Month: April 2020

Pruning beech hedges: when & how

Pruning beech hedges: when & how

Beech hedges need to be trimmed regularly. In the following, we will give you all the information you need to know about pruning beeches. Beeches (Fagus), especially young ones, tend to grow very fast. Pruning new beech hedges is therefore extremely important for a perfectly…

Root rot in plants: symptoms & treatment

Root rot in plants: symptoms & treatment

Sadly, root rot often ends the life of our beloved plants. Find out here how to correctly recognise, prevent and treat root rot. Root rot is a common disease in plants. If the base of the plant begins to look soft and wilted, it can…

Types of lentils: the most popular lentil varieties

Types of lentils: the most popular lentil varieties

Lentils are a versatile group of legumes and have a lot to offer. These are the best varieties of lentils to grow and cook. 

Lentils (Lens culinaris) are one of the oldest cultivated plants. As a result, they have been bred extensively. Therefore, there are countless varieties of lentils, some of which are less known and only grow in some regions. Unfortunately, many of the regional varieties have been lost today. While there are about 3000 different lentil varieties known to humans, only about 80 varieties are cultivated worldwide. In many parts of the world, however, there are even fewer lentil varieties available. This is a great shame, because there are a lot of interesting lentil varieties to try out and experiment with. Although it is hard to say which is the best type of lentils, there are plenty to choose from to cook with or even grow in the garden.

Lentil species and varieties

There are six different types of lentils, that belong to the genus Lens. Two of them, Lens nigrans and Lens orientalis, are thought to be the ancestors of Lens culinaris, which is the only lentil species that we cultivate on a large scale and use in the kitchen. There are several ways of classifying lentils. One method of classification is based on the seed size of the lentil, which can range from three to over seven millimetres. Another way of grouping lentil varieties is by colour, which ranges from brown and green, to black and can even reach a blue or purple.

Alb-Leisa lentils

Alb Leisa lentils include three different regional varieties from the European region of the Swabian Alps. In this German region, lentil cultivation has a long tradition and lentils are used to prepare many national dishes, such as “Spätzle”. These regional varieties from Swabia have almost been lost because their cultivation stopped in 1966. Thankfully, a Swabian farmer rediscovered the regional variety of lentil in the Russian gene database for agricultural plants in 2006. Today, the three varieties are being cultivated again: the two light green varieties ‘Späths Alblinse 1’ and ‘Späths Alblinse 2’ and the dark green marbled, small seeded lentil variety.

Brown lentils

Brown lentils are probably the best-known and most frequently used lentils in Central Europe. The variety of this group of lentils is quite impressive: while some species are brown, others range from yellow to orange. When cooked, these lentils become soft and floury without falling apart. They are best suited for stews, spreads and casseroles.

Black beluga lentils

This variety is easy to distinguish from all others. It characteristically has small black seeds that are delicious in taste. Beluga lentils remain firm and crisp even when cooked. The best way to use them in the kitchen is to incorporate them into a salad. Beluga lentils most likely originated in North America, where they are still cultivated on a large scale.

Berry lentils (also Vertes du Berry lentils)

These dark blue marbled lentils are very aromatic. Their skin tends to be thinner, but the inside of these lentils remains firm even when cooked. Berry lentils come from the heart of France and the region, where these lentils come from, is also officially protected. Interestingly, Berry lentils planted in another region cannot be called or marketed as Berry lentils, even if they are the exact same variety.

Puy lentils (also French lentils)

The enticing nutty aroma of these lentils makes salads taste amazing. Puy lentils have a characteristic blue to green marbling. These lentils come from a small region in the middle of France where they have been cultivated for over 1000 years. Similarly to the Green Du Berry lentils, this type of lentil cannot be referred to as a Puy lentil, if they are cultivated elsewhere. Instead, Puy lentils grown in other regions are called green lentils.

Mountain lentils

This type of lentils is strictly speaking not an individual variety of its own. The term ‘mountain lentils’ encompasses the range of lentils grown in various mountainous regions. This means that this group is extremely diverse, and it is hard to pinpoint common features present in all lentils belonging to this group. The only common characteristic of mountain lentils is that they are all cultivated at least 700 m above sea level.

Other types of lentils include yellow and red coloured ones. However, yellow and red lentils are not considered to be separate lentil species. They are basically just peeled brown lentils, as is also the case with many types of mountain lentils. In other words, the difference between red and yellow lentils is not the colour of the skin covering the lentil, but the colour of the core. The classification of lentils is made even more complicated by protected geographical areas. Puy lentils and Vertes du Berry lentils, for example, also grow outside the Puy and Vertes du Berry regions. But in such a case, they are no longer referred to as Puy or Vertes du Berry, even though they are exactly the same.

