Don’t they grow so fast

This weekend we’ve been busy planting. It’s been so much fun, (and let’s face it somewhat hectic), sowing seeds and planting flowers with the girls. We’ve learnt about what plants need to grow, how important different plants are in our ecosystem and most importantly we got our hands dirty in the process.

PEAS

First of all, we planted some pea seeds. We thought this would be a great place to start as we could talk about how the vegetables that we eat come to be on our plate. Plus, what better time to be looking at growing our own ingredients from the garden. We decided to plant the pea seeds in a pot as we don’t have loads of ground space in our garden. We planted the seeds about 3cm under the compost and approx. 5-10cm apart to give the plants plenty of space to grow. We staked the pot with canes to support early growth and watered it well. We will keep the plants well-watered and fed throughout the growing season. This is particularly important for pot grown crops as they can’t get any water or nutrients from the ground. If the weather forecasts frost, we plan to move the pot inside our conservatory. The girls also added some Ecofective Slug Defence on the top of the compost – the slugs and snails won’t crawl over the gritty texture and eat our beloved crops.

FLOWERS

For more instant results we got creative with some pansies and violas. We planted some in the ground and also made our very own hanging basket. With help the girls used a spade to dig holes in the soil and then lifted the plants from their pots and placed them in the holes. They then made sure they were well secure by patting the base of the plants, ensuring they were well covered in soil. They then watered the plants – this was their favourite part, in fact the whole garden was well watered on Sunday.

We also planted some wildflowers and sunflowers to encourage bees and butterflies into our garden. We scattered the wildflower seeds over trays of compost, then pushed the seeds into the soil and watered. These will be kept indoors until the weather warms up. To finish off we drew pictures of the insects we hope to see when our flowers start blooming.

We finally planted sunflower seeds in pots and will be watching these grow over the coming weeks. We don’t have a greenhouse so covered the pots with a cloche using plastic bottles. These activities took up lots of time this weekend and meant the girls had plenty of fresh air which was great.

 

Oh, and before I forget, the baby practiced her walking skills whilst the other 2 were busy gardening 🙂

The sweet smell of early risers

Hello my name is Lydia and I work here at ecofective. Like most people, I’ve been shocked and saddened by the recent COVID-19 news and as our country goes into lockdown and our amazing NHS work hard to fight this disease, I’ve been wondering how I can make the most of spending time with my family whilst we stay at home.

I have three very beautiful, very young and very strong willed little girls. Keeping them well entertained from dusk till dawn (and I really do mean dusk) is going to be key in our family, but Spring has come at a perfect time. We’re going to spend as much time as we can in the garden. I confess my husband is the gardener in this household but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. I love pottering around, playing with the kids and making the most of the warmer days (usually with a gin in my hand). So whilst I enjoy spending more time with my tribe I’m going to try and document some of the activities we do in the hope it may help other families who are looking for simple ways to keep kids entertained in their gardens.

Today was all about perfume, a fun activity I remember doing with my own grandparents many years ago. I can’t promise your kids will come out smelling like Chanel No.5 but I can assure you they’ll be really proud of their creations. We went around and picked some pretty flowers in the garden. We chose our favourite coloured flowers, ones that had fun shapes and ones that made us smile. We also cut some lavender leaves for the smell but any hard storked herb would work.

Once our bowl was full I poured boiling hot water over the contents and left it in a safe place for an hour (leave longer for a stronger smell).

Then the kids decorated their own perfume bottles. There’s a strong rainbow theme going around at the moment to encourage us to ‘Stay at Home’ so we thought rainbow stickers would be fun. This is where the kids can get really creative and adventurous.

Then it was time to decant the scent. We used a sieve to catch the petals and poured the perfumed water into a jug. We then poured the perfume into our beautifully decorative bottles and taaadaaa our very own homemade perfume.

The kids were thrilled and have proudly put them on their bedside tables ready for mummy to wear in the morning. Plus with such early risers in this household the activity was completed before 9.30am, hmmmmm now what can we do…?

