Category Archives: Gardening

DIY Hydroponics and Strawberries

Hydroponic gardening is becoming more and more popular as a way of growing plants at home and there are many reasons why one would follow this path. Hydroponics is proving to be a very popular method to grow strawberries ans the results are very encouraging for the growers. The plants produce abundant numbers of fruit and they are much larger and more tasty than their soil grown counterparts.

A lot of people have now set up their own DIY hydroponics and produce a lot of their own strawberries and other family favorite vegetables.

DIY Hydroponic gardening is a method of growing plants without soil, usually by suspending the roots in a water nutrient system or having the roots sprayed by a water nutrient solution.

There are several systems that can be used and the Ebb and Flow method and the Aeroponics method have proven to be two of the most favored.

DIY Hydroponic Gardening

Strawberries do not like ‘wet feet’ and one may initially think that for that reason Hydroponics would not suit this type of plant but the ebb and flow system and the aeroponics system both suit strawberry growing.

What does need to be realized with hydroponic strawberries is that plants do require nutrients and with hydroponics they are delivered to the plants in water infused with nutrients.

Usually strawberry plants are grown with their root systems suspended and this is when the nutrient infused water is passed over them. In essence the water is just a replacement for soil which in soil growing is what holds the nutrients that the plants needs. It is not actually the soil itself that feeds the plants and so too with hydroponics, it is the nutrients infused into the water that is giving the plants the required nutrient mix.

Ebb and Flow System

Growing strawberries in a hydroponic ebb and flow system requires the soil-less plant to be housed in a small tube and that tube is pushed through an opening in a larger tube allowing the roots to dangle in a larger tube and it is in the larger tube that the water is passed over the roots on a periodic basis.

Aeroponics Hydroponics

With this Hydroponics system the roots dangle in a container and are sprayed with the nutrient rich solution, keeping the roots receiving moisture but not waterlogged.

Control in the Home and Garden

Wasps in gardens, picnic areas, pub gardens and communal areas in the summer months can quickly become a major nuisance. Wasps are a social insect, forming colonies containing anywhere from 5000 – 10000 wasps per season. The hibernating and fertilized queen will emerge around mid April time (or sooner, depending on temperatures) and search for a suitable nesting site.

The nest starts of as a golf ball sized nest made from chewed bark, dried timber mixed with saliva, within this starter nest she lays between 10 and 20 eggs, the first brood of adult workers (sterile females) will take over the development of the nest and providing food for the next lot of eggs being laid by the queen. At the start of the season wasp pose little or no threat (this can be a different matter if the nest is interfered with) and it is only towards the end of the wasp season that they become a nuisance towards humans.

During the latter part of the summer the queen will mate and then leave the nest site to find a suitable over-wintering location. The remaining workers and few remaining males become sluggish, and their feeding on over-ripe fruit will produce a “tipsy” behavior, leading towards aggression towards anyone interfering with them. The on-coming winter will kill off the workers and the remaining males, with only the fertilized queens surviving by hibernating. During this nuisance time, the wasps will be bothering the general public in places like pub gardens and parks etc, they tend to feed off the sweeter food stuffs such as children’s lolly-pops, soft drinks alcoholic drinks, and pretty much anything containing sugar.

Obviously the nest (if near by) can be treated, but this could mean the area being out of bounds for up to 24 hours, this could in turn lead to loss of business and loss of profits. However other methods for dealing with wasps are available. New wasp treatment systems such as the waspbane are easily available to obtain from online pest control shops.

The wasbane is a wasp trap, the wasps are attracted and lured in to the trap with specially developed attractants, the wasps enter the chamber of the trap to get to the attractant, once the wasps have entered the trap they cannot escape. The trap can be placed at the bottom of the beer garden, around parks, or hanging from trees. In a recent study at a well known theme park, it was recorded that after installing the waspbane trap in various locations around the park, reports of wasp sting went down as much as 95% in 1 year.

