If you can’t face another trip to the shops, it’s easy to find a gift to delight your green-fingered friends without leaving the house. Turn them into a gardening-pro with a plant subscription box, a magazine or membership for one of their favourite places. It’s a great way to get their gardening year off to a good start.
Gardeners Box – This garden subscription box takes the guesswork out of gardening and provides monthly inspiration to help your garden thrive during all four seasons of the year. Every month you will receive eight carefully curated packs of seeds, easy to follow instructions and plant markers delivered to your doorstep. That means you spend less time researching and buying seed varieties and more time enjoying yourself in the garden doing what you love best. £9.99/month or £115 annual gift subscription.
Mud & Bloom Monthly Nature Crafts and Gardening Activities– If you’re keen to get your little ones away from the screen and into the outdoors, then Mud & Bloom might be the box for you. Boxes are seasonal and include a gardening activity and a nature-based craft one. The activities are designed by qualified teachers in line with the national curriculum. Delivery is monthly. 6 months £53.70.
The Generous Gardener – What do the celebrated actors, the bestselling novelist, the Nepalese Sherpa and the famous model have in common? Like millions of us, they love their gardens. The gardening editor of The Sunday Times, Caroline Donald has been allowed beyond the gate of more than forty private gardens. If you can’t get to see a place for inspiration, reading about it is the next best thing. Amazon £15.87.
The RHS Encyclopedia of Garden Design– Whether you’re looking to revive a tired flowerbed or aiming for a complete design overhaul, the RHS Encyclopedia of Garden Design will show you how to make your ideal garden a reality. Grasp the fundamentals of garden design, find a style that suits you, and bring your ideas to life. RHS £30
BBC Gardeners’ World magazine is the perfect companion to the BBC2 TV series that celebrated its 50th birthday this year. Subscriptions include valuable extras – including seeds, an annual calendar, 2-for-1 Gardens Entry Card & Guide and exclusive digital content. £39.99 for 12 issues.
Or how about RHS Membership. Enjoy unlimited days out at RHS gardens for the member and a family guest or 2 children, exclusive access to shows and expert advice, and a monthly subscription to The Garden magazine, all while helping to support their extensive charitable work. Individual one-year membership £45.
For gardeners, the good thing about this time of year is that there’s not much to do outside so there’s plenty of time to plan. If a part of the garden didn’t quite work out as well as you hoped last year – perhaps it was a one-season wonder, or full of shade-loving plants and then the neighbour cut down his overhanging tree – it’s time for a rethink.
Start off with some squared paper and draw a plan of the patch to scale. Indicate north and south, fences and overhanging trees and anything that you want to keep. Think about a theme for your border, and what kind of planting you prefer – contemporary, cottage-garden, urban, formal, wildlife-friendly or perhaps mediterranean. These days there’s a wealth of ideas just a few keystrokes away.
A bed and border planning book will be a great help in deciding which plants look good together, and help you to visualise how big they will grow. You will need to decide if you want some plants at their best all year round (a mixed border of bulbs, shrubs, evergreens and perennials), or if you’re happy with a blaze of glory in the summer months. An easy to care for family-friendly border should major on resilient shrubs and weed-smothering ground cover, or if your priority is butterflies and bees plan for sedums, buddleia, herbs and lavender with some hardy annuals. If you want to bring birds to your garden make sure you include fruit and berries, with twiggy trees and dense bird-hiding shrubs.
January brings heavy frosts and snow, or at least it used to do before our climate became so unpredictable. With winters wetter than they used to be, these days it seems we’re just as likely to get a cold and soggy start to the year. Whichever way it goes, there’s no denying the garden is looking rather bare, and we have to look harder to find something interesting to admire.
This is where plants with attractive bark come into their own. The main attraction of the Tibetan Cherry Tree (Prunus serrula) is its smooth and shiny conker-coloured bark that starts to peel away in winter revealing the new lighter bark beneath. As a bonus, it also bears white flowers in spring followed by small oval fruits. It’s a slow-grower, and not for a small garden as it will eventually reach 6 x 5m, but given enough space, it’s glorious.
The silver birch family is large and the one thing they all have in common is outstanding bark. Betula utilis var. jacquemontii has exceptionally white and luminous bark which lights up a dark corner. All birches have leaves that turn golden in autumn, and a light canopy of leaves that offers dappled shade. Again, a substantial tree that can reach 10 x 5m.
