Posts Tagged ‘gardening tips’

Top 10 Money-Saving Crops

January 28th, 2020 | News | 0 Comments

Three seedlings in soil, growing on top of three rows of coins in ascending height

When cash is tight, growing your own nutritious fruits and vegetables is an empowering and rewarding way to stretch precious budgets that little bit further. But what are the highest value crops you can grow to save the most money? We’ve whittled the list down to 10 must-grow favourites, read on or watch the video to find out what they are.

1. Leafy Herbs

Packets of leafy herbs cost a small fortune in the shops because they are hard to store and don’t travel well. But gardeners don’t have to worry about any of that and can grow the likes of basil, parsley and coriander to harvest fresh, as needed. Leafy herbs take up very little room, grow profusely, and with more herbs on hand to liven up mealtimes, they go a long way to ramping up the tastiness of your cooking.

2. Salad Leaves

Loose leaf lettuce heads growing in soil

Cut-and-come-again salad leaves such as loose-leaf lettuce are incredibly compact and, when harvested little and often, a single sowing should continue to produce fresh leaves for months. Expect an abundance of high-value leaves from even just a few containers. For best results grow salads as individual plants, with clear space around them so they have all the sunlight and airflow they need to thrive for longer.

3. Quick-growing Salad Additions

Quick-growing salad toppers such as radishes, baby beets and spring onions offer prized pickings for the cost-conscious gardener, reaching harvest point in as little as four weeks. Make repeat sowings as you harvest, throughout the growing season, and a small patch of soil can yield a surprising weight of fresh produce. You can even grow them in gaps between slower maturing crops so they don’t take up extra space.

4. Climbing Beans

Beans are the epitome of plenty and once they start cropping will continue to produce their pods in abundance all summer long, so long as you keep on picking. Beans are healthy, filling and high in plant protein, making them a very valuable crop. Train them up some trellis or against a traditional A-frame support.

For the most striking effect, however, it’s hard to beat a handsome teepee made from bamboo canes. Plan now for a stunning display. Start seedlings off undercover in late spring then plant one or two per cane. Picking commences just weeks later.

5. Fruiting Vegetables

Like beans, fruiting vegetables that climb, or that can be trained to grow vertically, will produce a lot from a relatively small area. Tomatoes and cucumbers fit into this category, promising heavy harvests of flavoursome fruits from just a few plants. Give them the sunniest spot you can find and feed plants regularly to boost both yield and taste. Pick varieties suited to your climate and be prepared to keep plants well watered in hot weather.

6. Garlic

Whereas onions are cheap to buy and take up quite a lot of space, garlic is relatively costly yet efficient on space. Softneck varieties of garlic store really well too, making this crop ideal for spacing out the usefulness of a single harvest. In most climates garlic is done by midsummer, leaving plenty of time to grow a follow-on crop that will bring further homegrown value to the dinner plate later on in the season.

7. Celery

Celery is an important base ingredient to many soups, stews and salads. It makes our list thanks to its compact shape and the fact you can harvest it one stem at a time, meaning none of the waste associated with purchasing whole heads of celery. Self-blanching varieties are the easiest to grow. Start plants off in plug trays then transplant them leaving about 8 inches (20cm) between plants each way. Water well in dry weather and get ready for a superbly intense flavour.

8. Courgette

Courgettes are infamous for their heavy cropping habit. The courgette’s versatility in the kitchen – used in everything from stir-fries to cakes – makes this one vegetable worth making room for. Grow it in soil that’s been enriched with lots of well-rotted organic matter and you should enjoy a steady stream of fruits all summer long. Try growing companion plants such as marigolds nearby to attract more pollinators to ensure better pollination and even more fruits.

9. Soft Fruits

Three strawberry plants with fruits, in a row in black plant pots

Soft fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries require careful handling and packaging to keep them blemish-free, which makes them pretty pricey. But grow these fuss-free fruits yourself and you can save the pennies while enjoying some of the tastiest fruits you’ll ever experience. Pick fruits fresh, gently warmed by the sun, and enjoy immediately for a heavenly indulgent experience. Freeze any excess or turn them into jams or jellies.

10. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens such as chard and kale can give a steady supply of leaves for many months, making them very hard-working vegetables. While we’re always being told to ‘eat our greens’, sourcing field-fresh greens, without the wilt, isn’t easy. But with homegrown greens, you’ll always be sure of fresh leaves to twist off and enjoy steamed, stewed or blitzed up into your morning smoothie.

