Quick and Easy Gardening Tips for Green Thumbs

garden toolsGardening is a very pleasant and rewarding activity, one that really does give out more, the more you put into it. Yes, it can be hard work – backbreaking at times, especially if you are just starting out from scratch – but all that spent effort will not be wasted: you will have a beautiful garden which you can be proud of at the end of it.

And although the work is never going to be particularly easy, there are some things you can do in order to lighten the load somewhat. Here are some of our favourite quick tips; have a quick read through and learn how to make your life that little bit easier.

Green Thumbs, Clean Fingers

One of the most commonly hated issues about gardening is the way that you will end up with a load of dirt and mud stuck under your fingernails. If you don’t want it to accumulate like that, then we have a very simply solution for you.

All you need to do is to rake your fingernails across a damp bar of soap. This will cause a build-up of soap underneath your nails, essentially sealing them against the dirt. Then, once you have finished your gardening for the day, just use a nailbrush to clean it out again. Hey presto – beautifully clean nails!

Stop the Strimmer Stalling

We’ve all encountered this annoying problem, and it can be a real pain in the nick to sort it out at times. There is a really easy way to prevent this annoyance from ever occurring: you simply make sure to treat the line with a few sprays of vegetable oil before you pop it into the strimmer. Nice and easy!

Measure for Measure

Sometimes, you really need a measuring tool to hand. Frustratingly, this always seems to be at the most awkward of times – such as when you are trying to plant flowers and you need your hands free for your spade.

Here’s our expert trick for this situation: you turn your garden tools into ersatz measurers! The next time you have a few minutes to spare, grab a few of your tools and lay them on the ground. Then you can use a measuring tape and a permanent marker to turn the handle into a measuring tool. So simple!

Keep Your Markers Natural

Instead of sticking bits of plastic into the soil to help you tell which shoot is which, why not try this lovely, all-natural alternative: write the names of each plant on a flat face of a stone, before placing them in front of the relevant plant. Not only is it great for the environment, but it looks nice to boot!

Car-Dry Your Herbs

Okay, so we just invented that term. But it’s a good one, no? The quickest and easiest way to dry your herbs is to grab a sheet of newspaper and pop it on the back seat of your car, lay the herbs on top with no overlaps, then shut the doors and leave it for a while. Bonus: fantastic-smelling car.

8 Garden Essentials for Summer

Gardening tools and flowers

Whether you’re hosting a family BBQ, soaking up the rays on a Sunday afternoon or enjoying a glass of crisp, cold wine in the evening, nothing beats time spent in the garden over summer. Now that spring is just around the corner it’s time to get yours looking ready for the warmer months and your garden will be the envy of the neighbourhood with our eight essentials.

Copper Plant Markers

Copper is all the rage in the interiors world at the moment, but it doesn’t just have to extend to your living room. Keep your blooms neatly labelled and add a touch of sparkle to your flower beds. The grease pen that comes with the kits makes labelling and relabelling a breeze.

Wooden Garden Tools

You won’t get very far in the garden without some garden tools, but you don’t have to stick to the boring plastic green shades. Wood designs give your tools a chic feel and are an ideal gift for any gardening enthusiast.

Watering Can

A true symbol of Britain, the classic watering can is a must in any garden. Keep your seedlings well-nourished and do it in style with a beautiful galvanised steel design. Not does it look stylish, it’s also rust-resistant in case you forget to bring it in after use. Just don’t forget to empty it after watering.

Mason Jar Herb Garden

You don’t have to be green-fingered to add a touch of life to your garden. Perfect for those who aren’t budding gardeners or who simply don’t have the luxury of a huge garden, these will not only give your windowsill a little something extra, they’re great for adding into new summer recipes too.

Outdoor Planters

If you’re short on time, planting perennials and greenery in your garden is a great way of making it look stylish with minimal effort. Best of all, there are a huge variety of planters out there that you can choose from so you can find the perfect one to suit your style.

Weeders

Okay so they might not be the most exciting or stylish addition to the garden, but they’re a must to keep it tidy and free from weeds that can be detrimental to the health of the other plants in your garden. Great for getting rid of pesky dandelions and crabgrass, the long and slender ends can get deep into the ground and pull weeds up from the root.

A hat

There are lots of stylish hats out there so you can look good while you garden, but a hat is important for much more than aesthetics. The skin on your scalp is very sensitive and prone to sunburn, so if you’re planning on spending an afternoon in the garden make sure you’re covered up to prevent burn and keep the risk of skin cancer at bay.

