Hollyhocks add decadent architecture to any garden

I’m the first to admit I’m not a fan of short-lived plants. I like to plop a plant in and leave it, allowing its perennial nature to keep it growing year after year. All this annual and biennial sowing nonsense; no, I can’t be doing with that. Aside from a few plants, however. And one of these is th…

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Design With Dahlias for Autumn Colour

‘Tis very much the season for dahlias. I’m a huge fan of these blooms, though I admit, I have a slight love/hate relationship. There are a vast array of varieties in the dahlia collection, from sinewy, single-petalled bloomers to small, clump forming plants with huge, gaudy flowers. It’s the latter …

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It's time for Tulips

If you hadn’t heard, it’s September already. That means it’s time to plant bulbs for a spring show in 2015. And, if you’re stocking up, then it’s definitely time to be thinking about tulips.

I often think that tulips are one of the more overlooked bulbs. We all fill our gardens with daffs, crocus…

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An African daisy to add simplistic chic

I always feel as if some plants are vastly overlooked for tropical looking species and varieties that are new on the scene. Osteosperumum (African Daisy), for example, seems to have a new colour shade coming out every years. However, I still have an extremely strong affection for Osteospermum jucund…

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Prepare your winter garden with Sedum Herbstfreude

Okay, hear me out; Yes, Sedum Herbstfreude is an extremely common plant that may seem rather dull to you. BUT, I feel this plant is often overlooked. It has a huge number of positives; it’s wildlife friendly, it’s easy to grow, it has fantastic cover during late summer/early autumn AND it provides s…

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Create vibrant winter pots with Skimmia

Okay, I know it’s still summer, but winter will be here before you know it. I’m honestly hoping for a cold snap this year – the wet, grey winter of 2013 was horrendous; I don’t think we had even one frost in London. That’s BAD for plants – they need dormancy. And it’s BAD for gardeners – we need a r…

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Smother a rockery with thrift

I think I must’ve first come across Thrift (Ameria) when I was a lad holidaying in Scotland. Our family didn’t head abroad, but jumped in the car and journeyed to the stunning landscapes of the Lake District, Scotland and Northumberland. I distinctly remember great swathes of thrift clinging to the …

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Delve into the world of Aquilegia

 

I grew up with aquilegia’s in the garden, and remember being around these plants from when I was tiny. As such, I don’t really think of them as all that exciting. Many species, particularly the wilder varieties, can be fairly bland and though the dainty flowers offer a welcome treat spring…

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Prepare for bees with Pulmonaria

 

Practically everyone’s heard about how troubled the world’s bee population is, and as gardeners, it’s our responsibility to help these guys out a little. Though I hate wasps, I love the sound a few friendly bumbles buzzing through the foliage in early spring, and if you’re looking for a pl…

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Create a carpet with Ajuga reptans

It’s fair to say that I love this little plant and I can never understand why it’s not used more. Interesting foliage? Check. Quick growing? Queck. Beautiful flowers? Check. Yet, when I look around gardens, especially show gardens, it’s obvious in its absence. Who knows why – maybe it just hasn’t ca…

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On My Oasis – Sowing Seeds and Breaking Greenhouses

So, this whole renovating a house and making over a garden thing? I’m shattered. Oh, and I realised I was being totally over-ambitious! Still, we did get the house on January 22nd, have done almost all the work ourselves and are almost ready to move in – on that timescale I think we’ve done pretty well.

The ‘Pale Jasmine’ shed creates a great backdrop for the plants.

In the garden there was almost a slight disaster with the shed colour. I’ve discovered that orange shed, plus Pale Jasmine paint = pink! Just what the neighbours thought, I don’t know. I mean, in moves the gays, up goes a flag (Canadian, not a rainbow flag I must add) and now here’s a pink shed. Luckily, three coats of Cuprinol later, it’s now pretty white, much to my relief. Plus, it does make the plants stand really well, as you can see with the daffs and grass I shoved in front as a little test.

