Author Archives: Brett

How to create your own rain garden

 

Here, Nicky Roeber, Online Horticultural Expert at Wyevale Garden Centres, tells us what we need to know about a rain garden and how we can build one at home.

A rain garden is a small garden, usually planted in a shallow dip, which collects rainwater runoff from hard surfaces like roofs. They’re an eco-friendly way to remove excess water from around your home and can even filter out the harmful pollutants that rainwater collects from outdoor surfaces. This means that less of these pollutants will enter your drainage system and make their way into local streams and ponds. Want to create one of your own? Just follow my advice to plant a rain garden at home.

Where should you plant your rain garden?

Ideally, your rain garden should be planted in full sun or partial shade on a slight incline of 10% or less and in an area where the soil can drain quite easily. You can test how well the soil will drain by digging a 25cm hole and filling it with water. When it empties, fill it back up and time how long it takes to drain completely. For a successful rain garden, the drainage rate should be between 1.25–5cm per hour. If you’re worried about your drainage level, you can mix in some gravel or stones to aid it, but if your garden has heavy clay soil, it’s probably best to find a different location.

To avoid damp and flooding in building foundations, you should try to plant your rain garden at least 10 feet away from your house.  It’s also important that you check that there are no tree roots or underground pipes or wires where you plan to build. You can check this by digging carefully in the area. If the ground is clear, you are free to plant your rain garden.

How big should your rain garden be?

The width of your rain garden will vary based on the amount of space you have to work with, but to avoid it overflowing, it should be around 20% of the size of the roof area. The depth of your rain garden depends entirely on how quickly it will drain. As a guide, it should be between 10 and 20cm deep and the surface should be level.

How do you build your rain garden?

Now here comes the fun part — start digging! It’s important to remember not to compact the soil base of your rain garden, as this will curb drainage. As you’re digging, don’t get rid of the excess soil, as this can be used as a ridge around the lower edge and the sides of the garden to keep it watertight. This ridge should be about 30cm wide and 10cm tall, and well-compacted. You should also leave a slight gap in the ridge around the lower edge and fill it with gravel to allow any excess water to drain out without washing away the soil.  Then, using a trail of bricks, create a path to guide the rainwater from the drainpipe to your garden. Again, you can add some gravel to the entrance of your rain garden to avoid washing away the soil.

What kinds of plants should be in your rain garden?

The kinds of plants you add will depend on your soil and local average rainfall. If your soil will take a while to drain or you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, your garden might get slightly waterlogged, which means you’re going to need to choose moisture-loving plants that can handle being in damp areas for a few days. These kinds of plants include yellow iris, ferns, pendulous sedge, cardinal flowers and arum lilies.

If your rain garden will drain well, but might see a few dry spells here and there, it’s best to pick plants that can tolerate both wet and dry conditions. You could choose plants such as clustered bellflower, geranium and Siberian iris for a bit of colour. Grasses like Korean feather reed grass and tufted hair grass can also tolerate these conditions. If your rain garden is big enough, you could also plant shrubs like dogwood or hydrangea.

A rain garden is the perfect way to filter and dispose of rainwater, helping the environment and keeping your home safe and dry in the process. By following these easy tips, you’ll have your rain garden planted and ready in no time!

HOW GREEN IS YOUR GARDEN? (part 2 of 2) 

As a landscape gardener I always aim towards creating the most eco-friendly gardens as possible. Last week I wrote about how to buy and care for plants in the most environmentally friendly way. This week I’m focusing on what decisions to take when making structural changes to your garden, looking at materials and design alterations.

Timber: timber is a great material to use in the garden, as it is such a natural product. New and reclaimed railway sleepers look great as edging for beds or low level terracing. When selecting timber always look for the FSC or Rainforest Alliance Certification to ensure that it has been responsibly sourced.

Paving: so much paving is imported or manufactured using high levels of CO2 so if you’re considering laying some new paving then a good option would be to choose a UK sourced natural paving slab. Yorkstone or pennant stone are both manufactured in the UK and provide excellent quality slabs that will last several lifetimes.

If you aren’t looking to make major changes to the structure of your garden there are plenty of small changes that you can make to improve your eco credentials. The plants you choose and the addition of bird boxes and bee houses are important (and a whole other subject to be written about). But what else can you do?

Don’t be too tidy: your garden doesn’t have to look a mess but if you leave some of your dead flower stems and fallen leaves on the borders you will provide a natural habitat for insects that will then help keep harmful bugs at bay.

