New Biological Pest Control

Following on from the blog below Garden News reported today that there are two new methods of biological pest control available to gardeners. One for dealing with codling moth and another for cabbage white butterflies. These will help organic gardeners looking for an alternative to Derris, which is to be banned. Biological controls are usually parasitic organisms that kill their specific host and nothing else, thus making them much more acceptable to organic gardeners. Pesticides are less useful because they do not discriminate between pest and predator, killing the predators that would naturally feed on the pests and quite often giving the pest the advantage. Find out more at

RHS Top Ten Pests 2007

Each year thousands of people phone the RHS for advice about pest control. All the enquiries are recorded to compile a list of the nations favourite (if that’s the write word) pests. The list for 2007 was announced yesterday. Here it is: 1. Slugs and snails 2. Harlequin ladybird 3. Vine weevil =4. Cushion scale =4. Ants 6. Rosemary beetle 7. Berberis sawfly 8. Rabbits 9. Lily Beetle 10. Cypress aphid. To find out what all these pests are and how to control them visit and have a look at my books The Little Book of Slugs and The Little Book of Garden Villains. Both available from Click on the Bookshop area of the site.

Noah’s Gardening

suc50916.jpgDuring a break in the rains last week I nipped out to take this shot of my garden, the roof tops and the floods beyond (normally this valley is pasture). At the front of the picture you can see my work in progress. It’s a tiny plot I’m working on (about 3.5m by 5m) but progress is slow because of big landscaping, rubble and access issues. Even to get this far I’ve had to demolish an old chicken shed, lift two trees, take down and move two compost heaps, build another and pick axe endless amounts of rubble out of the ground. This is hard work but its what transformational gardening is all about. Creating beautiful space out of failing landscapes.  Follow my story in Garden News magazine once every fortnight with additions on the blog and I’ll show you how to create beautiful garden spaces in a way which will help to prevent floods like the one you see here getting worse! 

Green manures get research boost

Garden Organic – – have completed another positive study on green manures – this time for the government agency responsible for agriculture – DEFRA. Green manures put nitrogen back into the soil if planted as part of normal crop rotations. The new study found that growing grazing rye over the winter reduced leaching of nitrogen by 97 per cent compared to leaving the soil bare. This is good news because it will reduce our reliance on synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, which are both bad for the environment and getting more expensive because of oil price rises. They have gone up by 15 per cent in the last three years. Although the study was on agricultural field trial level it is still relevant to gardeners, as we too want to keep as much nitrogen as possible in our soil.

RSPB Garden Birdwatch

Remember to spend an hour counting the birds in your garden this weekend so you can take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. Register your results at It’s a great excuse to just sit and do nothing but enjoy the birds. Count the maximum number of birds of each species you see at any one time. You’re not looking for anything particularly unusual; the RSPB want numbers of all birds – common or not. I saw robin, great and blue tit, blackbird, wren and nuthatch. It all helps to keep the RSPB informed about what’s happening with the nations’ birds. 

Garden News Garden Diary Instructions

Making a hand stitched Garden Diary


A garden diary is an essential piece of kit for any gardener, but make it that extra bit special by creating your own using a nice craft paper and a recycled notebook cover. This is how you make it (instructions adapted from Making Stuff: An Alternative Craft Book (Black Dog Publishing) price £12.64 and The Guardian Newspaper).


1 Cut a front and back cover for your diary. You could use an old record sleeve or a cover from a book you no longer want, remembering to think about whether you want a hard cover or a soft cover to your diary, and that sewing through a hard cover is quite difficult. Obviously a harder cover is more hard wearing and for garden use it’s probably better to have a cover that offers some protection against dirt. The instructions here are for quite a small diary but you could adapt the sizes to make something bigger. I made mine A5 which seemed a more sensible diary size. On the other hand this size makes for a handy little notebook to shove in the pocket. So to begin: its unlikely that you’ll have an exact cover size and you’ll need to cut one to fit. Look at the cover you want to use and using a pencil and ruler, draw two 11cm x 14.85cm frames around your favourite areas. It’ll be pretty obvious what looks good. Cut round and put the pages to one side.


2. Next: prepare the pages of your notebook. I used sheep’s poo paper made locally but any nice craft or recycled paper will do. Cut 30 sheets of A4 paper in half (or not if you prefer to make an A5 size diary). Fold each of these vertically in half and group them into booklets of five sheets. You’ll end up with six booklets comprising five folded sheets each; if you are making the A5 diary just fold A4 in half.


