Friday, 20 May 2016

It's not too late for Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets can add colour and body at a higher level than your usual plants that are at ground level.  It can add character to a house but hanging baskets do not only have to reside on a house you could have them on a pergola or even a free standing structure like an old bird feeder.

I love hanging baskets that are full of colour and are overflowing creating a waterfall effect.  I hope to help you get inspired to make your own hanging basket this year.

The Hanging Basket Container 

This type of container does not require any moss or other type of liner.  The lattice style gates make it easy to put the plants in without disturbing the root ball.

Buy Set of 4 x 12" Easy Fill Hanging Baskets
This is the more traditional looking hanging basket. This one comes with it's own liner but unless you cut the liner it does not have the ability to add plants to the side.

Buy Gardman 14-inch Georgian Hanging Basket

If you already have a hanging basket container but it has no lining you can either buy cardboard liners or even collect moss from the lawn.

Hanging Basket Compost

You do not need special compost for most hanging baskets just a multi purpose compost will be fine as it will only need to last a few months.  To help stop your hanging baskets dry out so much you might want to look into adding water retaining granules which retain the water then release it when needed so therefore reducing the need to water.  Try Scotts Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Pots and Baskets Gel Bag, 250 g

Hanging Basket Flowers

Of course you can choose any combination of bedding plants for your hanging baskets but here are some examples that may help your imagination.

Combination 1
Petunia Reflection Geranium White Lobelia 'Trailing Mixed'
Petunia 'Reflection'
Low-growing and bushy these plants are ideal for a summer-long display of colour.
Geranium 'White' (Pelargonium)
Produces an abundance of pretty white flowers which can last for months.
Lobelia 'Trailing Mixed'
A mix of white, blues and purples will cascade over the hanging basket complimenting the Petunia and Geraniums.

Combination 2
Fuchsia 'Army Nurse' Fuchsia 'Army Nurse'
Sometimes you don't need more than one plant, I think Fuchsia make a lovely statement all on their own.

Combination 3
Verbena 'Homestead Purple' Petunia 'Double Pirouette F1 Mixed'
Verbena 'Homestead Purple'
This plant will spill flowers from your hanging basket all summer long
Petunia 'Double Pirouette F1 Mixed'
These produce big double flowers, they are bushy plants and bounce back well after rain.

Hanging Basket Aftercare

Once you have put your basket together then for it to last all summer long you will need to water regularly and deadhead flowers.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Garden Games

With BBQ season almost upon us and half term just around the corner, why not get some games to play outside.  From garden game classics to something different there should be enough to keep little ones and big ones amused.

Swingball Classic
This is a great game for two people and doesn't take up too much space. The idea is to hit the tennis ball on the end of the string and depending on which way you are hitting get the string to the top or bottom. Fun for adults and good for hand-eye co-ordination for kids.
From £15.99
Garden Games - Plastic French Boules Garden Game Set
Another classic game for all the family to play. It might need a bit of space and flat ground is preferable otherwise it becomes very difficult. I would not recommend this for smaller children as there is a small jack and the balls can be quite heavy, but great for older kids and adults.
From £5.60
Garden Games Jumbo Hi-Tower in a Bag - Builds From 0.6m - 1.5m (max.) in play. Solid Pine Wood Tumble Tower Game
If you like indoor Jenga then why not get this giant Jenga to play outside? You can have multiple players for more fun. It also comes with it's own bag so you could take it to the beach!
From £29.99
Garden Games Target Toss Fun Inflatable Dart Board with Velcro Balls
A fun and safe game for kids, just hang the inflatable dart board on a fence or wall and throw the Velcro balls at it. It also packs up so you can take it to your next garden party.
From £12.95
Garden Rope Quoits & Wooden Pegs Throwing Game
This is a simple game for all ages. It includes 6 rope quoits (hoops) that you try to throw on to the poles. Each pole is worth different points.
From £6.49

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Join the Great British Bee Count

The Great British Bee Count starts 19th May until 30th June.  It's not too late to sign up to this year's bee count. British Bee Count Sign up

Why Take Part?
One third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees and if bees were not around then the plants they pollinate would not survive.  There are many foods that we take for granted so imagine a life with apples, almonds, mangoes, strawberries and peppers to name just a few.

Since 1990 the UK has lost 20 species of bee and although it is thought that the pesticides farmers use are to blame for the decline in bees, there maybe other factors too.  Friends of the Earth are working to find out the reasons for the decline including pesticide use, climate change and habitat loss.

By taking part in the Bee Count you will be helping the experts to build up a picture of national bee health.

