Gardening Advice

  • Sustainability of timber garden products

    It’s good to know that when you buy a product it is not just from an environmentally-friendly company, but that the good ethics are present all the way back down the supply chain to where that company sources its materials. When buying timber for a garden project it can sometimes be difficult to be sure where it has come from, but when using a company like WoodBlocX you are guaranteed not only a high quality product but also the highest environmental credentials.

    The modular timber constructions from WoodBlocX – raised bedsplantersretaining walls and terracingpondsbenches and more – are all made using mostly UK-grown timber (some shortfall is made up with Latvian timber that also meets the company’s strict guidelines). Using UK timber drastically reduces the ‘timber miles’ and carbon footprint of the product. Plus, when it comes to delivering the BlocX to your site, they stack easily on pallets for efficient transportation.

    Furthermore, WoodBlocX timber is accredited by the FSC® (FSC-C134890) (Forestry Stewardship Council ®). FSC®  is an international body that sets the standards for responsible forest management, so that you can be sure that your garden materials are from woodland that has its water, soil and ancient trees protected, and that the forestry operation does not use hazardous chemicals. The Soil Association’s rigorous certification process only allows the products with the highest organic standards.

    The timber is then treated using a water-based preservative (Wolmanit CX-10), so there are no nasty chemicals to leach into your garden’s soil. WoodBlocX constructions are so strong that they don’t need foundations – even for retaining walls – so you won’t have to use any cement, which has many environmental concerns connected to it. The dowels that fix the BlocX together are even made using recycled plastic, so it’s all in all one of the greenest products on the market.

    The more UK-grown wood is used to make products, the more trees will be planted to meet the demand, and we all know that more trees in the world is a good thing. Imported wood can often be from areas that are not managed sustainably, causing untold damage to the earth’s wildlife and climate – WoodBlocX UK timber has none of those concerns.

    But the ethical aspects of sourcing materials extend to more than just the materials themselves. Using a product made of UK timber means that you are also supporting many UK companies, not just WoodBlocX themselves. The wood is not only grown but also cut in the UK, managed by forestry companies and WoodBlocX’s own sawmill - all of which create jobs in rural areas. Jobs bring money and life to rural communities, often in areas that sorely need them. Using a UK-timber product such as WoodBlocX is the smart choice, for the environment and for your garden.

  • How to Grow Carrots in Raised Beds

     

    Long and thin, short and stumpy or round; orange, purple, white, yellow and red: there’s more to carrots than the basic orange ones that fill the bags in the supermarket. Growing your own means you can access this wide variety of shapes, colours and tastes, and also means you are able to eat them quickly after the harvest. The longer a carrot is out of the ground, the more of its natural sugars will convert to starch: for the best tasting carrot ever, just wash off the soil and eat it there and then, straight from the plot.

    Raised beds are ideal for growing carrots. The enormously long ones seen at village shows have all been grown in some kind of container (usually drainpipes filled with sand). There’s no need to go that far for the veg for your Sunday lunch, but the principle is the same. Carrots will fork, bend and generally distort in stony, lumpy and heavy soil. Growing in a raised bed means you can give them the perfect growing conditions and create perfect carrots, whether the beds are standing on a hard surface or just raising the soil level a bit over the top of the garden soil. Just make sure your carrot rows are not directly above any buttresses inside your WoodBlocX beds! The lighter the soil the better for carrots, so don’t add any manure or other compost the same year you sow them (though the previous autumn is fine). Multipurpose compost and stone-free topsoil are both ideal.

    It’s possible to grow carrots for harvesting from early summer right through until autumn, and left in the ground some will even be fine to harvest into winter, such as ‘Autumn King’. Check the seed packets for the correct sowing and harvesting time for that variety so you have a succession of harvests and no major gluts. If your beds are relatively shallow it will be best to choose shorter or round varieties like the Nantes series and ‘Paris Market’, but beds with at least 45cm growing depth are fine for most carrot varieties. Some seed retailers offer packets of mixed seed, which is a good way to get a multi-coloured harvest, and there’s no need to choose a different type for each successional sowing, as most will be fine sown over a long period.

