Category Archives: Do it Yourself

Fresh Flower Arrangement

Materials and equipment

For many arrangements, little is needed beyond a good pair of sharp, strong scissors and some florist’s wire, but elaborate displays on special occasions may need more support.

Canes: thin canes can be used to support hollow and top-heavy stems.

Carpet moss (sheet moss): this moss is useful for covering the surface of arrangements to conceal individual containers, creating the illusion that the flowers are growing in the basket or container.

Cellophane: is used for wrapping bouquets, as a waterproof lining for porous containers and scrunched up as an invisible support for stems in a vase.

Floating candles: a bowl of these surrounded by beautiful fragrant flowers makes a stunning table center piece, especially at night.

Florist’s adhesive tapes: water proof tape is useful for sticking plastic or cellophane to the inside of containers. Strong adhesive double sided tape provides a removable surface on which to stick decorative materials such as moss or vegetation to the sides of vases and containers.

Florist’s foam: as well as the brick shape, spheres and rings are available in various sizes. Rings have a built-in plastic drip tray to make table centre pieces without the worry of flooding.

Florist’s scissors: the most important piece of equipment that no flower arranger can afford to be without is a pair of strong and very sharp scissors. There are numerous designs for both left and right handed flower arrangers.

Florist’s wires: are useful for making false stems to fix cones and nuts to fresh flower designs.

Flower food: the correct amount of flower food should he used in every vase. This harmless preparation of mild disinfectant and sugar inhibits growth of bacteria in the water and encourages buds to mature and open.

Gilt cream paint: gives sheen to nuts, cones and fruits as well as containers. It is available in gold, silver and bronze.

Glass stones: these are widely available from gift shops and garden centers. The transparent ones are most versatile as they resemble precious crystals in the bottom of a glass vase or bowl.

Glue gun and glue sticks: the glue gun is a dream machine for instantly attaching fresh flowers to containers, wreaths and garlands. The liquid glue is extremely hot and potentially dangerous if left unattended and should be kept out of reach of children.

Nuts and cones: walnuts, hazel nuts, acorns and all types of cones can be combined with fresh flowers.

Pebbles and shells: these make decorative mulch and an attractive support for flower stems in glass vases.

Raffia: natural raffia is ideal for tying flowers together as it is strong but does not bite into the stems. Colored raffia is perfect for making lush trailing bows.

Secateurs (pruners): these are more practical than scissors for cutting wires and tough branches.


The type, size and color of the container you choose should complement the flowers you are arranging. Here are some simple ideas.

Baskets: shallow baskets lined with plastic and filled with florist’s foam concealed with moss provide a support for flowers, and deeper baskets can hide several containers within it filled with fresh blooms.

Glass tanks: are very versatile and are effectively used singly or in a group of varying heights. They can be used to contain a mass of flowers of just a few stems supported with colored glass pebbles or stones.

Glasses and jars: simple, straight sided drinking glasses are cheap and perfect for small posies and table centre pieces.

Terracotta pots: natural colored terracotta pots complement country style arrangements, and with a simple wash of diluted emulsion paint they can be gently colored in minutes to suit any number of styles. Terracotta is porous, so use an inner container or line them with plastic.

Metal containers: some metals react with water and can cause flowers to die prematurely and obviously shouldn’t be used. But galvanized metal is safe and rust proof. A tall metal bucket is ideal for supporting the height of long stems or large branches of foliage. Buckets in bold colors provide instant cheer.


If you are picking your own flowers, gather them in the morning, when the sun has caused the dew to evaporate but before there is a danger of wilting. Ideally, have a container of water with you to hold your harvest. Once back in the house, re-cut the stems, remove all foliage that will he below the water line, then plunge the stems into a bucket of deep water to allow them to have a good, long drink. Stand the bucket in a cool, draught free room, in the dark if you wish to slow the development of the blooms, or in indirect light to accelerate blossoming. During the conditioning time which should be a minimum of six hours, check that the flowers are taking in water. Drooping foliage and limp heads indicate an air lock, roses are particularly susceptible to this problem.

All stems must be cut again before the flowers are placed in the display container. Research has shown that a single, diagonal cut provides the best uptake of water. Fill the hollow stems of flowers such as delphiniums with water and plug the ends with cotton.

Wallpapering Corners

In a perfect world, rooms would have corners that were truly square and truly vertical, and it would be possible to hang a wall covering all around the room in a continuous operation, simply turning the lengths that ran into the room corners straight on to the adjoining walls. In reality, corners are seldom square or true, and, if the covering were hung in this way, lengths would be vertical on the first wall but could be running well off the vertical by the time they returned to the starting point. This would be visually disastrous, with vertical pattern elements out of alignment are corners, and sloping horizontal pattern features.

