Blog

  1. Great examples of uses for old fence panels

    Great examples of uses for old fence panels

    Using old fence panels

    While the term “DIY” usually implies crafting projects from the ground up, sometimes the most spectacular Do-It-Yourself projects can simply involve transforming a worn piece of furniture and giving it a new identity or purpose. Even something as useless as a broken chair can still be turned into something else that is both functional and attractive.

    Reclaimed wood furniture, for example, is often accompanied by some kind of history, which can further add to its originality and charm. Below are a few projects utilising old fence panels that might spark your creative side.

    For the adults: aesthetic wine rack

    The great thing about wooden fence panels is that they are incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of smaller DIY projects as well. One of the simplest projects using old fence panels would be to transform them into a classy wine rack to hang on the wall.

    For this project, you’ll need a total of three 6”x12” end fence panels and three 24” cross rails to hold the bottles. The finished project should be able to hold a total of 15 wine bottles.

    For the kids: a fun fort

    While the idea of being able to construct a tree house for your kids is a good one, not every home has trees in their yards. Instead, take it to the ground and build a fort using your old fence panels.

    Even if you don’t have a yard, fence panels can be the ideal size for an inside fort as well (just be sure to make sure that the wood is finished). Hinges can be added for easy portability so it can be stored when it’s not in use.

    For the house: rustic wood cabinet

    Wooden cabinets are always a beautiful addition to any home, but it can often be expensive to have them custom made and professionally installed. With a little creativity (and maybe some help from IkeaHackers), you can repurpose your fence panels and create beautiful wooden cabinets for your kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, etc.

    If you’re not up to constructing an entire cabinet from scratch, consider sprucing up your existing cabinets and create new cabinet doors from your used fence panels.

    For the artist: wood wall art

    While repurposing old fence panels into something more functional is always impressive, the dimensions and natural state of the wood can also serve to make exquisite wall art. Take some time to salvage the pieces you find most interesting and create a layout of the wood that looks most appealing. Be sure to consider the amount of space you’ll be limited to when creating your masterpiece!

    For the office: simple shelves

    When it comes to shopping for shelves that not only have the right dimensions but the right price as well, creating your own shelves from old fence panels is a more affordable option. In addition, you also have the assurance that the shelves will be the correct size!

    For the garden: stylish planter box

    Whether you have an indoor garden, outdoor garden, or both, and are tired of being stuck with the plastic containers from the garden centre, reusing wooden fence panels can be an excellent way to give Mother Nature a little more style.

    Whether you prefer a simple wooden box for the outdoors or something more eye-catching to go with the interior of your home, creating a planter box from old fence panels can be as simple or elaborate as you want them to be.

    For your guests: inviting coffee table

    They say that it’s the rug that brings the room together, but sometimes, all you need is a coffee table. Using a bit of elbow grease, you can take those old wooden fence panels and turn them into a conversation starter. After all, wood usually always comes with some kind of history!

    When it comes to home improvement, sometimes all you need to do is look outside in your back garden to find inspiration. What will you create next?

    Read more »
  2. How to get started with a wildlife garden

    How to get started with a wildlife garden

    Key activities for a wildlife garden

    The heartbeat of a garden is its wildlife and you can do lots or almost nothing to help things along depending on how much time and effort you can devote to the cause. We take a look at some of the different things you can do to help you get started with your own wildlife garden.

    1. Do nothing

    Nature will restore the balance of a garden within years and if left to its own devices, a balance will naturally occur. OK, your broad beans will be chewed by black fly, slugs and snails will demolish your delphiniums for a while but eventually, ladybirds will increase in numbers, along with their larvae, and reduce blackly numbers. Many birds such as blackbirds and song thrushes will devour slugs and snails and blue tits will nibble away at greenfly trying to escape on tree trunks. It takes time but it will happen. Your neighbours may also complain about the weed seeds blowing around in the wind. So if you want a garden you can enjoy, and even actually garden in to get all that healthy mental and physical exercise, then do a little to help things along.

    2. Do a bit

    Leaving a patch of wildness in your garden does wonders for the success of wildlife! Think about those pesky stinging nettles for a moment. Those stingers could be supporting more than 40 kinds of insects and are vital to overwintering insects. They provide shelter from predators and produce millions of seeds for hungry house sparrows, chaffinches and bullfinches. Larvae of many butterflies such as small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies feed on nettles. Nettles are your friend – in small patches away from bare arms scrambling for stray footballs and errant cricket balls. Bees are the lynchpin of our environment so avoid using chemical sprays that may harm them. If you do have to spray then always use the chemicals according to the instructions, and this often means waiting until bees are safely snoozing in their hives in the late evening. Bees kind of like flowers and that is a whole new ball game.

    3. Think before you plant

    Bees like simple, open flowers. It makes their busy lives easier. Many plants are now labelled as bee-friendly and are great choices for mixed borders or pots. Plants with double flowers, where blooms have an extra set of petals in the same bloom, are not great for the bees. Nor are pollen-free varieties of some of our favourite flowers such as sunflowers, although hay fever sufferers do so are excused planting a few of those. Native wildflowers are great as our bees are used to those flowers and generally they grow well in the UK. Some traditional plants are also wonderful for the bees. Sweet William flowers are irresistible as are jasmine blooms (hardly a native!) and English lavender. All it takes it a little thought for our furry flying friends and your garden will be rich in wildlife.

