Warm Front: get a free insulation and heating upgrade

Get £3,500 worth of insulation and heating improvements for your home.

If you need some help with the cost of home insulation and heating improvements, Warm Front should be your first port of call. It’s a government-funded scheme managed by Eaga, offering grants of either £3,500 or (or £6,000 where oil, low carbon or renewable technologies are recommended) to pay for the upgrades. A Warm Front refurb will cut your carbon and make your home warmer and cheaper to run.

You can apply for a Warm Front grant through the website, although you’ll need to fit the qualifying criteria to be in the running.

Warm front qualifying criteria

1. Householders aged 60 or over in receipt of one or more of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Council Tax Benefit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Job Seekers Allowance (income-based)
  • Pension Credit
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

2. Householders with a child under 16, or pregnant women with maternity certificate MAT-B1, in receipt of one or more of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Council Tax Benefit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Job Seekers Allowance (income-based)
  • Pension Credit
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

3. Householders in receipt of one or more of the following benefits:

  • Working Tax Credit (with an income of less than £16,040, which must include a disability element)
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit (with an income of less than £16,040)
  • Housing Benefit (which must include a disability premium)
  • Income Support (which must include a disability premium)
  • Council Tax Benefit (which must include a disability premium)
  • War Disablement Pension (which must include a mobility supplement or Constant Attendance Allowance)
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (which must include Constant Attendance Allowance)
  • Attendance Allowance

Find out more

Planting: Win tickets to the Country Living Magazine Gala Evening

10:10 sign-up, Country Living Magazine are welcoming in the new season with a Spring Fair at Islington Business Design Centre from 24-28 March. We have 5 pairs of tickets to the opening Gala Evening, and we want you to have them.

All we ask in return is a few shots of you getting your hands dirty. We want to see pictures or videos of your 10:10 planting adventures; whether in digging, composting, pruning, planting or that final quiet cup of tea on the bench at the end of the day.

Send them over to planting@1010uk.org along with your address. Tickets will wing their way to the best five!

Find out more about the Gala Evening

Planting: What can I plant in March?

As part of our tips for planting month, we run through some of the tasty stuff you can start planting right now.

Plant asparagus in March and April. Photo: Esteban Cavrico

Asparagus

Plant
March–April. Plant ten one-year old crowns 15–20cm deep, 30cm apart in a single well-prepared row

Harvest
May–June

Likes
Very well-drained and slightly alkaline soil, clear of weeds, seaweed fertilizer

Dislikes
Cold and wet conditions, slugs

Varieties
Connover’s Colossal, Backlim, Gijnlim

Tips
Although slow to start, once established these perennial plants are trouble-free and last for up to twenty years. Parsley can be grown between crowns.

Broccoli

Sow
March–May (under cover for first month). Plant in 2–3 batches of 10–20 small plants, about 20–40cm apart (depends on variety) in rows

Harvest
June–October (Calabrese); January–April (purple sprouting)

Likes
Nitrogen-rich soil, sheltered site, lots of space (purple sprouting)

Dislikes
Slugs, snails, white fly – might need protecting from pests with netting

Varieties
Early Purple Sprouting Improved, Belstar (Calabrese)

Tips
Can suffer from disease “clubfoot”, which remains in soil for up to twenty years

Leeks

Sow
Grow small (15cm) plants from seed indoors, ready for planting out into deep, narrow holes in June; sow seeds outside in May with 10cm between plants.

Harvest
September–May

Likes
Sun, water

Varieties
Musselburgh (very hardy, dates back to 1834), Apollo

Tips
“Earth up” the emerging leek with soil to increase amount of white stem. Closer spacing of plants produces smaller leeks

Lettuce

Sow
Germinate seeds indoors for planting out February–September

Harvest
All year

Likes
Very rich soils with lots of nitrogen

Varieties
Cos: Corsair, Little Gem (takes over two months to develop a heart). Loose-leaved: Lollo Rosso, Lamb’s lettuce (small rounded green leaves), Catalogna (serrated leaves), Salad Bowl (green and dark red oak leaves)

Potatoes

Sow
Earlies March–May; maincrop mid to late April. Plant chitted potatoes 40cm apart into a 25cm deep, 30cm wide trench with dug-in manure at its base

Harvest
When flowers die down, the potatoes are ready to pick. Earlies: June–July. Maincrop: September (store over winter in a cool, dry environment)

Likes
Rich soil and potash (wood ash from stove or potash-rich comfrey); regular watering while flowering

