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Herb gardening for beginners

Few things will liven up your cooking quite like fresh herbs. Having a store to add flavour to your dishes is something that will vastly improve your home cooking.  While dried herbs are readily available from most supermarkets and shops, nothing beats having fresh herbs grown in your garden. Here are some tips and tricks for getting started.

First you should decide upon the types of herbs that you would like to produce. Annual and biennial herbs can be grown very quickly, which means that you will have plenty of crops if you grow them continuously each month. They include basil, coriander, parsley, dill, lemongrass and rocket among others, while perennial herbs like chives, fennel, horseradish, mint, oregano, thyme and sage will take longer to grow.

Herbs require well drained soil with a balanced PH content; they also need compost and fertiliser to keep them sustained. When planting you should look for a spot which is sheltered but also gets a good amount of sunlight throughout the day.  However, some herbs such as basil, chives, fennel and sage aren’t very robust and may need to be grown indoors in trays and pots before being moved out doors later on.

Not everyone has the time, patience or space to grow a vegetable garden which is one of the reasons that herbs are often favoured.  They require very little upkeep too if they are grown outside, as the weather should provide them with enough sustenance, while indoor herbs will only need access to sunlight and some regular watering.

When it comes to harvesting your herbs, you need to be liberal with your picking. If you pick too much of the plant then you harm its chances of being able to regrow sufficiently – which means no more herbs for you!

Do you enjoy gardening? Do you have any special tips on growing your own herbs or creating a garden sanctuary? Tweet us @TimeForYouGroup and let us know, or alternatively visit us at https://timeforyou.cleaning/uk/ for more tips and advice.

5 easy fruits to grow in your garden

The pride that you feel after cooking a meal made from fruit and vegetables from your own garden is hard to beat – ask any gardener.  But taste isn’t the only reason to opt for growing your own veg.  Take apples for example. According to some statistics, as many as 76% of all the apples eaten by hungry mouths in the UK are from another country, with many coming from the USA and non-EU countries.  Not only does this clock up air miles resulting in pollution, but it’s also led to a decline in British apple orchards with over half of UK sites destroyed in the last 30 years.  Yes, fruit doesn’t have to be imported; in fact you can grow it in your own back garden – which is a healthier, more environmentally friendly and often cheaper alternative than buying it in the supermarket. So, which fruits are easy to grow in the UK? Here we profile five excellent options:

1 – Apples
If you’ve got your heart set on a home-made apple pie then you’re in luck. To get started you need to plant an apple tree. You can purchase a young tree ready for planting from a nursery – just Google one in your area or nearby.  Place it in a bucket of water for two hours to allow it to soak up moisture. Next dig a hole with some manure and multi-purpose compost to make it fertile.  Place the tree in your hole and firm it down with soil until stable – try to choose a spot which has equal measures of sunshine and shade.  You might also want to place down some membrane, or even newspaper, to avoid too much weed growth around it.  Apple trees can grow very tall but only if you let them. If you’re worried about space then just keep on top of the pruning to manage the height to around 6-8 ft.  Most apple trees will begin to bear fruit in their 3rd or 4th year of growth but this can vary from species to species and from garden to garden so be patient.

2 – Blackberries and raspberries
Another home garden favourite is brambles like blackberries and raspberries.  Brambles aren’t fussy when it comes to soil but they do need good drainage and they grow best near fence posts, trellises or along walls as they need good support. Soak your blackberry root for a few hours as with the apple tree and again create a nice hole with compost to encourage root growth. Now plant the blackberry and snip the cane away so the plant is only protruding a few inches out from the ground to prevent disease. In terms of care you will need to prune your brambles once in the summer before it bears fruit and then once again after you harvest them.  

3 – Cherries
Cherries are planted as trees too, usually bearing their fruit in July.  Like apples and brambles, soak your cherry tree in a large bucket allowing it to soak up some moisture – you can even leave it overnight if you want. Now dig a hole with compost, manure and garden soil to make sure the cherry tree is set up with all the nutrients it needs. In terms of how deep you should plant the tree, there should be a mark on it which indicates the level it was buried too in the nursery which you should try and match. Now firm it down with soil making sure that no air pockets are left.  Your cherry tree will take around 2-3 years to begin bearing fruit.

