Thursday, 9 April 2015

Making the most of your Water

With the latest water bill landing on the door mat recently, I thought it would be worthwhile to explore some of the many ways of saving water in the garden in particular. As well as the garden there are lots of ways to save water in the home as well. However being a garden blog we will concentrate on what you can do in the garden.

Water butts
One way to reduce the amount of tap water you use in watering is to collect rain water. Water butts added to the guttering on your greenhouse, shed or ever the drainpipes on your house will soon fill up and give you a renewable source of water for a one off cost at the start.

Almost any container can be used to collect water, and old IBC containers can be bought for a similar price to a water butt, however they can hold 1,000 liters which is a huge amount of water to save.

Choosing the right pots and containers
Terracotta pots dry out much quicker than plastic ones. Most people however prefer the look of terracotta, so line the pot with plastic, to get the nicer look, but the water saving properties, Also make sure you mulch the top of the soil with gravel to reduce water loss. This will also cut down weeds and may well look better too.

Selecting the best plants
By choosing plants that prefer dryer conditions your water needs will be less. Choosing Mediterranean plants such as lavender, rosemary and plants with silvery leaves, all have lower water needs and so can tolerate less frequent watering.

Reusing water
Watering the garden with so called Gray water- if water that has had a use already means less goes to water. If you select washing liquids and powders that are ecological and safe for a septic tank then your garden plants will have no problem in being watered with this water. Using a washing up bowl and then putting the waste water on the garden will keep the plants healthy and slash your water use and costs. With the reuse of water in the the garden you need to consider whether you need to engage in any form of waste water treatment. In general most of the waste water from your home can be reused. But care should always be taken to ensure that sensitive plants do not get water with un-wanted chemicals. 

Mulching the borders
As well as pots mentioned above you can mulch the borders with bark chippings that will reduce weeds, keep the moisture in and also look good. The bark gradually breaks down improving the soil, and will need to be topped up from time to time. By reducing weeds your plants will have less competition for water and nutrients so should perform better.

With the ground still nice and damp it is a good time to mulch as you will prevent evaporation and thus reduce the water requirements of the garden.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Three Crucial Considerations before Buying a Conservatory

If you’re anything like the rest of us, you want to enjoy your garden all year round.

For most green-fingered Brits, however, the volatility of the weather in Dear Old Blighty is enough to make even the most serene gardener shake an angry fist at the threatening clouds above.

At this time of year, even when the sun is shining, it’s normally cold enough to break the smoke off your chimney, which makes sitting outside in your garden akin to an Arctic expedition.
But this is where a conservatory is worth its weight in gold.

Whatever the forecast, conservatories offer an agreeable space to take pleasure in your pansies or bask in your bellflowers, as well as adding around £9,000 to the value of your property.

Far from being a passing fancy, there are well over four million homes in the UK boasting a conservatory, with hundreds of thousands more being constructed every year.

Interested? Check out our three crucial considerations before you hotfoot it to Conservatories R Us (that’s not a real place) in a desperate bid to join the ranks ...

Select Your Style Carefully
Whether you live in a mock-Georgian mansion or a contemporary grand design, it’s important the conservatory you choose blends with the existing style of your home. Why? Because if you get the style wrong, it’s much like giving a horse a pair of stilettos – it just doesn’t work.

As a result, most folk tend to opt for a Victorian or Edwardian style of conservatory if they have a more traditional home. If you home is fairly new, however, it’s important to speak to your conservatory specialist to find a modern style that won’t stick out like a very expensive sore thumb.

Learn About Planning Permission
It’s natural to imagine that erecting a new structure onto the back of your home would require reams and reams of paperwork – but adding a conservatory is actually considered a permitted development, which means it doesn’t require a planning permission application.

However, according to the government’s Planning Portal, a single-story rear conservatory must not be higher than four metres or higher than the highest part of your roof. For further details, and to avoid the wrath of your local authority, familiarise yourself with the full guide here.

