Following a very dry spring in 2019, we suffered for weeks with water restrictions and the conundrum of how far the recycled washing-up water could be stretched in the garden. This spring has been exceptionally dry and warm and we may well find ourselves in the same ‘water-starved’ situation.
A rainwater barrel (water butt) is one of the best investments you can make.
It’s a little bit of work to attach it to a drainpipe but well within most people's capabilities. If by chance you purchase one, think carefully about the siting of it. Ideally it should be positioned where it can benefit most from roof run-off and in an area where you need it most.
If your budget or the current restrictions make purchasing a water harvesting barrel impossible, almost any large container will do (the larger the better for plunging your watering can into). An old flower pot (with a cork or silicone in the drain hole), a plastic garden trug, baby bath or any old large container would help ease the pressure when a lack of rain becomes problematic for our gardens again. Either way, your plants both indoor and outdoor will benefit from natural rainwater and you won’t be worn out dousing them with basins of recycled household water!
Below is a link to making your own DIY rain barrel. This could be an ideal option for those who don't have gutters and drains that can be altered. Just click on the picture to follow the link...
In these days of enforced social isolation, lock-downs and consequent meltdowns it’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to keep everyone amused but even these dark clouds can have a silver lining…
...the chance to do things in the garden you may ordinarily not have time to do, such as constructing a bug hotel. It’s amazing how many suitable materials you will have lying around the garden or in the wilder areas around your home, such as small twigs and branches, leaves, cones, bamboo canes, broken crockery/tiles, bricks, pallets etc. It can be as perfect or as messy as you and your team of little helpers fancy; the bugs won’t mind. Likely inhabitants could be hedgehogs, frogs, bees, woodlice, ladybirds and spiders; all of which will make for a fascinating study in the months to come. Attached is a short video from The Wildlife Garden Project on how to construct a very simple bug hotel.
Another small project worthy of a few hours of co-operation is the building of a tee-pee. This could be made from bamboos (they need to be quite long, depending on the height of the kids!) or possibly from thin branches of recently pruned trees, which would need to be of similar length.
Pick a nice grassy spot and create a circle, pushing the lengths into the ground and securing the tops together with strong string. Then, depending on weather conditions, sow peas/runner beans in used toilet roll tubes in a pot (indoors for planting out in late March/April or outdoors when ground dries out/warms up a bit).
In a few weeks the growth will need to be tied to the canes which become covered in yummy peas/beans, providing a secret den for the kiddies and veg for them to pick for dinner. If the peas/beans get devoured by slugs (crushed eggshells are a good deterrent), an old PVC garden tablecloth or sheet draped over it will make a perfect hideaway for the times when being housebound becomes a bit too much (also, don’t forget to let the kids in now and again!)
Gold leaf, leaf gold...
Gold leaf, leaf gold
It's that time of year again, leaves everywhere and how best to dispose of them. Before you do, [stop!] - that's pure horticultural gold that you kick up on the way to the clothesline. They contain lots of essential minerals for your soil, such as magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorous, and nitrogen amongst others. Leaves are a natural fertilizer.
As they prepare to fall in autumn, the nutrients from the tree return to the leaves, so that when they fall, the tree will be able to reabsorb all that food at the time of year when it needs it most.
Leaves are also beneficial to our wildlife. All those insects and worms that help them to decompose are an important source of food for birds, frogs etc. If the weather allows, leave the last mowing of the lawn until after leaf fall, as then they will be shredded and break down quickly.
If you need to clear drive & pathways, just stick these leaves on a compost heap or into black plastic bags, pierce a few holes in it and put in a warm sheltered spot, out of the way. In 12 months or so, it should be ready to dig into beds or use as mulch. It's a good idea to leave some leaves on borders, acting as a blanket during the winter, whilst feeding the soil in preparation for the demands of spring.
The importance of efficient watering
The importance of efficient watering
The importance of efficient watering in the garden, in particular with veg, is illustrated very well in this blog. We tend to think watering is simple, just turn on a hose or fill a can when things start to look dry, but don't wait until your plants are stressed and failing. Grasping the fundamentals of efficient watering will make healthy plant survival a lot easier and give better crops and results. It also ensures optimum conditions for feeding as dry soil around your plants roots will struggle to absorb the food it needs and the result will be decreased yields.
Satellite to Earth
Satellite to Earth
Though I have designed a few garden ponds/water features over the years I had never actually constructed one myself, as much as I wanted to, the time just wasn’t right. So when my son gave me a gift of a pond pump we decided to go for it and build it using as many upcycled materials and plants as possible. I got an old satellite dish, painted it, and when we had all the necessary ground works done we simply ran some flexible hosing from the pump, sitting on the bottom of the pond, to the dish, creating a lovely small waterfall. A copper pipe bend made a good spout on the hosing, ensuring an even flow and well oxygenated pond water. Most of the plants were ones I had elsewhere in the garden and had divided, or planted from seed, with the exception of the aquatic plants, which are a lovely sight during the summer when they attract the hoverflies and bees.
I am amazed the pond has attracted so much wildlife in such a short space of time. Last spring we got our first frogs, which set up home in the polytunnel as soon as they were ready to leave the roost. A fabulous variety of birds visit every day, particularly in the evenings when a communal pre-bedtime bath is the norm, and fascinating to watch. For very little money we have enriched our lives and the lives of all the fabulous visitors that came and thankfully never left, such as the crazy pond skaters, invertebrates of all shapes and sizes, beautiful dragonflies and the ever exuberant bathing birds. And the precious frogs!
It is such a worthwhile addition to any garden, if it is a practical option for you and the time is right.
Upcycling old bed bases
Want not, waste not
It's that time of year!!
As someone who believes that there is a use for a lot of things which end up in landfill, when this bed base needed re-homing last spring, I thought a bed is a bed, right?!
I lined it with fabric, used a few bags of compost mixed with graded garden soil and it was the perfect height to fool the carrot flies, producing a great crop of tasty and abundant salads.
Indoor planting: 'How to grow fresh air'
The Power of Nature
Studies have proven that indoor plants are invaluable in domestic, commercial and community spaces, not only as they are aesthetically pleasing but because they have been proven to purify the air, resulting in unquantifiable benefits.
As toxins in the air we breathe are removed by these humble filters, the recognised benefits include tension and stress reduction, improved concentration and mood, increased creativity, memory recall and enhanced cognitive health. Naturally this leads to positive health outcomes and indicates possible resistance to chronic stress and diseases. It is a fascinating but logical result of many studies and begs the question why they are not used more in areas of our lives where well-being and air quality is of paramount importance,such as colleges/schools,libraries,working spaces,psychiatric and therapy units etc.
I found the attached Ted Talk very interesting, I hope you do too.
- Areca Plant in the living room: converts CO2 to Oxygen during the day. You need 4 shoulder-high plants per person, and need to wipe the leaves daily in Delhi (maybe weekly elsewhere).
- Mother-in-Law’s Tongue in the bedroom: converts CO2 to Oxygen during the night. You need 6 waist high plants per person.
- Money Plant where necessary removed formaldehyde and other volatile chemicals from the air.
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