potting mix, Tolly uses a ½in (1cm) mesh sieve to gather the finer crumbs, which he mixes three parts woodchips to one part perlite, plus some lime (and an organic fertiliser if needed).

This gives a low-input, home-made compost, made with free, locally-sourced materials that are unlikely to be contaminated by pesticides (trees aren’t usually sprayed). Only the lime and vermiculite comes from outside the loop, and he’s looking for something more local and less energy-intensive to replace the latter. This mix is used to fill multi-cell trays for raising crops for transplanting later. Matured woodchips are also used as soil improver for Tolly’s fields and polytunnels, where they’re spread over the surface and gradually become incorporated into the soil. Now you know why I covet those roadside heaps.

Now I’m busy experimenting – sieving out the crumbs from some older woodchip heaps to use in my own DIY potting mixes. I’ve had success with a 50:50 mix of mature leaf mould and worm-worked compost from my “cool” dalek-type bins. Plants grow like mad, but hungry feeders can quickly exhaust the food supply, and the pots become quite lightweight as they dry out. I’m deploying the matured woodchips to add bulk and have now settled on a basic mix comprising one part each of leaf mould, compost and sieved woodchips – it looks like a winner to me.

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Any non-thorny woody prunings which will pass through a garden shredder can be stored and matured, ready for garden use.

Roadsides aren’t the safest places to forage for your garden’s fertility, so I’m keen to take a tip from Tolly and corner my own home-grown woodchip supply. I’m using a 3ft (90cm) tall and wide mesh cage (like those used to rot down leaves). Anything woody (but not thorny) that’s passed through my electric shredder goes into this. A repurposed “builder bag” would also do the job nicely. If you’re thinking you’ll never have enough material to make it worthwhile, ask the neighbours (or a tree surgeon) to donate their prunings/shreddings. You can add to your stockpile anytime; I have willow and hazel that need trimming right now. Shredded conifers can go in, too (much of the raw woodchip Tolly gets is from vanquished leylandii). If you prefer to cheat, you can bag up fresh woodchips whenever you see them.

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Toadstools bloom on piles of fresh woodchips as fungi set to work on breaking them down.

As your hoard grows, it will get hot inside; the bigger the heap, the hotter it gets. I’m not planning to doggedly turn mine; there is nothing to kill off in woodchips, such as weed seeds, so they can be left to quietly do their own thing.

I’m expecting to see toadstools at some point, as fungi begin breaking down the woody fragments, but that’s nothing to worry about, and they’ll gradually sink as they age. Once the cage is full, I’ll leave it alone for at least 18 months (there’s no need to cover it) before sieving it. The only hitch I can foresee is that once the first cage is full, I’ll be itching to build and fill another.

Did you enjoy this article? Please consider making a donation to earth-friendly gardener. Even a modest amount (£3-£5) helps to meet the ongoing costs of running the site and allows new content to be added for all gardeners to benefit from. You can donate, safely and securely, here. Thank you.
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Pre-order Digging Deep in the Garden Books Three and Four, Get Your Name Printed in Them – and Save up to £4


* PRE-ORDERS ARE NOW CLOSED. YOU CAN BUY Book Three HERE AND Book Four HERE  *

 Pre-ordered copies of Book Three and Book Four will be posted during early to mid December 2016.


I am over the moon to announce that the third and fourth books in my series Digging Deep in the Garden, my cage-rattling collections of essays exploring gardening’s place in nature, will be published in autumn 2016 by Earth-friendly Books.

If you’ve enjoyed reading Book One and Book Two, these two new collections make perfect companions (although the books can be read in any order you choose). Check out the reviews for books One and Two here.

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These paperbacks come with beautiful matt-finish covers and are printed here in the UK.

When I began compiling Digging Deep in the Garden: Book Three, the third collection of my essays exploring gardening’s role and place in the natural world, I also started to cast half an eye to Book Four, knowing it was the fourth and final book in the series.

“I can promise you writing that’s fearless yet thought-provoking, challenging but cheering, and incisive yet witty.”

Serendipitously, both books are now nearing completion and I would love your support to help get them both over the finish line and into the hands of eager readers.

