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Garden Improvement Tips: The War on Slugs

Avid gardeners will tell you that one of their most frustrating and recurring problems is dealing with slugs and snails. The traditional anti slug pellets strewn across the lawn are not favoured nowadays due to environmental concerns. They are harmful to many other indigenous creatures, such as hedgehogs, which also inhabit our gardens. There are, however, alternative environmentally friendly ways to combat this problem.   Home RemediesNight patrols are often effective, as snails are nocturnal feeders. An eggshell or salt barrier can be put in place around the affected plants. Beer or bran in a jar, buried in the ground, is irresistible to these creatures. They fall into the beer and drown or they eat themselves to death on the bran that swells in their gut. Owners of particularly precious or rare plants might want to invest in a copper ring that emits a small electric charge. The last and most bizarre remedy is boiling the snails you have caught and pouring the water around the affected plants. It is said to be one of the best deterrents available. Biological WarfareRecently, a new product has emerged on the market. It comes in the form of nematodes, which are microscopic creatures that seek out and destroy the slugs. Once in the slug’s system, these bacteria cause a complete loss of appetite, which results in the slug perishing within seven to ten days. From there, the bacteria consume the entire body, thereafter retreating into the soil to lay in wait for further victims. This makes for a rather neat, effective and environmentally friendly pest control.Before declaring war on the slug population, ensure that they are indeed the culprits, as caterpillar and slug damaged leaves are similar. By simply looking for a slime trail or lack of one, you will be able to ascertain what creature is to blame.

DIY Home and Garden Improvement

Wanting a beautiful home is everyone’s dream and DIY improvement does not need to be anywhere as costly as hiring professional trades people. In fact DIY home and garden improvement can be both fun and economical.The first tip is to take advice from wherever you can. You can never learn enough about giving your home a face-lift. Think about your garden, getting out in the fresh air and being closer to nature. You can always get advice from your local garden centre or the internet.No matter how big or small your project may be it is a good idea to first plan what needs to be done. Walk around and make sketches and notes, so that you are sure of what materials and tools will be required to complete the task. There are some great websites that can help you with material specifications and instructions on how to complete tasks.  Sometimes consulting a professional cannot be avoided; for example, plumbing or electrical work should not be attempted if you have no experience. Most importantly, have fun improving your home and garden.

DIY Tips - Gravel Paths

Gravel paths are growing in popularity with DIY homeowners, in part because they are so easy to install.  They also improve the look of your garden and prevent dust from rising and muddy paths in wet weather.  Another good reason to use gravel for pathways and open spaces is the sound that is made when it is walked on; there is a good chance you would hear it if an unauthorised person was on your property. There are many different kinds of gravel to choose from, and they differ in size and colour. Chips of green basalt are pricey, but work well on pathways.  The small pieces need a firm border to keep them on the pathway, and must be laid between 40 and 50 mm deep. Pea gravel is a mix of small cream, black, brown, and grey stones.  It is very good for borders and garden paths.  This is a cost-effective kind of gravel, and should be laid 30 mm deep.      Granite chippings are chunky and come in single colours such as grey, red, and black – but can be mixed.  This type of gravel tends to be on the expensive side, but is perfect for a modern garden. Beach pebbles come in a mix of cream, greys, and white; they can be used for pathways, but are better for borders or for decorating.  One popular option is to combine beach pebbles with pea gravel in a pathway.  Beach pebbles tend to be on the expensive side. Flint chips are very resilient and make an attractive garden pathway.  Flint chips are easy to find but expensive when compared to pea gravel. Stone chippings provide a firm and less noisy pathway.  They come in grey or brown and provide an unusual but none-the-less attractive finish to a garden path.

Keeping a Luscious Lawn

Planting a New LawnIf you do not have a decent lawn, cultivating one is not too difficult. The simplest option is to start from scratch by planting a new one. In order to avoid problems caused by mixing different types of grass, the first thing you will need to do is kill off any straggling remains of the existing grass. Head off to your local garden centre and purchase a herbicide. Following the instructions, you will need to mix the concentrated chemical with water; the solution is then applied with a sprayer.This task should be undertaken when there is little wind, ensuring the area is kept clear for the duration. The herbicide container will explain how long this weed-killing process should take. Afterwards, measure out the grass seed; again following the guidelines relating to the rate of coverage. New seed should be watered thoroughly so that contact is maintained with the ground beneath. However, do not overdo it, otherwise the seeds may rot.Laying a LawnGarden centres supply ready-made lawns, in the form of turf sods. You should be looking for turf that is slightly over half an inch, but less than an inch thick. The soil should be moist, certainly not wet or completely dry. A good tip is to ensure the actual grass is green, as yellow or brown leaves indicate unhealthy grass.Never leave the individual rolls stacked up. The key to a successful lawn is laying the sods immediately, starting at solid edge, like a patio. The rolls should be placed down according to the same principal as laying bricks, with alternate rows staggered. Trimming can be achieved with a knife.  Once completed, the lawn should be saturated with water.Tips for Mowing Your LawnNever be tempted to simply allow the grass grow freely and then chop it off in one gruelling mowing session. Instead, it is better to mow regularly, clipping a short length each time.

