5 tips for a perfect patio garden
Gardener Paul Peacock loves his patio. He tells us how to transform yours even if, like him, your health limits what you can do.
One of my guilty pleasures is a nap in the shade, surrounded by aromatic plants, which allows the heat of the day to pass me by without adversely affecting my health. So, this season, I’ll be turning my attention to the patio. Here are my top tips.
1. Building blocks
Arrange your plants on a small city of concrete or breeze blocks. Pile some blocks three-high, some two-high and some on their own to create an attractive display. Place your pots of fragrant plants on top to form a wall of scented flora. To cover my patio, I need around 30 blocks. In my case, someone else needs to carry and arrange these for me.
2. Choosing your plants
Personally, I like fragrant plants. I have night-scented stocks, nepeta, sweet peas of various types, the buddleja we rescued from a building site (in a big container) and as many aromatic herbs as possible, including sage, rosemary, thyme, chives and masses of lavender.
These do well in good-quality compost, but I advise adding slow-release fertiliser to the pots and keeping them moist but not wet. Also, once a fortnight, feed them with tomato fertiliser. Pack as many plants into the pots as you can and arrange them so you can no longer see the concrete blocks.
3. Filling the gaps
Use trailing lobelia and one or two nasturtiums to fill any gaps
Use small pots of trailing lobelia and maybe one or two nasturtiums to fill any gaps between the blocks.
To stop the wind pushing them over, buy some long cable tidies, then thread these through the holes in the pots and secure each one to a block.
4. The seat
Every patio needs a good seat. Position it in the shade of the buddleja, find an object o rest your feet on and breathe in the scent of the plants for a relaxing afternoon.
With the right mix of plants, you can experience a range of aromas from late morning, once the plants have warmed up. First, you’ll smell the buddleja, then violet and lobelia in the afternoon. Later, the petunias add their scent to the mix.
5. Keeping the weeds at bay
Bordering the patio, I have an herbaceous border populated with old roses, hydrangeas and weeds. The roses are past their prime, so I will take cuttings this year and slowly replace everything with things in pots. I will cover the ground with a base of pea shingle to keep weed growth down.
This way, assuming I find the required help in the early stages, I can have an herbaceous border that is much less effort, but just enough to make a good garden workout.
A friend of mine runs a pick-your-own-strawberries farm, and the way he grows them opened my eyes. Inside a long tunnel, he has constructed a frame that holds up a trough. These are filled with compost and strawberry plants.
This spring, I will follow suit by attaching guttering to the wall of my house at waist height – just high enough for me to walk along and tend the plants easily. In it, I can grow all kinds of crops: lettuces, spaced 30cm apart; tumbler tomatoes with wider spacing of 45cm; cucumbers (1m) and strawberries (50cm).
If placed on a slight slant, you can water at one end and it will find its way to the other. There’s no reason why you can’t stack them to create a wall of plants.