In October, David Coton is getting the garden prepared for the onset of colder weather but, at the same time, the arrival of spring bulbs in the garden centre is a reminder that you should also now be planning ahead for next year.
Composting is an entirely natural way of recycling your garden and kitchen waste, transforming it into a nutrient rich material that your plants will love. Nathan James Dodd shows how easy and cheap it is to replicate nature with a compost heap or bin.
Good compost can be used when planting or added as a mulch. It has everything that your plants need and is excellent for improving soil structure and increasing moisture retention.
There's no single way of constructing a compost bin but building one is a fairly simple job. Mine consists of wooden slats (the same width as floor boards) nailed to three posts about 3ft - 4ft high to make up a frame. Make sure there is a gap of about two inches between the boards so that air can circulate. On the fourth side the slats are removable for easy access.
Compost bins are also available online and from garden centres in various designs. Bins made from tough plastic are rot and rodent proof while timber has a more traditional look, attractively designed and manufactured with pressure treated softwood.
When you are adding material to the compost heap remember that everything that has lived can be beneficial, the process is free and demands little effort as bacteria and worms do all the work for you.
Build up the heap with a balanced mixture of materials, not too wet (grass clippings, vegetable waste) or dry (prunings, paper). Nearly everything that is organic can be composted from banana skins to old cotton shirts.
There are some exceptions including diseased or pest infested material, very woody plants (these take too long to break down), the roots of pernicious weeds, foliage of main crop potatoes, cooked kitchen waste and any weeds that still have seeds
Some people will also include a compost activator, although this isn't necessary if you have enough green waste.
After about six months, but depending on the time of year and the materials used, you should be able to harvest the rich brown compost that is packed full of nitrogen, phosphates, potash and other nutrients.
Remember that, if you have two bins, mature compost from one can be used while you are still adding to the other. But whatever method you choose, the end result is less waste going to landfill and a wonderful compost that will greatly enrich your garden soil.
In order to promote and enhance biodiversity and conservation of our wildlife, there's a selection of habitats and boxes you can purchase that are specifically designed to attract various small animals and insects to your garden. Here we look at some of the products available which also make unusual and very engaging gifts.
With warmer weather and an early Easter, the garden centre is busy at the moment with customers stocking up on summer bedding plants - snapdragons, cornflowers, cosmos, verbena, phlox, petunia, As well as filling planters, hanging baskets and borders with colour that will last all summer, there are always plenty of jobs to do in the garden during April and David Coton has these suggestions.
Every gardener must have noticed a decline in the bee population over recent years. Intensive farming that demands the use of toxic chemicals, climate change and parasite infestation have all been put forward as potential causes, it's a worrying trend but one that we can all help to reverse.
As an excellent alternative to conventional products, Trimetals' storage solutions blend top quality manufacture with contemporary style. Their range has now been extended to include two new maintenance free sheds and Robert Hall has all the details.