How to Style Your Garden Furniture for Seasonal Changes

Garden furniture deserves some thought and yet, we so often simply opt for what we see as a ‘bargain’. But it can be so much more than this, which is why you need this guide to making seasonal changes with your garden furniture!

A picture of garden furniture and decor.

It’s a long-standing joke in many gardening circles that we spend hundreds of a garden bench never to sit on it. The same goes for some of the more expensive pieces of garden furniture we opt for. We spend so much time keeping them covered and free from the effects of the weather that we rarely take the chance to use them.

But times are changing and with new technologies and manufacturing techniques, garden furniture is now truly all-weather. And so you can have the rattan cube garden furniture out in the garden to enjoy, whether it is bright sunshine or a cool spring evening.

Fabrics
As seasons change, we round up the garden furniture and hide it away, unsure whether the autumn rains will see it melt. But it won’t because there is a new fabric on the block that is making a huge difference.

A material used and developed for yachts is now used in garden furniture for soft furnishings. Fantastic at being able to withstand all kinds of weather, the only real enemy of sail fabric is the sun, more so when the fabric is crumpled, with rain and damp not allowed to evaporate. A wash down with warm soapy water and allow to dry – choose a breezy, warm day – and it’ll look as good as new.

Protective covers are an ideal investment, especially those that fit over the furniture exactly as this increases their protective abilities. But again, before you cover it for the winter months, make sure that the furniture is dry.

Design
Whether you hold summer garden parties for friends, family and neighbours or you consider your garden your own private sanctuary, there is no excuse not to style your garden – and that includes choosing the design of your garden furniture. When summer is in full swing, you will nothing more than a jug of your favourite summer cocktail and maybe the odd scatter cushion or two or your all-weather garden sofa. Come late summer or even early spring, add style and aplomb, as well as a hint of practicality with a few pretty and warm throws.

Warmth
An eco- friendly shortwave infrared electric outdoor heater is an ideal choice to warm your garden so that you can enjoy your garden longer into the evenings. Patio heaters are another option and a common sight in outdoor cafes and pubs. However, if you are concerned about environmental impact, you might need to take a look as to whether a patio heater, fuelled by canned gas, is the best option for you. Expensive to run, they are an investment that many, however, choose to make.

Materials
Waterproof fabrics make life so much easier when it comes to garden furniture but as well as the soft furnishings, you need to make sure you have the best in structural materials of outdoor chairs, tables and sofas.
There are only two real contenders:

Rattan
A natural material, most rattan is sourced and imported from sustainable sources. A thorny plant that grows fast and strikingly tall, its long fronds are allowed to dry naturally in the sun. They are then weaved together around a frame, made from wood or bamboo, or something a metal structure, to create fantastic stylish pieces for the garden.

Hardwood
There is no compensation for investing in hardwood tables and chairs as dining sets for the great outdoors. Cheaper imitations are made from softwood, the grain of which is much bigger and looser. This means that you can literally leave a dent in it with your thumbnail, the texture is so soft and malleable.

But, there is one issue with both: they don’t like the cold. Both materials come from hot climates and thus, water finding its way into the structure, which then freezes on a cold day or night is not good for structural integrity. Keep both covered if the winter months are icy or frosty.

Seasonal changes impact on your garden furniture but, choose the right material and take a little care over it every now and then, and you will have garden furniture that allows you to continue to enjoy your garden.

Rattan Direct understand that the garden is not just for summer and so, these fantastic seasonal changes are available from their online store. Connect with them on Twitter to remain ahead of the game @RattanDirectLtd

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

4 Eco Garden Hacks That Will Have You Seeing Green

Saving the planet often revolves around the house, particularly the interior. Homeowners want to know how to recycle, reduce energy usage, and get on Mother Nature’s good side. Well, one way to show her you care is to take the fight outdoors. An average property has a garden, and it needs to be as green as the rest of the house. No, not just in colour but in practicality too! A garden may seem self-sufficient, but it needs lots of support if it is going to an eco-friendly haven. And you can provide plenty by reading the following tips. These are the four hacks to keep in mind…

4 Eco Garden Hacks That Will Have You Seeing Green title on faded background image

Attract Wildlife

One way to tell if the garden is environmentally-friendly is to check on the plants and flowers. Both produce oxygen and reduce the levels of CO2 in the air. So, with more in the vicinity, your home will suffer from less air pollution. It can be hard to keep plants alive, especially in the winter. However, the key, aside from shelter, is to attract wildlife. Everyone knows about bees and pollination yet forget about ladybirds and lacewings and the food chain. Pests like greenflies will eat vegetation, but predators eat pests and prevent the destruction of plants.

