Thursday, 4 October 2018

Keep It Real

# Keep It Real

Synthetic grass seems to be getting a lot of positive attention lately. Many are considering it as a low maintenance alternative to grass lawns.
But are we simply creating yet another assault on our planet for future generations to deal with?

If you search for information about the potential harmful effects of faux grass, you may come across assuring claims that scientific studies have yet to find any great cause for concern, however, studies are very limited, and one thing that science can assure us of is that nature is already under critical threat! British wildlife is at grave risk, with pollinating insects on a rapid decline. 
You may also notice where you do find reassuring advice about the safety of artificial grass, that the source of information often has an obvious bias and a profitable interest in sales either directly or through affiliate marketing.
It should come as no great surprise that Astro-turf was first introduced to us by one of the biggest corporate threats to human health and our planet: Monsanto! It was patented in 1965 under the brand name "ChemGrass" and rebranded the following year. 
There are many valid concerns about the rise in artificial turf use, however the studies are so limited, so it's difficult to find definitive answers to our questions. 
We could spend hours debating the pro's and con's of fake vs real grass, with regards to maintenance, health, environment, cost etc but one thing that's indisputable is that we need to be nurturing wildlife not replacing it with harmful synthetic materials, and with so many options available, why take the risk at all? 
If you are fed up of maintaining a grass lawn, there are lots of alternatives to consider instead, many of which will play an active role in helping our environment and some which will simply not pose any further threat. 
Here are some lawn alternatives to consider. 
 # 1. Clover 
Clover is a great alternative to grass lawns, it stays green through dry weather, and requires very little care or maintenance. Nitrogen fixing properties mean it needs no fertiliser and benefits the soil. It's immune to pet urine stains, it attracts bee's and other pollinators as well as other beneficial insects, which can help control common pests such as aphids. It feels great under bare feet.
It can out compete other weeds, grows well even in poor soils, it's inexpensive, and like all plants it absorbs carbon-dioxide and produces oxygen!
Another idea is to try a clover and grass mix. 
 # 2. Tapestry Lawn 
If you're wanting a low footfall green area with some texture and colour, this may be the answer you're looking for! There are many low growing native and non-native plants which can be incorporated to suit your environment and preferences, and it requires very little maintenance (mowing 2-5 times per annum), attracts beneficial wildlife and can provide pleasant scents to your space. 
 # 3. Wildflower Meadow 
British wildflower meadows have declined drastically over the last century and thankfully there are many local and national schemes working to promote wildflower plantations on public area's now.
Choosing to plant your own wildflower patch is an eco-friendly option, which once established requires far less effort than traditional lawns, as well as providing a stunning floral display for your own pleasure as well as the benefit of local wildlife!
Native wildflowers can easily be added to an existing grass patch (think daisy, clover, buttercup, wild violet, chamomile) or sowed onto bare soil.
It's wise to consider the flowers that will best suit the soil and conditions, many of the prettiest wildflowers actually thrive in very poor soil, poppies for example. 
You can could even choose a colour theme! 
 # 4. Herb Garden 
 As well as visual appeal, a herb garden can enrich your culinary options and your health. Did you know that crushing a sprig of rosemary and inhaling the scent can actually improve your memory? The sweet scent of lavender can reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
In fact all of the common herbs have medicinal benefits, as well as adding beautiful fresh flavours to your food. Most herbs stay green and fresh year round and produce pretty flowers in Spring and Summer. 
 # 5. Wood Chips/Mulch 
Of course, finding the right lawn alternative depends on what you are using the space for, if it's a base for a children's play area then many of the above will not be ideal but could easily be included in the layout.
Mulch and woodchips can provide an affordable soft area for play equipment, and can come in varying colours to compliment your space. 
 # 6. Sand 
Sand is another option for children, providing a soft landing as well as an added play factor! It's cheap and can be used in a specific area, allowing more visually appealing landscape surroundings. 
 # 7. Eco-Lawn 
If you really want all the benefits of a lawn but without the hassle, just get a better lawn! There are many different seed varieties available with low growing, drought resistant grasses requiring far less effort whilst still providing a lush green area for your children to play on.
You can even custom design your own lawn by adding other plants such as clover, daisy or yarrow. 
 # 8. Gravel/Stone/Chipping 
 Although this will do little for wildlife, it does offer a varied and affordable low maintenance solution, to which easy care plants can be added as desired and some of the other suggestions can be incorporated into the design quite easily. 
 # 9. Paving and/or Decking 
 As above, this option, although not a great service to nature, at least doesn't add any potentially harmful chemicals to the mix. Potted plants and garden furniture or ornaments can be introduced to suit many different schemes. 
 #  10. Features 
Finally, try something different. A rock garden, a water feature, or a garden building to provide shade or shelter for the changeable British weather! A summer house, pergola or arbour, create a peaceful seating area with pretty climbing plants. Get creative and use it as opportunity to show off your own unique style with ornaments, unusual plants or interesting furniture pieces. Use mirrors to enhance the space or create unusual perceptions.If you want somewhere for the children to play, build them a fort, a climbing frame or a play house. 
 # conclusion
Carpets are great... for the interior! But before you find yourself stuck with the task of hoovering your lawn, first consider the many alternatives. Have some fun with it. Be bold, be creative, be minimalist or eclectic or playful or understated. Be_ You_**.  **_Keep it real._****
Many thanks to our guest blogger Liza Stirling! If you would like to read more about what Liza has to say, or would like her to write for you! Check out her blog here

