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February 13, 2019
Autumn's really set in and it's become a real annoyance the leaves are everywhere in my garden. I just can't keep up with them. I've got a rake and a broom but that's just not doing the job, I really need a leaf blower and vacuum. I'm spending at least 2 hours a day just trying to keep my garden clean. The damage that these leaves will do to my grass if I don't clean up the garden is considerable. I really don't want to be stuck for spring and summer when I want to enjoy my garden again.I want to have a nice thick and healthy turf so these of got to be cleaned up.

Leaf blower vacuum decisions

So now it’s time to take a look at leaf blowers and have a think about perhaps purchasing one myself. There's a lot of advantages to a leaf blower but there's so many out there I don't really know where to start. I'm thinking that I'm probably going to end up with an electric one. But I just don't know should I get a battery version. There's the possibility as well as getting a petrol version but of course they're far more expensive and I'm only going to use it for two months of the year. It's not like I'm a professional landscaper yet or much more than an avid hobbyist.

Leaf blower vacuum?

The other big question I need to ask myself is will I get a leaf blower vacuum or just a leaf blower? I think from my perspective I really want to not have to bother with the rake and have to put things into the compost bin anymore. I'd rather just have a great big sack and empty one at a time. It also helps me to look at the garden being cleared patch by patch and break the job down. That really kind of gives me incentive when I can compartmentalise the work. I'm thinking I want to spend about 50 quid so in reality it's going to have to be the electric corded version for me. The petrol versions all startup and around about £80-£100. But it's not actually the price that bothers me it's the it's the thing to look after flammable fuel as well as fuse that come off the thing when I'm actually using it. Then of course you have got to think about the spark plugs and servicing the thing in the winter. I actually found an incredible leaf blower vacuum on a website called Gardentoolbox.co.uk. The leaf blower vacuum actually at the moment advertising a Von Haus garden leaf blower vacuum for less than £40. It's amazing because the thing actually combines itself as a vacuum blower but also has the ability to mulch as well. That makes it one of the better machines anyway. But the fact that the things only costs £40 and comes with stunning feedback is quite incredible. I didn't actually find the leaf blower first I found them through one of their brilliant blog posts on how why leaves turn red in late autumn. It's a bit of a problem that the power leads only 10 m long, however, I can live with that. If you look at the actual size of the thing it's very easy to use as well. I'd like to look at a cordless leaf blower but the problem is if they don't actually come with a vacuum as well. Because the vacuum requires a fair bit of energy it's not really ideal for a cordless battery which would be drain too quickly. This leaves you pretty much stranded with the corded electric version. But that said, you're hardly stranded, it's just a case of wanting to have that extra functions and needing the power so that’s that really. I’m pleased with my choice and I'm glad that I'm going to go ahead with it because basically I'm really tired of having to pick up all these leaves in my garden through late autumn. I really hope that the leaf blowers going to change all that and make my life that much more comfortable. If you have any suggestions for clearing the leaves in your garden late autumn stroke winter then I would love to hear them and please do feel free to get in touch with me. I I'd love to hear some other great methods of getting rid of leaves in the garden. I just think that the only one I can see at the moment isn't electric version. But if you've got something else up your sleeve please do let me know!
February 11, 2019

Finally the end of winter is in sight and within just a few weeks the first shoots of spring will start to appear across the UK.

it’s not over yet though late frosts are extremely common and often February can end up showing us some of the worst winter weather going.

However this doesn’t mean all of your gardening activities have to stop, there is plenty of things you can prepare for spring and even though it’s getting a little late you can still select some great fruit trees to plant. Container grown is the best choice for this time of year although bare-root fruit plants will still establish.

As with all of our advice you may need to tweak your schedule depending on local weather, if the ground is still waterlogged or even frozen you should avoid sowing anything until your confident that the soil will support new plant life.

Seed Potato Preparation: Chitting

Chitting is a subject which comes with a great debate attached, in a similar way to searing meat before stewing, some say it makes all the difference others notice no difference, the main thing to take from this is that it does not harm the potatoes either way so if you have the time and resources you should go ahead and do it anyway.

Place the potatoes in a cool, frost-free environment, the room should be light, but you should ensure your seeds avoid bright, direct sunlight which might hamper their development. This process allows the initial roots and shoots to form on the seed prior to planting out later in the spring. Personally I think the process is worth the extra time and effort, I find it makes planting out easier.

