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HOME QUICKLY

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SELL YOUR NEW HOME QUICKLY

FIND OUT HOW

6 imaginative ways to use grow bags in small spaces

Ditch ugly black plastic grow bags for some more versatile versions to help you grow fruit and veg in a small space, says Hannah Stephenson.

If you tend to grow your tomatoes and other veg in unsightly plastic grow bags, it might be time to think again.

Self taught gardener Kevin Espiritu, author of a new book Grow Bag Gardening, offers a wealth of different growing ideas for alternative fabric grow bags, rather than just the typical black plastic ones you ordinarily see.

He says that most available fabric grow bags “are made from recycled plastic, which at the very least means they’ve already gone through the recycling process once and will last for quite a while.” Meanwhile, you’ll be able to track down others made of jute or hessian, which will degrade over time.

The advantages of grow bags

You’ll be able to find grow bags in an array of shapes and sizes, from circular to rectangular and multi-pocketed, which will accommodate the smallest space on a balcony or a tiny garden. And for Generation Rent, they’re also easy to move and cheaper than terracotta and other decorative containers.

“Their portability, flexibility and air pruning benefits effectively delete the downsides of growing in containers that many gardeners face,” Espiritu observes. While plants that outgrow their pots end up with a mass of roots circling the base of the plant, if you use a permeable grow bag, the roots get an air-rich environment low in water and nutrients, which causes the tips of the roots to die, signalling the plant to produce new roots elsewhere in the root system, he explains. This extends the length of time a plant can be grown in a grow bag before it needs repotting.

Of course, if you’re using grow bags on a balcony or on surfaces you don’t want the water to seep on to, place the bag on a high-sided terracotta tray or saucer to catch excess moisture, or custom make a reservoir from a wooden crate lined with pond liner to accommodate a number of bags.

Here, Espiritu offers gardeners with even the smallest spaces some ideas on how to make the most of their grow bags…

1. Stir-fry grow bag

Create your own stir-fry ready bag of veg and greens. “I have one now where you can grow sage, thyme, oregano, coriander and basil – then on the top I have Asian greens including pak choi, Asian mustard, so I could make a quick stir fry simply from that bag, which takes up very little space. If you’re a small-space gardener, that’s a really good bet. That bag would take around 30 litres of compost.

“If some of your herbs, like coriander, bolt (run to seed), it’s easy to replenish. As you are cramming so many plants in one bag, harvest them more often, gently pull them out and plant a replacement into the pocket, so you can succession-plant as the season progresses.

“Alternatively, plant herbs that are likely to bolt in their own bags, to place in a shadier spot during hot weather, to stop them bolting so quickly.”

2. Fruit tree in a bag

“If you are in a relatively cold area, grow a citrus, which you could move in and out fairly easily in a grow bag. To grow a fruit tree, you’d need a big bag that would hold around 100 litres of compost. I would recommend buying a tree that’s on dwarfing rootstock, which is more naturally a small plant. They will live happily in a grow bag for around a decade, I reckon.

“With fruit trees you would need to top dress and feed with a granular fertiliser, because if you use soluble fertiliser and then water, you’ll water the nutrients right out of the bag, which is permeable. I would even mulch the surface with leaves or compost to protect the layer.”

3. Mini allotment

“If you are a renter with a small back garden, you can roll out a large grow bag and build a raised bed in seconds. I like making an artistic vegetable garden, so I have Chinese cabbage in the middle and mizunas in different colours at the sides and it almost looks like a little art piece.”

4. Multiple mints and strawberries

“Mints are invasive, so you need to plant them on their own. I’d take a couple of varieties and plant them all together, then at least they won’t colonise anything else, so you could have a variety of minted teas or leaves to add to salads.

“Or you could plant strawberries, which throw out a lot of runners, in an individual grow bag, so they don’t take over a whole patch of ground.”

5. Balcony climbers

“Grow vertically in a small space, adding bamboo trellises or canes into the grow bag, growing peas, sweet peas and ornamental climbers as well as French and runner beans. You’d only need as much soil as you would in a standard container, but the grow bag will be much lighter.”

6. Perfect for pollinators

“Grow bags can also fill spaces in your border as the season progresses. Fill your grow bag with nectar-rich plants to attract insects to the bed.

“Typically in a small space you want to grow food, but in a larger garden you may want flowers too. I place good plants for pollinators in grow bags near the vegetables, which should encourage insects to pollinate the flowers and give me better crops.

“So, if I have tomatoes or cucumbers that need more pollination, I group grow bags of pollinator-attracting plants that I can move at will. Nasturtiums will bring in larger pollinators like bees, but they also attract aphids away from your vegetable plants.”