Need the Best Tools For the Job

Purchasing power tools is fast becoming a great pastime for DIY kings and queens around the country. However, not all power tools are created equal. Any serious DIY enthusiast should have some basic know-how regarding power tools before he goes out to shell good money to buy a piece or two.

Power tools are meant to be used incessantly. According to Donny Sheridan, a DIY expert and syndicated columnist:

“And don’t buy gear just because it is on offer or you think you might use it in the future – it will just end up gathering dust.”

Combi drill

The combi drill is a wonderful combination of a hammering action, drilling and driver. Most combi drills have alternating settings so you can drill through both wooden material and non-wooden material such as concrete and brick.

Combi drills are used to make the installation of screws easier. Since most wooden planks are too hard to simply drive a nail into, drills are used to speed up the process. The combi drill uses an 18 volt battery and good quality drills literally last decades.

On batteries and corded tools

If you’re looking for replacement or substitute batteries for your power tools, make sure that you get lithium ion batteries that have overload protection. This ensures that your power tool and your batteries will not explode or fizzle out in your hand.

Also, lithium ion batteries can rest in your garden shed for months and remain charged as these batteries tend to retain power even after intense use.

Now as for the use of corded or cordless tools, you have a choice. Cordless tools have generally been weaker than corded tools because of the power source. But with the advent of higher battery voltages (36 volts and above) the landscape of power tools has literally changed.

According to Harry Blackwell, a home contractor in the UK:

“The monopoly of the corded tools has ended. Large companies are investing heavily in R&D to make newer tools saleable to a large public.”

Saws

Saber saws or reciprocating saws are basically identical with jigsaws. The disparity, according to Sheridan is:

“The main difference is the blade sticks out at the front instead of downwards – as is the case with jigsaws. The beauty of a reciprocating saw is you can cut through wood, stone or metal by simply changing the blade. It also copes with curved or angular cutting.”

Circular saws on the other hand, are used to deal with raw timber- which is hard to cut with regular power saws. Circular saws are used also to adequately cut and shape plywood and joists.

Safety Tips for the DIY Home Owner

Before you start any renovation project you need to have a plan and the right tools; however you also need to have the right safety gear. I’m going to give you a few tips on what you may need for that do it yourself project.

1. Glasses

The first piece of safety gear is a good pair of safety glasses. You can get them in several different styles depending on the type of work you are doing. If you are cutting tiles or using a grinder I recommend the style that wraps around the side of your eye in case small pieces fly up. You will have to go to your local hardware store to find them.

2. Ear Plugs

If you are using, or are around, loud power tools like jack hammers, you will need to get some ear plugs. For most situations the soft foam type will work fine and you can find them at the drug store or local hardware store.

3. Dust mask or Respirator

These might not be the sexiest accessory however they are very important to protect your lungs. The quality you need will depend on what you are doing. Plain household dust from demolition or basic construction should only require a basic paper mask. However, if there are any traces of mold or old style insulation (which could have traces of asbestos) you will need a proper respirator. Also, if you are working with harsh chemicals or paints you may need a respirator as well. Go to your local hardware store and tell them what you are doing; they can tell you the proper respirator to get.

4. Proper Clothes

Renovations are not the time to worry about fashion. Wear clothes that you are OK with getting ruined. Avoid loose sleeves that can get caught by power tools or get into paint or glue. Don’t wear open toed shoes and try to wear shoes with a thicker sole – especially if there are nails and debris around. You don’t want a nail in your foot!

You are also going to need a good pair of work gloves. Find tight fitting gloves so you can pick up small screws and nails with them. Ladies you can try gardening gloves since most gloves sold in hardware stores are too large for women.

Renovating can be dangerous so you need to make sure you are protected. By making sure you have these basic safety items you can enjoy the renovation and be safe at the same time.

Easy DIY Home Decor Tips

It’s a new year, and with it came the call for a little shake up in your home decor. I am personally big on DIY home design projects, and I have compiled a few of my favorites for 2017.

