A compost heap is a great way to recycle waste products. The compost that is created as these materials decompose can be used to drastically improve soil; making for ideal growing conditions. Making your own compost is easy and there are a wide range of compost bins to choose from at very affordable prices. Although it can be just as easy to make your own bin using the steps outlined below
• Make a bin at least 1.25m (4ft) square out of stout posts and wire netting in shady, sheltered corner of the garden. You can also use timber or corrugated steel, although you will need to ensure there are adequate air holes to allow the heap to ‘breath’.
• Mix up the waste products as you put them in and keep the heap firm by trampling on it.
• Throw a piece of sacking or old carpet on the top to prevent the heap from drying out (in dry weather you may need to water the heap to keep it moist). You may also want to add powdered compost accelerators, although these are not compulsory.
• Within 3-6 months the compost will be brown and crumbly, depending on the time of the year. Once it reaches this state the compost is ready to be used. Well-rotted compost does not have to reach a state where it is indistinguishable from soil; it is fine for it to contain a few coarser components.
It’s a good idea to have 2 or 3 heaps so that after 3 months you should achieve a proper rotation which will keep you provided with compost continuously throughout the year.
If you are looking to use pesticides on your garden you will need to take certain precautions as the chemicals used for spraying plants can be poisonous to both humans and pets, especially in their undiluted form.
Every time our staff use chemicals we adhere to strict rules to eradicate themselves, as well as anyone else who comes into contact with pesticides, from any potential harm. If you are looking to use pesticides yourself, here is a list of safety precautions you advised to keep to, to avoid any possible safety hazards.
• Use chemicals only when they are absolutely necessary and look at the labels to make sure you have the correct product
• Always keep packets, tins and bottles locked up, away from children and pets
• Never store plant sprays close to any foodstuff
• Never turn them out of their original packaging into another container
• Always read the instructions carefully before use and follow them closely
• Do not exceed the recommended concentration. Too strong may not be effective anyway
• Mix only as much spray as you need and do not keep any that is left over
• Do not spray or dust in windy weather
• Wear protective clothing whilst spraying
• Wash hands thoroughly after use
• Clean all equipment thoroughly after use
• Do not keep diluted chemicals; they deteriorate quickly and may damage plants
• Never put chemicals into containers that might mislead people, especially children, into thinking they are safe to eat or drink
There are many causes of plant damage and not just those caused by pests or disease. Sometimes it can be due to natural causes such as wind or frost and other times it may be that your plants are being incorrectly fed or watered. In this article we are going to explore a few different causes of plant and tree damage in your garden.
One of the most common causes of damage to plant pots is either by under or over watering. It can be difficult to diagnose exactly whether the plant as had too much or too little water as the symptoms can be very similar. If a plant does not receive the correct level of water then the plant will tend to be subject to either leaf curling, stem drooping or leaf drop. Both conditions can also cause leaves to turn yellow or brown. We recommend that you check the soil in pot plants and if it feels dry, it will need watering.
Plants should be fed little and often. Large doses of feed all at once can cause various problems including leaf decolouration, plant vigour and the ability to flower and produce fruit. We tend to use a general feed that includes trace elements as it is unlikely that the plant is deficient in just the one nutrient and by using a general feed, you should cover all bases. If you need to replace lost elements quickly then a foliar feeding with liquid seaweed extract is recommended.
Frost is particularly problematic to east facing plants as the morning sun can cause the frost to thaw quickly, which in turn ruptures the cells and kills the flower. Fruit tress can also be badly affected and you might want to hose over the frozen flowers to ensure the tree defrosts slowly. For plants that have been damaged by frost, time is the only solution and eventually new, unaffected growth will appear. Dead, frost damaged stems should be cut back to live wood just above healthy shoots.
Due to the scorching that can be created by wind, plants will lose water through their leaves faster than it can be replaced. This causes leaves to have shiny or scorched looking marks, a grazed or bruised appearance or they may turn brown. Plants most affected by the wind tend to be woodland species such as Acer palmatum cultivars, therefore, this particular plant should be grown in a sheltered area of the garden. There is no need to worry if a plant is occasionally subject to wind as the damaged leaves will eventually be replaced with new ones.
