Sunday, 16 January 2022

Trees - successful planting

Tree planted in Homefield Drive.

After much debate, over many weeks, we learned that the trees planted in our road were "Bare Root Ball" (That is when they are lifted from nursery soil the soil is washed off and the trees transported with their roots bare - you can read more on this RHS site - )

These, if treated carefully, can grow well. But if the bare root ball is planted in a very poor soil, such as one predominantly of clay and then the planting is backfilled using the clay dug from the hole, then the chances of a healthy tree are VERY low. (It should be noted that even when the very best planting practices are followed some new trees of this type will die).

The soil outside of our houses is mainly clay, if you are very lucky and some topsoil has been added this helps, but once you dig down you will almost certainly find clay. Clay is great for retaining water, but when it is very thick no drainage takes place - not good for any plants!

Also in the warmer weather the clay will harden and again this will prevent trees from growing! 

It is no surprise then that most of the trees in our road have not grown well, and a large proportion have died. Planting bare root ball trees in clay is doomed to failure!

(This fact has been accepted by both the on-site representative (Paul) and customer services (Shara).

The answer is quite simple and most gardening programmes on TV and books on gardening advocate this as a solution to poor soil.

1. Use container grown trees, these will have good quality soil around their roots and during planting the roots are protected from any damage.

We buy ours from Perrywood in Tiptree - - their plants and trees are of a good quality and they guarantee their trees (assuming they are planted correctly - each has a guide attached)

2. Dig a hole that is three times as wide as the pot/container and around twice as deep. In our soil this is quite labour intensive. 

We bought a large Auger, it makes the job much easier (Amazon)

3. Fill the space around the root ball with a high quality compost/soil mix - we have used "Miracle Grow, Peat Free Multipurpose Compost" - this is easy to use and provides some "feed" for the tree when it first grows. Surrounding the tree roots in a high quality soil will allow them to thrive.

For medium size trees of around 2 metres height you will need two to three bags to for each tree. 

4. Top dress the planting with a Root Hormone Treatment for trees (garden centres), this will stimulate the root growth in the first few months.

5. Support the young tree with a flexible yet strong pole, we chose the steel poles which are coated in PVC. 

These are the same size as the bamboo poles that come with the trees, so can replace them easily after planting, without damaging the roots. 

(Most garden centres have these)

6 Fit a "Tree Guard" if animals are likely to be around the base of the tree.

Most garden centres have these.

Trees we have successfully planted recently....

We have planted 14 trees in all over the last 6 months and all are doing well (12 in the back garden and 2 in the front)

Our strategy, which has been successful - 

We decided that rather than wait for a contractor to replace our trees (once it had been agreed that it was not our fault that they were dead), we did the job ourselves, this ensuring that the work was done correctly and then we charged the cost of the trees (purchased from Perrywood) - this was paid promptly!

Even using the very best trees and carefully following all the guidance you will occasionally loose a tree, but this is rare!

Additional Information:

1. The "Tree Council" (UK) have produced a great guide on planting trees -

2. An RHS guide:

Sunday, 25 July 2021

French Door Issues

Chris noticed that on one of our french door hinges the main screw was not screwed down and the rubber cap was well proud of the hinge. I screwed the bolt down so that the rubber cap would seat properly. See images below.

However Chris was concerned that if it was that easy to screw in the bolt which forms the hinge, it would
be easy to unscrew these on all three hinges and remove the door!

On investigation it turns out that there are "security grub screws" in each hinge, located so that they cannot be accessed from outside. These are to prevent the main bolts being turned once adjusted.

The worrying thing was that every one of our security existing screws was loose, one was missing, but luckily I had found it when we moved in and put it away safely in case it was useful. All required several turns with an Allen Key to tighten them so that they secured the main bolts. 
I suggest that everyone with this model of French Doors checks that the security grub screws are tight.....

(This is most definitely not my area of expertise, and if anyone knows more about these doors and their construction, please let me know).

Saturday, 3 July 2021

Fitting a TV Aerial

 Many people use satellite services to provide their TV programmes, but in the UK we have a very good terrestrial TV service - Freeview. There are some areas where the signal level is low but thankfully in our area the signal is very good.

The nearest TV Transmitter to Rayne Gardens is the Sudbury Mast, located between Sudbury, Suffolk and Bures, Suffolk, quite close to Braintree, Essex.

The two transmitter masts are located off Upper Road, picture below. (From Google Maps)

These provide powerful signals to the surrounding area.

The Freeview channels from the transmitter are listed below.

To get the best reception any loft aerial should be pointed at the transmitter, the direction from the Rayne Gardens Development is shown below.

Because of the proximity to the transmitter and the relatively unobstructed path a medium gain aerial is all that is required for those on the elevated parts of the development, but those on the lower lying parts may need a higher gain aerial.


A Philex 14 Element TV Aerial is shown below. (Medium Gain)


However this will only provide sufficient signal for one TV and if multiple TVs are to be fed from this aerial then an aerial amplifier is needed.


If there is no mains power in the loft, as is often the case, the amplifier can be power fed from one of the rooms with a TV.


An amplifier of this type is the “Wolsey WFAV 425 LTE 4 Way Variable Gain Masthead Amplifier with Power Supply Kit”. (Amazon)

However is power is available in the loft then a simple amplifier can be used.

On the Rayne Gardens Development TV cables are provided to many rooms, with the main area having multiple outlets to allow for both satellite receiver and Freeview aerial connection.


This arrangement will often mean that around six cables arrive in the loft area, typically.


3 for the main plate in lounge (Two for the satellite TV, one for Freeview)


1 for a second ground floor area


1 for the main bedroom


1 for a secondary room


All cables in the loft are of “Coaxial” construction, and fitting these with a connector is easy once a simple procedure is followed. A YouTube video explaining the procedure can be found at this location.

It is recommended that F-Connectors are used as these are easily fitted to the coaxial cable and adaptor can be used to adapt these to the common TV RF Connector where required. (F-Connector to TV RF Connector, adaptor – B&Q or similar)

If only one TV is to be fed the aerial can be connected directly to the coaxial cable feeding the room plate, but it is best to included connectors between the loft cable and a short length of coaxial cable fitted to the aerial as these allow testing and the future use of an amplifier if required. (An F-Connector to F-Connector adaptor will be needed – B&Q or similar)

Please note that the cables in the loft area should not be cut back, as a small additional length can be coiled and this will have negligible effect on the signal strength.


The TV aerial will generally be supplied with a simple diagram explaining how to terminate the coaxial cable, this generally with a “saddle and screw” arrangement.

Note: Locating the correct cable, in the loft, can be achieved through “trial and error” but ideally a meter should be used on the “ohms” scale and a short circuit applied at the room socket TV connection. (The cable showing a very low ohms reading will be the cable coming from the TV socket).


To those who have never installed an aerial this can look difficult but once the connections have been mastered it is very straight forward and anyone can do it.

Also many newer style TVs actually have a signal strength measurement within their menu system so the signal can easily be checked.

If your TV has never been connected to the Sudbury transmitter (most transmitters have their channels on different frequencies) then you should run through the TV's automatic digital aerial setup procedure with the aerial connected and directed towards Sudbury. The TV will automatically find and store all the channels it can detect, something which takes two or three minutes.