Garden Ideas & Advice
Browse our garden ideas and advice by season, month or topic so you can get to grips with all the jobs to do in your garden and get planned ahead for the months to come.
Top gardening jobs for September
In September the weather begins to turn cooler and the month is a time of change in the garden. The summer is ending and with it comes the last of your vegetable crops and the ripening of Autumn fruits such as apples, pears & raspberries. The garden is starting to prepare for Winter and soon the leaves will be on the turn, but for now there is still enough warmth for Autumn flowering bedding and some preparations ready for Spring.
- Buy and plant Autumn flowering bedding plants such as pansies, violas and cyclamen
- Plant Spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils, crocus and hyacinths
- Prune rose bushes that have finished flowering back to half to prevent wind rock over Winter
- Treat lawns with an Autumn lawn feed and re-sow any bare patches
- Harvest your last raspberry crops, cut them to the ground, thin out and tie in new canes for next year
- Harvest any remaining potato crops
- Cut down perennials that have finished flowering and mulch the soil surface
- Divide herbaceous perennials
- Take down and clean nest boxes before drying out and putting back up
- Start to feed wild birds. Fat balls and peanuts are good foods to help them through the Winter
Deadheading, dead important!
Deadheading properly in your garden can make a huge difference to growing, garden health and, last but not least, appearance!
- Regular deadheading gives your plants & flowers more energy to put into stronger growth. Leaving the old heads on there will divert energy from growth and once the flowers are pollinated, they will need everything they get to keep developing.
- It's time to deadhead when any of your flowers look scruffy, waiting a few days in fine, but the sooner the better!
- The easiest way to deadhead is simply with your finger and thumb. Pinch off the faded blooms and try to remove the stalk of the flower to keep your plant neat. Of course, you can also use secateurs, scissors or a knife, it can be easier for some plants, but be careful of those green fingers!
- Border perennials and annuals need the old flowers trimmed away, cut back to a bud or leaf.
- Some hardy geraniums, delphiniums and lupins will grow back beautifully if you cut them close to ground level, this is best performed at the end on May and has earned the nickname the 'Chelsea Chop'
- Roses can be snapped just below the head, this results in more blooms being produces more quickly!
- You don't need to deadhead everything, however. Fuchsias, bedding lobelia & salvias will deadhead themselves. Roses that bear hips or plants that produce berries. Some plants will continue to flower naturally until autumn, so feel free to leave them be!
Multiply your Plants by Dividing Perennials
When the active growing season is over, it's a great idea to divide your perennials. This results in strong, healthy plants for next year and also grows their number. You should do this once every couple of years at least, but you can divide up to twice a year, in Spring & dry periods in Autumn. It's not as daunting as it sounds!
- Gently fork out a clump of your chosen plant and shake off the excess soil
- Take a spade or knife, depending on the size of the clump, and cut inbetween stems making a clean cut through the roots, leave plenty for each new clump.
- You can choose to keep larger clumps, or keep dividing until you have approximately fist sized pieces.
- Plant them in your chosen area, and water them in strongly. They may look weak at first, but soon enough they'll be standing to attention!
- It can be a good idea to lay some blood, fish & bone for extra nutrition in the soil
Autumn Bird Care
Just as Autumn is a time of change for the plants in your garden it is also a time of change for wild birds. Some birds have already started their migrations and other species will soon be starting theirs too. Many will be leaving the UK for warmer climates, but there will also be others arriving from colder countries.
- Most birds will have finished moulting by now, but there may be a few still going through the process in early Autumn. These birds will be less active as they feel vulnerable and try to reserve energy for the process. If you have local birds that are still moulting then leave out high-energy and high-protein feed
- Many of the plants in your garden have berries and fruit in Autumn, however you may also be looking to prune some of these plants. If so, try to wait until the birds have eaten the berries, or leave the cuttings accessible for birds afterwards
- Keep an eye on water sources, falling leaves can accumulate in bird baths, puddles and ponds and begin to rot. Keep these water sources clean and top them up if needed
- With nesting season over Autumn is the perfect time to clean out old bird boxes, even ones that haven't supported a brood this year should be checked. Clear out any debris, repair any damage and use a specialist wildlife disinfectant. Allow the box to dry after cleaning and then line with dry moss or dry Autumn leaves before putting back up
- Birds require a lot of energy for their migrations so leave out high energy bird feeds
- As the weather begins to get colder start leaving out high-fat bird feeds as these will be essential for the birds to survive the low temperatures
Top ways to help garden wildlife in Autumn
Many types of garden animals will sleep through the coldest months of the year, some hibernating, while others enter a state of torpor where they can wake in emergencies. In late Autumn these animals will begin to look for nice and dry places they can rest undisturbed in Winter so early to mid Autumn is the perfect time to prep your garden for them.