Growing strawberries: from planting to picking

Growing strawberries: from planting to picking

There is no doubt about it: the best tasting strawberries are the ones that you grow yourself. Here is our ultimate guide for growing strawberries. The beginning of the season of locally grown strawberries (Fragaria) is impatiently awaited by many strawberry enthusiasts. With the onset…

Hydrangea care: expert tips for growing hydrangeas

Hydrangea care: expert tips for growing hydrangeas

This article will provide you with everything you need to know about hydrangea care: from planting and growing to cutting and choosing the right variety. The Hydrangea genus consists of 70 different species, most of which originate from East Asian regions. All species are woody…

Fertilising the lawn: when is the right time?

Fertilising the lawn: when is the right time?

When it comes to lawn fertilisation, the timing is crucial. This is our guide to when and how often the lawn should be fertilised.

Every year in spring or autumn, many lawn owners suddenly realise that their lawn probably needs to be fertilised. And they are correct: a lawn must be supported by fertilisation in order to retain its health, vibrancy and density. Most lawn owners are aware that their lawn probably needs to be fertilised to stay healthy, vividly green and dense. But the question is, when is the right time to fertilise the lawn?

When is the right time to fertilise the lawn?

Not only the choice of the right fertiliser, but also the timing is decisive in lawn care. Using nitrogen fertilisation at the wrong time can promote frost damage or fungal diseases. If the lawn is fertilised too late in autumn, the vital potassium is not absorbed correctly and the grasses are not strengthened against frost. Below we explain when and how often a lawn should be fertilised to keep it healthy.

When and how often per year should the lawn be fertilised?

This depends on the type of soil and fertiliser used. In general, a lawn should be fertilised two to three times a year. The first fertilisation in spring stimulates the shoots, the second fertilisation in early summer prepares the lawn for the strains of summer and the third fertilisation in autumn brings the lawn plants safely through the cold season. Organic fertilisation is always carried out one month earlier than mineral or organic-mineral fertilisation.

Note: The earliest fertilisation in spring is not necessary on heavy soils on which the grasses do not require any initial help to bud.

Fertilising the lawn in spring

On heavy, clay soils, the first fertilisation takes place in May or June and only two doses per year are applied. Organic fertilisers should be applied in April or May. On light, sandy soils, the first fertilisation is carried out in March or April, provided that the weather is favourable. Organic fertilisers are applied in February or March. At this time, it is also possible to fertilise more thoroughly and use a larger amount of organic fertiliser. In this way, you can fertilise only twice a year, as opposed to three times.

Medium-heavy, loamy-sandy or loess soils can be fertilised for the first time from May to June using an organic fertiliser. In this way, one can avoid damage to the lawn, soil or environment even if the fertilising is not perfect. By observing sprouting in spring and decline in growth in autumn, you can adjust the fertilisation the following year. It is best to fertilise one month before the lawn requires nutrients with an organic lawn fertiliser.

If you need more detailed information about the spring care of your lawn, we recommend this article for lawn fertilisation in spring or this article, which also deals with the first mowing, scarifying and fertilisation in spring.

Summary: fertilising the lawn in spring

  • On light soils, fertilisation is carried out for the first time in March/April, on heavy soils in May/June. Organic fertilisation always takes place one month earlier.
  • On medium-heavy soils we strongly recommend the use of organic fertilisers or very precise observation of sprouting and growth – otherwise, lawn damage or leaching might occur.
  • It is important to fertilise organically early and in sufficient quantity to ensure supply throughout the summer.

Fertilising the lawn in autumn

The last lawn fertilisation of the year generally takes place between June and October. If you want to use a mineral or organic mineral slow-release fertiliser for autumn lawn fertilisation, make sure that the fertilisation process ends before October at the latest to prevent leaching into the groundwater and frost damage to the lawn.

Fertilising lawn in autumn is best done with an organic fertiliser. If the rest of this product remains in the soil over the winter, it stops releasing any further due to the cold temperatures and can only be used again when it is warmed up in spring. However, do not apply an organic fertiliser too late in the season so that the lawn has enough time to absorb the important potassium. This increases cell walls’ stability and frost resistance.

Summary: fertilising the lawn in autumn

  • The last lawn fertilisation takes place between June and October.
  • Organic slow-release fertilisers are the only ones you can actually apply until October. Mineral fertilisers can cause lawn damage if applied too late.

