Winter Activities For Spring!

Apart from dead-heading, composting and mulching – there’s not much to do in Winter.

However, there are a few preparatory actions that you can take to ensure that your garden is in good stead for Spring to come.

Buy a Greenhouse

Greenhouses are especially cheap at this time of year, with many Home & Garden retailers attempting to get rid of stock, in a bid to make room for new models. If you don’t have one already, then you could significantly increase the variety and longevity of your veg harvest.

greenhouses

They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes so, even if you haven’t got a huge amount of space to be working with – you should be able to find a product that can fit your specifications.

Start Your Spring Planting Early

Sprouts, celeriac, leeks and peas may flourish in spring but that doesn’t mean you can’t jump the gun a little. Planted early, in the safety of your greenhouse, these hardy plants will be able to survive the meanest of winters and can be transplanted to your flower bed, come spring time.

leeks

There’s nothing better than being prepared for Spring. Whilst you wait patiently for these little green beggars to do their magic, you can always consider planting some hardier plants that you can start eating within a fortnight.

Plant Some Hardy Herbs

These fragrant potted plants will be able to survive throughout the whole of the winter, outside. Gorgeously fragrant herbs like coriander, thyme and rosemary will even keep the smells of your garden space alive – especially when the rain pours down.

herbs

If you’re looking for something that you can chomp down on cabbage, lettuce, onions or rocket will grow fine during the winter months and give you a healthy harvest every fortnight. Rotate your crops, so you’re not overwhelmed with one type of veg at a time!

Invest In Some New Windows

It may seem like an out there idea, but by investing in brand new PVC windows, you can save money on your energy bills and save your indoor potted plants and herbs from a cold, mouldy death.

windoes-fitting

There’s nothing worse than drafty windows during the winter. Grab a new set from a reliable fitter (like Allerton Windows) and you can keep your house warmer and even invest in some new tropical plants!

Harvest The Last Of The Summer Spoils

Don’t let all the not-quite ripe plants and fruits go to waste! Tomatoes, rescued squashes and other fruits can finish ripening in a cardboard box in the warmth of your toasty home.

green-tomates

Try not to despair if these little veggies fail to reach their full fruition – if all else fails, you can always cook them down to make a delicious chutney or even a pickle. If the worse comes to the worst, then you’ll just have a some more material for your growing compost heap!

If you’ve got any handy tips for Winter gardening activities or home improvement projects, then shoot us an email or a message over on the contacts page!

How To Make The Most Of Your Small Allotment

Small yields don’t necessarily mean small yields.

A great deal can be achieved with the smallest of spaces – you just need to get creative.

The garden allotment has long been a space saving solution for inner-city gardeners who don’t have a green space of their own. However, with the increasing demand for places to garden, the price per square metre has risen astronomically in the last year alone.

my-tiny-garden

Before you despair with your small garden or allotment space – try out a few of these space saving creativity tips to make the most of what you have.

Adhere To Absolute Order

Although you might well revel in chaos and love the ‘natural’ look of your unkempt back yard – you’ll probably find that you yield less vegetables and your flowers might well struggle to get the nutrients they need to flourish.

organised-allotment

It might feel like you’re putting limitations on your space – but really you’re liberating it. By delineating the spaces where you choose to grow your different types of veg and flowers, you’ll be able to have more control over your allotment and maximise growth all round.

Remove Any Unnecessary Ornamentation

That little garden gnome may well have been in your family for 3 generations, but not only is it thoroughly ugly – it’s also taking up valuable space that could be used for more plants!

gnome

Your allotment may well be the space where you get to ‘express yourself’ but it’s primarily a place for you to grow plants. Don’t stray into the realm of confused elderly folks all round the country; when you visit a garden centre steer well clear of all novelty decoration items and just stick to buying things that will help you grow more plants.

Grow Smart

Before you run out to the shops, grabbing as many plants and flowers as possible, take some time to consider your space limitations and your priorities. Different kinds of flowers and veg need different amounts of space and light to grow.

plan-garden

So before you go cramming your space up with a large shrub – think about if you’re going to want to grow any flowers or sun-hungry veg nearby. By carefully planning out your planting strategy you can successfully make the most of your smaller gardening space – and reap greater dividends come harvest time.

Consider A Garden Share

Lastly, if your plans and visions for your gardening space are simply too grand for your tiny allotment, then there’s one final resort which can double or even quadruple your land entitlement.

gardener

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who own gardens but don’t have the time or the passion to tend to them. By offering out your services as a private gardener you can realise your dreams of cultivating plants over a much larger space. You might not be able to wake up everyday and look out over the products of your hard toil, but you can have the satisfaction of knowing that someone else is.

