Natural Garden Pest Control Infographic

The folks at Integrity Search Ltd sent me this handy little infogrpahic over the other day so I figured I’d share. 12 common UK garden pests and how to control them without resorting to chemical agents…

the gardeners dirty dozen

The original was commissioned by them there Greenhouse folks – Gabriel Ash

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Feeding scraps & growing your own chicken feed (the way it was)

A couple of posts ago I blogged about my perspective on the EU legislation relating to the feeding of kitchen scraps to your chickens.

As a result quite a few people contacted me wanting to know a bit more about how folks fed their feathered livestock prior to the ‘meddling EU’ getting involved.

The premise behind it all really was to create chicken feed from the kitchen left overs, in other words food we would not eat ourselves due to it being less palatable (which today at best would be composted, at worst thrown away into a landfill site). These ‘scraps’ would then be converted by the chicken into something far more appealing such as an egg or meat – it seems a simple, frugal and sensible way of recycling, no?

As I’ve mentioned before, within the EU the feeding of kitchen scraps to livestock is regulated and strict guidance is provided on what can and cannot be fed to animals, such as chickens, that sit within our food chain. Prior to this legislation however it was common place to feed chickens scraps and in fact was encouraged as an economical way to convert kitchen by-product into eggs and meat by the very same organisations that no prohibit it.

Back in the old days common sense would be applied and no meat other than fish, or any non meat product that had come into to direct contact with meat (other than fish) would be fed to the chickens. (Sensible, and a bit of shame we didn’t remember that point, it could have saved a lot of hassle with mad cow disease and the like)

Most raw vegetables would be minced first before being fed to the chickens and a few, such as potato peelings would be cooked or steamed first in order to make them more palatable. Even the water from this cooking exercise would be made available to the flock as it contained valuable vitamins and minerals.

 

It might be against the law today to feed kitchen scraps in this manner however it isn’t against the law to grow your own chicken feed which would certainly supplement any commercially obtained feed or feed ingredients. Legumes such as pea, broad, French and runner bean are particularly beneficial being high in protein and are also mostly liked by chickens. It is best to dry them and then mince or grind them before adding them to the chickens feed. Other vegetables such as maize, brassicas (sprouts, cabbages), kale and sunflowers all provide an excellent source of supplements.

During the winter feeding sprouted seeds provides another excellent source of protein for your chickens giving the flock a welcome boost.

It is however important to note that if you do elect to grow your own chicken feed then do make sure you weigh up the space taken to grow the plants against the value of the food you get in return from the chickens. This is perhaps why in the past we made the best economical use of the waste from allotments and vegetable plots in the old days…..

Leghorn-Brown-Chick 2

Winter pruning of blackcurrants

A well managed blackcurrant bush can provide quite a harvest in a year with more than enough to meet the need of the kitchen and very often surplus to freeze for the winter months. If left to their own devices though they get overcrowded, begin to crop poorly and become prone to viral diseases and gall mite.

Some people ‘prune’ out the heavy fruiting branches during the summer prior to picking as it can make harvesting easier but this can result in the wrong branches being removed. Instead I find winter pruning is better as it helps maintain the vigour of the plant and means the plant remains a productive part of the fruit garden for much longer. Aside from it being a handy winter garden task when the rest of the vegetable garden has slowed down, the leaf drop means it’s easier to see the overall structure of the bush.

The objective of winter pruning of blackcurrants is to try and create a light airy upright habit and shape with as much of the last seasons new growth available (as these will be the main fruit bearing branches in the new season). To do this you will need to carefully select and remove the branches that are causing congestion at the base of the plant and those that are cluttering up the upper levels of the plant.

An hours clever and careful winter pruning of a neglected blackcurrant bush can be very successful, and whilst the pruning required may initially reduce the crop in the following season, in future years it will pay you back in spades, or should that be crumbles, ice-creams and jams.

What You Will Need

Tools

  • Secateurs
  • Lopers or  a small pruning saw

Step 1

Look closely at the unpruned bush. Try to pick out the crowded or stagnant areas and look for the main growth and stems that will contribute to a bowl structure, also identify those that cause poor air circulation.

Familiarise yourself with the different types of growth. The new shoots (which will fruit next year) will have smooth bark the colour of strong tea. Second year growth will have already have fruited in the last season. The bark will be a rough grey colour and it may carry a loose bunch, or strig, of fruit stems.

The bark of third year growth is black and rough to the touch. These will not have borne fruit in the last season but many will be carrying the important second and first year growth.

Step 2

Start pruning by cutting out the weak and congested whips from the centre of the shrub. Whilst these could bear fruit in the coming season the crop will be poor and their growth will reduce air circulation and promote disease. Also remove and burn any diseased branches.

Step 3

Identify the third year growth that is either unproductive (ie not carrying a good crop of second & first growth) or doesn’t contribute to the overall upright habit and shape of the bush. Lop this out as close to the ground as possible.

Step 4

Remove any branches that cross over and are rubbing. These run the risk of damaging the bark and encouraging disease

Step 5

Prune out any second year growth that either is not supporting good first year growth or is not adding to the overall shape of the bush

Step 6

Finally scatter some good organic granular fertilizer around the base of the plant and then mulch it with some good quality homemade compost.