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Making the most out of your garden

10th June 2022
Redrow | Inspiration | Making The Most of your Garden

We’ve never been more aware of a garden’s value to mind and body than over the last two years when it took its rightful place as the haven of a home.

In this article we look at how to make the most of your garden, in all seasons and for multiple uses; from how to plan your perfect outdoor plot, to the latest trends, gardening for the soul, growing your own and helping wildlife to thrive.

How to design a garden

Designing your perfect plot is the key to making your garden work for you, especially when you’re creating it from scratch, so it provides another ‘room’ for you and your family to live in, play in, and eat in. Much like a new home is a blank canvas, so is your garden.

Planning is essential and there are so many things to consider before you even lift a spade or lay a paving stone, as Richard Lewin of Landstruction, one of Redrow’s landscapers, explained: “Where the sun will be, and which areas are shaded in your garden, plays a big part. It will dictate what to plant where and where to place your seating areas.

“It’s important there is a theme, some cohesion to what you are planning, otherwise it will look disjointed and a mishmash.” Consider creating a mood board, or a Pinterest board to help you plan. Planting doesn’t have to be just about colours of flowers, but contrast in textures and sizes of leaves and contrasting greens.”

And he adds: “Check your soil to make sure it has the right nutrients – if it contains clay, or sand, you may need to add to it, because it plays a part in drainage.”

There are lots of tips on how to design a garden, and advice on what to plant where, in our New Homes Podcast, in which designer and landscaper Ben Walker, and garden journalist Alexandra Campbell, talk about different gardening styles and top tips for making the most of that outdoor area. Ben advises homeowners to consider first how they use their garden: “Is it an outdoor workout space, if you have children is it more of a play area, or is it an outdoor cooking area when you have people over?”

If cooking outdoors is central to your plan, check out our Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Cooking for more details, including the essential kit you’ll need to make room for.

Redrow | Inspiration | Two Men Alfresco Dining

Gardening trends for 2022

Ensuring a seamless flow of your style from indoor to out is paramount when it comes to creating a contemporary and seamless garden landscape. Alysha Alli, head of Redrow’s in-house interior design team, has plenty of outdoor living space ideas: “We love to design outdoor pieces that flow and complement our incredible show homes. We specify beautiful garden furniture including outdoor sofas and chairs that are harmonious to our interior design.”

And she adds: “Oversized lanterns, woven style candle holders and collections of clay and ceramic pots can look great grouped together around seating areas to create the ‘inside out’ look.”

Alexandra says a popular current style is ‘the cottage garden’: “You’ll have a mesh of plants you love. It doesn’t have a lawn, it will have paths and big beds, you’ll have flowers and veg and fruit trees altogether, and little place to sit, and it’s lovely for wildlife.”

Redrow | Inspiration | Man Doing Yoga in Garden

Mindful gardening for the soul

Gardening is a great form of exercise which naturally strengthens our heart - the number of calories burnt from 30 minutes of gardening  is comparable to playing badminton, volleyball or practising yoga for the equivalent time – but it’s not just good for our physical health but our mental health too. 

Studies show it reduces depression and anxiety, helps maintain independence, and helps prevent cognitive decline. Gardeners have lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, leading to improved sleep patterns, relaxation and mental well-being, and it encourages mindfulness, helping us to be present in the here and now.

Nicola Johansen, our group sustainability manager, said: “Gardening is great for helping us to feel connected with the world around us and the changing seasons, which can also help us accept the changing nature of life and prevent seasonal affective disorder (SAD). 

“Gardening is often an act of nurture – which is also good for us and it’s been found that contact with soil can even increase serotonin levels – the ‘happy hormone’, while dopamine levels are said to increase when we participate in ‘green’ activities.”

It’s more important than ever since the pandemic, as we’ve all rediscovered the importance of connecting with nature. A study of around 6,000 UK residents found that people who garden frequently felt less stress and an increased sense of wellbeing. 

Redrow | Inspiration | Childs Blue Boot Digging

How to make a kitchen garden

Whether you’ve got space for a full-blown vegetable patch, a handy planter on the patio or just a window box, here’s a few ideas for how to grow vegetables as well as what you can grow, where and when.

Nicola said: "Vegetables grow best in good soil so that’s the first place to start. It’s really easy to make your own compost from food scraps and garden waste. You can also grow vegetables very successfully without the use of chemicals so you can enjoy your own organic food. You can use barriers to protect veg from caterpillar, slugs and other garden critters. Why not grow your own herbs too, some of which have the added benefit of supporting pollinators?”

If you’re wondering ‘what vegetables can I plant now?’, the majority of vegetables will be sown in Spring (March to May). Harvesting usually starts in mid-Summer, but some - beans, carrots, radishes and potatoes - will require harvesting earlier, and - beetroot, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, leeks and parsnips - later. 

Among other benefits, growing your own can help improve your family’s health, reduce your environmental impact, and reduce food waste.

Redrow | Inspiration | Women Looking After Bug House

Gardening for wildlife

Not only does it help you spend more time outdoors, gardening can help you appreciate and support wildlife and encourage it to visit. 

Nicola adds: “Whether your garden is large or small, it is part of a wider, living landscape which links urban green spaces with the wider countryside. Collectively, gardens cover a huge area and offer a great opportunity to support nature.  The way they are maintained can make a big difference to wildlife.”

You can choose nectar-rich plants that are invaluable to bees and butterflies, plants which provide food for birds, create a pond that will attract everything from frogs, toads and newts to birds, and grow a native hedge to provide nectar and pollen, berries and nuts, caterpillar food plants and shelter for nesting birds.

You can build a bug hotel, a bird house, or a hedgehog highway. 

June sees the return of The Wildlife Trusts ‘30 Days Wild’ – the UK’s biggest nature challenge! The website is full of ideas for ways you can go wild every day of the month and many of them can be tried in your own garden.

If space is tight, here are some Indoor Garden Ideas for Small Spaces.