Top tips for your spring garden

Top tips for your spring garden

Winter finally looks to be at an end, and with weekends warming up and the sun finally showing itself, it’s time to head into the garden and begin to prepare your space for the spring and summer. Having a well kempt and blooming garden gives you a great area in which you can bask through the summer months, and although it might take a bit of work, it’s well worth it when you have a nice spot to relax, enjoy a drink and cook up a barbecue with friends. In order to prepare your garden, you’ll have to start early and ready the area, here are out top tips to get you started.

Plan your garden

If it’s your first year in a new home, and you aren’t accustomed to taking care of the appearance of outdoor spaces, there’s no need to panic. Similarly, you don’t want to jump straight in, as you’ll get the best results if you carefully make plans. One mistake many people make with their garden layout is failing to plan beforehand. It might not seem vital, but there are areas of your garden that will have more access to sunlight, making them ideal for your vegetable patch, or areas shaded from elements such as wind, meaning delicate flowers would ideally make this area their home. You don’t need to create a garden master plan, but just make sure that you have a logical layout sorted.

Be self sustaining

If you’re planning to invest time and effort into home growing your own vegetables, fruits and flowers, then you’ll be in need of large quantities of mineral rich compost. Make your garden greener by making the most of a compost bin. They can be picked up for a relatively cheap price and, using your own discarded fruit and veg peelings, you can begin the decomposing process in your own garden. Similarly, the abundance of plants and flowers in your summer garden will lead to you needing more water. Water buts are a simple solution that, when connected to your home drainage system, collect and store rainwater for general garden use. Invest in these two simple but effective ideas and make your garden more self sustaining this year.

Prepare your tools

Once you’ve made your plans and invested in flowers and plants, the hard work isn’t over. You’ll need to dedicate portions of  your free time to garden upkeep and maintenance, in order to keep your plants looking trim and blooming. If you’re a relative rookie when it comes to gardening, begin to build up a collection of necessary tools. Trowels, rakes, shovels, trimming tools, watering systems and lawn mowing equipment are all necessities – so if your equipment is somewhat lacking, now is the time to begin investing.

Prepare your space

Winter can be tough on your garden, so it’s likely that the cold months will have left your garden looking a little worse for wear. Before you begin to organise out your spring garden, you’ll need to have a thorough clean up. Clear away items such as tree debris, twigs and branches from your grass and soil, plant grass seed in any bare looking areas and turn over your soil to prevent it being compounded. Weeds may have run rife through your garden over the winter, so have a thorough check and remove any from your lawn and soil areas. Check fences and other items aren’t in need of repair, and touch up on any surfaces that are looking tired.

Photo Credit: CC image hosted on Wikipedia.

This article was kindly provided by gardening and outdoor home expert Chris Hay exclusively for First Home News. 

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Home touches for the ultimate spring feel
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Home touches for the ultimate spring feel

We might still be in February, but to the optimistic amongst us, Spring is just around the corner. With the warmer days  hopefully soon arriving on the horizon, despite cold temperatures, the sunshine is just beginning to peek through the clearing clouds. It’s never too early to shake off the misery of winter and implement spring into your home, so with that in mind, here are our top tips for getting an early start on your spring decor.

Kitchen: Cooking with Colour

Many kitchens sport drab matching walls and a spaghetti stained backsplash. A spot of paint can change that. Choose a paint colour like bright orange, yellow or sky blue for one wall or area. A streak of highlight will renew your faith in spring veggies and freshly baked bread. Take your update to the next level by purchasing a coloured mixing bowl, bright spatula, blender or toaster matching the colour of your freshly painted wall. Guests will appreciate your thought to go the extra step in contrasting your stainless steel accessories with a few coloured ones. Your kitchen is going to pop and you can revel in your mastery after just an hour with the paintbrush.

Bathroom: Appropriate accessories

No matter what colour scheme your bathroom is, throwing away the plastic accessories and updating them with rustic things from around the house will make your room a much more inviting space. Update the toilet paper holder with a wicker basket you’ve been using for random bits and bobs. Grab unused containers and fill them with all your cotton essentials. Take an empty vase and fill with freshly cut flowers or some bright artificial ones to provide a real feel of spring. And the ultimate trick for the ladies, a cake stand is the perfect way to show off and keep your makeup organised for a fuss free morning.