    Carrots are best sown direct into the soil (i.e. not raised in individual pots or plugs then planted out), as is true of most root crops. Scrape out a shallow drill – a line in the soil – and water the bottom of it before sprinkling the seeds thinly along it. You want one seed about every centimetre, but there’s no need to be exact! Brush the soil you scraped out back over the top of the seeds and pat down gently. Most importantly, label the row with the variety and the date you sowed it. Water, using a rose on the end of your watering can or a spray hose – this helps prevent the seeds being washed out of their line, if the weather is dry. The soil should stay moist but not wet.

    Once the seedlings have poked up some leaves, wait for a few weeks before pulling one up to check the root size. At a 1cm spacing the carrots are too close together to give a good harvest, and will need thinning to leave one every 5cm or so. However, if you wait until the roots are usable as baby veg, and take out every other plant until you reach the 5cm spacing, you’ll get several harvests from the same row.

  • Raised beds: the benefits and options

    Raised beds are the ideal solution to many garden situations. Most obviously, they provide a place to grow in courtyards and other paved or concreted areas where there is no available open ground. However, they can also be used to grow in areas of bad soil – where it is boggy or stony for example. By filling the raised beds with fresh, sterilised topsoil, the soil is then free from weed seeds (at least to begin with), pests and diseases, giving your plants the best possible start.

    The new soil can also be made rich in nutrients by adding compost, so vegetables and fruit can be planted more intensively, providing a bigger harvest from a smaller space. They will also be given a head start in spring, because the soil in raised beds warms up faster than the open ground. The soil is also less likely to be compacted by footfall on the beds as many raised beds are narrow enough that the whole bed can be reached from the sides. The extra height off the ground makes maintaining the plants easier as well, with less strain on your knees and back (and also means your plants are out of reach of rabbits and household pets – a minimum height of 45cm is needed for this).

    Raised beds make a great choice for all generations of gardeners – whether it’s a child’s first foray in growing, or a more accessible bed for the older gardener – but the variety of construction choices can be confusing. Here are the main options:

    The least durable are beds made with woven willow or hazel branches. These can be woven yourself, or pre-made panels can be bought to assemble into a bed. They don’t offer much height, and the wood quickly becomes brittle and breaks. They are best for edging a shallow bed as a temporary measure.

    Metal panels are also prone to corroding, and their ability to conduct heat means the plants in the bed can often have their roots fried in hot temperatures, and more easily frozen in low ones. Brick and stone offer more insulation, but they also require technical skills to construct well and safely, and are the most expensive option.

    No wonder then that most people choose some form of wood to construct their raised bedsRailway sleepers are often used, but they are very difficult to deal with as well as expensive – even the reproduction ones. They are incredibly heavy and need power tools to secure together safely and trim to the correct size. They don’t offer a lot of options as to the size and shape of your raised beds either – you are, excuse the pun, railroaded into creating long rectangular beds. Furthermore, because the sleepers themselves are so wide, the available growing space is significantly reduced.

    Planks would seem to be a good substitute, but again, require DIY skills to put together and the sides will often warp and bend from the weight of the soil in the bed, and rot or weather badly over time.

    WoodBlocX avoids all of these problems and is much cheaper than most of the other options; they can be put together in myriad, made to order shapes and forms – curvedangularsquare and corner beds – require no technical knowledge or power tools to put together, and their unique interlocking system means they are safe and strong no matter how large or tall the bed. Which is important, considering they are a fully-bespoke product and the finished design of the raised bed or planter can be specifically made to measure for whatever space you wish to build in. The pressure-treated wood is even guaranteed not to rot, warp or distort for 15 years, and at only 7.5cm wide, there’s plenty of space for your plants.

