‘TomTato’ Plant Combines Tomatoes and Potatoes Into One Epic Creation!

source : www.pinterest.com

Tomatoes and potato plants as separate crops? Pfft, that’s old news! The humble peasants of the past that farmed these green lands would no doubt be amazed at how far things have come since those days. They may even have thought that the newly launched ‘TomTato’ plant verged on black magic, amazingly we can do this at home with a sharp knife or secateurs with wire and a wrap, given that it gives you the best of both worlds by combining the fruit and vegetable types together, this takes creative gardening to a whole new level.

Above ground the ‘TomTato’ plant looks like your normal every day cherry tomato plant, but dig deeper(with a decent fork) and you may be surprised to uncover some potatoes hiding in the dirt. Given the amount of crop growth, fertiliser and soil quality is vitally important. This strange ‘mutant plant’ not to be confused with fascination, isn’t a product of genetic engineering though, it’s produced through a grafting process that takes advantage of Tomatoes and Potatoes being members of the nightshade family – thus being compatible! The result gives you over 500 cherry tomatoes and a decent sized crop of potatoes – ready for turning into chips! More surprising still, this plant grows in a plant pot or, trough, better yet a self watering trough. Combined with decent compost you’ve a remarkably frugal and efficient garden technique.

Plant and seed sellers Thompson & Morgan have developed the plant, calling it a “world exclusive”. However, it’s worth nothing that it’s not the first time this has been attempted, although Thompson & Morgan say that their technique is different – having taken 10 years to perfect – and the result is tastier. There is a way to do it yourself, although you won’t get the same results as you would if you bought one of these new plants. It’s quite a skilled process, as the Telegraph explains;

Mr Hansord said it was “very difficult to achieve the TomTato because the tomato stem and the potato stem have to be the same thickness for the graft to work – it is a very highly-skilled operation.

“They start off joined together by a plastic clip, then the clip pops off as they grow and they’re transferred into a 9cm pot and grow normally.”

source : www.pinterest.com

Speaking of buying, at £14.99 each the plants aren’t exactly cheap, especially as they only last for one season. Despite the price, these types of plants may be the future; especially in countries that have high populations but a lack of space(urban areas) in which to grow separate crops. We just have to be hopeful that they retain the same – or better – quality.

What two types of food would you like to see combined? Pretty soon we’ll be growing carrots on the backs of chickens! Well, that’s a little over the top but here’s an article on rearing chickens instead.

Fasciation in Flowers – What You Need To Know

If you’ve ever taken a walk around your garden and noticed some flowers looking a bit different to others; just the sheer variation, there’s a good chance that’s due to your fasciation in flowers, it’s certainly not a bad thing. Whilst fasciation can cause plants to look considerably less attractive than exactly the same flower species, it can also make them look beautiful. It’s a very strange condition. It certainly interesting point when we debated the positive effects on mind and body of gardening.

Discovering these fasciations can be quite intriguing, but at the same time it can also be somewhat disheartening if it starts playing havoc with your flowers. Read on to find out more about this rare condition, what causes it, and how it can be treated or prevented for your future growths?

What Is Fasciation?

Simply put, the word fasciation means to be bound by a band or bandage. This is reflective of what a flower with fasciation looks like. More often than not, a flower which is affected by fasciation can be identified by a variety of common problems or mutations, if you will. Flower stems can appear much flatter and wider than the average plant and some may even have more flower heads than expected.

It can adhere itself to many parts of a plant including the stem, root, flower head and even the fruits in some rare instances. Shoots that are fused into others are another common identifier. Also be on the look-out for certain parts of the plant that dramatically increase in weight or size. How much fasciation actually deforms a plant is usually dependent upon where on the plant becomes damaged and affected. If the damage occurs closer to the tip of the plant, there will likely be minimal distortion, whereas if it occurs lower down at the base of the plant, it’s likely that the entire plant will be impacted by deformation. It’s probably best to send it to the compost bin but others use is it for growing prize vegetables.

Whilst it’s an extremely rare condition for plants to have, it has been recorded in over 100 different types of plant across the world and it probably affects many more which haven’t been found yet. Due to the rarity and the strange cases that can result from fasciation, some people have been known to grow prize winning flowers with this disorder thanks primarily to deformations that actually enhance the look of the plant. Keeping the seeds from the year before and then exploring thousands of trays will also throw up one beast in the pack so to speak. It is one of the main contributors in the continual increase in hot chillis around the world.

What Causes Fasciation?

