Tuesday
Jul122011

Create a haven for Wildlife

If you live in the countryside, ensuring that you have a haven for the local flora and fauna can be very rewarding. It’s important to be patient when managing your meadow, it can take many years to reach full maturity, but it can easily become your favourite part of the garden.

To begin, test the fertility of the soil. In order to encourage wildflowers you may be required to reduce grassy swards, creeping thistle and nettles. Hay containing some yellow rattle can also help reduce the grass strength, allowing you to grow your meadow at a steady and healthy rate.

Simply cut the meadow for hay and remove, mow different paths every year to allow the ground to recover and you should begin to see new species growing through. This happens as the short grass allows them to seed; it can also help encourage butterflies to lay their eggs on the stems. Walking through the grass as you begin to manage the meadow can be full of surprises; you never know what wildflowers could be growing and what wildlife it has already attracted.

Adding a Pond

Another easy way to encourage wildlife into your meadow or garden is to build a pond. After a year or so it will be fully established with grassed edges and may attract the likes of frogs, dragonflies and other wildlife.

When constructing your pond you have the choice of two materials; either a pre-formed shell (normally made from fibreglass) or a flexible liner. A flexible liner allows you to dictate the final shape of the pond, whereas with a pre-formed pond you will find there is a limited amount of designs for you to choose from.

To put the finishing touches to your pond add stones (for safety set the stone on a mortar mix), have a grassed edge or add flowers around the edge. You may also want to use a spare liner that is punctured with holes, as this will help you create a mini bog garden.

Top Tip:  Adding pond plants will help keep the water clear and encourage insects and animals. 

For Smaller Gardens

You can create the same look in a smaller garden. A great tip for you to incorporate into the garden is to leave the borders and edges of your garden natural to encourage wildlife. You could even add a small water feature instead of building a pond; it will attract dragonflies and encourage birds to stay in your garden as there is a permanent water supply. There are many small changes you can make to your garden that will help you encourage wildlife into your garden; whether it is leaving your borders to grow or adding a bird table to a corner of your garden.

It’s also a great idea to place a piece of garden furniture like a bench or small furniture set to encourage you to use the meadow. Why not grab a copy of Carol Klein’s ‘Grow your own garden’ and find out new ways of working with nature?

Notcutts


Sunday
Jul102011

Harvesting the first lot of Garlic

I began to plant my garlic crops back in November and thanks to the dry weather they’re ready for harvesting. As soon as the garlic plants begin to die back you need to stop watering; a dry spell can help cure the garlic giving you a better crop to lift up. The lower leaves have started to wither and turn brown, which is the sign I have been waiting for to tell me I need to harvest them.

Top Tip: If you harvest your garlic too soon it will result in small cloves that don’t store very well. I have found if you dig up a few bulbs and cut them in half you should find the cloves fill out to the skin. If they do then you can harvest the rest of your garlic.

Once you have lifted your garlic, leave the bulbs on the surface of the soil to dry for a day. If rain is forecast (hopefully it is) move the bulbs to a greenhouse or cold frame for a couple of days to dry instead.

I’m so happy to be finally harvesting, with all this dry weather I have been quite anxious about my plants. In Suffolk we have been getting spots of rain here and there, which has been wonderful, but I don’t think it’s enough to sustain the growth of my crops. A lot of the afternoons after work have been spent with me heading to the allotment to water and feed my plants. With all this work I hope they will yield a good crop.

In the next few weeks or so I will find out if all my hard work has paid off. Fingers crossed.

Mr McGregor

Friday
Jul082011

Notcutts Summer Sale Now Launched

Notcutts Summer Sale - See what we have in store for youIt has been a fantastic spring, the sun has been shining getting us ready for those hot summer months and we have seen wonderful flowers bloom from our spring bulbs. So to start the summer season on a high we here at Notcutts have got a brilliant sale on where you can find some incredible savings. Just think with all that spare money you will be able to have a BBQ feast every weekend!

It’s the perfect time to get all your tools, accessories and seeds at fantastic prices; with this sale we’re sure you will be in your garden all summer long busy planting away and making the most out of your beautiful surroundings.

In the Notcutts Summer sale you will find everything from garden furniture and BBQs to seeds, arbours and gazebos. Our up to half price sale is sure to cater for every summer need, whether you’re in need of some new tools or want to add interest to your garden with a garden structure.

Whatever you are looking for out of a Summer sale you’ll find it all here online or at your local Notcutts garden centre.   

Notcutts

Friday
Jul082011

How to throw the perfect barbecue

Throw the best barbecue party this year with the help of these tipsGetting the barbecue going, the food prepared and the conversation started is all part of throwing the perfect summer barbecue. So, if you’re wondering what food to serve your guests that has something a little different, we have some incredible, mouth-watering barbecue recipes for you to try out.

However, it can all lie in the finer details when making your barbecue unforgettable.

Creating the perfect place setting is essential when wanting to make an impression. Make sure your tableware is eye catching; creating a centre piece with a collection of lanterns (these will become useful as soon as the sun sets in) will instantly form a talking point. One of our favourites is the willow and glass lantern as it fits most garden styles, has a rustic feel and is wonderful as a focal point on the table. You may even want to spread a tablecloth over the table to make it look more decorative; if so why not clip it into place with these flower tablecloth clips? They’re fantastic in case a wind begins to pick up.

For guests with young families it’s always a great idea to have a few outdoor games to prevent the children from getting bored with adult conversation. There are some amazing children’s activities to keep them entertained and even for you to join in with. Why not have a game of cricket while you wait for the food to cook?

When the day turns into the night ensure you can still enjoy being outside by switching on some outdoor lighting or perhaps starting up a chiminea or firepit. Not only will your guests be kept warm and be able to see across the table when the night settles in, it’s also a great way to create a cosy atmosphere. The only problem you may encounter is getting your guest to leave!

Notcutts


Wednesday
Jul062011

Growing Strawberries

Growing strawberriesAs you may all know Mrs McGregor has bought some strawberry plants for me to grow, just in time for the Wimbledon tournament. It’s a family tradition of ours to indulge in some home-grown strawberries whilst watching the tennis, so as soon as Mrs McGregor walked in bearing her plants I instantly got myself into the garden.

The strawberry variety she bought was Everbearing, which produces a crop during the spring, summer and fall seasons. I have planted them in a container in a cool place and made sure they have plenty of moisture so they will provide the McGregor household with plenty of crops. 

Planting your strawberries

1.    To avoid the strawberry plants drying out during planting, I have found it’s best to soak them in water first. After removing the plant from the pot, spread the roots out well and plant them in your container so that the soil level is at the base of the crown. Press the soil down firmly around the base of the plant.
2.    Water your strawberry plants so the soil settles around the roots.
3.    To prevent moisture loss, mulch the plants with straw. However, I have found that snails love to hide in damp straw, so keep a watchful eye for the pests. If straw is hard to come by, black plastic is a good alternative, but ensure the water applied can get to the plants.

Caring for your strawberries

•    Top-dress your strawberry plants with some manure when the flowers begin to emerge.
•    To keep the plants flowering remove any runners as soon as they appear (this tends to happen in mid-summer).
•    Pick the fruit as soon as it’s ripe as this will encourage the plants to yield more strawberries.

Have fun growing your strawberries,

Mr McGregor