1. Floating Leaves

If you want a little piece of nature into your home, how about going for floating leaves?

This easy DIY home design project involves making use of old clear jars. Fill them up with water and lay the leaves in the jars to create unique displays of art.

2. Plant Drapes

Want something different as a window treatment choice? Go for ‘plant drapes.’

Creating ‘plant drapes’ involves getting rid of your good old drapes and filling up your window space with assortments of plants. Not only does this open up the room to natural light, but it is a creative way to purify rooms as well as dress up your windows.

3. Reclaimed Crate Furniture

Now you can make your furniture using items you already have at home. If you have old crates lying around, you can transform them into exquisitely tasteful pieces of furniture.

You have probably seen some home design furniture pieces made out of crates including coffee tables, seats, and beds as well. Create your furniture using crates depending on your particular needs.

4. Smart Clever Cover-Up Board

Who doesn’t have dishes piled up in the sink now and then? Worse still is trying to hide the mess in your oven when company drops by. You can creatively hide up the mess using a smart cover-up board.

Creating the board involves making use of an old cutting board or any sizeable plastic board that you no longer use. Personalize it as you please, and make sure it fits over your sink to offer timely rescue when needed.

5. Jungle in your Bathroom

Love the forest; then why not take it to your bathroom?

Most of us don’t often know how to dress up our bathrooms. If you love everything to do with plants like I am, you can create a jungle in your bathroom.

Tips to Save You Money in the Home and Garden

Benjamin Franklin once said “a penny saved is a penny earned” and to help you save more than a few pennies around the home and garden, below are a number of money saving tips – many of which require minimal effort on your part.

Around the Home:

1. Switch off and unplug your appliances. Too many of us are guilty of leaving our appliances on standby when they’re not in use, yet this is a waste of energy and money. Switching our appliances off and unplugging them has the potential to save up to £30 per year.

Along with switching off, it’s important to make sure you don’t overcharge your appliances – something 49% of us are guilty of according to one energy provider.

2. Keep your fridge and freezer at their optimum temperatures, to ensure the motors do not have to work harder than necessary. The ideal temperature for your fridge is between 3°C and 5°C, whilst for your freezer the temperature should be -18°C.

3. Turn it down. By turning the thermometer for your heating down by just 1°C you have the potential to save roughly £85 – £90 annually on your utility bills, and you’re unlikely to notice the difference in temperature. Turning the water temperature down on your boiler will also help you save money throughout the year.

4. li> Repair broken appliances. It’s all too easy nowadays when an appliance breaks, whether it’s a vacuum cleaner or washing machine, to throw it away and purchase a new one. But you could be wasting money unnecessarily.

Instead, by taking the time to purchase the required spare part and fix the appliance yourself, you can save money and increase your DIY knowledge.

5. 66% of the British population drink tea every day, but many of us when brewing up are wasting money by filling the kettle up with more water than is needed. This unnecessarily requires your kettle to use more energy than required.

Re-boiling the water in your kettle can also impact on the taste of the cuppa, and increase the build up of limescale minerals, which reduce the performance of the appliance. Limit the energy you use each time you make a cup of tea by only using the water you require.

6. Switch to LED bulbs. The initial cost may be slightly more expensive, but the overall savings can be beneficial, with it being suggested that by changing 10 light fittings with 60W bulbs, to 6W LED bulbs will save you close to £240 a year. As an added benefit, LED bulbs come with an estimated life of 20,000 hours.

7. It may sound obvious, but whenever you’re using your washing machine or dishwasher, make sure you do so when there is a full load. This will work out cheaper than running two half loads, as less energy is being used.

8. When doing your laundry, save money by washing on an economy wash which uses less energy, and using tumble dryer balls when drying. The latter helps to generate more space between clothes as they tumble ensuring hot air gets to where it needs to go and reducing the drying time.

