Gardening Advice

  • Autumn garden updates

    It's that time of year when things start to slow down in the garden, the weather is cooler too which makes it a great time to think about autumn garden updates.

    Whether you're ready to have a good tidy up, plant new trees or hedges, start a veg patch, to make those changes you just didn't get round too during summer or just to take stock and re-evaluate your space, this blog is packed with ideas and tips to get you started.

    Autumn tidy up

    Traditionally autumn is the time to start get on and tidy up the garden, mainly because the garden will have lost its bright and fresh glow and will be looking a little bit bedraggled.

    Arm yourself with a good pair of secateurs and set to work cutting back old growth of spent plants and flowers, remove any dead plants, cut back rapid-growing herbs such as oregano and mint, hard prune roses and weed beds and borders.

    Lawns will still continue to grow up until 5 degrees Celsius so keep mowing but only on dry days, you could also tidy up the edges if your lawn edges garden borders if you prefer a really neat finish.

    Update at your own pace

    Now that the BBQ and alfresco dining season is well and truly over it's a great time to think about starting your autumn garden updates. There’s less pressure than in spring or summer to have the garden ready for a certain time so you can move at your own pace, however fast or slow that may be.

    If you’re looking at starting a complete garden redesign our design team can help you by creating a WoodBlocX design that is totally bespoke to your garden free of charge. Simply call, 
    email or fill in the quick form and we will do the rest for you. Our versatile modular system can be used to create fully integrated gardens that include planters steps, raised beds and retaining walls, that can be built by you saving £££s on labour costs.

    If a complete garden redesign is out of the question, check out our 'Transform your garden in a weekend' blog.

    Maintenance 

    Painting sheds and fences, cleaning greenhouse glass, trimming bushes, replacing rotten raised beds and repairing patios are all jobs that cannot wait until next spring.

    Make a list of the jobs you need to do in your garden and tackle them starting with the most important. Keep your eyes peeled for special offers of paints and materials at DIY stores and garden centres.

    What can I plant in autumn?

    Best veg to plant in autumn

    Don't let the cooler weather deter you from growing your own food, there's still lots of different crops that can be grown at this time of the year.

    Our top five crops to sow and grow throughout autumn are:

    • Spinach
    • Winter salads
    • Garlic
    • Broad beans
    • Onions and shallots

    Winter salads are best sown and grown in a greenhouse and for broad beans, choose a sheltered spot in the garden, by a fence or wall to protect them from high winds.

    Plants to sow and grow in autumn

    Autumn is a brilliant time to add plants to the garden as the ground is still soft and warm which will give the roots time to establish over winter ready for spring. Here's a list of varieties you can plant in autumn.

    • Spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, crocus and hyacinth
    • Trees, shrubs and hedges
    • Fruit trees
    • Raspberry bushes
    • Wildflower seeds
    • Sowing or laying a new lawn

    For more autumn planting tips head over to the RHS.

    Inspiration for your autumn garden update using WoodBlocX

    We've picked four functional design ideas that will make brilliant autumn garden updates using our modular system.

    Log storage

    For anyone with a log burner, fire pit or chiminea log storage is vital, our benches make a great functional space-saving solution, just leave the bottom of the bench open and fill with logs.

    Tree edging and benches

    Autumn is the perfect time to plant new trees and hedges. If you want to create a feature out of new or established tree our Tree Edging range is ideal, choose from a simple surround or add a bench.

    Raised beds and borders

    Replacing old raised beds with WoodBlocX will provide years of maintenance free gardening and is a great alternative to railway sleepers or wooden boards.

    Fire pit seating

    Combine seating with planting, choose from curves or angles, add log storage - there are endless design possibilities using our modular system.

    Need more garden inspiration?

    For more ideas and inspiration for your next garden update head to our homepage to see our huge range of raised beds, planters, ponds, garden furniture retaining walls.

    You can also find out more about our FREE Bespoke Design Service to help you get the very best WoodBlocX solution for your garden.

  • Do I need drainage behind my retaining wall?

    The answer to this is very simply yes you do need drainage behind your WoodBlocX retaining wall. Here we will take you through the process from selecting the right liner to ensuring that you have the right materials to hand ready for the build. 

