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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 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.


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 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.


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 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 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.

The GardenAdvice Bee Project – whats it all about

In CategoryTim Whitcombe
ByGardenAdvice Tim Whitcombe


Bees are undoubtedly facing problems because of the use of pesticides in agriculture and climate change with regards to higher seasonal temperatures and lower light levels effecting the availability of food sources for bees as they are required. These factors are causing the bees to be less able to defend themselves against pest and diseases.
The bees real problem is that the use of pesticides in agriculture is an essential part of volume and cost effective food production and as such the use of pesticides is not likely to decrease over the short term. However as advances in science are made and current research produces more data the use of pesticides will decline. So it’s a simple battle against time.
The GardenAdvice Bee project has the aim of creating bee friendly gardens with provide a pesticide free source of food and an extended period of available food and in some small part reverse the trend of non flowering gardens. The project is simple in its conception to provide a number of plants and seeds to people how wish to join the project plus the expert back up through our MyGardenTeam service in return for supplying observational data to assist us with our bee research and climate light projects.
In creating a number of bee friendly gardens or mini bee reserves we hope to buy the bees some time so that they might  ride out the threat of pesticides and adapt to climate change.
For further details and the most recent updates on the GardenAdvice bee project visit https://www.facebook.com/GardenadviceBeeProject/

Plan Your Vegetable Garden – Its That Time Of Year.

In CategoryTim Whitcombe
ByGardenAdvice Tim Whitcombe

Time to start to think about your vegetable garden
Now you have put on a few additional pounds after the Christmas lunch and your wallet is a little lighter after those boxing day sales its now a good time to start to plan your 2017 vegetable growing campaign to help you become healthier and save you some money.
Its a bit of an art planning a vegetable growing season, ideally you will use all the space rotate the crops from last year and work in a few quick catch crops before the main crops take all the light and moisture. Planning your vegetable garden need not be a pain just let the GardenAdvice folk do the planning for you with out MyGardenTeam service and our MyGardenTeam lite service designed especially with vegetable growers in mind. Follow this link for more information http://www.gardenadvice.co.uk/my-garden-team/

Nature-Spotting in Your Garden this Winter

In CategoryTim Whitcombe
ByGardenAdvice Tim Whitcombe


Once the seasons change and colder weather settles in, you might realise just how much the landscape changes; including your very own garden. Moving on from the summer and autumn, your garden takes on a totally new look for the winter months. Complete with morning frost and crisp skies, you might notice some winter wildlife coming out to say hello. From animals to plants, winter can transform your garden into your very own wonderland. So, as you sit looking out at your garden from your warm, comfortable conservatory, look out for some exciting wildlife!

Winter can be tough for many animals, but keep your eye out and see if you can spot any this year.

Spotting nature in your garden

There are the highest number of birds present around this time of year. As well as the popular robin bird, often associated with Christmas, there are so many other birds to try and spot. Whether it be in your own garden or while you’re out and about, you might be surprised!

Drakes in particular are at their brightest during the winter, while you should also keep your eye out for migratory geese flying up above. You might also be able to spot some less common types of duck as they migrate too.

Other birds may be trickier to spot, but easier to hear. Tawny owls are at their loudest during December, while woodpeckers usually begin their drumming in January and February.

Look for tracks

If you are lucky enough to get any snow this year for a proper winter, you might be able to see the tracks made by certain wildlife roaming around. Deer, foxes and badgers are often elusive creatures but the snow can help you spot where they’ve been exploring!

If there isn’t any snow forecast, you might still have the opportunity. Areas of muddy landscape may also leave tracks of animals passing through. What’s more, there are fewer plants to obscure your view of wildlife.

Helping the wildlife

If you’ve started to notice wildlife appearing in your garden this winter, there are a few simple things you can do to turn your garden into a winter haven and help them along the way. Food can be scarce for many animals, in particular for birds, and many animals look for shelter through the cold weather.

If you have a bird feeder, consider providing food with a high fat content to help keep them warm. For example, you can put fat blocks in wire cages, or use bacon rind to feed any birds that land in your garden. Don’t forget nuts and fruit too; after all, birds need a balanced diet as well!

Other advice to follow during the winter is to be careful with your compost heap. This can be a warm place for frogs or other animals to hide away. If you are planning a bonfire any time soon, check it before lighting for any hedgehogs or other small animals!

You might want to provide nest boxes for birds too. Not only will this help them through the winter, it might also mean they come back again and again!

So, this year don’t neglect your garden in the winter months; create opportunities for animals to come and rest and eat, and spend your free time nature-spotting!


