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Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Planting that can be done on your boat

While we spend a lot of time discussing what to add to your home garden, or the types of plants you should be aiming towards growing for each season, we wanted to veer off just a bit. We feel that a common area that can be turned into a whole new space with the help of a few plants, is the cabin area on a boat.

In general these cabin areas are under deck and a bit small. On top of this, there is usually very minimal natural light coming into this area, so you must choose your plants very carefully. While we personally love seeing lush green vines growing against a dark wood finish, these plants below fall on the smaller side.

 the 3 plants the will be discussed today, each of these plants require very little upkeep, and will not completely take over the cabin area on your boat. The added bonus is that a few of the plants below actually have some very handy uses while out at sea.

The Christmas Cactus:
This plant is a bit different than a normal cactus in that, it actually blooms some very beautiful pink flowers. Since this plant is classified as a cactus, a very nice thing is that not a ton of water is required to keep this plant going.

The Christmas Cactus does require a bit more sunlight to keep growing, so a covered area above deck would be a great location for this plant. This plant can still function below deck, as long as it is near the main natural light source down there (the biggest window).

Being a cactus, this plant is a little prickly at certain points, but not nearly as prickly as a normal cactus one would find in the desert. However you should find a way to keep this potted plant in place, as you should with all your plants on board, but especially with this plant. The last thing you want is for a Christmas cactus to come flying at you in the middle of the night when a large wave hits the side of your boat.

Aloe:
This plant is incredibly resilient to the elements. Salt water does not affect this plant nearly as much as it does to others, aloe plants need very little water to survive, and it really thrives in areas with a lot of sun. While aloe can grow well in sun, a lack of sun does not completely kill this plant off.

An added bonus to having an aloe plant on board, is that you can break off a piece of the plant at anytime to rub onto a bug bite. Although it could be used on a bug bite, aloe will most likely be used for dealing with any sunburn that may occur when out on the water.

While many boating enthusiasts do take the necessary precautions when protecting their skin from the UV rays, aloe is a nice thing to have on hand. If for some reason you missed rubbing sunscreen on a part of your arm, or you didn't have anyone get the back of your neck; aloe can really help cool off the pain of sunburn quickly.

Mint:
Last but not least is the Mint plant. While there are various versions of mint plants out there, these plants are also a bit harder than the other two listed above when trying to grow it on a boat. A mint plant needs plenty of sunlight, and moist soil, so place right next to the main window below deck would probably be best.

One of the great benefits to this plant is the aroma it brings with it. This mint plant can act as an instant air freshener  for below deck. No harmful sprays or overly pungent car fresheners required for your boat anymore.  This mint aroma instantly makes your boat feel a bit more like a home away from home.

For even bigger boats, another nice thing with having a mint plant on board is its multiple uses in cooking. If your boat has a kitchen, or at least a small burner, the mint can be added to any meal for that little extra zest, and can even be added to a nice cup of hot tea for a refreshing kick. Mint plants grow very fast, so they are the perfect companion to have on board.

So take the next step and liven up your boat area. You can buy colourful new boat cushions, repaint the cabin below, or make a minor tweak to an area just by adding a new plant. Do not forget the added bonuses of some of these plants. Break off a mint leaf and chew on it for instant fresh breath. Use the aloe plant to soothe any burns out at sea. Most of all, relax and enjoy your time out at sea!


DG

Keeping Your Fingers Green

Many of us love to spend time outside in our gardens, often reflecting that particularly as we get older it helps keep us fit, agile and keeps the mind occupied. There are a number of positive benefits linked to gardening that many may not be aware of.

With this article we hope to rekindle the love of gardening that some of or more mature readers may have previously enjoyed but brought to a sudden halt because of the onset of a number of bone and joint disorders (for example osteoporosis or arthritis), disabilities from stroke and the ageing process in general  – with the mind being willing, but the flesh being weak.  

There are ways and means to get back into the gardening the game without the work being so back breaking  or setting off a number of painful symptoms in your body.  With this article we’ll be looking at some of safer ways to garden as you age as well as why it’s good for you to keep at it.

