Dakota Murphey, Decoration, Garden Design, Make over

ways to use your log cabin

Many people look at log cabins and think that they look fantastic, but can’t see much use for them other than as a summerhouse. And while a summerhouse can be fun, if you don’t think you would get much use out of it then you might come to the conclusion that you have got no use for a log cabin. But the truth is that there is a huge variety of ways to use your log cabin – both for work and play. Here are six of the most popular uses for garden log cabins and some tips for getting the most out of them.

Home office

If you often work from home it’s easy to be plagued by distractions including children and pets. And while it can be very enjoyable to work in your own home, it can sometimes be a real drain on productivity that stops you from getting things done. So having a home office that is located away from the main part of the house can give you that space for quiet so that you can get on with your work effectively and efficiently. It can also be the perfect place to take conference calls and Skype meetings so that you can avoid any interruptions.

Spare room

If you often have people over to stay (or you would like to), it can be a brilliant idea to set up your log cabin as a spare room in the garden. Rather than having to change up your home or build an extension to accommodate a new room, this can be a far easier solution. Log cabins can be made extremely comfortable and cosy – a lovely place for friends and family to stay.

spare room
Companies like Hortons Group offer log cabins in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, so you can choose something that suits your garden and can be turned into an ideal spare room. It could also be used as a temporary solution if you’ve got a teenager who has outgrown their room.

DIY workshop

If you are often carrying out DIY or any kind of hobby that involves a workbench, your log cabin can serve as a workshop. As well as functioning as storage space for tools and equipment, you can buy cabins with large windows that allow in lots of natural light. It can also be kept locked so that children are kept away from dangerous power tools and other equipment that they could hurt themselves on.

Kid’s playroom

Give your children a great place to play with a playroom in the log cabin. It can be a storage place for bike, skateboards and sports equipment, plus they can have the space to have friends over and play games. As they get older and no longer have use for a playroom, the cabin can evolve into a games room (or man cave) with anything from a pool table to gadgets and games consoles. Alternatively you could choose to turn it into any of the other great options on this list.

home gym

Gym

Do you ever get tired of having to make the journey out to your gym any time that you want to work out? It’s a dream for many people to have a home gym but it requires a lot of space that you might not have in the house. A log cabin can be the perfect space for your workout room. The amount you save on gym membership and travel costs can offset the actual price of the cabin and the equipment, and it gives you the chance to simply wake up in the morning and walk to the cabin for your workout.

Beauty salon

Whether you’re developing your skills as a beautician, or you just want a personal and private space to carry out treatments at home, a log cabin works very well as a beauty salon. As well as providing privacy, the cabin can be completely customised to your taste. It could even be the ideal location for you to start up your own beauty business.

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.

Garden Design, Gardening, Jorge, Plants, Watering

Reducing water use in the garden is a no brainer as it saves both the environment and money, leading to lower energy bills. Surprisingly, for a country with supposedly so much rain, the UK’s water supply is under severe stress due to excess demand that has taken its toll on our rivers. This year, there are fears the UK could be heading for a summer drought with rainfall in April 50% below average.  To solve this problem we need to improve water efficiency and doing so in the garden can be extremely enjoyable as it requires nous and experimentation.

Create a water thrifty garden

I recently visited the Cambridge University Botanical Garden, and saw a section comprised of plants that require no watering. The accompanying material described the fascinating ways plants have adapted to arid environments, such as how species of cacti reduced their leaves to spines and adopted spherical forms as to lower their volume to surface ratio, decreasing water loss.

Scientists have identified four strategies such plants use for coping with drought: escaping, evading, enduring and resisting that is described in detail here. Put succinctly, the first two strategies involve restricting growth and reproductive activities to the wet seasons, while the latter two involve reducing transpiration and growth (often through restricting photosynthesis) as to subsist in the heat.

Various morphological and physiological adaptation have allowed cacti to be extremely frugal in their usage of water.

