As the warmer weather approaches, many of us will be thinking about making the most of our outdoor space – dragging out the barbecue, inflating the paddling pool, and dusting off sun loungers. The Met Office has predicted 2023 will be hotter than 2022, when the UK basked in the fourth warmest summer on record. So, if you can get your garden looking its best, you should have plenty of opportunities to enjoy it.
You don’t need to be a green-fingered fanatic with unlimited funds to spruce up your garden. It can easily be done on the cheap, if you go about it the right way. Neither do you need a lot of space – just as well with gardens in the UK generally shrinking in size.
Find out here how to transform your garden on a budget and create your own little patch of paradise for summer.
Perennial plants are the gift to your garden that goes on giving.
While annuals last for only one growing season, perennials can thrive for many years. This reduces spending on new bedding plants.
Perennials in garden beds, borders and containers will flower reliably every year, usually getting bigger each time.
Popular low-maintenance perennials include:
- Perennial geranium – a great border plant, with brightly-coloured flowers that bloom for months from late spring.
- Penstemon – short stems supporting large bell-shaped flowers in hues from deep purple to delicate pinks.
- Crocosmia – spreading, multi-flowered perennials in vivid shades of red, yellow and orange.
- Japanese anemone – large white, pink or mauve flowers on medium-tall wiry stems.
Fill Out Gaps with Annuals
Annuals provide bursts of colour all summer and beyond. They allow you to add variety to the garden by filling in spaces between your perennials.
Classic, affordable annuals include:
- Begonia – shades of red, white or pink, or multi-colour combinations of blooms, with bronze or deep green foliage.
- Cosmos – bushy plants with bright green feathery foliage and masses of flowers in a broad spectrum of colours.
- Nicotiana – a cottage garden mainstay providing long-lasting colour, fragrance and height. Many varieties release a sweet-scented aroma in the evening.
- African marigolds – yellow, orange or cream blooms on tall, sturdy stems. The flowers and foliage are fragrant when brushed against.
Grow Your Own Food
Consider devoting a patch of your garden to growing your own produce.
Growing vegetables and fruit can cut grocery bills while giving you a harvest of fresh, nutritious and tasty food.
Potatoes, strawberries, rhubarb, horseradish and asparagus can be planted as dormant roots in late winter.
If you’re planting in spring, try cucumbers, beets, carrots, tomatoes, beans, broccoli, garlic, onions or raspberries.
For an early crop of radishes, sow in February and protect with a cloche.
Use Hanging Baskets
Hanging baskets provide a cost-effective way to create extra colour at eye level in the garden.
You can put almost any small annual or perennial in a hanging basket, provided it won’t outgrow the container.
Vibrant bedding plants in hanging baskets provide a stunning short-term display, and herbs, shrubs and evergreens can be used for a longer-lasting show.
Good plants for summer baskets include:
- Creeping jenny.
Plants often seen in perennial baskets include:
- Purple-leaved sage.
Fruit and Vegetables in Hanging Baskets
You can also grow fruit and vegetables in hanging baskets, providing you with food for the table as well as an attractive garden display.
Strawberries and cherry tomatoes, for example, work well in baskets. And putting salad-leaf plants such as lettuce in baskets keeps them out of the way of slugs.
Other produce suitable for hanging baskets includes:
- Chili peppers.
- Leafy herbs.
- Dwarf beans.
Make Your Own Compost
Compost enriches garden soil, and you can easily make your own for free by recycling garden and kitchen waste to rot down.
Organic matter that makes good compost and breaks down quickly includes:
- Vegetable peelings.
- Fruit waste.
- Grass cuttings.
- Plant prunings.
The cheapest way to produce compost is with an open compost heap. If you think this could spoil the look of your garden, consider making a compost bin.
Use rainwater collected in a water butt to keep your garden plants flourishing.
If your property is on a water meter, recycling rainwater for the garden will reduce your water bills.
A sprinkler or hosepipe can use up to 1,000 litres of water an hour. According to the Consumer Council for Water, rainwater collected from an average-sized house roof can fill a water butt 450 times a year.
Recycling rainwater also ensures you won’t be caught off guard during the summer by any hosepipe bans during a spell of drought.
Neither will you have to worry about hard water from the tap damaging certain varieties of plants.
Attract Bees and Butterflies
Bees and butterflies breathe new life into gardens as vital pollinators of plants. Butterfly- and bee-friendly gardens typically contain plants such as:
One of the best ways to attract pollinator insects to your garden is to sow native wildflower seeds in March or April. These plants are easy to grow and maintain and often less vulnerable to pests than non-native plants.
Dig Out Those Weeds
Removing weeds may not be the most exciting job in the garden but it costs you nothing and is essential to prevent your outdoor space from becoming overgrown.
As well as spoiling the appearance of your garden, weeds also make it more difficult to grow the plants you want: they steal water and nutrients from them.
Along with the plants we cherish, weeds start to emerge in spring and early summer. If you get rid of weeds when they start to appear, between March and June, you won’t have to weed as much throughout the summer.
When digging up weeds, make sure you remove the roots, or they will regrow.
Patios can become a breeding ground for weeds. Instead of buying an expensive branded patio weed killer, use white vinegar, salt, and washing-up liquid in a sprayer. Make a solution of four parts vinegar to one part water, with a dash of liquid soap.