7 Great Ways to Increase your Home’s Curb Appeal

So many homes are sold on the curb appeal and many buyers make up their minds to purchase a home before they even step inside it. There is no accounting for first impressions and the way you present your home and the first appearance it offers makes a significant difference to its desirability. This factor is known as the curb appeal – which as you may have guessed is the amount of appeal it creates from the road. So, let’s take a look at some innovative ways to increase it and sell your home faster and for more.

Front Door

So many of us are drawn towards the front door when we look at a home from the road and adding a colourful and alluring new coat of paint can make the front door look all the more attractive, a good time to use your paint brushes. Strong bright gloss colours look great and are very in at the moment. Of course, other colours are safer and also timeless. A black or dark plum works well and is contemporary muted and works well at creating that positive first impression. A nice set of hanging baskets either side of the door will work nicely.

Lighting

Good garden lighting is unseen but still adds significantly to the appeal of the property. Symmetry can work wonders here too and significantly add to the appeal of the garden lights. Hiding lights beside, underneath and behind trees and shrubs can create interesting shapes, get creative with your gardening. Tones and colours are a good idea.

Paths and Garden

Clean the leaves and dirt from the paths and the garden before you sell the home. A leaf collector and blower will really help this process. People don’t want to see a load of rubbish on the front drive as it detracts from the home, get a good pressure washer and give it a good blast down. Park cars and bicycles nearly and create a sense of order. In addition, paint railings and clean porches – this can greatly improve sale prospects. Tidy up the grass verges using an edging tool or lay a new turf if necessary, get a

Clean Windows

Clean and gleaming windows make so much difference to the way a house is and cleaning your windows and giving frames a polish and a lick of paint can really help. The position of glazing bars is also important and you should also ensure that curtains and blinds are in unison and add to the home’s appeal.

Greenery

Add some greenery, especially if it’s a country house as it creates a specific feel to the house. In addition, try keeping things in tone with the home. So, remember to avoid things like carved bird of prey unless you own a stately home, but a quirky bird feeder to attract birds and wildlife would work. Don’t go with stone pillars with a white gate unless you own a manor house – certain things work well with some homes and not with others but certainly look at landscaping, of course, don’t try to sell your home with an overgrown garden.

Painting

Of course, one of the simplest things is to give your house a coat of paint and tidy up the façade this will ensure you sell quick and can move out quickly. Paint and cleanliness go a long way in the home and can really help the house outshine any others the potential buyers will look at. So, give it a new coat – just make sure that it’s not too brash. Tidy up wherever possible

Next Door

Next door can affect your house selling chances, so if you’re cleaning up or cutting the hedge, ask them if they don’t mind you helping them out. If next door looks clean, you create a better overall neighbourhood impression and greatly increase your chance of selling the house.

DIY: Fun And Creative Ideas For Bird Feeders

There is nothing more soothing than a small, green picturesque garden and the relaxing sound of birds, chirping around. It’s also not just relaxing, it’s good for you mind and body having a lovely garden. With a little dose of gardening imagination and some basic, building skills and a few good garden tools you can provide these little fellows a cozy place to live and nest, attracting birds is a serious skill and offers many benefits. In the summer you will enjoy their songs while drinking your morning coffee, and in the winter will save a few creatures from the piercing power of wind and snow(here’s some tips to prepare for a snow). Winter is not only uncomfortable for the birds but it is also quite dangerous for their lives, that’s why I always try to have some winter blooming flowers too. During this period of the year, they usually find their carefully collected stocks of food buried under thick layers of snow and ice. But if you manage to create a single bird house, you can provide a shelter for some sparrows or pigeons, which will use it to cuddle together during the long and cold winter nights. Bird feeders, on the other hand are also a very good solution, since they provide food for the birds. Here we will offer you some useful ideas for building, layout and maintenance of a bird feeder.

Where?

There are a variety of options to place your bird feeder. You can situate it in the garden, on a special stand; on the wall of the house or somewhere in the branches of a nearby tree. If you live in an apartment, you can put your bird feeder even on the balcony. The food should be placed early in the morning or in the late afternoon. It is advisable to feed the birds at least until the end of March. It is not necessary to provide water, since they are used to drinking from the snow, but if you decide to provide some container for water, it mustn’t be too large, so that animals cannot bath in it. Apart from the regular placement of food, your bird feeder must be kept clean all the time.