- Where possible leave herbaceous borders intact so decaying plants provide places of shelter for small mammals and insects. Seed heads are a great source of food for birds and clumps of ornamental grasses could become the perfect hidey hole for a hedgehog if left undisturbed
- After your autumn pruning leave bundles of twigs at the back of your borders, in a plant pot laying on it's side or other relatively dry and sheltered locations to provide places for small mammals and invertebrates to shelter
- Keep an eye on your pond to remove fallen leaves and leave a ball floating on the surface. Male frogs often spend Winter in the mud at the bottom of ponds and if the pond freezes over gases caused by decaying plant matter can get trapped and poison them. Keeping on top of fallen leaves now helps decrease the plant matter in the pond that can decay and the ball will stop the ice sealing the pond when it forms
- leave stacks of plant pots in a sheltered location to give bees and other insects somewhere dry to shelter
- You'll be wanting to rake up fallen leaves fro lawns and paths, but instead of disposing of them leave them in a corner or beneath a hedge for hedgehogs and other animals to shelter in
- If you have a compost heap it's an ideal place for many animals to hibernate in. If yours is plastic raise it onto bricks so there's access at the base and if your heap is an ope one then cover it with with an old piece of carpet or rug to help keep it dry and insulated. From now it will be important not to disturb the bin until at least April when all species should have finished hibernating
- Clear out and clean nesting boxes ready for next Spring and for birds to shelter in during Winter
- Some insects such as ladybirds and butterflies may try to enter your home to hibernate, however the sudden increases and inconsistent temperature from central heating will not be good for them. If you find any then carefully transfer them to a shed or garage that will have a much more consistent temperature. An empty box is a handy and safe way to move most inescts without harming them
Autumn - Time to plant Spring flowering bulbs
Bulbs are a highly rewarding way to add some colour to your garden and Autumn is the perfect time for planting Spring flowering bulbs. The soil is still warm enough for the bulbs to establish their roots, allowing them to flower in Spring instead of Summer.
- Many Spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils, crocus and hyacinths can be planted in late August and September
- Tulips can be planted from around November
- Hardy Summer flowering bulbs such as lilies and alliums can also be planted in September and October
- The majority of bulb plants are from warmer climates so are best planted in warm and sunny sites. The soil should be well draining to avoid the bulbs rotting, add grit to the soil if needed
- Plant bulbs three times as deep as the size of the bulb and at least one bulb width apart
- Position the bulbs with their shoot facing upwards and push it into the soil, twisting as you do to anchor it and then cover with soil
- Unless the soil is already moist water the area after planting and then keep an eye on the soil over the coming months to ensure it doesn't completely dry out
Naturalising - How to add colour to your lawn with bulbs
You've probably seen it in parks, stately home gardens or in grass verges on country roads, lush green grass with swathes of little colourful flowers and pockets of daffodils. You may well have assumed these were naturally occurring and the results of many years of seeding, but actually this is something you can easily reproduce in your own lawn at home
- You can add colourful flowers to your lawn by planting bulbs beneath the turf. Plant Spring flowering bulbs in the Autumn, ensuring that turf can quickly re-root before the weather turns frosty. Summer flowering bulbs can also be planted in the Autumn if they are hardy varieties, or in the Spring if they are more tender
- Choose areas to plant that you will not want to use while the plants are in flower (your favourite picnic spot is not ideal for Summer flowering bulbs!). Areas that you cannot normally achieve blooms in such as under deciduous trees are also good choices
- Before planting scatter your chosen bulbs across the area. Plant your bulbs where they land so that the result will appear natural. Avoid planting in regimented lines or grids
- Dig planting holes with a trowel or bulb planter about three times as deep as the size of the bulb
- Break off some soil from the removed turf to back-fill around the bulb, and then replace the turf so it is level with the rest of your lawn
- For very small bulbs you can bore holes with a strong & sharp stick. Make sure the holes are wide enough for the bulb to go to the bottom or if not there will be no soil beneath the bulb for the roots to take to
- For areas you want to plant large quantities of small bulbs in you can cut into the turf to make a "H" shape and peel back the flaps. Fork the soil surface you are planting into to loosen the soil and also loosen the soil off the underside of the turf for back filling
- Whichever planting method you use, after the turf is replaced fill an gaps with compost and water the area well to help the turf re-establish
- After flowering avoid mowing the area for 6-8 weeks, and in the case of larger plants such as daffodils do not cut the grass and bulb foliage until the bulb leaves have turned yellow and straw-like
- Do not use lawn feeds or fertilisers on areas of lawn planted with bulbs as this will feed the competing lawn more than the bulbs
Create dazzling displays by planting bulbs in layers
Bulbs are a great way to add colour to your garden and highly rewarding to grow. However, the plants from these little balls of energy will pop-up, flower, and then die back again. So, how can you make more impact full and longer lasting displays? The answer is layering!
- Different bulbs are planted at different depths and then come up and flower at different times, with larger bulbs generally needing to be planted deeper (the general rule of thumb being 3 times as deep as the size of the bulb)
- We can use this to our advantage to plant bulbs in layers with the larger bulbs deepest, then medium bulbs, and finally with smaller bulbs closer to the surface, all with a layer of compost in between
- When you plant bulbs in layers stagger them so that the lower bulbs are not directly below the bulbs above them. This makes it easier for the plants to grow up to the surface. It's also a good idea to plant bulbs further apart than you normally would
- You can get away with planting bulbs slightly deeper than you normally would in order to achieve more layers, but avoid planting bulbs shallower than normal. Be careful not to plant bulbs too deep though as this can result in more energy put into foliage and less into flowers!
- Typically layering is done to achieve flowering in the same location for a longer period of time, with a new layer flowering as the previous one dies off. However you can also achieve overlaps in flowering times with multiple types of plants in flower at the same time
- By considering the colours, shapes and sizes of bulbs when you purchase and plant them you can create many varied displays. Contrasting colours will have a big impact, but a theme of one colour with differing shapes and heights and can be beautiful too. Taller plants may work better in the centre of a container, or if in a border or trough towards the back. The possible combinations are nearly endless!
Autumn - Reviving Summer scorched lawns and prepping for Winter
During the summer your lawn may have become scorched, patchy or compacted and once we reach the cooler but still warm temperatures of Autumn it's the perfect opportunity to remedy these. The better condition your lawn is in entering the Winter the better it will survive and ultimately save you work in the Spring.