I can promise you writing that’s fearless yet thought-provoking, challenging but cheering, and incisive yet witty. There are some award-winning words in there, too. My writing digs deep into an eclectic range of gardening topics, questioning how what we do in our gardens and allotments affects the living world around us. It is brain food for curious, thinking gardeners everywhere. One reviewer summed it up perfectly as ‘an intelligent reminder of the joys and responsibilities of gardening.’

Here’s a snippet from the introduction to Book Three:

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Get your name printed in both books

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Pre-order and see your name in the first editions of Book Three and Book Four.

You can be a part of the first editions of Book Three and Book Four. As a thank you for your support, everyone who pre-orders their copies will have their name printed in both books (or not if you prefer anonymity*) in a roll call of earth-friendly gardening honour.

I love the idea of supporting the publication of new books and seeing my name in them; it’s a nice warm feeling. I won’t be able to print your name in books Three and Four after they go to the printer , so don’t miss out and pre-order your copies before midnight (GMT) on Monday 21 November.

*Please let me know when ordering if you would prefer not to have your name printed in books Three and Four.

Pre-order both books now and save up to £4

* PRE-ORDERS ARE NOW CLOSED. YOU CAN BUY Book Three HERE AND Book Four HERE  *

Pre-ordering my books is hugely beneficial to me as an independent author/publisher, by helping meet the costs of cover design, editing, buying the ISBN, formatting and printing.

I’ve decided to celebrate the joint publication of Book Three and Book Four, which will complete the Digging Deep series, by offering them as a money-saving two-book set. This brings handy savings – such as lower postage costs when buying the books together rather than separately.

It also helps cut down on packaging (which will be recycled and reusable, or can go straight into your compost bin to make some soil food).

dd34-frontPre-order books Three and Four together for just £10 (save £2)

The cover price of each book is £5, and buying both books together normally costs £12 (including £2 P&P), but the special pre-order price for both books is £10 (£4 per book + £2 P&P).

Why not double up and get an extra set for £20 (save £4)?

Would a friend or relative, or your local gardening club or society members enjoy reading Digging Deep in the Garden? Perhaps they’d make a perfect, unusual gift for a not so green gardening buddy?

You can buy an extra set – two copies each of books Three and Four – at the special pre-order price of £20 (£16 for four books + £4 P&P). The normal price is £24 (£20 for four books + £4 P&P).


HOW TO PRE-ORDER

My books can be sent to any garden in the world*.

* PRE-ORDERS ARE NOW CLOSED. YOU CAN BUY Book Three HERE AND Book Four HERE  *

When will pre-ordered copies arrive?

Pre-ordered copies of Book Three and Book Four will be posted during early to mid December 2016.

• Your book(s) will be sent direct from Earth-friendly Books using, whenever possible, reusable, recyclable and compostable packaging.

Book(s) will be sent by Royal Mail Second Class post in the UK, and by standard international air mail to European and other countries.

*Please check which option to select using Royal Mail’s list here.


Spreading the word about Digging Deep in the Garden: Book Three and Book Four

Everyone who’s bought the previous books in the Digging Deep in the Garden series is now part of my cherished, earth-friendly readership. I can shout and tell the world about my books, but nothing is as loud or as persuasive as the noise you can make. So please tell your gardening relatives, friends, allotment buddies – anyone you fancy – about Books Three and Four.

If you can, please share a link to this page on Facebook, Twitter – or on your other favourite social media. It really does help.

Thank you.

If you have questions, please email john@earthfriendlygardener.net or tweet me @earthFgardener

• Get the latest news about forthcoming titles from Earth-friendly Books by signing up here for my occasional newsletter.

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My New Organic, Weedkiller-free Gardening Book Helps You Identify 60 Garden Weeds and Shows How Easy, Difficult or Urgent Dealing with Each One Is

 

weeds-FC-largeAT A TIME WHEN garden weedkillers such as glyphosate (Roundup) are under increasing scrutiny over their environmental safety (its residues are found regularly in our pee and in our bread), and as we learn that less tended, scruffy and ‘weedy’ gardens and forgotten corners offer many wildlife benefits, Weeds is a timely, hands-on guide to tackling unwanted plants in non-polluting ways that are gentler on our natural world.

My book is also about understanding the sheer tenacity of weeds, about their determination to survive, and about how you can turn them into allies in your garden or allotment.

Know your weeds

But to really know your weeds, you first need to be able to identify them. Weeds is illustrated with over 100 full colour photographs, 60 of which are pictures of a diverse cross section of weeds you might encounter on your own patch.

