CompostingGardening

Composting is nature’s process of decomposed, biodegradable, organic materials into a nutrient rich fertiliser known as compost.

It is an entirely natural process, by providing an environment where decomposers can flourish; you are merely accelerating the natural circle of life. Further acceleration can be achieved by way of a wormery system. When implemented, this system converts organic matter into compost with the help of earthworms.

Earthworms
Earthworms

Why Bother?

Around about 60% of household waste is organic, and therefore suitable for your compost heap. By disposing of your own environmentally friendly waste you are saving space in British landfills and reducing the amount of waste-disposal Lorries on the road.

The home composting programme launched in 2004 by WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) shows just how much of an affect home composting can have, the programme had the aim of getting a million Britons composting at home for an estimated diversion of 400,000 tonnes of waste from landfill. That is a significant amount of waste!

As well as the greater good and large scale benefits, there is also the simple fact that compost, the by-product of composting, is an excellent, natural fertiliser which can improve soil structure, water retention and drainage in your garden.

More advanced/sophisticated composting systems will allow for a collection of liquid fertiliser which is an excellent plant feed when diluted with water.

What is suitable for composting?

Waste
Waste

You may be surprised about the things that can be thrown onto your compost heap:

  • Home waste – vacuum cleaner dust, hair, egg boxes, newspaper, toilet roll.
  • Kitchen waste – vegetable peelings, fruit skins, food scraps, egg shells, teabags, coffee grounds, kitchen roll.
  • Garden waste – prunings, grass clippings, leaves. (You should though, avoid pernicious weeds, like bindweed and couch grass, as these are very difficult to get rid of.)
  • Animal waste – manure, bedding sawdust, shavings, hay.

However, the following compost ingredients should be avoided on the smaller scale compost heaps as they do not produce sufficient heat to kill all bacteria:

  • Avoid – Manure from non-vegetarian animals including cats and dogs, dairy products, oil, fat.

To increase the efficiency of your composting you need sources of cellulose and protein :

  • Cellulose or carbon – straw, sawdust, wood-shavings, dry leaves, cardboard, newspaper.
  • Protein or nitrogen – grass cuttings, leafy weeds, animal dung (chicken manure is recommended), fruit/vegetable peelings.

Composting with worms

Your compost heap will cool down once all of the initial bacteria action has slowed and there will still be a lot of decomposition to be done, this is where the worms lend a helping hand.

Composting Worms
Composting Worms

Worms are able to eat their own bodyweight of matter in a day and so they assist with the composting. They are also beneficial because:

  • They are quick workers, nature’s fastest composters in fact.
  • They can reduce the composts volume by 85%
  • They produce vermicompost, a great fertiliser.
  • They operate effectively on small heaps.
  • They help prevent bad odours.

For the healthiest, most efficient compost heap you should look to get specialist worms as opposed to just collecting them from under the slabs in your back garden.

An effective wormery system requires a lot of worms, about 1kg per cubic metre in fact. However, once you have bought your worms you will not need to do so again as they are prolific breeders and will naturally regulate themselves to suit the amount of waste that is provided for them.

Litter dwelling worms are the best and most commonly available species for composting:

  • Dendrobaena veneta – This is a striped worm and it is a big eater. This type of worm will thrive on leafy waste as their natural habitat is woodland floor.
  • Eisenia andrei/fetida – This worm is also known as the Red Tiger worm and is perfect for composting because of its rapid waste consumption rates and rampant breeding.
  • Lumbricus rubellus – This is another type of red worm – like the Eisenia – that can survive at lower temperatures than other worms although a temperature drop to below 10 degrees Celsius will see its waste consumption decrease dramatically.

Although this is a surface dwelling species, the Lumbricus can tunnel deep into the soil to escape from the elements, making it a good choice then for outdoor compost heaps and cold winters.

ConservatoryHome DecorOutdoor Living

Outdoor living is no longer a concept that is limited to the imagination of a child after watching a film that has a tree house in it. Nor does it need to involve getting extremely cold and wet.

Outdoor rooms are becoming increasingly popular, from your standard conservatory to a small luxury office down at the bottom of your garden. With the application of some modern building techniques and some imagination, anything is possible.

