Friday, 17 February 2017

Big Ideas For Your Garden? Prioritise Proper Planning

Whisper it quietly, but the time to get back in the garden is creeping nearer and nearer. This is good news for some, who since October have been limiting their outdoor work to necessary repairs and tidying. For others, who take on garden work only when necessary, it marks the beginning of the end of their ideal excuse. Before long, your local garden centre will be a hive of activity again.

Let's be clear - it's still a little too cold to be planting out very much. Even if you wrap up warm, most of what you plant will struggle to survive against the harsh conditions - and we may yet have more snowfall. Nonetheless, this is very much the time to put together any plans you may have to overhaul your garden in 2017.

Big garden renovations do not happen overnight. They take time and effort. Most of all, they take a certain amount of planning. Whatever ideas you have to bring your garden up to date, an idea does not become a reality without a sound plan.

You can ignore that advice, but it will be at your peril. If you're one of those people who decides to do something and jumps right into action, it can result in a garden that looks disjointed. Unfinished. A collection of good ideas not fully realised. The garden equivalent of an album released by any group referred to as "a good singles band."

The following, then, are ideas which, if planned and executed with precision, could make your 2017 summer garden special.

#1. Modern Decking

There are different ways to "do" decking. Some will look excellent, leaving you with a garden full of character which will be an ideal outdoor space. Others can look thrown together, not match up with anything else in your garden, and just give the impression of an afterthought. Your garden is too important to look like that.

First of all, you must decide on the finish for the decking. To get the right look, you need to scan around your garden and evaluate the general look. Do you have a fence, and if so what colour is it? What naturally grows around your garden, and what colour of decking will fit with the look of your house? Are you prepared to paint the fence, or the exterior of your house, to get the right look?

Safety is also an important consideration. If you're going to be holding barbecues and children will be playing out there, the decking needs to be kept as dry as possible. Sitting water can encourage bacteria, damage the finish and the load-bearing abilities of the wood you've used. Also, because decking creates a multi-level effect, you don't want people to fall off it. Putting in place a balustrade, by SHS Products or similar, is a good idea. Done right, it will enhance the look considerably.

#2. Fire

Okay, left there alone like that, the word can seem a bit extreme. No-one is suggesting just setting fire to part of your garden and occasionally throwing wood on it, though. There are ways and means to use fire in your garden which make it look spectacular.

Obviously, safety is an issue here. However you might choose to include fire in your garden, it needs to be in a way that children and pets are not going to be at risk of harm. For example, one of the most popular garden accessories of 2016 was a fire pit. Versatile and visually impressive, they nonetheless need to be placed very carefully.

Most important of all when considering a fire pit, chimenea or barbecue, is that it needs to be away from the house or any fence. You buy fuel for these things at a garden centre or supermarket. You do not want your fence or your siding to become additional fuel. Also, by situating it away from the house, it is out of the way of any kids or pets who might come running out, excited to play in the garden.

Therefore it is essential to create a fireproof space for any new accessory like this that you buy. Laying down concrete paving, keeping any wood out of the way and ensuring that nothing is hanging overhead are essential. Fire can be beautiful, cosy, romantic. It can also be deadly, so respect its power.

Finally, any time you are going to light a fire, check among the fuel for any creatures that may have nested in there. Hedgehogs, in particular, like to huddle among piles of material for warmth and safety.

#3. Your First Menagerie

It's becoming more and more popular to create a little bit of the countryside in the towns and suburbs of Britain. This was originally seen mainly in terms of planting food and flowers but has spread to include keeping animals in your garden. And why not?

Be aware that personal responsibility is essential here. Of course, it is wonderful to have a few chickens or a duck here and there. Depending on the size of your garden, you can go further and keep a goat or two. You do, however, need to provide them with adequate living space. For chickens, this means a coop, and a similar arrangement for any other fowl. Ducks will ideally need a pond to swim in.

