National Allotment Week 2019 is still running for three more days, and it’s a great opportunity to learn more about growing your own fresh produce, whether in a rented allotment plot, your own back garden, or even a window box.
The week-long event invites members of the public to visit their local allotments, many of which have opened their gates from August 12th to 18th.
You can rent an allotment in cities, towns and villages the length and breadth of the UK, but National Allotment Week is also about encouraging people to grow their own at home or in other private spaces.
First of all, you need bare topsoil free from any grass so you can plant your seeds – so it’s time to lift the turf, if you’re starting with a grassy plot.
If you’re starting a vegetable patch in your own back garden, you might want to clear an area and then lay fresh turf along the edges, giving you a neat outline of healthy grass that’s easier to maintain with a straight, sharp edge.
If you’ve inherited a rented allotment plot that’s strewn with rubbish, left-behind tools and other materials, spend some time properly clearing the space so you can plan it out and plant it out effectively.
Fully clearing an allotment plot can be a challenge – there might be old root systems snarling up the soil, and you might even want to remove the topsoil and replace it with a more fertile and well draining mix – so don’t shy away from this part to get off to the best start.
While clearing the plot, you might encounter dangerous materials like broken glass or buried shards of metal – so wear sturdy gloves, use tools, and stay safe.
Again, by properly clearing the area in the first instance, you give your allotment the best chance to thrive, with no nasty surprises while digging over the earth further down the line.
Allotments, especially overgrown plots, can be tempting habitats for animals, especially if there’s an abundance of berries, fruits and tasty vegetables growing there.
You might consider wildlife to be pests if they eat your hard-earned produce, but at least give animals a chance to leave safely before you fence and net off the plot – and especially before you take a mower or strimmer to the long growth.
Finally, whether you’ve inherited an allotment or you’re starting a vegetable patch in your own garden, work with what’s already there if possible.
That might include hardy and herbaceous perennials left by the previous occupant, wild plants like garlic, mint and berry-filled brambles, or even more established features like fertile fruit trees, all of which can give you your first harvest sooner than you might think.
Traditional lawn games are a great family activity and can also be great fun at a summer party for friends.
We’re big on family here at Carbutts and we like to be nostalgic. So we had great fun making up this list of traditional lawn games and we thought it was a good idea to share some of our favourite choices.
This is a favourite and can be pretty brutal when played properly.
There’s nothing quite like watching your pal get a ball close to the hoop only for you to come along and smash it 10 yards away.
The rules of croquet are simple; using a long wooden mallet, you score by hitting your balls through the 6 hoops placed around the lawn. The winner is the person or team first to 14 points (all 6 hoops and a bonus hoop at the end).
It’s a great game and played at a pace which allows you to claim you are playing a sport and drink a nice Pimm’s at the same time.
Bowls is a staple of the English summer and looks a very elegant game to play.
It’s tricky though, especially on an uneven lawn (although we can always level it out for your with our lawn laying service) as judging the direction and pace of the ball is never easy. A more modern alternative that has crept into the UK from France is Boule, which is equally as good fun and involves tossing the balls rather than rolling them.
Or hoopla as you might know it.
Pretty simple but still tricky as it involves tossing a rope ring so that it lands around a narrow peg. Quoits comes in a few forms these days such as plastic rings, rope rings of horseshoes. The aim is always the same though, get the most on the peg and the winner can claim an extra beer.
And all the more reason to have a ‘flatish’ lawn. There are some lovely wooden skittle sets available these days that have a real vintage look to them. And even though the dads can get pretty competitive, the kids are equally as good at this as the grown-ups.
Getting the first few over isn’t the problem, it’s that last lone skittle, goading you from a few meters away which is the enemy.
We love this one.
And old bat and a soft ball of any sort will do.
The batter stands alone in the middle of the lawn and uses his legs as the stumps (the emphasis here is on the soft ball). Everyone else is a bowler and can bowl from anywhere, in front, at the side or from behind and it’s up to the batter to defend his ‘stumps’.
This is a quick-fire game of cat and mouse. The winner is the one with most hits away from his legs.
Ok, not strictly a lawn game but great fun none the less.
The rules are simple here, gather some friends and a great selection of cold drinks and tell funny stories on a lush green lawn you are proud of.
Now we can’t help with the drinks or the length of your bowling, but we can help with your grass.
We can supply top quality grass (or lay the whole lawn for you) directly anywhere in the country direct from our Cheshire farm and you can choose from two great qualities of grass here.
And you’ll be surprised how quickly we can make your garden look green and lush again.
