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Green Gardening: Creating an Eco-Friendly Garden

Green gardening is all about making your garden as eco-friendly as possible. Stepping away from the pesticides and insecticides are just a small part of how to create a green garden. Turn your outdoor space into a safe haven for wildlife with these eco-friendly gardening tips.

Start Composting

Composting is a great way to put nutrients back into your garden when you cut flowers and pull up weeds and crops. Fill a compost bin with raw vegetable waste and old newspapers, making sure you maintain a ratio of one part green waste to three parts brown waste. This helps to achieve the right balance of nitrogen and carbon for the soil.

If used correctly, the compost won’t smell or attract unwanted vermin and will provide you with fantastic compost to help your crops grow. Homemade compost is a great mulching material which holds in much-needed moisture around the roots of the plants.

It’s a good idea to turn your compost with a garden fork every couple of months. You can also add manure to the compost to kick-start the process. In a few weeks, you should have a rich, dark compost which will add tons of nutrients back into your garden.

No Pesticides / Insecticides

Pesticides, or the lack of them, are the first thing we think of when hearing the words “organic.” But, there’s a reason more and more people are turning to environmentally friendly gardening. By saying no to pesticides, you will most definitely attract more wildlife into your garden and you can still keep the pests at bay, naturally. Here are a few ways to do it;

  • Encourage bug-eating birds into your garden by adding a bird bath and a hanging feeder containing nuts.
  • Deter slugs and snails by making barriers of grit or crushed eggshells around plants. If you do choose to use slug pellets, choose the ones which are not harmful to animals.
  • Plant bright flowers such as sunflowers and marigolds which will distract ladybirds and crop-destroying aphids like the blackfly.

Grow Plants in Recycled Bottles

 If you are worried about the amount of plastic which is thrown in the bin, try saving your plastic water bottles and turn them into hangers which you can grow plants in!

Save Rainwater

By collecting rainwater to use in your garden, you not only save money on your water bills but you will also enable your plants to thrive. Treated water from your tap is not as good for plants as oxygen-rich rainwater and you can collect plenty throughout the year.

All you need is a rain barrel with a downspout and you can start collecting your own rainwater. Some shed guttering kits are designed to run into a water butt and these make a great addition to your garden as you are saving water for your garden while ensuring your shed is protected from the rain.

It’s best to water your plants either early in the morning or late in the evening, especially on hot days as the water won’t evaporate as quickly. This green gardening idea is worth trying out, if not for saving you money alone!

Ponds

Ponds offer an important wetland habitat for insects, fish, mammals and birds. Amphibians are also great for your garden as tey eat all sorts of unwelcome pests. If your pond is in a sunny spot it will attract different types of wildlife than ponds in a shady spot. Encourage wildlife into your eco-friendly garden with the addition of a pond.

 

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Shade-Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade

Gardens which are shady because of buildings and tall trees are a common issue for homeowners as gardens are becoming more of a premium. As plants generally prefer areas which receive a good amount of daylight and sunshine, you might be put off by adding flowers and shrubs to your garden in fear they won’t survive. If you have a certain gloomy patch in your garden which needs a sprinkling of colour or a garden which quite dark all year round, you’ll be happy to know there are shade loving plants which will brighten up your garden tremendously.

Some plants prefer different amounts of shade, as well as damp or drier conditions, so we’ve broken these into categories so you can establish which plants will thrive well in your own garden. We’ve even included climbers, container plants shrubs and shade-loving houseplants for those of you who don’t have much outdoor space to work with.

Light and Partial Shade-Loving Plants 

stencil.default 443 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade ampanula, also known as bellflower plants, are cheery perennial flowers that will thrive well in a garden with partial shade and cooler temperatures. Bellflowers bloom mostly in June and July but can provide your garden with pretty flowers right through to October in some areas.

stencil.default 431 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade If you’ve got a spot with light shade,  Bleeding Heart is a perfect cottage garden classic which will brighten up your garden and add a pop of warm pink hues. In Spring, it bursts into a heart shaped flower with arching stems. Its new latin name is Lamprocapnos, but you may also know it as Dicentra.

stencil.default 451 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade The Siberian Iris or Iris Sibirica can grow up to 1.2m tall, with narrow grassy foliage and beautiful violet-blue flowers on branched stems. Add some colour to the shady areas of your garden with this pretty shade loving plants. 

stencil.default 461 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade The Foxglove is one of Britain’s most distinctive and popular wildflowers, with tall spires of tubular flowers. Typically, foxgloves are purple-pink in colour and spotted within. Their colour varies subtly and colonies of pure white plants can occasionally be found in the wild. These stunning perennials are perfect for your shady spots.

stencil.default 471 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade If you are looking for a more unusual plant for your spring garden, the Brunnera is an ideal plant to choose. Throughout April and May, Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ is covered with lots of small, bright blue flowers which are complemented by heart-shaped foliage which is a delicate pale silver-grey with pronounced dark green veins.

stencil.default 481 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade Pulmonarias, commonly known as Lungworts, are partial-shade-loving plants which are low growing and provide masses of flowers in Spring. Pulmonaria comes in a variety of colours and is native to Europe, including the UK which means they thrive well in British gardens.

