How to Plant a Hedge in Your Front Garden

Posted by Sasha Kirey On 6:12 PM
While it is difficult to eliminate an annoying noise completely, it is possible to use plants to filter it down to a more acceptable level. Plants near the house look much more attractive than sound-proofing.

Hedges as Screening

The one thing it is difficult to get away from in a built-up area is noise - it is constant, from traffic, trains, aircraft, people and so on. To a large extent, noise becomes so familiar that it barely registers, but there are occasions when it is preferable to do something about it. At the front of a house, a particularly persistent noise may interfere with sleeping, for instance, and here it may be useful to install plants to act as a baffle to the noise and to try to deflect it up over the building.

Hedges, particularly when they consist of broad-leaved evergreen plants such as Prunus laurocerasus, Aucuba japonica or FJaeagmis x ebbingei, are effective at reducing noise, because they form a dense barrier throughout the year. The higher the hedge, the higher it will deflect the noise.

In a very small garden, this may not be an option, because hedges do take up quite a lot of space, so the strategic positioning of a single upright or small-sized tree may be necessary Both Prunus 'Amanogawa' (upright) and Prunus x subhirtella Autumnal is' (a small tree bearing flowers throughout the autumn and winter) are deciduous trees suitable for small gardens.

Planting a Hedge

1. Mark out the line of the hedge with a string and canes. Use a spade to dig holes deep enough to accommodate the plants' roots, allowing space for the intended thickness of the hedge. For each hole, place the rootball against the side of the hole, and cover with soil.
2. Firm the soil gently with your foot. Repeat until the whole row has been planted; then apply a dressing of fertilizer on to the soil surface around the young plants and fork this into the top 5cm (2in) of soil.
3. Water the plants in well, then add a layer of organic matter 10cm (4in) deep as a mulch over the soil surface, to retain moisture and suppress weeds.


How to Plant Climbing Plants in your Back Garden

Posted by Sasha Kirey On 5:37 PM
A screen, whether a trellis or a hedge, will look more interesting throughout the year if other plants are used to liven it up. There is at least one climbing plant in flower during every month of the year and combining these with the screen will add an extra dimension.

Enhancing Screens

Many of the plants that have the best screening qualities, in terms of large, evergreen leaves, are fairly consistent in their appearance all year round. While this means that the screen is highly effective, it can be a little monotonous. To liven it up, climbers can be trained into it, to grow through and be supported by it. The flowers of the climber then peep through, with the plain foliage of the screen acting as a foil to their color. A large screen can act as host to several climbers, with flowering periods that follow on from each other, so that the screen is colorful for most of the year. If the climber produces interesting seed heads as well as attractive flowers, you have even more scope. Such is the case with Clematis tangutica, the seed heads of which persist well into the winter months.

Some climbers are more vigorous than others, so it is important to choose ones that are compatible with the plants forming the screen, otherwise the screen may be swamped or the climbers may be lost. The screen needs to be established and growing well before the climbers are introduced, or it will not be big enough to give the climbers the support they need.

Where the screen is made of timber or plastic, of course, there is no need to wait before plants are placed against it, unless the wood has recently been treated with a wood preservative which could harm them. Place the plants at the base of the screen, about 15cm (6in) out into the border, and use a cane to guide the stems towards the screen. As the stems begin to grow, weave them into the screen until they become established. Against a fence, the stems will need to be held in place with a system of wires and ties, but these will soon be hidden behind the foliage.

Planting a Climber Plant

1. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the rootball of the plant, and fork plenty of well-rotted compost or manure into the base.
2. Check the depth of the hole (the level in the container should be slightly below the final soil level) and then remove the container and place the rootball in the hole.
3. Refill the hole with topsoil and a small amount of fertilizer firm it down and water the area well.
4. Position a cane close to the base of the climbing plant and use it to guide the stems of the climber towards the host plant.


Paving a Garden Patio How to

Posted by Sasha Kirey On 12:32 PM
How to Lay a Paving on Garden Patio

Tiny as these areas may be in the city, the courtyard and patio can become the "room outside", where eating is a relaxed and social experience, surrounded by foliage, flowers and fragrances.

The term "patio" originally referred to an inner courtyard set among the living rooms of a building. Nowadays, it refers to almost any hard-surface area in the garden, although usually the one where the outdoor furniture is sited.

While the patio is often placed adjacent to the house, this is not critical. You may find it is better positioned to make the most of the evening sunlight. If this is at the bottom of the garden, make sure the access routes are planned properly.

Privacy and a feeling of seclusion are important to help make the area a relaxing one in which to sit, and some form of screening may play a part in creating this. The whole area should be designed to have a harmonious feel, with the colors of the furniture, accessories and plants all chosen to complement each other.

Patio Surfaces
As with the rest of the garden, the surface sets the mood in the courtyard or on the patio. It should be in keeping with the surroundings and practical for the situation.

