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Sunday, 16 November 2014

Hanging Basket Challenge

We have been challenged by Plant Me Now to create a hanging basket design for next year. Our normal approach to creating our baskets on the patio is to cram various bedding plants in left over from doing the pots without too much thought. So actually planning the basket has been a fun and different approach.

Our central plant in our basket design is Fuchsia Snowcap an upright variety that produces masses of semi-double red and white flowers all summer long.

This Fuchsia has an RHS award for garden merit and its easy to see why, with fantastic vivid flowers. In Fuchsia circles its a famous variety bred more than a hundred years ago and still very popular.

It is equally happy in cool shade or alternatively in sun so it works well as a basket plant. It can be kept alive for the following year if you over winter in a frost free place such as your greenhouse.



We have selected a number of plants from the Plant Me Now's fine selection of bedding plants.  Around our focal point we will plant petunias (Petunia Fanfare Royal Purple), Verbena (Aztec Burgandy and Estrella Pink Star)


Petunia Fanfare Royal Purple is a trailing Petunia with a naturally compact habit. This variety flowers early and produces masses of large brightly coloured flowers, that last all Summer long. Making it an outstanding patio performer, in baskets and containers. Verbena Estrella Pink Star is a upright/semi-trailing variety of Verbena that performs well in full sun or part shade and flowers from June to August.

To tone down the pink just a little and pick up on the white of the Fuchsia flowers we have also added a double white Calibrachoa - Can Can.


Softening the edge of the basket we have added Lysimachia nummularis Aurea which is a trailing lysimachia.



To care for your basket remember not to hang out side until all risk of frost has passed. Do remember to water every day and dont allow your basket to dry out. There are often many plants in a small space so it is important to give them lots of water. Feed them weekly with a general purpose fertiliser. If you dead-head the flowers after they have finished you will keep the basket looking good for a longer time.

Here is a sketch of our design


So there you have it, what do you think?

DG

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Things to Grow in the November Allotment


Although the weather is still reasonably mild, and lots of trees are still hanging on to their leaves, there are plenty of signs that winter is on its way now. The days are getting shorter and after the clock went back last weekend its dark in the evening too. Frosts will soon be a regular visitor... so it is easy to relax and imagine that there is little to grow at this time of year. Think again! There's actually lots of preparation and plants to get started in November. So what vegetables can be grown in November in the UK? 

Garlic
Of course it is possible to start your garlic in the the Spring with some varieties being perfectly happy being planted in early spring, November is by far the best time. Garlic really does need a good dose of frost as this cold will encourage the bulbs to split into cloves. And whilst planting them you can think back to the sunnier times in June and July when you were harvesting them. 

For a guide to growing garlic, check out our handy guide on how to grow garlic. 

Onions & shallots
By now we are just about as late as we can go for planting onions or shallot sets in before Winter really gets going. Personally my favourites are the Japanese Sensyhu onions as these are nice and hardy as well as being pretty easy to raise (a perfect combination). 

Broad Beans 
Usually the advice is to sow your broad beans late Winter to Spring between February and May, so why would we be advising growing them in November? The reason is to extend the growing and therefore the cropping season. If one just relies on your Spring sowings then you would expect to be harvesting your produce between July and August. However by having an Autumn sowing as well you'll then be able to have an additional crop in June as well.

Peas
Exactly the same idea as with your broad beans, start some early and crop earlier as well potentially up to 6 weeks earlier.

Whatever you choose to grow enjoy it and keep warm!

DG

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

3 Chances to Win our TD368 Plastic Garden Cupboard worth £59.88 each!

Filplastic shelving unit
In spring 2014 Filplastic introduced a range of plastic shelving & cupboards, perfect for outdoor use. We’re giving away 3 of our most popular plastic cupboards, the TD368.  The model has 4 adjustable shelves, and a compartment to store brushes or garden tools. It is lockable with a padlock (not supplied) and made from 100% recycled material. To see more about this model, plus the full range please visit http://www.filplastic.co.uk/collections/shelving/plastic-shelving-and-cupboards

The cupboard retails at £39.95, plus delivery and VAT making a total of £59.88 per unit. We will deliver to the competition prize to anywhere on the UK mainland. The competition closing date is 21/11/14, winners will be notified

To be in with a chance simply tell us what you plan to store in your cupboard, should you be one of the 3 lucky winners.             


Extra entries can be made by sharing this competition on facebook via the Diligent Gardener Page.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Extending the season

With winter fast approaching, now is the time to do a little garden prepping. From storing summer furniture in the garage, to transplanting any delicate plants from the garden to pots and moving them indoors, there are a number of factors to consider.

Dealing with the cold frosty weather

Harsh weather, particularly frost, can trigger a freezing process to take place in the water in plant cells. When this happens, plants appear blackened, limp and distorted. Even hardy plants can be damaged by severe spells of cold weather.

In order to prevent this damage, it’s wise to choose plants suited to your local climate. If you have the room, transfer any smaller plants indoors. Asides from plants, harsh winter weather can also have an affect on the home’s exterior.