Meanwhile, though the greenhouse has now arrived, it’s currently still in bits. That ‘little’ branch I was cutting off the Sycamore tree was rather larger up close and personal. Instead of a 15 minute job, it turned into a whole afternoon and I still haven’t cut all the limbs back. Though, they will make some rather good firewood for our log burner once they’ve been dried out. But that set me back rather, and not only is the greenhouse in pieces, but there’s no base for it either as I haven’t had a chance to strip back the turf and lay paving slabs.

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The shed’s now white, not pink.

The start of sowing

I was going to wait until the greenhouse was up before I began sowing this year’s seeds, but it’s already mid-March so I’ve had to get a move on. I’ve got some speedy salad leaves on the go, and popped in half a tray of tomatoes and half a tray of spinach a couple of days ago. 7 – 14 days germination my arse! They’re coming up already! I also popped in some cosmos and zinnias along with some seeds that I have no idea what they are. I recognise them, but they were in a cosmos packet and they certainly aren’t that. So, we’ll see what comes up! Oh, and I popped in some sweet peppers today too.

My plan is to try and grow the stuff we eat, peppers being one and tomatoes (as a sauce mostly) another. Though this garden may be larger, we’re still tight on space, so there’s no point growing loads of things we never eat. Of course, I’m going to grow some vegetables that are easily stored too – potatoes, onions etc – and we’ll just have to get into the habit of eating them!

Over the coming week, as we intend to move in within TWO WEEKS (argh!) there’s a lot to do so I’m not sure the garden will get a lot of attention. However, now I actually have some seedlings to nurture, it seems spring has finally arrived.

Are you growing or germinating? What’s coming up on your oasis?

Protect Plants from Pet Dogs AND Win a $50 Amazon Gift Card

It’s one of my favourite times of year – spring. At this time of year I’m not only excited to see plants emerging from the soil after they’ve had their yearly hibernation, but also to get growing. Sowing is one of nature’s constant miracles; scatter some miniscule seeds into a clod of earth and later, sometimes only days, life appears. It’s just amazing.

However, if you’re like me and are overun with pets, all that hard work preparing flowerbeds and sowing seeds can be a dismal failure when your beloved pooch decides to go for a trample. Perhaps they’ve decided your patch of newly planted courgettes is the perfect place to pee, or they want to dig around in the dahlia bed. Alternatively, maybe they’re just going to spend all day running up and down the side of the chicken coop, barking continuously (yes, I’ve been there, I know how it feels). If you want to start this year off with a little more security, then perhaps an invisible fence is the ideal solution? With that in mind, DogFenceDIY got in touch and has a few tips on how this system can work…

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How to Make DIY Invisible Fencing Work for Your Garden

Our pet dogs are beloved members of the family, but that doesn’t mean we want them invading our garden space! It’s so important for dogs to have the ability to run and roam freely in the yard, but problems can arise when there’s no boundary to prevent them from accessing the garden, too. A do-it-yourself invisible fence is one potential solution.

Reasons to Use an Electric Fence

Secure Dogs Who Love to Dig

Some dogs just love to dig, and for them, the garden is a perfect place to do it. Terriers, huskies, and chow chows often have the natural desire to dig, but any dog can develop the knack, especially out of boredom. An electric dog fence is excellent for keeping digging dogs out of the garden. Traditional fences often aren’t enough, because “diggers” can tunnel underneath. Invisible fences and e-collars, however, prevent dogs from crossing the boundary because they’re unable to go under (or over) the wire without receiving an annoying static shock.

Maintain a Clear View and Easy Access

If your specialty is growing gorgeous flowers, you probably want your garden to be seen and admired. Unfortunately, installing a fence that’s tall enough to keep your pet dogs out of the garden would obstruct the nice view of all your hard work. A traditional fence would also block easy access to your garden, requiring you to open (and remember to close) a gate every time you go in or out. An underground dog fence solves these problems by keeping your dog out of your garden without obstructing the view or your own access.

Protect Dogs from Ponds

Ponds, fountains, and other water-based design elements can be spectacular additions to gardens, but they also present some safety hazards. It can be dangerous to allow pet dogs to have unsupervised access to ponds. An underground dog fence is a reliable way to prevent your dog from entering your pond or fountain and keep them safe.

