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.

Indoor Gardening Tips

Although you have the element of cover and warmth on your side when raising plants indoors rather than outdoors, it can also work against you: because your plants are indoors, you forget to look after them. You forget that the sun can still parch ’em, even though they’re not in direct sunlight. You forget that the elements can still wreak havoc. Here, we share our top indoor gardening tips so that your plants can flourish, whatever the weather.

orchid

  • Sunshine: if the plant needs direct sunlight, it needs 6 or more hours of head-on sunshine a day. Moderate sunlight means around 4 hours a day, and indirect sunlight means it should be kept a few feet away from direct sunlight, otherwise, the leaves will likely burn. Low light? It’ll be perfectly happy in a room that receives little sunshine.
  • If the tag tells you to water the plant steadily, you should water it every time the soil’s surface gets dry to the touch. If it tells you to water it moderately, water it when the top two inches of soil have dried out. Instructions that tell you to water once every week or two weeks should be largely ignored as it depends entirely upon how warm or cold your house is and how much sunlight the plant needs.
  • Buy healthy plants, with firm, bright leaves and an established root system. Buy pots that are around the same size as the pot that the plant came in, and consider resin or fibreglass materials as they hold more moisture than terracotta. Pop a saucer under the pot, and make sure the pot has drainage holes so that the soil doesn’t get water-logged.
  • To re-pot plants, pop a broken shard of terracotta or a stone over the drainage hole of the new pot, then pour in a half inch to an inch of potting mix. Put the plant on top, then pour potting mix around the sides, making sure to centre the plant so that it doesn’t end up wonky.
  • Always pay attention to what the label tells you – don’t just buy a plant in a shop because you think it’ll suit a certain room, because it might not fit a certain room or may not be suitable for that room. Before you go to the garden centre, make a note of the amount of sunlight each room gets to make sure that you’re not buying blind.

Source: Real  Simple

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!

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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

DIY Tips: How to Maintain Your Decking

Maintaining your decking is really important. If it’s too mouldy or mildewy, you risk slipping and falling – and if it ends up turning soft with the water damage, it could be downright dangerous. Learn how to maintain your decking to keep it safe and to keep it looking its best with these tips. Take a look at this link for building materials to help with your repairs.

decking

Removing Mould and Mildew

It’s a bit of a job, but getting rid of mould and mildew is really important. Let the decking get too mouldy and it’ll start to become water-damaged. Arming yourself with a large bucket of hot, soapy water and a decent stiff yard brush, give the decking a good scrub, working in sections of about a square metre at a time. If you can get hold of one, a good strong jet washer will do the job nicely. Set it to its most powerful jet and give the decking a really good blast, concentrating the jet into all of the nooks and crannies on the decking to really lift out the mould. Leave to dry really well for a day or two (its best to do this in the summer so that you can avoid rain) then apply a wood sealant or preserver. If the decking is really mouldy and you find that washing it down with soapy water doesn’t quite do the trick, use a combination of bleach and water, making sure that you check manufacturer’s details before use as you don’t want to damage the wood. Rinse thoroughly at least two or three times and always wear protective clothing, such as goggles and gloves, when cleaning with bleach.

Revamping Tired Decking

If decking is looking a little bit shabby or tired, you can easily revamp it by staining it or by re-treating it. It’s best to do this every couple of years, really, to keep it in tip-top condition -and at the same time, why not treat your fencing too? Give the area a thorough clean following the steps above, dry, then apply a layer or two of an all-in-one stain and preservative. If you want to stain the area using a new colour, you’ll need to use at least three coats of product, letting each layer dry really well before adding the next and giving them a little sand and a good thorough dusting in between coats. To speed up the process, you could use a paint sprayer instead of a roller or a paint brush – especially useful if you have a large area to cover.

Replacing Soft Decking

If any decking shows signs of decay, check for softness by pressing a sharp tool into each plank – if it goes in really easily, you’ll need to replace the planks. Remove the affected planks by cutting where they cross the centre of one of the joists, then carefully remove. Brush the cut ends of the adjacent planks with preservative before replacing.

Source: UKTV Home

DIY Tips: Creating a Scented Garden

A scented garden is just perfect for sitting in through the summer months – and it’ll soon become a haven for garden-friendly bees and bugs and birds, too. Learn how to create a scented garden with these tips and take a look at this link for gardening tools to help you get the job done.

