Gardening, Greenhouses, How To, Tyler

Buying your first greenhouse can be stressful as there are many things to consider. If only there was a guide to help make that decision… Well, today is your lucky day as I will be constructing a first greenhouse buyer’s guide answering all the important questions to get you started in your new hobby.

first-greenhouse

Where to put your greenhouse?

Sunlight and Shelter

First thing to consider when choosing where to put your greenhouse is will your greenhouse be exposed to enough sunlight? The sun may be lower during the colder months so I would suggest to base your position where it will get as much sunlight all year round. In addition to this, you will also need to place it in a position where it will be sheltered from strong winds to minimise the chances of any damage to your greenhouse. You could use fencing and hedges to add that bit more protection.

Maintenance

You may decide to give your greenhouse some maintenance during the year. This in mind, it is essential to consider how convenient it will be to gain access to all areas of the greenhouse. If your greenhouse is close up to a wall but needs cleaning or repair work, you may have a great deal of struggle! So remember to leave a big enough gap between the greenhouse and wall to make your life easier.

Measure out the space you’ll be using

Now that you have find the area you’d like to feature your greenhouse, it’s time to grab the measuring tape! Once you’ve measured all the dimensions (remember to consider maintenance space!), you’ll have a rough idea on what size to get. There’s no worst feeling buying a greenhouse too big so make sure to take your measurements first.

Choosing the right greenhouse

Time for the moment you’ve been waiting for… choosing your very first greenhouse! You may feel a little intimidated by a huge greenhouse range so here’s a breakdown on what style is best for you:

Type

Greenhouses come in different shapes and sizes so it is key to identify what type is best for you. A traditional freestanding greenhouse is the popular choice as there are more size options and it’s easier to find a suitable space for it. Next option you have is lean-to greenhouses. Lean-to are ideal if you’re planning to place it up against a wall. A big advantage that a lean to has is it will benefit from extra protection and warmth from the existing wall.

Polytunnels are a fantastic alternative if you’re looking for something easier to erect. Polytunnels are made from steel bars and reinforced polyethylene and works exactly like a greenhouse!

Material

Greenhouses tend to be made from either aluminium or wooden frames. The element is silver but can be painted into colours such as green. Aluminium frames are sturdy and tend to be cheaper than wooden frames.

Wooden frames tend to suit most types of gardens due to the natural look. It will need treatment every few years to keep it looking fresh and in good order. They are also easier to insulate due to the advantage to staple materials such as bubble wrap directly onto the frame.

Glazing

There are two options to choose from: glass and polycarbonate. Horticultural glass transmits over 90% of sunlight so this would be a huge advantage to grow your plants effectively. However, a major disadvantage is it can break into large fragments. Toughened glass is available for a higher price and will be a lot harder to break. If it does, it tends to break into smaller pieces that won’t cause any harm to your safety.

Twin walled polycarbonate transmits less sunlight than glass with 83% but isn’t easy to break compared to glass. Also, for a more insulated greenhouse polycarbonate wins points on that as heat is retained better. Polycarbonate is vulnerable to wind damage so please make sure your greenhouse is protected from wind!

Foundations

Establishing a leveled foundation is the most important step when erecting a greenhouse. You will need to make sure that the space you place your greenhouse onto needs to be level. Fear not as to make life a little easier, most greenhouses are supplied with a metal base. A base allows the greenhouse to sit nicely on leveled flooring, giving your greenhouse extra support.

greenhouse-staging

 

Accessories

A range of accessories are always good to consider. Staging and shelving are the most common accessory as it gives your greenhouse more room and levels to plant more. Greenhouse Heaters are useful when heating a greenhouses during colder months when you start to move your plants inside to protect from frost and colder temperatures.

Tyler at PrimroseTyler works in the Primrose Marketing team, mainly working on Social Media and Online Marketing.

Tyler is a big fan on everything sports and supports Arsenal Football Club. When not writing Primrose blogs and tweets, you can find Tyler playing for his local Sunday football team or in the gym.

See all of Tyler’s posts.

Awnings, Garden Design, George, How To, Sail Shades

how to shade a pool

If you’re lucky enough to have a swimming pool in your garden, you’ll want to create the best possible environment to enjoy it. You’ve got your loungers, inflatables, maybe even a minibar – but what about some shelter from the sun? It’s an important consideration, with growing concern about sun damage and skin cancer. Basic shading can offer UV reduction of up to 75%, with specialist materials increasing protection up to 98%.

Aside from the health reasons, pool shading can also be a spectacular design feature. A stylish shade structure can elevate the appearance of your pool and turn the whole area into a classy feature. So dive in and find out how to shade a pool in your garden.

Ways to shade your swimming pool

1 – Shade sail

With their oceanic connection, shade sails are the perfect fit for pool shading. There are many options you can choose from in terms of shape, colour, size – and even combining multiple shades – which make them a really flexible option for creating your desired appearance.

