Top Tips and How To
Fences are the backdrop for our gardens. Like a canvas, our plants, trees and other garden features create a picture – all framed by our garden fence.
There are lots of fence styles to choose from – from traditional overlap fencing to undulating Paloma style fence panels. But for some, the usual choices aren’t enough to satisfy their creative vision.
If you want to make a bolder statement with your fence line, we’ve gathered lots of creative fencing ideas for how to use your fence to add something extra special to your garden.
Here are some ideas for your next garden makeover:
A simple way to spice up your garden fence is to give it a splash of colour. From softer greens and blues to bright pinks and purples, there is a shade for every taste. Plus, if you fancy a change next season, just grab the paint brush and you can match the latest trends.
If you are particularly gifted with the paint brush or even the spray can, you can use your artistic flair to create an art piece to show your personality and make a gallery in your own garden.
Using unusual planters can liven up a fence. From brightly coloured tin cans to the humble welly, your imagination is your only limit when planning planters for your fence.
Using lighting on your fence line can add real drama to your garden. Whether you use candles, solar lighting or call in the electrician, the use of garden lighting will have real impact.
Add Something Different
Wheel hubs? Marbles? Twigs? Think outside the box when decorating your fence and you’ll be rewarded with a truly unique fence.
During winter, there aren’t as many gardening jobs to be done. The ground - frozen solid. The flowers? Long gone. If you can brave the cold, what better time to get outside and give your tired, old fence panels a new lease of life?
The all-important preparation:
Firstly, check your panels thoroughly, especially if they’ve been around for a few years. Wicked winter winds could have caused damage: loosening fixings, snapping battens and cracking slats of wood. In a particularly bad storm this could cause your panel to go cartwheeling across the garden – no one wants that! A little bit of sprucing also doesn’t hurt: remove those pesky cobwebs, lichen and weeds.
Choosing your treatment:
Try and calculate how much treatment you’ll need. This will vary from product to product, and we’d also recommend sticking to reputable, established brand names. Picking the best colour for your panels from the plethora now available is a little trickier. Maybe this is the year to opt for a bold, statement shade to liven up your garden? Top tip: buy two tins and keep the receipts. The nights are drawing in and you don’t want to run out of time should you underestimate and have to pop to the shops!
Treating your panels:
Remember to look at the weather forecast - treating fence panels would be a rather miserable task in the pouring rain! Once any necessary repairs and replacements have been carried out, it’s time to paint your panels. To begin, simply do what it says on the tin! It should be fairly self-explanatory; stir the contents carefully and away you go. Make sure to use the appropriate equipment - high quality brushes or a purpose-built sprayer are a must.
Sit back and relax:
Once you’ve finished, admire your handiwork. Doesn’t your garden look so much better now? You’ve certainly earned a hot cup of tea and a biscuit after all that hard graft. Now you can rest knowing your panels are protected for another few years, and you didn’t trample any plants in the process. Job well done!
Every wooden fence has a lifespan and that can, unfortunately, be shortened by a number of factors. If the fence has been damaged by the elements, or an errant football, or has been in constant and direct contact with the soil, things may rot earlier than expected. Repair is possible.
If a whole section of the panel is rotten, try easing it away from the supporting posts using a crowbar. Gently open up a gap between the post and panel to expose any nails. Then you can simply hacksaw through the nails to allow you, and a friend, to lift the damaged panel away. It can then be repaired by sliding out individual slats and replacing with new. Remember to hammer down the nails left in the post or pull them out using pliers before refitting the repaired panel.
Broken fence posts
Wobbly fence panels are often a sign that a fence post has given up the ghost – but it too can be repaired. Spurs (not Tottenham) can be fitted alongside the post, sinking into the soil with the sound part of the post affixed to this solid support spur. Complete rails can also be easily repaired. Metal spurs can again be used to connect sound wood to sound wood negating the need to either replace the whole rail or even the complete panel.
Replace the fence panel
Obviously, if any damage is beyond repair, or the repair itself is prohibitively costly, it may be better to replace the whole panel or post completely. Just make sure that you erect the panels and posts correctly to get the best from them over the longest time possible. And perhaps ban football in the garden (never!).
Earlier this month, we spoke with Lisa Fearn from The Pumpkin Patch to talk about the importance of getting children into gardening and the valuable skills they can learn from doing so. Lisa spoke to us about the classes The Pumpkin Patch run, favourite recipes for homegrown food, and seasonal cooking.
