Christmas is the time when most gardeners spend hours planning the next year's gardening. It may be too wet or cold to be outside but planning is free and cosy if you can do it from inside.
Most gardeners spend hours browsing seed catalogues over Christmas, even though every seed merchant has a website. Perhaps it is because you can flick backwards and forwards more easily with a catalogue, but seed catalogues are still big business.
Choosing seeds is pleasurable, but there are other tasks you need to get down to before you can make sensible decisions on seeds.
Garden design is best done in the winter, when you can see all your garden and there are no leaves to obscure the view. Spend the time between Christmas and Easter putting new garden buildings and services into place, so you can plant shrubs, trees and plants in Spring.
Garden buildings need to go into your garden design at a very early stage, so you can link them with paths and screen them with trees and landscape shrubs.
Even a small garden needs a large garden shed, or two. Your shed will need space to store a lawnmower, hand-tools, strimmer, garden chemicals and petrol. You will probably store Do It Yourself tools there as well. By the time you have stored a garden shredder, barbecue grill, parasols and garden furniture a standard ten foot by eight foot shed is bursting at the seams.
Consider two sheds or a single storage building - 10ft. x 12ft. and you might then have half enough storage room.
Sheds are not usually very attractive, so they are best sited out of sight of the house if possible.
If you work at home, at all, then try to fit a garden office into your new garden design. Put it in a light and sunny area, where you cannot see the house. The idea of a garden office is to forget the family and house, so the windows need to face the garden rather than the home.
Have an electrician install an electricity supply, preferably a 30amp supply. You will need heating, a kettle, a fridge and maybe a shower. Your garden office will probably double as a changing room for the gardening, hence the shower.
You will need plumbing, too. Certainly for a sink, preferably for a shower and toilet too, so you are not making constant trips back to the house to use the bathroom.
The time to install plumbing, drains and electric cables is BEFORE you lay out your garden and paths.
You can make do with a standard garden shed, just have extra windows installed and lots of insulation. If your finances will stretch then aim for a large twelve foot square garden building or even eighteen foot by twelve, if you plan to have anyone else sharing the office with you.
You need somewhere to sow seeds, re-pot cuttings and grow young plants on. A dog run is ideal, because you can shut young children out and away from any tools you are using.
Make a table height work surface using wooden pallets. They need no treatment, they are substantial and easily handled and best of all, you can source pallets for free. Alternatively you can use an old garden table, but it will not be as strong.
Your greenhouse needs to be sited in part of your garden that receives plenty of sunlight. Even an unheated greenhouse will help you to grow earlier vegetables and flowers.
Your garden will be producing timber for you to use as fuel and mulch. You need two timber storage areas, one for seasoning timber, before it is sawn up and a covered area close to the house for storing sawn logs ready for burning.
Timber being left to dry out can be left in the open, pile it up roughly behind a shed or garage, out of sight,
Mulch and thin branches for turning into mulch can be stored in your potting area.
You can make timber storage lean-to storage areas using more wooden pallets, weatherproofed using builders' grade black polythene sheet.
Barbecue and Fire Pit
Include a barbecue and a firepit into your garden plans at an early stage, or regret it later. You can build your own, buy kits or ready to use stainless steel firepits.
You WILL need compost bins, and you need to decide at the planning stage where they are to go.
If you are reconstructing your garden consider running cables and water supplies to the corners to make watering and using electric power tools easier in the future.
Once you have your garden buildings and services in place you can lay your paths.
Cut pieces of black builders' polythene damp proof membrane five feet wide. It usually comes in rolls four feet wide that open out to sixteen feet wide. Cutting a five foot length off the roll will give you a five feet by sixteen feet piece of black polythene.
Lay this polythene where your path is to go. You can make curved or straight paths very easily. Order gravel to cover the polythene to a depth of five inches. Edge the path with stones or old bricks, even railway sleepers (ties). You can set the edging stones in concrete or just sit them on the path's edge.
Make raised beds using any soil you dug out for the paths. Make restraining walls for your raised beds by pushing small stones edgewise vertically into the soil.
These raised beds make perfect vegetable beds or areas for soft fruit. You can include organic matter as you add the soil and end up with a really well prepared vegetable garden.
Build raised flower-beds in the same way, it makes weeding easier and brings the flowers closer.
Trees and Shrubs
It is difficult to imagine a few tiny twigs as a full-grown shrub six feet across and most people plant their shrubs too close together. Plant small shrubs between your larger ones so you can take those out in a few years and replant them elsewhere in your garden.