Shade sails are designed to provide outdoor protection from the sun and use a flexible membrane, tensioned between three or more anchor points, similar in form to a ships sail, hence the name. Sun canopies and sun awnings are designed to provide the same protection but are just slightly different in concept. This article discusses all three.
Shade sails first became popular commercially in Australia around the early 1970’s to provide an effective cover against the sun’s harmful UV rays but they have been around in a practical sense far longer than that. Ancient Egypt and Greece, and later the Romans, all employed large covers of fabric to provide sun cover. This was especially true for armies recovering or preparing for battle and who needed to keep out of the draining effects of the burning midday sun.
Shade sails have become very popular in hot countries like South Africa and Australia and have become an almost compulsory installation in schools and some public areas in those countries. As the world’s population has become more and more aware of the dangers of UV exposure, the practical use of shade sails has become appreciated and the increasing commercial viability of shade products means the industry has grown to the point where you can now buy shade sails that are not only practical and functional, but are also stylish, giving your garden or commercial outdoor area a fashionable look.
Buying Shade Sails, Sun Canopies and Awnings
There is a growing number of manufacturers coming onto the market, especially in China who are marketing shade sails at very competetive prices but beware that they are often of poor quality materials and will not last long if tensioned on a permanent basis. Its also important to check the fabric manufacturer’s guarantees of UV protection rating since some sub-standard polyethylene types don’t offer as much protection from the sun as they claim.
Modern shade sails are mostly manufactured from high density polyethylene which is a very strong and flexible knitted fabric. These modern polyethylene fabrics were specifically developed to provide protection from the sun, and in so doing they are manufactured with UV protection ratings. These fabrics are also designed to allow air to circulate, promoting a cooler environment, but this means that some fabrics do not always offer adequate UV protection as we have already said. If your supplier does not know what UV rating their sun shades are then look elsewhere.
Technology Shade sails are generally made from knitted fabrics which allow it to stretch in 3 dimensions, which is why it can be tensioned to make different 3 dimensional shapes. The knitted fabric of the quality materials allow the some air flow which means they don’t allow heat to build up beneath them and help create a cooler area beneath.
Shade sail shapes vary from triangular to to polygons, and by installing different shapes, colours and sizes, tensioned and overlapping in different ways, you can add a fun theme to your sunshade installation. Shade sails and awnings are tensioned usually by means of either a stainless steel turnbuckle or a pulley system fixed at each corner of the sail. For permanently fixed sails and awnings, the turnbuckle provides the best means of applying tension to the canopy. For sails and sun canopies that are to be used on an occasional bases, the pulley system is more practical since it can be set up and taken down in a couple of minutes.
Here are some other good examples of shade sails being put to good use:
This shade sail really compliments this classy deck area
Not the prettiest sails but very practical
Shade sail doing its job over a sunny patio
A collection of shade sails of varying size and color
Shade sails over a the swimming pool
Classy shade sails for a classy pool side
Big shade sail over a sunny driveway
POSTED BY admin ON June 17th, 2011. PERMALINK
Growing some fruit and vegetables is quite predictable, ie. a parsnip is generally the same reliable vegetable wherever you decide to grow it. The tomato on the other hand can vary greatly between being utterly delicious and a bitter thing you probably can’t do much with. This article explains the complicated nature of the humble tomato and some of the principles surrounding why it sometimes tastes good and sometimes tastes not so.
The problem of growing tomatoes is further challenged with the number of varieties available – which is the sweetest tasting, which is easiest to grow, what does well in a temperate climate? It pays to know a little about the deceptively complex tomato before you start home-growing it, if you want to get a good idea of how to nurture a good crop.
Why is the tomato such an uncertain hit and miss?
With roughly 400 acids, sugars and other volatile elements comprising the tomato its not surprising that they can be a complex thing to harvest. The constantly varying ratios of these unstable compounds within the tomato dictate what the state of your final crop will be. The colour change from green to red, for example, is indicative of a chemical transition within the fruit, as the acid balance moves from the weaker malic acid to the sharper citric acid concentration, and the dominant sugars are shifting from glucose to the sweeter fructose. The sharper citric acid actually makes the fructose seem even sweeter to our taste buds and the softening of the ripened tomato has a large effect on how texturally pleasant the fruit tastes to us individually.
