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How to Stay Safe when Visiting the Coast, Lakes and Rivers this Summer

As Coastguard call-outs rise, it's crucial to ensure your day trips are as safe as possible, says Prudence Wade.

Lots of us have been travelling to beaches, lakes and rivers to get some respite from the warm weather and a good day out.

Friday, July 31 saw the UK’s third hottest day on record, and it coincided with the HM Coastguard receiving 329 call-outs – the highest number in four years.

Gareth Morrison, head of water safety at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), says: “Our coastline is a fantastic place to spend time together as a family, especially when the sun is out and it’s hot. But there are also plenty of potential dangers, especially for those who aren’t fully aware of their surroundings and may be visiting a particular beach for the first time.”

Beach days or splashing about a picturesque lake or river make for the perfect summer activity, and there are things you can do to make sure you have a safe day out…

Stick to beaches with lifeguards

Morrison says the RNLI has seen an increase in rip current incidents this summer, where potentially deadly currents can drag people underwater and away from the shore. He says: “It’s important that anybody venturing in or near the sea knows not just what rip currents are, but how to react if they are caught in one, or see someone else in trouble. They are difficult to spot and even the most experienced and strongest swimmers can find themselves caught out, so it’s important where possible to use beaches that have lifeguards patrolling on them.”

Do your research

If a beach with lifeguards isn’t possible, it’s crucial to do a bit of research beforehand – particularly when visiting somewhere for the first time. John Hibbard, CEO of inflatable paddle board company Red Paddle Co, advises you “plan your route and check the conditions, avoiding offshore winds”, while steering clear of rocky shorelines and fast flowing rivers and estuaries. Sometimes an area might look calm and safe, but you never know what strong currents are lurking underneath the surface.

It’s important to have a plan this summer, with the RNLI advising you check the weather forecast and tide times before venturing out, and reading local hazard signage when you’ve reached your destination.

Keep family and friends in the loop

If you are going swimming, make sure you let someone know where your group is going and when you aim to be back. “Tell them what to do if you don’t return,” says Hibbard. “If you are going to be late (because you are having too much fun), make sure you tell your contact, so they don’t raise the alarm.”

The RNLI advises you don’t allow family to swim alone, and to keep a close eye on family members both on the beach and in the water.

What to do if you are in danger

If you do get caught up in rip current, the RNLI’s advice is not to swim against it – it will be too strong and you’ll tire quickly. They recommend you wade instead of swim if you can stand up, and swim parallel to the shore until you’re free of the rip and can head back. If swimming isn’t possible, the organisation’s advice is ‘float to live’, which it says you can do by “leaning back in the water, extending your arms and legs, and resisting the urge to thrash around to gain control of your breathing”.

On Friday, a 10-year-old boy survived being out in the water near Scarborough Spa for nearly an hour by following the ‘float to live’ advice, after seeing it on the BBC documentary Saving Lives At Sea.

It’s worth investing in a waterproof pouch, so you can take your phone out with you and call 999 if something goes wrong.

All the Gear you’ll Ever Need to Make Camping Comfortable

Sleeping under canvas is growing in popularity. But with the right kit, you don't have to rough it, says Sarah Marshall.

For so many of us, the idea of pitching a tent and sleeping outdoors stirs memories of uncomfortable childhood holidays or muddy festivals.

But camping can be a thoroughly relaxing experience – even if you’re a novice – and you don’t need to sleep in a pre-erected yurt or tipi to glamp in style.

Pack a few creature comforts to elevate a camping trip, and you’ll wonder why you ever bothered booking a hotel room in the past.

Jack Wolfskin Exolight tent, from £350 for a one person, jack-wolfskin.co.uk

If you’re planning to embrace the latest trend for wild camping – but want to do it in style – this lightweight, easy to pitch tent does the job. Available in three different sizes, sleeping one to three, it can easily be packed into a backpack and taken on a hiking trip. (The smallest version weighs under 1.5kg.) Although there are few pegs, it’s extremely stable and windproof. The inner tent and fly sheet are also connected and can be clipped to the pole system frame, making it easier to pitch in the rain.

