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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.