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Landscaping

How to Make Your Garden Wildlife Friendly

Some of the UK’s most loved animals are in decline and at risk of extinction – beloved species such as the dormouse and hedgehog are seeing falling populations due to intensive farming, urbanisation, and climate change.

Sir David Attenborough has said, “The natural world is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before. We continue to lose the precious wildlife that enriches our lives and is essential to the health and wellbeing of those who live in the UK.” Luckily, there are steps that you can take to make your garden wildlife friendly and to promote the wellbeing of animals that are living in your area.

Your garden isn’t just a place for you to relax; it can also become an adventure and opportunity to spot different types of birds and animals who are living all around us. Creating habitats and opportunities for animals to breed, shelter, and hibernate is key to helping our domestic species to last through the generations.

Turn Your Garden into a Habitat

A perfect lawn looks good, but it does not help to preserve our wildlife for the next generation. While you do not need to forgo a beautiful decking area or patio, it is helpful to create a few areas in your garden that work as a good habitat for different species. This includes:

  • Long grass areas for birds to lay eggs  and for insects to live in
  • Varied trees and shrubs – ideally flowering ones to provide nectar and food sources
  • Water features to allow birds to bathe and drink and for amphibians to lay eggs

These can all be incorporated into your garden without compromising on the overall look and feel.

Provide Shelter for Animals

There are a huge number of ways that you can help animals survive the night or even the winter. Creating a safe home for wildlife means you are more likely to see and enjoy different species throughout the year. A few options include:

  • Installing trellis along your walls to provide an area for birds to roost
  • Installing a bat box
  • Creating a bee hotel
  • Leaving your borders until late winter or early spring so that the vegetation can provide shelter for insects
  • Planting honesty and hedge garlic for butterflies to enjoy
  • Building a hedgehog box and placing it out of direct sunlight and in thick vegetation (or behind your shed)

As well as providing shelters, it’s important to provide ways for animals to enter and exit your garden. While birds and insects can fly, hedgehogs and frogs need a hole in your fence to crawl through – especially if you have installed gravel boards.

Reduce Hazards for Your Wildlife

Once you have created good conditions for animals to live and thrive in your garden, it’s important to avoid harming them in other ways. Common garden items such as slug pellets, for example, can kill hedgehogs. Toxic wood preservatives can also leech into the soil and harm wildlife, so it’s important to work with natural or non-toxic paints and preservatives throughout your garden. 

Use Pavers to Make a Modern Water Feature

If you want to break up your lawn and attract wildlife to your garden, there’s no better way to do it than a pond or water feature. They’re surprisingly easy to make for something that increases desirability and creates so much entertainment throughout the year. You don’t even need to add fish to watch squirrels, birds, and even frogs playing and running around your garden.

Using paving slabs or kerbing/edging around your pond is a great way to give it a more modern look and keep the edges safe and stable. Rocks and plants provide more interest and anchor the pond to the rest of your garden so that it complements its surroundings rather than standing out. It’s a good weekend project if you don’t mind a bit of digging!

This example from The Garden Glove uses a solar-powered pump to move the water around, but there’s no need to go quite that high-tech. These are the easy steps to digging out a simple garden pond.

  1. Decide where your pond will go and measure out the area: if you want to add plants to your pond, it’s important to make sure that it’s in the sunlight so they can thrive. You can either use a pre-made plastic container to stop the water from draining out of your pond, or a plastic liner which means you can decide the size and shape yourself. If you’re using a container, just trace around it to make a dip in the soil and dig that out. If you’re using a liner, make sure that you factor the depth into your sizing, since the liner will need to cover the bottom of your pond and go up the sides.
  2. Dig out your pond: this is hardest part of the project (especially if you have clay soil or lots of rocks) so it’s worth asking someone to help. Dump your soil in a wheelbarrow or elsewhere in the garden – if you’re planning to make raised planters at some point, it’s a good idea to keep your soil so you don’t need to buy much filler.
  3. Line your pond: put your container into the hole you dug out, or use your liner to cover the soil in your pond. Make sure your liner overlaps the edges by around a foot – your pavers will hide it and weigh it down so that it doesn’t fall into the pond and let water drain out later. You may want to put some rocks on the bottom of your pond, especially if the container is light and needs to be camouflaged.
  4. Add pavers or stones to the edges of your pond: the design and arrangement is entirely up to you. Natural stone pavers can link the pond to your patio, or concrete pavers give it a sleek, modern look without spending too much. You can mix it up with pebbles or chippings as well.
  5. Add plants: if you want to add plants to your water feature, make sure that the rim of the plant pot sits just under the surface.
  6. Fill your pond with water!
Build a Sandpit for the Kids