    Drainage

    Including a drainage medium behind your WoodBlocX retaining wall or any retaining wall for that matter is really important. We recommend using a lightweight pea gravel and filling two thirds of the height of the structure, you can then fill the rest with your choice of top soil, or if you are laying a patio on top, fill half with pea gravel or your choice of drainage medium and then fill with compacted Type 1.

    If your garden is particularly susceptible to collecting surface water and feel you need an additional drainage source you could add a French drain to the base of the wall, this requires you digging a small trench, adding a perforated drainage pipe, which will needs to be directed away from the wall to either a main drain or to somewhere where it can easily soak away. Then simply fill with Type 1 or subbase and cover. The illustration below takes a cross section of a WoodBlocX wall, showing how to effectively add drainage behind the main structure.

    Liners

    Permeable liners or damp-proof membranes (DPM) are the best choice for our retaining walls. All of our products are built in the same way, from a series of small BlocX that slot together, this leaves lots of very small gaps that allow water to escape and air to flow through our structures, so we recommend installing a breathable liner that covers the inside of the wall completely.

    We recommend fitting them just before you add the capping to finish your retaining wall build. Your liner needs to be attached to the structure and the best way to do this is by lining an edge up with the final layer of BlocX and, using a stanley knife or tough garden scissors, cut small incisions into the liner so it can be slotted overs the dowels and held in place, then you can place it over the entire interior of the wall and over the buttresses. You may need several sheets to complete this process depending on the length of your wall.

    Why don’t you supply liners for retaining walls?

    We don’t supply liners for retaining walls or planters because all customers are different, plus as we would be buying smaller quantities than specialist suppliers our prices would be much higher which wouldn’t make them good value to our customers.

    Benefits of using WoodBlocX for your retaining walls:

    Durable and strong
    All of our wooden components are made from high-quality Scot's pine. We never use the heart of the tree, which is weaker. The wood is pressure-treated and because our BlocX are pre-drilled, the treatment penetrates almost 100% of the wood.

    The structures are held together with a series of dowels to form a single solid unit, each dowel can withstand up to 0.9 tonnes of sheer force and they have more strength than masonry in some situations withstanding tension forces as well as compression. Our retaining walls will not crack with ground movement or frost.

    All of our structures are guaranteed for 15 years when installed using our guidelines, but they are expected to last up to 30 years.

    Easy
    Building a WoodBlocX retaining wall requires no specialist skills so you can build them yourself saving on hiring a tradesperson. There is no heavy lifting involved in a WoodBlocX build, and all the parts fit into an average-sized car.

    We ensure each customer receives a step by step guide that is tailored to their project before they begin their build. We have also created a series of quick how-to videos which cover every part of the build to assist you, plus our friendly customer service team is on hand to help via phone, email or live chat.

    Attractive and sustainable
    The rough-sawn wood provides an attractive finish which looks great in both contemporary and traditional gardens - customers can choose from flush capping for a modern finish or overhanging capping for a traditional finish - the wood will naturally fade to a grey over the years and whilst our structures don't need any annual maintenance or treatments you can choose to paint them to suit your garden style.

    We source our timber from sustainably-managed forests, and our treatment process involves no chemicals that might leach from the wood, unlike the heavily treated sleepers. The dowels are all made from recycled plastic too, and we continue to work hard to reduce our carbon footprint in everything that we do.

  • When to use a retaining wall

    Retaining walls can make all the difference to a garden, but when do you need a retaining wall and what is the benefits? You may have existing walls that need a refresh or rebuilding, or you may want to consider installing one if you have a sloping garden, uneven terrain, or you wish to landscape it and create a wall as a design feature.

    Our wooden retaining walls have been used by gardeners for many years, they make a fantastic alternative to railways sleepers thanks to their ease of use - we do all the measuring and cutting so you don’t have to - and because they are long lasting with a 15 year guarantee you can be assured that they won’t rot or crumble.

    WoodBlocX retaining walls are built up using our wooden BlocX and are held together with strong dowels that can withstand 0.9 tonnes of sheer force - no nails or screws needed - this combined with the many joints means our walls remain strong under tension and compression and they are flexible enough to withstand frost damage and ground movement without distorting or cracking. To find out how our system stacks up against walls built using bricks, sleepers and gabions click here.

    Use a retaining wall for sloping gardens

    Whether your property is at the top of the bottom of a hill, if you want to create a manageable and more accessible space, installing a retaining wall or a series of retaining walls will make a huge difference.