Snugpak Snuggy Headrest, £6.95, Amazon

How many times have you relied on a bundle of jumpers for a camping pillow? Packing a goose down headrest might be a bit indulgent, but this is the next best thing. Made with sleeping bag insulation and fabrics, it’s comfortable, warm and provides great support for your neck and head. Stuffed into a small sack, it’s easy to carry too.

Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Machine, from £75 with case, bearandbear.com

Coffee lovers will agree that one of the greatest hardships of being out in the wilds is foregoing a morning espresso. This brilliant invention provides a solution. Pack ground coffee into the cylinder and screw onto a cup filled with boiling water. A pump action, which can provide up to 18 bars of pressure, produces a caffeine hit with creamy froth to rival anything purchased from a Costa or Starbucks. Worth every penny.

Red Original Changing Robe, £44.95, redoriginal.com

Wriggling around in a tent trying to get dressed can make you look like some sort of contortionist. But who wants to strip down in open air when other people might be walking around? Save your modesty with this towelling gown which works like a poncho. It’s also ideal for using at the beach when changing into swimming gear.

Snugpack Snugfeet, from £39.65, outdoorgb.com

Slippers are an indulgence in hotel rooms, so why not have them under canvas too? These insulated boots will make you feel like you’ve got mini sleeping bags attached to each foot – and they’ll keep tents mud free. Perfect for anyone with bad circulation, who’s prone to getting cold toes.

Nemo Helio Pressure Shower, £112.99, ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk

Campsite shower blocks aren’t always appealing, but that’s no excuse for staying stinky on a trip. Unlike most portable showers, this lightweight sprayer doesn’t need to be hung overhead; rest it on the ground to create enough pressure to wash hair or do dishes with up to seven minutes of water flow each time.

Zippo Rechargeable Candle Lighter, £26.85, Amazon

If you don’t have the bushcraft skills to rub two sticks together, this is the cheat’s ways to creating fire. Fully rechargeable, with several hours of use each time, there’s no need for refilling this device with butane. A windproof design and flexible neck make it simple to use in any conditions.

Simplehuman Mini Travel Mirror, £119, johnlewis.com

Camping doesn’t mean going feral. Emerge from tents looking fabulous with the aid of this 10x magnification travel mirror, which lights up automatically when you approach. The lighting system picks up every line, hair and pore, allowing you to tackle any close-up grooming needs.

Kelty Folding Cooler, from £69.95 for 25 litres, outdooradventurer.co.uk

Taking a mini fridge on holiday might be a stretch, but it’s still possible to have chilled food and drinks at your disposal. Keeping items cool for 36 hours, this cooler is suited to weekend breaks. Featuring cup holders on top, it can be used as a table and packed flat for easy transportation when no longer needed.

Preview Property For Sale Finchampstead

WELLINGTONIA AVENUE PROPERTY FOR SALE FINCHAMPSTEAD

We are pleased to bring you a preview of this property in Wellingtonia Avenue, which is due to go to the open market soon at a guide price around £1,500,000.

Wellingtonia Avenue is a sought after area on the cusp of Crowthorne / Finchampstead in Berkshire.

Take A Video Tour of the Grounds and Setting

This character five bedroom house is set in beautiful grounds of around 1.5 acres and full details will be available soon. For now please take a look at the video tour of the grounds and outside of the property, and we will soon be able to access the property again to obtain interior photographs and video content.

This character home is in a prime location less than a mile from Wellington College.

You can always arrange to view early by telephoning 01252 842100.

Do you have a country house for sale?
We have a waiting list of buyers looking right now.

Children’s Gardening Books to Inspire Young Growers

children's gardening books

As National Children's Gardening Week approaches, captivate your children with a crop of gardening books aimed at the young.

children's gardening books

When the contents of the sandpit are all over the patio, the trampoline has lost its bounce and the little ones are short of something to do, there’s a plethora of gardening books out there with activities to engage them.

In the run up to National Children’s Gardening Week (23 – 31 May), here’s a selection for all ages of children to help them dig for victory.

RHS Get Growing by Holly Farrell (Frances Lincoln, £14.99)

This easy-to-use family guide to gardening covers everything from how plants work to identifying plants, growing easy fruit and veg and getting children to take part in creating wildlife gardens.

