Garden Advice

The pride and joy of any home - our gardens are the tranquil spaces we love and enjoy. Whether you’re meditating outside with a cup of tea in your hands, or playing ball with your child, gardens are the areas in our homes which require thorough attention if you want them to look good throughout the year. Regular maintenance is therefore a must, as is mowing, pruning, hedging and trimming. But these tasks aren’t always simple or easy. Sometimes, an expert's advice is what’s needed to get your lovely garden looking its best. That’s why we’ve created our series of blogs on garden maintenance - to help you make the most of your garden in a cost-effective way.

Most recent articles in Garden Advice

  • How to Repair Bare Patches on Your Lawn

    There’s nothing worse than having a nicely trimmed lawn with perfect edges that shows thinning grass in places and bare brown patches. Somehow these “bald” areas have appeared and now, give your lawn an eyesore type of look. The main symptoms of a thinning and unkempt green area are spots with scarcely growing grass along edges, pavings or near garden features, such as the bench you like to rest on with a book or along the raised veggie bed, which needs weeding on a regular basis. Also, it’s not uncommon to have randomly located brown patches in the middle of your lawn for no apparent reason. This post will look into the main causes behind the issue and the ways of how to fix your patchy lawn. The most common reasons for a patched lawn Before we get to the effective remedial solutions, let’s see what may have caused your patched-looking lawn. After all, without understanding what’s gone wrong, it’s unlikely that you’ll succeed in fixing the problem. The main reasons for the unsightly lawn patches are: [bullet_list] Insect pests and disease - Be it chafer grubs, other larvae, such as leatherjackets, or worms that may eat the grass roots, insect pests can cause patches on your lawn. Ant nests can also displace grass in places. Furthermore, lawn diseases, such as Dry Patch can provoke discolouration of your turf, due to the soil becoming hydrophobic (unable to sufficiently absorb moisture) and thus, failing to support grass health. Not enough sunlight - If you notice that your lawn is all over on the thin side, this is most likely caused by too much shade. Trees and structures may deprive the grass of enough sunlight, resulting in unhealthy looking turfed area. Lack of nutrients - Poor soil conditions will, of course, affect grass development. Wrong lawn feeding practices that don’t provide the right balance between potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus content in the soil can be also the reason behind a patchy lawn. Compaction - Some soil types compact more easily than others and need regular amendment and care. If the lawn doesn’t get aerated properly, as well, the grass roots will get hard-cased in compacted soil. They need air and unobstructed access to water to promote healthy grass growth.   General lawn care neglect - The lawn may have been established in the most perfect conditions. But maintenance neglect (insufficient irrigation and incorrect mowing) can also cause patches and browning areas on your lawn. Foot traffic - If areas on your turf are affected by constant foot traffic, this will result in unsightly patches. For instance, the grass under your washing line, next to the rainwater collection barrel or near your specially built barbeque may get trodden over on a regular basis, so its growth will get stunted. Pets’ misbehaviour - Both cats and dogs may get into the habit of peeing on your lawn, causing burnt grass patches. Your pet’s urine contains concentrated nitrogen and various salts that can overfeed and damage the turf in spots. Your dog’s love for digging the lawn can also harm the root system of the grass. Wildlife activity - Moles and squirrels are usually the culprits behind the need for small grass repair jobs, sometimes. Moles’ tunnel systems and any overground digging done by squirrels will, of course, disturb the uniform texture and green look of your turf.