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  • Guide your garden through the changing seasons this September

    September. The month that generally marks the end of summer and the start of autumn, in the UK at least. It’s always a busy month for gardeners, as they tackle an assortment of tasks to ensure everything in the garden is kept ship-shape during the changing seasons.

    Guide your garden through the changing seasons this September Guide your garden through the changing seasons this September

    In our latest blog, we get to grips with some of the main September jobs, starting with those all-important lawns.

    1 Cut back on cutting back! September is when you should start to mow your lawn less frequently. Give it a helping hand at this time of year, by raising the height of the cut a little.

    2 Examine: Look for wear and tear and take action now if necessary as September is the optimum month for treatment, giving the lawn time to respond ahead of the impending colder weather. Also check for damage caused by fungal disease or pests.

    3 Treat: Treatment could involve raking to keep moss and other unwanted elements under control. But be careful not to rake too deeply as this will damage the turf. Aerating, or spiking, will help the lawn cope in the event of waterlogging. Using a garden fork, spike your hole 10-15 cm deep and the same distance apart. If your lawn has surface irregularities, you might want to apply a top-dressing mix. The Royal Horticultural Society advises a mix of three parts sandy loam, six parts sharp sand and one part compost or leaf mould. Apply 2-3kg per sq m (4.4-6.6lb per 10 sq ft), working the dressing in well with the back of a rake. The result is better rooting and thicker turf. If you purchase a ready mix, be sure to follow the instructions on the pack.

    4 Feed: Do this after raking and spiking but before applying the top-dressing. Use an autumn lawn feed, as this is high in potassium.

    5 Renew: Early autumn is a great time to create a new lawn from turf or seed. Laying a lawn from turf is the quickest option, with instant results. However, using seed is the easier and cheaper way and you get a wider choice of turf. Which option you decide will be down to your own requirements.

    There are other gardening tasks to tick off in September, too.

    Fruit & veg:

    If you grow fruit or veg, now’s the time to reap your rewards! We all love harvest time, especially when there’s a healthy crop of berries, apples, pears, tomatoes, potatoes and the like to bring to the table. Enjoy!

    Flowers:

    September is the time to sow hardy annuals and plant new perennials. Also cut back and prune your flowers and divide those herbaceous perennials that have become overgrown and ‘clumpy’. This will encourage fresh and healthy growth next year. Take cuttings of tender perennials and if you don’t have a greenhouse, you can use a nice bright windowsill to grow them on. Bring other non-frost hardy perennials indoors. If you’re troubled by pesky perennial weeds, then tackle them now as they’re vulnerable at this time of year. Use weed-killer containing glyphosate but remember to protect valued plants with plastic sheeting.

    Trees & shrubs:

    Prune late summer flowering shrubs and give evergreen hedges their final pre-winter trim. You can now also plant and move trees and shrubs to give them a head start in time for next spring. Also give your plants and shrubs a liberal soaking. The soil will absorb it better, before the onset of colder weather. Start to prepare ahead for another great year in the garden by planting spring flowering bulbs.

    General maintenance:

    Cover any garden ponds with netting to keep out fallen leaves during the winter months and clear dead leaves away as soon as you can to avoid disease in the garden.

    And finally …

    Once you’ve done your September jobs, you can put your feet up with a cuppa and dream of spring … preferably with a nice portion of pudding made with all that lovely autumn fruit you’ve just harvested!

  • The Wembley turf: Our top 10 ‘Did You Knows’

    The Wembley turf: Our top 10 ‘Did You Knows’

    With England’s first home game of the football season taking place against Slovakia in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley on 4 September, we thought we’d take a look at some fascinating facts and stats about the stadium’s hallowed turf.

    And while most of the footy facts might be quite well-known, the same can’t be said about the pitch itself.

    For example, did you know that …

    1. The Wembley pitch has a Desso Grassmaster system which was introduced to overcome early problems with the pitch after the new stadium was opened in 2007. The technology combines synthetic grass with the real Wembley grass and uses a SubAir system, integrated undersoil heating and artificial lighting.

    2. The system means that even during very cold spells, the soil temperature can be kept at a constant 17 degrees, ensuring a world class playing surface.

