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Garden February 25, 2014 posted by

Grow Your Own Food Cheaply

Grow Your Own Food Cheaply

We’ve just bought some seeds for our garden, and could have easily spent a heap of money.  Instead we bought a few select seeds, and plan on growing the rest on the cheap.

Before you ask what kind of trickery we have up our sleeves, I’ll reveal our plans for growing our own on a budget.  The secret is I found a great infographic on Pinterest (you can follow me here) about growing food from kitchen scraps, such as onion butts, ends of leeks, ends of lettuce, and mushroom stalks, which I plan on giving a go.  This thrifty approach to gardening appeals to me very much!

Find out how you can be super thrifty in the garden too after the jump…

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Garden October 28, 2013 posted by

How to Help the Ladybirds

How to Help the Ladybirds

Over summer I spotted a grand total of three ladybirds, which is three more than my other half or my neighbour saw.  I had started to worry about the ladybirds.  I knew that like the bees they were in decline but I wasn’t sure to what extent, so I did a bit of research.

According to the UK Ladybird Survey our native ladybird species are in trouble because of a non-native newcomer, the Harlequin ladybird.  The Harlequin, a native of Asia, is not the friendliest ladybird on the block – when food is scarce they eat the eggs and larve of other species of ladybirds.  Also going under the the names the Multicoloured Asian Ladybird and the Halloween Ladybird, it was introduced to North America in 1988, where it is now the most widespread ladybird.  Not content with conquering American soil, it has also dominated much of north-western Europe, and has it’s sights firmly set on the UK now – first spotted here in summer 2004.

ladybirds in decline

Not a Harlequin – see here for how to identify them.

The people behind the Ladybird Survey, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, are now asking for your help.  If you’d like to assist the monitoring of the Harlequin ladybird population, as well as their impact on our native ladybirds, then they’ve developed a handy app.   Called iRecord Ladybirds (you can search for it in the iPhone or Android App Store), it allows you to record any ladybirds you’ve spotted quickly and easily.   Using the app you can take a photo and add some information about where you saw it, the number you saw, etc.  There’s even a handy guide to help identify the ladybird in question if like me you struggle to identify the particular species (there are 47 UK native ladybird species after all!).  If you don’t have a smartphone you can send an online record to them instead.

There are other ways to help too.  As ladybirds hibernate over winter you can lay down some small logs in a corner of your garden for them to hibernate in, or if you want to get a bit more creative than that here are some other great ideas.  You can also buy ladybird homes on the internet or in garden centres (I like this one from What You Sow), and even make your own using just a plastic bottle and some corrugated cardboard!

In spring and summer leave patches of nettles growing as ladybirds tend to lay their eggs on nettles, and avoid spraying plants with insecticides.  Ladybirds eat the aphids that feast on plants, and do a much better and safer job at reducing the aphid numbers than chemicals do.

Garden October 25, 2013 posted by

How to Encourage Wild Birds to your Garden

How to Encourage Wild Birds to your Garden

It’s autumn and perhaps you’re thinking about feeding the birds that frequent your garden?  Earlier this year, when Moral Fibres was all shiny and new, I wrote a piece about how to feed wild birds in your garden.  There’s some handy hints in there about what to feed and what not to feed the birds that visit your garden.  I thought I’d add the link here in case it benefits any newer readers wanting to start feeding the birds in autumn and winter.

As an update to that post I thought I’d also share some ideas on the type of products that might help encourage wild birds in to your garden.

If you’ve already got bird feeders then it’s always worthwhile giving your bird feeders and water trays a good clean in warm soapy water, and rinsing and drying well before putting them back out with any food on them.

how to feed the birds in winter

1.  This squirrel-proof fat ball feeder (£2.49) is handy for keeping the squirrels out of your bird feeders.  Grey squirrels aren’t native and have outcompeted our native red squirrels in most of the UK.  They also bully birds at bird feeders meaning our native birds can’t get to the feeders.  This does the job of allowing the birds access to the feeder but blocking access to the squirrels.  Fat balls also often come in little net bags – it’s not ideal to hang the balls out in the net bags as birds can get their feet stuck in them.  Offering them in a feeder is a safer alternative.

2.  If you don’t have squirrels in your garden then this stylish seed feeder* (£8.99) is a nice change from all of the standard bird feeders around.

3.  This fat ball kit* (£3.95) is an easy and economical way to make your own fat balls using kitchen scraps.

4.  This peanut feeder* (£15.49) is not only an ideal way to feed peanuts to the birds, it’s also made from 100% recycled plastics.  Peanuts are a great high energy source of food at this time of year – but always make sure they’re always offered in a feeder or crushed into small pieces and placed on your bird table.  They can pose a choking hazard otherwise.

