Gardening Tips

  • Protecting crops over winter

    There has certainly been a change in the weather over the past few weeks with most of the UK already experiencing some overnight frost.

    Whilst the heating will be on inside to keep you and your family warm some plants in the garden can benefit from some extra protection too. If you’ve worked hard in the garden this year or if you would like to carry on growing edibles over winter then you need to think about crop protection options.

    Lift

    Protecting plants grown in containers is really simple; if the pots are light enough to pick up and carry they can be moved to a sheltered spot in the garden or placed inside a greenhouse. Plants such as dahlias should be lifted to protect them from the effects of the winter weather and stored in a dormant state in a greenhouse or shed. Other varieties that can benefit from lifting include pelargoniums, geraniums, begonias, gladioli and cannas.

    Mulch

    Spreading a good mulch around sensitive perennials will provide insulation and protect their sensitive root systems, a hardwood mulch is the best option, scatter it in borders and raised beds, building up a good protective layer, you could also use compost or straw. Don't wait until it is too cold to apply your mulch, add it whilst the soil is still moist and slightly warmer.

    Protect

    Larger containers and timber raised beds can be protected from the wind, rain and frost by ‘overwintering’. Simply wrap a protective cover around the structure, different materials can be used from hessian to fleece, your local garden centre will stock a good selection and will be able to advise which is best for the plants you need to protect.

    You can protect your crops all year round with WoodBlocX Crop Protectors. These attractive, rustic and functional rods enable to keep pests such at bay in the spring and summer with a covering of netting or to fix winter fleece or hessian protection too.

    Grow

    There are still crops that can be grown outside now in wooden raised beds, containers or open ground including onions, peas, broad beans and garlic. If you’re keen to get growing this winter check out our range of easy to build and hardwearing raised beds. Choose from all shapes and sizes to suit your garden.

  • Raised bed Q&A

    A garden full raised beds or just one or two can bring so many benefits whether you’re a keen gardener or not. Before installing raised beds there are a few things to consider to ensure you get the best fit for you and your garden.

    Here are some of the top questions our customers ask us:

    Q. What is the best position for a raised bed?

    A. Once you have decided where you would like to build your raised bed, note where the sun rises and sets, the amount of light that falls on that particular spot will help you decide whether it is the best place to build it or not, for example, if your raised bed has shade cast over it for most of the day and you plan to grow certain plants or vegetables you might struggle.

    Q. What surface can a raised bed be built on?

    WoodBlocX raised beds can be built on any surface and there is no need for foundations or cement, build them directly on soil, grass, paving, tarmac, concrete or even sloped gardens, their unique design, which incorporates a series of strong dowels means structures can withstand ground movement when built on a reasonable surface.

    Q. What soil should I fill my raised bed with?

    A. This totally depends on what you plan to grow. Raised beds are a great solution for gardens with poor soil as you can select the type you use. Filling the space with a rich compost mixture would work really well but would also be very expensive. We advise customers to use a good topsoil mix and add a soil improver or compost mix to the top layers. Sandy soil is the best all-rounder. Using a bought-in topsoil rather than using up any surplus from the garden gives you much more control over weeds. Soils can be made richer through using your own homemade compost or manure, but check whether these mixes are suitable for what you plan to grow and remember plants and vegetables can be supported with soil and liquid fertilisers too.

    Q. What can I grow in a raised bed?

    A. You can grow almost anything in a raised bed! Many of our customers favour them for growing edibles because the extra height makes the regular cycle of sowing, maintaining, weeding and harvesting really easy. Depending on the surface that your raised bed is built on you may need to consider planting deeper rooted varieties in taller beds rather than low-level beds.

    Raised beds are ideal for organic growing as you can control exactly what is used in them, also ericaceous plants such as rhododendron and camellia can also be planted using an acidic soil mixture.

    Q. How do I calculate the soil quantity for my raised bed?

    A. If you are filling your raised bed completely then a simple way to work out how many litres is length(m) x width(m) x height(cm), but if you are adding a drainage layer to the bottom subtract the height of the layer from the equation so you don’t over order.

    Q. How do I maintain my raised bed?

    A. Our raised beds are maintenance free, the wood is pre-drilled and then pressure treated, we expect them to last 15 years or more without rotting, cracking or warping. Our structures are joined by a series of dowels that help to create a rigid structure which can withstand tension forces (each dowel joint will withstand up to 0.9 tonnes of shear force in our tests).

