Thursday, 22 June 2017

Zen and the Art of Garden Maintenance

According to the famous book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, ‘The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you.’ And if you were to replace the word ‘machine’ and use ‘garden’ instead, the principal and truth of that quote remain intact.

Ultimately, if you put a lot of work into improving and maintaining your garden, you must be able to enjoy it. With this in mind, here are a few thoughts on how you can achieve Zen while looking after your garden, and how it can give you a relaxing, satisfying experience every time you need it to. Read on to find out more.

The basics

First of all, while we are talking about Zen for this article, we aren’t going to discuss creating a garden from that term’s country of origin: Japan. The truth is that Japanese gardens are incredibly lovely - and, therefore, ultimately satisfying - but they are also extremely difficult to achieve, due to the constant need for work and upkeep they need to stay in shape.

Unless you have the time, experience, and patience to create a Japanese garden, the likelihood is that its demands will be too great for the vast majority. Instead, we’re going to focus on the experience of Zen: in this case, an easy-to-maintain, enjoyable, and durable garden that is best suited to the busy lifestyles of the modern household.

Let it go

According to the well-known Zen peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, ‘letting go gives us freedom.’ And it’s a simple line to remember when it comes to your garden maintenance and one that you should wholly embrace. If the conditions are such that you can’t garden at all - in winter, for example - then don’t.

Your best bet is to find perennial plants that require little upkeep and cause you no hassles whatsoever. Look at plants like lavender, sedum, Geraniums, and Dianthus to get your garden off to the best possible start. Not only will they flower beautifully in the spring and summer, but once they retract in the colder months, they are hardy enough to survive through the winter with no problem at all.

Perennials should make up the mainstay of your borders, and if you strike the right balance between spring and fall flowers, you should be able to have a dash of color all through your garden for the vast majority of the year.

Another way to ‘let it go’ is to leave an area of your garden to go wild. Not only will this be great for your soil, but it will also bring some interesting wildlife into your backyard, from beautiful and colorful insects to glorious birds. Bees love wild gardens, too, and given we are experiencing a serious issue with the wonderful, honey producing bees, every household with a big enough garden should really be doing all they can to encourage them.

Rock it

Japanese Zen gardens are also famous for the amazing displays of rocks, which are an essential element of the way they look and ‘feel.’ However, you don’t have to go down the purist route at all, and it’s up to you how you incorporate rocks and stones in your garden - any which way you choose.

Whether it’s attractive rocks you find while out walking, paving slabs dotted all over the place, or gravel from a gardening store that you use to create a crunchy pathway, there are plenty of options out there that require little maintenance and can have a fantastic visual impact on your garden.

One thing the Japanese rock garden does shine in for the super busy gardener is the minimalism. The less you have out there to tend, the more relaxed you will be about it. It is pointless spending lots of money on complicated and tricky floral arrangements and shrubbery designs if you don’t have the time to tend them.

Fake it

In days gone by it would be a gardener’s crime even to countenance the thought of installing artificial grass. Not only were the old artificial grasses terrible to look at and feel, but they were also incredibly bad for the environment, both in production and impact on your back garden. These days, however, you can get some exceptional artificial grass that looks superb when in place, and even allows rainwater to drain into the soil that lies beneath.

Of course, nothing can beat a real life, lush green lawn made from the real thing. But when you have a busy lifestyle and can’t afford a gardener, how much time do you think it will cost you to keep your grass looking in great shape? If you have a large garden, it will need cutting on a weekly basis, weeding every month or so, and constant care and attention that few people can manage over the course of a weekend.

So, if you want to achieve Zen in your garden and don’t have the time to spend sorting out lawn problems every couple of weeks, investigate artificial grass. As long as you are happy with the look and feel, and are careful with your choice of manufacturer, you can’t actually lose.