Capturing and reusing water: not only is this eco-friendly but if you’re on metered water it can save you money. Water butts come in all shapes and sizes and if you shop around you can find ones to suit every style and budget. Many of these are made of plastic (plastic again!) so why not repurpose your old rubbish bin, which has been made redundant by wheelie bins.

Remember little steps make big gains so by incorporating some of these changes into your garden you can be helping the environment.

Above all, enjoy your garden.

Brett

HOW GREEN IS YOUR GARDEN? (part 1 of 2)

As a landscape gardener I am aware that the landscaping industry could go further in promoting a more environmentally responsible way of how we create gardens. There is much information out there on eco-friendly gardening – how to encourage wildlife and what plants to grow, but I am turning my focus on the materials and methods I use to build and maintain my garden. Anyone thinking of making changes to their garden, large or small scale, could incorporate these into their schemes.

This week I’ll be focusing on how best to buy and care for new and existing plants. Next week I’ll write about how you can make structural changes to your garden as eco-friendly as possible.

Plastic: no one can escape the damage that plastic is doing to the environment. The shocking statistic that 800 million tonnes of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year and more recently the news that China will no longer be processing a large percentage of our plastic waste is at last making this headline news. Hopefully this will kickstart more soul searching as to how we can do our bit towards protecting the planet. Black plastic seems to be the scourge of the plastic world as so few councils accept it for recycling and yet a high percentage of plants are sold in black plastic pots or trays. One way to avoid plastic pots is to purchase shrubs and trees that are bare rooted or root balled. These can be ordered online, delivered by post and planted when the plant is dormant in the winter. Because they are bare rooted not only do they eliminate the plastic pot but the absence of soil also ensures that they are delivered peat free. I’d encourage anyone who is growing plants from seed to try alternatives to plastic pots – make them from newspaper or even from the insides of toilets rolls.

Peat: peat bogs take thousands of years to form and create unique environments meaning they are often Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Once peat is mined the ecosystem it provides is destroyed. Garden compost accounts for 60% of peat bought in the UK so by switching to a peat free alternative you can do your bit to help protect the bogs. Peat free composts have improved greatly over the past few years and provide a viable alternative. There is talk of a government ban on the use of peat in the next few years. Nothing is confirmed as yet but watch this space.

Fertilizers and pesticides: blood fish and bone is a great organic general purpose fertilizer with no hidden artificial chemicals. A good alternative to chemical pesticides are nematodes which are microscopic worms and provide a natural 100% organic solution to pest control. They are simple to use – select the correct nematode for the pest you want to target and order them online. Then mix with water and apply with a watering can to the area to be treated. Nematodes can be used to control slugs but what really works for me is either beer traps or going out after dusk and collecting them up.

Happy gardening.

Brett

How to choose the right driveway

First impressions are so important and your driveway has a big impact on the look of your house. As an accredited Marshalls Paving and Tobermore Paving installer Brett Hardy Landscapes have a depth of knowledge and experience in installing driveways and we can lead you through the design and construction process to help you achieve the right driveway for you, thus giving you peace of mind that it complies with all the latest Government Legislation and construction standards.

So what do you need to consider when deciding on a new driveway?

  • Do I need planning permission?

This is important. Not many people know that in 2008 new Government legislation was introduced to ensure that all driveways drain into the ground and not down the sewers. This was partly in response to serious flooding in 2007 and also to restrict pollution from driveways (oil, petrol etc) ending up in rivers and streams.

This means that if you are paving over an area of more than 5 square meters with an impermeable surface that does not direct the rainwater to a naturally draining area (ie lawn or flower bed) or a purpose built soakaway then you will need planning permission. An alternative to this is permeable paving where the rainwater is able to drain through the surface and planning permission is not required.

Failure to comply with these regulations could mean that reparatory work is required to comply with the legislation at the homeowners cost so be wary of companies offering cheap prices without the experience to ensure your driveway is installed correctly.

  • What are the options for surfaces?

We can offer the full range of Marshalls and Tobermore products. You can choose from ethically sourced natural stone setts, or a more traditional look of natural stone cobbles. There is also a selection of more cost effective concrete block paving or various gravel options. There are a large range of colours and finishes and we can help you select the best option for your driveway. Also as an accredited installer all Marshalls products are guaranteed for 10 years and Tobermore products are guaranteed for 25 years. We will also guarantee the installation for 5 years.

  • So, what should you do?

