It’s time to turn your garden in to the extra room outdoors
Entertaining in our gardens is a great way to enjoy the weather, especially as lockdowns are easing and we can start to see our friends and family again. We are all going to be using our gardens to the max this summer so it’s time to pimp up your outdoor spaces and make them into an extra room. Sorting out your garden can really feel like an extension to the house. Opting for versatile and relaxing spaces which can be enjoyed in the evening as well as in the day is the way to go. Not all of us are blessed with large gardens so it is definitely key to make the best use of what we have. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, so plan out your big projects wisely to maximise your time at the weekends. Here we have compiled some suggestions to inspire you on the road to the garden of your dreams.
Is your garden in need of a major makeover? The best way to start is write down a wish list of everything you would really love to have in the garden. Create a board on Pinterest and capture your ideas which give you inspiration to work towards. Do you want a water feature? What about lighting? Now is the time to plan for these features because you will have to think about things like power or drainage. It is easier to dig the channels and bury the heavy duty cables to run the power before you lay the lawn or patio. Think about what you are going to use the space for? Is it a grown-up space for entertaining and relaxing, or do you want it to be an exciting sensory experience for younger members of the family? Whatever the end product will be, make sure you have thought of every eventuality, because unless you are going to employ a landscaping company you will ultimately be the project manager… so the buck stops here. After you have planned out large features and thought about drainage and cabling you need to think about the build. Are you laying a patio? Building decking? And what order should you be completing each section? Maybe complete all of the heavy duty work before you lay the lawn, this way wheelbarrows and other equipment won’t churn up your new turf before it has had time to become established.
Decking and patio areas
If you have a large expanse of lawn this is a great way to break this up and add in sections to your garden to accommodate your garden furniture. Only have a small space? Create a low maintenance continental courtyard feel with some textured slabs in a warming colour. Raise up areas with decking, just remember not to go too high or you might be intruding on your neighbours privacy or even need planning permission if you went over a certain height. Ultimately we want a deck not a mezzanine floor. Import things to note are where in your garden are these sections being placed. Where does the sun sit in your garden? It’s pointless creating a seated section in the part of the garden which is permanently in shade.
Summer house or pagoda?
These can be a big investment, but can be so worth it. The right summer house for example can create an extra room to enjoy throughout the year. Dining and entertaining in these spaces can give you great enjoyment and the decor and furnishings can be full of colour and adorned with decorations you wouldn’t normally consider in the main living areas of your home… let your imagination run wild. Local tradesmen like www.scottsheds.com offer some really beautiful designs to create the extra special look you are after. Yes they normally come with a price tag to match, but from our experience it is most definitely money well spent. You can even convert a large enough summer house into a hobby area or a home gym, the sky’s the limit. Hot tub anyone? Now this is something to give some serious thought to. We appreciate they are not for everyone – they are really relaxing and great fun, but they can take a lot of looking after so make sure you really want one and it’s not going to be a fad.
Get away from the gadgets There are generally two types of people, those who want to get away from the electronics and those who don’t. If you are looking to turn your garden in to a tech free sanctuary there are plenty of ways to include other types of entertainment. The sound of silence – Part of the enjoyment of the garden is to take the time to enjoy the world around you. You may not live in a tranquil setting of the quintessential English garden but the sounds from an outdoor town space can offer a relaxing break in its own right. Kick back and read a book whilst listening to the sound of nature. Too quiet for you? Bump up the noise levels with a meditation inducing wind chime. Fancy a game? – You don’t have to build a tennis court, why not invest in some super-sized games like a giant Jenga, or take a board game outside? Anyone for scrabble in the sun with a glass of Pimms?
Take-out the tech Not wanting to abstain from the gadgets whilst enjoying your garden? Get the party going with portable bluetooth speakers like the Tivoli Andiamo (£190). This little speaker packs a punch and is perfect for the British weather as unlike many of the standard portable speakers it is waterproof. One full charge will give you around twenty hours of music, so plenty to enjoy your al fresco lunch and beyond into an impromptu evening soirée. If you are looking at using your tech successfully outside you need to tick a few boxes – do you have outdoor sockets and do you have a strong enough WiFi signal? Try the TP-Link RE650 AC2600 Wi-Fi Range Extender (£69.99) to ensure you have full coverage everywhere inside and out.