If your child is arty, the book offers projects showing them how to decorate clay pots and coasters. If they’re interested in food, there’s an array of suggestions, from how to grow edible flowers to designing a herb garden. And if they are fascinated by wildlife, they can learn how to make a garden for minibeasts and birds, or create a pond in a bucket.

They’ll probably need help from an adult to start them off, but the activities aren’t difficult and should help them reconnect with nature. The book strikes an excellent balance between education and fun.

children's gardening books

I Ate Sunshine For Breakfast by Michael Holland and illustrated by Philip Giordano (Flying Eye Books, £14.99)

Expert ecologist and educator Michael Holland shares this brightly illustrated guide to plants around the world, enabling children to become more acquainted with their leafy neighbours and showing how plants help create everything from rubber to honey.

It features DIY projects for young gardeners including the fun-filled messy business of creating cornflour slime; exploring the effects of freezing conditions on deciduous and evergreen trees; upcycling using jars, bottles and tins as well as collecting seeds from the foods you eat; and how to make a power plant with a potato.

children's gardening books

The Book Of Brilliant Bugs by Jess French (DK, £14.99)

This offering is ideal for little ones who are fascinated with creepy crawlies and want to learn more about them.

Featuring everything from honey bees to crickets, spiders to beetles, it explains how bugs are huge contributors to our planet and can survive almost anywhere, including high up in the mountains and deep underwater.

In easy-to-understand language, French explores the crucial role bugs play at the start of the food chain, their importance as pollinators helping plants grow and looks at the predatory bugs which keep pests at bay.

children's gardening books

Gardening With Emma by Emma Biggs (Storey Publishing, £14.99)

Kids can relate to other kids, right? So this fun guide written by the 14-year-old gardening ace who has her own blog should tick the boxes. With a little help from her dad, Steve, she offers simple projects from step-by-step bug catchers, to growing all your pizza ingredients. In just one year, she grew 68 varieties of tomato.

Raising the coolest plants is also a big focus of the book. She features everything from species that tickle and make noise, to vegetables ranging from the tiniest to colossal, providing lots of useful know-how about soil, sowing, and caring for a garden throughout the seasons, along with ways to make play spaces among the plants.

Aimed at eight to 12-year-olds, lively photography helps capture the authentic creativity of a child who loves to be outdoors, digging in the dirt.

children's gardening books

Under Your Feet by Dr Jackie Stroud (DK in association with RHS, £9.99)

This book for slightly younger readers is awash with fantastic facts about soil, worms and other organisms, cleverly punctuated with illustrations in earthy shades, along with things your children didn’t know about the secret world underground.

Did your child know, for instance, that worm poo in soil helps plants grow? Or that ant colonies can join up to form super-colonies which can stretch for thousands of miles?

The book takes an entertaining look at how animals build their homes under the ground and how plants survive in adverse conditions, as well as how fungi can grow to be the size of the forest.

All these weird and wonderful facts will hopefully prompt your children to seek these creatures out in the garden, from spineless invertebrates to woodlice, spiders and molluscs, as well as seeing the soil and its importance in a different light. Ideal for budding young scientists.

children's gardening books

You Can Grow Your Own Food by Annabelle Padwick (Collins, out June 11, £7.99)

The perfect go-to book for children who are curious about gardening, this new addition to the You Can series is packed with gardening projects and easy tips on how to grow fruit, veg and herbs outside and indoors. The book has space to scribble and draw, so children can design their own gardens and keep track of their progress.

The author founded the social enterprise, Life at No.27 in 2019 to provide gardening and wellbeing-based therapy for children and adults struggling with low confidence and mental health issues.

National Children’s Gardening Week runs from May 23-31. For details visit childrensgardeningweek.co.uk

How to Grow Flowers that are Ideal for Cutting

These are the best blooms for cutting so you can enjoy them outdoors and in, as florist Arthur Parkinson tells Hannah Stephenson.

If you love flowers both outside and in, now is a perfect time to start growing blooms in your garden that you can cut for DIY bouquets later on.

You can dig out old seed packets or buy new ones from mail order suppliers such as Suttons.co.uk and mr-fothergills.co.uk, which have seen huge increases in sales.

