Posts Tagged ‘Projects’


Installing A New Rainwater Collection System

I’ve been looking to improve my rainwater collection system for a while now and I thought I can’t go into another winter without a longer term solution.

Yes we have a few tanks around the place and they work just fine but they tend to fill up fairly quickly which means our capacity is limited.

While I was doing my research I came across a few videos on  where other gardeners use huge white plastic containers in a metal cage for collecting rainwater. I’ve since found out they are called Totes although I think there is another name for them.

We put the word out and my brother in law who works on a farm came good! He told me they they were selling off a couple of second hand totes and was I interested.  Oh yes!

tote

They arrived last weekend and they are perfect for collecting rainwater. I gave them a good wash out with a little general household detergent to remove any lingering fluids and they were as good as new!

I’d read somewhere its a good idea to either paint them black or cover them in black plastic to stop the sun from turning the water green. So off to YouTube I went to see if anyone had done the same thing and I found a guy in the US called LDSPrepper who has a series of videos explaining in great detail how to prepare a tote for rainwater collection.

Huge thanks to LDSPrepper for such an insightful set of videos.

Basically you remove the plastic bin from the cage and wrap it up like a Christmas present.

I bought black plastic damp proof membrane from my local building suppliers which comes in a long roll. I’d used it before and I know it’s really strong and it should last.

The totes we used measure 48 inches  by 40 inches by 40 inches. To cover a single tote you’ll need a sheet of plastic 14 feet long by 10 feet wide.

Wrapping totes in this way is not difficult but if you’re thinking of having a go ask a friend or partner to help as two people make light work of it. Also invest in some strong adhesive tape. I bought some black Gorilla tape which I found at my local DIY store. Not cheap at £6 a roll but really good stuff.

Begin by turning the tote upside down making sure the tap is at the top. Also remove the filler cap before you start or you’ll struggle to get it off later. Turning the tote upside down ensures when you seal the joints and turn the tote up the right way up any rainwater will run down the sides and not collect in the folds

rainwater-2

Lay down the plastic sheet and position the tote in the middle. Next lift the back half of the plastic over the back half of the tote and align at the half way from the back of the tote. I should have said earlier …  it’s worth having a dry towel or rag handy to dry off any damp on the tote so the tape sticks properly.

Tape the plastic to the tote to stop it sliding back off thenfold the back sides in like wrapping a present and tape the fold on both sides. (Think present wrapping)

rainwater-3

When the two back corners are complete fold the front side up over the top of the back side and fix with tape.

As with the first side fold the plastic in as tightly and neatly as you can in the corners and fix with tape. Finally fold up the pointy end pieces that are left on the sides and secure with the tape. It really is just like wrapping up a giant Christmas present.

rainwater-4

When the tote is all wrapped up simply slide it back into the cage and you’re done.

Rainwater Harvesting

Finally make a hole in the plastic for the cap and position the tote where it can have the maximum effect. I’m using one in the nursery to collect from the new outbuildings and the other to collect from the workshop nearest the house.

rainwater-5

Final job was to stretch an old pair of tights over the hole. Low tech I know but it works.

Total cost somewhere in the region of £80. I didn’t think that was too bad for a pretty snazzy looking rainwater collection system.

If you’re thinking of doing the same sort of thing I urge you to take a look at this series of videos from LDS Prepper that explain all.

I’ll take a few more pics of the completed set up next weekend.

Best wishes.

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

 

… still living the dream.

 

 

 

 

 

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recycle2

I don’t know about you but it’s about his time of the year I start thinking about cutting the hedges. I was brought up in the country and I remember my dad used to take a lot of advice from a farmer friend when it came to hedge cutting. “When you see the farmer out with his tractor and hedge cutter then its time to cut the hedges” he used to say.

Well last weekend the farmer in the back field was out bright and early trimming the hedgerows  so I thought I’d get the step ladder out and start tidying up our mixed hedge. It’s about 60 meters of mixed hedge in total and has pretty much everything in it from lleylandi to hazel with the odd walnut sapling thrown in for good measure.

The hedge was here when we moved in and as each year goes with careful management it just gets better. Although it isn’t perhaps the most beautiful hedge you’ll find but it does host a variety of native birds and flora so it’s always best to wait until the birds have stopped breeding before cutting.