February: What to sow outdoors?

February is not the best time to plant most vegetables outdoors, however there are some exceptions if soil conditions in your area allow for it. As the soil warms up and the risk of frost decreases you may want to consider planting early peas and broad beans for harvest during May and June. Excellent for an early summer treat!

There are other vegetables which you can plant and germinate towards the end of February, these include shallots which can be given a helping hand with the use of some protection.

So that covers outdoors what about greenhouses?

What to sow in a Greenhouse?

If you are lucky enough to enjoy the benefits of a greenhouse or coldframe you will be well aware of the advantages, however those with a cool spare room can also achieve similar results.

You want to be sowing radish, lettuce or rocket, if using a windowsill ensure there is plenty of sunlight to avoid weak, stretched seedlings and also keep an eye on the temperature, simple problems can be easily avoided if you know what your looking for.

Deciding to invest in a greenhouse, grow-house or small polytunnel doesn’t have to be expensive, there are lots of affordable options available at your local garden centre, pop in and ask next time your close. A cheap growhouse is often the best “starter” option.

With the use of a heated electric propagator you can start growing more adventurous vegetables (or fruits) including varieties of different spicy chillies and sweet peppers, both excellent additions to “grow your own” recipes. If you want to give these a little head start a small grow bulb can help you establish seedlings more easily.

Always ensure the light is placed directly above the plant. The light should be approx 10cm from the top of the seedling, but remember as a general rule too far away and the seed will stretch, too close and the small-vulnerable leaves will scorch. You don’t have to go crazy buying expensive growing equipment an old lamp and a “cool-white” bulb won’t cost the earth and it’s a good way to kick start the growth before we plant them on later.

Remember: Be very careful when using electricity in grow areas, you need to be sensible with how you power the light, make sure the plug is ABOVE the height of the bulb and as far away as possible, this ensures there is minimal risk when you water your seedlings. Never use a misting sprayer around any plants which are under a light, this can also be dangerous. Use common sense and be mindful at all times.

Fruit in the Vegetable Patch

Finally in February we can also look at forcing and growing Rhubarb, it requires nothing more than a change in light and heat conditions to get it going so don’t worry about it not falling into the not organic category no chemicals are used.

It’s not even a difficult process, simply take the Rhubarb crown and place it under something which will block the light, personally I use an upside bucket but I have seen other methods used. It’s a great idea to insulate the outside of the bucket using an insulating material, a personal favourite of mine is to use straw but again it’s up to you, some prefer sheets of plant fleece.

We hope to put together a full guide shortly to cover this subject.

So that covers most of the Vegetable jobs for February, remember depending on conditions you may need to adjust the timing’s slightly and allow for local frosts to pass before some of these projects can be undertaken. If you get stuck let us know, we would love to know why and we can help if you think we have missed something important.

Improving Your Garden

February 9, 2019

Making improvements to your garden can contribute greatly to injecting a new lease of life into your home. Whether you are installing decking or simply laying new turf, these changes can pay dividends towards giving your garden a fresh new look.

Laying new turf will certainly make your outside space look neat and tidy and if you are thinking about installing decking or a new patio, for example, your garden will have a more welcoming, sociable feel.

You may decide to take on your planned alterations yourself and if so, it would be useful to have some DIY experience, or someone with the experience to give you a helping hand!

Whatever changes you are thinking of making, you can be safe in the knowledge that you will not only add significant value to your home, but also achieve a look that you can show off in those summer months and gain a usable outdoor space for your family and friends.

Laying new turf

If you are determined to lay the turf yourself then the perfect time to lay a new lawn from scratch is early autumn, when the grass can root easily. Before you begin, you must make sure that the area to be treated is prepared correctly.

You will need to ensure that all weeds, large stones and non-organic waste are removed from the surface. If you are replacing an existing lawn, dig off the existing grass to about two inches.

The next job is to create a completely even surface to lay the turf upon. Have a garden fork, spade and a rake handy to help you with this. Firm the soil by walking across the entire area, treading down the whole surface and then rake for a fine finish.