5. This squirrel proof bird feeder (£7.99) again helps keep squirrels from feasting on your bird seed.

6.  This autumn bird food collection* (£9.99) is a great and affordable way to get started feeding the birds, providing you with everything you need to feed the birds over autumn.

how to help wild birds in winter

1.  This bird house (£35.00) is one of the most stylish bird houses out there.

2.  These roosting pockets* (£2.85 each) make good places for small birds to hide from predators or bad weather.

3.  A bird table (£39.99) is a great way to feed the birds, and this one would look lovely in any garden.

4.  A bird bath (£11.99) gives birds a place to have a little wash and have a drink.  Just make sure it’s not too deep.

5.  Hanging a wool pot (£11.50) in your garden is a great way to help birds feather their nest with cosy wool.

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Garden August 14, 2013 posted by

Almost Everything You Need to Know About Composting

Almost Everything You Need to Know About Composting

bestECOshop.com are on a mission this month to help reduce food waste from British kitchens. It’s a mission I’m keen to support as currently we throw an estimated 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink in the bin each year – a staggering amount.

While undoubtedly the best way to reduce food waste is to plan your food shopping carefully and freezing leftovers (see the excellent Love Food Hate Waste website for help and advice on this), composting also has a vital role in reducing the amount of food sent to landfill.

Food waste sent to landfill does not decompose in the same way as it would in a composter – as it rots without access to oxygen (being buried under so much other waste) it releases the greenhouse gas methane.  Methane is around 25 times more damaging to the earth’s atmosphere than carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change, hence the importance of composting where you can.

Composting kitchen waste isn’t hard to do and, contrary to popular opinion, isn’t a smelly job if done correctly.  I’ll show you how to do it, odour free!

First of all, you need a lidded kitchen caddy to hold your kitchen waste, like one of these.  If like me you have a tiny kitchen then you can even get one that hooks on to the wall or inside a cupboard.  You may also want some biodegradable bags to line your caddy.  I personally prefer to use the bags as it means you don’t have to wash your caddy every time you empty it – anything to avoid extra chores!

garden composter compost bin

Now you’ve got your kitchen set up, it’s time to think about your garden.  A garden composter is invaluable.  You can make your own, like the one pictured above, but we just have one of the black plastic ones, which we find is good for trapping heat and helping our food waste break down quickly. The best place to site it is in a sunny spot on bare soil.  If you don’t have any bare soil and are placing your composter on slabs or tarmac then make sure you place a layer of paper and twigs at the bottom before you start emptying your compost in the composter.  This help creatures such as worms, essential for composting, to help colonise your composter.

what can you compost

Now you’re all set up you can start composting your kitchen waste.  You can compost all sorts of kitchen scraps and waste – from fruit and vegetable peelings, fruit and vegetable scraps, salad leaves, tea bags, coffee grounds and filter papers, egg shells and more.

You don’t have to empty the caddy every day – just when it gets full.  In our household (of three) we find we empty our caddy into the composter every two to three days, and our kitchen is odour free.  If you live by yourself you may want to empty it before it gets full as you will likely be generating less waste.

Conveniently, you can add your garden waste too – add any flowers, spent plants from your garden, nettles,rhubarb leaves and grass cuttings to your composter. It’s also a very good idea to add cardboard, egg boxes, scrunched up paper/newspaper, fallen leaves, twigs, etc.  These are slower to rot, add carbon (essential for providing energy for the worms and other creatures in your composter) and create air pockets.  These pockets provide vital oxygen to your compost, and help stop your composter from smelling.  It’s particularly important to do this if you’ve added grass cuttings to help promote the flow of oxygen.

There are a few composting no no’s: meat, fish, cooked vegetables, dairy products, weeds with seed heads, dog and cat poo, and nappies (even the biodegradable ones).

For a full guide as to what you can and can’t compost Recycle Now have produced a handy guide.

real compost

In your composter your kitchen and garden waste can take anywhere between 3 and 12 months to produce garden-ready compost. Your compost will be fantastically nutrient rich and great in borders, vegetable and flower beds, for potting plants in, and for feeding shrubs and trees.  Your compost may have twiggy bits in it – you can seive these out if you are particularly pernickity about your compost!

composter bestecoshop

If you are keen to start composting then you can head on over to bestECOshop.com before 30th August to enter to win your very own kitchen caddy!

 

*  This is a sponsored post in association with bestECOshop.com – all words and opinions are my own.

 

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