Garden Maintenance

  1. Concrete vs Wooden Posts

    Concrete vs Wooden Posts

    Imagine being an outcast on a desert island. All you can take are eight songs, a book and a luxury. Now the songs part is easy, the book simple, but the luxury? Hmmm, obviously (obviously!) it’s between a concrete or a wooden post. Now there’s a dilemma.

    Concrete will weigh in heavier. A six-foot fence panel requires a heavy frame of concrete and they do need a couple of people to handle, manoeuvre and get in place. And once in place there is absolutely no tweaking or phrases like ‘don’t worry, the screws will bring it all together.’ Once in place that is the place. Forever. Wood, however, is slightly lighter, still heavy mind you, and - as with all posts and fencing - a helper is still a great idea. There is a bit of tweak-room with wood as it is a natural material and will be slightly more forgiving of a millimetre tolerance or two.

    Forest Lightweight Concrete Fence Post

    Concrete lasts for a long time. How about a lifetime? No need to worry about upkeep there. Wooden posts can carry a 15-year guarantee against rot so can be relied upon without the need for any maintenance. Just make sure you check before you buy.

    Concrete is white. Of course, you can paint it but they usually flake after a few years. Algae will tone the colour down but fundamentally your posts will remain white. Some consider this a clean, modern look (it is!) or too brash for some gardens (again, it is!). I guess it depends on your style of garden. Wooden posts start either orangey brown or light green depending on the pressure treatment. But both quickly tone down to the colour of ash. They then blend into most garden designs. And you can easily paint or stain wooden posts using a rainbow of colours.

    Forest Planed Fence Post  

    Concrete posts require little or no maintenance. A wash down with warm soapy water will dislodge algae and moss and a pressure washer will remove stubborn colonies. Wear safety goggles if doing this. And that’s it. Wooden posts will also benefit from a yearly check over, even with that guarantee, and preservative, stain or paint re-applied where necessary.

    To get fixings into a concrete post you need a drill and fixing plugs along with screws and screwdriver. And eye protectors just in case shards of concrete go flying. Of course, the actual fence panels slide in easily but wires, hanging basket brackets and pot holders all need secure fixings. When fixing these same items to a wooden post, it’s as simple as a screw and screwdriver. For heavier items such as planting mangers you may need to plug holes, but tensioned wires for training fruit or climbers across fence panels are a doddle to sort.

    Concrete vs Wooden Fence Posts

    Concrete or wooden posts? It’s a tricky call to make. Both are the right choice depending on your garden circumstances. But if I had to choose one as my desert island luxury I reckon I’d go for …wood. I can lift it on my own, and I can always fashion it into a flagpole to attract attention. Or maybe concrete? If I’m on the island for a long time it will provide support for whatever I build around it. It’s also bright and may attract attention. But I could burn the wood if it gets cold. Concrete could be used to start building a more permanent house, yet wood could be the beginnings of a boat. Oh, I don’t know. When do I go to this island anyway? I’ve got some garden fencing to finish putting up before I leave. (And don't forget, before you leave, have a browse through our superb range of fence posts.)  

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  2. Taking care of your decking this summer

    This season is set to be a scorcher and the sun's intense rays can take its toll on our decking. Whether through fading, cracking through excessive dry air, or bleaching the original colour, homeowners will need to rethink their decking options this summer. Let's take a look at ways we can all keep our decks in tip top condition and free from the damage the sun takes on it regularly.

    Decking maintenance tips

    Cleaning

    The sun is more than just a life force for us: it's also the means by which mould and algae survive. This is exactly why it's important to clean decking as soon as visible signs of rot begin to appear. It's usually wise to try and do this twice a year (immediately before and immediately following the summer) as it will ensure the wood remains strong and impervious to atmospheric damage.

    It's a relatively simple process, too. Homeowners first begin the cleaning process by removing any large amounts of moss or algae by hand or using a stiff brush, then brush away any remaining debris from the deck. This provides them with a more open canvas for decking cleaner, which is readily available at many DIY locations.

    Decking cleaner should be prepared according to the manufacturer's instructions, then brushed into the deck as thoroughly as possible. An optional step is to really work the cleaning solution into the deck using a dry brush, but any elbow grease given to it when applied wet should be more than sufficient for most jobs. Finally, a simple rinse will remove the chemical from the wood and reveal a more freshly restored deck beneath it.

    Restoring

    Decking that has faded to a dullish grey colour or is just looking a bit under the weather can be brought back to its original condition using a deck restoring agent. It's very important to follow the manufacturer's instructions though, since leaving restoring agent on wood for too long can deeply penetrate the wood and expose any underlying cracks or cause further damage to existing faults. A general tip is to only apply restoring agent to three to four boards at a time. It also calls for the use of a pressure washer. Don't look directly at the stream!

    Before using restoring agent, it's usually best to give the deck a thorough clean to get rid of any loose debris or mould growing close to the surface. This will allow the restoring agent to penetrate the wood as deeply as it needs to without being hindered by surface issues.

    Restoring agent should be worked into the wood thoroughly then left to stand as per the directions on the label. Once it has been left to stand for the allotted time, then it's just a matter of rinsing it off with a pressure washer. It's generally advised to apply a protective coat about two days following the restoring process.

