Gardening Tips

  • Plan your dream garden this spring bank holiday

    The weather has been spot-on recently and for most of the UK the upcoming Spring Bank Holiday weekend is looking sunny and warm.

     

    If the coverage of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show has got your creative-garden-juices flowing and if you, like many others, prefer to dodge the crowds during the bank holiday and stay at home to get vital jobs around the house and garden underway then we have some ideas to get your creative-garden-juices flowing.

    Plus we’re offering FREE DELIVERY on everything until 28th May so this weekend will be a great time to plan your next garden project.

    Below you will find ideas and inspiration for all different garden sizes based on our customer designs. Most have used our FREE DESIGN SERVICE to ensure they make the most of their space and get exactly what they need, others either pick a pre-determined size to suit them from the kits available on our website or used our handy calculator tool.

     

    Ideas for small gardens

    A small garden, patio area or even a front garden can be transformed in less than a day thanks to our simple and versatile system. Incorporate raised beds, retaining walls and steps to transform a small space into an easy-to-maintain and functional space. Or upgrade plastic planters to WoodBlocX for longevity and style.

    Fill your new raised bed with simple planting, sticking to a colour scheme and mixing it up with ornamentals and herbs.

    Ideas for medium sized gardens

    A slightly bigger space gives you more options; you can create a separate area for growing your own vegetables, fruits and cut flowers in easy access raised beds built to a height to suit you.

    Or you can create something totally bespoke that fits your garden and your needs perfectly, whether it’s a combination of planters, retaining walls, steps and curbing. Use our free design service and we’ll help you get the best from your space.

    Ideas for large gardens

    Whether your garden is fully established and you’re looking to update a tired area or if you have enough space to create different areas of interest, consider creating different areas for entertaining, growing and relaxing. This will make updating the space much simpler and you can tackle it in smaller and more manageable sections.

    A large corner area can be utilised for planting and seating and the introduction of angles and curves can completely change the dynamics of the garden, create beautiful large planters, or make smaller changes here and there to upgrade and update certain areas.

    For more ideas and inspiration browse the different product sections on our website: raised beds, walls and steps, ponds, seats

  • Let the RHS Chelsea Flower Show inspire your next garden update

    Let the RHS Chelsea Flower Show inspire your next garden update

    With the RHS Chelsea Flower show opening its doors to the public next week, we wanted to give our blog readers some Chelsea-inspired garden ideas.

     

    Over the years we have created our own exhibitions and contributed to many others. We’ve had the pleasure of working with RHS award-winning garden designers, including RHS Young Designer of the Year, Caitlin McLaughlin. Her design for Hillier won them a Gold Medal.

    Young Designer of the Year Caitlin McLaughlin

    Here are some of Caitlin’s top tips for designing your dream garden:

    • First off, create a realistic checklist – what elements do you want to include in your garden –planting, lawns, seating, storage, pathways etc?
    • Work with the space you’ve gotwhether it’s sloping or flat, you can create a garden that works in harmony with the terrain.
    • Don’t over complicate it – if you do, you risk the project getting out of hand and spiralling budgets – make it simple and usable. 
    • Research about the plants that work with the light you have available– is the space shady or does it get full sun for most of the day? Choose your planting to make the most of the conditions. Using a guide like this from the RHS can help you get up to speed quickly - https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants 
    • Use raised areas to improve the quality of your soil, create eye-catching height levels and make for easy access gardening.

    To see more from Caitlin watch this short video.

    Inspiration for small gardens: 40 Sunbury Road, Chelsea 2017

    Last year we supplied our raised beds for an award-winning garden called 40 Sunbury Road. The garden showcased a typical sized UK plot with the aim of demonstrating that even a small garden can be filled with lots of interesting features whilst maintaining functionality.

    We installed a stepped planter, positioned at the end of the small lawn in front of the shed and filled it with easy to grow vegetables.

    The garden also featured a greenhouse, living roof and wall, pergola (ideal for growing creepers) plus loads of simple, manageable and beautiful planting.