    If your garden slopes down towards your house then you may want to use a retaining wall as a protective barrier against soil erosion, by retaining the earth you can create a better drainage system if your garden is prone to water-logging during wet weather. This principle is the same for gardens with the property at the top of the hill as you may encounter the same issue with an area at the bottom of the garden. Read about incorporating drainage into our retaining walls here.

    WoodBlocX retaining wall and stepideas
    WoodBlocX retaining wall ideas

    Landscaping

    In addition to creating good drainage in the garden you may want to use retaining walls to landscape your space, creating different areas of interest in the garden,; a flat lawn, border and vegetable garden, our walls and integrated steps, seating and planters can help you achieve this.

    WoodBlocX retaining walls can be built up to a maximum height of 1.05m this is our recommended height for a single retaining wall. If you wish to make your wall higher than that then we recommend terracing the space, this will ensure your walls remain strong and long lasting, use our free bespoke design service and one of our skilled team will work with you to create a design that fits your garden perfectly. There are exceptions to our height policy; if your wall is for decorative purposes and isn’t retaining earth then it can go higher, some customers have used our walls and a beautiful backdrop for seating areas - we've included an example below (third image on the right).

    Retaining walls don’t always have to be high, many of our customers have used our modular system to create low walls and borders for their gardens or to use as facia to hide an unattractive wall behind.

    WoodBlocX retaining wall and step ideas

    Design possibilities

    Lets face it, retaining walls are, for many of us, a practical necessity in the garden, but just like bricks our modular system can be designed to incorporate steps and seating to create something that is totally bespoke to your garden. Check our gallery below to see just how versatile our retaining walls are.

  • What to use for a retaining wall

    How long will a retaining wall last?

    Retaining walls can be built for a wide variety of materials, each offers different lifespans and styles, the type of material that is best for you depends one or a number of factors including; style as your garden may have a very specific style or theme i.e. cottage garden, modern or contemporary, wildlife friendly, mediterranean style, coastal etc therefore you may have preferences about the material that you use.

    Also consider your circumstances; if you planning on moving house in the next five years you may be making modifications to the garden to make the property more desirable. You may want to include a new retaining wall to make your garden easier to maintain or it may just be that you need to replace an old structure, for information on when you need a retaining wall click here.

    Retaining wall materials comparison

    Our retaining wall comparison is based on a C-shaped wall of the following dimensions and has been designed as a guide only, costs are based on high street-bought materials and may be higher or lower depending whether you buy directly or through a tradesperson.

     Length 1 3m | Length 2 0.6m | Length 3 0.6m | Height 0.55m

    WoodBlocX retaining wall

    Preparation | Ground levelling, shallow footings, no concrete needed, subase/type 1 for levelling - find out more about this here.

    Approx total cost inc materials | around £530 - type 1 £40, sand £20, pea gravel £40, liner £10-£20, WoodBlocX kit £436

    Pros | Lightweight, easy to build, durable, zero maintenance, attractive, no foundations needed, no waste, pre-drilled - the pressure treatment penetrates 100% of the wood so it will not rot

    Cons | WoodBlocX walls can only built to 1.05m in height, any higher and we recommend terracing the space, modern and traditional capping option available to suit your garden style

    Lifespan | Guaranteed to last 15 years expected to have a working life of 30 years

    Trades people needed | None

    Brick retaining wall

    Preparation | Concrete foundations needed, these need to be a minimum 300mm deep and twice the width of the thickness of the wall. Foundations tend to be more expensive than the rest of the materials.

    Approx total cost inc materials | Around £700 - Sand and cement £80, concrete £80 pea gravel £40, £144 for frost free class b engineering bricks, two days labour at £180 per day

    Pros | Hardwearing against weather and long lasting when built to a high standard

    Cons | Brick styles can differ and be difficult to match to older properties. Labour costs. Maintaining the joints ad they can susceptible to frost damage and effeversence when used as a retainer due to the moisture pushing through

    Lifespan | 20 - 30 years with maintenance

    Trades people needed | Bricklayer - can be built DIY however extra tools and time will be needed

    Block and render retaining wall

    Preparation | Concrete foundations needed, these need to be a minimum 300mm deep and a minimum of twice the width of the thickness of the wall. Foundations tend to be more expensive than the rest of the materials.