Plant Companions

The plot of soil in the backyard is a fantastic place to grow fruits and vegetables. And, this allows you to keep the shopping bill down as you don’t need to buy as much from the supermarket. Sadly, the UK isn’t a great place to grow food because of the weather. Even in the summer the rain and wind can be too strong for fragile seedlings. The answer is to plant companions to aid growth.Tall plants, for example, provide shade and protection from the elements. As long as they aren’t competitive, they won’t take away water or nutrients either.

Maintain Furniture

Every garden has a table and chairs combo, as well as a swing or a bench platform. These pieces are pretty and practical, particularly when BBQ season comes back around. Of course, caring for your garden furniture is essential because they are susceptible to breakage. Metal items are the worst because they rust in the rain, and the brown stuff can erode away at the steel. The only way to prevent this is to add a galvaniser and place a cover on the top. Softwood also needs protection in the form of a stain to stop rot and discolouring. Hardwood is durable thanks to natural oils.

Start A Compost Heap

Maintaining a green garden can be an expensive and inorganic procedure. After all, you need to buy everything from fertiliser to pesticides and mulch. Well, the truth is you don’t because a compost heap will take care of growth. All you have to do is break down the garden’s natural waste in a bin and add it to the soil. Not only is it cheap, but compost is twice as effective as regular fertilisers.

Bee pollinating flower

Whether you are looking to save money or the planet, there are plenty of options. What are your favourites?

*This is a collaborative post.

Planning Your Vegetable Garden

This is a guest post written by Tim from Yard and Garden Guru.

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There is no right way or wrong way when it comes to having a vegetable garden, although things have to be done a sure way to help your plants prosper. Vegetable gardening for beginners can be as natural as you want to make it, yet it is advisable to ease yourself into rather than becoming overwhelmed.

Your area will detect how large a veg garden you have, yet lack of size is no excuse not to give vegetable gardening a go. If you plan it right, you can have an abundance of crops even in the smallest of places. Regardless of the area and how you grow your vegetables, there are a few things that you will have to adhere to.

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Location

As you will be deciding where to have your vegetable garden, it should be noted that vegetables require 6-8 hours of sun per day. To make sure they can achieve this, you choose the sunniest parts of your garden and make sure your rows face east to west. Leafy green vegetables require a little less and are not keen on the harsh sun so these can go in your not so sunny areas.

It is also advisable to have direct access to your garden from your home, this way you will see when it needs tending to.

Size is Important

The ideal space allocation you are looking for is 16 feet X 10 feet. As your rows will face east to west, this means the longest edge of the bed will face north and south. If you are limited for a space of this size, you can scale it down or use raised beds. The critical thing to remember is that your rows are 18 inches apart.

Raised beds, on the other hand, should be 8 feet by 4 feet, and the depth of the bed should be 10 – 12 inches.

Soil Preparation

This process will be mainly for direct planting into the earth rather than a raised bed. However, it doesn’t hurt to add some organic material as this is full of rich nutrients that will only help your vegetables.

The first stage is to remove all weeds and then turn your soil. Regular soil should have a pH of around 7. If you find your ground is below this, a good inch to 2 inches of organic material can be added. Once done you should water thoroughly and leave for 2 days before commencing.

Planting

Once you have your prepared patch, you can think about planting your seeds. Some gardeners germinate their seeds indoors and transplant, although a plant will be hardier if they are directly sown.

Growing distances are explained on the packs of seeds. You also have climbing vegetables which have to be considered. These often go on the back of your patch to catch the most sun. 