    Q. Can I build raised beds on a sloped garden?

    A. Yes! WoodBlocX raised beds are ideal for sloped gardens, the beds can be designed to match the contours of your garden and with the addition of ground spikes, which will help hold the structure down on slopes, helping to prevent the structure from slipping sideways down the hill. Ground spikes are placed on the first layer of all WoodBlocX structures and are also located in every buttress. Many of our customers also use WoodBlocX for retaining walls to landscape their gardens.
    To browse our full range of wooden raised beds, ponds, planters, walls, seats and more or to find out about our FREE design service click below
  • What is the best material for making a raised bed?

    There are many different types of materials that can be used to build raised garden beds from wood through to brick, our customers tell us they spend time researching the options to find out which material is best suited for what they want to achieve in their garden. The aim of this blog is to include all of the information you need in one place to save you time searching and to help you make the right choice for your next garden project.

    We’ve listed the different materials you could use and included approximate costs based on raised beds of similar sizes, Options listed are in price order.

    1. Brick raised beds

    Raised beds can be made from either brand new or reclaimed bricks, you will need to include foundations to build on to create a stable structure. To build it you could set yourself a challenge but to ensure the bricks are laid straight and level and the mortar mix is correct, but if you’re not experienced in bricklaying it is best to enlist the help of a skilled tradesperson.

    Brick raised bed maintenance- 
    Repointing of mortar joints, plus frost-damaged bricks may need to be replaced as and when
    Materials - Bricks, concrete for the footings, sand, cement and, coping stones
    Costs - Based on L 2.25m x W 1.5m x H 0.45m - approx £500 for materials (if buying directly) and additional for labour costs

    2. Railway sleeper raised beds

    Building raised beds out railway sleepers is fairly straightforward, you can buy lengths from timber merchants or garden and DIY retailers in hardwood and softwood varieties (pine or oak), the lengths will need to be cut to size, and you will need to drill holes down through the sleepers and insert reinforcing bars to hold them together. Most new railway sleepers are pre-treated with a preservative, older sleepers or reclaimed sleepers tend to be treated with creosote which is harmful and not recommended for using in the garden.


    Railway sleeper raised bed maintenance - 
    Use an annual wood preservative treatment to prevent rotting, creocote (not creosote mentioned above) is the recommended option for this. Railways sleepers are not recommended for organic growing as the chemicals from the preservative can leach into the soil
    Materials - Sleepers, reinforcing bars
    Costs - Based on L 2.25m x W 1.5m x H 0.45m - approx £25 per sleeper, most popular length is 2.4m, £375 and £100 for reinforcing bars

    3. WoodBlocX raised beds

    An easy-to-build, waste-free option, no cutting or drilling is required, the pieces are similar to Lego and are built up like brick-work and held together with a series of dowels, these combined with the layers of blocks make a strong structure which will last for 15 years or more. No special skills or tools are needed to build a WoodBlocX raised bed and each kit comes with a set of step by step instructions.


    WoodBlocX raised bed maintenance - 
    No annual maintenance required, the blocks are pre-drill and then pressure treated making the wood extra strong and durable
    Materials - (All included in your kit) wooden blocks, capping, dowels and wedges, angle plates, step by step instructions
    Costs - Based on L 2.25m x W 1.5m x H 0.45m - £412.50 https://www.woodblocx.co.uk/rectangular-raised-bed

    Wooden board raised beds

    By far the cheapest option for building raised beds, however, wooden boards are only suitable for low-level planting as the boards are not strong enough to hold the weight of large amounts of soil. Simply cut the boards to size and use 3” 2” timber as stakes and to reinforce the corners and to create a frame to build to.

    Wooden board raised bed maintenance - Replacing rotten and warped boards, every few years, painting
    Materials - Lengths of board available in a variety of sizes, 3” 2” timber for securing the boards in place, screws of varying lengths
    Costs - Based on L 2.25m x W 1.5m x H 0.45m - approx £110 for boards, £10 3” 2” timber and £10 for the screws

    5. Other materials

    There are metal raised bed options available, made from galvanised steel, kits are fairly simple to put together using bolts and prices start at around £450. There are also plastic options for low- level planting but these are not built to last.

    To browse our wide range of wooden raised beds, planters, ponds, seats, retaining wall kits, or to use our free bespoke design service click the button below.