A bird feeder from a plastic bottle

All you need is:

  • A plastic bottle – 1.5 litres is perfect;
  • 2 sticks, each around 20 centimetres long – you can use some branches, unsharpened pencils or Chinese chopsticks;
  • Some drilling tools – a scale model knife, an awl or scissors;
  • Rope or wire, about 20-30 centimetres long;
  • Some feeding seeds to put in;

7 simple steps:

  1. Clean up and dry the bottle in order to be sure that the seeds will not grow mouldy;
  2. Drive a hole in the lower end of the bottle and then do the same with the opposite side,
  3. Drive in the hole one of the two sticks and then repeat the whole procedure a bit higher. These are intended for alighting.
  4. Measure approximately 4 centimetres above each hole and make another one, this time a bit smaller, which birds will use for picking the seeds. Of course this hole shouldn’t be too big. Otherwise the seeds will fall out of the bottle.
  5. Drive another two wholes in the upper part of the bottle, which will serve as a loop.
  6. Fill the bottle with seeds;
  7. Hang it on some branch or on your balcony.

Another very creative, easy and affordable idea for a bird feeder is an apple (or any fruit) fixed somewhere in your garden. This is also a very good (and eco friendly) way to reduce food waste in your home or at least make some use out of the bowl of fruit, that you bought a week ago as a great source of vitamins for the children and no one seemed to be interested in it.

Landscaping

Landscaping is essential to making your garden feel as calming as possible, and a few carefully placed shrubs can transform it from a boring suburban back yard to visibly beautiful stress-free area. So if you’re looking to create a landscape with a contemporary feel, with the help of the best gardening tools why not pick from this selection of 2019’s top plants and perennials?

1. Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’

Mahonia, better known in the gardening world as Mahonia eurybracteata subsp. Ganpinensis or ‘Soft Caress’, was voted the Plant of the Year at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show. It is an evergreen shrub that comprises a delicate foliage to boot, and is the produce of Dutch nursery Van Son & Koot. Its cone-shaped shoots promise oodles of bright yellow flowers between August and September, with clusters of blue berries appearing later in the gardening calendar. Mahonia is ideal for creating a sunny yet subtle baseline along the borders of your garden, or for lining around the base of your hot tub. Just plant them in any plant pot or trough, preferably a self watering trough though, this way there will be almost no maintenance.

2. Clematis ‘Lemon Dream’

With a name dating back to Ancient Greece where it was formerly known as clématisor “the climbing plant”, it can quickly make a garden overgrown. The clematis family are commonly spotted growing up trellis fixtures or wrapping around garden archways, ideal for a wall garden. The ‘Lemon Dream’ species sprouts large nodding bell-shaped flowers with a double layer of lemon-yellow coloured petals. Lime green buds form the focal points of these flowers, whose petals turn white towards the end of their 4-8 months of flowering. With a pleasant grapefruit aroma emanating from the plant, the Clematis ‘Lemon Dream’ would be ideal for accessorising wooden panelling around your hot tub, you can garden as creativity as you mind will allow, whilst offering gentle aromatherapy as you soak up the bubbles,

3. Tropaeolum ‘Fruit Salad’

Thompson & Morgan are one of the UK’s largest mail order Seed and Plant companies, and are also the breeders of the new species of Tropaeolum (a.k.a Nasturtium), ‘Fruit Salad’. This new breed is described by T&M  as “..the first bicolour nasturtium with serrated petals”. Amongst the plant’s praises are the fact that it blooms for a much longer time than any other of its kind and also carries a ‘daffodil-like’, sweet and spicy fragrance. With flowers set against dark green foliage, this species is much more compact than its counterparts, making it ideal for planting in pots and hanging baskets. Its flowers are also edible and are suitable for adding a peppery taste and a splash of colour to summer salads.

4.  Chive ‘Cha Cha’

‘Cha Cha’ chives are ideal for those of you looking for a plant that is a little out of the ordinary, or those looking to grow cooking ingredients that also have decorative credibility. This new breed of the chive herb, also known as Allium tuberosum , is unusual in that it sprouts a spiky head of miniature chives instead of the typical flowering buds of the traditional chive. Harvesting the plant consists of simply plucking a head from its sprouts, before finely chopping to create an instant garnish, a sharp knife comes in handy here. ‘Cha Cha’ chives, developed by US seed company W. Atlee Burpee & Co, are regarded as mid-size plants with a height of 55cm and a spread of 30 cm.

5.  Delosperma ‘Fire Spinner P001s’

After its initial discovery in South Africa by Panayoti Kelaidis, this plant is now being retailed by D’Arcy and Everest of Cambridgeshire. It is known to grow well across the US, and also seems to have a hardiness and tolerance to high summer temperatures. It is described by the company as blooming “well in all but the most subtropical climates,” making it ideal for the typical British garden. The flower’s fiery colours blossom from May onwards, and it continues to bloom well into the late summer. This is an ideal flower if you like low maintenance plants, as it can also tolerate droughts whilst maintaining its loud colour scheme.