Dislikes
Shade, frost, blight fungus

Varieties
First earlies: International Kidney (aka Jersey Royals). Second earlies: Kestrel or Wilja (high yield and good disease resistance); Charlotte (classic French salad potato). Maincrop: Belle de Fontenay (old French early main crop); Santé (excellent for organic growers as very resistant to pests and disease)

Tips
“Earthing up” the plants stops the tubers being ruined by sunlight and turning green. To do this, cover the plants with soil until only 10cm or so of foliage is visible. Expect to do this a few times each growing season

More on planting early potatoes

Rocket

Sow
All year round indoors; in summer outside

Harvest
All year, 3–4 weeks after sowing

Dislikes
Bolts (flowers) in hot weather

Varieties
Avanti

Tips
Very easy to grow; minimal pest problems

More on growing rocket

Spinach

Sow
Regular small sowings every three weeks from March–September

Harvest
April–November

Likes
Cool conditions

Varieties
Galaxy, Bloomsdale

Tips
Can bolt (flower) in hot weather. If you’re having problems try chard (also known as “perpetual spinach”) instead.

Tomatoes

Sow
Seeds (March–April) for planting out as small hardened-off plants (May/June)

Harvest
July–October

Likes
Fertile, well-drained soil, plant food and sun (a south-facing wall is perfect), regular light watering (to prevent splitting of skin)

Dislikes
Shade, white fly (plant marigolds to deter them)

Varieties
Alicante, Green Zebra (green/yellow stripes). Cherry: Cherry Belle, Sungold (yellow), Gardener’s Delight. Hanging baskets: Tumbler or Pearl; mix historic varieties

Tips
Keep plants focused on fruit (not leaf ) production: pinch off non-flowering sideshoots and the top of plant when fruiting. Green tomatoes make excellent chutney

Further reading

The ten easiest fruit and veg to grow

Expert advice on fruit and veg growing

March garden to-do list

Adapted from The Rough Guide to Green Living by 10:10′s resident carbon expert Duncan Clark.

Planting: Pick your plot

Even if all you have is a window sill, you can still try your hand at growing fruit and veg. As part of our planting month, we look at three common types of plot.

Allotments in Edinburgh. Photo: embra

What you can grow mostly depends on two things: the amount of time and effort you’re prepared to put in; and the kind of space you have available, including how much sun it gets and what the soil is like.

Allotments

British law requires local authorities to provide residents with low-rent plots – allotments – for growing fruit, vegetables and flowers. In the first half of the twentieth century, more than a million active allotments provided a significant slice of the UK’s fresh produce. After World War II, numbers fell rapidly right through to the turn of the millennium, since when they’ve made an impressive comeback.

Today, some councils have waiting lists running to many years, but in other places you might be able to secure an allotment in a matter of weeks or months. Even if you have to wait more than a year, it can be well worth it, as an allotment will give you enough space to grow a large proportion of your fruit and vegetables in return for a rent as low as £20 per year. Contact your local council for info on allotments in your area.

allotments-uk.com has lots of advice and a discussion forum for those just getting started.

Gardens

If you have a bit of outside space, a decent kitchen garden can be even better than an allotment. Having your plants just outside the home makes it much easier to look after them and helps reduce your car use. Even in smaller gardens, you can get a surprising amount from a  mini vegetable patch or a couple of raised beds.

When deciding which bit of your garden to dedicate to vegetables, the first thing to think about is sun. The more sunlight your plants get, the better they’re likely to turn out. The best plots get sun for most of the day, though you can achieve a lot with a few hours of uninterrupted sun in the growing season. West-facing plots are better than east-facing plots, since plants receiving limited light tend to prefer it in the warm afternoon rather than the cool morning.

The next consideration is the soil. If your garden already has rich, fertile, moist but well-drained earth then you have a huge head start. If the ground is sandy or rocky, dry or waterlogged, then it might be worth building a couple of raised beds and filling them with fresh compost. If you’re buying compost rather than making it yourself, stay climate friendly by choosing a variety that’s peat free.

Small gardens, patios, balconies and windowsills

Tomatoes growing on a patio. Photo: Bashed

If you’re limited to a patio, balcony or even a windowsill, you can still grow some fruit and vegetables. Even a humble windowbox can provide an impressive crop of herbs and cherry tomatoes.