Deep Shade Loving-Plants

stencil.default 491 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade Iris foetidissima is the perfect iris for a gloomy spot, particularly beneath trees, where other plants struggle. It has evergreen foliage and dull purple flowers, but it comes into its own in autumn when its large seed pods split open to reveal rows of orange-red seeds that remain well into winter.

stencil.default 501 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade A sign spring is on its way, Snowdrops are much-loved bulbous perennial in the UK and given a moist soil, they can multiply into drifts of white flowers and provide plenty of plants to share with fellow gardeners. These delicate plants will grow in the shadiest of spots.

stencil.default 52 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade Geranium nodosum is the most shade-loving plant of the Geranium varieties and is a great candidate for underplanting in shaded and wooded spots. This reliable plant quickly makes a ground cover, even in dry conditions.

stencil.default 54 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade The ‘Superba’ features large clumps of palmate, crinkled, heavily veined leaves, and tall panicles of beautiful bright pink flowers from mid- to late summer. This colourful leafy plant will make a statement in your garden and can grow up to 4ft tall and spread 3ft across.

stencil.default 55 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade Otherwise known as Alchemilla Mollis, Lady’s Mantle is made up of robust clumps of glossy large dark green leaves and flower spikes which grow up to 70cm in summer and bloom white or pink-veined flowers with green-purple bracts. This plant makes a great shrub for your shaded garden.

stencil.default 56 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade Amelanchier X Grandiflora is a small tree which tolerates deep shade in summer. Best bought multi-stemmed, it provides bundles of white flowers and coppery young foliage in spring. You can also expect to see summer berries and vivid autumn colour with this plant.

Dry Shade-Loving Plants 

stencil.default 57 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade A lovely genus, the Epimedium family is native to Europe and Asia. Epimediums from Europe are often some of the most tolerant of dry shade and make a great choice for the north side of a wall or a bed that receives some irrigation in eastern Britain, and typical shade garden borders in the western parts of the country, where rainfall is generally higher. 

stencil.default 59 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade When looking for garden flowers which are adaptable, compact and long-blooming, you should definitely consider hardy geranium plants. Cranesbill Geranium is especially tolerant of dry shady areas and makes a perfect pop of colour for gloomy patches.

stencil.default 60 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade Sweet rocket, Hesperis matronalis, flowers white or purple flowers annually. The flowers’ fragrance is as sweet as a violet’s and most pronounced in the evening. Leave the flowers to drift, naturally through an informal border.

stencil.default 61 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade The plants which prefer damp shade typically suit boggy areas or at the edges of ponds and rivers. Monarda has distinctive flower heads with each one consisting of a large number of tubular flowers creating a dome of petals. Monarda will flower from early summer all the way into early autumn.

stencil.default 63 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade Originating from the lush, mountainous regions of south-eastern Tibet, the Himalayan blue poppy is a magical plant which requires a damp, cool and sheltered position in order to bloom. The best time of year to start propagation is from early Feb to the end of March. But as long as you can provide cool conditions during germination, then it is actually possible to germinate Meconopsis seeds at any time of year.

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Shade-Loving Plants for Containers 

Forms of Solomon’s seal have been grown in British gardens for centuries and you should plant it in a cool position in dappled shade. Once established, they require little maintenance. Keep the soil moist in summer as this produces large clumps more quickly.

stencil.default 65 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade Heucheras or Coral Bells, look striking in borders with other shade-loving perennials, but when planted up they make a beautiful container for shaded areas.

stencil.default 67 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade Hosta is the ultimate shady garden plant also makes a happy home in pots. Make sure to keep your hosta container well-watered and it will thrive well. This leafy plant will bring greenery to any patio or decking area.

stencil.default 68 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade Diamond Frost Euphorbia forms snow-like flowers in the garden or pot, blooming non-stop from planting until hard frost. Try it in deeper shade and see how it blooms.

Climbers and Wall Shrubs for Shade 

stencil.default 69 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade In most places, the Clematis’ natural habitat is to grow under the canopy of tree’s and shrubs and for the twining stems to grow through the branches, allowing the flower to lay on the open canopy above. Because of this habit, a number of varieties of Clematis will cope with partial shade to full shade.

stencil.default 70 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade Winter Jasmine looks fantastic on walls, fences and stretches of trellis. It’s flowering season extends over the worst of the winter months; it will perform in whatever site or soil you offer it, whether dry ground or damp, in sun, shade or anything in between.

stencil.default 71 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade Climbing Hydrangea or petiolaris is a large self-clinging, deciduous climber with broadly oval leaves turning yellow in autumn. Flower-heads grow to 20cm in width, with small fertile flowers surrounded by showy white sterile ones.

Shrubs for Shade 

stencil.default 72 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade ‘Mrs Popple’ is a vigorous upright shrub from the Fuchsia family which flowers single bright red sepals and tube with violet-purple petals. This pretty shrub is a great choice for your shaded garden.

stencil.default 73 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade Rhododendron can be evergreen or deciduous shrubs or trees, with simple leaves and often have a colourful indumentum of hairs on the lower side. Koichiro Wada’ is a compact, dome-shaped small shrub with silvery young foliage that becomes dark green with a thick fawn tomentum beneath. Rounded trusses of pure white flowers open from bright pink buds in mid spring.

stencil.default 74 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade Fatsia or Japanese Aralia are evergreen shrubs with stout, sparsely branched stems bearing large, leathery leaves and small white flowers in terminal compound umbels. Add something different to your shaded garden with this Japanese shrub.

Shade-Loving Houseplants 

stencil.default 75 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade The Peace Lily is a non-toxic sibling of the Lily which is great if you have kids and pets. Drooping means they’re thirsty but they’ll cope well in dark rooms without much sunlight.

stencil.default 76 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade Flame Violet is a perennial which sprouts a pretty red flower in summer and autumn amid silver-green leaves that grow two to three inches long.

stencil.default 78 Shade Loving Plants: Top 30 Plants for Shade Phalaenopsis orchids, otherwise known as moth orchids, come in a variety of colors and can thrive in a number of conditions. This pretty plant will brighten up any dark room.

