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!

Windbreak: Creating Home-made Wind Protection.

Windbreak; Home-made

Windbreak constructedPeople purchase windbreaks for reasons such as protecting plants, patios and social areas, use at the beach and to create a better habitat for animals and pets. Pre-built ones can be expensive, flawed, cumbersome and poorly constructed. A great way to make sure you have the protection you want is to create it yourself. Windbreaks are easy to fashion from just a few simple things. I hope to help you with building one and give some advice on materials.

Shade netting rollIn regards to the right materials I recommend the use of windbreak netting and wooden poles. You can, of course, use metal poles and sheeting created from things such as PVC or polyethylene. The problem I have with solid plastic based sheets is that with strong gusts it can get damaged easily and blow over. The mesh in windbreak netting allows a small amount of air to pass through, leaving it a lot sturdier, longer lasting and not so battered in heavy weather.

Building your windbreaker

  • Windbreak netting comes in many widths and sizes, so depending on the area you need to protect you can select the correct size. The same goes with the poles; pick the height of the poles depending on the height of the net. I recommend a diameter of around 10cm if you wish the construction to be static and smaller poles of you want it to be portable and moveable.
  • The mesh will have eyelets either side, running down the length. Use those eyelets to create a preliminary mock-up  by tying the netting to the poles; 1m apart is a good distance but depending on the weather it is going to face you may want to move them closer. Please see diagram below.
  • Once you have everything in the correct position you can either staple the net or cable tie it to the poles to increase security.
  • You can use pegs and guy ropes to help secure your structure in a static position (in the same manner as a tent).
  • Windbreak netting also doubles up as shade protection as well, so you will be able to use it for that purpose also.

 

Windbreak; Home-madeProducts available from http://www.qvsshop.co.uk

 

 

Ground warming Using Polythene / Plastic – Methods and Preparation for Your Vegetable Plot, Allotment & Garden

Plants on an allotment.

Allotment PreparationWinters in the UK can be bitterly cold and do a lot of damage to your allotment or garden. There are ways to protect your plants through the cold months that include frost fleece, greenhouses and mulching. However today we will be concentrating on the preparation of soil for planting a new crop of vegetables or plants. As the winter turns into spring you will want to plant as early as possible to make the most of your garden; one way to speed this up is to make sure the ground is at its best quality to receive seeds.

You will want to commence the warming process in the late weeks of winter/early weeks of spring. The idea is to heat the ground, which coincidentally is very good at retaining warmth, so you are able to get your crop off to an early start. Polythene sheeting is the most effective product for the job; gardeners often use clear or black. Clear poly placed over soil allows the sun’s rays to pass through and trap the heat that they cause, not dissimilar to a greenhouse. Black can be used because it absorbs the most light and therefore becomes hot. Both types of plastic are suitable and have been proven to be effective.

Polythene for ground warmingYou will need to cover the entire area of soil in polythene, making sure any heat cannot escape. When purchasing I recommend plastic that is at least .25mm thick (250mu/1000g) as it will hold in more heat and is strong enough to give a good resistance against ripping. Pegging the plastic down with groundsheet pegs or any other steel pegs and burying the edges, covering them in earth, will certainly do the trick; however gardeners do often use bricks or large stones as an economical alternative. Leave for a few weeks and it will help prevent the ground from freezing and increase the temperature ready for the spring.

Once you believe the ground is ready to plant in then you can remove the poly and hoe the earth. I recommend removing any signs of weeds or growth to give your crop the best chance. You can of course apply weed control or mulch at this stage before planting to reduce the amount of future maintenance. Do not use polythene as weed suppressant, I does not allow drainage and causes water to pool in your garden causing all sorts of trouble. Many gardeners are different and many ground treatments are used to nourish the soil; depending on your crop you may wish to look at options.

Smart Ways to Properly Maintain Your Lawn

Article by Maya Pugh

 

The importance of having a lush and healthy lawn cannot be overstated.