If you don’t live near the beach but still want the kids to enjoy making sandcastles, creating a sandpit is an easy and safe way to let them indulge and keep them entertained in the summer. You don’t have the risks you do in communal sandpits of having rubbish (or worse) in the sand, and can make it as big or as small as you want depending on the size of your garden.

All you need is:

Creating your sandbox is relatively simple, and should just take an afternoon.

  1. Measure out your area and cut the sleepers to fit: it’s best to at least use the length of the railway sleepers to cut down on sawing. You may need to cut one of the sleepers in half to make the shorter edges of your sandpit if you don’t want a square.
  2. Seal the ends of the cut sleepers with wood preserver.
  3. Put the edges of your sandbox together and make sure you’re happy with their positions and size. Then dig out the area for your sandbox, removing around 25-30mm of soil. Remove any stones and make sure it’s smooth and safe.
  4. Put your sleepers around along the edges of your dug-out area (they should be within the dug out rectangle, not outside it) and use the spirit level to check that they’re not tilting. 
  5. Remove the sleepers and cover the bottom of your sandpit with weed fabric, to prevent anything growing through the sand. You can secure the fabric with nails if you’d like, but laying sleepers on it should keep it in place.
  6. Put your sleepers back into position, making sure not to knock the edges of the weed fabric, and screw them into place to secure them. Make sure that the screws are recessed to prevent scraps and avoid problems with sanding.
  7. Sand down the corners and edges of the sleepers to keep them smooth and avoid scrapes or splinters.
  8. Fill your pit with sand, and let the kids try it out! You may want to use a cover for it for when it’s not in use to avoid leaves filling the pit or attracting the local cats. Tarp is the cheaper solution, or you can use plywood for something solid. 
7 of Our Favourite Garden DIYs to Make the Most of Summer

Summer’s coming to an end but it’s not quite over yet – there are still a few sunny weekends coming up when you can make the most of the warm weather and improve your home or garden. Here are a few of our favourite DIY projects from around the net – you can make almost all of them with items from your local builders’ or timber merchant, but may need to supplement a few specialist parts from elsewhere.

Make a DIY Greenhouse

If you don’t quite grow enough to justify a full greenhouse or don’t have the room in the garden, you can make a small ‘lean to’ type of greenhouse with wood and old windows. Timber is generally best for the entire structure to let the plants breathe and prevent too much moisture build up. You just need some timber and can either make the windows yourself with wood and glass (there’s no need to double-glaze!) or try to source some second hand windows online or at a salvage yard. It’s perfect for small grow projects or compact gardens.

Build a House Arbor

Arbors can be impressive structures but aren’t necessarily difficult to make –  the entire structure can be made from wood and completed in a day. You can use the frame to grow climbing plants to eventually cover it, or just stain the wood to match the look of your home.

 

Create a Garden Fireplace

There’s something luxurious and primal about a garden fireplace – it’s rare to find one in the UK but they’re perfect for winding down summer evenings or even roasting marshmallows in winter. It’s fairly easy to install too – the main materials are pavers for the flooring around your fire and timber for the bench.

 

Organise Your Patio

This is definitely one of the more impressive projects we’ve seen – an organised space that’s almost like a pantry for the outdoors. You can build in a log store, install a small BBQ with sideboards, and even have a space on the patio to keep your herb garden. This project takes more expertise and skill than the others to get a good finish, but the main material is still timber with a lick of paint.