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Signs Of Spring and What To Watch Out For In Your Garden

With Spring only around the corner, gardeners and wildlife enthusiasts can finally look on with relief that winter is at last behind them. Having said that, the winter months have been very different this year, prompting spring to effectively come on a little earlier.

When the days get hotter, it usually prompts spring to literally come into life. These signs have been coming for a while now, so what exactly are the tell-tale signs that the winter is over and spring is coming?

Daffodils, Crocuses and Snowdrops

daffodils 300x183 Signs Of Spring and What To Watch Out For In Your Garden

Believe it or not, it was the beginning of September when the Snowdrops started to blossom. But these three plants usually signal the sign of brighter weather and blossoming flowers. So keep an eye out for delicate Daffodils and beautiful Crocuses

Buzzing Bumblebees

bee on plant 300x199 Signs Of Spring and What To Watch Out For In Your Garden

Perhaps the clearest indication of a change in season. These tiny little insects are one of the most important parts of any functioning gardening eco-system. The bees are key when it comes to pollination and after leaving their winter hibernation homes, they will be buzzing to get back to business. After the bees, make sure you keep an eye out for butterflies!

Building Birds

building bird 300x196 Signs Of Spring and What To Watch Out For In Your Garden

Are you ever gardening during the winter, stop, then suddenly realise just how quiet it is? Towards the end of March and early April, that gentle sound of birds will be back. Each bird spends a few days designing their nest, specific to its species, so you should notice that wonderful music coming back to your ears. Make a note in your diary for the start of May, specifically ‘International Dawn Chorus Day’ which is supposedly when bird songs are at their peak.

Frogs Spawn Everywhere

frog spawn 300x199 Signs Of Spring and What To Watch Out For In Your Garden

Much like the birds, frogs are occupied for most of the winter and aren’t seen out and about very often. But ponds quickly become overfilled with frogspawn, as spring begins. They do quickly disappear as the race for survival begins!

Bluebell

bluebell 300x168 Signs Of Spring and What To Watch Out For In Your Garden

 

Spring’s token flower. There is usually only one time of year when these stunning flowers make an appearance and its spring. Over half of the world’s population of bluebells is found in the UK and when in full blossom, these incredible flowers create blue carpets across the nation.

Red Squirrels

red squirrel 300x200 Signs Of Spring and What To Watch Out For In Your Garden

Although you will still notice them throughout the course of the year. These bush-tailed creatures really come into their own during the spring months. Usually spotted climbing through trees, make sure these little guys don’t steal too much of your bird food!

Spring Lambs

little lambs 300x199 Signs Of Spring and What To Watch Out For In Your Garden

One of the more common sites you have driving through the countryside, over winter, is a host of freezing looking sheep trying to stay warm! The spring months bring out these unsteady little balls of fun, with more and more popping up in farms all across the country. An average farm tends to see 300 new lambs join its family each year.

Fighting Hares

fighting hares 300x199 Signs Of Spring and What To Watch Out For In Your Garden

Normally extremely shy and timid, these Hares really come into their own over the course of spring. You would expect to see hares diving into their burrows and escaping any threat of danger. But in March, males come out and physically box each other in order to try and impress females.

Beautiful Butterflies

brimstone butterflies 300x192 Signs Of Spring and What To Watch Out For In Your Garden

These stunning creatures are among the first set of winged insects to come out and make their mark. It tends to be the beautiful Brimstone butterflies which first make an appearance, with such bright yellow colours, effectively putting the butter, into butterflies. Most of them come out during hot days in March and can stick around right up until September.

Cherry Blossom

cherry blossom 300x168 Signs Of Spring and What To Watch Out For In Your Garden

For those in the cities, Cherry blossoms are perhaps the biggest indicator that spring is round the corner. They quite literally spring up in even the most urbanised cities and provide some welcomed nature to busy parks.

As we come towards the end of winter we can, at last, begin to see some of these key spring indicators only around the corner. It’s the perfect time to get your gardening going!

 

10 Gorgeous Shed Ideas Which Will Inspire Your ‘She Shed’

Switching from work and family mode to down time can be a struggle. Finding an area of peace and quiet, without spending a fortune getting out of the country is a challenge. There are too many every day stresses that come with family life. So what’s the solution?

For men, it’s called a ‘Man Cave’, for women a ‘She Shed.’ A sanctuary, tucked away in your garden, free from all the house hold drama. For so long a shed has been considered the domain of a man, consuming cheeky cigarettes or naughty beers.

But the time has come for change. Women up and down the country are finally beginning to take control of their garden sheds. Maybe you need a bit of space to do your hobbies, an area where you can do what makes you happy.

With this in mind, we have pulled together 10 of the prettiest sheds around. The idea being, they will inspire you to design your very own ‘She Shed.’

Old Fashioned

she shed1 300x198 10 Gorgeous Shed Ideas Which Will Inspire Your ‘She Shed’

Old fashioned, classical look. As you get out into the garden, why not go back to your roots? Kit your shed out with a traditional look, that fits in with the rest of your garden. Why not go back to basics? Go for something old fashioned and organic, a style which connects with nature. Having a change from the modern hustle and bustle of life, might just give you that bit of rest bite you need.

