Barbecues, Dakota Murphey, How To, Make over

If you’ve renovated your home to maximise its value, don’t neglect your garden. Property experts claim that great outdoor space can add up to 20% to the price of your property. So, let’s take a look at the top 3 ways you can grow the value of your garden.

add value to your garden

1. Add a garden room

The humble garden shed is now more popular than ever. In fact, Cuprinol even run a Shed of the Year competition. However, contemporary sheds bear little resemblance to those of old. Today, the common garden shed has morphed into a much grander and useful garden room.

These extra rooms can be used for a multitude of purposes, such as:

  • Additional living space
  • Home office
  • Gym
  • Teenage den
  • Relaxation room
  • Studio or workshop

garden room

Making the most of any underused space makes sense, particularly if you are squeezed for room in the main house.

What’s more, there is a new breed of garden room, with something to suit all tastes. If the traditional design of the summerhouse is not for you, what about a log cabin, garden pod or minimalist contemporary box design, with plenty of glass.

Also gaining in popularity are shepherd’s huts. Back in the 19th century, these were placed in fields to allow shepherds to keep watch over their flock. Designed to allow the shepherd to live out in the fields for long lengths of time, they had kitchen, sleeping and storage facilities. The huts were built with hinged stable doors and strong cast iron wheels so they could be easily moved when necessary.

Built using traditional methods and placed in a modern garden, a shepherd’s hut is a romantic alternative to conventional garden rooms. They can look lovely placed close to fields or wooded landscapes.

2. Add an outdoor kitchen and entertaining area

Cooking is now one of our favourite pastimes. If you enjoy entertaining friends, an outdoor cooking and entertaining area can be a valuable addition to your home.

Where once there was the portable or, if you were lucky, built-in barbecue, today things have moved on apace. Outdoor kitchens can now include wood-fired pizza ovens, over-sized grills and granite worktops. The addition of plumbing and electrics allow you to add an outdoor sink, task lighting and electrical sockets, which all make conjuring up your culinary finest a real joy.

Once you’ve set up your outdoor dining and lounging furniture, an outdoor kitchen makes a great extension to your living space and a wonderful area to entertain friends.

If you love barbecuing, maybe a BBQ hut will appeal? This is a round wooden construction with a central smoke stack, chimney and grill. There is a removable table built around the grill and circular benches for sitting or sleeping on. Designed for nomadic herdsmen living in Arctic Lapland, they look great styled with faux fur hides, fairy lights and lanterns. They are the perfect place to cook and relax with friends, whatever the weather.

hot tub

3. Add a hot tub or swimming pool

Having a place to unwind and have fun in the garden can also be a valuable asset. The addition of a hot tub or, if you have the room, a swimming pool, can transform your life in a number of positive ways.

Hot tubs offer the benefits of both health and relaxation. A great antidote to stress and insomnia, a hot tub is a great way to upgrade your outside space. You will need a cover to keep out any debris and it’s a good idea to install it under roof protection. This will make it weatherproof and guard your privacy.

But the most luxurious addition to your garden has to be a swimming pool – it’s hard to name a more glamorous feature. A pool will increase the amount of quality time you spend with your family, provide a glorious location for exercise and be a great place for entertaining family and friends.

What’s more, a swimming pool can be quick and easy to install. With contemporary designs and materials, the number and quality of fast pool builders has increased, so you can be up and swimming in no time.

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.

Dakota Murphey, How To, Weeding

Every day when you come home from work you look up and notice the dark green patches of moss growing on your roof. It’s an eyesore and you’d like to get rid of it. You’re free this weekend and decide it’s the perfect odd-job for you to tackle. But before you rush into the garage, grab you ladder and shimmy up onto the roof, read on, as we’ve come up with some great tips to help you get rid of that moss safely and easily.

Tackling unsightly moss

What is this stuff we call moss?

Moss is a green, flowerless plant that has no true roots. It grows in low mounds or rounded cushions in shady, damp and wet habitats – it loves dark, cool, moist areas. Because it has no root system, it needs a damp environment to thrive. When leaves and grit are blown onto a roof and are lodged there for some time, they begin to decay and this provides the perfect ‘growing bed’ for spores of lichens, weeds and moss that are carried in the wind and blown onto them.

Should we clean moss off our roofs?

Some experts say that moss doesn’t cause a problem, but many others differ. ‘Moss only needs to be removed if it causes gutters, outlets, and other drainage points to be blocked, otherwise it can remain,’ say some. But others say that moss shouldn’t be allowed to grow and build up. Why? Because moss build-up could be one of the reasons for roof problems including raised tiles, leaks and damp.

As moss grows and thickens on your roof, it can cause lifting of the roof tiles, and when this occurs rain water can easily pass under them onto the roof timbers of your home and start to rot the wood. Water can also run down the interior walls of your house and cause serious damp and mould problems.