Keen to get started? Here, gardener and florist Arthur Parkinson shares some top tips on growing the most colourful, eye-catching flowers, which will offer masses of interest whether you leave them outdoors or cut them for your home…

Dahlias

There’s still plenty of time to pot up dahlia tubers. They need to start off undercover and be kept frost-free, so plant them either in a greenhouse or on large windowsills.

For small numbers, plant the tubers up individually into two or three-litre pots using peat-free multipurpose compost. The tuber only needs to be a few inches below the surface of the pot’s compost.

If the compost is moist to the touch then you will not need to water the tubers until they send up their first few shoots, as this will be enough to stir them into growth. Overwatering growing dahlias can cause them to rot.

If you really want to go to town with dahlias, the quickest way to pot lots of them up is to crate plant them. Plastic crates can be lined with old, pierced compost bags and into each six tubers can be planted together.

Once they are large and growing well, you can take each plant from the crate like slices of cake and transplant them into large containers or out into the garden.

Hardy annuals

You can sow hardy annuals now, these include calendulas, cornflowers and borage. It is too early to sow most fast half hardy annuals such as cosmos, as it is better to sow these from mid-April.

If you are growing on a windowsill then keep your seedlings cool and put them outside on mild days to prevent them getting leggy, bringing them inside at night until they begin to grow their adult leaves.

Sweet peas

Pinch out sweet peas if you sowed them over the winter. Once they look strong with several pairs of leaves, pinch out the growing tip with your thumb and forefinger. This encourages the seedlings to grow sideshoots that will flower well.

If you haven’t sown sweet peas yet you still can sow them. Those that are seedlings now will be ready shortly to be planted out in their final positions. Dig in as much well-rotted manure that you can, as sweet peas are very hungry plants.

Staking

The mild winter is seeing the sap quickly rise in many trees. Now is the time, if you haven’t already, to secure a source of hazel and silver birch for pea sticks and poles if you can.

Birch is often found to have self-seeded itself along roads in urban places, so you may spot it on your one walk a day. However, you could also use the prunings from apple trees, or paint old bamboo canes a good deep green or even a Moroccan blue to add to a display of dahlias.

Alternatively, use mail order willow sticks that are dried and preserved, so that they can’t root but look very nice in the garden. Hessian pea and bean netting can be draped over canes for sweet peas too.

Mulch

Feed your borders and beds with a good two-inch mulch using homemade compost. This will feed the soil for the season ahead. Online suppliers are still delivering although garden centres are closed.

Dahlias, cosmos and sunflowers will grow well on soil that is enriched. Don’t dig it into your soil but spread it thickly and let the worms do the work for you.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR GARDEN DOG-FRIENDLY

dog friendly garden

RHS Chelsea Flower Show designer and dog-lover Sam Ovens offers tips on ensuring your garden is a dog-friendly space. By Hannah Stephenson.

So often, pets are considered a bit of a nuisance among gardeners, who don’t really appreciate their lawn being dug up by pooches burying their bones, or bounding through their flowerbeds.

But award-winning Chelsea designer Sam Ovens, a dog owner himself, is adamant gardeners and their pets can share outdoor space in harmony.

He’s teamed up with the Animal Health Trust (aht.org.uk) to share top tips on how you too can create a dog-friendly garden for your pooch…

dog friendly garden

What plants may be beneficial to dogs and stimulate interest on all sides?

Ovens suggests: “For me, a dog-friendly garden can be beautiful – dogs love to explore and I think actually a plant-filled garden is great place to investigate and play.

“Care just needs to be taken to ensure the plant selection is robust and will bounce back when our doggy friends decide to take short cuts across the borders!

“Choose robust plants, as well as ornamental grasses like miscanthus and pennisetum, but in any case, beware of spikes and thorns, particularly at eye level,” he adds. “For something both dog and owner can enjoy, plant herbs like oregano, fennel and nepeta, all good, safe choices.”

dog friendly garden

Which design ideas could be incorporated into a dog-friendly space?

“Dogs will enjoy a shady spot for those hot summer days, and different textures, from paving and grass to cobbles and mulch. Also, a clear path around or through the garden space for the dog to run around, fresh water to keep dogs hydrated and cool, but with shallow sloping edges so they can easily get in and out, and herbs and other scented plants that smell great,” says Ovens.

dog friendly garden

Anything to avoid that’s likely to be trashed by a boisterous dog?