This is by no means a definitive list. It goes without saying you should concentrate on those fruits and vegetables you enjoy eating most, but get smart and start swapping expensive buys with delicious garden-grown replacements. Look for plants that make the most of space, that crop prolifically or that have a superior taste you’d struggle to find in the supermarket without paying over the odds.

What are some of your favourite money-saving crops to grow? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

6 Sensational Gardening Hacks

January 13th, 2020 | News | 0 Comments

Seedlings growing in eggshells that are resting in an egg carton

Who doesn’t love clever shortcuts or handy tips that make life easier in the garden? Well, have we got a treat for you because we’re sharing six ingenious ideas to help you achieve more in the garden with less – less time, less effort or less money! You interested? Then let’s dive straight in! Read on or watch the video for our six sensational gardening hacks.

1. Eggshell Pots

We’re egg-cited (sorry!) to get started with our first hack: using eggshells to grow seedlings. Eggshells are completely biodegradable, and as they break down they’ll add valuable nutrients such as calcium to the soil. The shells are free too, assuming you were going to eat their contents anyway, of course. So let’s get cracking!

Carefully peel the top off your morning boiled egg then prick a hole into the bottom using a drawing pin or push pin – this will serve as a drainage hole. Enjoy your egg as normal.

Once you have enough eggshells, boil them in water for one minute to sterilise them, then let them dry. Fill them with seed starting mix, sow, water, then grow your seedlings on somewhere warm and bright. When it’s time to plant, just give the shell a gentle crush between your fingers so the roots are able to get out into the soil, and plant the whole thing.

2. Make Some Fertiliser

A banana peel, some garden leaves, broken eggshells and soil laid out on a wooden surface

Really love your eggs? Then use the leftover shells as part of an organic fertiliser made using kitchen scraps.

Add banana skins, coffee grounds and those eggshells into a blender together with a few cups of water. Whizz it all up into a grainy soup then use the mixture fresh, diluted with more water. This kitchen-created fertiliser is full of nutrients – ideal for use around hungry feeders such as squashes, tomatoes and climbing beans.

3. Stop Losing Plant Labels

Are you forever losing plant labels and with them the handy growing instructions found on the back? Us too! Use a hole punch to make a hole at one end of the label then thread your labels onto a key ring. Hang them up somewhere obvious in the greenhouse or shed so they are always on-hand for easy reference.

4. Care For Tools

While we’re in the shed, let’s give those hand tools some TLC. Mix together sand with vegetable oil. The abrasiveness of the sand will help keep your tools clean, while the oil should prevent blades from rusting.

Fill a pot with your sand-oil mixture then plunge hand tools such as trowels into the mix whenever they’re not in use, or fill a bucket with the mixture to dip spade and fork blades into before putting them away.

Rows of old large plastic bottles sticking out of some soil, being used as cloche protection for young plants

5. Protect Young Plants

Recently transplanted seedlings are vulnerable to frost and chilly winds, but keeping them snug is a cinch with instant cloches made from old bottles. Gallon-sized milk cartons or soft drinks bottles work best. Cut off the bottom, remove the cap so air can circulate and pop them over your plants.

6. Kill Off Weeds

Hoeing and hand weeding is great in beds and borders, but what about niggling weeds sprouting from the cracks in driveways and paving? Nasty chemical weed killers are out for organic gardeners, but scratching around with a weeding tool doesn’t sound like much fun either, so why not see them off with a safe but powerful organic spray you’ve made yourself.

Simply mix one pint or half a litre of white vinegar with two tablespoons of salt and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Add a teaspoon of dish soap too, then stir to combine. Decant into a spray bottle and, with gloves on, spray the potent brew onto weeds. Do this on a still, sunny day and be sure to cover all surfaces. Weeds will quickly wither and die.

And there you have our handy horticultural hacks. Have you got one to add to this list? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

January Gardening Advice

January 1st, 2020 | News | 0 Comments

A blank notepad on a wooden table with seeds in envelopes, handheld garden tools and small pots

With Christmas now but a distant memory, it’s time to pack away the decorations and embrace the year ahead. But whilst you make those New Year’s resolutions it’s also the moment, preferably in front of a warm fire, to write up your plant wishlist for the growing season ahead. What are you hoping to grow, eat and bloom in your gardens and allotments? Draw blueprints of your growing area, assign plants to each bed, make changes, start again – it doesn’t matter, this is the fun stuff. Being creative and getting excited by your ideas is all part of the gardening journey. However, if you need inspiration, go online, read gardening blogs or flick through seed catalogues.

