The last day of January!! Thank goodness!
January is possibly my least favourite month of the year, except for 1993 when my first born arrived - that was a good year! It's the barrage of self-improvement, do this, don't do that, messages combined with dark mornings, dark nights and generally gloomy weather that does nothing to revive my spirits for the start of the year ahead.
Tomorrow will be different.
Already the days are getting longer. It's a lovely feeling to leave work and it's not pitch black. You know that in a few short weeks the weather will improve, buds will start to show and moods and spirits will lift in anticipation of Spring. As Love Unlimited sang, "It may be Winter outside, but in my heart it's Spring"!
The promise of warmer days, more time outdoors gets me to planning.
Not planning dry February, or 100 press ups a day, I start planning my garden.
What will I grow this year. Is it worth fighting the grubs for my organic veg? Is the work planting from seed better than just buying trays of bedding plants? What colour am I painting fences and furniture?
It's now that I start my check list, feel free to use mine if it's of interest!
Trim back hedges and shrubs to avoid those ugly woody stems that develop over the years. Prune back old stems to encourage new shoots in the spring.
Roses are an example of a plant that benefits from regeneration (but not all roses).
Winter Tip: When all the leaves have fallen make time to clear unwanted or poorly looking plants and feed the soil. It might be a good time to plan your display for spring on this new blank canvas?
Did you know? All wild nesting birds are protected by law. These means that you cannot deliberately disturb a wild birds nest between 1st March and 31st July. For many woody plants, winter is the best time for pruning and it avoids disturbing wild bird nests.
Know your plant before you prune! Different trees, shrubs and climbers all have different needs and at different times of the year:
Winter pruning often involves cutting back woody growth and therefore takes longer and results in large amounts of cuttings. By getting these jobs out of the way in the off season you’ll be free to concentrate on the planting and maintenance in the spring and summer. Your garden will look better and you’ve spread the workload and cost over the year.
General Tidy Up. British winters can be cold, windy and frosty but we can also get quite warm spells too and weeds will continue to grow during a mild winter. By clearing the debris of leaves and broken and damaged plants you will improve the look and well-being of the garden. Good garden hygiene also helps to reduce diseases. Sweep away leaves and moss from paths and hard ground. Leaves will fertilise weeds allowing them to establish themselves in cracks and paths. Regular weeding means less weeding.
Winter Planting. Some plants (like roses) lie dormant in the winter and so can be moved. As long as the soil is not frozen or waterlogged, these dormant plants can be planted before they 'wake-up' in the spring.
Bulbs such as crocus, tulips and iris are often planted in late autumn. Herbaceous plants (Daffodils, cyclamen and periwinkle) are often divided and replanted in early spring depending on your local climate.
Only heavy frost and snow will stop a keen gardener!
Winter is a good time to re-design ready for spring. If you want to add a new border, feel free to leave the soil in clumps as the cold, wet and frost will help to break it down naturally, it will also kill off any pests by exposing them to natural predators such as birds and the hedgehogs you’ll attract using the seeds from the Spring Seeds, Winter or Nature Seeds gift boxes. The same rules apply to any vegetable plots.
Is your lawn a state? Often if you have pets and/or kids your lawn area will take a hammering over summer and so the winter is a good time to remove sections of turf, add/remove soil and relay. Lawns can be reseeded and grass grows if the temperature is above 5 degrees.
Now that you can see your garden in its bare bones, what repairs are needed?
- Repair any leaks on sheds and greenhouses
- Invest in a water butt
- Create or purchase a compost bin
- Repair and paint fences and furniture
- Repair any loose paving slabs
- Pressure wash paths and patios
- Build or buy a bug hotel
When you have a list of hard graft jobs like this to consider you certainly don't need a January exercise plan!
Spring is about to spring - and I for one can't wait!
Picture this: a cosy garden, twinkling lights, the tantalizing aroma of grilled delicacies wafting through the air, and the cheerful chatter of friends and family. Now, imagine a sudden rain shower threatening to dampen your BBQ party spirits. While rain might not be the ideal BBQ weather, it doesn't have to be a show-stopper. With a little creativity and preparation, you can still host a memorable and enjoyable BBQ event, rain or shine. Here are some tips to ensure your BBQ party remains a sizzler of a success even when the rainclouds gather.
- Embrace the Weather:
Instead of viewing rain as a party pooper, consider it an opportunity to create a unique and cosy ambiance. Set up tents, canopies, or even a makeshift gazebo to shield your guests from the raindrops. Adorn these structures with string lights and decorations to create an enchanting atmosphere that makes the rain feel like a magical touch.
- Plan a Menu with Versatility:
When the weather forecast looks a bit gloomy, it's a good idea to choose a BBQ menu that can be prepared and enjoyed indoors as well. Opt for dishes that can be grilled and finished off in the oven. This way, you can keep the grilling spirit alive while ensuring that the food is served hot and delicious.
3. Prepare Sheltered Cooking Area:
While grilling in the rain is not advisable due to safety concerns, you can set up a sheltered cooking station. Place the grill under a canopy or any other rain-resistant structure to keep the chef dry while they work their culinary magic.
4. Stock Up on Supplies:
Be ready with an ample supply of umbrellas, rain ponchos, and even spare towels for your guests. This small gesture shows your consideration for their comfort and helps them relax and enjoy the party despite the weather.