Plants Galore

Getting out into the garden can be a fantastic break, from the stresses of work. There have been numerous health benefits shown to gardening, with decreases in stress, improved memory and greater physical fitness noted. However, sometimes a big garden can be slightly too overwhelming, so why not spread the load and create a potting shed. This should give you a bit more space garden wise, whilst giving you a whole area dedicated to potting plants. A potting shed should provide you with a fresh clean space, with an aura of fresh air and calmness.

plant shed 300x209 10 Gorgeous Shed Ideas Which Will Inspire Your ‘She Shed’

Perfect Hangout

All you might want is an area to chill out. A place you can call your own go to after a hard day and relax, maybe even get your friends over there. Kit out with some nice comfy furniture, fill it out with some blankets and if you fancy it why not put some cooking appliances in? This ‘She Shed’ would be the envy of all your friends would certainly make your place, the go to place.

cool hangout shed 199x300 10 Gorgeous Shed Ideas Which Will Inspire Your ‘She Shed’

Ski Lodge

If you want to feel like you’re going away, without actually going away the ‘Ski Lodge’ might be just right for you. Design the exterior, with lodge wood, so it gives the effect your up on the alps, then make sure you have plenty of hot cocoa available. During the cold winter months, it might just give you the feeling you’re relaxing on a ski holiday.

coffee shed 300x300 10 Gorgeous Shed Ideas Which Will Inspire Your ‘She Shed’

Going All Out Chic

If you haven’t got the interior design you adore at home it can drive you up the wall. Redecorating can be a painful experience, it takes forever and getting everything to match in a house can be a hassle. If it sounds like too much, move your ideas into your shed, give it a chic makeover and make it your space. Don’t let anyone cross over the threshold, it’s a space just for you!

all out chich shed 231x300 10 Gorgeous Shed Ideas Which Will Inspire Your ‘She Shed’

Your Own Library

Even finding a space to get on your and read can be a struggle sometimes. For commuters, you might get 30 minutes or so to delve into a good book, but for the rest of us, we don’t even get a chance. The solution is simple, create your own library style. With a compact shed, you’ll have enough space to make it cosy, comfy and warm. All you need, is a sofa, book shelf and then you’re sorted. To be even more adventurous why not fit a bed in there? You can fully indulge in your books and even fall asleep with your head in the page!

library shed 300x180 10 Gorgeous Shed Ideas Which Will Inspire Your ‘She Shed’

A Crafters Studio

For the designers among us, getting a space at home where you can really get your head down is at a premium. If you design cards, knit, draw or do anything creative you need a space you can call your own. The garden shed is the perfect environment, stress-free, fresh air and the natural sound of the world. Treat yourself to a big enough desk to dance on, then put up some shelves for storing away any crafting equipment. Make sure there are some good windows fitted in, things would get difficult without any natural light.

art shed 300x199 10 Gorgeous Shed Ideas Which Will Inspire Your ‘She Shed’

Beach Side Hut

Craft yourself your very own seaside getaway. Getting away on holiday is the only chance most of us get to take a break from the stresses of everyday life. So why not bring that luxury to your own back garden. Planked walls, sea shells and plenty of candles will give you that beachside oasis you’ve been looking for. It’s a great space for relaxing and enjoying some time to yourself.

beach side shed 300x232 10 Gorgeous Shed Ideas Which Will Inspire Your ‘She Shed’

Cocktail Bar

Sometimes all that we need after a long day is a nice chair and a glass of the good stuff. Finding that magic combination is not always so easy, however, and going to a bar in town can be more stressful. So why not utilise the space in your garden? Move in all your favourite chairs, stock it full of your tiple and then you have your own space to relax in. A cocktail bar style shed, would also be a perfect hangout spot, so get the girls round and enjoy taking a break.

cocktail shed 300x199 10 Gorgeous Shed Ideas Which Will Inspire Your ‘She Shed’

Minimalist Style

A house full of clutter does not make for a relaxing environment. If you’re coming home from a long day at work, the last thing you want is to have dirty clothes or washing up on top of you. The minimalist shed gives you a break way from it all and it’s incredibly easy to make! All you need is a really snug chair, some blankets and a small coffee table. You can get away from the mess and clutter and finally get a bit of time to yourself.

minamilst shed 262x300 10 Gorgeous Shed Ideas Which Will Inspire Your ‘She Shed’

So there we have it, if you want some time to yourself a ”She Shed’ is the answer.

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Composting Guide for Beginners: Helpful Tips To Make Great Compost

Studies and first-hand experiences have shown the potency of compost in bringing vitality to the garden soil and plants. And the good news is that making compost is easy and environmentally-friendly. It could be made from kitchen scraps such banana peelings, wood ashes collected from outdoor barbecue grills or worn out pieces of age-old garden table and chairs. There are indeed a great deal of compostable pieces you have lying around but fail to notice. The now damaged parts of your once comfortable rattan outdoor garden furniture may well be used as plant food if processed properly.

This guide will help you or any beginner to create a compost of your own, rather than purchase from the store. Here you will learn what compost is, how to make compost, what materials to add to your compost and how to build a compost bin. Also, there are helpful reference charts on how to fix common composting problems.

With the right choices of materials and following expert tips on composting, you’ll get the most of the benefits from this organic fertiliser.

What is compost?

Compost is an organic material produced from heaps of decomposed plant parts and manure of plant-eating animals. With the help of soil-dwelling microbes, the decomposed materials generate nutrients that plants need for healthy growth. It is basically nature’s way of recycling.

How does compost help the garden?

Aside from providing nutrients to plants, compost also improves the soil structure by producing rich humus to nurture the ground soil and increase its ability to retain water. It also helps moderate the soil’s pH level.

Most importantly, compost feeds soil organisms. These soil organisms are essential for plant health and continual soil improvement. It includes fungi, protozoa, nematodes and earthworms that depend on organic materials to supply their daily food.Learning about all these

Learning about all these will also help you and even young minds appreciate the world of microbes and how it wonderfully transforms a soil into a productive gardening site.


“Under the surface, a complex web of dirt, roots, microbes and fungi transforms plain old dirt into a superior growing medium. But that intricate web will exist only if you boost your plain old dirt with nutritious amendments, such as homemade compost.” Heidi Hunt, Editor – Mother Earth News

What can compost be used for?