Section it

If you have a large garden, you will find it much easier to control if you create sections for it. You might have a space for meditation - to achieve real Zen, of course! - or maybe a place that you could just lie in and relax on a hammock. There are plenty of options available whether you want to hang it traditionally between two trees or place it on wall fixtures. Whether you browse WeDo Hammocks today, go to your local garden store tomorrow, or even make a DIY hammock, the choice is yours. Ultimately, a quiet little corner of the world with a hammock is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Sectioning your garden also gives you a chance to do things like growing your own vegetables. Don’t forget that different plant types thrive in different areas, with soil composition and sunlight affecting their growth. With a particular section for veggies and/or fruits, you will be able to cut down on the amount of time you need to spend tending them. Also, of course, you will have a smaller area to worry about when weeding and looking out for plant-damaging bugs and pests. Try installing a raised bed to make your life easier, as well. It will help you save your back from a  lot of hard work, effort, and pain, and it looks great, too.

Shaping tips

So, when it comes to shaping your garden, whether you are breaking it up into sections or not, it is essential that you keep things nice and cleanly shaped. Ultimately, the more curves and irregular shapes that exist in your lawn or garden, the longer you will spend tending to it. A rectangular or square shape can be mown in minutes, whereas tricky corners can take you a minimum of ten times longer.

Avoid creating little nooks and crannies, too. These areas of garden often end up piled high with debris, due to wind and nature taking it’s course Again, it’s going to take you a lot longer and more hard work to clean hard-to-reach areas than it will to tidy a simple corner.

Finally, don’t forget to include suitable borders to your garden. While fences might seem like a ‘fix it and leave it’ option, they can often fall into disrepair quite quickly. You might be much better off with choosing natural borders over fences - tall hedgerows and shrubs only need a prune and trim once in awhile, and are relatively easy to maintain.

A little, often

Once your garden is in the kind of shape you want it to be, you shouldn’t have too many problems keeping things looking great. If you can put aside just a half hour a week, you will be able to spot problems before they become serious, and do the quick housekeeping - or, should we say, ‘gardenkeeping’ - duties that are all you need to enjoy your backyard space all year around.

It’s worth investing in some good garden tools, too. Part of the joy of gardening is being able to control what is growing, and your ability to do so will be significantly improved by using the best tools possible. Look after the, too - keep them well away from the damp, either indoors or stored in a shed.

Every now and again your garden will need a proper watering, and with this, in mind, it’s worth buying a water but to collect rain in fall and winter, which you can use in the summer when it gets incredibly hot. It also means that if your state calls a hosepipe ban, your favorite plants will still manage to get the water they need to survive.

Finally, start using mulch and compost. It’s a lot easier to start than you might think, and a quick spread of either will do wonders for your garden with little effort a few times a year.

And there you have it - a garden that is perfect to relax in, and easy to maintain. Are you ready to achieve the ultimate in gardening Zen?

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A Low Maintenance Garden Is Easier To Create Than You Think

Among the most common reasons why you might be thinking of a low maintenance, garden is because you want a complete redesign. No more filthy weeds that pop up out of nowhere, no more loose soil that gets kicked around the footpath, and no more dead or dying flowers laying limp on the floor with their petals scattered. Maintenance is one of the most hated jobs around the home because it comes by every season and presents new challenges. Mowing the lawn is also seen as a tedious task, especially if your lawn is big. Out of control gardens can look like a miniature jungle and passersby make judgments about the owner as to be untidy. You can cut the task down to size by taking a few steps to ensure the future trimming and cutting is kept to a minimum while the aesthetics remain pleasing.
Image credit -

That’s edgy

Landscapers often want a garden to be flowing, so it looks larger than it actually is. However, creating edges around the lawn, flowerbeds and footpaths can add appeal while preserving the character of the features. The edging is permanent because, in order for it to be sturdy and contain the growing botanical varieties, it must be strong enough to maintain shape throughout all seasons.

Installing grass

One of the persistent cases for a low maintenance garden is the required hard graft is takes to maintain a lawn, and it’s tidiness. Grass grows dependent on the nutrition it gets from the weather. If you live in an area where there a regular rainfalls, and hot spells of sunshine, this will effectively rapidly accelerate the growth of your lawn. The artificial lawn is permanent as the underlayer is excavated, filled and replaced. If you’re in need of an artificial grass installation guide, there are professionals ready to aid you that can help you plan, lay the foundation, neaten the edge and apply finishing touches for a high-quality package.

