5 essential household jobs to tackle this Autumn

It’s October. The days are getting shorter, the leaves are turning brown and the weather’s already starting to take a turn for the worse.

That means it’s time to start fixing up your home to keep out the wind and rain, and to make sure your garden is looking its best for when you entertain guests for Halloween or Bonfire Night.

To help you get your home ready for the changing of the seasons, here are our five essential household jobs to tackle this Autumn.

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Get your garden ready for winter

As Autumn progresses and temperatures start to fall, many of your plants will either prepare for dormancy or die outright. So putting the garden to bed for the winter is mostly a matter of clearing up and covering up.

But, let’s face it, digging up the icy ground and shovelling mulch in the sleet and rain is nasty work. So why not draft in a professional to do it for you?

Place your Bark now and we’ll begin contacting recommended local gardeners on your behalf right away.

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Book your boiler in for a service

It’s already getting cold enough outside to justify firing up your boiler in the evenings – and that means it’s time to book it in for its annual checkup.

The extra strain that’s put on your boiler during the colder months can cause it to leak or break. So it’s important to make sure yours is in top working order before it gets too nasty outside.

It’s also a great way to make sure your central heating is running efficiently, and could save you up to 25% on your heating bills.

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Clear your guttering of leaves and debris

Gutters have one job – to guide rainwater off your roof and straight down the drain. But, despite their importance, it can be all too easy to forget about them until something goes badly wrong.

Allowing your gutters to become clogged can cause serious structural damage to your house, and lead to health issues for you and your family from the damp.

That’s why it’s important to hire someone to check your guttering thoroughly at least once a year to keep everything working properly.

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Protect your home against winter pests

When the weather starts to turn, mice and rats often make their way inside seeking refuge against the elements – and unless you want to end up sharing your space with them later in the year, now is the time to act.

It takes a trained eye to find and block the gaps small rodents may use to enter your home, as mice can completely flatten their skeletons to fit through even the tiniest gaps.

So place a pest control Bark today to get quotes from pest control experts in your area fast and free.

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Keep your home looking spotless through ‘party season’

Whether you’re having your friends over for Guy Fawkes Night, throwing an epic Halloween party or just having your family round for Christmas – there’s nothing like a good party to brighten up the winter months.

Unfortunately, these big social events can really take their toll on your garden, kitchen and living room. But with thousands of registered housekeepers on our site, keeping your home spotless through party season is easy with Bark.

Place your house cleaning request today and we’ll do all the legwork to get you quotes from recommended local pros fast and free.

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How to hire the right landscape designer for your garden

If you’re reading this, you understand what a magical place a garden can be. Where some see little more than a patch of of fenced-in lawn with a shed at one end, you see possibility.

It’s a safe place for your kids to play, somewhere you can relax on a sunny afternoon, a party venue and loads more besides. All you need is the right pro to make your garden dreams a reality.

A quality landscaper will help you create the garden of your dreams. But, for many people, finding someone you can trust to get the job done right is easier said than done.

Well, that ends today. Here at Bark, we believe finding skilled local landscape designers online should be quick and easy. So right now, we’re going to show you how to find the right pro you.

How to work out your budget

Before we get started, let’s talk price. A good landscaper will usually tailor their plans to fit your budget, but there are a couple of factors that might affect their quote.

For one thing, if your garden sits on difficult terrain, you may need to pay more to get the end result you’re looking for. As one of our pros told us recently, it’s a lot harder to turf a sloping lawn than a flat one.

But, to help you work out a ballpark figure, we’ve created a handy tool to show you what fixing up your garden is likely to cost. We call it the Budget Estimator, and how it works is simple.

When you place a Bark on our site, it shows you a summary of what people with similar requirements are usually quoted. This should give you a ‘rough and ready’ idea of what a realistic budget is for your project.

What to look for in a landscape gardener

With the question of what your project is likely to cost out of the way, it’s time to start comparing quotes – and that’s what we do best.

From the moment you place your Bark, we’ll start contacting skilled landscapers in your area, and you’ll often start receiving quotes within a couple of hours.

Everyone you hear from will be ready and available to renovate your garden, so all that’s left is for you to choose your favourite. Here’s a few things to think about when making your decision:

  • Do they have a solid reputation?

Reviews are a great way to gauge what to expect from a landscaper, which is why we assign our pros ‘star ratings’ based on how previous customers felt about their work.