Growing pumpkins: planting, fertilising & harvesting

Growing pumpkins: planting, fertilising & harvesting

Pumpkins are currently very popular to grow in the garden but also to use in the kitchen. With these tips your pumpkin harvest will be a guaranteed triumph. The cultivation of pumpkins (Cucurbita) at home is becoming more and more popular in Europe. Especially in…

Top 10 tips for growing pumpkins

Top 10 tips for growing pumpkins

Let us share with you 10 practical tips on how to grow pumpkins easily and inexpensively in your own garden. Pumpkins are an absolute must for autumn and Halloween. Whether as a Jack-o’-lantern with a cheeky grimace, a decorative garden element or as a delicious…

Chafer grubs: treatment, identification & prevention

Chafer grubs: treatment, identification & prevention

Chafer grubs are larvae of different beetle species. While some can do a lot of damage, others can be useful helpers in the garden.

The grubs are the larvae of the scarab beetle family Scarabaeoidea. The most common beetles of this family are the May beetle (also cockchafer or doodlebug), June beetles (summer chafer), the garden chafer, the flower chafer and rhinoceros beetles. While the adult beetles feed on leaf matter (causing only minimal damage), the grubs find their food underground and can, for example, inflict significant damage to the plant roots. But not all grubs are pests.

Distinguishing grubs and identifying differences

In the following, you can learn about the differences between the useful and the harmful types of grubs.

Chafer grubs: identifying the useful species

The larvae of the flower chafer and rhinoceros beetles are beneficial organisms. The rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes nasicornis) is the largest representative of the scarab beetle family and is a protected species. It can grow between 2.5 and 4 cm in size. The males of the rhinoceros beetles carry a horn bent backwards on their head, which strongly resembles the horn of their heavyweight mammal namesakes. The female animals possess a small protrusion in the same place. The larvae have the typical shape of all scarab beetle larvae. They are very large, coarse and white in colour. Three relatively long leg pairs and the brown head capsule are on the front part of the body. The entire body of the larva is C-shaped.

The flower chafer (Cetoniinae) also belongs to the protected beetle species. Its carapace has a shiny green to copper-golden colour. Its underside is quite hairy. It is often found on rose petals and therefore bears the common name flower chafer. But it is not really harmful for these plants.

The larvae of the flower chafers and the rhinoceros beetles are very useful. They feed mainly on dead plant matter and wood remains and thus provide for the formation of humus. The females of both beetle species also like to lay their eggs in compost heaps.

In order to recognise the “good” chafer grubs, here a few clear characteristics:

  • The flower chafer grub is white with a greyish shade. Its front part is a bit slimmer than its rear part. If it is laid on a smooth surface, it stretches, turns and crawls away on its back. He stretches three pairs of small legs at chest height.
  • Three pairs of legs and a thickened rear part are also typical for the larvae of the rhinoceros beetle. However, it towers above the larva of the flower chafer by a double and can grow up to 10 cm long. The development of the grubs of the flower chafer is two to three years. The rhinoceros beetle development is even longer and lasts between two and five years. The different times are influenced by the climate of the animals’ habitat.

Both beetle species feed on fallen or dead plant material or rotting wood and bark. They therefore do not damage living plants through root feeding, like the grubs of the other beetle species. Only once they reach adulthood, they feed on leaves. Nonetheless, they are not considered pests.

Chafer grubs: identifying the harmful species

The larvae of May beetles (Melolontha), June beetles (Amphimallon solstitiale) and garden chafers (Phyllopertha horticola) are pests. They feed mainly on the roots of living plants.

The grubs of the three beetles mentioned above are quite similar in appearance to one another. All have a C-shaped curved body, a brownish head capsule and three pairs of legs in the chest area. However, they differ in size. The larva of the garden chafer is the smallest with about 2 cm. The June beetle can measure up to 3 cm and the May beetle up to 6 cm. But beware: younger stages of the cockchafer larvae can easily be confused with those of the June beetle. If you want to be absolutely sure, you have to get help from a professional to identify them. The front and rear parts of all three species have approximately the same diameter. Based on the way the grubs move, they can also be distinguished from the useful grubs of the flower chafer and rhinoceros beetles. While they stretch out and crawl away on their backs, the May bug larvae maintain a curved posture, whereas the June beetle and garden chafer stretch out but try to make progress in the prone position.

