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I'm Wendy and welcome to Moral Fibres, my green lifestyle blog. Here you'll find all sorts of thrifty and easy hints and tips for living a greener life that won't compromise your sense of style.

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Posts by Category: Garden

Garden October 9, 2014 posted by

Handy Vegetable Planting Calendar & Guide

Handy Vegetable Planting Calendar & Guide

I found this really handy vegetable planting calendar and guide on Pinterest the other day whilst browsing for allotment inspiration, and thought it would be great to share with you guys.

You can sow such a surprising amount of seeds in autumn and winter to get a head start for next year, and there are some great tips here for beginners!  Did you know that onions are a great bulb to grow, and not just for using in your cooking?  It’s true – apparently onions repel most pests that attack crops.  Guess what I’m going to be growing right now?!

vegetable planting calendar

How handy is that?!  I know I’m going to be referencing it like crazy, especially the vegetable planting calendar, as we do more work on our allotment.

ps: In case you’re wondering, our allotment is going great guns!  The plot needs a lot of work – but we’ve cleared a lot of ground and weeds out and our friend has built a fence.  We’ve got quite a few big jobs to do, such as repairing the shed and greenhouse, but we’re also doing the fun stuff, like planning out our beds, and as it’s quite a large plot we are even picking out what fruit trees we want to plant (apples, all the apples!).  We even have some seeds and plant cuttings growing in mini-greenhouses ready for our poly-tunnel which we’ve bought but need to clear ground for and built.  At the moment it’s still not much to look at, but we hope it will be by spring!

pps: more garden inspiration on my gardening pinterest board.  I also have a fledgling allotment pinterest board – like my own allotment it’s a work in progress!

Food & Drink July 25, 2014 posted by

Illustrated Guide to Edible Flowers

Illustrated Guide to Edible Flowers

If you’ve been reading Moral Fibres semi-regularly then you’ll know that I’m into foraging.  From nettles to elderflowers and elderberries, to sloes and blackberries and everything in between, it’s becoming a bit of a passion of mine.  Free food – what’s not to love?!

Whilst reading about foraging online I came across this handy guide to edible flowers on the blog Illustrated Bites.  Illustrated Bites is the creation of  US illustrator Heather Diane, and combines her love of food with her love of illustration.  Her recipes and posts use seasonal produce, which is another love of mine.  Although there haven’t been any new posts in a little while, there is a word of a book coming out next year, which is very exciting!

Heather’s guide to edible flowers is a little US orientated (there aren’t so many hibiscus flowers on these shores!), but still has plenty relevance for anyone living in the northern hemisphere!

edible flowers uk

Were there any surprises here for you?  I personally had no ideas that lilacs are edible flowers.   Also, sunflower petals and buds were a big surprise too!

If you have any recipes for edible flowers then please do share in the comments below!

Lilac flowers image by Johnson Cameraface.

Garden July 17, 2014 posted by

Wildlife Pond Ideas – Six Beautiful Examples

Wildlife Pond Ideas – Six Beautiful Examples

Disclosure: this  is a collaborative post.  All words and opinions are my own.  Thanks for supporting Moral Fibres!

One of the easiest ways to help our native wildlife, and to attract wildlife to your garden, is to build a wildlife pond.  Over 70% of natural ponds have been lost from the British countryside in the last 100 years or so, so constructing a simple wildlife pond can be of crucial importance to threatened species.

We have a tiny wildlife pond – a barrel pond, but it’s more a functional thing rather than a thing of beauty.  If you like your garden to look beautiful as well as benefiting wildlife then I’ve found six beautiful wildlife ponds, that, whatever your style, will help attract wildlife to your garden, and some tips on how to create your very own wildlife pond:

wildlife pond

By Gardenweb user Autumn

wildlife pond

Wikimedia Commons, by user Nowis

wildlife pond

By Gardenweb user joeyb5980

wildlife pond tips

By Bunny Mummy

wildlife pond

By HGTV user catnabarn

wildlife pond idea

By Gardenweb user mamasue

I love that you can create wildlife ponds out of anything, and you can design them to suit your garden and budget.  While I do like the architectural ponds, one of my favourite ones is in fact the one by mamasue.  I love that she’s used some kind of industrial container to create her pond!  I am also partial to the simple barrel pond and the no nonsense garden pond by Bunny Mummy.

Some Tips to Consider for Creating a Wildlife Pond

Try not to site your pond in full shade – wildlife prefer partial shade, and too much sunlight can cause an algal bloom which can deprive your pond of oxygen.

Autumn or winter are good times to dig and build your pond, if you’re not going down the barrel pond route.  Late Spring is the best time to plant it, when the water starts to warm up.

Avoid planting species not native to the UK.  If you’re unsure what to plant then there are lots of specialist nurseries around the UK that can supply native aquatic plants.  Do a web search to find a specialist nursery near you, or you can order plants online dependent on what’s in season.

If your pond develops a stagnant odour then it’s probably lacking in oxygen.  Try either planting some more plants in your pond or introducing a pump to get a flow of water.  Swell UK have a great range of pond pumps suitable for wildlife ponds of all sizes to help combat this problem.

Avoid introducing ornamental fish to your pond, such as Goldfish, Koi Carp, Tench, or Orfe, as they  are likely to eat the very wildlife you’d be looking to thrive in your pond.

With barrel ponds it’s crucial to create a way out for wildlife that may have found a way in.  Building up some earth on one side, or placing some rocks in there can really help animals to get out easily.

