Tag Archives: may gardening

A Guide to Compost

Our compost guide

All plants are different

All plants have different needs with regard to composts. There are many specific types of composts that fulfil the criteria of what you are growing, however, multipurpose composts can often be adapted to work similarly. This compost guide will work through the common plants, the properties of compost that they need and how to modify multipurpose compost to do a similar job.

To sow seeds

Seeds need a fine compost to help roots spread out and with holding water properties, however not so fine that the water holding becomes water logging. It is best to put this fine compost in tiny cell seed trains. 

Adapting multipurpose compost; sieve the compost to remove any coarse lumps and make it finer, also add vermiculite which is a fine particle that helps to keep roots healthy by letting air into the root zone.

To grow cuttings

You need a free draining and coarse growing media here. 

Adapting multipurpose compost; to ‘open up’ compost is to make it more free draining by increasing the porosity of it. This can be done by incorporating coarse ingredients like coarse grit or perlite.

To grow house plants

A good balance of drainage is needed for house plants. Drainage that is too free can lead to the plants drying out however if the drainage isn’t free enough then accidental overwatering can easily kill the plants. There are numerous specialist composts in this area and many designed for set sub groups like cacti or orchids (see below). Luckily they all come in small bag sizes perfect for 1-5 plants.

Adapting multipurpose compost; the best combination for house plants is a ratio of 80:20 of a peat substitute or peat to perlite. Also add some fertiliser and ground limestone too.

To grow orchids

A pink flowering orchidThey need a very free draining media because they are not specially adapted to living in soil and their roots are hugely sensitive to water logging. Naturally they live in the branches of trees so the best mixes are actually very chunky.

Adapting multipurpose compost; to create this really coarse media you can add bark and even pieces of synthetic sponge to your multipurpose.

To grow trees and shrubs

A rose shrubThese require both good aeration and good drainage. Using fine compost here does not work because it is left for a long time, over this time the finer materials decompose and settle which is known to close air spaces and cause disease or even drown the roots. This is easily prevented by adding in coarse ingredients and loam.

Adapting multipurpose compost; open up the compost with bark chips and also add lime and fertiliser. In this case, it may be best to go with John Innes compost which will be much easier. You can buy multi-purpose compost with added John Innes.

To grow seasonal bedding plants in pots

Summer bedding plantsThis is where you don’t really need to adapt the multi-purpose compost. It does the job nicely, however you may wish to add some water retaining crystals so the compost does not dry out too quickly. 

To grow acid loving plants (like Camellias, Rhododendrons, Leptospermums, heathers etc)

A cameliaYou need an ericaceous compost for these plants. 

Strawberries being grown in a hanging basket.

Strawberries in hanging baskets

Switching it up with your strawberries

Strawberries make the perfect summer fruit and are one of the most versatile crops. Now you don’t even need a kitchen garden to grow them in!

Hanging Baskets 

Juciy, red, homegrown strawberries.

Strawberries are a tasty summer favourite and can be grown in several different ways!

This season how about growing your strawberries in a hanging basket? With the fruits growing over the edges, they look great and the fact they will have plenty of air circulating around them eliminates the likelihood of mould and mildew occurring. Additionally, because they are off the ground, they are completely safe from the wrath of slugs and snails.  If you don’t want to reach for the heights, strawberries will grow brilliantly in terracotta pots or even in window troughs.

Top Tips

Our tips for growing strawberries in containers are;

  • – keep them well fed and watered.
  • – don’t worry about the lack of soil, it isn’t a problem as strawberries only have shallow roots.
  • -whilst feeding and watering we recommend trying to keep water away from the leaves to avoid fungal diseases.
  • – try this popular feeding trick- to use a liquid tomato feed (like Tomorite) every couple of weeks once the strawberries have begun to flower. This works well due to the high potash content in the feed.
  • – hang your baskets or place your pots in a sunny spot which is ideal to encourage the swelling and ripening of fruits.

Strawberry Varieties

With 7 different varieties being grown here at St Bridget Nurseries, all with different qualities such as yield size, harvest times, disease resistance, flavour and plant shape. There will inevitably be one to suit your garden needs. Speak to our experts if you need more information about the specifics of each variety of strawberry!

Other ‘edible baskets’

If you love this hanging basket idea, it is also adaptable to tumbling tomatoes, chillies,  cut and come again salad and herbs! What will your next edible basket contain?

Potatoes- what on earth?

Potatoes – what on earth?

