Gardening Tips
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How to heat a Greenhouse

Greenhouse gardening is relatively easy during the summer when plants thrive in the ideal conditions provided by long warm days with the sun high in the sky.. As the song goes, summertime and the living is easy . In the winter, greenhouses perform another valuable function, sheltering tender plants from the ravages of frost, snow and ice. To start: Most tender garden plants can be kept during the winter if the temperature doesn t dip below 7C and to achieve this mark you naturally need a heater, but first try and insulate the greenhouse as best you can. The easiest way is with bubble wrap that reduces heat loss and keeps out draughts. The kind you wrap around delicate Christmas presents will suffice but you can also purchase horticultural bubble wrap that is UV resistant and tougher than the everyday variety. Another tip that will save you money, if you only have a few tender plants to protect in a large greenhouse, would be to insert a perspex or bubblewrap wall . This will divide th
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Are you Prepared for Winter?

If you listen to an old wife, they may tell you a tale that equates the number of acorns with the severity of the approaching winter. This year there s a mammoth amount of acorns, so it would be a good idea to batten down the hatches before winter officially arrives on December 21st. You might do worse than be prepared with everything you need to keep the drive clear, your pond unfrozen and a greenhouse warm. Plant Prep Tender plants in containers should be brought inside before the first sign of frost. Others will need protection well before the winter solstice and the same is true for hardier plants if they are in an exposed area. A mulch of bark around perennials is a good idea, about 2 inches deep, this will not only offer protection but adds organic matter to the soil. Like you and me, tender plants like to be wrapped up in cold weather, but instead of an overcoat, shrubs and plants prefer to be enveloped by a small tent made from bamboo canes covered with fleece or bubblewrap. F
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Remembrance Day

It s almost a hundred years ago since the Great War began. My grandfather was lucky, he got carted off from the Somme in 1916 after being hit by shrapnel, missing out on the slaughter until returning a year later only to be shot. I wonder whether he would be surprised at us still commemorating a war, however catastrophic, from a century ago, after every old soldier has passed away. The reason why we do is the sad fact that the First World War was not the war to end all wars   and there have been many other conflicts and lost lives since then, from Korea to Afghanistan, El Alamein to Goose Green and we remember the sacrifices made by the armed forces in all those engagements. Because of this loss of life and the sight of bodies arriving all too frequently from overseas draped in the Union Flag, rather than being forgotten, Remembrance Day is now observed ever more keenly with most people buying poppies and services well attended. Remembering Loved Ones Whether a relative or loved one
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How Eco Friendly Can a Wooden Reindeer Be?

Chopping down trees to make wooden reindeer does not initially seem to be Eco friendly. Particularly if the reindeer are sold for profit as part of the ever rolling Christmas market. But think again, as David Hall has.
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How to make a Christmas Garland

With significance and meaning rooted in a pagan past, the tradition of bringing evergreen plants, such as holly, ivy and laurel, into the home at Christmas and New Year shows no sign of losing popularity. Visit anywhere over the festive season and you will see wreaths decorating the front door and garlands inside, most likely over a fireplace, on walls or hanging from bannisters. Garlands are usually made up from a selection of foliage and cones, berries, mistletoe and baubles. Extra bling can be added in the shape of fairy lights and glitter. More extravagance would include ribbons, fruits and poinsettia. DIY Garlands It doesn t take too much effort or expense to create your own Christmas garlands, and, although a bit fiddly in places, these garlands are quick to make. You only need a small pair of wire cutters, secateurs and the decorations – and remember that most of these can be used in succeeding years. First of all decide whether to go false or real. The former is easier and q
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The G Factor, great products for 2014

Simon Cowell might not know it, but the X Factor has a new rival – the G Factor. Garden products that are new to the market and have the talent to become best sellers. In no particular order, here are our top ten . BeefEater BUGG Barbecues Compact, contemporary and durable are all qualities embodied in this powerful new design from the spiritual home of barbie down under. BeefEater have a quarter of a century of experience in building BBQs and they have now come up with something to really heat up the market. Available in Graphite and Amber finishes, the BUGG is a real lightweight but not when it comes to performance. There are rust free porcelain enamel coated cook tops, two stainless steel burners and quartz start ignition. A locked-in grease tray prevents spills and a smart wheel lock adds stability. Suitable for a patio, balcony or the beach, the BUGG is great to cook on and looks superb. There s even a limited edition the Top Gear model that s so light weight and easy to erect
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Would you have a zombie in your garden?

