It may be cold and damp outdoors but we're determined to beat the January blues - and why not take inspiration from this relentlessly chirpy little bird? Robins sing all year round - they're among the first to start the morning chorus and the last to stop at night - and their song gets stronger and stronger as it gets closer to spring.
So wrap up warmly, pull on some wellies, and get ready to welcome spring by getting to grips with the garden! Here's some helpul suggestions to get started:
1. Tidying up
Take a good look at your garden or allotment and start with any obvious jobs. Sweep up leaves, clear your flowerbeds and prune your plants and any fruit trees (except for apricots, cherries and plums) while they’re dormant. Check the condition of any features, fencing, decking or paving and take advantage of dry weather to clean and treat them if required, plus repair any damage.
This is the perfect time to sort out your tools and equipment so you can check what essentials you'll need to buy. A thorough clean before starting to collect cuttings and seedlings is advisable, as is discovering anything that's been lurking in your garden shed during the winter months! Don’t forget to check the state of your lawnmower and garden tools and maintain these properly too.
2. Planning your planting
Now look at your cleared garden and draw up a plan of how you' want it to look throughout the seasons – consider what plants you already have and when these flower. Do you have a colour scheme and ordered design or do you prefer a more “natural” country garden look? Do you already have a vegetable patch or raised beds, or is this something you want to create?
Planning your plant and seed orders for the year will save time and money, and you'll get more enjoyment from your garden all year round. If you're looking for suggestions, the Royal Horticultural Society have great tips for monthly planting and maintenance. And your local garden centre's a good bet for additional advice.
3. Time for a change?
How do you (and your family) use your outdoor space? Is it large or pocket sized, lawned or decked, high maintenance or Zen like, planted to perfection or even a makeshift football pitch? Take another look at your garden and view it like another room (or rooms) in your house – are you making the best use of it and what features do you showcase?
Get out and about (or online if you’re short of time) and be inspired by your local garden centres, outdoor parks and National Trust properties. If you've got time, you can always join a local gardening club and share tips with other gardening enthusiasts.
4. Look after wildlife
Of course, we’re not the only ones who use our gardens! As well as robins and other birds, they can be havens for bees, butterflies and hedgehogs among others. Many species of wildlife and under threat so it's important to consider their needs wherever possible. You can find lots of great ideas in the RSPB's downloadable garden wildlife guide.
Easy suggestions include growing plants such as buddleia, which look lovely as well as attracting butterflies; providing water and bird food; and giving hedgehogs, birds, bees and bugs places to shelter. Hedgehogs also find it easier to get into your garden if you dig a small tunnel under your boundary fence - and encourage your neighbour to do the same, as they like to travel!
We hope we've encouraged to get out in your garden or allotment and make the most of your time there in spring and all year round. And don't forget your green fingered friends either! Check out our gorgeous (and practical) Gifts for Gardeners and Garden Lovers collection - you'll find lovely bee, butterfly and bug hotels, stunning bird feeders and nesting boxes, cosy hedgehog houses and lots more great garden gift ideas.