Your Essential Spring Guide to Making the Most of Your Outdoor Space

Here’s an understatement: we’re all a little distracted at the moment. You’re not alone if you haven’t yet realised that somehow, against the odds, we’ve made it through that drab, drizzling expanse of Netflix binges and shivering Sundays that we call the British winter.

The signs are subtle at first; perhaps a songbird whistling a jazz-infused tune from a rooftop, or the sleepy acceptance that seven in the morning is an alright-kinda-time to get out of bed.  There might be a day when you forget your gloves and manage not to lose a finger to frostbite. Then, from nowhere, a genuinely warm, bright day. You step outside and notice that the world is turning green again as Mother Nature stirs from her chilly slumber. Leaves! On trees! Spring is here.

Its arrival feels especially significant this year. As the realisation that most of us are destined to be spending far more time at home dawns on us, our outdoor spaces are becoming utterly vital. The return of the sun is always welcome, but in 2020 it might just help us more than ever. It’s time to get in the garden!

But hold up. You stand at your kitchen window, mouth agape, surveying the scene before your eyes. Rather than the tranquil paradise you’d envisaged, the garden is a claustrophobic rectangle of detritus and neglect. It’s a lost world, forgotten since at least September. Sheepishly, and wondering how many more feral cats can possibly set up camp in one shed, you shuffle back to your makeshift home office for the seventh video conference of the day.

But don’t worry – all is not lost. There’s the whole year ahead, and you can transform that little patch of horrors into a green and beautiful idyll for the warmer months ahead (although you’ll have to deal with the cats first).

Hedges & edges

Maybe you’re not planning a complete garden overhaul – it’s a bit of an uncertain time for expensive projects, right? But there are some easy steps you can take to improve what’s already there.

The old gardener’s adage rings true here – it’s all about hedges and edges. Put simply, a few weeds won’t matter so much if there’s a sense of order and unity about the place. Give the hedge a good cut. Define what’s a flower bed and what’s a lawn. Clean the patio. Think of the bigger picture and keep on top of the essential jobs.

Colour it in

If you want to inject some new life into your garden, you can’t go wrong with some new planting. The right plants can transform the most basic of spaces – but which to choose? An excellent but simple way to get started is to decide on a colour palette. Maybe a cool, contemporary combo of green and white, utilising Buxus balls, shuttlecock ferns and tall Alliums. Or, if you’re an old romantic and you fancy a cottage garden feel, try the soft pinks, purples and yellows from Persicaria bistorta ‘Superba’, Lavandula ‘Hidcote’ and Achillea ‘Moonshine’. If garden centres are closed, you can find a huge range online.

Keep yourself interested

Maybe the reason your garden was forgotten about in the first place was that you didn’t really care. You know those green-fingered strangers with beautiful gardens? They’re just like you, but they love gardening. Try some new things to see if you get the bug – if you do, you’ll be out there all the time. Grow some strawberries. Plant some annual flowers to cut for the house. Dig a pond and watch the frogs move in. Build a path out of reclaimed bricks. Experiment with hügelkultur (or at least google it). Gardening is good for the soul and can really help you through difficult times.

Hoe-down!

Gardens should never be a chore – if yours is, make some changes so it’s lower maintenance. A simple (and affordable) tip is to cover all areas of bare soil with a deep woodchip mulch. This will prevent annual weeds from germinating, saving a lot of backache, and has the additional benefit of locking in moisture for surrounding plants.

A garden is for Christmas, not just for BBQs

A well-designed garden is one that has structure, colour and year-round interest. Consider adding winter-flowering plants or a firepit for cosy evenings under the stars. Your garden is an extension of your home, and if you’re out there throughout the year you’re less likely to forget it exists.

FREE GARDEN ADVICE #spreadkindessnotthevirus

It’s a crazy time, and we’ve all got a duty to help each other as much as possible. It’s not much, but if you have a question about your garden then send it my way for some free personalised advice. How to attract more wildlife? How to prune a pear tree? How to plant a hedge maze so you can hide from the kids?

Whatever it is, feel free to drop me a line at [email protected] or @peterflood on Twitter.