From the potting bench

Summer is here, so how can you get the most out of your green space this month? Adam Kirtland tells you all you need to know… 

By now our gardens and outdoor spaces have a splash more light and the added touch of heat that we’ve come to enjoy from early summer in the UK. Most of our plants will be putting on good growth and your space may well be bustling with colour and wildlife. But if it isn’t how do you go about making it the best it can be? No matter whether its acres or feet, let me take you through my top tips for converting your green space from grey to a kaleidoscopic beauty. 

Balcony or small gardens

Whether, your space is limited or you’re keen to experiment on your balcony – container gardening is the way forward here. Think of variety and what you’d really like to achieve with what you have – do you want to grow what you can eat or are you looking for purely an aesthetic garden? Either way, even the smallest of areas can pack a real punch!

If you’re wanting to ‘Grow Your Own’ then there are tonnes of crops suitable for containers, in fact almost any fruit or veg can be grown in a big enough pot. Potatoes, carrots, garlic, chillies… some of the real staples of home-grown edibles can all produce a wealth of ‘fruits’ for you to enjoy straight from the pot. For Potatoes and carrots, think about a deep pot where they can grow longer roots to produce more. Garlic can be grown in a relatively shallow container, while chillies can even be grown indoors.

If you’re more about trying to grow plants that’ll give you colour and zing then you’ll want to think about growing some annual plants (meaning that they complete their lifecycle within one year). There is an almost endless list of annuals you can grow in a container and the joy of growing something that lasts just one season is that you change it up and go for something else next year. Cosmos is a firm favourite with abundant blooms that are perfect for cutting.

Medium gardens

When you’ve got a little more room to play with then this is where the fun really begins! You’ll likely have some border space to grow directly in the ground – suddenly you can grow taller plants that will trail over any garden buildings you may have. Thinking about vertical growing is a way to create structure and height to take the eye up as well as around your outdoor space. If you’re thinking of climbing plants, then your options are almost endless! I’ve included some varieties here that are widely available at most garden centres, and luckily, we have an abundance of those across Birmingham and the Midlands.

A classic evergreen climber such as Clematis Armandii will see you through the whole year with its everlasting green foliage and white/pink clusters of flowers to enjoy in spring. For something slightly more exotic to enjoy on those long summer evenings, try Passiflora Caerulea is a timeless climbing plant with the most beautiful blue/purple flowers.

Finally, how about some highly scented sweet peas (Lathyrus Odoratus)? These are annuals so you’ll want to grow them fresh each year, but they’ll give you the most divine scented cut flowers to pop in a vase on the table when you’re having friends round for a BBQ. 

Large gardens

Chances are that if you’ve got a significant amount of space then you’ll probably have an idea of what you’re doing but here are some ideas to try out. The bigger medium gardens and the large spaces give you even more options than you could possibly dream of. Trees?? Large shrubs? You name it and you can try it! Of course, you can also do all of what I’ve mentioned but on a larger scale!

In a larger space you’ll want to give ‘sectioning’ a thought – how about having a separate veg plot, or even a cut flower bed or two (you could use this to grow some of the annuals mentioned before)? Try to define the areas you have and create some real zoning between them all. At this size you’re likely to have some areas that catch the sun all day, where you’ll want those sun loving plants, such as dahlias and peonies for huge, beautiful blooms. But on the other hand, you’re likely to have some shadier areas that don’t see as much daylight… but don’t be fooled, these areas can be some of the most interesting! Try hostas, astilbe and the oh-so-stunning foxgloves! 

Make your space your own!

Hopefully, this has given you the green-thumb and you’re raring to get to work on whatever size space you have. With a little bit of knowledge and a tad of elbow grease, you’ll be out there sipping Pimm’s among your plants in no time.

You can follow Adam on Instagram @viewfromthepottingbench or listen to Adam’s podcast Tales From The Potting Bench for more gardening inspiration. You can also read Adam’s blog at