At Brett Hardy Landscapes we have the experience to advise you on the design and construction of your driveway to choose the best surface covering for you and ensure that the drainage complies with the correct legislation. If you live in a conservation area then we can advise on any specific local requirements for you as well.

If you want to take your first steps to a hassle free new driveway then please contact us here, email brett@bretthardylandscapes.co.uk or phone us on 01225 789990.

Brett

Driveway using Marshalls Tegula block paviours with drainage complying with SUDs regulations

Driveway using Marshalls Tegula block paviours with drainage complying with SUDs regulations

Cobbled driveway showing drainage complying with SUDs

Cobbled driveway showing drainage complying with SUDs

WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR OLD BIN NOW THE WHEELIE BINS ARE HERE

If you live in Bath you will have recently taken delivery of a new wheelie bin which must now be used for your council rubbish collection. This got me thinking about the many old bins that are now redundant and what uses they can be put to in the garden. Here are some suggestions.

  • Grow some spuds. Plastic bins are an easy way to grow potatoes in a small space. Simply drill some holes in the bottom of your bin (3 holes of roughly 2cm diameter should do it but it doesn’t have to be precise), place a crock over each hole and fill to 30cm with compost (a general peat free compost will be fine). In January/February buy some first early seed potatoes from the garden centre and chit them at home. This means putting them somewhere indoors with lots of daylight so that they start to grow shoots. I tend to put mine in an empty egg box (stops them rolling around) on a windowsill. In March place 3 seed potatoes on the compost, shoots pointing up, and cover to about 3cm with compost. Leave outside in a bright but not direct sunlit place and keep an eye on progress and once leaves form add more compost so that only the tops of the leaves are showing and keep doing this until the compost is nearly at the top of the bin. What you’re trying to do is create a very long stem as this is where the potatoes will form. Keep the compost moist but not waterlogged. To harvest tip the bin out in early June and you should have a lovely crop of salad potatoes. I promise you they will taste better than any you can buy at the supermarket and you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you grew them.
  • Create a flower pot. This is perfect for any aluminium/galvanised steel bins you might have. Again form some holes in the bottom for drainage. I then use old packing polystyrene to build up the height and place some polythene over the top with some holes punctbin flower potsured in it. This is cheaper than filling with compost and the polythene prevents the compost that you place at the top filtering down into the polystyrene. Then fill with 20cm of compost, place your tulip or daffodil bulbs on top and cover with another 10cm of compost. Keep the soil moist and sit back and wait for your spring flowers to bloom.
  • Use as a water butt. Place under a downpipe from the roof to collect rainwater which is perfect for watering the garden. You can either use a bucket to get the water out or fit a plastic tap. Make sure you keep the lid on to keep leaves out and make it safe for children.
  • Store compost. Cut the bottom off your plastic bin and place on level ground. Fill with garden cuttings and fruit and veg peelings. Keep mixing it up as you add new waste. In a couple of months lift the bin and the oldest waste will have formed into a homemade compost for your garden.
  • Use it as a rhubarb forcer. Every year I get an early crop from my rhubarb by forcing it. In January put horse manure or compost around your rhubarb plant and place your upturned bin over the top of the plant and weigh it down so it doesn’t blow over in the wind. The lack of light blanches the stems to make the rhubarb sweeter and more tender. Check it weekly and, depending on the variety, from February onwards the stems will be of an edible size and ready to harvest. The plant needs to be at least 3 years old for this to work successfully and not damage it.
  • Use as a root barrier. Some plants are very vigorous and will rapidly spread so if you fancy some bamboo in your garden an old bin will form a great root barrier to keep it confined to one area. Cut the bottom off the bin and place in the hole that you’ve created in the ground for your bamboo so that the top rim of the bin is about 5cm above the soil level. Then plant your bamboo within the bin. The bin will prevent the roots from spreading.
  • Create a pond. Cut the bin down to the depth you want and place in a hole in the ground. Place in a few dwarf pond plants and to speed things along add a jug of water from a friend’s pond. Make sure you create a shallow area or ramp for wildlife to get out.

I hope I’ve given you some inspiration here. Remember to take care when making any holes or cutting the bins.

Happy gardening

Brett

 

EAT YOUR GARDEN

Most of us are trying to get our garden to work for us in many ways – somewhere to sit, somewhere to eat, somewhere for the kids to kick a football, somewhere to plant flowers, somewhere to store the bikes, lawnmower, BBQ etc. And so the list goes on, with so many things to squeeze in.