4 – Plums
Plums are another delicious treat we can grow in our gardens – enjoyable both cooked and fresh. Victoria plums are a good option in the UK which bears plenty of delicious fruit.  Order your tree online and allow it to soak overnight. Now dig yourself a hole, once again with compost, manure and soil to give it a slow release of nutrients. Firm the plant in with soil, making sure that there are no air pockets left.  You should aim to prune your tree in spring and summer helping to avoid any diseases and you will normally be able to harvest at the end of the summer.  Victoria plum trees are known to produce lots of fruit and it can sometimes be beneficial to remove some of the smaller fruits early, to improve the growth of others.

5 – Strawberries
Strawberries are wonderful. Not only are they one of the sweetest tasting fruits but they also grow incredibly quickly and can be planted in a variety of places which can save you space for other crops to grow. Strawberries require rich fertile soil, so you’ll need to prepare some fertiliser and natural compost for it when planting.  Next, begin planting your strawberries. They need to be planted in rows with gaps of around 18 inches and leaving space for a path to allow you to pick them once they begin to grow. Be sure to weed regularly through the spring and lay down slug pellets to avoid pests from ruining your fruits. Once the fruits begin to flower and turn green you will need to keep watering to a minimum to avoid damp. Finally, once the fruits begin to ripen you will need to cover the beds with netting to prevent them from being eaten by birds!

Do you enjoy gardening? Do you have any special tips on growing your own fruit or creating a garden sanctuary? Tweet us @TimeForYouGroup and let us know, or alternatively visit us at https://timeforyou.cleaning/uk/ for more tips and advice.

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How to Take Better Photos With Your Smart Phone

Smartphones these days, give you the power of high-quality SLR cameras.  But do you know how to get the best out of them?  This guide explains the basic principles of photography and shares some top tips on how to supercharge your smartphone photography.

 

Make friends with your camera

First things first, use your smartphone camera as often as you can. The only poor pictures are those you don’t take. Take pictures you wouldn’t normally take and look for the unexpected. Play around with the settings and other functions on your smartphone camera. Practice makes perfect after all.

Three, it’s the magic number

One of the easiest ways to improve your mobile photos is to turn on the camera's gridlines. It superimposes a series of lines on the screen of your smartphone's camera that are based on the “rule of thirds” - according to this principle an image should be broken down into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, so you have nine parts in total. If you place points of interest in these intersections or along the lines, your photo will be more balanced and level and the viewer will be more naturally drawn to the photo.

Keep it simple

Many of the best photos include just one, interesting subject. So when taking a picture of a subject, spend some extra time setting up the shot. Some professional photographers say that the subject shouldn’t fill the entire frame and that two-thirds of the photo should be negative space, that helps the subject stand out even more.

Embrace the negative

Following on from the last point, "Negative space" simply refers to the areas around and between the subjects of an image, and it can take a photo from "good" to "great”. When you include a lot of empty space in a photo, your subject will stand out more and evoke a stronger reaction from your viewer. Need ideas for negative space? Perhaps a large expanse of open sky, water, an empty field, or a large wall.

Leading lines

In some photos, there's a line that draws the viewer's eye toward a certain part of the frame. Those are called leading lines. They can be straight or not, think staircases, building facades, train tracks, roads, or even a path through the woods. Leading lines are great for creating a sense of depth in an image, and you can make your photo look purposefully designed, even if you just happened to come upon a really cool shape by accident.

Different Perspectives


Taking photos from a unique, unexpected angle can make them more memorable, it creates an illusion of depth or height with the subjects. It also makes the image stand out since most mobile photos are taken either straight on or from a bird's eye view. Try taking a photo directly upward and playing with the sky as negative space. Or, you can try taking it at a slight downward angle.

Repetition


Repetitive patterns are very pleasing to the eye, they appear whenever strong graphic elements are repeated over and over again, like lines, geometric shapes, forms, and colours. These patterns can make a strong visual impact, and photographing something like a beautiful, tiled floor can be enough to create a striking image.

Go for gold


For an amazing landscape photo, your best bet is the golden hour, the hour around sunrise or sunset. The sun is low and has a warm tone that brings out details. To use the sun to your advantage any time of day, look for pockets of light, someone walking down a street in a slant of light makes a powerful image.

Lemme take a selfie


Hold the phone high with your arm extended to prevent a double chin. If it’s sunny, move into the shade. Sunlight can cause your face to be overexposed or cast a harsh shadow and make you squint. The best way to take a full body selfie is with the camera out of your hand, propped against books or something else to keep it upright, and using a timer.

