Gardening as Therapy

For many people, gardening is a much-loved hobby and an integral part of their life. For others, it can be a transformative coping strategy. Research carried out by the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) showed that 79% of people believe that access to a garden is a key factor for quality of life. Similar studies have shown that indulging in a bit of time outdoors, tending to or growing plants, can have life-changing benefits.

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A natural antidepressant

Thrive is a UK charity dedicated to using gardening for therapeutic purposes with a wide range of people, including those with depressive illnesses, veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and more. Its recent research with early-onset dementia patients, for example, showed that after a year of regular gardening, mood and sociability had notably improved.

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden or access to an allotment, gardening can be a hugely beneficial form of exercise and can be as gentle or intense as you like. Exercise releases endorphins and raises levels of serotonin and dopamine in our body, which contributes to improved happiness and lower levels of stress.

Even more impressively, there is also evidence that contact with soil itself may have antidepressant effects on the body. A study by the University of Bristol and University College London found that bacteria in the soil activated the neurons that produce serotonin.
A mindful garden

But you don’t necessarily have to have a reason for using gardening as therapy. Having green fingers, whether it’s a whole garden or just a potted plant in your bedroom, is a positive and proactive way of looking after your wellbeing that can benefit anybody, irrespective of circumstance. Looking after plants in any capacity allows us to become nurturers and experience a sense of responsibility, which in turn improves self-confidence.

One of the main causes of stress is our inability to slow down and remain ‘present’. We live busier lives now than ever before, and many of us are regularly in contact with the online world in our downtime, never taking the time to stop and appreciate the little things. The gardening process is all about patience and care, resting an anxious or frazzled mind and making us more aware of what’s right in front of us.

Although horticultural therapy is increasingly being prescribed by doctors and counsellors as a form of self-care, anyone can benefit from gardening. It’s an incredibly accessible hobby that might just get you away from the hustle and bustle of your daily life and make you a whole lot happier.

How to Cut a Straight Hedge

A well-manicured hedge can truly define your garden, whether it is in front of your property or at the back. Straight hedges are the hallmark of finesse when it comes to making your home stand out from the crowd, but there are a few things to bear in mind before you get started. We’ve put together our most valuable hedge trimming tips that will help you achieve that perfect finish.

When to Trim Hedges

Luckily, hedges are fairly low-maintenance compared to a lot of other garden features. Depending on what kind of hedge you have, you may only need to get the hedge-trimmer out once a year.

For instance conifer, holly, hornbeam or beech are usually cut once annually in the summer, whereas evergreen varieties are cut at least twice over a longer period from the spring to the autumn.

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Equipment

Before you even begin the cutting process, you need to make sure you have the right equipment for the job. There are a variety of hedge trimmers available, including petrol, electric and cordless machines. Electric hedge trimmers are usually flexible and powerful enough to cope with most domestic tasks, but there are petrol alternatives available for more demanding hedges.

For maximum efficiency, ensure the blades are sharp and oil them every 5-10 minutes as you are using the machine to prevent wear and tear that will ultimately harm your ability to cut a straight hedge.

The business of cutting hedges may not appear particularly treacherous, but it’s essential to wear appropriate eye protection at all time. Small pieces of debris will be flying all over the place and could potentially hit you in the eye, which risks not only causing significant damage, but throwing you off balance will a sharp piece of machinery in your hands.

Technique

For safety reasons, it’s best to wait for a dry day to cut your hedges. You don’t want to mix wet leaves or a slippery surface with heavy-duty gardening equipment.

When you’ve found a nice, dry day for your hedge-cutting, you want to start at the bottom of the hedge and sweep the hedgetrimmer upwards, flattening the blade against the hedge for a neat finish. It’s important to leave your hedge slightly wider at the bottom, as these leaves receive less light and won’t grow as fast as the leaves on top.

To trim the top of the hedge, you will need to align your dominant hand with the corresponding eye; so if you are right handed, line up your right hand on the front handle with your right eye and move the blade from left to right.

By following appropriate safety measures and using simple but effective technique, you can give your garden the attractive, well-groomed finish it deserves.

How to Care for an Ornamental Lawn

You may not realise it, but there are many different types of lawn. For those without young children or animals who need space to run or play, creating an ornamental law is a highly attractive prospect. However, a beautiful garden doesn’t come without slightly more maintenance.

