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  • 12 Garden Jobs of Christmas

    12 Garden Jobs of Christmas

    For December’s top garden tips, we’re adding a sprinkling of festive inspiration that will give your garden a lovely Christmassy feel, and we’re going to keep things as natural as possible. So here goes, with our 12 garden jobs of Christmas, starting with some wonderfully simple seasonal ideas.

    Jobs of Christmas

    Creating a festive look

    1 - Make a traditional Christmas wreath. This is dead easy and, if you’re lucky, you might find most of the ‘ingredients’ in your own garden. First off, buy a floral foam ring – 30cm (10-12ins) or so should be fine. You’ll find them at florists, garden centres, major stores or online for £3 to £4. Give it a good soaking in the sink and use some floral preservative if you have some. Then gather up a mixture of foliage such as holly and red berries, ivy, and evergreens. Cut the sprigs down to size and arrange them all around the foam so you can’t see it. Decoratively tie a ribbon around the middle section of the top of your wreath and that’s it! Nothing says ‘welcome to our home’ more than a hand-crafted wreath! Remember to take it down and soak it once a week, to keep the foliage nice a fresh.

    2 – Get potting. Trees make for great decorations in their own right. Why not put a Christmas tree in a nice pot in the garden? There’s no need to decorate it. Pine and fir are best as they don’t lose their needles as quickly as spruce. Conifers in pots also look good – you could have one or a cluster, to add to the effect.

    3 – Brighten up leafless midwinter trees. Create some Christmas cheer by hanging brightly-coloured baubles on your leafless trees. Use those that are suitable for outdoors. Think twice about lights, however. As well as using up electricity, they also have an impact on light pollution.

    Lawn care

    4 – For many of us in the UK, it’s been an exceptionally mild start to the winter, which means lawns have continued to grow. If you need to give your lawn a trim, don’t cut it too low. It needs to be 3-4cm long at this time of year.

    5 – At the time of writing, the UK was just having its first cold snap of the winter. Did you know that walking on a frost-covered lawn causes damage? So steer clear until it’s thawed out.

    6 – If too much water is the issue with your lawn, you may want to improve the drainage by using a garden fork.

    7 – Make sure the lawn is clear of leaves, which block out light and moisture. This is a constant job during the winter months!

    General garden care

    8 – Check for and clear out weeds from borders and other areas of the garden, but avoid weed-killers. Troublesome annual weeds can be smothered by organic solutions such as bark.

    9 – Check on plants and pots to make sure they’re not being damaged by cold and wet weather. If needs be, bring vulnerable plants inside and put a protective covering around pots. During wet spells, containers might need something to sit on prevent water-logging. Bricks on each side or corner should do the trick.

    10 – This is a perfect time for pruning certain deciduous trees, shrubs and hedges because you can actually see what you’re doing without leaves and foliage in the way. Apple and pear trees should certainly be pruned now. Check the advice for your particular trees and shrubs before making a start on your pruning, however, as some are better left until Spring.

    Plan ahead for 2018

    11 – Plant roses in December, always ensuring they’re in a new area. Using the same area where they’ve grown before can cause disease.

    12 – Soft fruits such as berries can be planted at this time of year and will get you thinking of warmer times ahead!

    And finally, however you spend your time in your garden, enjoy it.

    Wishing you a very happy and peaceful Christmas!

  • November - Keeping the lawn and garden ship-shape

    November … the clocks have gone back in the UK and people in some parts of the country are waking up to a ground frost. Autumn is turning into winter – but there’s still plenty to do in the garden.
    Bonfire Night

    The lawn

    For many gardeners, the lawnmower will have been put away for the winter. But if there is a prolonged period of mild weather this month, the grass will continue to grow and might need a little trim. Don’t overdo it though: the grass needs to be a few centimetres long to prevent damaging the turf.

    It’s important to clear fallen leaves from your lawn to ensure it gets the light and moisture it needs. Remove any fungi that might have appeared.

