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

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.

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  • 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

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.

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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

DIY Tips: Top Tips for Designing a Garden Part Three

Creating the right garden for you and your family can be tricky. Do you want to add plants and blooms? Or are you worried that little fingers will dead-head your roses? Or should you opt for indestructible grasses and shrubs instead? Follow our top tips in the third and final part of our garden design series and take a look at this link for tools to help you get the job done.

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  • Think about making your garden functional as well as pretty. For example, you could plant a herb garden into the border – mint grows exceptionally quickly, as does rosemary, and they provide wonderful fragrance too. Chives are also fab and thyme provides not only wonderful fragrance but is pretty, too, with variegated leaves. Lavender is also good – pretty and fragrant
  • A really simple way to make your garden more interesting is to put in different levels. That could be a slightly raised decking area, raised borders and beds or a sunken pool. If your garden is naturally slanted, make the most of it with several different levels, each with a different theme
  • For a clean, contemporary and fresh look, show a little bit of restraint when you’re shopping for garden accessories. For example, if you’re putting in decking and plan to buy wooden garden furniture, choose woods in similar tones and colours. When you’re choosing flowering plants, look for similar colours and patterns and if you’re using plenty of pots and containers, either choose them in the same style or in the same colour to keep the look harmonious
  • Alternatively, if you love all things bright and colourful, feel free to go wild with a splashes of colour all over the place. We often stick to boring colours for garden fences and sheds – forest green or an orangey-brown. A lovely way to brighten up your garden is with pastel colours for a vintage feel, or combine contrasting hues like deep aubergine with flashes of lime green or bright orange to create a cool lounge area that just happens to be outside
  • Another brilliant way to design your garden is to think of it as just another room in the house. Think about all of the elements that you’d use to decorate a room in your house – you’d buy furniture, put colour on the walls and use accessories to bring life and personality to the space. In terms of what you can do in the garden, you can put colour onto fencing, use garden furniture with fabric cushions, accessorize with flowers and plants and add life and personality with things like outdoor beanbags, planters and vintage-style birdcages

Souce: 4Homes

DIY Tips: Top Tips for Designing a Garden

The best gardens are those that not only look good, but that are comfy, cosy and that put a great big smile on your face. Learn how to create that kind of space, whatever the size of your garden by following these quick top tips. This is just part one of our series – keep an eye out over the following week for the rest of our tips and take a look at this link for gardening tools to help you shape your space.

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  • Any paths in the garden should be wide enough for at least two people to walk through side by side. Any smaller, and your garden will feel horribly cramped. If you want to plant large or tall plants or shrubs, pathways should be wider – the last thing you want to do is make people feel shrouded by plants. The exact same thing goes for your patio or decking area, too – anything over 30 inches tall should be planted at least two or three feet away so that the garden feels bigger and brighter.
  • If you’re planning on putting in steps, make them 6 inches tall or less as that’s the most comfortable tread. If you’re putting in paths or paving instead, make sure that each and every paving stone is flat, flush and level to the ground to avoid trips and falls.
  • When putting in patios and garden furniture, keep in mind that you need to have enough space for people to dine comfortably and to mingle. Don’t sacrifice grass and garden for the sake of patio space, but do keep in mind that you might need to buy a smaller patio set than you’d like.
  • Plan for what your garden will look like in five years or ten years’ time. You’re planting flowers, trees and bushes now and although they might be small, they’ll grow – and they’ll keep on growing. Think about how big the plants will grow and do your research before you plant them out – some plants, like mint or rosemary, grow like crazy and can take over your whole garden if you let them. Save yourself some work by thinking about what the plants will be doing in a few years, or if you’d rather fill the garden with colour and depth straight away, look for fast-growing plants that flower quickly.
  • You might think that plain old turf is a bit boring, but without it, you’ll have nowhere else to lounge! It’s soft underneath your feet, makes a wonderful counterbalance to bright plants or shrubs and helps to emphasise the feeling of space. Keep a blanket or two next to the back door so that you’ll always be able to stretch out on the grass.
  • Flowers are not the only thing that can bring colour to a garden. They’re pretty, sure – but you can also add colour with fruit-bearing plants, foliage and lush ferns and leaves.

Source: Fine Gardening

DIY Tips: How to Create a Garden for Pets

Make sure that your animals are safe and secure whenever they venture outside by following these tips to creating a garden that’s just perfect for pets. Cats and dogs are very curious by nature and will get into everything – plants, unusual sounds, unusual smells and anything that takes their interest. Young pets – particularly kittens let outside for the first time and puppies can end up in all sorts of trouble if left unattended, although older pets need to be looked after too. Take a look at these links for gardening and building materials to help you create a safe, happy space for your pets.

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Keep it Secure

If necessary, get down on the ground to the level of your pet to identify all of the potential pitfalls and access points. You’ll obviously need a fence that runs around your entire garden, but make sure that animals can’t get underneath, either. You could fit chicken wire underneath to fit in any gaps, and if you have rabbits, bury chicken wire so that it’s around 6 inches deep, then turn it so that it also comes inwards for around 6 inches, too, to stop them from burrowing their way out of your garden.

Have a look around any potentially awkward areas in your garden that pets could get stuck in or under, such as by decking or behind sheds, and make sure that your gate is extra-secure – particularly if your dog is prone to wanting to escape.