[/bullet_list] What about seasonal dieback? Most people don’t go for annual types of grass that will naturally die in the winter. But even perennial sorts of turf will experience seasonal dieback in certain times of the year, usually in the cold months. Reduced sunlight exposure, frost or overly wet conditions in late autumn and winter will affect the grass health in one way or another. Furthermore, mild, overcast and wet weather in winter can cause moss to displace the grass plant in small or large areas of your lawn, as well. And even though moss is green and your turfed plot still looks pleasing to the eye from a distance, attempts to get rid of the moss build-up will cause brown patches to appear that will need fixing at some point. In the summer, dieback can happen, due to extreme heat when the grass becomes scorched and yellow. Or lawn areas near trees may start looking thin and patchy, due to the lack of enough light and moisture. The tree’s branches cast shade over the grass throughout the day, for instance, and their roots absorb all the water in the soil, causing distress to the grass nearby. When is the best time to repair your lawn? Spring and autumn are the ideal times of the year to fix your lawn when temperature extremes are somewhat rare. The damp and cooler weather during these seasons will give the grass the best chance to recover. What you should also know when it comes to repairing bare spots on your lawn is that the smaller the patch the bigger the possibility for it to fill in on its own. You see, grass can spread vegetatively and small bare patches may well repair themselves gradually, especially if you water, feed and mow the lawn properly. Larger bald areas, however, will need some attention on your part. Read on to find out what you can do, in order to resolve various grass growth issues with your turfed area. How to fix minor lawn damage As we’ve mentioned above, tiny bare spots on your turf may mend on their own. But if you don’t want to wait around to see if this happens at all and put up with the patchy look of your lawn, you can fix this minor lawn damage in two easy ways. Repair minor lawn damage with seeds Follow the steps below to repair the lawn with grass seeds: This is optional but it’s better to germinate the seeds, first, in a container with moist compost, covered with cling film, in temperature no higher than 15°C (60°F) .Once the seeds show small white roots, you can sow them over the bare patch.Prepare the area, first, by breaking gently the soil with a hand fork and mixing in some compost.Then, sprinkle generously the seed mixture and mix well with the soil. Don’t worry if some of the seeds remain exposed.Tap carefully the freshly sown patch with the back of the fork.Water the area if you’re confident that no rain has been predicted anytime soon.To avoid birds nicking your seeds or a cat disturbing them, place a mesh over the patch.In a couple of weeks or so, you’ll probably fail to discern where the bald patch was. Repair minor lawn damage using turf Next, we’ll share with you how to patch a lawn with turf. It’s an easy process in a few simple steps: Make sure to cut out the damaged lawn area into a regular shape, ideally a square. Lift it with a spade or a flat tool.Till the soil with a fork to relieve any compaction.Place a piece of turf, cut out into identical shape/size from an inconspicuous area of your lawn or use a new piece.Once fitted over the patch, add some topdressing sandy mixture by brushing it gently over the edges of the patch.Press down the new turf with a tool to ensure that its edges merge nicely with the rest of the lawn. Water the area carefully in a light manner, best, with a fine rose spray can. As you can see, fixing small lawn issues is rather straightforward but what should you do if your grassed