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What is an ornamental lawn?

Whereas a family lawn is usually seeded with rye grass for a more robust finish, ornamental lawns use only the highest-quality seed to create a stunning look designed to be admired. Think bowling green or golf course, but in your backyard and with a bit more pizzazz. These grasses are traditionally marketed as ‘luxury seeds’, but are in fact simply finer bristles that give your lawn a softer appearance.

Ornamental grasses care is not for the faint of heart. Due to its soft, fine finish, any lapse in care will be detected immediately with the naked eye. However, if you have the time, budget and access to machinery, ornamental lawn care is a niche in the world of gardening that you can make your speciality.

Seasons come and seasons go

The needs of your ornamental lawn change like the weather – literally. In winter, your maintenance duties will essentially be reduced to making sure you don’t trample on the grass too much. However, come spring it’s time to start thinking about checking your lawn for disease, weeds or moss and formulating a plan of action.

From April you can begin to apply a lawn feed to encourage healthy growth as you move into summer and before you know it your lawn will be in full bloom and require regular feeding and mowing all the way through until autumn.

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Mowing

The most important aspect of ornamental lawn care is mowing, whether that’s the type of mower used or the frequency. Cylinder mowers stand head and shoulders above the competition for fine ornamental lawns, cutting the grass with a scissor action to produce a neat cut. Depending on your needs, you can either invest in a traditional hand-propelled cylinder mower or an electric alternative. Both are quiet and environmentally-friendly, so won’t disturb your neighbours if you live in a built-up area.

Cylinder mowers also allow for very low cutting heights, which is essential for ornamental lawn care. Most of this type of lawn will be cut at ½ – 1 inch during the summer months and 1.5 inches in the spring and autumn.

In ideal conditions, you should be mowing twice a week. Mowing too frequently will weaken the grass you’re working so hard to maintain and encourage the growth of weeds and disease.
The right ornamental lawn for you

It’s worth bearing in mind that your garden may not be naturally predisposed to the golf course finish you’re picturing. That doesn’t mean that creating a stunning ornamental lawn is out of reach, but you will need to take into consideration your lawn’s shape, surface, water drainage and the amount of shade it gets before setting your expectation too high.

Podcasts for Gardeners

Even the most avid gardener sometimes lacks a little inspiration. While there are endless great television programmes, books and magazines out there, don’t underestimate the power of a good podcast. After all, unless you have a television in your backyard, listening to a podcast is the only inspiration you can enjoy as you’re gardening. So grab a cup of tea, bring your laptop or phone outdoors and get lost in the gardening experience with these great podcasts.

The Sodshow

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Compared to most gardening podcasts, the award-winning The Sod Show goes the extra mile. Whereas most hosts will try to draw on their own experiences or the opinion of guest experts to teach you how to be a better gardener, Dublin-based garden designer Peter Donegan does all of that and brings a smile to your face while he’s at it. His mission, he says, is to get his audience outside first and worry about botanical Latin later.

A Way To Garden

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After packing in a successful career in corporate publishing, Margaret Roach moved to upstate New York and started her passion project turned full-time career, A Way To Garden. A self-confessed gardening nut, Margaret offers insightful advice and interviews with horticultural experts on this widely-acclaimed podcast. Simultaneously inspiring and addictive, A Way To Garden is enough to make anybody want to quit their job and immerse themselves in the outdoors.

This Week in The Garden

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Hosted by gardening legend Peter Seabrook MBE, This Week in The Garden is a nostalgic and knowledgeable offering by Sun Gardening, of which Seabrook is the editor. Listeners have the privilege of hearing this master draw on his decades of gardening experience to share invaluable advice and anecdotes. This Week in The Garden represents a seamless transition for its host from Gardener’s World giant to beloved mentor, offering a voice that is both nostalgic and encouraging.

You Bet Your Garden

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Heading back across the pond, garden guru, author and journalist Mike McGrath has entertaining take on the public’s gardening dilemmas in his nationally syndicated call-in public radio show You Bet Your Garden. A nationally-recognised expert, McGrath’s approach to his callers garden nightmares is surprisingly unpretentious. He’s unbothered about correctly pronouncing botanical Latin names for plants, more concerned with offering safe, realistic and light-hearted advice to anyone who may be listening.