  • Top tips for Gardening with Children

    If you’ve ever despaired at your children’s lack of interest in eating fruit and vegetables, why not try growing some with them? Following the whole process of sowing the seed to harvesting the crop, and then cooking it together, can really make children invest in their labours – they’ll want to try what they’ve spent all that time growing. Chances are they’ll suddenly discover that they do like carrots after all! For short attention spans, crops with quick returns are best. Micro-leaves offer the fastest harvest time, as they are just seedlings, and can be grown like cress – remember the cress ‘hair’ in the eggshell heads you probably made when you were a child? All sorts of salad crops can be grown this way, or just on a piece of damp kitchen towel, such as lettuce leaves, beetroot and radishes. Full grown radishes also offer a fast turnaround from sowing to harvest, and baby versions of mainstream crops such as carrots and parsnips are harvested sooner, and are often naturally sweeter too. Then it’s time to think about the crops that can be eaten straight from the plant – fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and tree fruit (apples, plums, cherries) are all great choices. Peas can be eaten straight from the pod – or eat the whole pod with mangetout (literally ‘eat-all’) – when a vegetable is freshly harvested its natural sugars are at their highest level, and peas can be munched like sweets. New potatoes also offer excitement and learning opportunities – planting one potato results in many more, and digging for the harvest is like digging for buried treasure. Giving children ownership of their own growing space also means they are more invested in the outcome. A raised bed can be a great way to do this – a small space, contained and separate from your own flower/veg beds, so there is no chance of precious plants being trodden on, and raised off the ground to make it easier for them to reach. If blueberries are a particular favourite, a raised bed is also a great way to introduce the right soil – acidic – for these plants in a neutral or alkaline soil garden.

    In a 90cm by 90cm square bed, such as those offered by WoodBlocX, there would be space for:

    • A strawberry plant in each corner
    • A central sunflower – use it as a support for a climbing bean plant
    • A row of baby carrots
    • A row of peas
    • A row of first early (new) potatoes that once out, could be replaced with a pumpkin plant for Halloween (though this will probably trail out of the bed a bit as well).
    Alternatively, by going for a slightly deeper bed – 45cm as a minimum, such as the hexagonal 1.55m x 0.925m bed from WoodBlocX – you could go for the lower maintenance option of a fruit tree surrounded by herbs and flowers. Children love to try the different scents on the leaves: mints are great for this, coming in flavours such as strawberry and chocolate, and pineapple sage is another good option. Nasturtiums are a brilliant seed to sow with children as their seeds are large and easy to handle, and germinate relatively quickly and reliably.
  • Seans Allotment Garden

    Sean has been preparing his perfect gardening space for years and we had the opportunity to help him by installing some of our raised beds. Our video will give you an idea as to how versatile and cost-effective our WoodBlocX can be.

  • Making a Garden from Scratch

    A new garden – or a new determination to transform the garden – can be a daunting prospect. There are two possible approaches: do it all at once, or do it bit by bit.

    Doing it all at once, if you can afford to do so, is obviously an attractive proposition. You get the garden you want in very little time, and can enjoy it fully and properly as soon as it’s done. Doing it bit by bit is easier on the purse strings, and is also a good option if you’re not sure how much time you’ll have to devote to gardening as your plans can 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 that most of all.

    Either way, 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? 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?)? Then assess what you want against how much time you have to look after it, amend your plans as necessary, and then it’s time to design your garden.The design needn’t be complicated, but if the idea of working it all out fills you with dread, or even if you just want a second opinion, think about using a design service. Unlike many others, the one offered by WoodBlocX is completely free and puts you under no obligation to buy.

    Most garden designs will use some form of hard landscaping, but there is no need to be daunted by this if your DIY skills aren’t up to scratch! WoodBlocX can be used to build raised beds, planters, seating, ponds and edging, and all without a power tool in sight. They are all also guaranteed to last for at least 15 years.

    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: WoodBlocX will do all the calculations, and design specifications for you, and their strong interlocking construction method means complete peace of mind once your garden is finished.

    Front gardens and courtyard gardens are often neglected, but a few simple beds or some edging can really transform the look and feel of these spaces. Raised corner beds are especially good for small urban courtyards – WoodBlocX have single and multi-level options, or you can give them your specifications for a free bespoke design. Wooden planters are also a really good choice for courtyards or to flank a front door: they are smart, can be painted any colour you like, and will not crack or corrode.

    Whatever you end up doing with your outdoor space, remember that gardens are there to be enjoyed, not to be a chore!

  • Paving options to pair with WoodBlocX by Primethorpe Paving

    You’ve chosen to use Woodblocx for a retaining wall, a raised bed or any of the other options available to you, but how about the rest of your space? A popular option is to pair your WoodBlocX retaining wall or raised bed with a patio area. A well-suited patio can bring your whole project together and by making every attempt to match your choice of slab with your WoodBlocX feature, you can create a cohesive, seamless space that feels even more professional than it already is!