 

Make Your Trees More Inviting

Sitting under a tree reading a book seems like a lovely way to spend an afternoon, but damp earth and uncomfortable roots can quickly hamper that. A simple solution is to build some decking around your tree so that you can sit comfortably and enjoy more of your garden throughout the summer. We stock everything you need for this decking project apart from the elbow grease.

Start Your Compost Heap

If you’d like to improve your garden soil and reduce waste at home, a compost heap will kill two birds with one stone. You can build a compost bin in an afternoon to contain the heap and stop it from spilling out elsewhere in the garden.

Add Grass to Your Urban Garden

If all of these projects are too big and you’d really just like to make the most of your urban garden, why not create a daybed that lets you lie on the grass? Instead of choosing between a patio and lawn, you can have both. If you don’t want to maintain the grass, you can even use an artificial alternative that won’t ever need mowing or watering. 

How to Improve Your Garden Soil

Good soil is the foundation for any successful growing project, whether you want to improve your borders or even start growing your own food. Britain’s land is hugely varied, so it’s important to pay close attention to your soil before you start planting to ensure that it drains well, allows room to grow, and has the nutrients you need for your chosen plants to grow.

Use Good Topsoil

Topsoil is a simple fix in many cases. If your soil is very shallow or if you’d like to fill some planters, this is what you need on the top layer to give your plants the best start. Topsoil can be screened – which means it’s free from stones, roots, and weeds – which is ideal for projects where quality is more important than quantity. If you just need to fill large areas, economy topsoil is usually the best choice.

Using pre-bought top soil means that you won’t need to till it quite as much, can have a top layer that’s free from weeds or rocks, and don’t need to break up lumps of clay or worry that the soil is preventing growth. However, topsoil doesn’t necessarily have enough nutrients to properly sustain your plants and let them thrive, which is why it’s important to use compost in conjunction with it.

Create a Compost Heap

Composting is probably one of the best-known gardening practices, and it’s a fantastic way of increasing the amount of organic matter (and nutrients) in your soil without having to spend anything on your garden. Even better, you reduce waste in your home and be more environmentally-friendly in the process.

The aim of composting is to introduce more nitrogen and carbon back into your soil – you can do this by adding table scraps, fruit/vegetables, eggshells, leaves, grass clippings, wood ash, tea leaves, newspaper, and even dryer lint to your heap. It’s best to compost in a bin or container to stop the smell from seeping into the rest of the garden, but try to start your heap on bare earth to give worms and other organisms a way to aerate your compost heap.

Add Organic Matter Straight to the Garden

If you don’t have the room for a compost heap or just don’t want the ongoing work of maintaining one, you can add scraps straight to your garden if you approach it intelligently. You can add finely-cut banana skins, coffee grounds, and egg shells straight to your soil without waiting for them to break down first.

Egg shells improve drainage in your garden and the calcium promotes plant growth, as well as helping to prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes and squash plants. They even work as a deterrent for slugs and snails that might ruin your crop.

Coffee grounds act as a fertiliser and add nitrogen to your soil, as well as keeping earthworms happy, while banana skins add a cocktail of different nutrients to the soil including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium – all of which help to keep your plants healthy and boost growth.  

Block Pave Paths, Patios and Drives

Tools required:

  • Compacting Plate (Available to hire from most plant hire companies)
  • Block Cutting Tool (Available to hire from most plant hire companies)
  • Long Straight Edge for levelling sand and adjusting falls (Long straight edge timber plank or scaffold pole)
  • Rubber Mallet
  • String Lines and Setting Out Pegs
  • Soft Broom
  • Protective Gloves & Goggles
  • Trowel for Kerb and Edging laying
  • Shovel
  • Spirit Level
  • Plastic Float
  • Bolster
  • Knee Pads

Uses

Block Paving, also known as Paviours or Pavers, can be used in almost all paving applications be it large commercial projects, such as car parks and docks, right down to a simple garden path or patio. It is a good alternative to traditional concrete and tarmac as offers greater flexibility in design and is aesthetically more pleasing. Being interlocking in their design makes them extremely strong for use in trafficked areas.

