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Designing the perfect conservatory

In CategoryTim Whitcombe
ByGardenAdvice Tim Whitcombe

 

A conservatory is every garden enthusiast’s fantasy home improvement, providing a space that’s neither indoors nor outdoors. While in your conservatory, you’re just a step away from all the home comforts that you could ever need and the peace and solitude of your perfect garden. Surrounded by glass on all sides, you’ll be able to relax among your flowers whatever the weather. Although conservatories were traditionally used to house all manner of plants, these days the space is as much about homeliness as it is the great outdoors. A conservatory is a room for all weathers and every occasion, and will no doubt complement your lifestyle accordingly.

Tips for creating your perfect conservatory

Before you go any further, consider how your conservatory will be used. Are you keen to create a garden room that will house all manner of plants and flowers, or do you want to design an extension for your family home? Will you dine in your conservatory or use it for toy storage? What kind of plants will you house in here? Your intentions will go a long way towards shaping the space and helping you to finalise some of those trickier interior design decisions. Now that you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to go out and get it…

Flooring

Aside from choosing the size and shape of your new space, the kind of flooring that you lay is likely to be the most important decision you make regarding your conservatory. Will it be wooden or easily cleaned laminate? Will you opt for tiles or soft, smooth linoleum? What styles and colours will suit your theme best? It’s important to consider the kinds of activities that you’ll be getting up to in your new conservatory before setting your heart on a certain kind of flooring; what suits an entertaining couple may not be right for a family with young children. A heated floor is a luxury that will allow you to enjoy the great outdoors for a little longer each year. Rugs will add home comforts to a predominantly outdoorsy space.

Making use of natural light

Made predominantly from glass, conservatories are perfect for sun worshippers and those who like to spend their time surrounded by natural light; whichever way you look, you’ll be immersed in the wonders of your garden. While the enjoyment of streaming natural light is one of the best reasons to get a conservatory, there will probably come a time when you’d like a little more control over its brightness. Full-height shutters, and wooden shutters in all manner of shapes and sizes, are the perfect accompaniment to any conservatory, allowing you to manage the flow of light in and out of your conservatory. During the height of summer, shutters can be adjusted to add a little shade, and to encourage a breeze to circulate. In the winter, they will add an extra layer of warmth that will heat your home.

Heating and cooling

Shutters can be a fantastic way to control the temperature in your new conservatory; during the summer months, they will entice a breeze through your open windows, while trapping additional heat in the cool of winter. You may also want to consider the kind of glass that you’ll be using. Glass coating is incredibly popular and will protect your furniture and accessories from fading. Such a coating is also a great way to maintain a steady temperature. Besides glass, under-floor heating, small radiators, and heating systems can be used to warm your conservatory, and a ceiling fan and air-conditioning unit can be used to keep things cool.

Furniture and accessories

The furniture that you choose to fill your conservatory will depend upon the uses that you have in mind for this new space. A toy or storeroom will need plenty of clever storage options, while a study is going to require a desk and chair, with bookcases for good measure. Perhaps you’ll use this new room as a gym, and equip it with a treadmill or cross trainer. Choose furniture that’s going to complement your lifestyle. Your theme is essential when it comes to decoration and accessioning. Only you know whether a vintage theme, Mediterranean feel or contemporary design is going to work best.

These days, conservatories can be used for so much more than plants. On warm, summer days, your conservatory is a gateway to the great outdoors, perhaps housing the salad bar that will accompany your barbecue, or the wine bar from which your friends will top up. On those cooler, autumnal days, your new conservatory will be the perfect place for watching raindrops racing one another. Whether you use your new conservatory as a playroom, a study or somewhere to entertain, that new space will allow you to surround yourself with the elements. Don’t forget to take a little time to enjoy it as you intended.

Advice for Landlords: Letting a Property with a Garden

In CategoryTim Whitcombe
ByGardenAdvice Tim Whitcombe

 

If you’re a landlord, you may be aware of the pitfalls of letting a property with a garden, but there are ways that you can avoid these issues. Offering a garden with your property may even help to boost your profits!

Some landlords prefer to provide as little as possible for their tenants, to avoid as much damage as possible. But those hoping to maximise profits and appeal to a wider range of tenants may find that marketing a property with a garden is an easy way to get it let quickly to reliable tenants.

Are you tempted to let a property with a garden? Here are the pitfalls associated with doing so, and how you can avoid them:

Tenants must maintain the garden – Ensure they know

Unless you specify otherwise, it is the tenant’s responsibility to maintain the garden to the standard it was provided to them while they live in the property. However, many may not know that this is their duty.

