Protecting Patio Furniture and Garden Equipment Over Winter – Stop Rain, Wind & Snow Damage

As we know in the UK, rain is a regular occurrence. It can damage gardens, houses and of course soak through and cause problems with outside furniture. Patio tables and chairs are often constructed from wood, metal and similar materials and must not be left out in harsh weather; furniture can easily rust, be damaged by the wind and become brittle and weak.

Covering Furniture Outdoors

The easiest way is to store all your furniture together; find an area that is most protected from the weather in your garden. Stack the items neatly and make sure everything is secure. You may wish to tie the items together to keep them stable and stop any loose items from blowing away. You will need to purchase a strong tarpaulin (if you don’t already have one); ideally it will be at least 200gsm. Make sure the sheet you buy has eyelets around the outside and is UV stabilised. Cover your furniture completely and use a length of bungee to tie the tarpaulin around the bottom. Loop the cord through the eyelets and tie up to keep it tight and secure at the bottom. Make sure there is a substantial run-off for water and your items should be protected all winter through rain, wind or snow!

How To Create A Temporary Window – Using Heavy Duty Plastic – Home-made Double Glazing

At this time of year in the UK it seems to be rain, rain and more rain. You may have some building work or have some repairs to do that mean you will need temporary windows or perhaps you want to make your house more insulated and eco-friendly with makeshift-double glazing. There are many options that you can use, but I am going to concentrate on the easiest and quite possibly the cheapest.

Covering an open window frame with clear polythene is a very simple way of keeping the weather out and heat in . Here are some simple steps and tips to help you –

  • When purchasing the plastic polythene make sure that it is heavy duty (at least 250mu), UV stabilised and also waterproof; here is an example.
  • You need to cut the polythene a couple of inches over the size of the frame you want to cover (on all sides).
  • Put the plastic either side of the window (preferably on the inside) and tape it into the place. As mentioned it should extend past the frame.
  • You can use a number of fixing methods but it is usually accepted that it is nailed into place (as in the diagram below)
  • Then tape over the nailed edges with specialist tape to seal the temporary window.

Plastic temporary window


When you have finished with the plastic you can peel off the tape and then extract the nails. The polythene should be fit for use again if it is not damaged

Recovering Your Allotment From Floods; What To Do

AllotmentsIt’s no secret that Britain has seen a lot of rain recently. In fact some parts of the UK have just experienced their wettest January since records began, and allotments nationwide are waterlogged or completely submerged. It’s almost a blessing in disguise that the wet weather occurred when it did. Very few gardeners have crops in the ground at this time of year, and most are simply maintaining and preparing for the rapidly approaching growing season. So firstly let’s all count our blessings. The summer floods in 2012 hit at the height of the growing season, causing incredibly severe damage and financial loss for many gardeners.

Firstly if your allotment was flooded and you had edible crops in the ground close to harvest, then dispose of them immediately. A great deal of flood water would have contained sewage and the possibility of contamination, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Fruit and vegetables that are eaten raw should be avoided for at least 6 months. This will give the plant enough time to recover and for any contaminants to break down naturally. Root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips, and edible fruit from trees above the flood water should be safe to eat in just a few weeks, but make sure you boil any root vegetables thoroughly before consumption. Any plants that are left should be covered with garden fleece as they will quickly perish in waterlogged soil during the last remaining frosts. The frost fleece will create a microclimate underneath which will raise the ground temperature enough to allow your plants and their roots to survive.

Any debris that’s been left on your plot now that the waters have receded must be cleared away, either with your household rubbish or through a waste disposal site run by your local council. Then dig everything over, and leave it to dry out. Planting anything at this stage will likely be a waste of time as seeds will tend to rot before they have a chance to germinate, and the torrential rain will have flushed away any nutrients in the soil leaving it relatively infertile. With intermittent rain forecast for the next few weeks this may take some time, so sow seeds in trays at home until the soil is dry enough to be worked. If you’re short on space, then you may have to buy juvenile plants from garden centres in mid spring ready for planting. Once the soil has dried out sufficiently it’s worth digging in some fertiliser and mulch. However avoid doing this early as you risk polluting water courses.