6. Heuchera  ‘Sugar Berry’

If foliage is more your thing, then Plantagogo’s new Huechera breed ‘Sugar Berry’ is ideal for you. Sprouting ‘frosted’ berry-violet leaves, with pale pink flower sprays hidden amongst them, Heuchera ‘Sugar Berry’ really blooms in the late spring and continues right through to autumn. Heuchera is a great companion to other plants in mixed containers and rock gardens, or is suited to giving the borders a touch of pink. Maintenance is minimal, with the only requirement being to trim off any dead leaves in early spring. However , it should be noted that this plant is better suited to cooler climes.

So from ornamental herbs to unusually coloured foliage, this guide has provided you with the beginnings of a plant list with which to ‘accessorise’ your hot tub – but there are hundreds of others! Most nurseries sell new breeds of classic plants, so it is always worth having a scout around online for the top plants of each season. Good luck and happy landscaping!

Choosing the Best Gardening Tools

You might think in order to have the perfect garden; you need every garden tool ever invented for gardening purposes and even some which aren’t. You’re wrong. People might try and sell you tools that they deem necessary which aren’t – at the end of the day, some people are just out to make a quick buck but in this article we will go through the best and worse as unbiased fellow gardeners.

We’re going to give you a run-down on some of the most efficient and useful tools you can own for the garden and how to ensure you buy quality equipment that can stand the test of time…

Must Have Gardening Equipment:

It’s worth bearing in mind that everyone will have different needs and requirements, because nobody has exactly the same garden. Obviously you may want to buy additional tools and equipment to deal with certain areas of your garden, but on the whole, the following list should be a great starting point for the majority of green thumbs out there. Before we even get into the lis however, this handy list of lawn mowers is sure to save you a fortune.

1) Hand Trowel – This needs to be sturdy as it’s one of the most used tools you’ll have in your collection. Used for planting, weeding and a whole host of other things.

2) Spade – Ideally you should go for one with a square blade and a handle that’s simple to hold; preferably D-shaped as this provides the best grip and allows for easy handling.

3) Stirrup Hoe – A relatively simple tool that is strong, but lightweight and great at cutting through weeds. Blade width comes down to preference, so choose what takes your fancy.

4) Digging Fork – Similar to the spade, but much easier to drive into the ground and soil due to the design which enables you to loosen and turnover soil with minimal effort in comparison.

5) Secateurs / Pruning Shears – There’s a lot of names for these hand pruners and several different types of shears. Opt for ‘bypass’ designs as these are the most commonly used and for good reason. Essentially, they are garden scissors; ideal for trimming and pruning bushes, stems as well as other things. These are perfect for tackling an overgrown garden. If you do buy a hedge trimmer be sure to check this information on them before.

6) Leaf Rake – These are the lightweight rakes that are ideal for raking up grass, leaves and other insubstantial debris/scraps you might have lying around the garden. Leaf collectors would be a handy little addition too. These will be a lifesaver come autumn, especially if you or your neighbours have trees.

7) Bow Rake – The bow rake is considerably more heavy duty than the leaf rake mentioned previously. These are better suited to raking through tough soil and dealing with rocks and other harder obstructions.

8) Hand Cultivator – The handheld version of a cultivator, ideal for smaller applications rather than acres of garden. They have a multi-functional role of weeding, breaking up soil and planting preparation. Designs vary slightly at the tines, but all perform similarly; essentially it comes down to preference!

9) Garden Knife – There are so many garden knives out there, that we couldn’t possibly recommend a particular one. A hori hori (Japanese) knife is ideal for digging, cutting and even scooping thanks to the design. Folding garden knives are also useful; just make sure you get one suitable for weeding, dividing plants and furrowing.

10) Wheelbarrow – No gardener can say they have all the tools and equipment they need without a wheelbarrow. Choose one that’s sturdy, well designed (to make loading and unloading easy) and resilient. Galvanised wheelbarrows with a pneumatic tyre should be able to tackle any job you have in mind.

Incidentally, many of the tools listed are some of the oldest originating tools used in the gardening industry. This says a lot about how useful these tools were in the olden days and how they still manage to get jobs done efficiently, regardless of advancements within the market.

How to Buy Garden Tools Intelligently

Now we’ve gave you a pretty comprehensive list of all the basic gardening tools you need to get your hands on, you’ll want to know the best way to go about this, right? Well, like everything in life, there’s good decision and bad decisions to make in the process, we’ll try and guide you in the right direction to make the best purchases possible.

1) Make a list ­– If you start off by making a list of the above 10 tools, then go into your shed (or wherever you happen to keep all your tools and equipment), see what you’ve got and what you haven’t got and make a note. Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that even if you have some of these tools, they might need replacing due to neglect – make a judgement call and work out which things you need. If you decide you want a chain saw, please read this chain saw safety manual first.