As a soil fertiliser on:

  1. Flower and vegetable beds
  2. Houseplants
  3. Lawn top dressing
  4. New planting areas
  5. Around trees

What to compost?

Almost anything made from organic material can be made into compost. See the tabulated list below:

Alfalfa meal and hay Cottonseed hulls Grass clippings (in thin layers) Peanut hulls Soybean straw
Algae (pondweeds) Cowpeas Greensand Pea pods and vines Sphagnum moss
Apple pomace (from cider making) Cucumber vines Hay Peat moss Sugarcane residue
Bean shells and stalks Eelgrass Hedge clippings Phosphate rock Tea leaves
Broccoli stalks (but not cords) Eggshells (crushed) Hops Potash rock Vegetable peels, stalks and foliage
Citrus rinds Farm animal manures (plant eating animals) Kelp Potato skins and vines (unless diseased) Vetch
Clover Flowers Leaf mold and leaves Rhubarb leaves Weeds
Cocoa hulls Fruit peels Lettuce and other greens Rice hulls Wheat straw
Coffee grounds Granite dust Melon vines, leaves and rinds Shells (ground clam, crab, lobster, mussel, oyster, well buried in the pile)
Corncobs (chopped) Grape pomace (from wine making) Oat straw Sod

 

The right balance of carbon and nitrogen

Carbon and nitrogen are two of the most important elements in a compost. Composting occurs fastest when about 30 parts of carbon are used to 1 part of nitrogen.

Sources of Carbon:

  • Straw — Includes oats, barley, wheat and rye. They are composed of hollow stalks, which are good for the decomposition process.
  • Cornstalks, pea and bean vines — They are most useful when dried out.
  • Autumn leaves — Mix in few leaves only as leaves tend to trap air from entering the pile.
  • Hay — This may contain weeds, which may be killed in the heat of composting.
  • Wood shavings and sawdust — These materials decompose more slowly and have a lower pH level than the rest of the pile.

Sources of Nitrogen:

  • Any type of fresh or wilted plant matter
  • Grass clippings and non-pollinated weeds
  • Kitchen scraps
  • Seaweed and kelp

For a better mix of organic materials, make sure to blend in proportional amounts of quick and slow rotters. These will give your home compost an ideal texture throughout the heap.

What NOT to compost:

  • Diseased plants — Some plant parts are likely to carry diseases that should not be composed at all.
  • Some kinds of manure — Pet’s manure such as that of dogs or cats may contain diseases or parasites that are harmful to plants and man.
  • Some lawn clippings — Some lawns are treated with herbicides and should not be added to your compost pile.
  • Meat and dairy products — These will decompose but will only attract pests.

Tools needed for composting:

  • Compost Thermometer —This thermometer allows you to check the temperature of your hot compost pile so you can tell if the pile needs to be turned or when the compost is full.
  • Six-tine manure fork — This is more like a pitchfork to help you turn the compost pile.
  • Lawnmower — This helps you shred leaves and other compost material. Add the shredded materials to the compost and use rake to mix in.
  • Watering hose — You’d want to water the pile as it needs to be moist at all times.

How to build a compost bin:

There are several types of bins you can make for your compost. There’s the wooden compost bin, the free-cycle compost bin, the straw bale hot bin and others. All of these will create a nutrient-rich compost. And although a compost bin isn’t required, it makes the job a lot faster and easier.

Wooden compost bin shutterstock 191684348 Composting Guide for Beginners: Helpful Tips To Make Great Compost

Most compost bins made of wood uses white cedar, which is naturally a rot-resistant wood. Other woods that will work are redwood, tamarack and oak.

This bin is good for hot composting and is portable. You start the compost pile by filling one or two sections with organic matter and then stack the next sections with more organic materials.

 

straw bale Composting Guide for Beginners: Helpful Tips To Make Great Compost

Straw bale hot bin

If you have a source of old straw bales, this can make a functional compost bin. The straw bale will hold together longer if the baling is wired. If not, tie twine around it. After a couple of years, the bin will decompose, and you’ll have to create a new bin.

 

 

 

Trenching bintrench bin Composting Guide for Beginners: Helpful Tips To Make Great Compost

For this type of composting, you dig a trench or pit about 8 inches deep. You bury the organic matter below the trench until it decomposes.

Nature will do the rest of the work, and all you need to do is build a garden above the compost. The trenching should be done at least two months before you wish to grow any vegetable or fruit.

 

 

 

 

shutterstock 105558779 Composting Guide for Beginners: Helpful Tips To Make Great Compost

Do-it-yourself (DIY) trash bin

This is one of the easiest and most affordable way to build a compost. Buy a rubber trash can with a secure lifting lid. Use a drill to create 5 to 6 holes in the lid, the sides and bottom of the can. This creates proper air-flow that’s essential for the breakdown of organic materials.

 

 

 

Rotary-style composter bin

shutterstock 141498154 Composting Guide for Beginners: Helpful Tips To Make Great Compost

This bin can be placed anywhere, and it keeps all the materials organized and off the ground. This method of composting decomposes materials quickly because it’s easy to turn and aerate the organic material. But the material does tend to dry out more quickly, so you’ll need to monitor and water it more often

 

 

 

shutterstock 269776142 Composting Guide for Beginners: Helpful Tips To Make Great Compost

Worm bin

This is ideal for gardeners who don’t have the outdoor space for compost bins. You can create a worm bin from a plastic tub. You’ll need shredded newspaper, food scraps, and 10 to 15 dozen worms to eat your garbage. Use only red worms (Lumbricus rubellus) or manure worms (Eisenia foetida).

