Alex, Chimeneas, Fire Pits, Garden Design, Garden Furniture, How To

What’s small, Mexican and made of clay? A chiminea! Well, although this is true, these days there are almost as many different types of chimineas as there are ways of spelling the word itself. All this choice can be a little confusing so we have prepared a guide to help you make often the first decision: Which material will be perfect for you garden?

Clay Chiminea

Clay

Clay chimineas are our most popular type with many of our customers enjoying the authentic feel that they create. Historically, fired clay was used as an inexpensive material used to create these fire pits which were an essential for both cooking and heating back in 17th century Mexico. The chimney directed smoke outside meaning that it could be used inside without filling your home with smoke and the design also funnelled fresh air in to fuel a hot, clean fire. This was useful for providing more heat for the home whilst meaning that there was less ash left behind as a more complete combustion took place.

Clay Chimenea
In more recent times, clay chimineas are more often used in the garden and offer both aesthetic appeal and functionality. The authentic look provided by clay lends itself effortlessly to rustic design and these chimineas seem to blend in perfectly with any background. They also add a little foreign charm to a garden, especially the models with Mexican or Italian designs. For guidance on how to prepare and look after your clay chiminea, visit our page full of handy tips.

 

 

Cast Iron

Cast iron chimineas burst on to the scene later than clay, providing a different option for consumers. The different material has several advantages over clay in some areas, but also some drawbacks, it really does depend on what is more important to you and what you plan on using your fire pit for.
One of the main plus points is that unlike clay versions, you won’t have to cure before use; it’s ready to go straight away. Cast iron is a more durable material, less susceptible to damage caused by temperature change, and should outlive even the best quality clay chimineas.

Cast iron Chimenea
In addition, they are less likely to be damaged accidently. Cast iron versions are not easily knocked or blown over as they are heavy and so more stable. This makes them ideal for cooking, and many of our cast iron versions come with a grill included.
Cast iron fire pits come in stylish colours such as bronze and black and can help create a more modern look if that coincides with the theme you wish to create in your garden. They are also easily re-paintable, whether you are looking to give it a fresh coat after it has faded over the years or after a change in colour to give an entirely new feel to your fire pit.

 

One slight downside is that being metal; they are prone to getting rather hot. You will need to consider where you place the fire pit. Ensure it is not pushed up against anything that may be affected by the heat and that it is placed on top of a fireproof surface. It is also wise to consider keeping it in an area where it is not likely to be bumped into when in use, especially with children around, and extra care must be taken when operating to ensure that you don’t accidently touch the hot metal.

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Alex

Alex works in the Primrose marketing team, mainly on online marketing.

As a psychology graduate it is ironic that he understands plants better than people but a benefit for the purpose of writing this blog.

An enthusiastic gardener, all he needs now is a garden and he’ll be on the path to greatness. Alex’s special talents include superior planter knowledge and the ability to put a gardening twist on any current affairs story.

See all of Alex’s posts.

Amie, Celebrations And Holidays, Christmas, Gardening, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting

Recently, Alan Titchmarsh came out and stated home grown fruit and vegetables are far superior to those sold in a supermarket. The flavours, the varieties and the need to support local agriculture far outweigh the downsides of doing otherwise. To some extent, I fully agree with Alan, but I recognise the impracticality of doing this too, so I won’t judge those who don’t do this. If you have a garden, and the time and means to do so, then I fully encourage you to grow your own veg!

With a rather important seasonal holiday approaching, where roughly £175 is spent on food and drink per household, I wanted to apply this theory into growing your own Christmas dinner and research whether or not it would be possible for you at home to try this out yourselves.

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  1. Brussel Sprouts

Love them or hate them, these lookalike mini cabbages are as much a Christmas tradition as office party debauchery, Santa’s Grottos and god-awful jumpers (only kidding, I love them!). 4billion Brussel sprouts were brought in the week before Christmas last year, and the average person will consume 14 of these tasty vegetables over Christmas. Unbelievable right?

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Preparation for making sprouts begins in March, where you will need to sow them under a cloche, fleece or cold frame thinly to a depth of 1 cm, with roughly 15 cm separating them. The earlier you sow, the better the crops will turn out. You can purchase various varieties of sprouts such as ‘Evesham’ and ‘Maximum’.