Potting your plants

Incorporating pots into the garden makes the yard nice to walk through because plants that aren’t potted, have a tendency to spread out sporadically. Larger plants’ leaves, stems and flower buds all tend to bully the smaller rivals, and thus the garden is littered with uneven sizes. Plants that are mobile tend to have unhealthy lives because the fight for water and sunlight prevents a variety of plants being able to reach adulthood. A potted plant has it’s only little patch, where you can water it evenly and the because of the created gap between neighboring rivals, has a chance to get adequate sunlight.  
Image source - stonescape

Stoning over

Stoning over a portion of your back garden would also limit the amount of maintenance because that area can be used as outside dining space. It’s also a great way to place a barbecue grill in the back garden that’s more stable that a lawn could ever be. A lot easier to clean via a high-pressure hose and stoning provides a welcomed contrast between nature and a man-made structure. This choice may even result in your home legally reaping the spoils of being extended, without really being extended. As stoning is different from a footpath, which means, it’s not an inherent part of the garden. This can add value to your property should you decide to sell.


Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Become the Ultimate Weed Terminator

Weeds, eh? While they’re not quite the bane of the average gardener’s life that many people make them out to be, they’re certainly pretty irritating and disruptive to your garden’s beauty. A lot of people rip up weeds when they see them, only to find a few more have taken their place just a week or so later.
So how does one actually make sure they stay dead? And can it be done without using the sort of harmful killer chemicals that can cause damage to the rest of you garden, and even to any wildlife that may swoop in? We’ve got a few tips for you. Hasta la vista, weeds.
Go artificial
This is probably one of the most extreme options, and it certainly may offend the sensibilities of some gardeners who want absolutely everything to be natural. But hands-down the best way to prevent weeds from disrupting the unity and look of your grass is to simply replace your grass with the artificial stuff! More and more gardeners every year are getting on-board with this stuff, especially because the cost of artificial grass has been decreasing with the rising demand. It can help you save a lot of time when it comes to both weed prevention and general lawn care - after all, you don’t have to cut what doesn’t grow! Of course, the soil beds surrounding your lawn can be replaced with artificial stuff, but let’s assume that’s taking it too far.
Minimize soil disturbance
The reason you get weeds in so many places in your garden? Well, if there’s soil, then there’s a risk of weeds; pretty much every inch of your garden contains weed seeds. Most of them are way too deep in the soil to actually germinate; they need to be in the top couple of inches to get enough light. With this in mind, you have to remember that disturbing your soil too much can cause those seeds to come closer to the surface. Ironically, one of the most common causes of soil disturbance is weed removal! Be careful when removing the weeds you have, because you may shift dormant weed seeds into a more fruitful position within the soil. Use a thin blade to slice through the roots instead of digging them up or yanking them.
Reduce gaps
Mind the gap! Weeds are more apt to grow in the gaps between the plants you actually do want in your garden. Of course, you’re going to be a bit limited here as to how much you can reduce the space between plants. Some will need quite a lot of space in order to grow to their full potential; if they get too close, they may also find themselves blocked from getting enough water and sunlight. But there are many gardeners who make these spaces much bigger than they need to be; especially when you consider the fact that so many simply scatter their seeds without much of a strategy! Remember that the recommended spacing between seeds is usually a little too large as they leave room for error; you can often get away with shaving 20% or so from the suggest space.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Gorgeous Gardens Needn't Take All Your Time

For many enthusiasts, gardening is about the method and the meticulous detail as much as it’s about the result. There’s a sense of reward to seeing your planning and participation in creating the space fit to your desires. But there are plenty of people who would like a lovely looking garden without having to put in so much effort. Perhaps they don’t have the time for it, perhaps they simply don’t like it. Everyone deserves a better garden and you can make it a lot easier to get one.

Let nature reign (a little)
Perhaps you want a bright patch of flowers without having to carefully consider how much water, sunlight, and space individual species need. You will need to get a little less particular about which flowers you prefer, but you can separate and create a wildflower meadow in your own garden which will need very little maintenance from you afterward. After all, these are the flowers that grow just fine without human intervention. The most you will need to do is make sure they’re not crossing the boundaries outside of where you want them to be.