Chew Over Your Glazing Requirements
When you fork out for a new conservatory, it’s understandable you want to use your investment all year round – and choosing the appropriate glazing, which will also make it energy efficient and reduce your heating bills, is a crucial part of making that happen.

Therefore, be sure to choose a glass with a low U-value, especially if it faces north and receives less sunlight, which means heat will be trapped during the colder months, keeping you and your family warm without turning up the thermostat.

Fancy having your say?

Let us know what else our readers should consider when buying a conservatory by leaving a comment below – we’d love to hear from you. 

Garden Tool Care

How often does this happen to you? After a heavy but satisfying day in the garden of weeding, pruning or 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’. 

Clean dirt and debris
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. after using lawn mowers or strimmers remove the grass from the tool before putting back into the shed. 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. 

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, and makes using them much easier.

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. 

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.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Top 10 UK Gardening Blogs

There are lots of Gardening blogs out there, but what to read when you have finished out latest articles?

Here is a list of the top ten you really should include in your regular reading pleasure.

9.  Loose and Leafy

Friday, 30 January 2015

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Planting Fruit Trees

If you have never experienced the sheer unbounded joy of casually picking some apples or plums from your own fruit tree and then sharing them with friends and family then you’re missing out on an unique experience.
Apple, pear and Victoria plum trees are all ideal fruit trees to plant in your garden. Not only will they enhance its natural beauty but they will also provide you with the most organic and natural fruit money can’t buy. The fruit is delicious in itself and can also be used to make delicious ciders, wines, moonshine, chutneys, preserves and jams. But it’s important to note that to ensure a healthy tree and productive harvest, it’s always best to plant certain fruit trees in Winter.

What Type of Fruit Trees are Suitable for Planting in Winter? 
Deciduous fruit trees such as apple, pear trees and Victoria plum tree should always be planted in Winter, as opposed to evergreen fruit trees such as Olive and Loquat which are hardy but best planted in the spring or more tender trees such as lemons which should be overwintered in a cool conservatory. Deciduous fruit trees have evolved in a temperate climate and require exposure to the cold of Winter in order to produce fruit and flowers. This is known as the minimum chill requirement. The growth buds of these particular trees do not blossom properly until they experience a full winter.

How to Plant a Fruit Tree in Winter 
Fruit trees are in their dormant stage in late Autumn and early winters, so this is the best time for planting. Always soak the roots thoroughly and avoid placing in the ground if there’s a frost because the soil needs to be moist. Place your fruit tree in a position in you garden which benefits from both sun and shelter. When it comes to digging a hole ensure it is a third wider than the tree’s roots and the same depth. Insert a stake to support the tree and fill the hole with soil. Water the ground well, but only well enough to keep it moist. You do not want to drown the tree’s roots.

Things to be Weary of When planting fruit trees in winter 
To maximise the amount of fruit they yield almost all deciduous fruit trees require careful and regular pruning. It’s also a good idea to apply a grease band to the trunk of your tree at least 18 inches above soil level to protect it from moths and other insects who will eat its leaves and fruit. The application of fertilizer, organic or chemical, is a personal preference but it can give the fruit tree just the boost it needs to start bearing the sort of fruit that will make you the talk of the town.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Planning the Allotment for the Year Ahead

When starting out a vegetable patch or at an allotment, it is often quite overwhelming as there is so many possibilities when it comes to the different produce you can grow. This Vegetable Planner can help when organising your time and your allotment, and starts with 8 basic vegetables that can be used in a huge variety of meals. However, starting out on a vegetable patch or allotment can be quite daunting so here are some tips to help you get growing.

Tips for starting out on an allotment
·         If you’re a beginner, starting on a smaller plot will make it easier for you to manage.

