Alice, Gardening, Gardening & Landscaping

Summer is the peak season for your garden; when the flowers bloom, the vegetables are ready to harvest, and the long lighter evenings pave the way for outdoor entertainment. Now the weather has taken a turn for the warmer, it’s time to think about what you want to bloom in your garden next season. Here are some ideas for upgrading and creating a summer garden.

creating a sumemr garden

Plan it out

Now it’s warm enough to head outside but the plants are yet to come into bloom, it’s a great time to revamp your garden and get started on any major projects so you can enjoy the results come summer. Could your garden do with a redesign? A new patio, decking, pond, or shift in layout? Could your fences, drainage system, paths or greenhouse do with a revamp? Do some research, browse Pinterest for inspiration, and either hire a professional or do it yourself. We stock a great range of patio paving, fencing, ponds, and greenhouses, to help out.

Living space

The bridge between your living room and garden is closing, as people are catching onto the trend of having furniture outdoors. Furniture designers are now producing lightweight and weatherproof garden furniture to offer a comfortable place to relax in your garden. You can use decking to provide a patio area; sofas, wicker chairs, and coffee tables to create a base; then get creative with planters, throws, cushions, lanterns and more to decorate. A fire pit can also make a bold focal point; these are also great for keeping warm during the evenings!

Alfresco dining

Get ready for those summer evenings by setting up a cooking station so you can impress your guests with delicious edibles. In addition to the classic BBQ, there is also the option of a chiminea, an outdoor fireplace that can function like a standard oven, or a pizza oven if you fancy cooking up something a little different! We also have a range of garden dining furniture, so you can alfresco dine in style!

Cosy canopies

Let’s face it, the British summer can be unpredictable, and there are likely to be as many rainy days as sunny ones. However, you don’t have to let the rain ruin your garden party. A canopy or pegola is a great solution for an unexpected downpour when you have friends over. They can also shield from the sun to provide a shady space. The Anthracite Veranda Garden Canopy Gazebo has a retractable roof that can be slid on and off depending on the weather.

A bouquet of colour

Now is the time to start planting the seeds of the flowers you wish to bloom come summer. These will fill your garden with glorious colour and impress guests, along with keeping bees and other pollinators happy. Flowers will make up your flowerbeds and borders, however you can also try container growing to add accents of colour to patios and decking. Our top picks include the Poppy “Ladybird” and the Sunflower “Sunburst”

Edible delights

One of the best parts about having a garden is the ability to grow tasty fresh fruits and vegetables. Now is the time to plan what you want to grow ready to harvest this summer and start planting the vegetable seeds. If you have the space, it’s a good idea to choose a range, including beans and peas for protein, dark green vegetables for iron, and sweet peppers and tomatoes for vitamin C. You don’t have to limit their placement to a vegetable plot or patch; coloured lettuces, kale, and rainbow chard look great planted in flowerbeds or borders, and vegetables can also be grown in containers on the patio. 

What are your plans for your garden this summer? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!

 

Alice, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Vegetables

Growing your own vegetables can be a highly rewarding pastime. Not only does it produce a fresh supply of delicious, ripe vegetables, but it also reduces the need for plastic-wrapped supermarket produce, protecting the environment, and can be highly beneficial for your mental health. Some may be put off growing their own produce, thinking it’s difficult, expensive, or you need a large garden. However, virtually anyone can grow their own with the right tools, so here’s our guide on how to start a vegetable garden.

how to start a vegetable garden

Location

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a huge plot of land to grow your own food. If you live in a flat and don’t have your own garden, you can grow herbs or kale in pots on your windowsill, or small vegetable plants in window boxes. For smaller gardens or limited outdoor space, most vegetables can be grown in pots and containers. But if you’re yearning for extra growing space, an allotment could be a great solution, and you’d also get to meet other keen gardeners!

If you are starting your own vegetable plot, the best thing to do is start small so you are not overwhelmed; the maximum size should be 5×3 metres (16×10 feet). Choose a sunny location in a stable environment that isn’t prone to flooding, strong winds, or drying out. It’s also a good idea to plant in an area with soft, loamy soil if you can. A raised bed could be a good option if you have poor soil or difficulty bending down.

However, you don’t have to restrict yourself to planting in a designated vegetable plot. Edibles can look great when combined with ornamental flowers, so if you don’t have the additional space, try adding some brightly coloured lettuces, kale, or berries to your flowerbeds or borders. 

What To Grow

Once you’ve marked out where you are going to plant your vegetables, the next step is to decide what to grow. There are tonnes of possibilities so it can be hard to know where to start. A good place to begin is to think about what you would like to eat. Vegetable gardening is meant to be enjoyable, so grow produce you will enjoy eating and use a lot in your cooking. 

