Caring and maintaining your garden and its furniture

Worried that your garden’s beginning to look unruly? Has your barbecue taken a beating this summer? Bloggers Louise Fairweather, Richard Hood and Nick Moyle answer your most-asked questions on garden and outdoor furniture maintenance.

“My barbecue is seriously dirty after the summer. There are fat flecks and charcoal stains all over it. What are your tips for cleaning it?”

As with anything that needs regular cleaning, keeping on top of things is the best way to save time in the long run. Don’t stick your head in the sand and hope that someone else will do it!

Firstly, every barbecue is different and you should check the manual before beginning any cleaning session.

Generally though, it is always best to clean your barbecue while it is still warm. Of course this can be annoying when you want to eat all the lovely food that you have cooked.

One way of solving this problem is to place an old metal tray filled with water on the grill of the barbecue and then close the lid.

This will create steam, which will help loosen any tough stains or fat. Just be careful of the steam when you open the lid – you could scald yourself if care is not taken. If you haven’t barbecued, do the same but with boiling water to create steam under the lid. 

If you have a stainless steel barbeque, it’s important to clean it with care so as not to scratch the surface. It’s really important that you don't use harsh chemicals as well.

Mild soapy water will do the trick, especially if you use a grill brush to remove any excess food. Once you’ve washed the barbecue, rinse off the soapy water with clean water, and then dry it off with a dishcloth or towel. It is also a good idea to brush the grill plates with cooking oil afterwards to act as a barrier against oxidisation.

A once a year a deep clean of the barbecue is a great idea too. Take it apart and thoroughly clean each part with soapy water. Don't forget that some parts may fit in your dishwasher, which could save you time and effort scrubbing!

You can read more by Louise Fairweather at astrongcoffee.co.uk.

“I've spent all summer planting flowers and preening my garden. Now winter is coming (and the flowers are dying) – what's the best way to keep it looking pretty?”

As winter arrives, I would firstly have a good garden tidy up, and get rid of any dying foliage or flowers, give the lawn its final trim, and tidy away anything that isn’t going to be used in winter (like furniture). 

Then I recommend spreading mulch across flowerbeds. This can really help the garden to look tip-top and keep away any of those weeds.

Gardens in Britain needn’t look barren and boring in winter either; there are lots of plants you can add to keep it looking interesting. Think of your garden as different layers, so by adding winter plants of different heights, colours, scents and types of berry, your green space will look far from dull. 

My favourite winter plants to add interest to any garden include Red Barked Dogwood (Cornus Alba), which is large and the new stems are as bright red as Father Christmas’ coat; Skimmia Japonica, an evergreen shrub with both berries and flowers; and Winter Aconite (Eranthis Hyemalis), the flowers of this bulb, which pop up in January, are neon yellow with a frill of green foliage and add sunshine to the grey season.

You can read more by Amanda Cottingham at theanamumdiary.co.uk.

“My plastic garden furniture was once gleaming white, but after a few years of having it it's now grey and weather-stained. How can I get it back to being bright white?”

Pristine white tables and chairs will turn fifty shades of grey after a relatively short time if left outside, unprotected against the elements. Fortunately, there are a couple of tricks that will have them back to being sparkling white very in no time at all.

Place your grubby furniture on a patio, decking or driveway, and using a solution of soda crystal and warm water, sponge it all down. Make sure you pay extra attention to any particularly filthy areas as well.

If you can, leave the furniture soaking for 24 hours before rinsing down with clean warm water. If there are any unsightly grey patches still visible, repeat the process.  Note: do avoid getting the soda crystal solution on any lawn or flower beds – it’s not very plant-friendly.

For those wishing to avoid using chemicals as a cleaner, you'll need to get hold of a pressure washer. These are handy gadgets to have on call, as they are great for scrubbing patios and washing down tools.

You can also use pressure washers for cleaning wooden garden furniture, but just be mindful that some of the higher powered washers on the market can be rather brutal and may damage delicate wooden finishes.

Before you begin, make sure you’re wearing waterproof clothing, as you’ll invariably suffer a spot of splash-back. 

Cleaning is a simple process of working your way back and forth over the surface of the furniture, paying particular attention to any nooks and crannies.

You’ll also want to ensure your furniture is secured before turning on the water, or you may send your plastic furniture flying across the garden. A well-placed wellington boot should hold furniture in one place.

Of course, to ensure your chairs and tables remain pristine for the longest time possible, it’s best to stow them away in a shed or garage when not in use. If space is an issue, cover them with tarpaulin and weigh it down with bricks to wind blowing it away. 

You can read more by Richard Hood and Nick Moyle at twothirstygardeners.co.uk.

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