Every year I have the challenge of finding something to do with the waste material. Well this year a friend of mine gave us a small electric shredder. It doesn’t actually shred the waste, more like grinds the branches into submission!

recycle5

Having said that it is a great little machine and I’m immensely grateful for it, not least as it enables us to create a by-product from the hedge trimmings which serves several purposes.mulchFirstly it makes a great surface for around the entrance to the nursery which is soft under foot and when its had a chance to break down it turns into the most amazing springy compost material.

The great thing is its cheap to produce and lasts for several seasons and you can throw it onto the compost heap or simply lay it on top of the beds and wait for nature to do its stuff.

Last year we started to scatter the trimmings on the paths in the kitchen garden to create a more natural feel.  One year on and its turned into the most amazing mulch which is soft under foot and can be used for mulching the flower beds.  I simply spade it onto the beds and work it into the soil and worms do the rest!

If you’re thinking of buying a shredder then the bigger you can afford the better is my advice. I love my little shredder but do sometimes wish I had a little extra power.

Here are my tips for trouble free shredding!

  • Read and follow the instructions that come with your shredder.
  • Be patient and avoid stuffing too much green material in at once especially Leylandii as it has a tendency to clog the machine.
  • Resist stuffing large branches in or you’ll likely burn out the motor. My little shredder will comfortably take branches up to an inch in diameter. Anything larger gets stripped of its branches and either used for poles in the garden or for winter firewood.

Like most of the green waste in the garden hedge trimmings can be a pain to get rid of  but if you’re able to invest in a modest little shredder I’d say go for it as the by-product is can easily be recycled.

I didn’t manage to finish the job this weekend so will be shredding some more next weekend.

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

 

Still living the dream …

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The New Potting Shed Area

Phew! … At last we finished the new outbuilding, well almost. It was all going so well until Saturday afternoon when things definitely didn’t go to plan!

For those that follow the blog you’ll know way back in March we decided to build new timber frame working space that would double up as a workshop and potting shed for the new nursery business.

The plan was to complete the build in time for the growing season, but I had no idea it was going to take so long. With John working in London 5 days a week we only had weekends which is fine except as amateurs it takes us much longer as we’re learning.

We build all our outdoor structure using a frame of 4″ x 2″ treated softwood (from local builders merchants) which is clad on the inside with OSB sheet and on the outside with 6″ treated feather board. Insulation is glass fibre blanket as we had a couple of rolls left over from the house build (nasty nasty stuff  …the sooner it’s banned altogether the better).

Learn How To Build A Workshop

We bought a fairly cheap standard door made from pine which should last a good few years. It’s actually under the roof space and protected from the rain so providing we look after it it should last for years.

Timber-ledged-and-brace

My worst fears realised … 

The very last task on the build was to fit all the glass. So with the weather set fair for the weekend we planned to finish the project.

We were advised to use laminated glass for the larger pieces at the front as the height is pretty much floor to ceiling and it wouldn’t be safe to use regular glass. Everything was going so well, the weather was good, in fact it was like mid summer on Saturday afternoon.

I fitted the first sheet no problem. I used putty and chamfered wooden bead that I’d prepared in the workshop to save some cost. The next 30 seconds will live me forever.

I can’t even remember what I was doing but somehow I managed to catch one of the other two remaining pieces. In what felt like slow motion as one pane fell face down on the solid concrete floor catching the other remaining piece on the way down. CRASH!!!

Both pieces hit the floor with the most painful crashing sound. :( My worst nightmare had been realised. Two sheets of laminated glass at a £110 each lay on the floor smashed.

A few choice words later I quickly realised there was nothing I could do. The damage was done, I’d learned a very expensive lesson. I wiped away a tiny tear and got on with clearing up the resulting mess. At least I now know the guy at the glaziers was right … laminated glass does only crack, I can vouch for that!

Learn How To Build A Workshop

At first all I could think about was how costly a mistake this was but later in the day I realised how fortunate I was not to be anywhere near the glass at the time as I feel sure I would have tried to catch it from falling which doesn’t bear thinking about.

If you ever have to fit glass into a building or perhaps you’re fixing a broken pane in your house my advice … store the glass well away from the area you’re working. Had I done so then I’d be celebrating closure on a new project. Instead now I have two pieces of OSB sheeting where there should be 2 panes of beautiful laminated glass.

We plan to post a special feature on constructing your own out buildings which will have all the details of the materials and construction methods used and some great tips we’ve learnt along the way.

In the mean time any questions do let us know and feel free to leave us a comment.

Weekends seem so short don’t they.

Here’s to the next one!

Best wishes,

 

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

 

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outbuilding1We’ve been spending a fair bit of time on the new nursery shop and potting shed last few weeks.

