There are a few key points in the year when it feels really natural and easy to plan. I added bluebells to my ‘to-do’ list after spotting this lovely scene of bluebells under one of the hedges in the garden that merged into a shock of stinging nettles.

I have a battle with stinging nettles. The roots are so invasive, creating an underground mat of trouble. I always get thrashed by stingers no matter how thick my gloves and sleeves are. I might gaffer tape my arms for tackling this patch. To be fair when I am pulling them out I am doing more damage to them, then they are to me, but I still resent it. I do leave some stingers alone and let some areas of the garden go wild for wildlife, but I think this spot can be given over to more bluebells. I think I might make these stingers into fertiliser. I’ve not done this before, but apparently you can chop them into pieces, put them in a bucket, weigh them down with stones and cover in water. Leave the mix for about a month and then use the gross smelly liquid, one part to 10 parts water. Thank you Gardener’s World for this tip.

If like me you haven’t developed much finesse in the garden and planning gets a bit bewildering it’s easier to think in chunks and then have a supporting cast of feisty perennials that have your back. My first planning chunk comes under Spring and early Summer bulbs, like the bluebells, which are planted in Autumn.

Last Autumn I did what I normally do. I rushed to the garden centre on a whim, bought about a hundred bulbs on deals and then over a period of a few days hurried them into the garden. Actually in the end the results were encouraging and Instagram worthy and it’s inspired me to be a bit more decisive.

This year I’m going to shop with a list and go for some different additional plants like snakeshead fritillary and grape hyacinth that I’ve seen dotted around, but not planted myself. To aid this plan, whilst everything was in bloom this year I spied bare spots and shoved lolly sticks into the ground. Hopefully the lolly sticks will survive the coming months and in Autumn I can locate them and plant more bulbs in those areas, thus filling the bald spots and not simply digging up the bulbs that are already there!

Grape hyacinth plan: to add more bulbs in Autumn and extend all around the front borders.

That covers Spring and early Summer. My next chunk to plan is Summer flowering favourites like cosmos, sweet peas, echinacea and dahlias. I’ve had a flirtation with dahlias for a few years now, but they are playing hard to get. Every year I have another go at growing them, so we shall see if this year’s effort bears any cut flowers. For sowing seeds I always follow the packet in terms of when to sow, but I feel really behind this year. My cosmos are twiggy, my sweet peas are frail. I think next year I might start sowing indoors much earlier and make sure I get a good root ball after potting on, but before planting out. I’m going to fill my window sills with sturdy plants ready for May. It never seems to matter how many fails I have in terms of growing stuff for the garden, I’m always keen to have another go.

My third planning chunk is ‘moving and dividing.’ This Spring I’ve spied the things I’ve done which are daft. Like putting hebes into the front border that got swallowed by a lot of daffodils that I forgot were there. I’d also added some little tulips into the same bed, which suffered the same fate. Those are all going to come out and get moved to another spot and I’ll let the hebes grow on. I’m also spying which clumps of plants need dividing after they have flowered. I finally plucked up courage to move a few bearded iris, some sedums and wild geranium last year and it was really successful. Now I’m a bit more confident I’m happy to have a go elsewhere. The plant pictured below is huge and one of three similar clumps. The interesting part of this division is that I don’t honestly know what it is and I can’t remember seeing it flower either! I’ve looked through hundreds of photos of this border and haven’t been able to find a clue. This year I’ve noticed how gigantic these clumps are, so after Summer they are going to be separated out and dispersed a little into some of the patchy areas of the borders. I can also pot some on for friends and family.

Who are you and how did you get so massive?!

That makes three different plans or projects to have a go at, at three different times of the year:

  1. What bulbs to plant in the Autumn?
  2. What seeds and tubers to sow in late Spring?
  3. What to divide and/or move in the Winter?

Just thinking about those three things interspersed with all the usual weeding, deadheading and eventual cutting back is plenty to get on with year round. With a bit of observation and planning the garden should get better and better each year.