Gardening Advice

  • An easy and effective garden solution

    All too often a great design idea has to be amended beyond recognition because of the practicalities and realities of the garden and the budget. Perhaps all the materials for the garden have to be taken through the house, perhaps there are pets or young children around, or perhaps you’re on a deadline – all these logistical problems and more can mean that the original vision is compromised. However, whether you want to add planters or raised beds, benches or more to a problematic area, the solution can be found in a modular timber system such as WoodBlocX.

    Modular systems, because they are delivered in pieces rather than unwieldy pre-built wholes, can be taken into the garden much more easily. All the WoodBlocX components can be easily carried by one person, so even in the tightest of places there’s space to squeeze them through. They are delivered on pallets, which can be easily moved to get as close to the construction area as possible, saving time and effort in moving things around. This is also helpful when the garden build has to take place around household life – the components do not take up much space, so disruption can be minimised.

    Modular systems built from small components are also light and can be easily carried up steps. This means that it is also possible to build quite large planters on rooftops, and incorporate a rooftop garden to bring some life to a dull area.

    So, WoodBlocX are easy to get onto the site, but they are also easy to work with once the components are there. All the individual pieces are pre-fabricated to exactly the right size, and pre-drilled and mitred as well. Therefore you will not need any power tools to build up the BlocX themselves – no drilling, cutting or sawing is necessary. The BlocX are quick and easy to put together, and there is very little noise created in the process, keeping the disruption to family and neighbours to a minimum. Furthermore, the pre-cut modular system also means there is no dust or mess and virtually no waste to dispose of (and what waste there is can be easily moved and transported to the tip), saving time and money again.

    Modular timber systems like WoodBlocX are the smart choice for any garden, but especially those with access problems. Call our team for a chat about your project and how we can help.

  • Planting Late Summer Seeds… Choi Sum

    There are a whole range of remarkably cold hardy oriental greens. They are ideal to keep your plot going through the depths of winter, particularly if you don't have the space or time for traditional winter veg like brussels.

    Many are good both in salads and cooked - try Pak Choi, Mizuna, Chinese Cabbage, Mibuna, Tatsoi and Mispoona, all of which can be sown from the end of June through to end September (you can keep on sowing through into the winter if you have a polytunnel on you raised bed to).

    Choi Sum (Brassica parachinensis) is a member of the Mustard family is also referred to as a flowering pak choy or choy sum. Its green leaves are juicy and tender. If allowed to mature and bolt, yellow flowers will shoot and the plant becomes sweeter and more succulent. The whole plant is edible, which is why we are such a fan!

  • Reducing the cost of Garden Projects

    Whether you are just putting in a couple of beds for a vegetable garden or terracing the whole garden, it’s always good to be able to see all the costs of a project up front. Using a modular timber system for raised beds and other landscaping means that the material costs are really easy to calculate, and there’s no need to pay for someone else to do the work. Modular systems from WoodBlocX are available either as off-the-shelf pre-designed kits, or free bespoke designs can be created for your particular site.

    For example a set of three raised beds, each 2250 x 1125 x 450mm, could be used for a fruit, vegetable and cut flower patch, or for flower borders. The price of these off-the-shelf kits are less than £300 each. Larger projects such as driveway edging are easily calculated – a 250mm high edge for example, is less than £100 per 3m stretch. Delivery is cheap and easy because all the components easily fit onto pallets. Check out our online calculator to get a quick quote for your project.

    If there is nothing suitable for your garden project in the wide range of pre-designed beds, why not get WoodBlocX to design something to your exact specifications? The design service is free, and because they do it all for you there’s no need to worry about anything! WoodBlocX make sure that your design is safe, that it will work, and that you have all the right components so you are ready to build - no running to the shops for extra pieces – everything is supplied with the kit, along with some spares as well just in case. The design service also extends to ponds, edging, seats, retaining walls and steps. Alternatively, use the online calculators to work out what you’ll need for yourself. There’s no obligation to buy after using either service.