plot suffers from more serious problems, related to scarce grass growth? How to fix a patchy, weedy lawn Repairing a lawn that is covered in bare patches of various sizes will require a bit more work and an attention-to-detail approach. Gather the following tools and proceed as explained below: Tools you need:[bullet_list] Lawn mowerDethatcher (Scarifier)Leaf rakeWheelbarrowAeratorShovelSpreader[/bullet_list] Some of the above tools come in various operational designs. Depending on the size of your lawn, you can use either manual tools or power equipment that you can buy, rent or borrow. Also, as we’ve mentioned earlier in the post, overseed your turfed area to fix patchiness in the spring or autumn, depending on the type of grass you have. Here are the steps on how to fix a patchy lawn: First, mow the lawn so that grass blades are no longer than 1½ inches.Dethatch your grassed plot with a scarifier to remove thatch build-up, moss, dead grass and leaves. For small-sized lawns, you can use a manual scarifier.Rake all the debris, produced after the dethatching process and collect them in your wheelbarrow.Then, aerate the turf with a power/manual core aerator or hand aerator, depending on the size of the area.Clear up the soil plugs, again, with a rake.Distribute evenly a layer of compost, mixed with sand, over the lawn that is about ½ an inch thick with a shovel. Then, rake it lightly into the core holes.Feed the lawn by applying fertiliser with a spreader. Walk-behind broadcast spreaders are suitable for small and medium sized lawns.Then, overseed the area with a mixture of blended seeds. It’s a good idea to shake the bag of seeds prior to sowing. Also, to achieve an even and more controlled distribution of the seed material (approx. 7 pounds of material per 1000 sq.ft), use a shoulder bag or hand-crank broadcast spreader.Work gently the seed into the lawn by using the backside of a leaf rake.Make sure to water lightly the lawn a couple of times a day to encourage germination and rooting. As you don’t want to overwet the seeds, check daily the weather forecast for possible rainfalls. Get an expert to fix your thinning or patchy lawn Well, not everyone has the time, tools or confidence to repair a patchy grassed area in their front or back garden. This is where Fantastic Services can help by providing you with expert lawn care assistance when you need to. We work with professional and experienced gardeners and lawn maintenance specialists, who know their trade and have the right equipment to provide the service. Furthermore, to save valuable time and effort, you can have all the materials needed for fixing your patchy lawn delivered, upon request. Takeaways As you can see, having a patchy lawn is not the end of the world, right? There are various remedial solutions, depending on the extent of the problem. In addition, you can take note of our final thoughts below that feature some cause-related lawn repair tips on how to eliminate bare spots on your turf: To remedy burnt grass and bare patches, caused by pet’s urine, flush generously the damaged areas with plenty of water. If needed, consider applying pH balancing additives and of course, keep your pet off the lawn.Thinning grass, caused by too much shade, can be repaired by enhancing light exposure. Prune nearby trees and shrubs and avoid placing large umbrellas or marquees over the lawn in the summer.Insect pest problems and fungal diseases need to be addressed by employing a targeted approach. Just overseeding or turfing the bare patches on your lawn won’t resolve the issue.The same goes if you’re troubled by wildlife activity on your property. You can always seek professional advice on how to get rid of moles in your garden, for instance, to put a stop on the critters damaging your lawn. ***Did you find our article on fixing a patchy lawn helpful? Why not share your thoughts with us in the comments below? Header image source: Shutterstock / By Michael Moloney