The way to avoid these problems is to complete each wall with a cut-down strip that only just turns on to the next wall. Then hang the remainder of the strip with its machine-cur edge against a newly drawn vertical line on the second wall, so that you can trim its other edge to follow the internal angle precisely. Any slight discontinuity of pattern will not be noticeable except to the very closest scrutiny, and the remaining lengths on the second wall will be hung truly vertically. The same applies to paperhanging around external corners


1. Hang the last full length before the corner of the room, then measure the distance to the corner front the edge of the length and add about 12 mm or 1/2 in.

2. Use a pencil and straightedge to mark a strip of the required width, measured from the relevant edge (here, the left one), and cut it from the length.

3. Paste the strip and hang it in the usual way, allowing the hand-cut edge to lap onto the adjoining wall. Trim the top and bottom edges as usual.

4. Brush the tongue into the internal angle. If it will not lie flat because the corner is out of true, make small release cuts in the edge and brush it flat.

5. Measure the width of the remaining strip, subtract 12 mm/1/2 in. and mark a fresh Vertical line on the adjoining wall at this distance from the corner

6. Hang the strip to the marked line, brushing the wall covering into the angle so that it just turns on to the surface of
.the first wall.

7. Use the back of the scissors blades to mark the line of the corner on the wall covering, then cut along the line and smooth the cut edge back into the angle. Use special overlap adhesive when using washables and vinyl on all lap joints.


1. Plan the starting point so that lengths turn external corners by about 2.5 cm/1 in. Brush the paper on to the next wall, making small cuts so that it lies flat.

2. Carefully tear off a narrow strip of the wall covering along the turned edge to leave a ‘feathered’ edge that will not show through the next length.

3. Mark a vertical line on the next wall surface, at a distance from the corner equal to the width of the wall covering plus about 6mm or 1/4 in.

4. Hang the next full length to the marked line, with its other edge overlapping the feathered edge of the strip turned from the previous wall

5. Brush this length into position, trim it at the top and bottom as before, and run a seam roller down the overlap(do trot do this on embossed or textured wall coverings).Again, use a special overlap adhesive with washable and vinyl coverings.

How to Choose a Paint Brush

Two groups of tools are needed for painting, one for preparing the surface and one for actually applying the paint. For a masonry wall, the minimum preparation is to wash down any previously painted surface. This calls for a bucker, sponges and cloths, strong household detergent or sugar soap (all-purpose cleaner), and rubber gloves to protect the hands.

If the washed-down surface has a high-gloss finish, or feels rough to the touch, use fine-grade sandpaper and a sanding block to smooth it down. Wet and Dry (silicon carbide) paper, used wet, is best for sanding down existing paintwork; remember to thoroughly rinse off the resulting fine slurry of paint with water afterwards. Use ordinary sandpaper for bare wood.

Defects in the surface need filling. Use a traditional cellulose filler (spackle) for small cracks, chips and other surface blemishes, and an expanding filler foam which can be shaped and sanded when hard for larger defects. To apply filler paste use a filling knife (putty knife).

To strip existing paintwork, use either a beat gun — easier to control and much safer to use than a blowtorch — or a chemical paint remover, plus scrapers of various shapes to remove the softened paint.

For removing wall coverings in order to apply a painted wall or ceiling finish, a steam wallpaper stripper will be worth the investment. The small all-in-one strippers which resemble a large steam iron are the easiest type to use.

Painting Tools

The paintbrush is still the favorite tool for applying paint to walls, ceilings, woodwork and metalwork around the house. Most are made with natural bristle, held in a metal ferrule which is attached to a wooden or plastic handle, but there are also brushes with synthetic fibre bristles which are sometimes recommended for applying water-based (latex) paints.

Brushes come in widths from 12 mm / 1/2 in. up to 15 cm / 6 in. The smallest sizes are used for fiddly jobs such as painting glazing bars (mulleins), while the widest are ideal for flat uninterrupted wall and ceiling surfaces. A wide brush can be tiring touse, especially with solvent-based (oil) paints. There are also long-handled brushes with angled heads for painting behind radiators, and narrow brushes called cutting-in (sash) brushes, which have the bristle tips cut off at an angle for painting into internal angles. For the best results, buy good-quality brushes and look after them, rather than buy cheap ones and tossing them after each job.

Paint rollers are used mainly for painting walls and ceilings with water-based paints, although they can be used with solvent-based types too. They consist of a metal roller cage mounted on a handle, plus a hollow sleeve that fits onto the cage and actually applies the paint. Some can be lined with an extension pole, which is useful if there are high ceilings or stairwells to paint. Most rollers are 18 cm/ 7 in wide; larger sizes are available, but can be harder to ‘drive.’ There are also shin mini-rollers for painting awkward-to-reach areas such as walls behind radiators. For any type, a roller tray is used to load paint onto the sleeve. Solid water-based paint is sold in its own tray.

