News

24th May 2019

BLOG: Know Your Soils & Mulches

BLOG: Know Your Soils & Mulches

Do you know the difference between a soil conditioner, top soil, a mulch and compost? If not then read on. To obtain the best results  for your borders, vegetable plots, fruit trees and shrubs you need to understand your soil condition and what is required to make it healthy and working hard for you.

Top Soil

Let's begin with top soil. Top soil is not a soil conditioner and only contains a minimum of nutrients, if any. You use top soil to bulk up your borders. Look at it as a filler. Perhaps you have removed some old trees and shrubs and it has left huge holes in your garden. Use top soil to fill in those holes or to add height to sunken beds and borders.

Soil Conditioner

You use soil conditioners to improve the structure of your soil. Generally it is composted from a blend of farm manure and tree bark and breaks down very quickly. If your soil is compacted, sandy or heavy clay then soil conditioner will help break up the density to make it more 'fluffy' and to improve drainage.  It also boosts nutrients, including vital beneficial micro-organisms as it helps to unlock compacted soil and release the exisiting nutrients lying dormant. It provides a source of slow releasing nutrients that adds humus (Humus is Latin for 'Soil'), which is rich dark organic matter. Finally, it will help to retain moisture in soil that already has good structure -i.e it isn't compacted or of a clay nature.

Compost

Did you know compost is ofter referred to as 'Black Gold'? It is organic matter (this is any material that occurs naturally in nature) that has decomposed such as leaves, twigs and farmyard manure. Compost with its valuable trace elements is the finest of materials to add to your soil. Its carbon nitrogen ratio (30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen -this is the ratio required for micro-organisms to sustain health) means there is more nitrogen to feed your plants. You can use to add to top soil and existing soil. It encourages earthworms, which in turn helps to aerate the soil.  Compost will also stablise the PH levels and you will need to check the compost you buy as it will tell you what percentage of PH it contains and depending on your soil type i.e. acid or alkalyne this will give you an indication of how much to use or whether that particular compost is right for your soil. It will also make an excellent mulch.

Mulches

Mulches are generally made up of coarse materials such as bark, wood chips, and straw. Apply to beds and borders and around the foot of shrubs and trees. Mulch allows rainwater to filter through to the soil while also helping to retain moisture. This is particularly important during the warmer months of summer or for prolonged dry spellls. it will eventually break down over a period of a couple of years when it will be time to add another layer.

So to have a colourful and flourishing garden - its top soil, soil conditioner, compost then mulch!

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16th March 2019

BLOG: How to Lay Porcelain Paving

BLOG: How to Lay Porcelain Paving

Porcelain is a very attractive versatile tile for outdoor use and is becoming increasingly popular as it is scratch and fade proof and does not stain. It is a non porous material that does not need sealing. However because it is non-porous, a little more attention is required when laying these tiles.

You need :

  1. Sub Base
  2. Bedding Mortar
  3. Bonding Primer Paste
  4. Joint/tile grout 
  • Purchase all the paving you need in one batch to ensure you have a consistent colour and pattern
  • Lay tiles out on the area in a rough draft to make sure you have enough slabs.
  • Dig out area to a depth of 150mm and allow for a 100mm sub base, 30mm mortar base and the thickness of the tile
  • Make sure your paving will be 150mm below the proof course of the house if it is going to be laid up to the brickwork
  • Porcelain paving requires a fall of approximate 1:60 or 17mm of fall for every metre metre width and length of the patio
  • Erect taut string lines to ensure correct height and alighment 
  • Lay a Type 1 MOT or General Sub-Base (GSB) and rake out to create an even layer approx 30mm below your string line
  •  Use a plate compactor to compress to 50mm below the string line
  • For the bedding mortar: use a mix of 6 parts sharp sand to 1 part Portland Cement to create a workable firm consistency that will stand in peaks
  • Apply a slurry primer to the underside of the Porcelain tile making sure non makes contact with the top surface because once set it will be almost impossible to remove -keep a bucket of water and wet cloth by your side to wipe tiles clean of any residue
  • Lay prepared tile on bedding mortar and tap down with a rubber mallet to correct level using the your string line as a guide
  • Use tile spacers to create uniforn spacing
  • Use a suitable outdoor/weather repellent grout/ jointing material such as easyjoint and do not walk on for at leastr 24 hours

A few things to remember about Porcelain tiles - as they are non porous if you do not use a slurry primer the tiles will not stick to the mortar base. You can only cut Porcelain properly with a diamond blade that is specifially for cutting Porcelain. If you try to use the traditional method of a hammer and chisel you will chip the porcelain. Always being by laying your tiles from the corner and work outwards.

