Not lucky enough to have a garden? You don't even need a window box to grow your own mushrooms at home
When you don't have any outdoor space, you're limited when it comes to the range of food that you can grow for yourself. You may be surprised to learn, however, that you can grow one of the most nutritious vegan foods there is from a box no larger than a shoebox placed inside your home and you can be picking and eating your first crop - about a standard vegetable punnet's worth - within two weeks. The fast growing crop we're talking about is mushrooms.
My sister bought us this GroCycle mushroom kit as a gift and it's been enthralling watching these fungi grow. To start, all you need to do is cut out the opening outlined on the front of the box, place it in a shady spot somewhere in your home – we chose this kitchen shelf – and then spray it daily with water. Then you can just sit back and marvel as the oyster mushrooms start to take shape.
Made from a mix of straw, coffee grounds and oyster mushroom spawn, the kit is pretty environmentally friendly as well. We're going to be harvesting our first crop in the next two to three days; the oyster mushrooms are ready to pick when the caps start to turn over into an opened umbrella shape, and we should be able to get another two or three crops from the box after that too. Pretty good value and so rewarding to grow something so easily from your kitchen table.
If you go on to catch the mushroom-growing bug, GroCycle also run courses (resuming after lockdown) in growing mushrooms from scratch for those who want to start their very own mushroom farms, although you will likely need to find space for a lot more than one shoe box, if you do decide you want to get serious about fungi!
The best compact barbecues provide maximum cooking space while taking up minimal room in your small garden, terrace or balcony – oh and before you buy one for a balcony or roof terrace, check your lease or tenancy to ensure that they are allowed, we don't want to encourage a fire hazard! The best compact barbecues should also be simple to fire up and quick and easy to clean.
Available in red, black, pink and blue, the Lotus Grill barbecue from Cuckooland should be ready to cook on within minutes of heating up, thanks to its patented bellows system. Plus, as well as using it as you would a traditional barbecue, you can also cook a pizza on it.
Weighing a manageable 3.7kg with a diameter of 35cm, it will feed up to five people and is sold with a carrying bag, a grill hood, pizza stone set, tongs and basting brush. It's not cheap, but it's super functional and built to last, which is why it makes the best compact barbecues' list.
This high-end Viadurini barbecue should last a life time to justify its price tag. If you can afford it, it's a beautiful addition to any garden, even when it's not in use. This stylish Italian wood-burning brazier, fashioned from Corten steel, boasts that it can feed up to twenty people on its 105cm triangular top, and you can store the wood in its base.
Measuring 20.1cm x 30.2cm x 7.5cm, this portable barbecue in a case is a great barbecue for camping trips. Pop your charcoal into the tray, your food on the grill and cook up a storm. This is one of the best portable barbecues we've seen, take it out on day trips or open it up in your garden or patio.
The BBQ Smoker Grill is a slight cheat on a traditional barbecue, because it is electric, but that makes it safer for balcony gardens, and less effort to cook on, although it does need to be plugged in. A stylish, compact grill that still offers that smoky flavour with very little hassle.
You don't get much more portable than this barbecue in a bucket from Garden Trading. Measuring just 30cm high, this galvanised steel bucket has a removable handle and large air holes in the base to help keep the barbecue burning and at £25, it is pretty reasonable for a piece of equipment you get to use again and again.
Last, but not least, the Mon Oncle barbecue couldn't be left off the best compact barbecues' list. Designed by Mermeladae Studio for RS Barcelona, this highly portable barbecue oozes understated cool. Measuring 13.6cm x 44.2cm x 31.2cm, it's large enough to cook a substantial meal on. Available in three earthy colourways, grey, green and blue, it fits on a table top and comes in a handy carry suitcase.
Even if your only outside space is the wall by your front door, a tiny terrace or a balcony, you can make it look much larger with the clever use of outdoor mirrors. Just check that they are suitable for outdoors before purchasing. If not they may crack in extremes of temperature. But how fun is this garden gate illusion?