    Our RHS Chelsea’s of the past

    Check out some of our Chelsea exhibits from years gone by with plantings by a garden designer with more than 60 RHS Gold Medals to her name, Jekka McVicar. We kept the designs simple to showcase to visitors how WoodBlocX can be used to transform spaces large and small. We’ve even thrown in a WoodBlocX elephant for good measure!

  • A BBC WoodBlocX garden transformation

    In 2016 Glenn and Zoe Crockford appeared on the BBC's ‘Big Dreams   Small Spaces’ television programme with Monty Don. The couple opted to use our modular system throughout their redesign; see how they transformed their garden and how they found using WoodBlocX for their project.

     

    Tell us about your garden before its transformation

    When we first moved into our house the garden was probably the worst feature. It was incredibly steep, featureless and had very little level ground. There was a path running across the garden, which ended half-way at nothing. The grass was a nightmare to mow and quite dangerous. We had both slipped down the slope several times on our way to the compost bins. We knew we had to change it but didn’t really know how, when or what we could achieve.

    How did you get started with your plans and what was the inspiration?

    Garden design is not something either of us had done before. Our initial plans were very simplistic and we took the easy option and went with the existing landscape. We were pretty naive and spent a lot of time drawing and redrawing ideas. We made a basic scale drawing which we copied and kept drafting onto. Lots of discussion was key. We collected ideas via Pinterest which really helped. Our other big incentive was that we were getting married in the October and had talked about growing flowers to have at our wedding. Luckily for us we ended up with enough flowers for the whole thing!

    Monty Don helped with the planning, what advice did he give you that stuck with you throughout the makeover?

    His most valuable piece of advice was that we didn’t have to stick with anything that was already there and that we had a chance to totally change the layout of our garden. He gave us the push to start again, be braver and to imagine our garden as a blank canvas. Which we did. We totally changed our plan, even ignoring some of Monty’s suggestions. Ultimately, he said, it was our garden and we had to make it work for us. He also gave us really sound advice with planning the planting. I had gone overboard with planting lists, like a child in a sweetshop. I wanted everything I had ever seen that was pretty, but realistically that was never going to work.

    You included several WoodBlocX raised beds and steps within the design, what made you take the decision to use WoodBlocX? 

    We decided against wooden sleepers as they were so impractical given our situation. They would also have added too much depth to the beds and we wanted to maximise the space. Glenn was searching for small sleepers online and found a photo on Pinterest of someone using WoodBlocX. The photo was linked to the YouTube footage of ‘Dragon’s Den’ and from there the rest was easy. Glenn did massive amounts of research into whether we could make it fit our garden, and then actually make it. We quickly realised it was our best option.

    How did you find building the structures?

    It was fantastically easy; the design appeared online to be straightforward to build and it almost seemed too good to be true that it all arrived and fitted together. We had to make a couple of small adjustments due to the horrendous chalk layer that runs through the garden and which caused some digging issues. However, this gave us some spares which came in very handy as we managed to build a set of steps the entire length of the garden. The contact and support we had from WoodBlocX was brilliant and we felt very well looked after.

    The WoodBlocX raised beds have now been in place for two years, how has the garden evolved since then?

    The WoodBlocX beds are fantastic. The wood has weathered a little but is still a lovely honey colour. Everything is as sturdy as the day we built it. The garden has really come on since we first planted it out and changes every year as we continue to tweak it. It's been wonderful to see it coming into its' own and marvelling at how the perennials come back bigger and better each year. At the time we didn’t realise it, but we have two beds which are a perfect height and depth to maintain and we can get to all aspects of the garden really easily.

    With Easter a just a week away there is no better time to make plans for your garden.

    If you would like to transform your garden, simply get in touch with us and our team of in-house designers will create a FREE design that is completely bespoke to your garden. Your garden could even be transformed in time for the May Bank Holiday weekend!

  • Take a look behind the scenes of our latest video

    WoodBlocX structures are renowned for looking good and are ideal to use in place of railway sleepers, wooden boards and even bricks.

    Looks aside, one of the main benefits that our customers find is our structures are really easy to build, enabling them to update their gardens quickly without having to spend hours with complicated parts and instructions and in order for us to get this across to our customers in the most effective way we have created a brand new short video.

