The ultimate guide to seasonal gardening

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.[1] 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[2] 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.[4] 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.

There is a lot to harvest this season: strawberries, early potatoes, lettuce and radishes[5], courgettes, peaches and apricots,[6] and eventually sweetcorn and the rest of your vegetables.[7]

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.[8]

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[9]. 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.[10] 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[11], spring cabbages[12] and winter bedding[13], 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[14] 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.

Top Tips

  • 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.