There is no one single cause for fasciation as some people are led to believe. Instead, there are a variety of factors that can cause a plant to become fasciated and these have been listed below:

  • Hormonal imbalance – Having a hormonal imbalance can have an impact on certain cells in the plant where growth mainly occurs. Because of the imbalance these cells do not grow or develop properly like they would in a regular plant.
  • Infections – Plants can be fouled by viral or bacterial infections which go on to take over the plant and cause mutilations. Certain bacterium has been linked with plants which have fasciation, but by no means is it exclusive to every plant that has the problem.
  • Genetics – Just like in humans, genetics play a huge role in the structure of the body and a plant is no different. Whilst there are no specific causes for genetics to be altered or predisposed to certain plants, it is simply considered to be a random mutation in the genetics of a plant.
  • Environment – The environment that the plant grows in(heres some steps to improving soil) can also play a huge role in the things that come into contact with it. Insects and animals attacking the plant and causing damage can both lead to fasciation; same as fungi or mites. Harsh chemicals used to get rid of pests may also cause problems, as well as exposure to harsh weather conditions in winter like snow and frost. Many of these can be a factor in causing fasciation.
Fasciated Susan

The good news is fasciation isn’t contagious. Therefore, even if one of your plants has it, there’s no reason to panic about the other surrounding healthy plants (unless they also have open wounds or damage) – they will not get it as a result of being in close proximity to another, but some of us might like to take the seeds and grow more plants for free next year, as an experiment and purely from interest purposes. However, if groups of flowers all present signs of it (which is extremely rare) there is likely to be an environmental condition or another common denominator which will be causing the issue.

What Treatment Is There?

This part may very well dishearten those who already have plants with fasciation. Sadly, at present, there is no way to treat flowers that already have it. No matter how early you spot it, the damage will have been done long before you see the signs of it. You may be able to cut off or prune parts that are affected(here’s some very nice secateurs to choose from) and still leave the plant intact, but you cannot ‘cure’ it as such.

It should be noted that just because a plant has fasciation, it doesn’t mean it will still be affected when it dies and comes back the next year – there’s no guarantee. In many cases it has been reported that plants are 100% fine the following year and show no sign of being fasciated, especially in perennial plants. Do bear in mind, that if the cause is genetic, there is a strong chance of reoccurrence and you may very well have to dispose of the plant completely.

Fasciation on a Phacelia campanularia or California Bluebell wildflower.

With that said, you will probably be slightly glad to hear that you can prevent other causes of fasciation to some extent. To do this, you need to protect the base of the plants from injury and to further prevent bacteria spreading it’s best to keep them as dry as possible. Pruning areas that are already fasciated can also reduce bacteria spreading to further parts.

Now before you decide to put the plant out of its misery once and for all, take a step back and really look at it. Is it ugly? Or is it just different to what you expected? Many cases of fasciation can actually be interesting to look at and even talk to neighbours about. Consider giving it a second chance before you act hastily – at the end of the day, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Does Sunlight and Water Mixing Really Burn Leaves?

Remember those old wives tales that your grandma would tell you? I’ve lost count of the times that I used to hear “you’ll catch a cold if you don’t dry your wet hair!” or “don’t go for a swim, you’ve just had something to eat and you’ll end up getting cramps!”. Both aren’t true, and there’s a whole host of other superstitions that remain passed around to this day, especially with regards to garden care. There’s little harm in following such advice of course, but there’s also no harm in going against it either, or understanding better.

When it comes to the garden these ‘myths’ seem to be even more apparent, so much so that I still know gardeners that won’t do certain things just because of a superstition or a myth that was once uttered by their mothers, not just that, but also of habit, like when the best times to water a garden are which is really relevant to this article. So, let’s take a look at these myths; starting with one that weirdly still manages to persist to this day.

The Myth: Focused sunshine that passes through water droplets will burn leaves.

The theory goes that the water droplets on the leaves act like tiny magnifying glasses. This focuses the sun’s rays passing through these magnifying glasses and on to the leaves, leaving scorch marks on the leaves in their wake. If this were the case surely pond plants and the likes wouldn’t stand a chance being wet all the time, now any creative gardeners with grand plans and beautiful landscaping ideas.

A quick Google search shows evidence that this was still being believed up until 2010, a view that was supported by scientists. It even goes as far to say that water droplets on leaves combined with strong sunshine could have been the cause of some forest fires. Extravagant claims aside, even the comments of the article shows that this topic was still very much debated as to whether or not it was true or not, but since then evidence has appeared that suggests it is merely an Old Wives Tale and isn’t as harmful as we’ve previously believed which is a relief for those into garden care.

In fact, it was that same year that evidence appeared in the form of a study. A team of scientists from Eötvös University in Budapes realised that there wasn’t much evidence to support the widely-held belief and set out to see if it were true or not. The results of the study, published in the New Phytologist, were derived from a combination of computer and experimental studies to discover if certain environmental conditions would indeed cause leaf burn, or if it was all just a load of hokum. What they found pointed strongly towards the latter. I also strongly believe we use water to make our gardens more beautiful and when we use a watering cans on our leaves that it doesn’t hurt them.