    Garden machinery and tools

    Before putting your lawnmower, hedge-trimmer and other machinery away for the winter, make sure you give them a good clean first. Allow to dry before putting away. And, importantly, remove any remaining petrol because it doesn’t keep and might cause problems when you next try to start your petrol mower. In fact, a winter service might be in order to ensure your mower is in tip-top condition in 2018. Clean and sharpen hand tools, too.

    Flowers & plants

    November is a good month for planting lily and tulip bulbs, and if you haven’t done your winter bedding plants yet then get cracking now before it’s too late.

    It’s also an ideal time to plant roses, but choose an area of the garden where roses haven’t been before to avoid the risk of replant disease. Established bush roses and climbing roses should be pruned to prevent possible damage from windy weather.

    Check for any flowers that still need to be dead-headed or cut back and you might want to lift movable tender plants and bring them into a shed or garage. Some wall shrubs and climbers will need a helping hand to see them through the winter, too. Tie them to their supports to keep them safe during high winds.

    As with the lawn, remove fallen leaves from your borders and dig up any weeds that emerge, which perennial ones are particularly prone to do during mild spells.

    For those of you with fruit and veg, now is the time to prune your fruit trees and thin out spurs where needed. If you have a vegetable plot, keep it clear of fallen leaves and plant debris.

    General maintenance:

    A winter mulch will help to protect plants and are also good for the soil. Large pots that aren’t frost-proof should be wrapped up to prevent them cracking. Use a good insulating material, such as hessian or fleece.

    And don’t forget our wildlife:

    Garden birds need some help at this time of year. Energy-providing fat blocks in wire cages are great, as are berry cakes. A grain mix will keep most garden birds happy – feeders are best for keeping out larger animals – while fruit such as ripe apples go down a treat with thrushes and blackbirds. Leave a dish of clean, fresh water out, too, but not where birds might be prey to cats. Of By helping our vulnerable garden birds, you’ll be rewarded with the sight and sound of some very welcome visitors during the winter months!

  • Bonfire Night - 10 tips on taking care of you, your pets, your garden and wildlife

    Bonfire Night
    Bonfire Night is a great time for family and friends to get together, share some winter warming food and hot drinks, and enjoy some spectacular fireworks.

    But for our wildlife, it’s a time of noise, damage, danger – or worse. Our gardens would benefit too, if we didn’t inflict fire and smoke onto them every 5th of November.

    If you’re having a Bonfire Night party at your house, there are some things you can do to make sure it passes enjoyably and safely.

    When to make your bonfire

    Build it just before you light it, to minimise the risk of wildlife making a home inside. Creatures at risk include hedgehogs looking for a cosy place to hibernate, frogs, toads and newts. Double check for wildlife at the very last minute before lighting your bonfire – and use a torch so you can see into all the nooks and crannies. If you’ve already built yours, then move it to a debris-free area to give creatures the chance to escape.

    If you find a hedgehog

    Wearing gloves, carefully pick up the hedgehog and move it to a nice sheltered spot under a tree or hedge and well away from the bonfire.

    Save some materials for the wildlife

    Don’t use up all the deadwood and leaves for your fire. Remember, this is what birds and other wildlife use to make their nests and homes for winter hibernation. You can help them by building inviting woodpiles that they can use – but make sure these are a safe distance from the fire. In fact, this is a great ‘diversionary tactic’ to keep them away from the bonfire. Or why not position a hedgehog hutch with clean straw as an alternative home for visiting wildlife?

    Where to site your bonfire & Catherine Wheels

    An open space is best. If the fire is too close to trees and hedges, it will scare away nesting birds and other creatures. It also poses a risk of the fire spreading. Never pin a Catherine wheel to a tree because it’s potentially dangerous and it will also disturb birds. Use a fence post or stake instead, in an open area if possible and 1.5 to 2m above ground so everyone can see it safely. Move bird feeders and other wildlife food away from the bonfire site at least a week before.

