We design and build gardens throughout Kent, Sussex and Surrey - for more information please call us on 0800 077 8633

How to Do Archives

  • How to Make Leaf Compost

    Posted on: November 2nd, 2013 by admin

    Posted in How to Do
    So, every year hundreds of leaves fall into your garden and you hate racking them up and finding somewhere to put them all as you don’t have extensive compost bins. As garden designers we are always meeting lots of interesting and knowledgeable people on our rounds throughout Kent, Sussex and Surrey. On one particular trip out a very friendly customer advised of a great way of dealing with those annoying leaves which is so simple and easy everyone should do it and looking at the vibrancy of flowers in her garden she knows what she is talking about! This method is particularly useful if you enjoy being environmentally aware and a bit thrifty when it comes to matters of the garden…and you also want some amazing leaf compost to feed the plants next year.

    Step One : Get Raking!

    This bit is unavoidable I am afraid. I always find it easy to get a big bin, garden trug or other rigid container and lay it on the floor. Rack your leaves into a pile then with a flicking-action put them into your container. When the container is full flip it up and pop the leaves into ordinary bin bags – this is much quicker than using your hands to gather them up of the floor.

    Step Two : Add Water

    Now you have all your leaves in bin bags tie the tops, grab a garden fork and stab several holes in each bag. Untie the bags and put your garden hose in and give each bag a decent amount of water - I find that 30 seconds on full blast is sufficient.

    Step Three : Store Them Away

    So far so good, you now have several bin bags with holes in full of wet leaves! This bit is very easy, all you have to do is put them in the garden somewhere out of the way for a year – I find the back of my shed a good place. Don’t be tempted to touch them or take a peak, just let the natural composting process do its thing and this time next year you will have bags of rich, free, compost to add to the garden from very little effort! Although you now have an idea on how to make great compost for the garden have you thought about adding more planting to make the most of it? Our trained garden design team, which includes highly experienced horticulturists, are happy to chat to you about developing the planting scheme as part of your garden design. Take a look here for more details.
  • How To: Series

    Posted on: October 10th, 2013 by admin

    Posted in How to Do
    The last installment of this garden basics ‘How To’ series can be found here.  With the summer drawing to an end (booo!) now is an ideal time to get some new turf down in the back garden. Laying coming into autumn means the soil is still warm enough for the new grass to root before the frosts but it’s not so hot that you’re constantly watering to keep it alive. Whether you’re going for a traditional or contemporary garden design for example, a well laid lawn provides that softer visual element as well as an area to recreate Wembley of course! It's a garden designers best friend. It’s a simple job to do, the key with anything like this though is the preparation:

    How To Lay Turf

    A reference guide for laying turf Tools Required: - Levelling rake - Scaffold planks (number dependent on size of lawn) - Hand saw (used for cutting turf) - Hose pipe/watering can Materials Required: - Top soil (if on-site soil is insufficient) Procedure: 1. Prepare ground – dig over thoroughly, remove any weeds and large stones/debris. 2. Make sure soil is good quality, add additional off-site topsoil if required. 3. Rake level with no large lumps or dips. 4. Avoid walking on prepared ground by laying scaffold planks as walkway. 5. Lay turf from back of lawn to front in opposite directions, for example first line laid left to right, second line to be laid right to left – ensure seamless joints between turves. 6. Tamp-down each row of laid turf with flat section of levelling rake to ensure good contact with topsoil. 7. Once first few rows laid, scaffold planks can be moved onto laid turf in order to move down the remaining area to be turfed – further ensures that turf is free from undulations. 8.  Use sharp handsaw to cut sections where required – use plank for straight edges, hose pipe for curved cutting guide. 9. Once laid water well. 10. Avoid walking on lawn for 2 weeks and to continue daily watering. 11. If cracks appear between joints as turf dries (in hot weather), use topsoil and grass seed to infill.
  • How To: Series

    Posted on: September 27th, 2013 by admin

    Posted in How to Do
    The last installment of this garden design basics ‘How To’ series can be found here.  With the dormant planting season nearly upon us this week’s edition is dedicated to the always versatile hedge. This element can serve many purposes, for example it’s the wildlife friendly alternative to define the boundaries of your property, create rooms within your garden or lead the eye round a border to a partially hidden sculpture glimpsing through the surrounding planting. It's certainly one of our garden designer's favourites!  Have a think, can your landscape design do with a fresh look?

