Garden Insects: What are Good and Bad Bugs?

Maintaining a healthy garden is all about finding balance between human control and nature. A huge part of this is knowing which organisms (particularly insects) are beneficial to your plants, and which are harmful – basically, which are good and bad bugs for your garden.

Your crops, flowers, hedges and trees – even your lawn, if you have one – all play a part in your garden ecosystem. They interconnect with the insects you attract which, in turn, affect the larger critters you might find (like birds and hedgehogs). Trying to keep your garden too tidy, or using harsh chemicals to keep it in check can have a long-term negative impact on your plant health and overall enjoyment.

Let’s take a look at how your garden maintenance can interact with insects, and how to balance the good and bad bugs in your little slice of nature.

Which insects are good for your garden?

Okay, so it’s obviously not quite as simple as labelling insects as being good or bad bugs. Depending on what you’re growing and who is enjoying your garden (children, pets etc), you’ll want to weigh up these generalisations a little more carefully. However, the minibeasts in this section are generally considered to be a positive influence on your garden balance.

Bumblebees

a bumblebee enjoying lavender flowers

Of course, these fuzzy little guys are going to be at the top of the list. Pollinators are great  for boosting plant production – whether that’s for flowers or crops – and pollinating is what bees do best!

There are over 250 bee species in the UK, and 24 of them are types of bumblebees. You can usually pick these out of a line up thanks to their aforementioned fluff, and also because they seem to be endearingly bad at flying in a straight line.

Bumblebees are typically ‘social’ bees, meaning they live together in colonies. However, the majority of bees in the UK are solitary bees, and appreciate an insect hotel to stay in. You can also welcome bees by planting lots of high-pollen flowers in summer.

Ladybirds

A ladybird insect on white cow parsley

Ladybirds are another insect that deserves its good reputation. Not only are the wonderful characters in storybooks and spectacularly dressed, ladybirds prey on aphids and other irritating bugs.

Although they look unique, there are actually over 40 species of this bug, which are actually just a type of beetle. You can, of course, identify them thanks to their bright wing cases (ranging from yellow to orange to red in colour) with dark, round spots. Although, about 20 varieties of ladybird don’t have this distinctive shell.

Why are ladybirds so great? They love to munch on aphids (my personal arch nemesis) and scale insects, limiting their populations. Some varieties of ladybird feed on the mildew fungus, helping you out in other ways. The UK Ladybird Survey has more info on these delightful critters.

Hoverflies

a tiny hoverfly on a large flower with a yellow centre and white petals

Next up: Hoverflies. These guys wear the same black and yellow stripes that we associate with bees or wasps, so they can seem like bad news to the untrained eye. However, hoverflies are much smaller than the typical wasp, don’t make that distinctive “buzz”, and fly in a totally pattern – so double-check before swatting! When you know what you’re looking at, hoverflies are actually pretty fun to watch as they dart around.

Adult hoverflies live off of nectar, and are great pollinators. The reason hoverflies are on this list of good and bad bugs? Their larvae have an absolutely unstoppable appetite for aphids, thrips and caterpillars – all incredibly common garden pests. So the more the merrier!

Invite hoverflies into your garden by growing large, open flowers, like calendulas, Michaelmas daisies and dahlias. As hoverflies don’t have long tongues (like bees or butterflies), they look for nectar in flatter flowers, rather than deeper ones.

Dragonflies

close up of a bright blue dragonfly perched on some grass

Dragonflies are beautiful, but they’re good for more than just scenery. They’re predatory insects, and feed on lots of the flying pests that might plague your garden, like mosquitos and gnats. You can use plants that repel mosquitoes, or set up a small, shallow pond to attract dragonflies.

If you see dragonflies in your garden, it’s a good sign. The presence of dragonflies is usually an indicator of a healthy natural environment, and clean, unpolluted water nearby. Read our tips to attract more dragonflies to your garden.

Earwigs

earwigs are both good and bad bugs for your garden

Earwigs are far from my favourite creature, but it turns out they’re pretty good for your garden. They typically live in dark, damp places, like compost heaps, which is probably why they give me the heebie jeebies!

The GOOD thing about earwigs is that their diet includes smaller insects that can destroy your plants, like aphids (among other things). So, if your earwig numbers are relatively low, leave them to hoover up other garden annoyances.

Butterflies

a tortoiseshell butterfly with open wings resting on a buddleja flower

Butterflies are excellent pollinators, and a delight to watch fluttering around your flowers. Plus, they’re an important part of the food chain, attracting predators like birds and even bats.

It’s worth remembering that caterpillars can be a pest in high numbers, chomping through the leaves of just about anything. However, one or two won’t pose much of a threat to your shrubs and veggies.

There are all kinds of plants you can grow to attract butterflies, like buddleja, lavender and jasmine. Basically, any varieties that are rich in nectar.

Which bugs are the biggest garden pests?

Again, categorically deciding what are good and bad bugs doesn’t really work. The most irritating pests will depend on where you live and what plants you’re trying to grow. Of course, there are some common offenders – here are my top five.

Earwigs

a stumpery made from decaying tree logs

Yes, I know these guys appeared on the “good bugs” list too. While they’re great for controlling an aphid population, earwigs can be a bit of a nightmare if you’re growing clematis, chrysanthemum or dahlia. As I mentioned before, you’ll find earwigs clustered in dark, damp crevices – which is why you’re looking at a picture of a stumpery, instead of another picture of one of my least-favourite critters!

Anyway, earwigs are a prime example of how to keep balance in your garden; in the grand scheme of things, it might be worth keeping some around. If they’re becoming a problem, use earwig traps.

Aphids

a cluster of aphids eating a leaf

For me, aphids are hands-down the most annoying pest. I’ll never forget the year I babysat a friend’s tomato plant that I eventually discovered was carrying aphids. I realised because they migrated to all three of my beloved chilli plants, which just couldn’t handle the attack. No matter how many times I washed the aphids away, they always came back – and in greater numbers.

What’s wrong with aphids? They slurp up the sap from your plants, stealing the precious fluids and nutrients that help them grow. As a result, you’ll see limp leaves, shrivelled stems and stunted growth.

As they’re only a couple of millimetres long, you might not spot a lone aphid. However, they tend to appear in groups, and will cluster around the yummiest parts of your plants – new stems or buds. There are a few varieties of aphid, so they could be green, white, brown, red or black.

What is the best way to get rid of aphids? As soon as you notice them, the best thing to do is spray your plant with water or – even better – water with a little bit of dish soap mixed in. You can also use diatomaceous earth to dry them out without harming your plants. Repeat this process a few times to catch newly-hatched aphids.

Vine weevils

a little black vine weevil sitting on a leaf with the edges chewed

Vine weevils are a kind of beetle that are down to chomp on just about anything. Adult vine weevils will go for plant leaves, while their grubs at the base of the plant make short work of roots. Container plants are particularly vulnerable, especially on 

Weevils are roughly 9mm long and are black, sometimes with dusty yellow markings. Look for notches chomped out the edges of plant leaves. The grubs are about a centimetre long and are completely white except for a brown spot at the tip, and will hang around among the plant roots.

Keep vine weevils under control by encouraging birds. Check your plants with a torch at night to find and pick-off adult bugs.

Slugs and snails

a brown snail on the edge of a plant pot

As a kid I used to love snails – they’re so weird! Even now, if I see one crawling across a path on a rainy day, I will occasionally pick it up and move it to the side (but I’m a lover, not a fighter, what can I say). However, it took me exactly one visit to my step-mum’s glorious allotment to completely understand why veggie growers might abhor these slimy so-and-sos.

What’s the problem with snails? They will devour the leaves, stems and flowers of anything they find delicious – mostly seedlings and veggies, but also some ornamental flowers too. Snails and slugs usually come out at night, leaving silvery trails of slime wherever they’ve been… but chances are, you’ll notice the massive holes in your plants first.

Slugs and snails are simply too widespread to ever hope you can get rid of them. Instead, work on redirecting them and, at the same time, protecting your most prized plants. Use beer traps or fruit traps to tempt them, and surround anything vulnerable with a gritty mulch. Finally, encourage predators like hedgehogs, frogs and toads into your garden. More tips to keep snails out of your garden.

Caterpillars

several caterpillars on the underside of a cabbage leaf, eating holes

Caterpillars are another grub that I find amazing. As garden pests go, they’re actually kind of… cute? Or, at least, they’re cute when you have one or two – caterpillar colonies can quickly strip the leaves off the bushiest plant, leaving it totally destroyed. Plus, they’re not picky eaters, so nothing is safe.

Butterflies are great, so the best way to deal with caterpillars is to pick them off manually and relocate them.


So, the key thing to remember is that all creatures contribute to the balance of your garden in their own way. A diverse garden is a healthy garden!

19 DIY Bug Hotel Ideas for a Healthy Garden Eco-System

There are so many wonderful ways you can bring sustainability and eco-friendliness into your garden; we’ve already talked about growing your own kitchen garden, and planting living walls and green roofs. Another fun project to help the eco-system is to build an insect house! We’ve got a whole bunch of cute, practical and artistic bug hotel ideas to suit gardens of every size and style.

Did you know that the average garden can accommodate more than 2,000 different insect species? Although there are a fair few pests, having the right bugs in your garden is such a benefit. Encouraging friendly species like bees, ladybirds, and beetles not only helps to pollinate your flowers, but can actually help you control the numbers of pesky plant-eaters.

So, if you fancy an easy and creative garden project this weekend, try building some insect accommodation. Here are the best insect mansion and bug hotel ideas that I’ve found!

a large insect hotel with various compartments and a green roof

Image by Sabine Fenner

A huge bug habitat with a living garden roof: could this be any more sustainable?

5 Simple reasons to build a bug hotel

If you’re reading this article, I’m guessing you’re already interested in building an insect lodge and have a good idea of all the benefits they can bring… but in case you need convincing, here’s a recap:

  1. You can support garden biodiversity and the balance of your local environment.
  2. Your guests will act as a completely organic form of pest control for your plants.
  3. You’ll be saving the bees, specifically – they’re an incredibly precious part of our ecosystem.
  4. It’s a great opportunity for your children to learn about DIY, insects and environmental awareness.
  5. You can finally use up all of those awkward leftover garden materials!
a tall, rustic insect hotel made from branches and garden debris

Image by Kevinsphotos

Could you make an entire bug hotel out of salvaged materials?

Bug hotel ideas: The basics

First off, choose a site for your bug hotel. The best real estate will be close to the plants you want to pollinate and protect. Bugs can be pesky neighbours, so build your bugtropolis away from the house to prevent creepy-crawlies from trying to move in with you.

Different bugs are attracted to different types of accommodation. If you’re angling for a particular type of insect, check whether they prefer cool shady spots, or a little bit of sunshine. Nestling your bug hotel against a hedge or between shrubs is a good way to get a mixture of conditions and encourage a variety of insects to move in.

Finally, remember that large bug hotels can get pretty heavy, so lay down a solid surface (like paving slabs) to support their weight and stop them from sinking into mud!

a small wooden bug hotel attached to a tree

Build your bug box out of untreated materials to keep your insect visitors safe and happy.

What are the best materials for building a bug hotel?

The main thing when picking your insect mansion construction materials is to keep it natural, so you don’t harm your guests. Choose untreated and unbleached wood, stone or bricks – reusing old bits of furniture and scrap materials is fine, as long as it’s not painted or varnished. Man-made coatings are often toxic to bugs and can cause all sorts of damage.

When it’s time to start building, you’ll want two sets of materials: base materials, to build the main structure, and filler materials, to “furnish” the rooms. You can be as creative as you like – it’s a great way to use leftover material scraps from other garden projects!

Base materials for bug hotels

a close up of hollowed out sticks and bamboo canes arranged together for a bug hotel

Lots of insects look for little tunnels to build a nest and hibernate from the cold, including bees.

Filler materials for bug hotels

a huge garden insect habitat made from old pallets and garden materials

Image by Josef Pichler

This incredible insect resort uses just about every material imaginable – incorporate whatever bits and pieces you find in your garden!

Building your bug hotel

Decide where you want to position your bug hotel, and how big you want it to be. Will it be freestanding on the ground, attached to a post, or fixed to a wall? You might want to build several insect houses to accommodate bugs in various parts of your garden.

Start by screwing together the frame – you can buy wood from almost any decent hardware store if you don’t have spare materials in your garden. Next, add internal segments, thinking about what materials you have to fill them with as you go. You could try building different “floors” for different types of insects. 

When it comes to adding filler materials, they should be fairly tightly packed, but with enough room for insects to burrow. You might want to add chicken wire or mesh to the front of certain sections to stop loose bits falling out.

Finally, add a roof. Tiles or planks will be fine – you want to stop your insect habitat from getting completely soaked, but it doesn’t have to be completely watertight.

simple garden bug hotel ideas

Bug boxes don’t have to be very big! This little insect hotel would be more than enough if you nestled it deeper in a hedge or tall flower bed.

How to attract the right insects to your bug hotel

Beneficial biodiversity in your garden starts with your plants. By choosing the right plants and flowers to surround your bug hotel, you’ll be more likely to attract the most helpful insects.

The longer your blooming season, the more likely you are to attract pollinators like hoverflies and lacewings. Look for plants the flower early in the year, with an assortment of heights so both flying and non-flying critters can reach.

Here are some bug hotel ideas for trying to attract specific kinds of insects!

Befriending the bees

Did you know that most garden bees are actually ground-dwellers? Most will burrow under the soil to hibernate, so you’ll want to leave some space at ground-level for them during the winter.

There are also solitary bee species, which prefer to nest in tunnels and hollow stems. Small groups of loner bees will sometimes hole up together, so incorporate lots of bamboo stems and a little water dish.

a small, narrow bee house made usgin short canes of bamboo

Image by PollyDot

Save the bees! Even the smallest bee hotel can help the environment by housing essential little pollinators.

Luring in ladybirds

You’ll definitely want to make some room for ladybirds – they love munching on aphids, one of the most common plant pests. Ladybirds tend to hibernate in larger groups, and often cluster in-between twigs and dry leaves. Put the bug box near whichever plants are suffering with aphids or – if your aphid population is under control – plant things that will attract more aphids (like nasturtiums).

Boarding for beetles

Sticks, dead plant stems and compost clumps are a paradise to most beetle species. If you’ve got a compost heap, grab some of the soil and include it in a bug hotel room (and if you haven’t got a compost heap, take a look at our compost ideas to get started).

Lots of beetles prefer flowers with flat blooms, so try planting fennel, yarrow and species of daisy nearby.

a large garden insect house, with objects arranged to resemble a smiley face

Image by Sue Rickhuss

Look how many things are tucked into this insect mansion design! If you’ve got the space, you won’t have to worry about leftover garden debris ever again. The smiley face at the top is a nice touch, too.

More bug hotel ideas and inspiration

For the most part, you’ll want to leave your bug box undisturbed, but there’s no harm is adding a little latch so you can clean it out every couple of years – and have a nose inside! The red door on this little insect hotel is very cute, but make sure you’re using organic dyes if you decide to colour your own bug house.

a small wooden bee box with the middle section stained red

Image by Thomas B.

Um, can the person that designed this build a human version for me? I love the aesthetic of this, and the variety of insect “rooms” will attract a diverse range of critters throughout the seasons. Feel free to add cute little details like the “hotel” sign to your own bug box – the insects won’t mind!

This rustic style of DIY bug hotel is an absolute winner if you’ve got the space. Making the most of dry materials that you could find in the garden, the chunky objects are pleasing for human eyes and super cost for bug buddies. Chicken wire keeps everything secure, and a covered roof offers just enough protection.

Short on space? You can turn any awkward nooks in your garden into wildlife accommodation. This picture shows how, with just a little bit of resourcefulness, you can build a bug hotel for free without using any tools.

If you thought all insect hotels look more or less the same, think again. This amazing bug house was custom-built as an eco-friendly art installation. Reckon you’re up to the task of creating your own? 

What if you don’t have much outside space? There are plenty of bug hotel ideas for small gardens, like this wall-mounted critter cottage. You could mount a similar style to any wall that’s close to plants, and still find lots of insects checking in.

Is it just me, or is this chunky insect mansion really satisfying to look at? I reckon you could pack a few more materials into the various crevices, but I love the variety of rooms. Plus, this would be a great way to reuse leftover building materials in your garden.

This has got to take the trophy for the most extravagant design! Less of an insect hotel and more of a bug universe, this eco-sculpture by @damholgard demonstrates how sustainability can intersect with art, if you want it to! Building one of these yourself might be a little ambitious, but you can definitely be inspired by the sheer variety of materials that have gone into this masterpiece.

Tips for looking after your bug hotel

On the whole, insect hotels are best left alone – nature will usually take care of everything it needs. However, it’s always worth keeping an eye on your hotel and its guests and taking care of the following:

Avoid pesticides

Bug boxes are an excellent way to manage pest insects, but the process takes time. While you’re waiting to welcome your visitors, hold off on using pesticides or you’ll risk fumigating their home before they’re even moved in. Look for botanical pesticides as an alternative, but use them sparingly.

an unusual, keyhole shaped insect hotel

Image by planet_fox

I love the unusual shape of this little bug hotel!

Nurture the right plants

Research the feeding habits of your preferred beasties, and plant accordingly. Ladybugs, for example, enjoy coriander, dill, dandelion, and fennel, while hoverflies enjoy yarrow and bergamot. Other plant families that attract a good number of beneficial insects are the carrot, aster, legume, mustard, and verbena families.

Another thing to note is where your insect tenants like to hide. Thyme and oregano are an excellent hiding spot for most beetles, who prefer to tunnel underground, whereas flying insects such as wasps are more attracted to taller flowers like daisies.

DIY bug hotel ideas made from reusing old pallets

Image by Mika Baumeister

Eco-friendly and attractive: Recycle old pallets into a gorgeous DIY insect house

Provide a water source

Though you’ll want to keep your insect hotel dry, it’s good to have a water source ready for your visiting guests. You could install a drip irrigation system, or simply include a natural watering hole or simple water dish.

Build ground-level hiding places

Nocturnal insects prefer to stay away from heat and sunlight, so try and offer them more than just foliage to stay cool. Mulching a section of your garden floor can keep the soil hydrated, and give beneficial bugs an opportunity to munch on underground pests.

For even more shade, build stepping stones out of any flat surface. Push them into loose, shallow soil so insects can burrow without getting crushed or suffocated. You might also use hollow coconut shells or cave-like hides that you can build or purchase at a garden centre.

a shed-sized insect hotel in the middle of long grass in a field

Image by Manfred Antranias Zimmer

Bug hotels can be mostly left to their own devices, just check in every now and then.

10 Best Companion Plants For Autumn Joy Sedum

Do you love Autumn Joy sedum? If you want one of these beauties in your garden, this article is for you. As you already know, this sedum looks great on its own, but it’s always good to complement it with a few other plants.

If you’re wondering which plants make the best companions for Autumn Joy, keep reading.

autumn joy sedum

Autumn Joy Sedum by mwms1916

What can I plant with Autumn Joy sedum?

It’s not difficult to find companions for this popular plant. All you have to do is make sure they have the same care requirements and plan the layout. Here are a few plants that go well with Autumn Joy to get you started.

1. Fountain grass

Fountain grass is a perennial ornamental grass that usually grows from one focal point or mount. This plant gets its name from the fountain-like appearance of the leaves. It’s very easy to care for and pairs well with Autumn Joy.

This plant is ideal for placing in garden borders, making it an ideal companion for sedum. It won’t become invasive and comes in a range of different sizes depending on the variety you choose.

To get the most out of this plant, use it as a background to shorter plants and enjoy the showy display when it flowers.

fountain grass

Credit: Max Pixel

2. Russian sage

Russian sage is very popular because of its silver foliage and purple, lavender like flowers. This plant can be used as ground cover around your Autumn Joy. The purple flowers will complement the much bigger sedum plant and its flowers.

This plant is very hardy but prefers a full sun location. Russian sages are fairly drought tolerant so water sparingly. In very dry conditions, you can water it every few days. Its ability to tolerate dry spells also makes it an ideal companion for Autumn Joy since that plant doesn’t like too much water either.

russian sage

Russian Sage by Robert Ashworth

3. Black-eyed Susans

If you want something that stands out, you can’t go wrong with black-eyed Susans. These popular wildflowers belong to the aster family. They tend to take over so make sure to keep them in check. Black-eyed Susans will perfectly complement the Autumn Joy with their yellow leaves and blackish purple centres.

These flowers need to be watered a bit more regularly than the sedum. For this reason, make sure there’s a little gap between the species to avoid overwatering the Autumn Joy.

black-eyed susan

Credit: Pixabay

4. Asters

Asters are daisy-like perennials that come in many varieties and a wide range of colours, perfect for pairing with your Autumn Joy.

Asters flower quite late in summer and into autumn. This makes them very attractive to bees and other pollinators when other blooms have faded. You can plant them in borders or simply let them grow in a wildflower garden bed nearby.

asters

Credit: Pxhere

5. Blue fescue

Blue fescue is another ornamental grass that looks really good alongside Autumn Joy. Its characteristic green-blue leaves will contrast against the pink flowers of the sedum. You can use them together as border plants or separately in different garden beds. You can even plant blue fescue around your sedum to create an attractive border.

These grasses are very easy to grow and care for. Simply make sure you water them enough and give them the proper light conditions to thrive.

6. Dianthus

Dianthus flowers are annuals, biannual or even perennials that are usually used in borders. This makes it an ideal plant to use alongside sedum. The spicy fragrance of these flowers is what makes them most attractive.

Also called pinks, the dianthus plant produces stunning pink flowers that will liven up your garden. They can be used to frame the sedum or help to mark a border between different flower beds.

dianthus

Credit: Pixabay

7. Hostas

Hostas are perfect for framing the shaded edges of your garden and a great partner to the sun-loving sedum. The stunning display of different greens and their ability to fill a shaded spot where other plants just won’t grow is what makes them most attractive.

Hostas produce beautiful flowers during summer. This will also help to complement your sun-loving Autumn Joy.

hostas

Credit: Pixabay

8. Echinacea (coneflower)

Echinaceas are easy to care for perennials that will go beautifully with your Autumn Joy sedum. These flowers are quite drought resistant, making them ideal companion plants.

They’re also excellent at attracting bees and other pollinators to your garden. These flowers need quite a bit of sun to survive. You can plant them in a ring around your sedum or place them in a wildflower garden bed.

coneflower

Credit: Pixabay

9. Goldenrod (Solidago Goldkind)

Goldenrod is a perennial flowering plant that looks great paired with Autumn Joy. They’ll attract beneficial insects to your garden and make the sedum stand out, providing a striking contrast against its yellow flowers.

Use them together in garden borders or create a ring of goldenrod around your sedum. Young goldenrod leaves are edible and often used in herbal teas.

solidago

Credit: Pxhere

10. Boltonias

Boltonias are aster-like perennials that produce a sea of flowers in late summer. They are often used in borders and need to be divided often to keep them under control. They’re often used to neutralise the colours of your garden with their grey-green foliage.

Their flower and foliage colours are what makes this plant a popular companion for Autumn Joy.

boltonias

Boltonia asteroides by Alvin Kho

FAQs

Will Autumn Joy sedum grow in shade?

Yes, but shady conditions will reduce flowering, cause the plant to become leggy and may lead to root rot if not watered properly. These plants prefer to grow in full sun unless grown in a very hot environment.

Learn more: Tips for Growing a Shade Garden

Where does Autumn Joy sedum grow best?

Autumn Joy sedum grows best in an area with very well-draining soil and full sun. Sedums make excellent additions to a drought-tolerant garden. It’s best to keep the soil of your Autumn Joy on the dry side. They also don’t like very fertile soil so don’t add too much compost.

Final thoughts

Now that you know a bit more about the plants that make great companions for Autumn Joy, it’s time to choose what you’d like for your garden. You’ll be able to find most of these plants at your nearest nursery, or you can buy them online.

Happy gardening!

Winter Pansies Growing Guide: Easy Winter Flowering Plants

Would you like to inject some colour into your dull winter garden? Pansies won’t let you down. These stunning smiling flowers will bring some life back to winter. In this article, we’ll look at everything you need to know to grow and care for pansies.

Winter Pansies Growing Guide

By Colin Smith, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wiki

What are pansies?

Before you run off to buy your favourite winter pansies, it’s important to know a bit more about this plant. This will help you to figure out when to plant pansies, where the best place is to help them grow and how to care for them.

The first thing you’ll need to know is that pansies are short-lived perennials. In some climates, however, they are annuals. Most of the time gardeners treat pansies as annuals regardless of the climate even though they can technically survive for two to three years if cared for properly.

The reason for keeping them as annuals is mostly due to their growth pattern in summer. Pansies tend to become quite leggy in warm temperatures which can look unattractive to some. The best time to have pansies around is from autumn until the end of spring.

These pretty flowering plants will flower even in snow. The flowers have heart-shaped overlapping petals with patterns that appear to be a smiley face. You do, however, get quite a few varieties of pansies with a range of different colours and patterns.

To complement your winter pansies, plant them alongside violas, primroses, trailing lobelia and sweet alyssum.

Winter Pansies viola

Credit: Pxfuel

A quick guide to growing pansies

In-depth growing guide for winter pansies

Pansies aren’t difficult to grow. As long as you water them properly and feed them every now and then, they should be just fine. If you want to know a bit more about pansies than just the basics, keep reading.

Lighting

If you live in a cool climate, you can plant your pansies in an area with full sun. In warmer climates, it’s best to keep them in an area that gets morning sun and shade throughout the rest of the day. Midday and afternoon sun may be too much for these cold-loving plants.

If kept in containers, you can move them around to the appropriate light conditions. Just keep in mind that these plants are even less tolerant of heat when kept in containers. You’ll need to make sure you pay attention to your pansies to keep them alive and blooming away.

Watering

The biggest problem people tend to have with their pansies is underwatering. If your pansies look a bit sickly, try giving them more water. Generally, it’s a good idea to water your pansies every day.

If you’re scared of overwatering, make sure the top inch of soil is dry before you water. Pansies don’t like to dry out completely so make sure to pay special attention to them on hot days.

This is especially important if your pansies are planted in an area with full sun or when kept in containers. These plants may need to be watered more than once a day if the soil tends to dry out quickly. If your plants aren’t getting enough water, you’ll quickly notice them wilting.

Winter Pansies watering

Credit: Pixabay

Soil

Pansies are best kept in moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil. These plants despise drying out but won’t do well in standing water. It’s best to find a comfortable in-between. To keep the soil moist, you’ll need to make sure that you use something that retains some water. The humus content should help with this.

To make sure the soil still drains well, you’ll need materials such as bark, perlite and vermiculite. These will help water to drain slowly so the plant can absorb what it needs to survive.

The humus content provides the pansies with a slightly moist, acidic environment to grow in. It will also help to retain some moisture for the pansies to absorb.

It’s also best to monitor the soil temperature before planting pansies. Your pansies will grow best in a soil temperature that’s between 7 and 18°C (45-65°F).

Winter Pansies soil

Credit: Pixabay

Temperature

Pansies are frost tolerant plants. They do well in temperatures far into the minuses (or teens if you’re working in Fahrenheit). Pansies prefer cold areas, they can be grown in warmer climates as well but will become annuals instead of perennials.

In the UK pansies will mostly be grown as annuals. If you live in an area that gets severe frost, you will need to protect your pansies by using mulch. If you’re only dealing with snow, there’s no need to worry. Snow insulates and protects pansy plants while they continue flowering throughout.

Winter Pansies frost

Credit: Pixabay

Expected size

Pansies come in different sizes, patterns and colours. What you decide to choose for your garden depends on taste and climate. The variety referred to as winter pansies grow about 15-23cm (6-9″) tall and 23-30.5cm (9-12″) wide.

To make sure your plants aren’t overcrowded, make sure your single plants are surrounded by a minimum space of around 25cm (9″) all around.

Fertilising

To keep your pansies blooming, you will need to feed your plants a balanced all-purpose fertiliser. It’s best to choose a solid slow-release fertiliser. This way you can be sure that your plant gets the nutrients it needs even in winter when snow may make fertilising more difficult.

If your plants will be kept in containers, a weekly liquid fertiliser feed will do the trick. Just make sure to water thoroughly before applying liquid fertiliser to prevent burn damage. The only fertiliser that should be avoided is one with high nitrogen content. This fertiliser isn’t necessarily bad for your plants, but it will reduce the number of blooms quite drastically.

Pruning

The best way to prolong flowering in your pansy plants is to deadhead any faded or dead flowers. This means picking out the flowers in question and snipping them off at the base where it joins the plant.

Once your plant starts to become leggy, most people rip them out and replant it next season. You can, however, continue to care for this short-lived perennial if you like.

Propagating

Pansies aren’t the easiest plants to grow from seeds. They are quite finicky and should be barely covered by soil to succeed. This makes it very difficult to not wash the seeds away in the first few days before the seedling emerges.

Most gardeners opt to skip the seedling stage. They simply buy their plants ready for transplanting from a nursery. This is definitely the easier way to do it unless you don’t mind quite a bit of disappointment until you get the hang of growing pansies from seeds.

Did you know?

Pansies are more than just a pretty flower in your garden. These beauties are edible too. They are said to have a mild minty flavour and are often used as a garnish in salads and desserts.

edible Winter Pansies

Pansies are edible too. Credit: Pxfuel

When to plant pansies

The best time to plant pansies is in autumn. By doing so, you give them a chance to establish before winter hits. You can also plant pansies in spring, but doing so means you’ll need to help them survive summer.

Pansies aren’t the best heat-tolerant plants. If you live in a climate with very hot summers, these aren’t the flowers for you. Pansies get very leggy when exposed to summer heat. For this reason, they are often planted as annuals during autumn.

Pansy problems

pansy problems

Image credit: Pinterest

Pansies aren’t the hardiest of plants. For this reason, you need to be wary of quite a few problems. Here’s what to look out for:

Mosaic viruses

The signs for mosaic viruses are quite variable. Some signs you can look out for are irregular leaf mottling (yellow, light and dark green patches on the leaves), stunted, curled or puckered leaves with lighter veins than normal, dwarfed plants compared to healthy neighbours, fewer flowers than normal, and dwarfed, deformed or stunted flowers.

Downy mildew

This disease thrives in humid conditions. You can expect to see pale green to yellow spots forming on the leaves that later turn brown. You might also see dark purplish fuzz growing on the underside of the leaves. Most fungicides will help to sort out this problem. Also, try to reduce the humidity.

Powdery mildew

The first sign of this disease is pale yellow spots on both the upper and underside of the leaves. These spots slowly merge into larger blotches. You will then notice a powdery substance appearing on the affected areas. Treat your plant with a fungicide to get rid of this problem.

Crown and root rot

Crown and root rot is often caused by overwatering in poorly drained soil. The soil will force the water to stand around for much longer than necessary. This means the plant’s roots won’t be able to breathe and start to die off.

The earliest symptoms of this problem include wilting despite being in wet soil, yellowing of the leaves, a bad smell around the roots and mould appearing around the base of the plant.

To solve this problem, water on a regular schedule and make sure that the first inch of soil is dry before watering again. Also, repot with well-draining soil to avoid standing water.

Rust

Rust appears as pale spots that eventually turn into spore-producing structures called pustules. These structures are usually rust coloured, hence the name. You can use a fungicide to treat this problem.

Grey mould

Grey mould, as the name suggests, usually appears as grey-brown lesions on the leaves of your plant. It can also be seen on the flowers where they will appear as small grey spots. You can treat this problem with a fungicide.

Spot anthracnose

This problem usually appears as tan or brown irregular spots on the leaves. The leaves will also usually appear distorted, cupped or curled. In severe cases, you will experience dropping leaves. Treat your plants by removing any obviously affected leaves. Spray the remaining leaves with a copper-based fungicide.

Slugs, snails, and aphids

Pests are quite common on pansies, we’re not the only ones that think they’re good to eat! To treat pests, spray your pansies with an organic, pest-specific spray and see our guide for naturally keeping slugs and snails away.

Underwatering

Underwatering is a common problem in pansies. Plants that have been underwatered will wilt, develop brown, dry leaf tips and develop fewer flowers than they would normally.

Leggy pansies

Pansies usually become leggy in warm to hot temperatures. To solve this problem, either grow your pansies as annuals and replant every year or trim back the stems by making a cut right above the last leave set closest to the base of the plant. Make sure to fertilise the pansy afterwards to help it recover.

Final thoughts

Now that you know how to care for winter pansies, it’s time to start growing your own. Just remember to use well-draining soil, water regularly and provide your pansies with enough morning light to keep them growing.

growing winter pansies

Image credit: @khatoani

FAQs

When should I buy winter-flowering pansies?

Pansies usually go on sale in early September in the UK. You can buy and plant them at this time. The latest you should buy them is in mid-October as this allows the plants to establish themselves before winter hits. 

Do pansy flowers bloom in winter?

Yes. Pansies prefer the cold and will start to flower when the temperature drops in autumn. In some areas, they can flower throughout the year. 

Are winter-flowering pansies perennial?

Yes, but most people tend to treat them as annuals. Pansies aren’t the easiest to care for during the summer months and can become quite leggy and unattractive in the heat. 

How do pansies survive winter?

Pansies are very hardy plants that prefer the cold. When snowed on, the snow acts as a protective blanket that insulates the pansies. You can also use mulch to protect your plants in areas with frost. 

What do you do with winter pansies after flowering?

Most people replace the pansies with a plant that will flower in summer. If you prefer, you can deadhead the flowers and keep your plant alive throughout summer.

Happy gardening!

15 Tips for an Autumn Garden Clean Up

When it comes to cleaning up your garden in autumn, it’s easy to lose yourself in the details. But trusting nature with your garden is often the best way to make sure it stays healthy and beautiful.

Focus on the essential autumn garden cleanup tasks, the ones that really matter. Don’t be afraid of a little disorder on your green patch. It’s part of nature’s way and, just like those shredded leaves that can become mulch for your flower beds, continues the cycle of the seasons.

Of course, that still leaves plenty of essential things to do in your garden this autumn.

autumn garden clean up tips

Credit: Pixabay

What needs to be done in the garden in autumn?

You want to rake excess leaves, clear dead and diseased plants and weeds, remove spent crops, mulch and protect vulnerable plants, and give the grass a final cut.

Autumn is also the time to compost leaves and tidy up your flower beds. Depending on the flowers you grow in your garden, you may have to divide perennials and shelter certain plants.

If the weather is on your side, you can also plant winter crops, which may involve preparing for them your vegetable beds and/or greenhouse, polytunnel, and cold frames.

Read on for tips on all the important things you need to do in your garden before the frosty weather comes.

So, how do you clean up an autumn garden?

Cleaning up an autumn garden may seem like a lot of work. But if you break it down into steps, you’ll find the workload more manageable.

1. Rake or blow the leaves

Leaving a thick carpet of leaves over the ground can be smothering for the grass and living plants and harbour pests. You also want to watch out for leaf piles around the trunks of young trees. They make perfect hiding spots for rodents that may gnaw the young trunks.

The best way to rake leaves is by doing it a bit at a time. This is especially true if you have a large deciduous tree in your garden or many plants that shed leaves around this time of year. If you wait for all the leaves to fall, by the time you finally rake them, they may have already damaged the grass and other low-lying plants.

raking leaves

Rake up the leaves in sections. Image credit: @fgm_f20

Raking is also good for the grass since it helps to aerate it. You may want to use a lightweight plastic rake rather than a heavy metal one. It’s less work on your hands and won’t damage thick grass either.

But don’t get carried away by all that raking. You can also leave some small leaf piles out of the way. They may provide shelter to pollinators over winter.

Tip: Rake or blow your leaves into a pile and use your lawnmower to vacuum them. Then dump the mower bag into your compost bin or straight over the places that could do with a layer of mulch.

2. Compost leaves and the remains of withered plants

If you don’t have a compost bin, autumn’s the best time of the year to build or get one. Through the alchemy of nature, a compost bin will transform this year’s fallen leaves and dead plant matter into rich compost for your soil next year.

More on this: Bin Storage Ideas: How to Hide Your Wheelie Bins and Conceal Your Compost

Speed up composting by mixing carbon-rich brown leaves with nitrogen-rich green plant remains, food and vegetable scraps, and grass clippings. Keep the compost pile slightly wet—or trust the rain to do it. You also want to aerate it by turning it with a fork now and then.

Important: Be careful not to compost diseased plants or their remains. The disease may survive in the compost bin and return next year.

3. Remove spent crops and residue from the vegetable garden

Prune, cut, and dig them up if you have to. If you intend to plant winter crops, start with the beds reserved for them to make sure they will be ready in time for autumn planting.

Tip: Leave the roots of peas and beans in the ground since they provide a rich source of nitrogen, fertilising other crops. Simply cut these plants off at ground level.

15 Tips for an Autumn Garden Clean Up 1

Remove spent crops and plant winter vegetables. Image credit: @growingyourgreens

Consider sowing a winter crop or green manure to improve the quality of the soil.

The rest of the vegetable beds you can cover with mulch, tarp, or landscape fabric to fight off weeds and preserve them for spring.

Don’t forget to remove bamboo canes, temporary trellises, and other supports that are no longer necessary. Wash them and store in a sheltered place.

4. Tidy up the flower beds

Cut back the perennials that bloom first in spring about 4-5 inches. Think irises, lilies, peonies, and bulbs. Using a hedge trimmer rather than garden clippers can save you time on this task.

Don’t forget to clean up any diseased foliage from roses. You also want to cut or deadhead self-seeding plants. Autumn winds may spread their seeds all over your garden.

You can leave the rest of the flower bed clearing to early spring when the flowers put forth new growth. Not only is this convenient, but it can help beneficial insects find shelter over winter. Keep in mind too that stems with attractive seed heads can be a treat for the birds.

tidy up flower beds

Old foliage can provide shelter for many insects. Image credit: @happyhorticulturist

If you have any tender plants that freezing temperatures may damage, now’s the time to move them to a sheltered place or use winter wrapping materials such as straw or fleece to insulate them.

Tip: Leave some leaves in your flower bed, they will break down and feed the soil. It will save you time from raking now and mulching in spring.

5. Divide and reposition crowded perennials

Got lilies, peonies, or hostas in your garden? Like other perennials, they can benefit from being divided every few years if they’ve become crowded.

A perennial clump needs to be divided if the flowers or the plants in the middle look unwell. Dig out the perennials carefully with a spade. Also with the spade, divide the plants into smaller ones and replant them giving them more space around each other.

6. Prepare the roses for winter

Remove diseased leaves from your rosebushes. You also want to stop deadheading your roses around 10 weeks before the first frost of the year.

If your roses have long stems, trim them to make sure they won’t snap during strong winds. You can also trim back branches that may rub against each other and get damaged.

15 Tips for an Autumn Garden Clean Up 2

Image credit: @garden_tender_

7. Remove weeds

While tidying your garden, you’ll invariably come across some weeds. Weeding now will save you precious time in spring so you can focus then on planting new flowers and veggies.

Tip: To make weeding easier, do it after a rain so that the soil is loose. Your hands will thank you for it.

8. Give the grass a last cut (and make it longer)

Caterpillars and other soil-enriching bugs like burrowing into autumn grass. Mow it too closely, and you’ll upset them big time. Leaving the grass a bit longer than usual in winter will protect both the soil and the grass.

So, after raking the leaves from your grass, set the blades of your lawnmower to a higher setting. After the last cut of the year, clean your lawnmower and remove the grass from it.

Tip: Got a shredding mower? Use it to turn unraked leaves into leaf little that is nourishing for the soil.

If your grass patch joins footpaths, garden beds, ponds, and other garden features, you can use a gardening knife or edging tool to neaten and redefine its edges before the soil hardens.

cutting grass for winter

Give the grass a final cut. Image credit: @vanpeltyarnies

9. Remove broken branches from the trees

Autumn is not the time for any serious pruning—leave that to spring. But cleaning off any dead branches is good for the trees.

Use sharp pruners to make a cut close to the trunk. You may need a ladder for this task, and someone to hold it, alternatively use a pair of long-handled pruners.

Tip: If you have fruit trees in your garden, make sure to remove any fallen fruit from around them as these may attract pests.

10. Remove leaves from the pond

If you have a pond in your garden, remove any leaves that have fallen into the water. If they rot, they will reduce the quality of the water and affect the wildlife.

Remove any pumps or equipment from the water too. Depending on the size of the pond, you may also want to drain it and clean the water features before winter settles in your garden.

removing leaves from the pound

Image credit: @quberesin

11. Neaten the bushes and ornamental borders

Tidy up ornamental bushes and borders if you want to. But hold back any serious cutting until spring. Ornamental borders shelter beneficial insects.

You don’t want to prune berry bushes either unless you know the cultivar you’re growing needs it. Apply a layer of mulch to the bushes that are less winter hardy. If they are in an exposed area, consider creating a windbreaker to protect them from winter storms.

Don’t forget that autumn is a good time to plant more shrubs and trees. If your garden needs them, go ahead and plant them.

12. Add organic matter to the soil

To improve growth conditions next year, consider testing the soil in your garden. If your soil is very alkaline, amend it with sulphur. If it’s too acidic, use lime.

Once the plants in your garden have entered dormancy, you can add shredded leaves or compost to fertilise the parts of your garden that need it the most. Rotten manure is also great.

This takes a bit of work. But if you work the organic matter a few inches into your soil now, planting and growing things in spring will get easier.

13. Make winter a litter easier for the birds

Do birds stop by your garden? Check and repair any birdhouses you may have in your garden. Remove leaves from the bird fountains and birdbaths and clean them up if necessary.

Pumps, fountains, and other mechanisms that may freeze will have to go inside the shed. Until freezing temperatures arrive, try to keep the water in the birdbaths fresh.

Don’t forget to clean any nest boxes and bird feeders. You can fill the latter with seed mixes and other bird-friendly foods.

winter garden birds

Spare a thought for our feathered friends. Image credit: @psanna_wildlife

14. Get your garden tools and accessories ready for winter

Clean and sand garden tools before putting them away for winter. Disinfect any pruners or shears you’ve used to cut diseased plants. If any tool needs mending, now’s the time to do it or make a note and fix it one winter day when you have nothing better to do.

Use diluted bleach to clean any clay or ceramic pots before storing them inside. You don’t want the frost to crack them, do you?

And don’t forget to remove the water hose and turn off the water if it runs the risk of freezing in winter.

garden tools

Don’t forget to give your garden tools some TLC too. Image credit: @gardenandwood

15. Repair all those things you’ve been putting off repairing during summer

Last but not least, repair the compost bins, raised beds, polytunnels, or cold frames that need it. Also, check any outdoor garden furniture to make sure it’s winter-ready.

Paint any wooden furniture, benches, fences, shed doors, or the like with spray paint containing a sealant. That way you’ll prevent rot and make your garden look nicer, too.

Oh, and if your wheelbarrow wheel has gone flat, now’s as good a time as any to see to it.

FAQs

When should I clean my garden in autumn?

The best time to start an autumn garden clean up is after the first few freezing nights come round. By this time, most of the foliage and the last blooms of the year will have fallen. Perennials too will have entered dormancy.

Avoid cutting back plants too early or you may encourage new growth before winter, which may damage them. It’s often easier and more beneficial for your garden to clean it in multiple rounds rather than in one go. It’s also less stressful and enables you to focus on one task at a time.

What plants should be cleaned in autumn?