    How to light the fire to allow animals to flee

    Light one side of the fire only, not all the way round. This will enable any animals inside to scurry to safety. Always have a plentiful supply of water to hand just in case of an accident to animal or human.
    Bonfire Night

    Put the fire out properly afterwards

    The ashes can smoulder and remain dangerously hot for quite a long time afterwards, even if it looks as though the fire has gone out. The embers can sometimes remain hot for a day or longer and can reignite. Make sure you put it out completely by using water. Also be sure to clear away the remnants of your fireworks as these, too, can be a hazard to wildlife.

    Take care of your furry friends

    Keep your pets safely indoors on Bonfire Night and on nights before and after, when loud bangs might scare them into running off.

    Avoid garden damage

    The best way to avoid scorching your lawn is obvious: don’t build the fire on your lawn! Invest in a brazier or a firepit. Not only are they stylish, but they also ensure the fire is kept at a reasonably small size. Of course, this would also be better for wildlife. Set rockets off from a bucket filled with soft earth to prevent scorching the lawn. When it comes to avoiding wider damage, the RHS recommends leaving a space of 10m between a bonfire and structures such as fences and garden sheds. However, by keeping your bonfire small, this distance might not be quite so necessary. Bark and twigs are extremely vulnerable to radiant heat so common sense dictates you should keep fire well clear.

    Don’t waste all that wood ash

    Wood ash can be a great addition to the compost heap. Rich in potassium and trace minerals, it can be applied to fallow ground and dug in. As it has a liming effect, it is particularly useful in acidic soils.

    Have fun & stay safe!

    And remember, remember … to stay safe. Read Rospa’s advice before lighting any bonfires or fireworks – www.rospa.com/home-safety/advice/fireworks-safety. For further advice on how to celebrate Bonfire Night safely and without breaking the law, visit www.fireservice.co.uk/safety/bonfires and www.bonfire-night-safety.co.uk. Alternatively, you could just attend a public event!

  • Halloween - Give your garden a 'spook-over'

    Give your garden a Halloween ‘spook-over’HalloweenEver wondered how Halloween started? Or how it has evolved into what it is today? We’ve dusted the cobwebs off our history books to find out the story of Halloween.

    And we’ve got some great tips on how you can celebrate 31 October by creating a spooktacular Halloween garden, complete with a perfectly carved pumpkin!

    Halloween history

    Halloween is old, very old! It can best be described as a bringing-together of Celtic, pagan and western Christian festivals.

    The date, 31 October, is the day before All Hallows’ Day, which is also known as All Saints’ Day in the Christian calendar. The Christian festival remembers all the saints and martyrs and the name comes from the old English word ‘hallowed’, meaning holy or sanctified. It was on the eve of All Hallows’ Day that Christian churches would hold a vigil before the huge feasts on 1 November.

    The Christian origins of dedicating a day to saints and martyrs appears to date back to the fourth century but it wasn’t until 837AD, when Pope Gregory III extended it to include all the saints and martyrs, that the day was moved from 13 May to 1 November and named the Feast of All Saints.

    Some historians believe the origins aren’t Christian at all, but are rooted in Celtic and pagan traditions. A number of different theories have been put forward. One is that the festival on the original date of 13 May was originally a pagan event to win the favour of the restless sprits of the dead. At some point, the festival was Christianised.

    It seems likely that many Halloween traditions are linked to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which was also subsequently Christianised. It was held on 31 October and 1 November to mark the end of the harvest season and the start of winter.

    As part of the rituals, the souls of dead kin would be beckoned to attend the feast table and a place would be set for them. Bad spirits would be placated to ensure those attending and their animals would survive the winter. People would dress up and candles and bonfires would be lit. It’s thought that bobbing for apples also took place as part of the festivities.

