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.

How To Make Your Garden Wildlife-Friendly

Two rabbits bunny in the garden

With all of the environmental issues faced by the UK’s wildlife, it’s nice if British gardeners can give the birds, bugs, and small animals a helping hand. Not only will it fill you with a sense of well-being, to have done something positive for biodiversity, but your garden will really come to life with all manner of beasts.

Don’t Be A Neat Freak

Messy gardens, full of organic material, benefits wildlife. Let things grow a little out of hand. Let dead leaves lie around your garden. Keeping your lawn pristine will discourage wildlife from setting up home or using your undergrowth to build their nests for the winter.

Choose Pollinators

Come spring and summer, bees will start to come out of hiding. Pollinating flowers and wildflowers will not only make your garden look lovely, but it will provide all-important nectar for the bees. If you want to get in there early, crocuses and singlehead snowdrops can be planted in the autumn, ready for spring.

Build A Pond

A little water really invites in wildlife, even if it’s an open bucket. Making your own pond really doesn’t have to be difficult at all. It can be as simple as digging a shallow hole in the ground, covering it with tarp, and holding the tarp in place with heavy rocks. Before you know it, nature will have taken over.

Help The Birds

Nesting boxes can be easily installed in any garden, providing a safe haven for birds. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t see immediate results; it can take a few years sometimes for birds to cotton on. Otherwise, bird feeders are a great way to help your feathery friends during the cold winter months. Bird baths are also great too, as long as they don’t freeze over!

Wildlife Stacks And Insect Hotels

Insect hotels are growing in popularity. When it comes to these installations, it’s often better to go big or go home. You can create your own wildlife stack at home, to ensure that your garden is populated with plenty of creepy crawlies. You can achieve this with old bricks or wooden pallets easily.

Hedgehog Love

Hedgehogs are declining in the UK. You can encourage the hedgehogs that are left into your garden by letting your grass grow, or building your own hedgehog box. When food becomes scarce, you can even put out food for this spikey lot. Although it’s traditional to put out milk and bread, this is exactly what you should avoid giving to hedgehogs, as it’s bad for them. They’ll eat pretty much anything else, however. Dog or cat food is a good bet, but they will happily snap up bits of cake, biscuits, pastry, or cooked vegetables. Hedgehogs eat quite a wide variety of substances, and they are great garden companions, as they snuffle up the slugs and snails in your flowerbeds and vegetable patches – they really help around the garden, so welcome them in! It always feels quite special to see them wandering around the lawn too!

What To Do In Your Garden This Weekend

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Are you wondering what you can do in your garden this weekend? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered with an itinerary of different activities. Here are just a few things to add to your to-do list on Saturday morning.

Bulb Planting

If you haven’t started laying down bulbs in your garden, now is the time to do so. You can have flourishing flowers, ready for Christmas (Hyacinth) or spring (Daffodils, Snowdrops, Bluebells). Bring a little colour to your garden, after some of the barest winter days. It’s nice to start planting things now, in anticipation for fresh blooms later.

Look After Your Hanging Baskets

Although some hanging baskets start to decline now, others will last until the first frost, as long as you keep feeding, watering, and dead-heading them. Keep your blooms going until the weather really takes a turn for the worst. You may be surprised at how long they keep, as long as you give them a little TLC.

Tree Planning

Trees that are planted now, while the weather is wet, but the ground is still warm, will do well when they sprout up the following year. Get them established now, before the frosts come along, and give them a good start.

Keep Deadheading Your Roses

Keep deadheading your roses, to encourage further flowering, before the winter cut back. If you have any climbing roses, prune them, unless they are repeat-flowering. Many roses will last it out during colder weather.

Keep Harvesting Your Crops

Now is a great time to keep harvesting your vegetable garden. Soon, you’ll be lacking a number of crops, so make the most of yours, and freeze off anything that you’ll want to dip into later – it will still be as fresh as the day that it was picked! You could also try pickling or drying your produce. Experiment with new preservative measures!

Pumpkins

To make sure that you have plenty of pumpkins, ready for Halloween, remove any leaves that are covering the fruit. This will help them ripen, ready for October 31st. If you see any pumpkins touching the ground, it’s often worth laying a wooden board or slate underneath them to help prevent rot.

Pimp Up Your Garden

Start to think about composting and collecting water, if you haven’t already. Creating your own compost station and water butt is a great way to enhance your garden, be more environmentally-friendly, and drastically reduce your bills. When you start to have less to do around your garden, it’s a fantastic idea to get these projects underway, especially with the autumn leaves coming (awesome for leaf mulch).

Plan For Next Year

Nope, it’s really not too early to plan next year’s garden. In fact, now is the perfect time to draw up what you’re going to plant and where. This way, you can get everything in the ground at the perfect time, and it will give you an opportunity to ensure that something is always flowering in your beds, and that you have a great supply of veggies throughout the year.