Steal


Pick your favourite photos on Pinterest and Instagram and try and compose similar shots yourself. You’ll be amazed at how good your photos will look if you have a simple framework to follow. It will also give you the inspiration to vary your photography style.

 

Written by Mike Pye

 

 

5 Ways To Pep Up a Salad

 

It’s officially salad season, but that doesn’t have to mean the limp leaves of lettuce with forlorn slices of tomato and cucumber of the past.

Before getting on to how to spice up your bowl of greens, let’s look at the benefits of salad chomping.

Buff Up

Salads are full of nutrients and low calorie, so a great way of eating high volumes of food to fill you up on a diet. And salads are colourful and inspiring, providing a satisfying and pleasurable eating experience, unlike many ‘diet’ foods. Throw in some lean proteins like prawns or chicken and grains like bulgur or millet and you’ve got a nutritionally balanced and really filling meal.

Get a Nutrition Hit

Salads are a powerful way of eating well and getting a variety of nutrients in a fast and tasty way. Vegetables provide us with natural energy, with fibre, antioxidants and other nutrients that we need and they help to keep our stomachs happy and healthy.

Eat Water

You're supposed to drink eight glasses of water per day which is pretty daunting. But you don't have to drink all that water. Roughly 20% of our daily H2O intake comes from solid foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

Beat The Bloat

Most of us don’t respond very well to processed bread, many people suffer bulging uncomfortable belly afterwards, so a lip-smacking salad can be a great excuse to ditch stomach bloating sarnies for lunch.

Be Inspired

The worship of roast cauliflower, avocado and char-grilled broccoli is no longer a trend, nor just the preferred choice of the health fanatics. We’ve learnt in the last ten years from the likes of Ottolenghi and Deliciously Ella, that vegetables have unlimited potential. Wake up your tastebuds, vegetables and fruit, nuts and grains, can be brought to life with some love, imagination and a fantastic salad dressing.


And here’s 5 easy ways to sass up your salad

Veg Love

A few roasted veg can create a sophisticated and divine salad worthy of lunch guests. All you have to do is cube some veg like sweet potatoes, peppers, carrots, beets or whatever you’ve got lying around, drizzle with oil, season with some dried herbs, chilli flakes, salt and pepper and roast in the oven at Gas mark 6 for about 30-40mins. Serve cold.

Herbilicious

You’d be amazed how chopping up fresh herbs can transform a salad. Just be experimental. Got some spare basil, mint and parsley? Chop it up and throw it in. Don’t be afraid of overkill or blending the ‘wrong’ herbs. All fresh herbs just work well with green leaves.

 

Get Fruity

There’s no reason that fruits have to remain relegated to dessert. Fruit adds freshness and texture, not to mention vitamins, minerals and flavour. Here are a few combinations to try: Blue cheese and pear, watermelon and feta, strawberries and spinach, avocado, pineapple and watercress, blackberry and goats cheese. Open up your salad world!

Dress it up

Making salad dressing from scratch is nearly as fast and easy as shaking up a supermarket bottle of the stuff and the taste is so much better than even the most "gourmet" versions you’d buy. There’s so many to choose from, but if you want to go super simple just cover your leaves with a little olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and season with some salt and pepper.

Go Nuts

The benefits of adding nuts to your salad go beyond just adding flavour and texture. Think nutrition. You can sneak some of the most nutritious nuts and seeds into a salad to make the salad taste better, and reap all the nutritional rewards. Try almonds, walnuts or toasted pecans/ pine nuts for starters, although go wild, anything goes.

 

Written by Mike Pye

Photos courtesy of Katya Willems

 

Change Your Life By Meditating For Ten Minutes a Day

 

Meditation isn’t something that you have to do for hours on end to reap the benefits. Just ten minutes a day will make a difference.

At the end of the article, we’ll give you a meditation practice to follow that really will last just ten minutes and it’s super simple. But let’s look at why meditating is so brilliant before you commit.

Get a handle on your stress levels

Studies have shown it actually rewires your brain so that the neural pathways responsible for fear and anxious thoughts are weakened. Feeling overwhelmed by a busy week? Meditation can help you stay calm and centred during challenging situations, and to relax after the storm has passed.