Our interview with The Pumpkin Patch
1. You have five children of your own who all love gardening. How did you get them into it to start with?
It wasn’t a matter of getting them into it, they just started helping in the garden. When they were very little they used to play in a sand pit just next to me in the garden. I’d dig the soil and they would dig in the sand! They soon started joining me in the garden and would help to plant up young plants and sow seeds… usually all over the place, but it didn’t matter. We just used to see where they’d pop up!
2. You’ve taken the enthusiasm your own children have for growing and harvesting food and started The Pumpkin Patch kitchen and garden school. How much do you believe your work benefits local children and families?
One of the original aims of the cookery school was to EDUCATE children about food and diet, where it comes from, how we grow it, and what we can do with it. It's not all sugar and sprinkles at the Pumpkin Patch. We grow and harvest our vegetables and we teach about traditional and wholesome family food.
Numeracy and literacy are discussed while children weigh and prepare their ingredients. The difference between a currant and a current, and how they differ from raisins and sultanas, and where they grow in the world is an important part of a Pumpkin Patch workshop.
Children and parents alike LEARN new and interesting relevant facts about food and cookery. WE often have private lessons for school groups, groups and organisations; we see children's confidence grow as they mix with new children and learn in a non-school environment.
3. How important is it that children are taught about their food and how to harvest it from a young age?
Knowledge about our food affects the way we eat and cook, and this will result in improved health, which will filter through to the next generation.
Cooking and gardening are two skills that have been lost somewhere during the past two generations. We offer gardening (grow your own) as part of the cookery workshops, and link into other related topics including information about food, diet, composting, recycling and the wider global issues relating to food. Nutrition and health, both physical and emotional are also included. As The Pumpkin Patch strives to educate people about the benefits of healthy eating, it uses traditional Welsh recipes that have been handed down through the generations.
4. You offer a range of classes and parties on your website to help get adults and groups of children interested in growing and making their own food. What sort of topics do you cover in your classes?
- How to create a raised bed for a veg patch
- How to plant it up, with easy to grow veggies and fruit
- How to look after them, water them, weed the patch, harvesting & storage.
- How to cook them or prepare them, what to make with the wonderful harvest
5. You try to use seasonal produce in your classes. What sort of recipes can you cook with pumpkins or squashes?
We make the obvious things such as pumpkin soups and stews & tagine. I like to think a pumpkin or a squash can be used in any recipe that uses sweet potato. I’ve made pumpkin cake which includes the grated flesh of the pumpkin. Another good recipe is roast pumpkin with spices such as paprika and cajun spices for a bit of a hot kick. Combine the roasted spiced soft flesh with some cream cheese to make a dip for fresh bread.
6. A lot of people know about sloe gin, but are there any other recipes you could recommend to use sloes or damsons in?
I love a damson and autumn berry compote which is great in a crumble or use it as a topping for ice cream or in the base of an autumn fruit trifle. For breakfast, add it to your granola and yoghurt. It’s totally versatile!
To make it:
Slice your fruit, and remove any stones. I use nectarines or peaches that may be passed their best. Place ½ Tbsp butter in a frying pan, add the fruit and fry until
heated through. Add the other soft fruit, such as autumn raspberries or some late strawberries - I actually harvested a handful last week (mid-October). Plums are great too!
Add enough sugar to sweeten, this will depend on which fruit you use.
Add your free autumn berries, such as blackberries and damsons, & cook for a few minutes to soften. Allow to cool then store in the fridge or freeze until you need it.
7. Do you have a favourite seasonal recipe to make?
Butternut Squash with Coconut
- 500g shallots
- 1.5kg squash deseeded and roughly chopped
- 2tbsp veg oil
- 3 red peppers deseeded and roughly chopped
- 3 cloves of Garlic
- 2tbsp of Cajun seasoning
- 150ml veg stock
- 400ml can of coconut milk
- 400g can of chopped tomatoes
- oil for frying
- Heat 2tbsp of oil in a large saucepan, add the peppers and shallots and fry gently for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened and browned.
- Add the squash, garlic and Cajun seasoning with the coconut milk, tinned chopped tomatoes and the stock
- Bring to the boil, and then reduce the heat. Cover and cook gently for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veg are tender.
- Leave to cool off 10 minutes before serving.