For friendly advice we are happy to help and all enquiries are welcomed.
Get in touch with the team now and let’s get your lawn looking fantastic.
We know we’re making a huge assumption that there will actually be a summer, but let’s think positively and look forward to playing with the kids in the garden.
Of course, the little angels will need entertaining over those long school holidays, and other than some nice seaside days away to your favourite beach, the garden is the perfect place to let them run wild.
Normally the lawn is the main area of play and tends to get the brunt of the action. Fortunately, it generally provides a soft landing, meaning those lovely trips to A&E can be kept to a minimum.
So, here are a few quick ideas for garden games with the kids;
Kids love this and it normally comes for free. All you need to do is arrange some of the garden and household items like chairs, stools, benches and gym balls to give the kids hours of fun. Give them a stopwatch and watch their competitive streak come out and don’t forget the pirate’s rule; no touching the floor.
We say badminton but there are all sorts of softball games available at a decent price from stores like Decathlon. Badminton is a really inclusive family game that everyone can play, or if you’ve got a bit more room break out the rounders set.
This is a classic and can be played anywhere.
Using your legs as the stumps (the trick here is to use a soft ball) the other players bowl underarm to get the batter ‘out’. If it touches your lower legs, you’re off to the pavilion.
Another classic, this time from our French friends. Boules is another great game for all the family and it’s easy to play. Just ping the jack across the lawn and whoever gets closest with their set of balls wins. It’s also easy to spot the winner as the balls are all colour coded.
Make your own makeshift tent or go full on and get the proper tent set up. Not only does this give the kids a great den to keep them interested all day setting up house and watching a movie on the iPad, but you can go all out and camp overnight too.
Get the BBQ going and toast some marshmallows then bacon butties in the morning will top it all off.
Let’s not forget this classic.
It’s always so exciting eating outside and it’s an easy win. A few crisps, sandwiches and nibbles are all it takes for a nice hour sat chatting with the kids outside. Or leave them to it with a few sandwich ingredients so they can build their own delicious concoctions. They’ll love it.
Of course, all those options require a good lawn and if yours isn’t up to scratch or you just fancy a brand new gorgeous carpet of greenery for the summer, then get in touch…you’ll be pleasantly surprised how quickly or lawn installation team can get a new lawn installed.
Carbutts are a down to earth (pun intended) family owned firm and we can deliver high quality grass anywhere in the UK direct from our very own 500 acre farm in Cheshire. Check our delivery terms here.
For friendly advice we are happy to help and all enquiries are welcomed.
Get in touch with the team now and let’s get your lawn looking fantastic.
June 20th is National Clean Air Day and in honour of that fact, we’re taking a look at how to reduce air pollution with a natural lawn.
Clean Air Day is a UK initiative that aims to educate people about common air pollution causes and the simple steps we can all take to reduce air pollution.
The result of this is more people who know how to reduce air pollution in their own homes, and improved air quality for them and their neighbours – it’s a win-win!
With this in mind, here’s our guide to how your natural lawn is keeping your air clean, and especially why mature grass is worth hanging on to.
Natural turf covers an area with green grass and, like other green plants and leaves, it uses photosynthesis to grow.
That means it takes in sunlight, water and carbon dioxide, and converts them into the physical carbohydrate building blocks it needs to grow, while releasing the leftover oxygen.
All of this is good for air quality in several ways – it reduces CO2 in the atmosphere, releases more breathable oxygen, and it’s also worth remembering that everything we eat, from meat to vegetables, started out as sunlight and CO2 before a plant turned it into carbs.
You’re probably not going to eat your lawn or let farm animals graze on it, but there are plenty more known benefits of natural lawns:
On top of all of these benefits, a natural lawn at the front of your house will typically enhance the kerb appeal of your property and help you to sell it if you want to move house – you might even get more money for it with a well-kept front garden.
If you’ve decided to lay turf to reduce air pollution in and around your garden, there are some simple steps you can take to maximise the benefits in the months and years to come.
We would always recommend preparing the ground well before laying turf – we even offer a professional Turf Laying Service to get it right every time – but there are also long-term air quality benefits to doing this.
By preparing the ground, your turf can put down deep roots. This allows it to find water deeper into the earth in the future and encourages stronger growth, locking away even more CO2 in the form of physical hydrocarbons.
Letting your lawn go to meadow is the latest ‘in thing’ in gardening, and people everywhere are leaving their grass to get overgrown and full of weeds in the hope of attracting wildlife.