Before looking to add new plants to your garden it is recommended to clear the ground properly to prevent existing weeds from dominating the new plantation. Here are few tips to ensure a thorough job is carried out
• Weedkiller is best used during late spring and early summer as this is when weed growth begins and is most vulnerable to chemical weedkiller. The long weeds are left, the harder they are to kill
• Hardy weeds such as ground elder or horsetail are sometimes more difficult to kill using weedkiller so it is advised to damage the weeds with a stick as the weedkiller is better absorbed by the weed, instead of running off.
• If there are any unwanted tress it’s advised to hire a tree surgeon to remove the tree and roots. The hole should then be filled with topsoil and it will be ready for planting immediately after removal.
• If tough weeds cannot be removed by hand then it’s recommended to hire a rotary scythe. Once the new growth appears it should be treated using a weedkiller that contains glyphosate.
• Large brambles will need to be cut down close to the ground and once the new shoots appear they should be attacked with brushwood killer.
Peat contains humus-forming substances, and is partly pure humus formed in peat bogs where it lays compressed, away from the air, storing up all its beneficial qualities. For garden use, peat is subjected to various processes of preparation and is sold with or without additives. Moss peat consists mainly of sphagnum moss and is great at retaining moisture in your soil. Sedge peats are formed from the remains of reeds and sedges and are usually darker in colour as they are more thoroughly decayed.
Because it’s great at holding moisture, peat has a very positive affect on the soil in your garden. However, peat doesn’t actually contain any plant nutrients but because of its humus content and its slightly acidic nature, its great for improving soil quality. When planting, it’s a good idea to use peat to cover depressions in the ground where water collects around a plant. Of course, its also very affective when used as a mulch but must be kept moist, otherwise it will dry out and will become difficult to moisten thoroughly again, defeating the point of using peat.
If your lawn has been abused by years of heavy use and neglect it may be worth re-laying the lawn to bring your garden back to life. A quality well-kept lawn can make time spent in the garden during the summer months more enjoyable and at the same time add value to your home. It takes time to create a new lawn, but if done properly a new lawn will last a life time.
There are two options available when looking to create a lawn; lay pre-grown turf or grow your lawn from seed. There are pros and cons to both methods but whatever option you decide upon, the advance preparation needs to be done thoroughly.
Turf is the quickest method and should be laid from autumn to spring, except when the ground is frozen or muddy. Laying turf in late spring or summer is risky business as it may not ‘take’ properly in hot weather and will need a lot of water just to keep it alive. The best option is to lay in autumn as the lawn won’t be used during the winter months, giving it time to ‘settle’ in.
The downside to turfing is that it can be expensive as decent turf costs roughly as much as carpet. Depending on the size of your lawn it can also be very time consuming.
If you decide to buy pre-grown turf than the best type we recommend to use is cultivated turf. Meadow turf is cheaper but is often full of weeds and a job lot may contain a few turves that cannot be used because they have bare patches or are of uneven thickness. The most important thing to remember when buying turf is to consider the intended purpose of your lawn. If your lawn is to be used as a playground for the kids or if you have a dog; buying expensive turf would not be advised.
When you think of growing grass from seed you will probably think that it takes too long, as you have to stay off it for months while it grows. This is true, but if you sow in the autumn, you will have a perfectly usable lawn come the spring. This is definitely a good option to consider especially as you probably wont be using your lawn much during the winter anyway.
Sowing during the spring time is also possible but it will take around 3 months before you have a usable lawn; just at the time of the year when you want to use it most. If a spring start is your only option then buying turf would be the way to go.
Choosing seed over turf gives you a greater freedom to choose the type of lawn that best suits your needs as you can select a variety of seed that’s perfect for your situation. You can get grass seed that suits dry of shady positions, or which jas wildflower seeds already mixed into it. For family use, choose a hard-wearing mixture containing one of the modern ornamental ryegrasses like ‘Hunter’. They look good and don’t send up spikey seed-heads.