Featured image credit: David Marsden
Earlier this month, we spoke to David from The Anxious Gardener about how he became a self-employed gardener, how other people can do the same, and some great tips for attracting wildlife to your garden. Check out our interview below.
Our interview with The Anxious Gardener
1. You started gardening 10 years ago, has much changed between then and now?
For me, the major change in the last ten years has been the smartphone. Not only does it allow me to interact easily with people on social media (in what can otherwise be a lonely profession), but more importantly it gives me immediate access to a whole world of gardening know-how. If I'm unsure or I've forgotten when to prune a particular shrub or the conditions a certain plant prefers, I can find out the answer instantly. I still keep a hefty RHS encyclopaedia at work and it is excellent … but I use it less and less.
2. Do you think more people are getting into gardening now than before?
Gardening has always been a popular past-time and I don't know whether it is more popular now than when I started. But the internet allows a vast number of people to blog about gardening or their gardens; to post photos on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter; and gardeners all over the world can now easily connect and share ideas. Maybe the number of gardeners over the past ten years has remained fairly constant, but the numbers talking about it has certainly ballooned.
3. Is it easy to become a self-employed gardener, for example after changing professions or as an additional income?
Personally, the hardest part was making the decision to become self-employed. But actually, though the idea was a little daunting, the reality was pretty straightforward. I'd suggest paying an accountant or book-keeper to complete your tax return, at least initially. I paid my book-keeper about £200 a year but I easily recouped more than that with her advice on various tax-deductible expenses.
The next hurdle, of course, is finding work. I know several gardeners who did so by printing leaflets and posting them through letterboxes in the areas they wanted to work in, i.e. areas with big gardens! Once you're working and have woo-ed your clients with your charm, wit, good looks and hard work, you'll hopefully be inundated by word of mouth offers. Both my partner (who also gardens for a living) and I regularly turn down work because we're fully booked. There is plenty of gardening work out there, it's just a question finding it.
Gardening can be a fairly easy career path for many people wanting a change and I think there are more people choosing it, especially in later life. The other day I met an ex-teacher who made the switch and has never been happier. I also know care-workers, an artist, postmen, a shop worker and a musician who have all taken up professional gardening.
4. How did you become a self-employed gardener?
I began by working part-time in a trade alpine nursery. It was hard work in all weathers but I loved working outdoors and being amongst thousands of tiny gorgeous plants. I learnt a great deal about cuttings, seed sowing and propagation by division, as well as general plant care; all of which has stood me in good stead. Then I moved to a garden centre which, when you're constantly being asked questions by customers, is the perfect environment to learn about a wide range of plants very quickly. At about the same time, I worked a few hours a week with a small gardening business and, when working in the garden of a famous musician, I met the gardener. Chatting to her and seeing her at work gave me the confidence to think, I could do this! After a year at the garden centre, the job of gardener at The Priory, opposite my house, became vacant. You can imagine how ecstatic I was when I got my dream job a few minutes walk from my front door.
5. You work primarily with two different gardens, one in South Downs National Park and one in Sussex Weald. What work do you do on these gardens?
Both properties are holiday homes and so I am both gardener and, to an extent, caretaker during the owners' absence. My work is exactly what you would expect: I mow the lawns, strim the edges, cut hedges, plant and weed the borders, grow a few vegetables (and a lot of tomatoes in one garden) and do an awful lot of watering. I also liaise with a range of tradespeople – tree surgeons, nursery staff, mechanics, builders, carpenters, mole-catchers and other gardeners when I need help with a big job or holiday-cover. Oh, and I make the gardens look nice.
6. Part of your work in Sussex Weald is making compost on a large scale. What sort of things do you put into the compost, and how do you make sure there is enough to go around?
The majority of the material for the compost bins is lawn clippings of which we produce a huge amount. Clippings take an age to break down if just dumped in a heap but by adding loads of other plant material from the gardens, as well as newspaper and cardboard, and turning the heaps several times, I produce about 4 cubic metres of excellent compost annually. I have seven large compost bins, which might sound excessive but I wish I had two more. I'm also a bit fanatical about making leaf mould; both this and the compost give me plenty of wonderful, rich organic matter for mulching borders, shrubs and the veg beds. I rarely run out.
7. You’ve also written about gardening to encourage wildlife on your blog. What tips could you give to home gardeners or garden owners to help wildlife in their gardens?