    4. A tad more

    You can, of course, go to the other extreme of doing nothing and waiting for nature to take its course and do a lot. A pond is a superb way of attracting wildlife almost overnight. Give it a week and you will see activity. There’s plenty of choice in pond liners to go for, and budget is usually the deciding factor. But a wildlife pond can be as simple as a watertight pot or barrel filled with water, a couple of miniature water lilies and a sprig or two of oxygenating plants. Birds will use it as a watering station and frogs will seek it out. Larger ponds dug into the soil will teem with wildlife. Remember to plant larger leafed plants around the margins of the pond to offer protection from predators and the sun. Hostas are handy, ligularia is impressive and if you have the room, why not go full steam ahead for a giant gunnera? It will produce leaves large enough to shelter under whilst you watch the wildlife activity in the pouring rain of a typical UK summer.

    5. Bits and pieces

    A bird table will attract wildlife within hours of installing. It makes you think that birds really did invent twitter. Only replenish food when it has all gone to avoid mouldy seed attracting mice (although they are wildlife too!) Birdbaths, regularly cleaned and topped up with fresh water are a great idea, as are any of the feeders readily available from garden retailers and online. Secure gardens keep out unwanted intruders but small holes cut into fences or wire mesh will allow the safe passage of hedgehogs. A hole the size of a football will do the trick. Without these safe tunnels and gaps, hedgehogs are often penned into an unfriendly environment. They are born to roam – so let them wander and scoff on snails as they go.

     

    Read more »
  3. Looking for the perfect garden fence?

    Looking for the perfect garden fence?

    Finding the right garden fence can be a bit tricky, so we've taken a look at five of our favourites to help make your decision a bit easier. All of these products are made of the best quality wood and treated to allow for maximum durability.

    6'x6' Fence-Plus Chestnut Brown Featheredge Panel

    Pressure treated featheredge contractor fence panel chestnut brown

    This is a new addition to our fencing range and it has proved to be one of our most popular! We’re putting this down to the unique dark chestnut brown treatment which has been applied to the wood which saves you a job as well as being a really stunning tone and colour backdrop for your garden.

    The heavy duty timber is secured to three 18x100mm frame boards and a panel cap ensuring it can withstand all weather conditions. The timber is pressure treated and comes with a 15-year guarantee against rot and decay. The wide overlapping featheredge boards ensure a strong and stable fence panel.

    We also offer this fencing in 3 other sizes – 6x3, 6x4 and 6x5 so there’s something to fit each and every garden.

    Shop this product

    1800mm Hillhout Kingston Panel

    1800 x 1800 hillhout kingston fence panel

    If you’re looking for the highest quality, sturdiest built fencing then look no further, the gorgeous Kingston fence panel from Hillhout is the best of the best.

    These fence panels are manufactured from thick, 15mm x 140mm smooth planed pressure treated boards. They are thick and sturdy and really are the strongest panels we offer. They have a 15-year warranty against rot and fungal decay and have a modern and striking ‘hit and miss’ construction style. We even have the matching Kingston gate available… You could become the envy of your neighbours with the best fencing on the street with the strong and stunning Kingston fencing!

    Shop this product

    0.9m High Heavy Duty Pressure Treated Pale Panel

    90cm high heavy duty pressure treated pale fence panel

    The heavy duty pale panel creates a stunning low lying fence which is ideal for sectioning off parts of your garden.

    Constructed using premium quality softwood timber which has been slow grown for increased durability and pressure treated which creates a strong resistance to rot and carries a 15 year guarantee, meaning it will be in your garden for many years to come.

    Assembly is simple as the fencing is delivered pre-assembled and simply needs to be attached to the fence posts, taking a matter of seconds. Perfect for keeping pets safe in the garden or separating garden borders, the heavy duty pale panel is durable and boasts a beautiful classic country style design.

    Shop this product

    High Level Willow Hurdle 1.8m High

    high level willow hurdle fence panel 6ft high

    Here we have the high level willow hurdle which is a different fencing option – built using tightly interwoven willow, this fence not only looks fantastic but it is built to last.

    This high level hurdle provides plenty of security and privacy in your garden. It is a low-maintenance fencing option as you won’t need to retreat or paint and is a more attractive fencing option compared to traditional fence panels.

    Dark and rustic in design, this fencing will look great alongside your plant life for many years to come.

    Shop this product

    180 x 30cm Henley Lattice

    1ft trellis panel henley lattice 180 x 30cm

    Ideal for encouraging climbing plants and providing them with a large space to provide grow and look gorgeous! Alternatively, trellis can be used to divide garden borders or adding a little extra height to smaller fence panels.

    Whatever you chose to use these trellis panels for, rest assured that these are our best-selling trellis panels and are built to last- produced from a sturdy timber which has been pressure treated ensuring a lifetime of at least 15 years which also means that no re-treatment /maintenance is required – saving you time and money!

    The Henley lattice are a stunning diamond style design that will brighten up any garden!

