‘Bootifully’ Easy Boot Projects

The wet winter months usually mean a return to more sturdy footwear for gardening, and quite often a return to not-so-stylish muddy platform heels!

I wouldn’t describe ourselves as being particularly house proud, in fact with the number of children, chickens and a messy collie dog, its like shovelling snow in a snowstorm trying to keep the place tidy. We do however try to avoid traipsing in half the garden on the bottom of wellies and the like and this is where these two for the projects come into play.

Both are very simple, very easy to make and cost pratically nothing! The boot scraper is a pleasantly rustic design built of a log from the wood pile and a roof slate, both appearing for free in the garden following the recent high winds blasting in from the Berwyns. The boot pull, or boot jack is an age old idea yet one that is seldom seen in a average porchway, surprising considering its efficiency in not only removing a wellie boot but the fact its completely hands free.

Both the projects can be completed in a spare hour at the weekend, and need very little in the way of DIY skills. The simplicity of the build also means you can go to town decorating them if that’s your thing, alternatively you leave them with the rough rustic look.

20 Complete

What you will need

Boot Scraper
• Saw or chainsaw
• Chisel and mallet
• Glue
Boot pull
• Power drill
• Jigsaw
• Countersink drill bit
• Screwdriver
• Sandpaper or electric sander

Boot Scraper
• A reasonable sized log
• A old roof slate
Boot pull
• A short length of board or plywood
• A couple of screws

Boot Scraper
Step 1
Using the saw or a chainsaw remove one third of the diameter of the log in order to create a flat surface

Step 2
Using a saw make two cuts a couple of millimetres apart along the length of the log and chisel out the waste. Alternative make a single cut with a chainsaw.

20 Step 2

Step 3
Slot the roof slate into the gap leaving about 10cm to stand out from the log. Use small chips of wood to pad the gap if the slate wobbles at all.

Boot Pull
Step 2-1
Using the cutting template, mark out the design and cut it out using a jigsaw. Cut the rest section out also, allowing for the slight angle.

20 diagram

Step 2-2
Using sandpaper or an electric sander smooth the edges down, pay particular attention to the mouth of the pull.

Step 2-3
Drill and counter sink the main pull just below the mouth. Attach the rest using a couple of 40mm wood screws


Job done. No need for mud or muddy hands thanks to a couple of chunks of wood and a bit of roof slate 🙂


Are things a bit late this year?

Its a question asked quite frequently when it comes to gardening or the flora and fauna of the countryside but for me I can’t say I can always provide evidence to support my answer. Ok I know the date when the swallows return or the first chiff chaff call but thats based on whether I’m paying attention and could, for all I know, be out by a few days or even weeks.

I was out taking some photo’s the other day and that was when some real evidence landed in my lap…. there are precisely 2yrs and 22minutes between these two pictures of the same oak tree… I guess that answers my question for this year at least!

May 12th 2010


May 12th 2012


Green Roof for the Chicken Coop

Every now and then I’m given a chicken house to put through some field trials and as a consequence I can end up with quite a few ‘buildings’ covering the field. It was on one such coop I figured I try a different kind of field trial by sticking a green roof on it. Why not, after all it’s a roof like any other so it would provide “the environmental benefits of having a living, breathing space where once there was nothing, transform an otherwise dull space into something aesthetically pleasing AND provide you with more growing space.”

This project will take you through how to go about constructing a simple and effective green roof on your chicken coop. There are options to buy ready-made matting that can be rolled out and attached to a roof but at over £20 a metre this can prove a little prohibitive, especially as this whole project costs less than £20 if you sow or propagate your own plants. Better instead to build your own, that way you can decide the planting plan and over the years it will pad out and provide the same effect as the matting. It also enables you to create your own personal blend of weather-hardy plants such as sedums, alpines, mosses, grasses, seasonal herbs, and house leeks.

In fact you could apply the same design principles to a shed, log store, over even a bird box!

What You Will Need:

  • An offcut of pond liner or damp proof liner
  • Geotextile membrane or some old blankets
  • Sufficient Yorkshire board to go around the perimeter of the roof
  • Screws
  • A sack of 10mm gravel
  • Peat free compost mixed with sharp sand
  • Drill
  • Saw
  • Screwdriver

Step 1

Identify a suitable roof structure ideally with a 9-10 degree pitch on it. Check it’s strong enough to take the weight of a saturated green roof and add supporting framework (crossbeams attached to the side supports & roof will help) if necessary.

Step 2

Attach the section of pond liner or damp proof membrane and make sure it overlaps the edges so water will run off and not seep into the roof. Staple into position and trim off any excess with a knife or pair of scissors

Step 3

Cut lengths of board to ‘box in’ the roof. This will stop the planting medium from simply washing off. Allow a 5mm gap between the board and the roof on the lower edge. This will help with water drainage.

Step 4

Staple the geotextile member (or old blanket) to the box sides. This layer will help retain moisture and reduce the need for frequent watering.