Strike up the right deal with a neighbour or friend and you could even earn a little cash for doing their garden. If you do a good job you might even end up starting a little side business as a professional gardener – good bye day job!

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Renewables

5 Ways You Can Up-Cycle Pallets Into Something Beautiful

These Inspired Pallet Idea Will Have You Reaching For A Hack-Saw

If you’re looking for a cheap, affordable form of garden furniture, or simply a way of re-using some pallets that have made their way into your back garden, here are 5 easy ways you can create something beautiful out of the humble pallet.

Decking

Why pay a dodgy contractor thousands of pounds for a decking job that will take weeks and yield inconsistent results, when you can grab a few pallets, give them a quick paint job, then rearrange them to your own needs. Design your simple and effective decking in a flash and arrange your furniture around it, to add that extra touch of class.

pallet-decking

Garden Funrniture

Heck, why stop at creating your decking out of pallets, when you can populate your entire garden with furniture made of pallets? Say ‘goodbye’ to the cheap and nasty plastic garbage that you’ve been telling yourself is OK and say ‘hello’ to your new super chic pallet furniture. Varnish, paint or leave to bleach in the sun for an extra rustic look.

pallet-furniture

Garden Space Saving

Sometime you just don’t have enough space in your garden for all the plants that you might need – in the event of limited acreage, hack and stack those left over pallets and create gorgeous plant shelves out of them. Grab a pot of rich, dark varnish to match with your fence and let the vibrant colours of the plants within naturally contrast with your new space saving device.

pallet-stack

Pallet Swing

Capable of holding up to three (average weighted) individuals – jazz up your back garden or front porch with a gorgeous swing. All you’ll need is a couple of strong pieces of rope and a secure place to fix them to (a strong overhanging branch could even be used!). Hack away at your pallet until you have a suitably shaped seat, strap it together and you’re good to go!

pallett-swing

Gardener’s Workbench

Are you in need of a some extra work space in your back garden, or perhaps you need a place to hang up your tools at the end of a long day’s work? You won’t believe it but there’s answer to your needs and it comes in the form of hacked up pallet. Arguably not a wonderfully practical solution to your problem – it, nevertheless, photographs very well.

work-bench

If you’re some kind of barbarian and don’t actually have any pallets lying around then you can always straight up buy some. They’re relatively cheap, compared to buying bespoke furniture, and you can make so many things out of them.

You can try your hand at nabbing some from a building site or you could go to Timber Packing Cases and purchase their reasonably priced pallets. Happy hunting!

Biomass Fuels – A Viable Option?

What is Biomass and should I be using it?

If you’ve ever been to a bonfire night or mulched down some manure – chances are you’ve already used Biomass fuels.

Put simply – Biomass is any form of organic matter, whether it be animal waste products, wood or even wheat. One of the oldest forms of energy known to man (except the Sun, of course) – we’ve been using it since the dawn of civilisation to heat our homes, cook our food and illuminate the dark.

manure_fireAll biomass energy is derived from the Sun – without it, we would have nothing. The sunlight activates the chlorphyll inside the leaves of plants – creating the chemical reaction that converts water and carbon dioxide into the oxygen and sugar that they need to grow.

The sugars and carbohydrates that are contained in these plants are excellent sources of energy for animals and people – they also happen to burn very well – giving us the heat and light that were paramount to our early successes as human beings.

The sunNow, we have developed more efficient, streamlined methods of processing and burning Biomass – allowing us to gain greater control over this quickly developing form of renewable energy.

Here are the 4 main categories of Biomass Fuels, so you can work out what’s best for you:

Solid Waste

rubbishesAlthough it might not seem like the most environmentally friendly way of supplying energy to your home or farm, there are literally tons of usable fuel trapped within the trash that is thrown away from both the domestic and commercial sectors each year.

On average 2,000 pounds of your average garbage can produce the equivalent heat energy of 500 pounds of coal. However, it’s important to remember that using waste product as a fuel is not completely renewable, as certain elements of rubbish (plastics or petroleum) are not classed as biomass.

Landfill Gas & Biogas

big-ol-landfillThe decomposition of any biological matter is a chemical process. Fungi and bacteria eat away at dead matter, animals and food waste – converting the cellulose to sugar which feeds the hungry cells.