As well as providing your plants with additional supplies of water, it pays to conserve water already present in the soil. Below is a list of various ways in which this can be achieved:
• Mulch moist ground with an 8cm layer of organic matter such as compost to seal in the moisture during spring time. This will also help keep weeds at bay.
• Compost, manure and other types of organic matter can also be used at planting time so that when it comes to watering in the future, the soil is much better prepared to hold onto the available moisture.
• Use a gravel or pebble mulch around plants. Apart from being decorative, it is also moisture-retaining.
• Use proprietary water-retaining granules in pots and hanging baskets at potting time to prevent the compost from drying out as quickly.
Apart from conserving water already present in the soil, the best way to save money on your water bill is by using a water butt to collect rainwater. Water butts should be positioned at the foot of downpipes on your house to collect rainfall. The majority of plants prefer rainwater and it will also save you money as well as coming in handy during hosepipe bans.
Climbing plants are a great way to screen off parts of your garden as well as helping to merge walls and fences into the garden. However, climbers need proper planting, support and training to ensure they serve their purpose correctly. Below are a few tips to help you train the climbers in your garden.
• Before planting climbers at the foot of a wall or under a tree, use compost to improve the soil, as the soil will typically be of a poor quality in these areas of the garden. You will also need to keep the plants well watered as walls and fences will block rainfall.
• After planting, untie a new climber from the cane that holds it and spread out the stems and tie them into a fan shape so they cover the fence or wall they are to grow on.
• When looking to grow a climber up a tree or shrub, it will need to be trained to cover the whole tree, if left to itself its very likely that it will just grow up one side. To ensure even growth, lead it up to the canopy and then as it grows, divide the stems so that a few grow up each main stem.
• Tie shoots of self-clinging or twining climbers into place at first; once they are established, the new shoots will hang on for themselves. Self-clingers should be clipped over every couple of years to reduce their weight
• Tie the main stems of wall shrubs out into a fan shape over the wall or fence and tie in new stems to fill in any gaps in the framework. Prune shoots that grow outwards from the wall close to the main framework to stop the plants looking untidy.
Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to pruning trees in your garden.
…check variegated tress and remove plain green shoots when you see them, at any time of year, or they will take over as they grow faster than variegated shoots.
…remove any dead, broken or diseased branches with loppers or a pruning saw as soon as you see them.
…buy a well-shaped tree in the first place. Look for one with about 5 main branches spaced evenly around the top of the trunk.
…feel obliged to prune a tree just because you think you should. Most ornamental trees can be left pretty much alone if they were a good shape to start with.
…choose a lopsided tree or one with very few branches – it will take a lot of time and effort to improve the shape.
…chop and hack here and there. If you need to prune, take off a whole branch back to the junction with a bigger one.
A lawn is the garden background to everything from starter homes to huge country estates. The quality of your lawn can make or break your garden and if you are considering a new lawn you have 2 options available. You can either lay turf or you can grow the grass from seed.
If you are planning on growing your lawn from seed, as opposed to buying in pre-grown turf, then here is a step by step guide on how to seed a lawn.
Fork the ground over and use your feet to trample it down and level the earth using a rake. If you want a fine lawn, choose a seed mixture without ryegrass or if your lawn with receive heavier use, use a hard-wearing seed that has dwarf ryegrass.
Sprinkle the seed at a rate of 50g per square meter. Use canes to create a square meter template that you can lay on the ground to help you spread the seed at the correct rate. A good idea is to measure out the desired amount in a plastic cup and put a mark on the cup so you can get the right amount of seed each time you fill it up.
Rake in the seed. Lay twiggy pea sticks or plastic netting over the soil to prevent cats and birds from eating the freshly laid seed. Water the soil in dry weather. Cut the grass in 2-3 weeks when it has grown to approximately 2.5cm in height.
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