Are your borders looking skimpy? Don’t rush to the garden centre. Instead, divide the plants you have and conquer the bare earth by digging up established clumps of perennials and splitting them into smaller groups, discarding any worn-out sections at the centre.
Plant them in refreshed soil — home-made compost is cheaper than shop-bought — and water in well. You can do the same with a large plant bought at the garden centre, such as geranium or pulmonaria, carefully pulling the plant apart and retaining the roots, so you have several smaller pieces that will catch up in a season or two.
Using the same plant at intervals will create an all-important rhythm through the border, which is something an array of ready-bought different plants can never do.
Right now, spring-flowering bulbs, in heavy bud, are cheap as chips. Buy pots of daffodils at B&Q for £1.09 each. Plop three or four pots together into a large container on the patio table and you have a splash of spring for little outlay. Instead of throwing them out when they’re over, plant the bulbs in the garden for a gratifyingly free encore next year.
Sowing seed is cheaper than buying young plants and even the least green-fingered can make a scattering of easy annuals spring up into summer flowers. Sow annuals next month — sweet peas, larkspur, love-in-a-mist — and you can have blooms for cutting, too.
Lilies make huge splashes of summer colour for containers and so do dahlias, flowering for weeks on end. Buying them as bulbs and tubers now will save you cash later.
Focus on the high returners, including cut-and-come-again salad leaves, wild rocket, runner beans, year-round sorrel and perennial herbs such as rosemary and thyme. If you can’t decide whether to buy an eating or cooking apple, grow them both on one tree (kenmuir.co.uk). And instead of planting seed potatoes, and buying tomato plants, buy one plant that produces both: the TomTato (thompson-morgan.com). Raspberries are the fruit that keeps on giving. Six canes of autumn-fruiting raspberries such as Joan J will give you steady pickings from high summer to late autumn.
Invest in a small greenhouse (garden-products.co.uk) — even a pop-up plastic one — and you can buy “tot” bedding plants and veg now. Coax them on under glass and when frost is past, you can plant them out, having raised them for mere pence.
PAINT TO REJUVENATE
Garden paint stains are handy to brighten fences and sheds, but for longevity, exterior eggshell or gloss paint is unbeatable. With just one tin you can give past-it garden furniture fresh life, camouflaging every scratch and scrape.
An inexpensive softwood bench becomes a fabulous focal point when painted a strong, confident colour such as cobalt or vermilion. Hammerite’s Direct to Rust paint, in 26 shades, can be applied directly to rusted metalwork so that a delapidated café table and chairs can be rejuvenated with, say, a lick of Sheer Aqua or Zingy Lime.
Occasionally it makes sense to invest in the best. Stainless steel tools perform better, won’t rust and are a breeze to clean. One pair of Felco secateurs will last a lifetime and give your pruning cuts the professional edge.
A Florentine terracotta pot is timeless, and will do more for your garden than a dozen plastic pots, while a pergola can transform a small garden, creating an instant dining retreat, a walkway and a great reason for buying a barrowload of fragrant climbers. Avoid the cheap versions and go for the solid, real thing (perfectpergolas.co.uk).