Types

Concrete is the main material used in the manufacture of block paving and thicknesses of 50mm, 60mm and 80mm are most common. Many designs and colours are available which include smooth finish, textured top, tumbled or rustic to give that worn appearance and top-mix or face-mix blocks which offer a cost effective solution if you are looking for a natural stone effect.

Clay is the other material pavers can be made from and generally come on either 50mm or 65mm in thickness and are mostly 200mm x 100mm in size although other sizes are available. The advantage of clay pavers is that the material does not fade with age so will always keep that fresh look as long as maintained by regular cleaning.

SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems). This is block paving with larger spacing lugs which are filled with a grit, once laid, and therefore allows water to permeate straight through to the specially constructed sub-base and then into the water table, or an attenuation system, thus helping to improve the environment. The main reason for this requirement is that it deals with the run-off at source rather than it draining into a sewage system or water course which helps alleviate flooding. Check with your local building control to see whether this system is required for your particular application.

How many will I require?

This will vary on the size and shape of the blocks you choose but if using the most popular size of 200 x 100mm there are 50 per square metre. Make sure you allow between 2 and 5 percent for wastage as edge blocks will generally require cutting. For coverage of other sizes you would need to check the manufacturer’s literature or contact your nearest Lawsons branch.

Preparation

The most important part of any paving project is in the preparation of the area. A solid sub-base must be constructed which will generally be of a well compacted Type 1 material at least 100mm deep depending on loading required and type of system. Then a 50mm layer of levelled Sharp Sand to cover the entire area. Depending on ground conditions and application a Geotextile layer may be required between the sub-base and sub-soil for stabilisation purposes. Make sure you have a solid edging around the entire perimeter which should be constructed with either Block Paving Kerbs or Concrete Path Edgings laid and haunched with a C20 concrete.

Laying the Pavers

Once the Sharp Sand base is prepared and levelled the blocks can be laid, by hand, in the desired design and pattern. Always lay from an edge and avoid treading on the sand base. Another important point is to select blocks from at least 3 different packs which will help with any colour variation which may occur from different packs.

Once all the blocks are laid sweep in Kiln Dried Jointing Sand to all the joints (Joint Grit in a SUDS system) and run over the whole area with a vibrating compacting plate to bed the blocks in firmly. It is often necessary to repeat the Jointing Sand process to ensure all joints are completely filled.

Maintenance

Paving blocks can be sealed, once laid, with a proprietary sealer, this will help to maintain colour and as well as supressing weed growth will help prevent staining from such things as oil.

Joints may require additional sanding over the years and certainly will if the area is pressure washed. Other than that the occasional sweep is all that will be required.

Costings

The lowest cost blocks are generally the standard rectangular 200 x 100 x 50mm type and the most expensive can be the clay type. But, bear in mind that the most expensive part of the project will be in the preparation and sub-base construction so even going for the more expensive type blocks may only add 10% to the price of the whole project.

Build a Perfect BBQ Garden

Realistically, the UK only enjoys about a month of BBQ weather per year, so we need to make the most of it. This is when Britons get the most enjoyment out of their gardens and beautiful lawns – enjoying good (possibly burnt) food with family and friends while soaking in the sun. A well-designed BBQ garden gives you space to cook on, eat on, and socialise, without turning the entire area into a patio. It’s surprisingly easy to design a garden that helps you make the most of summer while cutting down on maintenance throughout the rest of the year.

Build the Right Decking

Decking is the perfect way to make your garden more usable and turn it into a social space. Even if it rained 10 minutes before your BBQ, you can still sit out and enjoy the sun when it comes out. Create a deck that takes up no more than 1/3 to ½ of your garden so that you can still enjoy a lawn and vegetation, while creating enough room for the grill and a generous seating area for yourself, family, and guests.

