Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Water Butts and Butt Pumps

My husband has been spending a lot of time watering the plants recently and came up with an ingenious plan to make things a bit easier. He decided to write an article about it, so over to him:

How do you water your garden, hosepipe or watering can? Where does the water come from, the tap or a water butt? Whether you are on a water meter or not, using water from the tap for your garden isn't a great option.

Your plants and vegetables won't appreciate it as tap water may have things added to it that damage the plants (read more here). As well as that you are pouring drinking water - water that has cost time, money and energy to process, onto your grass, plants or vegetables.

Rain is a natural way of watering the plants and if you can store it and get it where you need easily then it is better for the environment, better for your plants and if you're on a water meter, better on your wallet.

When we moved into our current house we had 1x 100 litre water butt which didn't last 5 minutes, I then added a 220 litre butt next to it, a year later I added another to another down pipe but they were all on the wrong side of the house, I was spending too much time carrying watering can after watering can from where the water butts were to where we grow our vegetables.

What I really needed was the water butts near our vegetables, unfortunately there are no downpipes to fill the water butts with there so I looked at other options. If I couldn't fill a water butt from the roof water then I needed another way of filling the water butt. I found that there are loads of submersible garden pumps and some are even geared up for use in water butts

I looked around at pumps and decided to go with this one which can pump the water from one water butt to another. It was £50 but will save me a lot of time every evening in the summer and also allows me to use a hose instead of a watering can as there is plenty of pressure for that. Since then I have used it to wash my solar panels (look out for the blog post on that coming soon) and if I wanted to, it could be used to wash my car with rain water. All in all quite a versatile pump.

Now I have 1 big water butt in my veg garden which I refill from my other water butts when its running low, it takes 10-20 mins to fill it up from the other water butts but I don't have to do anything. The pump turns off when the water runs out as it has a floating cut out.

If you're growing things in your garden that need regular watering, where are you getting the water from, would it be easier for you to have the water next to where you use it? If so water butts and a pump may be the way to go!

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Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Sustainable Book Club no.3 - Feral by George Monbiot

It's the third meeting of the Sustainable Book club today, otherwise known as #susbc and we are discussing Feral, by George Monbiot! It is all online and everyone is welcome to join in the conversation between 12.00 and 13.00 and then 20.00 and 21.00 either on Twitter, using #susbc or on Facebook at the group which can be found here. Plus of course you are welcome to chat in the comments section of the blog or send me an email with your comments to

I really enjoyed reading Feral. I didn't really have a clue what to expect before I read it and now I am seeing the outdoors in the UK in a whole new light. I think George makes his points very clearly and succinctly, which are basically that much of our land and sea has been overly interfered with and we need to leave large connected tracts of it alone (with the exception of reintroducing large predators like wolves and restricting some species that would otherwise entirely take over) to allow eco-systems to regenerate, move around and to have abundance again of wild flora and fauna. Don't take my word for it though, read the book (if you haven't already) and let him drum his incredibly important message in loud and clear - we need to let the wild back in in the UK!

Interesting he talks about how fearful we are of the wild here and I can totally relate to that. Growing up I always felt I was lucky not to have to worry about snakes, spiders, bears, crocodiles and lions. Basically everything feels very safe, neat and tidy here. What I didn't realise was the price that safety and neatness comes with - the price is both a lack of a fully functioning eco-system in many parts of this country and also a feeling of disconnect with nature. I have no clue what the countryside should look like. I have no clue how many and what type of creatures and plants should be living in my garden. When I went swimming soon after reading Feral, I went in the local swimming pool, right next to the beach, because it seemed safer and easier than going swimming in the sea. Somehow we need to let go of this fear of the wild and find a way to enjoy it and embrace it and let it be!

Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed the book. I have the following questions for you:

1. Do you think rewilding is the right way forward and if so what impact do you think you can have on the rewilding campaign (read more here)
2. Would you consider eating Venison after reading the book and is it a sustainable option?
3. How often do you go for a walk in the woods and how close is your nearest woods?
4. What do you do or think you could easily do to bring the wild into your life?
5. How has the book changed your outlook on the British countryside?
6. How do you relate to wild spaces and creatures? Are they something you enjoy or would you rather avoid them?
7. Given the choice of a swimming pool, river or the sea where would you go swimming?
8. What wildlife changes have you noticed over the years e.g. if you've been fishing have you noticed it getting harder or if you have been spotting butterflies have you noticed any changes?
9. What changes (if any) would you consider making having read the book?
10. What message from the book sticks with you the most?