The sleeves are waterproof tubes with a layer of foam plastic or cloth stuck to the outside. Another type maybe made from natural or synthetic fibre, and have a short, medium or long pile, to suit different types of surfaces.

Choose the pile length to match the surface being painted: short for flat surfaces, medium for those with a slight texture and long for embossed surfaces.

Paint pads are squares or rectangles of short-pile cloth stuck to a foam backing and mounted on a plastic or metal handle. The pad is dipped in a shallow container, or loaded from a special paint container with a roller feed, and then drawn across the surface. Pads come in a range of sizes.

Paint and varnish are also sold in aerosol form. This is ideal for small areas or fiddly materials such as wickerwork, but too expensive to use on large areas.

Lastly, do not forget the decorating sundries. A paint kettle is needed for decanting the paint and straining out any foreign bodies. Hand-held paint masks or masking tape are invaluable aids to getting straight edges and keeping paint off adjacent surfaces. Remember to provide dustsheets (drop cloths), which perform better than plastic sheets.

Home and Interior Garden

Plants can create an interior style of their own or can be used to enhance existing decorations in your home. Flowering plants add a further dimension by either complementing or contrasting with interior color schemes.

The architectural style of your apartment, its proportions and the way it is decorated will affect the choice of plants you display there. Traditional interiors tend to suit small plants that complement fabrics, wallpapers and other furnishings. Starkly decorated modern rooms can take a bolder statement in the form of larger, more sculptural plants. The other main considerations to take into account when selecting plants for your home are the size of the plants in relation to the room area, the way that they grow and their shape and color.

Plants and Scale

If plants are to make a positive addition to an interior, they must he compatible with the space in terms of both size and shape. A large specimen, for example, needs a spacious, high ceilinged room in order to spread its elegant, arching branches and to make a suitably dramatic impact. These large indoor plants generally grow very slowly, and are cultivated in a wide range of heights, so if the room requires a 2 nil6 ft palm, select one at that height or slightly smaller, you could wait a longtime for a 1 m/3 ft specimen to fill the space you have allowed for it.

The lush, bushy shapes of Soleirolia soleirolii make an ideal choice for a low coffee table. These plants can tolerate bright, indirect light or semi-shady conditions. If you want height and a compact shape, select a climbing plant that can be trained to grow up a moss pole or bamboo stake. Ivies will naturally wrap themselves around poles and stakes and with a little pruning can be trained into the desired shape very easily. Several ivy plants grown together in a large container soon make a tower of green or variegated foliage.

Tiered Displays

Shelving is another useful way to gain height, with the added advantage that you can display a range of plants in oneself contained unit. A multi-tiered etagere is a specially designed piece of plant furniture, consisting of an upright from which stem six or seven small square or circular shelves. It is often made from wrought iron, and was particularly popular in Victorian times. Originals are much sought after, but authentic reproductions are now available thanks to the revived popularity of conservatories.

As a variation, you could create a striped sandwich effect by interspersing green plants with seasonal colors. The advantage of fixed shelving is that it can be used to combine both display areas for plants and storage for other items. Fitting triangular shelves in the corner of a room is an economical way of providing a permanent plant display area. Painted the color of the walls or the wallpaper, the shelves simply merge into the back ground, making the plants the focus. Higher shelves and those above shoulder level should be filled with cascading varieties to avoid only the container being seen, with lower shelves devoted to upward growing types of plants.


Color is another important consideration when it comes to choosing plants for your home. A delicate paint effect or softly toned wallpaper can be swamped by heavy, dark green foliage. However, the pale fronds of fragile ferns or pastel and white flowering plants will enhance a gentle color scheme rather than dominate it. Pale plain colored walls will complement most plants, but introducing foliage or flowering plants into a scheme with floral or patterned wallpaper and furnishings needs more thought. Take a piece of the fabric or wallpaper with you to the garden centre or plant specialist and use this to help you select an appropriate shade of green.

With the huge selection of seasonal flowering plants available, it is quite feasible to create a continuity of color with different varieties throughout. With this in mind, consider widening a window sill to provide a deeper platform for plants. A recessed window fitted with narrow glass or solid shelves provides the ideal support for a display of small bushy or trailing plants; while light loving climbers will quickly provide a green curtain right to the top of the window if the plants are given a series of thin wires to climb up. Climbers can also be encouraged to act as a frame. A climbing plant trained to scramble around a large picture hanging above a mantel piece, for instance, looks stunning.