Once they have reached roughly 15 cm in height, which should take roughly two to three months, it’s time to plant them out. You will need to allow 60-80 cm either side of the plants, and if you’re lucky enough to have some tall ones sneaking through, they will need support from say, a bamboo cane. Add some fertiliser and water throughout the planting process, and continue watering the plants every few weeks (especially if we’re lucky enough to see dry weather) until your plants have blossomed. Keep an eye on pests too such as birds or caterpillars.

Sprouts take roughly 35-40 weeks from initial sowing to, excuse the pun, sprout. You will have to start at the bottom of the stalk, when they are the size of cherry tomato, and firm like a walnut. The best way to remove them is to simply snap them off with a sharp, downward pull. Once frosted, the sprouts will offer a much improved flavouring. You will then need to store until December, and you have a lovely, traditional side!. If you have some spare sprouts, you could try out a new pizza topping or even Brussel sprout soup.

  1. Potatoes

The great potato, the world’s favourite root vegetable, a common addition to every roast throughout the UK. Did you know they initially originated in South America, and only reach Europe in the 16th century? Now you do.

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The best variety to use if you’re intending for a classic roast would be a King Edward or a Maris Piper; great for roasting, high on flavour and relatively easy to produce and store. Potato ‘seeds’ are commonly available online or from garden centres. You will need to sow roughly 35-40 cm apart, in rows 75 cm apart, in deep trenches roughly 15 cm underground. If you’re intending to use spuds around Christmas time, it best you plant April or early May at the latest. When you plant your potatoes, you need to try maintaining them upright, an egg box would probably be a good device to use.

Once you start to see shoots through the soil, it’s time to earth the spuds up. You will need to cover the shoots with soil, either side of the rows to form a ridge to protect them from wintry weather. If you’re worried your potatoes will be prone to frost, you can cover with a fleece for extra protection. Continue to water, especially in dry spells.

Once the leaves begin to show, and are open, it is time to harvest your potatoes. I’d advise using a fork, and going in at a 45 degree angle, so not to pierce through the pots underground.  Once dug up, they will need washing to remove the dirt, grime and any possible pesticide placed upon them, and then leave to dry for a few hours. Once dried, store in hessian sacks in a dark, frost free place until they are ready to eat in December! To add extra flavour to your potatoes, cover in salt, thyme, rosemary or garlic.

  1. Carrots

A favourite of Bug’s Bunny, and supposedly great for seeing in the dark (although this is definitely a myth!), the carrot has been a Christmas favourite for years. A member of the parsley family, carrots are low in fat and high in Vitamin A, so they’re very nutritious too.

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The best time to sow your carrots in time for Christmas is July, August at a push. Sow thinly at around 3 cm deep, allowing 30 cm between each row. The ideal soil conditions for carrots mean a nice, light, well-drained soiling, facing towards light. July and August should provide you with plenty of sunlight.  You will need to ensure the soil is stone free too, but there is the option of a raised bed if you don’t think your soil will be feasible.

If sowing in the summer time, you will need to ensure the carrots are well watered, and the soil kept moist, otherwise germination and growth will be halted. Other than that, carrots are a fairly care free plant, requiring little or no attention.

Once the frost hits, you will need to cover your carrots with straw or a fleece so not to ruin them. Your carrots should be ready to harvest in October but if you want to use them for Christmas, the later the better. You can check by lifting one or two carrots to give you an idea of their size. I suggest harvesting in the evening, to avoid attracting carrot fly, which can cause your crops to rot. You will need to store the carrots in boxes of sand, in a cool, frost free place until you are ready to cook them.

traditional xmas tree

With these three key components of any Christmas dinner ready to go, all that is required for your plate is a turkey! For this, I would recommend your local supermarket or butchers though. If you need advice on how much to serve each guest, then BBC Good Food have a simple guide on portions, but don’t let this stop you!

 

AmieAmie is a marketing enthusiast, having worked at Primrose since graduating from Reading University in 2014.