Once you are happy that you have a clean, flat surface, sprinkle granular fertiliser over the soil (this is available at your local garden centre and will help the new turf to root) and then lightly rake the surface once more. Finish preparing the soil by watering it. Your turf is now ready to be laid!

It is important that you lay the new turf within 12 hours of delivery to avoid deterioration. Start by laying your first row along a straight edge and ensure good contact with the soil by pressing down firmly with the back of a rake. Lay the next row, making sure the pieces of turf are pushed right up to the first row. Subsequent rows should be laid in a brickwork pattern until the area has been covered.

You will then need to water the whole area; it is best to use a sprinkler to avoid walking on the turf. Try to refrain from walking on your new lawn for a few weeks while the turf roots into the soil and trim it lightly with the mower blades set high.

And that is it! All you need now is a bit of luck with the weather and to keep the turf watered.

Installing a patio/decking

The process of constructing a patio or decked area in your garden is a little more challenging than laying new turf, but if you feel comfortable with a bit of DIY then this project can prove very rewarding!

It is important to plan, even before you have bought the kit, the location of your proposed patio/decked area. Think about the parts of your garden that catch the sun for extended periods of the day/evening or that give you a little privacy from the neighbours.

There are various designs for decked areas (for example low level or elevated decks) so you will need to decide which design you prefer or which would be best suited to you garden. If you opt for an elevated deck, you may need some professional help to install the foundations and supports for your decking.

You might also want to consider the purpose of your designated area and what you envisage having on there, to get some idea of the amount of patio slabs/decking you will need to purchase.

Before you begin installing your decking, it is a good idea to remove any turf or plantation that may grow up between the deck boards, and also to make sure that the area drains water effectively.

Watering Tips

February 9, 2019

Plants need a reliable supply of water for germination, growth, flowering and fruiting. Water is essential for the uptake of nutrients from the soil as well as temperature regulation. Although plants have diverse requirements for water, here are some useful general guidelines on watering your plants.

Watering basics

In dry conditions, established plants benefit from thorough and infrequent watering rather than a daily splash.

Plant roots will only grow into moist ground, so if the soil is dry below and damp above, roots will be concentrated around the surface. Occasional heavy watering encourages plant roots to grow downwards where there is a more reliable water supply and source of nutrients.

Unless you have a natural spring or stream in your garden, the best source of water is the mains.

Before watering lime-hating plants though, check whether your mains supply contains lime.

Rain barrels can be used for watering plants growing in the ground but never for containerised plants. This is because phytopthera fungi, often present, can infect and kill such in confined conditions.

Assess water requirements

Learn how to identify whether your plants need watering.

For plants in containers, you can judge by the weight of the container or by pushing your finger inside the pot to assess the dryness of the soil.

In the garden, the best time to water is in the evening. Water the soil underneath the leaf canopy, not the leaves, and mound the soil to make a basin shape for better drainage.

Top priority should be given to newly-planted specimens. With bedding plants inserted directly from cells or pots, keep the soil moist for one month after planting.

Trees and shrubs planted from containers will need watering for longer – they will need this extra watering for up to a year after planting to make sure they are established.

If a plant is wilting or the leaves look dull or rolled up, it needs watering immediately. The best technique is to shade the plant and spray the foliage with clear water. Then drench the soil and allow the surplus to drain away.

Vegetables grown for their leaves – such as lettuce and spinach – should be kept consistently moist. Others grown for their seeds – such as peas and beans – should not be watered before flowering as this will encourage leafy growth and few flowers.

Watering when in flower results in the production of more and juicier vegetables. If water is in short supply, your potato crop can be increased by a heavy watering about ten days before harvest.

Effective watering

To reduce the need to water, dig in organic material when planting and apply a 50-75mm (2-3in) layer of mulch.

Newly planted and young seedlings should receive a fine mist from a hosepipe spray attachment or a fine rose from a watering can to avoid disturbing the roots. The tougher or older the plant, the more vigorous the watering can be.

Sprinklers are useful for large areas of the garden but remember that watering bare soil will result in the growth of more weeds. It is a good idea to leave a few straight-sided containers on the ground to catch the water and give an idea of how much has been applied. A 25mm (1in) depth would normally be sufficient for each watering.

When you’re away

If you’re going on holiday, you can leave your houseplants with a reservoir of water by placing them on the draining board on capillary matting that trails into a sinkful of water.

