While not being at the beck and call of the hungry and demanding summer veggies plants, the cooler months are a great time to look at the garden with a fresh set of eyes.  At this time of year it is laid bare, with very few plants to hide the structures that hold it all together.

A vegetable garden is a functional place providing loads of goodies to eat and more often than not it is located in your back yard, where you can see it from most of the windows in your house!  So you really don’t want it to be an eyesore.  You want it to be a nice place to look at, especially when there are no plants in it.

So as the garden empties of the bountiful summer crops, now is a good time to look at the garden and see what can be done to make it a beautiful place, with or without luscious vegetation growing in it.

If your garden is made from raised beds, consider painting the boards with a cheerful colour, or something that complements other aspects of your property like, for example, the colour of your house.  While you have paint brushes in your hands, then also consider brightening up your fence.  It doesn’t need to be boring old traditional colours.  You can be as bold as you like – even consider getting the whole family involved in painting a mural behind the vegetable garden that will add pops of colour through all the greenery in the summer and in the winter give you something bright and interesting to look at during the dull winter months.

The cooler months are also a fabulous time to plan ahead and decide what you want to grow for the following season.  Not only does it keep you enthusiastic about the veggie patch, even though you can’t get out there and garden in the rain, but it provides a great opportunity to get out the paint, or the glue gun or any other creative style you want to use to make plant labels for when it is time plant your seedlings out in the garden in the spring.   You could even make a big sign to put in a prominent place in your patch so everyone who stops by to admire your efforts knows it is your family garden.

decorating your garden

There are a lot of different structures that are needed in the garden to support the plants as they grow.  Take a trip to the hardware store to buy some wood to build bean pole climbing frames, pea supports and frames to hold netting that will keep birds off your strawberries.  Or you could use more traditional items like bamboo or try your hand at weaving structures with willow branches. These structures can also been given a lick of paint and put in the garden to admire as a creative sculpture in the absence of plants.

Then of course there is art for art’s sake.  On a wet and yucky day you can gather the family around and have a go at mosaics.  This can be as simple as creating a design on a rock with the dinner plate that was broken last week while the kids were doing the dishes, or a more elaborate design on a bird bath after a trip to a tile store to choose from the vast array of tiles of many colours they have available.  There are many fantastic ideas and detailed instructions to be found on the internet. This is so much fun and once you get started you will be looking for things to cover with wonderful mosaic designs that will fill the garden with a lot of points of interest when there is nothing growing there at all.

So even without a garden full of crops you can still have fun in the garden, and turn it into a beautiful space that you can be proud of and admire all year long.

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Sarah O’Neil lives on a small 3 acre lifestyle block. The family moved from the big city to the country in 2007. Sarah has published 3 books, including The Good Life, four glorious seasons in my country garden. She's also an award-winning blogger, winning a Yates Vegie Growing Challenge and still writes regularly. Visit Sarah’s website at sarahthegardener.co.nz.

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