The average gardener s film choice is probably biased towards movies such as Greenfingers , maybe The Straight Story a yarn about one man s journey across America riding on a lawn mower, or perhaps Edward Scissorhands if they re interested in topiary. Possibly not top of the list would be George A Romero s Night of the Living Dead . So why would any anyone want zombies at the bottom, or anywhere, in their garden? The answer is of course that gardeners come in many guises and have numerous ideas about garden design. If Alan Titchmarsh is the housewives choice, Diarmuid Gavin is the pin up boy of concrete manufacturers. Who is to say that graphic representations of undead creatures don t have a place in the English garden? Ok, they may be surprising additions to the rambling roses, lupins and hollyhocks surrounding a chocolate box thatched cottage. But wouldn t they be fun. And in fact Miss Marple, wandering through her neatly tended cottage garden and tripping over a corpse, does sound
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Achieving a moss and weed free lawn

Healthy grass that s growing well is the most effective way to prevent weeds and moss taking over your lawn. Although the latter can be deterred by good soil preparation before turf is laid or seed is sown. Now that s it s autumn, all lawns need reinvigorating particularly if they have experienced heavy traffic or the weather has been unkind – too hot and dry, too wet, it s never perfect. Autumn lawn treatment Start by raking or scarifying the grass, removing all the dead thatch that suppresses growth. Then using a fork, or a specialist tool that removes plugs of earth, go all over the lawn spiking holes that will promote both drainage and aeration. Drainage is very important in combating moss, especially if your lawn is shaded as well. So if you are planning a new lawn, always prepare the soil well with grit and organic matter. Grass needs lots of water to grow well but it also needs to excellent drainage. There s are a variety of products that will provide an autumn seasonal pick
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Which chicken coop do you need?

Keeping Chickens Chickens are not difficult to keep. You need to provide them with a constant supply of food and water, and keep an eye open for any ailments, but just as important is a secure and well designed coop. Buy a coop larger than your present needs. Once the poultry bug has bitten you, you ll probably want space for a few more hens. The floor space for each hen should be about 4 sq ft and perches 6 12 inches per hen, rounded and if possible at different heights. There should be a minimum of two nest boxes filled with straw and below the level of the perches. Essentials When buying a coop, buy the best quality you can afford, a solid coop made from pressure treated timber that is at least 12mm should last a very long time. Avoid mineral felt roofs as they are difficult to clean thoroughly. Make sure that the inside of the coop is dry and draught free. A pop door for the hens to come in and out keeps the coop cozy in cold weather. There does however need to be good ventilation
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Growing Pumpkins for Halloween

Origins of the pumpkin Many people find the increasing takeover of our culture by inane transatlantic influences as a reprehensible state of affairs. Our export of Halloween lanterns carved out of pumpkins to the States might be seen as Britain gallantly fighting back, but there s a sting in the tail. We ve received the entirely senseless trick or treat in return. Whatever the lantern s exact origins if you do any research they focus on an Irishman called Jack who tried to trick the devil and got his comeuppance at least we don t follow the disquieting Breton Halloween tradition of putting lights in skulls. But they are French and also eat snails and frogs legs, so perhaps that practice isn t all that weird. Preparing your pumpkin To grow the scariest pumpkin for Halloween you must first choose the correct seeds. Luckily enough the major companies market seeds specifically for the occasion – large, orange, with sturdy handles. Jack of all Trades seems to be a favorite. From April on
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Everything you need to know about topsoil and how to improve it