Be healthier

Practising meditation is one of the easiest ways to improve your overall health. Studies have shown it can turn on genes that protect you from pain, high blood pressure and infertility, among other benefits. Meditation has also been shown to boost your immune system, increasing your chances of staying well.

More shut eye

Taking the time to meditate can help you let go of those circling thoughts that keep you from drifting off at night. You’re also more likely to have deeper, more refreshing sleep, so you’ll wake up feeling energised.

Be Smarter

It has been linked to better focus, concentration and attention to detail. Studies have shown that it can reconfigure your brain to strengthen the parts associated with attention and sensory processing.

Tap into your creative genius

Partaking in meditation can help awaken the creative parts of your brain (yep, even you non-creative types). Research has revealed that meditation can enhance your ability to come up with creative ideas.

Become nicer

This is one of the most amazing benefits of meditation – it can make you kinder and open your heart. Studies have shown that people who meditate regularly are more empathetic and compassionate towards other people. What a beautiful gift to the world.

Be more beautiful

Meditation is scientifically proven to help to eliminate skin problems like acne and eczema, and if you want to be sexy you need to be full of energy and zest for life. Meditation is proven to improve your energy levels and to make you live more in the moment, thereby giving the magnetic attractiveness that comes with it.

So you’re going to be hotter, cleverer, nicer, healthier, calmer. What’s not to like? And here’s how you go about it in just ten minutes a day:

The Practise

To prepare:

1) Find a comfortable chair and sit down, keeping a straight back.
2) Make sure you’ll be left undisturbed (switch off your mobile).
3) Set a timer for 10 minutes.

Check in:

1) Take five deep breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth and gently close your eyes.
2) Focus on the physical sensation of the body on the chair and the feet on the floor.
3) Scan down through the body and notice which parts feel comfortable and relaxed, and which parts feel uncomfortable and tense.
4) Notice how you’re feeling – what sort of mood you’re in right now?

Focus:

1) Notice where you feel the rising and falling sensation of the breath most strongly.
2) Notice how each breath feels, the rhythm of it – whether it’s long or short, deep or shallow, rough or smooth.
3) Gently count the breaths as you focus on the rising and falling sensation - one with the rise and two with the fall, upwards to a count of 10.
4) Repeat this cycle between five and 10 times, or for as long as you have time available.

Wind down:

1) Let go of any focus at all, allowing the mind to be as busy or as still as it wants to be for 20 seconds.
2) Bring the mind back to the sensation of the body on the chair and the feet on the floor.
3) Gently open your eyes and stand up when you feel ready.

 

The Best Places to Eat Cake in the UK

 

 

It is a very sensible idea to combine travel and cake. What’s the point of going on a mini break or a day trip if food isn’t factored into the equation? So do you pick the place because of the food, or pick the place, then the food?

Well here’s nine of the very best venues to eat cake in the UK, perhaps it will give you a little holiday inspiration at the same time.

1. Forge Bakehouse Sheffield

In the last few years, Forge Bakehouse has developed a reputation as one of Sheffield’s finest bakeries with fresh, wholesome bread and delicious sweet treats. Cake-wise, you can expect to find rhubarb Danish pastries, custard tarts, raspberry morning buns, chai Brulee tarts, macarons and pistachio and rose doughnuts. Are you drooling yet?

2. Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms, York and Harrogate, Northallerton and Ilkley

Betty’s is an institution, opening nearly 100 years ago in 1919. People will travel across the country to experience an exquisite Betty’s afternoon tea in beautiful art deco surroundings. There are six Bettys Café Tea Rooms to explore in Harrogate, York, Northallerton and Ilkley, where you can enjoy handmade bread, cakes and chocolates from their own Craft Bakery, the finest teas and coffees and delicious freshly prepared Swiss-Yorkshire savoury specialities.

3. Wolfhouse Kitchen Altrincham Market, Manchester

This wonderful bakery originated in Silverdale, Lancashire where it’s still going strong. The Manchester branch opened two years ago in the very trendy New York-esque Altrincham indoor market, they serve an amazing array of cinnamon buns, doughnuts, citron tarts and many other cakes that will make your eyes pop.