For safety, go for a permanent fitting option to ensure the sail will endure our variable weather conditions. The best option will probably be support poles on each side of the pool, with the sail (or sails) stretching taut across the water.

shade sail over pool

2 – Parasol

If you’re looking for some instant shade at a pool party, parasols make for an affordable and convenient option. While the shade coverage they provide is limited, the advantage is they are easy to shift round the pool as the sun moves so you can usually have a shady spot to rest in.

Parasols are great for shade around the water as well as in it – they make the perfect pairing with a sun lounger or a poolside bar.

parasol by pool

3 – Pergola

Though not often associated with garden swimming pools, a pergola spanning the water can make a magnificent feature. You can install them over an end of the pool, and cover the top with retractable shade material, wooden slats or trailing plants to create some dappled shelter from the sun.

This option is one of the most significant investments for your garden in terms of money and permanence, so it’s worth spending time on the design and checking any local planning restrictions.

pergola by swimming pool

4 – Retractable enclosure

Another elaborate option is a pool enclosure, a greenhouse-like structure that covers the whole pool and can usually be telescopically retracted. While these are often constructed to provide protection from the elements and extra warmth, they can also offer shade when paired with blinds or obscured glass.

swimming pool enclosure

5 – Floating umbrella

If you’re looking for pool shade that follows you round, free from restrictions, then why not try a floating umbrella? The shady umbrella is usually attached to a buoy to float and a weight to keep it upright. Some even have inbuilt cup holders to keep your drinks right on hand. You can’t get more relaxing than that!

floating umbrella

6 – Awning

A retractable awning is one of the most classic ways to bring shade into your garden, though due to the need to be fixed to a wall, you’re more likely to choose an awning for poolside shade than actually in the water. Unless of course your pool is very close to your house or another garden building.

You can, however, choose a freestanding awning. This is a solid frame with a double-sided retractable canopy. Place this next to the pool and then unwind the awning whenever you require a bit more shade. You can even move it around once it’s assembled to track with the sun.

awning by swimming pool

7 – Tree

Finally we come to the most natural form of shading in the garden: trees. While these are perfect for a natural garden aesthetic, you do have to be careful planting them around swimming pools. Firstly, as the trees grow (which can take a long time to become big enough for adequate shading), their roots may interfere with the pool foundations. Secondly, debris – leaves, bird mess etc – will fall from the tree and require even more pool-cleaning time.

So if you’re looking for quick and easy way to shade your swimming pool, a tree probably isn’t your best option!

trees by pool

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.

Animals, Birds, Megan, Wildlife

Welcome to the second post in our blog series on garden birds. In this post we will be taking a look at a bird that 98% of British gardeners report spotting in their garden: the blue tit. You will especially see blue tits during this time of year, when flocks join up with each other to search for food together. If you want to find out more about this fascinating garden bird, then read on.

All About Garden Birds: Blue Tits

What Do Blue Tits Look Like?

Distinctive in their colouring, the blue tit will stand out in your garden against the more plain looking starling or wren. To identify a blue tit, look out for yellow and blue green feathers through the body, a blue cap, white face, and a characteristic black line through the eye.

With the latin name Cyanistes caeruleus, the blue tit is a passerine bird, or ‘perching’ bird, with a distinctive feet that facilitate perching. Feet have three toes pointing forwards and one pointing backwards.

All About Garden Birds: Juvenile Blue Tit
Juvenile Blue Tit

Recently fledged blue tits have slightly different colouring than their fully grown counterparts. Juveniles have pale yellow cheeks that grow to be white in adulthood. Feathers are less vibrant in colour also.

Where Will I See Blue Tits?

The blue tit is not a migratory bird, so you will see it in the UK all year round. You will find them in gardens, woodland and parkland. They are also fond of hedgerows. The species  do not tend to venture very far from their birth place, maybe a few miles at most.

The blue tit itself is a species of the tit, of which 5 other species reside in the British Isles. The Eurasian blue tit can also be found in most of Europe and parts of the Middle East.

 

When Do Blue Tits Breed?

For the blue tit, breeding begins mid-April. Finding a suitable nesting site takes place in February followed by nesting in late March.

After seeking a suitable mate, the male blue tit will search for a nesting site to rear their young during the breeding season. The female will not always approve of the site so the male continues until one is suitable.

All About Garden Birds: Blue Tit
Blue Tit Nest

It is the female’s’ role to build the nest, with little to no help from the male. Building of the nest can take any time from a few days to two weeks. Materials used include moss, leaves and feathers and the nests are made in the shape of a cup. Blue tits may also use man-made bird houses or holes in walls as nests.

Eggs are laid at the rate of one a day, and a typical brood is 7-13 eggs. Blue tits will rear one brood at a time, unlike the robin, whose broods overlap. They will rarely have more than one brood during a breeding season.

All About Garden Birds: Blue Tits

The female will incubate eggs, which are white with reddish-brown speckling, for approximately two weeks. During this time the male will defend the nest and bring the female food. Eggs will hatch when there is a high abundance of food. They live off small caterpillars fed to them by both parents for up to three weeks before fledging.  