Practice safety

  •  Minimise the amount of bending and any unnecessary overexertion through raising those garden beds:
  •  Limber up before hand: warm up exercises to prepare your body
  • Protect yourself : sunscreen and insect repellent (especially as we welcome summer to London)
  •  Invest in the right tools to ease the gardening process
  •   Understand the correct ways of handling tools – the way in which you hold a pruning scissors – will allow for easier pruning or make the job at hand that much more strenuous
  • Depending on the amount of time you spend in the garden – pace yourself.
  • Wear the right attire for the job, if you are digging or moving something heavy wear a pair of boots, consider investing in a good pair of overalls to avoid scratches or irritations
We published an article last year on the diligent gardener with reference to finding the balance when gardening providing a few guidelines preventing you from overexerting your body by following a few simple guidelines.  As a recreational activity especially as you age, light gardening can really get your blood circulation going and if done in moderation you stand the chance of living a longer healthier life.

The health benefits of gardening:

There are many health benefits to gardening, apart from getting outside and enjoying some fresh air!
  • Gardening is said to be a prime way to get a moderate to intense workout and with the above mentioned guidelines, light gardening is possible as well – getting you that moderate exercise needed.
  • Horticultural therapy is said to heal the mind, body and soul, keeps your mind active as you plan ahead for the coming season(s).
  • By undertaking physical gardening two three times a week you can keep fit and active – i.e. gardening is said to contribute towards your overall wellbeing.
  • Baking, gardening and musical therapy are all said to contribute towards improving the symptoms of dementia.
  • Getting stuck in the dirt improves your mental wellbeing – reducing stress and can be a social or solitary experience depending on what you would prefer it to be.
  • Could aid the rehabilitation process, if you've been a victim of stroke or have been diagnosed with a life limiting conditions
  • It keeps you nimble and flexible
  • Growing your own fruit and veg gives you better, fresher produce then from the supermarkets, and it could mean saving on all those organic purchases – so it’s easy on the wallet too!

Gardening is a reconised therapy for many older people, for example at Amherst House care home in Horley, Surrey they include gardening activities into their residents weekly routine all in the name of improving their quality of life and ensuring that they get the needed amount of gentle exercise. It seems that this is something that Gracewell’s residents are quite fond of as it’s becoming a more and more of a popular activity in the various care homes.

Gardening activity at Amherst House
Describing their plans for the current season the team at Amherst explain
In the raised beds at Amherst we will be planting runner beans, lettuce and spinach.  Amongst the runner beans we will plant sweet peas as these will bring bees to pollinate the plant as well as being decorative.
Nasturtiums will also be planted amongst the vegetables to draw aphids away from them.  Nasturtium  flowers and seeds can be added to salads as the seeds add a peppery flavour and the flowers with their bright orange colour, liven up a plain salad.  There are good health benefits too as Nasturtium leaves have a high concentration of Vitamin C and are a natural antibiotic. The gentle antibiotic in the leaves makes them useful for treating minor colds and eating a couple of leaves three times a day offers a natural way to fight off a cold.
I am very keen on companion planting, it helps reduce pests in a more natural and sustainable way, and even if you are not totally organic making some efforts to reduce the use of chemicals in the gardens is a great idea. Nasturtiums as mentioned by the team at Amherst are edible, and many people do not realise this, they also make a great shot of colour in your summer bedding displays.


Great tip from Sam Vatcher, events and activities co-ordinator at Amherst House:
When my father used to plant leeks he would make a hole big enough to take the inside of a toilet role, put this in the hole fill with water before adding the leek plant as this helped stop mud getting into the plant.

As the saying goes – if you plant something and you water it, something’s going to grow – the biggest reward would be reaping the fruits of your labour… Imagine being able to actually live off the land or being able to see the process of those rose seeds that you planted transforming into a fully-fledged rose bush – now there’s something that many people dream of and with  a bit of dedication can actually achieve. So with a little bit of care and attention there is nothing to stop the more mature gardeners from keeping on gardening!