Unfortunately in many cases you’re more likely to end up ruining your lawn and making your house look abandoned.
The potential pitfalls of this are wide-ranging:
But there are some easy ways to attract wildlife into a garden without having to abandon your lawn completely.
Even a small area of planting can have a big impact. Consider low-maintenance plants like borage to attract bees and butterflies and teasel to attract goldfinches in the autumn.
Use perennials and your garden will grow back year after year, while evergreens and woody deciduous shrubs should stay over winter too – a buddleia, also known as the ‘butterfly bush’, is one good deciduous shrubbery option.
You might be surprised that the RSPB’s guide to starting a wildflower meadow warns against planting wildflowers in rich soil.
Instead they recommend planting mustard for the first year to use up excess nutrients – again if you have a flowerbed or rockery filled with poor quality soil, planting common wildflowers can easily create a contained mini meadow area.
If your garden doesn’t have room for a meadow area, you could cut away just a few inches of turf around the edges and plant a mini meadow border.
This can give smaller gardens a beautiful edging, and as the foliage dies back ready for winter, the fairly narrow bare border should not be too distracting or unsightly either.
Don’t just focus on pretty wildlife like robins and butterflies – know what’s common in your local area and what’s beneficial to have around.
Bees are important and usually won’t sting you if undisturbed, so don’t be afraid to plant bee-friendly flowers, as well as bushes like roses that will attract ladybirds and in turn help control your aphid population.
Last but not least, creating a meadow in your lawn does not have to mean giving up on maintaining the grass – in fact for long-term health, some maintenance is essential.
Plant bulbs such as bluebells and daffodils that can grow through the grass, flower in a short space of time, and then die back to leave your lawn as before.
When they’re finished flowering, carefully remove the dead growth so it doesn’t clog up the root structure of your lawn, and leave the bulbs undisturbed so they’ll grow back next year.
There’s no denying that artificial grass has become much more popular in recent years as an alternative to laying a new lawn using natural turf.
It’s also used widely in some sports, and 4G turf football pitches can now be found in every town and city, especially on training pitches rather than for competition.
Earlier this year, social media users were bemused to hear of Nike’s new ‘Grass’ golf shoes, which are literally made of fake grass – ironic considering golf is one of the sports least likely to be played on 4G turf.
With Earth Day on Monday April 22nd, we thought we’d take a look at some of the reasons why natural grass turf is so great, and why we don’t think artificial turf golf courses will become commonplace anytime soon.
Brand-name ‘AstroTurf’ dates back to the 1960s and got its name from its first high-profile use, at the Houston Astrodome stadium.
Since then artificial grass has evolved, with more convincing fake grass using blades of different lengths and different shades of green to create a better illusion.
But there are still problems. Fake turf can contain some pretty undesirable materials, from nylon blades of grass, to rubber padding, to glue bonding it all together.
It also removes the benefits of natural turf for wildlife, so you won’t see birds pecking for worms, and you’re even less likely to be visited by a hedgehog.
If you’ve read any of our guides to laying natural turf, you’ll know that for the best results, the ground should be prepared by aerating it, watering it and mixing in some fertiliser.
But laying fake turf is hardly any easier, as for the best results, you need to dig out the top layer of soil and replace it with a ‘permeable sub-base’ such as limestone.
Cheap fake grass often doesn’t drain as well anyway, and this combined with a poorly prepared sub-base layer can leave you with pools of standing water on your lawn.
In contrast, Carbutts Turf offer a complete natural turf laying service. We can prepare the sub-layer for you, supply the turf and quickly lay it in place, so all you need to do is regularly water it in and maintain the grass as it starts to grow.
One of the arguments in favour of artificial turf is durability, especially on football pitches and other sports fields where it will see heavy use.
But for most everyday garden use, real grass is durable enough to withstand footfall and children playing, and will quickly recover and grow back with minimal maintenance.
If you expect regular wear and tear on your lawn, choose our Gold Standard natural turf – it is ultra hard-wearing with faster shoot recovery to get it back to its best after being played on by kids or pets.
Artificial turf has its place on football training pitches and practice putting greens, but we think natural grass can’t be beaten for lawns and gardens.
With Earth Day 2019 upon us, we hope you will agree and do your bit to keep more natural planting in British gardens for the health of our planet.
Image source: http://www.ladbible.com/latest/sport-nike-to-charge-110-for-air-max-trainers-made-of-astro-turf-20190118
The health benefits of gardening are nothing new – researchers like Rachel and Stephen Kaplan have been publishing papers about the positive effects of the natural world since the 1970s.
