Here we are, teetering on the edge of a new year, with dreams of a garden of lush vegetables, fragrant herbs & sweet smelling roses.
But this will only happen with a plan transferred from your imagination to paper. It’s the best way to get the most from your garden, not to have regrets & most importantly not miss crucial planting & sowing times & have to wait months to catch up.
A few sheets of paper, coloured pens or a spread-sheet if the digital route works best for you. I make lists, note ideas on plain A4 sheets of paper & then put it all together in one big plan.I have a paper plan & use my computer calender to remind me when to sow seeds, order bulbs & take cuttings through spring, summer & autumn.
- How your garden turned out last year, include the good, the bad & the ugly
- How would you’d like your garden to look this year? e.g. more colour, evergreens for winter shape, somewhere different to sit?
- Make a note of any plants you’d like to move, get it done this week, as long as the ground isn’t frozen.
- List what you want to grow this year. My vegetable list is based on what grows well here in our garden & of course, what we like to eat. Reality overcomes dreams here, as there’s only so much you can grow in 6 raised vegetable beds. However, successional sowing makes good use of the space & keeps us in veg for longer.
- Use a rotation plan for growing vegetables, make sure vegetables are moved to a different area/bed each year. It helps to prevent pests & diseases particular to each crop, from building up in the soil.
- Annual seeds are the cheapest way to fill your garden with flowers, the end of March is usually the best time for sowing in my garden.
- Ruthlessly edit packets of seeds amassed over the last few years. I find it easier to chuck out seeds past their sell by date, having been disappointed a few times with old seeds that refused to germinate.
- Along with tried & tested types, experiment with a few new varieties of flowers & vegetables.
Its worth spending time selecting the pretties & the edibles. Check the ultimate growth & conditions that your chosen plants will like, & find an alternative if it doesn’t fit the bill.
If you’re growing things in pots, make sure you have enough of the right size, then either buy more pots or reduce the list of plants.
Order seeds, tubers & plants, then make a note on your calendar (wall/phone) or shed door, what needs planting when, include successional planting for lettuce, beetroot etc.
Take a mug of tea down to the shed & check what you’ve got for the season ahead.
- Will there be enough compost for plant pots & seed growing? If not, buy enough for spring & summer & store a couple of bags at a time in the shed or garage. This warms it up ready for seed germination & young roots.
- Have you got enough plant labels & marker pens? Let’s reduce buying plastic items as much as possible. Clean & re-use plastic plant labels, scrubbing them with a pan scourer. Scraps of wood make great plant labels, I picked up a whole bundle at a carpentry demonstration a couple of years ago, & I’m managing to eke them out, but I’ll be on the look-out for more this year. When I’m very organised I write out labels & put them with the appropriate seed packet, its surprising how smoothly it helps with seed sowing.
- Check there are enough small plant pots & seed trays for what you’re planning to grow.
I’m pencilling garden visits into the calender, they inspire me & really lift my heart. I have favourite gardens that I visit every year. The National Trust garden, Woolbeding in West Sussex is one of these, do go if you have the chance. Wisley Gardens is a half hour drive away, so I go often, there are big changes happening at the moment, the layout is changing & there are new buildings & gardens being built. Don’t let this put you off visiting, its being carefully managed & doesn’t have too much impact on visiting. I can’t wait to see the new gardens later this year, they’ve been designed by Anne Marie Powell & Matt Keightley.
Check out The National Garden Scheme for private gardens open around the country. There’s an opportunity to visit a whole range of different gardens, from sprawling estates to small urban spaces, & they donate millions each year to health charities. More information here.
Are you going to any of the big R.H.S. Garden Shows?
R.H.S. Hampton Court Garden Festival, is a must for me, the setting is beautiful, you can talk to expert plant growers & buy plants there. The Chelsea Flower Show is a more formal affair, full of inspiration.
There are lots more R.H.S. Shows around the country, information & booking here.
Details & photos of Woolbeding here.
Read about What to do in the garden in January here.
Here’s to a good gardening year.
All photos: Jill Anderson.