Au natural isn’t everything
You don’t necessarily have to concern yourself with things growing out of control or getting overrun with weeds, either. If you want to completely take the effort out of maintaining a garden, there are plenty of authentic-looking and feeling lawns like Multiturf on offer nowadays. Synthetic turf allows you to add a touch of green where you might not be able to and ignore the problems that usually come with low-quality soil.

Keep off the grass
If landscaping to prepare the garden sounds like much more a chore than it sounds like a fun time, then you might want to let the grass keep to itself. You can move your flowers and other plants to individual spaces where they’re not going to require as much control, instead. Vertical gardening options, potted plants, using the windowsills and the like all allow you to get that touch of colour you want for the garden while making it easier to tend to your plants.

Let it take care of itself
If you really want to get lazy with it, then technology is going to be your best friend. There are loads of time-saving tools on the market nowadays that allow you to almost entirely automate your garden. Automated sprinkler systems are everywhere nowadays and they’re becoming cheaper, too. But now there are even automated lawnmowers like those from Husqvarna that will smartly calculate the differences between patches of ground and lengths of grass to give you an even cut without leaping unmanageable clippings. There are even automated drip irrigation systems that take the effort out of caring for individual plants.

There are a lot of shortcuts to achieving the garden you want. In most cases, however, you will always need to do a little upkeep of your own. Stay on top of your garden regardless of how low-effort you make it, or else you will be dealing with an overgrown mess.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

How To Make Your Garden Ready For Summer

Summer is almost upon us, and it’s supposed to be a particularly long, beautiful one this year. Being out in your back garden doesn’t hold much joy the rest of the year, unless you’re raking leaves or repotting shrubs or chasing next door’s cat away from a terrified sparrow, but now the good weather’s finally back, it’s time to think about how you can revamp your back garden to make it a perfect summer outdoor space. Here are some tips to help…

Perfect Your Lawn

blur, blurred, eco
Image source

First of all, it’s time to start perfecting your lawn. A lot of grassy areas tend to get green and overgrown during winter before getting yellow and spiky and straw-like over the summer, but luckily there are ways to prevent that and to make sure that you have lush green grass all day long. First of all it’s time to kill any weeds and moss that have sprung up - combine weed killers with plant food to get that done. Make sure that you mow it frequently and keep raking it regularly, pulling out all weeds from the root so that they don’t grow back.

Improve Your Soil

Watering plants with a watering can
Image source

If you want to protect your soil from the summer sun it’s time to add a layer of mulch, which protects it directly from the sun and heat and also adds organic matter to the soil as it breaks down. It’s also a good idea to start getting into the habit of watering your garden regularly now - your plants won’t stay vibrant and healthy or summer without a little extra help from you. Set up a sprinkler every few days and go around with a watering can for any pots and smaller plants, like your herb garden.

Think About How To Be Sociable

backyard, bench, daylight
Image source

Consider how you can best turn your back garden into a sociable space that all your friends will want to visit. It’s a good idea to install decking so you have a comfortable place to put a table, chairs and a grill so that you can hold BBQs. As it’s particularly warm this summer you could also consider installing a hot tub - although that might sound expensive, it’s possible to get interest free hot tubs online, and it’ll also mean that you have a pool to cool off in during the day, plus a romantic place to relax with your partner and a glass of wine at night. Finally, if you have space, why not invest in sports equipment like a net so that you can play bat and ball games? You’ll love this, and so will your kids and friends.

Add A Relaxing Area

Image source

Finally, you need to consider how exactly you can make your garden a relaxing summer spot for you and your family to chill out. Find a shaded area, or create one using decking and any spare fencing to block out the sun. You could hang a hammock between trees or even go for a swing seat with waterproof cushion covers.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Legal Gardening Boundaries