Each weed entry, which is arranged alphabetically by its common name, also gives the weed’s typical life cycle (annual, biennial or perennial). There’s information on when and where each weed might pose a problem, its size, how it spreads, what benefits it has for wildlife – and even whether you can add it to a summer salad. Then, naturally, there are earth-friendly solutions for dealing with each weed.

Green, amber or red?

weeds-organic-earth-friendly-guide-identification-use-control

Clearly organised, colour-coded pages show you to how easy, difficult or urgent it is to deal with different weeds.

You will also see that this section of Weeds – the biggest in the book – is pretty colourful, with the name of each weed highlighted in green, amber or red. This shows you, at a glance, how easy, difficult or urgent dealing with each weed is.

On this sample page (right) groundsel, an annual weed, is highlighted in green, showing that keeping it in check is dead easy – just pull it up and compost it.

Although it’s an an easy-to-pull-up annual weed, hairy bittercress is flagged in red, because just one plant, after flowering and producing its explosive, elongated seed-scattering pods, can infest an entire garden. Despite its redeeming quality of being edible, this weed requires urgent attention wherever and whenever you spot it.

great-bindweed

Great bindweed – a ‘red’ weed in need of urgent attention.

Weeds highlighted in amber are moderately easy to bring under control. The life cycle of each weed is highlighted in blue (weed life cycles are explained elsewhere in the book).

So that’s how the weed directory section works. Clever, eh?

• Read this extract explaining the ethos behind Weeds.

Weeds: An Organic, Earth-friendly Guide to Their Identification, Use and Control. 142 pages, 2016, Earth-friendly Books, ISBN 978-0-9932683-4-2.
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Read The Foreword to The New & Updated Edition of My Book Weeds: An Organic, Earth-friendly Guide to Their Identification, Use and Control

WE LIVE IN A MEDIA-DRIVEN AGE in which we’re increasingly led to believe that fast is good, that hectic is to be applauded and that we ‘don’t have time’ for all those small things in life. Our gardening, too, has been contaminated by this frantic drive to pack more into life than is perhaps really good for us. In weeds-FC-largerecent years, television makeover programmes have been widely praised for encouraging more of us to take up gardening but, for me at least, they are a double-edged sword. The idea of the ‘instant’ garden is a fundamentally misleading one – it just happens to work well on television. It’s true, you can go out and buy all you need to quickly stick together a garden in a weekend, but creating and nurturing a garden is another matter. I’m amused – if slightly alarmed – to see a flurry of books about gardening with speed and even impatience as their central themes. You simply can’t hurry gardening – or nature – along, so there’s little point in being impatient with it.

One of those ‘small things’ in any gardener’s life that remains constant is what to do about those plants that you’d rather not have growing in your beds, borders, lawns, paths and drives or among your vegetables, herbs and fruits. These unwanted plants are, of course, what we call ‘weeds’. The modern quick fix for dealing with weeds is to use chemical weedkillers. It’s certainly a tempting solution: all you need do is apply them to the weeds and they shrivel and die. I’ve used weedkillers myself in the past and have seen how apparently ‘effective’ some are.

weeds-bindweed-great-organic-earth-friendly-guide-identification-use-control-gardening-writer-john-walker

Millions of gardeners pulling up weeds, like this great bindweed, becomes a profound gesture.

“I believe that our gardens are the perfect and most natural places to begin doing our bit both to ease the strain we are putting on the earth and to reverse some of the damage already done.”

All around us, evidence that we are damaging our environment continues to mount. We now talk glibly of the ‘greenhouse effect’ as if it were just part and parcel of everyday life, rather than a serious threat to the earth’s future. But what, you must be thinking, has any of this got to do with weeds? Well, I believe that our gardens are the perfect and most natural places to begin doing our bit both to ease the strain we are putting on the earth and to reverse some of the damage already done – hence this is an earth-friendly guide to tackling weeds.

“I hope that this book will show you weeds in a new light.”

