Posts tagged with “Constant Gardener”

The Greenhouse Effect

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With the cost of living rising and more people turning to growing their own fruit and vegetables, it’s probably no surprise that greenhouse popularity has grown. These garden structures provide much more than somewhere to escape - they open up a wealth of possibilities and the opportunity to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers that would otherwise struggle in our temperamental British weather.

Here’s everything you need to know about greenhouse gardening…

Why should I consider a greenhouse for my garden?

To be honest, it would probably be easier for us to list the reasons not to get a greenhouse, because the positives to getting one are many.

For one, having a greenhouse gives you the opportunity to grow plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables that wouldn’t survive in your typical English garden. By being able to control the climate and the soil, you have the opportunity to grow all manner of tropical and exotic species.

Secondly, a greenhouse offers protection to your plants, especially in winter when cold weather can kill off some of the more fragile plants.

Pest prevention is another factor to consider - a benefit of a greenhouse is it offers a place where you can keep the crops you’ve worked so hard to grow away from pesky garden visitors who might have other plans for them.

For keen gardeners who struggle to garden in the colder months (who doesn’t?) a greenhouse offers additional warmth for both you and the plants, and gives you the chance to grow all year round rather than being ruled by the seasons. It’s also often possible to get a headstart on growing your spring plants by seeding them earlier in a greenhouse.

What’s the best greenhouse to go for?

There are several types of greenhouse, and the best depends on your budget, needs and style preferences.

A wooden greenhouse is the more traditional choice and is what many greenhouses were historically made from. The wood acts as a great insulator, helping to keep the greenhouse warm in the winter and cooler in the summer. However, these greenhouses are usually the pricier choice compared with aluminum framed structures.

Metal greenhouses are the alternative to a wooden greenhouse, and these are often made from aluminum due to its durability (it won’t rust) and its practicality - it’s much easier than wood to assemble yourself if you’re going down the DIY route for your greenhouse. Another advantage is they’re much simpler to dismantle and reassemble should you need to.

Where should I put my greenhouse?

Your greenhouse will need to be sited in a well-drained area of the garden, on a firm, hard surface. You may need to consider putting a base down.

Choose an area that’s fairly sheltered from the wind, but that enjoys plenty of sun during the day. Be careful not to place it where shadows will block the light or where debris could fall from trees and damage the greenhouse.

If you’re installing a lean-to style greenhouse, then the wall it’s located on should ideally be south facing, for maximum sun exposure.

Consider what you’ll need in your greenhouse - electricity, water and compost could all be useful to have nearby, so try to build your greenhouse with these things in mind.

What can I grow in my greenhouse?

There’s scope to grow so many things in a greenhouse, the trouble will be finding space for them all.

Probably the most popular choice for many greenhouse gardeners is growing fruits and vegetables, especially those that are more tender and struggle to grow in colder conditions.

Ornamental plants are another popular choice because their growing climate can be controlled, as can other conditions. This makes it easier to do things like grow plants from cuttings or multiply them.

Tropical plants and cacti that wouldn’t normally grow in the UK can be another good greenhouse choice, especially if you like the idea of experimenting with new techniques, climates and conditions. Try orchids or venus fly traps, or exotic fruits like bananas.

Top tips for growing vegetables in a greenhouse

Growing vegetables in a greenhouse gives them lots of extra light and warmth, but keeps away any animals that might want to snack on your supply, and stops the unpredictable British weather ruining your hard work.

All manner of vegetables can be grown in a greenhouse, from salad staples like cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce, to melons, aubergines, chillies, herbs and more.

Planning is key when it comes to making the most of your greenhouse and produce. Check you have enough space to grow everything you want to before you invest in your seeds and plants. Factor in the space that grow bags will take up, and how much room you’ll need for pots and trays too. Then, work out when each vegetable will need to be planted - some, like cabbage and onions are hardier so can be planted in the late winter, while others, like courgettes and sweetcorn are tender and won’t be ready to plant until mid-spring.

If your greenhouse is unheated then help your tender plants by fleecing and protecting them during colder spells of weather - they need to be kept frost-free, but still benefit from plenty of light.

During the summer months, ensure you water your vegetables daily and keep the greenhouse ventilated to stop plants overheating. Provide shade where you can, too. In the winter, insulation is useful to help protect your plants. You could also invest in a heated propagator to help your crops germinate in the winter

Five ways to protect your garden during a heatwave

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In Britain, we’re never happier than when we can moan about the weather. And while we might be grateful when we don’t get a washout summer, the opposite can cause some serious stress on the garden. Heatwaves are great for when you’re on the beach with a pina colada in hand, but not so wonderful when your hydrangeas are dehydrated. But, luckily there are some simple ways to look after your garden when the heat hits. From repurposing the parasol to saying no to mowing, here are five ways to protect your garden during a heatwave

Water well

In extreme temperatures, it might seem logical to give your plants lots more water, but there’s actually a delicate balancing act between offering hydration, and oversaturating them. Firstly, get your timing right - plants need to be watered when the temperatures are cooler so that they have the chance to drink up as much water as possible before the ground gets too warm. The best time to do this is in the early morning before the garden heats up.

When it comes to how much to give them, less is actually more. If you give your plants too much water in the heat it can hinder them acclimatising to the warmer weather, and can cause them to get stressed. To check if you need to water your plants, stick your index finger into the soil near to the root. If the soil is wet below the surface then the plant doesn’t need more water.