Goats or other livestock will need at least a shelter. Unless you plan to have them sleep in the house at night, you can't expect them to roam around the garden in all weathers.

If you fancy just having a little nature around your garden but can't commit to maintaining that kind of space, create a hedgehog house. Keep it supplied with food and water. Then it will become a refuge for the kind of animals that are often driven out of other areas by predators and angry gardeners.

Monday, 13 February 2017

3 Starting Steps To A Successful Allotment

For those who consider themselves to be at least a little green-fingered, the idea of starting an allotment might be a frequently recurring fantasy. And why not - having an allotment has many benefits to it. For a start, who doesn’t love the idea of producing their own produce year after year? This is a cheaper, much more fulfilling way of sourcing fruit and vegetables, and many agree that the taste is even better as a result. What’s more, an allotment affords you a wonderful opportunity to practice your gardening skills, and it is also likely that you will learn a great deal which will be beneficial in the future. But one of the hardest aspects of the whole process is in the beginning; starting an allotment has its own unique challenges which are quite a lot of effort to deal with. As with anything, it is remarkably easier if you break it down into smaller steps - so here are three steps towards starting your own allotment plot.

Plot It Out

One of the quickest ways to ensure failure with your allotment is to fail to plan it out. This is vital, as there is so much that can go wrong if you fail to plan properly. With a decent plot laid out on paper, however, the whole process is going to be remarkably easier. You need to think about where you are going to have not just your plants, but anything else which might be necessary to. For example, have you included space for your compost? Is there room t walk between the beds, so that you don’t tread on your soil? All of this needs to be considered in your plotting, as it all makes a big difference to the final outcome. Allotment planning is a difficult art, but one which is vital to your success.


When you are planning, it is vital to remember rotation. This means that you need to rotate where your different plants go from one year to the next. In the first year, you need to have your brassica in one patch, your root vegetables in another, your salads and leaves in another, and so on. Then, it is important that you rotate where these are the following year, as this ensures that the soil is kept in the best possible way. You need to remember this during planning, so as to make the most of the space you have.

Prepare The Soil

Now it is time to actually get down to work and get your hands dirty. Preparing the soil is one of the most important parts of the whole operation, as it ensures that your plants will actually grow and be as healthy as possible. The first thing to do here is to remove any weeds, ideally by their roots so they don’t grow back. Then you want to turn over the top layer of soil, add some compost and dig it down to whatever depth you need, depending on what you are planting. With well-prepared soil, you are now ready to actually begin your planting - arguably the most exciting stage of all.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Secret To Spending More Time Outside Is Literally On Your (Back) Doorstep

We haven’t even reached the end of January, but I dare say you’ve already binned the majority of your New Year’s resolutions. Haven’t you?
Getting super fit, giving up Facebook, and becoming a better person were never realistic targets. But there is one resolution you can still keep: spending more time outside. Best of all, you don’t even need to leave the home to do it. The key is to start utilising your garden.   
If you start now, you could easily transform your garden in time for the spring and summer months. The first thing to remember, however, is to make practical decisions. You’re willing to put some work in now, but you don’t want to dedicate hours to weekly maintenance. Once the work has been completed, you want to enjoy it.   
Image result for garden

A little gardening can add huge amounts of aesthetic beauty. However, you can save time by using contained items like hanging flower baskets. You’ll still have a few flower beds at ground level, but reducing the overall maintenance is a great idea. Meanwhile, this also leaves you the option of growing fruit and veg. That way, your hard work will bring direct benefits. Another option is to replace some of those natural elements completely.
Building a beer garden is an increasingly popular option for the modern homeowner. Not only does it give the space a unique vibe. It also turns it into a place for entertaining friends and family. If spending more time with the people you love isn’t an incentive to upgrade your outside facilities, what will?   
For most people, committing to spend more time outside is partly inspired by a desire for healthy living. OK, you don’t need to live the perfect life. Nevertheless, a little exercise is always positive, especially when it’s fun. Trampolines and other garden games can be great fun for all the family. Or if you’re feeling creative, this DIY bowling alley offers competitive light exercise for everyone. In truth, you’ll probably spend hours practicing on your own too. This can only be a good thing in your bid to spend more time in the garden.   

