Posts Tagged ‘Projects’

Wahoooooo! … It’s finally finished!

I’m actually ready to share my first free gardening eBook with the world. I’m calling it my ‘Introduction To Frugal Gardening’.

Download Your Free Copy

It’s basically a collection of suggestions, strategies and money saving tips that I’ve pulled together from the last few years.

At 25 pages it’s crammed full of useful information for anyone looking to create their own garden paradise, without spending a small fortune along the way!

It did take a fair bit of work to prepare and may not be perfect first time round, but I would really value any feedback you’re prepared to offer as I want to write more stuff so others may benefit.

If you’d prefer not to then that also fine, in which case please enjoy the  content with our best wishes.

Oh, and we’ve also been recording a few videos over the weekend you might be interested in.

Part 1 explains in some detail how to take softwood cuttings, and how you improve your chances of success.

Part 2 introduces the idea of a sand box.


Hope you enjoy the read!

Best wishes,


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We had some beautiful weather over the weekend in Hampshire which was just perfect as we managed to just about finish our new wood store. It was one of those gorgeous November days, crisp frosty mornings followed by glorious sunshine in the afternoon.

Living on the edge of Salisbury plain we tend to miss the worst of the bad weather to be honest, which I understand is why the military moved here around 30 years ago.

I went to the builders merchants first thing Saturday morning to pick up an extra roll of roofing felt so we were able to finish the roof and move on to the closing in the frame.

Building the walls of the wood store

The walls are built using a combination of 6″ and 4″ treated weather boards pinned to the wall plate and a kicker board fixed between the support posts.

First job was to mark the posts for the kicker board remembering to leave approximately a 12″ gap at the bottom for air to circulate through the wood pile.

The plan was for the boards to sit flush with the outside of the post so I added a packer block to the inside of each post, stepped back from the outside edge the same thickness of a single board. (Use an off cut of board to gauge the depth)

Fixing the boards

A useful tip I picked up along the way is if you’re doing this job on your own try fixing a piece of timber the length of the run that’s thicker than the kicker boards to use as a rest while you fix the vertical boards. Just remember to make sure the top of the rest is level with the top of the kicker board before you fix it.

Having fixed the kicker and set the level between the posts I measured and cut all the boards. As the timber arrived in 4.8 mtr lengths I cut three equal lengths of 1600mm board which when offered up to the frame left me with roughly a 12″ gap at the bottom.

I made a spacer out of timber so I’d have a small gap between each board and then proceeded to fix the boards.

Another tip is not to drive the nails completely in until you are absolutely sure the boards are straight and true.

Lining up the boards

Secret to fixing the boards nice and true is to make sure the first board you fix is dead straight (on the vertical) then use the spacer to fit the next board, and so on until all the boards are fixed, Occasionally I stop to check the boards are plumb using a spirit level as the smallest error will just get worse the further you progress. Also don’t be afraid to pull a board off if you’re not happy with it, after all you’re going to be looking at it for a good few years, so best make sure everything is at least straight!

I’d originally planned to only fill in two sides of the store as one faces North and gets the worsted of the North winds, while the other looks onto my neighbours garden. But I’ve decided to board out half of the third side so the back of the store will be pretty much enclosed. For now I’m using a sheet of OSB I had left over, but I will replace it with boards when I have a few more pennies.

Apart from cutting the occasional notch out for the rafters the boards went up ok. I decided to mix up the pattern using a four inch board every third or fourth board, which worked out ok.

One of the last jobs was to add some trim to the front and rear eaves to hide where the felt is tacked on. Pretty straight forward, just needed to work out the angles top and bottom, cut to length and fix to the front of the joists.

Unfortunately we ran out of boards and it was getting late before we could complete the soffits, but there’s always next weekend!

Then as if by magic…
On Sunday afternoon we had a call from a friend who lives in the next village. He’d removed a limb from a horse chestnut tree that was hanging over the main road in the village. Two hours later and four trips in the car we had a half decent pile of unseasoned wood that should be perfect for burning by next winter.

It’s not a good idea to burn fresh cut or unseasoned wood as its called as its full of water and apart from the fact that its wet it doesn’t produce much heat. Wood burns hotter the drier it is, so always a good idea to stack fresh wood for the following year.

Well, apart from the guttering that’s pretty much it!

We’re really pleased with the results and for a little effort and not a huge amount of money we have a great little wood store that should last a few years and provide us with a fantastic stock of free winter fuel.