- Towards the beginning of Autumn spike the lawn with a fork, gently lifting it to crack the soil to remove compaction and improve drainage
- Level out any bumps and hollows and over-seed patches as needed
- Continue to mow the lawn but less frequently and raise the cutting height to around 3cm
- It's a good idea to feed the lawn with a specialist Autumn lawn feed, these toughen up the lawn for Winter and kill any moss which will need to be raked out
- Remove any fallen leaves by raking out or mowing with a high cutting setting so the leaves pass under mower and are sucked up and chopped ready for composting
- Pick up by hand any fallen fruits to prevent the lawn contracting any diseases
Winter lawn care
It's easy to forget about your lawn over the Winter as it requires a lot less work than the rest of the year but it will still benefit from a little bit of maintenance occasionally.
- If you didn't do so in Autumn then feed the lawn with a specialised Autumn lawn feed before the Winter season starts to really set in
- Stop mowing. The grass will not grow over the winter so there's no need to mow it
- Avoid walking on the lawn, particularly during frosts or after wet weather as this can cause localised puddles, compaction and bruising to the blades of grass which allows frost in
- Remove fallen leaves and other debris from the lawn every now and then so it doesn't build up
- Keep an eye out for where puddles form after heavy rain as these areas will need attention in the spring to improve the drainage
Things to do in the garden in February
In February the weather is still very much wintery but the days are beginning to lengthen and Spring is on its way. This is the perfect time to finish off any Winter garden jobs and prepare the garden for Spring.
- Spread in fertilisers
- Plant out shallots & onions
- Start greenhouse tomatoes indoors
- Prune rose bushes, Clematis, Wisteria, Winter Jasmine & Hydrangeas
- Plan ahead for the growing season
Pruning in February
Now is a perfect time for a bit of pruning, here's our checklist on what to prune this month.
- Late flowering Clematis back about 30cm to healthy buds
- Winter flowering shrubs
- Wisteria, cutting back summer side-shoots to 2 or 3 buds
- Winter-flowering Jasmine after flowering, to encourage new growth for next year’s blooms. Cut back the previous year’s growth to 5cm from the old wood
Planning for the growing season
February is the perfect time to start planning ahead for the growing season, the days are beginning to lengthen, seasonal items are becoming available and some jobs can be started off indoors.
- Stock up on items you know you'll need such as composts, fertilisers and lawn feed for the season ahead
- Plan new borders and planting areas and dig them over ready for planting once the weather is better
- Start thinking about which summer bulbs you'd like to plant and what you'd like to grow from seed
- Clear out your shed and get it nice and organised
- Service your lawn mower and other powered equipment so it's in top notch condition for the season ahead
Lawn care in February & March
February and march are either a continuation of winter lawn maintenance, or if the weather is warm towards the March more work can be begun to give your lawn the best chance to grow in the spring.
- If there's frost or snow avoid walking on the lawn
- Stop leaves and other debris from accumulating on the lawn as it can smother the grass
- New turf can be laid in better weather. Make sure the soil is not too wet or frosty. Avoid walking on newly laid turf and leave it undisturbed so roots can establish
- If the weather is particularly warm you may need to mow the lawn occasionally but ensure the cutting height is high and only mow when the grass is dry
- Now is a great time to correct the shape of the lawn, levelling out dips and lumps and re-cutting the edges
- If you are planning a new lawn then the soil can be prepared ready for sowing later in the Spring
- Avoid applying products to the lawn until you're confident the Winter weather is well and truly out of the way
- Towards the end of March you may consider sowing grass seed if the weather has been consistently warm and you're confident the last frost has been
Wild bird care in February
In February male birds are beginning to mark out their territories ready for mating and nesting season. In colder weather wild birds need extra energy just to keep warm and natural food can be in short supply, particularly if there are deep frosts or snow.
- If your lawn is snow covered then clear a patch so birds can hunt for insects
- Remove ice from ponds and bird baths so the birds have access to water
- Put up nestboxes
- If you have fruiting plants that need pruning then wait to do these until after the birds have eaten the berries
- Put out hanging bird feeders for birds such as chaffinches, greenfinches, sparrows and blue tits
Caring for wildlife in February
Most wildlife will still be hibernating but some hedgehogs and bumblebees will emerge early if the weather is warmer. They will have gone without food over the winter and be very hungry. If you want to attract more wildlife to your garden then now is the perfect time to prepare habitats for them ready for when they emerge from hibernation.
- Leave out water and meaty dog or cat food from dusk for hungry hedgehogs. Make sure to remove anything uneaten in the morning due to flies
- Put out hanging feeders for wild birds
- Make sure you have early flowering plants in the garden such as crocus and primroses for bumblebees
- Avoid turning your compost heap as frogs and small mammals may still be hibernating within it
- Create areas and potential habitats for wildlife such as log piles, dead hedges or plant a new hedgerow
March - Time to get planting!
March is when Spring arrives and with it a burst of colour in your garden. It's also a time to start planting and preparing if you want colour in your garden in later months too though by propagating seeds and planting bulbs.
- Summer flowering bulbs such as dahlias, lilies, and gladioli can now be planted. make sure you choose firm and dry bulbs without mould and plant them in well draining soil with some grit below the bulb to help with drainage
- Hardy annuals can be sown outdoors. Remove stones and weeds from the area beforehand and rake the soil so it's fine. If the soil is dry then water before sowing
- Towards the end of March early potatoes can be planted either in the ground, raised beds or large containers. These need plenty of space, 30cm apart and 45cm between rows and should be planted about 12cm deep. if planting in containers make sure the container is at least 30cm deep, half fill the container and cover, leaving space at the top
- Herbs can be started from seed now, either in greenhouses / propagators or outdoors later in the month
- Perennial seeds can be sown now in propagators
- Towards the end of the month broad beans, carrots, radishes, rocket and spinach can be sown outdoors once the soil is warmer
- In most cases waiting until later in the month for warmer weather is advised if sowing outdoors. Sowing in straight lines also helps to identify between seedlings and weeds
Feel the buzz of a bee pollinated garden!