It was discovered that water droplets on smooth hairless plant leaves would be unlikely to cause sunburn, mostly because they were too close to the leaf for any magnifying effect to work. However, on hairy leaves with small wax hairs, like the floating fern, the leaf could hold the water droplet for long enough to create the magnifying-glass effect and burn the leaf. Still, the likelihood of this ever causing a forest fire is extremely tiny. In fact, in both cases any water droplets would normally have long since evaporated before any chance of leaf burn happening.

So, what was causing the brown spots on leaves? The researchers said that these ‘burns’ were most likely down to unrelated types of leaf damage; including acid rain, sea water, chlorinated water and fertiliser. There is also the theory that plants could suffer some form of physiological stress of cold water is poured onto hot leaves.

Does this mean you can water plants on bright sunny days?

The long held belief that you shouldn’t still has some weight to it, despite the findings. For example, watering plants during the full heat of the day can be both a waste of water and effort. The water will evaporate quickly from the soil surface, therefore not giving the plants enough time to make use of it. However, the researchers did find that if sun burn were to occur on hairy leaves it wouldn’t be during the full height of the sun at midday. Instead their computer simulations showed that early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower would bring a higher chance of sunburn. Maybe this is because the water wouldn’t evaporate as quickly as it would in the full heat? Amazing how our we are now using technology from the basic garden teachings we gave our children.

So is this myth busted? Mostly, but despite the findings you should probably still avoid watering your plants when the sun is out in full force. But that’s not because of sunburn danger, but because they may not get the full benefit from the watering.

The Leaves on My Plants Have Brown Edges and Tips

“Help! – The Leaves on My Plants Have Brown Edges and Tips”

Checking your plants routinely for any changes is a fantastic method to catch diseases and other problems early on. Making time to walk around your garden and observe is truly worth it; good garden care relies on it. You’ll also be able to see your plants develop much more closely and you’ll also be able to identify problematic areas of the garden as well as individual plants. Not just that, a healthy garden will attracts bird and wildlife in general.

Being able to diagnose these problems properly is one of the key ways in which you can help them have a long and healthy life. However, many people usually mistake one problem for another and end up treating the plant in the wrong way. This means the original issue doesn’t get addressed and more often than not, further damage will be caused as a result. The initial reaction might be to pull out the shears or secateurs and simply remove these problems.

One problem which we continually see to be incorrectly diagnosed is brown tips and edges on leaves. We’ll run through this now to highlight just how important a correct diagnosis is.

A Common Misconception

When gardeners see parts of the plant’s leaves turning brown, they automatically jump to a conclusion; diseases or pests(pest control is probably more dangerous to conclude if you prefer the use of chemicals).. Now, whilst this may be in true in some cases, it’s not always that straight forward.

Take a second to really evaluate the problem. For example, an entire leaf that has turned brown is a completely different problem to the edges or tips turning brown. If the whole leaf is brown, then you’ll have to do far more research because there are dozens of reasons that could cause that. However, when just the tips or edges of the leaves are browning, this points to a single problem – stress, much different to burnt leaves which can be read about here.

Yes, plants can become stressed, they’re no different to us, it could honestly be as simple as you’ve used the hose pipe or watering can too much . And just like you and me, we feel stress in different ways and guess what? So do plants. This makes narrowing down a cause a bit harder since there are several possible reasons as to what has elevated a plant’s stress levels.

Analysing the Cause of the Problem

This is where you analyse the possible reasons and see which one is most likely given the situation. Brown edging or tips on leaves are most commonly caused by a lack of water which results in stress. The following reasons for this condition are as follows:

  • Lack of rainfall – If there isn’t enough natural water getting to the plants; this could be one of the causes. This problem will be extremely obvious in dry spells. Here’s a great article on how to help plants through a drought. Supplement rainwater manually with a watering can from a water butt or tap water if need be. A plant pot saucer will certainly help conserve water. You should also consider taking a look on our article of how to help wildlife through a drought, it’ll also help you with the garden overall.
  • Constricted roots – There’s a common problem with plants that have been grown in small plant pots where the roots have hit the edge and not been able to grow any further. Consider larger pots and directly planting. The same problem is also apparent where soil conditions are heavy and clay-like. Water more to ensure roots get the water they need or consider replanting somewhere which offers more room for the roots to grow. Alternatively, use a self watering trough to attempt to regulate the water better
  • Damaged roots – This is likely to be caused by flooding or not enough breathing room in the soil. When roots become damaged they struggle to pick up water efficiently leading to a lack of water. To correct this problem, address the issue with the roots and at the same time cut back some of the plant so it has lower water requirements until it has fully recovered. One problem I actually had was using an automatic watering system whilst on holiday I caused my own problems. Unfortunately we had a wet couple of weeks and this pushed my plants to the limit. Luckily, easing off the watering did resolve most issues, though I did lost a couple of hanging baskets that weren’t looking too happy.
  • Poor soil – Some soils struggle to maintain moisture (known as sandy soils)  and symptoms of potassium deficiency include the ‘scorching’ of leaf edges. Try these steps and methods to improve the quality of the soil; until then, water regularly to ensure the roots get what they need.