On a smaller scale the stems of Dogwoods are brightest in winter, ranging in colour from bright red through to orange and pink. These easy to grow shrubs have a spreading habit, are tolerant of wet conditions and come in at a manageable 1.2 x 1.2m. Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ has orange-red and yellow young shoots, and small white flowers in summer. The most important thing to remember with Dogwoods is to cut out the oldest stems at the end of winter.
Struggling to pick the perfect present? Here at More Than Mowers, we’re all-too-familiar with the difficulty of buying for green-fingered family members. Their shed’s fully-stocked, they’ve built themselves a potting table and have already purchased tickets to ‘Gardeners’ World’!
Fortunately, Stiga have come up with the perfect solution for Christmas 2018: A cordless multi-tool called the Multi-Mate, which boasts:
75 – 110 minutes of battery life
An 8cm grass blade and a 10cm hedge blade as standard (with more optional attachments available)
A 180-degree, rotating handle with three positions – for reaching tricky spots
A tool-free click system so that you can switch
An incredibly reasonable price-tag
This sleek and sophisticated little gadget might not scream ‘gardening essential’ but after trying one out, we see it as an indispensable piece of kit. Despite its small size, the Multi-Mate makes light work of any finishing job and it’s more than powerful enough to chomp through most domestic hedges too.
Better still, it’s small enough to use one-handed and it weighs just 1kg . Because it’s battery powered and cable-free, you’ll be able to use it anywhere in the garden and there’s absolutely no chance that you’ll strain your wrist while you’re using it either. Even if you do decide to keep using it for the full, 110-minute run time.
In fact, we think the Multi-Mate is equally well-suited to novice and veteran gardeners, and we’re confident that anyone could make good use of its outstanding feature-set.
Irrespective of whether you’re touching up a hedge or trimming those irritating little patches of grass that tend to crop up around table legs, the Multi-Mate is consistent and reliable. It’s also one of the few multi-tools that are suitable for people that struggle to manipulate standard, cordless hedge trimmers.
The optional attachments are nothing to sniff at either: Alongside the standard hedge- and grass-trimming blades, Stiga have also produced a pruning disk, a soil grubber and a telescopic handle attachment that gives a full 15cm of extra reach, which could be just what’s needed for those hard-to-reach spots in the garden.
At times, it does feel a bit like you’re carrying a whole garden shed in the palm of your hand, but that’s never a bad thing – particularly if your chosen recipient is a stickler for finishing touches.
The attachments are nice and easy to change too with a tool-free click system that allows you to eject the current attachment with one button press.
For those who like the technical stuff – Stiga have used a brushed motor and hardened steel gears to ensure that the Multi-Mate can go the distance. They’ve also installed a high-quality, high-capacity battery in the machine’s handle.
Unlike the batteries of yesteryear, these powerful, lithium-ion power packs hold enough charge to keep the blades whirring for 75-110 minutes. They also charge up in around 5 hours, so the days of waiting all day for 30 minutes of charge are (fortunately) long behind you.
There are currently two different models of Multi-Mate; the SGM 102 AE, and the SGM 72 AE. the SGM 102 AE does have a slightly larger battery (10.8v Vs. 7.2v) and slightly more power to boot, but the smaller, 72 AE model is still perfectly capable of coping with most domestic tasks, so it’s really just a question of whether or not you need that extra ‘oomph’.
And remember, if you have any questions, we’re always on-hand to advise. We’re also committed to helping you find the very best presents for your green-fingered relatives, so if you’re looking for general advice or recommendations, get in touch using the contact form on our site, calling 01380 828961 or dropping into our showroom in Melksham, Wiltshire.
We’ve asked our gardening friends what they’d like to see in their stockings this Christmas and have come up with some practical and quirky ideas that should fit the bill.
This Postbox Bird House from Qwerkity would add colour and interest to a garden wall. With a keyhole hook on the reverse for hanging, it’s perfectly frost proof so you can leave it out all year long. £18.99
Monty Don’s latest book is a distillation of his 50 years of gardening experience, with all the tips and gardening wisdom to make your garden flourish. Discover his thoughts and ideas around nature, seasons, colour, design, pests, flowering shrubs, containers, and much more. £17.99.