Garden Tips

February 9, 2019

Feng Shui is the ancient art of placement. Basically, if you place your belongings in the correct position in any physical environment, the residents of the area will invite balance and harmony into their lives. Incorporate the philosophy of Feng Shui into your garden.

The art of Feng Shui divides any environment into eight sectors known as trigrams. Each trigram is represented by a compass direction and specific characteristics. Use the trigram as a guide when designing your garden.

Feng Shui Garden Designs

1) North

  • Represents: Career
  • Element: Water
  • Shapes: Waves and Curves
  • Colour: Blue and Black
  • Cures: Ponds, waterfalls, fountains, metal accents, silver plants, metal chimes

2) Northeast

  • Represents: Knowledge
  • Element: Earth
  • Shapes: Flat, square or rectangular shapes
  • Colour: Turquoise and Beige
  • Cures: Rocks, stone statues, stone benches, rock garden, ceramics, terra cotta planters or wall decorations

3) East

  • Represents: Family
  • Element: Wood
  • Shapes: Columns, tall rectangular shapes
  • Colour: Green, Beige
  • Cures: Trees, herbs, decks, wood furniture, fountains

4) South

  • Represents: Fame and Future
  • Element: Fire
  • Shapes: Pointed and triangular shapes
  • Colour: Red, Orange, and Blue
  • Cures: Outdoor lights, barbeque, fire pit, triangular decorations or triangular flower shapes, and wood furniture

5) West

  • Represents: Children and Creativity
  • Element: Metal
  • Shapes: Circles and arches
  • Colour: White and Metallic
  • Cures: Children’s play area, area for your hobby interests, metal decorations, wrought iron furniture, and metal wind chimes

6) Southeast

  • Represents: Wealth and Abundance
  • Element: Wood
  • Shapes: Columns, tall rectangular shapes
  • Colour: Green and Purple
  • Cures: Fruit trees, vegetable garden, flowers, decks, and pond

7) Southwest

  • Represents: Personal Relationships
  • Element: Earth
  • Shapes: Low and flat square surfaces
  • Colour: Yellow, Pink, and Beige
  • Cures: Plants in pairs, two lounge chairs, pink flowers, earth items in multiples of two

8) Northwest

  • Represents: Travel and Helpful People
  • Element: Metal
  • Shapes: Circle and Arches
  • Colour: White, Grey, and Metallic
  • Cures: Metal Wind chimes, metal archway, wrought iron, and metal decorations

Garden Paths

  1. Pathway should gently meander to the front door.
  2. Straight pathways create negative chi.
  3. Soften by using plantings of flowers in colours such as blue, pink, green, white and yellow.
  4. Front door should not be wider than the pathway leading up to the door.
  5. Deflect poison arrows also known as sha chi by planting trees or hedges between your home and the poison arrow.
  6. Poison arrows are only dangerous if visible.
  7. Traffic in front of the home should be light or steady but not busy.

Trees

  1. Do not place too close to each other and thin them to allow the sun to shine brightly on your property.
  2. Avoid trees with sharp pointed leaves. Ideal plants and trees have rounded leaves.
  3. Trees behind a property offer protection.
  4. Place two trees on either side of the door for protection. The trees should not hide the home from the street but rather as an accent.
  5. Trees represent wealth, prosperity, and abundance, therefore it is important to keep them healthy and strong.

Planting Tips

February 9, 2019

You will need:

  • Spade
  • Grit
  • Organic matter
  • Fertiliser

Step 1: Prepare The Ground

Incorporate extra grit if your soil is poorly drained or if your plants require it - this is particularly important if you're planting bulbs and alpines.

Add organic matter to improve the soil. High levels of organic matter are required by some plants but all will benefit.

Level off the site and break down large lumps of soil.

If you have not prepared the whole area dig a hole for the plant twice as wide and as deep as the original container and improve the soil as above. If the soil is low in nutrients - for example if your soil is sandy - add a light dressing of fertiliser in the planting hole and mix well. Add a further light top dressing after planting but not close to the stem. Do not use large amounts of fertiliser as this can damage plant roots.

Step 2: Planting

Check the hole is large enough for the plant, ensuring all the roots will fit in when extended.

Soak the plant. Immersion for a short time is the best method - when bubbles stop coming to the surface, remove and allow the surplus water to drain away.