It should become apparent which is the reason behind the problem, but when unsure, work from the most common to the least common. The above solutions should rid your plant’s leaves from any brown edging or tips! Be sure to catch the dead leaves with our quality leaf collector or blower.

Stop Hating Rain… It’s good for the Garden

Rain Is Good

When you ask people what they dislike about England (aside from political issues), the most common answer is indeed the weather. And to be more specific, the rain. The unrelenting rain that can ruin even the nicest of days.

Now it’s easy to see why people hate the rain; it disrupts outdoor jobs, even those in the home such as landscaping or tackling an overgrown garden. Talking work, it makes commuting problematic (as if it wasn’t already), would you believe they still haven’t figured out leaves on the line. We can effectively handle leaves in the garden with a leaf blower and leaf collector.  This just makes the entire day gloomy and in some aspects quite sad. But as we live in the UK, we’ve almost learnt to deal with it and just accept that it’s one of those things that happen frequently, despite how much it angers us.

But really, we should actually appreciate the rain rather than frown upon it(even if we don’t get a barbecue), especially avid gardeners like ourselves. Why, you ask? Well for a whole host of reasons that we’ve explained below.

Rain is BENEFICIAL to the garden and the environment

Excluding acid rain, which can cause damage over time, and the slugs need dealing with; regular rain water is actually beneficial to the environment and – more importantly to us – the garden! But why is this naturally occurring weather so good, several reasons…but before we look closely, it certainly solve the long standing debate of what time is best to water a garden as well as the best way!

In comparison to tap water, rain water is far less harsh due to the lack of chemical additives which are usually incorporated into tap water during the filtration process. Dependent upon where you live, tap water has varying levels of mineral content; usually defined loosely as ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ water areas. You can see what type of water is in your area by having a look at this map.

Those living in an area which has considerably ‘hard’ water are at a disadvantage due to the high content of calcium and/or magnesium in the water; and those with ‘softer’ water face problems with high salt levels. Both can wreak havoc on soil quality and planting if used consistently for a period of time. Harder water is associated with leaving calcium deposits on the top of soil which can affect the pH balance(this is where a soil tester is handy) and lead to growth issues with certain plants (this is characterised by white rings appearing on the surface). Softer water leads to salivation – where the salt content of soil continues to increase above a preferred level for plants and crops. This will have a detrimental effect on growth and yields whilst also slowly causing soil erosion.

Water Butts & Accessories

Whereas, in comparison, rain naturally contains a good balance of nutrients and minerals which is healthy for soil, plants and crops. Due to this natural balance and a lack of chemical cleansers or disinfectants, there is no chance of any build-ups in deposits or erosion occurring. This also applies to the carpet of our gardens – the lawn; it absolutely thrives on rain water! A drought will damage lawns.

Not to mention the added benefits to the environment of letting natural rainwater do the job of watering your garden instead of using a mains supply as the source. Even better, you could look at installing a water-butt to make the most of all the downpours in the UK; they’re easy to install and there’s a lot of benefits associated with having one. You can use a water butt in conjunction with a watering can and rose.

So, whilst it’s a sad thought that the majority of the nation actually despises the rain, it does play its role both in the environment and our gardens; and for that we should be grateful!

5 Chilli Peppers That Will Blow Your Mind

I like my food with a touch of spice but nothing too over the top. I feel if something is too hot then it can ruin the flavour of the food. Some of our family go to great extremes of planting or acquiring some of the world’s hottest chilli peppers or sauces related to them and this reminds me of a traumatic incident that I had with a certain mind-blowing chilli sauce.

I had trotted off to the garden for a bit of a landscaping project with my cheese rolls quite happily in the knowledge that my wife had lovingly prepared them whilst I was hard at our chicken keep project, although it wasn’t until lunchtime that I could eat them. At 1pm after fixing the chicken keep with chicken wire,  I sat down to munch on the first one, smiling to myself because she had put on tomato sauce; just how I like it. I took a great big bite and after chewing for a few seconds this intense fire started raging in my mouth and my lips started to burn. Upon taking the roll apart I noticed that this was not tomato ketchup but chilli sauce and not just any chilli-sauce. Claiming to be one of the worlds hottest I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t. It was also amazingly delicious and actually grown in one of my troughs at home with my newly installed water timer and automatic watering system.