This wrought-iron candle sconce has been designed to incorporate a small plant such as this ivy. Be careful not to let the candle burn too low and scorch the leaves of the plant.

This moth orchid provides a graceful organic touch to a collection of wall-mounted stone-colored vases.
If sitting plants at the window, it is essential to select ones that can tolerate hot summer rays or at the very least strong, bright light. A light, bright room may be partially separated by using a group of tall plants to create a room divider, usually partitioning, say, a dining space from a sitting area. As an alternative, fill an open shelving unit in the centre of a similar well-lit room with plants that are viewed from both sides. If the light levels on the lower shelves prohibit living plants, use them for storing books or displaying other inanimate objects instead.

Grouping Plants

Metal wall sconces designed to hold candles are easily adapted for trailing plants. Decorative wire wall containers for bathroom and kitchen accessories also make excellent pot holders. A group of these arranged closely together creates a considerable impact. Table top displays are the other obvious choice for many rooms, but most plants hate being moved around, so it is important that they can be left in peace. Narrow console tables require little space and are ideal for the purpose. If the space around the table is restricted, limit the display to upright plants. Bushy or trailing plants can be introduced if they will not be regularly brushed against. Combined with several treasured objects and planted in carefully chosen containers, these create an attractive still life that needs only a lamp to highlight the collection at night.

A group of low-level plants arranged together in one shallow basket or ceramic bowl, is perfect on a coffee table where it will be viewed from above. Put all the plants in one container making it more convenient if they need to be moved temporarily. A central display table needs plants that are attractive from all sides. Several small pots of miniature roses, Exacumaffine (Persian violet) or primulas grouped together when the table is not in use can then be split up to form a pretty line of color for a dinner or lunch party. These plants will be viewed at very close proximity, they need to be in perfect condition and may remain so only for a couple of weeks.

Plants seen at a distance are better able to carry imperfections, especially if they are arranged in a tight group. With a sensitive selection of colors and shapes, considerable impact can be made using relatively small, inexpensive plants. Choose a color theme of, say, white and green where a Dieffenbachia compacta sets the height of the arrangement for a range of smaller, bushier plants such as Thirnieamenziesii (piggyback plant), Syn (goniumand Fittonia).

A trailing tradescantia will add further dimension to the overall shape of the display, and a brilliant white azalea, Argyranthernum frutescens (marguerite) or scented gardenia will provide seasonal interest and variation. The success of these loose, informal groupings relies on establishing a strong central theme. While they offer numerous possibilities of choice and presentation, it is important to remember that the permanent plants must share the same light and temperature requirements.

Food Safety Guidelines

In addition to improving general safety within the home and making the boundaries more secure, perhaps the main area where you can safe guard your family is by making sure that the food they eat is always safe. How you shop for, store and handle food can have far reaching effects. An understanding of how germs breed and travel underpins the safe kitchen and strict hygiene is essential to safe guard you and your family from the risk of food poisoning.

Shopping for chilled food

The colder you keep chilled and frozen food between buying it and storing it at home, the safer it is. This is because if the food warms up while you are taking it home, bacteria could grow and multiply. To avoid this, keep chilled foods together in the shopping trolley (cart), then pack them together, preferably in a cool bag, making sure that you wrap separately anything that is likely to drip. At home, transfer chilled or frozen food to the refrigerator or freezer immediately. Leaving chilled food in a shopping bag or car for any length of time can raise the temperature sufficiently to allow bacteria to thrive.


It is becoming increasingly difficult to guarantee that the food we eat really is what we think it is. With so many additives, genetically-modified and substitute foods, it is now wise to carefully read ingredient labels to check what is in any packaged food. For those wishing to control their intake of certain ingredients such as salt, sugar or far, this is the only way to be sure. It is also essential if anyone in the family suffers from an allergic reaction to any food.


Keep your hands and all equipment scrupulously clean. Never use a knife with which you have cut raw meat or fish to cut anything else without first washing it thoroughly. Get into the habit of scrubbing chopping boards and worktops (counters) between uses; keep separate boards for chopping raw meat and vegetables or cooked meat. Always store cooked food or any salad items separately from raw food such as meat or fish. Disinfect all work surfaces and the sink regularly, and especially all cloths used for washing up and/or wiping down surfaces, as these can transfer germs readily. Never wipe your hands on towels used for drying utensils.

Refrigerator safety

You need to keep your refrigerator at the right temperature, because if it is not cold enough, harmful bacteria can grow and may cause food poisoning, which can be anything from a stomach upset to serious illness.

Store the most perishable food in the coldest part of the refrigerator; these are pre-cooked chilled foods, soft cheeses, cooked meats, prepared salads (including pre-washed greens as well as potato salads etcetera.), desserts, cream or custard-filled cakes, home-prepared food and leftovers. Foods that are best kept cool to help them stay fresher longer can be stored in the cool cones (which often include special compartments); milk, yogurt, fruit juices, hard cheeses, opened jars and bottles, fats such as butter, margarine, lard and low-fin spreads, and eggs fall into this category. The salad crisper is the warmest part of the refrigerator; it is designed for storing whole vegetables, fruit and fresh salad items such as unwashed whole lettuce, tomatoes, radishes etcetera. Try to keep raw meat and fish on the bottom shelf in case they drip. Prevent them from touching other foods by storing them in containers for added safety.

Do not keep food for too long and always observe use by dates. Once opened, canned food can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.

To get the coldest part of the refrigerator to run between 0 5°C/32-41°F, put a thermometer in the coldest part (see the manufacturer’s instructions to locate this) where you can read it as soon as you open the door. Do not use a mercury thermometer as this could break and contaminate food. Close the door and leave for several hours, preferably over night. Open the door and read the thermometer without touching it, if it is not between 0-5°C/32 41°F, adjust the thermostat dial and leave as before. If the temperature is still not right after several hours, try again.


  • Keep the coldest part of the refrigerator around 0-5Celcius/32-41Fereheit. Keep a thermometer in the coldest part and check the temperature regularly.
  • Keep the most perishable foods, such as meat, in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
  • Wrap and cover all raw and uncooked foods, to prevent them from touching other foods. Return perishable foods, such as butter, to the refrigerator as soon as possible after use.
  • Don’t overload the refrigerator as this can block the circulation of the cooling air.
  • Don’t put hot Baal into the refrigerator; let it cool first, because hot food could heat up other foods and bacteria breed in warm temperatures.
  • Don’t keep food beyond its ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date.

Avoiding cross contamination; bacteria will readily cross from one food to another, especially from raw meat to cooked or processed foods. The prevention of cross contamination is paramount for anyone in charge of preparing food for others.

Cooking food

High temperatures kill most bacteria, so always make sure that raw food, especially meat, is cooked right through. The temperature at the centre should reach 7000/158°F or at least two minutes. Large meat joints need care to make sure that the centre is well cooked; a meat thermometer can help. Microwave cookers do not always heat food to the high temperatures that kill food poisoning bacteria, so when using them make sure that the food is piping hot at the centre before serving. If frozen meat, poultry or fish is not completely thawed, the centre may not be properly cooked. The best way to thaw food is either in a microwave or refrigerator.

Raw eggs sometimes contain bacteria which are destroyed by cooking. Current advice is that you should avoid recipes using uncooked eggs.

When reheating food, always heat until it is piping hot all the way through. Never reheat food more than once. When using a microwave for reheating check the instructions regarding standing times to allow the heat to reach all parts of the food.


Insects, especially flies and cockroaches can transfer germs on to food so it is essential to keep them out of the kitchen. Insect repellents may contain poisons that are also harmful to you, so try to use herbal repellents. Metal gauze screens across open windows will provide a physical barrier, or you may prefer to try a crayon type of repellent that is applied around all openings. Always cover Bread that is left out for any length of time, with a purpose made cover of fabric mesh or a sieve, or use greaseproof (waxed) paper or foil.


  • Wash your hands in warm water with soap before: touching food, as well as after touching food; after touching pets; dirty washing (laundry); the dustbin (trash can); after going to the lavatory.
  • Cover cuts and grazes.
  • Wipe hands on a separate kitchen towel, not the tea towel (dish towel).
  • Bleach, disinfect or change kitchen cloths or sponges often, especially after raw meat, poultry or fish has been prepared.
  • Wipe the tops of all cans before opening them.
  • Wash dishes, work tops (counters) and cutlery with hot water and detergent. Rinse washing up and let it drip dry if possible.
  • Keep pets away from food, dishes and worktops.
  • Keep food covered. Open packs or spilt food can attract flies, ants and mice, which spread bacteria. Clear up spilt food straight away.
  • Avoid using the same knife or chopping board for raw meat, cooked food and fresh vegetables. If you have to use the same knife or board, always wash it thoroughly between uses.

Installing Crown Molding

There are 3 types of decorative cornice commonly used in today’s homes. The first type is roving, a relative of sheet plasterboard (gypsum hoard), which consists of a concave hollow-hacked plaster core sheathed in a strong paper envelope. It is fixed in place with adhesive. The second is molded cornice; this is made either from traditional fibrous plaster or from modern foamed plastics to imitate the ornate decorative cornices often found in older buildings, and comes in a range of profiles. Plaster types must generally be secured in place with screws because of their weight, but plastic types can simply be stuck in position with adhesive. The third type is a machined wooden trim with a similar profile to plasterboard cornice, and is either nailed direct to the wall framing or to a nailing strip or barren (furring strip) in the angle of the wall and ceiling.

