Five ways to organise your outside

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At this time of year when we tend to spend a lot more time enjoying the garden, it’s worth working on keeping your outside space in order. Tackling tasks little and often will help to keep things in check, without making you feel like you’re prepping for a royal visit. In recent years there’s been a rise in a more natural, undone aesthetic, too - so use this to your full advantage and forgo stripes in the lawn (unless you really want them, of course.) Much like the relief you feel when you’ve cleaned and decluttered the house, giving the garden a good tidy helps to create a relaxing space you can enjoy throughout summer and beyond. Read on for tips on how to get your outside space organised…

Make your Bed

It doesn’t take much for beds and borders to start looking unruly - a few weeds, some overgrown plants and a touch of summer weather to make everything grow faster, and suddenly you’ve got a mess on your hands. But, even the most chaotic bed or border can be given a spruce by adding a bark such as woodchip or ornamental bark. Not only does the addition of a bark act as a weed suppressant, it also provides a pleasing aesthetic and makes the space look instantly neater. Once you've done your weeding and planted up your desired flowers and shrubs, add a layer of bark as the finishing touch.

Lawn Labour

If you happened to partake in No Mow May, then the bees may be happy but you might be struggling to keep the lawn in order. One of the quickest ways to keep your garden looking tidy is to give the grass a good trim, but don’t neglect the edges - that’s where you can really make a difference, so grab those shears and get trimming. Ideally to keep on top of your edges and stop the grass encroaching into your borders, aim to trim them after every mow. Once the tidying and neatening is done, treat the lawn to a little TLC by using a summer lawn feed to help aid drought resistance - essential as we head into the warmer weather.

Dress to Impress

Usually, tidying means decluttering and throwing things away, so the suggestion of introducing more plants to your garden might sound counterintuitive, but hear us out. Bringing hanging baskets and pot plants into your outside space helps to ‘dress’ it by adding colour and charm. Much like homes, minimalist spaces can look cluttered quickly if there aren’t focal points - by adding striking pot plants or beautiful potted displays, the focus becomes about the plants and less about the surrounding (potentially less tidy) area.

Patio Prep

Often patios and decking areas can be overlooked when it comes to garden maintenance because the focus tends to fall to beds and borders. But, ensuring these areas are kept clean and tidy can make a huge impact when it comes to the overall aesthetic of your garden. If you have one to hand, or can borrow one, use a pressure washer to give your patio or decking a thorough clean. Keep an eye on any weeds that might be popping through as these can look unsightly, and repair any damaged areas or touch up areas where paint may have faded.

June Prune

At this time of year, deadheading and pruning plays a big part in keeping your plants thriving for longer. Not only that, but doing so helps to keep everything looking tidy, too. Faded flowers can look unsightly, and also cause a mess as the petals and leaves drop. But, if you deadhead and prune as soon as you can after the flowers start to look past their best, not only will your garden look instantly tidier, in many cases you’ll also be helping the plants to produce more flowers for longer.

Celebrating strawberry season

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A quintessentially British fruit, strawberries are a summer staple. From adorning meringues at summer garden parties to being enjoyed at picnics in the park, at this time of year those little red fruits make a big impact. This June they’ll really be taking centre stage too, with the Queen’s Jubilee weekend celebrations seeing many traditional afternoon teas consumed, and then at the end of the month there’s Wimbledon, too. In fact, a huge 166,000 strawberries are eaten during the tennis tournament.

So, with the strawberry season in full swing, perhaps it’s time to consider growing your own. Not sure where to start? Read on to find out how to get the best out of your berries…

Why should I grow strawberries?

There are several benefits to growing your own strawberries. For starters, they’re relatively easy to grow, so you’ll have the satisfaction of enjoying your own homegrown fruit with minimal effort. Strawberries can get pretty pricey when you’re buying them by the punnet too, but picking them right from the garden means you’ll not only be saving on the cost of the fruit, but the cost of driving to the shops too - especially important in the current climate!

If you need something to keep the whole family busy, then growing strawberries can become a fun project during the summer months, with the added benefit of being able to eat the produce at the end.

When’s the best time to plant strawberries?