Conservatories

Conservatories are the most common and popular version of bringing a little bit of outdoors indoors, or indoors outdoors, whichever way you want to look at it!

Conservatories offer extra space, either by way of an extra room, or an extension on an existing room, and are a great inlet for natural light. They can also give the external appearance of your house a bit of depth or a new dimension that separates it from the duller, flatter counterparts.

You can buy a standard conservatory from around £1,000 and the variation in styles and designs should allow you to match your conservatory with your house seamlessly. If you want something a little more unique though you can get conservatories tailor-made and constructed to your requirements.

Getting a conservatory built can be expensive in terms of labour; there are DIY solutions that come readily prepped for the easiest of installation. It will no doubt be a challenge and occupy a weekend or two but it should work out a lot cheaper; possibly up to a third of the price of buying a conservatory and getting it built by builders.

Utilities

The new generation of outdoor dwellings allow for some real luxury spots to be built in your garden, possibly something that you have never even considered before could become a dazzling reality.

They are fully connectible to all the utilities and services that your main house benefits from yet they offer the tranquillity and solace of an isolated cottage. They can be built with bricks, steel, wood or glass and they can take any manner of shape or size.

You can have them custom designed or go for a standard offering, construct them yourself with flat-pack style steel designs or simply pay somebody to do it all for you. They also come with long-lasting guarantees, anything from 15 to 25 years, so you can expect a sturdy structure with an indoors feel.

Design

One of the great things about these garden dwellings is that you can go mad with the design and create a complete escape from work, home life and reality. You can create a small version of your favourite holiday villa, maybe build a construction in the design of something you have seen in a film, or simply let your imagination run wild.

Space

Outside rooms offer you that something different but they are also extremely practical in that you may have extended your house to its limits but still not have that gym or music room that you have always desired.

An outdoor room would be the perfect solution as it offers a certain amount of privacy, noise protection for the rest of the household who do not want to hear your favourite guitar solo over and over again, and most importantly perhaps, an incredible amount of use for a section of your garden that rarely gets used and just adds to the lawn mowing.

Here in Britain we are not blessed with great weather. Therefore any garden that we have can seem like a real waste of land and space for that 90% of the time when you are crammed into your house with 4 noisy children but looking out the window onto a garden that is big enough to house a small football match. Therefore, utilising the space and turning it into somewhere that can be used all of the time, all year round, makes a lot of sense.

Kids

Rotting Wendy houses full of cobwebs and woodlice are a thing of the past. You may think the idea of a garden retreat is brilliant, yet the realist inside you is pointing out that in between work, cooking, putting the children to bed and other daily chores you’ll have no time to enjoy it.

There is then another way of looking at the opportunity of an outdoor room. Children often have very few responsibilities and lots of free time, they seem to run out of constructive things to do in this free time and so just resort to making noise, and as much of it as they possibly can!

Enter the outdoor living space as somewhere for the kids to make as much noise as they want while you cook or work in peace, with only your favourite CD providing the background noise.

Raised Swimming Pools

A raised, or above ground, swimming pool is a cheaper and often more practical way of enjoying the summer weather in your garden. Old style pools require expensive construction and can only be designed according to your geographic layout of your property. Raised swimming pools, on the other hand sit on top of the ground and are far easier and quicker to install.

The other advantages are that you can take your pool with you if you move and, even more important, they are much safer than traditional pools if you have a baby or toddler, or even small pets that could be in danger of drowning since nothing can accidentally fall into this type of pool because it is raised so high above the ground level. This is why this design is an ideal ‘first’ pool for a family.

Sometimes there is nothing more pleasurable than relaxing for an hour or two in your own outdoor hot tub. This luxury garden accessory is normally made from ceramic, acrylic or wood and filled with heated water, with the temperature controlled by gas or electric heaters. Choosing and preparing the right place for a garden spa will give you the best relaxing experience, especially when several friends or family join in to enjoy the experience. Modern hot tubs are now available in many different designs and sizes you can opt for a small sized tub or share the fun by having a tub with a capacity of up to ten people. One thing is sure, if you suffer from lots of stress and responsibility you really need to get a hot tub, so that you can unwind and relax.