I’d like to have a fire pit outside the front of the store to warm ourselves with when we’re busy in the garden in the winter months. I’m also planning on adding a light and maybe an electric socket in case we need to use any power tools, but that will have to wait.

So that’s the end of my mini series on building your own wood store. I hope you enjoyed what you read and found some of it useful. If you’d like more details of how the store came together please drop me a note and I’ll be glad to help.

Best wishes

Rural Gardener

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Pleased to say the weather held off most of the weekend which meant we could carry on with building the new wood store.

Basically we don’t have enough space to store any wood and wood figures quite a lot in our lives as we use it as our main source of heat so it made sense to build a wood store.

John took a days holiday on Friday which I thought with the weekend  would give us plenty of time to finish the project, but as with all my projects they just take twice as long as I thought!

Choice of materials

As the building is going to have to cope with the worst of the winter weather I’m using pressure treated timber for the main structure. I used 6 x 4 (inch) for the roof joists and 4 x 2 (inch)  for the wall plates. I decided  to sit the wall plates on edge for strength and used a combination of galvanised metal plates and 3″ all weather screws as fixings.

As the roof is going to be covered in a decent grade of roofing felt I’m using 2400mm x 1220mm OSB board, as a cheaper alternative to regular plywood.

How to cut a pitch roof with The Rural Gardener

Building the pitched roof

I should start by saying I am definitely no expert when it comes to building a pitch roof but I’ve done it once before and although it’s not a simple job, by following a few basic principles, i.e. measure twice cut once and check everything is lined up before fixing anything, it’s possible to make a half decent job.

To begin with I prepared a couple of supports for each cross rail exactly half way to support the ridge beam while the roofing joists were being cut to size.

Next I cut the ridge beam to the full length of the building (3.5m) including an extra 200m overhang for each end and fixed the beam temporarily using the two supports.  It’s really important the ridge beam is level or the joists just won’t sit right.

When it came to the joists I took a measurement from the top of the ridge beam to the top of the wall plate and then add a 250mm overhang.

I recommend marking up the opposite side of the roof separately as I find the measurements are never quite the same, despite spending ages making sure the structure is symmetrical.

Tip: I also leave an extra couple of inches on the length to eliminate the possibility of cutting it too short and gradually trim it back to fit. This way it’s never too short.

Having cut the first joist to length I offered it up to the end of the ridge beam and rested the other end on the top of the wall plate while I marked the angle at the ridge beam.

It would have been easier to simply nail the joist to the wall plate, but I wanted to cut a step into the roof joist so it would sit better on the plate and provide more surface for fixing. You can see in the picture below I’ve already removed the step and cut the joist to fit the ridge beam.

As with the ridge beam I offered the joist up to the end of the wall plate and marked out a step. With the step removed and fitting snug on the wall plate I now had a template for the the rest of the joists.

I fixed the top of the joists about 20mm below the top of the ridge beam to allow for the thickness of the OSB board

Having cut all the beams to size they were ready for fixing, but before then I had to work out the correct spacing between each of the joists.

The general rule of thumb with joists is to fix every 610 mm or just over 2 feet, and as my OSB sheets are 2400 mm x 1220 mm (8 x 4 in old money) I could go ahead and mark a pencil line on the ridge beam at 610 mm intervals knowing the boards would line up exactly with the pencil line. I also marked the ridge beam with a pencil line 20 mm from the top edge so when the roof boards are laid they sit flush with the top of the ridge beam, leaving a neat finish.

Next I fixed the first joist flush with the end of the ridge beam (front face) using 3″ all weather screws driven in from the opposite side of the beam, and then added the second joist taking care to line up the centre of the joist with my 1220 pencil mark. Then I added a third joist exactly half way between the first and second.

Another useful tip I picked up along the way is leave fixing the joists to the wall plate until you’ve laid the plywood boards on the roof. This means you can position each beam exactly with the edge of the roof boards before fixing permanently to the wall plate.

With all the joists in place and fixed nice and firm the OSB boards went on using 40 mm galvanised nails. There was about a 12 inch overhang which I cut back flush with the end of the joists.

How To Build Your Own Wood Store

Starting to look like the real thing!

Roofing Felt

When I buy roofing felt I tend to go for the thicker grade as you really do get what you pay for when it comes to roofing felt. I’ve used the standard grade before but it soon ripped off by the wind.