    Shop this product

    Read more »
  4. Taking care of your garden over winter

    Taking care of your garden over winter

    Featured image credit: Amanda Sundin

    Winter garden maintenance

    Many gardeners 'shut up shop' for winter, but by doing a few key jobs, you can prevent weather damage and keep your plot looking smart throughout the colder months.

    Fences and sheds

    Check that structures are sound and replace loose or rotten wood. Make sure fence posts are securely concreted in and panels are well attached. Stain or use wood preservative during spells of dry, settled weather, so it can dry properly.

    Paths and decking

    Treat with proprietary cleaner to remove lichen and rotting foliage – a major slip hazard.

    Lights

    Ensure security lights are clean, working and properly adjusted – there's nothing worse than a too-sensitive beam constantly switching on and off.

    Trellis, arches, and obelisks

    Secure garden structures before high winds hit. Cut back dead foliage and treat with a suitable preservative.

    Garden furniture

    Bring inside moveable objects. If your patio furniture and barbeque are too large/heavy, secure them and use appropriate covers to protect them from rain/frost damage. Remove hammocks from frames - they catch the wind like a sail and can cause major damage.

    Fallen leaves

    Remove promptly from ponds, as toxins can build up in the water. Use a wide rake or blower to collect debris from lawns and paths, then bag them up, put them in a corner for a year to create soil-enhancing leaf mould.

    Pots

    Keep colour and interest near main paths and entrances. In containers, plant tulips and bedding such as pansies, violas, Bellis (daisy), wallflowers and Primula – these will flower throughout winter, followed by tulips in spring. If you want a low maintenance, contemporary solution, use box (Buxus) clipped balls or pyramids.

    If you have large potted plants and gales are expected, lay them on their sides with their tops pointing away from the expected direction of the strongest winds. Protect fragile containers in bubble wrap.

    Hardy plants

    Don't cut back herbaceous perennials, leave the dead stems standing – it provides a habitat for overwintering insects, provides structure and protects the plants' crowns.

    Tender plants: geraniums (Pelargoniums), Dahlia and Gladioli are not frost hardy, so need to be overwintered under glass. Take geraniums in before frost hits; Dahlia and Gladioli can be dug up, cleaned off and kept in just-moist compost in trays once the foliage has blackened/died down.

    Trees

    Hire a tree surgeon to remove dead wood. A specimen with structural weaknesses can break apart or uproot in gales. Winter is a good time to prune over-large trees, or apples and pears to improve fruit production. Don't cut back any of the Prunus family (flowering cherries and plums), as they can get silver leaf disease – wait until summer.

    Mulch

    Home-made compost or spent grow bag material spruces up borders – cover bare soil with 2-3 inches worth. It will show off evergreens, protect against frosts and suppress weeds.

    Snow

    It forms an insulating blanket, so don't disturb it. However, do gently knock off heavy snowfall weighing down conifer branches, as they can snap. Walking on a frosty lawn will damage the grass.

    Read more »
  5. Allotments: Are they worth it?

    Allotments: Are they worth it?

    If being close to nature, feeling good in the fresh breeze, getting your hands dirty in the rich soil and appreciating outdoors activities sound like they would add some happiness and peace to your existence, then maybe you should think about getting involved in gardening-away-from-home by renting an allotment.

    The allotment system goes back a long way and has (especially in earlier times) provided opportunities for poorer communities to cultivate fruit and veggies for their own use. Whilst socio-economic conditions may have greatly improved and whilst for some years it appeared that the appeal to own and run one’s own allotment has dwindled, there certainly seems to be a renewed interest.

    The whole idea behind the allotment system is to get people to partake in an activity, which may be beneficial in many ways. If you like the sun on your back (and rain too, sometimes), your kids next to you in an open space, producing your own fruit and veggies – even cut flowers – or mixing with like-minded people, this may be your chance to satisfy the frustrated farmer in you! The allotment system has a rich history in Britain, and one of the benefits is working in close proximity to other people who share your interest – even passion.

    Ready to roll up the sleeves?

    It is true that not everybody who wants to farm owns the land to do so. But if you’re serious about growing your own produce, about eating organic foods from your own piece of land, the opportunities exist. Apply for your own allotment from your city or local authority; if none is immediately available, make sure your name goes onto the waiting list.

    When you first start out, it helps to understand some basic ‘rules’ about the system.

    • You will have to work, often for the benefit of a whole group of allotment holders, and instead of seeing this as a negative, why not go out there with a positive frame of mind and contribute your own few (or many) hours per week to make sure the communal walkway is clean of weeds and refuse.
    • Do understand that pests and weeds can frustrate your efforts and that regular tending is not only advisable but essential.
    • Keep in mind that there will be some financial costs involved initially to get your fruit/veggie/flower patch off the ground; do not be naive, otherwise, you may be soon discouraged. Remember your goal: to eat fresh fruit/veggies from your own garden.
    • In dry conditions and seasons, you may have to spend more time watering your plot.
    • Remember that your allotment is probably bigger than your back garden and that you will be required to spend time to keep it clean and contribute to the group’s well-being and a shared feeling of having achieved, even though every allotment holder is, essentially, responsible for their own success

    An opportunity to feel good 

    Of course running your own allotment and looking after your own piece of land, producing for your own household, is what starts off any interest in getting involved. Apart from the obvious as mentioned right at the beginning above, what are the advantages?