If you’re new to gardening and fancy making a long-term commitment, then now’s the time to get yourself signed up to the local allotment. Not only will this open up a whole new world of growing opportunities, but it’s a great place to meet fellow gardeners and be part of a community. These are growers that know the lay of the land, can offer free advice and even seed swap.

Whilst winter does it worst, take comfort in knowing that the days now are only going to get longer. So, embrace this quiet time and look forward to an exciting growing season.

In the flower garden

Garden mulch made from old Christmas tree chippings and needlesMulch

Although Christmas is over, there’s still plenty of value left in your exhausted Christmas tree. If shredded, this makes an excellent mulch for ericaceous plants such as blueberries, or consider using the chippings to create allotment or garden paths. If not chipped, the long spiky branches can be used as plant supports for peas and broad beans in the spring season.

Tidy up

Make way for new growth by cutting down and tidying up flower borders. Ensure you do not cut into new growth as not only will you lose vital young shoots, but an exposed wound will be open to the elements which could potentially kill the plant. Remove fallen foliage from beds as it could be protecting garden pests.

If ornamental grasses are looking shabby then, using gloves, comb your fingers through the stems to remove dying and unwanted leaves. Cutting back to the ground should ideally be done in early spring.

Before hellebores come into their own, cut away old leaves. Not only are you making way for the new blooms but much of the old foliage, with its black blotches, will look unattractive and can hold hellebore leaf spot.

Pansies

Winter pansies may now be struggling to look their best and may need a helping hand to prevent them from going to seed. Prune regularly, removing any dying blooms.

Lawn

If you can, keep off the grass. The freezing weather combined with your weight can cause permanent damage to your prized lawn.

Water supply

Frozen water can expand, forcing taps and pipes to burst. Therefore, protect external taps and pipes from frost. If you can, turn off the external water supply altogether.

Snow

A garden greenhouse with snow on the roofWith the prospect of snow more likely this month, it’s important to brush fallen snow from greenhouses, cloches, fruit cages and cold frames. The extra weight can break the glass, plus the plants inside need all the warmth and light they can get. Remove snow from delicate evergreens and tree branches to prevent damage.

Greenhouse

A heat supply in your greenhouse will give you the advantage of making early sowings for plants such as sweet pea and aquilegia. If you’ve been growing sweet pea since last autumn then pinch out the tips, as this will encourage side-shoots and result in a bushier plant.

Storage

Any fruit or veg currently in storage should be checked regularly to ensure they haven’t spoilt. Turn them over and remove any decaying or damaged produce. Ensure they aren’t touching to encourage a good air supply around them.

Snowdrops

If you planted snowdrop bulbs last autumn, you may see their delicate little heads rearing themselves from the hardened, snow-covered ground this month. Not only a beautiful sight, but it’s a welcome indication to gardeners that the garden is slowly starting to stir from its winter slumber.

Garden wildlife

Ensure all bird feeding stations are topped up and water supplies are changed regularly and not left to freeze. If you have a fish pond, avoid smashing the ice if it freezes over as this can shock, or even kill, the fish. Instead, try to melt the ice gently with hot water. Don’t worry about harming the fish, as they tend to remain at the bottom of the pond during the winter months.

On the veg patch

A bunch of freshly lifted leeks laid out on the soilWinter veg

Continue to harvest veg such as swede, parsnips, carrots, winter brassicas, leeks and artichokes. Ensure any yellowing brassica leaves are removed as they could be hiding pests. As beds become bare, turn over the soil and add a thick layer of well-rotted manure or compost. You should aim to get all of your winter digging done by the end of this month – this will ensure your mulch has enough time to breakdown and work into the soil.

Seed potatoes

Most suppliers are already delivering stock to customers. If you leave it too late, you could run the risk of your chosen varieties being unavailable. Get them ordered now, and you could be chitting your first earlies by the end of the month.

Stand the tubers apart – egg boxes make ideal holders – with their eyes facing upwards. Place somewhere warm, dry and with plenty of sunshine, such as a kitchen windowsill, porch or warm greenhouse. Try to keep sprouts down to three maybe four so the energy isn’t too dispersed, thus producing weaker shoots. Six weeks on and tubers should be ready for planting out.

Onions

If you have a heat supply in your polytunnel or greenhouse, consider sowing onion seeds. They will need that extra protection, but by giving them an extended growing season the end result will be worth it and you could be harvesting onions a few weeks earlier.

