Entries Tagged 'Garden Products and Catalogues' ↓

Christmas Gifts from Thompson and Morgan

According to T & M. Christmas is on it’s way. (I have not yet given up on summer, but no matter). They have just issued their Christmas catalogue which is full of good ideas for Christmas gifts (or even gifts to yourself most of which are under £20.

Thompson and Morgan are renowned for their seeds, so as you would expect most of thir products are flower or plant related. Because of the financial situation, more then 40 items have been held or reduced in price,one by as much as £42.99. (and it only started at £59.98  so it has been reduced by more than 75%.

Although many of the items offered are tried and rested Christmas related plants (such as the Poinsettia) even some of these have slight twists. For instance, a cyclamen is offered – a very common Christmas plant. However this one is slightly different in that it has white flowers with red edges and centre. It is also presented in a 12 cm pot in a silk  pot cover. This particular variety ‘Victoria’ is arguably the longest flowering cyclamen. Don’t forget that once you have finished with it indoors, you can plant cyclamen outside and they will flourish and give you good displays year after year. In fact that is where all my cyclamen plants come from.

For the person who likes flowers but cannot maintain them, Thompson and Morgan are now offering a range of silk flowers. OI think one of the best of these are the Orchids. Their Pansy Orchid is even scented which makes them even more lifelike. You can buy the orchid scent separately so that it can be renewed periodically.

If you are a plant lover and want to give gifts which are connected to this love, I would recommend a look at the Thompson and Morgan gift range. It has a god range of very interesting plants at reasonable prices.

Superior Timber Design Raised Bed Kits

Harrod’s Superior Riased Bed Kits look good and are pretty adaptable. They are made of FSC Scandinavion timer planks which are 8 inches (20cm) high and 1.4 inches thick. This makes them pretty robust. As well as the planking they sell  4 inch (10cm) corner posts and also capping seperately. The planks come in various lengths from 2 ft to 8 ft as does the capping.

Superior Timber Raised Beds

Harrod also sell what they call ‘Starter Kits’ which include all you need to make raised beds: the planks, corner posts, long lasting aluminium joining brackets and even zinc plated screws – with full instructions on how to assemble them. These kits come in various width and length sizes from 2 ft square and raising by 2 ft increments (seperately by width and length i.e. you could have 4 ft by 6 ft) to 8 ft square. There is also 4 height options. The capping is not included in the kit but can be bought seperately. On top of the rectangular kits, there is also a triangular kit available.

The wood has been high pressure treated with safe timberpreservative which was selected in consultation with ‘Garden Organic’ to ensure the best possible protection from attack from fungal attack and attack from wood boring insects. It has been planed to give you the best possible look.It is structually guaranteed for 8 years.

There are god reasons for putting capping on the top of your raised bed sides. Apart from loking really attractive, they are excellant for sitting on whilst hand weeding or planting in your beds.

These beds really are stylish and would make a god addition to any garden.

Raised Bed Kits for a very competitive price

Many allotment gardeners (and, indeed, those raising vegetables in their gardens) have found that keeping beds contained is a perennial problem. Most methods of containing beds with railway sleepers or other timber is too expensive and too much work, taking time you would rather devote to raising your plants.

Allotment Timber Raised Bed

Harrod Horticulture have come up with an answer. They call it their ‘Allotment Timer Design for Raised Beds‘. It is in fact suitable for any raised beds. Made from 6 inch (15cm) thick FSC Scandinavian timber planks and planed all round they are quality wood with 5 year structural guarantee.

The planks are treated with a safe timer preservative to ensure that they have the best possible resistance to fungal decay and wood boring insects. Harrod Horticulture consult withe Garden Organic to select the best possible preservative to do this job so it should work!

The kits come in a variety of square and rectangular designs with 3 height options and for narrow areas there are 2 ft wide mini-beds or triangular corner shapes.

The kits come complete with internal wooden fixing posts and zinc pplated scrrews. Even the planks are pre-drilled and full instructions are included so that minimum time and wood working ability is needed.

If you want a more elegant look, or have a side on which you can sit to work on your beds (really useful when planting), then you can also buy capping which has been desined to fit perfectly.

These raised bed kits are really good value and will last many years with the minimum of maintenance giving you beds which will never move or lose soil. They are excellant for raised beds (partcularly useful if you garden organically) but will be useful whatever your method of gardening.

Making Raised Beds for Easy Gardening


deep bed

One of the most important features in my vegetable patch is that it has raised beds. I try to garden organically (in the main I achieve this, although if there is a particularly virulent attack of one insect I have been known to resort to chemicals) and raised beds fit with this like a hand and glove.