Along with details of what else they must maintain, such as keeping the home clean, make sure that the tenancy agreement states that they must maintain the garden and reinforce this face-to-face when they sign the contract.

The tenants aren’t keeping it neat enough – Hire a gardener

Your tenants may comply with their responsibilities, but don’t do a good enough job by your standards. They may simply do the minimum, which may not be neat enough for you.

If this is the case, you may decide that you’d prefer to hire a gardener and ensure that the garden is kept to a high standard.

Tenants aren’t complying – Put a clause in the tenancy agreement

On the other hand, you may have tenants that simply do not comply with their responsibility to maintain the garden. This could leave you with an extremely overgrown and unkempt garden at the end of the tenancy.

Before letting the property, you must make sure that a clause is written into the tenancy agreement that means that tenants must fulfil their duties, or face losing some of their deposit. This will prevent you having to pay for any damage caused.

There are too many tenants coming and going – Offer longer tenancies

If you offer short-term tenancies, such as six months to a year, you may find that the sheer number of tenants moving in and out of the property leads to the garden becoming messy and/or unmaintained.

Taking the decision to provide a garden may mean that you also choose to offer longer tenancies to prospective tenants, such as three years-plus, to ensure that they take real care of the whole property.

There’s confusion over the tenant’s responsibilities – Remember that expertise requires experts

While the tenant must maintain the garden to the level it was provided to them, they cannot be expected to complete dangerous, specialist or risky tasks, such as cutting down branches.

Remember that if there is a big problem with the garden, you cannot expect your tenant to conduct this task. Instead, it is your job to sort the issue yourself, or hire the appropriate tradesperson.

I’m worried about the garden becoming messy – Take a deposit

With confusion over whose responsibility it is to maintain the garden very common in the rental sector, it is just as common to find that the tenants do not maintain the garden and it becomes messy over the tenancy.

This is why award-winning Landlord Insurance provider Just Landlords suggests taking a deposit for every tenancy. This will enable you to cover the cost of any damage that the tenant has caused or as a result of negligence by the tenant.

What about disputes over the condition of the garden? – Take photos

Nevertheless, even if you do take a deposit and wish to deduct an amount from it following damage to the garden, a dispute may arise between you and the tenant over whether any damage was caused.

It is essential that you conduct a thorough inventory report before and after the tenant moves in/out. This should include photographs, so that you have some evidence as to the condition of the garden and rest of the property.

Issues are arising too late – Conduct periodic inspections

Although you can take all the precautions suggested above, you may still find that issues are arising with the garden, and later than would allow you to resolve them easily.

To prevent turning up at the end of the tenancy with a garden that really has got out of control, you should conduct regular periodic inspections throughout the tenancy and raise any problems you have with your tenant there and then. This way, you are addressing an issue soon after it’s surfaced, rather than months or even years later.

This advice for landlords should help those thinking of letting a property with a garden understand the pitfalls they may face, and how to avoid them.

Garden Mole Season Is With Us Once Again.

In CategoryTim Whitcombe
ByGardenAdvice Tim Whitcombe

For a growing numbers of gardeners especially with gardens in rural locations early spring is the start of mole season. With the temperatures start to warm up and the soil becoming easier to dig combined with the earth worms on the move the garden moles start work on a spring offensive focused on feasting on the earth worms in your garden.
Moles are great little critters unless they are in your garden and then they are a problem making mole hills in your perfect lawn, although its not all bad news as the soil in the moles hills is ideal for making your own potting compost.
If you have a mole problem click the link below for some advice on how to move them on to the garden next door !!

http://gardenadvice.co.uk/howto/pests/moles/index.html

Cleaning your greenhouse the key to pest free crops

In CategoryTim Whitcombe
ByGardenAdvice Tim Whitcombe

One of the most important tasks you can do in growing plants in your greenhouse is to make sure it is clean and free of pest and disease before you start. The greenhouse is a fantastic place for disease spores and pest eggs such as aphids to overwinter ready to pounce on your new crop of young plants in the spring.
The pests and diseases hideaway in the cracks and crannies between the grass and the grazing bars, down the side of water butts and just about anywhere they think themselves to be in a safe haven. 
In cleaning your greenhouse first we need to remove any plant growth leftover from last year and dispose of it in your rubbish bin rather than composing it as a lot of the pest eggs and particularly the disease spores can last for up to 5 years in a dormant state ready to activate and attack your crops. Next using general disinfectant such as jeyes fluid give everything a good wash with a hard scrubbing brush washing pots, seed trays, trellis tables, windows glazing bars and even the path paving to getting your greenhouse pest and disease free. Next once the greenhouse is dry you can use a sulphur smoke bomb or sulphur candle which comes in a small tin can and is used similar to a candle and fills the greenhouse with sulphur smoke which hopefully kills off any remaining pest and disease left after washing. 
Cleaning the greenhouse in winter is one of those jobs nobody really wants to do on a cold wet day but it’s a job at certain to pay dividends later on in the summer as it will greatly reduced the person disease attacks to your plants

