With the weather turning sunnier and warmer, and the days getting longer, now is the perfect time to turn your attention to what’s outside.
Even if your garden is small or if you don’t have more than a patio or a window box or two, there are still plenty of ways to brighten things up and introduce some colour and visual interest.
However, before you get carried away and start planning an overhaul of the area in question, there will undoubtedly be a few jobs to attend to first.
Garden tools, which have probably been locked away for the winter, need to be cleaned and checked over to make sure they still work and aren’t rusty.
The lawn, if you have one, will need to be mowed from now until the autumn so it’s a good idea to check over the mower to make sure it’s running smoothly.
Other jobs include aerating the lawn, giving it a feed and getting rid of the moss. Although some people think dandelions are weeds, now is not the time to get rid of them. They provide vital food for bees at a time when other nectar rich plants are yet to emerge.
Elsewhere, sweep any paths, get rid of any weeds in the cracks of the paving slabs and cut back any overgrown vegetation. You could even hose down the patio to give it a good clean. If you have any trees or large hedging, now is the time to prune before the nesting season begins.
Garden waste can be put in the compost bin if you have one. If you don’t, it’s a good investment, but you will need to fork it through every so often. Water butts too are a great idea, and every garden should have at least one and connected to the down pipe from the guttering. If you have space for more, even better. With climate change suggesting we will be in for wetter periods of weather it makes sense to store as much as you can and save on water bills, especially in the dryer months or if there ends up being a hosepipe ban.
Other jobs will include making sure the fencing surrounding the garden or outside space is in good condition and if not, clean it thoroughly before using a varnish, seal or stain to stop any rotting.
If you have a brick wall rather than a fence, ensure there is no cracking in the bricks, the mortar is intact and there are no weeds or plants growing in or through the wall. Although most basic maintenance jobs are not too tricky to tackle yourself, if you are in any doubt, or if there is any structural damage, it always pays to get a professional in to sort it out.
Once you have the necessary jobs out of the way it’s time to get creative. If possible, get a plan for how you want your garden or outside space to look like once it’s done. Measure the space and work out where the sun is during the day. Then think about colour, height and texture.
Garden centres are the best place to go to for inspiration as you can see, touch and smell everything and the staff are generally best placed to give advice about what will grow best and where.
They will also be able to help you if you want to create a pond, bring wildlife into the garden or if you want to start growing your own fruit and veg.
Even if you only have a small outside space or window box it’s possible to create quite an impact with some trailing plants alongside some colourful blooms. Herbs, such as basil, rosemary, mint and lavender are a great choice for small spaces as not only do they have flowers and fragrance, you can use them in cooking. Cut and come again salad leaves are similarly easy to grow and also have the added culinary benefit.
If you are thinking long term, why not plant some autumn or winter flowering bulbs in a pot now that will brighten up your window ledge or patio pots further down the line.
And just because space is at a premium doesn’t mean you can’t grow fruit and veg. Tomatoes can be grown in compost bags or in pots on a sunny window ledge, strawberries can be grown successfully in pots and even some varieties of apples and pears can be trained against a wall or fence.
So however big or small your outside space is, there’s no excuse not to have a go! Being outside in the fresh air also benefits our mental health and wellbeing so have fun with it, experiment and enjoy it!