Controlling pesky bugs

After all the hard work earlier in the season, this is now beginning to get to the time where you can sit back and enjoy the delights of your garden. Unfortunately, it’s also the time when bugs and diseases like powdery mildew can detract from the splendour, so we have some tips on how to tackle these problems – without using harsh chemicals. One of our mantras is ‘healthy soil makes healthy plants’, so we are keen to create good soil, either in the beds or pots and containers. Try and ensure that soil in pots gets the chance to dry out between watering, as this reduces the risk of Scarid flies making their home in your pots. Hoeing is one of my favourite tasks, and this tilling of the soil helps reduce weed growth around plants, also bringing any pests which lurk under the topsoil to the surface, a ready meal for the garden’s birds.

As you’ll know from previous blogs, we try and make our garden as wildlife friendly as possible. Ladybirds, frogs, hedgehogs, ground beetles plus the birds are excellent predators all of which help to control bugs like caterpillars, aphids and slugs so we like to encourage them. Making homes for our wildlife is a great task to give any children bored during the summer holidays – we have a number of home-made bird boxes and bug hotels around the garden, perhaps not all as neat as they could be, but all made by willing young hands!

When our wildlife can’t take care of the problem, we turn to ecofective® Bug and Mildew Control, which is suitable for indoor and outdoor plants. Common bugs like whiteflies, aphids, red spider mites, and mealybugs can be dealt with in an environmentally responsible manner, as this product doesn’t rely on conventional pesticide chemicals. Rather, it has a more physical method, containing a blend of surfactants which stops the pests from moving and being able to feed. Not only does this make it safe to use near pets and children, it is also not a threat for bees and wildlife.


This formulation is used by many professional growers and landscapers across the UK and Europe, on a variety of plants including ornamentals, fruit, vegetables and herbs. Because there is no harvest interval, produce can be eaten within hours after application. We are out early in the morning, or later in the evening to avoid using the spray in direct sunlight as we would run the risk of scorching our plants.

All of which means that we get the opportunity to enjoy our garden ourselves, instead of sharing it with unwanted bugs!

Are your plants hungry?

Our garden is in full swing right now, with our fruit, vegetables and flowers all romping away – which means we’re keeping a careful watch on the feeding they require to give us the best possible results. Feeding provides a balance of nutrients to help healthy plants grow. Without the correct food, plants are vulnerable to disease and growth problems – and this is particularly true of plants in pots as nutrients can just leach out of pots. Often, your plants will tell you if they need feeding, with signs including a yellowing or paling of leaves, slow or no growth, wilting of lower plant leaves, and root rot or brown edges on the leaves.

There are two main types of feed – mineralised feeds, which can leach from the soil more rapidly when there is run off of water, from either over-watering or a sudden downpour, and sugar based feeds which tend to stick to the root system better.

Our feed of choice is the ecofective® Organic Wonder Feed, an organic sugar based feed which contains a bio-stimulant that encourages plants to take up the nutrients quickly, giving a higher yield than other leading brands. For the technically minded, it has a Nitrogen Phosphorous Potassium (NPK) balance of 2-1-3. We find it easy to use, the 1.5 litre container makes up to 50 1-gallon watering cans, and of course the naturally derived ingredients have no negative impact on the environment and do not disrupt the important ecosystems.

To get the best yields from our fruit and veg garden, we feed regularly once a week through the growing season. Crops which are above the ground, such as tomatoes and strawberries, have a high water content and tend to be hungrier for food.

With plants in our greenhouse, most are grown in containers and have no access to naturally occurring nutrients, so some of these we feed twice a week.

For our outside pot plants and baskets, we make sure that we give them a good water before feeding, so that the goodness in the feed is not washed out of the pots straight away. Here’s hoping for a bumper harvest this summer!

Protect your garden from slugs

Ask any gardener what are the worst pests they come across in the garden and it’s pretty much guaranteed that slugs will be up there – in fact, slugs came second in the list of the UK’s top pests in 2018, according to the RHS.

Just at the time that we’re ready to plant out young plants is one of the most ideal times for slugs – the weather is warmer, yet we’re still getting the rain. As they do most of their damage under cover of darkness, it’s only the morning after that you find the slime trails pointing to damaged, eaten plants. They tend to not be that picky either – their dinner menu can contain salad leaves, strawberries, any cabbage family, plus marigolds, dahlias, hostas and soft herbs.

It always used to be a challenge to remain eco-friendly at the same time as protecting plants from slugs. The traditional blue slug pellets contain Metaldehyde which is extremely dangerous to wildlife such as hedgehogs, amphibians and wild birds – exactly the group of wildlife we want to encourage in our garden. Use of Metaldehyde will be banned totally from next Spring, and sales will be banned from this summer, 2019.

We have a solution, though, which is eco-friendly and highly effective. ecofective® Slug Defence is a physical, non-toxic barrier which prevents slugs and snails from getting close to your plants in the soil or in pots. The white granules dry quickly, and stay effective even after rain or watering.

If you do have a particularly serious slug problem, then ecofective® Ferrimax® Slug Killer might be the answer. This contains a natural active ingredient, Ferric Phosphate and is approved for organic gardening, working well with flowers and vegetables.

Of course, it’s still a good idea to be preventative – slugs can get everywhere and seem to enjoy laying eggs in pots so we make a particular point of cleaning pots before we use them.

Planting where there are fewer places for slugs to hide helps protect your tender plants so raised beds offer better protection and giving small vegetable plants enough space around them helps, as does planting out in full sun when the soil is warm.

Looking after our bees

A worldwide decline in bee populations is ringing alarm bells as fears grow over how our food will be pollinated if bees die out. According to the British Beekeepers’ Association, a third of our food is dependent on pollination by bees, with up to 70 crops in the UK relying on bees for successful pollination. However, bee-keepers across Europe have reported winter colony losses in excess of 50% in recent years – a figure that is causing widespread concern among wildlife experts.

There are a host of factors blamed for bee decline, including pesticide use, climate change, a parasitic mite called varroa that attacks bee colonies, and habitat loss (the UK has lost more than 97% of its wildflower meadows since the 1940s).

ecofective offer a range of Child, Pet and Bee Safe plant care products for gardeners who want to attract more bees into gardens in a bid to safeguard the future of these vital pollinators.

Top ecofective bee safe products

ecofective® Bug + Mildew Control is a ready-to-use formula that provides fast-acting control of a wide range of pests, including whitefly, blackfly, red spider mite and mealybug, while taking care of powdery mildew by washing away spores. The clever formulation, which is safe to use around bees, pets and children, also provides plants with nutrients for healthy growth and uses a physical mode of action which stops plant pests in their tracks, preventing bugs from moving and being able to feed. A key advantage of ecofective® Bug + Mildew Control’s physical mode of action is that plant pests will not become resistant to the formula. And no harvest interval is required, meaning that home-grown produce can be eaten within hours of application.

Gardeners can also use ecofective® Rose Defender to protect the nation’s favourite flower from attack without any worries about harming bees. The ready-to-use product’s 3-in-1 defender technology controls bugs, powdery mildew and provides nutrients for vibrant, healthy roses, while the pesticide-free formulation is safe to use around bees, children and pets.

ecofective® Houseplant Defender, which is perfect for indoor plants but can also be used on flowers, shrubs, fruit and vegetables in the garden, is another bee-friendly product in the ecofective stable that’s safe to use around bees. The ready-to-use pesticide-free spray gives excellent control of pests including whitefly, aphid, red spider mite, mealybug, scale and psyllid, while the formula provides foliar nourishment to encourage healthy, vibrant houseplants. It stimulates the development of more flowers, too.

To view the complete range of bee safe products click here.

Easter transplanting

The best bit about Easter has to be the opportunity to spend a good amount of time in the garden – and with Easter being later this year one of the most exciting things we have planned is a shopping trip to our local garden centre for some plants.

In our garden, we sometimes end up with a plant that could do better in another spot. It’s better to get them in the right place to start with than moving plants later. This is all about factors such as light and shade, and moist or well-drained soil, and when buying plants, you’ll normally find these details on the label. Also check to ensure there are no thick roots circling around a container grown plant – unless you know how to deal with these it may be better to choose a different plant. A few roots protruding from the bottom of the pot are a sure sign the plant is ready to be transplanted into a bigger space but cut them cleanly if you break them when you remove the pot.

Before digging a hole, consider how large your plant will grow and check the hole depth by placing the plant in its pot to check the soil will finish at the same level the plant was growing before. Loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole with a fork so the roots will find their way quickly and stabilise the plant.

To give plants an added boost, we use ecofective® Rootplus 3 in 1, sprinkling 3 scoops into the new hole, making sure that the roots will be touching the feed, and water it in well. The 3 aspects which make Rootplus so effective are mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial bacteria which help promote strong development of the root systems; a water retainer meaning a reduced need for watering; and a fertiliser to help better establishment.

Getting the watering right is vital. If you’re planting into heavy clay, as our garden is, don’t be tempted to add a water retaining compost to the planting hole otherwise water can become trapped and the roots of the plant can suffocate. You may need to water more frequently especially during warm weather while your plant gets established because if it dries out the leaves will scorch.

Some nursery bought plants are raised in a heated greenhouse and will benefit from being allowed to acclimatise to your cooler garden and build up strength against the force of the wind. It’s a good idea to place them in a sheltered spot for a while prior to planting them out.

In our greenhouse, we’ve sown lettuce seeds in short rows and sprinkled a little Rootplus along the drill, to help them on their way. Unlike some products – hoof and horn springs to mind – Rootplus is vegetarian and vegan friendly.

Start controlling pesky weeds & moss

Some of our paths have amassed a covering of moss over the winter. In its place, such as on old walls, it can look great, but we don’t want a green blanket of moss and weeds on all our walkways. This year, we’ve used ecofective® Weed + Moss Killer on our hard surfaces, to great effect. It’s certainly fast acting – within a matter of days, moss and weeds turned from green to brown, making them easy to remove (or they’ll continue to disperse over time). We’d expect even faster results on sunnier days, but because this product is not temperature reliant it meant we could start using it at the start of the season even during the cold snaps. Make sure, though, not to use this on your lawn.

As always we are keen to be as green as we can in our garden. ecofective® glyphosate free weed killers use ecologically sound ingredients, such as acetic acid which are effective at tackling stubborn weeds but leave no residual weed killer in the soil.

In the global scheme of things, of course what we do as individuals may have a very miniscule impact, but we think it important to do our bit as much as we can. I’m sure we’re all aware of the environmental dangers to mammals, birds and reptiles, but bees, ants and beetles are disappearing a staggering eight times faster. Insects are such a fundamentally critical part of the world’s ecosystem that the disappearance of just some species are expected to have catastrophic impacts on how we produce food. With 40% of insect populations in decline according to a new study in The Guardian, we’re wanting to do whatever we can to help them on our small plot of earth and using environmentally sound garden care products is one way we can make a difference. We hope you agree!

Top tips for beautiful summer lawns

As the warmer weather approaches now is a good time to start caring for your lawn to be ready for the summer months. Here are some of our top tips:

1. Grass will be weaker from the winter months so be sure to mow on the highest settings for the first few weeks. Keeping your grass longer at the start of the season will help with moss control and will help strengthen grass blades. Leave the top grass cuttings on the lawn to mulch as this will bring nutrients back into the soil. As the weather improves towards the end of the month, start by gradually mowing your lawn on a lower setting.

2. When the weather is milder and no frost or rain is due it’s a good idea to scarify the lawn – this not only removes dead grass and moss from the lawn but it also gives new grass access to sunlight and rain water.

3. Add some grass seed where required, and as the lawn repairs itself it’s time to start feeding it. Feeding the lawn will make the grass denser and help prevent weeds and moss from establishing, whilst also making your lawn look green and luscious. ecofective® Lawn Feed and Root Enhancer is a great choice if you’re looking for an effective feed that is also kind to the environment. The feed contains mycorrhizal fungi to encourage healthier and stronger root systems, as well as mini fertiliser granules which naturally phase release, giving long-lasting effects over 8-10 weeks. As we start to see more wildlife in the garden, we were looking for something that would not cause harm. ecofective® Lawn Feed and Root Enhancer is safe to use around children, pets, wildlife and bees for that added peace of mind. Click here to find out more.