Top tips for a beautiful garden

Due to the popularity of our recent blog ‘How to do just about everything’ we are back with a garden edition to give you handy hints and tips on how to get things done in your outdoor spaces!

How to mow the lawn

Little and often is the best, or it will get yellow underneath. Service your mower regularly — if, after mowing, the grass looks ripped, your mower blades are blunt. Try not to cut long grass too short in one go — aim to cut no more than a third of the height in one session. Start the season on a high setting and gently lower it over a few weeks to keep it at the same height. Depending on local climate and soil type, your lawn may need a cut during a mild winter, but on the whole start in spring and finish in mid-autumn. For a lawn that isn’t hugely manicured, once every week in summer is plenty.

How to keep a houseplant alive

Most houseplants like light, but not direct sunlight (large leaves are an indication that they prefer some shade, as do ferns). Move them closer to the window throughout the winter to improve light levels, and keep them away from cold draughts and warm radiators.

The most common cause of poor growing or being killed is overwatering — an indication is browning of leaves. Water the plant (with room-temperature water, and a saucer underneath) until the compost is evenly moist. Only water it again when the compost has completely dried out on top.

Feed flowering plants with a higher potassium indoor plant food once a week in spring and summer, and foliage plants twice a year in spring and summer. Only repot when the plant’s roots have outgrown the pot it’s in. Repot in spring and only into a pot one or two sizes up.

How to check the oil in your car

Open your bonnet and find the dipstick (it’s usually a bright colour). Pull it out and wipe off the oil with an old cloth. Reinsert it and pull it out again — the oil should be between the minimum and maximum marks. Check the type of oil your car needs in your handbook before you refill it, and check the oil every two months.

How to fix a dripping tap

On older taps, drips can often be stopped by replacing a washer; on modern taps, by replacing the interior cartridge that houses all the important parts. First, turn off the water supply. There is usually a valve under the sink or behind the shower assembly, or you may find a screw slot, which you’ll need to turn with a screwdriver until it points across the width of pipe rather than along its length. Turn the tap on and clear residual water from the pipes.

First, remove the tap top (marked “hot” or “cold”). Remove the screw underneath, then jiggle the handle to remove. Screwdriver or pliers may be needed (if you do need to use pliers, use a heavy cloth or some duct tape to protect the tap).

For modern taps: remove interior cartridge using pliers. NB: it may be held in by a lock ring or nut that will need removing first, using a spanner. Replace with a new cartridge. For older taps, use a spanner to undo nuts, remove headgear and reveal the old washer. Prise out the washer and replace with a new one. Apply silicone grease to screw threads, then reassemble the tap in reverse sequence. Turn water supply back on.

How to pitch a tent

Find a flat, sheltered space and clear away stones, twigs, etc. Roll out and unfold the main part of your tent, with the roof facing upwards and the groundsheet downwards. Find the zips that indicate the front of the tent and ensure the tent is facing in the direction you want. Loosely peg down the corners of the tent to hold it in place, then clip together all of your poles. For some tents you will need to line up your poles to determine their lengths — you may need longer poles for one section of the tent and shorter for another.

Now begin to insert your tent poles into the fabric of the tent, starting at one corner and pushing through to the opposite side. This is the trickiest part of the process but have patience. Do not pull the poles because it may unclip them.

Insert the ends of each pole into a socket of some kind — they will vary so check the instructions for your specific model. Now that the tent is up, unpeg the base and spread the poles as far apart as you can to ensure the tent fabric is taut. Replace the pegs to keep the tent in place and hammer them in using a mallet or rock, ensuring they are in as deep as you can get. Finally, attach the exterior rain cover to the main tent interior using the bows or clips provided. If you expect it to be windy, unfurl the guy ropes, pull them tight and peg these in too, to keep your tent extra secure.

We hope you enjoy these handy tips and find them helpful. There really is nothing more rewarding than being creative and putting yourself to the test – we think your garden is the best place to start. We believe that you will be extremely content to finally be able to take pride in your outdoor space and share it with your loved ones.