Clean up blooming perennials, self-seeding plants you don’t want to take over your garden, and any dead or diseased plants, including those in your vegetable patch. Don’t forget about peonies, lilies, roses, or irises. You can also remove dead branches and old fruit from the trees.

Other than that, you don’t want to be pruning plants for the sake of it unless you’re certain they need it. You’ll be doing plenty of pruning in spring once the plants put forth new growth.

what plants should be cleaned in autumn

Image credit: @sarah_rivett_carnac

What autumn cleanup chores can I skip?

You can save time on your autumn garden cleanup by leaving any leaves in your flower beds to rot there at their own pace. You can also leave dead foliage on most plants except those that may harbour pests.

Lastly, you can leave sunflowers and other seed-rich flowers where they are since their seeds can feed wildlife in the colder months. But be careful about self-seeding plants or they may spread.

14 of the Best Flowers for a Blooming Autumn Garden

When the leaves start to fall and your once bright summer perennials come to the end of their natural lives, it can be tricky to keep your garden looking bright and welcoming.  You may be asking yourself, do any flowers bloom in autumn?

The answer is a resounding yes, there are many flowering plants that will keep your garden in colour well into the colder months.

autumn garden flowers

Here’s our pick of the best flowers for an autumn garden that will flower from September onwards:

What flowers can I plant in autumn and winter?

There are plenty of plants that will flower throughout the colder months. If you time the planting right, you can have a seamless display of blooms through every season.

Star flowering plants for autumn include pansies, dahlias and crocosmia. The winter-flowering clematis will provide interest at the end of the year along with Christmas roses and delicate snowdrops.

Here’s our pick of the prettiest flowering plants to grace your autumn and winter garden:

1. Dahlias

Dahlias deserve a place in every garden. With over 40 species and thousands of cultivars of jewel-coloured, intricate blooms to choose from, you can enjoy these resplendent flowers well into autumn.

dahlias autumn

Dahlias have to be of the most spectacular of all flowering plants. Image credit: @choosingcalm

Dahlias need a fair bit of space (allow 40cm between plants) and the tubers can be sown directly into the ground from late April after the last frost has passed. You can also start them in pots inside from February onwards. You’ll need to pinch out the top leaves of the main shoot, leaving the top pair of leaves. As the tuber sprouts more shoots, remove all but 5 from the tuber, it sounds a little extreme but fewer stems mean stronger stems.

Make sure you stake the plants as they grow as a strong gust of wind can easily snap a dahlia stem. Each dahlia tuber can produce hundreds of flowers and as they are the perfect cut flower, you can create endless brilliant bouquets.

2. Pansies

pansies autumn flower

Brighten up your winter garden with bold pansies. Image credit: @rocio_marga

We couldn’t compile a list of autumn-flowering plants without mentioning the humble pansy. These cheery little plants are ideal for filling gaps in borders and adding vibrant colour and interest to pots or hanging baskets.

Pansies can flower throughout winter and even into spring but it’s worth planting them in early autumn as it gives the roots time to toughen up. Pansies planted out from November onwards may not survive the frost.

There are hundreds of varieties of pansies to choose from in a full spectrum of colours. They’re one of the easiest and most reliable plants to care for and sure to brighten even the bleakest winter day.

3. Sedum

sedum autumn flower

Bring in the pink with a flowering sedum. Image credit: @woodbridgenursery

Sedums are a fantastic plant to include in a garden border. Their unusual foliage provides interest from spring and colourful pink flowers appear from August, lasting well into late autumn. Once the flowers die back, you can leave the dried flower heads on the plant until spring.

Sedum is extremely easy to care for and will grow in pots or the ground. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from, including creeping and upright plants.

4. Crocosmia

crocosmia autumn flower

Bold and beautiful, crocosmia will light up an early autumn garden. Image credit: @mike.park.books

With its spiky leaves and stalks of fiery coloured flowers, crocosmia is an elegant addition to an autumn garden. Crocosmia bulbs should be planted in early spring for flowering in mid-summer to autumn. Although crocosmia won’t flower for the first year or so, it’s well worth the wait. They will add glorious colour to your garden when other summer flowers have faded.

Once crocosmia get’s going, it’s a vigorous spreader so it will need to be supported and kept in check by thinning out if necessary. Once the flowers have died back, leave the foliage in place as it provides the energy for next year’s blooms.

5. Asters

asters autumn flower

November asters in bloom. Image credit: @between.gardens

These sweet, brightly coloured star-shaped flowers are perfect for brightening up an autumn garden. You can plant asters in spring for autumn flowering and, if you’re lucky, they may self-seed and return the following year.

Asters come in a range of colours and are ideal in pots or placed in borders.

6. Autumn crocuses

autumn crocuses

Add glorious colour with autumn crocuses. Image credit: @alexander.hoyle

Despite their name, these flowers belong to the lily family. When planted in summer, they’ll flower in September and October. They’re happiest in partial shade and like well-drained soil. Autumn crocuses will flower year after year, providing welcome, reliable colour for your autumn garden.

Note: these plants are toxic so may not be suitable for a family garden.

7. Winter-flowering clematis

winter-flowering clematis

This clematis will happily bloom from November to March. Image credit: @dawns_gardening

Clematis are often thought of as summer plants but several varieties will flower through winter and into spring. Try the evergreen Clematis cirrhosa ‘freckles’ (pictured) and the gorgeous pink-flowered Clematis Markham’s pink for a show of winter flowers.

These climbers reach a height and spread of around 4 x 1 metres so will need the support of a trellis if they don’t have a wall or other plant to ramble over.

8. Cyclamen

cyclamen autumn flower

Cheer up your autumn garden with cyclamen. Image credit: @helenlouise726

One of my favourites, these beautiful little flowers provide a welcome burst of colour throughout the cooler months and they flower for ages! These plants are tuberous and rest during the summer months so resist the temptation to chuck them on the compost heap when they look a little tired.

9. Rudbeckia

rudbeckia autumn flower

Fire up autumnal borders with glowing rudbeckia. Image credit: @ebrahim_1659

Also known as black-eyed Susans, these beautiful flowers will be in bloom from August to October. With their showy golden colour, they’ll add a welcome splash of colour to your autumn borders.

10. Snowdrops

snowdrops autumn flower

True to their name, snowdrops can resist the cold. Image credit: @olbrichgardens

Snowdrops typically flower at the end of winter and into spring but in a mild winter, you may spot a keen bloomer as early as December. A sighting of a snowdrop often signifies the end of winter and they’re a beautiful addition to any garden.

Snowdrop bulbs are best planted with their green leaves intact in the spring, but you can also plant them as bare bulbs in October or November. They aren’t fussy about location and you can pop a few into your lawn for a cheery display. Snowdrops also make pretty cut flowers, simply arrange a few stems in a jam-jar as a simple decoration.

11. Winter honeysuckle

winter honeysuckle autumn flower

Add sweet scent to a winter garden with a honeysuckle. Image credit: @a.zen.gardener

The winter honeysuckle is a striking winter-flowering plant. It flowers from December to March on almost leafless branches, creating a blossom-like effect. Introduced from China, the creamy-white flowers smell divine. Its name, Lonicera fragrantissima, means ‘sweetest honeysuckle’ and the heady scent will be welcome in the depths of winter.

Make sure you choose a trellis for your honeysuckle if you intend to keep this vining plant tamed.

12. Heather

heather autumn flower

Understated and beautiful, heather is a great option for an autumn garden. Image credit: @clivenichols

Heather is often overlooked in favour of showier plants but it provides a welcome blanket of colour throughout winter and offers essential nutrients for bees and other pollinators. This alone makes it worth adding to your winter garden!

There are many varieties to choose from for winter colour, try Erica carnea Corinna for hot pink flowers or Erica darleyensis f. aureifolia ‘Tweety’ which has striking orange foliage with contrasting magenta flowers in winter.

As heathers are evergreen, they provide changing colour all year round. They’re easy to grow and care for and an easy way to bring colour into your autumn and winter garden.

13. Viburnum

viburnum autumn flower

Image credit: @madefound

If you’re looking for an easy-to-grow winter-flowering shrub, a viburnum is a great choice. Viburnum × bodnantense ‘Dawn’ produces clusters of small pink blooms on bare branches throughout winter.

Winter-flowering viburnum will bloom anytime from November to March, sometimes all the way through! These plants won’t flower until they’re 4-6 years old.

Viburnum nudum flowers in the summer but is followed by beautiful pink berries that turn purple, providing an unusual burst of colour.

14. Christmas rose

christmas rose autumn flower

Image credit: @althek3

Helleborus niger, the Christmas rose, is an evergreen plant that produces large white flowers from late winter into spring. It’s not actually related to the rose family, instead, it belongs to the buttercups.

You can plant Christmas roses at any time but they like damp soil and lots of organic matter so add plenty of well-rotted compost when planting and top up each year for best results. I’ll definitely be adding some of these to my garden this winter and look forward to waking up to a garden in bloom on Christmas day.

 

How to Build a Greenhouse Planter Box

Greenhouses, traditionally made of glass, provide a warm, safe place for plants that may be too delicate to survive outdoors during winter. Growing tender plants in a greenhouse planter box is the ultimate way to coddle them.

Many gardeners use a greenhouse, not only as protection for plants from winter frost and storms but also as a wonderful starting place for new seedlings.  Sown inside the greenhouse, the young plants remain warm and cosy before moving outside when the worst of the cold weather is over.

A greenhouse provides a stable temperature with direct sunlight, shelter and watering systems. Growing seedlings in a planter box inside the greenhouse offers gardeners an effective way to separate plants and boost yields, while also allowing safe access for children and pets.

greenhouse planter box

Fill your greenhouse with a range of planters and enjoy year-round produce. Image credit: @rebecca_anchorban_house

Why use a planter box in your greenhouse?

1. Keep things tidy

If you have younger visitors to your greenhouse, it is very easy for plants to get damaged. Space is at a premium, most plants are staked and summer climbers like cucumbers can rapidly outgrow their space.

Often there are trailing tubes of an automatic watering system curling around plant stems. So planting a few plants in a contained area like a planter box creates a tidier floor space, making it easier for everybody to walk around.

This is a plus if you have wandering cats and dogs as a physical border keeps the walkway well defined and also makes for easy cleaning and sweeping.

2. Create more space

In spring, when few plants are growing, your greenhouse will seem huge. Each year as I plant seeds and place them in the greenhouse, I forget just how little space there is by the end of the summer growing season!

A cucumber can outstrip its growing space in just 6 weeks if the weather is warm and sunny and I spend half my time in summer tying in the new growth on tomatoes and cucumbers. If the plants are growing in a planter box, they will only grow as tall as the soil conditions allow.

Unless you top up the soil fertility by feeding, a planter box may actually slow down the growth of over-vigorous plants. It is very important to revitalise the soil in planters at least every growing season to make sure it doesn’t become depleted. Use leaf mould, well-rotted manure, homemade compost and plant feed.

tidy greenhouse

Keep your greenhouse tidy and you might find space for a sofa! Image credit @climapod

3. Help prevent disease

It is easier to control plant diseases if plants are in a planter box, particularly one with separate compartments, where plants can grow independently. If plants are in the ground in greenhouse soil, there is a real risk that diseases can cross from one plant to the next.

Tomato blight in one plant will spread like wildfire if your plants are in the same soil. In a planter box, you can whip out the infected plant, cover it with plastic and remove it without letting the spores spread. Dig out the section of soil it was in and discard it. If necessary, replace all the soil in that part of the planter box and don’t plant tomatoes in the same spot for at least 2-3 years. It’s never good to remove a loved plant but you will have saved the other plants by having them in a separate box.

Blight is very difficult to eradicate from the soil so digging out the soil from the planter box is easier than digging out the whole greenhouse. Cucumber leaf rot is another typical greenhouse complaint and you can remove infected leaves, check the stems and top dress the soil around them. Plants in a different planter box will not be affected. Just make sure to keep plants separate when tying in any stems.

prevent dsease blight

Don’t let this disease blight your precious crops. Image credit @craftygem17

4. Improve crop yields

Growing produce in a greenhouse will mean more reliable plants and earlier crops.

If your reason for planting in a planter box is that the crop is delicate, let’s say the fussy aubergine plant, then it’s an excellent choice. You really need to water an aubergine daily in hot weather, it needs constant mulching, feeding and love and care. These plants will not tolerate cold draughts or frosty weather so being snug and warm in a greenhouse planter box suits them really well.

With different boxes, you can tend to each plant as necessary, adding mulch, setting up the watering system and easily adjusting as needed.

5. Grow food all year round 

Don’t let the greenhouse sit empty in winter! The compost you used to grow cucumbers or tomatoes in summer is an excellent base for sowing winter crops. Plant basil, coriander, rocket and parsley with mizuna and winter salads for a winning combination.

autumnal greenhouse

An autumnal greenhouse display. Image credit: @rekha.garden.kitchen>

What materials can I use for my greenhouse planter box?

1. Wood

Raised beds greenhouse gardening

Raised beds are a great option for greenhouse gardening. Image credit: @apple_acres_dk

2. Bricks

Brick is a great material for planters as the clay warms up in the sunlight and retains heat well, perfect for delicate plants. The top surface of the planter can be really useful for holding seed packets, tools, fertilisers and even a cup of tea. Build your planters to fit the length of the greenhouse on both sides, allowing space for a potting table and room for seedlings to grow.

3. Straw bales

This is a really good idea if you live close to a farm or have grassland you mow. Gather the grass to dry, wrap it with string or wire and make a wall of straw to protect the plants. It will gradually decompose so you will need to keep adding new bales but it is a great way to use grass cuttings and completely natural too. Straw provides excellent insulation and you can move them if you decide to relocate a plant.

4. Corrugated iron

If you have any spare corrugated iron sheeting, you can use this to edge a raised bed. Fix some bricks at the base inside and secure the outside with recycled hangers bent into shape or wooden stakes, to keep it steady. Fill it with soil, and your plants have a deep area in which to spread their roots and enjoy the warmth.

Greenhouse planter box plans

Here are some useful greenhouse planter box plans for inspiration.

greenhouse DIY planter box

Transform your greenhouse with a DIY planter box. Image credit: @carlasousamorim>

Are there any problems with planter boxes in greenhouses?

The only obvious one is that if slugs and snails manage to get inside, they will enjoy the regular watering and the delicious greens on offer. So remove them physically and re-locate them to your composting area or take them for a long, one-way walk to your local park.

Little gardeners will love collecting the snails and watching them in a bucket. Beware though, snails have a homing instinct! Studies have shown that snails can travel up to a mile back to their home when released far away.

I have conducted my own experiments with a daughter who banned slug pellets from the garden. We found that our marked snails could find their way home again from anything up to a mile so move them further away for any chance of success!

Can I make my own DIY greenhouse planter box?

Of course! Think about the construction of a greenhouse, then improvise with whatever materials you have. There are some other ways to protect plants in winter too:

1. Wrap trees

Trees can be wrapped in transparent material when heavy snow or frost is predicted.

2. Make a cold frame from recycled windows

A cold frame is a tall box with a sloping lid, much like the bins used to store salt for road spreading in winter. You can make one from old windows, and you will need to have some hinges to attach to the structure underneath.

The base can be made from anything available – straw, wood, metal, any material to keep the wind and cold at bay. Place your delicate plants in the centre, line it with bubble wrap or upcycled plastic and then replace the window lid.

protect tender plants

Rustle up a cold frame and protect tender plants over winter. Image credit: wiltshire_cottagelife

3. Transform a raised bed

If you have a raised bed outdoors, transform it into a mini greenhouse by making some hoops to go from one side to the other. You could use willow or flexible plastic tubes for this. These can be covered over with transparent plastic bags, bubble wrap or any transparent, waterproof material.  I have even seen an allotment owner make a roof from old CDs! It is important that light can penetrate so whatever you use, check your plants regularly and make sure it’s well secured.

Tina’s TIPS

  1. In spring remember to close the greenhouse door at night. Although daytime temperatures are climbing upwards, at night they drop quickly.
  2. Carefully check any homemade compost before adding it to the greenhouse planter box. Strain it through a sieve and remove any little visible pests before they get the chance to spoil new crops.
  3. Leave decoy food for pests such as comfrey leaves or nasturtiums. Usually, the slugs and snails will devour these before they start on the plants you want to protect and even if any leaves remain, the comfrey will slowly decompose adding valuable nutrients.
  4. Bramble deterrents. If you have any blackberries in your garden, prune some thorny stems and place them directly as a barrier against pests. The spikes are so unpleasant that most slugs completely avoid them and snails will move on to other plants.
  5. Silver trail searches. Get out that torch for the first few nights after new plants sprout and look for any tell-tale silvery trails from snails and slugs. Just remove them and relocate them to wilder parts of the garden or even your recycling bin, if it exists.
cosy plant home

Your plants will be grateful for a cosy home. Image credit: @no.7_is_home

The advantages of a greenhouse are protection, warmth and an increased growing season for many plants. Building a planter box will give you the added advantage of protection for your plants where you can keep them safer from disease and enjoy the vegetables and fruit for longer. Whether it’s under glass or recycled materials, your plants will love you for it.

What Is the Best Wood for a Planter Box?

When choosing the wood for your planter box, you’ll need to consider a few things. Think about what you intend to plant in it as well as your local weather conditions. You’ll also need to factor in rot resistance, weight and price.  Everybody’s dream wooden planter box looks magnificent and lasts well without too much maintenance, so what’s the best way to achieve this?

wood for planter box

Image credit @planterboxez

What is the best wood for a planter box?

Cedar

branch of cedar tree with trunk

Cedar is a perfect choice for garden furniture and planters. Credit: Shutterstock

Cedar is a very popular wood. It’s durable, lightweight, crack and rot-resistant. The weight is important if you are lifting planks so keep this in mind if you are making multiple planter boxes.

Cedar tends to fade with exposure to sunlight, turning an attractive grey colour. If you prefer to keep the original shade, see some of the suggestions for coating and dyeing below. Cedar contains natural oils which help to keep it resistant to bugs and fungi that target wood.  Cedar is grown in the US, so has to be shipped over to the UK.

Cypress

Cypress also produces natural oils, making your planter attractive while also being resistant to insects and fungi. Cypress is lightweight, which may be useful if you are planning to construct a raised planter box.

Scandinavian redwood

Scandinavian redwood is usually pressure treated and often used for decking. It’s durable, resistant to rot and long-lasting. This will make an attractive planter, however, it is usually more expensive than some of the other wood available and it may need a sealant to prevent the wood cracking over time.

Douglas fir

Douglas Fir is native to the US and is really long-lasting, making it a firm favourite with many buyers. Here in the UK, fir on sale generally comes from Scandinavia.

Pine

Pine is a readily available and affordable choice. It is frequently pressure treated which stops rot, but also causes shrinkage long-term so be aware of this when planning sizes and buy extra wood so that you can mend and add pieces later if required. It has an attractive grain and it is lightweight which is important if your planter is located on a balcony. Untreated pine is known to resist shrinking and you can treat it yourself with oil – see more below.

Walnut, white oak and black locust

Walnut, white oak and black locust are expensive woods that last a very long time.

Mahogany and teak

carving mahagony furniture

Credit: Shutterstock

Mahogany and teak are high quality, long-lasting woods that retain their magnificent colour. If you are prepared to spend a bit more, these are excellent options. As these woods aren’t native to the UK, they can be difficult to source.

What is the best wood in the UK to build a planter box?

Native trees such as oak and beech have been used for centuries to make furniture and in the construction industry. Scots pine is also native to Britain. Walnut and chestnut used to be very popular but are increasingly difficult to source and walnut is expensive.

Gardening centres offer pine and a range of more exotic woods depending on your budget. If you would like to source a locally-grown wood for your planter box, contact a local carpenter or tree surgeon. They can usually offer good advice about local wood suppliers.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo on wood reassures buyers that the wood has been grown in environmentally friendly ways. When sourcing wood, try to look beyond the cheapest price and the best quality. Sustainability is an important issue to consider so try to ensure any new wood carries FSC certification. Remember that the best wood for sustainability is probably the wood that grows closest to you.

Also, look for the “Grown in Britain” logo. The benefits are obvious; fewer miles travelled and also a guarantee that no pests or diseases from wood grown in other countries will be present.

Other points to consider when choosing your wood:

What materials do I need to make a planter box?

  1. Decide on the size of your planter. Measure the area carefully and then choose your wood.
  2. You need a saw to cut your wood to size and then assemble your planks on a sheet of plastic or any material so you don’t damage the area where you are constructing.
  3. Do you need a waterproof liner? Some wood doesn’t, but if you’re growing edible plants, you may want to check whether the wood treatment used is suitable. If not, use a waterproof membrane or architectural fabric which is more environmentally friendly.
  4. You will also need to ensure good drainage so consider adding sand, pebbles, gravel and other materials.
  5. You’ll need a selection of tools to assemble your planter box – a saw, a drill, nails or screws, decent gloves and eye protection.

Can I make a planter box out of pine?

Pine offers you an attractive grain for your planter box. Pine is usually treated to ensure its durability and stability in construction so it’s a really good option for an outdoor planter box. Just make sure that is pine from a responsible source and if possible, aim to buy local, FSC wood. If you can find the “Grown in Britain” logo, the pine is probably Scottish.

What Is the Best Wood for a Planter Box? 3

Pine is a great choice for a DIY planter box. Image credit: @imaginationcreated

What can you grow in your planter box?

1. Decorative flowers

Decorative flowers can grow in any type of wooden planter box. Deeper ones are suitable for plants that need rich, deep soil such as roses and hungry plants which need fertilising regularly.

More on this: What can I plant in a flower box?

2. Succulents

Succulents grow well in planter boxes and they are great for anybody who doesn’t like to do much watering. Some may need to be moved indoors when the temperature drops in the autumn. Lavender will do well growing with these too as they do not need much watering.

3. Edible herbs and flowers

Edible herbs and flowers such as basil, parsley, coriander and chives grow beautifully in planter boxes, but they will need a liner to avoid eating the preservative from the wood. Place these in a sunny area and add some tomatoes as annual plants so you can make tasty salads.

You Might Also Like: 8 Effortless Herb Planter Box Ideas

4. Vegetables and edible fruit

Vegetables, edible fruits like cucumbers and squash, and beans and peas need deep, nutrient-rich soil so make sure your planter box is big enough for plants like these. Line the box well then add good compost, manure if you can, and water frequently. You can add the planter box to a crop rotation plan so you grow potatoes one year, then beans or peas followed by cabbages and so on. Look for seeds that recommend planter box growing too.

FAQs

How do I keep my planter box from rotting?

Sealants. Untreated wood needs regular maintenance so that it does not leak water, so use a sealant initially and then annually after that.

Lining. Untreated wood planters can be lined as an alternative to treatment in order to prevent leaks. This lining is also useful for keeping the wood preservative outside your soil.

Paint can be applied to wooden planter boxes but most people like to see the grain. Any exterior paint can be applied but check if it needs an undercoat first. You may also need to sand it down well before applying paint.

Pressure-treating pine stops rot, but this also causes shrinkage long-term.

Stain and varnish. Commercially purchased planters are often varnished or you can apply stain and varnish yourself. If your planter box holds decorative shrubs and non-edible plants, you can use a commercial sealant followed by a preservative for long-lasting protection. This will help your planter to remain functional for 5 years or more.

Take great care when applying these products close to a pond as they can be poisonous to aquatic life.

– Cedar and Teak both contain natural oils which repel water naturally. Some gardeners recommend using larch wood; this timber can be used untreated but it is a specialist wood and difficult to obtain so take advice from your wood supplier on this. Cedar, teak and larch are more expensive than pine, so if your budget is tight, this should be a consideration.

More on this: How to Waterproof A Wooden Planter Box

Are there natural ways to keep my planter box from rotting?

If you want to grow herbs, lettuce, edible fruit, vegetables or flowers or indeed, anything that will go into your mouth, be aware that any commercial varnish you use may end up in your stomach. Makes you think again about what to coat your planter with, doesn’t it?

Alternatives include:

  1. Natural oils repel water and are not harmful to humans. Examples of these include linseed and hemp oils. They aren’t completely waterproof but water-resistant. Be aware that these two may slightly darken the colour of your wood. Two coats of oil are more effective than one.
  2. Beeswax is commonly used for wooden household furniture and also on boats for its natural water-resistant qualities. Use liberally by applying with a cloth or sponge. A second coat will improve resistance and repeat annually. It is not heat resistant however and it can still be scratched.
  3. Teak oil can also be used as protection for your wood planter box. Here’s a detailed analysis of teak oil usage for outdoor furniture
  4. Liners. Using any of these oils or wax means that you may need to line the inside of your planter as well. This adds extra protection from leaks and helps to prevent the wood from rotting. You can purchase polythene or plastic as a liner in rolls from your DIY shop store.

For a more environmentally friendly method, use landscaping fabric instead of plastic. Worms prefer this and beneficial insects are happier with fabric too.

Can I use pressure-treated pine for a planter box?

It’s fine to use pressure-treated pine for decorative plants but it’s important to consider what you’ll grow in this box, especially if you want to grow food. Read on for pros and cons:

Advantages:

  1. Pressure-treated pine is very resistant to wood rot and pressure treatment is effective as an insect repellent too.
  2. The chemical treatment keeps it fairly weatherproof, unlike natural pine which will need a sealant.

Disadvantages:

  1. The chemical preservative which helps to keep the wood resistant to rot is not really recommended for direct contact with herbs and vegetables for consumption. You will need to line this planter box.
  2. Another problem with pressure treated wood is that it shrinks over time.
  3. Pine is a very soft wood that can be scratched and dented easily. It may not be suitable for a busy family or if it’s located near anything which may damage the wood.

Tina’s Tips:

How can I source cheap or recycled wood for garden box planters?

Sourcing old wood which you can saw, chop and fashion into a stunning, planter box is a great option.

You can also use pallets to make a planter box, as well as many other DIY projects.

How to Clean A Canvas Gazebo Canopy

Dust, grime, pollen, tree sap, rainwater, mould, and mildew—almost everything can make your canvas gazebo canopy dirty.

But replacing the canvas isn’t your only option. You can clean it once or twice a year to keep it looking almost as good as new.

You don’t need fancy equipment and cleaning supplies. A mild detergent, vinegar, soft brush, and water are often enough. So, pick a warm and sunny day and start cleaning!

How to clean a canvas gazebo canopy the easy way

Gather all your essential supplies—mild detergent, a soft brush, nylon scrubber, and water bucket. Next, follow this easy step-by-step guide.

Step 1 – Prepare a soapy solution

Pour warm water into a bucket and add a mild detergent to it. The dirtier the canvas, the stronger the soap solution should be. Stir the solution till it begins to lather.

Step 2 – Brush the canopy

Dip a soft brush into the solution and use it to clean the canopy. Start by gently scrubbing all dirt and stains.

Be careful around the stitches. Aggressive brushing can damage them and cause leakage.

Step 3 – Scrub stubborn stains

If the stains are stubborn, use a nylon scrub to clean them. Scrub in a circular motion so you don’t damage the canvas.

Let the solution sit for a few minutes before you wash it off. Repeat the scrubbing several times until you get rid of all stains.

Step 4 – Rinse and dry

When you’ve finished cleaning, rinse the soap residue well. You can use a garden hose for this.

Important: Let the canvas canopy dry completely in the sun. This will also keep mould and mildew from growing on the canvas.

How to clean a non-canvas gazebo canopy

Canvas isn’t the only fabric used for gazebo canopies. Other popular materials include polyester, vinyl, and acrylic. All these different materials have different cleaning routines. But don’t worry, none are hard.

Let’s take a closer look at each.

Polyester canopy

Polyester is durable and water-resistant, making it an ideal choice for gazebo canopies. To clean it, you will need a mild laundry soap and a brush for scrubbing.

Begin by scrubbing all surface dirt and debris. You can also use a solution of vinegar and water to clean the stains.

Tip: Brush well but be careful not to damage the fabric.

Vinyl-Coated canopy

Vinyl-coated canopies are made of canvas laminated with vinyl. They can be easily cleaned with warm, soapy water. Simply dip a soft cloth in the soapy water and wipe the fabric.

Tip: For tough stains, use a mix of 10% bleach and 90% water. But test this mix over a smaller area before to make sure it doesn’t discolour the fabric.

Acrylic canopy

Acrylic canopies are made of weather-resistant synthetic fabric. This fabric is one of the easiest materials to clean.

Begin by brushing off any loose dirt. Then use a laundry detergent to treat heavy stains. Allow the canopy to dry before using it again.

How to remove mildew from a gazebo canopy

mildewed canopy

Don’t let unsightly mildew creep up on your gazebo. Credit: Shutterstock

Mould and mildew can creep up on your gazebo canopy, especially if you live in a humid climate. Even lack of sunlight can encourage their growth.  But you don’t have to make peace with these unsightly spores. There are quick and efficient ways to get rid of them.

Step 1 – Scrape the spores

Use a stiff-bristle brush to scrape away loose mould and mildew. Do this in an open area to avoid spreading the spores.

Step 2 – Mix a cleaning solution

Pour some lukewarm water into a bucket. To this, add a cup of chlorine bleach and one-quarter of a cup of laundry detergent.

Step 3 – Scrub off stains

Apply the cleaning solution over the mildewed area with a rag or sponge. Scrub the canopy thoroughly.

Let the solution sit for a few minutes. Then scrub the tough stains with the brush.

Step 4 – Rinse and dry

When you’re happy with the cleaning, rinse the fabric thoroughly to remove all residue. Let the canopy dry in a sunny place.

How to clean gazebo covers

Your gazebo cover, whether canvas or vinyl-coated, can gather dirt and debris over months of use. To keep it looking good season after season, you’ll have to clean it. Not eventually, but regularly!

Step 1 – Prepare your cover for cleaning

Before you get into the actual cleaning, take a good look at your cover. Check for any damage (rips or tears) in the fabric and fix them first.

Next, use a soft brush and remove all build-ups of dirt, grime, or muck. Flip the cover and brush the underside, too.

Step 2 – Scrub the cover

Prepare a cleaning solution using warm water, some vinegar, and bleach-free detergent. With a rag, apply this solution to the cover and begin scrubbing.

Avoid using a stiff-bristled brush. It can scratch the fabric and cause leaks.

Step 3 – Rinse and air-dry the cover

Now, rinse both sides of your cover with water. Make sure no soapy residue remains.

When you’re finished, let the cover air-dry before storing it away.

How to wash gazebo covers

You can also machine wash gazebo covers if that’s easier for you. But don’t just throw them into the washing machine. Follow the steps below.

Step 1 – Inspect your cover

Before you machine wash your gazebo cover, inspect it well. Look for any rips in the fabric and repair them. Clean mould, mildew, and surface grime.

Make sure the fabric is safe for machine washing. Also, check that your washing machine has enough room to spin the cover. You don’t want to throw in any extra clothes.

Step 2 – Wash the cover

Use cold water for machine washing. Pour your regular detergent and a cup of white vinegar for extra cleaning.

Important: Avoid using bleach as it can stain most fabrics.

Step 3 – Air-dry the cover

After washing, it’s best to air-dry the cover. Using the dryer can shrink the fabric, making it difficult to put back on your gazebo.

Make sure the fabric has dried completely to keep mould and mildew from attacking it again.

How to clean a gazebo

While your gazebo canopy and cover are drying in the sun, why not clean your gazebo? You’ll enjoy it all the more after.

Step 1 – Clean the gazebo frame

Begin by cleaning your gazebo frames and stakes. Use a soapy solution and scrub them well with a rag or sponge.

Make sure to rinse and dry all the metal components.

Step 2 – Clean the interior

Look for pollen, dirt, and grime in the gazebo. Scrub the floor with a mild soap. Avoid using any fragrant soap as it may attract bugs.

Remove cobwebs with a long-handled broom. Check for wasps and other insect nests and remove them too.

Step 3 – Fix any damage

Scrape old paint off the poles and posts and repaint them.

Look for signs of cracks and splits in the framework and fill them with metal or wood putty. Yes, it’s going to take a bit of time, but not only will it make your gazebo look better, it’ll last longer too.

Keep your gazebo fresh

A gazebo in your garden is a serene place for you to unwind. But being exposed to the elements all day, it can gather dust, grime, pollen, mildew, and more. In other words, it can start looking old and weary after a while. Inhaling pollen can cause nasal congestion and irritation. Spores can cause fungal infections. Even dust particles can make your eyes feel dry.

Clean your gazebo every six months to keep it clean and fresh. A clean gazebo is also a healthy gazebo.

In the end, by keeping your gazebo fresh and clean, you will keep yourself and your family healthy.

What Is a Gazebo and What’s it Used for?

A gazebo is a freestanding garden structure that provides shade, shelter and somewhere to sit and admire a scenic view. It has a roof and open sides—just perfect to create an airy, beautiful shelter outside.

Gazebos tend to be geometric. They come in hexagonal, octagonal, rectangular, and other similar shapes, and they are made of wood or metal. They may also feature built-in seating, classic fencing, and drapes to create a sense of privacy.

A gazebo will add a nostalgic, old-world charm to your garden or yard. You can use a gazebo for relaxation, reading, and also to create an outdoor entertainment space.  Read on to learn more about different types of gazebos, their history, features, and how you can best use them.

A brief history of gazebos

The history of gazebos goes back over 5,000 years. But their use hasn’t changed much in time.  Gazebos were a popular garden feature in Ancient Egypt and Rome. They were a great retreat from which to relax and delight in picturesque views. They were also used for traditional tea ceremonies in Asia.

But back then, they weren’t called “gazebos”. The name itself is an 18th-century invention. It’s a humorous combination of the words “gaze” and the Latin suffix “ebo” meaning “I shall.” Gazebos are a great addition to any French or Italian styled gardens, and of course fitting for a Japan-themed garden. And true to their name, gazebos are often used today to relax and enjoy nature.

Types of gazebos

There are many different types of gazebos, varying in shapes, sizes, materials, and styles.  Some gazebos are octagonal while others are rectangular, oval, or dodecagonal. They come in classic wooden as well as modern vinyl and aluminium styles. The roofing can also vary from a country style to a pinnacle roof.

But don’t be overwhelmed by all the different types of gazebos around. Focusing on their key characteristics makes it easier to choose the right gazebo for your garden.

What Is a Gazebo and What's it Used for? 4

Gazebos come in many shapes and sizes.  Photo by Lisa Yount on Unsplash

Gazebo sizes

Today’s gazebos come in all sizes. Some are great for a family of four while others can comfortably host a small gathering. Before adding a gazebo to your property, consider the space you have.

You don’t want to squeeze a large gazebo into a small yard. Likewise, you don’t want it to look like a dollhouse in your sweeping garden. Going for just the right size of gazebo will complement your outdoor space.

Gazebo shape

Traditional-looking gazebos are generally octagonal or dodecagonal. Since these have many posts, they’re suitable only for large backyards.

Choosing the shape of your gazebo again depends on the space you have. For smaller spaces, hexagonal, square, rectangular, and oval gazebos like in a classic Greek Garden are ideal.

Gazebo material

Gazebos are commonly made of wood, which lends them a rustic, natural beauty that can accent any outdoor space. Plus, there are many design and colour options to experiment with. But wooden gazebos are difficult to maintain. They will need to be repainted or repaired over time.

Vinyl gazebos are also gaining popularity. They are sturdy, modern-looking, and easy to maintain. Vinyl units can also be made to resemble wood and other materials.

Aluminium gazebos are another option to consider. They are lightweight and affordable. You can paint aluminium to match your outdoor furniture or enjoy its natural finish.

And finally, you can opt for a steel gazebo. It’s the most expensive material. But the versatility it offers you in terms of design is worth it. You can design it to look like traditional ironwork or add wood around the frames for a classy look. A well-built and properly maintained steel gazebo can last a lifetime.

What Is a Gazebo and What's it Used for? 5

Aluminium gazebos are weatherproof, modern and can come with shuttered roofs for instant shade. Credit: Suns Lifestyle

Roofing material

Your gazebo roof can have asphalt, rubber, or cedar shingles. These materials are available in varying colours to match your gazebo and other structures around it.

Asphalt shingles are affordable and easy to install. Rubber shingles are durable and less likely to crack in extreme weather. Cedar shingles are wind-resistant and have a nice classic look. Remember these key points while choosing your roofing material. Take a look at our gazebo roof building guide for more information.

Roof style

A gazebo roof is more than just a shade over a frame. It’s a way to make your structure stand out in your landscape.  So, your gazebo roof style is something you cannot overlook. Some popular styles to consider are pinnacle, pagoda, cupola, and country-style roofs.

What Is a Gazebo and What's it Used for? 6

Gazebo roofs come in many different designs. Credit: Summer Garden Buildings

Gazebo must-have features

Your gazebo can have seating, privacy drapes, and lighting. These extra touches will turn your gazebo into a space that will keep you coming outside time after time.  Consider adding comfortable chairs and sofas to your gazebo. You can also go for built-in benches around the framework—or maybe you love hammocks?

Tip: Don’t forget to add cushions and rugs to your gazebo for a cosy feel.

A privacy screen is a must-have for those romantic evenings, especially if you have curious neighbours—or have to put up with lots of mosquitos during summer. There are a lot of gazebo curtain options, you can opt for a mesh screen, latticework, or outdoor drapes. These are also great to keep out bugs and pests.

Another important feature is adding some lighting to your gazebo. Lights will transform your gazebo at night and create an inviting, cosy feel. Take a look at our garden lighting list to get started.

What Is a Gazebo and What's it Used for? 7

Adding strings of lights to your gazebo is a must. Credit: Shutterstock

What are the uses of a gazebo?

A gazebo will be more than a nice feature in your garden. It will offer breezy shade on a warm summer’s day or a snow-free spot to enjoy winter views. You can also relax in your gazebo on a rainy day with a hot cup of tea and a book, or even put a hot tub under it!

On special days, you can use your gazebo to host parties with friends and family. And if your gazebo is spacious, you can hold special ceremonies and outdoor functions in it.  A gazebo will also act as a covered picnic area. Plus, you can use it as a romantic backdrop for photoshoots.

What Is a Gazebo and What's it Used for? 8

Gazebos offer the perfect place to relax and unwind. Credit: Shutterstock

A window into the past

Classic, romantic, and airy, gazebos are a window into the past. Just the presence of one in your garden can make you feel like you’ve travelled back in time to simpler, less stressful days.

To make the most of this experience, break free from all electronics. Leave your computer, laptop, and phone out of the gazebo. And just enjoy the simple pleasures of your garden.

This time-honoured outdoor structure will also add beauty to your space. It will invite you outdoors season after season.  Use this time for quiet contemplation. And who knows, a window into the past can help spark brilliant ideas for the future.

Are you thinking where can I buy a gazebo?! Well, before splashing out find out how much does it cost to build one yourself. And if you like to get your hands involved check out how to build a simple rectangular gazebo.

How To Stop Cats From Spraying On Garden Furniture

Do your neighbourhood cats think your outdoor furniture makes the perfect toilet?

It can be very frustrating sitting down on your patio with a nice cup of coffee but all you can smell is cat urine. Fortunately, there are ways to stop cats from spraying on garden furniture. Here is what you need to know…

stop cats from spraying on garden furniture

Nobody wants the smell of cat urine accompanying their morning coffee… Credit: Shutterstock

How to stop cats spraying on furniture

There are lots of ways to stop cats from spraying on your furniture. The most simple method is to get your male cat neutered. Spraying is a behaviour that marks the territory of the male cat to keep other males away. Once your cat is fixed, you should see a change in behaviour as the cat no longer sees the need to mark everything.

If it’s not your cat or if sterilisation isn’t an option, There are a few other things you can try to repel cats. Let’s take a look.

How to repel cats

Cats have an excellent sense of smell so you can make use of this to repel unwanted cats. There are quite a few scents out there that cats despise. Here are a few options:

Vinegar

Cats absolutely hate the smell of vinegar which makes it an excellent natural cat repellent. Simply mix one part white vinegar with one part water to make your own cat repellent at home. It is safe to spray this solution on your furniture as well as cushions as long as you don’t make everything constantly wet.

vinegar spray

Vinegar is an effective kitty repellant.  Credit: Shutterstock

Constant wetness creates the perfect environment for mould to grow, especially inside your cushions, nobody wants that. If you don’t like the smell of vinegar either, try one of our other homemade cat repellent options.

Vinegar has another benefit. It can remove the smell of cat urine completely since it breaks down ammonia. This way you can prevent a cat from coming back to mark again due to being attracted by the smell of feline urine.

Essential oils

Due to cats being so sensitive to smells, there are quite a few essential oils that are just too much for a cat to handle. Some of these oils include peppermint, anything citrus, eucalyptus, citronella, lavender, lemongrass and tea tree oil. Fortunately, all of these smell great to us.

citronella oil

Try essential oils to ward cats away.  Credit: Shutterstock

You will need to mix around 6 to 8 drops of oil for every cup of water. Make sure you shake the solution well and then spray it on and around your furniture. You will need to do this at least once a week but daily has the best results.

It is best to combine the use of essential oils with vinegar. Wash all marked areas with vinegar, soap and water solution to remove any urine smells. After the area dried, spray your essential oil cat repellent all around and on your furniture to keep the cat from coming back.

Potpourri

This might sound like a very strange solution, but there are some plant and fruit scents that cats just can’t stand. As an example, the dried peels of citrus fruits are an excellent choice for a cat repellent potpourri. You can use a combination of lemon, orange, tangerine and lime peels to create a great smelling potpourri with some lemongrass mixed in if you please.

lemon and orange potpourri

Credit: Shutterstock

Simply leave your citrus potpourri out near your outdoor furniture and watch the cats go out of their way to avoid the area. This also works if you want to keep them off your furniture as well. Just keep in mind that wind, rain and the size of the area will play a role in how effective your potpourri is.

You can also create small potpourri satchels to stick into the covers of your outdoor cushions. This way the cats won’t jump on your furniture either.

Plants

Another strange way to keep cats away from your outdoor furniture is to create a cat barrier. Now you might be wondering how exactly you’re supposed to create a barrier that such an athletic jumper won’t be getting over. Well, it’s quite simple really.

All you have to do is plant quite a few cat repellent plants. A few options you can consider are pennyroyal (smallest of the mint family), scaredy-cat plant (Coleus canina), lavender, rosemary, curry herb (Helichrysum italicum), lemon balm, thyme, and anything thorny.

a bumblebee enjoying lavender flowers

Lavender is great for attracting pollinators and repelling intruders such as mosquitos and cats.

These plants can be used alone or in a combination. Some of them are even useful to you in the kitchen. They also look great and will benefit your garden by deterring some other garden pests as well.

Commercial spray

There are of course also quite a few commercial cat repellent sprays available. Simply go to any pet store or check the pet and garden section of your favourite supermarket. If you can’t find any in your area, you can also order them from an online pet store or platform like Amazon.

These sprays, like everything else on this list, won’t always work. They do however at least allow you to try until you find the option that works best for you.

Protect your furniture

If all else fails, you might want to consider bringing your outdoor cushions indoors or get furniture with storage for cushions when you’re not around. This way you can simply hose down the remaining frames to wash away any nasty cat smells.

You can also create covers for your furniture to protect it from getting sprayed in the first place.

furniture covers

Covering your furniture will protect it from cats and the weather. Credit: Sunvilla

This way you can simply hose down the covers while your furniture stays pristine. Covers will also protect your furniture against weather damage so it’s a win-win situation.