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Herb Happy

Herbs not only look beautiful and give off a delicious scent, but also come in incredibly handy in the kitchen. Try rosemary – it grows really well and smells yummy. Pick it often and dry it out, if you have too much (or give some to your neighbours). Plant sweet-smelling mint out in sunken containers so that it won’t over-run your garden and in the middle of summer, plant out basil.  Pick the tops often as otherwise it’ll get bushy.

Lovely Lavender

Lavender not only looks lovely but smells it, too. It also grows fairly easily, loves sunshine and a little bit of shade and will flourish quite happily once established. It’s also a big attraction for bees, which will help pollinate the rest of your garden plants. Prune it often and add a layer of grit when planting, as it doesn’t like wet soil. If you do have an abundance of picked lavender, dry it out, put it into a pot of sugar to scent it or you could even use it to make soap.

Rosy Roses

Roses have been used for thousands of years to scent gardens and luckily, if you choose a climbing variety, they’re relatively easy to grow. If you’re looking for a super-fragrant rose, choose the Evelyn variety – it’s has a lovely sweet scent.

Chocolatey

For those who love chocolate, why not grow a few chocolate-themed plants? Obviously you won’t be able to grow a cacao tree, but there are a few chocolatey plants you can grow that impart a lovely chocolatey scent. Try chocolate mint herb, chocolate cherry tomatoes or chocolate bell peppers. You could even grow an edible chocolate flower, such as the chocolate calendula or the chocolate nasturtium.

Flora and Fauna

For a lovely scent, choose monarda – it has a light, lemony, aromatic fragrance and is particularly lovely in borders. Alternatively, try buddleia – it smells like honey! Keep in mind though that if you are planting scented flora and fauna, they tend to attract butterflies and bees – so plant them away from seating areas especially if you have young children.

Camomile Lawn

Why not plant some camomile in amongst the grass on your lawn? If your grass doesn’t get too much foot traffic, it’s a great way to add fragrance to your garden. When trodden on (lightly, you don’t want to kill the plant!), camomile releases a light scent and on breezy days, the scent will waft around your garden. Lovely!

Source: UKTV Home

DIY Tips: Using Gravel and Paving Slabs in Your Garden

Using gravel and paving slabs in your garden can totally revamp the look of the space – but choosing the right type of gravel and paving slabs is really important. The wrong shape and your garden theme won’t fit together, or choose the wrong colour and you’ll have to spend a lot of time and money choosing and fitting replacements. Read on to learn more about using gravel and paving slabs in your garden and take a look at this link for gardening tools to help you get the job done.

paving

Practicality

  • Look for paving slabs that have a stable, level surface – crazy paving can look good but if it is too uneven, the surface could become dangerous in wet or frosty weather
  • When you’re choosing slabs for a seating and dining area, again, you need to make sure they’re level – you don’t want food to roll off your table! Make sure that chairs can easily be pushed out over the surface, too – you don’t want them to catch on the edge of a paving slab.
  • Look for paving and gravel that complements your existing garden, but keep in mind that most will weather with time – so what might look new and out of place now will look completely different in about a year’s time.

In a Traditional Cottage Garden

Look for paving slabs that are irregular in size and shape – choose some square, some rectangle, some small and some large. Choose slabs in natural stone like limestone or sandstone, and fit them together in a jigsaw, haphazard manner. Alternatively, choose a reconstituted natural stone paving slab – the best examples look like real stone but are bound with cement and are thinner and much easier to lay. Using real stone will cost more, as the thickness of the slabs will differ which means that the laying process is slightly longer and usually more expensive.

In a Contemporary Garden

For a crisp, clean and super-contemporary look, choose slabs that are sawn-off at the edges that are exactly the same size and lay in either a grid or staggered grid formation. The more uniform the paving, the better. For extra texture, a hammered limestone slab is a great choice – plus, it’ll weather beautifully.

In a Heritage Garden

If your garden is a little bit higgledy-piggledy – or, you have a period home and want your garden to match, pay a visit to an antique reclamation centre for reclaimed slabs.

Using Gravel

Gravel can add a lot of interest to your garden and is very practical, too – but it does have a bit of a bad name. Pea gravel gets everywhere because it does not lock together, so look for angular gravel (with pieces less than 10mm) instead as the size and shape of it means that you can pour it anywhere and it’ll lock into place. Look for a mix that includes fine particles and the surface will be compact and sturdy once poured – making it an excellent choice for a seating area.