I immediately rang my wife at work and asked her what she was playing at to which she replied; “don’t ever argue with me in the morning again” and then proceeded to laugh at my predicament, I think I’ll check more carefully what the seed trays are holding in the propagators for next summer. Now I did not recall any argument at that time and I still don’t to this day but it did make me slightly more cautious and now I buy all of my own lunch, but it’s quite clear we took excellent steps to improve our soil quality. But enough about my day let’s look at these lovely highly powered fiery chillis we all know so well, and some of us love!

In the hunt for the world’s hottest chillies I thought I would write about 5 of the hottest bad boys in existence.

Scotch Bonnets #5

Easily one of the more recognised chillies and is also known as Caribbean red peppers, Scott Bons and Bonney peppers amongst other things. Often used in Caribbean sauces where they are native to, Scotch Bonnets are popular all over the world for their distinctive flavour and intense heat. To avoid this heat it is recommended to remove the seeds before cooking, just scrape them off with a sharp knife, and save them for other uses in the kitchen or you could use these seeds to grow plants free next year. While not all Scotch Bonnets are hot, there also sweeter varieties available.

Scoville Heat Rating: 100,000 – 350,000

Habanero Chilli #4

A cousin to the Scotch Bonnet variety, Habaneros are green when they are unripe and develop their orange or red colours as they mature. It is not uncommon to see white or pink habaneros either.

The Habanero dates back to an impressive 8500 years and its origin is said to have originated from the Amazonas and from there it spread through South America. Claiming the crown of the world hottest chilli in 2000, it has since slipped into 4th position but it really is not a weak plant by any stretch of the imagination. The fruity and citrus like flavour makes this a very popular ingredient in spicy food and sauces.

Scoville Heat Rating: 100,000 – 350,000

Red Savina Habanero Pepper #3

A very successful variation of the normal habanero pepper and is also said to be twice as hot. Its origins are credited to Frank Garcia of GNS Spices based in California, but little is known about the methods used to grow this impressive chilli, although the rumour was that he found a red chilli in amongst all of the orange Habaneros, and used the seeds from that to create this impressive strain.

In 2007 the Red Savina was replaced as the Guinness World Records hottest chilli.

Scoville Heat Rating: 450,000 – 570,000

Bhut Jolokia, aka Naja Jolokia or the Ghost Chili #2

The chilli with a thousand names, ok not quite a thousand but it does seem to have more than normal and it’s no surprise as to why. Rated a massive 400 times hotter than Tabasco this chilli broke all records in 2007 and held the crown for 5 years.  Grown in India, it gets its many different names from the various regions it is grown in.

It has recently been revealed that the climate has had a huge effect on the Jolokia chilli with some reporting’s of it losing up to 50% of its Scoville rating.

Scoville Heat Rating: 855,000 – 1,041,427

Trinidad Moruga Scorpion #1

As of February 2012 this gold ball sized chilli took the crown off of the Naga Bhut Jolokia by almost doubling the previous record. Despite the immense heat the fruit is said to have a tender fruit like flavour but once the heat gets you it can be quite nasty.

Endemic to Trinidad and Tobago, it is now grown all over the world although the growing seasons can vary with the temperatures; a hard frost will certainly kill the plant. There’s a lot you can do to handle snow and frost in your garden.

Scoville Heat Rating: 1,200,000 – 2,009,23

Explaining the Scoville Rating

The Scoville rating was originally devised in 1912 by American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville. It was invented to measure the level of Capsaicin which stimulates the nerve ending in our skin.

The measurement of one part capsaicin per million equated to around about 15 Scoville units and can go all of the way up to 16,000,000,000 (billion).

To give you an example, the Jalapeno pepper which is known to have a bit of a kick to it normally has a heat rating of 2500-8000 on this scale, compare that with something like the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and it would not be a surprise if you ran to the fridge to consume as much milk as possible.

Tips on Using Chill-Peppers

  • If you are not used to the intense heat that can come with eating or using chillies but still want to try one. Keep a glass of milk as close as possible. It doesn’t completely cure you but it will help take the heat away.
  • Think about drying out some fresh chillies, these can be super handy when cooking and needed some extra spice.
  • Remember after using them that washing your hands will be one of the best things that you have ever done.  Rubbing your eyes after handling one of these can seriously hurt and you can’t wear your gardening gloves to dinner 🙂

Using Water to Make your Garden Beautiful; Water Features!