Design InspirationLandscaping

Designing and building your own garden landscape can be highly rewarding. Not only will it create a pleasant space for you to enjoy, a well designed garden can add value to your property should you come to sell. The secret of a good garden landscape is to combine aesthetic appeal with practicality, and to create your own unique look that has a lasting appeal.

Planning Your Garden Design

It is important to prepare a plan before you even think about picking up a spade. As you think about the kind of layout, plants and features you might like, compare them against research into your garden’s condition. What existing plant life is there, and if you intend to use them, how will they be integrated into your new plans? Examine the soil type and drainage conditions, as well as what areas of your garden get the most light and shade. These factors will affect what kind of plants and materials can be used in particular locations.

Checking soil health and structure
Checking soil health and structure

Think about the overall style of your proposed landscape. You can create a formal look with straight lines, or have curves and a slightly looser appearance for a traditional country garden for example. Curves are often seen to be the best choice, but see what works for you. After all, it is your garden, so don’t forget that the key aspect is designing the landscape for your pleasure.

Once you have some solid ideas, write out a plan containing your main concept, your budget, and time frame. List the equipment you will need, and where all your materials and plants might be sourced from. Bear in mind that it highly unlikely you will find all you need from one garden centre or hardware store. It is also advisable to write an initial break down of your schedule so you know roughly what tasks lay ahead.

Landscape Design From the Start

To create an attractive garden landscape: keep it simple. You may have 1001 ideas seen from garden centres, TV shows, and public displays, but if you cram these all into one garden you will end up with a confused space. Look at how the living plant life will work with the non-living elements of paving or walls to give you a better idea. Try not to be swayed by the latest trends in garden design; they make look outdated and awkward very quickly. Stick to the things that you know will always be your firm favourites and incorporate them in exciting ways. Good use of space is more important to the overall impression of a garden than installing a trendy backlit water feature.

Island beds are one way of introducing some distinctive design to your garden. These often look best with curved shapes, and can draw one’s attention to a certain point of the garden. Remember to keep a sense of proportion and scale however. If you have generous borders, an island bed in the centre of your garden will look misplaced if it is too small and sparse. Using your house and garden walls will help give you a sense of proportion.

A focal point for your garden will help to draw the eye through the garden. Think about positioning a sculpture, a bench, or some other feature toward which your garden can lead. If your garden is large, spaces can be separated by an arch or pergola, which itself becomes a feature. Again, it serves to draw attention through the garden as your visitors explore.

Construction of Your Garden

Before you start to create your beds, borders, and other features, double check the functionality of the space you are to use. If you have children in the garden frequently, lawn space may be important and there may be safety issues with some of your proposals. Ensure that you are landscaping a garden for actual use; add walkways if necessary and make it a level of maintenance that you can manage.

Landscaping your garden is a lengthy process. Sculpting the land and preparing the planting areas is one thing, but the garden will not start to come into fruition for several months, and will take a few years to really bloom and establish its roots. Be aware therefore that your garden will not look full or complete for some time until the plants have grown and spread.

Break down your construction into separate tasks depending on the stage of construction, time of year, and the materials that you have made available. The landscape design process will inevitably be interrupted by your life outside the garden, so take into account the fact your plans will stop and start.

Planting Plants For Beginners

Get to know the areas of sun and shade in your garden so that you can select plants that will survive. Don’t be afraid to mix many types of plant size, colour, texture and form to create a dynamic and interesting design. There are many plant combinations that you can try; seek some expert advice to help get you started.

Be bold and confident in your schemes. One of the main failures of beginners is making the plant beds too narrow for fear that they will not fill them. Make your beds wide enough for three layers of plants; the front, middle and back. Five feet is a healthy width to create your full plant layering. The wider the bed: the bigger the impact.

The variety of plant sizes and forms will give a 3D depth and fully utilise the space. Although your beds will be wide enough for three rows, do not plant in straight lines or the bed will have gaps and look staid. Position taller plants at the back, but do not just think about a particular patch from one point of view, consider how the planting scheme will appear from all angles. Also remember to check your plant labels to see how much each one will grow, planting them at distances accordingly. Don’t be too generous with the spaces if you want to achieve the appearance of a full bed.