The by-product of this lovely process? Methane gas! It may be colourless and odourless, but it is certainly not harmless – it can easily be ignited causing explosions and fires. That’s why this gas is collected by landfills and then sold on to produce electricity that can light a house or cook a meal.

Wood and Agricultural Waste

One of the oldest forms of Biofuel known to man, burning wood for fire and light is a no-brainer – but over the centuries we’ve figured out smarter, more efficient ways of doing it. From straight-up wood logs to premium wood pellets, there are plenty of options.

The waste from wood-based industries can now be effectively processed into small, uniform piece, perfect for burning in custom made wood pellet burners that blast energy back into the industries that have caused the waste in the first place.

Ethanol & Biodiesel

ethanol_gasTwo forms of Biofuel that are growing increasingly popular over the water in the States, both ethanol and biodiesel involve the fostering of chemical reactions using alcohol to obtain energy. Creating ethanol requires the fermentation then distillation of sugars and starches, mostly found in corn.

Ethanol only makes up a fraction of the final fuel product (around 15%) whereas Biodiesel (America’s fastest growing transportation fuel) can be blended with petroleum diesel up to 20% and can even be used in it’s ‘neat’ form using modified engines.

For more information and ideas on how best to utilise Biofuels – 

One-page infographic style print out from need.org

Government sourced collection of statistics on Biofuels

Government funded information centre on Biofuel sources…

The Rich Get Richer – Subsidies: How Much Is Too Much?

Since the introduction of EU farming subsidies, that greatly help smaller producers like me out, there have been an increasing amount of rich investors buying up large swathes of farm land allowing them to benefit from huge breaks at the tax payers expense.

satire-agrio

The rich and powerful benefiting from rules and regulations ushered in by their bosom buddies – I know this isn’t exactly news, but in taking this corruption for granted have we let the fat cats take one step too far?

Is it too late to fight back against the High Society power house?

frankie-boyHave you heard of a farmer called Frank Smart? If you’re a large-scale industrial farmer, with thousands of acres in your possession – chances are you would have heard of him at some point.

Back in 2013, writer and researcher Andy Wightman, in the course of adding to his data information site whooownsscotland.org.uk, discovered that Mr. Smart was in the possession of over 80,000 acres of land – making him one of the largest private owners of land in the UK.

scotThanks to his expedient purchasing of unusable land, that could not be farmed, he was able to buy ‘entitlements’ to farm subsidies, claiming back £5 for every acre of land. This crafty method of ‘slipper farming’ allowed him to rake in £3,226,492 from the Scottish Government, which lead to the profits of his company exceeding half a million pounds by the end of September 2012.

That such an underhanded technique should be utilised by someone in great power is not so much a surprise. After all, those with the biggest resources naturally have access to the best legal and financial aid available, allowing them to make the most prudent, albeit morally questionable, decisions.

Would it surprise you then, to discover that the practice of ‘slipper farming’, despite being outed years ago, is still being practiced – and by leading members of our society?

In 2016 the Taxpayers’ Alliance released a statement: “Farmers should be put on notice. Taxpayers shouldn’t be handing out what are effectively land subsidies, often to extremely wealthy individuals.”

The target of this flagrant statement? Members of Her Royal Majesty’s Parliament.

richard-drax_6_2026323aMP for South Dorset, Richard Drax, having already created headlines in 2014 for claiming the second most amount of expenses amongst all MPs, was amongst the top 100 recipients of EU farming subsidies. The farm which he jointly-owns received over £350,000, it was recently revealed.

Drax wasn’t the only MP benefiting from these sizeable breaks.

iain-duncanIain Duncan Smith, not content with taking money out of the hands of the poorest in our country, has cashed in consistently over the last ten years. His primary residence, a farm on his wife’s estate, has brought in over £1,300,000 in subsidies over the course of a decade.

With the countdown to Brexit now officially underway, we’ll no doubt be seeing a last-minute rush of overseas and domestic investors piling in the requests for their subsidies. However, with recent news that E.U. Law will not be rolled back when we leave, it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see this loop hole remain – as long as it continues to benefit those in power.

For more information and guidance on this issue, take a look at the resources below:

Government Guidelines on Receiving Grants & Payments 

The BBC’s coverage of the Recent Recipients of Aforementioned Subsidies

George Monbiot’s damning 2013 piece for The Guardian

Reuter’s 2013 article on the EU’s stance on increased payments

Researcher Andy Wightman’s Blog filled with great exposes and info…