Organic gardening is all about working with, rather than against, nature. Uprooting a weed, rather than spraying it with some synthetic chemical weedkiller, might not strike you as a profound gesture we gardeners can make to ‘save the planet’, but imagine if hundreds, thousands or millions of gardeners did it: that’s an awful lot of weeds and a mighty amount of weedkiller staying put in its bottle. So this isn’t a book full of lists of weeds and which chemical to put on them. In fact, it isn’t solely about getting rid of weeds, although identification of some of the commonest garden weeds and how to deal with them make up the largest section of the book. In part, you could see it as a celebration of weeds.

potting-up-dandelions-3

During early spring, dandelions are a vital source of pollen and nectar for bumblebees and other pollinating insects.

“Organic gardening is all about working with, rather than against, nature.”

I hope that this book will show you weeds in a new light, encourage you to think about them differently, and, perhaps most importantly, help you deal gently yet effectively with those weeds you don’t want, in a way that is kind to the earth. It might also – dare I say it – actually persuade you to leave some weeds well alone, or even encourage them in your garden.

Find out here how the book helps you to identify 60 garden weeds and decide how easy, difficult or urgent dealing with each one is.

Weeds: An Organic, Earth-friendly Guide to Their Identification, Use and Control. 142 pages, 2016, Earth-friendly Books, ISBN 978-0-9932683-4-2.
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WEEDS is Go! New and Updated, my Organic, Earth-friendly Book All About Chemical-free Garden and Allotment Weed Control is Available Now


weeds-FC-large
Weeds: An Organic, Earth-friendly Guide to Their Identification, Use and Control from Earth-friendly Books, is now available in paperback direct from the author.

At a time when garden weedkillers such as glyphosate are under increasing scrutiny (its residues are now regularly found in our food and our urine), Weeds is a timely, hands-on guide to tackling unwanted plants in non-polluting ways that are gentler on our natural world.

Weeds is illustrated throughout with over 100 full colour photographs. It will quickly become an essential and timeless go-to reference for every gardeners bookshelf.

On the pages of Weeds you will find…

• INFORMATION on how different weeds grow, spread and survive, and what they can actually tell you about your garden or allotment

• TIPS for using weeds to improve the fertility of your garden, feed your plants and encourage wildlife such as bees and other pollinators

spread-2• PRACTICAL, HANDS-ON TECHNIQUES for preventing, clearing and curtailing weeds without using chemical weedkillers (herbicides)

• A COLOUR-CODED PHOTOGRAPHIC DIRECTORY (shown right) to help you identify 60 common garden weeds, showing at a glance how easy, difficult or urgent dealing with each one is

• LISTS of insect-friendly plants for ‘bug banks’, and those for weed-smothering ground cover

• ADVICE on clearing weedy ground without doing any back-breaking digging

BUY WEEDS.

Weeds: An Organic, Earth-friendly Guide to Their Identification, Use and Control. 142 pages, 2016, Earth-friendly Books, ISBN 978-0-9932683-4-2.
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How Gardeners and a Top Compost-maker are Teaming up to Bring Professional-quality SylvaGrow Peat-free Compost Into More Garden Centres, Plant Nurseries, Shops and Other Horticultural Suppliers

Why didn’t we think of it sooner?

The makers of SylvaGrow professional-quality peat-free compost – which has bagged no less than three Which? Gardening Best Buy awards, and carries the endorsement of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) – have just dropped a very powerful and persuasive tool right into the trugs and wheelbarrows of gardeners up and down the land: an A4-size piece of paper:

11-good-reasons-to-stock-Melcourt-SylvaGrowCLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE TO GO TO SYLVAGROW’S WEBSITE WHERE YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE FLYER

*The downloadable version has an ink-saving white background*

This flyer is available to download from SylvaGrow’s website, as a PDF file here. You can print out a copy to take along to your local independent garden centre or shop, plant nursery, farm or hardware store, or any other stockist of horticultural supplies.

The idea behind the flyer is that it will help supercharge your peat-free pester power. It let’s a potential stockist know of SylvaGrow’s recent Best Buy awards and its stamp of approval from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), and it gives the retailer detail of pack sizes, why they might like to stock SylvaGrow composts (and other products) for you to buy, and contact details for prices and samples. It also carries arguably the most important message of all:

11-good-reasons-to-stock-Melcourt-SylvaGrow

How to employ some positive, peat-free pester power

Here are just some of the ways I’ve come up with for using SylvaGrow’s flyer.

If you can think of others, email john@earthfriendlygardener.net and I’ll add them to the list.