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21st January 2019

BLOG: Dry Dry Dry Top Soil

BLOG: Dry Dry Dry Top Soil

Top Soil

Although its January and very often the ground is hard from frosts there will be days when you will be able to add Top Soil  or organic matter to beds, borders and as a top layer for lawns. Autumn and winter when conditions allow is the best time to improve soil cultivation.

Adding Top Soil will not only help to improve the structure soils it will add valuable nutrients. It helps to break down clay soils that are heavy and tend to clump together and which also drains very badly. With sandy soils adding Top Soil or organic matter will help to retain moisture during the drier months.

Dry Dry Dry

Its most important to add dry top soil during the winter and not top soil that is wet as this means it would have lost many of its nourishing properties. A good dry soil will help protect plants and help with root growth. It insulates the earth in your borders and helps to prevent the loss of nutrients over the winter months including vital microbes.

Three Grades 

Use dry Top Soil for improving existing beds, to build new beds as a base for lawns and to create raised vegetable beds. Top Soil  normally comes in three grades: Premium, General Purpose & Economy. Its best to buy the higher quality Top Soil to avoid the problem of weed seedlings in the mixture. The premium grade will contain a higher percentage of nutrients and has a good structure.

New Build Gardens

Just moved into a new build? Some of these gardens hide a multitude of sins under a layer of landscaping soil. Often this layer of soil will disguise rubble and and discarded aggregates. This will not be conducive to growing a lawn or flower beds as the soil structure is incorrect and leads to poor rooting of plants and grass.

What Lies beneath?

With New Build gardens its best to dig out a small area to see what lies beneath. You may find you have to have the whole area dug up and have a good layer of Top Soil put down.

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15th November 2018

BLOG: Concrete Paving and Pavers

BLOG: Concrete Paving and Pavers

Interesting Fact

Do you know that even though concrete paving first came into existence in the mid 1800's  it was the Romans who first invented it. Then for a few hundred years it disappeared. In its simplest form concrete is purely a mixture of aggregates and paste. Its durability comes down to the quality of the base mix  - up to 75% of the mixture can be the aggregate or rock. Portland cement and water is added to the aggregates to form a rock like mass.

Concrete or Natural?

Deciding on whether to choose natural stone or concrete paving or indeed pavers for driveways is often based on a number of factors. Sometimes it simple comes down to personal taste. Other factors include cost, practical considerations and design options. Concrete when it is wet is malleable which means that it is more versitile than natural stone for creating different designs and shapes. Additionally, your choice of colours is wide ranging. If you are laying a patio concrete paving is much easier to cut. Today, concrete paving has become more sophisticated and it is often very difficult to tell the different, especially from a distance. You can buy a range of terracotta concrete paving that looks just like the real thing!

Pavers

Concrete paving and pavers hold up well to traffic. While brick pavers may chip or crack concrete wears only very gradually, however you may find the colours may fade after some years. You can buy concrete pavers that mimic stone such as theTegual Deco Cinder which is made by MarshallsConcrete pavers are now recognised as high quality products particularly for their strentgh and durability.

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8th October 2018

BLOG: How to Lay Stepping Stones

BLOG: How to Lay Stepping Stones

How to Lay Stepping stones

 A stepping stone path can be an attractive feature in it’s own right. If you find your lawn suffering from constant wear or bare patches, than stepping stones set in the ground at regular paced-out intervals can be an inexpensive solution. 