Add a layer of protection

Just like we reach for the SPF when it’s hot, you can help to protect your plants by adding a layer of mulch - it’ll act like a barrier against the sun, and will also help to relieve the pressure the sun puts on the plants and flowers, by retaining some of the moisture in the soil. Apply a layer at least a couple of inches deep on top of your soil to protect your plant’s roots.

No mow

There’s probably nothing you fancy doing less in the heat than mowing the lawn, and the good news is it’s actually beneficial not to. That’s right - we officially give you the go ahead to do nothing. Keeping the grass a little bit longer helps it to protect itself because the blades will cast shadows on other blades as the sun moves around the garden. Also don’t worry about watering your grass even if it starts to look a bit brown and dishevelled - it’ll return to its former glory once the weather cools down and we have some rain. If you want to give it a helping hand come autumn, use a lawn care fertiliser to aid disease resistance and cold hardiness as well as improving drought tolerance.

Mix in some media Adding growing media to your soil helps to increase water and nutrient retention, which is essential in hotter temperatures. If you have container plants, then the addition of some growing media could be particularly beneficial, as these plants can struggle in the heat to keep the soil moist.

Sort some shade

Parasols and beach umbrellas are usually there to stop us scorching while we enjoy an al fresco lunch, but they can be put to other uses too - like protecting your plants from the intense rays of the sun in a heatwave. It might not be possible to shade all of your plants, especially if you have a large garden, but anything that’s delicate and requires a lot of TLC should be your priority - you can use umbrellas, tarpaulin, garden parasols or even your bbq cover to create areas of shade where your plants can enjoy a little respite from the sun.

Seven child-friendly garden projects for summer

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As we move into July and the weather hots up we also edge closer to the school summer holidays. As a child, the prospect of weeks and weeks of glorious sun seems exciting, but as a parent it can be somewhat daunting - how exactly do you keep the kids entertained? Well, worry no more - get them out in the garden and the great outdoors offers great opportunities. Here we’ve got some suggestions for ways to keep little fingers busy this summer - including tasks that’ll actually help you get ahead in the garden. Yes, really. You’ll be sippijng that G&T in your hammock before you know it…

Feed your feathered friends

Not only is making your own bird feeder a simple and inexpensive idea, it’s also great because it creates a long-term object of focus; kids will love bird spotting and discovering which species are frequenting their feeder.

All you need to make one is an empty yoghurt pot, some string and then some nuts, seeds and lard. Mix your ingredients together, then pierce a hole in the bottom of the yoghurt pot and loop the string through, tying a knot to secure it. Fill the pot with your mixture, then hang it outside (upside down like a bell) and watch the birds visit the garden to enjoy your handiwork!

Build a hedgehog home

Hedgehogs are in decline, so a great way to help them is to make them a home in your garden. Hedgehogs don’t like a tidy garden so if there was ever an excuse to forego the weeding, this is it!

Our prickly friends hibernate between October and March, so the summertime is the perfect time to get building them a house they can shelter in during the colder months. The Wildlife Trusts have some really helpful guides to show you how to make a home for your spiky pals, and you really don’t need very much at all.

Grow your own dinner

Another fun thing to do with children over the summer is help them to grow their own produce from seed. Whether it’s lettuce, green beans, cucumber or tomatoes, your little ones will love watching as their plants get bigger and eventually end up on their plates. This is a great way to teach them about where their food comes from, too.

If you fancy going one step further, you could get the kids involved in making their own labels for their fruit and veg. Just get some old lolly sticks (usually plentiful at this time of year!) and get them to paint them in their favourite colours, before writing the names of the different seeds on.

Make a splash

Watering the garden in the summer can become a tad laborious, but that’s where little hands can come in handy. Give kids the role of being chief garden waterers, and each day you’ll have a bit of assistance. If they’re a tad small for the hosepipe (or you’re not sure you can trust them not to cause a minor flood) then perhaps get them their own watering cans that they can use to complete their special task.

Prepare a patio pond

Another way to attract wildlife to your garden and keep the kids entertained in the process, is to create your own patio pond. Don’t worry - you don’t need to dig any holes for this. All you need is a container with no drainage holes, some pond-friendly plants, and an oxygenating plant (such as arrowhead or eelgrass) which will help to keep the water clear. Place all of your plants in the pot, then top up with water and watch to see which wildlife pays you a visit over the summer!

Keep your container in a fairly shady spot if you can, as this will help both the plants and the wildlife.

Delegate decorating

If you're hosting a barbecue or summer party, then a good way to keep little hands busy (and out of the bowls of crisps) is to get them on decoration duty. Perhaps they can pick flowers to make table arrangements, create garlands from leaves, or make place names by finding stones and writing guests’ names on them.

Create a nature challenge

Why not create a bit of a friendly competition or a challenge during the summer holidays? Make a list of things to find in the garden - it could be bugs, plants, flowers or even different shapes of clouds. Then, challenge your children to find all of the items on the list over the course of the summer holidays. You could extend to things outside of your garden too, so that they keep the challenge going even while they’re out and about - if you’re heading on holiday, add things they might be able to see in nature in your chosen destination, or if you’re staying at home but planning day trips you could incorporate things like seaside items or creatures.

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…)