 

What Do Blue Tits Eat?

Blue tits first choice of food are insects, and they are great destroyers of coccids and aphids, both which are considered pests to many gardeners. They will also eat peanuts, peanut cakes and husk-free sunflower seeds.

Milk and cream are tempting treats for blue tits, as they can sometimes be seen perching on milk bottles. However blue tits are actually unable to digest dairy, so avoid leaving this out for them.

All About Garden Birds: Blue Tits

Being a relatively small bird, blue tits face fierce competition for food. For example, the house sparrow, which may visit the same bird feeder as a blue tit, is almost three times their weight. You can help them out with competition by investing in a smaller bird feeder that won’t be dominated by larger birds.

Interestingly, blue tits you observe at your feeder are not just feeding themselves – they could be collecting food for up to 22 other birds!

All About Garden Birds: Blue Tits

We hope you enjoyed finding out more about one of Britain’s favourite garden birds. Keep a lookout for the next post in our series, where we will be taking a look at the collared dove.

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Mandy, Planting, Plants

planting azaleas

Rhododendrons and azaleas are extremely popular, despite their reputation as being tricky customers! However, by avoiding these basic mistakes, you’ll have beautiful shrubs with spectacular flowers, whether they are for a Japanese-style border or as the year-round evergreen backbone of your garden.

Soil Type

This is the number one cause of failure. Rhododendrons and azaleas need acid soil to thrive (between pH 5.0 and 6.0). If you don’t know the pH of your soil, you can buy simple home test kits for a few pounds. If your soil is alkaline, choose compact varieties and grow them in containers in ericaceous compost – reducing soil pH is difficult. The soil needs to be well-drained but rich in acidic organic matter – dig in composted tree bark, leafmould, decomposing conifer needles, or composted bracken.

Planting Problems

Avoid planting when the rhododendron/azalea could get waterlogged in winter or dry out in summer – October or March/April are ideal times. Don’t plant too deeply, as members of the family are surface-rooting and the roots should be just covered. Apply an 8cm-deep loose mulch of chipped conifer bark or other acidic organic matter. Renew the mulch each spring.

Growing in Pots

The only way to grow successfully if you have alkaline soil. Use the biggest pot possible and John Innes ericaceous loam-based compost. Plants will need to be carefully watered and fed. If you’re using soil-less or peat-free potting compost, they can lose their structure, leading to poor drainage, causing leaves to brown and die back. Repot every other year into fresh compost in early spring and replace the top 5cm of compost in between.

Size and Leaf Type

Not doing your homework about your chosen plant’s eventual size can be disastrous. There are tens of thousands of rhododendron and azalea varieties, ranging from dwarf alpines to massive trees.

Two popular RHS Award of Garden Merit winners demonstrate the difference –  R. macabeanum is an evergreen tree with cream/deep yellow flowers, 30cm long leaves and an eventual height of 15m and spread of 6m. Meanwhile, R. ‘Ptarmigan’ is a spreading dwarf shrub with dark green leaves and white flowers, height and spread 1m. Read those labels!

All rhododendrons are evergreen but there are two distinct types of azaleas. Evergreen azaleas (Japanese azaleas) typically grow to 40-80cm. Deciduous azaleas reach 120-150cm and lose their leaves in the autumn, often with stunning colours.

Placement

Choose a sheltered site with dappled shade but avoid deep shade beneath trees. Dwarf alpine species will cope with full sun as long as the soil does not dry out. Avoid frost pockets and sites exposed to early morning sun, which will damage flower buds.

Watering

Even though rhododendrons grow best in areas of high rainfall, soils need to be well drained. They like moist soil, not sopping wet mud. This airless mass will lead to root rot and will kill your plant. To avoid overwatering, use your hands – stick a finger in the soil. If it’s moist, leave well alone and check again in a couple of days. Don’t kill with kindness.

Tap water, especially in hard water districts, reduces acidity around rhododendrons’ roots.

Use rainwater for watering rhododendrons and azaleas, but if your water butts run dry, tap water is better than nothing for a month or so in summer.

Wrong Fertilisers

Using the wrong fertiliser can lower the soil’s acidity; don’t use lime or other alkaline-based additives. Keep the soil’s pH level to about 5.5. Try to use organic fertilisers, as rhododendrons are susceptible to chemical burn. Fish or seaweed fertiliser is ideal.

Shallow Roots

Rhododendrons’ root systems are shallow and wide, so don’t use a hoe near the plant. Also, the roots of perennial weeds can get tangled up with your plant. Weed by hand and with care, as you could rip up some of your plant’s roots along with the weed, stunting its growth.

Mandy at PrimroseMandy Watson is a freelance journalist who runs www.mandycanudigit.com.

A plantaholic with roots firmly planted in working-class NE England, she aims to make gardening more accessible to the often excluded – the less able, the hard-up or beginners.

Advocate of gardening for better mental health.

See all of Mandy’s posts.