However, some vegetables are easier to grow than others, so if you’re still struggling on where to begin, here are some suggestions for beginners:

  • Tomatoes– quick to grow and their fruits can be used in a range of dishes. Bush varieties such as Red Cherry and Tumbling Tom are particularly versatile and don’t require training or side-shooting
  • Lettuce– grows quickly and can be harvested easily. The plants also take up little space, making them a great choice for smaller gardens. Our Salad Bowl Red & Green Lettuce seeds produce a mix of colours
  • Green beans– simple to grow and provide a tasty harvest. Choose from broad beans such as Masterpiece Green Longpod or french beans- the dwarf Tendergreen are a low-maintenance 
  • Radishes– a delicious addition to salads or stir-fries, and provide a continuous harvest all summer. French Breakfast are a tried and tested popular variety
  • Carrots– simple and fun to grow, and make a useful addition to your kitchen. The short roots of the Nantes variety make them easy to grow and quick to crop, and the Flyaway has been bred for carrot fly resistance
  • Courgettes– these plants are prolific and easy to grow from seeds. The All Green Bush variety produce crops all summer long that can be used as both marrows or baby courgettes

Getting started

Now you’ve got your vegetable patch sorted and chosen your seeds, it’s time for the fun part: growing. Here is how to get started.

Plant and harvest at the right time

Vegetables are typically planted in early spring and harvested in the summer, however each variety is different, so make sure to check the packets and plant at the correct times. If the weather is particularly cold for the season, you may need to keep plants indoors for longer or use a fleece or cloche.

Prepare the soil

Get the soil in tip-top condition before planting anything by removing weeds and large stones and digging in some fertiliser, compost, or well-rotted manure to provide a fertile growing space.

Space your crops properly

Plants spaced too closely together end up competing for sunlight, water, and nutrition and end up failing to grow. Make sure to follow the spacing recommendations on the packet to prevent this from happening.

Water

Growing plants will need regular watering, particularly during warm, dry weather. However, make sure the soil does not become waterlogged.

Pest control

Make sure to protect your plants from being destroyed by unwanted pests. If you do not wish to use a chemical pesticide, there are plenty of alternative methods available, including companion planting, using netting or fleece, or natural sprays

You can find out more in our full guide to how to grow crops.

What are you growing in your vegetable garden? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Alice, Garden Design, Gardening, Gardens, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting

Fed up of bending over while you weed, or struggling to grow in poor-quality, claylike soil? A simple raised bed can offer an array of benefits to your garden, and thankfully, they’re not difficult or costly to build. Read on and discover how to build a simple raised bed, and you’ll be reaping the benefits in no time. 

how to build a raised bed

What is a Raised Bed?

A raised bed is a flowerbed or planting space that has been raised above ground level. It functions similarly to a large planter, however, it has no bottom or top; it simply consists of additional soil held in place by wooden plants, concrete blocks, or similar.

Which Plants Can You Grow in Raised Beds?

You can grow almost any type of plant in a raised bed, however, they are particularly useful for vegetables; soft fruits such as strawberries and raspberries; small trees and shrubs; herbaceous perennial cuttings; and ericaceous or lime-hating plants such as heather or rhododendrons. 

Benefits of Raised Beds

  • Reduces the need to bend; great if you have limited mobility
  • Great solution for gardens with limited space
  • Best solution for poor-quality or claylike soil
  • Improves soil drainage which increases soil temperature
  • Longer growing season
  • Option of matching soil to the plant type
  • Deeper soil enhances root health
  • Fewer weeds
  • Keeps plants out of the reach of pets and small children

How to Build a Raised Bed

how to build a raised bed

You will need:

  • Edging material. You can purchase a ready-made raised bed from our range, which will save you time and hassle. If you would rather make your own, material you can use for the edges includes wooden planks, concrete blocks, wattle, or logs
  • Soil, plus organic matter such as compost or manure
  • A garden spade
  • Wooden stakes, nails or screws, and a hammer, if you are using wooden planks or similar for the edging
  • Newspaper or cardboard, if you are setting your raised bed on grass
  • String (optional)
  • Bark chippings, paving, or grass, if you wish to create a path around or between beds
  • A tamper tool, if you are using concrete edging (optional)

Step 1: Mark your edges

The first thing to do is to plan where you are going to place your raised bed (or beds). Raised beds are usually rectangular or square, however feel free to experiment with different shapes as you see fit. Choose a sunny area and mark the edges of where each bed will be using string. Alternatively, if you are using wooden planks, you can use the boards to mark out the edges of the bed. 

Keep your beds below 1.5m (5ft) wide; it is not advisable to stand on the beds so keep the width to something you can reach across. It is also best to keep them less than 4.5m (15ft) long. If you are creating multiple beds, allow at least 60-90cm (2-3ft) for wheelbarrow access. In regards to height, allow at least 25-35cm (10-14in) to accommodate strong roots, although they can be up to waist height to allow maintenance without bending over.

Step 2: Build the sides

Next, you need to fix the sides of your raised bed into place. If you are using a ready-made raised bed, this is pretty straightforward as all you need to do is follow the instructions for easy installation. If you are making one yourself using wood, insert stakes 30-45cm (12-18in) into the ground at the corners, then at least every 1.5m (5ft). Nail the planks to the stakes using nails or screws and a hammer; set the lowest board 5cm (2in) below ground level. 

