Urban Gardening Ideas: Top 7 Plant Types for your Urban Garden

So you spend a lot of time on Pinterest and Instagram, looking at lovely big gardens and bright, colourful plants, or even kitchen gardens that keep a family fed with barely a trip to the supermarket. You look outside to your own garden and see a tiny plot of land, perhaps not even big enough to comfortably home a rabbit.

Living in the city has its downsides.

However, we have a list of urban garden ideas designed to bring some of the countryside into your own outdoor urban space.

Growing plants in a urban garden might seem like an impossible task. For example, you may be worried about the right soil or you just might think your garden is too small. However, with a bit of motivation, some fertiliser, a spade and maybe some wisely recycled containers, you too could have a garden that someone will be jealous of.

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Ferns

These plants are great for gardens with shaded corners. They grow well in moist soil, in slight to deep shade, so we’d recommend planting them at the end of your garden to hide any rough, unsightly patches there may be. They look great as textured underplanting, or even as a compelling focal point.

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Aubergine

A vegetable bought in supermarkets sometimes considered exotic – that’s actually quite easy to grow. It takes up little room to grow, and can be grown in the ground (if your soil is suitable) or in a container that’s just over 8 to 9 inches in depth.

Acer

Acer are another great plant breed to grow in an urban garden. They are slow at growing and great for smaller gardens as they can be planted in a container and will not need repotting. These plants do well in slight sunshine or partial shade. They take up hardly any space but look great and bring a splash of colour to your garden.

Trachelospermum (Star Jasmine)

To maximise the space in your garden, grow this plant vertically as opposed to horizontally. It’s glossy foliage stays through winter, with the Star Jasmine growing best in full sun or slight shade, but protected against cold, dry winds.

Pittosporum

This plant, with its often pleasingly crinkly leaves will be perfect for your garden. If you need a nice, shrubby border they can be grown in as low hedges, growing up to 1.5 metres high. They grow best in partial shade or slight sun.

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Spinach

Spinach loves to be in sun for 6 hours a day, however you can get away with slightly less.

However, it is a good idea to consider putting these types of vegetables on small caddies to be moved around as the sun moves through the day or through the year. Spinach can be a fast growing crop, and growing it in a container will mean you get to the leaves first before a four legged creature gets to them.

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Onion

Onion grows well either on its own, but also with spinach. Some plants often grow better with a suitable companion. To grow these vegetables, it is a good idea to pot them in a container more than 8 inches deep and as wide as your space allows. Make sure you plant these and fertilise the soil they’re in, both before you plant them and continuously with a water soluble fertiliser to maximise the growth of the crop that you harvest.

So, it’s not so difficult after all to make your garden looking good, and good for growing vegetables. For your urban gardening ideas, why not consider planting a few of these to start with and see how you get on, maybe next year your garden will be in full bloom, giving those with a bigger garden a run for their money.

If this post was helpful and you’d like to kick start your garden, why not treat yourself to a great piece of equipment. See all our offers here

Bee Friendly Plants – How to Attract Bees to Your Garden

Gardens take a lot of looking after. Watering regularly, trimming, weeding… There’s very rarely such thing as a quick fix.

However, there is something fairly easy you can do to take your garden to new heights – as well as contribute to the wellbeing of the environment more generally. It is not some magic formula or old wives’ tale. Instead it’s just enticing something nature offers us for free.

Bees. Bees are essential pollinators and keep gardens alive. Without them, entire ecosystems would collapse. On a smaller scale the plants in your garden become bigger, brighter and last longer, and the fruits you grow will germinate more because of bees. Attracting more bees into your garden means you too can benefit from their hard work.

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Encouraging bee populations to thrive is also a good move environmentally speaking. Bees are becoming increasingly more endangered and for all gardeners, that is bad news. Bee populations are declining due to changes in agriculture, and an increase of land being used for housing instead of being left as landscape. This in turn leaves bees with little to feed on.

If your garden does not attract bees, there is probably a specific reason why, meaning that it will be possible to get them back again. You might not have enough plants and flowers for the bees to be interested. Importantly, you may also not be planting the right things. For example, honeybees will only pollinate crops and plants that are from their nation of origin, and all bees have clear preferences when it comes to the colour and shape of the flowers from which they’re willing to collect nectar.