Bedroom: Perfect pillows

Decorate with a few spring coloured throw pillows to get your home completely revamped for the summer days. You can recover the old pillows with your own fabric or buy an entire new set. The bed is the staple item in the bedroom, so find your favourite comforter to snuggle up. Really tired of your old room? Cover the headboard with a bright or striped fabric to give off a plush new bedroom aura.

Living Areas: Recover your drab lamps

The simple task of changing a lamp cover will shake off gloomy winter nights and help you to embrace spring. Choosing one piece to change in a room is a quick fix and you’ll see a noticeable difference. Go to your local homeware store to see what colours could brighten up your room. Don’t assume popping pink is your only choice, but a light yellow, bold colour or fun new print could do your home the favour it’s been seeking. Don’t want to buy an entire new lampshade? Choose from hundreds of fabric choices at the craft store. With scissors, adhesive, a trim piece and a bit of patience, you’ll have yourself a statement new decorative item.

Outdoors: Get in the Garden

Plants bring life to a home in every way. The freezing temperatures of January and February have now passed and it’s time to dig up the weeds and leftover foliage of the winter. Spring geraniums, begonias, and pansies are all great summer plants that will continually bloom throughout the warmer months. Don’t have the luxury of a front garden or a home in the countryside? Make room for a few potted plants inside your home on bookshelves and the mantel piece, as will add a feel of spring to your home, even on the rainy summer days.

Photo Credit: jinkazamah via Compfight cc

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Coping with your winter garden

Coping with your winter garden

This winter it’s time to make that extra effort and ensure your garden stays in pristine condition, and doesn’t take on the dishevelled look of most outside areas through the winter. You can probably think of more appealing ways to spend your free time than being out working in the cold, however maintaining your garden in winter will heavily reduce the work that needs to be sorted for spring and summer. Don’t hang up your gardening gloves just yet; a little bit of winter preparation can get your garden ready to flourish this summer.



Think about the wildlife in your garden. Supplying extra food for the animals in your garden will help them survive this winter and encourage them to stay. (image CC via Wikipedia)

Grey Squirrel

(CC image via Wikipedia)

Get furniture protected

Now is the perfect time for a garden spruce up. Sorting and cleaning all equipment can be a great way to improve your gardening resources. Cleaning any outbuildings can help you organise your garden preparations for the spring.


(CC image via

Keep plants alive

During the winter it is critical that gardeners protect any plants from frost and snow. Soil should be dug over to loosen and improve the structure, and compost can be added to contain food reserve for the plants. Lawns need to be checked for moss and thatch once the temperature drops, and any root vegetables should be covered with straw. Any heavy snow must be shaken from shrubs and trees to prevent branches being broken.


(CC image via

Get ahead with trends

Even though gardening in the winter can feel unappealing, it is a great time to start looking at the latest gardening design trends. This winter, why don’t you plan your garden makeover to showcase this summer?


Move inside

Don’t forget the plants that are kept indoors; greenhouses, homes and conservatories hold tender plants on the herbaceous border that won’t survive in low temperatures. Ensure the indoor space is suitable regarding temperature, dryness and exposure to sunlight.


(CC image via

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Preparing your garden for the changing seasons

Preparing your garden for the changing seasons

Over the last few days in the UK you will have noticed the temperature swiftly dropping. All of this talk of Indian Summers and autumn heatwaves is long gone, and winter is definitely on its way.

Winter isn’t the best time to be outside, but unfortunately if you want your garden to be looking it’s best for the new year ahead, there are jobs that you need to be done. It’s best to get these jobs out of the way early, before the temperature plummets further and the frost starts to strike.

To help you along your way, here are some of the best preparations you should be making:

Tidy up your borders

This time of the year presents the ideal time to tidy your borders and move poorly placed plants. Dig up annual plants you have, move poorly placed plants, cut back perennials and just generally have a tidy up. Ensure they are clean and tidy by ridding these areas of any dead plants, leaves and anything else that shouldn’t be in there. Once this is done set your borders up for the winter by spreading them with a thick layer of compost or bark chips.

Move tender plants

Ideally, any tender plants you have will be grown in pots, doing this makes them easy to move indoors once the cold weather strikes. If they are not being grown in pots, you will still need to lift them from the ground, you will just need to be a little more careful in doing so. To do this, cut back the stems, clean the soil from them and store them in trays of dry compost or sand with just the top of the crown visible.

