Longacres Chemical Department - FAQ
Here at Longacres our Ferts and Chems team are always busy answering your questions. Some questions have an easy answer whilst some can get rather technical and we thought it might be useful for you to have a handy guide to some technical terms that might have left you puzzled and answers to some of our most commonly asked questions.
Firstly the most important thing to do is to READ THE PACKAGING. This contains all the instructions telling you how to use and where to use each product safely and correctly. Always apply any product at the correct rate. You would not overdose on your prescription tablets from the doctor because you thought it would make the treatment more effective and make you feel better; quicker. In the same way you should not mix treatments stronger than is recommended, it wont make it work any better and will just end up wasting product and wasting your money as it may even reduce the effectiveness of the product.
All life on our planet relies on chemicals and their reactions to exist. However many people say that they don't like to chemicals in the garden when what they really mean is that they want to use natural and organic treatments rather than man-made chemical treatments. Whatever its source technically speaking its still a chemical even if its an organic product.
Fertilisers plant foods and lawn foods
All plants need food, water and sunlight to survive and thrive and to stimulate healthy growth lovely blooms and delicious fruit you need to feed your plants. One of the questions we get asked the most is - whats wrong with my plant? Most of the time its just in need of a good feed. Fertiliser and food means the same thing its just that fertiliser is the technical term. Whether you say fertiliser or food and whether you use a synthetic food like westland growmore or a organic one like vitax organic liquid seaweed the important thing is that you feed your plants. Your garden will look better if you do and plants that are healthy and well fed will recover from attack from pests and diseases much better than those that are left to survive untended.
Lawns like a feed with high levels of Nitrogen in the spring and summer and low levels of Nitrogen in the autumn. For more information on caring for lawns see our other blogs on this subject.
Pests and diseases
Your plants are under threat from a myriad of attackers. Some are insects which suck the sap like mosquitoes suck blood and others chop on leaves and shoots. Just like the mosquito these insects can spread viral or bacteriological diseases and transmit other parasites as well as fungal infections which can also be spread on the wind. For dealing with insect pests you use an insecticide such as Bayer Provado ultimate bugkiller, Wesltand resolva bug killer or Scotts Bugclear ultra and for fungal pests you use a fungicide such as Bayer fungus fighter plus or Scotts fungus clear ultra. You can also buy dual action insecticide and fungicides such as Scotts Roseclear ultra, Bayer multirose, Westland rose rescue, Wesltand resolva natural power bug and mildew as well as Vita 2 in 1 plant invigorator. These are classed as pesticides along with our next subject herbicides. All pesticides are either contact killers which means they are effective where you apply them but only on the area you treat or systemic which means they are absorbed through the leaves and circulate in the plant to protect it all over.
Weedkillers are pesticides classed as a herbicide and there are many different types. This makes buying a weedkiller a daunting task so its best to consider where the weeds are growing.
Weeds in the lawn are a particular problem as most weedkillers will also kill your lawn so make sure that you buy one that says its for use on lawns such as westland resolva weedkiller for lawns, Scotts Weedol lawn weedkiller, and Vitax lawnclear2. These will target all broadleaved weeds and won't kill your lawn.
Weeds in paths and drives are best dealt with by using a specific path and drive weedkiller and the best ones have 2 components. the first kills the weeds that are growing there now and the second is called a residual because it keeps working for sometime and makes sure that any weed seeds that are blown onto the area will also be killed long after the original treatment. Scotts Weedol pathclear is one of the best of these as it will keep working for up to 3 months.
Weeds in beds and borders can be difficult to deal with,if you can spray the leaves with a systemic glyphosate based weedkiller such as Roundup without getting it on the leaves or soft green stems of anything you want to keep you. If you can't spray the leaves of the weed because you would hit the leaves or soft green stems of plants you want to keep the Roundup Gel is your best choice because you apply a layer of gel to the leaves of the plants you want to keep.
Tree stumps and tough weeds
Once again Roundup is your friend in these cases. When you cut down a tree you should immediately apply roundup tree stump killer to the freshly cut stump because of the systemic action. If you want to clear ivy or patches of ground elder, brambles, or nettles you should also use this version of Roundup as it is the strongest weedkiller you can buy. Again if you cannot spray because of the risk of killing plants you want to keep Roundup tough gel is your best choice.
Lawn treatment is the area which deters most people as it seems very complicated but it is really quite easy. For an in depth guide see our other blogs on lawn care.
Scarification and aeration
This simply means raking the lawn to remove any dead material and then spiking the lawn with tools such a a hollow tine lawn aerator or a good garden fork to make holes in the lawn that must be at least 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5cm) deep to allow air and water to flow down beneath the top layer of soil which becomes compacted over time. This is a job to do at least once a year in either early spring or autumn which robs pests of somewhere to hide and grow and helps to promote healthy root growth.
Feed your lawn at least twice a year spring and autumn preferably three times a year spring early summer and autumn but no more than every 6 to 8 weeks. Do not use spring and summer treatments in the autumn as they are too strong and can kill your lawn and conversely do not use autumn products in the spring or summer as they are too weak and can cause diseases such as snowy mould to develop.