There are many different types of paving available, in a range of materials, shapes and sizes. Traditional Yorkstone paving is attractive and hard-wearing, but is expensive. There are many concrete imitations that are equally attractive, widely available and much cheaper. Larger paving slabs can be smooth or textured ("riven"), and their use will depend on the purpose of the patio. Young children might find some of the textured slabs difficult to walk or ride a small bicycle across, and furniture placed on them may be slightly unsteady. In order to create a variety of patterns, the slabs can be square, rectangular or hexagonal, and they are designed to be easily laid on to a level, well-prepared base. Small paving blocks (paviours) and house bricks are equally easy to lay, although this does take a little longer because you have to lay so many more of them. They can be laid in a number of decorative patterns, such as basket-weave and herringbone; or used to change the apparent perspective of the area. By laying them crossways you will shorten the view, whereas lengthways they will extend it.

1. Lay a bed of hardcore, roughly 15cm (6in) deep and rake it roughly level.
2. Make five small mounds ("spots") of mortar, one to ft under each corner of the slab, and one for the centre. Lower the slab into a horizontal position on the sand spots.
3. Gently wiggle the slab from side to side, to bed it down on to the mortar spots, and check that it is level by placing a spirit level (carpenter's level) diagonally across it to get an accurate reading.
4. Repeat across the opposite diagonal. Repeat the whole process with the remaining slabs, placing each alongside the previous one and aligning with an even gap along the joint.


How to Lay a Pave in a Back Garden

Posted by Sasha Kirey On 3:43 PM
Changing the material covering the "floor" of the garden can completely alter its appearance, by changing the perception of length or width, or by giving a definite flow of design, leading the eye onwards into the garden itself.

Practical Considerations

The "floor" surface in the garden fulfils the same function, in design terms, as a fitted carpet inside the house, providing a unifying link that flows through the area. It is the foil against which the planting can be arranged and, for every group of planting, there should be a balancing amount of open space.

The surface should also be practical. For instance, wooden decking positioned under overhanging trees will quickly become covered with slippery algae. Paving can be natural stone, brick, or concrete, and it can be laid in lines to lengthen the appearance of the garden, or in patterns to shorten it. Decking and timber are both softer than paving, and are very flexible materials to work with, both in terms of actual installation, and in how they are treated (stained or painted) afterwards. Timber can be mixed with other surfaces, such as paving and gravel, to give interesting textural variations, and laying it across, rather than along, the run of the path will make the distance look shorter. Railway sleepers (ties) are extremely useful in the garden, and can be used for edging borders and making raised beds as well as edging paths.

Small changes in contour and direction will alter the appearance of the garden, and can be used to give an interesting shape and pleasing sense of proportion. Steps should be wide enough to be functional, especially where food is carried, and shallow enough to be safe for both the very young and the not-so-very young.

Laying Pavers

1. Clay pavers look like bricks but are thinner and are designed to fit together without mortar joints. Prepare a sub-base of 5-10cm of compacted hardcore. Mortar into position a firm edge to work from. Lay a 5cm (2in) bed of sand, making sure the pavers are level with the edging. Adjust the depth of the sand if necessary. Use battens (laths) as a height gauge to enable the sand to be levelled with a piece of wood.

2. Lay the pavers in the required pattern, making sure that they butt up to each other and the edging.

3. Tamp the pavers in place using a club hammer over a length of timber. You could also hire a flat-plate vibrator to do the job. Brush more sand over the pavers to fill the joints, then tamp down again to lock in position.

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Container Gardening How to

Posted by Sasha Kirey On 4:48 PM
How to Choose Containers for Container Gardening

The vast range of containers available means that they can be chosen to match the situation and the budget. Most containers can be customized and can do a great deal to improve the most unpromising environments.

Types of garden Containers

There are a multitude of containers on the market, made from a wide range of materials, and of varying quality and durability. One of the oldest is terracotta, either glazed or unglazed, which produces a rough, earthy container; terracotta will blend well in most gardens but looks particularly attractive in a warm, Mediterranean-type setting. It is reasonably durable, as long as it was guaranteed frost-proof when it was bought, otherwise it may shatter during a cold winter. Terracotta is used for pots, strawberry tubs, troughs and wall pots. Wooden containers, such as half-barrels, tubs and troughs, have a rural look, are natural insulators (keeping plant roots warmer than stone or plastic) and are ideal for an informal setting. Those square wooden planters often called "Versailles", however, can be used very successfully in formal gardens and are particularly effective with very architectural plants, such as topiary, used in pairs to frame an entrance. How durable wooden containers are will depend upon how well they have been treated and seasoned, and they will probably need continued care as time goes on.

Reconstituted stone is used for larger pots, urns and troughs, and is much heavier than terracotta or wood. For this reason, it is a good choice where the container is likely to be left in position for a long time. These containers are usually highly ornamental, and suit a formal position near the house, at the end of a vista, or at the entrance to a seating area or walkway.

Concrete pots, urns and troughs are similar to reconstituted stone ones, and are equally heavy. Both concrete and reconstituted stone pots should be allowed to weather for several months before lime-hating plants are planted into them.

Plastic pots come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors, are cheap and light to handle, and unlike the other materials, are not porous, so that water is not lost through the sides. Improvements are constantly being made to increase the durability, but they are still likely to become brittle and crack if they are kept in strong sunlight.