2) Quality – Many times gardeners look at tools and equipment as disposable and therefore buy things on the cheap and replace them the following year. Try and step away from this attitude and opt for a quality tool as they hold many benefits over cheaper, inferior alternatives.

High quality tools are usually made from stainless steel or carbon fibre steel. Stainless steel tools have the luxury of being rust-proof and are therefore considerably more durable than others; but they also come at a high price. Carbon fibre tools on the other hand are a bit cheaper and still just as sturdy and easy to use; however, they probably need to be looked after a bit more carefully.

3) Examine – When buying tools if you get a feel for them before parting with your money, even better. Pick them up, feel them and see if they’re suitable for you. Are they too heavy to work with? Are they too light to stand up to the job they were designed for? An example would be a shredder. There’s a lot going on and you should pick wisely. Be careful of painted surfaces as this is usually used to take attention away from and cover up lower quality construction materials.

4) Multi-purpose – If you’re going to stray away from the list we created, that’s fine! But make sure you don’t pick tools that only have one use as there’s a good chance you have another tool in your collection that can do the job equally well. There’s no point wasting money just to have a ‘dedicated tool’. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but they don’t really apply to the novice gardener.

At the end of the day, just make sure you buy carefully and look after your tools as they could well be life-long friends. Despite the constant change in technology, it is very rare that a new non-electrical tool comes out that will replace it’s predecessor so don’t treat them as disposable!

Using Urban Gardening to Improve Our Cities

The problem with living in big cities is that space is at a premium, and if you’re hoping to partake in gardening as a hobby then you’re most likely going to have to get a bit creative in order to do it. You don’t need to have a garden in the traditional sense to do gardening; it doesn’t just apply to those who are lucky enough to have a decent sized back garden to play around with. You can create miniature gardens in window troughs, create a garden on a balcony or even try your hand at gardening indoors. That’s the beauty in gardening – it can be done anywhere!

Urban Gardening Improves Our Cities

It’s plain to see that gardening is universal, even in the densely packed urban environments that the majority of the world’s population now inhabit. Rooftop gardens are growing increasingly popular as a way to beautify what can be a dull and manufactured looking environment. It also serves to attract birds. Such urban gardens are also a great way to promote community spirit and wellbeing through gardening, with neighbours working together to create something they can be proud of and a place where they can relax and their children and toddlers can play safely so that they don’t venture into busy and traffic clogged streets. Finally, urban gardens can be used to grow fruits and vegetables for consumption by the local community, which will also give them a hobby to focus on. The great thing about community projects is the donations, be it hedge trimmers, chain saws, or leaf blowers. Local businesses are always willing to help in exchange for coverage, so good work can be done.

One major benefit that urban gardens can have in cities is an improvement in the air quality, be it garden walls to take make excellent use of space. The quality of air in major cities across the world can often be terrible, if not dangerous, which is largely down to the amount of traffic that such cities bring and the subsequent fumes that are pumped into the air. Plants, particularly when situated on rooftops, take in carbon-dioxide and replace it with oxygen, if you take reasonable steps to preparing quality soil and a watering system then this will have a considerable positive impact on the environment. While one garden won’t make a massive difference, if a city was dotted with such gardens we’d definitely see a benefit in the long run.

On The Buses

A landscape artist in Spain has taken the idea of improving a cities air quality through urban gardening and has taken it one step further. Marc Granen has introduced a bus that has a garden growing on its roof. Yep, you read that right – a bus with its very own garden! For all intents and purposes it’s a pretty normal public bus, except it has a system known as PhytoKinetic that uses condensation from the buses air conditioning system in order to water the roof.

Marc says that he thought of the idea when he realised there was an urgent need for an improvement in air quality in urban areas but the space to introduce green areas wasn’t always available. As with rooftop gardens he knew he had to use areas that already existed, and a public bus (plus a van he has added a garden to) would be the perfect way to help the city breathe as it moved around on its daily routes. There’s not much to one either, it’s an oversized planting tray with a few cool planting accessories.

Who knows? In the future we may be living in homes which all have gardens as part of their roof, and upon leaving our homes we may be driving vehicles with tiny gardens growing on them. It sounds the idealistic sci-fi future, but as the above examples show it’s closer than you think.

The Green Walls That Are Breathing New Life Into Cities

Imagine walking down a busy city street, turning the corner and coming face to face with the side wall of a large building that’s covered entirely in greenery; such as this one that was recently completed in London. While that may exist today it’s still a concept that I’d like to see further gardening creativity explored and for cities to take the initiative and give it a shot. This future is one I recently talked about in my ‘using urban gardening to improve our cities’ post; leading to beautification of dreary urban areas, helping clear the polluted city air(hopefully improving wellbeing through garden essentially) and bringing back nature to places that don’t have an awful lot of it and hopefully teaching our children about gardening along the way too.