“Boisterous dogs can damage young and delicate plants, either by digging them up or running through them. It’s best to avoid small and delicate plants that are slow growing, as these will struggle to recover from the rough and tumble of dog play,” says Ovens. “Planting larger and more established plants than normal is also wise, as established plants are more resilient.”

dog friendly garden

Any features both dog and human can enjoy in unison?

“I think sensory elements are great, as they are stimulating for both man and dog,” he suggests. “A simple water feature set among planting can provide a natural sound that’s as calming for dogs as it is for us. It’s also a source of water for thirsty dogs, as well as an attractive thing to sit and watch.”

Other elements enjoyable to human and dog include scented plants, as well as natural sounds from ornamental grasses and bamboo, which create a calming environment.

dog friendly garden

What else should you avoid in a dog-friendly garden?

Heather Covey, head of internal medicine at the AHT small animal clinic, advises: “When planning a garden, remember that our dogs are great scavengers and can find a number of things to eat, many potentially dangerous to your dog.

“Certain plants, such as foxgloves and delphiniums, are toxic. Be careful with bulbs which can be dug up and eaten, as these can cause stomach upsets and in some cases severe irritation of the mouth and throat.

“Make sure your dog doesn’t eat snails and slugs, as these can cause lung worm (a serious condition in your dog) and instead of using slug pellets, use the old remedies for slug prevention, such as eggshells and copper tape.

dog friendly garden

Don’t forget about your compost heap, she adds.

“This can contain food scraps, such as avocados, grapes and onions which, although may be tempting to your pet, can be harmful.

“Your compost heap can also contain mould toxins, which if ingested can have worrying neurological or liver side-effects. If you want to compost at home, then a sealed bin is a good idea. Finally, if an owner is concerned about their animal’s health, they should always consult their vet.”

These are the Best Garden Shows and Festivals to Visit in 2020

2020 garden shows and festivals

Put a date in your diary to visit these inspiring and informative plant-filled shows and events

If you’re looking for inspiration, colour, or just a lovely day out, there are plenty of flower shows and other horticultural events to mark on your calendar this year.

Here’s a look at some of the best and brightest gardening shows and festivals on the line-up for 2020…

2020 garden shows and festivals

Daffodil delights

To mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Wordsworth, four main RHS gardens, Wisley, Rosemoor, Harlow Carr and Hyde Hall, have planted enough bulbs to make each spring garden a sight to behold.

Meanwhile, in Buckinghamshire, Cliveden is staging its daffodil spectacular The Gilded Gardens (Feb 29-May 1) for the second year.

Inspired by the 24-carat gilded golden gates on the Sounding chamber and the hundreds of thousands of daffodils across the estate, you’ll be able to see narcissi springing up throughout March and April and rolling displays of rarer, pot-grown varieties will be on show in the Ferneries. For details visit nationaltrust.org.uk.

2020 garden shows and festivals

Irish blooms

If you’re in Dublin, don’t miss Bloom (May 28-June 1), a show spanning 70 acres of Phoenix Park, with show gardens and other attractions based on other successful shows such as Chelsea and Hampton Court.

Launched in 2007 by Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board), Bloom has numerous highly creative gardens and plant displays which are used to inspire and excite the public about gardening and garden design.

The show gardens, created by some of Ireland’s top garden designers, are the heart and soul of the five-day festival which not only focuses on flowers but also on the best food Ireland has to offer. For details visit bloominthepark.com.

2020 garden shows and festivals

Scottish celebration

This year, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is celebrating its 350th birthday with a year of community celebrations. Don’t miss the exhibition Think Plastic (Jan 31-Apr 26), which brings together local artists and scientists to explore the possibilities of transferring sustainable, recyclable and environmentally-responsible plastics from the laboratory into craft and arts productions.

2020 garden shows and festivals

Garden party and giant veg

The Malvern Shows (Spring Festival, May 7-10; Autumn Show, Sep 26-27) in Worcester should be on every gardener’s calendar. The RHS Malvern Spring Festival celebrates its 35th anniversary this year with a new feature, Music At Malvern, with two spectacular evenings of performances featuring the 54-piece English Symphony Orchestra led by Lesley Garrett, performing a special VE Day commemorative concert on May 8.