9. Cook various vegetables at once, instead of having them cook on different hob rings, use a steamer or segmented pans. The latter enables you to cook various vegetables at once on one ring – saving you energy and money. Steaming your food is also a healthier option as it keeps all the nutrients in!

10. Become wise to your water usage. Did you know, for example, leaving your taps running is quite literally water down the drain? It’s estimated that leaving the tap running as we clean our teeth results in 6 litres of water each minute being wasted. Meanwhile, 5500 litres of water is wasted each year due to a dripping tap, which equates to £18 per year of wasted money.

11. Cut out the drafts from your house, by using draft excluders, letterbox covers and keyhole covers. Each of these simple devices will help keep cold weather out of your home, reducing the chances of you needing your heating on – therefore saving you money.

12. Keep your fridge and freezer well stocked. An almost empty fridge or freezer will see the appliance cooling air, making it work harder. If your fridge or freezer is looking a bit empty, but you don’t plan to go food shopping just yet, fill the space by:

I) using scrunched up newspaper to fill gaps in the freezer.
II) using bottles of water in the fridge.

13. Use your tumble dryer less. Just because the sun isn’t out, it doesn’t mean your clothes won’t dry outside. If the weather is dry, hang the washing out. By limiting the amount of time you use your tumble dryer, you can save anywhere between £30 and £100 each year.

In the Garden:

14. Plant Perennials – these are a great way to save money in the garden as once they’re planted they’ll continue to grow each year. Some perennials which can help your garden become your own little slice of paradise include gaillardia, peonies, daffodils and chrysanthemums.

15. Grow your own fruit and vegetables – the British weather although you may not think it, is great for growing your own fruit and vegetables. Growing your own fruit and vegetables can also help you save money and live a healthier lifestyle.

Some of the easiest fruit and veg to grow in your garden include broad beans, blueberries, asparagus, strawberries and potatoes.

16. Say bye to slugs – slugs can be a nightmare for gardeners, but it is possible to remove them without purchasing slug pellets. Using household products such as beer, coffee grounds and vinegar can remove the threat of slugs from your plants.

17. Stop forking out on fertiliser, but continue to feed your food. There’s no denying that fertiliser is beneficial to plant growth, but it can be expensive. Cut the cost by making your own. This can be done in a few ways:

1) Collect the leaves which cover your lawn each autumn and winter, place them in a bin bag whilst they’re still wet and allow them to rot down. Whilst this will take up to 2 years, it’s a cheaper alternative to purchasing fertiliser.

2) Make your own compost. From food peelings and egg shells, to cardboard and tea bags, all can be added to your own compost bin, which if turned regularly and left to degrade can make excellent fertiliser for your plants without costing you a penny.

18. Use rain water wisely – there’s no hiding away from the weather in the UK, but the rain can be put to good use. By collecting the rain water, you have a continuous source of free water to use throughout your garden and greenhouse.

General:

19. With up to 60% of a home’s energy coming from the boiler, yours could be costing you significant amounts of money. It’s recommended if your existing boiler is at least 15 years old and no longer effective, you should replace it.

Although this will cost you in the short term, in the long term you have the potential to see savings between £190 and £240 a year by switching to a high efficiency condensing boiler.

20. You’d be surprised how much heat is lost through your roof and therefore how much money you’re wasting. But with effective insulation you can help keep your home warmer, your energy consumption down, and your bills lower.

21. Recycle more. You may already be recycling your paper, tin, glass and cardboard waste, but there’s so much more you can recycle. Old cutlery can be turned into coat hooks, CDs can be used in the garden to keep birds off your allotment, and your old vinyl can be turned into wall art, cake stands or fruit bowls.

22. Become internet savvy and take advantage of the multitude of websites available where you can get goods for free or sites where you can swap your unwanted goods for other items.

23. Monitor your energy usage. A simple energy monitor, will help you keep an eye on your current energy usage, how much was used in the past week, month, etc. It’ll also help you find out how much your energy consumption is costing you – enabling you to find ways to cut back, or find those appliances which are using the most energy.