Tips For Taking Your Garden To The Next Level

Beautiful Garden With Bench And Little Pond To Relax

Have you got a gorgeous garden already, but you’re wondering what adjustments would make that extra bit of difference? Taking your garden to the next level is all about the small changes that have a huge impact. Here are just some ideas for getting more out of your favourite place at home.

Water, Water, Water

Especially through summer, be sure to support your garden by regularly watering your plants; this is extremely important if they live in pots! This can be a bit of a drain on your resources, however, so try to be as economical as possible here, for your own sake. An eco-friendly automatic watering system can be a fantastic investment for your garden this year, to keep it looking lush and happy!

Diminishing Space Solutions

Running out of space in your garden? It’s time to break out the crawlers! Over arches, up the side of the house, across fences…wherever there is a vertical wall, you can grow climbing roses, honeysuckle, or any other gorgeous plant that likes to scale upwards. Even if this is an after-thought of such, it could swiftly become the most beautiful feature in your whole garden. It’s definitely worth growing towards the sky!

All Things Container-Related

For areas of your garden that don’t have plantable soil, it’s time to break out the containers. You don’t need to immediately move towards ordinary plant pots; you can get pretty creative with containers. For example, you could use empty wine boxes to plant herbs for your kitchen, for a lovely vintage look. You can even hang containers off the side of fences to make the most of the space available.

Rain Barrels

A great solution for conserving water for your garden is to set-up your own water-butt. It’s actually easy to create one at home, but otherwise, you can try to claim a second-hand one online. Ebay is a good place to start, but look for sellers in your area, so it’s easy to pick up in person.

Water Feature

Water features in your garden can attract wildlife and add an interesting extra element to your already pretty back yard. It can be as simple as digging a hole, laying down tarp, and lining with rocks, to create an immediate pool. If you want a running water feature, take a look at this guide for making your very own at home, with little fuss and a little DIY skill.

Attracting Wildlife

Half of the fun of having a garden are the animals who take up residence there; birds, butterflies, bees…try to make them all feel welcome. For bees, this is as simple as planting lots of flowers that they like; cosmos and lavender are lovely options. For birds, this could be hanging up bird food or creating spaces for them to nest in the spring. Butterflies can be encouraged in by creating a feeder for them; here is some really useful information on how to go about that.

How To Grow Strawberries In Your Garden

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Strawberries are surprisingly easy to grow in Britain, and they can make a fantastic addition to your garden. Strawberries flourish in a variety of soils, although well-drained, rich in hummus ground is best. Between June and September, strawberries can be grown outdoors, perfect for classic summer dishes. Try to plant strawberries in full-sun and out of the wind. You can expect the plants to bear fruit between 5 and 6 years, as long as you take good care of them.

Which Strawberries Should You Grow?

It entirely depends on what you want to come to fruition in your garden. You can go for the classic, bell-shaped strawberries that everyone naturally thinks of, or you can consider alpine wild strawberries, which produce very tiny fruits.

Prepare The Soil

Fork in nutrient-rich compost or mulch, to make the perfect bed for your strawberries. Be sure to fish out any weeds that you come across too. Leave a good amount of space between plants, so they are easy to pick, and they have enough space to flourish.

Use Nets

If you’re worried that birds or squirrels will steal your crops, nets are a great solution. However, only use these if you’re desperate, as they’re not always necessary. If you choose to use nets, be sure to remove them, once the fruiting season is over, so animals can help pick off pests.

Pick Strawberries As They Ripen

Every couple of days, while your strawberries are coming to fruition, pick any that are ripe. If you leave them to rot, they can damage the plant and the surrounding strawberries too. Picking tip: collect the fruit first thing in the morning, when the strawberries are at their juiciest. Pick the strawberries carefully, so you don’t damage the plant, and also be gentle with the fruit itself, so it doesn’t bruise.

Late May Straw

To stop weeds from taking over your strawberries, you can lay down straw. It’s also a great way to keep moisture in the ground, when the hot weather starts parching the soil. And, if that wasn’t enough, it helps to stop the fruit from getting damp and rotting. Before laying down the straw, be sure to pick out any rogue weeds that are taking over.

Baskets

Do you think an army of slugs will come and ruin your plants? Strawberries do really well in baskets, as long as you remember to water them every day. It’s a great way to keep your plants out of harm’s way, without having to resort to nasty pesticides. This is also a great option if you don’t have a lot of outdoor space. They are like hanging mini-gardens!

Misshapen Strawberries?

Don’t forget that you can turn any strawberries that you don’t want to eat fresh off the plant into homemade jam. Here’s a handy guide to get you started. You only need a few ingredients and it’s a fun activity that you can do with the family – so much better than the store-bought stuff.

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.

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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