March Sunshine times - preparing your patio for spring BY DAVID DOMONEY

Hartman - Preparing Your Patio for Spring by David Domoney

So, the worst of the weather seems to have passed but when you glance outside you notice your garden looking a little worse for the wear. Sound familiar? It’s easy to lose track of maintaining your garden over winter, what with those few precious daylight hours and frosty weather nipping at your fingertips. As the glimmer of spring arrives, however, it’s time to get back out there. It can seem like a mammoth task at first, so my best advice is to start small and work your way out.

The first place you’ll want to be when the weather picks up again is your patio area, so why not kick things off by giving it the spruce up that it needs? Patios can be the worst affected areas over winter, with wet wintry weather leaving a layer of dirt over your lovely paving stones. Start by giving the area a firm brush to sweep away any dirt or debris that has accumulated. You can then hose it down and use soapy water and a broom to scrub away the rest of the dirt. Use a jet wash if you have one (or you can hire one), they’re great for really stubborn dirt or weather-beaten areas, and it’s lovely to make your patio look all shiny and new again.

Once your stones are back up to scratch, take a look at your garden furniture. It will need cleaning at the very least, so use a damp cloth with warm water and washing up liquid to wipe away any dirt or cobwebs. Check your patio cushions and wash them according to the manufacturer’s instructions, making sure they are properly dry again before use.

Before you pop your patio furniture back where it was, why not take a little look and see if you could move things around a bit. Everything will look fresher after a little change. Is your dining set in the best position it could be? Is there a little suntrap on your patio that’s crying out for a little coffee table and chairs? Try to make the most of the space you have available. You want to be out on your patio any chance you get over spring and summer, so make sure it’s a functional and inviting space that has the elements on its side. Is your patio area usually too exposed and windy? Maybe it’s time to think about adding in a pergola, or some higher fencing to add shelter. Does your patio suffer from being shaded most of the day? Take a look and see if there’s anything blocking the light that you could remove. These little changes really can make the world of difference.

Once you’ve decided on where you want things to go, you can start putting back the little extra touches. Plants completely transform your patio area by softening the hard textures of the paving stones, walls and furniture whilst also creating a fluid space between your backdoor and the rest of your garden. Container and hanging baskets or small trees are an easy way to get some colour and greenery in there quickly. Fill containers with a rainbow of spring flowers for a quick and easy burst of colour. Herbs are a great choice for the patio – as not only do they add colour and wonderful fragrance, they are also conveniently located for use on BBQs and in summer cocktails! Fill some attractive pots with your favourite herbs and pop them in a sunny spot close to the backdoor – that way they’ll be in easy reach when you’re cooking indoors too.

Sometimes a few well-placed plants in containers are all your patio needs, but maybe there is a larger section of your patio, such as an unsightly wall or fence, that needs masking. Climbing plants are perfect for this, as they will add visual interest you your patio in the form of colour and height as well as covering up and softening the look of walls or fences. They’re also great for pergolas or archways, particularly if you are overlooked and want to create more privacy or shelter for your patio.

Some climbing plants need a framework such as a trellis, but others will cling to surfaces naturally. Clematis, Jasmine or climbing roses will provide wonderful coverage as well as pretty flowers; choose a sunny wall for these garden classics.

Finally, think about any extras you want to add to your patio for that extra ‘wow’ factor this year. For smaller spaces, an outdoor mirror can work wonders by enlarging the look of your space. If you’ve got a bigger area to play with, consider an outdoor kitchen, or pizza oven perhaps if you love to entertain friends and family over summer. Always add a touch of your own character to the patio, for example you might have a collection of unusual planters, or maybe a few treasured garden ornaments. Try something new and exciting, such as tiki torches or some other unusual outdoor lighting.

It’s a wonderful thing to own a garden, no matter how small, so make the most of yours by ensuring your patio looks its best and is the charming and inviting space you know it can be. When spring arrives, you’ll be thankful you did.