Be sure to take a look at each pro’s Bark profile and website to see what people have been saying about them.

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  • What’s their portfolio like?

A smart company will only post their best work online, so don’t be surprised if every landscaper you find has a great portfolio.

But having said that, they’re still well worth looking at to get a feel for the kind of work each pro normally does. Check to see if they’ve done the sort of thing you’re looking for in the past and made a good job of it.

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  • Are you looking for specialization?

Many landscaping companies have teams of specialists to help with the different aspects of your project.

It can work out cheaper to hire individuals for each task separately, but generally people prefer the convenience of having one firm that can handle everything for them.

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  • Do they have local experience?

When it comes to gardening services, local businesses have a real edge. They know which plants are most likely to thrive in your specific microclimate and they’re familiar with local laws and regulations.

That’s why we believe it pays to find someone with local experience to fix up your garden, rather than going to a major chain.

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When you find someone you like the look of, invite them round to take a look at your garden and give you an estimate. Most landscapers will provide free consultations, and it’s a great opportunity to ask a final few questions to iron out the important details:

How many years’ experience do they have? Are they fully insured? Are they certified by a UK Trade Association? What’s the breakdown of their quote? And does their work come with a guarantee?

Once you’re satisfied you’ve found the right pro, all that’s left is to get a written contract of works and get the ball rolling – job done!

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Now you’ve seen how easy it can be to hire a landscaper with Bark, it’s time to get you the garden on your dreams.

Remember, we do all the legwork for you to find the best landscapers in your area, and send personalised estimates direct to your inbox. Simply click the link below to find skilled landscapers in your area today.

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Transform your small garden with these creative landscaping hacks

When the sun is shining everyone should be able to enjoy basking in their own back yard – whether it’s a vast country manor, a compact city garden, or even just a small concrete area.

No matter how small your garden is, we want help you transform it into your own little strip of paradise for the summer.

So we met with one of our top gardening pros, Harrison Gardens founder Julian Harrison-Jones, to run through four creative ideas to liven up even the tiniest city garden.

Garden hack #1: Wall pallets

Liven up your garden with wall-mounted pallets
Liven up your small garden with stylish wall-mounted pallets

When you’re short on garden space, the key is to start thinking vertically. One classic space saving trick is to plant things in wall-mounted pallets.

This technique has become so popular in recent years, you’ll even see it used on building sites to make them look more attractive – and they’re something Julian and his team often use to liven up small gardens.

“We’ve done that quite a few times. It’s great for space, and it looks really good,” he says. “You start it horizontal and you plant everything. Then you leave it for three weeks to establish before you lift it because, obviously, you have to wait for the roots to establish before you do.”

“There are offshoots of that,” he adds. “You can have pots attached to the wall. But if you want things actually growing from the pallet, which I think looks the best, you want it horizontal first.”

Garden hack #2: Climbing plants

Another great space saving technique is to make the most of the edges of your garden using climbing plants. Boundary walls and fences that are covered with climbers will blend into their surroundings, making the garden seem bigger.

“Climbing plants are a good solution as well, you know – clematis, honeysuckle, whatever it may be. You could have a vine. You could have wisteria,” Julian explains. “But think vertical really, if you want to be saving space.”

Plants like these are relatively quick-growing compared to specimen shrubs, which means they’re also ideal for disguising things you’d rather not look at.

Garden hack #3: Tree stump features

Many people view old tree stumps as eyesores that need to be removed. But this can be expensive and, Julian argues, seeing them as a positive can help you create really interesting garden features.

“When tree surgeons take down a tree, they don’t usually take the stump,” he explains. “Another creative solution is to make a feature of that stump. You can hollow it out and make it a bed for woodland-type plants.”

Garden hack #4: Raised beds

Harrison Gardens installing a raised bed
A raised bed will make a great addition to almost any garden

Last but not least, raised beds have long been popular among serious gardeners.

They’re a great way of growing a wide range of plants, and are particularly popular for growing fruit and vegetables.

But, as Julian explains, they’re also great for small city gardens with limited space for flower beds, or very poor soil.

“In city gardens, if it’s just a paved area, then an obvious one is a raised bed,” he says. “You can use old sleepers or something and then you put the soil in, because you don’t want to dig really.”

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Hopefully these creative garden solutions have got you thinking about what you can do to create a garden you and your family will love spending time in this summer.