There is something so right about the sound of trickling water in an otherwise peaceful garden. It compliments the sound of birdsong and it adds a new dimension to a space thanks to light play and water(pond plants), creating a pretty and natural element. The sound of just one simple small water feature is reminiscent of natural water features and how many of us are lucky enough to boast a pond or stream in our garden? Not many that’s for sure! It’s a wonderful thing that promotes wildlife and attracts birds to your garden. Garden care will always pay off.

Water features for your garden are much less of an outlay financially than they were in the past; low energy water pumps and a proliferation of recycling ideas have ensured that more and more people are taking the plunge and adding water features to their gardens. It doesn’t have to cost a lot either, you can make a frugally priced garden water feature.

So, how do we go about adding this wonderful water dimension to our gardens? Read on to find out! But before we do, notice that all you really required to dig your water feature is a pick axe and spade but here’s a list of the best gardening tools that will help.

Choosing the right water feature

If you’ve decided that you want a water feature then your next step is to comb through the many landscaping options and choose which one is right for your needs. Even urban balconies and tiny courtyards can benefit from small features and they don’t need to cost the earth when it comes to installation and it’ll really improve the appeal of your home.

If you’d like something with minimal maintenance that you can switch on and off as you choose, then a small trickle feature could be right up your street. For a project like this, it is usual to buy a water pump without a fountain head. This means that your water will trickle and not cascade, which is ideal for smaller spaces as you can enjoy the sound of the water as it flows and the play of the light on it throughout the day.

Pumps, such as you would need for a trickle feature, work well in a series of upturned terracotta pots placed on a paved area; equally attractive is a large urn or even vase. Use large pebbles to add interest and to help disguise the head of the pump.

For pond based water features there is slightly more scope; what’s a pond without a water feature? Water features for ponds serve more than one purpose; they not only look and sound great but they improve the health of your pond life by adding oxygen to the water which is great for plants and wildlife. Some might not see it as a benefit but its the right environment for snakes.

You can choose fountains, cascades or sprays; they all look wonderful in a pond which is already teeming with life. For a prettier look to your feature, go for a fountain/feature/waterfall pump. These usually come complete with a filter to ensure than small debris doesn’t block the water flow.
When it comes to finally putting one in your garden, there a few basic tips you should know

Top plumbing tips for water features

  • Always use the size of hose which your packaging recommends; trying to squeeze a larger or smaller hose into your pump will affect the flow.
  • When submerging pumps in ponds, place a brick at the bottom of the pond to assist with access when you need to maintain it.
  • Water features should be installed by someone who has some knowledge of electrical fittings and if you are unsure, seek professional advice.

If you want to go down the route of a more natural water feature that will attract a good amount of wildlife, especially in a drought – a garden pond is always an option! Here’s some quick tips on how to create one.

Creating a wildlife pond

Even a small wildlife pond can add a beautiful element to your garden. They are especially attractive to some because they require no pumps or fittings and they promote and assist wildlife. You may soon find you have a garden full of frogs and newts!

A wildlife pond should be shallow (no more than 30cm at its deepest point) and it should also have sloping sides; this is to ensure that creatures may access if easily. Never use tap water for your wildlife pond, only rainwater is suitable and if you are patient, your pond will soon fill up! A liner is a must and will probably be your only outlay; apart from some pond plants which may be picked up very cheaply online.

There is no need to add anything to the base of a wildlife pond, except perhaps some clean child’s play sand. This has no chemicals in it at all and will serve to give a more natural appearance.

By the first day, you will notice water flies begin to arrive and within a few more water beetles will set up home too; attracted by the flies! After beetles you will see the arrival of frogs and newts, that’s if you’re lucky. A wildlife pond is a never ending chain and once you begin it, you are free to enjoy the wonderful world which will grow within it.

Remember: Any body of water within your garden needs to be seen as a hazard for children; even a few inches are a potential drowning risk and no child should ever be unaccompanied near to water. You must make sure you make the garden safe for toddlers. Otherwise, enjoy your water feature – whatever it may be!

 

 

Frugal Friday: How To Save Money Gardening

Frugal + Friday = Frugal Friday! It’s clever, isn’t it? OK, maybe not, but every few Friday’s we’re going to be giving you a few tips on how you can save money doing the hobby you love – which is gardening of course! Like any hobby you can quickly rack up the costs with things like new gardening garden tools (here’s a look at the best gardening tools), planting and just general maintenance; so how do you keep these costs to a minimum in an era when we all have to tighten our belts? We don’t want our gardens suffering just because we’re a little short on cash, we just need to be more creative as gardeners instead.

Today we’re going to take a general look at some tips to save money gardening that will still let you do everything you could do even if you had enough money to throw at it.

Start Plants With Seed

Here’s a guide on how to turf a lawn. Before you head off and read it, have a think about the fact it’s a multiple of the cost of prepping and just planting seed. I love going to garden centres and picking out plants and flowers that I can neatly slot into my garden, but buying just a few can quickly become quite pricey.