A pair of these thorn resistant leather gauntlet gloves from Harrod Horticultural are a great investment for working with rose bushes, brambles and thorny shrubbery, providing protection for hands and forearms, and they’re British-made. £32.95
The Big Ben frame from Suttons is perfect for climbing beans, sweet peas, cucumbers, gourds, squashes and melons. £129.99
A good pair of secateurs is always useful. This Kew Gardens ratchet anvil pair is suited to cutting thicker, harder branches and comes with a 10 year guarantee. £26.49
A seed ruler and dibblet set helps when planting out seeds and small seedlings, giving perfect spacing for everything from peas and beans to cauliflowers. You won’t know what you did without it. £26.95
Now that the temperature has dropped it’s tempting to lock up the garden shed and head indoors, but a few hours of preparation now for the cold winter months gives you a head start when spring arrives, so that you can get busy planting rather than clearing out plants that haven’t survived the winter.
Continue tidying the borders
Continue clearing dead plants and cutting back perennials (but don’t be too tidy – seed heads are good for insects). Clear away debris that may harbour slugs and snails and rake up the last of the autumn leaves and make leaf mould with them. Once tidied, spread manure or a mulch to protect plants from hard frosts.The worms will work it in for you and your plants will come back happy and healthy next spring.
Fork over vacant ground, turning soil several times to expose any soil pests to birds.
Move containers to more sheltered positions close to the wall of the house, and use pot feet to aid drainage. Bubble wrap or horticultural fleece helps prevent contents from freezing solid. Protect potentially tender plants, such as hardy fuchsias, with a deep mulch. Truss up tree fern foliage with straw tied around with string. Check stakes and ties on newly-planted trees.
Clean out gutters, downpipes and drains. Clean and disinfect water butts.
Wash your tools and sharpen those that need it. Dry thoroughly and oil metal parts to prevent rust. Oil wooden handles with linseed oil.
Remove all rubbish from the greenhouse and disinfect the staging. Scrub off any shade paint and ventilate to dry thoroughly. Wash pots and seed trays.
Sheds, Fences and Decking
Inspect for loose boards and posts. Check roofing felt and make minor repairs.
Lag taps and water pipes. Roll up the hosepipe and put it away
Clear ponds of leaves and rubbish and add to the compost heap. Float a rubber ball on the surface (should ice form you can remove it and leave a breathing hole for fish, or melt a hole by standing a hot saucepan on the ice for a few minutes).
These quintessential winter evergreens are perfect backbone garden plants, evergreen, unfussy, suitable for any soil and and providers of fruits and berries for hungry birds. Both plant families offer a huge range of varieties. As Christmas approaches, it’s traditional to celebrate the season by bringing armfuls of foliage and berries into the house, perhaps to make a wreath for the front door, or table decorations and flower arrangements.
Hollies will grow in shade but prefer some sun. All hollies are spiny, so are a good choice for a secure boundary hedge. They’re typically either male or female, so it’s essential to plant a partner nearby to ensure they bear berries. If you only have room for one, then choose a haemaphrodite such as Ilex Aquifolium Pyramidalis.
The yellow berries of Ilex aquifolium ‘Bacciflava’ (f) display beautifully against its glossy dark green leaves, whereas the Ilex Silver Queen (m) (male – don’t be fooled by the name) has creamy-white margins and dark olive-green centres.
For variegated foliage and abundant red berries Silver Milkmaid (f) offers light green leaves that have a central cream splash.
Ivies will flourish in shady areas where few other plants thrive, and can be grown as groundcover, as well as up a support. They can also be grown in pots, tubs and hanging baskets, under shrubs or as a climber to cover dead tree trunks or the walls of outbuildings. Once established, they’re a doddle to grow but need to be kept in check with regular pruning to prevent them from becoming invasive.
Sulphur Heart is a variegated Persian ivy with heart-shaped leaves splashed with yellow. Mature plants bear large green flowers in autumn. Hedera Helix White Wonder offers variegated leaves ranging in shades of rich green to white, and Goldchild has grey-green leaves with bold yellow margins, perfect for lightening up a dark corner.