Let there be light
Once again we have two clear categories here – wired or solar, each bringing their own challenges and benefits… but which one to choose? All exterior lights need to be protected from the elements, especially if they are of the wired variety – you can never take any risks with electricity, so if in doubt it is always best to talk to an expert. All garden lights need to rated at least IP43, ensuring that they’re safe and will endure outside. You will generally find that solar variations will have a lower IP rating than the wired kind.
Solar lights are pretty easy to install. Something like a rock light to light up pathways or add a little blast of light to a flower bed just need to placed, what could possibly be easier than that? Just remember to make sure the solar panels get enough light throughout the day to charge up. Other solar lights normally just need a few holes drilling to secure them in place. Wired lights on the other hand take a little more effort as cabling will have to be run. If you are running cables in the ground this ideally needs to be done pre-build and using the appropriate products to ensure that the wiring doesn’t degrade in the ground and that it is safe if it is accidentally dug up. Outdoor sockets can be added to plug appliances like water features. It is best to get a qualified electrician to do this.
Let it shine
The level of brightness and the quality of light mainly depends on how much you spend, however generally speaking the wired variety will generate a brighter and better quality of light than its solar powered cousin. Things to look at are lumen and lighting distance. Also do you want to switch the lights on and off manually or with a smart device like your Alexa or do you want them activated with a PIR when motion is detected?
When making any alterations to your garden a big thing to remember is if it will be practical for all members of the family, including the four legged variety. Will there be enough shady places to spend a snoozy afternoon?
Will there still be an area for their… facilities?
Now you have gone to all the trouble of laying a new deck or building your amazing summer house it is time to get on with the planting. Here we look at a few tips to get you heading in the right direction.
You planned out your garden, so you should already have an idea of where you want everything positioned. This will include where you envisioned flower beds or planters will be positioned. Knowing your garden is of utmost importance. Check out the aspect – is it south-facing or north-facing? Knowing where the sun falls in your garden will ultimately determine what and where you plant; not just where you wanted your sun trap decking for when you work on that tan. Doing a soil test will also help you to choose which plants to select. Getting the planting selection wrong can not only be frustrating but expensive. Is your soil acidic or alkaline? If in doubt you can always ask the advice of your local garden centre. Consider the plants you put together as well as the type. After all you want your garden to look great all year round not just a short seasonal burst of colour.
Planting & feeding
If you take your time to plant properly your garden will grow well and live for a long time. Take the time to weed and prepare the soil; add plenty of fertiliser and mulch where appropriate. Don’t plant too deep, some trees for example will not flourish, nor should you plant too shallow as this can cause the root ball to dry out. Knowing when to water and feed is literally life and death. Remember that a good watering of the root ball once or twice a week is better than just watering the leaves a little bit everyday. It is the roots that absorb the water, not the leaves. When feeding try and do this every couple of weeks throughout spring and summer, however it is worth remembering that you will need to feed more frequently if you are growing in pots or planters.
Pruning & pests
Pruning can always seem like a daunting task. How much do I cut back? Which bits do I prune? But if you learn how to do this well your plants will grow stronger and will flower or bear fruit better too. Knowing when to prune, how to cut and shape your plants is the key to success. Research your plants and find out how.
Why not try
Vegetables and herbs – It is worth starting small when it come to planning a vegetable patch. It can be tempting to treat this section of the garden a bit like a supermarket display. Instead stick to a few varieties which you love to use and you will find you will have a better harvest. Don’t be under the illusion that you will have an extensive harvest and will be self sufficient like the Good Life, however, you can have some wonderful home grown produce to enjoy. When you reach this stage enjoy the fruits of your labour with a celebration, gather round your friends and family and show off your strawberries. Potatoes are an easy place to start and will have a high success rate with minimum effort. You can always cultivate your own seed potatoes or buy some locally. Remember to earth-up when the shoots reach around 20cm. Dwarf fruit trees – This is an easy way to not only grow a fabulous tree in a pot, but you can also reap the benefits of a fruitful bounty when your tree bares fruit. With so many different varieties to choose from you will definitely find the right one for you.