DIY: How to make climbers add something special to your garden

Planting climbers is a great way to add variety and beauty to your garden.  They are ideal for covering walls and creating beautiful arches.  With such a large variety available, it is possible to create simple, yet elegant, flair to any corner of your garden.  All you need are a few tips, determination and a little bit of patience.

Steps to follow:
•    Area:  You will need to select an area with good sunlight to encourage your plant to grow. Climbers tend to be delicate, so limit exposure to wind.  If you are building a structure, make sure that it is firmly placed in the ground to offer support.  If you are choosing a wall, ensure it has enough places for the plant to grip onto, or provide a wire or rope framework to support and guide it.
•    Variety:  There are many different plant varieties that do well as climbers in different climates.  Depending on whether you want to cover an unsightly wall, add some colour or span an arch, the variety you select will differ.  Consult a local gardening website or nursery for advice.
•    Good foundation:  When you have decided on the climber you wish to plant, it is very important to create the right bedding.  The plant will span wide and be exposed to the elements, so ensure that you dig a good-sized hole and fill it with plenty of organic matter. This will help to give the plant enough nutrients to grow fast, create important roots and allow enough water retention.  It will also protect the roots from the cold weather.

Climbers add beautiful colours and scents and can be used to spruce up unsightly areas in your garden or walls.  These plants grow fairly fast and have soft stems, so make sure to check that they gets enough moisture during the drier months and provide deep bedding to protect it during the winter season.


Decorating your garden

Providing your new garden with a new lease of life has never been easier. From hanging baskets to pots and planters there are many ways of displaying flowers other than the traditional flowerbed.

Most people tend to use hanging baskets around the corners of their houses or over their front doors. As long as you have brackets fixed to the masonry this is an easy way of planting and watering flowers. Bedding plants are the best to use, as they won’t dangle too far down. Some people, though, have been known to plant slightly more exotic plants in their hanging baskets, including strawberries.

Portable pots and planters can look very handsome, especially if the old trick of painting the pot with yoghurt to promote green mould to age the ceramic’s appearance is used. Architectural salvage yards are great places to seek out pots and so are car boot sales. If you don’t have the time to trawl around these venues then a quick dash to a local garden centre should solve the problem.

Herbs are very popular and some homeowners plant bay trees in their pots. The easiest way to secure these pots is to put a chain around the pot or planter, or even concrete the base in order to deter thieves.

If your garden has an external eating area, why not erect a loggia and then plant some climbing plants to provide a beautifully cool haven for the summer?


Garden offices bringing work home

You have been longing to work from home for years, and finally your boss has offered you the opportunity to try out remote working from home. You leap at the chance to avoid the daily commute, see more of your family and work more efficiently.

Then you realise that your home has no room to accommodate an office. You have already extended into the loft space for the kids’ bedrooms, the second bathroom is in the extension and the kitchen is in the basement – you have nowhere left to expand.

Oh yes you do! Garden offices are where the smart homeworkers are investing their money these days. Companies such as OECO provide garden office solutions that allow you to work from the comfort and convenience of home, albeit a short stroll across the lawn. Super-insulated using advanced, breathable materials, OECO garden offices are usable all year round, not just in the warmer months. Timber-clad, beautifully-designed contemporary garden office buildings blend seamlessly into the natural environment, bringing work much closer to home.


Laying a gravel path in your garden

There is any number of ways to pimp the garden. One, which has the added advantage of adding an extra security layer, is the gravel path. The security comes from the noise of footfall. A gravel path is also relatively easy to lay and fairly economical.

Mark out the line of the path with sand or a line and cut away any turf and topsoil to a depth of approximately 100-150mm (4-6 inches). Tamp the soil down firmly and fix any soft edges with 100-150mm deep timber battens, pegged at regular intervals. A curved path will need flexible edging, pegged into place to retain turf or flower beds.

Cast concrete is another possible edging, being more decorative and durable, though care must be taken when laying to keep levels even.

