Use what you have

Spring is such a busy time in the garden and it could be expensive too. It needn’t be, though! Gardeners have always done as much as they can with as little as they can, and you can too. Whether you’re ‘making do’ or ‘upcycling’, it soon becomes a habit to look at everything to see whether it can be used again in the garden or in the house.

Old saucers make lovely drip trays for small pots. A row of these, matched or unmatched, arranged along your window sill with fresh herbs and cuttings growing happily in their pots always gladdens the eye and lifts the spirit.

Blue White Saucer

Are you sowing seeds this spring? A few packets soon fill up the seed trays but there will very probably be other containers you can use. If you ever eat takeaway meals, the left-over containers may be suitable for seed trays and can be pressed into service. The see-through plastic ones with a plastic lid are very useful. Make a few holes in the bottom for drainage and a few holes in the top for ventilation and then fill with seed compost. (Note: you may have to experiment with the best tool for making holes as materials differ. Mind your fingers!) The containers for supermarket soups (cardboard or plastic) are another possibility.

Perhaps you make all your own food. Egg shells can always be used to grow a few herbs. Make a drainage hole, if you can, in the empty shell and draw a face on it. Fill it with compost and a pinch of seed. Put the filled shell in an egg cup or the egg box on a light window sill and, as always, water carefully. The herbs grow rapidly to give your character funny green hair. Chives make long straight locks and you can guess what moss curled parsley looks like! Flat parsley is another thing entirely. (Note: not only for children!)

Work with nature

Birds help you in the garden by eating pests that can damage your plants. Caterpillars and other larvae are intensely nutritious food for the fledglings whose appetites seem to know no bounds.

Helping birds to help you extends beyond the bird table, though. Birds also need somewhere to nest and perch and think some of their bird thoughts. For quite a number of species, a hedge is their place of choice. Don’t be tempted to tidy up hedges in the spring when most birds are nesting. Wait until the autumn or, ideally, late winter.

Whatever the time of year, birds' nests are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. So always check if there is an active nest if you're thinking of trimming or cutting the hedge. For most species, the nesting season runs from 1 March to 31 July but it may be longer if there are many broods, or for species like woodpigeons and collared doves.

beech hedge spring

beech hedge spring

Enjoy your garden!