After all, a neatly trimmed and well tended one can provide lifestyle, economic and even environmental benefits that are hard to miss.

However, creating the lawn of your dreams can be daunting sans basic upkeep know-how.

Get your maintenance off to a good start by keeping the following essentials in mind.

Mowing

  • Unknown to many, cutting encourages healthy grass growth. As such, it is deemed ideal to mow the frequently, especially during the growing season.
  • In addition, it is advisable to complement the setup with above the ground culm as this makes the abundant distribution of the nutrients to possible.
  • Moreover, cutting encourages more photosynthesis to take place because it absorbs more sunlight which makes the grass thicker. Suffice it to say, a heavier lawn will work to your advantage as it dramatically helps in minimising the presence of weeds.
  • While cutting is considered advisable, it is important not to go overboard as doing so will prove counterproductive. Cutting shorter than what is deemed advisable has been credited as the main culprit for bald areas and dry lawns.
  • As a general rule of thumb, the ideal length during the cold season is 3 inches while 2-2.5 inches is considered perfect during the warm months.

 

Watering

  • In a nutshell, the secret to good watering is doing it heavily only when the need calls for it.
  • In essence, what is necessary is a heavy pour that’s good enough to go down deep in the soil and encourage the roots to grow.
  • When the grass turns bluish grey, consider it a foolproof evidence it badly needs watering.
  • During the hot season however, it is crucial to keep your things in check. In line with this, it is advisable to do the watering in the mornings as it will help cool down the grass once the temperature rises.

Fertilising

  • To keep everything in superb shape, adding fertilisers is a must. Consider it the much needed ‘health booster’ of sorts.
  • If you are going to use commercial fertilisers, you have to decide if you prefer the regular water-soluble spray fertiliser, or the slow-acting granular kind. You can expect immediate results from the former, while it will take longer for the latter to manifest the results you desire.
  • As an additional tip, it is advisable to apply only minimal doses in mid spring and early fall to give time for the soil microorganisms to break down the nutrients and distribute it accordingly.

Proper maintenance can be challenging, but it’s not rocket science either. Arm yourself with the basic know-how and the right nursery supplies and you will be enjoying the lawn of your dreams in no time.

 

 

 

How to Clear a Large Overgrown Area; Weeds, Treestumps, Common Pests.

Overgrown AreaAllotments, fields and gardens can easily become overrun with weeds, trees, grass and much more. Clearing these pieces of land can be tricky and without a guide to the steps required, it can seem like an endless job. Here are a few methods and guidelines to show how to go about getting rid of various pests.

Tree StumpTree Stumps – These can be a real nuisance; taking up space, they can restrict you from planting in certain areas and are in danger of becoming diseased. You will need a liquid tree stump killer – there are plenty on the market, some stronger than others. Apply it to the freshly cut top surface and follow the instructions on the packet. This is best used over the winter period. Cover the stump after application to protect it from rain and bad weather and leave it to work.

Strimmer In UseBrambles, Hedges and Other Wooded Weeds – You have two options with these. The first is to scythe or use a strimmer to clear the bulk of them and then apply a heavy duty weedkiller to what is left (often the tree stump killers will double up as a heavy duty weed killer). Remember to apply to freshly cut surfaces for it to be most effective. The second option is to strim the area and then pull up the roots by hand. You will probably end up using a combination of all these methods.

Large Areas of Grass and Perennials – If you are short on time then the easiest method is to start by mowing or strimming the area in question; clear as much as you can by hand. You then have two options, the first is to apply a liquid weedkiller to the area (two or more applications may be necessary), or you can cover the area in a geotextile membrane. The membrane will block out all light, killing everything underneath. Please make sure the geotextile you lay down allows water to pass through, this will keep the soil rich underneath and also help to prevent any flooding. The benefit of the fabric is that you can leave it down and plant, lay turf or have gravel on top.

Final Steps – To make sure the job is completed properly, after the all the previous steps have been taken, turn the ground over and enrich it with some compost. This will give you a blank canvas to work with and mean that you can replenish the soil with anything it needs. Before planting check that you have the right crops or flowers for your soil type.