    Protecting

    Once all of the labour has been put into the deck, then it's usually best to keep it looking at its absolute best. Besides regular cleaning and an occasional restoration treatment, there are various options that ensure the wood remains vibrant and durable throughout the years. They should be used once a year in addition to other options used.

    The most common and readily available option is ready to use decking protector. This provides a waterproof seal and helps repel rainwater from penetrating the surface and growing into mould. It is generally available as a translucent mix, which doesn't change the appearance of wood. However, it may also be included in stains as an easier to use two-in-one option.

    Decking oils penetrate the wood in a similar way to protector, but do this as a way of replenishing the natural oils found in wood. For this reason, it's important to match the oil with the type of wood present in the deck, as mixing oil with an incompatible wood type won't provide any sort of result. Oils provide a vibrant appearance immediately after its use, but should be left to soak for anywhere up to three days depending on the amount of oil used.

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  3. How to get the perfect lawn

    How to get the perfect lawn

    While many gardeners enjoy taking care of their flowers and other plants, some often do so to the detriment of their lawns. The lawn is sometimes overlooked and not given the same amount of care or concern as a garden. This is a mistake. The lawn is often the backdrop upon which the garden is viewed. After all, most gardens sit within and/or around the larger part of the plot of land, which is the lawn. There are a couple of considerations that should be given to the lawn. The most evident is the general and regular maintenance of the lawn during the spring and summer that will surely improve its health and appearance. The other consideration is the care it should be given during the autumn to prepare the lawn for a healthy spring.

    Spring and Summer Lawn Maintenance

    Mowing the Lawn
    The best outcome for a lawn comes from regular maintenance and cutting. This keeps the lawn thick, tidy, and it deters the growth of weeds. In the spring or the start of the growing year, mower blades should be set at approximately 3cm (1.25 inches). The lawn should be cut once per week. As the lawn begins to grow faster (during spring and summer), the blades should be lowered to a height of 2cm (1 inch). At this time, the lawn may also need to be cut twice per week. The general rule is to mow less frequently during long dry spells. In addition to letting the grass grow longer, it is important to avoid using summer feeds that affect new growth. Also avoid using the sprinkler during droughts and simply get used to the tendency that the lawn will turn brown. When the autumn rains appear, the lawn will recover its colour.

    Tidy Lawn Edges 
    Not only does tidying the edges of the lawn keep it from spreading into the borders, but it also gives the grass a neat appearance. Long-handled edging shears or a rotary trimmer can be used to trim grass that hangs over the edges after mowing. Each spring a half-moon edging tool should be used to re-cut the edges. Straight cuts can be made by using the tool against a plank of wood. Cuts along a curve can be assisted by the use of an old hosepipe that is laid upon the ground. The vertical edge looks best at about 7cm deep. Do not despair if there are edges that require repair. It is actually easy to repair parts of an edge using a spade to slice through the turf. A small rectangular piece can be simply cut from around the damaged area. The trick is to face the damaged edge toward the lawn by lifting from the ground with the spade and turning it around. Finally, press the turned damaged part down firmly and then fill the area that is damaged with compost. This area can now be repaired by sowing grass seed over the compost and watering the area.

    Do Not Starve the Lawn 
    Lawns can be made greener and thicker by simply regularly feeding them with a lawn fertiliser. Having a thicker lawn, as a result of feeding, also helps it to resist weeds and moss. The formulations of fertiliser are important to consider because there are different ones for different times of the year. There are also fertiliser formulas that help to weed the lawn by killing moss whilst also feeding it by providing nutrients to the grass.

    Weed Removal 
    Do not expect a lawn to be completely free from weed growth; in fact, it would be helpful to become tolerant of a few weeds. However, it is when the weeds appear in small patches or certain single weeds need to be removed that a daisy grubber tool or similar device can be beneficial. Using a device like this helps to ensure the deeper roots of perennial weeds are extracted.

    Patch Repairs
    Many lawns suffer from uneven areas, such as a lawn with a sunken patch. These patches can be repaired by using a half-moon edging tool to make an H-shaped spade cut across it. After the cut, simply pull back the two flaps of turf over the hollow. Once the area is exposed, topsoil can be added, levelled, and the flaps can then be firmed down. Any gaps created by the cuts can then be filled with more topsoil. Some areas of lawns are walked upon with frequency, which can cause the trampled lawn to wear away. When there are areas of a lawn that are utilised more as a walking path, the ugliness of the worn path can be prevented by laying down stepping-stones. Slices of turf can be dug out to allow the installation of paving slabs. The turf should be dug out in such a way that the paving stones can be placed just beneath the surface of the lawn. This allows a mower to pass over the stepping-stones with safety and convenience.

    Autumn Lawn Maintenance 
    Autumn leaves falling from trees and bushes should be raked up regularly because they can stop the sunlight from getting to the lawn, creating weak patches of grass. These areas can then be overtaken by moss. Furthermore, dead leaves left on the lawn during winter create an ideal place for snails and slugs to hide. Use a flexible plastic teeth rake for areas like borders, which may have other plants so the plants are not pulled out along with the leaves. The lawn should then be raked to clear away dead grass, moss, and other debris. The rake also creates aerating holes in the lawn. Ideally, the lawn should be top-dressed with a mix of 50/50 sand and fine compost. Finally, feed the lawn with an autumn fertiliser mix that is a special low-nitrogen feed. The rewards of these autumn efforts will be evident the following spring.

    Take a look at more of our how-to guides

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