    3. It took almost two weeks to insert over 48,000km of synthetic thread into the turf.

    4. Each strand of synthetic grass has six blades, so amongst the real Wembley grass, there are 120 million blades of Desso Grassmaster, which were inserted into the ground using long needles.

    5. Wembley’s real grass is a 100% ryegrass mix that’s exclusive to Wembley and is called Wembley Special Mix.

    6. The initial pitch problems at the new stadium were caused by the stadium’s microclimate due to its enclosed structure and because it’s in complete shade between late September and late March. The pitch had to be re-turfed 11 times in three years so eventually, the fibre-sand turfed surface had to go.

    7. The new pitch is four metres lower than the previous pitch.

    8. The pitch is covered by a protection system during concerts, when up to 25,000 people stand on the pitch area.

    9. The pitch maintenance routine includes daily cutting; weekly sub-surface aeration to control moisture content and oxygen levels in the roots; a fertiliser schedule; and the use of artificial lights to encourage growth.

    10. The system’s technology sends up-to-the-minute information to head groundsman Karl Standley’s mobile phone on pitch temperature, moisture levels, salinity and humidity.

    And, for our footy fans, here are four more facts about Wembley:

    The first match at the original Wembley Stadium was the FA Cup Final in April 1923, when Bolton Wanderers beat West Ham United 2-0 in the famous White Horse Final, so-named because a mounted policeman went onto the pitch to help clear the crowds. The game had not been ticketed and an estimated 200,000 fans turned up. Oops!

    The most famous game was, of course, the 1966 World Cup Final when Geoff Hurst became the only player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup Final as England beat West Germany 4-2 after extra time. Since then it’s been 51 years of hurt for fans of England’s senior side, and counting ...

    The last game at the old Wembley was a 1-0 defeat against Germany in October 2000. The stadium and famous Twin Towers were then demolished to make way for the new Wembley Stadium featuring its iconic arch.

    This is the 10th anniversary of the new stadium being opened.

    In six years’ time, we’ll be celebrating 100 years of Wembley Stadium. So many memories, so many stories, all played out on the most famous blades of grass in the world!

  • Cricket pitches: An easy guide on why they behave like they do

    Cricket pitches: An easy guide on why they behave like they do ID:141686786

    Cricket pitches: An easy guide on why they behave like they do

    A little bit of sporting history is being made this summer, with the first day/night cricket test match ever to be played in England taking place at Edgbaston in Birmingham from 17-21 August.

    The England v West Indies match will be played between 2pm and 9pm, not the usual time of 11am to 6pm.

    It sparked a discussion here about how it might affect the wicket and how it plays over the full five days. And that got us to thinking: What makes some pitches good for batting while others are more helpful to bowlers? And what makes for a seaming or a spinning pitch?

    There are other factors at play as well as the pitch. How a wicket plays can also be affected by weather conditions and the state of the ball, ie if it’s a shiny new ball, or a ball that’s shiny and hard one side and worn on the other, or a 70-over ball that’s completely soft and worn.

    And, of course, how the bowlers use their skills in manipulating the ball is the No 1 factor.

    With these caveats in mind, and avoiding all of the scientific gobbledegook you can find elsewhere, here’s a simplified explanation of the key principles of how and why a cricket pitch behaves the way it does:

    Pace: Why are some pitches traditionally good for fast bowlers?

    Hard cricket pitches – such as the WACA ground in Perth, Australia - help the ball to fly off the surface at pace and with good bounce. But pitches with some green in them can also be fast as they allow the new ball to skid off the surface.

    Seam & swing movement: How does the pitch contribute to it?

    Cricket pitches with more grass on them assist swing bowling (ball moves in the air) and seam bowling (ball moves off the seam after pitching) by causing the ball to behave more erratically. It’s not just the extra grass that does this, but the moisture in the pitch.

    Spin: What creates a spinning wicket?

    Cricket pitches generally start to spin when they’ve become worn and dusty, so spinners tend to have an increasing role to play as the game progresses. A dry, worn pitch will develop cracks that the spin bowler can pitch the ball into. However, the ball will also spin on a pitch that has moisture in it and then starts to dry out.

    Why is this even important? Here’s why …

    Captains and coaches can select their team based on what the wicket is telling them. And the big question for any cricket captain who wins the toss is: Shall we bat first or bowl first? Over a 5-day test match, assessing the wicket at the outset can be fraught with peril. Their decision will also be influenced by the weather conditions. But, as a very basic rule of thumb, here’s what generally happens:

    Dry conditions and dry wicket = bat first. It also means they get to bowl last on a potentially spinning wicket.