    • To live your own small dream will not cost you an arm and a leg, as rents are very reasonable;
    • You choose the fresh fruit and vegetables you like and make sure you have a proper supply all year round;
    • You get your own produce, from your own land, fresh to your table - you yourself will guarantee the satisfaction as you sit down with your family to taste the fruits of your labour;
    • Get exercise in a natural environment, enough Vitamin D from the sunshine and an easy, free opportunity to socialise.

    Because financial gain is not, and has never been, the goal of the allotment system, those who partake understand it is mainly a ‘feel-good’ activity, an activity to move a little bit closer to nature, to rediscover something within them that wants to take charge of what is ‘natural’, organic and ‘clean’. The added benefits of providing food for communities, for their own households, far outweigh what some may perceive to be negative issues.

    There is proof that, as happened in the 70’s, today’s generation is becoming much more aware of the benefits of the allotment system; the so-called ‘Green Movement’ is certainly playing its part: More and more people are exposed to the idea of a cleaner, ‘greener’ environment.

    As cities and urban areas keep growing bigger, there is also evidence of a growing number of people everywhere who will tell you: ‘’We want to reconnect with nature, and a sure way of doing this is to apply for an allotment where we can be responsible for growing our own fresh produce.’’

    Read more »
  6. An interview with Joe Lamp’l from Growing A Greener World

    An interview with Joe Lamp’l from Growing A Greener World

    Recently we were lucky enough to interview Joe Lamp'l from award-winning national PBS series, Growing A Greener World.  We asked Joe some questions on organic gardening, making a difference in your community, and the transition of the farming industry over the years.  Below you will find all of his answers and be able to read a bit more about Joe at the end.

    Our interview with Joe Lamp'l

    1. What is your all-time top gardening tip for the gardener?

    “Feed the soil and let the soil feed the plants”

    It’s all about the soil. It’s like feeding our own bodies with whole, nutritional food V junk food. I could talk for days about the importance of building soil health for a productive, thriving garden.

    You didn't ask but my second favourite phrase is “Right plant, right place”. If gardeners would focus on building soil health and then put plants appropriately in the garden and landscape, their lives would be so much easier and our environment would be so much healthier. And of course, healthy plants require so few inputs from us to look their best while resisting pests and diseases.

    2. Where is the most beautiful garden you have visited?

    For public gardens, Chanticleer outside of Philadelphia, PA. It’s an estate garden yet doesn’t feel overwhelming. I see such transferrable ideas every time I go. And it is such a charming place.

    But my favourite gardens are private gardens that are purely the inspiration of the gardener and fuelled by a genuine passion for their love of gardening and the pride they show from their efforts. I even wrote about this very subject recently. While I have toured hundreds of famous public gardens, the ones I remember and impress me most are created from a labour of love by one or maybe two patient, optimistic gardeners.

    If I had to name one small private garden that I will never forget it is Ryan Gainy’s garden in Atlanta, GA. Although he is a world-renowned professional garden designer, his property is no larger than most homeowners. But it seems to go on forever because he has his spaces divided into amazing garden rooms. Every turn is a new adventure and surprise. It’s enchanting!

    3. The need to use organic material and fewer chemicals in gardening are becoming such a prominent thing, but many people still don’t understand the differences or don’t feel that food grown organically is any better than the produce grown with chemicals. What benefits can organic gardening bring, and does it improve the quality of your food?

    Organic gardening is so much more than improving the quality of the food. While it is true and that’s very important, for me, it’s about stewardship of the planet, starting with what I can impact directly. By not buying products that are harmful to the environment to make or use, that’s a big start.

    By choosing to use products that work with nature to build the health of the soil and the plants, and that I don’t have to worry about what harm I'm doing to the insects, birds, wildlife, and my family. It is so reassuring to look upon my garden and landscape and see that it is alive with nature and thriving and that every creature that comes to visit or live in and around my garden is safe from harmful products I put there.

    While I'm only one person, we add up. If we could change the tide of how people think about the need for perfectionism and instant gratification in our gardens and landscapes, this world would be so much better off. While you may not always be able to tell an organic food item for one that’s not, just knowing the difference of how it was grown and what is going in your body is good enough for me. Even if the nutrition and taste were equal, I’ll take “clean food” every time.

    4. Suppose that somebody wanted to make the transition between being a chemical-using gardener, to becoming an organic gardener. How could they go about making sure their garden was rid of chemicals?

    First, remove the temptation to use chemicals in the future. At the first opportunity, find a safe way to dispose of them responsibly. At the same time, start making and using compost! It’s the single best ingredient you can add to your garden to improve the health of your soil and plants. Then, stay more involved with your garden. Get out there more and pay attention. Bad things usually don’t happen just overnight. If you are out there, actively involved with your garden every day, or as often as possible, you can see changes developing and take simple steps early in the process to fix problems naturally.

    And be patient. Mother Nature has systems in place to deal with pests, diseases, and how plants grow. If we learn to work with nature, not against her, we can make the transition to organic quickly and easily. Lastly, take your time to understand alternative methods to approach garden maintenance organically. The products work, they just don’t work the same. The more you learn about the natural cycles in a garden, the better equipped you’ll be able to break the pest cycle or mitigate any problems.