  • Our guide to raised beds

    We know a thing or two about raised beds, after all, we have been designing and manufacturing them for the best part of a decade, here are just some of the many benefits they bring…

    Grow plants and edibles in fresh soil

    Many people choose wooden raised beds for growing vegetables and fruit because the extra height makes watering, weeding and pest control much easier. New beds need to be filled and you have a choice of using surplus soil from your garden or adding brand new soil, if you choose the latter you will generally receive a fresh, weed-free mix which nutrient-boosting soil improvers or compost can be added to, giving you greater control over what your produce is grown in.

    Raised beds can also be used to grow annuals and perennials, shrubs and even plants that need to be grown in specific soil, including ericaceous varieties such as azaleas, rhododendron and camellia as you can adapt the soil to suit. Raised beds are a great addition for boggy or clay soil too as, providing improved drainage.

    Built at a depth to suit you

    The depth or height of a raised bed is totally dependent on its end use and end user. Low level raised beds (0.25m) are ideal for dividing up growing areas and growing shallow-rooted plants. For controlling pests such as rabbits or for keeping pet dogs away from your planting, a raised bed up to 0.45m will keep them at bay, and for ease of access, a tall raised bed from 0.55m is ideal. Read more over at our Size Matters blog.

    Sustainable and non-toxic materials

    Wood is one of the best materials for raised beds and ours are made from the highest quality timber, the wood is pressure-treated and because WoodBlocX are pre-drilled, the non-toxic treatment penetrates to almost 100% of the wood, making our structures durable, long-lasting, and a great alternative to railway sleepers which tend to be chemically-treated. We use rough-sawn wood which will naturally fade to a grey over the years and doesn’t need any maintenance or treatment. 

    Improved drainage

    Raised beds built directly on soil or grass do not require any drainage, those built on patios, tarmac and concrete could benefit from a drainage layer at the bottom if the bed - stones or gravel can be used for this. WoodBlocX raised beds of all sizes allow for drainage through the air gaps between each block.

    Raised beds can be accessed without having to walk on them, this prevents soil compaction, helping plant roots to grow more freely and take on more nutrients, which helps them to become more resilient to disease and frost.

    To find out more about our wide range of wooden raised beds and planters and to find out how simple it is to build beautiful long lasting structures for your garden click the button below

  • Autumn garden updates

    With the hot summer days making way for the cooler autumnal weather, September and October are great months for making the changes in the garden that you didn’t get round to doing in the spring and summer. Here are few tips from us to get you started...

    Tidy up

    Lots of plants fell victim to the hot dry weather in June and July whilst others will have flourished, by now the garden will have lost its bright and fresh glow and be looking a little be 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 have begun to spring back to life now, mow them and tidy up bushy and overgrown edges. 

    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 making updates to the garden. 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 design survey and we will do the rest for you. Our versatile system can be used to create fully integrated gardens that include planters steps, raised beds and retaining walls, the can be built by you saving £££s on labour costs. If you 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. For rotten raised beds made from wooden boards or railway sleepers consider upgrading to a hardwearing and long-lasting WoodBlocX timber raised bed, no annual maintenance is needed as the wood is pressure treated making it super durable.

    For ideas and inspiration for your next garden update visit our website.

  • Accessible gardening

    Gardens can present a multitude of problems for people with mobility issues, uneven surfaces, low-level planting and narrow pathways can make getting out and enjoying the garden impossible for some. However, by making a few simple updates and creating a low-maintenance space can make the world of difference.

    Uneven surfaces and paths

    Flat, smooth and debris-free surfaces are a must for anyone with mobility issues, an uneven surface can increase the risk of falls, paved/hard landscaped areas are ideal as grass, mud and gravel surfaces can become dangerous after a spell of wet weather.

    Ensure fallen leaves and other garden debris is cleared on a regular basis. Pathways need to be wide enough to suit the user.

    Planting

    Anyone with back pain will know that ground or low level planting is difficult, kneeling and bending to tend and weed the areas can cause more pain. Consider lifting planted areas by installing raised beds. Our hardwearing timber beds can be built to a height to suit you, each structure is hardwearing and sturdy enough to lean or sit on. If mobility is preventing you from venturing right out into the garden, consider installing smaller raised planters close to the house. Read about our recommendations for raised bed heights here.

