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The day the clocks go back is somewhat monumental. It’s the day we lose an hour of daylight, but gain an extra hour in bed 😉. If you are or know of the kind to go into immediate hibernation as soon as the sun sets, spread the word – the day isn’t over! This post will ensure that the clock change means you can still make the most of your day, light or dark.

Meeting the night wildlife

Although our instincts may be to go back inside when it gets dark, many animals just outside our doorstep do the exact opposite. By using any pet food or leftovers that you might have and leaving them outside, you could attract the local neighbours of badgers, foxes, hedgehogs, bats or even deer if you’re lucky! It’s can be pretty breathtaking to watch nature in all its glory.

Star and planet gazing

Not only can you see so much already from your back garden on a clear night, but you’ll be able to also see the whole sky so much clearer with simply a pair of binoculars or a birdwatching telescope should you have them handy. It’s a wonderful activity to do with the kids as you can teach them about space and the different moon phases.You can show them the full moon on the 23rd of November, whether they think it’s made out of cheese or not. 😉

Light a bonfire

This is a really sociable way of getting your friends and family outside during the colder months. Getting some wood together and a box of matches (and even some wooden scraps from an old DIY) is the perfect recipe for an evening of toasted marshmallows and great conversation, you’ll want seconds.

Visit a viewpoint

This may only apply to those of you who live near or in a city, but it’s a beauty. A great thing to do as the sun sets or as soon as it gets dark is to go to your favourite highpoint and take in a view of the city. The street lights and tiny houses will make it seem so small, and you get perspective on how huge everything really is!

Make some DIY lights

A great way to celebrate the darker months is to decorate your space with your own DIY creations. You can even use leftover firewood or things around the house, to light up your indoor or outdoor space. If you’re in need of a little inspiration, this blog post has 20 great ideas for light ideas you can make yourself. We also have a tutorial on how to make your own upcycled glass bottle light and a plastic concrete pendant light. De-light-ful!

Plant some shade-friendly greenery

There’s no denying that as the clocks go back, not only is it a sign of the coming cold but it also means that your plants don’t get as much light per day. So, here’s a heads up on some fern-tastic plants which grow in these conditions.

A plant that will give your garden a spot of colour and are perfect for this time of year are autumn crocuses. If you’re looking for greenery which loves the extreme shade look no further with Autumn ferns. They don’t need too much care when integrated into your garden, and Japanese maples are trees which are ideal to plant in Autumn, are relatively easy and will give you flowers in early to mid spring.

Camp with your kids

A guaranteed way of bringing the kids outside when the clocks turn back is by using your back garden as a camping ground. What better way to bring them on an adventure – on your own home turf! Activities such as teaching them how to set up a tent, playing around with hand shadows from a torch  or listening out for owls will give them an experience of being that little bit closer to nature!

We hope you enjoyed this post are now looking forward to the clocks changing! Enjoy spending time doing lots of fun activities with family and friends, and quite literally, have the time of your life!

 

Essential Gardening Jobs for November

Eight Winter Jobs to Get Your Garden Ready for the New Growing Year

 

Ever get frustrated that your plants can’t stay with you for more than a couple of weeks from a disease you never saw coming? This post is here to save you from the worry of them targeting your precious plants again with these handy tips.

 

In order to choose your plant protection products wisely, you first need to identify what exactly is wrong with your plants. Below are the most common issues:

  • Insects – They bite or drill holes in the leaves, stem and fruit, and can cause serious damage or even death to your plant. They usually hide out on the underside of leaves, making it relatively easy to find them. To get rid of or ward off insects, you will need an insecticide.
  • Moulds – These attach themselves to your plants and feed on them. The first warning that you have mould is when you see any staining and discolouration on leaves and stems. To treat, you need a fungicide.
  • Excess nutrient or nutrient deficiencies – You will normally notice these only when the leaves change colour, as they tend to turn paler or yellow. To solve this problem, you will require fertiliser or a deficiency corrector.
  • Excess or lack of irrigation/ exposure to sunlight – If you haven’t found any bugs or noticed spots or stains, and the leaves are a good colour, then it may be that you need to water more or less, or provide more or less sunlight.

The critical thing is to identify the issue. Applying insecticide won’t help if your plant has mould, or vice versa.

 

The essential plant protection first aid kit

Let’s suppose you have ruled out any issues with watering, that the plant receives enough sunlight, and that you fertilise it regularly. In this case all you need is an insecticide and a fungicide, as well as a few targeted products that we will discuss later on.