Image result for garden fun
Creating a garden that looks great is one thing, but it needs to feel great too. Comfort is king, and you cannot afford to forget it. It’s not simply an area for daytime entertainment. Investing in the right heating and lighting facilities allows you to enjoy it all year round.   
The seemingly small elements do make a huge impact on your enjoyment, though. This kindling is kiln dried for a cleaner firelighting solution. And it will improve experiences with garden barbecues and fireplaces. Similarly, spending a little extra on better furniture and other key items will encourage you to spend more time in this area. Let’s face it; the novelty will soon wear off unless you are actively having fun.
Get it right, those habits of spending more time in the garden throughout 2017 and beyond. Apart from anything else, completing the job will leave you with an immense sense of pride. That in itself is another surefire way to ensure the benefits last a lifetime.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Time to get busy in the Garden

Prune apple & pear trees
The winter period is quite a good time of year to prune your apple and pear trees as they are now dormant. Trim back to one or two buds, thin out branches that are congested or rubbing against other branches. By doing these jobs you will increase the  light and air flow through the tree. Remove any "mummified" fruits still hanging on your trees as these can be a source of rot going into the new season.

Despite it being January there may still be plenty to harvest, Leeks may well be standing ready but if a sustained freeze is expected then you can dig a few up and heel them in to dug ground. Parsnips and swedes in the ground can also come up when you are ready, but until then cover them over with fleece or straw to stop them freezing solid into the ground. The cabbage family should be providing some sustenance and beet leaves (perpetual spinach) and chards will be available. On a sunny day it is worth emptying your potato sacks and check for any that are starting to rot before it spread

Protect tender plants
Tender perennials such as Cordylines and Fuchsia should be kept out of the frost, so bring them into the green house or conservatory.

Brush heavy snow off trees
If you get a heavy snow fall then brush shrubs and conifers with a broom to prevent branches getting damaged.

If the ground is now frozen finish off any digging over you still need to do.

Thoroughly clean and oil your loppers, secateurs, and other hard worked tools so they’re fit for another years maintenance in the garden. Start off by giving them a good scrub with some hot soapy water and leave them to dry thoroughly before wiping over with an oily rag to stop them going rusty.

If you dont have any (or enough) then this is a good time to plant in the green especially if a friend of neighbour can provide them to you.

Monday, 23 January 2017

How Green Does You Garden Grow?

You would think that a garden is about as green as it gets. But the truth is that many people don't think a lot about the environment when they design their garden. The space might be leafy, but that doesn't mean it's as green as it could be. There are some moves you can make to get a more eco-friendly garden. Just a couple of changes could help you save money and save the environment at the same time. If you want to make improvements to your garden, you can try the things below for some changes that will make an impact.

Recycle Items

Recycling and reusing are great ways to protect the environment. Instead of throwing something away and buying a new item, use what you already have. The garden is a great place for this because you can use just about anything as a planter. Some people even use toilets, bathtubs, and basins to plant their flowers. You can also turn your biowaste into compost or use various materials to line borders and flower beds. Before you throw something away, think about whether you can use it in the garden. You might be able to find a use for it, whether it's practical or decorative.

Use Solar-powered Lights

If you have any lights in your garden, there's no need for them to be wired in. Just use solar powered lights, which will run on their own. You don't have to have a garden that gets a lot of sunshine. Even on overcast days, the lights will charge during the day. Usually, they come on automatically when it gets dark, so your garden is lit up without you having to do anything. So if you're choosing new decking lights, consider some with a solar panel, so you don't have to spend money running them. LED lights are very efficient and don't need much power to run.