Mirrors that look like windows or doors will add interest to a bare wall and reflect any plant life on to that space so that you will feel surrounded by foliage; and, it will appear that your little space leads onto somewhere else. They will also bring more light into a dark garden.
Read on to find out how best to plant and furnish a weeny garden here
Maybe your garden is no larger than a parking space. Perhaps you only have a balcony or a roof terrace. Possibly, you have no private outdoor space at all. None of this should stop you from being able to barbecue once in a while.
How clever is this balcony barbecue? It fastens on to a balcony railing. Just check that your lease or freehold allows you to barbecue on your balcony before purchasing; and, that the part of your balcony that you are fixing it too can stand extreme heat.
There are even barbecues built to sit on a table top, again perfect for balconies and roof terraces. When it starts to get a bit nippy, this one doubles up as an outdoor heater too.
If you're worried about other people 'borrowing' your barbecue from your communal garden or want a reusable one that you can take down to the country park or beach, a portable barbecue is what you need. They can be stowed away under your stairs when not in use and bought outside when you're in for a grilling.
Get some ideas for planting and furnishing a little garden here
If my kids want to jump on a trampoline, they have to go to someone else's garden. I'm not having one of those ugly things taking over our little lawn. But, now you can sink them into the grass, things are starting to look up for little ones with garden-loving parents everywhere.
Capital Play's in-ground trampoline, is much less of an eye sore because it doesn't require an enclosure; and, it's so much safer to play on too as there are no great heights to fall off of.
Apparently they are easy to self-install, but I'm not sure if their definition of easy is the same as mine - there is digging involved for a start - so for now my kids can keep springing off elsewhere. They cost from £775 from www.capitalplay.co.uk
If you've a little courtyard garden or even just a balcony, there is no reason why you still can't sit out in it. Although finding compact furniture can be a challenge. This little cuboid set, however, is perfect as it neatly tucks inside itself when not in use.
The set features two footstools, which can be used as additional seating, a couple of chairs, including cushions and they all fold away to be stowed under the glass-topped table. The rattan furniture is woven on to a powder-coated aluminium frame that can be left out in all weathers, handy if you have no where to store it during the winter.
House plants are having a revival and terrariums are particularly on trend at the moment. This is great, if you're green fingered, but have no garden. You can use them to create your own little mini indoor landscape. I've just returned from West Elm's Spring Summer launch and they have a particularly lovely selection of terrariums on offer, the glass in the ones shown above is moulded around their tree stump stands so that each one is unique.
This vase shaped receptacle with a rounded concrete base will make a lovely table centre piece and whatever you choose to plant within should last a lot longer than cut flowers.
This little brass terrarium will look lovely on a window sill and for extra wow factor go for three in a row. Fill the base with soil, conceal this with gravel, then add a hardy cactus or other succulent.
If you've scarce table-top space, opt for a hanging terrarium instead. This little bauble can be suspended from a ceiling beam or from a wall. And, unlike many other options, it comes with the plants and base layers that you need to create a terrarium garden.
Whilst this has to be the smallest little mini glazed garden you will ever find. This tiny orb of real moss is so small it's been made into a necklace.
An ugly vibrant green and yellow hosepipe is the first thing you see when you step out into my garden. And, often, it's found snaking it's way over the patio and across the lawn, because no one could be bothered to tidy it away on its stand - which is non too pretty either.
Now Swedish brand, Garden Glory has designed this stylish hose pipe, available in assorted colours, together with a cool reindeer wall mount. It's not cheap though, £89.95 for the hose, £44.95 for the nozzle and the wall mount is £249.95, but then it should last - a long time!
Small gardens, particularly in built-up areas, tend to be overlooked on two or three sides by other properties. This means you often have little privacy and too much shade. Award-winning garden designer Kate Gould reveals how to make the most of a teeny outdoor space.
'Adjacent trees and overgrown shrubs can have invasive roots that in time render even the best laid paving uneven, so defining the extent of hard landscaping in the garden in relation to the surrounding planting is very important. Some shrubs with extremely fleshy and juicy fruit can permanently stain natural stone and Laurel, in particular, with its blue-black fruit causes violent purple marks on paving.