Final thoughts

Repelling cats and stopping them from spraying on your outdoor furniture can be quite tricky. Not all methods and repellents will work on all cats.  All you can do is keep trying until you find something that does work. Sometimes this takes a lot of time, however, so be prepared.

FAQs

How do I keep the neighbourhood cats out of my garden?

The best way to keep the neighbour’s cat out of your garden is to create a cat barrier. You can do this by planting cat repellent plants like pennyroyal (Smallest of the mint family), scaredy-cat plant (Coleus canina), lavender, rosemary, curry herb (Helichrysum italicum), lemon balm, thyme, and anything thorny.

cat walking on old wooden fence

Credit: Shutterstock

How do I keep cats off my garden furniture?

To keep cats off your outdoor furniture you can either create a cat repellent solution with vinegar or essential oils or you can use potpourri with dried citrus peels. You can even use a combination of all three options if you like. Just make sure that you don’t leave your furniture constantly wet.

Does cat detergent spray work?

Cat detergent sprays work differently on different cats. Some cats couldn’t care less about the spray and still mark while others will stay far far away. The only way to find something that works for you is to keep trying.  Let us know in the comments below which deterrents work best for you.

How To Keep Spiders Off Garden Furniture

Do you often find a spider or two relaxing along with you on your garden furniture?  You’re not alone. For most of us, spiders give us the creeps, never mind that most of them are completely harmless and actually good for the environment.

keep spiders off garden furniture

Credit: Shutterstock

If that sounds like you, read on to find out how to make your garden time a more relaxing, spider-free experience.

How to keep spiders off garden furniture

Keeping spiders away from your garden furniture is fairly simple. All you have to do is clean regularly, remove any hiding spots, use repellents or use some other form of spider barrier or prevention technique.

Let’s take a look at how exactly to do just that.

Furniture choices

The type of furniture you choose will have a direct effect on the number of spiders and the amount of effort you’ll have to put in to remove them.

Wicker furniture is usually the worst choice of garden furniture if you don’t get along with spiders. They have lots of perfectly protected, dark holes and areas where a spider will live very happily despite your fear of them.

rattan coffee table

Wicker furniture is the worst choice for a spider-free garden. Credit: Shutterstock

If you don’t want to put in a lot of effort to prevent a spider infestation, rather avoid wicker furniture and go for something simpler like metal or open design wooden furniture. This way you’re reducing the number of hiding spots while still having great-looking furniture.

Remove any hiding spots

Spiders prefer messy areas with lots of holes and dark areas to hide in. If your pot plants or vines are taking over the area around your garden furniture, they will create the perfect hiding spots for spiders.  Any unnecessary garden tools and kid’s toys left lying around will also contribute to the perfect arachnid-friendly environment.

To reduce or even completely remove the number of spiders taking over your garden furniture, start by tidying up the area around them. Pack away any children’s toys, pool noodles or garden equipment.  Trim any large shrubs or vines growing nearby and move any potted plants that can create hiding spots for spiders.

Make sure to give the area a good sweep or even hose it down to remove any dirt that may be attracting the spiders. Once you’re done, move on to cleaning the furniture itself.

Cleaning garden furniture

Your garden furniture, just like your indoor furniture, needs to be cleaned regularly. This involves dusting, vacuuming and sweeping underneath to remove any spiderwebs, eggs and debris that might lure in prey for the spiders.

Regularly cleaning your furniture will force spiders to work harder to rebuild their webs and nests every day which in turn will force them to migrate to a more hospitable area away from your furniture.

woman gardener sweeping the garden

Keeping the garden clean makes spiders work harder. Credit: Shutterstock

You can also wash your garden furniture once every other week to flush out any spiders hiding in the crevices.  Spiders are nocturnal so getting them to come out and move can be quite tricky during the day. Water will get the job done quickly flushing them out and forcing them to take shelter elsewhere.

You can also give your garden cushions a wash or beating quite regularly to dislodge any spiders that took up residence in the folds.  Just make sure to do it out in the garden to prevent the spiders from simply running into another dark hole on a different piece of furniture.

Use spider repellents

If regular cleaning just doesn’t cut it and you’re still finding loads of spiders on your furniture every day, maybe it’s time to introduce some spider repellents into your daily or weekly spider prevention routine.

Here are a few options to look into:

Essential oils

It is possible to make your own spider repellent spray at home by using essential oils. Spiders, like a lot of insects, hate the smell of citronella oil.  You can mix it with a bit of water and spray it on, under or even around your furniture or you can use a citronella lamp to scare them away with the sweet-smelling smoke.

citronella oil

Citronella oil will keep spiders away. Credit: Shutterstock

It is also possible to use other oils like peppermint, citrus, or even cinnamon oil. Simply mix a few drops with some water, add it to a spray bottle and spray it all over.

Unfortunately, you will have to do this at least once a week since rain and other weather conditions may dilute the spider repelling properties of your solution.

Vinegar and pepper mix

Vinegar on its own is very effective for repelling spiders, but mixed with pepper it lasts a bit longer.  Vinegar can possibly damage your furniture over time so it’s best to first test the solution on an out of sight area. If you notice any discolouration, simply further dilute the solution or switch to a different one.

Commercial products

There are quite a few commercial products out there that function as both a repellent and a barrier. They aren’t guaranteed to work 100% of the time, but if applied regularly you should see fewer spiders around.  Make sure to reapply after rain.

Plants

There are a few plants you can grow either as a barrier or as a repellent for spiders. Peppermint is particularly good at this job.  All you have to do is plant some in a container and place it between your furniture or plant a whole row of peppermint all around your patio to prevent spiders from entering.

peppermint in container

Plant some peppermint in containers to repel spiders. Credit: Shutterstock

Peppermint isn’t the only plant that works so do some research and you might even find a whole host of useful plants. Another plus, you can use these plants in your cooking most of the time!

Create a barrier

There are quite a few things you can create a very effective spider barrier with. As mentioned above, your first choice will most likely be to plant plants with spider repellent properties.  If that’s not the way to go for you, you can also try the following:

Diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a kind of powder that is excellent at killing pests.  It works by cutting and dehydrating any insects that dare to crawl over it. DE works great sprinkled around your furniture or even the garden as long as it doesn’t get wet.

diatomaceous earth kieselgur powder spider repellent

Diatomaceous earth is a toxic-free spider repellent. Credit: Shutterstock

There’s no danger to your pets or even babies if ingested making it ideal for pet and child-friendly gardens.

Cedarwood chips

Cedar is known for its pest repellent properties. It is often used in gardens as a mulch making it ideal to use around the area where you keep your furniture.

cedarwood chips

Use cedarwood chips as mulch and to keep spiders away. Credit: Shutterstock

Cedarwood chips look great as a ground cover which also hides the fact that you have a spider problem.

Reduce attractants

Another way to reduce the number of spiders on your furniture is to reduce the amount of light on your patio. Bugs like moths and mosquitos are attracted to artificial light which makes your patio a perfect hunting ground for spiders.

To reduce this problem and force them to hunt elsewhere, simply turn off the light when you’re not out there or change it to yellow light. Yellow light tends to attract fewer insects than normal white light does.

FAQs

How do I keep insects off my outdoor furniture?

To keep bugs away, make a natural pest repellent by using peppermint, citronella or eucalyptus essential oils, sprinkle some diatomaceous earth, or plant a few garden plants or herbs with pest repellent properties. It is always best to use a combination for the best effect.

What smells do spiders hate?

Spiders can’t stand the smell of citrus, peppermint, eucalyptus, citronella or tea tree oil. They also despise vinegar and cinnamon so these are also excellent options to repel spiders.

When you kill a spider does it attract other spiders?

No, spiders aren’t attracted by their dead brethren. When you do kill a spider, however, you open up a territory that will soon be filled by another spider if you don’t take the time to find a spider repellent or barrier that works for you.

How To Grow Annuals In A Hanging Basket

Have you ever admired a lush hanging basket at the nursery and wished for one of your own?  Let’s face it, hanging baskets are expensive and the price just seems to rise every year.  Fortunately, growing your own annuals in a hanging basket doesn’t have to break the bank. Here’s what you need to know…

hanging baskets filled with flowering annuals

Credit: Shutterstock

How to grow annuals in hanging baskets

If you want to successfully grow annuals in hanging baskets, you’ll first have to consider what kind of annual will work best for your situation.

Some annuals like impatiens (busy Lizzies) prefer shady areas while others like petunias do well in full sun. Let’s take a look at the best annuals to grow in hanging baskets.

The best annuals for hanging baskets:

Violas

Violas are usually grown as annuals in hanging baskets. They are distinguished by their 5 petalled flowers that range in colour from blue and purple to yellow and pink. They have quite a lovely scent which makes them perfect for nose-level hanging baskets.

blue viola blooms in a hanging basket

Place your hanging basket at nose level and enjoy viola’s lovely scent; credit: Shutterstock

Violas prefer nutrient-rich, moist soil that drains well in a sunny to a partially shady location. Keep in mind that the sun exposure necessary may vary depending on the variety.

Sweet alyssum

This low growing bushy plant works perfectly in a hanging basket and will even work as a butterfly lure. The flowers are either white, pink or purple and have a strong honey scent that will enrich your patio or garden and lure some stunning insects to look at.

alyssum flowers

Sweet alyssums are a butterfly magnet; credit: Shutterstock

This plant does best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade.

Primroses

Primroses are very popular flowers to grow in hanging baskets. They can make any dull garden come alive with their beautiful, multi-coloured flowers.

primrose in hanging baskets

Keep an eye on insects if you go for primrose; credit: Shutterstock

Unfortunately, they are quite vulnerable to pests like aphids and red spider mites so make sure to keep a close eye on them. Primroses do really well in partial shade but will tolerate full sun with some extra care.

Petunias

Petunias are a favourite around the world when it comes to hanging baskets. They also make excellent additions to a moon garden since they are most fragrant in the evening.

basket filled with vibrant petunias

Petunia is the lion of the hanging basket annuals; credit: Shutterstock

Unfortunately, those with a very humid climate sometimes struggle with petal blight. If you want a basket that looks full and overflows with flowers, then the petunia is a great choice. They even come in a variety of colours from yellow and black to pink and purple.

Million bells

Million bells is a cousin of the petunia that’s a bit hardier when it comes to temperature and pests.

hanging basket of million bells flowers

Million bells flowers provide sunshine in a pot; credit: Shutterstock

They come in a variety of colours that range from yellow to blue to bronze. They will stay in bloom for a long time with just some moist soil and a full day of sun to keep them vibrant.

Lobelia

Lobelia usually has blue, purple or white flowers with neat, compacted foliage to add to its overall beauty in a hanging basket.

hanging wicker basket with blue Lobelia flowers

Flower field in a basket? Look no further than lobelia; credit: Shutterstock

Lobelia prefers full sun with moist, well-drained soil and thrives in moderate temperatures. If you want to lure some butterflies to your garden, you can’t go wrong with lobelia.

Impatiens

Impatiens or busy Lizzies are well-loved for their array of cheery flowers in all colours. They flourish in shady locations with some protection against wind and rain.

How To Grow Annuals In A Hanging Basket 9

Busy Lizzies add an impressive pop of colour to hanging baskets. Image credit – Shutterstock

If you live in a humid environment, you’ll need to pay attention to avoid overwatering since impatiens are susceptible to grey mould.

Tomatoes

It might seem a bit strange since this is not your typical flowering plant, but you can also grow edible plants in hanging baskets.

tomatoes in hanging basket

Form and function – go tomatoes! credit: Shutterstock

Tomatoes make a great hanging basket plant along with some edible herbs. Make sure to hang the basket in an area with full sun and watch your crop grow and spill over the edge.

Clematis

Clematis is a very popular hanging basket plant. There are many different varieties with a range of flower colours.

purple large-flowered Clematis blooms in a hanging basket

Lush foliage and pretty flowers make Clematis a popular choice for hanging baskets; credit: Shutterstock

The best variety for a hanging basket is one of the compact varieties. Clematis generally prefers a sunny spot, but some varieties will tolerate partial shade.

Begonias

Begonias are an excellent choice if you’re thinking of hanging your basket in a partly shady area. Begonias have stunning colours ranging from red to bronze that will be displayed throughout summer into autumn.

beautiful begonia flowers in hanging baskets

Begonias are very versatile hanging basket annuals; Credit: Shutterstock

Do take care not to overwater them however since they are quite prone to developing root rot. There are a lot of begonia varieties to choose from, so make sure you get one that suits your climate.

When to plant hanging baskets

Hanging baskets aren’t that different from planting in-ground when it comes to timing. You will still need to avoid frost and protect your plants against very cold nights. Despite all that, however, it is possible to start your hanging baskets slightly earlier.

Hanging baskets can easily be moved around which makes it very easy to bring them indoors. This allows you to plant your hanging baskets slightly earlier than you would in-ground.

If frost is a possibility, you can simply move them to protect them. The soil in the basket will also warm up faster than ground soil does.

How to plant hanging baskets

Before you can plant, you will need a hanging basket. There are loads of different baskets available at nurseries, some already lined with coco coir ready to be planted.

coir hanging basket

Coco coir is usually used to line hanging baskets; credit: Shutterstock

You will also need to line the bottom of your basket to prevent water from just rushing out of the bottom. Lots of nurseries use liners to increase water retention. You can either buy these special liners or make your own by using a plastic bag with a few holes in it.

The next thing you’ll need is potting soil. You can buy potting soil from a nursery. Never use normal garden soil It’s too heavy for your basket and may carry diseases that will negatively affect your plants. It’s best to choose a lightweight potting soil made especially for hanging baskets.

woman holding potting soil over a hanging basket

Soil for hanging baskets has to weigh less than regular soil; credit: Shutterstock

Now to choose your plants. You can be quite creative and create baskets with a mixture of plants or you can use one species to dominate your basket. If you’re choosing a mixture, make sure to choose a plant that grows tall and upright for the middle focal point. You can place trailing or spreading varieties around it to create a nicely filled basket effect.

As an extra, you can also rip holes into the side of your baskets and add plants to them. A plant that does really well growing like this is sweet alyssum. Also, make sure you know how many plants to plant in your preferred basket size.

Here are the general rules for planting in baskets:

This means that if you have a 30cm (12 inch) basket, you can plant 12 plants in it unless you have a strong grower like fuchsias. In that case, you can only plant 5 plants in the same size hanging basket.

How to care for hanging baskets

Caring for hanging baskets is fairly easy. To keep yours looking great, keep the following in mind:

Do some pruning

One of the best ways to keep your baskets looking great is to regularly prune away leggy and dead plant stems, flowers and leaves. Your plants will grow bushier over time and produce more flowers as you trim away the wilted ones.

Water regularly

Hanging baskets tend to dry out much faster because of how they are structured. The coco coir isn’t great at keeping moisture in after all. You will need to take this into account and water your plants regularly to prevent them from drying out and dying as a result.

If you’re unsure if your plants need to be water simply stick your finger about 2.5 cm (1 inch) into the soil and feel for moisture. If it feels dry, water your plant thoroughly.

Fertilise

Hanging baskets also need to be fertilised more regularly than in-ground plants. The regular waterings will quickly flush out any nutrients in the little bit of potting soil you have inside the basket.

To prevent your plants from starving and to increase the number of blooms, fertilise every week with liquid fertiliser or once a month with a solid fertiliser.

Replace dead plants

Once your plants start to die back, there’s no point struggling to keep these annuals alive. Simply take them out and replace them with other plants to keep your baskets looking great.

FAQs

How many plants can be planted in a hanging basket?

The number of plants will depend on the type of plant as well as the size of your basket. The general rule is one plant for every 2.5 cm (inch) of planting space inside your basket unless you have a vigorous grower. In the case of a vigorous grower like fuchsias, plant 1 plant in every 6 cm of planting space.

planting a hanging basket with young flowers

A good rule of thumb is one plant for every 2.5 cm (inch) of planting space; credit: Shutterstock

Why do my hanging baskets die?

Hanging baskets are a lot more sensitive to lack of water and need more fertilising than when growing the same plants in-ground.

Can you line hanging baskets with plastic?

Hanging baskets can be lined with plastic to reduce the loss of moisture. You will, however, have to make sure to puncture the plastic at the lowest point of the basket to allow drainage. Not doing so may result in your plants drowning and developing root rot.

Why Trellis Tomatoes?

With a range of vivid sunshine colours, intensely sweet flavours and impressive yields, tomatoes are one of the easiest plants to grow and harvest in your garden.

Vine tomatoes are known as indeterminate tomatoes, meaning the vines continue to grow throughout the season.  Bush or determinate tomatoes are much smaller plants, reaching a set height and producing fruit over a shorter time than the climbing varieties.

Benefits of trellising tomatoes

Whether you are growing vine or bush tomatoes, there are several reasons for trellising these cheery fruits as they grow:

Reduce plant damage

Tomato vines produce vast quantities of large, heavy fruit and securing them to a trellis or cage will help to prevent stem breakage.

Most varieties of tomato are indeterminate, reaching an eventual height of 1.8m and have an upright growth habit.  Tomatoes are happier reaching for the stars than creeping along the ground and supporting your tomatoes will also prevent you from walking on, and inevitably squishing, your prized harvest.

Lessen pest destruction and disease

By securing tomatoes off the ground, it’ll be trickier for hungry rodents and snails to nibble their way through crops and reduce damage by insects.  It won’t prevent damage completely but it’ll make it harder for pests to reach fruit that’s higher up.  It also helps to reduce damage from disease due to improved airflow.

Prevent overcrowding

Trellising your tomatoes will help to prevent overcrowding, as well as making it super easy to pick the fruit when ready. It will also allow more sunlight to reach the plants.  Using a trellis is an incredible space-saver and allows you to grow more in your space.

Boost yield

Tomatoes love a helping hand to grow and will benefit from being able to spread out as much as possible.  Using a support system will mean less spoiled fruit due to rotting, more exposure to sunlight and improved access for weeding and maintenance.

Different types of tomato trellis

Whether leaning against a fence or secured in the vegetable patch, trellis is one of the simplest ways to support tomato plants.  It’s really easy to tie the vines on and the structure allows you to attach the stems vertically and horizontally.  Being light and easy to install means trellis can be positioned virtually anywhere.

There are a wide range of trellis options available, you can simply buy your own or for a more rewarding and inexpensive option, choose from a range of materials, and DIY!

DIY trellis

The cheapest and most environmentally friendly way to trellis your tomatoes is to get creative and build your own!  Make sure the height of your trellis is at least 5 feet if you’re growing indeterminate varieties.  You can use bamboo canes and twine for a simple yet effective support system.

Vertical garden trellis

Vertical garden trellis; credit: Ok.ru

Salvaged branches can be weaved together to create a rustic but beautiful structure.  You can also weave twine through the branches for additional support.  The beauty of using wood and string is that you can simply snip the string after harvesting, and store the wood or canes until the following year.

Metal and wood trellis

Another simple way to support your tomatoes is by placing wooden stakes into the ground and attaching chicken wire, metal trellis or wire fencing to the stakes.

A more permanent solution to stake and twine, you could choose to grow a different plant up the trellis the next growing season.

net trellis tomatoes

Credit: Shutterstock

Tomato cage

You can buy inexpensive tomato cages from garden centres.  These are easy to place around the plant and are often used for smaller, container-grown determinate varieties such as Red Alert, Tumbling Tom and Cherry Cascade. 

Although bush varieties can be very compact, the fruits are heavy and will benefit from support.

tomato cage

Credit: Shutterstock

Florida weave trellis

Basically ‘sandwiching’ your tomatoes between lengths of garden twine that are tied to stakes, this method of trellising tomatoes is ultra-cheap and very easy to set up.

The Florida weave works best on tomatoes that are planted in rows and is popular with farmers.

florida weave tomato trellis

Credit: Gardenbetty

Salvaged trellis

If you’re feeling extra creative, you can up-cycle old ladders, bits of fencing, even plastic netting to create effective, imaginative trellis to support your tomatoes and other climbing plants.


As long as they are bathed in sunshine, rich compost and regularly watered, tomatoes will grow happily in a large patio pot, gro-bag or raised bed.

They can even be trained over a pergola, with the fruits hanging down like bunches of grapes. There are so many different ways to trellis tomato vines and given a little TLC, they’ll reward you with a plentiful and delicious harvest.

Will Nasturtiums Climb Trellis?

Nasturtiums love to climb up a trellis or any natural stem, these plants reach for the sun!

The cheerful blooms of nasturtiums thrive in the poorest of soils, winding themselves in intricate shapes around anything that will allow them to climb.

Nasturtiums are wonderful climbers which will delight your eyes for months. Let’s look at 4 of the best ways to trellis them:

4 ideas for trellising nasturtiums

1. Wooden trellis is ideal for pot nasturtiums

Place it on a wall behind the pot and the plant will curl itself around the trellis with ease.

nasturtiums climbing trellis on the wall

Credit: Islandashley

You can help the plant by curling it onto the trellis if it doesn’t find it to start with. This provides the nasturtium with support and you with brightly coloured flowers to enjoy all summer long.

2. Bamboo poles can work well too

If you plant nasturtiums with French beans, runner beans or any climbing beans, many pests are attracted to the gorgeous flowers. Aphids in particular will flock to nasturtiums by choice, which means they leave your bean flowers and leaves alone. A fantastic combination!

Nasturtiums are often chosen as companion plants because white fly, aphids and other pests adore them. Experienced vegetable gardeners know that the yellow and orange flowers are also really attractive to pollinators so you can help the bees as well.  The trellis for the runner beans transforms into a nasturtium climber. So the aphids devour the nasturtium, leaving the beans to grow well without too many worries.

3. Climb a vine and add colour 

If you have a vine in your garden or under cover, at times the trunks can seem brown and bare in summer so plant nasturtiums! Seeded in soil at the base of a vine, they will climb as vigorously as the grape vines, adding a fantastic dash of colour to any garden, as they grow.

They climb vines and twine around it beautifully adding a decorative look to the vine as it grows. Colours can vary from yellow to lemon yellow to bright orange and their cheerful tubular shapes can be enjoyed until the first frosts.

Nasturtiums climbing vines

Credit: Siena Scarff

Like the vine pictured, they do not need really nutritious soil. In fact, if the soil is too full of nutrients, the nasturtium plant tends to grow expansive foliage rather than blooms. The heart shaped leaves are edible in salads with a spicy tang to taste as are the flowers. Decide if you want to encourage flowers or foliage though and bear this in mind when choosing the soil.

4. Cover up areas with nasturtiums

Use a support system like the edges of your composting area as a trellis, and you can disguise the area beautifully by the climbing stems of nasturtiums. They last the whole summer even until the misty days of November, providing bright colour, pollen and salad leaves in the autumn at a time when very little else is in bloom.

Nasturtiums can cover a compost heap, fence or a garden shed to transform an area into a colourful place to enjoy.

Will Nasturtiums Climb Trellis? 10

Nasturtium flowers and leaves are edible and can be added to salads. Credit: Shutterstock

Best conditions for growing nasturtiums

Now read on for advice about the best conditions, soil and how to care for nasturtiums.

Soil: Strangely enough, nasturtiums love poor soil. If the soil is very rich the nasturtium will produce lots of foliage. So if you want colourful flowers, then ensure that the seeds are placed in soil that has not been fertilised or had beans or peas the previous season. This is because these legumes add nitrogen as they grow, which encourages plants to grow. Traditionally cabbages follow beans as they need extra nutrition right through the growing season and even before.

Temperature: These colourful blooms are good from June through to the first frosts.

Fertiliser: There is no need to add extra fertiliser for nasturtiums. In fact, if you do, you will gain a lot of leaves but very few flowers.

Water: These plants can survive a drought. If they are outdoors they hardly need to be watered all summer provided that there has been occasional rain. If you notice the plant drooping, water well or use your leftover grey water like washing up water or what’s left after washing some earthy newly picked potatoes.

Which Trellis Is Good for Cucumbers?

There are two kinds of cucumbers; one needs a trellis or something to climb. The other does not. Bush cucumbers grow in that shape and these are happy without a trellis. If however, you have a vine cucumber then a trellis or climbing frame of some sort is essential.

Read on to learn which trellis is good for cucumbers, how to train your cucumber on a trellis and what types of trellis might suit your pot or garden.

Why do some cucumber plants need a trellis?

As the cucumber plant grows, its large leaves need support and its little tendrils try to catch on to anything close by, to enable this plant to grow towards the light. Sunshine is the cucumber’s best friend and so it climbs higher and higher to reach it.

Cucumbers are annual plants, which mean you need to grow new plants each year from seed. Gorgeous bright yellow flowers form on the stems of both bush and vine cucumbers, which are then fertilized by bees and pollinators (or you with a paintbrush! see below…) to become cucumbers.

A trellis supports the growing fruit and also allows good ventilation, which helps to avoid some of the common problems that affect cucumbers. Read on to see how your trellis will help you to produce tasty fruit.

Which types of trellis will support my cucumber?

Three types of trellis will support cucumber plants: in a pot, in a greenhouse and in the soil.

1. Is your cucumber in a pot?

The cucumber in a pot needs a lot of nourishment so ensure that your trellis is in place before you plant in your cucumber. This is because you might damage the roots if you stick in trellis, canes or supports after planting.

You can support your pot cucumber using:

tall cucumber vine climbing a pot bamboo trellis

Pot trellis with strings; Credit: Shutterstock

2. Is your cucumber in a greenhouse?

In a greenhouse, your cucumber has found an ideal spot. Providing that you give it enough nutrition through the soil, this plant gets an early start inside so that your plants can be climbing just after the risk of frost has passed.

growing cucumbers in a greenhouse with irrigation

Credit: Shutterstock

3. Is your cucumber plant growing outside?

Remember that cucumbers aren’t frost hardy so only plant your cucumber in the ground after all risk of frost has passed. You can speed up the process by sowing your seeds indoors.  Place the pot on a sunny windowsill and transplant them outside after the warm weather arrives.

cucumber plants in seedling peat pot on windowsil

Credit: Shutterstock

Outdoor cucumbers are usually smaller in size than greenhouse cucumbers and they like to sprawl all over the ground, if not supported on a trellis. The benefit of the trellis is that it allows a lot more air to circulate among the leaves and the developing fruit, so this makes the plant less likely to become diseased or get eaten by slugs and snails.

Choose a sunny location where direct sunlight will nourish the plant for as many hours a day as possible. Cucumbers love the sun!

Prepare the ground well and dig out any perennial weeds such as bindweed or dandelions. Then dig in some well-rotted manure if you have any or add homemade or shop-bought compost. Cucumbers are hungry plants and need a lot of nutrition so give them lots of energy from the beginning.

Next, think about supporting your cucumbers as they grow, Pallets can make great supports for cucumbers but snails and slugs can hide easily inside the planks so inspect these carefully and remove any intruders.

An existing fence is a great alternative to pallets, bamboo or sticks but you may need to add a few nails so that you can tie in the stem, flowers and developing fruit as your plant stretches its way upwards.

Tina’s TIPS

How do I pollinate a female cucumber flower?

Sometimes the cucumber plant refuses to fruit. If this is the case for your plant, take a good look at the flowers.

Most modern varieties are all-female but the original plants used to have both male and female flowers, and for pollination to occur, the pollen from the male must touch that of the female.

The female flowers seem to have a little rounded fruit already behind the flower whereas the male flower has a longer creamy extension in the centre. You need to paint the male flower with a brush to remove some pollen, and then paint the female with this pollen, and hey presto! A cucumber should result.

Do remember to remove the male flowers after you pollinate or your cucumbers may be bitter and not as tasty as you hoped.

Why do I have so few cucumbers?

As the very first fruits appear, pick them quite small. This will encourage your plants to keep growing. Otherwise, they may try to go to seed really early, putting all their strength in the first 2-3 fruits.

FAQs

Should I fertilize my cucumber plants?

Definitely! Your plants need regular feeding at least once a week when they are fruiting or you will be disappointed by the size of your crop. You can use:

  1. Tomato feed diluted with water
  2. Home-made feed e.g. nettles, dandelions or comfrey leaves soaked in water for 3-5 days, then added to your watering can is excellent for cucumbers.

How should I water my plants?

Cucumbers need a lot of water but remember not to water the leaves or the fruit directly. The water should go around the base of the plant, not on the leaves.

Rot can occur on cucumber fruit and leaves if they are watered frequently, so in a greenhouse, I advise setting up a watering system aimed at the roots if possible.

Why does my cucumber have grey mould?

Cucumber grey mould botrytis

Cucumber Botrytis; credit: Growingproduce

Botrytis occurs in very humid conditions. Has there been a lot of rain or is your greenhouse door always closed?

Why does my cucumber have curled up, discoloured or mottled leaves? 

This is caused by greenfly and is called the cucumber mosaic virus.

Cucumber mosaic virus on cucumber leaves

Cucumber mosaic virus on cucumber leaves; credit: Shutterstock

Why do my cucumbers taste bitter?

Check if your plant is in a draught or has there been a cold spell? If the temperature changes suddenly the result is often a bitter taste to the fruit.

Another possibility is pollination – remember that male flowers should be removed after your pollinate. Some very odd shaped cucumbers which taste bitter can be the result if you forget to do this!

15 Smart Ways to Use a Trellis in Your Garden

Thinking about installing a trellis in your garden? There are many potential locations for it.

Mounted on a wall, in or at the back of a planter, behind a sitting area as a privacy fence, in your vegetable garden as a support for plants—you can always find room for a trellis in your garden.

That said, you don’t want style and design to be your only considerations when installing a trellis.

How to decide where to put a trellis in the garden

To find the best place for your trellis, consider what plants will grow on it, sun exposure, trellis material and design, air circulation, and local regulations. Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.

This quick guide applies to both store-bought trellises and those you make yourself.

Plants

Full-sun climbers like clematis like to face the south while peas or green beans need only up to about five hours of sunlight and prefer cooler temperatures.

Always position the trellis with the plant it supports in mind.

Plants that need a trellis include:

15 Smart Ways to Use a Trellis in Your Garden 11

Photo by Bailey Gullo on Unsplash

Type of garden

Maximize sun exposure by placing your trellis with your garden orientation in mind.

Air circulation

Most plants need good air circulation to develop well, resist pests, and stay healthy. This is something to remember when installing a trellis on a wall or in a corner.

Trellis design

Some trellises are designed for a specific use such as arch trellises for walkways or A-frame trellises for cucumbers. Trying to fit a ready-made trellis to a more problematic location isn’t always the best idea. You may be better off building a simple DIY trellis using readily available materials.

Material

Consider also the material from which your trellis is made. Wooden trellises that haven’t been treated to resist rot won’t last long if exposed to the elements, so give them some cover if possible.

For an exposed location, choose a pressure-treated or painted wooden trellis, or pick an alternative material like stainless steel, copper, or PVC.

Mowing and garden maintenance

The beauty of a trellis may carry you away, but you don’t want to install it where it gets in the way of mowing and other regular garden maintenance activities. Freestanding trellises in particular tend to need some space around them.

Local regulations

Depending on local regulations, some trellises may be considered fences. This means they shouldn’t exceed the maximum height allowed for fences, e.g., 2 meters. Always check local regulations before installing a large trellis.

Inspired trellis location ideas in your garden

The best locations for trellises include garden walls or fences, vertical vegetable gardens, planters, and anywhere you want to create a privacy screen. Let’s explore some of the best locations for a garden trellis.

There are plenty of options across styles and budgets, so it’s quite impossible not to find an option that works for your space.

1. Mounted on a wall or fence with brackets

Create a striking backdrop for your garden by installing a wooden trellis against a back wall or fence. You’ll need brackets and screws to support the frame.

Wall mounted trellis

Wall mounted trellis; credit: BHG

2. In the vegetable garden

A-frame trellises are great for cucumbers and peas. For beans, you can use simple pole trellises. For squash, tomatoes, and melons wire mesh or any grid trellis provides excellent support.

Close up of peas growing up on a trellis

Simple string trellis; credit: Shutterstock

3. In or behind a planter box or container

Stake a trellis in a planter box or container to help tall plants grow straight. Always choose a trellis that’s proportional to the size of the container. Avoid installing tall trellises in small pots. You can also add one behind a box planter for décor.

Planter box trellis

Planter box trellis; credit: HomeTalk

4. As a privacy screen anywhere you need it

Diamond-pattern wooden trellises and wrought iron ones are popular as privacy screens in any area of the garden. They are often more elegant than wall partitions or bamboo fences and provide the air circulation climbing plants need.

Privacy screen trellis

Privacy screen trellis; credit: HomeTalk

5. Right into a flowerbed

Small, corkscrew trellises provide elegant support to plants without shading neighbouring plants. They’re a good choice whether you want to add visual detail to a flower bed or simply protect plants against mischievous winds.

Flowerbed trellis

Flowerbed trellis; credit: Anikasdiylife

6. In any vertical garden

Trying to build a vertical garden? Whether it’s meant to be a new feature of your main garden or a separate garden that reimagines unused space, trellises can add vertical height to your greenery and help plants develop better.

Vertical garden trellis

Vertical garden trellis; credit: Ok.ru

7. As a partition between a garden and yard

A simple trellis can help you create a transitional area between your garden and yard. It can also divide different areas of your garden.

Trellis partition

Trellis as partition; credit: HomeTalk

8. At the entrance to your gazebo

Add some colour and fragrance to your gazebo entrance by hanging a trellis above it. Or frame the entrance with two freestanding trellises. Even a small trellis in a planter can make guests feel more welcome.

Gazebo trellis

Gazebo trellis; credit: Wayfair

9. To create a walkway tunnel

Few garden features are more striking than wisteria growing on an arched trellis tunnel. You can opt for a wrought iron trellis or simply build one using arched cattle wire supported by T-posts.

Trellis as tunnel

Trellis as tunnel; credit: Learningandyearning

10. To frame outbuildings

Garden storage spaces may be necessary, but they don’t have to look drab. With trellises, you can frame them in greenery and colour.

Trellis on a shed

Trellis on a shed; credit: Pinterest

11. Over a downspout

Stuck with a downspout that looks at odds with everything else in your garden? Install a trellis over it and grow a climber to make it look as if it’s raining greenery.

Downspout trellis

Downspout trellis; credit: Gardeningforlife

12. As a fence trellis

Whether it’s between neighbours or different parts of your property, a fence trellis is easier to set up than a regular fence and looks way better. It also improves air circulation and requires less maintenance.

Fence trellis

Fence trellis; credit: Danscollectiblesandmore

13. Leaning against a wall

A simple wooden trellis or a repurposed pallet helps you turn an average wall into a green corner. But make sure that the trellis is fixed in place or heavy enough not to be upset by the wind.

Against a wall trellis

Against a wall trellis; credit: BHG

14. As a patio or deck trellis

Got a patio or deck in your garden? You can choose from a variety of standing, hanging, and attachable trellises that can enhance the outside as well as the inside of your lounging space.

Patio trellis

Patio trellis; credit: BHG

15. Just about anywhere else in your garden

You can add more texture, contrast, and height to your garden with freestanding trellises for décor. You can use them to border paths, provide a backdrop for low-growing plants, cover the shaded space between trees, and in many other creative ways. Just make sure to consider the requirements of the plants.

The Trellis Factor

Few garden features highlight plants as well as trellises. Regardless of your gardening style, you can always find a place for a trellis on your green patch, whether it’s dazzlingly ornamental, minimalist, or classic.

But while trellises themselves can be installed just about anywhere, remember that the climbers and creepers growing on them are a bit more pretentious. Let the sun and shade requirements of the plants guide your choice and you won’t ever place a trellis in the wrong place.

Why Build a Trellis – 7 Easy & Affordable DIY Trellis Ideas

If you’ve been shopping for a trellis lately, you may have felt the same way as many budget gardeners—that trellises are overpriced.

A simple 1.8 x 1.2 m wooden trellis can cost £50 or more. Large ornamental trellises such as arched ones can cost ten times as much. Meanwhile, the materials from which these are made are often available in the same stores for significantly less.

Read on to find out more about this common problem and how to build a trellis for less.

Why is a trellis so expensive?

Factors driving up trellis prices include material, shape, style, location, and installation. Let’s take a closer look at these.

Material

Wooden trellises pressure-treated to withstand rot are the most expensive, with vinyl, PVC, composite, and plastic trellises following close behind. These can last 10 years or more and require little maintenance. They’re also lightweight, making them easy to install.

At the other end of the scale are metal trellises, with iron and stainless-steel ones being somewhat cheaper. They’re also heavier, and lower-end varieties may be prone to rust.

Shape

Trellis arches, ovals, trees, hearts, and other ornamental shapes cost more than simple square, rectangular, column, or triangular trellises. They do catch the eye, though.

Garden trellis entrance

An arch trellis costs more, but it catches the eye though; credit: Shutterstock

Wooden trellises in the classic diamond pattern often fall somewhere in between in terms of price. Even so, their cost can add up to hundreds of pounds in a small garden.

Style

Modern, abstract, or farmhouse-style trellises can become a centre point in any garden. But as you’ve guessed, they come with a higher price tag. The combination of creative design and higher-end materials that characterize them drives the price.

Location & Installation

Installation can further add to the cost of the trellis. This can vary a lot depending on the provider and where you want the trellis installed, assuming you want to pay a gardening service to do that. Often, you can install it yourself.

Installing downspout, vegetable garden, or garden bed trellis is more affordable than trellis for fencing, patio, walkway, or deck. But it may still feel pricey.

Does all this mean that you should give up on getting a trellis if you’re a budget gardener? Of course not. Few things can enhance a garden better than a trellis.

You could build your own instead. Building a trellis will save you at least half the money you’d normally spend on buying one, and often much more. You can also forget about shipping costs.

It’s not just a question of saving money.

Why Build a Trellis?

More than making your outdoor space look nicer, a trellis increases your gardening space, helps plants develop better, and enables you to create a privacy partition.

Let’s take a closer look at the best reasons to build a DIY trellis.

Increase Your Vertical Gardening Space

Whether you garden indoors or outdoors, a trellis helps you tap into the benefits of vertical gardening to grow more flowers and vegetables. It can transform inaccessible areas of your garden into green corners.

Create a Garden Partition

Thinking about creating a green nook where you can sip some tea and unwind? Trellises can provide privacy without the hassle of building a fence. They also let in air, creating better air circulation for the neighboring plants.

Help Climbing Plants Grow

Climbing plants like honeysuckle, hydrangea, and wisteria will often grow faster with the support of a trellis. What’s more, vertical support increases your plant’s exposure to sunlight and reduces the risk of rot.

Grow Healthy Vegetables

Some vegetables need trellises even more. Cucumbers, peas, vining tomatoes, or pole beans need support to fully develop and grow straight. Some gardeners also use a trellis to grow squash or melons, which otherwise would take a lot of ground space.

Beans in the garden

Some plants need a trellis to grow properly; credit: Shutterstock

Harvest Crops More Easily

You don’t need to suffer from chronic back pain to appreciate the convenience of harvesting cucumbers or peas from a trellis. If you plan to grow a lot of crops, supporting your plants will save you time—and back pain.

Prune and Fertilize More Quickly

You can prune and fertilize trellised plants with less effort. What’s more, a trellis makes it easier to keep an eye on your plants since it’s always there before your eyes. This can make inconveniences like pests easier to spot before they become problems.

7 Simple and Affordable Trellises You Can Build Yourself

Don’t let your plants pine for support. While saving money for your dream trellis or hunting for best buys, you can build a trellis from readily available materials such as bamboo, rods, or PVC pipes.

Here are some of our favourite ideas to get you started.

1. Bamboo and Twigs Trellis

Got some spare bamboo stakes and/or some twigs gathered from the trees in the yard? Get some strong rope or polyester-free string and tie them together in a lattice.

Bamboo and twigs trellis

Bamboo and twigs trellis; credit: Shutterstock

Stake the larger bamboo first and build your trellis around it. If you plan to grow heavy vegetables on it, try to lean it against a wall or fence for extra support.

2. Vertical Rods Trellis

For this one, you’ll need wooden stakes, iron rods, or any other similar materials plus some stretch tape. Gather three stakes or rods and tie them with stretch tape 4/5 of the way.

vertical rods trellis

Vertical rods trellis; credit: Shutterstock

Stretch them out and you’ll get a simple and durable triangular trellis for peas, beans, and small simple ornamentals.

3. PVC Pipes Trellis

You’ll need PVC pipes, corners, and T-connectors. Assemble the pipes into an A-shape, making the structure as long and as tall as needed. Tie strings from the top section on to small twigs and insert these into the ground next to your plants. Done!

PVC pipes trellis

PVC pipes trellis; credit: DIY network

4. String Trellis Via Posts, Walls, and Fences

Add stainless steel hooks and wire to any existing wooden structure such as wooden posts, the wall of a shed, or an old fence. Then simply string the wire horizontally.

Close up of peas growing up on a trellis

Simple string trellis; credit: Shutterstock

For extra support, you can add vertical wire as well to create a mesh. Opt for a weatherproof, eco-friendly wire.

5. Standing Wooden Garden Trellis

Wooden DIY trellises require a bit more work. But you can save four times or more the cost compared to buying a similar one in a store.

You can build them out of 1x2s and 2x2s. Choose pressure-treated wood for it to last. You’ll also need nuts, bolts, a nail gun, and a drill.

Standing wooden trellis

Standing wooden trellis; credit: Crazy Laura

Cut the wood according to the desired size and nail the horizontal bars to the longer vertical ones. Building a waist-high, A-shaped trellis this way takes less than an hour.

6. Repurposed Window Frame Trellis

Any wooden frame will do. You can also use an old door you no longer need. Staple some chicken wire to it and place it against a wall or in a corner where plants can climb on it. Use this approach to create a DIY partition for a patio or porch.

Repurposed Window Frame Trellis

Repurposed Window Frame Trellis; credit: Pinterest

7. Arched Trellis

You can build a simple arch trellis that can last many years in just half an hour. You’ll need two T-posts, stainless steel wire mesh, and zip ties. The arched wire mesh goes between the T-posts. For a longer arch, increase the number of T-posts.

diy arched trellis-wire mesh

Image Source: Moolton. Arched wire trellises can be simple to make and look fantastic once plants start to fill it out.

Start by driving the T-posts into the ground and then place the arched wire mesh between them. Tie the mesh to each T-post with the zip ties.

It’s that simple. Over time, you may need to add new zip ties. But other than that, you won’t have to do any maintenance. This arch is strong enough to support cucumbers and squash.

Trellis Up Your Garden

Trellises add flair to your garden while helping you grow more plants vertically. They may be expensive in most garden stores, but you can always build your own for less from readily available materials.

In the end, remember that trellises are not just a way to style your garden. They’re simply useful to have. Just look at those beans or peas climbing on them, and you’ll understand perfectly what we mean.

Square Foot Gardening: Tips and Tricks

As the growing season gets underway, we’ve spent a lot of time looking at different crops you can plant in your garden. From towering corn stalks, to hanging baskets of strawberries and tomatoes – we’ve got growing guides on all the best edible plants for beginners to grow.

If you’ve been browsing inspiration for your own vegetable patch, chances are you’ve come across those incredibly photogenic plots that are portioned out (rather satisfyingly) into smaller squares, with different leafy bits in each section. This is known as square-foot gardening – a technique that lots of gardeners swear by. So, what’s the deal with square-foot gardening? Let’s take a look!

What is square foot gardening?

Square-foot gardening is a method of intensive planting, based on growing things in squares of roughly 30cm (or, a foot, hence the name). The idea is to create an orderly gardening system that makes it easier to plant lots of vegetables in a given space.