If you have a patio with space for larger pots then you may get good results with peppers, chillies, aubergines, courgettes, beetroot, carrots and potatoes. Salads are well suited to containers of all sizes – particularly the “cut and come again” varieties that allow you to harvest just a few leaves at a time. As for fruit, strawberries can thrive in pots, and so can some fruit trees, including peaches, apricots and nectarines. Most of these plants will do perfectly well with peat-free compost, though it’s a good idea to add water-retaining crystals. If you’re using terracotta pots, water retention can be further improved by lining each pot with polythene, though don’t forget to make some holes at the bottom for proper drainage.

Adapted from The Rough Guide to Green Living by 10:10′s resident carbon expert Duncan Clark.

Planting: No garden? No problem

Welcome to the world of guerrilla gardening, where just about any patch of soil in a lay-by or traffic island can become a prime spot to grow some veg.

Denmark Hill, London by The Guerrilla Gardner

Guerrilla gardening has sprung up in cities around the world over the last decade, and has turned out to be one of the few things that anarchists and Sunday Telegraph readers can agree on. Sounds good to us.

To get started all you need is a patch disused land, some seeds or bulbs and a fertile imagination. But if you need a bit of advice or even some experienced guerrilla gardeners for your first dig, help is at hand. Guerrillagardening.org is a favourite resource and one of the original catalysts for the trend in the UK. On it you’ll find plenty of community advice on what to grow, where to grow it with and invitations to join existing digs that are planned for the coming months. They even have instructions on how to make your own seed bombs, a must-have in any guerrilla gardener’s arsenal. We interviewed founder Richard Reynolds on Twitter this afternoon, you can see the transcript below.

Pictures tell the story of Guerrilla Gardening better than we possibly could so here’s a selection from the Pimp Your Pavement Flickr group.

Guerrilla Sunflower

Guerrilla Sunflower

Guerrilla garden by ubrayj02

If you’re an experience guerrilla or are planning a first time dig in the near future we’d love to hear from you and even better, see some of your handywork, so do get in touch.

Here’s the transcript of our Twitter interview with Guerrillagardening.org founder Richard Reynolds.

@tentenuk: Welcome to the  Friday lunchtime Twitter chat. It’s Planting Month right now and we have @Richard_001 of guerrillagardening.org
@tentenuk: We’ve got some questions lined up for @Richard_001 but please jump in with any comments. And be sure to use . @Richard_001 how are u?
@richard_001: I’m good. And all the better for seeing my city (and guerrilla gardens) just got a soaking after a few dry days!
@tentenuk: Great to hear! So let’s begin, in two tweets or less @Richard_001 what is guerrilla gardening?
@richard_001: Gardening someone else’s land, err without asking. Usually public land, usually neglected. We adopt this orphaned space
@richard_001: That was a definition in one tweet!
@tentenuk: Guerrilla gardening seems to be on the rise, why now @Richard_001 ?
@richard_001: More of us in cities, less of us with land and the realisation that digging public places means you meet people
@tentenuk: Cool, we want to start gardening, so how does a regular 10:10er get involved @Richard_001 ?
@richard_001: Spot a plot near where you live, a tree pit, a shabby planter and get sowing and planting.  http://tinyurl.com/6fy6se
@tentenuk: You make guerrilla gardening sounds super easy! How about veg, what are the biggest vegetables you’ve grown @Richard_001 ?
@richard_001: Clumps of swiss chard in SE1… but fruit trees (not veg) are taller. Apples, pears. If you can dig a decent hole this works
@tentenuk: We’re talking to @richard_001 about guerrilla gardening. join in with any questions and see here for more: http://bit.ly/cEouil
@tentenuk: You mention SE1, what are your other favourite places to guerrilla garden @Richard_001? Have you gone international?
@richard_001: Guerilla gardening is best local. But via the GG Community http://tinyurl.com/y8n65qe you could dig with GGs all over Europe
@tentenuk: Ok, I’m sure like us everyone now wants to see the fruits of you labour. Any examples of photos, tweetphotos etc.@Richard_001
@richard_001: Here’s me and Wilm in Germany gardening in Garten Strasse outside a prison in Muenster http://tinyurl.com/ye8lgp8
@richard_001: Here’s a YouTube ‘gallery’ of what I’ve been involved with guerrilla gardening around London http://tinyurl.com/yg6cotr
@richard_001: And here’s an inspiring thriving chard photographed in Clapham http://tinyurl.com/yhel38j Not sure how tasty though!
@tentenuk: Wow, that’s a great video. Tell us, what do do local authorities have to say? They must be pretty happy with new shrubs? @Richard_001
@richard_001: Most local authorities turn a blind eye and the police can almost always be explained away when they know you’re not robbing
@tentenuk: Tell us about http://pimpyourpavement.org @Richard_001, is guerrilla gardening going mainstream?
@richard_001: http://pimpyourpavement.org This is my new campaign, to focus on micro local public gardens and invite authorities to help
@richard_001: My aim is that guerrilla gardening is so popular that we don’t need to be guerrillas anymore and the land is ours to garden!
@richard_001: The reality is that it’s more effective to garden these scraps of land as guerrillas and get permission (if ever) later
@tentenuk: Just a couple more questions to go in our Twitter interview with @Richard_001. If you have any questions get them in quick
@Ian_Preston76: @tentenuk @Richard_001 do you know of a good website to buy seeds? Need to get my tomatoes & beans in soon
@richard_001: You’re after seeds. Ideally find a local seed swap. Search “seed swap” or “seedy Sunday” and get local seeds
@lowcarbondiary: @Ian_Preston76 I always buy seeds from http://bit.ly/c78OlP very little packaging, good quality service & cheap!
@tentenuk: Can’t argue with that. Penultimate question from us: Seed Bombs, FTW!?! @Richard_001. Please explain
@richard_001: Seed bombs: a way of gardening ‘hard to reach’ or ‘hard to linger’ places. Definitive guide here: http://tinyurl.com/lb3r2r
@Childrensfood: @Richard_001 – let’s get growing taught in every school!
@richard_001: Absolutely yes, more growing at school. I had teachers who encouraged my digging the edge of the playground!
@tentenuk: Finally @Richard_001, what are you doing in 2010 to reduce your emissions by 10%
@richard_001: 1. Signed up 2. More bike 3. Less meat 4. Enjoying seasonal food 5. Off to four German cities next week by train to talk GG!
@tentenuk: That’s it from our lunchtime chat. We’re off to plant some Camden pavements. A HUGE  thanks to @Richard_001 for stopping by.
@richard_001: Thank you too. Good luck with pimping your pavement, guerrilla gardening I presume! http://www.guerrillagardening.org
@tentenuk: We have more on our  Planting month at http://1010uk.org and http://www.facebook.com/tentenuk
@tentenuk: Thanks to all who took part in the  gardening chat today. If you want some 10:10 stickers let us know.