    How To Plant a Hedge

    A reference guide for planting a hedge. Tools Required: - Spade - Fork - Levelling rake - Tape measure - String line - Lump hammer - Hose pipe/watering can Materials Required: - Well-rotted manure (amount dependant on size/length of hedge) - Tree guards (to equal 1 x per single hedge plant) - Tree guard stakes and ties (to equal 1 x per single hedge plant) Notes: For reference, typical native field hedge mix consists of: - 70% Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) - 10% Field Maple (Acer campestre) - 5% Hazel (Corylus avellana) - 5% Wild Dogwood (Cornus sanguineum) - 5% Guelder Rose (Viburnum lantana) - 3% Spindle (Euonymous europaeus) - 2% Dog Rose (Rosa canina) - Planting should take place in dormant season periods – October to early March. If planting into light sandy soil, plant earlier in period. If planting into heavy clay soils plant later in period (to avoid water-logging). - Plant immediately after purchase, roots can dry out quickly once lifted from ground. - Do not plant in frosty or water-logged conditions. Bare Root Stock Procedure(Refer to numbers 10 to 13 for Root Ball stock): 1. Prepare ground – dig over thoroughly, remove any weeds and large stones/debris. 2. Add well-rotted manure to soil where planting, fork in thoroughly. 3. Place out whips in either single or double staggered rows at a typical spacing of 450mm (varies according to type/size/species of hedge). Use string line and tape measure to achieve straight lines and uniform spacings. 4.  If planting native hedge avoid blocks of one species, mix up varieties to achieve a more natural finished hedge. 5. Dig hole big/deep enough to comfortably accommodate all the roots (test hole before planting). 6. Place plant in hole and back-fill with removed soil, firm in with foot. 7. Place tree guard over whip, hammer in stake and tie-in. 8. Once hedge planted water-in thoroughly. Root Ball Stock 10. As per numbers 1 and 2 above. 11. Dig trench width 2 x size of rootballs, and depth, no bigger than depth of rootballs. 12. Remove hessian bag from around rootball prior to planting. 13. As per numbers 6 to 9 above.
  • How To: Series

    Posted on: July 27th, 2013 by admin

    Posted in How to Do
    Following on from the first installment on “How to plant a container plant” found here, this week we look at how to tackle trees; the framework of any good garden design. You may think it an easy task but there is more to it than you might think…

    How to Plant a Tree

    A reference guide for the planting of trees Tools Required: - Spade - Fork - Sledge hammer or pole-driver - Hose pipe/watering can Materials Required: - Mulching bark (amount dependant on tree size) - Tree compost (amount dependant on tree size) - Bone meal (to aid root production/growth) - 2 x tree stakes (size dependant on tree) - 2 x tree ties Notes: - Planting should take place between October and April generally. - Container-grown plants can be planted any time of the year, but are easier to care for if planted in autumn or winter, as they need less watering than ones planted in spring or summer. - Bare-root trees are only available in autumn and winter. They should be planted immediately, but if this is not possible, then they can be heeled in (temporary planting in the soil to prevent the roots drying out) until planting is possible. Procedure: 1. Dig circular planting hole no deeper than the roots and 3 x the diameter of the root system. 2. Dome the bottom of hole with soil mound to avoid drowning tree once planted. 3. Run fork tips around edges of hole to help root penetration. 4. Fill hole up with water and allow to drain completely before planting. If planting into heavy clay soil this may take several hours – plan accordingly. 5. Break up soil 2-3m around planting hole and dig in ¾ of the compost (quantity dependant on tree size). 6. Add remaining ¼ of compost to hole followed by scope of bone meal. 7. If planting bare-root stock, splay root system around/over mounding in bottom of hole 8 .If planting container-grown stock, remove container, if roots are pot-bound carefully tease fine roots away from the larger mass with blunt instrument of fingers then place in hole. 9. Stand back to ensure tree is in right orientation and is straight. 10. Refill hole carefully, placing soil between and around all roots to eliminate air pockets. 11. Do not overly compress soil with feet, use hands instead to press down. 12. Hammer in 2 x tree stakes opposite sides of tree to support it against prevailing wind – be careful not to go through rootball. 13. Tie stakes to tree with recommended tree ties. 14. Deeply soak tree with water. 15. Mulch base of tree with 50mm depth of bark mulch to finish.
  • How To: Series

    Posted on: June 30th, 2013 by admin

    Posted in How to Do
    Following on from our successful series on "How To Design Your Own Garden" (Part 1 can be found here), we are now going to explore some more basics of a new garden design. If you’re an avid DIYer there is no reason why you can’t perform some tasks yourself. Over the next few weeks I will be posting a concise guide for several tasks such as how to lay turf or plant a new tree, this week we shall start with container plants; the back-bone to any good garden design.