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Raised Beds

When you plan on having a vegetable garden, you always read that you should start small. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using raised beds. They might appear to require a lot more work with construction etc… Yet they do bring many benefits when compared to growing directly into your garden patch.

A few of the benefits of raised beds are as follows:

Easier to Manage – raised beds are ideal for smaller areas.

Soil Protection – as the soil is confined in the surround, it will remain soft and will allow roots to spread much more comfortable over time.

Extended Growing Season – a raised bed will warm up quicker than the ground. Irrigation is also conducted easier due to the softer soil.

Maintenance – Apart from the surround, as many are made from wood. You will have less digging and weeding to carry out through the growing season or during the growing season.

Irrigation – as the soil is much softer, the land can drain easier, and in some areas of the country, you can grow vegetables that would not otherwise grow.

Soil Preparation – Many areas have earth which is not ideal, and it requires a lot of organic material to get the pH correct. Raised beds use good quality topsoil which already has the perfect pH levels. Raised beds also make it easier to control mulch and fertilizer as the areas are defined.

Access – if you have a regular vegetable patch, you will have to define pathways. With raised beds, these paths are automatically determined by the beds themselves. They also make it easier for individuals who are unable to bend or are wheelchair bound to access their vegetables.

A healthy high yielding vegetable garden requires only a few things. Plenty of sun, adequate watering, good soil and some tender loving care. If you have all these things, you can learn the rest as you go along.

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Author Bio

Tim Graham writes at the yardandgardenguru.com, and you can also find him on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram.

How To Make An Apple Bird Feeder: Protecting Birds in Winter

As it is starting to draw closer to winter and food for wildlife is becoming more scarce, I thought it would be a good time to share this simple, fun activity we did at home recently.

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How To Make An Apple Bird Feeder

You Will Need…

  • Apple
  • Twigs – Thick enough to be a perch but thin enough to fit through an apple.
  • String or raffia
  • Peanut butter
  • Seeds

    bird feeder, protecting wildlife, birds, winter, garden, nature, how to guide, childhood unplugged, outdoors

    Step by Step Instructions

    Step 1

    Core the apple.

    bird feeder, protecting wildlife, birds, winter, garden, nature, how to guide, childhood unplugged, outdoors

    Step 2

    Carefully push the sticks through the apple. You might need to use a knife to help make a hole first.

    Step 3

    Tie the string through the apple. Use it to also hold the sticks in place if possible.

    bird feeder, protecting wildlife, birds, winter, garden, nature, how to guide, childhood unplugged, outdoors

    Step 4

    Use the peanut butter as ‘glue’ to stick the seeds on.

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    Step 5

    Hang it onto a tree branch. Then just sit back and observe the birds enjoying their treat!

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    Do you feed the birds in winter? What type of feeder do you have?

    How To Create A Stress – Relieving Garden

    Gardeners have long known that the garden – the outdoor space, the nature within it and exposure to fresh air – are elements that combine to combat stress. And there is the science to prove it. From a child to the elderly, from the vulnerable to hardworking parents, the garden can be a haven of peace and tranquillity, the perfect place to de-stress. No matter what the season, the garden has something to offer. But if your garden looks like a myriad of weeds and lacks colour and scent, the time has come to roll up your sleeves and start digging. Gardening is good for you and a pleasant garden is the perfect antidote to a stressful, modern life.

    garden, gardening, outdoors, health, wellbeing, sensory, stress relief, home and garden, nature, Living Life Our Way, Rattan Direct

    The Science of Gardening

    The garden is for everyone; the elderly can reconnect with memories as they garden, children can learn mathematical and scientific principles, parents and teenagers can relax, listening to the latest podcast or reading the latest best seller for example. Lounging around in a peaceful garden is good for you, and science agrees.