    5. How long should you let your garden rest before beginning to replant in the new, organic soil once it is rid of all the chemicals?

    I would immediately start adding compost and organic matter and working it into the soil. The more you add, the faster the microbes will work to neutralise, deactivate, or degrade harmful components in the soil. As for how long you should wait depends on so many things. In the U.S, you have to wait 3 years from the last chemical use before you can claim to have a certified organic product (along with approval from the USDA). But as homeowners, that is unnecessary. Just know that the moment you starting improving your soil with organic matter and stop using synthetic chemicals, you’re improving the soil conditions and the quality of your plants. But if you were looking for a time period to rest, I’d wait 6 months to a year to feel like synthetic inputs have degraded.

    6. One of the articles on your website talks about how you can see if your mulch is safe. What is the importance of having uncontaminated mulch? Are there any ways you can check it yourself to be completely sure you are not damaging your garden?

    The risk of using mulch from sources where you don’t know the origins is that it could contain wood that was treated with hazardous chemicals, such as arsenic or methyl bromide. You can’t know yourself at home as there is no test for this and you can’t tell by looking at it. But if you know your mulch is from ground up trees or bark, you should be fine. The wood that is suspect is ground up pallets and construction wood—Especially when it’s been dyed or colour treated. That is often what is used to mask ground up pallets and lumber.

    Stick with natural, non-colour treated mulch products that come from tree by-products and bark. Once you start using mulch products where you can’t tell what it was, is when you start introducing risk.

    7. There has been a lot of talk in recent years about how one person can make a difference to a community. Do you think the same is true for gardening, in that if one person starts it encourages others in the community to follow in their footsteps?

    I do believe that! In fact, that’s been my mission since I became a public figure in horticulture and gardening, and really all my life. Maybe I’m an idealist or just stubborn, but I firmly believe it is the collective efforts of individuals that can create an awareness for the need to change. In my mind, it’s such common sense. I know not everyone cares about anything beyond their own little world, but my belief is that most of us to want to leave this planet better off than we found it. So we do our part. And gardening can play such an important role. In the U.S, there are about 90 million people gardening at some level. While we are creating a lot of beauty, in the process we can be doing a lot of not-so-pretty things to the environment with the products we use. But that’s a huge opportunity to set a good example and help spread the word too.

    In my second book; The Green Gardener’s Guide, the subtitle is; “Simple significant actions to protect and preserve the planet”. I always have said, some will do a lot to make a difference, some will do only a little, but if we all do “something”, collectively we can make a huge impact for the better. But it’s a momentum thing; we all have to get on board at even a small level. We can all be influencers, and we should be.

    8. A large part of gardening is growing your own food but is there a difference between buying and consuming locally sourced food as opposed to the imported counterparts?

    Of course, the best of all worlds is local and organically grown. But if that’s not an option I would prefer to buy non-locally sourced food that was organic, vs. locally grown, non-organic food. My biggest concern is the manufacture and use of harmful chemicals and what that is doing to our environment and our health. I'm willing to accept the cost of food miles over the price of pesticides.

    9. Many people feel that the farming industry has transitioned in a negative way, with demand exceeding supply levels, leaving little choice for farmers but to allow the use of chemicals in their process. Is there anything that average people can do to help the situation?

    The problem is that farmers can’t often afford to grow any other way than huge monocultures of synthetically treated crops. We have government subsidies and Big Agriculture / chemical companies and their money and powerful lobbyist combined with too many powerful people in government with a conflict of interest to thank for that. Farmers want to grow what consumers want if they can do it profitably. But the price of converting farms from non-organic to organic, and the time it takes makes that impossible for most. And the subsidies provided to farmers to grow certain crops like corn and soy only work at a massive scale, which for now is only non-organically. Organic farming is much more labour intensive. We all need to think differently about how and what we eat. For example, less dependence of meat (which is where a lot of big ag crops go to feed animals) and more dependence and self-reliance on growing food ourselves or by supporting a local / smaller farm. And eating in-season! If the demand were there for that, then we’d have more small farms, growing a more diverse array of food and doing it in a more environmentally responsible way.

    10. One of the most popular topics you speak about on your website is homesteading, but many people still believe that it is just about growing food. What else does a ‘homesteading’ lifestyle involve? Are there any tips you can share with us to get people started on the route to a more sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle?

    Although homesteading is mostly associated with growing your own food or doing things like raising backyard chickens, there is a lot more to it than that. It is also about working toward a more sustainable lifestyle and having a smaller environmental impact on the earth. Things, like canning and preserving and eating locally, are part of that. Our own homesteading expert Theresa Loe says that canning is not only about capturing seasonal flavour for later, it is about saving food that might otherwise go to waste - and that has a huge impact. It doesn't matter if you grow the food yourself or buy it at the farmer's market, by consuming fresh, organic produce; you are supporting the earth in every food choice you make. Homesteading is that whole philosophy. You can learn more about that type of homesteading mindset by visiting her website: http://www.livinghomegrown.com/

    About Joe Lamp'l

    Joe Lamp’l is the Host and Executive Producer of the award-winning national PBS series, Growing a Greener World® and previous host of Fresh from the Garden on DIY Network and GardenSMART on PBS. In 2011, The American Horticultural Society selected Joe as the recipient of the Society’s B.Y. Morrison Communication Award, which recognises effective and inspirational communication—through print, radio, television, and online media. He also has 3 podcast series and extensive radio experience on his own show in Atlanta.