    When using a system like WoodBlocX, even daunting and complicated projects can be made easy – and it’s possible to do all the work yourself. Rather than get in builders or landscapers to do different parts of a project, such as terracing or retaining walls, and then look at putting in beds and steps afterwards, the whole thing can be done by you with WoodBlocX. This can save a lot of money, you get the satisfaction of having built it yourself, and it’s as simple as knocking together layers of BlocX: a win-win solution.

  • Successional Sowing: How to Get The Most From Your Raised Beds

    Sometimes less is more, so whether you have an allotment, a large kitchen garden or just a single raised bed, you should use successional sowing to ensure a steady, regular and appropriate supply of vegetables throughout the growing season, rather than experiencing a glut all at once. Basically, using the principle of little and often, it involves extending your harvest by sowing a row every few weeks or so. Quick growing crops such as French beans, peas, spinach, salads and carrots lend themselves to this way of cultivation. In this way you can ensure a regular, fresh supply of vegetables that otherwise would perish quickly under storage conditions.

    Other varieties that are prone to bolting (growing less leaves and moving into flower and seed production) such as rocket, spinach, broccoli, cilantro, basil, cabbage and lettuce especially need to be sown successionally.

    If you sow the longer fruiting crops such as courgette, cucumbers and runner beans and sweet corn in two batches, spaced a few weeks apart, you can optimise produce availability well into the autumn.

    There are four key methods for successional planting.

    1) Same crop, staggered plantings.

    Here you need to space out your plantings of the same crop, to around every 2-4 weeks, or when the plants from the preceding sowings are well developed, with four true leaves for leafy crops, or are around 5cm (2 inches) high in the case of peas or 10cm tall (four inches) for beans. Many vegetables put all their effort into producing a first flush of produce and then fade throughout the season, giving smaller and weaker yields. By employing a staggered approach, sowing more seeds as the first plants start to fade, you will ensure a regular supply of optimum produce over a longer period. Harvest mature, whole plants once they reach their peak. This will get light, water and space to neighbouring plants and make room for more sowings.

    2) Different vegetables

    Some crops like peas have a short growing season, so the area that they previously took up can be used to grow a later season plant like aubergine.

    3) Shared space

    Many a vegetable can be grown side by side quite well, and may even help to control pests. Try growing quick maturing radishes, which loosen the soil, ready for late sprouting carrots. Plus growing leeks or spring onions next to carrots may help to deter carrot fly. If you are really short of space, why not sow some veggies between your flowers in the borders. There are no rules to say you have to keep them separate and a few lettuce plants can look very good interspersed amongst the flowers

    Variety is the spice of life and if you want to keep a regular supply of salads going throughout summer, choose a range of varieties for continuous cropping. Lettuce ‘Little Gem’ and ‘Red Gem’ variety ‘Dazzle’ and carrot ‘Marion’ are ideal for successional sowing, and the later maturing varieties are also capable of being sown little and often. Once mature, they will also remain in good condition for longer.

     

    If sowing outdoors, sowings can be made every one to four weeks, from mid-April through to late summer. Indoors spring sowing can begin in March.

    Sow seeds thinly, in short rows, and if the seed is very fine, use shallow drills, watered first, prior to sowing. Don’t forget to label your rows, and space apart according to the instructions on the seed packet. By keeping an eye on how well the seeds are growing, you can work out when to re-sow. Don’t forget to keep your plants well-watered.

    WoodBlocX raised beds are ideal for sowing short rows in succession, and make for easier harvesting too. As with any sowing, ensure the soil is well dug in with organic matter (except for carrot sowing, as it makes them fork and grow into weird shapes).

    For the smaller sized wooden planters that WoodBlocX offer, use baby varieties such as carrot ‘Atlas’, an early maturing type that has round smooth roots that can be harvested at 2-3cm diameter. It grows well in any soil and has a good fungal resistance. ‘Baby Beet Action’ is a very sweet and tender variety, which still retains its round shape if sown quite thickly, and they can be harvested when they are about one inch in diameter.

    Wooden planters are also ideal for growing salads on a ‘cut and come again’ basis, harvesting the larger leaves by cutting them as required, leaving the smaller leaves to continue growing for cutting later on. Then sow another crop about three weeks later.