The original square foot gardening was based on a raised bed of 4ft x 4ft (1.2m x 1.2m), divided into 16 squares. A different crop would be planted in each square, with either 1, 4, 9 or 16 individual plants, depending on the eventual size of the crop. For example, you might only have space for one bushy tomato plant, but sixteen radishes could grow quite comfortably in the same space. Organised, right?!

a large vegetable patch in a garden, using square foot gardening methods

What are the benefits of square foot gardening?

Square foot gardening is a great way to maximise a limited space, and condensing your work area does reduce the effort needed to look after it, to some extent.

However, there are some clear advantages – for example: dense, tightly-packed foliage will make it much harder for weeds to grow in your beds. It will also make companion planting more effective at repelling pests and enhancing flavours.

a raised vegetable bed for intensive crop growing

Closely-grown crops will also retain more heat, boosting growth and offering some protection against cooler weather. The limited size of the vegetable beds also make it easier to cover them with fleece, netting or a cold frame.

Some things won’t change though, like crop rotation. It’s still important to replace your harvested vegetables with a crop from a completely different plant family. To prevent a build-up of pests and soil pathogens attracted to one type of plant.

Are there drawbacks to square foot gardening?

This intensive style of gardening doesn’t suit every type of crop, so if you’re keen to grow perennial produce, or larger vegetables (like squash, bushes or fruit trees), you’re better off using a different method.

Also, while a single 4×4 grid is practical for small gardens, it can be expensive and laborious to set up multiple grids to fill a bigger space. The soil itself is a considerable investment, and these intensive plots do need a lot of watering in summer.

How many crops can you grow in each square?

Once your square foot gardening grid is set up, it’s time to get planting. Here’s a (non-exhaustive) guide to give you an idea of how many of each type of crop you can grow inside your squares.

1 plant per square:

4 plants per square

9 plants per square:

16 plants per square:

Larger vegetables

If there are some larger crops that you want to grow, it’s possible to grow certain plants across two squares. These plants need the extra space to grow fully without crowding out other plants nearby:

square foot gardening methods mean you can grow more crops in a small space

More tips for square foot gardening:

In addition to growing the right number of crops in each square, there are a few bits of good advice that will help you grow a healthy vegetable patch.

  1. Maintain a variety of plants. We mentioned crop rotation earlier, but it really is important to keep a diverse selection of plants when you’re growing intensively. It helps to keep the nutrients in the soil balanced, and reduces the risk of one type of disease or pest building up.
  2. Think about height and light – keep tall-growing plants (like tomatoes or peppers) on the north side of your vegetable bed, so that shorter sun-loving crops can still get plenty of light. Alternatively, if you’re growing any of these shade-loving vegetables, grow them behind (to the north of) taller crops.
  3. Companion planting is about growing certain crops near each other to create benefits. For example, luring pests away from more valuable crops, or enticing more pollinators for a better harvest. Take a look at our more in-depth guide to companion planting (as well as some good crop pairings) to help you boost your yield and maintain a healthy vegetable patch in a crowded space.

Using the square foot gardening method is a practical and easy way to grow crops – perfect for small spaces and handy for beginners. Although there are some drawbacks in terms of initial efforts, the results are absolutely worthwhile once you get the hang of it!

Raised Bed Gardening Ideas

Raised beds can make messy gardens look neat and orderly, or bring an exciting new dimension to an otherwise bare space. There are many benefits to growing plants above the ground – for example, it’s easier on your back, and containers generally limit the amount of upkeep each bed needs. Plus, raised bed gardening ideas are a fun way to add style and character to your garden aesthetic.

The only drawback to raised bed gardening is that you have to prepare your garden beds before doing anything else – so, without further ado, let’s take a look at how to get started.

a raised planter filled with poppies and wildflowers

What is raised bed gardening?

In case you need a reminder, raised bed gardening is a method that simply moves plant beds above ground, rather than in-ground. Raised beds are conventionally about a metre wide, and can be anywhere from 15cm above the ground to waist-height.

Raised bed gardening helps you control the condition of the soil within the beds, and makes it easier to conserve water (especially if you stagger raised beds down a natural slope in your garden). It’s also possible to implement square foot gardening principles and companion planting, allowing you to grow plants (particularly vegetables) much more intensively than conventional rows of crops.

Because of their size and shape, it’s easier to cover raised beds and protect your crops from cold and pests, extending the growing season. Being closer to eye-level makes it easier to spot pests in the first place, and to watch out for signs of disease. Dense planting also means that, once your crops or flowers get established, it’s much harder for weeds to break though (more tips on keeping flower beds weed-free).

Raised beds also keep plants out of reach of children or pets – useful if you’re growing anything that could be toxic – and, by the same logic, make it easier for adults to reach the beds. If you’re growing a sensory garden for people with physical impairments, raised bed gardening ideas are the way to go.

a raised planter made from reclaimed railway sleepers filled with edible plants

Planning your raised bed garden

A little planning goes a long way when it comes to a raised bed garden. It’s very difficult to change the materials of your beds, or rearrange them, once they’re in place, so take the time to figure out how you want them to look from the start.

Raised bed layouts

The best position for your raised bed will be somewhere that gets full sun throughout the day (at least 6 hours). The majority of crops need full sun to flourish, and if you end up growing vegetables that prefer shade then you can always create more cover at a later point.

You don’t need a lot of space to build your raised bed garden, and you can always start with one or two beds and slowly expand as they become established.

Another thing to consider is water access. Although you can obviously use a hose to take water from one end of your garden to the other, long-term you’ll thank yourself for keeping your raised beds as close to the spigot as possible. You’ll be watering your raised bed at least every few days, so having water within easy reach will be a huge convenience.

Materials for building raised beds

The essential thing to consider when you’re deciding on the materials for building your raised garden beds is that you don’t want chemicals to leach into the soil. This is important for the health of your plants, but even more so when you’re growing anything you intend to eat! Be cautious of pressure-treated timbers (which are often treated with chemicals), and opt for untreated hardwood, concrete, or reclaimed timber sleepers.

The safest option may be to buy prefabricated materials intended for building raised planters. These will typically be rated for food safety and offer the durability needed for outdoor conditions. Look for features like double-skinned walls (which provide insulation against sudden temperature changes and moisture loss), or options that come with plastic lids or covers for extra protection against the elements.

What’s your garden environment like?

Both the position and material of your raised beds will be affected by the weather exposure they get in your garden. As well as direct sunlight, you should take into account where your garden seems to catch the most wind, and where water runoff tends to pool. Consider how to protect your plants before you start growing – could you install a screen, or dig better drainage?

Wildlife management

It’s always wonderful to see more birds and wildlife in our gardens… that is, until we notice them nibbling our crops and trampling our seedlings! If you have the pleasure of living in a rural location where foxes, rabbits and deer are frequent visitors, factor this into your raised bed design. For example, surrounding your beds with a perimeter of fences or nets.

raised bed gardening ideas: a vegetable patch and flower beds fenced in with pallets painted white

 

When it comes to raised bed gardening ideas, there are no right or wrong answers. Just take the time to assess your outdoor space as well as your own growing goals before you start creating your beds. Happy growing!

How to Create a Garden Focal Point

Does your garden feel a bit empty? Are you sick of seeing your bins every time you step outside? Knowing how to create a garden focal point is the answer.

Whether it’s an arrangement of plants or a practical structure, having a garden focal point is what gives your landscaping purpose. A focal point will draw the eye towards it, making sure all of the attention is on your favourite garden features and away from less attractive areas.

Let’s take a look at how to create a garden focal point, including what makes a good focal point, and how to make yours the star of your garden.

Choosing a garden focal point

The right focal point will transform your garden from a simple space to cast your gaze over, into a more intriguing landscape that deserves a closer look. Whether you choose a practical part of your garden to be the focus (like a deck or greenhouse), or an ornamental feature – like a plant or flower bed – it should connect with its surrounding elements so attention naturally moves across the space to take everything in.

How to create a garden focal point with plants

Using plants is a natural way to create a garden focal point, and can be more subtle if you only have a small space. Of course, it doesn’t have to be – here are some ideas for botanical focal points to inspire you:

If you have a large tree in your garden, it’s going to be a focal point whether you like it or not. Enhance its natural beauty by keeping the area around it tidy, and adding nature-friendly decorations, like bird boxes or an insect hotel. You could also surround the base with containers of shade-loving plants, which will happily grow in its shelter.

Climbing plants will take some time to flourish, but if you have the time to wait, they make for stunning focal points. Honeysuckle and climbing roses have the added benefit of being beautifully fragranced, but wisteria or climbing hydrangea will also look gorgeous. Train them over a doorway, pergola, arch or shed.

A cluster of containers looks amazing, especially when they’re in full bloom and colour-coordinated with each other. We’ve got some container garden inspiration for you to see what I mean. Keep in mind that floral displays will only look their best for a couple of seasons – you might want to arrange them around a larger tree or evergreen topiary to maintain your garden focal point year-round.

Choosing a plant for its intense colour makes it easier to tie other decorative elements into your focal point. For example, the vibrant pinks and purples of this fuchsia would look great echoed in the cushion covers of a bench on a balcony, or by using pink containers at ground-level.

fuchsia in a hanging basket container garden

Botanical focal points don’t have to be solely ornamental – a vegetable patch or fruit tree can be both an intriguing thing to look at and an excellent conversation point. Take a look at foodscaping tips if you want to grow plants that are as beautiful as ornamental flowers.

Structural, functional garden focal points

Making the most of your outside space usually means having a number of structures in your garden, like a shed, patio, or shelter. These are all excellent candidates for becoming a garden focal point. You can complement them with other decorative objects – like fountains or sculpture – especially if your garden is large enough for several focal points in different areas.

Let’s start with garden sheds. If you intend to use a shed as a focal point, make sure it’s in excellent condition, and don’t hold back on decorative features. Create a path leading to its door (stepping stones look pretty), and keep the surrounding foliage well-pruned. These garden shed ideas will show you all the ways in which your shed can be working harder for you!

a minimalist shed painted black and brown in a gravel garden

Patios and garden decking are usually a place for looking out over your garden, but they can be a focal point in themselves. Add a pergola or gazebo to create structure (and shelter), covering it with lighting and plants. If you decide to make your seating area a focal point, remember to balance it out with a second point of interest that you can see while you’re relaxing.

Sculptural containers are a good way to break up busy flower beds without overshadowing them. If you like a cottage style garden with waves and waves of flowers, try putting seasonal plants or hanging baskets to pull focus to specific areas. Our vintage garden ideas offer some creative ways of doing this!

Fancy turning up the heat? Having a dedicated BBQ area, or even an outdoor kitchen makes for a fantastic garden focal point. It’s not up everyone’s street, but take a look at these gorgeous outdoor kitchen designs to see what we mean.

Is your outdoor space a family-friendly zone? There’s no reason why a beautiful playhouse or treehouse can’t be a garden focal point. The key is making sure it’s well-loved, and drawing attention with a path, and coordinating colours across other elements in your garden.

Water features create a soothing ambience in your garden, and are hypnotising to look at – perfect for a focal point. Would you like a natural-looking feature like a pond, or do you prefer the sound of moving water from a fountain or rill? There’s a style of water feature for every outdoor space.

Building an archway will create a garden focal point if your garden is lacking in structure. Use it to create separate garden areas for different purposes, with privacy screens as a nice addition.

A garden swing seat can be both practical and beautiful, acting as a charming focal point from your garden but also a cosy viewing spot. Choose a style that works with your garden aesthetic.

How to make your garden focal point stand out

There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re planning your garden focal point. Here are some tips to help you ensure yours is the right fit for your garden:

An attractive, visually-pleasing garden focal point needs more thought than simply plopping a nice bench in front of your flowers. Whether you’re looking to add a finishing touch or treating your centrepiece as a starting point for the rest of your garden design, it’s important that there’s a connection between the focus of your garden and its surroundings.

Take a look at lots of garden style inspiration to see what kinds of features might make a good focal point for your space. We’ve got gorgeous Moroccan-themed gardens, pared-back Japanese-inspired gardens and beautiful Grecian-style spaces to get you started. Take your time in choosing the right garden focal point for your home.

Garden Cinema Ideas: 7 Steps to Creating Your Perfect Outdoor Viewing Spot

Outdoor cinema screenings were a huge trend in 2019, and it looks like – despite everything that’s happened since – drive-ins and sit-outs are making a careful comeback. Even so, if you’re not ready to face the crowds (or never were), why not host your own outdoor film party at home?

garden cinema ideas with popcorn and blankets

Garden cinema ideas: setting up your silver screen in seven steps

A garden cinema night is a great way to hang out with people while staying socially distanced, and it’s much more convenient than going out. You always get the best seats, and have full control over the guest-list, menu and dress code… bliss! Plus, you’re not just limited to films – once your garden cinema is set up, you can use it for TV, video streaming or gaming.

What better way to spend the summer than having a mini film-fest at home? You don’t even need a conventional garden – if, like me, you’re currently limited to a balcony or roof terrace. Once your outdoor cinema is set up, it’ll become your go-to spot year after year for parties, date-nights and family hang outs.

Here’s our super-easy seven-step guide to creating the best outdoor viewing experience, along with a bunch of gorgeous garden cinema ideas to inspire you.

Scope out your spot

The ideal location for an outdoor cinema set up needs three key things:

These are really the bare essentials, and anything more than that is going to be a plus, comfort-wise. If you’ve already got some nice garden features – like a patio, deck or covered area, you’ll probably want to try and incorporate them.

If you want a home cinema to become part of your routine, what about a more permanent setup? I can’t think of anything better than turning a she shed or garden man cave into a movie-and-gaming den.

Working with a bare-bones garden? No problem! Try setting up a tent or gazebo to make your film screening more cosy (especially later in the year!)

Prepare a projector

I remember when home projectors used to be seen as some kind of specialist equipment (no thanks to insanely high costs). This just isn’t the case any more, and there are ways to create a garden cinema on any budget. Projectors are also quieter and more compact than ever before, and are capable of producing much better images in partial light.

If you’re happy to make a hefty investment, look for projectors with a high lumen count – at least 3000. The lumen measurement indicates how easily you’ll be able to see the on-screen images in brighter lighting, so if you want to start showing films before dusk, the more lumens the merrier. High-end projectors typically start at about £700 for this kind of cinema-level experience.

Right at the other end of the budget are smartphone projectors. Although the picture quality might not be Oscar-worthy, they can usually give you about 8x screen magnification for around £20. Connect your phone to a bluetooth speaker, and you’ve got yourself an entirely wireless little cinema in the palm of your hand. Perfect for a couple of people watching together, or for a solo movie marathon.

Connect your content

It sounds simple, but don’t leave it to the last minute to hook up your video source – it’s a recipe for technical difficulties! Obviously there are heaps of options available, so whether you’re connecting your Apple TV, Chromecast, laptop or TV, make sure you’ve got all the wires you need to reach your projector.

Think about sound, too – most projectors have a standard 3.5mm jack that you can plug speakers into, or you could look for a model with bluetooth connectivity if you have a soundbar. Sound dissipates much more outside than it does indoors, so you can probably err on the side of speakers with more power.

Don’t forget about your neighbours though! If you live close to any other houses, keep the sound respectful or connect bluetooth headphones – or, I don’t know, invite them over?

Set up your screen

Just like your projection equipment, there are several options when it comes to outdoor cinema screens at home. Your favourite option will depend on whether you’re trying to create a garden cinema on a budget, and how much use you’re expecting to get out of your screen.

Student film budget: Hang a crisp white sheet from a washing line, from two poles or between two hooks fixed to your wall or shed. You might need to fashion something to weigh the bottom down and stop it flapping in the breeze (like pegs).

Indie film budget: If you want something a little more professional, there are several options for mid-range cinema screens at home. It’s possible to sew a DIY projector screen that works pretty well. Just stitch some blackout lining together (when you go shopping, remember it’s white), and attach strips of timber to the top and bottom. Add screw-hooks to the timber at the top, hammer some nails at the right height onto your fence, and you’ll be able to hang your screen whenever you like.

Or, simply buy a projector screen, which will offer great picture quality and cost somewhere between £20-100. If you’re happy to pay a little bit more, you could get a motorised one that unrolls with a remote control.

Blockbuster budget: As the outdoor cinema trend has been growing, so too have the number of places you can buy (or hire) an inflatable screen. Remember you’ll need a power supply for the air pump, and that these can get quite noisy.

Decide on your decor

Not every movie night needs the outdoor party treatment, but a couple of small touches can make the evening more pleasant while you’re watching.

For example, a little bit of light is helpful while everyone gets settled (and possibly to help people find their path to the toilet mid-movie). Fairy lights or lanterns are subtle – we’ve got loads more garden lighting ideas if you need inspiration. Whatever style of lighting you prefer, check that they’ll be easy to turn off when the film starts.

Finally, stock up on citronella candles and diffusers – biting bugs like mosquitoes hate it!

Create some comfort

The joy of bringing the cinema to you is that there’s no limit on how comfortable you can be. Yes, you could simply lay a blanket and some cushions out on the lawn, but why stop there?

If you haven’t already got a decent set of garden furniture, now could be the time. A cosy sofa, reclining armchair or even a luxurious swing-seat would help you enjoy your film nights in style and comfort.

Or, you could go for more casual seating – a set of chilled-out deck chairs, or a hammock, maybe? I’m also a big fan of outdoor bean bags.

Haven’t tried one? You’re missing out, seriously. Whichever kind of seating you choose, always load your guests up with cushions and blankets to stay snug once the sun sets.

For those of you that are really serious about enjoying yourself, I’ve got some suggestions for you. First: fire pit. Second: hot tub. Either of these little babies will keep you warm all night, and are experiences you just can’t get at a regular cinema. Need a bit more convincing? Check out our fire pit ideas and hot tub ideas next.

Secure your snacks

The final touch to any film night: snacks. It could be as simple as banging some popcorn in the microwave, or as elaborate as nibbles that fit into the theme of your movie. Personally, I’m in favour of ordering a takeaway so someone else gets to do all the hard work.

It’s equally important to keep your guests hydrated throughout the film. Bring a cool box outside with you so that everyone has easy access to a chilled beverage whenever they need one (this also saves you having to pause the film while people top their drinks up)!

That’s really all there is to setting up your own outdoor film fest – hopefully some of these garden cinema ideas have inspired you! Unfortunately, we don’t have a guide for helping you choose what to watch… you’re on your own with that!

How to Grow Basil in Your Garden

Growing herbs is an easy and practical way to start getting your fingers green, particularly if you only have limited space, or are looking for plants that can survive on a sunny windowsill. Learning how to grow basil will not only reward you with a delicious cooking ingredient, but give you the skills you need to move onto other herbs, like mint, chives, dill and coriander.

If you like Italian dishes – especially tomato-based pasta sauces, homemade pizza or delicious pesto – basil is going to be a great choice for your garden.

several varieties of basil growing in a flower bed herb garden

Growing Basil: Getting Started

For the best results, you should plant basil seeds indoors in the first part of the year and let them develop into seedlings before moving them outdoors a few months later. With the right care, basil plants started in February or March will provide you with delicious, aromatic leaves through summer and autumn.

Sow in: February, March, April, May, June, July

Move outside: June, July, August

Harvest in: June, July,  August, September

Planting basil

Start your basil plants off by planting them in 7.5cm pots. Fill the pot with compost (tips on how to make you brown compost here), then sprinkle a few basil seeds on the surface and cover lightly with vermiculite. Water them, and then cover. Using a propagator tray is recommended, but if you don’t have one then you can fasten a sandwich bag around the top with an elastic band, or you can cut a plastic bottle in half and place it over the seeds. Adding a cover – whichever method you choose – will trap heat and moisture, helping your seeds to germinate.

Leave the cover on for a few weeks, until your seedlings are about 3-5cm tall, and have their first “true” leaves (not the little round ones that sprout first). When they look sturdy enough to handle, you can split them out so you have 1-2 per 7.5cm pot.

How to Grow Basil in Your Garden 12

How to grow basil

Frost will damage your basil, so don’t move it outside until the nights are reliably above freezing. Like tomatoes or chilli peppers, you can harden your basil plant off by putting it outside for a couple of hours, and then bringing it back inside – gradually increasing the amount of time each day. This process helps young plants acclimate to the exposure of outdoors, compared to indoor conditions.

When your basil is ready to move into the ground, choose a sunny spot that’s well-sheltered. You can also leave basil to grow in containers, sizing up every time you notice roots poking out of the bottom. If you’re also growing tomatoes, you might want to position the two near each other – basil is considered a companion plant to tomatoes, and is thought to improve their flavour!

Keep your basil plants healthy and productive by pinching the tips off of branches every so often (focusing growth at the centre of the plant), and removing flowers before they can form. It’s also best to water basil in the morning, as it can sulk if it’s roots are cold and wet overnight.

you can grow basil in a pot, making it ideal for balcony gardens

Harvesting basil

You can harvest basil leaves at pretty much any time, but I do have a few tips for keeping your plant healthy! For example, don’t immediately pick off all the biggest leaves – these are essentially your basil’s power plants that are generating all the energy it needs to grow. Instead, take a combination of larger and medium-sized leaves each time.

When you’re only taking one or two leaves, use the opportunity to pinch off the top of the plant and the ends of any leggy stems. As I mentioned before, it helps your plant focus its growth closer to the middle.

basil plants that have been allowed to flower into purple spires

Common Problems With Basil

If you follow the above tips about pinching off excess growth, harvesting carefully and watering your basil in the morning, you should find it relatively easy to grow a happy, healthy basil plant. However, there are two main pests that you should familiarise yourself with when you’re learning how to grow basil.

  1. Aphids are a pretty common problem when you’re growing edible crops, and basil is no exception. We’ve got a guide to getting rid of aphids that you can check out, but the most important thing to be aware of is that they multiply quickly. If you notice even one of these tiny bugs (they can be white, green, yellow or grey), squish it quickly and rinse any other suspicious bugs off of your plant as soon as possible.
    a cluster of aphids eating a leaf
  2. Slugs and snails like to chomp on basil – look out for slime trails when you go to water your plants first thing in the morning. There are natural ways you can deter slugs and snails… be careful about using pesticides on any plant you intend to eat.
    a brown snail on the edge of a plant pot

Learning how to grow basil is a fun gateway into taking care of more herbs and edible plants. Take a look at our beginner vegetable-growing guides, tips for growing herbs indoors and more kitchen garden ideas.

Bird Friendly Garden Ideas

Part of having a garden is being able to enjoy your own little slice of nature, and getting to experience the wildlife that comes with it. Attracting birds to your garden is one of the easiest ways to connect with your local environment, and is possible even in the most urban location. If you’re looking for ways to cultivate a bird friendly garden, you’re in the right place.

a blue tit enjoying peanuts in a bird friendly garden

The benefits of a bird friendly garden

Why should you try and encourage more birds to your garden? Well, firstly, they’re a joy to watch. I used to scoff at my grandparents and, more recently, my parents for just how much they love sitting by a window and watching a flock of sparrows or pigeons hopping around searching for the seed that had been scattered that morning. Except, when I finally paused for five minutes, I discovered that not only is it admittedly pretty pleasant to watch birds do bird stuff, my relatives had managed to attract LOADS of different bird varieties – including wrens, woodpeckers, wagtails and about six different kinds of finch.

Anyway, another huge benefit to having a bird friendly garden is that they’re a natural, pesticide-free way to manage your garden bug population. So, if you’re trying to grow your own vegetables but are constantly battling against the worst kinds of insects, birds are going to act like your own personal army against them.

Providing a habitat for birds is also a wonderful way to introduce children to the natural world, teaching them about respecting wildlife and nurturing other creatures. There are lots of activities to get kids involved with birds, like making feeders, decorating bird boxes and counting the different varieties of birds that appear.

How to attract more birds to your garden

The quickest way to increase the number of birds in your garden is to make sure you’re meeting as many of their needs as possible. It’s about more than keeping your bird feeder topped up; you should aim to provide a variety of food, and offer safe places for birds to hide, bathe and nest.

the fiery red berries of a pyracantha hedge

The best plants for birds

Birds rely on plants as a primary source of food and as a hunting ground, as well as for shelter. Growing lots of native plants will increase the likelihood of local birds choosing to make your garden part of their home (and they’ll also need less maintenance than trying to grow exotic plants). If you’re not sure which plants are native to your region, a local plant nursery is the best place to ask.

If you only have a limited space, try to include a combination of plants that will mean your garden has something to offer each season. For example choosing, flowering plants that attract pollinating bugs for birds to feed on in spring and summer, shrubs that produce berries and seeds in autumn, and at least one large evergreen plant to provide coverage over winter.

A stone birdbath nestled between wildflowers in an enchanted garden

Garden design that attracts birds

Most wild animals will avoid spacious lawns and open areas, as it makes them vulnerable to predators, or risk being spotted by prey. This is true for birds as well, so try to limit the amount of empty space in your garden if you want them to feel comfortable. Increase the size of flower beds if you can, plant more shrubs and consider replacing bare fences for hedges.

Having lots of layers to your garden will make it easier for birds of all sizes to find somewhere to forage and shelter. Try to combine different kinds of shrubs and trees that will grow to different heights. You can surround them with smaller plants and flower beds to create lots of variation, even in a small area.

Another tip is to hold back on pruning, or you can scare off birds that are preparing to nest. Leave undergrowth and leaf litter for them to use as building materials, and avoid disturbing hedges too frequently.

Bird feeders

The sheer number of bird feeder options can seem overwhelming, but you can make your decision by understanding how the birds that visit your garden prefer to eat. The RSPB actually has a helpful page with tips about choosing the right bird feeder! As they point out, the most important consideration is bird safety – make sure the feeder(s) you choose can’t trap feet or wings, and can maybe offer some protection from squirrels or cats.

Seed feeders are designed for fine grains, and usually have one or to narrow openings for small birds. A metal seed feeder is generally more durable than plastic, particularly if your garden attracts squirrels, too!

Peanut feeders can be used for both nuts and suet balls, as long as the mesh is fine enough that large chunks don’t get broken off (but isn’t so fine that it causes beak damage).

Ground feeders are good for larger birds, as well as species that forage – like robins and blackbirds. If you know there are cats in your neighbourhood, position the ground feeders in an open space (so it’s harder for them to hide) and consider adding a protective cage with bird-sized holes.

Suet feeders tend to have much larger holes than nut feeders, giving birds somewhere to perch while they peck at the suet balls or cakes. 

a coal tit pecking at suet balls through a wide mesh feeder

Build a bird bath

Bird baths provide somewhere for our feathered friends to wash, drink and socialise, and make a beautiful focal point for a bird friendly garden. Bird baths come in lots of different styles, so you should be able to find a design that blends well with the rest of your garden aesthetic. Even a regular ornamental water feature can double as a bird bath, as long as the water is kept fresh.

You can also turn a bird bath into a dust bath, which some species use to reduce excess oil, dirt, and feather mites. To accommodate this, provide a tray (about a metre across, and 5cm deep) filled with a mixture of loose soil, sand and ash (if you have a fireplace). Sieve the mixture to remove large chunks, and position your dust bath in a sunny spot.

Bird boxes and houses

Bird boxes, or nesting boxes, are designed to attract birds that are looking for a safe space to make a home. There are lots of styles and sizes available to buy, or you can have a go at making your own. As I mentioned before, it’s a great way to get kids engaged with your garden wildlife!

Make sure to position your bird box somewhere it will be difficult for cats to interfere with it, and set a reminder to empty it out each year.

a small bird box painted pink and mint green, hanging from a tree in a bird friendly garden

Concerned about cats?

Anyone that enjoys watching birds in their garden will have some concerns about cats – even if they’re a ‘cat person’! There are a few ways you can deter cats from your garden and/or protect your birds from lurking felines.

For example, you can get devices that emit a high-pitched noise that cats don’t like, but which is supposed to be inaudible to humans. Obviously, these are no good if you have your own pets, and also be aware that young people can be affected by the noise. Not just teenagers, either – I’m rapidly approaching 30 and find it impossible to sit in my grandmother’s garden unless she switches the device off.

Instead, I would recommend just making it harder for cats to stalk birds in your garden. Put your feeders in open spaces, or above prickly shrubs that cats won’t want to hide in.


It takes time to attract wildlife to you garden, and birds are no exception. Adding these features to your garden is the first step, but you’ll need to employ some patience before your efforts pay off! Don’t forget to take a look at our tips for attracting butterflies and dragonflies into your garden too – you’ll be glad you did.

24 Fun, Low-Cost Garden Activities for Kids

The weather is finally getting warmer, which means it’s time to get back out into the garden and enjoy having a bit more space at home!

When your little ones have been cooped up over the winter months (or longer), the best thing you can do is to let them blow off some steam outdoors.

Our list of engaging, low-cost garden activities for kids will make it that much easier for you to keep children of any age entertained in the fresh air – and maybe even have some fun alongside them!

children running downhill together in a group on a sunny day

Reasons to get kids into the garden

I’ll admit that I was very much an “indoor” child, and every sunny weekend would be a battle for my poor mum to encourage me outside to get some sunshine and fresh air.

If you’re looking for reasons to get your kids to play outside, I suspect none of these arguments will work on them, but they might provide the motivation you need to keep trying!

Boosting sensory development

Gardens have so many treats for the senses, and can provide a totally different experience to inside play.

From tickling breezes and tingling sunshine, to rich natural fragrances and the sounds of happy bugs and birds – there are so many new things to see, hear, smell, feel and even taste!

Nurturing healthy minds

Sharing a space with nature encourages children (and adults!) to think about how their choices impact the plants and creatures around us.

Gardens are a small way to practice mindfulness, patience and consideration for the organisms around us. Appreciating nature can help humans of all ages feel restful, calm and confident in our surroundings.

Promoting active bodies

Climbing trees, kicking balls, leaping through water – a lot of garden activities for kids involve action and movement.

Not only does outside play provide the space to improve motor skills and physical strength, it’s also an opportunity to find a fun new hobby to help kids enjoy being active. Admittedly, there will always be that one child that is happy to just lay in the sun and read (yup, that was me)!

Being outdoors is fun!

There’s a whole world to explore out there, with discoveries to be made under every rock and in every puddle.

Grass stains, muddy hands and wet feet are a great part of growing up, and gardens are the perfect environment for letting the imagination run wild.

Gardening activities for kids

Gardens are our opportunity to connect with nature in a personal way. Introducing children to gardening from an early age will begin to get them comfortable with the world around them.

1. Growing flowers.

Learning about seeds and plants is a fun and engaging way for kids to interact with their environment, and seeing (and smelling) lots of fun flowers a few weeks later is an exciting reward for their efforts. We’ve actually got a list of the best plants to grow with children to help you get started.

2. Planting vegetables

Planting vegetables is not only interesting for children, it’s practical for your home. Help them to understand where food comes from, and learn the foundations of sustainable living. It can even help picky eaters feel more comfortable about the veggies on their plate. These are some of the best veggies to start with.

3. Composting

Try composting for kids to teach them about environmental awareness and getting rid of waste responsibly. We’ve got a full guide to composting, but the basics are fairly simple (e.g. one part green to 2-3 parts brown).

You can also link this to learning about worms and insects in general. This post has some good resources for composting activities for kids.

4. Flower clock planting

Plant a flower clock as a way to introduce different plants, the importance of sunlight, and how to help pollinators do their jobs.

The concept is that you choose flowers that open at different times of day, and plant them in a circle (a flower for every hour is ambitious, but you get the idea). You can find some plant suggestions here.

child girl picking daffodils in the garden

Creative garden activities for kids

Inspire your little visionaries by celebrating all of the beauty found in the natural world.

5. Flower pressing

Flower pressing is a wonderful way to save favourite flowers, and turn them into wall art, bookmarks or greetings cards.

You don’t need a proper flower-press, either – simply place petals, flowers and leaves inside a thick book, with the weight of another couple of books on top.

I recommend using tissue paper to protect your pages though! After 3-4 days you can gently retrieve the flowers and use them for crafts.

6. Rock painting

Some kids will use anything as a canvas… use rock painting to direct them away from your walls and into the garden! It’s fairly straightforward, but here are some tips on getting the best results – and remember that shells and branches can get the same treatment!

You’ll have to decide if you want to use eco-friendly paints or chalk that will wash off in the rain, or to use acrylic paint to keep your rocks as permanent decorations. Alternatively, we’ve got some great garden mural ideas if you’re prepared to offer them a larger canvas!

7. Garden collections

Garden collections are a way to harness the enthusiasm of avid collectors. Before going on a walk or heading to the park, give them a small, clear container for them to store their treasures.

It’ll test their motor skills, boost their creativity and also put a cap on the amount of pebbles, twigs and petals that make it back home!

8. Fairy garden

Fairy gardens are a wonderful way to combine gardening and imagination at a child-friendly size. Take a look at our fairy garden ideas for inspiration.

9. Time capsule

Curating a time capsule is an interesting way to reflect on life and explore the meaning of family – past, present and future.

It can also be an introduction to science and sociology in a very simple way, depending on what you decide to include. You’ll need an air-tight/water-tight container to store your items, especially if you intend to bury your time capsule for a long time (which is the point, after all). This site has some interesting tips for preservation!

Water play ideas for kids

Water play can keep kids entertained for hours, and is perfect for cooling off under a parasol on a hot day. Plus, it’s cheap and doesn’t require much clean up!

10 . Water balloons

Water balloons and water pistols are brilliant for letting off some steam on a hot summer’s day. Just keep the sunblock handy!

11. Paddling pool

For a more chilled out afternoon, fill a paddling pool and position it beneath a parasol for kids to keep cool.

12. Water table

Water physics is an endless source of fascination. Set up a water activity table with plastic pots, tubes, buckets and water bottles with holes in.

You could even add ice! Take a look at this list of 35 more ideas to make a water table more interesting.

13. Toy cleaning session

Are some of your kid’s toys looking grubby? Warm weather is the perfect time to turn a cleaning session into play time.

Plastic dolls and animals can get a dip with a scrubbing brush, and you could even create a “car wash” for toy vehicles. Then check out these garden toy storage ideas to help things stay cleaner for longer.

three tweenage children spraying water hoses at each other in a garden

Outdoor adventure ideas for kids

When you’ve got a budding explorer on your hands, it’s time to up the ante and find new ways to keep them (safely) inquisitive about their surroundings.

14. Obstacle courses

Obstacle courses are fun for parents to set up, and even more fun for kids to complete. We’ve got lots of obstacle course inspiration for all ages, if you need ideas.

15. Sand pits

Sand pits bring out the excavator in every child, whether they’re digging up dinos or creating a construction site. Add toys, bottles, funnels and containers to keep it interesting – you could even add water to make sandcastles and river beds.

16. Garden camping

Garden camping is a fun, low-cost way to ease the pressure when your family is getting cranky with cabin fever.

You could give it a festival theme, or treat yourself to some at-home glamping. Take a look at 5 garden camping ideas.

17. Treasure hunt

Get minds and bodies ticking by setting up an outdoor treasure hunt.

There are loads of ways to mix it up, like hiding certain objects to be found, having a scavenger-hunt type list to complete, or creating riddles and clues that need to be solved.

Wildlife garden activities for kids

There’s no better place to learn about the animal kingdom than your own back garden, so why not plan some activities that help your children get involved?

18. Insect hotel

Building a DIY insect hotel is a fun afternoon project, and an opportunity to explain how “creepy crawlies” are our friends! Using a kid-sized bug collector’s kit to find native insects will give them something to focus on as you find garden debris to turn into a habitat together.

19. Butterfly garden

Create a butterfly garden to encourage these beautiful pollinators to your home with certain plants.

Butterfly spotting can lead to lots of related activities for kids – like drawing the butterflies they see, learning about their fascinating life cycle, and being able to identify other pollinating insects.

20. Bird feeding

Making homemade bird feeders is a fun craft that bridges indoor and outdoor play (see this guide for steps).

When your treats are ready, set up a bird-watching station, with binoculars and an identification guide. Bird tables and bird boxes can stretch this activity out for longer.

a small wooden bug hotel attached to a tree

Imaginative garden activities for kids

It’s amazing what little minds can come up with, and encouraging imaginative play in the garden is a great way to keep your children happy outdoors for hours.

21. Garden Playhouse

A playhouse gives children a whole space to exercise creativity, imagination and agency. You can get kits to build playhouses, or make one from scratch – but buying a plain, child-sized shed is quickest.

Customising it and furnishing it should give you (and your children) long-lasting entertainment. Check out some playhouse inspiration, and treehouse ideas too!

22. Mud kitchens

Mud kitchens are fantastic for sensory development, and are a trick to getting your kids to enjoy playing outdoors on a drizzly day. Of course, it’s going to get very, very messy out there – these mud kitchen tips can help you keep it confined.

23. Kids garden party

Depending on the season, throwing a kids garden party is a practical way to keep messy activities and celebrations outside. Learn how to throw a garden party for kids and your carpet will definitely thank you.

24. Picnics with toys

Make eating outside more fun by creating picnics for cuddly toys, dolls or plastic figurines.

Miniature snack portions and finger food makes it more fun for children to try new things, and make it easier for you to balance treats and more nutritious nibbles.

Tips for getting the most out of garden activities for kids

  1. Keep it FUN. When children connect being outside with exciting activities and happy memories, they’ll want to be there more often. If they’re reluctant to completely let go of technology or indoor activities, look for ways to make those hobbies work outdoors.
  2. Start small. Gardening and outdoor DIY projects can be hard work with little instant reward. Do your kids (and yourself) a huge favour by getting in some quick wins early on. For example, planting fast-growing crops while you wait for slower ones to grow, or investing in a premade playhouse instead of designing one from scratch.
  3. Keep momentum. Try to do something outside every week, even if it’s something small or simple, to create a habit. Breaking big exciting activities into smaller chunks is a good way to maintain a steady pace.
  4. Support engagement. Whether it’s getting mucky, feeding animals, planting flowers or anything in between, try to say “yes” as much as possible to encourage curiosity and confidence.
  5. Focus on the visuals. Even the simplest outdoor activities can grab kids’ attention spans with a bit of colour, an image of their favourite fictional character, or kid-sized accessories.
  6. Give your children more of what they like. Sometimes it’s as simple as listening to what outdoor activities your kids want to do, and letting them take the lead.

What garden activities for kids have you got planned for the summer? Will you be trying any of these out?

How to Grow a Bottle Garden

At Garden Patch, we’re all about enjoying gardens of every size and style. The thing is, when you’re really short on space, it can take a little creativity to achieve your own little luscious patch of greenery! If you’re craving some nature but are lacking outdoor square footage, it’s time to learn how to grow a bottle garden.

What is a bottle garden?

Bottle gardens are created by growing certain plants inside plastic or glass bottles, often (but not necessarily) completely sealed off from the outside environment. Working in a similar way to terrariums, you can grow a bottle garden for an indefinite period of time, as long as it’s exposed to the right lighting conditions.

Bottle gardens became very popular in the 1960s and 1970s, alongside a boom in high-rise living. When you’re limited to a small balcony or patio (or perhaps no outdoor space at all), a miniature indoor garden is the perfect way to stay connected with the earth.

Because bottle gardens use a self-contained water system, they can be useful environments for growing plants in areas of drought, or even for growing edible plants and vegetables in places where there’s not enough moisture in the soil for healthy crops outdoors.

What do you need to grow a bottle garden?

For a successful, healthy bottle garden, you’ll need a few things:

Preparing to grow a bottle garden is very similar to planting a terrarium, but the basic steps are:

  1. Make sure your container is clean, then line it with about 3cm of gravel or bark. If your container has a narrow neck, you can create a paper funnel to make this easier!
  2. Pour in a teaspoon (or two teaspoons for large containers) of granulated charcoal.
  3. Add 1-2cm of compost, and then remove your plants from their pots, gently massaging the roots to loosen them.
  4. Gently lower your plants into place through the neck of your container. You don’t need to press or bury them into place, just add some compost to lightly fill the gaps. Leaving a little bit of space between plants and at the edge of your bottle garden is a good idea too – it’ll make it look less cluttered when you’re done!
  5. Add your and decorative elements to the top of the soil.
  6. Pour a little bit of water into your terrarium – if you’ve got soil on the sides of the glass, use this as an opportunity to rinse it down into the bottom of the container. 
  7. Give your bottle garden a day or two to settle and allow excess water to evaporate before putting a lid on it (if you want to put a lid on it at all).

I really like this video tutorial on making a retro-inspired bottle garden, if you want to follow along!

In terms of maintenance, sealed bottle gardens need very little. As long as the plants are getting enough light (well-lit, but not direct light as the glass can act like a magnifier), they should naturally respire and photosynthesise to recycle the water trapped inside. An open bottle garden will still trap some water, but you’ll need to top it up every so often – it’s best to monitor the soil moisture to accurately schedule watering days.

11 Bottle Garden Ideas

Now you’ve got the basics of how to grow a bottle garden, let’s take a look at some fun designs you can use as inspiration.

 

These “leaning” jars come in all kinds of shapes and sizes (often with lids), and are both pretty and practical containers to grow a bottle garden inside. The openings are usually big enough for you to fit your hand in, and the jars are typically big enough for several small plants. As you can see, using tongs to place more delicate objects is still a good idea!

someone using tongs to place decorative stones inside a bottle garden jar with a wide neck

I’m a sucker for drinks in unusual bottles, but I never know what to do with them when they’re empty! If you have a similar problem, maybe try turning them into mini bottle gardens, like these!

Can’t decide between a sealed bottle garden or an open one? This beautiful one takes inspiration from both! The cork stopper will stop a little bit moisture evaporating out of the top, and the plant bursting out of the open front is a really fun idea. I also like the use of small bits of driftwood inside, giving this a slightly beachy feel.

If you want to grow a bottle garden that’s truly breath-taking, make sure to choose a variety of plants. This gravel-filled jar is very simple in design, but the different pinks and yellows in the foliage inside really make it a striking example.

You don’t have to grow a bottle garden just for plants – little figurines can transform a simple, moss-filled jar into a miniature landscape. Take a look at our fairy garden ideas for more ways to create a tiny magical world in your home!

I love going hunting out weird and wonderful shaped glassware at car-boot sales and charity shops. You can find vessels like these for next to nothing, and they make very interesting homes for plants.

four glass tumblers and jars of different shapes, with miniature gardens inside

These tiny apothecary bottles must take the prize for smallest gardens ever! They’re SO cute though, and having several clustered together on a shelf or side table would look gorgeous.

This giant jar looks like a little slice of jungle! The different plants inside are really showcasing a variety of shapes, colours and structures, which is exactly what you should be looking for in a multi-plant bottle garden.

Sometimes less is more! These leafy tendrils really stand out against the mounds of fluffy moss, and the overall container design is simple and chic. Something about it reminds me of minimalist Japanese garden design – take a look at our post on Japanese gardening principles to see if you agree!

a simple glass jar with a single fern sprig surrounded by low mounds of moss

 

How cool is this giant boiling flask bottle? This would look amazing in a modern home, and make a show-stopping centrepiece in a hallway or living room. The low-lying plants actually work perfectly to show off the shape of the bottle, too.

What’s better than having one bottle garden? Having three! This set of bottle gardens is basically a sculptural triptych, with delicate moss creating a beautiful backdrop for the resin “waterfall” and tiny horse statuette. It might take a little bit of planning to create your own, but I’ve never seen anything like this before and am personally very inspired!

Which of these ideas inspire you to grow a bottle garden of your own? We’d love to see your own designs! 