Of all of the creatures we share our gardens with, bees are our best buzzing buddies! They make the garden feel alive, and more importantly, pollinate our plants. Playing vital step in the ecosystem for virtually every Summer crop and flowering plant, we should treat our furry friends to a tasty garden.
- Bees are looking for pollen & nectar from plants.
- Some flowers can be better than others, however, a plant with a visible centre are popular.
- Some of bees favourite plants are lavender, eryngium, echinacea & verbina. Full of nectar with lots of little flowers for a sturdy landing spot.
- Consider bees when laying out your beds, plant bee-friendly flowers near each other for easy pollination and no lost bees.
- And lastly, don't worry they won't sting you, they just want to get straight to the plants!
How to grow your own strawberries
Strawberries are a highly rewarding and easy fruit to grow at home. best of all they can be grown in beds, containers or even hanging baskets so you can grow them even if you have very little space. here's our handy guide to all things strawberries.
- There are many varieties of strawberries but they all fall into 3 categories; Alpines which produces lots of very small fruits. Summer-fruiting varieties hat produce a heavy crop over a short period, most of which fruit in June but there are early and later fruiting varieties too. Perpetual strawberries (everbearers) which produce smaller crops of fruit from early Summer through to Autumn.
- Seeds can be sown in February/March in a greenhouse/indoors
- Bought plants can be planted in September/October or late March, April and even late June for later fruiting varieties. Plant them 30-40cm apart making sure the crown is not exposed which will cause it to dry out, or too deep which could cause rot. Plant in a sunny spot, however if only shady areas are available consider Alpine varieties
- As well as producing fruit strawberries will also produce runner. These can be used to cultivate new plants, however if not wanted they should be cut to allow the plant to put more energy into producing flowers and fruit
- Good, regular watering and feeding during the flowering and fruiting season is important for good crops, especially if grown in containers
- If in an area with lots of birds then protect your fruiting plants with netting
- Once fruits begin to ripen keep them out of contact with the soil to stop them from rotting. A dry material can be used to create a barrier (traditionally straw, hence the name!), however plants in containers may not need this as the fruits will hang down over the sides of the containers
- Pick strawberries as and when they ripen, once the whole fruit is red by pinching the stem just above the fruit
- Runners are best taken at the end of the fruiting season and simply planted into pots of compost or if left atatched to the main plant pegged down into the soil and cut once roots have established
Quick guide to garden herbs for keen cooks
Fresh herbs are a great way to liven up any dish! Most herbs are really easy to grow yourself and there's a much larger variety available than normally available on supermarket shelves.
- Culinary herbs are many different types of plants and shouldn't be confused with herbaceous plants. Some herbs are evergreens, many are perrenials or annuals and some like parsely are bi-annuals.
- Knowing what type of plant a herb is can also useful to know when cooking. Most herbs are delicate and so are often added to dishes at the end of cooking or used raw
- Evergreen herbs are much tougher and have a more robust flavour and so are used earlier in cooking
- Evergreens include Bay, Sage & Rosemary. They can grow large but can also be kept smaller if grown in containers. Best of all they're always available to use in the kitchen and are great with meats and in pies & stews
- Perennial herbs are also easy to grow but will go dormant over the winter. Thyme, Fennel, Oregano, Mint, Tarragon & Chives are great examples
- Bi-annual herbs such as parsley and chervil will die off in the Winter but before they go they'll drop seeds into the soil below. keep an eye out for young seedlings appearing in Spring and don't plant in hanging baskets
- Annuals such as Basil & Coriander will die over Winter and not come back so you'll need to sow seeds or plant replacements each year
- If you want to make regular use of your garden herbs in the kitchen then plant them in containers near to your door so you don't have to go down to the end of the garden every time you need a bay leaf
Caring for your indoor plants
Houseplants, as well as looking pretty, have many health and psychlogical benefits including reduced stress levels, blood pressure and breathing problems to name just a couple. Follow the advice below to get the most from your indoor plants:
- Water sparingly, this is the most common downfall of a houseplant. As a general rule, do not water until the top inch or so of soil is dry.
- Use draining pots with saucers beneath to allow exess water to drain.
- Water more in the Spring and Summer, when your plant may be having a growth spurt, and less in the winter, when the plant goes dormant.
- Tap water is generally fine, but may vary for more specialist indoor plants
- Cacti & succulents will need less water, flower plants will need more.
- Most indoor plants will be fine without feeding but some, especially flowering plants, may need liquid feed up to once a week!
- It's generally a good idea to introduce a slow release fertiliser when re-potting to encourage growth in the new environment.
- Be careful not to overfeed as this can burn the roots of your plant.
- Pinch or cut off dying flowers/leaves and remove yellowing leaves to keep your plant happy & healthy.
- Dust can build up on plant leaves just as it would on any other surface of your home! Clean with a soft brush or a piece of cotton wool dipped in water.
- Many indoor plants enjoy some humidity, a daily spritz of tap water should do the trick! Placing tropical plants near each other can also help them create their own micro-climate
- If something doesn't seem right, check for pests. The most common offenders are mealy bugs, woolly aphids, sap-sucking insects & red spider mites. Removing these should be top priority.
- For mealy bugs & woolly aphids, you'll find tufts of white fluff on your leaves and stems. Use a soft organic soap spray to gently remove.
- For sap-sucking insects you'll see tiny limpet-like bugs, simply remove these by hand with a piece of cotton wool.
- For red spider mites you'll find some fine webs & yellow speckling on your leaves. Cut off the affected parts and mist your plant to prevent further damage.