A BBQ

We couldn’t write this list without including an old favourite – the classic barbeque set! And since you’ve worked so hard in the garden, it seems only fair that someone else mans the BBQ so you can out your feet up and enjoy a nice cold drink.

How to Gear Your Garden Up For Summer

garden

If the weather outside is frightful, gardening is often the last thing on your mind.

Rather than tending to your eranthis hyemalis or sarcococca confuse, you’re inside with a hot water bottle, shaking an angry fist at the pregnant and threatening skies.

When the clouds do part to offer a few glorious minutes of sunshine, you rush outside to find your garden is like an ice rink and your gloves offer little to no protection against the elements.

Indeed, gardening in sub-zero temperatures offers little to the fair-weather gardener who’s keen to turn their outside space from shabby to chic in time for the sunny season.

However, gnashing your teeth and kicking the heads off daffodils in a meteorological mope will achieve nothing, so it’s time to put your energy into gearing your garden up for the summer months.

Here’s how …

Give Your Garden a Spring Clean

Before you even think about the first rays of summer, it’s vital to get your winter ravaged garden in order by giving it a proper clean, as the colder months ultimately take their toll.

Consequently, make sure you clear up the accumulated debris and find a new home for all those sticks and twigs blighting your usually bowling green like grass.

While you’re at it, try getting rid of any weeds, as well as giving your battered fences a lick of paint and ensuring your plant pots haven’t been damaged by the winter winds.

Construct a Conservatory

Take a look around your neighbourhood and it’s extremely likely you’ll find many homes with sun kissed conservatories nestled at the backs of properties – and you don’t want to be the odd one out.

Aside from looking great and offering a warm space to enjoy family life, a well-built conservatory can actually add significant value to your home.

All it takes is a bit of forward planning, figuring out where the new lean-to will be placed, as well as what your budget will be, before you’re enjoying a well deserved vino in your new conservatory.

Feed Your Soil

As we head into spring, it’s often an ideal time to work your fertiliser or manure into your soil. Aside from offering your plants vital nutrients, it’ll help restore nutrients lost from the soil over winter.

Additionally, try to get out to mow your grass, as the chilly weather of winter can mean our lawns are neglected and more overgrown than a hobo’s beard by the time warmer weather comes around.

Now it’s over to you …

Do you have any top tips for gearing a garden up for summer? Please let us know by leaving a comment below – we’d be delighted to hear from you.

Winter Gardening Tips

If you’re feeling green-fingered (or blue-fingered, rather, it’s freezing out there at the moment!), you’ll love our simple winter gardening tips. From digging over your soil to stop it from becoming water-logged to sprucing up the garden path, although you can put away the mower come winter, there are still plenty of things you can do whilst pottering around the garden on one of those rare winter days illuminated by watery sunshine. You’ll need some garden tools and some thick gloves: it’s going to be cold!

wintergarden

  • Turn over the soil, provided that it is not water-logged or frozen: it’ll loosen up weeds, stones and anything else that could potentially cause the soil to become water-logged which means that your plants, flowers and ferns won’t grow as well come springtime.
  • Dig a trial patch (again, when it isn’t wet or super cold) in your lawn (where no-one can see) and check for things like thatch, moss and damp. That way, you can start weeding, feeding and mowing to get your lawn back to its lush green best.
  • Prune back your shrubs by approximately 1/3 if they’re particularly large, making sure that strands from different plants or trees do not overlap each other.
  • Clean up the garden path – grab a stiff sweeping brush and get rid of dead leaves and any accumulated dirt, stones, sticks and weeds. If the path is particularly grubby, give it a good hose down and then add a thin layer of coloured gravel between paving stones and around the edge of the path to jazz it up a bit. Plus, the gravel will help to prevent weeds from coming up in the spring.
  • Protect tender plants and herbs from frost either by bringing them indoors – into a greenhouse or inside your home before the frost sets in, or by covering them with fleece/a cloche in situ. Many people also cover the tender ends of pruned plants with plastic to protect roots from moss and rot, but whether you choose to do this really depends on how hardy your plants are.
  • Planting native and local trees and shrubs will not only help to maintain the greenery in your local area, but it’ll provide plenty of food and shelter for local wildlife – particularly plants with lots of very thin stalks and berries.
  • Provide water stops for birds by ensuring frost-free birdbaths – pop a floating ball on top and it should stop the water from freezing. Help them to forage by creating piles of leaves in borders or by leaving a small patch of grass uncut to attract bugs and wildlife. You could even make a bug hotel – arrange a few logs in a pile, or build a hedgehog stop. Attracting local wildlife to your garden will help with pest control and if you’re savvy about the plants you choose, they’ll work with your garden helpers to shield your petunias and your tomatoes from those nasty garden bugs.