Instead why not buy some packets of seeds and grow your own instead in plant trays instead? Sure, it will take a lot longer than simply planting an already grown plant but it will be far cheaper in the long run and you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that you helped nurture the plant to its full growth. Plus when you get the lawnmower out for the first time you won’t be worrying about all the associated issue of a new lawn. Just remember to keep on top of watering them, especially in the dry summer months, or your seeds are never going to come to fruition.

Of course, you don’t need to buy seeds. You can get them for free by saving seeds from previous flowering. If you want to skip ahead a bit you can also get hold of seedlings, although these are more expensive. Experienced gardeners can also try cuttings, sharp knives, and secateurs a must, which I’ll cover in a future article.

Watering

Any gardener who lives in the UK will have no doubt lived through plenty of hosepipe bans, although I’ve always used a watering can instead as there’s less wastage of water, although arguably some kind of irrigation from an automatic watering system to the roots is likely to be more effective than a watering can, but anyway, I get exercise like this too. If you’re on a water metre you’re not going to be able to use as much water as you want when you’re watering your garden everyday during dry periods, unless you want to rack up your bill.

Instead use water left over from other activities carried out in the home. For example, after washing the dishes you can transfer that into a bucket and use it to water your plants; likewise with bath and washing machine water (the soap won’t do any harm).

Since we have plenty of rain in the UK it’s always worthwhile putting out some buckets to collect rainwater too, as this truly is a free source of water. This job becomes far easier if you get yourself a water butt.

Fertilising

Instead of buying fertiliser from the shop make your own by starting a compost pile instead. Here the cuttings from fruit and vegetables used in the kitchen can be of some use, rather than just ending up in the bin. Obviously the compost will take some time to become useful, but if you have one going all-year round – easily accomplished with a compost bin – you’ll always have a ready supply available.

Gardening Equipment

If you look after your gardening equipment and make sure to regularly maintain it then you shouldn’t need to replace it regularly. If you need new tools you can try car boot sales or discount stores, although you may not always get the quality you’re after, I wouldn’t recommend cutting corners on big ticket items like leaf blowers, chain saws, strimmer, hedge trimmer, or pressure washers; you want some comeback if they don’t last their warranty period. Failing that you should do your research; there are plenty of companies, such as Garden Toolbox, who offer quality and reliable gardening equipment for a low price.

Pest Control

One of the most frustrating things for any gardener is watching all your hard work get literally eaten up within a matter of days. Pest control is always going to be on the agenda, but you don’t have to spend a lot to deal with them. We’ve given you cheap – if not free – methods to get rid of pests like red lily beetles or slugs. There are hundreds of methods to get rid of various bugs, and they’re all a quick Google search away!

As for animals you can protect plants with inexpensive chicken wire, or netting to protect from the onslaught of birds.

7 Amazing and Arty Topiary Hedges

If our recent post about a giant garden hedge proved anything (apart from the fact that our world has some incredibly large greenery of course) it’s that we love a good hedge trimmer here at Garden Toolbox! We are also advocated of shrub trimmers and shears. Sure, we’ve seen some pretty ratty hedges in our time but for the most part a garden hedge remains a well tended and attractive border to your garden, helping add a bit of character and a natural solution that a fence just can’t manage. We love it even more though when people decide to partake in the art of topiary, turning something that would have been a small attractive border to their front garden into something that turns peoples heads as they walk down the street.

So, with this in mind we’ve took a look around the Internet to find some of our favourite examples of topiary. It’s a collection that makes us want to get out our garden shears or secateurs straight away and set to work creating something that probably won’t even be half as good!

It’s always good to get a thumbs up from a hedge when you’re walking down the street a lovely bit of landscaping, even if you have to double check if you were just seeing things! The huge smiley face and spiky hair on this topiary example is charming off, but teamed with the bush behind it the design gives the impression that he’s giving you a thumbs up as you walk past. It’s almost as if he’s saying “Don’t worry about the name, there are honestly no crabs here”. His huge mouth probably swallowed them all up! The great news is this work will attract the birds back too.

Lions seem to be a favourite amongst those who practice topiary, maybe it’s because people like growing the somewhat dishevelled mane? In any case this is the best one I found, and a very proud green lion he looks indeed! Just looking at a construction like this you’ve got to appreciate the creativity and complexity that goes into creating such designs.

This giant Christmas pudding themed hedge took six years to create out of a pair of 20ft conifers. It was designed by Roger and Valerie Holley from Yeovil Somerset, inspired by a comment from their 12 year-old granddaughter who said “that looks like a massive Christmas pudding”. Every summer the couple works on the shape to make it even fatter; before using watered-down white emulsion paint as cream and popping a holly on top just in time for Christmas. One year they even added a robin! I’d say it looks good enough to eat, but I’m not a fan of Christmas pudding. I do love their hedge though!