Pesticides and Poisonous Plants

For a pet-friendly garden, you’ll want to use either organic pesticides or natural pest control methods. Traditional pesticides can be incredibly dangerous to pets and could cause kidney failure and other serious medical conditions if ingested. You should also avoid the use of animal matter, as some pets can be tempted to eat it, but it could make them very ill. Garden compost is perfectly safe provided that it does not contain animal matter. Remember too; certain plants are also poisonous for animals and should be kept out of the garden, including: rhubarb, lily-of-the-valley, azaleas, rhododendrons, oleander, castor oil plants, yew, laburnum, rhuseuphorbia, daffodils and foxglove. If putting down slug pellets, make sure that your pets won’t be able to eat them.

Ponds

It’s usually best to either fill in ponds or make them extra shallow when you have pets – and make sure that pets are able to climb out of them. Even larger dogs could drown in a deep, wide pond that they can’t climb back out of. If the pond has fish in it, cover with strong mesh so that cats can’t get at them, or fence it off.

Shelter

If your pets are outdoor pets, or are outdoors for most of the day, it’s important that their shelters are safe, secure and kept well out of the way of foxes. Shelters should be weather proof, wind proof and comfortable, with a fresh water supply and plenty of food. You should also consider choosing fox-proof hutches and coops. Alternatively, you can buy scent markers from most pet and DIY stores, which will keep foxes out of your garden.

Source: UKTV Home

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.

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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: Autumn Garden To-Do List

Get into your garden this November to keep pests and disease out of your garden and to control plant growth. Take a look at this autumn gardening checklist to learn more about what you should and shouldn’t do in the garden this November and click this link for gardening tools.

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In the Vegetable Plot

Get in the summer garden and start clearing out the vegetable plot of some of that summer growth. If there is too much in the way of plant debris, disease and pests could stay prevalent in your garden over the winter, so it’s important to clear it all out before the weather gets too cool. Give everything a good prune, trim back bushes and plants and remove any dead leaves and dead flowers. Throw it all in the garden bin, or, if you’re removing healthy debris, throw it onto your compost heap.

Grow a Few Autumn Vegetables

Many vegetables really flourish in cool weather and taste fantastic even with a few deep ground frosts. Broccoli and spinach can be grown through the cooler months and they tend to flourish even better with a few extra degrees of warmth provided by floating row covers.

Get Planting

Autumn is a great time of year for planting out into your garden. The soil is still warm enough to grow and nourish plants, shrubs and trees, but because the temperatures are decreasing, the demands on the plant dwindle – giving it plenty of chance to lay down roots before the warmer weather next spring. Water new plants frequently as the cooler weather can cause the soil to dry out more quickly. Check for moisture levels by pressing the soil with your hand. It should feel slightly damp to the touch. Don’t over-water. Generally, you’ll need to water once a week when the weather is dry.

Make Use of Fallen Leaves

You’ll find them absolutely everywhere throughout the autumn months. Make the most of them – round up the leaves on your lawn and take them off your neighbour’s hands, too. Mow over them and then rake them into your lawn and into beds – they break down and act as a very simple yet effective organic compost.

Plant Out Bulbs

For plenty of colour in your garden come springtime, plant out bulbs like daffodils, crocuses and hyacinths. You could also plant out ornamental shrubs and trees and now is also the time to divide up and plant your perennial plants and seeds, if you have them.

Sit Back and Relax

Once all the odd gardening jobs are done, all you need to do is sit back, relax and enjoy your garden. Make sure that you keep off the grass, however, especially when it starts to snow or if it has been raining heavily.

Source: DIY Network

DIY Tips: How to Trim and Finish a New Garden Window

Learn how to trim and finish a homemade garden window with this simple how-to tutorial.

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Check and Fill Gaps

Have a good look around your new garden window to see if there are any gaps or areas that need to be filled. If the window is oversized, or has an oversized opening, you might want to cut trim to finish off underneath the window on the outside of the property. Measure and cut trim to fit. On the inside of the window, take measurements and then cut trim to fit. Always choose trim that matches any existing trim present for a cohesive look.

Cut Trim to Size

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Ensuring that the thickness of the trim is not longer than the overhang of the bottom shelf of the window, measure out the trim and cut to size. When cutting 45 degree corners, use a miter saw for a finished look.

Paint the Trim

Before installing the trim, you’ll want to prepare it with a primer before painting it to match your interiors. Use the highest-quality primer you can afford as this should mean that you’ll be able to get away with just one or two coats of paint. Once primed, leave to dry completely and once painted, leave to dry once more before use.

Fix the Trim Pieces to the Window

Before glueing and nailing into place, be sure to check that the trim pieces fit snugly into any gaps. To fix the trim pieces to the window, you’ll need to dab a little sealant onto the back of each trim piece. Fix into place and check that the trim is level. Level the trim, then hammer into place and finish with nails.

Finish the job by using a caulk to fill the seams and to fill any holes or gaps. Use paintable caulk, so that you can gloss and paint the window.

Once the caulk is completely dry, use a gloss paint formulated for use in kitchens or bathrooms. This is especially important, as this type of paint withstands moisture and is really useful in this type of environment.

Caulk the Gaps

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Once you’ve finished, seal everything with another thin layer of caulk. Ensuring that the gaps are properly filled helps to protect the window from moisture and various weather-related problems.

Source: DIY Network