Chillies and peppers

These crops need a long growing season, so get sowing now. With so many varieties to choose from, growing these fruits has never been so popular. The seeds can be grown in modules, pots or trays to the depth of 6mm, on a warm windowsill or seedling heat mat. Although germination can be slow, once their true leaves have been revealed it’s important to pot them up. Keep them warm, lit and well-watered.

Fruit

Three upturned clay pots in a row in a winter garden, being used to force rhubarbBy forcing rhubarb now, you’re simply speeding up its growth for an earlier harvest and sweeter stems. As soon as new growth appears from the crown, cover the plant over with a rhubarb forcer or container, excluding all light. Eight weeks on, the stalks should be 20-30cm long, and ready to harvest.

Apple and pear trees are still dormant and can be pruned. When pruning, keep in mind the three ‘Ds’. Dead, diseased and damaged. Anything that falls under these categories should be removed. Bare rootstock varieties can be bought and planted out. Gooseberries and currants can also be pruned, whilst autumn fruiting raspberries can be cut down to just above the surface. As they have a shallow root system, consider mulching around the canes to protect the roots from winter weather.

Continue to ensure all trees, fruit canes and climbers are staked and tied-in, thus avoiding wind-rock and potential winter damage.

Other jobs

  • While it’s cold outside, the heating systems in homes is constant. Ensure your indoor plants aren’t in direct line to heat sources, such as open fires and radiators.
  • Check your indoor plants for any signs of scale insects and mealybugs.
  • Order seed catalogues.

December Gardening Advice

December 2nd, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Two pale green enamel mugs containing mulled wine, orange slices and star anise

The smell of a winter spruce, the warming taste of a spiced mulled wine and a seasonal wreath on your front door. Without a doubt, the festive season is upon us.

But if you’re hoping to spend the month partying, or wanting nothing more than a cosying up in front of a warm fire, make sure you take time out to reflect on what you’ve achieved in the garden and on the allotment this year – what worked, what didn’t, and what you’re hoping to achieve in 2020. We may be restricted on what we can do in the garden this time of year, but our minds should be filled with creative, wonderful ambitions for the new growing season ahead. Look through seed catalogues, write lists and draw garden plans. Read gardening websites and talk to garden bloggers. This is an exciting time for gardeners, so there’s plenty to get inspired by. And with the promise of spring on the horizon, this should spearhead us into the new year.

In the flower garden

Protection

There’s still time to move your outdoor pots and containers, as we generally don’t get exposed to the extreme weather until January. If you don’t have a greenhouse, polytunnel or shed, group them together in a protected area of the garden. Keep them raised and off the frozen ground, as this will not only help the drainage for excess rain and melting snow, but prevent ground frost from cracking your pots. If your containers are too heavy, wrap horticultural fleece around your exposed shrub. Bubble plastic is another option. A wrapped potted plant will not only benefit from the added warmth but your expensive pot won’t crack from the frost.

A gardener sowing seeds into a seed tray filled with soil by handSowing

If waiting for spring to sow seeds seems too far away, there are seeds you can sow right now. Ensure they have somewhere warm and bright, such as a heated greenhouse or propagator, otherwise shorter daylight hours and cold temperatures will quickly put a stop to any possible germination. Seeds to consider are sweet peas, snapdragons and cyclamen.

Pruning

With leaves now fallen, a tree’s structure is clearly visible. Think about the three ‘Ds’: dead, damaged and diseased. Prune any deciduous tree branches that fall under these categories, but remember the overall structure and try not to prune too hard. As winter is a time of dormancy, many ‘sap’ based shrubs and trees, such as vines and acers, can also be pruned. Finally, start winter pruning wisteria. Ensure you cut summer side shoots back to no more than three buds.

Roses

Another plant that will benefit from pruning are bush roses. Bare-root varieties can now be planted up. Ensure all climbing roses are sufficiently tied-back, as winter winds can cause damage. A fresh supply of mulch around your garden plants will help protect them from the cold.

Root cuttings

Consider taking root cuttings from herbaceous perennials. This will increase your flower border supplies, and save you the expense of having to buy new plants next season.

An interior shot of composting leaf mulch leaf mould in a wooden compost bin

Leaf mould

Continue to keep borders and paths clear – debris and foliage can make paths slippery as well as harbouring slugs, snails and other pests. If you have the space why not create a large bin for leaves to break down naturally.  Four posts forming a square, pegged into the ground and surrounded with chicken wire is an easy and cheap solution. Twelve months from now, you’ll be spreading your own rich leaf mould across your garden beds.