Your plants and crops may be getting pollen through other means, such as the wind, and while that may be enough to keep your garden alive, introducing bees to your garden will make it come to life in a way you have never seen before. There is an extensive range of plants that, depending on the season, will attract bees to your garden, just some of which include:

March and April – Bleeding Hearts, Bluebells, Rosemary and Dandelions.
May and June – Chives, Honeywort, Wallflower, and Foxglove
July and August – Lavender, Burdocks, Hollyhock and Brambles

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(For a really wonderful and complete guide to all plants good for attracting pollinating insects, try the RHS’s perfect for pollination guide.)

When planting to attract bees, it is also important you plant a high enough quantity of the plant so it will make the bees journey to your garden worth it. Having at least 4 or 5 of each flower will be more likely to entice a bee or two and you should see the bee numbers increase year after year.

So if your garden isn’t currently looking as summery as it should, and you’d like to inject some life into it – literally and figuratively – we recommend just planting a few new things. You’ll be making a difference to your own garden, and helping to keep bees around for future generations too.

Was this post helpful on explaining some handy tips and tricks? Why not take a look at our special offers on gardening equipment and lawnmowers and treat yourself to a new piece of kit. See all our offers here.

Upcycled Garden Ideas – 5 Cost-Effective Ways to Freshen Up the Garden

It’s mid-summer, and maybe your garden doesn’t have the life in it that it had a month or two ago, and the garden decorations aren’t exactly inspiring. However, your budget right now just will not stretch to a whole new set of garden furniture with the kids off school and having to keep them entertained for six weeks.

(image: realmensow)
(image: realmensow)

You could risk it and buy new furniture, and hope that the kids don’t want to go to the beach and ride the log flume endlessly, or you could look into some upcycling ideas for the garden. It’s a cheap alternative that can get you and the children working on a project that will keep you busy and give you something to focus on, away from the plants.

If you’ve recently bought a new lawnmower delivered on wood pallets, or your shed is falling apart, the wood could be sanded down, painted and polished, and with a hammer and some nails, you and your children could work together to build a nice bench, to put in a shaded area for them to sit on during the warmest parts of the day.

As a family, you could pop into a few local charity shops to see what bargains you can pick up. Those rusty iron chairs and that worn down table to go with them? A bit of elbow grease, some spray paint and some outdoor cushions could create a chic seating area for when you have a family barbeque.

(image: meandbmaketea)
(image: meandbmaketea)

If you want something smaller in your garden that would be fun for the kids, you could attempt to fashion them a “mud kitchen”, which is essentially a play-station for them to use tools, buckets, dishes, water, stones, or anything they can get their hands on, to play with mud or sand (or even snow in the winter!).

An old bookshelf, desk, or chest of drawers would work really well for this. Cutting some holes in the desk to insert some old pet food dishes, add some hooks to hang some plastic ‘cooking tools’ and attach pipes to some funnels, and voila, a mud kitchen. For this you may need to do some Pinterest and YouTube prep, just to get the feel of the project.

It doesn’t just have to be furniture that is a part of your upcycled garden ideas. Some old wood planks that would just be burnt in the evening, a set of dusty china plant pots you nabbed for free where they’d just been chucked out behind your local garden centre, and some trellis could become an allotment area for your own fruit and veg. You could also get the kids involved to paint road lines on some of the wood planks, or on some old bricks to make a boarder they can play on with their toy cars.

(image: thecreativecoastalhome)
(image: thecreativecoastalhome)

A large empty caged area which once housed chickens could become anything. A good way to make use out of an area like this would be to take into consideration the structure that is already there, or build into or around it with other planks of wood. It could become a play shed for your children, part of their mud kitchen, or you could find some sheeting and make it a greenhouse. Or, you could just tear it down and use the wood framework for something else.

Upcycling isn’t only great for you and your budget, it’s also great for the environment as it means less rubbish is chucked onto landfill sites and less harmful gases are released through burning materials. A good way to find more ideas for upcycling, especially for your garden, is to create a Pinterest board. There’s a wealth of ideas on there. What are your garden upcycle ideas?