Thanks for joining in the book club. If you think we should be considering any other questions feel free to throw them in as well!

The next book will be This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein and we will be tweeting / Facebooking between 12.00 and 13.00 and then 20.00 and 21.00 on the 16th September. I look forward to chatting about it with you all then!

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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

How to make a lavender wand

Lavender is in season and I have loads of lovely fragrant lavender growing in my garden right now. There are many uses for lavender, but my current favourite is to make lavender wands. I don't use them for casting spells - I use them to keep my clothes smelling nice (but if you or your kids want to make one for casting spells, don't let me stop you :)).

It is really simple, doesn't take long and they make great gifts! 

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Monday, 27 July 2015

Mmm a nice relaxing bath of cucumbers and courgettes!

Raised beds are a great way to grow vegetables. They keep everything growing where it is meant to be, are easy to maintain and slow the slugs down (a bit). A few years ago my husband made some for our kitchen garden and I asked myself the question of whether it was cost effective to grow veg (read more here and here). It wasn't particularly cost effective the way we did it, but it was cheaper than buying a pre-made raised bed from the shops. Prices vary, but I saw one in my local garden centre for around £70, whereas the wood for the two beds my husband made cost £60. Raised beds might be a good investment if you get years of veg growing out of them, however now I know there is no need to buy a raised bed frame when you can get them for free!

I found a bath being given away on Freecycle earlier on this year and I convinced my husband that we really did need a bath to use as a raised veg bed in our garden. We want to maximise the space we have and grow as much veg as possible, so although we already have some raised beds, we wanted more! He went and picked it up, put it in the back of the car and brought it home. I was a bit unsure about whether the drainage in the bath was good enough with just a plug hole and my husband decided to drill some holes in the bottom of the bath to help with that. We also raised it off the ground on a couple of bricks to allow the water to drain through the holes. 

The bath wasn't particularly attractive in itself. I did think about decorating it a bit but thinking was as far as I got!

Now that we have veg growing in it though, I don't think it needs decorating! 

We have cucumbers! Is it just me or is this one looking rather rude :). 

Courgettes are on their way - not quite big enough to pick yet. The picture makes them look bigger than they are.

We also have some tiny squashes coming through - we think they are butternut squashes. The bath is planted full of random cucumber, squash and courgette plants and we aren't quite sure what they are all going to turn out like yet!

If you are thinking of having a raised veg bed in your garden, although it is too late to plant most things from seed now, you could cheat and get some seedlings or small plants - ask around friends,family, neighbours and online if anyone has any going spare. You could always offer them a trade for something.

Our next project

I also convinced my husband to pick up a divan bed given away on a Facebook giving group a while ago. We were going to rent our spare room to two students at a time, but actually the bed wasn't great - the mattress was rubbish, the whole thing stank of smoke and we changed our minds about having two students at once. We have just stuck with having one student which has worked well for us so far. Anyway, understandably my husband wasn't very impressed with me as he told me it smelt of smoke when he went to pick it and gave me a chance to say no thanks. Plus he had to pick it up from a really awkward to get to flat parking wise, which was up a few flights of stairs. I felt bad about not taking it once we had said we would, and I wasn't there and couldn't judge quite how bad it was. When it came home I realised the error of my ways. I tried to make use of it, but then relegated it to the garage and admitted that actually I didn't want it. Lesson learned though - only take stuff from smoke free homes!

The next plan was to chop it in half and take it to the dump, but when the fabric came off, it looked like this:

A few planks of scrap wood around the edges and maybe some waterproof (yes probably plastic) lining and I think we will have ourselves another upcycled raised veg bed there! Clearly I had that plan in mind the whole time and knew exactly what I was doing (or not :) ) 

Warning - you do have to be careful when using upcycled containers for growing fruit, veg and herbs as some wood is treated with harsh chemicals which may not be food safe. A while ago my husband made a herb planter out of old pallets, but we didn't line it and I was worried about what it might have been treated with so we got rid of it in the end - read more here.

How is your garden growing? Has anyone made a raised bed out of a bath, or an old divan bed or done any other upcycling in the garden? I'd love to hear about your projects!

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