Soil

If your beds are of heavy soil, dig over any bare areas. Try to do this when the ground isn’t waterlogged or in the midst of a frost. By leaving them as freshly turned clods winter will go to work on them, break them down and help to make your soil more manageable come spring. You could also consider adding organic matter to help lighten your soil. However, if you have a light soil avoid digging until spring as the free-draining soil will be prone to moisture loss.

Christmas trees

Many of us will be looking to purchase a Christmas tree over the coming weeks. With so many varieties to choose from, it’s worth thinking about a pot grown tree. Once the season is over, they can be moved outside to continue growing, and not thrown out like so many are in the new year. A one-off purchase from a reputable grower or nursery could have you enjoying your tree all year round. When it becomes too big to bring inside for the Christmas season, why not permanently plant it out into your garden? Not only will this one tree continue giving you and your family years of enjoyment, but it will also benefit the garden wildlife.

Failing that, if you do buy a pre-cut tree, don’t be so quick to throw it away in the new year. It can be chopped up and used as mulch for acidic plants such as blueberries, and the branches could find also find use as support canes for growing peas on your allotment.Christmas wresth making materials laid out on a table, including pliers and pinecones

Christmas wreath

If you’ve been growing ivy or holly then you might want to consider creating your very own Christmas wreath. By using cuttings of evergreen, or branches of crab apples and pyracantha berries, this is the time to let your creativity go wild.

Garden wildlife

Ensure all bird-feeding stations are clean and replenished regularly. A fresh water supply will also help our feathered friends at this time of year. Check all water features, including ponds, don’t freeze over, as this can damage the structures as well as being harmful to the fish and garden wildlife.

Freezing temperatures

Keep an eye on the weather reports and overnight temperatures. If you have plants in the greenhouse, then a heater might make all the difference on a cold night. If there is a snowfall, ensure all snow is removed from the greenhouse exterior, as any plants growing in the greenhouse will need all the warmth they can get. However, a warm greenhouse does increase the risk of pests and diseases, so regularly check all plants, pots and trays.

On the veg patch

Winter veg

It’s time for your winter veg to play their part on the Christmas day menu. Continue to check crops for pests and diseases, removing any fallen, yellowing or rotten foliage. The later you can leave digging up the veg, the fresher it’ll be on the big day. However, take into account the possibility of the ground being hard or frozen.

Primary cultivation

As winter veg gets dug up and plots start becoming bare, remove old debris and add to the compost heap. If the ground’s not too hard, turn over the soil to expose dozing pests and to aerate the soil. If you can, spread a thick layer of compost, or well-rotted manure over the plot.

If you have a compost heap then turn it over, as this will help it break down.

A gloved gardener's hand taking hardwood cuttings of a gooseberry bush with a pair of red pruners in winterFruit

If you’re growing currants or gooseberries, take hardwood cuttings. If you’ve been growing rhubarb for some years, dig up the crowns. Split them, top to bottom with a spade, and then re-plant. If you’ve purchased new varieties, plant them directly into the ground or large containers. Remember, leave a newly planted crown untouched for a year, that way it can become established, and produce quality stalks.

This is a good time of the year to plant bare-root fruit bushes and trees. Again, if you have established fruit trees, these can now be pruned. Again, think about the three ‘Ds’ and act accordingly. Check all staked fruit trees. If not securely tied-in, wind rock can cause damage and potentially kill the plant.

Winter salad

Continue to successional sow winter salads and check leaves for any slugs and pests. If they are grown outside and not in a greenhouse, ensure they are protected with a cold frame, cloche or horticultural fleece.

Other crops you can now sow in a heated greenhouse are leeks, broad beans and radish.

Prepping tools

If the weather has taken a turn for the worse, retreat to the potting shed. Once warm, set about cleaning and sharpening all hand tools. Service all power tools, including the lawnmower. Thoroughly clean all empty pots and trays in hot water with diluted washing up liquid. Carrying out these tasks now will ensure your tools last for years to come.

Other jobs

  • Add colour to the home with poinsettias, hyacinths or cyclamen persicum. However, keep watering to a minimum and place them in a draught-free environment, out of direct sunlight.
  • Start ordering seeds for the 2020 growing season.
  • Cuttings of evergreen, mistletoe and sprigs of holly can make excellent mantle and table displays.

