Back to work? So when are you going to find time to get all those gardening jobs done to make sure your plot looks pretty?
Well, you can save hours later on in the year by making a few changes now to give you that time back when you most need it.
Here are five ideas to give you a head start on maintaining your garden when others will be digging, mowing, watering and weeding every chance they get…
1. Use permanent plantings in containers
Plant containers with evergreens, shrubs or perennials that will come back year after year, to save time having to replant annuals with every change of season.
Lavender is a good stalwart, or you could also choose patio roses, which make a good low-maintenance alternative to summer bedding, with a long flowering season. Plant them in a big enough container and they can stay there for several years.
2. Consider automatic irrigation
Installing an automatic watering system in your garden will save you hours in the summer months. You can introduce seep hoses into borders and subtle irrigation systems to take care of patio plants.
It may involve some effort initially to get to grips with the timers and securing the hoses where you want them, but it will be worth the effort. Some systems have sensors that are placed in the soil, which can assess how dry it is and adjust watering accordingly.
3. Stop weeds before they start
You can save hours of weeding by spreading a thick mulch over your beds and borders, which not only suppresses weeds but will also help retain moisture. Loose mulches such as cocoa shells and compost will provide nutrients to the soil, while bark chippings and gravel will be long-lasting.
Mulches should really be applied annually and should be at least 5cm (2in) thick to be effective. If you’re a busy gardener, a thicker mulch of 7.5cm (3in) of good quality bark chippings should last up to three years, and can be applied at any time, although it’s better to mulch in late spring when the soil is moist and warm but before the weeds emerge.
4. Create no-dig vegetable beds
Save time in the long-run by making a no-dig raised bed with room to walk in-between. The soil won’t become compacted because no-one will be walking on it and will negate the need to dig. Make each bed between 1-1.5m (3-5ft) wide, so you can reach to the centre from the path.
The depth of the raised bed depends on which crops you are growing, so if it’s root vegetables you will need to make it deeper, while shallow-rooted crops such as lettuces will thrive in shallower beds.
5. Go for a natural lawn
Keeping a lawn looking pristine can be extremely time-consuming, as annual jobs include removing moss and thatch, reseeding bare patches, feeding, getting rid of lumps and bumps and regular mowing during the growing season. So, go for something that will take up less time.
Create a clover lawn for a longer, more natural look. It will need much less maintenance than a grass lawn, needs no feeding and only has to be mown once to remove dead flowerheads. Clover is also a magnet for bees.
Alternatively, go for a herb lawn with a mixture of creeping thymes or non-flowering chamomile, although these won’t stand hard wear, so you may need to cut a path if you’re going to walk through your herb lawn regularly.