Compost (Soil Mix) for Containers

The two main types of compost (soil mix) available for use in containers are soilless and soil-based. Soilless composts are based on peat, or a peat-substitute such as coir fibre, and are light and easy to handle. They contain sufficient nutrients for at least one growing season, and are suitable for plants that will only be in the container for a maximum of 12 months before being repotted or discarded. They are free-draining and, once they dry out, they can be very difficult to re-wet.

Soil-based composts contain a lot of natural soil, so they are heavier to handle but much better at hanging on to both water and nutrients. Larger or older plants, or those which are to remain in the same pots for a long period of time, will benefit from the stability offered by this type.

Further Reading:

Back Garden Access - How to - Practical Planning

Posted by Sasha Kirey On 6:37 PM
While the front garden is generally on display, in the private part of the garden at the back of the house, your imagination can take over. In this secret haven, all the stresses and cares of the day are put aside in favor of pleasure and relaxation.

No matter what size it is, even the tiniest patch can be filled with plants to delight the senses. The size of the garden is of little importance to the end result, because, by considering scale and color carefully, and using every surface and dimension to the full, you can create an impression that the garden is much bigger, longer or wider than it really is.

Much more critical to success are the basic steps that will ensure the plants grow well. The pH of the soil - how acidic or alkaline it is -will govern the range of plants to an extent, as well as the general aspect of the garden and amount of sun it receives. By taking all these factors into account, you will discover ways to create the perfect garden no matter how restricting the site might at first appear.

Access to the Back Garden

Making sure that the routes to certain points around the garden are kept clear will reduce the risk of damage to the plants, but this does not have to mean having a straight concrete path down the middle.

Practical Planning

The back garden can have such a multitude of uses that the points for access are many and varied, and are seldom as simple as just in-and-out. There may be a back gate, for reaching a rubbish (trash) storage area or garage; a shed, compost heap or greenhouse; a clothes line; or a children's play area, all of which will need a direct line of access. Not providing this direct route will result in "desire lines" being worn across the lawn or through the plants as short-cuts are inevitably taken. Watching these lines develop is often the easiest way of working out exactly where the paths ought to go, but by then, the damage may have been done.

There are many different surfaces to choose from for paths, from bark to stone, brick to gravel, and the choice is entirely personal. Aim to keep the surface material in context with the house wherever possible. Match the brick to those used on the house or select a complementary shade of gravel.

If the path runs across, or next to, a lawn, it is important to remember that loose gravel will seriously damage the blades of a lawnmower. Unless the gravel can be resin-bonded to keep it in place, it is probably better to go for slabs or bricks, which can be set lower than the grass, or bark, which is softer and will not cause so much damage.


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How to Choose Plants for a Back Garden

Posted by Sasha Kirey On 12:42 PM
Every plant has a preference about its ideal growing conditions, and putting a plant in the right spot will I mean the difference between it thriving or merely surviving. Certain plants prefer to grow in soils that are higher or lower in acidity than others, while some cannot tolerate acidity at all.

Know Your Soil

Avoid expensive mistakes by choosing a plant that is suitable for the soil where it is to be grown. The best way to ascertain the soil pH level is to buy a testing kit, because the levels do vary considerably within even local areas, depending on where the topsoil was brought in from, or what the underlying rock is.

The pH of the soil is influenced by the underlying bedrock, the amount of rainfall, the rate of drainage and also nearby vegetation such as pine trees (which produce acid foliage).

Soil Structure

The soil in which the plants are to grow is a collection of minerals and organic matter (humus) which will be expected to support the plant throughout its life. To be able to do this, they usually need a little bit of help in the form of organic matter and fertilizer.

Soil consists of sand, silt, clay and humus, and the proportions in which each is present will determine the structure of the soil - its consistency and water-retaining properties. The more large sand particles it contains, the more easily water will drain through it and the more quickly it will warm up in spring, allowing earlier planting. Silt particles are smaller, so water is held for longer, but they retain little in the way of nutrients. Clay particles are smallest of all; they hold on to nutrients and water extremely well, but produce a heavy, solid soil that is cold (slow to warm up in spring, because the water has to warm up as well as the particles), and prone to damage if it is worked when it is too wet.

The ideal soil to have is a loam, which contains a perfect balance ' of all the elements, producing a crumbly soil, often dark in color, which holds both moisture and nutrients well, without becoming water-logged. Unfortunately, this is rare, and most gardens have a soil that favors one particle size over the others and so needs help in the form of added organic matter to make it easier to work. This can take the form of well-rotted manure or compost (soil mix). Organic matter adds air to a solid soil and keeps moisture for longer in a free-draining one.

How to Test the Soil pH

1. Take a sample of soil from the area to be tested from about 10cm (4in) under the soil surface. To get a representative sample from the whole garden, take at least five small samples from all over the plot. Mix them together thoroughly in a screw-top jar
2. Thoroughly mix the soil and indicator chemicals, according to the instructions on the pack.
3. Add liquid to the soil/chemical mixture in the container and shake it vigorously.


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