If you enjoyed our garden upcycling ideas, why not treat yourself (and your garden!) to a new lawnmower and see what you can do with those wooden pallets. See our latest offers here.

A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Lawncare

A healthy, well-kept lawn is a sight to behold,  but some gardeners aren’t just looking to keep their own gardens green. Eco-friendly lawnmowing is becoming more popular among gardeners, and there are several schools of thought on the greenest way of mowing and caring for a lawn.

Fertilisers and Chemicals

While fertilisers will help your lawn grow and pesticides will keep it clear of weeds and parasites, many of the chemicals commonly used for lawncare can be dangerous or even toxic to the surrounding environment.

Some common lawn pesticides may be carcinogenic when concentrated, so use alternative methods like traps or regular weeding instead. Similarly, concentrated fertilisers can cause algae blooms that choke waterways and ecosystems around your lawn, so use fertilisers sparingly where possible.

Electric mowers

No more spewing petrol fumes or spilling oil on the grass. Electric lawnmowers like Lawnmowers Direct’s Bosch Rotak range can be run off the mains power supply and are altogether quieter, more power-efficient and cleaner to run. For small gardens, mains-fed mowers like the Bosch Rotak 36 R are ideal, providing sufficient cutting performance and power to handle small and medium-sized lawns. Smaller models like the Bosch Rotak 32 R are lightweight, better for less active users, and quite suitable for smaller gardens.

If working in a sloping or uneven garden, the inherent lack of power in electric motors can be solved with a hover mower like the Flymo Easi Glide 300 1300w 30cm Hover Lawnmower. For larger gardens without easy access to plugs consider a cordless battery mower like the Bosch Rotak 43 LI Ergo-Flex Cordless. Powered by high performance lithium-ion batteries and equipped with Bosch’s patent Ergo-Flex system, cordless lawnmowers can be run off greener power sources and still provide the range and flexibility you require from a petrol lawnmower.

Push mowers

Electric mowers still require power from somewhere, however, and depending on your circumstances that power could still be coming from a coal or gas-fired power plant.

That’s why the greenest form of power generation is old-fashioned elbow grease, with the range of hand-propelled push mowers from Bosch and Husqvarna sold by Lawnmowers Direct. At the top end of the scale there’s the Husqvarna Hi-cut Hand Propelled Cylinder Mower, with a 40cm cutting blade and a hardened steel cylinder cassette.

These mowers have all the features of power lawnmowers, with durable plastic wheels, adjustable cutting height and an optional grass catching box (in the case of the Husqvarna Hit-cut this will have to be purchased separately). At just 8.7kg the mower is light enough for anyone cutting small or medium-sized gardens, if they’re feeling athletic. At the lower end of this category there’s the Bosch AHM 38 G Hand Push Cylinder Lawnmower, which has a built-in grass catching tray and retains the robustness and ease of use that makes these lawnmowers attractive. For a truly green lawn, the Bosch AHM 38 G is an excellent choice.

Robot mowers

Of course, logically, if you’re going to use electricity, you might as well use it as efficiently as possible. Robot lawnmowers are more efficient than humans behind a mower as they’re lighter and follow pre-set and efficient paths, and in addition they take all the stress out of mowing in general. Robot mowers like Husqvarna’s Automower 310 and Automower 105 have built-in energy saving features and can be set to run autonomously in energy-efficient patterns.

For more information on the products mentioned in this article, browse our range of lawnmowers here.

 

Blending Bugs – Some Unusual Gardening Tips that Actually Work

Every gardener develops their own tricks and techniques to use in the garden, and old wives tales are as important a part of the art of gardening as trowels and sun hats. If you’re looking to get more out of your garden or just find uses for common household waste, try these ten unusual (but reliable) gardening tips.

Pest control with beer

Even a teetotal gardener should make sure there’s a couple of cans of cheap lager under the sink, because they can be used as excellent organic pest control. Use an abandoned tin, jar or plastic cup and bury it up to the neck in the soil near any plants that are suffering slug problems. When filled with beer, it makes a serviceable trap that attracts, drowns and poisons slugs, while not posing a risk to household pets, children or the plants themselves.

