Composting, Garden Design, Garden Edging, Gardening, How To, Insects, Liam, Make over, Planting, Trees

In this step-by-step guide we’ll not only show you how to mulch but explain the different kinds and what will work best for your plants and garden. Mulches are a thin layer of organic or inorganic material placed over a bed or the soil surrounding plants. The more attractive ones may grab your attention and look like a great addition to formal landscaping, but the practical uses are vast. 

Mulches are used primarily to improve the soil around plants, reduce weeds, increase fertility, help the retention of moisture and during winter can protect the roots of the plant from damaging frosts. Using the right mulch for your plants can help eliminate the need for chemical pesticides and fertilisers which is fantastic for your garden’s biodiversity. This all contributes to a healthy, great looking garden you can be proud of.

Now that Autumn is approaching it is the perfect time to start planning!

The Types:

You can roughly separate the different types of mulch into two categories; organic and inorganic.

Organic mulches are best for improving the fertility and overall structure of the soil. Over time the mulch will degrade and replenish the soils nutrients including nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Organic material also promotes biodiversity and encourages insects such as worms and spiders which will actually keep pests at bay while further enriching the quality of your soil.

For this reason an organic mulch is fantastic for plants try to establish themselves or are just generally hungry. Roses for example love a good organic mulch of well-rotted manure. More on this to follow.

Inorganic mulches are used to protect the soil around the plant and can also have an aesthetic edge to them. The benefits include locking in water to the soil, keeping weeds at bay and unlike some organic mulches it won’t wash away which is brilliant if you are planting on a slope.

Bark and Wood-Chippings

Here is a mulch which is attractive but also helps improve your soil’s nutrients and structure as it rots down. It also allows water to flow through it without binding throughout the year and really is a fantastic for pretty much all plants and circumstances. The only issue with it is that it is difficult to move or work around and so is best for around trees where you won’t be doing any more planting. Bark and wood-chippings will last you through the year and maybe even two depending on the grade, see how far it has broken down and replace if necessary.

Wood Chippings Mulch

Leaf-Mould

Leaf-mould is arguably the most nutritious and nature-friendly mulch you can apply. Pretty much every plant loves it and what’s more it can be completely free! It may not look like the most attractive mulch but apply in Autumn and by spring it will have blended in with and really enriched your soil. The only major drawback is that leaves do take some while to decompose and if you plan to DIY this is something you plan for a year in advance.

Collect as many leaves as possible in black bags and cut some small holes to let the air in. Ensure the leaves are thoroughly wet as leaves break down through fungi. Come next Autumn you’ll have some of the finest and richest mulch money can buy… not that you have to spend a penny! Of course, leaf mould is available to purchase in fairly substantial bulks.

Compost

There are two main reasons why compost can make a great mulch: 1) It is packed full of nutrients ready to leach down into the soil and 2) It is something you can make yourself free of charge. Additionally it helps with keeping the soil moist and fending off weeds. One thing to look out for however is that no weeds have made their way into the compost as these will simply sprout up from the compost and steal your plants nutrients.

Manure

As I’ve briefly mentioned before, when it comes to roses and other phosphate hungry plants nothing compares to some well-rotted manure. Like a compost that has gone through a far more strenuous decomposition process it is packed full of nutrients and its dense texture protects the roots and keeps the water locked in. It is also a really great mulch for trees and shrubs although to prevent waterlogging it may be worth mixing with some sand to allow for greater drainage.

Manure – As is Comes From a Stable or Farm

Gravel, Slate and Stone Chippings

There really isn’t a great difference here between them as you will want roughly the same thickness of layers. Stone mulches are fantastic for drainage and keep the soil underneath moist. It is also brilliant for retaining heat and so should be used for plants that are used to very hot conditions and can be worked into a Mediterranean themed garden well. Overall many stone mulches look fantastic and can maintain a pristine look for formal garden structures. They do not however add any nutrients to the soil and can become too hot during summer for more tender plants and young trees.

Rainbow Foras Tumbles Coloured Pebbles

When to Mulch

The best time to apply a mulch is in Autumn, as you come into bare-root season, and spring. You will need to apply the mulch when the ground is relatively warm and moist, avoid periods when it is frozen or waterlogged. When the ground is good to dig and plant, it will be good to mulch which is very handy!