Simple ideas for increasing the summer colour in your garden this year

In CategoryTim Whitcombe
ByGardenAdvice Tim Whitcombe
As with most things gardening is all about planning ahead. The key to creating some summer colour in July and August is to take action now and start to grow a few seedlings and start a few corns and tubers.  The GardenAdvice team have come up with 10 ideas for plants to produce summer colour that you can start to work on now.
  • Sweet peas sowing a few seeds now on a windowsill and planting out in the spring will produce a great show of flowers available as cut flowers in late summer.
  • Dahlias pot up a few tubers in a 100 mm pots and water keep in a warm place then when the shoots start to show place them inside in a summer position then plant out in the spring if the springs late and they start to produce lots of growth this can be used for stem cuttings producing more plants.  A great plant for summer colour. 
  • Sun Flowers start a few seeds in pots now inside on a windowsill ready to plant out in the spring a great project for children. When the flowers have finished they can be cut and hung to dry a a wildbird food to feed your garden birds in the winter.
  • Cosmos and Pyrethrum  sowing a few seeds on a windowsill now will produce plant that can be planted out in the spring to produce some summer flowers. 
  • Skimmia Japonica  At this time of year one of the easiest plants to take stem cutting from  placing the cuttings on a windowsill in 75 mm pots the cutting will root in 10 to 20 days ans start to grow away to 
  • Clematis jackmanii a couple of clematis jackmanii planted at the base of a couple of the larger shrubs in your garden. The clematis will steady grow through the shrubs almost unseen 
  • Rudbeckia Godlsturm sowing a few seeds now directly in the grown under a cloche or bell jar will produce a some later summer flowers with the plants lasting year after year. 
  • Campsis or Trumpet vine – sow a few seeds now under some mulch as the base of a fence or a tree and these plants will germinate as the weather warms and grow away into climbing plants to provide colour in the late summer. 
  • Wall flowers or Cheiranthus Sowing a few seeds directly into your garden soil  now under a small bell jar or cloche . They will germinate and grow on and the protection can be removed in the spring. Not traditionally a late summer flowering plant  but with climate change flower now seems to start in August if sown early in the year. 

GardenAdvice hotbeds for early season vegetable and salad crops

In CategoryTim Whitcombe
ByGardenAdvice Tim Whitcombe
Hot beds have been round for a number of years introduced by Victorian gardeners to produce additional heat in the winter to produce crops such as strawberries and salad crops out of season. Hot beds us the heat created by bacteria and other soil organisms as they try to break down organic matter fuelled by nitrogen in fresh farmyard manure or fresh horse manure horse manure being the best source. 
Although it might seem strange one of the problems with hotbeds is to try to maintain an even temperature and not to allow the hot bed temperature to become to high as hotbeds can produce a significant amount of heat.
The GardenAdvice version of hotbed beds uses old brick or builders pallets cut in half to form a square raised bed.  The outside walls are stuffing with straw to insulate and hold the heat in. Next into the raised bed place some straw to 150 mm deep then on top of this place 75 mm of fresh manure, its important to use fresh manure as this will contain the nitrogen in the form of urine from the animals to start the process by feeding the bacterial to generate the heat. Finally cover with  75 mm of clean weed free top soil or compost and water well.
With the hotbed constructed you can now cover with a clear plastic to create a type of cloche using wire or similar to dome the plastic cover. You will need to remove the plastic later to sow the seeds. 
After a few days the hot bed will start to heated up and you can start sowing seeds or placing plants such as strawberries in pots directly into the soil on the hot bed underneath the plastic sheeting. A suitable temperature is maintained by watering and if required ventilating. 
Once the hotbed has finished and been cropped it can then go on to be used as a raised bed for growing Marrows or cucumbers or if it’s in a greenhouse melons. Then after the second crop in the autumn the hot bed contents which will have rotted down can be dug into your vegetable plot to supply a valuable source of humus too improve the soil.