I measured out the roofing felt on the lawn  rather than have to man handle the entire roll on the roof  (It’s blooming heavy stuff) and cut to length including a 3-4″ overhang at both ends for tacking in,

Then laid it at the bottom of the roof line nearest the wall plate using the ridge beam as a guide to keep it parallel.

The next length was tacked 4″ over the top of the first so any rainwater simply run over the top of the join and down the roof into the gutter.

Final job was to fix it down the felt with 3/4″ clout nails and the job was done!

Unfortunately we ran out of felt by the time we got to the ridge line, so will need get buy more during the week. Should be able to finish off the felting and complete the sides and finishing touches next weekend if the weather holds, so will post the final installment next week.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions about our Wood Store project .

Best wishes

Rural Gardener

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Primroses - First Sign Of Spring

Early Spring in the garden at Blackbirds is one of my most favorite times of the year and the garden is already starting to show glimpses of what’s to come.

I’ve been working in the garden all week and realised why I love this time of the year so much. It’s all the sounds,  as well as the sights that fill the garden at this time of the year that make it so special for me.

The birds are busily collecting nesting material, occasionally having a break to take a bath in the wildlife pond we made last year and the plants are beginning to wake up, albeit slowly but wake up they certainly are.

A male pheasant that visits the garden most mornings, (affectionately known as Trigger)  has started to put on the most amazing dance for the females he’s romancing at the moment.  A sure sign Spring is on the way.

I just thought I’d share some of the wonderful things that are happening in my garden, most of which are happening with little or no help from me.  I find that”s the great thing about mother nature, she’ll give you a helping hand whenever she can, just take these little beauties for example.

Viola's growing wild in the lawn

I don’t know where they came from but they are growing all over the lawn, and such a welcome site after the darker days of winter.  I’ve since found out that they are Violas and are native to the UK. They spread really easily, which doesn’t make for a perfect lawn, but I think they look pretty, so they are going to stay. :)

Daffodils are appearing everywhere. I bought a bag for £3.50 from Lidl’s (impulse buy) and planted them in late September wherever I could find a spare piece of soil.  Pleased to say they all came up and are looking superb.  They made the perfect gift for my mum this Mothers Day.

Spring Daffodils are flowering their hearts out!

One of my personal favourites of all the Spring flowers are the Primroses. They were growing everywhere when we arrived, but in the last couple of years the numbers seem to have dwindled. Not sure why but I remember my neighbour Jack saying to me when we first arrived, “best leave the first cut of the grass until they have finished flowering Tania “.  Perhaps that has something to do with it as I usually give my grass a first cut in early March.

Wild Primroses

This year I’m going to save some seeds and see if I can grow them from seed next year in a bid to return them to their former glory.

The herbaceous border has just started to kick into life, with the Lupins starting to peak through, along with the Delphiniums. Not sure of the variety, but they seem to like my chalky soil and produce the most gorgeous tall deep blue spires. Delphiniums do need additional support to stop them from being blown over by the wind. I tend to use bamboo canes and string.

Delphiniums in Spring

Delphiniums in the Spring border

Herbaceous border bursting into life at Blackbirds

The Lupins all came from a single packet of seed I sowed last year

This year I’m going a little more ‘organic’  and make my own herbaceous supports using hazel sticks gathered from the hedge. It grows  freely along one side of the plot. I like to get my supports in early so I don’t have to worry about damaging the plants when they are in full growth.

I plan to create a grid pattern, a bit like a noughts and crosses.  I’ll rope John into making a  ‘How To’ Video and upload to our YouTube channel in case anyone wants to have a go at making their own.

Such a versatile plant hazel, producing catkins in the spring, vibrant green leaves in the summer, and hazel nuts in the autumn, mainly for the local squirrel population I might add!

The ‘chucks’ have started to lay a few more eggs, clever girls!  We’re getting 2 eggs a day now which I think is down to the warmer weather we’ve had in Hampshire over the last month.

Spring Chicken hunting for worms in the Kitchen Garden

The chickens are so tame now they’re happy to help with the digging !

Last week I spotted the first of the frog spawn in the wildlife pond, which suggests the pond has started to settle down. The water is fairly clear, the oxygenators are growing well and the birds are enjoying their own private bath.

The first of the fruit trees to break bud are the Marjorie’s Seedling Plums, closely followed by the Conference Pears. Hard to imagine these buds will eventually be loaded with gorgeous ripe plums in late summer.

Plum tree bursting into life in the Orchard.