I'd suggest the easiest, most sure-fire way to attract wildlife to your garden is to provide water. A small pond will draw amphibians, birds and all sorts of insects very quickly. Even a bird bath, topped up with fresh water, will soon attract birdlife and drinking insects. If you haven't the space for a pond, an old water tank or wooden barrel, perhaps with a solar powered pump, can work just as well; especially if you can ensure that animals can get in and out easily. A bird feeder and nest box are other obvious additions; as are nectar rich flowers to bring bees and butterflies into your garden. And finally, avoid pesticides and herbicides - unless they're organic.
Need to know what to do in your garden but don't know where to start? We've looked at 4 key areas for gardening and provided 5 top tips for each to help you make a start on your garden. Our 4 key areas of focus are:
- Seasonal Gardening - we've covered tips for the whole year, not just the current season, but if you want to know more in detail about month-by-month gardening head over to Shedstore's blog
- Eco-Friendly Gardening - eco-friendly gardening is a huge part of making sure that you are doing your bit to help the environment while you enjoy your garden! Find out more about eco-friendly gardening here
- Growing Your Own - growing your own food is becoming more and more important, and popular! We look at some great ways to get started here but for more information check out our grow your own posts
- Wildlife Gardening - we all love wildlife, so it's time to make sure they are safe and happy in our gardens! You can also find out more about wildlife and wildlife gardening on our blog
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A fence panel isn't complete without a sturdy gravel board. They protect the panel from moisture rising from the soil and will help retain aggregates stay in the garden. You cannot forget about them when putting up a fence.
Gravel board – why bother?
You can erect a fence without gravel boards. You can, of course, have a wish to replace that fence earlier than you otherwise do! Even when a wooden fence has a guarantee against rot, it will quickly get damaged either physically from stones and errant mowers and will rot quickly when on direct contact with the soil. A solid gravel board will always make a fence look better.
Types of gravel board
Wooden gravel boards look great and are easy to cut to size. Always include them with any fencing order. Make sure that each board has been pressure treated with a preservative to ensure longevity. Many people opt for concrete gravel boards, especially when fixing fence panels between concrete posts. They simply slide into the grooves in the concrete post. However, if any need cutting to size they do take a bit more work and create clouds of dust. The plus side is that they last for decades and are relatively maintenance free. A wash down will clean things up and get rid of algae build up.
How and when to fit gravel boards:
When to fit
Do it every time you fit a new fence panel ( unless the existing one is still in good condition – a poke about with a screwdriver will find rotten areas) and fix them in position once the panels are up and solid. That's because fence panels may vary ever so slightly from one to the other and if they have to fit a fixed space you will have to cut them down to size ( shaving a centimetre of the end of a framed panel is a real pain) It's so much easier to saw through a gravel board. If you do get the saw out treat any cut ends of gravel board with preservative to reduce the risk of rotting.
How to fit
It's easy to fit a gravel board. Get your posts and panels up and to your liking, and then fit small chunky pieces of wood near the base of the posts. Then screw the gravel board to these blocks. Simple. It makes it easier to replace (gravel boards are the most likely part of your overall fencing to rot first) and it's way cheaper than having to replace a whole panel or even worse, a run of a few rotten panels. Use galvanised screws throughout your installation to ensure ease of replacement and to reduce rusting.
Don't for one second consider fitting a gravel board without a spirit level. In fact, that goes for all your panels. 'I'll judge it by eye' will only highlight one major flaw – that your eye cannot judge levels! If the ground is sloping then step the boards and fences. Take you time, pencil it all out on paper before you break the soil with a spade and use that spirit level till the bubble bursts (they don't – but you get the sentiment)
Top Tips and techniques:
Direct or suspended?
Some people place the gravel boards directly on the soil. Others raise them a little of the soil surface. The thinking is that if they are directly on the soil all aggregates will be held in the garden. However, raise them a little and it allows water to run through preventing all chances of localised flooding or puddles. I like a little gap between the bottom of the gravel board and the soil surface. I like the idea of air circulation, access and exit points for water and a board that will last longer. If you are 'on the surface' make sure the soil is level, firmed and even add a layer of sand to bed the board into.