Helping birds in Spring
In early spring wild birds begin to build their nests and you can see robins, sparrows and other birds flying back and forth with twigs. Birds will begin to arrive back from their winter migrations and later on you'll see birds busy going back and forth to feed their young.
- Leave small bunches of tiny twigs, dried moss etc near your feeders
- Avoid feeding fat and bread at this time as these can be harmful to nestlings and only feed peanuts if using a quality mesh feeder that will stop sizeable pieces of peanuts being taken
- Feeding bug based foods such as those containing mealworms is particularly good at this time, especially in especially dry spells as earthworms won't be available
- Clean feeders weekly and rotate feeding locations to prevent the spread of diseases
Spring lawn care
Once we enter Spring it's all systems go on the lawn care front! Moss can be dealt with, new grass seed laid and feeds can be applied to begin making your lawn nice and healthy.
- Apply treatment for killing weeds and moss
- Once the moss is dead and has turned black it can be raked out
- avoid raking the lawn until you're confident the moss is dead as raking can spread the spores
- Spike your lawn with a fork or use an aerator to relieve compaction and encourage root growth and improve drainage
- The lawn can be over-seeded and afterwards should be kept moist at all times to help the seeds germinate
- You can begin to start mowing the lawn but keep the cutting height high at first and make sure the blades are sharp as blunt blades can tear young grass out of the ground rather than cutting it
In the garden in March
Finally March is here, and with it Spring! Your garden will be starting to wake from it's winter sleep and it's time for you to start getting back into the habit of working in the garden too.
- Buy young bedding and basket plants for stunning displays of colour
- Start sowing seeds indoors and getting all your propagation equipment ready. A diary or calendar is idea to keep track of when to sow, re-pot and plant out your seedlings
- Make use of water butts to catch all the spring rains
- Dead-head spent flowers on bedding plants and daffodils
- Start to mow your lawn (check out our March lawn care tips for more detailed advice)
- Plant out chitted early potatoes and mound them up to protect from frost
- Lift and divide overgrown perennials
- Give your borders a mulch around plants to improve soil, keep moisture in and avoid weeding later in the season
- Plant summer flowering bulbs
Flowers to sow in March
With the arrival of Spring we can finally start to sow flower seeds to bring some colour into our gardens.
- Hardy annuals such as borages, cornflowers and ladybird poppies can be sown outdoors. These can be grown in poor soil so there's no need to enrich it but do weed and rake the area first
- Sweet peas can be sown under cover. They like long root runs so sow into deep pots or modules
- Wildflower mixes can be sown outside. Like hardy annuals weed and rake the area first
- Half hardy annuals such as antirrhinums, zinnias, cosmos & cleomes can be sown. These are not frost hardy so must be sown under cover
- Dahlias can be sown in greenhouses. These perennials can also have their tubers dug up in Autumn to store over Winter
Vegetable seeds to sow in March
Now the days are becoming warmer and longer there are a lot of vegetable crops that can be sown to start off your kitchen garden for the year
- The Great British weather can be an unpredictable and harsh mistress and for this reason plants such as tomatoes, chillies and aubergines need a long growing season to produce a good crop. For this reason now is the best time to sow them, ideally in the greenhouses or in propagators
- Salads can be sown throughout the Spring multiple times so you can enjoy them throughout the late Spring and Summer, in March they are best sown indoors
How to grow tomatoes
Who doesn't love tomatoes? They're delicious and oh so versitile. What's better than lovely ripe tomatoes? Ones you've grown yourself of course! Not only are they relatively simple to grow but there's also a wide variety to choose from and lots of different things you can do with them in the kitchen.
- What tomatoes should you grow? We think the best to grow are the more unusual varieties suchs big and juicy beefsteaks, sweet golden yellow varieties and surprisingly delious brown / black ones. if you'd rather something a little more traditional then something like Moneymaker is a great choice too and easy to grow
- Tomatoes can be sown from seed between February and April. For best result sow them in a greenhouse, propagator or indoors near a warm & sunny window. Cover with cling film at first and remove once seedlings appear. Re-pot your seedlings into 7-10cm pots once they're 2-4cm talland re-pot as necessary until they can be planted outdoors after your confident the last frost has been
- If you don't want to start from seed or have left it a little late then tomato plants are readily available in the Spring and we sell a wide variety
- Plant out yor tomato plants outdoors in s unny and sheltered spot after the last frost, normally in May. They can either be planted into a border, veg patch containers (at least 30cm) or you can plant 2-3 into a grow bag. If you have a greenhouse or pop-up tomato greenhouse then these are great for keeping your tomatoes a little warmer until the weather improves nearer to the Summer
- Some tomato plants are bushes but many are tall single stems that should be trained to a cane. This should be noted on the seed packets
- Single stem tomatoes need "pinching out" (removing side shoots). When there are four trusses of flowers pinch out the plant's growing tip so it will focuss it's energy onto producting the fruits rather than into growing taller. Bush tomatoes are more likely to sprawl and require a bit more space around the plant and should not need any trainging but may need to have heavy trusses of fruits supported on piles of bricks or upturned pots
- Both types of plant may need some foliage stripped away to allow light and air to the fruits but bush varieties require a little more
- Once flowers start to appear start feeding your plants with a specialist tomato plant food such as Tomorite on a weekly basis and continue until mid way through or towards the end of the harvest season
- Water your tomato plants regularly and consistently. Irregular watering can cause tomatoes to split or develop hard patches and ones grown out in containers can dry out very easily during the summer
- Harvesting can be done normally between July all the way through to October but you can start as soon as ripe fruits begin to develop. For best result let tomatoes ripen naturally on the plant. Towards the end of the season as the weather begins to turn cold you can pick trusses to ripen indoors
Design hacks for your dream urban garden
It can feel frustrating dreaming about your ideal garden before glancing out of the window reminding yourself you just don't have the space. Worry not, below are some great tips to make your smaller garden look spacious, modern, striking & green!