DG

Monday, 23 June 2014

Review: Dickies Donegal Workboots

I was sent a pair of Donegal workboots from Dickies to try out. I have to say these are incredibly comfy and robust, and perfect in providing protection to your feet.

For most of the jobs we have undertaken in the garden I have just worn a pair of old trainers - probably not the most sensible of option, so I really have no excuse now for risking my feet!

Dickies Donegal Boots


The Donegal Boot is ergonomically designed, and consists of a nubuck cow leather upper in quite an attractive tan colour. The boot is reinforced with steel in both the toecap and also the midsole to provide the protection.

The tongue in the show is also padded for comfort and also will offer some extra protection and dual density PU sole makes sure you are waterproof.

We are currently in-between projects with much of the garden looking tidy (for once) however come July there are secret plans a foot (if you pardon the pun!!), and these boots will get their first proper try out in anger. However saying that they look almost too good to get covered in mess and concrete, so maybe the trainers will come out again! Only joking :) I expect these will be a regular feature in the garden for many years to come, as they should be quite long lasting given how well made they are.

Highly recommended!

DG

For the full range of other boots from Dickies check out their website.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Effective Ways to Get Rid of Dust Mites

Dust mites: these two little words strike fear into the hearts of homeowners all over the world. These microscopic bugs cannot be seen, but they are certainly there, lurking throughout your home in places like your bed, your carpeting and rugs, and your upholstered furniture. Related to the spider, these tiny creatures prefer warm environments, as well as humidity. And they feast upon the flakes of skin that are shed daily by everyone living in your home, including your pets.

When dust mites take over, they can cause allergies and respiratory problems, particularly in individuals who are sensitive as a result of conditions like asthma. But even if dust mites really gross you out, you need to first come to the understanding that you cannot eliminate them 100% from your environment. Instead, you can take steps to effectively reduce their numbers to a much healthier level. Continue reading to learn how.

Get the Right Vacuum Cleaner
With so many different types of vacuum cleaners on the market, it can be difficult to determine which one is really the best option. But when it comes to getting rid of dust mites, a unit with a built-in HEPA filter is the one you should invest in. Another option is a unit that contains a double-layer micro-filter bag. These will effectively catch all of the allergens in your environment, including dust mites, and prevent them from being re-released into the rooms throughout your home. The end result, especially with regular use, is a home with fewer dust mites.

Remember, though, that vacuuming will not eliminate 100% of dust mites. If you are really concerned about this or you have family members who are very sensitive to their presence, remove carpeting and opt for tiled or hardwood flooring instead.

Clean Up the Bed
Your bed can play host to more dust mites than you would probably feel comfortable sharing it with. But, thankfully, there are steps you can take to reduce the population and enjoy a peaceful night's sleep knowing you are not exposed to these tiny bugs.
First, get yourself on a schedule that forces you to wash your bedding at least once a week. To kill dust mites, you should use hot water. Any bedding materials that cannot be washed traditionally can instead be frozen overnight. Both of these methods will eliminate the dust mites effectively.

Secondly, your pillows and mattress should be covered in materials that are allergen-proof and dust-proof. You may have to shop from specialty stores to find these products, but it will be worth it to eliminate as many dust mites as possible.

Use a Dehumidifier
In addition to a home air filter that will effectively clean the air you breathe inside your house, you should also invest in a dehumidifier that will maintain the appropriate humidity level in every room. Remember, dust mites prefer humid and warm environments, so keeping the humidity level at 40-50% is one way to make your home an inhospitable place for these creatures. Use the dehumidifier all year long if you need to in order to maintain this ideal level of humidity. A hygrometer, which can be found at building supply shops, is one of the best ways to monitor moisture levels.  

Clean Plush Toys
Although your children may love to play with plush toys and stuffed animals, these can also hold a high population of dust mites, just like your bedding and pillows. To kill off the dust mites on these products, place them in the freezer for a day every two months. You can then wash these toys in the washing machine with cold water before tossing them in the dryer. 