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  • How to Get Rid of Moles in the Garden

    If you have a garden with plants and vegetables, chances are that a mole is not оn your list of 5 top favourite animals. Even if they don’t actually eat green life, the collateral damage from their digging is just enough to harm the plants and soil in your garden. So, if you have been a victim of a mole infestation, continue reading as we share with you the best ways of safely removing moles from your garden. [post_walkthrough title="Table of Contents:"] Signs of moles in your garden How to get rid of moles Should you get rid of moles? [/post_walkthrough] Signs of moles in your garden Before you start taking measures, you need to make sure that there are indeed moles in your garden. They live underground, hence, there aren't many ground-level signs of their existence. Their main task is to dig tunnels so that they can find food, so whenever they do it, the excess soil is removed and gets relocated to the surface. Those soil piles are called molehills and are the main signs you should be looking for. You will notice underground ridges connecting the different turf piles. As we mentioned, moles are carnivores, so they do not directly damage the plants, but their tunnel digging activity does. When they push their way into the ground, they disturb the plant roots in your flower beds and vegetable plots. Those are the two main signs of a mole infestation and they are most visible during spring, early summer and autumn. Due to the higher temperatures in the summer, moles tend to dig their tunnels deeper in the ground, and their presence isn’t as evident. How to get rid of moles Before you unleash your inner hunter, you need to understand certain rules about taking care of a mole infestation on your own. So, let’s start with: Can you do pest control yourself? Keep in mind that harsh and unnecessary actions against wildlife, even when the animal is considered as pest, may lead to fines and imprisonment. According to www.gov.uk, you are not allowed to use the following things: [bullet_list] self-locking snaresbows and crossbowsexplosives (other than legal ammunition for a licensed firearm)live birds or animals, known as ‘live decoys’, to attract pests (unless you have a licence)[/bullet_list] The BPCA also agrees that the most effective methods that would free you from the mole infestation can only be performed by professionals. Which means that if you do have a pest problem, the best options are to either contact your local council and ask if they can provide you with a pest control service, or hire a company/certified pest control technician. The methods that work On the Internet, you will find plenty of old wives’ tales talking about how you don’t really need professional help, and that there are many easy and humane ways to get rid of moles. Truth is, you do need a professional and there isn’t a humane way to get the job done. In order to understand why is not a good idea to engage in a mole hunt on your own, here are the methods that actually work and how they are performed. Traps for moles The obvious way to go is setting up a trap, of course. Still, there are many factors that need to be taken into account that will ensure the success of the task. These include: [bullet_list] Safety. Yes, the trap can be efficient in catching moles but is it safe for your family and pets? Most of those mole traps are hidden slightly in the ground, with sharp spears or a mechanism that traps the unlucky soul tightly, with no chance of escape. Always make sure that you have taken the necessary precautions, in order to keep you and your family safe. Efficiency. This one is obvious, as well. You need to make sure that the traps are set up correctly and in the right place to work. Keeping in mind how dangerous they can be for other creatures, then, one needs to be convinced of their effectiveness and ensure their efficient application. The price. Sometimes, you will need more than one piece, so this is where the price comes in as an important factor. Longevity. Can you use the traps for more than one season, or you will have to throw them away after only one use? [/bullet_list] Types of traps Now, let’s continue by looking into the various kinds of traps that you can choose from and their different effects. [bullet_list] Killing traps. As we’ve mentioned above, the only secure method is killing the moles. Especially if you have a farm or a big garden, and collateral damage is something you simply cannot afford. John Finnemore is a mole catching expert who has listed all the myths surrounding the whole process, the exact type of scissor trap you will need, and how to do everything exactly. If you want to read more, click here.Barrel or Tunnel traps. According to the RSPCA, this type of trap is the better option for home gardeners, as the scissors kind does not always kill the mole right away. For someone who is trying peacefully to have a small back garden with vegetables, a half-dead mole, caught in a trap, is probably not something you want to deal with. When you hire a professional to take care of the problem, be careful of individuals, who come with an already deceased mole, pretending it was caught in the trap. Live catch traps. In case your conscience is not letting you sleep at night, there are a couple of techniques that will only catch the mole, so it can be released in the wild again. One of those is a pit trap. You need to locate an existing tunnel and put a big jar at the bottom of it. Pour some soil over it, so it’s not too obvious, and check it regularly in case it works. [/bullet_list] Keep in mind, that if you forget about the trap and you leave it for too long, there is a chance that the mole will die from starvation, loneliness, and stress. This is, of course, much worse for the creature than killing it right away. However, if you indeed catch it alive, in order for the whole process to make any sense, you need to release the animal at least 2 miles away from your property, with permission from the owner of the property where you’re releasing it. Getting rid of moles by gassing them It should go without saying, but still, if you are not a certified pest control technician do NOT use gassing agents. They are extremely dangerous if not applied correctly, especially the ones that become poisonous when in contact with water. The results can be fatal for you and everyone around you. [bullet_list] If you are trained and you have confidence in the gassing method, you still have to be careful. Always wear protective gear, such as gloves and a face mask. Follow the instructions and repeat until you are satisfied with the results.Keep your children and pets away from the garden whenever you are using chemicals.