The following night, Radio 2’s Jo Whiley will be hosting the Gardeners’ Party as she plays music throughout the decades, chosen by the show’s special guests. This will be along with the show’s stellar lineup of experts, including Alan Titchmarsh, Carol Klein, Joe Swift, Jonathan Moseley and the new show ambassador, Chris Beardshaw.

In the autumn show, grow-your-own fans shouldn’t miss the ever-popular popular CANNA UK National Giant Vegetables Championship, top quality plant specialists in the Floral Marquee and a throwback to Forties and Fifties Britain in the Vintage Village. For details visit rhs.org.uk.

2020 garden shows and festivals

Northern show-stopper

The Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate (Jul 14-16), an iconic three-day event and one of the biggest agricultural shows in the English calendar, features spectacular nursery displays, including several RHS Gold medal-winning exhibitors from far and wide. This year the show will be welcoming back floral designer and celebrity florist Jonathan Moseley, who will be appearing daily on the Garden stage, creating some fantastic displays. For details visit greatyorkshireshow.co.uk.

Chelsea perfection

It’s considered the most elite gardening show on the calendar, and this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show is targeting the challenges of our changing climate. Gardens will highlight the future of cities in the face of climate emergency, while there will also be a slant on sustainable materials and growing methods adopted by the world’s leading garden designers and growers. Running from May 19-23, for details visit rhs.org.uk.

2020 garden shows and festivals

TV expert advice

BBC Gardeners’ World Live at Birmingham’s NEC (Jun 18-21) may be a more commercial show than some of its rivals, but it packs a punch with its top-notch TV gardening experts, including Monty Don and Alan Titchmarsh, who’ll be offering advice in the GW Live theatre during the show.

Visitors can admire a range of innovative show gardens and bag a bargain from the many plants and accessories outlets. Less for the specialist, more for the practical gardener, you can bag yourself some bargain plants and get advice on how to grow them too. For details visit bbcgardenersworldlive.com.

Flower power

If you want to see a riot of colour, book your ticket for the Wisley Flower Show at the RHS flagship garden (Sep 8-13), where you will see an array of spectacular blooms, feast your eyes on the National Dahlia Society Show and browse the offerings from more than 50 specialist nurseries selling a range of horticultural goodies.

Learn how to make gorgeous flower arrangements from the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies and enjoy talks and demonstrations in an Expert Zone. For details visit rhs.org.uk.

Orchid mania

Kew’s 25th annual Orchid Festival (Feb 8-Mar 8) will for the first time celebrate the incredible wildlife and vibrant culture of Indonesia – an archipelago of more than 17,504 islands, including Java, Borneo, Sulawesi, Papua and Bali. Indonesia’s landscape is as diverse as the flora and fauna that inhabit it, from tropical rainforests to spectacular volcanoes.

The festival features an immersive journey through the different zones of the glasshouse, where visitors will find spectacularly beautiful orchid displays which each represent an aspect of Indonesian wildlife and culture. For details visit kew.org.

2020 garden shows and festivals

Festival fever

The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Garden Festival (July 7-12) rebranded itself as a ‘Garden Festival’ in 2019 and remains high on the list of go-tos among gardeners for its royal setting, show gardens, floral marquees and trade stands, to buy everything from artisan goods to basic tools.

From contemporary to traditional, its show gardens will be awash with ideas on how to revitalise green spaces, while plants people, celebrities and foodies will be making guest appearances. For details visit rhs.org.uk.

Bulb bonanza

Brighten up your day with a visit to the RHS Flower Show Cardiff (Apr 17-19) to see thousands of beautiful spring bulbs. This year, the show is celebrating its 15th anniversary and to mark the occasion some 15 exhibitors that have had a presence at every show will be there.

The event will also tie in with the Visit Wales theme, the Year of Outdoors. Health and wellbeing will be much promoted at the show, displaying the benefits of of being outside and connecting with the natural world. For details visit rhs.org.uk.

5 Clever Time-Saving Tips for Busy Gardeners

garden tips to save time

Back to work? So when are you going to find time to get all those gardening jobs done to make sure your plot looks pretty?

garden tips to save time

Well, you can save hours later on in the year by making a few changes now to give you that time back when you most need it.