If you’re digging a pond, ideally you want one side of the pond to have a long shallow slope.  In the summer, when water levels can drop, this creates a vital habitat for insects such as beetles.  It also allows easy access and escape for frogs and toads, and other types of wildlife.

I think I’ve covered the main points, but there are so many tips out there for creating ponds!  Do you have any tips I’ve missed that you want to add to this list?

Frog image copyright Peter Trimming and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Garden June 18, 2014 posted by

Natural Slug Control

Natural Slug Control

It’s been a little while since my last green gardening tip but I thought I’d follow that post up with a topic close to my heart – natural slug control.  I’m not a fan of slug pellets.  Not only do they kill slugs but their predators too, and pets as well.  And as I’ve got a little person that likes to play in the garden and dig around in the soil I’d really rather avoid chemicals.

In our four and a bit years of living in our first house with a garden, we’ve tried all sorts of natural slug control methods.  Here’s a round-up of the ones we’ve tried.  As you can see it’s been a really long running battle:

  • Some people swear by copper piping and copper rings as a means of natural slug control.  When we had an old gas fire removed a few years ago we reused the copper piping and put it round our vegetable seedlings, much like a fortress.  This was completely ineffective.  Copper rings that go round the base of your plant may be better but I was so disheartened by the abject failure of our copper fortress that I didn’t want to spend money on them.
  • Other people swear by placing smashed up eggshells around the base of your plant, as it acts as a deterrent as it’s so uncomfortable for the slugs to crawl over.  I tried this repeatedly and still my plants got munched.  The egg shells have to be clean and dry – so when you water your plants or it inevitably rains then your eggs annoyingly no longer act as a deterrent.
  • As a variation on this, some people suggest placing gravel around your plants.  I didn’t try this as the eggshell method failed so spectacularly – I’d imagine the gravel would also have to be bone dry to be effective.
  • Another top natural slug control tip I heard of was to place coffee grounds around the base of your plant.  One year I saved all the coffee grounds from work (my workmates drank a lot of coffee!), carried them all home on the bus, spread them around my plants, and still my plants got munched.  Again, when they get wet the coffee grounds get washed away, so you’re going to need an awful lot of coffee grounds for this to stand a chance of working – try getting on good terms with your local coffee shop!  Also, invest in a sturdy container – my partner witnessed a lady get on his bus with bags and bags of coffee grounds (presumably saved from a coffee shop) – the plastic bags burst on the bus and there were coffee grounds everywhere!
  • Another method I tried was placing hay around my plants.  I found this actually made our slug problem worse – the slugs seemed to be sheltering in the hay rather than repelling them, and were also possibly laying their eggs in there.
  • Another natural slug control method we tried was as natural as it gets – encouraging frogs and toads in to our garden.  We built a little pond that was frog and toad friendly yet we’ve never seen one frog or toad in it.  One of our neighbours found a frog in her pondless garden (typical!), so she put it in our pond apparently- we didn’t see it, and still the slug population remained as high and aggressive as ever.

slug control

Plants pre slugageddon.

As you can see it’s been a litany of bad luck, with the score being a very miserable Slugs 5 – Wendy 0.

There are a couple of methods we haven’t tried and one we’re trying this year.  Here are the two we haven’t tried:

  • The classic natural slug control method is salt, but I have to say I’m reluctant to try this.  The salt will probably get washed away when it rains or your water your plants, and it might increase the salinity of your soil, which isn’t too great for plants.  I think it would be ok sprinkled around pots though, if you’re container gardening on slabs.  Our garden isn’t slabbed so this isn’t a route for us.
  •  For the committed, going out at night and picking off the slugs (and snails) is a good time to catch them in the act.  Slugs mostly feed at night to keep their moisture levels up and avoid predators, such as birds and frogs.  Just pick them off, put them in a bucket and take them fairly far from your prize vegetables.  I’m a bit squeamish when it comes to slugs (some bad experiences involving bare feet – I’ll leave it at that!) so I haven’t done this, but it’s probably an effective natural method of dealing with slugs that doesn’t kill them.

This year we decided to take quite a firm stance and have upped our natural slug control game.  We started growing our plants indoors in the hope that they would be large enough to withstand a slug attack.  Or so we thought.  Less than one week in the garden and one pea plant has been completely and utterly decimated by slugs, and one squash plant is very nearly a goner.

We have now turned to beer traps.  Apparently the sweet beer smell is irresistible to the slugs and they climb in, drink the beer and forget to climb out again.  Which is a pleasant way of saying they drown.

natural slug control

I have cut some plastic bottles in half, filled them with half beer (a cheap 65p can of 2.5% lager from the Co-Op) and half water and dug them into the ground, near my prize vegetables, with a lip of about 3cm sticking out of the soil so beetles and other creatures don’t accidentally fall in.  In case they do I’ve popped a stick in so they can climb out:

best slug killer

The trap in situ – can you see the plant the slugs completely destroyed?!  There’s nothing more than a green stalk, where once verdant leaves were!

So far we’ve caught a few slugs, and I really have high hopes that we can get through the season without losing too much to slugs.  We’ve had a fair bit of heavy rain, so I really need to go and buy more cheap beer to top the the traps up.

What natural slug control tips do you swear by? Have I missed anything that we should be trying?  And what ones did you find really didn’t work?  I really have my fingers crossed on the beer trap method!

 

Main image: Donvikro, all others my own.

 

 

 

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