Soil is the gardener s basic raw material. Made up from rock particles that have been reduced by nature and organic matter, air and water, it comes in many types and is home to billions of living organisms that enable your plants to flourish. Topsoil is not actually the top-level of your garden soil, it s below a thin layer of humus that s made up of decomposing materials, particularly plants and leaves. You then have the topsoil which is above subsoil and bedrock. Subsoil is important for drainage but contains few nutrients, and then the bedrock is the original rock from which the soil was created. Topsoil is therefore the most important growing medium and roots rarely penetrate any deeper. It can vary in-depth from between a few inches to six feet and contains a multitude of goodness including organic matter, bacteria, various micro-organisms together with insects, worms and fungi. There are five main types of topsoil, clay, sand, silt, chalk and peat. The type of plant you grow and
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Log Stores For The Woodsman and His Gardener

There s nothing quite like keeping warm during the cold winter months by sitting in front of a real fire or log burner.. To generate maximum heat, the logs need to be dry and well seasoned. Damp timber is difficult to light and just creates smoke. So when you buy logs or have some of your own, you must have a dry place to store them in with good air circulation. A simple log store similar to those by Rowlinson, Halls, Forest and Zest 4 Leisure will be sufficient to keep logs dry and well aired. They represent excellent value for money and certainly do the job . Something a little different is the Emerald Metal Woodstore. Manufactured from hot dipped galvanised steel, it stands 6ft tall. Pre-painted in a attractive emerald green, the uncomplicated assembly has long lasting good looks. A Log Chest looks very tidy, the logs are out of view, neatly contained in a pressure treated timber store that can also be used for tools and other garden equipment. You can also consider a Log Bunker th
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Why Gardeners Should Be Worried About The Decreasing Bee Population

Garden bees pollinate, as simple as that. Whether the plant is an ornamental flower, vegetable, or a fruit tree, a bee will ensure that they are pollinated so that fruits mature and viable seeds are produced. In simple terms this is achieved by the bee collecting pollen on their body from the male part of the flower (the anther) and depositing it on the female part (stigma). Some plants can self- pollinate while others need cross pollination, hence the importance of bees buzzing from one plant to another. Pollen is deliberately collected, or attaches to the bee s body when they are drinking nectar. The pollen is then stored in pollen baskets to be transported home. However some bees buzz pollinate by vibrating the flower with their flight muscles to dislodge the pollen. Other species bite into the flower to get at the pollen. Pollination isn t an altruistic activity, it s incidental to the bee collecting the pollen and nectar to feed its larvae. The process benefits the plant by enabl
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Christmas Lights To Impress!

Christmas lights are designed to brighten the bleakest mid-winter. Stunning shows, that can cheer up the darkest frostiest night and celebrate the most joy filled time of the year, are not as difficult to achieve as you might imagine. Creating a spectacle that will be the envy of your neighbours and the talk of the town has been made much easier and cheaper with the advent of LED technology. The clumpy old light bulbs that are dull in comparison with LEDs have been consigned to history. New fresh technology has taken over and the future is very bright. LEDs bring a brilliance to Christmas that no other lights, particularly traditional bulbs, can match. Clean, vivid and crisply colourful, you can decorate large areas of your house and garden at Scrooge-like expense when compared to previous lighting. That s because they are so energy efficient – 1000 LEDs are equal to only 60 watts – and so use only a fraction of the power of conventional light bulbs. They also last much longer and
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A Christmas Makeover

Christmas decorations have come along way since the days of streamers and fairy lights. Using new technologies, they are now designed to add much greater impact and colour. This means that there is an enormous range of decorative and novelty items to light up your Christmas in  enthralling ways that are brand new to the market. Ornaments lit by LEDs Intense LEDs make glass ornaments sparkle sensationally. Angels and Santas together with cone shaped Christmas trees with delicate tracery and, from Konstsmide, a charming hanging glass Tear Drop and a simply stunning set of cone and bead lights. The festive season wouldn t be complete without reindeer, polar bears and other animals that come from snowy climes. Konstsmide again have a large range, this time made from acrylic with internal LED illumination.  Standing and sitting reindeer, blue and white penguins, polar bears in various poses and doves to remind us that this is a time of peace. Their depictions of Santa waving and deliveri
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Bonfire Night – Gone but not forgotten