Now you’ve seen how you can turn even the tiniest outdoor space into a stylish city garden, the next step is to find the right pro to help you – and that’s where we come in!

With 3,186 registered gardening professionals, giving your garden a makeover in time for summer is easy with Bark.com. Simply click the link below to find gardening professionals in your area today.

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Ask the Expert: Five essential gardening jobs to do this spring

With spring in full bloom, now is the perfect time to create the perfect space to relax with your friends and family. Getting on top of things now will make all the difference as temperatures start to rise and barbeque season gets into full swing – and that’s where Bark comes in.

To help you make the most of that neglected outside space, we asked one of our top gardening pros – Harrison Gardens founder Julian Harrison-Jones – to run you through five essential gardening jobs to do this spring.

1. Fix up your lawn

You can find hundreds of Lawn Care specialists on Bark.com
You can find hundreds of Lawn Care specialists on Bark.com

One of the main things that people think about at this time of year is Lawn Care. Weeds are coming through, the edges aren’t done and it’s starting to look overgrown.

“It’s time to start working on your lawn,” says Julian. “That means aeration, mowing, weeding and feeding. You feed the lawn twice a year, in Spring and Autumn.”

“When you’re starting to mow the lawn, because it will be the first cut of the year you should do it on a high blade,” he adds. “You’re just encouraging new, healthy growth. Don’t go crazy otherwise you’ll do damage and you might kill the lawn.”

2. Get on top of the weeding

Your lawn isn’t the only thing growing again now the winter months are behind us. Rolling up your sleeves and tackling the weeding now will mean you have a head start going into the rest of the year.

“To be honest, weeding is probably ‘number one’ because of the time of year,” says Julian. “You’ve left it over the winter, they’re coming up now and if you don’t tackle weeds now they’ll compete with shrubs and plants that you want to keep.”

“Basically, they’re all competing for nutrients and water,” he adds. “So if the weeds take over, they’ll take that away from the actual plants. As well as some weeds, like Ivy or creeping weeds, which will can strangle and kill your plants.” 

3. Choose your ‘feature’ plants

Julian planting flowers for one of his many happy clients
Julian planting flowers for one of his many happy clients

Once you’ve got the weeds under control, it’s time to think about the plants you actually want to look at.

“It’s still relatively early in the gardening year,” Julian explains. “So you can plant your ‘feature’ plants or architectural-type planting – your shrubs, the backbone of your garden.”

He adds: “If you like roses, this is the perfect time for them, as well as perineal flowers and trees.”

4. Get mulching and feeding

Mulching and feeding goes hand-in-hand with weeding and planting, but the exact type of plant food you use depends on what you’re using it for.

“It could be manure, it could be peat, it could be leaf mould or compost,” Julian explains. “If it’s roses, for example, they really like a horse manure. Whereas, in general, your shrubs prefer bark just to supress weeds and keep the heat in.

“With your lawn, it would be nitrogen. Generally, a well-balanced fertiliser containing nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus in equal proportions. You can’t go too wrong with that.”

5. Repair damaged trees and fencing

Starting with storm Desmond back in December, the UK has been buffeted by a wave of severe storms over the past few months. Thankfully, the worst of it is behind us, and you can now be thinking about repairing those damaged fence panels.

“Because of the recent storms, any damage that’s been caused over the winter – fencing, staking trees – those kind of essential works can be done,” Julian explains. “That’s what took up most of January. Lots of fencing work.”

“About two weeks ago we had a job that involved a lot of staking and getting everything back into shape,” he adds. “You should have two large stakes either side of the tree, which should be tied together firmly, then the tree tied to that.”

Find a local gardening expert today

With thousands of registered gardening professionals, giving your garden a makeover in time for summer is easy with Bark.com.

Whether you’re fixing the fence, clearing away those pesky weeds, or planning a full-blown garden renovation, we can help. Simply click the link below to find gardening professionals in your area today.

DIY disasters

DIY, that classic British pastime. There’s nothing better than working hard on something in your home on a nice relaxing Sunday, then being able to smile proudly the fruits of your hard labour.

