Faced again with the problem of needing manual labour, this time in the garden to give it a revamp, I pondered. Gardeners cost £10- £15 per hour where I live, but I often just need the muscle power to dig, shift and lift. Then I had a novel thought.
I tried contacting the local job centre to see if there were keen people available at a more economical sum. Sure enough, it was really easy to dictate my needs to the man on the phone, be given a reference number and signed, scanned and returned a document which guaranteed I would pay the minimum wage. There was no charge for this and within an hour I started to receive calls. There were in fact so many calls for the £6.50 an hour job of heavy digging in my back garden, I had to call the job centre again to switch off the advert having agreed to one person and recording a back list of another 4 keen types.
Now, it was not a gardener I had hired, even though he professed to have done a fair amount of landscape gardening for a local council. He needed tutoring on how to dig up roots, rather than chopping them of at the surface; and I had to explain and that digging up a patch of ground containing rubble required penetrating the soil rather than scraping the turf from off the top of it. But that was what I was prepared for, and I did get a good chunk of the work done for a fraction of the price. Well, I did have to deflect the request for more funds as “the work had been really hard”.
So for £50 I got two sections of the garden cleared and felt encouraged to jet wash my large balcony as he had carried all the planters off it for me. They now sit at the bottom of the garden ready to be potted up with the spring display that I will see from my kitchen window. I will spend time this weekend assessing the next stage of work, and when the pots are ready, the top soil ordered, I will call up the numbers on my list, or re post my job centre ad and complete the next stage of the garden revamp. Hoorah! Watch this space. Wendy
The side bed covered in the ivy I had got as far as dragging off the wall. Can you imagine the amount of roots to dig up?
Moles can cause a big mess in a garden, creating lots of little brown mole hills in an otherwise perfect, smooth, green lawn. Mole traps are a great way to take care of this problem; you can use tunnel, claw or spring traps. Follow this method to set them up for optimum results:
You Will Need:
Something long and thin to use as a probe (such as a screwdriver)
Something to firm the soil in the mole tunnel (such as the handle of a garden tool)
First, try to figure out where the main tunnel is – the brown patches on your lawn (the mole hills) are usually along small branches off the main tunnel. These side branches may be up to 6 inches long and may not be revisited by the mole, unlike the main tunnel. Therefore, it is best to place the trap within the main tunnel rather than in the side branches.
Try to find the most recent hills (to maximise the chance that the mole will pass through) and use the probe to gently and carefully press into the ground near where you think the main tunnel is. It may take a few attempts to find the tunnel as it won’t be very big – about the size of a golf ball. You will have found it when you come upon an area of the ground which offers little resistance when you press down gently with the probe.
Once you have found the tunnel, use your trowel to dig the soil out of the tunnel, creating a small hole which is big enough to fit the trap, though not much bigger. Clear away as much loose soil along the tunnel as possible and press the base of the tunnel (using the handle of a garden tool for example) to make it firm and compact, so the mole is less likely to squeeze underneath the trap.
When this is done, carefully set the trap and put it into the hole. You can test that it is working by using the probe to trigger it; then reset it and put it back into the hole. Put the turf back over the hole, making sure to cover any gaps where light could filter through while stopping any soil from tumbling into the tunnel.
Try to check the trap every day. If the trap has been triggered but you can’t see the mole, it is possible that it managed to find its way underneath the trap so you may have to adjust its position and make sure the base of the tunnel is still firm. Using multiple traps to cover the network of tunnels will increase the likelihood of successfully removing the moles from your garden.
Usually one of the few benefits of a cold, snowy winter is that it helps to kill off pesky slugs and snails. Unfortunately, this year we have had such a mild winter that the little pests have thrived, hit by nothing more than the odd day of rain and very occasional light frost.
As most gardeners know, slugs and snails can be utterly detrimental to your plants and flowers and must be dealt with. An easy method is simply to keep your plants out of the slugs’ reach. You can do this by using hanging baskets or keeping indoor plants. However, this is not always practical or desirable.
There are several methods of dealing with slugs. Covering your plants with netting will help to prevent slugs and snails as well as birds from attacking them. It is important to keep checking them however, in case any slugs have managed to slip through and to make sure that the plants do not get caught up in the netting.
Salt is extremely effective at killing them; however, sprinkling a barrier of salt around your plants may prevent slugs from attacking them, but if it seeps into the soil and is taken up by the plants and flowers themselves, salt can damage those too.
A tested and safe repellent or slug killer may be a better solution and these are readily available. They are often in pellet form and should be scattered around the plants. The slugs will consume them and perish while your plants remain healthy and safe. Such products are very carefully controlled to be safe for use when children are present or nearby, but it is always best to check if they are suitable for use around edible plants, should you wish to use them near any crops.
An alternative method to pellet-based slug bait and killers is the slug trap. These are fitted into the ground near the plants or anywhere where you frequently see slugs and snails, and the base is filled with beer or yeast. The slugs are attracted by this and fall into the trap, keeping your plants protected.
Water features require different care depending on the season. During spring and summer when the days are hot, water can evaporate quickly so you must keep an eye on the water level in the feature to prevent it running dry. Remember that the pump must always be submerged in water – if the fountain is left running but is without water, this can cause considerable damage to the pump and prevent it working properly in the future.
Likewise, in winter it is important to make sure that the water in the fountain is kept above freezing point. Water expands when it freezes, so if it is allowed to freeze within the feature, the pressure can cause a lot of damage, potentially preventing the fountain from working properly. If you have an outdoor water feature that you can bring indoors, the temperature inside your home should be high enough to prevent the water freezing. However, if you want to leave the feature outdoors, you should remove any water at the start of the winter, or alternatively try Primrose’s Fountain Frost-Free, an eco-friendly and safe product which you simply add to the water to prevent it freezing, enabling you to continue enjoying the feature throughout wintertime.
Fountains can also be prone to algae growth, particularly outdoor fountains; the supply of water together with plenty of sun provides optimum growing conditions. This can cause the water in your feature to turn green. To avoid this, make sure you change the water regularly to prevent any build-up of algae. You can also buy a water feature cleaner which will keep the water clear and free of algae. Primrose recommends Ambienté Fountain Safe as an economical, effective and safe fountain cleaner. This can also be combined with Ambienté’s Stainless Steel Water Feature Cleaner, a fantastic, innovative product designed to prevent limescale buildup on stainless steel features and to keep them shiny and clean.