Apart from its decorative appearance in framing the ceiling, a cornice can also help to conceal unsightly cracks. These often open up around the ceiling perimeter as the ceiling expands and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity, or as the building settles.


  1. Hold a length of cornice squarely in the wall/ceiling angle and draw 2 guidelines on the wall and ceiling surfaces. Cut any mitred edges.
  2. Remove any old wall coverings from between the guidelines by dry scraping them. Cross hatch painted or bare plaster to key the surface.
  3. Either mix up powder adhesive or use already mixed type. Using a flat scraper ‘butter’ the adhesive on to both edges of the rear of the cornice.
  4. Press the length into place between the guidelines, supporting it if necessary with partly driven masonry nails. Remove the nails (if used) once the adhesive has set.
  5. Fit the adjacent corner piece next. Here, the next section also incorporates an external mitre; measure and cut this carefully before fitting the length.
  6. Complete the external comer with a further length of cornice, hurting the cut ends closely together and ensuring that the length fits between the lines.
  7. Fill any slight gaps at external and internal angles with a little cellulose filler(spackle), applied with a filling knife (putty knife) to leave a crisp, clean joint, sand the filler smooth once it has hardened.
  8. Before the adhesive hardens, use a damp sponge to remove any excess from wall and ceiling surfaces and also to smooth over the filled joints.


  1. Make up a large mitre block big enough to hold the cornice, and use this and a tenon saw to make accurate 45° cuts for internal and external corners.
  2. Some cornice manufacturers supply a paper template that enables cutting lines to be marked accurately for internal and external corners.
  3. When using cut pieces to complete a wall, mark off the length required directly, square a line across the cornice with a pencil and cut it to length.

Free Standing Shelving

Free standing shelf units have several advantages over wall-mounted or built in ones. They can easily be moved if the room layout is changed. They can be moved away from the wall to allow painting or papering. They can even be taken along when moving house. However, they have drawbacks too. Some manufactured shelving and display units are rather flimsy, and may twist out of square or sag if they are heavily loaded. In general, better results are found in building units that use strong materials such as natural wood and plywood. The other problem is getting them to stand upright against the wall; skirting’s (baseboards) prevent standard units from being pushed back flush with the wall surface, and carpet gripper strips make them lean forward slightly. The answer is to design the side supports on the cantilever principle with just one point of contact with the floor, as far as possible from the wall, so that the unit presses more firmly against the wall as the load on the shelves is increased.

Since a shelf unit is basically a box with internal dividers, it can be constructed in several different ways, using simple butt joints or more complicated housings. Perhaps the best compromise is to use gilled butt joints reinforced with hardwood dowels, which give the joints the extra rigidity they need in a unit of this sort.

Start by deciding on the dimensions of the unit, then select materials to suit the likely load the shelves will have to support. Mark up and cut matching groups of components to length in batches to ensure that they are all precisely the same size. Pre-drill all the dowel holes, using a drill stand and depth stop for holes in the board laces and a dowelling jig for those in the board ends. Insert the dowels and make up the joints. A thin plywood or hardboard backing panel can be pinned (racked) on to give the unit extra rigidity.


  1. Clamp groups of identical components together. Mark them to length and cut them in one operation to ensure that they are all the same length.
  2. Mark the positions of the shelf dowel holes on the unit sides, ensuring that they match. Drill them all to the required depth, using a drill stand if possible.
  3. Use the dowelling jig to drill the dowel holes in the shelf ends. This ensures that the holes are correctly positioned and centered, and are drilled straight.
  4. Glue the dowels and rap them into the holes in the shell ends. Ensure that they all project by the same amount, and cut down any that are overlong.
  5. Assemble the unit by gluing one end of each of the three shelves and joining them to a side panels. Then glue the other ends and add the second side panel.
  6. Cut a hardboard or plywood backing panel. Check that it is perfectly square, then pin (tack) it to the bark of the unit

Wall Fixings

Before making fixings into solid masonry, make a couple of test drillings to find out whether the wall is built of brick or lightweight blocks. It brick is identified from red or yellow bore dust, use ordinary plastic wall plugs; but if grey dust suggests lightweight blocks it is better to use a proprietary block plug which has larger ‘wings’ to grip the softer material. In either case the screw must be long enough to penetrate at least 38 mm long into the masonry behind plaster, so use screws are at least 62 mm/21/2 in. long for a plastered wall. Increase this 1.0 75 mm/3 in for fixings that will carry heavy loads. Screw gauge 8 will be adequate for normal loads; increase this to gauge10 for 75 mm/3 in screws. Make sure, too, that the screw and wall plug sizes are compatible, and take care to drill the holes are right angles to the wall surface, deep enough to accept the screw length.