    Use Your Senses

    When it comes to creating a stress-relieving garden, design the experience around your senses:

    Smell

    Gardens, filled with fragrant blooms, certainly provide olfactory stimulation. Scents are subtle, not overpowering, and there are some that are known to help us relax and unfold away from stress. Lavender, for example, has long been added to bath products and sleeping remedies, in order to calm the whirling mind before sleep. Along with other fragrant blooms, plant them at the edge of flower beds so that as you walk around the garden, you knock the blooms, releasing the fragrance.

    Taste

    Growing vegetables is good for you in so many ways. Half an hour of digging and mulching sheds calories, as well as giving your body a workout. The vegetables you grow, free from pesticides and insecticides are good for you. Sitting under the pea vines and eating peas straight from the pod is the stuff of memories and there is nothing like the sweet taste of peas, freshly plucked from the plant. Plant vegetables and fruits with companion plants to get the best from nature.

    Sight

    What could be more mesmerising than watching a dancing, buzzing bee as it goes about its business, hopping from one fragrant bloom to another? What is more beautiful than seeing a garden full of colour, with insects scurrying about going on with their rituals? Instead of staring at a screen, why not stare at the garden? Allow yourself to drift away, gently swinging in a hammock in the trees or on a comfortable rattan day bed, and watch nature at its best – and marvel at the fact that all this is in your garden!

    Touch

    Textures are important too. For stress relief, there are many elements that combine together and yet, we give little thought to how touch affects the mind, body and soul. We know that human touch can be restful and reassuring. In effect, this is what you want to create in your multi-sensory garden. There are, of course, some experiences of touch we don’t want – such as the sting of a nettle – but there are other plants that are more conducive to being touched by the human hand. When was the last time you ran your fingertips through the dancing fronds of reeds or tall grasses? Or the soft, fragrant leaves of a geranium? Lambs Ears are a particular favourite of ours. The garden, with clever planting, can be a haven of stress relief, and touch is one sense that you shouldn’t ignore.

    Hearing

    And the final sense, hearing. At the end of the day, give yourself 20 minutes to enjoy the peace and quiet of the garden. Lie on the rattan day bed or sit in the bistro chair, close your eyes and train your ears to focus on the sounds of nature and not those of man-made origin. Block out the sounds of car engines and trains, or the dull roar of planes overhead, and instead listen for the rustling of the leaves on the trees and the grasses as the wind gently moves their fronds. Listen to the birds, their calls to one another and the buzz of an insect as it whizzes past you. Listen to the gentle movement of water as it tumbles and frolics down the waterfall. The garden, no matter how big or small, is a truly wondrous place, where stress simply peels away.

    Rattan Direct is an online retailer, specialising in high-quality rattan furniture. Hard wearing and robust, rattan is a perfect material for outdoor furniture and with a growing choice for the modern consumer, any garden can quickly become a stress-free haven.

    *Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with Rattan Direct.

    Housing Rabbits: A Hutch Is Not Enough

    A while back now I mentioned that I would write more about the enclosure we have for our beautiful pair of bunny furbabies. They are a larger breed and we couldn’t find anything on the market that we felt offered them enough space, but equally we are not DIY minded enough to make anything secure enough ourselves. So we set about having an enclosure custom – made by a highly rated ebay seller, and gave our exact specifications. We found this to be a relatively cheap option, it arrived very easy to assemble and is great quality construction; just what we need! 

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    We didn’t want anything to be able to dig in or out of their new home, so we laid down some wire mesh flooring, secured to the enclosure using cable ties, then covered it over with rolls of turf so the bunnies would be none the wiser! Then we added a shelter, plus some tunnels for them to play and hide in as well. They love their enclosure! 

    Step By Step Guide

    Measure the wire mesh to slightly larger than the enclosure area and cut it to size. Lay it down flat. Overlap any joins and cable tie them securely.

    fabbits, bunnies, pets, furbabies, enclosure, a hutch is not enough, animal welfare, home and garden, custom made

    Put the enclosure frame on top of the wire flooring, making sure there is an overlap around the edges.

    fabbits, bunnies, pets, furbabies, enclosure, a hutch is not enough, animal welfare, home and garden, custom made

    Secure the wire mesh to the bottom of the enclosure using cable ties. Make sure they are very tight so can’t be chewed and cut off the end being careful not to leave sharp edges.