 4. Baltic Bakehouse Liverpool

Listed as one of the 20 Best Bakeries in the UK in 2016 by the Telegraph, this new food outlet excels in artisanal baking. Along with classics like almond Bakewell and custard tart, they do more quirky offerings including peanut-butter and brittle doughnuts, lemon curd doughnuts and crack pie - a kind of gooey, toffee custard filling on a crunchy biscuit base with a hint of vanilla sea salt.

5. Miss Vs Vintage High Teas

Utterly Cornish and extremely addictive - Miss V’s Vintage High Teas serve the lightest fluffiest cream tea scones as well as homemade cakes. Miss V’s tea hut is based above the glorious St Just in Roseland Church, which John Betjeman declared the most beautiful setting in England.

6. Ottolenghi, Islington

Ottolenghi in Islington is delightfully minimalist and stylish, with lovely long communal tables, although if you like your privacy there are a handful of tables for two. Platters of salads and vibrant cakes greet you on arrival. Some of the incredible sweet treats on offer include plum crumble muffins, baked chocolate and walnut tart, blackcurrant friands and white chocolate cheesecake tart with raspberry compote.

 

  

7. Chesters By The River, Ambleside

Chesters is found at Skelwith Bridge, at the edge of Langdale valley, right in the middle of The Lakes. Surrounded by fells and a short walk from a waterfall, the landscape alone is well worth a visit. The cafe serves lunch, drinks and legendary home-made cakes. The cakes will knock your socks off - think old fashioned and chunky staples like a ginger loaf, double lemon cake, tiffin and carrot cake.

8. Cuckoos Bakery, Edinburgh

Cuckoos is an award winning bakery and cupcakery just north of the New Town. Red velvet, strawberries and cream, black bottom, sticky toffee pudding are some of the favourite cupcakes on the menu. Cuckoo's also prides itself in its ethics: ingredients are locally sourced, unsold cakes are donated to homeless charities and all packaging materials are recycled. Bravo Cuckoo!

 9. Outsider Tart, Chiswick

A couple of professional guys moved from New York to live and work in London - but struggled to find good, wholesome cupcakes, sweet pies and fresh tarts. Outsiders as they both are, they committed to rectifying the situation by turning a favourite hobby into an award-winning business. Expect to find the very best whoopie pies, American cookies and fabulous brownies.

 

Written by Mike Pye

Photos courtesy of Katya Willems

A guide for growing vegetables all year long

Growing your own veggies is a great way to know exactly what is going into the food that ends up on your plate. By planting, feeding and monitoring your crops you can ensure that you get the healthiest product possible. However, a common stumbling block for would-be growers is timing – when should I plant this vegetable? When should I harvest another? Here we offer some key tips and advice on home growing.

January
The start of the year can be very frustrating for vegetable growers. January is generally very cold in the UK with plenty of frost and not much sunlight which can make it difficult to sow or plant anything. Well, at least outdoors anyway.  While you have some success with peas, shallots or garlic, you’ll struggle with anything else. Indoors you can use a heated propagator or LED grow lights to start growing tomatoes and aubergines, however it’s a lot of effort to save yourself a bit of time. Instead, you could just use January to put together a plan of what you will grow throughout the year and add it to your calendar.

February
February is notoriously unpredictable and a mild end or vicious cold snap could scupper your growing plans this month. If you’re keen to get started then you can begin chitting potatoes ready for planting in a cool room that get a little sunlight, but not too much.  You can also start planting parsnip seeds now but if the ground is still cold then you might have more success in March time.  Now is also a good time to start planting cabbages, turnips, spinach and onions and also to remove any dead leaves and plant matter covering up your beds.  

March
March is when you can really start to get going with your garden or allotment growing.  You can start planting turnips, radish, lettuce, leeks, Brussels sprouts, peas, broad beans and beetroot. You can also begin planting the potatoes that you’ve been chitting.  Be mindful of the weather though as it can still be bitterly cold.

April
By this point of the year, the weather should be on the turn with some fairly mild weather arriving.  Now is the time to get busy.  You can start sowing beetroot, broad beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, kale, leeks, lettuce, peas, radish, rocket and spinach.  You might also be able to plant some celery, cucumbers and tomatoes under the cover of a greenhouse.  

May
Your soil should be beginning to warm up in May and most of the cold should have gone.  But, it’s likely that the cold days will still be outnumbering the warm ones until the very end of the month.  May is a good time to start sowing the following vegetables: French beans, runner beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflowers, kale, lettuce, peas, rocket, radishes and spring onions. Under the cover of a greenhouse you can start sowing courgettes, marrows, pumpkins and squash.  While you can now begin moving Brussels sprouts, cabbages, celery and leeks outside to finish growing, you should keep peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse.