From loose roofing ties to broken garden fences and cars damaged by debris, storm damage isn’t uncommon today. If you don’t already have home insurance in place, now may be the time to enquire about a More Than home insurance quote.

In the case of accidental storm damage, you can turn to your insurance provider instead of having to deal with any unplanned damage alone.

Growing herbs indoors

Growing herbs indoors allows keen cooks to enjoy the pleasures of freshly picked herbs each and every season. The likes of coriander, basil, mint and wild bergamot will all come in handy when garnishing warming winter soups and creating tasty Christmas dinners.

When moving these plants indoors, it’s important to do so carefully. Begin by digging around the roots to avoid damaging them and place them in a pot that is big enough to allow them to breath.

If you have a conservatory, this is a great place to put herbs, tender perennials and immature annuals whilst the weather is a little on the cold side. Once spring arrives, simply return them back to their rightful place in the garden.

Brightening up the home

As well as growing plants indoors, flowers can add a great deal of warmth to the home’s interior come Christmas time. Opt for floral arrangements in red, orange, yellow and green.

A vase of hot-hued flowers will make a great table centrepiece this festive season.




Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Are You Replacing Garden Tools Unnecessarily?


 
Do you recognise this scenario? You’ve done a heavy but satisfying day in the garden of weeding, pruning and digging. The hot bath and the drink with your name on it are calling to you. You know you really should clean your tools before putting them away, but surely that’ll wait until tomorrow? Carrying out simple maintenance directly after using your tools should make them last, but if you do need to replace, never buy ‘cheap and cheerful’. Investing in top quality hand tools that will last, is the smart option.

Ditch That Dirt
Make sure you wash the dirt off thoroughly. Use a hose and if you’ve let the dirt dry, have a stiff brush handy to remove stubborn bits. If your pruning shears have sap on them, you may need a solvent to shift this. It may seem obvious but once the tool is clean, dry it completely. Have a towel handy in the shed or garage for this purpose.

Protection
Even if you think your tools are rustproof, it’s still a sensible idea to oil them. This has the added benefit of stopping them seizing up. Ever own a pair of secateurs that gave you an RSI from using them? Keep them greased.

Sharpening
During the winter, it’s a good idea to have some tools sharpened, depending on how much they’ve been used. Spades, trowels, hoes and forks all benefit from sharpening. You could use a grinder or sharpening file and do it yourself, or take it to a garden centre that offers this service. Hedgetrimmers, etc, should probably be left to a professional.

Power Tools
As careful as you might be with corded power tools, it’s worth checking the cables on a regular basis for splits, nasty kinks or frays. If you catch problems early, they can be easily rectified; far better than taking a trip in an ambulance!

Simple Checks
Check those handles. Imagine what damage a pick axe could do if the handle was loose. Wooden handles are prone to drying out and splitting, so you may need to replace some.

Storage
If your garden tools are all piled in a corner or shoved in a shed, isn’t it more difficult to find what you need? Having a peg board for smaller items and wall hooks for larger tools can make life much easier. It also keeps them off the ground, where the damp can reach them.  

If you love gardening, then you should also love your tools. The amount of time invested in maintaining them will pay dividends.
DG

Friday, 10 October 2014

How to Create an Exotic Garden Pond

Garden ponds add a great point of interest to your garden and they can also help to improve the environment by creating a safe and diverse habitat for many different species. From frogs and newts to harmless leeches and freshwater mussels, a variety of different fish to the Great Pond Snail, a pond can be a great home and resting place for a whole host of wildlife. Garden ponds also provide fresh drinking water for birds and mammals, and it also gives them a safe area to cool off in the hot summer season. So keeping your pond thriving all year round is very important and beneficial to the environment.

If you want to create an exotic garden pond, full of interesting wildlife and plantlife, read on to find out how.

Agave on edge of Koi Pond

Choose Interesting Plants
There are many ways of making your garden pond look exotic; whether you want to choose an Eastern landscaping theme or you just want to bring together an eclectic and colourful mix of flora and fauna, an exotic pond can be engineered from your choice of plantlife. When digging your pond, be sure to dig different levels in the ground to create plant shelves. Plant shelves at all levels are essential if you want to create diversity and variety; different plants will need to be planted at different heights to the water level.

In the UK, we are not blessed with tropical weather but it isn’t completely impossible to create a tropical-inspired garden. If you want something different to a traditional English garden, take a look at the tropical garden design on ExoticGarden.com for inspiration.
 Exotic planting approaching the new Koi Pond

Add a Stylish Water Feature
Water features are one of the easiest and quickest ways of adding another dimension to your pond design. Does your garden pond currently look a bit lacklustre and boring? Add a water feature such as a beautiful fountain or a tumbling waterfall and you can really turn your pond into a focal point on your garden.

Installing a water feature will not only make your garden look pretty but the sound of trickling water or the soft surge of a waterfall is extremely relaxing. For pond landscaping supplies, visit All Pond Solutions for a wide range of products including fountain and waterfall pumps and pond liners.  