Tips for Getting Rid of Aphids

I’ve spent enough time complaining about aphids that it’s finally time for me to give them their own post. Having lost an entire family of much-loved chilli pepper plants to an aphid infestation a little while ago, I declared these creepy-crawlies my official arch-nemesis. Maybe you don’t feel as strongly as me, or maybe you do – either way, you’ve presumably found yourself on this post because you’re looking for advice on getting rid of aphids.

How to identify aphids

a group of aphids on a rose bud

What exactly are aphids? Also, what’s the problem with them, and how do you tell them apart from other annoying plant pests? Let’s take a look…

For starters, the term “aphid” doesn’t actually refer to one particular insect – in the UK, it actually covers over 500 different species. However, all of these critters have a few things in common. First, they all fall into the scientific classification of “true bug”. Aphids include bugs like greenfly and blackfly, but you’ll also find them in various shades of yellow, white and pink. Aphids are all between 1-7mm in length, and they’re all widely acknowledged to be incredibly destructive to plants. 

How do they cause so much trouble?

Aphids are sap-suckers. They’ll puncture the stem or leaves of a plant, and consume the sap inside, leaving the plant wilting and weak. On top of that, they excrete a sticky “honeydew”, that can attract sooty moulds, further damaging your plants.

You can find aphids on almost any type of plant, including flowers, ornamental plants, fruit and vegetables, house plants and greenhouse plants. Many types of target specific plant species, but there are plenty of aphids that are less picky. They also reproduce relentlessly, so one or two aphids can quickly turn into hundreds – spreading to any nearby plants.

As if that wasn’t enough, some aphids can carry viruses between plants. Brilliant.

Getting rid of aphids

Check your plants regularly, especially if you know you have species that attract aphids. When you’re watering or pruning, pay particular attention to the underside of leaves, the area around new shoots and flower buds. If you do notice individual bugs, or small clusters starting to appear, you need to act quickly!

a close-up of a ladybird getting rid of aphids on a flower bud

Tips for getting rid of aphids without pesticides

Chemical pesticides aren’t everybody’s thing – maybe you’re growing edible plants, are concerned for child or pet safety, or are simply eco-conscious. Getting rid of aphids without pesticides is possible, but they are stubborn little critters.

The most important thing is that eliminating your aphid problem shouldn’t wait – squash any lone rangers that you find to try and limit population growth as much as possible.

If your plants are outside, you should attract predatory insects, like dragonflies, hoverflies, ladybirds and ground beetles. Building a water feature or a bug hotel can help. Bear in mind that it will take several weeks for this method to take effect!

It’s possible to buy hoverfly larvae, parasitic wasps and lacewing larvae to use as a biological control for aphids. This method can be pretty effective in a greenhouse (but obviously, much less so outdoors).

If these methods are getting rid of aphids on your plants, you have a couple of options. Personally, I resorted to just writing off my infested plants. It was incredibly disappointing, but there were only a couple of plants that were really badly affected. If you’re not ready to give up the fight, it’s time to use pesticides.

simple garden bug hotel ideas

Getting rid of aphids with pesticides

If it comes to getting rid of aphids with pesticides, start by looking for products with a shorter lifespan. You may need to reapply them as they wear off, but  they’ll be certified for organic growing and will cause less interference with the natural balance of your garden. Organic sprays that have natural pyrethrum, plant oils or fatty acids as their active ingredient should help you control your aphid population.

In greenhouses, you can use a fumigant to try getting rid of aphids. There are several varieties available, including organic, garlic-based products that’s safe for use on crops.

Over winter, you can destroy dormant aphid eggs on shrubs and fruit trees with a winter wash made with plant oil. Be careful to wait until your trees are dormant too, to save damaging healthy leaves or buds.

You can also find synthetic insecticides if you’re struggling to control your aphid problem. Of course, always follow instructions when you’re using these kinds of chemicals. Don’t use them on plants that are actively flowering or you can cause serious harm to local pollinator populations and, if you’re using chemicals on crops, make sure that the product you have is safe for the specific plants you’re growing.


Are there any methods for getting rid of aphids that we’ve missed? Tell us your thoughts and successes against these pesky pests!

How to Grow Strawberries in Your Garden

Strawberries are the perfect summer treat, whether you dip them in cream, drop them into lemonade or reduce them down for jam. Learning how to grow strawberries at home is incredibly rewarding, and will save you heaps of money in comparison to buying them from a supermarket. They’ll probably taste better too!

So, whether you’re cultivating a perfect cottage garden or British-themed backyard – or maybe you just want some fresh fruit for your Pimm’s (in which case, check out our guide for growing cucumbers too) – let’s take a look at how to grow strawberries.

Growing Strawberries: Where to Begin?

There are two types of strawberries; summer-fruiting strawberries (which grow large fruit for 2-3 weeks from early to mid summer), and perpetual strawberries, or ‘everbearers’ that will produce clusters of smaller fruit from the beginning of summer to the beginning of autumn. The best type for you will depend on space, and what you’re planning to do with your strawberries.

Sow in: March, April

Harvest in: June, July, August, September, October

You can also plant strawberries in October for the following year.

Planting strawberries

how to grow strawberries, taking young plants from a box and putting them into the ground

Rather than growing strawberries from seed, it’s much easier to buy young plants in pots, or as runners with bare roots. Runners can look a bit uninspiring (like scraps of roots without many leaves), but I promise, they’ll grow! Buying from a reputable supplier, you can be sure of the variety of strawberry plant you’re getting, and that your plants are disease-free.

Strawberries will flourish if you plant them in the ground, especially if you take the time to prepare the soil. Choose a sunny, sheltered and fertile location, avoiding areas that might be struck by a late frost – and don’t plant strawberries in soil directly after potatoes, tomatoes or chrysanthemums because of the diseases that can remain in the soil. Mix a couple of buckets of garden compost or well-rotted manure into the soil, and add a general purpose fertiliser to get started.

Strawberries are traditionally planted in rows, with about 35cm between each plant, and 75cm of space between rows. Strawberry root balls should be about 10cm across (you can trim them a little if they’re much larger), so dig holes to accommodate them comfortably.

As you refill the soil, take care not to cover the crown of the plant (the section where the stems cluster together before separating – it looks a bit like a crown). The crown should be gently resting on the surface, with the roots completely covered.

How to grow strawberries 

row of strawberry plants becoming established in a garden

Keep your plants well-watered as they become established, although try not to let the crowns get too wet (waterlogged crowns will harbour disease and mould). Keep applying fertiliser every week to two weeks during the growing season to help your strawberry plants form healthy delicious fruits.

Depending on the wildlife in your local area, you might find it useful to cover your strawberry plants with a fine mesh, to keep birds from snatching the berries as they form. If squirrels are a problem, a metal mesh is better than a plastic one.

If you’re growing cold-weather everbearers (early spring or in October), pinch off the first bloom of flowers to help your plants grow stronger before they produce fruit. You don’t need to do this with summer varieties unless the plant is looking a bit feeble.

Most gardeners like to cover the ground with a straw mulch, or soft fibre mat, when they notice the first fruits beginning to ripen – it provides a bit of a gentler landing if your fruits drop early (and will also limit weeds and slugs)!

Growing strawberries in pots

strawberries growing out of a hanging pot in a greenhouse

If you know your garden soil isn’t particularly good quality for growing crops, you can cultivate strawberries in lots of other ways, for example:

Container gardening is great for strawberries, as you can move them into more sheltered spots in bad weather, but return them to full-sun to help them ripen. Raised planting gives you a bit more of a defence against pests, too!

Thanks to staying relatively contained, strawberry plants are convenient for balconies, patios and small gardens. They’re also perfectly happy being grown indoors, as long as they have plenty of sunshine – so they’re an ideal plant if you’re looking for indoor garden ideas.

The only thing to keep in mind is that containers and pots dry out much quicker than flower beds, so remember to keep your strawberry plants well-watered. Mixing in a high potash fertiliser during the growing season is a good idea too.

Harvesting strawberries

Your strawberries are ready when they’re a bright red colour all over. It’s generally recommended that harvesting them at the warmest part of the day results in the best flavour. Remember that strawberries don’t keep well, so, unless you’re going to preserve or process them, pick your strawberries as close as possible to when you intend to eat them!

At the end of the cropping season, remove the fibre mat/mulch/plastic from around your plants, and take off the netting – both things will help to limit pests. You should also trim off old leaves from summer-fruiting plants so new leaves can form.

Strawberry plants typically produce fruit for four years, after which you’ll need to replace them. When you buy new plants, it’s best practice to grow them in a new location with fresh soil to keep nutrients balanced and minimise disease.

Common Problems when Growing Strawberries

Strawberry plants are a tender treat for several kinds of organisms, which means that learning how to grow strawberries will involve some level of pest control practice. Here are the most likely threats to your strawberry plants:

  1. Strawberries don’t take well to frost, and a late cold snap can damage and deform your plants. Keep an eye on the weather at the beginning of the season, and gently cover your strawberry patch with horticultural fleece if a frost is forecast.
  2. Like chilli peppers, strawberries can be susceptible to grey mould – a fuzzy fungus that will develop if your plants are too moist. If you notice any spores, it’s best to cut the affected area off completely, clear up any fallen leaves and try to make more room for airflow around your plants.
  3. Powdery mildew is another fungal challenge you’ll face when tackling how to grow strawberries. It looks just like a dusty pale powder on your plants’ leaves, and can usually be remedied with keeping the soil moist and moving your strawberries to a slightly cooler location for a bit.
  4. Vine weevils are pesky critters that leave tell-tale notches chomped out of your plant leaves. Oh, and the larvae at the bottom of the plant will be feasting on the roots of your plants, in a double-pronged attack. The beetles are small, round and dark coloured, while the larvae are mostly white with brown heads. Employing biological control is the best way to tackle these common garden pests.

Now you know the basics of how to grow strawberries in your garden, don’t forget to check out some of our other guides and ideas for making the most out of your outdoor space this summer. Why not spruce up your BBQ area, or indulge in a cosy swinging chair? Tell us what you think!

How to Grow Chilli Peppers in Your Garden

Welcome, spice fiends! If you like a little bit of kick in your kitchen, learning how to grow chilli peppers is going to be a very satisfying experience. There are lots of chilli pepper varieties, some of which will give your tongue a tantalising tingle, and others that will have you running for a glass of milk.

When you start growing your own chillies, you’ll quickly realise there is a far greater range of colour, shape and size than what you can typically find on the supermarket shelves. Generally speaking, you need higher growing temperatures to reach those higher scoville (spiciness) ratings. However, even in the UK, it’s possible to grow chillies that will bring a little pizzazz to your plate. Let’s take a look at how to grow chilli peppers in your garden.

Growing Chillies: Where to Begin?

a guide to show you how to grow chilli peppers in your garden

As warmth really is essential for achieving that chilli pepper sizzle, it’s best to start your chillies off indoors (under a propagator if you can), and harden them off in a greenhouse or outside in time for summer.

Another factor to consider is that, to get the right balance of root/shoot growth, it’s recommended that you repot chilli peppers several times before they’re mature. This can be a bit of a pain, honestly, but it will lead to better gains. To be fair though, I have found myself short on pots every now and then, and having two plants in the same pot isn’t the end of the world.

Sow in: February, March, April

Move outdoors in: June

Harvest in: July, August, September, October

Sowing chilli peppers

lots of small chilli pepper seedlings growing in potting trays

If you do choose to start your chilli peppers off indoors, you can sow your seeds as early as February, to give your seedlings the best start. Use potting compost in small pots, planting 3-5 seeds per pot (there’s a chance that not all of them will geminate).

You’ll see shoots appear quite quickly, especially if you use a lid or heated propagation station (a sunny kitchen windowsill works perfectly fine though, in my experience). Once you do, you can take off the cover (but keep them warm), and separate them out into larger individual pots once they’re 2-3cm tall.

How to grow chilli peppers

separated pots

Keep an eye out for roots poking out the bottom of the pot, and repot into a 13cm diameter pot when they appear. If your plant starts to lean over or become top heavy (which they might do in the bigger pot, when they start growing over 20cm high, or as they begin to fruit), you can add a slender stake to keep them upright. 

The next step of hot to grow chilli peppers is pinching out. When your plant reaches about 30cm tall, it’s recommended that you pinch (or snip with sharp scissors) the top of the plant off, so it focuses its energy into producing fruit. When it flowers, you can pinch off the ends of branches past the flowering section, too.

When the weather starts staying warm (towards the end of May), you should repot your chilli peppers one last time, into 22cm pots. As I mentioned before, I don’t always do this with every plant – it just depends on what pots I have available – and for the most part, they’re all fine (just some of them are smaller). At this stage, you could also plant them straight into the ground.

Either way, before you move your chillies outside, you should harden them off. Hardening off lets your plant become accustomed to outdoor conditions, and basically involves moving your plants outside for a couple of hours a day, gradually increasing the length of time over the course of two weeks. So, eventually, your plants spend all day and night outside. As chilli plants can stay relatively small, I personally tend to bring mine inside every night, and leave bigger plants (like tomatoes) in my limited garden area outside.

Keep your chilli pepper plants well watered and, when your flowers start to appear, mix in some general fertiliser. I tend to use the same stuff as I do for tomatoes.

Harvesting chilli peppers

large chilli pepper plants growing in planters

The longer you leave your chillies on the plant, the better they generally taste (especially if you’re going to be preserving them. However, the sooner you snip them off, the quicker your chilli pepper plant will start growing more. So, it’s a bit of a delicate balance. You don’t have to wait until the chillies are completely red, though.

Common Problems when Growing Chillies

three tacos filled with peppers, onion, lettuce and fresh chillies

Chilli peppers were my first foray into learning how to grow vegetables at home. So, the first couple of batches were also my first introduction to some of the most irritating bugs I’ve ever come across! Here are the most common problems you’ll encounter when you’re learning how to grow chilli peppers.

  1. Whitefly are tiny white bugs that suck all the sap from your plants, making them limp and struggle to produce fruit. Plus, they excrete a sticky, ‘honeydew’ substance that can cause black sooty mould to grow. An all-round pain, but you might be able to control them with biological control and/or sticky traps.
  2. Aphids – yep, my personal nemesis. I never had a problem with aphids until a babysat a friend’s tomato plant, which must have had aphids hidden away on it somewhere. They basically do the same damage as whitefly, and should be handled in a similar way. In theory, you can wash aphids off (and keep them at bay) with a gentle dish soap/detergent, pinch off carrier leaves, and squish lone rangers. However, I couldn’t stop them from multiplying, so I quarantined my affected plants in order to save my healthy ones. Read more tips on getting rid of aphids.
  3. Grey mould is a fuzzy fungus that will develop and spread if your plants are too moist. I haven’t seen it on chilli peppers before personally, but it can appear on other soft fruit, like strawberries, too. If you notice grey mould on leaves, stems, or debris on the soil, remove it asap and move the plant to somewhere less humid.

I’m hugely biased towards chilli peppers, as they were my starter crop, and I loved adding them to different dishes for a bit of spice. They’re a really easy crop to grow, and learning how to grow chilli peppers is a fun way to introduce children to the process of cultivating and cooking your own food. Take a look at our guides to growing tomatoes, green beans and cucumbers for a whole range!

Companion Planting: Which Vegetables Can Be Grown Together?

As you begin your journey of growing vegetables at home, you might come across the term “companion planting”. It’s a really useful strategy, particularly when you want to grow lots of different vegetables and only have a limited space to do so. Today we’ll be looking into basic companion planting, and which vegetables can be grown together so that they thrive in your garden.

companion planting involves understanding which vegetables can be grown together, like tomatoes and French marigolds

What is Companion Planting?

First things first: let’s get an understanding of what companion planting actually isAt its simplest level, companion planting is where you grow specific plants close to each other so one – or both – grow better.

In some cases, there’s some science behind the benefits of companion gardening. For example, a study has shown that onion flies (a major onion pest) lay fewer eggs when there are marigolds nearby. Other pairings are less researched, but have been passed down anecdotally through generations of gardeners.

How can companion planting help your garden?

Companion planting offers a variety of benefits across your garden, with different pairings helping each other in different ways. Depending on what you’re growing, you might be able to find companion plants that:

The end result? Knowing which vegetables can be grown together can give you healthier growth, better yields, tastier crops and a lower maintenance garden! Plus, it never hurts to have some more variety in your kitchen garden or foodscape.

Which Vegetables Can Be Grown Together?

Time for the good stuff! Now, this won’t be an exhaustive list of which vegetables can be grown together – mostly because everyone’s gardening experience is different, and every gardener will have anecdotal evidence of which companion planting pairings work, and which don’t. Today, I’m going to focus on common crops, and plants that we’ve already talked about in landscaping tips or our growing guides.

General companion planting tips to get started

If you can’t keep track (or don’t want to) of exactly which vegetables can be grown together, don’t worry, here are a few rules of thumb that are a bit easier to remember and will give you a good chance of success.

Although not every companion plant combination has been rigorously researched, these are some of the more common examples that routinely work for gardeners that want to make their gardening a little bit easier. Have you tried any of these companion planting pairs already? Tell us your experience with which vegetables can be grown together!

How to Grow Carrots in Your Garden 

Learning how to grow carrots is the perfect way to start your own kitchen garden. Versatile, delicious and packed with nutrients, carrots are a winner at the dinner table. Although in the UK we’re accustomed to long carrots with a bright orange shade, growing your own carrots is a great time to explore the plethora of shapes and sizes of carrot varieties.

Carrots are very easy to grow, and are the perfect starter crop for beginners or planting with children. In this post, we’ll cover the basics of how to grow carrots – and in just a few weeks you can enjoy having these crunchy treats on your plate.

Growing Carrots: Where to Begin?

Growing carrots in the UK is fairly straightforward, and their long season means that you can start sowing certain varieties as early as February, and continue harvesting them as late as October. The trick is to plant them in small, staggered batches so you can enjoy a regular harvest throughout summer and autumn. 

When it comes to how to grow carrots, the most important factor is your soil quality. It needs to be fertile and well-draining, but should also be clear of debris. Shallow or rocky soil can lead to your carrots becoming stunted or forked – if you’re concerned, try growing your carrots in containers and/or choosing a short-rooted variety. You can also learn how to improve your garden soil.

five large garden planters with carrots growing inside

Plant in: February, March, April, May, June, July

Harvest in: May, June, July, August, September, October

Sowing carrots

Most carrots are sown April-July but, just like potatoes, crops fall into categories of “earlies” and “maincrop” – check the seed packets. If you choose an “early” variety, planting can begin in late February as long as you give your seeds the protection of a cloche, fleece cover or similar (or start them indoors).

Carrot seeds only need to be sown about 1cm deep, about 5-7cm apart from each other and leaving 15-30cm between rows. As your seedlings appear, you can thin them out to create the necessary space.

how to grow carrots in your garden outside

How to grow carrots

 

You won’t have to worry about watering carrots so much – just give the soil a good soak in long dry spells and hot weather. The bigger concern is weeds, which easily grow between rows and will smother your carrots beneath the surface. Make sure to pull up any interfering growth regularly, and read our tips for keeping weeds out of flower beds.

Be warned that crushing the carrot stems will release a scent that attracts carrot fly – a major carrot pest. You can grow your carrots under a plastic tunnel or mesh to help reduce this worry. Carrots are also a great candidate for companion gardening, as the fragrance of other plants can confuse and deter common pests.

Harvesting carrots

Check on your carrots somewhere between 12-16 weeks, when they should be at their fullest flavour. They will continue to grow if they’re left in the soil longer, but you’ll start to lose their sweetness and taste.

Common Problems When Growing Carrots

a cluster of aphids eating a leaf

There are a couple of pests that you’ll need to tackle as you learn how to grow carrots. Fortunately, there are relatively straightforward ways to prevent the problem and minimise damage.

  1. Carrot fly is the biggest threat to carrots, and it’s much easier to prevent an infestation than to try and eradicate one. Carrot fly larvae develop underground tunnelling into carrot roots, causing them to rot. Make sure you keep you carrots well-spaced, and avoid crushing their leaves, as mentioned before. Cover your growing plants with a horticultural fleece, or surround your crop with a plastic barrier to keep out low-flying female carrot fly.
  2. Aphids are the other main pest when it comes to carrots. Aphids suck the sap out of any host plants, and leave a sticky residue behind. This results in limp foliage, and encourages sooty black mould to grow, slowly killing your crops. Small numbers of aphids can be manually pulled off (and squashed), and larger numbers can be controlled by encouraging predator insects into your garden, or using other forms of biological control. Read more tips for getting rid of aphids.

rows of leafy carrot tips poking out of vegetable patch soil

Learning how to grow carrots is a great way to start your own kitchen garden, and familiarise yourself with the cultivation process. Thanks to their versatility, carrots are a fairly low-stakes crop to grow as you figure out what quantity of home-grown food your household needs, and how to manage ongoing batches of plants. They’re also easy to foist onto friends and neighbours if you overdo it!

Good luck, and happy growing!

How to Grow Cucumbers in Your Garden

Once you’ve tasted a home-grown cucumber, there’s no going back. These sun-loving crops can be a little tricky to grow outdoors, but will thrive in warm temperatures and greenhouse conditions. When you’ve got the hang of how to grow cucumbers, you’ll be glad to have your own crop of these crunchy delights to add freshness and juiciness to a whole host of recipes.

a glass dish filled with slices of fresh cucumber

Growing cucumbers: Where to begin?

Cucumbers can be grown from seeds or, for a slightly better chance of success, from young plants bought at garden centre nurseries. Cucumbers are generally a warm-weather crop, so growing them in a greenhouse is recommended, although we will also cover how to grow cucumbers outdoors in the UK too.

Cucumber varieties grow in one of two ways: vine cucumbers, which have long tendrils that will creep across the ground (unless you train them to grow up a trellis), and bush cucumbers, which will take up less space. It’s also worth noting that cucumbers are typically grown as either ‘slicing’ cucumbers (the kind you’d use in a salad), or ‘pickling’ types that, as the name suggests, generally taste better once they’ve been pickled.

Plant in: March, April, May, June

Move outdoors in: May, June

Harvest in: July, August, September, October

Sowing cucumbers

a potting tray with lots of tiny, healthy cucumber seedlings growing in individual sections

Cucumbers grow best in a medium-weight soil, with plenty of compost or well-rotted manure mixed in. With artificial heat, you can plant your cucumbers from mid-March, but if you can only grow them outdoors, it’s better to wait until May or June.

Even if you’re looking for how to grow cucumbers outdoors, it’s a good idea to start your cucumbers off in potting trays for about 4 weeks, so you can keep them at a consistent temperature for them to germinate. You can also grow 2-3 seeds in a larger (15cm) pot.

Your seeds should be planted ‘sideways’, roughly 1-2cm deep into the soil. Keep your seed trays at 21°C, whether that’s on a sunny kitchen windowsill (with a glass or plastic cover), under a grow-lamp or inside a heated greenhouse.

Your seedlings will be ready to move again (either to a larger pot or outdoors) once they’re about 8cm tall. Move them to a sunny and sheltered position, and space each seedling about 30cm apart. Add a layer of mulch or rich compost to the top of the soil to help them retain moisture.

How to grow cucumbers in a greenhouse

a raised greenhouse planter with flowering cucumber plants growing inside a greenhouse

Growing cucumbers in a greenhouse is an ideal way to control the temperature and protect fragile cucumbers from cold snaps and bad weather. Your young cucumbers will suffer if the temperature drops below 12-15°C, so don’t move any to an unheated greenhouse until at least late May.

When your seedlings are ready for more growing room, plant them individually into 23cm pots, filled with a nutrient-rich compost. You can also grow them in raised greenhouse beds, keeping each plant about 30cm apart. As they grow, you’ll want to train vine cucumbers up a bamboo pole or frame – gently tie longer shoots to the pole with string to get them started.

As your plants start to reach the top of your greenhouse, it’s time to start pruning them back. Pinch off the tip of the main stem to stop the plant getting taller, and to encourage growth elsewhere. Where you see female flowers (the ones with small fruit behind them), move two leaves closer to the end of the vine, and pinch off the tips – again, to focus plant growth on the fruit. Finally, any vines without flowers can also be pinched off when they grow beyond 60cm.

Water your cucumbers little and often, keeping their soil moist but not waterlogged. If you can, raise the humidity when it starts to get warm (watering a warm greenhouse floor is one trick to doing this). Every two weeks, mix in some liquid fertiliser to keep your crops topped up with balanced nutrients.

How to grow cucumbers outdoors

how to grow cucumbers outdoors, a person transplanting cucumber seedlings to garden soil

If you can’t start your cucumbers off indoors, wait until May or June to plant your seeds outside, and cover them with a cloche, fleece, or clear plastic cover to help them retain heat. Planting your cucumbers in beds is the best way to give them enough room to grow (although, just like in a greenhouse, you can train them up a trellis). 

Find an area with maximum sunshine and shelter, and prepare the soil by adding a 7cm layer of compost to the surface, and mixing it at least 30cm deep. Then, sow and grow as you would indoors, planting seeds every 30cm, encouraging them up a trellis (if you want to), and pinching the ends to focus growth in the centre of your cucumber plants.

Make sure to keep your plants watered, especially when your cucumbers begin to flower and then fruit. Don’t water the flowers though – just the base of the plant. Wet flowers can become rotten and upset the whole plant and its yield.

Harvesting cucumbers

growing cucumbers climbing up a metal trellis for support

With the right conditions and care, your cucumber plants should start to mature from about 50 days of growth. If you’re growing a pickling variety, they’ll be ready to pick when they’re between 5-10cm long, and slicing cucumbers are ready once they reach 15-20cm long.

To harvest, either break individual cucumbers off with your hands, or use sharp garden scissors to cut them from the vine. Like many other vegetables, your cucumber plant will continue to produce more cucumbers as you pick them off, so the more frequently you harvest, the more cucumbers you will ultimately grow.

Common problems when growing cucumbers

a close-up of whitefly on a cucumber leaf, a common pest for cucumber plants

Compared to some of the other vegetables we’ve talked about (like tomatoes and green beans), learning how to grow cucumbers can be a bit tricky. One way to ensure you have a successful harvest is to keep an eye out for some of the more common problems with cucumbers.

  1. Cucumber mosaic virus is probably the best-known challenge of growing cucumbers, and causes a distinctive patterning on leaves (which gives it its name). You’ll also notice stunted, deformed vine growth and that your plant struggling to flower. Any fruit that appears will also be stunted, with pitted skin and a hard, inedible texture. Cucumber mosaic virus is spread by aphids, so take precautions that minimise pest insects and be careful to destroy infected plants.
  2. Whitefly is another pest-based problem, where little white flies (again, the clue is in the name) suck the sap from your cucumber plants. This will weaken the vines, and also leave a sticky residue on your plants that in turn causes a sooty mould to grow. Take steps to limit bugs near your cucumbers, like growing them under a mesh outdoors or using sticky traps in your greenhouse.
  3. Powdery mildew is a dusty white mould that will grow across the leaves of your cucumber plant, slowly causing them to shrivel. When the problem is extensive, the overall health of your plant will be affected. If you notice the signs of powdery mildew, make sure you’re keeping the soil around the base of your cucumber plants moist and are allowing cool air to circulate around your plant too.

Learning how to grow cucumbers can be a steeper learning curve than growing herbs or tomatoes, but they’re a really rewarding crop if you can provide the right conditions. Brimming with vitamins and minerals, they’re not only amazing in salads and dips (I’m looking at you, tzatziki), they’re great for garnishing cocktails and even using in home-made beauty treatments.

Don’t forget to check out our other growing guides, helping you to get started with herbs, shade veggies, potatoes, tomatoes and all kinds of other delicious foods. Happy growing!

Garden Vegetables to Plant in Spring

In the UK, we usually associate spring with budding blossom trees and the first bursts of colour from early-blooming flowers. But where does that leave the vegetable patch? Very few crops can handle the frost, so it’s unlikely that you’ve got much going on veg-wise by the time March and April roll around. So, how do you get started on your kitchen garden? Let’s take a look at which garden vegetables to plant in spring and get your growing season off to a great start.

a small green bean seedling growing out of a potting tray

A quick note before we get into it – I’m not going to assume today’s readers have a greenhouse, so will be ignoring the fact that, if you do, you can get a head start on most of these veggies. Hopefully in the future I’ll have time to give you some greenhouse tips for the early part of the year!

What are the best garden vegetables to plant in spring?

green beans and other vegetables in containers outside, next to a cold-frame unit

If you haven’t planted any spring-harvest crops, your garden vegetable patch is probably looking a little barren. Here are some garden vegetables to plant in spring, which will all tolerate cold weather with a little extra love and care.

Of course, climates can vary dramatically across the UK. Always check your growing zone and ask staff at your local nurseries for the best crop varieties to grow in your soil. Gardeners in the north of the country should expect to start planting at least 2 weeks after southern estimates, with yields coming in later too.

Other garden vegetables to plant in spring (indoors)

This might seem contradictory to my “no greenhouses” caveat at the top of the article! The thing is, I only have limited outdoor space. At this time of year, my best gardening is happening on my kitchen windowsill, so that my plants are prepped and ready to go by the time outside warms up! So if, like me, you’re happy to grow some seedlings inside, ready to harden them off later in the season, here are a few options.

There are lots of other garden vegetables to plant in spring indoors, but these are my favourites for being relatively simple.

Ways to help your spring vegetables

indoor herb garden ideas using hydroponics

When planning which garden vegetables to plant in spring, it’s wise to factor in ways you can help them off to a healthy start. For example, cultivating a spacious vegetable patch so you’re not growing crops too close together (which can cause leaves to harbour too much moisture).

Spending a bit of extra time working on your soil can help, too. Pick a well-draining spot, and mix in plenty of well-rotted manure and compost to both provide nutrients for strong growth in harsher weather, and loosen the soil.

Wherever possible, harden young seedlings off each time you move them from a heated indoor space, to an unheated (but sheltered) space, and then to outdoors. Exposing them to their new conditions for a few hours each day and gradually increasing the length over the course of a couple of weeks will do wonders in preparing them for permanent outdoor growth.

Plastic covers – like growing tunnels and propagation lids – will shield tender seedlings from the most damaging wind, rain and cold. Fleece and cloche covers are also an excellent way to protect young plants from late frosts.

What are the challenges of growing vegetables in spring?

Garden vegetables to grow in spring will need protection from cold weather and pests

Starting your growing season early unfortunately doesn’t mean you’ll get a headstart on pests and problems.

Bugs are going to pose a year-round challenge, so make sure you cover early crops with a mesh. If not, caterpillars and beetles will make short work of anything leafy! Look out for whitefly on your cabbages and other brassicas, and treat infestations with a spray as quickly as possible. Don’t forget to take a look at our tips for keeping snails and slugs out of your garden, as wet spring weather can bring them out in droves.

Overall, try to avoid your crops from getting too damp. Club root can affect cabbages (and other brassicas), and mildew can develop in leafy crops and around flowers. Generously spacing your seedlings out will help, and double-checking the moisture of the soil before watering them.


We’ll have heaps more gardening content coming for you in the coming weeks – keep an eye out for our next seasonal growing guides, and don’t forget to check the basics of growing your own vegetables. Which crops are you keen to grow? Let us know, and tell us any tips and tricks you have for keeping them healthy in cold weather!

How to Grow Green Beans in Your Garden 

Green beans, also known as string beans or French beans, are super easy to grow in the UK. Learn how to grow green beans in your own garden, and within just a few weeks you’ll be enjoying your harvest in salads, stir-frys and as a side to delicious hearty meals. Let’s look at what green beans will need to thrive in your garden.

Growing green beans: Where to begin?

Along with providing nutrient-rich soil, the most important thing to remember when learning how to grow green beans is that they really don’t handle the cold. Make sure to keep them safe from frost, and don’t start planting them until the temperatures have started to climb for spring.

Plant in: April, May, June, July

Move outdoors in: June, July

Harvest in: July, August, September

Sowing green beans

a small green bean seedling growing out of a potting tray

Like many other crops, there are two growing varieties of green beans; dwarf (or bush) beans, and climbing (or pole) green beans. Dwarf types grow quickly but will only sprout beans for a few weeks, while climbing beans are a little slower but provide yields through to September.

Both varieties need lots of sunshine and very fertile soil that drains well. When you’re preparing soil, mix in rich compost and well-rotted manure to slowly release nutrients into the soil and create drainage throughout your vegetable patch or pots. You can learn how to generally improve your garden soil condition for better crops all-round.

You can start growing green beans indoors around the start of May, by planting single beans in individual pots. Gently push them about 5cm into the soil, position them on a sunny windowsill and cover them with a clear plastic propagator lid so they can retain plenty of heat. Water them regularly.

Hardening off green beans

green beans and other vegetables in containers outside, next to a cold-frame unit

When you’ve grown seedlings indoors, they will need to be hardened off before they can stay completely outside – and green beans are no exception! Green beans are ready to start being hardened off when they’re about 8cm tall.

You can harden green beans off by moving them outside for a few hours each day, gradually increasing the duration from a couple of hours, to all day, to overnight over about 2 weeks. This will help them acclimatise to the wind, colder temperatures and increased moisture loss. After two weeks (and, again, once you’re sure there won’t be another frost), you can plant them into the soil or move the pots outside permanently.

Planting green beans outdoors

Green beans can generally tolerate being planted outdoors from late spring – towards the end of May. If the temperatures are still low at night, give your seedlings a cloche cover to keep warm, or place pots in a greenhouse or cold-frame.

Sow your green beans in a sunny spot, and use a garden fork to mix in lots of garden compost to prepare the soil. 

Growing green beans

learn how to grow green beans up a trellis or bamboo wigwam for the best crop yield

Dwarf green beans beans, or bush green beans, reach about 45cm in height. Best practice is to grow them in close clusters (about 15cm apart), so that they can use each other for support. Keep dwarf green beans well-watered, and don’t let the soil dry out. Additional compost or a layer of mulch will help with water retention.

Climbing green beans will need a physical support as they grow. There are a few ways you can provide this with bamboo canes, but the two most common are creating double rows of canes, or building tripods or wigwams.

For double rows, buy 1.8m/6ft bamboo canes and push them into the ground at 15cm intervals, with about 45cm between the two rows. Angle them inwards at the top, connect your rows with a horizontal cane, and tie them together with twine.

Tripods can be more space-efficient in certain setups, and are better for container gardening. Using the same length bamboo canes (1.8m/6ft), space 3-5 in a ring about 15cm away from each other and tie at the top. This video about making wigwams for vegetables shows you the steps.

For both formations, plant one beanstalk at the base of each bamboo cane – you might need to gently tie the shoots to the poles to help them initially cling.

Harvesting green beans

a close up of green bean vegetables in a container garden, ripe and ready to harvest

Green bean pods are ready to harvest when they’re about 10cm long, before the beans are visible through the skin of the pod. One way to test their ripeness is whether they snap in half easily.

If you pick of fresh green beans as soon as they’re ready, both bush and climbing green bean varieties will continue produce more beans for several weeks (and even longer for climbing green beans).

Common problems when growing green beans

raised flower beds for growing vegetables in containers, with a trellis and pots nearby

Learning how to grow green beans comes with recognising the signs of problems with your crops. More accurately, you’ll need to know how to deal with the garden pests that are attracted to green bean seedlings and fruits, as these will be the root of most of your challenges!

  1. Slugs (and sometimes snails) are going to want to feast on your seedlings when you first plant them into the soil, destroying the tips and stunting growth. Planting them indoors and moving them outside once they’re tall enough is a good way to limit damage. Read our tips for keeping slugs and snails out of your garden for advice about dealing with them.
  2. Aphids can also affect green beans, but they’re usually more attracted to other crops, so shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. If you do notice aphids, you can pinch off host stems or leaves, or squish individual bugs when you spot them.
  3. Birds can sometimes cause a problem when you’re growing green beans, especially pigeons. The best way to stop birds from getting at your green beans is to cover them with a mesh.

Now you know how to grow green beans, don’t forget to check out our other posts on growing crops in your garden. There’s nothing more satisfying than cultivating enough veggies to keep your table stocked throughout the year – so get planting!

How to Grow Cabbage in Your Garden 

Cabbage is a fantastic crop to start growing at home. Not only is it a healthy plate-filler that can be added to countless recipes, there are so many varieties that it’s possible to have some kind of harvestable cabbage for the majority of the year. If you want to learn how to grow cabbage in your garden and add its magnificent leaves to your foodscaping, you’ve come to the right place!

a head of cabbage with thick, unfurling leaves

Growing cabbage: Where to begin?

Cabbage is part of the brassica family of plants – sometimes referred to as cruciferous vegetables or simply “cabbages”, even though broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and mustards fall into the same category. These crops are typically very nutrient-rich. 

Cabbage can grow in all kinds of soil, making it a great starter crop wherever you live. As long as your plants have enough space from other veggies, you can grow cabbage in anything from light, sandy soil to heavy, clay-based terrain. Unlike other plants, cabbage will tolerate a wide pH range too (as long as it’s well-watered). So, if you’re struggling to plant veggies in an exposed or seaside garden, figuring out how to grow cabbage is an excellent place to start.

Cabbage is also tolerant of cooler temperatures, and a light frost in spring or autumn can actually help them taste sweeter. It’s one of the reasons why cabbage is an easy crop to grow almost year-round, from February to late autumn. Here’s a quick growing guide to give you an idea of how to grow cabbage for different seasons:

For summer cabbage: Sow late Feb to early May (covered), plant outdoors in May/June

For winter cabbage: Sow April/May, move outdoors at the end of June

For spring cabbage: Sow July/August, plant outside in September and October

Sowing cabbage

how to grow cabbage in your garden from seedlings in a potting tray

Cabbages start from seeds – buying locally will ensure you’ve got the right crops for your area. It’s also important to rotate your crops when you’re growing brassicas, so you don’t use the same soil two seasons in a row – you can find more info on crop rotation in our post about square-foot gardening.

You can start your cabbages in potting trays, or plant them straight into the ground. Cabbages will also grow in large, deep containers, but small pots or grow-bags won’t be sufficient. Ideally, you should prep the soil several weeks beforehand by mixing in a good garden compost, and leaving it to settle.

When it comes to planting, compact soil is best, but gently rake the top layer to loosen it before planting your cabbage seeds just 1cm deep. Cabbages will need 30-40cm between them to fully grow, but if you’re planning to grow lots of veggies and/or simply don’t have the space to spread them out so far, there’s an alternative. Try starting your cabbages in a separate seed bed, and then moving them into your main vegetable patch when they begin to mature.

Wherever you start growing your cabbage seeds, give them some shelter as they germinate. A cold frame is good if you have one, but a plastic cover or cloche is fine.

Growing cabbages

a small head of cabbage forming in soil

When your cabbage seeds have germinated, you can remove the cover. Just remember that the soil is going to dry out a lot quicker once the seedlings are exposed to the elements, so check on them frequently and keep them moist. When a seedling has 2-3 leaves, you should move it to a separate growing container (if you haven’t been growing them in seed trays).

When your seedlings have 5-6 strong leaves, you can move them into their permanent home, lowering them into soil up to the base of their lowest leaves, and spacing them about 40cm apart, depending on the variety (check each seed packet). Water the soil thoroughly the day before, and again as you transplant them – there’s no such thing as “too much” watering at this stage! When your seedlings are positioned, press the soil down around them firmly.

As with most veggies, young cabbage plants will grow best with a bit of extra heat and sunshine, if you can provide it. Shelter is good, too – tall crops like beans or corn make excellent companion plants to brassicas for this reason.

Keep your cabbages watered as they grow (every 7-10 days), and top the surface of the surrounding soil up with mulch and compost to retain water and slowly release nutrients. When you’re watering, try to aim for the base of the plant – sitting droplets on the cabbage head can cause mildew, and result in a musty flavour (and nobody wants musty coleslaw)!

Harvesting cabbage

Heads will generally appear around 50 days after planting, but cabbages can reach maturity any time between 50-90 days of growth. Cabbage variety will play a big part in this (although there will be some variation within each crop), so you might want to factor this in when you’re choosing which types to plant. With a bit of planning, you can have several weeks of harvest, which also means less waste than everything becoming ripe at the same time!

When a cabbage head is ready, take a sharp knife and cut the stem slightly above the ground. Score a deep (1cm or so) cross in the stump to encourage a second, smaller cabbage growth later in spring or summer. The best time of day to harvest cabbage heads is first thing in the morning, before the heads absorb the heat of the day.

Common problems when growing cabbage

a close-up of caterpillars chomping through a cabbage leaf

Preparing for possible issues with your crop is part of successfully knowing how to grow cabbages (or any vegetable). If you understand what is most likely to plague your wonderful veggies, it’s easier to take preventative measures, or act quickly to stop a problem spreading. Here are some of the most common challenges when you’re growing cabbages:

  1. Slugs and snails will be a major threat to your cabbages in the early stages, as they’ll devour newly forming leaves on young seedlings. Ultimately, this will stunt growth, and kill the plant if the damage is too severe. If you notice slime trails, it’s time to brush up on ways to keep snails out of your garden.
  2. Caterpillars can also pose a problem, as they love to feast on brassicas. You might be able to spot holes chomped through your cabbage leaves, but caterpillars can eat right through to the core, too. One or two insects can just be picked off (having butterflies in your garden is nice, after all), but you can save yourself the effort with a fine, bug-proof mesh cover.
  3. Cabbage root fly is – if the name doesn’t tell you – flies that target your cabbage roots. Well, their larvae do at least. Look for long (5cm) white grubs around the base of your plant and just below the surface of the soil. Again, growing your plants under a horticultural fleece, or bug-proof mesh is the best way to avoid pests like this.
  4. Club root causes cabbage roots to become thick and mutated, usually resulting in wilted, yellowing leaves. Although cabbages generally like plenty of water and are tolerant of acidic and alkaline soil, stop if you notice these symptoms. Hold off on watering, improve drainage and mix some lime into the soil to give the alkaline levels a boost.

Learning how to grow cabbage is the first step on a rewarding journey to crunchy coleslaw, hearty stews and comforting soups. Cabbage can easily be pickled or preserved (check out sauerkraut recipes), meaning that even a small cabbage patch can keep you topped up with veggies all year round.

Don’t forget to take a look at our other growing guides and sustainability tips!

How to Start Growing Your Own Vegetables

Are you keen to start growing your own vegetables at home? There’s nothing quite as satisfying as serving up a plate with food that’s come from your own garden, but knowing where to start can be daunting.

The good news is that there are lots of options for you to start growing your own vegetables as a beginner, even if you’re low on space or in a rented home. Today I’ll be showing you some of the best starter-veggies that you can take from planter to plate.

Before you get going, it’s worth figuring out which plants will actually be the most practical for your home. Do you want crops that can basically look after themselves, or can you take the time to check on them every day, or every other day? Which veggies are you actually likely to eat? Try starting with native crops you might usually buy from the supermarket or greengrocer, and you’ll end up with less waste and bigger savings.

1. Tomatoes

tomatoes and lettuce in a raised planter

Ignoring any technicalities about tomatoes being a fruit… Tomatoes are at the top of the list because they’re both an incredibly versatile crop AND they’re very easy to grow in any garden space – even in an indoor garden or on a balcony.

You can grow tomatoes from seed packets or from seedlings bought from a store. You can even plant the seeds from your next salad… Although your success might vary depending on the variety.

Tomatoes can be grown in the ground, or in pots, planters or grow-bags, as long as they get full sun – so save a spot in your sunniest corner. Take a look at our guide to growing tomatoes for more details.