There are several times in the year when strawberries can be planted. Late spring when the weather is starting to warm up is a good time to plant, as are late summer or early autumn. If you're planting in spring you may see a smaller crop for your first year, but don't be disheartened - typically the best years for strawberry plants are years two, three and four.

Strawberries are frost hardy perennials, so once established they'll withstand the colder winter weather.

Where do strawberry plants grow best?

Depending on the type of strawberry you're growing depends on the environment it needs to thrive.

If you're growing alpine strawberries from seed then you'll want to plant in pots or trays, using a quality compost. Strawberries do very well in containers and can be planted in them from runners or plants, and they can also be grown in pots, or just planted directly into the ground. If you’re planting them into the ground, consider a raised bed, and also invest in some material to protect your fruits from hungry birds and squirrels.

Strawberries will grow in most conditions, but most do best in full sun, except for alpine strawberries which grow best in the shade.

What kind of care do strawberries need?

The good news is that strawberries are pretty low maintenance. You’ll need to keep an eye out for viruses though, as strawberries are prone to them. They're caused by things like aphids, and some can be easily treatable if you catch them early. Soil splashes can cause the fruit to go mouldy, so using a mulch can help to stop this happening.

Keep your strawberry plants well watered in hot weather and throughout the growing season, but ensure the soil is free draining to avoid mould.

When should I pick my strawberries?

Depending on the variety of strawberry you're growing will depend on when the fruit will be ready to harvest, but in general, strawberry season is from early summer to early autumn. The fruit doesn't continue to ripen once picked, so make sure it's definitely ready - sour strawberries aren't to everyone's taste!

You can tell they're ready to be picked once the fruit is a deep bright red all over (no pale patches). Ideally pick them during the warmest part of the day - this is when they'll taste the best.

What can I do with my strawberries?

There are few things nicer than a freshly picked homegrown strawberry, so you could just tuck into your produce. However, if you're looking for another way to enjoy your efforts, perhaps indulge in a little mixology and whip up a strawberry cocktail - perfect for a jubilee celebration, or an accompaniment to a tennis tournament, perhaps?

There are lots of popular strawberry based drinks such as daiquiris or margaritas, but we're particularly fond of this simple gin fizz recipe, which combines delicious fresh strawberries with gin and sparkling wine.

Strawberry Gin Fizz

Ingredients: (makes one jug)

400g strawberries, sliced

A handful of fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped

30ml simple syrup

100ml gin

1 bottle of sparkling wine such as prosecco, cava or perhaps an English sparkling rosé

A handful of ice cubes

Method:

Put the strawberries, mint and half of your sugar syrup mixture into a jug, and muddle the fruit until lightly crushed

Pour in your gin, fizz and ice cubes and stir together, adding the rest of the simple syrup if you think you need the extra sweetness

Pour into a fizz glass and garnish with mint leaves and sliced strawberries

Enjoy! (And maybe share if you're feeling generous…)

Why you need to give your fruit and vegetables special treatment this spring

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May is the perfect month to get serious about sowing and planting your fruits and vegetables. Hopefully the hard frosts are finally behind us and summer is on the way - so now’s the time to start dreaming about living The Good Life with your own glut of homegrown produce.

With the cost of living on the rise and grocery prices soaring, it’s no wonder so many people are turning green-fingered and growing their own food. The process doesn’t have to be too arduous either; the key is to invest in good products that will help your produce to thrive. Here are some ways you can do just that…

Invest in your compost

Making your own compost is a great idea, but it can be a long process, and sometimes your soil might need something a little more refined to really help get those plants growing. That’s why it’s worth investing in a really good quality mix to boost your soil. We offer specialist mixes for either seedlings or pot plants, and each contains essential nutrients and has been specially developed to aid growth effectively.

You might also want something a little more bespoke, especially if you’re working with tricky soil, are trying to grow a difficult plant, or perhaps have specific conditions in your garden that other composts and soils can’t cater for. We can tailor-make a unique mix for you to suit your specific needs - just get in touch to let us know what you’re looking for.

Pick your favourites

It can be tempting to fill your garden with ten different varieties of kale, but unless you eat it like it’s going out of fashion, there’s little point. Instead, grow fruits and vegetables that you regularly incorporate into your meals, and nothing will go to waste.