Breathing fresh life into the outside of your home is a great to way to unleash a new lease of life into the whole property, but when doing so you must do so legally. Surprisingly, there are a whole host of legal retirements when it comes to gardening and growing a garden on your property — a lot of them are in relation to how it affects the wider community and your neighbours.
For instance, you need planning permission for paving a garden if you are in fact interested in having paving placed in your garden. The need for these kinds of permissions have been put in place because of the impact these types of ventures can have on the wider community. For instance, the law was placed in the UK in 2007 because of the ways in which paved aware were seemingly contributing to the accumulation of water to such an extent where it was contributing to the floods that were plaguing the country at the time. Because of this, it is now illegal to pave more than five square meters if you have not paid prior consideration as to where where water would drain to in the result of a flood. And if you are successful in being granted the chance to continue with your paving venture, then you should seek as much professional assistance with it as possible so as to ensure that all the work is done not only to a good standard for yourself, but to a standard where it is legally acceptable, i.e. to a standard where it is smooth enough to walk upon without posing a danger to those that do. You should seek to find paving contractors near you so as to make sure that you are getting in experts that know not only how to set paving well and legally, but also how to set it to make it look the best it can look. In doing so, you are staying on the right side of the tracks, and you are enhancing your garden two-fold.

Make sure your paving is legal

And there are a whole host of other garden laws, even some that refer to the nature found in it itself, that needed to be abided by. One of which is the situation of an overhanging branch. Simply, branches, that come from trees that grow from the ground in your plot, that overhang over your fence and into your neighbour’s airspace, constitute as trespassing on your part. This is why you should always make sure that you either keep the branches in your plot, or you converse with your neighbour and make them aware of the situation. You must also always remember that  they are lawfully entitled to deal with any branches that trespass in their airspace as they see fit, so if you see them chopping them, even though it is your tree, you are not legally entitled to claim anything from it as long as they make an effort to return the pieces they have chopped to you. And there are also laws that dictate on lawful entitlement and ownership. For instance, a tree belongs to the owner of the plot in which it grows from the ground in, and so does all of the produce that falls from it. Therefore, it is illegal to take, say, an apple that has fallen from your neighbour’s apple tree, even if it has fallen into your garden.

Overhanging branches
You can make your garden a relaxing haven, and relax in it knowing that every piece of work you’ve done it is keeping you on the right side of the law.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Make Your Garden a Relaxing Haven

Max Pixel

The garden can be the unrivalled champion of stress relief. If you’ve found yourself taking on a lot of stress due to work or home obligations recently, then it might be time to head out to the garden and craft yourself a relaxing haven. Here’s how!

The magic of gardening

As you may already know, physical activity is a great way of reducing stress. People often underestimate just how much of a workout thorough gardening can be sometimes! But it’s not just the physical exertion that triggers a decrease in stress.

There’s the increase in exposure to sunlight to think about, too. An influx of vitamin D, combined with fresh air, is always great for relaxation. Another thing about gardening is that it’s a creative process, which in itself relieves stress in a very effective way. That’s why a lot of people write and paint. Why not get double the effect by creating a beautiful garden then painting it?

Creating a space for you

People underestimate how stressful being at home can be. Because your home life isn’t always completely divorced from your professional life - and it certainly isn’t much of a break from obligations if you have a family! - simply being at home isn’t always as relaxing as people make it out to be.

That’s why having a private space away from home can be very beneficial. We’re not talking about something too far away from the house, of course - we’re talking about having somewhere right in your garden! Some may choose to construct an arbour or a small summerhouse, others may choose sheds or even log cabins from Cuckooland. Whatever you choose, these spaces can be great places to relax and concentrate.

Bring in the wildlife

Nature, in itself, can be a relaxing thing - and this effect is multiplied when you throw wildlife into the equation. The presence of animals can help someone destress very effectively. This is why a lot of people suggest that those who are depressed or stressed get themselves a cat or a dog!

You can encourage wildlife into your garden by getting a bird bath and bird feeder. After all, how good can a garden really be if it doesn’t attract beautiful birds? You can also encourage the presence of butterflies and bees by planting flowers. (Although the presence of bees doesn’t always relax people!)

Calming scents
It’s strange that there’s such a strong connection between stress and smell. But studies have shown again and again that there are certain scents out there that can really help us relax, as well as boost our mood. Thankfully, you can introduce many of these scents to your garden.

The first thing you may think of is lavender, which is widely used for its calming effects. Jasmine is something else you can grow in your garden with a scent that boosts moods. If you’re not in the mood to start growing plants, or you need something a little more immediate, then try mowing your lawn. You’ve probably experienced for yourself the mood-boosting and relaxing effects that the aroma of cut grass gives.
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