Add Garden Walls and Rails

Putting your drinks and food down on the floor is quite unappealing and spills are inevitable. Creating thick garden walls or even decking with a balustrade offers places to rest drinks, plates, and sunglasses while you chat and mingle with guests. It’s incredibly easy to add these details to your garden, especially when Lawsons’ bricks start from just £0.68 each. You can use walls to create barriers, separate flowers from vegetables, or just define different areas in your garden while giving guests additional spaces to sit and put down drinks.

Create a Built-In BBQ

If you’re serious about grilling, a permanent BBQ is a must-have for your garden. You can build most of it with bricks and cement, but will need to add the metal grills and possibly a coal/log store to start the fire. No more fighting to get the BBQ out of the back of your shed, worrying it might be broken, or cursing yourself for not buying the bigger model – you can create a custom BBQ space over a single weekend. 

Update Your Driveway for Real Kerb Appeal

Your driveway is one of the first things you see when approaching your home – it can add kerb appeal, security, and elegance to your home without having to gain planning permission or affect your day to day life during the building work.

Choosing the Right Materials

Your driveway material is one of the most important decisions you’ll make – it will affect the look for your drive, utility, and security. There are a number of options available, each depending on your priorities and preferences.

Gravel

Gravel drives are the best option for good home security. The noise of the drive, even when walking, can be a deterrent to would-be thieves, especially if you then create a path around your home so it’s difficult to approach or look into your windows without making a sound. You can also choose from a range of materials including limestone chippings and slate, depending on your preferences and budget.

However, gravel drives ultimately require more maintenance – driving on gravel can create furrows and ruts, which then fill with water. They can also suffer from weeds growing through the gravel, or need recovering when gravel has been tamped into the ground or just displaced over a number of years. In addition to recovering, you will need to rake the gravel regularly to make sure that the driveway has an even covering.

Brick or Pavers

Brick or paved driveways are typically more expensive than gravel, but feel more luxurious. You can comfortably walk on your drive barefoot, but they do not offer the same level of home security since you can walk or drive on bricks without creating a lot of additional noise.

Despite the additional cost, a brick or paved driveway requires less maintenance in the long-run so you may save money since a brick drive will last considerably longer than a gravel one without required recovering. The paving will just require cleaning every so often, without the need to continually top up the materials as you would with a gravel driveway.

Whether you’d like a gravel, brick, pavers, or a natural stone driveway, Lawsons can provide the materials you need for the project. Take a look at our options and buy online, or call your local branch to arrange quick delivery. 

Everything you need to Know about Railway Sleepers
 
The Deck of Your Dreams

No matter how beautiful your garden is, without a deck it’s missing an integral focal point in terms of both looks and practicality.

A decked area is more than a handy spot for relaxing in the sun; it’s a point of centrality, a beautiful oasis in the middle of your lawn which surrounded by trees, shrubs and flowers, makes what is essentially the sitting room for your outdoor living.

Enjoying your garden from the comfort of an attractive, timber deck allows you to really relax when it comes to eating alfresco. The appearance of your garden is improved and enhanced thanks to the splash of warmth provided by the deck and you can really go to town when it comes to furniture too.

Where to place your deck

If possible, decks are usually best off placed as close to the main access point into the garden from indoors as possible.

This means that in poor weather, when you most want to maintain the deck through cleaning and sweeping it free of leaves and water, you won’t need to traipse across wet grass or slippery paving stones to get to it.

It also means that you’ll find it very convenient when you’re entertaining and want to come in and out with plates or food.

Of course this isn’t always possible and if you need to place your deck in a spot a little further away from the house, this is fine but it’s a good idea to consider a roofed area so that the deck is a little protected rather than marooned in the middle of the garden.

How to make your deck into a glamourous and attractive outdoor living area

Your deck has the potential to act as another room; during the warmer months it can provide that extra space for entertaining or simply somewhere to sit and read.

Choose comfortable outdoor furniture and add extra lighting in the form of solar lanterns and fairy lights. This way you can enjoy the deck even after dark during the warmer months. Perhaps add a chimenea for the chilly Autumn period when you’re not quite ready to hang up your summer hat!

Lawsons stock a wide variety of decking materials, oils and tools; visit Lawsons today to discover more about how a deck could improve your garden.

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