Sheds and Garden Rooms

Despite invariably mundane contents (paint cans, kids’ bikes, tools), the conventional timber shed, out-building or summerhouse has always had universal appeal. Often tucked at the bottom of the garden, its physical separation from the house promises a hint of privacy, while its scaled-down proportions appeal to the child in us all. Gardeners may see it as a sensible store for seedlings and implements, but anyone in search of peace – from writers and artists to children or those working at home – regards it as the ultimate retreat from the domestic scene.

It’s small wonder, then, that more of us are choosing to add a garden structure to our homes, all the better to provide an extra spot to escape to. For those who work regularly from home, a garden home office not only provides physical separation from a busy household, cutting down on noise and constant interruption, but the (albeit short) commute from home to shed marks an important emotional division between work and evening down-time. Family members with antisocial or messy hobbies – from photography (with a need for a darkroom) to home DJ-ing or portrait-painting – will also appreciate a zone that needn’t be tidied up and in which creating noise isn’t a problem. Then there are those who simply want a quiet spot for contemplation, taking in garden views and fresh air.

If a garden structure appeals, work out your available budget and do your research. The market is huge – offering every conceivable style, combination of materials and interior fittings – and quality and prices vary enormously. There will be decisions on whether to choose a modular unit, a bespoke design or the humble DIY option, though even high-street stores are offering increasingly sophisticated options. It’s worth remembering that a garden office, fully wired and heated, will still cost substantially less than the price of adding a structural extension to the house. Also ask yourself who will use the new room. Try not to be too activity-specific once the garden room is in place, you might decide to keep your quiet study in the body of the house while the kids move their ‘den’ outdoors.

Where the garden escape will go, how much floor space it will occupy and whether its presence is permitted by local planning regulations are key questions that you will need to answer. Regulations include not having the structure too close to the house or a highway, or being in a conservation area, so always check with your local authority before proceeding with your plans. If a specialist company is supplying the structure, they will advise on the regulations. It is generally accepted that a garden building should occupy no more than 50 per cent of the exterior space, but small is good: you don’t want a barn-like room, just a cosy retreat. Think about how the structure will look when glanced through the window. Decide whether to match the style to your own house or to go for a fantasy structure that will be just glimpsed between the trees.

The least sophisticated, but often most charming, form of garden retreat is the humble timber shed. Even the simplest will have a waterproof roof, a door and a couple of windows (budget styles won’t have glass). Finished in plain planking, inside and out, it will blend with garden foliage if timber is treated and stained a natural shade.

Landscaping and Garden Design

You want to begin a long overdue garden project so where do you start? Some of you will go to the local DIY store and pick up one of the many flyers that these stores produce that show how to do virtually anything from putting a post into the ground to building an extension to your property.

Some of you will go to a library, hunt out the most relevant books that are available and then return home and hope that your research has uncovered the books that have all that you need in them. Then there are those who need to know how things work, who want to take control so, they will treat the project as an excuse to learn something new and will attend night school or college to achieve the desired result.

However and whatever it is that you do for your project you will need to keep track of your costs. It is no use not having a clue on what it is going to cost as you will quickly realise that unless you keep them under review they will spiral out of control and you will spend more than you intended to.

When you are doing the job yourself it is important that you use a software package that allows you to be in control of your costs. It must be easy to understand and allow overspend areas to be identified quickly. It must be easy to use otherwise you won’t bother to use it and control will be lost. There are a few suitable software cost estimators on the market that can be used to help you but not all of them work on the behalf of the everyday designer/builder in a way that is understandable and straightforward.

As an individual you will find this process quite stressful and difficult.

Imagine how the stress levels would rise if you were in a gardening/landscaping business where people come to you for your knowledge and expertise and who want you to the work on their behalf. They will expect you to provide a professional looking quote, a detailed breakdown of costs around each element of the garden design and they will expect and demand that their money is being spent in an agreed manner and will not be interested in excuses as to why something is going to cost more than has specified.