Source: UKTV Home

DIY Tips: Choosing the Right Surface for a Small Garden

Choosing the right surface for your garden can be tricky. Decking looks fantastic, but is it practical? Smaller gardens can look much, much smaller when you put down the wrong surface, so read on for our top tips for choosing the right surface and for making your smaller garden look bigger – and take a look at this link for gardening tools to help you transform your garden.

smallgarden

Bringing the Inside, Out

If you can, use the same surface outside in the garden that you use in the room bordering the garden. It tricks the eye and, if you have sliding or folding doors, can make the space feel like one big room. Don’t use interior materials, such as wooden flooring, outside – it’ll ruin them. Instead use the hard-wearing outdoor materials indoors – large flagship stone paving slabs, for example, can look beautiful in a kitchen. If this isn’t practical, try to use materials that are the same colour and size inside and out – it’ll have a similar effect.

Use Smaller Materials

When you’re choosing your garden surface materials, the general rule you should follow in a small garden is to go for smaller materials, such as bricks and pavers, instead of large paving stones. Alternatively, an all-in-one surface such as brushed concrete will also work really well. Using small materials allows you to put in paths and create specific areas in your garden – such as around flowerbeds or around a small seating area – which is a great way to make the most of your small garden. They’re also inexpensive, too, and are relatively easy to lay yourself.

Arranging a Smaller Garden

If you do have a smaller garden, it can be tempting to throw a few pot plants into the space and be done with it. People are often a little bit scared of putting furniture in a smaller garden as they think it will make the space look smaller – and although this can be true, it can sometimes work in the opposite way. An empty, small garden is just that – an empty, small garden. A smaller garden with furniture and different zones, created by cleverly using plants, borders, chairs and colour, will still feel small but much more like a cosy room – rather than a small and unusable garden. If your garden is really small, instead of using a traditional garden table and chairs, consider putting in an outdoor corner sofa unit with removable cushions – it’ll give you a seating area without taking up much space and you can then just add a small side table. Use borders of plants and tall ferns to create “walls” to divide up the space, and use bricks and pavers to create pathways. Don’t be afraid to use colour, either – paint your garden fences in a bold, bright colour, or add colour using throw cushions or even plants. Colour will instantly make the space feel more usable, no matter how small it is.

Source: UKTV Home

 

DIY Tips: What You Need to Know About Looking After Your Garden in Wet Weather

Learn what you need to know about looking after your plants in wet weather by following our wet weather gardening tips. Too much water and plants can literally drown – but too little and plants will die. To help you get started, take a look at this link for gardening tools.

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How to Tell if Your Plants are Drowning

In wet weather, soil can become waterlogged – and when soil is waterlogged, it literally saturates the roots of the plant with too much water which can cause them to drown. Oxygen cannot reach the roots, the soil stagnates and starts to rot, and this prevents root growth. When plants are waterlogged, they may display some similar signs to plants that are scorched – wilted, yellowing leaves that might drop off, fruit that falls from the plant or dies and stunted, short shoots that fail to flower. The surface of the soil will also be saturated and wet, and there may well be a smell a little bit like rotten eggs coming from the soil. The roots of the plant will also be black, rotten and a little soggy.

Soil Problems

There are also a number of potential issues with the soil. When waterlogged, it’s bad for the plants – but when that soil is compacted by being walked over, or by being pressed firmly with your hands, it makes things even worse as it’s much more difficult for the water to drain naturally and this makes the roots even more waterlogged. Do not walk over soggy soil and try to aerate it instead. Waterlogged soil can also be prone to disease, so it’s important to re-plant and re-pot waterlogged plants as necessary.

How to Fix it

  • Never walk on wet soil and avoid compacting it with your hands
  • Spike lawns with a gardening fork so that soil can drain properly, and add a little lime free sand – this helps to improve drainage on lawns
  • Remove dead and dying shoots, as well as dead leaves, flowers and fruits
  • Dig up plants that are particularly waterlogged and then remove damaged roots. Re-pot or re-plant using fresh compost and try to shelter them from the worst of the rain if you can

How to Prevent it

  • Feed the plants regularly during growing season so that they can lay down and establish healthy, strong roots
  • Water during dry spells
  • Use plenty of mulch, organic matter and gravel to improve drainage
  • Insert crocks in the bottom of pots so that the water can drain off more readily
  • If your plants are prone to getting waterlogged, consider building a soakaway or drainage system. Dig ditches around the perimeter and fill them with gravel, or, if the problem is particularly severe, consider speaking with a builder to put pipes into the garden to drain off some of the excess water
  • Consider using raised beds and add plenty of topsoil to improve drainage

Finally, don’t forget – do not overwater your plants!

Source: BBC