Monthly Archives: July 2019

  • Tap into the benefits of a water butt

    No ifs, no buts - water butts save you money and water as you care for your garden at this time of year.

    And, with the UK’s National Drought Group recently urging everyone to use water wisely and conserve water supplies, it makes sense for us to harvest as much rainfall as we possibly can.
    It has been estimated that up to 24,000 litres of water can be saved from the average house roof each year. Southern Water calculates that average rainfall in the South East of England can fill a water butt up to 450 times a year and that a butt can fill 25 watering cans - that’s 11,250 watering cans!

    It also means we’re taking less water from our rivers, conserving a precious resource that is needed for our drinking supplies.

    There are other advantages to using harvested water in our gardens. For a start, plants, fruit and veg prefer natural rainwater because it’s packed with beneficial nutrients. Tap water, on the other hand, commonly contains chemicals.

    The ambient temperature of water from a butt is also better for the garden than the water we get from our cold taps.

    And of course, a butt provides a handy source of water for your garden, if you don’t have an outdoor tap.

    So, what are the practicalities of having a water butt? They come in various shapes and sizes - most household butts tend to be from 100 to 500 litres. You can connect several together, using butt linking kits. Most are plastic, but wooden and metal ones are also available. Prices typically start at under £30.

    Water butts are relatively simple to install. The key requirements are a level ground surface and a downpipe from your roof. In simple terms, a connector hose diverts the water into your butt.
    It might be too late to benefit from a water butt this summer, but if you install one now, you can start saving up for next year. Time to tap in?

  • Get a flutter for our butterflies

    The UK’s 2019 Big Butterfly Count takes place across the country from 19 July to 11 August, when people are encouraged to find a nice spot in their garden, park or local woodland and take 15 minutes to record sightings.

    Last year, more than 100,000 people took part, making it the biggest citizen science insect survey in the world. Between them, they spotted almost 1 million of the 19 target species.

    The count is run by Butterfly Conservation and gives us a picture on the health - or otherwise - of the environment.

    The nature charity also offers tips on how we can attract more butterflies to our gardens. With three-quarters of British butterflies in decline and some facing extinction, they need all the help we can give them.

    Here are a few simple things we can do.

    Introduce nectar-rich plants - preferably in a sunny, sheltered spot. Choose different plants to attract more types of butterfly but clump the same plants together. And have plants that flower at different times of the year, so butterflies have a rich source of nectar from spring to autumn.

    Top butterfly plants include buddleia (blooms in July and August), English lavender (all summer), perennial wallflower, or Bowles’s Mauve (from April), wild marjoram/oregano (June to September), and verbena bonariensis (August to October). Other butterfly-friendly plants are red valerian, common knapweed and hemp agrimony.

    Deadheading the plants will allow them to flower for longer, and regular watering will keep them healthy. Do these two things, and the butterflies will keep fluttering back.

    Allow part of your grass to grow long and let a patch of weeds such as dandelions to flourish - butterflies and bees love them.

    Butterflies enjoy basking in the sunshine, so give them somewhere they can ‘sunbathe’ such as a fence or a flat rock.

    There are some important don’ts, too: Don’s use pesticides; don’t use peat-based compost because many butterfly species need peat bogs; and don’t keep your garden too neat and tidy during winter, as a small area with logs or leaves provides shelter for butterflies during their dormancy.

    To log your sightings during the count period and for tips on how to make your garden butterfly-friendly, visit www.butterfly-conservation.org - it also has a butterfly identification page.

  • The Perfect Picnic

    As some parts of the world celebrate Picnic Month this July, we look at what makes the perfect picnic - and how your garden is the best possible spot for the kids to have a picnic tea.

    The long-term weather forecast is promising a warm, dry month for much of the UK, so with the weather seemingly set fair, what else do we need for a fabulous picnic?

    Preparation and packing

    Choose your equipment carefully and make sure all the lids seal properly. Re-useable, lightweight plastic plates and cutlery (or try bamboo plates) are easier to pack and carry - and the same goes for wine ‘glasses’ and teacups. It also prevents accidents with glass. Just don’t forget your bottle opener!

    Store foods in Tupperware containers in a cool box, keeping food types separate - especially meats and pungent cheeses. On warm days, keep the food in the cool box until you need it - having it all laid out might look nice, but it won’t taste great and might risk poor food hygiene.

    Cut your quiches, pies and cakes beforehand, so they’re ready to serve. And when packing a selection of condiments such as dressings and sauces, keep them in the containers. Don’t add to your salads in advance - they’ll turn soggy.

    A picnic blanket and comfy cushions are essential, and maybe some picnic chairs, too. Finally, you’ll probably need sun cream and insect bite cream, just in case. Serviettes and hand wipes or anti-bacterial gel are also musts but are easy to forget in all the excitement.

    The picnic spread

    Quiches, pork pies, sausage rolls, scotch eggs and chicken drumsticks are all picnic favourites and hard to leave out. Offer boiled eggs, falafel Scotch eggs and veggie quiches for those who don’t eat meat and add a Mediterranean touch with stuffed vine leaves, hummus and olives.

    Choose a nice selection of sandwiches or rolls - tuna & sweetcorn, and salmon and cucumber will keep fishy people happy. Or slice up a baguette or two so people can add their own cold meats, cheeses and salad.

    For the salad, keep it simple - some sweet, juicy tomatoes, sliced cucumber, colourful peppers and fresh lettuce leaves should do the trick. Throw in a potato salad or pasta salad, and you’re away.

    The same ‘keep it simple’ message applies to dessert. Fresh strawberries and/or raspberries and cream can’t be beaten, and you can scrunch some bought meringue nests over the top. Chocolate brownies go down well with younger members of the party, and you can’t go too far wrong with a nice slice of lemon drizzle cake.

    All that’s left is to pack your tipples of choice, some soft drinks and plenty of water - and enjoy.

    The great thing about a having a picnic is that you don’t have to go any further than your own garden - if you have a nice lawn, of course! It’ll save all that packing. And if you want to keep the children occupied and happy, why not let them choose and create the menu?!

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