    Approx total cost inc materials | around £800 - Sand and cement £80, concrete £80 pea gravel £40, blocks £280, render £72, three days labour at £180 per day - £540 (two to build one to render).

    Pros | Decorative - can be painted

    Cons | Possible moisture damage and frost cracking the render causing it crumble

    Lifespan | 15 years for the blocks, the render may be less and need re-rendering following a particularly bad winter

    Trades people needed | General builder - can be built DIY but extra tools/time will be needed

    Railway sleeper retaining wall

    Preparation | Ground levelling, shallow footings and sharp sand for levelling

    Approx total cost inc materials | around £280 - £15 each 2.4m x 200mm x 100mm 9 sleepers £90 base ankers 10 £4 each 40 back of timber fixing screws 250m £23

    Pros | No foundations needed, no height restrictions, low cost, can be built without a tradesperson

    Cons | Heavy, lots of measuring, cutting/waste, the pressure treatment doesn't always penetrate all of the wood, therefore if cut or drilled this will increase the chances of the moisture getting trapped and the wood rotting quickly

    Lifespan | 3-5 years if the wood is untreated, up to 20 years if the treatment process is 100% effective

    Trades people needed | None

  • Modular retaining walls - the benefits of using WoodBlocX

    WoodBlocX is ideal for building modular retaining walls, making it a great alternative to bricks, stone and railway sleepers. We’ve provided a rundown of the materials you can use to build retaining walls in your garden and how the WoodBlocX retaining wall stacks up against them.

    WoodBlocX modular retaining walls

    Lets start with our versatile modular timber system. WoodBlocX retaining walls make a fantastic alternative to brick, stone, gabions and railway sleepers they are ideal for landscaping your garden and they can be built easily by you, without the need for concrete foundations, substantial groundworks or cutting lengths of wood.

    Made from sustainably harvested Scots pine, the BlocX themselves are lightweight, easy to handle and building requires no heavy lifting. The structures are held together a series of strong dowels that fit into pre-drilled holes which have been pressure treated with our water-based preservative to ensure 100% off the wood is treated, making them extra strong, we even guarantee our structures for 15 years but they're expected to last around 30 years.

    How much can they retain?
    Each dowel can withstand a tension force of up to 0.9 tonnes. A single WoodBlocX modular garden wall can retain earth up to one metre (approx. 3”). For customers that require higher walls we recommend using a terrace design, which looks great and creates additional planting areas.

    All of our structures are made to measure so there's cutting or waste during your build and we supply steps by step instructions and links to helpful videos ahead of your delivery to ensure you have everything you need for building. We provide step-by-step instructions for building all of our structures and you can find out how easy it is to build a WoodBlocX modular retaining wall click here.

    Garden design ideas - WoodBlocX retaining wall ideas
    WoodBlocX retaining wall and step ideas

    Brick retaining walls

    Brick retaining walls are a common choice, but these materials can prove expensive and need regular maintenance. You will need to include foundations to build on to create a stable structure. To build a wall yourself could prove to be challenging as you need to ensure the bricks are laid straight and level and the mortar mix is correct. If you’re not experienced in bricklaying it is best to enlist the help of a skilled tradesperson. This can be costly and is another added expense you wouldn't get with a DIY product. 

    Gabion retaining walls

    Gabion retaining walls are made using gabion baskets and cages. They provide a more industrial look and are generally used for retaining earth where water is close by and for extremely high retaining walls. No foundations are needed with gabions as they are super strong, you can buy them pre-filled or you can by the baskets and the stone separately, this option is generally cheaper but it is important to seek information about filling them correctly to ensure an even weight distribution.

    Railway Sleeper retaining walls

    Railway sleeper retaining walls are popular and single lengths of railway sleepers can be used to build a wood retaining wall for the garden; but the individual pieces can be very large and heavy. To secure the lengths in place you will need reinforcing bars and a large drill bit to create the holes for the bars. The old treated sleepers contain harmful chemicals too, which can have an unpleasant odour and leach into the soil. New untreated versions are available, but they will become susceptible to rot after only a few years. You can read more about the pros and cons of using railway sleepers for retaining walls here <add the comparison blog>

    How to make more out of your WoodBlocX retaining wall

    We pride ourselves on offering a versatile system that adapts perfectly to your garden. A WoodBlocX retaining wall never has to be just a retaining wall! We can seamlessly integrate steps, seating and planting areas into the design.