Source: Country File

Top Tips for Getting the Most From Your Small Garden

Teeny tiny gardens don’t have to be small, impenetrable spaces that are useless for entertaining. With a little bit of clever planning, some creative planting and the use of height as well as colour, a garden with even the smallest possible amount of square footage can be transformed into a haven of tranquility. For extra help, take a look at our gardening and landscaping tools, or call in a professional.

smallishgarden

 

  • Add height. Use the walls, fences and the side of the garage to add interest to the sides of the garden, rather than to the floor. You can use plant frames to grow climbing flowers, potted trees and ornamental grasses to cover up ugly brickwork or flaky paint and decorative hanging baskets with long-trailing plants to pretty up doors and windows. Think of the sides of your house and the walls as a canvas – how can you paint it?
  • Create hidden areas or use dividers, like a decorative arch or hedgerows to divide p the space. Because you can’t see everything in the garden all at once, it’ll make the overall space feel larger.
  • When using paving or decking, don’t lay the flat edges so that they sit flush with the edge of the door. Instead, lay them on a diagonal to give the illusion of a larger space.
  • Cool colours and sandy hues are generally your best bet for a smaller garden, as they recede your vision which makes the garden feel much larger. Steer clear of things bold, warm colours like red and orange as they are often used to make the space feel more intimate, which is exactly the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.
  • Another alternative is to embrace the size of the garden by using tall, canopy trees with large leaves. They’ll help to shelter the garden from high winds and will create a “snug” effect.
  • Another way to make the garden feel more homely – and more like another room in the house – is to use sound and movement within the garden (in the same way that you use lamps and the TV indoors). For example, use solar powered path lights, a fire pit, garden heaters and things like water features and accessories such as tealight holders and weatherproof cushions will really jazz up any space. Water features can fit into even the smallest of spaces, and they’ll add a calming, tranquil feel.
  • Attract wildlife to your garden so that it doesn’t feel isolated – plant pretty and fragrant flowers, herbs, and set up bird-feeding stations and bug hotels to attract birds and helpful garden bugs.

Source: David Demoney

Nifty Tips for Perfect Potted Plants

Your garden can look a little sad and drab at this time of the year – all of the colour starts to fade away and you’re left with an orange/red autumnal garden and a few evergreen plants. But you can add some colour and some pizzazz with our nifty tips for the perfect potted plants. Take a look at this link for gardening materials – and gardeners – to help you get started.

pottedplants

  • Plant bulbs into pots for an immediate hit of colour and interest – then, if you want to plant them out in the spring, just pop the whole pot into the border.
  • Growing things in pots is actually very easy, but what you must remember is that the second you put something into a pot, you’re taking away its food and water supply which means that in order for it to flourish, you need to be responsible for it.
  • Using terrocotta plant pots means that they’ll absorb more water than ceramic or plastic pots, and so they’ll dry out more quickly – which means plants will die more quickly if you don’t keep an eye on them. If you’re going to use terracotta plants, drill holes in the bottom and line with an empty compost bag to prevent the water from draining too quickly.
  • Remember that nature will always fill in any gaps in soil, so although the idea of an minimalist potted plant or shaped tree might be tempting, you’ll have to weed it regularly to keep the base of the plant pot clear. An alternative is to fill in the gaps using a creeping plant, or use a smaller plant pot and a smaller plant so that there’s less space for weeds. Or, cover the top of the plant pot with a thin layer of stones so that the soil can still get through.
  • Attract bees and other garden-friendly insects into your garden by arranging scented potted plants – lavender, mint, chives, various herbs and things like daisies and ornamental grasses are all popular with garden critters, and they are all fairly happy in pots. Generally, they need both sun and shade and plenty of water or plant feed.
  • Bright colours will wash out and overwhelm shaded areas, so use cooler colours in your pots, such as purple, blue and green. In bright, sunny areas, ramp up the impact with bright reds, oranges and yellows.
  • Remember that many fruits and veggies can be started off in pots and they’re very pretty, too. Blackcurrants, blueberries and tomatoes are all brilliant choices.

