Spring-cleaning your garden is a lot like personal grooming – if you do the basic maintenance regularly, you’re laying the foundation for something that looks inviting and is easier to care for in the long-term.
Putting a little bit of work in now will pay off when you’re having fun with family and friends in a lush, green extension to your living space.
1. The grateful dead
Winter can be unforgiving on your outdoor space, so it will appreciate a helping hand getting ready for the warmer months. Clear away everything that’s dry and dead, to allow the underlying glow to emerge and blossom.
The first thing to do is “exfoliate” the garden by trimming, pruning and weeding (easier in spring than summer, thanks to shorter roots), and removing dead matter from your ornamental grass before the regrowth starts. Woody herbs can be lightly clipped, but pruning times for other plants vary, so don’t get too scissor-happy.
Dead leaves, twigs and mulch will stop sunlight reaching areas that might need it, so get to work raking any debris up.
“It’s important to burn any diseased material if you’re able to.”
Professional gardener Tom Watson, Edinburgh
Consider hiring tools to help cut back damaged trees and turn discarded wood into mulch. This prevents having to send unnecessary waste to a landfill site.
Homemade mulch also tends to be slightly heavier than what you might buy in the garden centre, which means it’s less likely to get blown around.
2. Hose down and spruce up
To make the most of your garden, give grotty old paths, paving stones and patios a good scrub down, and hose away slippery, unsightly dirt and growth.
Do the same for bird baths and water features, checking for cracks that might have appeared during winter. Be honest with yourself: if these items still don’t look good, consider scrapping or replacing them – it’ll make such a difference to the space.
There’s a lot to be said for organising your garden tools and supplies too. Scrub off the rust, get rid of any caked-on mud and check the blades on mowers and trimmers. It’s a dreary job, but now’s the time to make sure your drainage ditches are clear.
Spring is also a good time for repairing fences and trellises, as there is less vegetation to work around.
3. Give your lawn a makeover
A nice-looking lawn requires a fair amount of care and attention, but the reward is worth the effort. Start your lawn spring-clean by raking away dead grass and other organic junk, trimming (not too short on the first cut of the year, though, particularly as it won’t have grown much over winter), and applying moss killer where required.
Check for bare and damaged patches, reseed these areas and aerate the whole lawn space. Fertilise with liquid feed that’s rich in nitrogen except if you’re planning to plant a wildflower mini-meadow. Keep the edges trim and tidy.
4. Time for bed
Your flower beds are where the real magic happens, so it’s worth treating them right. Start by removing all the old mulch, or working it back into the topsoil if it seems well composted. It doesn’t hurt to add some good compost or well-matured manure at this point.
Tidy up the edges of the beds, take a step back and perhaps consider adding a new border for some definition.
“You can bring the growing season forward by a few weeks, if necessary, by warming up the soil; just cover it with clear plastic or horticultural fleece before sowing.”
Professional gardener Tom Watson, Edinburgh
5. Delicious compost
If you don’t already have a compost heap, consider getting one going. The variety of compost bins on the market means you don’t need a massive garden, though bigger ones are more effective.
Ideally, you should position it in a shady area as the micro-organisms that turn waste to compost work best when conditions are constant. The Royal Horticultural Society recommends a blend of 25% to 50% green materials (lawn cuttings, kitchen waste, or manure) with the rest being woody, brown material, such as wood chippings, paper, straw and dead leaves.
Avoid letting any one material dominate the compost heap as it might get slimy. Turn it once a month to keep it well aired.
6. Enjoy your space
This is the best bit. Never stop thinking about the fun you can have in your garden. If looked after properly, it can be used year-round as a tranquil oasis to relax in, a family playground, or the perfect venue for an outdoor party. Think of it as your stylish second living room, or a lounge under the stars.
Whether you’re starting from scratch, considering a redesign or simply looking for inspiration, the Royal Horticultural Society’s design advice section has lots of great tips and ideas to help get you started.