She enjoys all things sport. A keen football fan, Amie follows Tottenham Hotspur FC, and regularly plays for her local 5 a side football team.

To see the rest of Amie’s posts, click here.

Gardening, Gardening Year, Greenhouses, Grow Your Own, How To, Kim Stoddart, Planting

I keep hearing what a harsh winter we’re going to have this year. It’s even been dubbed Freezageddon by some commentators, which is a little dramatic if you ask me. None-the-less, whether it is going to be the coldest winter in 50 years, or indeed just ….cold, having a greenhouse or polytunnel in which to grow over winter is very handy indeed.

For a start, even when there’s thick snow on the ground all around, you’ll still be able to dig out (and pick) some of your vegetables from inside. For a badly behaved gardener like me who loves gardening and doesn’t like having to wait till spring to get active again, I couldn’t imagine doing without.

Cleaning the Polytunnel
Be sure to keep your polytunnel clean over winter

Growing inside enables you to naughtily extend the growing season, carrying on that bit longer and starting earlier in the year. It boosts results from harder-to-grow, warmer climate craving produce no matter where you live and what the seasons throw at us.

Plus on a rainy day (and let’s face it we’ve had a fair few of those recently) you can still happily garden away protected from the elements.

Even the smallest, unheated polytunnel or greenhouse can make all the difference. While extra tricks such as using ground cover to warm the soil, using a cold frame for extra protection and an inside heating system will expand your opportunities even further…

Here are just a few of best things about growing inside:

Earlier planting

Peppers, aubergines and chillies in particular need a longer growing season and the professional growers I know all start them in January/February for a bumper crop.

Tomatoes and cucumbers also benefit from being inside, even the hardier varieties and especially here in West Wales.

Everything in fact can be germinated and planted out just that bit earlier…

Growing more exotic varieties

There is much more room for experimentation and growing a wide range of exotic and rather exciting plants that you might otherwise not have tried. Melons, sweet potatoes and okra are worth trying and more sensitive, heat-loving fruit trees such as cherry, lemon and lime and peach really benefit from being kept inside in pots over winter. Although the citruses will need extra protection if the thermostat does indeed plummet as predicted.

Later planting

If you’ve been a bit slack with some of your planting and maybe missed your usual planting dates, it doesn’t matter when you grow inside because seedlings will have that bit extra time to catch up. As long as it’s not too late and the plant has established itself (before the shortest days) it will remain intact (and fresh) for a lot longer than during the summer months. Some of the best for lazier, later planting include spinach, rainbow chard, winter salad leaves and cress which all shoot up quickly given half the chance.

So don’t fear the weather doom-mongers. Yes, they could be right but come rain, hail, snow… whatever climatic conditions are thrown at us; with just a little outside protection you can ensure that you and your produce are warm enough inside, which is where it counts.

Kim StoddartKim Stoddart is a gardening writer for the Guardian and blogs at www.getbadlybehaved.com.

Animals, Bird Baths, Garden Design, Garden Tools, Gardening, Gardening Year, George, Greenhouses, Heated Clothing, How To, Planting, Plants

Gardening in Winter

When the cold winds blow and snow begins to settle on the lawn, it’s tempting to close the backdoor and spend the winter curled up by the fire. But if you’re an outdoorsy person then there’s no need to give up on the garden for a whole season every year. With our guide to gardening in winter you’ll find plenty of projects to crack on with before the spring, how to protect your plants against the cold and top tips for making the most out of your time outdoors.

Winter Gardening Jobs

  • Pruning. Some plants are best cut back and pruned over winter, such as roses, shrubs, fruit trees and deciduous hedges. This will encourage healthy new shoots to grow when the weather warms up again.
  • Cleaning. While the life in your garden is less demanding, it’s a good opportunity to sort out a bit of general maintenance. Hosing down your paths and patios will not only spruce them up, but also ensure they’re free of grime which could become slippery in the cold, damp conditions.
  • Checking for structural damage. If you have a greenhouse, conservatory or shed then winter is the best time of year to give them a good inspection. Most of the surrounding foliage will have died back, leaving a clear path to see any cracks in the frames or broken window panes. Fixing these now is crucial for protecting any plants inside from freezing draughts.
  • Ordering seed catalogues. Get prepared for the sowing season by choosing seeds and plants to buy. It’s a good time to sit back and plan how you might like to redesign your planting or reflect on which flowers grow best in your garden.
  • Cutting the lawn. You won’t need to mow the grass anywhere near as frequently as in the summer, but if the weather is mild it will need doing every now and then. The grass won’t grow as fast, so you can leave it longer than normal.