2. Spring Onions

a jar of spring onion heads sitting in water

Spring onions are one of the easiest plants to look after when you start growing your own vegetables. A few rings of spring onion make a pretty garnish for stir-frys and rice bowl-style recipes, like poke. For this reason, I actually grow my spring onions on my kitchen windowsill, alongside my indoor herb garden.

To grow spring onions outside, sow your seeds in pots or the ground between March and July. They’ll be ready to harvest about 8 weeks later, and any you don’t use will flower and self-seed for a new batch.

If you don’t have much outdoor space, you can “grow” spring onions in a jar of water. Next time you cook with them, use the tops but save the bottom 2-3 inches. Submerge them in water so the base is covered (but the tops are sticking out), and they’ll slowly re-grow their leaves. Make sure to change the water every couple of days though, or it can start to generate an onion-y smell!

3. Potatoes

clusters of muddy potatoes, pulled straight from the ground

Potatoes are another rewarding crop to start growing your own vegetables, because they’re low-maintenance, high-yield and a dinner table crowd pleaser. Like tomatoes, potatoes are happy grown in soil, pots or grow-bags, and you can get them going 

You can grow potatoes from ones that you have sprouting at home, but it’s better to source ‘seed’ potatoes that are certified to be free from crop viruses. Potatoes take 10 to 20 weeks to grow, and will need to be “earthed up” in the early stages – gradually adding soil until the potatoes are about 30cm deep.

Our guide to growing potatoes in your garden has more details.

4. Peas

plastic containers with pea plant seedlings

Peas are known to be an easy plant to grow, even for beginners, and are another plant that will manage on a sunny kitchen windowsill. For outdoor veggies, plant peas (yep, even leftover fresh peas) into the soil from March to June.

The only challenge of peas is that they need something to climb up, like chicken-wire or staked netting. You should see your first pods appear in June and, if you keep picking them off as they’re ripe, your plants will keep producing until August or September.

5. Radishes

radish seedlings with green leaves and red stems, protruding through the soil in a pot

Radishes are a brilliant way to add colour and crunch to a salad or vegetable rice bowl. They’re also another versatile crop in terms of where they can be planted, so if you’re going to start growing your own vegetables in containers (instead of the ground), radishes are a good choice.

The ‘Scarlet Globe’ variety has the classic pink skin and white centre, and the ‘French Breakfast’ is another delicious option. Their size, speed and simplicity makes radishes one of the best plants to grow with children.

6. Beetroot

beetroot plants sprouting in a garden

Beetroot is another root vegetable that’s super easy to grow. If you like fresh beetroot in salads, enjoy some boiled beetroot with your dinner or want to try your hand at home-pickling, give this veg a go.

Sow beetroot seeds into soil from March to July. When the seedlings sprout, reduce them down so they’re about 5cm apart so they can fill out. Beetroot will take 2+ months to grow, so check on them from May and harvest until September.

7. Lettuce

a container of lettuce plants in a garden

Need some leaves to supplement your salads? Lettuce only takes a month or so to grow, and you can plant it in such a way that it lasts all season. Start lettuces in seed trays to help you with spacing, or thin out seedlings in the bed so they’re about 15cm apart.

Although you can plant lettuce straight into the ground, they’re actually great candidates for container gardening, for example, growing them in stacked troughs to create a kind of vertical wall. This will also help to protect your lettuce from slugs and snails.

If you grow loose-leaf lettuce, you can harvest the outer leaves but keep the head planted to slowly regrow. A lettuce will replenish in about 2 weeks, so stagger your planting/harvesting and you can stay continually topped up with fresh leaves throughout the season.

8. Runner beans

runner beans growing up cane supports

Runner beans need lots of vertical space so, when you start growing your own vegetables, allocate a space near a trellis or wire fence for them to flourish. Like peas, the more you pick runner beans, the more they’ll replenish, so you’ll have a supply of yummy, healthy, homegrown veggies all summer.

Plant runner beans in May and June, and you’ll get your first harvest about two months later. For patio gardens or balconies, try growing runner bean plants in individual 5cm pots.

9. Courgette

how to start growing your own vegetables, like courgette

Courgettes are another plant that might surprise beginners with their high yield. Just one or two plants will keep a small household stocked with these summer squash. As low-growing crops, courgettes are a good candidate for companion planting with a taller plant.

For the most delicious crops, you’ll need to keep your courgette plants topped up with weekly fertiliser (something like tomato food), as well as nutrient-rich compost. It’s best to harvest courgettes when they reach about 10cm long – slightly shorter than your supermarket varieties, but it will result in a stronger plant and generally a better quality harvest.

Start Small and Work Up Gradually

When you’re itching to start growing your own vegetables, it’s tempting to plant heaps of everything and hope for the best. The thing is, if the “best” happens, you’re going to end up with a LOT of crops all at once – and you’ll be forced to foist them on friends, family and neighbours! Or, the worst case scenario happens, and you’ll spend all summer fighting off garden pests and struggling to keep up with the needs of even the most low-maintenance crops.

Unless you’ve got a lot of time and several pairs of helping hands, it’s typically easier to start with small numbers of a limited variety of crops, and expand your kitchen garden from there. Remember to stagger your planting, and you’ll be amazed at your own green thumbs in no time!

7 Natural Ways To Keep Snails Out Of Your Garden

We’ve spoken about ways to attract “friendly” bugs into your garden, but what about keeping pests at bay? Gardeners find slugs and snails are particularly pesky, as they can really chomp their way through beautiful flowers and delicious crops, destroying flower beds and foodscapes alike. So, let’s take a look at some of the natural ways to keep snails out of your garden.

a brown snail on the edge of a plant pot

Why Choose Natural Pest Control?

There are several reasons why you might prefer to use organic pesticides instead of chemicals. For many, it’s just about looking after the environment and not putting harmful substances into the earth. Maybe you’re also wary of putting pesticides on things you’re ultimately going to be eating. Natural bug control methods are also going to generally be safer to use around children or animals (of course, you should still teach them to stay away).

1. Use rosemary and thyme as companion plants

Companion planting is where you grow certain things near each other for a specific reason. For example, you might use companion planting to encourage cross-pollination, or to maximise the available space in a planter.

In this case, both rosemary and thyme act as natural ways to keep snails out of your garden. For some reason, snails (and slugs, and a number of other garden pests) don’t like the smell of these herbs. Mint will work too, but it’s quite invasive so you should grow in separate containers and sprinkle the leaves around the plants you want to protect.

2. Use a rough, gritty mulch

garden tips for selling your home include putting mulch on your flower beds

I love the way mulch makes a garden look much tidier, with uniform soil peeping out from beneath blooms and bushes. Using certain kinds of mulch is one of the natural ways to keep snails out of your garden and away from your plants.

Look for mulch (or make your own) that contains wood ash, bark, eggshells and crushed nut shells. Any ground-crawlers like snails and slugs will typically avoid slithering over rough soil, and the mixture will help keep the composition of your soil balanced.

3. Encourage more birds

Birds are wonderful pest control, and one of the best ways to keep snails out of your garden without having to deal with them yourself. You might even be surprised by how many varieties of feathered friends start visiting when you show them they’re welcome!

Start by investing in some bird feeders and keep them topped up. A bird bath (or shallow water feature) is also great in summer. You might even want to add some bird-boxes, and hang back on raking and tidying so that there’s plenty of nesting material available. Our posts about bird-friendly garden ideas and wildlife gardens will give you more ideas!

4. Get yourself some chickens

Are the wild birds not showing up quick enough? A short cut is to start rearing your own! Chickens and ducks are actually really fun to keep as pets, and will just devour any bugs they find roaming your garden. They’re the perfect addition to any homestead garden.

So, to clarify, just a handful of hens will lay eggs, provide a free way to keep snails off your plants (and other insects) AND result in endless hours of entertainment. It’s not often I offer you a win-win-win solution, but I think I’ve just done it here.

5. Use diatomaceous earth

a gardener holding a trowel of diatomaceous earth, one of the ways to keep snails out of your garden

Diatomite, or diatomaceous earth, is made from a naturally-occurring rock that is ground to a very fine white powder. It’s safe to ingest (it’s actually used as an abrasive in some toothpastes), but is microscopically sharp.

Sprinkle this flour-like substance around your plants, and any slugs or snails that cross it will get hundreds of tiny cuts that cause them to dehydrate and perish.

6. Get them drunk

ways to keep snails off of your garden include beer traps

Does shredding your garden pests make you feel squeamish? Well, what do you want to do, share a beer with them?! Actually, that’s a good idea too. Sink a shallow container (like a tuna tin) into your flower bed up so the rim is at ground-level. Half-fill it with beer and, voila, you’ve made a beer trap.

Slugs, snails and earwigs are totally tempted by this yeasty treat, and will crawl in, start drinking, and eventually drown. Okay, so that isn’t exactly less gruesome than the last method. If you have excess beer, can I recommend opening a garden pub as an alternative?

7. Container gardening

Container gardening is one of the simpler ways to keep snails out of your garden when you raise it up off the ground. Growing valuable plants in a planter or container makes it less of a target for any ground-crawling pests, both because they’re literally further away, and because it can be tricky for bugs to climb up the sides even if they try.

Plus, it’ll be easier to keep an eye on your plants, and pick off the garden pests that would usually lurk under leaves and sneak behind stems. There are lots of perks with container gardening – take a look at our container gardening tips!

What Are You Organic Gardening Tips?

This season at Garden Patch, we’ll be looking at all the ways you can keep your garden happy while staying in tune with nature. Let us know how you look after your garden, and check out our posts about kitchen gardening, composting, and natural ways to keep other annoying bugs at bay (mosquitoes, we’re coming for you next!)

Which Plants Repel Mosquitoes?

Nobody I know seems to loathe mosquitoes as much as me… but that’s probably because, when I’m out, NOBODY ELSE seems to get bitten by them! I am obviously the mosquito equivalent to a gourmet dinner while my friends and family are essentially plain toast.

Anyway, if you, like me, are absolutely delicious to these little winged monstrosities, then you’ll be glad to know that today’s post is all about which plants repel mosquitoes.

Yes, there are other ways to keep biting insects at bay. However, I am just sick of spraying myself with chemicals (especially if I’ve bothered to wear perfume), and citronella candles never seem to do the trick for those of us that are truly delectable. I know the smoke from a fire pit or BBQ will keep insects away, but who really wants to sit in smoke?!

Anyway, without further ado, here are the answers to your question:

Which Plants Repel Mosquitoes?

1. Lavender

Right at the top of the list is lavender, one of the hardest-working and most stylish garden plants there is. Lavender looks great in any space, from formal French flower beds to cute and cluttered cottage gardens. It’s gentle fragrance is perfect for sensory gardens and, conveniently, repels mosquitoes too.

Lavender is pretty hardy, and makes for a good garden border plant. You just need to plant it in a sunny spot with well-draining soil and it should thrive. Plus, you can trim and dry the stems to use them in homemade beauty products and relaxation aids.

2. Geraniums

a cluster of cranesbill, also known as Johnson's Blue geraniums

Geraniums are another versatile plant that mosquitoes seem to really dislike (again, thanks to their aroma). They’re a great contender for hanging baskets, but geraniums come in so many colours that they will look great in any corner of your garden. They come in different heights, too perfect for pots, planters and flower beds alike.

3. Marigolds

which plants repel mosquitoes? Marigolds blooming in a flower bed

Marigolds are all-round winners, as they not only repel mosquitoes, but will keep a whole variety of insects away from your other precious garden plants. Check out our post on companion planting for more tips like this!

Marigolds don’t like the frost, so wait until the weather starts warming up (just a little) before you plant them – in the ground or into containers. Although they’ll probably die off when winter comes back around, they’re self-seeders, so should reappear next year.

4. Basil

several varieties of basil growing in a flower bed herb garden

If you’re planning an outdoor herb garden this year, make sure basil makes the list. Although it does prefer to live indoors in the UK, it’s mosquito-repellent properties make it worth hardening for your garden.

Basil is actually toxic to mosquito larvae, so if you have any water features (like ponds or water bowls) where these bugs can breed, planting basil can keep their numbers down. Plus, you’ll get to benefit from pesto galore and as many Caprese salads as you can handle.

5. Catnip

a herb garden with catnip and other vegetation

Time to strike a deal with your cat: you supply it with a cache of catnip, and your cat rolls around in it to release its mosquito-repelling chemical into the air. Although some of the plants in this list are anecdotal, SCIENCE has stated that “catnip repels mosquitoes more effectively than DEET”.

Just be aware that planting a patch of catnip will result in some very spaced-out moggies, and your garden may become the new hangout for neighbouring felines, too.

6. Bergamot

which plants repel mosquitoes: a close-up of bergamot flowers

Bergamot, sometimes known as bee balm, is another all-round garden winner. Its frilly pink flowers look and smell fantastic in any flower bed and it grows best in low, moist areas (which is where mosquitoes typically breed).

While it keeps mosquitoes at bay, it also attracts butterflies and bees – making it ideal for planting around insect hotels.

7. Garlic

rows of neatly planted garlic for a kitchen garden

We all know that garlic is good for warding off nasty, bitey, blood-sucking things… and that includes mosquitoes! Garlic is also super easy to grow – simply divide an existing bulb into cloves and plant them. They’ll gradually multiply into a complete bulb again.

Ideally, garlic needs lots of sunshine and some well-draining soil for healthy growth. Growing them in pots as part of an indoor herb garden is great, but if you’re growing them outside or in larger containers, make sure to leave about 12cm between cloves. You’ll know it’s ready when the leaves start turning yellow at the base.


So, now you know which plants repel mosquitoes, you can finally grow a wonderful, fragrant garden and enjoy it at any time of year. Relax on your patio in the early evening, or enjoy a beautiful dinner al fresco – without being a meal yourself!

Don’t forget to take a look at ways to encourage ‘good’ bugs and beasts into your garden, as well as our info on natural pest control for snails and slugs.

The Best Garden Ideas for Wildlife in the UK

Having a garden is like having your own little slice of nature. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything more rewarding than spotting some wild critter frolicking around in your outdoor space – watching wildlife is better than TV! If you’re inclined to agree, hopefully you’ll enjoy some of the simple garden ideas for wildlife I’ll be looking at today.

When you’re trying to attract more birds, bugs and beasts to your garden, the main thing is to give them plenty of places to hide and forage. In this post, you’ll get some garden ideas for wildlife shelters, feeding set ups and other features that can draw them in.

What animals can you see in the UK?

a plump grey squirrel sits atop a grey garden fence

The local wildlife will vary depending on where you live. At the moment, in Brighton, I’m most likely to see squirrels and seagulls (which are universally hated across the city). However, I’m lucky to also overlook a quiet green space that is home to fox cubs each spring. Generally, animals living in built-up areas will have much more limited travel between spaces. Even if you know there are urban foxes and grey squirrels in your city, attracting them will always be hard.

At the other end of the scale, my dad is often sending me pictures of deer, pheasants, badgers, wild rabbits, partridges, canada geese and any number of smaller bird types, all from his rural kitchen window. Where there is lots of open, undisturbed space, you’ll have a much better chance of spotting unusual native animals.

Basically, keep your expectations about the kinds of wildlife that might visit your home low, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised, rather than disappointed. If you’re trying to manage kids’ expectations, try talking to your neighbours about the creatures they’ve spotted to get a better idea. Don’t forget you can also help the National Biodiversity Network monitor national species by contributing to their wildlife watchlist.

How to get more birds in your garden

Birds are the most likely critters to travel between gardens, so if you start enticing them to yours, they’ll probably come. Feeding birds, and giving them somewhere comfortable to nest, is hugely beneficial to your local bird populations. Learn how to attract more birds to your garden.

Hedges and trees are natural nesting spots for birds, but you can add birdhouses to encourage more (especially if you’re concerned about predators climbing into the trees).

Make sure you’re providing lots of different food sources in various kinds of feeders. Fat balls are fun, plastic domes can keep squirrels out, and bird feeder tables accommodate larger feathered friends.

When you start adding more garden ideas for wildlife, it’s a good idea to track the animals that are visiting your garden already – especially birds. That way, you can check in every now and then to see how much progress you’re making with new varieties visiting each season.

Welcoming ground-critters

garden ideas for wildlife can encourage foxes

It’s a bit harder to attract mammals to your garden, as they usually have quite specific habitat requirements that can be hard to replicate in a garden environment – but don’t let that stop you from trying!

One of the best garden ideas for wildlife you can try is to minimise the amount of bare, open space – like short lawns and empty paving. If you have lots of connected flower beds and planters, animals will be more comfortable snooping around.

a crowded, cottage style flower bed

You should also try and grow a range of plants that flower and bloom throughout the year. Not only will this provide consistent coverage for shy critters, but it also gives pollinating insects a great time – more on that later!

Lastly, be prepared to do less garden pruning. Most creatures don’t like being disturbed, so leave your hedges to grow until winter, and hold back on the lawn-mowing. If you really can’t bear to have an untidy garden, how about leaving one section to grow a wild meadow, while keeping the rest short?

Ways to help hedgehogs

An animal that really needs our help right now is the hedgehog. Their numbers have been seriously declining in the UK, not helped by urban developments steadily destroying a hedgehog’s natural habitat. Adding specific wildlife friendly garden ideas aimed at hedgehogs can make a big difference!

There are a few ways to help hedgehogs. First, cut a hole in each fence at the edge of your garden to create a “hedgehog highway”. Ask your neighbours if they’ll get involved – the more linked gardens the better! These cute critters travel about 2km every night, so access is important! Next, build them a home where they can make a nest to hibernate and look after their babies. The wildlife trusts have this useful guide to making a simple hedgehog house.

Inviting insect environments

a large insect hotel with various compartments and a green roof

Image by Sabine Fenner

Insects often go underappreciated in gardens – everyone wants to see fat little squirrels and sparrows, but few people are keen for anything that creeps or crawls. In reality, a diverse collection of minibeasts is a free, natural way to keep your garden looking happy and healthy.

Let nature take the wheel, and you’ll gradually find that plant-friendly bugs help reduce more pesky plant eaters, and also attract more birds and mammals looking for a snack. So, what bug-friendly garden ideas can you install?

Build a bug hotel

Insect hotels are boxes that are designed to provide food and shelter for insects, like caterpillars, solitary bees and woodlice. You can buy them in lots of different, whimsical styles, or make your own as a fun, eco-friendly garden project.

Natural insect habitats

a stumpery made from decaying tree logs

A simple pile of logs, or a layer of sticks and leaves beneath a hedge, can create a home for lots of insect species. You could also create a “stumpery” by embedding logs vertically in the soil of a shady flower bed. Add foliage like moss, ivy or clumps of earth to create humidity, and try not to disturb it too much while gardening.

Creating a butterfly-friendly garden

a butterfly with open wings sitting on a buddleia flower

If you have visions of creating a fairy-tale paradise with endless butterflies, there are a few ways to specifically encourage them. Those with cottage style gardens will likely have the most success, and butterflies tend to prefer patches that are warm and sheltered. Read more tips for attracting butterflies.

Focus on growing flowers with lots of nectar, like buddleia, verbena and hebe (which bees also love). Pink sedum is another good one – look out for this if you’re planning a green roof. Pinch off dead blooms as soon as you see them to encourage more flowering, and make sure your plants are well-watered and fertilised with mulch.

garden ideas for wildlife like planting verbena, a favourite of butterflies

If you’re really keen, combine nectar-rich plants with varieties that provide food and shelter for caterpillars. For example, holly blue butterflies lay their eggs on holly and ivy, and their caterpillars eat the ivy flowers. A wildflower meadow is good for gatekeeper butterflies and Essex skippers, while a nettle patch will attract peacock and red admiral varieties.

For the best chance of seeing these beautiful insects, position rocks in sunny areas where they will often sit and open their wings. You can also create a butterfly feeder to supplement your flowers.

Become a bee buddy

Bees – honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees – are essential pollinators that depend on our gardens for shelter and sustenance. Having at least two bee-friendly plants flowering at any given time is a great way to help out bee populations, especially as different bee species are active in different seasons. 

a bumblebee enjoying lavender flowers

Some of the best plants for bees include: bellflowers (campanula), bluebells, crocus, dandelions, dicentra (bleeding hearts), buddleia, hollyhocks, honeysuckle, ivy, lavender, nasturtiums, sweet peas, poppies. Even if you have a small garden, many of these flowers will grow in planters or hanging baskets. Check out Beekind for more pollinator-promoting plant advice.

Pass on the pesticides

Pesticides and chemicals will harm bugs and impact the delicate natural ecosystem of your flower beds. Instead of relying on them, grow a wide variety of companion plants that will work harmoniously to keep pests at bay. For example, greenfly hate marigolds and tomatoes, while garlic will keep aphids away.

Wildlife friendly garden design

What other ways are there to generally make your garden a more enticing environment for British wildlife? The main thing I would recommend is to consider all of the garden features you want for your family, and then think about creative ways to make them more creature-friendly.

You might want a lawn, for instance, but instead of a homogeneous patch of turf, let clover and trefoil grow through to encourage bees and hoverflies. Instead of manicured borders, set aside a “wild” patch that gets a bit thicker with self-seeders and undergrowth for birds and hedgehogs to forage.

Cottage gardens

a stone path between two bushy cottage garden flower beds

Cottage gardens have a wild and unruly vibe, and are packed full of flowers and grasses that are ideal for just about every kind of garden critter there is. If you’ve ever fancied adding some cottage garden ideas, now is the perfect time!

Grow a garden glade

In summer, British woodlands come alive with bluebells, foxgloves and snowdrops, sheltering beneath the trees. You can recreate this to a certain extent with careful planting, and waiting until the end of summer to mow and re-fertilise.

Dig a pond

a koi pond in a Japanese style garden

Ponds are great for biodiversity, and they’re a really pleasant garden feature. Shallow or deep, natural-looking or modern – frogs, dragonflies and newts will care to a greater or lesser extent, so create your pond and see what happens

Composting

Composting is an environmentally-conscious way to reduce your household waste and create fertiliser for your garden. An open compost heap provides a home for hibernating animals, and food for all kinds of insects. Just be cautious about disturbing the heap if there could be animals inside! Read more about composting.

Growing a meadow

garden ideas for wildlife include planting lots of high-pollen native flowers

As we’ve mentioned a couple of times already, growing a miniature meadow is great for biodiversity, and they’re also pretty (and low-maintenance) garden features. Look for a flower mix packed with self-seeders, and once your meadow is established it will come back year after year.

Bet on hedges

Again, we’ve mentioned hedges a couple of times already, but they really are one of the top garden ideas for wildlife. Using hedges in place of borders or fences creates food and shelter that can be used for so many species, from tiny bugs to nesting birds. Hedges also let animals pass through your gardens, while providing greenery and privacy for your home.

Why choose a wildlife-friendly garden?

Okay, so just off the top of my head, here are a few reasons why planning garden ideas for wildlife food and habitats can be a win-win.

  1. Your garden will be healthier. Yes, I know I’ve said this so many times already, but once you start seeing the difference, you’ll appreciate it. Hedgehogs eat slugs. Earthworms eat fallen leaves. Foxes eat daddy-long-legs and their larvae. Yep, you might see more scurrying insects, but the good will outweigh the bad.
  2. You’ll witness some of the more spectacular insects, birds and animals the UK has to offer. Look, I’m not knocking sparrows or pigeons… but would you turn down the chance to watch finches, bats or even pheasants, if you could?
  3. Kids will understand and appreciate nature from a young age. I have a vivid memory, from when I was about nine, of being at my dad’s house and tiptoeing downstairs in the wee hours to watch a mother rabbit and her babies nibble at the daffodils in the front garden. It was a magical experience, and taught me about how good being kind to nature can feel.
  4. It’s just nice knowing that you’re not the only one appreciating your garden! If you’re someone that takes pride in their garden (and if you’re on this blog, I’m guessing you are), then it’s really rewarding to see how other creatures enjoy being in your space.

Build slowly, be patient.

Even if you could grow an authentic patch of nature overnight, it would still take time for new animals to find it. It really takes time for most of these garden ideas for wildlife to become established, so plan carefully, build slowly, and watch with patience.

Once your new features start looking like a natural part of your garden, it’s time to pay closer attention to who’s visiting. The best times to take a peek outside will be in the evenings or early mornings, especially in spring.

We have an incredible range of common species across the UK, and encouraging insects, birds and animals into your garden is an easy way to learn more about them. Watching wildlife and appreciating nature is amazing for children, and enjoyable for just about anyone, of any age. Check out www.wildlifetrusts.org for more useful resources, and happy nature watching!

Garden Obstacle Course Ideas for Kids

As I’m sure many families have noticed during lockdown… kids have SO MUCH ENERGY. After almost a year of social distancing (i.e. not being able to temporarily hand your little ones over to other people), chances are you’re running out of ways to keep them entertained.

Sound about right?

Well, now we can still squeeze in a little bit of daylight garden-play after “school” and at the weekend, we suggest finding fun, outdoor activities to keep your kids busy – like building an outdoor play area to give them a physical and mental workout. Yep, we’ve pulled together a whole list of different garden obstacle ideas for kids, packed with out-of-the-box obstacle suggestions and tips.

Garden Obstacle Course Ideas for Kids: 5 Reasons Why They’re Great

There are a whole bunch of TV shows that can inspire your kids to try an obstacle course. When I was growing up it was all about Gladiators, then Total Wipeout and Takeshi’s Castle were all the rage and, across the pond, Ninja Warrior seems to be the “thing”.

You might not be quite up to the task of building the huge-scale sets of the popular TV shows, but even garden obstacle courses have their benefits. Obstacle courses are not only great for getting your child to stay active and improve their motor skills – the right obstacles can help challenge their problem-solving skills, too! Here are a few more fun reasons to build some obstacles for your kids to jump across, climb over, or crawl under.

1. Building self-confidence

Obstacle courses push kids to step out of their comfort zone to improve both their physical abilities and problem-solving skills. It’s important for kids to learn about setting goals, and to come up with strategies to complete them. Being able to complete a difficult challenge then gives them the sense of achievement they need to boost their confidence.

2. Enjoy some healthy competition

A garden obstacle course that requires different skills – like physical strength, speed, accuracy and balance – makes it more interesting when your children race against others. Being able to help (and be helped by) others through the course builds sportsmanship, while seeing how different people excel in different areas encourages empathy and appreciation.

3. Making new friends through teamwork

Some of the best obstacle courses require a little bit of teamwork, and make a great excuse for inviting your child’s friends over or asking the neighbours’ kids to come and play. Adding some fun team-building games for kids adds to the experience, helping young minds to improve their communication skills.

4. Cut back on screen time

Sure, the internet is a great place for entertainment and to learn stuff. However, in the digital age, kids sometimes need some encouragement to learn stuff off-screen. An intriguing obstacle course is a great way to tempt children away from their gadgets, improve their fitness and potentially stimulate brain growth and boost cognitive performance.

5. Give their immune system a boost

Light to moderate physical activity is linked to a stronger immune system. Spending their sunny days taking on an obstacle course should hopefully lead to fewer sniffles and days off school in winter!

Simple Garden Obstacle Course Ideas for Kids Aged 1-3

Kids can benefit from an obstacle course even when they’re just toddlers. As long as your challenges are the right level of difficulty, tiny tots can improve their motor skills, spatial awareness, physical control, balance, agility and concentration.

As a parent, the difficult part is often figuring out what age-appropriate obstacles look like. Of course, every child is different so supervision (and assistance) is essential, but here are some garden obstacle ideas that are perfect for very young children.

Crawl-through tunnels

If your little one is still learning the ropes of walking, focus on obstacles that are a little closer to the ground. For example, a variety of tunnels to crawl through, low blocks to clamber over and wide, flat paths for them to “balance” along without the risk of falling off. Choosing lightweight fabrics or soft-play style obstacles is a great idea at this age!

Water obstacles

Water-based activities are perfect for a hot day! Try starting your obstacle course with a water-balloon piñata, or targets for your kids to shoot with water pistols (obviously younger kids can have easier targets). The final challenge of the course could be a slide into a paddling pool, or picking up an object from the bottom of a shallow pool – ideal to cool off and catch their breath!

Sensory experiences

Encourage curiosity about the world from an early age with a “sensory walk”, and help your child learn about the things they experience along the way. Take the route across several different surfaces (like a patio, cobbles, sand and lawn), and prepare boxes where your kids have to touch, smell or listen to different items. You could use dried leaves, shells, nuts and seeds, but also include items from inside the home, like cotton wool, coins or even their own toys! Take a look at more sensory garden ideas, if this appeals to you.

Climbing through netting

Loose netting can present quite the obstacle for toddlers, but scrambling through it will test their motor skills as well as their patience. Mix netting together with crawl-through tunnels, hoops and other obstacles.

Paddling pool fishing

Garden challenges don’t have to involve running around! Help younger kids practice their motor skills with paddling pool fishing games. Put a few coloured floating objects in the pool, and task them with scooping up specific things in a net. As they get older, you can swap the net for a trickier hook combo, fairground style.

String “laser” net

Tie strings in between two objects to create pretend “laser” sensors that your kids need to carefully duck under and weave through. Perfect for a spy-themed garden party!

Mini obstacles

Gregarious tots that have quickly mastered their motor skills might be ready to take on beginner versions of more challenging obstacles, like see-saws and climbing ramps. Even if they’re not able to traverse a tricky surface unaccompanied, you can introduce these kinds of obstacles so your adventurous little ones can start becoming familiar with them.

Fun Garden Obstacle Ideas for Kids Aged 4-7

As your kids get older, you can swap out sections of your garden obstacle course for more challenging tests of balance, jumping and running. Just remember the main element should always be fun! The goal is for children to associate being active with having fun.

Especially at this age, make sure you’re offering plenty of positive reinforcement and praise, encouraging your kids to tackle challenging obstacles and helping them to build confidence. It’s also important to emphasise that it’s okay if they don’t finish the course; enjoying an activity is a reward in itself.

With that said, here are some fun backyard obstacle course ideas for kids four years and up.

Chalk & imagination

Not sure your obstacle course is going to hold your child’s attention for longer than an afternoon? Try drawing out a route using chalk, with shapes to represent balancing beams, stepping stones and targets. You could also draw arrows and directions – like “spin around” or “run to the fence”. If it sounds incredibly low-effort, that’s because it is – but as long as your kid has a vivid imagination, they won’t care!

Obstacle hoops

Hula hoops bring so many possibilities. You can ask kids to jump through them, across them (flat on the ground) or to hula hoop with them for a set length of time. Once the creative juices start flowing, you’ll find they can be pretty versatile.

Recycled tyres

Tyre courses are an old-school obstacle course feature thanks to how many different ways they can be used. Depending on their size, you can get kids to crawl through them, or step across them. You can also stack them or half-bury them in the ground for some more unusual challenges. Plus, they look bright and fun with a coat of playfully-coloured paint!

child running through tyres laid out on the ground

Slalom challenges

This is the perfect age for kids to test their balance and concentration. Lay down some cones or set up some posts that kids need to zig-zag through – and make it harder by asking them to balance a ball on a spoon or sports racquet at the same time. You could also use a slalom for kids to cycle, skate or dribble a ball through.

Hurdles and limbo

Having low fences and barriers to jump over or limbo underneath is an obstacle course staple – and this type of challenge is easily adjusted as your child’s skills improve. You can also raise or lower the barrier if taller (or smaller) kids want to play, too.

race with obstacles child jumping over hurdle

Monkey bars

Monkey bars are an amazing way to help your kids build their shoulders, biceps, and grip strength. For safety, it’s best to get a professional set of monkey bars installed, but they’re a great garden feature for kids. They can play above and below them, plus monkey bars are a great frame for outdoor forts (or a garden cinema screen at night!)

Pool noodle courses

Pool noodles are still fun to play with out of the water – and make for fantastic obstacle course props. Use noodles to create race track barriers, hurdles, and fun, floppy bats.

Blindfolded courses

If you’re blessed with a very active child, they may quickly get too skilled for any obstacle course you can build yourself. Up the ante by getting them to do the course single-handed, or even blindfolded. They’ll need to concentrate on using their other senses to succeed – or it can be a trust-building exercise by having a non-blindfolded friend give them instructions.

Boot camp-style course

We mentioned using old tyres earlier, but there are lots of other challenges that appear in conventional “boot camp” style obstacle courses. Incorporate physical exercises like sit-ups, push-ups and planks, as well as athletic activities like timed runs or the dreaded “bleep” test. For physical obstacles, try getting them to crawl beneath low netting, or up and over a sturdy fence or hill with ropes.

Obstacles for bikes and ride-on toys

Don’t forget that obstacle courses and race tracks can work on wheels, too – although you’ll probably want to adapt some of your challenges. Whether your child is still at the stage of ride-on toys and balance bikes, or if they’ve progressed to proper bikes, skateboards or rollerblades, let them try out some simple obstacles! Remember that knee pads, elbow pads and helmets are a must!

Challenging Garden Obstacle Course Ideas for Kids Aged 7+

Kids who are above seven years of age shouldn’t back down from taking on a complex obstacle course that pushes them further out of their comfort zone. It’s around this age that kids start to get more consciously competitive, which is healthy to nurture in moderation. Keep up the teamwork-based obstacles too!

Complex, mix-and-match courses

You might only be able to keep younger kids focused on two or three obstacles at a time, before they wander off after a bug or a bird or a snack. As they get older, you can increase not only the difficulty of the obstacles, but the number of challenges you put in the course. Use a combination of the ideas we’ve suggested so far to up the difficulty quickly!

Serious balancing test

Kids at this age are ready to take on obstacle courses that challenge their physical abilities more than ever. High balancing beams, cable walkways between trees and even junior slacklining are great tests of balance, posture, and coordination even for adults! Safety needs to be a priority here, so think about harnesses, helmets and crash-mats suitable for the height of the course.

child balancing on outdoor beam

Climbing walls

Climbing walls take up very little space and can be built quite easily with a little bit of planning (just make sure to pick up some safety gear, too). You can have fixed walls that get more challenging as they stretch vertically or horizontally, or you can get conveyor-style walls that offer endless “climbing” action. Take a look online for starter climbing wall kits that you can assemble on your own. Climbing walls pair really well with garden treehouses, too!

boy on a climbing wall with tyres

Tyre scrambles

If you have the space and the resources, build a big pile of tyres for kids to scramble up, down and across. This kind of obstacle requires perseverance and determination to conquer – and works kids’ balance, endurance and route-planning.

Challenging rope-climbs

While you test younger kids to avoid getting caught in a net, older kids can try and use rope nets as a way to climb up or along to a new obstacle. Rope nets also work well in combination with tree-houses!

Professionally-built obstacle courses

If you’ve got a generous budget and space (and especially if you’ve got multiple kids to entertain), look into getting an obstacle course custom-made. There are lots of features that professional builds have that a DIY course just won’t be able to include. Find fun activities your kids want to try and already enjoy to keep encouraging them to see activity as an outlet for fun.

Unleash Your Child’s Inner Gladiator!

Obstacle course racing is a fun activity that can foster a lifelong love for fitness and problem-solving. These types of challenges are all about building confidence and encouraging your child to build new skills in unfamiliar situations. Plus, as we’ve highlighted in several places, obstacle courses can be completed in pairs or teams to mix friendly competition with team-building and support.

Building an obstacle course in your garden is ideal for letting your child burn off some extra energy where you can also keep an eye on them. Hopefully some of the ideas we’ve listed here will help you build an engaging place for your kids to race around any time they want.

Kids Garden Party Ideas, Tips and Checklist

Kids parties are so cute. As if picking out playful themes, decor and party food wasn’t fun enough, seeing a bunch of delighted faces is an added bonus. It probably helps that the younger kids are, the easier they are to please. However, there’s a flip-side to that: it seems that the smaller a human is, the bigger the mess they’re capable of creating!

This is probably the reason why kids garden party ideas are always popular – it’s much easier to clean cake and crayons off of a patio than carpet! In fact, as long as you’ve got half-decent weather, wrangling toddlers or young kids is always going to be easier (and usually safer) in a confined outside space.

Plus, after the craziness of 2020, we can all appreciate how much easier it is to stay socially distant in the great outdoors. Even when this pandemic is no longer a problem, kids are forever picking up sniffles and bugs, so it won’t hurt to minimise the spread a little bit!

Planning a kids party in the garden is basically the same as planning one indoors, but there are ways you can be a little bit more creative (if you want). Here’s a reminder of all the steps you need to follow, plus a whole list of photos and suggestions for kids garden party ideas if you need some inspiration!

What do you need for a kids garden party?

Any party requires a bit of planning, so having a checklist can help you stay on track. This is a rough guide you can follow for a simple party (with more detailed tips below):

two girls in party hats

photo by Victoria Rodriguez

Kids Garden Party Features

Keeping a gaggle of children occupied is much easier when your party has an exciting focal point, like a bouncy castle or paddling pool. It doesn’t have to be something big – you could create craft stations, or a garden obstacle course if you would prefer something DIY. Of course, you don’t have to have a “feature” at all, but it really can help you exhaust high-energy kids and provide an ongoing activity between organised games, eating and resting.

Bouncy Castle

Even in the digital age, bouncy castles still take the crown for best garden party entertainment.

inflatable bouncy castle with slide

Paddling Pools

On a hot day, having a pool or two set up is a great way to help kids stay cool. Make the water more exciting with balls, inflatables, pool noodles, plastic toys and water-pistols. Remember, if it’s really sunny, keep as much of your garden shaded as possible and keep sunblock handy!

Face Painting

Even if you’ve never done it before, face-painting is easier than it looks, especially if you choose a few designs you feel comfortable offering. You could always hire a professional (or rope in a creative teenager for a bargain price, if you happen to know one).

a young girl having her face painted pink

Obstacle course

Garden obstacle courses can challenge kids mentally and physically if you plan them right. We’ve got lots of obstacle course tips if you need them!

Themes for a Kids Garden Party

Choosing a party theme is a fun opportunity for you and your child to be imaginative together. Start by choosing a handful of theme ideas that you’d be comfortable working with, and then involve your kid in the creative process, asking for ways they’d like their chosen theme to be brought to life. Look for inspiration in class kids’ characters as well as your child’s favourite books, films or TV shows.

Whimsical Wonderland

Create a magical wonderland with pretty garden lighting, bright colours, flowers and butterflies. Use floral runners across your table tops, and encourage party guests to dress up as their favourite fairy-tale characters to fit the theme. If you’re trying to recreate Alice’s wonderland, be sure to decorate with teacups and playing cards, too!

decorative playing cards and a cake stand with afternoon tea

Safari Adventure

For the adventurous animal lover, try building an exciting safari-theme. You can craft decorative leaves and vines using a variety of paper, and keep kids entertained with an animal-themed treasure hunt!

Wet-play Arena

In hot weather, break out the paddling pool, water pistols and water balloons to keep kids cool. If you have a sprinkler system, even better! Add inflatables for that poolside vibe, but make sure to keep an eye on slippery surfaces. It’s also a good idea to warn parents that your party guests will need spare clothes!

Superhero Celebration

Most children have a favourite superhero to inspire them – why not pay homage with the theme of their party? It’s a perfect excuse to build a garden cinema and watch a film once the energy starts to dwindle. Use the hero’s outfit to decide your colour scheme, and offer face painting so kids can wear their own “mask” for the party!

five kids playing, dressed as superheroes

Plan a rough schedule

How long do you want the party to last? Toddlers can typically endure 3-4 hours before getting exhausted, and as kids get older you might be able to stretch to half-days a full days (if you want to). You might even want to host an overnight sleepover or garden camping party if you’re feeling brave!

However long your party is planned for, make sure to include time for structured games, refreshments, and less-structured play.

Garden Party Decorations for Kids

Regardless of the garden party theme you select, you’ll find that decor is almost always cheaper when it’s DIY or made using things you already own. If you’re picking up materials for party decor, you can’t go wrong with these ideas.

Origami Paper

Origami is a beautiful way to decorate a party. There are thousands of tutorials for flowers, birds, butterflies and all kinds of other shapes online. Once you get the hang of folding a particular design, you might surprise yourself with how many you can make in a short space of time! Learning some simple origami patterns could be a fun party activity, and it’s a low-cost item to include in a party bag. Plus, as long as your paper isn’t coated, you can simply recycle or compost your decor when you’re done.

little origami paper cranes hanging from tree branches

Biodegradable Confetti

Lots of kids love pretty, shiny sequins, and they can be the perfect way to playfully sprinkle some colour in your garden. Choose confetti made from organic materials, like dried petals or recycled paper.

Artificial Grass

Not everyone is blessed with a lot of outdoor space. If you’re only working with a patio or courtyard, consider buying some synthetic turf to cover the party area temporarily. Not only will it make your garden look more welcoming, it’ll provide a softer surface in case anyone takes a tumble, and is super-easy to hose-clean at the end of the day. It also makes a fun cover for other surfaces, too!

Streamers & Bunting

Fences and trees are perfect candidates for hanging streamers, bunting and fairy lights. You can create a very pretty effect with very low-cost materials and careful draping – choose colours to match your theme and you’re all set!

Sending Invites

Depending on the occasion, you should generally aim to send invites out 3-4 weeks ahead of time. You may want to err on the side of caution and send them earlier, but remember that other parents have busy lives and it might just make your invite fall off their mental to-do list! The only exception is if you’re sending invites in school bags – in which case, factor in school holidays and send invites before the break if your party falls just after.

Arrange Entertainment

Entertainment for kids garden parties can come in many forms. If you’re keeping an eye on budget, you can simply look up a party playlist and get the tunes pumping. For special occasions, you might look at hiring some specialists.

a clown juggles to entertain children in the garden

Character impersonators are increasingly popular, with little boys and girls equally loving the chance to hang out with their favourite hero or princess for an hour or two at home. Theatrical performers – like magicians and clowns – can also be a wonderful idea, depending on your child’s comfort.

Did you know you can even hire petting zoos that can bring small animals to your garden party? Companies offer everything from adorable bunnies and fluffy chickens to fascinating tarantulas and lizards!

Games & Activities

When you’re planning your kids garden party ideas, remember that a variety of games is essential. Try to pick a handful of games (and have a couple of back-ups) that play to different strengths and personalities.

three children sit around a table amicably crafting

Classics like musical statues, pass-the-parcel and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey are all still perfectly acceptable, and can easily be tweaked to fit whatever theme you choose. Simply switch up the music to an appropriate soundtrack, use themed wrapping paper and draw (or print) the shape of a character and their logo, tail, hat or other accessory.

For something a bit different, try this doughnut-eating contest with a twist. Tie a length of string around the branches from a tree (or the struts of a pergola), and attach a doughnut on the other end. Make sure both ends are tied securely and are at roughly child-height! You should have one doughnut for each child, then time them to see who can eat their doughnut without using their hands the fastest! (Understandably, this one’s a hit with the adults too, so you might want to save some doughnuts to have a go later).

donuts on strings for a competition

Not every game has to have an individual winner though, and collaborative games are a good way to encourage kids to make new friends. Try giving them simple building materials (like lollipop sticks and masking tape) to build the tallest tower. If you need them to burn off some extra energy, tug-of-war, three-legged races and team obstacle courses can all boost bonding.

Of course, activities don’t have to be competitive at all. Letting kids be creative with some low-cost craft materials can keep them busy for hours. Depending on the season, you might be able to use natural materials from your garden (like conkers and dried leaves), or some coloured paper, newspaper, paint and glue.

Just don’t forget the golden rule: if in doubt, bring out the bubbles.