    These Celtic and pagan elements can be seen in the way we celebrate Halloween today, and the event is now secular and community-based rather than religious.Halloween - Trick or TreatThe mass immigration of people to America from Ireland – where Samhain was a very strong tradition – popularised Halloween in the US in the 1800s. And guess what? It seems England exported trick-or-treating to America and not the other round. On All Souls’ Day – 2 November, the day after All Saints’ Day – poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called Soul Cakes. In return, the poor people would pray for the families’ dead relatives.

    This ‘going-a-souling’ tradition changed over time so that children would later knock on neighbours’ doors and ask for food or money. Which brings us to today, when Halloween is all about ghosts and ghoulies and trick-or-treating …

    Tips for creating a spooktacular garden for Halloween

    Of course, you could buy all of the following in shops or online, but where’s the fun in that?!

    Make your own graveyard

    Dead easy! Simply make half a dozen or so gravestones out of polystyrene sheets or thick cardboard and paint them. Search the internet for DIY polystyrene gravestones for plenty of tutorials – although cardboard is easier and more environment-friendly.

    Create spiders’ webs

    String or rope is easiest, although cotton wool looks great, especially in amongst the trees. Again, check out the tutorials online.

    Bring some ghosts to the party

    It’s amazing what can be done with some old sheets and a bit of imagination.

    And don’t forget the skeletons

    Just one tip for you here: Search online for ‘how to make a paper plate skeleton’. You’ll be amazed!

    Perfect pumpkin jack-o-lanterns: Here’s how

    Buy your pumpkins as close as you can to Halloween to avoid them going off before the big day. Choose one that’s firm and heavy and has an even, orange colour. Check that it ‘sits’ straight on a flat surface – if it doesn’t, you’ll need to level the bottom by removing a thin slice. Or choose one with a flatter bottom!

    The first job is to slice off the top of the pumpkin using a bread knife and to then scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Start with the flesh and seeds in the middle and then the flesh on the inside of the skin. Keep the sides about 2.5cm (1-inch) thick.

    Draw on your face design with a marker pen – three triangles make the eyes and nose (triangle point at the top for the eyes and at the bottom for the nose) – and then carefully, with a small serrated knife, cut all the way through, remembering to always cut away from you.

    For the mouth, cut out the flesh in a straight-ish line about an inch wide, with an upward curve at each end. But don’t forget to carve in a couple of teeth top and bottom in the middle of the mouth. Rubbing Vaseline over the cut edges will preserve your lantern for longer. As these lanterns are for the garden, there’s no need to pierce holes near the top for string handles. For the purposes of safety, use a battery-powered candle inside. Pop the crown back onto the top and you have a perfect pumpkin to go with your Spooktacular garden!

    Happy Halloween!

  • October Garden Jobs

    October Garden Jobs

    October Garden Jobs October Garden Jobs

    I don’t know about you, but I love this time of year. The glorious reds, oranges and yellows of autumn are at their most majestic in October. It’s the month when we get to literally enjoy the fruits of our labour.

    On 21 October, we raise a glass of juice – or cider! – and say ‘Cheers’ as we celebrate Apple Day. Making sure you don’t let your harvest go to waste is one of the top jobs to do in the garden this month.

    Harvest your fruit

    You might have made a start on this in September. If not, get cracking now. It’s possible to store late season apples for several months in the right conditions, so you could have home-grown apples all winter, saving yourself a fortune. If possible, ensure the apples still have their stalks. Store them somewhere that’s cool, dark and has some ventilation – a garage is good. There should be a space between each apple, so make sure they’re in a single layer and not touching each other. Pears and mid-season apples can also last for up to 2-3 months, but pears will need to be checked frequently because they can ripen very suddenly. Remove any fruit that goes off.

    Last chance lawn jobs

    October is last chance saloon for:

    1 – Scarifying, aerating and top-dressing lawns if you live in colder areas of the UK. You can then give your lawn a helping hand by applying an autumn lawn feed.