One of the most important functions for me is somewhere to grow some fruit and veg. I have a standard town garden so making sure everything is efficiently planned and looks great is essential. Over the years I have honed the veg plot in my garden to be the most efficient and productive as well as looking good at the same time.

So lets start with fruit, possibly the best producer for the least amount of effort. The most efficient fruit producers for space usage are trained fruit trees and bushes. The main ones include red currents, tayberries, blackberries, gooseberries, figs, plums, nectarines, peaches, apricots, apples and pears. There are other more unusual varieties as well but these are the easiest and most common.

For now we will cover apple trees. These are bred in the nurseries by grafting a stem onto a dwarfing rootstock to restrict their growth. This ensures that they put their energy into producing fruit rather than growth and without this they would take years before they come into fruit production and would end up as very large trees. There are several different types with varying amounts of dwarfing properties to suit any location from a pot to an open field. There are loads of different corresponding training forms but the easiest are cordons, espaliers and fan trained which will come on the relevant root stock.

Beautifully trained fan fruit tree

Beautifully trained fan fruit tree

In my garden I have a few super columns (also known as ballerinas) that are grown and pruned as a single vertical column that grows to about 7ft tall and takes up little space but still produce loads of fruit soon after planting. These can even be planted as close as 60cm (2ft) apart. Here’s a picture of the ‘Saturn’ variety of apple tree that I have in my garden.

Vertical cordon apple tree

Vertical cordon apple tree

This year it produced around 100 apples. And let’s just clarify that these are apples that taste amazing, crisp and sweet – the supermarket variety are not a patch on these. There are not many things better than walking out into your garden and eating an apple straight from the tree.

As well as being productive they produce loads of gorgeous blossom in the spring to rival ornamental cherry trees and of course attractive fruit to look at later on. You can plant bare routed fruit trees from mid November to March and pot grown any time of year. I will be posting a ‘quick and easy’ YouTube guide on how to plant a bare routed fruit tree soon.

Over the next year I’m going to be blogging about how to get the most fruit and veg out of your garden and I will be posting on YouTube a series of ‘quick and easy gardening’ guides on how to plant various fruit and veg – a total beginners guide in easy to understand language. So please check out my YouTube channel. You can also see my quick and easy guide on how to prune a trained apple or pear tree here

Happy gardening.

Brett

A QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO PRUNING

Autumn is a great time to get out in the garden and give it a thorough tidy up before winter sets in. As part of this tidy up you should be pruning back your fruit trees and Wisteria in order to maximise fruit and flower production for next year. Late summer to early Autumn is a good time to be doing this pruning. I am often asked how and when to prune various plants so I have started posting tutorials on YouTube showing you what to do.

Check out my latest tutorials:

Simple guide to pruning a climbing Wisteria plant

Simple guide on how to prune a trained apple or pear tree

The basics of pruning are really very simple. Both of these YouTube tutorials last under 3 minutes so do give them a look and please do subscribe to me on YouTube so you don’t miss out on any more of my ‘Simple Guides’ in the future. Happy pruning!

Brett and the team

Bringing the outside in or taking the inside out?

Making the most of the space you live in.

Craving some space?  Looking for somewhere to work? Feeling overcrowded?  There are many reasons why we are looking to improve the space that we live in.  Modern day life has seen our children staying at home well into adulthood, more of us now work from home and our family homes are bursting at the seams.   With house prices at an all-time high and the rising costs of moving more and more of us are staying put and putting our efforts into improving our homes by extending or constructing to create new spaces.

In the past 10 years the average costs of moving have risen by 25%. Stamp duty can set you back thousands of pounds. For example: the stamp duty on a house costing £450k is £12.5k.  Then you have all of the other moving costs. Legal Costs, Estate Agency fees, Removals, Mortgage Evaluation and Arrangement, Surveys etc.  All in all, the cost of moving could set you back in the region of £25-£30k!   Think of what you could achieve by spending that improving your current home.

Our gardens are often the largest space we have in our home.  There are many different ways in which we can zone and utilise different areas of our gardens to create extra rooms and spaces.

Outside Dining

Adding a retractable awning to your patio area means that you can still dine outside whatever the weather.

Lounge

Creating a sunken lounge with big soft cushions, warm blankets and a fire pit to keep you cosy on a chilly evening. A great way to socialise, relax and enjoy the garden well into the evening.  It is also a great place for enjoying the sunshine by stretching out and catching a few rays during the day.