Your own water thrifty garden (or section of the garden) doesn’t have to be made of just succulents or cacti, but can include many familiar plants, and even crops, creating a garden rich with colour and form, but with less maintenance. There are lists of drought resistant plants online and there is great guide to designing a stunning water wise gardens that can be found here.  

Creating such a garden will involve a some trial and error, but there some general practices that can be followed:

  • Permeable paving is a must as it allows water to percolate into the soil below, feeding your plants’ roots. With non-porous materials water will sit on top and evaporate.
  • Divide your garden into hydrozones with plants with similar water needs together. This will allow you to water more efficiently.
  • By using less fertiliser, your plants will grow slower and use less water.
  • Water less, but thoroughly, watering the entire root system. You can gauge how well the water is penetrating through pushing a pipe into the soil (it will move more easily through wet soil).
  • Sometimes it can be difficult to gauge when to water. This can be ascertained by digging into soil. If the soil below the topsoil is moist, there may be no need to water. If it is dry, it’s time to water. It is important to factor in certain soils such as sandy that will feel more dry and clay that will feel more damp. Although, the ultimate measure is your plant’s leaves: darkening or drooping may indicate water stress.
  • Gauge your soil type. Some soils (clay) are better at holding moisture, and can be watered less frequently (but with more water), while others will need frequent watering (sandy soils).
  • Water in the morning and evening when less water will be lost to evaporation.
  • Dig channels, basins, or funnels to avoid run off.
  • Mulching, either with organic or inorganic materials (gravel) will help maintain soil moisture and protect soil life from the sun’s rays.
  • Forgo turf. A perfect lawn is difficult to maintain and will require constant watering in the summer months.
  • Funnel rainwater from your roofs to waterbutts. A simple modification to your guttering will provide much needed water in times of drought.
  • Much of the water your household uses is good to reuse in the garden. Greywater recycling has the additional advantage of reducing the water sent back to water companies, which sometimes ends up in rivers, destroying the ecosystem.
By far the best way to reduce water use, this simple modification to your drainpipe will provide thousands of litres of water year on year.

Hügelkultur beds

Hügelkulturs are raised beds constructed from rotten logs overlaid with organic matter and soil. They aren’t enclosed and therefore slope; henceforth the name: hill/mound (hügel) culture (kultur). Hügelkulturs can significantly reduce water use as the decaying wood acts as a sponge, soaking up rainwater that it slowly releases back into the soil. The beds are so effective that after the first year, there will be no need to water your crops for many years, provided the bed is of a certain size.

Constructing a hügelkultur is relatively simple, but they have to be of a certain height (between two to six feet). The height is important as it determines how effective it will be at holding water. In general, a six foot bed will require no watering after the first year, while a two foot one will hold moisture for three weeks. Upon construction, a bed will begin shrinking, and a seven foot bed will become six foot, so they should be constructed higher than the desired height. To avoid excessive compaction of the soil, and to maintain good aeration, it is recommended that you build your beds with steep sides (45 degrees).

A hugelkultur bed with cds to scare away birds. Picture credit: Maseltov (2005) licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

Certain trees are unsuitable as some trees are allelopathic, that is, will harm your crops with allelochemicals that will persist in the soil. Others take too long to rot. Most tree logs should be fine, and there are lists of allelopathic trees and scrubs online, so do some research. Known trees to avoid include include cedar, black locust, black cherry and black walnut. Excellent species to use include alders, apple, cottonwood, poplar, willow, and birch.

Before building your own bed, it is worthwhile to decide on whether you want to construct it entirely above ground or in a shallow trench (about two feet deep). The latter, lower in a ditch, will not impose on the landscape and will be easier to construct. (Try throwing soil six feet high!) It will also save on digging, as you can reuse the materials acquired when digging the trench, and not dig up other sections of the garden. Building above ground is preferable if you already have materials on hand, or find digging difficult. Constructing on top of sod has the additional advantage in that once the plant matter breaks down it will produce nitrogen for the soil.

hügelkultur beds

Once you have decided upon the above, simply pile your rotten wood, whether it be logs, sticks, timber or chippings, with the biggest at the bottom. Then give it a good drenching. (This will aid decomposition.) Fill in the gaps with kitchen waste, grass, leaves and manure. (Adding organic matter is useful as during decomposition wood will both take in, and then release nitrogen, so it is possible that the soil may be nitrogen deficient at points.) Then add a layer of sod upside down. (You can acquire turf when building a trench. If you have none, just use soil.) Next comes more soil as so the wood is fully covered. The degree the wood is encased is a matter of preference, although anything from a few inches to half a foot works best. Finally, top it off with mulch such as straw that is traditionally used.