Sometimes, though, it is worth getting an expert in to offer a helping hand. Courtesy of the internet and other people’s home disasters, we’ve been able to find a few snaps of eager DIYers who might have benefitted from a little outside assistance…

The Electromaniac

Badly wired doorbell
How to save on electricity bills. Photo courtesy of wonderfulengineering.com

We can’t help but wonder what might happen if you’d been caught in the rain… If you’re not so keen on a shock to welcome you home, perhaps you’d be better off looking for a local electrician.

The Elastic Bands Enthusiast

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Don’t leave the tap running… Photo courtesy of gfjamesplumbing.com.au

Let’s face it, if there’s any way of putting that ball of elastic bands sitting on your desk to good use, this isn’t it. If you value being able to turn on your taps, find a plumber here.

The Divorcee

Home repair clock
What’s the time? Time for a new clock. Photo courtesy of Daily Mail

Anyone think this is reminiscent of the German man who cut all his possessions in half when breaking up with his long-term girlfriend? It may be time to invest in a new clock…

The Acupuncturist 

Sustainable gardening…. Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail

Sheer genius or pure laziness? If you’re sprinkler’s on the blink, and you don’t fancy getting this arts and craftsy, you can find sprinkler repair specialists who can help to end your garden drought.

The Tetris Champion

A creative approach, sure… Photo courtesy of Danielbrewer.co.uk

Some blocks were just not meant to fit together – time to find a door fitter.

The Baker

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No one will notice! Photo courtesy of ThereIfixedit.com

Note to self, gingerbread houses are not fit for real life purpose. Or is it processed cheese? Either way, find a roofer here.

The Scouts/ Brownies Graduate

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How knot to repair your wall…. Photo courtesy of ThereIfixedit.com

You spent hours learning how to master the Sheepshank and the Clove Hitch, so damn it, you’re going to find a way to use it! Or, accept that neon blue doesn’t quite match rock red and find yourself a bricklayer.

DIYers, we salute your valiant efforts, but there is no shame in defeat. Some things are simply better left to the professionals.

For more Bark.com tips and insights, why not check out our other blogs?

Gone with the Wind – how to make the most of your autumn garden

By Andy McIndoe, Gold Medal winning Chelsea designer for the last 22 years

The highlights of the autumn garden are some of the most heart-warming and surprising and can represent a great opportunity for garden projects. Maybe it’s the rich fall colours that seem to glow even on dull days. Or perhaps it’s that lush burst of growth of the grass, encouraged by morning dew and more frequent rainfall. The gardening and landscaping year is far from closing, there’s plenty that you, or your gardener can do to make the most of the season and prepare for the future.

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Morning dew in the garden

There is a treasure trove of seasonal plant material on sale in garden centres and nurseries. Even if it’s still alive, get rid of summer bedding from those patio containers and pots. There are lots of wonderful autumn and winter container plants that will really brighten up the patio and doorstep: violas, pansies, heathers, heucheras, cyclamen and a host of foliage subjects. Many of these will stay looking good through winter.

There are also all those lovely spring flowering bulbs to plant in preparation for another season. Plant any small bulbs such as snowdrops, iris and fritillaries as soon as possible; they deteriorate quickly if left out of the ground for long. Hold off planting tulips until late autumn as if planted too early they can suffer from frost damage or the disease ‘tulip fire’. Daffodils and narcissi can be planted at any time.

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The signal of springtime!

Leaves are falling, so keep gathering them regularly and do not leave them lying on the grass. It’s best to mow them up with the mower on a high setting if possible. This chops the large ones coarsely and adds a few green grass cuttings that help the composting process. It is certainly much less backbreaking than raking – quicker too – so if you don’t have the right equipment, ask your local lawn care professional for advice.

Remember, if you’re looking for help around the garden, autumn is often the best time for planting trees and shrubs, and can be a good time of year for general garden maintenance, as well as removal projects once barbecue season is over. Some shrubs will give instant impact if planted now and they can also benefit wild birds that visit your garden. Cotoneasters are a great choice – tiny white flowers in spring that attract bees and other pollinators, scarlet berries in autumn and winter that the birds really enjoy. If you are thinking of a planting a tree, think beyond spring blossom. Sorbus and malus both have colourful fruits that provide winter food for birds, if you can tempt them to something organic away from the bird feeder.

Red Pommes of firethorn Pyracantha
Autumn Beauty

If you choose just one shrub to plant it has to be a hydrangea: these have gone from being old fashioned to super-trendy in the past couple of years. They are at their best in autumn when their brighter colours fade to something far more sophisticated and beautiful, before they turn parchment in winter. For flower arrangers this is the time to cut them and dry them to preserve their faded beauty.