Outside Kitchens

With cooking being one of the nation’s favourite pastimes. Having an all in entertainment space complete with a wood fired oven, built in BBQ and grill ensures you have everything at your fingertips for making a feast!  Being able to relax and engage with your guests while making your culinary delights means that you won’t miss a thing.

Pergolas

Make a design statement in your garden by adding a pergola.  These impressive structures can be used to create definition within your garden.  If you have been struggling to zone your garden, then a pergola could be the answer for you.  They can be left open to allow the climbing and trailing plants to cover over time but if you want to be able to use this area all year round then you may want to consider one of the many types of retractable covers now available.

Garden Rooms

If you are looking for the WOW factor, a great way is to take the inside out is by adding a stunning garden room.  They are stylish, easy to construct and typically they do not require planning permission.  Top uses for garden rooms are:

Home Office / Workspace

With an estimated 4.5 million of us now working from home, creating the right environment for us to work in is essential.  The beauty of having a home office is you can have a dedicated space to work in and at the end of the day you can shut the door and walk away.  The added bonus of having a home office is a stress free commute and no travel costs!

Workout Studio

Having a home gym has so many benefits.  You get to work out at a time convenient to you.  You can create the right environment for you to work out in.  You choose the music, the pace, the type of workout and who sees you work out! No waiting around for a certain piece of equipment to be free to use. No one looking at you and judging your workout abilities and no monthly membership fees.

Play Room

Allowing your children space to play in is essential.  Adding a space which has the ability to grow as your children do is a wonderful solution.  A special place, designed with your children in mind where they are free to play in a safe environment.  A room where they can have all of their toys and easy access to outside space.  Children love to play in the garden so having a room in the garden where they can freely move inside and out is ideal.

Entertainment Space

With entertaining at home becoming more popular a “party room” is a great addition to your home.  Having a garden bar adds the wow factor to your parties.  Creating a space to entertain your family and friends whatever the weather!  Great for dinner parties, barbeques, music and drinks.  You can have this all set up and ready to open the doors whenever you choose.

Den

Having a place to escape to within your own home is such a luxury.  Creating a den where you can relax in a quieter environment away from the main house can be just the space you need.  Creating a room where you can enjoy different views of your garden, curl up and read a book, create a home cinema if its films you like, a space for your teenagers to socialise, the list of den uses is endless.

If you are considering making improvements to your outside home, why not contact me for a free consultation

Bee Friendly

With many of our gardens being over groomed and modernised our bees are in decline. The maintenance free minimalistic gardens mean that many of our bees are in trouble. Also, our farmland has lost a lot of its natural variety with large fields being planted with a single crop replacing the smaller wider variety crops and hedgerows that bees need. This has resulted in the extinction of more than 20 varieties of bees. Several other varieties of bees still remain at risk.

With farmers being encouraged to sow their field margins with nectar and pollen rich wild flower mix to create flower rich habitats for bees and other insects as part of The National Pollinator Strategy for further information click here

It makes sense that we should follow suit in our own gardens.By following a few simple steps you can easily make your garden or at least a section of it a more friendly environment for our busy little buzzers.

Go for variety: There are a huge number of bee friendly plants available such as: – holly hocks, honeysuckle, lilac, buddleia, clematis …. there is a huge list! Go for single flower head types of flowers rather than doubles.

Single flower form -good for pollinators

Daisy & butterfly

Double flower form- pollinators cannot get to the nectar

double Peony

Garden centres often have great labels to show which plants are nectar and pollen rich varieties.

Consider your seasons: Like you, bees need food and shelter all year around.  Providing even just one bee house or nesting box is fun and easy to do and will provide winter shelter for hibernating Queen Bees as well as a home in the busy summer months.

Our new bee post prototype soon to be on sale – All the holes were full of solitary bee eggs by the end of last season!

15 10 16- phone pictures 018

Create a meadow: Instead of mowing all of your lawn why not leave an area to grow and form a natural meadow state. Or why not go the whole hog and replace some of your lawn with Wildflower turf for a greater mix of beautiful bee friendly native flowers.

wild flower meadow

Have a conservation section: Section an area of your garden purely for conservation.  Provide planting, water and shelter within this area and watch your wildlife thrive.

Minimise the use of pesticides:  Ideally stop using pesticides or at the very least use less pesticides and allow nature to do its job.

With little effort these beautiful essential buzzy Bees can be given a helping hand.