Limit Water Usage

Any garden owner in the UK probably doesn't need to water their garden much. However, during the summer, your plants and lawn might need a little more water. Liberally spraying them with a hose or sprinkler isn't necessary, though. Before you turn on a tap, consider reusing water. You can collect rainwater in a container so that you can use it on dryer days. Or you can use greywater from your house, such as bathwater. That means it doesn't go to waste after you use it for the first time.

Grow Your Own

Another way to have a greener garden is to grow your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs. You can make a green lifestyle change by becoming partially self-sustainable. It doesn't take much to start growing some things. You only need a small patch to plant a few different crops. You can choose crops that grow well together, like squash, corn, and beans. Plants can grow along the ground, upwards, and around the stalks of other plants.

Create a greener garden if you want a more eco-conscious lifestyle. It's not difficult to get started.

Friday, 13 January 2017

This Summer - A Beer Garden in Your Garden

There’s not a better time to start planning for new additions to your garden than now. Although we are still in winter (and will be for a while), getting prepared for the summer ahead  is important to save you from rushing around in the coming months. That is precious time which could be spent on carrying out work which is summertime only - think mowing, pruning and most essentially taking some time out to relax.

Make your garden the ‘spare room’ that you always use. Rather than having it as a decorative space to admire, this summer is shaping up as Garden Season for different reasons; people are spending more time in their gardens and inviting friends over than going out. And if they are going out, they’re going to places that provide beer gardens. So why not combine the two and make the perfect beer garden at home?

To do so, there are some essentials that need to be invested in to complete your look. Think about the scope of your garden; do you have a patio or decking already in place? If not, it’s time to start thinking about one. Not only does it divide up your garden, giving the illusion of more space and a smarter look, it will also provide a firm base for what’s to come…

This is probably the most important thing - the furniture. Consider a rattan corner sofa for cosy lounging, or even a picnic table to give your garden that authentic beer garden feel. It provides a focal point within your garden and somewhere to entertain your friends, so make sure that you have picked something that is stylish and will last so you are able to do this for years to come.

Adding a bit more atmosphere to the mix, pubs are increasingly adding outdoor heating to their beer gardens to ensure that the customer stays there throughout the night. While you won’t have any customers, you wouldn’t want your guests complaining of the cold. There has been a huge boom in the sales of firepits and chimineas, and the investment in either is definitely worthwhile. If you add it to the centre of where you are all sitting, you’ll probably find you’re warmer sitting outside than you are sitting in.

Realistically, that’s all that you need. It doesn’t take much to completely transform your garden from unused space to social gathering place. Friends will flock to wherever there is a warm and welcoming vibe, and all it takes is a bit of literal warmth and somewhere to sit and chat the night away. But don’t forget the drinks, whether alcoholic or not - there are a wealth of outdoor fridges available online should you wish to go a bit fancy and have your beverages within arms reach. If not, a trip to the kitchen will do just fine.

After doing these simples steps, all that will be left for you to do is sit back and enjoy it. That is, after doing all of your other garden duties … but at least this big step will be out of the way!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Give Your Garden Character With These Additions

Now the Christmas rush is over and we are all busy focusing on our new year's resolutions some will begin to look to their gardens. Winter is yet to end but spring draws ever near. Gardening is a hobby for many, but for some they just like to see it look a bit better than the previous year, so why not give your garden some character with these little additions.

Use Intricate Wooden Carvings

Wooden carvings have a certain charm that stone ones do not. They can come in a myriad of fantastical beasts and animals and you can even request exactly what you want before commissioning a sculpture. If you get them treated they can last for years, ever gaining in character as they become weather worn. They can fuel a youngster's imagination and become a talking point of any garden party. You can get them in many different sizes too so you can choose exactly what you want for the perfect location. You can even carve sculptures out of existing trees or stumps to make use out of annoying wood you’d otherwise have to find a way of disposing.