You will need:

  1. Stepping Stones
  2. Garden Fork
  3. Garden Spade
  4. Rubber Mallet
  5. Straight Edge
  6. Sharp Sand

Method

1. Lay the stones out so that you can walk comfortably on them without over-stretching. Score or mark around the stones and loosen the compacted earth with a fork. 
2. Dig a neat hole for each of your stepping stones approximately an inch deeper than the height of the stone. Spread an even layer of sharp sand in the hole so that the stone sits slightly lower than the surrounding soil. Tap down firmly with the mallet avoiding hitting directly on the edges.
3. Place your straight edge over the stone to check that it is slightly lower than the level of the lawn. This ensures that the blades of your lawnmower will be able to clear the stone
4. If there are any gaps around the stone then gently sieve some soil around the edges and push down well with your fingers. Over time the grass will gradually come back or you could  always seed any bare patches to hurry things along!

If in constant use is likely to wear bare patches in a lawn, stepping-stones can be an inexpensive and quick solution!

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20th July 2018

BLOG: Wooden Planters

BLOG: Wooden Planters

Why Wood? 

Contemporary modern gardens are what most people are looking for today and wooden planters add instant style to sleek garden design. Most wooden planters are square or rectanguar so suit contemporary lines. A traditional material in a variety of natural woods which can be left in its natural state or be painted in a colour that blends in with the design of the overall garden.

Flexible & Fibrous

In addition to the design dynamics, there are many advantages to using wooden planters in your garden, on the patio or to line paths. This includes the fact it is a flexible and fibrous material which does not damage in heavy frosts and also provides good heat insulation to the soil. Wood is also slow to dry out during the summer months. It is a versatile material that is great for using for vegetable gardens and for herbs.

Keep in control

As wooden planters are generally more spacious they are ideal for using with plants that spread rapidly. Such plants include bamboo and mint. If you want instant screening bamboo is ideal and by using a large wooden planter you can keep the roots under control.

Space Savers

If you have limited space you can plant small decorative trees and topiary together with seasonal plants and seasonal bedding for extra colour. This gives you an instant garden in a planter!

Extend the life

To ensure you get the most life out of your wooden planters it is best to line them to avoid early decay. Use a permeable landscaping fabric and pierce with a couple of holes for drainage.

Would like to know more? Contact us 

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19th June 2018

BLOG: How to lay Natural Stone Block paving

BLOG: How to lay Natural Stone Block paving

In the beginning

If laying a new driveway or patio planning permission is not required providing the rain or surplus water does not run on to the highway. The most cost effective way is to ensure the water runs off onto a lawn, gravel area or a drain.

All block paving of patios or driveways are made up of three layers:

  1. Sub base of free draining material known as ‘Type 1’ of approx 150mm deep for drives and 100mm for patios
  2. Sharp sand -40mm deep
  3. Paving blocks

 To edge or not to edge

If the area being paved is being laid against an existing wall, this will serve as the edging restraint. If not, a restraining edge will need to be built first. Firstly, set up a taut line of string to act as a guide for alignment and level guide. Place the edge course blocks on a 100-125mm bed of either semi-dry or moist mix of concrete, tapping down with a rubber mallet. This first process is very important and needs to be firmly constructed as it provides support for the whole patio or driveway.

 Keep it level

Level out the sub base material ensuring it has a regular thickness and then add the sharp sand spreading evenly. The finished screed needs to leave the blocks 5-8mm high so they can be compacted down. Before you begin laying make sure you are working ‘up hill’. Natural stone varies in tone and colour and often texture, so its important to ensure enough stone is ordered to complete the work. Also, mix up the stone from each pack or pallet. Place each block carefully on the laying course leaving a gap of approximately 2-5mm. to make it easier use pre-formed spacers.

 Kiln Dried Sand

Once completed sweep kiln dried sand over the surface to fill all gaps between the stone pavers. Finally compact the area with a vibrating plate compactor. Check joints again and sweep in more jointing sand if necessary and check again in a month’s time once the sand has settled.

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21st May 2018

BLOG: Fresh Turf

BLOG: Fresh Turf

 To seed or to turf? That is the question....