Other gardeners use a mixture of beer, 1 parts Epsom salts and fish oil as a low-cost and efficient fertiliser.

Heineken beer in fridge
Lager: good for accompanying spicy food, and killing slugs.

Blend bugs as pest control

This one’s not for the faint-hearted. Once you’ve collected a couple of traps full of bugs, pick an old or easily sanitised blender and liquidize them. Strain the result, stick it in a spray bottle and spray it on plants as an excellent natural insecticide. If you can stomach it, the mixture repels and even kills most bugs.

Reuse banana peels and coffee as fertiliser

Plants require all kinds of minerals and nutrients, and where better to get them than in their concentrated form from common household waste? Coffee grounds and beans contain phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, copper and nitrogen, all vital for the development of healthy vegetables. In addition, caffeine is a weak but functional natural anti-fungal agent, and will even help deter slugs and snails.

Banana peels, meanwhile, are also an excellent source of potassium and calcium, as well as potash, magnesium, sulfur, phosphates and sodium. They decompose quickly and don’t smell too bad, helping you create thick, nutritious topsoil. Some gardeners blend them with water to reduce decomposition time, but either way they’re great on roses and tomatoes.

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Don’t waste banana peel on practical jokes – use in your garden instead.

Camomile tea as an anti-fungal

Applied daily, camomile tea makes a gentle anti-fungal spray that’s perfect for nurturing and protecting seedlings, particularly during the ‘damping off’ period when they’ve been transplanted to the garden for the first time. Make a pot of camomile and wait until the leftovers have cooled, of course.

Let cooking water cool and pour it on your plants

Water used to boil vegetables or pasta contains a lot of nutrients, and it’s a shame to waste it (In addition, it can contribute to ‘fatbergs’ in the pipes). Let your pan water cool instead and toss it onto your vegetable garden. If boiling eggs the water will contain plenty of useful calcium, which will help your plants grow stronger stalks.

Add fish to your rain barrels to prevent mosquitos from spawning

Rain barrels and water butts are an environmentally-friendly way of watering your garden and an excellent store of water during the dry summer months, but when it gets warm they can become breeding grounds for mosquitos and other insect pests, contaminating the water and leading to lots of bites while gardening. To avoid this, you can introduce common household fish like goldfish or minnows into the barrel during the summer.

However, to keep the fish alive and thriving (there’s no need to be cruel!) there are some extra things to include – you can find out more here.

Tire gardening, square foot gardening, straw bale gardening

‘Keyhole Gardening’ is a recognised technique when gardening in areas with poor soil or limited space. Organise your garden and reduce the amount of topsoil you buy by planting in raised soil containers rather than in the ground. You could purpose-buy containers, but old tires, topsoil bags or even hollowed out straw bales are all excellent additions for a more homely garden. Strictly organising them by allowing each plant a square foot of distance from all other plants also helps.

Tires come in handy when growing conditions are not ideal.
Tires come in handy when growing conditions are not ideal.

Plant in odd numbers

This is more of a quirk of the human brain than anything particular to the plants themselves. Planting odd numbers of plants, particularly threes and fives, will make a garden look lusher and healthier.

Always pick parsnips after frost

This fine old wives’ tale actually contains a grain of truth, particularly with root vegetables like parsnips, cold temperatures and frost force the plants to convert starch into sugar to survive without sunlight, resulting in a nuttier, sweeter flavour that’s much more palatable.

Frost makes them all the sweeter.
Frost makes them all the sweeter.

Eggs

Eggs and eggshells have a myriad of uses to the savvy gardener. Burying an egg in the soil creates a slow-release fertiliser source that can provide plants with all kinds of essential nutrients. Eggshells are also useful sources of calcium carbonate, so blended mixtures of shells sprinkled on flowerbeds can have excellent results.

Enjoyed our unusual garden tips? Why not have a look at our special offers on lawnmowers and garden equipment and treat yourself to a new piece of kit for summer. See all of our offers here.

The Ultimate Summer Gardening Checklist – 1-10

Elevated temperatures and longer days have seen keen gardeners up and down the country tentatively return to their front and back lawns, as the invigorating scent of freshly cut grass once again fills the air – it’s summer.