Now your hügelkultur bed is complete, it is recommended that you start planting to prevent erosion. (Henceforth, it is useful to construct in time for the growing season.) Over time the wood will decay into rich humus, but at first, the soil will be fairly dense, so certain crops may be unsuitable for planting in its first year. Great crops to plant in this time include members of the cucurbitaceae family such as squash, melons and pumpkins.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

Decoration, Garden Design, Garden Furniture, Gardening, Geoff Stonebanks, How To, Planters, Plants

My multi-award winning garden, Driftwood, is located by the sea in Sussex, on the coast between Brighton and Eastbourne. Over the years it has seen 14500 visitors and raised £76000 for charity. Last year it featured on BBC Gardener’s World and was a finalist in Gardeners’ World Magazine, Garden of the Year Competition too. Every year it is a challenge to create a variety of garden rooms that looks a little different, so the many returning visitors see something new and fresh. In order to create a flexible and fairly easy to change garden, I’ve always used terracotta containers of all sizes. I’ve probably got a collection of over 150 now. I’ve never been keen on plastic ones, they just don’t look at home in the garden, whatever the colour. OK I hear you say, the advantage is that they are not as heavy as the real thing, but there really has never been any competition for me, despite the weight! Now roll on the years, I’m 64 this month and I’ve been forced to reconsider how I create a different look in the garden this year. I’ve been using a trolley in recently to move containers around , but even that has started to get more difficult, especially in a garden on a slope with several steps to negotiate.

driftwood garden

So, this year I decided I needed to try and ease the burden, by investigating some lightweight pots that still looked like terracotta. The obvious place to check on line was Primrose, as they seem to stock everything anyone could need for the garden, and I have purchased quite a few things from them over the years. 

Two areas of the garden that rely very heavily on the use of containers, are these central steps in the garden and the patio area at the back of the house, which resembles a wall of plants on either side, like corridor of plants!

On investigation, I found what looked like the perfect solution! The fibre clay containers seemed to fit the bill perfectly for the steps, as I needed to find ones that were the right size to sit perfectly on the brick steps. They look absolutely at home, even before they have been filled with annuals for the summer season. These containers are all 30 cm tall and will work well, creating the waterfall effect I need to achieve. Look at last years results to see what I aim to create.

Fibrecotta Troughs

On the other hand, at the back of the house, one of the features I had within the wall of flowers was an old Victorian wooden cart which sat under a large potted camellia. On moving it to tidy up last month, it disintegrated and I’m left with the 2 axles and a side panel. I therefore needed to fill a large space, so two fibre clay containers, the tall one 64 cm tall and the lower one 37 cm tall. They look amazing in the space already . Granted, these are so big they will probably never be moved but all the others are perfect for ease of movement each year as needed. I also needed 3 troughs to sit on tiered shelving as part of this area of the garden. The 3 from Primrose fitted perfectly, which will also make life a lot easier. Just imagine how they will look when we open the garden gate to our first visitors on the 11th June. The garden is open 14 times for public days this year but also by arrangement from 1st June until 3rd September. If you live around Sussex, or are planning holidaying in the area this year, why not come and visit the garden yourselves. Full details can be found at www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk 

Look out for the next blog this Summer, so you can see what the containers look like when our visitors view them in the Summer.

Geoff StonebanksGeoff Stonebanks lives in Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex and spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden, Driftwood, he has raised over £76,000 for various charities in 7 years, £40,000 of that for Macmillan. The garden, which first opened to the public in 2009 has featured on BBC2 Gardeners’ World, Good Morning Britain and in many national and local media publications. In his spare time, Geoff is also the National Garden Scheme’s Social Media & Publicity Chair as well as an Assistant County Organiser & Publicity Officer in East & Mid Sussex.