    Bespoke garden furniture
    WoodBlocX retaining wall ideas
    The benefits of using raised beds

    Cost saving

    Our customers find building our structures straightforward and enjoyable and WoodBlocX modular retaining walls are no exception. All of our kits can be built in the same way and we provide step-by-step instructions to guide you through.
     

    Many of our retaining wall customers have told us that by using our system and building it themselves they have saved a considerable amount of money. Check out Ryan’s story; he originally asked a building company for a quote to build his terraced walls. The cost was way too high, but thankfully he found us! Click here to read the case study.

    What our customers have to say about WoodBlocX retaining walls

    Head to Feefo to read more reviews of products and services

  • Quick garden updates

    Making quick garden updates using our modular system is really straightforward, from ensuring you get exactly what you need, to placing your order and even building the structure.

    As these updates tend to be very specific to you and your garden we suggest using our free design service and let our experienced designers work out exactly what you need and to help you decide on the best solution. All we need is a few measurements and an idea of what you’re trying to achieve.

    Take a look at what some of the quick garden updates using WoodBlocX that some of our customers have done.

    Garden walls

    WoodBlocX not only makes an attractive facia for walls it is also brilliant at retaining. The combination of our durable pressure treated wood and strong dowels means that they will safely retain earth without the worry of the structure cracking or warping. Plus you don’t need to dig any foundations. Add return sections or steps for a truly integrated design.

    Click here to find out more about WoodBlocX retaining walls.

    garden landscaping ideas

    Edging

    Our edging is particularly popular for driveways and just a couple of layers of BlocX can make a BIG difference. Use them to separate the driveway from the rest of the garden, line a garden path or get really creative and continue your edging to create a planting area, the design possibilities are endless. Our kerbing is also popular for garden borders, keeping the level of planting low and just adding a little bit of structure and neatness to the garden.

    To find out more about WoodBlocX edging, borders and kerning click here.

    Unused corners

    Shady corners can be a problem, especially if the ground is boggy, raise the level of the planting using one of our corner designs and add fresh soil and shade loving plants for a total transformation. For sunny corners use the space to grow bright blooms, a few edibles or herbs. Our corner raised beds can be any size you like and you can switch things up by adding different sections and planting heights.

    For corner and L-shaped raised beds click here.

    WoodBlovX best selling rectangular raised timber beds
    WoodBlocX best selling raised bed shapes

    Long lasting planters

    Terracotta planters can be damaged by frost if left exposed over winter and the less said about plastic planters the better! Our customers are using our system for permanent wooden planters on patios for a maintenance free, long lasting alternative to your average planter, choose from a range of widths and heights to suit your space. Our structures can be built directly on most surfaces including patios and concrete and we always recommend using a liner.

    Enter your sizes to get an instant price for a bespoke planter.

    To see how easy it is to build with WoodBlocX watch our quick videos.

  • Garden design - How to get a free design for your garden in three simple steps

    Designing an entire garden or even just a certain area can be a daunting prospect which is why we have made our free design service as quick and simple as possible, in just three simple steps.

    Whether you’re a new homeowner, the owner of a new build home with a fresh plot to put your stamp on, or have an established garden that needs a new lease of life, our modular system can help you transform it into a beautiful and functional space.

    In 2020 nearly a quarter of our customers used our bespoke design service for raised beds, planters, ponds, walls, steps, and seating to fit their garden space and lifestyles perfectly.

    Get a design for your garden in three steps

    Step one

    Send us a sketch, some sizes of the space you're looking to update along with any ideas you have. Use our inspiration page or our social media to see what other customers have achieved using our versatile system. You could also send photos, screen-grabs from garden design apps or even a link to your pinterest board.

    Step two

    We will be back in touch with you within 48 hours with any questions. Once we have all of the information we will work on your design, this will be presented in a design pack which includes a 3D model of your structure along with the price.

    Step three

    Once we have discussed and made any changes to your design, we then add it to our website and send you a link. This allows you to select a preferred delivery date and make your payment. Alternatively this can be done over the phone.