    Overcast conditions and a pitch with some green and moisture in it = bowl first to get the most out of favourable conditions.

    Clear as mud? Quite possibly. But reading a cricket pitch isn’t an exact science, far from it. It all adds the air of mystery and sheer unpredictability of the game. And we wouldn’t want it any other way!

  • 8 top tips on keeping your lawn healthy during the summer

    8 top tips on keeping your lawn healthy during the summer 8 top tips on keeping your lawn healthy during the summer

    8 top tips on keeping your lawn healthy during the summer.

    August: Long hot days, fun in the sun, summer holidays with family and friends. What’s not to love?

    But for our lawns, this is the time of year when they can really struggle without some regular TLC.

    The good news is that most lawns will recover fully from a drought or a dry spell. Even if lawns turn brown and dry during the summer months, they usually recover as soon as the rains return.  It would take an extremely severe drought to kill off your lawn completely.

    However, it’s still advisable to do a few simple things to protect your lawn from the worst effects of dry weather.

    We’ve compiled a list of 8 top tips to help your lawn survive and thrive.

    1 – Don’t mow so low

    Raising the height of the cut helps to avoid weakening the grass.

    2 – Mow less frequently

    Allow your grass to grow a bit longer. You could even include an area of butterfly and bee-friendly meadow flowers and just sit back and enjoy them during the height of summer.

    3 – Don’t be so tidy

    Yes, you did read that correctly! Avoid the temptation to clear away the grass clippings when you mow as they will act as mulch and help to retain any moisture in the soil for longer. Take care to ensure the clippings are nice and small so that they don’t smother and damage the grass.

     4 – Give your lawn a drink

    Water the lawn every 7-10 days (if water restrictions permit), but don’t over-do it. Too much water isn’t just wasteful, it’s potentially damaging. It also makes the lawn less drought-tolerant, so in the event of a hosepipe ban, when watering isn’t an option, it will deteriorate more rapidly.

    5 – Get your timings right

    Water your lawn early in the morning or late in the evening. Watering in the hottest part of the day will increase evaporation.

    6 – Nip it in the bud

    Water when the soil gets dry, but before the grass starts to change colour. The grass will usually stop growing and start to go brown when the top 10cm of soil dries out.

    7 – Use your fork

    If the ground has become very hard, aerate it with a fork before watering to help the water to sink in.

    8 – Work out how much water your lawn needs

    Ensure that the water reaches a depth of 10cm. You can do this by testing some areas a few hours after watering. You’ll soon learn how much water your lawn needs and how long to leave your sprinkler on.

    9 … And relax!

    We thought we’d add this 9th tip because this is the time of year to be out enjoying your garden and making the most of the summer weather.

    If you follow the dry weather advice, there’s every chance you won’t need to repair or relay your lawn in the autumn. If you have encountered problems, then you might want to consider relaying your lawn with drought-resistant grass mixes.

    And remember: Prevention is better than cure. By having a maintenance programme this autumn and next spring, your lawn will be in great shape for summer 2018, too.

    Ask our experts: Get in touch to learn how to achieve the best height cut from your mower during a dry spell.

  • Give your lawn the Wimbledon look!

    Give your lawn the Wimbledon lookGive your lawn the Wimbledon look!

    For the next two weeks all eyes will be focused on the most famous lawn in world sport.

    It’s Wimbledon fortnight and we can look forward to seeing all the world’s top players in action: Murray, Djokovic, Federer, Kerber, Halep, Pliskova … and arguably the biggest star of the show, the Centre Court itself.

    We thought we’d mark Wimbledon 2017 by taking a look at some stats about the famous lawn. And we’ve got a top tip on how you can give your own lawn the Centre Court look without breaking the bank.

    So, what goes into ensuring the 18 grass courts used during Wimbledon are in great shape from Day 1 to Finals weekend? Here are just a few facts we think you’ll love!

    Did you know that ...