    How to Plant Container Plants

    A reference guide for the planting of container grown plants Tools Required: - Spade - Border Fork - Hand Fork - Hose pipe/watering can Materials Required: - Bone meal (to aid root production/growth) - Compost (amount dependent on size) - Mulching bark (amount dependent on plant size and if required) Notes: Proper placement of plants is critical for long term survival (rather than the short term aesthetics). Consider its mature size, will it be fighting for space and/or crowding out adjacent plants. Think about its requirements in terms of soil conditions, sun/shade, slow/free-draining soil before planting. Finally, consider its place within a planting scheme in terms of colour, texture, orientation and height/spread. Procedure: 1. Set-out all plants within a border prior to planting to ensure the above notes have been considered and accounted for. 2. Dig circular planting hole no deeper than the roots and 2 x the diameter of the root ball. 3. Run hand-fork tips around edges/bottom of hole to help root penetration. 4. Lay plant next to hole, gently tap sides of pot and remove container. 5. Tease roots out from side of root ball to help them spread. 5. Add compost and scope of bone meal to hole and lightly hand-fork in. 6. Place plant in hole (making sure of correct orientation and spacing). 10. Refill hole carefully, placing soil between and around all roots to eliminate air pockets. 11. Do not overly compress soil with feet, use hands instead to press down. 14. Water in plant. 15. Mulch base of plant with 50mm depth of bark mulch to finish (if required).
  • Basic Guide on How to Make a Wildlife Pond

    Posted on: June 12th, 2013 by admin

    Posted in How to Do
    One of the most common features in our more traditional garden designs of late have been a small wildlife pond. With our customers becoming ever more knowledgeable and enthusiastic about conserving, and attracting, their local wildlife, habitat creation is really starting to take a larger role in our landscape designs. All the garden designers here relish the opportunity to cater for local populations of badgers or newts, this pond for a school near Dartford, Kent for example highlights how a simple wildlife pond can be the start of a thriving habitat in your own back garden! Fancy having a go yourself? It’s relatively easy:

    Step 1 – Clearance and Digging

    The first stage is to clear the ground in which you’re going to be digging the pond; the last thing you want is for a rogue tree root or large rock to puncture the liner. Depending on the size of the pond it can be back-breaking work to hand dig it alone! You may find it more beneficial to rope in some friends (or in this case more garden designers!), or even better, hire a small mini digger if funds allow.

    Step 2 – Size, Position and Design

    A pond only needs to be small to attract local wildlife but your garden may allow for a larger size. Mark out the shape and scale and remember it will need to be at least 2 -3 feet deep at the deepest part or the water will warm up in the summer sun and not have a chance to cool down which will lead to excessive greening. A true wildlife pond does not need too much maintenance, the water level will naturally fall and rise with the seasons. Locating the pond in a low section of your garden will help collect rain water and thus aid this naturally process. It’s incredibly important to make sure the edges around the pond are level or you find yourself with a water leak when you come to fill it as it spills out one side. Place some timber across the pond and use a spirit level to check how it’s looking; adjust with more/less soil if needed.  Another important factor to make note of when designing your pond is to create a series of gradual slopes/shelves around its perimeter, this not only provides ledges for planting to rest but also means for wildlife to make its way in and out of the water.

    Step 3 – Deciding on the Lining

    Now you have your pond positioned and dug out its time to think of the lining. There are several options to consider clay, plastic, preformed, concrete or flexible rubber butyl. For the pond in the garden design at Wentworth School we went for a mix of flexible liner and a concrete screed. Due to the nature of this particular pond (designed to heavily encourage wildlife which may damage the liner if left exposed) a screed was created over the top to protect what’s underneath. Don’t forget to use either a covering of 30mm of building sand if your pond is shallow sided, or, a protective fleece blanket underneath the liner to protect it from any debris which may puncture it. When calculating the size of liner (and fleece) needed use this formula as a rough guide: Width x Length x (maximum) Depth + 10%

    Step 4 – Getting the Detail Right

    Now the pond is lined fill with water and see how that levelling went! Cover the remaining exposed liner (for example) with soil and place rocks of varying sizes around the edge to recreate a natural appearance. Select a limited palette of plants to go in and around the water’s edge to encourage the local wildlife. Try to avoid adding any fish as this will discourage species such as newts from taking up residence. Some greening of the water is actually good for small pond dwellers but too much stagnant water (and greening) will eventually become unsightly and discourage some species. You may find it useful to run a small pond pump to give some light movement and filtration. For our wildlife pond at Wentworth we added a dipping bridge which allowed the children to get close to the water (supervised of course) and use a net to see what creatures they could catch and then learn about! Last but not least, enjoy it! Within a day of the garden designers finishing at Wentworth several frogs appeared followed by a couple of newts a few days later. A well designed natural pond will always attract local wildlife which may provide valuable habitat for them and their continued success. If you’re interested about researching some of the finer details of a good garden pond then why not take a look at what the RHS has to offer here.

Customer Testimonials

I am incredibly happy with the end result. The builders worked extremely hard on this sensitive site, the garden is beautiful.

Mr & Mrs Sheardown (Canterbury Garden)

another quote »

Other Service

Why not call our team to see how we can help

Contact the team for your free no obligation consultation by calling 01580 764 090 or free from a landline on 0800 077 8633, or alternatively email us .