    Use our free design service to plan your next garden project

    Recent bespoke designs

    small garden ideas

    Top garden design considerations

    • Note down the areas that get sunlight at certain times of the day, this is important if you want to include a seating area of if you plan on growing certain types of sun nor shade loving plants or you plan to grow edibles
    • Are you overlooked by other properties and do you have any views you would like to maximise?
    • Think about what you would like to grow and how much you are able to realistically manage
    • What elements you would like to include; grass/lawns, seating, walls, beds and borders, water features, paths, patios, steps etc?
    • Do you want to encourage wildlife into the garden?
    • What style do you want to achieve? Modern, rustic etc
    • Use a garden design planning app such as Veg Plotter to sketch out your ideas

    Free design service review

    "Whatever you ask these guys to do, the answer is always yes and then they suggest more great ideas you hadn't even thought of. One of the best companies I have ever dealt with."

    Click to read more reviews on our Free Design Service

    If you have a project in mind or you’re just not sure of exactly what you need for your garden click here to start using our free design service 

  • Gardening for better health and wellbeing in 2021

    WoodBlocX timber raised beds

    We asked Annabelle Padwick, the founder of Life at No.27 to share her expert advice on how gardening can improve mental health and is a powerful therapy for positive wellbeing.

    Annabelle is a professional gardener, wellbeing therapist, children’s author of YOU CAN grow your own food, feature writer for Kitchen Garden magazine and potato growing addict. Her therapeutic and educational programmes for children and adults, are proven to build confidence and resilience, teach new skills, help you make new friends and ultimately, have fun….

    How gardneing can improve mental health

    Annabelle says

    Plants are incredible healers and teachers for us all, so getting out in nature amongst them and all the wildlife is great on those blue Mondays or any day! I think many of us have discovered a new or greater appreciation for the outdoors in the last 12 months too thanks to the stay home message, working from home and home schooling.

    How can getting outside and trying your hand at gardening continue to help you to improve your own wellbeing? Sowing little seeds and bulbs teach the power of self-care, love and nurture; give a seed or yourself the right amount of water, food, sunlight, patience, rest and love, then see what happens. You thrive! Plants and humans are very similar, some might just say that we have more complicated emotions. But, through experience with some of my plants, I think I find them very complicated too.

    I recognise that gardening doesn’t always go to plan and isn’t always bright sunflowers, perfect roses and juicy tomatoes. This is exactly why I teach gardening to children and adults though, alongside wellbeing discussions and games. Growing your own food safely teaches patience and resilience; if a seed doesn’t germinate or a plant dies, you can try work out why and just try again. You can make mistakes in a safe environment without pressure or worry of judgement.

    Annabelle's tips for using gardening to improve your mental health in 2021

    Self care

    Gardening for better mental health tip one:

    If you ever need a reminder on how to look after yourself and not just those around you, plant a seed or bulb! Everything they need, you need too! Water, food, patience, love, sunlight, air, rest and space to spread out your roots and feel safe without being disturbed. Can you think of any other similarities?

    Me time

    Gardening for better mental health tip two:

    We definitely aren’t designed to cope with the chaos, demand, expectations and pressures we are facing right now and put on ourselves. In order to cope, let alone thrive mentally and physically, we need to find a way to look after ourselves. Whether you choose to get out in the garden, hide in the bathroom and lock the door for five minutes with headphones in, read a book or watch a movie; we all need to take time to slow down.

    Plants are extra great for this, as many of the processes in gardening are methodical, so you can really break tasks down, focus on your breath and get lost in the actions, colours, smells and tastes of the garden. Use the weeds as a visual opportunity to de-stress, removing all the negative feelings and thoughts in your mind. In turn, making clear space for healthier thoughts, clarity and new plants!

    Grow confidence

    Gardening for better mental health tip three:

    You don’t need to set out to re-design your whole garden for a confidence boost! Start simple by planting up one plant pot, a raised bed or border. As your plants begin to grow, so will your confidence. Take your time with every step and gradually build up to more complicated tasks like pruning and taking cuttings. If you ever get stuck, remember that gardeners love to share their passion, we just do! So, always ask for help in your local garden centre, speak to a friend, or reach out on social media, you'll be surprised how much gardening can improve your own mental health.

    Get active

    Gardening for better mental health tip four:

    We all want to be physically fitter, which in turn can help make us mentally healthier. Gardening gets your body moving at your own pace, boosts your metabolism up a gear and increases your heart rate. What’s great about gardening for fitness is that it is cheaper than the gym (unless you are a plant addict), you get double the rewards and it is adaptable for many abilities and lifestyles! Wooden raised beds are great if moving around and working at ground level isn’t possible. You can sit on the edge or in a chair by the side and still get stuck in. The arms, abs and shoulders are working and your plants are growing. WIN, WIN!