    To find out more about some of Joe's work, or to listen to a couple of his podcasts, visit Growing a Greener World and take a look around!

     

    Read more »
  7. Gardening in summer and dealing with drought

    Gardening in summer and dealing with drought

    Whether there is a drought in the region or not, it is very important to have good water practices when gardening. Most people envision ground cracked from the baking sun and the lack of rain when they think about drought. Though Britain does not usually experience such a severe type of drought, it seems there are changes occurring in the climate and the hosepipe bans are becoming more frequent in the country.

    Using water carefully

    When it comes to watering an allotment, everyone should be doing their best to collect rainwater instead of using water from the hose. This can be accomplished by having water butts to collect the rainfall. The best time to water is the coolest part of the day, which is either in the morning or in the evening. The water should be applied as directly as possible to the roots of the plants once or twice per week. Frequent and light watering should be avoided because this will encourage the roots to seek water near the surface. Watering well once or twice per week will encourage the roots of plants to grow deeper in search of water.

    Preparing for drought

    While good watering practices are important under all gardening circumstances, there are ways that gardeners can prepare for the conditions of drought and the hosepipe bans that typically follow. The best way to prepare for such circumstances is to ensure the soil contains plenty of organic material. This will make the soil more fertile and will help to retain moisture. Crops rely on the best soil condition in order to get a good start in life. Well-conditioned soil will contain the four main growing chemicals, including calcium, nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous. Gardening can be made much easier by knowing the chemical makeup of the soil. Testing the soil is quite easy and can be done with a good quality soil testing kit. Any garden centre will carry such a device. While testing soil is always the best option, generally speaking, all that is needed is to replenish the soil with whatever was consumed by the previous crop grown.

    Adding farmyard manure is one of the best and quickest ways to add back the nutrients needed in the soil. The manure should be well rotted over a period of twelve months. The addition of green manure and good quality homemade compost along with the farmyard manure will improve the quality of the soil tremendously. These additions will also help the soil retain moisture, requiring less watering. The best time to dig the manure into the soil is during a dormant period; this would be the early spring or the end of the summer. When possible the surface of the soil should be covered with a layer of mulch to retain moisture. This will also suppress weed growth. Use garden compost, composted manure, a geotextile, a leaf-mould, or the like as mulch.

    Plants that like dry conditions

    Preparing for potential drought is one thing for plants that need regular watering, but another way to prepare for drought is by choosing plants that generally like dry conditions. These are plants that originate in hot climates and have evolved to need less water. Other plants to choose are those that have edible parts that grow below ground instead of above. These would include root crops, which benefit from water deeper in the ground. Examples of these plants include the following: Carrots, which should not be watered because watering actually reduces their yield; Potatoes, which should only be watered when the flowers have just opened, but will generally have enough water in the ground soil to be sustained; Parsnips, which do not benefit from watering; Jerusalem artichoke, which should not be watered at all because it encourages the growth of the leaves instead of the tubers; Rosemary and Thyme are woody herbs that withstand dry conditions very well; Beetroot, like Jerusalem artichoke, increase leaf size and not root size when watered so avoid watering except to ensure soil does not dry completely; Brussels Sprouts that are established do not require watering unless the dry weather is excessive; Kohlrabi with a well-developed root system for sourcing water can survive dry seasons; and, Onions that are established do not require a great deal of water and should not be watered after mid-July because it will cause delayed ripening.

    The plants that do require a great deal of watering include celery, courgettes, marrows, pumpkins, squash, rhubarb, and spinach. If the region is expected to be or is typically a dry region, it may be best to avoid growing these plants. It is also advisable to stop applying fertilisers whether they are synthetic or organic at the onset of a drought. Plant growth is encouraged by fertiliser and therefore will require more moisture as growth increases. Furthermore, fertiliser salts that are not naturally leached out of the soil with rain or irrigation can cause damage by burning the plant roots. Get rid of any and all weeds because they will steal what little bit of valuable moisture there may be in the soil from the garden plants. Finally, deadhead blooms once they are spent but before they have a chance to set seed, saving the plant energy and the need for more water to produce the seeds.

    Read more »
  8. The best summer houseplants

    The best summer houseplants

    When it comes to brightening up your home, there are many paths you can take such as repainting a room or installing new flooring. However, if you’re looking for a more affordable option to give your home a fresh look, all you may need to do is add a few houseplants. There is something incredibly welcoming about a space full of beautifully blossoming plants, but for those who actually spend time with houseplants, there is a significant difference between simply keeping a plant alive versus getting one to bloom.

    But not to worry! You don’t necessarily have to have an expert green thumb to transform your home with summer houseplants. In fact, some of the best summer houseplants are already flowering by the time you purchase them from the store. And best of all, you won’t need to worry about how the hot weather will affect their growth. Below are just a few houseplants you may want to add to your home this summer.