How to Take Part
Just sign up on the Bee Count website. You can download an app to help you monitor a particular plant then just identify and count the bees.

Related Products

The Bee Garden: How to Create or Adapt a Garden to Attract and Nurture Bees
By Maureen Little
Paperback - Illustrated 23 March 2011

Esschert Design Wood Bee House - Natural
This lovely little bee house is made from natural materials and measures 20x15x13.
Bee Mix Seed Balls - A native wildflower meadow mix using species recommended by The Bumblebee Conservation Trust - Flora Locale accredited - 2000 UK seeds per tin

Friday, 10 July 2015

Tomato Plant Problems

Problem with Tomato Leaves

Your nurtured tomatoes have been growing happily in the greenhouse for months but now there are signs of trouble which you simply can not ignore.

Indoor tomatoes are much more susceptible to disease than outdoor tomatoes so it is important to keep an eye out for signs of trouble.  Here are a few issues you might come across although there are more that are not listed.

Leaf Roll

If you see this then you will be pleased to know that it is not actually a problem as it would be if you saw leaf roll in potatoes.  It is a good sign in young dark leaves.  If seen in older leaves it could be due to excess deleafing.

Distorted or Discoloured Leaves

This could possibly a virus if leaves are mottled and curled, the stem may have dark vertical streaks, the foliage maybe thin and distorted and growth stunted.  The tomatoes themselves would be affected often mottled and bronzed.

Solution: There is nothing else to do except destroy the affected plants.

Prevention: Buy virus-free plants. Spray to control greenfly.

Brown Mould Patches

Lower leaves are attacked first.  The upper side of the leaf has yellowish patches while the underneath has purplish brown mould patches.  This is usually tomato leaf mould.

Solution: Remove some of the lower leaves.  You could also try using Bayer Garden Fruit and Vegetable Disease Control but this will only be available whilst stocks lasts as the product is being withdrawn.

Prevention: Ventilate the greenhouse night and day.

Yellowing Between Veins

This is a common but serious problem which is caused by magnesium deficiency.  The lower leaves start to discolour first turning yellow and then maybe turning brown.

Solution: Spray with Epsom Salts Leaf Tonic With Magnesium Sulphate

Prevention: Use a fertilizer which contains magnesium.

Dark Brown Blotches

Signs of brown areas on the edges of leaves which spread to patches until the leaves are killed is usually a sign of potato blight.  Potato blight can affect outdoor tomatoes in wet conditions.

Solution: Unfortunately there is no solution when the potato blight has got hold.

Prevention:  Try using Bayer Garden Fruit and Vegetable Disease Control this will only be available whilst stocks lasts as the product is being withdrawn.

Tiny Moths Under Leaves

The leaves become pale and curled, foliage and fruit become sticky as the greenhouse whitefly suck the sap from the leaves.

Solution: Try spraying with Pyrethrum 5ec 100ml (KILL THRIPS, BLACK, GREEN AND WHITE FLIES) at three day intervals until whitefly has cleared.  Use in the morning or evening.

Prevention: Hang Growing Success Greenhouse Whitefly Traps above the plants

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Beginners Guide to Composting

Instead of throwing all you uncooked fruit and vegetables, cardboard and dead flowers away, why not compost it instead.  Composting is a simply process with a few basic requirements to ensure that you get great compost at the end and not sludge.

Basic rules of composting

  • Have an even mix of browns and greens
  • Turn heap regularly

To know what are your browns and greens then check out the what you can compost section below.

Turning the heap regulary ensures that you get air in the heap which is essential.  You could also use an aerator, which is a spike that you put in the bin to add air to the mix.  To make this job really easy you could buy a rotary compost bin.

What can you compost?

Item Notes
   Apple windfalls Only in small amounts. Instead use to feed birds through winter.
Carrot tops
Citrus peel
Potato and tomato plants Do not compost infected potato tubers or tomato fruits
Potato peelings and tubers Do not compost potato tubers and peelings that include an 'eye' that may be blight infected.
Rhubarb leaves Even though rhubarb leaves are poisonous to eat they will not harm the compost.
Sweetcorn cobs Chop up if possible as they may go through a few compost heaps to fully decay
Vegetable and Fruit waste Chop up stems of broccoli, cabbage, etc
Old bought flowers Chop up tough stems
Houseplants and herbs Check for white, vine weevil grubs in the root ball. You can feed these to the birds if found.
Grass cuttings Need to be balanced with browns. Do not compost cuttings after the first two cuts after weed killer has been applied to the lawn.
Tea bags and coffee grounds Paper coffee filters can also be composted.
Egg shells Although egg shells do not compost, they will break down into tiny pieces.
Cardboard boxes All plain and printed cardboard boxes can be composted. Crumple it up to create air.
Egg boxes Egg boxes are good just as they are as their shape helps to keep air in the heap
Paper Consider recycling paper, but low quality paper including paper bags are good to absorb excess moisture. Crumple up to allow air movement in heap.
Kitchen Towels D not add if kitchen towel has been used with any chemical product.