    Eat Healthier

    Gardening for better mental health tip five:

    I love running outside to the containers and raised beds full of vegetables, immediately snacking on the nearest freshly popped pea or tomato… yummy! Growing and storing your own produce keeps the winter stews coming too. The odd takeaway treat or junk cupboard dash is definitely staying I admit, but learning to grow your own food makes delicious goodness easier to grab, cook and eat!

    If Annbelle's tips have given you the urge to grow something, start gardening or just make the most of your own garden then check out some of our other helpful blogs or head to the main website to find out more about beautiful and easy to build raised beds.

    How gardening can improve mental health
    How gardening can improve mental health
    How gardening can improve mental health
    How gardening can improve mental health

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  • Lockdown garden activities for kids

    Lockdown garden activities for kids

    To all of the parents that are homeschooling and juggling working and as well we know how stressed out you are, many of our team are in the same situation and we too shudder at thought of another Joe Wicks workout (sorry Joe)! So with this in mind we have collated four lockdown garden activities for kids to use up an a few hours during the school week, or even at the weekend because who knows what day it is at the moment anyway?!

    Lockdown gardening activities for kids: Build an insect house

    Whilst the garden may look a little bit sad at the moment they are in fact full of materials that can be used to make an insect house. Bug houses can be built out of lots of different materials, pine cones, twigs, bamboo canes, bark, moss, branches, any plants that have dried out, straw and whatever else that can be found found. Raid the shed or garage for some spare pallet wood and/or a few bricks and start designing and building a magnificent home for insects.

    Building a bug hotel in January will give insects such as wild bees, butterflies, moths, lacewings, spiders, ladybirds time to settle in. Build in a sunny spot that is sheltered from wind and rain and by the time spring and summer arrives your hotel will be a hive of activity.

    For those that don't have a garden, collect materials and search for the perfect spot in a local park or woodland. The RSPB has a great step-by-step guide to follow - here.

    We've added some inspiration below from our recent Instagram saves.

    Lockdown garden activities for kids - Build an insect hotel
    Lockdown garden activities for kids - Build an insect hotel
    Lockdown garden activities for kids -Build an insect hotel

    @house_behind_the_mill

    @house_behind_the_mill

    @my_little_allotment

    Sow seeds - what to plant in January and February

    As far as lockdown garden activities go planting seeds should be one of them! There's loads of edibles that can be planted now and kept on a warm windowsill where children can keep an eye out for the seeds germinating. Chilli, aubergine, broad beans, lettuces, salad onions, spinach, cauliflower and many more vegetable and salad varieties can be sown in January and February. Sowing plants indoors now will ensure seedlings are ready to transplant into bigger pots or raised beds, vegetable plots of containers in the spring.

    For flowers; plant sweet peas indoors or create a wildflower container that can be stored outdoors in a sheltered area or in a greenhouse. For loads of helpful advice on what vegetables and flowers to sow in January and February head to the RHS website.

    Lockdown garden activities for kids - Seeds to sow during January and February

    Lockdown gardening activities for kids: Build a wooden raised garden bed

    Build a raised bed out using a WoodBlocX easy to build do-it-yourself kit, which kids can help to build with a little supervision from an adult, or use any materials that are available, from wooden boards, to railway sleepers or even bricks.

    Giving kids ownership of their own growing space also means they are more likely to be invested once the seeds you sow are transplanted in the spring. A raised bed can be a great way to do this, being raised off the ground also makes it easier for youngsters to reach.

    Here's three quick-to-build raised beds that children will love.

    Wildlife spotting

    It may not look like a hive of activity but our gardens are still full of life at this time of year. Go on a bug hunt and lift up rocks, look under bushes, on the underside of leaves and try and find and identify as many different creatures as possible.

    The RSPB's Big Bird Watch runs from 29th - 31st January, download a spotters kit to see how many different birds visit your garden over those three days.

     

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  • How to build a retaining wall

    How to build a WoodBlocX retaining wall

    Here in the UK our gardens comes in all shapes and sizes, if you’re lucky enough to have a flat garden you may not need a retaining wall, garden edging or curbing may be better suited to you, but if your garden slopes up or down retaining walls can help to transform the space by allowing you to level the ground out, or create a series of terraces.