Winter Gardening Tips

  • Don’t compact the soil. During wintertime, the ground will likely be saturated from excess rain and freeze due to the plummeting temperatures. It’s best to avoid treading on the earth too much as you will compact the already dense soil, making it even more difficult to work in the spring. So try to step lightly when you need to go over it.
  • Maintain tools. There won’t be many labour intensive jobs to do in the garden over winter so it’s a good opportunity to show your tools some TLC. Oil any machinery that requires it and sharpen the blades of your trimmers and secateurs. Then you’ll be all set for cracking on when the frost thaws.
  • Keep watering. It’s easy to overlook watering your garden when the weather’s so rubbish this time of year. But it’s still important to go outside and give your plants a quick water every now and then, particularly if it hasn’t rained in a while. And don’t forget to water your indoor flowers too!
  • Plan ahead. Winter is a great time to plan your garden design for the coming year. Most of the plants and trees have died back, leaving the core layout of your plot clear. Take advantage of this by mapping out new paths or patios, or deciding where to put that new shed or greenhouse.

Trees in Winter

Winter Planting

  • Winter loving plants. Surprisingly, there are a few plants that defy nature and come into their own in the chilly months. Besides evergreen trees, these include witch hazel, winter jasmine, winter honeysuckle and viburnum. Add a few of these for a colourful flowerbed all year round.
  • Winter vegetables. If you have an allotment or kitchen garden, then there are plenty of hardy vegetables that will keep you going over winter. In early summer you can sow broccoli, leeks, winter cabbage and brussel sprouts, which are all capable of enduring the frost – and perfect for a Christmas dinner!
  • Frost protection. As any gardener will no doubt be aware, most plants don’t take well to frosty nights and freezing temperatures. There are many methods to protect your plants against frost, from cloches and fleece blankets to careful watering and layering mulch.
  • Indoor gardening. Perhaps the simplest way to get your gardening fix without having the brace yourself against the chill is by planting inside. Not all plants will grow well indoors, so make sure you do your research. Most plants will grow best in rooms full of light and insulated against draughts. For the most effective indoor growing, it may be worth investing in specialist lights and a grow room.

Winter Wildlife in the Garden

Wintertime can be harsh for animals in the wild. Food is scarce, conditions are icy cold and shelter is hard to come by. You can help out the creatures that come to your garden by providing a little assistance. For the birds, leave out extra food in your birdfeeder and keep your birdbath topped up with water – though make sure it doesn’t freeze. A tennis ball in there should do the trick. You can also plant berry bushes, which will provide a source of winter food and a place to shelter.
For other creatures, make sure there’s somewhere for them to bunker down and sit out the winter months. Simply leave out a pile of leaves or uncut grass for groundlings to nest in.

Bird in Winter

What to Wear Outside

Obviously the priority when gardening outside from November to February is keeping warm. Wrap up as much as you can with hats, gloves, scarves and coats, while allowing enough ease of movement to be able to get on with your digging and pruning. A great way to cut back on the layers while retaining the warmth is with heated clothing. You can use heat pads for your hands or even battery heated socks and gloves for long-lasting toastiness. Just make sure that you don’t spend too long outside at a time, especially if you’re feeling unwell. There’s nothing like a regular tea break to warm yourself up!

One Year Ends, Another Begins

So don’t let the cold weather and long nights dishearten you too much – there’s still plenty of opportunity to get outside and enjoy your garden in winter. From protecting the plants you’ve tended all year to planning new features for the next, winter is the perfect time for reflection and inspiration. Take a brisk walk through the grass before huddling up inside with a hot drink and admiring your garden through the window. Treat someone special to a book full of gardening ideas for Christmas. And most of all get ready, for spring will soon begin!

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.

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