Remove the container and if the plant roots are dense gently loosen so they will branch out into new ground. Ideally, new roots will just be reaching the outside of the pot at planting time - in this case do not disturb at all.

Depth of planting is important: the plant should usually end up at the same depth in the ground as it was in the pot. Place a pole across the planting hole to enable you to judge this.

Planting depth can be important with some plants - for example plant peonies too deep and they will take years to come into flower. Plant clematis too shallow (the lower stem should be buried) and they are susceptible to clematis wilt. Check plant instructions for details on planting depth.

Step 3: Finish Off

Water in well, thoroughly soaking the soil. For trees and shrubs, mound soil around the perimeter of the planting hole to retain water and fill a number of times and daily thereafter for a few weeks. Trees and shrubs may need watering for up to a year. Tall trees may require staking - particularly in a windy site.

Finish off by mulching the ground with a 50 - 75mm (2 - 3in) layer of organic matter to discourage weeds and retain moisture. If you do not, you must scrupulously remove weeds. New weed seeds will germinate quickly, competing with your plants for water and food.

If the roots have been damaged (eg if you have moved the plant from another situation) balance the roots and the top of the plant by pruning. This will encourage the plant to grow away better. Many plants (never rhododendrons) benefit from pruning at planting time. See Pruning Tips for more information about this.

Tip: For alpines and plants susceptible to neck rots, mulch with grit immediately around the stems to keep dry.

Pruning Tips

February 9, 2019

Pruning is one of the most misunderstood and feared subjects in gardening. In practice, though, there is little to worry about. Few plants will be killed by cutting bits off – it’s more likely they will grow even stronger. Here’s how to go about it.

You will need:

  • Secateurs
  • Long-handled pruners
  • Pruning saw
  • Leather gardening gloves
  • Methylated spirits

Step 1: Remove diseased and damaged wood

It’s not essential to remove dead branches but it can make plants look better and encourages plants to redirect growth into new vigorous shoots which will flower better. If caused by disease, however, cut out completely to live healthy wood lower down the plant.

Prune as illustrated, just above a healthy bud.

Tip: Clean blades with methylated spirits between plants to avoid spreading disease.

Step 2: Remove unwanted growth

If blocking a view or path, unwanted growths can be cut back to a main stem.

For thick growth, the technique is as illustrated. Make a small upwards cut about 30cm (1in) from the main stem, then a downward cut to remove the weight of the branch to avoid tearing the bark. Lastly, make a single tidying-up cut leaving a small stump about 12mm (1/2in) from the main stem – no closer.

A mass of thin shoots congesting the centre of plants can reduce air circulation and encourage mildew, so on susceptible plants remove all weak and inwards crossing growths, leaving an open centre.

Suckers can grow after root damage to grafted plants. To remove, scrape away soil down to where they join the root and pull off. Cutting may encourage further growth.

Sometimes variegated plants have plain green shoots. Cut out completely or they may take over the plant.

Tip: If you have a plant growing lopsided, trim back the weak side only, reducing all shoots by about half and completely removing thin and weak branches.

Step 3: Use the correct tools and techniques

For stems up to 12mm (1/2in) diameter, use secateurs. Up to about 37mm (1 1/2in), use long handled loppers. Use a pruning saw for thicker stems.

Long-handled pruners can be used when branches are out of reach – it’s safer than using a ladder!

Tip: When pruning fruit trees do not touch the cut surface with your hands or you will leave a deposit from your skin which will enable invading organisms to take hold. Leave the cut clean and open to the air so that natural healing processes can take place.

February 7, 2019

I'm looking to buy a chainsaw about really don't know which one will be best for me because I'm concerned about what skills are required to use it and will I be able to afford petrol etc. So I’m going to go through all the benefits and negatives in this article, which one would be best for me .I'm only looking at two really there's a petrol and electric chain saw. There's nothing else worth talking about really.

Petrol chain saw

The best thing about a petrol chain saw is the ability to just use it anywhere. You really don't have to worry about a power lead or how you're going to get to the bottom of the garden. You can just get on with it. A petrol chainsaw has no set up time at all. Another great feature on a petrol chain saw is the power. You have so much power from using a petrol chainsaw because the engine is simply better than that of the electric one.