Everyone loves hedgehogs in the garden for their voracious appetites for all things slug-like. However, they are becoming scarcer partly due to gardens becoming more secure. All a hedgehog needs is a hole in a fence or hedge the size of a small football and bingo, they are free to roam around a wider territory munching on more molluscs as they go. Now, obviously, a solid wall of gravel board stops that freedom of movement. Before erecting a run of fencing, including gravel boards of course, maybe you should look into creating gaps in the fencing (perhaps cut the gravel board - easy if you have a couple stacked on top of each other) to help the hogs in our hedges. Your garden will be better for it.
Earlier this month, we spoke to Alison from The Blackberry Garden about setting up a garden from scratch to get some excellent tips for people just getting started with gardening, and especially for people who work full time and want to know how they can make the most of their garden. Take a look at our interview with Alison below.
Our interview with The Blackberry Garden
1. What made you decide to set up a garden from scratch?
I had always been interested in gardening but I had a very small garden and I knew I wanted to expand what I was able to do. I was looking to move house anyway when I found this property with a large grassed lawn but virtually no planting at all. I was really excited by the thought of this as it meant I could do pretty much exactly what I wanted with the space. I always tell people I bought the garden, the house just happened to come with it.
2. What are some tips you would give to anyone wanting to create a garden?
Firstly take your time, the temptation is to rush right in and I admit I did start some planting before I actually properly moved in. Also, plant in stages, so my early plantings were fairly removable if they did not suit what I later wanted to achieve. The most important advice I was ever given was that it was not a good idea to rip up all the lawns to create all the borders at once. It is far easier to mow the lawn than it is to weed borders and it meant that I could develop the garden area by area and not overload myself. That is definitely my top tip – pace yourself.
3. On your website, you talk about the different gardens that you have lived with, which would you say is your favourite and why?
That is actually quite difficult to answer, I think my favourite garden is the one I currently have because I have spent so much time on it and put so much of myself into it. But I am incredibly fond of the garden I had in the railway cottage. It was there my obsession for gardening really took off and I made many of my early mistakes in that garden. It will always have a place in my heart.
4. How long did it take you to get your garden to the way it is now and what has been the hardest part?
I have been working on this garden for nine years now. The hardest part and probably the most frustrating has been the front garden. My initial moves to make into a knot garden were a disaster as I did not prepare the area properly. I fought constantly with perennial weeds for several years and it was only when I pared the design right down that I began to feel even remotely happy with it. I love my knot garden but there are times I do think that leaving a lawn there would have been much simpler.
5. How do you manage to maintain such a beautiful garden alongside working full time?
It does depend very much on the time of year but I do spend a lot of my weekend time in the garden. In the summer I will sometimes do an hour or so in the evening when I get home, I always have a wander around to deadhead roses etc. It doesn’t really take that much time once the season is in full swing. It is densely planted and that keeps some weeds down and also means I cannot see many. If I cannot see them then I take the attitude that they don’t exist. Because I love gardening so much I do not think about the time it takes, I only think about time that I lose when I am away from it.
6. For someone who is a complete beginner, what are the main things you would need to do to start growing your garden and making it your own?
Plant something – anything, even if it is just a packet of nasturtium seeds. Once you have planted something and seen it grow then I think it leads you to plant more.
7. We love your plant of the year and irritating plant of the year awards. What guidelines do you give yourself when judging these?
In the first year of the Plant of the Year Award, it was just one day when I was musing to myself in the garden that the particular plant had performed really well. The next year I was wondering how to decide again and I then realised I had photographed one plant and commented on it more than any other. This year I am starting to think about drawing up a proper shortlist. There seems to be strong competition in the garden as several plants have been quite amazing this year.
The Irritating Plant meme started in much the same way, I was looking at a plant and just thinking how really annoying it was. I liked it as a plant, but it seemed set on annoying me by not performing. There seems to be quite strong competition for this category as well!
8. You review other gardens that you’ve been to visit. For you, what makes the most amazing garden?
That really depends, what I do like is an exciting use of colour and something new to me. I look at some gardens and think that they are ‘safe’ and do not offer anything new (which might just be new to me, it does not have to be cutting edge new design). I like good planting, a good choice of plants set out well. I also like a well-structured garden. Some gardens I visit I can see maybe past their glory days, but their structure is good and you can almost imagine what it would have looked like in its heyday. I am a particular fan of Italianate Gardens and so visiting them generally makes me very happy.
All images are credited to Alison Levey, The Blackberry Garden.
Go for chunky, solid, well made gates for years of easy access.