Here is a short description of the adult beetles:

May beetle:

The grubs of the May beetle (also referred to as cockchafer) remain in the ground for three to five years, depending on the climate of their habitat. The beetle has brown wings, a black neck shield and a black and white pattern reminiscent of triangles on the sides. Its antennae look like tiny fans.

June beetle:

The larvae of the June beetle hibernate twice and pupate in the spring of the third year. The beetles also have fan-like antennae. The colour of their carapace ranges from brown to dark yellow. The neck shield stands out because of how dark it is and is divided by a light midline.

Garden chafer:

The entire life cycle of the garden chafer from the egg to the adult beetle is between one and three years, depending on the climate. They grow to about 1 cm long. Their elytra are light brown in colour. The rest of the body is black-green and shiny metallic.

The grubs of the May, June and garden chafers feed on the largest roots on lawns and in potted plants.

Combatting chafer grubs: how to get rid of them

The larvae of May, June and garden beetles can be found in many gardens. They might be present even if you don’t notice them. If there are only a few of them, the root feeding is not threatening for the plants and they can regenerate well. If, however, there is a large number of grubs, you should consider controlling the pests in order to protect your garden.

Grubs in flower pots and raised beds

If a plant in a flower pot is miserable and you want to find out whether grubs are the cause of this, dip the pot completely into a bucket of water. Wait an hour or two. The little animals don’t like to be drenched in water at all and will soon appear on the surface. Then you can collect the pests.

If you want to be on the safe side, water the plants with water mixed with nematodes of the genus Heterorhabditis bacteriophora. These are available in all well-assorted specialist shops and are by far the most effective method of eliminating grubs. The almost invisible nematodes attach themselves to the pest, parasitize on it and then kill it. The same applies here: the environmental conditions determine the success or failure of the nematode application.

Further useful tips and facts on the use of nematodes can be found here.

You should never place flower pots in the garden without the drainage trays. In addition to having your plants potted correctly, it helps to grow geraniums. The grubs greatly dislike geraniums. They also steer well clear of larkspur (Delphinium).

In a raised bed, it would also be advisable to pour the soil through a sieve before sowing or replanting. Then you can be absolutely sure that there are no grubs in the soil.

Last but not least, do not forget that a few grubs are a natural occurrence even in the most well-kept gardens. In a limited number they do not cause any significant damage.

Grubs in the lawn

If you find yellow patches on your lawn, grubs could be the reason. They eat away the roots of the grasses, causing them to atrophy. To find evidence, remove a small turf of the lawn. The larvae of the aforementioned one or more species of beetles live just below the surface. If crows, blackbirds or other birds also scour the bald spot for the protein-rich prey, the damage to the lawn becomes all the greater.

Nematodes, also referred to as roundworms, belong to the genus Heterorhabditis bacteriophora can be used to eliminate grubs in lawns or pots. However, nematodes require specific conditions to be successful. Make sure that you use nematodes at a temperature of at least 12 °C so that they are effective.

chafer grubs
If needed, grubs can be safely eliminated with the help of nematodes [Shutterstock.com/ S.O.E]

Traps direct the insects to other places in the garden. To make a trap for grubs you need large pots or buckets. These are filled up to 10 cm with compost or horse manure. These containers are dug into the garden to a depth of about half a metre and the left-over edge is filled with soil. The best time to place the grub traps into the ground is in the spring months and near the affected area. After a year, they can be dug out, refilled and put in the soil again.

Tip: Let plenty of dandelion grow all around.

If you create a paradise for the grubs in one limited area in the garden, you can then embed vertical plates (for example rhizome barriers) deep into the soil to contain the area further. To prevent an infestation of the lawn, pour garlic brew over the area. This will deter the grubs.

Tip: Many gardeners think that frequent mowing of the lawn can minimise the amount of cockchafer grubs. However, too frequent lawn mowing or scarifying can, in fact, make it easier for grubs to enter the soil. Therefore, ensure a dense and thick lawn cover and let the lawn grow a little longer. What the lawn may lack in aesthetics, it can balance out in its practicality. A taller lawn is a great advantage for pest control and can reduce infestation by grubs up to 70%. For more tips on how to control grubs in the lawn, click here.

Types of chillies: chilli varieties at a glance

Types of chillies: chilli varieties at a glance

Jalapeño, Tabasco, Cayenne and Habanero are well-known varieties. Learn about the chilli varieties from mild & fruity to fiery-hot here. According to experts, there are 3000 to 4000 different types of chillies worldwide. This enormous number is distributed among about 35 different species. Both peppers…