    2 – Sowing grass seed if you live in milder areas.

    3 – Mowing. Don’t cut too low; the grass needs to be at least 2.5cm (1 inch). This should keep things in order until spring.

    Plant your springtime bulbs

    Even as winter looms large, it’s time to make preparations for better weather in the New Year, by planting bulbs that will welcome in springtime with a riot of colour. Buying in bulk is a good idea. If planting in pots, think in terms of 10s to guarantee a great spring show. If planting on grass or decent sized borders, 100s would look amazing. By planting in October, the bulbs will benefit from the warmer soil before the first frosts, helping the roots to become established. Check the packaging for information on where to site the bulb as some prefer warm spots (such as daffodils and tulips), while others prefer cooler locations in the garden. October is also a good time to plant spring bedding plants in pots or prepared ground, or herbaceous perennials.

    General maintenance

    Getting maximum light onto the lawn will keep it healthy during the winter months, so remember to keep on raking your lawn.

    Give the garden a good tidy-up by cutting back, pruning and dividing perennials.

    Ring the changes by moving or planting trees, shrubs and climbers. And October is perfect timing planting wildlife-friendly hedges.

    Bring tender plants into somewhere that’s nice and warm, such as a greenhouse or conservatory.

    And don’t forget that the clocks go back at 2am on Sunday 29 October, officially marking the end of British Summer Time.

  • Guide your garden through the changing seasons this September

    September. The month that generally marks the end of summer and the start of autumn, in the UK at least. It’s always a busy month for gardeners, as they tackle an assortment of tasks to ensure everything in the garden is kept ship-shape during the changing seasons.

    Guide your garden through the changing seasons this September Guide your garden through the changing seasons this September

    In our latest blog, we get to grips with some of the main September jobs, starting with those all-important lawns.

    1 Cut back on cutting back! September is when you should start to mow your lawn less frequently. Give it a helping hand at this time of year, by raising the height of the cut a little.

    2 Examine: Look for wear and tear and take action now if necessary as September is the optimum month for treatment, giving the lawn time to respond ahead of the impending colder weather. Also check for damage caused by fungal disease or pests.

    3 Treat: Treatment could involve raking to keep moss and other unwanted elements under control. But be careful not to rake too deeply as this will damage the turf. Aerating, or spiking, will help the lawn cope in the event of waterlogging. Using a garden fork, spike your hole 10-15 cm deep and the same distance apart. If your lawn has surface irregularities, you might want to apply a top-dressing mix. The Royal Horticultural Society advises a mix of three parts sandy loam, six parts sharp sand and one part compost or leaf mould. Apply 2-3kg per sq m (4.4-6.6lb per 10 sq ft), working the dressing in well with the back of a rake. The result is better rooting and thicker turf. If you purchase a ready mix, be sure to follow the instructions on the pack.

    4 Feed: Do this after raking and spiking but before applying the top-dressing. Use an autumn lawn feed, as this is high in potassium.

    5 Renew: Early autumn is a great time to create a new lawn from turf or seed. Laying a lawn from turf is the quickest option, with instant results. However, using seed is the easier and cheaper way and you get a wider choice of turf. Which option you decide will be down to your own requirements.

    There are other gardening tasks to tick off in September, too.

    Fruit & veg:

    If you grow fruit or veg, now’s the time to reap your rewards! We all love harvest time, especially when there’s a healthy crop of berries, apples, pears, tomatoes, potatoes and the like to bring to the table. Enjoy!

    Flowers:

    September is the time to sow hardy annuals and plant new perennials. Also cut back and prune your flowers and divide those herbaceous perennials that have become overgrown and ‘clumpy’. This will encourage fresh and healthy growth next year. Take cuttings of tender perennials and if you don’t have a greenhouse, you can use a nice bright windowsill to grow them on. Bring other non-frost hardy perennials indoors. If you’re troubled by pesky perennial weeds, then tackle them now as they’re vulnerable at this time of year. Use weed-killer containing glyphosate but remember to protect valued plants with plastic sheeting.