How to Mulch

  • Before you apply your mulch first you have to prepare the soil. Clear the ground of any weeds and give it a watering if the soil appears too dry.
  • If you are reapplying a mulch now is a good time to break up any old layers which may have matted to allow better water penetration.
  • Then cover the ground in a layer of mulch roughly 2 inches thick. Avoid mulching right up to the stems of plants and trees as this can cause them to become soft and rot.
  • Level out with a rake to an even finish. This is imperative, some people mulch little mounds, especially around trees. This will cause the bottom of the trunk to grow soft and rot while also drawing water away from the roots.
  • If you noticed that your mulch has matted over the year and become a hard layer, simply break  and fluff up a bit.

You can apply a fertiliser on top of the mulch through the year if you wish. Follow these rules and you should be all set!

Liam at PrimroseLiam works in the buying team at Primrose. He is passionate about studying other cultures, especially their history. A lover of sports his favourite pass-time is football, either playing or watching it! In the garden Liam is particularly interested in growing your own food.

See all of Liam’s posts.

Fire Pits, Garden Design, How To, Make over, Nick Dickinson

Garden design

If you’ve ever sat down and tried to work out how you can redesign your garden but felt that it’s all too overwhelming, then you are in the right place.

What I’m going to take you through is a simple self help system that will give you the same tools that a professional garden designer uses that will result in a scheme for your garden that you will recognise as your own.

Most of the enquiries we receive at Elementa Design are from clients who have either inherited a layout from the previous owners that doesn’t suit them, or just feel that the garden they might have tinkered with is still lacking in interest, functionality and form. Their priority now is to put this right by engaging a designer to introduce the wow factor that shows a professional has been involved.

It occurred to us recently, after meeting with a new client who said that she wouldn’t know where to start designing her own garden, that I thought I should jot down what we actually do as designers to create these wonderful spaces.

There are of course years of experience, technical construction know how and confidence to produce that wow factor, but you can go a long way down the path of garden design yourself if you followed these simple steps.

1. Surveying the area

Everything starts with getting a better understanding of what you already have. You’ll have to establish what you can and can’t do in the context of the site you have. Call it site assessment.

Walk round the garden for a couple of minutes taking in a visual brief to remind yourself of those boggy or shady areas that plants struggle in. Are there any areas that might have rubble or old garden features below the soil that need avoiding? Where are the areas of shade or baking sun?

Now clear the kitchen table, make sure you have a little peace and quiet for an hour or so. Find a large piece of paper. An A3 sketchpad would do but otherwise improvise with the back of some Christmas wrapping paper, or something that gives you plenty of room to experiment. You’ll also need some basic tools such as a scale rule, a small set square, a pencil and a large eraser. You’ll then need to pace out the garden. Don’t worry at this stage about tape measures, remember that a good long stride is a metre, so as long as you get rough proportions correct along with the positions of the doors, windows and other major existing features then that’s good enough for the time being. At this stage only plot the items that are immovable. That’s the practical things complete. Now you can do the creative side.

2. The Brief

To take the brief I find it helps to take a sheet of paper and put a vertical line down the middle and another line intersecting that to form a cross, or four quadrants as in the example below.

Garden design brief

You’ll see that there are specific titles in the quadrants; the top half deals with the existing garden and the bottom half gives you an opportunity to list those items that you do or don’t wish to see introduced into your new garden. Be as obvious as you can with your observations of the existing layout.

The bottom left hand quadrant should list those items and features that you’d like to see featured in your new garden that aren’t already there. This can be a wish list containing such things as water features, seating areas, BBQ area, shade sails, wooden planters and so on. Conversely, in the bottom right hand quadrant should go all those features and items that you wouldn’t like to see featured in the new garden. These may be items such as a particular yellow flower, statuary or more pots or containers, more lawn than you already have.

Patio heater

A lot of clients in the summer months are looking to plan to have features that can stand out in the winter months. Interestingly enough a lot of our garden design in Gloucestershire projects have incorporated both fire pits and halogen heating lamps adjacent to the seating area to add that wow factor and ensure you can enjoy your garden without necessarily wearing 4 layers in those chilly winter months. These are two of the stand out products from Primrose that we incorporated into our projects this year.