This method requires a lot more attention, but you will get the most fertilised and nutrient-rich soil.

 

Raised Bed

raised garden bed month e1460971844164 Composting Guide for Beginners: Helpful Tips To Make Great Compost

If you want to get more serious about composting, then go for the hugelkultur beds or mound culture. This method uses large pieces of wood for long-term decomposition. The humus building process takes place below the ground for years, whilst allowing you to cultivate the raised bed.

 

 

Choosing your compost method: Hot or cold?

Hot composting:

A hot compost pile is the best way to produce large amounts of compost in a short period of time. The hot compost has the advantage of killing off many pathogenic organisms and weed seeds that may present themselves in the compost. A hot pile works best if it is made up all at once with mostly nitrogen materials. This is called a garden lasagna because of the multiple materials stacked on top of each other.

Materials needed for a hot compost:

  1. Start with a layer of straw about 3 inches deep.
  2. Add 1 to 6 inches of nitrogen material.
  3. The looser you make the material, the thicker amount of layer you can add.
  4. Leave room for air to circulate throughout the pile.
  5. On top of each nitrogen material layer, add about 1/2 inches of soil.
  6. Add another straw layer and keep building in a “lasagna fashion” style until the pile is about 3 feet tall.

How to succeed with hot composting:

  1. Make layers of straw, nitrogen materials and soil in a lasagna-fashion until the pile is 4 feet high.
  2. Spread the layers and allow spaces for air to circulate through the pile.
  3. The compost will need moisture just as it needs air.  
  4. Add water to the carbon layer, which is the driest, as you build the pile.
  5. After you’ve finished the pile, cover it. This reduces evaporation from the top and prevents over watering from rain.
  6. Check the hot compost pile regularly and use a compost thermometer to check the temperature daily.
  7. The pile should reach 140 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  8. If the temperature starts to drop then turn the pile.
  9. With each turning, wet the pile as needed, and move the material from the outside to the center.

Cold composting:

Cold composting takes longer and it doesn’t kill pathogens or weed seeds. But the advantage of cold compost is in its use over time. This kind of composting is ideal for recycling small materials.  The bacterial presence in cold piles do all the work and usually don’t heat up past 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to succeed with cold composting:

  1. Pile organic materials together such as grass, leaves and manure (plant-eating animals only).
  2. Once the cold pile is constructed, you can leave it for a while.  
  3. Monitor the moisture level and add water if needed.  
  4. After a few months, turn the pile and add water again if necessary.
  5. It takes about a year or more for the compost to be finished.

Some common problems with composting:

Symptoms Possible Causes Solutions
Unpleasant odor Lack of air because of compaction Aerate
Lack of air because of overwatering Add carbon and aerate. The carbon will absorb moisture.
Too much nitrogen (if it smells like ammonia) Add carbon and aerate.
Too wet Add straw or other carbon materials.
Pile doesn’t heat up Lacks moisture Poke holes in a pile so you can water.
Less turning Use fork to bring materials from the outside to the center of the pile
Hot pile cools off Less turning Use fork to bring materials from the outside to the center of the pile
Pile is damp and warm only in the center Too small pile Gather more materials and make a larger pile.
Lacks nitrogen Add nitrogen such as grass or manure.
Animals and pests get into the pile Meat or dairy added in the pile Avoid using meats and dairy products.
Some material isn’t breaking down Lacks nitrogen and moisture Add water if it’s dry and cover the pile. Add grass clippings or manure.
Less mixing Turn pile
Pieces too large Chop material that is cars before adding it to the pile.

Using your compost

After you’ve successfully ‘cooked’ the compost, it’s now ready to be added to the garden soil. Mix or sprinkle it on top of your flower or vegetable plots, rake gently into tree beds, blend with potting soil for indoor plants, or spread among your lawn.  

Also, be sure to save a bit of the compost for the next batch of garden beds you plan to make.

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Essential Home Office Set Up and Organising Hacks That Will Boost Your Productivity

 

Struggling to make ‘work from home’ effective for you?

Here we’ll give you essential guides on how to turn your home office into a more productive place to work in.

First, you might want to ask:  

What seems to hinder my productivity in a home office set-up?

Your house or cabin normally provides a homey and relaxing feeling. Just look at the couch, TV set, games board, and oh, the bedroom. It’s where you take a good rest in or spend leisure time with the family in the first place. And that familiar comfort makes it a bit challenging for you as a home-based worker to push the ‘work mode’ button on.

And unlike standard offices, there are no company rules to regulate your work behaviour. So you can’t help butembrace the freedom! But that’s another long story.

A lot of adjustments need to be done first on the physical aspect of your built-in home office.

So how do you begin? Read on to find out.    

Take the distractions away

You might not realise it, but your office sheds could be infested with distractions. TV remote control, video games, gadgets, you name it. Having them around violates a basic job rule: Don’t mix work with personal life.

And if you’re committing this mistake, follow these super simple steps to untangle.

  1. Survey your office space today.
  2. Get the feel of each item. If you sense it invites you for an hour off your tasks or it has nothing to do with your work, label it down as a distraction.
  3. Resolve to keep those diversions away.
  4. Dedicate the place as your work area, from hereon. Personal effects end there, and work begins here.

Now you get a clear work and home boundary. All that’s left are the essential work stuff. Good.

But then, everything seems to be in a mess.

Declutter now (and see how your mind clears up)

Remember: Your goal is to set everything in tune to your working mood. And mood, as well as productivity, is highly affected by how things are arranged.

Ok, you or other people adapt and thrive in chaos. But a mess is still a mess. It affects you in more ways than you realise. Perhaps in the time it takes for you to find a notepad or cord?