    Trees & shrubs:

    Prune late summer flowering shrubs and give evergreen hedges their final pre-winter trim. You can now also plant and move trees and shrubs to give them a head start in time for next spring. Also give your plants and shrubs a liberal soaking. The soil will absorb it better, before the onset of colder weather. Start to prepare ahead for another great year in the garden by planting spring flowering bulbs.

    General maintenance:

    Cover any garden ponds with netting to keep out fallen leaves during the winter months and clear dead leaves away as soon as you can to avoid disease in the garden.

    And finally …

    Once you’ve done your September jobs, you can put your feet up with a cuppa and dream of spring … preferably with a nice portion of pudding made with all that lovely autumn fruit you’ve just harvested!

  • The Wembley turf: Our top 10 ‘Did You Knows’

    The Wembley turf: Our top 10 ‘Did You Knows’

    With England’s first home game of the football season taking place against Slovakia in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley on 4 September, we thought we’d take a look at some fascinating facts and stats about the stadium’s hallowed turf.

    And while most of the footy facts might be quite well-known, the same can’t be said about the pitch itself.

    For example, did you know that …

    1. The Wembley pitch has a Desso Grassmaster system which was introduced to overcome early problems with the pitch after the new stadium was opened in 2007. The technology combines synthetic grass with the real Wembley grass and uses a SubAir system, integrated undersoil heating and artificial lighting.

    2. The system means that even during very cold spells, the soil temperature can be kept at a constant 17 degrees, ensuring a world class playing surface.

    3. It took almost two weeks to insert over 48,000km of synthetic thread into the turf.

    4. Each strand of synthetic grass has six blades, so amongst the real Wembley grass, there are 120 million blades of Desso Grassmaster, which were inserted into the ground using long needles.

    5.Wembley’s real grass is a 100% ryegrass mix that’s exclusive to Wembley and is called Wembley Special Mix.

    6. The initial pitch problems at the new stadium were caused by the stadium’s microclimate due to its enclosed structure and because it’s in complete shade between late September and late March. The pitch had to be re-turfed 11 times in three years so eventually, the fibre-sand turfed surface had to go.

    7. The new pitch is four metres lower than the previous pitch.

    8. The pitch is covered by a protection system during concerts, when up to 25,000 people stand on the pitch area.

    9. The pitch maintenance routine includes daily cutting; weekly sub-surface aeration to control moisture content and oxygen levels in the roots; a fertiliser schedule; and the use of artificial lights to encourage growth.

    10. The system’s technology sends up-to-the-minute information to head groundsman Karl Standley’s mobile phone on pitch temperature, moisture levels, salinity and humidity.

    And, for our footy fans, here are four more facts about Wembley:

    The first match at the original Wembley Stadium was the FA Cup Final in April 1923, when Bolton Wanderers beat West Ham United 2-0 in the famous White Horse Final, so-named because a mounted policeman went onto the pitch to help clear the crowds. The game had not been ticketed and an estimated 200,000 fans turned up. Oops!

    The most famous game was, of course, the 1966 World Cup Final when Geoff Hurst became the only player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup Final as England beat West Germany 4-2 after extra time. Since then it’s been 51 years of hurt for fans of England’s senior side, and counting ...

    The last game at the old Wembley was a 1-0 defeat against Germany in October 2000. The stadium and famous Twin Towers were then demolished to make way for the new Wembley Stadium featuring its iconic arch.

    This is the 10th anniversary of the new stadium being opened.

    In six years’ time, we’ll be celebrating 100 years of Wembley Stadium. So many memories, so many stories, all played out on the most famous blades of grass in the world!