There are a couple of problems. The big one being when you have to carry around petrol which is dangerous and secondly having more power of course means that you can really hurt yourself. I really like a petrol chainsaw because you really haven't gone to worry about the set up time.

Electric Chain Saw

Electric chainsaw is really useful in a small garden. The cost of an electric chainsaw is considerably less than the petrol one. When using an electric chainsaw you don't have to worry about starting the chain saw itself. With a petrol chain saw you can really struggle to get the thing started if you flood it.

The electric chainsaw has plenty of power to cut down little trees in the back garden. You can buy an electric chainsaw from just £30. it's quite amazing that you can actually buy a motorised tool for just such a small amount of money that we really will save you a lot of time in the garden. One of the best things I can think about an electric chainsaw is just simply turn it on once you’ve got the power set up and you're ready to go. There is considerably less noise when using an electric chain saw. An electric chainsaw is a good option if you're on a budget and you haven't got a lot of work to do at the same time it would be too much effort with a hand saw. This is the perfect use for an electric chainsaw.

When I think about which chain saw I prefer, literally falls down to how much money I have. If I'm going to spend money of course I'm going to go with a petrol chainsaw. This is because a petrol chainsaw is far superior. At the same time, if I'm going with a small budget there's no doubt I would still have an electric chainsaw because in the situation of a small garden it's a very useful items to have. especially if you don't like getting your hands dirty.

When you think about the cost of an electric chainsaw, it’s hard to imagine such a little amount of money can give you some great advantages. It's the necessary tool to have in the shed even if it only comes out a couple of times a year.

February 7, 2019

I love to BBQ in the summer but it's really hard to know which one would be best for me. I really prefer a charcoal BBQ but the problem I face is that it takes me nearly an hour to prepare the flame.  at the same time I'm not really a sign of the gas because it's very similar to cooking in the kitchen and actually the flavour isn’t quite the same.

In this article I intend to go through all the barbecue not really going to improve the summer for you and make those evenings in the garden all the more enjoyable.  I'm going to start with charcoal barbecues and their benefits and negatives. Then I'm going to talk about gas which I'll be honest I'm biased I don't really like it. There are some really great benefits and I think that it would be well worth letting you guys know about those too.

Charcoal barbecues

One of the best things about charcoal barbecues is that Smoky flavour that you get in order of your meat after it's been cooked on a flame for 45 minutes or so. That intense flavour that you experience from a barbecue simply cannot be replicated on a gas cooker. What I love most about the barbecue with charcoal  is the fact that I can go into my backyard and then take some of the logs I have for the fire and just simply start cooking. There's nothing that gets you in touch with the outdoors such as a barbecue. to think that you can do that in your back garden is quite amazing.

Just for the sake of being balanced it's worth noting that a charcoal BBQ normally takes me a whole hour to get prepared and this is just sometimes far too inconvenient when I have to work.  I just simply can't afford to spend an hour making I'm preparing a fire so then have to spend 45 minutes cooking my food. In this modern era we just simply don't have a lot of time available to us. The only thing I can say about this is what we just simply need to make time or we pick a day where we not working to enjoy the back garden. What could be better than the barbecue would your swimming pool  and the kids running around having a great time.

Gas barbecues

I really don't like gas barbecues but in the interest of being fair and unbiased in this article I want to go through all of the great benefits of they'll bring to your home. One of the most exciting things about gas barbecues is the fact that you can just simply open the lid switch it on and go. This is an amazing thing because basically you don't have to really worry about how long it's going to take. That means that you could come home from work at the sparrow at the moment and just simply get going.

Apart from the initial cost the gas barbecue is extremely cheap to run because you just keep the gas bottle and just as soon as it's ready to refill you just head up to the petrol station just  swap your bottle when that's done.

The other great thing about gas barbecues as they come with a really cool hoods that means that you can just put it down and you won't have to worry about any Wildlife doing themselves or you any damage to your barbecue.

The best thing about gas barbecue is the ability to regulate the temperature. If you're using a charcoal BBQ you really have to rely on skill when there's no amount of judgment that can get you through with not knowing what you're doing.

Summary

In conclusion of charcoal barbecues much bad in the gas barbecue if you have lots of time in your hands if you don't have lots of time then of course you really need to be looking gas BBQ