Now that winter is on its way it’s time to start thinking about tidying up your garden and getting everything ship-shape before the colder, wetter weather sets in. For many of us, this will involve fairly routine work; a bit of hedge trimming, maybe repainting some fences or just dragging the table and chairs into a shed.
But now is also a great time for more hands-on maintenance: weak trees, dead branches or dense hedges can all be chopped down to provide extra fuel, or safeguard against severe weather damage.
In preparation for the winter it’s worth considering what jobs in the garden need doing and what machinery you might need. Featured below we give a few suggestions for what we see as well priced, reliable choices for some winter essentials.
It’s a good idea to have a decent chainsaw on-hand at all times, just to make sure that you can tidy up overhanging branches or clear fallen trees after a storm. Chainsaws can also be used to cut firewood into manageable chunks, and they’re certainly a lot more convenient than an old-fashioned axe!
Picking out a good chainsaw can be challenging though; particularly if you’re not sure how much power you need, or what size of saw blade is best suited to light maintenance and clean-up.
Despite its relatively small (38cc) engine, this fantastic little saw is more than capable of tackling medium-large branches. It’ll happily chomp its way through your log pile too. Fantastic for prepping a pile of firewood as it’s so easy to use.
It’s light – probably much lighter than you’re expecting – weighing just 4.7kg (or 5 bags of sugar). It features vibration-dampening technology as standard, which makes it nice and easy to manoeuvre, and ensures that you can use it for longer tasks without suffering through the usual combination of aching wrists and a sore back.
The Husqvarna 236 is nice and easy to maintain too: Simple tasks like chain replacement can be carried out with the help of You Tube tutorials, and the only other routine tasks are the usual filter replacements and oil changes. Of course, you can always bring it to us at Melksham Groundcare Machinery for any chainsaw servicing.
This saw is slightly larger than the Husqvarna 236, which does mean that it:
Uses more fuel
Makes more noise
Weighs a little more
That said, the Husqvarna 135 will carve through wood like a hot knife through butter, and it’s more than capable of tackling any task you throw its way. It does boast some user-friendly features too: The pull cord has been optimised for home use and it has the same vibration-dampening technology you’ll find on the 236.
Husqvarna have incorporated their own, special X-Torq® technology in the engine too, which means that it produces less emissions than comparable 40-50cc petrol chainsaws, so better for the environment!
All in all, the Husqvarna 135 is a great choice for people with a lot of trees to manage, and it’s often used for light commercial applications too.
It’s also worth thinking about generators this winter: Volatile weather, heavy snow and high winds can keep the power off for hours at a time, particularly if you live in a rural area. It’s a good idea to have some kind of backup in case of emergency.
A petrol generator might seem like overkill, particularly if you’ve done just fine depending on the national grid in the past. That said, climate change, increasingly stormy weather and a definite up-tick in the number of localised power outages have made portable petrol generators much more popular in recent years, and it’s worth considering one if you value your peace of mind.
This lightweight generator has a smaller fuel tank, but it still puts out more than enough power to keep things ticking over during a power cut. It’s also got an 11 hour run time (at 25% load) so it’s great for longer outages too.
Better still, the Sprint 2200 has many safety features including a low oil, auto cut off and a durable roll-cage. It only weighs 45kg too, which makes it a great choice for those of us that need something nice and portable.
The Briggs & Stratton ProMax 7500EA is a great choice for small-scale commercial applications. It’s lightweight, which makes it very portable, and it also has a sturdy roll cage that will protect it from knocks and bumps.
This generator is user friendly and has a fairly generous 15l fuel tank, which means that once you’ve got it hooked up, you’ll be able to fill the tank, and then just sit back – confident that it’ll kick into life as soon as the power goes down. This particular option boasts things like an automatic engine shut off, which protects the generator when it runs out of fuel. If you’re looking for a quick way to get power in a secluded spot, there really isn’t a better option.
If you have a log-burning stove or an open fire, any clean-up tasks offer a good opportunity to stockpile some extra wood for those long winter months. If not, log splitters will help to cut down on waste, and provide a convenient way to break up unwanted wood for easy disposal.
Log splitters will power through your wood pile in minutes, and they’re also great for post-storm clean-up, particularly if you have a lot of large branches to dispose of.
Picking out the right log splitter means you’ll need to choose between electric and petrol models and decide what engine size you’ll need to split your firewood.