Backup Traditional Fencing

In many cases, traditional fencing may be enough to keep your pet dogs out of your garden. However, dogs that are particularly stubborn or determined may find their way over, through, or under a traditional fence. If you already have a fence in place, you can still benefit from the additional barrier of invisible fencing. An electric dog fence can add an extra layer of protection by backing up your traditional fence and leaving virtually no chance of your pet dogs getting past.

Save Money

One of the best advantages of installing your own electric dog fence is the monetary savings. Depending on the size and type of material, traditional fences can cost thousands of dollars. The invisible fence cost is often less than $300 total. Even a beginner do-it-yourselfer can install an invisible fence in just a few hours as a weekend project. Underground dog fences are also less prone to environmental damage, meaning you can save money on maintenance over the years, too. A wireless dog fence is even easier to set up, and it’s still usually less than $500 total.

Additional Considerations 

Understanding the Limitations

It’s important to note that an electronic dog fence only keeps your dogs out; it will not prevent other animals and pests from entering your garden. If other animals are a problem for you, it may be necessary to install a traditional fence, too, or find other methods of detterment. Electric dog fences also require a power source, so you may need to purchase a solar panel for about $100 if no electrical outlet is nearby. E-collars cannot be used on dogs that are under six-months-old, pregnant, or sickly. Training your dog on an invisible fence will take about 15-30 minutes per day for up to two weeks, so be positive you can make the commitment to thorough and consistent training before installation.

Choosing the Right Electric Fence

There are many types of DIY electric dog fences, and it’s important to choose the right type for your pets and your garden. Because the size of your dog and garden will affect the type of fence you choose, it’s a good idea to carefully read online reviews and the manufacturer’s instructions and specifications before purchasing a fence. For example, the Innotek dog fence review will tell you its e-collar is only for dogs above 20 pounds. If your dog is between 5 and 10 pounds, they may require a special e-collar, such as the PetSafe Little Dog. Wired dog fences can enclose areas of up to 100 acres, but a wireless dog fence is also an option for areas less than 25 acres.

Electric dog fences are versatile and reliable options for gardens. If you have a chicken coop, they can also be used as extra protection for your chickens. Would you consider an invisible dog fence for your garden or aviary?

Published in partnership with www.dogfencediy.com. We encourage you to share your experiences with a variety of dog containment systems in the comments section. Commenters and those who share the post in social media qualify for a drawing of a $50 Amazon gift card!

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On My Oasis – Sheds and Structure

I started work on the garden a week ago, mainly because the shed was ordered so I needed some form of footing to place it on. As luck would have it (or Sod’s law; whichever’s more apt), today was, possibly, one of the windiest so far. The shed arrived, the panels were lifting off the lorry as the ties were removed, and one of the windows flew into the air and was smashed to smithereens. Still, we managed to get the shed into the back garden, and though I couldn’t erect it myself because every gust threatened breaks and splinters, it finally got put up! Hoorah! I have a new garden shed/birdhouse which will be home to my aviary birds for many years to come.

photo (7)As you’ll see from the picture, it’s currently that awful bright orange, new shed colour. Not for long! I’m going to Cupronol it in Pale Jasmine; a colour I hope will see the planting off well. I know that sometime’s it’s wise to use a darker colour on boundaries, but the garden is long and thin. By using a paler colour I hope that it’ll help create a sense of space, especially once the plants are in place.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been starting to layout the paths. I’m not completely sold on an exact plan yet. The lawn (past the shed towards the end of the garden) was going to be egg-shaped but I may be changing my mind. This is partly due to aesthetics, but also because the south-facing side is on the left-hand side and this is where I’m planting my cordoned fruit trees. A square or rectangular lawn, therefore, might be better for access to these plants. I’m also not convinced on the shape of the patio end. But, as you can see from the picture, I do want a curved path running past the shed and aviary. There will be a screen created of plants by the end of the shed so you won’t be able to see beyond. However, I received two red acer’s as a housewarming gift so one will be placed at the screen, and another further down the garden….thereby drawing the eye from one spot of red to the next.

