Alan Titchmarsh on how best to feed your plants
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When it comes to fertilising your garden, for those with freshly green thumbs, knowing what works best can be confusing. Typically, garden fertiliser will make many think of store-bought chemical products. However, there are plenty of natural ways gardeners can make their own plant food at home from “from spent foodstuffs”, according to one gardening expert.
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Angela Slater, Hayes Garden World’s resident expert shared natural fertilisers gardeners can make themselves at home exclusively with Express.co.uk.
She said: “Spent foodstuff makes for fantastic fertiliser for improving soil structure and giving the plants a more beneficial growing environment.”
Specifically, eggshells are great for benefiting garden plant health.
The expert explained: “Eggshells are rich in calcium and are particularly beneficial added to tomato compost as they help prevent blossom end rot.
“Just wash, then crush and work into the compost before planting.
“Crushed finely they can be added to your potting compost to improve plant growth.”
Though nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are most vital for healthy growth, calcium is also essential for building healthy “bones” — the cell walls of a plant.
Composed of calcium carbonate, eggshells are an excellent way to introduce this mineral into the soil.
Shards of eggshell also can be used to keep certain pests out.
If your plants suffer from snails or slugs, spread the crumbled shells on top of the soil around the base of the plants, making the barrier about two inches wide all around.
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Slimy creatures won’t be able to get past the pointy bits.
Another natural way to enrich gardens is to implement crop rotation.
Angela explained: “The crops are grown in such a way that the previous crop leaves the ground in a state beneficial for the following crop, such as following peas and beans with leafy veg, such as cabbage, kale, spinach and chard.
“This method is not only an environmentally friendly method of growing vegetables but also prevents the build-up of pests and soil borne diseases. The most used rotation is over five years.”
The expert advises adding well-rotted farmyard manure and home-made compost to a fifth of the plot in year one then growing greedy crops such as potatoes, courgettes, pumpkins, celery and leeks.
She added: “Follow in year two with root crops, carrots, beets, turnips and onions.
“Nitrogen fixing peas and beans come in year three then these are followed by green leafy vegetables which need a lot of nitrogen in year four.
“Year five can be planted with a green manure crop which is then dug into the soil. Even though you may only have a small ‘grow-your-own’ patch you can still divide it into strips and follow this principle.”
Fresh seaweed is another great source of fertiliser. It is particularly great for those who own fish tanks or those who live near the sea.
Angela said: “Fresh seaweed contains trace elements and can be used as a mulch or dried, crumbled and added to compost.
“Before removing it from the shore, check it is not against the law and wash thoroughly in sea water to remove any marine life.
“The trace elements encourage the growth of beneficial soil microbes which improve plant growth.”
Wood ash can also be beneficial to certain garden plants.
The gardening expert noted: “Wood ash from the log burner is rich in potassium and calcium carbonate so makes an ideal addition to artichokes, green leafy vegetables and brassicas.
“It is alkaline so don’t use on acid loving vegetables such as blueberries, rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, raspberries and potatoes.”
Gardeners who you already have an alkaline soil should ensure they don’t use this every year and just use sparingly, warned Angela.
She added: “Don’t use if you have burned coal or smokeless fuel along with the wood.”
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