Irrigation on an allotment with drip irrigation

In CategoryTim Whitcombe
ByGardenAdvice Tim Whitcombe

One of the main keys to growing vegetables is the use of irrigation or the ability to water your plants as required especially in height of summer. Last season the GardenAdvice team trialled growing vegetables with a drip irrigation system designed to save water and deliver the water directly to the plants resulting in a 30 percent increase in crops. 
On an allotment quite often there is not a supply of water for every allotment so you best option is to install an gravity feed with a drip irrigation system controlled by a small battery operated timer. 
Using old water system tanks or old farm bio fuel tanks that have been washed out installed on some concrete blocks its possible create a head of water to run a drip irrigation system through a small timer. 
The tanks can be filled from a shed or greenhouse roof with a drainage down pipe and topped up with hose from a main allotment watering point of stand pipe in the summer months. 

How to make your garden more accessible to the elderly

In CategoryTim Whitcombe
ByGardenAdvice Tim Whitcombe

Britain is an ageing population, according to the Office for National Statistics. By 2039, one in every 12 of us will be aged over 80, and one in three babies born in 2013 are expected to reach 100 years of age.

While this older generation has longevity to look forward to, aging also reduces mobility and can often bring impairments. With this outlook, it’s important for everyone to consider how accessible their home is to older people – whether it’s for family or to safeguard your home for your own aging process.

The garden is one of the home’s most rewarding areas. It’s a space to relax, cultivate or have guests over for summer parties – but as you age, it often becomes a point of pride as many get into the hobby of gardening.

However, it can also then become a hazard as you advance in age. In 2007, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) released figures that showed there were 115,000 garden falls, slips and trips reported a year. Whether you’re future-proofing your garden against your own aging, or making your garden as accessible as possible for elderly guests, here’s how to do it:

Raised Beds

A common complaint for elderly gardeners is the accessibility of the growth areas. For wheelchair users a raised bed, which is between 18-24 inches high, is perfect. For those standing, building a larger planter that is around 30-36 inches high eliminates the need to bend down. If planning for wheelchair access, you’ll need pathways that are at least 3-4ft (91-121cm) wide. They should have enough room on all sides so that gardeners can reach the centre.

Resting areas

Place resting areas around a garden space to provide either yourself or elderly visitors with places to relax. In smaller gardens, this could be a bench or two. In larger areas with more planters and flowerbeds, you could add stools, or kneeling areas to allow elderly people to work on flowerbeds.

Pathways

Pathways between grassed areas or planters should be flat but slightly rough so that they offer non-slip properties. Flagstones and slabs are good options, but best laid with a slight slope or close butted to allow water to run off. Tarmac and concrete are both cost-effective and low maintenance, but aren’t visually attractive for a garden. Avoid cobbles, as they can be trip hazards for all ages. Replace any steps with non-slip ramps where possible, supported by handrails.

Decking

For residential gardens, a decking area provides a stable platform for elderly people to relax on. Decking is low maintenance, stable and if you install certain types of decking such as enhanced grip boards, which minimise the risk of slipping, they’re perfect for creating a ‘living space’ in a garden. Low-slip decking can help reduce the risk of slipping, which is the leading form of accident for all age groups in gardens.

The railings of decking also provide a stable platform for elderly people to use as balance or grab rails – but you must ensure a skilled installer builds your deck so your railings are stable.

Another positive way to use decking is to deck entire areas and add planters and flower boxes to them, so elderly gardeners can garden either from wheelchairs or with minimal effort – cutting down the time needed to grow plants without the effort required to maintain fully grassed areas.

Handrails

Handrails are an essential part of any elderly garden. They should be placed, at a minimum, near any changes in level, steps or ramps. They should extend to 850mm above step nosing or ramp surfaces and should also be at least 1m over landing. Generally, rails are most comfortable when they’re not too narrow or wide to allow better grip. 45-50mm is a rough rule of thumb for their circumference.

Plants

While gardening can be dangerous for the elderly, it’s important to remember that the benefits are impressive – from improved mental health to mobility and fitness. For that reason, you can’t rid a garden of the flowers and plants in the name of safety. Instead, strike a balance between beauty and safety by using hardy plants that can withstand the seasons with very little maintenance.

With some careful planning, a garden space can become an accessible place – whether it’s to help you get around more easily as you age or to allow elderly guests better access, making the changes now will put you in good stead as Britain’s population grows increasingly older.

Grow bags: what to grow this winter

In CategoryTim Whitcombe
ByGardenAdvice Tim Whitcombe

 

Like many keen gardeners, you may dislike the winter and the limitations it brings. While you can potter around and tidy your garden, there is little opportunity to flex your green fingers. However, as spring creeps ever-nearer, there are plenty of tasks we can be getting on with to boost our crops come springtime.