Instant Lawn

Natural turf will create an instant lawn whereas sowing seeds means sometimes waiting up to 6 weeks before the patch of ground looks anything like a lawn. Also, with seeds there is much more work involved as the area requries carefully tilling of the earth and the seeds once sown require protection from the local bird life. In very dry weather it will also require constant watering.

Laying turf is a quick and simple way of changing an unslightly piece of ground into an area that looks green and gorgeous within a couple of hours! 

Simple to work out

Generally one standard piece of turf covers one square metre so it is simple to work out how much you need. Good turf  is indicated by being dark green and lush. Ensure there are no yellow patches and that the turf holds together well when handled. The soil underneath needs to be slightly damp. It's best to lay turf within 24 hours of buying it and this isn't possible roll the turf out and keep it moist until it is laid.

The type of turf you buy depends very much on how the lawn is going to be used. Will it be an ornamental lawn for playing croquet or for just admiring? Or will it have children playing football and dogs tearing about on it?

Most popular

The most popular turf for heavy use is a combination of dwarf perennial ryegrass and red fescues. Or for a finer lawn buy turf that is made purely from Fescue grass although this type of lawn will require extra TLC. Turf made from dwarf ryegrass is known for its resilence and quick recovery from heavy wear.

Although autumn is a prime time to lay new lawns because there is less likihood of the turves drying out, you can lay turf any time of the year providing you give a new lawn a good soaking once a week in dry weather.

You can generally walk on the turf within a couple of weeks and mow once the height of the grass is between 30mm-50mm high.

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20th April 2018

BLOG: The Hard Stuff

BLOG: The Hard Stuff

Limestone and Granite

Spring has sprung and with it comes great demand for new paving, driveways and terraces. In recent years sandstone has been very popular, however limestone and granite are becoming increaslingly popular too.Like plants paving adds texture, pattern and colour and each type of natural stone will have its own unique qualities and beauty. 

Natural stone has a quality that surpasses anything man made so it is no surprise that most consumers choose it for their gardens. So which to choose for a project and how would you recommend it to your client?

Much of the decision will lie with is being built - a terrace? path? driveway? Both granite and limestone have excellent hard wearing qualities and are equally durable and versatile. So, often it is down to personal taste and the budget.

Elegant, Stylish, Modern

Granite has more of a grainy appearance than limestone and is available in varying shades of grey and on occasions pinkish hues.It is an elegant stone that will enhance either a traditional or a modern garden.It is generally more evenly coloured than many of the natural stones.

Smoothly does it 

Limestone, though mainly white does also come in different colours, which are created by inpurities in the stone and these can range from grey, blue-black to hints of yellow brown. Limestone has a very smooth finish which makes it ideal for a more contemporary look and works very well for both large and small patios, courtyard gardens or even a swimming pool surround. Its fine grain makes it easier to cut to shape than granite. It has a textured feel although the surface is unlike the riven surface of sandstone.Perhaps the only restriction apart from budget is to take in to consideration the surrounding area and style of the house before deciding on paving for your project.

Give it some thought

Finally, next time you lay limestone give a thought to the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Eygpt, which is made entirely of limestone!

Need some help or advice? Contact us today

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23rd March 2018

BLOG: Garden Structures

BLOG: Garden Structures

Garden Structures

Fancy a pergola in the garden this summer? They are definitely in vogue and are popular to not only create a focus point in the garden but also as a frame to grow climbers for shade during the summer months when used to cover paved entertainment areas. Also, pergolas were once very simple structures whereas today they have become increasingly sophisticated and even have slatted roofs and pitched frames so they appear more like a building.

Do you know what type of wood do you think need if you are going to build one for your garden? You can opt for a soft or hardwood and sometimes it really is a matter of preference as the most important factor is whether the wood has been treated. 

 

What is tannalised wood?

Tannalised wood means the same as pressurised wood and this is a process that forces a chemical perservation, that does not cause any harm to the soil, largely made from copper into the wood to make it more resistant to water penetration and rot and protects it from termites and fungal decay.

By using this type of wood your structure will be more sturdy and have a much longer life. However, this process is not a decorative finish and if you prefer something other than the natural finish you will need to apply that yourself. 

If you need any advice please contact us via email or call us on 01489 779992

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