The order of planting should follow first the larger species that will be positioned toward the rear. These offer a focal point and should be planted first. Next should be your year round plants and evergreens, followed by the decorative grasses and flowering shrubs. The final step allows you to scatter in your “prettier”, blooming flowers and bulbs for the next season.

Adding seasonal variety in your planting will create a changing landscape for you to enjoy. For front or particularly public areas however, evergreens should be deployed so that there is a year round feature in place. For this reason, evergreens should also be placed by deciduous plants so that the space is not empty come winter. Check the labels of your plants for their seasonal properties and try to visualise how your plot will appear in all seasons.

Play with the symmetry in your garden and see what different visual impacts you can create. Matching-sized shrubs either side of an arch will create a formal symmetry, while a more contemporary asymmetrical set up can involve three different sized pots one side.

Remember: it is your garden, so design it for you, and you should end up with an attractive, colourful landscape that can be enjoyed for many years.

Garden Tool

When you’re looking to get work done at home, you’re always struggling to find the right garden tool supplier for the right job. I am going to go through all of the best garden tool suppliers and why I would use them as well as all of the best equipment that they have to offer. Some of these suppliers have excellent special offers and in this article we will definitely be trying to find some of those special deals.

Garden tools can range from the simple hand held shovel all the way right through to a ride on lawnmower. It doesn’t matter the size of your garden, you’re always going to be at the mercy of a good quality garden tools supplier. So let’s not waste any time and let’s get going, and looking at the best garden tool suppliers up and down in the UK.

Garden tool box.

My first choice for garden tools suppliers is Garden Toolbox because they supply some of the very best equipment on the market at the very best prices. Not only that, they have extremely detailed write-ups on almost all of the products available. Genuinely they go through all of the various pros and cons of each of the tools and equipment. This is quite the contrary to most of the suppliers around as they simply don’t put the effort in to provide this much detail.

For this reason I don’t mind paying a little bit of a premium because I actually not the cheapest on the market. There are some suppliers they really do cut the costs but then obviously you don’t get any of the information that follows with it. One of those suppliers I’m about to discuss right now.

Garden4less

Garden for less are another choice because they offer no nonsense straight up advice and the website is really easy to navigate so if you’re looking for a home garden project all then this is the one for you. They also do very quick delivery and have got really good feedback if you take a look around the internet you’ll see that they really don’t have that many disgruntled customers. This is a sign of a company that really cares about the people they serve.

If I’ve one criticism of them simply it would be that they don’t provide enough information but their blog is actually quite useful anyway so overall definitely really work out.

A shout out for RHS

Although RHS are really supplier they do showcase quite a few and most of them are pretty genuine. As well as this genuine network of suppliers are they work with comes a lot of genuinely good information on your garden or any project you might have. This is excellent because you can pull together all of the information requiring one single place personally I find this to be a very extremely useful service and would recommend any further searching than the three noted above.

It’s extremely important to find the right garden tool supplier, you don’t want to be at home waiting for days on end for your equipment to arrive at the same time you want reasonable service and to know that the people that are providing you with these tool supplies actually know what they’re talking about and can actually help you in the event of an issue. I’m certain if you use any of the people in this article you won’t come into any situation whereby they simply can’t help after providing you with the equipment. Please feel free to contact me if you know any suppliers as well and I’ll be to give them a mention.

Design Inspiration

Once there were no flowering plants: no roses, poppies, daisies or geraniums – just lush, green and unfamiliar jungle. Well, you’ve seen it in the movies. Now you can create your own patch of ancient jungle, thanks to a range of plants that would have provided lunch for dinosaurs in their time.

Creating your own lush Jurassic Park is fairly straightforward. The idea combines the rich greens of ferns, cycads, tree ferns and pines with a splash of water and informal close planting. And what the combination may lack in colour is more than made up for in lush greenery, architectural structure and an attractive, if unfamiliar, air of mystery.

Green Dreams

Perhaps the most important component of any Jurassic Park is ferns – their strong architectural forms and primeval air are just the thing to provide dense planting. For the edges of borders, try the arching fronds of the Lady Fern and the smaller delicately coloured Japanese Painted Fern. To provide height, think about tree ferns such as Dicksonia Antarctica – they will provide shade for the smaller ferns beneath, as well as the wonderful contrast between their leaves and the browns of their trunks.