Firebowl

3. The Design

Given that sitting in the garden is an enjoyable and popular pastime for most people, it’s important that the seating area is easily accessible. Garden furniture can bring a sense of comfort to a garden. One of our most popular products that we have recommended to clients this year has been a corner Rattan sofa set that often seamlessly fits into both a country or town house garden. If you require something a bit smaller that could perhaps be suited to a focal point in your garden then a pair of stunning sofa chairs can be the perfect while adding that bit of luxury to another part of your garden.

Rattan sofa set

4. The journey – or joining the dots

Every garden should have a flow, by that I mean if the terrace is near the house then the next feature should draw you to it via a path or strong visual link that takes you to the next position in the garden. Perhaps now it’s time to look at your list of features and garden design ideas that you’d like to see incorporated in your living space.

You may have for instance a swing seat, water feature, planters or just a small bistro type table and two chairs that you can linger at. We call these areas honeypots as they give you an opportunity to stop, sit and just take it all in. The idea is to be able to walk round the whole garden, however small, to enjoy and sample the various honeypots, perhaps with a cup of coffee or something stronger after work. Here are our ‘Top 2’ honeypots this summer which we have included in our projects and strongly believe you should too.

Pergola Swing Seat

Designed to offer you a chance to really relax in your garden, this two-seater swing seat has been a client favorite of ours as featured in this garden design in Cheltenham below.

Pergola swing seat

Stainless Steel Glass Water Cascade

Incorporated into our formal designs, this stainless steel water cascade is made from high-grade stainless steel and glass, which added that wow factor when placed alongside a curved planting area.

Glass water wall

5. Focal points

These are much talked about and they are important. By definition a focal point is a feature or item that draws the eye to a distant point, partially obscured to create mystery in some cases. These can be something as simple as a pot, a tree, a bright stainless steel water feature or even just a white metal bench in the distance inviting you to go and sit. It needs to send a strong message so choose carefully and make sure it’s large enough to be able to dominate that space so when viewed from a distance it has the proportion to do the job.

6. Keep it simple

I know it sounds obvious, but the keep it simple rule should be adopted everywhere. If the design of the garden is strong enough it doesn’t need over embellishment. The curves in the garden whether it be gravel or lawn, the shape of the flower beds, keep it bold. Be courageous with fingers of planting beds that come out mid garden creating strong shapes. Big sweeping curves work far better than little wiggles that can also be a nightmare for those having to do the mowing.

7. The review

Hopefully by now you’ll have the features that you want dotted around the garden, some obscured from each other if you have the space and bold profiles defining the margin between planting and the central areas. You’ll see that it then all begins to make sense and with luck you’ll recognise it as something resembling what you wanted to achieve.

Now you can produce a fair copy of your sketch and put a little bit more definition and discipline into the design. You could then take your piece of paper out into the garden on a dry day and mark the positions of the main features with sand or marker paint. You can then ‘walk through’ the new shapes and see how it feels. Begin to select your garden furniture if you’re not using your existing furniture and walk around so that you feel you have enough space on the seating area. Sit at the end of the garden and see how the shapes work there as well.

The most extraordinary and magical process is yet to be enjoyed. The garden that has come from within through this process of design will then be brought to life in front of you and will continue to mature and bring years of enjoyment. There is nothing more magical and satisfying.

Nick Dickinson

Nick Dickinson of Elementa Design has been creating beautiful gardens for four decades now. Nick is an award winning garden designer who is able to take a brief, however sketchy, and transform your garden into something that will really stimulate the senses.

Garden Design, Gardening, George, How To, Make over

Whether you’ve recently moved house, or just looked outside for the first time in months, anyone can find themselves facing a neglected garden. It’s intimidating. Overgrown plants, out of control trees, more weed than lawn – where do you start? There are a few things worth bearing in mind, and preparation is key, so here is our advice on how to restore a neglected garden. Take on the challenge!