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We'd like to wish all of our friends and customers a very Merry Christmas.

We hope you have a wonderful time with family and friends making memories at this special time. We'll be doing our best to make things magical for our little family, lots of fun...

We'll see you in 2018!!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Get inspired... enjoy your garden

Spring has sprung... the daffs are up, there's blossom on the trees and the birds are busy nesting! This is our favourite time of year...

We are lucky enough to have been busy throughout the winter months, building fencing and decking. But now is the time when we get on with planting and maintaining gardens too and the longer working hours will kick in soon enough.

This year we will be celebrating the 10th Birthday of Ark Fencing & Garden Services, we'll be marking the occasion in someway so watch this space. We owe a big thank you to all of our customers, family and friends who have supported us all of this time. It has been a roller coaster ride at times, but both myself and Richard are thankful that we have made it this far. Working for yourself presents all kinds of risks and challenges but it's been worth every moment. So bring on the next 10!

So, if you are looking for advice on your own garden plans, I would say, have a think about how you would like to use the space. Do you have children who need somewhere suitable to play? Do you want a spot for the hot tub? What about planting... Do you like to have a lot of colour? Will you have time to maintain it? Will you need a gardener or are you looking for a low maintenance option? And don't forget, a garden is always growing and changing. So, if you really get into it, it can be a lifelong project. But the main thing is that you enjoy it! If you would like help with planning, we're more than happy to get involved, just ask.

We recently had an inquiry on planting for increased privacy. I looked into these 'Pleached Trees', it's a fab idea especially if you feel that your garden is overlooked by neighbours. I found these pleached Hornbeam at The stem stands at 180cm and the head is 150cm wide and 120cm high. They really would look great in a formal or architectural style garden.

Within this design I also placed Allium Globemaster and Allium Stipitatum 'Mount Everest', both flower throughout June and July and are available at Amongst this plan were various ornamental grasses for a sense of movement.

I find a good source for ideas is Pinterest. You can find lots of new and creative ideas which are great for inspiration. You can find us there too under 'arkgardens' if you like!

Thanks for reading, let me know what you have planned!

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Making the most of your garden this summer

I hope the spring sunshine has inspired you to get outside into the garden. It's a busy time of year, putting plans into place ready to make the most of the outdoors this summer.

Think about how you wish to use your garden. Do you plan on entertaining? Do you have young children and need a play area? Or do you have pets that need to be contained within the garden? Also think about how much time do you have to dedicate to maintaining the area? Even 'low maintenance' gardens need looking after to keep them looking top notch. 

We have noticed an increase in demand for decking over the last twelve months. It is great in that it offers such a versatile space and also enables use of previously inaccessible or unused areas. It's great for the table and chairs, BBQ's and play houses. We recommend that decking is cleaned and oiled every year in order to keep it looking fab. 

Here's a few of the projects we have undertaken within the last year...

Thanks very much for taking a look around, if you need any help or advice, give us a call.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Preparing for spring

Firstly, Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you are spoiling someone special in your life. This year I'm making a big fuss of our little girl as she's 4 now and although Valentine's day has been explained before, it's all new to her! One of the things we are doing is a little chocolate heart treasure hunt, which she will love. 

We are also going to be planting our sweetpea seeds this weekend as these are a real favourite with our family. They are great because they are so pretty, smell wonderful and they keep growing back despite certain little fingers picking them quite often!