It’s highly unlikely that any allotments will experience lasting flood damage, and most will be ready to plant in just a few days once the risk of flooding has passed. Most of the work to be done now is preventative, and work to protect your plot should we experience any more prolonged periods of severe weather. Before you start planting for this years growing season, invest in a good quality mulch fabric. Many gardeners use polythene for weed control which works well, but if you’re in an area prone to flooding you could prevent excess rain water from draining away by using a waterproof plastic sheet. Landscape fabric will prolong the life of your mulch, whilst efficiently preventing any unwanted vegetation. This type of garden ground cover is ideal for raised beds, however if you plant in rows then a heavier duty 100gsm fabric will be far more convenient as it will be able to withstand the stress of people walking between plants.

Luckily the best way of promoting good drainage is the reason you have an allotment in the first place. Plants are very effective at removing and using excess rain water, in fact an average baking potato needs 10” of water over its entire surface area to promote a healthy crop. So it’s important to make sure your plants stay healthy with regular maintenance and pest control. Remove any dead leaves and debris once a week at least, and make sure you invest in a good quality pesticide. Just make sure it’s safe to use on edible crops. I’d also recommend a close weave insect netting to prevent damage from flying insects. A mesh size of around 0.5mm will form an effective barrier against aphids and root flies, whilst also preventing intrusion from larger animals like birds and rabbits. You’ll find that most polyethylene netting is light enough to lie directly on most plants, or you could use a crop cage. It’s also worth burying the edge to ensure you have formed an impenetrable barrier.

Plants aside it’s just as important to protect equipment, pesticides and fertilizers from excessive rain. If you have a shed on your plot, then ensure it’s watertight with the aid of a heavy duty tarpaulin if necessary. If your shed has an electricity supply then make sure it’s turned off before periods of heavy rain, and have it extensively checked by a qualified electrician before switching it back on.

How To Cover Your Newly Built Log Store

Log StoreWith the rise in Log Burners, many homes will have a place to store logs; a lot of these structures are similar to the picture on the left (open and without a roof). With the amount of rain that we get in the UK it is often hard to keep things dry without sacrificing the aesthetics of a structure. Builder’s sheets and polythene are often used to cover them and usually come in green, blue and bright colours and do not match the nice wood of the store.  There is, however, a solution – Canvas.

Canvas usually comes in light beige or a tan shade that looks great when covering wood; it is breathable meaning that it helps to keep condensation away from the wood . The waxed sheets will help to keep of water and the stitched design looks very classic.

The main issue you may face with a tarp is how to keep it all secure; this is easier than you think. You can firstly buy a length of bungee and create a loop around the bottom of the store, through the eyelets of the tarpaulin; pulled tight this will make sure that it is secured. Alternatively if the sheet is long enough you will be able to peg it to the ground, this will give extra protection against wind. There are a number of other ways you can attach your cover, nailing, shock cords and rope; people tend to be very creative with how they cover it.

Battling The Elements; Creating Areas To Enjoy Your Garden In All Sorts Of Weather.

Creating an area for outside eating and entertainment is a wonderful idea! Decked, paved and gravel areas are great for outside eating, parties, entertainment and for relaxation. As with the English weather as it is, it is tough to rely on when planning an outside gathering.  More and more people are building structures, awnings, gazebos and frames to maximise the time that can have in the garden. There are many ways to shield from windy conditions, intense heat (even though it doesn’t happen very often) and of course rain.  In this article I will make some suggestions as to how you may combat the problems caused by the sky.

Wind; a real problem if you are having a BBQ, reading a book and doing work in the garden. Papers can fly about, food can blow about and your hair goes everywhere!  There is a very easy solution – windbreak netting.  Make sure that you get a heavy duty net, one that will last a number of seasons, cheap stuff can rip and break easily in stronger gusts. A good quality product will be knotted for extra strength and will have eyelets to help secure it. The netting can be attached to poles (wood or metal), frames and many other surfaces. The good thing is that you can see through most brands, so you are not putting a great view at risk. Below are some pictures to show how it may be used.

Shade netting above seating area.

Outside garden area

You can kill two birds with one stone; by using a tarpaulin you can create protection from sun and rain. You can either create or buy a frame to sit over areas of your back yard or you can attach it to existing buildings or structures. I would personally recommend a heavy duty tarpaulin that is black on one side and silver on the other, the reason is as follows. With this silver side up it will deflect the sun and keep the area you are using cooler, the black looks great at the top of a structure – very roof-like. Having put one up you have also created an area that is protected from rain, just please make sure that you create a run-off so water doesn’t pool. Do not hang by the eyelets, tarps are often not strong enough and need support.

For other ideas and tips please comment below. People would love to hear what you’ve done!

Keeping Birds Off and Away From Your Balcony

Many people in apartments and flats enjoy their balcony, whether it be for al fresco dining, growing plants, a seating area and more. The last thing that you want is debris and droppings caused by birds spoiling all of your hard work. Pigeons, amongst other birds, are the most common threat to the cleanliness of your balcony and therefore a solution is almost necessary if you want an area to grow plants or have your lunch.

The most humane and economical method of prevention is netting; some forms are almost undetectable when looking out at the vista, yet strong enough to keep out a range of creatures. You can the preventative measures against destruction to your property, without allowing the aesthetics to be compromised. You will need a decent quality net and a mesh size suitable to you needs; the smaller the size of the animals you want to keep out, the smaller the size of the hole (standard is around 10mm x 10mm for keeping out most birds)

You will mostly find that net comes in either extruded or knotted/knitted. The extruded netting is usually of polyethylene construction and is the weaker of the two. It is still expected to last a number of seasons if treated correctly, but will deteriorate more quickly than some other forms of netting. The knotted style is stronger because it is built with multiple strands, creating a weave that increases the tensile strength

In terms of installation you have a range of options; most of them can be altered depending on the size, shape and contours of your balcony. The first is to build or adapt a frame; starting from scratch you can use timber or perhaps steel poles to create a structure that fits on top of your balcony. There are also items such as crop cages and garden frames which you may be able to change in order to fit your needs. With steel frames the poles will fit through the mesh holes to secure it; for wood you can staple, cable tie or nail it on.
You can also attach the netting to the building itself. I will include some pictures of this below:


Bird netting on balcony

Flood recovery: My Experience

Here in the UK flooding has been a major issue as of late, causing destruction, forcing people from their homes and cutting off power. We don’t need to be reminded of the problems that it causes, but now need to be vigilant in regards to prevention.

Flood Warning SignRecently, due to heavy rain and a blocked drain, I experienced some damage to my property. It destroyed a lot of plants, ruined my shed and came right up to the doorstep, almost breaching the front door and entering the house. Luckily it never actually came in, but that didn’t stop it doing significant damage. Floors had to be ripped up, the whole downstairs needed to be repainted and still further work needs to be done. All of our floorboards had bowed and warped to a huge extent, they looked like a mountain range! The water had got into, and was sitting, in the foundations, and like a sponge it was moving up from below, causing damage from underneath. If I am honest the water company were fairly poor in their service, they even visited before the damage was done, looked at the water level (in the end 22,000 gallons of was pumped out from around the house) and were concerned, but ended up leaving without helping. I have to admit the whole thing was very unnerving, as victims of this sort of thing will know. All the work has been carried out now and the house is back to normal, but we had quite a scare.

I think the moral of this is that, in these sorts of situations, it is hard to rely on help from others and if preventative measures can be taken beforehand then it can do a great deal. The first thing to do is to make sure your house has sufficient protection from moisture. If it is a newer house then is should be fine, fitted with DPC, DPM and the correct insulation and materials. Older residencies will probably not have the amount of protection, if in a frequently effected area it would be wise to check your house meets standard regulations and improve if necessary.

You are able to buy portable water pumps, obviously they are limited in their use, but it would have been very useful in my situation; they seem fairly easy to use and in areas where light precipitation can build up it should be able to pump it away easily.

Flood BarrierThere are many great little pieces of equipment that you may not be aware of that aid defence of your property. Door barriers form a great first line of defence, initially stopping anything coming through doorways; unfortunately these only work up to a certain level tough. You can find very inexpensive ones on eBay or Amazon but make sure you read the reviews, you need to make sure you are buying the right one. This is the same with air brick covers and anti-flood designs.

An old favourite seems to be sandbags as they are inexpensive, easy to use and don’t have to attach to your house. If used properly they do really keep out the water; I used them during my difficulties and once placed, they protected my doorstep. Storage for these is really easy, just pop them in your shed or garage in case of an emergency.

In my case the entire garden was filled with debris after the event. As I said luckily it did not get into the house, but it did into the shed and garage, causing some damage. It is always worth contacting your local council services or utility provider to find out whether it is safe for you to have the power on as it could be dangerous. Everything that has been affected needs to be cleaned, floors, doors and paths etc…  Our local water company took over the clear-up because there had been some sewage on our property. They wore related masks and proper gear and a lot of disinfectant was used. Here is some more information on that kind of thing if you are attempting it yourself.