  • When starting out it’s a good idea to talk to other gardeners who work on the allotment to find out what’s been successful and what hasn’t been on their plots – this could save you a lot of time in the long run!
  •  First job should be take care of your soil and make sure it’s fit for purpose, so sort out any weeds and other pests.
  •  Make sure your tools are up to scratch and well looked after – investment in the long term will yield better results. Keeping them in a secure shed or outbuilding will ensure that they stay safe and in good condition.

Broccoli – a popular variety that is commonly grown is the Sprouting Broccoli Claret F1. It’s easy to pick and grows in poorer soil so this is a great variety for when you’re just starting out.

Cabbage – there are three different general types of cabbage – winter, summer and spring types. For example, the Kilaxy variety of cabbage is a summer type and can be harvested in late summer/early autumn.

Carrot – if you want to start growing carrots as soon as possible, go for the type Adelaide AGM as this can be sown in February or March. Make sure to use a cloche for protection.

Cauliflower - there are many different varieties of cauliflower – why not try a purple variety such as Purple Graffiti to add some vibrant colour to your vegetable patch. Just remember to harvest cauliflower as soon as it’s ready.

Lettuce – Set AGM is a variety of lettuce that is fairly easy to grow, so would be good for beginners. However, in the summer watch out for lettuce root aphid – this pest attacks the lettuce roots so you may not be able to see it but look for ants around the plant as this can be a sign. Keep the plants well watered as this can help suppress the damage.

Onion – You can start sowing onions from March to April and they are better suited for open ground so they are a great choice of vegetables if you’ve got an allotment or a spacious vegetable patch.

Potato - Ideally potatoes need be in a sunny site away from frost, so before planting anything have find out how much sun exposure your plot receives. March/April is the perfect time to start planting tubers.

Tomato – You can plant tomatoes indoors or outdoors depending on what you resources you have available. Ferline beefsteak tomatoes have some resistance to tomato and potato blight so could be a good variety to start with for a beginner.

Whatever you decide to grow, good luck and here's to a bumper harvest in 2015.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Looking after your garden in the Frosts

 If you’re lucky enough to be living near the equator, then you don’t have to worry about winter. But the rest of us stress and prepare for winter from as early as August. Don’t just abandon your garden to the elements over winter. There are lots of steps and precautions you can take to save the lives of your plants, and here are a few of the basics:

1. Move less hardy plants indoors or into a greenhouse - heated if possible. If you’re unsure whether or not your plant is less hardy, just search for it on Google – find out where it’s from and if anyone recommends you take it in over winter. If you have a heated Greenhouse, make sure you get ahead of spring and furnish it with a few plants and maybe a sapling fruit tree.

2. Don't allow snow to build up on the roof of your greenhouse or on the netting of fruit cages – they aren't designed to take weight. Move any items that are likely to be damaged by sliding snow away from the roof if possible. This might seem obvious, but many people forget. The crash of a collapsing greenhouse is a dreadful sound, and it’s impossible to clean up in the snow.

3. Wrap terracotta pots in horticultural fleece or bubble wrap to protect from frost. Alternatively, they can be wrapped in straw. If they're empty, put them away in a shed or garage. This isn't technically a plant tip, but it’s very important, and your plants do stand a better chance if their pots are intact. The Daily Mail wrote a great article with tips for wrapping terracotta pots; have a read if you’d like to know more.

4. Any plants that can't be moved can be protected with straw or horticultural fleece. Do not use bubble wrap for this; it will create a cold, damp environment and cause plants to rot. Taller plants should be firmly secured to their supports to minimise wind damage.

5. Make sure you clear footpaths of snow as soon as possible. Remember: hard packed snow is as slippery as ice and you can't tend to your plants from a hospital bed. This is good advice even if you don’t enjoy a spot of winter gardening. Keeping your garden clear will make every other job you do all the easier.

There you have it. These tips should see most of your garden plants through the long winter and into spring. Don’t get too down about the garden this season; remember that the cold gets rid of all of the pests for a few months. Take the good with the bad, eh?

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