June
With all the sunshine that comes with June your vegetables have plenty of opportunity to soak up nutrients. However, it’s important as you move through the summer months to make sure your plants are being watered as well. Here are some vegetables which you can sow in June - for some it’s the last chance for a while. They include beetroot, carrots, cauliflowers, courgettes, French beans, runner beans, peas, squash, Swedes and turnips. You can also move broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbages out from the greenhouse.

July
Although you certainly can’t count on the weather in the UK, July does tend to be the driest month of the year.  If you do experience a dry spell in June then be sure to give your crops plenty of water and make sure your greenhouse is properly ventilated.  July can prove a pain for pests too so try and keep on top of weeds and utilise pest control (nets, sprays, repellents, etc) where you can.  While the bulk of sowing is usually over by July you can still plant beetroot, cabbage, carrots, French beans, lettuce and peas.

August
Another hot month, August is all about continued maintenance as your vegetables soak up the sunshine. Water your crops regularly, stay on top of your pest control duties and if you’re looking for something to sow then consider cabbage, radishes or spinach. You can also move any cabbages or cauliflowers that you planted earlier in the year outdoors to complete their cycle.

September
September ushers in the end of the summer which means cooler weather and lots of harvesting on the horizon.  You should find that the majority of your crops should be ready to harvest in September – October time including artichokes, beetroot, cabbage, carrots, cauliflowers, courgettes, kale, leeks, lettuce, marrows, onions, pumpkins, radishes, spinach, spring onion and turnips.  So, get ready to enjoy the fruits of your labour!

October
Like September, October is when you’ll begin to see the majority of your crops come to maturity. Any crops which aren’t ready to be harvested will need to be protected from the elements as there can be downpours and plenty of wind throughout October.  Once you’ve harvested up the lion’s share of your veg you should use the spare time you have to dig over the old plots to keep it fertile.

November
With winter well on its way it’s time to prepare for the elements.  Frost, rain and snow puts an end to most of your crops but you can use the time you have to continue digging over old plots. This promotes nutrients and stops your soil from becoming hard and impacted. If you do have any leftover produce in the ground like carrots or Brussels’ sprouts then they may be ready for harvest but generally most of your plot will be empty by now.

December
Stepping out the house is unlikely to be high on your agenda in December with all the planning for the holidays and miserable weather.  This makes December a good time to plan out when you will grow your crops the following year and most importantly put your orders in for your seeds – perhaps shopping around for good deals or new varieties that you’re yet to try out.  It’s also a good opportunity to repair any of your tools ahead of sowing season.

Do you enjoy gardening? Do you have any special tips on growing your own veg or creating a garden sanctuary? Tweet us @TimeForYouGroup and let us know, or alternatively visit us at https://timeforyou.cleaning/uk/ for more tips and advice.

How to create beautiful hanging baskets

Whether planted for summer or winter interest, hanging baskets provide valuable colour at eye level. Choose vibrant bedding plants for a short-term show or herbs, shrubs and evergreens for a long-lasting display.

Choosing a basket
Hanging baskets are all about being creative. Beyond just selecting vibrant and eye-catching plants you also have the option to customize in other ways such as choosing an unusual basket material. Commonly wire baskets or solid plastic hanging baskets are used but if you want a more earthy and homemade feel then you could opt for a woven wicker basket – or even a kitchen colander.  Baskets come in different sizes, normally 12-18 inches wide. You should be careful not to purchase a basket which is either too big or too small, as you don’t want to under fill or over stuff it.

Choosing a liner
Next you’ll need to choose a liner for your hanging basket.  There are a few different options here.  Our favourite liner is a natural one – moss. You can collect moss from outdoors, or purchase it from a home garden centre in bags. Moss is an organic material which not only soaks up and holds moisture really well but also looks more natural than other liners. If you don’t want to use moss for any reason then you could consider purchasing a pre-made liner, or a re-constituted peat liner.