Go Exotic

Another way to emphasise the unfamiliar is to add a variety of exotic plants such as the Japanese cycad – a cross between a tree fern and a palm tree – or a variety of true palms. Some of the best examples include the Canary Island Date Palm and the Chusan palm. These can also provide height to your borders and could be planted carefully to provide focal points or clusters of architectural structure.

Wet and Wild

No dinosaur would be happy without the trickle of a jungle stream or two. You can create your own simple rills bubbling through foliage using small ponds at different heights, linked by shallow channels filled with small and large pebbles. One or two pumps can be used to circulate the water from the lowest pond to the highest. You could even have a bit of fun using concealed motion sensors attached to fountains that are placed to squirt visitors as they explore. But if you have a bit more space, how about an oasis in the jungle with water running beneath a seat or even pouring through a glass-topped table!

Design Inspiration

Modern meadows are a key look this year – gorgeous grasses informally planted together, mixed in with tubs of tulips or dotted with single white foxgloves, and always providing unbeatable colours, movement and texture. There’s no doubt that at the moment, grass is officially gorgeous.

The main idea of modern meadowland is to combine natural planting style with a contemporary, formal layout, creating a traditional meadowland re-interpreted for the modern world. Getting the look can take some thought, and patience, but it’s worth the effort. The secret is to make the maximum use of the colour, texture and height of grasses to give a feast for the eye.

The use of grasses in particular is especially useful since these plants provide gorgeous subtle shades of colour for most of the year, and this is capped by elegant seed heads later in the summer. Once established they take little care, and of course insects and birds love them.

Stalks and Seed Heads

However you plan to plant, one of the most important ideas is to use the variety of heights that different grasses give you to add depth to your planting. For example, use shorter varieties at the front of borders where you can see them. Don’t plant singly but in large clumps – or in straight lines to mark paths or divisions in the garden. Taller varieties can go almost anywhere – even near the front if they aren’t planted densely – giving movement and adding strong architectural features.

For smaller clumps with beautiful delicate flower heads, try Briza media or Briza Maxima. For stronger architectural spikes with fabulous golden seed heads, try Stipa gigantea Gold Fontaene.

Subtle Shades

Grasses aren’t just green. How about browns (Carex milk chocolate), rich greys and blues (Elijah Blue Fescue) or the exotic Blood Grass ‘Imperata cylindrica Rubra’ with mid-green leaves that turn blood-red from the tips downwards and have fluffy silvery-white flower spikes in summer. In particular, this spectacular grass provides a wonderful contrast to other golden, blue or even black foliaged grasses.

Perfect Textures

Grasses make it easy to create almost any kind of texture in your garden. For instance, choose from the delicate softness of Pheasant Grass (Stipa tenuifolia), the explosive, spiky mounds created by Miscanthus Yakushima Dwarf, or the upright steely stems of Juncus Carmans.

Home Decor

If you are lucky enough to have outdoor space then summer is the perfect opportunity to invite some friends around for a barbecue, afternoon tea party or evening cocktails. If you are feeling really ambitious, make a day of it and combine all three! Try these cheap and cheerful outdoor decorating ideas that will instantly set the scene for your garden party.

Quick tips

  • Make your guests a gift to take away like a pot plant from one of your own garden cuttings.
  • Keep the bugs at bay with citronella incense sticks or scented candles.
  • Stop the table cloth blowing away by attaching clip-on table weights.
  • Recycled bottles make great single stem vases and you won’t mind too much if they get broken.

Casual buffet-style dining

For an informal buffet or barbecue, make your own bunting using pages out of magazines, newspapers or patterned wrapping paper – the more mismatched and eclectic the better. Simply measure out symmetrical diamonds of paper, cut them out and fold them in half to create double-sided triangles. Loop these over a very long ribbon or piece of coloured string and glue together the two triangles.

A traditional picnic blanket is ideal for relaxed dining, but a large tablecloth will also do the trick. Tie up bundles of individual cutlery sets for each guest with raffia or coloured ribbons. Use acrylic glasses and crockery to prevent breakages.