Here are five ideas to give you a head start on maintaining your garden when others will be digging, mowing, watering and weeding every chance they get…

garden tips to save time

1. Use permanent plantings in containers

Plant containers with evergreens, shrubs or perennials that will come back year after year, to save time having to replant annuals with every change of season.

Lavender is a good stalwart, or you could also choose patio roses, which make a good low-maintenance alternative to summer bedding, with a long flowering season. Plant them in a big enough container and they can stay there for several years.

garden tips to save time

2. Consider automatic irrigation

Installing an automatic watering system in your garden will save you hours in the summer months. You can introduce seep hoses into borders and subtle irrigation systems to take care of patio plants.

It may involve some effort initially to get to grips with the timers and securing the hoses where you want them, but it will be worth the effort. Some systems have sensors that are placed in the soil, which can assess how dry it is and adjust watering accordingly.

garden tips to save time

3. Stop weeds before they start

You can save hours of weeding by spreading a thick mulch over your beds and borders, which not only suppresses weeds but will also help retain moisture. Loose mulches such as cocoa shells and compost will provide nutrients to the soil, while bark chippings and gravel will be long-lasting.

Mulches should really be applied annually and should be at least 5cm (2in) thick to be effective. If you’re a busy gardener, a thicker mulch of 7.5cm (3in) of good quality bark chippings should last up to three years, and can be applied at any time, although it’s better to mulch in late spring when the soil is moist and warm but before the weeds emerge.

garden tips to save time

4. Create no-dig vegetable beds

Save time in the long-run by making a no-dig raised bed with room to walk in-between. The soil won’t become compacted because no-one will be walking on it and will negate the need to dig. Make each bed between 1-1.5m (3-5ft) wide, so you can reach to the centre from the path.

The depth of the raised bed depends on which crops you are growing, so if it’s root vegetables you will need to make it deeper, while shallow-rooted crops such as lettuces will thrive in shallower beds.

garden tips to save time

5. Go for a natural lawn

Keeping a lawn looking pristine can be extremely time-consuming, as annual jobs include removing moss and thatch, reseeding bare patches, feeding, getting rid of lumps and bumps and regular mowing during the growing season. So, go for something that will take up less time.

Create a clover lawn for a longer, more natural look. It will need much less maintenance than a grass lawn, needs no feeding and only has to be mown once to remove dead flowerheads. Clover is also a magnet for bees.

Alternatively, go for a herb lawn with a mixture of creeping thymes or non-flowering chamomile, although these won’t stand hard wear, so you may need to cut a path if you’re going to walk through your herb lawn regularly.

Highly Individual Newly Crafted House Conversion £450,000

Plot 1 Castlebridge header image

As the centrepiece of the new T A Fisher Castlebrook development, they have converted the Edwardian and spacious Jolly Miller village pub into four beautiful and very different new homes with all the passion and care they are renowned for.

This lovely building has a wonderful heritage. It was designed by architect Arthur J Steadman, who was commissioned by Alton -based brewery Crowley’s in 1908. So successful was his distinctive design it was replicated in a number of hostelries across north Hampshire. Sadly, although many survive none are today used as pubs.  However, every improvement we’ve made has been in keeping with Arthur’s original vision, the character of this spacious and unique building and its colourful history.

So behind the carefully restored and characterful facade, you’ll discover every conceivable contemporary convenience and the high-quality specification you expect to make the very most of today’s busy lifestyles.

When you deserve something special

If you’re seeking a different two-double bedroomed home with en-suite, integrated wardrobes and so much more, look no further than this stylish conversion.

From its own entrance hall, open plan living/dining room and fully integrated kitchen to the family bathroom and ever-handy downstairs cloakroom, this property has it all.

The living space is greatly enhanced by the French doors from the living room to the rear garden, which really help to bring the great outdoors in.

We think it’s perfect for the downsizers or professional couples who like to entertain and would love a home that’s just that little more special.

floor plans plot one Castlebrook McCarthy Holden estate agency

Take a look at the download brochure to see floor plans and specification.

To arrange to view 5 Castlebrook, and the show house at 6 Castlebrook early in the New Year telephone our Odiham branch on 01256 704851

Next re-open days for McCarthy Holden after Christmas are Friday 27th and Saturday 28th (both 10-2)

This is why you Shouldn’t let Summer pass without Cooking Outside with the Kids

outdoor cooking with kids

There's just something about making dinner out of doors. So, marshmallows at the ready, says Ella Walker.