RHS Gardening Podcasts

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For something slightly more high-brow, the Royal Horticultural Society offers, in its own words “seasonal advice, inspiration and practical solutions to gardening problems”. Balancing accessibility and science so as to not intimidate its listeners, the RHS Gardening Podcasts invites only the finest gardening professionals to share their expertise, providing sufficiently general advice to the British public on how to make the most of their garden.

Essential Products for Beginner Gardeners

It’s useless to pretend otherwise: the market for garden equipment is saturated with products. For the experienced gardener, this is the grown-up equivalent of being a kid in a candy store, but for the humble beginner the sheer amount of tools available to you can feel overwhelming and even put you off starting a proper garden.

That’s not to say that the countless products out there are redundant. Each and every one has its part of play in taking your garden to the next level or simply making your life that bit easier. But if you’re taking your first steps into green-fingered living, there are only a few things you need to get started.

That’s why, at Lawnmowers Direct, we’ve compiled a list of essential gardening tools for beginners.

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Multi-purpose

One of the simplest tricks of the trade when it comes to gardening for beginners is to invest in a multi-purpose product. Hand tools are likely going to be what you use the most, and doing as much as possible with a single utensil will make a fast learner out of any amateur.

While there are a number of multi-purpose tools on the market, the Wilkinson Sword MultiTool Pro boasts an impressive thirteen functions, including two types of pliers, wire cutters, three different screwdrivers, saw, can and bottle openers, a small cutter, file and a screw top opener, allowing you the flexibility to move around your garden with a minimal amount of equipment.

Secateurs/hand pruners

If you’re working with shrubs in your new garden, secateurs are going to be your best friend. Before deciding what’s best suited to your garden, it’s important to know that there are two main types of secateurs: anvil and bypass. Anvil secateurs are designed more like a knife, with an upper blade that presses down onto a flat surface, which makes them ideal for cutting through dead wood. Bypass secateurs, however, work much more like scissors, with two sharp blades that press together. They are less sturdy than their anvil counterparts, but far more maneuverable.

Buying a cheap pair of secateurs, even as a beginner, is going to cause you a lot more hassle than it’s worth and ruin what should be a fun gardening experience.

Wolf Garten have a great range of both Anvil and Bypass secateurs available, including a professional selection and a variety of sizes to suit all levels.

Rake

You can plant, prune and trim your garden to high heavens, but if it’s left a mess at the end of a windy day, your efforts can feel wasted. It’s the equivalent of painstakingly designing a stunning living area only for your family to leave their stuff over all the furniture. The classic garden rake can keep your work on display for all to see, easily sweeping away leaves and debris and giving it that beautiful finish it deserves.

The Bulldog Tools Wizard Rubber Tooth Rake is an understated but highly effective tool that can help you achieve just that. Its rubber tines make it a flexible piece of equipment that won’t cause disruption to your lawn or paths when collecting leaves or debris like a plastic-toothed option.

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Gardening gloves

Gardening is a hugely rewarding hobby, but it’s hard work. If you don’t protect your hands, you could be left with unsightly blisters or even worse, injuries. Avoid exposing yourself to unnecessary risk by investing in a sturdy, reliable pair of gloves.

Whatever the task at hand, there is sure to be a pair of gloves for you. A standard pair of general purpose Bosch Garden Gloves will usually do the job nicely, but Wolf Garten also do a range of more specialised options, such as their Washable Power Tools gloves for when you’re handling something a bit more heavy duty, like a chainsaw or a hedge trimmer.

Trowel/spade

If you intend on planting or replacing anything growing in your garden, you’ll undoubtedly need a trowel or garden spade for the initial process as well as maintenance. A hand trowel is perfect for small jobs like planting herbs or taking out weeds, and there are plenty of high-quality options available on the market designed to last you a lifetime.

For a job needing a little more manpower, like digging a border or maintaining a vegetable patch, you’re going to need some variety of garden spade. There is an enormous range of sizes, lengths and weights available on the market to make sure you can get the job done without throwing your back out. Border spades are smaller and lighter, whereas a digging spade is designed for a larger build.

Bulldog Tools are renowned for their efficiency and durability. They’re even used by Monty Don! They offer a standard hand trowel as well as spades with a wide variety of lengths, handles and shapes.

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.

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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.

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