Step 5

Add a 2cm layer of the gravel to the roof. This layer will aid water dispersal and drainage.

Step 6

Finally add about 5cms of the compost and sharp sand mix and level it out. You are now ready for planting it up.

Fine weather for ducks….

….but perhaps not for chickens. The last week or so it’s been pretty much persisting it down, which whilst it’s no bad thing for the garden or the ducks in the garden, it can have its pluses and minuses on the chicken front.

A gold brahma cockerel (not quite) singing in the rain



Chickens don’t mind a bit of rain, in fact it’s fairly safe to say that they do seem to welcome a bit of a wash down and don’t mind getting wet, having a good preen afterwards. Despite looking like drown rats they do actually dry out quite quickly given the right sort of shelter.


Things to watch out for are ventilation in the chicken coop. Don’t be tempted to seal the house up against the elements in an attempt to stop the birds ‘getting a chill’ by going to bed wet. Poultry generate an amazing amount of heat when roosting and if you’ve sealed the house up the birds won’t dry out at all, instead the coop will become a warm damp environment – an ideal breeding ground for disease. So keep the ventilation clear and let the birds air dry overnight.


Boggy ground can be another problem for chickens in wet weather, not only will they potentially be standing in a mass of mud, but they could well be traipsing the mud into their living quarters. Whilst not quite a designer look, putting old wooden pallets down in the run and near to the pophole will help get the chickens out of the mud. If possible you could also add a porch to the pophole. Ok, they are unlikely to wipe their feet before entering the house but it will at least keep the mud down a bit.


If pallets aren’t your thing and you prefer something a bit more pleasant looking then a good thick layer of hardwood chips will be help lift the ground level and aid the water drainage. Don’t be tempted to put ornamental bark chippings down though, these will begin to rot down quickly and the resulting fungal growth will mean the chickens are at risk of inhaling large quantities of spores. These spores are bad for the birds health and can in turn cause respiratory problems for them. The classic example is aspergillus which thrives on bark, if ingested by poultry it can cause aspergillosis which is difficult to treat successfully and will cause the slow death of the infected bird. Hardwood chips can often be source cheaply from a local tree surgeon and if that’s not possible then consider putting down sand instead.


As for the ducks…. leave them to it, the saying goes “as happy as a pig in muck” well there’s nothing much happier than a duck in rain & muck too!

Fence Pole Table (to go with the Fence Pole Bench)

A bit ago on this blog I showed you how to knock together a cheap but very weather resistant garden bench using fence poles and some yorkshire board using nothing much more than a chainsaw, a hammer and some nails. Well heres another simple DIY job with more fence poles & board, again using little else then a hammer and nails, and also incorporating a bit of green wood.


If, like me, you try to make a habit of actually getting to sit down and enjoy your garden, but equally, like me, you are outside in all weathers, then there is a need for something to put your gear on, or your cuppa, that can cope with the elements. This simple table design provides a good all year round solution, and because of the simplicity of its build, it can be more or less scaled and adapted to fit whatever space requirements you have.


Like the garden bench it requires limited woodworking skills and can be built in under an hour and costs around £10 if you have to buy in the materials. If you have more wood available then you can make a larger table if you want, the same basic concepts apply.


One of the great things about creating rustic looking garden furniture like this is that even a novices work can provide a sturdy and satisfying result which can be very easily personalised. You never know, you may even find friends and family placing orders!


What you will need


  • Chainsaw or Bow saw
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • Tape measure



  • 125mm nails
  • 30mm nails
  • 70mm wood screws
  • 20mm wood screws
  • Fence poles cut as follows:
    4 x 450mm (Legs)
    2 x 750mm (long cross piece)
    2 x 600mm (short cross piece)
  • Green wood cut to same lengths as cross pieces above
  • 2 x 500mm baton
  • 4 x (150mm x 800mm) board (reclaimed pallet or floorboards work well)

Step 1

Using a chainsaw or bow saw, cut the fence poles to the required lengths.


Step 2

Construct the two end sections by first drilling and then nailing the legs to the short cross pieces. The legs should be positioned 5cm in from the end of the cross piece and its top should be flush with the edge of the cross piece


Step 3

Position the short green wood sections 10cm from the base of the leg and with a 5cm overlap. Drill and nail into position



Step 4

Tie the two end sections into place using the long cross pieces and long green wood sections. Drill and nail into position as above, again using a 5cm overlap and butt up to the end cross sections.


Step 5

Line up board sections, ensuring they are square and secure together by screwing the batons in to position 15cm in from the ends and 5cm in from each edge


Step 6

Attach the table top to the table frame by drilling and screwing into position through the short cross pieces. For a better finish do this from the underside of the table.


Job done, now you have somewhere to put those killer courgettes!

....the 'forgotten ones.."