Where to buy fabric grow bags

You can buy a variety of grow bags in all shapes, sizes and materials, through stockists of Smart Pot (smartpots.com) and Haxnicks (haxnicks.co.uk), and through online retailers including Amazon (amazon.co.uk) and Crocus (crocus.co.uk).

Grow Bag Gardening by Kevin Espiritu is published by Cool Springs Press, priced £14.99. Available March 16.

7 ways to make a rented house feel like a home

Liz Connor shares some quick and easy design tips that won’t annoy your landlord.

From magnolia walls to that one IKEA wardrobe everyone owned as a student, there are a lot of things that can make a rented home feel like a temporary space.

But you don’t need to own your property to make your place feel homely, and with more of us spending time inside, there’s never been a better time to make some updates.

While you’ll need permission from your landlord to do things like painting the walls or updating the floors, there are ways to get Insta-worthy interiors without wasting your cash.

Whether you’re renting a room or a whole house, we’ve found some temporary hacks for sprucing up your space without breaking the bank…

1. Hang some artwork

A few well-placed frames can really transform a room. If your rented home has white walls, artwork can add a punch of colour without the need to bargain with your landlord about re-painting.

Desenio (desenio.co.uk) is a great place to find affordable, contemporary posters and prints, but if you have a slightly larger budget to play with, we recommend checking out the limited edition screenprints at Print Club London (printclublondon.com) for something extra special.

Make sure you read your contract to find out if you’re allowed to put nails in your walls; if not, you could try Command picture hanging strips (£12 for 10, argos.co.uk), which are ideal for hanging framed photos without causing damage to your walls. Or, you could simply prop your art on a side table, for a relaxed aesthetic that won’t put your deposit at risk.

2. Pot some plants

Scattering leafy green plants around your home can fill a lifeless rented pad with the kind of positive feng shui energy we all need right now. Studies have found that plants can help to reduce stress levels while you’re working from home – plus, some varieties naturally purify the air around you.

If you’re new to the world of gardening, we recommend looking at aloe vera, English ivy and snake plants; three hardy varieties that are fairly low-maintenance and easy to care for.

Your local garden centre is a great place to find inspiration and advice, but you could also try a plant delivery service like Patch Plants (patchplants.com), which deliver everywhere in the UK (apart from the channel islands and Northern Ireland due to Brexit restrictions).

3. Lay down some rugs

Is there anything worse than moving into a flat that has a funky carpet that should have been left in the Eighties? While you won’t be able to rip it out and sand up the floorboards below, you can cover a multitude of flooring sins with some well placed rugs.

We like Made.com’s Bodhi Wool Handtuft Rug (prices start from £269, made.com) which can lend an abstract, modernist vibe to even the most dated carpets. If you’ve got a really busy pattern going on, you might want to cover it with something neutral, like H&M Home’s Textured-weave Wool Rug (£249.99, hm.com).

4. Throw in some textiles

Whether you love colour or are a fan of monochrome interiors, you’ll have probably heard interiors experts talk about the importance of textiles. Fabrics can add warmth and texture to a rental space, and they can also cover up a dodgy sofa that your landlord is reluctant to update.

Invest in throws and blankets with natural fibres, like linen and merino wool, to bring depth to your interiors. You could experiment with different patterns and weaves, too. Layering different textures through the use of cushions and curtains can bring loads of personality to your home, without too much effort.

5. Photo frames add a personal touch

Whether its an unloved hallway or a living room that needs some cheer, a few photo frames with pictures of friends and family can make your house feel a lot more welcoming.

Photos of good times can spark memories and bring you joy, and we like Oliver Bonas’ Aurora Green Glass Stars Photo Frame (£22.50, oliverbonas.com) for spreading some good vibes.

6. Get some one-off furniture

Nothing screams ‘rented flat’ more than popular IKEA furniture. From Lack tables and Billy bookcases to Malm dressers, flatpack furniture has a time and place, but it’s often a staple of rented flats.

Updating your furniture is a good way to change your space, and you don’t have to break to bank to get some unique pieces either. Online marketplaces like Ebay (ebay.co.uk) and Shpock (shpock.com) are a great place to look for cheap vintage items, and Gumtree has furniture going for rock-bottom prices too. If you’re really tight on cash, you could also try Freecycle (freecycle.org), a grassroots movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns.

7. Vinyl your surfaces

OK, so you can’t exactly rip out a dated kitchen when you’re renting, but you can use removable vinyl to add a more modern colour or pattern to your units.