Exotic Fish
If you’re a keen fish keeper or breeder, there are some very beautiful and exotic species you could keep in your outdoor pond, including the very desirable and sought after koi carp. The information on this website tells you how to build the perfect outdoor pond for keeping koi and also advices on how to feed them.
 Koi Pond


Other interesting fish species you can keep in a cold outdoor garden pond include the beautifully pattern shubunkins, sarasa comets, golden orfe, and tench. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

The Best Ways to Decorate your Garden

Hilliers Risk Garden At Chelsea Flower Show 2013Even the most attentive gardeners can still occasionally be guilty of letting their little piece of land become a bit ordinary and dull. Yes, you may keep the lawn nice and tidy, but it might be that you’re at a bit of a loss as to what you can do to decorate your garden, and turn into something paradisiacal that you are proud to show off, or content to simply sit in and relax.

Whatever your horticultural prowess, you’ll be pleased to know there are things you can adorn your garden with, both natural and man-made, that can bring your personal plot to life. Here is a selection of these effective approaches:

The Natural Way
Much like your lush, emerald grass, Mother Nature has provided you with a wealth of natural resources you can use to improve your garden:

·         Colourful Plant Selections: You can easily source pre-potted plants or seeds (if you fancy being more green-fingered) and by simply adding a few rows of brightly coloured plants that are specific to that growing season, you can really improve its appearance.

Hilliers Risk Garden At Chelsea Flower Show 2013
      Herbs and Scents: It’s not all about what you can see; you can grow some fragrant herbs or other plants like tarragon and jasmine, that can provide other sensory stimulation through their sweet perfumes and scents.

·         Creeping Ivy: As the name suggests, this plant can give a wonderful natural look as it grows around archways and entrances. Some even have it growing on their house walls, literally linking their home to their garden.



The Human Touch
You don’t have to solely rely on what the earth can offer though, as a race we are quite inventive and there are a huge number of man-made products that can equally provide fantastic decorations:
·         Ornaments: This can range from more traditional ceramic pots, to alabaster statues, or even rusted iron masonry. This really is down to you, but by dotting a few ornaments around your garden or amongst your plants, you can give it a truly unique edge.

·         Outdoor Lighting: By mounting lights on walls or hanging them around your garden, you can create a variety of different moods and atmospheres. You need to ensure you source durable and reliable makes though from a trusted retailer like Scotlight Commercial Lighting Ltd to ensure they are safe and stand up to the weather.
Hilliers Risk Garden At Chelsea Flower Show 2013

·         Furniture: A simple feature is to have garden furniture, this creates somewhere to gather and socialise and can give a complete and homely feel to your land.


So if you think your garden could do with a bit of a facelift, don’t continue to leave it languishing in mediocrity, get decorating now and turn it back into your own little Eden.

Winter Storage: Caring for your Garden Tools

Those glorious (well mostly, glorious) summer months are coming to a close for another year and unfortunately that means goodbye sunshine and BBQs and hello autumn. It’s getting pretty chilly around here and all too quickly for my liking, and all of this cold weather has got me thinking about starting to plan for those long winter months.

As you can no doubt tell, we adore our garden and everything that goes in it, from our beloved Koi to our countless tropical of plants, but don’t be fooled, it’s not just your plants that require round the calendar maintenance. Before those rainy months are upon us it is important to consider storage for all of those items you won’t be using for some time. Here are some helpful tips for storing those important garden items and keeping safe for next year.

Cleaning Process
Before I even consider putting my tools away it’s time to do a thorough clean. My tools are important to me and so it’s important to make sure you look after them properly. Ensure you get rid of any soil and ground in dirt from the blades, I always find that a sponge and a large tub of warm soapy water makes this task a whole lot easier – and don’t forget to clean those handles too. Next I leave the tools to dry out properly and then oil them, especially if they are becoming a little tough to use.

One particularly important tool to me is our lawnmower. I’ll be honest, I barely use the lawnmower over the winter months as the weather very rarely allows it and so it’s often in storage until the weather warms up a little. I take extra care and attention when getting this ready for storage. Whether you use petrol or oil in your lawnmower it’s important to drain any liquid from the tank. I then clean and wipe down the whole lawnmower body, including those hard to reach places, which is something I also do with our garden strimmer too. 

Storage
Whether you have a large or a small garden, there’s one thing that we all seem to lack – space. I don’t know about you, but there just never seems to be enough room to store all of my garden tool, but if you want to keep them in good working condition then it’s vital you keep them undercover and out of the way of adverse weather conditions. Adding shelving and hooks to your shed walls is an incredible space saving idea, especially when you’re lacking in space like us!

We use our shed to store just about every garden related item you could ever need, as it means our house is not cluttered up for months on end. Garden storage such as sheds and plastic shelving units are fantastic as they keep the bad weather at bay and protect those all important tools from rusting or weather related damage. Even if you have the smallest of gardens it’s worth shopping around for garden shed. I find that companies such as
Garden Store Direct are a fantastic place to look for garden sheds and cabinets (amongst other furniture) of all sizes.


I hope this post helps you to make the most of your garden storage space this winter and helps you to take care of those tools too!
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