So consider these guides:

  1. Get inspiration. Look through various professional office spaces or home office garden which suit your needs.
  2. Assess the clutter in your own office pod. You can even take its photo and save it for the end of your home office project.
  3. Draw out (physically or mentally, as you please) your ideal office plan. Desk position is one critical element.
  4. Resolve to achieve your plan. Start moving things around.

If you need more hand on how to simplify the task, we are more than happy to give you more tips.

Organise like a pro

From sorting out some great office spaces, you’ll find one element in common among them. Neatness. Why? It’s what make their owners, career men, work efficiently.

Best to follow their lead. Here’s how.

Make the most of your desk drawers

  • Your desk is precisely where you spend the hours working so keep it clean at all times.
  • Keep your most essential office items at the most frequently accessed part of your desk, such as the topmost drawer.
  • Use mesh containers to sub-categorise smaller items like office supplies.
  • Reserve the mid or lowest drawer or part of the desk for important files or receipts.

Create a system of filing

  • Reducing clutter is as easy (and cheap) as using file cabinets, storage boxes, wall hangers and baskets and bookshelves. Options abound. Think pallets.
  • Avoid paper piles on your desk no matter how orderly you pile them up. Either stock them nicely in a file folder rack or store them inside drawers. Even better, go paperless.

Mark tasks with boards and calendars

  • Depending on how you work, choose a whiteboard or corkboard to give you a clean slate for paper notes or illustrations. Plus, it will serve as a visual map of all your tasks.
  • If you need to keep track of dates, do so with properly placed calendars. Desk calendars are good, wall and pocket calendar too. But if you’re tech savvy enough, use google calendar, if only to lessen the stuff in your room.

Untangle those wire cords

  • Wires haphazardly lying on the floor or desk are not only unsightly but dangerous.
  • If your equipment or gadgets are located near the outlets, great. That will make the organising less stressful.
  • If not, use wire organizers like plastic or metal caps, winders and cord covers to keep them neat however long they may be.

Aim for more space

  • Leave a good amount of elbow room, literally, for you to move around.
  • Use the floor area for much-needed facilities only.
  • Install built-in desks or hidden storages, if possible.

Key takeaway: Don’t overdo.

Organising is about simplifying things and processes within your room so you won’t have to get caught up in a maze of clutter.

And who knows? Perhaps a little disarray could do just the trick to spark an idea.

At this point, you’ve succeeded to clear and minimise down. Now it’s time to bring in the things that will step-up your productivity.  

Help yourself with the essential tools and facilities

Facilities should aid you in your line of work so pick your office belongings wisely. But normally, you could make use of the following:

1. Desks and chairs are staples. They come in a wide selection of designs and styles to choose from or custom-made in stores.

Just a pointer: Take note how ergonomically-bent they are. This way, you physically benefit from good seating position, and you enjoy the best of comfort whilst you work for long hours.

Another pointer: Refer to your office plan for the most preferable desk position. With access to natural light or a good view of the garden would be best.   

2. Computers and telecommunication system. What work from home doesn’t need a computer, anyway. Have them in updated software or apps, good power supply, and reliable internet connection.

3. Good lighting. If natural light is inaccessible, invest in powerful but energy-efficient lamps, light tubes, or if you’re willing, go as far as a skylight.

4. Air Conditioner to cool you up (or warm down). Keep a balanced room temperature or as your working mood needs.

And you’re good to go.

But it’s your personal space and there’s a wide room for creativity. So you could always incorporate some personal touches – wallpapers, framed arts, indoor plants, the possibilities are endless.

Bottom line? Everything should feed your working mood.

No 9-5 routine will regulate your work, but a home office should enhance your job, not the other way around.  

Here’s a great garden office shed for you to do business and get productive in.

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Winner picked for BillyOh Easter Egg Hunt

More than a hundred BillyOh facebook followers dropped in their guesses in the Easter Egg Hunt Contest for the chance to take home a Mad Dash ‘The One’ 12ft Round Family Trampoline.

Contest2 Winner picked for BillyOh Easter Egg Hunt

But the much-coveted prize goes to Ms. Anna Brown of Boston, Lincolnshire, England. Congratulations! Please wait for a call from our staff within the day to get your prize.

Thank you to all who participated!

The answer to our second egg-hunt? There are EIGHT easter-themed eggs hidden in the image.

 

 

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Ultimate Guide to Nest Boxes: Why You Should Have Them, and How to Build Your Own

As winter draws to a close and the first spring flowers are braving the cold weather, aside from setting up your trusty patio sets or your favourite gas barbecue grill outside, its time to think about providing nest boxes for garden birds. You might ask ‘why bother?’ Well, believe it or not one of the reasons why birds have declining populations is that our buildings are becoming less and less bird friendly and countryside and woodland management often removed many potential nest sites. Gardens are increasingly important to birds. It doesn’t really matter what materials you will use: old outdoor furniture sets , scrap pallets lying around, or recyclable pieces from your dilapidated rattan patio furniture. Long as you are able to provide our flighty friends with a shelter during the harshest weather conditions, then you’re far from being toast. Twenty million people put out food for the birds in their gardens so we know there is a huge potential out there to do even more to conserve British wildlife.

210 Ultimate Guide to Nest Boxes: Why You Should Have Them, and How to Build Your Own

If you build them, they will come…

Most of our common garden birds are UK permanent residents and will nest as early as the weather allows before the migrants arrive… so February and March is when you should be getting the boxes ready for them. Migrants start arriving at the end of March although a few will not be here until the end of May so there is still a point in getting nest boxes up for some of these late comers into early spring.

