Perk Up Your Patio With Autumn Pots Of Colour

As the new season approaches, plant some pretty pots to brighten the scene. Hannah Stephenson digs up top tips.

patio pots

As pots of tired summer bedding are tipped onto the compost heap to make way for autumn and winter flowers, there are certain things you should do now to ensure your container plants for the cooler months get off to a good start. Here’s our step-by-step guide…

1. Provide good drainage

Once you’ve emptied your pots of summer bedding and given the containers a good clean, line the base of your pots with crocks from broken terracotta pots or bits of polystyrene that your new bedding comes in, to make sure you have ample drainage for new autumn and winter bedding.

As autumn rains come, if your pots are exposed to the elements, the roots of your plants can become too wet if you don’t include sufficient drainage when you plant them up.

Mix a handful of sharp stone or grit into the fresh compost to help drainage and stand your pots on feet, so the moisture doesn’t come up through the pot and soak the roots from below.

2. Fill pots well

Unlike summer bedding, which grows rapidly to cover the whole area of the pot, winter bedding is slower to make an impact – so it’s best to plant winter bedding closer together in tubs, troughs and hanging baskets.

They won’t have as much growing time as summer plants had to make their mark, so don’t penny-pinch on the amount you buy.

3. Don’t over-water

Winter-flowering pansies and other bedding won’t need as much water as your summer annuals did, so don’t mix water-retaining granules into the fresh compost, or you’ll end up with rotten roots and wilted plants.

watering can

4. Shelter containers

If you have planted up pots with spring bulbs, violas and pansies, put them in a sheltered spot – say under a porch or cold greenhouse when the winter weather is at its worst – but make sure they get maximum light so they can benefit from even weaker sunshine.

As the weather gets cooler, protect plants by grouping containers and moving them closer to the wall to keep off wind and rain.

5. Choose plants wisely

Some bedding only appears in the autumn, including dwarf Michaelmas daisies, pot chrysanthemums and miniature cyclamen, while orange-berried winter cherries and ornamental kales appear slightly later on in the season. All can be put to good use in a container and enhanced with evergreen foliage plants.

Garden centres will now be awash with autumn and winter bedding, including pansies and violas, wallflowers, dianthus and cyclamen. Use a showstopper as the centre plant and then use trailers, such as creeping Jenny or ivy, around the outside of your pots, filling the gaps with pretty violas and pansies.

flower pot

So, if your are looking for a property with a great patio and extensive grounds with far reaching views, then take a look at this Hampshire property.

8 Tips for Giving your Garden a Late Summer Spruce-up

end-of-summer, garden-tips, autumn-preparation

As the season draws to a close, it’s time to clear patio debris, replace tired plants and restore order to your outdoor space. By Hannah Stephenson.

Back from your summer travels? Are your hanging baskets looking a little sorry, your pots pathetic and your borders brimming with weeds? Here are some easy but effective garden tidy-up tips…

  1. Save it

Save what you can, deadheading late-flowering blooms in borders which may come back to life. Perennials which have finished flowering can be cut back but will come back to life next year. Established trees and shrubs won’t generally have been damaged in your absence.

  1. Ditch it.

If your hanging baskets and pots of annuals have completely dried out, take them down and empty the contents onto the compost heap. Keep your spirits high by buying spring-flowering bulbs and, if you want late colour, pop into the garden centre to find some.

Good plants which will bring colour at this time of year include asters, chrysanthemums and nerines, along with rudbeckias and sedums. Plant some in the pots that are now free from wilted summer annuals.

end-of-summer, garden-tips, dead-heading
  1. Tend to the lawn.

With the hot summer we’ve had, the lawn might be looking like hay and shouldn’t need cutting. If it has grown substantially though, leave the blades on the highest setting for the first cut, reduce the height at the next a few days later, and then cut at the normal height. You’ll be surprised how much tidier the garden looks when the lawn has been mown. Take time to tidy up the lawn edges using edging shears.

  1. Lose the weeds.

Look over your beds and borders and if weeds have sprung up, then get rid of them quickly. Seeds shed at this time of year, which means more work later on. Keep on top of deadheading, otherwise the flowering will not continue as long as you’d like.

  1. Harvest now.

If you have a vegetable patch, harvest as much ripe produce as you can now, to stop the veg running to seed or becoming over-ripe. You can blanch (immerse in boiling water) and freeze many veg, including green beans and sweetcorn, so you don’t end up wasting what you pick.

Immerse the vegetables immediately into a bowl of iced water after blanching, to stop them continuing to cook. When cool, lift the veg from the iced water, spread out on a kitchen towel and pat dry to remove excess moisture. Pack loose vegetables in resealable plastic bags or other containers. Vegetables suitable for freezing include beans, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, peas, spinach, Swiss chard and summer squash. Even tomatoes can be frozen whole and then used in sauces and soups later on.

end-of-summer, garden-tips, autumn harvest
  1. Clear space for new crops.