    • Since 2001, following studies into durability, the courts have been sown with 100% perennial ryegrass
    • The grass is cut to 8mm during Wimbledon - the optimum length for the modern game, according to scientific researchers
    • During Wimbledon, the courts are cut every day and watered a little each evening
    • The 18 Championship and 22 practice grass courts are tended by a team of 16 full-time ground staff led by head groundsman Neil Stubley - and the numbers are increased to 28 during the two weeks of Wimbledon
    • A singles court measures 23.77m x 8.23m; the area of grass on each of the Centre Court and Number 1 Courts is 41m x 22m
    • How high the ball bounces is determined by the soil, not the grass
    • Nine tonnes of grass seed is used each year
    • The courts have to withstand over 650 matches during the tournament

    But what about the Centre Court’s  trademark stripes? How can we get that Wimbledon look for our lawns? It’s actually a lot easier than you might think, with a range of roller lawnmowers that will do the job nicely.

    It’s all about direction - Stripes are simply created by the two-tone contrasting colours of grass laid flat in one direction and again in the opposite direction. The direction in which the grass is bent causes the light green vs dark green striping effect.

    Mountfield-555RV-2We recommend our roller lawnmowers, which are renowned for producing a beautiful striped finish, Prices start from £319.00

    In the meantime, we can all sit back and enjoy the best tennis tournament on the planet, played on the finest surface of all - grass!

  • Thinking of buying a lawnmower online? Beware of fraudulent lawnmower websites and scams on Amazon

    lawnmower scams online

    As we enter spring I'm afraid that online con artists and fraudsters are once more turning their attention to lawnmowers and online scams are appearing. Firstly there are scam websites, typically these sites will seemingly offer high value walk behind and ride on lawnmowers at bargain prices. Payment will be via Western Union or Bank Transfer. This in itself should set alarm bells ringing. You should never pay by Western Union or Bank Transfer, it is a sure fire sign of a scam and you will be unlikely to be able to get your money back! We recommend always using a credit card with any high value online transaction as you have some protection from the credit card company.

    Scam Websites

    One of the latest scam sites we are aware of is www.mowerdepot.co.uk. This site does not look legitimate. We do not supply them. Whilst you can seemingly pay by credit card, you get a discount if you pay by bank transfer and the credit card processing is fake.  I expect they will contact you and say they are having a problem with their credit card payments and ask you to pay by bank transfer instead.  Please stay away, if you purchase a lawnmower from this site we doubt you will ever receive a new mower or ever see your money again!

    Scams on Amazon

    Another new type of scam involves Amazon. Fraudsters are either hijacking legitimate Amazon Marketplace seller accounts or creating fraudulent ones, they then offer lawnmowers at heavily discounted prices.  For example, the image below shows the Mountfield S501R PD listing on Amazon on 15th March, one seller is genuine with the price at £649, the other 3 are fraudsters.

    Mountfield-scam-Amazon

    The fraud works by the scammers encouraging potential purchasers to contact them via email to discuss delivery or something similar.  I contacted one of them and this is the email they sent me:

    Hello,
    First of all let me apologize for the late answer.
    Let me explain you how you can buy my Mountfield S501R PD 48cm Rear Roller Self Propelled Lawnmower
    The item is brand new, never used, but i can't list it as a new product due to Amazon policy, they don't allow me to list it as a new product. The item will comes with original box and accessories and 2 year international warranty.
    If you are wondering why the price is lower than the usual,it is because we have some promotional prices . The offer lasts 7 days.
    The total price is £246.00, including all shipping costs to Europe.
    If you want to buy it, please send me your shipping address(phone number, your complete name, street name and number, zip code and city) I will immediately send the required data to Amazon Department. They will contact you with the order and details about payment and shipping. You will have to complete the payment with them. Dispatch will be by normal UPS Services, which takes 3-5 days, depending on where in the United Kingdom you are located.
    My return policy is full refund in 21 days.
    For more information, please don't hesitate to contact me!
    Many Thanks

    I then received the following email supposedly from Amazon, it is quite convincing, but note the sender's email address; support@amazon-online-a-z-marketplace.com, not a genuine Amazon email address.  The payment method is by bank transfer to a personal bank account - this should hopefully cause alarm bells for most people.

    Fake email supposedly from Amazon

    These sort of scams seem quite widespread and affecting various brands.  Amazon are removing the scam sellers, but new ones seem to keep appearing.

    amazon scam mower listings

    If you are considering a new lawnmower this year it is great to research your purchase online.  There are some great deals to be had, but please be wary and remember the old adage; if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

  • Guide to choosing a new lawnmower

    Do you need help choosing a lawnmower?