Consider coverings

For any plants that cannot be lifted from the ground, consider utilising ground sheets instead to protect them from the frost and help them to retain heat. While specialist ground sheets are available, old blankets and sheets will also work. When covering plants, drape the coverings loosely and secure them with stakes, rocks or bricks. When covering plants, consider changes in the weather and remove the covers as soon as the sun comes out to avoid them being suffocated.

Look after your lawn

And by look after it, we mean really look after it. Pull up any weeds and moss, rake up any grass clippings, gather up leaves and then leave it alone. The best way to look after your lawn in the colder and wetter months is to simply put it to bed and leave it to enjoy a breather.

Start a compost bin

If you haven’t got one already, this time of year makes for the ideal time to start a compost bin. Put any grass clippings, fallen leaves and other garden waste to good use and turn it into compost. If you have already got a compost bin, put the current contents to good use by using it in your borders. It takes a while for compost to develop, so be patient and keep an eye on it. If the compost is not quite ready, be sure to turn it to aid the decomposition process when adding new waste.

Clean up your paved areas

Autumn and winter can be a tough time for paved areas and driveways. It’s common to find moss, algae, liverworts, lichens and other slippery coverings on paved areas at this time of year and not only are they unattractive, but due to their slippery nature they are also an accident waiting to happen.  This can be easily remedied however by utilising a pressure washer. If you haven’t got one, it’s a handy piece of equipment and is available to hire from many garden tool hire companies. Alternatively there are many chemical products available. If you opt for a chemical product, go for one that is either based on benzalkonium chloride, acetic acid or nitrilo triacetic acid/trisodium salt.


Free to use image sourced via

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How to prepare your driveway for winter

How to prepare your driveway for winter

If you live in a cold weather environment, you know how quickly the harsh winter ice and snow can damage a driveway. It seems as though new cracks and chips appear every winter, making maintaining your driveway a frustrating task. After a few years of heavy snowfall, you could end up in a situation where your driveway has to be repaved, which is a very expensive project. Luckily, there are a few preventative steps that you can take to give your driveway a fighting chance this winter.

Seal It

While you do not have to do this every year, it is a good idea to seal your driveway every two or three years. This sealant not only waterproofs your driveway, but also fills any cracks that have appeared over the years. Adding a sealant limits the damage that is done to your driveway by snow and other extreme weather. Sealing is an especially important step if you park heavy vehicles in your driveway or if it sees a significant amount of traffic, since these factors can add to its wear and tear.

If you do not feel comfortable applying this sealant yourself, there are plenty of companies out there that offer the pavement maintenance services that you require.

Don’t Use Grit Salt or Chemicals

One of the worst things that you can do to any type of pavement is apply salt or chemicals. While applying deicer is a necessity for crews working on city streets, your driveway is small enough that you can use other methods to remove snow and ice. Deicing products often contain ammonium nitrates and ammonium sulfates, which attack the chemical composition of the concrete and cause it to deteriorate. Whilst salt is less damaging to the pavement, it can still cause cracking and rust on the body of your vehicles.

If, despite your best efforts, your driveway ends up with some icy patches, use natural items, such as sand to provide traction until you have time to clear it.

Remove Snow and Ice

It’s the good old fashioned way, an should be the first action when your driveway gets snowed under. Shoveling the snow after each snowfall, using a proper shoveling technique, can prevent damage to your driveway. The freezing and thawing of the snow is what does most of the damage to pavement in the winter, so if you can remove the snow immediately, you will not have to worry about this happening. If you do end up with a buildup of ice, scrape it as thoroughly as possible and, as was mentioned previously, add some traction by applying sand. Once the temperatures increase slightly, get out there and chip away at the ice as much as possible.

Keep it Clean

Taking care of your driveway should not be limited to the winter months. Keeping your driveway clean and clear throughout the year can limit the damage that is done by snow and ice in the winter because it can prevent oil and chemicals from leaking onto the pavement. Use a pressure washer and leaf blower to keep your driveway free of debris during the rest of the year, as this, when combined with a sealant, prevents snow and ice from infiltrating your concrete.


We always love to hear your top tips. If you’ve found yourself stuck over the past few years, when the snow has fallen, then let us know your preferred method of clearing your drive space in the comments section below.