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    Lay rolls of turf over the floor to cover over the wire. Take care to ensure there are no exposed edges or sharp bits of wire anywhere. 

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    Shelter and Accessories

    We then added a dog kennel from Pets at Home and burrow pipes from runaround for shelter and protection too. We also left the extra roll of turf we had spare in the enclosure as a little hill/ mound as well. We will introduce new things over time for further enrichment of course. 

    fabbits, bunnies, pets, furbabies, enclosure, a hutch is not enough, animal welfare, home and garden, custom made, runaround

    The wire roof has a fold back panel opening. Once closed it is secured with padlocks and then partially covered over for extra protection. 

    fabbits, bunnies, pets, furbabies, enclosure, a hutch is not enough, animal welfare, home and garden, custom made, runaround

    Final Thoughts

    Ideally this would be connected to a shed and/ or have extra adjoining sections. We hope that we can build them an extension soon! However, free range access to the garden under supervision for daily exercise is a good alternative too though. 

    Do you have pet rabbits? What type of enclosure do they live in?

    5 Ways Gardens Benefit Your Health 

    Although most gardeners have long known it, the science confirms it – gardening is good for your health!

    And so with scientific data on our side, the time has come to reveal what an hour or two, or a whole afternoon, does to your health; physical, mental and emotional.

    rattan direct garden benefits

    Gardening reduces stress and anxiety

    It’s probably a combination of fresh air, enjoying the sun when it shines and also caring for tender plants and shrubs that make gardening such a great antidote to modern life. Stressful jobs, full social lives and everything we have to deal with can lead to blood pressure rising and a state of stress settling in.

    Whilst a little stress may be a good thing, too much has a negative impact on the body; both our physical and mental health. Depression is also an ailment that society is no longer treating as taboo, and studies have also shown that gardening can be part of the solution to managing depression.

    The solution is clear for all to see; spending a little time in the garden; either weeding, planting new plants or simply mowing the lawn, will help to lower stress and anxiety levels and benefit your mental health.

    Decreases risk of diabetes and heart disease

    Who’d have thought it?! Spending time in the garden being active is part of the solution to keeping heart attacks and diabetes at bay.

    Of course, keen gardeners have known for some time that gardening can be heavy work. Just think of all the weight you sometimes shift about; the digging and forking over the allotment, the hoeing, the plants and the weeding. Even a brisk mow of the lawn can work up a sweat once a week. Keeping your cardiac system in great shape and your weight in check is done by a variety of means but the best exercise is one that leaves you slightly out of breath and raises your pulse rate a little – and heaving heavy sacks of compost, mowing the lawn, cutting the hedges and so on can all do that!

    This point also ties in with the previous point of lowering stress and anxiety too, which is a common cause of heart attacks. Physical and mental health are linked so taking care of your overall wellbeing is essential.

    It makes you happy!

    There is increasing evidence that the amount spent outside directly correlates with several health and behavioural problems. This is why many specialist schools and educational settings that deal with emotional and behavioural difficulties in children are spending more time out of the classroom, and enjoying settings such as Forest Schools and the like. Of course, it is not the only answer to dealing with behavioural difficulties, depression and feeling fed up but it goes a long way to lift your mood and spirits.

    This doesn’t mean you have to work when you are in the garden, either. Why not take half an hour to sit, listen to the sounds of nature around you, the birds sing, admire the flowers, the buzzing bees and other insects that you probably haven’t noticed until now? You could invest in rattan garden furniture, sit back and spend some time in your own green space, no matter how big or small it is, and disconnect from your busy life. Try it for half an hour and see what it feels like.

    A tool to stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s?

    It has been noted that Alzheimer’s and dementia are the two biggest health issues that will impact on our nation in the coming years. Slowly, the science and medical world are peeling back the layers of these people-robbing illnesses, extending our understanding of both issues. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that various physical activities cut the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in half – and one of the activities that was recognised was gardening. For those suffering from dementia, it has been found that garden-centred therapy is one of the most powerful in reaching and connecting with people.