Find time to clear vacant rows in the veg patch and refill them with autumn and winter crops as soon as you can.

  1. Put away pots for winter.

If you have empty pots you’re not going to use again this year, clean them with diluted disinfectant and stow in the shed for winter. That way, terracotta won’t crack and other vulnerable pots won’t perish when the frost comes. Also, remove and put away stakes which propped up plants which have now been cut back.

end-of-summer, garden-tips, pots
  1. Plan for next year.

Take time to write a list of what you are going to include and exclude in your plantings next year. Look for gaps you’ll need to fill in borders next season, and maybe extend the season by planning to plant some perennials which provide late-summer colour.

end-of-summer, garden-tips, dead-heading

The Grow-your-own Perks Of A Heatwave

Fewer Pests, Earlier Crops And Tastier Pickings! As allotment holders struggle to keep their crops watered, expert Mike Thurlow offers 7 plus points about home-growing in a heatwave.

garden-drought-heatwave-tips-property-hampshire

The long, dry summer may have been a struggle for allotment holders battling to keep up with watering – but hot weather is also keeping some garden nuisances at bay.

As National Allotments Week beckons, horticultural expert and allotment holder Mike Thurlow, of the National Allotment Society, says there are some advantages of a hot, sunny summer to ‘grow your own’ gangs nationwide, provided you keep your crops well watered.

1. Fewer aphids

“The heatwave seems to have slowed the insect population down. On the open ground, there haven’t been as many aphids. We had a short burst of greenfly earlier on in the year, which came to nothing, and not much since then,” he observes. “Just be aware that aphids have a second burst of activity towards the end of summer, so be prepared.”

2.Slugs have gone underground

“We haven’t had as many slug and snail problems this year, as they’re likely to have gone underground, but once it cools, there will be more, so you need to be vigilant when the rain arrives.”

slugs-gardening-property-hampshire

3. Less blight

If you water erratically, your tomatoes may still succumb to blossom end rot (where they turn brown at the base and split). But the dryness of the weather will prevent blight, says Thurlow, because blight thrives in humid, damp weather, when the spores become mobile.

Water your crops directly at soil level, taking the rose off the watering can if necessary, and give tomatoes and other plants one good soaking that you know will last a couple of days. When watering potatoes and tomatoes, try to keep the foliage as dry as you can.

4. Earlier crops

Gardeners should be enjoying the fruits of their labour earlier than usual because of the heatwave, he says. Harvest your crops young before they bolt (set seed) and produce flowers, which many of them will be doing early because of the hot weather.

“If it looks good enough to eat, then cut it, because the next day it might run to seed,” Thurlow advises.

5. Cut and come again

If you cut crops early, some may return for a second harvest, he predicts.

“Peas may have gone to seed prematurely, but if you cut them down they will regrow, so it may be worth considering leaving them in the ground – which you should do anyway, as they are a nitrogen source – but once the cooler weather kicks in and you keep the watering going, you may well catch a late crop.

garden-peas-property-hampshire

“With brassicas – such as broccoli and winter cabbage – if you cut them and leave the stump in the ground, you get little florets coming off those. Then come October, you might have four little cabbages coming off that stump.”

6. Tastier crops

Provided watering is kept up, sun lovers (such as peppers) may have a more intense flavour, says Thurlow.

“We may notice that we have more intense flavour in some produce, because they’ll ripen in the heatwave.”

7. Early sowing opportunities

“Start sowing early varieties of carrot, beetroot and lettuce. Water along a drill incorporating seaweed in the water. You never know how long it will be until the autumn weather.

Plants which you sow now – brassicas such as spring cabbage and some kale – may have enough time to become established if the warm weather continues, to see them through winter.

Other plants such as Florence fennel, which would normally be sown later in the season, could be sown now and, although smaller, the bulbs may be ready by late October or November.

gardening-fennel-summer-2018

Prioritise crops which will take you through the winter. Brassicas will have been stressed with this weather – Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale and winter cabbage. If you have crops which normally take longer to mature, harvest them while they are young.

“One of the major difficulties now is going to be your overwintering crops,” says Thurlow. “You need to get them into a position where they will survive the winter without running to seed.

“It’s not too late to sow spring cabbage. Just have a go. If the heat continues, we may have enough growing time left into the autumn where we can get plants into a condition where they will survive the winter.”

National Allotments Week runs from August 13-19. For details visit nsalg.org.uk.

Find out if your garden is adding value to your home, with a free no obligation valuation and market insight this summer.