Growing lettuce is a good option because it’s easy to grow but can be quite expensive to buy, especially when pre-prepared. Tomatoes, cucumber and other salad ingredients are also worth growing because you’ll use them a lot - and cut down your weekly shopping bill in the process.

Fan of berries? Consider fruit bushes - they require little effort on your part and should produce plenty of fruit. When it arrives, freeze what you can’t eat (or use in crumbles or cocktails!) and you’ll have your favourite berries available all year round.

Be seed savvy

When selecting which fruits and vegetables to grow, seedlings may seem like the obvious choice, but growing from seed only takes a couple of weeks longer, and you’ll get a lot more for your money.

Swapping with friends, family or your neighbours is also a great way to grow your garden for free - cuttings, excess seeds and duplicate plants are all readily available if you know where to look or who to ask, and can really make a difference when it comes to diversifying your plants.

It also pays to be selective and really plan out what you want ahead of time so you only need to accept plants that’ll benefit your garden - (many of us have accepted a plant from a neighbour and then left it unattended and unloved because we can’t work out where to plant it!) You’ll be happy you were selective in a few months’ time when your garden is filled with plants you truly love rather than border fillers you feel obliged to water because your next door neighbour generously offloaded them onto you.

Raise it up

Elevate your fruits and vegetables to a higher status by building raised beds in your garden. The soil warms quicker than at ground level, helping your produce to grow quicker. Not only that, but you’ll achieve better drainage, better water retention and fewer weeds. If you really want to get the best out of your fruits and vegetables this year, then make sure to give them some special treatment in their own raised beds - the benefits will be worth the initial outlay.

Five no-planting ideas to pretty up your garden

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Often, when we want to give our garden a makeover, the first thing we do is invest in a whole load of plants, hoping they’ll give the space the transformation we desire. But, this can be costly, and unless you’ve carefully planned out which plants are going where, often once you arrive home from the garden centre with a car boot filled with new purchases, the garden can quickly become chaotic as you try to plant up your new finds.

A solution, then, is to refrain from reverting to new plants to improve the garden’s aesthetic, and instead choose other ways to give your garden a makeover. Something as simple as edging your lawn can instantly create a tidy look, or threading lighting through the trees gives a nighttime glow.

Read on for more inspiration…

Get gravelling

It’s amazing what a difference a bit of gravel can make to the overall aesthetic of your garden. A neat and tidy pathway can work wonders for giving your garden a bit of a spring clean - and that’s before you’ve even delved into weeding the borders. Our self-binding gravels are a really simple way to pave pathways and driveways, and give a polished finish whilst providing a hard wearing surface. Firmer than loose gravel, self-binding gravel compacts down to create a smooth surface, and is easy to maintain, too.

Paint perfect

Sometimes a fresh lick of paint is all you need to really give something a new lease of life. From fences to furniture and sheds to sun loungers, revitalising the wood or metal in your garden with a new hue is a cost effective and reasonably straightforward way to improve your garden’s appearance. If you really want to switch things up, then move away from plain wood or white, and add a splash of colour to your garden. Jewel tones are one of 2022’s biggest garden trends when it comes to flowers, so why not take inspiration by adding some vibrancy to your woodwork?

Aqua aesthetic

Adding a water feature to your garden creates a focal point, offers the opportunity to encourage wildlife to the garden and adds some tranquility to the space too. There’s plenty of different styles to choose from, depending on budget, space and of course, personal taste. From waterfalls to ponds, and fountains to contemporary water features, there’s sure to be a style to suit your garden. Bird baths are also back in vogue, so be bang on trend by adding one to your lawn and encourage your feathered friends to pay a visit.

Mulch makeovers

Mulching might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you’re thinking of ways to make your garden prettier, but hear us out. Mulch has many benefits, including conserving water and smothering weeds - so while it may not be the obvious choice for making the garden more attractive, it’s a great way to start. Adding mulch to your beds and borders will make them look instantly tidier, will help to keep the weeds at bay, and will also reduce the amount of watering you’ll need to do in the height of summer, which is surely a win?