So here's a short guide:

  • Sow seeds in seed compost. You can either use seed trays or I think best is to use old toilet rolls (as the roots grow quite long)
  • Cover with 1cm of compost
  • Keep them on a sunny window sill
  • Water them regularly 
  • Once they have a few sets of leaves, pinch the top off (to encourage bushy growth) 
  • When you notice the spring frosts have gone, plant them out 8-12 inches apart in a sunny spot
  • They will need support so either use canes, netting or trellace
  • Cut flowers before they turn to seed pods to encourage more flowers to grow
And that it, simple! Let me know how your sweetpeas turn out. 

Thanks so much for reading. Take care...

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Planting a hanging basket

Hello and thanks for visiting our blog. This week we've put together some basic tips, a guide for complete beginners on how to plant up a hanging basket. A handy design tip is to plant in odd numbers, we have chosen to plant five trailing plants in order for this basket to be over flowing with pretty flowers.

I have chosen a pelargonium in pink, to go in the centre as this will give some height; petunias in purple, cerise and white; and a surfinia in pale pink. Be sure to choose varieties of plants that complement each other in colour.

In this hanging basket, I have used a coconut fibre lining to give a lovely natural look. Some baskets are pre-lined with plastic, this is fine if you can't see it, you may have to make a few small holes in it for drainage.
Next add some compost, you can use John Innes No. 2 or a general compost is fine. Adding slow release plant food and water retaining crystals is recommended for a hanging basket, to help keep the compost moist and nutritious. 
Here I've put the tallest plant in the middle, this is fine or you could place it at the back of your arrangement. In this case the pelargonium is a trailing plant too, but still provides the bit of height required for this display.
The remaining four plants were placed around the centre. The pale colours were paired up with the more vibrant colours so that the display will look eye catching all round once everything is in flower. Be sure to loosen the roots slightly before planting. Add more compost around all the plants and pat down.
Give the basket a generous watering and hang it up! It's as simple as that. As far as caring for it goes, make sure you water it daily to avoid drying out. If you forget, and the compost does dry out just take the basket down and soak it in a bucket of water for a little while.

This basket will look great in a few weeks time, i'll be sure to post an updated picture for you to see the result.

If you want to find out what else we've been up to , check out our Facebook page.

Thanks very much for reading, I hope to see you soon.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Lucky seven!

This week we celebrated our 7th Birthday here at Ark Fencing & Garden Services. And boy those seven years have gone by quick! Sometimes starting something new is scary, and when we began, it was! But luckily, with lots of hard work and perspiration, things have worked out well! The year we began this business was also the year we got married. After being together for eight years already mind you! People used to ask "how do you manage working together every day as husband and wife?" we just used to laugh. It was great. The best days were of course the days when the sun was shining and we were working hard on looking after all our garden maintenance jobs. That feeling when you get home after a hard day’s work, skin warm from the sun, money in your pocket and knowing it was all your own doing was fab. Of course there were hard times too, through winters and the financial crisis. But you live and learn. And we are still going so we must be doing something right.

In 2010 we were blessed with our beautiful little Summer Rose and that summer she came to work too. That was some juggling act, but she was a good baby and quite content which of course made it all that little bit easier.

In 2011 we took on our first labourer and I took a back seat on that side of things to focus on raising Summer at home and catch up on all that paper work and marketing! We still had the odd day out at work though, which she loved, and so did our customers! And here we are today. The main thing is to stay positive. It can be hard going working with the general public! You can't please everybody all of the time. But we all work hard, put maximum effort in on getting a great job done and that's what makes the difference. When you try your best, nothing can stop you.

So there's a little piece of our history there for you! But right now, spring is springing up and the days are brighter and a little bit warmer. Now comes the busy times! 

I briefly mentioned lawn care in the last blog. It is a good time now to add some top dressing to your lawn and more seed to thicken things up and add some new healthy growth. It won't take long for the seeds to germinate now and you'll soon see the results. If you're lawn is in pretty good shape anyway, it will benefit from regular mowing to keep it looking good.

If you have young children, you'll like to know that now is the time to plant those sun flower seeds - right where you want them to bloom. I can't wait; these are definitely one of my favourites since I’m such a big kid! It's also time to get those hedges tidied, if you haven't done so already.

We still have ongoing fences to build since all the storms back earlier in the year. We really have had a busy few months. One thing we have noticed this year is the price increase on timber! And all the suppliers seemed to put up their prices early, in February. Lately we have seen a steady increase in calls for garden maintenance. If things go well, you never know we might have room for another member in the team!

That's all for now, thanks very much for reading. If you want to find out more about us, take a look at our facebook page, we try to keep that up to date with our latest projects: