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.


The big garden clean…getting ready for spring!

The start of the year always brings that rush of excitement – the knowledge that spring is on its way, and with it the opportunity to get back out into the garden. We have a number of tasks that we need to be getting on with, although it feels like it’s more a case of dodging the cold and wet weather.

It’s time to tidy up the garden. We’re keen to be as green as we can be, so we recycle as much as possible – and the rest goes onto the compost heap. This year, we’re looking to use our apple tree prunings as plant supports in the borders, and we’ve also donated some to a neighbour whose children have rabbits – you can give rabbits fresh twigs and branches to chew on once in a while and apple is safe for them. We never deadhead winter bedding too early or sweep away all the leaves, as these provide a haven for insects during the cold times.

When we had people round over Christmas, they spilled out onto the decking outside our house, and we realised just how slippery it had become due to a build-up of algae. We’ve tackled this with the ecofective® Path, Patio and Decking Cleaner, which has shown impressive results within just days of application. Mix it to three parts water and apply – we decided to use a paint brush as our decking hasn’t had much maintenance over recent years. It is possible to spray it on, and let it do its work. There’s no scrubbing required, you just apply it and wait to see the results – in days. We could soon see the impact, as the cleaner worked on removing the covering of slippery algae.

We’ve also used it to clean the outside of our shed, and also on our greenhouse. With minimal impact on the environment, it meets our requirement to be green and can also be used all year round – even when it’s as cold as it is now!

Now we have more light getting into the greenhouse, this weekend’s tasks include sowing some snapdragons, chillies and lettuces. Because it’s still a little early for these, we’re giving them a boost with ecofective® Rootplus 3in1, which helps the strong development of root systems, reduces the need for watering and also includes fertiliser to help growth. Whats more, this product is child and pet safe, as is the Path Patio and Decking Cleaner when dry. Now bring on spring!

Child and Pet Safe Gardening

Greener, safer gardening with ecofective®
Many people are concerned about the safety of children, pets and wildlife when using garden care products such as pesticides, plant food or cleaners. However, the ecofective® Child and Pet Safe range offers unrivalled peace of mind for these ethically conscious gardeners.

So what does Child and Pet Safe mean?
The ecofective® Child and Pet Safe range use naturally derived ingredients which leave no residual effect on the environment, making the treated area instantly safe for all the family, aquatic life, wildlife and bees to enjoy! With supervision children can also safely use the products.

Is the range classed as Hazardous?
No! Since 2009, the CLP Regulation requires chemicals to be classified for hazards and the packaging to be labelled accordingly. Hazard pictograms have to be firmly affixed to common household products such as garden care, washing-up liquid, laundry detergents, shampoos and even antibacterial gels and soaps, highlighting warnings such as “Can cause serious eye irritation, Keep out of reach of children, Harmful to aquatic life etc.” ecofective® Child and Pet Safe products do not hold any hazardous warning labels making them safer than some of the best known household brands and inherently safer for both user and the environment.

Why use ecofective® Child and Pet Safe products?
There is a common misconception that all pesticides and fertilisers in garden care products are harmful, however ecofective® Child and Pet Safe products use effective formulations based on ‘green chemistry’ that combine the best, most environmentally sensitive garden care solutions available in the UK. Many of the products are currently used by professional growers and landscapers across the UK. We’re also constantly being encouraged to get our children and grandchildren away from technology and into the great outdoors. Gardening or even playing in our gardens is a great way of luring them away from computer screens, phones and tablets, and with ecofective® Child and Pet Safe range there is no worry of them coming into contact with dangerous chemicals. Just look out for one of the following badges on ecofective® products for added peace of mind.

Click here to view the ecofective® Child and Pet Safe range.

Making living salads from the supermarket last longer

The variety of living lettuce salads you can buy are lovely in both colour and taste. If you trim off the leaves carefully, but not snipping to close to the top of the stem, you can use the plants as a cut and come again plant. It won’t work if you keep them in the little trays that they are packaged in, instead you should plant them out into pots, troughs or your veg garden area. To help them establish and get over the shock of living outside, we have mixed a little of the ecofective® Rootplus within the planting hole. Also, the slugs and snails will be attracted to them but a barrier of the ecofective® Slug Defence granules will keep them safe.

Boosting and Protecting Young Plants

This month of May has flown by, and with fine weather too. At the end of April everything in the garden was way behind due to the unusually cold spring, but over the past three weeks plants, blossoms and flowers have erupted into a colour palette of greens, pinks, blues and creams. With the danger of frost now past (fingers crossed!) we can plant out bedding plants and vegetable seedlings.

You can see here pansies that are perfect for baskets and tubs. They also suit flower bed edges, near to the path or lawn. As they get established I’m going to add ecofective® Wonder Feed to my watering can and give them a feed once a week to ensure vigorous growth. The bio-stimulants within the feed encourage nutrient uptake and enhance plant development so I’m expecting to see abundant, vibrant flowers. The formula is organic and safe to use around children, pets and beneficial insects too. I’ll keep you posted on how they progress.

I’ve also been busy planting out these little seedlings. These ones look a little straggly, but I’m determined to give them a fighting chance.

At this stage of growth, they are really vulnerable to slug attack, but if I protect them with a barrier of ecofective® Slug Defence granules then they’ll have a much better start. The granules work as a deterrent as the slugs and snails do not like moving over them, thus protecting the plants. Again I’ll keep you posted on how the seedlings get on.