If you are lucky enough to own a garden or have access to some outside space then even in these gloomy winter months it does make a huge difference if you look out of your windows and see some green and flowers/shrubs. Have a read for a few quick tips on how to make the best of your space in winter and more.
Gardening is for everyone
Winter gardening is very minimal really, it's more about sitting back and perhaps waiting for the efforts you made in Autumn to see everything start sprouting and some greenery. But you can garden any time of year, and now is a good time to do some prep for spring.
Even if you are considering moving this year, maybe a quick few hours in the garden planting some spring plants and bulbs could make all the difference. Or if you are a tenant, gardening can be therapeutic and develop imagination and creativity you never thought you had before. And if you are a landlord, your property might pip the others to the post by a pretty flowering tree or a bit of well-kept lawn, plus if it’s well-kept then your tenants are more likely to keep it this way.
Gardening however can be time-consuming, and also a bit daunting if you don’t know what to plant when, where and how. It can also be quite frustrating (and costly) when things die or are eaten by the ever-present slugs or snails that reside with happiness in our Bristol gardens!
Gardens are different every season, and as such this simple guide is to hopefully give some ideas for a bit of garden inspiration for planting and decoration that will last all year round and take minimal upkeep. You don’t need a massive budget, just some gardening tools, a bit of effort up front and some ongoing minor TLC. Gardening is also a really good way to keep fit, do it regularly and who knows you could ditch the gym membership.
Patios & pots & small gardens
If you have a patio, then an easy quick spruce solution can be cleaning it! A stone/patio/decking cleaner, some warm water, a broom and you’ll be amazed at the difference.
For instant impact have a look at your local garden centre as they will have put together outdoor pots containing a pretty mix of frost-hardy plants, or to buy your own flowering plants look for primulas, pansies, snowdrops that are all suitable to be planted outdoors now and bonus they should come back every year!
Whilst winter is too early to plant out most things in a garden or outdoors (you want to wait till the risk of frost has gone completely) you can look at seed sowing indoors now - with a bit of patience you can end up with a wide variety of little plants ready to plant out in Spring. You can easily grow a wide variety of seeds indoors in January, you just need a seed tray, a warmish place with a lot of light and a regular sprinkling of water and there you go. Have a look here for the RHS guide to beginner seed sowing for a how-to guide.
Then in Spring, you can prepare some pots to transfer your little plants outdoors. Choose moisture-retaining compost specially designed for pots and containers. Grab some pots, B&M and The Range or Wilkinson’s do great value for money pots or a specialist garden centre like Riverside offers a vast range of really unusual indoor and outdoor pots. Then make sure you have some drainage holes in the bottom, add a small layer of stones/gravel or even polystyrene, then your compost.
Choose plants that are Perennial (they come back every year) or Annual (they will only flower this year) or bulbs (that come back every year) if you plant summer bulbs now in a few months your pots will look stunning. Choose plants for shade or sunny spots depending on your outdoor, they are all clearly marked. Bee-friendly plants in pots are particularly nice as they encourage buzzy wildlife.
Even a small garden can look bigger with a lovely expanse of green, general advice is to mow your lawn regularly in the summer and then give it a good cut as winter draws in, then leave it.
You can get some lawn feed to keep weeds down and keep it looking tidy and then use a trowel or gardening fork (a big one) to poke some holes into the lawn annually to aerate it and keep it all nicely drained and healthy. You can also (if the lawn looks a bit plain) plant a tree in the middle as long as you clear a circle of turf and dig down deep enough for the tree root ball, or use a bulb-planter tool to gouge out tiny circles of turf, pop in a bulb, pop the turf back, water and then come spring or summer you’ve got flowers appearing in your lawn annually – plus they will spread!
In winter if it's mild out you can law new turf or patch your lawn if it's looking messy/gappy. Advice from the RHS is "To repair the lawn, make an ‘H’ shaped cut in the turf, peel back the grass and either fill the hollow with loam or scrape away the soil from a bump. Re-lay the turf, press it into place and pinch the cut edges together."
Don't walk on your lawn when frosty as you can damage it and if it's looking soggy then you can aerate it as mentioned above.
I only have a windowsill...
If all you have is a windowsill or tiny spaces then consider what you really want from a garden? Do you want to grow something? How about a herb garden? Or chilli plant (you’ll need a sunny protected space) or do you just want to see some butterflies and buzzing bees? Do you want edibles? Consider cut and come again micro salad leaves, or a micro tomato bush plant. There are solutions for every space. Vertical gardening up a wall has also become really popular in recent years with innovative solutions.
If you like the idea of a vertical garden buzzing with life outside your window have a read of this guide to creating a vertical garden from The Wildlife Trust
And some general TLC for gardens in early Spring
- Mow the lawn when spring arrives, aerate if waterlogged now, don't walk on it if frosty
- Clear weeds, any leaf debris from paths and lawns
- Prune large/overgrown bushes and trees before nesting season starts (They are quite hardy, but look online for images and care guidelines if you aren’t sure)
- Put a layer of compost on flower beds; dig a layer into your pots to renew nutrients
- Give garden furniture / patios / decking a scrub
- Paint / protect any fences / sheds
- if you don't own your garden why not chat to your landlord if you are a keen gardener as they may be prepared to share the costs of some longer-term planting ideas