They rightly feel that if costs escalate after the quote has been agreed and confirmed then the loser should be the landscaping company and not the customer. This is why is it is imperative that the professional has control over all aspects of design, build and costs because it protects their profit and this is an essential element of today’s cut throat business activity.

To protect and enhance your most precious commodity, that is, your reputation, is a vital part of your future business. Your clients must trust in every thing that you do for them. They can see that your testimonials show that you work closely with Landscape Architects, Garden Designers, Landscape Contractors, Local Authorities and Domestic Clients on a regular basis. They can see that you are a professional in the delivery of Landscape and Garden designs to cost and quality specifications, and as a Landscape tender consultant who wins and manages profitable projects for both employers, design professionals and contractors. What THEY want from you is someone who understands, and communicates that understanding of what THEY want, by providing clear, concise and accurate information on the project you are undertaking for them.

Spare Parts for the Home and Garden

REPAIR and DIY are scary concepts to many of us but with the world economy in a downturn it is a clear and obvious way to save a great deal of money.

The average labour bill from a garden tool repair workshop can be £30 HR plus call out plus spare parts and this can quickly add up to a large bill.

The best time to check your lawnmower for wear and tear is out of season when not in use (winter).

Think of your lawnmower as two units, the chassis and the engine (or electric motor), you need to keep and eye on both. Common engine faults often relate to the fuel and oil. Common chassis faults are often related to physical damage.

The lawnmower engine:

  • Always use clean fuel from a clean container – any dirt will break your engine
  • Always check your engine oil – it is quick and easy to check your dipstick to see the oil level is between the high and low marker lines
  • The lawnmower chassis:
  • The common parts are the blade, push handle, control cables and wheels.
  • Blade – this must be sharp to otherwise it will strain your engine and pull at the grass rather than making a clean cut. You can resharpen your blade with a file
  • Cables – you can squirt aerosol light oil like WD40 onto the cables to help them last longer.

What if i find something that is worn of broken?

1- Identify your lawnmower – what is the make and model of the Engine? (engine powered mowers only) – what is the make and model of the Lawnmower?

2- Identify the part as Chassis or Engine component

– the Engine will have its own unique identifying data plate showing model code and serial number. This is often stamped into the engine metal work.

– the Chassis will have its own unique identifying data plate showing model code and serial number. This is often on a silver badge or sticker near the rear wheel.

Home With Garden Steel Sheds

Space around the house to store things in is always a problem.Sometimes, you may find your attic already cluttered and close to overflowing, not to mention the effort you have to put in just to climb those stairs to reach it. That is when you can make use of garden steel sheds to provide you with the storage space you need.

Garden steel sheds are usually preferred by many, instead of an attic. These sheds are great places to store your thingamajigs like garden tools, DIY tools and kits, old things that you no longer use regularly, and even old car parts that you have not disposed of yet.

These sheds provide you with an adequate amount of storage space where you can easily organize your stuff. You can install shelves and cabinets so that you may be able to locate your things without difficulty.

You can also use these sheds as a hobby area. You may want to do various things that you may not normally do inside your home such as experimenting with engineering projects, or even assembling remote-controlled airplanes and helicopters or any other activities. If you have come up with an ingenious device, you can try out its performance in your shed.

Aside from being a hobby area, you can use garden steel sheds to do some repairs. For instance, if you have old appliances that needed repairs, these sheds would give you a great working area to do them. You would be comfortable enough knowing that even if you make a mess, it wouldn’t matter much!

One great advantage of garden steel sheds is that they are just within your reach. You do not need to tackle a flight of stairs just to store those bulky furniture up in the attic. You can simply walk towards your shed with ease.

Just remember that in order for you to achieve the utmost functionality that you need for your shed, you have to be careful in selecting one. Look for companies who have acquired the right experience when it comes to making these garden steel sheds. That way you would get quality at a reasonable price.