    There are various materials that can be used to build retaining walls including bricks, railway sleepers, natural stone, gabions, breeze blocks and of course WoodBlocX - check out our <what to use for a retaining wall comparison blog> to see the cost for each and also information on materials and any labour required to help you make your decision on which is the best material for you.

    One of the main benefits of WoodBlocX retaining walls is that they can built by you, whether you’re a skilled DIY’er or if you think you have zero DIY skills, the modular nature of the system makes it really straightforward to build, plus you will be armed with step by step instructions and videos to help you with every block.

    WoodBlocX walls are built from numerous individual pieces of timber (rather like bricks), that are pinned together using strong plastic dowels. Each piece of timber – selected to use only the strongest parts of the tree and never the heart – is then pressure treated twice, and because the dowel holes are pre-drilled, the treatment penetrates almost 100% of the wood. The dowels can each withstand 0.9 tonnes of sheer force, making the walls strong under both tension and compression and strong enough to withstand frost and ground movement without distorting or cracking under pressure.

    How to build a WoodBlocX retaining wall

    Tools needed
    Spade or rake for levelling
    Spirit level* or laser level
    Lump hammer*
    String line*
    Gardening gloves*
    Hacksaw or dowel cutters* for the last layer of dowels
    Garden scissors or a stanley knife for the liner

    All starred items are available in our Building Kit

    Materials needed
    Permeable liner
    Building sand
    Subbase or compacted type 1

    To find out more about our recommendations for liners and drainage click here

    Preparation

    Mark out the space using a string line, this will help to ensure you have a perfectly straight edge to work to. There is no need to include concrete foundations for a WoodBlocX retaining wall, simply level the area where you plan to build the wall. We do recommend using a layer of subbase - which is available from most high-street DIY stores or builders merchants - this helps to distribute weight and improve the ground’s ability to carry weight. We also recommend using a layer of compacted building sand or sharp sand which will help to ensure the BlocX are level before they are laid.

    To read more about footings and getting started building your WoodBlocX retaining wall click here

    Building

    Base layer
    Once you are happy that the ground is sufficiently levelled and prepped lay out your first layer of BlocX according to your step by step instructions and match up the dowels to the BlocX, fixing the dowels into the BlocX on the base layer before placing them on the ground will help to ensure you don’t knock your base out of level.

    How to install a raised bed in winter

    Securing the structure to the ground
    When ordering a retaining wall kit you will have been asked at the point of purchase if you plan to build on grass or soil, if the answer is YES then you will be provided with a series of ground spikes, these are 40mm in length and need to be placed through the dowel holes on the first layer of BlocX and in every buttress to secure the structure to the ground. If you are planning to build WoodBlocX on a hard surface such as tarmac or concrete we would advise you replace our ground spikes with heavy-duty angle brackets. These can be purchased from most DIY stores.

    Build up the layers
    Follow your step by step instructions to build the layers up adding the dowels as you go. We include buttresses in all of our designs to provide added strength to the structure, these are particularly important when building retaining walls as they act as cantilevers with the weight of soil pushing down on them to keep the main structure supported. The buttress will always finish one layer below the main height of the structure and are spaced every 1500mm along the wall.

    Angle plates
    Our angle plates, which are made from hard wearing galvanized steel need to be placed at every point where the buttress meets the main structure to tie the structure together. They also need to be placed on the corners of the last layers of BlocX before the capping is added to the structure.

    Capping and liner
    When you've reached the final layer of BlocX and added the dowels and angle plates use the dowel cutters (provided in our Building Kit) or saw to cut the dowels down by three notches and place your liner (or lengths of liner) to cover the inside of your structure, cutting small incisions to let the dowels through, this will hold it in place, cut off any over hanging liner and secure the capping using a spare block between the capping and your lump hammer to fit it - this will prevent any impact marks being made in the capping.

    For information on lining your WoodBlocX retaining wall and drainage click here

    Maintenance

    WoodBlocX retaining walls require zero maintenance, once installed the BlocX can be left to weather naturally, creating a great rustic look, or painted to suit the style of your garden.

    To get an instant price for a retaining wall use our calculator tool, browse our pre-designed walls or get in touch and use our quick free design service, just send us your measurements and any preferences you have and we will create a design and quote for you.

    More helpful retaining wall blogs

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