3. Mark out the holes in both covers and each booklet where you will sew all of the sections together. Exactly 1cm in from the left side of the front cover, mark six points, 1.5cm, 3cm and 4cm from the top, and 1.5cm, 3cm and 4cm from the bottom. Repeat the process on the inside back cover. Once you’ve marked out each point pierce the points carefully with the awl (actually I didn’t do this, I just sewed through the paper).


4. Open each of the six booklets of notebook pages and mark the same points (1.5cm, 3cm and 4cm) along each of the booklets inside folds. Pierce through the paper at the marked points with a sewing needle. Make sure you do this before you start sewing because when I started making the diary I missed this instruction and spent extra time marking more points than I needed to. It also makes it easier when you eventually come to sew. When you’ve done this with all the booklets, sandwich them in between the front and back covers. Check the spine of your book to ensure that all the holes in both covers and all booklets line up perfectly.


5. Prepare a length of thread (around 1.5m). Starting with the first hole on the top of your first booklet, use the Coptic stitch (explained below) to bind the first booklet to the front cover, each booklet to the next, and the back cover to the rest of the bound book. Using the needle is quite tough if you’re not used to sewing as you’re liable to suffer a few pricks pushing through the pages. Use a sharp needle. Also when you’re pulling the thread through try not to lose the end of the thread. I found I got into the knack of pinching the two threads together as I pulled them through. This saved a lot of time.


6. Holding the front cover and the first booklet in one hand, stick the needle through the first hole at the top of the booklet. Leave a tail about 8cm long inside the booklet, which you will eventually tie. Then put the needle through the top hole in the front cover and push it back into the space between the front cover and the booklet. Insert the needle back into the hole in the booklet you originally entered through.


7. Now that you are back inside the booklet and have completed one stitch, tighten the book in a bit, making sure the tail does not escape through the hole. Tighten the stitch enough that the tension is firm, but not so tight that you run the risk of tearing the holes.


8. Insert your needle into the second hole down in the first booklet and repeat the same process, sticking the needle through the outside of the second hole in the cover, between the cover and the booklet and back through the second hole in the booklet. Repeat this until you have stitched all six holes along the first booklet and cover.


9. Once you’ve reached the final hole, instead of re-inserting the needle back into the final hole between the booklet and the cover, insert it into the last hole of a second booklet, directly below the first booklet. Continue stitching back in the other direction along the second booklet in the same way you treated the first booklet, except this time when you bring the needle up through each hole in the booklet loop the needle around the stitch holding the first booklet to the cover. I found that this process is quite fiddly and you don’t always get it right the first time. If it doesn’t seem to be working, stop and think, go back, re-read the instructions and try again. I did this a couple of times and it really helped, eventually I worked out what I was doing wrong and carried on.


10. Repeat this same process until you reach the last booklet. At this point, attach the back cover the same way you attached the front.


11. Tie off the two ends inside the first and last booklets with a double knot to the adjacent secure stitches.

Compost trials give thumbs down to peat free

Gardening Which? magazine have brought out a critical report on peat free potting compost. Each year they trial 20 plus bags of compost and peat compost always come out best. Not suprising as peat is an ideal growing medium for most plants. The problem is peat is extracted from fragile wildlife havens and the sale of peat compost is going to be illegal after 2012. I always welcome Gardening Which? reports but there was one organic peat free bagged compost they didn’t trial. Fertile Fibre. I don’t know why. I know plenty of people who have used this recycled compost (its made out of waste coconut fiber – coir) as an effective alternative to peat free. You can get it from the organic gardening catalogue. Alternatively you could make your own potting compost using a mix of one part home made compost to one part top soil to one part sharp sand (available at garden centres). The best peat free compost in the trial was Westland Peat Free Multi-Purpose compost with added John Innes. This is made out of composted bark and got the same rating as two peat composts and better than two others. This should be available from most garden centres. Also it should be noted that Gardening Which? deliberately pick seeds that are notoriously hard to germinate.

Welcome Garden News Readers

If you’re visiting after reading my first article in Garden News mag hi and thanks for dropping by. I try and keep the website up to date with composting and eco related videos, news of what I’m doing and general compost and other eco news stories I find interesting. I’m also hoping to back my articles up by posting information here that I couldn’t squeeze into the mag. Sometimes there’s a lot more to say in the articles than there’s room for. I’d also like people to be able to share any useful information they have, and perhaps even get the odd debate going too. So long as its good natured! Just post a comment using the link below. So I hope you keep coming and keep reading the articles and we can get people thinking about greening up their gardening. Speak soon.Allan 

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