Raised roof tiles are also a danger in heavy winds – tiles can catch the wind like a sail, blow off the roof and cause serious injury to someone below. You’ll also be missing some tiles so there’ll be exposed areas on the roof, and you’ll need to replace these pretty quickly before it rains again. The more moss that grows and accumulates on your roof, the more debris that is trapped there. This invariably results in a build-up of water, and will leave your roof at risk of leakage and rotted timbers.

Roof moss

There are 3 factors that promote the growth of moss:

  • A cool or cold, moist climate combined with dark and/or shade.
  • An acidic environment where the pH level is between 5.0 and 5.5.
  • A hard surface like roof tiles – moss loves growing on these.

How to kill and prevent moss from growing on your roof?

There are a number of things you can do to prevent moss from growing on your roof. Here are some of the basic ones plus a few others you may not have heard of before but do the job very well.

  • Keep the roof out of the shade and in as much sunlight as possible. This may mean removing some tree branches, or even felling some trees.
  • At the crest of the roof ridges, fit some copper or zinc strips.
  • At varying intervals, string some copper wire across the roof, using screws or nails driven into timber on the sides of the roof (don’t drive them into the tiles as they could crack them and cause leaks).
  • Don’t let the dirt build up – keep the roof free of any leaves, dirt and debris.
  • Try to make the area extremely acidic (above a pH 7 level). There are roof spray products on the market you can use.
  • If you’re not exactly sure what to do, then hire a professional moss removal company to deal with the problem.

What shouldn’t I do to remove moss?

Finally, here are 3 key things you shouldn’t do to remove moss:

  1. Pressure washing your roof is not recommended as this can shorten the lifespan of your roof. The high-powered jet spray removes the asphalt tile granules which help protect your roof tiles. Also, if you spray at an upward angle, water will get in underneath the tiles, which can cause damp and wood-rot problems. Other gutter cleaning methods are advised however.
  2. Be circumspect when using acids to remove moss. If the acidic mixture is too strong, or it remains on the roof too long, it will eat away at the granules of your tiles. It’s a good idea to first test the solution on a few spare tiles before applying it to the entire roof.
  3. Don’t try to scrape moss off the roof, as this can result in cracked or broken tiles.

And finally, if you’d actually like to grow more moss in your garden you can read our tips on cultivating moss.

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.

Allotment, Dakota Murphey, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Planting

Growing your own food is not only the obvious answer to lowering food miles and a cheap way to produce tasty fruit and vegetables for your own kitchen, it’s also a growing (!) hobby for many people. In fact, having raised beds in your garden or taking on an allotment on the edge of town can be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.

Vegetable gardening
We’ve come up with 7 compelling benefit of growing your own – and no doubt you can probably add a few more of your own.

1. Improve your mental and physical health

According to the National Allotment Society (NAS), ½ hour’s allotment gardening burns around 150 calories. That’s about the same as low impact aerobics, but with the added benefits of fresh air and working with the land.

What’s more, a vegetable patch or allotment can be your haven, somewhere to escape to from the hassles of everyday life. Just spending a few hours pottering around in the garden is a great natural stress reliever.

2. Discover the community spirit

Whether you have an allotment or a few vegetable beds at home, you’re not alone! There’s a whole movement of people discovering the joys of Grow Your Own. Why not get to know your fellow gardeners, meet up at Seed and Plant Swaps, share your interests and trade handy tips and tricks – and make new friends.

Vegetable gardeners are a friendly folk, always willing to give advice to newcomers, which is invaluable for learning the ropes.

Vegetables from the garden

3. Learn something new

Learning about the different varieties of fruit and veg and how to grow them in your soil is a process that never ceases to be exciting. Read around the subject, share any problems with the rest of the gardening fraternity and ask the old guard for gardening advice, then use trial and error to see what you can achieve.

If you can involve your children or grandchildren and pass on your skills and enthusiasm for allotment gardening to them, so much the better. It’s a great way to help children understand where food comes from.

4. Reap bountiful rewards

There’s a huge sense of personal achievement in growing a fruit or vegetable from seed in your garden or allotment, knowing exactly where it’s come from, how it’s grown and what it’s been treated with.

But surely the real beauty of growing your own is that the fruits of your labour are tangible – and you can eat them! There can’t be many more directly rewarding activities than harvesting your home grown veg, then create and serve up delicious dishes in your kitchen.

Home growing

5. Wow your taste buds

It is a (sadly surprising) fact that most of us only come to realise how delicious fresh fruit and veg can taste when we compare our home grown produce with mass produced supermarket foods. Once you’ve tasted the difference, there’s no going back.

Harvested fresh from the ground, potatoes and carrots taste more earthy, tomatoes plucked straight from the vine have a richer flavour, while sweetcorn cooked straight after picking tastes incredibly sweet.

6. Save money

Not only are home grown fruit and veg much tastier than their shop bought equivalents, they’re better quality and cheaper too. With some careful planning and regular gardening exercise (which will make your gym membership redundant), you can feed the whole family with fresh produce for most of the year.