Next up? The greenhouse. I’m going to dismantle it at my parents tomorrow and, hopefully, it’ll be arriving next Tuesday! I cannot wait to get growing….it’s the time of year to have seedlings EVERYWHERE! In the meantime I also need to research some fence trellis panels. I’m a bit concerned about security so will be raising the height of the walls at the end of my oasis and then planting blackberries and loganberries along them; those thorns should do some damage if someone tries to climb across!

Also, please don’t forget – there’s just 12 days left for my Wildflower Meadow project. I desperately need more funding (it’s at 25% currently) so I can get the meadow planted this year and provide bees, birds, hares, hedgehogs and a host of other creatures new habitat. Even a couple of pounds/dollars help, so please visit the link, donate and share.

Now it’s March, what plans are afoot in your garden?


Weed-Free Gardening with Straw Bales

I have a confession to make; growing your own food isn’t as easy as everyone (including myself) has made out. I mean, it can be simple if you’ve got the time to dedicate to it. If you know that, three months on from now, life isn’t going to get in the way. If you can guarantee yourself a life change so there’s time to look after all those crops. But saying ‘just plant a small lettuce crop‘, or ‘fruit bushes offer an easy source of summer goodness‘ and ‘there’s nothing easier than throwing a few seeds into a pot on a balcony‘, isn’t actually too helpful. Crops, after all, need nurturing. They need watering, and thinning out, and harvesting. They need pests picked off, fruit needs collecting before the birds get it and, worst of all, there’s weeding! Contrary to what many might tell you, growing your own food is hard work.

So, when a book comes along saying that one major horror of growing your own – WEEDING – can be cut out of the plan all together, I’m not going to turn a blind eye.

91rcXPEzgrL._SL1500_For over a decade, Joel Karsten’s been gardening with straw bales. In a nutshell, you take a bale of hale, soak it with water for a week or so to start the rotting process and then you plant your vegetables into it. It sounds odd – I mean, there’s no soil. But, according to Karsten, the bale provides everything your plants require. There’s no weeding because the only plants in the straw are those that you’ve added. There’s watering, yes, but that’s almost always going to be required wherever you’re trying to grow. And then, at the end of the year, your straw bale has rotted down sufficiently to just compost and use elsewhere on the garden.

Seriously, this sounds like a radical change to gardening. 

I always fall at the weeding hurdle. The allotment year starts off well, with the colder months allowing me to get the plot in shape, overhaul the soil, add nutrients and assume some sort of preparation. Sowing and germination, generally, is the easy and fun bit too. Then May, June and July hit, life becomes too busy to make regular trips to the vegetable patch/allotment and within the space of two weekends the weeds seem to have taken over. So, if there’s any way to stop those weeds from even starting to grow, I’m all ears.

I’ve already decided to try the no-dig method in my new garden when it comes to the vege patch. I’ve got LOADS of cardboard moving boxes to act as a base, and top soil from the rest of the garden. Next year I’ll have a load of well rotted chicken manure too. I’m also lucky to have the farm in Suffolk where I can grab a few bales of straw from – I’m definitely giving this method a chance.

Have you tried straw bale gardening? Think it could work? Let me know. If you want to check out the book, it’s on Amazon US | Amazon UK. Use the ‘Look Inside‘ feature to check out the start of the method!

On My Oasis – First Forays in a New Garden

We’ve had the house a couple of weeks now, but bad weather and the desperate need to crack on with the interior has resulted in the garden becoming a) a dumping ground for carpet and waste and b) a literal dumping ground for Beetle. Inside, it’s become apparent that I’m AWFUL at painting and decorating – gutting a house? Yes, that I can do. Painting, wallpapering and getting a good finish? Uh-oh. After a few days of utter frustration I realised I needed to get outside and do something I knew I was good at; GARDENING. Just as well too, as my new shed arrives on Monday!

photo 1 (14)

My new and thin garden is being cut into ‘rooms’

The three main jobs I need done before we move in is the shed foundation, the aviary foundation and the greenhouse. With a long, thin garden the last thing I wanted was the traditional lawn-with-a-border-either side. Instead, I’m going to break the space up into zones/rooms/areas – whatever you want to call it. I know, I know; garden rooms are sooooooo over. BUT, when you’re dealing with a rolling pin shaped garden, you really need to dissect it into bits if you’re to change the sense of space.

