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How to

How to

Three ways to... Protect strawberries

  • Lay a bed of straw underneath emerging fruits on a dry, fine day to stop them getting wet and rotting.
  • Put netting over the plants, using short sturdy stakes to support the netting and keep the birds at bay.
  • Keep an eye on your crops for signs of botrytis (grey mould) and if you see any grey, fluffy mould on the berries cut them off and bin them, checking over the rest of the crop.

Three ways to... Revive your garden after the long winter

  • Lawns will be recovering well by now given a bit of warm weather so will need cutting. For the first couple of mowings, keep the blades quite high to avoid scalping he turf. Give your grass a neat edge with sharp edging shears and a half-moon edger for a crisp look.
  • Make sure that containers and window boxes get enough water.
  • Herbaceous plants will be growing fast, so make sure you have stakes in place now to support them before they get too big.

Three ways to... Be waterwise this summer

  • Use grey water - that which has already been used in the home. Normal household soaps and detergents don't damage plants but avoid bleaches and strong disinfectants. Make sure the water is cool before using it in the garden.
  • Water the roots around the stem base and do it early morning or in the evening, when it won't evaporate so quickly.
  • Even if you have a hosepipe ban, drip irrigation systems are still allowed. Consider a leaky-pipe system to keep parched plots alive. Many modern systems have efficient water usage.

Three ways to... Make the most of edible flowers

  • Garnish fruit salads with rose petals, or simply scatter them on tables.
  • Sprinkle the nutty-flavoured flowers of polyanthus over salads.
  • Use the pretty petals of chive flowers, which have a mild onion flavour, to add to salads. Leave the heads whole if you just want to decorate a dish.

Three ways to... Make the most of plants in spring

  • Buy large pots of perennials as these can often be divided, making three small plants instead of one large one.
  • Watch the weather. Don't start sowing or planting everything just because Easter heralds spring, no matter what it says onthe seed packet. Warm up the ground with cloches but remember not much grows above ground until temperatures reach 7C and above, and days grow longer.
  • When planting containers with hardy plants in spring, water well beforehand and add slow-release fertilisers and water-retaining crystals to the compost to save you work through the year.

Three ways to... enhance roses

  • Increase their flowering by training stems horizontally, or in sweeping arches, so that they will produce flowering stems along the branches.
  • If covering a pillar, don't place the stems vertically against the support. Wind them around, spiral fashion and they should flower lower and better.
  • Tie in new stems of climbers and ramblers with lengths of garden twine, making a figure of eight between stem and support, so the tie does not rub on the stem and damage it.

Three ways to... Succeed with steps

  • Remember they should be in keeping with their immediate surrounding. If you have a formal, precisely laid terrace connected to the steps, use similar material for the steps.
  • If your steps are some way from the patio, further into the garden, they could be made from different natural materials such as logs or natural stone, to reflect this.
  • Make the most of a change of level by incorporating other features such as planting within the cracks of the steps to soften the line, or cascade planting from a raised bed at the sides of the steps to create interest.

Three ways to... Plan a patio

  • Leave enough space for a table and a few chairs when measuring how large your patio will need to be. You'll need a minimum of 2.4 square metres for the seating area.
  • Don't use too many different materials for hard landscaping or you'll make the patio and surrounding area feel 'bitty'. Stick to a few materials which complement your home's exterior.
  • Make a patio more interesting by creating vertical features, perhaps using trellis panels attached to walls or fences planted with a selection of climbers and provide flowers and foliage at different times of the year.

Three ways to... Create an alternative hanging basket

  • Use ornamental grasses which will drape over the basket and place an emphasis on leaves. Try Carex comans 'Frosted Curls' with its silvery green leaves or Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue'.
  • Make an exotic planting scheme using hostas, whose dramatic leaves will remain hopefully out of reach of slugs and snails and brighten up a shady spot. Plant several different types with golden nettle or creeping Jenny.
  • Fed up with coir or moss liners? Try cutting up an old woolly jumper which will make a perfect basket liner, retaining moisture but providing enough stretchiness to allow you to plant easily.

Three ways to... Keep your compost healthy

  • Use a mixture of materials, including kitchen scraps (but not meat), garden debris and lawn mowings. Too much of one ingredient, especially grass clippings, can make the heap slimy.
  • Never put perennial weeds or diseased plants on to the heap, as the heat inside may not be enough to kill the bacteria or the weeds and you risk spreading them further when you come to use to compost.
  • To speed up the rotting process, layer your compost ingredients, dampening them down if dry and then top them with a bucket of garden soil or animal manure to provide bacteria to make the heap rot.

Three ways to - Rejuvenate a conifer

  • If it is brown in the centre, remove the small dead branches to reveal the shape of the main branches. Cut off a few of the lower large branches to enable you to underplant with ground cover plants which will withstand dry shade such as vinca and cranesbill geranium.
  • If the conifer is brown at the base, plant variegated ivy at the base which will use the brown, lower branches as a climbing frame.
  • Transform a conifer into a standard by removing all branches up to 1.5m (5ft) or lower and then lightly trim the top to shape.

Three ways to... Make your veg plot pretty

  • Grow sweet peas and climbing beans up wigwams in the centre of a uniform plot to add height and colour.
  • Use ornamental herbs such as sage and thyme at the front of the veg border as a colourful but neat edging, or lavender and rosemary which can be clipped to achieve a more formal look to the border.
  • Plant a mixture of vegetables and flowers to give a cottage garden effect. Flowers which will complement some vegetables include cosmos, pot marigolds, achillea and zinnias.

Ensure you buy the right shrubs

  • Make sure the plant is going to end up the right size. Check the dimensions on the label to ensure it will fit into the space you have available when it matures.
  • Make sure the plant has a good, even shape when you buy it. The flowers may mask the overall shape if it is in bloom when you first purchase it.
  • Check that the foliage isn’t wilting or damaged in any way as this may suggest it has root problems caused by drying out or poor watering regimes.

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