Summer is always a busy time in the garden. It is the one time of the year when we can really enjoy the great outdoors and take advantage of the weather to have a few friends over for a BBQ. It is the time of year when we can really appreciate the fruits of our earlier labours too. Borders are in bloom and if you have any fruit bushes or trees, then these are starting to produce some home grown goodies . Of course, not everything goes as smoothly as we would like when it comes to gardening and there are always a few plants that need to be replaced. This is always a good reason and excuse to visit garden centres. In Sussex you have a lot of them to choose from and these days you will find some lovely garden furniture being offered for sale in most of them. Another great reason to visit garden centres is to see what new plants are being offered for sale. We all like to keep our gardens looking at their best so it is the time of the year when we can plan things and then make decisions on what was successful and what was not. Weeding during the summer months is essential and this includes doing your borders as well as you vegetable plot if you have one. Depending on the weather, you might need to take a look at your lawn too as it might need fertilising as well as weeding. You can find some wonderful organic products to use at most garden centres these days which might be a little more expensive but remember, they do not harm insects and other valuable wild life we need in our gardens.
Spring is here so it is time to think about planting out your new garden plants. The good weather means visiting your garden centre to see what new plants they have in stock. This is a very exciting time of the year for gardeners although it does also mean a little more hard work around the garden. However, if you are a keen gardener, you know the rewards are well worth the effort you put it. Over the winter months some plants may have suffered and need to be replaced in order to fill gaps and make your garden look as good as you would hope. Taking stock of what plants need replacing, what annuals you would like to have in your garden this year, is all part of an essential garden plan, so you need to organise your strategy before you go off and buy any new plants or seeds.
Once you have determined which plants you would like or need, then a trip to the garden centre or to an online seed and garden plant supplier is in order. Preparing the soil before you actually plant your new plants into your flower beds is very important as this means your new plants will flourish that much better. When they do eventually flower, you will be pleased with the results. If you have a specific colour theme in your garden, then remember to include this when you buy your new plants. Or maybe you would like to add a splash of new colour to your garden? If so, you need to plan this well before visiting a garden centre. A little planning as well as research goes a long way when it comes to planting out new garden plants.
As soon as the sun starts shining and the temperature starts to lift , the gardeners amongst us will be itching to get outside and down to the local plant or gardening centre.
It is a good idea though to do a little bit if planning first and prioritise your tasks.
Top of the list is usually getting those seeds in and that really is a good excuse to head down to one of Brighton´s excellent garden centres. Not only will you find a wider variety of seeds available than grown plants, enabling you to grow unusual varieties, but the cost will be a fraction of that of buying grown bedding or vegetable plants later on. One word of caution though, do read the instructions on the backs of packets really carefully. It is surprising how few people bother to do this ,but they are there to ensure you get the best results and should be followed really carefully however experienced you are.
Next on your list should be removing any dead material from beds and, once the danger of frost is passed, cutting back any perennials which you missed last autumn. This not only tidies the garden but minimises diseases. For many perennials it is also the time to carefully lift and divide to make extra plants. It is also another excuse to search the garden centers for new shrubs and perennials , following planting instructions closely to ensure they get a head start before the summer.
Alongside this , you can weed your borders and apply mulch , in anticipation of the dry summer we are being promised!.
When looking at your shrubs, however, take care not to prune any which flower on the last years growth or you will rob them of flowers this year.
Finally, a priority is to give the lawn its first cut, with the blades set high ( assuming you got the mower serviced over the winter and it will start, if not that is another spring priority).
For most people the garden is a summer space, a place for outdoor entertaining, and enjoying summer flowers. In the winter we huddle indoors, or rush through the garden en route somewhere else. However there are lots of winter options for enjoying the garden. In winter any architectural features you have will stand out more clearly, taking centre stage in the absence of foliage and flowers.
They will also be defined by frost and snow and make an impressive feature. So it is a good idea to include something along those lines in your planning and developing of the garden. Evergreens are obvious choices for some winter green. Box can look very striking trimmed into simple shapes. There are also plants like dogwood that have dramatic red stems which show to their best in winter. Check out your local plant centre for evergreen and winter-interest plants. Some have berries, that will be retained through winter, others have interesting stems, or leaves that, although not evergreen, remain on the stem creating a dry foliage that looks ghostly against a frosty landscape.
Then there are the plants that flower in winter. Snow drops, hardy cyclamen, hellebores. These are well worth including in your planting. Place them where you can see them from a window, so you can enjoy them from inside. Plant shrubs and bushes that produce berries so the birds will be attracted to the garden and find food there. Then add to this by feeding seeds and nuts. This is another way to enjoy your garden, and bird feeders come in a variety of designs. Try the Brighton garden centre for all these winter garden plants and accessories, and all you need for your gardening.
The true gardener will not see gardening as a summer only occupation!Certainly some of the tasks can be done whilst hunkered down in front of the fire, such as studying seed catalogues and catching up on reading, whilst planning what to plant and grow next spring.
For the true enthusiasts , however, there will be plenty of outside jobs to tackle. Garlic for example should traditionally be planted on the shortest day, but if you haven´t tried this easy to grow plant you still have time. At the very least you should be digging over and preparing the vegetable garden or allotment for early sowing. If you want to get a head start you may want to lay polythene sheeting or even old carpeting on top to help it warm up early.
If you got distracted in the autumn, make sure you finish any clearing of dead foliage and plants from your borders, as leaving them will cause disease to spread as well as look unsightly. On the same topic of disease control, washing out planters and pots is another winter ¨must do¨ and so is clearing and washing out greenhouses. A visit to one of the many good Brighton garden centres or plant centres will provide you with safe and efficient products for these tasks.
Use winter too to check over tools and replace them or get them serviced – you will often find good deals available out of season and they will be ready when you need them. With all this to do spring will be here before you know it and the real work can begin.
We have all done it, been seduced by the glorious display in our local garden centre and come home with an impulse buy of a plant which then looks either completely wrong when we put it in our own garden, or fails to flourish.
To ensure this doesn´t happen , you need to ask and answer a few basic questions :
What type of soil do you have?
Some plants need acid, some alkali, some with thrive almost anywhere. Most need well draining soil, some will cope with clay or wet soil. If you don´t know what type you have , invest in a cheap sample fit and then take advice on how to improve it if needed. Look at the plant labels carefully before buying and choose accordingly.
Is your garden sunny or shady?
Draw a rough sketch of the garden and note down how much sun and shade each border gets during the course of a whole day. Again you can then choose the right plants to flourish for each border .
What style do you want?
Do you hanker for cottage gardens style with a mixed profusion of delphiniums, lupins and sweet peas competing for space? Take care, these gardens may look as if they just happen and certainly you can overlook the odd weeds, but they need skilled and hard working gardeners to-get the desired effect.
Maybe you like things formal and are happy to put in the time keeping beds weed free and pristine, with each plant standing up to scrutiny on its own. If so, you can find different types of roses which provide a long flowering season and again , perennials will provide colour for many months if well tended.
If you are short on time, consider a garden based mostly on shrubs. They will also have the added advantage of providing year round interest as many are evergreen, variegated or with winter interest from berries. Another less labour intensive option is to opt for grass or gravel with pots, which can be redone several times a year to keep interest.
Whatever you decide, work with your garden and not against it and take advice from the experts, that way you will save both time and money.