That future won’t appear until we start making strides to do something about it though, although there are places that are implementing such green measures, we need to get our garden hand tools out and make things happen. However, as with anything progressive some cities are ahead of others in doing a lot to improve the urban environment, and for those cities I’d say one of the best ways they can start is by creating a few vertical gardens, if you implemented this in your garden it would definitely go a long way toward attracting birds to your garden.

Before we get into current examples though let’s take a look at what these vertical gardens actually are.

What are Green Walls?

Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Green walls are either part of a building or free-standing. These walls are then completely or partially covered in vegetation; such as plants, flowers and even vegetables or fruit. It’s not a modern concept, and can be traced back to the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but the modern concept was invented by Stanley Hart White in 1938 and later popularised by Patrick Blanc in the late 1980s. We now see all manner of variations with plant pots or self watering troughs simply screwed to the wall in a formation or randomly.

Green walls usually come in one of two forms; green facades or living walls. Green facades are made by using climbing plants that slowly clamber up the wall and take root. This can be forced by building a specially designed structure for the plants to grow on, while the plant remains rooted to the ground. Living walls are different in that modules containing high quality soil or other growing mediums are fixed against a wall. The plants are then planted inside them, often supported by an irrigation system that makes sure they are watered regularly without human input. The latter are obviously are a lot harder to install, so these are normally carried out by professionals. This certainly beats your everyday hanging baskets.

Examples of Green Walls

The green wall on the Musée du quai Branly in Paris was designed and planted by Gilles Clément and Patrick Blanc (normally regarded as the father of vertical gardening). It takes up the entire length of one side of a building and looks really lush. However, in winter the wall is affected by direct exposure to north winds blowing in over the waters of the Seine river. Although the support system for the plants’ roots, plus its irrigation and drainage systems, work well on other parts of the wall that aren’t as exposed the area that is tends to suffer frost damage. It’s a pity, because it really is a beauty! There’s not really a lot they can do about this but you can get your garden ready for snow or frost at home.

Musée Du Quai Branly
Musée Du Quai Branly

Another green wall designed by Patrick Blanc, on the Madrid Caixa Forum, is a fantastic sight to behold. The building is a former power plant, with the green wall taking up one outside wall at 4 storeys high. Its home to an impressive 15,000 plants belonging to 250 different species and has been flourishing ever since its installation in 2008.

The Fiordaliso Shopping Center in Milan has the honour of being recognised by the Guinness Book of Records for having the largest vertical garden in the world. It’s an honour well deserved, as this impressive installation has over 44,000 plants growing over a massive 13,594 square feet. The green wall is made up of metal containers that hold the plants, which are then slotted together like Lego to create the wall – although all this effort cost $1.3 million. They have a serious watering system too.

There are plenty more examples, but those are the ones that caught my eye!

Can I make a Green Wall in my Garden?

Certainly! A green wall doesn’t have to be one of the huge ones that I’ve featured in this post; you can quite easily install one in your own garden. I suppose the question is; why would you want to? These benefits of course:

  • Soaks up the water from heavy rain, thus keeping it away from the walls so saves on water too.
  • Provides an extra layer of insulation to a building. This is one of the big reasons why cities are installing green walls, because it helps keep heat inside buildings and cuts down on energy loss. The warmer the building, the less need for heating requirements; so it makes it cost effective to install one.
  • Keeps your home cooler during the summer, as green surfaces don’t store the sun’s energy like brick and concrete walls do.
  • Looks great, you and your guests will be admiring the green wall for years, it simply needs a hedge trimmer or shears to shape it into something beautiful. I prefer shrub trimmers though.
  • Provides a heavenly habitat for insects, which will in turn help wildlife in times of drought. the whole ecosystem will benefit.
  • Improves air quality. Again, this is why cities are installing green walls, and while you might not think the small green wall in the back garden is doing much good this is a case of every little helps!
  • Absorbs noise pollution
source : www.pinterest.com

It’s also worth noting that green walls don’t have to be installed on outside walls, they can also be put in interiors too. However, you will need to provide a source of artificial lighting and make sure you keep them well watered.

Here are a few ways of installing a green wall yourself:

  • Pouches: Attach pouches to a wall, which can be bought in modular form, and arrange them in rows. You should be able to water these yourself, but it they are too high you can install an irrigation system.
  • Trays: If you’ve ever used nursery flats then it’s a similar process, except you’ll be mounting the tray on your wall instead. The plants are planted in individual cells that are slanted at an angle. It’s a good way of creating that living wall look.
  • Hanging pots: Attach pots to the wall in rows of three or four, although make sure they’re sturdy enough to cope with winds.
  • Anything: Sacks, old planters and even old rain gutters. Get creative and you can create vertical planters out of a huge variety of things, but the larger the plant you want in there the deeper the space required in whatever you’re using will need to be to allow for more soil.