Now fill the bottom third with a hardcore base of loose stone or coarse gravel, topped with a layer of sand and a coarse gravel that needs tamping flat. At this juncture, apply weed killer from a watering can fitted with a rose to prevent washing the base away.

Finally, spread the gravel of choice – pea, beach pebble, green basalt or chippings of flint, granite, and stone – over the base before raking, rolling, and smoothing to produce an even, firm path with a level just below the top of the edging. Maintain the path with regular applications of weed killer, raking and rolling, and it will look good for years.


The convenience of garden office buildings

Garden office buildings are sprouting up all over the place, providing elegant workplace solutions to those who opt for homeworking but do not have the space. More and more people are choosing to work from home. The Live Work Network reported recently that one in twelve Brits work from home. That is nearly three million people, and all those people need a place to work.

Sometimes it just is not practical to use the kitchen table or the spare room to conduct your business affairs. There comes a time when you need to secure your own office space at home.

However, therein lies the problem for many UK homeowners. There just is not the space in our homes for an office. The financial climate has made people cautious about trading up and taking on more debt, so the trend has been to maximise the space in the existing home. Expanding into loft space, basements, adding extensions, all these options have become very popular in recent times.

Yet where do you go once you have maximised all the space in your home? Into the garden, of course!

The growth in popularity of garden office buildings makes perfect sense. You are working in a serene environment, close to nature, only a few steps from your home but far enough away for there to be an element of psychological separation between work and home. No longer do you have to endure the daily commute, saving you time and money and enabling you to achieve a better work/home life balance.

Organising a garden office is easier than you may think. You will find companies that provide a fully guaranteed installation service and offer a selection of models suited to home office working. You will be amazed at the level of comfort, style and finish available. If kept within a certain size, planning regulations are not usually a problem for garden rooms.


Trellises and Pergolas

A garden trellis consists simply of some thin battens joined together with nails, and so is not a very sophisticated structure. It can be knocked up in under an hour, but once in place and decorated with a selection of climbing plants it can completely transform a garden space. A pergola is very similar to a trellis but is more of a garden feature in its own right than simply a rough-hewn frame for supporting climbing plants. It too is simple to build because all you need are a few simple tools and basic woodworking skills. You can buy trellises at garden centres but it hardly seems worth doing this when they’re so easy and cheap to make for yourself as a very basic but effective and satisfying garden DIY project.

Trellises vary from the simple lattice of slats that you buy from a shop and screw directly to a wall, to freestanding screens with arched tops, doorways and corner posts that have decoratively carved finials. If you want to make your own instead, all you need is a drill, saw and hammer. If your aim is to create a stunning decorative addition to the garden, a trellis is the obvious answer.

A pergola is capable of transforming a patio into an exciting area that resembles an extra room in the garden rather than an outdoor paved space. The patio will feel more solid and designed, and a real part of the house. Once it has been draped in attractive foliage it immediately becomes a shady, beautiful retreat and a sort of oasis on hot summer days.

The secret to making a successful trellis or pergola lies in the plants you choose to decorate it with, and climbers are the natural choice. Choose evergreens with feature leaves, perennials with feature flowers or fruit and annuals with scented flowers for the best effects.


A new pond

Ponds are one of the best ways to bring wildlife and interest into a garden and are worth considering in every home, although the safety of small children needs consideration.

The ideal position for a pond is in level ground in full view of the house with some cover. Note that some trees, such as willow and laburnum, can poison pond water if they are too close. Mark out the shape with sand or pegs and make sure the liner will cover the hole to the desired depth and overlap the hole by 200mm.

A moulded liner requires a little thought to get the shape right, so do not just invert and mark around. An asymmetric liner will produce a reversed shape.

When digging out, remember to add 40-50mm depth and width to accommodate a sand layer, and always introduce shelves at different depths to allow planting of a variety of plant types and encourage animals of different types. Clear out any sharp stones or roots to protect the liner.