Also, rather than hunting down unusual ingredients in the supermarkets and pay through the nose for them, why not grow new and different varieties yourself? For the price of a packet of seeds (try Seed Parade), you can try delicious Japanese radishes or Chinese artichokes, Red Russian Kale or Purple French Beans or any of thousands of other fabulous varieties out there.

Home grown produce

7. Help the environment

According to the NAS, even 1 square metre of land is enough to support hundreds of different wildlife species. Your ‘grow your own’ efforts will help to create the right habitat for bees and other wildlife to thrive, without which our ecosystem will deteriorate, crop yields will decrease and our planet will suffer as a result.

If you have the space, why not incorporate a wildflower meadow into your garden, add a pond, a beehive or a chicken coop?

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.

Dakota Murphey, Garden Design, Gardening, Plants

It’s ironic that one of the most influential men in English gardening history was actually Irish. William Robinson was born in 1838, and studied horticulture at the National Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin near Dublin. As a teenager, he worked at a grand garden in Waterford, then on the estate of an Irish peer, before moving to London in his early twenties.

Gravetye Manor Hotel
Photo by Nigel Freeman

His job at Regent’s Park – looking after hardy plants and wildflowers – must have had a major influence on his gardening predisposition, and Robinson soon became a vociferous opponent of mixed herbaceous borders of hardy perennial plants and the strict, formalised Victorian gardens of planted-out bedding arrangements.

At 29, Robinson began working for the influential magazine, The Gardener’s Chronicle, and in 1871, he launched his own magazine, The Garden. He also started writing gardening books, of which The Wild Garden (1871) and The English Flower Garden were the most successful. First published in 1883, The English Flower Garden went on to become one of the world’s best-selling gardening books of all time.

William Robinson changed the face of English gardens, turning his back on the rigidity of flower garden design at a time which had, he noted, ‘thousands of plants set out in formal and geometrical array, the result, a bad carpet’. His ideas about growing hardy perennials in mixed borders to create a more natural look were radical at the time and were directly opposed to the Victorian practice of planting numerous annuals in large formal blocks. Robinson even criticised the Garden of Versailles, calling it ‘terrible’!

Robinson was most vocal against ‘pretend’ Italian and French gardens, standard roses, and other ‘tricks’ common in garden design at the time. He preferred, instead, to use close-packed plantings of perennials and groundcovers that expose no bare soil; alpine plants in rock gardens; and the liberal use of native plants and hardy perennials. These ‘wild’ plantings furthered Robinson’s ideas of a garden being one that blends into the larger landscape of the water’s edge, the meadow and the woodland.

In 1884, using income and royalties from the magazine and his books, together with money from some property deals, Robinson bought Gravetye Manor, an Elizabethan house and farmland near East Grinstead in West Sussex. This is where he lived until his death, planting, experimenting, writing and acquiring more land – eventually he owned more than 400 hectares.

Much of the estate had been managed as a coppiced woodland in which Robinson planted huge drifts of cyclamen, scilla and narcissus (in 1897 alone, he planted somewhere in the region of 100,000 narcissi). On the edges of the woods, and in cleared spaces, he oversaw plantings of lily, Japanese anemone, pampas grass and acanthus, together with hundreds of shrubs such as stewartia, nyssa, and fothergilla.

In flower beds closer to the main house, he planted red valerian, which he allowed to spread naturally around paving stones and staircases. Under the trees that surround the lake, he planted thousands of daffodils that in spring present a truly amazing sight.

William Robinson
Photo courtesy Gravetye Manor Hotel and Restaurant

In the first chapter of The English Flower Garden, Robinson compared gardening to art, and wrote: ‘The gardener must follow the true artist, however modestly, in his respect for things as they are, in delight in natural form and beauty of flower and tree, if we are to be free from barren geometry, and if our gardens are ever to be true pictures. And, as the artist’s work is to see for us and preserve in pictures some of the beauty of landscape, tree, or flower, so the gardeners’ should be to keep for us, as far as may be, the living things themselves.’

In 1899, Robinson extended the house, adding stone walls which were the perfect backing for perennial beds and a formal garden. A short distance below the house, he created a wildflower meadow and also planted hundreds of trees. Among these is a handkerchief tree (Davidia involucrata), which is one of the oldest and largest in Britain.

The extraordinary walled vegetable garden he created is oval-shaped, south-facing, and covers an area of nearly 1 hectare. Walled gardens are known to be substantially warmer than the ground outside and at Gravetye the difference is around 3-4 degrees Celsius.

Unfortunately, when Robinson died in 1935 at the extraordinary age of 96, the gardens were neglected until the 1950s, when Gravetye Manor was opened as a hotel by Peter Herbert, who worked on renovating the garden until his retirement in 2004.

The new head gardener, Tom Coward, is following in Robinson’s footsteps, ensuring colour and ‘wildness’ in the formal and informal flower beds from late March until the end of October, and overseeing some much-needed restoration projects.

Garden enthusiast, Dakota Murphey, wrote this article. Working alongside one of the UK’s leading garden designers, Andy Sturgeon.

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