As with a lot of things when it comes to gardening, people are going to have their own ideas. Feel free to share your ideas for green walls and vertical gardens in the comments below. Plus, if you’ve spotted on green wall examples while you’re out and about – or even examples located in your own garden – then please do share the photos with us.

Creative Gardening

You don’t want to throw away any of your favourite really old things? An old porcelain vase, some old car tyres in the garage(they make excellent garden planters for zero cost) or a wooden crate that you got the last autumn, a brilliant substitute for a workbench – what can you do in order to make them useful? Here are some ideas.

Let’s start with a little history

The idea of using some old stuff for planting flowers is very old. It is used by the Egyptians and the Romans and is developed in time, it was quite clear planting would help keep your plants healthy during a drought. Nowadays the interest towards this kind of gardening has increased during the 50s of the 20th century.

Here the main advantages of “creative” gardening:

Flexibility

Using different containers allows you to enjoy your favourite flowers in places that are not really supposed to have flowers growing on or are not very appropriate for traditional gardening. Even if you live in a small apartment you could try growing some fruits, vegetables, flowers or shrubs. And the best thing is that these plants can actually grow almost anywhere in your home – on the roof of the house, on the balcony, on the staircase, etc. They could even be used as a Mother’s Day Gift, what better way of showing your love than a handcrafted garden piece.

One of the greatest advantages of creative gardening is the opportunity to be more experimental as well as the opportunity to optimise the living conditions that are of great importance when growing some plants – the temperature, the air humidity, the light, when to water, and so on. And this really makes a difference for the more demanding plants and flowers.

By using some hanging flower pots or hanging baskets and some old tin cans, you can limit the growth of some fast-growing flowers and shrubs. You can use these untraditional pots for growing different plants that look good together and can actually live in symbiosis required. This way plants themselves can help each other, you don’t need to spend on fancy troughs and planting accessories to make an interesting and varied garden(but the links are there in case you do want a short cut).

Mobility

Plants that are grown in containers can be moved easily. If you decide you can move your favourite flowers from the garden to to backyard for example. This makes you easier if you are moving to a new accommodation and want to have your favourite plants with you.

Pest Control

If one of your plants is attacked by pests, you can easily move the rest of them in a safer place and take care of the damaged one without damaging the others. Try to use the fact that some plants emit certain chemicals or toxins through their leaves and roots that keep the insects away.

Decoration

The small wooden chest with some blooming petunias can make even the most unattractive home look cosier. Using the creative gardening techniques can work really well for you in you need to decorate your balcony or backyard, too. Making use of bits you would throw away that then become part of your lovely garden will make you feel good too.

How to get started

The first important decision you should make is whether to put several smaller containers or for example, two larger ones. Then you should decide where to put them – on the balcony, on the staircase, in the kitchen or in the garden. You can plant some spices or flowers only – the choice is all yours.

Geometry

Before you start, take a sheet of paper and a pencil and make a scheme and a list with the main things you want to do.

Think of the details

Where would the plants you have chosen feel best? Have in mind that the place you choose should be comfortable for you, in order to make watering the flowers easier as well as prevent you ever needing to tackle an overgrown part of your garden. Make sure that the containers are put in a place that is unreachable for your pets and children, a little toddler proofing is never a bad idea. It also provides an opportunity to teach your children about the garden. Not everything has to be bought and much can be recycled. Perhaps you could think about ornaments what would work as a nice bird bath, hopefully that would indeed help to attract these birds to your lovely garden.

What are the materials you need?

Use your imagination when choosing the containers which you will use to put the flowers in, for example if you have an old wheelbarrow or barbecue, use that as a large trough. In the first place, the size of the containers matters. It has to correspond to the size of the plant form an aesthetic and functional point of view. The size, the material and the shape of your container must be appropriate not only for the plant but also for the interior of your home.

How to Remove Japanese Knotweed

“Japanese knotweed”. Just saying those two simple words is enough to strike fear into the heart of any gardener, it makes looking after plants in a drought look like a breeze. It’s not just the scourge of anyone who has a touch of green fingers to them though; homeowners are also in danger of being badly affected by the seemingly endless spread of this troublesome weed. It can get into your home through gaps in the wall and creep up under floorboards, we are talking full on wood care required, and if you don’t take steps to remove Japanese Knotwood then that’s when the real problems begin, it’s far more serious than just an overgrown garden.

Take this Hertfordshire couple for example, who faced having to demolish their £300k home thanks to an invasion of Japanese knotweed. The news story is from 2011, so I have no idea what ended up happening, but the message is that you shouldn’t let it spread or you could have a serious problem on your hands then simply a weed that’s ruining the aesthetic appeal of your garden.

The problem is that Japanese Knotweed is notoriously difficult to kill, it has no problem with snow, although the earlier it’s spotted the better your chances of curtailing its spread. Still, tackling the problem racks up enormous costs around the UK annually and there’s a reason why it’s listed on the World Conservation Union’s world’s 100 worst invasive species list. Let’s delve deep into this nasty piece of work and learn how to remove it.

How did it appear in the UK?

We’ve got the Victorians to thank for that. They loved the plants ornamental qualities so readily imported it from the Land of the Rising Sun during the mid-nineteenth century. It’s not like it can’t look nice; it produces bamboo-like stems that grow to over 2 metres in length and produces leaves and flowers in late summer and early autumn. However, this seemingly nice looking plant took hold quick, hedge trimmers and shears will not keep this brute at bay, spreading along watercourses and railway lines and no doubt quickly making the Victorians regret that they had introduced something that was such a nuisance.

Today the plant is classified as an invasive species in the UK, subsequently making it an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to “plant or otherwise caused to grow in the wild” the plant. It is also a ‘controlled waste’ under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, meaning that any disposal must be carried out at licensed landfill sites.

It’s an expensive problem to fix so is unlikely to disappear from the UK any time soon. It has been estimated that a national eradication programme would cost the UK economy £1.56 billion, so during these times of cost cutting and belt tightening it’s simply not an option.

How do I get rid of Japanese Knotweed?

As noted before the best thing you can do to tackle the plant is to spot it early. Early eradication will avoid any of the problems the unfortunate Hertfordshire couple suffered. You can’t just dig the weed out  with a fork or spade though, as it will rarely work and you’ll have to dispose of the remains legally. Instead you need to get the chemicals out, or hire someone who knows exactly what to do.

The main thing to remember when you’re using chemicals is that it’s not going to work straight away, make sure you have the appropriate gloves. Getting rid of the weed is a lengthy process that can take a few years to complete. With that in mind spray the weed with glyphosate weedkiller during May, applying again in mid-summer, July is best, there’s plenty of things to do in August anyway, and again in September before the plant begins to retreat for winter. Make sure you don’t spray your other plants by mistake.

You can speed up the killing process by hiring companies who will use more powerful weedkillers that aren’t available to the general public, but it’s up to you on how much you’re willing to spend or wait, bare in mind chemicals aren’t doing your soil quality any favours at all, and you won’t plant there again for a long time.

Is this the only way?

For the time being yes, although a measure is currently in place that brings a biological solution to the table. The government took the bold step of introducing a new insect to the UK environment; releasing the Japanese psyllid insect, Aphalara itadori, into the wild. This insect loves to make a meal of Japanese Knotweed, so it could theoretically help control its spread. It will be a few years before we know just what effect the little bug will have on this hellish weed, or what affect it’ll have on our own eco system. One assumes yet more pest control will be in order.

5 Plants that Changed the World…. Almost

Did you know that nettles were used in the middle ages to help the treatment of baldness? There’s loads of uses for plants and we will take a look at 5 of the best ones in this article.

1 – Cannibals & Pineapples

The famous explorer Christopher Columbus discovered upon reaching the Caribbean, that the local tribes who liked to feast on human flesh did so by using the popular fruit as a means to soften the meat. Subsequently, pineapples were then shipped over to Europe as a means to tenderise pork and are still commonly used as a firm favourite with gammon and chips.

2 – Monks Pepper & Underwear

Have you ever heard of the Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder? I certainly hadn’t until now although I don’t think I will be forgetting it in a hurry. It was said that Roman women were advised that the leaves of this plant were to be placed in the undies of the ladies to ward off any lustful feelings. It later became apparent that the plant was actually an aphrodisiac.

3 – Carrots & Warships

What could carrots possibly have to do to with warships? After reading this I was amazed to learn that not so long ago, 2 Scottish researchers discovered on a use for carrots that could aid the future building of our famous Royal Navy’s destroyers. By extracting the cellulose in the form of nano-fibres and combining this with a few other modern techniques, they discovered a material that was not only strong and rigid but that it was also very cheap and available in abundance. The technology has also been used to manufacturer fly fishing rods.

4 – Moss & the War Effort

Sphagnum Moss evolved around 350 million years ago but it wasn’t until the late 1800′s that by pure accident, a forester discovered its healing properties by pure coincidence when it was used to stem the bleeding following a cut on his arm. Fast forward to the 20th century and in 1916, the children of Britain were out in the countryside on a Sunday, under orders from the War Office to collect as much as possible to assist with the soldiers who were fighting the battles. Although never officially recorded, the Army later acknowledged that with its super levels of absorbency, the death tolls would have indeed been much higher. Recent evidence would suggest that this was in actual fact a re-discovery and was used for centuries as far back as recorded history will reveal.