Preparing Food & Drinks

Party food can be a little tricky. On one hand, you don’t want to just feed everyone tons of sugar but on the other, kids might outright refuse to eat anything that doesn’t appeal to them. The key thing to remember is that kids generally like foods that are familiar to them, and try to aim for small bits and pieces that are easy to eat.

It’s definitely worth checking in with other parents about food allergies – you could include a note on your invitations.

Savory crowd-pleasers:

party food ideas with apple wedges made to look like cute monsters with sugar eyes and strawberry tongues

Sweet party treats:

I don’t care which tribe of healthy-eaters you subscribe to, a kids’ party isn’t complete without a little bit of sugar in one form or another. Of course, there is some room for balance:

Kids garden party drinks

Include some beverages in your party planning, especially if it’s going to be a hot day. Water should be always accessible (you could make it look more appetising by adding fresh fruit and ice), and having some squash is a good idea too. Most kids love fizzy drinks, but you’re under no obligation to keep them topped up on sugar all afternoon (their parents will thank you for it, at least).

Tidying tip: Mess is inevitable, but if you keep some paper towels or cloths handy, you can catch any spillages quickly. It’s also useful to keep a bin bag nearby so you can tidy a little bit of mess as you go along. You’re also allowed to politely ask the kids to deal with their own rubbish – which can be a fun recycling lesson before the party resumes!

Refreshment Stations

It’s not just a matter of what your little party-goers will eat, it’s where they’ll eat it, too. If your guests are old enough to self-serve, a picnic bench or trestle table can be a perfect buffet-style stand. Let kids make a lap of the table and then sit on blankets, cushions or the good ol’ grass while they munch.

It’s not a bad idea to keep food under a gazebo or other garden shelter if you’re serving outside. If you’re going to let kids graze for an hour or so, check that you’ve got covers and lids to keep bugs away.

a table under a pergola covered with party decor

Get Set Up On The Day

The final hurdle is getting everything set up before your party starts. When thinking about your garden layout, make sure to leave plenty of open spaces where kids can run around and enjoy themselves. The whole party area should be easily supervised – block off any out-of-bounds areas if you need to, and make sure you’ve always got eyes on hazards.

Putting food areas near to the house saves snacks from being dropped across the garden and will make tidying up slightly easier at the end of the day. It’s also a good idea to put the messiest activities far away from the house, but bring out a washing up bowl as a hand-washing station if you need to!

With a bit of creativity and planning, there are so many ways you can transform your garden into a magical space for adventure. These kids garden party ideas are really just the launch-point for creating a memorable, fun-filled day that you can enjoy as much as your little ones!

Kids Garden Play Area Ideas: Outdoor Fun for Every Type of Child

In the busy world we live in, gardens have never been a more valuable space for giving your little ones somewhere to safely play outside. Especially in a time where we have to consider social distancing and we’re all spending more time at home, having a garden play area can feel like an absolute luxury.

However, some kids need some encouragement to go outside and play. If your garden could honestly be a bit more exciting, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and revamp it with some fun and functional DIY playground ideas for kids.

Ready for the challenge? Read on for tips and inspiration for simple, low-maintenance kids garden play area ideas that will have your kids running outside as soon as they get home from school.

Kids Garden Play Area Ideas: Sports and Games

If you’re living with a budding athlete, it may take a bit of work to tire them out. Keeping sporty, energetic kids stimulated is going to need a garden play area that combines lots of fun and exercise. Take a look at some of these clever outdoor activity areas for inspiration.

Homemade Obstacle Course

An obstacle course is one of the most exciting ideas you can build for little ones who love adventure, especially if you add ways that it can be switched-up once they start getting bored. Depending on the age and agility of your kids, try to include balance beams, slides and tunnels.

You can build obstacle courses using all kinds of leftover items you have lying around – obviously just make sure they’re safe, clean and strong enough for your children to clamber over. Tyres, planks, logs and pallets are the ideal basics for a DIY obstacle course, and you can use paddling pools, ropes, swings and ramps too.

Of course, you can also buy professionally-made obstacles to integrate with your own homemade pieces. Although… once you start building, you’ll probably find that you start analysing everything you see as a potential addition to your course!

Mini Climbing Wall

Some kids just like to climb. We’ve got a whole thread of garden treehouse ideas if that’s what you’re after, but you could also add a climbing wall to your garden to encourage your child’s ever-extending reach. Climbing walls are a fun way to get your kids to build strength and improve balance. Plus, climbing walls are a pretty versatile garden fixture, and you could even incorporate them into your design for an obstacle course or treehouse.

Unless you’re a regular climber yourself, building your own climbing wall can be a bit complex, but you can see a guide over at impatientlycrafty.com. Get some tips from online experts, or give yourself some peace of mind by purchasing a pre-made wall. You can get them customised to fit whatever dimensions you want, and usually have them tailored for different difficulty levels, too.

Classic Playground Games

You might find that you really don’t need to overthink it when it comes to sporty garden activities for your children. Set up some goalposts, a basketball net or a badminton net if you have the space.

If you fancy a bit of DIY work, there are a couple of family-friendly games you can borrow from the US. Cornhole is a popular choice, where the aim is to toss beanbags towards a target to score points (this video offers a clearer explanation). You can build the target box quite easily with an old pallet and paint.

Alternatively, a tetherball court can be easily put together with just a few materials – an upcycled tire, a pole, and – of course –  a tetherball. Adding a bit of personalisation by spray painting the tire is a great way to get your kids involved and invested in the game early.

Water Balloon Forts

Although summer may be fleeting in the UK, we seem to be hitting record temperatures every single year. Let’s swiftly sidestep the terrifying conversation about climate change, and emphasise how this means that – for at least one or two days every summer – a water balloon battle arena really is a sensible garden addition.

The simplest setup is to build a defence screen or fort at either end of a garden, with a bucket of water balloons in the middle or – if you’re feeling kind – a bucket of balloons behind each screen. Set up teams and watch the chaos commence. Alternatively, if you’d like something a little less aggressive, you can make a water balloon piñata by hanging them from a clothesline, low branch or climbing frame.

Of course, water pistols are a great alternative.

Garden Play Area Ideas for Inquisitive Kids

Some children just love exploring and learning about the world around them. Chances are, these types of kids are already interested in being outside, so the best thing you can do is find ways to encourage this.

Bug Hunting Games

Combine our garden treasure hunt ideas with a bug-hunting kit for kids, and let your little ones discover the insect world. A set of magnifying glasses and containers is enough to start an expedition, although you might want to come along for the first few bug hunts to help younger children learn the safest ways to interact with nature.

Create a Conker-run

Conker runs are the autumn, outdoor equivalent of a marble run, or ball run. This kind of activity run is great for children that are figuring out basic physics, and can be a fairly straightforward DIY build if you have the right materials stored. The essentials are having surfaces at at least two heights, which can be connected with tubes, ramps or troughs.

“Soup” Stations

It’s just a fact of life that kids like mixing various materials and liquids together. Some might call it “soup”, while others are more inspired by “magic potions” or “science stuff”. It all comes down to the same thing: grabbing a tray that’s big and deep enough for some wet play, and setting up a station in the garden with “ingredients”, water and containers. Depending on how brave you’re feeling, food colouring and glitter is usually popular too! A word of advice: don’t let your youngsters forage for their own ingredients – that’s how you end up with your prized blooms in shreds!

Kids Garden Play Area Ideas: Creative Spaces

If you have kids who are a little more in tune with their creative side,  the garden is the perfect place to let them hone their skills while keeping your home (and wallpaper) relatively “art” free.

Rock Painting Station

Have a little bit of nature to spare? Lead your children on a treasure hunt for natural materials they can turn into exciting art pieces. Build a station with fun, age-appropriate materials like wool, paints, chalks, coloured sand and glue so that kids can make and craft mini masterpieces out of their favourite finds. You can use buckets or trays to organise your creative materials (and to ensure they always have a home outside).

Leaf Walls & Flower Art

When autumn comes, there are ways to make use of raked-up leaves other than just tossing them in the compost bin. If you’ve got young children, tap into their creativity with a leaf-decorating play area! Like a seasonal rock-painting station, adding simple craft materials like scissors, glue, paper and tape can result in nature boards, collages, wreaths and mobiles.

Chalk Canvas Spaces

When it comes to expressions of creativity, chalk is a win-win. Kids love the bright colours and the ability to colour just about anything, and parents are just relieved that it all kind of washes away in the rain (but take a look at our garden mural ideas for something more permanent!)

Take advantage of this fun fact by making a chalk-friendly area of the garden, where chalk drawing is completely permitted, no questions asked. Aim for three or four different surfaces, ideally with some subtle variations in colour and texture to keep in interesting (but remember plain, smooth surfaces are the best)!

Kids Garden Play Area Ideas: Cars, Bikes and Wheels

Do your kids have a need for speed? Whether they’re obsessed with Hot Wheels, constantly attached to ride-on vehicles or treating everything like a baby-BMX obstacle, it may be time to fuel up your child’s excitement with some car-themed play areas.

Garden Racetrack Ideas

child playing with wooden toy cars along a track drawn in chalk on concrete

There are lots of ways to create a racetrack in your garden, whether you want a temporary track for racing bikes around over a weekend, or a more permanent circuit for pocket-sized cars to be raced around indefinitely.

Using cones, bamboo canes or pool noodles is an easy, safe way to mark out a larger track in your garden. If you’re working with a solid surface, you could use chalk, too. Mowing out a circuit in the garden gives you the option of laying down plastic or paving for a more long-term track. For toy cars, check out “road tape” – virtually eliminating the effort it takes to draw a track by hand!

Size-appropriate obstacles can be built with breeze blocks, planks of wood and whatever similar materials you might have available.

Car Wash for Kids Toys

Perfect for the summertime, a DIY garden “car wash” is a simple and effective mechanism to keep your kids entertained for a good few hours. You can build your car wash with PVC pipes and sprinklers or hang up hoses on a tent frame. It’s a sneaky opportunity to add soaping and drying stations (hidden behind a tunnel system of vinyl tablecloths or bin bags) and get the kids washing dust and cobwebs off of their outdoor toys. Take a look at a step by step guide over at afewshortcuts.com.

When they run out of toy vehicles to clean, it’s time to bring out the water pistols and set them on each other!

“Off-Road” Sand Pit

Make truckloads of fun with an off-road track or pit using sand or gravel. Just a little bit of imagination transforms it into a rugged arena for construction play or other-world racing – especially if you add additional toys, ramps and tunnels.

If you don’t already have a sandpit-sized tray, it’s as easy as nailing together a DIY frame and adding a tarpaulin. You could also use bricks, stones, logs or any other kind of block to keep the mess contained. Position it away from the house to minimise grit getting tracked in, and supervise younger kids so they don’t start putting gravel and sand in their mouths!

Kids Garden Play Area Ideas: Playhouse Inspiration

So many kids love “playing house” in one form or another. It’s pretty cute that they have an innate desire to mimic the adults they see around them (if only real adult life was so carefree)! Whether your kid wants to run their own business, live the suburban dream or escape into adventure, we’ve got some inspired playhouse designs to help you get them set up. Check out even more kids playhouse ideas here.

Simple Playhouses

Remember playing house as a child? It’s a timeless activity that all kids enjoy – so why not get them to take it outdoors and indulge in a little fresh air? Lay down some turf to separate your child’s play areas from the rest of the yard (plus, it’s a lot less mowing to keep up with).

Fill the space with different stations – a kitchen, cleaning area, lounge, and bedroom. You can leave your child’s “house” up to their interpretation with playful additions like a sandbox, water table, or sports zone. This is a great way to get all your kids’ favourite outdoor toys in a single space that requires minimal maintenance. Let their imagination run wild!

Tremendous Treehouses

Anyone that had a treehouse growing up knows it as a place filled with fond childhood memories. If you want to pass those climbing, camping and clubhouse experiences down to your kids, a treehouse really makes a garden feel homely. Even if you’re lacking a tree (or the DIY skills to build a sturdy playhouse in a tree), there are loads of great treehouse-style ideas that are simple to pull off.

Snack Stand

Encourage early entrepreneurs by creating a mini storefront where they can “sell” snacks or drinks to obliging family members. Depending on how old your little ones are, they could serve juice, homemade traditional lemonade, or even biscuits or fairy cakes they’ve baked themselves.

Business can be based just about anywhere, so even a picnic blanket with “shop” signs might be enough to keep younger kids amused for an afternoon. You could convert an existing climbing frame or playhouse, or even build a DIY stand out of pallets, if you felt so inclined.

Play money and shop uniforms (aprons or hats) are the perfect finishing touches.

Outdoor Reading Nook

Not every child is an outdoor child, so if you’re desperate to get a bookworm in the garden for some fresh air, try setting up their own little reading nook. A covered daybed – like the one in this post – could be fun, or you might prefer to add outdoor cushions or a bean bag to an existing Wendy-house. Even a pop-up tent can do the trick – just fill it with blankets, bunting and whatever other cosy details might tempt your little reader outdoors.


Enhancing your backyard play area can be inexpensive and practical. Doing a little bit of research and smart shopping can turn any yard into a one-stop-shop for endless engaging activities and hours of fun and games. Why not try out some of our favourite garden activities for kids for more inspiration?

5 Garden Camping Ideas & Themes for Your Next Family Staycation

There are many reasons why a “staycation” might be preferable to travelling elsewhere for your holiday. It’s cheaper, it’s more convenient – or maybe there’s a pandemic happening. Usually this just means having a few fun days at home instead of going somewhere new. However, if your family is coming down with cabin fever, you can shake things up a bit with a spot of garden camping.

With a bit of creativity and a dash of imagination, garden camping really can feel like a holiday, even if just for a weekend. As you’ll see when you read through our garden camping ideas, it’s also a low-stakes way of introducing younger children to the concept of sleeping outdoors.

So, pack an overnight bag, and come with us on a short trip through five different styles of outdoor living to find the perfect garden camping ideas for your family.

Classic Camping in Your Garden

The camping of my youth – and what I consider classic British camping – was all about loading up the car and pitching up at some mildly soggy, mostly empty campsite in the countryside. We’d bring a tent, some sleeping bags and a cool-box, and “enjoy nature” (read, walk around in the drizzle) for a few days.

The good news is that this level of camping is very basic, and is really about giving your family a change of scene with minimal effort (as, I suspect, were my childhood camping trips to the middle of nowhere).

Classic camping accommodation

For classic camping, you can just use whatever tent you have at home. If you’re looking for a new one, modern pole tents are the most practical choice. It’s actually a really good idea to field-test a new tent with a garden camping weekend, so you can get acquainted with where everything goes and how it all fits together.

Of course, if you’re only really interested in camping at home (and in good weather), you can get small pop-up tents quite cheaply. It’s still a good idea to have a groundsheet or tarpaulin underneath to protect the bottom of the tent and reduce the moisture coming up from the ground.

As for sleeping arrangements, make sure everyone has their own sleeping bag. Airbeds (or air mattresses, or lilos – whatever your family calls them), are a sensible addition, and of course you can add an extra pillow or blanket if that’s your jam.

Classic camping food

Classic camping calls for class British outdoor food. We’re talking about a BBQ. Portable ones are, naturally, the authentic choice, but if you’ve spent all summer tidying up your garden BBQ area, now is the time to give it some action.

Classic camping activities

If the weather is alright, it’s time to don your hiking boots and go for a wander in the great outdoors. The best walks (in my opinion) involve driving to a pretty, rural village for a coffee, then heading out into the countryside for a couple of hours (depending on the attention span of your party). Ideally, there’s a pub somewhere along the route so you can have a roast dinner before you head home.

More than likely, the weather will not be alright, so grab a travel-sized board game or a deck of cards as back up.

Classic camping decor:

Classic camping requires no decor whatsoever. However, lanterns look nice and a cosy blanket will make your tents feel more inviting.

Guide & Scout Inspired Garden Camping Ideas

Lots of us remember being a Girl Guide or Boy Scout with fondness, and for many it’s also the first real experience of traditional camping. If you want to recreate some of those experiences for your child – and maybe they’ve not been able to join a pack in 2020 – you can offer a version of scout camping in your garden.

garden camping ideas with traditional canvas tents

Scout camping accommodation

Although the majority of scouts now sleep in modern tents when they camp, lots of units will still have a traditional canvas tent for older members or as a communal shelter. These giant green beasts are trickier to set up than their modern counterparts, and might be exactly the challenge you need to keep older kids on their toes.

As for sleeping, nothing beats an old-school bedding roll. Well, okay, most sleeping arrangements beat a bedding roll in terms of comfort, but that’s not the point. For the uninitiated (or the mentally rusty), this video will explain in more detail how exactly you go about making a bedding roll.

In my Girlguiding unit, we were always warned that, at any time, our bedding-rolling skills might be put to the test. This would mean one of the older girls gleefully chucking a bedding roll into the nearby river, to check whether it was sufficiently water tight. SO fun.

If you don’t have a nearby river or pond, feel free to just make up traditional camping beds. These should include groundsheets, camping mats and, of course, sleeping bags.

chocolate, biscuits and marshmallows ready to make s'mores

Guide & scout inspired camping food

With this style of camping, the majority of food is going to be cooked on an open flame. So, now is the time to set yourself up with a garden fire pit, if you haven’t already!

Teaching children how to safely light a fire is a valuable lesson, so make sure you’re up to scratch on the basics yourself. If you don’t have a fire pit (and don’t fancy lighting a bonfire in your garden), showing your kids how to light a barbecue is an alternative.

For the food itself, remember the golden rule: everything tastes better when cooked on a stick. Yes, you can wrap some jacket potatoes in tin foil and pop them at the base of the fire (remember to turn them), but that’s kind of dull to watch. Add in some sausages on sticks and then for dessert, marshmallows on sticks.

You could even take a lesson from our friends across the pond, and make s’mores! The process is simple: take a plain biscuit (Americans use graham crackers, but a digestive is an ok replacement), and put a thin square of chocolate on top – those “little bars” from Cadbury are perfect. Next, toast your marshmallow as usual and once it’s gooey, use a second digestive to slide it off your prongs and onto the chocolate, before sandwiching it all together.

boy on a climbing wall with tyres

Scout camp activities

Once you’ve wrangled a traditional canvas tent, made your bedding rolls and lit your fire, you probably won’t find too much time for extra activities. At a proper camp, this is about the time units would use all the available open space to play wide games (like manhunt, smugglers or fox and hound), but you might be limited by space and players.

Instead, try playing some lawn games like badminton, garden bowling, giant Jenga, or setting up an obstacle course for your kids. You could also teach them orienteering skills (like reading a compass and map), practice tying some knots, and learn some simple first aid tips.

garden camping ideas with blankets and bunting

Guide & scout camp decor

Just like classic camping, real scout camps don’t tend to encourage purely aesthetic elements, but you don’t have to completely play by those rules, seeing as you’re the troop leader.

You can make cute, camp-inspired decor like welly pegs (stakes that go into the ground outside the tent to keep your wellies upside down and dry). You could even come up with a family flag, pennant or bunting to decorate your patio area for the weekend.

Additional touches like a favourite pillow, or battery-powered fairy lights can make your tent seem much more cosy.

Festival Themed Garden Camping Ideas

It seems like big outdoor festivals aren’t going to be back for a while, which means lots of little ones will be missing out on their first family-friendly festival experiences!

For regular festival-goers, throwing a mini homage in your garden might be enough to get you through to the next festival season. And if you’ve never been to a festival? Well, if that’s been anything to do with the crowds, food, toilets or line-up – that’s all within your control when you’re running the show!

Festival style accommodation

Most festival campers bring a regular tent, or even a simple pop-up tent if the weather is promising. You can really use whatever you already have. The fun part is making your camping pitch unique – but we’ll talk more about that in a second!

As for sleeping arrangements, a comfortable night’s sleep at a festival is famously elusive. Fortunately, the fact that you’re really at home can, and should, be used to your advantage. Where many festival goers simply bring a sleeping bag and a camping mat, you can add multiple mats, squashy air beds and cushions, pillows and blankets until you’re certain you’ll sleep well.

Festival food ideas

Where festival food once meant a combination of cereal bars from home and greasy burgers and chips, most festivals now have a much better selection. In fact, half the food stalls are guaranteed to be some delicious-smelling, strange-looking international food that you’re definitely going to pronounce wrong.

In this spirit, to get an authentic festival vibe when you’re camping at home, you should order a takeaway from that unusual restaurant you keep looking at but haven’t been brave enough to try. Tonight’s the night! Bonus points if it’s vegan, too.

Festival-activities for garden camping

In the afternoon, get creative with decorating your campsite and pulling together some classic festival-chic outfits. We all know how eclectic festival fashion can be, so let the whole family loose on the dressing up box.

Face painting, or a glitter station is a great way to get kids (and, I’ll be honest, adults) excited about the rest of the evening.

With a little help from a laptop and YouTube (we know, it’s kind of cheating), curate your own playlist of music, comedians and kids performers. If you have a favourite festival, search for the highlights and best acts of previous years and get them playing in the background once dusk sets in.

These adorable shelters are the result of some family crafting, with messy paints and DIY stamps. You could make similar ones to use as sun shelters with your own family!

 

Garden camping ideas: festival decor

Family-friendly British festivals like Latitude and Camp Bestival are known for their gorgeous site decorations. Recreate their ethereal ambience in your own garden for that chilled-out festival feel.

Coloured paper lanterns are a great place to start – solar powered, battery powered, or even plugged in from inside. Bright fairy lights and multi-coloured garden lights will add to the effect. You can also make streamers, flags and bunting to go along your fence or garden path.

Don’t forget to personalise your tent, too – you’ll need to be able to spot it among the sea of other festival goers (or something). Add a windsock, flag, windbreak and lights to complete the look.

Adventure Camping Ideas in Your Garden

For some, camping is all about learning survival skills and living in the wilderness. Staying in your garden is a low-stakes way to introduce very young children to the lifestyle and start teaching them the basics.

Adventure camping accommodation

Being able to create your own shelter is a fundamental survival skill. If part of your motivation for having a garden camping weekend is to start teaching your family how to fend for themselves in nature, learning how to build a shelter is a great place to start.

Using basic materials like long branches, rope and a tarpaulin, you can create a cover that will protect you from wind and rain overnight. You might also want to practice stringing up a hammock – choosing the right trees and getting the right angle.

Remember though, your garden camping trip should be fun! Sleeping outdoors can be uncomfortable, so bring lots of snuggly blankets from inside to make it an enjoyable experience.

Adventure camping food ideas

Learning how to find food in the wilderness is another essential skill if you live an outdoorsy kind of life. There are ways you can bring the spirit of this into your garden camping experience (without having to hunt Flopsy in his hutch).

Start with some learning games about identifying different kinds of edible foods and berries, using things like the shape of the leaves and visible fruit. This doesn’t have to be strictly based on food that you can find in nature – it could be a way to familiarise your children with your vegetable patch, or kitchen garden, for example.

You can also teach your kids how to prepare the food they might forage or catch, with a little help from supermarket foods. Fresh fish, chicken, mushrooms, native vegetables and fruits can all be used to show how to clean food, season it and know how to tell when food is safe to eat.

autumn leaves with acorns and maple leaves

Adventure activities

Gardens and parks are a great place for kids to safely explore nature and start noticing the world around them. As an introduction for young kids, an outdoors-focused treasure hunt is a wonderful way to keep them busy and engaged with their environment.

Try creating a sheet for them to stick (or draw) different things they find, according to texture, colour, name or category – like birds, bugs, leaves and seeds.

Or, if you want something a little more thrilling, see if there are any outdoor centres close to where you live. Ziplining, abseiling and high-ropes courses are great for the slightly older adventurer.

Adventure decor

Obviously, mother nature does all the heavy lifting when it comes to decorating the environment for wilderness camping – so nothing to worry about here! Emphasise “take only photographs, leave only footprints”, and demonstrate how to make sure we leave nature just as we find it.

Garden Glamping Ideas

Even though I’m a fairly seasoned camper, our last category of garden camping ideas is by far my favourite. Glamping is about bringing all the comfort of home into the outdoors, so it’s very convenient that you’ll be doing it in your own backyard!

This is the ultimate staycation for treating yourselves and having a completely relaxed family weekend in warm weather.

a canvas bell tent with string lights and cushions inside

Garden glamping accommodation

Glamping isn’t about suffering drafts or drizzle. You can just use your existing tent, providing that you really deck it out, but you might also want to look into hiring a bell tent for the weekend. If you’ve got a treehouse or cabin, now’s the time to transform it into a luxurious residence for a night or two.

When choosing where to sleep, splash out on double-height air beds, or camp beds with a thin mattress. Layer with mattress toppers, sheets, duvets, blankets and proper pillows. No sleeping bags required!

Garden glamping food ideas

Your glamping trip deserves the finest food, so fire up that outdoor kitchen or wood-fired pizza oven, if you’re lucky enough to have one. If not, this is the one time you’re allowed to go back into your home and whip up a fresh, delicious meal in your own kitchen (but eat it outside, at least).

Alternative options are ordering from your favourite takeaway, or nipping to a fancy supermarket earlier in the day to pick up bits for a gourmet picnic.

Home glamping activities

Glamping is about putting your feet up, so there’s no need for running around. Treat yourself and your little ones to a mini pamper session, with face masks and nail painting. Board games, card games and laid-back lawn games are also acceptable (I just come from a competitive family so this doesn’t really translate to “laid back” in my house)!

Now could be a good opportunity to let your kids loose on those craft projects that you don’t want to take place inside the house. Set up an outside table with glue and glitter and whatever other sequins and bits of paper you don’t want to be vacuuming out the carpet for months to come.

In the evening, try wrapping up with some blankets and setting up your own outdoor cinema! We’ve got a list of garden cinema ideas to get you started.

Decorating your home glampsite

In comparison to the other garden camping ideas we’ve talked about, glamping is no-limits when it comes to decorating. Cushions, blankets and rugs are a must, as well as lots of ambient garden lighting. Fairy lights, festoons and table lamps – there really is no limit.

As with any camping trip in the UK, you’ll need a bit of luck with the weather. If it does start chucking it down, you might want to be prepared to pack up and head home – but at least it’s not far!

 

Tell us about your home camping experiences below, and let us know which one of these garden camping ideas and themes is your favourite!

Garden Gazebo Ideas: Making The Most Of Your Outdoor Space

Adding a gazebo, pergola or any other kind of structure is one of the easiest ways to improve your garden. Not only does it create an attractive focal point for your garden design ideas, but having a shelter – especially in the UK – makes sure you always have somewhere dry and comfortable to hang out.

However, when it comes to choosing and installing a gazebo, the process can be a bit daunting. This is especially true when you’re building a permanent shelter and planning to invest a fair amount of effort and money in getting it right.

To help you avoid making costly or frustrating mistakes, today we’re going to run through some important tips for planning your pergola and share some awesome garden gazebo ideas to help you get started.

What are the best options for garden shelter?

As you may have already realised, there are several different types of garden structure you can build to create some shelter outdoors. There is, naturally, some overlap between different styles and features, but here’s a rough explanation of the most popular garden covers in the UK:

The Gazebo

a spacious patio with a large, metal-framed gazebo over garden furniture

Gazebos are the classic garden cover, offering flexibility in your garden coverage. A gazebo is simply a roof supported by poles or posts at each corner, often with shutters or curtains as walls so you can open or close them as you need. Trellises across some or all of the ideas are also common. Gazebos are usually square, but you can find them in other shapes too – octagonal or circular ones might be called bandstands or pavilions.

We’ll be looking at permanent gazebos in this post, but collapsible ones are practical for one-off events or seasonal use.

The Pergola

a large pergola with classical stone columns above a brick patio

Pergolas have a flat, open roof – usually made from slats of wood (but metal is common too). A pergola typically offers less coverage than a gazebo, and is more useful for breaking up wind or providing semi-shade than keeping out rain. Still, you can add more shelter by attaching trellises to the sides or roof, and encouraging climbing plants to grow across the beams.

The Arbour

a modest wooden arbour with a solid back and scalloped roof

An arbour is a bench that’s covered by an arched or pitched roof. Although they don’t generally offer much protection from the elements, they make a very pretty focal point in any garden.

The Summerhouse

a summerhouse style shed surrounded by autumnal foliage

A summerhouse is usually a small wooden garden cabin with lots of windows and/or glass doors. To be honest, I didn’t know what a summerhouse was until I was 25 – in my family, it was just called a shed. Summerhouses are usually beautifully decorated and intended to be enjoyed in warm weather. There’s a lot of overlap with garden woman caves.

The Veranda

a long, American-style veranda on the side of a house, overlooking a garden

A veranda essentially a deck with a roof, which is attached to the house. The term “veranda” is more popular in America or Australia though. In Britain we might be more likely to call this kind of structure a “porch”, and I’ve also heard this kind of open-air covered area called a “lean-to”.

The Awning

a balcony with flower boxes and a fabric awning covering for shade and privacy

An awning is a retractable canopy, usually made from fabric or vinyl, fixed to an exterior wall. They’re more commonly found on commercial buildings than private homes in the UK, but it depends where you live. Awnings are a popular choice for sunny balconies, as they don’t take up any floor space and can be designed to provide privacy as well as shade.

What to consider before building a garden structure

So, you’re thinking of making the leap from a temporary gazebo to a permanent garden shelter? You’ll need to ask yourself a few questions to figure out the most practical type of structure, whether it needs any amenities beneath it and where you should position it. You may find that you’ll need a permanent footing or foundation, so once your garden structure is in, it’s in for good.

Simple Garden Shelter Ideas

Are you working on a budget, or aiming for a DIY job? Take a look at these beautiful garden shelters to see how you can make even a simple structure look stunning.

Simple Canvas Cover

Sometimes, it’s just not worth overthinking it. This white canvas sheet is enough to keep the sun and rain off, and is easy to roll up when you’re finished with it. It looks like it’s attached to a metal frame at the top, and then fastened at points on the fence to keep it taught. Should be pretty straightforward to DIY!

Keeping It Natural

A prefabricated pergola can’t compete with the magic and personality of this shelter made from unstripped branches. The effect is completely enchanting, especially covered by climbing flowers. The contemporary lounge seating and patio heating look great, but I think rustic wicker furniture and a more natural finish would be even better.

Grill Gazebo

a wooden gazebo covering a stone pizza oven

There’s nothing quite like cooking outdoors… but the British weather can sure make it challenging sometimes. Building a gazebo or garden shelter over your grill (or wood-fired brick oven, like we see here), can protect you from the elements and provide a comfortable place to prep, cook and eat your meals al fresco.

Elegant Gazebo with Curtains

a metal-framed gazebo with luxurious canvas curtains

If you just want a bit of shade while you socialise in the garden, you don’t really need anything more complex than this traditional gazebo. Adding some garden lighting makes it practical for relaxing day or night, and the curtains can help you keep the warmth in, and the bugs out. Thanks to the open sides, there’s ample room for people to move around and socialise – perfect for housing chunky seating or even a hot tub.

Paint It, Black

If you want to personalise a low-cost pergola, giving it a lick of paint and adding cosy seating, string lights and wall decor can make a big difference. This trendy black DIY pergola takes the indoor-outdoor living trend seriously – and looks seriously cool doing it.

Wooden Pergola and Garden Gazebo Ideas

The rustic charm of wood makes it a popular choice for garden gazebos. Prime wood options include cedar, black walnut, and European oak because of their high resistance to decay. Almost any thick, rot-treated wood will last you a very long time, but regular staining and annual weather-proofing is important to keep a wooden gazebo looking great.

Green Roof Gazebo

an open-sided gazebo with a living roof

Green roofing is not only stunning, it’s good for sustainability and creating a habitat for wildlife, too. Growing a green roof can take a little bit of effort – you’ll need a waterproofing layer, root barrier, and drainage system. However, properly laid, a green roof is low-maintenance thanks to self-sustaining plants. Learn how to grow a green roof, green curtain or vertical garden.

Traditional Trellis Garden Shelter

Having a trellis surround does more than just support the structure. Not only is the latticework a nice ornamental touch, it also provides space for climbing plants and vines and gives you better protection from wind and rain. Many evergreen plants are self-climbers, meaning you won’t need to attach the vines yourself, they’ll just wrap themselves around your structure.

garden gazebo ideas using climbing roses to provide privacy

Put Your Feet Up (Literally)

If you want your garden to have a laid-back vibe, a hanging daybed could be just the ticket! This cosy covered couch-bed looks like the perfect spot for kicking back with a book and a cup of coffee while enjoying the peace and quiet of the great outdoors.

a large hanging bench in the style of a cabana

Rustic Woodworking

Reckon you could give Nick Offerman a run for his money? This ambitious wooden gazebo design looks incredible with the organic forms of the wood taking the spotlight. It’s certainly not a beginner’s project though, and you’ll probably want to talk to a professional carpenter to help you create your own bespoke design.

Contemporary Pergola and Patio Seating

Wooden garden structures don’t have to be old-fashioned, as this cool, contemporary pergola demonstrates perfectly. The minimal, streamlined structure creates a visual focal point in the garden, and the sleek benches keep the design grounded. With the striking lighting and chic fire pit, this is a pretty cool patio for hanging out with friends late into the evening.

Stylised Garden Gazebo Ideas

Gazebos have been around for thousands of years, with many parts of the world coming up with their own distinct styles. Many of these traditional styles still retain their charm to this day, so it’s worth checking out these tried and tested designs, especially if you’re trying to create a particular ambience in your garden.

Spanish Style Pergola

Spanish gardens are designed to be comfortable, private places to relax with friends and family. They’re often centred around courtyards, with gazebos or pergolas to provide shade. If you’re using Spanish themed garden ideas in the UK, you’re probably not battling with the same levels of heat – but a pergola can still provide a striking visual for your garden.

Japanese-Inspired Pavilions

garden gazebo ideas from Japan, with a pagoda style shelter over a koi pond

Visiting Japan, I was consistently overwhelmed by the beauty of temple gardens, and how carefully the scenery is planned. Whenever there is a particularly beautiful view, you can often find a pavilion or covered walkway where you can pause, and take in the surroundings. If you’re proud of a Japanese-inspired garden, you could build a hexagonal pavilion with a curved roof, overlooking your landscape.

American-Style Veranda

Building a covered deck outside your back door is a great way to extend your living room and create space for enjoying the outdoors. It’s a bonus if you have French doors or bi-fold doors, but even opening up a big bright window can help to connect the spaces. Match your colour scheme and decor on both sides of the wall, and add fences to keep pets and little ones safely contained.

Traditional English Style Pergola

A wooden pergola with green trellis sides and a sturdy deck with garden furniture on

Enchanted gardens, cottage gardens and vintage gardens are all about the romance. This simple, beautiful pergola with a deck and trellises is the perfect place to daydream into the afternoon. The hanging baskets and climbing plants make it look like it’s gradually being reclaimed by the garden – so pretty!

Luxury Gazebo and Pergola Ideas

By now you may notice that a gazebo allows you to incorporate many indoor elements to your garden. You’ll be able to bring out couches, fireplaces, and even appliances outside without worrying about exposing them to harsh elements. Here are some of the best ways to experience luxury in your outdoor space.

Outdoor Kitchen Cover

Putting an outdoor kitchen in a gazebo is a great way to spend more time in your garden. You can prep, cook, and dine while getting some fresh air and a little bit of vitamin D! It won’t matter whether it’s raining or shining – the roof will protect you and your food either way. The contrast of the black and neutral grey stone makes this outdoor kitchen look exceptionally luxe.

Ultra-Modern Porch

an ultra modern pergola standing over a clean, minimalist deck

Extend a super contemporary home with an equally modern garden shelter. Although it admittedly won’t offer much in the way of wind or rain protection, this sleek pergola creates a dramatic vantage point for viewing your land. The unfussy garden furniture and smooth deck really bring the look together.

Sculptural Concrete Gazebo

a contemporary garden shelter that looks like a modern art piece

The contemporary style of this concrete gazebo is the epitome of functional garden art, and blending natural and man-made beauty is the way to create an iconic garden design. To feature something this dramatic in your own garden, you’ll probably want to find a landscaping professional who can work with your existing garden and help you kick it up a notch (or ten). If you like the look of concrete but aren’t quite ready a project of this scale, take a look at our other concrete garden ideas.

Greenery Galore

The secret to growing your own urban jungle? There’s no such thing as too many pots! This huge pergola looks like it’s being devoured by plants and vines, with vintage planters and the stunning wooden hot tub adding to the elegant, aged-luxury vibe. Although there would be plenty of space to pull this off in a big garden, you could use this style across the entirely of a small garden for an even more dramatic effect – go big or go… back indoors?

Garden Gazebo Ideas for Every Style

I hope you enjoyed this list of gorgeous garden gazebo ideas! By now, you should be ready to plan your very own garden masterpiece. As long as you keep the purpose in mind, and choose the right materials, you’ll be all set to create your brand-new outdoor haven.

Stylish and Practical Garden Fence Ideas

a row of tulips growing in front of a simple wooden fence

The biggest mistake you can make when it comes to garden fencing is believing that it’s only there to separate your garden from other gardens. Try being just a little bit more creative with your garden fence ideas, and you’ll find that your boundary can be so much more than a line around the edge of your property.

Your fence has an important part to play in the style and atmosphere of your garden, and controls both who can see in and what you can see out. Fencing also plays a massive support role – literally. Climbing plants, hanging baskets, pergolas and sun shades might all rely on your fence to provide a stable piece of garden scenery.

The wrong fence will be something you notice every time you step into your garden. In contrast, the right fence will be so harmonious you could forget it’s there at all. If you’re looking for ways to give your garden a facelift, find the perfect style among these garden fence ideas.

Garden Fence Ideas to Create Character

Your fence is the first thing visitors will see when they approach your front garden, and it will set the tone for the rest of your property. In your back garden, your fence is the subtle canvas that lets your plants and decor express the personality and mood of your space. If you’re wondering how a fence can have character, take a look at these next few ideas.

Classic picket fencing

The white picket fence is a symbol of an idyllic life. In America, it’s typically found surrounding comfortable suburban houses, and in the UK we tend to associate it with picturesque cottages and quiet villages. If you want your home to feel traditional and welcoming, a picket fence will do the trick.

Picket fences are conventionally white, but really any shade looks nice, especially if it matches your front door or contrasts against the flowers in your garden borders. They’re perfect for a rustic aesthetic, like a cottage garden, or British-themed garden.

You can make a picket fence even more charming by adding lanterns, flower boxes or playing with height.

Stylish and Practical Garden Fence Ideas 14

Iron railings

Iron railings are mostly associated with traditional townhouses of the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras. You’ll find them in the historically wealthier areas of cities like London, Edinburgh, Bristol, Bath, Cambridge and Brighton. They’re elegant, secure and a little bit intimidating!

Iron railings can be made in two ways: using wrought iron or cast iron. The main difference is that wrought iron is manually hammered into unique shapes, while cast iron is shaped using moulds. Wrought iron is stronger, but cast iron is more uniform (and generally cheaper).

If you would like your home to look sophisticated and traditional (and, yes, a bit imposing), a set of iron railings might be up your street.  I actually found some nice information about the differences in iron railings through different periods, if you want to find some to match the dates of your home.

a black, iron fence with a silver Fleur-de-lis at the top of each bar

Rope fences

Certain garden aesthetics look better without fences at all, but you might still need something to show the edge of your garden or flower beds. Lashing a length of rope across a series of posts is a simple but effective way of marking out an area. This low-key style of fencing is particularly effective in breezy, beach-style gardens or decorative Japanese-inspired landscaping.

a garden water feature behind a decorative rope fence

Modern, slatted fences

Contemporary homes tend to look their best with minimalist fences. Crisp, fuss-free panels made from uniform shapes and colours create a sleek, fresh backdrop for all kinds of pared-back garden styles.

The direction of your fence material can create an illusion in your garden, so choose wisely. For example, the continuous horizontal slats of this fence encourage the eye all the way down to the bottom of the garden, making a weeny space appear longer.

In this garden, the effect is supported by the lines in the table and seating, and also by leaving the middle of the garden unobstructed. The slender table legs, low gravel bed and minimalist trees all help the space feel open, but not empty.

Disguise an Ugly Fence

Feeling “meh” about a bland fence that would be too expensive to replace? Here are a few garden fencing ideas that will save you some time and money.

Train climbing plants

You can literally add some life to a dull fence by training climbing plants to grow across it. Bonus points for flowering varieties and a gold star for blooms with fragrance. Jasmine and honeysuckle are my favourites.

This patio is a stunning example of obscuring a fence with foliage. Climbers can easily attach to a fence that’s slatted or made from mesh, while raised planters with tall flowers cover the lower half.

Add hanging baskets

Hanging baskets are one of my favourite ways to spruce up a space you don’t want to permanently alter too much (like a rental garden). Check out our hanging basket tips to get started, as well as our edible hanging baskets post. If you’re nervous about your fence supporting the weight of a hanging basket, try using those plant pots with hooks attached instead.

Cover it with a green wall

Green walls, also known as living garden walls or vertical gardens, are much more interesting to look at than a plain old fence. Use natural climbers, specially-planted succulents or even just artificial coverings to achieve the effect you like best.

Give it a coat of colour

It’s incredible how much difference colour can make. Crisp white will make everything seem cleaner and brighter; moody greys and black are super trendy and edgy. Pastel shades are fresh with a hint of fun, while bright jewel tones will make a big statement that livens up an otherwise ordinary space.

Whip out a paintbrush for a mural

Do you prefer a more eclectic, artsy or bohemian vibe? Garden murals aren’t for everyone, but they’ll certainly make your space more vibrant and interesting in a unique way. We did say your fence is a canvas, after all!

A quick search of the phrase “fence mural” brings up some incredible floral artwork (which makes sense in a garden, of course), but look up geometric and minimalist ideas too. An alternative is to paint your fence with chalkboard paint or pale matte colour and let your kids go to town with chalk paints that can wash away.

Light it up

Lighting is an essential part of garden design, and can make an otherwise boring fence seem more exciting. Try using directional lights, or strings of patterned or coloured fairy lights to cast more interesting shadows across a plain surface.

Practical Garden Fencing Ideas

Do you need a practical fence to keep your home secure? Are you looking for a fence that can provide a bit of privacy from your neighbours, or shelter from the elements? These examples of practical garden fencing ideas should help you out.

Garden fences for security

The best garden fences for security will be tall, difficult to climb and, ideally, solid. Look for vertically-directional styles that make it difficult to get a foothold, and designs that would be uncomfortable for someone to pull themselves over the top.

Solid fences not only stop opportunists from seeing your possessions from the street, but make it harder for them to assess how they could get in and out of your home. Of course, make sure your gate is equally secure.

Privacy fences

One of my favourite things to do in summer is to grab a book and head outside for some escapism. Nothing brings me crashing back to reality faster than a noisy neighbour suddenly appearing or – even worse – someone emerging from my own home having spotted me from a window.

The perfect solution to this is installing a couple of decorative fencing panels that you can simply hide behind. I like the pallet fencing on this decked area – the two heights mean it’s not completely anti-social, and the flowers are both decorative and noise-insulating.

You can create a similar effect by adding an extension to the top of your existing wall or fence. This can be a great way to keep the character of an older brick or stone wall, but give it a modern facelift that still lets some light through.

I also like green curtains for balconies. That’s where you use a trellis or twine to encourage plants to grow floor to ceiling, creating a delicate floral partition between you and whatever is on the other side.