Perhaps I should explain the thinking behind raised beds and what they are. Raised beds are exactly what they say. They are beds which have been raised above the level of the rest of the garden. You can do this by just adding soil or compost in a certain area. It works but tends to get untidy and the soil creeps away. It is better to edge your bed with wood (or other materials). One of things you do is make them so that you can reach of them without stepping on them. This means the soil never gets compacted so it does not need digging.If you are going to be able to walk all around them, this means no wider than 4 ft. (a normal persons reach is about 2 ft.)

Once you have built your bed, you double dig it, then add compost or soil enricher and gently fork it in. In the future, all you will need to do is add compost and gently fork it in. Easy!

The benefits of Raised beds have now been recognised by some of the garden supply companies and you can now buy kits to make them.  Check some examples here. This makes life much easier – no measuring and cutting, preserving and sanding. There are even Raised Bed kits which include caps on them. This is actually a good idea, as it makes a comfortable place to sit and rest for a few minutes – or even sit whilst you are planting.

I have talked of Raised beds in the vegetble patch, but there is no reason why you can’t use them in your ornamental garden. Just make sure that the soil is not to lose to hold your plants. (Brussel Sprouts often do not do to well in raised beds as they topple). Why not try making a Thyme seat in one.

Creating plant food from worms

I try to recycle as much of my rubbish as possible. However, I have always had problems with cooked food. You should not put cooked food onto compost heaps because, although it will compost very well, it will also attract rats and mice – visitors you do not want to your garden. That is where the wormery comes in.

wormery

Put simply, a wormery is a sealed container holding a special species of worm which will digest your spare food and convert it into usable plant food. However, it isn’t quite as simple as that. Yes, you can use an old dustbin but in very short order it will smell and become water logged.

The advice from professional worm farmers is that a large surface area will help worms process organic waste quicker and leads to even greater worm cast harvests, so when first making or buying your wormery, you should take this into account.

The other thing is that you want your wormery to be close to your kitchen door, so that disposing of your organic waste is easy – even in bad weather.

Harrod Horticulture sell some very nice looking (and very practical) timber wormeries. They are flat pack and come with step by step assembly instructions so that there is a real sense of accomplishment even before you harvest your first plant food. They are made from stout FSC timber which has been pressure treated and is guaranteed for five years. They are also (in my view) really good looking.  The only other thing you need apart from the Wormery is the worms themselves and some bedding culture so that the worms can start to work (and reproduce)  as soon as you introduce them to their new home.

Wormeries do not replace the compost bin but they do make fantastic companions to it. Compost bins produce large amount of general soil improver whilst wormeries produce worm casts which is the highest quality organic fertiliser there is. It is rich in minerals and micro-organisms which are essential to the healthy growth of plants.

Worms also produce liquid which when drained from the wormery which can be poured onto your compost heap to accelerate the rotting down process or it can be diluted to spray onto lawns or plants as a rich feed.

Automatic Irrigation System

If you are a keen gardener, then going away on holiday can be something of a problem. Your plants will still need watering. Indeed, if you are lucky enough to have good weather whilst away, then they will need watering even more then usual.

Irrigation System Kit

You could ask a neighbour or a friend to water your plants for you but this means that they cannot go away for a day or two and what happens if they are unable to do the watering, or forget it.

Thompson and Morgan, the seed merchants have come up with the perfect solution. An automatic irrigation system. This includes everything you need to make life so much easier, including an automatic timer. All you do is fit it, turn on the tap and forget it. What’s more they are offering £20 off the original price.

Even if you are not going away, this system is incredibly useful. Particularly if you work all day, then you do not have to rush home to water plants which are wilting in the hot sun.

An automatic irrigation system means that you no longer have to remember to water your garden once or twice a day – it will do it for you. Just tell it when you want the water applied. The system works equally well in a greenhouse, where you need to water regularly to prevent  problems  particularly with plants such as tomatoes.

At £39.98, this automatic itrrigation system (usual price £59.98) will pay for itself by giving you perfectly watered plants and peace of mind that that will happen.

Grass Cutters

If you have not already done so, and I haven’t, it is time to think about cutting your grass. Whether, like me, you just grow patches of grass or whether you have a very neat lawn of which you are justifiably proud, once you start cutting your grass, then it needs doing regularly.

Most people find mowing the lawn a chore, although a few find it quite therapeutic. Whichever catagory you fall into, a good mower will make a gtreat deal of difference not only to the enjoyment of the task but also the way the grass looks when it has been cut.