Never skimp when buying your gate as it is the one piece of the garden that potentially is being opened, shut, slammed and swung on for years. Quality is the key to a successful gate.
Choosing the right gate
If you are buying a brand new gate, choose carefully to ensure it matches existing fencing or property. The 5-bar gate is a classic gate and well suited to estates, large driveways and country style properties.
Side gates are usually solid, tall and capable of stopping anyone scaling them at will. Security is often a reason for a gate in the first place. Wooden gates should always be pressure treated to prevent rotting for at least 15 years and all metal fittings and screws should be galvanised to prevent unsightly and corrosive rusty marks.
Such gates come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and the choice is endless if you include bespoke gates. There are standard sizes of gates available and if you are simply buying new then great – just base your choice on style and quality. If, however, you are replacing an existing gate that has rotted or worn out, then do measure carefully. Older gates may have been made to an older specification, or even made to measure, so never assume a new gate will slip into an old space. When measuring, measure in both metric and imperial systems. This saves any possible mistakes when converting your hastily scribbled notes when at the retailer or online.
Gates are usually screwed to a post which in turn is bolted to a wall. That's the ideal – solid and built to last. Always check posts are in good condition before screwing on your new gate. You wouldn't build a wall on shaky foundations so don't do it with your gate.
Posts should be bigger for larger gates – a big 5-bar gate is heavy and will easily rip out dingy fixings from rotten posts. I like to set the posts in concrete, sloping the top of the concrete away from the base of the post to prevent water puddling which increases the chances of rotting.
It's a good idea to allow all concreted posts to set for a week or so (so they can 'go off') before hanging your gate. Gates are heavy – as you will find out when trying to manipulate one into place! Posts can be bolted into walls but again, use quality, heavy duty fixings.
How to fit a garden gate
Lay out flat your gate and fixings. You will also need plenty of wooden blocks of different sizes, and old tiles if handy for temporarily packing up gates to ensure everything is level.
A spirit level is, of course, essential and I do like to rope in a friend to help. All gates, even the smallest, are awkward to handle, manoeuvre and fix when battling solo. Make sure you have your gate the correct way round as there is usually a front and a back (the flat, finished face is usually facing outwards with supports on the inside)
Fix the hinges to the gate before you fix the gate to the posts (or wall) then offer up the fixed hinges to the posts and fix using a couple of screws.
Don't compositely fix using all the screws until everything is level and you are happy with the look. Use the spirit level! Tighten the screws up, keep that spirit level handy and in use at all times.
When fitting remember that gates need to have some clearance underneath them to ensure you don't rake out the ground, damage your gate, or cause blockages to rainwater. 20mm is a good size for a clearance gap. Those wooden blocks, chocks and tiles come in handy here.
Check, check and check again
Once your gate, or the first gate of the pair is fitted, ensure it is in good working order. Clearance should be good, allowing an unimpeded, smooth operation. If all is OK get those other screws in before the gate starts its lifetime of hard work. Finish it all off by fitting a quality, galvanised latch and away you go....one perfectly fitted gate.
- Never skimp on quality – a gate is a hard working member of your garden team
- All metal should be lacquered and galvanised to prevent rusting
- Spirit levels are a must – never trust your eye!
- Get things level and in line for a perfect finish
- Check everything is in working order before fitting latches and catches
Whatever time of year it is, there’s always something to do in the garden. It’s great exercise for both mind and body – figuring out why something is thriving or barely surviving, and working out how something will come out in the future are hugely rewarding for any gardener. The interaction between gardener and the environment – and particularly how it changes from spring to winter – is what elevates gardening from outdoor decoration to an art form.
Step into spring
From March to May, when the days are lengthening and the earth is awakening, you’ll have crocuses, daffodils, and cherry blossom to brighten up your garden. Now is the time to clear up after winter and begin to imagine how your summer garden will look.
Getting things tidy again after winter is key. Get your lawn under control, deal with your early weeds and tidy up your perennials. Your greenhouse can enjoy the fresh air on warmer days by opening the vents or door, and you can feed the fish in your pond. Prune your roses, trees, and any overgrown plants for the start of summer so that they have plenty of opportunity for growth.
Spring is a great time to plant some summer flowering bulbs and the hardier vegetable varieties like Brussels sprouts, cabbages, asparagus and early potatoes. Your herb garden will benefit from basil, thyme, and sage, and by the end of spring, you should have got your tomatoes, onions and peppers underway. Think about where you could put some hanging baskets and perhaps give your shed and fences a fresh coat of stain before the summer comes to prepare them for the changing season.