Dampen the sand and spread it out over the hole firmly. Drape the liner over the space and press into shape. Be careful not to puncture the membrane with shoes at this stage. Leave a little extra in the bottom to allow for stretch as the weight of water comes on. Weigh down the edge with blocks to anchor the liner as the water fills.

The water must go in slowly, allowing the liner to shift and mould into shape. At the correct level, shut off and leave to stand and settle. Trim the liner to 200mm and begin to anchor with slabs or pegs and large stones. Slabs bedded in concrete overlapping the liner are the most stable, but if a pebble beach is planned, use much more liner and pegs.

Plant up right away, but leave stocking with fish for a month. Frogs and other wildlife will find the pond on their own.


Housing Guests and Close Relatives

Having close relatives who want to visit and/or stay with you, or having to care for elderly relatives, can sometimes cause problems when there is not enough room in your home to accommodate them comfortably. With garden rooms, all these problems can be solved in a way that both gives you extra space in your own home and also provides guests and visitors with a comfortable, cosy and modern place to stay.

Garden offices
are secure and safe to stay in, and they are fitted with double glazed windows, heating and almost any other home comfort you feel you need.  This means that whoever you want to have as guests in your home can feel like they have a cosy, warm and luxurious place to stay where they can still enjoy some privacy.

The materials used to build these garden rooms are of the highest quality and can easily withstand the outside elements. They are also built with great care and have sturdy foundations so that you can have complete peace of mind, knowing they are safe and secure. Garden rooms are eco-friendly, and fit in well with your garden environment, making a smart looking feature which only enhances the look and feel of your outdoor space.

Altogether, your garden and your living space can be enhanced with a garden room which ensures that you can also provide your guests and visitors a luxurious stay they will enjoy and remember.


Brick Paths

Making a brick path is not difficult, just rather time-consuming. The first step is to remove the topsoil or turf and then complete the basic structure as you would for any other type of path, and finally to lay the bricks on top. Bricks are comfortable and handy to work with compared with some other materials, and many DIY gardeners get a real sense of satisfaction from seeing the way in which they fit naturally together. The end result is a path that will last at least one lifetime and probably more.

It is best to use high-fired exterior-grade clay bricks for garden paths, or you could try engineering bricks. They are both much harder than normal bricks and have a low rate of water absorption, and are much more resistant to frost. Don’t use new bricks that have been manufactured to look as if they are old because the decorative face will easily abrade if you use them on a path.

You could also use block pavers, which are extremely hard clay or concrete bricks thinner than the normal type. These are specifically designed for use on patios, paths and drives and they come in a wide range of different shapes and finishes. Kiln-fired are the most durable and attractive type. The many types of concrete pavers include mock bricks and imitation stone setts, which are small rectangular paving blocks.

When working out the number of bricks you’ll need, first calculate the area and then the number of bricks required, and add about five per cent on top of that for likely wastage.


Repair a Corrugated Plastic Roof

Corrugated plastic sheeting, extensively used on sheds and outbuildings, is available in clear or tinted form and is a safer alternative to glass. The most common type has a 75mm round profile and is easily cut using normal hand tools.  It is also very light and easy to handle, but for the same reason, has to be firmly secured to supporting rafters, otherwise it will blow away in the slightest gale.

When a sheet has become damaged it can be removed easily after unscrewing or pulling out its fixings, and then simply slid from the roof.  Place a wooden wedge beneath the overlapping sheet to lift it away from the supporting material.  If the sheet you removed is in a fair condition, you can use it to mark off the new sheet using a grease pencil. The new corrugated sheet can then be securely clamped into place between a couple of boards to support it and a saw can be used to cut along the line.

Once the new sheet has been cut to size, slide it into place and ensure that the overlaps on each side are equal.  Drill fixing holes into the top parts of the ridges and make sure that these are slightly larger than the fixings you will be using to allow for expansion.

Nail or screw the sheets into place using plastic caps, ideally to protect the sheeting, and seal all nail heads using mastic. The final step is to smooth down the flashing if the sheet comes up against a wall, working the filler material carefully into the profile.