Marjorie’s Seedling Plums  - The first of the fruit trees to break bud in the Orchard

The kitchen garden is looking a bit bare with only few leeks left over from last year, but the ground is prepared and in just a few months it should be producing lots of lovely fresh vegetables.

The Cut Flower Garden I started a couple of weeks ago is almost ready for planting. I’m just waiting on a load of compost to be delivered to bring the levels back up. Just can’t believe how many stones are in the ground, and they just keep coming. Last year the local recycling yard was selling a tractor bucket full of well rotted compost for £20 and I’ve been back this year and they’re happy to supply me again for the same price. It’s excellent value for money and by far the best way to buy it.

The patio will be filled with perfume soon as the evergreen Clematis Armandiistarts to come into flower. The perfume is superb and it’s a very welcome addition in Spring, and it’s one of the few evergreen clematis.  I top dress with a sprinkling of fish blood and bone in late autumn, but I have to say this year it’s  looking a bit sorry for itself. Not sure how long they are supposed to last.

The Polytunnel is starting to come into its own now more than ever. It can be raining all it likes outside, but it’s nice and dry in the tunnel.  At this time of the year it’s is full of seeds and this year is no exception as there are cut flower seedlings everywhere in preparation for my new cut flower garden project.

The compost heap is working hard and I should have a a couple of barrow loads of home grown compost soon, just in time to give the roses a Spring mulch.

So that’s a brief round up of Spring in my garden in Hampshire and with April just around the corner there’s lots more to come!

Back soon.

Rural Gardener

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My first attempt at a Willow Arbour

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The lovely weather at the weekend meant I managed to get loads done in the garden which always leaves me with a great sense of achievement. I even managed to kick start my Willow Arbour project.

I was lucky to be given 20 willow cuttings at Christmas which have been sitting in a temporary holding bed until I could decide what to do with them. I had thought about creating a willow arch at the entrance to the Kitchen Garden, but then I had an even better idea.

Why not create a secret hideaway in one corner of the orchard. The corner I’m thinking of has the most fantastic view across open countryside and has an old a garden bench where I perch myself when I need time to reflect. Not sure if there are stranger things at play, but I always seem to get a better sense of perspective when I’m sitting in that corner of the garden. Probably something to do with magnets! :)

As its my first attempt at Willow I had to swot up on what makes the ideal growing conditions. Appears willow likes damp conditions in plenty of sun, which probably explains why you often see it growing alongside a pond or river. This makes sense as I remember once planting a willow tunnel for the children in my class when I was a classroom assistant. Although it did grow it wasn’t very vigorous, which was likely down to the fact they were planted in the shade of a tree and the tree likely sucked all the moisture out of the ground.

This time round the spot I’ve chosen is in full sun and is a good distance from any trees, apart from the fruit trees and they are far enough away not to affect anything.

If you’d like to grow your own willow feature there’s plenty of information on the web to help you get started and not forgetting the trusty book shop if, like me, you prefer the printed word. Along with the cuttings I was also given a book by Jon Warnes called ‘Living Willow Scuplture. It’s published by Search Press and has all the information you need to get started and at £7.95 excellent value for money.  I haven’t followed the book to the letter but it certainly gave me the inspiration to have a go myself.

Preparing the ground for planting

I going to create  a small arc of growth to surround my garden seat, which ideally will grow to look fairly symmetrical. When I need to create an arc in the garden I use the old string line method. Simply hammer one end of the line in the ground, then take the other end and keeping the string taught, scrape an arc out of the ground. If like me you’re planting on grass it can take a few attempts, and keep the line nice and taught and it should work just fine.

How to plant a willow arbour

Click for LARGE image

It’s worth taking your time over the marking out as when the willow eventually grows it will look all over the place.

When I was happy with the basic shape I dug the top 6 inches of soil out into my wheelbarrow. Like most plants Willow will benefit from a little helping hand, so I added some compost to the top soil and a sprinkling of Fish Blood and Bone.

Then before putting the new mixture back I first loosened the next 8 inches of soil so the cuttings would have the best chance to grow away. Into this I worked some of the mixture and gave it a good watering.

As willow likes water I thought I would add some into the bottom of the planting hole before planting the cuttings. I then put the new enriched top soil back into what was a small semi circular trench, and gave them another good watering.

I’m not sure if they will root but they have a fighting chance, so fingers crossed in a few months we should have our very own secret living willow Arbour!

Back soon &

Best wishes,

Rural Gardener

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