• Print it out and take it along to your local garden centre or other stockist of gardening supplies and ask if they’ll consider stocking SylvaGrow. Explain that you want to grow your plants using a modern peat-free compost, and that if they stock one, you will buy it.

The flyer is a great ice-breaker to open up a ‘compost conversation’; it’s clear that many small and medium-sized businesses are unaware of the range of modern and reliable peat-free composts that now exist, and some haven’t even heard of SylvaGrow (even though they might actually be selling peat-free plants grown in its professional cousin, Sylvamix).

Biorising-screenshot

• Post or email the flyer to your local garden centre or other seller of gardening supplies. Ask them if they’ll consider stocking it for you. If you don’t get a reply, keep trying. If that fails ring them up and ask ‘did you get my information about SylvaGrow peat-free compost?’

Peat-free gardener, hedgehog saviour and Twitter user @HedgehogTorfaen did just that (see right). She engaged her local garden centre manager in a chat about SylvaGrow, about peat-free compost in general, and is even planning to take some peat-free grown plants in to show him.

• Give a copy to your gardening relatives and friends and ask them to pester their local garden centre or nursery for SylvaGrow.

• Contact your local nursery or garden centre using social media, such as Facebook or Twitter. Many businesses now use social media to keep in touch with their loyal customers (as well as find new ones), so search online for your nearest one, and strike up a peat-free conversation. My Twitter username is @earthFgardener

• Post or email a copy to the host of your local radio gardening programme. It’s clear that some of our gardening ‘experts’ are quite out of touch – by accident or design – with the advances in modern peat-free composts. News about SylvaGrow ought to create a topical talking point for a gardening show, which all modern, nature-savvy gardeners – whatever their age or gardening interests – will find informative.

If you don’t have any luck, and you still hear ‘must have peat’ or references to an illusory ‘anti-peat movement’, try phoning in live on air and challenging the ‘experts’. It’s time to bust these myths, and it’s down to gardeners to do the bulk of the busting.

The power of sharing peat-free success

Social media is proving to be a gentle yet powerful tool in letting more and more gardeners know about just how good modern, 21st century peat-free composts are – in contrast to the outdated and often misleading information still found in many gardening magazines.

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Check out the hashtag ‘#peatfree’ on Twitter.

By talking, sharing tips, ideas, pictures and by encouraging each other to up our peat-free pester power, social media is changing the way we all garden, by slaying outdated ‘must have peat’ myths and by being a positive, disruptive force for good. Listen carefully, and you’ll hear threatened peatlands everywhere cheering you on…

If you’re still not convinced, check out the ‘#peatfree’ hashtag on Twitter to see the results both gardeners and our top horticultural professionals are getting with modern peat-free mixes.

We need a gardener-to-gardener flyer, too

SylvaGrow’s flyer about its Best Buy composts is a significant first step in helping to replace those heaps of nature-wrecking, non-renewable peat we all see in garden retailers, with sustainable and renewable, peat-free composts. What we need now from the makers of all modern peat-frees is a flyer we can give to our gardening relatives and friends, one we can slide under shed doors down on the allotment, and give out at the next meeting of our garden club or horticultural society. You might, of course, fancy making your own.

Either way, gardener’s are here and ready to help spread the word.

Other modern and reliable peat-free composts are available – let us earth-friendly gardeners help you compost-makers to spread the word

If you’re a maker of modern peat-free compost, it could be your name wherever you see ‘SylvaGrow’ above. Us nature-savvy gardeners, who quite like the idea that our gardens should give more than they take from the natural world, are here and ready to help.

We are your team of peat-free pesterers, so bring on those flyers.


More on going peat-free in your garden or allotment…

• For tips on peat-free sowing, potting and growing see How to Succeed in Your Garden With Modern, Reliable and Nature-friendly Peat-free Compost.

• See what other peat-free gardeners and commercial growers (yes, there are flourishing peat-free businesses out there) are up to, and share your own peat-free experiences by joining Twitter and tagging tweets from your balcony, garden or allotment with the hashtag ‘#peatfree’. Nature’s loving it.

• Check out my articles and posts about all things peat-free here.

Posted in blog, climate- & earth-friendly gardening, ecological sustainability, environment, ethics, garden centres & gardening industry, garden compost, garden compost & composting, media, nature & the natural world, organic gardening, peat & peat-free compost, tv gardening & celebrities | Leave a comment