Having a Garden Room Installed

Having a garden room constructed, is relatively simple compared to having an extension built; yet it still provides you with a warm, comfortable room which gives you extra space in your home. It can be used for a variety of different things, ranging from a garden office, to providing an extra leisure room for your home.Once you have chosen the size and style you want, the company you have chosen to buy your garden room from will begin to construct your chosen design. This process starts with the base installation of the foundations for the building. A firm foundation will ensure that your garden room is sturdy and can withstand all weather conditions. The garden room will then be built, and wall insulation installed, along with damp proof, windows and doors. Any electrics, or any other utility installations such as a bathroom or kitchen, will also be installed/fitted and the room will be decorated to a high standard, leaving you with a finished result which will meet all the requests you stipulated when buying the product.One popular installation is a cable from your home broadband modem that will give you Internet access in your garden room. This is especially useful, perhaps even essential, when these garden rooms are to be used as garden offices, as this provides networking capability for the self-employed. Your garden room can be finished in whatever paint finish you require; you will find that most companies, if not all, will offer you a variety of finishes to choose from. They will be durable and will give your garden room extra protection from the elements.Finally, garden rooms come with a number of years’ guarantee.  How many years you get depends on the company you buy from, but you may be sure that you will have a finished product that provides both security and quality.

Strategies for Maintaining Garden Paths

Most properties with a front garden will have some kind of path leading to the front and rear door.  A well maintained path is an attractive feature; a damaged one can be an eyesore.Paths are very vulnerable to damage from weeds, roots, and standing water.  Whether concrete or gravel, a garden path can benefit from regular maintenance. Frequent treatment of a gravel path with weed killer, and removal of grass and other vegetation from the path edging, are two easily performed maintenance strategies.  Fixing major overgrowth and root damage could involve removing the gravel and refinishing the base level before re-pouring the gravel surface.  Regularly redistributing the gravel by raking will help to minimise the formation of potholes or puddles and the spread of grass and/or weeds.Once cracked, a concrete pathway is subject to subsidence as a result of recurrent freezing and thawing cycles; cracks may get bigger and potholes may form.  Repair bills will definitely increase.A concrete path should have plenty of drainage holes incorporated into its structure, but once a crack forms it should be repaired as soon as possible.  Wait until the ground is dry before attempting any repair work.  A compressed air blower or vacuum can be used to remove debris and loose bits of concrete from inside the damaged area, and to clean the surrounding surfaces.  If the crack or hole is large, undercutting the edges will create a wedge spaced shape which when filled will be less vulnerable to cracking or popping out.  Proprietary fillers for fixing damaged concrete are readily available from suppliers of DIY and gardening products.  The filler is usually supplied dry and must be mixed with water before use.  Mix enough filler to complete the task of both filling the crack/hole and covering the surrounding area for a little distance to create a patch.  Overfilling a little will allow for shrinkage; sanding can be done to even the surface once the patch has dried.If cracks continue to form it may be necessary to seek professional advice to rule out larger problems or drainage issues.

Putting up a New Fence

You should always inform your neighbour about your plans to put up a new fence if the fence is between the two properties, as it will involve working from both sides, including on their property.  In the case where you are replacing an old fence, they may have plants in place against their side of the fence, which may be destroyed or disturbed if you change it from your side.  If they do not agree to replacing an existing fence, then you can always put a new fence up against the old one, which will leave their side undisturbed.If you get the go ahead from your neighbours, remove any old fencing and kill any weeds in the area.  Use string to mark out a line for your new fence.Dig the hole for the first post and make sure it is wide enough to put concrete around the edges.  Put your fence post in place and fill the hole in with concrete to set it.  Use a spirit level to make sure it is straight before it sets completely.Mark the position of the next post and ask someone else to help you get it in the right place.  When the posts are in place, fix the fencing in position using clips, nails or screws, depending on which is the most appropriate.If the fencing is made of wood, it is important not to have it rest on the ground, as this can lead to rot.