'An area of loose aggregate or dense shrub planting under something like this would be worth considering. Silver Birch are amazing options and have merit in small gardens, retained in planters of similar size, helping to create a natural barrier and enhancing your privacy.
Choosing furniture and creating attractive storage outside can contribute hugely towards making your garden a truly unique space and one that lends itself to use all year round. Although a high maintenance piece, in small gardens mirrored surfaces are hugely beneficial in bouncing light round the garden and making the space feel far larger than it actually is.
'Terraces with outdoor sofas and generous dining tables look fabulous when they are dressed with cushions, lit with candles and filled with friends and family.'
Kate Gould is an award winning garden designer with more than a decade’s hands-on experience transforming gardens of all sizes. A regular exhibitor at the Chelsea Flower Show, Kate’s work can be viewed at www.kategouldgardens.com
Kate Gould is an award winning garden designer who specialises in transforming gardens of all sizes. Here she tells us how important it is to prepare even the tiniest garden for Winter.
When I think of a winter garden I think of evergreen structure and seed heads dusted with frost backed by a clear crystal blue sky. But, our winters are now so unpredictable in the UK that we cannot guarantee those crisp cold sunny mornings that warrant planting a garden solely for its winter seed heads.
Over the years many plants with winter structure have crept into the planting palette, but my garden errs on the damp side in places and plants that should look good during the winter in a ‘crispy dead’ sort of way look ‘soggy dead’ instead. So, this year I've hardened my heart. I'm going to cut it all down before the cold really sets in, feed it and mulch it with well rotted manure to prepare it for next summer.
I will miss the golden buff Miscanthus and Hydrangea and I will leave some of the berried plants for the birds. It will look ever so bare over the winter, but I can cope with that if I know the garden is getting ready for next year under its blanket of ‘black gold’.
Normally I leave everything standing to protect the crowns of the plants and don’t cut it down until the middle of January, but a 5cm mulch of organic matter will give the same effect and if I can get it on the ground while the soil is still warm then all the better.
This practice is also useful if you have a garden with plants that are generous with their seeds (Verbena, Lythrum, Althaea and Papaver to name a few). A thick mulch helps quash unwanted seedlings next year.
The same goes for tender plants or those with fleshy stems; Zantadeschia Aethiopica, Gunnera and Rheum especially benefit from a mulch and a layer of straw and manure to keep the worst of the winter wet away from them as well as keeping the surrounding soil from freezing too hard. As with all mulch, keep it away from the stems of the plant to avoid rotting them.
If you garden in a Mediterranean way with gravel and scree then adding more gravel to the garden gives the same effect as an organic mulch. It won't feed the plants, but most of these plants are happy on a lean diet and don’t require the boost.
There are also some tough pruning jobs to tackle in my garden and a fifteen year old Amelanchier ‘Obelisk’ that has looked decidedly unwell for most of this year will probably have to be removed. It was rocked heavily by a gust of wind in the spring and is really beginning to lean over. This will leave a gap but that isn’t a problem per se; the only problem is deciding what new plant to put there to replace it.
My well-crafted scheme has slowly diluted itself over the years and would benefit from lifting, dividing and re-planting. This year I am going to be ruthless and tackle it head on; no lame excuses (well that’s the plan anyway!).
Other jobs that you might like to tackle before and during the winter:
· Tie in climbing plants to make sure they are secure and the wind doesn’t damage them, this is especially important for climbing roses.
· Rake up fallen leaves and compost to provide an organic mulch next year. Leafmould is a great soil improver. Discover how to make it at RHS.
· Clean your pots. It isn’t the most pleasurable of jobs but will help to keeps pests and diseases at bay next year.
· Plan for next year, whether it’s a landscaping project, vegetable garden or simply a new herbaceous planting plan inspired by a seed catalogue.
· Provide food for birds in your garden and keep doing so until the weather warms up. You can find out more at RSPB.
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