It’s warm, the evenings are long, the birds are singing, you’re having a great time in your garden with friends and family, sharing drinks and summer meals together. Summer dreams start now. January & February are such dark & dreary months but it’s the best time to dream about the garden you would like. Use the long dark evenings to collect ideas & observe how you garden ‘behaves’.

Gardens & gardening are proving to be a vital part of healthy living recent research is showing. You may not dream of sitting in your garden all summer but being active, producing much of your own vegetables and fruit plus learning new skills. Using the garden is not just an activity for older folk, and the health benefits are as much for younger garden users too. Stress levels drop in a green space as well as a potential gym.

You may consider that you aren’t a gardener and that money, time and lack of knowledge have prevented you from having the garden you’d really like? Don’t be put off by your lack of knowledge, good garden centres have friendly people who know the stuff & the area. Modern garden products might also look complicated & the choice too big but manufacturers genuinely want to make it easier for you. they know there are millions of us out there feeling the same.

Want to make the most of your garden? Here’s how to start?

Since gardens are for people, start with describing you & your family. Creating a series of lists after describing yourselves set the perimeters that build your dream garden. Making a list of all the attributes your garden ‘must do’, ‘must have’ & you ‘would quite like one-day’ will help act as a map or plan. These maps always show north to the top & this helps you show where the sun shines & where shade is cast.

For example –for a family garden with children under 12 the list might include –

Must do; Be safe, be tough, be easy to care for, & be as colourful as possible.

Must have: Have an area to play, have an area to entertain (you, your family & friends). A drying area, a place for tools & bikes etc.

Would quite like (time to dream a little): a place to grow our own fruit & veg, a tree house, a water feature.

For a couple in their mid-forties with older children, it might include.

Must Do: A place to relax & entertain, be always colourful & interesting, & productive.

Must have: A sheltered patio/deck, great design with year-round interest and a pond, a ‘grow your own’ area. A shed or store.

Would quite like: a greenhouse, summer house, a plunge pool.

Add as much as you like – it’s your dream. You can always thin down afterwards. Remember if you have a family to include them in the process too.

With your list, you can assess what you have, and start from there. When you visit the garden centre with your list it becomes easier as you can now focus on you must haves & ignore the rest. A good place to get online inspiration is ‘Pinterest’. If you don’t know it just type Pinterest into your browser and then in the site search for ‘gardens’ and ‘garden design’. You can create your own Pinterest boards and ‘save’ your favourite ideas to your own boards.

Tips that help garden centre advisors: Note where the sun is at midday. This makes it easy to identify the sunny side & shady side of your garden. Know about your soil – after very heavy & prolonged rain does your soil flood, stays sticky for a long time or just dries out rapidly. Take pictures of your garden & take them with you to the garden centre. Bring them on a tablet if you have one. Show your Pinterest boards. You could draw a scale plan of your plots (front and back). Use Google Maps to help get the shape accurate. This will also help plot where north is.

Plants: Don’t be frightened by plants nor their botanical names. Good garden centres only sell plants with informative labels that include information on the positions they love & their expected size in 10 years & they will understand and this ‘foreign plant language’.

Want to start doing something now!

Start with pots & add slow release foods that feed for six months & promote maximum flowers to the compost. Also, add water gel to the potting compost. This absorbs extra water to ‘water’ when you’re not there (or forget). You can even buy compost with both incorporated already. Choose plants recommended for pots. Always ask if you’re not sure.

Remember gardens are for people like you & like your home, gardens need decorating occasionally. Ask advice from your our garden experts, they know their onions & probably yours too. Summer Dreams Start Now.

Focal points

To make the use of your garden all year round even when you don’t want to enter it, take a photo from the windows that you find yourself most commonly looking through. Typical views might be from the kitchen sink, your favourite chair, or your desk. Make these views a priority, after all, they could be the most important garden focal points you see.