Give Pests the Boot!

November 13th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

A gardener tending to their garden in the winter

Tidying up the garden for winter is a balancing act. On the one hand, you don’t want to leave hiding places for pests to overwinter. But on the other, you want to ensure that beneficial bugs – including pest predators – have somewhere safe to sit out the cold so they’re about for the next growing season. The advice we’re given to banish pests often has the unintended effect of discouraging beneficials too. So what is a wildlife-friendly gardener to do?

Read on or watch the video and we’ll help you to achieve that all-important balance.

Should I Cover or Expose Soil?

Perhaps the greatest area of confusion lies around whether or not to cover the ground or leave it exposed to the cleansing effects of frost and hungry birds. In general, it’s best to follow nature’s lead and keep soil covered during winter. Lay thick mulches of garden compost, leaf mould or other organic matter over the surface to stave off soil erosion and sustain beneficial soil dwellers such as earthworms and ground beetles.

An interior shot of composting leaf mulch leaf mould in a wooden compost binIn areas of the garden where pests have been a problem a good compromise is to delay laying down organic matter until midway through winter, or rake back mulches during cold snaps to temporarily expose ground. Raking or lightly forking the soil will help to reveal lurking grubs both to frosts and insect-eating birds, helping to dent their numbers before spring. This is a particularly good technique to use around fruit trees, bushes and canes, where leaves of any plants that were affected by pests or diseases should also be raked up and removed.

To Weed or Not to Weed?

When it comes to weeding, the best course of action depends on the type of weeds you’re dealing with.

Late autumn and early winter is a good time to get rid of perennial weeds, whose growth should hopefully have slowed enough for you to finally catch up with them! Be thorough and remove all of their roots too, otherwise they’ll just regrow again.

While weeding clears growing areas ready for springtime sowings, don’t be too hasty. Annual weeds like bittercress and deadnettle can be left to provide insect habitat and protect the soil over winter, before hoeing them off in the spring. Just be sure to remove them before they produce seeds.

Where possible, seedlings of self-seeding flowers such as calendula or nigella should be left to attract next season’s beneficial bugs because they’ll flower earlier than new sowings. And clumps of nettles left untouched in an out-of-the-way spot are a great food source for many beautiful butterflies and pest-hungry predators such as ladybirds.

Stop Pests Overwintering on Fruit Trees

A glue trap on a fruit tree in winter to deter pests such as winter moth caterpillarsThe bark on fruit trees offers good hiding places for pests like aphids and scale insects. Once all the leaves have dropped you can apply a winter tree wash to bare branches. This is a natural plant or fish oil-based treatment which should be sprayed on a windless day to avoid drifting. It will help to control pest numbers while causing minimal impact to other wildlife. But as with all treatments, it’s best to only use it if you’ve experienced pest problems on your trees during the previous growing season.

Paint tree barrier glues, or tie on grease bands around the trunks of fruit trees to help prevent damage caused by winter moth caterpillars. The sticky barriers prevent the egg-laying wingless female moths from climbing up into the canopy from ground level. Grease bands work best on trees with smoother bark where moths won’t be able to simply crawl under them, while glues are best for trees with deeply fissured bark.

Clean Greenhouses and Cold Frames

Winter’s a good time for a thorough clean of greenhouses and cold frames. Move everything out and clean greenhouse staging, all equipment and dirty pots and trays too. Leave it to dry while you then clean the glass using water with a little added natural disinfectant or greenhouse cleaning solution. Be sure to get into every corner, crack and crevice, any way you can!

Spaces for Beneficial Bugs

To keep beneficial bugs onside leave the rest of the garden a little wilder during the colder months. Allow grass to grow longer so caterpillars and other bugs can bury themselves into the thatch. Hollow stems and fallen leaves should be left where possible to provide habitat for all manner of insects. Old seed heads give shelter to ladybirds and other pest predators – and food for hungry birds. Cut them back in spring just before growth resumes. Hold off digging in ornamental borders until spring too – and then only if absolutely necessary – so that insects such as bumblebees can sit out the winter in peace.

You can provide additional homes for beneficial bugs by dotting bug hotels – big and small – around the garden, and, as long as you’re not in an area with termites, by creating log or stone piles, which will also prove popular with small mammals and amphibians such as toads.

So tackle pests where they have been an issue, but hang back from being too tidy to give the good guys have somewhere safe and secure to bed down for winter. Do you have any tips for booting out pests while giving beneficial bugs a helping hand? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.