We often hear the phrase ‘Earthing up’ whilst speaking about potatoes, especially around this time of the year. It is much simpler and more useful than it may sound!

Earthing up

Earthing up or ridging as it is sometimes known, is simply drawing up soil into a ridge above the row of planted potatoes. You can do this as soon as foliage emerges above the surface.


  •  it protects the early foliage from any frost damage.
  •  it blocks light from reaching the tubers which can have the adverse effect of turning the tubers green and making them inedible. To make sure this is always happening, we recommend earthing up in stages.
  • finally, the piled up soil can help to lock in moisture which allows the tubers to ‘swell’ and grow.

 For container potatoes

Maybe you have decided to grow potatoes in sacks or containers, if so the process of earthing up still applies- simply add layers of compost in stages as the stems begin to grow. Carry on until you reach the top of the container. A good heap of about 8 inches / 20-cm should be enough.

Don’t rush

After all your efforts with earthing up, don’t give in to the temptation of harvesting your crops too early. For early potatoes be sure to wait until the flowers are completely out and for the main crop variety you can hold back until the foliage begins to turn yellow.



Rows of tomato seeds being grown into tomato plants for sale in the garden centres.

Time for tomatoes

Tomatoes – tips for your best harvest yet

Tropical Tomatoes

Rows of tomato seeds being grown into tomato plants for sale in the garden centres.

Tomatoes being grown in the nurseries

Originally from South America, tomatoes tend to prefer a warmer climate and suffer when the temperatures drop below 10°C. Consequently, take care not to plant your tomatoes outdoors too early. This will prevent a number of problems such as catfacing (malformation and scarring of the fruit), brown leaf spots and leaf curling. A tomato plant can usually survive these issues and recover in the warmth. However, if it was a surprise frost that caught your tomatoes then the damage is usually permanent and it is best to start over.

Getting the best results from your tomato plants

For best results we recommend covering the tomatoes until you are sure that the weather will be warm enough. A great indicator for this is usually when the temperature remains above 10°C overnight, so buy yourself an outdoor thermometer to check when you next pop in to one of our garden centres.  Next, choose the warmest spot possible in your garden. Ideally keep your tomato plants in a greenhouse or plastic grow-house. Make sure that the spot is also aerated and a fair distance from your potatoes because blight can travel and flourishes in humid conditions. Another option to try out is planting your tomatoes in pots in the sunniest part of your terrace or balcony for great fruit and decoration!

After planting;

  •  Stake or cage all your plants (except if you are growing trailing varieties in a basket or small bush types).
  • Tie the main stem to a vertical bamboo cane (again not for bush or hanging basket types).
  • Remove side-shoots regularly- when they get to about 2.5cm long (again not for hanging basket types).
  • Water consistently– tomatoes grow most successfully when they have consistent moisture. With all watery fruit (like berries) you will get bigger juicier ones with lots of watering. To avoid diseases do not water the foliage but instead aim your water straight onto the root zones and the compost. Irregular watering is the cause of many common problems including cracked fruit and blossom end rot.
  • Remove the growing point of the main stem two leaves above the top truss (stem with small green fruits). This should be done once your vine tomato has grown to have seven trusses if grown indoors, or four trusses if grown outside.


Feeding tomatoes should start after the first truss (stem with small green fruits) has set in. We recommend the product Tomorite as it has been a gardener’s friend for decades. It is ideal for other plants too including flowering plants due to the high potash content. It contains seaweed extract which supplies many micro-nutrients and produces full flavoured tomatoes. Outdoors you feed every 7 days, in a greenhouse feed twice a week.


Start picking when fruit is ripe and fully coloured. At the end of the growing season if you have some green tomatoes still on the plant, we recommend this delicious green tomato chutney recipe.

Varieties to choose from

We sell numerous tomato varieties throughout the growing season available in batches as they are ready from the greenhouses. Without a doubt our top selling varieties year on year are;

Gardeners Delight: a flavoursome cherry tomato known for heavy crops and great to grow in tomato bags or pots.

Shirley: an early maturing tomato that is known for heavy crops and also shows excellent disease resistance. Ideal for growing in a growbag or as a greenhouse cordon.

Moneymaker: grown as a cordon (vine) this variety produces smooth, medium salad tomato sized fruit that are delicious in flavour.

Fun Fact

Tomatoes are often treated as a vegetable in cooking and in deed our classification on the garden centre beds. However, the tomato is actually a fruit since its seeds are inside.