5. tips from gardening experts

A gardening calendar

A good gardener tends to their patch all year round. Equally, it’s important not to neglect your fitness throughout the year. Spring isn’t the time for your body and your garden to come back to life – you should have been working on both throughout the winter.

Luckily, a good garden demands constant attention so you have no excuse for slacking. To keep up the motivation, here are some things you can be doing all year round.

JANUARY

  • Water evergreen hedges (if they’re not frozen)
  • Add a layer of compost to your bedding plants
  • Make your summer plans
  • Repair lawn edges
  • Recycle your Christmas tree by shredding it for mulch

February

  • Start weed removal
  • Fertilise your borders and shrubs
  • Remove all dead flowers and prune winter-flowering shrubs
  • Prepare vegetable seed beds, and sow some vegetables under cover

MARCH

  • Plant summer flowering bulbs
  • Plant shallots, onion sets and early potatoes
  • Repot potted plants
  • Protect new spring shoots from slugs
  • Feed and aerate the lawn

APRIL

  • Remove more dead flowers
  • Protect fruit blossom from late frosts
  • Keep up the weeding
  • Put stakes in for young trees and shrubs
  • Tie in climbing and rambling roses

MAY

  • Keep an eye out for snails and slugs
  • Place supports for taller plants
  • Collect rainwater and investigate ways to recycle water for irrigation

JUNE

  • Fertilise borders
  • Remove dead flower heads
  • Keep checking for pests
  • Position summer hanging baskets outside
  • Harvest lettuce, radish, and early potatoes

summer protection

To ensure your plants look great throughout summer, consider these top tips:

  • Shelter freshly planted vegetable and flower seedlings with old net curtains or leafy branches for a week or two
  • Make a home-made ‘trickle hose’ – a length of old hose pierced with tiny holes – to water hedges
  • Build a bird feed and bath to encourage wildlife

july

  • Make sure you’re watering regularly
  • Support growing plants
  • Add a layer of mulch
  • Deadhead bedding plants and repeat-flowering perennials to ensure continuous flowering

august

  • If you have a pond or water feature, it could need topping up
  • Harvest any vegetables as and when
  • Collect seed from your favourite plants

september

  • Take down summer hanging baskets and replace with winter versions
  • Plant evergreen shrubs
  • Place a net over any ponds before leaf fall gets underway
  • Dig up remaining potatoes

october

  • Divide up any perennials that get too big
  • Rake up fallen leaves
  • Move any tender plants into a greenhouse

november

  • Clean out summer pots and store away
  • Raise up remaining containers onto pot feet to prevent waterlogging
  • Cover perennials with an extra layer of compost
  • Plant tulip bulbs

december

  • As long as there’s no frost, trees and bulbs can be planted
  • Consider disconnecting outdoor taps to prevent freezing
  • Prune acers, birches and vines

WINTer protection

To protect your plants in the wTinter months, consider implementing some of these tips in your garden:

  • Plant strategic hedging to act as a windbreak – you could also use temporary woven hurdles
  • Wrap plants in horticultural fleece
  • Group containers and potted plants together
  • Prune hedges to taper at the top to minimise snow damage
  • Add a layer of mulch around tender plants

Remember: it’s all great exercise.

In the quieter months, why not dedicate your time to a bigger project? Building a shed for your tools, a summerhouse for the kids or getting them involved with making a hedgehog house or chicken coop, for instance. It’s a great way of keeping up your motivation and fitness, all the while you’re improving your outdoor space.

“There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.”

Janet Kilburn Phillips

WILDLIFE GARDENING

Your garden’s potential as a haven for wildlife is considerable. It provides food, shelter and breeding sites for a range of animals – creatures which could provide great enjoyment for you. To encourage more wildlife into your garden, the RHS suggest the following:

  • Provide as many habitats as possible – ponds, flower borders, hedges, log piles, etc.
  • Incorporate some native British plants
  • Reduce the use of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides
  • Provide shelter – nest boxes for birds and bundles of hollow plant stems for bees
  • Birds also need a source of shallow water throughout the year

Gardening dos and don’ts

Do

  • Tend to your garden all year round (see above). Gardening is an on-going activity – neglect it in the winter months and you’ll pay the price in the summer.
  • Take breaks as and when you need. Make sure you’ve got some water with you and sit back and admire your hard work, should you need a rest.
  • Get others involved. Gardening can be sociable – talk to your friends and neighbours to see if they’re interested in helping out with some tasks.
  • Keep up the research. Hopefully, once you’ve started gardening, it becomes your go-to hobby. But make sure you keep learning about the plants you choose and what care they’ll need.

Don’t

  • Don’t run before you can walk. It’s important to build up your strength and stamina, rather than starting with the most intense gardening activities.
  • Don’t neglect while you’re on holiday. If you’re away, ask someone to come in and do the necessary jobs – watering if it’s dry in the summer, for instance.
  • Don’t walk too much in your garden beds, as it compacts the soil and makes it difficult for plants to grow.
  • Don’t fertilise any landscape plants when colder weather is coming – it encourages growth, and new growth is highly susceptible to freeze damage.