Elegant edging

Orderly edges to your lawn can make a world of difference, and creating neat edges is easy, too. Use a half moon edger to cut the edges of your lawn, then mow the grass and trim any overhanging with long-handled edging shears.You can also use the shears to cut any grass that’s grown onto pathways, or if you prefer, use a sharp knife.

The Garden furniture guide

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We've finally reached what is arguably one of the best times of the year - Bank Holiday season. Over the coming weeks we've got some lovely extra days to play with, and if the weather is feeling kind, we might be afforded some time in the garden, too.

Whether entertaining or relaxing, having some suitable garden furniture is a must. And, just like plants in your garden, your furniture will need a little TLC from time to time. From cleaning to painting and prepping to making, we take a look at how to get your garden furniture ready for the season ahead.

Cleaning rattan furniture

Rattan furniture is the ever popular choice for many gardeners. It's a wicker-style weave that's durable, stylish and pretty low maintenance. Unlike wicker, which can split and rot when exposed to the elements, rattan garden furniture tends to be made of synthetic materials, making it much more hard-wearing.

It's easy to clean, and doesn't need doing that often - after you take it out from storage and before it goes away again you'll want to give it a clean, plus maybe a couple of times over the season if you notice it looking a little grubby.

To give your rattan a refresh, you don't need any fancy tools. A bucket of warm soapy water, a hard brush and a vacuum cleaner is pretty much the extent of your toolkit.

Give the furniture a vacuum off first to get rid of any petals, leaves or cobwebs. Then, get the soapy water on there and work it into the crevices with the brush,, allowing it to soak in for a few minutes.

Rinse off with the garden hose or a bucket of water, and then leave to dry before popping the cushions back on.

Making pallet furniture

It's a trend that's been around for a long time now, and shows no signs of going anywhere. DIY pallet furniture is a cost effective way to create your own garden furniture, and it gives a rustic look once done.

You can make anything from an individual chair or bench to a corner sofa and coffee table. The choice is yours!

There are lots of video tutorials online showing you how to make specific items, but the key things you'll need, no-matter what piece of furniture you're creating, are: pallets, a sander, screws and a drill, a wood preserver and then a paint if you're looking for your furniture to be a particular colour.

The last couple of years have seen a huge demand for garden furniture, and lack of availability has meant the trend for DIY creations has grown exponentially. Pallet furniture is an excellent option if you need something created quickly, but if you put in the prep and look after it, your furniture could last years.

Restoring wooden furniture

Wooden garden furniture looks great and is generally hardwearing and durable, but it needs some upkeep. Benches, tables and sun loungers are all exposed to the elements, and as we know, the British weather can be unpredictable and unforgiving at times.

The level of restoring you'll need to do will depend on the material of your furniture. Softwood such as pine isn't so hardwearing, whereas hardwood like teak can go for years with little intervention needed.

For pine and other softwood furniture, your main objective will be aesthetic upkeep because it tends to deteriorate quicker. So, sand it down and then add wood stain to keep it looking smart. Use a wood preservative for extra protection - if you soak table or chair legs in it overnight, it will penetrate the wood and soak up through the legs. In the morning, just wipe it off, then leave the furniture to dry before using.

For furniture made of hardwood, it'll go a pretty long time before it needs any TLC, but if it's looking a bit worse for wear then grab some sandpaper and work on getting it back to looking fresh by smoothing any rough patches. Once you're done sanding, apply a teak oil and your furniture will be good as new.

Revitalising plastic furniture

Plastic furniture can start to look dull after a while, but it’s easy to clean and restore. Soda crystals dissolved in hot water will do the job of lifting off stubborn stains - leave them to soak on for a few hours for best results. Or, invest in a pressure washer and blast your furniture to give it a really good, thorough clean.

Removing rust from metal furniture

If you’ve had your mental furniture for a while, then the chances are that after several years of being exposed to the elements, it may have begun to show signs of rust. Moisture and humid weather contribute to the rust, so it’s best to tackle it before the weather gets too warm.

For an easy homemade fix, just get some white vinegar and soak the affected area. Then, wipe down.

If you’re looking to restore the paintwork of your metal furniture, use a wire brush to treat the rust first, then remove any flaky paint before repainting