Occasionally there can be a late frost, so don’t plant out your seedlings at the first signs of spring. Instead, if you have a greenhouse you can plant new seedlings in there for the time being while the ground fully warms up. It is also crucial at this stage that you keep your eyes open for early signs of pests and predators – aphids and birds will be eyeing up your vegetables at the earliest opportunity so it might be worth investing in a growing cage or protective covers for your plants to help deter them.
The great British summer
As May gives way and the summer sets in, you’ll be spending more and more time in the garden enjoying the long summer days from June to August when your garden should be blooming.
Deadhead your roses and flowers regularly, and perhaps use the petals for fragrance or an exotic dish, and by the end of the season, you’ll need to be lifting any strawberry runners to stop them spreading. Stake any plants that have grown too big to support themselves and remember to be vigilant with weeds. Your lawn will need to be mown every week as well to make sure it is still looking great and isn’t getting too long.
Watering is a key part of summer, but do it early or late in the day and use your water butt wherever possible. Top up your pond and make sure your greenhouse is aired, or move plants out into the garden if they are ready so they can establish themselves in the ground properly.
Your garden should be buzzing with insects right now, and attracting bees and ladybirds is always a good way to fend off the worst offenders; if your garden helpers are overwhelmed and overstuffed with food, don’t be afraid to spray if your crops are threatened. Houseplants can be vulnerable to pests at this time of year, and they dry out more quickly in the warmth. Summer is also the peak time for disease so make sure you remove any foliage that’s already affected and keep an eye out for any early signs so you can act quickly.
Summer vegetables that are good to start growing now include runner beans and broad beans, broccoli, carrots and sweetcorn for an autumn harvest. Prune back any old raspberry canes now to make sure they flourish later as well.
Cosy up for autumn
When the children go back to school and everyone seems determined to hang on to summer as long as possible, you’ll find the pace slacken off as you head into autumn. From September to November, you’ll be looking to keep harvesting your summer crops and start planting seeds for next year.
Raspberries are one of the joys of early autumn, and can be used in a variety of recipes as well as for a snack while you’re still enjoying the warmer days at the start of the season. There’s plenty of fruit to be had as well, such as apples and pears, nuts and grapes. Your greenhouse will still be a haven for your late crops. Anything that hasn’t quite come to fruition, or is tender like an aquatic plant, can be moved inside for protection.
As plants die back, you’ll be filling bags and bags with garden waste. Get those leaves under control and give the lawn one more mow before you put away the lawnmower. Clearing out needs to be done by the time harvest has finished. That means trimming roses and herbaceous perennials as well as general garden maintenance. Any garden waste you do collect can go into your compost pile, ready to use as fertiliser once it has decomposed.
With summer still fresh in your mind, you’ll be inspired to try things out for next year. Plant out your spring flowering bulbs, spring cabbages and winter bedding, and keep your fruit trees safe from winter moths by painting bands of grease around the trunks.
Winter is coming
With little daylight, hard ground and an invitingly warm living room, it’s easy to forget your garden in winter, but there’s still things to be done from December to February. If you must stay inside, you can always do some planning for next year, like ordering seeds and looking for inspiration, and get outside on the brighter, warmer days to tackle the things that can’t be avoided.
It’s a great time of year to fix any garden structures that need to be seen to. Sort out your decking, your shed, your fence or any garden paths that might need to be checked over. Clean up your greenhouse by washing it with horticultural detergent and check over your garden pots so that they’re ready to be planted in the spring.
Don’t forget the wildlife – the birds and hedgehogs that help out during spring and summer need your help now so leave out some food for them. At the same time, put netting over the things you don’t want them to have, like your early winter crops. Towards the end of winter, fork out your raised beds to give them a bit of air, before any weeds come up. Spring will be with you soon.
- Gardening is a year-round activity and even in winter, you can escape into summer by doing some forward planning.
- Extend your seasons with a greenhouse, to allow you to cope with some of the vagaries of the British weather.
- Keeping your garden tidy helps keep it in good condition, whatever the season.
- Garden structures need attention too – look after them in the quieter times of the year.
- There’s plenty in your garden that you can reuse, whether it’s deadheads for composting, trees for mulch or seeds for next year.