Brian Rees, Decoration, Garden Design, How To

When you have a standard fence, it might seem too staunch or generic next to your artistically designed home and lawn. To help your fence match your design ideals without building a new one, there are several amendments that can be made without using a lot of tools. Although some of these project ideas are more advanced than others, all of them are suggestions that can become the curb appeal solution you have been looking for.

Fence in garden design

Beyond a simple coat of paint

Although adding a fresh coat of white paint to any fence makes it look clean, the white color might not fit in as well with your overall curb appeal as well as another one. Instead, consider using an exterior paint that will provide contrast against your current house paint color. For solid wooden fences you can also create a mural effect by using each individual fence post as one solid canvas.

Using the power of zip ties and decorations

Many fences cannot withstand a lot of extra weight from items hanging on them without shifting over time. However, decorations can be placed on the ground and leaned against two fences with ease. To create some extra security, use zip ties to hold the decorations in place. Good examples are large wooden stars that are repeated in a pattern along a fence in order to provide decorations that are appropriate for the lawn.

Having fun with DIY molded concrete features

Decorating a brick, stone or masonry fence may not be easy until you get a taste of custom concrete lawn decorations. In many instances, molds can be purchased online, and making a small batch of concrete is easily done with a bucket and a stick. Once the concrete is poured into the mold and sets, the end result is a decoration you can use for your current stone fence. In addition to plain concrete finishes, you can also paint concrete.

Creating a false hedge or window

When you need a strong fence but hate the way it looks, putting something in front of it is often the best solution. For example, by soaking long twigs, you can weave them onto poles to completely conceal your current fence to create a look that resembles ordered bramble. Other ways to conceal a fence include using strips of canvas fabric to hang on the fence as if they were curtains hiding a large door or window.

Decorative screening rolls

In the same vein, you can also get rolls of decorative garden screening to attach to your fence. Simply fix them in place and your existing fencing will be hidden, replaced by something much more attractive. It’s great for quickly creating a different feel, such as using bamboo screening to enhance an oriental theme or willow for an English country garden.

bamboo screening

Using ropes to create decorative effects

If you want your fence to create a visual backdrop but do not have a lot of money to spend on something that will get stolen or will blow away, consider buying some rope and doing some macrame. While it might take some tinkering with cheaper nylon rope to get the design you want, there are many simple knots that can be beautiful decorations for fences when the right type of rope or silk cord is used. Along with making knots, other items can be used to cinch two pieces of rope together to create a netted or quilted effect. For a more dramatic effect, use a larger diameter of rope.

Choosing the right creeping plants

When you have a fence that is difficult to decorate and local neighborhood housing codes deny your ability to decorate your fence in the way you want, the only remaining option is to pick something that will grow into and over your fence. Instead of picking a typical rosebush or boxwood hedge, consider using other types of unexpected plants that give you the height you are looking for. Good choices include newer types of grasses as well as classics like bamboo or Bermuda grass.

Hanging baskets on fences with no plants

Do you have a fence that looks boring and also hangs out in the dark all night? You can kill two birds with one stone by decorating a fence with hanging baskets, a but instead of putting plants inside of them, strings of LED lights can be used. In addition to metal hanging baskets overflowing with LED lights, there are also larger rectangular planters with open framing that can allow for more creativity when filled with outdoor LED light strings.

Using bamboo poles to create curb appeal

One of the hardest fences to decorate is the chain-link fence. While some chain-link fences have decorative plastic woven into the metal frame, these pieces soon crack, fade or become displaced. A better and sturdier solution is to weave pieces of green or freshly cut bamboo into the chain-link fence. If weaving the bamboo is not working, using string to tie bamboo to the chain-link fence is often just as beautiful to onlookers.

Brian ReesBrian Rees is a media relations representative for Exterior Expressions. In his spare time, he enjoys writing, music, and spending time outside.

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