It’s hard for anyone to not recognise the Fab Four, and Liverpool – the city that The Beatles came from – decided to honour them by fashioning topiary in their image outside the city’s South Parkway train station. It took 18 months to grow the band, only for someone to lop the head off Ringo Starr, probably thanks in part to a few comments he made about Liverpool and not exactly missing the city. Ringo’s head is now back and The Beatles remain in green form to to this day.

I have to admit that I don’t mind the odd bit of Formula 1. Some people wonder how you can enjoy a few fast cars going round and round a race track for a couple of hours, but for me it’s a good thing to stick on the TV on a lazy Sunday. This Formula 1 inspired topiary is actually outside the Williams F1 headquarters, where a team of gardeners spend hours every month making sure it’s trimmed. The car, originally made for a Ferrari but purchased and re-shaped by Williams, is 11ft long long and is made from six plants. Attending it are 6ft high mechanics, each made from two plants. Crafting the car and its mechanics was a slow process, as it took two-and-a-half years for the planting to grow around their metal frames and completely cover them. The results were definitely worth it!

We all love a bit of Disney, so here’s the cast of Toy Story 3 in loveable topiary form! These are situated at Epoct in Walt Disney World, Florida. There are far more than just these three though, and in fact the Disney park holds the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival every year, showcasing over a hundred carefully crafted topiaries. If you want to see your favourite Disney characters in plant form then the festival would be the perfect time to go.

That’s your lot…wait, you want another Disney one? Oh go on then!

If you have a topiary or hedge in the shape of something or know of any you can view then let us know, we’d love to see pictures!

A Guide For Raising Chickens At Home

Raising chickens can be an extremely fun and rewarding experience and it’s a step up from attracting birds with fancy bird feeders. From listening to the clucks as they mill around their coop, to collecting eggs each morning for breakfast, having chickens around is sure to provide you with both entertainment and nourishment. If you’re looking for a bit of creativity, and you want to teach your children about the garden this might be the perfect.

But if you’re new to the subject, here’s a guide on how to start raising fowl in your backyard.

Housing

To start, you will need to find a coop for the chickens to live in. If you don’t have too much time on your hands, you should consider purchasing a coop from a local or online source. Coops can be anything from a house-like structure that keeps your chickens sheltered in all weathers, to a fenced-in cage area that has a covering in case of inclement weather. Many purchasable coops come disassembled, so get ready to read some instructions. Do not put chickens directly on the lawn or you’ll need to turf again in just two weeks

Another option is to build a coop from scratch. While it may seem like a daring task to build the design of your dreams, consider following a plan that has been tested before. You will need the usual construction supplies such as plywood, nails, hammers, and anything else the plan recommends, but following a tried method will ensure that you’re constructing a sound structure. The most important thing I found when I made a coop was though you just couldn’t have enough mesh and wire.

Gender and Breed

Different breeds of chickens will adapt to specific environments. The breed of a chicken can determine its temperament and behaviour, the amount of noise it produces, and its ability to adapt to its surroundings. It will also affect the temperature in which it can live, so be sure to research what breed will best inhabit your location’s climate. Getting the landscape right can really help your chickens.

Number of Chickens

If you don’t mind doing a bit more work, and want enough eggs to feed a whole family each morning, you should consider raising more than just one or two chickens. If you’re just raising fowl as a hobby, or are only looking for an egg or two now and then, start with two chickens in order to adapt to the responsibility. If you find you have more eggs each week than you and your family can consume, you might be able to sell them at a local farmers’ market and make a little profit.

Looking for More?

If you decide that you would like to raise chicks of your own without having to purchase them from a store, look into getting a rooster. In order for a hen to hatch her eggs, she needs a male counterpart present. It’s recommended to raise 10-12 hens per rooster. Raising chicks can mean housing an entire new brood, though, and might force you to sell the young or expand the chicken facilities in order to fit everyone.

Caring for Chickens

Of course, you will need to give the chickens feed daily, and provide them with ample water in order to thrive. Cleaning the chicken coop is also imperative, as chickens cannot survive in a filthy environment—be prepared to do a lot of scooping, get a spade, buckets, and wheelbarrow, you’ll need it! the great news is their waste will makes wonderful soil. Lastly, it’s extremely important to prepare for any time that you plan on leaving your house for an extended period. You need an automatic watering system ideally. As chickens need to be cared for daily, finding someone to watch over and nurture your chickens in your absence is an absolute necessity.

Get Started

Keeping chickens can be a joyful and educational experience. Use these tips to get started on raising your new feathered-friends.