  • Cricket pitches: An easy guide on why they behave like they do

    Cricket pitches: An easy guide on why they behave like they do Cricket pitches: An easy guide on why they behave like they do

    Cricket pitches: An easy guide on why they behave like they do

    A little bit of sporting history is being made this summer, with the first day/night cricket test match ever to be played in England taking place at Edgbaston in Birmingham from 17-21 August.

    The England v West Indies match will be played between 2pm and 9pm, not the usual time of 11am to 6pm.

    It sparked a discussion here about how it might affect the wicket and how it plays over the full five days. And that got us to thinking: What makes some pitches good for batting while others are more helpful to bowlers? And what makes for a seaming or a spinning pitch?

    There are other factors at play as well as the pitch. How a wicket plays can also be affected by weather conditions and the state of the ball, ie if it’s a shiny new ball, or a ball that’s shiny and hard one side and worn on the other, or a 70-over ball that’s completely soft and worn.

    And, of course, how the bowlers use their skills in manipulating the ball is the No 1 factor.

    With these caveats in mind, and avoiding all of the scientific gobbledegook you can find elsewhere, here’s a simplified explanation of the key principles of how and why a cricket pitch behaves the way it does:

    Pace: Why are some pitches traditionally good for fast bowlers?

    Hard cricket pitches – such as the WACA ground in Perth, Australia - help the ball to fly off the surface at pace and with good bounce. But pitches with some green in them can also be fast as they allow the new ball to skid off the surface.

    Seam & swing movement: How does the pitch contribute to it?

    Cricket pitches with more grass on them assist swing bowling (ball moves in the air) and seam bowling (ball moves off the seam after pitching) by causing the ball to behave more erratically. It’s not just the extra grass that does this, but the moisture in the pitch.

    Spin: What creates a spinning wicket?

    Cricket pitches generally start to spin when they’ve become worn and dusty, so spinners tend to have an increasing role to play as the game progresses. A dry, worn pitch will develop cracks that the spin bowler can pitch the ball into. However, the ball will also spin on a pitch that has moisture in it and then starts to dry out.

    Why is this even important? Here’s why …

    Captains and coaches can select their team based on what the wicket is telling them. And the big question for any cricket captain who wins the toss is: Shall we bat first or bowl first? Over a 5-day test match, assessing the wicket at the outset can be fraught with peril. Their decision will also be influenced by the weather conditions. But, as a very basic rule of thumb, here’s what generally happens:

    Dry conditions and dry wicket = bat first. It also means they get to bowl last on a potentially spinning wicket.

    Overcast conditions and a pitch with some green and moisture in it = bowl first to get the most out of favourable conditions.

    Clear as mud? Quite possibly. But reading a cricket pitch isn’t an exact science, far from it. It all adds the air of mystery and sheer unpredictability of the game. And we wouldn’t want it any other way!

  • 8 top tips on keeping your lawn healthy during the summer

     

    8 top tips on keeping your lawn healthy during the summer Beautiful view on a lawn in sunny day, fresh green grass lawn in sunlight, landscaping in the garden, beauty of summer season

    .

    August: Long hot days, fun in the sun, summer holidays with family and friends. What’s not to love?

    But for our lawns, this is the time of year when they can really struggle without some regular TLC.

    The good news is that most lawns will recover fully from a drought or a dry spell. Even if lawns turn brown and dry during the summer months, they usually recover as soon as the rains return.  It would take an extremely severe drought to kill off your lawn completely.

    However, it’s still advisable to do a few simple things to protect your lawn from the worst effects of dry weather.

    We’ve compiled a list of 8 top tips to help your lawn survive and thrive.

    1 – Don’t mow so low

    Raising the height of the cut helps to avoid weakening the grass.

    2 – Mow less frequently

    Allow your grass to grow a bit longer. You could even include an area of butterfly and bee-friendly meadow flowers and just sit back and enjoy them during the height of summer.