It’s good to know that most of these products play a preventative as well as curative role. After all, prevention is always, always better than cure. As an example, in summer some regions are prone to torrential rains. This provides the ideal conditions for the appearance of moulds, as these thrive in heat and humidity.

After it rains, it’s a good idea to apply fungicide to your plants, as a preventative measure. This stops the mould or fungus spores from finding a suitable environment to settle in.

The same goes for insecticides. Have you ever noticed that the instructions tell you to reapply the treatment after a few days? That’s because many insecticides target the adult insects, but do not work on the eggs that may have been deposited on your plants. These will hatch after a few days, giving rise to a new generation of bugs that will continue to cause problems.

Earlier on we mentioned that apart from fungicide and insecticide, there are some targeted products that can also be essential to your first aid kit:

  • A molluscicide, or in other words, a product against snails and slugs. A must-have in any plant first aid kit if you have a vegetable patch or garden. Slugs and snails don’t tend to appear on terraces or balconies unless they hitch a ride on one of your plants.
  • If you have geraniums, we recommend keeping a specific insecticide handy that targets the larvae of the butterfly that this plant attracts. This is a very specific pest (also known as geranium drill) which targets this plant only, meaning you should be prepared if you want to keep your geraniums healthy and eye-catching.
  • An iron chlorosis corrector to combat a lack of iron in hortensias, camellias, gardenias and hibiscus, amongst other plants. The leaves begin to turn yellow, shrivel and then fall off.
  • Calcium-rich fertiliser for your tomatoes, especially if you’ve already suffered from apical-blossom end rot, as per the photo above.

How to apply plant protection products

Most of these products come in powder form for dilution, or directly in liquid form. To apply, you’ll need a sprayer as this allows you to spread the product uniformly over the leaves and stem.

If you only have a few plants at home, you can make do with a spray bottle, such as the ones for household cleaning. But we highly recommend getting yourself a pressure sprayer (available in 2, 5, 8 and 16 litres). These are really comfortable to use because by pumping the lever you can achieve enough pressure to spray the liquid without having to continuously pump. The nozzle is usually adjustable, allowing you to create small droplets that will be finely dispersed over the plants.

Larger pressure sprayers also come with a lance or wand, meaning you don’t have to bend down or come into direct contact with your plants. This is great not only in terms of comfort but also to keep you as far away as possible from the product being applied. Some products may cause respiratory problems, hence we recommend reading the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. We don’t want to scare you off, just warn you to take the necessary precautions and apply them 100% safely.

Let’s finish up with a couple of additional tips: try to apply your plant protection products at the start or end of the day, to avoid the direct sunlight over your plants. This will prove far more effective and convenient, particularly with organic products, as most of these are photosensitive, meaning they are less effective in sunlight.
When you’ve finished applying the treatment, release the sprayer’s internal pressure by opening the valve: this will lengthen its service life. 

Thanks for reading!

 

How to Prevent Plant Pests

Top 8 Weird Flowers

This is the ultimate guide to growing your favourite happy hour cocktails within the comfort of your own home – so that you’ll have the herbs you need at hand for whenever you feel like it’s about thyme for a beverage!

 

Home Growing

When it comes to growing herbs indoors, hydroponics is one of the best methods. This is because hydroponic herbs grow more rapidly from seedlings, are able to grow bigger volumes in a smaller containers,  and are known for having a heightened aroma which means – more taste!

Hydroponics will result in your herbs growing 25% to 50% faster than in soil, in a controlled environment where you won’t even have to bother with keeping them hydrated. No soil messiness and herbs all year round – it’s just mint to be!

 

Herb Cocktails

We’ve put together some of our favourite herb-y concoctions for you to give a go – they’re kind of a big dill.

 

Mojito

This absolute classic includes one of our all time favourite herbs and is super easy to make.

 

You will need:

 

Crushed ice – 1 cup

Soda – 50ml

Mint Leaves – 10, plus a few more for garnish

Fresh lime juice – 2 tablespoons

White rum – ¼ cup

Fine sugar – 2 tablespoons

 

  1. Stir together the sugar and lime juice until all is dissolved.
  2. Add the ¼ of the cup of crushed ice.
  3. Tear the mint leaves in half and add them into the glass.
  4. Stir, then add the white rum, rest of the ice and soda.
  5. Stir once again, and add the extra mint for garnish!

 

Dill or No Dill

 

This dill-icious cocktail may be slightly less well known, but is guaranteed to tickle your tastebuds!

You will need:

 

Gin – 50ml

Elderflower syrup or cordial – 15ml

Lemon juice – 1 teaspoon

Cucumber juice – 30ml

Dill – 2 sprigs, 1 to garnish

Salt – 1 pinch

 

  1. Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice.
  2. Sprain into a serving glass.
  3. Add extra sprig of dill to garnish!