Photo credit: CC image sourced via

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Top patio paving for your new garden

Top patio paving for your new garden

Paving as a concept can be seen as a gorgeous and valuable addition to any back garden, however you can really boost its effect by choosing the correct pattern to correspond with the style of your garden and home. There are many different paving patterns to choose from, some of which really stand out. Here are the our top picks. 

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Patio cleaning in 5 easy steps

Patio cleaning in 5 easy steps

The patio area of your garden is a place where you entertain and gets a lot of attention. Ensuring that the surfaces are clean and well maintained is crucial, even heading into the autumn months. In Britain, the up and down weather means that there is only really a small period where you will be using your garden, and it is pretty essential that you are able to put it to good use ensuring it looks its best. With late summer sun still a possibility over the coming weeks, you’ll undoubtedly be heading outdoors to lap up the last fragments of summer whenever the cloud clears, and having a clean and presentable patio means you can entertain guests without having to worry about how your place is presented. You will find that cleaning the patio is like any other house cleaning job, though of course, it requires a little more elbow grease or power than your standard domestic clean. You may want to get a contract cleaner in to do the job, as they will have the best machinery and knowledge, but if you want to have a go at it yourself, here are our top tips.


Clear it

To start, clear the patio. To have a thorough clean, you’ll need to ensure that absolutely everything is clear on your floor surface. Also, be careful with the finish on your decking or plant pots. You might find that the power of the pressure washer can damage smaller things like paintwork, and decorative items.


Remove foliage

Next, it’s time to get in and remove any weeds that have grown in between your patio tiles or pieces of decking. It’s important that when removing weeds, you use the correct tool or scraper to ensure you remove as much of the weed root as possible. Try not to simply pull the head off any weeds you find, as the root will still continue to live and thrive, leaving you repeating the task a couple of months down the line.


Pressure wash

The quicker option, when it comes to washing, is to ensure you have a good pressure washer at your disposal. Whilst hand washing is an option, it’s a far more laborious way of getting the job done. No one wants to spend their Saturday afternoon on all fours, scrubbing their patio until a bad back sets in. A good high powered washer will easily lift up the dirt and mould that has set in any crevices over the months of use, and if you invest in a new washer, it will come in handy for plenty of jobs around the house.  However, if you don’t want to expense of a new washer, and don’t see good re-use value,  it may be cheaper to get a cleaning agency in to do the job for you, as the cost of a top end pressure washer can be a lot more than a cleaner.


Clean up

Once the washing is done and the water has dried, the dirt will settled on the tiles, having been contained in the water. The next task is to simply sweep this away, and it will be removed rather easily, without any difficulties.


Once swept, you can apply any treatment that the area requires, although it is rarely necessary. Once you’re done, simply replace all furnishings and head out to enjoy the new, clean area.

Public Domain CC0 image used courtesy of 

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Making the most of a small garden space

Making the most of a small garden space

Whether your garden is in a cramped and enclosed space, an unorthodox and constricting space, or even just a standard small back yard, there are plenty of relatively minor things you can do to get it looking great. Before rushing into buying garden furniture and plants, planning out the space in your small garden is an essential.

What you’re going to use your small garden space for is also something you need to think about. Make sure that any plans you make, take into account lighting throughout the day; it’s important with a garden that you maximise the exposure to sunlight. Similarly, if you are going to use your outdoor space at night, a garden light system can be really helpful and work alongside your furniture to make the garden look spacious and modern. Whatever size of your garden there is something you can do to get it looking great.

Buying the right furniture

If you want to use your garden as a place for meals or relaxing in the day, then table and chairs are a must. Keeping light in your garden is really important for both appearance and keeping it at a warmer temperature. Purchasing glass tables or plated tables are great to keep the light in your garden space. Considering light when buying other furniture will really show in your gardens finished look. It’s really easy to keep light in your garden, something as simple as buying white or framed furniture will keep your garden looking more light and sunny. In addition to considering the brightness of aspects of your garden, space is another area that you really need to be aware of when gathering furniture for your small garden space. If you have decided to buy a table for your garden, then make sure the item is relative to the amount of space you have.  Just like in any inside space, the more free space the bigger your outdoor area will look. Another great thing to do to keep your garden looking spacious is by buying a garden mirror and placing it on a perimeter edge of the area.