Insulating Your Garden Room

Since garden offices first started to gain popularity in the late 1990s, there has been an increase in the number of companies offering garden room facilities.  As house prices and stamp duty have continually risen, and moving house is not always an option, the garden room has become a cost effective alternative for people who need more space, and now more and more individuals are opting for one to be installed in their garden.A garden room, whether it is a standalone building or attached to the main property, should be constructed for the purpose for which it will be used; for example, if you are constructing a garden office and intend to use it all year round, then it must be constructed so as to keep you warm in the winter.Garden rooms are not conservatories, which are generally hot during the hot summer season and as cold as ice during winter.  Garden rooms can be properly and efficiently insulated so that limited heating is needed to keep them warm, and an open door or window will cool them down.  Building regulations stipulate that glazing must allow for conservation of fuel and power, and offer protection against impacts.  Insulated walls, floors and ceilings should be at the top of your priorities if you intend on using your garden room year-round.  Cost is always a concern, but creating a year-round insulated garden room is a must if you want to use that extra space throughout autumn and winter.  Such insulation (which must be CFC-free) can also offer sound proofing in the event that the room will be used for noisy activities, such as music creation.

Planting a Tree

Trees add beauty and shade to properties.  To successfully plant a tree so that it can grow to its full potential, several steps should be followed.  Firstly, you should plant your tree ideally in the early spring or fall.  Planting at this time allows the tree to establish itself somewhat before the summer heat takes its toll.  Before purchasing your tree, also take into account your climate and what tree thrives best there.  Investigate your neighbourhood and observe those trees that seem to grow best.  Choosing the right place for your tree is also important.  Take into consideration the tree’s eventual full-grown height and width.  Make sure it has plenty of light and space to grow.  Next, you should dig your hole.  Ensure that the hole is as deep as the tree’s root ball and two to three times wider.  Sprinkle the recommended amount of fertilizer around the hole and then place the tree within it.  Fill the hole with soil, all the while checking that the tree is remaining upright.  Pack the soil in firmly.  Water the tree at once.  Once your new tree has had a good drink, apply a thick layer of mulch.  However, do not place the mulch directly against the trunk of the tree as this can encourage rot.  Water your new tree again.  It will take some time for your new tree to establish a healthy root system.  Until that time you will need to water it frequently, especially if it is dry and hot. 

Ridding Your Garden of Snails and Slugs

Snails and slugs can be a gardener’s nightmare.  They feast on flowers and plants that you have spent time and energy to establish.  There are steps that can be taken to rid these pests from your garden or yard without the use of toxic pesticides.  The first and most obvious tactic is to pick up any slugs or snails you find, put them in a plastic bag, seal it, and throw them away.  You would be surprised how effective this can be.  The best time to hunt for snails and slugs is in the late evening.  Watering the ground during the day before doing this will attract them even more as they like moist areas.  Try this for about two nights in a row and then reduce it to once a week.  You will be surprised what a difference this will make.  You can also make barricades around your garden flowers and plants using copper strips or copper tape.  Snails dislike passing over copper, so this measure can be quite effective.  You can put copper tape around flower pots and at the base of tree trunks.  Garden cloth can also provide a useful barrier to snails and slugs.  Cover the plants you would like to protect with a light-weight garden cloth that can be purchased at DIY stores or garden centres.  Garden cloth allows water and sun to reach the plant while providing it with protection from pests, such as snails and slugs, as well as other insects and birds.

How to Grow Your Own Food

Growing food in your own garden is not for everyone, but if you want to have a go it can be very rewarding.  There are many types of fruits and vegetables that you can grow at home that do not require a large amount of work or space. It is best to start off with some of the easier plants; these include lettuce, potatoes, beans and radishes.  You can purchase seeds for almost any type of vegetable or fruit from your local garden centre, or even online.  It is important to be aware of when each is in season, so you know when to plant them.  You can even plant seeds from fruits you have eaten, such as apple pips if you want to try and grow an apple tree, or the seeds from a tomato.  You should allocate a specific area in your garden for growing vegetables, and it is important to do this based on which conditions are the best for the type of plants you are interested in growing.  Most types of fruits and vegetables prefer sunny conditions, so a space away from shade is ideal.  Beans and potatoes grow well in rich soils with fertilisers, while sprouts and cabbages prefer limed, high quality soil.  It is important to ensure that all plants are properly watered – and information on how much to water virtually any fruit or vegetable can be easily found online.  It is also crucial to ensure that the area where the vegetables are being grown is kept free of weeds.

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