There are a number of different types of mower out there and choosing the right one to get the finish you want can be a bit confusing. Lets start with the power. Basically, there are two ways to power your mower – petrol and electric. There are good and bad things attached to each.

The snag to the petrol driven mower is that you are carrying around your fuel with you and therefore they tend to be heavier to push. They can also be more difficult to start, although nowadays some petrol driven mowers have push button starting. That said, if you have a lot of grass you will need a petrol driven mower. They are more rugged and cope with larger jobs more easily.

Electric powered lawn mowers tend to be quieter to use. They are lighter to push and easy to start. However, you have to be very careful not to cut the lead which gives you your power feed.

There are two different types of mower, the cylinder mower and the rotary mower. The difference is in the way the blades are mounted and run.

The cylinder mower will generally give you a better finish than a rotary mower. It will usually have a roller attached to it and also a box for collecting the grass which has been cut. This is the mower to use if you want a lawn with stripes. Buy one with as many blades on the cylinder as possible and always keep those blade sharp.

Rotary Mowers come into their own if you have areas of tall grass. You can use them on close cut lawns, (many do!) but they will not give such a professional finish to ithe lawn. Hover mowers are a form of rotary mowers.

Storing and juicing Apples

If you regularly have large crops of apples and you do not know what to do with them, then I may have a solution for you.

Many years ago, I moved into a house which had just one very large and old eating apple tree. They were delicious but there is only so many apples you can eat and store. I used to store them in my very large pantry and they stored well until Christmas when they started to go soft.

We gave them away on the gateway and still had too many! At this stage, I decided to try making cider. This worked very well but I did not have the right equipment and it was hard work.

I recently received a catalogue from Harold and this is what reminded me of this time in my life. I wish I had seen these items then.

The first thing is an Apple rack.

apple rack

It is made of Beech and is very robust. It is made of a planed frame with ten removable shelves. There is room between the shelves to allow airflow making it a very good method of storing apples (or pears come to that, although I have never managed to produce enough pears to store them). It is a very traditional apple storage solution with a modern twist. I wish I had had one of these, I stored my apples wrapped in newspaper and kept in a cardboard box. It worked but was time consuming.

Making cider was an adventure. We made a press from a workmate and tea towels. The Harold catalogue has a Cross-Beam Fruit Press

fruit press

which would do the job so much more efficiently. Not only could you use it to make cider but also to press apples to make juice, jellies, ices or wine.

There are two pieces of equipment, the first is a fruit crusher. It is made of stainless steel  and is a hopper with blades and rollers that rotate with a handle.

The second piece of equiment is the fruit press.This fruit press has a 12 litre capacity. It is a very attractive traditional fruit press with beech straves which have been treated with food-safe varnish, steel hoops and frame. This makes it easy to use. You place the pulp in the press barrel and put the pressure plate in place. Then just turn the pressure bar to lower the pressure plate. The juice then flows into the steel base plate beneath before pouring out of the lip.

You can use this fruit press to treat any fruit. It makes producing real fruit juice easy and quick.

Keeping you pond water clear and bright

Most ponds suffer from minor problems from time to time and over the past year or three, a number of solutions have come on the market.

First, green water. This is due to too much algae in the water. Algae thrives on nitrogen and sunlight, so most ponds get it from time to time. The solution is to put a small amount of barley in your pond. Harold Horticulture now sell Barley Balls

barley balls

These not only do the job but also look neat and tidy when added to the pond. One ball will treat ponds of 1,000 to 10,00 litres capacity (roughly 2.5 – 20 sq m) If you have a pond larger than this, you just use more than one ball. Results are evident within 2-4 weeks of putting the ball into your water, but it is just as well to put a ball in during the early spring and stop the problem from occurring. One application will last the year. Because barley is a natural product, it does no harm to either your fish or plants.

The second problem is getting enough oxygen in the water during hot, sunny weather. This is especially important if you have fish and do not have a fountain. Although, even a fountain will not always solve the problem in particularly hot, sunny weather. Again, a really clever solution has been found. A solar powered pond oxygenator.

pond oxygenator

I think this is clever on a number of levels. It looks just like a stone, so is not unsightly in your pond as pumps sometime are. Although it is powered by the sun and therefore works well when the sun is out (and you need it the most), it also has remote solar panel with battery back up for night time operation. The oxygenator  is suitable for ponds up to 5,00 litres so will be large enough for most ponds. Whats more, the cell battery is included in the price, so you do not have to pay extra for that.