3 Key gardening tasks for early 2017

In CategoryTim Whitcombe
ByGardenAdvice Tim Whitcombe


Sweet Peas – Additional colour for your garden

your very first gardening task for 2017 is to start some sweet pea seeds on your kitchen windowsill.  Sweet peas provide a great show of summer colour and an abundance of cut flowers for the house and they are so easy to grow. – the more flowers you cut the more flowers you will get.

The seeds are best sown early in the new year, take the seed and lightly scratch the seed on a rough brick wall or a nail file just enough to scuff the hard coat to allow water to enter the seed. Stand on some tissue paper on a kitchen plate and water, leave the seeds for 24 hours. They will start to germinate and can then be placed one or two seeds into a three inch pot with compost on a windowsill. Within a few weeks you will be on the way to creating some plants that can be planted out in the spring. Click Here


Fruit Tree care – lots of our views and clients have found that fruit trees have been infected with fungal and bacterial diseases. January is the time to start to deal with these problems by treating your fruit trees and bushes with a winter wash that will help to remove the overwintering spores and pests eggs on your fruit trees and bushes so they will start with a clean bill of health next season. For some advice email us a few pictures of your fruit trees and bushes and will will come back to you some advice. Click Here


Dahlia – once a very popular flower but now unfairly underrated. Such a brilliant flower for adding summer colour for the summer garden especially the new garden in its first year. Possibility underrated because of the need for staking and earwigs these issues are easy to solve by staking early to provide support so the plants grow through the stake supports and simply earwig traps or encouraging garden birds such as blue tits make short work of earwigs. Click Here

Gardening course for beginners in London

In CategoryTim Whitcombe
ByGardenAdvice Tim Whitcombe



GardenAdvice one day gardening courses have been designed to provide people with an introduction to gardening and ongoing support by including into the course cost membership to our MyGardenTeam service for 12 months.

The courses are run over a day normally 9.30 to 5.30 at a number of venues around the UK or in a private garden which is the home gardening course where you can undertake the course on your own or  invite up to 12 of your friends to undertake the course in your own garden.

Currently the dates in London at Kew gardens are the 18th February, 11th March and 18th March more dates will be available shortly.

The courses are presented in three different formats which are

The beginners gardening course

The wildlife gardening course

The organic gardening course

The courses are tailored to the individual needs surrounding the questions and gardening projects the course members have. These requirements are determined by having a chat with the course tutor before the course begins.

Further course content details can be found by following this link


All our courses come with a lunch or dinner, snacks and tea/coffee through the day. After the course each course member receives a copy of the course notes and answers to any questions asked on the day answered by the lecturing team.

One of the most useful elements of the course is the membership to our MyGardenTeam service for 12 months which provides you with a expert member of the GardenAdvice staff to help you plan, organise and undertake various gardening tasks and gardening projects within their own garden. In addition to this the MyGardenTeam  service offers a number of other benefits including visits to garden by our experts if required. Hers is a link to the MyGardenTeam service


The cost of the course is £125 per person, you can book a date or we can issue you with a gift certificate which can be used for any of our course dates and venues.

The Garden Isn’t The Only Thing That Needs Taking Care Of This Christmas.

In CategoryTim Whitcombe
ByGardenAdvice Tim Whitcombe

While the wind is blustering outside, us gardeners need to remember that we don’t just have a garden to look after! Its so important to look after the skin that we’re in! It is important after a hard session in the garden that you protect your hands from the cold and wet weather, by thoroughly washing and exfoliating your hands, and then using a nourishing cream to get rid of any cracks and dry skin you may have on your fingers.


If you’re feeling especially creative this Christmas, you could make your very own lotions with everyday household and garden items! Just follow our simple recipe for beautifully natural products which you can use on yourself, or give to friends and family for a personal touch…


1/4 cup coconut oil
1/8 cup shea butter
1/8 cup cocoa butter
1 Tbsp aloe vera juice
1 Tbsp liquid oil of choice (like sweet almond, jojoba, etc.)
5-10 drops essential oils


1.  Heat the shea butter, coconut oil, and cocoa butter over low heat until melted in a bain marie.

2.  Remove from heat.

3.  Add the aloe vera juice, liquid oil, and essential oils and stir to combine well.

4.  Store in container of your choice – Try using small, pretty ex-jam jars that you have lying around.


Or, if you are not feeling as brave, you could always go to http://www.essential-care.co.uk/ who have gone out of their way to make your life that little bit easier. They only use organic produce, so you know that you’re putting some of the goodness of the earth, back into your body.