How to restore a neglected garden

Tips for restoring a neglected garden

1 – Be patient
It’s best to wait a full year before you get started if possible. See what the garden looks like in all seasons, which areas become shady or full of life. What appears to be a pile of twigs now may blossom into a beautiful tree come spring.

2 – Make a list
While you’re waiting, observe what you like and dislike about the garden. Write it all down – plants, trees and any other features.

3 – Create space
When you’re ready to tackle the garden, the first step is to clear the area. You’ll see exactly what you have to work with and it will make designing your new garden much easier. It often helps to do this over winter. Try to compost any organic matter you clear for later use.

Weeding the patio

4 – Leave the trees
Cut back overgrown hedges and weeds, but hold back on the trees at first. They can be very difficult to fully remove (you’re often left with a huge stump that’s worse than before) and take so long to grow and establish that it’s difficult to replace them.

5 – Choose which plants to keep
A weed is any plant you don’t want – so dig it up. Remember that plants can be moved if you’d prefer them somewhere else, just treat them with care. This will save you money too. If you need help identifying plants, ask in the Primrose Gardens community.

6 – Take it a step at a time
If you work methodically on one area of your garden at a time, you will see the fastest improvements – which can be great motivation! Work to a design plan, keeping in mind where structural changes like decking, raised beds and sheds will go.

Pruning

7 – Prune
Pruning back existing plants gives two benefits – it makes more space and encourages fresh growth. If you’re unsure which plants need pruning or how to go about it, ask on Primrose Gardens or email our gardening expert.

8 – Rejuvenate the lawn
Depending on how long your garden’s been neglected, the lawn could be in any state. Start by mowing the grass and trimming the edges to get it tidy. Then reseed any bare patches or lay down new turf if you need grass in additional places.

9 – Know your budget
Before you go crazy on the spending front, be mindful of your budget so costs don’t get out of control and grind your project to a halt. Landscaping can get very expensive, especially for large areas, but planting is relatively cheap – especially if you grow from seed.

Garden theme

10 – Pick your theme
Deciding on a consistent theme for your garden will make all the difference in taking it from standard to exceptional. Visit show gardens and exhibitions like Hampton Court or watch gardening shows for inspiration.

11 – Add finishing touches
Finally it’s time to take your garden from usable to somewhere you really want to be. Clean up and paint or varnish the woodwork. Plant up any gaps in the flowerbeds. Tidy the borders with edging. Add some furniture for comfort and decorations to express your style.

Maintaining your restored garden

Once the hard work is done, of course you want to avoid the garden ever falling into the state it was in when you started. In the simplest terms you need to keep on top of anything that grows getting out of hand. This is what makes the garden look messy and can cause plants to become overcrowded and rot. Make sure you mow the lawn regularly and trim the edges. Prune plants and trees as necessary each year. Weeds are unfortunately unavoidable, so make time each week for getting rid of them.

Maintaining restored garden

Aside from that, you just need to look after the non-living items like you would do in the house. Keep the fences, furniture and patios clean. Furniture covers will protect your chairs and tables from the elements. Don’t be afraid to give woodwork a new coat of paint to keep it looking fresh. Experiment with new colours and styles in your blooms.

If too much maintenance sounds daunting then it’s worth keeping this in mind while you’re redesigning your garden. Choose options that will make your life easier down the line. Hardy plants can be mostly left to fend for themselves and won’t require as much of your time. Straight-edged lawns are much quicker to mow than curves, or perhaps you’d rather have artificial grass to eliminate the issue entirely.

Tools for restoring your garden

What will you need for your garden transformation? Here are some of the essentials:

  • Hedge trimmer
  • Lawn mower
  • Edge trimmer
  • Pruning shears
  • Fork
  • Spade
  • Gardening gloves

… But there may be many more specialist items depending on the scale of your project, from chainsaws to industrial diggers!

Tools for restoring garden

Embrace the challenge

So there we have it – our tips for getting through your neglected garden restoration. If you’ve ever tackled an unloved outdoor space, let us know what you learned along the way in the comments below. But most importantly, don’t be intimidated. See it as a fun challenge, whether you’re an experienced gardener or this is the first time you’re getting your hands dirty. It’s liberating – after all, you can’t make the garden any worse than it already is!

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

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.

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