11 Ways To Give Your Garden a Burglar and Thief proof Makeover

curtain-planting-a-garden-property

Designers have teamed up with the police to create the ideal ‘crime prevention garden’. Hannah Stephenson finds out more.

You may have locked your doors and windows, installed a burglar alarm and prompted neighbours to keep a watch over your home while you’re on holiday – but have you considered how the style and design of your garden could help deter thieves too?

At this year’s RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (on until July 8), designers Lucy Glover and Jacqueline Poll have a crime prevention garden that is both stunning and secure, a collaboration between crime prevention initiative Secured By Design with Capel Manor College and the Metropolitan Police.

The striking urban garden features green security measures, such as columnar trees and prickly plants, but also a calming atmosphere and soft relaxed planting, including beautiful perennials and grasses.

“Some 75% of all burglaries across the Met are via a rear garden. Those with criminal intention are looking for opportunity,” says PC Leslie Gipps, a Designing Out Crime Officer with the Metropolitan Police.

“What we do in Secured By Design is put in those layers which make it harder for the criminal to spend any real time trying to break in. They will just leave that garden and go for one that’s simpler.”

Want to add some crime-preventing layers to your garden? Here, the garden designers and Met officers recommend 11 ways to help deter criminals from targeting your property…

1 Prickly plants

Create a hedge of prickly plants, such as Osmanthus, pyracantha or berberis, next to boundary fencing, which can act as a layer to deter thieves.

In the crime prevention garden, the designers used Osmanthus heterophyllus, a shrub with sharply toothed leaves (similar to holly) under the windows, Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea, with stems that bear spiky spines, and pyracantha, a dense spiky shrub which is great grown as a hedge. Pyracantha will grow in any soil and is fast-growing.

2 Green screens

Boundary fences can be the first line of defence, and a good bet is a wire mesh which you can adorn with ivy or other ‘green screen’ – these look pretty but also act as a good deterrent. After all, a wire fence is unlikely to take someone’s weight.

Gipps explains: “By attempting the fence, thieves would draw attention to themselves and possibly leave their DNA behind. They know that, and can see it from the other side of the street. So it’s crime prevention through environmental design.”

burgular-proof-property-metal-fence-and-prickly-plant-in-hampshire

3 Dusk-’til-dawn lighting

Install dusk-’til-dawn low-voltage lights to ensure visibility in the garden at night. Stone effect solar lights will provide additional lighting and sculptural interest throughout the garden. “If your garden is lit through the hours of darkness, people with criminal intention don’t want to come into a lit environment,” says Gipps.

Householders often ignore sensor lights, thinking they’ve been set off by a fox or a cat. “Ten-watt LED lights are fine. We prefer white LED lighting, but you can choose a less bright option,” Gipps adds.

Gravel around the house

Gravel is noisy when walked on, so having it around your property means you can hear any uninvited visitors approaching the house. It also alerts dogs.

gravel-is-noisy-when-walked-on-so-a-good-property-burgular-deterrant

5 Curtain planting

“The aim is to have rich colour in the garden but not big solid shrubs that somebody can hide behind, so ideally grasses and other plants you can see through,” says Glover.

Light planting, such as grasses and ‘curtain planting’ with Verbena bonariensis and Sanguisorba canadensis, allows the homeowner to see through the planting.

6 Narrow trees

If you want to include architectural interest, use columnar-shaped trees, which are more difficult for intruders to hide behind and also difficult to climb.

7 Roses

Thorny roses can be used to great effect by training them over pergolas and other supports, which thieves might otherwise climb. The designers used rotating bars on their pergola to prevent thieves climbing. Roses will also give you scent and colour.

roses-burgular-deterrant-in-garedn-design

8 Green roof

Consider a green roof on your shed featuring spiky plants. The designers have planted a swathe of sedum on their shed roof, interplanted with aloe, a sharper specimen. Any intruder putting their hands on the shed roof would get a handful of prickles.

9 Shed security

Don’t leave tools outside, but also make it difficult for thieves to gain access to the shed, where you store them. Gipps explains: “The typical garden shed will come with a cheap padlock. We advocate that you have two locks – one a third up, the other a third down – with robust hinges and secure high-quality padlocks. You need robust hinges, coach-bolted through the fabric of the door.”

10 Secure garden pots

Thieves also use garden pots to break windows to gain entry. The best way to stop this is by using really heavy, large pots which are very difficult to lift. Keeping your plants well watered will help keep them heavy too.

11 Mark your property

Put your own forensic code on your garden items. Gipps recommends SmartWater (www.smartwater.com), a near-invisible, traceable liquid which gives your equipment its own unique forensic code, allowing items to be traced back to you, and the criminals back to the crime.

The code is registered to your home and stored on the SmartWater database. Once applied, it lasts for a minimum of five years, enabling stolen goods, if recovered, to be more easily identified and returned to the owner.