Making fixings to stud (dry) walls poses fixing problems. Cavity fixing devices such as spring or gravity toggles and cavity anchors can be used only for fixings that will carry the lightest loads. For any other use, the fixing must be made either to a horizontal twigging (cross bridging)fixed between adjacent scuds difficult to fir except during construction of the wall framework — or directly to the vertical studs themselves. These will have to be located with an electronic stud finder or, less satisfactorily, by wrapping and test drilling — they are usually at 400 mm/16 in or 600 min/24 in centres. Make sure that pilot holes are drilled into the centre of the stud, not near its edge, since this could result in a weak fixing. Use screws 50 mm/2 in long for medium loads, 75 mm/3 in long for heavy ones.


1. Mark where the fixing is to go and use a masonry drill, sized to match the wall slip. Wind tape around the drill bit to act as a depth guide.

2. If the drill has an adjustable depth stop attachment, use it instead of the tape to set the drilling depth. Drill until the stop touches the wall surface.


1. If the fixing must be between joists or studs rather than into them, drill a clearance hole for tile fixing device through the plasterboard

2. Push a cavity anchor into the hole so it can expand against the hack of the board, and drive in the screw. Using toggles, thread the screw through the object first.

3. Choose a wall plug sized to match the screw being used, and push it into the hole, insert its rim is flush with the wall. Tip it with a hammer if necessary.

4. Thread the screw through a clearance hole drilled in the object being fixed, insert it in the mouth of the wall plug and drive it home.

5. Alternatively, use long-sleeved frame plugs. Drill holes through the wood and into the wall, insert the plug and tighten the screw to make the fixing.


1. Use an electronic stud finder to locate the stud or ceiling joist positions. It works by detecting the nails which secure the plasterboard (gypsum board).

2. When the stud or joist positions are marked, drill clearance holes in the object to be fixed at matching centres. Check these for accuracy.

3. Drill pilot holes through the board surface and into the stud or joist. Make sure that the drill bit is at right angles to the surface of the wall.

4. Insert screws into the clearance holes, then offer up the object to be fixed, align ii with the pre-drilled pilot holes and drive the screws home.

Lawn Weed Control

The only place where weeds are acceptable is in a wildlife corner, although some people find daisies in the lawn a very attractive feature. Generally, however, weeds have to be controlled.
Any perennials that arise from small pieces of root left in the soil should be dug out, as should any suckers, and any seedlings should be hoed off.

It is inevitable that there will be some annual weeds appearing from time to time around plants, such as climbers, but, if these are removed before they set their seed, their numbers will gradually drop as the reserve of seed in the soil is used up.

There are two main weapons if you want to cut down on weeding: mulching, which uses no chemicals, and herbicides.

Killing weeds in beds and borders

Although there are herbicides that will kill some problem grasses growing among broad-leaved plants, generally you can’t use selective weed killers in beds and borders. Most herbicides will kill or damage whatever they come into contact with, but there are ways in which you can use herbicides around ornamental plants to minimize the amount of hand weeding necessary.

You may be able to treat areas in a shrub border with a watered-on weed-killer simply by shielding the cultivated plants. If deep-rooted perennials are not a problem you can use a contact weed killer that will act rather like a chemical hoe (a real hoe may be an easier alternative to mixing and applying a weed-killer if the area is small enough).

Deep-rooted perennial ‘problem’ weeds, such as bindweed, are best treated by painting on a trans-located weed-killer such as one based on glyphosate. Ordinary contact weed-killers may not kill all the roots, but this chemical is moved by the plant to all parts. Even so, you may have to treat really difficult weeds a number of times for long term eradication. Use a gel formulation to paint on where watering on the weed-killers may cause damage to adjacent ornamentals.


Once the soil is clean, applying a mulch will do a great deal to help to keep weeds under control. It will not prevent perennial weeds that are already established from coming up but it will prevent any further germination from the seed in the soil. It will also reduce the amount of moisture lost to evaporation. A wide variety of materials can be used.
The main advantages of loose organic mulches are that they look attractive, can often be homemade (and are therefore inexpensive), and are gradually incorporated into the soil by the activity of worms, adding to the organic-matter content. It is important to top them up every year if they are to remain effective.

Inorganic mulches, such as black plastic and woven membranes, are less pleasing to the eye but provide a much more effective barrier against weeds. They are most useful in shrub beds that can be left undisturbed for some years, and are best used when the bed or border is newly planted. When using inorganic mulches, always prepare the ground as thoroughly as you would if not using a mulching sheet.
It is possible to use a combination of both types of mulch. Lay the artificial material, then cover it with an even layer of bark or gravel. This creates the best of both worlds, providing good protection against weeds and a pleasing appearance in the garden.