    3 – Don’t be so tidy

    Yes, you did read that correctly! Avoid the temptation to clear away the grass clippings when you mow as they will act as mulch and help to retain any moisture in the soil for longer. Take care to ensure the clippings are nice and small so that they don’t smother and damage the grass.

     4 – Give your lawn a drink

    Water the lawn every 7-10 days (if water restrictions permit), but don’t over-do it. Too much water isn’t just wasteful, it’s potentially damaging. It also makes the lawn less drought-tolerant, so in the event of a hosepipe ban, when watering isn’t an option, it will deteriorate more rapidly.

    5 – Get your timings right

    Water your lawn early in the morning or late in the evening. Watering in the hottest part of the day will increase evaporation.

    6 – Nip it in the bud

    Water when the soil gets dry, but before the grass starts to change colour. The grass will usually stop growing and start to go brown when the top 10cm of soil dries out.

    7 – Use your fork

    If the ground has become very hard, aerate it with a fork before watering to help the water to sink in.

    8 – Work out how much water your lawn needs

    Ensure that the water reaches a depth of 10cm. You can do this by testing some areas a few hours after watering. You’ll soon learn how much water your lawn needs and how long to leave your sprinkler on.

    9 … And relax!

    We thought we’d add this 9th tip because this is the time of year to be out enjoying your garden and making the most of the summer weather.

    If you follow the dry weather advice, there’s every chance you won’t need to repair or relay your lawn in the autumn. If you have encountered problems, then you might want to consider relaying your lawn with drought-resistant grass mixes.

    And remember: Prevention is better than cure. By having a maintenance programme this autumn and next spring, your lawn will be in great shape for summer 2018, too.

    Ask our experts: Get in touch to learn how to achieve the best height cut from your mower during a dry spell.

  • The Wimbledon look - here’s how they do it!

    Tnethe Wimbledon look - here’s how they do it! 

    For the next two weeks all eyes will be focused on the most famous lawn in world sport.

    It’s Wimbledon fortnight and we can look forward to seeing all the world’s top players in action: Murray, Djokovic, Federer, Kerber, Halep, Pliskova … and arguably the biggest star of the show, the Centre Court itself.

    We thought we’d mark Wimbledon 2017 by taking a look at some stats about the famous lawn. And we’ve got a top tip on how you can give your own lawn the Centre Court look without breaking the bank.

    So, what goes into ensuring the 18 grass courts used during Wimbledon are in great shape from Day 1 to Finals weekend? Here are just a few facts we think you’ll love!

    Did you know that ...

    • Since 2001, following studies into durability, the courts have been are sown with 100% perennial ryegrass
    • The grass is cut to 8mm during Wimbledon - the optimum length for the modern game, according to scientific researchers
    • During Wimbledon, the courts are cut every day and watered a little each evening
    • The 18 Championship and 22 practice grass courts are tended by a team of 16 full-time ground staff led by head groundsman Neil Stubley - and the numbers are increased to 28 during the two weeks of Wimbledon
    • A singles court measures 23.77m x 8.23m; the area of grass on each of the Centre Court and Number 1 Courts is 41m x 22m
    • How high the ball bounces is determined by the soil, not the grass
    • Nine tonnes of grass seed is used each year
    • The courts have to withstand over 650 matches during the tournament

    But what about the Centre Court’s  trademark stripes? How can we get that Wimbledon look for our lawns? It’s actually a lot easier than you might think, with a range of roller lawnmowers that will do the job nicely.

    It’s all about direction -Stripes are simply created by the two-tone contrasting colours of grass laid flat in one direction and again in the opposite direction. The direction in which the grass is bent causes the light green vs dark green striping effect.

    Atco Liner 19 SEV-2We recommend Atco’s roller lawnmowers, which are renowned for producing a beautiful striped finish. Prices start from around £339  

    In the meantime, we can all sit back and enjoy the best tennis tournament on the planet, played on the finest surface of all - grass!

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