If you are using concrete blocks, make sure to level the ground beforehand by removing the grass if it is uneven and using a tamper tool if desired. Make sure to place cardboard over any remaining grass under the blocks to prevent it growing into the beds.

Step 3: Prepare the ground

The next stage is to prepare the ground ready to create a raised bed. If you are building your bed over grass, line the bottom with sheets of cardboard or newspaper and wet it thoroughly. Ensure any staples are removed from the cardboard. If you are building the bed directly onto soil, dig the ground deeply, adding as much manure or compost as you can. If your soil is poorly draining, add a layer of course gravel, hardcore, or stones. If your bed is deeper than 50cm (20in) remove the top layer of soil and replace with subsoil, rubble or old inverted turves. 

Step 4: Fill in the soil

The final step to creating your raised bed is to fill your newly-created space with soil. Fill with a mixture of topsoil, compost, and organic matter such as manure, to create a nutrient-rich environment for your plants to grow in. You can adapt the soil to the types of plants you wish to grow, for example filling the beds with acid soil to grow ericaceous (lime-hating) plants. 

Once filled, allow the soil to settle for two weeks before planting. Soil in raised beds can dry out more quickly, so make sure to water frequently. 

Step 5 (optional): Build a garden path

A garden path can improve access and create a tidy look, particularly if you have more than one raised bed in succession. If you desire, you can use bark chippings, paving, or grass to create a path around or in between your raised beds. You can keep the edges tidy using flexible edging if necessary. 

 

Raised beds take a bit of setting up, however they can be done so inexpensively and without a huge amount of time and hassle. Before you know it, your plants will have a great home with improved drainage and quality soil, and you’ll have less bending down to do to reach them!

Looking to use your raised bed to grow vegetables? make sure to check out our guide to how to grow crops.

What are you growing in your raised bed? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!

Alice, Uncategorized

Travel can be a great way to broaden your horizons, experience another culture and improve your confidence. However, you don’t need to go abroad to have great experiences. There is a treasure trove of wonderful places and activities right on your doorstep in your local community. Sadly these resources often go untapped as people go about their everyday lives and don’t recognise their existence. However, if you are interested in getting involved, here are some great things to discover in your local community.

things to discover in my local community

Local Businesses

Locally owned businesses are a staple in any community, however they often struggle to compete with large chains. So make sure to do your part and take a look off the beaten track to see what your town or city has to offer. A locally-owned restaurant, bar, or coffee shop often has a more homely feel along with high-quality dishes you may not have tried before, and a local craft shop can provide some fantastic unique items. Google Maps and Tripadvisor are great places to start for some new finds, and local guides should have some good recommendations.

Meetups

Whether you’ve moved to a new area and are looking to start a social circle from scratch, or you simply want to expand your network in your hometown, meetups are the best way to meet new people. These group gatherings are packed with people with the same intention, so they’re great for striking up friendships. Meetup.com has a variety of general and special interest groups and the events allow you to explore the local area, and Citysocializer is a great way of forming a group if you live in a major city.

Landmarks & Attractions

If you’re a long-time local, you may have fallen into the grind of everyday living and not seen the best your town or city has to offer. Every area has an array of landmarks, scenic areas, and museums that you may not have even heard of before; branching out and trying something new can open you up to a whole host of hidden gems. Check out Tripadvisor or TimeOut for the main attractions in your area. Local guides should be helpful too. 

Events

Every town or city can be host to some great events that most people don’t hear about. If your social life consists of meals and nights out, a bit of research can open you up to a whole host of new experiences, from quirky craft fairs to comedy nights to evening classes. Most events are listed on Facebook, so make sure to dig around in the Events section. You can also find a range of events on Eventbrite.

Volunteering

If you fancy giving something back, volunteering is a great way of getting in touch with your community. Not only is it a great way of meeting new people, but it’s also a great way of getting involved in your area in a whole new light. Your local food bank is bound to be on the lookout for volunteers to help sort and box food parcels, and a quick Google search should provide you with some local charities that may be on the lookout for a helping hand. Do It is also a great organisation for finding volunteering opportunities. 

Community Gardens

Community gardens have been a key part of the community for hundreds of years; in WWII, allotments were set up on inner city sites to provide the residents with affordable fresh fruit and vegetables. Today, they are still valuable additions to local areas, transforming vacant sites into green spaces, and are great ways of getting involved with your local community and helping other discover gardening. Check out this list to find community gardening projects in your area.

Hot Deals

Operating on a tight budget this month? Discount websites such as Groupon and Wowcher are great ways of enjoying your local area on a budget. These sites have some great deals to snap up, including restaurant discounts, cooking courses, activities such as paintball and trampolining, and more. These not-to-be-missed offers are great ways to explore and enjoy your local community without breaking the bank. 

What exciting happenings are going on in your local community? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram