It's a great time to take stock of your garden

The warmer weather is drawing people outdoors. EIMEAR HUTCHINSON relishes this time of year, when her attention turns to getting the garden ready for summer
It's a great time to take stock of your garden

It’s a great time of year to get out into the garden. Picture: Stock

THIS is, without a doubt, my favourite time of year, when Spring meets Summer. The days are long, the skies are slightly more blue than grey, the birds are chirping, gardens are beginning to bloom, and people just seem lighter and brighter in themselves. The warmer weather draws people outdoors, making the school run and the playground trips so much more sociable, which I find so invigorating, especially compared with this time last year.

The new signs of life in our gardens, forests, hedgerows and fields also makes the world so much more pleasing on the eye. 

I love the way the countryside is peppered now with pops of yellow, pink, reds and luscious greens, it is such a welcome change from the dullness of the winter months.

This year we have gravitated back to our garden with much joy. 

Year on year, the outdoors is a learning experience.

We are five years in our house this Spring and while we have done huge amounts outdoors, we still have lots of plans. We are considering a much more measured approach to our shrubs and flowers this year as we learn from other years.

The first thing we have done is put together a little garden notebook. We want to create a garden that is full of colour for as long as possible, so we took note of spots that could do with some more pops of colour in the early spring.

We have some tulips, daffodils, grape hyacinths and bluebells in the garden, but this year we have taken note of the spots under shrubs that don’t have much foliage in the early spring. These are the perfect place for spring bulbs to add a bit of brightness before their taller neighbouring shrubs come to life later in the summer. 

If we didn’t take note of it now, we would have forgotten by winter, when it is time to plant spring bulbs, so this year we won’t get caught out. 

You have to play the long game when it comes to gardening.

I have also noticed that we could probably have done more in terms of trimming back and pruning shrubs after last summer. We have focused on perennials, hoping that in years to come the garden will be awash with colours each year without much input from us, other than watering and wedding. However, we are not there yet and some of the plants we put in last year are looking a little woody and stalky this summer, so we have to figure out how to revive them ahead of the summer months.

We spent some time in the Peak District recently, visiting my husband’s great-aunt, and her garden was the garden of my dreams, bursting with life, while nothing was overly manicured. The style, my Pinterest research tells me, is cottage garden. She was able to give me lots of advice on what types of plants work to fill our different parts of the garden, like Aubretia, Arabis, Pinks (Dianthus) Rosemary, Phlox and Honesty, and she sent me away with some seeds from her garden, so I’m hoping I do them justice and can enjoy a slice of her garden in ours in years to come.

I haven’t bought any flowers yet because this summer I want to let the garden grow and see towards the end what needs work. 

In previous years, at this stage I would plant flowers, but it was always too early, I am very impatient! Those earlier plantings then ended up being crowded out by other plants that hadn’t taken off by the time I planted the new ones.

So, this year I am going to sit back and take note, rather than rush in with plants that I probably don’t need.

I am also being a little more restrained when it comes to our vegetable patch. In previous years, we have sown seeds a little earlier than this, but we are conscious of going on holidays in July so want to push out the bulk of our growing until after we get home.

We filled the vegetable beds with mature manure during the winter so they need a little turning over and loosening up before we start planting. Last year, I didn’t use the little tiered greenhouse we had in previous years, I sowed directly into the soil, and it wasn’t nearly as good as the year before when I started my seedlings in the greenhouse. A lesson learned!

The first few years we tried a huge variety of vegetables, but now we have refined down, sticking only now to what we know we will eat; carrots, parsnips, French green beans, runner beans, peas, lettuce and spinach will make up the bulk of what we grow. 

We stagger the sowing so we have a consistent supply across the summer months. 

There is nothing more satisfying than walking outside to get the vegetables for dinner or cutting lettuce leaves to pop directly into the bowl at lunch!

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