 

Rosemary Gin Fizz

This recipe takes no time at all which may or may not make it even more addictive…

 

You will need:

 

Rosemary – 3 sprigs

Juice of 1 small lemon

Honey – ½ teaspoon

Gin – 35ml

Soda – 90ml

 

  1. Muddle together the honey, lemon juice and rosemary in a small drinking glass.
  2. Fill the glass with ice, pour in the gin and then top with the soda.
  3. Give it a swirl and you’re done!

 

Once you’re set up with your indoor herbs and alcohol, let the world of alcoholic herb-y beverages be your oyster! You’ll constantly be saying “chive never been so tipsy”! 😜

 

 

What is Hydroponics?

Indoor Herb Gardening for Beginners

What is a drip irrigation system?

A new way of effectively watering plants: a drip irrigation system! This is the ideal way to navigate and distribute the water used for your plants directly to their roots, as well as being able to leave your plants to become hydrated whilst unattended. So, in order to make your life easier – and especially as the holidays are coming up! – we’ve decided to show you just how easy it is to install.

 

The controller

The heart of the system is the irrigation controller. This is installed on a tap near the garden or vegetable patch and is responsible for opening and closing the flow of water according to what you have programmed in. There are many different models and prices available to satisfy the needs of all: from those that control two different areas of the garden (image 1) to those that you can control over the internet via an app (image 2). The controller is battery operated and can be left outdoors at all times without a problem.

It allows you to control two variants:

– the frequency of watering (in terms of hours or days)

– the duration (in minutes or hours)

It would be recommended to start off with a kit such as the one in this image. It contains everything you need to get started and you can always expand your collection by purchasing further parts which are sold separately.

Besides the controller, there are two types of tubing in the kits (image 3): a 16mm diameter tube (which acts as the main one) and a 4mm one, whose job is to channel the water to specific areas or to each plant pot.

These tubes are completely watertight, although some come pre-perforated (with small holes in them) or are exudative (porous along the entire length). They also are available in various lengths if you prefer to buy them separately.

 

Parts needed to install a drip irrigation system

  1. Irrigation controller
  2. Irrigation controller programmer
  3. Irrigation kit
  4. Tee connector
  5. 4-way connectors
  6. Elbows
  7. End caps
  8. Stopcock
  9. Dripper
  10. Dripper stakes
  11. 2 port manifold

Connections are made using various plastic pieces (also included in the kits): these come in the shape of a T (image 4), of an X (image 5), elbows (image 6), end caps (image 7) and even stopcocks (image 8) to be able to open or shut off specific sections according to your needs.

Start by connecting the controller directly to the tap. The pressure reducer, filter and main hose (also included in the kits) should be positioned below this.

Design your own drip irrigation system

It’s a good idea to start off with a small map of your garden or vegetable patch. Sketch out where you would want the water to go and take measurements to check how many metres of the main tubing you will need. The kits usually come with around 25 metres of 16mm tubing.

Begin by uncoiling this tubing and spread it over the selected area. It is essential so that you don’t fold or twist it at the corners. To help avoid this, use the elbow shaped pieces (image 6) which allow the water to flow more easily rather than ‘choking’ it.

The tee pieces (image 4) will help you to cut off towards various plots you may want to avoid, you close off these ‘branches’ by using the end cap (image 7) which was designed for this purpose.

If your plants are on the ground, you can pierce this tubing directly with the punch and install the dripper (image 9) above it. However if the water needs to reach plant pots or planters, it would be recommended to use the smallest tube (4mm).

Here is an analogy I like to use to make it easier to understand: the thick tube is like the arteries of this circulatory system that you’re installing. And the narrow one is like the veins that reach every corner of the body!

To gain maximum control over the amount of water that reaches your plants, drippers are used. These can be adjustable or can even be shut off completely. For plant pots I like to use drip stakes (image 10), because these are easy to jab into the soil.

As mentioned at the start, all of these items are available separately: tubes, laterals, elbows, drippers, stopcocks, connectors… But we also want to highlight a type of ‘splitter’ that turns your single tap into a double one (piece 11). This allows you to connect the drip irrigation system to one outlet, while keeping the other one for your normal garden hose, or just as a tap. Note that if you’re looking for something like this, they also come with 4 outlets.