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!

How To Create Weed Free Borders With The Help Of A Membrane

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Although we all enjoy a spot of gardening once in a while, no one can be under any illusion that weeding flowerbeds is a boring and laborious task. We all dream of a beautiful, easy to maintain garden that we can simply enjoy, rather than slave over for hours on our hard earned weekends. It is very possible that the secret to this is not maintenance, but preparation. It’s very easy to buy a huge bottle of weed killer and declare war on those perennials, but easier to prevent their growth from square one.

Although this technique can be adapted for any area of your garden, let’s look at creating borders in particular. The first step is removal of any existing unwanted vegetation. There are many ways you can do this. The easiest method may seem a weedkiller, and to some extent it is. However results from most common garden weedkillers may take several weeks to appear. So if you’re on a tight schedule, then manual removal of the weeds is the best option.

The next step is the most crucial in ensuring your garden is as low maintenance as possible. Purchase a good quality weed control membrane. If it’s simply for a border or flowerbed, then a mulch landscape fabric will suffice. However, a heavier duty fabric can be used for other areas (under turf, pathways etc). Landscape fabric is a ‘spun-bonded’ membrane that prevents sunlight from reaching weeds, whilst still allowing water and nutrients to filter through to keep the soil fertile. Normally black or grey in colour, it may not be the most aesthetically pleasing sight. So you may choose to cover it with a layer of mulch, gravel, or bark chippings. This has the extra benefit of improving its weed controlling capabilities.

Ensure the landscape weed fabric is situated across the full area of the border, and securely fastened with fixing pegs appropriate for the ground conditions. In order to place your desired plants in the border, simply cut a small cross in the relevant position on the garden ground cover, and plant away. You may wish to secure the fabric around the planting site with more ground pegs.

The rest of the process is entirely up to you! A great tip is to try and factor in some evergreen vegetation to keep your border looking colourful all year round, and ensure that any ‘aggressive’ plants are kept trim all year round to allow all of your flowers to flourish. Don’t forget to invest in good quality slug and bug repellents so no pesky critters use your flowerbed as a restaurant.

Keeping the veg warm!

As a keen gardener in my spare time, I have had serious problems over the last few winters with there being a lot of snow and colder weather here in the UK. This can also apply to cold weather all over the globe but this is really specific to the problems I have personally faced.

I like to keep my garden as healthy as possible, I don’t have one of those wild gardens, it is all about keeping things neat for me. I tend to keep potted plants and also have a small vegetable patch (probably about 5m x 3m). My plants particularly have been feeling the effects of the previous couple of winters.

OK, so I got some frost fleecing from our shop for plants and had no idea how to use it, no instructions at all, I later found out that this was the case with all fleece. I went online and started searching to see what I could find and got some pretty decent tips so I thought I would share in an article.

Firstly I’ll start with the vegetable patch. Being a bit of a ‘handy man’ I knocked together a frame from some timber I had lying around (roughly 5m x 3m x 50cm). I then stapled the fleece to the frame using a normal stapler I had in the house, it is not particularly windy down my neck of the woods so I guess something very strong, nails perhaps, should be used for tougher climates. The result of the frame just meant that my little vegetables were a bit warmer and held in some of the heat from the brief sunny moments. Some days I used apparatus to warm under the frame, but I found that the fleece does a fairly decent job of keeping the frost from the veg.

On to plotted plants. This one is simple. I followed the instructions of the blog that I found. I first wrapped fleece around the pots a couple of times to keep them warmer. I am not sure whether it was totally effective but I think it helped keep frost off the pots and kept them a little bit warmer. For plants I thought might be fragile I used these small green sticks that I found at my local garden centre and created sort of fleece tent over the plants.

Over this recent winter I had a lot fewer plants die! When it came to the spring I did not re-plant nearly as much as I had done the previous few years. I hope this information may be able to help some other people, even just one or two. We have to help other green fingered friends as much as possible!