We like JesRose Vinyl (jesrose.co.uk), which has a massive variety of patterned vinyl options for covering everything from furniture and walls to backsplashes, cupboards and bath panels. The vinyl itself is really easy to apply and simply peels off when you’re ready to move out.

Try it in small areas that lack personality, and if you’re unsure where to start, the brand’s Instagram (@jesrosevinyl) is a great place to find before and after inspiration.

12 ways to bring some spring vibes into your home right now

Ditsy prints and blousy blooms are where it’s at, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

As the countryside steadily wakes up and the tiniest buds begin to blossom, it’s easy to get a little impatient for spring to really bloom.

After all, it feels like we’ve waited a long time to see those blankets of yellow daffodils and clusters of purple crocuses, and those bare branches to come back to life.

Of course, it won’t be long before our gardens and parks start to flaunt their fabulous flora, leaves unfurl and clouds of pink blossom lift our mood.

But to bridge the gap with a little floral flair, we’ve picked a bunch of early bloomers to plant indoors…

1. Bike Planter, £25, Next

It’s bit of a cheat, but what could be more quaint than a bicycle basket filled with flowers? Reclaimed furniture isn’t always easy to come by, but this planter has that salvaged, cottage feel we’re coveting right now.

2. Joules Cambridge Cotton 4 Seater Sofa in Navy Combination, £899 (was £999), DFS

A delightful sofa featuring wildflowers and sprigs of greenery, this joyous print from Joules can be spiked with scattered cushions – think posy prints and bumble bees. Plus it’s reversible, just in case you have a change of heart with the change of seasons, and available in a choice of colours.

3. Designers Guild The Rose Wallpaper, PJD6002/05, £71 per roll; Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Co Lily Iron Day Bed Frame – Single – Black, £795 (furnishings from a selection), John Lewis

A striking feature wall of rambling yellow roses, symbolising friendship and joy? We’re in. Instantly uplifting and easy to style, creamy yellow tones can be complemented with dark furnishings for contrast, or paired with lemony decos and ivory furniture. Rose arch or pergola optional.

4. George Home Artificial Yellow Flower Trough, £14, Direct Asda

Wellbeing for a shady windowsill or shelfie, this faux flower trough imbibes thoughts of daisy chains and nature walks.

5. Marie Pouffe – Fabric Upholstered – Green Palm Leaf, £69, Cult Furniture

If you want to play up an indoor palm, add a touch of the exotic to a cocktail corner or glam up a dressing table, this pouffe is perfect for perching on in a verdant green frock.

6. 12 Piece Spode Kingsley Dinner Set, £133, Next

Cheerful crockery can make all the difference, especially with the upsurge in home entertaining in-and-out of lockdown – and dining-in still on the cards for weeks to come. As far as tablescaping goes, this burgundy floral print is timeless and will look even lovelier topped with your favourite bottle of red wine. Includes four dinner plates, side plates and bowls.

7. Greenwich Flowers Apron, £22, Cath Kidston

We love a pinnie, especially one with a roomy front pocket and popping pattern print, without the worry of spills on fresh whites.

8. Orchid LED Light String, £45, Ella James

Orchids are notoriously difficult to grow – but you can still channel their petal power with this stylish string of orchid petal lights. The petals are handmade, and the 2.3m-long string, featuring warm white LED bulbs, is suitable for indoor and outdoor use.

9. Churchfield Kids Toy Box, £109, Cuckooland

If you’re hankering after a dressing-up box to call your own, or simple storage ideas for handbags or throws, this mini statement piece is covered in Churchfield’s Country Flower Florals and makes a lovely addition to any space.

10. Set of 6 Botanical Coasters, £20, Creature Candy

You’ve foraged for the gin and garnish, grabbed a balloon glass, half-filled it with ice – and the only thing missing is a coaster. These British wildflowers will bring you that much closer to the countryside, with 10% of the purchase price donated to Plantlife.

11. Sophie Allport Honey Spiced Lavender Home Scents, from £20 for Honey Spiced Lavender Scented Candle, to £25 for Reed Diffuser, Sophie Allport

Fresh lavender soothes our hearts with its calming fragrance, but there’s always the tendency for it to fade before we’ve had our fill. These handmade candles offer up to 40 hours of burning time, with diffusers and room sprays to spritz and scent surround.

12. Wildflower Quilted Bedspread, £150, French Bedroom Company

Imagine laying down in a meadow of wildflowers with the sun warming your face? We’ll have to wait a while to celebrate those mellow moments for real, but this Seventies-inspired floral print is a comforting and cosy reminder of what’s to come.

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