A few tips before you install your drip irrigation system:

  1.      Don’t leave it all to the day before your holidays. Give yourself plenty of time to test how it works and make adjustments to the length and frequency of watering.
  2.      If you’re installing your system on a terrace or balcony to water pots, make sure that the minimum length of watering that can be programmed is 1 minute. If your plants need it, it’s a good idea to program the system to water them twice a day rather than to waste water because you can’t water for less time.
  3.      If you need to pierce the tubes to insert the connectors, try to make these holes as straight as possible and insert the pieces all the way in to ensure a good seal. If this is too difficult, heat up the tube a little with a lighter or hot water. The parts will then slide in more easily.

Until next time!

 

Check out our other how-tos!

How to Prevent Plant Pests

DIY Pergola Tutorial

 

Nobody likes to discover that their plants are infested with aphids, or that fungi has bloomed. That’s why here at The Handy Mano, we’ve put together some tips to help you prevent plant pests and keep your plants strong, beautiful and healthy.

How to Prevent Plant Pests

1. Fertilise your plants!

Did you know that insects have a preference for weaker plants? That’s why our first piece of advice is to fertilise them regularly. A healthy plant is less attractive to plant pests which means that it’ll bloom better for us! You can use a generic fertiliser for flowering or leafy plants. There are specific fertilisers for veggie patches, orchids, cacti and even a specific one for bonsais. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use, because excessive fertiliser can also do more harm than good!

Aphids and red spiders (pictured) prefer plants that are rich in nitrogen, meaning that any excess of this nutrient can turn your plants into something extra delicious for them, so make sure to always read the label and follow the instructions!

thehandymano mano plant pests how to prevent them leaf with red spiders

2. Check your plants regularly

Check both sides of the leaves, and keep an eye out for discolouration, small holes or webs. It’s easy to realise that you have a whitefly infestation even if you just brush past your plant, so make sure you keep checking up on them!

In doing this, over time you will be able to identify potential problems quicker and therefore be able to give your plant the correct treatment sooner. Many plant pests are cyclical, and repeat year after year, so don’t let them stress you out too much. Try to stay positive, because experience counts and if the pests come back next year, you’ll know exactly what to do.

3. Not all bugs are bad!

It can be an interesting exercise to identify the different insects swarming around our gardens, because they don’t all munch through our plants. Some prey on the plant pests that do eat them, and in such cases, these bugs are the ones we should be concerned about inviting to visit our gardens or plant beds.

That’s what plant biodiversity is all about. For example, a balcony which has only one type of plant growing there may awsell have a neon light to attract its preferred plant pests! Those of us with urban gardens know this all too well, hence we never forget to pair up certain plants with our food crops.
For example, Basil repels mosquitoes and white flies, and Nasturtium repels snails and ants (and it looks great, too!)

4. Apply preventative treatments

You can choose to treat your plants when they already have a problem, or you can apply specific products to prevent the problems from occurring in the first place. If you have geraniums and know that they struggle every year because of the butterflies that lay their eggs on them… why not try to prevent it from happening by using an insecticide?

thehandymano mano plant pests how to prevent them plant bacteria

5. Strictly follow application guidelines

When the doctor prescribes us antibiotics, he always recommends finishing the course of medication even if we feel better, right? Well, it’s the same with plants. Many insecticides work on the adult insects that swarm around the plants but they don’t kill the eggs which can hatch within 15 days.
Repeat the treatment if the instructions recommend you to do so.

6. Beware of over-watering

Most fungi appear because of excess water. This can be caused by either watering too much, or, because of the British weather!
Regardless, it doesn’t hurt to try to prevent fungi growth by using a preventative fungicide. Although we can’t stop the rain, we can at least help our plants a little and get rid of the excess fungi.

7. Dry leaves don’t always mean disease!

If you’re a newbie to gardening, don’t get too worried if you discover some yellow leaves. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your plant isn’t receiving enough nutrients.
During any plant’s growth period, it’s perfectly normal for it to shed some leaves
In such cases, look at the leaf’s position on the plant. Is it one of the biggest and oldest? If yes, relax: it has simply come to the end of its life cycle.
However, it’s okay to worry when the leaf in question is a new leaf or one of the smaller ones, as that means that it was likely to have been born with a deformity or a strange colour. You can find out the likely root of the problem by searching for the plant online and trying to identify the specific symptoms to figure out the next steps to take.
In potted plants, you might notice the leaves lack that ‘luscious green’ look. This is a common issue, and as the leaves are telling us they lack certain nutrients, it’s just up to us to invest in more nutrients and feed them!

Which plant pests worry you the most and how do you keep them at bay? Let us know!

Hungry for more gardening articles? Try out these for more tips:

Types of Shrubs – Seasonal Guide

Lawn Mowing Tips and Tricks