    Seating

    Seating in one form or another is an essential part of any garden, creating an area to sit and enjoy the garden or to take a break from gardening. The positioning of garden furniture is key and of course it needs to be easy to access, if you prefer a sunny spot make sure you note where the sun falls at the time of day that you are most likely to use the space. Our timber garden benches and seating can be incorporated into a raised bed design or installed separately.

    Storage and watering

    Some sport of storage is a must for all gardens, some traditional sheds can be narrow and difficult to access for storing garden tools, watering cans, hose pipes and other garden essentials, a good option for anyone needing easy access is a lean-to shed that sits directly on the patio with wide double doors which can be opened up taking away the need to step inside.

    For larger gardens a good irrigation system for the dryer months will not only save lugging a watering can around the garden, it will also save a lot of time too and ideal for dry summer weather.

    Check out our accessibility page and the raised bed kits that we recommend

  • Healthy Gardening

    To celebrate the Soil Association’s Organic September, we’ve put some tips together for ‘healthy gardening’. Maintaining a garden is hard work and it can be easy to reach for the chemicals to control weeds and pests as a quick and convenient fix, but there some quick switches you can make to work towards creating a healthier garden...

    The growing space

    Many gardeners opt to grow plants and veg in wooden raised beds either at low level to clearly divide a space up or to add extra height, making the area more accessible. Railway sleepers are a popular choice but many are chemically treated and over time the chemicals can leach into the soil. WoodBlocX raised beds use sustainable wood that is pressure treated without chemicals making them a great clean option. 

    Control products

    There are lots of products available that offer alternatives to harsh chemicals, look for products in garden centres and retailers that show either the Soil Association or Organic Farmers & Growers logos, these products will include kinder alternative ingredients and generally work just as well as the chemical versions.

    Weeding - If you’re lucky enough to not have too many weeds to deal with they can be controlled by hand, but it can be a thankless task so it's always good to have a treatment to hand. There has been lots of debate about the use of glyphosate in weedkillers recently due and its potentially harmful effects on our health, most weedkillers will clearly state on the bottle whether they are glyphosate-free, look for the products that feature natural active ingredients.

    Pest control - Encourage natural pest control in your garden, make a bug hotel to attract beneficial insects which will feed on other insect pests. The tiny gaps between the blocks in our raised beds are also great hiding places for beneficial bugs. Birds and hedgehogs are great pest controllers, install feeders and baths for birds and make sure hedgehogs can get in and out of the garden. Chickens are also a good option but they can scratch and peck away at the plants and veg you've grown! If you do need some extra help in the form of a bug killer spray or concentrate look for neonicotinoid-free treatment, neonicotinoids are used in pest control and are harmful to bees.

    Feeding - There are lots of organic solid and liquid fertilisers available or you can make your own compost, whilst this won’t be fully organic it is a great way to utilise kitchen waste and is much more sustainable than using shop-bought compost.

    For made to measure raised beds for growing plants and edibles, made from clean and sustainable timber, head over to the website.

  • National Allotments Week 2018

    We asked Annabelle Padwick from Life at No.27 to tell us her allotment story and how these community growing spaces can provide much more than just fresh vegetables.

    - - -

    Happy National Allotment Week! A whole week of officially celebrating a place that mentally saved me and helped me grow as a person. A haven that brings joy, peace and calm to my crazy busy life.

    Although I like to think that I celebrate my allotment every day - by visiting the plot, growing new produce, caring for the soil and writing new blogs to inspire others to try this wonderful lifestyle. I feel us true allotmenteers shout about our passion every day of the year, whether others like it or not, we can’t help it. Everyone should have a little patch to grow their own in my view.

    Thanks to the multitude of advice, tools, equipment and high-quality raised beds available for all plot sizes, abilities and ages – there are no barriers either to being able to get outside and stuck into the soil.

    If you have your own patch of paradise, will you be celebrating? More importantly, why did you get an allotment and how has it benefitted your life?

    As I highlighted, my allotment changed my life in so many ways – it got me outdoors more, got me talking to more people, taught me patience and has given me improved confidence. The biggest gift that it has given me though is…self-belief. Oh and it reduced my shopping bill and gave my tastier veg too!