This log splitter is designed to chop large logs into firewood, and it’s a great option if you have a wood burner or open fire. Thanks to it’s powerful, 230v electric motor, it’s capable of producing around 4 tonnes of splitting force, and it’ll cope with any log that’s around 37 cm in length, so will split down any small to medium sized log in a matter of seconds.
Because it’s electric, it’s also quite quiet, and doesn’t need to be fuelled before use. As with all electric products, it’s also a bit easier to maintain than it’s heavy-duty, petrol-guzzling cousins.
The KHS 3704 also comes with integrated wheels. This might seem like a small detail, but when it comes to moving 35kg of heavy machinery between your garage and your wood pile, these little extras really do help to make the whole task more manageable.
This heavy-duty machine is a lot larger than the AL-KO, but it does offer a whopping 7 tonnes of splitting force, which means that you can use it to chop up anything from large branches, right through to small tree trunks.
Because it has a 4-stroke petrol engine, it’s also a great option for use on large gardens, where getting electricity routed to a problem area can be a struggle. Of course, the petrol engine does come with its own downsides – including the need for regular refuelling and slightly more arduous maintenance requirements – but if you want something that will definitely get the job done, these downsides are far outweighed by the machine’s pros.
The Mitox LS700BS also features unique, four-way splitting technology, which means that it can turn large logs into manageable pieces of firewood much quicker than a more traditional machine, with a two-way splitter.
It’s probably safe to say that the Mitox LS700BS won’t be of interest to most domestic gardeners, but if you have a lot of trees to manage and you want the ultimate in log splitting technology, the Mitox LS700BS is definitely worth serious consideration.
If you have any questions about the log splitters, chainsaws or generators that we’ve mentioned here or indeed any other machinery, we’d be more than happy to answer them.
To reach us, just ring us on 01380 828961, or use the contact form on our site. A member of our team will get in touch with you as soon as possible, and we promise that all of our advice is offered obligation-free!
As winter approaches you could be forgiven for letting up on garden chores, preparing to batten down the hatches and hunker down indoors for the next few months, perhaps to muse over your garden successes and disappointments earlier in the year, and to think about what you want from your garden next year.
If one of the things you want is the addition of a pond or water feature, this is the ideal time to do any construction and digging, whilst there isn’t a lot of routine gardening to be done. A pond can then be left to mature for several months before introducing plants, which are in any case not usually available until late spring.
Almost every garden can be enhanced by the addition of water in one form or another, whether it be a fountain, cascade, pond or a simple half-barrel planted with miniature water lilies. It brings an extra dimension to a garden, a focal point and an opportunity to introduce style, movement, reflections and the soothing sound of running water.
Factors to take into consideration may be the requirement for a submersible pump to circulate the water, and you will probably need a safe electricity supply, although solar-powered units are becoming increasingly popular. The safety of small children is always a concern around water, but there are ways to mitigate risk; ponds can be covered in strong mesh, and a simple bubble fountain that doesn’t contain standing water is a safe option.
We’ve chosen some inspirational designs to help you decide which watery option suites you best.
As we approach the end of the year many garden creatures start to seek sheltered places to over-winter. Providing suitable sites for overwintering is an easy way to support them.
Build a log pile. A pile of logs, twigs and leaves in a quiet corner will provide a habitat for species from beetles to hedgehogs that help to control pests naturally. A shady area of the garden is best.
Don’t be too tidy. Leave some perennials uncut until the spring. They look great covered by frost and provide food for birds throughout the winter.
Put up nesting boxes and feeders.
By putting up a few insect homes – bird and bat boxes, feeders designed to attract bees, butterflies, insects, hedgehogs, frogs and others – you’re giving wildlife a helping hand and safety to feed and hibernate.
Feed the birds. Put out nuts, seeds, scraps and fat balls, especially in winter when there’s not much food around and later on in spring when they’ve chicks to feed. Place feeders close to shrubs and trees for cover and near to the house, so you can watch them.
Use mulches to control weeds and be careful with chemicals. This will encourage pest-eaters like frogs, toads and song-thrushes.
Help the hedgehogs. Leave holes in fences or newly constructed walls so hedgehogs can come and go from the garden. If you want to feed them try plain pet food, not bread or milk. Check long grass before strimming, compost heaps before forking and bonfires before lighting!