Granular feeds should be applied when the grass is dry to the touch and watered in lightly if there is no rain within 2 days of application.
Liquid feeds should be use during hotter weather applied either in the early morning or late afternoon/early evening when the sun is not too strong as otherwise it will evaporate the liquid reducing its effectiveness.
Granular feeds are either just food on it own or with a weedkiller and/or a mosskiller such as Scotts lawnbuilder, Scotts lawn builder with weed control, Evergreen complete, Westland aftercut all in one, or evergreen mosskill. Examples of liquid treatments are Vitax greenup liquid lawn food, Vitax greenup liquid feed and weed, evergreen liquid mosskill.
Grass seed should not be sown nor should turf be laid within 6 weeks of any lawncare application as it may kill the seed or turf.
Watering and improving the soil
As was said earlier water is one of the most important things your garden needs. Too much will drown your garden and too little will result in a drought. Freshly planted plants usually need much more water in their first year but it all depends on your soil. A heavy poorly draining soil holds on to water and plants can become waterlogged. Conversely soils that are too free draining will cause plants to suffer from drought conditions as the water flows away before the plants can absorb it. Fortunately there is an easy solution. Improving the soil by adding organic material such as stable manure like country natural organic will vastly improve the body of the soil breaking up clay and adding body to sandy soils. If you have your own compost heap at home this is an excellent source of soil improving material. Some plants like an acid soil such as Rhododendrons and Azealeas, Camelias, Heathers and Blueberrys. Buying a soil testing kit will tell you what the pH of your soil is. The pH scale shows whether the soil is acidic sometimes called ericaceous, neutral, or alkalai. Once you know what pH your soil is you can decide what plants will thrive in your garden.
It is worth bearing in mind that if you have a heavy clay soil you can add horticultural sharp sand to the soil in addition to the manure however the quantities required and the depth you will have to dig down to may be uneconomical. If this is the case consider creating raised beds on top of those areas to support your plants. Some plants tell you to add humus also called leaf mould to the plants when you plant them and contrary to popular opinion you cannot buy this in any shop. It is something you will have to make yourself in a compost heap in your garden.
This product is an ecellent ground cover that helps to prevent the spread of weeds and locks moisture into the soil beneath. However we are often asked why it is covered in moulds mushrooms and toadstools. Depending on the weather you may open a bag to see that the bark is often covered with a white mould. It is important to realise that this is supposed to happen. The moulds bind the bark togeather so that in dry weather it doesn't get blown away by the wind. These moulds are then sometimes joined by mushrooms and toadstools who begin the natural process of breaking down the bark and releasing the nutrients into the soil which helps feed your plants.
Mushrooms and Toadstools
Foraging for wild mushrooms and toadstools is becoming an evermore popular past time and we often get people asking us to identify samples and are asked if they are poisonous or edible. This is a very difficult subject to be certain on and we never give advice on this subject. We always advise customers to consult with a professional expert on fungi with regards to edibility or toxicity as it is so difficult to be sure and it is one of the few areas we do not have expertise in. There are many guide books on the subject as well as excellent online tools but caution is advised as some edible fungi are very similar to poisonous ones and it can sometimes be impossible to tell the difference even for the experts. Basically do not eat it unless your sure its edible and this has been verified by an expert.
If you are concerned about mushrooms in your garden the safest thing to do is to wear good gloves and pick them out and put them in your compost heap or bin however if you can leave them where they are it is usually best to do so and allow nature to take its course.
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about impoverished soils due to erosion leeching and over farming where the essential minerals have been exhausted or washed out of the soil. The technical term is remineralisation and occurs naturally during ice ages and during volcanic eruptions neither of which are likely to happen here in the UK (we hope!) So what are you supposed to do if your garden soil is impoverished. As outlined before a regular application of maunre every year is a great help with regard to nutrients and organic matter but what about those essential minerals. Happily we have just the product for you - Angus Rockdust is a byproduct of the quarrying industry in Scotland bagged up ready for you to add to your soils each year.
2017 also saw the launch of a new product range from Scoots called Black magic. Its a mix of bat guano (bat poo) bio-char (a 200 year old process first practiced as far as we know by the ancient Mayans in south America where plant waste is burnt and turned into a charcoal for improving soil quality as well as improving nutrient and water retention) humic acids (the byproduct of breaking down dead organic material) and worm casts as well as coco-coir perelite and zeolite. Also available as a liquid tonic this is a new and exciting way using natural materials of providing your plants with an excellent source of nutrients.
Composting is an excellent way of recycling waste organic materials from your home such as grass cuttings kitchen vegetable waste and old newspapers. The best composting bins called wormeries incorporate worms to break down the material into nutrient rich material with a sump to collect the worms liquid waste which you can siphon off with a tap into your watering can to give you an excellent liquid fertiliser.
Finally and most importantly if you are unsure of anything please ask. There is no such thing as a stupid question and we are here to help you. So come in for a chat with our experts call us on the phone or drop us an email. We do like you to bring samples or highly details photos to help us identify the problem and if we do not know we have ways of finding the answer.