    Picking any old patio slab will do a job, but if you want to make sure the design is as good as it can be, take a bit of time to ensure you select the perfect slab and install it in a pre-planned design. Ensure you’ve considered the material your slab is made from, the colour of the slab and the pattern you have chosen to lay the slabs in. Each one of these options will alter the appearance and finish of your space, so it’s important you opt for something that’s going to tie in with the rest of the space.

    Matching the Material with your WoodBlocX

    There are now more material options than ever, so it can be difficult to know what to go with. WoodBlocX are a versatile product so can be used in a wide variety of design styles, but most of the time they are used when trying to create a natural/traditional space. Contemporary gardens often use open spaces which focus in singular features such as a sculpture, or a solo standing plant, which isn’t usually suited to a raised bed with lots of plants. Therefore, a project which uses WoodBlocX will often need to pay tribute to a traditional style.

    Patio slabs which best match a traditional space are going to a be naturally occurring stone rather than a cast concrete or porcelain slab. These natural options can include a sandstone, limestone or a slate paving slab. However, a natural sandstone such as these Fossil Mint paving slabs from Primethorpe Paving are an example of something that may work well. The natural colours, patterns and textures of a natural sandstone will complement a traditional style garden with ease. When designing an outdoor space, it’s important no individual elements distract the eye, so you need to ensure the choice of slab is in keeping with the everything else.

    Matching the Colour with your WoodBlocX

    The next design element to concentrate on with your paving slabs is the actual colour of the material. Here you can stamp your mark on the space and add as much or as little colour as you see fit. If you stick with natural stone, you have a huge variety of options and you can’t really go wrong. There are two avenues you can go down:

    Complimentary Colours – You can choose paving slabs that are going to match their surrounding colours as closely as possible. By choosing slabs which match the wooden colours of WoodBlocX, you can create a space that flows from area to area with absolutely no visual distractions. This is nice when you want the space to flow as one cohesive area with no areas that standout as a separate space. This is the most common option and likely the best choice to compliment your WoodBlocX feature. The aforementioned fossil mint sandstone is a great option if you are proceeding down this route.

    Contrasting Colours – An alternative option is to create a patio space with contrasting colours to its surroundings. The goal here is to isolate an area of your garden and highlight it as a separate entity. People use contrasting colours when they want to highlight the patio area as a separate space from the rest of the garden. This is often the case when designers are trying to create a special seating area, or perhaps a BBQ or entertaining space. However, while you may be using contrasting colours, it’s important not to stray too far from the natural and opt for something like a porcelain tile for the sake of contrast. You still need to choose slabs that complement the design style you are trying to create – so if you are trying to create a traditional space, whilst contrasting colours can work, the style still needs to feel natural. A great way to create a contrast to the Woodblocx colours is to opt for a natural grey slab such as these Kandla Grey sandstone paving slabs - the colours will highlight your patio area without detracting from your design goals by seeming unnatural.

    Matching the Pattern with your WoodBlocX

    The final decision is to choose what pattern you are going to lay your slabs in. There are 3 options, all of which are suitable, so this decision is purely down to personal preference:

    Random pattern – by using a mixture of sizes that fit together, you can create an effortless, natural effect with less planning than you may think. This pattern is a great option if you want to create a space that flows naturally with no distractions.

     

    ‘Stretcher course’ pattern – an alternative pattern is the lay this in straight lines running parallel to the WoodBlocX. When creating a natural look, it is more common to go with random, but because of the straight lines created with your WoodBlocX, this will also work well.

    Herringbone pattern – this is the least common option, but it creates a unique effect for a patio area. This will probably work best if you are attempting to create a contrasting area as it will really standout as a unique space. Thanks to the straight lines created by the WoodBlocX, patterns that are laid in straight lines work just fine.

    In conclusion

    There are so many options to consider when trying to compliment your choice to use Woodblocx. Overall, a natural finish is going to be the ideal partnership with your WoodBlocX raised beds or retaining walls. A long bed of plants is very rarely used in a modern space, so sticking with traditional, natural stones is going to give the best finish.

    However, the beauty of garden design is there are no right or wrong answers. We have given our opinions and recommendations, but you can absolutely ignore it all! IF you think something will work, or will look good, then we implore you to go for it. It’s your garden and your unique space – you should go with what you think will work best.

    www.primethorpepaving.co.uk

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