[/bullet_list] Methods that don’t (always) work If you find the techniques above a bit too drastic, you can check out the methods below. Even though they may sound like they are coming from a children’s book, many people still prefer to try something themselves, before going to a professional. Results are not guaranteed. [bullet_list] Plant shields. There are some plants that people believe can be used as a barrier against moles, deterring them from spreading their tunnels in your garden. The most popular ones are daffodils, fritillaries, marigolds, and alliums. Another known mole deterrent are the castor bean plants, but there are also said to be poisonous. DIY mole deterrents. Similar to scarecrows that are made for, well, scaring crows, there some items that you can place in your garden, which might drive the moles away: [/bullet_list] Cat or fox poo. The more it smells like ammonia, the better. “Singing” birthday cards. Or anything else that will produce annoying sounds for a long period of time. An open can of smelly sardines. If you are using this, keep in mind that even if it does keep the moles away, it will most certainly attract some kitties.Toy windmills. The idea, here, is that the windmill may drive away the mole by sending vibrations through the ground. [bullet_list] Ultrasonic mole spikes. Most of them are powered by the sun and they are placed in the ground with the base, pushed into the soil, so the spikes can stay in place. They are said to release a high-frequency sound that should chase the moles away. So far so good, but in reality, most of these sub-sonic devices are proved to be completely useless. The waves cannot really travel that far from the source and the moles either completely ignore the sound or they just get used to it.Removing their food source. This method sounds a bit more logical than others. Get rid of their favourite food, which is grubs, and they will be forced to search for it elsewhere. However, the results will most likely disappoint you. Removing grubs from your garden is more likely to become a reason for the moles to dig even more tunnels, further destroying your garden life. Either that or they will change their diet, by going after earthworms and other insects that are useful to the soil. [/bullet_list] As we mentioned earlier, neither of the described “methods” are proven to be successful, so if you want an actual long-term solution, always call a professional pest controller. Should you get rid of moles? Now stands the question. Are moles really this harmful so that the only choice is to get rid of them? Well, in recent years, there have been plenty of mixed opinions about this. Starting off with the fact that removing moles is not a cheap solution. As we’ve said, the only guaranteed option is to hire a professional, and depending on the level of infestation, chances are your wallet will cry at the end of the whole journey. When most gardeners calculate the risks carefully, they arrive at the conclusion that moles are not the end for their garden, and the better option will be just to, well, let them be. It has been proven that through their digging, moles contribute a lot to the health of the soil by mixing its nutrients, turning it, and enhancing drainage. So in the end, it’s up to you to decide, whether moles are a nuisance or a friendly fellow gardener. Takeaways Before you take any actions, think carefully about whether you really need to get rid of the moles in your garden. If the damage is not fatal, and your life does not depend on the plants you are growing in your backyard, consider leaving the animals be. You may try the non-harmful and “humane” techniques, but always keep in mind that neither of them are proven to be effective. The only secure ways of removing moles from your garden are calling your local council or a pest control technician to safely and professionally take care of the problem. And note that according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals, the majority of people who attempt to kill an animal themselves, may breach the law, due to causing "unnecessary suffering". *** What are your experiences with those small, pink-nosed creatures? Do you see them as a problem or just as cute wild animals? Share with us your thoughts in the comments below and we hope you found this article on how to get rid of moles useful!

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  • How to Plant Hanging Baskets

    Hanging baskets are the perfect way to bring colour and drama to a sunny wall or entrance porch. Brighten up a dark corner with shade-tolerant flowers or use your hanging baskets to grow aromatic herbs, salad, tomatoes or soft fruit. Here’s how to create a stunning hanging basket display for your garden in three simple steps. (more…)

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  • How to Get Rid of Dandelions

    Dandelions are the pigeons of weeds. They are everywhere. On the roads, in between the cracks of your driveway, in your flower beds, and overtaking other priority parts of your garden. Dandelions are also extremely difficult to get rid of because of two main reasons. First, their seeds are constantly floating in the wind, which gives them the opportunity to grow their numbers at a very impressive rate. And second, below ground, their roots can reach up to 10 inches in depth, making them almost impossible to pull out. (more…)

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  • How to Soundproof Your Garden from Traffic Noise

    Back gardens are the little utopias we escape to when we want to relax and close ourselves from the outside world. It can be quite painful when this peace is taken away by the noise pollution that plagues bigger cities. Recent studies have revealed that noise plays a detrimental role in our mental and physical well-being. It’s been associated with stress, anxiety and a potential loss of hearing. Therefore, reducing the traffic noise in your garden might be more important than you think. (more…)

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