As the leaves fall and we prepare for what always seems like an endless winter, now is a good time to get your sketch pad out to plan a new garden design.
â€œFor a good balanced design, most designers would recommend that a third of the garden should be for planting and the other two-thirds grass or hard surfaces,â€ says horticulturist Louise Hampden, producer of BBC Gardenersâ€™ World and author of a new handy little guide,
Top Tips: A Treasury Of Garden Wisdom.
The book accompanies a new daytime Gardenersâ€™ World series starting on BBC Two on December 1 which collects the most fascinating and useful hints and tips from 40 years of the programme.
There are three main design elements you need to consider: what the garden will be used for (childrenâ€™s play, relaxation, parties, growing veg and flowers); its aspect (shady or sunny, overlooked or secluded); and how you want the garden to look (formal or informal).
Cut out magazine pictures of schemes that you like and stick them on to a large piece of card, adding to it gradually, including plants, furniture, layouts and even sheds â€“ and soon a mood and preference for certain colours and materials will emerge.
Narrow gardens are often the easiest to design, Hampden says.
â€œA long, thin garden can be broken up into different spaces, divided by hedges or trellis, each with a different purpose or feel,â€ she says.
â€œThis gives you the opportunity to have a formal area as well as an informal one, and to screen off practical spaces such as the garden shed or the place where you keep the rubbish bins.â€
Put in a curved path with broad planting spaces either side to make the garden feel longer and create an interesting journey through it.
Wider gardens are more difficult to design, as the whole garden can be seen at once and itâ€™s difficult to create any mystery, but add pergolas over paths and features at the end of paths to divide the garden visually without the use of solid hedges or panels.
Alternatively, you can create private areas by using a trellis and covering it with climbers.
Make sure you consider how your garden will look from the various windows and doors of the house. Key plants and focal points can be lined up to give the best view from the window.
Give your plants plenty of space, Louise advises.
â€œMean borders donâ€™t work. Allow a generous area for growing plants. They need space, and that means 1.5 metres or even two metres from front to back,â€ she says.
â€œAnything less means you will only be able to plant single plants. You wonâ€™t achieve any decent depth or combinations, and shrubs and perennials will either spill over a lawn and kill the edges or obstruct a path and need constant cutting back.â€
Try to keep the edges to paths, borders and lawn crisp. You could insert lengths of timber a couple of centimetres into the ground to ensure the lawn doesnâ€™t creep into the border, which will also help mowing. Paths edged with contrasting brick also look neater.
When planning seating, make sure you know the direction in which the sun rises or sets, ensuring your seats are positioned to your requirements â€“ maybe so you can view the sunset, or catch the morning sun if you want to have breakfast in the garden.
Once you have finished planning, mark out your design with a rope to give an idea how it will look and enable you to make adjustments.
â€œDonâ€™t worry about following hard-and-fast rules here,â€ Hampden says. â€œRemember that you are designing this garden for you, so if it feels right then it usually is right.â€
Top Tips: A Treasury Of Garden Wisdom by Louise Hampden is published by BBC Books, priced Â£9.99.
BEST OF THE BUNCH â€“ Hebe â€™Autumn Gloryâ€™
There are a few hebes that flower well into the autumn, such as â€™Midsummer Beautyâ€™ and â€™Great Ormeâ€™, but â€™Autumn Gloryâ€™ seems to go on the longest, sometimes flowering into December.
It is best placed at the front of a border, growing to 2ft (60cm) high and wide, producing small but significant purple flowers which tolerate increasingly bad weather as autumn passes. The flowers also stand out against the plantâ€™s dark green foliage.
This hebe needs to be planted in full sun if possible, and in reasonably well-drained soil, and then should largely look after itself without needing any pruning.
When buying hebes, remember that generally not all are hardy. The larger the leaf, the more tender the variety is likely to be.
GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT â€“ Leeks
You pay a fortune for those fancy packets of baby leeks, but you can just as easily grow them yourself to add to a variety of dishes including soups, casseroles and salads in summer. They do occupy the ground for a long time but you can harvest them for ages, from autumn to late winter.
Baby leeks can be grown in containers and raised vegetable beds to provide you with crops through summer and autumn. They are easy to grow from seed. Start them in pots ready to plant out later in the season or grow them in a seedbed, using the thinnings as an alternative to spring onions, and plant them in their final position for a winter crop.
Prepare the bed now, adding plenty of well-rotted organic matter to the soil and digging over the ground in autumn or winter, leaving it rough in clods before raking it over in the spring before planting.
Seeds can be sown in drills 1-2cm deep and 15cm apart and will germinate at fairly low temperatures, but if you live in a cold area cover the seedbeds with cloches or garden fleece. If you are growing leeks in borders, start the seed off in modular trays, sowing seed around 2.5cm apart and keeping them somewhere cool but frost-free.
After hardening off in April or May, move the plants raised inside outdoors when the weather gets warmer in spring and prick out seedlings into modular trays to grow on. Thin rows in seedbeds to leave a plant every 3-4cm. By June and July they should be pencil thick and ready to plant into their final position.
Plant the leeks in deep holes to produce long white shafts, but it also helps to earth up by piling soil around the stems during the growing season. Weed well and water thoroughly around every 10 days. Once they are ready to harvest, just lift them as required.
THREE WAYS TO… Clean materials effectively
1. Clean wood with a pressure washer or stiff brush and water. Sand down rough areas and apply wood preserver to non-treated softwoods. Apply teak oil to hardwoods once a year to keep their colour.
2. Clean cast iron with a damp cloth. It rusts slowly when exposed to air. Sand down
damaged areas and apply a rust converter, followed by an undercoat and topcoat of paint.
3. Wipe down aluminium with a damp cloth, and oil all fittings and moving parts.
WHAT TO DO THIS WEEK
Clear dead leaves and weeds away from rock plants and other small plants which are easily smothered.
Dig over any empty areas of soil to keep the ground weed-free and prepare areas for replanting.
Continue to clear piles of dead leaves from the borders and the lawn to make into leaf mould.
Start planting bare-root woody plants such as beech, hornbeam, hawthorn and roses as soon as the leaves have dropped off and you have prepared the soil.
Continue replacing summer bedding and patio plants with winter and spring bedding.
Plant up evergreens and shrubs in containers for winter colour.
If you still have late-sown summer crops such as Chinese cabbage, lettuce, carrots and peas, cover them with horticultural fleece now, as the increased heat will keep them growing a bit longer.
Pick autumn cauliflowers when they form a good-sized head.
Cut pumpkins and squashes with about 2.5cm (1in) of stem and let the skins dry in the sun. They should keep in a frost-free shed protected from damp until Christmas.
Reduce watering of greenhouse potted plants with underground corms, tubers or rhizomes â€“ such as begonias, zantedeschias and cannas â€“ so they can die down gradually.
Cover your pond with netting to keep falling leaves out of the water.
Top Tips: A Treasury Of Garden Wisdom, by Louise Hampden, is published by BBC Books on October 23, priced Â£9.99.