When growing your own tomatoes, there is a fine line between achieving a nice ripe plump fruit and compromising the physical characteristics. As the flavour of the tomato develops, the fruit becomes softer and therefore more damage prone, and judging the right time to pick and use the fruit is half the fun, or skill. Supermarkets tend to take a cautious approach and focus on getting the fruit to the shelves intact, therefore picking them early when firm.
The problem with this of course is that the fruit has never properly had time to ripen on the vine and the results are often a bland flavour. This is one of the main reasons why growing tomatoes at home is attractive to those of us who value this fruit highly in our salads and cooking.
So, now that you know that the tomato is a complex and often difficult growing subject, you can have a little confidence in that its not entirely your fault if your crop turns out to be average, just enjoy giving them a go and see what happens. Many gardeners persevere year after year without attaining a perfect tomato whilst beginners get it right first time, it depends on what your growing, where your growing them, the season we have, how you care for them, and of course – a little bit of luck!
Varieties of Tomato
A good rule of thumb when growing tomatoes for the first time is to try at least three different varieties and see which ones thrive if at all. Ditch the ones that don’t seem to do well for you – it may be just the climate you are living in – and try other varieties until you find something you are happy with. Of course this is little expensive in terms of cost and time but it pays to do a little research yourself believe me.
Of the larger varieties the ‘Gardener’s Delight’ is particularly common variety that is worth trying first off, as is the ‘San Marzano’, the ‘Orange Bourgain’ and the ‘Costuluto Fiorentino’. The ‘Brandywine’ and ‘Burpees Delicious’ are also outstanding and reliable types and the ‘Black Krim’ has a remarkable red-black skin and a lovely flavour that is perfect for salads and salsas. Of the yellow varieties, the ‘Sungold’ is sweet and delicious. For growing tomatoes in a hanging basket ‘Tumbling Tom’ is the one to try (see the following link for information on making an upside down tomato planter if you are thinking of growing ‘Tumbling Tom’ tomatoes upside down.
If you are growing your tomatoes outdoors then opt for a variety that ripens early since they generally need less warmth for producing fuller ripened fruit, most cherry tomatoes are good for this.
How to Grow
If growing from seed, start your seedlings off under cover in a seed tray or something similar. When they have their first true leaves (these follow the initial pair of ’seed’ leaves) then move each seedling to its own 10cm pot, planting them about 5mm below the height of the seed leaves. When they get to 20cm tall, plant them out in a sheltered sunny spot in a good quality compost or well-rotted manure. If you are considering growing tomatoes upside down then this is also the right time to move your seedling to your hanging planter or tomato garden. Your plants will need some support – use canes for the taller single-stemmed (sometimes called ‘indeterminate’ varieties) and shorter sticks or netting for the smaller bush types (sometimes called ‘determinate’ varieties).
The bottom line is that tomatoes want water, sun and feeding so make sure they get all three. Tomatoes have two sets of roots – one deeper set for drinking and a surface set for feeding. This should help you understand how to water and feed them. Deeply planted specimens might benefit from a piece of pipe next to the plant to help get the water down to the deeper roots. Upside down plants in planters, watered from above may have an advantage in this respect. It isn’t imperative to go to these lengths but some growers firmly believe that surface watering dilutes the flavour of the fruit for some reason.
After the plants start to flower, the fruit will start and this is when you could start drenching your plants once a week with Comfrey tea or seaweed feed that will definitely make a difference to the crop. Watering ‘little and often‘ is the key now – overwatering your crop after a drought period will cause split fruit.
