Did you watch the first episode of the new series of ‘Big Dreams Small Spaces’? If you did, you’d have been treated to loads of beautiful shots of WoodBlocX being used in Glenn and Zoe’s garden transformation project! Monty Don was on hand to help the couple revitalise the awkwardly shaped green space into something magical.During the programme, Glenn and Zoe wanted to find a way to make their very steep garden more enjoyable by implementing level pathways and retaining walls. The solution was, of course, WoodBlocX! Glenn had heard of WoodBlocX beforehand, but had no first-hand experience building with the system itself. The team got straight to work planning and plotting the redesigned garden and assembled their bespoke WoodBlocX kit in a short space of time.“For the terrace we’re going to use WoodBlocX, built with a peg system, and they’re relatively easy to put together,” Glenn said on the programme. “Once you’ve got them level and square, it’s just like a big LEGO set made of wood!”In case you missed it, the full episode is available on BBC iPlayer right now.
Are you struggling with a design for a difficult area of your garden? Or do you need something a little out of the ordinary? Have you considered using a modular timber system such as WoodBlocX? Other options in these situations – such as old railway sleepers – could struggle with the required dimensions. Modular systems are almost infinitely adaptable and can create designs that you might find surprising!
The beauty of modular systems is that they can be tailored to almost any situation. Perhaps there is a narrow passageway or awkward corner that needs some plants to brighten it up – raised beds with the WoodBlocX system are narrow in themselves (unlike bulky sleepers) so they give much more planting space. Each component is also easy to get into the garden, because they are light, clean, small and easy to move in awkward spaces – great if you have to take all your materials through your house.
Modular timber systems can also be used to create a wide range of shapes – not just squares and rectangles. Circles, hexagons, pentagons and octagons are all available in the pre-designed kits, or specify what you need. They are cheaper too, especially when it comes to curved designs that would otherwise have to use stone or brick, and are all guaranteed for at least 15 years. Corner beds and L-shapes are easily achievable. This is not just for raised beds either – ponds, steps, walls (perhaps with inbuilt seating) and edging are all much simpler to install with a modular system.
Perhaps your garden needs a multi-level design. Terracing and stepped beds out of sleepers, brick or stone can make the expense (and the weight) really add up, but modular timber systems provide a durable alternative at a much lower cost. They are easy to put together too: there’s no need to hire builders to do it for you, saving a lot of money.
If you are working with an awkward area, off-the-shelf products and fixed dimensions may not work for you. WoodBlocX offer a design service for all of their products, so that you can create a bespoke project for your unique requirements. Better still, this service is entirely free and you have no obligation to buy. Alternatively, try the online calculators on the WoodBlocX website – just put in the measurements to get an idea of what you will need and the cost.
Perhaps you want to create an inspiring play area for your children, or a tree house – well, WoodBlocX have been used to build pirate ships and a model elephant over 6ft tall. Really the only limit is your imagination – WoodBlocX would love to work with you to create something amazing!
Yes, your WoodBlocX raised beds can indeed still be productive, even though British summer time is well and truly over and growing is now at a slower pace. As we reach the darker days of winter, it is still possible to enjoy an array of vegetables, such as salads with some planning and a little care!
The beauty of having a WoodblocX raised bed is that it should not require lots of maintenance and they can be sited within a polytunnel, making the maintenance of your area that much easier and ideal for growing a few fast salads that are ready in weeks.
Why not cover your WoodBlocX raised bed in polythene to make your own mini-poly tunnel? Simply use sticks or canes and some Figo Universal Frame Connectors to turn your WoodBlocX raised bed into a mini-cold frame. Then spinach, kale, and some varieties of lettuce will live through the winter inside.
Certain kinds of onion work well from a late autumn sowing as well and you’ll get a much earlier crop than if you’d waited till spring. Other possibilities are cabbage, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, and most root crops. Leeks, beets, carrots, turnips, parsnips, radishes, and rutabagas can be sown for winter harvest. The flavour improves if they’re left in the ground until a hard freeze as the cold turns their starches into sugar.
As it is still early November, you still have time to sow some Broad Beans and plant Rhubarb.
Broad beans should not be planted before November in southern England or they get too soft and lush making them liable to be killed by frosts and susceptible to botrytis and other fungal diseases. Good varieties include Super Aquadulce, and Aquadulec Claudia (This is a broad bean that is recognised as the best variety for an autumn sowing and comes with an RHS Award of Garden Merit.) It establishes itself quickly, is very hardy and produces very early crops. ‘Claudia’ produces very long glossy pods up to 9in, with tender light coloured beans. Or why not try Sutton Dwarf and Supersimonia.
