June Tips and advce

Taking on a new garden, or a new area within an established garden, is an exciting adventure. It takes some detective work, to see what the soil is like and to work out what will grow and where. The fun really starts when you get stuck in and begin to pull the garden together. From small acorns, great trees grow – it’s funny how one small change can have the domino effect of leading to more. So don’t be afraid to just get started, even if it’s random or you start in the least obvious place. It’s far worse to be paralyzed by the enormity of the task ahead of you, so start slowly nibbling away at the project and you will be amazed at how quickly an alien garden can start to look as if it belongs to you. Starting a new garden Once you have found a patch of garden to transform, start spying on your neighbours. A look over next-door’s fence or around the neighbourhood will give you a good idea of the kind of plants you will be able to grow. Take pictures of the plants you like and get them identified and ordered at your local nursery or garden centre. Starting a new garden is a process to be relished, and also one that should be approached according to the situation. Old and neglected gardens Begin by hacking back the grass to see what comes to light – often it is old gems like long-lived peonies and hidden gooseberry bushes. Once the grass is cut, it won’t get in your way when you are pruning trees and collecting rubbish. Keep the grass out of the compost though, as it will be full of weeds. Take it to your local council green-waste collection point or stack and cover it loosely with plastic, and burn it when it dries out. Take care when you are pruning not to chop out more than is necessary. I’ve been to gardens where the owners have ripped out established trees and shrubs, only to replant similar replacements. Think before you cut back and rip out, and think about what your new views will look like. An over-pruned garden is rarely a private one! Change of use gardens This often happens when children arrive or leave home. Crown lifting is a good way of making more lawn space for kids to play around on. And when the kids have grown up and left home, lawn lifting will restore the size of your borders. Moving house Approach a new garden with care. If you take on major landscaping projects in winter you could dig up and kill dormant plants. Try to start work in a small area and wait to see what appears in the rest of the garden. This way you can make the most of the floral ‘buried treasure’. You can move plants when the leaves come up, either to new flowerbeds or into a temporary nursery bed (a border where they can be left to look after themselves) until you can identify what they are. If you bring plants with you from your old garden it may be necessary to move them out of season, in which case move them straight into a nursery bed until you have time to replant them. Extract from Gardeners' World Practical Gardening Handbook by Toby Buckland, courtesy of www.rhs.org.uk