The roof is on and not looking too bad. We decided to go for a felt roof in the end as we just don’t have the budget for clay tiles as we’d hoped to. Also started cladding the outside with 6 inch feather board.

Like to have finished the cladding completely but the builders merchant didn’t have sufficient stock as apparently there is a national shortage of feather board would you believe!  At least that what he told us anyway.

Finished off the the roof construction with the rest of the 4″ x 2″ pressure treated and covered it with 11mm OSB board.

Take your time laying the OSB making sure it’s straight and true. If you’ve built the rafters with the correct spacing your OSB should sit just fine. If not then you may need to add additional rafters to support the point at which two boards meet. The point at which the two roofs meet was a bit tricky but after much bad language it finally came together.

outbuilding4

Before the board went on we added a couple of skylights on the back of the roof. We looked at Velux but went for a lesser known brand as they were cheaper and seem to be just as good All they need is an extra coat of sealer and they’ll be as good as the Velux. (We’re not going to openly recommend a brand on the blog so if you’d like details then drop us an email and we’ll be happy to provide)

We then covered the OSB with heavy duty roofing felt.  Don’t go for the cheaper version unless you really have to or you’ll be re-roofing within 5 years.

I mention heavy duty as there are several grades of roofing felt. The best product for the price is traditional green mineral felt … certainly worth paying the extra for something that will last.

Roofing felt comes in large rolls which are heavy so make sure you have some help around when it’s delivered.

If you plan to store it for a while then keep it out of the sun and also stand the rolls on end. They usually have a wrapper with installation instructions with directions on which end to stand it up. Although it’s a tough material treat it with care or you could damage it, or worse puncture it.

You’ll see from the photos that the felt extends beyond the edge of the board by about 4 inches on all sides.

This serves two purpose:

  1. To run any rain water into the guttering.
  2. To allow for tucking the felt under the end facia boards on the gable ends.

outbuilding3

If you planning to put roofing felt onto any building my advice is don’t lay it on a hot day. On the day we laid ours it was baking and as we started handling the felt it began to soften which wasn’t a problem at first ….  until we (rather John) came to stand on it!  Foot prints started to appear in the felt which wasn’t exactly the look we were after. :(

So best wait for a cloudy day before fitting roofing felt.

Oh and another tip … don’t lay your felt out on your lawn in the sun when you’re cutting it too length, or it will scorch the grass. Best wait for a day when the sun isn’t so strong.

We’re quite pleased with the results although we still hanker for clay tiles, but hey maybe in the future eh.

Last job for this session was to cut and fix the facias on the front and back of the building. I usually use at least 6 inch boards but as the eaves are fairly low we had to change to 4 inch instead.

We used 6 inch boards on the gable ends but it meant trimming the lower edge back slightly so it finished neatly with the facias. Turned out ok in the end.

outbuilding5

 

Next phase is to finish off the cladding (when it arrives) and put up the guttering ready to collect all that lovely rain water!

My son Tom  is starting the first fix this weekend which should see the cabling go in after which we can look at insulation and closing off the inside of the main building also with OSB board.

outbuilding6

Seems to be taking an age … but should be well worth it in the end. Can’t wait to welcome visitors to our little venture.

We’ll post more as the build progresses, but do drop us a note if you’d like any more information about the methods used.

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

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How-to-start-a-nursery

Two Year Old Black Walnut Seedlings

This is the second in our series about how you can set up your own independent plant nursery from your back garden.

Hopefully Part 1 will have started you thinking that this might be something you could consider starting either as a hobby or perhaps as an alternative source of income.

Today we’re going to share what you need to get started the kind of equipment you need to get you started on the road to owning your own little plant nursery.

What do I need to get started?

You’re going to need plants for a start … and lots of them!

When John and I started on this road in 2010 we already had a few of the older varieties of shrubs and perennials in the garden that we knew grew well in our chalky soil and we were  confident the varieties are not covered under the PBR schemes which was confirmed after a little research on the web.

How-to-start-a-nursery-2

2 Year Syringa Vulgaris (Lilac) plants growing away in the nursery bed

You’re also going to need pots and plenty of them.

When we started we grand ideas like selling our plants in clay pots but it just wasn’t practical. Wonderful to look at but blooming heavy and way too expensive. Customers just won’t pay a premium for a plant in a clay pot.

As a rule we use the following sizes in the nursery.