Source: Daily Mail

What You Need to Know About Growing Herbs

Herbs are one of our favourite plants. They’re often really pretty, they smell fantastic and they taste delicious. Many herbs also make great natural remedies and have long been used in supplemental medicine, which is why it’s important to learn a bit about the herbs that you want to plant before you go shopping for them, just to make sure that you know how to use them properly. Another thing to remember is that for the most part, herbs are pretty hardy. Most are happy in full sunlight and some need a bit of shade and sun – but generally, they will grow pretty well in most spots as long as they have enough light and water. Learn everything you need to know about growing herbs and click here for gardening and landscaping tools to help you on your way.

herbs

  • Remember that herbs used to be wild plants – so they’d grow easily and ferociously virtually anywhere that they had enough room and sunlight. They’re hardier than you think, for the most part, and are actually a bit prone to taking over your garden – especially herbs like mint and rosemary. If you know that you’re not going to be spending that much time in the garden, plant them into pots so that they don’t end up overrunning everything else.
  • A common myth about herbs is that they need full sunlight. Although most herbs love the sun, many also appreciate a bit of shade when the sun is at its hottest – so do your research before you plant out as to the direction of the sun and where the garden will be shaded and at what times of the day. With particularly hardy herbs, like sage, rosemary, oregano and thyme, you can leave them in full sunlight as long as they’re fed and watered often enough. Slightly softer herbs like rocket, mustard and parsley will need a bit of shade, too. Just remember – hardy = sunlight and soft = shade.
  • If you want to plant herbs in window boxes, on the sunnier side of the house – the side that gets more sunlight than all of the others throughout the day, try chives, lemon thyme or oregano. On the shady side? Use salad herbs, like rocket, chervil, mustard and parsley. Grow them in compost and water them in the morning so that they don’t wilter and become limp in the heat of a glorious summer’s day and feed them at least once a week to keep leaves fresh and crisp and the stalks and stems strong and sturdy. Trim back excess growth regularly.

Source: BBC Gardens

How to Grow Raspberries, Strawberries and Currants

Soft fruits are easier to grow than you might think. Sweet yet tart and perfect picked fresh from your garden, they’re a real treat through the summer and through the autumn, depending on which varieties you buy. The most popular soft fruits are easy to grow in most gardens as long as you give them a bit of love and enough shelter to make sure that the elements – and the garden pests – don’t ruin them. Follow our tips and learn how to grow raspberries, strawberries and currants and take a look at this link for gardening and landscaping tools to get started.

Raspberries

raspberries

There are two raspberry types: summer fruiting, whereby the plants can be harvested in the summer, and autumn fruiting, whereby the plants can be harvested from late summer right through to early autumn and the first frost. Summer raspberries give you a huge crop, while autumn berries grow a little more slowly but are equally as delicious. Pop them in a sunny yet shady spot with nutrient-rich soil that has plenty of drainage.

Plant the dormant raspberry canes when it’s colder – autumn and winter – and cut down so that they’re only about 15cm in height. In the first year, the canes will establish a healthy root system, and then the following year you’ll be rewarded with lots of lovely fruit. Ensure that there’s a support system in place so that you can tie them as they grow and in the spring add a layer of mulch and manure.

Strawberries

Strawberries should be re-planted every three years – new plants should be put in and you should shift the strawberries to a different spot in the garden. They rot quite easily and need perfect growing conditions, so it’s really important that you don’t just let the fruits languish on old plants. Plant them in the late summer to the early autumn for a bumper crop the following year. They need to be in a sunny spot, with well-drained soil that isn’t chalky, ideally. Water frequently, pop protective mats underneath the plants as they grow and pick off runners – baby plants – as they appear.

Currants

All currants – white, red and black fruit in the middle of the summer. They need just a little bit of shade but they also need to be protected from the wind. Blackcurrants need protection from frost and plants need neutral soil to grow well. Use nutrient-soil and plant out in late autumn, leaving a good 4-5 feet in between each plant. Prune really well and keep on top of it frequently to increase fruit yield. When spring comes, add a fertiliser that contains nitrogen and potassium and use plenty of organic mulch to improve soil quality. If the bushes are mature, prune them back by a third each year and get rid of a lot of the old wood so that new, strong stems can flourish.