    Summer houseplants to try this year

    African Violets

    Ranked as one of the easiest houseplants to grow, African Violets are available in a variety of colours (blue, lavender, violet, white, pink, and everything in between to match your decor) and forms (variegated foliage, ruffled, or white-edged blooms) and produce flowers throughout the year. Favourable to warmer weather conditions, these flowers are designed to withstand temperatures between 18 and 23 Celsius and can grow for years provided that they have a bright window with filtered sunlight to sit in front of.

    While African Violets don’t require much effort on your part to keep alive, it is important to avoid getting water on the fuzzy leaves to prevent brown spots from forming on them. And if you want more than just one in your home, it’s pretty simple to grow one just by cutting off a leaf of the existing plant and planting it in a 16-inch wide pot with moist soil.

    Jasmine

    For a more fragrant addition to your home, the Jasmine is one of the most popular summer house-plants. Available in several varieties, from the Many-Flowered Jasmine to the Arabian Jasmine, these houseplants require plenty of light and moisture to grow and can survive through the colder months as well provided that they are well-taken care of. During the spring and summer seasons, Jasmines produce beautifully scented pink and white flowers. During the wintertime, be sure to keep the soil evenly moist around the house-plant.

    Flowering Maple

    If you’re looking for a more delicate addition to your home, the crepe-paper-like blooms of the Flowering Maple will make for the ideal house-parent. Once bloomed, this house-parent produces soft shades of yellow, orange, red, or pink flowers that dangle among leaves like paper lanterns. For a more eye-catching house-plant, variegated or splotched foliage varieties are also available.

    Similar to the African Violet, the Flowering Maple is almost constantly in bloom and prefers warmer temperatures. Also versatile, this houseplant can be grown as a tree or as a shrub in a hanging basket. Be sure to water the plant evenly as well as uneven watering may cause flowers to fall prematurely.

    Oxalis

    Featuring clover-like deep purple leaves and pink or white blooms, the Oxalis can be a beautiful and charming addition to any home. A unique blooming houseplant, the Oxalis is also available with plain green foliage that can come with or without silver-like accents. Though this plant prefers less light than the Flowering Maple or African Violet and it can still grow in temperatures ranging from 15 to 21 Celsius. Plus, once the plant becomes too crowded in its pot, it can easily be divided and placed into another pot without interrupting growth.

    Hibiscus

    Well recognised as one of the most popular symbols of more tropical environments, the Hibiscus flower comes in numerous colours and can grow in either single or double form. Some newer hybrids of this flower may even feature multi-coloured flowers (red, pink, orange, yellow, white, and even blue). Perfect for beginner gardeners, the Hibiscus is the ideal plant in terms of the amount of care required as well as adding a touch of the tropics inside your home. Reaching diameters of up to 8 inches, this flowering houseplant is eye-catching and its colours even more irresistible. Though the individual blossoms only last a few days at most, this is a houseplant that can bloom all year round if properly taken care of. Be sure to keep the soil evenly moist and place it in a room that receives a high amount of indoor light.

    Though there are still several varieties of indoor summer houseplants to choose from, the ones mentioned above are among the easiest to grow and care for making them perfect for beginners. 

     

    Read more »
  9. Garden design for the beginner

    Garden design for the beginner

    Getting started

    The key for anyone new to gardening is to follow manageable steps. It is easy to become overwhelmed not only with all the garden design possibilities but also with the amount of effort that is involved in keeping up a nice garden. For the person who enjoys gardening, time in the garden is enjoyable. Some people, however, are only interested in the minimal amount of gardening or yard maintenance, which means mowing the lawn and calling it a day. Those who have a passion and energy for gardening, but who are beginners in garden design should develop a plan. The beginner in garden design needs to figure out the amount of garden work that will be practical as a novice. The amount of time a person has to commit to the garden will be affected by the stage of that person's life. For the first season in the garden, the beginner in garden design may want to follow these guidelines.

    Cleaning up

    This may not sound all that appealing, but it is the first thing that should be accomplished. This includes taking the time to clean up the lawn; mowing it and giving it a good raking. Debris from autumn and winter can be removed from the lawn with a good spring raking. Even if the lawn is a bit bare except for maybe a few shrubs and/or trees, a beautifully kept lawn creates a nice place to relax. Not only that, but the lawn will affect the look of gardens and other plants which surround it.

    Current garden beds should be weeded

    Some beginners in garden design may not know the difference between a perennial and a weed. The good news is beginners can take a photo of the plants in question and take those pictures to the local garden centre for help in identification. Pictures of these plants can also be posted online at garden enthusiast sites and forums asking fellow gardeners for help.

    Edging

    Garden beds look nicer when they are edged

    An edge on the garden bed is simply a clean break between the garden area and the grass. The cut along the edge of the garden bed can be easily accomplished with a flat-edged shovel. The look of a garden bed can be enhanced by adding gentle curves. For the beginner in garden design, it is advisable to avoid expanding these beds in the first season because the edging can become a big job, especially when the grass is thick. Some gardens have existing edging materials like black plastic edging. It may be better to remove this because often it does not work well and the look is not as attractive as a nice, clean cut edge, where the lawn meeting the soil is covered with mulch.

    Mulch is great for ground cover in gardens, especially in those with fewer plants. The look that mulch creates is quite tidy, but it has a practical function as well; it helps to retain moisture in the soil while also suppressing the growth of weeds. The mulch should not be laid down in layers thicker than four inches. Furthermore, each plant should have a little room around the base that is mulch free.