It s interesting to observe how traditions change and evolve. When I was a lad the only occasion that you let off fireworks was Guy Fawkes Night. If I remember correctly you couldn t even buy them at other times of the year. Ask any youngster now who Guy Fawkes was and the reaction would be a blank stare and Did he used to play for Stoke City? Some may be aware of an event now rebranded Bonfire Night, which is fine except the Health and Safety police have mostly banned the eponymous bonfires. The same people have also done for fireworks in the back garden, and harangue you into attending official displays with the excuse that it s all for your own safety. These displays are of course bereft of bangers and all the more dangerous fireworks. Remember jumping jacks and the bengal matches you lit them with? They ve disappeared as well. And there s no chance now of aiming rockets at the windows of your most disliked neighbours. I saw a survey recently in the Times, or was it on Family Fortu
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How to have a great Halloween party

On Halloween, with its spine chilling cast list of paranormal misfits, you would have to try really hard not to concoct a real humdinger of a celebration. The dark side of life is inhabited by all sorts of ghosts, ghouls, zombies, vampires and other grey and gloomy figures, ready and waiting in the half light to surprise and frighten your guests. Bat Mail Start off by sending out appropriate invitations. If they can t be delivered by bat, why not have them bat shaped, inviting your friends to dress as Halloween characters taking their inspiration from the Addams Family or The Munsters. For the correct ambiance, prepare the house with subdued lighting, artificial cobwebs, plaster bones and skulls, perhaps suspend a few bats from the ceiling and have the odd black crow or raven perched in the dark recesses. Enhance water features with multi-coloured Spooky Fog or Witches Mist. Aim to recreate Dr Frankeinstein s castle from the classic black and white horror films, with props including a
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How should I heat my aquarium

By the look of them, you wouldn t guess that tropical fish are particularly cold hearted. But the fact is that fish don t generate any body heat, relying on the warmth of the aquarium water to keep them healthy. Too little heat and they become susceptible to various ailments as their immune system doesn t function properly. Too much and and they can t take oxygen from the water efficiently, leading to a shorter than expected life span. Most prefer about 25C. When you visit an aquatic retailer you ll see neons, swordtails and angels – all popular commercially bred fish – thriving at that mark but of course it s only occasionally that the temperature in the UK reaches those dizzy heights. So if you want an aquarium, a heater is essential. The power of a heater is measured in watts, more watts equals more heat, and the size of the heater required depends to a large extent, but not entirely, on the size in litres of your aquarium. Think before you buy But before rushing out to buy you
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Why you should Cover your Pond with Netting

Golden leaves falling from the increasingly bare branches of autumnal trees may be a sight to inspire poets or have you reaching for a camera but not if you re keen on keeping your pond clean and healthy. Instead of committing verse to paper, your first reaction should be to place netting over the surface of the water, catching the leaves and preventing them from entering the pond. Autumn leaves may look colourful and are fun for the children to gather in piles or kick around the garden but their attractive and playful nature hides a unfortunate secret. After falling into your pond, collecting at the bottom and decaying, all sorts of disagreeable reactions take place to threaten the crystal clarity of your pond water. If you don t bother to net Immediately apparent will be tannins changing the colour of the water to resemble builders tea. What you can t see is the chemical balance of the water altering, some leaves such as oak will result in acidity levels rising, and nutrients will e
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Why you need an aquatic service kit

Keeping a pond or domestic aquarium healthy requires a combination of nature and technology right from the start. You need to ensure that water quality is maintained to encourage a flourishing environment for plants, fish and aquatic wildlife. Filtration is essential to prevent the build-up of nutrients and impurities and to ensure clean, healthy water. Different methods of filtration Mechanical filters trap dirt and debris, effectively cleaning the water of elements that may feed algae or are otherwise harmful to pond life. Biological filters provide a medium in which beneficial bacteria can multiply and break down harmful toxins such as ammonia resulting from fish waste.. Chemical filtration is also effective against non-filterable pollutants and refers to the process of controlling and changing specific water conditions so that, for example, phosphate and nitrates are trapped and eliminated. Finally UV clarifiers kill algae before it spreads and are particularly effective agains
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Garden Slugs -The Jury is Out!