For a child-friendly family gathering why not go for a Mad Hatter’s tea party theme with lots of mismatched china cups, plenty of chintzy teapots and multicoloured iced cupcakes? Thread a pack of cheap playing cards together with string and attach them to branches for the full Alice-in-Wonderland experience.

Elegant al fresco entertaining

For more grown-up and sophisticated garden entertaining, stylish table dressing will give your party the edge. Whether it is a posh afternoon tea or a balmy summer’s evening supper, a stunning centrepiece comprising fresh cut flowers and candles will create a sense of occasion. You could wind long flower stems and vines into a wide glass vase or globe-shaped goldfish bowl or, alternatively, use floating candles and flower heads in a basin of water. Scattering petals, skeleton leaves or paper cut-out butterflies over the table will work well with the natural outdoor surroundings.

If you would rather a more exotic look, combine dark wood furnishings with bright coloured table linen in magenta, violet and turquoise. Adorn the table with tropical pot plants as a centrepiece. A table runner in either paper or fabric will create cohesion. For place settings that double as napkin rings, use alphabet beads threaded onto a piece of coloured wire to spell out the guests’ names.

Garden lighting

Atmospheric lighting will give your cocktail party or evening barbecue the wow factor. Use garden flares, lanterns or fairylights to create a lit pathway for your guests so they do not stumble in the dark. Tealights in jars or candleholders are a practical way to mark out a garden staircase as well as creating a stunning tiered light display. Decorate your trees with mini lanterns attached with wire loops.

Mini sparklers and edible flowers are a beautiful way to garnish a cocktail. Pansies are ideal because they come in many colour combinations. It’s best to grow your own so you can be sure they haven’t been sprayed with any chemicals or buy them from a specialist food shop not a florist. Chop citrus fruits into wedges and freeze them for a fruity alternative to icecubes. Create an outdoor fridge to store all the beers and bottles of white wine by sealing an outdoor metal bin with bathroom sealant and filling it up with ice and water.

Home DecorSunroom

No matter what it’s called, a sunroom, or a conservatory; these rooms are very popular and will increase property value. To get the most out of a sunroom it’s important that the room works hand in hand with the home’s interior decorating scheme and the natural landscape outside.

Sunrooms can serve a variety of functions in the home but were originally designed to house plants. The most successful interior decorating plans for sunrooms keep this idea in mind, finding creative ways to bring Mother Nature inside and create a bridge between the inside and the outside.

To enhance the appearance and function even more the sunroom décor should drag decorating elements from the rest of the home into its scheme and meld that with touches of nature that extend the eye and make the outdoor area seem like it’s part of the living space as well. The following sunroom decorating tips will help create a successful atmosphere and increase property value.

Sunroom Traffic Flow

The first consideration should be the traffic flow of the sunroom and how it relates to adjoining rooms. Sometimes the instinct is to put a couch up as a divider between the sunroom and the rest of the house, avoid this temptation if possible and create a design scheme that opens up the traffic flow from sunroom to the rest of the home.

Sunroom Furniture

Fitting both into the flow and function, the furniture should connect and tie the sunroom to the rest of the home in some way, whether it is colour, form or style. The furniture should also be really appropriate for the activities you expect to occur most frequently in the conservatory. But a big concern that many overlook is the sunroom furniture’s resiliency. Solariums, by nature, have a lot of direct sunlight and the furniture and its fabric should be designed to withstand natural light.

Sunroom Function

Be honest about what the room will be used for. If it’s simply for visual impact and having a cup of coffee then have a comfy chair and a side table and lots of visual elements or plants that speak to the view outside. If it’s a child’s playroom then provide ample storage, functional flooring and few plants on table or ground level.

Lighting in the Sunroom

As mentioned above, sunlight is a major concern in a home solarium. It can kill plants, fade furniture, make it difficult to read computer screens, and provide too much warmth if not handled appropriately. Most sunrooms have well thought out blinds that can be adjusted throughout the day with ease so the benefits of the sun can be fully exploited.

These tips should help create a sunroom that has aesthetic appeal and a cohesive feel with the rest of the house. They will also make the solarium more functional and a room that can be enjoyed by everyone.