The PassivHaus standard

It’s been called the last word in green building, and is starting to get a foothold in the UK. 10:10 Councils Coordinator Alexis Rowell explains the benefits of the PassivHaus standard.

The UK's first complete PassivHaus

The UK's first complete PassivHaus in Powys, Wales (image: passivhaus.org.uk)

10:10 Councils are already doing great work on insulation. Manchester and Camden have retrofitted Victorian houses with energy efficiency measures to create low carbon exemplars and show residents what can be done. As you might remember from the last councils email, Sheffield, Leicester and Kirklees are offering free cavity wall and roof insulation for residents in both social and private housing. Camden has come up with a cunning plan for installing cavity insulation in tower blocks using abseilers!

However the best thing councils can do to further the energy efficiency agenda is to introduce the PassivHaus standard for new buildings and refurbishments. The PassivHaus standard has been used for the last twenty years in Europe (particularly in Germany), and makes buildings so energy efficient that they don’t need central heating or air conditioning. This cuts their energy requirement by around 85% compared to a typical house. We simply cannot reach zero carbon homes by 2016 as the government has mandated without building on the work that has been done by the PassivHaus Institute in Germany and the architects around Europe who have created the PassivHaus buildings that exist today.

PassivHaus isn’t just about new build – it can be used to scope retrofit work as well. That’s lucky, because more than 80% of our buildings will still be standing in 2050. Passivhaus is now an aspiration in Camden Council’s draft Local Development Framework (LDF) which means our planners will be asking developers and architects who plan to work on sites in Camden to think about using the PassivHaus standard from mid-2010 when the LDF becomes policy.

So ask your property services people to use the PassivHaus standard if they’re building new buildings or refurbishing old ones. It will save money in the long run in terms of dramatically reduced energy bills.

Visit the PassivHaus UK website

Sustainability leadership training on two wheels

Looking to kick-start your 10:10 effort? We’re conspiring with the Otesha Project to offer 10 day bike tours designed to get your team on the right track and make your work environment a cleaner, greener, healthier and more productive place.

Hosted at the beautiful Fforest Camp at Cardigan Bay in Wales, 10:10 tourers will receive dedicated training on the best ways to reduce office energy use, get help putting together their 10:10 baseline data and learn behaviour change strategies that work. There’s also a short course option for those who can’t spare a week away from the office.

To find out more and book your place, head over to the Otesha website.