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?

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Keeping Busy in the Winter Months

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.
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