Presenter and gardener Kim Wilde reveals how spending a bit of time on your patio now will give stunning results that last year-round.
The days are longer and warmer, so I now spend as much time in my garden as I can. Borders are coming into their glory, the grass needs regular cutting - there's lots to do.
That's why my patio area is vital to my garden - and yours should be, too. Here you can relax when the kids have gone to school, have lunch with a mate, let your hair down after work, let your other half play chef... the opportunities to entertain and flop are endless.
There are so many ways to liven up your patio. Firstly, invest in some plants that will give you colour and texture year-round. Try a spring-flowering evergreen camellia, or a eucalyptus, which is also evergreen and has a fresh fragrance. Choose an acer osakazuki which has beautiful, delicate leaves that go a stunning colour in autumn - they like it slightly shady, as in full sun the leaves can scorch. Or grow dwarf apples and pear trees in pots - they're great for the kids to watch growing, and come next spring, there is the wonderful blossom.
Now for some colour. The choice of summer bedding is endless, so let your imagination run riot - blousy begonias, dainty verbenas and vibrant geraniums love the sun, or busy lizzies are ever-reliable and good in a shady spot. Another outstanding sun-lover is the Cape daisy, a great low maintenance plant. Try a sweet smelling, repeat-flowering rose - they are great in tubs. Dead-head them to keep the blooms coming.
Don't spend lots of money and then not give your precious plants the right start. Pots need more attention than flowers and shrubs in beds. Water regularly to keep them looking fresh.
Whatever your pot is made of, lining it with a black plastic bag with drainage holes in the bottom will mean it dries out less quickly. Overlap the plastic at the top, this can be cut off after you've filled it with compost. Another trick is to mix water retentive gel into your compost. But follow the instructions on the packet carefully - you don't want too much. Multi-purpose compost is fine for bedding plants, but shrubs and trees that are going to live in pots for a long time need a sturdier compost.
Another thing I always do is protect the surface with a layer of gravel or stones as this helps keep moisture in. You could add a slow-release general fertiliser to give your plants a head start, but for annuals you'll need to feed weekly to keep them flowering. With a little effort now, you can enjoy the fruits of your labour in your own miniature paradise all summer long.