Wind-break fencing

A bracing breeze is a wonderful thing. Trying to have a conversation, hang washing or tend to delicate plants in a garden that’s overly exposed to the wind or rain? Less so. Screens and windbreaks can create a more sheltered area to enjoy the things you love.

It might seem counter-intuitive, but a solid wall or fence isn’t the answer to reducing wind. At best, they’ll simply angle the gusts towards something else in your garden. At worst, they’ll be blown over in high winds and potentially cause serious damage (my mum’s garden wall came down in the winter storms last year… and the bricks hit her car).

Instead, choose a slightly open-weave fence that will shield you from the worst of the weather and greatly reduce the amount of air blowing through.

All-natural hedge borders

Hedges offer an environmentally-friendly way to get more greenery AND more privacy in your outdoor space. You get some gorgeous green walls, and your local wildlife will appreciate a new place to forage and shelter. Popular hedge plants include: blackthorn, bramble, hawthorn, holly, honeysuckle, ivy, rose. Take a look at these fast-growing hedges for more ideas.

the front of a house with a neat hedge along the boundary

Birds can nest among the branches, hedgehogs can tunnel through the stems and all kinds of beneficial bugs will make a home in the undergrowth. Plus, flowering hedges and shrubs encourage essential pollinators like bees and butterflies.

And, before you balk at the thought of constant hedge maintenance, it’s worth remembering that most creatures will thank you for letting your plants get a little bit overgrown. Put away the secateurs until the end of winter and you’ll find that lots of varieties actually produce more flowers, and will offer better coverage for birds and bugs to take cover.

a bench painted in a bright shade of fuschia sits on a patio in front of a hedge

 

In most cases, your garden fence isn’t going to be the centre of attention in your garden, but don’t underestimate the size of the supporting role it plays. Try any of these garden fence ideas and you’ll see just how much of an impact it can have. If you’re planning a complete garden overhaul, why not take a look at these patio ideas too, or think about adding a fire pit or garden swing chair?

18 of the Best Ground Cover Plants for UK Gardens

Are you totally over seeing bare dirt in your flower beds? Ground cover plants are what you need – shrubs or perennials that spread to create a lush, green carpet over the soil. The best ground cover plants are hardy, spread quickly, provide dense cover and limit weed growth.

Before you invest in this kind of foliage, check that the plants you choose are going to thrive in the temperate British climate. You’ll also have to do some initial weed control and plenty of watering through the first couple of seasons while they become established.

If you’re ready to add some extra greenery to your garden, here are the best ground cover plants for UK gardens.

What Are the Best Ground Cover Plants?

a flower bed or yellow orange and red nasturtiums

Garden nasturtiums

Although it’s native to South America, nasturtiums took off in the UK thanks to their stunning colours, edible properties and just how easy they are to grow. Even better, they act as natural pest control, keeping caterpillars and aphids away from more valuable flowers and crops, and they attract pollinators. Plant them in kitchen gardens or among insect hotels and leave the chemical pesticides on the shelf.

Asarabacca

Asarabacca, sometimes called foalfoot, offers dense, evergreen foliage, with small, rounded leaves that have a rich green colour, sometimes with creamy veins and silver mottling. In late spring, you might notice purple bell-shaped flowers blooming, although they’re typically hidden beneath the leaves. Asarabacca is perfect for creating a glade-like effect in wildlife gardens – it’s known to attract butterflies, too.

a cluster of pretty blue periwinkle flowers for flower bed ground cover

Periwinkle

Periwinkle is a fast-growing evergreen that becomes established very quickly. It’s perfect for awkward, difficult-to-fill spots, and is a cost-effective way to get thick coverage, fast. The drawback is that, for the exact same reasons, periwinkle can be difficult to get rid of if you ever change your gardening scheme.

a rockery garden with a red sedum plant

Sedum

This succulent-type plant is super easy to care for, with its fleshy leaves retaining water that can keep it hydrated in drier months. It keeps close to the ground, but the fantastic yellows, pinks and browns of sedum adds show-stopping contrast to any flower bed. In the UK, sedum will need to be in a full-sun position, which is why it’s not only among the best ground cover plants, it’s also fantastic for living roof cover.

best ground cover plants for texture include grasses like ribbon grass, also known as Phalaris arundinacea var. ‘Feesey’ or reed canary grass

Ribbon grass

Ribbon grass, sometimes called ‘Feesey’, is a variety of Phalaris arundinacea, or reed canary grass, which grows in tall, perennial clumps. It’s incredibly common in the UK, often growing around lakes and streams, but also flourishing in poor-quality soil like brownfield sites. Ribbon grass is great for adding visual variety to a garden, especially with its pink-tinged leaves, but it can grow invasively, so plant with caution.

pink trailing petunias cascading over each other

Petunia (trailing varieties)

Trailing petunias, like the “Charlie’s Angels Champagne” variety, give excellent ground cover alongside fantastic, trumpet-shaped flowers in stunning shades of purple in summer and autumn.  them in a spot that’s sunny but sheltered from the wind, and keep their soil moist. Petunias are also a favourite for hanging basket displays.

a large Himalayan juniper, a good ground cover plant for bushy texture

Himalayan juniper

We’re used to seeing juniper in its classic shade of green, but this variety has an icy-blue tinge, earning it the nickname ‘blue carpet’. A juniper shrub really won’t need much maintenance at all, and provides dense coverage roughly 1-2m across.

Lavender

Most people are familiar with lavender, and it really is such a versatile plant! Its silvery-green leaves and stems grow in thick clumps, blooming with fragranced purple flowers that come back each year. Lavender looks wonderful outside traditional homes and formal, French-style gardens, but also works well in more modern, low-maintenance spaces.

best ground cover plants include Irish moss, which has delicate white flowers

Irish moss

Despite its name, Irish moss is actually part of the carnation family, but it grows in bushy carpets that are perfect for Japanese-inspired rock gardens and creeping between the paving stones of grass-free spaces. In spring, it blooms with delicate white flowers that look stunning at the edge of a path or flower bed.

a cluster of cranesbill, also known as Johnson's Blue geraniums

Cranesbill

Johnson’s Blue geraniums are especially hardy, and will grow both upwards and outwards to fill a space. The small flowers and leaves are perfect for adding texture and busyness between statement plants like shrubs and roses. Look for varieties in pink or purple as well as blue.

a close up of camomile flowers, which have big yellow centres and little white petals

Camomile

The cheerful, daisy-like flowers of chamomile make any garden feel more welcoming. It’s incredibly low-maintenance too, and is a great candidate for grass-lawn alternatives. It fares well in sandy soil too, so it’s perfect for beach-themed gardens if you’re by the sea.

a tall, spiky clump of grass in an interesting dark green, blue-black colour

Mondo grass

Although it’s more common in the US, Mondo grass makes for fantastic ground cover if you can get hold of some in the UK. It comes in several varieties, including variegated leaves and glossy green-black. Plant it alongside other grasses, in borders, or even in clusters of planters.

18 of the Best Ground Cover Plants for UK Gardens 15

Wickwar flame/Scots heather

Wickwar flame, or Caluna vulgaris, is one of those plants that looks striking in every season. It bursts into yellow foliage in summer, which slowly turns into oranges and reds and winter approaches, interrupted briefly by tiny pink flowers in autumn. Although heathers are usually associated with coarse highland landscapes, the spicy shades of Wickwar flame are perfect for making a garden look more tropical and exotic, like a tiki-style garden in the UK.

Francee hostas, which have large leaves with white edges, overlapping each other

‘Francee’ hostas

Hostas are known for being highly effective ground covers, and come in countless varieties. ‘Francee’ has white-edged leaves that cascade over each other for some stunning flower bed action. Plus, it’s one of the more readily available hosta varieties.

a thick patch of sweet alyssum, which has lots of tiny delicate flowers in pink and purple

Sweet Alyssum

Sweet alyssum is one of my favourite ground cover plants, growing in dense clouds of tiny white and purple flowers that give off a honey-like perfume. What you lose from sweet alyssum being an annual, you more than recoup from its hardiness and tolerance for heat and drought. Frost will kill it off but, as a self-sower, you can reasonably expect it to return each year.

groundcover roses grow in shrubs close to the ground

Groundcover roses

No garden is truly complete without roses, and there is always a variety to suit what you’re looking for. For example, groundcover roses which extend outwards, rather than upwards, providing you with a stunning blanket of blooms. Although these varieties typically have very little fragrance, their pretty blends of white, pink, red and yellow make petals up for it.

a close up of Lily of the Valley, which has white bell-shaped flowers hanging off a tall green stem

Lily of the Valley

Considering how delicate its picture-perfect bells appear, Lily of the Valley is as hardy as any of the other plants on this list. Like the best ground cover plants are prone to do, Lily of the Valley can spread quickly, so make use of confined spaces and sturdy garden edging to minimise your maintenance. Also be aware that Lily of the Valley is toxic to cats and dogs, so avoid it if you’re looking for dog-friendly garden ideas.

blue bugleweed flowers reaching upwards out of a flower bed

Bugleweed

Sometimes known as ‘carpet’ bugleweed, you know you’re on the right track when floor coverage is in the name. Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) has green-brown foliage that will add depth and dimension to your flower beds, while at the same time making it difficult for weeds to creep through. In summer, tiny towers of purple or white flowers appear, giving you a stunning layer of chocolatey, coppery and violet tones.

Choosing the Best Ground Cover Plants for Your Garden

All of these ground cover plants will serve you well. To choose the best match, consider both the style of your garden and the climate conditions your plants will be faced with. Soil composition, sunlight, wind exposure and space to grow will play a big part in the longevity of your plants, and whether they struggle to survive, or vigorously thrive (even threatening your other plants).

Don’t forget to check out our related posts about low-maintenance gardens, grass-free gardens and beach inspired spaces. Happy planting!

15 Gorgeous Grass-Free Garden Ideas

When most people think of their dream garden, chances are they’re going to conjure up a lush green lawn. But why?

Yes, manicured grass looks beautiful, but it takes a lot of watering, trimming, weeding and edging to keep it looking perfect. When you’ve got a busy life – especially one with kids or pets – it’s not necessarily worth the effort. Especially when there are so many grass-free garden ideas that can make your garden more practical, imaginative and low-maintenance.

Plus, current trends are moving away from standard lawns for many reasons. Conventional gardens were originally inspired by traditional French gardens (which were intended to demonstrate human power over nature). Now, the fashion is more about embracing nature’s variety and wildness. You see a lot more English cottage gardens, with overflowing flower beds and features that focus on sustainability, like bug hotels and compost heaps.

There’s also the other end of the spectrum, where gardens have modern, minimalist aesthetics. These spaces are about pared-back patios and easy-care furniture and plants, so that more time outside can be spent relaxing.

So, whatever your reasons are for choosing a no-lawn layout, hopefully some of these grass-free garden ideas will be exactly what you need.

Grass-Free Garden Ideas …for When You Still Want Greenery

Choosing a no-lawn garden is not the same as abandoning plant life altogether – it can actually be the total opposite. Having a patio or deck instead of a lawn gives you much more room for pots and planters.

Keep a low-maintenance lawn

If part of you really does want a lawn and you’re just not up for maintaining it, artificial grass is an excellent alternative. Modern materials can look and feel much more realistic than the obviously-synthetic lawns of yesteryear, and need much less maintenance than an organic patch of grass.

Still, not all artificial grass is made the same, and you’ll want to shop around for a material you like. Most (if not all) fibres are safe for pets and children, but a softer texture is obviously going to be preferable. You’ll also find that the more expensive artificial lawn materials blend lots of different shades of green, yellow and brown. It can look strange close-up and in small swatch, but from a distance this blend looks much more similar to the real thing.

A quality, natural-looking artificial lawn will be between £20-40 per square metre. If you have a lot of space to cover, it’s also worth investing in a professional to level your garden and fit it properly. Check out our post on astroturf garden ideas for more tips and inspiration.

Plant a garden “carpet” instead

If it’s a lush, earthy garden floor that you’re after, there are more creative ways to achieve it than grass. There are, in fact, a whole variety of plants that will happily spread along your garden floor and between paving slabs, if you give them time.

Flowering ground-cover plants:

Admittedly, these don’t have quite the same durability and versatility as a standard lawn. But, providing you don’t have too much foot traffic, all of these plants can provide a beautiful (and low-maintenance green) carpet.

Grow a wild meadow

a raised planter filled with poppies and wildflowers

For those that are really reluctant to lose the lawn, maybe you don’t have to. “Meadow” gardens are an increasingly popular trend, and only work if you let your grass grow longer than normal, drastically reducing your mowing schedule.

If you want a floral meadow, you’ll need to plant a wildflower mix of seeds, or buy plug-plants to spread among the grasses. Check your soil type first to make sure you’re investing in flowers that will naturally thrive in your garden. Perennial meadow mixes will need a year or two to become established, but you can try annual mixes which, if planted in spring, should flower the same summer (but won’t come back next year). 

Meadow gardens look beautiful, but they’re not designed to be walked through. If you still want an area to sit or play in your garden, it’s best to mow that patch and let your meadow grow around it.

Encourage mossy growth in damp areas

There are a handful of plants that will thrive in shady, moist conditions, which are ideal if you’re aiming for a weathered look in a courtyard.

Soleirolia soleirolii (know also as “baby’s tears” and about a thousand other names, according to Wikipedia), is a mossy-looking type of nettle. It loves growing in drain areas, and can also be cultivated in green walls. If you like the Japanese garden aesthetic, soleirolia soleirolii can be used as a substitute for moss.

Green walls instead of green floors

Talking of green walls, they can be a beautiful way of having a green garden feature without a lawn. There are heaps of benefits to having a green wall (or green roof) – they can protect your walls from heavy rain, provide a habitat for birds and insects, and act as insulation from both temperature and traffic noise for your home. Pretty cool, right?

Grow food, not lawns

Food Not Lawns is a social movement that aims to improve food security in communities by helping urban gardeners grow produce in their gardens. The first Food Not Lawns group was started in Oregon in 1999, but groups with the same mission can now be found all over the world. Their aim is to build local networks to share tips, tools, food, seeds and whatever else might be needed to start growing food at home.

Does that sound good to you? If so, transforming your garden into an allotment, or kitchen garden, might be one of the best grass-free garden ideas for you. Although it can take a little time and money to get set up, in the long-run, growing your own produce is an incredibly low-cost way to supplement your food shopping. Plus, it can help you get more involved in your community!

Planned properly, you can grow vegetables (and even some fruit), in very little space throughout summer and autumn. Combined with a greenhouse and an indoor herb garden, you’ll be able to enjoy fresh, nutritious produce year-round.

Grass-Free Garden Ideas …Alternative Flooring Options

Maybe you’re not fussed about greenery in your outdoor space, and just want something solid and low-maintenance. No problem! There are several options when it comes to new flooring for a grass-free garden.

Decking for a no-grass garden

A garden deck looks crisp and modern, particularly with some statement garden furniture to fully enjoy it. Garden decking can have all of the drama, romance or homeliness of a lawn garden, provided you choose your garden lighting, decor and potted plants carefully.

Building a custom deck is a challenge though, and hiring professionals can get expensive. However, once it’s built, decking is an incredibly durable and low-maintenance choice for your outdoor living area.

Lay a patio or paving

A solid, durable surface – like concrete, flagstones or paving blocks – is pretty much the epitome of low-maintenance garden ideas. Choosing the right paving material is going to be important though, to make sure it blends harmoniously with your architecture. When it comes to the tones and shapes of your stonework, take inspiration from the exterior of your home.

Like building a deck, laying a patio can be expensive. It’s also important to consider water-run-off when designing your patio – you don’t want to end up with a pond after heavy rain! Check out porous and permeable materials, or growing greenery in your borders or the gaps between paving to be more sustainable.

Go for gravel

a clean, tidy patio with fences made that let you see bushes and trees on the other side

Gravel is one of the easier grass-free garden ideas to implement, as it can be much easier to lay than paving or decking. You’ll still need to dig up your existing garden, and lay a semi-permeable membrane to allow for drainage but prevent weeds from poking through. Alternatively, a foundation of hardcore stone will help keep your gravel in place. Another option is to install a plastic grid beneath your gravel, to stop it dispersing too far.

On the flip side, the uneven surface makes it slightly less practical for larger areas (especially if you want furniture), and it’s not great for pets or children. Gravel is better for small spaces, courtyards and front gardens (where trying to maintain a teeny patch of grass would be more hassle than it’s worth). At the front of the house, the noise of a gravel driveway or path can also work as security by alerting you whenever someone approaches.

Gravel can still look great in larger spaces, just add plenty of plants to break up the harsh, monotonous texture. Pots, planters or a border filled with ornamental grasses or wildflowers can look stunning. As for maintenance, you’ll want to rake your gravel regularly to keep it looking fresh, and occasionally top it up with fresh stones.

Grass-Free Garden Ideas …Final Styling Tips

Whether you choose a solid garden surface or an alternative form of greenery, take a look at these last few tips to help your grass-free garden ideas stand out.

Create drainage

Okay, so I know I must have mentioned this at least four times already! Drainage is really important, both for the environment and for you to be able to enjoy your garden in any weather (pick which reason is more important to you!) Using permeable grouting, porous materials or having your flooring very gently angled or grooved towards a plant-filled border.

Use all of the pots

There is a simply stunning variety of pots, planters and gro-bags available for just about any style of garden. Having a lawn-free garden doesn’t mean you can’t have an abundance of plants – in fact, having some foliage will add a beautiful softness to contrast against the stark visuals of hardscaping.

Tie-in texture

Whether it’s a lawn, deck, patio or gravelled area, having a large area that’s all the same just isn’t very interesting. Once you’ve got your chosen flooring down, add one or two other materials to break up the design. For example, building a wooden pergola over your patio, or choosing an organic jute rug to cover some of your paving stones. Fences covered in artificial grass, fabric gazebos and cosy garden swing chairs can also soften a stark space.

Focus on fencing

Your lawn is really only the second biggest surface in your outdoor space – how you treat or dress your fencing is going to have a HUGE impact. It’s up to you whether you paint it, add lighting, cover it with a different textile or grow plants over it… Just don’t ignore it!

Be inspired by Japanese garden ideas

I’ve mentioned Japanese aesthetics a couple of times in this post, as Japanese garden design doesn’t rely on grass lawns nearly as much as western ideas do. Take a look at my post on Japanese gardens for more details about gravel, stepping stones, water features and moss.

Water features for wildlife

Lawns aren’t particularly welcoming for animals and insects, but neither is a patio. You can do your local wildlife a favour by adding a water feature in your garden – take a look at all kinds of garden water feature ideas here for inspiration! A water bowl or natural pond will encourage birds, dragonflies and even frogs.

Choosing Your Grass-Free Garden Ideas

There are lots of reasons why you might be looking for ways to replace your lawn. If you’re struggling to choose what exactly to replace it with, there are some things to keep in mind.

First, start with what you actually use your garden for, or how you want to be able to use it (presumably once it’s easier to look after). If you want a space to socialise, cook outdoors or grow your own food, make sure you have a comfortable area to sit, have a BBQ area or house plants respectively.

Don’t assume that grass-free garden ideas aren’t compatible with your lifestyle. Kids are just as happy on artificial grass as the real thing, and will be delighted if solid flooring means they can occasionally go crazy with chalks and crafts. Solid floors are actually a good way to help your dog keep its claws filed, and no garden will ever be a complete replacement for a park!

What are your favourite garden features? Losing the lawn can give you the space you need for a luxurious hot tub, much-needed garden man cave or chilled-out sunbathing spot.

Good luck with your grass-free planning, and let us know how you get on in the comments! We love hearing about your garden style.

Modern Sustainability: Green Roof Ideas and Tips

Urban gardening is all about finding innovative ways to create green spaces when there’s barely room for a garden. My favourite examples of this? Green roofing and living walls.

I’ve spoken about green roofs lots of times – usually in posts where we’re looking at garden innovations, bin storage ideas or garden shed ideas. So, today, I thought I would finally get down into some detail and share my favourite green roof ideas with you.

What is a green roof?

stepping stones lead to a shed with a sedum roof

A green roof, or living roof garden, is where the surface of a roof is covered with living vegetation (not to be confused with a rooftop garden, where there’s room to hang out). Green roof plant life is intended to be more or less self-sustaining, and to potentially provide a habitat for wildlife. Not to be confused with a rooftop garden; you won’t be able to walk on the “green” areas of your roof. Green walls are essentially the same concept, but planted on a vertical surface instead of on a roof.

What’s the point of a green roof?

I’m so glad you asked! Green roofs have several things going for them. To start with, they just look more interesting than a regular roof. I find this especially true for modern buildings, where a vibrant living roof makes an otherwise minimalist building look so much more welcoming.

Green roofing also has environmental benefits. Aside from being generally good for capturing carbon dioxide and lowering the ambient outdoor temperature, green roofs offer a habitat and food source for wildlife. A green roof can also be used to protect a building from rain damage, as the plants will absorb significantly more than a regular roof, minimising the run-off into drainage systems.

There are advantages on the inside of the building, too, as the rooftop vegetation both absorbs heat from the sun and provides insulation from cold weather. The main perk of this is that your heating and cooling costs will go down, but if you live in a high-density area, you’ll be insulated against noise, too. Green walls are also great for this.

Are there drawbacks to having a green roof?

Nothing is perfect, and there are some considerations to make before installing a green roof. For starters, there’s the up-front cost of strengthening your existing roof (to take the weight of the green layer), as well as the cost of the materials and plants to create the new roof layer. However, it should be said that the protection from a living roof can extend the lifespan of your base roof by decades. You’ll also balance the initial outlay with lower energy bills, so overall it’s still a cost-saving decision.

There will always be some level of maintenance required to make sure your green roof is thriving – even if you choose self-sufficient or drought-tolerant plants. You’ll need to keep an eye on it, and be prepared to occasionally weed, feed and water your rooftop plants (or hire a professional service to do it for you).

How do you build a green roof?

To answer that question, it’s important to first understand that there are two main types of green roof: intensive green roofs and extensive green roofs. There is also a kind of hybrid option.

Intensive green roofs

Intensive green roofs include large plants like bushes and even small trees. These are more like “roof gardens”, and are a pretty significant undertaking – which is why they’re more common on commercial properties than private homes. Intensive roof gardens need a layer of soil (or something similar), and typically have a built-in irrigation system, which add to their considerable weight.

Extensive green roofs

Extensive green roofs have a low layer of hardy plants, such as moss and sedum. These roofs are relatively lightweight, and are intended to be relatively self-sufficient in terms of watering and maintenance. Extensive green roofs can usually be built on existing surfaces, and won’t need much (if any) growing medium or soil.

Semi-extensive green roofs

The “kind of hybrid option” I mentioned is the semi-extensive green roof, which uses extensive green roof ideas, but on a layer of substrate that can support more diverse plants, like an intensive roof. Unlike an intensive green roof, a semi-extensive green roof isn’t designed to house shrubs, trees, or any other large plants.

We’ll mainly look at extensive green roof ideas in this post, as that’s almost certainly what you’ll be building at home. Also, if you’re planning to build an intensive green roof, specific, professional advice will always be leagues better than generic green roof ideas you find online.

Building a living roof garden

Even a simple living roof is made up of several layers. Closest to the roof or wall there is typically an insulation layer covered by a waterproof membrane or coating (which will need to resist the acids released from plant roots). There may also be an additional root barrier layer as extra protection for your roof. This foundation is to protect your roof from leaks or damage caused by the plants.

On top of these goes drainage, which could be clay or gravel, or a specialised perforated plastic, covered by a geotextile matting to act as a base for the soil. These layers help water filter through without damaging your plant roots, so you should either plan where the runoff should go, or look for designs that save the water for the plants to use later.

Finally, the surface of your living roof needs soil or – even better – a lightweight growing medium that can provide adequate drainage. You can usually find special blends of growing media that are designed for green roofs. Once this is laid, you can start planting! While your plants are getting established, you should cover them with an erosion control system (sometimes called “erosion blankets” or “wind blankets”), so the soil stays in place.

Green roof ideas: What to plant

There are a handful of hardy plants that are very popular in green roof and vertical garden design. When you’re choosing plants for a green roof, look for ones that are drought-tolerant and can withstand unsheltered exposure to wind, rain, snow and sunlight. Really, the best way to choose plants for a roof garden is to get some expert advice in the plants that are best suited to your local climate.

Sedum

Sedum is the most common type of plant for an extensive green roof. It’s hardy and incredibly tolerant to even the worst of British weather. Sedums are so popular (and so suited to this situation) that you can actually buy ready-grown sedum “mats” that give you instant coverage and greenery. 

Lichen and moss

Moss and lichen thrive in high-moisture environments, so are fairly easy to cultivate in roof gardens in the UK. As long as you have a little bit of patience, waiting for a cover of moss and lichen is a cheap, low-effort way to get a green roof.

Grasses

Ornamental grasses are another option, and can look really stunning if you choose your variety carefully. I’ve seen green roofs covered with long blades of stipa tenuissima, which sway beautifully in the breeze. I’ve also seen gardens that have covered their shed roofs with regular turf – it looks quirky from ground level, and totally camouflages the structure from above!

Wildflowers

Planting wildflowers is a wonderful way to bring colour and vibrancy to your living roof. Plan them carefully though: mixes of annual seeds will flower immediately, but won’t return the following year. A self-seeding or perennial mix might take a year or two to get going, but will be less ongoing effort. Wildflower meadows – whether in a grass-free garden or on your roof – are excellent at attracting insects and wildlife.

Tips for healthy living plant roofs and walls

Where can you grow green roofs?

The beauty of extensive green roof systems is that they can be grown almost anywhere – perfect for urban living. If you don’t plan to put living plants on the roof of your home, you can apply green roof ideas to almost any other flat surface in your garden.

If you’re intent on a DIY project, a flat (or relatively flat) roof is going to be easiest. So, your shed, garage, bin store or rabbit hutch is probably the perfect candidate.

However, no pitch is too steep for a living roof – it just eventually becomes a vertical garden! So, if you had a cabin, greenhouse or lean-to with a pitched roof, you can still use them as a canvas for your green roof ideas. Just remember that you’ll need to compensate for the angle with ways to retain water and substrate.

You’ll also need to factor in the weight of the green roof – including when it’s covered with snow or soaked in rain.

Of course, you might be thinking about putting a green roof on your entire home – and it’s an excellent idea! Check in with your local council first though in case you need planning permission, and definitely hire a surveyor to assess how much added weight your roof can take.

No roof too small

When you want a green roof but don’t have much room (or access to an obvious roof), you’ll have to start thinking outside the box. Or, maybe that should be thinking on the box. Any box. Like a bird box. Cute, no?

Houses for the birds and the bees

Insect hotels are another wonderful way to encourage wildlife into your garden. Green roof foliage offers shelter and food for insects, so it makes perfect sense to pair the two ideas together.

Create a distraction

Choose your green roof ideas wisely and they’ll create an interesting focal point for your garden – making less thrilling features shrink into the background. For example, this gorgeous green roof in Croyden. The wheelie bins are well hidden, and according the homeowners, they often have chats with the neighbours about their gorgeous display!


Finding interesting ways to add layers and depth to your garden can be a challenge, but these green roof ideas will add texture and life in even the most unusual spaces. Don’t forget to take a look at our green wall ideas for more ways to help the environment and transform your garden!

Maximising Your Outdoors: Side Return Garden Ideas

I have lived in several homes and, almost universally, the side garden situation has been dismal. Why is it that this gap between one home and the next seems to get so little love?

Well, okay, I know the answer to that. The side return of a house is usually stuck in the shadow of the buildings it’s between, meaning that it’s colder and damper than anywhere else in your garden. For many people, the passage between their gardens is purely functional – a route for dragging garden materials and bins through without getting your carpets muddy. 

Side Return Garden Ideas: Clearing Things Up

a narrow garden with a deck area and a paving stone pathway leading across gravel

Honestly, the reason our side gardens are a bit of a downer is quite often because we neglect them. It turns into a bit of a vicious cycle – we don’t like venturing down the side of our house because they’re overgrown… which only lets the problem get worse. So, if you’re determined to reclaim the space along the side of your house, the first thing we should look at is clearing it out.

The degree of stripping back will vary depending on what you ultimately want to do with the space. For example, if you want it to become a comfortable part of your garden, you may want to keep flower beds, plants and any existing path. On the other hand, if you just need it to be functional and low-maintenance, you might want to take the opportunity to strip everything out and replace it with hardscaping.

Delightful Decking

Wooden or composite decking is practical and stylish, and can fit with modern or rustic garden designs. If your side return is especially narrow, your best bet is to completely cover the floor with decking – but lay the grain horizontally or diagonally to draw the eye outwards and make the space feel wider. Alternatively, you can build a decked path with flower beds or gravel on either side. Lay the path off-centre, or even gently zig-zagged, and put furniture or planters in the widest sections to give the illusion of more space. Read our tips for building a low-maintenance deck.

Low-maintenance lawn

For a side garden that’s soft on the feet but low on the maintenance, try artificial grass. There are lots of low-budget options, and it’s easy to cut into various shapes to suit the angles of your specific side garden.

Practical pathways

Make it as easy for yourself as possible to get from A to B by laying down a quality paved pathway. Brick pavers or flat stones will make it a doddle to wheel bikes or bins through your garden, striking the balance between form and function. Letting moss grow between the stones will give you a softer, overgrown look – or you can keep a clean, modern aesthetic by laying gravel in the gaps.

Glorious Gravel

Gravel is attractive, hard wearing, low maintenance and low cost. It works in modern gardens and traditional ones, and the crunch as you walk across it can act as a security feature for your home. So, what exactly isn’t there to love? This video has more tips about laying gravel.

Fantastic fencing

Painting your side garden fence will instantly change the tone and lift the mood. A light colour will bounce light around shady side returns, but why not go for something bolder? If you’ve been living with a previously uninspiring view from the kitchen window, treat yourself to a bright blue, deep pink or cheerful orange.

Making Your Side Return Inviting

Once it’s cleared out, you’ll see just how much space you have available at the side of your home – and it’s probably more than you think. Adding just a few practical and decorative elements can make using your side passage significantly more enjoyable from now on.

Get growing!

Plants are the obvious way to make your side return feel more welcoming, but grow strategically if you previously struggled with pruning them. Choose a single variety of climber for simplicity, or use containers to limit how unruly your vegetation can get.

Window boxes can be very practical in a side garden, if you have the room. Just make sure any herbs and flowers are suited to a shady position – we’ve got tips for both shade-loving vegetables and plants for partial sun. If you have any windows looking out into the passageway, prioritise the view from them. As in, start growing your plants against the fence directly opposite the window, and reposition your bins somewhere further down.

Light it up

Garden lighting can totally transform any outdoor space and make it much more usable. To turn your unloved side return into a cosy seating area, try hanging festoons or fairy lights along your fence. If being able to see where you’re walking is more important, try installing floor-level downlighters, or stake lights along the path.

Illuminating storage units is important too. Make sure you can easily find your way to bins – single-handedly (assuming you’re carrying rubbish), and without getting muddy or gunky.

If you’re keeping anything valuable in your side garden, like bikes or furniture, make sure you can see well enough to access it without getting damaged. Your lighting can also act as a security feature if you’re concerned about theft (but use solid fencing to reduce prying eyes)!

Be strategic with structure

The secret to a garden looking interesting and luxurious is to add structure. However, you don’t want to make your side return any shadier than it already is.

Pergolas and fencing should be as open as possible (you can always train climbing plants to give you a bit more privacy later). Archways or trellises are maybe a better way to create a little bit of structure without creating a lot of shadow.

If you build a lean-to or storage unit of some kind, try to use transparent or translucent materials that will still let the sun in.

Side Return Garden Ideas: Reclaiming The Space

When outdoor space is minimal, you should be using every inch that you can! There are loads of side return garden ideas that can transform even the narrowest strip into a dining area, seating space, cooking spot or practical storage zone (that might give you back some space from your main garden area).

Cosy, compact seating

I am constantly amazed by all of the innovative ways people save floor space in their garden. You might think there’s no way you could fit seating in your side garden, but you might want to grab a measuring tape and reconsider.

Folding bistro tables and drop-leaf tables are perfect for creating an occasional al fresco dining experience, and narrow benches and stools can create a cosy nook for relaxing. Figure out what the widest parts of your side return are, and whether you can arrange furniture in such a way that the space has an additional function.

Build a beautiful BBQ area

Talking of dining outdoors – what about using this narrow side space for cooking? This is especially useful if you have enough garden space for a dining table but not a lot else. Hard paving is a good, solid foundation for a small BBQ or fire pit, and it will keep smoke from blowing straight into your guests’ faces if they’re chilling outside as you grill.

Slimline storage spaces

If you already have a decent-sized garden, you might not need recreational side return garden ideas. Instead, how about using it as a practical storage space? Most people already hide their wheelie bins here, so building a simple bin shelter keeps things tidy and attractive.

Your narrow side return is the perfect place to build an outdoor log store if you have an open fire at home. Or, you might be able to finally create room for a solid fuel DIY fire pit!

Side returns are also good places to keep bikes, scooters and kids’ ride-on toys, especially if you often need to take them out front. Take a look at our other ideas for storing garden toys.

Functional workspace

Adding a narrow table or workbench to your side return can help you in all kinds of ways. In spring, you’ll be able to use it as a potting bench while you spruce up your plants. In summer, it can be a refreshments table while you hang outside. When autumn comes, you can keep your garden maintenance and DIY tools handy, and putting a tarpaulin over the bench can create sufficient frost protection for hardy plants in winter.

Set up a safe play area

Gardens aren’t always the safest play areas for kids or pets, especially if they double-up as work or hobby spaces for other family members. By cleaning up and fencing off your side return, you can create a dedicated outdoor fun zone for your smallest housemates.

Of course, this idea only works if your side return is secure and easy to supervise. Ideally, you’ll have excellent visibility from windows and/or a back door. If your side return has gate access to the front of your house, please, please avoid this idea!

A home for wildlife

Even if you don’t intend to use your side garden, that doesn’t mean that other critters can’t have access. In fact, local wildlife is much more likely to appreciate a spot that isn’t interfered with by humans too often.

Install a combination of bird baths, bird boxes and bird feeders to welcome flying friends (and possibly squirrels too). Holes in fences and ground-level boxes can help hedgehogs, and bug hotels will support your local pollinator population – and keep pest numbers down.

Look at your side garden in a new light

In 2020, we spent so much of our time at home, our gardens became more valuable than ever. Don’t let a single square foot go to waste – try out some of these side return garden ideas and reclaim the space!

26 DIY Garden Pallet Projects: Planters, Furniture and More

It really makes me very happy that gardens in the UK are slowly moving away from perfect lawns and manicured flower beds. Although I love the symmetry and order of French gardens and Italian gardens, there’s a rustic charm that comes with slightly chaotic cottage gardens and vintage decor.

As gardeners embrace a “looser” style to their gardens, we’re also seeing a trend for unique, handmade furniture – often the result of DIY projects. What’s the best material for these rough-and-ready builds? Well, more often than not, it’s the humble pallet.

There are several reasons why DIY garden pallet projects are popular. First, there are an abundance of pallets – millions of them are used every year in retail and shipping – so they’re easy and cheap to get hold of. Because they’re designed for transporting heavy goods, pallets are also really robust, and come in practical proportions. You don’t need to worry so much about measuring when your materials are already standardised!

Finally, there’s the aesthetic that pallets can bring to a garden. Old pallets come in fantastic, pre-weathered wood with a beautiful patina, instantly creating a charm and homeliness. Even if you source relatively new pallets, they come as a perfect blank slate, ready to be painted or sculpted however you need. The result is a beautiful piece of pallet furniture that’s totally unique and bespoke to your garden.

So, ready to save some pallets from landfill and start getting creative with some bespoke, DIY garden pallet projects? 

DIY Pallet Planters

Using old pallets to build raised garden planters is one of the most popular upcycling garden projects. However, there are all kinds of pallet furniture ideas for displaying plants. Pallets are typically made from sturdy, weather-resistant wood, and come in uniform sizes, making them pretty much the perfect material for DIY. Plus, they’ll age beautifully.

Here’s what a classic raised planter made from a reused pallet looks like. Fresh, functional, and especially attractive when combined with contrasting shapes and colours, like the pebble border and the round pots on either side.

Leaning a pallet against a wall is an easy way to create a low-cost, rustic plant stand. This idea is particularly useful if you’re renting (and don’t want to drill permanent shelves anywhere), or need ways to squeeze extra greenery into a small garden.

Like the rugged look of an unpainted pallet? Me too! There’s nothing wrong with leaving your wood pallet raw and exposed. To emphasise the old wood, stick to simple plant pots – like this collection of terracotta.

When you’re organising a limited planting space – particularly a vegetable patch – adding a bit of height can help you keep things separate. In this kitchen garden, pallets have been used to create an area to grow catnip, away from the other veggies. It’ll help you keep track of what’s what!

Here’s a different way that you can use deconstructed pallets to display your plants, that needs just two strong hooks in your wall. Take a flat section of the pallet and screw your pots or planters directly to the wood. Then use two loops of rope to hang the pallet to the wall hooks, adding more sections below if you have more plants.

DIY garden pallet ideas using salvaged pallets on the wall as plant racks

Why use part of a pallet when you could use the whole thing? On this rustic wall with exposed brick, pallets have been painted white and fixed to the wall as a support for flower boxes. I like how hanging baskets have been added to the bottom, giving the whole display extra dimension.

Okay, I can’t even pretend that this isn’t just another version of the same thing – a whole pallet, on a wall, filled with flowers. I’m just obsessed with how pretty this one is! One thing to think about is that herbs grow particularly well in small spaces, so if you like growing things you can use in the kitchen, a pallet garden like this is a good choice for that.

DIY Pallet Seating

Building seats and benches from recycled pallets is a fantastic project for DIY beginners. As you’ll see in this section, lots of designs don’t actually need to you to disassemble the pallets at all, and you can focus on securing them together, giving them a lick of paint and adding accessories.

A set like this is incredibly simple to make, with each section needing two pallets for the base, and one for the back. By painting the bench grey, it blends in with the background and gives the spotlight to the pretty blanket and outdoor rug.

 If you’re dealing with pallets in slightly different colours, painting everything a uniform shade – like this modern grey – will tie your furniture set together. Add seat cushions in the same shade, and stick to a pared-back colour scheme for your other decorative elements. This balcony/roof terrace area looks cosy and chic with its monochrome palette.

Need some extra outdoor storage? You could use the gaps between the slats to hold drawers, like the bench on this balcony. They’re not exactly going to replace your shed, but if you only need to store some small gardening tools and seedling trays, they’ll do nicely.

As you can see, this furniture set is made completely from pallets. I particularly like the practical features here – casters on the coffee table so you can move it around, and hinges on the stool cushions so they can be used as storage. The deep blue cushions look luxurious and inviting, too!

I always think a hanging chair or swinging bench adds so much personality to a garden. I love egg-shaped hanging seats, but I’m even more impressed by this DIY swing bench! It looks like it still needs a coating and some cushions though – we’ve got a whole post with ideas about styling hanging garden chairs, if you’re interested.

I am very inspired by this set of pallet sofas with matching coffee table. The stain makes the set look really sophisticated and professional, and I love the way the table has room for a plant, lantern or other pieces of garden decor in the middle. It actually looks like the table and stools are made from reclaimed crates – perfect if you can’t find enough pallets to build everything you need.

These multi-purpose pallet benches are ideal for a mixed-use garden. It looks like they’re being used as both plant displays and seats – although a quick shuffle around could quickly transform them into a serving surface for that garden BBQ area. If you use your garden for different activities across the seasons, it’s often best to keep your furniture simple.

Turn a couple of pallets into a breezy cabana by adding a couple of branches or poles, a wide piece of fabric and a squashy pillow. It’s an easy way to upgrade your pallet furniture for summer, and can easily be removed again for winter.

DIY Pallet Garden Accessories

There are almost too many DIY garden pallet projects to choose from, but if you want something more unusual than planters or seating, here are a few pallet ideas that will definitely wow your garden guests.

Need a table to go with your garden chairs made from pallets? Well, this one might not be the one, because you’d never guess it was a pallet in its former life! The paint work really adds a punch of personality too, proving the pallets don’t have to always look rustic and rugged. Get the guide to making this from manomano.co.uk.

Fed up of your wheelie bins spoiling the beauty of your garden? Building some bin storage is the way to get your aesthetic back. If there’s a particular nook in your garden that you want to transfer into bin storage, a DIY build will enable you to get the measurements exactly right. This bin storage and log store actually looks incredibly cute!

This mini greenhouse made from pallets is a rewarding project for anyone with a green thumb. The hinged front makes it easy to reach in and access your seedlings, while the small footprint means it’s ideal for snatching sliver of sun in even the smallest of gardens.

DIY garden pallet projects for making a garden caddy for carrying plants and tools

Maybe you’ve already got a full-sized greenhouse, but feel like you’re forever taking stuff in and out. Save yourself some effort with this big garden caddy, made from – you guessed it – pallets. This two-level monster will help you cart plants, compost and gardening tools to wherever they need to go. Of course, you could make yours smaller if you need!

The summer of 2020 saw a huge surge in garden bars and home pubs. Building your own bar out of pallets is a fun DIY project and a low-cost commitment, but can look fantastic. Just a few homey touches transform this garden corner into a sophisticated space for summer drinks – check out our page of garden bar ideas to see heaps more ways you can build a bar from pallets.

If you like the idea of a garden bar, but don’t want to scare your neighbours with a whole stand dedicated to drinking, how about something on a smaller scale… Like this fold-out bar with a door that doubles as a table? All you need is a couple of bar stools and to keep it stocked!

Pallets are also useful shelves for man-caves and she-sheds. They’re perfect for holding just a few things without encouraging clutter. If you’re trying to make a garden room cosy, just add a few candles, a vase filled with battery-powered fairy lights, and a bottle with some glasses for the occasional nightcap.

a vegetable patch and flower beds fenced in with pallets painted white

Is one area of your garden particularly precious? Pallet fencing looks friendly and pretty, but will keep boisterous pets or curious kids out of a tender vegetable patch or away from toxic blooms. I really like how this fence has used the depth of the pallets and flower boxes, too!

Here’s another example of DIY garden pallet projects that can be used as both planters and fencing. This style would give you a bit more privacy, and would work well as a divider in a long garden, or as one side of a pergola.

A small stack of pallets is perfect for building a large-scale bug hotel, if you have the room. Fill the gaps with various organic materials, like tiles, hay, pinecones and pebbles to create a home for nesting insects. Take a look at more garden bug hotels for ideas.

Interested in DIY garden pallet projects that are about sustainability? You can use pallets to create dividers for a garden compost heap and keep your compost pile contained. It’s cheaper than buying a standalone compost container, although you will have to turn your compost manually. Not sure what that means? Our guide to composting has all the tips you need.

You don’t necessarily need to build anything to make the most of pallets in your garden – sometimes, taking the pallet apart is enough! I think this wooden walkway looks fantastic, and would be right at home in an enchanted garden, or even a minimalist, Japanese-style garden. What do you think?

Garden Style Ideas

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11 Ideas & Tips for a Cosy Autumn Garden

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Here’s a list of jobs you can tackle over the next few weeks to get your growing space in tip-top condition and get your garden ready for winter.

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15 Tips for an Autumn Garden Clean Up

When it comes to cleaning up your garden in autumn, it’s easy to lose yourself in the details. But trusting nature with your garden is often the best way to make sure it stays healthy and beautiful.