- Game On, Rain or Shine:
Don't let the rain dampen the fun and games. Prepare a list of indoor games or activities that can be enjoyed if the rain becomes too heavy. Board games, charades or a quiz are excellent choices to keep the entertainment going. Check out our blog from July 24th for ideas for the little ones.
6. Beverage Brilliance:
Rainy weather calls for warm and comforting beverages. Set up a drink station with hot cocoa, mulled cider, or coffee to keep your guests warm and content. You can also prepare a range of mocktails or cocktails that complement the BBQ flavours and keep the party vibe going.
- Comfort is Key:
Provide ample seating and cosy cushions in sheltered areas to keep your guests comfortable. Create inviting seating arrangements that encourage mingling and conversation, ensuring that the rain doesn't deter them from enjoying each other's company.
- Plan B for Music:
If you had initially planned to have live music or a speaker system outdoors, make sure you have an indoor setup or waterproof speakers that can withstand the rain. Music sets the mood, and you don't want it to be drowned out by the raindrops.
- Rain-Ready Decor:
Extend your party theme to accommodate the rain. Consider using water-resistant decorations or rain-themed accents to turn the weather into a playful part of your party's aesthetic.
- Positive Attitude:
Your enthusiasm and positivity will set the tone for the entire event. Embrace the rain with a smile, and your guests are likely to follow suit. Remember, it's not about the weather, but the memories you create with your loved ones.
In conclusion, hosting a BBQ party in the rain requires a mix of preparation, creativity, and a positive outlook. With the right strategies in place, you can turn a potentially soggy situation into a memorable and enjoyable gathering. So, keep the grill hot, the drinks warm, and the spirits high, and you're sure to have a sizzling good time rain or shine.
Our Sizzler BBQ Gift Hamper is the perfect party gift box for him or her and will make a unique house-warming gift or wedding present. This "meaty" gift box contains a Valiant BBQ multi tool, printed apron, meat rubs and the fabulous Fire & Smoke BBQ recipe book by Rich Harris. (Does not contain meat)!
With Spring fast approaching, there’s never been a better time to dust off those wellies, get those scruffs on and get digging.
Ooh-Box has a collection of gardening gifts and gifts for gardeners that will bring a smile to your green fingered friends. From Seed Sets to Bee Hotels we have some "blooming" great gift boxes!
Remember, remember the fifth of November; gunpowder, treason and…lots of terrified pets.
Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes Night, is in a lot of ways, a super weird British tradition. We celebrate a failed attempt to blow up Parliament over four hundred years ago, is that not a bit creepy? And little kids wheeling around a massive effigy that they are going to sacrificially burn? Sounds a bit Wicker Man to me.
But, to be fair, I do get mixed up in the excitement of the night. It’s usually biting cold, so getting bundled up in hats and gloves and trekking down to your nearest firework display, eating marshmallows, treacle toffee and drinking hot chocolate whilst watching the night sky with your family or your pals is pretty nostalgic.
The one thing that’s definitely NOT a good thing is owning pets on Bonfire Night. While a toddler or even a baby can semi understand what’s happening, or at least by comforted by you, that’s not always the case for a pet. It can be a really frightening night (or week, in my neck of the woods) for cats, dogs or feathered friends.
However, there are ways to help the hours pass a little calmer for your pets.
Like us, animals experience anxiety and fear, and on a night where there are a lot of loud bangs, people about and bright lights appearing in the sky, this can be totally overwhelming for them.
But, like us, there are ways that they can potentially be soothed, or calmed.
Here are a few suggestions to help your petrified pets feel a little safer on the fifth.
An easy way to think of the stress your pet will feel is to think of it as sensory overload. A way to combat this is to help them focus on one thing at a time.
One way of doing this is by offering food. Now I don’t mean keeping their bowl overflowing (although I’m sure they’d thank you for it!). I mean use small amounts of treats to keep them occupied, and less likely to focus on the noise of the fireworks. For example, dogs might benefit from having a tough treat to chew through, or cats might like using a mobile cat feeder to keep them busy.
Another way is keeping their space as dark and quiet as possible. Setting up a comfortable space in the corner of the room, where your dog can curl up in safety, is a good option when it gets a bit too much. Last year, we draped a big blanket over our coffee table and placed a few cushions and his favourite teddies underneath, so that Sykes could snuggle up away from the sights and sounds outside the window.
Cats, too, love a dark quiet space, and a crinkle bag could be really helpful when the displays get started.
Aromatherapy is another way to keep things tranquil in your home. Burning candles, or using plugins, is comforting for the whole house, and a gentle flicker of a candle is especially comforting on a dark Winter’s Night. Just be careful to burn fragrances that aren’t harmful to dogs, as they can be sensitive to a lot of different essential oils. If you’re worried about this, there are dog sprays that are totally safe and have a wonderful calming effect on them.
Lastly, remember our it's not just our pets we need to be mindful of. Check your bonfires to make sure there are no hedgehogs looking to hibernate, make sure there are no nesting birds where you are setting up your firework displays, I'm sure I wouldn't want a Catherine Wheel zipping right under my bed!
Enjoy Bonfire Night, everyone, and wishing all pets a very calm and happy evening. Sleep tight!