The question whether or not to kill garden slugs would, at first glance, be an open and shut case. There should be no need for twelve good men and true to consider the evidence before pronouncing a guilty verdict. Why should any mercy be shown to this ghastly gastropod who devours your plants while you re tucked up in bed? Types of Slug In the dock would be a selection of not very attractive molluscs. Even the most creative PR man would struggle to improve their public image. Slow witted and sluggish with seemingly no redeeming qualities, these unloved creatures have fewer friends than black rats. Wood lice and cockroaches are their probable cell mates and partners in crime. Among the seven common accused species are Arion ater alias the Large Black Slug; Derocerus reticulatum otherwise known as the Field Slug; Arion hortensis who goes by the name of the Garden Slug; and their accomplice Tandonia budapestensis or the Keeled Slug. None of them would win a beauty contest and they are ch
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How to Create a Romantic Victorian Garden

Picture this When the Victorian lady and her beau were romantically strolling through a garden, preferably with her chaperon at a discreet distance. What blooms would they stop to admire and which flowers scent might cause them to pause and enjoy? Neatly manicured lawns and well stocked exuberant borders were the order of the day. With the importation of more exotic plants and an increasingly ostentatious approach, gardening was all about show not harmony with nature. Flowers in mind No other bloom signifies romance more than a rose and large scented decorative white, pink or red blooms would be everywhere. The beautiful red scented Countess of Oxford, the luscious pink Georg Arends, the darkly crimson Empereur du Maroc or the white Gloire Lyonaisse were all new to the Victorians. Climbing and rambling roses decorated arches and other structures to spectacular romantic effect. With the surge of ardour in a secluded arbour with the air permeated with heady scent, the Victorian lady mig
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Great Gift Ideas for Garden Loving Grandparents

With all due respect to anyone over a certain age, it s probably true that most grandparents want a garden that offers relaxation, a place to lie in the sun or wander around deadheading the roses. That s not to say that a little ornamentation or affectation is out of the question. Quite the opposite, a refined decorative element such as a bust or statue, adds what you might call a touch of class . Ornaments come in all shapes, sizes and forms. Classical Roman and Greek statuary, through oriental figures and laughing Buddhas to the risque and humorous. They can be stone, metal, resin, contemporary or traditional. A-listers in the ancient world could certainly strike a pose, whether a god, emperor or centurian, they would imperiously look down their Roman nose at you. Used as a focal point anywhere in the garden, these fine figures of men certainly command attention. Their women didn t hesitate to use various feminine charms to attract favour, with their scant clothing regularly sufferi
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5 Great Autumn Garden Products

King Canute discovered that you can t hold back time and tide, and, when the clocks go back, however much you want the summer to continue, you realise that autumn is upon us. It s not all bad news, there s nothing to match walking through woods, a chill in the air with golden brown leaves gliding to the ground around you. To collect these fallen leaves you might want to invest in an Autumn Garden Care Kit. Garden grabbers gather up large amounts of leaves and hedge trimmings in one go, and then you bag them using the Bosmere loader that uncoils, stands up and opens a bin bag for easy access. Also included in the kit are eight heavy duty garden sacks. There are other garden grabbers to choose from, including long handled ones from Yeoman whose ergonomic design eliminates the need for bending. As they say, an essential tool if stooping and bending down is not your idea of fun . Leaves must be kept out of ponds, otherwise they will rot at the bottom releasing noxious gases. So what pond
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How To Get A Garden Allotment Of Your Own

There s been a huge increase in the demand for allotments over the past few years. Although High Street shops and your local supermarket are convenient places to buy food, their shortcomings are many and various. Although there seems to be lots of choice, is this really the case? When was the last time you saw Picasso or Pentland Javellin potatoes for sale ? Have you ever seen a named variety of carrot or beetroot displayed ? Do you know anything about the strawberries you are buying except that they ve probably been flown in from Israel ? This is why allotments are so popular. You can grow a vast range of fruit and vegetable varieties, chosen for taste rather than shelf life. You know the growing conditions and, if you are organic, that no chemical sprays have been used or the apples haven t been waxed. Ok you might not have strawberries all the year round but you eat seasonally, logic says that freshly picked produce is going to be more tasty than a product that has been transported
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