Top tips to keep your garden looking good all year long

Spending time in the fresh air is one of the best forms of therapy you can get – and it’s free!

Researchers at the University of Essex found that being around nature for a mere five minutes a day is enough to improve your mood and self-esteem. It’s why Emma Brunel Smith started her Dynamic Outdoor Therapy business and I know that when the menopause moods hit or I’m just having a bad day, sitting in the garden and listening to the birds always picks me up.

When I lived in Madrid, where I regularly finished work at 9pm or later, I would always make time to sit on the terrace at the end of the day and watch the starlings and the bats overhead . In the distance, past the greenery of the fruit trees in the convent opposite us, I could see the parks leading down to Barajas airport and the mountains that surround the city. Work stresses seemed far, far away.

So important is the therapeutic effect of having an outdoor space to me that our garden is the first area of our new home that we’re tackling. Well, I call it a garden. We’ve got about a 4ft patch of soil where rose bushes once lived and that’s it. But there’s a decking area that we want renewed and our neighbours’ both have amazing gardens (one with a listed bush!) so with the help of Crazy Organic Mama’s guide to potted plants, we’ll have a little oasis of nature once it’s done.

Sadly, unlike Madrid, we can’t be guaranteed the weather in Britain (I’m looking at the clouds right now, wondering where this “heatwave” is). So as well as researching ways to spruce up the garden, I’ve been looking at ways to keep it looking good when we’re not using it.

I’ve also been spurred on by reading The Hygiene Specialist Dr Lisa Ackerly – did you know that garden tables can be as dirty as your bin handle? I clean my dining table after every meal, but after a couple of glasses of wine, the patio table is lucky if it gets put away at night.

So to keep my little therapy space fresh and clean, I’m going to follow this guide to make sure everything in the garden is lovely…

  My little piece of outdoor paradise – before the work!  My little piece of outdoor paradise – before the work!

Start with a clean slate

Having rented our home before buying it, we’ve inherited a lot of tired and worn-out bits and pieces. Things like the old yard brush which is so useless that it leaves behind more than it brushes up. So anything that can no longer be used – or gives us more hassle using it than it’s worth – has gone.

Similarly, any fallen leaves and dead branches are in the garden waste bin, too.

As we don’t have a jet washer, we’ve cleaned the path with a bleach-and-water combination to remove algae and moss and trimmed the ivy and that listed bush sneaking into our garden from next door.

Best part, however, is looking for new pots and plants – and I have the Japanese maple I lusted after when Crazy Organic Mama mentioned it. Jewel tones are supposed to be the colour palette for gardens this season so the beautiful ruby leaves will fit in nicely.

Keep it clean

I have a new mantra: “Clean my garden table before and after using it – no matter what the pinot grigio says.”

This won’t only keep my furniture looking good. The number of people suffering from food poisoning more than doubles over the summer, with bad garden hygiene being one of the causes. Don’t bother with lots of fancy sprays each promising to protect a different part of the garden. Something simple like Jeyes Fluid Multi-Purpose Disinfectant will do the trick perfectly.

Pick up after yourself

You know what the UK is like – it’s glorious sunshine one day and then torrential rain the next and that can ruin your garden furniture.

When I lived in Madrid, I would look on in bemusement as my friend took her cushions in each night. It wasn’t going to rain, so why bother? The answer came the following year, when my cushions were dull and faded and hers were still beautiful. So take your cushions and other fabrics in when you’re not using them to avoid sun damage. You can also move your furniture around to stop the sun shining on the same part every day.

If the colour has gone, try Dylon to bring it back to life.

Cover your bits!

When you cover your garden furniture, don’t tie it tight. Leave enough room for the air to circulate to prevent mould. A good covering will also protect against the sun if you want to leave the furniture out over a long period of time.

Protect for the next season

It’s worth taking time at the end of the season to make sure everything is protected and stored away properly, otherwise you may find yourself having to go shopping next summer.

Use a teak oil on your wooden furniture or any wooden items to keep them looking new. Apply with a rag, rubbing it in gently and following the grain – we’ve been doing this on the staircase so this is drummed into my head!

Also, if, like us, you have a metal patio set, check for rust and gently run a wire brush over any spots or treat it with sandpaper. You can paint it over with a clear metal varnish to make it look good again.

And that’s it! Blue skies are starting to peak through the clouds and I can hear the Pimms calling… Enjoy your outdoor space!

Do you have any hacks I should know to help me in the garden? I’d love to hear. Leave me a comment below.

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