    Choosing the right lawnmower can seem daunting - but it needn’t be difficult if you follow this guide.

    How large is your lawn?

    The first thing to consider is the size of your garden. Is it small, medium, large or extra large? If we use a tennis court as a reference point, small gardens are around half a tennis court, medium up to three quarters and large up to one and a half. Extra large gardens are half an acre or more and a ride-on mower would be a more appropriate choice.Mountfield 1530M-2

    Mower type

    Depending on the size of your garden you may have a choice of power source. Mains electric mowers are quiet, lightweight and easy to use; they are ideal for smaller gardens.

    Mountfield 80 volt cordless lawnmowersCordless mowers are an increasingly popular choice and with advances in battery  technology are now able to cut larger lawns.

    Mountfield Petrol LawnmowersPetrol engine mowers are the most popular choice for larger areas as they are more powerful are not restricted by a cable and can operate for long periods of time. Modern petrol engines are easy to start and on some you just have to turn a key.

    Mulching magic!

    Mowers with 4 wheels are highly manoeuvrable and give an excellent finish on all types of lawn.  Many also have the option of fitting a mulching plug to mulch the grass clippings;  this involves cutting the grass clippings into extra fine particles and recycling them back into the turf, this not only fertilizes the lawn but also means you don’t have to keep stopping to empty the collector.  Mulching isn’t actually magic, although it may feel like it, but it is a great feature saving you both time cutting your lawn and money buying lawn feed.

    Classic stripes

    80 volt cordless roller mowerNothing really finishes a fine lawn better than row after row of beautiful stripes.  To achieve this classic striped finish you’ll need a machine with a rear roller. Traditionally stripes used to be associated with cylinder mowers but these days rotary mowers fitted with a rear roller are much more popular.  They are normally powered by a petrol engine but new 80 volt cordless models are now also available.

    Cutting width

    The wider the cutting width of the mower you use then the quicker you will cut your grass.  For example, if your lawn is 20 meters wide then you will have to go up and down it around 38 times with a 53cm mower compared to 49 times with a 41cm mower.   The 53cm mower will also have a larger grass collector, so unless you are mulching the grass, you will also have to stop less often to empty the grass collector.  So the 53cm mower will be around 30% quicker to cut your grass.  The larger mower will however be heavier and harder to turn and manouevre around obstacles a well as being more expensive.

    To push or not to push?

    Hand propelled machines have to be pushed to make them move forward, the motor or engine’s sole function is to drive the cutter blade. Self propelled models have a transmission so they require less effort to use; just engage the drive and the mower will move forward.  Some self propelled models also have a variable speed control, so you can adjust the speed to best suit your own pace or the conditions.

    The chassis, or cutter deck, may be made of polypropylene, steel with a powder coated paint finish, or hybrid steel/aluminium. It houses the blade and determines the working width, from 34cm to 53cm.

  • The secret to great stripes on your lawn!

    secret-to-great-stripes

     

    Lawn stripes are simply created by the two-tone contrasting colours of grass laid flat in one direction and again in the opposite direction. When grass is bent away from you, it appears lighter in colour as light reflects off the fatter part of the grass plant. Pushed towards you, the grass looks darker.

    To get good lawn stripes you will need a mower with a rear roller. A heavy steel roller will produce a more pronounced stripe than a lighter plastic roller.

    • Start by cutting around the edge of the lawn
    • Work from one side of your lawn, cutting up and down the length
    • Only ever push forward with the mower, this is because it is the direction of the mower (and the roller) that makes the grass bend in different directions thus creating the striped effect.
    • Slightly overlap the stripe each time so that you do not have thin strips of uncut grass left between the stripes.
    • Cut the edges with a grass trimmer for a neat result
    • Sit back and enjoy the view of your beautiful striped lawn, perhaps with a nice cup of tea or cold beer?

    Next time you cut your lawn, cut along the same stripes in the same direction as previously to develop a more pronounced lawn stripe.

    • There are actually many varieties of grass available and fine ornamental grasses will produce more pronounced stripes in your lawn.  These grasses are however delicate and require more care and attention than the common general purpose grasses that make up the majority of lawns.

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