- It's tempting to try and fill your small space with small plants. On the contrary, picking something stand-out with prominent features, like ferns or bamboo, ironically can make the space feel even bigger!
- Walls & fences present a perfect opportunity to grow climbers & fruit trees. This gets your garden right to the edge & makes use of the space effciently.
- Urban areas are less prone to frosts due to the warmer microclimate. This makes dahlias a great choice as they can stay in the ground over Winter (covered with mulch) saving you the trouble of lifting and having to find somewhere to store them.
- Ornamental grasses are a perfect tool for providing a backdrop or linking different plants together. They give a classy, modern look and stay looking attractive & healthy even over the winter months.
- Hard perennials can be very good value in an urban garden. Obviously, they live a long time but also, they do well in sun or shade, they're fairly neutral so fit with many themes. Top tip: chop them right back after they first flower in summer and you should be treated to a second flowering before Autumn.
- If you're looking to start a little veggie patch, choose some plants with a bit of colour! There's swiss chard (which comes in many colours), peppers, kale to name a few colourful veggies! Don't forget about the purple versions of the classics!
Plant your Summer Flowering Bulbs in April
Planting Summer Flowering Bulbs in April Summer bulbs are dormant from early Spring onwards, which is the best time to buy them as they're nice and fresh. Bigger bulbs mean bigger blooms and the firmer, the healthier!
- The idea of planting the bulbs now is that the soil is starting to warm up just as they come out of their dormant season. The ideal soil temperature to plant bulbs in is around 13°C and in colder soil your bulbs will not grow.
- It's important to use free draining soil when planting bulbs to keep them from rotting & clay soil will need to be diluted by some course sand or well rotted organic matter, one or two buckets per square metre.
- When planting, make holes for each bulb, plant, and cover without pushing down hard. Many Summer bulbs can be grown in patio containers, which can be lifted & stored through winter!
April jobs in the garden
In April the garden comes alive with colour, daffodils are in flower, early tulips are starting to appear and flowering trees are starting to blossom. Amongst the sunny days are the inevitable April showers but beware as the odd frost is still possible. Indoor-sown seeds should be well under way by now and it's also time to start sowing outdoors.
- Keep pesky weeds under control
- protect fruit blossom from late frosts
- Sow hardy annuals, herbs and wild flower seeds outdoors
- Re-pot container plants that are outgrowing their current home
- Feed shrubs with fertilisers
- Mulch your vegetables, shrubs and roses and around fruit trees too
- Sow new lawns or repair patches in existing lawns
- Start watering houseplant more often
- Fill up bird feeders ready for nesting season but avoid using peanuts
Fruit & Veg to grow in April
April is a great time to start growing your own vegetables and herbs, but beware, frost is still a possibility so most are best sown in greenhouses or indoors.
- Perennial herbs like rosemary, sage & thyme can be sown in greenhouses
- Sow crops such as tomatoes, aubergines, celery, cucumbers and even melons in the greenhouse or indoors
- Crops like carrots, parsnips, leeks, swiss chard, radishes and beetroot can be sown outdoors
- Asparagus crows, onions, shallots and garlic can be planted out
- Strawberries can be planted out. Enrich the soil first with manure to ensure a good crop and protect with a cloche or grow tunnel
- Pot-grown fruit trees and bushed can be planted out as well as raspberry and blackberry canes
- Potatoes can be planted either in the ground, raised beds or large containers. These need plenty of space, 30cm apart and 45cm between rows and should be planted about 12cm deep. if planting in containers make sure the container is at least 30cm deep, half fill the container and cover, leaving space at the top
How to grow runner beans
Is there anything more quintessentially British than growing runner beans? Probably not! Runner beans are productive, tasty and decorative enough to grow as a climber in your flower border
- Runner beans need a sunny spot with rich and moisture retaining soil. Dig in manure the Winter before or before you start planting
- Sow seeds from April on-wards and plant out seedlings after the last frost around the end of May
- Runner beans need a support structure to grow up. Build a teepee / wigwan shape from 3 bamboo canes or make several A-frames joined by cross beam at the top. In a windy area it's also a good idea to anchor the bottom of your canes in the ground
- Water your plants regularly, and particularly if the weather is dry when buds start to appear
- Pinch out the growing tip of the plants when they reach the top of their supports to stop the plants becoming too top heavy
- You can harvest from roughly July on-wards, when the pods are 15-20cm long. Harvest regularly, every 3 days or so, to encourage more pod production and don't let the beans go to seed on the plant or they will stop producing flowers and beans
- Runner beans can freeze well, however you should top and tail them and blanch before freezing
Highway's Top Ten Summer Flowering Bulbs!
Not sure what to plant? Take a look at this list to find some great choices, all available at Highway!
- Allium - Tall with large, colourful flowerheads - Plant in Autumn
- Begonia - Short & dense with large flowers - Plant in early Spring
- Freesia - Colourful & pleasant smelling - Plant prepared corms in Spring & unprepared in Autumn
- Gladiolus - Tall & pale - Plant in Spring
- Crocosmia (Lucifer) - RHS Award Winning - Small Vibrant Petals - Plant in Spring
- Iris (Black Dragon) - Striking petal shape & colour - Plant in Autumn
- Dahlia (Bishop of Llandaff) - Vibrant red with dark purple foliage - Plant in late Spring
- Ranunculus - Distinctive petal shape - Plant in Spring
- Agapanthus - Pastel with trumpet shaped petals - Plant in Spring or early Autumn
- Canna (Tropicanna Black) - Tall with red petals and huge dramatic dark leaves - Plant in Spring
Garden jobs for May
With May comes the promise of Summer. The sun's coming out a bit more, but a few more showers until we're into proper sunbathing weather!