Weeds in lawns are best controlled by a selective hormone weed-killer, ideally applied in mid- or late spring. These are usually applied as a liquid, using a dribble bar attached to a watering-can. To ensure even application you should mark out lines with string, spacing them the width of the dribble bar apart.

Always mix and apply the weed-killer as recommended by the manufacturer. There are a number of different plant hormones used in those products, some killing certain weeds better than others, so always check that it is recommended for the weeds you most want to control. If your lawn also needs feeding, you can save time by using a combined weed and feed. The most efficient way to apply these — which are likely to be granular rather than liquid— is with a fertilizer spreader. Check with your local nursery, if unsure.
If you have just a few troublesome weeds in a small area, it is a waste of time and money treating the whole lawn. For this job, a spot weeder that you dab or wipe onto the offending weed will work well.

Mulching with grass cuttings

Grass cuttings are readily available in most gardens. They are not the most attractive form of mulch but can be used effectively at the back of borders, where they are not easily seen. Do not heap them on thicker than 5 cm/2 in or they may heat up too much as they decompose, harming the plant. Do not use cuttings from lawns that have recently been treated with a lawn herbicide which might harm the plant


  1. The advantage of hand-weeding is that you can thoroughly check which weeds are present and can take more rigorous action if perennials are spotted. At the same time, it also enables you to spot any seedlings produced by plants that you may want to transplant or pot up.
  2. Hoeing is quicker than hand weeding and allows you to get round more frequently. It is very effective against annual weeds but chopping the top off a perennial does not kill it and it will soon re-emerge. Do not dig too deeply with the hoe or you may disturb the plant’s roots.


First, prepare the ground thoroughly, digging it over and working in plenty of organic material such as rotted manure or garden compost if the soil is impoverished. Dig up deep-rooted perennial weeds, otherwise they could grow through.

Then water the ground thoroughly. Do not apply a mulch to dry ground. Finally, spread the mulch, such as the hark mulch shown here, thickly over the ground.


  1. Make a slit around the edge of the bed with a spade, and push the sheet into this. For a vegetable plot you can use special plastic pegs, but these are too conspicuous for an ornamental position.
  2. Make cross-shaped planting slits in the sheet with a knife or scissors. If planting a shrub you will probably have to make slits large enough to take a spade for planting. This won’t matter as the sheet can be folded back into place.
  3. Small plants can be planted with a trowel, but for shrubs you will need to use a spade. Provided the ground has been well prepared before the sheet was laid, it should be easy to dig out the planting hole.
  4. Although most of the sheer mulch will be hidden as the plants grow, it will be very conspicuous initially. A layer of a decorative mulch such as chipped-bark or gravel will make it much more acceptable.

Wall Decorating Ideas

The first involves finishing off apart-riled wall with a band of narrow tiles in a colour or design that complements or contrasts with the main riled area, to form a decorative border. These tiles are available in lengths that match standard rile widths, and are usually 50-75 minimum 2-3 in wide. They are cur and fixed just like any other tile.

The second method is to incorporate a group of patterned tiles as a feature panel within a larger area of plain riling. The group may simply be contrasting patterned tiles, or may be a multi-tile motif a group of four, six or more tiles that fit together to form one large design when they are fixed in position. Tile manufacturers offer a range of mass-produced designs you can choose from, or a motif panel can he commissioned from a specialist tile supplier. Plan the motif’s position on the wall carefully, and build it in the usual way as tiling progresses.

I. Use a tiling gauge to mark the position of the first row of tiles on the wall surface. Put up a support batten (furring strip) if necessary then spread some tile adhesive on the wall, and place any plain tiles that will be below the decorative panel. Start placing the first tiles that will form the decorative panel. Here the tiles are being laid at an angle of 45°, so half-tiles are placed first.

2 .Continuous adding whole and half-tiles to build up the pattern, checking is you work that the edges of the panel are uniformly horizontal and vertical.

3. Here the panel is being surrounded by slim border tiles. Add whole border riles to the top of the panel first, working from the centre line outwards.

4. At the corners of the panel, fit an over-long horizontal border tile and hold another vertically over it so you can mark a 45° cutting line on each tile.

5. Make the 45° cuts on the end of each corner tile, then bed the horizontal tile in place. Check that the CUE end is precisely aligned with the panel comer. Repeat the process at the other end of the horizontal section of the border. The pieces should be the same length, as the border is centred.

6. Fit the border riles up each side of the decorative panel, then mark the position of the mitre cut on the final tiles, cut them and fit them in place.