A new start in the garden for the New Year

PUBLISHED: 21:41 28 December 2012 | UPDATED: 22:34 20 February 2013

A new start in the garden for the New Year

A new start in the garden for the New Year

If your resolution is to take better care of your garden this year, here's some helpful advice to get you off to a good start. Words and photogrgraphy by Linda Viney

New Year, new start and new garden? It might be cold outside, but this is the perfect time to start planning for the year ahead in the garden. And whether you take on major projects or make minor changes, make sure you leave yourself time to enjoy the fruits of your labours.

Personalise your garden
Sometimes the smallest details will shine out and they neednt cost a fortune. Old garden tools were used as a feature in many of the gardens at flower shows around the country last year, and you can often find some at car boot sales or junk shops. With a bit of imagination they could become a show-stopper. Gather inspiration from books, magazines and gardens you visit.

Build for the future
Reclamation yards can be fascinating and you are almost certain to find something that takes your fancy, whether an old urn, broken artifact or even better part of a church window. This can lead to a great project like constructing a folly, which may sound grand but doesnt need to be huge and can create a great feature.

Once built you can add a patio with simple wrought iron table and chairs a new place to sit and enjoy your garden from another perspective. Keep any old glass bottles as they can be used to create a stained glass window effect, another use for wine bottles is to edge a border, though this is not advisable if small children are around.

Create space
There are many ways to create the illusion of more space. A doorway set on a brick wall or set in a hedge can give the appearance of more garden behind. The same can happen with the careful use of mirrors which reflect what is already there and make a winding path seem to carry on. If you have a sloping garden, think about building steps to take you to the different levels.

A row of stepping stones across a lawn can be made more interesting by creating a mosaic on the slabs, make sure you choose fairly even sized pebbles and mark out the design before you set it in concrete. This is something you can do indoors during the dark winter months.

A bugs life
We all need bugs and insects of the right type and to encourage them, create your own bug house by cutting up bamboo canes and holding them together in a wooden frame. Piles of old logs and twigs in a corner also provide shelter, as do holes in wooden posts and bricks with holes. Sow an area with wild flowers to encourage butterflies and bees.

Last year I experimented with seeds coated in mycorrhizal fungi versus a ready sown mat, the mat performed quicker but the seed had more varieties that germinated, do be patient as many seeds may take two years to germinate. And dont forget the birds, they are essential for the removal of aphids, slugs and snails. Avoid the use of slug pellets as much as possible as they can harm, instead use a beer trap or try the organic pellets now available.

Keep it watered
If your garden is formal then a rectangular, circular or square pond compliments the style, whereas a more natural pond will fit a natural flowing garden. Whichever, preparation is important. Choose a good quality liner that is guaranteed for at least 20 years. Movement is achieved by the addition of a pump, specialist suppliers will help you purchase the one suitable for your plans. Even a small bubble water feature adds tranquility.

Grow your own
Vegetables can be grown in tubs or raised beds and either can be made a feature of, why not think of edging your borders with herbs or there are so many different varieties of lettuce from the traditional green flower heads to curly red rosso and taller cos or romaine, either will make attractive and tasty edging. Last year I tested planting by the moon and was astounded to discover tomato seeds sown in the right phase of the moon germinated within five days, while those sown at a different time took two weeks. Co-incidence? Who knows, but it may be worth experimenting.

People in glass houses
A greenhouse isnt a necessity but a useful extra, especially for storing tender plants overwinter, sowing seeds, growing on plug plants and germinating cuttings. There are many greenhouses to choose from depending on your budget but large or small, lean to or free-standing, select one that will sit well in your garden and not be an eyesore. n

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