Category Archives: Garden

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

Festive Cheer! Brighten up your garden ready for the festive season.

December is here!  Do you look out of your window and see how sad your garden is looking?  Are you ready to inject some festive cheer to your outside space as well as inside?

If the answer is YES then please read on.

It’s winter and its usually dark when we go to work, dark when we come home.  Our gardens are in a dormant state and looking rather bleak.  Here are a few ideas to inject light, colour and festive fun!

konstsmide_led_light_set_with_40x_white_led_stars_2062-200_mediumLight it up!

  • A simple and very effective way to add a bit of twinkle to your garden is to purchase a couple of sets of fairy lights and wrapping them around your trees and bushes.  You can now get lights that work on battery power or solar power so even quicker and easier to fit.
  • Put storm lanterns on your patio filled with church candles and pebbles or baubles and tinsel to add warmth and colour to your outside dining area.

 

konstsmide_copper_coloured_metal_wreath_45_leds_2891-603_1024x1024Christmas Decorations.

  • Plant your boxes, tubs and hanging baskets with a Christmas theme.  Mini Conifer Trees or Mini Christmas Trees complete with baubles surrounded by Cyclamen and Winter Pansies for that all important injection of colour!
  • An outdoor Christmas tree decorated with all the trimmings to add that extra special touch of glamour.
  • Create a festive centrepiece for your garden table using holly and fir, ribbons and glitter.
  • Hang a luxurious Christmas wreath from your door for that extra special welcome.
  • Use ribbons, bunting, stars, pine cones, twigs, beads or baubles to liven up any tree or hedge.

 

konstsmide_reindeer_figure_in_snow_next_to_lit_tree_6166-203_mediumSomething for the children

  • Why leave that mysterious elf on the shelf?  Why not put him in the bushes or the trees?  Can they find him hiding?
  • How about a wooden Reindeer hiding amongst the borders?
  • Light the way for Father Christmas and his sleigh with runway lights!
  • Decorate their Wendy House or Den.
  • Create a nativity scene.

Allow their imaginations to run wild and get creative this Christmas!

We hope that you have a wonderful time whatever you decide to do in your garden for the festive season!

From Brett & the rest of the team

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.

How to Choose a Landscape Gardener or Garden Designer

Choosing a landscape gardener or a garden designer is a daunting task.  It’s hard enough deciding on the changes you want to make to your beloved garden, let alone choosing the person who is going to implement them.

Over the years I’ve talked to numerous clients and I know what it is like to be in their shoes.  As a result I’ve put together some, hopefully helpful, advice on what to consider when choosing a garden designer or landscape designer.

  1. DO go for one organisation if you can. Most projects, big and small, involve both design and landscaping elements.  I really advocate using someone who has expertise in both areas.  “Of course you are going to say that” the cynical reader will say. Yes, but let me justify it.

 

design & build image

It makes sense to have one person working with you to see your vision through to the final stage of completion. If one person is able to provide an excellent design, and work with and employ the landscaping team, and oversee the sourcing of plants and materials, then that person will be able to keep control of the budget and schedule.  For example, a designer may not know the best place to source turf, or how to get a digger or skip at short notice.   A landscaper may not know the best plants to thrive in a shady corner.  One person with expertise in both areas means that problems are more likely to be avoided from the outset. And for the client, having to deal with one person is easier,  cheaper, quicker and less stressful.

  1. DO research. DON’T rely on word of mouth and recommendations from friends and family alone. DO check out websites and in particular look at accreditations – these can help sort out the “cowboys” from the professionals.  For example I recently undertook a lot of time and effort to join the APL – Association of Professional Landscapers.  I had to provide 6 recent project references, undertake a sit down interview, have my work closely examined, safety & business systems checked etc.  An accreditation is a recognition of high standards, expertise and good practice. It seems remarkable that anyone can set themselves up as a landscaper or garden designer without any prior requirement for qualifications or experience!
  1. DO always ask for references, at least two, and talk to the referees directly. A telephone call or, even better, a site visit, will go a long way in helping to make a decision.  Another good indication is case studies on the website, as these are only supplied by happy clients.
  1. DO spend time preparing your brief. The contractor will measure up but it is good to have an idea of the size of your garden.  Also, if possible,  knowledge of frost, drainage, wind and soil conditions are helpful for providing a better quotation.  And try to be as specific as possible.  Always keep at the forefront “What is it I really want?”
  1. DO go for three quotations or estimates. This will provide a feel for costs and also will show you, by comparing the quotations, who has got a better understanding of the brief. Ensure you give the same information to all three so that you can easily compare and they are pricing like for like.

    Detailed Bill of quantities provided with our quotations

    Detailed Bill of quantities provided with our quotations

  1. DON’T lose sight of what it is you want to achieve. A good designer will inspire you, and DO use their expertise and advise, but DON’T let them lead you astray –as this will impact on cost and time.  If the original idea was for an outdoor seating area, don’t get misled by water features and huge new borders.  Good design is endless; unfortunately money and time are not!
  1. DO talk through the quotations with the candidates. At this point you will start sharing your vision, and talking through your brief to three different contractors or designers will give you an understanding of costs, but more importantly will give you a feel for who you can develop the best working relationship with. Avoid using contractors with fag packet quotes. They should have a detailed quotation clearly laid out with all the elements listed so both parties know what has been included and you are not caught out with costly extras missed from the original price.
  1. DON’T try and haggle or play contractors off against each other. In this industry I can guarantee that cheaper does not mean better – by trying to cut costs with garden design and landscaping, you will be paying for it later.  If a quote seems expensive then ask the contractor why. A good designer/ landscaper wants a mutually beneficial working relationship based on trust, as much as the client does. Often a cheaper alternative tweak of the design or use of materials can be offered.
  1. DO ask the designer/contractor about legislation and building requirements. A good contractor will know if planning permission is required, or if a new fence is going to cause a traffic blind spot, or what compliance is needed with regard to drainage on driveways and around the house.  Also DO get everything in writing – all costs, timetables, and assurances.

I hope these points help.  Most professionals want to provide the best job for their clients and to leave behind something they are proud of, and will look good in years to come.  The whole process, from deciding what you want to when the first spade is put in the ground, can be a long process, up to several weeks rather than days, so be prepared for that.  The more time you take in the process – the better the result will be.  If your chosen contractor/designer cannot start work for a few weeks, then this is an endorsement in itself.  And waiting a few weeks for what could potentially last a lifetime is surely worth it.

 

 

Bye for now – Brett