    Edging the lawn

    Doing this along the drive and sidewalks will enhance the look of the entire yard and garden. For major cutting on an overgrown lawn, a petrol powered edger can be rented. This tool will do the initial hard work; thereafter, an electric edger, which is relatively inexpensive, can be used to maintain the edging.
    After all this preparation, the next part is quite fun and exciting for beginners in garden design. Choosing the flowers and plants should not only reflect taste in design but also the time limits the gardener has for caring for these plants. Budget may also be a consideration. This means learning to prioritise.

    The beginner in garden design may want to focus on the front yard. For the first season, it may be reasonably acceptable to begin by tidying up the yard as described above and then using a couple of pots with beautiful annuals to flank the front door. There is nothing wrong with starting slowly when it comes to gardening.

    The first season can be a time to establish maintenance routines in the new yard before trying to expand further. Doing this type of work will inform new gardeners if they really do enjoy gardening. If so, they can expand upon the garden in the next season. For those who find they do not enjoy the work as much can simply take the easy approach and plant some boxwood or hydrangea and maintain any other pleasing foundational plants to have a nice looking garden.

    Read more »
  10. Bulb planting for summer displays

    Bulb planting for summer displays

    April is the ideal time of the year to plant exotic summer-flowering bulbs. Bulb planting makes for a glamorous touch to any garden, especially to create a beautiful summer display. Bulbs are quite versatile since they can be grown in just about any garden situation. Whether they are planted in rock gardens, grass, borders, or even in pots, bulbs will burst forth from the ground and then die back in a single season. When more permanent plants are lacking in a garden, bulb planting in the spring will inject areas of interest that will highlight a summer display. Bulbs are great for filling in awkward gaps and spaces near borders, adding texture, vibrancy, and shapely form that is quite impressive. Many of the bulbs that are grown for summer flowering originate from warm climates like that of South America and South Africa. The exotic shapes of some of these flowers is evidence of that fact.

    The best bulbs for summer

    A little planning ahead of time is required for making the best summer displays. Just as the weather begins to warm in spring is the time to begin planting summer flowering bulbs, corms, and tubers in containers and borders. A general rule is to plant bulbs at a depth of three times the diameter of the bulb. There are some exceptions to this rule so it is always best to follow any instructions that came with the bulbs and/or to research the particular bulb before planting. There are so many different bulbs to choose from that will flower in the summer, but here are some top choices for inspiration.

    Gladiolus

    Traditional flamboyant summer Gladiolus are perceived to be a bit old fashioned. However, there are more modern hybrids that have very bright colours and ruffled blooms like that of Gladiolus 'Tango'. Placed strategically along a back border or even in an indoor vase, the majestic stems of this flower are fabulous. Another species is Gladiolus murielae, an exquisite option for a bit of elegant simplicity.

    Begonia

    Shady patios benefit greatly from the addition of the glamorous bulbs known as Tuberous begonias. From summer to the first frosts of November, this bulb produces a beautiful flower for a relatively long period of time. There are quite fragrant varieties like Begonia 'Fragrant Falls Improved' that are perfect for planting in window boxes and/or hanging baskets. Their enticing scent can best be appreciated when they hang near doorways.

    Allium

    It is difficult to resist cutting airy spheres of purple blooms of this bulb, but for those who can resist, they are rewarded with extraordinary architectural seed heads. Bridging the gap between late and high summer can be done with large groups of Allium 'Big Impact Mixed'. While the upright stems add plenty of structure to borders it is best to plant them among lower-growing perennials so as the foliage dies back later in the season it will be covered by the other plants. This bulb is ideal for sunny, well-drained borders.

    Bearded Iris

    The sturdy strap-like foliage and beautiful ruffled blooms of these classic cottage tubers are quite popular. Summer flower arrangements are enhanced by the addition of the flower's lovely light fragrance. These bulbs look best planted in groups and this is a good thing since there are so many different colours available that it is sometimes difficult to choose just one bearded iris. The best location for the bearded iris is a sunny spot that is open so the tubers will not be shaded by other plants.

    Crocosmia

    This is fast growing and will wander through borders, quickly multiplying without any fuss at all. Crocosmia is exotic looking, with arching stems tipped with starry flowers and upright, strap-like foliage. The vibrant blooms of red, orange, or yellow add a fiery coloured touch to any cut flower arrangement.

    Oriental Lily

    This is an easily recognisable flower that has a sensational fragrance and flamboyant blooms. Every garden can be adorned with variations from the tall tree lilies to the short ground cover lilies. Easy to grow, the large exotic blooms are great features for the summer border. It is best to grow these bulbs in a container and then move them to a prized viewing position as the bloom starts to open. The pollen free and double flowered variation, Lily 'China Girl', is great for avoiding pollen stains.

    Polianthes tuberosa

    One of the most highly prized cut flowers is from the quite fragrant summer bulb known as Polianthes tuberosa. The bulb produces beautiful stems and waxy blooms but takes a bit of effort to grow. Best grown in a heated conservatory or greenhouse at a minimum temperature of 15°C (59°F), the single sniff of the extraordinary perfume is a reward worth all the effort.

    Read more »
Page