    Some cultivars do not need to be sown successionally, such as aubergines, peppers and tomatoes because they produce fruits over a long period, so are hence self-regulating. Similarly, those that store well, like onions and garlic, do not need to be sown successionally either, and neither do varieties that need longer to mature, like sprouts and leeks, which are best left to over-winter in the ground for picking as and when required.

  • Top Tips For Designing Your Dream Garden

    A new garden design – or a new determination to transform your garden – can be a daunting prospect. Caitlin McLaughlin, the RHS Young Designer of the Year 2016, gives us her take on what makes a successful garden design in the above video.

    Below are some tips on things to consider when preparing to design a garden.

    Before you start, spend some time thinking about exactly what you want the garden for. Do you want purely ornamental planting, or productive areas as well? Your plans might have to be amended as you go along to accommodate different circumstances – adding lower maintenance areas for example, or including more veg-growing space because you’ve discovered you enjoy cultivating plants for the kitchen. WoodBlocX can be used to build a wide range of raised bedsplantersseatingedging and even ponds – in a variety of shapes and sizes and all without a power tool in sight.

    Another consideration is how much, if any, lawn do you want – do you need to supply a sports pitch or play area for the children? What about seating and entertaining areas and storage - where’s the lawnmower going to live? Even the most difficult-looking of gardens can be transformed with a bit of thought. A steep slope can be terraced to create a stepped garden with flat beds and paths. Front gardens and courtyard gardens are often neglected, but a few simple beds or some edging can really transform their look and feel. Corner beds are especially good for small urban courtyards – WoodBlocX have single and multi-level options, or you can give them your specifications and receive a free bespoke design.

    After assessing what you want against how much time you will have to look after it, amend your plans as necessary. Once these decisions have been made, then it’s time to design your garden.

  • How to deal with Creeping Buttercup

    The Creeping Buttercup is a low growing perennial weed which prefers wet heavy soils. Creeping Buttercups spread with vigorous creeping stems that run along the ground rooting at intervals with a very fibrous rooting system.

     

    You need to make sure you remove all the fibrous roots as well as the main part of the weed, as this tricky weed will just keep coming back if any is left behind.

  • The Benefits of Crop Protectors

    When we spend so much time helping our carrots, cauliflowers and cucumbers to grow it would be a real waste to let the pigeons get in there for the first bite!

     

    Crop protectors allow you to defend your veg against invaders, but make sure you choose a net that matches your needs.

  • Problem Weeds.. Ground Elder

    Ground Elder can be a real pest, and a tricky one to get rid of when it takes hold of your vegetable patch. But if you follow these quick tips you should be able to banish it from your garden in no time.

     

    The key thing is to make sure you pull out the whole root, not just the plant itself. Each section of the white fibrous root will grow back into another plant, so dig down and make sure all the little pieces are taken out to.

    Then check back to the same area a once or twice a week for the next 4 weeks to make sure no more pop up.

  • How to grow French Beans

     

    Plants don’t get much more productive than French beans. The beans hang so heavy on the plants you’d think the stems would collapse, giving you a plentiful harvest from minimal space in your raised vegetable beds. They are also very attractive, offering various flower and bean colours, so you could even incorporate them into your ornamental beds. Bees love the flowers too! French beans are more versatile in the kitchen than runner beans – you can eat them raw, and they don’t get as stringy – and also have the added advantage that they can be grown as dwarf plants as well as climbers.

    The versatility of French beans in their cultivation, harvesting and consuming is matched only by the versatility of WoodBlocX raised beds in their style, size, shape and height.
    If you have relatively low raised beds, a wigwam of climbing beans is a really pretty way to grow these plants, and once started, they won’t need much attention other than watering and harvesting of the beans. Use six or eight poles tied together at the top – hazel poles are best, but bamboo canes are a fine substitute – and then you’ll have plenty of beans all summer from only about a square metre’s worth of garden space.

    However, if your raised beds are more than a foot or two high dwarf beans will be the best option, unless you have a ladder for picking them! These plants are grown in rows and produce plentiful beans as well, but tend to bear them all in one go (climbers give fewer beans at a time but over a longer period), so successional sowing is the best way to avoid gluts.

