Category

Top Tips

Category

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

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

Many homeowners have a lawnmower, but few know how to use it and often end up causing more damage to the grass by making simple mistakes! Read our lawn mowing tips to make sure that you cut the lawn perfectly, every time!

Lawn Mowing Tips and Tricks

thehandymano mano lawn mowing tips feature cover photo

Don’t set your mower too low!

Many don’t realise that you only need to cut the top third of the glass blades at any time, this sounds like a waste of time as you’ll have to cut it again sooner, but, longer grass blades develop a deeper root system which mean that it is easier for the roots to find water. If you cut the grass too low, you risk ‘scalping’ the lawn, which means that the roots will focus on growing upwards rather than downwards and growing longer roots. It also means that you’re more likely to get weeds, as taller grass blades shade the soil and prevent weed seeds from sprouting.

Choose your time wisely!

Many people mow their lawn on a hot afternoon, but, this can cause a lot of damage to both the lawn and the mower! We recommend mowing in early evening when the lawn is dry, as this allows enough time for the lawn to recover before the afternoon heat the following day. The lawn has to be dry otherwise you’ll risk getting an uneven trim and any wet clippings can clog your mower and, if not raked up, can end up thrown out onto your grass and result in patchy, brown spots!

Stay sharp!

For the cleanest cut every time you mow you lawn, make sure that you keep an eye on your blades and sharpen or replace them as necessary. Dull blades can do more harm than good by tearing up the grass and causing their edges to brown,leaving you with an unhappy lawn! You can find many tutorials online about how to sharpen mower blades or you can head to your local hardware store or a sharpening service.

How often?

Many people choose to mow their lawns based on a routine, ie every weekend. However, this can cause problems for your lawn, and one of our most important lawn mowing tips is to mow it as of when it seems like it needs cutting. Make sure to cut it less frequently in early spring as the grass takes longer to grow at this time of year. In late spring and summer, you may need to mow it more often (such as every week) which is possible as long as you’re never cutting off more than a third of the grass blades. In summer, we recommend leaving the grass clippings on the lawn as they can help retain moisture and add in more nutrients!

Take your time

If you mow the lawn too fast then you’re likely to miss parts of the lawn and create more work for yourself in the long run. If you rush your job, then you’re more likely to have an uneven cut and leave behind poorly mulched clippings, even if it’s dry grass!

Got green fingers for more advice? Try our other articles: 

Types of Shrubs – Seasonal Guide

Top Nine Low Maintenance Flowers

Feeling like getting into gardening this Summer but have no idea where to start? Save money with our garden ideas on a budget to give you an idea on how not to splash out on the wrong things! Go on, we bee-leaf in you 😉

Garden Ideas on a Budget

Reduce, reuse, recycle…

There are many things around the house that you can use in your garden! To save a few pennies, we’ve came up with a few suggestions to get you started:

-Plastic food containers or egg carton tray to plant seeds
-Bricks or lumber to frame garden beds
-Use some old fencing to create your own compost bin
-Create little soil trays out of empty toilet rolls and plant seeds until roots start showing
-Turn a mason jar upside down and use it as a little greenhouse for seedlings and plants
-Make your own weedkiller by spraying the weeds with white distilled vinegar and reapplying on any new growth until the plants die

thehandymano mano garden ideas on a budget seedling

 

Growing cheap, radishing vegetables

Make your own compost with veg peelings, weeds, egg shells and general garden waste.

Or, if you’re not feeling like making your own, hunt down local tree-cutting companies as they often have big piles of mulch on hand that they give away for free. However, sometimes these freebies aren’t always the greatest quality (due to shredded trash or seeds of invasive species, for example) so make sure that you double-check it before using it!

Grow new vegetables using scraps! Not only are you cutting down on food waste, but you can easily regrow vegetables such as celery by placing the bottoms of the stalks in water and planting them into the ground once they grow roots

Worried about growing too much or too little at once? We recommend starting small and growing crops vertically to save space. Don’t forget that you can always give extra food to your family and friends if you accidentally grow an abundance of it!

To save money on your water bill, make the most of British weather by collecting rainwater in a container and use that to water your plants

thehandymano mano garden ideas on a budget vegetables grown in basket

Give it a new look, for less!

Did you know that gravel is much more affordable than paving and can completely change the look of your garden? To lay it in place mark out the area, scrape away loose soil or grass, pin down a permeable membrane to prevent weeds from pushing through and spread gravel over it. A large bag will cover up to 20 square metres!

We suggest colour coordinating a corner or a large section of your garden! Spruce up old planters and furniture by spray painting them with a metal paint to make your garden look coordinated and less cluttered.

Clean your patio! It sounds simple, but scrubbing your concrete patio with a hose or bucket of soapy water can give it a completely new look that it’s been dying to have for a long time

Consider adding a mirror to your garden! Regardless of the size of your lawn, a mirror can brighten up a dull corner or make the space look a lot bigger!

If you want to add a lot of greenery to your garden, and fast, we suggest growing something leafy such as mint. Simply plant one or two plants about 2 feet apart in moist soil and watch them grow to be 1 or 2 feet tall and cover the area below them!

thehandymano mano garden ideas on a budget furniture colour paint

Hungry for more garden hacks? We’ve got your back 😉

Fortunately, they are garden ideas on a budget, too!

Garden Design Ideas – Furniture Inspiration

 

Garden Design – Spring Garden Planter Ideas