In their early work, they found exposure to nature helps to overcome mental exhaustion, makes office workers happier and healthier, enhances mental focus and lifts mood.
But what are the other health benefits of gardening – and can they be physical as well as emotional?
Start young and you could create a green-fingered horticulturalist for life. In 2010 Dorothy Blair carried out a study of US research into children’s gardening and found several educational benefits.
These include a positive impact in areas like food behaviour and in science achievement – potentially helping young people to eat a healthier diet and to understand more about where their food comes from.
Participants also reported improved behaviour in school pupils who participated in gardening activities, which hints at a surprising link between tending plants and paying more attention in class.
A combination of a diet varied in home-grown fruit and vegetables plus the physical exercise of gardening could be behind a consistently lower BMI among community gardeners in Salt Lake City.
In 2013 the American Journal of Public Health published research that showed participants in community gardening schemes typically have a lower BMI than their neighbours and siblings, with a lower risk of obesity.
Healthy eating and exercise are not the only good habits people pick up through gardening. In 2005 a team from the University of Essex listed many more in an issue of Countryside Recreation.
They noted that access to nature can help to reduce stress – and for people in urban areas, that can mean the difference between whether or not they take up smoking, excess alcohol consumption or overeating as an alternative coping mechanism.
Community gardens can bring people together – even if they do not share a common language. In 2007, a study in Health Promotion International shed some light on the cultural diversity of gardeners in Toronto.
The researchers found that even though some community gardeners could not communicate verbally due to not sharing a common language, they overcame this using hand gestures and by exchanging food, helping to improve community cohesion.
Some participants even used their own garden as a place to grow ingredients that were not readily available in good fresh condition in local grocery stores, allowing them to cook traditional dishes and stay connected with their cultural heritage.
A survey of garden centre customers published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology in 2007 revealed that many people do not think of their private garden as being a part of the natural environment.
However, it also found that as well as a better appreciation for nature, many people tend to their gardens in order to keep them tidy and attractive for use during social events – giving them more outdoor space to use when entertaining friends and family.
It’s not just outside where gardens can help create happier homes. In 2012 a team from the Royal Horticultural Society and the Universities of Reading and Sheffield found they can have an impact on the interior too.
Gardens can help to reduce flood risk, reduce local air temperatures and act as insulation for the house against extremes of heat and cold, all helping the inhabitants to live happier and healthier lives.
Gardening Leave was a scheme established in 2007 to help ex-military personnel deal with conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder by working in a communal garden.
A study of the scheme in 2009 found overwhelming support among participants and particularly good outcomes for those who suffered with PTSD.
The benefits included a sense of structure and scheduling that was missing from civilian life, as well as the sense of safety and security that came from working in an enclosed walled garden.
You might feel safe and secure in your own garden, but can it make you feel less angry or less confused? According to research from 2007, it can.
Published in the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, the study looked at 263 participants in a variety of outdoor activities in four different UK regions.
It found that across the board, getting active outdoors significantly improves aspects of mood like anger and hostility, confusion and bewilderment, depression and dejection, and tension and anxiety – which might be a surprising level of detail for gardeners who just associate their outdoor space with feeling more calm in general.
Research from Taiwan in 2016 found that gardening can be linked with a longer life span in over-50s who either tend a garden, grow flowers or keep pot plants.
The study published in Clinical Interventions in Aging found a high survival rate particularly among elderly gardeners with mobility limitations, from a very large sample of over 5,000 people nationwide.
You might be surprised by this, as limited mobility could cause some people to give up gardening as a hobby, but the evidence is there to show that keeping it up literally adds years to your life – so how can you keep gardening in old age?
Back in the UK in 2004, a study in Social Science & Medicine looked at gardeners from the north of England and found that community gardens and shared allotments help older people to benefit from gardening even as their mobility decreases.
Researchers explained that decreasing mobility can make it harder for elderly gardeners to carry out certain tasks, but with support from younger gardeners in their community, they can still continue to successfully tend an allotment or other outdoor space and receive the health benefits and therapeutic effects of doing so.
With an ageing population worldwide and especially in the UK, gardening with support is an excellent way to make sure elderly people leave the house – even if only as far as the garden – and get the same physical and mental boost as their younger green-fingered counterparts.
If you have been inspired to get out into the garden and would like to improve the quality of your lawn, take a look at some of the guides in our blog on how you can get started. If your lawn is beyond saving, then maybe it’s time to let Carbutts Turf provide you with a lush new one!