The Society for Horticultural Therapy is an organisation generally known as Thrive, and David Coton recently learnt more about their projects, training and consultancy.
Mineral roofing felt on sheds and garages only has a limited lifetime, usually fairly short before it becomes ragged and torn. One way favoured by Martyn Loach to increase its lifespan, and at the same time create a surface with totally 'right on' environmental credentials, is to install a green roof.
You may think this is a new idea, but it was first introduced albeit by accident over a hundred years ago in Germany, when vegetation grew in sand used to protect bitumen roofs.
On larger buildings, green roofs will conserve energy as well as extending the life of the roof, they can also reduce noise pollution and aid good air quality.
Used on our domestic outbuildings they are green islands for birds and insects, offering food and shelter. In a small way they counteract the loss of natural habitat but, as in the case of the garden pond, this can make a significant difference when added together.
They look good, offering biodiversity in place of tedious barren felt and to a large extent look after themselves. For a shed roof, the work will take perhaps a day and you'll need help at certain stages.
Before you begin, make sure the current structure can withstand the extra weight, don't forget that it will be even heavier after rain. If it's an apex roof the angle should be greater than 3 and no more than 20degrees. A sunny location is also preferred.
Firstly line the roof with waterproof butyl, this will keep both the water out and prevent the vegetation's roots from penetrating the shed roof.
Now make a simple frame using pressure treated 2in x 4in timber that fits the roof and fasten it to the shed. It's essential that water can drain away, therefore the frame must have drainage holes along the lower sides.
Use a line of pebbles along the edge so the holes don't become blocked. You could also fit a filter sheet that allows the free passage of water while retaining soil particles. A moisture trap of some kind will slow the rate of drainage, these can be purchased but you can also use an old blanket or towel.
The growing medium is called substrate, on a shed 3ins is enough. It's no good using purely topsoil as that will be too heavy. Mix in up to 80% inorganic material such as perlite, sharp sand or brick dust.
Various varieties of Sedum are a popular choice for planting, as alpines they will grow well in the shallow gritty substrate, maintain cover throughout the year and need little maintenance. A good range of insects will also be attracted throughout the summer.
You can purchase rolled up mats of sedum, if not think about using S. acre (tiny yellow flowers on pale green foliage), the succulent golden yellow S. rupestre or the starry white flowers of S. album.
Wildflowers that can survive in low nutrient conditions are also a consideration, perhaps Cowslip, Lady's Bedstraw, Rock rose, Harebell and Thyme.
Chickens aren't difficult to look after, all they require is a constant supply of water and regular food. As Martyn Loach explains, you should keep an eye open for any ailments, and they'll need to be cleaned out once a week.
Timber garden decking never seems to lose its popularity, and why should it, when it's such a useful way of extending your living and entertaining space. Andy Taylor explains why decking is so easy to install and how best to look after it.
You can create the spookiest Halloween Party in town with a spine chilling cast of para-normal misfits including ghosts, ghouls, zombies, vampires and many other sinister characters who inhabit the dark side. David Coton tells you how to transform your home and garden into a thoroughly scary experience.
In October, David Coton is getting the garden prepared for the onset of colder weather but, at the same time, the arrival of spring bulbs in the garden centre is a reminder that you should also now be planning ahead for next year.