1. Three (3) inch for one year old rooted softwood cuttings.
2. Five (5) inch for two year old mature plants.

We also occasionally use a 7 inch pot if we’re lifting mature shrubs from the ground but we find most of our customers prefer to buy the 5 inch pots.

Of course there is nothing to stop you using any size pot but if you keep them consistent they look uniform and actually it looks more professional. Appreciate we’re not building another garden centre here but these little refinements do make a difference.

You also get used to how big the plants grow and how much compost you need to fill a single pot. Very useful for when it comes to working out your production costs.

Do I need any specialist equipment?

You can get started with very little which is what’s so great about this little business.

If you plan to grow your own stock from taking softwood or semi hardwood cuttings you’re going to need:

  • Rooting hormone
  • Plant labels
  • Sharp sand or potting compost to plant the cuttings in.
  • Patience

Apart from a hose and a source of water that’s pretty much everything we had when we started and in our first year we raised around 50 young plants for a total investment of around £15. Small numbers yes, but from acorns oaks do grow as they say.

Over the last few years we’ve collected pots of all sizes, made a potting bench out of single sheet of OSB and invested in a modest misting setup. You don’t have to mist to be successful with cuttings but it does significantly increase your chances of success.

Of course if you plan to buy and sell stock then there is little need for anything other than somewhere to store the plants and means of getting them to your market.

You’re going to need to invest in a little marketing to get the message out there but we’ll cover that in more detail in the next post.

Shall I grow my own or buy in my plants?
Well that’s really a decision only you can make. Buying plants in gives you instant stock that you can simply mark up and sell on for a profit. All I would say is that does reduce your margins by quite a lot but at the same time you don’t have the added hassle of growing the plants and all the challenges that presents.

We like to grow our plants as we think it’s half the fun and it means we can market our plants as ‘locally grown on Hampshire chalk’ which is a point of difference for our business. (High tech business speak) :)

Whenever someone comes to visit the nursery they see healthy plants growing in our chalky Hampshire soil, which means they leave confident what they’re buying will survive in their own garden.

Propagating your own plants from seed, softwood cuttings or division we believe is more profitable than buying in stock to sell, and it’s all consuming which means you’re going to need to spend a fair amount of time on your new venture if you plan to grow your own.

How much space do I need to get started?
You need very little space to get started. It’s all relative to what you want to achieve really. You can grow plenty of plants in a square metre but if you need more space you could always expand upwards!

That’s the great thing about growing plants for profit … it ‘scales’ really easily.

Here’s another idea if you’re stuck for space. How about asking a friend or neighbour if you could use part of their garden. You could offer them an incentive to come in with you for a share of the profits. :)

“Yes but don’t you live in the country and have plenty of space?”

We received an email from a reader recently who asked if it was possible to start your own back garden nursery in the middle of a town. We went on to tell her about a guy we know who lives in a first floor flat in central London and runs a plant business from the back of his truck.

Basically he picks up the plants from a grower in the morning and delivers to his clients houses in the afternoon. Any left over stock goes to the local charity which gets his name out in the local community.

Where this is a will there is a way … as they say!

 How much should I charge for my plants?

Basically as much as you think your market will stand. Having said that you have to be sensible with your pricing if you’re to compete. One way to compete on price is too propagate your own as it means you not only have  great looking plants but you can also offer those plants at a great price as it’s easier to make a margin. Also ‘home grown’ is a great differentiator.

How To Start A Plant Nursery With The Rural Gardeners

Grow healthy plants and they sell themselves

Where possible we try to keep our prices at below £5.00 for a 2 year old plant and £6.95 for anything we feel will sell for that price. These tend to be 2-3 year old stock.

Where can I sell my plants?

Farmers markets are great as they usually come with customers but we choose not to sell at farmers markets as the customers tend to want to barter which I don’t have time for to be honest.

Another possible outlet for your plants is Ebay. Great thing about Ebay is it comes with millions of customers. Appreciate they’re not all looking to buy your plants but a fair chunk of them might be.

The only issue I have with eBay is it tends to attract customers with deep pockets. But hey that suits us as we’re selling our plants for under a fiver anyway.

We’re not going to spend too much time talking about eBay as there’s loads of really good stuff out there already. Just watch for the charges and always work out how much it ACTUALLY costs you to get your plants to the customer. Then factor those numbers into your pricing.

If you’re happy having customers come to your house you could always hold a plant sale from your back door, or from your garden. But watch this one as you’ll likely have to organise public liability insurance just in case someone has an accident on your property.