    Bean shapes and colours can generally be split into round or flat pods, in green, white/gold or purple, and all combinations of the above. It’s also worth considering growing borlotti beans, also known as cranberry beans, (‘Lingua di Fuoco 2’ is the best variety) with its beautiful speckled pattern on both pods and beans, which can be left to mature and dry on the plant then stored to make ribollita and other tasty dishes throughout the winter.

    All French beans are tender plants, and will suffer in a frost, so sow them in mid-spring in modules or small pots and only plant out once all risk of frost has passed. Two plants per cane of a wigwam is best, or space dwarf beans around 25cm apart each way (check the seed packet, but remember the soil in raised beds is more productive than the ground, so you can squeeze them a little closer together). You may also want to give dwarf beans the support of a small cane just to keep the beans off the soil surface; tie them in as necessary. Another sowing of dwarf beans in late spring and a final one in early to mid-summer will keep the supply going into autumn.

    Harvest the beans once they are a suitable size but still young and tender by pulling carefully (hold on to the stem as well) or preferably snipping them off the plant. Left too long they will get tougher; and make sure you don’t miss any, as those that are allowed to develop and dry into seeds will send the signal to the plant to stop producing more. You’ll be able to keep picking climbers all summer, and get a couple of harvests per dwarf plant.

    So, the answer to a successful bean harvest is to raise your beans in a WoodBlocX raised bed.
  • Grow your own Strawberries this summer!

     

    Most people who grow their own food will tell you that it is that strawberries – or sometimes tomatoes – are the ‘epiphany’ plants. Once you’ve tasted a home-grown fruit, plucked from the plant at perfect ripeness, warmed by the sun so its natural sugars are at their peak….there is no going back. And if that were not enough to convince you, strawberries are incredibly easy to grow and every year supply you with more baby plants, so once you’ve bought a few, you’ll never need to buy any more again!

    Raised beds are perfect for growing strawberries. The bed can be filled with a compost or manure-rich soil that will give them all the nutrients they need for a bumper harvest. WoodBlocX raised beds will also help you to get one over on Mother Nature…the soil in raised beds warms up faster than the ground in spring, bringing on the plants sooner and allowing for earlier cropping. . Raised beds, in which the ripening berries can dangle over the sides, also help to keep the berries clean and free from their main disease, botrytis (grey mould, see below*) by having better air circulation.

    When your raised bed is ready, put in your strawberry plants in early spring. They are available to buy from garden centres and even supermarkets, usually in packs of four or six plants, but you can also order them online. Buying ‘bare root runners’ is much cheaper, and these are usually supplied in bundles of 10 or 12 plants per variety. These do not have any soil around their roots, and need a soaking overnight before planting straight away so they don’t dry out.

    Plant your strawberry plants so that the point at which the roots turn into shoots (called the ‘crown’) is exactly at soil level. This will ensure the best growth of the plant. Leave about 30cm between plants in a row, and 50-60cm between rows. Keep the soil moist but not wet, always watering the soil not the plants (again to avoid spreading botrytis). Once the fruit appears, you can spread some straw between the plants to help keep them off the soil, but it’s not essential. If they are close enough, putting them over or on the edge of the bed where they will catch the most sun will keep them clean and speed up the ripening process.

    Plant a few different varieties that ripen at different times (early, mid- and late season) to give you good pickings over a long time. Good choices include Honeoye, Cambridge Favourite, Pegasus and Royal Sovereign; but trial several to find your favourites. Only pick a strawberry when it is a deep crimson red all over and you won’t look back!

    After fruiting, the plants will produce long stems with baby plants on them, called runners. Peg down the first baby plant on two-three runners per mother plant, cutting off the rest of the runner. Once it’s rooted into the soil it can be severed from the mother plant and replanted elsewhere or potted up to give away. The mother plant is best replaced every 3-5 years, so by potting up a few runners every year you’ll have a good rolling stock of fresh plants, all for free.

    *Botrytis is a fungal disease that is in the air and easily infects soft fruit. To prevent it taking hold, pick all ripe fruit promptly, cut back dead leaves and stalks and if you see any grey mouldy bits, remove and burn them as quickly as possible.

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