- For an ever better Spring bulb display; once your Spring bulbs have gone over, instead of cutting back the foliage, let them die & break down, then add liquid fertiliser around the clumps.
- On hot days, make sure you open your greenhouse vents and/or doors.
- Deter Red Spider Mites by damping down your greenhouse, increasing humidity.
- Schedule watering for the mornings and evenings to alleviate the effects of the hot Sun.
- At the end of the month you can plant your Summer bedding.
Growing your own - what to plant in May
The chance of frosts in May are low and so now many vegetable seeds can be sown outdoors, and there's nothing more rewarding than growing your own veggies from seed all the way through to the plate!
- Sow carrots, parsnips, peas, radishes, spinach and spring onion outdoors
- In greenhousesor indoors crops such as courgette, marrows, cucumbers, runner beans and perennial herbs can be sown
- Brassicas and leeks can be planted-out into your vegetable rows
- Tomato seedlings can be planted into growbags or containers but should remain in a greenhouse
- If you have the space then sweetcorn can be sown outdoors, however you will need at least 12 plants for pollination
What to prune & trim in Spring
Most trees & shrubs benefit from an annual pruning, it helps keep their shape, gets rid of dead & diseased wood and encourages new growth. Some plants are best pruned while dormant, and others are best pruned after blooming, here's our handy guide to which to do when in Spring;
- Prune Spring flowering trees & shrubs right after they've bloomed, particularly those tha start setting new buds as soon as the old flowers have fallen, this helps reduce the risk of pruning off new buds when doing the old
- Plants to prune after blooming include; Azaleas, Hydrangeas, Lilacs, Magnolias & Rhododendrons
- Prune late flowering trees & shrubs as early in the Spring as possible while still dormant
- Plants to prune early in Spring include; Butterfly Bush, Crape Myrtle. Flowering Dogwood, Honeysuckle & Wisteria
- Sharp & clean tools are always best for pruning, shop pruners
Top jobs to do in your garden in June
In June we start to get long summer days and warm light evenings. The garden comes into bloom, with lots of colourful & fragrant flowers meaning it's a great time to relax in your garden, but as always there's jobs to do as well.
- Watering - Particularly containers and anything recently planted in borders. Watering in the morning or evening to avoid much water loss through evaporation and water the soil, not the the plant leaves to avoid scorching
- Now is a great time to plant summer bedding into your borders. Make sure to protect them from slugs and snails while the plants get used to their new homes
- Dead-head roses (remove dead flowers) to encourage a second flowering. When doing so cut rose back to a strong side shoot and feed the roses afterwards
- Prune early summer shrubs that have finished flowering. Cut the stems about one third back to let lots of air and light into the plant and feed the plants with a multi-purpose feed afterwards
- Continue trimming hedges and topiary such as privet, box & yew. After trimming the hedges will benefit from a good watering and feed
- Soft fruits such as strawberries & raspberries should have begun fruiting and can now start to be harvested. Some vegetable crops can also be harvested such as peas, broad beans carrot & beetroots. It's time to start enjoying the fruits of your labour!
- If you have fruit trees then these can be thinned out by removing fruits to encourage the remaining fruits to develop fully
- It should now be safe to plant tomato plants outdoors
- Begin mowing your lawn weekly
Homegrown Treats: What can you harvest in June?
The fruits (and veg!) of your labour are starting to pop up now, which garden-fresh goodies will you be tucking into this month?
- Radishes, carrots, the first potatoes, Autumn sown onions & beetroot should be about ready in time for the barbecue weather.
- Lettuces, salad leaves, chard & spinach are practically jumping into the salad bowl with some honey mustard.
- First courgettes, globe artichoke, Spring cabbage, kale, even the healthy stuff tastes amazing when it's fresh from your garden!
- All of your herbs should be looking great & ready to compliment your Summer dining
- Rhubarb, cherries, strawberries, redcurrants & blackcurrants are begging to be served ice cold with a little bit of cream, bliss!
Pests, problems & plagues in July
We're really in the swing of planting, harvesting & marvelling at the growth of our subterrainean friends, we don't want anything bad to happen to them, do we! So while you're busy sowing and harvesting, it's definitely giving your plants a quick health checkup:
- Keep an eye out for aphids generally.
- Check for Asparagus Beetle (not only on Asparagus!)
- With your tomatoes, look out for patches of brown blossom-end rot.
- Have an eye on your potatoes & tomatoes checking for blight.
- It's a good time to sort out any problems you're having with wooly aphids & pear leaf blister mites. And also to treat plum & pear rust.
Quick list of planting & harvesting jobs for July
July is a key month in the gardening calendar, the sun is out, some of your veg is ready to harvest and it's time to plant some new treats too!
- The fruits (or should i say veg?) of your labour have arrived! It's time to harvest your lettuce, radish, other salads and early potatoes. You can enjoy them at your next barbecue!
- Feeling fruity? Your Cherries, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, apricots, peaches & nectarines should all be ready to harvest. Time for a fruit salad.
- It's time to sow your turnips, fennel, Spring cabbage, chicory & Autumn/Winter salads. If you haven't already done so, plant your leeks and brassicas for Winter.
Top jobs for your allotment or kitchen garden in August
August can be a busy time in your allotment or kitchen garden with lots of crops to harvest, plenty of watering needed, pruning and the chances of pests & diseases. Plus on top of all that you might well be away from the garden on holiday too!