Try Some Different Plants

Some people fall into a routine with plants and end up planting the same things every year. So why not buy some new plant pots for your new plants and give your garden a different look this year. You can use vibrant colours in different areas that bloom at alternating times, this way there will always be a splash of colour in your garden. You can also try some hanging baskets or wall growing plants and flowers to lend colour to other areas that could need it.


Different Garden Furniture

Using different garden furniture can help get people out into the garden more often. Try comfortable chairs and loungers instead of hard wooden benches and seats. The additional comfortably furniture can be placed on its own or even under some form or awning which will really give it some character in the summer months. Commissioned furniture can set your garden apart from the rest.

Try A Swing For The Kids

Getting a kid to play outside is harder than ever. With all the new gaming software, social media and Christmas presents it’s almost impossible to get them outside. But if you use a swing you can help get the kids outside whilst also making a worthwhile addition to your garden. You can get them specially made, so that they fit into your garden perfectly instead of buying a garish multicoloured swing set which ruins the feel you’ve been striving for.


Personalise Your Garden

To really make it yours you need to personalise it. This will give your garden bags of character that won’t be seen anywhere else. You can use personalised slate signs to spruce up the fence or wall. If you have an artistic streak why not try painting a picture on a wall or making your own carving into a thick shed wall. You can find a myriad of personal ideas here for your garden.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Ornamental Elegance: How To Create A Japanese Inspired Garden

Flickr Image: jen

Even though it’s currently winter, it’s never too early to start planning your garden for next year, especially if you’ve got a bare plot of land or have just moved house. Japanese gardens are quiet, peaceful places of relaxation and meditation, drawing inspiration from painted rocks, sand, water, bamboo, flowering plants, meditation statues and bridges to create a natural, organic place of balance and symmetry. All these elements are easy to add into your existing garden, as well as a wonderful way to utilise the full potential of a smaller space, so it’s no wonder that Japanese style gardens continue to be a horticultural favourite!
Flickr Image: Ezry Abdul Rahman

Build Mysterious Paths
The Japanese are unfailingly polite, endlessly patient and incredibly hardworking and this shows particularly in the usage of winding paths, stepping stones and forest trails in their gardens. The idea here is to draw the eye past what can be seen and instead consider the path that wanders away into the distance. Why not place a small wooden or stone pagoda or statue in the middle of the pathway? That way visitors will feel intrigued by what they have discovered so far and be inspired to explore further at the same time as enjoying the various shrubs, flowers and grasses that caress the edges of the stone, or concrete blocks. Try to plant evergreen trees and shrubs that will provide colour and texture all year round, as well as emulating the creative aspect of your garden by appearing in a range of different shapes.

Flickr Image: Prayitno

It’s All About Reflection

If your garden is big enough consider adding a zig-zag bridge. Not only are these bridges very pretty but they’re supposed to bring you luck, legend says evil spirits can only walk in straight lines and hence become trapped by the bridge. Add large water features such as ornamental waterfalls, ponds, and mini streams to allow the soothing sound of water burbling to permeate your little oasis of calm as well as being a water source for any animals in the area. To give the edges of a pond texture plant ornamental grasses, willows, and papyrus that’ll rustle gently in the breeze. Fill your pond with water, add in water plants, lilies, and grasses that’ll encourage frogs and insects to investigate before adding some koi carp. Then simply place some bridgman garden furniture, or wicker chairs beside it and enjoy watching the fish explore their new home.

Flickr Image: Güldem Üstün

Pretty Pavilions And Charming Teahouses  
Thanks to the ancient custom of the tea ceremony along with the honor of enjoying intricate performances by Japanese Geisha’s, private pavilions and special tea houses have long been featured in Japanese design. Instead of a barbecue pit or outdoor terrace why not construct a pavilion of bamboo or wood? Not only will your garden benefit from the inclusion of eco- friendly materials and look more natural, but pavilions are great focal points for entertaining as well as being a lovely spot to sit and read near on a summer's day. In the evenings try to dot small, storm lanterns around the paths as they'll make beautiful, glowing additions to the garden.

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