The third problem is sludge at the bottom of your pond. In the past, you lived with this problem for a few years until it became too much and the water started to smell, then you emptied the pond and put it back together again. This was a nasty, time consuming job which upset your plants, fish and wildlife (and didn’t do much for you either!). Now there is a much easier solution. EM Mud Balls.

mud balls

These are a mixture of Bokashi wheat bran, EM microbes and EM ceramic powder which have been fused together. The microbial activity resulting from them actively eats sludge leaving you with a naturally bright and clean pond. Use 1 mud ball  per square metre of surface every six months to maintain your pond. Problem solved!

Gardening in the greenhouse

Today, I noticed that I have more plants which have germinated in my greenhouse. They are Sweet Peas varieties: Swan Lake; Miss Wilmott and Chatsworth, also Venidium Jafa Ice and Calandula  Candyman Orange. They need to grow somewhat larger before they are planted out but germination is a good beginning.

At this time of year, I am continually thankful that I have a greenhouse. It was quite expensive to buy and a pain to erect (and take down and re-erect when I moved) but it has been worth it.My greenhouse allows me to garden when the weather it not good enough to garden outside, either because it is too cold or too wet. I’m afraid I am a bit of a good weather gardener, I don’t like the cold and it is bad for your garden to walk on it too much when it is wet. Walking on wet soil compacts it and plants cannot then spread their roots and get the required oxygen and nutrients.

My greenhouse also allows me to raise half hardy plants in the spring, saving me quite a lot of money. You get a lot of seeds in a packet and if you raise more than you need, you can always sell them at your gate, swap them with friends or donate them for charity. Even if you give away your extras, you will still save money raising your own bedding plants.

During the summer, I grow tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, sweet peppers and chillies in it. I have also grown potatoes in a sack in it. If you plant first early potatoes now in the greenhouse, you will get a crop about a month earlier than you would if you grew them outdoors. This means you will have lovely tasting new potatoes which you know are chemical free (or organically) grown when they are very expensive in the shops and not yet available on gateways.

I think home grown tomatoes taste much better than any which you can buy in shops. You know they have not been subjected to loads of chemicals to make them ripen quicker and to repel pests and diseases and you can choose the variety which you like best. Although you can grow tomatoes outside, you cannot be sure that the weather will be hot enough to ripen them. You can, of course, pick them and ripen them indoors but they never taste as nice as those ripened on the vine.

Cucumbers also taste so much better when you grow your own. In the past, you used to have to check your cucumber plants regularly and pick off the male flowers before they pollinated the female flowers. If the female flowers are pollinated, then the cucumbers become bitter to taste. Nowadays, most cucumber seeds are for varieties which are all female so you no longer have that problem. Even though there are not many seeds in a packet for cucumbers, it is still a lot less expensive to grow your own than to buy them in the shop. What’s more, they are always available and do not go off. You will probably have surplus to your needs, and the same comments apply as to tomatoes.

Peppers and Chillies do not grow very well in England except in the very south, the weather is not warm enough. However, they do very well in the greenhouse, either in large pots or direct in the ground. Peppers and Chillies freeze very well, so any surplus to your immediate requirements can be frozen for future use. You cannot then use them raw but you can cook them in any way you like.

During autumn and winter, the cold greenhouse can be used to extend the season for all number of plants. I use mine to store my Fuschia plants over winter. Fuschias do not mind being frosted, but they resent being too wet and will die if they are wet and frozen over winter. I just leave them to dry and start watering them in the greenhouse in early spring, putting them out when frosts are finished. There are, of course a number of fuschias which will happily survive outdoors, but bringing them inside also ensures they flower much earlier.

There are a large number of greenhouses available

Greenhouse

and although they are initially expensive to buy, once you have one you will find all sorts or uses for them. If you can afford to heat one the uses become endless.

If you cannot afford to buy a greenhouse at the moment, there are less expensive alternatives to buying one ready made. If you are handy, you could purchase plans and build your own greenhouse.

building a greenhouse plans

The plans include a great deal of advice and plans for efficient running of your greenhouse, such as ventilation systems and watering systems.

Even less expensive is a small patio greenhouse.

4 tier growhouse

This is, in effect a small cupboard made from plastic which fits on the wall of your house. If you site it in the right place, the wall give protrection and warmth. The shelves are usually just the right size to hold seed trays so it is very useful for raising small plants.

As I said, at the beginning, I would be lost without my greenhouse. It gives me a great deal of enjoyment and has paid for itself a number of times.