 

Do yourself good too…

Of course, once you’ve a nest box up and occupied you will find hours of pleasure in watching the comings and goings as the birds bring nest material, lay eggs then raise, feed and fledge their young well into the summer months. Early breeders may even give it another go later. All those hungry mouths will have an effect on your garden as tits, blackbirds, robins and all search for insect larvae to feed their young. So you can feel good about doing good, enjoy the theatre of the birds and do your garden good all at the same time!

 

Different strokes for different folks…

Just like us birds come in all shapes and sizes and have different habits and needs. You need to ‘target’ the species in order to create a home for it. Fortunately we’ve been providing nestboxes in our gardens for many decades and BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) and RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) have terrific information on their websites to help you make your choices and provide the best boxes for you beautiful birds. Both supply boxes, but its more fun (and cheaper) to build your own and a great indoor day activity for the kids too. See below for what you need and the relevant materials and dimensions.

Most people will have tits visiting their gardens and they take to nestboxes quickly. A small box with the right sized hole will suit bluetits, great tits, coal tits, marsh tits and even willow tits (although they are very scarce these day). But a small box will be great for house and tree sparrows, redstarts, pied flycatchers and nuthatches too.

Nest Box1 Ultimate Guide to Nest Boxes: Why You Should Have Them, and How to Build Your Own

 

Bird 1 Ultimate Guide to Nest Boxes: Why You Should Have Them, and How to Build Your Own

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Bird 5 Ultimate Guide to Nest Boxes: Why You Should Have Them, and How to Build Your Own

Larger boxes with an entry hole suit starlings, swifts, Great-spotted woodpeckers and little owls. The entry hole must be different sizes for different birds… 25mm or larger for the smaller tits, 28mm or larger for great tit, and tree sparrow and 32mm for house sparrow.

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Other birds prefer open fronted boxes including robins, pied wagtails and spotted flycatchers… so one of each type in your garden would be great and double your chances of occupants!

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Bird 13 Ultimate Guide to Nest Boxes: Why You Should Have Them, and How to Build Your Own

 

Whichever type you decide to make you don’t have to buy new wood to do it if you have some of the right size… but you must use plain wood never wood that is painted or treated with preservatives (Tanalised) as this can harm the birds. In fact old well-seasoned wood is probably better than newly milled wood and will fit into the surroundings nicely, especially if you are attaching your nest boxes to trees. Wood needs to be a minimum of 15mm thick as anything thinner will likely warp. Well made boxes will keep out the weather, but, when you site them try to keep them sheltered by the tree trunk or wall you attach them to.

 

Desirable & safe locations…

We all want to live in a nice neighbourhood with good schools and low crime rate… well birds are the same, although what makes for a good neighbourhood is different.

310 Ultimate Guide to Nest Boxes: Why You Should Have Them, and How to Build Your Own

Just like feeders you need to put nest boxes where predators like cats and squirrels can’t get at them. Obviously, it’s nice to be able to see the boxes from your window, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of predator safety. On a wall slightly above head height is a good idea and don’t be tempted to lift the lid to see what is going on unless you are positive there has been no activity for several days. Sometimes birds do abandoned a finished nest or even a clutch of eggs. If this happens try and work out if the site is too disturbed by family comings and goings or by the attention of cats or magpies for example. Re-siting the box might then make sense.

You will often seen fancy birdhouses for sale… made to look like cottages or windmills or whatever. These are designed to appeal to people not birds. Stick to plain not fancy. Think of all those shows about how to sell your home, you don’t decorate for yourself, but to make it as much of a blank canvas as possible using magnolia throughout!

Make sure, too that there are no perches beside the entry hole, the nesters don’t need them but predators will love them, especially woodpeckers who will use the perch to enable them to enlarge the hole and get eggs or nestlings.

Some birds are getting really scarce because of weather, or persecution, pesticides and herbicides or intensive agriculture here and abroad. A few of them like house martens, swallows and swifts have had a long association with humanity, or at least, our buildings. If you have a suitable property think how you can help. Swift boxes high up under gables etc., could be a life line. House martens build there own nests out of mud, but you can by precast ones that fit under a roof’s eves. Swallows just need a bit of an invitation so if you are lucky enough to have stables or outbuildings leave something ajar for them to find a way in and out.

Big Gardens…

If you have a large garden or a wooded area then you might be lucky enough to attract owls or smaller birds of prey if you fix owl boxes high up in the trees… they too can be easily made.

 

Picture this…

There are now hundreds of inexpensive wildlife and security cameras on the market and this is a great way to keep watch on your nest boxes without disturbing the residents. Fancy ones will even stream colour pictures to your computer. But even cheaply bought and easily installed security cameras can record the daily goings on. Or when you want to get serious with bird watching, get a primer by visiting the Magic Birding and Hiking Circuit of Ecuador. Get to see various species at the belt of our planet.

51 Ultimate Guide to Nest Boxes: Why You Should Have Them, and How to Build Your Own

Last but not least…

Finally, at the end of the season when all the birds have fledged you will need to do a little light housekeeping. With lidded boxes it’s easy to take down the box and empty the contents into the compost bin. Moss, feathers and dropping will rot down nicely so it’s better in the compost than in the box. Moreover, mites, lice and other parasites can build up so when you’ve clean out the old nesting material give them a thorough wash out with plain old boiling water and leave them upside down to completely drain and dry. This will kill off the bugs without leaving any dangerous residues.

Don’t store them away, but put them back in situ… they can be a godsend during the winter for keeping birds warm in cold weather. Wrens in particular are known to roost in such shelter, huddling together to share body warmth. Its even been known for dormice to use them as winter hides to hibernate in!

For more and up to date advice, see the BTO and RSPB websites (linked at the beginning of this article).
**We would like to thank Bo from Fatbirder.com for his contribution to the article.