Shoots that develop between stems and main leaves should be removed by simply pinching them off between thumb and finger- this helps conserve nutrients and water for the fruit and helps reduce shading by the foliage itself. It is also advisable to cut the top off the plant when six trusses have fruit on them so that you can concentrate on developing a limited but healthy and juicy crop rather than overburdening the plant with too many fruit which usually results in a lot of fruit but of a mediocre quality. Some gardeners also like to pull off some leaves as the fruit ripens to help reduce shading and promote air circulation around the plant, which helps reduce disease. There is a definite balancing act between leaving enough leaves for the plant to photosynthesise properly and remain healthy but still getting enough light and air to the fruit.
The outdoor harvest is mainly August to September, depending on your climate but indoors it can stretch from June to September, depending on your growing conditions and planting schedule. If some of the tomatoes are ripening too slowly behind the others and are not getting enough sun then you can pick them on preferably sunny day and put them somewhere warm and sunny to ripen.
Pests and Problems
Tomatoes can suffer from blight (see below) which is a fungal disease (Phytophthora infestans), which if not caught early enough will ruin your crop. Spores are spread by the wind and rain so indoor crops, or those under cover in poly-tunnels and the like, should be less affected than those exposed to the elements. Check the leaves of your plants regularly for brown blotches (see image), mostly during late summer when blight is most prevalent. Growing tomatoes next to certain other ‘companion’ plants can be very helpful for counteracting pests such as aphids – garlic and nasturtiums will repel aphids with their smell, and basil draws aphids away from your prize crops. Companion planting tomatoes with Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis) is helpful in repelling tomato worm, whitefly and asparagus beetle.
If your tomatoes, or indeed any of the other solanaceae family, such as potatoes, develop brown blotches on their leaves, then they may well have been infected by blight (Phytophthora infestans). Blight is a fungal disease that can spread rapidly throughout the plant affecting all parts including the edible fruits. If you don’t recognize and deal with it early on you may lose your whole crop to this condition.
Blight is most common in late summer and thrives in warm and moist conditions. The fungal spores spread mainly on the wind so indoor plants are often unaffected. Because blight is most common during late summer and you have persistent problems then you can either choose to deal with it, grow and garvest your crops early in the season when blight isn’t so commonplace, and/or choose to grow the more persistent varieties namely ‘Ferline’ and ‘Legend’.
To deal with blight you need to try and remove and burn the affected leaves and stems before the roots become affected. It takes 3 weeks for blight spores to die so avoid digging up any affected plants for 3 weeks after clearing away and destroying any affected foliage. You need to be quite ruthless in removing every single scrap of foliage trhat may be affected since even a small area left will allow the fungus to spread again. Hygiene is vital when dealing with blight,ensure good circulation around your plants and to be on the safe side do not reuse any of your existing seeds for the following year, but get new ones from a reputable supplier.
Keeping and Eating Tomatoes
Tomatoes have an affinity with many other fruits and vegetables and herbs such as basil especially. Cheeses, olives and anchovies also make very good compliments to tomatoes in salads. Whereas its tempting to keep your tomatoes in the refrigerator, the cold temperature dramatically affects their flavour (which is why you rarely see them chilled at the supermarket), so keep them cool but not cold.
some of the many varieties of tomato
Some further resources for information and tips on growing tomatoes:
POSTED BY admin ON December 26th, 2009. PERMALINK
Wicker baskets and furniture dating back as far as the iron age and ancient Egypt were made soley from natural fibres, namely rattan cane, willow, reed and bamboo. But modern wicker ware can be made from both natural fibres or synthetic materials such as plastic. Wicker is very practical and popular because its aesthetically pleasing, strong and druable, and is also very light compared to mainy other materials. While natural wicker made from materials such as rattan vine is unbeaten for beauty, it tends not to be so durable long-term as modern synthetic materials, namely plastic and resin, which tend to fair better against the elements and so have become popular alternatives for outdoor use.
For the stylish practical home, wicker baskets can contribute a very attractive rustic look and fill a lot of practical roles, such as: firewood storage, vegetable/fruit storage, flower/shrub/herb planters etc etc. Below are some stylish examples of wicker baskets being used in a range of different, practical roles.
POSTED BY admin ON November 7th, 2009. PERMALINK