    It helps you sleep better

    Finally, maybe it is something to do with all the activity, the fresh air and the mental stimulation of being immersed in nature, plus the reduced stress and anxiety, but being proactive in your garden helps you sleep better. And of course good night sleep is essential for health and wellbeing too!

    Gardening is not just about pretty flowers and tasty vegetables. It is an opportunity to enjoy being outdoors, switch off from modern life and enjoy everything that nature has to offer. Along with their customers, Rattan Direct have long known that the garden has magical powers to relax and de-stress the human mind, body and soul. And now the science concurs.

    *Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

    How Your Garden Transforms Through The Seasons 

    The garden is meant to be enjoyed. With only a little attention here and there, your garden can flourish. Understanding the seasons, the challenges and the opportunities it brings to your garden is key to success throughout the gardening calendar.

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    Darkness and Cold of Winter

    Protect your garden and wildlife from the worse of the winter by ensuring vulnerable plants are protected and give wildlife ample opportunity to make their homes.

    The Green of Spring

    As the days begin to warm, plants and wildlife awaken from their winter slumber. Night time can still be cold, but with mulch and fertilisers, your garden has everything that it needs. 

    The Golden Glow of Summer

    Long days with soaring temperatures bring colour back to the garden. But take care of the soil and maintain its moisture levels for your plants to bloom, and your vegetable plot to produce an abundant harvest.

    The Red Autumn

    Just before trees shed their leaves, the golden yellow colours and deep, dark reds are a joy to behold – enjoy every minute of the autumn garden, helping it to remain strong and lush for as long as possible.

    Do you know how to work with the seasons in your garden?

    *Disclosure: This post has been written in collaboration with Rattan Direct.

    Star in the Night Sky #30DaysWild

    In the early hours of yesterday morning, around 3am, I stood in the garden and looked up at the night sky. There was a bright light flashing, at first I thought it was a plane. After watching for several minutes though, it was definitely not moving and I realised it must be a star. But it was genuinely – by a million fold – the brightest, twinkliest, most magical looking star that I have ever seen. It made every other star in the sky look practically invisible because it shone so bright and twinkled so much. I know that this probably sounds silly, but honestly I cannot emphasise enough how mesmerising it was. 

    I tried to get a decent shot of it but it just doesn’t even in the slightest tiniest way begin to do it even a miniscule amount of justice. You can only just see it as a small white dot in between the trees (to the left in the photo above, in the very middle of the photo below).

    I started thinking; I wonder how many other people have ever looked up at the night sky and spotted that same star? I wonder if they had the same thoughts as me? I wonder if anyone else is out there looking up at it right now, this same moment? Truly amazing when you think about it. The universe is so huge, and we are all just a small dot in comparison. Yet everything is connected. And each one of us has an impact and can make a difference. Incredible.

    The Secret is in the Soil: The Importance Of Healthy Soil

    We don’t give much thought to the soil under our feet but without it, we wouldn’t have food on our plates. It takes a lifetime to create the ideal soil conditions for plants and crops to grow, but no time at all to destroy it. For every plant to thrive, it needs nutrients. And these are found in the soil. With the right nutrients in perfect balance, a plant or tree thrives.

    Healthy Soil = Healthy Planet

    So how is Soil Made? And why do we need to keep adding organic matter and other nutrients to get the best from it? Does it mystify you as to why soil in one part of the garden is fine and dust-like but in another part, heavy and dense?

    The soil is made from the earth’s crusts and its deposits being ground to a finer powder over thousands of years. The type of soil created, depends on the deposits that created it. The quality of soil also depends on how much life is in the soil. Worms, for example, are essential to mixing the soil as well as aerating it. Other soil-borne life forms are important too. Soil needs plenty of nutrients and water to offer the best growing medium, an increasing problem in a world with an increasing number of mouths to feed.

    Do you know how to look after soil?

    From adding organic matter to understanding the type of soil and what will grow best, this infographic has it all. Find out more and truly understand the ground beneath your feet. 

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    *Disclosure: This post has been written in collaboration with Rattan Direct.