Plants in your garden

There are lots of options when it comes to making small additions to an area, and you can maintain a pretty display of plants and flowers even in a small garden. Growing plants up the sides of perimeter in small  gardens can be really effective. If you struggle for dedicated areas to grow flowers in, then one step you can take is to begin growing plants and flowers indoors, before potting and introducing them to your garden. If time is something you have very little of, then purchasing fake flowers and placing them to look real in your garden can look just as good as the real think and take no maintenance. Small trees can fill empty spaces in your garden and look really fresh and great. Green leaved plants look especially fantastic up against white walls and white furniture in a small garden.


Are you an expert in utilising a smaller garden space? If you aren’t blessed with sprawling acres of garden, but still love to entertain outdoors, comment below with your top tips.

Image used under CC license, courtesy of Sarah.

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Gardening for beginners: Buying a greenhouse

Gardening for beginners: Buying a greenhouse

There are many factors that you need to take into consideration before you go out and buy yourself a greenhouse. Before you do any measuring in your garden you need to choose what type of greenhouse you need. This article covers the most popular choices of greenhouse and which one is best suited for you.

Standard greenhouses

Standard greenhouses are the typical glass shed-looking greenhouses that you always see. These are great because glass doesn’t degrade over time and helps your plants as it transmits 90% of light. When it comes to glass you have a choice of regular or toughened. Regular glass is recommended if you do not have children or animals as it breaks easily which could cause safety issues for them. Although regular glass is thin and breakable, it is also cheap to replace. Toughened glass can also break however it breaks into pieces meaning it causes less of a mess and will not be dangerous to humans or animals. It does however, come with a high price tag. Standard greenhouses are best if you would like to grow a decent amount of plants as it allows a lot of space for both bedding and climbing plants.

Mini greenhouses

A mini greenhouse is perfect if you have a small garden or only have a limited amount of space. There are different sizes of mini greenhouse to choose from with a different number of shelves. Mini greenhouses are also portable so if you ever wanted to move it around your garden or even take it to another property; you can do so with great ease. Mini greenhouses come in a variety of different materials, from glass to toughened glass, to plastic; you will never be short of the right one for your needs. You can choose from metal and wooden frames however you will need to take care of a wooden greenhouse as it can attract insects and will eventually rot. Mini greenhouses are ideal if you would only like to grow a select few potted plants.

Cold frames

A cold frame is a small box like structure built low to the ground with a transparent lid to give plants the light they need but to also protect them from weather conditions. The size of cold frames can vary depending on how many plants you would like to grow. Plants that are put into cold frames are usually potted however, bedding plants could also been grown if your cold frame is bottomless. These are great if you would like to grow plants in your garden but don’t want to have your view obstructed by a regular greenhouse.


Cloches are usually for bedding plants and are translucent plastic covers that go over them to protect against any adverse weather conditions or any unwanted insects. However, depending on where you buy your cloche from, you can also find them for upright plants such as climbers. Cloches are great for any amount of plants and any area from gardens to allotments. They keep your plants safe and make your plant beds look tidy!

Are you a Keepmoat home owner making the most of your garden? If so, give us your top tips for utilising your greenhouse by commenting below!

Many thanks to Garden Oasis for kindly providing us with this insight.

Image used under CC license courtesy of o5com

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It’s competition time, share your top tips for a chance to win.
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It’s competition time, share your top tips for a chance to win.

It’s the end of the week again, which can only mean one thing here at First Home News…we want to hear your First Home Views! The easy to enter competition gives you the chance to win the fantastic new interior design book, BrightBazaar; the brainchild of world-renowned blogger, Will Taylor.

So it’s time for us to once again turn the spotlight onto you lot – our readers – giving you the chance to share your wealth of house and home advice on a variety of topics.

Summer is still here, which means when the sun is out, we’re making every effort to head outside and entertain family and friends. Hosting weekend dinner parties can be the perfect way to spend time in the sun, relaxing and enjoying the company of those closest to you. So this week, what we want to know is this: ‘When hosting a dinner party, what item or accessory do you bring out to wow your guests?’

To enter, just leave your top recipe in a comment below this article. We’ll be announcing the winner on Monday. Good luck!

Bright Bazaar has an RRP of £25, and is available from Amazon. The book explores specific colour palettes for every room in your home to give you the confidence, knowledge and inspiration to get your colour choices right first time. Packed with personality and heart, playful but informative, engaging but practical, Bright Bazaar is brimming with ideas that work.

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