    We found the perfect location to film the guide, not only is the garden stunning, it is also where the majority of the garden and plant photography is shot for magazines and newspapers.

    GAP Gardens in Essex is one of the UK’s leading gardens-and-plants picture agencies, it has a collection of more than 600,000 high-quality images used by magazines and newspapers.

    WoodBlocX-Guide-2017-90
    WoodBlocX-Guide-2017-82

    Our team installed a number of angular and rectangular raised beds to provide the backdrop for the video, being a permanent fixture in the garden now the planters are sure to be featured in new photography from the gardens so keep your eyes peeled for WoodBlocX in your favourite gardening magazines.

    This is us in action below on location at the gardens, we shot the new footage over three days and managed to enjoy a little bit of Essex sunshine too!

  • Sowing season is here

    Now that the cold snap behind us and spring is on its way (we hope!), its time to start looking ahead to the growing season.

    March is the month to make a start on sowing seeds, if it is mild enough where you are you can get to work sowing certain veg directly into the soil including carrots, radish, broad beans, parsnip, beetroot, peas, leeks and many more.

    Remember that the soil in a raised bed warms up much quicker than open ground, making them ideal for early sowing.

    For the seeds such as tomato, basil, peppers and lettuce that need a little more warmth than a raised bed can offer sow in pots either in a greenhouse or sunny windowsill.

    Now that the cold snap is behind us and spring is on its way (we hope!), it’s time to start looking ahead to the growing season.

    March/April are the months to make a start on sowing seeds, if it is mild enough where you are you can get to work sowing certain veg directly into the soil including carrots, radish, broad beans, parsnip, beetroot, peas, leeks and others.

    Remember that the soil in a raised bed warms up much quicker than open ground, making them ideal for early sowing.

    For the seeds such as tomato, basil, peppers and lettuce that need a little more warmth than a raised bed can offer, sow in pots either in a greenhouse or sunny windowsill.

    Our latest competition aims to get the growing season for 500 people off to a flying start. We have selected five varieties of vegetable and herb seeds from Mr Fothergills, all of which can be sown from March onwards. So, if you’re new to growing your own food these starter packs are perfect for you.

    We’ve got 500 packs of five to give away worth £9.49 and to enter all you need to is click here, plus if you share the competition far and wide you will receive more entries, which means there are more chances to win!

    Carrots Nantes 5
    A Mr Fothergill’s Best Buy, this is a delicious early variety of carrots, the blunt ended roots have outstanding flavour, matures in 12 weeks.

    Lettuce Salad Bowl
    The lettuce that keeps on giving, pick the leaves as needed and this variety will crop all summer long.

    Radish French Breakfast
    One of the easiest growing vegetables, these radishes have a mild and crisp flavour and can be harvested from April – October.

    Tomato Maskotka
    The best way to grow Britain’s favourite summer vegetable is in containers, this bushy plant will give you plenty of sweet cherry tomatoes from July – October.

    Add a taste of the Mediterranean to your cooking using your home-grown basil, sow indoors from March – May or outdoors from May – June.

  • How to build a WoodBlocX raised bed

    Our raised beds are really easy to build because everything you need is included in your kit. All of the wooden components are cut to size so there’s no need to saw the wood and there’s no waste.

    The components are lightweight making them easy to move them from one side of the garden to other and this also makes building the structures much more relaxed.

    All of our kits are built in the same way so if you’ve ordered a raised bed, seat, pond or retaining wall kit this method applies to all.

    Your delivery will look similar to this. Everything you need here, wooden blocks, capping, dowels, angle plates and step by step instructions. All wooden parts are cut exactly to the sizes requested so there’s no waste at the end of the build.

    Once you have decided where your raised bed will sit in the garden carefully set out the bottom layer and make any adjustments to where you’re going to build it if needed. Refer to the instructions to check where the supportive buttresses and angle plates need to be positioned.

    Our clever dowel and wedge system holds the structure together, simply knock these into the recess holes, make sure you refer to your instructions to ensure you’re putting them in the correct places.