And now that it’s here there are a few things that all green-fingered enthusiasts would do well to remember. This handy summer gardening checklist will keep you right, ensuring that your lawn looks resplendent, your rockery irreproachable and your flowers in full bloom. Here’s our first ten, with more to come soon!

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How on Earth do Robot Mowers Work?

You wouldn’t necessarily expect the field of lawnmower design to be a place where major technological strides are being made. You’d assume that robotics would be focusing on driverless cars, military drones or household servants before moving into gardening – but you’d be wrong.

Autonomous and semiautonomous robotic lawnmowers have been in the market for more than two decades. The first fully solar-powered robotic mower (the Husqvarna Automower) became available in 1995, and the second generation versions of these machines from 2004 were able to cut a wide area by following a boundary or guide wire, and even locate their charging stations by radio transponders and automatically return to charge when they were done.

A modern Husqvarna Automower.
A modern Husqvarna Automower.

 

Husqvarna remains at the forefront of the metal mower revolution, although other companies have joined them. Lawn mowing giants like Honda, Bosch and Flymo have all stepped up to the plate and built a surprisingly large cottage industry.

A robot lawnmower’s number one advantage is convenience. They’re resistant to the elements, many are able to self-recharge, and they’re designed to get your garden tasks done quickly and efficiently. All modern electric lawnmowers are battery powered and run on electric motors, so they aren’t too loud or disruptive, and they’re getting quite good at dealing with tall grass or obstacles, and oddly shaped lawns. Innovations like pivoting blades that bounce rather than cut when the mower runs over a solid object, terrain mapping to generate increased power as the mower climbs steep slopes and more rugged designs to better cope with long grass. They can also cover surprisingly large areas – most of the best designs are rated to autonomously cover as much as 2,200m-3,000m. Some can cut as much as 6000m.

Robot mowers cut little and often, depending on their settings cutting 2-3mm per pass. This is the most gentle way to cut grass, reducing moss and fertilising the lawn with the short, unobtrusive clippings left behind.

 

How do they work?

Autonomous mowers use a simple mapping system. The user sets out a boundary wire laid into the edge of the area they want cut, which can also be extended to cover obstacles in the middle of the lawn. When the robot detects that it’s heading for the wire it changes course in a random direction to avoid it, also ensuring that it doesn’t leave unsightly track marks in the lawn through repeated crossings.

More advanced versions have 360-degree laser or radar sensors to spot obstacles in their path or incoming hazards. While almost no robot mower design is big enough to harm a person or animal they run into (bar a possible mild bruise as the confused machine bumps gently against your ankles) this system (plus integrated automatic shutdown and alarm feature if the mower hits something) makes these machines safer. Even cheaper designs have a collision sensor in their front bumper that turns them around if they hit something.

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Robot mowers leave you more time to enjoy the sunshine.

 

Random mow systems

Most automowers have a random-mow system. they’ll drive in a straight line until they hit something, then turn around and drive off in a different direction, eventually covering the entire lawn before returning to their charging station when their batteries run dry. Robot mowers will mow continuously to get the lawn down to a healthy length, so they don’t usually mow the entire lawn in one sitting.

Some models have more planned systems, incorporating the random-walk systems into a more planned grid-mow pattern that leaves your lawn neatly lined while still allowing the mower to navigate all the obstacles and reach all the corners of the mowable area. Some even come with GPS systems that can be used to set specific paths and patterns. Husqvarna’s automower comes with an app that lets you monitor the mower and schedule cutting times, while most others have on-board control panels at the very least.

Modern mowers are also protected from theft with PIN codes and alarm systems that activate if the mower is interfered with without the PIN. More advanced models (Husqvarna in particular, although other brands have the feature too) even include a geofence. If taken outside a specific GPS area, the alarms will sound continuously, the machine will lock itself down and the mower will send tracking data back to the app, allowing you to locate it.

Most robot lawnmowers are designed for domestic use, but the technology is advancing and larger models are slowly getting there, offering 24-hour cutting over huge areas in all conditions. Some people won’t ever want to give up the simple pleasure of mowing the lawn, and there will always been a market for human-operated machines, but for those looking for something more convenient, robot lawnmowers are now competitive enough that while expensive, in terms of savings in labour, fuel costs and quality of cut they’re on a par with a regular petrol lawnmower, suitable for the same medium-sized gardens.