Brown - slow to rot Green/Brown Green - quick to rot

There are also items that you should not compost

  • Leaves - these are best to compost separately to make leafmould compost
  • Bread - tends to grow moulds rather than compost
  • Cooked leftovers - May attract bluebottles and vermin
  • Oil
  • Meat and fish scraps and bones - May attract bluebottles and vermin
  • Dairy products - May attract bluebottles and vermin. Also may make heap smell unpleasant
  • Cat litter
  • Dog faeces
  • Disposable nappies

Composting Equipment

First of all you need to buy a compost bin.  You can also make a compost bin if you like from old pallets or even an old dustbin.

Requirements of a compost bin

  • Bottomless - excess moisture needs to be able to drain away
  • A Cover - helps regulate moisture content
  • Rat Proof - you may need to line bin with weld mesh
  • Accessible - to get to the compost at the bottom a small door is not always practical, you may need to lift the whole bin off or remove a side of the bin.

Compost Bins 

This bin is made up of wooden slats that slot together.  It is open to the ground and lets air in through the gaps although it could be an idea to line it with cardboard so rubbish doesn't slip out. And line with weld mesh to deter vermin.  If you go for this type of bin then you will also need a lid to go on top.

Plastic Compost Bin

This plastic dalek-type bin is the easiest and quickest way to start composting.  You can deposit the garden waste in the top and the lift the bin off completely to get to the compost below then put the semi-composted material back in.

Tumbling Compost Bin

This is a tumbling compost bin not only make turning the compost easy, it also has two chambers so that you can fill one side and leave it to compost whilst filling the other side.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

13 Steps to Look After Your Lawn

There is nothing better than a sunny day sitting on the lawn with a cold drink.  If you feel too embarrassed to let anyone get too close to your lawn then try following these steps of essential tasks.

Step 1 - Mow your lawn regularly

Between March and October try to cut your lawn once a week in Spring, Autumn and prolonged dry periods in the summer. Cut twice a week in summer when the grass is growing vigorously.

Step 2 - Water before the grass turns brown

After about one week of dry weather your lawn can loose it's springiness and look a bit dull.  During normal dry weather water once a week.  If abnormally hot then water twice a week.  When watering the grass do not just dampen the surface, aim to soak the ground to a depth of at least 10cm.

Step 3 - Trim the edges

Don't forget to trim your edges.  If your lawn mower can't then look at buying an edge trimmer.

Step 4 - Feed with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer in spring or early summer

Constant cutting has an effect on the nutrient reserves in the soil so a routine feed is essential at the early part of the growing season.

Step 5 - Rake during the spring and autumn

Using a spring-tine rake in spring to remove a build up of thatch and debris.  In autumn use the rake to remove fallen leaves.

Step 6 - Remove worm casts when they appear

Do not ignore worm casts, when squashed they make the surface uneven and create an ideal place for weeds to grow.  You can use a besom broom to remove the casts before mowing.

Step 7 - Kill weeds and moss then they appear

You may be able to pull up the weeds when they appear otherwise apply weedkiller or mosskiller as promptly as possible.  No single product can do everything so use the right chemical for the problem.

Step 8 - Aerate the lawn

Drive a fork or other spiked instrument at intervals so as to relieve compaction - drainage is improved and new growth stimulated.

Step 9 - Top dress the lawn

Every autumn apply a top dressing which consists of peat, loam and sand.  This improves the vigour of the grass and minor hollows are removed.

Step 10 - Feed with a balanced fertilizer in autumn

The nitrogen-rich feeds used in spring and summer are not suitable for autumn as they stimulate soft growth and increase the risk of disease.  The right feed will build up the root system and increase disease resistance.

Step 11 - Brush the surface regularly

Using the besom brush to swish away surface dew or raindrops before mowing.

Step 12 - Apply routine treatmentsfor moss, weeds and disease

Most lawn problems are difficult to fix once established.  Have a preventative routine to keep your lawn in top condition.  Use lawn sand every spring for moss control and a selective weedkiller in late spring.

Step 13 - Tackle brown patches as soon as they appear

There can be many reasons why you have a brown patch on your lawn try using the RHS website to find out why and how you can rectify yours.


Sit back and enjoy!