Survey findings help make headlines!

Conducting surveys are a great way of generating news stories and raising client profiles and that’s exactly what we did for our client Keter.

SIO Flip_open_bins - Aaroona BlogWe were keen to find out how homeowners around the country felt about their council supplied wheelie bins and recycling boxes. The survey response was fantastic with more than 800 homeowners participating and providing valuable feedback.

And yes its official….

Council supplied wheelie bins and recycling boxes have been dubbed unsightly, spoiling the appearance of homes and need ‘hiding away’ according to the survey findings. Homeowners across the UK do feel strongly about the negative impact they are having on the appearance of their properties.

Almost 70% perceived that there is a problem and that council wheelie bins and recycling boxes are so ugly they need to be hidden from view!

Over two-thirds of respondents had more than one wheelie bin, which emphasises the physical scale of the problem. A staggering 71% stated that they would consider purchasing a storage solution to hide them away from view.

It’s therefore not surprising that almost all the survey respondents agreed a neat and tidy garden adds value to a property. It seems homeowners are prepared to look at alternative options to maintain the look of their property to ensure it holds its value.

Currently the rear of the garden in the open or the side of the property are where most are keeping their bins. And despite them getting dirty and smelly over time, the survey found 29% clean theirs less than once a month and an astonishing 35% said they never clean their bins at all!

The Keter survey has been a great online media campaign with editorial coverage achieved in key regional titles.


2015 has been a bumpy ride in my vegetable garden

For me the gardening year 2015 will go down as one of the most difficult for a long time.   In my Staffordshire garden we had quite severe frosts right up until the second week in May which delayed a lot of planting out.  After that – where was the summer?

We have enjoyed a few sunny days but in June and July when we need prolonged sunshine to heat to warm the soil it was mainly overcast with a cold wind blowing from almost all directions of the compass.  August was a total non-event in weather terms.

The irony is that my two grown-up children both live and garden in West Sussex where they have been buying sun-tan lotion rather than, as we have, rust inhibitor!

We shall have to wait and see whether the much vaunted Indian Summer actually takes hold.  I am writing this on 10 September and it hasn’t arrived as yet.

The results in my vegetable garden are extraordinarily mixed.   We have the most brilliant crop of greenhouse tomatoes – Vanessa, Mountain Magic, Sungold and Sweet Aperitif – all grown from Thompson & Morgan seeds.  They are all cropping beautifully and – so far – are totally disease free.   The T & M peppers are terrific but, sadly, the aubergines are lovely plants but no sign of any fruit.

Outside we are inundated with courgettes and squash but the runner beans have been a very mixed bag.  A lot of the beans have died back on the frame despite copious amounts of water and feed.  The remaining plants do produce excellent beans but they are well below normal cropping levels.

It’s the same with the onions and shallots – lovely plants but poor, small crops.   Last year my leeks were wiped out by leek moth and I was advised to plant out much later.  They look healthy so far but it’s still fingers crossed time.

The real battle ground, however, is inside by vegetable cage with the brassica plants.   They are swamped with two types of caterpillar – the yellow and black striped ones and the bright green varieties.  I’ve sprayed, hand-picked them off and left rude notes – all to little avail.  Their latest favourite are my winter cabbages.

Hey ho, that’s the challenge of gardening in a maritime climate.

Happy gardening!


An Introduction to Permaculture…

Having been with the company for three weeks now, the time has come for my first blog post. I thought that it would be a good opportunity for me to talk about one of my main interests, which also happens to be rather appropriate, considering the industry in which we operate.


Permaculture is, to describe it in its most literal terms, ‘permanent agriculture’. I first heard of it during my GAP year in Brazil, when I spent time on a Permaculture farm, and I have been fascinated by it ever since.

Permaculture is an integrated approach to designing healthy, productive and wildlife-friendly places and communities. It operates under three main ‘ethics’ –

1: Care for people; building communities and helping people to access resources necessary to their existence.

2: Care for the earth; working with natural systems rather than competing with them and using methods that have minimal negative impact on the Earth’s natural environment.

3: Fair shares; By governing our own needs, living within limits and consciously co-creating, we can create surplus resources, which aids the other two principles.

Despite my interest in cultivating crops and creating wild-flower gardens, I am by no means naturally green-fingered, and have been responsible for the untimely death of many a rose bush and tomato plant. However, regardless of this apparent lack in skills, I ploughed on with my research into Permaculture, and a few years ago I enrolled in a Permaculture Design Course. This was a turning point for me, as I learnt the principles of working with nature rather than against it, including techniques such as companion growing, no-dig gardening (a real revelation for a rather lazy gardener!) and ‘maximum yield from minimal effort’. It quickly became apparent that through implementing these principles even I could have success in growing my own food and creating wildlife habitats and, as I had always suspected, there is little more satisfying in life than that.

I am about to embark upon my diploma in Applied Permaculture Design, which is a course of self-directed study, during which I will prepare 10 designs that, in theory, demonstrate my ability to apply permaculture ethics and principles, and show my competence at using a range of design methods, tools and skills – I will keep you posted with my progress!

Fay Wilkinson