If you know someone who is a whizz with computers you could always start your own web site selling plants and all things gardening. It’s actually easier than you think to get started but you will have to either license the software which is typically costs around £15 – £20 a month. Alternatively you could get someone to build you a site and use PayPal as the payment gateway.

Loads of really good information out there on how to set up your own shop online.

How do I get the message out there that I’m open for business?

That will be the subject of our next post.

We’ll also take a closer look at our set up and share some ideas around how you can get your nursery off to a successful start. We’ll also share some ideas on how you make this work for you all year round as the plant selling season is fairly short and you’re going to need something to keep your business active over the winter months.

Hope you found this useful but as always any questions leave a comment or drop us an email to ruralgardeners@gmail.com.

Best wishes

 

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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How To Build Your Own Out Building

Managed to get a fair bit done in the last week. Feels like we’re making real progress with the new plant shop and potting shed for the nursery.

We took advantage of the long Easter break and cracked on with building the workshop.

I can see us using it for all sorts of things but primarily it will be central to the plant nursery. We really are so blessed to have such a lovely space for the nursery.

I’ve purposely designed the building as an L Shape to offer some protection against the north easterly winds that can whistle across the neighbour’s fields in the winter time, but the position and orientation is also intentional to take advantage of the sun. Essentially it rises from the left of the building and passes right across the front. Perfect for capturing the suns energy.

L Shaped Plan

The left side will be the general workspace come plant store, come prep area and the right side of the building will be open at the front and to the right. As the right side faces south the sunshine streams in pretty much all day.

In fact this whole area to the front of the building is a sun trap and is crying out for a BBQ. There are some left over bricks which we’ll likely recycle for a little BBQ.

As you can see from the pics the build is mainly timber frame construction sitting on a two course plinth of house bricks, which are mainly for aesthetic reasons.

I have quite strong views when it comes to the appearance of buildings and more specifically our responsibility to the surrounding landscape. A view is not just the domain of the originator but something that is shared with the rest of the population and so it’s our responsibility to create something that sits well on the landscape.

Timber frame construction is simpler than it looks and just requires plenty of patience and a large helping of common sense.

Golden rule – Build it straight and true and you will always enjoy the reward of a job well done for years to come.

The wall sections went up ok, made from 4″ x 2″ lengths of treated timber cut to size and held together with 3″ screws. The reason I use screws rather than nails is in the event I’ve make a mistake I can easily take it apart and fix the problem.  When the building is finished I’ll go back and strengthen the joints with nails.

The frame is fixed to the brick plinth with 3″ screws and plugs. I think you can see from the pictures the base plate sits on a damp course membrane all the way around the building. This limits the amount of water permeating from the bricks into the wood. Not absolutely necessary but well worth doing all the same.

potting-shed-8

The eaves are 2.0m high from the concrete base and the ridge is 3.0m from the base which keeps the building within permitted development.

The ridge beam is 6″ x 2″ pressure treated and held in place by 3 sections of 4″ x 2″ timber with the middle piece cut slightly shorter to rest the ridge beam onto, while the side pieces hold it in. Hopefully the pictures explain how it came together but I do plan to offer plans in the near future.

potting-shed-16

I managed to start the roof joists but ran out of wood on Monday so will have to order some more this week.

If you’d like to know how to cut the ridge beams then read my post about building a wood store which you’ll find here.  All I would say is take your time to cut these accurately and in the same way as the wall studs position each upright every 610mm on centre. (It makes fixing 1220 wide boards much easier)

By the end the end of the weekend we’d managed to complete the main structure and start the right leg of the building. I’ll post my next project update when we’ve progressed with the roof structure.

As always any questions about this post or anything else drop us a line to ruralgardeners@gmail.com and we’ll endeavour to answer.

Quick note on the plans.

Thanks to everyone for getting in touch requesting plans … Unfortunately we don’t have any at the moment as it’s all in John’s head!  Just as soon as he gets a few spare evenings we’ll pull a set of plans together and post on the blog.

Hope this was useful.

Roll on the next bank holiday weekend eh!

Thanks all.

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

 

 

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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.
http://youtu.be/h_8IGFa_pzs

Part 2 introduces the idea of a sand box.
http://youtu.be/XKboJNgBZis

NOW TAKE ME TO WHERE I CAN DOWNLOAD MY FREE COPY OF  ‘AN INTRODUCTION TO FRUGAL GARDENING’

Hope you enjoy the read!

Best wishes,

signatures

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