Summer’s almost here, along with busiest time for mowing the lawn. Why not make life easier and have a robot do it for you? Lawnmowers Direct has a wide selection of robot lawnmowers. Browse our selection here.

10 Best Gardening Apps for Summer

Gardening is a traditional pastime for those who want to get away from screens and computers and enjoy the sunshine (when it comes) for a while, but that doesn’t mean that the gardening world shies away from mobile apps and technology.

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Summer in the garden, made more relaxing with mobile technology.

 

We’ve put together the best apps in the business to help you take your garden into the 21st century and make this busy time in the garden all the more enjoyable

1. RHS grow your own

iPhone only

Unsurprisingly, the Royal Horticultural Society’s information and advice app has been highly recommended, and it’s excellent for gardeners experimenting with new things or trying to improve their gardens. Although slightly outdated now, this app still provides a wealth of information.

2. Into Gardens

Android, iPhone, iPad

Created by James Alexander-Sinclair, a British garden designer, Into Gardens is a garden design app designed to help you eat what you grow, using Alexander-Sinclair’s signature flippant style and cheerful tone. Relaxed and cheerful, it provides regular updates for garden designers and is perfect for the summer vegetable gardener.

3. Garden Planners (Garden Plan Pro)

iPhone, iPad

Although a little simplistic, Garden Plan Pro puts your garden in your hands and helps you plan a productive vegetable garden, letting you know the ideal spacing for your plants and how to maximise their growth potential. There are other apps like it on the market, but Garden Plan Pro is the best.

4. Vegetable Garden Guides

Android, iPhone, iPad

A simple veg garden guide app designed for iPhone and iPad, Vegetable Garden Guides is an excellent companion for a keen veg gardener, whether they’re an old hand or a new beginner. Learn new tips for planting and keep track of your crops with this handy guide.

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Apps like Vegetable Garden Guide can help take the stress out of the veg garden.

5. iScape

iPhone, iPad, Android (lite version)

For those with more ambitious ideas, it’s sometimes hard to visualise how a landscaping project will turn out. When guesswork won’t do, there’s always iScape, a garden visualisation app that lets you take a picture of your garden then layer flowerbeds, walls and other garden features over it to see what you’ll be building. Indispensable for a landscaper.

6. Leafsnap, SmartPlant

iPhone, Android

Stuck trying to identify a plant? Leafsnap from the National History Museum can help you identify 156 species of UK trees and provides a fact file on each, while SmartPlant allows you to instantly connect with experts to identify plants in the field. Perfect for those long summer walks.

7. GardenTags

iPhone, Android

Gardentags is an all-in-one gardening app that allows gardeners to share wisdom and information, advises and schedules plant care tasks and can help you deal with weeds, pests and infections that might otherwise be hard to deal with. Even when your garden is at its happiest nature can throw curve balls, so this is one we’d recommend.

8. Husqvarna Robot Lawnmower Apps – Automower Connect

iPhone, Android

Summer is when the lawn goes crazy and a robot mower can save you serious amounts of time. The Husqvarna Automower series of robot lawnmowers come with companion apps that let you control the mower on your phone or tablet, making it simple to schedule lawnmower, locate missing mowers and check the status of your robot lawnmower on the go. How cool is that!

Husqvarna-Automower-450X
The formidable Husqvarna 450x.

 

9. Garden Answers Plant Identification

iPhone, Android.

Another plant ID app, Garden Answers is able to search over 2,000 plants of all kinds from all over the world and help you identify any plant you photograph, while also providing pest control advice. Sleekly designed and easy to use, it’s well worth the admission price.

10. Bugs Count

Android, iPhone

For gardeners with children or those trying to identify an unfamiliar creepy-crawly, Bugs Count from the Natural History Museum is the perfect app. It helps Natural History Museum scientists by sending them user-submitted photographs and keeping score of the number of bugs in your garden, so you’ll be contributing to science as well as having some fun in the sunshine.