Choosing your plants
As a rule of thumb, in 12-14 inch baskets you can aim for 3-5 plants and in a 16 or 18 inch basket you can use 5-7 plants.  When choosing your plants you should aim for a central plant which adds some volume, some trailing plants which will hang over the sides and some infill plants to cover any sparse sections.  Many people will choose to only fill their baskets with overhanging flowers, which is fine if your basket is displayed up in a high place but if you want to have your basket a little lower, perhaps on a display or on the floor, then you need to add some volume with a centre piece.  Some of the most popular plants for hanging baskets include Pansies, Geraniums, Fuchsias, Yuccas, Viola Ochre, Mini Cyclamen, Busy Lizzies and Begonia.

Putting your basket together
Now comes the fun part. To get started you need to add your moss (or other lining). Try and aim to cover the insides with about ½ inch thickness and then fill up to the halfway point of the basket with plenty of compost. The moss will help to hold in that extra bit of moisture during the dry spells and the compost will act as nutritious bedding for your plants.  In today’s gardening market there are all manner of different powders, gels and tablets to help your plants. One commonly recommended option for hanging baskets is that of water storage crystals which slowly release moisture with time. However, a cheap alternative is to cut up a car sponge and mix the segments in with your compost. This will do the job just as well as storage crystals.

Now you will want to begin adding your plants to the basket. Start from the centre with your centre piece plant and add it to the middle of the basket. Next add your trailers at 12 o’ clock, 3 o’ clock, 6 o’ clock and 9 o’ clock.  Next add your infill plants to cover any areas where compost is showing.  Make sure they are all firmly placed and don’t be afraid to be a bit rough prodding, pulling and poking to make sure everything is stable.  To make sure your basket is set up for success you should add some slow release fertiliser which will gradually release nutrients to keep the roots and flowers growing strong and healthy.  Finally, find somewhere that will get plenty of sunshine, pop the chain on your basket, carefully hang it up and enjoy!

Do you enjoy gardening? Do you have any special tips on crafting hanging baskets or creating a garden sanctuary? Tweet us @TimeForYouGroup and let us know, or alternatively visit us at https://timeforyou.cleaning/uk/ for more tips and advice.

Tips for growing a green lawn

There’s nothing better than lying on a lush green garden lawn in the summer months - a green space for you, your children and even your cats and dogs to relax on. But how exactly do you go about creating a lush green lawn and how do you avoid the dreaded brown patches and lumps that we so often see?

No one lawn is the same
Every garden is different and the soil composition in your garden may require you to treat it in a very particular way. The best way to determine the right diet for your lawn is to perform a soil PH test which will tell you how acidic or alkaline it really is. This will then help you to know whether to purchase lime which can raise the PH or split pea sulphur which can lower the PH.  Soils with a high clay content can benefit from organic matter like sand and gypsum.

Feed your lawn
Just like me and you, your lawn gets very hungry when it hasn’t eaten for a while. By using natural organic fertilisers you can give your soil and grass all the nutrients it needs to be strong, healthy and resistant to diseases. You can pick up organic fertiliser from any good garden retailer.

Sharpen your blades
When was the last time you sharpened the blades on your mower?  If you can’t remember then that’s a good sign that it needs doing. Dull blades can scuff and tear up your lawn and leave it susceptible to diseases which can ruin it. So remove your blades and then use an angle grinder or file it until it’s noticeably sharper.  Of course it may be worth seeking out an expert to help you with this if you’ve never done it before.

Leave grass clippings where they are
Another good tip for topping up your garden nutrients is to leave grass clippings where they are instead of raking them away. Cuttings help to keep out weeds and acts as a booster for your organic fertiliser.

Water heavily but not too often
The roots of grass seed only grows as deep as it needs to. So if you frequently water your garden lawn the roots stay quite shallow in the ground. The solution is to water less frequently, but twice as much. So water your lawn and then come back 1-2 hours later and give it another spray.

Dealing with patches
If you’ve started to see brown patches in your lawn then you need to act quickly. Grass turns brown when it is struggling to get enough nutrients i.e. food and water. There are a few different reasons why this might be happening. It could be caused by a heat wave with little rain fall in which case you should water it yourself or it might be that there are weeds zapping away all your lawn’s food, in which case you should reach for your gardening gloves and begin raking them up.

Do you enjoy gardening? Do you have any special tips on growing a lawn or creating a garden sanctuary? Tweet us @TimeForYouGroup and let us know, or alternatively visit us at https://timeforyou.cleaning/uk/ for more tips and advice.