For this reason, I’m moving the aviary halfway down the garden which has the benefit of helping to split the garden in half. It also means that I’ll actually be able to see the birds from the house, instead of needing a pair of binoculars!  The shed-come-birdhouse will be situated next to it, with an arching path leading from the Mediterranean garden by the house to the obscured lawn and cutting. The birdhouse will sit atop the slabs whilst the aviary will rest on the bricks (left).

I’ll admit, though I used a spirit level and sand to get everything as flat as possible, it’s not an exact science and there are few bumps along the way. BUT, it’s a self-service cheap option for my own use so I’m not too bothered if I need to patch a few gaps once everything’s in place. With the chickens removed to their own coop, the birds will be free to live happily once again!

One other thing I’ve realised in transporting all my plants to the new garden is just how big the new garden is or, to look at it in another perspective, how small my current patch is. I measured the aviary and spray painted the lines out twice because it looks far too small. It is the right size. I’ve also got HALF my plants down at the new house now (below). Whilst all those pots looked a lot at home, they look piddly now! This means a number of things; I’m going to have to control plant spending because, now I have room, I’m going to be out with the wallet AND I need my greenhouse asap so I can start to grow seedlings!

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My current plant collection looks pathetic!

With the shed arriving next Monday and the greenhouse (or the first components off – whatever fits in my car) next Wednesday, the garden layout is really starting to take shape….I’m excited for some warmer weather!!

 

Help A Hedgehog

Roadkill. That’s probably not a topic you want to think about but I do believe those sad corpses by the sides of the road can be a good indicator of wildlife populations. When I was a kid, as much as I loved seeing a live stickly hedgehog, I more often saw them squashed on the road. But still; they were there, and that suggested that populations numbers were high.

Can you remember the last time you saw one, alive or dead?

Me neither. Foxes and badgers seemed to have taken over in the past few years, but those cute hedgehogs? Nada. I had one scuttling around in the undergrowth of my east London garden when I first moved in, but alas, it’s not been seen for at least a decade.

Hedgehog-Mansion3The message I’m trying to get across is, as much as well all love a hedgehog, it seems that numbers are beginning to dwindle. They’re an iconic British animal – think of the furor caused when the debate for hedgehog culling across Scottish islands was raised! It is, therefore, becoming vital to help every hog possible. This is where Tiggywinkles comes in – and if you’re a Brit, I’m sure you’ve heard of them. Currently, they hedgehog charity so vital for nurturing sick animals back to health are working with Rajapack on a new campaign to raise £1,000 worth of funding. For each milestone, a cute new addition is made to their cardboard mansion (see left), with a pool, plane and tennis court planned. Of course, the mansion’s only a bit of fun, but the support needed isn’t – without money, the charity simply can’t exist.

To find out more about Hector the hedgehog, his mansion and the work that Tiggywinkles do, head over to the Rajapack campaign page. Every little helps and will go towards caring for sick and injured wildlife so they’re made well and reintroduced to their natural habitat.

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Welcome to The Guide to Gay Gardening's new look!


Living in the grey smog of London utopia, I forge my little existence in a slightly loopy, hermity, hippy manner, sharing my life with the hens, cats and other menagerie that have somehow taken over my life.

If I'm not enjoying the great outdoors with my netbook in hand, I'll be snipping, pruning, planting, cutting, propagating, shovelling, or just plain admiring. You can even catch the occasional glimpse of me on the TV now and then!

Take the weight off for a while. Sit back, relax, read, send me feedback, but mostly just take a moment and look around you.....mother nature is beautiful.


Geoff Wakeling

Mail Me: geoffwakeling(at) theguidetogaygardening(dot)com
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