Follow Kim Wilde’s advice for setting up your ideal outside space
If you have room for a small pond, choose a sunny site, and plant a wide range of plants, including reeds and water lillies. A pond that doesn’t need a pump and can attract the local wildlife is a really sound idea. Make sure the sides are gently sloping so birds can drink and bathe, frogs and toads can spawn, and hedgehogs can escape.
Some gardens have a slight incline so think about making the design of the garden more interesting with different levels. If you’ve got a long garden think about dividing it into rooms, a sunny area near the house or at the bottom of the garden can be made into a seating area.
The first yardstick is where the sun is compared to what you plant. There’s no point spending a lot of money on lavender and putting it in the shade of your house. Don’t be discouraged if you have quite a lot of deep shade or large trees or woodland area, there are plants that will thrive and look gorgeous in those areas, like foxgloves and ferns. If you need more shelter for your plants consider evergreens like holly and ivy.
Think about the amount of time you’re prepared to give your lawn, they can be a lot of work. Use a spring tined rake to pull out any moss and accumulation of dead grass. Prick the lawn over with a fork to alleviate soil compaction, which impedes grass growing healthily. Use a readymade top dressing and apply a weed and feed product before rain is forecast.
Grow your own
If you happen to have very bad soil, it’s a good idea to make raised beds and put the soil in, especially when growing vegetables. You can tend to them more easily and the soil doesn’t become so compacted. You get a much better crop in an area where you’re not treading on the soil all the time.
Creating a wildlife-friendly garden can be achieved in many ways; plant lots of nectar plants like honeysuckle which small animals can nest into and feed from. Allow wildlife to thrive and find or create a habitat, perhaps in piles of logs in shady corners or in a simple birdbath. There are certain plants that attract different kinds of nature, butterfly bushes obviously, like Buddleja and Lavender are utterly beautiful, and it’s heavenly to watch the butterflies floating around the garden. I make sure butterflies can lay their eggs and caterpillars can feed by leaving big patches of stinging nettles at the bottom of the garden.
Making your own compost is a great way of saving yourself some money, recycling what you’ve got and having a fantastic end product to nurture the soil for a healthy plant. Try mixing water retentive gel into your compost for extra help. Another trick is to protect the surface with a layer of gravel or stones as this helps keep moisture in.
Cut away any dead or damaged stems, looking out for ones that have been damaged by the harsh winter weather. Prune summer flowering shrubs as they flower on new growth and benefit from being cut down to within 30cm from the ground. With a little effort now, you can enjoy the fruits of your labour in your own miniature paradise all summer long.