While there might still be frost on the ground, grow bags offer great potential if you’re planning on growing vegetables in the coming year. You can start some of them off indoors before moving them outdoors once the spring arrives.

Here, grow bag retailer Compost Direct explains what you can start growing in your grow bags:

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a great option to grow yourself, as they’re a tasty vegetable that work well in lots of recipes, whether it’s for a salad or spaghetti bolognaise. If you’re growing yours from seed, you can start sowing in late February/early March. Grow bags work well if you want to grow a few of the plants; if not, pots may be better for you.

Sow the seeds roughly an even distance apart to ensure they aren’t too cramped. Place the grow bag indoors in a sunny spot — like near a patio door or in a conservatory, for example — and make sure they are kept moist but not over watered. Once the frost has passed and your seedlings are strong enough, you can plant them in a sunny spot in your garden. This is usually around June.

Sweet Peppers

Sweet peppers can be grown from late February to early March if you’re growing them directly from seed. Planning on eventually growing them in your vegetable patch? Start them in a grow bag placed in a warm, sunny position. Make sure you sow the seeds thinly and keep each variety separate to make harvesting easier.

Germination will usually take between seven and ten days. Once the seedlings have developed two or more leaves each, they can be removed from the growbags and planted in pots before being planted in the ground by mid-May.

Courgettes

Courgettes are another vegetable that you can start getting ready to grow in winter. Starting around March, plant the seeds in small pots, making sure the seeds are roughly one-inch deep. Gradually increase the pot size as the plants grow — if the roots can be seen from the bottom of the pot, it is a good indicator that it needs to be changed.

The seedlings will be ready to plant in grow bags come late spring or early summer. Alternatively, you can plant them directly into your vegetable patch.

There are a host of vegetables you can start growing this winter with a little help from a grow bag, so get out there and get gardening!

 

 

How To Make The Most Of A Greenhouse

In CategoryTim Whitcombe
ByGardenAdvice Tim Whitcombe

This time of year there are usually a lot of tips going around for how to bring a garden back to its full, vibrant life. As the warm weather blows in it’s a time for managing the soil, tidying up, getting new plants in the ground, and enjoying the fruits of your labour. But just as it’s a good time of year to do some work in the ground, it’s also a perfect time to build a greenhouse too. Below we’ll get into a few tips on how exactly to go about this.

Choose The Kind For You

To begin with, it’s important to recognise that greenhouses actually come in all shapes and sizes. You may have a standard image in mind of a shack-like structure with clear walls and that may be exactly what you end up with but you have many other options available. Depending on your level of expertise you might want to start with a smaller house that allows you to fit in the corner of your outdoor space and can add a new area of your garden with how taking up too much room.

Arrange Your Square Footage

Choosing a style of greenhouse is a good first step, but you’ll also want to figure out how you’re going to use the space within the one you choose. The first thing you need to decide is how much growing space you will need. That means getting a feel for what you want to plant (keeping in mind things can grow year-round in your greenhouse) and mapping out the space accordingly. This involves a few questions like whether want a path through or around the interior of if you want plants right up against the walls. You might also want to consider setting some space aside where you can relax with your plants.

Decide On Your Planting Options
Then it’s time to start thinking about what you’d like to grow. A greenhouse is a great place to produce good crops of a wide range of vegetables including hearty greens like spinach, kale and arugula as well as broad beans, asparagus, and peas. Others fill these spaces with brilliant flowers including impatiens, pansies, primrose, hyacinth, and much more. It’s entirely up to you! Just make sure that you give your plants the proper space to grow and flourish and you’ll be amazed by how productive your garden can be during the winter.

Prepare For Daily Care

Finally, once you’re all set with plants ready to grow, you’ll need to prepare for day-to-day care. Like with any garden you’ll need to water your plants and check on them daily but there are other unique challenges that come with a greenhouse. When the weather gets warmer your greenhouse can become unbearable hot, which can bake your plants. That’s why ensuring proper ventilation is key to allowing your plants to breathe. You might also want to apply a solution of shading paint to help prevent some of the sun’s intense rays or you can also hang up some curtains as well. There’s a lot of maintenance and upkeep involved, just as with an ordinary garden, but if you stay on top of it there are just as many rewards.

Aside from these basic steps, the details are all up to you! You can decide how much to use your greenhouse or how much time to spend there and see how it works for you. We bet that by the time you bring in your first harvest before the start of spring you’ll be pleased with your investment.