    If you know my story, you will know that after trying the usual therapy options via my doctor to help me combat my anxiety, it was the process of learning to grow my own produce that clicked that final switch and gave me the boost I needed. If I can grow a sack load of spuds, a giant marrow, pumpkin or a small but oh so juicy and delicious cherry tomato from a seed which most of the time looks like nothing, what else can I achieve in my life?!

    This exact question and the multiple benefits that GYO bought to my life, were the reasons I launched Life at No.27 back in 2015. What if I could help someone else in my situation, what if I could be that one person they could relate to?

    My motivation has never wavered and is stronger than ever to help others, inspire many and ultimately change lives. Which is why I am now working to establish Life at No.27 as a social enterprise and UK wellbeing support network - using community allotments. Creating a therapy option, I didn’t have at 21, available to anyone who needs the support - via self-referral or GP or Psychiatrist referral.

    I truly believe gardening and learning to GYO in particular, can change or at least most definitely add to your life, just as it did with mine.

    Whether you take on an allotment, have a small raised bed dedicated to vegetables in your garden or grow a few herbs from seed on a windowsill, it doesn’t matter.

    It’s about just giving it a go in a way that works for you and your lifestyle. What some people forget and need to remember, is that there is no wrong way. Buy some seeds and compost, then get going!

    The fun of gardening is that it is a never-ending adventure of learning.

    It isn’t just about what you grow, it’s how YOU grow.

    Annabelle x

    Lastly before I head straight to my patch of paradise, thank you to wonderful people at WoodBlocX for allowing to take over their blog for this very special week - sharing my passion, thoughts and vision.

    Keep up to date and get involved with all my adventures, the social enterprise and much more via the 
    website, or Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

    If Annabelle’s story has inspired you to get growing you can browse our raised beds for allotments and gardens by clicking the link below.

  • Five summer holiday garden activities

    The school summer holidays are here and anyone with children or grandchildren will welcome ideas to keep them entertained without spending a small fortune.

    We’ve put together five ideas that will keep youngsters entertained and help them to learn about plants, insects and gardening.

    Build an insect house

    Insect houses can be built out of lots of different materials that are either lying about in the garden or can be easily foraged. Raid the shed or garage for some spare pallet wood and/or a few bricks. You can also collect pine cones, bark and branches from the local park or woodland areas. The RSPB has a great step-by-step guide to follow - here.

    Collect seeds

    August is a great time for collecting seeds from plants around the garden. This activity can be made even more interactive by getting the kids to make seed packs using paper, sticky tape and scissors. Once the packets are ready, send the kids out into the garden to search for seeds, encourage them to draw the plant the seeds came from on the packet.

    Own patch

    Set aside an area of the garden that the kids can call their own. Get them to either work directly in the ground or within a raised bed, and encourage them to weed the area and prepare the soil ready for planting. Veggies including broad beans, spinach, onions and spring onions can be sown in August.

    Build a WoodBlocX raised bed

    This is a WoodBlocX blog after all! Our wooden raised bed kits are ideal for building with kids, there’s no sharp tools or heavy lifting needed, just a little adult supervision. From preparing the ground to laying out the base layer, youngsters love building our timber structures and get a real sense of achievement out of it…and so do the adults!

    Insect spotting

    The garden is full of life at this time of year, with butterflies, grasshoppers, ants, garden spiders, bees, ladybirds and more going about their business. Encourage the kids to search them out and write a list of the different varieties they find and draw pictures of their favourites.

     

    For inspiration for your summer holiday garden project and to see how simple it is to build with WoodBlocX click below.

  • The benefits of using WoodBlocX for retaining walls

    Our modular system is ideal for building retaining walls, making it a great alternative to bricks, stone and railway sleepers. Here we explain why…  

    Why use WoodBlocX for retaining walls?

    Whether your garden is sloping or hilly, landscaping areas using WoodBlocX is cost effective and the finished article is safe, sturdy, durable and looks natural and beautiful. Made from pressure treated British wood, our retaining walls will not rot or distort. Plus, if you’re using the earth behind the wall for growing you can be assured that the wood will not leach nasty chemicals like those used to treat railway sleepers.

    How much can they retain?

    WoodBlocX structures are joined with a series of dowels to create a rigid structure. Each dowel can withstand a tension force of up to 0.9 tonnes.

    A single WoodBlocX timber retaining 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.

    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.

    Cost saving

    Our customers find building our structures straightforward and enjoyable and a WoodBlocX timber retaining wall is 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.

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