Source: BBC Gardens

Top Tips for Growing Unusual Veggies

Ever been to a restaurant and wondered just where they buy their purple carrots from? Or those delicious heirloom tomatoes? Chances are, they dug them up from the kitchen garden. Growing your own produce means that you’ll have far more choice than you’d get in the supermarket and with our hotter climate, many plants that once required a greenhouse can now grow quite happily outside in your garden. Take a look at our top tips for growing unusual veggies and this link for gardening tools to help you get started.

kitchengarden

Sort Out the Soil

Before you put anything into the ground or even go shopping for seeds, it’s important to sort out the soil so that it’s healthy and nutrient-rich, providing the perfect environment for your veggies to flourish. Get rid of perennial weeds using natural methods, if possible, so that the soil doesn’t end up rich in weedkiller and incorporate plenty of compost. Ensure that there is adequate drainage, if necessary, and that the planting area has enough sunlight and shade for the veggies that you’re planning on growing. Once the soil is up to scratch, look after it – make sure that it’s just moist enough and if it’s particularly wet, do not tread on it as it’ll damage the structure of the soil.

  • Plan your planting well – especially if you’re growing veggies for the first time. Plot rotations work well as they add different nutrients to the soil each time a new plant is put in. Leaving the same plants in the same spot season after season will do nothing for the quality of the soil.
  • Don’t plant seedlings straight into the ground. Grow them in little pots or modules in your greenhouse to give them a chance to become a little bit stronger and more resistant to garden pests – plus, you’ll have more control over the quantity of plants that go into the ground, too. Plant them out into the garden when the weather conditions turn a little more favourable, keeping in mind how large the plant will be once fully grown so that you leave enough space in between the seedlings.
  • Don’t plant out seedlings when it’s still cold or wet – especially if the soil is saturated. They’ll just drown.
  • With unusual veggies, you need to give them a little bit of extra love. Don’t just plant them out into the garden and expect them to grow nicely – follow care instructions to the letter, watering and feeding them only when needed and make sure they get enough sun and shade.
  • Think about using fine netting or companion planting to discourage pests from picking off your precious new plants.
  • Experiment with new varieties – pop them into small containers, let them grow until you’re able to harvest, then have a taste. If you like ’em, plant out into the garden – if not, no biggie. It’s worth trying a few seeds before you invest time and plot space in a plant you don’t really like.

Source: BBC Gardens

What You Need to Know About Garden Centre Shopping

A day out at the garden centre can be surprisingly fun – especially if there’s a tea shop on site! But if you’re new to gardening, or are simply lured by elegant blooms and fancy pots, there are a few things you might get wrong at the garden centre. No matter how much money you spend, if you buy the wrong things, you’ll wind up with a garden that either doesn’t look particularly good or that doesn’t flourish, meaning that you’ll have wasted a fair bit of money. Read on to find out what you need to know about garden centre shopping and look at this link for landscaping tools.

flowersfoliage

Shop for Foliage, not Flowers

If you just buy flowers, you’ll wind up with a very sparse looking garden for 75% of the year. If you are a big flower fan, plant out varieties that have interesting leaves or pretty foliage so that they’ll still look pretty once the flowers are gone, and make sure you include things like grasses and ferns to fill in the gaps.

You Don’t Need to Buy the Best-Looking Plant

Many of us are drawn to the plant that looks the prettiest. But although you should be looking for plants with crisp leaves, sturdy looking stems and a healthy root system (avoid plants that have a huge lump of roots at the base of the pot as they’ll likely suffocate), you don’t need to buy plants that are flowering. Why? Well, if they’re already flowering at the garden centre, they won’t flower for that long in your garden and so you’ll only get to enjoy them for a few weeks. Look for plants with healthy buds instead and let them flourish in your garden.

Choose Healthy Plants

It sounds obvious, but it’s really important that you choose healthy plants vs. diseased plants. Leaves should be bright green and buds plump, the stems plump and the root system neither too big nor too small. Signs of disease include wilted brown or yellowed leaves, and signs of insect damage include bumps and blisters, webs and aphids – little green bugs. You don’t want to introduce pests into an otherwise healthy garden so steer clear, even if the plants are in the bargain bin.

Read the Labels

You’d be amazed at how many people just forget to read the label of a plant then take it home and put it in completely the wrong spot. It’s really important to read the label so that your plant gets the nourishment that it needs, as well as the right amount of sunlight and shade. Don’t bin the labels once the plants are in the ground, either – stick them next to the plant or if you’re not a fan of the label, rewrite the care instructions on something a bit prettier.

Choose a Colour Scheme

Flowers are lovely. But orange, red, blue and purple flowers all jumbled together in one bed aren’t particularly lovely. When you’re at the garden centre, pick a colour scheme and stick to it, or if you’re undecided, go for two different colour schemes that you can plant out into different beds.

Source: Country Living