    When you’ve completed the first and second layers you will be on a roll. Work your way up the layers matching the first to the third, the second to the fourth and repeat.

    Angle plates need to be placed on the supportive buttressed for extra strength and on the corners of the final layer before you add the capping.

    Once you’ve reached the final layer before the capping is added, cut dowels half way down using dowel cutters or a saw and fit the capping using a protective piece of wood to ensure you don't damage your caps.

  • Fertilising your WoodBlocX raised bed

    Ensure your raised beds are ready and raring to go for spring by boosting the health of the soil.

    Good quality soil will help increase the crop yield of vegetables and promote healthier blooms in flowers; plus, the better soil structure builds up resilience to pests and disease. There are lots of composts and additives available and here’s a quick rundown of the most popular.

    Compost
    Good quality compost can offer lots of benefits. If you’re planting directly into your raised bed a good multi-purpose version is the best choice. It can also be used for raising seedlings in pots too and when doing this we use a sieve to make a finer mixture which will save you buying a separate seed compost mix.

    Soil improvers

    Garden centres stock lots of different soil improvers which can be scattered directly onto the surface of the raised bed and gently forked in and left to do the work. Many are enriched with beneficial nutrients and micro-organisms to support root growth and keep working for many months.

    Make your own
    Putting fruit and veg peelings, egg shells and cartons, tea bags, grass clippings and other garden waste into a compost bin and not the wheelie bin is a great feeling, right? They say good things come to those who wait, and homemade compost is one of those things. Remember to turn it regularly to allow air to get in. If the bottom layer looks like soil, it's ready to use. Spread it throughout your raised bed instead of shop-bought compost for a BIG nutrient boost.

    Get ready for the growing season

    Our raised are ideal for growing and make a beautiful addition to the garden. Use our calculator tool to check your measurements and work out the cost of a raised bed for your garden. If you have a bigger project or just need some advice contact our Design Team who can create a free design bespoke to your garden.

  • Top crops to grow now

    It’s January, the weather is gloomy and there’s not a great deal going on out in the garden; but don’t let that stop you being productive! Here are four easy to grow and useful veg that can be sown between now and the end of February, either directly in your raised bed or indoors.

    Garlic is a wonderfully versatile ingredient with the addition of some great health benefits. If you are keen to grow your own make sure you use the cloves from a bulb that is specifically for planting as those sold in the supermarket for cooking may not be suitable. Plant individual cloves in a sunny spot directly in the soil.

    A square, rectangular or even circular raised bed is ideal for growing garlic and vegetables.

    A fresh leek pulled straight from the soil is tender and tasty and a million miles from the supermarket leeks. Use in soups and stews or smother in cheese sauce. Leeks can be planted directly in the soil or in seed trays, but remember if you’re planting them directly to leave a good space between them.

    Raised beds are perfect for growing leeks and other root vegetables, plus weeding and watering is made so much easier due to their height. A classic rectangular raised bed is a great choice.

    Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables (or fruits!) to grow at home. Sow indoors towards the end of February in a warm windowsill or heated propagator to get them off to a flying start. Remember to gently remove the new leaves as they sprout in order to keep the plant focused on developing the fruit and growing new stems.

    If you prefer growing tomatoes in the greenhouse, the low-level large rectangular raised bed is a popular choice to install, and bespoke lengths are also available

    Broad beans are another versatile and easy to grow vegetable; simply sow in pots or undercover to begin with and then transplant into well-drained soil, making sure you leave plenty of space between them. Have some canes at the ready to train the plants to grow upwards.

     

    The long stepped planter is ideal for growing beans, climbing veg and fruit canes, and with different compartments it’s the perfect height for tending and harvesting.

    Growing your own fruit and vegetables takes time and perseverance, but it does give you complete control over the whole process, allowing you to grow organically or choose the fertilisers and pest control products that suit your preferences.

    WoodBlocX raised beds are ideal for vegetable growing, being raised up from the ground means they warm up much quicker than open soil, plus the wood used doesn't contain any harmful residues that could leach into the soil making the kits a great alternative to railway sleepers which are often treated with chemicals.

  • 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!

  • 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.

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