Everything that needed to be done to the property went through my insurance provider as it would have been quicker than going through the local authorities. Obviously it is different each time, but I was given advice to do that and everything was back to normal in about three months. Even after a small incident things take time, this was something I was very surprised about. The drying process was obviously the longest; dehumidifiers ran constantly for around a month after the floor had been ripped up. People were always coming in and out of the house, taking readings, to measure up, replace items etc… this is normal though. I kept a diary of what was happening and what was replaced, this helped me when dealing directly with the insurance company. I think, because it was largely the water company’s fault, they were more helpful than usual.

In a lot of cases you will have to move out for a few days for repair and building work. Make sure you get full compensation for this, sometimes it can be a real hassle with multiple family members living in the house, each with different needs.

There have not been many further problems that have resulted from this, mostly a spot of mildew here and there and a bit of warping, so I cannot comment on most of the after effects you may find.

Please leave comments and I will try to answer any further questions people may have.

How To Clear And Protect Your Home From Damp & Mould

British weather has always been a bit of a joke. In fact the average British house has to deal with around 113,000 litres of rainwater every Mould on a wallyear. Most is channelled harmlessly away from your property by gutters and drains, but occasionally something can go wrong and rain water could cause a problem. Broken gutters, poorly designed decking and patios, and poor ventilation can all lead to a potentially serious damp problem. And once inside the structure of the property moisture can dissolve plaster and paint, rot wooden frames, and cause mould on interior surfaces. This can have disastrous consequences for your homes structural integrity, not to mention the health problems that can arise as a result of damp. Mould on interior surfaces (right) release spores inside your home which can cause respiratory problems and infections.

You may think that as housing has improved the problem of damp won’t be as bad as it used to be, but in fact the opposite is true and  more measures need to be taken to adequately prevent it. In the late 19th and early 20th century houses were naturally draughty, and the continuous airflow prevented the build-up of mould. Nowadays modern paints and building materials, and an aversion to draughts have led to poorly ventilated rooms. I recently moved into a fairly modern home and began to see the signs of damp developing. It was only on much closer inspection that I saw that the previous tenant had painted over the vents in each room. Once I had unblocked the vents the damp cleared and the property even felt slightly warmer as a result. So the first tip I can give you is don’t be afraid of opening a window slightly even in the winter.

Dealing with interior symptoms of mould is all about achieving a fine balance between insulation and ventilation. Is your property adequately insulated? Almost all properties with a loft space should have loft insulation, and newer properties should have cavity wall insulation. There are all sorts of government subsidies in the UK to make insulating your property affordable, and you should notice a substantial drop in your energy bills as an extra advantage. The extra warmth in your home will help to turn any excess moisture into steam which can then be removed easily by ventilation. In terms of exterior causes of mould, you should regularly check the outside of your property. Make sure your gutters are intact, free from moisture, and at the correct angle to allow water to drain away. Dripping or overflowing gutters can direct rain water onto the exterior walls of your home, which can then penetrate through to affect the structure. If there are any cracks in walls, missing roof tiles, or signs of damp then make sure you get it fixed as soon as possible. Once moisture finds its way into your walls and flooring you might not notice the problem until irreparable damage is done.

More recently, builders have begun to use damp proof layers in the initial stages of a buildings construction. Most new builds will have a damp proof membrane  (see right) and a damp proof course. A DPM is placed under the floor between the substrate and a layer of protective sand, and a DPC in the Plastic Sheet (DPM)walls. The DPM is usually a polythene layer and aims to prevent moisture rising from under the building and affecting the flooring. Although you’re probably not considering building a house any time soon, you may consider building a garage or outhouse, in which you may choose to put a layer of protective DPM. There are 2 industry standard units used to measure the thickness of polythene, gauge and microns (Mu). The higher the gauge or microns, the thicker the polythene is and the more durable and strong it should be. For a Damp Proof Membrane I’d recommend using polythene that’s at least 1000 gauge or 250Mu. Any less and you risk puncturing it during the construction stages, rendering it useless. Make sure you purchase a product that’s labelled as a damp proof membrane or one that clearly states that it’s waterproof, and purchase from a reputable supplier.

The damp proof membrane should be completely sealed to the DPC in the walls to ensure its effectiveness, and this is perhaps the most crucial stage of the process. Unless you have prior experience in damp proofing, I’d recommend using a trained professional to undertake this task. It’s a tricky time consuming job that involves specialist equipment, and the slightest mistake could have disastrous consequences once construction is completed. If you insist on undertaking the work yourself, don’t be afraid of consulting a professional beforehand. Most are more than happy to offer a few friendly words of advice.