5 – Grapefruit & the Garden of Eden

Rather astoundingly it would seem, some of the scandals that we see today are not even close to rival those of days long past. In the 18th century, women were warned to avoid eating grapefruit as it was believed to be the “forbidden fruit” from The Garden of Eden.

As I mentioned in the beginning, some of the facts are truly astonishing. Some are hilarious, but all have been written in a wonderful fashion by the author and I would highly recommend getting it; especially if you wanted to see what they used to do with Ginger.

Is Gardening Good For You? The Benefits of Gardening For Mind & Body

As gardeners running a gardening blog we are obviously proponents of the benefits that gardening can bring to your life, not just personally, a garden is a platform to teach your children too. When people ask me the question “is gardening good for you?”. I find it hard to fathom why such a question is even asked, because surely the benefits are plain to see? It gets you fresh air, exercise, a sense of pride and a whole wheelbarrow load of other benefits. It’s a question I end up answering with enthusiasm though, because the more people who are educated about what gardening can do for your life the more people will be willing to garden and hopefully create some fantastic pieces of Eden amongst our increasingly urban landscapes. Is gardening good for you? Yep, so let’s take a look at the benefits of gardening!

Gardening Makes You Happier

Here I’m going to refer to an article that prompted me to write this post. It was reported in The Daily Mail that taking up gardening will lift your spirits and gardeners are less likely to “display signs associated with unhappiness and depression”. Gardener’s World Magazine had conducted a poll of 1,500 adults in the UK and found that 80% of those who toil away in their gardens feel satisfied with their lives while only 67% of non-gardeners can say the same thing. I also think it gives us something to tinker with indoors too. I am always planting trays or service the shredder in the garage. It keeps me thoroughly busy on the weekends

Part of this surge in happiness is down to the feeling of having nurtured something, of looking at your garden and taking pride in the fact that it’s something you had a hand in creating, not only that you see clear positive effects, for a start, it attracts more birds. How can that not put a smile on anyone’s face? As someone who works in an office for 5 days a week I jump at the chance to get outside and get my hands dirty, it doesn’t matter if I had a serious job on laying new turf, or simply trimming the hedge. It’s a great feeling to dip your hands into dirt and work at growing something beautiful when you’ve been staring at a screen for the majority of your working life. It’s a way to escape the pressures of modern life, to go back to our natural instincts to work the land and commune with nature. The Internet is a wonderful invention, but there’s something very bleak about looking at beautiful pictures of flowers on a computer screen when you could be out there admiring them for real.

Gardening Improves Your Health

From the health side of happiness there’s some scientific evidence to show that gardening can help with those suffering from depression or stress. Personally I do feel like gardening is the perfect antidote to a stressful week at work, as is taking a long walk in the countryside. From the depression side a Norwegian study from 2009 found that “therapeutic horticulture” helped improve the symptoms of clinically depressed patients, with those patients also still feeling the benefits after a 3-month check-up. Similarly a 2011 study found that gardening for just 30 minutes reduced cortisol levels, which is the hormone produced by stress. Gardening doesn’t have to me just mud and pot plants, you can also get a pressure washer going and clean down the patio. There’s all sorts of ways in which you can improve you ambience.

Aside from mental health gardening is also the perfect way to exercise and get some fresh air. Gardening literally can get your blood pumping; with digging, weeding, planting and other gardening tasks becoming a great way to get some low-impact exercise. If you don’t have the time/money/motivation to go to the gym or go running then gardening is a perfectly acceptable substitute, and there’s also another benefit in that. You can grow plants for free in a years time collecting seeds. There’s nothing stopping you making a budget garden for one months gym membership cost. Rest assured getting your soil into tip top condition is a big deal. If you feel like you still need exercise after it’s because you managed five minutes at most!

When you’re gardening you’re not in the mindset of someone who is exercising, it’s simply a hobby or something you enjoy. Exercise by itself can become very repetitive, making your more likely to give it up, but since gardening is a task with more variety and isn’t primarily about exercise you’re far more likely to keep it up in the long run. There would be no better time to tackle your overgrown garden that when you’re considering the gym. It’s literally killing two birds with one stone.

Finally, there are studies that show that gardeners are more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables than those who don’t take to gardening. This is especially the case if you’re growing your own food in the garden, as you’re obviously going to be eventually eating that food. Kids who take part in after-school gardening programs, such as the projects we’re big supporters of here at Garden Tool Box, are also more enthusiastic about trying new foods such as a variety of fruits and vegetables than those who don’t have any gardening experience.