- Lots of crops can be harvested such as carrots, runner beans, beetroot, artichokes, cucumbers and courgettes. Onions & shallots can also be harvested but will need to be left to dry before storing
- There's also still plenty of crops you can sow in August to keep you supplied with home grown crops in the Autumn such as lettuce, rocket, spring onion, radishes and winter salads like mustard leaf and lamb's lettuce
- Once raspberries have fruited their canes can be cut back down to the ground
- Some fruit trees such as plums can be pruned in the Summer as well trained apple & pears
- Keep an eye out for flea beetle on brassicas, swiss chard & rocket
- make sure you water crops regularly and consistently, particularly with tomatoes where irregular watering can cause blossom end rot or splitting
- If you're going away then plan ahead! Harvest as much as possible beforehand, give plants a thorough soaking before you go and if you can enlist a friend or neighbour to water while you're away
Jobs to do in your garden before your holiday
Holidays are great, but with all the packing, online check-ins and last-minute trips to the shops to replace lost travel adapters it's easy to forget that your garden will benefit a lot from some extra attention before you leave it for a week or two. Here are our top tips for making sure you return home from your hols to healthy garden;
- Harvest home grown crops to store or freeze what you can and eat what you can't
- Deadhead faded and dead flowers to ensure the plants put their energy into new growth. Also remove flowers that are fully open to stop them going to seed so existing buds will bloom ready for your return
- Mow your lawn before you go, but check the weather forecast, if it's meant to be hot set the blades high so it doesn't dry out while you're away
- Give the whole garden a good watering, particularly potted plants. Also place saucers under pots to collect water and if possible move your pots together and into a shaded area to help decrease evaporation
- Mulch your borders to help the soil retain moisture
- Take the time to do some weeding so they don't take over while you're gone
- Enlist help! If you're away for a long time then find a friend or neighbour who's willing to do a little watering while you're away, don't forget to get them a souvenir though!
Summer greenhouse survival guide
It doesn't matter if it's glass or plastic, greenhouses can get really hot in sunny weather. Here are a few ideas for making sure your plants don't overheat.
- The keys to keeping down temperatures are shading, air circulation & humidity. Your greenhouse plants likely orginiated from the tropics and subtropics so they can withstand high temperatures, just not too high!
- Leaves cool themselves down with a process called 'transpiration', this is when water moves from the plant and out the surface of the leaf. Therefore, keeping your greenhouse plants watered and the conditions humid with keep temperatures down.
- The second-most important cooling factor is air movement. This can be achieved with ventilation. Simply open the door and the roof/side vents (if you have them) to keep the air moving.
- Roof vents are the ideal solution for air movement. 1m² per 5m² results in a complete air change every two minutes!
- Shading can supplement these techniques for plant temperature but unfortunately is a bit of a double-edged sword as it also limits the light your plants will receive. Best practice is to use the maximum amount of ventilation you can, and then use as little shade as possible to get the temperature to around 25-27°C
- Your options for shading are internal/external blinds, shade netting & shading paints. The blinds will work best, but can be expensive, the netting is cheaper but less effective, the shade paints work decently well but can leave traces even when washed off.
- Maintain the humidity in your greenhouse by 'damping down', wetting the hard surfaces with water, ideally at least three times a day.
Hot weather garden care
As the weather gets hotter we all get a bit cheerier, and here are a few tips to keep your garden happy too!
- Spray your greenhouse with shade paint or put up net shading to prevent overheating in hot spots
- Lower the blades on your mower for shorter grass through the summer unless the weather is very dry
- Don't panic about watering your grass, it can be surprisingly resilient and excellent at dealing with a lack of water
- Adding organic matter up to a depth of about 25mm into your soil can dramatically increase its moisture holding capacity.
- It's best to water your plants early in the morning or in the evening as the sun shining through water can cause damage to the leaves
- Speaking of water, surface rooting vegetables will require more water but nothing much changes for deeper rooting plants.
Summer Pond Care
Summer is a great time for your pond and it should be teeming with wildlife, full of lush plant growth and your fish will be active and happy. Here are our tips for making the most of your pond during Summer;
- Fish are active in Summer thanks to the warmer temperatures but this also means they require more oxygen. If your pond is low on oxygen fish will gather near areas with water flow or gasp at the surface. You can increase the oxygen in the water by encouraging water flow at the surface with fountains, waterfalls or an air pump
- Summer is the perfect time to add new fish to your pond as your biological filtration will have had time to mature and the new fish will have time to adjust and gain strength before Winter
- Feed pond plants regularly to encourage growth and cut back dead leaves so they don't contaminate the water
- Add surface plants such as water hyacinth, chestnut, soldiers and lettuce to increase shade in the pond. Extra plant growth will also help prevent blooms of algae such as blanket weed and water algae
- Regularly maintain your filters and pumps. keep an eye out for reduced water flow as this is a sign foam may need replacing or blockages need removing
Summer lawn mowing & watering
Over the summer lawn care is mostly focused on mowing and watering but its also important to take the time to enjoy your lawn too, with the odd picnic or garden party.
- Mow your lawn regularly, with a cutting height of about 2-3cm for everyday lawns and 1-2cm for ornamental lawns
- In prolonged periods of hot and dry weather, raise the cutting height a bit to prevent the base of the lawn being scorched
- New grass needs to be watered regularly, more established lawns can be a bit more resilient to drought though obviously will be greener and healthier if watered too. When watering do so in the late evening or early morning to avoid scorching and water loss by evaporation and soak by leaving the sprinkler on for around an hour
- Spiking the lawn with a fork will help water to penetrate into the soil
- If you allow the grass to grow too long then don't cut it down in one go, take it down in stages