Whatever you have planned for your garden, ground preparation and careful planting gives the best results. So fork over the ground and mix in plenty of garden compost or shrub and tree planting compost. analysis of website . Dig a hole that’s plenty deep and wide enough and plant firmly. Always stake and tie any new trees securely.

While summer is unfortunately drawing to a close, this is certainly no time to abandon your garden. Taking care of your garden now will reap rewards all through autumn and winter and give you the chance to play host when others can’t!

Andy McIndoe
Andy McIndoe

Follow @AndyMcIndoe on Twitter for more expert insights.

Andy is MD at Hillier Nurseries and Garden Centres, as well as a tutor and blogger at the online gardening school MyGardenSchool.

 

 

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The Do’s and Don’ts of DIY: When to Leave It To The Expert

Let’s be honest: We all fancy ourselves as a bit of DIY genius. No job is too complex or great. When it comes to doing it yourself, any danger of causing serious injury or seriously botching up a job goes out the window; it’s all about ego and proving that not every job requires calling ‘The Man’.

In the real world, however, there is only so much the common homeowner can achieve when deciding to do a touch of handy work around a property. More often than not, it pays to get the expert in. Here’s a list of some household tasks that shouldn’t be too difficult to handle, and those that most definitely require a professional. If you’re one of those who thinks you’re a DIY jack-of-all-trades, look away now…

Don’t Get Wired On Electrics

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Anything electrical in your home that requires attention is best left untouched. Not only do you skirt with the obvious risk of electrocuting yourself, meddling with the wires behind that dodgy plug socket could wreak havoc on your home’s entire wiring. The appeal of deciding to fix a light fitting without the costly expense of calling in a professional may seem alluring, but just think about the potential spiralling costs in the event you botch it up and need to find a professional electrician to rewire your whole home. Bottom line: Don’t fiddle with electrics.

Electrician expert wiring plug socket
Leave electrics to the expert

Different Strokes

Moving on to something a little safer, there’s nothing wrong with attempting painting inside your home. Obviously there’s more to it than simply taking a pot of paint to your walls, but it’s certainly one of the more ‘doable’ DIY projects. As Interior specialist Gemma Cheney writes in the Guardian, there are tricks to adding a professional touch to your painting: “preparation is everything”. For ease and for covering a larger area, a roller is probably best, but for the more intricate jobs, a paintbrush is more ideal. The beauty of it all is that even if you do somehow manage to make a hash of it, you can always hire a painter and decorator to save the day.

Painting DIY indoors property
Unleash your inner painter

Avoid the Waterworks

When it comes to plumbing, there are a handful of simple jobs that do not require a plumbing service: a leaky tap, installing a new shower head or unclogging a drain are all perfect and scalable jobs to keep you occupied at the weekends. However, the more complex tasks will require a professional plumber. Much like trying to fix a problematic wire, fiddling with your home’s plumbing could have disastrous consequences that could leave you more out of pocket to fix than if you called the plumber in the first place. Moving away from the job at hand, hiring a plumber has other benefits. He or she will help you stay within your planned budget and will likely get the job done within your envisioned timeline.

Plumbing expert DIY
Time to call in the Plumber?

Take it Outside

Of course, DIY isn’t just contained to your home; the garden represents a wide range of DIY jobs you can do yourself, from mowing the lawn and painting the fence, to the more difficult bricklaying or pond installation. You may laugh, but there is a method to mowing the perfect lawn, but it’s probably not worth calling in the man. However, installing that nice, new water feature or building a new shed is probably better left to the professional – Bark can help you find local Bricklayers if you need them. Regardless of perfecting the bricklaying when building a new shed, there are also legal complication such as obtaining planning permission that a professional will know inside out and offer guidance. On top of all that, there’s the slight issue of landscaping. We’d all love a garden that wouldn’t look out of place at the Chelsea Flower Show, but left to your own devices you could just as likely end up with the garden from hell. Again, probably best to hire a landscaper for that major redesign.

landscaping gardening expert DIY
Shaping your dream garden

Inspired to Do It Yourself? Consider calling in a local professional first. Bark.com has a wide range of house and home services to help spruce up your property.

For more Bark.com tips and insight, why not check out our other blogs?