One thing is guaranteed to ruin the vibe of any summer party, and that’s a parent shrieking across a sun-scorched garden: ‘IT’S HOT – I TOLD YOU TO STAY AWAY FROM THE BARBECUE!’

Usually, there’d be a few expletives in there, a spilled beer, a freshly-bunned burger dropped in the dirt, as well as an overwhelming panic bound up in love and the understandable fear of third-degree burns.

outdoor cooking with kids

Fire and small children can be a stressful mix. But that doesn’t mean it can’t ever be done – and provide an afternoon of fun, bonding and ridiculously good food.

Dawn Isaac, author of 101 Things For Kids To Do Outside (Kyle Books, £14.99), notes that “it’s always more exciting having a sandwich outside”.

And you know what’s more exciting than a sandwich – especially outdoors? A burger. Or a hot dog. And if you speared that hot dog sausage on a twig (OK, a Lakeland skewer) and blackened it over a fire yourself, things are exponentially better. That’s as an adult – just imagine doing it aged eight. Talk about mind-blown.

Chuck in some marshmallows turned lichen-orange as they melt into a tooth-sticking goo, and you just know your kids may never go to bed again. Largely that’d be down to the sugar coursing through their tiny bodies, but also because cooking in the open air – and learning to prep your own food in the process – is quite simply intoxicating. As much so as it is watching the dancing belly of a fire flickering away.

outdoor cooking with kids

“Kids love getting stuck in in the kitchen, so getting them to help with cooking really encourages them, especially when it’s more of an adventure outdoors,” says Genevieve Taylor, grill extraordinaire and author of veggie barbecue book Charred (Quadrille, £16).

Taylor’s all about stretching yourself when it comes to barbecuing too – kebabs, plastic cheese squares and bangers are all very well, but what about cumin spiked falafel burgers, miso grilled aubergine, and sweet potato wedges with oregano? She notes in Charred that “pretty much any vegetable you can think of can be elevated by a little fire and smoke” – and getting kids involved with spicing up BBQ fare is a great place for you to all start.

“Mine have always loved sniffing the jars of spices and choosing what they fancied, which works a treat as they can both be quite fussy,” explains Taylor. “Getting kids used to spices early gets them used to the idea of food from all over the world and teaches them that spices don’t always need to equal heat.”

outdoor cooking with kids

Also, anything that tricks them into taking an interest in vegetables – regardless that it might mean torching them to smithereens over a campfire – must be positive. Think wrangling with butter drenched corn on the cob, or stealth-eating (shock horror) veg on skewers, because if you’ve threaded it yourself, you’re going to have to eat it, right? Even if there are mushrooms hiding amongst the chunks of pepper…

YouTube cook Ian Haste, author of The 7-Day Basket (Headline, £25), says: “My kids eat every single veg there is. If you’ve got them to cook it themselves, they’ve done it, and they’ll try and eat it, because they’re stubborn.”

Add the thrill of potentially-singed fingers, and a few atmospheric stars overheard, and your kids might just scoff everything you brought outdoors in the coolbag.

outdoor cooking with kids

“Fried cheese sandwiches are really popular and so easy to make on a BBQ – you can always leave out any bits they don’t fancy,” adds Taylor. “Getting kids to choose, or at least giving them an element of choice, is empowering and doesn’t mean they feel forced to eat everything.” And talking of cheese, watching anyone – no matter their age – try flame-seared halloumi for the first time is arguably a beautiful (if squeaky) experience.

Halloumi aside, there’s the whole getting into nature, learning new skills and ‘making memories together’ thing too – and memories attached to food have a different kind of vividness to them. Childhood picks them up like sticky burrs (like making flapjacks with your granny, eating jelly for the first time, building a fire in the garden and throwing bananas and chocolate wrapped in foil into the coals…).

outdoor cooking with kids

And of course, wild cooking together means the usual dedicated in-charge barbecue person won’t be all alone wreathed in smoke – you’ll have someone to chat to and share the very tough task of wielding the tongs with. Go forth, and make fire. Just have a bucket of water on standby…

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