Dust Regularly
Dusting regularly is also key in eliminating as many dust mites as possible. But instead of using a dry cloth or rag, use a damp one that will effectively trap dust without simply moving it from one place to another.

Dust mites may be quite disgusting to think about, but they are easily controlled. By simply maintaining a clean home and keeping the air quality as high as possible through the use of air filters and dehumidifiers, you can dramatically reduce the number of dust mites throughout your home. And this will hopefully let you rest easier at night.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Keeping Your Allotment Secure

For most people that have an allotment its a fact of life that sooner or later you would be the victim of a thief or vandals. However there are lots of ways to reduce the risk. If you are fortunate in having a well funded allotment committee then security fencing around the site will drastically reduce the risks. But what else can you do to secure your own plot?

Keep an Eye out
Looking out for strangers or unusual visitors, thieves often go to case the joint before heading back to take their ill-gotten gains. If all allotment holders keep an eye out for people they don't know and go over and talk to them this can reduce the risks. If you see unaccompanied children then checking who they are will hopefully make them think twice and leave the site. Remember to be polite as that potential thief may just be the child of another plot holder.

Report it!
If something does happen, always remember to report it to the police. Whilst it may not help you get your items back it will mean there is a log and hopefully the police will check by more frequently which will reduce future problems. If you dont have a scheme set up already then approach the committee to set up an Allotment Watch scheme on your site.

Keep the Gate locked
Whilst it can be easier to leave the gate open to come and go, remember to keep the entrance secure and lock up after you go in or out. There is not point in making it easy for a quick opportunist thief.

Secure your Shed and Valuables.
Garden sheds are generally not that robust, and a determined thief can get in. Dont tempt them by leaving expensive tools on site, take them home. Make sure you have good locks on the door - more than one, its best to be able to lock it at the top, middle and bottom to make it harder to force the door open. Use a good quality padlock and fittings. If you have a window put trellis or a grill over it, to prevent access through the window.

Consider a battery operated shed alarm, these are easy to install and if your shed is accessed will hopefully make any thief think twice. Adding a sign to say no valuables are kept in the shed may make someone think twice.

Planting prickly bushes round the shed makes it harder to access other then at the door.

One approach that some people take is to leave nothing of value and then leave the door unlocked. Thus reducing the risk of vandalism, but you will need to take your tools with you each time you visit.

Marking your equipment
Adding your postcode and surname to all tools helps reduce the chance of them being sold on. If you have wooden handled tools such as a spade then branding them (a soldering iron is great for this) make it very difficult to remove and much harder to sell at a car boot sale.

Plant to avoid the opportunist

There is nothing worse than getting to your site and discover your produce has gone. Its hard to prevent a determined thief but by reducing the viability of tempting plants you can reduce the risk. Planting beans or peas on wigwams on the edge of the plot reduces how easy it is to see everything else. Or planting thorny current bushes in between things may also make them think twice.

Overall the benefits of allotments outweighs the negatives, but by thinking ahead you can minimise the risks you face.

Happy growing!
DG

This article was brought to you in association with Moore Fencing who provide security fencing in a range of designs to meet you individual needs

Monday, 2 June 2014

Increase your Bay with cuttings

An essential herb you should have available to you is bay (Laurus nobilis) it is an easily available plant to buy but if you want to grow your own heres how!
  1. Take a heel cutting, a fresh shoot or tip in early summer or in the autumn. Cut from a mature bay tree don't be tempted to take one from a young plant. The cutting should be about 8cm (3") long.

  2. Strip off the upper and lower leaves from the cutting.

  3. Dip the intended root end into a cutting rooting hormone powder. This will stimulate vigorous root growth.

  4. Put the cutting into a small pot filled with two-thirds coarse sand and one-third good quality multi-purpose compost.

  5. Put the container under a plastic bag hanging over wire or similar to keep it from touching or landing on the cutting. This creates a mini-greenhouse for the cutting.

  6. Be patient. It will take around 9 months for the cutting to root.
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