Apple Tree Recovery – Pruning & how to revive an old tree

When we moved here some years back we were presented with quite a wilderness. The house was just about to reach at least its second dereliction in as many decades and the garden was in need of some serious help to try and bring it back to some semblance of order. A previous owner had planted up some wonderful fruit trees included a variety of Shropshire prune, plus a number of apple, cherry and pear trees however these had been abandoned for a number of years and its taken sometime to gradually bring as many as we could back into productivity. Ok, some people would advocate starting over with new stock plants but I really hate cutting trees down unless there is a very good reason such as disease or safety, besides theres something wonderful about a knarled old Bramley bursting into life again.

By the end of February is essential you have most of your fruit tree pruning complete before the plant begins to grow so heres a step by step guide to recovering a neglected spur bearing apple tree.


This particular tree has been pruned over previous years as it was in a terrible state so if you have one that really is a congested mess then execute this process over a 3 year period in order to control the regrowth and achieve a level of productivity without stressing the tree and exposing it to potential infection or disease.

As a basic rule of thumb the first pruning activity should be the 3D’s, this is to prune out the diseased, dead or damaged branches, but by the same measure you should look to shape the tree into a bowl structure. This will let light and air through into the canopy which will not only mean healthy growth but quality productive growth. As my grandfather told me once ‘aim to create a bowl shape with enough space for a pigeon to fly through and it’ll see you right’. The old fella’s tips have never failed me yet!


What you will need


  • Pruning saw/Bow saw
  • Secateurs
  • Long handled loppers


Step 1

No action in this step, just observation. Take a good long look at the tree structure, try to visualise a bowl like shape. It’s always good to take step back and observe throughout the process also.


Step 2

Using a pruning saw remove all dead or diseased wood, cutting back to the main branch or trunk


Step 3

Look for any crossing branches, they will usually show rubbing on the bark as this one does. Remove them, they will cause a wound for disease in the long run.


Step 4

Prune out any whips growing on the main trunks, these will be unproductive and reduce the light and air in the tree if left to grow.


Step 5

Using a bow saw or pruning saw remove any central trunks that may sprout whips and interfere with the bowl structure you are looking for.


Step 6

Cut out two out of every three of the remaining new growth whips. Long handled loppers make this job quicker than ladders


Step 7

Prune the remaining new growth down to three buds from the main branch cutting about an inch beyond the terminal bud.


Step 8

Apply a good mulch of well rotted compost to keep the weeds down and give the tree a boost after its ‘surgery’


Step 9

Stand back, have a cup of tea, and survey the shape. Identify if there is any remaining pruning required in order to achieve that desired bowl shape


Fruits of your labours

Wheelbarrow compost riddle & drying tray

With having a fairly large productive garden and more chickens than you can shake a stick at, we create quite a bit of garden waste, though far from ‘waste’ it is, as we compost just about everything we can. We do this not only to supplement the vegetable plot but also to create our own potting medium.


We’ve found that mixing our home-made compost along with some of the composted PAS 100 green waste we buy in, and a bit of loam, creates a great recycled growing medium for a number of the pot plants we grow. The problem is though that whilst the green waste is screened, our own compost can be a bit lumpy, and needs riddling. The trouble is though that with the quantities the small hand-held riddles aren’t quite up to the job hence this simple device, a large scale compost riddle.


This design means I can riddle large quantities of compost directly from the compost bins and into the wheelbarrow.  I can also put the larger bits of compost that didn’t pass through the riddle straight back on to the cooking heap for further decomposition. You’ll be surprised at the quality of the riddled product.


The other useful element of this large scale sieve is that when it’s not in use it doubles up as an excellent tray for drying out onions and garlics, or ‘hardening’ pumpkins and squashes before storage. And when it’s not doing anything at all, it can be easily stashed away in the potting shed. The project will take no more than 30 minutes to produce and costs a few pounds


As a riddler...


...and now a drying frame


What you will need


  • Saw
  • Screwdriver
  • Drill
  • Tape measure
  • Wire cutters/Pliers
  • Staple gun



  •  Approximately 6metres of 25mm x 50mm treated timber batons
  • 1m x 0.5m sheet of weld mesh with 1cm holes
  • Wood screws


Step 1

Measure the width and length of your wheelbarrow to get the dimensions for the compost riddle. Ideally you will need either (or both) the sides or top and bottom of the frame in contact with the edges of the barrow.


Step 2

Using a handsaw or table saw cut the baton lengths according to the required measurements to make two frames. Sand off any rough edges.


Step 3

Drill and screw together each of the two frames using 2.5 inch wood screws. The joint need only be strong enough to hold the frame roughly in shape so a single screw will be sufficient.



Step 4

Using the wire cutters or pliers, cut the weld mesh to fit the frame. Make it a couple of centimetres smaller than the outside edge of the frame so as to avoid any sharp ends protruding.


Step 5

Lay the weld mesh over one of the frames and staple into position. If you don’t have a staple gun powerful enough then small U nails can be used but be sure to hammer them fully into the wood. 


Step 6

Place the second frame over the top of the frame with the weld mesh attached and sandwich the mesh. Drill and screw the second frame into place.


Job done, have a sit down and a brew now