Hardy peas can also be started this month: good varieties include;- Avola, Douce Provence, Feltham First and Meteor.
With Rhubarb why not try Stockbridge Arrow – A superb modern variety that has become recognised as the quality rhubarb. Tender, fine tasting and stringless when forced. Or Timperly Early – The earliest outdoor variety. Succulent pink stems with a delicious tart flavour.
You can buy special terracotta pots to stick over the top of the cluster, which can look very attractive on your WoodBlocX bed, but it’s just as easy to put a bucket over them.
You can also Plant out Cauliflower if done within next few days, such as early Mayflower, which you will be cutting from mid May to early June.
If you are not going to plant anything, once your other Beans and Peas have been harvested, turn the ground within the raised bed and leave it for the winter. Legumes root nodes store Nitrogen and winter frosts will break up the soil allowing the nitrogen to be absorbed into the surrounding ground.
By now you should also have lifted any remaining root vegetables, and store them for later use. Thin Onions and Turnips if required.
Then sit back inside with a nice hot beverage and start looking at those seed supplier catalogues to plan your spring sowing campaign!
When considering the options for your garden building project – whether it be raised beds, planters, benches or more, timber is often at the top of the list. It’s a natural product, relatively easy to use and cheap. Boards and planking can warp and bow over time however and cannot be guaranteed to be strong or durable enough, so railway sleepers are often seemed to be the only timber option. However, a modular timber system such as WoodBlocX has many advantages over sleepers.
- Sleepers are very heavy and awkward to handle. Their size can mean they are difficult to get into the garden, and you’ll need help to get them there and into place.
- The individual WoodBlocx pieces are so light, small and easily carried that a child could build with them.
- Sleepers require cutting, drilling and bolting together, all processes that take time, need expertise and create noise.
- WoodBlocX are pre-cut, pre-mitred and pre-drilled so are quick and easy to put together and require no power tools.
- The origin of the timber for some sleepers cannot be guaranteed.
- Most of WoodBlocX timber is UK grown, and it is all processed in the UK.
- Sleepers are treated with a range of chemicals including creosote that can leach out into the soil or water. From there it can be taken up by plants (and who wants creosote in their veggies?) or poison the water in ponds.
- WoodBlocX timber is pressure-treated with environmentally-friendly products.
- Sleepers come in limited sizes, all of which are big. Their size limits a design because they can only be used in a few ways.
- WoodBlocX are significantly smaller so can therefore be used to create more detailed designs and a more flexible approach to the whole garden. Curved and circular beds are also possible with WoodBlocX, designs which are not possible with sleepers
- The width of the sleepers themselves takes up a lot of space that is essentially wasted.
- WoodBlocX are only 75mm wide, allowing more space for planting or paths.
- Sleepers – especially re-used ones – generally only come in one dull shade of dark brown.
- WoodBlocX can be very easily painted any colour of the rainbow or clad in metal.
The WoodBlocX modular timber system is a great option for any garden project, and can be used to build raised beds, planters, benches and seats, raised ponds, retaining walls and edging. They are cheaper, better to build with and more flexible than railway sleepers. Have a look at the website to see how they can be used in a garden, or give our team a call to discuss how we can help with either our kits or a bespoke design.
- Sleepers are expensive and can also result in a lot of waste..
- WoodBlocX supply exactly what you need in pre-fabricated BlocX, at a fraction of the price..
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 beds, planters, retaining walls and terracing, ponds, benches 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 not only accredited by the FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) but also the Soil Association. The FSC is an international body that sets the standards for responsible forest management, and ensures that all timber products bearing its mark are from sustainably-managed woodland, 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.
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 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 beds. Railway 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 – curved, angular, square 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.
In a WoodBlocX construction – from a raised bed to a retaining wall - the capping and the BlocX beneath it both have a joint at the corners, and these corner joins are susceptible to opening slightly over a period of time and leaving a small gap in the corner capping.
The steel L-plates devised by WoodBlocX solve this problem by bridging the corner joints and helping to prevent this. They are simple to install and also add strength to the construction. Watch the above 50 second tutorial video to see how they work.
Although WoodBlocX are really simple to put together, they can be used to build strong and long lasting structures for both private gardens and communal areas. Once installed, they are also super-easy to maintain.
The building instructions cannot be easier. First of all make sure your BlocX are the correct way up with the big hole at the top. The wedges push into the bottom of the recycled plastic dowels, locking the BlocX into position and the hollow punch protects the top of the dowel when they are tapped into place. That’s it..
For more information, or to explore how your garden could benefit from a WoodBlocX installation, from raised beds to retaining walls, fish ponds to planters, or steps and seats, visit our website at www.woodblocx.co.uk